Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 5

By LizardBreath

[Updated schedule: Conflated has Chapter 6 next Monday, I have Chapter 7, and lw is on Chapter 8.

Xtrapnel's summary of Chapter 5, proving that the accumulation of capital can only be reversed by appointing government officials by lot, under the fold. LB]

Prior reading group posts:

Piketty Reading Group Setup
Initial Scheduling Post
Introduction and Chapter One -- Robert Halford
Chapter Two -- Minivet
Chapter Three -- Essear
Chapter Four -- Unimaginative

Continue reading "Piketty Reading Group: Chapter 5"

Posted on June 16, 2014, 4:57 AM

Christ, What An Asshole

By LizardBreath

So there's this listserv for Harlem parents, which has had some conflict over gentrification and varying income levels among participants. And then some nitwit decides to make things better by lecturing people about their charitable obligations:

Which is why it was so surprising when, a few days later, Daniel Reeves, a computer programmer and blogger, responded to a post offering free toddler clothing by suggesting that listserv members stop giving things away and instead auction them off for charity.

"No matter how hard up we are, let's face it, we live in Manhattan," wrote Mr. Reeves, 34 and a father of two small children. "We (as individuals) are really not as worthy a charity as, say, Children's International or Unicef."

For one thing, there's no way you'd be able to auction used baby clothes or stuff for anything like the amount someone would have to spend to buy the same sort of thing under other circumstances -- if the point is to give money away, having people save the money they didn't have to spend because of the used stuff they traded and give that away would be much more efficient. For another, lecturing a broad group of people about how they're all so rich they need to be giving more to charity, without knowledge of their circumstances or current charitable giving? Really unpleasant.

I kind of hope the guy was deliberately making trouble, rather than being such a nitwit that he thought his suggestion was a good idea.

Posted on August 10, 2010, 6:04 AM

I Love My Bike But...

By LizardBreath

I've had it less than a year, put probably no more than 1500 miles on it, and I just broke my second pedal. Are Bromptons known for this kind of thing?

Posted on May 7, 2010, 9:02 AM

Reading For 11-01-05

By Ogged

For next Tuesday, let's read through section 16. Any volunteers for the precis?

Posted on October 26, 2005, 10:05 PM

Precis for Sections 12 and 13

By LizardBreath

Sections 12 and 13 are devoted to a preliminary definition? analysis? exploration? of the concept ‘being-in-the-world'. Heidegger is still here not yet ready to define being-in-the-world: rather, he's talking about it, telling us what it isn't, or later what it is but shouldn't be limited to.

First, being-in-the-world is a characteristic (in Heidegger's term, an "existential") of Da-Sein. While it is a unified concept, the related concepts of being-in and in-the-world are also existentials, and discussing them will illuminate being-in-the-world.

Being-in must not be thought of as describing a spatial relationship like the way that one entity that is ‘objectively present' can ‘be in' another, like water being in a glass. It is a name for the relationship between a being and the world. Objectively present beings (this passage set me back a bit. I've been understanding ‘being' to mean something that I don't yet know the definition of, but not a material object. In this chapter, however, Heidegger refers to e.g., a table, as an objectively present being. Now I don't know anything about what a being is) do not have such a relationship with the world, or with each other – they are ‘worldless'. Beings can only relate to each other through their relationship with the world – two worldless beings cannot interact.

Being-in-the-world allows Da-Sein to relate to spatiality, and to the material world generally. It is a necessary attribute of Da-Sein; Da-Sein is not possible without it. As an ontological understanding of Da-Sein is care, being-in-the-world, the relationship between Da-Sein and the world, is 'taking care'. One should not interpret ‘taking care' in this context to mean anything one would conventionally understand taking care to mean, such as straightening something out, getting it for oneself, or seeing to something. These are ontic meanings, whereas ‘taking care' here is an ontological term.

Being-in-the-world has generally been represented as a process of knowing the world. While this isn't wrong – knowing the world is an aspect of being-in-the-world – it is incomplete, and thinking of being-in-the-world as merely knowing will lead us astray.

