Jane Bennett on Anxiety, Whitman, Sympathy‏

So many ways of wishing that people were other than as they are…

4 responses to “Jane Bennett on Anxiety, Whitman, Sympathy‏

  1. Dirk, in your subtle sigh do I detect the sentiment that human natures can’t change..? I remember you saying Bennett wasn’t your cup of theory-tea, with her suggestion that inanimate objects have agency and such, but are you disagreeing with her call to develop new sympathies here? Don’t the mythopoetic dimensions of environmentally leave open the possibility that humans can become differently motivated viz. sense and sensibility?

    • hey M, I like Bennett when she describes these sorts of interventions as “strategic” animism and such (and so keeping the poetic/experimental in mind/sight) but not when she waxes more Whiteheadian/neo-Aristotelian and seems to con-fuse the Is/Ought distinction, and certainly some aspects of our human-beings can with time and effort be cultivated into new forms/directions but I don’t think that this will be the new glue by which we can re-create a commons/demos of the sort that will be a counterweight on the scales of which we might need to fix things (rebuild nations or the environs, etc), my hope is more that thru these (as in this blog and all) sorts of linkages across time and space we might just find enough support and models/modes to keep from being overwhelmed and be a bit more care-full to ourselves and those at hand.

      • How is she confusing is/ought? Doesn’t Sam Harris show that old restriction to be a distraction anyway (see here: http://www.archivefire.net/2010/06/towards-immanent-moralities.html)

        The “glue”, in my estimation, is INFRASTRUCTURE – the building of worldspaces which generate better relations and couplings – but can we even get there without a major effort to coordinate bodies semiotically? That is, it seems implausible to me to try and circumvent the dreamscapes and valuescapes of such a large and ideologically addicted population. People need their stories and ‘frames’ in order to situate themselves in any given work-space. We have not yet suffered enough to give up mainlining the cheap tricks of ‘the hereafter’ (in all its secular and non-secular guises). Geist and geist and so many ways cognition squares its circles in the mythosphere… Bennett has a lingering pragmatism in her salvaging of Whitman and company for the sake of sentiment.

      • when she moves beyond identifying the response-abilities of varying character types to speculating more general sympathies.
        There is a kind of knowing that may let me know how to build a bridge or say what it will cost that doesn’t tell me to prioritize that sort of effort/spending over some other need/interest or not (just as knowing that a creature has feeling-states or such doesn’t tell me not to kill/eat it or not), that’s the sort of thing I was pointing to.
        If Bennett’s move to Whitman is a lingering pragmatism (as I would prefer) or a lingering Romanticism (as I suspect) isn’t so important to me as what if anything might be made of it and I was left at a loss but maybe someone else is more clever/handy.

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