Paine and Gaine

Snow is just passive-aggressive rain.

I’m still not sure what to think of this book. I really like Paine’s writing style, and I find him pleasingly sarcastic and sassy. However, I  have the some problem with this text that I have with most Enlightenment texts. Seinfeld syndrome. The ideas which were so radical at the time have proliferated and embedded themselves into everyday thought and discourse that when I read this, my reaction to most everything Paine says is “So what?”

I also find the text to be disappointingly uncritical. The majority of a text feels like a bit of a slap fight between Burke and Paine, and most of the text comes off as Paine just going “Nuh uh, cause this and this and this” with everything feeling a bit cursory. Quite often Paine will be laying something out and then saying “its time to move on to the next point.”

The book is littered with ad hominems of Edmund Burke and it prevents actual critical analysis, both of Burke’s argument (I would barely have any idea what Paine was talking about if I hadn’t had previous knowledge with the book, and my edition comes with both The Rights of Man and Reflections on the Revolution in France, so I was able to flip through both texts. My edition has terrible binding though). Josh gave this criticism of my last essay “you tend to focus too much on attacking Freud wherever you see fit, and it ends up eroding your argument instead of his. Try not to be frustrated with Freud himself, instead give solid criticism of his case study”, and I think that applies for Paine too. And because Paine is so focussed on defending and vindicating the French Revolution he does not adequately discuss why the Revolution was necessary or the principles it was predicated on (at least not so far, not finished, but even if he does get to it, he takes too long to do so). History has shown that the French Revolution was far from the perfect, principled moment Paine portrays it as (he was later imprisoned by The Terror, grand irony) and opportunity was lost for critical reflection both by Burke and Paine.

Interesting though is that I found some almost Foucaultian (proto-Foucaultian I suppose) themes in the work, when he discusses despotisms that reside on the institute of monarchy and “this species of despotism, proceeding on through an endless labyrinth of office till the source of it is scarcely perceptible, there is no mode of redress. It strengthens itself by assuming the appearance of duty, and tyrannizes under the pretense of obeying”. Proliferation of despotism through multiple institutions that manipulates our desires. Sounds like bio-power to me.

I’ll end it with a casual moment of anti-semitism from within the book (it was so blatant it made me yell out “Oh no” on the bus, completely involuntarily): “By the universal economy of nature it is known, and by the instance of the Jews it is proved, that the human species has a tendency to degenerate, in any small number of persons, when separated from the general stock of society, and intermarrying constantly with each other.”

You’re a gem, Thomas Paine.

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pain(e)

I haven’t finished this book. Now that that’s out of the way, I can start ‘analyzing’. I’m going to stick with quotes today so my brain doesn’t explode.

So far, I’m finding this book okay. It’s not literature, though. Argh. Paine kind of seems to kiss America’s ass, which I find a bit intolerable, but his tone is very conversational. So it’s kind of a 50/50 between excruciatingly annoying traits and really appealing ones.

Page 9 has my favourite quote/idea so far: “There never did, there never will, and there never can exist a parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding and controlling posterity to the ‘end of time’, or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it … Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself, in all cases, as the ages and generations which preceded it.”

This is really interesting because 1791 is quite early for the ‘every generation for itself’ concept. Hmm. I’m interested to see what else Paine has to say about governments. Although I typically don’t like political philosophy, this could be an interesting shift from my regular reading preferences.

These next two weeks are particularly hectic for me, so I’m going to try my best to stay on top of readings, etc!

PS: Seamus was right about Paine … he’s kind of a pain.

 

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Paine x Attacking the Burke x Idealistic

Hope everyone had a nice break. Trying to finish up my Foucault essay now, definitely having a lot of trouble. I’ve been wondering if I might have an easier time writing these essays if we received the prompts beforehand, or wrote them without prompts altogether (choosing our own essay topic kind of thing). Every time I take a crack at these essays, especially essays on non-fiction works, I find myself wishing I could re-read the entire text with the prompts in mind. I’ve been trying to guess essay prompts for Rights of Man, I guess we’ll see how that turns out.

I don’t follow current American politics very closely, but I can’t help but laugh at the way Paine goes at Burke and how familiar that feels. Political discourse in the states is centered around attacks and rebuttals, and Rights of Man is like watching a period piece on bi-partisanship. Paine just goes for it. He slips in ad hominem attacks whenever he can. I know its supposed to be a counter-attack to Burke’s criticism of the French Revolution, but it comes off as super aggressive and a little silly at time. I guess its funny to see what the current tradition of party politics evolved from.

I’d like to put forward a question to finish off this post. This text strikes me at times as highly idealistic. Flashes of pragmatism are evident in this text, but Paine’s high hopes for government and society are a lot more prominent. He characterizes the French Revolution as principled over and over again, but it often feels to me that these principles are inherently idealistic and unworkable. Any thoughts?

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Thomas Paine-Rights of Man

Rights of Man is a powerful and revolutionary book that deals with rights of all people. How class systems should be destroyed and that people in power are just people with certain position to look after its people. This book feels familiar somehow but I don’t quite remember it. I should find out if he was the first person to claim equality of all people. Rights of man seems like a boring book by its cover but it is actually easy to follow since it is written right to the point. Although this book is written decades ago and although many countries have freedom today, it is ironic how people still claim for equalities of people. It still seems as if ideas of Burke and Paine still remains in the society.

