An Accumulation of Random Thoughts Upon Random Thoughts #5

This post talks about politics, equality, MBTI (socionics theory), among other random things. You might also like this post if you were one of the lucky few who read the story called “The Lightning Bolt” from the first version of #4; and got bummed out that I ended up removing it for the final version.

See you all in 2023 (for real this time),

P.S. When I wrote #4, I really thought it would be my last post of the year. But I decided to publish another one because I ended up writing too much random stuff on my days off work LOL. And besides, I can’t end this year’s posts without sharing the most important story in my world. The best is always for last—even if it is a bittersweet story. ūüôā

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“I would like to write you so simply, so simply, so simply. Without having anything ever catch the eye excepting yours alone… So that above all the language remains self-evidently secret, as if it were invented at every step, as if it was burning immediately”.

—Jacques Derrida, The Post Card.

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Thoughts on Freedom Convoy in Canada

I remembered at the beginning, the movement was about trucker mandates and the travel restrictions that are imposed on the drivers who crosses borders. There are things that I can genuinely sympathize and share concerns for in these initial stages of the protest, such as vaccine mandates, government restrictions, and their concerns for “freedom”. I agree that people should have the right to express their views and opinions which means that I am fine with the convoy protest as long as it is not harming anyone.

However, the protest eventually transformed into something else entirely—something much worse. When you start seeing Nazi flags waving around and white supremacists joining and funding the movement where it is no longer about vaccine mandates, but about taking down governments or certain groups of people; harassing (terrorizing) other people who wears masks, disrupting other people’s lives, stealing food from homeless shelters, and some guy throwing poo at people (lmao), then it might be a good time to ask if the protest is still fighting for the cause that you initially had in mind. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are people who are fighting for what the freedom convoy was supposed to be about where I, once again, share a lot of their concerns for—even if I think their views on freedom are na√Įve and short sighted.

That is all I have to say about it.

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Why is philosophy so difficult?

It trains and teaches you to think in ways that most people never considered and thought was possible. Philosophy is basically the pinnacle of critical thinking that pushes the limits and conditions of what allows for the very act of thinking. To philosophize isn’t just about thinking—it is to think about thinking, or to think outside of the box of thinking. It can even consist of thinking about our feelings and emotions, all the way to our existence in relationship with our world. In my opinion, philosophy is one of the most profound and influential discipline in human history. A lot of disciplines in universities used to be part of philosophy, such as math, science, economics, etc. “Thought” is a gift given to humanity. It is part of what makes us human—and sometimes, all too human.

Another reason why philosophy is difficult is due to how they are often a response to other philosophers in history. So in order to understand a philosophy, you have to understand a very long strand of philosophies where you might basically end up studying the entire history of philosophy which takes years and decades. Thus, those who have little experience in philosophy will often have trouble getting past the first few pages of certain major texts due to their lack of historical knowledge in the discipline.

Philosophy will teach you why just because someone is logically correct does not always mean it is the truth. This is because philosophy and critical thinking isn’t just about thinking objectively or being logical. A lot of people can be logical while fail to think outside of it (tbh, critical thinking is a skill that I think 80% of the general population lacks). To critically think is to, in some sense, argue against your own thoughts and logic so to be skeptical about it (skepticism is a form of philosophy). Only in this way will we start to think about why we think the way we do and what led us to think in such ways. When you spend all your life in a system that teaches you how to be logical or to only do this or that, philosophy may offer you a breath of fresh air by challenging you to think outside of everything that you have learned in your life.

Philosophy is a Greek word that literally translates as “love of wisdom”.

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Regarding my last post where I spoke about equality…

Let us consider another one my sister’s boyfriend’s examples on people who supports equality.

Consider his other proposition where he used to question and challenge those who supports equality. Mr. Boyfriend presents a video where the interviewer questioned people on whether women basketball players should get paid the same as men. While many of them supported equal pay, none of them watched women basketball. While he didn’t say it out loud, perhaps the problem for him is that: how can there be equal pay when people who supports equality in women basketball also didn’t watch any of it to support it? And if no one watches it, how can the the sport earn enough money to pay a salary that is equal to men when no money is going into it? In this sense, perhaps the solution for equality is simple: get more people to support and watch women basketball (or whatever other solutions there are). In this sense, he is absolutely correct. However, this further brings up a question: why don’t people watch women basketball more than men to begin with? On the surface, it is easy for us to say something like, “Men basketball is better because they are more athletic, etc.”. While there are obvious differences between men and women biologically, I think part of the answer to this question goes back to what I said last time on gender essentialism (it can be found hyperlinked here) among other things. But let us not go there this time because I already covered it. What I wish to point out here is that, even if economic equality is established in basketball, the problem of equality remains unsolved.

