The metaphor of “gene editing” has been employed widely in popular discussions of CRISPR technology. The editing metaphor obscures the physical mechanism of action in CRISPR techniques, and understates the present frequency of off-target effects. However, the editing metaphor may be a useful means to think about approaches to regulating the future use of CRISPR. Conceiving of CRISPR as an information technology recalls the highly computational, information-oriented context of genomic research in which CRISPR has emerged. More importantly, the editing metaphor, (...) while currently inaccurate, anticipates a future moment when CRISPR technology will be ubiquitous and extremely reliable. Contemporary deliberations about the regulation of CRISPR should keep in mind that the technology may become more powerful—and more susceptible to misuse—as the overall state of genomic science advances and applications of CRISPR become less expensive and more refined. (shrink)
Social experimental research commonly employs media to elicit responses from research subjects. This use of media is broadly protected under fair use exemptions to copyright, and creators of content used in experiments are generally not afforded any formal consideration or protections in existing research ethics frameworks. Online social networking sites are an emerging and important setting for social experiments, and in this context the material used to elicit responses is often content produced by other users. This article argues that users (...) may have a reasonable interest in controlling the use of their content in experiments conducted in online social networks. Matters of risk and autonomy in research ethics are explored by analogy to active debates in law over adhesion contracts, moral rights, and the right to be forgotten. The article concludes by considering practical difficulties in identifying and protecting the interests of creators. (shrink)
This article examines public involvement in the six-year administrative review of an application by Waukesha, Wisconsin, to draw water from Lake Michigan to replace its radium-contaminated local water supply. The article shows that public positions on the proposal inverted the typical relationship between partisanship and environmental attitudes, prompting both supporters and opponents to ignore scientific evidence and the central matter of water safety. In successive rounds of state and regional administrative review, these political stances induced administrators to engage in increasingly (...) legalistic forms of assessment. Although Waukesha’s application was approved in 2016, such administrative dynamics may limit the ability of the recently enacted Great Lakes Compact to address current and prospective water safety problems in the region. The case typifies an emerging pattern in water governance in the United States: contentious administrative politics drive cooperative agreements to resemble adversarial proceedings, limiting their ability to adapt to new environmental problems. (shrink)
Mill's most famous departure from Bentham is his distinction between higher and lower pleasures. This article argues that quality and quantity are independent and irreducible properties of pleasures that may be traded off against each other – as in the case of quality and quantity of wine. I argue that Mill is not committed to thinking that there are two distinct kinds of pleasure, or that ‘higher pleasures’ lexically dominate lower ones, and that the distinction is compatible with hedonism. I (...) show how this interpretation not only makes sense of Mill but allows him to respond to famous problems, such as Crisp's Haydn and the oyster and Nozick's experience machine. (shrink)
Consequentialists typically think that the moral quality of one's conduct depends on the difference one makes. But consequentialists may also think that even if one is not making a difference, the moral quality of one's conduct can still be affected by whether one is participating in an endeavour that does make a difference. Derek Parfit discusses this issue – the moral significance of what I call ‘participation’ – in the chapter of Reasons and Persons that he devotes to what he (...) calls ‘moral mathematics’. In my paper, I expose an inconsistency in Parfit's discussion of moral mathematics by showing how it gives conflicting answers to the question of whether participation matters. I conclude by showing how an appreciation of Parfit's error sheds some light on consequentialist thought generally, and on the debate between act- and rule-consequentialists specifically. (shrink)
Epicurus seems to have thought that death is not bad for the one who dies, since its badness cannot be located in time. I show that Epicurus’ argument presupposes Presentism, and I argue that death is bad for its victim at all and only those times when the person would have been living a life worth living had she not died when she did. I argue that my account is superior to competing accounts given by Thomas Nagel, Fred Feldman and (...) Neil Feit. (shrink)
Dr Anne Merriman is the founder of Hospice Africa and Hospice Africa Uganda. She is presently Director of Policy and International Programmes. Here she tells the story of how HAU was founded. Dr Richard Harding is an academic researcher working on palliative care in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper described Dr Merriman's experience in pioneering palliative care provision. In particular it examines the steps to achieving wider availability of opioids for pain management for those with far advanced disease. Hospice (...) Africa Uganda has been a model facility in achieving high quality clinical care embedded in a strategy of advocacy and education, using a multifaceted approach that has addressed logistical, policy and legislative barriers. Until 1990 control of severe pain in Sub-Saharan Africa was non-existent except in Zimbabwe and S Africa. Oral affordable morphine was brought to Kenya through Nairobi Hospice that year, and to Uganda through Hospice Africa Uganda in 1993. This paper offers an example of a highly effective and cost efficient model of care that has transformed the ability to humanely manage the problems of those with terminal illness, and to offer a culturally appropriate. (shrink)
This article identifies an argument in Hobbes’s writings often overlooked but relevant to current philosophical debates. Political philosophers tend to categorize his thought as representing consent or rescue theories of political authority. Though these interpretations have textual support and are understandable, they leave out one of his most compelling arguments—what we call the lesser evil argument for political authority, expressed most explicitly in Chapter 20 of Leviathan. Hobbes frankly admits the state’s evils but appeals to the significant disparity between those (...) evils and the greater evils outside the state as a basis for political authority. More than a passing observation, aspects of the lesser evil argument appear in each of his three major political works. In addition to outlining this argument, the article examines its significance both for Hobbes scholarship and recent philosophical debates on political authority. (shrink)
Social epistemologists often operationalize the task of indirectly assessing experts’ trustworthiness to identifying whose beliefs are more reliably true on matters in an area of expertise. Not only does this neglect the philosophically rich space between belief formation and testimonial utterances, it also reduces trustworthiness to reliability. In ethics of trust, by contrast, explicitly relational views of trust include things like good will and responsiveness. One might think that relational aspects can be safely set aside for social epistemology of trust (...) in experts, that such considerations may be relevant for personal relationships but not for expert trustworthiness. Against these claims I argue for the social-epistemic relevance of relational aspects of trust in experts, and to that end I discuss three sorts of considerations – responsively positive, neutral, and negative factors – that can make a difference for expert trustworthiness. (shrink)
The Humean Theory of Reasons, according to which all of our reasons for action are explained by our desires, has been criticized for not being able to account for “moral reasons,” namely, overriding reasons to act on moral demands regardless of one's desires. My aim in this paper is to utilize ideas from Adam Smith's moral philosophy in order to offer a novel and alternative account of moral reasons that is both desire-based and accommodating of an adequate version of the (...) requirement that moral demands have overriding reason-giving force. In particular, I argue that the standpoint of what Smith calls “the impartial spectator” can both determine what is morally appropriate and inappropriate and provide the basis for normative reasons for action—including reasons to act on moral demands—to nearly all reason-responsive agents and, furthermore, that these reasons have the correct weight. The upshot of the proposed account is that it offers an interesting middle road out of a dilemma pertaining to the explanatory and normative dimensions of reasons for informed-desire Humean theorists. (shrink)
Well-Being and Death addresses philosophical questions about death and the good life: what makes a life go well? Is death bad for the one who dies? How is this possible if we go out of existence when we die? Is it worse to die as an infant or as a young adult? Is it bad for animals and fetuses to die? Can the dead be harmed? Is there any way to make death less bad for us? Ben Bradley defends the (...) following views: pleasure, rather than achievement or the satisfaction of desire, is what makes life go well; death is generally bad for its victim, in virtue of depriving the victim of more of a good life; death is bad for its victim at times after death, in particular at all those times at which the victim would have been living well; death is worse the earlier it occurs, and hence it is worse to die as an infant than as an adult; death is usually bad for animals and fetuses, in just the same way it is bad for adult humans; things that happen after someone has died cannot harm that person; the only sensible way to make death less bad is to live so long that no more good life is possible. (shrink)
My question in the chapter is this: could (and should) the role of the physician be construed as that of a friend to the patient? I begin by briefly discussing the “friendship model” of the physician-patient relationship—according to which physicians and patients could, and perhaps should, be friends—as well as its history and limitations. Given these limitations, I focus on the more one-sided idea that the physician could, and perhaps should, be a friend to the patient (a “physician-qua-friend model” of (...) the physician-patient relationship). I show that given recent developments in our understanding of the physician-patient relationship, this idea is far from asinine. I then make the case that the most plausible conception of the physician-qua-friend model incorporates the following components: (a) a common goal, that is, one that physician and patient share; (b) certain forms of equality between physician and patient; (c) an ideal of a caring physician. Finally, I show how the model can be instantiated in a certain type of physician-patient interaction, namely, in physician-assisted dying. (shrink)
This paper defends the view, put roughly, that to think that p is to guess that p is the answer to the question at hand, and that to think that p rationally is for one’s guess to that question to be in a certain sense non-arbitrary. Some theses that will be argued for along the way include: that thinking is question-sensitive and, correspondingly, that ‘thinks’ is context-sensitive; that it can be rational to think that p while having arbitrarily low credence (...) that p; that, nonetheless, rational thinking is closed under entailment; that thinking does not supervene on credence; and that in many cases what one thinks on certain matters is, in a very literal sense, a choice. Finally, since there are strong reasons to believe that thinking just is believing, there are strong reasons to think that all this goes for belief as well. (shrink)
A puzzling feature of paradigmatic cases of dehumanization is that the perpetrators often attribute uniquely human traits to their victims. This has become known as the “paradox of dehumanization.” We address the paradox by arguing that the perpetrators think of their victims as human in one sense, while denying that they are human in another sense. We do so by providing evidence that people harbor a dual character concept of humanity. Research has found that dual character concepts have two independent (...) sets of criteria for their application, one of which is descriptive and one of which is normative. Across four experiments, we found evidence that people deploy a descriptive criterion according to which being human is a matter of being a Homo sapiens; as well as a normative criterion according to which being human is a matter of possessing a deep-seated commitment to do the morally right thing. Importantly, we found that people are willing to affirm that someone is human in the descriptive sense, while denying that they are human in the normative sense, and vice versa. In addition to providing a solution to the paradox of dehumanization, these findings suggest that perceptions of moral character have a central role to play in driving dehumanization. (shrink)
The distinction between perception and cognition has always had a firm footing in both cognitive science and folk psychology. However, there is little agreement as to how the distinction should be drawn. In fact, a number of theorists have recently argued that, given the ubiquity of top-down influences, we should jettison the distinction altogether. I reject this approach, and defend a pluralist account of the distinction. At the heart of my account is the claim that each legitimate way of marking (...) a border between perception and cognition deploys a notion I call ‘stimulus-control.’ Thus, rather than being a grab bag of unrelated kinds, the various categories of the perceptual are unified into a superordinate natural kind. (shrink)
Cholbi suggests three unique features of grief which are “unlike most emotional conditions”: grief is a concatenation of affective states rather than a single such state, grief is not a perception-like state but a form of affectively-laden attention directed at its object, and grief is an activity with an inchoate aim. While I essentially accept this characterization, I believe that these arguments are not unique to grief but common to all emotions.
