Friday, April 6, 2018

Revolutionary Love

What is revolutionary love? Is it a theological, religious, ethical, philosophical, or political form of expression, or is it perhaps all of these? When does love become a revolutionary act? Is revolutionary love the kind of love that is required in order to change the world? Where does the love revolution begin?
      What happens to us when we feel, express, are touched by, or are empowered by revolutionary love?
      The answers to these questions may depend in part on whether the kind of fundamental change produced by revolutionary love is psychological, moral, political, social or institutional in nature.
      There may of course be many kinds of love: romantic, parental, filial, sisterly, and brotherly. There may also be love of one’s family, love of one’s friends, love of one’s community, love of one’s country, love of God, love of self, love of one’s neighbor, and love of the stranger. Can each of these kinds of love be in some cases revolutionary? If so, then there may be many kinds of revolutionary love.
      Revolutionary love, as described in the New Testament, is the kind of love that teaches us to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). It’s also the kind of love that teaches us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another…Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:14-21).
      Revolutionary love is also the kind of love that changes others when they see that we have only love, and not bitterness or hatred, in our hearts. It reconciles us with others, and others with us. It enables us to overcome our differences, and it motivates us to promote social harmony and cooperation. It’s also a kind of love that may be so powerful that it changes our whole way of looking at the world. It may also encourage others to reciprocate with kindness and understanding.
      Denise Levertov’s poem, “Prayer for Revolutionary Love” (1975), begins with the lines:

      “That a woman not ask a man to leave meaningful work to follow her.
        That a man not ask a woman to leave meaningful work to follow him.”1

Thus, Levertov suggests that love may be revolutionary insofar as it fully allows for and respects the personal autonomy and moral agency of those who share it.
      Thomas Jay Oord (2017), a professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University, describes revolutionary love as a kind of love that promotes overall well-being, not only individually or locally, but also collectively or globally. He argues that “revolutionary love works to overcome, overthrow, and oppose structures, systems, or authorities that undermine overall well-being. Revolutionary love seeks justice in the face of evil.”2 He also argues that “We need revolutionary love when the status quo and the established systems disenfranchise, oppress, and degrade our lives and our planet…Revolutionary love opposes the status quo whenever the status quo does harm and evil, whether at the local, national, or international levels.”3
      Revolutionary love is also the kind of love that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. describes in a sermon entitled “Loving Your Enemies,” which he delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on Nov. 17, 1957. Dr. King may in some ways be described as a revolutionary, and his preaching, ministry, and civil rights activism may in some ways be described as an effort to promote revolutionary love. What he explains we must recognize is that

“Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it…
      And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see…what religion calls “the image of God, you begin to love him…Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them…
      and...there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.”4

      Serene Jones (2017), a professor of theology and President of Union Theological Seminary, explains that just as there may be many kinds of love, there may be many kinds of revolution. Thus, there may be “revolutions of loves.”5 She explains that great harms may sometimes be perpetrated under the guise of “love,” and that revolutionary love must therefore be committed to telling the truth about social inequity and injustice. Revolutionary love 
“recognizes our fundamental interconnection and interdependence as human beings with one another and with our planet. It affirms the fundamental equality and value of every human being…and the fundamental value of the planet in which we find ourselves. It also goes beyond a justice-based, distributive understanding of equal value and steps into the space where we imagine how to actually care for one another, how to have our lives invested in the pursuit of the well-being of the other.”6
      Jones also explains that revolutionary love is not simply or exclusively a Christian theme or concept, and that love, justice, and promotion of overall well-being are at the center of a variety of religious traditions. Revolutionary love is also a theme that has secular or nonreligious meanings and implications.
      John J. Thatamanil (2017), a professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary, also argues that revolutionary love is not a narrowly Christian category, but rather an interreligious comparative category that may be useful in comparing the Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu traditions. Thus, for Engaged Buddhists, revolutionary love may be a political expression of karuna (compassion) or metta (loving-kindness), and for Gandhian Hindus, it may be an expression of ahimsa (non-injury or non-violence).7 Thatamanil quotes the words of the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Aware of suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I vow to cultivate loving-kindness and learn ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I vow to practice generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.”8

