Turbulenzen und Zäsuren

Liebe …, über Turbulenzen und Zäsuren muss ich noch nachdenken – nicht weil ich sie infrage stellen möchte, eher weil die Turbulenzen bei mit tendenziell schleichender Dauerzustand, auch als Denkherausforderung, sind; und zweitens die Zäsuren sich dann doch wie ein geballter Block, Keil, Flügel in den ganz normalen Wahnsinn einmischen – dazwischen-schlagend oder leicht sich hineinsenkend.
Wie schrieb ich nach dem Besuch der Alice-Vorstellung in der Opera?
C’ è più realtà nel paese delle meraviglie di tutte le meraviglie che pretendiamo di affrontare nella nostra ricerca.
Und mein zugegebenermassen chaotisch [erscheinender] [Denk-]Ansatz macht beides Spannend und verbindet teils die Welten, immer hoffend, dass ich dennoch auf dem Boden der Tatsachen bleibe. – Naja, was sind Tatsachen? Kürzlich hörte ich vom Stundenlohn des Herrn Gates. Dollar? Euro? ich habe es vergessen – allemal sollen es einhundertfünfzig sein, pro Sekunde …. Und so ist es doch oft: die wahren Dimensionen von Ungleichheit, Regelungen und Änderungen, auch jene im besten Sinne, erfassen wir oftmals kaum – bezeichnend der, wenngleich nach meiner Auffassung, zweifelhafte, Schritt Peter’s, nun Sachbücher durch Novellen ergänzen zu wollen [“The Baby Auction”, “Ardent Justice”], da ihm die Aussagemöglichkeiten durch Sachbücher begrenzt scheinen – Hat er Recht oder zeigt es nicht ein anderes Mal, dass es nicht nur – vor langer Zeit wurde darüber geschrieben – ein Elend der Philosophie gibt, sondern auch ständig die Verarmung der Sozialwissenschaft weiter voranschreitet – nichts Neues und doch erschreckend, wenn man in dem Verarmungsprozess teils gefangen ist, sich zu widersetzen sucht, und dann in diese Verarmungsfalle gerät: die Verarmung des Denkens durch über-systematisierung oder die Verarmung durch das Verlangen, den Menschen zu respektieren und nicht den technischen, administrativen oder unter allem den ökonomischen Interessen unterzuordnen.
Sicher sind all dies Geschichten hoher Komplexität – aber Komplexität wirklich reduzieren zu müssen, wie es nach Luhmann Aufgabe der Wissenschaft ist, ist Anderes, als Komplexität zu leugnen – etwas, was wir vor Luhmann bereits lernen konnten, etwa von Hegel oder Marx. Und sicher ist es ein Prozess, der lange schon zu finden ist – erwähnte ich nicht vor Kurzem erst die Kritik Alfred Marshall’s an der Segmentierung des Wissens[prozesses] ?  – und der doch immer neue Formen findet, nicht zuletzt durch die systematische Verarmung menschlicher Intelligence durch AI. Die Befluegelung will ich nicht bestreiten, aber doch die Gefahr der Vorgaben durch AI kann ich nicht übersehen: Die Weiterung des Schrittes, vor dem ich auch Studierende immer wieder gewarnt habe:
Eine Antwort zu geben, ohne genau über die Frage nachzudenken
erfolgt nun Rechen-Maschinen-geschneidert, durch die Forderung:
Eine Frage zu stellen, und sie so zu stellen, dass es der Algorithmus
immer auch berechnen kann.
Auch dies nichts Neues, denn in den Aufzeichnungen aus dem Kellerloch schreibt Dostojevski ja:
… der Mensch besitzt eine solche Leidenschaft für Systematik und abstrakte Folgerungen, daß er es fertigbringt, bewußt die Wahrheit zu verdrehen und mit sehenden Augen nicht zu sehen und mit hörenden Ohren nicht zu hören, um nur seiner Logik recht geben zu können.
In diesem Sinne danke fuer die Wünsche fuer uns alle
für 2018 und für ein erfolgreiches Fortschreiten auf den Pfaden der Erkenntnis!
und danke auch fuer das Angebot zur weiteren Zusammenarbeit trotz des teils störrischen Insistierens auf der Leidenschaft, sich auf im Rechtsdenken der Systematik und den abstrakten Folgerungen teils zu widersetzen.
In diesem Sinne mit dem Dank sendet Peter die guten Wünsche auch an Dich
Annunci

Why can’t we do what we like to do?

