Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week 10. Odds Against Tomorrow [Rd]

9/28. FutureWorld
  • Odds Against Tomorrow. pp: 3-60

9/29. Assured Anxiety
  • Odds Against Tomorrow. pp: 61-118 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Peer Review Guidelines

Essay #3
Due: 10/21 (bring 2 printed copies)
  1. What parts of the essay do you find most convincing and why?
  2. What parts are still unclear or feel incomplete? 
  3. Identify and rephrase the central claim of the paper. 
  4. Does it say something not obvious and significant about the "artifact"? 
  5. List and comment on the major points and evidence used to support the central claim. 
  6. How and when have potential counter-arguments been addressed? Suggest some of your own. 
  7. Indicate sentences or paragraphs that seem out of order, or in need of revision.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Essay #3

Below you will find a revised timeline for your upcoming writing assignment. 
Draft 1, Due: 10/19 (before midnight)

Peer Review, Due: 10/21 (before class)

Final, Due: 10/26 (before midnight)

I will be holding regular office hours tomorrow from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. If you'd like to drop by and discuss your plans for essay #3 this would be the time. Also, for those of you who were unable to pick up your graded essays last Thursday, I have them. 

Our own opinions

Friedrich Nietzsche. Human, All Too Human (1878)

Our own opinions. -- The first opinion that occurs to us when we are suddenly asked about something is usually not our own but only the customary one pertaining to our caste, station, origin; our own opinions rarely swim to the top. 

Enemies of Truth. -- Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. 

Advocates of truth. -- Not when it is dangerous to tell the truth does truth lack advocates, but when it is boring to do so. 

Truth. -- No one now dies of fatal truths: there are too many antidotes to them. 

Fundamental insight. -- There is no pre-established harmony between the furtherance of truth and the well-being of mankind.

The life of one’s enemy. -- He who lives for the sake of combating an enemy has an interest in seeing that his enemy stays alive. 

Value of tasteless opponents. -- Sometimes one stays faithful to a cause only because its opponents are unfailingly tasteless.

What is dangerous in independent opinions
. -- Occasional indulgence in independent opinions is stimulating, like a kind of itch; if we proceed further in them we begin to scratch the spot; until in the end we produce an open wound, that is to say until our independent opinions begin to disturb and harass us in our situation in life and our human relationships.

Trick of the prophet. -- To divine in advance how ordinary people will act one has to assume that, when they are in an unpleasant situation, they always seek to get out of it with the smallest expenditure of intelligence. 

Bad memory. -- The advantage of a bad memory is that one can enjoy the same good things for the first time several times.  

Half-knowledge. -- He who speaks little of a foreign language gets more pleasure from it than he who speaks it well. Enjoyment is with the half knowers. 

Dangerous readiness to help. -- There are people who want to make other people’s life harder for no other reason than to be able afterwards to offer them their recipe for alleviating life (for example their Christianity). 

Miraculous vanity. -- He who has boldly foretold the weather three times and each time successfully believes a little in the depths of his soul that he is prophetically gifted. We accept the existence of the miraculous and irrational when it flatters our self-esteem. 

Opinions and fish. -- One possesses one’s opinions in the way one possesses fish -insofar, that is, that one possesses a fishpond. One has to go fishing and be lucky -then one one has one’s own fish, one’s own opinions. I am speaking here of living opinions, of living fish. Others are content to possess a cabinet of fossils - and, in their heads, ‘convictions’.

Self-satisfaction. -- The golden fleece of self-satisfaction protects against blows but not against pinpricks. 

Self-observation. -- Man is very well defended against himself, against being reconnoitered and besieged by himself, he is usually able to perceive of himself only his outer walls. The actual fortress is inaccessible, even invisible to him, unless his friends and enemies play the traitor and conduct him in by a secret path. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Week 8. Weird Bureaucracy

10/16. A Tale of Two Roadmaps

In preparation for Thursday's class please examine the following two documents (see below). Instead of getting caught up in the small details of their content, as practice for your upcoming essay, I want you to read them with an eye to distinguishing their compositional structure. In other words, try to think about how the documents were shaped by the pull of the larger 'genre' in which they were articulated (i.e. the 'climate change roadmap').

