Posts Tagged ‘Ethics’

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December 22, 2009

This blog was hit by a surge of activity over the past few days. The search term that brought the activity here was “rodger levesque polygamist”. I’m sorry to let the searcher down, but here goes, the rest of this post is for you. Now seems as good a time as any to put down a succinct statement of my view on conjugal relationships.

First, the concept of living together that I’m working on is far from finished. That’s part of the reason that very little of the concept has been a subject of my writing. Another part of the reason is the confrontational quality of a critique of commonsensical concepts. These are only two reasons, but they play off each other, and have created a necessity to develop a conceptual sphere within which the idea can be safely discussed. That sphere is a theory of social change. This work isn’t even in the beginning stages, but this short statement might help.

Polygamy creates an immediate reaction. The word is synonymous with polygyny, which is the practice of men marrying more than one woman. This practice is most frequently associated with religious institutions and under-aged (non-consensual) brides. This practice, like the common practice of marriage, limits human affection and relationships to an institutionally predetermined configuration. These relationships are closed and exclusive. And the breaching of these definitions is subject to a punitive justice that justifies violence against women, reveals the objectification of women as property.

There are a number of problems within society that are embodied in our cohabitation practices. And while a theory of change wouldn’t stop at the criticism of relationships, the criticism of relationships needs to be included. The criticism of our conjugal practices has a long tradition in the development of a theory of social change.

Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.

Today still the most radical freak out when the couple as the only possible relationship is contested. The immediate reaction is the illegality of polygamy, but this form needs to be contested as well. What I am currently proposing is an open , inclusive practice of living together. I’m not suggesting any form of polygyny or polyandry. I’m suggesting no institutionalized form, but a practice of living with friends and lovers in common.  I suggest it as a way of overcoming the splitting that is affecting us so deeply in this policed state we are living under.

“The bourgeois whose existence is split into a business and a private life, whose private life is split into keeping up his public image and intimacy, whose intimacy is split into the surly partnership of marriage and the bitter comfort of being quite alone, at odds with himself and everybody else, is already virtually a Nazi, replete both with enthusiasm and abuse; or a modern city-dweller who can now only imagine friendship as a “social contact”: that is, as being in social contact with others with whom he has no inward contact.” (Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno. Dialectic of Enlightenment. p.155. Continuum, New York)

When Rodney King asks “Can’t we all just get along?” the cynical modern city-dweller can only laugh at the naivete. But in that question is the seed of an important part of any theory of social change. Why can’t we get along? Why are we incapable of living together?

Very simply, I’d argue that our institutionalized relationship forms are not open enough to accommodate the variety of relational possibilities. And more the exclusive quality of the given form creates a taboo on intimacy outside the form. It can be argued that any taboo limits freedom, because of the possibility of free movement transgressing the taboo.

Of course we are not prepared to live together. We have lost the art. But manuals like Aristotle’s Ethics and The Way of The Samurai can teach us the way to live together, and with commitment to the experiment, we may once again experience living in groups or actually living in community.

an introduction to Aristotle’s Ethics

October 18, 2009

How close to a self-help book is Aristotle’s Ethics? Imagine Aristotle as the Oprah of his day… Yesterday I picked up a book from the Thrift Shop on Main to pass the time in a coffee shop while my son was at a nearby birthday party. Bradshaw On: The Family, a 1988 self help book, a follow-up of a PBS television series, a preface by Carol Burnett, starts with the thesis that the family is dysfunctional, and well, here are the ways to get it functional. Hitler came from a family. I’m not just making this up. This is just one of the pieces of evidence Bradshaw holds up against the family. I read the first chapter, and a difference between the common self help book and Aristotle’s Ethics, is that Aristotle waits until the last chapter/book before he lets his contemporary society have it. The Ethics was apparently written because pretty much everyone living in A.s time was an asshole. Bradshaw goes on about how shit everything is upfront.

In the introduction to the Penguin edition Barnes gives the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach as A.’s purpose. “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Today still, issues surround the family. Just today I watched Where the wild things are. That Eggers, who came to fame with his autobiography, and collective fantasy, (that’s cold, but consider Atwood’s Handmaid silently inseminated by the husband of her female master while held tight to her masters body, we live in a messed up world of rape fantasies and idealized family relations after death – recall the funeral scene from Heathers when the father cries, “I love my dead gay son.”) of our parents dying in quick succession, has this time, put out the saddest fantasy of collective loneliness I’ve seen since Mister Lonely.

Aristotle’s ethics proposes friendship as the way to a happy life. Friend, is sometimes used as a quality, as in: “He has no friend.” where friend is used in the same sense as say pride, as in: “He has no pride.” I’m mentioning this, because the friendship, the friend that you present to others must be of a certain quality to lead to a happy life. A man must act with virtue. These virtues are fully explained by Aristotle.  He later informs us that these virtues are rare qualities. So while the point of the Ethics, and philosophy for that matter is to change the world, seems the world is resisting.

Aristotle sets us up for an incredible amount of work. This might be the main difference between the ethics and a self-help book. The Ethics, while written more than 2000 years ago, includes in its pages, an opening for the entirety of human knowledge. We, according to Aristotle, are to learn absolutely everything, and then through deliberation, a kind of good and right thinking, act virtuously in accordance with a kind of harmony with this good and right thinking.