This question on basketball salary differs from his previous question where equality is about women laying bricks equal to men. The main difference lies in that it considers the problem of economic equality which therefore emphasizes on the structure of capitalism. Since economically, no one in capitalism is ever paid the same due the fundamental design of its system, no one is ever economically equal. Even if women got paid the same as men in basketball, both of these leagues will get out paid by other people outside of it from not just other sports, but from people with other occupations. Therefore, women and men basketball players were never economically equal in contrast to other people outside of it—even if they get paid equally within it.

The problem of equality seems simple when you strictly look at basketball by itself, but once you put this problem into the big picture, it becomes a problem that cannot be solved because the system does not allow for it to be solved. Thus, when you see feminists who seeks for equal pay to their male counterparts in our capitalist world, some of them also falls into this same trap. For it is indeed, very difficult to achieve economic equality when the structure of capitalism is designed to segregate people into different social classes with different levels of income. In this sense, we can say that much of contemporary left / liberalism is incompetent in seeing this problem through. Therefore, one can say that liberalism is actually right wing conservatism in disguise when it comes to economic equality. In order for equality to take place, significant changes in our economic structure needs to occur. This is why people like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels are so influential because it is here where we get into things like socialism where everyone in the system gets paid the same regardless if they are a neurosurgeon, basketball player, a service worker, or a janitor (this is real economic equality that comes with its own set of problems). We may even get into things like communism where money (capital) does not even exist. But it is also here, where we are introduced to the debates on whether these are a good ideas or not.

Many people are only good at looking at things within the system (which has its uses), but they have no idea how to think outside of it and consider the larger and deeper scopes of the problem that is fundamentally at work. Even if Mr. Boyfriend agrees that it is important for both men and women to have equal pay in basketball and that we can make it happen in capitalism, it still does not solve anything about equality since it is only a band-aid solution. In the same way that a doctor doesn’t cure cancer by removing the tumor, economic equality cannot be achieved by making men and women with equal pay only within a certain category. You solve these problems by finding its root causes and removing them once and for all, so that the things that comes after it will forever be liberated from such problems. In cancer, this is DNA mutation. In equality, it is the structure of society.

To be sure, what I presented here is just one small dimension of the problem on economic equality. In many ways, I think Mr. Boyfriend actually asked a very good question. But just like the people in the video, he failed to properly inquire about it. Perhaps what we can learn from this is that, learning how to ask questions is just as important as learning how to answer it. This is also a good example of what I meant when I said that just because you are right does not always mean it is the truth.

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Socionics and thoughts on ENFP and ESFP

As an INTJ (4w5), I had always been fascinated by ENFP and ESFPs. Both of these types are very similar on the outside where they are charming, spontaneous, bubbly social butterflies who are really friendly. In fact, they can be so friendly that people will often mistake their friendliness as romantic interest. ExFPs are sometimes the type of people who will give out their numbers just because they are friendly and enjoy connecting with others. They often assume the best in people (whereas I assume the worst). Both ESFP and ENFPs are really good at making people like them due to how friendly and fun (or flirty) they are. They can be friends with those who nobody wants to be friends with. Both of these types are also really good people promoters when they like you because they may talk to others about you.

On the surface, both ESFP and ENFP appears like they are outgoing with a large social circle, even when they are both loners at heart. They are social in a lone wolf type of way where they won’t always fall into group mentality (due to Fi). This is something that I respect and admire from both of these types. While they may seem like they have a lot of friends and are open to sharing stories about themselves, they are usually only emotionally open to a very small group of people. Just like INTJs, if you try to force your way into their inner world, you will run into a brick wall due to their Fi. ENFPs are usually slightly more random than ESFPs due to their Ne who enjoys talking about abstract theories a little more than ESFP. Whereas ESFPs are more about light hearted fun, who are unapologetically themselves. While both ENFP and ESFPs are really outgoing and social, they are actually secretly judging you with their Fi. And if you violate some of their core values and beliefs, they will keep you at bay or flip out at you. I also think ENFPs have higher introverted tendencies than ESFP. But this might also have to do with their enneagram.

