Wednesday, April 24, 2019

This is for you toxic masculinity theorists: violent criminal men do not represent their kind

alFreDo tRifF

We all know there is a well-funded industry of toxic masculinity (with full backing from the APA, a low for psychology in America). As toxic masculinity appears in publicity campaigns and the media and marches for social justice, guilt ridden men come out of nowhere chanting: "YES WE'RE TOXIC." Nothing better to advance the cause than a man professing mea culpa at his own masculinity.

A recent advocate is Mark Manson, a self-help author, who loves to use the word F*CK in his book titles. Manson merely reechoes hackneyed points in the theory.

First, take a bombastic enough prototype to represent the species. And who's better than Pablo Escobar Gaviria? 
... [Escobar] slaughtered judges, paid off entire prison staffs, flew in the best soccer players in the world to play with him on his ranch, and leading up to his demise, wrought full-blown urban warfare in the streets of Medellin, killing almost 500 police officers in the process.
Manson recognizes that Escobar is a sociopath. This is odd, because a sociopath is as representative of the class "men" as Jeffrey Dahmer is representative of the class "nerds."

Never mind, Manson enthusiastically plows on. He speedily moves from ethnic narrative into crime statistics:
Men perpetrate over 76% of the violent crime in the US. Men are 10 times more likely to commit murder and nine times more likely than women to end up in prison. Men commit 99% of the reported rapes and sexual assaults. And boys perpetrate 95% of the violent crimes at the juvenile level. 
This is a favorite mantra/point of toxic masculinity theorists. The point?

men have a propensity for violent crimes, thus masculinity is toxic.  

Not so fast. 

Let's see: In 2016, 1.2 million violent crimes were committed in the US. Suppose 76% of those were committed by men. That means 912,000 men committed violent crimes in 2016. The 2010 census has 151 million men living in the USA. 912,000 is about 6% of the whole male population.

If you feel inclined (based on these numbers) to make a statement about men in general, you are taking the part for the whole (that my toe hurts doesn't mean that my foot hurts; that 24% of men in America die of heart disease every year doesn't imply that men have weak hearts).

Let's put it in the context of set theory: The class of MEN has a subclass of VIOLENT MEN, and that subclass has yet another subclass of VIOLENT CRIMINALS. So, there are violent men who are not –and will never be– criminals, and men who are not –and will never be– violent.

Making the set of VIOLENT CRIMINALS representative of the set MEN is pure bunk. 

Typical Manson throws anything gluey at the wall hoping it sticks. Next, he presents a "Brief History of Male Violence":
Human history is rife with competition and violence. There has pretty much never been a point in human evolution that we weren’t killing each other in one way or another. 
So, evolution is the theater of men killing each other? What nonsense!

Evolution is a natural process comprising a plethora of things, not to mention that by stressing the horrors of men at the expense of their achievements, Manson shows sampling bias. 

Men have killed plenty, no doubt. But men also hunted for food, contributed to technological advancements, enacted legal codes, designed buildings and works of art, wrote tragedies and poetry, farmed the land, engaged in commerce, enjoyed sports, made love, had children and loved their families.

I propose a different narrative: Through a slow process of natural and social selection, early HOMO SAPIENS came up with safeguards, known as moral norms, to contain the worst of each. It was not a plan made by a cabal of elders after an ecstatic tribal frenzy. It became absolutely necessary for the survival of the species, which is why IT happened. At that point we were ready for the next step: CIVILIZATION. And looking back, we did pretty good.

When Aristotle talks about virtues (circa Fourth Century BC) he's not thinking about masculinity or femininity. In the end it's about phronesis, a sort of wisdom men and women cultivate by practicing the routine of self-governance. The philosopher discusses practical virtues by presenting a careful scalar gradation of excess, balance and defect:
Courage (needed in times of war, which is 24/7 in ancient times), temperance (between insensibility and licentiousness), right ambition, high mindedness (between vanity and pusillanimity), good temper, civility, modesty (yes, between bashfulness and shamelessness) and right indignation (between callousness and spitefulness). 
Aristotle's phronesis proves that ancient societies built moral safeguards in order to normalize human coexistence. There's neither intrinsic, nor extrinsic human fault here. We did what we were supposed to do.

Manson's idea of masculinity has to suppress these subtle gradations that make men REAL MEN. No wonder he counsels his readers with this babbling:
Why are men such dicks? Even the word itself, “dick,” the male sex organ, refers to someone who is being rude and offensive. Why us? Why men? Is it in our biology? Did we evolve this way? Or is there some broader cultural force at work?
No comment.

So, are men supposed to give up masculinity? Suppose you say, NO, it's the TOXIC part that needs to go. You mean gratuitous VIOLENCE? Then why is Mason's message so asinine?
The toxic part is not violence (not if you defend your family from arbitrary injustice) but GRATUITOUS VIOLENCE. And men that pursue gratuitous violence are evil. Why not address gratuitous violence in particular individual men?

Uh uh! That would make TOXICITY so feeble as to become superfluous. Masculinity is not the problem. The problem is human fallibility.


Friday, April 19, 2019

white libraries contain white books written by white people

The Library of Congress (what a waste of space)

I read this post by MIT librarian Sofia Leung. It opens with a discovery:
One of the mind-blowing things is ... this idea of how our library collections, because they are written mostly by straight white men, are a physical manifestation of white men ideas taking up all the space in our library stacks. Pause here and think about this.
Leung treats libraries not as repositories of human ideas worth being preserved, but as implicitly degraded race-tokens. And the reason these books are just "taking up space" is that, regardless of their intrinsic values, they belong to white people (you get it: white people are bad).

Whiteness? A property exhibited by books written by bad white people. Here's Leung core argument:
Basically, white people want to stay being white because of the privilege and protection whiteness affords under the law that they created. Harris also makes this really good point, “whiteness and property share a common premise — a conceptual nucleus — of a right to exclude”. Bam! That really hits it on the head.
This is another version of the white privilege argument. Unfortunately for Leung, whites didn't invent "property." Rather property is a HUMAN construct necessitated by bartering and economic transactions going back to early human civilizations. Does Leung presume there can be commerce without "property"? She should read some of Marx's texts on property (bah, another white man).

Ideas in white books are spoils of plunder by white dudes against people of color.
If you look at any United States library’s collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things, or ideas, people, and things they stole from people of color.  
These are some of the "dudes" of modern physics, chemistry and mathematics: Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, Euler, Huygens, Bernoulli, Cavendish, D'Alembert, Hamilton, Jacobi, Farady, Maxwell, Boyle, Cantor, Volta, Lavoisier, Avogrado, Dalton, Gay-Lussac, Gauss, Lambert, Mendeleev, Bohr, Rutherford, Einstein  Heisenberg, Gödel:

ALL WHITE THIEVES stealing ideas from people of color.

