Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Soul

Hello everyone,

I welcome you all back from your breaks, even though I am preemptively sending this email out before break is actually over, which is a minor technicality. As a reminder of what I said last week, Tapping Philosophy will be meeting on Wednesday at 7:30, at Yeats' Pub, with rides leaving from Connelly at around 7:00. I encourage everyone to attend this lecture:

Start Date: 3/27/2008Start Time: 7:00 PM
End Date: 3/27/2008End Time: 8:30 PM
Event Description
"The Media's Service in Selling the Wars in Iraq, Iran, and Beyond" lecture given by Professor Emeritus Edward S. Herman.
Location Information:
Villanova University Main Campus - Bartley Hall
Room: 1011 - Ampitheater

And now for some quotes and of course the topic:

"It is manifest that not every principle of vital action is a soul, for then the eye would be a soul, as it is a principle of vision; and the same might be applied to the other instruments of the soul: but it is the "first" principle of life, which we call the soul. Now, though a body may be a principle of life, or to be a living thing, as the heart is a principle of life in an animal, yet nothing corporeal can be the first principle of life. For it is clear that to be a principle of life, or to be a living thing, does not belong to a body as such; since, if that were the case, every body would be a living thing, or a principle of life. Therefore a body is competent to be a living thing or even a principle of life, as "such" a body. Now that it is actually such a body, it owes to some principle which is called its act. Therefore the soul, which is the first principle of life, is not a body, but the act of a body; thus heat, which is the principle of calefaction, is not a body, but an act of a body."

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica


They don't know nothing,

About my soul,

Oh they don't know."

-Jeff Tweedy from Wilco in "Theologians" on A Ghost is Born


A standard theological definition of the soul is the separate immaterial unchanging substance that defines the individuality of a specific person, particularly insofar as they relate to God. This substantial conception of the soul has been philosophically criticized by many; nevertheless the term still holds currency in popular discourse, albeit in various different forms. Has the term soul been completely evacuated of analytically descriptive potential in its popular use, or has the term simply evolved in meaning due to the arguable failure of theology as a project that can adequately contribute to explaining the human condition? How might the contemporary use of the term soul have a counterpart in what is often referred to as subjectivity, and where might these terms differ? What ambiguities can arise with contemporary use of the term as a result of its relationship to theological discourse, and what assumptions can we unpack from this relation?

Where does the soul stand in relation to the mind body problem? Is the soul simply a synonym or part of the mind, vice versa, or a third independent part? Is it possible to separate the soul from the body or the mind? Can other people know something about each other's souls, or are they strictly off limits to others in the manner of traditional subjectivity? How do people associate the soul with cognitive functions, such as emotions and thoughts, and how have theologians traditionally made these associations? Is it possible for a human being to not have a soul, or is concept soul already tied up with what it means to be a human being? If the former is possible, are there relative degrees of soul that are attainable on a scale going from soulless to soulful, and if so, what are the problems with the practical implementation of such a scale? And of course, the ever popular: do animals have souls?

I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Francis Prior
Villanova Philosophy Club Website
Villanova Phi Sigma Tau Minutes:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tapping Philosophy: Globalization

I apologize for posting the topic after the summary.

And now for the topic: Globalization

First some quotes

"Simply put, globalization denotes the expanding scale, growing magnitude, speeding up, and deepening impact of interregional flows and patterns of social interaction. It refers to a shift or transformation in the scale of human social organization that links distant communities and expands the reach of power relations across the world's major regions and continents. However, as the rise of anti-globalization protests demonstrates, it should not be read as prefiguring the emergence of a harmonious world society or as a universal process of global integration in which there is a growing convergence of cultures and civilizations. Not only does the awareness of growing interconnectedness create new animosities and conflicts, it can fuel reactionary politics and deep-seated xenophobia. Since a significant segment of the world's population is either untouched directly by globalization or remains largely excluded form its benefits, it is arguably a deeply divisive, and consequently, vigorously contested process."-Held and Mcgrew, an Introduction to the Globalization Debate

"The new dogmas took root in the 1980s amidst the decaying rot of developmentalist dreams. They flourished in the 1990's bathed by the sparkle of the "new economy" in which the United States and Eastern Asia were suppesed to be leading the world to its economic glory. But, alas, the sheen began to tarnish. The currency crisis in East and Southeast Asia in 1997, (which spread from Russia to Brazil), the slide Downward of the World Trade Organization from Seattle to Cancun, the Fading of Davos and the Spectacular Rise of Porto Alegre, Al-Qaeda and September 11, Followed by the Bush fiasco in Iraq and the current accounts crisis of the United States—all this and more leads one to suspect that the globalization as rhetoric may be quickly going the way of developmentalism. And hence our question—After Developmentalism and Globalization, What?"-Immanuel Wallerstein, After Developmentalism and Globalization, What?

