Category Archives: Politics

Foucault and Discourse

Sexuality

Foucault is what is known as a Genealogist and Archaeologist type philosopher. In his Genealogical phase, he looks at discourses throughout history, mainly around the time of the enlightenment up to the secular movements of humanism and discovers how there is always an episteme that preceeds our existence, or a knowledge structure, a truth that is sought after or aspired towards in the time of our lives, that we incorporate into our bodies.

Unlike the existentialists, who transformed Will and Desire into free will and subjective desire, as they were ‘I’ Philosophers, Foucault like Derrida is much more centrifugal, but instead of thinking about signs and how they endlessly and restlessly signify in meaning, Foucault looks at bodies in the same way.

According to Foucault, our sexual instincts are not so natural, unlike the conventional view of sexual instincts. He prioritises culture over biology.

Quote:We believe in the full consistency of instinctual life and imagine that it continues to exert its force indiscriminately in the present as it did in the past. But a knowledge of history easily disintegrates this unity, depicts its wavering course… We believe, in any event, that the body obeys the exclusive laws of physiology and that it escapes the influence of history, but this too false. The body is moulded by a great many distinct regimes.

Sexual instincts are not fundamental. Take child sexuality, which Foucault argues was ‘discovered’ in the 18th century. This is evidenced by the whole new literature on the topic, with precepts, medical advice, clinical cases, outlines for reform and plans for ideal institutions. Great measures were taken to eradicate masturbation, but it had completely the opposite effect, it intensified the desire for our own bodies. In short, the sexuality of the child was created by 18th Century discourse.

He has the same view of homosexuality. While discourse on sex had previously dealt solely with marriage—what one could and could not do within and without the bonds of marriage—discourse on sex came increasingly to focus on those who fell outside the category of marriage: children, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and so on. A distinction arose between violations of marriage bonds, which were seen as violations of the law, and violations of what was considered natural practice, which were seen as sick or demented.

Foucault sees the modern concept of homosexuality arising from a desire to see sexuality as a fundamental aspect of who we are. Before the 19th century, sodomy was simply regarded as a criminal act. Since the 19th century, sodomy has been regarded as just one manifestation of a person’s homosexuality. “Homosexuality” ceased to be associated with certain acts, and became associated with a person’s identity, with his soul. One’s sexuality became a key to interpreting one’s personality and one’s behavior. Rather than work to eliminate homosexual acts, the growing discourse around homosexuality saw these acts as constitutive of a person’s identity.

Instead of sex being a desire, the desire for sex as an object was born out of discourse, out of truth. Instead of thinking of bodies and their pleasures, we should instead think of pleasure and its bodies.

On the one hand, the body does not exist like an idea, but it’s also not like a thing. It’s always being pulled out of itself, toppling forward into newly opened spaces, being drawn across boundaries. The body is not solidity, it is more of a force. Foucault, like Derrida, is a materialist, but in a very special sense.

Power

There is a deeper reality to which can be true, rather than langue, or an epistemic framework, one that is not a thinking force. He is of course, talking about power. Power is not strictly only about wars and battles, for Foucault there is power over bodies and power of bodies.

Power over bodies is the power that invests in power relations, forces it to carry out tasks, perform ceremonies whereas power of bodies is the body’s own power, the source of Will and Desire.

Foucault observes the penal system and questions whether or not the ideal of reform is actually occuring, or if delinquency has emerged, prisons seek to grind meaning out of bodies, it normalises bodies. Just like the quest against masturbation, prison succeeds even though it fails to eradicate crime, there is a mastery of the body’s forces that is more than the ability to conquer them.

He rejects the Marxist view of progression through history towards an ideal and instead uncovers an anarchistic proliferation of forms over and above anyone’s deliberate aims or goals.

Foucauldian Feminism

Foucault’s work on power has been used by some feminists to develop a more complex analysis of the relations between gender and power which avoids the assumption that the oppression of women is caused in any simple way by men’s possession of power. On the basis of Foucault’s understanding of power as exercised rather than possessed, as circulating throughout the social body rather than emanating from the top down, and as productive rather than repressive, feminists have sought to challenge accounts of gender relations which emphasize domination and victimization so as to move towards a more textured understanding of the role of power in women’s lives.

Some feminists have also found Foucault’s contention that the body is the principal site of power in modern society useful in their explorations of the social control of women through their bodies and sexuality.

