sept. 13 reading questions

Rousseau

Why does Rousseau say that individuals sometimes must “be forced to be free”?  do you agree?

Explain Rousseau’s distinction (spelled out in footnote 3 to part 1 of the inequality essay) between egotism [amour-propre] and self-respect [amour de soi-meme].

Burke

According to Burke, why does knowing the extent of any danger reduce its fearsomeness?  do you agree?  When we lack such knowledge and find the thing we fear “obscure” as in the example from Paradise Lost, can we still say that our fear has a particular object or are we just indeterminately fearful?  the latter seems unlikely since Burke cites very specific examples of fearsome obscurity:  political despots and death.  So how can we know the identity of a fearsome thing without compromising the obscurity that makes it fearsome?  Is there a paradox here?

Zizek

How does Zizek argue that forced choice is not totalitarian, whereas to lay claim to a freedom beyond coercion is “psychotic”?  He argues that both love and guilt have this paradoxical structure of 1) not being causally retraceable to any free act or choice on our part, but rather being determined for us as if in advance, and yet 2) being nonetheless authentically expressive of us.  How does this argument work?

Zizek says that Hegel is more Kantian than Kant  because Hegel takes Kant’s theory of the sublime more literally than Kant did.  Specifically, Hegel sticks more resolutely to the principle that there is no “thing in itself” beyond its representation.  Why does this imply for Zizek that the “appearance without essence,” or “appearance qua appearance,” “must embody itself in some miserable, radically contingent corporeal leftover”?

de Bolla

What does de Bolla mean by saying that “aesthetics invented art” (20)?

Explain Kant’s distinction between determinate and reflective judgment.

What does de Bolla mean by “the virtual feeling that an artwork knows“? (26) What and how does an artwork know? This is the central question addressed in the essay and de Bolla’s best answer comes in the final two paragraphs, although determining the meaning of what he says here will still take significant work: “the particular quality of an encounter with art is our coming to understand what we cannot live, what is outside the domain of experience. Yet such encounters feel as if they open a terrain, give onto a clearing in which something like experience seems to happen. But not to us, not as part of a continuum of our senses of being, but through us, as if the work itself marks us, touches us….The materiality of an art response is the virtual sensation of the artwork as a way of knowing. I cannot live that response as an experience, but this does not imply that the experience cannot happen through me….[A]rt is both unknowable and the cause for our experiencing different ways of knowing….[I]t holds out the prospect of knowing otherwise” (35).

What is “the central problem faced by both pre- and post-Kantian theories of art and aesthetics” (26)?

De Bolla says that Kant’s theory of aesthetic judgment “proposes a radical subjectivity [whose] singularity is capable of being shared in common” (26)’, and that this is both “disinterested’ (27) and directs us toward “the ultimate route to freedom” (28). How does Kant resolve these apparent contradictions?

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28 Responses to sept. 13 reading questions

  1. Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

    Regarding your first question about the Zizek reading, I believe Zizek is making the argument that forced choice is not totalitarian– or at least it is not peculiarly totalitarian. It is in fact, the usual state of things in general. For example, in more or less every society we are “free” to rob people– or rather, while we aren’t locked away from society, we have the ability to rob people. But if we do– we lose our freedom and they lock us up. We are free to choose our actions provided we choose the “right” ones– according to the laws and expectations of our particular community.

    I believe that his point is that absolute freedom is real– but impossible in a civilised society. This is why he says people who behave as though their freedom has no limits in society are psychotic. Those who lay claim to absolute freedom are by definition behaving without regard to anyone else. Zizek calls this a paradox– that we have absolute freedom only provided we are utterly independent from all others–which is impossible.

    He also says that love and guilt have this paradoxical structure. For him, love is something we do not choose consciously, but rather suddenly realise that we have subconsciously chosen– nevertheless we are free to fall in love– not forced externally. The same, he believes, is true of guilt. That we feel guilty because our subconscious choice was for Evil– whether we acted in accordance with that evil disposition or not . We are therefore inherently evil– whether we consciously chose to be or not. He explains that is why we hold two conflicting views of evil people– that they were both always like that (and couldn’t help it)– but yet, not being forced to evil externally, they are therefore entirely responsible for their actions.

    However, I would like to question his definitions of “love” and “evil.” He argues that if you are ordered to love someone that this doesn’t work and yet you also cannot consciously choose to love someone either. Does he not really mean that people cannot help their feelings?– that our feelings are beyond our conscious choices? Love is therefore a feeling–not an action? I would argue that love is both and that he has lumped “love, the feeling” and “love, the action” under the same heading–when they are in fact not the same which makes the argument problematic. He makes the same argument for guilt, suggesting that we feel guilty because our subconscious choice was evil.

    We, of course, are not “free” to control our feelings. If someone steps on my foot, it’s going to hurt–it’s a sensory response. And while love and guilt and desire for evil are more complex, they are still feelings, are they not?–not choices? However, we ARE free to act upon them. To perform love or evil as an action– to make the choice to acknowledge our feelings and act in accordance with them or against them. Is this really a paradox if love and evil desires remain feelings, not acts?

    Why does he define the “true self” according to one’s feelings? Should our authentic selves be defined by our internal feelings and desires or our actions?

  2. Alyzee Lakhani says:

    Reconciling Zizek’s claims about totalitarian government and the “psychotic” position of dissent
    Zizek is clear that the students enlisted in his Yugoslav example were not signing their military oath freely; yet he claims that the young student’s imprisonment was not “totalitarian” (Zizek 186). Zizek tries to dispel the reputation of totalitarian government as oppressive. My basic definition of a totalitarian government is one that seeks total control of its subjects. At least as far as military service is concerned, the government Zizek describes does just this. If it did not, a subject refusing to sign the oath would not result in his punishment. The enlisted students are told they have the choice to refuse, but are really being forced to pretend that they are free to refuse only on pain of incarceration. They must do what is required of them or do nothing at all.