Ben Fine traces the origins of social capital through the work of Becker, Bourdieu and Coleman and comprehensively reviews the literature across the social sciences. The text is uniquely critical of social capital, explaining how it avoids a proper confrontation with political economy and has become chaotic. This highly topical text addresses some major themes, including the shifting relationship between economics and other social sciences, the 'publish or perish' concept currently burdening scholarly integrity, and how a social science interdisciplinarity requires (...) a place for political economy together with cultural and social theory. (shrink)
Mathematical Logic for Computer Science is a mathematics textbook with theorems and proofs, but the choice of topics has been guided by the needs of computer science students. The method of semantic tableaux provides an elegant way to teach logic that is both theoretically sound and yet sufficiently elementary for undergraduates. To provide a balanced treatment of logic, tableaux are related to deductive proof systems.The logical systems presented are:- Propositional calculus (including binary decision diagrams);- Predicate calculus;- Resolution;- Hoare logic;- Z;- (...) Temporal logic.Answers to exercises (for instructors only) as well as Prolog source code for algorithms may be found via the Springer London web site: http://www.springer.com/978-1-85233-319-5 Mordechai Ben-Ari is an associate professor in the Department of Science Teaching of the Weizmann Institute of Science. He is the author of numerous textbooks on concurrency, programming languages and logic, and has developed software tools for teaching concurrency. In 2004, Ben-Ari received the ACM/SIGCSE Award for Outstanding Contributions to Computer Science Education. (shrink)
The issue of whether emotions are rational is at the centre of philosophical and psychological discussions. I believe that emotions are rational, but that they follow different principles to those of intellectual reasoning. The purpose of this paper is to reveal the unique logic of emotions. I begin by suggesting that we should conceive of emotions as a general mode of the mental system; other modes are the perceptual and intellectual modes. One feature distinguishing one mode from another is the (...) logical principles underlying its information processing mechanism. Before describing these principles, I clarify the notion of ‘rationality,’ arguing that in an important sense emotions can be rational. (shrink)
continent. 1.1 : 3-13. / 0/ – Introduction I want to propose, as a trajectory into the philosophically weird, an absurd theoretical claim and pursue it, or perhaps more accurately, construct it as I point to it, collecting the ground work behind me like the Perpetual Train from China Mieville's Iron Council which puts down track as it moves reclaiming it along the way. The strange trajectory is the following: Kant's critical philosophy and much of continental philosophy which has followed, (...) has been a defense against horror and madness. Kant's prohibition on speculative metaphysics such as dogmatic metaphysics and transcendental realism, on thinking beyond the imposition of transcendental and moral constraints, has been challenged by numerous figures proceeding him. One of the more interesting critiques of Kant comes from the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land stating, “Kant’s critical philosophy is the most elaborate fit of panic in the history of the Earth.” And while Alain Badiou would certainly be opposed to the libidinal investments of Land's Deleuzo-Guattarian thought, he is likewise critical of Kant's normative thought-bureaucracies: Kant is the one author for whom I cannot feel any kinship. Everything in him exasperates me, above all his legalism—always asking Quid Juris? Or ‘Haven’t you crossed the limit?’—combined, as in today’s United States, with a religiosity that is all the more dismal in that it is both omnipresent and vague. The critical machinery he set up has enduringly poisoned philosophy, while giving great succour to the academy, which loves nothing more than to rap the knuckles of the overambitious [….] That is how I understand the truth of Monique David-Menard’s reflections on the properly psychotic origins of Kantianism. I am persuaded that the whole of the critical enterprise is set up to to shield against the tempting symptom represented by the seer Swedenborg, or against ‘diseases of the head’, as Kant puts it. An entire nexus of the limits of reason and philosophy are set up here, namely that the critical philosophy not only defends thought from madness, philosophy from madness, and philosophy from itself, but that philosophy following the advent of the critical enterprise philosophy becomes auto-vampiric; feeding on itself to support the academy. Following Francois Laruelle's non-philosophical indictment of philosophy, we could go one step further and say that philosophy operates on the material of what is philosophizable and not the material of the external world.  Beyond this, the Kantian scheme of nestling human thinking between our limited empirical powers and transcendental guarantees of categorical coherence, forms of thinking which stretch beyond either appear illegitimate, thereby liquefying both pre-critical metaphysics and the ravings of the mad in the same critical acid. In rejecting the Kantian apparatus we are left with two entities – an unsure relation of thought to reality where thought is susceptible to internal and external breakdown and a reality with an uncertain sense of stability. These two strands will be pursued, against the sane-seal of post-Kantian philosophy by engaging the work of weird fiction authors H.P. Lovecraft and Thomas Ligotti. The absolute inhumanism of the formers universe will be used to describe a Shoggothic Materialism while the dream worlds of the latter will articulate the mad speculation of a Ventriloquil Idealism. But first we must address the relation of philosophy to madness as well as philosophy to weird fiction. /1/ – Philosophy and Madness There is nothing that the madness of men invents which is not either nature made manifest or nature restored. Michel Foucault. Madness and Civilization. The moment I doubt whether an event that I recall actually took place, I bring the suspicion of madness upon myself: unless I am uncertain as to whether it was not a mere dream. Arthur Schopenhauer. The World as Will and Idea, Vol. 3. Madness is commonly thought of as moving through several well known cultural-historical shifts from madness as a demonic or otherwise theological force, to rationalization, to medicalization psychiatric and otherwise. Foucault's Madness and Civilization is well known for orientating madness as a form of exclusionary social control which operated by demarcating madness from reason. Yet Foucault points to the possibility of madness as the necessity of nature at least prior to the crushing weight of the church. Kant’s philosophy as a response to madness is grounded by his humanizing of madness itself. As Adrian Johnston points out in the early pages of Time Driven pre-Kantian madness meant humans were seized by demonic or angelic forces whereas Kantian madness became one of being too human. Madness becomes internalized, the external demonic forces become flaws of the individual mind. Foucault argues that, while madness is de-demonized it is also dehumanized during the Renaissance, as madmen become creatures neither diabolic nor totally human reduced to the zero degree of humanity. It is immediately clear why for Kant, speculative metaphysics must be curbed – with the problem of internal madness and without the external safeguards of transcendental conditions, there is nothing to formally separate the speculative capacities for metaphysical diagnosis from the mad ramblings of the insane mind – both equally fall outside the realm of practicality and quotidian experience. David-Menard's work is particularly useful in diagnosing the relation of thought and madness in Kant's texts. David-Menard argues that in Kant's relatively unknown “An Essay on the Maladies of the Mind” as well as his later discussion of the Seer of Swedenborg, that Kant formulates madness primarily in terms of sensory upheaval or other hallucinatory theaters. She writes: “madness is an organization of thought. It is made possible by the ambiguity of the normal relation between the imaginary and the perceived, whether this pertains to the order of sensation or to the relations between our ideas” Kant's fascination with the Seer forces Kant between the pincers of “aesthetic reconciliation” – namely melancholic withdrawal – and “a philosophical invention” – namely the critical project. Deleuze and Guattari's schizoanalysis is a combination and reversal of Kant's split, where an aesthetic over engagement with the world entails prolific conceptual invention. Their embrace of madness, however, is of course itself conceptual despite all their rhizomatic maneuvers. Though they move with the energy of madness, Deleuze and Guattari save the capacity of thought from the fangs of insanity by imbuing materiality itself with the capacity for thought. Or, as Ray Brassier puts it, “Deleuze insists, it is necessary to absolutize the immanence of this world in such a way as to dissolve the transcendent disjunction between things as we know them and as they are in themselves”. That is, whereas Kant relied on the faculty of judgment to divide representation from objectivity Deleuze attempts to flatten the whole economy beneath the juggernaut of ontological univocity. Speculation, as a particularly useful form of madness, might fall close to Deleuze and Guattari’s shaping of philosophy into a concept producing machine but is different in that it is potentially self destructive – less reliant on the stability of its own concepts and more adherent to exposing a particular horrifying swath of reality. Speculative madness is always a potential disaster in that it acknowledges little more than its own speculative power with the hope that the gibbering of at least a handful of hysterical brains will be useful. Pre-critical metaphysics amounts to madness, though this may be because the world itself is mad while new attempts at speculative metaphysics, at post-Kantian pre-critical metaphysics, are well aware of our own madness. Without the sobriety of the principle of sufficient reason we have a world of neon madness: “we would have to conceive what our life would be if all the movements of the earth, all the noises of the earth, all the smells, the tastes, all the light – of the earth and elsewhere, came to us in a moment, in an instant – like an atrocious screaming tumult of things”. Speculative thought may be participatory in the screaming tumult of the world or, worse yet, may produce its spectral double. Against theology or reason or simply commonsense, the speculative becomes heretical. Speculation, as the cognitive extension of the horrorific sublime should be met with melancholic detachment. Whereas Kant's theoretical invention, or productivity of thought, is self -sabotaging, since the advent of the critical project is a productivity of thought which then delimits the engine of thought at large either in dogmatic gestures or non-systematizable empirical wondrousness. The former is celebrated by the fiction of Thomas Ligotti whereas the latter is espoused by the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. /2/ – Weird Fiction and Philosophy. Supernatural horror, in all its eerie constructions, enables a reader to taste treats inconsistent with his personal welfare. Thomas Ligotti Songs of a Dead Dreamer. I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best—one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve,momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which forever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis H.P. Lovecraft. “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction” Lovecraft states that