Sunday, November 27, 2005

recent reads

I preached (and organized worship) this last week, so I was bit out of time for blogging. But I have still been reading. Here is the short of it.

A bit ago over at generousorthodoxy we were talking about objectivity and truth, and it turned toward phenomenology, and Ken Archer's great post on Husserl. After reading it I thought of all the connections between phenomenology and Wittgenstein and then I came across Wittgenstein and Phenomenology. A great read comparing Later W. with Husserl, Heidegger, and Merlou-Ponty.

But that was all just on a whim. I've also been reading Speech and Theology: Language and the Logic of Incarnation by James K.A. Smith, and also his edited Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition. The latter is a great volume. Most of the summaries of RO are fair, and it really lays out what is at issue between the two tradition. Very refreshing, although currently I'm leaning more toward the RO side because some of the Reformed emphases on creation lean toward natural theology and sustaining the status quo. One author put the matter well: while the RT worries about secularization (fallen/sinful tendencies or directions of creational orders), RO promotes sacralization (bringing all nihilisms back into connection/suspension with the divine (1440).

I'm reading the former volume with great interest for two reasons. He has this great reading of Augustine (Ch.4) that will help with the paper I'm writing. But also he presents an incarnational account of language contrasted to Pickstock's Eucharistic account in After Writing. Smith also (in RO&RT) criticizes RO Platonism (and offers an alternative, creational account in his Introducing RO) which I find very interesting. I'm trying to figure out if RO participatory ontology is necessary for their larger project, as well as the connection between Christianity and Platoism, both of which effects our understanding of language, knowledge, and how God and creation, and so ultimately redemption. So right now i'm thinking that Pickstock account in much too determinate (relying on the Hight Roman Rite) while Smith's is too indeterminate (Incarnational, but without any determinate theory of the incarnation [which isn't really possible], but also w/o any historical, scriptural, ethical, sacramental connection to the Church, except Augustine/Kiekegaard).

anyway, i'm still working through it and this is all off the cuff. I'll write a really paper about it when I'm done. But hey, this is all for fun anyway. I'm not even in school.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Realism, not Empiricism

“Not empiricism and yet realism in philosophy, that is the hardest thing.” RFM VI S. 23.

Below is a summary reflection on Brad Kallenberg’s Ethics as Grammar: Changing the Postmodern Subject, particularly in regard to the above quote from Wittgenstein. These four propositions are Kallenberg’s attempt at showing W.’s pedagogical spiral of conceptions from primitive reactions, to language-games, to form of life, and aspect-seeing. The bold are quotes from Kallenberg.

“P1: Agreement in primitive reactions constitutes a community’s for of life.”
A baby’s crying in a primitive reaction; so too the mothers response in feeding the baby. The patterns of these reactions (from eating, sleeping, sex, etc.) create a general form of life, differing from community to community. Language-games are based in these reactions, so…

“P2: A community’s form of life conditions the shape of its language-games.”
From PI. S. 23, “He the term ‘language-game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life.” These forms of life extend from gathering/hunting food and cooking, to building houses, to marriage rituals, to economic contracts, to political systems, with each form having diverse, yet related language-games.

“P3: The language-games a community plays determine the way it conceives the world.”
As a child, learning a native language and/or language-game becomes the conceptual hardware necessary for sorting out their world. Their world is organized at the same time that as they are learning these language-games. Language and the world are coterminous, and coextensive, as Kallenberg likes to say. One is not before the other. This goes along with W.’s claim that there are no private or ideal languages, but that experience is produced by language.

“P4: The way a community conceives the world shapes the primitive reactions.”
This brings us back to where we started. A communities conception of the world (conception in the sense that it is practices daily on the ground of forms of life) shapes how we react to primitive phenomena, even pain sensations and/or emotional responses. What we first might of thoughts of as pre-linguistic is in fact already penetrated words.

Not any one of these theses individually constitute where W. begins or ends, but according to Kallenberg they expressed what he calls W.’s understanding of language’s ‘internal relation’ to the world. There is no world outside of language that we can get to by which we can compare the accuracy of our statements. This doesn’t mean that categories of Truth and Objectivity are abandoned, but they are radically transformed and communally situated.

This, I submit, it a meager attempt at W.’s realism w/o empiricism. Entering into this process going round and round there propositions, such that each is transformative of the other, is W.’s attempt at realism, without relying on a positivist, empirical view of language.

But is this then merely Idealism of another stripe?


Coming Soon: Wittgenstein’s ‘Saying vs. Showing’ distinction.
And how these relate to Lacan.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Great new Blogger

Just wanted to let everyone know about a great new blogger (yes, I'm partial, he's my pastor). David M. Fitch is now blogging over at the great giveaway, which is also the title of his new book, which really is fantastic, and I'm not just saying that. It is the best new book coming out.

Check out the book and keeping checking out the blog.

