Bubbles, Live Conversation #4 – 6/8/2017


(T J Williams) #23

Which is very interesting to an incurable Gebserian (LOL): the part of me wanting to give Sloterdijk the benefit of the doubt knows, as you do, that ‘magical reasoning’ is a fallacy from a mental standpoint as it is not really reasoning but a still accessible way of ‘experiencing’. Even as I itch for him to begin laying out some kind of argument (which is of course why Excursus 1 excited me for a bit), I wonder if he is deliberately taking us through these examples of “older” approaches to existence in order to ‘normalize’ the treatment of human space in logical and ‘non-logical’ ways. Is that what lies behind his frequent snubs of the “Modern Age”?

Kenan Malik, Raymond Tallis,… sigh OK, my ‘to-read’ list is now officially unfinishable… :sweat_smile:

(Ed Mahood) #24

Given that Mr. Sloterdijk is wont to snub just about anything or anyone, there remains that possibility that he is trying to put his treatment of space on new footing. Maybe these somewhat inexplicable examples are serving that very purpose. Still, his relationship between the past and the “modern age” is still ambivalent to me. Let’s see what the next section brings.

And, as an aside, when I retired, due no doubt to my probably terminal anal retentiveness, I actually made a list of books I was going to read (old business habits die hard). In March 2015, when I started, It was 450 books long. In the meantime, it has grown to 496 titles, but it is also worth noting that I have managed to tick 112 of them off the list, and I am at this moment working on another three of them. I thought I might be getting it under control, but it could well be getting away from me. I know how you feel.

(Marco V Morelli) #25

The excursus on “thought transmission” was nice, I thought, but a bit of a tease…

I liked the shift to thinking of the “brain” as always plural, part of an ensemble of brains. You know…BRAINS!

But this leaves me hanging…IS “thought transmission,” i.e., telepathy, truly possible? If so, how so? If we are not merely talking about magic regression but an integral octave of “occult-archaic” potentialities, then what is this higher space like?

If these potentialities exist, are they purely subtle, or are they technologically mediated, via cyborg tech ala Musk’s Neuralink initiative? Or is it more like the way jazz musicians do it…?

(Ed Mahood) #26

The curmudgeon in the corner is thinking that merely addressing the brain as plural is just another way of sneaking in the modular theory of cognition into the discussion through the backdoor. There are different parts of the brain that are “responsible” for different functions. As Tallis points out in several places, this is little more than an extension of the long-discredited phrenology of the 19th century. The sardonic side of me is wondering why Sloterdijk hasn’t brought this into his curiosity cabinet of obscure topics to discuss. :smiling_imp:

If we simply assume for the moment and for the sake of argument that Gebser was discussing an actual phenomenon within the magic structure of consciousness, and given that he discussed this in relation to the efficient mode of that consciousness, then we would be justified in thinking that this capability, if not actual ability, wouid still be present today. I believe that it is for a whole variety of reasons. What is more, it would be part of all our repertoires, albeit most likely buried under tons of misapprehensions, misunderstandings, and downright intimidation and peer pressure. Not everyone is as comfortable in his weirdness as @johnnydavis54; and as for me, I don’t care what you call me as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.

It is known that Australian Aboriginal peoples share their Dreamscape, I believe they call it. It is known that Maoris teach their children to dream communally. There is a fair body of scientific evidence, largely discredited (for obvious reasons) that was done by J.B. Rhine at Duke University’s parapsychological lab, among others, which have been disbanded or outsourced in the meantime. Even more recently some research was done by Stanley Krippner and associates at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York. The biggest shortcoming of most research is – surprise, surprise – replicability. Still … I do know that Stanford Research Institute received millions of dollars in both private and governmental grants to research telepathy, especially remote viewing, though the Navy was extremely interested in developing telepathic channels to communicate with their submarines since they could thereby avoid enemy communication interceptors and decryptors. Go figure. Somebody thinks it’s real, that’s for sure.