his creation of a story is to suspend natural law yet, at the same time, he indexes the tenuousness of such laws, suggesting the vast possibilities of the cosmic. The tension that Lovecraft sets up between his own fictions and the universe or nature is reproduced within his fictions in the common theme of the unreliable narrator; unreliable precisely because they are either mad or what they have witnessed questions the bounds of material reality. In “The Call of Cthulhu” Lovecraft writes: The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age. Despite Lovecraft's invocations of illusion, he is not claiming that his fantastic creations such as the Old Ones are supernatural but, following Joshi, are only ever supernormal. One can immediately see that instead of nullifying realism Lovecraft in fact opens up the real to an unbearable degree. In various letters and non-fictional statements Lovecraft espoused strictly materialist tenets, ones which he borrowed from Hugh Elliot namely the uniformity of law, the denial of teleology and the denial of non-material existence. Lovecraft seeks to explore the possibilities of such a universe by piling horror upon horror until the fragile brain which attempts to grasp it fractures. This may be why philosophy has largely ignored weird fiction – while Deleuze and Guattari mark the turn towards weird fiction and Lovecraft in particular, with the precursors to speculative realism as well as contemporary related thinkers have begun to view Lovecraft as making philosophical contributions. Lovecraft's own relation to philosophy is largely critical while celebrating Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. This relationship of Lovecraft to philosophy and philosophy to Lovecraft is coupled with Lovecraft's habit of mercilessly destroying the philosopher and the figure of the academic more generally in his work, a destruction which is both an epistemological destruction and an ontological destruction. Thomas Ligotti's weird fiction which he has designated as a kind of “confrontational escapism” might be best described in the following quote from one of his shortstories, “The human phenomenon is but the sum of densely coiled layers of illusion each of which winds itself on the supreme insanity. That there are persons of any kind when all there can be is mindless mirrors laughing and screaming as they parade about in an endless dream”. Whereas Lovecraft's weirdness draws predominantly from the abyssal depths of the uncharted universe, Ligotti's existential horror focuses on the awful proliferation of meaningless surfaces that is, the banal and every day function of representation. In an interview, Ligotti states: We don't even know what the world is like except through our sense organs, which are provably inadequate. It's no less the case with our brains. Our whole lives are motored along by forces we cannot know and perceptions that are faulty. We sometimes hear people say that they're not feeling themselves. Well, who or what do they feel like then? This is not to say that Ligotti sees nothing beneath the surface but that there is only darkness or blackness behind it, whether that surface is on the cosmological level or the personal. By addressing the implicit and explicit philosophical issues in Ligotti's work we will see that his nightmarish take on reality is a form of malevolent idealism, an idealism which is grounded in a real, albeit dark and obscure materiality. If Ligotti's horrors ultimately circle around mad perceptions which degrade the subject, it takes aim at the vast majority of the focus of continental philosophy. While Lovecraft's acidic materialism clearly assaults any romantic concept of being from the outside, Ligotti attacks consciousness from the inside: Just a little doubt slipped into the mind, a little trickle of suspicion in the bloodstream, and all those eyes of ours, one by one, open up to the world and see its horror [...] Not even the solar brilliance of a summer day will harbor you from horror. For horror eats the light and digests it into darkness. Clearly, the weird fiction of Lovecraft and Ligotti amount to a anti-anthrocentric onslaught against the ramparts of correlationist continental philosophy. /3/ – Shoggothic Materialism or the Formless Formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes—viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells—rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile—slaves of suggestion, builders of cities—more and more sullen, more and more intelligent, more and more amphibious, more and more imitative—Great God! What madness made even those blasphemous Old Ones willing to use and to carve such things? H.P. Lovecraft. “At the Mountains of Madness” On the other hand, affirming that the universe resembles nothing and is only formless amounts to saying that the universe is something like a spider or spit. Georges Bataille. “Formless”. The Shoggoths feature most prominently in H.P. Lovecraft's shortstory “At the Mountains of Madness” where they are described in the following manner: It was a terrible, indescribable thing vaster than any subway train – a shapeless congeries of protoplasmic bubbles, faintly self -luminous, and with myriads of temporary eyes forming and un-forming as pustules of greenish light all over the tunnel-filling front that bore down upon us, crushing the frantic penguins and slithering over the glistening floor that it and its kind had swept so evilly free of all litter. The term is a litmus test for materialism itself as the Shoggoth is an amorphous creature. The Shoggoths were living digging machines bio engineered by the Elder Things, and their protoplasmic bodies being formed into various tools by their hypnotic powers. The Shoggoths eventually became self aware and rose up against their masters in an ultimately failed rebellion. After the Elder Ones retreated into the oceans leaving the Shoggoths to roam the frozen wastes of the Antarctic. The onto-genesis of the Shoggoths and their gross materiality, index the horrifyingly deep time of the earth a concept near and dear to Lovecraft's formulation of horror as well as the fear of intelligences far beyond, and far before, the ascent of humankind on earth and elsewhere. The sickly amorphous nature of the Shoggoths invade materialism at large, where while materiality is unmistakably real ie not discursive, psychological, or otherwise overly subjectivist, it questions the relation of materialism to life. As Eugene Thacker writes: The Shoggoths or Elder Things do not even share the same reality with the human beings who encounter them—and yet this encounter takes place, though in a strange no-place that is neither quite that of the phenomenal world of the human subject or the noumenal world of an external reality. Amorphous yet definitively material beings are a constant in Lovecraft's tales. In his tale “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadatth” Lovecraft describes Azathoth as, “that shocking final peril which gibbers unmentionably outside the ordered universe,” that, “last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blashphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity,” who, “gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time”. Azathoth's name may have multiple origins but the most striking is the alchemy term azoth which is both a cohesive agent and a acidic creation pointing back to the generative and the decayed. The indistinction of generation and degradation materially mirrors the blur between the natural and the unnatural as well as life and non-life. Lovecraft speaks of the tension between the natural and the unnatural is his short story “The Unnameable.” He writes, “if the psychic emanations of human creatures be grotesque distortions, what coherent representation could express or portray so gibbous and infamous a nebulousity as the spectre of a malign, chaotic perversion, itself a morbid blasphemy against Nature?”. Lovecraft explores exactly the tension outlined at the beginning of this chapter, between life and thought. At the end of his short tale Lovecraft compounds the problem as the unnameable is described as “a gelatin—a slime—yet it had shapes, a thousand shapes of horror beyond all memory”. Deleuze suggests that becoming-animal is operative throughout Lovecraft's work, where narrators feel themselves reeling at their becoming non-human or of being the anomalous or of becoming atomized. Following Eugene Thacker however, it may be far more accurate to say that Lovecraft's tales exhibit not a becoming-animal but a becoming-creature. Where the monstrous breaks the purportedly fixed laws of nature, the creature is far more ontologically ambiguous. The nameless thing is an altogether different horizon for thought. The creature is either less than animal or more than animal – its becoming is too strange for animal categories and indexes the slow march of thought towards the bizarre. This strangeness is, as aways, some indefinite swirling in the category of immanence and becoming. Bataille begins “The Labyrinth” with the assertion that being, to continue to be, is becoming. More becoming means more being hence the assertion that Bataille's barking dog is more than the sponge. This would mean that the Shoggotth is altogether too much being, too much material in the materialism. Bataille suggests that there is an immanence between the eater and the eaten, across the species and never within them. That is, despite the chaotic storm of immanence there must remain some capacity to distinguish the gradients of becoming without reliance upon, or at least total dependence upon, the powers of intellection to parse the universe into recognizable bits, properly digestible factoids. That is, if we undo Deleuze's aforementioned valorization of sense which, for his variation of materialism, performed the work of the transcendental, but refuse to reinstate Kant's transcendental disjunction between thing and appearance, then it must be a quality of becoming-as-being itself which can account for the discernible nature of things by sense. In an interview with Peter Gratton, Jane Bennett formulates the problem thusly: What is this strange systematicity proper to a world of Becoming? What, for example, initiates this congealing that will undo itself? Is it possible to identify phases within this formativity, plateaus of differentiation? If so, do the phases/plateaus follow a temporal sequence? Or, does the process of formation inside Becoming require us to theorize a non-chronological kind of time? I think that your student’s question: “How can we account for something like iterable structures in an assemblage theory?” is exactly the right question. Philosophy has erred too far on the side of the subject in the subject-object relation and has furthermore, lost the very weirdness of the non-human. Beyond this, the madness of thought need not override. /4/ - Ventriloquial Idealism or the Externality of Thought My aim is the opposite of Lovecraft's. He had an appreciation for natural scenery on earth and wanted to reach beyond the visible in the universe. I have no appreciation for natural scenery and want the objective universe to be a reflection of a character. Thomas Ligotti. “Devotees of Decay and Desolation.” Unless life is a dream, nothing makes sense. For as a reality, it is a rank failure [….] Horror is more real than we are. Thomas Ligotti. “Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror”. Thomas Ligotti's tales are rife with mannequins, puppets, and other brainless entities which of replace the valorized subject of philosophy – that of the free thinking human being. His tales such as “The Dream of the Manikin” aim to destroy the rootedness of consciousness. James Trafford has connected the anti-egoism of Ligotti to Thomas Metzinger – where the self is at best an illusion and we plead desperately for someone else to acknowledge that we are real. Trafford has stated it thus, “Life is played out as an inescapable puppet show, an endless dream in which