Leung can't fathom that ideas –great and silly and stupid– are just that: HUMAN IDEAS; for instance her conclusion about "white dudes writing about white ideas" is stupid —and she isn't white.

Care for one more?
Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten and at the cost of black and brown lives via the prison industrial complex, the spoils of war, etc. Libraries filled with mostly white collections indicates that we don’t care about what POC think, we don’t care to hear from POC themselves, we don’t consider POC to be scholars, we don’t think POC are as valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people.
I pity Leung's 9-5/5-day work routine, surrounded by wasted spaces filled by white books' shelf collections, written by white dudes (who stole from people of color), all of which she finds so appalling. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

childless and clueless

aLfrEdo tRifF

a student brings to my attention this article on the independent, featuring childless-by-choice jenny mustard explaining her five reasons for not having children:

1. minimalism. mustard avers she doesn't want kids (as the camera slowly pans through an empty flat with a few clothing racks). she offers: "i like keeping things as calm and smooth as possible. kids? not so smooth and calm if you ask me."

did she prove her point? or is this just ad hoc rescue clothed as "minimalism?"

2. biology. "having a kid inside my belly that i don't even know is terrifying to me. and there's a grand finale: do you know where babies come out of?"

jenny dear: your mother went through a grand finale, which greatly facilitated your being ON CAMERA questioning IT.   

3. the planet. this deserves a prize for do as i say not as i do. jenny declares: "there's so much humanity that this planet can take, and we're passed the breaking point."

out of pity for planet earth, mustard denies her unborn child a place ON the very world she lives in and enjoys.

4. lifestyle. this is jenny at her most narcissistic. "i really enjoy my lifestyle." we see shots with happy mustard with boyfriend, happy mustard in a stadium and so on. then she lets slip: "i really want to live like this forever."

well, you won't.

5. i'm not that into children  –she admits the unstoppable. "i don't know why i don't go crazy about babies ... like i do, for poppies or iguanas or camels." wouldn't this point contravene mustard's "minimalist" argument? (do you picture mustard with a camel inside her loft? i don't), or her "planet" point? (she forgot that humans are also animals).

then she drops this nonsense: "i like to have grown up conversations with grown up people." well, good luck with that.

in her closing remarks, jenny betrays her initial pledge of just "telling"  her story and proceeds to proselytize: "don't believe people telling you that you are not a woman until you are a mother and all that nonsense" (a bit off putting to the many women who cannot have children and would love to).

what jenny mustard fails to realize IS NOT that one is not a woman until one is a mother, but that being a mother indeed makes one a richer woman.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

i sing to dissent

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i need to say something on the subject of natural sciences, something at the core of their method. i'm talking about fallibilismi.e., the possibility of error within complex theoretical methods. you see, nature is not apprehended deductively. nature is apprehended a posteriori, inferentially.

induction is probabilistic. no inductive conclusion is ever guaranteed. 

which has to do with the first drafts of my students' final papers. one of the topics proposed is global warming (gw hereon). i go to google to find counters to gw and can't find them. generally, the sort of arguments one finds in google have already become standardized, which is bad news overall (this is why i recommend google scholar). 

it's quite difficult for a neophyte to find counters to gw. they are treated as caricatures. why -am thinking. it can't be because there's no dissent. is this even possible? 

scientific theories simply don't reign uncontested. pros and cons follow from having a theory. accepted theories take center stage -in the best scenario- by consensus, and in the worst, by dogma.

here is an example from physics,
from anthropology,
from biology,

a theory is true until proven false. 

i know gw advocates assume a 97% consensus. suppose it was true -which is not, can't be. consensus doesn't mean -uncontested- explanatory power, much less truth. generalized consensus only makes a theory more plausible. rendering data for complex processes such as gw requires multiple levels of methods and interpretations. the results can't be unanimous. & if it happened we still have reasons to be skeptic.

in philosophy of science one must in fact, keep finding (simultaneously) reasons for and against the hypothesis. this is part and parcel of the scientific endeavor. no theory can reign unscathed without the to-and-fro of dissent. 

after much search i found the counters: good ones, buried in deepest layers of google's search algorithm. i had spent hours -like an archaeologist- digging for them. when i got'em it felt like an oasis in the middle of a wasteland. 

i sing to dissent.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

if me bigot, then you bigot!

aLfreDo tRifF

according to the free dictionary, a bigot is "one who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ."

the definition allows for subtlety, as the problem lies in the "strongly" adverbial modifier.  if I was just partial to my beliefs, presumably that doesn't make me a bigot. however, being partial to my beliefs is redundant: that's the very definition of BELIEF (having beliefs is perfectly normal).

it gets more bizarre: consider that if you had strong beliefs against the "bigot," according to the definition, that makes you ... ANOTHER BIGOT! 😳đŸ˜Č

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Gillette's "toxic" masculinity hallucination

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above a recent ad by Gillette.

We see boys, men, engaging in bullying behavior. Granted. However, bullying is not exclusively a male/behavior, there are female bullies too.

Wait! Neither woman nor man is indicted in my argument, plain and simple: violence is a human behavior (give me a minute to elaborate).

the masculinity part

Gillette gets "masculinity" wrong. Here's the Wikipedia entry:
... a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles associated with boys and men." so far so good, then we get this: "... traits traditionally viewed as masculine in Western society include strength, courage, independence, violence, and assertiveness.
The problem with this definition is the inclusion of VIOLENCE as a "traditional" trait for masculinity:*
... the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.
This definition is very close to that of "abuse":
... physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression.
violence and abuse, or abusive violence, or violent abuse (see how easily they meld) becomes automatically by fiat? a masculine trait.

the logic behind violent masculinity:

Is "masculinity" a necessary condition for violence? Not as long as someone other than men, say, a female, is capable of violence (only one female defeats the conditional — that weak is the statement).

Is "masculinity" a sufficient condition for violence? Not as long as you can find a man as calm as a platypus.

Is all violence "toxic?" Not necessarily. I'm thinking of Aristotle's "righteous indignation." Eye for an eye is part and parcel of Homo Sapiens' survival as species. Even the Hindu's idea of ahimsa has limits. Gandhi admits ahimsa can be suspended when justice is at stake.

