Actual Reading

Pierre Joseph Proudhon | What Is Property?

If I were asked to answer the following question: WHAT IS SLAVERY? and I should answer in one word, IT IS MURDER, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: WHAT IS PROPERTY?  may I not likewise answer, IT IS ROBBERY, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?


Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara | Address to the UN

Address to the UN, December 11, 1964

… Cuba comes here to state its position on the most important controversial points and will do so with the full sense of responsibility which the use of this rostrum implies, while at the same time responding to the unavoidable duty of speaking out clearly and frankly. We should like to see this Assembly shake itself out of complacency and move forward. We should like to see the committees begin their work and not stop at the first confrontation. Imperialism wishes to convert this meeting into a pointless oratorical tournament, instead of solving the grave problems of the world. We must prevent their doing so. This Assembly should not be remembered in the future only by the number 19, which identifies it. Our efforts are directed to prevent that.

We feel that we have the right and the obligation to do so, because our country is one of the most constant points of friction. It is one of the places where the principles upholding the rights of small peoples to sovereignty are being tested day by day, minute by minute. And at the same time, our country is one of the entrenchments of freedom in the world, situated a few steps away from United States imperialism, showing by its actions, its daily example, that peoples can liberate themselves, can keep themselves free, in the present conditions of mankind.


William S. Burroughs | My Education

This is not some super-attenuated, arcane, exclusive depression known only to the chosen and distinguished few. It is a realization of the raw horror of the human position at this point. Most people, of course, say: “Well, things past remedy should be past thought,” and go about their stupid everyday concerns. Now what gives rise to the most dead hopeless depression? Withdrawal from opiates. I have noticed further that the depressions alternate with excesses of emotion, with emotional excesses, with tears and grief, also a symptom of withdrawal.


Robert Musil | The Man Without Qualities

“Just look at him! What would you take him for? Does he look like a doctor, a businessman, a painter, or a diplomat?” “He’s none of those,” Clarisse said dryly. “Well, does he look like a mathematician?” “I don’t know-how should I know what a mathematician is supposed to look like?” “You’ve hit the nail on the head! A mathematician looks like nothing at all-that is, he is likely to look intelligent in such a general way that there isn’t a single specific thing to pin him down! Except for the Roman Catholic clergy, no one these days looks the way he should, because we use our heads even more impersonally than our hands. But mathematics is the absolute limit: it already knows as little about itself as future generations, feeding on energy pills instead of bread and meat, will be likely to know about meadows and young calves and chickens!” …

“His appearance gives no clue to what his profession might be, and yet he doesn’t look like a man without a profession either. Consider what he’s like: He always knows what to do. He knows how to gaze into a woman’s eyes. He can put his mind to any question at any time. He can box. He is gifted, strong-willed, open-minded, fearless, tenacious, dashing, circumspect-why quibble, suppose we grant him all those qualities-yet he has none of them!” …

“He says things have become more complicated meanwhile. Just as we swim in water, we also swim in a sea of fire, a storm of electricity, a firmament of magnetism, a swamp of warmth, and so on. It’s just that we can’t feel it. All that finally remains is formulas. What they mean in human terms is hard to say; that’s all there is. I’ve forgotten whatever I learned about it at school, but I think that’s what it amounts to.”


Ludwig Wittgenstein | Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

4.1272  So the variable name “x” is the proper sign for the pseudo-concept object. Wherever the word ‘object’ (‘thing’, etc.) is correctly used, it is expressed in conceptual notation by a variable name. For example, in the proposition, ‘There are 2 objects which. . .’, it is expressed by ‘(∃x, y). . .’. Wherever it is used in a different way, that is as a proper concept-word, nonsensical pseudo-propositions are the result. So one cannot say, for example, ‘There are objects’, as one might say, ‘There are books’. And it is just as impossible to say, ‘There are 100 objects’, or, ‘There are ℵo objects’. And it is nonsensical to speak of the total number of objects. The same applies to the words ‘complex’, ‘fact’, ‘function’, ‘number’, etc. They all signify formal concepts, and are represented in conceptual notation by variables, not by functions or classes (as Frege and Russell believed). ‘1 is a number’, ‘There is only one zero’, and all similar expressions are nonsensical. (It is just as nonsensical to say, ‘There is only one 1’, as it would be to say, ‘2+2 at 3 o’clock equals 4’.)


