welcome to the site! Read the description to the left for details regarding the theory behind this site. Some may know this section as an "Abstract"
The History of Energy
the beginning is the end
Under this section is a paper written for an Honours Psychology course, the History of Psychology. The task was to trace a topic from contemperary Psychology back through various historical stages to see how that topic has grown over the course of time. The topic I chose was energy, or Energy Psychology. Enjoy research from Feinstein (most recent) all the way back to Pythagoras.
The Future of Energy
the end is the beginning. This section includes all the previous homepage fails ;) enjoy!
This is the major veiwpoint taken on this site in regard to these topics, but since the completion of my Masters degree in Gender Studies, I've been trying to go back and make it more inclusive. This link includes a proposed field theory for Psychology because the two major branches of Psychology (quantitative and qualitative) find it hard to see eye to eye. This (and the next) section is for members only.
This section proposes a Grand Unified Field theory or "theory of everything" for Physics, backed up by a mathematical equation.
This section unites all sections together to unite the branches of Science and Religion. Many different perspectives are taken and these two seemingly opposing forces are united through many different angles.
This section looks at the conflicts or cycles between New Age free thought and Orthodox dogmaticism. The feud between these two opposing forces revealed the truth regarding the story of Jesus, what he really taught and to whom he truly gave the rites to teach his faith. This section explores why the movie The Last Temptation of Christ was banned in other countries, looks at the Da Vinci Code and presents a controversial paper/theory showing the hidden meaning of world religious symbols.
This section begins with a confusing paper about taking back the spirit. If the point can be penetrated, it tells an interesting story about Modernity and the Age of Reason, with a twist by providing evidence that emotion could be considered superior to reason. It also complicates Carteasian mind/body distinctions by adding spirit back into the equation. Have fun following that one lol. I can't even follow it ;) There are other papers about explaining Mystical experiences and others comparing Western and Eastern styles of consciousness. My favourite is the book review of Kabbalah. I like how this site allows me to go back and fix/reword old papers/ideas. This section really details what it is like to have a theory in the making and shows how ideas develop over time. One day my ideas/theory will be comprehensive to others outside my wacky brain :)
This section includes research done on the importance of emotional charge on ESP communication. It proposes that it is emotion communication that makes telepathy successful. The second paper in this section addresses dreams and dream interpretation. Two Dream interpretation methods (Freud's and Jung's) were analyzed to determine which method produced the most accurate results. The third paper presents research on Understanding Altered States of Conciousness and the last paper in this section is about Western Consciousness and how we are very individualized and perhaps out of balance due to us being lost in the Grand Illusion (Maya). The next paper looks at The Implication of Eastern Concepts on Western Ideals, to propose a potential balance between the two world views.
This section includes a paper about the subject-object dichotomy in Philosophy
This section begins with a work that is a detailed analysis of the screenplay/poem found in the Art section of this site. This paper looks at the research behind the play that inspired its manifestation (or why I wrote the play). It is hard to avoid the Book of Revelations when the topic of the Apocalypse comes up, so the next paper in this section is a comparison of the similarities and differences of the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelations. Many similarities were found and the research leads one to beleive that we are in the dawning of the Age when we will see great changes in the world as we know it today.
This section includes papers on 3 pathways to happiness (physical, mental, emotional), followed by a paper on how to end prejudice, a paper on the polarization of the sexes is next (as it is hypothesized by this site that the true or pure unification of All That is in the Universe is solved by the reunification of the energy of the sexes ;). Finally, this section ends with an empirical thesis exploring the equal validation or rational and emotional styles.
This section contains a play or screenplay called the Grand Drama that is written entirely out of prose (the owner and creator of this website has personally written everything that appears on it). This work of art reveals a hidden message, one that may unlock the key to the mysteries of the universe! This page also includes a shortened poem of the Grand Drama and provides a link to a song that is about Plato's Analogy of the Cave (members only).
this is a collection of my poetry - enjoy!
This is a collection of my songs - enjoy! =)
This is my photo collection
Key to the Legend
Red = Philosophy
Blue = Physics
Yellow = mathematics
green = hard sciences
grey = psychology
the parts under construction are labeled as such or blanketed by <<< ____ >>> indicating personal notes to self to improve the site, or the layout of the information presented.
Plato's Cave Analogy Revealed
Plato's Hypothesis Tested: Is Everything We've Been Taught Based on a False Premise?
Testing Plato's Hypothesis that Everything We've been Taught is a Lie
Foucault & Gender Studies
Foucault and Gender Studies: Power and Sexuality
For this presentation I am going to ask one thing. FORGET EVERYTHING YOU’VE EVER BEEN TAUGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING!!! So far in the conference we have heard many different interpretations of Foucault’s work from the lens of different historical stages. My topic, Foucault and Postmodernism, presents a different outlook; one that can extrapolate Foucault’s ideas into the future. When taking Foucault’s work, we can apply it to the future to help instigate positive change. We can push beyond the limits once confined by patterns of thought enforced by the past. In order to do this, we may have to dismantle all previous notions, definitions, and stereotypes as we know them today. We need to start all over again from scratch; begin with a ‘tabula rassa’ if you will.
Since this is a Philosophy conference, I thought it might be interesting to try and test Plato’s assertion from his analogy of the cave that everything we’ve ever learned is based on a false premise. He believes that we have not been educated properly in a manner that leads us to the understanding of the “highest Good” (Johnson and Reath 58). I would like to attempt to make this my research question “What if everything we have been taught is wrong?” What if education is based on a false premise? In order to test this hypothesis, we need to forget everything we have ever been taught as it might be based on a false premise. There will be a lot of controversial topics discussed in this presentation and if I see discomfort or disgruntled faces, then I can conclude that you have not entirely started from scratch with an open mind or indulging me in the idea that Plato may have been right about education. Who says philosophical questions can’t be tested?! Believe it or not, there is a lot of evidence to back up this notion. Most of the evidence in this presentation is research or academic based, but I’m going to start with a couple religious examples.
Some evidence from Gospels that may support this idea comes from Gospel of Philip:
The rulers wanted to fool people, since they saw that people have
a kinship with what is truly good. They took the names of the good
and assigned them to what is not good; to fool people with names
and link the names to what is not good… For, they wished to take
free people and enslave them forever. (Meyer 52)
There is a similar passage in the Gospel of Thomas that states: “The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered, nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so” (Meyer 14). Therefore, there does seem to be some corroborating evidence that education may be based on a false premise. With a blank slate, we may be able to look at the evidence from Foucault and Gender Studies to reconstruct new definitions; ones that are more inclusive, representative; based on truth. I agree with Wendy Hamblet, that “we need to learn how to think differently, rather than legitimizing what is already known” (W. Hamblet, personal communication September 19, 2013). So, be prepared to have everything you think you once knew not just turned upside down, but destroyed.
Having being selected to discuss Foucault and post-modernity, I feel his work has influenced Gender Studies the most and researchers in this area continue to use Foucault’s ideas and methodology to this day. For those unfamiliar with Gender Studies, its major focus is to study how certain groups remain in power while others remain oppressed. This is why, in my humble opinion, it is more about Power and Oppression. It is NOT about butchy hairy Birkenstock-wearing lesbian man-haters trying to take power away from men. Nor is it about flipping the poles to put women in power; leaving men inferior. We must get away from seeing feminists as man-haters (Valenti 2) and seeing power as a limited or non-renewable resource (Tarrant 65). I assure you there is enough power and resources to go around!
This presentation will look more at Foucault’s pattern of thought and the questions he seeks to answer. Therefore, I can show how research conducted in Gender Studies directly reflects that of Foucault’s pattern of thinking and vice versa, demonstrating that Foucault was indeed a feminist. Whether he would identify with this term or not, (which he probably wouldn’t since he even rejected the term postmoderist), it could be said that his research is feminist.
The academic quest of Gender Studies seeks to
1. Locate the power/who benefits/ who has privilege?
2. What institutions are involved?
3. What discourses are being used
4. What tactics are involved in perpetuating dominant ideals?
5. How do they intersect?
6. What can be done about it?
In The History of Sexuality Volume 1, Foucault tackles the first four right in his hypothesis which “is to locate the forms of power, the channels it takes, and the discourses it permeates…and [how it] controls everyday pleasure” (11). He does address the last two, but I will discuss those later.
