Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Epoché Author!

 I have an author page at Epoche magazine now that I have published two pieces with them! Check out my new article on Bergson and the page generally for my longer and (better) writing!

    "Enjoy those beautiful blue sky and golden sunshine all along the way. Everyone, have a great day!"

Monday, March 22, 2021

A Sketch of Similarities Between Bergson and Heidegger

There is a remarkable similarity between the philosophies of Bergson and Heidegger. Bergson's notion of the body as a 'centre of action' and Heidegger's notion of Dasein as "that entity which in its Being has this very Being as an issue" get at this similarity. In both cases, the being is entirely immanent and contiguous with reality; that is, they are merely a part of a larger set of environmental relations (extensity for Bergson, Being for Heidegger). 

In their formulation of this aspect of their metaphysics, they both stringently avoid mentioning an inextended consciousness or inextended representations in the form of perception. Instead, they favour a relation that is continuous with its environment. They both want to repudiate a certain kind of dualism or subjective atomism that postulates the observer as an island from which we peep at the world through a telescope. They prefer to analyse the body in terms of its direct and practical engagement with the world. 

What makes humans peculiar for both thinkers is the self-consciousness of our being-in-the-world. We ask the question of being to ourselves and end up thinking we are of a unique kind, which is partially true, in that we seem to be the only kind of thing really asking, but partially false, in that we obviously are extensions of the world. 

Bergson reduces perception from a faculty of representation and knowledge to an evolved and fine-tuned faculty for carving up and abstractly select those elements of the fluid world that practically benefit each organism and grant the freedom to navigate the world and itself as it needs to. Heidegger historicises and relativises what beings there are to that which Dasein has as its concern and to the historical epoch or cultural moment in which beings are revealed.

In both cases, the intellectual activity of objectifying the world, the thing that makes us think we grasp Being most intimately, for Bergson 'the intellect', for Heidegger 'ready-to-hand', paradoxically distances us from a true metaphysics - of intuition or Being respectively. 

Ultimately I think that Bergson ends up giving a more satisfying picture of metaphysics proper (though I am still grappling with his views about memory which make a surprisingly good candidate for a sort of soul). My problem with Heidegger is that he never seems to really escape Kant while I think Bergson really does.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Objects Aren't Real (Vagueness as Process)

This essay tackles the paradox of the heap and the problem of vagueness. It's honestly a surprisingly intractable problem for me and one that, if you are interested in it regarding more than just language use, has to be dealt with. Its one of the main reasons I have become interested in process metaphysics as it is the only satisfactory solution I've found to this problem. For those uninitiated to this problem and in need of something tantalising to keep you on the page, I end up denying objects exist - including atoms and subatomic particles - in order to solve it. Thinking deeply about the intrinsic continuity of the world has only further convinced me of its truth.

The only other approach that is a live option (for me) in terms of saying something substantial about what makes the problem interesting is Tim Williamson's epistemic approach which I really like. It's just a very strange bullet to bite. I think my solution leaves an incredibly tidy state of affairs. This is adapted from an essay written for class so it might assume some prior knowledge about some analytic philosophy stuff but I'm quite proud of this one and want it documented. If nothing else, maybe read the first and last section for the problem and my solution and the source of my inflammatory title and heretical views.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

5 Great Performances by Women in Film (with Honourable Mentions)

The purpose of each of these picks is not just to single out great individual performances from women (which they all are fantastic) or to pick out great films in which women play the lead (which would be a totally different list). Thus this list is not a best-of or a list of my favourite films. The purpose is to pick out those performances that are indispensable to the concept or the success of the movie as a whole. Simply put, for each of these picks, the movie is not only made great by the leading lady but that their performance carries or simply is the movie. In each performance, the actress takes the role and embodies it completely, becoming the character, and making the movie.

In hindsight, I have realised most of these roles (including the honourable mentions) include as the bulk of their character some kind of mental anguish which more often than not also constitutes the centrepiece of the movie. Perhaps that kind of role is conducive to producing the kinds of performances that carry a movie in this way. (Indeed, if I was writing a list for men with the same criteria I would probably include David Thewlis for Naked (1993), Jack Nicholson for Five Easy Pieces (1970), and Harry Dean Stanton for Paris, Texas (1984) who all constitute similar roles, in form - so there may be some truth to that.) I won't really talk about the plot as you can look them up as they sound interesting. Some of these are not for the faint of heart (3 & 4 specifically)! In no particular order:

Thursday, August 6, 2020

21 Dumb & Boring Reflections on Politics and Moral Philosophy

(Don't take me too seriously here...)

