Tag Archive for 'Philosophy'

Stanford Prison Experiment (What do you add to the script?)

Everyone was acting out a part and playing a role: prisoners, guards, staff … everyone was acting out a part. It’s when you start contributing to the script. That’s you, and thus you should take responsibility …

Prisoner 416, of the Stanford Prison Experiment*

From wikipedia:

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted in 1971 by a team of researchers led by Psychology Professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University. Twenty-four undergraduates were selected out of 70 to play the roles of both guards and prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.

From the Professor Zimbardo’s website about the experiment:

What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? These are some of the questions we posed in this dramatic simulation of prison life conducted in the summer of 1971 at Stanford University.

* Debates on “free will” aside, I do believe in subjective free will, and always holding people accountable for their actions. Prisoner 416’s statement sums it up perfectly for me.

Hallucinations … writing … schizophrenia

I always depend on a molecular assemblage of enunciation that is not given in my conscious mind, any more than it depends solely on my apparent social determinations, which combine many heterogeneous regimes of signs. Speaking in tongues. To write is perhaps to bring this assemblage of the unconscious to the light of day, to select the whispering voices, to gather the tribes and secret idioms from which I extract something I call my Self.

Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Žižek’s Violence

I admit it: Violence is my first book by Slavoj Žižek, the cultural critic, philosopher, and Lacan expert who ironically calls himself a Marxist. Through his psychoanalytic lens, and his endless arsenal of jokes, he penetrates deep into 21st century culture with astoundingly counter-intuitive insights. He is never boring, and he hardly ever relies on the pseudo-scientific jargon that many of his fellow academics so love to use. That said, from his many online articles and interviews, he seems to me like a man who is full of contradictions. At times he vituperates the old communist regimes under which he lived, praises the achievements of post WWII western Europe, even finds a good word or two to say about neocon chearleader Fukayama; at other times he slams the disunited left — who can only agree to disagree — and he ironically praises Stalin and modern monolithic leftist movements like Chavez’s regime in Venezuela.
Continue reading ‘Žižek’s Violence’

The Birth of Tragedy

Having been a casual reader of Nietzsche for the last few years, I was already acquainted with the basic tenets of his philosophy when I picked up The Birth of Tragedy — and I had already unlearned everything Bertrand Russell said about him in his vastly overrated History of Western Philosophy. I started to understand Nietzsche when I started to read his philosophy as an artist’s philosophy.* And, in order to understand his polemical opinions on what is good art and what is bad art, you have to be acquainted with Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics. In fact, I would recommend reading Kant and Schopenhauer before reading Nietzsche.

Continue reading ‘The Birth of Tragedy’

Robert Solomon on existentialism


From the movie Waking Life

I’ve read the postmodernists with some interest, even admiration. But when I read them, I always have this awful nagging feeling that something absolutely essential is getting left out. The more that you talk about a person as a social construction or as a confluence of forces or as fragmented or marginalized, what you do is you open up a whole new world of excuses. And when Sartre talks about responsibility, he’s not talking about something abstract. He’s not talking about the kind of self or soul that theologians would argue about. It’s something very concrete. It’s you and me talking. Making decisions. Doing things and taking the consequences.

Slavoj Žižek – Maybe We Just Need a Different Chicken

Loosely paraphrasing Slavoj Žižek, the brilliant and compelling Slovenian philosopher: There’s the story of a madman who is convinced that there is a chicken after him who wants to eat him. A doctor asks him why he is worried, since he’s not a piece of grain, and the madman replies, “but does the chicken know that?”

Raising questions on ideology and its omnipresence in every day life – as he points out in his penetrating observations of quotidian pop culture, from the McCain campaign’s hijacking of the “change” banner, to the Dark Knight, to Kim Jong Il, to home intrusions by Israeli soldiers, to Kung Fu Panda – he makes it clear that we will always have a chicken, it is just a matter of being sincere about it. Cynicism is not a way out of the dilemma of the chicken, according to Žižek, and I can say I totally agree with him – though I couldn’t put it quite so eloquently (or hilariously).

This was shot last September in Oregon, during his tour to promote his book, Violence. I’m reading it right now, and, as usual, it’s amazingly engaging for cultural theory. Žižek doesn’t hide behind oracular mazes of words and endless jargon like so many contemporary academic theorists. And, besides the clarity of his writing, he’s also quite hilarious. His off-the-cuff remarks in the Q&A session had me cracking up. Nothing like a little counter-intuitive thinking to start your day!

Semiotics and Media

People may not really think they’ll become the people they see in the ads, but the paradigms invoked by advertisements do seem to matter a great deal in terms of how people understand their social identity.

The same goes for any other kind of media, apparently. The recent flurry of invented narratives in the race for the US presidency comes to mind – especially McCain’s campaign, which has changed narratives repeatedly in the last few months, depending on which way the polls are going. (thanks Tom)

Link to professor Tom Streeter’s insightful web essay on semiotics in media.