    Zizek asserts that the student’s imprisonment was not ‘totalitarian’ because the government “always treated the student as if he had already chosen” (186, italics original). He implies that mature subjects of this nation would have been conditioned to believe their individual will was of no importance, if ever they believed they had one at all. In this way, refusing the call of communal duty would not be a possible course of action in their minds. Zizek suggests that they are so accustomed to complying with community values that they no longer feel their individuality compromised – they are not free, but do not feel trapped . Zizek claims this acquiescent non-freedom is the “paradox” (186) of totalitarian rule: while it is known for being oppressive, its subjects do not feel oppressed.
    I assume that if subjects of totalitarian rule do not feel at all oppressed when asked to choose essentially between obedience and prison, it is because of masterfully administered propaganda. While Zizek exonerates “totalitarian Power” (186) from the charge of trying to “catch its subjects” (186) because he claims its subjects do not feel caught, he does not say whether totalitarian Power takes pains to make and keep its subjects so complacent. The case of the Yugoslav student indicates that perhaps totalitarian values had been imperfectly disseminated in the country; his example indicates that there were still a few that could conceive of independent behavior. This student was “psychotic” in the sense that he had not learned, or had not completely agreed with the basic assumptions of the signifying order. Perhaps his imprisonment re-enforced the virtue of community values to other subjects.

    By denying that the government is “‘totalitarian’ “, I think Zizek is saying that it is not the oppressive sort of government that totalitarian governments are notorious for being. However, Zizek skirts over the possibility of popular dissent by referring to the student as psychotic, thereby implying that the student’s way of thinking was rare and unorthodox in the context. If the context was oppressively totalitarian, as Zizek has painstakingly denied, dissent such as that shown by the student (the psychotic position) would be typical of its subjects. The rarity of any disobedience such as that of the student is the main point upon which Zizek’s argument rests. However, it is likely that the student who articulated his thoughts represents several others who think like him but do not wish to risk imprisonment, and in such a case, Zizek’s argument that the unprotesting populace does not feel oppressed by a totalitarian regime fails.

  3. @ Alyzee Lakhani : I think the argument isn’t that “the populace does not feel oppressed by a totalitarian regime” but that we are all oppressed and lack free will because of our relationship to the community to which we belong.

    I will endeavour to analyze one of Zizek’s basic premise that “ ‘free-choice’ is the real-impossible” (185). Can that be the truth? What do I posses, as an individual, that no one else can touch or control? I will argue that there is a freedom of intellect that ‘forced choice’ cannot manipulate; but I will also argue that there is a signifying network that is also inescapable; but this network does not preclude free will, and it’s not the network that Zizek envisions.

    Zizek talks about freedom and choice, but in this specific passage they are rather ambiguous terms. Therefore I have divided freedom into two parts: firstly, the individual freedom of mobility and life, and secondly the individual freedom of thought and spirit: a freedom of epistemology. Thus, when describing the “choix force” Zizek seems to be mainly talking about the control that the community has over the body of the individual. That is, if you do something wrong, or if you refuse to say an oath, you get put in jail or you get killed. Zizek claims that “If you make the wrong choice, you lose the freedom of choice itself” (186) but my claim is that a loss of control over the body does not mean a complete loss of freedom. In my opinion this is where Zizek errs: freedom of choice does not demand that the individual has control over the consequences of that choice.

    Along these lines, Zizek seems to describe the difficulties of relationships: there are always two wills, two choices involved. When writing of the soldier, Zizek claims that “he is always treated as if he had already chosen” but this statement only describes the attitude of the community; this statement does not describe the thought process of the soldier. Indeed, the soldier claims that “from his free choice [he] did not want to give his signature”. Even after the order is given, the soldier still has a free choice to obey or disobey. You can never control the choices of others, therefore freedom cannot depend upon the imposition of others upon the individual.

    The second aspect of Zizek’s argument has to do with the freedom of thought and mind. I take Zizek’s use of the word “psychotic” to mean exactly that: a ‘psychotic’ subject is one who is delusional and has impaired contact with reality. Thus, the subject does not really have free will and cannot escape the coercion of the signifying network. And yet, this is exactly the argument that I want to counter. Zizek claims that the soldier “is never actually in a position to choose: he is always treated as if he had already chosen” (186). But I have already shown that the way the soldier is treated is merely a consequence of his free choice. But perhaps the subject has no concept of acting otherwise than the community demands? But here is where I disagree with Zizek’s claims.

    Without getting into his argument of determination, I believe that Zizek gives too much power to the ‘symbolic order’ or the ‘signifying network’. I will define a symbolic order as a world view, and I believe that as individuals we operate within many symbolic orders, or at least, in a classroom, there will be different people with different world views. The ‘law’ is not a strong enough signifying network because it doesn’t cover every aspect of human life. That’s when the individual brings in religion, or politics, etc. all of which are types of signifying networks.

    And here is my final argument: I believe that free will is coerced only in the sense that a definition of reality is imposed on us from birth. This is “good”, that is “bad”, and within that framework we can freely choose either for the good or for the bad. And these perceptions of reality often change within the community.

    However, I believe that as an individual, I am not a slave to, I am not bound to any man made symbolic order. (This of course enters the debate between the natural and the supernatural= how can I transcend my own five senses? I can’t, therefore I need ‘revelation’ = supernatural) Zizek’s argument reminds me of the passage from Deuteronomy 11:26 : “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God … the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God.” I think this passage embodies everything that Zizek tries to convey, but I believe that he came to the wrong conclusion. The Israelites had the freedom to act in any way they wished, but God retained the freedom to define their actions, to judge their actions, and to choose the consequences. Zizek seems to claim that unless the individual has the same ability, the ability to come up with his own options, with his own definition of reality, he is not truly free. I disagree. In a Christian framework, one considers the relationship of the Creator to the creation, with the creation being free to divide from the creator. But in Zizek’s world, a world without God, aren’t all people supposed to be on the same level? How can some people have this god like ability of a creator?

    I am reminded of the famous C. S. Lewis quote: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

    In about 10 pages Zizek tackles just about every subject from the Philosophy of Religion: Pro and Against the Existance of God, to the Philosophy of Ethics, to the theory of Determinism and Moral Responsibility. He writes so casually, as if these debates have been resolved. As if the gap, the abyss between the optimist (who claims that our moral responsibility is not undermined if the thesis of determinism is true) and the pessimist (who claims that if determinism is true, then the individual is not free) has been bridged. As if God has finally died because it wasn’t Christ, after all, it was just Nothing.

    Questions: Can anyone define what Zizek means by a “symbolic order/signifying network”? How are they created? When do they change?