Politics was a mistake.

Rates of happiness or depression and their link to a political system or conditions are not a good argument for why something is bad or doesn't work. I'd rather people are not happy for bad reasons than good ones! (Perhaps the utilitarian replies: "then what is a good reason?" Bah.)

Rejecting something because it is given is the same mistake as advancing something new for the sake of being new. Worse, the new thing taken on is even more arbitrary than the tradition.

Call me a class reductionist all you want but it really is the most important vector in political decision making. I think we should just give people money. 'Some of us are still Marxists you know!'

'The Personal Is Political' while trivially true in some sense, is a tragic waste of energy. Especially since it is usually used to justify bringing politics into the most banal and peaceful corners of bourgeois life. Let people enjoy themselves! The government has actual hard power and there is actual grassroots political activism you can do for actual people that are actually poor.

Separate the aesthetic from the political. Normatively, the political badges we wear are not for show. You might not like it, but actual praxis is pretty boring!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Balancing the Self With Kierkegaard

1. In Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death, the self, “at every moment it exists, is in a constant process of becoming.” It is at once identical with itself and continuously projecting into the future, seeking itself or some improved form or fully realised form of itself. This seems right to me, in being such a self I have my character traits, memories, opinions, quirks, idiosyncrasies: what I have, my actuality of self. But I also have hopes, dreams, goals, dispositions or desires: my possibilities of self. He then goes on to say the self is a synthesis of the finite and infinite (among other things), which is the subject of this essay. Both can be thought of as psychological states, or dispositions of the self, that concern how we comport ourselves towards our possibilities. Of course, each self is not literally one or the other, nor do they switch between the two discretely, but we each dwell somewhere along the continuum between the two extremes. Kierkegaard outlines only what it is to be situated, as a self, at each polarity and the danger posed in being there.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

When Do Friendships Last

"Being-with-one-another in the they is not at all a self-contained, indifferent side-by-sideness, but a tense, ambiguous keeping track of each other, a secretive, reciprocal listening-in. Under the mask of the for-one-another, the against one-another is at play."

The maxim:

Don't say anything about someone you wouldn't say to their face

has long been attractive to me. I enjoy the sentiment of straight-up, no-games relationships. The idea that we are better to talk things through and come to an agreement, reconcile, and move on is profoundly and demonstrably true in my life - there is only so much resentment we can harbour before utterly exhausting ourselves. Not only that but it dispenses with the lies and deceit - there's something profoundly dishonest about those who eschew loyalty to skulk around behind people's back, sowing dissent.

I've come to have some reservations about it though. I think it very much applies to the big stuff, things that really matter that need to be externalised. But the everyday bread and butter of our relationships (in which we see each other most days) are not this at all. There are many circumstances in which we should not say things about someone to their face. And just to be clear here I am not merely talking about the fact that we shouldn't barrage someone with a permanent stream of our thoughts about their being; that much is obvious. What I am talking about is that: there are things we ought to say behind their back, but not to their face.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Heidegger, Disney & David Lynch

[This has not been proofread or edited really at all as I wrote it in two hour-long fervours a few days apart, so hopefully, it is not too jumbled, nonsensical, or just an annoying rant]

Martin Heidegger, in his essay The Question Concerning Technology, argues that man is conditioned by ‘modern technology.’ Modern technology is the peculiarly calculating, exacting, automated, mechanistic, nature of modern life – the quest to reveal all. It “pursues and entraps nature as a calculable coherence of forces.” It is the difference between craftsmen, artisans, or tools of old who take what they need and live somewhat reciprocally with nature and the factories, machinery, and modern science that grabs nature by the balls and demands that it give up the goods.

