Thursday, January 10, 2008

Words and Meanings

I used to have a "magic" dictionary. As you might know all dictionaries are not created equal. So often the word one is looking up is either not there, or is there with a definition that is too narrow, not worded well, or generally not helpful. The reason my dictionary was magic is that it always contained exactly the definition I needed to expand my thinking. I lost it in the fire and have never found another up to the job. In the read more section below I have cut and pasted definitions of words from our critical theory readings. I don't know how it is for the rest of you but I know that some of these words I have looked up several time before, but for some reason the meanings don't attach well, so I look them up again. Others were completely new to me.. "monad".

The list is not alphabetical, instead it is ordered chronologically (as I encounter these words in the readings.)

I will continue to add to this list through the term, and will not limit myself to the theory readings.

One thing I find very interesting is how many of the words I look up (in general) have definitions listed first that apply to science or medicine. It seems to me that this makes them metaphoric..... but I guess they're not if they are in the dictionary.... but then again... all dictionaries are not created equal....
I must say again; I love words, that isn't to suggest that I know a lot of them, or what they mean, but I love that we all use them almost as though they are solid and indisputable objects, when in fact they are components of a completely fluid medium, with infinite meanings. Perhaps I can describe the magic I see in words/language by making a rather lame and obvious comparison. If you are in my house and the lights go out and I offer you a torch, you might think that I am either a little reckless, or just dramatic, but if you are British you will understand I mean a flash light. I know this is a stupid example, but if you are to take on what I think about words and language being perceived as firm and almost physical things.... picture this, you are in my house the power goes out and I hand you an actual torch! This will color the way you think about me, my house that evening. I believe that even when there is a lingual miscommunication that is cleared up later, an image, or an experience has irrevocably happened. The way we interpret the words we hear or read, become part of our experience and history.

The fact that we all use words means to me that we are all artists and social sculptors, via this fact alone! Joseph Beuys expressed a strong belief in the power/importance of language, and I agree. But my feelings about this predate my knowledge of him. Language is so abstract and fundamentally creative, the public at large is considered to be uncomfortable with abstraction and creativity, but in fact they are fluent in both when they use language!

By the way, all the definitions in the read more section were taken from the web, mostly from encarta, but also wikapedia.

1. tension between conflicting ideas: the tension that exists between two conflicting or interacting forces, elements, or ideas
2. investigation of truth through discussion: the investigation of the truth through discussion, or the art of investigating truths through discussion
3. debate resolving conflict: debate intended to resolve a conflict between two contradictory or apparently contradictory ideas or parts logically, establishing truths on both sides rather than disproving one argument ( takes a singular verb )
4. Hegelian process: the process, in Hegelian and Marxist thought, in which two apparently opposed ideas, the thesis and antithesis, become combined in a unified whole, the synthesis
5. Socratic method for revealing truth: the methods used in Socratic philosophy to reveal truth through disputation
[Late 16th century. Via Latin dialectica Greek dialektikē (tekhnē) "(art) of discussion or debate" dialektikos "of conversation" dialektos (see dialect)]

- study of signs: the study of signs and symbols of all kinds, what they mean, and how they relate to the things or ideas they refer to
study of symptoms of diseases: the study of identifying the ways that various symptoms indicate the diseases that underlie them

mne·mon·ic [ ni mónnik ]
noun (plural mne·mon·ics)
memory aid: a short rhyme, phrase, or other mental technique for making information easier to memorize
1. acting as mnemonic: acting as a memory aid
2. relating to mnemonics: relating to the practice of improving the memory, or to systems designed to improve the memory
[Mid-18th century. mnemonics, or Greek mnēmonikos "relating to memory" mnēmon- "mindful"]
mne·mon·i·cal·ly adverb

an·tin·o·my [ an tínnəmee ] (plural an·tin·o·mies)
1. philosophy paradoxical result: a contradictory and illogical conclusion produced by two apparently correct and reasonable statements or facts
2. law legal discrepancy: a contradiction between two laws, principles, or authorities
[Late 16th century. Via Latin antinomia Greek, literally "against law" nomos "law, rule"]
an·ti·nom·ic [ ànti nómmik ] adjective