Why can’t we do what we like to do?
– this was the question a Chinese student asked me when I visited the country the last time and walked across the Campus before going to the conference. It had been one of these somewhat strange encounters: a student seeing a Westener, taking the opportunity to proudly exercise a bit of English. I am never sure what to think about it – it reminds me of what can be read in Bakewell’s ‘Existentialist café’:
Not being black, not being gay, not being in Switzerland, there is still sometimes ‘something special’ about being white and hetero and in China [similar applies in other countries, including the occasional introduction as ‘Herrmann the German’ after having lived there nearly twenty years, and an introduction that actually was meant to be very kind] – sure, there is some ambiguity about it, depending on the ‘other person’ [the one who looks, stares or dares to talk …], the own mood and …, ah, so many things, including a possible nice smile or a somewhat rebukingly-fearing look.Is all this what some people man when they are talking about ‘social skills’?
**********
A sentence in Marten Blix book on Digitalization, Immigration and the Welfare State [Edward Elgar, 2017] made me thinking about this in a wider context. On page 84 we can read:
Whether automation will hit an insuperable obstacle when it comes to to tackling tacit skills remains to be seen. Rather than being brick wall beyond which automation cannot venture, tacit knowledge might be reshaped or subject to circumvention and redefinition.
The highlighted part is as remarkable as easily overlooked: Skills, by [my??] definition have the tendency to be as set of rules, more or less easy to learn and also simple to algorithm-ise – the simplicity consists basically in something we may call ‘cutting off the edges, making the wedges’.
**********
Life and living is not just a technical rule – though in the context of digitisation and IT-development technical rules surely play a more pronounced, more visible role. Underlying is a social rule: the arrogance of a class that aims on shaping a world according to its own image …. Doesn’t this remind the person, well versed in the bible of Genesis 26 ff.? There we read:
 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Those in the dark, remain invisible, are expelled, allowing the untouchables to be amongst themselves:
This egalitarian style can clash with the Valley’s reality of extreme income polarization. ‘Many tech companies solved this problem by having the lowest-paid workers not actually be employees. They’re contracted out’, Schmidt explained. ‘We can treat them differently, because we don’t really hire them. The person who’s cleaning the bathroom is not exactly the same sort of person.’
(Freeland, Chrystia, 2012: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else; New York: The Penguin Press)
Are we really talking about New Princedoms and refeudalisation?
**********
Coming back then to Anhui [and Changsha … – and even some international airports or some ‘melting pots’ of apparently complete and absolute indifference], perhaps one should think also more about the need of social knowledge as something that entails sovereign mastering of technical rules going hand in hand with empathy when encountering the other: fully understanding the other person [the one who looks or stares or dares to talk …], the own mood and …, ah, so many things, not least the respect of oneself as part of the situation: also with his/her own rights, defined by the interaction ….
And coming back to the question of the student:
why can’t we do what we like to do?
I suppose the answer is simple: because we are teaching and learning too many skills, and too little real knowledge. We are, even after the supposed enlightenment, and perhaps increasingly again ruled by gods, not by ourselves. And we do not even need a question as the answer is always the same, not allowing any critique anyway. And not even allowing a question … – boxing people ….

… boxing humans …

Well, moving in the academic realm is too often about boxing humans – yes, both sides going together: putting people into boxes and brutally beating them up. The following a letter I sent to relevant newspapers as comment on what is going on, how students [and lecturers] are mal-treated, disrespectful encounters when students are following their curiosity. It makes me increasingly sad, and I feel deeply ashamed …

******

Dear colleagues,

adding to the various discussions on ranking and formalistic approaches to studying, admission to universities and performance of third-level teaching and research, one point is easily overlooked – the following example is perhaps extreme, though not necessarily completely exceptional.