  4. Carmel Ohman says:

    In response to your second question about the Rousseau reading (On the Origins of Inequality) …

    As Rousseau sees it, a self-respecting man in a “primitive condition” concerns himself with his actions alone, instinctive actions which are rooted in survival and self-preservation. This man is armed with the simple desire to sustain himself, and an innate sense of compassion which, according to Rousseau’s argument, exists naturally without consideration or judgment on the part of the individual. Any violence or physical injury that this man inflicts upon another is a means to the end of his continued existence, and therefore engenders no guilt, requires no more reflection than the rise and set of the sun. A man in this “state of nature” is supposedly free of the kinds of corrupting ambitions that entered human consciousness when people joined together to form societies and became consumed by the need to compare one another.

    With human beings’ organization into civil societies came the birth of egoism, which Rousseau associates with feelings of envy, greed, and hate. The egoistic man does not know the inner peace or the simple liberty of the primitive man because he lives and breathes the opinions of others, driven by social constructs of authority. According to Rousseau, egoism is the cause of perceived inequality among men as well as perceived inequality in social institutions.

    While Rousseau’s distinction between self-respect and egoism in man may appear to be well-founded, a weakness in his argument arises when we note his failure to consider primitive man (the self-respecting man) in any social light. He repeatedly emphasizes primitive man’s independence and it is in doing so that he is able to argue that only in the formation of societies did inequality emerge. But are human beings not social by nature? Assuming this to be the case, how could humans stand alone from one another in a “state of nature”? I propose that, “state of nature” or modern civil state, some degree of competition and comparison between individuals is inevitable. In a “state of nature,” this comparison may have manifested itself in the form of a “pecking order,” and this hierarchy may even have been established by brute force rather than intellectual conflict. Even so, the society’s members would have to have accepted the proposed social order for it to be established, and would have therefore had to compare members of the society on some level, even if the judgments were not cognitively-driven. In any case, in order to make a sound argument for the origins of inequality among men, one needs to recognize man’s inherently social nature. Even in theory, the individual man (primitive or not) should be seen as inextricable from the social condition. Otherwise, the theory proves incomplete.

  5. Carmel Ohman says:

    In response to your second question about the Rousseau reading (On the Origins of Inequality) …

    As Rousseau sees it, a self-respecting man in a “primitive condition” concerns himself with his actions alone, instinctive actions which are rooted in survival and self-preservation. This man is armed with the simple desire to sustain himself, and an innate sense of compassion which, according to Rousseau’s argument, exists naturally without consideration or judgment on the part of the individual. Any violence or physical injury that this man inflicts upon another is a means to the end of his continued existence, and therefore engenders no guilt, requires no more reflection than the rise and set of the sun. A man in this “state of nature” is supposedly free of the kinds of corrupting ambitions that entered human consciousness when people joined together to form societies and became consumed by the need to compare one another.

    With human beings’ organization into civil societies, Rousseau supposes, came the birth of egoism. He sees it as a cognitive state, a feeling which promotes envy, greed, and hate. The egoistic man does not know the inner peace or the simple liberty of the primitive man because he lives and breathes the opinions of others, driven by social constructs of authority. According to Rousseau, egoism is the cause of perceived inequality among men as well as perceived inequality in social institutions.

    While Rousseau’s distinction between self-respect and egoism in man appears to be well-founded, a weakness in his argument arises when we note his failure to consider primitive man (the self-respecting man) in any social light. He repeatedly emphasizes primitive man’s independence and it is in doing so that he is able to argue that only in the formation of societies did inequality emerge. But are human beings not social by nature? Assuming this to be the case, how could humans stand alone from one another in a “state of nature”? I propose that, “state of nature” or modern civil state, humans will invariably form social groups and will, therefore, engage in some degree of competition and comparison. In a “state of nature,” these comparisons may manifest themselves in the form of a “pecking order,” and this hierarchy may even be established by brute force rather than intellectual conflict. Even so, the society’s members would have to accept the proposed social order for it to be established, and would therefore have to compare members of the society on some level, even if the judgments are not cognitively-driven. In any case, in order to make a sound argument for the origins of inequality among men, one needs to recognize man’s inherently social nature. Even in theory, the individual man (primitive or not) should be seen as inextricable from the social condition. Otherwise, the theory proves incomplete.

  6. Madeline Fuchs says:

    Regarding the Burke reading and question of identifying that which we fear…
    I believe that Burke has a valid argument when claiming that obscurity deems “necessary” when making anything terrible; however, I think it is important to address that there can be many different types of “fear.” I believe it would have been beneficial for Burke to expand his argument and note that we can be fearful of many different things. If the thing we fear is obscure, than we can claim that we are fearful of an “idea” or “concept.” If we learn the identity of that which we feaRegarding the Burke reading and question of identifying that which we fear…
    I believe that Burke has a valid argument when claiming that obscurity deems “necessary” when making anything terrible; however, I think it is important to address that there can be many different types of “fear.” I believe it would have been beneficial for Burke to expand his argument and note that we can be fearful of many different things. If the thing we fear is mysterious and obscure, than we can claim that we are fearful of an “idea” or “concept.” If we learn the identity of that which we fear, then yes, there is the possibility we will soon learn enough that we no longer fear it, or it is possible that it is of such great evil that it will still deem terrifying.

    In response to your final question, that knowing the identity of what we fear can compromise the “obscurity that makes it fearsome,” I believe it is beneficial to look at Burke’s example from Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” In this excerpt, we are given the identity of Death and even a brief description, albeit vague, of his appearance; however, we are still left with an uncertain feeling. This description of Death ideally would lead us to properly understand him and become less fearful, but the description simply causes us to be more afraid. Because we are given his identity and description and are still unable to decipher and understand, it would be valid to argue that he has become even more terrifying.

    We can also see proof of this in Burke’s referencing to political despots. By hiding in the dark, and away from the public eye, these figures are mysterious and terrifying; however, would it not be much more terrifying to discover their identity and still not comprehend why they make certain decisions and actions?

    Therefore, I do not believe that there is a paradox in Burke’s argument, I simple believe he does not go into enough detail in his description of fear. I believe that it is important to note that we can be fearful of “ideas” and also of “objects”, and that once given the identify of that which we fear it is possible to become less afraid, but there is also the potential to become even more terrified. r, yes, there is the possibility we will soon learn enough that we no longer fear it, or it is possible that it is of such great evil

  7. Arin Vaillancourt says:

    (In response to the Burke reading)

    There is a paradox here. Fear is not a logical emotion; it is born of an irrational feeling that has no root in reason or understanding. Knowing the identity and description of a fear does not always make it less terrifying. If a person described the horrifying and debilitating effects of a certain drug, it would not make me less fearful or apprehensive of taking that drug. I would not shout “Huzzah! I have conquered my fears of taking Accutane now that I know any child I conceive could be born without a brain!” The obscurity of what could happen in the future is not compromised here even though one possibility is revealed; the question “what if?” is still lingering and valid.

