From the New Deal to Donald Trump
(transcendental empiricism in action)
History without philosophy is only a screen on which to project the shibboleths of our time.
The site as a whole recognizes that the Internet is the techno-cognitive axis of a praxiological revolution in thought, where the extended mind is fused with philosophy as the critical accompaniment to empirical practice.
This site deploys bio-emotional and cognitive-developmental concepts in the decoding of the historical trajectory:
New Deal to Donald Trump
"Philosophy always arrives too late . . . . The Owl
of Minerva takes flight only as the dusk begins to fall."
“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and
personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy,
the second time as farce.” [Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonapatre]
Hitler ∶ Trump ∷ Tragedy ∶ Farce
First Orientationfrom Lambros Malafouris, How Things Shape the Mind (MIT Press, 2013)
"escaping from our Cartesian prison"
Escaping from our Cartesian prison requires more than a change in our academic language games.
from Ian Hacking (Collčge de France), review of Jan Goldstein, The post-revolutionary self: politics and psyche in France, 1750-1850 (Harvard, 2008)
Today's discussions of 'consciousness' and 'the self' too often suppose that items such as these . . . are timeless elements of the human condition. Goldstein's work shows how strongly they have been formed by forgotten events in our past.
from Joseph Margolis, The Unraveling of Scientism: American Philosophy at the End of the Twentieth Century (Cornell University Press, 2003)
The main feature of Hegel's strategy, which, in American philosophy, is preserved (almost without attribution) among the classic pragmatists (particularly Dewey) retires altogether the very idea of reference to a 'noumenal' world or a world the properties of which are seperable from from whatever they are said to appear to be to human inquirers, and reinterprets 'appearances' (Erscheinungen) as open to the recovery of no more than a 'constructed' realism, that is, a realism shorn of the recuperative use of the 'Cartesian' habit of opposing or disjoining 'appearance' and 'reality' completely. (If, that is, 'realism' is a proper term for rendering the sense of the Phenomenology's argument.)" 49-50
from Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke University, 2007)
. . . the primary ontological units are not 'things' but phenomena--dynamic topological / reconfigurings / entanglements / relationalities / (re)articulations of the world. And the primary semantic units are not 'words' but material-discursive practices through which (ontic and semantic) boundaries are constituted. This dynamic is agency.
from The Oxford English Dictionary: three words for the Time of Trump
1. The nature or qualities of a beast; want of intelligence, irrationality, stupidity, brutality.
2. a. Indulgence in the instincts of a beast; brutal lust; concr. a disgusting vice, a beastly practice.
Enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others; spec. a psychological disorder characterized by sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviour involving the subjection of another person to pain, humiliation, bondage, etc.Cruelty, n.
1. The quality of being cruel; disposition to inflict suffering; delight in or indifference to the pain or misery of others; mercilessness, hard-heartedness: esp. as exhibited in action. Also, with pl., an instance of this, a cruel deed.
|An Existential Catastrophe?
Figure 1. PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2015: 20 Developed Nations
An Existential Catastrophe?
The cultural-historical as well as political-economic significance of Figure 1 should already be evident not only in the election of Donald Trump, but also in the subsequent development of this American form of a patrimonial regime characterized by fascist performativities. Figure 1 suggests that a catastrophic decline in cognitive performativity preceded and made possible the fascist victory of November 2018. That victory, in turn, ensures that this decline will accelerate.
A Concept of Fascism
3 paragraphs from Robert O. Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism (Alfred A. Knopf, 2004):
¶ 1. Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by 1) obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and 2) by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which 3) a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, 4) working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, 5) abandons democratic liberties and 6) pursues with redemptive violence and 7) without ethical or legal restraints 8) goals of internal cleansing and 9) external expansion. p. 218
¶ 2. The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy brings us close to the heart of fascism. p. 84
¶ 3. Today  a "politics of ressentment" rooted in authentic American piety and nativism sometimes leads to violence against some of the very same "internal enemies" once targeted by the Nazis, such as homosexuals and defenders of abortion rights. . . . The languge and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as Orwell suggested. . . . No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance [one minute and 45 seconds into this video]. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy. p. 202
|Fascism is a Concept
not an epithet
Trump & the GOP:
The above Concept of Fascism Deployed
Paragraph 2, "The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy" perfectly encapsulates the the "populist" performativity of Trump's rallies.