During the presentation, I will go through these questions and show how Foucault answers them in The History of Sexuality Part 1 and then look at the major research within Gender Studies that address similar issues (not necessarily in that order). Therefore, it could be argued that Foucault’s pattern of conducting research has been a major influence on how Gender Studies approaches its research and perhaps vice versa. Foucault’s theory highlighting how sex has been used as a tool to mould and perpetuate certain ideals and sustain existing power hierarchies is absolutely a feminist issue! Feminist thought, or Gender Studies ideology absolutely seeks to understand how discourse is used to keep certain groups in power while keeping others oppressed.
1. WHO HAS THE POWER/WHO BENEFITS?
First of all, Foucault accuses us of “support[ing] a Victorian regime” (3). This gives us a clue as to whom Foucault believes holds the power; pointing particularly to the Victorian bourgeoisie (3). “[T]he 17th century was the beginning of an age of repression emblematic of what we call the bourgeois societies, an age which perhaps we still have not completely left behind” (Foucault 17). Even though the upper class may hold the power it was this class in which Foucault says the mechanisms of oppression were first placed (126-127). Counter-intuitive as it may seem the dominant ideal could then ‘trickle down,’ so-to-speak, to the other classes, creating an “us/them” binary which quickly forms a dualism. By doing this, the elite benefit because in order to be on the top, there has to be a bottom. Using binaristic thinking, power can be exerted to control many groups of people.
In regard to ‘who holds the power’ it may be important to have a quick discussion about dualisms and binaries. Examples of binaries are up/down, right/left, male/female etc. Dualisms are different than binaries as they involve hierarchical, power structures that dictate one particular side should always be considered inferior and the other always dominant (Plumwood 47). It is generally assumed that dualisms are open to change, but instead, the dualism becomes so fixed that it pulls into it, other associated variables; much like a black hole (Plumwood 47). Thus, if society believes that reason is superior, all variables associated with its opposite, emotion are automatically inferior and become dragged into this oppressive dualism as the inferior party (Plumwood 5, 42, 43). Examples of the inferior party in dualsims are not only emotion but women, nature, those of lower class, the body as opposed to the mind, the private sphere as opposed to the public sphere, minorities, children, and non-human animals etc. (Plumwood 43). This is not an exhaustive list.
Foucault comments on disparities within knowledge and how rationality, to some degree, sustains “the establishment of scientific discourse in the West” (55). He also discusses “points of power, hierarchized and placed opposite to one another…” (Foucault 45). Some of his examples include the split between adults and children (46) and heterosexuality opposed to the differently oriented (my word). This is because the dominant classes had defined the “legitimate couple” as married and heterosexual who reproduce only for procreation (45).
Pleasure is also dichotomized into what is acceptable and what is discouraged (46). Once one side of the binary becomes acceptable, and the other not, the concept of power and judgement problematizes what pleasure is, who can have it, how and for what reason. For example, Foucault states that the “acceptable” form of sexuality became heterosexuality because it produces the next generation of “labor power” (47). This supports a very rational ideology focused around capitalism and demographics, making all other relationship possibilities the opposite which then “receive a pejorative designation” (Foucault 47).
This definition led to a prescription of the nuclear family which promotes heterosexuality and excludes those with alternative lifestyles; such as Foucault himself. The nuclear family also works to divide and conquer within families by splitting them up. Large, multigenerational families work together by having the older generation look after the younger generation while the able-bodied go out to work. If this family structure is taken away, then those who are not married, such as single mothers etc get sifted to the lower classes. Therefore, splitting things up into binaries is the first step in turning it into a power-laden dualism.
Foucault discusses relationships such as teacher/student, government and layperson, doctor/patient, clergy/masses etc. and how they can use their power dynamic and location to perpetuate the ideal, thus maintaining existing hierarchies. Harry pointed out yesterday that some of it is unintentional (H. Hunt, personal communication, September 20, 2013). But it is so subtle that no one questions the power dynamics between them. One of the most pervasive dualisms is that of reason over emotion. What Foucault is trying to say happened with sex and sexuality is that in order to control it it was necessary to “pronounce a discourse on sex that would not derive from morality alone but from rationality as well” (24). Or as Wendy so eloquently put it, “pleasure had to be harnessed to the realm of reason” (W. Hamblet, personal communication, September 19, 2013). This way, the more scientific or rational definition of sex and sexuality can dominate the side of sexuality based on emotion. Therefore, if sex and sexuality were made to be rational, the dominant ideology is more able to control and extract power from it because it is within the realm of reason, which has been defined as superior. This is one step Foucault says instigated control over the definitions of sex and sexuality.
Research in Gender Studies that jumps out at me that looks specifically at the attempt to control the definition and appropriation of sex and sexuality is the work of Davis. Murray S. Davis wrote a book called SMUT: Erotic Reality/Obscene Ideology which was used as the text for a course here in the Philosophy department at Brock University on Gender and Sexuality. According to Davis, there are three major ideological camps that try to control sex and sexuality. These he calls the Jehovanists, Gnostics and Naturalists. Jehovanists tend to be very conservative and wish to suppress sex and the influence it has on the self and society. This would represent the dominant ideal that uses religion and scripture to control how “appropriate” sex and sexuality is defined. Foucault says it is “legitimate to ask why sex was associated with sin for such a long time” (Davis 9).
In Davis’ theory the Gnostics take the opposing side in the sense that they desire to promote sexual freedom as a means to tear down the reality Jehovanists protect. So they are more likely to be proud of their sexual differences and/or fetishes. The Naturalists on the other hand are neutral or more scientific in regard to sex and believe it to be just another biological phenomenon. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see different periods of time when one of these camps had more sway over the population. I can see them all jockeying for position. Relating this to the idea that the approved definition of sex is the rational one, we can see the shift from the more religious influences over to science and biology. This leads us to number 2 WHAT INSTITUTIONS ARE INVOLVED?
The short answer is all of them. But, switching the power to reason, gave education sway because its foundations are based in reason. If reason is superior, so must education because it is the teacher of reason. Beginning with schools, and tracing the Age of Reason back to Plato’s Republic, the perfect city or polis has no room for art or creativity. Emotion was considered a distraction, which ironically Plato supported by defining reason as superior to emotion(Johnson and Reath). The notion that reason is the ‘highest good’ may be a false premise. Gender Studies challenges this notion and seeks to deconstruct and reconstruct education to better teach a balance of both: Which is what I hope we can also accomplish today by challenging the notion that reason is superior to all other human experience.
An example in Gender Studies of education based on a false premise is to look at sex education in schools. It seems as though the focus of sex education is to teach young girls how not to get raped, rather than teaching boys not to rape (Ikeda and Rosser 39). There isn’t even a proper definition of rape taught, nor is there proper education regarding the importance of consent (Sudderth et al. 57). This creates something called rape culture that believes rape is acceptable and produces rape myths such as ‘she asked for it by dressing like blank, walking alone at night or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ Statistically women are raped by someone they know, 90% of the time (Sudderth et al. 57). Therefore, it doesn’t have much to do with what she is wearing, where she is walking and at what time. This carries over into other institutions such as the court system that end up blaming the victim (Pietsch). The dominant ideal of white, male, middle-class etc also affects court decisions because white men, those who perform the majority of sexual assault, are more likely to get off scott-free, and victims who are women of colour are “less likely to secure the support of justice systems” (Pietsch 136).
Institutions of knowledge spread a false ideology to all other institutions as education is positively correlated with money and power. As Foucault himself states, “Power and knowledge are joined together” (100). He says “knowledge-power [is] an agent of transformation of human life (143). Therefore, it is a good means to distribute discourse that supports and maintains existing power heirarchies. “Discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power” (Foucault 101). This brings us to number 3.
2. WHAT ARE THE DISCOURSES?
If one wishes to dominate and control a species, its reproduction is a logical place to start, therefore sex, discourses about sex and sexualities became a focus. If one could control the process of who procreates, how, and for what reason, a society could be moulded. Foucault presents an example of how discourse could be used to shape young minds into a particular ideology of sex when he discusses “the schoolmaster instructing the little villagers to mind their language and not talk about all these things aloud” (32). He goes on to say that “this was undoubtedly one of the conditions enabling the institutions of knowledge and power to overlay this everyday bit of theatre with their solemn discourse” (Foucault 32). This example addresses Foucault’s repressive hypothesis and leads us to number 4.