In the past, I’ve had great conversations with both of these types. My presence seem to balance their energy out where I tame their extravagant behaviors. A few of them liked to talk about psychoanalysis with me and analyze other people. I’ve had one or two ESFPs in the past who told me that they wish they were like me and think like me. This is not surprising since ESFP and INTJs are inverted types of each other. Meanwhile, a lot of ENFPs are actually quite smart, but can be too all over the place with their Ne. They are just about the only type who can walk right through all my armors and see who I really am as a person with relative ease.

Several ESFPs in the past had admitted that they really liked me. In socionics theory, INTJ and ESFP are considered as the perfect romantic match because they use the same cognitive functions in reverse order where they cover each other’s weaknesses. In reality, INTJ/ESFP match up is very rare due to the scarcity of INTJs. And when they encounter each other, it’s either they are obsessed or hate each other to death. Due to the unpredictability of inverted types, it appears that INTJ/ESFP relationships has a semi-high potential to fail. Such failure however, also significantly decreases as both types establish mutual understanding, communication and as they mature and develop their weaker functions. I noticed I get along really well with developed (usually older) ESFPs where I am often surprised by how similar they are to me in terms of intellectual orientations and world views despite being so “different” (the same goes for ENFPs). They have potential to be quite deep, despite their reputation for being high energy outgoing extroverts who are often perceived as shallow.

On the other hand, undeveloped (or immature—often young) ESFPs can sometimes strike others as text book narcissists who are attention seekers, impulsive, obsessed with vanity, lack boundaries, dramatic, and likes superficial things such as fame and social status. Until ESFPs are able to tame their Se by developing their Te and Ni (which gives them depth), I think a lot of INTJs will have trouble with ESFPs in a relationship due to the things above (but it really depends on the person). Some ESFPs are also really flirty without much boundaries, even when they are actually just being friendly and playful. They may also do things without thinking about its future consequences. At the end, I think ESFPs are good people with good hearts who just needs to slow down. And to be fair, every undeveloped / immature type can be really hard to deal with. For example, an immature INTJ will strike most people as an insensitive, controlling, blunt, arrogant asshole who needs to get humbled (INTJs are intelligent and they know it).

I think the INTJ/ESFP combo is either a natural disaster, or they work really well together once they can see past and accept each other’s differences and become mindful of them (it takes maturity and love). And when they work, they have a lot of potential to grow and learn from each other which turns them into a power couple (the most famous INTJ/ESFP couple is probably Jay Z and Beyonc√© Knowles). The INTJ will become better at the things they suck at, such as learning how to express their emotions and feelings, be considerate, social, live in the moment like ESFPs (not everything in life needs a plan). While the ESFP will learn how to make plans and slow down. They will also learn how to think strategically, intuitively, deeply, and profoundly like an INTJ.

In socionics, the INTJ/ESFP pairing is known as “duality” which is an example of what many people refer as “opposites attract” (even when they are not true opposites; the opposite of INTJ is ESFJ where they have no functions in common). Duality consists of all inverted pairings such as the ENFP/ISTJ and ESTP/INFJ, etc. Whereas INTJ/ENFP is often known as “the golden pair” in MBTI theory by David Keirsey. This is due to how well they compliment each other with their intuitions while simultaneously having enough difference to attract and learn from each other (similar to ENTP/INFJ or INTP/INFJ). Usually, one does not find ENFP and ESFPs to date. When these two types like you, they will find you. Both of them are proactive people who will go after what they want (and when they like you, you will know it). At the end, I think relationship pairings has less to do with typology, but more to do with each individual person and their maturity levels; along many other factors that MBTI consistently fails to account for—such as the power of love that can triumph over differences between two people. In short, I think any pairings can work as long as both types love each other and are willing to put in the work.

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On universities

I think it is unfortunate how people goes to school these days not for self-enlightenment, but for the sake of making money which would lead to all the false paths that our world has now become. I understand this is the reality of life and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to do something that is practical. I once met someone who told me that if he had the courage to be homeless, he wouldn’t be doing what he did for work. He was a pretty funny dude LOL.

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I listen to all genres of music. But right now, I am listening to the Italian piano composer, Ludovico Einaudi. I think this man writes incredibly beautiful music. The track called “The Earth Prelude”, “Oltremare”, and “Tu Sei” are probably some of my all time favourites from him. I am also a pretty big fan of piano music from the classical and romantic eras as well. So people like Beethoven, Chopin, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. I think piano is the greatest instrument ever invented (I also like violins and cellos). Piano music is soul touching, intelligent, elegant, and serene, with many layers of complexities tied to its musical compositions which allows our minds and hearts to transcend beyond space and time. It’s brilliant.