Paragraph 1 can be broken down into nine elements, six of which (1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8) characterize the Trump phenomenon. More interesting is to look at the three elements of Paxton's definition of fascism that seem least applicable: 2, 3 and 9.
Paragraph 3 was written beforethe rise of the Tea Party following the election of Barack Obama. The Tea Party as a cultural-historical phenomenon is best illuminated through a familiarity with the literature on fascism, on the one hand, and the literature on American history and politics, on the other.
Compare Paxton's Paragraph 3 with the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain. Atwater has shown how the discursive and symbolic elements of the Southern Strategy were generated through the construction of a theatrical arena in which hatred is expressed and sadism performed. This sado-sexual performativity is the essence of the GOP's mass appeal. Well before Trump the evocation of evil and the channelling of rage against a scapegoat (various forms of the other) was the stock-in-trade of Republican politicians.
The rhetorical violence of Trump rallies, not ideology and policies, is what is fundamental. The Trump performances--the audience, the cultural-historical context, and Trump himself as a therapeutic object with which the audience member can identify--become intelligible when viewed through the prism of certain key concepts: Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment; psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense; Wilbur Cash's concept of the proto-Dorian convention; the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain; and Robert Paxton's concept of transcendental violence.
On the right there are not issues, but postures, gestures, various encodings of the same sado-sexual reflex (the inner logic of racism). Rage enacted in a political-media theater of violence, sadism, and revenge. The cruelty of it all is the most important thing. The vicarious thrill, the “enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation”(OED): this is what is seen at Trump rallies.
Here the works of vengefulness and rancor swarm; here the air stinks of secrets and concealment; . . . and what mendaciousness is employed to disguise that this hatred is hatred! What a display of grand words and postures, what an art of "honest" calumny! (Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, II, 14)
|The Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain . . .
. . . is (or can be) a plane of immanence
Jamieson and Cappella don't get it: the "vulgarity" they so coyly refer to is the sado-sexual performativity of the GOP right
A striking illustration of the cognitive limitations of liberals is that they fail to note the obvious--that is, they fail to conceptualize the generic character of this stream of sado-sexual performances. The excerpt at the right from Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment, makes this clear. Jamieson and Cappella just don't get it: The vulgarity and sadism of Limbaugh's rhetoric is the main event in this theater of ressentiment. The sado-sexual fixations that are the essense of right-wing signifying chains may dress themselves up as issues (such as abortion or Obamacare or the Wall), as if they were subject to rational debate and beholden to empirical checks. But these "issues" are merely the occasion for the expression of emotionally appealing sexual inuendo and sadism, and "facts" are merely props in the theater of ressentiment. One of the indications of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberal and progressive discourse is that it is fundamentally incapable of grasping this elemental fact.
|"Why the vulgarity in this message
does not alienate the churchgoing conservatives in his audiences a
question for which we have no ready answer."
"'Animals!' the crowd cheered, echoing the remarks Trump made earlier this month"
Trump doubles down on MS-13 'animals' comment: 'They're not human beings', The Tennessean May 29, 2018) [Gomez, Donald, Wrangham, McMahon
from the Oxford Dictionary of Biology — Family Values
Hominid. Any member of the primate family Hominidae, which includes humans and their fossil ancestors in the tribe Hominini. The hominid family is now regarded as also including the other extant great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutan—formerly constituting the family Pongidae) and extinct groups, such as Australopithecus and Dryopithecus .