A number of folks I know and am familiar with are still looking into it, such as Russel Targ (who also had a TED talk on this subject pulled … the New Orthodoxers are no less virulent than the Inquisitorial predecessors whom they replaced), but also IONS, which I mentioned in another post, is still exploring these avenues and aspects of consciousness, so that’s another – I feel – reliable source to check out.

Of course, all of this comes back down to the main side discussion that has come out of the Sloterdijk reading: just how do we see, understand, comprehend, imagine the phenomenon of consciousness and how does it relate to how we see, understand, comprehend, imagine ourselves as human beings. This is why I’m so torn with Sloterdijk, because there are times … such as in Excursion 1 … when I think he’s not a new orthodoxer and then he turns around with a statement like multiple brains that puts him right back in that camp. This was, I will remind us all, one of Precht’s primary criticisms (the article I translated before our reading started): you can’t really nail him down.

Personally, I have no problem with telepathy, ESP, remote viewing, telekinesis, psychic investigators helping law enforcement with difficult cases, or any other paranormal phenomena. They exist, we know they exist, therefore they are worthy of precise, clearly focused, rigorous investigation. In those instances in which traditional or commonly accepted “scientifc” methods are inappropriate or inadequate, we need to be thinking about developing new methods that are so.

(john davis) #27

“in those instances in which traditional or commonly accepted “scientifc” methods are inappropriate or inadequate, we need to be thinking about developing new methods that are so.”

Brains are in bodies, brains are in environments and so consciousness ( awareness of awareness) is in the environment. What is in and what is out is negotiable. A brain in a vat producing consciousness is as dumb as imagining that DNA calls all the shots. The Human Genome Project was a dud and the Brain in the Vat thing will be a dud to.

No doubt they will be doing brain transfers soon but they are still just tinkering with stuff. This is not a brave new world yet.

There are other ways of getting information and the brain is as Huxley said a reducing valve. We have shut down a lot of the flow intentionally so we can explore the constraints imposed by a brain but we don’t have to live in Plato’s Cave forever. We can access the para-brain in trance states and re-negotiate parameters from what we remember to forget and from what we collectively suppress.

The Emporer has no clothes, people. I think most of us who have followed Nuero mania are well aware of this bad idea. We will need a science that stops doing back room deals with Big Corporations to market bad drugs that interrupt non local processing.

Living systems are radically open, and current deficient mental science relies on experiments that are closed off, hence the addiction to replicability. The kind of knowledge that is gathered from these reductive practices can have a very limited application to real world complexity.

You cant learn how to swim by reading a manual. You can lie down on your stomach on a piano bench and flap your arms about and you will still not be able to swim. If you want to learn how to swim you have to get in the water.

(Marco V Morelli) #28

I took the “brain ensemble” illustration in a more positive light—as just an example of how it doesn’t make sense to identify ourselves with our individual brains, since every brain presupposes other brains, i.e., a social sphere.

Albert Murray (following Susanne Langer, Andre Malraux, and others) makes the essentially the same argument when he says that art doesn’t come from individual impulse, emotion or idea—it comes from other art.

How are we able to think and experience thoughts that are “our own”? What does it mean to ‘have thoughts’ that are not our own? That come to us. That move through us. That we transmit to others.

I think he’s just opening up that noospheric space a little—conservatively, just barely lifting the veil, re-admitting the possibility of certain phenomena into the realm of ‘serious thought.’ But nonetheless.

(Geoffrey Edwards) #29

Fascinating discussion, both the live session and the written comments that follow. I have a few comments, perhaps a bit out of context, or at least, not quite in the flow of the others, more because I am an observer at this point rather than a full participant.

