Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Noted: Thoreau

From The Journal, July 23, 1851:
The mind is subject to moods, as the shadow of clouds pass over the earth. Pay not too much heed to them. Let not the traveller stop for them. They consist with the fairest weather. By the mood of my mind, I suddenly felt dissuaded from continuing my walk, but I observed at the same instant that the shadow of a cloud was passing over the spot on which I stood, though it was of small extent, which, if it had no connection with my mood, at any rate suggested how transient and little to be regarded that mood was. I kept on, and in a moment the sun shone on my walk within and without.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Creating one's own being

Father's Day seems like as good a time as any to break the blog silence, especially since child-related severe sleep deprivation has been a major factor in that silence. Also, the topic is children and philosophy.

In a recent post at Larval Subjects, Levi Bryant writes the following:
My daughter, who is now three and a half, has precipitated a true revolution in my thinking about the world. Prior to the arrival of my daughter, I think, deeply influenced as I am by Foucault, Bourdieu, and Lacan I was unconsciously a sort of behaviorist in my understanding of human nature. I think I advocated a strong environmentalist thesis to the effect that persons are simply products of the environment in which they’re individuated. What my daughter has taught me is the withdrawal of objects from their relations. This is best thought in terms of my recent post on Luhman. What I’ve discovered through my daughter is that all substances are abyssal black boxes. They are influenced by their surroundings, but they relate to their surroundings through their own internal structure or organization, generating deeply surprising responses to the world around them. She quite literally constitutes and creates her own being. I can’t make her be anything and each way in which I influence her will be structured or transformed into states of her being through her own organization. When McLuhan says that “the medium is the message”, this is, I think, what he meant. The medium, the object, organizes the message that it receives in its own terms.
I've blogged a lot about how I've come very late to the reading of philosophy. This late-coming is both irksome and instructive: I'm annoyed that I have so much to catch up on, but on the other hand, I'm not already unduly influenced by any one or two philosophies or schools or whatever. I bring my 40 years of life to the reading of philosophy. What has struck me as I read has been the almost total absence of women and children, certainly the dearth of anything intelligent said about women or children. It has occurred to me that the history of philosophy would look radically different if philosophy had not been generated almost exclusively by men off on their own doing Important Work. (Not least because the most important work that is done is in fact the raising of children.) Because it seems to me that one cannot help but have one's philosophy radically affected by what children actually do in the world, if one actually watches them, at all. That is, something like what Levi Bryant has concluded in observing his own daughter should be readily apparent to any one who observes children. This ought to have deep implications in many areas of life, not just the development and writing of philosophy.