the puppets are generally unaware that they are trapped within a mesmeric dance of whose mechanisms they know nothing and over which they have no control”. An absolute materialism, for Ligotti, implies an alienation of the idea which leads to a ventriloquil idealism. As Ligotti notes in an interview, “the fiasco and nightmare of existence, the particular fiasco and nightmare of human existence, the sense that people are puppets of powers they cannot comprehend, etc.” And then further elaborates that,“[a]ssuming that anything has to exist, my perfect world would be one in which everyone has experienced the annulment of his or her ego. That is, our consciousness of ourselves as unique individuals would entirely disappear”. The externality of the idea leads to the unfortunate consequence of consciousness eating at itself through horror which, for Ligotti, is more real than reality and goes beyond horror-as-affect. Beyond this, taking together with the unreality of life and the ventriloquizing of subjectivity, Ligotti's thought becomes an idealism in which thought itself is alien and ultimately horrifying. The role of human thought and the relation of non-relation of horror to thought is not completely clear in Ligotti's The Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Ligotti argues in his The Conspiracy Against the Human Race,that the advent of thought is a mistake of nature and that horror is being in the sense that horror results from knowing too much. Yet, at the same time, Ligotti seems to suggest that thought separates us from nature whereas, for Lovecraft, thought is far less privileged – mind is just another manifestation of the vital principal, it is just another materialization of energy. In his brilliant “Prospects for Post-Copernican Dogmatism” Iain Grant rallies against the negative definition of dogmatism and the transcendental, and suggests that negatively defining both over-focuses on conditions of access and subjectivism at the expense of the real or nature. With Schelling, who is Grant's champion against the subjectivist bastions of both Fichte and Kant, Ligotti's idealism could be taken as a transcendental realism following from an ontological realism. Yet the transcendental status of Ligotti's thought move towards a treatment of the transcendental which may threaten to leave beyond its realist ground. Ligotti states: Belief in the supernatural is only superstition. That said, a sense of the supernatural, as Conrad evidenced in Heart of Darkness, must be admitted if one's inclination is to go to the limits of horror. It is the sense of what should not be- the sense of being ravaged by the impossible. Phenomenally speaking, the super-natural may be regarded as the metaphysical counterpart of insanity, a transcendental correlative of a mind that has been driven mad. Again, Ligotti equates madness with thought, qualifying both as supernatural while remaining less emphatic about the metaphysical dimensions of horror. The question becomes one of how exactly the hallucinatory realm of the ideal relates to the black churning matter of Lovecraft's chaos of elementary particles. In his tale “I Have a Special Plan for This World” Ligotti formulates thus: A: There is no grand scheme of things. B: If there were a grand scheme of things, the fact – the fact – that we are not equipped to perceive it, either by natural or supernatural means, is a nightmarish obscenity. C: The very notion of a grand scheme of things is a nightmarish obscenity. Here Ligotti is not discounting metaphysics but implying that if it does exist the fact that we are phenomenologically ill-equipped to perceive that it is nightmarish. For Ligotti, nightmare and horror occur within the circuit of consciousness whereas for Lovecraft the relation between reality and mind is less productive on the side of mind. It is easier to ascertain how the Kantian philosophy is a defense against the diseases of the head as Kant armors his critical enterprise from too much of the world and too much of the mind. The weird fiction of both Lovecraft and Ligotti demonstrates that there is too much of both feeding into one another in a way that corrodes the Kantian schema throughly, breaking it down into a dead but still ontologically potentiated nigredo. The haunting, terrifying fact of Ligotti's idealism is that the transcendental motion which brought thought to matter, while throughly material and naturalized, brings with it the horror that thought cannot be undone without ending the material that bears it either locally or completely. Thought comes from an elsewhere and an elsewhen being-in-thought. The unthinkable outside thought is as maddening as the unthought engine of thought itself within thought which doesn't exist except for the mind, the rotting décor of the brain. /5/ - Hyperstitional Transcendental Paranoia or Self -Expelled Thought Weird fiction has been given some direct treatment in philosophy in the mad black Deleuzianism of Nick Land. Nick Land along with others in the 1990s created the Cyber Culture Research Unit as well as the research group Hyperstition. The now defunct hyperstitional website, an outgrowth of the Cyber Culture Research Unit, defined hyperstition in the following fourfold: 1-Element of effective culture that makes itself real. 2-Fictional quantity functional as a time-traveling device. 3-Coincidence intensifier. 4-Call to the Old Ones. The distinctively Lovecraftian character of hyperstition is hard to miss as is its Deleuzo-Guattarian roots. In the opening pages of A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari write, “We have been criticized for over-quoting literary authors. But when one writes, the only question is which other machine the literary machine can be plugged into”. The indisinction of literature and philosophy mirrors the mess of being and knowing as post-correlationist philosophy, where philosophy tries to make itself real where literature, especially the weird, aims itself at the brain-circuit of horror. The texts of both Lovecraft and Ligotti work through horror as epistemological plasticity meeting with proximity as well as the deep time of Lovecraft and the glacially slow time of paranoia in Ligotti. Against Deleuze, and following Brassier, we cannot allow the time of consciousness, the Bergsonian time of the duree, to override natural time, but instead acknowledge that it is an unfortunate fact of existence as a thinking being. Horror-time, the time of consciousness, with all its punctuated moments and drawn out terrors, cannot compare to the deep time of non-existence both in the unreachable past and the unknown future. The crystalline cogs of Kant's account of experience as the leading light for the possibility of metaphysics must be throughly obliterated. His gloss of experience in Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics could not be more sterile: Experience consists of intuitions, which belong to the sensibility, and of judgments, which are entirely a work of the understanding. But the judgments which the understanding makes entirely out of sensuous intuitions are far from being judgments of experience. For in the one case the judgment connects only the perceptions as they are given in sensuous intuition [....] Experience consists in the synthetic connection of appearances in consciousness, so far as this connection is necessary. Here it is difficult to dismiss the queasiness that Kant's legalism induces upon sight for both Badiou and David-Menard. Kant's thought becomes, as Foucault says when reflecting on Sade's text in relation to nature, “the savage abolition of itself”. For Badiou, Kant's philosophy simply closes off too much of the outside, freezing the world of thought in an all too limited formalism. Critical philosophy is simply the systematized quarantine on future thinking, on thinking which would threaten the formalism which artificially grants thought its own coherency in the face of madness. Even the becoming-mad of Deleuze, while escaping the rumbling ground, makes grounds for itself, mad grounds but grounds which are thinkable in their affect. The field of effects allows for Deleuze's aesthetic and radical empiricism, in which effects and/or occasions make up the material of the world to be thought as a chaosmosis of simulacra. Given a critique of an empiricism of aesthetics, of the image, it may be difficult to justify an attack on Kantian formalism with the madness of literature, which does not aim to make itself real but which we may attempt to make real. That is, how do Lovecraft's and Ligotti's materials, as materials for philosophy to work on, differ from either the operative formalisms of Kant or the implicitly formalized images of Deleuzian empiricism? It is simply that such texts do not aim to make themselves real, and make claims to the real which are more alien to us than familiar, which is why their horror is immediately more trustworthy. This is the madness which Blanchot discusses in The Infinite Conversation through Cervantes and his knight – the madness of book-life, of the perverse unity of literature and life a discussion which culminates in the discussion of one of the weird's masters, that of Kafka. The text is the knowing of madness, since madness, in its moment of becoming-more-mad, cannot be frozen in place but by the solidifications of externalizing production. This is why Foucault ends his famous study with works of art. Furthermore extilligence, the ability to export the products of our maligned brains, is the companion of the attempts to export, or discover the possibility of intelligences outside of our heads, in order for philosophy to survive the solar catastrophe. To borrow again from Deleuze, writing is inseparable from becoming. The mistake is to believe that madness is reabsorbed by extilligence, by great works, or that it could be exorcised by the expelling of thought into the inorganic or differently organic. Going out of our heads does not guarantee we will no longer mean we cannot still go out of our minds. This is simply because of the outside, of matter, or force, or energy, or thing-in-itself, or Schopenhauerian Will. In Lovecraft’s “The Music of Erich Zahn” an “impoverished student of metaphysics” becomes intrigued by strange viol music coming from above his room. After meeting the musician the student discovers that each night he plays frantic music at a window in order to keep some horridness at bay, some “impenetrable darkness with chaos and pandemonium”. The aesthetic defenses provided by the well trained brain can bear the hex of matter for so long, the specter of unalterability within it which too many minds obliterate, collapsing everything before the thought of thought as thinkable or at least noetically mutable on our own terms. Transcendental paranoia is the concurrent nightmare and promise of Paul Humphrey's work, of being literally out of our minds. It is the gothic counterpart of thinking non-conceptually but also of thinking never belonging to any instance of purportedly solid being. As Bataille stated, “At the boundary of that which escapes cohesion, he who reflects within cohesion realizes there is no longer any room for him” Thought is immaterial only to the degree that it is inhuman, it is a power that tries, always with failure, to ascertain its own genesis. Philosophy, if it can truly return to the great outdoors, if it can leave behind the dead loop of the human skull, must recognize not only the non-priority of human thought, but that thought never belongs to the brain that thinks it, thought comes from somewhere else. To return to the train image from the beginning “a locomotive rolling on the surface of the earth is the image of continuous metamorphosis” this is the problem of thought, and of thinking thought, of being no longer able to isolate thought, with only a thought-formed structure.  One of the central tenets of Francois Laruelle's non-philosophy is that philosophy has traditionally operated on material already presupposed as thinkable instead of trying to think the real in itself. Philosophy, according to Laruelle, remains fixated on transcendental synthesis which shatters immanence into an empirical datum and an a prori factum which are then fused by a third thing such as the ego. For a critical account of Laruelle's non-philosophy see Ray Brassier's Nihil Unbound. (shrink)
