Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Faulty Ivory Towers

An aphorism is a point of departure masquerading as an arrival.
People who want nothing more than to be salesmen shouldn’t be running around colleges at all, let alone chosen to run them.

Philosophy lacks a fashion sense, while Theory is a perpetual fashion victim.

The life of the Academy is the gift. The life of the Corporation is the take.

Bad Hominem: The fallacy of decrying truth-telling as name-calling when things are so bad that truth-telling has become indistinguishable from name-calling.

Students seem always to be mistaking good grades for gifts and bad grades for thefts.

Real education never makes profits, only differences.

Reasonable people always win every argument -- because either their own view prevails as the best available one or because their own view changes from a worse to a better one.

If the shoe hurts, you're wearing it.

You say adjunct, I say troubadour.

Iron Laws are made of rubber.

The arc of the moral universe bends towards bendiness.

Every advertisement on a college campus costs the world a lost insight.

Debate Club Warning: Objections practiced in the mirror may be less conclusive than they appear.

Universities tell you something and think tanks sell you something.

Pretensions to unpretentiousness are still pretentious.

An education is something you should be grateful for all your life, not in debt for all your life.

It is needful to norm, but one need not norm normally.

I just found out the term for perpetually precarious adjuncts who blog instead of actually publishing is "alt ac" (alternative academic, as if), so now all my cat's hairballs sound like judgments.

Only in objecting is an object made subject.

The public university is the common cause where common wealth is common sense. Here's to the day when it is a common place.

We only know what we can successfully explain, and the suffering of the teacher at a student's incomprehension is much the same as the student’s, a register of the ignorance to which both are brought by it.

The lesser of two evils is still evil, but the difference between them can still make a difference. Ethics Is Not Politics.

Among many who profess to be atheists one will still find the curious belief that the Universe has preferences in the matter of which words humans use to describe it with and which values humans use to live it with.

Corporatizing higher education differs from arsonists torching the Academy in an insurance scam only in the agonizing pace the place is burning down.

Tenure is a special public affordance, and from those to whom much is given much is rightly demanded. Tenure reviews should give absolutely no consideration to any writing or result that is not made freely available to the general public, without any fees, access restrictions, or proprietary/security expurgations at all.

Saga of the Neoliberal Academy:
One: Faculty outsource governance of the academy to businessmen who care only about profit.
Two: Businessmen then outsource academic faculty to adjuncts and MOOCs for profit.
Three: Academics then express shock at this predictable result as they clean out their desks.
Four: Academy looted until there's nothing left to loot, then businessmen move on to loot elsewhere.
Five: Either civilization dies or academics rebuild academy ripe, soon enough, for looting again. REPEAT.

Intellectuals function either as props for the administration of incumbent elites or as prompts for the admonition of incumbent elites.

There are no "thought leaders." Thought isn't going anywhere.

It really is a shame the phrase "extractive-industrial white-racist patriarchal corporate-militarism" is unwieldy for sloganeering purposes.

Why is it that when you hold your ear up to a graduate student's paper that copiously quotes Deleuze you can always hear the ocean?

Describing oneself as a "Deleuzian" is like declaring oneself a "Johnny Carsonian." Only fancying oneself "Zizekian" would be worse.

Aphorisms rarely bring us to qualified claims where true wisdom resides, but they can provoke us out of unqualified claims where false wisdom resides.

Distracting an itch can be quite as good as scratching it.

Conspiracist: "We're Just Asking Questions!"
Translation: "We're Just Basking in Unanswerables."

Criticality, like science more generally, depends equally on an acceptance that any belief can be up for grabs, but also that all beliefs cannot be up for grabs at once and certainly not belief as such.

Easier done than said is true at least as often as the converse.

Being positive about what isn't positive is more negative than being negative.

Autocorrect: Thar is no they're their.

All theory depends on the paradoxical recognition that anything can be questioned but everything cannot be.

Every belief, even true ones, costs us something. Indeed, what we take be false, above all, is a belief we take to cost us too much.

One of the best ways to respect someone's opinion is to disagree with it, even disagreeably, in public.