I worked for two years as professor of economics at Bangor College China, Changsha [BCC] before taking up my current position as research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich, Germany. Still, one persisting bond to the previous job is concerned with writing references for some students. Some universities where students applied, accepted only references, requiring my mail-address from the previous job – but shouldn’t universities at this time and age accept that scholars are moving, following ambitions and calls in other positions? This means: they should also accept that mail addresses change, and one may even prefer to use a non-institutional address. Anyway, I mentioned the BCC-mail address – however, sending a mail to that address is answered by an auto-reply referring the sender to another address. This is the first point where the institution that was seeking the reference – the Graduate School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong – failed. They ignored the auto-reply and I did not know about the request they sent. Finally I was made aware of it [by the bright applying student], checked the dormant mail box and continued to the website for the submission of the reference. A form opened [after going through a more or less cumbersome procedure], asking for replies to multiple choice questions. I still think students are not made up of multiple choice elements, instead: they are real beings, humans with a multifaceted personality that cannot be squeezed into such forms – even when considering data-processing as an at-times appropriate tool. So, instead of ticking the boxes I preferred skipping them, attaching a recommendation letter instead. However, the system did not allow me to submit the letter unless I would first answer the multiple-choice questions which would feed into a one-dimensional profile. I complained, sent the letter as a mail attachment – and did not receive a reply by the said office of the Hong Kong University. At some stage, I agreed – honestly disgusted by the lack of qualification and respect towards students – ticked the boxes and attached the letter [again cumbersome, as one had to enter a code which was not clearly legible, not allowing to distinguish 0 and O]. I sent another letter of complaint to the Graduate School, The Chinese University of Hong Kong – which was again answered to the BCC address, and again they failed to resend the mail to the e-mail address mentioned in the auto-reply.

If these are the standards of entering higher education, one should not be surprised that at the other end, i.e. at the time of finishing studies, many people have difficulties. They feel their creativity being limited by the requirements of publishing, acquiring funding and the competition along lines of subordination under expectations instead of striving for innovation [see Maximilain Sippenauer: Doktor Bologna; Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 20.10.2017: 11]

Still, it is a bit surprising that all this is well known and still not much is changing. Surprising … ? Perhaps it is not really surprising if we consider that the income of top-administration posts increase while the income of lecturers does not follow accordingly [see for instance the article titled: Times Higher Education pay survey 2016 in The Times Higher Education; https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/times-higher-education-pay-survey-2016%5D.

It seems that there is a long way towards ‘supporting the brightest by open systems’, overcoming the dominant administrative policy of ‘wedge the narrowest by furthering their smart submission’.

Sincerely

Peter Herrmann

suicides, murders … and no gravediggers???

Or:

the Loneliness of the Scientist, While Trying to Escape the Murderers

It is remarkable I think – especially as it is one of these issues we all know, and state repeatedly. It is about the political animal – explored in Aristotle’s Politics -, and the not less important aspect, highlighted by Marx in The Grundrisse, namely that

[t]he human being is in the most literal sense a political animal not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. Production by an isolated individual outside society … is as much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals living together and talking to each other.

– in short a social animal, only coming into existence in and with and through society.

Being too well aware of this, a remark that I recently read in the context of an analysis of Da Vinci’s Last Supper caught my special attention – I try to reproduce it here as close as possible to how it had been stated:

If you are alone, you just belong yourself – becoming aware of  it, it is a moment that the solitude turns into loneliness.

It is the interpretation of a quote in the same text, namely the supposed reflection by Jesus when he turned away, knowing it would be about turning towards his own death (btw., so very different to Socrates as captured by Plato in the Apology).