A more esoteric point is the mounting tensions in making masculinity toxic for identitarian ideologues. If sex is a subjective social construction —as identitarians claim these days— where does "masculinity" fit in all this? For masculinity would apply not solely a man's set of attributes, but also to females and transgender individuals as well.  Is a "masculine" F-M transgender person more prone to violence just because of their masculinity?


the toxic part

Gillette's "toxic" characterization is left purposefully vague (they parade it but are clueless as how to resolve it). In fact, the problem is intractable:

1- if there is something particular that makes masculinity "toxic" then masculinity qua masculinity CANNOT be toxic (hint: Remember masculinity is not ONE, but A SET of traits). If the balance of traits in an individual man is such that a single trait, i.e., VIOLENCE predominates, he has effectively abandoned masculinity.       

2- follows from 1-. If masculinity was INTRINSICALLY toxic, why does Gillette play it as if there is "redemption" for masculinity (at 1:04 the voice over goes: "to act the right way... some already are, because the boys of today will be the men of tomorrow"). Yeah, there's hope for men.

What are these men of tomorrow suppose to be? NOT MASCULINE? The Ad is not clear about this important point. Suppose you guess, no, it's the TOXIC part, i.e., VIOLENCE. Then why is the message so convoluted? There are violent and very violent men. Verily. That man or that group of men don't represent their kind, just like a very violent woman doesn't represent hers.

If Gillette's moral admonition was about one trait of the set of characteristics, i.e., violence, why not address the violence in particular individual men? Unh uh! that would make TOXICITY so feeble as to become superfluous.

3- How about a radical diktat? Burn masculinity altogether! But then, will men be able to procure for themselves a NEW SET of traits? What new set do you put in its place? Who is to say is will be any different than what we had before?

Nature has a stubborn tendency to disappoint utopian prophets. 

The irony is that this tale of moral hubris comes from Gillette, a Proctor& Gamble company, in the business of selling razor blades to ............................. toxic men.


* "Traditional" means pertaining the tradition. Violence is condemned in early Greek philosophy by Plato, then Aristotle, as infirmity of character. In Greek tragedy violence is acknowledged as human fate handled by the gods (in Euripides and Aeschylus violence was not really presented, but hinted at by the chorus). Epicurean and Stoic philosophy abhors anger and violence. Epictetus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius & Cicero write against violence in various contexts. Enlightenment thinkers, such as Rousseau & Montesquieu oppose it. Romantic poets like Shelley, Coleridge and Blake, address violence as a pivot point to liberate self from the chains of injustice.

Friday, October 19, 2018

true diversity requires tolerance

alFredO trIfF

diversity: the condition of being diverse.

For the idea of diversity to make sense, it needs to be defended across the spectrum.

diversity cannot limit itself 

diversity seeks diversity 

Thus, no argument within the diversity spectrum should be prohibited. There's a mounting call to censor diversity, to accommodate it to the political trends of the day (we know trends come and go). what's the main objection? 


so, by today's standards this list should NOT BE:

Hitler's Mein Kempf, (offensive to jews)
Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, (offensive to muslims)
Ginsberg's Howl (offensive to 1960s sexual mores)
Nabokov's Lolita (pedophilic content)
Burroughs' Naked Lunch (offensive to 1960s sexual mores)
Serranos' Piss Christ (offensive to Christians, late 1980s)
Hebdo's caricatures of Mohamed (offensive to Muslims)
Mapplethorpe's Black Book (still trending offense)
Prodigy's Smack My Bi*** Up (offensive to feminists)
Passolini's SALÒ (pornographic content)
Spasojevic's A Serbian Film,  (pedophilic content)

we need a system to negotiate proper balance among the different factions pulling diversity apart. 

this is called tolerance.

tolerance doesn't require you to accept -or reject- something, only that you allow it TO BE.

Voltaire offers good advice in his Treatise on Tolerance:
You have not given us hearts to hate one another and hands to kill one another; grant then that we may help each other to support the burden of this painful and transitory life! May the trifling differences among • the garments that cover our frail bodies, • the mode of expressing our insignificant thoughts, • our ridiculous customs,  •our imperfect laws, •our absurd opinions, and • our various conditions that appear so disproportionate in our eyes and so equal in yours —may all these little shades of difference among the atoms called "men" not be use by us as triggers for hatred and persecution! (para. 23, p. 46)
here's the question: am I ready to defend such-and-such even if it insults me, disgusts me?

true diversity requires tolerance.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Don't play with fire (a feminist word of caution)

Perusing through the book shelves at the 9th floor of UM's Richter Library, what a delicious pass time! & I find Rethinking The Reasonable Person, (from Oxford Press). The feminist chapter starts by subverting of objectivity with the "men are unreasonable" cliché.

Ready as I am to put it back on the shelf, I hurry towards the end of the chapter and find this scrap:
The danger, it seems, is that subjectivization of standards permit discriminatory attitudes ... to affect the degree of self-control he is required to exercise in provocative situations. Thus, precisely because of their ‘ordinariness’, which is after all the very quality that distinguishes prejudice from more discrete and individualized forms of hostility, discriminatory beliefs such as racism, sexism, and homophobia seem likely to seep into a subjectivized standard.
Translation? The feminist war on objectivity backfires because it grants subjectivity a mighty power to subvert any appeal for right or wrong beyond individual opinions. That much needed arbiter is, well, objectivity.  How come they didn't see it?
Don't play with fire.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Still Life is a "Monument to the inadequacy of language" (yeah, sure...)

Luc Tuyman Still Life, 2002, 11x16 feet

alFrEdo tRifF

At miami.bourbaki, we expose artblicity whenever and wherever we see it.

Dear reader, if you pay a visit to our site for the first time, perhaps we should revisit the term.

Artblicity is basically publicity passing for artspeak to $ell art.

Though publicity and contemporary art are compadres, they avoid each other. Why? Profits belong in this other human science called economy. Art, on the other hand, is this mythical thing you often encounter as epiphanic pseudo theory.

In what follows we'll show artblicity in action. Which brings us to Belgian painter Luc Tuymans (we've covered Luc Tuymans before: here, here, and here).

Tuymans is an artblicity favourite.

Take this sample from the Saatchi Gallery Webpage:
The sheer scale makes the contemplation of this painting almost impossible: a vast canvas representing an absolute nothingness. Luc Tuymans chose the subject of still life precisely because it was utterly unremarkable; a generic ‘brand’ of ‘object’ rendered to immense scale; it is banality expanded to the extreme. The simplicity of Luc Tuymans’s composition alludes to a pure and uninterrupted world order; the ephemeral light, with which the canvas seems to glow, places it as an epic masterpiece of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation. In response to unimaginable horror, Luc Tuymans offers the sublime. A gaping magnitude of impotency, which neither words nor paintings could ever express.
We didn't know who wrote this platitude. Then we found it was used here, and referred to as Saatchi blurb.

