May 23, 2006
Race online, or "cybertypes"

A review of Cybertypes by Lisa Nakamura.

From: Kali Tal - Reviews: Lisa Nakamura: Cybertypes:

Nakamura gives us excellent coverage of the phenomenon she calls "techno-Orientalism" in her chapter "Race in the Construct and the Construction of Race: The ‘Consensual Hallucination’ of Multiculturalism in the Fictions of Cyberspace." In this chapter she takes a variety of popular ‘cyberpunk’ novels and films –including Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash and The Diamond Age– to task for reinscriptions of racism within their texts. Her reading of Andy and Larry Wachowski’s The Matrix is most interesting for its incorporation of George Lipsitz’s notion of "the possessive investment in whiteness"(78), upon which her analysis of the character Cypher is founded: "the only white man on the crew betrays the humans precisely because he wants to jump the ship of multiculturalism and reclaim his possessive investment of whiteness."(78) Nakamura persuasively argues that "[Cypher’s] claims to being oppressed while he is receiving no less and no more than any other crew member … invokes the ways that a lack of white privilege can be experienced as oppression."(78) The comparison of Cypher to Allan Bakke (famous for his "reverse racism" suit in the late 1970s), filtered through Lipsitz’s lens of possessive investment is downright brilliant, and all by itself is worth the price of admission.
Seriously, was Cypher the only white guy in the crew? I swear there was another white guy.

Edit: yeah, there was another white guy. The idea that Cypher's sellout is an pointer to white privilege is still pretty compelling though.

For some reason the neologism "Cybertype" irks me. Apparently Nakamura also coined "Identity Tourist" for which I am eternally grateful, and so I'll probably let cybertypes go.

Posted by illovich at 02:57 PM
May 16, 2006
More on racism and video games

a post over at Terranova led me to this collection of links at Gameology:
Race and Video Games | Gameology

These should be helpful in future papers.

Posted by illovich at 04:01 PM
April 12, 2005
Foucault for Classical Liberals

Foucault for Classical Liberals. Jason Kuznicki picks up on the similarity between Foucault and Thrasymachus that I noticed.

Not sure I totally agree with his assessments of Foucault, but good counter perspective.

Posted by illovich at 01:31 PM
more thrasymachus/foucault

Æ - Plato, Justice, and the Beautiful Soul

The reason for this universal pattern in the laws and customs that govern human societies is not simply human greed. To speak of greed is to suggest that a different, non-selfish kind of human behaviour is both possible and, in some way, superior. Neither of these alternatives, however, is the case. Humans behave the way they do because of the desires that they have, and there is no non-arbitrary way of deciding whose desires should be satisfied and whose not. Stated differently, there are no independently existing standards of right and wrong conduct; we make these standards, which means that, in practice, the rules of correct human conduct prevalent at any particular time and place will be the ones that serve the interests of the politically powerful. People who censure other people’s behaviour as being greedy are in fact merely trying to re-arrange things more to their own advantage. There is no higher standpoint from which to judge the actions of others. Morality is simply war conducted by other means.

If I were to ask you who holds the above views about justice and morality, you might be tempted to name several contemporary figures, perhaps a modern de-constructionist such as Michel Foucault, or some of the many contemporary followers of the nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In fact, the above views are all put forward by one of Socrates’ interlocutors in Plato’s Republic, a man by the name of Thrasymachus. [1] Thrasymachus’ account of morality and justice is a somewhat extreme version of moral subjectivism. Moral subjectivism argues that human actions are not moral because of any intrinsic properties that belong to them, independent of us. Rather, human actions are moral because they elicit a certain response in us, typically because they please us or are useful to us in some way or other, and, as a consequence, we consider them to be morally good. This position is sometimes also called moral relativism inasmuch as moral judgments are thought to be grounded in individual preferences that are peculiar to one person or a particular group of persons, and do not hold universally.

I mention Thrasymachus’ moral subjectivism because it is important to realize that the views on the nature of human morality and justice set out by Socrates in the Republic are presented by him in full awareness of the alternative account of morality and justice stated above. In other words, Socrates’ account of morality and justice is not a naïve one, presented by someone who is unaware that another, much less flattering account of human behaviour is possible. On the contrary, in Thrasymachus, Socrates faces an opponent who believes he has dispensed with all religious and conventional obfuscation, and has instead reason and scientific observation on his side. The same can be said for Socrates’ defence in the Symposium of the view that the objects of our experience are beautiful only to the extent that they possess certain intrinsic, observer-independent properties. Socrates defends this claim explicitly against what might be called aesthetic subjectivism, namely the view that beauty is not an intrinsic feature of certain objects of our experience, but that we consider something to be beautiful only insofar as it pleases us. The first part of my paper considers the arguments given by Socrates in Plato’s Republic for what one might call moral objectivism. The second part of my paper attempts to show how very similar arguments are used by Socrates in the Symposium to argue for what one might call aesthetic objectivism. In the third part, I consider briefly some objections to the above views and how Socrates might respond to them.

