Meditation on Thinking

We sit and breathe calmly. We observe that we are thinking and in a first, gentle, move, admit that it is a concept that will always evade our definition. We just think. The ability to distinguish it from not-thinking requires a precise definition, hence in other words we are always-already caught in the realm of thinking. We think of Martin Heidegger, who has said, or at least written, something very similar in his signature Black Forest obscurantist way.

Let’s not use rhetoric to distract us. We must, to the best of our abilities, put into words what we think ‘thinking’ is, lest we lose our claim to rationality. Yet, we can’t offer a concise definition of what thinking means without making assumptions that should themselves be criticized. This is, in fewer words than twentieth century academic philosophers could get away with, the postmodern position. Thinking just ‘is’ – it seems a rather trivial and boring result of our meditation so far.

Don’t forget to breathe! As we must obey the above ‘call’ as I call it, aware of its religious origin, the greatest philosophers have written important texts about the concept and meaning of ‘thinking’. We will try the view that thinking is manipulation of symbols (we leave out the adjective ‘mere’ in good faith). We conjure up the image of a Turing machine and Turing’s great classification of problems. We know most contemporary philosophers wonder what is missing in that account. Aren’t we more than mere machines (here the adjective has its revenge).

When we talk about a machine capable of simulating itself, we are grasping the exact difficulty we had with the ‘problem’, or paradox, of thinking that we started this meditation with. The problem of infinite regression (the simulation simulating a further machine, and so forth in infinitum) is immediately apparent. We know that such simulations can be ran on a machine consisting of trillions of binary operators, made of silicon, proteins or at the quantum level with exponential gains in efficiency because of quantum weirdness. But does this tell us what thinking is or means?

It is of course a category mistake to think that the materialist view can define what thinking means. And when we know what it ‘is’ in terms of a reorganization of atoms in our neocortex, we will resort to philosophical irony and – think about it. Breathe out and think you are breathing out at the same time.

Meditation on Thinking was originally published on Meandering home

Advertisements

What do I think about Zizek?

What is he thinking?

As a learned philosopher with a funny blog, I should have an opinion or two about the Thinking Beast of Ljubljana, the populist, famous, celebrated, roaring, one and only, please welcome Slavoj Zizek (the adornments on the Zs are intentionally left out) who twists psychoanalytical theories together with rabid Marxism and generates a steady stream of anticapitalist thoughts with a dangerously early expiration date. I remember that he once proudly proclaimed that he didn’t watch the movie Avatar, but had seen the poster and read a synopsis or something and considered that enough to burn it to the ground in one of his countercynical reviews. I hereby proudly proclaim that I never went cover-to-cover in any of mr. Zizek’s books (but ind of did get the gist and the jest of that body of his texts). I also grow a beard now.

Some criticize Slavoj because he abuses Lacanian thinking for his own purpose, others think his rhetorical ardor precludes engaging and meaningful discussions of his work. He is turning himself into a caricature faster than anybody would be able to escape such a fixation. But still, what can we distill from his philosophies? We could – and should – have a good laugh with the Elvis of cultural theory, and learn not to take ourselves too seriously. Disappointing? You want to gain wisdom, you want to know the true essence of society, the inner workings of revolutions, crises, and submission to the capitalist beast? I don’t think you’ll find that in Zizek’s philosophies. You can find a lot of controversial material, I mean the man calls himself a “friendly Stalinist” and I overheard him once in Berlin after a lecture where he was basking in self-indulgence, “Oh how smart we are…” – his interlocutor was Peter Sloterdijk and the venue the Rosa Luxemburg theater;- But “real” communists find him dangerous too, because he is to wild to be a dogmatic anything. The 4th International over at WSWS calls him a “charlatan” and “puerile thinker“, and their argument is, as far as I can see, mere non-compliance with Marx and denial of the existence of the working class.

Where he would get interesting for us is the moment he turns his Heraclitian rigor toward the planet. He is worried about ecological disasters like the BP oil spill, and climate change related forced migrations. Yet what I miss is a scientific understanding of the world. That is my main concern with Žižek (here my friend, I gave you back the toboggans on your Zs), when I hear him talk I miss a scientific understanding. I want to hear him explain in some depth the depletion of groundwater levels, the dangers of fracking, the destruction of the Amazon, the melting of glaciers and the pollution of rivers. Why? Because it is a basis we don’t need to fight over. The blind fanatics and their spasm of denial of natural realities will die off quickly after nature makes her cold breath felt.