One of the distinct advantages of Foucault’s understanding of the constituted character of identity is, in Judith Butler’s view, that it enables feminism to politicize the processes through which stereotypical forms of masculine and feminine identity are produced. Butler’s own work represents an attempt to explore these processes for the purposes of loosening the heterosexual restrictions on identity formation. In pursuing this project she argues that Foucault’s characterization of identity as constructed does not mean that it is completely determined or artificial and arbitrary. Rather, a Foucauldian approach to identity production demonstrates the role played by cultural norms in regulating how we embody or perform our gender identities. According to Butler, gender identity is simply ‘a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being’

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Ontic Philosophy Forum

Ontic Philosophy Forum
Ontic Philosophy Forum

 

Come and join my new forum! I hope to create an awesome resource of philosophy, economics, politics, feminism and spirituality topics there.

 

We can make it in to whatever we want!

http://ontic-philosophy.com

 

Happy new year 2017! This is a brand new forum. Please feel free to post and open threads. This is mainly a philosophy related forum. The more topics that are discussed, the more sections will be opened and the forum will begin to form it’s own identity. Ontic Philosophy Forum encourages the creation of threads and posts that are in the form of beginners guides. If the topics are more complex, please be as informative as possible. You can either start a debate, discussion, conversation or you can watch as others do so.

Welcome to Ontic Philosophy Forum.

I’m Nemus and I am the admin for the site. I am interested in philosophy and I was kind of fed up with discussions on YouTube, twitter, Facebook etc, as they either descended into irrelevance  and were not enjoyable anymore and I was looking for a medium that was more about writing and text as a means of conveying what I thought. I find forums to be much better for finding like-minded people.

Please make suggestions! Form groups that I can create in the admin control panel, if you want to create a group, please specify what the groups name is and what it’s about, how members can join and then get to it!

The main qualities I am looking for from this forum-

  1. Active members
  2. Quality threads that resemble beginners guides to philosophy, economics, politics and sociology (some psychology too)
  3. Quality conversations (it’s not always a debate you know!)
  4. A helpful community of members

What you can expect from me

  1. I will always remain impartial and indifferent when it comes to moderation
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  4. When the situation arises where conflict may lead to an unhappy mood on the forum, I will try to handle it in a civilised manner
  5. Warnings will be verbal, if problems escalate, then a suspension will be implimented, then a ban.

What constitutes bad behaviour?

This is usually an arbitrary thing to define on a forum. Basically – don’t annoy people! No one likes a sea lion troll – the sort of person who makes it everyone else’s job to spoon feed them day and night, coming across with ‘concern’ but being passive aggressive. It’s not cool. Don’t threaten members, don’t reveal personal information about yourself or others here, don’t share anything that you shouldn’t, like illegal material, copyrighted shit etc, etc.

Also, this should be obvious – no spamming. This will lead to an instant ban.

I will always try to explain the best way to resolve the problems when they arise – it usually involves taking a few days off from the forum – that usually does the trick. Talking about philosophy can seem personal sometimes, if you feel agitated, just relax and take some time to reflect. The forum will be here when you return.

I mostly want to see members sort out their own conflicts, I will only intervene if the threads descend into irrelevance. Unless you can prove a point while being provocative, then you will be warned about your actions.

On a lighter note

I think most forums go wrong by not analysing this behaviour – I think these sorts of interactions should be dicussed and I hope we can review the way people behave in an intellectual way.

Most of all though – be a secret gardener. Don’t worry about people not responding to your posts, most people who like your stuff probably have nothing to add, so when youget a thread with what seem like negative comments, just remember that they are not representitive of everyone on the forum. Please don’t make a ‘I’m fed up with this forum and all the people in it’ kind of thread, it’s very painful to read those sorts of threads and they never go anywhere.

Enjoy the forum!

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Understanding Liberalism and Conservativism

I think it’s important to distinguish between liberal/conservative economics that pertain to how tax, management of property and trade works, then liberal/conservative politics that pertain to civil rights, law and social ideals etc, although the two can interweve with each other.

Case in point – neoliberalism.

Certain conservatives and liberals in the UK and for that matter, republicans and democrats in the USA practice neoliberal economics. Neoliberalism is very similar to classical liberalism, except it accomodates the new financialised world we live in today. Liberalism comes from the political economy philosophers like John Locke, Jean Jaques Roussaeu, David Hume and Adam Smith and it emerged with capitalism, offering a form of economics that could undermine the Feudal structures of the middle ages.