Common to all these post-Aristotelian messages is that this “individuality within society” is about actual instances of opposing, contradicting exactly this society: the paradox of individuation happening in the mentioned cases by way of opposing. Obviously, this is very much about the devil not existing without god. This, then, may evoke the question, however, if god would “be in existence” without the devil’s existence in the first instance. It may seem at first glance an absurd and useless reflection. But a closer look may teach us differently: all this is very much a different formulation of topics that stand at the very heart of political philosophy: Hobbes’ Leviathan, the embodiment of a god-like institution, protecting humans against themselves, namely their boundless evil character. Taking up on this, though not representing Hobbesian thought, but moving towards Hegel’sl notion of “True is, what does exist”, and “good is (or will be) what becomes the absolute idea”, it is the eternal and absolute good of society. In Hegels own words, taken from the Science of Logic we are asked to accept as

the sole subject matter and content of philosophy

(para 1782)

that

[t]he absolute Idea has turned out to be the identity of the theoretical and the practical Idea. Each of these by itself is still one-sided, possessing the Idea only as a sought for beyond and an unattained goal; each, therefore, is a synthesis of endeavour, and has, but equally has not, the Idea in it; each passes from one thought to the other without bringing the two together, and so remains fixed in their contradiction. The absolute Idea, as the rational Notion that in its reality meets only with itself, is by virtue of this immediacy of its objective identity, on the one hand the return to life; but it has no less sublated this form of its immediacy, and contains within itself the highest degree of opposition. The Notion is not merely soul but free subjective Notion that is for itself and therefore possesses personality — the practical, objective Notion determined in and for itself which, as person, is impenetrable atomic individuality, but explicitly universality and cognition, and in its other has its own objectivity for its object. All else is error, confusion, opinion, endeavour, caprice and transitoriness; the absolute Idea alone is being, imperishable lifeself-knowing truth, and is all truth.

(para 1781)

And of course, Rousseau has to be mentioned, also dealing with the topic, for instance in his Discours sur l’Origine et les Fondements de l’Inégalité parmi les HommesAt the very end of the text he concludes:

Il suit de cet exposé que l’inégalité, étant presque nulle dans l’état de nature, tire sa force et son accroissement du développement de nos facultés et des progrès de l’esprit humain et devient enfin stable et légitime par l’établissement de la propriété et des lois. Il suit encore que l’inégalité morale, autorisée par le seul droit positif, est contraire au droit naturel, toutes les fois qu’elle ne concourt pas en même proportion avec l’inégalité physique; distinction qui détermine suffisamment ce qu’on doit penser à cet égard de la sorte d’inégalité qui règne parmi tous les peuples policés; puisqu’il est manifestement contre la Loi de Nature, de quelque manière qu’on la définisse, qu’un enfant commande à un vieillard, qu’un imbécile conduise un homme sage, et qu’une poignée de gens regorge de superfluités, tandis que la multitude affamée manque du nécessaire.

Bringing this thought together with Hobbes’ notion, Rousseau emerges as kind of Anti-Christ? And reading his various works, doesn’t he actually contend that true society emerges by way of leaving it as such spontaneously developing, naturally? In other words, he is not opposing society as such, but some “artificial society” …

… which, if we take god as slightly truncated good, would suggest that the devil is actually turning out to be god and vice versa.

Admittedly playing a bit around, it marks, I think, one of the fundamental problems not only of our time: the problem of finding hic and nunc meaning, making the current situation meaningful, overcoming the lack of excitement.

Zygmunt Bauman, in a talk from July 2016, engages in these questions. He emphasises the need to leave the comfort zones that we established over time  comfort zones that secured a gated and thus pleasurable setting which does not make much sense. However, it is also a dangerous setting, demeaning history and society as real places where real people act in real history. This ia about revisiting the question of truth (and finding truth), looking at it as matter of dealing with difference.

Thus we have to look for

a step towards people who are in a cosmopolitan situation.

So, what is history, and with this, what are remembrances, about?

Actually it is about history as matter of future, and thus off critique. With this we come to the challenge of remembrance as much as the challenge of living in academia: the establishment of living in society even if it is – temporarily or structurally adverse.

