Michel Foucault Called It!

Diffuse power spread by individuals surveilling each other rather than imposed top down (ubiquitous cell phone cameras)

Body becomes part of web of information

Pleasure as means of control — anxiety over body image keeps populations conforming

Over-all tone of panicky deracination

Best solution — care for self and form it as art

Over-all: impressive job of prognostication! Maybe being gay in 1940s France helped him see how internalized homophobia was the most important way people got controlled rather than repressive state apparatus. Also, good reader of Nietzsche!


Nietzsche and Baby Mammoth Adventures


Nietzsche was studying for his SATs.  He was really good at school.  He said: I can answer all these questions.  I will make up some new questions and see if I can answer them.  Nietzsche’s sister said: That’s dumb.   How can you make up new questions?  If it’s not in the test, it’s not a question.  “You’re dumb” said Nietzsche to his sister.  “Mom!” said Nietzsche’s sister.  “Nietzsche called me dumb!”  Nietzsche ran out the back door.

Nietzsche walked through the forest.  He tried to think of a question.  He thought of


It was a hard question!  Squirrel was a super-rat.  What would be as much better than man as a squirrel was better than a rat?

Baby Mammoth came out of his cave and saw the young German thinker.  “What are you doing?”

Nietzsche: Thinking?

Baby Mammotth: What about?

Nietzsche: What’s as much better as a man as a squirrel is better than a rat?

Baby Mammoth: Who says a squirrel is better than a rat, Nietzsche?  If you were a squirrel and you couldn’t creep into a hole, you would think rat was a super-squirrel!

Nietzsche: Let’s be friends!

And they became friends.


Nietzsche was trying to be a good boy but he got worried.  “The reason I am a good boy can’t be good itself.  It has to be something other than good.  The reason a man adopts a system of morality must not be moral.  Cause if it were moral it would mean he had already adopted some system of values.”

Nietzsche got scared.  He felt like the ground was swimming beneath his feet.  That night over dinner he was afraid to share his new ideas with his mother and his sister.   After dinner he ran out into the forest and looked for his friend baby mammoth.

Nietzsche hugged baby mammoth and cried, drying his eyes on the pacyderm’s wooly coat.  They watched the night become dawn. They watched the sun come up.


“Baby mammoth, can I ask you something?” asked Nietzsche.

“Shoot, Nietzsche.” said the Baby Mammoth.

“If we knew that every event in life would just continue forever eternally would life have any meaning? Would we be able to say yes to life with all its good stuff and all its lousy stuff: both the horrible stuff and the boring stuff and even the humiliating stuff.”

“Come with me, Nietzsche.  I want you to help me solve a mystery!”

“Mystery?” said Nietzsche “I love mysteries.  The only thing I love more than mysteries are adventures!”

Baby Mammoth led Nietzsche deep up into the Alps above Sils Maria.  They got to a cave.  They went deep into a cave, the Cave of the Glacier.  The Cave of the Frozen Mammoth and the Frozen Philosopher.  “I’m freezing, Baby Mammoth!  I think I’m going to be trapped in this glacier forever!”

“Not forever.” said Baby Mammoth as his friend froze solid along with him, his tears of joy becoming snow on his cheeks.  “Not forever at all.”



Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought with Buddies! Seven Theses on Individualism

Seven theses on individualism

1)Some people think if they know themselves deeply they know all humanity.  Others think they are unique and if they know themselves deeply they know only themselves.  I think both are wrong — if you know yourself deeply you know many others but not all.

2)But maybe if you know yourself REALLY DEEPLY you will know more and more people.

3)But there might still be two people x and y who are so different that they will never know each other, and you might be one of them and I might be another.

4)But if you got this far you are probably one of my special buddies!  Hey, buddy!

5)Introverts know about the world by looking inwards and extroverts know about themselves by looking outward, but since what you see when you look in and what you see when you look out are part of a single reality, introverts and extroverts are basically the same.

6)Just because the world is part of a united reality doesn’t mean it doesn’t have some pretty weird places in it!  And not everybody can go everywhere, although everybody can go somewhere, and for all I know there are places nowhere can go.

7)And that’s just the way it is


Michel Foucault’s Suicide Orgies: What Does it Mean for a Thinker to be Serious?

According to “the Passion of Michel Foucault” Foucault said if he won the French lottery he would like to spend the money to endow a string of sexy S&M hospices where people who wanted to die could go and die having anonymous sex orgies. This raises a couple of questions:

1)Was he serious or kidding around?

2)Is this such a bad idea? If people are going to die in hospice, maybe some people would rather go out in some wild blow-out, rather than with a bunch of serious-faced family members and boring clergy gathered around.

3)What does it mean for a thinker to be “serious” and does it matter?

I don’t know enough about Foucault to answer (1) and I don’t have much more to say about (2) so I want to focus on (3).