In Heideggerian language modern technology is a way of revealing. What he means by this is that modern technology is, to put it simply, an entirely different way of seeing things – a historical epoch that reveals the world in its terms. Heidegger uses the example of the Rhine. It appears first as a part of nature, something to live with, as something to marvel and respect. But under modern technology it is revealed in a different way. A hydroelectric plant is built on it as a way of challenging it, it demands of the river that it be instrumental in our wants. It literally becomes a water-power supplier instead of a river. Sure, it is still there, it is still part of the landscape, but it is not as a river, or even really as an object, it is there as ‘standing-reserve.’

Thursday, January 23, 2020

A Certain Lightness

Just read William James' The Will to Believe and I come across this great quote:
He who says, "Better go without belief forever than believe a lie!" merely shows his own preponderant private horror of becoming a dupe. He may be critical of many of his desires and fears, but this fear he slavishly obeys...It is like a general informing his soldiers that it is better to keep out of battle forever than to risk a single wound...Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf
While this is more targeted at the sceptical scientistic tradition I think it's applicable to everyday life. I talk to people all the time who are only willing to critique and dismiss ideas without putting forward any positive account in response. It can be frustrating because putting oneself out there basically gives the grounds for the most interesting and informative conversations you'll ever have and sharpens your own understanding of your beliefs. Mere critique or response becomes a non-starter. Take Richard Linklater's Before Trilogy for example. Ethan Hawke (and less often Julie Delpy) can often be pretty cringy in his dialogue (a pattern with Linklater) but they end up moving towards saying things that are genuinely interesting that they would not have had otherwise.

Whether people pride themselves on being a cynic or claim to be particularly responsive to evidence; I think James' gets it right with his diagnosis of a private horror of being wrong. This obviously dawns from the fact that there is a precipitous asymmetry between the two, that is, putting forward vs. critiquing ideas. Not only is it hard to feel like you are saying something worthwhile in putting yourself forward but its also intimidating to put something forward knowing it takes a lot less for someone to come along and find a fault or be dismissive than it was for you to put yourself out there. So often we don't even bother. We ought to cut those who do put things forward a little break and engage constructively with them ourselves.

But imagine if all we had was those picking apart and faulting wider speculations and theories. We would have such an impoverished world. Some of the ideas we hold most dear to us we know are highly flawed. Why do we still read [insert literally any notable philosopher in history] when most people think they are totally wrong about almost everything? Why do we read them and not their foremost critics (that didn't put together an alternate system)? Not only in philosophy and art - that same creativity and speculation is even a crucial part of the development of science (see: Kuhn, Popper, James, and others).

In part, this blog is something like what James calls for in the 'certain lightness of heart.' I say things regardless of whether they are argumentatively airtight (they're not), but because in putting oneself and their interpretation forward in the world enrich's everyone's life (even if no one reads this blog, which they don't, the idea that they are at least means this is still good for me). I'm tired of what is a borderline pathological fear of giving a positive account yourself. Our day to day life can be enriched by talking a little more freely with ourselves.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Part 1: Public Commitment

The Structure of Commitment

To begin I would like to present a model of commitment. Commitment is the restriction of one’s freedom or potentiality in order to achieve some end. All acts by their very nature are commitments to something instead of something else. We are, as humans, always fundamentally acting towards some end or projecting towards a possible state of affairs[1], which entails that we are not free to do otherwise in that act. Only in acting (and in no other way) do we make transparent what our commitments actually are. For example, the amount one gets out and swims, cycles, and runs is a commitment to being able to finish or participate in a triathlon. Likewise, failing to undertake this training is itself a commitment towards (probably) not finishing or participating in a triathlon. While this is somewhat obvious, where it becomes interesting is the interaction between verbal enunciations of said commitments (which is still an act) and the credibility of it as a signal, perceived by others.

All acts (even negatively defined) are fundamentally acts towards some end instead of another; this is commitment.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Rowan Recommends: Summer Interlude (1951)

Apparently, this blog is now officially just posting screenshots from Bergman films; really enjoyed this one. If these screenshots aren't enough to convince you to see this one, take it from me, they don't even capture half the magic or ground this film covers in ~1h30m. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Quick, Dirty and, Dismissive Movie Reviews for the New Year

Somehow I have watched a slew of movies that I actually loved (and some that I didn't) in the last month or so that I thought I'd talk about.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Should Transgender Women Compete In Women's Sports?