Thatamanil also quotes the words of Mohandas K. Gandhi:

“I accept the interpretation of ahimsa, namely, that it is not merely a negative state of harmlessness but it is a positive state of love, of doing good even to the evil-doer. But it does not mean helping the evil-doer to continue the wrong or tolerating it by passive acquiescence. On the contrary…Non-cooperation is not a passive state, it is an intensely active state—more active than physical resistance or violence. Passive resistance is a misnomer.”9


FOOTNOTES

1Denise Levertov, “Prayer for Revolutionary Love,” in Selected Poems (New York: New Directions Books, 2002), p. 106. Online at https://books.google.com/books?id=h9FX2cgifcMC&pg=PA106&lpg=PA106&dq=denise+levertov+prayer+for+revolutionary+love+selected+poems&source=bl&ots=TxErzsJ0yv&sig=8WwRF7oxR7jG3deOrjBQnJme0Nw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjZlY7Jh6baAhWIvVMKHcgVAC8Q6AEIRTAD#v=onepage&q=denise%20levertov%20prayer%20for%20revolutionary%20love%20selected%20poems&f=false.
2Thomas Jay Oord, “Revolutionary Love,” March 22, 2017, online at http://thomasjayoord.com/index.php/blog/archives/revolutionary-love.
3Ibid.
4Martin Luther King, Jr., “Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church,The Martin, Luther King, Jr. Papers Project, Stanford University, online at https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/loving-your-enemies-sermon-delivered-dexter-avenue-baptist-church.
5Serene Jones, “Revolutions of Loves,” in Toronto Journal of Theology, Vol. 33, No.2, 2017, p. 159.
6Ibid., p. 161.
7John J. Thatamanil, “Revolutionary Love as Shared Interreligious Comparative Category: Christian Engagements with Engaged Buddhism and Gandhian Nonviolence,” in Toronto Journal of Theology, Vol. 33, No. 2, 2017, p. 169.
8Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ (New York: Riverhead Books, 2007), p 93.
9M.K. Gandhi, Non-Violent Resistance (New York: Schocken, 1961), p. 161.



Saturday, March 24, 2018

Charlottesville Ten Miler, 2018

The Charlottesville Ten Miler was held Saturday, March 24, 2018, three days after a snowfall caused the closure of city schools. However, there was no snow left on the ground. The weather was chilly, with a temperature of 31 degrees at the start of the race. There was no wind. The race started on Massie Road, between John Paul Jones Arena and University Hall. It led over a series of hills to the Downtown Mall, and then back over more hills to Alderman Road, and then back to Copeley Road, near where the race had started.
      I finished with a time of 1:31:25. This was better than I'd expected. I was able to survive the uphills and coast along the downhills. My pace was 9:09 a mile. I finished 910th out of 2027 participants, 9th out of 27 in my age group.
      The winner of the race, in the men's group, was Silas Frantz, from Richmond, Virginia, who finished in 52:43. The winner of the race, in the women's group, was Rachel Ward, from Charlottesville, Virginia, who finished in 58:53. The youngest male in the race, Jack Boyles, age 13, finished in 1:25:40. The youngest female, L. Holland, age 12, finished in 2:01:43. The oldest male, Jim Cargile, age 79, finished in 2:01:43, and the oldest female, Susan Thomas, age 75, finished in 2:20:58.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Surfaces of Inscription