To establish history as another artifact, like society, like life and living means segmentising until we reach a level of not being able to maintain any longer a distinction. The paradox is that the distinction is fading away behind walls of segregation – walls like that between Israel and Palestine and – still in the making – between the USNA and Mexico and, too often, that between “historical artifacts” and the presence of history in the here and now emerging for shaping the future. It is also to often about remembering and even establishing the other – the other country, the other person, the other “system” … overcoming of lack of excitement.

Living in history is not a “collection of items”. But it is the latter that we are taught in daily life of the “economic formation of liquid modernity”. A lengthy passage on page 156 f. from Bauman’s book on “Liquid Modernity”, dealing with the pilgrimage of procrastination may clarify this ambiguity – an ambiguity that moves towards loss of meaning as loss of real history:

Living a life as a pilgrimage is therefore intrinsically aporetic. It obliges each present to serve something which is-not-yet, and to serve it by closing up the distance, by working towards proximity and immediacy. But were the distance closed up and the goal reached, the present would forfeit everything that made it signifi­ cant and valuable. The instrumental rationality favoured and privileged by the pilgrim’s life prompts the search for such means as may perform the uncanny feat of keeping the end of the efforts forever in sight while never reaching proximity, of bringing the end ever closer while preventing the distance from being brought to zero. The pilgrim’s life is a travel-towards-fulfilment, but ‘fulfil­ment’ in that life is tantamount to the loss of meaning. Travelling towards the fulfilment gives the pilgrim’s life its meaning, but the meaning it gives is blighted with a suicidal impulse; that meaning cannot survive the completion of its destiny.

Procrastination reflects that ambivalence. The pilgrim procrasti­ nates in order to be better prepared to grasp things that truly matter. But grasping them will signal the end of the pilgrimage, and so the end to such life as derives from it its sole meaning.

And part of this process is that it goes hand in hand with its opposite, about which we read on page 150

And so the beginning and the end of procrastination meet, the distance between desire and its gratification condenses into the moment of ecstasy – of which, as John Tusa has observed (in the Guardian of 19 July 1997), there must be plenty: ‘Immediate, con­ stant, diversionary, entertaining, in ever-growing numbers, in ever-growing forms, on ever-growing occasions.’ No qualities of things and acts count ‘other than instant, constant and unreflecting self-gratification’.

This is as well about processes of fundamental alienation, about the walls that urge us to search for or claim that we are dealing with eternal truth.

The first step is about demeaning of labour, the prolonged and deepened process already presented by Marx, prolonged and depend by cutting off further ties. From the Liquid Modernity wager we read on page 148

Once the employment of labour has become short-term and precarious, having been stripped of firm (let alone guaranteed) prospects and therefore made episodic, when virtually all rules concerning the game of promotions and dismissals have been scrapped or tend to be altered well before the game is over, there is little chance for mutual loyalty and commitment to sprout and take root.

Sure, we have to emphasise that this is the old pattern – labour, employment under capitalist conditions has never been a “safe heaven”.

And the same is true for research, more general: working in academia. Two very common poles: clientelism and personalised servitude versus objective measures and uncreative research as “applied”, subordinated under the needs of …, well, that was simply the requirement of system maintenance.

So we are back to history, well reflected in a contribution by Robert Cox, distinguishing in the piece on

Social Forces, States and World Orders: Beyond International Relations Theory, published 1981 in Millennium – Journal of International Studies, between problem-solving and critical theory. He contends

[c]ritical theory is directed to the social and political complex as a whole rather than to the separate parts. As a matter of practice, critical theory, like problem solving theory, takes as its starting point some aspect or particular sphere of human activity. But whereas the problem solving approach leads to further analytical sub-division and limitation of the issue to be dealt with, the critical approach leads towards the construction of a larger picture of the whole of which the initially contemplated part is just the part one component, and seeks to understand the process of change in which both parts and whole are involved.

Critical theory is theory of history in the sense of being concerned not just with the past but with a continuing process of historical change.

