Thursday, 30 January 2014

Sympathy for the Hermit Kingdom

North Korea: Another Country

A Review

The three ideological pillars on which the North Korean (DPRK) state rests are the following: (i) self-reliance, (ii) national independence, and (iii) independent economy. Any nation doing its utmost to stand on its own feet commands our admiration, but as even a cursory reading of our newspapers reveals to us: the DPRK is almost always reviled rather than extolled. The author endeavours to unravel the mechanisms behind America's irrational hatred of this great nation, and succeeds in his task quite well. The anti-DPRK hysteria in America is rooted in the following two factors: ignorance and indoctrination. The author's second aim is to explain the rationale behind DPRK's Realpolitik. As a post-colonial nation with deep-seated memories of the horrendous crimes against humanity committed by the American terrorists and marauders during the Korean war, the DPRK feels compelled to adopt a stalwart posture vis-à-vis the Americans. The Koreans have taken the following law of the jungle to heart: the strong devours the weak. Therefore, if and when the Yanks come knocking, the DPRK will have one nasty surprise after another in store for the unwanted visitor. An American general estimated that in the case of a new Korean war, "he would need as many as 80,000 to 100,000 body bags for American soldiers who would die" (p. 72). The Americans are not willing to pay such a high price, and this the Koreans know.
The three ideological pillars on which the North Korean (DPRK) state rests are the following:
(i) self-reliance, (ii) national independence, and (iii) independent economy. Any nation doing its utmost to stand on its own feet commands our admiration, but as even a cursory reading of our newspapers reveals to us: the DPRK is almost always reviled rather than extolled. The author endeavours to unravel the mechanisms behind America's irrational hatred of this great nation, and succeeds in his task quite well. The anti-DPRK hysteria in America is rooted in the following two factors: ignorance and indoctrination. The author's second aim is to explain the rationale behind DPRK's Realpolitik. As a post-colonial nation with deep-seated memories of the horrendous crimes against humanity committed by the American terrorists and marauders during the Korean war, the
DPRK feels compelled to adopt a stalwart posture vis-à-vis the Americans. The Koreans have taken the following law of the jungle to heart: the strong devours the weak. Therefore, if and when the Yanks come knocking, the DPRK will have one nasty surprise after another in store for the unwanted visitor. An American general estimated that in the case of a new Korean war, "he would need as many as 80,000 to 100,000 body bags for American soldiers who would die" (p. 72). The
Americans are not willing to pay such a high price, and this the Koreans know.
Read more at http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=4c6_1365032783#ImsDxqBEORsF1mzd.99v

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

What is Risibility?

Just what is it that makes people burst out in laughter? There are many theories on risibility and each amongst these is valid on its particular plain of reference. The most ancient theories on risibility - at least those which are known to us - stem from Plato and Aristotle.

According to Plato, laughter is often caused by the delight we take in the misfortunes of others, be it their lack of intelligence, beauty, or means of sustenance. Hence it is hardly surprising that laughter was decried by the great philosopher:

"A composer of a comedy or of any iambic or lyric song shall be strictly forbidden to ridicule any of the citizens either by word or by mimicry, whether with or without passion; and if anyone disobeys, the Presidents of the Games shall on the same day banish [the culprit]" (Laws, 11, 935-6).

According to Aristotle, "that [which] excites laughter, is something ugly and distorted without causing pain" (Poetics, 1449A1, 5:30-40). The "distorted" is that which is in disconformity with what should be the natural course, e.g, a conclusion that does not follow from the premises is likely to induce laughter in us, especially if the conclusion is all too obvious. Other cases likely to be deemed risible are those of fallacious analogies, whether puns or when you pick up a hot iron to answer the phone.

If Aristotle is right in suggesting that risibility is a property unique to the human species, then this is something that we will have to learn to live with. Still, it would be a good idea to reflect on why you laugh, because there is always the possibility that you are laughing when you shouldn't. Indeed, why on earth do people laugh at videos of Indians living in extreme poverty or FSA fighters having their heads blown off? As for the anonymous world of the internet, the individual who concludes his contribution to a lost debate with a wretched "LOL" lays bare his ignorance as well as his lack of tact to all those who know better.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Anglo-American Claptrap