3. WHAT TACTICS ARE USED TO MAINTAIN HEIRARCHIES?
Repression is one tactic in exercising control over discourses about sex and sexuality. For example, you should not “talk about all these things aloud” (32). Foucault, however, is careful not to retain the repressive hypothesis entirely. He asks an important question “Are prohibition, censorship and denial truly the forms through which power is exercised in a general way..?” (10). Foucault reminds us that repression is not a “roadblock to a power mechanism that had operated unchallenged… [but is] in fact a part of the same historical network as the thing it denounces” (10). Therefore, the reason the dominant ideology is so powerful is that it operates from both ends. What is not successfully repressed is then used to categorize and label. Once antagonistic ideals are boxed and labelled, they become more easily controlled by the rational dominant ideology still taught in many institutions.
Labelling is therefore a good tactic to control how people define and see the world, thus helping maintain power structures. A label can severely disempower someone. According to Valenti, the worst thing for a man to be called is a girl (2). Girls and women get compared to things that are not human, such as pussies, bitches, birds, and chicks. And if they are not called animals, they are referred to body parts indicating that she is not a whole or complete person. She becomes reduced to her reproductive parts, reinforcing the virgin/whore dualism and an either/or mentality. Then, if she does not fit the “ideal” image of woman, she is referred to as objects such as dyke. See how just this labelling process imposes power. If you are not considered the ideal man, you get called a girl. Girls and women get called animals or reduced to parts, and if you are not the ideal woman, you get referred to as an object: Thus delineating a power hierarchy much like that of the food chain. This discourse is so subtle and insidious that people do not stop to think about it and therefore it goes unquestioned and unchallenged.
A tactic Foucault believes most influential in irking out and labelling discourse regarding sex is the act of confession. Religious institutions turned sex into something that needed to be confessed (Foucault 35). It “is not that they consigned sex to a shadow existence, but that they dedicated themselves to speaking of it ad infinitum, while exploiting it as the secret” (Foucault 35 italics in original).
Gender Studies also addresses the role of religious institutions as one the major ways to maintain a hierarchical split between men and women and different sexualities.
The dominant group of ruling class males constructed a world-view which set them
apart as normative humanity… and then fashioned in their own image a God of ultimate
value, power and rationality over against the disvalue, passivity and irrationality
of the opposite side of the duality. (Jantzen 292)
This quote speaks to the power lurking behind dualisms and normalization, which is another tactic used to maintain power hierarchies. Normalization is making ideology into something that is normal and natural. Most of the general populous sees the existing hierarchical split between men and women as normal and therefore fail to question it. (Most of the time anyway). Normalization is therefore another tactic to perpetuate existing power hierarchies.
Foucault discusses many other tactics besides making reason superior to emotion or and normalization and labelling. Other tactics include pathologicalization, medicalization, militarization and fear, systemic prejudice, and of course, bullying or behavioural regulation which Foucault terms biopower.
Pathologicalization is a process in which “biological differences between men and women are naturalized and justified” (Gustafon 278). The dominant ideal, which is the male experience, becomes the measuring tool for all other experience. Experience that is made to be the ‘other’ becomes unnaturally different or even aberrant, especially in the medical industry under a traditional bio-medical ideology. The biological differences between men and women became pathologized to the point that “with astounding regularity, [women’s different biology was] found to be ‘essentially and dangerously inferior to men’s’” (qtd in Gustafon 278). Foucault states that “sex gradually became an object of great suspicion” (69). Thus, sex too became pathologized. “[T]he nervous woman, the frigid wife, the indifferent mother…the impotent, sadistic perverse husband…the young homosexual who rejects marriage…were combined figures of an alliance gone bad and an abnormal sexuality (Foucault 110) Therefore, sexual acts that were not committed by married, heterosexual couples, for reproduction only, were deemed as not only abnormal, but neurotic. This way, if one were to behave outside of the dominant ideal, they were considered mentally ill. This combined with labelling, forms a very effective tactic to maintaining dominant ideology and hierarchies. This is how pathologicalization of women’s bodies made its way into other areas such as psychiatry where women were diagnosed with hysteria or what Freud termed ‘penis envy.’
Hysteria is an excellent example of pathologicalization because emotion was considered abnormal and viewed as erratic. Hysteria, coming from the same root as hysterectomy, was ‘scientifically’ seen as caused by a woman’s womb wandering. (Yes, how scientific). The parts of the woman were eventually seen as abnormal, causing pathological diseases. The cure for hysteria was the orgasm and the doctor would alleviate the symptoms by relieving her of her sexual tension (Lewis 2005). This instigated the mandatory pelvic exam on women who were about to be married. During the Cold War, it was considered a normal procedure because it would not be beneficial to the country if men were not satisfied while consummating their marriage. If men were not happy with their women or their first sexual experience with their woman, they might switch over to communism (Lewis). I am not making this up! It is from an article called Waking Sleeping Beauty: The Premarital Pelvis Exam and Heterosexuality During the Cold War. <<And I thought Harry had long titles!>> Foucault, however, agrees when he states that “through pedagogy, medicine and economics [or demography] it made sex not only a secular concern, but a concern of the state as well” (116). Woman eventually came to be seen as emotionally unstable and overly sexual. Pathologicalization also made its way into the traditional bio-medical model.
Similar to pathologicalization is medicalization, which is the same train of thought applied to women during medical diagnosis and treatment. Foucault states that “[t]he medicalization of the sexually peculiar was both the effect and the instrument…Imbedded in bodies, becoming deeply characteristic of individuals, the oddities of sex relied on a technology of health and pathology” (44). Gustofson states that “women’s bodies and minds that are structured or function differently are pathologized as defective, diseased, or burdensome rather than as reflecting part of the diverse human condition” (278). Foucault, however, reminds us that this pathologicalization and medicalization is extended from women to men whose sexual orientation is outside the dominant order. This is extremely important because not all men benefit from patriarchy.
Through medicalization a “norm of sexual development was defined and all the possible deviations were careful described; pedagogical controls and medical treatments were organized…for the benefit of a genitally centered sexuality” (Foucault 36). Therefore, women were reduced to their body parts, referred to in Gender Studies as “boobs and tubes” and certain bodies that did not fit into the ideal definition or the 68 percentile, were pathologized (Gustofson 278). <<A good example of medicalization comes from one of my students. In seminar she told us of her trip to the hospital. She was experiencing stomach pain and said it might have been something she had eaten. The first question was “are you pregnant?” She said “no” and they continued to run only tests to determine if she was pregnant. When they discovered she was not pregnant, they sent her home, stomach pain and all. They did not even consider the food poisoning hypothesis presented by this student.>> Because anything that differed from hetero-male experience was pathologized, differences were not examined or treated as normal (Gustofson 279). This, in turn, supported double standards.
Another tactic Foucault discusses that reinforces or perpetuates existing power hierarchies is fear. Foucault states that “under the guise of the medical norm [which] claim[s] to speak the truth, stirred up people’s fears” (53). “[S]trange pleasures” were therefore dangerous to society and it “warned, would eventually result in nothing short of death” (Foucault 54). This quote is interesting in light of the work of Davis because the Jehovanists believe immoral sex and sexuality degrades the fabric of existence and this is what Gnostics use to their advantage because they want the existing social structure to be dissolved (92). Jehovanists wish to keep in tact, “the boundary between certain social categories-especially between male and female” (Davis 92). This is the power Foucault brings to our attention in the History of Sexuality Part 1. Therefore, fear is a powerful tactic used to maintain hierarchical splits, especially between men and women. This is where militarization comes in.
Another tactic, militarization, is when men and women enter into the military and are taught to be cold and impersonal. Reason again reigns in this type of thinking; otherwise killing other human beings would be a lot harder (Foucault 137). If discourse tells us that we have to treat differences as something to fear, and that not doing this results in death of the entire species, going to war becomes easier and a formidable tactic to keep structures the way they are. Foucault states “[w]ars are no longer waged in the name of a sovereign; they are waged on behalf of the existence of everyone; entire populations are mobilized for the purpose of wholesale slaughter in the name of life necessity: massacres have become vital” (137).
This is also a good example of hegemony which is another effective tactic because if a population is moved to war to protect the existence of everyone, it is telling them that going to war is for their own good. Foucault comments on the atomic bomb situation and how it feeds into this hegemonic discourse.
