Hermeneutics (or should I say Hermetics), The Social Text affair, and being Just generally pretentious


While we are on the subject of post-structuralism, linguistics and the like (read earlier post) a reminder that world is not actually all language and the linguistic/deconstructionist trend is just hip now.  A couple of years back, a physics professor, fed up with philosophers, linguists, and English majors just generally bashing on the objective nature of physics ( (whine)but quantum mechanics means that nothing positively exists (whine)), he wrote a parody piece equating the laws of physics with a sociolinguistic construct (influenced by feminism and postmodernist as well) and advocating that research into physics be pursued in a fashion that furthers these liberal ideologies.  He submitted the piece to a humanities journal (The Social Text (they didn’t peer review at the time because as my kindergarten teacher put it “every opinion is valid”) I believe and it turns out having a few big words, a liberal ideology, and a physics professor as an author and not actually having any substance are the only requirements necessary to get into an academic journal.  Here is the Wikipedia page.  You can continue your research from there.  I also recommend the postmodern paper generator.

Have fun

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Welcome to the End of the World


I guess this isn’t like Earth shattering for me like I assume the people out their think (assuming anyone is reading this of course) because it finally provided an impetus to start blogging about my everyday life (like you want to know more about me.)  But I want to write just general observations and what not down more regularly and I decided to start today.  Anyway today is a bad day to start because I found out my grandfather suffered a stroke.  He’s alright, but he might not be able to talk or walk again.  I hope to visit him over memorial day (and my cousins) but my dad took off today in emergency so that might put a damper on all the plans.

On a slightly different note, I’ve listened to Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics with an aim to move up through western history focusing predominately on ethics and politics (Aristotle’s Politics is next) while I am doing errands for Ellen of the LEAH Collective (I got a lot of time on my hands)[1].  Anyway I was reading a New Republic review of this obscure (to me I guess) French literary critic ( and I say French because he is associated with the movement (structuralism, poststructuralism etc.) and not because he is actually French (he is Eastern European although he moved to France as a graduate student)) whose name I forgot.  Even though I don’t have any experience in literary criticism, much less structuralism and poststructuralism, nor hardly any experience in philosophy and much less ethics, I felt like structuralism and the like could give an answer to a question that I have asked much of my life.  If people are generally kind, approachable, empathetic, caring and etc. when they feel safe enough to act in such away (and if you don’t agree with that statement that’s an entirely different discussion)[2] why are there so many catastrophic failings in moral judgement by some many people (ie the holocaust, other genocides, on a smaller scale murders and rapes in certain areas and demographics and not others?[3]).  This is something that could be studied by economists (behavioural and more quantified economists), mathematicians (the nonlinear dynamics), psychologists, philosophers etc.   Anyway I had this idea that just like the stoke market that large-scale ethical calamities are caused by the environment and the external structure (culture etc.) set up through communication.  Just like the swings of the stock market are caused by either a culture of panic or confidence and I wanted to use structuralist or poststructalist tools to analyze the communication that goes on leading up to and during large-scale moral failures (stock market, genocide, invasions).  Just to say large-scale moral failures are a result of miscommunication is an oversimplification, but when a Wall Street exec argues that” the average American Taxpayer doesn’t understand the necessity for government bailouts” perhaps he is arguing somewhat correctly but he is also splitting the citizenry into an in group and outgroup, putting down the outgroup, and even subconsciously dehumanizing the outgroup (after all its harder to feel bad owing The Average American Taxpayer $200 than it is if you owe your neighbor Joe the Plumber).  This kind of communication both perpetuates and is a symptom of the structure being set up funneling people into acting one way and not another.

In actuality, and maybe you could tell, but I know nothing about the structuralist/poststructuralists.  The only piece I have read from that area is Death of an Author by Roland Barthes, which I do not wholeheartedly want to believe (although I acknowledge that is what most intellectuals now believe.).  And so yes I have a lot of learning to do before I can really reach my goal and that is probably a graduate school subject, so I still have awhile.  In the meantime, back to Aristotle and more ethics.


[1] A side note from this I find philosophy audiobooks to be mainly the only ones worth listening to because classics and the like you have to focus on the style as much as the substance and it is much harder to “devour” when you are forced to read at someone else’s pace.  And yeah I could read pulp novels too, but they all are copywritten and I am asian.

