Archive for September, 2008


Foucault’s Ethics

Michel Foucault
Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory

•    Some of Foucault’s aims: philosophical concepts and empirical inquiry
•    Systems of exclusion linked to scientific categorizations
•    xiii: “Foucault interpreted Aristotle as representing the universal and naturalistic pole.  For Aristotle, there is an essential pregiven harmony between sensation, pleasure, knowing, and truth.  Out perceptual apparatus is constituted in such a way that it establishes a link of pleasure and of (above all visual) knowledge, even when such a link serves no direct utilitarian purpose.  The same economy extends all the way up the hierarchy through to the highest form of knowing, contemplation.  As posited in the famous opening lines of the Metaphysics, the desire to know is essential to who we are, and ours ‘by nature.’”
“Birth of Biopolitics”
•    What should be understood by “liberalism”?
•    The question if one is governing too much must also ask, “why must one govern?”
•    Liberalism became a critique of “excessive government” and a return to a technology of a “frugal government” (American)
•    74: “One is not paying enough attention, too many things escape one’s control, too many areas lack regulation and is governing too little.”
“Subjectivity and Truth”
•    Placing the maxim “know oneself” back into explicit/implicit interrogation
•    What should one do with oneself? What work should be carried out by the self? How should one “govern oneself”? => object of actions and subject of the acts?
•    Looking at “care” and the “techniques” of the self would be a way of doing a history of subjectivity
•    Technologies of the self were developed in Hellenistic and Roman periods
•    Medical regimens concern the frequency and moment of sexual acts
•    87: “How was the subject established, at different moments and in different institutional contexts, as a possible, desirable, or even indispensable object of knowledge? How were the experience that one may have of oneself and the knowledge that one forms of oneself organized according to certain schemes?  How were these schemes defined, valorized, recommended, imposed?
“Self Writing”
•    If we write down our thoughts as if telling them to each other, we shall be so much more guarded for the shame of being known
•    What others are to the ascetic, the notebook is to the recluse
•    Hupomnemata ≠ memory support or aids for failed recollections
o    Instead, a material and a framework for exercises to be carried out frequently
o    Not just recall, but use in action
o    Capture the already said => shaping of the self
•    Stoics and Epicureans: refusal of a mental attitude turned toward the future
o    Positive value on the possession of a past one can enjoy without disturbance
•    (Cicero): Correspondence is a certain way of manifesting the self to oneself/others
•    Hup: formation of self without the collected discourse of others
•    Corr: with others and the exchange of soul services
•    Examination of conscience written as an account of oneself
•    209: “Yet one also sees that writing is associated with the exercise of thought in two different ways.  One takes the form of a linear ‘series’: it goes from mediation to the activity of writing and from there to gumnazein, that is, to training and trial in a real situation—a labor of thought, a labor through writing, a labor in reality.  The other is circular: the mediation precedes the notes which enable the rereading which in turn reinitiates the mediation.”
•    211: “By going constantly from book to book, without ever stopping, without returning to the hive now and then with one’s supply of nectar—hence without taking notes or constituting a treasure store of reading—one is liable to retain nothing, to spread oneself across different thoughts, and to forget oneself.  Writing, as a way of gathering in the reading that was done and of collecting one’s thoughts about it, is an exercise of reason that counters the great deficiency of stultitia, which endless reading may favor.”
“Technologies of the Self”
(See class notes)
“The Masked Philosopher”
•    A name makes reading too easy
•    Anonymity is a way to address a potential reader
•    Suffering from inadequate means for thinking about everything


Boym’s Future of Nostalgia

Svetlana Boym
The Future of Nostalgia
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Nostalgia is a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed
o    A Sentiment of loss or displacement; a romance with one’s own fantasy
o    Nostalgic love can only exist in a long-distance relationship
•    Sometimes nostalgia is directed not towards the past, but sideways
•    Nostalgia: longing for a different time, not place
•    Nostalgia is about the individual in relation to groups or nations
•    Time out of time
Chapter 1
•    Nostalgia produced ‘erroneous representations’ that caused the afflicted to lose touch with the present
•    Expectation is the future made present
•    The nostalgic is never a native but a displaced person who mediated between the local and the universal
•    Unrepeatable and irreversible time
•    Nostalgia: not the location, but the quest itself
Chapter 2
•    Modern opposition between tradition and revolution
•    Nietzsche: nostalgic for a prenostalgic state
Chapter 4
•    Longing might be something humans share, but it doesn’t prevent us from telling different stories
Chapter 5
•    Restorative Nostalgia: national past and future → collective pictorial symbols and oral culture
•    Reflective Nostalgia: individual and cultural memory → individual narrative and memorial signs
Critical Moments in the text
Xviii: “nostalgia is the repetition that mourns the inauthenticity of all repetitions and denies the repetition’s capacity to define identity.”
11: “What is crucial is that nostalgia was not merely an expression of local longing, but a result of new understanding of time and space that made the division into ‘local’ and ‘universal’ possible.  The nostalgic creature has internalized this division, but instead of aspiring for the universal and the progressive he looks backwards and yearns for the particular.”
19: “Bruno Latour points out that ‘the modern time of progress and the anti-modern time of ‘tradition’ are twins who failed to recognize one another: the idea of an identical repetition of the past and that of a radical rupture with any past are two asymmetrical results of a single conception of time.’”
28: “Instead [Benjamin] plays with a ‘fan of memory’ that uncovers new layers of forgetting but never reaches the origin: ‘he who had once begun to open the fan of memory, never comes to the end of its segments.  No image satisfies him, for he has seen that it can be unfolded, and only in its folds does the truth reside.’ Benjamin wished to ‘fan a spark of hope in the past,’ to wrest a historical tradition anew from an empty continuum of forgetting.  Constellations are the instance when the past ‘actualizes’ in the present and assumes the ‘now of recognizability in a flash.  They result in revolutionary collisions or profane illuminations.  Benjamin’s method can be called archeology of the present and its potentialities for which he is most nostalgic.”
49: “Restoration signifies a return to the original stasis, to the prelapsarian moment.  The past for the restorative nostalgic is a value for the present; the past is not a duration but a perfect snapshot.  Moreover, the past is not supposed to reveal any signs of decay; it has to be freshly painted in its ‘original image’ and remain eternally young.  Reflective nostalgia is more concerned with historical and individual time, with the irrevocability of the past and human finitude.  Re-flection suggests new flexibility, not the reestablishment of stasis.  The focus here is not on recovery of what is perceived to be an absolute truth, but on the mediation on history and passage of time.”
53: “ Collective memory, however, is not the same as national memory, even when they share images and quotations.  National memory tends to make a single teleological plot out of shared everyday recollections.  The gaps and discontinuities are nemded through a coherent and inspiring tale of recovered identity.  Instead, shared everyday frameworks of collective or cultural memory offer us mere signposts for individual reminiscences that could suggest multiple narratives.”