di·a·crit·i·cal [ d ə kríttik'l ]
marking a change or modification: indicating a change or modification in something, especially in the way a printed letter is to be pronounced or stressed
di·a·crit·i·cal·ly adverb

pa·thos [ páy thòss, páy thàwss ]
1. quality that arouses pity: the quality in something that makes people feel pity or sadness
2. expression of pity: feelings of pity, especially when they are expressed in some way
[Late 16th century. Greek, "feeling, disease"]

e·pis·te·mol·o·gy [ i pìstə mólləjee ]
theory of knowledge: the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, in particular its foundations, scope, and validity
[Mid-19th century. Greek epistēmē (see epistemic)]
e·pis·te·mo·log·i·cal [ i pìstəmə lójjik'l ] adjective
e·pis·te·mo·log·i·cal·ly adverb
e·pis·te·mol·o·gist noun

sim·u·la·crum [ sìmmyə láykrəm, sìmmyə lákrəm ] (plural sim·u·la·cra [ sìmmyə lákrə ])
1. representation or image: a representation or image of something
2. something vaguely similar: something that has a vague, tentative, or shadowy resemblance to something else
[Late 16th century. Latin simulare (see simulate)]

im·bri·cate [ ímbrə kàyt ]
1. architecture made of overlapping tiles: consisting of overlapping tiles or slates
2. botany zoology overlapping like roof tiles: describes plant or animal parts that overlap in a regular pattern
transitive and intransitive verb (past and past participle im·bri·cat·ed, present participle im·bri·cat·ing, 3rd person present singular im·bri·cates)
overlap or be overlapping: to lay things so that they overlap in layers in a similar way to roof tiles, or be laid in this way
[Mid-17th century. Latin imbricat-, past participle of imbricare "cover with pantiles" imbric- "roof tile" imber "rain"]
im·bri·cat·ed adjective
im·bri·ca·tion [ ìmbrə káysh'n ] noun

The Heresy of Paraphrase" is the title of a chapter in The Well-Wrought Urn, a seminal work of the New Criticism by Cleanth Brooks. Brooks argued that meaning in poetry is irreducible, because "a true poem is a simulacrum of experience rather than any mere statement about experience or any mere abstraction from experience." Brooks emphasized structure, tension, balance, and irony over meaning, statement, and subject matter. He relied on comparisons with non-verbal arts in order to shift discussion away from summarizable content:

The essential structure of a poem (as distinguished from the rational or logical structure of the 'statement' which we abstract from it) resembles that of architecture or painting: it is a pattern of resolved stresses. Or, to move closer still to poetry by considering the temporal arts, the structure of a poem resembles that of a ballet or musical composition. It is a pattern of resolutions and balances and harmonizations, developed through a temporal scheme.

Proper criticism responds with suppleness and delicacy to such patterns, rather than paraphrasing their propositional content.

Central to "The Heresy of Paraphrase" was a vigorous critique of conventional distinctions between form and content:

The structure meant is certainly not 'form' in the conventional sense in which we think of form as a kind of envelope which 'contains' the 'content.' The structure obviously is everywhere conditioned by the nature of the material which goes into the poem. The nature of the material sets the problem to be solved, and the solution is the ordering of the material...The relationship between the intellectual and the non-intellectual elements in a poem is actually far more intimate than the conventional accounts would represent it to be: the relationship is not that of an idea 'wrapped in emotion' or a 'prose-sense decorated by sensuous imagery.

Though Brooks applied this theory to his reading of poetry from many periods, subsequent literary scholars have suggested that the doctrine was shaped by the aesthetics of modernist literature. They point out that the New Criticism emerged at the peak of T.S. Eliot's influence as both poet and critic. Archibald Macleish's "Ars Poetica" (written eleven years before The Well Wrought Urn) is often cited as prefiguring Brooks' doctrine:

A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit

As old medallions to the thumb

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -

A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs

A poem should be equal to:
Not true

For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf

For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -

A poem should not mean
But be.