Then we located Simon Morley (as it turns, an artist, professor, expert in sublimity)

Morley opens with the assumption that Tuymans delivers "absolute nothingness."

Not just "nothingness" (a knotty Sartrean category, circa 1950s), but an "absolute" one at that.

Suddenly, one can feel the viscosity of hyperbole constraining one's neck muscles.

This "nothingness" happens as a result of "sheer size." Yet, the ratio of the centered still-life arrangement, about 5x8 feet2, is actually quite proportional to the size of the whole piece (11x16 feet2). If Morley takes a literal cue to imply a symbolic result, the painting's ratio between part and whole doesn't deliver his badly needed sorcery.

Then, inexplicably, Morley ventures into divination: Tuymans chooses this subject matter because Still-Life's "utterly unremarkable" standing. Not just "unremarkable" but "utterly" so (notice artblicity's hyperbolic adjectival, adverbial compulsion: 1- "sheer," 2- "absolute," and 3- "utterly," etc).

In an instant, Morley turns Still Life, one of paintings' sturdiest genres, with 24 centuries of history, into a "generic brand of object."

Here comes Morley's epiphanic release (in a mere 58-word paragraph)

* ... expanded to the extreme,
* ... an epic masterpiece,
* ... of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation,
* ... response to imaginable horror,
* ... offers the sublime,
* ... gaping magnitude of impotency,
* ... which neither words nor paintings could ever express,

And after this panegyric, he has the nerve to drop a portent:

Still Life is a monument to the inadequacy of language.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Saturday, June 23, 2018

the world is a mess? it's true. stop whining

this is our natural processual mess (with all of us in it)

aLfreDo tRifF

The world is a mess (or so they make us think).

I have news: If the world was a mess, it is clearly a necessary mess.

Let's entertain the most stressful concept in our encyclopedia of contemporary miseries: Global Warming. What causes Global Warming? The best consensus points to us, humans, which promptly brings forth the unpalatable choice that we become the cause of our own demise. 

How come?

We never intended it that way. Global Warming is a recipe of human fallibility plus unintended consequences. If we go back in time to the explosion of Modernity we see faith in human science and technology and entrepreneurship and development and commerce. The world is a tool of progress and enlightenment. If you & I were living in the Eighteenth Century, chances are we'd gladly and ignorantly- contribute to our actual Global Warming.

If this is our doing, we become automatically responsible for it. Not so fast.

Our responsibility gets canceled once we factor in Global Warming's actual inevitability, since every step of the process leading to this critical moment is outcome of a previous event, caused by  a previous one and so on. In the end, this Global Warming becomes just another natural process, like the Siberian Traps Eruption or the Influenza Pandemic of 1914.

Are we not part of this supervening system called NATURE? Is this Global Warming less of a natural process than, say, the last warming cycle, 10,000 years ago?

Now the expert climatologist retorts: "... the difference is that this one is human-made."

So what? Are humans outside of natural processes?

Unless the climatologist believes we are somehow a breed out of the system, she has to agree that we are all as "natural" as petroleum.

That our Global Warming is perfect, doesn't mean I don't wish for a different world with less trash and clean air and pristine oceans, but that's is not the actual world I live in. Isn't it a bizarre paradox of Global Warming that so many unrelated ideas and discoveries and unwitting actors long gone from earth become as responsible for it as we are? 

I leave you with my lemma for our warming days: Amor Fati.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

A brief discussion of Tom Scicluna's 6319 NW 2nd Avenue at Nina Johnson Gallery

aLfrEdo tRIFf

Miami artist Tom Sicluna's recent show, 6329 NW 2nd Ave, at Nina Johnson Gallery may provoke the following reactions:

1. "I like the show."
2. "I don't know what to think of the show." Scicluna hasn't done much here, e.g., if anything, the artist just set up "found" grills on the gallery wall.  Is that art?
3. "I hate the show."

1. & 3. need no help from me. Aesthetics has a noble line of emotivist critics defending the idea that value judgments are really emotive states clothed as rational cogitations (I disagree, and will discuss precisely this point later). 

I was at the Scicluna's vernissage and did my DIY anthropological field study. Conclusion: Of those present at the gallery, very few actually got close to the pieces (and thus, missed important notes). They seemed oblivious, puzzled or both, more into talking-mode than seeing-mode.

Coming back to 2: True, Scicluna hasn't done much (the reason is that there is not much to do).

On the other hand, Scicluna knows what he is doing and wants to do it. One has to be crazy to do this sort of art precisely because of stereotypes associated with 2. (in case 2. was a legitimate point against Scicluna's art).

We need a little background info. The following excerpt appears in the notes to the show:
The artist looked to ongoing renovation of Nina Johnson gallery... he removed the iron security grills from the property’s external façades and installed them in the gallery itself ... mounted on the walls ... while these grills have a rough industrial presence, closer inspection reveals them to be individualized and possessing almost poignant details.
Let's not sugar-coat the fact: These are oxidized iron grilles ready for metal scrapping. Only that Scicluna finds a higher purpose for these things.

Is this art? Forget about art for a second. Scicluna is not fighting anything, nor trying to prove anything art-related. The time for art fights is gone. Neither is he playing within "binaries" as the notes to the show predictably announce (in poor Derridean). He just loves the beat up, oxidized quality of these wrought iron windows.*

To the people in 2.: If you were the artist, would you have a show of iron grilles just out of the factory at Nina Johnson? Negative. Scicluna is an artist, not a window/grille salesman. The materials point to time, because time is change. And time, as it were, joins forces with beauty.

Scicluna shows how time opens up the thinghood of the thing. How oxygen and water and iron mass converge and eventually become rust. Yes, there's beauty on the surface of these oxidized bars.

Look at this detail:

Surface rust is flaky and friable. When it happens, the iron's inner forces have given up. There's no more protection from the underlying iron res, as the the white paint only defers the inevitable a bit more. Rust is Real.

Let's magnify this baby:

Rusting up close. A marvel of nature.

FYI: This is nor art.

This is chemistry! Perchance you may agree with me that there's beauty in the rust. If you don't, stop reading. This is not for you.

You still here?

Rust is beautiful because it is inevitable. Scicluna presents an actual world that has all of us as members. The oxidation below are you and me, a process going on right now in our blood and gut and bones.

There was certainly beauty before we ever learned to value it (was there not beauty in the sunsets of the late Cambrian?). If so, beauty is not perforce a human value. 

I just hope that the people in 2. have different notes with which to better judge Scicluna's art.

* Clearly these are not the only aesthetic notes to explore here. I just think they are more relevant than other notes, such as psychological or urban/social intersections, in that they are primary, e.g., they address the thing itself, independently of our value judgments.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

human-art vs. bot-art

art fair art of 2018

alfReDo tRifF

What if in 200 years from now, art doesn't collect the same aesthetic properties of today's art?

