A student asks whose music has opened our hearts and minds and made us really think about life,,, https://t.co/dYKOo1CfmJ

April 7, 2020

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I’ve just posted on my Blog about: “Socially available free time” https://t.co/fYilTiOur8

April 7, 2020

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“Socially available free time”

April 7, 2020

Today in A&P we’re up to Martin Hagglund’s penultimate chapter on Democratic Socialism, and a continuation of the call he issued in the previous chapter on “the value of our finite time,” for a “revaluation of value.” That’s a clever re-tooling of an old Nietzschean phrase that originally conveyed contempt for democratic and egalitarian values, but that here stands for their re-invigoration in a possible world of tomorrow that might truly value the time of all our lives.

The key to the critique of capitalism is the measure of wealth in terms of socially necessary labor time. In contrast, the overcoming of capitalism requires that we measure our wealth in terms of what I call socially available free time.

What a twist on that expression we’re living through right now! We have all kinds of “free time,” but so long as we’re following the lifesaving physical distancing guidelines the epidemiologists insist we must, we’re not available to socialize except through the proxy of communications technologies like Zoom.  We should be grateful, not for the distance but for the technologies that allow us to surmount it.

The technologies that could make us wealthier — that could give us more time to lead our lives — are instead employed to exploit human labor even when such labor is not needed. If we measured our wealth in terms of socially available free time, however, then machines would produce value for us by virtue of their own operations.

Remember what Thoreau said in Walden?  “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” Hagglund’s analysis says the cost of capitalism has become prohibitive, has been extracting too much life for too little return. Time is money? No, time is worth a lot more than that. In the long run, this life is all we can count on.

Continuing in the present chapter, Hagglund says when we convert labor intensity devoted to ends and occupations that don’t really matter to us into socially available free time, we can “engage the question of what we should do with our lives and pursue the activities that matter to us.” And then we’ll be really rich. As matters now stand, we’re acquainted with the cost of things but not their true value.

How do we get there, from here? First we’ve got to defeat the killer virus, and learn the lessons our unpreparedness should be teaching us before the next one arrives.

Then we’ve got to ask ourselves, really ask, if we’ve done right by time and how we can and must do that with the time of our future lives.

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Bentham & Kant https://t.co/UMinAdopZV Did Jeremy think his “auto-icon” would bring the greatest happiness? Was Kant “very rarely stable”? (No, he was a very stable genius.)

April 6, 2020

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Current view, & a riddle: What has 2 heads, 8 legs, and takes up the whole sofa? https://t.co/bFf51gfnpG

April 6, 2020

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RT @StathisPsillos: A major Phil event had to be rescheduled via Zoom https://t.co/CCaEyC8JRk

April 5, 2020

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Walking can have immeasurable effect on our nerves, our body, our being. Woe the society that sees little or no value in this. https://t.co/hXe59ZITtE

April 4, 2020

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Governor Bill Lee wants us to pray. If I thought it would work I’d pray for more effective leadership from the governor. https://t.co/WPuGSTxXlS

April 4, 2020

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I’ve just posted on my Blog about: Berkeley, Voltaire & Leibniz, Hume & Rousseau; and finite time https://t.co/vlmEouCyyE

April 2, 2020

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Berkeley, Voltaire & Leibniz, Hume & Rousseau; and finite time

April 2, 2020

Today in CoPhi it’s Berkeley, Voltaire & Leibniz, Hume, & Rousseau. LISTEN


The English poet Alexander Pope declared that “whatever is, is right.” The German polymath and Sufficient Reasoner Leibniz agreed. The French parodist Voltaire, whose sense of justice Pope’s and Leibniz’s view offended, wrote Candide to ridicule it. All is for the best?  This is the best possible world? Give us a break. Open your eyes. Look at Lisbon, 1755. And don’t just pontificate and theorize, do something for suffering humanity. Cultivate your garden. God (whom Voltaire the Deist accepted but did not depend on to fix what’s broken) won’t do it for you.

David Hume questioned everything, including biological perfection and intelligent design. He said we should resist to call miraculous even the most improbable natural events. As I like to say, he’d have had a quick answer to Al Michael’s famous call at the 1980 Olympics, “Do you believe in miracles?” Nope. There’s no law against beating the Soviet national hockey team, though of course it’s a marvelous achievement nonetheless. Same for most improbable medical recoveries. Same, if we survive the pandemic and the Trump administation.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau said we’re born free but everywhere are in figurative chains of constraining human law and civil authority, but can liberate ourselves by submitting to what’s best for the whole community. That’s the General Will, which strikes Rousseau’s critics as a dangerous blank check for authoritarians who purport to know the public interest better than the public knows itself. That’s not really setting the bar very high though, is it? And doesn’t J-J R have a point, that I don’t want to pay my taxes but the bigger part of me does, and knows that we must.

Bishop George Berkeley the idealist/immaterialist made lexicographer Samuel Johnson angry enough to kick a rock, but that did not effectively “refute” Berkeley’s claim that what we know of rocks and feet and pain in toes that impact rocks all exists on an ideal plane. It strikes most everybody nowadays as a ridiculous proposal, but it is more consistent with John Locke’s claim that our ideas mediate our world. To be is to be perceived? Well, maybe it’s to be perceivable. And maybe it’s enough that you and I are the potential percipients. Maybe the quad doesn’t depend on God. But maybe it and we do all depend on each other.


In A&P today  we consider “the value of our finite time” and a side of Karl Marx rarely acknowledged by his western critics, his commitment to individual freedom. “‘The free development of individualities’ is, says Martin Hagglund, the foundation for his critique of capitalism and religion.” That squares with young Marx’s interest in Epicurean philosophy, though not so much with Soviet Marxist ideology.
 

We’re often instructed to “do what you love,” but Hagglund’s realm of necessity/realm of freedom discussion raises the question of whether most people in a capitalist society like ours can ever realistically aspire to do the work they love, when leaving a job they despise is too fraught with the risk of destitution, unemployment, loss of health coverage, and so on.

And so, in the context of that question a book called Do the Work You Love — highlighted in an email from Tom Butler-Bowdon I just opened headlined “What to read in a time of loss and panic” — takes on particular relevance. If “love and work are the cornerstones of our humanness,” and our system boxes too many of us us into settling for work we merely tolerate, are we (even those of us who do love our work) really “spiritually free”?

One of the reasons I like Hagglund’s book, as I’ve indicated, is his fondness for walking illustrations and metaphors. If I have to walk two hours a day to fetch water, I’m stuck in the realm of necessity. But “if I enjoy walking two hours a day as an intrinsic part of a fulfilling life, my activity is in the realm of freedom.” And so I do. The nectar is in the journey.  
It is a “fatal philosophical mistake” to conflate the quest for self-satisfaction with egoism, and thus to  subvert and deny our social nature. We then see cooperation and mutual support as possessing merely instrumental value and not something a rational person would naturally embrace. We won’t then see helping others, rather than always and only helping ourselves, as humane and normal. But helping one another through crisis, as people keep saying during this execrable pandemic, is precisely what we need to be doing — not because it gratifies the isolated ego, but because it expresses our deepest identity as social beings.
Marx argued that the core problem of capitalism is not a relative few greedhead monopolists, a few villainous malefactors of great wealth, but “the social form of capitalism itself.” If individual capitalists are greedy, blame them for their greediness, sure; but recognize the system as one which encourages and rewards greed.  That’s the change of perspective that can foment real reform or even, if we dare say it, revolution.

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