Nietzsche’s Prophecy

Posts related to my book “Nietzsche’s Prophecy”

[Download the PDF version or read the full text below. Updated from previously published version in Organization, May 2001; vol. 8: pp. 403 – 415.]

Abstract. My vision for the future university acknowledges the facts of rapid change in the world. It attempts to conserve the idea of the university as structures and process by centering the university on a study of changes as they are redefining knowledge. As vision, it asks that faculties join in Centers for the Study of the Present Age to discuss, teach and attempt to shape the futures of Science and Technology and their ramifications. Key words. future university; new vision; re-center the university; study of present age

The vision: when I speak and think of the university, I have in mind the largest institution, the greatest number of students at all levels, professional as much as academic; graduate and postgraduate, as well as undergraduate.

The curriculum is at its maximum: some 150 subjects/disciplines in which one can garner a PhD. I have in mind, then, the largest public research universities, especially those which (also) educate their students to serve their states in the traditions of Land Grant: including agriculture and the mechanical arts.

While there are ample reasons to describe a private (research) university of fame or privilege as the descriptor of the university – say, the top of the pyramid of American universities, an Oxbridge or a Berlin – I think it important for our understanding of the present toward the future to consider the university serving the interests of the widest public or publics. In this setting, I intend to focus on the structure-processes of the institution, but particularly on how the idea of a university will intersect with, even help to define, the nature of the future.

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The meanings and concepts of our being in the world reduced by language; reduced to a language in which opposites proclaim each other’s territories: War is Peace, and Peace is War, and so it is in the actuality of 1984.

1984 – the novel; 1984 – the year of our being; appear so different.

1984 – the novel, dark, brooding, each day rewritten, revised so there is no longer any sense of tomorrow. Each next moment is promised, then stolen. Time is guaranteed, robbed, promised…a theoretical exercise in “Doublethink.” The concept of time, of history reduced is going, going…gone

1984 – today, this weekend; our experience, not Orwell’s imagination.  Yet here we are pondering what he said, wondering what was warning; what was prophecy. What is this time, 1984, the year of our being, here together? The wars, vague; the blanket upon our lives the darkness and dystopia of nuclear holocaust that each next moment does not rewrite the last moments, but that Life itself may disappear and all our concepts flow down some Divine drain: opposites, metaphors, histories, ironies, concepts, words, gone; all gone.

1984 – the novel, warned us that we would not recognize 1984, the year of our being, for what it would be, and what it is.

1984 – our being cast into a deepening quest and search for meaning, not that words and history reduce, revise, but that the concept of existence is cast in deepening doubt.

It was a purple colored paperback book
I borrowed from my niece,

the selected or collected works of Nietzsche

…which I only read much later,
as I slowly gathered time
and nerve. Read the rest of this entry »

(Part 1 on my teachers. Part 2 touches on this line of thought, part of how it stalled, and impact on society. Part 3 is on “languaging”. Part 4 summarizes some lessons learned from my teachers.)

Who am I? A deep and developing question. But I did have several teachers who helped me to formulate my thinking and directions.

Above all, Ray Birdwhistell – the originator of “Kinesics,” the study of the human body-in-interaction. He was an Anthropologist who was the best observer of people I’ve ever met – observer in the sense of seeing people in careful and detailed senses. He was trained as a “classical” dancer, and seemed to see all others as performers in life’s dances. And he didn’t only concentrate on each individual. He also/always noted how they interacted: in groups, in life’s varieties of social contexts from infants to older, the ordinary and the exceptional in every sense; richer and poorer, healthy and injured and “odd” and…; ethnic, linguistic. His ways into the world were always expanding. Life is social, interactive: the individual…?

My Teachers - My Teachers - Ray Birdwhistell, George Trager, Henry L. Smith Jr., Norman McQuown, ...

My Teachers (click image to enlarge)

Ray was a student of the Chicago School of Symbolic Interaction – heirs of the American Pragmatist, George Herbert Mead, and the anthropologists who wandered the entire world. His work wandered from American Indians to the average family dynamics, to the sick – physically and, particularly, mentally. And he directed me to the U. of Chicago, Anthropology, where I continued my studies with linguist Norman McQuown – under whose tutelage I (and family: J, and infant daughter Amy) studied a Mayan Language (Tzotzil) and lived in Chiapas, Mexico for two years deeply immersed in both Indian and Ladino (their term) cultures during this time.