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Climate protestors throwing soups at art works…

I share your concerns, but you won’t convince people to join your cause when they don’t like you for doing things like this. Ironically, I think there is a bit of cleverness in throwing soups at paintings because it’s kind of like an art on it’s own—even if I think it is very disrespectful. I understand that their goal is to make people ask if art is more important than life that has been increasingly put at risk due to climate change. But little do they understand that life is actually an art in itself. Not to mention that Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are some of my favourite art movements (so people like Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet; Impression, soleil levant is a beautiful piece of painting), so throwing stuff at them is obviously a bad idea.

I found it hilarious how the protestors glue themselves onto the wall at the museum after. It’s comedy because of how dumb it looks LOL. I think they should take it a step further and glue themselves with cement like they are an art piece that is part of the museum. That would be performance art at its finest.

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The One Who Waits

“Sometimes, I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game. Whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely this: I am the one who waits.‚ÄĚ

—Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments

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When you love someone…

Personally, I am not someone who goes around telling people that I love them. And if you are one of the few ladies who I said this to, then they should know that these words never come out of my mouth casually. Right now, I can only think of two people who I’ve said it to in my life (outside of family; I’m 32 btw).

I think that if you truly love someone, you should always let them know. Often times, I think people make things a lot harder and complicated than it really needs to be (myself included). Yes, it makes us vulnerable. It might even hurt. And it might be awkward. But having the strength to be emotionally vulnerable is also what makes us strong and allow others to connect with us (and this is coming from someone who is very private about their feelings). Of course, there is always the right and wrong time to say something. But I think there are times where it is always better to produce the right time and take the risk to say it instead of living with regrets without them ever knowing. After all, love is one of the signature traits of human intelligence. I think Wolfgang Mozart said it best:

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

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Wealth and Intelligence

Just because you know how to make money doesn’t always make you intelligent. At best, you are someone who is smart at making money. There are a lot of intelligent people in this world who dies in the gutter because the things that they are good at aren’t valued by society. Most importantly, you can be wealthy in your heart and mind without actually being rich.

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“I learn a lot from you!”

I actually hear this line quite a bit. I also get random emails from people contacting me on this blog thanking me for my work (you’re welcome, I learn just as much!). But I also sometimes hear really funny things from people. One time, a distant acquaintance told me, “Bobby, you are one of the weirdest, but also one of the sweetest person I know”. Honestly, I don’t know if it was a compliment or not. ūüėā

Commentaries, Contemplation, Uncategorized

On Slavoj Zizek and Jordan Peterson: Nature, Culture, and the Displacement of Time

Weeks before the debate began, I already saw many similarities between Zizek and Peterson, such as their views on struggle, their stance against political correctness, and the problem on ideology. Then once you factor in the notion that much of Marxism is actually situated within capitalism, there wasn’t much left to debate other than the problems of capitalism and their differences within it. I also anticipated how Peterson would not understand Zizek’s Hegelian / Lacanian moves on Marx.

But some may wonder, who won the debate? I don’t think either won, but Peterson definitely learnt a few things from Zizek despite the latter, who appeared to be quite passive in the debate (Zizek wasn’t as argumentative as usual). Before we get critical about Peterson—someone who made great insights regardless of his mediocre readings of Marx (like his poor readings of Derrida), we should respect him for his expertise in his own field, open-mindedness, interest towards Zizek, and his responsibility on trying to solve worldly issues.

The reason why I think the debate went well was because of a purely psychoanalytic perspective. Many people complained about Zizek’s passivity on not tearing apart Peterson’s readings of Marx (i.e. his ten points against Marx—someone already did this¬†here). For me, Zizek’s entire gesture of¬†passivity,¬†intentional or not, has to do with situating himself within Lacan’s psychoanalytic concepts known as the Hysterics Discourse in relationship with the University Discourse.¬†But I will not talk about Lacan today. Instead, I would like to share some of my thoughts on the overall debate and discuss nature, culture and time, which will take us away from Zizek and Peterson. If you are interested in the four discourses of psychoanalysis (University, Master, Hysteric, and Analyst), I invite you to read Lacan’s Seminar XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis (it is quite a difficult read). Lacan also adds a fifth discourse later on, known as the Capitalist discourse. Basically, the “other side” of psychoanalysis is just more psychoanalysis.