Though many of the aesthetic assumptions of the New Criticism are now challenged or dismissed, the "heresy of paraphrase" is still commonly used to refer to reductive or utilitarian approaches to poetry.

ma·te·ri·al·ist [ mə tree əlist ]
noun (plural ma·te·ri·al·ists)
1. somebody concerned about possessions: somebody who values material wealth and possessions rather than spiritual or intellectual things
2. supporter of philosophical materialism: a supporter of the philosophical theory that physical matter is the only reality and that psychological states can be explained as physical functions
Same as materialistic

(Pronunciation: altuˡseʁ) (October 16, 1918 – October 22, 1990) was a Marxist philosopher. He was born in Algeria and studied at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, where he eventually became Professor of Philosophy.

Althusser was a lifelong member and sometimes strong critic of the French Communist Party. His arguments and theses were set against the threats that he saw attacking the theoretical foundations of Marxism. These included both the influence of empiricism on Marxist theory, and humanist and reformist socialist orientations which manifested as divisions in the European Communist Parties, as well as the problem of the 'cult of personality' and of ideology itself.

Althusser is commonly referred to as a Structural Marxist, although his relationship to other schools of French structuralism is not a simple affiliation and he is critical of many aspects of structuralism.

ne·ol·o·gism [ nee óllə jìzzəm ] (plural ne·ol·o·gisms) or ne·ol·o·gy [ nee ólləjee ] (plural ne·ol·o·gies)
1. new word or meaning: a recently coined word or phrase, or a recently extended meaning of an existing word or phrase
2. coinage of new words: the practice of coining new words or phrases, or of extending the meaning of existing words or phrases
[Early 19th century. French néologisme néo- "new" + Greek logos "word"]
ne·ol·o·gist noun
ne·ol·o·gis·tic [ nee òllə jístik ] adjective
ne·ol·o·gize intransitive verb

su·per·struc·ture [ spər strùkchər ] (plural su·per·struc·tures)
Definition:1. upper part of ship: the part of a ship above the main deck
2. visible part of building: the part of a building above its foundations
3. part developed on base: a physical or intellectual structure built on or developed from a fundamental form, base, or concept
4. politics institutions associated with particular economy: in Marxist theory, the complex of social, legal, and political institutions that are an extension and reflection of the type of economy operating in a particular society
su·per·struc·tur·al [ spər strúkchərəl ] adjective

va·lence [ váylənss ] (plural va·lenc·es) or va·len·cy [ váylənssee ] (plural va·len·cies)
1. combining power of atoms: the combining power of atoms or groups measured by the number of electrons the atom or group will receive, give up, or share in forming a compound
2. combining antigenic determinants: the number of different antigenic determinants with which a single antibody molecule can combine
3. combining power of verb: the ability of a verb to combine grammatically with noun phrases in a given clause
[Late 19th century. Variant of valency]

• noun (pl. teloi /telloy/) Philosophy or literary an ultimate object or aim.

Main Entry:
vol·a·til·ize Listen to the pronunciation of volatilize
\ˈvä-lə-tə-ˌlīz, British also və-ˈla-\
Inflected Form(s):
vol·a·til·ized; vol·a·til·iz·ing
Date: 1657 transitive verb: to make volatile; especially : to cause to pass off in vaporintransitive verb: to pass off in vapor
— vol·a·til·iz·able Listen to the pronunciation of volatilizable \-ˌlī-zə-bəl\ adjective
vol·a·til·i·za·tion Listen to the pronunciation of volatilization \ˌvä-lə-tə-lə-ˈzā-shən, British also və-ˌla-\ noun