Surfaces of inscription may include such things as sheets of paper, computer screens, digital writing pads, scrolls, tapestries, bank notes, invoices, receipts, postage stamps, licenses, certificates, diplomas, sheets of cardboard, and sheets of canvas.
      Surfaces of inscription may also include such things as windowpanes, glass bottles or jars, coffee mugs, watch or clock faces, cement or asphalt surfaces (such as streets and sidewalks), street signs, blackboards, posters, and billboards. 
      They may also include wooden surfaces (such as furniture, walls, doors, and floors), medicinal tablets or capsules, surfaces of the human body, and articles of clothing.
      They may also include blocks of stone (such as pillars, columns, gravestones, statues, and monuments), stone walls (such as cave walls), blocks of soap, wax, clay, or brick, and coins, medals, insignias, badges, tools, and weapons.
      Surfaces of (metaphorical) inscription may include such things as thoughts, impressions, memories, emotions, feelings, attitudes, and (moral, aesthetic, and cultural) sensibilities.
      Inscriptions may vary in their legibility and durability. Some may be relatively permanent, others merely temporary.
      Instruments of inscription may include pencils, pens, needles, styluses, crayons, paint or ink brushes, spray guns, pieces of chalk, drills, computers, video or movie projectors, and printing presses.
      To inscribe may be to write, print, draw, paint, carve, engrave, stamp, paste, or burn words, letters, symbols, or images onto something. It may also be to write a signature, personal message, or dedication (e.g. inside the covers of a book, on a photograph, or on a work of art).
      The body surface may be a site, locus, or medium of self-inscription, self-identification, self-representation, and self-expression. An interesting exception to this rule, however, may be when people inscribe other people’s names (such as the names of friends or family members) on their own bodies.
      We may inscribe or map our social identities onto our own bodies (e.g. through the use of makeup, lipstick, nail polish, jewelry, tattoos, and body piercings). Cosmetic surgery may be another means of inscribing or altering the surface and contour of the body. Bodily inscriptions may be markers of not only social identity, but also social and cultural difference.
      Growth or shaving of facial or body hair, and the wearing of wigs, toupees, and particular hairstyles may also be ways of inscribing particular aesthetic, religious, political, social, and cultural values and attitudes onto the surface of the body.
      Modes of inscription may be governed by textual (aesthetic, interpretive, stylistic, and rhetorical), social, and cultural codes. The wearing of a bodily inscription may be a kind of performance that may be governed by social performance codes (as when bodily inscriptions have to be disguised or concealed in certain social settings).
      Michel Foucault (1977) describes the human body as a surface of inscription of events that are traced by language and dissolved by ideas.1 History inscribes or imprints itself on the human body. The body is the site of a dissociated self, insofar as genealogy (as an analysis of ancestral descent) requires us to maintain past events in their proper dispersion. Genealogy requires us to identify the accidents that gave birth to what exists and has value for us, and to discover that at the root of what we know and what we are there is not truth or being, but the exteriority of accidents.2,3
      Jacques Derrida (1974) says that writing signifies inscription, insofar as it is taken to mean something durable and something occurring spatially. The world may be seen as a space of inscription.4
      Gilles Deleuze (1986) says that the human face may be a surface of inscription, insofar as thoughts, feelings, and emotions may be inscribed on it.5
      Ernesto Laclau (1990) argues that structural dislocations in society provide spaces of representation for individuals, and that those spaces of representation may function as alternatives to the socially dominant forms of structural discourse. The suturing of structural dislocations may in turn create new spaces of representation. These new spaces function as surfaces on which structural dislocations and social demands are inscribed. Structural dislocation is therefore a source of freedom for the individual subject. The individual subject’s acts of self-identification and self-determination are made possible by structural indeterminacy and undecidability. The relation between the surfaces of inscription constituted by spaces of representation and whatever is inscribed on them is therefore essentially unstable. The incomplete and unfinished nature of surfaces of inscription is the condition of possibility for the constitution of social imaginaries (which in turn are horizons of possibility for the emergence of the world of objects).6
      Elizabeth Grosz (1993) distinguishes between two kinds of approach to theorizing the human body: (1) the inscriptive, and (2) the lived body. The inscriptive approach conceives the body as a surface on which social law, morality, and values are inscribed, while the lived body approach is concerned with the lived experience of the body, and with the body’s internal or psychic inscription.7 Grosz explains that “the body can be regarded as a kind of hinge or threshold: it is placed between a psychic or lived interiority and a more sociopolitical exteriority that produces interiority through the inscription of the body’s outer surface.”8
      Grosz (1994) also explains that “the body’s psychical interior is established as such through the social inscription of bodily processes, that is, the ways in which the 'mind' or psyche is constituted so that it accords with the social meanings attributed to the body in its concrete historical, social, and cultural particularity.”9 This does not mean that the self or ego is “an effect of which the body or the body’s surface is the cause…The ego is derived from two kinds of 'surface.' On the one hand, the ego is on the 'inner' surface of the psychical agencies; on the other hand, it is a projection or representation of the body’s 'outer surface.'"10
      Margo DeMello (2000), in discussing the social significance of tattoos, notes that the human body may be both inscribed and reinscribed by culture and society. Tattoos may be a means for individuals to write themselves into a particular kind of social context, and also to be “read” within that context. People may construct “tattoo narratives” about their own tattoos in order to provide others with an appropriate social context within which to determine their meaning.11 Tattoos (and surgical scars, and other kinds of bodily inscriptions) may “tell a story” about their wearers, and their wearers may in turn “tell a story” about them.