So first of all, Ed, I was really interested in your discussion of the magic present in the Catholic eucharist, as well as your point about how science and art got separated. I should give a bit of preamble about my own training as a scientist. I am not a social scientist, even though many of my publications these days are in the social sciences. I am an astrophysicist by training. So although I learned to cite sources, I think I learned to cite examples that support my argument, but not to do so exhaustively. When I read in the social sciences, they tend to cite sources, then counter-sources, counter-arguments and then reply to the counter-arguments. I don’t have that kind of training, even though I appreciate it. I also struggle these days with the over “objective” stance of engineering and physical science texts. I write fiction, and I find I want to “mix methods” as it were, to cross more poetic writing with the more rigorous “science-speak”. I’m careful how I do this because I know it can be a complete washout to submit papers with too much of this crossed stuff in them, but I keep trying to sneak stuff in. Sorry, I’m rambling. What I’m trying to say is, what I think Sloterdijk is trying to do is “cross methods” in a similar way. He is using a more poetic mode of exposition within a field (philosophy) that expects a more logical style of argumentation. Now, perhaps our argument is more about how successful he is at doing this. You seem to be saying he fails utterly. I do think, however, that to talk about the “magic” such as found in Catholic rituals (or those of other religions, why not?), neither the objective language of the hard sciences, nor the scholarly language of the social sciences can do the job adequately. Something else is needed. What I think you are saying is, yes, something else is needed, but this something else is not what Sloterdijk is doing. And I think, why not? I like that Sloterdijk avoids the scholarly source-citing approach, and uses tangential arguments that slip slide around. If what Sloterdijk is doing is not the answer, then maybe he at least is trying something that breaks from standard scholarship to get there. Too many words, yes, we agree. But I think to say-things-by-not-saying-them, you need lots of words. You need a field rather than a set of objects. Sloterdijk is trying to lay out fields. Maybe he isn’t succeeding, but I think the effort is interesting, and it is partly why I feel reading Sloterdijk is useful.

In relation to the broader discussion about the arts, while I appreciate the fact that the arts “feel liberating” to quote Marco, in my own research I am trying the knit the sciences and the arts back together. Like Ed, I’m not convinced that the value that appears to come from the arts is different “in kind” from the value that comes from the sciences, even though from a practical perspective they appear to operate very differently. It is the rupture between the two that is problematic. Bringing them “back” together may not be possible, but the effort to find new ways of unifying them appears to be worth the investment. This also involves “crossing methods” and hence is convergent on the problem we are discussing with regard to Sloterdijk.

I also think the discussion of mesmerism is a reminder that what appear to be obvious realms of thought can quickly become outdated. Without reminders such as this chapter, we tend to think that our current views of the world are “solid” and unchanging. To understand the extent to which “magical thinking” informed the 19th century understanding of the world is to remember that such worldviews, weltanschauungen to use the German word, are not so stable as we would like to think. And also, perhaps, that this kind of magical thinking actually sits underneath our contemporary ideas of the world, just as it sat upon the medieval communion and the diverse Greek perspectives. Magic, in various forms, pervades our modern world and culture, alongside the other discourses.

(Ed Mahood) #30

I think we agree that when writing, say, a novel or a poem, citation is simply out of the question. Everything is borrowed from somewhere and is being reworked in your own way. I have no trouble with that (though good historical fiction will provide a bibliography of books that informed the writer’s thinking. Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle is a good example of this.

And, as much I appreciate a mixing of forms, and as much as I can see the value that mixing modes of presentation can bring to one’s writing, there are also conventions of decorum and fair use that need to be observed. I appreciate as well that the typical social-science approach is a pain in the ass, but I believe it is a necessary one for several reasons.

First, quoting the words of another author even in paraphrase is required for to not do so in plagiarism. I don’t know about the universities that you work with, but the one at which I taught ran every submitted paper through anti-plagiarism software. Perhaps negatively, the students were trained to discipline themselves accordingly. Repeated offenders had their papers (and therefore perhaps their courses failed); recalcitrant plagiarizers were no longer allowed to enroll. We can think what we want about copyright laws (as I, for example, find them excessive and restrictive), since it is only thanks to such laws that Bill Gates can claim sometimes title to the richest man in the world, but even the most liberal Creative-Commons licenses expect that you will at least give credit to your sources. That’s all I ever asked of Mr. Sloterdijk. When he’s waxing literarily, we get it, but he is also wont to state categorically that “many psychoanalysts maintain …” and there I expect a footnote that at least says, “See, for example, …”. Footnotes are footnotes because they are not part of the main body of the text and can be read or ignored at the reader’s whim. When he makes sweeping generalizations about certain phenomena have unfolded in various ways in the course of history, I don’t think it’s too much to expect a reference or two to things he has read which have induced him to come to such a conclusion. Not only does it assist the reader in understanding the author, it is simple honest scholarship. Mr. Sloterdijk is an academic, he holds an academic position, and so I expect him to at least act like one.

