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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Musings



I haven’t blogged in a while due to grad school preoccupations. But I figured I would productively procrastinate once again and write, public journal style to broadcast my thoughts, for others and for myself, about interests and happenings.

Of course, most “happenings” happen in my mind nowadays. That’s a euphemistic way of saying I’m too busy to have a social life.

A preoccupation of mine recently has been the psychological root of ideological formations. I mean ideology in the post-Marxist sense, the wide social, conceptual patterns of thought that make up what Foucault calls a discursive formation. The drive to knowledge at the heart of various contemporary institutions and articulated in individual values, apparent everywhere from journals to the voiced preoccupations of undergrads in my own composition classroom, feeling compelled to major in something that will win them money (tacitly: happiness). Values pronounced in the green ink of dollar bills, hovering silently over transactions and affirmations of company loyalty.

The root is psychological, I think, because, if happiness is satisfaction or contentment, then the compulsion to strive for knowledge is behavioral. I guess what I’m talking about is a kind of psychology unmoored from the purely empirical domain—a philosophical psychology—which accounts for visible, manifested patterns or tendencies of a given populace, regurgitating the values of a contemporary episteme, without reliance on the purely testable, measurable. The way through which it is thought, in a certain sense, that the normative “we” can attain meaning or assuage feelings of hopelessness, despair, futility. Religiosity once fulfilled this function, but now accounts for little. Empirical questing is the new religion.

At the root of this is the compelling fear of the human animal, perhaps present in boredom. Erich Fromm and Heidegger have the same kind of emphasis here that I do, in that they understand boredom as an intolerable cessation of temporal progress and thus opens the space for aporia in contemplation—a kind of contemplative realization of one’s own striving and the teleological assumptions society articulates through it, alleviated, in some regard by distraction from these kinds of uncomfortable thought-swamps.

Perhaps this is why I have turned to ontology and am considering gender constructs. It seems to me that the heroic quest to self-fulfillment is inculcated through our physiological assumptions about gender roles. What, though? How to answer this question? What is the at the root of the strive for power which eliminates the need to contemplate boredom and open the dialogue of nihilism? And how does this reveal itself in the late 19th/20th C. cultural imaginary?

I’m on the verge of some kind of theoretical articulation for this project, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t want to sound like Ernest Becker in his Denial of Death….but, then again, maybe I do? In a gendered sense?

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