FOOTNOTES

1Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, edited by Donald F. Bouchard, translated by Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), p. 148.
2Ibid., p. 146.
3Foucault, “Nietzsche, La Généalogie, L’Histoire,” in Hommage À Jean Hyppolite, edited by Suzanne Bachelard, et al. (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1971), p. 152.
4Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p. 44.
5Adrian Jonston and Catherine Malabou, discussing Deleuze’s Cinema 1 (1986), in “The Face and the Close-Up: Deleuze’s Spinozist Approach to Descartes,” in Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), p. 46.
6Ernesto Laclau, New Reflections on The Revolution of Our Time (London: Verso, 1990), p. 63.
7Elizabeth Grosz, “Bodies and Knowledges: Feminism and the Crisis of Reason,” in Feminist Epistemologies, edited by Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter (New York: Routledge, 1993), p. 196.
8Ibid., p. 196.
9Elizabeth Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994) p. 27.
10Ibid., p. 37.
11Margo DeMello, Bodies of Inscription: A cultural history of the modern tattoo community (Durham: Duke University Press, 2000), p. 12.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Luis Villoro's Power and Value: Fundamentals of a Political Ethic

In El poder y el valor: Fundamentos de una ética política (1997, not yet published in English), Luis Villoro is concerned with the relation between political power and moral values. He explores the question of whether there is any necessary opposition between the will to power and the realization of the good. He also explores the question of how political power may be combined with moral values in order to promote the interests of the whole of society.
      The first part of the book outlines a general theory of value. The three following parts describe three different ways of defining the relation between political power and moral values. The first way is to delineate the characteristics of political action, in which the relation between power and value converges with two distinct forms of rationality: instrumental and evaluative. The second way is to describe political change from the standpoint of the relation between social morality and the ethical proposals of politics. The third way is to describe the aims of the two previous approaches, namely, to describe the particular values and kinds of political association they aim to realize.1
      Villoro says that, as a first approximation, we may understand “value” as the characteristics of an object or situation that cause us to have a favorable attitude toward it.2 A favorable attitude toward an object may have a reverse aspect: a perception that the object is lacking something valuable.3 "Value" is then whatever alleviates a deprivation, placates the tension of desire, fulfills a longing, or returns plenitude to a lacking world. The realization of value in a particular good suspends (at least partially and temporarily) the perception that it may also be lacking something valuable.
      Value may be intrinsic or extrinsic, but some objects may be both intrinsically and extrinsically valuable, i.e. they may be both valuable in themselves and valuable insofar as they enable us to obtain other objects, states, etc. that are valuable.
      Villoro explains that there are at least four kinds of valid reasons to doubt the reality of an experience of value: (1) sufficient reasons to believe that it has been produced by a distortion or disruption of reliable faculties of perception, (2) sufficient reasons to believe that it has been produced by subjective alterations of actual reality, (3) sufficient reasons to believe that it is motivated by beliefs that are insufficiently justified, and (4) prior beliefs that are objectively justified and that contradict it.
      The boundary between reasonable belief and knowledge cannot be precisely determined, says Villoro. Objective knowledge may be no more than the limit to which beliefs based on more or less sufficient reasons extend.4 Thus, beliefs about value, even when based on sufficient reasons, may not provide us with complete certainty.
      To depart from the first approximation to the meaning of value (“value” as a term for a positive attitude toward something), we need to distinguish between those judgments that declare that an object is considered to be valuable by a particular subject and those that assert that the object is valuable independently of the attitude of a particular subject. A particular subject may affirm without contradicting herself that “I know x is valuable, but I don’t feel any esteem or admiration for it,” or “I should admire or appreciate x, but it’s too bad that I’m incapable of doing so!”5 We must therefore distinguish between subjective and objective value.
      If an object’s value is purely instrumental, then its desirability is conditioned by the choice of the end that it serves. Thus, if x leads to y, and S desires y, then S should choose x (if the word “should” is taken to have a purely instrumental meaning). But if this instrumental rule is valid for every subject under determinate conditions, then every subject becomes a member of a collectivity for whom x is now an objective value, and the instrumental rule is converted into an unconditional norm, insofar as it provides a universal guide for action. The conjunction of such norms constitutes an ethic. Ethical norms may therefore be seen as precepts for the realization of objective values.6
      The term “value” may thus be used in at least two senses. As a first approximation, we may say that a value is the intentional object of a positive attitude, i.e. that which is desired or admired by a particular subject. As a second approximation, we may say that it is that which is desirable or admirable for any subject under determinate conditions. The attribution of subjective value to an object indicates that the object is desired or admired by a particular subject, while the attribution of objective value to it indicates that it is desirable or admirable independently of being seen as such by any particular subject.7
      Values may sometimes conflict with, or be opposed to, one another. The realization of one value may sometimes come at the cost of the realization of other values. A hierarchy of values may therefore have to be established in order for us to determine those that are most important for us to realize.8