Document #1. Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
This document was released a few hours ago in conjunction with a speech delivered Monday by U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who is currently participating in the 'Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas' in Arequipa, Peru.

Document #2. Cornell University's Climate Change Action Plan Update & Roadmap 2014-2015
This document is the third iteration of Cornell University's original 2009 Cornell Climate Action Plan. The first update was conducted in 2011.

* For Thursday, please bring a copy/image/simulacrum of the artifact that you'll be working with for the upcoming essay and a tentative outline of your paper.

** In the upcoming essay you are required to use at least one additional article from an anthropology journal. To help you with your research, I've created a page of links to relevant scholarly journals (see Library of Weirding). For this essay, you should focus on the links under the 'Anthropology' heading. The other subfields are there to assist you with your final term paper.

Document #1. Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap

Document #2. Cornell University's Climate Change Action Plan Update & Roadmap 2014-2015

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I couldn't resist...

Patagonia's original 'DON'T BUY THIS JACKET' campaign appeared in the New York Times on November 25, 2011, see here. 

These campaigns invariably generate a bunch of snarky headlines, many written by frivolous 'boredom' experts (also known as "business journalists") who see wastefulness as their first civic duty.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Mathilde Fallot

Week 7. Sustainability in the Hothouse [Hw]

Part I

  • Identify and post a link to the artifact or document that you'll be working with for essay #3.
  • Provide a brief description of the artifact, this should include: what in particular about the artifact's form or content drew you to it, and what at this early stage puzzles you about it. Think of this description not as passively recording "facts" but as a way of selecting and emphasizing certain features for further inspection. 

Part II

  • Select and post at least two passages from any of this week's readings that confused or inspired you and which you'd like to discuss further in class. Include specific questions that we might discuss or use as a spring board for class debate. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Week 7. Sustainability in the Hothouse [Rd]

Essay #3
Due: 10/18
Length: 6 pages

Here at Cornell the language of sustainability is everywhere you turn. Walk across campus and you’re likely to encounter a rich and varied geography of signs and artifacts, from compost bins to climate change chalk art. At an institutional level, the term 'sustainability' has emerged as a pliable designator capable of holding in place a variety of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary projects. There’s the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, the KAUST-Cornell Center for Energy and Sustainability, the Institute for Computational Sustainability, and the Center for Sustainable Global EnterpriseIn self-described 'sustainable eateries', students and faculty members sip shade-grown coffee laced with local milk produced just down the road at Cornell's sprawling experimental barns where robotic hands pump the udders of fistulated cows and bovine assholes clench under the watchful gaze of grad students in search of errant methane farts

In fall, research fellowships for sustainable gardening are advertised and awarded. In spring, residence hall energy competitions are won and lost. In the meantime, your inbox gathers the unsolicited notes of a rotating staff of campus sustainability interns. Another sustainable lecture series comes to an end. News of Zimride. News of Greeks Go Green. Lights Off Cornell

Less clear in all of this complex institutional work is how or what is actually being sustained.

In this assignment, your goal will be to offer your own modest response to this admittedly too-large-to-answer problem by conducting a close reading of a single document, virtual space, or other communicative artifact that informs local beliefs and desires for 'sustainability', as well as describes and delimits general procedures for realizing climate action here at Cornell. Use at least two assigned readings to help frame your discussion, and at least one additional article from an anthropology journal. 

Below you will find some questions that will help you begin to think about potential strategies for approaching the artifact of your choosing. Remember you do not need to answer all of them. As we've discussed in class, your success will hinge on developing your own questions in dialogue with whatever document you choose to work with and decide to pursue as you investigate your way to an original argument. However, you will definitely want to ask and answer some of them.  