I think Peterson’s decision to talk about The Communist Manifesto was a bad choice. This is because the book is basically an intro text to Marx. Much of Marxism is not about communism, but the criticism of capitalism. Zizek did a good job in pointing out that Marx and Engel’s best work lies within¬†their famous text called,¬†Capital (Das Kapital),¬†a huge book (four volumes; the first volume is over 1000 pages) that critiques capitalism and introduces some of the key components of “ideology”—with the most famous ones being the fetish commodity,¬†and the relationship between¬†forces of production.¬†Such ideas were important for thinkers that later expanded on them such as Raymond Williams, Terry Eagleton, and¬†Louis Althusser¬†who all had an influence on Zizek in various ways.

Marxist ideas, which are known as “dialectical materialism“, came from reversing the philosophy of German Idealist philosopher named Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (i.e. Marxist ideas such as class struggle came from Hegel’s master-slave dialectics). Marx turned Hegel’s idealist views of the real world into a materialism. Zizek is known for turning Marxist materialism back into Hegelian idealism. Materialism and idealism are opposites in philosophy—I am not going to explain why, you can look up the famous “mind-body” or “mind-matter” problem that was popularized by Rene Descartes. In order for Zizek to return Marx to Hegel, he also goes through Lacanian psychoanalysis (Zizek studied his PhD in psychoanalysis under Jacques-Alain Miller—a famed student of Lacan, and the sole editor of his seminars). This has to do with the fact that Lacanian psychoanalysis consists of a heavy influence from Hegel which talks about how we perceive materialist reality through language and objects through our imagination. Lacan studied Hegel under Alexandre Kojeve before he “Returned to Freud” (i.e. Lacan read Freud as a philosopher of Hegel). This is one of the reasons why reading Lacan may remind people of reading Hegel.

One of the themes that interested me most in the debate was Peterson’s take on the hierarchical aspects of nature in relationship with society. This point is interesting because it is one of the core aspects of political philosophy (i.e. the debate between Nature vs Culture / Society). Peterson takes on a position where the lack of resources and the competition for them in nature mirrors capitalism and most of the systems before it—something that apparently does not exist in Marx’s domain, which is not surprising if you have studied a little bit of political philosophy. Now, before I go over why I think this scarcity of resource is not apparent within Marx, I would like to quickly skim over Zizek’s response.

Zizek responded to Peterson by saying that nature is not hierarchical. Rather, nature is full of improvisations and contingency which I think is true (a similar argument that Quentin Meillassoux made). Zizek goes on and uses a random example of some French person inventing some type of food by accident. Here, Zizek is alluding to Freud and Lacan, where they think life on earth is an “accident”. It is through “error” (chance) where life and intelligence on earth is born and we invent things through this same notion of contingency and improvisation. The two ideas that I have just introduced (contingency and improvisation) will be the underlying themes that I will address later on in regards to nature and culture.

Now, let us try and reconceive Peterson’s problem under a different light. Just because nature consists of a scarcity of resources and a hierarchy which predates capitalism and human existence, does not mean that societies would follow a similar path. What if society was created out of the necessity of an attempt to¬†radicalize and transgress¬†itself¬†away from nature? Here, we confront the paradox of destination. On one hand, humans intentionally moves away from nature to create society and culture. Yet, on the other hand, humans looks back into their natural origins “as¬†if” it was nature’s destination for humans to transgress beyond nature into the unnatural.

This is what¬†Jean-Jacques Rousseau famously refers as “Nature denaturing itself”. Things that nature cannot provide us with (i.e. warmth in the winter), humans supplement it with their own intervention (i.e. by making fire—think of the movie,¬†The Jungle Book where the animals are afraid of the “red flower” since they can’t create fire, but humans can). Nature cannot provide us a path across the river, we build a bridge. Nature lacks the resources of X, we supplement it with something unnatural (i.e. think of things like genetic engineering of agriculture).¬†Yet, this non-natural—this denaturing originates from nature when we look back through the displacement of our time.