Immanuel Kant | Dreams of a Spirit-Seer

Before you prove that only a spiritual being can have reason, take care that first of all I understand what kind of conception I must have of a spiritual being. Self-deception in this matter, while large enough to be seen with eyes half-open, is moreover of very evident origin. For, later on and in old age, we are sure to know nothing of that which was very well known to us at an early date, as children, and the man of thoroughness finally becomes at best a sophist in regard to his youthful delusions.


Friedrich Nietzsche | Human, All Too Human

279 On easing life. One principal means to ease life is to idealize all its processes; but from painting one should be well aware what idealization means. The painter requires that the viewer not look too hard or too dose; he forces him back to a certain distance to view from there; he is obliged to presuppose that a viewer is at a fixed distance from his picture; indeed, he must even assume an equally fixed amount of visual acuity in his viewer; he may on no account waver about such things. So anyone who wants to idealize his life must not desire to see it too closely, and must keep his sight back at a certain distance. Goethe, for example, knew this trick well.


Robert Musil | The Man Without Qualities

No one knew exactly what was in the making; nobody could have said whether it was to be a new art, a new humanity, a new morality, or perhaps a reshuffling of society. So everyone said what he pleased about it. But everywhere people were suddenly standing up to struggle against the old order. Everywhere the right man suddenly appeared in the right place and – this is so important! – enterprising men of action joined forces with enterprising men of intellect. Talents of a kind that had previously been stifled or had never taken part in public life suddenly came to the fore. They were as different from each other as could be, and could not have been more contradictory in their aims. There were those who loved the overman and those who loved the underman; there were health cults and sun cults and the cults of consumptive maidens; there was enthusiasm for the hero worshipers and for the believers in the Common Man; people were devout and skeptical, naturalistic and mannered, robust and morbid; they dreamed of old tree-lined avenues in palace parks, autumnal gardens, glassy ponds, gems, hashish, disease, and demonism, but also of prairies, immense horizons, forges and rolling mills, naked wrestlers, slave uprisings, early man, and the smashing of society. These were certainly opposing and widely varying battle cries, but uttered in the same breath. An analysis of that epoch might produce some such nonsense as a square circle trying to consist of wooden iron, but in reality it all blended into shimmering sense. This illusion, embodied in the magical date of the turn of the century, was so powerful that it made some people hurl themselves with zeal at the new, still-unused century, while others chose one last quick fling in the old one, as one runs riot in a house one absolutely has to move out of, without anyone feeling much of a difference between these two attitudes.


Ludwig Wittgenstein | Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

1* The world is everything that is the case.
1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all the facts.
1.12 For the totality of facts determines what is the case, and also whatever is not the case.
1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.
1.2 The world divides into facts.
1.21 Each item can be the case or not the case while everything else remains the same.


Jean Baudrillard, Theatre of Cruelty

In the terrorist act there is a simultaneous power of death and simulation which it is intolerable to see confused with “the morbid taste of death” and with the frenzy of the “morbid” and the “spectacular” Dead or living, it is elsewhere that terrorism wins out. At least by this single fact: it alone makes the event, and thus returns the whole “political” order to its nullity. And the media, all the while orchestrating the victory of order, only makes evidence of the opposite reverberate: that terrorism is burying the political order.

The media are terrorists in their own fashion, working continually to produce (good) sense, but, at the same time, violently defeating it by arousing everywhere a fascination without scruples, that is to say, a paralysis of meaning, which retracts to a single scenario.

Terrorism is not violence in itself; it is the spectacle it unleashes that is truly violent. It is our Theater of Cruelty, the only one that remains, perhaps equal to that of Artaud or the Renaissance, and extraordinary in that it brings together the spectacular and the challenge at their highest points. It is a model of simulation, a micro-model flashing within a minimally real event inside a maximal echo chamber. Like a crystal thrown into an unstable solution or an experimental matrix, terrorism is an insoluble equation which makes all the variables suddenly appear. Terrorism offers a flash, a scenario, a condensed narrative – opposing the purest form of speculation against every event said to be real. It is a ritual, opposing political and historic models in the purest symbolic form of exchange.


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