Basic particulars

Classical liberals/neo-liberals enforce negative rights in exchange for lower taxes[1], arguing that trade is not something the state should interfere with too much and that a more social liberal view of ‘high tax and positive rights’ would be too draining on the economy to sustain (known as the slim state[2]). They also advocate protection of private property from the state (one of the only functions of the state it does agree with), which is to be extended to military intervention overseas. The difference between classical and neo-liberalism is financialisation. As taxes are low or they were too high for certain demographics and they are forced or choose to leave the jurisdiction, this forces governments into debt in order to compensate, once the state can no longer acquire taxes from it’s citizens and can not pay back the loans to the banks that lend the money, the state is acquired by private interests.[3]

Debt Markets

Neoliberal economics run states like a firm, instead of based on principles like solidarity (positive rights to vote, education for all, healthcare and pensions), it instead operates to nationalise the debt and for the occupants of the state to repay that debt. It also advocates de-regulation of finance and trade agreements.[4] Debt, unlike taxes, can be sold and traded on the stock market. The private interests usually impose what is called ‘austerity'[5], which involves massive cut backs on funding public services. They open up the market in the state to private interests outside of the border of the state, selling off land and property that is then re-built under the guise of improvement and opportunity, but in reality it’s to boost the value of property in the area that can be sold to foreign interests. The effect of this is that no one on a lower-middle class wage can possibly afford to live in the area, they may be able to rent at best from a landlord with no social housing avaiable.[6]

Left or Right?

There are a number of other problems that I wont go into here, such as the privatisation of health care for the public as well as schools, outsourcing of trade and the crushing of labour unions[7]. The main thing to understand, is that ‘liberalism’ actually seems more like what we conventionally understand to be conservative, this is why Hillary Clinton was no longer trusted in the recent election[8], as she was pretty much in the same ideological view of Reagan. Neo-liberalism in it’s current form started in the 70’s under Thatcher and Reagan (Reaganomics), they were inspired by General Pinochet in Chile who had his ‘Chicago boys’ at his side, who helped him transform the state into a neo-liberal state.[9]

Intersectionality

Neo-liberalism boasts at being the cutting edge of progress, declaring an end to prejudice and hardship, claiming that everything is up for grabs, that inequality is a virtue and everyone gets what they deserve. The way they deal with economic problems is through austerity, making it practically impossible for low wage workers to resist their ruthless form of capitalism. It creates foundations for conceptions of inequality.
[10]

Social Liberalism, Socialism

Social liberalism seeks to at least offer welfare through higher taxation (high tax/positive rights), but given how many governments have conflicting interests with neo-liberals, I seriously doubt whether anything would change, the same goes for Marxist socialism. Somehow the leaders are supposed to be immune from corruption, but in reality they end up exploiting the masses like the worst of capitalists. Case in point, Lenin and Stalin.

Military Intervention

After all, no one wants to pay high taxes right? This is why military intervention comes into play and why liberals and conservatives don’t seem to differ much when it comes to war overseas. A state can justify a rise in tax for war, but not for social projects like building hospitals, funding pensions etc. The welfare state was created using money from oil in Iran (in Britain anyway) and that money helped to build the National Health Service.[11]

Global Division of Labour

Even though we call a state socialist, it has a combined link with capitalism. Cheap oil is a dream of the past, growth is impossible as China gets more and more powerful and this is why we see the problems we see today since the 2008 crash. It wasn’t just the bankers and speculators that were the problem, it’s about a fundamental shift in power to China and India. They have workers on $1.76 [12] per hour,while workers in Germany with all compensation costs like holiday pay and sickness etc, earn around $40.00 per hour! [13]

Protectionism and Outsourcing

The new forms of conservatism seem to be looking at more protectionist solutions, i.e.high import tarrifs from foriegn trade in order to preserve domestic industry and trade[14]. The problem is that of collective action, if you set your tarrifs high and expect others to let you export free of charge or at low tarrifs, think again! Protectionism didn’t work because everyone will do the same thing. The end result is trade death and the economy stops. Protectionism also has the problem of outsourcing to deal with. Manufacturing in the West has declined, but risen dramatically in the East through outsourcing. The West has a growing market of finance, in 2012, around 7,000,000 people worked in finance in the UK, while another 7,000,000 worked in the services industry, for example, baristas, food, dog-walking, strippers and cleaning. Manufacturing in the Uk was around 4,000,000 in 1997 but is now less than 2,000,000. There is nothing to protect as the wealthy make their fortunes by outsourcing to China and India.[15]

Liberalism and Conservatism in the Social and General Sense

Social issues concerning rights that are labelled as conservative or liberal, are perhaps easier to point out in the general definitions. Conservatives tend to be more about preserving tradtions and liberals tend to advocate equal opportunities for all, regardless of background, creed etc. Pressure politics is all we have left that even closely resembles democracy, but the problem is that while one group pushes and agenda to push through legislation in their favour for one particular cause, they leave other causes out to rot. For example, a pressure group seeking to get more funding for cancer research is more likely to have precendence over say, mental health.[16]

Police State

I personally see a difference between policing and governing – a state that is retrictive tends to be a police state,which we definitely live in today. Where as a government is set up to manage the affairs of millions of people in a variety of forms like democracy. I personally am an anarchist, so I don’t like anything that leads to domination of any kind. The way in which economics and politics overlap is due to the management of property. Civil rights come after the protection of property and capital.