In this sense, it is not surprising that societies were formed due to the necessity to create an environment that supplements what nature cannot consistently provide humans with. Society is an “attempt” to¬†guarantee resources as long as we meet its “conditions”, where we have to be good citizens and follow its laws, etc.—even if for Marx, much of these laws are exploitative.¬†Of course, by joining together as a society, one also gives up their “natural freedom” so to obey instituted laws. Here we are getting into Kantian territories of politics such as the notions of “guaranteed peace” within the State versus ideas like “natural peace”—where the former, just like resources, are never absolutely guaranteed since it is always in the position of transgression.¬†

Humans recognizes their natural origins only in so far that they move away from nature to create a society by supplementing its resources. At the same time, humans also recognize that it is nature’s goal for them to denature nature. In our¬†time, it is easy for us to make the claim that society is always already in the process of leaving nature because many of us are already living in a society with a history that is technologically advancing rapidly in an attempt to, let us suppose, “make the world a better place” (i.e. to supplement this lack of resources, inequality perpetuated by nature through hierarchy, to make the poor wealthier, etc.). Therefore, our system of hierarchy which has been the “hi(story)” of society, allows Peterson to look back into the “origins” of nature and see a hierarchy, even when¬†it is such hierarchy that humans have not yet overcome in our time. However, from Peterson’s point of view, we can make a counter argument by saying that it is as if human’s notion of hierarchy was nature’s goal, which lead humans to create a society with a hierarchy as such. But if we consider that humans are to transgress nature by pushing beyond its boundaries and supplement what it lacks, social hierarchies would imply that nature began as a balanced ecological system without hierarchy—a theory that is rejected by most ecologists and scientists.

Nevertheless, what I have proposed is reminiscent to the idea Marx tried to conceive: within¬†a possible¬†future that is to come,¬†civilization would overcome the scarcity of resources and the hierarchies of nature—which is part of what communism consists of. Peterson thinks Marx did not account for the struggles of nature, even when Marx did factor in such problem. Peterson is not aware of the people who influenced Marx, such as Rousseau, who was one of the first philosophers to attack the concept of private property.

But why the paradox of destination? Society mirrors nature¬†only insofar that¬†nature reflects society—a society¬†that is always-in-“progress” of supplementing nature through this double bind, transgressing the boundaries of nature and culture (whatever “progress” could mean in relation to temporality and its history).¬†The displacement of time is juxtaposed with history. We are always living in a today viewing backwards of yesterday into history. Every today becomes yesterday.¬†The historian’s fatal mistake is to claim that everything had already been conceived, even when they have to first interpret contemporary ideas in order to look back into history to make such claim. We can see this in the history of psychoanalysis.¬†Freud before Lacan:¬†everything Lacan said, Freud had already said because he lived before Lacan (hence Lacan had to “Return to Freud”). It is easy to see Lacan within Freud only if we read Lacan¬†before Freud—even when Freud would have never thought what Lacan would say and how he expanded and departed from his ideas in the future after his death. This historical reading of Freud through Lacan, along with whatever else history demands, is the arrival which takes itself away from ever arriving at Freud.¬†

In the exact same way, we have¬†nature before culture. It is easy to find nature within culture after-the-fact of humans living in¬†culture (its society and history) before nature. Even when nature would have never “thought” what its “goals” were until humans reached such point in culture through pure contingency and improvisation of nature. Thus, nature is¬†anterior¬†to our culture which is at once, within the process of denaturing and supplementing itself as culture (this is what Rousseau calls, “the dangerous supplement”).¬†We never arrive at the destination of nature that denatures itself because such denaturing and supplementing is always in progress as culture¬†continues to¬†unfold¬†through time. Thus, to arrive is to fail at arriving—to arrive without ever arriving. One never arrives at their destination—this is the secret.

The point I wish to make is the problem of intentionality driven by the force of history: of what appears to be present which moves forward in time as it looks backwards—namely, our experience of the infinite deferral of time. This is perhaps, the most classic of all Derridean “problems” exemplified through his famous structure called, “Trace” (the unity of past and future) and “Differance”—which is to say that it is not a problem, but a fundamental experience of ek-sistence (I hyperlink my Derrida posts all the time to accommodate new readers, here it is again). The presence of our contemporary¬†moment is always displaced in time¬†through a force of history and a future to come. We originate from nature, yet we live in a time away from nature, where we rediscover the nature of yesterday within the unnatural society of today. And it is also this today which becomes the becoming of yesterday, and the becoming of tomorrow as today.¬†We are never “here” but elsewhere in time. We are always living in between time—where the future is always to come.