[2] I would argue that most ‘negative’ emotions (fear, anger, manipulation, aggression, ruthlessness, sadness, greed as well as emotion-actions like taunting/bullying, manipulation falls somewhat under this) most people (quite naturally not as the result of rules and regulations) will not actively and consciously often use these emotions to take advantage of people, in self-interest (or how I would describe it, self offense like in the case of a sociopath) but would use these emotions self-defense when a person perceives to be under attack.  Yes, I think most people also take pleasure in the uneven power dynamic that these emotions create, but I also think that evolutionarily we have a slightly stronger desire towards joy, acceptance, self-worth, appreciation, happiness (and I think power/ambition straddles the line between the two).  This does not mean there are no such things as dictators, or coups, or murder, or genocide, or war etc.  but I would argue that as time goes on people have become more understanding of each other, more accepting, less violent, and more cooperative with each other because evolutionarily, we have been conditioned on average to be  “political animals” as Aristotle says and work together, instead of attempting to take advantage of one another.

[3] I’m not saying Hitler is a good guy I’m just saying that the hundreds of millions who followed Hitler probably don’t have a moral profile any worse than the rest of it and that moral profile I would argue is pretty good.

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Nebraska


I like this essay even though I wrote it a long time ago so:

From the window of our 40-seat propeller airplane, the landscape is a patchwork of farms, with every imaginable shade of dull green, sown together with sliver threads which double as roads, a diversity quilt that most every elementary student learns about, where every student donates a cloth square whose texture and color represents their heritage.  Diversity quilt should not come to mind when describing Nebraska.  The cities really aren’t large enough to attract significant minorities. A Mexican restaurant runs under the name “Carlos O’Kelly’s”… Read more

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Sierya


Ilan Malkovich joined in the middle of sixth grade.  I remember because he could run a seven minute mile in army boots.  He was from Israel, I think, but he spoke perfect English.  Not that his grades were all that good but.  He hung around with the Russians, his father having endowed him with the name Malkovich.  His best friend was, Greogor, this pimply kid who talked with a slight stutter, although no one, including the Russians seemed to mind this.  Partially though, he allowed us to make fun of his stupidity, so he paid his due.  And later on, even Greogor got a few girls pregnant…

Read more here

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My First Day at LEAH


It’s 6:30 in the morning.  I’m at the house of a stranger.  The lights are off and I am trying to break in.  Ten minutes go by, fifteen.  I’m pounding on the door, circling the house, cussing at the door, peaking through the window, pleading with door, but it does not open.

I met Ellen the day before.  I also work at Staples and I was helping her lift a box of paper into the trunk of her car.  We got into a conversation about the non-profit she is running, The LEAH Advocacy Group (Staples calls this customer communication technique the Selling FunnelTM).  Before long, she had hired me on to help support a bill set to hit the floor of the New Hampshire House the very next day.

For those of you who don’t know Ellen, she is often disorganized and, that morning, she was still asleep.  It took some time, pleading with the door of my employer-to-be, but she finally came downstairs to open the door.

“Would you mind taking off your shoes?” And just as I was about to, she added, as if needing explanation, “I just don’t want you to track in any pesticides into my house.”

Boy, I thought, we’re not in Kansas anymore…

Read more: My First Day at LEAH

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Guess who’s a scientist now


I feel sort of lame writing this to myself (so if your reading this pls comment so I don’t feel like I’m talking to myself) anyway I was helping this woman at Staples put a box of papers into her trunk and we got into a conversation.  She runs a non-profit group (www.leahcollective.org) dedicated to reducing (especially lawn) pesticide use in New England.  And so the next day I found myself spending the day handing out fliers in front of the NH state house to any rep I could get my hands on.  She had a bill on flow phasing out the use of pesticides on school lawns.  But the tea parties in the House, who want to spend more time passing gun laws and establishing a state militia (I don’t think it passed but it made it to the flow) didn’t pass her bill.  Although there are pros and cons of the pesticide bill that we wanted pass and I think the tea party represents people with (some) legitimate  concerns, the pesticide law should have passed and it would have been good for the state, and probably would have passed any other year without one/third of the house all tea partiers and another third mainstream republican.

In addition to working at Staples I am now also her research assistant, which puts the chemistry major that I turned away from back into the forefront of my life, which is weird because I don’t want to do Chemistry.  She’s an interesting character and someone I would like to write an essay on when I get the chance.  People have asked me to take off my shoes before I step into the house before, but no one has followed that up with the explanation “I don’t want you to track in any pesticides into the house.”

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Lazy Sundays


So even though I know no one is reading this I need to procrastinate from writing my short story so I’m gonna just blabber.  I got a job at staples and that seems fun and a potentially rich source for inspiration when I write.  I think what I want to do with the comment section is just post analysis and summeries and what not of books I’m reading or how I’m feeling I have no idea.  (how do blogs work anyway).  Anyway I want to continue procrastinating but I have nothing to write about so I better get back to my work i guess.

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