These two quotes will help us frame the discussion for Wednesday in an efficient way. What does globalization mean? Is globalization solely a descriptive term, or is it also a world-view that has normative and ideological implications? If the latter is true, would it be possible to separate the descriptive elements from globalization from its normative components, to arrive at some true propositions, or facts about the world, that globalization as a framework of thinking, offers? In globalization, what are the new agents of power, and what agents of power are being compromised? Who wins with globalization and who loses? What is the relationship of globalization to other contemporaneous phenomena such as postmodernism, or consumerism?

A few of my questions have already assumed that globalization is something that exists and is happening, but the Wallerstein quote above calls this assumption into question. Wallerstein fits into the category which Held McGrew use of a skeptic of globalization, specifically of the Marxist variety. Acknowledging that there was at least talk of something called globalization, Wallerstein cites several recent events that may end the use of this term. However, Wallerstein does not claim the ability to predict the future, despite his Marxist leanings, and claims merely that the structures implicit within globalization are failing, and that a new structure will take its place. Is Wallerstein's analysis of the failure of globalization on its own terms accurate, or will the structures implicit within globalization continue to adapt and proliferate in ways that Wallerstein has not anticipated? What are the consequences of globalization continuing?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Globalization: Summary

I want you all to know I realize the strangeness of posting the summary before the actual topic itself, just understand that for some reason I am unable to copy and paste things successfully into this text box on a macintosh, and I haven't had the presence of mind or time to post the topic itself while using a PC.

Some Key Points
  • We examined the multifaceted manifestations of globalization.  We concluded that globalization had strong cultural, political, economic, social, and communicative dimensions, and a reductive analysis of globalization was not possible.  However, in traditional Marxist fashion, everyone at the table seemed to agree that the economic aspects of globalization were the conditions of possibility for its proliferation in other dimensions.
  • Paul mentioned the fact that this already plays into the theory of globalization, as the economic actors of the corporation are considered to be principal agents of power over and above the nation state.
  • Chuck argued for a conception of globalization as an organic evolutionary inevitability, claiming that the proliferation of technology and mass communication as a result of the spread of free market capitalism translates into a more easily and efficiently globally run community where quality of life is generally increased, an argument which within Held and McGrew's framework of the neo-liberal free market globalist, much like Francis Fukuyama.
  • Others at the table were not as satisfied with this thesis due to its analogical naturalization and universalization of the infrastructure of capitalism and technology, when these structures are not necessarily appreciated in a universal fashion.  Examples which Rockhill cited of this failure to be universal included: a majority of the earth's population living on less than a dollar a day, the unused technological capability of being able to feed the world eight times over so that american farmers can stay in business, and the comparative lack of internet access in Africa, in order to demonstrate the benefits of globalization are often one sided, and at the expense of third world countries.
  • Mark made an extremely important point regarding the relationship between Marxist dogma and globalization.  Both of these terms actually share the same historical determinism, where Marx predicted communism as the end of history, while neo-liberal globalists like Fukuyama uphold political and economic liberalism as the end of history.  In fact, Mark claimed that we hadn't really left Marxist dogma at all, because Marx himself predicted that global capitalism would lead to a global revolution of the proletariat.  Rockhill expressed his skepticism towards Mark's unabashed Marxist optimism.
  • Zack made a really important point that I thought deserved more attention, and spoke to the question that I was the most concerned with, namely the relationship between the normative and descriptive elements of globalization.  Zack claimed, if I understood him correctly, that the normative dimensions of globalization are important insofar is how the term is used in discourse, but as far as understanding a PHENOMENON of globalization, one needed essentially to look at "the facts," some of which were enumerated already by Rockhill, in order to come to a working definition of globalization.  I guess I wanted to see if we could somehow tease out the analytic distinctions, or otherwise facts of globalization, from the normative baggage of globalization.  However, it seems though that as the term is used in discourse, the facts of globalization are subject to shifts, and these facts will redetermine the normative constitution of the term.  One could also make an argument for the dialectical relationship between the normative and analytically descriptive dimensions of the term globalization.  I would want to privilege the facts as the basis for sound rational judgment, over a normative ideology determining the constitution of the facts as such, but the dialectical nature of this relationship seems to be unfortunately real.
  • Blueberries are my favorite fruit