The power to expose a whole population to death is the underside
of the power to guarantee an individual’s continued existence…If
genocide is indeed the dream of modern powers, this is not because
of a recent return of the ancient right to kill; it is because power is
situated and exercised at the level of life, the species, the race, and
the large-scale phenomena of population. (Foucault 137)
Therefore, if people are taught that the entire fabric of existence would dissolve if men and women were treated equally, militarization becomes an excellent way to maintain patriarchy and existing power hierarchies.
Foucault only mentions systemic prejudice in passing when he discusses “state-directed” or state commissioned racism (119). He discusses eugenics as a perversion of pathologicalization and medicalization. Gender Studies takes the topic of systemic prejudice and eugenics a lot further. The history of the birth control movement, for example, was rife with state approved prejudice against women of colour (Davis 354). Planned parenting, in its early formation targeted poor communities and minorities. If a white, middle-class woman wanted an abortion, she would be discouraged and even denied. But, if a woman of colour asked for one, there would be no hesitation (Davis).
In Alberta, not too long ago, medical institutions and hospitals were given permission by the government to sterilize those deemed unfit to bear children without their consent: Directly addressing Foucault’s comment on eugenics. Both men and women were forcefully sterilized. The film, The Sterilization of Leilani Muir is a good example (Whiting 1996). She was sterilized without her consent because her I.Q was around 60 (Whiting 1996). Since I.Q is arguably more influenced by nurture, rather than nature, her abusive upbringing resulted in a lower I.Q. After she was removed from her abusive situation, her I.Q went up 10-15 points. When she could not get pregnant, she later went to the doctor who told her that she had been sterilized. Legislation has since decreed forced sterilization illegal in Canada, but is still a valid example of systemic prejudice.
Examples of systemic prejudice that remain legal today are the Omnibus bill and policies regarding immigrant and migrant workers. For example, the Omnibus bill targets minorities, especially First Nations, whom are already over-represented in prisons (Dell). Governmental policies regarding immigration force our most qualified doctors in the country to serve us fast food or drive our taxis (Hojati). Of course differences are going to be maintained and hierarchized if the government itself is making and supporting prejudiced policies.
Continuing on with tactics and discourses involved in maintaining existing power hierarchies, bullying and behavioural regulation could be the most powerful tactic of all. The people closest to you are those who regulate your behaviour the most. Right from birth and even in the womb, people want to know the sex of your baby. If the baby is dressed in gender-neutral clothing, it makes people uncomfortable because they do not know how to treat the baby (Lorber 33-34). This I want you to take a moment to think about, because why should there be any differential treatment? Babies are essentially androgynous, no? At school, peers and teachers take over behavioural regulation towards conformity of the status quo (Cruz; Raby). For some, “doing gender” becomes also “doing heterosexuality” to avoid the teasing and bullying (Messner 185). Coaches are a major regulator of maintaining a split between the sexes (Messner). Afterall, who wants to be called a bunch of girls or accused of throwing like a girl, when you are a man? Remember, the worst thing for a man to be called is a girl (Valenti 2). This mentality then transfers over into everyday ideology, eventually affecting relationships.
Foucault states that “parents and children, adults and adolescents, educator and students…all have played this game of …confrontation and mutual reinforcement, exercising a power that questions, monitors, watches, spies, searches out, palpitates and brings to light” (45) behaviour that is different from the status quo. He also states that “[e]ducational or psychiatric institutions, with their large populations, their hierarchies, their spatial arrangements, their surveillance systems, constituted, alongside family, another way of distributing the interplay of powers and pleasures” (Foucault 46).
This need to control bodies and populations through various institutions led Foucault to coin the term biopower, “guaranteeing relations of domination” (141) that “was without question an indispensable element in the development of capitalism” (140-141), capitalism not being possible “without the controlled insertion of bodies into the machinery of production and…economic processes” (141). Remember, the ideal way to express sex and sexuality was between married, heterosexual couples because they were responsible for the next generation of the labour workers (sic). Therefore behavioural regulation, through reinforcement and punishment, which Foucault terms biopower could be considered a major tactic in reinforcing existing power hierarchies.
The last two points are not explicit in Foucault’s hypothesis but he does address the issue of intersectionality and states that “pleasure and power do not cancel or turn back against one another; they seek out, overlap, and reinforce one another. They are linked together by complex mechanisms and devices of excitation and incitement” (Foucault 48). This statement follows exactly what intersectionality is about by recognizing that mechanisms are all linked or woven together; reinforcing one another, like a giant knot. In Gender Studies intersectionality refers to how characteristics such as sex, gender, sexual orientation, race, class, ability; to name a few, all work together to compound experience (Cruz 68). For example bullying increases with the number of characteristics that do not fit the dominant ideal of white, male, heterosexual, middle/upper class, young, thin and able-bodied. I think this is why Foucault again becomes a major influence in Gender Studies because his sexual orientation did not match the dominant heteronormative ideal.
Foucault maintains that discursive growth should be looked at as “a dispersion of centers from which discourses emanated a diversification of their forms which make the complex deployment of the network connecting them” (34). This means that from each different institution, the dominant discourse spreads forth ideology adapted to each situation or context it finds itself in. Therefore, its discourse is fluid and can change and adapt to each setting it which it is placed. The reinforcement of the dominant ideology is therefore projected from all sides and can mould itself to any situation to reinforce behaviour to conform. Therefore, intersectionality is important when assessing well being and life experience and tracing power relations because they are so interconnected that they reinforce one another and cannot be separated.
Hopefully by forgetting everything we have every been taught, we can better understand and follow the paths of power relations through different locations and recognize how sex and sexuality can be used as a means to maintain existing hierarchies and dominant ideals. All systems and institutions of power are involved in keeping certain groups superior to others. Many adaptive discourses and tactics are used to keep the existing power structure in place and they all reinforce one another to form a mega suprastructure of privilege and oppression. I hope I have successfully disrupted your previous interpretation of Foucault and Gender Studies and the existing power structures. Addressing Plato’s hypothesis: Is it completely far-fetched to say that education is based on a false premise? So……..
5. WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
We could challenge existing educational structures and come up with new ways that teach tolerance and accommodation for those who are outside the dominant ideology. This is beginning to show its effects as students are taught at younger ages about Gender Studies issues. At Brock there is an organization called OPIRG in which we can mobilize around important events that promote a more inclusive future. We could participate in activism and volunteer. We could focus on ideologies that are not the dominant ones in order to decentre the centre. This is not an exhaustive list!!! But Foucault does leave us with some advice. He suggests that “discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy. Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart” (101). Therefore, using this suggestion, we could also do what Foucault has done by writing his books, we can create awareness, provide people with the opportunity to open up dialogue about these issues and basically “queer things up.” For those unfamiliar with queering things up, it means to question and challenge dominant assumptions and practices that exclude certain groups. We don’t “question everything” anymore, we queer things up! Now go queer shit up!
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Reaching the Highest “Good”
February 4, 2011
Analogy of the Cave
Plato’s Analogy of the Cave describes his belief of how the world is and how to reach the highest “Good.” He likens people to slaves or prisoners shackled inside a cave who have been there since birth and can only look forward onto the cave wall as their necks are also braced. Behind them is a burning fire and between the prisoners and the fire is a puppet show as well as people holding objects so that the prisoners are only seeing the shadows of these objects on the wall. One prisoner escapes and ends up out of the cave in the sunlight. His eyes hurt from the brightness and need to adjust. Once adjusted, he sees the world in all its glory including the sun. This, according to Plato, is the state of the world and how to reach the highest “Good” (Johnson and Reath 56-58). The now-freed prisoner is compelled to go back into the cave to free the others as their world and what they see is a “meaningless illusion” (Johnson and Reath 56).
In this analogy, the sun represents the highest “Good” and the highest “Good” is enlightenment. Once a person becomes enlightened with the highest “Good,” they see the world for what it really is. Plato is saying that persons are following or living a life that is based on a false premise. He believes we have not been educated properly in regard to finding the highest “Good” (Johnson and Reath 58). Once enlightened with Philosophy that person should then use the knowledge and rule, preach or put it to action in the material realm (lect.). This paper will unpack the Analogy of the Cave and the Divided Line by discussing what each aspect in Cave Analogy represent, discuss what the Divided Line is, and how to attain the highest “Good.”
It is extremely difficult to attain the highest “Good” due to the obstacles presented in the analogy. The shackles would represent the body (lect.), and the neck brace, the idea that persons are only shown one viewpoint or opinion. The images or shadows suggest that what the prisoners have been taught their entire lives is not the real, true way of attaining the highest “Good.”