Main Entry:
\ˈper-ə-ˌnāt, pə-ˈre-ˌnāt\
intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s):
pe·ren·nat·ed; pe·ren·nat·ing
Latin perennatus, past participle of perennare, from perennis
circa 1623
: to live over from one growing season to another a perennating rhizome
per·en·na·tion Listen to the pronunciation of perennation \ˌper-ə-ˈnā-shən\ noun

symp·to·ma·tol·o·gy [ sìmptəmə tólləjee ] (plural symp·to·ma·tol·o·gies)
1. study of symptoms: the study of the relationships between symptoms and diseases
2. set of symptoms: the set of symptoms that are associated with a disease or that affect a patient
[Late 18th century. Greek sumptōmat-, stem of sumptōma (see symptom)]

mo·nad [ mṓ nàd ] (plural mo·nads [ mō méntə ])
1. microbiology single-celled microorganism: a microorganism consisting of just one cell, especially a flagellate protozoan. Genus Monas.
2. chemistry atom with valence of one: an atom or chemical group that has a valence of one
3. philosophy basic entity in metaphysics of Leibnitz: in the metaphysics of Leibnitz, an indivisible indestructible unit that is the basic element of reality and a microcosm of it
[Mid-16th century. Directly or via French monade late Latin monad- Greek monos "single"]
mo·nad·ic [ mō náddik ] adjective
mo·nad·i·cal [ mō náddək'l ] adjective
mo·nad·i·cal·ly [ mō náddəkəlee ] adverb
mo·nad·ism [ mṓnə dìzzəm ] noun

pu·ta·tive [ pytətiv ]
1. generally accepted: generally believed to be or regarded as being something
the putative father of the child

2. thought to exist: believed to exist now or to have existed at some time
[15th century. Directly or via French late Latin putativus putare "prune, think over"]
pu·ta·tive·ly adverb
Word History
The Latin word putare "to prune, think over," from which putative is derived, is also the source ofEnglishaccount,amputate,compute,count1 (of numbers),deputy,dispute,impute,recount, andreputation.

Kalos kagathos

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Kalos kagathos (καλὸς κἀγαθός, IPA: [kalos kaːgatʰos]), sometimes written kalokagathos or kalos kai agathos, is an idiomatic phrase used in ancient Greek literature (including philosophy and historiography), attested to since Herodotus and the classical period.[1] The phrase is adjectival, composed of two adjectives, καλός and ἀγαθός (of which κἀγαθός is the crasis with καί, "and"). The derived noun is kalokagathia (καλοκαγαθία)

[edit] Uses

The phrase could be used both in a generic sense, or with certain specific force. As a generic term, it may have been used as the combination of distinct virtues, which we might translate as "handsome and brave", or the intersection of the two words "good" or "upstanding". Translations such as "gentleman" or "knight" have traditionally been suggested to convey the social aspect of the phrase, while "war hero" or the more cynical "martyr" are more recent versions, and emphasise the military element.

It became a fixed phrase by which the Athenian aristocracy referred to itself; in the ethical philosophers, the first of whom were Athenian gentlemen, the term came to mean the ideal or perfect man.

kalos kai agathos, the singular balance of the good and the beautiful.

[edit] Καλός

The adjective καλός encompasses meanings equivalent to English "good", "noble", and "handsome". The form given by convention is the masculine, but it was equally used of women (the feminine form is καλή) and could also describe animals or inanimate objects.

Plato, in his work Republic, used the term τό καλόν (the neuter form) in his attempts to define ideals - although it should be noted that his protagonist (some would say 'mouthpiece') in the dialogue, Socrates, stated that he did not fully comprehend the nature of this καλόν.

[edit] Αγαθός

This second adjective had no particular physical or aesthetic connotations, but described a person's bravery or ethics. Again, around the 4th Century, it had become politically meaningful, and carried implications of dutiful citizenship.


his·tor·i·cism [ hi stáwrə sìzzəm ]


1. theory that natural laws govern history: the belief that natural laws beyond human control determine historical events

2. belief in uniqueness of historical periods: the theory that each period of history has its own unique beliefs and values and can only be understood in its historical context