from Juan Carlos Gomez, Apes, Monkees, Children and the Growth of Mind (Harvard, 2004)
The possibility that, at a reduced scale, the mind of an ape can be upgraded by giving him, on the one hand, a regime of socally controlled attention and interactive experiences with humans, and on the other, a new, more explicit form of representing the world, would confer dramatic support to the Vygotskian notion that higher cognition can be created through cultural processes of development that change the nature of cognitive ontogeny. (pp. 262-3)from Merlin Donald, A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness (Norton, 2001)
. . . modern culture contains within it a trace of each of our previous stages of cognitive evolution. It still rests on the same old primate brain capacity for episodic or event knowledge. But it has three additional, uniquely human layers: a mimetic layer, an oral-linguistic layer, and an external-symbolic layer. The minds of individuals reflect these three ways of representing reality. (p. 262)
from Merlin Donald, "The mind considered from a historical perspective: human cognitive phylogenesis and the possibility of continuing cognitive evolution." In D. Johnson & C. Ermeling (Eds.) The Future of the Cognitive Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 360-61
Mimetic representations are evident in human children before they acquire language competence. . . . They continue to be important in adults, taking the form of highly variable social customs, athletic skills, and group expressive patterns (such as mass demonstrations of aggression or rejection).
" . . . the existence on earth of an animal soul turned against itself . . . "
Joseph Conrad on the GOP
Topography of the Two-party system
U.S. Political Economy
by Sector, 1910-1948
TOPOLOGY depressive paranoid-schizoid
POLITICAL STYLE progressive proto-Dorian
COGNITIVE MODE concrete + pre- pre-operational + gestural
operational + psuedo-concrete
Simon Clarke, Social Theory, Psychoanalysis and Racism (Palgrave Macmillan; 2003)
Alain Ehrenberg, The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age(McGill-Queen's University Press (December 20, 2009)
Eli Zarestsky, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (Vintage, 2005)
Darrin M. McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightement: the French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001)
Senate, 1918. Alabama
Doug Jones Roy Moore
The Sapient Paradox and Figure 1
|Lacan and the problem of the imaginary
Cliff Williams and Simon Jarvis's Wordworth's Philosophic Song (Cambridge, 2007)—Bildung
the Pathos of Donald Trump
***Watch Trump rallies closely. The audience is usually unfocused, almost bored in the haze of broken English spoken by Trump. Bored, restless, talking among themselves, cognitively not there, but waiting for the punch line, the expletive, the primitive, hate-filled denunciation: license has been given (Kallis). Then they wake up, some more slowly than others, as they catch on, and howl their delight, only to subside into a state of not being. This the pundits refer to as "energy." This is, ontologically speaking, some really primitive stuff. This is why media discourse on the real-world economic grievances of white men simultaneously get it and miss it completely. They are finally being forced to address what has been a trend obvious for decades, but not discussed in the media until the breakdown of elite control of public discourse in the primary campaigns of 2016. What they miss is the deep structure of this rage; the cognitive primitiveness of its expression; the centuries long history of ressentiment as the inner logic of ultra-nationalism and fascism and racism
Beyond sadism (the beating heart of the GOP), and related to it, are the cognitive consequences of a politics of bestiality. It is not merely that Donald Trump Talks Like a Third-Grader (Politico, August 13, 1915).
Language on the threshold of gesture and reflex. Regression to infantile narcissism via processes of identification, to a politics of patrimonialism.
In stead, liberals legitimize white supremamcy and racism by taking at face value the con, an constructing a fictive, ausrd cogitive position-----
|" . . . a whole tremulous realm of subterranean revenge, inexhaustible and insatiable . . . "
|Nietzsche, "How things will become ever more artistic in Europe", The Gay Science § 256
Roland, FDR, FF, Brand, Cooke
President Trump’s Big-Money Establishment, NYT Jan 24, 2017
the study area
the extended mind
a summary of findings as prolegomena
Heart of Darkness: Conrad's White man
"Their talk, however, was the talk of sordid buccaneers. It was reckless without hardihood, greedy without audacity, and cruel without courage. There was not an atom of foresight or of serious intention in the whole batch of them, and they did not seem aware these things are wanted for the work of the world. To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe." (Signet, p. 250; Norton Critical Edition, p. 30
|from Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
and Antonio R. Damasio, “We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of
Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education,” in Emotions, Learning,
and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective
Neuroscience (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015)
. . . learning is dynamic, social, and context dependent because emotions are, and emotions form a critical piece of how, what, when, and why people think, remember, and learn. Intro, p. 17
In general, cognition and emotion are regarded as two interrelated aspects of human functioning. p. 36
rhetorical performance of the right is not only cognitively
primitive. It should be obvious that
On the right there are not issues, but postures, gestures, various encodings of the same sado-sexual reflex (the inner logic of racism, its genetic ontology*). Rage enacted in a political-media theater of violence, hatreed, sadism, and revenge. (NIETZ): this is the essence of what is called "Conservative" today. And not only rage, but political pornography. Consider the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain, and bring Clarke in at this time. Sex and violence make up the entirety of the inner logic, the generative matrix, of populist Republicanism. These sado-sexual fixations may dress themselves up as issues, as if they were subject to rational debate and beholden to empirical checks (remember Willie Horton?). Language on the threshold of gesture and reflex. Regression to infantile narcissism via processes of identification, to a politics of patrimonialism.
