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Archive for December, 2011

Today, any social goal that is currently suggested or any solution to the problems we are facing in communities, individual societies, or as humanity at large is met with questions of the nature: „How is that financed? Who is going to pay for that? Where does the money come from?“

The „nature“ of this sort of inquiry is the larger problem, because it is generally assumed in the contemporary mindset, that this is naturally constitutive of any kind of social or political activity or decision – In other words, any argument, suggestion, alternative solution or policy measure is supposed to address these questions (usually first) in order to be authorized fit for contemporary discourse that count as “pragmatic”, “realistic”, or “true”.

Unfortunately, this is not a natural state of affairs: While the fact that this kind of authorization “rings true” does equip it with a feeling of “truthi-ness” to paraphrase American comedian Stephen Colbert, it doesn’t make it actually pragmatic nor realistic and in no way corresponding to any kind of truth. Given the current spectacles and sensations that play out on the globalized and globalizing stages of mass-mediated politics1, the need to regain action potentials and contingencies would seem to be the priority while, at present, the role of the prime movers is, suspiciously, left unoccupied and the only thing that seems to be moving is the universe around us.

I have yet to hear a suggestion, a debate, even a statement that is not met with and plagued by the paradox that while the world is on growth as if it was on speed, it is also on scarcity as if it was on adrenaline, respectively. On that ultimate high, is it any wonder that it seems as though around and about us we have entered into a state of time stand still? But from there, the step to diagnosing that the globalized society we build is effectively stillborn, despite the claims of our self-declared elites2 that it is also timeless (as in: “eternal”). Any kind of diagnosis of a pathological state or process renders it closer to its “being toward death”3, and in the face of the supposed naturalism the state of scarcity, I am reminded of a little thought-experiment:

Imagine, that somebody alerted us to the universe’s having thrown a big chunk of rock at our world, that is threatening to wipe us out, while we had yet enough time on our hands and, perhaps, even a plan to build a counter-measure, it would be a safe bet4 that we would die simply because we “wouldn’t have the money” for that kind of endeavour. Unfortunately and unlike our favorite Martian Paul “how about we fake an alien invasion” Krugman, I am that kind of a realist that I’d consider the event of the threat extinction not enough of an OCP (Outside Context Problem) that would shake our epistemic and ontological foundations to the point where we’d end up doing something that’s right for a change5. This thought experiment is not that far off reality – indeed, on cosmic scales, the Earth is actually statistically way overdue for such an event, whatever “statistically“ really means – but the current global situation seems dangerous enough to count as a genuine threat to our ways of life and the world as we know it.

1From the European crisis to American ineptitude to make forge any political decisions internally on its multitude of social and procedural deadlocks that have been stocking up for the past three decades and its impotence in recreating even a shadow of its former leadership position internationally, not mention other nations and organizations: the solipsistic elites of France and Britain are either implicitly or explicitly following their national agendas, Germany is constantly deluding itself between intellectually starving its publics and tactically dis-ordering its most important indicators and outward appearances, not to mention its bureaucratic obesity (or, to cannibalize Weber and Deleuze, its continuous creation of micro-fascisms and iron mini-cages, or in mine own words: its bureaucrasia [the emergence of akrasia from bureacracy]) , China has gambled to high and is now standing on feet of clay and brand-new but vacant office buildings and corrupt local officials, India still fails to resolve its internal religious and cultural divisions as well as its resulting precarious situation with neighboring states, most OPEC members still refuses to accept the reality that oil is more an asset of the past than our future, the UN has allowed itself to be stripped not only of its resources but mostly of its moral authority, etc., etc.

2 The rich, the powerful (or, as Parsons would say, they are merely the influential), the political juste milieu, the economists, in short, perhaps this means the 1%?

3And I don’t mean in the good old Heideggerian way.

4 And you can be sure, somebody would actually bet large sums of money on it, just like they bet for and against currencies, produce, people, etc., on our stock-exchanges.