This paper considers some puzzling knowledge ascriptions and argues that they present prima facie counterexamples to credence, belief, and justification conditions on knowledge, as well as to many of the standard meta-semantic assumptions about the context-sensitivity of ‘know’. It argues that these ascriptions provide new evidence in favor of contextualist theories of knowledge—in particular those that take the interpretation of ‘know’ to be sensitive to the mechanisms of constraint.
Some healthcare systems are said to be grounded in solidarity because healthcare is funded as a form of mutual support. This article argues that health care systems that are grounded in solidarity have the right to penalise some users who are responsible for their poor health. This derives from the fact that solidary systems involve both rights and obligations and, in some cases, those who avoidably incur health burdens violate obligations of solidarity. Penalties warranted include direct patient contribution to costs, (...) and lower priority treatment, but not typically full exclusion from the healthcare system. We also note two important restrictions on this argument. First, failures of solidary obligations can only be assumed under conditions that are conducive to sufficiently autonomous choice, which occur when patients are given ‘Golden Opportunities’ to improve their health. Second, because poor health does not occur in a social vacuum, an insistence on solidarity as part of healthcare is legitimate only if all members of society are held to similar standards of solidarity. We cannot insist upon, and penalise failures of, solidarity only for those who are unwell, and who cannot afford to evade the terms of public health. (shrink)
This paper defends the simple view that in asserting that p, one lies iff one knows that p is false. Along the way it draws some morals about deception, knowledge, Gettier cases, belief, assertion, and the relationship between first- and higher-order norms.
A plausible principle about the felicitous use of indicative conditionals says that there is something strange about asserting an indicative conditional when you know whether its antecedent is true. But in most contexts there is nothing strange at all about asserting indicative conditionals like ‘If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, then someone else did’. This paper argues that the only compelling explanation of these facts requires the resources of contextualism about knowledge.
Three plausible views—Presentism, Truthmaking, and Independence—form an inconsistent triad. By Presentism, all being is present being. By Truthmaking, all truth supervenes on, and is explained in terms of, being. By Independence, some past truths do not supervene on, or are not explained in terms of, present being. We survey and assess some responses to this.
Recent debate in metaethics over evolutionary debunking arguments against morality has shown a tendency to abstract away from relevant empirical detail. Here, I engage the debate about Darwinian debunking of morality with relevant empirical issues. I present four conditions that must be met in order for it to be reasonable to expect an evolved cognitive faculty to be reliable: the environment, information, error, and tracking conditions. I then argue that these conditions are not met in the case of our evolved (...) faculty for moral judgement. (shrink)
The evil God challenge is an argumentative strategy that has been pursued by a number of philosophers in recent years. It is apt to be understood as a parody argument: a wholly evil, omnipotent and omniscient God is absurd, as both theists and atheists will agree. But according to the challenge, belief in evil God is about as reasonable as belief in a wholly good, omnipotent and omniscient God; the two hypotheses are roughly epistemically symmetrical. Given this symmetry, thesis belief (...) in an evil God and belief in a good God are taken to be similarly preposterous. In this paper, we argue that the challenge can be met, suggesting why the three symmetries that need to hold between evil God and good God – intrinsic, natural theology and theodicy symmetries – can all be broken. As such, we take it that the evil God challenge can be met. (shrink)
continent. 2.1 (2012): 40–43. Lance Olsen is a professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Utah, Chair of the FC2 Board of directors, and, most importantly, author or editor of over twenty books of and about innovative literature. He is one of the true champions of prose as a viable contemporary art form. He has just published Architectures of Possibility (written with Trevor Dodge), a book that—as Olsen's works often do—exceeds the usual boundaries of its genre as it (...) explores his interests in narrative theory and pedagogy. The book is a kind of “anti-textbook;” a performative polemic against the stale, conservative and monolithic conception of the literary that so often dominates institutional discourse around creative writing. The following interview takes the occasion of AoP's publication as a chance to speak with Olsen about the book itself as well as to engage with larger, unanswerable, questions about the futures and intersections of literature and education. —Ben Segal INTERVIEW: 1) First, I want to start before the beginning, with the title. I’m really fascinated by the concept it conjures. Can you say something about innovative/experimental/(choose your adjective) literature in relation to both ideas around architecture and possibility? Innovative or experimental are tremendously fraught adjectives, needless to say. But for the purposes of my book, they modify a fiction concerned with the questions: What is fiction? What can it do, and how, and why? Now, of course, what looks “innovative” or “experimental” to one at 17 may not be what looks “innovative” or “experimental” to one at 27 or 57, and what looks “innovative” or “experimental” in 1812 may not be what looks “innovative” or “experimental” in 2012. A certain existential and historical perspectivism is always at work. But I think it’s fair to say that innovative and experimental usually refer to a narrativity that includes a self-reflective awareness of and engagement with theoretical inquiry, concerns, and obsessions, as well as a sense of being in conversation with fiction across space and time. One can't create challenging writing in a vacuum; it has to challenge in relation to something. So contemporary writers interested in the subject are not only in pursuit of the innovative, but are also always-already writing subsequent to it—writing, that is, in its long wake. Architectures of Possibility conceives of creativity as a possibility space, a locale just outside our comfort zones where we can and should take multiple chances in order to imagine in new ways, explore fresh strategies for finding and cultivating ideas, re-view what it is we’re doing and why, better understand what Samuel Beckett meant when he wrote: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” It reminds us that there are other ways of narrating our worlds and ourselves than those we have inherited from the entertainment industry, the government, academia, previous writing, and so on. 2) AoP seems to be directed at several audiences (and purposes) simultaneously. What I mean is that it seems at times a polemic in favor of innovative literature, at other times a creative writing textbook, and still other times a guide to the network of publishers, journals, and programs that make up the current world of non-mainstream literary art in the U.S. In my mind, Architectures is a theorized anti-textbook about writing. Most textbooks on the subject (think of Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft , taught in most creative-writing classroom across the country) orchestrate how to construct conventional stories. They instruct from a place of power how to generate familiar stories that are repeated so often that many of us begin to take them as the primary model for narrativity, if not unconsciously as a kind of truth. The result, as Brian Kiteley points out in 3 A.M. Epiphany (one of the only other alternative textbooks about innovative writing around, by the way, and a tremendous repository of exercises), is merely competent texts. Architectures problematizes that gesture by outlining what conventional narrativity looks like, urging writers to think about its ideology of form as well as content, and invites them to imagine writing, not as a set of relatively stable conventions, but, rather, as a possibility space where everything can and should be thought, tried, challenged. It thereby rhymes with Roland Barthes’s definition of literature: the question minus the answer—which is to say Architectures poses complications to the act of writing rather than solutions. 3) One of the most notable things about the book is the use of interviews. This is also one of the reasons that I think the book works so well for a variety of audiences—that anyone with even a passing interest in the state and future of literature will have an interest in your conversation with people like Ben Marcus, Samuel Delany, and Lydia Davis. I was hoping you could just talk a little about how you chose these subjects to interview, how you edited the interview material, and which answers you received struck you the most. Experimentalism , like realism , wants to appear in the plural. The idea of gathering more than forty interviews (with the help of my awesome collaborator, Trevor Dodge, himself a fine innovative author) represents an attempt to suggest that: the wide, rich, exciting opportunities inherent in the term. There are interviews with younger writers, elder statesmen in the field, publishers, editors, hypermedia artists, comic book makers, and so on: Joe Wenderoth, Carole Maso, Scott McCloud, Nick Montfort, Kathy Acker, et al. Trevor and I decided to do flash interviews: short, concentrated Q&As, each focusing on a particular troubling of writing. We only lightly edited the results to match the manuscript’s overall style, and every interview arrived as a surprise housing several unexpected insights. Three brief examples: Michael Mejia, when asked about what he dreads when setting about writing: “Dread is an interesting word here. I associate it less with loathing or aversion, I suppose, than with a kind of productive fear. Do I dread a project’s failure? Sure, who doesn’t? Who wants to waste time on something that comes to nothing, or is unreadable? But then, what do these terms mean, and who or what defines a work as a ‘failure,’ as ‘waste,’ as ‘unreadable’? Should a work actually try to interrogate and exceed these conceptual limitations? My tendency is to write into dread in order to reveal to myself, as much as to any reader that may come after, the varied complacencies that make other, mostly more conventional writings, readable. It’s at the frontier between readability (security) and unreadability (terror) that I want to live creatively.” Carole Maso, when asked what she’d like a sentence to accomplish: “I think a sentence can if allowed carry emotional and intellectual states as they flee, as they come and go, an escaping essence difficult to hold in other ways. In this way I think the sentence can work as a phrase of music does, sounding something large and elusive in us. Alternatively it can provide sometimes a stability, an essence, a moment of being. Unlike music the sentence also of course carries language with all its potential for meaning making and memory traces and association with it as well. I probably love the accretion of sentences most—those patterns, that shimmer, that resonance.” Shelley Jackson, when asked what is innovative about the innovative: “The purpose of the innovative is, I think, to wake us up. We are not quite alive, most of the time; we occupy a sort of cartoon version of our lives, its lines made smooth by repetition. Writing can open the seams in that world, reintroduce us to the real lives that we have forgotten. Maybe all good writing is innovative in some sense, in that it shows or tells or makes you feel something you never felt before—something for which you have no cartoon ready.” 