But what is new with the Trump campaign--and decisively so--is that a "demagogue" has literally hijacked the base of the Republican Party. The genetic ontology of ressentiment produces a subject. But that subject--the Trump enthusiasts one sees at rallies and in interviews and focus groups--has been embedded in the cultural-historical field of white supremacy (see The Imus Brouhaha and that which is called "Racism"). The containment of surplus agression, rage and hatred--which GOP politics has hitherto been able to shunt aside after having ridden this rage to victory--has depended on two things.
First, an economy of white affirmative action guaranteeing great masses of "white" folk sole access to those sectors of employment embedded in local government (police, fire, govt administration, utilities, transportation, building services, construction, and skilled trades in manufacturing). And second, a semioitic regime of ego-reinforcing symbols (positive and negative identifications). When you add the election of Barak Obama to the economic consequences of the regime of neoliberal globalization (which includes declining wages as well as job losses) you add insult to injury, and one gets a psycho-cultural crackup of world-historic proportions. This is what Trump exploits.
NCES, Highlights PISA 2003, p. 14 NCES, Highlights PISA 2009, p. 18
NCES, Highlights PISA 2006, p. 12 NCES, PISA 2012, Math v
NCES, PISA 2015, Math
Korea and Japan are in light blue; Asia: Asian cities and city-states (C & C-S) are in light orange (see below for a breakout of the components of this category); Scandinavian nations + Switzerland are in dark blue; Anglo-Saxon nations in orange; France, Germany, Belgium and Poland in green; Italy, Portugal and Spain in red; the United States in yellow.
Of the European nations omitted from this graph, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus scored below the United States in math. Ahead of the United States but not shown are Estonia, Slovenia, Ireland, Austria, Russian Federation, Czech Republic, Iceland, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Lithuania, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic.
The United States does better on reading and science, but math it taken by many as the more important indicator.
that, at a reduced scale, the mind of an ape can be upgraded by giving
him, on the one hand, a regime of socally controlled attention and
interactive experiences with humans, and on the other, a new, more
explicit form of representing the world, would confer dramatic support
to the Vygotskian notion that higher cognition can be created through
cultural processes of development that change the nature of cognitive
ADD Donald on layers of the mind
Hitler speech Trump speech
These texts map onto the Left-Right binary
Gomez, Donald, Wrangham, McMahon
Rabids and Thoughtfuls
These sado-sexual fixations may dress themselves up as issues, as if they were subject to rational debate and beholden to empirical checks.
Language on the threshold of gesture and reflex. Language on the threshold of gesture and reflex. Regression to infantile narcissism via processes of identification, to a politics of patrimonialism.
|from Juan Carlos Gomez, Apes, Monkees, Children and the Growth of Mind (Harvard University Press, 2004)
But is there any evidence that nonhuman primates may experience something akin to a cultural shaping of their minds in the way Vygotsky implied for human children? . . . . More recently, Tomasello (1999) has emphasized the "socialization of attention" and cognition in general as the explanation for higher achievements (by human standards) of human-reared apes. Although the two approaches emphasize very different factors, in fact from a Vygotskian perspective they are complimentary. Vygotsky's view was that adult mediation was optimally achieved through the use of signs and symbols, especially speech and language. In his view, higher cognitive processes--the processes that differentiate humans from other apes--could only be created through this sociocultural mediation. The possibility that, at a reduced scale, the mind of an ape can be upgraded by giving him, on the one hand, a regime of socally controlled attention and interactive experiences with humans, and on the other, a new, more explicit form of representing the world, would confer dramatic support to the Vygotskian notion that higher cognition can be created through cultural processes of development that change the nature of cognitive ontogeny. (pp. 262-3)
|from Selections from Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882/1887)
What will not be built any more henceforth, and cannot be built any more, is—a society in the old sense of that word; to build that, everything is lacking, above all the material. All of us are no longer material for a society; this is a truth for which the time has come. It is a matter of indifference to me that at present the most myopic, perhaps most honest, but at any rate noisiest human type that we have today, our good socialists, believe, hope, dream, and above all shout and write almost the opposite. Even now one reads their slogan for the future "free society" on all tables and walls. Free society? Yes, yes! But surely you know, gentlemen, what is required for building that? Wooden iron! The well-known wooden iron." And it must not even be wooden.