Thinkers are a little bit like engineers. An engineer can put forward a proposal in at least two spirits — as speculative or as actual. In a speculative proposal the engineer proposes something that could work, and that enlarges our understanding of the possible, but he or she doesn’t know exactly how to do it. It’s helpful though if the engineer can be pretty clear about what problems might arise, and think through as much of the details as he or she can. So for example it’s helpful that Clarke (or whoever Clarke was cribbing from) suggested a geosynchronous satellite with an elevator connecting it to Earth. It’s okay that when he did so nobody knew a strong enough material to build it. The tethered geosynchronous satellite was still a helpful, albeit speculative suggestion. It helped us think about what it would take to build a space station and suggested an alternative to rocket flight.

But it wouldn’t have been helpful if he said “maybe we could build a ladder to the moon”. That’s too speculative — there are too many problems and not enough constructive thinking. It’s essentially frivolous.

A practical proposal gives the details for something the engineer believes could actually be built, right now. It’s meant to persuade us that it’s feasible and in the best case scenario the engineer has already proved it can be done by doing it.

I think thinkers are solving two variables — what is the world like and what kind of person to be. A good thinker is putting forward either a speculative proposal or a practical proposal. If the thinker is serious he makes it clear which it is.

A thinker can fail to be serious in two ways: by being hypocritical or by being frivolous.

A thinker is hypocritical if he says he lives a certain way but really doesn’t. That would be like an engineer saying he built a suspension bridge out of a certain substance when he really didn’t. It’s a lie and a trick. Hypocritical thinkers waste people’s time and energy. They are charlatans.

A thinker is frivolous if he puts forward a speculative proposal that does so little to address obvious objections and has so little hard work put into it that it is essentially a ladder to the moon.

Was Foucault hypocritical or frivolous with his wild crazy suicide parties? I don’t know. But I don’t think so!


Interview with the Angel of Mercy and the Angel of Judgment

Interviewer: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

Angel of Judgment: That’s kind of a dumb comment.

Interviewer: How come?

Angel of Judgment: Well we’re immortal and you’re a mortal, so the one who needs to be worried about how to spend his time is…?

Angel of Mercy: What my friend the Angel of Judgment means is thank YOU!

Interviewer: Do I not have a lot of time?

Angel of Judgment: (clears one throat of ten trillion ones, each throat as beautiful as the most beautiful symphony imagined by mortal minds)

Angel of Mercy: No, no, you’re fine. You have plenty of time. Every moment has infinite potential.

Interviewer: Really?

Angel of Judgment: In theory…

Interviewer: Well I wanted to ask you about human beings.

Angel of Judgment: Well you guys look down on dogs for eating poop but you yourself ate greasy food even though you knew it would close up your coronary arteries.

Interviewer: But I wanted to enjoy my life. Is that wrong? Joy? Happiness? Aren’t those good?

Angel of Mercy: No, no, it was fine. Don’t worry about it.

Interviewer: And I tried to be a better interviewer than anybody else!

Angel of Judgment: And at the end of the day you were exactly the same as every other human being. You tried to be a big man. But you weren’t.

Angel of Mercy: But that’s okay. It wasn’t important to be better than anybody else because you’re all good. Cheer up.

Interviewer: So it was all for nothing?

Angel of Judgment: Well…you wanna take this buddy?

Angel of Mercy: No it was all incredibly worthwhile. Every moment of your life was infinitely important. Just in a way you never even remotely understood.

Angel of Judgment: Or did anything about.

The Angel of Death Arrives

Angel of Death: Hey guys, whacha talking about?


There is in God (some say) a deep, but dazzling darkness

Questions for Mr. Henry Vaughn

Q: Is there also in God (some say) a profound, but ear-splitting silence?

Q:Is there also an intense, but crushing untouchability?

Q:Is there also a pungent, but disorienting unsmellability?
A:You know there is.

Q:Is this just true of God or also of other human beings?
A:Why “other” human beings? What are those?

Q:Is it true of human beings?
A:And how!

Q:Is it true of everything? Even that which is not God?
A:Not sure — give me an example.

Q:Is it true of ponds of dirty water, of dogs, and abandoned dishwashers rusting in the Nevada desert?
A:You betcha, Chief!

Q:You know Paul Valery made me suspicious of the rhetoric of profundity.

Q:Yes. He said that “the silence of the infinite spaces terrify me” means the same thing as “the hubbub of my nearby neighborhood” reassures me. This makes me worry that you are getting me hyped up on rhetoric. Would you agree to a restatement “There isn’t in God (some say) a shallow light that lets us see without dazzlement.

A:What am I some kind of idiot? Of course I would say that. I did add the qualifier “Some say” did I not?

Q:You did.
A: You know, my friend, I have often thought, there is in some men a kind of friendship, that we love them only through a sort of intimate enmity.

Q:Am I one of them?
A:You should be so lucky!