File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0111, message 94

Date: Mon, 19 Nov 2001 18:17:17 +1000
Subject: Re: We have always been cyborgs

Comments at **

> Hugh, All:
> I was primarily responding to an argument you were making that implied
> that for states as well as individuals, only self-interest mattered, not
> ethics.  I now recognize your point that you were only referring to
> states, not individuals, but isn't that the whole problem in connection
> with the US?
**Individually or collectively?

> America can never admit to itself it is merely operating to secure its
> own interests.  It must always proclaim to the world instead that merely
> wishes to secure liberty and justice for all. This sums up America's
> ethical bad faith.
**Bad faith =  Negation of ethics - interests prevail in relations with
other nations. Relations to it's own citizens can be ethical - all the
justice you can pay for etc. Strange things happen,  Mandela went to prison
then became a politician.  Just as paranoids can have real enemies,
politicians sometimes tell the truth. Some promises are kept.

> Therefore, I want to plunge on with this discussion of interest versus
> ethics, especially since it is a major theme of the chapter in Badiou's
> Ethics whose content I just summarized.
** I harbor unreasoned antipathy to all I've seen of Badiou.  I could try to
find the reason why that is the case, should a need arise.

> Certainly, what Badiou says is very contrary to our current conceptions.
> Beyond the false idealism I referred to above, there is also a popular
> culturalargument today that proclaims all ethics is simply a matter of
> self-interest.  Whether this stems from the egoist philosophy of Ayn
> Rand or the enlightened individualism of contemporary capitalism, it
> seems to be at the very center of our current conception of self, one
> that is summarized in the slogan - Look out for number 1.
**We can't always look out for number 2, 3 etc. Self-interest can be
circular since you serve yourself by serving others whom you care about and
desire to serve.

> The problem with such formulations is that they tend to operate with a
> very rigid conception of the self, as though nothing could be more
> certain than my own self-interest.
**How about your own consciousness, conscience, and  the self-confidence
essential to taking care of yourself and others.

> In fact, however, as animals living in dynamic, uncertain environments,
> a certain amount of trial and error is often necessary to discover where
> our true interest lies.
**Yes, a given, like breathing out and breathing in. No guarantees, no end

> Part of the problem is that my self-interest today may not coincide with
> my self-interest tomorrow. Here ethics may have a place insofar as it
> keeps us open to a more fluid conception of my self than the popular
> conception of self allows.  The heart of this contrary conception of
> ethics is implied in Nietzsche's rather gnomic formulation: "Become that
> which you are."
**Without Nietzsche or the Bible our parents would probably have kept us
warm and fed.
> In a similar way, I believe the concept of the sublime is intertwined
> with this ethics of the self, for very similar reasons.  Although Badiou
> couches his argument in the language of truth, one could also say that
> the supplement to the situation is the sublime.  The agitation of the
> differends produce first pain and then subsequent pleasure as we come to
> realize what Kant named our supersensible destiny, Badiou the Immortal,
> and Lacan the Real.
**I think of the sublime as a happening which affects people who never heard
any of the above.  If those writers help us appreciate the sublime in a way
that was impossible without reading them, they enhance our capacity for
enjoying sublime experience.

> What I also find interesting about this constellation of thought (and
> the argument Badiou makes regarding the ethic of truth) is that is also
> correlates nicely with another philosopher who is usually considered
> poles apart from the likes of Kant, Badiou, Lacan, Lyotard or Deleuze.

> I am referring to John Dewey, that great American philosopher whom Rorty
> once named, along with Heidegger and Wittgenstein, as one of the three
> great philosophers of the twentieth century.

> Against the argument that a "organism/environment is a necessary duality
> for being(s) to 'be'," Dewey's great insight was to recognize that this
> interaction forms a profound unity.  As early as 1896, in his seminal
> essay, "The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology"  he critiqued the dualism
> implicit in the stimulus-response conception of ordinary psychology.