This background is at least one of different possible ideal frames to revisit the question of remembrance of the

Lonely Scientists, While They are Trying to Escape the Murderers

It is about living in a world that erects monuments, creates its actors as monuments – monuments standing on the shoulders of other monuments …: another dimension of peer-reviewing, namely undermining to speak, to develop something, to open spaces for and of open debate …. – it is strange when looking around and seeing that sooooooo much is going on and one finds sooooooo many calls for papers, but .., yes, but barely a simple call, inviting to a conference, workshop and take part in a discussion … – for which there is not even the time left anyway, as we are too busy, much too busy. Jo Littler points this out on page 67 of her work on Meritocracy as Plutocracy:

In research recently conducted in St Pauls, an elite North American fee-paying school, Khan and Jerolmack noted that typically these students were conscious of the idea of their privilege, and replaced a frame of entitlement with one based around merit by continually emphasising how hard they’d worked. The researchers argued that ‘they generally do not work hard, although they are adept at performing a kind of busyness that looks and feels like hard work.’ (Students that did regularly go to the library were conversely positioned as ‘freaks’). As they put it, ‘“hard work” is mostly a form of talk – but important talk nonetheless. It is a rhetorical strategy deployed by students in a world of “new elites”’. These are elites ‘saying meritocracy but doing the ease of privilege’. (emphasis added, the comedian)

In any case, the question is obviously not the monument, event, fact that we investigate as such, but it is the context, i.e. the essential content. In other word, it is about the essence of the “one item” for the here and now which is itself, as being in the present, in some part (and only in some part) essence of the future. Essentially critical socio-historical existence (or should we speak of “essentialistence”?) Simple knowledge, “knowledge of the facts” …, of course it plays a role. But the real knowledge is about much more than the ability to be aware of the

or we may summaries it by returning to Bauman’s presentation, presenting the meaning of happiness as matter of overcoming unhappiness. In the present context: historical events, monuments, events, facts that we investigate as such are meaningless, gaining meaning not by our interpretation or by knowing their casualties and causalities but by our practice, by developing ourselves as part of

‘the social’ as ‘an outcome of the interaction between people (constituted as actors) and their constructed and natural environment. Its subject matter refers to people’s interrelated productive and reproductive relationships’

as we know from Social Quality thinking, as long as it is truly relational and to obsessed by the search for indicators.

Any limitation is about clipping the wings of the rooster further, moving back to the charade (alluding to the New Chinese Year, the year of the rooster, following the year of the monkey – in German language charade translates into “theatre of monkeys”)

Suicide by following the rules and requirement of pure existence, being paralysed by looking into the eyes of the murderer, accepting (to use the words of Ben Williamson) that

Computer code, software and algorithms have sunk deep into what Nigel Thrift has described as the “technological unconscious” of our contemporary “lifeworld,” and are fast becoming part of the everyday backdrop to Higher Education. Academic research across the natural, human and social sciences is increasingly mediated and augmented by computer coded technologies.

All these suicides and murders are actually about suicide in different forms and “doses”, as

  • two-sided fake
  • one or another [I guess you get similar, and without paying, from here, though I did not check] way of prostitution (and believe me, this has nothing to do with China or Chinese; I could tell stories from EUrope …  well, may be I could tell one and I would not be able to even say a single word thereafter …, other people had to face their end for speaking out on “lesser problematic” issues)
  • my be some are right, saying that there is onanism involved
  • escape into meaningless minuteness of looking into some minor details of the kilogram…

Dr. Davis, who is working closely with those making the final decision about the fate of the kilogram, says he is not so sure. “In terms of published results, the watt balance is closer of the two,” he said. “But it’s very hard to say which is better.”