    Fear of the dark is another popular fear that is grossly misplaced. It is not the darkness that people are afraid of, it is what lurks and hides in the shadows of the night. The intangible question of what could possibly be down that gloomy alley is what scares us. Shine a light down the alley, and everything is illuminated. The fear is irrational and unjustified, but that does not stop the fear from returning next time a person walks alone at night. They will quicken their pace at a slight noise or carry their keys to imitate brass knuckles. Yes, I will agree with Burke to a certain point in saying lifting the veil of obscurity can conquer some fears. Sometimes turning on a light in a child’s room can easily lift the veil of obscurity. See? There is no monster hiding in the closet, it is just your clothes and toys, and that noise you heard? Well that was just the wind darling, close your eyes and go back to sleep, there is nothing to fear. However, other fears are not as easily conquered. I have my own such irrational fears, I am paralyzed at the thought of descending and ascending open staircases, and especially when they are in caverns. Presenting me with an open staircase and giving me statistics concerning the safety of such a staircase does not lessen my fear of this object. Irrational fears such as arachnophobia, hydrophobia, and aerophobia do not hide under veils of obscurity, but they are nevertheless just as terrifying as the things that creep in the dark or the “boogeyman”.

    Death is not an obscurity; it is inevitable. Death is the only certainty one can count on in this life, but I would argue that what most people fear about Death is the fact that their life is ending without accomplishing something important to them. That life is but a footprint in the sands of the universe that will be washed away by the sea of time. The fear that they have been given the greatest gift in the world and have nothing to show for it, that they have squandered their life and have made no mark on the world, however small that mark may be. I would say regret is the true fear in this instance. I may be “facing my fear” as Burke would say it, by acknowledging that it is regret that I truly fear, but that does not make it less terrifying. I know what makes my spine tingle in the dead of night. I know why I walk a little faster a night when I am by myself. I know why I would rather distance myself from a person than let them in. These questions are all easily answered, yet nevertheless still frighten me. However, how could I possibly face something so intangible as regret and hope to even conquer it?

    • Enosh Cheng says:

      Regarding Burke’s “Obscurity:”

      The conclusion of a paradox is unnecessary to interpret Burke’s understanding of the relation between fear and obscurity. Obscurity continues to exist and function after the identification of the object of fear. Both death and political despots are identifiable, and yet, are also virtually unknowable.

      While I agree with Arin that “death is the only certainty one can count on in this life,” I would argue that the uncertainty of death lies not in its happening, but in its details. On the one hand, we are certain that death comes inevitably and indiscriminately in our life; on the other hand, we cannot deny the uncertainty of its arrival time, of the feelings that accompany it, and of the events that come after it. It is death’s evasiveness from our full apprehension that inspires fear.

      Fear preys on the deficiency of knowledge, and thus, the reliance of imagination. By minimizing the visibility of their real faces, despots create and project their terrifying images onto the public mind’s eye. For instance, in Batman Begins, a movie that also explores the relation between fear and obscurity, Ra’s al Ghul prompts Bruce Wayne to “become more than just a man in the mind of (his) opponent.” The criminal underworld knows the identity of their enemy – Batman, but the obscurity of his true identity, hidden under the cape, is the real dread: is he a superhuman? A ghost? A god? Likewise, knowing the identity of an object of fear is different from knowing the object itself. Rather than complete absence of knowledge, obscurity is imperfect vision or knowledge.

  8. Kellie Gibson says:

    In response to the first question pertaining to the Zizek reading.
    By stating that a subject is always treated as if he has already chosen, Zizek supports his argument that forced choice is not totalitarian. It is society that dictates what is right or wrong and imposes that into the everyday choices of people. In the case of the Yugoslavian soldier, the assumption is that the soldier would choose signing the oath any day, and the choice of jail is more of a contingency plan. In other words, society has already decided what the soldier should choose. However, while this sounds totalitarian, in the end, the soldier is still able to decide his own fate. Not all choices that are made, are made equally. Being forced to choose between cake or a kiss is not the same as being forced to choose between cake or death (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFyuhTwi_OE), but when all the societal rules and morals contracts are stripped away from any pending decision, what remains is a choice – regardless of whether it feels like one or not.
    Essentially, society functions by coercion. You drive on the wrong side of the road, you get a traffic ticket. You kill someone, you go to jail. Zizek is absolutely correct in stating that to lay claim to a freedom beyond coercion is ‘psychotic.’ No man is an island. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. To think that you are a wholly autonomous individual responsible to no one, who can behave in any manner you see fit, despite how morally questionable it is to your peers, is psychotic as that is not the reality society lives in.

    For Zizek, love and guilt are paradoxically structured. Love is something that is chosen to be engaged in but happens on an unconscious level, and guilt can be felt without having acted because we unconsciously know how we would have acted. He finds that we decide before we’re even aware we’re deciding, but these decisions are still authentically expressive of us because they are inherent in us, whether they be good or evil.
    I think that Zizek’s arguments on love and guilt work on a theoretical level, but not on a practical one. His view on love and what constitutes ‘real love’ is rather baseline and appears to ignore human emotion and chemistry entirely. A ten-year-old girl deciding to someday love someone does not make her falling in love twenty years later a forced choice.

    I’m wondering if Zizek would argue that you can choose your emotions.

  9. Mandy Woo says:

    @ Cristina Ciotinga: I think what Zizek is trying do with “symbolic order” is show how ‘order’ or systems of “Power” and imprisonment is constructed as opposed to any sort of ‘natural order’.

    (In response to the first question on the de Bolla reading)

    By saying that “aesthetics invented art” (20), de Bolla means that in the study of something or a formalized system of discourse, there must be a collectively understood definition to the thing that is being are studied. And so art becomes canonized and shaped by persuasion, institutions of theory, “the sublime and the beautiful” (20), which are all systems employed by aesthetics. Thus, art now “requires a particular form of contemplation” (20). So, one cannot enjoy art or have the ‘proper’ experience of art unless they have been aesthetically ‘trained’, an argument buoyed by the de Bolla’s use of Kant’s “determinant judgment” (24) where knowledge is derived from theoretical approaches to provide non-subjective experience. But since knowledge is also derived from subjective experience, Kant provides for “reflective judgment” (24), where sensory data is permitted but overruled by “those [theoretical] “concepts” (24) that evaluate whether the data is valid or not according to an absolute sense of “taste” (26). Because there is a terrifying quality to the idea of “taste” (26) that trumps the subjective, could a paralysis or inability to act occur so there is compensation of experience through emotion or empathy through art?