In the Analogy of the Cave, the people behind the prisoners would be the biggest obstacle to finding the highest “Good” because they serve the fire and not the sun (a false “good” the material world or materialism). These “puppet people” are carrying objects and putting on puppet shows for the prisoners to view on the cave wall. These objects represent the real objects in the material world (as opposed to their shadows). The puppet show could be likened to a film projected onto a screen (lect; Johnson and Reath 56). A film does not display verisimilitude, or present a true reflection of reality: Thus, reinforcing the idea that the prisoners are being taught a false illusion.
The cave passage would represent the long painful journey towards enlightenment and attaining the highest “Good.” Plato mentions that the prisoner who escapes is dragged out the cave by force (Johnson and Reath 57). He is also forced to stand and turn his head painting a picture that it is not an easy task to travel the path he lays out.
When the freed prisoner reaches the entrance of the cave his eyes have to adjust because he has to unlearn and relearn everything he has ever been taught. It is only after this stage that one can glimpse the highest “Good.” This is represented by the prisoner seeing the world in all its glory, including the sun itself. He is then compelled to return to the prisoners to free them and reveal that their reality is a mere illusion. Plato believes that once the highest “Good” has been attained or even glimpsed, that person should become a “Philosopher King” and rule on earth (lect). However, because the prisoners are so used to their existence they laugh at him, do not believe what he says and some wish to kill him (Johnson and Reath 57). This is what happened to Socrates and then Jesus (Yeshua), when they challenged popular opinion.
Some might say that it is unreasonable for the one who has become enlightened to go back into the dark cave to be ridiculed and martyred (lect.). It could be that enlightenment itself comes with new sense of unselfishness and an altruistic duty to help others, much like Kierkegaard’s “imminent alterity” or “otherness” (Stan 40-41). This refers to the idea that as one becomes ethical; they feel the need to take others into consideration.
In summation, the existence in the cave represents existence in the material world, (or the realm of the seen) and the fire represents the actual sun and materialism (Johnson and Reath 58). The journey up the cave and into the “real world” represents the path to intelligence or enlightenment (Johnson and Reath 58). Intelligence, therefore, represents transcendence from the material realm to that of the “enlightened” realm or the unseen. The obstacle between the material realm and reaching the highest “Good” is the illusion. But, what is the illusion?
The illusion is similar to what Hinduism refers to as Maya. It is a false reality, like Holo-deck or Matrix. According to their concept of Lila, life here on earth is a series of plays hosted on earth and the different roles are played by the different personalities of the Godhead. Godhead is probably not the best word as “God” according to this perspective is more like an energy force that encompasses or permeates all things. As for the play, sometimes higher characteristics manifest in troubled times to help guide the people in the right direction. Socrates is definitely a good example of Teachers or Messengers sent by the “Unified God” to play the role of the lamb to the slaughter to those who wish to keep projecting the illusion as real.
Gnosticism fits in with this idea too as they believe that the god that created this world is not the real, true god, but an evil, jealous god. He is the fallen angel who wishes to be worshipped like the real true God. He wishes to usurp God’s power by persuading humankind to worship him instead of the real True God. He does this by suggesting that the material world and materialism is the only thing. What you see is what you get. This brings us to wonder about the false education Plato suggests is being taught to humankind and what it really is.
The people behind the prisoners in Plato’s Cave Analogy, would be the biggest obstacle to finding the highest “Good” because they serve the fire and not the sun (a false good perhaps selfishness and greed). These are “The Rulers” that are described in the Gospel of Philip: “The rulers wanted to fool people, since they saw that people have a kinship with what is truly good. They took the names of the good and assigned them to what is not good; to fool people with names and link the names to what is not good… For, they wished to take free people and enslave them forever” (Meyer 52). There is a similar passage in the Gospel of Thomas 39 that states: “The Pharisees and the scholars have taken the keys of knowledge and have hidden them. They have not entered, nor have they allowed those who want to enter to do so” (Meyer 14). To realize or understand that what has been taught since birth is merely an illusion is a painful and difficult task, one that many would not accept.
An example of how powerful and painful it is for the prisoners to realize that how they have been educated their whole life is merely an illusion can come from the full name of God: Yahweh-Elohim, or “IHVH ALHIM” (Sassoon and Dale 85). This is translated into Lord-God. The leader of the “puppet people” (who worship the fire or lesser light) represents “Lord” part, meaning “Land Owner” whose name is Yahweh and the last part refers to Elohim (the sun or greater light), who is the ruler in heaven or the intelligible plane. Therefore, in order to reach the highest “Good,” one must relearn what is commonly understood about our entire reality. This would shatter their “maya” or illusion of what they have been taught since birth, which would be a very painful task because all things must be reconsidered. This is what Plato is trying to say about false teachings in his Analogy of the Cave. Now that it is understood what the illusion and what the false teaching may be, it begs the question of how it is possible to reach the highest “Good.”
The Divided Line
Plato demonstrates how to ascend to the highest “Good” in his Divided Line. See Figure 1 for an amalgamation of the Analogy of the Cave and the concept of the Divided Line. The idea is that the line is to be divided into two unequal sections and then each section divided again using the same ratio (Balashov). The two major, unequal sections represent the material realm of the seen, or “being” from the world of the unseen, or the “intelligible” (Johnson and Reath 54). It is important to note that the two major realms are ontologically unequal as the intelligible realm is superior to the visible/material realm. This makes sense because the physical world is subject to decay (as according to the second law of Thermodynamics), whereas the intelligible realm is not (first law of Thermodynamics). The ontological ranking is represented by the size of the “box” in Figure 1, the larger the area, the more ontologically superior. It is also divided in half horizontally; the lower half is illusion and the upper half, truth (see the broken line in Figure 1).
The Analogy of the Cave is a metaphor used to help Plato explain concept of the Divided Line. In the Divided Line, the ruler over the visible world is the sun and the equivalent in the intelligible world is the highest “Good” (Johnson and Reath 54). (In the Cave analogy, the fire is the sun and the sun the highest “Good”). The line is divided across to reveal different stages resulting in four levels altogether horizontally and eight stages vertically (four on each side). The bottom four stages are referred to as “A, B, C, and D” (see Figure 1). As one ascends these stages on the chart, (bottom to top); it represents an increase in clarity of understanding (54).
“A” represents shadows and reflections, like those seen on the cave wall; “B” represents the objects themselves that can be physically manipulated. This section also includes persons, animals, man-made things, plants etc. Moving from the material realm over to the intelligible realm, “C” represents deductive reasoning or hypothetical postulation. Assumptions are used in drawing conclusions (54). “D” represents studying literature and drawing conclusions from higher principles. Here, hypotheses can be used as “spring boards” to higher understanding and reasoning which is the next level of clarity (Balashov 2). In the next level of clarity, science and mathematical principles are utilized in the material world’s “equivalent.” Mathematics and manipulation of its symbols and numbers is the physical representation for the higher equations. These equations, however, are not completely understood or synthesized, just utilized.
The highest level of the material realm is referred to as “Being” and it represents seeing the world as it really is, and not how it was taught. Realizing this, one can move to the highest “Good” or level of intelligence. This is where dialectical reasoning can be utilized and where the “Forms” or guiding principles behind all physical objects can be understood or even synthesized.
Plato believes that behind everything in the universe lie mathematical principles, these he refers to as “Forms.” Some mathematicians since have tried to tie all the different mathematical principles into one all encompassing principle called the Grand Unified Theory (Einstein) or the Unified Field Theory (Hawking). This journey is similar to those who try to construct Plato’s Divided Line mathematically. Many problems arise when it is attempted and most say it cannot be done (lect.). For example, it is unclear whether rational or irrational numbers should be used. For example, the subsections A and B relate to their equivalent sections in the intelligible realm (C and D) in a ratio that equals A + B (Balashov 2). Therefore, A + B = C + D or A/B = C/D (lect.). This relationship can also be interchanged showing that B = C (Balashov 2; lect.). But, this is where the conundrum begins because Plato says that as one ascends, clarity increases. This implies ontological superiority as one climbs up the Line. He also states that the intelligible realm is superior to the material realm. Therefore, how can A, B, C and D be equal to one another if ontological superiority is implied?