After all, it is Mr. Sloterdijk himself who maintains that he is writing a philosophy of space, not a novel about the philosophy of space, not a poem about the philosophy of space, not an artisto-aesthetic of the philosophy of space, all of which are perfectly acceptable and legitimate, each in its own right. I have come to realize and have been made repeatedly aware of the fact that he is taking a somewhat different approach, but the original claim nevertheless gives rise to what I believe are also legitimate expectations from the side of the reader. There are innumerable linguistic and literary ways to let your reader know when you are reporting, when you are deducing and inferring, and when you are fictionalizing. Our dear Mr. Sloterdijk doesn’t find it necessary to do that at all, regardless of what he may be doing, which is one of the reasons why he is so difficult to read, at least in the sense that we several readers all know what it is he is saying, which we all apparently are still trying to figure out.

(douglas duff) #31

Just doing some catch-up reading and listening/watching for Globes. Interested in Fichte and Schelling as some background reading for Sloterdijk (ahhhhcckkk… more… these Germans are like turtles all the way down), though this will also tie into personal research towards Tillich’s “amino-fetoid-panentheistic lineage” (I’m sure that one is in there somewhere…). Any recommended paths or calcified pipes?

(Ed Mahood) #32

There was a flood of original German thinkers at one time, but it has become, in my often-not-so-humble-opinion, a mere trickle, if it hasn’t dried up completely. (I saw a link to an article recently that maintained that current German philosophy doesn’t produce anything worth thinking about, but my browser crashed shortly thereafter and I didn’t mark the page, so I’ve been half-heartedly trying to re-locate it ever since. After my own experiences with Sloterdijk and Metzinger, it seemed to me that the author might really be onto something.) Fichte is considered the father of idealism (or at least it’s German flavor) and Schelling is the bridge between Fichte and Hegel, but harder to nail down as he was active at a time when much was going on in the philosophical world and was always engaged in the center of the debates. I think you just have to pick up what looks to be their most representative text and poke around in it until you get a feel for what it’s about and then you can consider whether you want to pursue any of it in more detail.

As idealists they will have a much more Platonic orientation and the metaphysics will come hot and heavy. Since both are interested in subjectivity and awareness there will be ideas and thoughts in there that are certainly relevant to much of what we discuss in these hallowed halls as well, but I think one always has to identify (or discover or uncover) the assumptions and presuppositions driving a writer’s thinking, and one needs to be clear on what one’s own assumptions and presuppositions (or set of fundamental beliefs, if that is an easier way to describe it); then one needs to go through the continual (and difficult) process of sorting fact from argument and argument from assumption and simultaneously assessing what one finds in light of (literally) where one is coming from oneself. In other words, pretty much what you’ve been doing all along.

(Again, one of my problems with Sloterdijk is that I can’t tell where precisely he’s coming from. He cuts broad and irregular paths through what looks like idealism in some form then I suddenly find him fairly well embedded in some kind of realism when he’s ranting on about someone else’s metaphysics (or metaphysics in general), and as I have said repeatedly, I’m simply weary (or maybe it is unwilling, though I don’t think so) of trying to figure out why he can’t just say what he has to say and get on with it. The input-output ratio is simply too disadvantageous (reading Sloterdijk is like getting 5 miles-to the-gallon after having a car that been doing 35).) You’ll have to decide if your own mileage is worth the price.)

Of course, our own in-house formally trained philosopher, @madrush (I mean, at least he took a degree in the subject), might have more beneficial and efficient advice in this regard.