Principiis obst! Mind the beginning!

We talked a couple of times about Hannah Arendt – point of departure was actually something that seems to be very distant from her work: criteria that constitutional courts can refer to when taking decisions. And of course, taking the perspective from the legal doctrine is different from that taken by others. Funnily enough, legal doctrine translates into German as Rechtsdogmatik – suggesting something like dogmatic law, of even dogmatic thinkers on legal issues?

At some stage I mentioned some literature to my office mate – stuff I would think being important on this topic. Books, some more or less legalist, at least coming from sociology of law, philosophy of law, and perhaps stuff philosophising on justice – we both laughed when I dared to say – mind, to a jurist:
law is not interested in justice, hardly knows about it. what we share – legal scientists and economists – is a more or less blind interest in coherence. that may be rather simple: you put numbers and articles and even laws, we put numbers on goods and people – no matter on how bad the goods are, no matter how deep personalities are buried behind the figures.
 We laughed, knowing that it is reality and when it is lived reality it is harsh.
After such books, and after working a bit on our different tasks, I interrupted the silence:
Right, there is another one: Hannah Arendt’s Human Condition. it is probably the most comprehensive book she wrote, and from reading this, it is possible to understand the others …  to least the one on he Eichmann-trial and the banality of evil.
 A short chat, a couple of days later, we had been sitting for lunch – just across the street. Else a rather dull, grey day. I don’t know why she asked me about Hannah and Martin Heidegger … – I said what I knew, and part of it, actually part of the question had been already about Heidegger’s relationship to the fascists.
The romantic relationship between the two philosophers was known as a difficult one – and apparently the relationship between Heidegger and the fascists had not been so clear …
– can one say it was part of this banality of evil? We talked about it, the time, the difficulty of admitting that it is difficult. For me it is again and again emotionally a difficult matter, having known comrades, colleagues, friends who went through that hell – making impossible to accept that those had been ordinary people.
It could be him
I pointed on the table to the left
or her
my eyes moved to the right. I looked into her eyes:
It could be you — or do you know if it is not me at some stage?
It was loud, the snowfall was not too bad and I proposed to leave. I opened the brelli:
Let’s go to the LMU. I do not know exactly where it is …
– did you ever hear about the Geschwister Scholl?
She did not – and I told her the bit I knew, talked also about Anne Frank, my visit in the Anne Frank House, im Amsterdam. I remembered, at the end of the museum little notes, one asking
Why do we feel such a pity for this one child, knowing that there had been so many more being brutally slaughtered. – it is because we hardly can cope with this one, bearing the large number would crash us completely. 
After a while we found one person who could help us finding the way – and a little while later we find the little memorial – I had to swallow, as usual when being confronted with my past which is not my past and against which I had been fighting. I managed, we entered – we walked along the exhibits, I have had the impression getting slower and slower. And for my part I was wondering if it was right to put all this weight on her shoulders. Or if it was my duty? Or …just something like a waste of time?
 After we left, we stood a while at the bottom of the broad stairs …
Do you know, I fell sometimes so … riven, so unsure, insecure …
She talked about Korea, the occupation by the Japanese … – and I had to ask sincerely and honestly to forgive me for not knowing anything about her country. A bit later, when we walked back to the Institute, I remembered Albert Einstein – I used this reference to underline what I said before, and already while we have had lunch:
I cannot guarantee that I would be as brave as these people – I would like to be, but would I be as strong as they had been? Albert, with all his knowledge, he was one of the enablers – finally his contribution mad it possible that the USA developed the nuclear weapon. And he did so intentionally, ‘knowing’ that the bomb in the hands of the US would better than it would be in the hands of the fascist Germany. Later, when he knew better, namely that it had been used so senseless, the US playing with the muscles without any military need and humane consideration, he changed not just his mind but concentrated much of his effort on condemning .., well part of his own deeds. – Braveness …
The morning of the same day I submitted another recommendation letter for  student – the boxing exercise – the mail to the university is already prepared but I have to wait, sending it:
Earlier I just submitted a recommendation – and I dare to make a recommendation to your institution:
Be professional and serious, and do not breach confidentiality law – there is much improvement for you, actually I was near to recommend to the student not to go further with the application due to your highly unprofessional way of treating students.
Sincerely worrying about the quality of academic standards I remain
Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
The evening I went to a presentation at the institute:
„Jenseits der Praxis? Die aktuellen Vorschläge für eine Reform des Gemeinsamen Europäischen Asylsystems (GEAS) aus rechtlicher und praktischer Sicht“
 A very clear presentation, also highlighting some fundamental flaws – followed by a ‘soft debate’, leaving some important points out,
Principiis obsta. Sero medicina parata, cum mala per longas convaluere moras.
Mind the beginning| Too late the remedy is prepared when the evil became stronger simply by time.
Ovid wrote it, thinking Remedia Amoris – what then about the self-loving academics …?
Today, I went for my usual walk  the first time that I really was getting aware of the name of the one street I passed so often: Ackermannstreet – the city of Munich still celebrating this loyal property of a man who had to go to court because of misappropriation,
This day I did not listen to my usual lectures and audio-plays, I remembered my last visit in Athens. After that visit I wrote:
a long way … from the priests on the Acropolis [ἄκρον (akron, “highest point”) and πόλις (polis)] to the gardens which had been the roaming place of the philosophers to the reality of today’s Europe.
It is a way full of the tensions: on the one hand the small academies of free thinking – free and ready for the hemlock; on the other hand the abduction, about which Maria Mies wrote in the one book on Europe I edited [Mies, Maria, 1999: Europe in the Global Economy or the Need to De-Colonize Europe; in: Peter Herrmann (Ed.): Challenges for a Global Welfare System: Commack, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.: 153-171].
Studying the history – sine ira et studio – as Tacitus said.
Also making history without hate and zealousness? There is always the danger then of abduction: the legal doctrine, expressed in the constitutional state, the state under the rule of law is turned into the one-sided application of law, its consistency the utmost and only validation. The economic doctrine, being caught in the mirage of closed systems, the equations make equal what is different, and not able to see that not figures but power matters.
Life goes on – only not forgetting its complexity and ambiguity can make us free. [I could not find the link to the one, the eleventh song].