Perhaps irrational numbers are to be used when constructing the Line mathematically. This brings us to the “problem of the irrational” (Benjafield 6). The Pythagoreans ran into this problem because sometimes there was no one, integer that could aptly express the lengths of the sides of a triangle. For example, if a right angle triangle has two sides equal to one, this would make the length of the hypotenuse the square root of two. The square root of two cannot be represented by one number, and is therefore an irrational number (Benjafield 6).
Reaching the Highest “Good”
The Golden Ratio or Golden Section would be the most appropriate irrational number to use when dividing the Line. The Golden Section is represented by the equation: phi equals the square root of five plus one over two (Balashov 4). This equals roughly 1.618, which is an irrational number because it displays no pattern as it repeats into infinity (much like pi). Using this equation or number, the line would be divided in two and the proportion of smaller section would be to the larger section as the larger to the entire line. Therefore, “the smaller is to the larger as the larger is to the whole” (Benjafied 6). This makes a beautiful, aesthetic proportion that is found in the body and face (1:1.618). For example, the ratio of the width of the mouth to the width of the nose is proportionate to the distance between the navel and foot to the height of the person. This Golden Section can be found all over in nature and in art (lect.). But, the problem in using this ratio is that it is not known how long the Divided Line is supposed to be and it is therefore impossible to know the true proportions of the sections.
Another problem emerges when reaching the top or fourth level of the Divided Line (see Figure 1); it results in another irrational number. The use of continuous data reduces it to a mathematical absurdity (lect. Hayes; Murphy). For example, if one divides a number in half, then in half again, it can be divided in half infinitely, without ever reaching the destination or the next number. Using irrational numbers, it is then not possible to reach the fourth level from the third.
The problem in reaching level four from level three on the Divided Line can be reflected in the example that matter itself cannot reach the speed of light. Since reaching the highest “Good” is like the material realm moving to the intelligible realm or enlightenment, one could run into a similar problem when trying to transcend. For example the mathematical equation that describes this is: half times mass times velocity squared (see Figure 2). It is just not possible to perceive the highest “Good” directly, much like how matter cannot reach the speed of light.
This is not an exhaustive list of problems when trying to construct Plato’s Divided Line, but another problem is that it is not clear whether the line should be constructed vertically or horizontally. Some say that because Plato intends the person to ascend, that it should be constructed vertically (Balashov 2). If the Golden Section is used to represent the ascent up the Line, the answer would be both. One ascends vertically until they reach the third level or the horizontal line dividing illusion from truth as depicted in Figure 1. One must then ascend diagonally to the top level of the realm of the seen and enter the top level of the realm of the unseen in an arc shaped trajectory (see Figure 2). This trajectory reflects the Phi sequence (Meisner) or the Golden Section and shows how persons can reach the highest “Good.” Therefore, the highest “Good” cannot be reached directly or strictly in a vertical fashion. It can only be reached when persons realize they are living and illusion.
PS: There is a more suitable mathematical equation that can resolve all issues in constructing the Divided Line mathematically, but you can see that here).
Updated version 2015: The Divided Line Plotted!!!
April 7, 2011A recent feminist development in the study of ethics suggests that men and women think differently in regard to morality (Rachels and Rachels 146). This debate could be called Justice vs. Caring as it has been said that men are more likely to use impersonal judicial guidelines and women are more likely to use an ethic of caring when it comes to making moral decisions (Coon and Mitterer 136). Contemporary feminists believe that the way women view morality is missing from the traditional theories and should be used to supplement older, rational ethics.
In Ancient Greece, the rational movement was so strong that emotion was thought to be inferior, get in the way of rational pursuits and make a person weak. Since emotions make a person weak, they became associated with women as they were considered to be the weaker sex (Tavris). The feminist issue can therefore be reduced to the stereotype that men are more rational and women more emotional. Therefore, the contemporary feminist debate reflects an age old debate over whether morality is based on rational or emotive tendencies.
This paper will give a brief background of rationalism (Aristotle/Mill) and emotivism (Ayer/Hume) then move to the contemporary version of justice vs. care (Baier/Rachels and Rachels). Ways of combining emotive and rational perspectives in regard to ethics will also be discussed.
Those who are rationalists believe reason to be superior as it distinguishes humans from other animals (Johnson and Reath 218). They believe humans are capable of virtue and morality, whereas other animals are not. Since reason is a characteristic that separates humans from other animals, it would imply that morality must therefore come from reason.
According to Aristotle, virtue was obtained through reason and the furthering of the intellect was considered “above all else” (Johnson and Reath 85). Therefore, a life of study is what brings happiness (Johnson and Reath 85). Aristotle devised a way of determining what is considered “right” or “good” which entailed finding the virtue between two extremes (the Golden Mean). Aristotle’s method was very rational, thus elevating reason above emotive pursuits. This rational evaluation technique was furthered by utilitarianism.
Utilitarianism, (originally created by Bentham) is much like Aristotle’s Golden Mean idea, but put to use to maintain the Greatest Happiness Principle. The Greatest Happiness Principle is a guideline to direct behaviour that leads to the maximizing of happiness and the minimizing of suffering (Johnson and Reath 220). It is rational because it requires reason to determine what outcome will lead to the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. John Stuart Mill believed mental faculties were superior to bodily pleasures, and believed happiness came from being noble (Johnson and Reath 220). This is in line with Aristotle and elevates the rational over the emotional continuing the view that reason is superior. Mill goes as far to suggest the active principle should be dominant over the passive principle (Johnson and Reath 221). According to Taoism, the active principle is associated with the male and the passive, the female, thus implying inequality of the sexes.
Utilitarianism is rational in the sense that it considers all persons to be equal. This neglects emotive tendencies because when given the situation to save another human being, it is more likely one would choose a friend or family member over a complete stranger (Rachels and Rachels 116). Utilitarianism is therefore an impartial, cold calculation and disregards intimate relationships, affection, love and friendships (Rachels and Rachels 116). In The Need for More than Justice, Annette Baier reports that equality, as utilitarianism demands, does not satisfy emotional needs or the need for attachment. It rather shatters society by making persons individualized and autonomous (Johnson and Reath 448). She believes interdependence to be superior independence (448) and points out that utilitarian equality is not equal at all because laws tend to allot rights to in-groups and favour the elite (450). Women and children were “shunted to the bottom of the agenda” (Johnson and Reath 451). This suggests true impartiality and equality can only work in theory.
Utilitarianism also tends to focus on the larger group which points to another gender difference in thinking because “[w]omen specialize in the narrow sphere of intimate relationships [and] men specialize in the larger group” (qtd. in Rachels and Rachels 150). Therefore, any theory focusing on “impartiality” and the larger group could perpetuate dominance of male thought.
Rationalism has persisted over the years and the role of emotions, especially involved in pursuit of virtue and morality was neglected until Hume bravely suggested that “[r]eason is and ought to be the slave of the passions” (qtd. in Johnson and Reath 165).
Emotivism is the idea that what motivates a person to act is rooted in emotions such as feelings, desire (Johnson and Reath 165) or impulses of the passions (167). Because emotion is necessary to the ethic of care, feminists such as Annette Baier call men who support emotivism “honorary women” (qtd. in Rachels and Rachels 157). In regard to moral judgements, Ayer is convincing in his argument when he points out that statements involving moral assertions are emotional and not rational. According to Ayer, ethical or moral statements are an emotive evaluation of one’s opinion of what they feel to be “right” or “good,” not rational statements because they cannot be proven empirically to be true or false (Johnson and Reath 277). Rational statements are statements of fact and not personal evaluation. Therefore perhaps reason is not solely responsible for moral judgements and emotion should be taken into consideration.
David Hume agrees as he maintains that since reason is not responsible for impulses, then reason alone is not responsible for our actions (Johnson and Reath 167). He reaches this conclusion because the impulses of emotion are so strong that nothing, not even reason can impede them, especially when the will desires it. The major feeling in which Hume believes to motivate us to act is sympathy and it is sympathy that leads persons to act morally (165). This may have gotten Hume “honorary woman” status, but he believed women to be inferior to men (Lect.) and Baier found Hume to be too cold (Johnson and Reath 445).
The feeling of sympathy is getting closer to what feminists considered to be the ethic of care but there is a problem in using the word sympathy. Sympathy, as defined in psychology is a feeling of concern for others, but it is less likely to lead to altruistic behaviour because it involves what is referred to as personal distress (Coon and Mitterer). The relieving of personal distress becomes the target rather than the other person’s problem. Since the idea of individualism is generally seen to be a male dominated point of view, the term sympathy does not represent the type of emotionality that compels care or altruism.