Christopher Byrne is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Co-ordinator of the Classical Studies Programme at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada. His research interests include ancient Greek views of nature, in particular, Aristotle's natural science, and ancient Greek moral theories. Two recent publications are "Matter and Aristotle's Material Cause," Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (2001), 85-111, and "Aristotle on Physical Necessity and the Limits of Teleological Explanation," Apeiron 35 (2002), 19-46.

The perversions of Michel Foucault by Roger Kimball
One thing that is refreshing about Foucault’s political follies, however, is that they tend to make otherwise outlandish figures appear comparatively tame. In a debate that aired on Dutch television in the early Seventies, for example, the famous American radical and linguist Noam Chomsky appears as a voice of sanity and moderation in comparison to Foucault. As Mr. Miller reports it, while Chomsky insisted “we must act as sensitive and responsible human beings,” Foucault replied that such ideas as responsibility, sensitivity, justice, and law were merely “tokens of ideology” that completely lacked legitimacy. “The proletariat doesn’t wage war against the ruling class because it considers such a war to be just,” he argued. “The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because … it wants to take power.” Of course, this has been the standard sophistical line since Socrates encountered Thrasymachus, but these days one rarely hears it so bluntly articulated. Nor were such performances rare. In another debate, Foucault championed the September Massacres of 1792, in which over a thousand people suspected of harboring royalist sympathies were ruthlessly butchered, as a sterling example of “popular justice” at work. As Mr. Miller puts it, Foucault believed that justice would be best served “by throwing open every prison and shutting down every court.”

From the increasingly-entertaining New Criterion

Posted by illovich at 01:29 PM
even more foucault salted with Thrasymachus

Vol 13 No 2 Beyond scrutiny

Such attitudes predate post-modernism and Foucault's dissection of claims to truth and right as closet exercises of power. [1] Plato's character ‘Thrasymachus' claims all regimes exercise power in their own interest. [2] All are like shepherds who fatten sheep for the table, a graphic expression of amoral equivalence.

Amoral equivalence is, of course, contested. Some radical feminists argue that, since Foucault's (or Thrasymachus') analysis renders all exercises of power equivalent, actions by men against women get removed from moral evaluation.

This misgiving underlines the scope of amoral equivalence. If power in the political arena is essentially amoral, then other areas involving power are apparently also amoral. As well as male violence against women, two obvious areas of concern arise for Christians, that of the church and the family. Is a pastor who ‘leads strongly' really different from one who bullies a congregation? Should we distinguish between parental authority and parental authoritarianism?

Naturally, Christians recognise some degree of equivalence: all have sinned (Romans 3:23 ) and our exercises of power are alike imperfect actions by sinful people. Yet we do not normally regard all imperfect actions by sinful people as completely equivalent. The father who tries to love rather than exasperate his children, for all his imperfection, does not seem comparable with the father who finds a certain piquancy in his children's exasperation. If they really were amorally equivalent, injunctions about using authority after the Fall seem pointless.

Posted by illovich at 01:27 PM
March 22, 2005
foot switch fever

These Kinesis Foot Switches might come in handy for something--but what is it?

Posted by illovich at 11:38 AM
March 17, 2005
take it to the board

I'll need to get a Board of Education (USB) for a class I want to take.


Posted by illovich at 04:03 PM
October 14, 2004
Simulacra and Science Fiction

Jean Baudrillard- Two Essays: Simulacra and Science Fiction & Ballard's Crash

Posted by illovich at 02:44 PM
September 26, 2004
computer game journal

Game Studies is a crossdisciplinary journal dedicated to games research, web-published several times a year at [Their] primary focus is aesthetic, cultural and communicative aspects of computer games. (text taken form their site)

Posted by illovich at 09:50 PM
t[he] de/con/struct/ionism o(f) Pooh

Trying to find a good introduction/discussion on what the textuality/discursiveness is, I stumbled across POOH ON DECONSTRUCTION, which I'm sure to appreciate even more in the near future.

Posted by illovich at 08:42 PM