Rossi: Logic and the Art of Memory

Paolo Rossi
Logic and the Art of Memory
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Clavis universalis: method of general science to allow a man to look beyond phenomenal appearances
•    Ramus, Bacon, Leibniz: saw memory as one of the primary divisions of the new logic and tabular method
•    The present can carry the past within without anyone knowing it
•    Yates: Ancients—passing from a visual world to the verbal
o    A “faculty” lost by the modern world
o    The marginality of mnemotechnics
•    Bacon and Vico: gestural and symbolic language of 17 and 18c. are bound up with the debate on Egyptian hieroglyphs—written expressions ≠ alphabet and words
•    Foucault: “natural history” of early modern period is a “theory of words”
Chapter 1: The Power of Images and the Places of Memory
•    Hume: Memory need not be as valued
o    Artificial memory is no good without strong natural memory and employment of various/numerous images was unhelpful
•    Memory is the conservation of knowledge of others
•    The necessity of image with memory shows that there is a close link between the imagination and sensation (Aristotle)
•    “The memory seems to proceed from places”
•    Aquinas: 1) images 2) order 3) careful construction of the loci 4) repetition
•    Peter of Prague: art of memory divided between places and images
•    Details of “rules”/”qualifications” for memory places
•    Additions and “refilling” of memory became an issue
•    Ravenna: used beautiful women as memory places
Chapter 4: The Imaginative Logic of Giordano Bruno
•    Bruno: ars combinatorial and ars reminiscendi
•    Art of memory: not simply rhetorical technique, but an instrument for representing the structure of reality
•    Cicero: places (loci); images (imagines)
•    Bruno: prime subjects (subjecta); secondary or proximate subjects (adiecta)
Chapter 5: Artificial Memory and the New Scientific Method: Ramus, Bacon, Descartes
•    Ramus: remove memory from rhetoric
o    Memory was an instrument for introducing order to both understanding and discourse
•    Llull: ars combinatoria = ostentious and charlatan
o    ≠Bacon and Descartes: ars memorative
•    For Bacon, logic ruled discourse
•    Many thinkers (Ramus, Ravenna) have stressed that loci delimits and orders fields of research
Critical moments in the text
8: “The art of memory, Cicero argued, was analogous to the process of writing: the places have the same function as a wax tablet, while the images function like the letters which are written on it.  Images are used because visual memories are more persistent than other kinds of memory, and because the ‘memory-places’ themselves are necessarily visual.”
12: “For this reason, as it has been correctly suggested, one can speak of ‘scholastic rhetoric’ only if one eliminates from the term ‘scholastic’ all reference to the ‘authority’ of Aristotle.”
16: “Memory-places are quite different from images: memory-places are not corners of a room, as some believe, but fixed images on which delible images are written like letters on paper: memory-places are like matter, whereas images are like forms.  The difference between them is the same as the difference between the fixed and the non-fixed.”
84: “Bruno believed that the ‘miraculous art’ of mnemotechnics would lead to a ‘renewal’ or reform of knowledge, and bring about an infinite increase in man’s capacities, and his dominion over nature.  This was certainly the way it was perceived in the Platonic circles of Paris in which Copernicanism and Ramist reformism were circulating alongside more occult scientific interests in subjects such as the cabala and Lullism.”
95: Lull: “The rhetoric, by means of which one can discover that which is proper in oration, and which is disputable by dialectic, according to the subtlety of the Lullist art, and other more secret arts which are contained in one single lesson necessary in every art.”
108: “Embems ‘render intellectual things sensible, and since the sensible strikes the memory more forcibly, it is impressed in it with greater ‘ease.’”
118: Bacon’s four tasks: 1) The art of inquiry or invention 2) The art of examination or judgment 3) The art of custody or memory 4) The art of elocution or tradition

September 2008
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