Friday, November 25, 2005

eternal sunshine of the spotted mind

for the nth time, im resurrecting (a) this blog.

life has been good lately, i'm finishing my MA thesis at my own pace and at relative ease.

no, it's not really at relative ease. thinking, the most burgeois of all jobs one can take in the world can be taxing too. especially if you think along the discipline of pure thinking: philosophy.

which brings me to the reason why im resurrecting this spot:

writing assists clear thinking. if thinking is all you have to do for at least the next 5-7 years of your life, you have to produce good writing with it. blogging, the most accessible (and public) site for writing is one clear way to create a presence. yes, this is a bit damaging to the sanctity of well-thought ideas only publishable in academic journals. but who really gives a shit with sanctity these days? nobody even pays enough and careful attention to ideas anymore.

thesis is doing well. at least now, i can rehearse the argument (s) i am forwarding more clearly in my head (and by next year, in paper). my elevator story is now ready: when someone asks me what the hell im writing on, i can tell it to her in a span of a minute, longer than an elevator ride. which makes my point to the point. and which makes writing about this story (in 150 long pages) seems like overkill.

the story is simple: thinker 1 accuses theory A of marginalizing element x by prioritizing element y. i say: actually NO. why? because in other accounts of theory A, such as delivered by thinker 2, we can see a different relationship between elements x and y. it is ofcourse a much much more complicated story than this (with twists and turns that would be a bit too boring to follow).

however, as for any story, the ultimate question begs: what is the point?

honestly, as of now, i cant tell exactly what the whole point is. i know i'm making a point here: but as for any philosophical enterprise, it rests on a quest to clarify certain tensions or in what i attempt to do, correct misreadings. i plan to give a better way of reading the tension-the surprising end of the story.

one thing that i realized today (at around 3am; after being boggled once again by hannah arendt, this time, her 'Promise of Politics'):

"philosophy is not a discipline that solves problems, rather it is one that reminds us what problems are worth solving."

when someone asks you, What is Philosophy? you can give this as answer but please be sure to quote me.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hannah Arendt on Political Judgment


hannah arendt
Originally uploaded by marklawrencesantiago.
One of my friends from the Political Science Dept. here at NUS keeps bugging me to 'blog' what I'm writing for my thesis. I keep on telling her that I don't think it's a good idea, given that I'm still doing a lot of research and I'm not yet done with reading.

However, to appease her a bit, I'm beginning to post a few extracts of the most important lines that I will use for the said MA thesis, which is un-sexily entitled Democracy and the 'Other' of Deliberation in the Age of Migration: An Inquiry into the Political Thought of Seyla Benhabib.

The third chapter of the thesis deals with the 'Arendtian threads' in Benhabib's account of deliberative democracy. It will be an Arendtian defense of Benhabib's model against post-structuralist thinker Chantal Mouffe. For the past two months or so, I have collected almost all of Arendt's major writings in order to clarify and justify this part of the thesis.

I have to confess that I discovered my 'bliss' in Arendt's books. There are just way too many beautiful/interesting/brilliant lines in Arendt's writings. But as of the moment, here's just a few paragraphs from Arendt's essay, Truth and Politics, from her book, Between Past and Future (p.241-42):

"Political thought is representative. I form an opinion by considering a given issue from different viewpoints, by making present to my mind the standpoints of those who are absent; that is, I represent them. This process of representation does not blindly adopt the actual views of those who stand somewhere else, and hence look upon the world from a different perspective; this is a question neither of empathy, as though I tried to be or to feel like somebody else, nor of counting noses and joining a majority but of being and thinking in my own identity where actually I am not. The more people’s standpoints I have present in my mind while I am pondering on a given issue, and the better I can imagine how I would feel and think if I were in their place, the stronger will be my capacity for representative thinking and the more valid my conclusions, my opinion. (It is this capacity for an ‘enlarged mentality’ that enables men to judge; as such, it was discovered by Kant in the first part of his Critique of Judgment, though he did not recognize the political and moral implications of his discovery.) The very process of opinion formation is determined by those whose places somebody thinks and uses his own mind, and the only condition for this exertion of the imagination is disinterestedness, the liberation from one’s own private interests. Hence, even if I shun all company or am completely isolated while forming an opinion, I am not simply together only with myself in the solitude of philosophical thought; I remain in the world of universal interdependence, where I can make myself the representative of everybody else. Ofcourse, I can refuse to do this and form an opinion that takes only my own interests, or the interests of the group to which I belong, into account; nothing, indeed, is more common, even among highly sophisticated people, than the blind obstinacy that becomes manifest in lack of imagination and failure to judge. But the very quality of an opinion, as of a judgment, depends upon the degree of its impartiality.

