ALAN WATTS VIDEO COLLECTION – PART 1

Alan Change
Conversations with Myself:

Time & The More It Changes:

Work as Play:

Death:

Buddhism & Science

The Void

The Discipline of Zen

To be continued…

Judith Butler & Cornel West – Honoring Edward Said

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A highly interesting and thought-provoking conversation between Judith Butler and Cornel West, honoring the life and work of Edward Said on the 10th anniversary of his death. Check it out:

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Recommended further reading:

Interview with Hannah Arendt @ Zur Person (1 hour of conversation, in German, with English subtitles)

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Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)

The Eyes and the Abyss of Galaxies… “voilà un beau precipice.”

“À mesure que l’on sait mieux voir, un spectacle quelconque enferme des joies inépuisables. Et puis, de partout, on peut voir le ciel étoilé; voilà un beau précipice.”

Alain (Émile-Auguste Chartier, 1858-1951)
Propos Sur Le Bonheur. Gallimard, 1928, p. 136.

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P.S. – I’ve recently written about this book in an article for my Brazilian blog A Casa de Vidro (The Glasshouse). For those among you who can read Portuguese and want to check it out, here it is.

Feuerbach and the Cherry Tree: a Marxist parable

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“In total contrast to German philosophy, which descends from heaven to earth, we here ascend from earth to heaven.” – KARL MARX (1846)

Walking down the streets of a big city, are we aware that we are like fishes swimming in an ocean of History? Do we realize that tall buildings, concrete roads and old churches, just to mention a few items of the urban landscape, have been erected by human labour throughout the centuries?

One of the advantages of wandering around with the brain fueled by Marxist ideas is a certain transformation of perception in which History ceases to be something buried in books and museums. History is alive and kicking: while I drift through the metropolis, I bump on it everywhere.

This awareness may be much more intense in a visit to what’s properly called an “historical city” like Québec, founded in 1608, whose  CitadelleChâteau Frontênac and monuments to European conquerors (such as Jacques Cartier and Samuel Champlain), gives one the strong impression of past-still-present. Generations ago, humans who are no longer among the living, built this awesome castle on the top of the hill, facing from the height the Saint Lawrence River below, and now those who are among the living – myself included – can’t help but notice how the Québec of nowadays is actually a product of History. It’s History incarnate.

That’s how I’m coming to understand better what Karl Marx meant by his doctrine of Historical Materialism: the material world isn’t simply a world of “natural” objects; the material world is nature transformed by human endeavour; it’s the result of the productive activities of mankind, what necessarily includes the labour of bygone generations.

One of the commonest antithesis in the history of philosophy opposes Materialism to Idealism. To even attempt to describe this controversy, in all its subtleties and historical developments, is a Herculean job that I feel unable to cope with (this task would take a much larger knowledge of the history of philosophy than I presently have). My intention in the present scribbling is merely to share some Marxist ideas which, it seems to me, enlighten the matter of Historical Materialism quite vividly. It’s well known that Karl Marx’s philosophy is accurately described as a “Materialist Conception of History”. Its inception and development seems to be one of the endeavours to which Marx and his comrade Engels devoted theirs lives to accomplish.

It’s worth remembering that the so-called “Young Marx” was already deeply interested in philosophical Materialism, so much so that Marx’s 1841 Doctorate was a thesis about the philosophies of nature of two of the most important Greek materialists, Democritus and Epicurus. It’s also well known that Marx, despite having been deeply influenced by Hegel, was far from being an orthodox disciple who would preach the Hegelian gospel like a conditioned parrot. Marx’s sharp powers of criticism and scorn were also directed against  “The German Ideology”, guilty of an idealism  that’s incarnate in the tradition of Kant, Fichte and Hegel. In Robert C. Tucker’s Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx (Cambridge University Press, 1961), we can find some help in understanding the “materialist-idealist antithesis”:

428500“The idealist starts from the ‘heaven’ of theory and attempts to descend to the ‘earth’ of practice. He proceeds from man’s ‘sacred history’ or thought-process in the effort to comprehend the historical process as a whole. The materialist, on the other hand, begins with the ‘real life-process’ or ‘practical developmental process of man’. He takes his stand on ‘earth’ and adopts man’s ‘profane history’ as the starting point for theory. Abandoning the vain effort to descend from heaven to earth, he rises from earth to heaven. He treats the sacred history as a mental reflex of the profane one, the history of mental production as an epiphenom of the history of material production. His underlying principle is that ‘Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life.’ Marx defends it on the ground that man cannot think, and cannot live at all, without producing the material means of life. Here is the doctrine of economic base and ideological superstructure, better known in Marx’s later formulation in the preface to his Critique of Political Economy: ‘The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political and spiritual processes of life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but, on the contrary, their social existence determines their consciousness.” (TUCKER, p. 179)

Materialism, after all, doesn’t deny the existence of ideas and ideals, of phantasies and imaginations, of all those contents that can be said to pertain to the life of the mind, to subjective space or to the psychological realm. It’s undeniable, for example, that religious ideas do exist, but not as abolute or objetive truths, but as concepts produced by the human brain. The idealist, usually infected by theological ideologies, confuses a creature of his own brain with something that exists outside himself – a critique expounded in detail by Feuerbach’s highly influential The Essence of Christianity (1841).