The no-problem-society III – Beautification of living trying to gain space

No problem, of course – indeed, only if there is shadow, there will be light. And the one-sided view, so prevalent as it is so easy, allows to ignore seeing the ‘dark side’ – which of course is a problem for those actually sitting in the middle of the shadow. In other words, what really is at stake is – as so often – the old question not simply concerned with to be or not to be but where and how to be – the Shakespearean is relatively simple to answer as it is universal in the sense of the finality that is involved: a simple reduction of being on physical existence, the story around it nice, superstructural and though it is essential for the individual it is in terms of the social not much more than bric-à-brac. The other question deserves a more differentiated look as it is about power, and as such it is, equal to the question of value, fundamentally relational and ‘human’. Three quotes from Hannah Arendt’s book on the human conditions are providing some food for thought:

 Man, in so far as he is homo faber, instrumentalizes, and his in- strumentalization implies a degradation of all things into means, their loss of intrinsic and independent value, so that eventually not only the objects of fabrication but also ‘the earth in general and all forces of nature,’ which clearly came into being without the help of man and have an existence independent of the human world, lose their ‘value because [they] do not present the reification which comes from work’.[1]


The unfortunate truth about behaviorism and the validity of its ‘laws’ is that the more people there are, the more likely they are to behave and the less likely to tolerate non-behavior. Statistically, this will be shown in the leveling out of fluctuation. In reality, deeds will have less and less chance to stem the tide of behavior, and events will more and more lose their significance, that is, their capacity to illuminate historical time. Statistical uniformity is by no means a harmless scientific ideal; it is the no longer secret political ideal of a society which, entirely submerged in the routine of everyday living, is at peace with the scientific outlook inherent in its very existence.[2]

It is also about equality

This modern equality, based on the conformism inherent in society and possible only because behavior has replaced action as the foremost mode of human relationship, is in every respect different from equality in antiquity, and notably in the Greek city-states.[3]

While Hannah Arendt discusses these issues in the perspective of the general conditions of existence, it is not less, perhaps even more relevant in terms of social classes and groups – and the spaces provided for the development.

Sifting things onto the behavioural level is usual simple: the appeal to be optimist, the appeal to behave in a responsible and respectful way, to be emphatic – and even the non-utilitarian approach will soon reveal the real issue. And that is the objectivity of shadow, the objectivity of the shades of grey .., and the nevertheless somewhat finality of black. As we could see: defined by statistics, defined by the combination of different paint particles.

Indeed, as Arendt pointed out, action is not least a matter of speech, understood as consequential communication. However, as the issue had been previously about space and its creation, we can approach this way (some of) the underlying issue(s): real spaces are about real communication, at least about allowing real communication – honest communication as dispute. The true ‘art’ of the Greek polis in which communication was about dispute which was about having the better arguments – and of course: the better way of presenting. Surely different of compared to today’s common mutual confirmation and shown agreement – with the clenched fist in the pocket and shaking the head after turning around … no problem, just do what you can present – and today, more than ever before, you can present figures.

Even indicators and evidence are reduced on means of confirming and proving what we know, not helping us to understand complex patterns and reducing issues on simplified causal and mono-directional connections.[4]

Quality of any product or service is now defined by … – by what the producer or provider states it is about. Yes, it is reality defined for instance by the ISO, the new gods of the International Organization for Standardization claiming

We develop and publish International Standards.

It is simple: if we include for instance the failing of the product after three years in the definition of a standard of a lawn mover and if the product is failing after three years it may be said it is ‘good’. Lasting longer would actually not be ‘good’, as it would not ‘fail as promised’.