The opening, the space left for the sphere of deliberation, the future of knowledge, the openness of the Ethics, might be the key to its longevity. Look at Bradshaws book. Close down the new knowledge, fix it, then fix it. If you believe that we know, then you can believe that you know and feel better about yourself. Aristotle proposed a kind of experimental life, the good life as the experiment of the good man. There are a lot of unknowns in that proposition.

From the Introduction by Jonathan Barnes

October 17, 2009

The Ethics is a work of practical science. What that means is that the characteristic aim of studying ethics is not the acquisition of knowledge about action but action itself – we read the Ethics, according to Aristotle, not in order to know what good men are like, but in order to act as good men do (1095a5; 1103b25).

The student of ethics is unlikely to discover how a good man will act unless he has some knowledge of the general capacities and characteristics of human beings.

Aristotle is impressed by the seemingly infinite variety of human circumstances and situations.

It is worth underlining the fact that Aristotle is here adopting an extreme position, not unlike the one taken up by some existentialist thinkers: morals, he implies, cannot by any means be reduced to a set of universal principles; any principle that may be formulated is liable to exeption, any universal moral judgement (strictly construed) is false.

“the Ethics is expressly practical: its philosophy aims at changing the world, not at interpreting it.”

“the ‘happy’ man will be a lover of men and an admirer of beauty as well as a contemplator of truth – -a friend and an aesthete as well as a thinker.”

toward a paradigmatic revolution in domestic science

October 16, 2009

A post on Aristotle’s Ethics is in the works, for now…

The Domestic and political spheres: The domestic sphere is where we live everyday and how we live in this sphere is more in the realm of deliberative powers.

According to A. Democracy is the corruption of a corruption.

The point… “Get to the point” imagine a pyramidal structure the point supported by an incredible amount of material.

note: the perversion of the best (monarchy)form of constitution (of state) becomes the worst (tyranny)

The least bad of the tree perversions is democracy.

The self is constituted by a process of socialization.

The self or soul or spirit or person as grafted on to the body. The indistinguishable difference between self and life.

self criticism and self love: turned inward love and criticism are… What about self development? Criticism and love are best expressed in the sphere of human interaction. (organs without Bodies p.61 …self analysis is structurally impossible…)

How does a non-gay read the repression of gay action?

Colonization — an imposition of god and law — authority within a domain – the dominion of Canada – Harper says no history of colonialism. What?

Anti-Oedipus the family as structure of repression.

Engels – the imposition of family relations by church is one process of colonization.

Kim Davis’s article on co-housing — This article about a company/organization streamlining the co-housing process lacks an ethic, or a practical way of living well. Domestic science: the subjected body – the individual is made a subject -is socialized into the colony; the state; within a dominated boundary. The relationships and characteristics set in motion by socialization/colonization – are the way of life. An external power forges its subjects. with decolonization a vacuum is created. The relationship is changed and the subjects of those relationships find themselves in an asocial space. Man isn’t born Democratic he must be made so. men can be remade differently. We made others. Others make our selves. That is the project at hand. How do we create a set of characteristics and practices for living communally and democratically?

“Were it not that human sensibilities are ventilated and continually called out into exercise by the great phenomena of infancy, or of real life as it moves through chance and change, or of literature as it recombines these elements in the mimicries of poetry, romance, etc., it is certain that, like any animal power or muscular energy falling into disuse, all such sensibilities would gradually droop and dwindle.” – Thomas De Quincey from The Literature of Knowledge and the Literature of Power

“But what will there be new? That will be answered when a new generation has grown up: a generation of men who never in their lives have known what it is to buy a woman’s surrender with money or any other social instrument of power; a generation of women who have never known what it is to give themselves to a man from any other consideration than real love or to refuse to give themselves to their lover from fear of the economic consequences. When these people are in the world, they will care presious little what anybody thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual — and that will be the end of it.” — Frederick Engels from The Origins of the Family, Private Property and The State.

From Eleanor Burke Leacock’s Introduction to The Origins of the Family, Private Property and The State. — “The position of women among the Naskapi hunting people of the Labrador Peninsula was stronger in the past than it is today. Seventeenth century Jesuit missionaries writing of their experiences state that “the women have great power here” and that “the choice of plans, of undertakings, of journeys, of winterings, lies in nearly every instance in the hands of the housewife” (Thwaites, 1906: Vol.V, 181; Vol.LXVIII, 93). A Jesuit scolds a man for not being “the master,” telling him “in France women do not rule their their husbands” (Vol. V, 181). To make the women obey their husbands became one of the concerns of the missionaries, particularly inrelation to the sexualfreedom that obtained: “I told him that it was not honorable for a woman to love anyone else except her husband, and that, this evil being among them (women’s sexual freedom) he himself was not sure that his son, who was there present, was his son.” The Naskapi’s reply is telling” “Thou hast no sense. You French people love only your own children; but we love all the children of our tribe” (Vol. VI, 255).

“Once developed historically, capital itself creates the conditions of its existence (not as conditions for its arising, but as results of its being)” – Marx


Intentional community

Kim Davis’s article on co-housing

Co-housing at Green Living Ideas

Something finer and more sublime

September 26, 2009

“For even if the good of the community coincides with that of the individual, it is clearly a greater and more perfect thing to achieve and preserve that of the community; for while it is desirable to secure what is good in the case of an individual, to do so in the case of a people or a state is something finer and more sublime.” – Aristotle

Far from being taken out of its context, this quote is the context in which The Ethics is placed.