      A political ethic deals most importantly with values that satisfy the general interest of society as a whole by encouraging social cooperation and promoting the common good. The major tasks of a political ethic are therefore (1) to determine the common values that are worthy of being esteemed by any individual, (2) to show that those values have been chosen for objective reasons, and (3) to indicate the regulative principles of political action so that those principles may be realized.9
      According to Villoro, there is in fact an implicit ethic in any political discourse. In any political text (speech, document, proclamation, manifesto, or party program), we may encounter two types of language, which may often be intermingled and confused with each other. The first is justificatory, the second explicative. Justificatory discourse engages practical reason, and it may be expressed in an ethics of political action. Explicative discourse puts into effect both theoretical reasoning about facts and instrumental reasoning about the relation between means and ends.10
      Ethical movements in the field of politics have always wanted to limit the power of the state, says Villoro. Because of the inevitably corrupting nature of power, imposed power may always exceed the end that justifies it. But the attempt to end oppression may also require power. How then can the circle of power and domination be broken?
       “Counterpower” (contrapoder) may be an effective means of halting the excesses and abuses of power, says Villoro. Counterpower replaces intolerance with tolerance, conflict with cooperation, and confrontation with negotiation and dialogue. Its ultimate goal is the abolition of imposed power. While this goal may never be fully achieved, counterpower may still effectively restrain and control political power.11 It is not an imposition of power, nor is it a will to power. It is rather a resistance to imposed power, and to the will to power.
      According to the function they serve, political ideologies may be divided into those that reinforce an existing system of power and those that subvert or disrupt it. The first may be described as reiterative, the second as subversive or disruptive. What makes an ideology reiterative or disruptive may depend on the function it performs in a particular society, rather than on the particular content of its doctrines. For example, a nationalist ideology may be reiterative of a totalitarian system of power, but subversive of a colonialist system of power. A socialist ideology may be reiterative of a socialist system of power, but subversive of a capitalist system of power.12
      Some ideologies may be more pragmatic than theoretical, while others may be more theoretical than pragmatic. Between those that are predominantly theoretical and those that are predominantly pragmatic, there may be intermediate cases.
      According to the function they perform, “pragmatic” ideologies may be reiterative or disruptive of a system of domination. The same may be said of “theoretical” or “doctrinal” ideologies.13
      Villoro distinguishes between ideology and ethics by saying that ideologies present as objective those values that respond to the needs of a particular group, while ethics presents as objective those values that may be considered valid for any individual or group. Ideologies may be motivated by the striving for power, while ethics may be motivated by the striving for value.14 Nevertheless, the distinction between ideology and ethics may not always be clear. There may be ideologies that contain moral doctrines, and there may be systems of power that attempt to legitimize themselves by means of a discourse that contains moral principles.15
      Ideologies may therefore attempt to reconcile two discourses: ethical discourse and discourse aimed at the achievement of political power. But ethical discourse may be shown to be in contradiction to the pursuit of power that the ideologue attempts to justify. The ideologue has to reinterpret the two discourses in a manner that conceals their contradiction. The maintenance of power may be based on this act of deception.16
      Villoro also distinguishes between an association (asociacíon) and a community (comunidad). In an association, the more we try to detach ourselves from our own interests, the more we are faced with the conflict between those interests and the interests of other subjects in the association. In a community, on the other hand, such conflict is eliminated, because the interests of every subject include the interests of the whole community.
      According to Villoro, utopianism may express both an attitude of departure from the real world and an affirmation of an ideal world. The opposition between the projected ideal world and the actual world corresponds to the distinction between ideal values and actual facts that are deprived of value.17 Utopianism proposes an imaginary or ideal reality where an objective order is fulfilled, valid for every community, and at its limit, valid for every individual.
      Utopianism may therefore be characterized as a kind of disruptive mode of thought that establishes a maximal tension between a projected ideal world and the actual world, between ultimate and proximate ends, between what ought to be and what is.18
      Villoro says that the most common criticism of utopianism is that it lacks efficacy. It desires an ideal end without putting into practice the means to realize that end.19 The ideal society has a normative character; it directs political action, but is never fully realized.
      He also explains that moral action in politics presupposes two kinds of knowledge: (1) knowledge of both the values that constitute the common good and the political means necessary for the realization of those values (this kind of knowledge corresponds to principles of rationality of means and ends) and (2) knowledge of the actual facts that will lead to the realization of those values in society (this kind of knowledge corresponds to both theoretical rationality concerning existing social forces and instrumental rationality concerning the effective means of achieving desired ends).20
      A political ethic, according to Villoro, cannot be limited to promulgating general norms or establishing abstract principles; it must be a concrete ethic, subject to three kinds of rationality: (1) valuative rationality concerning the ends and values that fulfill the general interest, (2) theoretical and instrumental rationality concerning the actual circumstances and consequences of actions, and (3) rationality of judgment that weighs, in every case, the relations between the given data and the two previous kinds of rationality.21
     

