Everything posted by ephelotes
ephelotes added a topic in History and Philosophy of Sciencehistory of psychiatryI wrote this in my blog.
If anyone likes the history of psychiatry, or has any comments to make on Deleuze and Guittari, or Robert Castel, that would be great.
It’s been some time since I’ve updated. I recently had to prepare for the conference, and I’ve been going through draft after draft of my personal statement for med school applications. The work, I think, is paying off, but it has been a lot of work. I submit my med school application within the next couple of weeks.
I would like to make a new post about something, something that has been important area of study for me for several years now. I recently presented at a History of Medicine conference at Berkeley, and I put together the following paper for that.
I did not finish my presentation; my mouth ran dry within the first 15 seconds, and I had to run off to get water. Also, unlike previous conferences, I went through the paper slowly and emphatically. This means that I got through a lot less material than I normally would. I prefer this, as I think it greatly improves the presentation quality. But it has its drawbacks.
So, with minor modifications, I am attaching only the fragment that I completed in presenting. The entire presentation, and the argument when put clearly, runs through so many twists and turns that it is impossible to fit it into such a small space of a 20 minute presentation. I furthermore recognize how much I need to read the more modern, more theoretical historians of psychiatry, like Robert Castel, and others, like Deleuze and Guittari.
If you like what you see, check again every once in a while for the next year or so. I will continue to post on this subject sporadically.
The use of DSM since DSM-III is ubiquitous in psychiatric research and practice: it is used for every research study submitted to the FDA to prove drug efficacy for registration; a diagnosis is applied to every patient in order to receive third party reimbursement through insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid; almost all patients come to understand themselves as having a DSM diagnosed disorder.
On the one hand, there is a corpus of research produced by the use of post-DSM-III nosology that is regarded as path-breaking and important–neuroscientific, epidemiological, molecular genetic. On the other, there is the ever-present caveat: are not the many persistent blind spots, perplexities, and limits in psychiatric research produced by the very categories that make it possible? This reflexivity is markedly present in the Research Agenda for DSM-V: “The limitations in the current diagnostic paradigm suggest that research exclusively focused on refining the DSM-defined syndromes may never be successful in uncovering their underlying etiologies. For that to happen, an as yet unknown paradigm shift may need to occur.” Nancy Andreasen–who was a core member of the initial 9-person DSM-III Task Force and Chair of the Schizophrenia Work Group for DSM-IV, wrote in 2007: “DSM diagnoses have given researchers a common nomenclature—but probably the wrong one. Although creating standardized diagnoses that would facilitate research was a major goal, DSM diagnoses are not useful for research because of their lack of validity.”
I could go on for at least an hour with citations of the top guys in psychiatry who say these kinds of things. The question is, then, how did DSM come about if it’s so poorly regarded by the top researchers in the field?
The immediate historical event that marks the background of practice at the psychiatric hospital as it exists today–and really, psychiatric services at large–is deinstitutionalization. Deinstitutionalization is generally defined as the movement of care for mentally ill from being confined in psychiatric hospitals, to outside of psychiatric hospitals, in outpatient care, prisons, nursing homes, marginal living conditions, the streets, etc. As you know, by the end of the around the time of the French revolution in the West (the years vary by country), the mentally ill had undergone a change in status during what Foucault called the great confinement. The rationale for this was that, by the patient’s being isolated from the community, in a specially created therapeutic environment, the patient could recover and be re-instated as a sane, rational member of the community. Therapeutic optimism was high; the practice was considered an apogee of civilized and humane practice, a capstone of Enlightenment.
In the 1950s and 1960s, this view was completely reversed. What was considered the hallmark of civilized society became the hallmark of its barbarity in a profound reversal.
What caused deinstitutionalization?