his·tor·i·cist noun

pos·i·tiv·ism Listen to the pronunciation of positivism
\ˈpä-zə-ti-ˌvi-zəm, ˈpäz-ti-\
French positivisme, from positif positive + -isme -ism
1 a: a theory that theology and metaphysics are earlier imperfect modes of knowledge and that positive knowledge is based on natural phenomena and their properties and relations as verified by the empirical sciences b: logical positivism2: the quality or state of being positive
— pos·i·tiv·ist Listen to the pronunciation of positivist \-vist\ adjective or noun
— pos·i·tiv·is·tic Listen to the pronunciation of positivistic \ˌpä-zə-ti-ˈvis-tik, ˌpäz-ti-\ adjective
pos·i·tiv·is·ti·cal·ly Listen to the pronunciation of positivistically \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Main Entry:
epis·te·mol·o·gy Listen to the pronunciation of epistemology
Greek epistēmē knowledge, from epistanai to understand, know, from epi- + histanai to cause to stand — more at stand
circa 1856
: the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity
— epis·te·mo·log·i·cal Listen to the pronunciation of epistemological \-mə-ˈlä-ji-kəl\ adjective
— epis·te·mo·log·i·cal·ly Listen to the pronunciation of epistemologically \-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
epis·te·mol·o·gist Listen to the pronunciation of epistemologist \-ˈmä-lə-jist\ noun

Jürgen Habermas
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Western Philosophy
20th century
Jürgen Habermas
June 18, 1929 (1929-06-18) (age 78)
Düsseldorf, Germany
Critical theory
Main interests Social theory · Epistemology
Political theory · Pragmatics
Notable ideas
Communicative rationality
Discourse ethics
Deliberative democracy
Universal pragmatics
Influenced by
Weber · Durkheim · Mead · Marx
Dilthey · Parsons · Kant
Heidegger · Piaget · Horkheimer
Adorno · Marcuse · Arendt · Peirce

Benhabib · Forst · Fraser · Honneth
Mockus · Hoppe · Feenberg
Wingert ¤Georg Henrik von Wright

Jürgen Habermas (IPA: [ˈjʏʁgən ˈhaːbɐmaːs]; born June 18, 1929) is a German philosopher and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory and American pragmatism. He is best known for his work on the concept of the public sphere, which he has based in his theory of communicative action. His work has focused on the foundations of social theory and epistemology, the analysis of advanced capitalistic societies and democracy, the rule of law in a critical social-evolutionary context, and contemporary politics -- particularly German politics. Habermas's theoretical system is devoted to revealing the possibility of reason, emancipation and rational-critical communication latent in modern institutions and in the human capacity to deliberate and pursue rational interests.

se·man·tic [ sə mántik ]

1. linguistics relating to word meanings: relating to meaning or the differences between meanings of words or symbols

2. linguistics of semantics: relating to semantics

3. logic relating to truth: relating to the conditions in which a system or theory can be said to be true

[Mid-17th century. Via French Greek sēmantikos "significant" sēmainein "signify" sēma "sign, mark"]

interstice Show phonetics
noun [C usually plural] FORMAL
a very small crack or space:

so·mat·ic [ sō máttik ]

1. affecting body as distinct from mind: relating to or affecting the body, especially the body as considered to be separate from the mind

2. anatomy relating to outer walls of body: relating to the outer walls of the body, not the inner organs

3.cell biology of somatic cell: relating to a somatic cell

il·lo·cu·tion·ary Listen to the pronunciation of illocutionary
\ˌi-lə-ˈkyü-shə-ˌner-ē, ˌi(l)-lō-\
2in- + locution
: relating to or being the communicative effect (as commanding or requesting) of an utterance “There's a snake under you” may have the illocutionary force of a warning

Main Entry:
es·sen·tial·ism Listen to the pronunciation of essentialism
1 : an educational theory that ideas and skills basic to a culture should be taught to all alike by time-tested methods — compare progressivism 2 : a philosophical theory ascribing ultimate reality to essence embodied in a thing perceptible to the senses — compare nominalism 3 : the practice of regarding something (as a presumed human trait) as having innate existence or universal validity rather than as being a social, ideological, or intellectual construct
es·sen·tial·ist Listen to the pronunciation of essentialist \-list\ adjective or noun

Scyl·la [ síllə ]

mythological sea monster: in Greek mythology, a sea monster who attacked sailors. In later times, Scylla was thought to be a rock on the Italian side of the Straits of Messina.

be between Scylla and Charybdis to be faced with the necessity of choosing between two equally undesirable or unpleasant things

Cha·ryb·dis [ kə ríbdiss ]
monster in Greek myth: in Greek mythology, a monster in the form of a dangerous whirlpool at the mouth of the cave of the sea monster Scylla



Tuesday, January 8, 2008

May We Speak For YOU?