4) You talk a little about N. Katherine Hayles’s concept of Media Specific Analysis and propose the supplemental notion of Medium Specific Generation—basically taking Hayles and applying her thought from the perspective of the writer. I’ve been trying to develop somewhat related theoretical frameworks, so I was really excited to come upon this section of the book. I’m wondering if you can talk a little more about this idea and, in general, about the potentials that you see as being opened up by writers engaging with and exploiting different media as literary platforms? “Lulled into somnolence by five hundred years of print,” Hayles urges in her (at least for me) transformative 2004 essay, “Print is Flat, Code is Deep,” “literary analysis should awaken to the importance of media-specific analysis, a mode of critical attention which recognizes that all texts are instantiated and that the nature of the medium in which they are instantiated matters.” She goes on to argue critics should learn to become more attuned to the materiality of the medium under investigation—which is to say a story isn’t a story isn’t a story. Rather, the “same” story remediated through film is intrinsically different from that story remediated through conventionally printed books is intrinsically different from that story remediated through hypermedia. “Materiality,” Hayles goes on, “is reconceptualized as the interplay between a text’s physical characteristics and its signifying strategies, a move that entwines instantiation and signification at the outset.” My point in Architectures is simply to emphasize Media Specific Generation: the idea that when writing you should be cognizant, not only of the thematics of the text you are working on, and, as it were, the internal components of its narrativity (character, language, plot, etc.), but also of the material embodiment those components take, and, perhaps more important, the material embodiment those components can take. The idea that the way texts matter matters isn’t something usually addressed in any significant way in creative-writing classrooms and textbooks. It may almost go without saying such experimentation with typography, layout, and white space has a long tradition—certainly one that tracks back at least as far as Guillaume Apollinaire’s early twentieth-century Calligrammes , Laurence Sterne’s textually ribald eighteenth-century Tristram Shandy , although one could arguably plot a hypothetical trajectory that reaches to ancient Greek romances like Achilles Tatius’ second-century Leucippe and Clitophon . Experiments into atomic materiality and digital immateriality bracket the definition of “book” at the same time they highlight Michael Martone’s prediction of its present future as increasingly viral, collaborative, and ephemeral. Or, as Matthew Battles points out: the future of the “book” has already arrived, and it is “ethereal and networked” rather than “an immutable brick.”While conventional writing and reading practices are conceptualized as private, individual, relatively fixed experiences, many of the new forms indicate that writing and reading—from production through dissemination—are rapidly becoming public, collective, incrementally unfixed experiences. That strikes me as an astonishing set of opportunities for a writer to investigate. 5) Another concept you elaborate in AoP is that of limit texts, basically texts that, once you read them, change what you imagine as the shape/horizon/potential of literature. You provide a fantastic reading list of limit texts at the end of AoP. I was hoping you could talk about a few of them in terms of how they specifically operate as limit texts for you—how they expand your understanding of what literature could be or do. Karl Jaspers coined the word Grenzsituationen (border/limit situations) to describe existential moments accompanied by anxiety in which the human mind is forced to confront the restrictions of its existing forms—moments that make us abandon, fleetingly, the securities of our limitedness and enter new realms of self-consciousness. Death, for example. Limit texts are a variety of disturbance that carries various elements of narrativity to their brink so the reader can never quite imagine them in the same terms again. Once you’ve taken one down from the shelf, you’ll never be able to put it back up again. They won’t leave you alone. They will continue to work on your imagination long after you’ve read them. Simply by being in the world, they ask us to embrace difficulty, freedom, radical skepticism. One of the most important for me is Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable . Instead of establishing conventional setting and building traditional character, from its first words it unsettles both: “Where now? Who now? When now?” That first trio of question marks broadcasts the thematics of the writing (“novel” may be too strong a word) that will follow: it is all about a voice (or, perhaps, voices, about the grammatical mistake of the first-person pronoun), a consciousness (maybe, again, too strong a word), often genderless, removed from place and chronology and socioeconomic reality, hovering in a state of perpetual aporia. All it knows is what it doesn’t know, and its not-knowing is blackly, sardonically comic. The Unnamable is the embodiment of an unreliable narrator—a subject position that can’t trust itself, let alone be trusted by a reader. It contradicts, takes back, digresses, undoes what it just did, forgets, lies, hallucinates gloriously. The language is abstract, disembodied, devoid of sensory data, grayish rather than painterly in texture. Without knowing this passage is from a novel, a reader might well conclude s/he were reading a patch of (anti-)Cartesian philosophy. It might be helpful to conceive of what Beckett is doing as post-genre writing, then, or perhaps what Raymond Federman referred to as critifiction—a mode that blurs conventional distinctions between theory and narrative. In completely different register, and much more recently, Anne Carson’s Nox blew me away. It takes the form of an elegy for her older brother, whom she didn’t know well and who died unexpectedly while on the run from the law in Europe. The thing itself arrives in a box that simulates a thick book, as well as the brother’s textual coffin. Open it, and inside you discover, not a codex, but an accordioned series of “pages” that folds out into an arrangement that suggests an ancient scroll (Carson is, perhaps illuminatingly, a professor of classics) made up of shards of her brother’s letters, old photographs, tickets, Carson’s observations, Catullus’ poem 101 (the one addressed to the Roman poet’s dead brother, a doubling of Carson’s situation), and extensive dictionary entries on all the words that compose that poem. The aggregate produces a collage about the impossibilities of aggregates, the impossibilities of understanding fully, of capturing absences in language. At times Nox feels less an example of what most readers consider a book than something closer to a three-dimensional work of assemblage art. It’s a beautiful mechanism for contemplating Media Specific Analysis, for urging us all to be more extreme. 6) Finally, I want to talk a little about pedagogy and institutions. I’m less interested in questions like “Are MFA programs good for writers?” than in questions about how your role as teacher informs your understanding of literature and your writing practice. I’m also very curious about your take on how commercially marginal literary art is largely patronized by large state institutions and at the same time often imagines itself as a critical and even possibly revolutionary practice. How have your own positions within universities and university-affiliated organizations shaped your thinking about them and about innovative literature? I can imagine in many ways it might make you even more critical. And (I know, another ‘and’...) how does AoP (especially given its relation to Rebel Yell , your previous text on creative writing) reflect your personal history and experience as a teacher and member of communities that are largely defined by institutions? In the classroom, I try to generate the pedagogical field I would have liked to have inhabited as a student, but didn’t. Roland Barthes has a lovely line about this: “We need to substitute for the magisterial [classroom] space of the past (the word delivered by the master from the pulpit above with the audience below, the flock, the sheep, the herd)—a less upright, less Euclidean space where no one, neither teacher nor students, would ever be in his final place.” Easier said than done, of course, but an important life project for all who think of themselves as educators. My own classroom, my own writing, and Architectures of Possibility itself attempt to create the sort of possibility space where, as I mentioned at the outset of our interview, everything should be thought, tried, challenged; where everything rhymes with Roland Barthes’s definition of literature: the question minus the answer. I’m not sure I could write what I’m writing now without the conversations I have almost daily with my students, the conversations they have with each other, the conversations we all have with the texts we study. Especially in light of the paradigm shift over the last, say, quarter century from academia as intellectual exploration to academia as McDonaldized trade school, the irony isn’t lost on me concerning the discrepancy between the safe harbor innovative authors find there and the cultural critiques those authors launch through their writing and pedagogical work. In 2001, I quit my full professorship at one institution precisely because of my disappointment over what had happened to the learning environment there. I had no intentions of reentering the field. In 2007, however, the University of Utah approached me, and I found myself in an environment much more hospitable to the sort of work I want to do—teaching experimental narrative theory and practice. It isn’t by any means a simple irony. One could easily argue innovative writing and pedagogy represents the trace of the paradigm Barthes suggests, and that trace is tremendously productive in all kinds of ways. Innovative writing has never and will never change the world in any large, macrocosmic way. But we’ve all had our lives changed, one by one, by an encounter with a difficult, rich, resonant piece of prose, poetry, music, art, you name it. We’ve all had our lives changed at the ahistorical, microcosmic moment by a class we’ve taken, a teacher we’ve studied with, to such an extent that we became, quite literally, different people. I just came across a stunning set of sentences from Derrida on the topic: “What is education? The death of the parents.” That’s what we’re all up to in the innovative, be it in written texts or the texts we call our classrooms or the texts we call our politics: trying to disrupt what both can and can’t be disrupted, trying to undo what both can and can’t be undone, continuously. (shrink)
In Parts of Classes and "Mathematics is Megethology" David Lewis shows how the ideology of set membership can be dispensed with in favor of parthood and plural quantification. Lewis's theory has it that singletons are mereologically simple and leaves the relationship between a thing and its singleton unexplained. We show how, by exploiting Kit Fine's mereology, we can resolve Lewis's mysteries about the singleton relation and vindicate the claim that a thing is a part of its singleton.