The view in psychiatry, among those not so familiar with the history or sociology of deinstitutionalization, the triumphalist view of the psychiatrists, is that the hospitals were emptied by the rise of the new psychopharmacology, the neuroleptics, the antidepressants, lithium, and so on, in the 1950s through the 1980s. This, according to the view, still found in much of the literature, including Edward Shorter’s widely read 1997 history, was the miracle of magic bullet medicine. This was however refuted as early as 1964. A list of reasons for refusing this interpretation include the following. First, it has been repeatedly shown that there was no statistical correlation between the introduction of Thorazine and the discharge rate in the hospitals. Second, the rate of deinstitutionalization has been extremely variegated worldwide, even as the introduction of neuroleptics has been relatively consistent—centered around 1955. Third, Japan is a completely different—and opposite story—with almost as many patients per capita in hospitals as the United States at its peak; Japan probably uses psychotropics even more extensively in its hospitals than does the US—presumably, to make the custodial aspects of its hospitals even more efficient. Fourth, in the spirit of the 1960s, all institutions were under fire and subject to reforms. In conclusion, I claim that deinstitutionalization was caused by a broader progressive social trend affecting Western societies in a variety of other profound ways. The psychopharmacological revolution was related to a third factor, a more fundamental change in psychiatry, which was in turn related to a restructuring of society’s social relations.
The fundamental change in psychiatry, about which discussion of deinstitutionalization is, I’d venture to claim, a mystification, is as follows. Where psychiatry as a marginal medical specialty relegated exclusively to the administration of total institutions in 1900, with a fraction of a percent of the population in hospitals, to today, where 1 in 5 people are undergoing some sort of psychiatric treatment at any given time. In a word, it is not so much that psychiatric patients have been mainstreamed, but that the mainstream has become psychiatric patients. The notion of deinstitutionalization around which this contemporary discourse operates conceals its dialectical opposite in material reality.
What is it that changed fundamentally in society that caused the change in psychiatry, of which I claim that discourse on deinstitutionalization was a mystification? To answer this question, let’s backtrack.
Japan, as I have said, is the only country of its level of development not to have pursued deinstitutionalization. This is the exceptional case that will show the reason for the rule.
When other countries were criticizing the asylum, Japan was doing much the same. Except in the case of Japan, what was criticized as inhumane was the practice of families locking up their mentally ill members in special rooms and cells at home. In Japan in 1950, legislation was passed to transfer patients from home care to the hospital setting. Keeping mentally ill family members at home was outlawed. In 1965, and several times thereafter, more legislation was passed to deinstitutionalize these asylums in turn, to no effect: while the legislation is on the books, the situation does not change. Today, there are over 350,000 hospital beds in Japan, often built up in remote mountain regions, secluded from society—13.5 times the number per capita as the US and 4.5 times the UK. This is almost as many as in the US, per capita, in 1955.
I claim that this configuration of the Japanese is not unrelated to other aspects of Japanese society that are unusual by Western standards. The Japanese solution to the problem of the severely mentally ill is not unrelated to the mandatory confinement of lepers until 1996 on secluded island colonies, the notorious Japanese xenophobia, the almost neo-feudalist structure of society, the rigidity and polarity of gender roles, the strict conformism.
To have eccentric schizophrenics pursuing distinguished scholarly careers—as we know that Elyn Saks did in the past few decades (get her book, called The Center Won’t Hold; you can also see her TED talk)—while in the midst of intermittent psychosis would be unthinkable in Japan. To have psychiatric services that attempt to re-shape subjectivities that diverge in wide variations to a basic cultural standard (as in the West) is unthinkable. Such a wide range of subjectivities simply does not exist; social and moral authorities remain strict and immanent within Japanese society, not outsourced, as it were, to technical interventions in psychiatry. When one’s desires do not match propriety, as they did for Confucius in old age, one represses oneself.
