Sunday, August 31, 2014

Visualizing Sloterdijk [Chapter 3. Return to Earth]

"Beginning with the Benhaim Globe from Nuremburg made in 1492 -- the oldest surviving example of its kind -- and continuing up until NASA's photograms of the earth and pictures taken from the space station Mir, the cosmological process of modernity is characterized by the changes of shape and refinements in the earth's image in its diverse technical media. At no time, however -- not even in the age of space travel -- could the project of visualizing the earth deny its semi-metaphysical quality. Anyone who wished to attempt a portrait of the whole earth following the downfall of heaven stood, knowingly or not, in the tradition of sublime cosmography." (p.21)   
"Like all globe-makers and cosmographers since Benhaim, Schoner, Waldseenmuller, Apian and Mercator senior and junior, he [Humboldt] imposes the view of their planet on them from without, refusing to admit that the outer spaces are merely extensions of a regionally confined, herd-like, domestic and socio-uterine imagination." (p.23)

Figure 4. Peter Apian, Cosmographia, 1524
"This opening up into the infinite heightens the risk of modern localizations. Humans know, albeit in a confused and indirect fashion at first, that they are contained or lost -- which now amounts to virtually the same thing -- somewhere in the boundless. They understand that they can no longer rely on anything except the indifference of the homogenous infinite space. The outside expands, ignoring the postulate of proximity in the humane spheres, as a foreign entity in its own rights; its first and only principle seems to be its lack of interest in humanity. The delusions of mortals that they must seek something outside -- recall the space travel ideologies of the Americans and Russians -- necessarily remain very unstable, shakeable, auto-hypnotic projects against a background of futility. What is certainly true is that the externalized, neutralized and homogenized space is the primal condition of the modern natural sciences. The principle of the primacy of the outside provides the axiom for the human sciences." (p. 23) 
Figure 5. Earth and Sun
"The natural scientist is also confronted with a concept of the earth with a discreet philosophical shading: it is now the transcendental star that comes into play as the locational condition for all self-reflections. It is the exemplary hybrid in which the empirical is unified with the transcendental -- on the one hand, an ordinary object of ordinary research, and on the other hand, the singular carrier of human intelligences. As the star on which the theory of stars appeared, the earth shines with self-generated phosphorescence. When its strange, knowing inhabitants cast their thoughts into the homogenous emptiness, it is not least to return to their place from far outside." (p.25) 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Week 2. Humans of Climate Change [Hw]

Do you agree that 'human engineering' --what Liao, Sandberg, and Roache define as, "the biomedical modification of humans to make them better at mitigating climate change"(p.207)-- is a strategy that needs to be taken seriously? 

i. Begin your 'Comment' with a concise summary of the authors' general argument and claims in support of human engineering. If you agree, explain why. If you disagree, explain why. Either way, ground your evaluation in specific points of the text that you find especially persuasive, or alternatively, troubling. 

ii. Try, as the authors' suggest, to come up with your own example (or counter-example) to think through. What does such an example add to the discussion?


POST Homework below as 'comments'

Note: In order to post on the website, you will need to create a profile through Disqus. If you have the time to upload a photo in place of the default avatar, please do. This will make it a lot easier to match names, comments, and faces. 

Homework Directions:(reproduced from syllabus)

Each week’s readings will be guided by an exercise that will be posted on the course website. Each week, you will submit both the completed assignment in the “Comments” section of the online post, and reply to a peer’s comment. Your original posting will be due on Tuesday before class (i.e. before 8:40 AM), and your replies to your peers will be due Thursday at the same time. Homework submissions will thus follow a regular ebb and flow.

Visualizing Sloterdijk [Chapter 2. The Wandering Star]

"In the Aristotelian-Catholic plan of the spheres, the earth, being most distant from the encompassing firmament, had the humblest status. Its placement at the centre of the cosmos thus entailed, as paradoxical as it may sound, a relegation to the lower extreme of the cosmic hierarchy." (p.16)


"The ancients were so impressed by the contrast between form and mortality that they had to separate off a deathless world on high from the death-affect depths." (p.17)

 "That is why in ancient times, to think always meant to think from the position of the sky, as if one could get away from earth with the aid of logic. In the old days, a thinker was someone who transcended and looked down --as Dante illustrated on his ascent to paradise." (p.17)


"As far as the history of aesthetics is concerned, the modern experience of art is tied to the attempt to open the eye, numbed for two long by geometrical simplifications, to the perceptual charms of the irregular." (p.20)

Essay #1
Due: September 5, 2014
(3 pages)
One of the central aims of this course is to help you develop the ability to produce writing that is clear, well organized, and grammatically sound. At the most basic level, this means learning how to compose coherent sentences and paragraphs, and to deploy other mechanical elements of writing with confidence and relevant stylistic conventions. That said, without an original argument, no amount of handsome sentences will save you.
So, say goodbye to the five-paragraph essay. Time is short, and the only way forward is a ‘salto mortale’ —a flying leap into the abyss—into the world of writing beyond summary. In your first assignment, this leap will take the shape of a brief manifesto on the topic of global warming.
What is a manifesto?
A manifesto is a declaration of a particular policy, theory, or cause. A manifesto does more than just declare, it also offers an explanation and justification of its terms, claims, and provocations.
What makes a successful manifesto?
Keep it brief. The too-long manifesto is a genuinely frightening textual object (see, here). And while all great manifestos are punchy and brief, a successful manifesto will look very different depending on what’s being declared and the person declaring it.
For example, you might choose to include:
  1. A list of numbered tenets or provocations
  2. A story or parable
  3. A diagram or timeline
Or, you might be convinced that numbers and lists, as far as meaningful climate action is concerned, are just the sort of obstacle we must learn to give up. For example, you might insist that current climate politics are already too focused on numerical outcomes (e.g. "We have a 50% chance of achieving the goal of 2° degrees additional warming by 2030"). Instead of occult divination by numbers, you might call for an approach centered on qualitative changes in how we think and act. This could be the abolishment of ‘garbage’, or the transformation of existing fossil fuel reserves into ‘stranded assets,’ or...

Lastly, a word about tone and voice. Despite their many shapes and sizes, all manifestos are written to challenge and provoke. Your manifesto should reflect this long argumentative tradition. This might call for spare and somber language, or an inner dialogue of paranoid questioning and answering. Or if you think there’s simply nothing left to be done --that climate change is fait accompli on this 'gloomy' orb-- perhaps, then a voice of parodied bravado will be better suited to the task. 

Whatever you decide, declare it boldly.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to download readings

If you havent already figured it out, you will need to use your Cornell cmail (NetID) credentials to access the Sloterdijk chapters.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Week 1. The Objects of Analysis [Rd]

Week 1
  • “weird, v.Oxford English Dictionary. Online Edition.*
*To access the Oxford English Dictionary, go to the Cornell Library website and type 'OED' into the main search box and follow the link. The OED is the place for the word on words. And their slogan does't mince them: "The definitive record of the English language". What is so unique about the OED is that each entry includes information about the terms etymological origins, published quotations of its earliest usage, subsequent changes in its usage, timelines of usage frequency, and other fascinating details. If you need to cite a definition in a paper, the OED is your best bet. 


All writing assignments will either be assigned verbally in class or posted here on the course website. To make your life easier I have created a simple nomenclature of short-hand signs.

If you see,

...the attached post will include links to required readings

If you see,

...the the attached post will explain an upcoming homework assignment. It will also be the place where you post completed homework and comment on the work of your peers.

If you see,

...the attached post will explain an upcoming writing assignment.