Well, yes

Some of you say religion makes people happy. So does laughing gas.
Clarence Darrow

and we may add: happy as matter of successful we may get by remembrance, by knowing the facts … but the step from there to overcoming the “unhappy events” of history, the “unhappy facts” of the presence, moving to real happiness in the sense suggested by Bauman with reference to Goethe, may a long, a very long road indeed,

because we forget the skills which are absolutely necessary in the offline world

skills of which the development indeed takes time

Indeed, the question of living and being lived … This means that it is not really about the question if there is such thing as society or not and if and to which extent we are part of it or if not, if we can and should possibly escape. Nor is it about any “abstract” or “artificial society” that stands against a “natural” or “original society”. Instead, as Samuel Knfao and Benno Teschke underline, while looking at The Rules of Reproduction of Capitalism: A Historicist Critique

[a] structural model of capitalism [and we may expand this, saying of society; P.H.] can only be derived if all the key parameters are independent from concrete historical settings so that the logic can be translated to various contexts where we find different social institutions. This is the classic positivist trap. For taking a theory or a proposition that is useful in one context and for a specific purpose in order to turn it into a generalisation, as if it captures an essential logic that applies to multiple cases (Knafo 2010: Critical Approaches and the Legacy of the Agent/Structure Debate in International Relations’, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 23 (3): 493-516.), leads to the standard bifurcation between an abstract conceptual definition, which is meant to ground the explanation, and case-specificities, which are then demoted to the status of accidental accretions, superficial appearances, or un-typical anomalies, rather than accepted positively as presences that defy the general abstraction. In this way, a contextualised observation is made to stands on its own, but only at the cost of severing the rich tension between theory and history (Teschke 2014: IR Theory, Historical Materialism, and the False Promise of International Historical Sociology’, Spectrum: Journal of Global Studies, 6:1, pp. 1-66.).

One can also say that some of the debates amongst philosophers are indeed …, well, just a bit of a contemplative game, taking god and the devil and the possibility of changing roles (as it had been done in the beginning of these reflections) too serious, and considering too little the role of real people in real life. And indeed, real studies in history, real remembrances, real social analyses, real academic studies – are like real philosophy.

It took me a long time to understand the little story a friend, Hans F. Zacher, told me. We had been sitting in the Limoni, opposite of the Institute in the Amalienstrasse in Munich, for one of our more or less regular, though too rare lunches; leisurely talking about …, I think on that occasion it had been about the Baron, i.e. Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu who frequently featured in our contemplations. And now the little story – it took me a rather long time to fully understand its deeper meaning. It went like this:

You know, many colleagues say that I am a philosopher …, but I am not. Here is what I usually answer when somebody asks me if I would be philosopher.

He interrupts himself, looks at me with his impish smile, before he continues

I know about philosophy. And you may even say that I know quite a lot. But I am not philosopher. I would consider myself as philosopher .., look imagine 4 rooms – living/office rooms let’s say. The one is Kant’s, the other Marx’, then …, Nietzsche’s and the one of Leibnitz …

I am not sure …, or actually I am sure that he most likely did not refer to this list, but this is not relevant.

And looking at the room I would, seeing how the chairs are positioned, how especially the chair at the desk is positioned, I could tell you exactly who is living and working there.

He closes, again his impish smile .., which leaves me first simply puzzled … until … I understand, a bit later, the wisdom … . The understanding of memorials, ideas, approaches is very much like understanding human men and women ….

And indeed, isn’t anything below this, any remembrance and any solely problem solving theory, that explicitly and acceptingly lost any critical, and that is also self-critical, ambition like the Trumpian presidential inauguration-ball cake? Of this Masha Gessen says that

much of what little it brings is plagiarized, and most of it is unusable for the purpose for which (…) [they] are usually intended. Not only does it not achieve excellence: it does not even see the point of excellence.

Try it yourself, when you take your chair next time ….

Otherwise … or if you try to do it alone, there remains only

the Loneliness of the Scientist, While Trying to Escape the Murderers

facing the plans that are made to be permanently changed, leaving all of us the permanently I am sorry, but it all because being so busy, hard working ….

And it remains Bitches Brew, if not as  death knell, then as a new wake up call, replacing, or reshuffling the old powerful one which, being used in the market lost strength, it is is a bit going down the drain. – Le chemin de la vie ne passe pas par un jardin de roses.