Facts are made and not found, they are made to be found, and in being found, found to be founding.

Too much theory connects the dots and leaves us with stick figures.

Knowing what to expect is different from knowing what should be.

What distinguishes modes of inquiry from one another is what will count as an argument in each. This is more a matter of style than is generally conceded.

In this era of grade inflation I will occasionally assign a student an E for Effort, bearing in mind it is, after all, the letter that comes between D and F.

If you are an atheist who believes in free markets or who believes evolution applies to history or culture you are not an atheist after all.

Being literally misanthropic is no less paradoxical than being figuratively misantropic.

It isn't an accident that "Un-PC" is the tag always accompanying an ugly lie someone more privileged uses to bully someone more precarious.

Students, I find, are unalive to deadlines.

Philosophers are right to declare universals indispensable, but philosophers are wrong to spend so much time trying to tell us what these are rather than listening for what they are becoming.

Up with pessimism!

I don't understand people who worry so much about death. Complete idiots die every day. You'll manage dying perfectly fine.

It is important always to remember that thought is much bigger than philosophy, that odd literary genre for mostly white guys still preoccupied with the preoccupations of Plato.

I still await the philosophy that is more than mansplaining.

Never mistake life for a theoretical exercise, and always watch out for the theatrically theoretical gesture of being anti-theoretical.

When you are in a defensive crouch even a righteous wind at your back just makes your position more precarious, but stand up and that wind will propel you.

Words are actions, and the actions that speak louder than words are often also dumb.

All science is politics, hence it is not the politicization of technoscience policy but its immoralization that is the trouble.

Irritation is my Muse.

Try not to let the way you're right distract you entirely from the ways you're wrong.

In the past of every fact, a figure. At the heart of every fact, a fetish.

Only those who have forgotten or never lived the double consciousness of the threatened margin could pronounce irony a vehicle of despair, since it is irony that provides for many of us the only way to survive the world or find any beauty in it at all.

Quite a lot of theory amounts to explaining jokes so they're not funny anymore.

To recognize that one is ridiculous is a precondition for indulging in ridicule.

Sarcasm is like irony, but without the courage of conviction.

All literature is blowing air through a hole.

Comedy routines compensate routine tragedies.

What's literality without a little glitterality?

Ruthlessness may be bright, but real intelligence is warm.

Every hot take is on the take.

Love isn't for objects, but for objections.

The inexperienced often know everything. The experienced know better.

Those who can, teach.
Those who can't, sell.

However much we know we always know there is more going on than we know. Among other things, this means we can never know enough to despair.


jimf said...

> Bad Hominem: The fallacy of decrying truth-telling as name-calling
> when things are so bad that truth-telling has become indistinguishable
> from name-calling.

Speaking of which, have you heard about this character
(I came across the EFF article on your blog roll):
Billionaire Romney donor uses threats to silence critics
by Glenn Greenwald
Friday, Feb 17, 2012 3:02PM EST

. . .

Frank VanderSloot is an Idaho billionaire and the CEO
of Melaleuca, Inc., a controversial billion-dollar-a-year
company which peddles dietary supplements and cleaning products;
back in 2004, Forbes, echoing complaints to government agencies,
described the company as “a pyramid selling organization,
built along the lines of Herbalife and Amway.” VanderSloot
has long used his wealth to advance numerous right-wing political
causes. Currently, he is the national finance co-chair of the
Mitt Romney presidential campaign, and his company has become
one of the largest donors ($1 million) to the ostensibly
“independent” pro-Romney SuperPAC, Restore Our Future.
Melaleuca’s get-rich pitches have in the past caused Michigan
regulators to take action, resulting in the company’s entering
into a voluntary agreement to “not engage in the marketing
and promotion of an illegal pyramid”‘; it entered into a
separate voluntary agreement with the Idaho attorney general’s
office, which found that “certain independent marketing executives
of Melaleuca” had violated Idaho law; and the Food and Drug
Administration previously accused Melaleuca of deceiving consumers
about some of its supplements.