What we need is a philosophy – and philosophers – with a firm ground in science, not political theory or economy. Perhaps, ideologues and anti-ideologues have in common that scientific (ecological, geological) knowledge doesn’t affect the core of what they want to say. While they diligently absorb ecological disasters into their theories, they are merely there because they illustrate the bankruptcy of the System (our artifact), not because we are a species among other species that are about to fuck up the planet – and ideology is piled up with anti-ideology on the trash pile of petty righteousness called “history”.

Back to nature, less meta-reflection, and better sex.
At this point, I could suggest a counter-philosophy, and engage in some kind of dialogue with monsieur Žižek. But I leave that to the reader as an exercise. Please inflate your own balloons of meaning. What I see as the role of philosophers does have something to do with ideology and dialectics, precisely because these beasts of mass culture are not going do disappear (‘t would be naive to think that). A philosopher knows what she needs to know about metaphysics, and should tirelessly criticize new ideologies, be it ecofascism, post-capitalism or new age collectivism. And precisely because they have a firm base in scientific understanding, they can differ and digress and do that what Nietzsche’s old, halkyonic pharmacy once prescribed: bearing the largest possible contradictions in our chest. I hope this account wasn’t too šcattered, and its intuition more or less clear.

March 23.

In Argentina, a coffee Jarrito is a medium-sized cup of coffee. It’s as good as it gets. I have written in a café that whole day. I have to sit close to the enchufe, the plug. What is there to say? It is like office work, sitting behind a computer and hitting the keys on the keyboard many times. By the way, I like this perspective on work. When we answer the question of what we actually do, we shall not quote the social structures (I am reporting to this person, I am instructing that person) or the abstract denomination of our labour (I am writing a report, I am being the boss) but only the physical movements that are involved. En mi caso, there are a lot of finger movements involved. So what I do for a living is fingering. I finger the keyboard and that is what is recognized in some miraculous ways. Sometimes I still finger my ballpoint or pencil, by holding them and making tracks of ink on the paper. And what is your job?


Of course, I also think. I have been trained to think, at your service. About the mask for example. The face I am so fond of, the face of the person that ought to be Sara but isn’t of course, it is the face of a Mexican actress. Was it a mask? Was it her real expression? How sincere can a mask be? Wait, wait, before you throw back common wisdom at me. I read and forget a lot of pages about “Sein und Schein”, masks and reality, that should give me some credit. So please wait with the common wisdom. I know what a mask is. It has straps and it can itch when you put it on. Please cross that river and stand on my side. Let’s listen to the rattling voice of the common wisdom together. It says we always all wear masks it’s inevitable. O how wise this voice is. It freaks me out. It leaves me as a philosopher without a job. I cannot add anything to that. We always all wear masks it’s inevitable. Brilliant. The voice rattles on. Truth is not the opposite of the mask, o no, it is rather (beautiful word by the way), it is rather inherent in some aspects of the mask. So now we have aspects. The truth is a patchwork from different aspects that are only accessable through masks rather than the clean antonym of masked existence. The voice rattles on. We smell he has halitosis. But he is speaking the truth. Is ther something more to explore? If you are a philosopher yourself, and I know some philosophers read this crap, you are very welcome to react about it. I would love to explore this question very much or rather, turn it into a question again because for me it has the still-water character of a final answer.

I went to see her that night. We went to a demonstration, a Marcha near the Tribunales metro station. Katia and I bought a bottle of wine, we danced in the crowed and I gave her a kiss. I don’t know who she is. That question “who are you?” becomes a grand question, yes it becomes the question that echoes in my head when I go to sleep. As I said, she was not Sara and a couple of days later it was all over. Now take it from me that this does good. I get a character like old cheese.

March 23. was originally published on Meandering home

March 23.

In Argentina, a coffee Jarrito is a medium-sized cup of coffee. It’s as good as it gets. I have written in a café that whole day. I have to sit close to the enchufe, the plug. What is there to say? It is like office work, sitting behind a computer and hitting the keys on the keyboard many times. By the way, I like this perspective on work. When we answer the question of what we actually do, we shall not quote the social structures (I am reporting to this person, I am instructing that person) or the abstract denomination of our labour (I am writing a report, I am being the boss) but only the physical movements that are involved. En mi caso, there are a lot of finger movements involved. So what I do for a living is fingering. I finger the keyboard and that is what is recognized in some miraculous ways. Sometimes I still finger my ballpoint or pencil, by holding them and making tracks of ink on the paper. And what is your job?


