De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
I decided to pick up Paul Feyerabend's Against Method today. I bought it used nearly fifteen years ago, when I was first beginning to be interested in "Theory." At that time, because I didn't know where to look or even what I was looking for, I picked up all sorts of things that would later have been expunged from my shopping cart for being too far afield. As I recall, though, I did have a reason for wanting Against Method that still makes sense in light of my present theory-consciousness, namely the fact that Michel Foucault was said to have been enamored of the book.

Typing that I wonder where I heard it or even if it's true. Nevertheless, reading in Against Method today makes it clear to me that Foucault should have been a big fan. There's a great section where Feyerabend is discussing early uses of the telescope -- the book is preoccupied with the history of science -- and the fact that there was much disagreement about its accuracy. He turns then to the problem of Galileo's drawings of the moon. "It needs only a brief look at Galileo's drawings, and at photographs of similar phases to convince the reader that 'none of the features recorded... can be safely identified with any known markings of the lunar landscape.'" Feyerabend acknowledges the possibility that Galileo simply did a bad job translating what he saw to paper, but notes, "I rather doubt it in view of the quite extraordinary observational skill which Galileo exhibits on other occasions."

Seeking a better explanation, Feyerabend goes on to entertain two possibilities. The first, that Galileo was merely recording the imperfections of the early telescopes, their distortion, is only mildly interesting. The second, however, is a real mind-opener:
Hypothesis II, just like Hypothesis I, approaches telescopic reports from the point of view of the theory of perception; but it adds that the practice of telescopic observation and acquaintance with the new telescopic reports changes not only what was seen through the telescope, but also what was seen with the naked eye. It is obviously of importance for our evaluation of the contemporary attitude towards Galileo's reports.

That the appearance of the stars, and of the moon, may at some time have been more indefinite than it is today was originally suggested to me by the existence of various theories about the moon which are incompatible with what everyone can plainly see with his own eyes. Anaximander's theory of partial stoppage (which aimed to explain the phases of the mooon), Xenophanes' belief in the existence of different suns and different moons for different zones of the earth. Heraclitus' assumption that eclipses and phases are caused by the turning of the basins, which for him represented the sun and the moon -- all these views run counter to the existence of a stable and plainly visible surface, a "face" such as we "know" the moon to possess.
The effect of this second hypothesis, which is clearly the one that Feyerabend favors for polemical reasons, is to recast the theory of perception as the history of perception or, to be more precise, to demonstrate how theory is always already historical and that to think otherwise is an example of severe ideological closure. Personally, I love the idea that what we can all plainly see is a function of our place in history.

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In keeping with our theme of the week -- what is Ralph Nader trying to achieve? -- I'm going to quote the most recent blog entry from Catfish Vegas -- who posts irregularly, but well -- in its entirety.

Like Steven, he voted for Nader in 2000:
The DNA theory of American political parties

Nobody invited Ralph, but here he is again. And surprise, surprise, he wants to be president because there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans. He's trotting out the same arguments: They're two sides of the same coin. They both bow to corporate interests at the expense of common citizens.

For the most part he's right. And yet it doesn't matter.

Look at the political donations, look at the supporters, look at the suits making power deals in Washington. They are the same. Mostly.

Which brings us to the chimps. Pay attention.

You may recall from some high school biology course that scientists estimate that the DNA in humans and chimps are remarkably similar - between 95 and 98 percent. But that small difference gives amazing results. Chimps haven't been to the moon, or invented computers, or put tiny cameras into cell phones. Chimps haven't produced Hamlet, or Apocolypse Now (hell, they didn't even wage a war in Vietnam - or any war for that matter), or even one symphony of note. They're in zoos, we're not.

Accept for a moment that Ralph may be on the right track - Democrats and Republicans are remarkably similar. But it doesn't take a genius to understand that - as in the DNA of chimps and humans - small differences yield huge results.

A Democratic president wouldn't have sacrificed the necks of more than 500 soldiers to a vanity crusade in Iraq. A Democratic president wouldn't gleefully watch jobs sail overseas. A Democratic president wouldn't clear cut every forest he could.

If Nader could honestly tell me that he expects a Democratic president to match Bush blow for blow, policy for policy, accross the board, I'd be convinced he's deluded to the point of insanity rather than a hardliner, egomaniac who blinks way too much on camera.

I voted for Nader in 2000 not because I for a second wanted him as president but out of a pragmatic desire to give the Greens just enough support to start having a voice in the two-party mess. Oops. Anybody making the same mistake this year doesn't deserve his or her job, safety or environment.

The only way to defend those - and truthfully any liberal cause - in 2004 is to suck it up and step it up: vote Democrat and make damn sure everybody else you know does as well. Save idealism for 2008. Now isn't the time. Let's put a human back in the White House, rather than this chimp.
It's amazing how much pent-up hostility discussing 2000 brings out in the people I communicate with. If only that energy could be harnessed efficiently, we wouldn't need so much foreign oil.

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Mode: frustriert
Muse: Why - Annie Lennox - Diva

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