Goethe’s Mephisto already knew:

To nonsense reason turns, and benefit to worry.
Woe unto you that you’re a grandchild, woe!
For of the law that was born with us, no!
Of that, alas! there never is a query.[5]

(Goethe, 1806)

One of the problems – perhaps this makes us feeling that things are ‘new’, that they are getting worse – may be that we witness some kind of exponential growth of stupidity: close a hole by digging another and dig another hole to close the second and …, with any new one we are not simply facing a spatial shift but instead a larger than the original one that we closed, somewhat unrecognised, piecemeal strategies to maintain some form of peace, friable and from the beginning inclined to emerge as smooth nonsense: beautiful and without substance and without even claiming any substance.

But if things would be as simple as they appear to be … but they aren’t if we allow moving forwards and backwards, acknowledging the dialectical, dual meaning of sublation. –What is this about then?

Recently I looked a bit into Artificial Intelligence, also watched some films (as e.g. Ex Machina, Her). I still think it is interesting – and something that, in different ways, goes beyond the ‘narrow topic’. There is a film ‘Io e Caterina’, in Italian, a comedy but it is about the relationship between a man and his robot. Another thing I saw recently at the airport in Helsinki: a ‘voting stand’ asking the esteemed user to asses the service. What is new, remarkable? The development: It begins with people meeting at the counter and expressing directly what they think of each other, possibly ‘feedback cards’ can be found on the desk. Then there is the ‘press button-feedback’ at counters: emoticons where we still are asked to ‘assess how people perform’. Now we have machines by which we can assess how other machines ‘behave’: how did you like the automatic self-check-in?

This links well to what I wrote earlier: marrying a robot.

The legal dimension of such ‘marriage between humans and robots’ is actually in the perspective of legal doctrine a fascinating question … ridiculous? not imaginable? The real problem with self-driving cars is … exactly the same – the need to redefine the legal subject and include a ‘body’ that is so far not capable of holding rights. Frightening? Sure, to some extent. However finding an answer may also open a way to redefine ‘rights of nature’ – a discussion we are pursuing in many Latin-American countries, in particular in Bolivia … – indeed, now the question seems to go beyond the differentiation between behaviour and action a sit had been posed earlier, with reference to Hannah Arendt. Now we are challenged to search for higher for higher forms of both, behaviour and action.

Especially as we can move now back to the question of spaces and spatial (not least urban) development. On of the core problems is that under the condition that requires everything has to be measurable, standardised everything has to be as well appear as reification, even more so: is reification and by this it is made tangible. What is more, this reification is on the one hand individualised as only as act of individuals who are ‘trading’ reified ‘things’ the social is constituted. What is more, the ex-ante-inclusion of social considerations into this relationship would actually make it impossible to function in the required way. This means not least that little profit coming from these individual relationships is better than large profits from social engagement. This is one of the explanations (admittedly amongst others that are not less important) that we find the global pressure on prices – the all-presence of ‘cheap stuff’, the need for the generalisation of the common law of business balance as matter that pushes all of us – well, the majority – downwards.

However, there are indications of limits having been reached, pushing to some new forms of bringing things together. ‘complete individualisation’ and ‘complete commodification’ are striving for their exoneration, for re-socialisation and de-commodification: at this stage it is about the socialisation of private space, not more, and not less: the shopping malls as destination of the outing; the coffee shop as living room and office – its flagship supposing that everything is

Crafted by hand and heart

Where one can

Make every sip more rewarding

And of course it is a place where the contradiction is life, stands at the core: the very person and hand and heart driven service offers that you can

Pay with your phone. And do so much more.


Such ‘imagined communities’, this changing cultures of coffeehouses, are now taking over even the traditional small nests of the old cultures, the nests of resistance as for instance the probably strongest defenders of the national coffee bar tradition and there are many other of these ‘communities’ now: other coffee companies, restaurants that change the concept of self-service towards self-production, the DIY.

And they are also emerging in other areas: the various ‘communities’ as and, allowing all of us putting us under pressure, establishing a climate of ‘digital self-monitoring – the self-tracing in cybernetic capitalism’[6], and also giving us the feeling of moving in a space of discourse where we are

… invited you to participate in the comments on his draft paper …

To view the paper and comments, please follow the link below:

Writing about this topical field – topical on the sense of current, it also in the understanding of dealing with a subject matter – is difficult as it is again and again dis-tracted into looking at the details: the dying system still being able not only to maintain but even to gain. Perhaps there is really not more in it? Let’s wait and see …



[1]            Arendt, Hannah, 1958: The Human Condition; Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press: 156; with reference to Das Kapital, HI [Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, Abt. II, Zurich, 1933], 698

[2]            ibid.: 43

[3]            ibid, 41; see then also pages 159 ff., the chapter on The Exchange Market.

[4]            see Herrmann, Peter, 2014: Indicators – More than Evidence and Maths; in: Kondratieff Waves: Juglar – Kuznets – Kondratief; editors: Leonid Grinin (Russia), Tessaleno Devezas (Portugal), Andrey Korotayev (Russia); Volgograd: ‘Uchitel’ Publishing House

[5]            Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1806: Faust I, Vers 1972 ff; English translation

[6]            Simon Schaupp, 2106: Digitale Selbstüberwachung. Self-Tracking im kybernetischen Kapitalismus’; Verlag Graswurzelrevolution, 160 Seiten, ISBN 3939045292