Historical materialism aims to understand the world around without supposing for it a divine origin or an ideal which serves as its foundation. Rather, historical materialism aims to describe the sensuous external world – that which our senses have access to – as a “materialization of all past productive activity of the human race. The sensuous world around man is a nature produced by history, or in Marx’s words ‘an historical product, the result of the activity of a whole succession of generations. He criticizes all past doctrines of materialism for the failure to grasp the external material objects as materializations of human activity.” (TUCKER, op cit, p. 182)

We’re like fishes swimming in a sea of History, but also fishes who are born into a certain stage of the process of Nature’s transformation by human labour. Each one of us has a consciousness, or an “ego”, which can only be understood as something necessarily determined and conditioned by its situation in a certain historical epoch, in a particular web of social circumstances.

Even when we presume to be witnessing Nature in its purity, we may actually be witnessing Culture and History. This is one of the cleverest criticismsMarx shoots against Feuerbach: when facing a cherry tree, Feuerbach believed it to be a sensuous object from the natural realm, but he failed to grasp that “the cherry tree was transplanted to Europe by commerce only a few centuries ago, and solely by virtue of this historical fact is it given to Feuerbach’s senses.” (TUCKER, op cit, p. 182)

Julian Assange (Wikileaks) & Slavoj Zizek in a debate with Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now!

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You might also enjoy:


Zizek speaks at Occupy Wall Street / October 9, 2011

“They tell you we are dreamers.
The true dreamers are those who think
Things can go on indefinetely the way they are!
We are not dreamers.
We are the awakening
from a dream which is turning into a nightmare…”

Derrida (2002, Zeitgeist Films) – A documentary by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman

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“DERRIDA is a playful, personal and theoretical portrait of the internationally renowned French philosopher, Jacques Derrida. Best known for originating the movement known as “deconstruction,” Derrida’s radical rethinking of the precepts on which Western metaphysics are founded has deeply influenced the studies of literature, philosophy, ethics, architecture and law, indelibly marking the intellectual landscape of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Produced with Derrida’s full cooperation and consent, the film is the most ambitious cinematic project ever undertaken with a world-class philosopher. Initiated by Amy Ziering Kofman, who studied with Derrida at Yale in the 1980s, and co-directed by Kirby Dick and Ziering Kofman, Derrida is neither a conventional film biography nor a primer on his thinking. Rather, in the spirit of Derrida’s own writing, the film investigates the concept of biography itself and explores the nature and limitations of the cinematic form in addressing philosophical thought.

Braiding together rare vérité footage of Derrida in his private life with his reflections on deconstruction, violence, the structure of love, the history of philosophy and the death of his mother, the film raises questions about the relationship between the public and the private, the personal and the theoretical, the biographical and the  philosophical. It is a rich and moving meditation on both Derrida himself and the themes that haunt and inspire his work.”

DERRIDA BIOGRAPHY

“Brilliant and controversial, Jacques Derrida is one of the most important thinkers of our time, his considerable body of work having ineradicably altered the landscape of thought in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Best known for having formulated a theoretical analysis which is commonly refered to as “deconstruction”, Derrida’s writings on language, rhetoric and philosophy interrogate and challenge the formulations of certain basic precepts of Western metaphysics — precepts such as presence, truth, the position of the subject and nature of identity.

Born in Algiers in 1930 , Derrida immigrated to Paris in his teens to further pursue his studies in philosophy, language and literature, going on after college to earn a graduate a degree in philosophy from the Ecole Normale Superieure and pursue a career in teaching.

His profound impact on contemporary thought began in 1967 with the simultaneous publication of three major works (‘Speech and Phenomena’, ‘Writing and Difference’, and ‘Of Grammatology’) — works which began to articulate his extensive and radical critique of Western metaphysics; a critique which draws, in part, from the writings of Nietzche, Freud, Heidegger, Marx and Levinas. Since this first publication blitz, Derrida has since gone on to publish over 45 books which have been translated in over 22 languages worldwide. His work has been read and disseminated by a broad range of cultures and disciplines, profoundly influencing fields as varied and disparate as art, literature, law, ethics, music, history, architecture and fashion.

Politically active and deeply committed to furthering the course of social justice, Derrida has speculated that his early childhood experiences of intense anti-semitism which, among other things, led to his expulsion from the Algerian public schools at an early age, prompted him to devote his life work to rethinking positions of racism, power, and oppression using his sharp and surprising analytical skills to address the ways in which they overtly and covertly operate. As such his work has opened up spaces of critical thought to a wide variety of cultures and forces informing a wide range of human rights movements.

A lifetime of teaching in both Europe and abroad, (Sorbonne, Ecole Normale Superieure, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Johns Hopkins University, Yale, The New School, NYU, UC Irvine) extensive publications and frequent activist interventions (France, Czechoslovakia, South Africa and the U.S.) have led him to become one of the most cited and influential contemporary intellectual figures. Paradoxically, a person who is at once both extremely private and extremely public, Derrida is one of the most important, profound and intriguing thinkers living today.”

http://www.derridathemovie.com/

Download Jacques Derrida’s Selected Works
A compilation of 60 books (and 50 journal articles)