5You can hear the shrill voices of the skeptics already: “The asteroid ain’t real, the science lies, the asteroid is a socialist, it’s the fault of the gay people and Obama to begin with, and can it serve in the military telling everyone that it’s a giant piece of rock, and do we now have to rename freedom fries into stoneless fries to make it go away?”

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It has been argued that Kant’s philosophy was systematic, if not even a system of philosophy. Based on Kant’s philosophy, I will try to engage a discourse towards a tentative definition of what mean by the concept of “a systematicity”.
Speaking of systematicity (I sometimes use the term “systemacity” equivocally) does not mean that “there is a system”. It only means that there is a relation or a series of relation that we observe that appears to be (or maybe is) systematic. Therefore a systematicity is not a system. A system, in this vein,  would have to be understood to mean either an absolute,  a  regulative or a special case of systematicity. We derive systematicities by use of reflective judgment and we derive systems by use of determinative judgement, the abuse of the concepts and faculties which means to try and derive systems from reflective judgments or to employ determinative judgement onto systematicities is defined as the act of reification and ontologicalization.

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Humans are the only species that acts as though competition and survival mean that the predator species must eradicate the prey species. No wonder we end up starving.

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Critical commentators of all times have answered totalitarian tendencies and nightmares with the famous question „Who watches the watchers?”

Of course, this is a cynical twist of a sentence that first century Roman satirist Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis had coined: „Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or “Who guards the guardians?”

Headlines have it that at least one of the world-leading rating agencies is threatening to lower the the credit rating of the steaming engines of European economy, above all Germany. This raises a whole bunch of questions, that had been in the murmurs of the leaves of the grapevine but which never made it out to take center stage, until, perhaps, now: The most pressing aspect seems to be who or what do rating agencies serve to begin with?

It is not just insulted German egos that are now beginning to pose this and other questions, but this, in particular, is a question that suggests itself pressingly in the face of recent years of up- and down-grading that escape any logic or rationality that could be explained beyond any politics or as guided by objectivity.

For rating agencies fulfilling their (self-determined?) function, they would, however, have to act as objectively and as non-politically as possible. And yet, in the mean-time, every appearance of such a non-partisan rationality has evaporated. While some would suggest, and certainly not entirely without grounds, almost conspiracy-theory like interpretations that imply that agencies and their leading staff and executives have financial or political interests and imperatives of their own at heart; a more critically realistic interpretation would imply that it is a strong measure of insecurity and confusion that is ruling the actions and decisions within these agencies, driving them at the same time into an uncontrolled and impotent pendulum-swing between blind reaction-ism and even blinder action-ism:

This pattern seems fueled, on the one hand, by a mild hope for being able not only to correct the past phases that were characterized by a slouchy mix of inaction, structural inertia, and notorious overvaluation of systemically critical nations and economies, but also to regain the trust of market leaders and investors; on the other hand, there is a desire and a strategic intention to regain their already lost tactical and decisive action potentials.

In this effort, it seems, not only has all sense of measure been abandoned and, respectively, all the power of legitimation that ratings themselves have held been debased, turning them into categories both arbitrary and dependent on the politics of the day, instead of being the very indicators that create and maintain the necessary credit of trust that has been the fuel of investment and growth in post-modern capitalist and free market economies. Moreover, the actual function and constitutive reason for the existence and institutionalization of rating agencies in the first place has been placed beyond even the margins, rendering the need for the agencies themselves a questionable affair at best – agencies that were supposed to be independent of the politics and political rationalities of polities and political actors, such as states and economies, which these agencies were actually supposed to rate.

While it is obvious and reasonable, and only somebody very naïve would think otherwise, that no decision that concerns and/or affects (more or less dependent) political stakeholders (such as states or the people their societies consist of) can be entirely and purely non-political; this is, at the same time, no excuse to give way even to the mere appearance that the political is the main, if not even the sole context that an up- or down-grade is derived from. By now, the issue of the rating agencies has exceed the mere impression of such a distortion of motives by far (if not say by a number of [up]grades). The issue and the dimension of the perceived distortion has raised calls for limits of the influence of the agencies, for example via the creation of further rating agencies, based in Europe or Asia – such ideas have transcended the stage of being mere theoretical thought-experiments. On the other had, one may legitimately ask the question if this wasn’t just “more of the same” that would lead eventually to the continuation of the business-as-usual with just a little more internal differentiation. As an alternative in the search for a viable and workable alternative, the question “Who watches watchers?” should be taken more seriously, and in its original meaning, “Who protects the guardians (from themselves)?”

