I’m still chunking out a review of Zizek’s The Parallax View [amazon], per previous post. Here’s a passage that raised an eyebrow and I want a professional opinion.

Faced with the enigma of how it is that we hold an evil person responsible for his deeds (although it is clear to us that the propensity for Evil is part of this person’s “nature,” that is to say, he cannot but “follow his nature” and accomplish his deeds with an absolute necessity), Kant and Schelling postulate a nonphenomenal transcendental, atemporal act of primordial choice by means of which each of us, prior to his temporal bodily existence, choose his eternal character. Within our temporal phenomenal existence, this act of choice is experienced as an imposed necessity, which means that the subject, in his phenomenal self-awareness is not conscious of the free choice which grounds his character (his ethical “nature”) … (p. 246)

It goes on a bit but it’s clear enough – wild, too. Speculative and produces a vicious regress. Literally vicious. Why would I choose to be the sort of person who will choose to do evil? My question is: did Kant actually propose this? I would have thought I’d have noticed. (Specifically, because Schopenhauer thinks his rather Platonic notion of transcendental ethical ‘character’ is an improvement over Kant. But Schopenhauer never had the brilliant idea of letting you choose your own.) Schelling, I have no opinion. The only footnote is to chapter 1 of Zizek’s own The Indivisible Remainder, which I don’t have handy. Kantians?

If this question is too easy then just chat amongst yourselves about the contours of Swedenborg space or something.

Ramin Jahanbegloo

by Henry Farrell on May 14, 2006

Political theorist Ramin Jahanbegloo has been “imprisoned”:http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=9bVxyf6q2gcwXpjpdQTthyqxvXgD5Dx5 in the Tehin prison in Tehran as a purported American agent engaged in “cultural activities against Iran.” Tehin is a notorious center of torture, but as far as we know he is still physically unharmed. I missed being a colleague of his by a few months; he left the University of Toronto the year before I arrived. My friend Melissa Williams is organizing a “letter writing campaign”:http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/polsci/ramin/letters.htm to the Iranian authorities; she asks that writers

bq. be careful to adopt a respectful tone and avoid political condemnation. Bear in mind that our purpose is to secure Ramin’s safe release, not to make statements of principle, however valid.

While I appreciate that the Iranian government can arouse some pretty strong feelings, I’ll second Melissa’s cautionary note – but I would also urge CT readers to consider writing to their local Iranian embassies or representations. I’ll be writing further posts as more information emerges.

Campaign songs

by Eszter Hargittai on May 14, 2006

For your weekend listening pleasure, some Hungarian political campaign music. I had meant to blog about this a few weeks ago during the elections (it’s just one of about a dozen posts I haven’t managed to get around to recently), but it’s not as though it’s any less relevant now.

The song was written explicitly for the Hungarian Socialist Party‘s campaign in the recent parliamentary elections. I like it – it’s reminiscent of Hungarian pop/covertly political songs from the 1970s. I didn’t like it the first time I listened to it, but got pretty hooked the second time. I wonder if it’s at all of interest if you do not understand the language and/or are not familiar with the style. (No need to get into how unique the style is, maybe it’s not, but it still reminds me of lots of Hungarian songs from a while ago, songs that don’t tend to make it to the Billboard charts despite being quite good.)

The most commonly recurring words are “igen”, which means “yes” and “Magyarország”, which means “Hungary”. The bottom of the page suggests that the song was also made available as a ring tone for cell phones, which seems like an interesting idea.

So what are other exampes of political campaigns creating their own songs? I can think of campaigns adopting songs for their purposes and playing them at victory time, but those songs weren’t written for the campaigns explicitly. Bonus points if you can link to the examples.

STFU Syndrome

by Belle Waring on May 14, 2006

Just when you thought the lamentable “we are too the 101st Flying Keyboardists” thing had plumbed the very depths of warblogger self-regard…you got another think coming. Here I must interrupt myself to post the best warblogger comment of all time, from the “Captain” Ed thread:

It seems to me that when one’s country calls, one should respond with the very best one has – with what you are best at. Having served in the military a very long time ago, and being an unwilling victim of advancing age and persistent gravity, I find that my best resource is my ability to express my conviction as eloquently and persuasively as I can. Not to convert those on the opposite end of the spectrum, but to buttress and strengthen those who share my world view and inform those whose opinions are yet unformed. On the surface, of course, this sounds laughably self-serving and a towering rationalization[you reckon?!!!!!!!!!!–ed]. Bear with me a moment, however, for I have a point to advance.

As I have stated on previous occasions, the great achilles heal of a free society at war in defence of its freedom, is its ability to maintain the support of its citizens. If the conflict be short, the enemy of obvious evil and the victory clear, then the support will be easily held. Victory has a thousand fathers, afterall. If however, the war is long and the enemy is elusive and victory is ill defined, then a free society is at a distinct disadvantage. A nation that cannot be smashed, can instead be nibbled to death!

And so, I and my keyboard stand at the pass – the weakest point [He’s like a noble Lacedaemonian, combing his long hair, oiling and strigilling the dust from the bodies of his loyal…where was I?–ed]. Armed only with words and whatever wisdom I may have gained along the way, to point to the danger and urge the defenders determination. To clarify the mist of confusion and uncertainty and to defend the vision of our purpose. These are my best weapons and I stand, old and bent and nearly used up, in the critical breach.

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