Is it a coincidence that Trump uses the language of white supremacy? (WAPO 4-20-18)
speaking of elites
Behav Brain Sci. 2006 Jun;29(3):211-24; discussion 224-57.
Nell V1, "Cruelty's rewards: the gratifications of perpetrators and spectators."
Cruelty is the deliberate infliction of physical or psychological pain on other living creatures, sometimes indifferently, but often with delight. Though cruelty is an overwhelming presence in the world, there is no neurobiological or psychological explanation for its ubiquity and reward value. This target article attempts to provide such explanations by describing three stages in the development of cruelty. Stage 1 is the development of the predatory adaptation from the Palaeozoic to the ethology of predation in canids, felids, and primates. Stage 2, through palaeontological and anthropological evidence, traces the emergence of the hunting adaptation in the Pliocene, its development in early hominids, and its emotional loading in surviving forager societies. This adaptation provides an explanation for the powerful emotions - high arousal and strong affect - evoked by the pain-blood-death complex. Stage 3 is the emergence of cruelty about 1.5 million years ago as a hominid behavioural repertoire that promoted fitness through the maintenance of personal and social power. The resulting cultural elaborations of cruelty in war, in sacrificial rites, and as entertainment are examined to show the historical and cross-cultural stability of the uses of cruelty for punishment, amusement, and social control. Effective violence prevention must begin with perpetrators, not victims. If the upstream approaches to violence prevention advocated by the public-health model are to be effective, psychologists must be able to provide violence prevention workers with a fine-grained understanding of perpetrator gratifications. This is a distasteful task that will compel researchers to interact with torturers and abusers, and to acknowledge that their gratifications are rooted in a common human past. It is nonetheless an essential step in developing effective strategies for the primary prevention of violence.
from Frank Ninivaggi, Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010)
from "Teaching Math to the Talented" (Education Next, Winter 2011, Vol. 11, NO. 1
We give special attention to math performance because math appears to be the subject in which accomplishment in secondary school is particularly significant for both an individual’s and a country’s economic well-being. Existing research, though not conclusive, indicates that math skills better predict future earnings and other economic outcomes than other skills learned in high school. The American Diploma Project estimates that “in 62 percent of American jobs over the next 10 years, entry-level workers will need to be proficient in algebra, geometry, data interpretation, probability and statistics.”
from Amanda Ripley, The Smartest Kids in the World, and how they got that way, Simon & Schuster (2013), pp. 70-72.
Math is a language of logic. It is a disciplined, organized way of thinking. There is a right anwer; there are rules tht must be followed. More than any other subject, math is rigor distilled. Mastering the languge of logic helps to embed higher-order habits in kids' minds. The ability to reason . . . to detect patterns and to make informed guesses.
from a BBC interview with Andreas Schleicher, the Division Head and coordinator of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA): "How Pisa became the world's most important exam", BBC.com, 26 November 2013
Among the starkest revelations has been the decline of the US school system. This former education superpower has been caught up and left behind by many other countries, particularly in Asia.
This was distasteful medicine and Mr Schleicher says that the US administration was deeply unhappy with the 2006 results and was trying to apply pressure on the OECD.
The US politician who intervened to defend the importance of publishing the results was Ted Kennedy, says Mr Schleicher. Kennedy, who had chaired the senate committee on education, had become very supportive of the Pisa project.
"It was Senator Kennedy who saved my life at the OECD," he says.