Not so in the West. If the 1960s was the time in our history where universality was extended to an unprecedented multiplicity of groups, then it was also a time when no longer could we as a society comfortably define abnormality as merely a kind of moral and cultural “Other.” Moral authority, the authority of the Father, was completely rejected at this time—we now live, as some call it, in a post-Oedipal age. Recall Foucault’s indictment of Pinel, Pinel the Father, near the end of the History of Madness. With the abolition of Pinel, or the Father in general— (Foucault, in a move characteristic of his critique of psychiatry standing for a critique of society, conflates the two) — as the nodal points of morality, you also lose a unary notion of madness, you lose anything apart from the notion of a pragmatic, technical intervention into the problem behaviors of another. This relativization, this critique of psychiatry was more than a critique of psychiatry, but a critique, as the 1960s radicals had it, of bourgeois morality as such.
Because of this collapse of the buttressing of psychiatry from the point of view of a uniform, homogeneous societal moral authority, Western psychiatry took a sharp turn; DSM-III is the outcome of that. As psychiatrist David Healy notes, the 1973 extirpation of homosexuality from consideration as a category in DSM-III was the crowning symbolic event of this change. The shift from DSM-II in 1968 to DSM-III in 1980 was a shift from a relatively unified psychoanalytic theoreticization of disorders numbering in the dozens, to the technical, atheoretical description of diverse aberrant behavioral domains numbering in the hundreds. (Although DSM-III was a manual produced in the 80s, it had its origins in 1967, with the Feighner criteria–which had all the main features of DSM-III categories.) We are instead now encouraged to see a patient as mentally ill more primarily for the purposes of that context-specific intervention that suits them, not in the psychoanalytic framework of DSM-II, which, though less specific than DSM-III still implies a lot more that is claimed hard and fast about human nature. If old moralities are still present (the moralities of the Father, that target of Foucault), each is today split and scattered about in dozens of pragmatic pieces.
End of my fragment.
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ephelotes added a topic in ExploreThe unexamined life is not worth living: Socrates, philosophy, and womenHi all. Just posted this on my blog. Please let me know if you have any thoughts.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Widely circulated, the meaning of this quote is entirely empty. The meaning of the quote is empty because the meaning of the word unexamined is ambiguous. Is examination chastisement, and self-examination a kind of contrition for life’s sins—as some Christians would say? Or is it, perhaps, the discovery or clarification of personal desire, an attempt to release ourselves from the false desires that are imposed upon us by others—as a disciple of psychoanalysis might suggest? Maybe examination is simply an honest look at our behavior, so that it matches a certain set of political principles—in line with some attitudes that are self-consciously political?
The empty ambiguity of “examination,” and thus the quote, explains its popularity: it flatters the hearer by meaning whatever the hearer thinks it should mean. In this way, ironically, this quote of Socrates, the “gadfly of Greece,” achieves the opposite of examination. In a paradoxical turn, the quote reinforces bias and complacency. “Of course, I, as a thoughtful person, have an examined life. And Socrates says I’m doing life the right way. Socrates was truly a great man!”
This mistake is understandable. How is it possible for someone to know Socrates thought differently? A more contextualized quote: “The greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others. The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” “Virtue and all that concerning which Socrates examines himself and others” are concepts: the concepts of living life. Accordingly, if we know these concepts, we can live properly. So, Socratic examination is aimed at achieving proper living. When placed in context, we see the deeper, radically altered meaning of the original quotation: the improperly lived life is not worth living. This meaning is deeper and provocative. Not all kinds of examination are equal. Even if flattery was an argumentative technique of Socrates, this—criticism—is the true spirit of Socrates. One can find this in The Republic—the text that shows Socratic examination in action. Without this example, “the unexamined life” is a series of three lofty, ingratiating, and uninterpretable words.
And yet how much work was required to establish this interpretation, which is still so little progress, or to know and show that it had an interpretation to investigate at all. This is true. Philosophy is difficult and slow. It can be agonizing. Socrates never reached the point where he stopped examining. He examined to the point of his death at 70. An unswerving dedication to philosophy is what brought about Socrates’ death at 70.