Jeremy Rifkin prefers the term empathy. He believes empathy to be our “essential nature” (Rifkin 21) and a key underlying force that binds society together. Empathy involves taking the perspective of the other and includes an affective quality that matches the other person’s feelings. This is more representative of the feminist ethic of care. Rifkin states that societies were largely “egalitarian and matrilineal” up until around 4400 BC (22) and therefore helps pinpoint a time in history when “matriarchal forms of familial relations gave way to new patriarchal forms of power” (Rifkin 23). Since then, women have taken the role of the weaker or inferior sex and emotional relationships and caring was left to them. Empathy took the back burner to more “socially constructive ends” (Rifkin 21) placing reason on the pedestal creating an imbalance between reason and emotion. Therefore, it does seem that rational and emotional capacities are imbalanced.
Ethic of Care
Contemporary feminists such as Carol Gilligan and Annette Baier see this imbalance and believe male dominated ethics lead to the impersonal, cold calculation of justice. They believe empathy, family and togetherness should be supplemented (Rachels and Rachels 147). The male dominant view of ethics is concerned more with intrapersonal development and thus focuses more on the individual, whereas the feminine view of morality is more concerned with interpersonal relationships. In the 60’s this difference between men and women was seen as a stereotype (146), but now it is believed that men and women think differently about moral issues.
The idea that there is a difference came about with Kohlberg research and Theory of Moral Development in 1958. Kohlberg developed a scenario referred to as the “Heinz Dilemma” involving a man whose wife was deathly ill. The only cure was a prescription that was too expensive for the husband to afford. Heinz tried to make a deal with the pharmacist to no avail (Rachels and Rachaels 147). Kohlberg presented this scenario to children of various ages and asked them if stealing the drug to save his wife would be wrong. Using the results of his study he developed theory of morality that progresses in three levels, with two stages in each (see Figure 1 for the various stages).
From his data he concluded that girls were morally inferior to boys because making moral decisions based on interpersonal relationships (Stage 3), is not as mature as “moral judgements based on understanding social order” (Stage 4) (Santrock and Mitterer 137). This conclusion can only be true if one agrees that conforming to the social order is more important then interpersonal relationships. Girl’s answer to the dilemma revolved around compromises or finding solutions that worked for everybody, including the pharmacist. This desire to compromise and make all parties happy could be seen as moral reasoning at Stage 6 because the individual was faced with a dilemma between law and conscience. Therefore, it could be said that girls are morally superior to boys. Kohlberg’s research is often used as an example to show that interpretations can be arbitrary because the same data can be used to reach two opposing conclusions.
Disagreeing with Kohlberg’s interpretation, Gilligan conducted her own research with a different scenario. Her story was about a porcupine that asked a family of moles for shelter from the cold during the winter. The moles agreed, but the space was so tight that they were often scratched by the porcupine. They eventually asked the porcupine to leave, but the porcupine said that if they were not happy, then they should leave (Coon and Mitterer 137).
Gilligan found that boys were more likely to seek justice to resolve the issue by suggesting the porcupine should leave because it is the mole’s house. Girls were more likely to find compromises or solutions to accommodate everyone, like covering the porcupine with a blanket (Coon and Mitterer 137). Gilligan concluded that male dominance in morality has created a type of morality that is based on justice and autonomy, which excludes the importance of interpersonal relationships and empathy. She even suggests that males are slower to develop empathy and caring for others (137). Baier, however, says Gilligan neglects biological and social explanations for gender differences (Johnson and Reath 446). Is it true that women are more social and caring then men?
Do Men and Women Think Differently?
Recorded differences in language ability show that the female average is higher than the male average (Coon and Mitterer 431). This could point to a readiness for language and for women to be more social. Men tend to score slightly higher than women in math and spatial ability (Coon and Mitterer 431) which may support the idea that men specialize in larger groups and women specialize more in intimate relationships (Rachels and Rachels 150).
In other areas, evidence has shown that when given the option, one year old girls are more likely to fixate on a film of faces over cars and one year old boys are more likely to fixate on the cars. This could suggest females are more social than males (Rachels and Rachels 151). Brain-scans reveal that women are less likely to take pleasure in seeing those who have mistreated them suffer (150), displaying greater empathy.
Gender socialization may have contributed to the differences between men and women. Society and the gender socialization of stereotypes have placed women in the role of caring by confining them to the house and in charge of raising children. Being in these positions women would be more likely to adopt an ethic of care producing differences in attitudes in intimate relationships (Rachels and Rachels 151; Coon and Mitterer 431). Darwinian theories point to a difference in unconscious reproductive strategies, whereas men can father many children with many women and therefore cannot spend as much time with any given child. Women, however, invest in each child equally, potentially explaining how different attitudes could evolve (Rachels and Rachels 152).
To answer the question of whether men and women think differently, the difference between the averages, in language and spatial skills are not significant enough to make inferences (Coon and Mitterer 431). Also, Scholastic Assessment Test scores tend to show that men and women are increasingly thinking more and more alike (Coon and Mitterer 431). In regard to moral issues, further research into the matter has revealed that there is little to no difference in moral decision making as each sex utilizes both justice and caring strategies in their decision making (Coon and Mitterer 137).
Baier reports that persons tend to fluctuate between justice and care and the combination of the two is difficult (Johnson and Reath 445). She states that care centres on community and justice is concerned with autonomy and power (446). Care, Baier reports, challenges the “individualism of the Western tradition” (Johnson and Reath 449). Kohlberg would see justice as superior to caring. Virginia Held, carrying on the feminist standpoint, believes empathy and caring to be a better moral guideline than that of “abstract rules of reason or rational calculation” (Rachels and Rachels 150). But should one be considered superior to the other?
Balance the Talents
Baier states that “justice is only one virtue among many” (Johnson and Reath 444). Finding a compromise between rationalism and emotivism or justice and caring, may not be as difficult as Baier reports, especially if the human experience is both rational and emotional. Since the ethic of care is based on empathy, and empathy leads to compromises, the ethic of care can be incorporated into the Greatest Happiness Principle. This can be achieved because compromising usually brings happiness to all parties involved. Therefore, best moral conclusions come from a combination of “justice and caring [and/or] reason and emotion” (Coon and Mitterer 137). Agreeing with Baier, it is necessary for justice and care to be harmonized and male and female moral values unified (Johnson and Reath 454). Baier suggests that the domesticated woman perpetuates the stereotypes and keeps reason and justice apart. Each sex’s talents should be balanced. Therefore, it is illogical to pick sides or to see rationalism as superior to emotivism as they are both correct and useful in their own right, and in their own time.
Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. O. (2007). Introduction to Psychology. Australia: Thompson
Johnson, O. A., & Reath, A. (2007). Ethics: Selections from classical and contemporary writers.
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Rachels, J., & Rachels, S. (2010). The elements of moral philosophy. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Rifkin, J. (2009). The Empathic Civilization. New York: Penguin Group.
Santrock, J. W., & Mitterer, J. O (2004). Psychology 2. Toronto: McGraw-Hill
Tavris, C. (1992). The Mismeasure of Woman. New York: Simon and Schuster.
The Subject-Object Dichotomy in Philosophy
April 10, 2009
Using metaphysics and ontology, many philosophers use dichotomies to discuss the mind and its relation to the world or the body. They also postulate which is more real or has primacy. Metaphysics focuses on the “fundamental nature of being and the world” (Gage, 2000) and ontology deals with what is real or what is more real (Gage, 2000). The nature of how being interacts with the world and what elements have primacy is a common thread throughout the works of Sartre, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. This paper will compare these three philosopher’s ontology and then analyze the subject-object dichotomies of Sartre and Heidegger.
As far as ontology goes, Sartre believes that existence precedes essence (Solomon, 1974; Kaufman, 1975), giving primacy to existence and thus the body or the material world. Heidegger believes that essence precedes existence, giving primacy to essence and thus the mind (Kaufman, 1975). Merleau-Ponty (Solomon, 1974) states that the mind is in the body as the body is in the mind, and unites these in regard to the situation at hand. Merleau-Ponty may thus give primacy to the situation rather than the body or the mind.