I examine the origins of ordinary racial thinking. In doing so, I argue against the thesis that it is the byproduct of a unique module. Instead, I defend a pluralistic thesis according to which different forms of racial thinking are driven by distinct mechanisms, each with their own etiology. I begin with the belief that visible features are diagnostic of race. I argue that the mechanisms responsible for face recognition have an important, albeit delimited, role to play in sustaining this (...) belief. I then argue that essentialist beliefs about race are driven by some of the mechanisms responsible for “entitativity perception”: the tendency to perceive some aggregates of people as more genuine groups than others. Finally, I argue that coalitional thinking about race is driven by a distinctive form of entitativity perception. However, I suggest that more data is needed to determine the prevalence of this form of racial thinking. (shrink)
continent. 1.2 (2011): 136-140. In early 2011, Cow Heavy Books published The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature , a compendium of catalog 'blurbs' for non-existent desired or ideal texts. Along with Erinrose Mager, I edited the project, in a process that was more like curation as it mainly entailed asking a range of contemporary writers, theorists, and text-makers to send us an entry. What resulted was a creative/critical hybrid anthology, a small book in which each page opens (...) to a new iteration of textual desire. These texts explore the material possibilities of the book. Somewhat parallel to the call of N. Katherine Hayles who, in her book Writing Machines , urges literary theorists to take up the practice of Medium Specific Analysis (to account for the way the medium in which it is presented conditions or at least bears on a literary text). I see in the imagined works of The Official Catalog a call for the innovative writers of today to become Medium-Responsive. This would mean thinking through the specific (materially constrained) possibilities offered by the media in which texts are presented, and in thinking of the literary text as a kind of art in the greater context of other arts and the book as a medium situated within the context of many other media. In doing so, the contemporary writer refutes the chorus of critics who lament the death of the book by consistently reinvigorating literary innovation. The following are selections from The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature that show possible paths for (thinking about) new writing that engages with its medium. —Ben Segal, Editor THE CUBE Even the most radical non-linear texts have tended to exploit or subvert only the sequential possibilities of print—from the continuous loop of Joyce's Finnegans Wake to the shuffled cards of Marc Saporta's Composition No. 1 —but The Cube takes such multiplicities to an entirely new level. Set in a grid, the book's words can be read conventionally, across the page, as well as down each column—with either route making complete grammatical sense. But they can also be read as stacked strata and mined like lexical core samples through the layered pages of the book. Each path tells the same story from a different perspective (the narrative, naturally, hinges on the potential outcomes of a throw of cubed dice). By opening up the z-axis to reading in this way, The Cube recognizes the book as a three-dimensional sculptural space. Taking its lead from Armand Schwerner's (If Personal) and Raymond Queneau's Cent mille milliards de poèmes , The Cube reads like a experiment by Christian Bök precision printed by Emily McVarish. Craig Dworkin is the editor, most recently, of The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics (Roof Books, 2008), The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound , with Marjorie Perloff (U. Chicago Press, 2009), and Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing , with Kenneth Goldsmith (Northwestern UP, 2010). He teaches at the University of Utah. HE GOES In He Goes , we read notes, letters and e-mails from a scholar father to his novelist daughter. We read of the father's musings on Beckett, on Pinter, on Anne Frank; his description of a woman hanging laundry from a line. We read about his journey toward dying, followed by a brief, third person account of his death, and his obituary. Then a long series of blank pages that demand to be read in real time, non-sentence by non-sentence, blank page by blank page. Finally—and it is here that this peculiar little book begins to soar—the dead father writes to his as-of-yet-still-living daughter. He does not write from death. He does not write from life. The words unprint, unstamp, unkindle. Still, they require no translation. The father "writes" (for lack of a better word) about the serendipitous, the commonplace; he recommends another book. He jokes. He asks his daughter how her stomach is. He says forget about presence in absence, darling; screw words as memorial and the guys in garbage cans and loss as redemption and I can't go on I must go on. He goes, "Love, Fodder." He goes, "incidentally." He goes, "I thought you might like to know." Elizabeth Graver is the author of a story collection, Have You Seen Me? , and three novels: Unravelling ; The Honey Thief ; and Awake . Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories , Best American Essays , and Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards . She teaches at Boston College. THE PAPER ARCHIVIST A stunning package and a triumph of imagination, The Paper Archivist at times looks to be less a book than an abstract expressionist painting. Softly bound, its contents unfold to a single sheet of uneven thickness and texture—a canvas splattered with colored lines, stickers, broken sentences, and nonsense pictographs. But by following the directions to fold, dip, smell, rub, scratch, and tear the sheet according to the contingencies of the weather and using only the objects at hand, the reader slowly brings the forces hidden in the noise into a glorious sculptural convergence, processing a different story and shape each time. This is the rare book that continues to stir, whirl, and pop on every new reading. Sean Higgins blogs at BOMBlog where he is responsible for the column Volumes and Territories, as well as Ghost Island , a fledgling collaborative intellectual collective. THE SLOW BOOK The Slow Book , written by an anonymous author at the dawn of literacy, on a minor planet (otherwise notable only as the source of that exceptionally hardy, not very tasty grain called “shef” sowed on hostile planets as an early step to colonization), and encoded into a series of punctures on a strip of copper coiled inside a clever device, something between a player piano and an old-fashioned film projector, is being released into print, as was the author’s intention, at a rate of one word per century (local time). Each word is, across the Forty Galaxies, agreed to be uncannily apt for the century in which it appears—even “of,” in a century during which the highest value was attached to fidelity, whether to ideals, worlds, or romantic love; even “the,” which governed two centuries, one extraordinarily materialistic, during which advances in propulsion and navigation accelerated the exchange of exceptional objects between the remotest planets of the Forty, and one in which the central concern, both of philosophers and the common man, was whether, in an age of rapidly proliferating hypothetical worlds, anyone or anything concretely existed at all. Even those words published long before interstellar contact can be seen in retrospect to have transgalactic pertinence. As a result, attempts to abstract the machine from its publishers, Hobson & Hui, in order to “predict the future” for insight or gain by “fast- forwarding” the copper strip have been many and ingenious. While, in centuries of skepticism (“maybe”), or of unrest (“go”) the book has been nearly forgotten, in others it seems to haunt every thought, every deed, despite the fact that the subject of The Slow Book is still unclear. So far only a few sentences exist in print; everyone knows them, can quote them, offer the standard exegeses and assorted heresies; yet certainties are the stuff of adolescence; mature readers are forced to acknowledge that these sentences are probably only a preamble to the main argument. They contain no proper nouns, nor can we identify any definite theme. There is even disagreement about their tone, whether coolly ironic, as some insist, or ardent. The appearance of an unusual grammatical case, sometimes called the future pluperfect continuous, used to describe events that at some future point will have always been true (but are not yet)—hitherto known to appear only in the synthetic dogmas of the Thanatographical Society, and in certain highly circumscribed religious contexts—has suggested to some scholars that the Slow Book was originally intended for ritual use, but the proximity of the usage to a term designating a small hand plow that, as Pott and Mielcke have convincingly shown, would have borne a distinctly obscene double meaning in its culture of origin in the author’s time, argues otherwise. It is likewise unclear whether the situation that seems to be—with teasing incompleteness—sketched out in these few lines is intended as an illustration of general principles, a case study, a dramatic scene, or an extended metaphor. In short, we have no idea what The Slow Book is about. In our own time, we believe that it is almost certainly a work of fiction, but that may be because we live in the century of “if”. In each age, perhaps, we see the book we most need to read. Some have dared to suggest that the metal strip is blank until, with millennial fanfare, it advances into its new position, that no ur-text exists, that the book itself is brought into being—written—by our need. But that is exactly the sort of thing we would believe, in 7645. Shelley Jackson is the author of the story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy , the novel Half Life , and hypertexts including Patchwork Girl . The recipient of a Howard Foundation grant, a Pushcart Prize, and the 2006 James Tiptree Jr Award, she has also written and illustrated several children's books, including The Old Woman and the Wave ; Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog ; and Mimi's Dada Catifesto . Her stories and essays have appeared in Conjunctions , McSweeney's , The Paris Review , and Cabinet Magazine . In 2004 she launched her project SKIN , a story published in tattoos on 2095 