invisible university

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.
"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

"escaping from our Cartesian prison requires more than a change in our academic language games." 

Lambros Malafouris, How Things Shape the Mind (MIT Press, 2013)

"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."

Ian Hacking (Collčge de France), review of Jan Goldstein, The post-revolutionary self: politics and psyche in France, 1750-1850 (Harvard, 2008)

 " . . . 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." 

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke University, 2007)

Bestiality.  Oxford English Dictionary

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.
   Figure 1.  PISA Math Scores, 2003 to 2015: 20 Developed Nations
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 [2004] 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

¶ 2, "The legitimation of violence against a demonized internal enemy" perfectly encapsulates the the "populist" performativity of Trump's  rallies. 

¶ 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.

  ¶ 3 was written before the rise of the Tea Party following the election of  Barack Obama.  That the Tea Party as a cultural-historical phenomenon is best understood through a familiarity with the literature on fascism obvious.
Fascism is a Concept
not an epithet

from Eckart Förster, The Twenty-Five Years of Philosophy: a Systematic Reconstruction (Harvard, 2012)

 . . . concepts have their basis in functions, by which Kant understands “the unity of the act of bringing various representations under one common representaton.” (A68).  A concept is a rule for combining certain representations (and thus also a principle for excluding certain others).  Thus the represesntations’white’, ‘grainy’, ‘saline’ are combined and ordered in the concept ‘salt, while the representations ‘colorless’, ‘liquid’, ‘tasteless’ (say) are not.  In this way a concept is a rule allowing me to unite certain representations and to bring them under a higher representation, i.e. the concept. (pp. 22-3)

Cognition does not consist merely in the collecting of phenomena; rather we strive to forge conceptual links between them and to grasp the laws of nature that are valid for specific classes of objects as cases of yet more general laws, whereby we are guided by the ideal of a unified explanation of nature. (p. 38)

“To make concepts out of representations one must be able to compare, to reflect, and to abstract, for these three logical operations of the understanding are the essential and universal conditions for the generation of every concept whatsoever.  I see, e.g., a spruce, a willow, and a linden.  By first comparing these objects with one another I note that they are different from one another in regard to the trunk, the btanches, the leaves, etc.; but next I reflect on that which they have in common among themselves, trunk, branches, and leaves themselves, and I abstract from the quantity, the figure, etc., of these; thus I acquire a concept of a tree.” (pp. 250-51)

The Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain: the genetic ontology of the GOP
from Wikipedia: (Lee Atwater's Infamous 1981 Interview on the Southern Strategy)

As a member of the Reagan administration in 1981, Atwater gave an anonymous interview to political scientist Alexander P. Lamis. Part of the interview was printed in Lamis's book The Two-Party South, then reprinted in Southern Politics in the 1990s with Atwater's name revealed. . . . Atwater talked about the Republican Southern Strategy and Ronald Reagan's version of it:

Atwater: As to the whole Southern strategy that Harry S. Dent, Sr. and others put together in 1968, opposition to the Voting Rights Act would have been a central part of keeping the South. Now you don't have to do that. All you have to do to keep the South is for Reagan to run in place on the issues he's campaigned on since 1964 and that's fiscal conservatism, balancing the budget, cut taxes, you know, the whole cluster.

Questioner: But the fact is, isn't it, that Reagan does get to the Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater: You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger"—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a by-product of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."

The GOP as the Party of Bestiality

the GOP as Party of Sado-Sexual Obsessiveness

Compare Paxton's ¶ 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 organized into a sado-sexual performativity that is the essence of the GOP's mass appeal. 

The evocation of evil and the channelling of rage against a scapegoat (various forms of the other) is the stock-in-trade of Republican politicians.  In this respect Trump is no different (see GOP as the Stupid Party).  (see LASC)

The sado-sexual fixations that are the essense of right-wing signifying chains may dress themselves up as issues (such as abortion or Obamacare), as if they were subject to rational debate and beholden to empirical checks.  But they are clearly not, and one of the indications of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberal and progressive discourse (see Jamieson) is that it is fundamentally incapable of grasping this elemental fact.  "Facts" are merely props in the theater of ressentiment.  By now this should be obvious

What liberals miss is the simple brutishness of the rhetorical performances of the right, an inexhaustible reservoir of rage, cognitively primitive, sadistic in impulse and sexual in symbolic content (although this is often implicit--see Lacan: signifying chain). Several pages on this site contain images, videos, newspaper reports, and political ads that span the years 2009 to 2018.  (Two of the videos (Father of Gun Victim and Kelly Ayotte Criticized), from June 20, 2013. are presented here.  They are concrete moments in the unfolding of QHD-3, ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense.)

the GOP as the Stupid Party

Friedrich Nietzsche  on the Lacan-Atwater Signifying Chain
from The Geneology of Morals, II, 14)

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!

Semiotic Regimes
LEFT                           RIGHT 

    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)
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
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 
This 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: 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.
sources and notes

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.

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.

ADD Donald on layers of the mind

Hitler speech    Trump speech 
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)

Semiotic Regimes 

This pages presents two sets of left-right rhetorical positioning.

The pro- and anti-war demonstrators' signs and the table rabids vs. thoughtfuls are moments in the unfolding the two-party discursive field.  In the competing demonstrations the pro-war signs involved demonization, rage, and expulsion/purification; the anti-war signs involved issue statements.. The rage directed against the other is a principle axis--an eigenvector--of the right.  A large percentage of right-wing expressions are of this character.

The Stupid Party

It is obvious, therefore, that we have to function within two analytical domains: developmental psychology and psychoanalysis.  This page deal with the psychological dimension of the rhetorical peformances of the right: its sado-sexual obsessiveness.

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)

from Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Joseph N. Cappella, Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (Oxford Univeristy Press, 2008), p.p. 188-89. (Emphasis added.)

Limbaugh's attempts at gender-based "humor" are of the locker room variety.  As the California gubernatorial recall was heating up, Limbaugh informed his folowers that Leutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante--"whose name loosely translates into Spanish for 'large breasts'--leads the Terminator by a few pionts" (August 18, 2003).  A photomontage on the Limbaugh website shows a photograph of Schwartzenegger's head and shoulders from his Pumping Iron days as a body builder.  A naked woman has been transposed onto his shoulders.  Over her breasts is a sign reading BUSTAMONTE.  When Madonna endorsed General Wesley Clark, Limbaugh reported that she had "opened herself" to him.  Why the vulgarity in this message does not alienate the churchgoing conservatives in his audiences a question for which we have no ready answer.


from Frank Ninivaggi, Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2010)