Others have been even less fortunate—Peter Abelard, for example—and had his (its?) balls cut off for philosophy. Philosophy has on many occasions been compared to a woman. Its true that many men pursue philosophy in the same way. Boethius compared philosophy to a goddess. This is a misrepresentation. If philosophy is a woman, then philosophy is a bitch.
Accordingly, like Socrates, pursue philosophy patiently, without hurry, and seriously but not entirely seriously. Socrates had a wife who was, like his profession, notoriously and outrageously difficult to get along with. Philosophy brought him similar grief, yet he never grieved. He could not live without his wife, any less than he could live without philosophy. He was, in short, equipped for philosophy for the same reasons that he was equipped for his wife.
For the record, I realize that Abelard wasn't castrated for philosophy, but for putting Heloise in the convent to protect his philosophical career. So I wouldn't say my statement is wrong, it's just a more concise rendering. Also, I realize that Lady Philosophy isn't technically a goddess, but I think it's close. I'm not sure Boethius talks about the ontological status of Lady Philosophy.
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ephelotes added a blog entry in Ephelotes's Text StudiesEnlightenment versus Modern FeminismOriginal blog entry here:
I've recently read several early feminists. Mary Wollstonecraft, Alice Bacon, Margaret Fuller. I spent the most time on Mary Wollstonecraft and Alice Bacon. The first, because Vindication of the Rights of Woman is supposed to be a classic. And the second, because her work Japanese Girls and Women is an extraordinary discussion of the Japanese family and society.
A few notes on Wollstonecraft and Bacon. First, both assert repeatedly that they see Christianity as a liberating force, the liberating force behind feminism. If each human being has a soul that is of equal special value in the eyes of God, then so too does each human being have a kind of radical equality. This radical equality of all men, latent in Christian thought, was explicitly affirmed as a constant justification throughout peasant revolts in European history. It, too, forms the basis both for the radical assertion of human value in communist thinking--Camus and Sartre, and Zizek today assert this--as well as much of the rights-oriented political approach of the Enlightenment. If all human beings have the same intrinsic value, then all human beings have the same rights. Bacon asserts constantly, as well, that it is paganism, which asserts no God as judge, that allows for the radical inequality, the radical hierarchy of Japanese society--and that Christianity would be a redeeming force for women in Japan.
From the above, that feminism would be a natural outgrowth of Christianity should seem obvious. Even male supporters of the feminists, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, held this perspective. Yet today, we constantly hear the opposite. We all know of the fundamentalist, misogynist politicians, who come from the right, who come from Christian backgrounds, who consistently oppose women's rights. Joseph Campbell interprets Judaism as the most violent of anti-female religions. Where, he says, most societies' religions begin with a female God (think Gaia the Earth goddess of the Greeks, or Amaterasu, the Sun goddess and goddess of the Universe to the Japanese), most of them also eventually supplant that female goddess with a male goddess. We may here invoke Bachofen's thesis: that, where all societies were originally matriarchies, they all eventually became patriarchies, and their pantheon correspondingly transformed. With the Greeks, even while Hera is fairly commonly represented as conniving, manipulative, and violent in her opposition to Zeus, she is nonetheless roughly his equal. Presumably, this would mean that females would hold a similar role in Greek society. (I suppose we should put aside that, during the golden age of the Greeks, the age of Pericles, Socrates, and Aristophanes, females were confined, according to one perspective, to the household like prisoners. Was it the deceitful character of Hera that was emphasized, rather than her equality?) Not so with the Jews: for the Jews, the ancient goddess is totally obliterated from the scripture altogether. And since Judaism provides the groundwork for an understanding of Christianity, as the argument goes, then Christianity is itself a part to this complete suppression of the feminine--unlike the Greek or virtually all other religious perspectives, which do no such thing.