The future brings a convergence of economic and aesthetic trends: a demand for "high finish" in art (where art catches up with haute design) plus "outsourcing" (inherited from early-2000s globalization). Both are firmly entrenched in what is known today as "art-of-not-making."

By 2118 contemporary artists give up the "making" in favor of just "designing." Contemporary art is now so labor-intensive that it's taken over by bot-labor. This art is of better quality than that of human artisans, and yet, to the trained eye, the execution exhibit properties referred to as "bot-art."

Add to the recipe the collusion of human/aesthetics vs. bot/aesthetics, where the latter has notes not yet fully understood by humans. It has to be frustrating for humans to accept that bots entertain ideas of beauty that differ from human standards (the reason is bot-qualia, e.g., the difference felt between humans and bots' mental states, as Twenty first Century human programmers kept taking for granted bots' mental states as a carbon copy of their own). For example, what we still call "beautiful" in 2118 they call "optimal." One side effect of this tension is that "design" is now considered by humans as more promising -aesthetically speaking- than art. Another side-effect is that "bot-art" -as it is pejoratively called- is a lesser form of "art of not-making" for a new generation of angsty human curators.

Left to compete with A.I.'s art, human artists have dropped all "digital" media to fully embrace hands-on art. A bit too late: "man-made" art has the feel of pre-Modern standards, minus Modern art's drive for originality. And yet, while abandoning what some call "bot-flatness," human art of 2200s looks not much different than 2018 art-fair art, minus the latter's Postmodern posturing.

Odd, isn't it?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

external bias vs. internal self-fulfilling bias in the discussion of race in America

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Just fresh from the NY Times, a new study about racial disparities & social mobility, witten by Stanford Law professor Ralph Richard Banks.

Banks takes two points from this study (by Raj Chetty from Princeton & Nathaniel Hendren from Harvard):
One is that a child’s economic position is sticky: Children from affluent families are many times more likely to maintain their privileged status than children from poor families are to attain it. The other is that while economic mobility may be individual, the conditions that enable or retard it are social. Wealthy neighborhoods with good schools and strong social ties propel even poor children toward a brighter future.
Surprising! The gap between blacks and whites, as the study puts it, is driven by black men, not black women.

Here's Banks:
We know that African-American daughters tend to do well. They climb the socioeconomic ladder as high as their white peers, if not higher. It’s the boys who fail. Whether born to a rich family or a poor one, in an impoverished neighborhood or wealthy one, black boys lag behind their white peers as adults. Black boys who grow up rich are twice as likely as their white counterparts to end up poor. And of those black boys who start life poor, nearly half will remain so in adulthood, while more than 2 in 3 of their white peers will escape the poverty of their youth.

Banks points to a vicious cycle: Black women may surpass their white counterparts in individual income, but they lag in household income. The reason is that they don't get the help needed from their male counterparts. Why again? According to Banks: "The men who would be their husbands are missing — incarcerated, unemployed, unable to be the partners that women want. Or the parents that children need."

Banks rightly acknowledges that racial disparities in incarceration, unemployment, school failure, etc, fuel racial social bias. And this bias, as he puts it, "ensnares black boys, rich and poor alike." This is one important component. And yet, Banks ignores the "internalization" aspect of this external bias, that is to say, its self-fulfilling aspect. Unless we are strictly socially determined, how can a young black man properly fight social bias if he doesn't keep in check his internalization of such bias?

Society is made up of individuals and individuals exhibit desires and memories that express autonomy and meaningful projects. But the fight against bias should not be reduced to mere externality. If that was the case Spartacus would have never rebelled against the almighty Roman armies, nor blacks against their masters in Nineteenth Century America. It's almost automatic: If anyone is told she is no good all of her life, she would end up believing it, thus sabotaging her own opportunities.   

"I'm not what you think I am" needs to be internally checked along with "I won't become what you think I am."

True, society can impede an individual's life plans to a point, but unless we were totally determined by society, we can also find ways to express our best aspirations and bring forth positive change.  

It's this second aspect that Banks overlooks. We're dealing with a self-fulfillment of an external bias. Again, if  this was only a social problem, we'd be denying young blacks the very self-determination they need to end this vicious cycle. There's no negative stereotype to fulfill (i.e., the "socially unfit black male") unless there was an internal component that feeds off this pervasive external bias. This, as well, has to end.

Young blacks don't have to wait for society to change its biases about them. It's time to short-circuit the vicious cycle. The discourse has to shift from solely finding the problem outside, and addressing the plentiful reserves of African-american culture inside each young black person.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Cluster & Eno (full album) 1977

What hides under the spectacular oppositions is a unity of misery. Behind the masks of total choice, different forms of the same alienation confront each other, all of them built on real contradictions which are repressed. The spectacle exists in a concentrated or a diffuse form depending on the necessities of the particular stage of misery which it denies and supports. In both cases, the spectacle is nothing more than an image of happy unification surrounded by desolation and fear at the tranquil center of misery.- Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, 1967.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

How to overegg the art pudding

Danh Vo, Theodore Kaczynski’s Smith Corona Portable Typewriter, 2011 (via Art News).  

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Art News covers a show of Vitnamese artist Danh Vo, @ the Guggenheim in NY, reviewed by Andrew Russeth, who opens with this imbricated salvo:
 “I think Danh Vo is trying to end art,” an art dealer said to me a few years ago. It was a great quip, delivered excitedly, as high praise, and I took it to mean that, by presenting historical artifacts and other people’s artworks in his shows, the Danish-Vietnamese artist was working in a way that was so nakedly factual, so close to real life and real history, that he was stretching the definition of art just about to a breaking point and making other supposedly radical practices look a bit lame by comparison.
What a plenitudinous excerpt!

"nakedly factual"
"so close to real life and history"
"stretching the definition of art to a breaking point"
"making other supposedly radical practices look a bit lame by comparison"      

What we have above your typical art-magazine's reviewer/blast. FYI: contemporary art reviewers' job is to inflate the merchandise. The writing plays a faking game of being "impartial" if the term offers any consolation of a bygone time when the writer would leave their bias at the gallery's door for the sake of the public good. Art readers get it and look the other way, assuming quality of norms and integrity  if the writing has the back of established publications (thus perpetuating the vicious cycle). The truth is starkly simple: readers are already conditioned to digest contemporary art reviews as unapologetic ballyhoos (we call it artblicity).

