September 2, 2014

La société des égaux

I just finished Pierre Rosanvallon’s La société des égaux. It is a marvelous study of the idea of equality in France and the United States from their revolutions to now, mapping how the idea morphed from a superficial but broad concept of political equality to a much deeper but perhaps narrower economic and social one. Whereas the XVIII th century did not redistribute wealth or include women as citizens, it was based on the sense that everyone should have an equal say in government. By the late XIX th century this began to morph away from the feeling that every citizen was, as if by fiat, on equal footing, to one where such equality had to be maintained through redistribution and social-legal adjustments. And now, since the 1980s, this redistributive tendency has gradually eroded, but is far from having been reversed, and the social gains remain uncontested.

Mr. Rosanvallon is keen to reverse this new trend and even expand our idea of equality to also include its earlier incarnation as a brotherhood of citizens. He suggests we should move away from a redistributive equality towards a relational equality. The idea has merit, and he intends to elaborate upon it further in a second volume, but as with many of these political projects, it is based upon the dying institution of the nation state. He has actually already put his ideas into practice and created a remarkable website+book series called Raconter la vie, in which he encourages run-of-the-mill French men and women to write their stories so they can be heard and heeded by the powers that be. It is a wonderful — and wonderfully French — project, which will hopefully have a long and productive life. But it rests on a difficult premise; it requires that France remain (or become again) a cohesive whole. That seems unlikely. If new kinds of stable societies are to (re-)emerge, they will be un-national, either sub- or trans- but probably never quite coterminous with any old nation’s state. To me at least, that represents a welcome new kind of equality.

September 2, 2014

Subjective time

If time seems to flow in proportion to the span of one’s life, then one year to me feels like a month to my three-year-old nephew, and this last week in August was for him my summer.

August 31, 2014

A new philosophical language

I’ve long been unhappy with my abilities to formulate my ideas in an appropriate medium. I’m not an academic, and have no desire to write footnoted articles or monographs. I’m also certainly no novelist à la Ayn Rand or Iris Murdoch, nor have my attempts at blog-sized aphoristic thinking risen up to their Nietzschean-Wittgensteinian models. Moreover, none of those formats provides helpful tools for gradually digging into the nitty-gritty of an idea. Natural languages tend to be fuzzy. So, i’ve decided to try out a new language and method: i’ll be programming. Specifically, i will be writing a first draft of an application that would form the underlying structure of a pollyty. This should allow me to formulate explicitly and exactly what i mean, while at the same time being able to confront it with the practical messiness of reality. In a broad sense, i’m hoping i can describe a possible political system that can be experimentally verified.

In parallel to my new coding enterprise, i will begin to post technical issues i encounter on this new blog, while this here old blog will morph into a philosophical commentary on the details of how the application will have to implement the as yet somewhat amorphous idea of a pollyty.

August 7, 2014

From the Buddha i have yet to learn: there is a way out of suffering.

August 7, 2014

Is tragedy only possible at brief moments in time when we’ve conceived some newfangled freedom, but are yet unable to seize it?

May 25, 2014

Step away from your anger,
do not waste it:
use it some other day.

May 25, 2014

Bright shiny words

Master Chuang was quietly resting at a lakeside with some friends when someone started praising the age-old tree that shaded them from the sun.
— Do not be deceived by bright words, replied Master Chuang. This is not a tree.
After a baffled silence, everyone broke out at once. So the wise old man raised his voice and asked his neighbor:
— What is that soft fur you’re leaning against, my friend? Is it tree?
— It is moss and some lichen.
— And those spots scurrying all about, are they tree, too?
— No, Master, they are caterpillars and ants.
— And do you hear that sound trickling down from above? Surely trees do not chirrup and tweet?
— No, they do not. Those are hungry birdlings calling out from their nests.
After a while, Master Chuang continued: Now see how my own words grow upon your mind and scurry through your thoughts. Soon you, too, will be singing them.

April 13, 2014

Budding hopes

I met a rose-fingered elm this morning; we smiled.

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April 5, 2014

Surely i too am Othello—blind to a fault? Continue reading

March 21, 2014

From the TV show House of Cards i learned: “Tomorrow you will still feel that anger. And you will use it. But you will not use it against X (the original source of the anger).”


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