We also know today that Christianity is commonly invoked by anti-feminists, particularly on the Blogosphere, as the antidote to the dramatic forces that are tearing apart the family of post-1960s modernity. Where the usurpation of early childhood education by state authority and the demands of maximum economic productive capacity and consumption have violently reconstituted gender and made marriage and stable childhood upbringing an unprecedentedly precarious affair--Christianity provides the lock-and-key, the source of social order, ordained by God, that can resolve the contemporary problematic. All that is required is a submission to the order of God. But, given that the conception of Christianity, and its relation to feminism, has been radically altered, what indeed is the truth of the matter? What is the real relationship between Christianity and gender equality?
The most obvious answer, perhaps, is that Christianity--now demonized on an explicit level but maintained and subsumed implicitly by virtually all contemporary secular ethical and political discourse--is so openly unpopular that it must be reflexively demonized and lumped in with the forces of reaction. Meanwhile, being the major vessel of moral discourse prior to entrance into the system of modern liberal education, Christianity among the less educated (and less progressive) classes simply becomes co-opted as a vehicle of reaction.
The second note. Wollstonecraft's and Fuller's notion of gender equality seems radically alien to that of modern feminism--emphasizing not female marginalization, male privilege, or even female repression (as such), but rather the gap in rationality between men and women, a product of educational differences. Each of these emphasize education as the redeemer of gender disparity. Each assume the ethics of Greek thought: that knowledge changes behavior, and that virtue is the result of knowledge. Each ask not that women are given any particular respect--except inasmuch as women are demonstrably capable and a priori deserving of such respect in having a radically equal human soul. Rather, each ask that women receive the same opportunities that men receive, and women will thereby attain the heights of rational virtue that men are capable of attaining. This is in stark contrast to the contemporary notion that women should receive special treatment that rectifies historical or structural disadvantages. According to the Wollstonecraftian notion, sufficient education would create women as capable of men in the control of thought and emotion--as much as Frederick Douglass, though enduring a lifetime of prejudice and disadvantage, could claim equivalence with white men in both word and action.
The final note. Wollstonecraft repeatedly asserts that it is not men, but women, who control the relationship between men and women. It was simply that such control over the hearts of men--which was achieved through coquetry, beauty, and the pretense of weakness--was shameful and wrong: it was not in accordance with reason, honesty, or any of the other virtues. Not only was there a misapprehension of the real quality of the female soul (on par with that of a man's), but this very misapprehension distorted communication and produced an irrational rule of women over men through artifice and deceit.
In conclusion, it's clear that the original feminist formulation is perhaps not only different than the contemporary one, but completely opposite. Whereas the struggle for modern gender equality has sought to achieve its aims by advocating the rapprochement of male and human sensibilities, into an ever-increasing androgyny--the feminization of men and the masculization of women--and has thought of this as the sine qua non of gender equality, the absolute opposite was the case for Wollstonecraft. It was not a question of gender for Wollstonecraft, but of virtue. And men, having access to knowledge and the expectation to use it for rational purposes, had access to virtue, where women did not.
The task of feminism, a Christian task, was to bring virtue to women by educating them. Today, rather, it seems that neither men nor women are expected to have virtue in the Greek sense, but rather quite the opposite: men take on the qualities of women that Wollstonecraft denounced as crippling, i.e. an overemphasized sentimentality, and women take on the distasteful excesses of men (denounced in men today as machismo but celebrated in women as empowerment).
(Some academics, e.g. Virginia Sapiro, claim that the inflamed rhetoric was supposed to maintain an implicit argument for the fusion of female and male sensibilities (since, as the argument goes, women are more emotional than men, and hence their equality will nonetheless retain this vestige of their nature), this claim assumes for women a nature that Wollstonecraft consistently and repeatedly argues against as a very central claim throughout the work. Such a claim that the rhetoric of the text argues for something that doesn't openly contradict the goals of modern feminism--even as the text itself is quite clear--is disingenuous at best and in fact simply ahistorical: the style of Wollstonecraft's text closely matches, with minor individual exceptions, the style of the typical pamphleteer during the highly inflamed pamphlet war in the wake of the Revolution.)