The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer

A Review

"Statt der selbsteigenen Werke der Philosophen allerlei Darlegungen ihrer Lehren [...] zu lesen, ist wie wenn man sich sein Essen von einem Anderen kauen lassen wollte." Thus spoke Schopenhauer. But as he probably knew himself, the savouring of regurgitated food is not an uncommon practice in the animal kingdom. Schopenhauer was a master of clarity, and sensitivity to beautiful prose should help one a long way towards understanding the philosophy of someone who was also a master of the German language. Nevertheless, there are two obstacles of which one should be wary. (i) A full understanding of Schopenhauer's philosophy requires familiarity with the philosophy of Kant. (ii) One should have read and understood his doctoral dissertation dealing with the four varieties of objects qua representations - viz., real objects, concepts, space-time, selfhood - and the laws by which their becoming is governed. Owing to these two obstacles, introductory texts are likely to prove worthwhile. Unfortunately, the collection of essays on hand fails to serve its purpose. The ultimate objection to this collection is that its editor seems to have failed to understand that the contributors must be asked to do their utmost to maintain their focus on the subject matter: the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Anything that may prove disruptive to such a focus must be treated as anathema. Furthermore, the most difficult themes must be identified - for instance the immutability of the human character - and treated of in a rigorous manner. The latter demand is met in an admirable fashion by Günter Zöller, David Hamlyn, and F.C. White, whereas most of the remaining essays can be said to oscillate between the silly and the irrelevant. And finally there are essays dealing with themes which are less than challenging, viz., an intelligent reader is in need of no assistance when it comes to understanding these particular aspects to the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Silliness and its cases in point: Moira Nicholls's crude understanding of Nibbana - her main source in this regard is the catechism of Sri Rahula, available in all New Age bookstores - proves less than helpful in terms of comparing Schopenhauers doctrine of salvation with its Eastern counterpart. Christopher Janaways's essay entitled "Schopenhauer's Pessimism" is an instance of theoretical exercise in the quest for eudaimonia: (A) Strive toward X (B) Attain X and rejoice (C) If not, pout. This is sure to bring back memories of philosophy courses at high school. Another point of criticism is the appalling myopia of these Anglo-Americans. A survey of their footnotes reveals a great deal. The only contributor who is not active in the Anglo-American domain, is Günter Zöller. An examination of his footnotes shows that he is familiar with both English and German sources on Schopenhauer. As for the others, they seem to be relying almost exclusively on Anglo-American sources. One is tempted to ask the following question: is no relevant research on Schopenhauer being carried out in his own country? There are several excellent books on Schopenhauer in the German language, which should have been listed in the bibliography section. The most elementary texts on Schopenhauer in the German language, keep track of things that seem to have bypassed these Anglo-American experts on Schopenhauer. For instance, Sebastian Gardener writes about "Schopenhauer's frequent asylum tours" (p. 386) and refers to an essay by R.K. Gupta in which it was, according to Gardener, "claimed" that Schopenhauer used to visit mental asylums (n. 59, p. 412). Incidentally, Schopenhauer does write about these visits himself in his Handschrifliche[m] Nachlaß (I:87) and in WWV (I:3:36), as pointed out Klaus-Jürgen Grün in his rather unpretentious introduction to the philosophy of Schopenhauer (p. 121). If Gardener's lack of familiarity with the corpus of Schopenhauer is in any way representative of the level at which the other contributors find themselves, then there is every reason to shun this collection. Schopenhauer's philosophy views the world as a riddle, it attempts to account for all the contradictions to the human existence, and it culminates in mysticism; precisely for these reasons it does not lend itself to analytical hair-splitting: Schopenhauer's "methodische Drehen und Wenden der Standpunkte umeinander und gegeneinander - in der Sekundärliteratur häufig übersehen oder als Widersprüche im Denken Schopenhauers, als Denkfehler abgetan - sucht die dogmatische Festschreibung einer einzelnen Betrachtungsweise zu verhindern" (p. 10). The follies against which we are warned by Volker Spierling, are committed again and again in this collection, not least by the editor himself. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to all my foes.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Israel and Pakistan: Ghetto States

Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea by Faisal Devji

An Interpretation 

You can take the Jew out of the ghetto, and you can take the ghetto out of the Jew as well. This has always been my view. Cosmopolitanism is a prerequisite to intellectual achievement, and if you consider the history of the Jews, you will find that the Jews who have excelled in the intellectual field were precisely those who turned their backs on the ghetto.

Living in the ghetto has its benefits: mutual solidarity, extended families, and a sense of belonging are all prized assets. The severing of the ties that bind one to a group so as to confront the world like the matador faces the raging bull is not a challenge that most men would be wont to embracing. In the heart of every single man, a Jew is to found: the ghetto Jew or the cosmopolitan Jew. You need to ask yourself the following question: What sort of a Jew am I? Schlomo the Schmata or Spinoza the Sage?

A terrible tension is to be found not only in the souls of men, but even at the core of many nation-states. It was the ghetto instinct that prompted the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent as well as the Zionists to seek and create a separate homeland for themselves and their brethren. Inherent therein was a veritable antinomy: how do you reconcile your quasi-transcendental ghetto with the socio-political context in which it was created?

The Jews who emigrated to Israel dissociated themselves from the history of the countries in which they had been living for centuries and sought refuge in the mythology of the Israelites instead. Likewise, the Pakistanis rejected their Hindu heritage so as to live like parasites off the past triumphs of the Arabs, to whom they have no blood relation whatsoever. Add to this the grim social realities facing both the Israelis and the Pakistanis: the former thought they had come to a land without a people, only to discover that the country was already populated by its native Palestinians, whereas the latter came to realise soon enough that the regional interests of the various ethnic groups always override the desire for unity on religious grounds. Both the Israelis and the Pakistanis sought the security of the ghetto, only to realise that they had crawled into the lion's den. Israel the hi-tech fortress, with its citizens popping themselves full with antidepressants in order to come to terms with the harsh reality of being surrounded by enemies on all corners, and Pakistan, the world's second tallest dungheap, surpassed only by the dungheap that is India, are failures in the realms of the ideal as well as the real. Unlike great ancient nations such as China and Russia, who have developed organically during the course of millenia, both Pakistan and Israel are modern aberrations and the hideous byproducts of colonialism - nations that should never have been created in the first place.