These philosophers seem to take all sides of what is called the mind-body problem in psychology. The question that permeates the contemporary mind-body problem is which is more real, the mind or the body (Farthing, 1992). Therefore the mind-body problem is similar to the issues raised by Sartre, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty in their theories. In psychology, if the body is more real, then all behaviour and mental activity is said to be described using neurological explanations. Philosophers that would agree with this stance would be Husserl, Locke, Democritus, Kant and perhaps Sartre. These philosophers would believe in materialism and give primacy to the body or the world. If the mind is more real, then the sum of the parts does not equal the whole and thus would take a more Gestalt perspective. Philosophers that would take this position, such as Descartes, Hume, Brentano,
In regard to the ontological mind-body problem, Dualism, or idealism was accused of not being parsimonious enough, but if we were to open up the brain, there would not be seen anything that resembles the mind. Evidence however, seems to support the materialist viewpoint because damage to the brain can cause damage to the thinking mind. There is also evidence for the interactionist perspective because it is recognized in both psychology and the health industry that the body affects the mind and the mind affects the body equally in regard to healing. This is called the Biopsychosocial model of health (Santrock & Mitterer, 2004). Bringing the argument back to philosophy, it could be said that Sartre and Heidegger take opposing viewpoints and Merleau-Ponty resides in the middle.
This has interesting parallels to Taoism because their major teaching is that of the way. The way teaches one how to live in the now, uniting the dichotomies of past and future. The symbol for Taoism is the yin yang. The yin represents the passive element and the yang is the active element. The yin yang can be used to show how opposites or dichotomies can work together in a balance. If these three philosophers were to be placed in the yin yang, Sartre would be the active element, Heidegger would be the passive element and Merleau-Ponty would be the dots residing in each side, attempting a balance between the two (see Figure 1). This diagram nicely sums up these philosopher’s ontological positions. Since Merleau-Ponty has been able to reconcile these opposites and has recognized that the mind-body dichotomy and the world are situation dependent, this paper will focus on the debate between Sartre and Heidegger in regard to their struggle to resolve the subjective-objective dichotomy (thus, their metaphysics).
The Subject-Object Dichotomy
Sartre. Sartre believed in freedom. According to Sartre freedom is our right, so much so that we are essentially “condemned to be free” (Solomon, 1974; Kauffman, 1975). In any given moment, the person is free to make a choice. Even getting up in the morning and deciding not to commit suicide is considered the choice to live (Solomon, 1974). This is why, according to Sartre, a person is summed up by their actions. This is consistent with his idea that existence precedes essence. A person has not reached his or her essence until they are dead and their actions can be aggregated (lecture). This is what makes Sartre subjective, because he believes in the primacy of the richness of the individual through their ability to choose freely.
The emphasis on the richness of the individual is important to Sartre’s latest work regarding Experientialism and Marxism. In this work he attempts to introduce Existentialism into Marxism (Solomon, 1974) because Marxism focuses too much on the collective or objective side of the dichotomy. Existentialism studies the conditions of human existence (Gage, 2000) and Sartre would say that freedom is the major condition under which human beings live. This may have made him curious of Marxism and communist countries. The idea of introducing Existentialism into Marxism sounds great in theory because balance should be brought into all dichotomies, but how this could be actually applied remains a mystery (lecture). If one were to introduce Existentialism into Marxism the end result would create a hybrid, destroying the pure forms of both ways of living. If this application were to be successful, there would no longer be a pure Existentialism or a pure Marxism. Uniting these two concepts is unfathomable because they are on extreme ends of the subject-object dichotomy.
Upon further consideration of this matter, it became clear that if Existentialism were to be introduced into Marxism, one would still have to dominate the other and true equality of these two opposites would never be reached. But, to live at only one extreme does not work either. For example Mao’s
There is a tiny book published, written by Russell (1997). It is under six cm and bound in hardcover (see Figure 2). It is very impressive to bind a book this size. In order for it to be done, the spine cannot be bound or fastened to the rest of the book. Therefore, in order for the binding to work, there must be some free flowing space at the spine that will allow for play. Much like on a boat, items down below can have the option of being secured to the hull, or released to absorb the waves so the items, especially the stove can be upright while the ship is under way.
The size of the book is significant because its size reflects the need to reduce everything down to its simplest essence or form. Philosophers like to reduce the human being and its conditions of existence down to its simplest, smallest form, while trying to get at the essence of being. The binding represents the controlling force that objectively unites all into a collective (Marxism) and the free flowing space between the cover and the spine represents the amount of play allowed for proper functioning (Existentialism). The binding thus, also needs room for play (author’s interpretation). Therefore, it could work to have both elements united, but the amount of play or Existentialism allowed in a Marxist country may be smaller than expected (see Figure 3). Therefore, in this case the subject-object dichotomy could never be truly equal, but could be conceived to work together in a balance nonetheless (author’s interpretation).
Heidegger also utilizes a subject-object dichotomy in his metaphysical theory of how a being interacts with the world. Heidegger distinguishes between the “I am” and “it is” (lecture). According to Heidegger, the self can be either the subject or an object, depending on the circumstances or mode of being that person is in. The subject can become an object when it is immersed in the collective psyche or when a person does not want to be different from the crowd and thus follows the collective masses blindly (Kaufman, 1975; Richardson, 1963; lecture).
Heidegger would probably say that those living in a Marxist or communist country would be more likely to see themselves as objects (author’s interpretation). The term for the subject becoming an object is reification, which is to become a thing or to live in the world as an object (lecture). Heidegger calls the objective self in this reified state Das Man, being in the mode of inauthentic being or Fallenness (Kaufman, 1975; lecture). This is where Sartre is similar to Heidegger because Sartre’s concept of Self Deception could be considered like this Das Man mode of being because if one takes on roles in society (like a waiter) and if that person believes that this title sum them up as a whole, this would turn that subject into an object, an instrument, or a mere machine (lecture; Solomon, 1974).
Heidegger’s subjective side of the dichotomy is defined as Dasein as opposed to Das Man. Dasein is the true, authentic self or mode of being in the world that is able to transcend space and time (Kaufman, 1975; lecture). In contrast, Sartre would maintain that the mind and body are always confined to space and time (lecture). The Dasein mode of being is referred to as the Truth of Being because it is the most authentic state (Richardson, 1963; Kaufman, 1975). Dasein would thus be very hard to study because according to Heidegger, the Truth of Being or the basis of consciousness remains in the realm of the unseen. Therefore scientific methods of observation cannot reach it or study it, especially through metaphysics (Kaufman, 1975)
Heidegger describes this predicament using the analogy of philosophy as a tree (see Figure 4). Metaphysics represents the roots, physics the trunk and the rest of the sciences make up the branches (Kaufmann, 1975). The metaphor of the tree is that the roots get lost in the soil and are not able to absorb the soil directly. But, the roots do, in such a way get lost, disappear or become one with the soil. They abandon themselves partly to the soil, but still belong to the tree and maintain its purpose of providing to the tree first and foremost (Kaufman, 1975).
According to Heidegger, Metaphysics also does this; it puts the focus more on the tree rather than the soil (Kaufman, 1975). The soil represents the Truth of Being and where the roots abandon themselves partly to the soil represents the basis of thinking that metaphysics tries to get at but cannot fully reach because it is too focused on the rest of the tree (Kaufman, 1975). This is why metaphysics may not be the best tool for studying and describing the Truth of Being or the mode of Dasein. It could even be said that Heidegger believes philosophy itself may not be the best way to study the Truth of Being (author’s interpretation).
Further consideration into this matter revealed this interpretation to be apt because the Truth of Being or Dasein resists formulation in the material world (author’s interpretation). To bring the transcended Dasein to the material world would only objectify it thus change it into something it is not. To study Dasein through scientific or philosophical methods would be to force the authentic mode of being into the inauthentic mode of being thus changing it from its original pure state of Being. Much like how introducing Existentialism to Marxism would mutate or change these ways of living into something they are not. Perhaps in order to study or explore the Dasein mode of being, a whole new tree is needed (author’s interpretation). Perhaps a tree of spirituality that bears the fruit of transcendental wisdom would provide better investigation into the Truth of Being, rather than a tree of philosophy that bears the fruit of material world’s knowledge.
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Figure 1: The yin yang: Sartre is active, Heidegger is passive and Merleau-Ponty is in between.
Figure 2: The little book analogy: Uniting Marxism and Existentialism
Figure 3: The little book analogy: Uniting Marxism and Existentialism
Figure 4: The tree of philosophy (Kufman, 1975).