Today, female empowerment is seen, at its zenith, as the expression and appearance of authority and status in females. Simply having a large number of females in the Senate (or any major seat of power, e.g. science, finance, etc.), for instance, is heralded as a major achievement--their personal achievements as Congresswomen being left an apparently largely incidental issue. As Hillary Clinton and other women before her showed, women can lead excellently, but making the fact that they do lead at all a cause for celebration would at odds with the original feminist principles. The point of virtue in the sense of Wollstonecraft was not position or status, but doing things well, in the right way, according to reason, and freely. That sexual liberation, the fulfillment of bodily desire, is seen as perhaps the cornerstone of feminism exemplifies this basic shift from Wollstonecraft to the second and third waves of today. That feminism has become equated to "unlocking one's latent potential" without any particular justification, rather than actualizing potentials to any particular goal or outcome (e.g. virtue in the classical sense), is what marks the shift from Enlightenment to modern feminism.
A responsible scholar, Barbara Taylor, has said the following:
Describing [Wollstonecraft's philosophy] as feminist is problematic, and I do it only after much consideration. The label is of course anachronistic . . . Treating Wollstonecraft’s thought as an anticipation of nineteenth and twentieth-century feminist argument has meant sacrificing or distorting some of its key elements. Leading examples of this . . . have been the widespread neglect of her religious beliefs, and the misrepresentation of her as a bourgeois liberal, which together have resulted in the displacement of a religiously inspired utopian radicalism by a secular, class-partisan reformism as alien to Wollstonecraft’s political project as her dream of a divinely promised age of universal happiness is to our own. Even more important however has been the imposition on Wollstonecraft of a heroic-individualist brand of politics utterly at odds with her own ethically driven case for women’s emancipation. Wollstonecraft’s leading ambition for women was that they should attain virtue, and it was to this end that she sought their liberation.
May we here not invoke Bachelard's concept of discontinuity (or Kuhn's concept of paradigm shift, which comes from the same place)? May we not say, in the same way that Foucault did to the history of sciences in On the Order of Things--that Enlightenment feminism is about as similar to modern feminism as a yogurt bacterium is to a human being?
That the two advocate for the equality of women with men, their object, their concerns, what they consider as being unequal in a way entirely different and indeed contradictory from the other--does this not lead to the conclusion that the object of feminism, namely women and their rights, is an unstable one, constructed by a value system rather than actually inhering in reality itself? And would this not lead to the conclusion that the development of women's rights has been a historically contingent affair, rather than the inevitable progress of an ethical system that would in fact have been repugnant to the leading female Enlightenment thinkers? That Wollstonecraft, the proclaimed progenitor of feminism, might better be classed as an antifeminist?
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ephelotes added a blog entry in Ephelotes's Text StudiesAkira, Anime, World War II, & ApocalypseOriginal link here: http://wp.me/p2VA0c-15
The blog is new, but content is updated daily.
Cover of Akira [blu-ray]
Princess Mononoke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I watched Akira last weekend. At first, I didn't have any fucking idea what to think about it. Not so great, I thought. Then, itdawned on me: Akira, and a lot of anime films (Berserk, Evangelion, and according to my gf, many others), are really allegorical re-tellings of WW2 up to the bombings (notice the Japanese-specific obsession with apocalyptic end-of-Tokyo/end-of-the-world endings to films, often with a nuclear-like explosion).
I think a comprehensive analysis of anime film could be done to show how they are essentially obsessed with making sense of modernization before and after the apocalyptic event that was WW2--the Japanese are obsessively trying to come to terms with that point in their past, which essentially marks the origin of their present society, and they do it through film. WW2 is a trauma in the culture that they repeatedly confront through cultural representation.