On Continental Philosophy

I think what comes down to measuring the difficulty of a text is the method used and the way that it is written. When I say this, many would be thinking about the split between analytical and continental philosophy and their methods. This split is usually an academic one. I mostly read continental works and therefore I will be somewhat bias here. I don’t necessary hate on analytical thoughts, but it seems inevitable that if you put a continental and an analytical thinker in the same room, they will eventually end up in a debate (like John Searle and Jacques Derrida).

Most of my philosophical journeys are made on my own (though I have taken philosophy courses on ethics, film theory, history, etc). And over the year, I feel like I have made a significant progress in understanding Jacques Derrida (I read Derrida without secondary commentary sources). My interest in philosophy mostly lies within media (photography, film, etc), aesthetics, phenomenology and language. This is probably because of my photography background.

The Analytical tradition

Although I am no expert at it, analytical philosophy in general are written in crisp clear arguments. After all, clear logical arguments written in ordinary language is what they are consistently proud of. But their entire scope of the argument might be huge (say, linguistics), which would make their writings difficult to understand. Analytical methods often strives on logic, clarity and mathematics. They consider their own work as parallel to natural sciences. In short, analytical philosophers writes philosophy with little to no regard about its relevance to history most of the time. They are ideas that can stand on its own through pure logic and reasoning.

I can’t really give insight on how to read these because I am not a fan of how they write.

Continental tradition

Continental tradition came from mainland Europe. My experience with continental thinkers is that they tend to include and consider the history of philosophy along with their own ideas (think about Hegel or Kant).¬†Thus, there are¬†no simple way of addressing philosophy because everything is connected. For continentals, it is naive to write about philosophy and not consider historical discourses.¬†Hence, continental philosopher’s works will tend to be written in response to other philosophers works (ie. Derrida responding to Heidegger, Saussure, Husserl, Hegel, Plato, Aristotle etc). Therefore, to understand one philosopher, you must also understand the previous, where such philosopher also writes according to another, etc. This would ultimately turn¬†continental philosophy into a highly technical text, loading it with a¬†very complex prose which will often frustrate the reader, causing misreadings or a complete disregard of their ideas. Not to mention that the history of philosophy is over two thousand years old.

Furthermore, continental thinkers rejects natural science as the most accurate way of interpreting our everyday phenomena. There are several reasons for this, but one being the idea how natural sciences are based on a certain phenomenon. A phenomenon which is pre-logical, and pre-theoretical (experiences that comes before a theory or language is created). It is only after one interprets such phenomenological experience (via an articulation through a language, or an episteme of sorts) where it becomes a science of something.

Reading Continental Philosophy

The best way to learn continental works is to keep reading them. The more you read it, the easier it¬†gets. Sometimes, even if you don’t understand something, you should just keep going because they might explain it in a different way 200 pages later. Keep in mind that you don’t always have to read entire books of major works (there are exceptions). You have to learn when you can just encyclopedia some of the philosophers that so and so are¬†talking about, or find secondary sources. Yes, by reading a secondary source, you will miss out many important detailed information, but as long as the secondary source is reliable, then you should be “okay” for now.

There are a lot of reputable secondary sources that are quite readable. But if that is still too hard,¬†you can try writers like Alain de Botton, he seems pretty easy (maybe a bit too easy). Reading original works in original language is preferred. The next best thing are¬†translations from well known translators (for example, scholars who translates Derrida are esteemed Derridean thinkers; ie. Geoffrey Bennington,¬†Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, or Leonard Lawlor).¬†Again, secondary sources are acceptable in certain situations (ie.¬†Christopher Norris¬†is also a world leading Derridean intellectual who writes commentary on Derrida, but not a translator of Derrida’s works). Most of the time, you¬†also want to make sure that you are reading books from¬†reputable university publishers like Cambridge, Chicago, Oxford, Stanford, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, etc (though this is not always true).

Many continental works are written in a non-linear format. Each chapter somewhat functions simultaneously to its former and latter chapters / sections. So it is up to you on how you can synthesize these concepts at once (Lacanian psychoanalysis is a good example). This takes practice, and it is also arguably one of the most important skills in reading such books. It gets easier over time.

Continental philosophy are the type of philosophy where you have to reread in a few years down the road. Especially after you have read other continental books. As one of my teachers like to say, these books leaves crumbs that you pick up and piece back together from the crumbs of other books. Not to mention that it is often such crumbs which will get you to read other continental books or lead you into sculpting a new idea. It will help you learn about the different discourses that so and so might be talking about.

In general, I would say that continental philosophy requires an acquired taste (knowledge) from past experience to enjoy.