  • What is the vision and communicative goal of the artifact? 
  • When might its vision of sustainability be plausibly arrived at? In short, what is the timescale of the sustaining?
  • What are criteria for fulfillment of the artifact's vision and command? 
  • How is the gap between the artifact's "vision" and its "execution" acknowledged, ignored, or obfuscated?
  • How does the language of the artifact account for different respondents or readers?
  • What groups of subjects does the artifact hail or address? Who does it not hail or address?
  • How does the artifact enable or anticipate certain actions by others? What does it demand of its users and readers? 
  • What kind of political agency does it produce? What sense of ethical duty does it seek to cultivate? 
  • How is knowledge produced through the artifact? What kind of description does it allow? What is made visible through the artifact? 
  • How and when is the artifact's command attached to some investment or pursuit of enjoyment?
  • How was the artifact produced? What network of humans and nonhumans were involved in its creation? 
  • How is the artifact's authorship made (or not made) explicit?
  • When and how do users and readers interact with the artifact? In what social contexts is it encountered?
  • What kind of responses does the artifact seek to elicit from its users or readers? How does the artifact structure these responses?
  • What technical strategies for eliciting these responses does it deploy? 
  • What does it mean to be worth sustaining?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Phrase Usage Graphing

Google's n-gram program uses the roughly 5.2 million digitized books as data; 
make your own here.

pollution of the 'x' (1800-2008)

"carbon pollution" (1900-2008)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

About the weather

Friederich Nietszche, Dawn (1881)

About the weather. --A very unusual and unpredictable weather makes people mistrustful, even of others; under such conditions they become addicted to novelty, for they are obliged to depart from their usual habits. For this reason despots love all climatic zones where the weather is moral. 

Good and evil nature. --First, human beings imagined themselves into nature: they saw themselves and their kind, namely their evil and temperamental disposition, everywhere, hidden, as it were, behind clouds, thunderstorms, beasts of prey, trees and plants: those were the days when they invented "evil nature." Then along came an age in which they imagined themselves out of nature again, the Age of Rousseau: people were so sick of one another that they positively had to have a corner of the world where they, with all their suffering, could not get to: they invented "good nature."

From the company of thinkers. --In the middle of the ocean of becoming we awaken on a tiny island no larger than a skiff, we adventurers and birds of passage, and for a little while we take a look around: as quickly and curiously as possible, for how fast might a wind scatter us or a wave wash across our tiny island so that nothing more is left of us! But here, in this small space we find other birds of passage and hear of earlier ones still --and we thus experience a precious minute of knowing and divining amid the merry beating of wings and chirping with another and in spirit we adventure out over the ocean, no less proud than the ocean itself!

For a purpose. -- Of all actions, the ones least understood are those undertaken for a purpose, no doubt because they have always passed for the most intelligible and are to our way of thinking the most commonplace. The great problems are right before one's very eyes.  

To reassure the skeptic. --"I have no idea what I'm doing! I have no idea what I should do!" You're right, but make no mistake about it: you are being done! moment by every moment! Humanity has, through all ages, confused the active and the passive, it is its everlasting grammatical blunder. 

What does it mean to want! --We laugh at anyone who steps out of his chamber the moment the sun exits its own and says, "I want the sun to rise"; and at anyone who cannot stop a wheel from rolling and says: "I want it to roll!"; and at anyone who is thrown down in a wrestling match and says: "Here I lie, but I want to lie here!" Yet, despite all the laughter! Are we, after all, ever acting any differently from one of these three whenever we use the phrase: "I want"? 

The two directions. --If we attempt to examine the mirror in itself, we uncover, finally, nothing but the things upon it. If we want to seize hold of things, we come up, in the end, with nothing but the mirror. --This is, in the most general terms, the history of knowledge.