Ray was also a student in the line of thought and active fieldwork (life is fieldwork!) of Franz Boas: Margaret Mead (especially), Gregory Bateson, influenced his thought. Read the rest of this entry »

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“Like the possibility of knowing, now, the entire earth reduced to jet planes’ speeds and missiles’ trajectories, the sense of what we are became all-too-knowable and ultimately explicable, and the mysteries of the metaphysics which whispered, hushed, in our innards, began to speak a little more hurriedly with an excitation like storm clouds’ beginning gatherings.

Be in process, exist, experience, love life, transcend your history, be moral from strength and self-possession, not from a weakness which is battered, not from a music which escalates but does not elevate. To deserve a deity, is to be a person of character, to be for, to be against, to be what can be…a person is a will, a willing to, and one who can talk to the inner dialogue.”

It began, I guess, several centuries ago, the proclamation of the end of the era of metaphysics.

For a while it was banned: that is, talk about metaphysics, as if banning talk would remove the ideas and thoughts. Metaphysics as talk and term, became a way of spurning the obscure, when all that was needed (they said) was care in observation and in experimentation. In the name of objectivity and rationality, and perhaps of progress, metaphysics was banned and bannered and kept in a closely lidded casket as if it were some hornet’s nest.

Except…except that somewhere in our lives, some of the visions of our own being, lurked a metaphysician telling us what was a question, what was an answer, what we are and sometimes, why.

The lurking thinker carried within a big bag of inner dialogues, a mix of wonderments which were kept mostly quiet. How? By naming the stuff which came up, came out, rose to the surface…

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Not knowing just exactly what I was for, I found it more direct early in my scholarly life, to be against some ideas, some thinkers…to sense and test who I was not, what I would not do, and where the edges of my ideas or focus reside.

I argued vehemently, strongly, perhaps harshly against what I thought was wrong, was untruthful. I was a critic writing polemics; trying as well to explore new paths which had no particular history, no negatives.

Now, I occasionally discover that much of the thinking I call my own, is directed… against, opposed. So much so, I sometimes think (and am told), that I do not say what I think is correct, except in the terms of some opposition, some polemic.

I wonder if I am anyone, in these times, except some enemy’s enemy, defined less by  personal integrity or by my friends with whom I think, but more by the ideas which I oppose. Where is truth located within these forms of disagreement and battles?

Who am I, positively, on the side of some ideas or thoughts; more than the armored battler always arguing against ideas or thoughts of others?

It begins on the first day of teaching, now entering my thoughts as the new school year approaches…so rapidly. The course to come will be splendid, the best ever: I feel so “sharp,” so ready to espouse/spout the truth to come!

I note all the students sitting there, not merely at ease, or with various sorts of questioning appearances. Rather they are mostly staring at me, “their” teacher; rather staring “through me” looking to see…what, who? Am I, can I ever be, who they want somehow to penetrate; to be…?

In those instants, beyond the talk which I talk of the course to come, I wonder who they are, who they see in me. And who am I, runs so rapidly in my being, that I find it difficult – so difficult to grasp my own “presence” – and remain the teacher I would be, even as I am anthropologist to them and to my own being.

Writing in response to Christopher Kelty’s post on Savage Minds about Experimental Philosophy (x-phi), I am pleased, perplexed, pensive… I have lived (still do!) the life of the Anthropologist who would be doing philosophy, and imagine that we might one day find each other. Soon?! Maybe.

Trained principally, to study language and behavior and sociality/culture, I begin by including “myself” in the study of anyone’s language, culture, thought…Who am I, where am I, how did I get here, how to be the “measurer” of all things?

As a self-proclaimed “Anthropologist of the Ordinary,” I understand the temptations to study the “exotic,” but note that the ordinary human is much more exotic than we have noted. The human body which exists in the world with others’ bodies (the Pragmatism of G.H. Mead inserts itself into this approach) is a brilliant and ongoing piece of work, that we seem to want to underestimate as some derivative of the idea of mind.
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