…and More

Continental writing takes many different forms, some appears with a more poetic prose (Nietzsche, Kierkegaard), while others appears as different forms of art (Pollock, Godard, Beckett, who were all known for being a part of the existential movement), mathematics (Badiou), or other highly technical apparatuses. I personally think that continental thoughts are closer to real life than analytical. There are of course, other philosophers before the continental and analytical split (or pre-Kantian) that were amazing. For example, Jean Jacques Rousseau (the father of romanticism), and Renes Descartes.

Not all continental works are as hard as the¬†Critique of Pure Reason,¬†Phenomenology of the Spirit, Of Grammatology,¬†Ecrits or¬†Being and Time.¬†For example, some of the writings from¬†Roland Barthes¬†are easier than¬†to understand than others. Even when¬†his ideas are actually quite complex when you analyze it. In his narcissistic book, ¬†A Lover’s Discourse, Barthes consistently speaks about the “Other”.¬†This concept of the Other is made famous by several prominent continental scholars such as Lacan, Hegel, Levinas and Derrida.¬†In general,¬†Barthes had a huge influence¬†on post-structuralist thinkers like Jean Baudrillard whose later works are not written academically, but in a rather “romantically pessimistic” tone (not surprising, since Baudrillard was Barthes’ student).¬†Baudrillard is famed for practicing a certain type of writing called¬†pataphysics¬†(one¬†should not be surprised that pataphysics is recognized as pseudoscience).

If phenomenological experiences are pre-logical and pre-theoretical, then some of these thinkers will be obscure. This is because what comes before our interpretation of such experience will always remain uncertain. This obscurity is where this famous “gap” lies – between phenomenon and our interpretation (or in a Derridean sense, our¬†articulation)¬†of it. Another words, we can never fully interpret the phenomenon that we experience in front of us through the production of meaning and languages.¬†Most importantly, for thinkers like Baudrillard (and even more so for Derrida), we¬†tend to interpret / produce only the things we desire¬†to see out of a particular phenomenon.

From personal experience, if you start reading late 20th century continental (post-structural) works, you will begin to recognize that often times, the reason why you don’t understand something is because you are still thinking within the structure of language (to be fair, that is all¬†we can really do…but not really, say for example: love,¬†spirit, and grace). Understanding post-structural continental¬†works don’t just require good reading comprehension and vocabulary (which I am terrible at), but also a large¬†capacity for imagination. You must think with an¬†open mind and¬†beyond¬†the structure.

Existentialism and Phenomenology

I don’t have much experience with reading existentialism. But from reading Derrida and Baudrillard who were both heavily influenced by Nietzsche, I can tell you that existentialism is quite a different breed of continental philosophy. 20th century philosophy and “postmodern philosophy” has been incredibly influenced by existentialism. It is like what Derrida has said about Nietzsche, he “has written that writing”. Where as Martin Heidegger is often known for combining existentialism and phenomenology called existential phenomenology.¬†The same goes for Jean-Paul Sartre who famously and very influentially writes in between philosophy and literature. Sartre was also known for declining the Nobel Prize in 1964. Other incredible existentialists includes, Soren Kierkegaard, Simone De Beauvoir, Albert Camus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Furthermore,¬†existentialism can also be seen as a cultural movement. As already mentioned, renown novelists like¬†Samuel Beckett, artist Jackson Pollock, or French New Wave film director Jean-Luc Godard are often associated with¬†it.

Phenomenology on the other hand, while being quite slippery, was an incredibly influential discipline. It is as the study of phenomena from a conscious first person point of view, such as the way you are reading this text, and how you hear yourself speak in your head (auto-affection); or how we experience our everyday phenomenon of reality, signs, time, our body, touching, feeling, seeing, hearing, etc. It was invented by Edmund Husserl who furthered the split between analytical and continental philosophies. His book Logical Investigations  influenced many 20th century continental works including Heidegger, Derrida, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. 20th century was the century of phenomenology.

Reading and Learning with Passion

Given its technical sophistication, is¬†there even such a thing as casually reading continental philosophy? I’m not sure.¬†I would say that continental philosophy (and even analytical, but again I have no experience in that regards) requires a¬†huge¬†amount of determination. You really need to love it in order to¬†understand it. And when you teach it to¬†someone else, your passion will really show. Most importantly, don’t give up. You will always run into¬†people that think you are insane or accusing you of making things up because you are thinking the unthinkable.