Let's come back to Russeth, who uses his dealer's "quip" to set the tone on the march up the mountain of praise. As the critic proceeds to present his friend's hyperbole in politically correct verbiage, he lets out his own normative tract in the open:

... but that dealer’s enthusiasm has proved prescient.

After this unsubtleness, it occurred to me that Russeth may have invented the dealer as an autre to whom to transfer his personal bias while pushing for much needed aesthetic consensus. A compass  north of impartiality works in the reviewer's favor by pulling against his unchecked bias. Russeth's responsibility is to himself and the other (the artist & the reader). What we have here is the "dealer" opinion as replacement and reinforcement for the biased reviewer. In other words, if Russeth's responsibility could be delegated or shared, then it would not be only him who is on the spot.

As he plows ahead his panegyric, Russeth uncontrollably discloses his admiration:
Vo has emerged as one of the signal artists of our tumultuous era. He is a sensitive, gimlet-eyed observer of geopolitical events and his own family’s history, and how they intertwine. He is also a uniquely bold risk-taker, one of the rare artists who can act with the cold precision of a surgeon or a seasoned criminal.
You know a true praiser from a "would be" by his doubling & tripling hyperboles. A received idea in art reviewers' circles is that aesthetic evaluations require Xtra oomph. The goal is to sell the show, thus the choice, "gimlet-eyed observer," over just plain "observer" as if squinting one's eyes or frowning snobbishly would elicit perceptible changes in the laws of nature.

"gimlet-eyed observer of geopolitical events,"
"uniquely bold-risk taker,"
"rare artist,"
"who can act with the cold precision of a surgeon or a seasoned criminal,"

Russeth's "uniquely-bold-risk-taker" deserves a Saint-Simon Prize! Who would resist this shower of accolades? Never mind that in closing Russeth gets a bit of buyer's remorse and guardedly adds:
I have swooned over Vo’s work for years, all the while eyeing him with the suspicion one reserves for those who make it all look a bit too easy.
They are plain easy, trendy & nostalgic, which is precisely the theme of this epoch if there was a theme for an epoch, that is. Contemporary art and celebrity objects  are a binity.

In the study, Newman, Diesendruck and Bloom attribute "celebrity objects" to three factors: memory, money and magic:
Celebrity possessions are often one of a kind, which by definition makes them a scarce commodity. Add to it the market value they command. An object that belonged to that celebrity is valued because it serves as a physical reminder that helps people to relive those pleasurable emotional states. 
Clearly, Vo understands and plays these connections adroitly. He starts where Duchamp's readymades left off, but without Duchamp's acid, anarchist bent. Vo's objects are charged with history indeed, but history doesn't discriminate. History happens to all the elements under its domain. The Vietnamese artist makes his bet for nostalgic & celebrity history and the two make an indelible friendship, something Russeth never takes into account as a possible check to his normative credulity.

Let's close with a tad of humor. How about a show entitled Celebrity & Identity @ The Guggenheim, featuring a Vo-like artist, where amongst many other "subversive" pieces, Scarlett Johnson "used tissue" wins special praise from the Russeths of the world as "simultaneously evading and confronting the true face of banality"? Plausible indeed.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

woman and trans fight for exclusive clubs

 a future female cyborg, why not?

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I wish to follow this piece of news, which turned into this and this and worse, this (that's lots of ricochets blurring the issue at hand).

McGowan declares:
Caitlyn Jenner you do not understand what being a woman is about at all. You want to be a woman and stand with us— well learn us.
The point is correct but misplaced. McGowan is a biological woman, not a transgender female. Caitlyn Jenner will never be the woman McGowan has in mind. Mrs. Jenner is what McGowan could never come to be, even if she wants to.

We belong in both a biological club and a gender club. Biology is DNA-bounded. Gender is role-bounded. The TRANS club is gender-bounded. Its members feel and desire other than their respective DNA-bounds. They don't ever leave —can't— their biological clubs. Transgender individuals fiddle with their bodies to make it look different (a M-F seeks a female body, the F-M transgender seeks a male body), but that's not a biological change. Some transgender individuals may not want neither male nor female bodies to fit their gender choice.

Why not accept that the TRANS club is a form of otherness beyond biology?*

Caitlyn Jenner's boobs, makeup, garments etc, are non-essential —if that's what drives McGowan's point. Does Jenner minus her boobs makes her any less a female? Does McGowan's menstrual cycles more of a woman? Methinks not. A female coming from a M-F TRANS club cannot be like a "female" in her WOMEN's club.

This fight over being a woman is not literal! (which both McGowan and Andi Dier miss).

Moreover, the gender-bounded club is not, like its DNA counterpart, permanent. One can enter and leave it. It happens all the time).


*Imagine the possibility of a cyborg gender club. I sympathize with Donna Haraway's desire to expand Feminist take on gender, but disagree that cyborgs are necessarily genderless (all we need are female-isomorphic algorithms).

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

How left and right become gurgling buddies

model posing @ l'ecole des beaux arts, end of 19th century

This morning's NYTimes: 
Two women recently told The New York Times that Mr. Close had asked them to model naked for him, requests that made them feel exploited and uncomfortable. And on Tuesday, HuffPost published similar accounts from women, including one who described stripping in front of Mr. Close. HuffPost reported he then moved toward her in his wheelchair "so that his head was inches away from her vagina," and said it "looks delicious."
Ok, paraplegic Close is a dirty old man. But in the first case he's simply proposing a common painter/model transaction. The would-be-model is free to say "no, thanks." Not a dirty proposal. Naked modelling is a staple of the fine arts (and a decent job at that). In the second case, after Close's "dirty" remark, the model gets dressed, picks up her things and leaves the vieux cochon alone.

But to use these private and personal incidents to cancel Mr. Close's show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington?

This is Art Market typical artsy plotting & charting for an opening to attract media attention and influence in the unbefitting Co. of right-wing-conservatism posing as "liberal" justice.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Steve Bollman's Almost True

 “Havana, Cuba, 2016” (Section 6, Image 4) 

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Photography is often portrayed as the paradigm of representation, which automatically harks back to Plato’s critique of imitation in the Tenth Book of the Republic (although Plato didn’t have a camera in mind). Hence, the confusion persists as to what represents what. The art of photography comes with two curses: it’s a modern medium and a machine. Whereas some derided the camera as an “exploitation of man by machinery,” others argued that photography would help fight Victorian close-mindedness by showing the latter’s flaws in the open. Photography won the dispute and claimed the Twentieth Century as its epoch.

Then came the team/spirit of postmodernism and digital photography. The first upped the reality game to inaugurate the hyperreal, which the second made common property at the click of a mouse. In Postmodern photography reality and simulation are a virtual doppelgĂ€nger: relative to point of view, culture, class, geographical coordinates, political persuasion, sexual orientation —even camera brand. This is where the title of this book, Almost True, comes in. “True” points not to facts, but authenticity; the “almost” means the game of trial and error.