FOOTNOTES

1Luis Villoro, El poder y el valor: Fundamentos de una ética política (Ciudad de México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1997), p. 8.
2Ibid., p. 13.
3Ibid., p. 15.
4Ibid., p. 27.
5Ibid., p. 41.
6Ibid., p. 45.
7Ibid., p. 45.
8Ibid., pp. 46-47.
9Ibid., p. 74.
10Ibid., pp. 74-75.
11Ibid., p. 88.
12Ibid., p. 188.
13Ibid., p. 191.
14Ibid., p. 192.
15Ibid., pp. 192-193.
16Ibid., pp. 193-194.
17Ibid., p. 210.
18Ibid., p. 211.
19Ibid., p. 213.
20Ibid., p. 123.
21Ibid., pp. 124-125.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Fernando Broncano's The Melancholia of the Cyborg

Fernando Broncano Rodríguez (b. 1954) is a Spanish philosopher who was born in Linares de Riofrío, Salamanca, Spain. He received his doctoral degree from the Universidad de Salamanca in 1981, and did postdoctoral studies at Brown University. He was titular professor of logic and the philosophy of science at the Universidad de Salamanca from 1977 until 2000, and has been full professor (catedrático) of the philosophy of science at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid since 2001. His research interests include epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and philosophy of technology. His writings include Nuevas meditaciones sobre la técnica (1995), Mundos Artificiales: Filosofía del cambio technológico (2000), Saber en condiciones: Epistemología para escépticos y materialistas (2003), Jardines de la memoria y el olvido (2004), Entre ingenieros y ciudadanos: Filosofía de la técnica para días de democracia (2006), La melancholía del ciborg (2009), La estrategía del simbionte: Cultura material para nuevas humanidades (2012), and Sujetos en la niebla: Narrativas sobre la identidad (2013). He has a blog entitled El laberinto de la identidad at http://laberintodelaidentidad.blogspot.com/.
      La melancholia del ciborg (The Melancholia of the Cyborg) is divided into seven chapters and an epilogue: "1. Cyborgs among other frontier beings,” "2. Material cultures and artefacts,” "3. Imaginary artefacts,” "4. The invention of the subjunctive,” "5. Not being able (to come) to be: Agency in times and places of obscurity,” "6. More faces of power,” "7. Pathologies of the imagination and of power,” and "Epilogue. Spaces of possibility.” As of 2017, it has not yet been published in English.
      Broncano explains at the outset that his examination of the kind of hybrid being that belongs to cyborgs is inspired by the writings of such philosophers as Donna Haraway (Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, 1991), María Lugones (Pilgrimages/Peregrinajes: Theorizing Coalition Against Multiple Oppressions, 2003), Rosi Braidotti (Nomadic Subjects, 1994), and Andy Clark (Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence, 2003).  He says that we are all, in some sense, like Galatea, the statue brought to life by its sculptor, Pygmalion, in ancient Greek mythology. We are all hybrids of the organic and the artisanal (or artefactual). Our experience of the world occurs on the frontier between representation and reality.
       We are also cyborgs insofar as we depend on artificial parts or mechanical devices for our being or functioning. The artificial devices on which we depend in order to carry out our daily activities function as prostheses for us; they occupy an increasing proportion of our attention and become indispensable to us, insofar as they not only remedy impaired organic functions (as with the use of eyeglasses, hearing aids, orthopedic prostheses, and pacemakers), but also create new possibilities of being.
