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The Structure of Internet Revolutions pt.1

(I’m currently reading Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) with the direct intention of making a comparison between his analysis of scientific revolutions and our present (revolutionary) information age. Such a comparison will not be able to do justice to Kuhn but I believe his methodology to be of value when trying to understand our current information age.)

The establishment of the internet as a social medium has created a paradigm for a new science.

The tools offered by Google, Facebook, Twitter and Web 2.0 have transformed the way humans interact in an unprecedented manner. But the outdated claim that our social lives have experienced a paradigm shift in the information age has not, in my opinion, been taken seriously enough by philosophers. Philosophy can offer an interesting approach to this new paradigm and help understand the importance of such a scientific revolution. Philosophy has more to offer than the mere regurgitation of the ethics of intellectual property a lá Locke, Hegel and the school of utilitarianism.

How can philosophy operate in this technical field? Scientific revolutions, paradigms of thought, the studying of differing ages and ideologies are the playgrounds for philosophers – so why should philosophy be dumbfounded when presented with claims of a new age of information and a revolution in the fundamental way in which humans interact socially? I apologize for the rhetorical questions, I really do.

The first task of philosophy would be to analyze this paradigm in the context of past scientific revolutions. As much as one age revels in the thought of being unique, especially clever and innovative, temperance shows this attitude to be quite the norm in developing periods. Luckily, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a book (and quite a good one at that) which means my only job is to make the pieces of this information revolution fit within the structure of past scientific revolutions. The point of doing so is not to fortify the claim that a “revolution” is a revolution by comparing apples to apples but to realize what it actually means to have an apple in the hand. Without trying to become biblical, I would have to say an apple in the hand is an occasion for a new normal science.

At the heart of innovation, invention and revolution is a paradigmatic shift and, as Thomas Kuhn once told me in his aforementioned book, a paradigm is a beginning and not an end – it is “a route to normal science“. This must not be something realized in retrospect, rather, it can be a tool used to help shape the emerging science; all one needs is a little historiography (this is my shout out to Karl Löwith – wink, wink).

(Part II coming soon).

Passing Go

My dissertation is finished, turned in, waiting to be read and critiqued. Now that it is out of my hands I am asked in the morning what I am doing in the afternoon, in the afternoon I am asked what I will be doing the next day. I can only answer that I am planning, that I am structuring a future for myself and that I am looking for other goals to shoot down.

When I come to the end of something I am never as completely pleased with myself as I probably should be. Turning in my dissertation did not give me a good feeling, I did not feel like an accomplished person or someone worthy of praise. So long I am actually able to complete something, this something loses its attraction of having been a difficult task. If I can do it and if many other people have done it then is not as courageous a deed as I had wished when I began. That is the silly thing about me… I am never completely happy with what I have done. I want to keep reaching more goals, mastering different facets of life, becoming a better person and worker. I need to learn to take a deep breath and enjoy the end of a long road.

I am taking my leave from academia. I need to grow and do different things – I feel excited about applying my academic skills in a non-academic setting. I am currently looking for an opportunity to do so – if you read this, please wish me (in all secrecy) the best of luck.

I have, however, been waiting for the chance to start writing for fun again. This blog is my playground and I have an extended recess and, if I am allowed to do as I please, the coming days, weeks and months will see a flurry of content.

Aus einer Doctor-Promotion

Götzen-Dammerung. 29

“Was ist die Aufgabe alles höheren Schulwesens?” – Aus dem Menschen eine Maschine zu machen. – “Was ist das Mittel dazu?” – Er muss lernen, sich langweilen. – “Wie erreicht man das?” – Durch den Begriff der Pflicht. – “Wer ist sein Vorbild dafür?” – Der Philolog: der lehrt ochsen. – “Wer ist der vollkommene Mensch?” – Der Staats-Beamte. – “Welche Philosophie giebt die höchste Formel für den Staats-Beamten?” – Die Kant’s: der Staats-Beamte als Ding an sich zum Richter gesetzt über den Staats-Beamten als Erscheinung. –

The Cow

Somebody asked me the other day if I knew of Nietzsche’s cow.  I stopped, I thought and I couldn’t remember Nietzsche ever having a cow – just a town named after a cow in Zarathustra [die bunte Kuh].  So I answered, “huh? Nietzsche and a cow?”  To which I was pointed towards Nietzsche’s Untimely Meditations [Vom Nutzen und  Nachteil der Historie für das Leben].  Nietzshe’s cow represents the power of forgetting.  To all of those philosophers and scientists who are worried about taking the next step, about making concrete progress, Nietzsche presents a cow.  The cow forgets and forgetting births the possibility of creating something new, of becoming individual.