They certainly do not come to terms in the schools, where the history of WW2 is largely suppressed: according to the pedagogical system, there was kind of a war in the 30s and 40s, and from somewhere to the West, a couple of bombs fell on Japan for some reason. Up through high school, that's basically the education one receives. Anime films fill a void, by both retelling and reinterpreting the event of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by recasting the military (especially General Tojo, the benevolent military leader: the Colonel in Akira), the power hungry imperial-type leader (Hirohito: Griffith in Berserk, Tetsuo in Akira, Shinji's father in Eva), an arcane scientific/quasi-scientific modernity that runs out of control and eventually kills everyone (Akira in Akira, Griffith's transformation in Berserk, the exo-suits in Eva), and finally, the good guy, the good conscience of the common people who are moved toward apocalypse against their will, either through weakness or unable to overcome the massive momentum toward catastrophe (Shinji in Eva, Kaneda in Akira, Guts in Berserk). The last category could be considered a misrepresentation of facts (the Japanese people did not resist imperial expansion during WW2, like Kaneda or Guts), or a correct interpretation (they were too misinformed [weak] to really speak for their own interests, like Shinji), or perhaps more properly, as a re-reading of what the Japanese people WOULD have done if they could have: these characters, except Shinji (who is a tragic character), represent the progress of Japanese consciousness through history, and it is only in this way that these films may actually deviate from a true allegory for WW2 apocalypse--for reasons that are clear, since in the end, in spite of apocalypse, they leave the suggestion of hope, and a narrative that allows the Japanese to identify with something that refuses the role of the Japanese people in the past. But, more importantly, for hope, there is always at the end of these films either a hint or an explicit statement that rebirth will bring about a new world or new Japanese society. One sees this most clearly in Eva and Akira, but it's also there in Berserk, since Guts does escape apocalypse and seek to right past wrongs. In other words, after the point of apocalypse there is a rebirth of a New Japan, and a promise for perhaps an even more vibrant world, where the corruptions of the past (imperial Japan) are erased. In spite of apocalypse, the movies manage to suggest that the endings of these films are not tragic--although many people die, it is possible, even, to consider them a source of a new hope. But, the anxiety and indeed the warning of the overwhelming possibility of science/magic/modernity to spiral out of control of the people hangs nonetheless--and provides the Japanese with a verification of a perpetual anxiety that hangs over the Japanese consciousness as a result of their history in the 20th century.
Whereas for Japanese anime, the enemy comes from the inside and succeeds in destroying the world, reflecting that defeated historical consciousness of Japan (and defeated countries always blame an internal element)--for US film, the enemy comes from the outside and is foiled by the good US guys and prevented from destroying the world, reflecting the dominating historical consciousness of America.
Princess Mononoke. Technology and modernization running out of control. Iron Town explodes, there is a major catastrophe in the forest and everything is nearly swept away. At the moment when nearly everything could be lost, concessions and compromises are made; mutual understanding comes about as a result of a near-apocalypse.
The repetition of the Nagasaki/Hiroshima motif is seen again. It's uncanny, and I am starting to wonder whether the great anime flicks WITHOUT apocalypse, followed by rebirth, as a central motif are not in the small minority.
There are of course a ton of other messages in Princess Mononoke. A commentary on the relationship between nature and modernity is the most explicit, but there's also a discussion of gender relations throughout the movie. At an extremely superficial level: dominating female characters and weak/stupid male characters is a constant theme, even going so far as including the stupidity of the male boar-god and the intelligence of the female wolf-goddess; also, female dominance is explicitly linked to the rise of Iron Town's technology, when women can come to replace male warriors--and are actually preferable to them--because of the advent of gun technology. One might also notice the overt sexual expression of the female Iron Town females--and the lack of any such expression on the part of the males. The exception to this pattern, of course, is the male protagonist, who overcomes partisanship and saves the day... that notwithstanding, the theme is there and could be looked at in more detail.
What does this mean. I'm starting to think that there's one basic infrastructural narrative to a large portion of anime, basically all anime i've ever seen has this structure that I've characterized in this post... I'm sure there are some animes that depart from it with a completely different structure, but this structure predominates.