No opinion is self-evident. In matters of opinion, but not in matters of truth, our thinking is truly discursive, running, as it were, from place to place, from one part of the world to another, though all kinds of conflicting views, until it finally ascends from particularities to some impartial generality. Compared to this process, in which a particular issue is forced into the open that it may show itself from all sides, in every possible perspective, until it is flooded and made transparent by the full light of human comprehension, a statement of truth possesses a peculiar opaqueness. Rational truth enlightens human understanding, and factual truth must inform opinions, but these truths, though they are never obscure, are not transparent either, and it is in their very nature to withstand further elucidation, as it is in the nature of light to withstand enlightenment.

Nowhere, moreover, is this opacity more patent and more irritating than where we are confronted with facts and factual truth, for facts have no conclusive reason whatever for being what they are; they could always have been otherwise, and this annoying contingency is literally unlimited."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Wonderfalls

I'm enjoying my few days break here in Bulacan, and I'm getting fat already.

Today, I watched the premiere of WONDERFALLS on Starworld. Hilarious. The lead is a recent philosophy graduate who sees and hears inaminate objects move and talk. Catch it.

I miss running.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

New Job, New Semester, New Blog

No, I don't intend to chart my life in this blog. I was just delighted by the "dashblog" widget that I recently downloaded for my ibook. Imagine writing your blog posts without logging into blogger, and doing it ala Mac stickies! It's just really cool, plain and very convenient. Makes blogging your much needed idiot break. So, welcome.

---

It's my first week in my first non-philosophy related job and I'm loving it. From now until January, I'll be working as a research assistant at the Asian Meta-Centre for Population and Sustainable Development Analysis at the Asia Reseach Institute here at NUS. My Boss is a really accomplished woman, a trained geographer and author of more than 15 internationally published volumes and maybe hundreds of articles! I work at the sixth floor of the ARI, in an office space along the corridors of people like Paul Hutchcroft (Booty Capitalism) and many other Asian scholars.

I expect that my afternoon coffee breaks will be filled with super "geeky" fun! This might be just one of the best things that happened to me this year--slowly breaking away from hard core philosophy and getting my hands dirty in basic social science research.

I hope I could share what I'm doing but I don't think I can. Let's just say that I'll be involved in the process of researching for and editing articles and books, managing the center's website, and running international conferences for the center. The "projects" of the center are very exciting and intellectually stimulating. The "projects" also have some real-world impact and most of the research I'm involved in now are about real-world issues. I'm already starting one, and I'm discovering a lot of new things already. Damn, I really wish I could talk about them here. But my lips will be sealed until things are done.

---

This semester, aside from getting a REAL job, I need to finish my MA thesis in philosophy, which is the main reason why I'm here in Singapore in the first place. It has been a very dragging and tiring process, and I am happy that I came out with an initial chapter and an outline of the next few. As usual, my supervisor thinks that I am being very ambitious. I'm still struggling with a few number of texts, and as any student of philosophy knows, it's terribly tedious to swim through this process of reading, especially when you're just about to drown. This shall keep me very busy for the rest of the semester. Again, I don't want to talk extensively about what I'm writing; at least, not now. Maybe in my next few posts. Kung sisipagin.

---

I'm really getting more and more interested with political geography. My present job requires a basic grasp of it, and I'm doing all the catching up by browsing through the works of my Boss. Geography, especially its contemporary permutations, looks like one of the sexiest academic fields around. There's just so many things happening within the discipline(s). While I don't intend to shift from philosophy to geography right away (as I intend to shift from philosophy to politics real soon), I want to learn a lot more about the field and engage with it in my Ph.D.

One sad thought: I haven't heard of any Filipino "geographers". I wonder if they exist and what they do! I know at least that there's no geographer in Ateneo.

---

Lately, I've been listening to Rufus Wainwright's Dinner at Eight, over and over again. Rufus is one of the most delightfully angsty musicians I know; and when I listen to him, I just float.