  10. Vladimir Cristache says:

    I’m responding to a few of the questions posed by Professor Earle (1, 4, 5 – de Bolla; 2 – Zizek), and a few of the questions by my fellow peers.

    First, de Bolla’s “central problem faced by both pre- and post-Kantian theories of art and aesthetics.”
    The “problem” is how to judge art objectively if our only access to it is subjective. In other words, how can I say that Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII,” to take a random example, is a “good” work of art, and that this judgement will stand for everyone who looks at it, if the experience of such a work is “grounded in [my] individual or subjective sense experience” (de Bolla 26)? De Bolla tells us that Francis Hutchenson solves this problem simply by claiming that aesthetic judgement is devoid of subjectivism. I want to make Hutchenson’s argument very clear here: if the problem is how to access, in Kant’s terms, a “noumenal” judgement when one is restricted to “phenomena,” Hutchenson solves this by claiming, in the spirit of the Enlightenment (we only have to think of Descartes et co.’s obsession with the power of mathematics), that aesthetic judgement is the use of reason (this is implied) and that the use of reason is already at the “noumenal” level. Therefore, one way to define the “problem” is by claiming that it lay in the necessary choice between the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal.”
    As de Bolla tries to argue, Kant escapes this problem. At first, we might be confused: doesn’t Kant, by claiming that an aesthetic judgement is subjective but also universal fall into the same trap as Hutchenson? That is, the trap that one (an individual) could gain access to the “noumenal” in the first place? But Kant is very precise here: by “universal” he doesn’t mean “noumenal” and by “subjective” he doesn’t mean “as an individual.” For Kant, aesthetics judgements have nothing to do with the “noumenal” reason that Hutchenson implicitly argues for. They are “immediate […] they are not based on a process of reasoning” (de Bolla 27), and therefore are liable to the subject’s experience. And yet, they are also “disinterested” (and here I’m using de Bolla’s first definition of this term: “the self-interest of the agent […] [does not] impinge upon the judgement”).
    Here we face two intertwined problems, both addressed in other questions posed by Professor Earle regarding de Bolla: the two ways of interpreting Kant’s escape from the pre- and post-Kantian choice outlined above. The first would have us think that Kant merely reverses Hutchenson’s logic, and to some extent this is de Bolla’s argument: that while Hutchenson holds to determinate judgement regarding aesthetics, Kant moves on to reflective judgement. The difference here is one of direction: determinate judgement starts with our definition of art through reason (the noumenal) and then applies it to particular examples of art (phenomena), while reflective judgement starts with particular examples of art (and our sensible experience of them) and then builds a theory. (At this point, it is important to note that another way to define the “central problem of pre- and post-Kantian theories of art and aesthetics,” according to de Bolla, is by reference to these theories’ reliance on determinate judgement.)
    The problem with this interpretation is the logic that grounds it, the mediation that it implies between the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal.” It tempts us to interpret Kant’s escape from the abovementioned choice in a way similar to the symbolist dogma of the later 19th century: “All Art that is not mere story-story telling or mere portraiture, is symbolic […] for it entangles, in complex colours and forms, a part of the Divine Essence” (Yeats 356). In other words, according to this interpretation Kant seems to be saying that one can have access to the “Divine Essence” (the noumenal) through, for example, Kandinsky’s “Composition VIII.” However, this is not in accordance with Kant’s own views. As Slavoj Zizek often likes to claim: Kant himself makes clear in his Critique of Practical Reason that we can’t access the noumenal, that “direct access to the noumenal domain would deprive us of the very ‘spontaneity’ which forms the kernel of transcendental freedom: it would turn us into life-less automata” (Zizek, The Parallax View 22-3). It is here that we find why de Bolla is so insistent on muddling up the terms “thinking,” “knowing,” “cognition,” (and at some other point “truth”) towards the end of his paper – in order to by-pass the insight that he quotes from Kant that “it is possible to think things in themselves [another word for noumena] but not to know them” (de Bolla 29). If a particular piece of art were to give us access to the “noumenal” then this would mean that we would “know” it, that the “noumenal” would be “verified by experience” (de Bolla 29), something which, to repeat it once again, Kant excludes.
    A second interpretation of Kant’s “escape” would make reference to some sort of synthesis (in the “popular” Hegelian sense) between the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal,” an attempt to solve the contradiction evident in Kant’s definition of aesthetic judgement outlined above: that it is both subjective and disinterested (universal). But the very attempt at solving this contradiction is problematic. First of all, we may claim that there is no contradiction because, as already mentioned, the “universal” that Kant attributes to aesthetic judgements is not “noumenal.” Second, we may follow this by claiming that even if there is a contradiction, Kant’s aesthetic judgement can be defined as embodying this contradiction in a non-synthetic way. In other words, aesthetic judgement is “universal” insofar as everyone is capable of witnessing the gap between the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal” that it is concerned with (or that it lies in). This interpretation of Kant’s “escape” (the one I’ve been holding to since the beginning of this commentary) belongs to Zizek. Kant’s true “escape” from the necessary choice between the “noumenal” and the “phenomenal” is neither making the choice, nor claiming that not choice needs to be made. It is realizing that one is always caught in a deadlock when one attempts to make the choice, and choosing to stay in the deadlock.
    Zizek makes his interpretation of Kant’s aesthetic judgement clear in the subchapter “The logic of sublimity” where he claims that, as defined by Kant, “the Sublime is an object in which we can experience this very impossibility, this permanent failure of the representation to reach after the Thing” (229). Since de Bolla implicitly identifies the Sublime with art – “[i]f one were to conceive of art as an analogy of the sublime, the same would hold true” (26) – we can bring this identification to our reading of Zizek. Therefore, if art is the representation of “the permanent failure of the representation to reach after the Thing,” aesthetic judgement is our contemplation of this impossibility, the deadlock I outlined above. Zizek puts this another way elsewhere: “[o]ur freedom persists only in a space in between the phenomenal and the noumenal” (The Parallax View 23).
    But even this deadlock can be thought of in a few different ways; and with this in mind Zizek attempts to explain the shift from Kant to Hegel in the difference between the way they each think this deadlock. In order to explain why Hegel’s interpretation means that the Sublime “must embody itself in some miserable, radically contingent corporeal leftover” (234), I will ground my argument in a very Platonic example, since Zizek’s own insight is that Hegel thought that “Kant himself [..] still remain[ed] a prisoner of the field of representation” (232). Let us imagine a room full of chairs of the same model (“chairs” are here replaceable with “green apples,” for example). To slightly turn Kant into Plato, let’s say that for Kant all of these chairs are the “phenomena” of the one true “noumenal” chair. What makes Kant unique is the reaction he would have were he to walk into the room. While Plato would probably merely walk out disgusted, Kant would be astounded by what he would see as the Sublime in seeing so many chairs of the same model. For him, so many different chairs would communicate the “noumenal” chair beyond them, or to be more precise, the impossibility of knowing the “noumenal” idea behind them. They would be negative evidence of the “noumenal.” Hegel, on the other hand, would find the Sublime in the small details that would distinguish one chair from another (a term used by Barthes in Camera Lucida that we can loosely apply here is “punctum”). Because he doesn’t believe there to be any “noumenal” behind these chairs, he would look not so much at the amount of chairs, as at these small mistakes in production which make us think that there is one “noumenal” chair. This is what Zizek means when he refers to the “miserable, radically contingent corporeal leftover”: the mistake in production, Barthes’ “punctum.”