This brought to my mind the question of whetehr America has such a structure, although a different one, and in most dramas, I'd say yes. I already characterized it in that paragraph after "a side note" or whatever. Anyway, I've never even thought about it, so I don't even have the reference point to think about it at the moment. If so, then that brings about a certain possibility, namely this.
All movies within a culture have a certain predominant structure, where different genres (e.g. romantic comedy vs drama) are basically a different take at that same strucutre. Now individual narratives that take place within that structure offer entirely different interpretations of that structure, which makes it seem to us that the structure doesn't exist, as most of the details are different--even if overlaid over a foundation that remains the same. That is to say, everything changes except this strucutre, and since the structure constantly remains the same, while the details change, we think that everything changes, since we don't even see the structure due to the fact that it always remains the same. But everything does not change.
To move on with a couple more implications. Every interpretation of that structure is actually an interpretation of a moment in time, based upon what that structure serves as a metaphor for in historical time. For example, this structure of the exploding world, then rebirth, etc. in anime is a metaphor for the "creation event" that was Nagasaki and Hiroshima in WW2. And, every difference in the narrative is really just a different interpretation of the implications of these events for Japanese society, given that each narrative emphasizes different themes (i.e. dream control, environmentalism, etc.). So anime/film becomes a competition of different themes with each other, an interpretation of the world once it is take for granted the importance of a given theme (according to the writer of the anime or film), given the basic constraints of what is taken in the popular consciousness as the "creation event" (whose metaphor undergirds the entire structure of all films). In otehr words, film becomes an expression of a particular perspective on a virtually universally accepted (within a society, at least) historical consciousness within a given society.
A last implication would be this. Film-watching directors would be said to be in a dialogue with other directors, meaning that there is a kind of dialectical relationship of continual interpretation going on in the creation of film. Particularly film-literate directors--e.g. Tarantino, Nolan--should be most recognizably be seen to be doing this.
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ephelotes added a topic in ReadAdvice on creating a book discussion group in real lifeI have been thinking seriously about starting up a real life philosophical discussion group, centered closely around reading classic texts. I am planning on calling it the Philadelphia Philosophy Book Symposium. In accordance with its title (symposium is Greek for "drinking together"), copious amounts of alcohol will be provided, and I plan on our members getting quite smashed. The list of possible authors is as follows:
Pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon, Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca, Plutarch, Livy, Augustine, Aquinas, Scotus, Ockham, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Montaigne, Montesquieu, Locke, Vico, Rousseau, La Rochefoucauld, Kant, Schelling, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Foucault, and other more contemporary writers.
The format of readings will be approximately as follows. Each month, a book will be selected. We will meet each week to read that book, until the month and the book are completed. So there will be 4 weeks dedicated to each book. Books will be selected according to the following cyclical format. Month 1: ancient book, month 2: medieval or early modern book, month 3: 20th or 21st century book. This will then be repeated, for a total of 4 cycles per year. In this way, the diversity of readings will prove lively and exciting, even if perhaps overly brisk. (The attention span of most Americans seems to require the latter.)
I have only one concern. I do not know where to hold this symposium. I would hold it in a coffee shop, but I do not know how they would feel about my bringing a case of beer there every week. I cannot hold it in my house, because my house is a small hovel. I do not have any close friends who live in the city, so I cannot hold it at their houses.
Does anyone have any comments or suggestions about this? The format or the location? Experiences on doing something similar? Thank you.
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ephelotes added a topic in ExploreLeo Strauss' Lectures--Appropriating the History of Political Philosophy on Behalf of Modern Political PhilosophyLeo Strauss is today considered one of the great 20th century (German-Jewish-)American political philosophers. Over the past couple of years, a website hosted by the University of Chicago, where he was a professor, has been promising to release recordings of his lectures but had seemingly gone nowhere with the project for some time. About ten weeks ago, those who run the website have begun making available the audio recordings of his lectures. I have not yet listened to these, but being fond of Strauss' published work and very impressed by the quality of the lectures and transcripts I have heard and read previously, I am sure they are a river of gold.
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