Right of Man- Thomas Paine

The book “right of man” by Thomas Paine was definitely my favourite read by far, in the arts one class. I know clearly by my statements of “Leviathan” being such a great book that I come off as an extreme fan of politics. Not only do the books “Leviathan” and “Right of Man” involve politics, but they have a distinct motif of revolution. As the French Revolution is the first step of the old world order falling, there is a significance that people of the western hemisphere cant understand. From the vivid reading of Thomas Paine, and narration of the fall of the Bastille, leading to democracy and equality. Possibly another reason I liked the book so much was that it didn’t have a somber mood to it, like the books before, there was nothing about severe diseases. A little bit about death, and all the stuff you get with the French Revolution, but is a couple thousand beheadings anything bad? If you are bringing in a new world order is that something to be shamed?

As a side note, I am not very good at blogging because of my highly apparent lack of experience; I’m red in the face that I get to talk about a book that is the equality of the person rather then a gender this week. So for my fellow classmates that are scurrying to finish essays, and recoup their normal hours of sleeping I bid you a farewell on a rare second blog post.

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Geneva

I’m not done reading Rights of Man yet but here’s what I have so far.

I’m appreciating all the one-liners (page references are according to the Adelaide ebook).

“What Athens was in miniature America will be in magnitude.” (140)

“Reason obeys itself; and Ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” (99)

“…as there is but one species of man, there can be but one element of human power; and that element is man himself.” (101)

Okay, so the last one isn’t exactly one line, but still. I know that give the subject matter, one-liners are basically inevitable, but seeing how concisely Thomas Paine can state his ideas is refreshing.

There are, of course, callbacks to earlier books.

Rousseau (and maybe some Hobbes?): “We have now, in a few words, traced man from a natural individual to a member of society, and shown, or endeavoured to show, the quality of the natural rights retained, and of those which are exchanged for civil rights.” (38)

Plato: “If there existed a man so transcendently wise above all others, that his wisdom was necessary to instruct a nation, some reason might be offered for monarchy…” (86)

Césaire/Walcott: “Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title. The thing is perfectly harmless in itself, but it marks a sort of foppery in the human character…” (47)

I’m in Part the Second right now, and a lot of it is Paine comparing/contrasting European governments with the American. So much of what he says in lauding is completely different from how the US government is so often criticized. It’s interesting.

One more thing: at the very, very beginning, Paine seems pretty polite towards Mr. Burke, but everything else Paine’s said about him after that is just complaint after complaint. I don’t get it. Am I missing something?

Short blog post, I guess. Thanks for reading, everyone.

Rewriting the Soul

Rewriting the Soul

As Hacking deals with multiple personalities in Rewriting the Soul, do people have multiple personalities? People do act differently in different situations and towards different people but isn’t it one of the ways people trying to socialize? Or maybe in order to survive? I mean, personalities do change over time because of past experiences or environments people live in. But does that mean people have multiple personalities? What if it is not multiple but personalities that change through lifetime through different experiences? Hacking also says that people are made up. A person changes by other’s description. If this is so, then how does this relate with multiple personalities?

 

Squeeeeeeeee

Because I can’t come up with a good title, but also because this book (what little of it I’ve read, but ascertaining from what I’ve read of it) is sort of everything I’m coming to love about philosophy i.e. goofy mental wanking combined with methodological rigour to create something genuinely insightful. What’s interesting is that I find most of the conclusions he reaches, like “action is action under a description” to be those conclusions that seem painfully obvious in hindsight but is hard to come to. The way Hacking approaches his questions is actually kind of a joy to behold.

Also, I don’t rely buy Jung, but the things I’ve ended up studying in Arts One seem to be eerily synchronous with the things I’ve been thinking about. His exploration of the assumption that “memory is the key to the soul” (p. 20), and how we understand ourselves by the causal descriptions we apply to our past are pretty much the theme of a play I’ve been writing (which also makes me a little apprehensive to finish it because I’m always terrified of over-intellectualizing my creative writing).

An idea that raises dizzying, and honestly a little disturbing, possibilities is that of ‘semantic contagion’. That possibilities and causalities present themselves as we describe them is something that I feel most people intuitively grasp, but when it’s implications are laid out like that the far-reaching effects of it is stunning.

To just add one closing remark: I love the ambition of this book. The questions it tackles have implications beyond its field (philosophy of science) and the fact that it makes those really big mental wanky questions (what are our memories? why are our memories? how do I understand who I am?) into something coherent is something that amazes me.

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Hacking x Mysticism x History of Science

Sorry for the late post, still working on my essay rewrite, which has proved to be more challenging than I originally thought it would be. Nice to see how certain techniques and stylistic features of the non-fiction works we’ve been reading the past couple of weeks have permeated into my writing though. For one, I find myself making clearer distinctions (especially though negation – Fanon and Hacking both used a lot of this i.e. “Freud is not trying to say ____ nor _____.”) in my writing, and words that bring a lot more texture to relationships (“network” “operates as” etc.).

The Hacking text was a pleasant read, although I found the discussion of statistics and quantitative methods quite challenging. I really dug his discussion of trances and other discussions regarding mysticism and mystical elements. Thee discussions were focused on the place of mysticism in society (i.e. the trance as an “eastern” phenomenon), and I believe that at several points he was suggesting that the mystical explanation was used in order to make sense of multiple personality disorder before it became a “condition”. Disclaimer here though, havent been able to finish the book yet.

The way he clarified schizophrenia and separated it from multiple personality disorder was also really interesting for me, because I have long held the misconception that schizophrenia was characterized by multiple personalities.

Found the way that Hacking deals with philosophy and history of science very engaging. Always easier to work with science when its in a narrative and historically contextualized form. I’ve read a few other works in the similar vain (Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything might be familiar to some of you). The only thing I can of find funny about reading about history of sci is that it tends not to stick with me the same way as fiction does. Bryson’s work especially, is a blur to me. History of science is mildly interesting while you read it, but it lacks the emotional grasp to burn an imprint on the brain. It’s a narrative, and its science, but it’s not much more. Wondering if Hacking’s little science stories will go the same way. We’ll have to see I guess.

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