I forgot about Nietzsche’s cow, which has me convinced that I remembered him all the more.  Convenient!


p.s. Nietzsche’s cow is not to be confused with his camel, his lion, his snake, his eagle, his donkey, his human or his sister.

The Great Chain of Being

A good read for anyone interested in the history of ideas is The Great Chain of Being by Arthur Lovejoy.

Throwing yourself bodily onto his introduction your ribs will be thoroughly massaged with the following:

There are, first, implicit or incompletely explicit assumptions, or more or less unconscious mental habits, operating in the thought of an individual or a generation.  It is the beliefs which are so much a matter of course that they are rather tacitly presupposed that formally expressed and argued for…

A hearty rib massage is never to be underestimated.  What a power this is, what a thing it would be to have the ability to string contemporary thoughts, attitudes and beliefs with their ancestors, undermining their virgin birth by pointing to the father.  This is a branch of philosophy that is associated with the history of philosophy.  That is one sexy branch – I would not lie to you.

What else could Lovejoy’s book do to your body without making this sexual?  Comb your eyebrows.  It is a soothing act that he accomplishes through philosophical semantics. Sacred words and phrases of a period or movement he says?  Comb my eyebrows I says.

I hold dear to my heart all works that strive against the idea of intellectual progress.  Knowledge is a giant wave in Mavericks, California that sweeps up all people in its path.  The educated and the non-educated become wrapped together in their watery somersaults.  Those that hold degrees distinguish themselves by proclaiming and pointing, “we’re going in this direction!” – forgetting that they are being propelled forward by cold, salty and sometimes unsanitary water.

Nobody likes metaphors, nobody likes being forced to read one and one can only feel embarrassed after having written one.  It is like having your pathetic creative powers strapped to your forehead – the perfect place of shame, since you cannot really see it yourself (delicious simile is not shameful).

I offer an example so as to stray from the eyebrows: the principle of plenitude.

What does it really mean to say that God is all powerful?  For Galileo and Descartes it meant the creation of a principle – the principle of plenitude, the principle of there being plenty of stuff.

The presumption from which we must reason, where other evidence is unavailable, is that what, so far as we can judge, is capable of being, is.  The production of an infinity of worlds was possible to the Creator [among many other awesome things – e.g. flying T-Rex]; and the principle [of plenitude] which we must always accept in such matters is that the possibility has been realized.

If all possibilities have been realized somewhere, meditates Descartes, then our position here in this world is not as special as our parents told us.  If this is the case we might as well detach our affections from the things of this world… and play in the chambers of our insanity (or, pure reason, depending on who you ask).

If Earth is not the center of all that is gnarly, if there are other worlds and if there is a creator that is infinitely powerful then there is a high chance that we have bretheren on Saturn.  It isn’t like God would invest time in creating a world and not put some creatures on it.  Let me be earnest, I would be a lot more interested in theology if the theologians were still worried about aliens and whether or not they have their own personal Jesus.  That is a serious conversation I could dig my teeth into.

I also meant to say that things like the principle of plenitude, although thought to be genial, new and intriguing, are, well, ridiculously not – like most genial ideas.

must write…

I’m now working at the University cafeteria.  A couple times of week I run the dishes through the huge washing machine and pick up after lazy students.  One time a week I serve beer, coffee and whatever else “customers” are able to find on our assorted list of drinks.

Am I embarrassed to be washing dishes while working on my dissertation?  A little bit.  Every once in a while I run into someone with a marketable area of study (physics, medicine, etc) and they tell me about the abundance of scholarships they have available to them.  They then pretend to sympathize that I have to wear an apron as I hand them their beer.

I’m not taking any courses so, academically, I’m just reading and writing on my own.  I tried to picture a life in Germany where I was only reading and writing, where I spent everyday in the library – leaving only to purchase coffee.  In this life I could briefly brag about my scholarships before crawling back into my hole – slowly beginning to call my dissertation, “my precious”, and losing what little skin tone I have left (man, I’m going to kick you where the sun don’t shine! Where? Germany?)

I’m actually quite satisfied with having to work.  It massages my sanity and makes this country a much less foreign place.

I do, however, have one academic project that pays and it is a translation project.  I took it on figuring I would just struggle through the translation and improve my German along the way.  I’ve never had to do something so frustrating.  I curse the incompatibility of German and English sentence structure as I cry on my keyboard.

I’m hoping to begin posting much more often again so let us not be strangers.