Perhaps another type of thought-experiment would be called for, driving the system step by step into the direction of actual reality and the necessity for a conjoined and transparent forum, founded by state governments and trans- and international organizations of governance, such as critical NGOs, the IMF, and the UN – a forum which – similar to a global exchange supervisory commission, anti-trust office, or council of ombuds(wo)men – is tasked to ensure and enforce the (extrinsic and intrinsic) political and financial independence of the rating agencies and their decision-making practices, thereby guarantying that these agencies cannot influence beyond their station the action potentials and degrees of (economic) freedom of governments and of the world system, which in turn constitute and guarantee the existence of global markets and their (relative) autonomy. In the creation of such safety and control mechanisms, we have so far failed in the way that Iuvenalis has described it in one version of his satires, as we can paraphrase: Who watches those who watch over the girls’ secrets, but as payment for this service take them, while all others, wise to it, hush it up.

 

 

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I was just asked this question and here is my quick and ad hoc answer (I hope it is sort of satisfying and covers it correctly in the fashion I have been writing about at an earlier stage):
In between Hegel and Herbart, Lotze appropriated in his critical reception of the latter (and against Hegel) a notion of individualism (we might go as far as claiming it to mean: methdological individualism). One must understand that Lotze viewed Herbart as somebody who had considered himself, much like young Fichte, as a Kantian. Therefore Lotze would have attempted a fairly Kantian interpretation of Herbart (or what he could use of Herbart). Therefore, the fact that Herbart suggests that all our deliberations have to begin with empirical conceptions may have appealed to Lotze on those grounds. I would assume, however, that Lotze read Herbart more as a Kantian than Herbart himself would have allowed, in that I am fairly certain that Lotze viewed Herbart’s conception of the Real as reconcilable with a Kantian conception. In other words, the method of ‘critique’ was the issue of discontent between Herbart and Kant and not the conceptualization of the Real.
Herbart had adopted a similar position with regard of the observer position that Lotze (and James, Jaspers, and Arendt) held, which Dewey would deny, even ridicule. I think the observer position is a necessity for a critical realist (comparative thought is close impossible without it).
However, the caveat is that Lotze himself claimed that the “influence of Herbart on his work” that others have claimed exists, was actually the influence of “physics” as he learned from reading Fechner (and Weber?). I would conclude, however, that Fechner developed (and made this explicit!!!) many of his ideas both in dispute and in agreement with his predecessor Herbart. Respectively Lotze is is made possible by Herbartian thought.
In short, however, I would sum up as follows:
Herbart was concerned more with ontology than epistemology. Lotze dismissed Herbart’s ontology as being just that: ontology, but took those lessons from it that could be adopted for epistemology and combined them with his understanding of physiology towards creating a psychology fit for a comprehensive anthropology. In doing so, he rejected bald naturalism but also didn’t ascribe to idealism. What remained was a realism that did not accept the external world as absolutely given but asked for the conditions of its possibility – not for the mere fact of its existence, that’d be ontology, but how it comes to exist in the way it appears to me as its observer. This is a notion of ‘quality’, which Lotze adopted from Herbart, however, Herbart constructed qualtities from a poiint of view of absolutism and as constitutive of reality, whereas Lotze appropriated quality for a concept of experience (and he also turned the notion of the absolute into a regulative ideal; against Hegel, for whom the absolute is constitutive). Finally, Herbart did wield a concept of equilibrium that Lotze could adopt for his physiology-derived reflections on interaction (Wechselwirkung) and regulation. Since American transcendentalists, such as Emerson, adopted this notion from Herbart, the fact that Lotze seemed attractive to them is partially explained by the use of this “assemblage”, in particular because Lotze, as a physiologist by training, remodeled Herbart’s static concept into dynamic or procedural one.

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