May We Speak For You? from sanone on Vimeo.
click read more for details

At the candle light after our presentations at the end of last term Laurel and I were expressing our shared relief that we made it through our presentations with out having heart attacks. We both hate public speaking. That is the genesis of this project. I told Laurel about a performance I did many years ago where I simply spoke for the artist who was actually performing. She just sat their fuming and I expressed what she was frustrated about for her. It was odd, I didn't feel shy at all, because I was speaking for her, not me. So we had the idea to go out in public and speak for other people, hoping that this might help us get over our fear of public speaking.

Ralph came along and videoed what happened. He has ever operated a video camera before.
We showed this to the SP group on Monday and got some really good critique. It is interesting that even though the video was less than ideal, the editing very slap dash and the project was just a first exploratory effort, I think because we had the video the group was able to give us a lot of valuable and specific criticism. Even the criticism of the documentation itself: meaningless shots, lots of moving around, bad sound (also using the low res of vimeo didn't help) gave me lots to think about more consciously before we do it again. As I said this was just our first exploration of this project, and we were both, well I'll just say I was (I shouldn't really speak for Laurel, though I think we are largely in agreement) really pleasantly surprised by some of the things that happened.

For instance the escalating enforcement of rules applied to us at pioneer courthouse square was not only comical and informative, but seemed to create a dynamic relationship between the guards, some people we were speaking for and ourselves. There was, for the hour or how ever long we were there, a relationship that evolved between us all. What was especially successful to me about the chain of events at the square was that even though we were frustrated, there was humor, and the guards seemed increasingly aware of the absurdity of the rules they were being asked to enforce, but never seemed to blame us for putting them in that position.

Another interesting thing that happened was us speaking for the protesters, who are not part of the union, but paid by the union to stand there four hours a day holding up their sign and passing out fliers. The irony of speaking for people who are speaking for someone else is a beautiful bit of theater. I am not sure exactly why this resonates so loudly for me, but I suspect it is just the idea of lots of communication and energy being expended to convey messages that the active participants have no personal stake in. This is really rich, and I think we accidentally touched on a potential lens to look at the media through. I will continue to ponder this.

Kind of along the same lines, but going the opposite direction; "Charles" asked us when we were in front of city hall to speak about his frustration that the civil union legislation was being held back. He and his boyfriend had gotten engaged and were hoping to follow through soon. As I paraphrased his statement through the megaphone he came towards me and then standing in front of me, he agreed! This seems an interesting other side of the media.... people feeling heartened by their own message, agreeing with them selves.

I feel like we learned a lot, and got a lot of good raw material the day we started this project. Laurel and I also talked about how we might expand it, kind of a how far can we follow up sort of idea. We think we might try to find Ben (our main "client" at the square). We might go to the seventh floor and meet the people who administer the square and look out the window they were watching us from. Maybe we will find out more about the working situation for the protesters and the union that hired them.

We also want to continue our original idea of public speaking. We talked afterwards about some ways we could fine tune it, one idea was a dry erase board with a "topic" posted. Another was having note cards and pens for people to write what they wanted us to talk about.

The most helpful criticism we received from our colleagues addressed the fact that it wasn't really clear that we were "public speaking". We were just conversing through the megaphones. Some things I wrote in my notes were: A more clear system (I think this is really true) to indicate that we are "broadcasting". Maybe a pirate radio sort of set up, or an LCD message board with transcribed projection of text. And as I mentioned there was a lot of criticism of our documentation. I am not sure exactly how we will want to design this going forward, but this is by far the best discussion I have had about anything I am doing since I started the program. I believe we got such good (negative) feedback because we had so much documentation to respond to. This is really interesting to me because I have mixed feelings about the importance of documentation, but I have never before considered its role as a tool for getting feedback and growing my practice.

One last thing I will say about this, I don't know how it will look going forward, but I feel it now has another purpose. It appears that "public speaking" can function as a serendipitous heuristic device that allows the community to plot the trajectory of our next move.