Section 13 explores the relationship between being-in-the-world and knowing further. While we don't yet understand being-in-the-world, we must have some ontic (which I'm reading here as naïve or primitive) experience of it, and that experience is as knowing. The problem is that knowing implies a subject and an object, the knower and the known, and this does not accurately represent the relationship between Da-Sein and the world.

Trying to understand knowing in subject-object terms gets us nowhere. Knowing is a characteristic only of human beings, but it is not objectively present in them – it cannot be ascertained or examined from outside them. Rather, it is "inside" human beings, in their "inner sphere". However, this doesn't tell us anything until we understand what the "inner sphere" is, or how knowing emerges from it – if we want to develop our understanding we need another approach.

Heidegger's approach is to presuppose that knowing is a kind of being of being-in-the-world. He recognizes that this presupposition, that knowing is together with the world, is unfounded, but progresses from it nonetheless. Knowing, defined as "determining by observation what is objectively present" is a deficient mode of interaction with the world; what is left when being-in-the-world refrains from manipulating, producing, or otherwise actively interacting with the world. What is left after such active modes of interaction are taken away is looking at, or directing attention toward beings encountered in the world. This looking creates perceptions, which can be addressed, and discussed, leading to definitions and the expression of propositions about those beings that are perceived. This process, ‘knowing', is not something that Da-Sein travels outside itself to do – it is always in-the-world with those beings that it knows.

This tells us something about knowing, but what we understand about knowing is still grounded in being-in-the-world, which we still don't understand and will need to explore further.

(Precis maker's note: This is hideously difficult. All the relevant terms are defined, so you can't rephrase anything in other words, because any other words are wrong. I feel as though I've shuffled the sentences around, and summarized in a vaguely sequential manner, but not understood or explained the content of the sections in any meaningful sense. Hopefully the comments will make this clearer to me.)

Posted on October 20, 2005, 5:52 PM

Reading For 10-20-05

By Ogged

I just realized that we only mentioned it in the comments: the next reading is section 12 (through page 55), for tomorrow. Lizardbreath is doing the precis.

Posted on October 19, 2005, 10:32 PM

Precis For Sections 9-11

By Ogged

You're not really supposed to understand section 9. It's another of those in which Heidegger introduces key terms and gives a summary of what's to come. But there are a few points to clear up.

1. "Mine-ness." Two things going on here. First, "Dasein" is the way of being of we humans. It is our way of being. Second, Heidegger is describing fundamental ways of being--what he calls existentials--that belong to Dasein regardless of the particular situation it finds itself in. Thus, the existentials, regardless of who I am, and in what circumstance I find myself, always describe my way of being; they are in each case *my* ways of being.

2. Authenticy/Inauthenticity. There will be much much more about this in the sections to come. There's just one point that I would emphasize very strongly beforehand: these are not "moral" categories; they are not criteria by which we are judged, and our existence is always, no matter what we do, both authentic and inauthentic at once. These are super important terms, and you should keep coming back to the claims I'm making here as we read to see if you think I'm right--this is one of the central themes of the book.

3. Averageness. Ben did a good job of explaining this.

Heidegger states that the "manner of access and interpretation" should show Da-sein "as it is initially and for the most part—in its average everydayness", and should show it "to itself on its own terms". One might think that Da-sein's mode of being is ontologically immediately available, since, as he notes, not only does Da-sein have ontological priority, but it is ontically "'nearest'". However, Da-sein instead has a pre-ontological understanding of itself (our vague understanding of being) in terms of the world in which it finds itself—that is, not an immediate understanding.

Pay particular attention to "understanding of itself...in terms of the world." We'll get a lot more about what this means, not least because "world" is a technical term for Heidegger. Also note that, for Heidegger, average everydayness, our common ways of being, are often precisely those to which we pay the least reflective attention.

Section 10

For the most part, this is a trip through some intellectual history that you can ignore, but there are two things to notice. First, Heidegger distinguishes, in already familiar terms, his inquiry from anthropology, psychology, and biology. Those inquiries, though they tell us lots of things, don't inform us as to the way of being of Dasein. "Just-being-alive" is not the same as "existing."