> He argued instead that the situatedness of the
> organism-acting-within-the-environment must be taken into account.  The
> interests and habits of the organism select the stimuli rather than
> merely respond to it.
**Agreed that some humans at scome times in their mature years have an
opportunity to make certain choices re: their individual lives, an social
make life-and-death choices that irrevocably affect contemporaries and
descendants by shaping their lives, their culture.

>Dewey saw, long before the concept of the feedback mechanism became
>fashionable, that the human animal is  basically a loopy organism >whose
:transactions with an environment make simultaneous changes upon both >as a
part of an ongoing process.
**Biologists note that such changes are part of evolutionary process.  One
preys on another.  Each is environment for the other.

> The
> self is no longer regarded as a kind of  subjective homunculus, but
> rather as a network server composed of looping branched distributions
> throughout the world forming an ecology of mind. The organism is truly
> placed within the world.
**Yes there are networks.   What one thinks of one's self depends to a great
extent on interpersonal relationships, and even on words of long-dead

> The mature Dewey realized that a shared, fundamental process connected
> both art and science. He named this process Inquiry and he defined this
> as "the controlled or directed transformation of an indeterminate
> situation into one that is so determinate in its constituent
> distinctions and relations as to convert the elements of the original
> situation into a unified whole."
**A group of people trying to formulate a theory?  As an individual
developing a theory to present to a group?

Here again, I wish to point to the  remarkable similarity between this
conception and Badiou's ethics of  truth.
**Why should Badiou or anyone else have to re-invent Dewey?  Did Dewey,
decades ago describe something special which those concerned knew and failed
to pass on to the next generation, or was it something commonly known then
and now?

> Dona Haraway and others who have exploited the sci-fi concept of the
> cyborg tend to view the cyborg as either an emerging or future trend.
> But, as Larry Hickman argues in his book "John Dewey's Pragmatic
> Technology" Dewey took the view (in a way that anticipated both
> Wittgenstein and Deleuze) that concepts and language, the basic
> materials of Inquiry, are themselves a form of technology; tools which
> are used to transform both a situation and ourselves.
**Some of this type of thinking is found in the beginnnings of Quantum
theory and elsewhere -  i.e. knowing changes the knower and the known.

> This leads to a very different conception of philosophy. The
> relationship between animal and machine, rather than being deplored
> nostalgically in a Heideggarian fashion or autonomously festishized in a
> Wired fashion can be viewed instead in an ethical/political fashion as a
> situation for which we must take responsibility.  The Cyborg thereby
> becomes synonymous with Badiou's Immortal. In truth, we have always been
> cyborgs.
**Man is a machine's way of making another machine. Machines that don't
affect people are not important to humans.  Responsibility of one human for
what happens to other humans is called ethics.
> The ethical maxim of a cyborg is that electric androids must dream of
> philosophy in order to not remain as sheep.
**Imagine an ancient brain built by we-care-not-who.  It was in Egypt before
the pyramids, saw the last battle of Troy, the Crucifixion, the bombing of
Dresden - who cares if it dreams of sheep?  What can it tell us that we need
to know so we can change the situations we need to change?

> For the history of our so-called civilization is merely a series of
> footnotes to the domestication of fire. Home has been unheimlich ever
> since.  This uncanny juxtaposition of intimacy with the volatile has
> meant that something sublime emerged from the transformation of hominids
> into cyborgs, even though it would take several milleniums for the
> process to be completed.  The concept of the cyborg is simply the
> conceptual personae of fire in the sense that it is a mask for
> Prometheus, that primal cyborg.
** The other primates didn't master fire, but they use tools, like fishing
for worms with twigs. And did you ever see the TV documentary movie of
ravens in Sweden raiding fishermen's  lines at a hole in the ice?   The bird
stands on the fishline with one foot pulling the line out of the water, step
by step, with the other foot, until it gets the fish.

> Cyborgs are the true nomads.  For they understand what being a nomad
> truly means. It is to be always on the move, even as you remain in
> place.  A cyborg is a stationary perpetual motion machine, an electronic
> sheep who dreams of becoming an Immortal.
**Yep.  How human can a bird or a borg be.?



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