Multitude, People, or...

this is from a larger paper I'm working that explores Augustine's Eucharistic theology and its relation to politics. this is an introductory summary of people/multitude as hardt/negri see it. i will then move on to describe how the Eucharistic community enters into ethical/political practices that move beyond these two options. It is still however a rough draft I finished last night, and the footnotes reflect it.


Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have recently proposed the concept and political project of the "multitude” in their recent collaboration by the same name.[1] Their main objective is to propose and produce an alternative to the currently emerging global social body. Their story goes as follows. The beginning of the modern age is marked by the rise of the nation-state attended by theories of the “people” and the social body. The ‘people’ often serve as the middle term between the consent given by the population and the command exerted by the sovereign power,” giving rise to a conception of a single, unified social identity. This sovereign power, be it democratic or despotic, imagines itself as a social body, transfiguring the multiple, individual bodies of the ruled into the one cohesive body of society, embodied in the one who rules.[2] All this occurs to end and protect against the threat of internal civil war, opening the path toward international politics. Yet according to Hardt and Negri, our situation has changed again into a new state of civil war. We live not in a state of constant wars between sovereignties, but of a new civil war across a global terrain, a territory created by capitals Empire.[3] In light of these circumstances, their question can be summarized, “As the body of the modern nation-state formed out of the caldron of civil wars, what new body might arise from our global civil war, a war between the regime of global capitalism and its resisters?”

Their answer is the multitude. Transitioning from their discussion on war in the first part to a description of the multitude in part two, Hardt and Negri offer this helpful summary:

“To understand the concept of the multitude in its most general and abstract form, let us contrast if first with that of the people. The people is one. The population, of course is composed of numerous different individuals and classes, but the people synthesizes or reduces these social differences into one identity. The multitude, by contrast, is not unified by remains plural and multiple…The multitude is composed of a set of singularities—and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness, a difference that remains different. The component parts of the people are indifferent in their unity; they become an identity by negating or setting aside their differences. The plural singularities of the multitude thus stands in contrast to the undifferentiated unity of the people.[4]

So, unlike the social bodies of the modern era, the multitude is an alternative social body of difference is proposed to quell the global civil war. But even the term ‘body’ as a description becomes problematic because it signifies an organically unified, cohesive social totality. “A democratic multitude cannot be a political body, at least not in the modern form. The multitude is something like singular flesh that refuses the organic unity of the body” (162). The multitude is a living[5] and monstrous[6] flesh, escaping the logic of bodily hierarchy between the ruling head and subjected members, and able to resist capital’s violent integration into the global social body. The multitude, being numerous and diverse, resists the concept of the people as “one”, and as such can never be assimilated into the social, political, economic body of global capitalism. For Hardt and Negri, only the multitude will lead us productively beyond our global civil war into a time of peace and true democracy. For them, “the multitude is the only social subject capable of realizing democracy, that is, the rule of everyone by everyone. The stakes, in other words, are extremely high” (100).

But is this so? Are there no other option than either the people or the multitude? And even if there are no other options, how will the multitude come about? For even Hardt and Negri know better than to offer too much, and only claim suggest the multitude as a concept rather than a political directive.[7] However, they certainly hope that the ontological concept of the multitude might produce “a political project to bring it into being on the basis of these emerging conditions…If the multitude were not already latent and implicit in our social being, we could not even imagine it as a political project; and similarly, we can only hope to realize it today because it already exists as a real potential. The multitude , then, when we put these two together, has a strange, double temporality: always-already and not-yet” (221).[8] This, of course, constitutes Hardt and Negri’s Marxist, utopian, and we might say, heretical eschatology. This eschatology, as Karios, “is the moment when the arrow is shot by the bowstring, the moment when a decision of action is made…We can already recognize that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already living—and the yawning abyss between them is becoming enormous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that living future. This will be the real political act of love” (357,8). This ‘real political act of love’ constitute the end (or beginning) of the multitude, and are literally the last words in Multitude. But, again, is the multitude, offered in contrast to the people, that last word, the last concept concerning our global civil war.

[1] Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York, NY: Penguin, 2004).
[2] ibid., 160-162. See also Zizek, Sublime Object of Ideology, 145-149, and Agamben, Means without End, “What is a people”, 29-25.
[3] See Part One of Multitude entitled ‘War’, and Empire () . Also Welcome to the Desert of the Real() by Slavoj Zizek. For a similar, yet theological account, of the emergence of modern nation-states see Chapter One of William Cavaungh’s Theopolitical Imagination.
[4] ibid., 99.
[5] ibid., 100. “Rather than a political body with one that commands and others that obey, the multitude is living flesh that rules itself”.
[6] ibid., 190-194.
[7] ibid., 220.
[8] Interestingly, much of this section draws on a disavowed Pauline “already/but not yet” eschatology and a Johannine “in, but not of” ecclesiology. See especially 219-227.