Second, we get Heidegger's explanation, on page 43, of why he's using odd terms like "Dasein," rather than just saying "human being." For one thing, words like "life," "human being," "consciousness," and "subject" carry too much baggage. If he starts going on about "life," then we might think about the meaning of "life" that we get from biology, or from Dilthey, but that's not what Heidegger is after, and he wants to define his terms on his terms. Second, the terms, in addition to misdirecting us to non-ontological inquiries, sneak in other commitments. For example, according to Heidegger, if you start talking about "consciousness," it's very difficult not to imagine the whole mental apparatus that we believe goes along with consciousness: the brain, our attention, our subconscious, etc. But Heidegger wants to describe things in a much more basic and fundamental way: so instead of saying that something "is present to our consciousness," we get disclosure and Dasein, so that we really have to think about just what is happening when what we've been calling "becoming present to consciousness" happens. It's not that that language is wrong, and we might even want to go back to it at some point, but without a thorough examination, it keeps us from thinking about things.

Section 11

This is a simple, but confusing, little section. He's just making a couple of points. First, just like he says, "everydayness is not the same thing as primitiveness." Every Dasein, modern or "primitive," has everydayness as one of its ways of being (there will be a lot more on "everydayness," so it's ok if you're not totally clear on it yet). Second, that ethnography, the collection of facts about human cultures, can give us information, but it can't tell us about the fundamental ways of being of Dasein. He has the rest of the book to tell us why not.

Posted on October 13, 2005, 11:12 PM

Reading For 10-14-05

By Ogged

For Friday, please read through section 11, page 48. I will do the precis.

Posted on October 10, 2005, 11:37 PM

A question about the argumentative strategy of §7

By Ben

I'm making this a new post rather than a comment to the precis of section seven because it seems sufficiently different from the discussion currently going on there. Basically my confusion concerns Heidegger's use of etymology and Greek in advancing both the concepts of phenomenon, logos, appearance, etc and in defining "phenomenology". Starting with his introduction to his explication of the word:

The expression has two components [which] go back to the Greek terms phainomenon and logos. Viewed extrinsically, the word "phenomenology" is formed like the terms theology, biology, sociology, translated as the science of God, of life, of the community. Accordingly, phenomenology would be the science of phenomena. The preliminary concept of phenomenology is to be exhibited by characterizing what is meant by the two components, phenomenon and logos, and by establishing the meaning of the combined word. The history of the word itself, which originated presumably with the Wolffian school, is not important here.

What puzzles me about this is the priority which is awarded to Greek roots, and the appearance of taking the word as being prior to the concept. (A caricature would be: we know that what we want to do is called "phenomenology", we just don't know what phenomenology is yet.) Knowing that "phenomenology" might be rendered in the ancient Greek of a certain era as "legein ta phainomena", which itself is (so Heidegger argues) equivalent, in that same Greek, to "apophainesthai ta phainomena", is not itself an argument for understanding the modern neologism in any particular way; nor is it necessary to advance any particular understanding—Heidegger could merely say that he is going to use the word in such-and-such a sense, understand "phenomenon" in such-and-such a sense (which is essentially what he does, as far as I can tell, with "appearance"). There is no need that I can see to go to the Greek, and yet he does. One explanation I could see is that there really is supposed to be something which phenomenology is, and that the Greek roots which it comprises secure us access to its real meaning. (If this is true, though, we're probably using most Greek-derived words incorrectly; "apophainesthai ton bion", whatever it might be, is probably unlike most current understandings of biology.) So my first question: why employ Greek here? Second, why are we working from the name at all? I'm trying to avoid the caricature I mention above, but surely the nature of the method is more important than what the method is called; I would expect a procedure to be more like gaining an understanding of the first and then finding an appropriate name than statements like "before getting hold of the preliminary concept of phenomenology we must delimit the meaning of logos, in order to make clear in which sense phenomenology can be 'a science of' phenomena" suggest—it's hard to avoid the feeling that what is being talked about is being derived from what is said. So I am curious: why go about it this way (starting from the word "phenomenology")? I trust that it isn't merely a rhetorical strategy employed because it affords Heidegger an opportunity to introduce certain concepts.

Posted on August 13, 2005, 2:37 PM

When The Book Isn't In Front Of You

By Ogged

Remember that it's available on Google Print.

Posted on August 8, 2005, 12:10 PM