volunteers. THE BOOK OF SOUNDS The Book of Sounds is just that: a book of sounds made when letters are construed in new ways to bring forth out of the alphabet new forms of speech. A book meant to be read out loud, The Book of Sounds is not unlike Laurie Anderson's O Superman or Brian Eno's Music for Airports in its attempt to make music out of the most primary and simplest of methods. It breaks language down to its barest bones and makes out of the page a drum that has never before been beaten upon. Peter Markus is the author of a novel, Bob, or Man on Boat (Dzanc Books) as well as two books of short fiction, Good, Brother and The Singing Fish , both of which were published by Calamari Press. A new collection of stories, We Make Mud , is now available from Dzanc Books. PARADISE OF THE BLIND by Celan Solen Although the reclusive Celan Solen published his first and only book in 1963—paying out-of-pocket for a limited edition of the slim collection No One May Have the Same Knowledge Again —he remained in American obscurity for almost three decades. In 1992 a micro-press in Istanbul brought out No One in Turkish. A German translation followed in 1995. Soon it became clear in literary circles Solen was a world-class (if highly unclassifiable) artist—lyrical, dense, enigmatic—who could undo the conventional short story in 397 words by inventing impossible worlds housed in impossible whirls (in “Small Sadnesses,” a single chartreuse tree frog in Borneo unknowingly holds time together by its very presence in the universe, while each letter of its tale refers, not to itself, but to the one preceding it in the alphabet). By his disappearance last year, Solen was considered master by a generation of writers and critics (except, alas, for those gentlemen in the Swedish Academy). Imagine, then, that generation’s delight at the discovery, locked away in the author’s safe-deposit box, of his second and final composition. Had Lynch’s Lost Highway been book instead of film, and had it been penned by Beckett at his least certain, revised by Barthelme at his most formally deranged, and typeset by Derrida at his most semiotically catastrophic, the result might have been something like Paradise of the Blind : interlacing narratives of a man composed of borrowed organs (whose most cheerless and difficult to locate, god, could only have been invented by an empty heart), a nonexistent medieval painting blamed for the ruin of future hope, and the spread of a philosophy that holds earth a mistake constantly recurring in the dream of a fish lying on the floor of the Atlantic (if the fish wakes, our world winks off)—all contained in a text packed with typed-over passages, torn postcards, poems that can be deciphered only when held up to a mirror, pages ornamented with trompe-l'œil paperclips and coffee stains and buzzing houseflies, some busy with illegible runes that dissolve when exposed to light, three that smell like roses or lemons (depending on whether a man or woman is reading), two that stain with the bloody fingerprints of the those who handle them, one that ignites when brushed with breath, thirteen sewn from baby skin, one that moans when touched, and one that screams—yet all without mass, unimaginable, and invisible. Lance Olsen is author of more than 20 books of and about innovative fiction, including, most recently, the novels Calendar of Regrets (2010) and Head in Flames (2009). He teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah. SUPERSTRUCTURE! by Barbara D'Albi As soon as I opened the third drawer of Barbara D'Albi's wooden novel, everything became hopeless. Now in Ithaca, there was no going back. And it wasn't just the intricate series of shelves, hinged doors and locked drawers which D'Albi layered into the book, no, lo, I was constructed anew by the story. Who else but D'Albi to imagine a God who becomes a carpenter and gets killed?! And makes it good! You want stories? D'Albi is a skyscraper, built with planes and levers. Momentarily I wondered where I could shelve this book, and then I thought: no matter; I couldn't put it down. Adam Robinson lives in Baltimore, where he runs Publishing Genius. He is the author of Adam Robison and Other Poems and Say, Poem. 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_Foucault’s Law_ is the first book in almost fifteen years to address the question of Foucault’s position on law. Many readings of Foucault’s conception of law start from the proposition that he failed to consider the role of law in modernity, or indeed that he deliberately marginalized it. In canvassing a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Ben Golder and Peter Fitzpatrick rebut this argument. They argue that rather than marginalize law, Foucault develops a much more radical, nuanced and coherent (...) theory of law than his critics have acknowledged. For Golder and Fitzpatrick, Foucault’s law is not the contained creature of conventional accounts, but is uncontainable and illimitable. In their radical re-reading of Foucault, they show how Foucault outlines a concept of law which is not tied to any given form or subordinated to a particular source of power, but is critically oriented towards alterity, new possibilities and different ways of being. _Foucault’s Law_ is an important and original contribution to the ongoing debate on Foucault and law, engaging not only with Foucault’s diverse writings on law and legal theory, but also with the extensive interpretive literature on the topic. It will thus be of interest to students and scholars working in the fields of law and social theory, legal theory and law and philosophy, as well as to students of Foucault’s work generally. (shrink)
This conceptual paper revisits the concept of equality as a base of distributive justice and contends that it is underspecified, both theoretically and in terms of its ethical and pragmatic application to human resource management (HRM) within organizations. Prior organizational literature focuses primarily upon distributive equality of remunerative outcomes within small groups and implicitly employs an equity-based conception of inputs to define equality. In contrast, through exposition of the philosophical roots of equality principles, we reconceptualize inputs as de facto equal (...) and consider the systemic application of distributive equality in the form of status leveling practices. Ethical ramifications of distributive equality so viewed are explored. We conclude by arguing that, to implicitly insert a stronger ethics focus into the study and practice of HRM, perhaps there should be "equality theory" competing with equity theory for recognition in managerial and scholarly discourse. (shrink)
If musical works are abstract objects, which cannot enter into causal relations, then how can we refer to musical works or know anything about them? Worse, how can any of our musical experiences be experiences of musical works? It would be nice to be able to sidestep these questions altogether. One way to do that would be to take musical works to be concrete objects. In this paper, we defend a theory according to which musical works are concrete objects. In (...) particular, the theory that we defend takes musical works to be fusions of performances. We defend this view from a series of objections, the first two of which are raised by Julian Dodd in a recent paper and the last of which is suggested by some comments of his in an earlier paper. (shrink)
Purposeful infection of healthy volunteers with a microbial pathogen seems at odds with acceptable ethical standards, but is an important contemporary research avenue used to study infectious diseases and their treatments. Generally termed ‘controlled human infection studies’, this research is particularly useful for fast tracking the development of candidate vaccines and may provide unique insight into disease pathogenesis otherwise unavailable. However, scarce bioethical literature is currently available to assist researchers and research ethics committees in negotiating the distinct issues raised by (...) research involving purposefully infecting healthy volunteers. In this article, we present two separate challenge studies and highlight the ethical issues of human challenge studies as seen through a well-constructed framework. Beyond the same stringent ethical standards seen in other areas of medical research, we conclude that human challenge studies should also include: independent expert reviews, including systematic reviews; a publicly available rationale for the research; implementation of measures to protect the public from spread of infection beyond the research setting; and a new system for compensation for harm. We hope these additions may encourage safer and more ethical research practice and help to safeguard public confidence in this vital research alternative in years to come. (shrink)
Adaptive preference formation is the unconscious altering of our preferences in light of the options we have available. Jon Elster has argued that this is bad because it undermines our autonomy. I agree, but think that Elster's explanation of why is lacking. So, I draw on a richer account of autonomy to give the following answer. Preferences formed through adaptation are characterized by covert influence (that is, explanations of which an agent herself is necessarily unaware), and covert influence undermines our (...) autonomy because it undermines the extent to which an agent's preferences are ones that she has decided upon for herself. This answer fills the lacuna in Elster's argument. It also allows us to draw a principled distinction between adaptive preference formation and the closely related phenomenon of character planning. (shrink)
There is significant controversy over whether patients have a ‘right not to know’ information relevant to their health. Some arguments for limiting such a right appeal to potential burdens on others that a patient’s avoidable ignorance might generate. This paper develops this argument by extending it to cases where refusal of relevant information may generate greater demands on a publicly funded healthcare system. In such cases, patients may have an ‘obligation to know’. However, we cannot infer from the fact that (...) a patient has an obligation to know that she does not also have a right not to know. The right not to know is held against medical professionals at a formal institutional level. We have reason to protect patients’ control over the information that they receive, even if in individual instances patients exercise this control in ways that violate obligations. (shrink)