Anyway, I have lots more information on this topic. I thought I would share it here as I was surpised at the actual economic meaning of liberal, which differs vastly from the usual meaning. In this day in age, no one can tell left from right anymore.

Sources:
[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_…re_beliefs – paragraph 8 – For society to guarantee positive rights requires taxation over and above the minimum needed to enforce negative rights.
[2] Classical liberals argued for what they called a “slim state”, limited to the following functions:

A Decentralized Federal Government to protect individual rights and to provide services otherwise could not be provided in a free market.
A common National Defense to provide protection against foreign invaders.
A Constitutional Democratic-Republican Government that guarantees and protects every individual’s God-given rights.
Laws to provide protection for citizens from wrongs committed against them by other citizens, which included protection of private property, enforcement of contracts and common law.
Federal public works that included a stable currency, standard weights and measures, and support of roads, canals, harbors, railways, communications and postal.
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of…cal_crisis
[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_of…eagall_Act
[5] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10162176
[6] http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns_…ing_crisis
[7] http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/priv…iative.asp
[8] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfre…ricas-fate
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism#Origins During the military rule under Augusto Pinochet (1973–1990) in Chile, opposition scholars took up the expression to describe the economic reforms implemented there and its proponents (the “Chicago Boys”).
[10] http://www.palgraveconnect.com/pc/doifin…95279.0007
[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1953_Irani…’%C3%A9tat
[12] http://www.bls.gov/fls/china.htm
[13] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ichcc.pdf
[14] http://www.nationalreview.com/article/43…et-economy
[15] http://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicou…2015-05-28 Note: the figures I have used come from Graham Turner and the Office for national statistics.
[16] Pressure politics: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/pais/p…ntrush.pdf – see page 3 – it is relatively easy to attract media attention for an emotional campaign demanding that patients suffering from a potentially terminal illness, such as breast cancer, should be given an unproven treatment. Funds then have to be found from elsewhere in the NHS budget, possibly from conditions that attract less sympathy, such as mental health. Moreover, it would appear that campaigns by patient groups can be used by pharmaceutical companies who wish to promote sales of a particular drug.

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Anti-Natalism | Ethics |

What is Anti-Natalism?

The phrase from the German pessimist, Arthur Shopenhauer best encapsulates what anti-natalism is all about – ‘Better never to have been born’. In more recent times, South African philosopher, David Benetar released a book in 2006 entitled ‘Better Never to have Been : The Harm of Coming into Existence’.

To better explain what these phrases mean, we have to start from an existential position (one that starts from existence and all meaning is a posteriori, existence preceeds essence) that suffering, pain and death are the only qualities of life that any one person, animal, or any form of sentience can be guaranteed to experience during a life time and that given this is true we begin to base our ethics in a negative utilitarian sense.

Unlike positive utilitarianism which holds the maxim, ‘I should act if and only if my actions lead to happiness of others’, negative utilitarianism reverses this and asserts ‘I should act if and only if my actions lead to less harm and suffering.’

We also need another existential premise that only a living being who has been born, any form of sentience that is, is capable of desire and valuing. Needs are created whenever a new sentient being is born, they need to eat, have shelter, clothing, clean water and then they develop desires as they get older and will consume, produce and will eventually grow older and older and experience pain and suffering, as well as satisfaction. Satisfaction always leads to more desire, desire is never fulfilled.

As for other sentient beings that are other than human, mainly insects for example, they often live very short lives that have no purpose other than to reproduce and they die either immediately, through starvation, or worse, they become food for other animals.

Over-population

Anti-Natalism tackles the problem of over-populating the planet. There are as of 2015, around 7.3 billion human beings on the planet. The principle concern is resources. Poverty and inequality is the highest and most divided in human history, climate change is irreversible and the potential for war, famine, climate refugees, lack of employment and many other long term problems that offer fewer and fewer prospects of progress and improvement are likely to unfold in ways that are beyond our control.

Basic assertion

Given that there are no guarantees that the future will hold positive prospects and that no individual can possibly change the world on their own, survival becomes difficult without passing on our genes. Given that sentience is the only thing that can create value, need and desire, we can’t say that a non-existent being who is not yet concieved through sexual reproduction has any say, that the desire to reproduce is a selfish (or rather autonomous) decision on behalf of the would-be-parent of the one who is yet to be conceived.