“Pamplona, Spain, 1985” (Section 8, Image 3) 

Steve Bollman is quite informed about his trade, but he doesn’t take pictures to support agendas. He’s neither a Milton Brown, accusing pop culture of destroying art photography, nor a Susan Sontag depicting photography as a Capitalist tool of social control. He just loves photography and carries his camera everywhere in pursuit of the right moment —which may or may not become the right picture. It’s not that complicated. The right moment presents itself and the photographer is able and lucky to capture it. A photographer grasps the moment from the continuum of time. The picture freezes the moment and makes it transcendent. Once captured, the moment belongs only in the picture. Without the picture, there’s no moment per se.

A good picture congeals a meeting of chance and empathic competence. Bollman’s photos are “almost true” as they walk a tightrope between the reduction and the surplus of moments. When he gets it right, no explanation sufaces, except the obvious “I got it.” Bollman is a realist, which means to be true to the deep and chancy interdependence between people and things. Except, he is not doing the snap-shot realism of pioneers like Garry Winogrand, where the photo brings forth the social effervescence of the 1960s, or Nan Goldin’s 1980s photo verité of her close friends, stricken with drug addiction and AIDS.

“Viñales, Cuba, 2003” (Section 8, Image 2) 

Favoring open-ended encounters, Bollman leans toward the honest intimacy of William Eggleston’s pre-color photography, or Lee Friedlander’s black-and-white aesthetics of people and things, teasing each other and fighting each other like a dysfunctional family. He doesn’t do closeups of faces in full color, like Martin Parr. In fact, he doesn’t do color. And we’re not in the 1970s when color still had a bad reputation.

Why does Almost True avoid color? The answer is that black-and-white are colors. Bollman’s abstention from color reminds one of Picasso’s eschewing color during his Analytic period. Picasso wanted the Cubist form to be properly seen without color interference. Bollman doesn’t believe color carries a pop culture stigma (a premise which Eggleston proved false), or that color made an Unholy Alliance with the all-pervasive phone-camera photography.

“Caltanisetta, Sicily, 1987” (Section 6, Image 1) 

Almost True’s black-and-white preference points to emotional clarity, a social ethos suspended until the time comes. Then there is Bollman’s empathic style. Arriving camera in hand and unannounced, he tentatively reads his environment in search of the right moment for the picture. It’s a difficult dance on behalf of the photographer to get around the wobbly floor of people and things. Almost True presents this negotiation through a subtle arrangement. Not that Bollman arranges anything. A good picture is in synch with people and things. It’s a convergence of empathy and diligence, an irreducible moment in the drama of social life. Bollman shares Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz’s ideals that reality is amenable to the modern form.

“Havana, Cuba 2016” (Section 4, Image 1) 

In “Havana, Cuba 2016” (Section 4, Image 1) we see a man and a woman close to each other at a building’s entrance, though on closer inspection, they are not looking at each other. The building’s background column intrudes in the foreground to clearly divide their silhouettes. In “Havana, Cuba, 2003” (Section 4, Image 7) we get three pedestrians going about their daily business, keeping the same distance from each other. Though absorbed into their private affairs, they are compacted, by the abracadabra of the shot into a symmetric troika.

“Havana, Cuba, 2003” (Section 4, Image 7) 

One can notice Bollman’s subtle approach to human emotions. “Viñales, Cuba, 2003” (Section 8, Image 2) has a raggedly dressed country girl so deep in her thoughts that one immediately wonders what’s going on in her young mind. “New York City, New York, 1986” (Section 9, Image 4) shows a vulnerable instant of nocturnal self-absorption. “Berkeley, California, 2016” (Section 9, Image 7) portrays an old man’s desperate attempt to rescue a sound memory from the lingering synapses of his own dementia.

“Berkeley, California, 2016” (Section 9, Image 7) 

Finally, there is Bollman’s exploration of the human gaze. In “Caltanisetta, Sicily, 1987” (Section 6, Image 1) we share a flash of magic surprise and complicity with a little girl, as she candidly walks by the hand of a nun. “Pamplona, Spain, 1985” (Section 8, Image 3) we meet defiance in the eyes of a butcher inside a dreadful slaughterhouse. From “Havana, Cuba,” again in 2016 (Section 6, Image 4) Bollman gives us the unadulterated point of view of a child playing in the open, the Homo Ludens looking straight at the camera.

Almost True is a rare gem, an on-and-off effort of years, an assemblage of love and persistence, a worthwhile archive of the many connections of the eye behind the camera and between people and things.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Deflating Modernity (Part 5) Against hyper-objects

Modernity posturing as bundle of (bundles of (bundles))

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Modernity's (M) mounting troubles tell a persistent problem with the methodologies used by M-theorists.

These theories are propagated and legitimized without proper immanent critiques appealing to standards of reference, explanatory power and future predictability. In the last four posts we've presented theoretical conclusions that are not viable, such as M-normativity, Hegel's axiomatics, presentism, etc. We confront the same problem with M's main methodology: hermeneutics.

The basic tenet of the discipline is that of interpretation, understanding, etc. And here is the problem: interpretation, understanding, etc, are not enough to anchor truth. Theorists overlook that many of these inherited constructs are structurally epiphenomenal, which redundantly relate back to its material base. Heidegger has no choice but to recognize hermeneutics' raison d' ĂȘtre and re-frame it as structural:
The "circle" in understanding belongs to the structure of meaning, and the latter phenomenon is rooted in the existential constitution of Dasein—that is, in the understanding which interprets. An entity for which, as Being-in-the-world, its Being is itself an issue, has, ontologically, a circular structure.1
We get it: Dasein has the ability to understand, and this ability is already —as it were— wired into Dasein. So, any understanding is bound to be Daseins' own! That Heidegger accepts that understanding is structural shows that circularity is an intractable problem for hermeneutics. There's no way to validate one's understanding of the world beyond one's (own) understanding of the world.

Once we pass hermeneutics' structural redundancy, we find that it's possible to build hermeneutic validity if we keep close attention to immanent standards of critique to rule out poor, or substandard interpretations. Admittedly, Heidegger's thesis in Being and Time opened up new avenues in the field of phenomenological research.