      The whole array of social and cultural tools or instruments we employ, including oral and written languages, social institutions, codes and norms, religions and rituals, music and art, function as social and cultural prostheses for us, and thus transform our social and cultural possibilities.
      But cyborgs also suffer a melancholia that is the fruit of an uprooting, because the use of artificial parts or devices constitutes a kind of exile from the natural world. Cyborgs live on the frontier between the natural and artificial worlds, and thus they experience a sense of nostalgia for the natural world from which they've been exiled. Melancholia is therefore a characteristic state of cultural modernity.1
       Broncano explains that the categorization of phenomena as natural or artificial may have important moral, social, and political consequences, as, for example, when the origins of global warming are attributed to natural causes or to human activity, and when such social categories as gender, race, and ethnicity are attributed to natural or to socially constructed factors. The concept of a “natural” origin of a particular moral or religious mission may be a source of radical fundamentalism. On the other hand, the theory that all human categories are socially constructed may lead to radical skepticism or relativism.2
      One objection to the concept that we are all cyborgs is that cyborgs may be viewed as mere products of capitalism, as things that are designed or destined to become obsolete, like computers or electronic mobile devices. But Broncano argues that cyborgs are actually condemned not to obsolescence, but to loss of access to various cultural spaces, depending on how long their prostheses continue to allow them access to those cultural spaces.3
      Cyborgs belong to a class of beings that attempt to reconcile the antagonism between the natural and the artificial. In the 1980’s, they became part of the popular iconography of Hollywood, extraordinary beings composed of natural and artificial parts, in such films as Blade Runner (1982), The Terminator (1984) and RoboCop (1987).
      Donna Haraway, in her essay “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century” (1991) describes cyborgs as cybernetic organisms, hybrids of organic and inorganic parts. They are beings in whom nature and culture have been reworked, so that nature is no longer the resource for appropriation or incorporation by culture.4 They are also beings in whom not only the boundary between human and animal, but also the boundary between organism and machine has been breached.5
      Broncano says that Haraway describes cyborgs as symbols of the multifold and diverse identities of women, and as having many different social roles. He also says that Haraway seeks to reclaim for women what had previously been stigmatized: the natural in the feminine, the corporeal, the emotional, the maternal, closeness to the world, and the care of things.6
      Broncano concludes that melancholia is not a state of disenchantment, but a state of knowledge or wisdom. Modern melancholia is the melancholia of unrealized possibilities. It is therefore not a kind of infirmity or malady, but the very nature of frontier beings.7


FOOTNOTES

1Fernando Broncano, La melancholia del ciborg (Barcelona: Herder Editorial, 2009), pp. 24-25.
2Ibid., p. 29.
3Ibid., p. 42.
4Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 151.
5Ibid., p. 151.
6Broncano, La melancholia del ciborg, p. 43.
7Ibid., 277