    Works cited outside of course material
    Zizek, Slavoj. The Parallax View. Cambridge, Mass. and London: MIT Press, 2009.
    Yeats, W.B. The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    @ Rhiannon:
    It is important to understand that there is no “authentic self” in Zizek. As he explains in the Kant-Hegel argument, there is only appearance and nothing behind it. The idea of an “authentic self” goes hand in hand with the idea that there is indeed a “noumenal.” In Lacan’s words (which Zizek often quotes): the unconscious is the discourse of the Other (another term for the symbolic order).
    @ Cristina:
    For Zizek, and he picks this up from Lacan, the symbolic order is not just a “world view.” The simplest way to put it is that it is the very language that we use and since (for Lacan) there is nothing outside language, it is everything. Lacan uses “symbolic order” instead of “language” as a term because it suggests more than just words, it suggests gestures, for example, or the order inscribed into everything including, say, the way a classroom or a toilet is “ordered.” Lacan opposes the symbolic order to the Real, which is most succinctly explained as the impossibility for the symbolic order to function smoothly.

    • Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

      Yes I realise that, but Zizek postulates that love and guilt are qualities simply inherent in our natures somehow, that we cannot help them because they are simply a part of who we are internally– or perhaps how we appear to ourselves? I’m speculating here, so maybe you can explain it to me. But he seemed to suggest that “real love” could not be “chosen” which presupposes that the “real” is the thought-idea or internal essence of our personalities; it is incorporeal, intangible, unfathomable and completely beyond our conscious control. My point was that this all sounds like a very fancy way of saying that the “real” person–the qualities of the person which are authentic and unique to the person– are the person’s internal thoughts and feelings– as opposed to their actions about which, I would argue they have a choice. I would also argue that the choices we make through our actions better represent who we are than the feelings behind them. Actually– they MAKE us who we are regardless of whether we act according to our desires or against them.

      • Vladimir Cristache says:

        I agree with your take on action. But I think that when Zizek says that you realize that you’re in love, he means that you realize you’re doing things that you wouldn’t be doing if you weren’t in love. So it’s still a matter of action. You start acting in love, and then you step back and say: damn it! I’m in love.

    • myotherleft@gmail.com says:

      Haha! That’s a good illustration. Mind you, I don’t believe that acting in love always comes before the internal emotion or desire. Sometimes– often in fact– the action comes first and it brings about the desire or the emotion. Witness the many successful arranged marriages– often more successful and long-lasting than the more typical western variety of love-relationships. So I think that Zizek is wrong when he says we cannot “choose” who to love. That, or he’s contradicting himself. He has simplified “true” love down to mere emotion making the action of love the irrelevant part.

      The same applies to his analysis of guilt– he suggests that evil people are just inherently evil as a part of their personality and evil acts are merely the expression of that. The internal for him is the “true” part, while the external is just an expression of it. And he argues that this is why we sometimes feel guilty for evil things we haven’t done– because we chose to do them in our subconscious. And I think that’s wrong. You can’t make a choice to do something if you don’t actually DO it. The guilt is there to prevent the choice, but that doesn’t follow that’s it’s there because of it.

      • Vladimir Cristache says:

        Mmk. Then I would say one of three things:
        1. Zizek is using the ‘nature’ discourse ironically.
        2. Zizek is being paradoxical on purpose.
        3. Zizek is wrong. This is early (democratic) Zizek, and his ideas here don’t accord to his later theory.

    • Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

      Which guess do you favour? I’m going with number 3 😉

      I don’t believe irony makes sense in this context–how would that further his argument? And a paradox by definition implies two truths about something that appear to conflict. Zizek’s made assumptions about the nature of love and guilt that are untrue (I would argue) because he has limited the nature of love and guilt to blind involuntary emotion and as a result his paradox doesn’t work. Plus if he doesn’t believe in a “true” self then he’s got to really take a look at his definition of human emotions vs actions.

      What is his later theory by the way? I’m curious.

  11. Enosh Cheng says:

    Sept. 12, 2010
    Regarding Burke’s “Obscurity:”

    The conclusion of a paradox is unnecessary to interpret Burke’s understanding of the relation between fear and obscurity. Obscurity continues to exist and function after the identification of the object of fear. Both death and political despots are identifiable, and yet, are virtually unknowable.

    While I agree with Arin that “death is the only certainty one can count on in this life,” I would argue that the uncertainty of death lies not in its happening, but in its details. On the one hand, we are certain that death comes inevitably and indiscriminately in our life; on the other hand, we cannot deny the uncertainty of its arrival time, of the feelings that accompany it, and of the events that come after it. It is death’s evasiveness from our full apprehension that inspires fear.

    Fear preys on the deficiency of knowledge, and thus, the reliance on imagination. By minimizing the visibility of their real faces, despots create and project their terrifying images onto the public mind’s eye. For instance, in Batman Begins, a movie that also explores the relation between fear and obscurity, Ra’s al Ghul prompts Bruce Wayne to “become more than just a man in the mind of (his) opponent.” The criminal underworld knows the identity of their enemy – Batman, but the obscurity of his true identity, hidden under the cape, is the real dread: is he a superhuman? A ghost? A god? Likewise, knowing the identity of an object of fear is different from knowing the object itself. Rather than complete absence of knowledge, obscurity is imperfect vision or knowledge.