But it is VanderSloot’s chronic bullying threats to bring patently
frivolous lawsuits against his political critics — magazines,
journalists, and bloggers — that makes him particularly pernicious
and worthy of more attention. In the last month alone, VanderSloot,
using threats of expensive defamation actions, has successfully
forced Forbes, Mother Jones and at least one local gay blogger
in Idaho to remove articles that critically focused on his political
and business practices (Mother Jones subsequently re-posted the
article with revisions a week after first removing it). He has
been using this abusive tactic in Idaho for years: suppressing
legitimate political speech by threatening or even commencing lawsuits
against even the most obscure critics (he has even sued local
bloggers for “copyright infringement” after they published a
threatening letter sent by his lawyers). This tactic almost always
succeeds in silencing its targets, because even journalists and
their employers who have done nothing wrong are afraid of the
potentially ruinous costs they will incur when sued by a litigious
Billionaire’s Bogus Legal Tactics Against Bloggers Threaten Free Speech
By Trevor Timm
March 2, 2012

. . .

Back in 2007, Melaleuca pressured the politics blog 43rdStateBlues
to take down a critical post written by a pseudonymous blogger
“TomPaine.” Another blogger on 43rdStateBlues, “d2”, posted the
lawyer’s letter explaining to readers why the original was taken down.
Incredibly, Melaleuca’s lawyers then obtained a retroactive copyright
certificate on the threat letter and demanded the hosting provider
take down the post as well. Even after they complied with the letter,
Melaleuca sued TomPaine for copyright infringement then subpoenaed
TomPaine’s and d2’s identities.

Black guy from the future past said...

>"Among many who profess to be atheists one will still find the curious belief that the Universe has preferences in the matter of which words humans use to describe it with and what values humans use to live it with."

@ Dale Carrico, uh dude, don't you see the inherent contradiction there? Aren't you using words to describe the universe or reality you live in, and aren't you abiding by values you feel are important? If not, then what is the point of this blog?, as you have hit upon THE intractable truth, that the universe doesn't give a damn. It's even worse than that, as the universe is not even a living entity that can feel anything. As an atheist and nihilist, nay, as a human being, it is quite clear to me and everyone on the planet, (whether they concede it or not) that the universe IS a nihilistic construct. The entire thing is a destructive process throughout. There really is no creation, simply a destruction. In order to build a home you must chop down the trees. You must disturb an environment and space. It's really a zero sum game. Nothing is created or destroyed, it's merely a repetition of disturbances, fluctuations, destruction after destruction. However, we are apes, "human beings", biological organisms, a collection of atoms, whatever, that create value based on the need to survive and propagate. This is curious, seeing as how nothing can really truly survive or propagate. In the end it will be a heat death and all our struggles, hopes, dreams, and lusts will have been for naught.

You may counter and say this is the long view of things. But this is not the case. This IS the way things are now. We simply deny it, believing ourselves to be important. We are not important. Nothing is important.

Dale Carrico said...

The aphorism is calling attention to the contradiction you describe. The whole point of the aphorism is to emphasize that the universe has no preferences as to which words we use to describe it or which values we invest it with. This is not the same thing as denying there are descriptions that put us in a better position to predict and control the environment or denying there are values worth fighting for. I believe there are more and less reasonable scientific, legal, moral, esthetic, ethical, political beliefs and I believe that there are criteria on the basis of which their reasonableness can be adjudicated and I believe it is better to be reasonable than not. So, I am an atheist, I don't accept the backdoor onto-theism of correspondence accounts of truth or objectivist accounts of value, I still passionately argue for better beliefs in matters of facts, concerns, and norms, I do so in the name of a reasonableness I prefer to unreasonableness, and hence I don't think I am any kind of nihilist at all. I also happen to think the universe is pretty marvelous and our collective opportunities for solving our shared problems are always absolutely available before us even though I think the universe is indifferent about whether or not humans enjoy the blessings available to them or not, or behave reasonably or not. I don't need the universe to care about us for me to care about us. For me, that has always been a part of what my atheism has always meant to me.