Ethics of Piracy


The other day I got into a debate on twitter about the morality of sharing ebooks. Someone was posting free copies of Roger Zelazny’s books on kindle, and I replied that I was entitled to ebooks of the printed books I own. This writer challenged that assertion and asked for an argument. I refused to engage in his Empire-inflected moralizing, that the writer owned the medium his story is printed on, and used the Ship of Theseus example to deconstruct the notion of ownership.shipoftheseusargument

  Continue reading Ethics of Piracy

Being and Time: Part 1, Division 2

Apologies on the late addition. Hopefully it’s not too garbled, and please feel free to discuss anything that strikes your fancy!

Dasein & Authenticity
At first Heidegger says Dasein exists. Sure, sounds great. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Heidegger claims that there’s a basic difference between being and existing. Dasein doesn’t JUST exist. It’s that ONLY Dasein exists. Other things, objects like furniture, cars, books, etc., are, but they do not exist in the strict sense of the word. Existence only comes into play with the realization of being. When a being becomes conscious of its own being, it begins to exist.  Continue reading Being and Time: Part 1, Division 2

Being and Time: Part 1, Division 1

Exposition of Task of a Preparatory Analysis of Dasein, or  Bare-Knuckled Brawl with Dasein 

In The first division of part I of Being & Time, Heidegger attempts a transcendental analysis by finding the necessary conditions for some phenomenon – the Dasein – much like Kant did in his Critique where he analyzed objective experience.

He opens the chapter with the first sentence: “we are ourselves the entities to be analyzed.” Continue reading Being and Time: Part 1, Division 1

Deafness & authentic writing

Last week I was reading an article on about a new generation of writers from Mexico (Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla & Eloy Urroz) in the mid nineties, and it hit very close to home. They called themselves the “crackeros” but what interested me the most was their resistance to writing “Mexican literature.”  Literary critics from America and Western Europe insisted that Mexicans writers must write about Mexican themes in order to be authentic. In other words, the crakeros‘ novels weren’t about Mexico, and therefore, the writers weren’t authentic. That implies that the “universal” is restricted to the Americans and Europeans. Commence severe eye-rolling. Continue reading Deafness & authentic writing

Not Deaf enough?

Deaf Power, by Paul Scearce

In February, I submitted the dialogue, None The Wiser, to a collection of Deaf American Prose, in the hopes of being published. However, the professors helming that project had decided that my dialogue was not “deaf” enough to make the cut – even though in their call for submissions, they specified that the topic did not have to be “explicitly about deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing American lives, but … the author [must be] deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing.”

As a deaf author, I thought this project was not necessarily a collection of writings about deafness by deaf authors. But, given the politics behind the rejection, it appears that, in order for me to be published as a deaf person, I must write about deaf issues. I was mistaken in the naïve belief that being a deaf man who could write like a philosopher would be sufficient, and that I need not be defined by my deafness, but this is not the case. Continue reading Not Deaf enough?

Getting started with philosophy

I have some advice while reading philosophy: the most important thing is not determining whether the philosophy is consistent with your pre-existing beliefs, but whether you can disengage from your own beliefs, suspend them for the moment, and be able to explain these philosophical theories in your words. Continue reading Getting started with philosophy

Juxtaposing deafness in society

Is the word ‘deaf’ a label? How does it denote a person? Today, in this post-structural age, labels are everything. We use labels everyday, speak in labels, and we encounter labels everywhere. Sometimes we use labels for convenience, as shorthand for complicated concepts. Other times labels are used in technical vocabulary, to marginalize error. So, we identify ourselves with labels. Hence, the word “deaf” is a label that connotes a particular characteristic of a person. The dictionary explicitly signifies a person who is not physically able to hear, and that definition is derived from the norm of a society of peers who can. The identification of a person as deaf is a discursive product, because it is relevant only within a set of classification that is established by a particular discourse of deafness.

In the Norma Groce’s book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, a description of an independent community isolated on the small island Martha’s Vineyard, which was rife with a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, serves as an example where “deafness” was not a label of disability. Disability in this sense doesn’t necessarily result from a handicap, but rather is manifested through a society that devalues and segregates people who deviate from the physical norms. Consequently, any label that connotes disability is a socioeconomic passport for institutionalization.

However, this marginalization as a disability is a negative concept and does not satisfactorily answer the question – what is ‘deafness?’ Is there an alternative, more positive, definition?

One possible candidate is a social explanation, which is a departure from biological or existential explanations. As a label, deafness functions as a discursive formation that is socially constructed by discourse. The phrase ‘social construct’ is a celebrated description those radical freethinkers use to question the ideological beliefs of a modernist (that reality is a homogeneous entity, that knowledge is the sole result of a pure, sincere will to truth, and the meaning of anything is disinterestedly given).

Discursive formations are derivatives of discourse, which is the semiotic structuring of all social phenomena as codes and rules. This is practiced by a unity of discourse, by consensual agreement. Discourse defines identity and describes what characteristics are possible for a person. A discursive formation constitutes its object and generates knowledge about these objects. That means our knowledge is discursively determined, and the world is constituted in this way by discourse. However, nobody writes a discursive formation. There are no authors of discursive formations because they are constituted by archives, or anonymous collections of text.

These archives is the sustained recording of the history of the individual, and in doing so, the person has a place, a name, a number, a task, a credit history, etc., and never stray from the steady observation of authorities. This constant observation of behavior leads to a certain discipline: the person behaves as if they were under sustained surveillance. In the deaf person’s situation, especially in the USA, his life is observed, recorded, and probed under a microscope by a collaborative and cooperative effort of specialists (deaf teachers, guidance officers, speech language pathologists, interpreters or notetakers, and audiologists): a continuum of psychological profiles, aptitude test placements, audiograms, educational performance, objectives and other documented efforts.

The increasingly complex and technical serialization of the disabled person is an ongoing process of a biographical production. The biographical sketch of the individual, chronicled to a greater detail than ever, results in the ‘real,’ tangible and physical snapshot of the self! Panopticism is a disciplined, rational, detailed and bureaucratic surveillance, which signifies how behavior is directed by the machinery of society- an ‘automatization’ and ‘disindividualization’ of power.

The individual actively construct their social world, as opposed to having it imposed upon them. Therefore, it seems that the concept of deafness does not necessarily signify a disability, but is contingent upon what context the individual chooses to define himself. If labels are constructs, and language is the limit of thought, then I am nothing more than a social construct, that ‘deaf guy.’ However, I do not identify myself as a deaf person because of my existential nature as a free human being. To act otherwise would be bad faith.

(Originally published by the 49er, the CSULB newspaper, February 6, 2003)

Strategy of thought

History teaches us that the mode of philosophical thought predetermines its results. Philosophy, conceived as either a reflective, a contemplative or a communicative discipline – where philosophizing is the act of reflection, contemplation or communication – contains the impulse towards a system. What often entrenches the mind is dogma, in the form of worthless first principles, the advocacy of degenerating metaphysics, and the required lip-service to distinguished intellectuals. In order to resist this solidification of the mind, drop the abstract play of abstractions and return back to the present moment and rethink the situation, the problem, the concept under question. Moreover, a rigorous and honest self-criticism will help avoid the repetition of ineffective methods. Perhaps new directions, even if they are risky, are called for, since by giving up in comfort and security, one gains new ground by boldness. When the mind makes itself fluid and mobile – call the concept into question – war is declared against slothfulness, the inertia of thought, and static views and isolated idee fixes are condemned. Continue reading Strategy of thought