Of course, I also think. I have been trained to think, at your service. About the mask for example. The face I am so fond of, the face of the person that ought to be Sara but isn’t of course, it is the face of a Mexican actress. Was it a mask? Was it her real expression? How sincere can a mask be? Wait, wait, before you throw back common wisdom at me. I read and forget a lot of pages about “Sein und Schein”, masks and reality, that should give me some credit. So please wait with the common wisdom. I know what a mask is. It has straps and it can itch when you put it on. Please cross that river and stand on my side. Let’s listen to the rattling voice of the common wisdom together. It says we always all wear masks it’s inevitable. O how wise this voice is. It freaks me out. It leaves me as a philosopher without a job. I cannot add anything to that. We always all wear masks it’s inevitable. Brilliant. The voice rattles on. Truth is not the opposite of the mask, o no, it is rather (beautiful word by the way), it is rather inherent in some aspects of the mask. So now we have aspects. The truth is a patchwork from different aspects that are only accessable through masks rather than the clean antonym of masked existence. The voice rattles on. We smell he has halitosis. But he is speaking the truth. Is ther something more to explore? If you are a philosopher yourself, and I know some philosophers read this crap, you are very welcome to react about it. I would love to explore this question very much or rather, turn it into a question again because for me it has the still-water character of a final answer.

I went to see her that night. We went to a demonstration, a Marcha near the Tribunales metro station. Katia and I bought a bottle of wine, we danced in the crowed and I gave her a kiss. I don’t know who she is. That question “who are you?” becomes a grand question, yes it becomes the question that echoes in my head when I go to sleep. As I said, she was not Sara and a couple of days later it was all over. Now take it from me that this does good. I get a character like old cheese.

March 23.

In Argentina, a coffee Jarrito is a medium-sized cup of coffee. It’s as good as it gets. I have written in a café that whole day. I have to sit close to the enchufe, the plug. What is there to say? It is like office work, sitting behind a computer and hitting the keys on the keyboard many times. By the way, I like this perspective on work. When we answer the question of what we actually do, we shall not quote the social structures (I am reporting to this person, I am instructing that person) or the abstract denomination of our labour (I am writing a report, I am being the boss) but only the physical movements that are involved. En mi caso, there are a lot of finger movements involved. So what I do for a living is fingering. I finger the keyboard and that is what is recognized in some miraculous ways. Sometimes I still finger my ballpoint or pencil, by holding them and making tracks of ink on the paper. And what is your job?


Of course, I also think. I have been trained to think, at your service. About the mask for example. The face I am so fond of, the face of the person that ought to be Sara but isn’t of course, it is the face of a Mexican actress. Was it a mask? Was it her real expression? How sincere can a mask be? Wait, wait, before you throw back common wisdom at me. I read and forget a lot of pages about “Sein und Schein”, masks and reality, that should give me some credit. So please wait with the common wisdom. I know what a mask is. It has straps and it can itch when you put it on. Please cross that river and stand on my side. Let’s listen to the rattling voice of the common wisdom together. It says we always all wear masks it’s inevitable. O how wise this voice is. It freaks me out. It leaves me as a philosopher without a job. I cannot add anything to that. We always all wear masks it’s inevitable. Brilliant. The voice rattles on. Truth is not the opposite of the mask, o no, it is rather (beautiful word by the way), it is rather inherent in some aspects of the mask. So now we have aspects. The truth is a patchwork from different aspects that are only accessable through masks rather than the clean antonym of masked existence. The voice rattles on. We smell he has halitosis. But he is speaking the truth. Is ther something more to explore? If you are a philosopher yourself, and I know some philosophers read this crap, you are very welcome to react about it. I would love to explore this question very much or rather, turn it into a question again because for me it has the still-water character of a final answer.

I went to see her that night. We went to a demonstration, a Marcha near the Tribunales metro station. Katia and I bought a bottle of wine, we danced in the crowed and I gave her a kiss. I don’t know who she is. That question “who are you?” becomes a grand question, yes it becomes the question that echoes in my head when I go to sleep. As I said, she was not Sara and a couple of days later it was all over. Now take it from me that this does good. I get a character like old cheese.