Retroactive rationality. --All things that live a long time gradually become so saturated with reason that their lineage out of unreason thus becomes implausible. Doesn't virtually every exact history of emergence strike us as feeling paradoxical and outrageous? Doesn't the good historian, at bottom, continuously contradict?

Reason. --How did reason come into the world? As is only fitting, in an unreasonable way, by a coincidence. We will just have to figure it out like a riddle.

The new fundamental feeling: our permanent transitoriness. --Formerly one tried to get a feel for the majesty of human beings by pointing backward toward their divine descent: this has now become a forbidden path, because before its gate stand the ape along with other heinous beasts, grinning knowingly as if to say: no farther here in this direction. So, one has a go of it now from the opposite direction: the path humanity pursues shall serve as proof of its majesty and kinship to God. Alas, this leads nowhere! At the end of this path stands the funeral urn of the last human and gravedigger (with the inscription "Any human interest is my concern"). However high humanity may have evolved --and perhaps at the end it will be standing even lower than at the beginning! --there is in store for humanity no more a transformation into a higher order than for the ant and the earwigs, which, at the end of the "earthly days," will not ascend to kinship with God and eternal life. The Becoming drags the Has Been along behind it: why should an exception to this eternal spectacle be made for some little planet and again for some little species on it! Away with such sentimentalities!

Pleasure in what is real. --Our current tendency to take pleasure in what is real --almost all of us have it-- is comprehensible only by virtue of the fact that for so long and to point of bored disgust, we took pleasure in what is unreal. In itself, as it now appears involuntarily and without refinement, it is not exactly an innocuous tendency: the least of its dangers is bad taste. 

"Humanity". --We don't consider animals to be moral creatures. But do you think animals consider us moral creatures? --An animal that could talk said: "Humanity is a presumption from which we animals, at least, do not suffer."

Against definitions of moral goals. --Everywhere these days one hears the goal of morality defined more or less as follows: it is the preserving and advancing of humanity; but this amounts to a desire for a formula and nothing more. Preserving what?, one must immediately counter, advancing where? Hasn't precisely the essential thing, the answer to this "What?" and "Where?" been left out of the formula? So what, then, can it contribute to the instruction of what our duty is other than what currently passes, tacitly and thoughtlessly, as already established? Can one discern sufficiently from the formula whether we ought to aim for the longest possible existence for humanity? Or the greatest possible de-animalization of humanity? How different in each case the means, in other words, practical morality, would have to be! Suppose one wanted to supply humanity with the highest possible degree of rationality: this would certainly not mean vouchsafing it its greatest possible longevity! Or suppose one thought of its "highest happiness" as the "What?" and "Where": does this mean the greatest degree individual persons could gradually attain? Or a, by the way, utterly incalculable, yet ultimately attained average bliss for everyone? And why is precisely morality supposed to be the way to get there? Hasn't morality, on the whole, opened up such abundant sources of displeasure that one could sooner judge that, heretofore, with every refinement in morality, human beings have grown more and more dissatisfied with themselves, their neighbor, and their lot? Hasn't the most moral person up to now been of the belief that, in the face of morality, the only legitimate human condition is one of profoundest misery?

The feared eye. --Artists, poets, and writers fear nothing more than the eye that discerns their little deception, that perceives after the fact how often they have stood at the crossroads where it led whether to naive pleasure in themselves or to the production of effects; that checks the figures when they wanted to sell a little for  a lot, when they sought to adorn and elevate without themselves being elevated; that sees straight through all their art's deception to the thought as it first appeared to them, perhaps as an enchanting figure of light, but perhaps also as a theft on the world at large, as a quotidian thought that they had to stretch, shorten, dye, develop, spice up, in order to make something out of it instead of the thought making something out of them --oh this eye that notes in your world all your restless anxiety, your greedy spying about, your imitation and outdoing (the latter is merely envious imitation), that knows your blush of shame just as well as your art --of concealing this blush and reinterpreting it for yourself!