The basic principle of Anti-Natalism then, is that it is unethical given the absolute guarantee of suffering and inability to prevent harm, to bring a sentient being into existence.

Assymmetry

The argument is best shown using a kind of game theory, it’s called a zero-sum game. It’s very similar to Prisoners Dillemma, so each player has to act rationally.

[Image: benatar-asymmetry15122011eh.png]

Argument

Scenario A where x exists shows how the presence of pain is bad and how the presence of pleasure is good. Okay so far, nice and simple.

Scenario B however, where x does not exist reveals how pain is absent and this is a good – obviously as x does not exist and so can’t be harmed in any way. Then we have to consider whether or not the absence of pleasure is good or bad. Well, given that x doesn’t even exist it can’t even experience it.

Before I explain the conclusion, let’s say we have a doughnut that we enjoy and it gives us pleasure and let’s say someone who is torturing us by sticking knives under our toe nails gives us pain. Not hard to see how this gives us good and bad. Now let’s say we didn’t eat a doughnut, we are neither in pleasure but we are not in pain either. Let’s say we are not being tortured any more, or we were never tortured – that’s always a good, or more good than before.

So x not existing to eat the doughnut and not existing to have knives under toe nails gives us an assymmetry. Not having pleasure is niether good nor bad, it’s just not bad.

Usual counter-argument

Absence of pleasure is bad! Is usually the way people repond, but think about it for a moment. Not being in pain is good, obviously, but not eating a doughnut is niether harmful, nor is it pleasureable, it’s just not bad.

Implications

The assymmetry looks perplexing at first. The zero-sum game of pleasure being absent as bad, does not contemplate how a non-existent being is incapable of desiring a doughnut in the first place and so creates sentience in the belief that procreation allows others to experience pleasure and this comes purely from a selfish decision to procreate. It does not, cannot, come from the desire of a never existent being.

By not bringing someone into existence, we certainly don’t immediately improve the over all suffering as that is beyond our control in the most general sense. What we can do however, is not add to the problems. This is the basic principles of anti-natalism.

Pleasure outweighs pain!

Another objection is that if we are lucky, we can tally the goods with the bads and a life with more goods was probably worth living. Anti-natalism does not deny the existence of goods, but it can’t guarantee it, it can only guarantee that we will eventually all suffer at some point and die. In developing countries and in more poverty stricken areas of the developed world, pain and suffering are more likely and so pro-creation definitely does more harm than good as parents have to provide, thier life becomes a burden. On the other hand, better off people tend to consume more stuff than a mass of poorer people and this puts a strain on resources for everyone. Rich or poor, no one can avoid climate change, pollution, disease and war if it occurs.

The assymmetry contains the maxim of ‘better never to have been born’ as not harming and not having pleasure are both good and not bad. Existing contains bad and good and so loses the game of rational choice.

Other objections

Traditional thinking within any society is that having children is what we live for and not having them would make life meaningless. This is easily tackled, what I call the Simpsons argument – ‘Wont someone please think of the children?” when we remember that sentience creates value and although the desire to pro-create was around before we ourselves were born, it is only a desire. We can choose to have or not to have children, but if we do it is because of our own selfish choice. A non-existent being does not have choice, it has no say until it is born.

Relative problems need relative solutions

While we could take negative utilitarianism and anti-natalism to the extreme of ending life gracefully, not only not bringing more life into existence, but to end humanity for it’s own good, I want to stress that the problem is only a problem while it is a problem.

If people stopped having more children, then resources would not be as strained as they are and will become. If people stopped producing more children in poor countries, they would not be so easily exploited by global capitalism. If women stopped having children for now, it actually serves as a positive feminist issue in that it eradicates the roles of a woman as a mother through natural obligation. If we stop having children, we can do more with our own lives instead of trying to raise children in an increasingly uncertain economy. If population started to drop, there would be less panic as a whole. If it dropped low enough and there was too few of us and there was enough to go around and the environment was stable, then by all means – have children again, but within the limits of what is possible to sustain.

A here and now solution

Not acting is a form of action. This is a simple solution that anyone can understand and it’s something that can be done by everyone to stop adding to the global problems and to generally improve life for themselves and others.

Hope that was clear enough, I want to remind everyone I am not trying to offend anyone and it really is up to yourselves whether you choose to have or not have children. If you do, make sure it’s for the right reasons.

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What is Capitalism and how can we Destroy it? New Series!

Reference Guide to Capitalism

Continue reading What is Capitalism and how can we Destroy it? New Series!

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