Monday, November 29, 2010

The Transgressive Pierre Guyotat

In 1965 Pierre Goyotat's Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers was published.  It is extraordinarily transgressive, disturbing and violent.  However, it was received well enough to garner a following among the French intellectual community so that when his next novel was faced with restrictive sales regulations public figures such as Sartre, Genet, Blanchot, de Beauvoir, among many others, came to Goyotat's defence.  After my own reading of Tomb I cannot but feel that the praise reflects an idiosyncratic trend in mid-twentieth century French thought rather than a more lasting contribution to thought and literature.

Friday, November 19, 2010

William James's Gamble

William James' essay The Moral Equivalent of War (1906), which can be accessed here, provides a glimpse into what is most optimistic and most naive in American thought.  James felt that the direction that the world was going would lead to a predominantly socialistic system around the world.  Along with this, the willingness of nations to engage in expensive, destructive conflict would fade.  However, he also writes that this may not be successful, or even desirable, if the psychological impetus toward the "martial type of character" isn't given an outlet.  James, an avowed pacifist, makes the admittedly paradoxical claim that tied into the horrors and destruction of war there is an element of it that is conducive to building a moral edifice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

An Appeal for Feedback

After nineteen posts I see that I've had visitors from around the world stop by, but I've yet to see a comment on any of the posts thus far.  While an inner dialogue is always important, the reason I started this blog was to try and generate interpersonal dialogue.  Whether the style reveals it or not, I always write with the intention of the post being a starting point in a conversation, not a final statement.

If you're here on a repeat visit please take a minute to let me know why this blog appeals to you.  If you're stopping by for the first time let me know if you'll be back and why or why not.  In either case, constructive feedback is always appreciated.

Remember, if you really like what's here the "follow" link is only a mouse-click away!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jacques Ellul's Technique

I have always been interested in the structures of thought that pattern he way we think.  I do not mean in a medical sense, but in a sociological one.  I'm referring to the belief systems, usually taken for granted and very often secular in nature, that influence large groups of people but have their fundamental origin on how successfully they affect individuals.  They can also be referred to as the mythical substructure of a society, and despite the belief that we have left this seemingly outdated mode of thinking behind, myth continues to abound.  Roland Barthe's Mythologies is perhaps the clearest statement that myth is still a driving force in society, but it is surely not alone.  Other works have done admirable jobs at unveiling how much of what we think is not spontaneously generated but instead finely formed by forces that we don't have control of.  Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media and Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion are great examples of works that reveal these forces.  I can now add another to that list.