When it comes to the question of whether it is fair for transgender women (MtF) to compete within women’s categories in sports, I come to an impasse. There are militant advocates on either side. One side thinks that being against their inclusion can only be explained by bigotry or irrational fears. The other side thinks it is a crime against ‘science’ and ‘common sense’ to allow their inclusion versus women. I think it is fair to say both of these positions hold a partial truth. That is: everyone ought to be able to participate in competition and in competition that is fair for all.

Ultimately my position comes down on the side of protecting women’s interests, which depending on the outcome of future events (which I discuss below) will determine whether action ought to be taken or not. Reading this piece in The New York Times, and travelling in circles where such topics are discussed, has given me an idea about the kind of positions people tend to take. But I cannot shake the natural scepticism I feel about the issue. Below is my attempt to present to my best understanding those arguments and my responses to them.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Serious Stance

Upon reading Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity, I was struck by how close her description of the ‘serious man’ resembles a certain species of self-righteous political disagreement, especially online. Here, I attempt to explicate upon some of her remarks about how I see it playing out in Twitter, ‘the culture wars,’ and wider discourse. I develop a notion, born from her serious man, of a subjective state I call the serious stance and how it fails to consider error and change. I instead argue we ought to take up the fallible stance.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Double Feature Series #2: Mob Justice

The second entry in this series illustrates the temporal possibilities of influence we see in film! They are two quite harrowing movies about the dangers of mob justice presented by Fritz Lang and Thomas Vinterberg respectively:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

On Vagueness

How do we measure and classify things quantitatively? What is the true difference between a pile, heap, handful, and speck of sand? Are these true distinctions or conventions of language? At what point does one become the other if one grain of sand is being removed? This is a problem one can find in many features of our life and the way we use language. So many of our concepts are loosely defined instances of a qualitative pragmatism designed to enable us to have a coherent conversation without defining our terms every step of the way. To really get to this is a problem I would like to discuss something that gets at this issue of vagueness: sorites paradox.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

On 'Old Moralists'

I do find something particularly striking about this quote from Nietzsche; it is not exactly what he intended to illustrate, I think, but it stirs up something for me...
That tartuffery, as stiff as it is virtuous, of old Kant as he lures us along the dialectical by paths which lead, more correctly, mislead, to his ‘categorical imperative’ - this spectacle makes us smile, we who find no little amusement in observing the subtle tricks of old moralists and moral-preachers.
It reminds of an interesting kind of phenomenon we (at least I) see every day; we often despise or tire of those who moralise small actions in the world (small actions constantly, that is, not just one-offs). It seems at least prima facie true that we would want a more just world and would like society to enforce just norms and practices, so why is it that we see moralisers as more of an obstacle, or, something to be ignored?

False Solutions & Climate Change

The (Very) Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie or (The Young and the Damned)

(an essay submitted for a paper at uni)

In this essay I use insights given on society by Herbert Marcuse to analyse the way in which the development of advanced society and economic relations has perpetuated climate change and mitigated the efforts to prevent it. I begin by outlining Marcuse’s notion of false needs, which is drawn on in the rest of the essay. Next I discuss three ways in which advanced industrial society has perpetuated climate change which are; (1) perpetual economic growth; (2) wasteful incentives and; (3) the co-optation of the climate conscious movement and the administration of a substitutive mindset. Finally, I argue that in lieu of this, we adopt an eliminative mindset. Advanced industrial society (conceptualised by Marcuse) has accelerated and perpetuated climate change, even convincing us it has the solutions in substitutes, when the solution is in elimination.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Double Feature Series #1: Man's Search for Meaning

I'm going to start posting sets of two movies that I love in what I'm calling my double feature series. These movies will usually be made 20+ years apart that are (mostly) thematically related. I see one as sort of a spiritual successor of the other. I try to avoid blatantly obvious connections that have been made before or constitute obvious homages (like certain Woody Allen movies combined with certain Bergman movies for example)

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Rowan Recommends: Sawdust and Tinsel (1953)

Who gave Bergman the authority to write such beautiful scripts?

I see Phantom Thread (2017) as the spiritual successor of this film.