  12. Aron Rosenberg says:

    “I didn’t sign a contract in a womb,
    But most people seem to take for granted that they did,
    Like they were born into a system of rules.

    I was born into a fallen paradigm and rebuild however I see fit,
    And I see fitness as a sense that we’re all together on this.”

    The Zizek readings and the questions/comments already posted seem to lead necessarily into a discussion about our justice system, an objectively framed system allowing for subjective judgments on a case by case basis. These subjective judgments often overthrow a more objective standard because the defendant is able to convince those concerned that his/her actions were a matter of circumstance and not free will. As Zizek discusses, “Evil is always experienced as something pertaining to a free choice, to a decision for which the subject has to assume all responsibility.” (187) Considering this, our justice system topples for evil justified as depending on “atemporal, a priori, transcendental” circumstances (which I feel mutually exclude Rhiannon’s assertion that we are free to decide whether we act on the feelings we undergo when having someone, for example, step on our toe and Kellie’s idea that if we have a choice between something we want to choose and something we don’t want to choose, there is still a non-robotic choice) seems to the conventional modern consciousness as not the fault of an individual but of a system, society or chance. This type of evil is presumably excusable, and if all evil is based thus, the blame can only land beyond the individuals who seem to be evil.

    My question then is whether people agree with me on where I’ve diverged from Zizek’s reasoning to suppose that myself, my contemporaries and perhaps a contemporary Canadian court would be wary to persecute an apparently “evil” individual who had convinced the court that his/her evil actions were born from circumstance beyond his/her temporal control and so insignificant (as in non-reprehensible) in the actions’ authentic expression of his/her ‘self’.

    Building on Cristina’s comment to Alyzee that “the argument isn’t that “the populace does not feel oppressed by a totalitarian regime” but that we are all oppressed and lack free will because of our relationship to the community to which we belong,” we must question what Cristina means by oppressed and whether that word necessarily carries its conventional negativity. Reading the Zizek text, I felt anxious with the way he seemed to presuppose that freedom, despite its paradoxical and stunted existence, is valuable or desirable. Clearly context is the only way to determine the potential benefit or obstacle that’ll be brought forth by freedom, but I wonder how this reading would be a different one if it had sprung from a world where people took for granted that a human’s ultimate ideal was to exist without freedom in tensions with their communities.

    • Arin Vaillancourt says:

      @Aron

      Of course they are wary. This is where insanity pleas and sympathy come into play. Also, there are biases concerning age, gender, and appearance. The law is not black and white, and with the right lawyer and story, any kind of outcome is possible.

    • Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

      I’m sorry, I’m confused. Are you saying that you agree with Zizek’s understanding of “evil” as an “atemporal, a priori transcendental” choice? And that you feel this makes the justice system problematic?

    • Rhiannon Gascoigne says:

      Ok but as I mentioned in my earlier comment, our DESIRE for evil may be beyond our control. Most of us cannot control our thoughts and desires (though there are monastic traditions in which they teach themselves do exactly that), but no one gets convicted for wanting to do something evil.

      It is the ACT of evil, the CHOICE to act in accordance with evil desires and thoughts for which people are convicted. Unless we are all puppets being controlled by our completely arbitrary inner thoughts and feelings–and I would argue we are not– then Zizek is mistaken. It is in our acts that we take ownership of our thoughts and feelings– and consequently take responsibility too.

      Zizek’s definition of evil relates only to the desire for evil and is too simplistic. He equates the thought with the act and disregards the moment of choice between them.

      Now having said that, I will add that a person’s history and their continued choice for evil can set up something of a habit for acting in accordance with their evil desires– the “moment of truth” gets shorter and shorter until it is perhaps subconscious. But that doesn’t mean they cannot ever make the choice for good. It’s just a lot harder. This is where rehab and therapy come in.

  13. Lauren Weatherdon says:

    To address Rousseau’s distinction between egoism and self-respect, and its close ties with his claim that individuals sometimes must “be forced to be free”…

    Rousseau’s vision of the ‘noble savage’ alleges that man in nature is in his purest form, looking inwardly rather than outwardly for respect. Rousseau argues that egoism is derived from the communal structure, reducing mankind to its basest vices, with its so-called individuals “only know[ing] how to live in the opinion of others” (Origin of Inequality) [granted, he does admit that the competitive nature of this produces both good and bad, though more bad than good]. It is ironic, then, that Rousseau declares in his Social Contract that the individual must be “forced to be free”—to agree with the opinion of the majority—in order to maintain the structure of the ‘body politic.’ Likely, as has been suggested by some of you, Rousseau recognized that man innately requires social interaction, thereby disqualifying his idealized projection of the ‘noble savage’ as the answer to society’s failings. However, his proposal that men should be coerced to agree does not seem to place him as a fence-sitter, but rather directly contradicts his yearning for a true individual.

    Society’s influence on individual freedom—or lack thereof—seems to be a point of interest for both Zizek and Rousseau. Both recognize that communal living creates a state in which man is forced to identify with the values of the majority, having his opinions predetermined by his induction into the social framework. Zizek states that society places the individual in a ‘catch-22’, giving him the “freedom to choose, but on condition that [he] choose[s] the right thing” (Zizek 186), as illustrated by his anecdote of the Yugoslav student. Having recently studied Milton’s perspective on freedom in Paradise Lost, this particular concern brings to mind a quote from M. M. Mahood’s essay, “Milton’s Heroes,” where she attempts to deconstruct the paradox between authority and freedom through love: “Love . . . resolves the seeming contradiction between free will and a created condition. ‘Freely we serve,’ Raphael explains to Adam, ‘Because we freely love.” (Mahood 222). While her argument may not entirely correlate, it does serve to provide a comparison with the patriotism often felt towards one’s country. If one loves that which or those whom he serves, then ‘free choice’ aligns with the wishes of the majority; paradoxically, through service and conscription to a figure of authority, man can find freedom (or, at least a state in which he believes himself to be freely acting by his own volition). As Zizek states, “love must be free” (Zizek 187). Conversely, to play devil’s advocate, one could argue that love is yet another structure manufactured by society; following this line of reasoning, no one can truly be free, unaccountable to a controlling ideology or authority, unless they veritably are Rousseau’s noble savage.