Here is a text by Umberto Eco, an expert in the history of hermeneutics. While in his early years Eco defended "open ended" interpretations, late Eco became more suspicious of what he saw as eroding standards of interpretation:  
One can object that in order to define a bad interpretation one needs the criteria for defining a good interpretation. I think on the contrary that we can accept a sort of Popper-like principle according to which if there are no rules that help to ascertain which interpretations are the "best" ones, there is at least a rule for ascertaining which ones are "bad." (169)
How to spot over-interpretation? Eco conceives of a model reader who would be able to discard some over-interpretations as ridiculous. We come back to the hermeneutic circle: understanding is a part-to-whole-to-part exercise. The model reader is capable to ask the right questions about the parts vs-a-vs the whole based on what she determines are the intentions of the text.


In our previous posts, we've hinted at hyper-objects as extremely large metaphysical entities, feeding off other entities.

Let's come back to M's paradigmatic definition:
... a bundle of processes that are cumulative and mutually reinforcing: to the (a) formation of capital and the mobilization of resources, to the (b) development of forces of production and the increase in the productivity of labor, to the establishment of (c) centralized political power and the formation of national identities, to the proliferation of rights of political participation, (e) of urban forms of life and of formal schooling, to the secularization of norms and so on (letters are mine).2
We get it. A bundle of processes which makes for a (bigger) process.

the hyper-object devours its own tail -as if justifies itself

Some stubborn questions

*If M is a "bundle of processes," why not a bundle of (a bundle of a bundle) and so on? Let’s call this the infinite regress objection. Clearly infinite regress presents an intractable problem for a theory, since the explanation of the theory must not be contained in what the theory is trying to explain.

* How does a "bundle of processes" remain the same through its changes? Let’s call this the change-over-persistence objection. Since a process happens in time the question here is when does the process begin and end. And Modernity is notably obscure, since according to M-normativity, M produces its own standards.

* If a "bundle of processes" is a sort of activity, how does it supervenes over its parts? Let’s call this the activity-over-substance objection. The explanation of supervenience is delicate. It requires a top-down causality, but all it’s explained is the bottom/up part and thus, supervenience becomes a sort of mystery. What keeps the bundle going? This is explained with a further process: Capitalism.

* How can M define itself as a "bundle of processes," while ultimately referring back to the processes constituting the processes? Let's call this the constitution objection. This brings us back to the Humean problem. How do we know that M's predicted bundle of processes will always produce the same effect? Hume's point is that the idea that the same cause always produces the same effect is not a logical truth, nor can it be known a posteriori, because any attempt to prove it would assume its truth. We're not being difficult. No question is of little value: Categories relate to questions, not to answers!

The so called bundleofabundleofabundle cannot be sorted out by invoking the very thing one needs to explain.

Here is "the making of" M:

The theorist uses ad hoc methods with diverse  received theories to describe his (our) socioeconomic present; the assembled "bundle of processes" so presented as the explanation of his present condition. Then as part of the received theory, the postulated M will not submit to a critique outside M. 3  Is this a reliable methodology? Is this the best M-theory can do ?

the gradual decay of M-theory 

A brief history of M

a. At some point during early Nineteenth Century, German Romantics come up with the idea of "modern,"
b. Hegel brilliantly introduces axiomatics! 
c. The effort to legitimize Hegel determines two opposing currents: Right and Young Hegelians struggle to give an account of M anchored in, what else, the present!
d. Marx/Engels develop political economy and dialectical materialism as eminent presentist disciplines.
e.  Due to the contributions of Weber, Durkheim, Mead, etc, M-theory comes of age during the first fifty years of the Twentieth Century.

At each step of a. through e. we have a real shuffling of ideas: Given the early M-theory, anchored in metaphysics, history, teleology and Romantic literature, M-theorists proceed now to justify socio-historic and economic patterns in terms of bigger socio-economic and political processes, and in so doing they use more generalizations to ground previous ones. But bigger isn't better. In the end M becomes a rundown Paper Tiger, paralyzed by its inner unexplored peripheries and contradictions.     

Revising M 

In PDM Habermas defends human rationality. What's interesting about his program is that it makes rationality an inherent capacity within language acquisition and expression. In other words, rationality expresses itself in our capacity for argumentation. And argumentation is grounded on validity claims which are vindicated by a process of inter-subjectivity.4 This communicative interaction of participants becomes a promising social cohesive force. Postmodernity appears and subverts these tenets with a discourse that is vitiated by self-contradiction. Reason has its flip side: the "other" of Reason, which, in the end, is actually, Reason.

The problem is that Habermas makes M a cardboard model for rationality. But M is, at bottom, a motley crew. To make up for this aporia, M-theorists turn M into a hyper-object in the company of other hyper-objects, such as Capitalism, (the gang provides much needed esprit de corps).

Our approach is that hyper-objects should metaphysically answer to objects. An object, a thing, is a primitive. A required first step. Surely, objects get together with other objects to become big, sometimes very big. But we should talk about stuff that is actually at our empirical, conceptual, level, instead of assuming —up above—  at some epiphenomenal level. We suggest to come back to a differentiation between what the object "is" and what we "make" of it. Obviously, this is not the place to go into such detailed discussion of object/metaphysics.

A deflated idea of M:

* Like with any other historic period, let's deflate M to finite future bounds.

* M's self-imposed teleology is metaphysically redundant.4

* Self-normativity and M-normativity are goldbricks! From a normative standpoint, M has to be necessarily connected with previous historic periods. Normativity has to be trans-epochal.

* Instead of dwelling high and above at hyper-object level, the theorist should come down to earth and look at actual things. Don't rule by fiat.

* Make M less hyper-symptomatic and more predictive.5

* To avoid hyper-objects' recurrent redundancy, make them subordinate to objects (things).   

Indeed, the present is real but it can be presented as a counterfactual to hyper-objects' redundant influence. For instance, one can conceive of a world without Modernity in it.6

What if Modernity is a fluke?

1 M. Heidegger's Being and Time (New York: Harper and Row, 1962) p.195. .  2 PDM, p. 2, Habermas enumerates the different influences of what we could call "the received theory of M": Baudelaire, Weber, Mead, Benjamin, Durkheim, Blumenberg,  Koselleck, etc. See Hegel's axiomatics.  3 Suppose a theorist comes up with a theory in defense of "aura analysis." Suppose furthermore that there are many people don't fit the predicted patterns of "aura analysis." Rather than accept this fact as refuting evidence of the theory, the theorist presents a new category: the non-aureatic. Now, whenever the theory does not seem to work, the contrary evidence is systematically discounted! 4 Grounding validity claims intersubjectively grounds truth as coherence. But theoretical coherence alone is not enough to ground truth claims (whether as pseudo science or social consensus, as in here, here and here). 5 True, the future is unpredictable, but we have this and this to entertain comparative forecasts. 6 As well as other well known socio-economic hyper-objects, such as Capitalism, Terrorism, Globalization, etc.