  14. Aron Rosenberg says:

    Reading Journal, Week One:
    “I didn’t sign a contract in a womb,
    But most people seem to take for granted that they did,
    Like they were born into a system of rules.

    I was born into a fallen paradigm and rebuild however I see fit,
    And I see fitness as a sense that we’re all together on this.”

    The Zizek readings and the questions/comments already posted seem to lead necessarily into a discussion about our justice system, an objectively framed system allowing for subjective judgments on a case by case basis. These subjective judgments often overthrow a more objective standard because the defendant is able to convince those concerned that his/her actions were a matter of circumstance and not free will. As Zizek discusses, “Evil is always experienced as something pertaining to a free choice, to a decision for which the subject has to assume all responsibility.” (187) Considering this, our justice system topples for evil justified as depending on “atemporal, a priori, transcendental” circumstances (which I feel mutually exclude Rhiannon’s assertion that we are free to decide whether we act on the feelings we undergo when having someone, for example, step on our toe and Kellie’s idea that if we have a choice between something we want to choose and something we don’t want to choose, there is still a non-robotic choice) seems to the conventional modern consciousness as not the fault of an individual but of a system, society or chance. This type of evil is presumably excusable, and if all evil is based thus, the blame can only land beyond the individuals who seem to be evil.

    My question then is whether people agree with me on where I’ve diverged from Zizek’s reasoning to suppose that myself, my contemporaries and perhaps a contemporary Canadian court would be wary to persecute an apparently “evil” individual who had convinced the court that his/her evil actions were born from circumstance beyond his/her temporal control and so insignificant (as in non-reprehensible) in the actions’ authentic expression of his/her ‘self’.

    Building on Cristina’s comment to Alyzee that “the argument isn’t that “the populace does not feel oppressed by a totalitarian regime” but that we are all oppressed and lack free will because of our relationship to the community to which we belong,” we must question what Cristina means by oppressed and whether that word necessarily carries its conventional negativity. Reading the Zizek text, I felt anxious with the way he seemed to presuppose that freedom, despite its paradoxical and stunted existence, is valuable or desirable. Clearly context is the only way to determine the potential benefit or obstacle that’ll be brought forth by freedom, but I wonder how this reading would be a different one if it had sprung from a world where people took for granted that a human’s ultimate ideal was to exist without freedom in tensions with their communities.

  15. Aron Rosenberg says:

    (Sorry, I didn’t mean to post twice; you can disregard the second post. Also, I should have made it clear that the last paragraph of my response deals with an issue in Zizek fairly distinct from the issues discussed in the paragraphs before it.)

  16. (A modified question on Burke, applied to the readings:)

    If obscurity contributes to fearsomeness, as Burke states, then what are the implications for the theorizing of the sublime, which relies in part on the affect of terror? Is there, in general, some sort of paradoxical appropriation of the sublime when we try to construct a reasoned, linguistically mediated ideology from it?

  17. Tina says:

    Fear can be a knee-jerk reaction or a simmering culture. Fear embodies the unknown – the shroud of darkness, the shunning and repression, the silence. I don’t believe that you can identify the nature of a fearsome thing and not compromise the obscurity that makes it fearsome in the first place. To know is to understand and eventually accept. Fear lurks in the cover of obscurity – darkness is not necessary. In this case, what we must first seek to define is the word “obscurity”.
    Obscurity: the state of being unknown, inconspicuous or unimportant. Frost famously characterizes it as an “undergrowth”, “the road less travelled”. Obscurity is a fearful road to take, but it opens up the opportunity for knowledge, open discourse, and even enlightenment – hallmarks of human intelligence. Burke uses two examples: Political Despots and Ghosts. With regards to ghosts, Freud dismisses them as “the uncanny” (1919), “that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and familiar.” To him, ghosts are mere apparitions of the mind of long-established concepts that have since been “alienated” and “repressed”. These spectres return with a vengeance and you have what they say, a haunting. In addition, society have learned to use fear to rein in its people with great aplomb. For instance, parents use fear as an efficient disciplinary tool. You see obscurity through controversial political issues such as censorship, propaganda, the new culture of fear with regards to terrorism.
    My question: Is obscurity a necessary element to horror? Can an object that is familiar and well-accustomed to the eye possibly be terrifying?

  18. Natassia Orr says:

    In response to the first question on Rousseau:

    Rousseau argues some people learn to accept servitude as the natural human condition. In particular,
    “every man born in slavery is born for slavery. Slaves lose … the desire of escaping from” their chains. Some
    individuals are happy to accept a society in which they remain downtrodden, even if alternate societal models are
    presented because the way that they live is the only way that they understand how to live. For a utopian society
    to exists, these individuals must be made by others to participate in a society in which no group of people
    has power over another. Such a society is run based on a social contract, wherein the people govern themselves.
    Because the body is its members, consensus is required. Those who are not willing to act for the greater good of
    the group must be forced by others to do so.

    Rousseau’s argument is problematic in that it assumes a heterogeneous society. What happens when there
    are people of different ethnicities, religions, orientations, etc. with confliction opinions of what is in
    the best interest of the group as a whole? How do Swift’s Big-Endiens and Little-Endiens
    coexist? Must one group change their practices so that the body can function? Is it inevitable
    that the body divides into two groups? Such differences of opinion obviously exist in our society, otherwise
    elections would hold far less popular interest than they do. There’s also a contradiction in this. Rousseau
    criticises elections when he asks where is “the obligation of the minority to submit to the majority?” It seems
    perhaps that such must always be the case in human society.

    It is relatively easy to teach a person helplessness or dependence. We are all born dependent and must learn
    independence. I agree with Rousseau that if there seems no alternative to submission, there are those that are
    happy to submit and work to their best advantage within the system. However, once it becomes clear that there
    are options other than servitude or disenfranchisement, I believe it is much more common to fight for one’s
    freedoms. Very seldom have I observed members of marginalised groups working against their interests in the
    fight for freedom and equity. There are, of course, always a few choose to uphold the status quo that leaves
    them at a disadvantage, but they are an exception to the rule.

    There is also the question of whether it is necessary for all people to accept freedom from others. On this
    point I disagree with Rousseau. There will always be individuals who are, if not unwilling, unable to
    participate fully in the social compact. Examine, for example, the case of young children, who exist under the
    dominion of their parents. Children, while they may possess ample self-respect, lack the knowledge and experience
    to care for themselves autonomously. They require the rule of their parents, because their parents ensure their
    care. In a case where a person cannot survive freely, it would be cruel to force freedom upon them.

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