短评

Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies, by Ann Swidler (1986)

Swidler, A. (1986). Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies. American Sociological Review, 51(2), 273. doi:10.2307/2095521 . 「Culture influences action not by providing the ultimate values toward which action is oriented, but by shaping a repertoire or "tool kit" of habits, skills, and styles from which people construct "strategies of action".」 The problem is what is 'the ultimate value', how is it expressed and how does it manifest itself. Lower-class people certainly want secure friendships, stable marriages, etc. However, do these words 'secure friendships', 'stable marriages' really correspond to the same things when they are uttered by middle-class people? Can 'stable marriages' be separated from its context and be conceived abstractly? To comprehend an expression that expresses some kind of 'ultimate value', one must be equipped with 'a shaped repertoire of habits, skills and styles', etc. out of which 'strategies of action' can be constructed. This is a problem of philosophy, not that of sociology. Here Swidler, like all sociologists and maybe more broadly speaking all leftists, is obscuring the notion of voluntaristic theory of action or simply human will, with that of the ability to achive a properly directed goal. One can always will something, but this does not mean that one can will something that he does not know what willing it even means, and the meaning of willing something is precisely the proper strategies of action that, when put into practice, set the agent closer to the end that the willed object corresponds to. Without proper repertoire of habits and skills equipped to really appreciate a value and orient oneself towards the pursuit of it, one does not even know what this particular value really is. Swidler holds that voluntarism does not dominate most of our institutional life, but what is 'institutional life'? It is almost by definition the facet of life which is not voluntaristic. There are too many circular arguments presented in the article. Nowadays the purpose of these arguments boils down to the support of a political stance: there are structural and institutional injustice and oppression deeply planted in the society, and the obstacles for the 'oppressed' to get what they want is not their lack of determination but the presence of these injustice and oppression. Now why do those people who believe that they are oppresed even want to revolt? (2022.01.16)

Rene Girard, the Last Nietzschean by Grant Kaplan

Rene Girard, the Last Nietzschean by Grant Kaplan. I have also read Girard's essay Dionysus versus the Crucified which was rather ridiculous and far too polemical. Girard didn't realize where Nietzsche's point was on up until the publishing of I See Satan Fall Like Lightning where he wrote 「The majestic inauguration of the “post-Christian era” is a joke. We are living through a caricatural “ultra-Christianity” that tries to escape from the Judeo-Christian orbit by “radicalizing” the concern for victims in an anti-Christian manner.」, and Kaplan correctly pointed out that 「Nietzsche detested with his entire being the emergence of such trends」. I'll say that this was the main point of Nietzsche: the corruption of Christian love and heroism in a world where the Christian religion is becoming increasingly conformist. Scheler in his essay on resentments gave a detailed and accurate analysis and refutation of Nietzsche, much better than Girard. Girard's theory for the 'martyrdom' of Dionysus is interesting but dubious. I say that like all pagan gods Dionysus - and his other manifestations like Bacchus - is just an internal function or force, constituing and working inside a pagan cosmic order, that can be put into abstraction as 'the liberating force'. No matter what kind of 'liberation' he brings, he just 'liberates', and that is his sole function and purpose. It is totally natural that the archetype of which Dionysus is a manifestation was seen as a facet of Christ by romantic writers, since Christ also liberates human beings from the long continuous imprisonment of individual consciousness in a pagan cosmic order, where everything is arranged 'harmoniously' and 'according to law', without any place left for individual soul and will to eager and yearn and struggle and confront, to love and practice heroism, and finally to be saved. (2021.12.27)

Freedom on Holiday: The Genealogy of a Cultural Revolution by John Betz

Here John Betz criticizes the divine command theory or theological voluntarism alongside his narrations on the background logic of reformation. The historical analysis is wonderful, though really a common knowledge. However there's a big problem, of metaethics and semantics, in the sentence "God could do anything - even what is objectively evil", since without God nothing is objectively evil or good: There's no further foundation or criteria for an act to be good or bad apart from God's command (and maybe laws of logic; this is disputable). Also in the sentence "the classical understanding of freedom as the freedom to become virtuous and wise", the notion of virtuous and wise is vague to the extent that it is nearly meaningless, unless one lives in a genuine classical, i.e. pagan, cosmic order, where the notions of virtuousness and wiseness, etc., are well-defined and are associated to the order of the cosmos, which is another word for 'imperial order' or 'rational order' or 'natural order'. Of course freedom should be the freedom to become virtuous and wise but it should just be a point which is derivative, and we need a proper theory of human nature for this, which leads us to another problem: do human beings really have a nature in the classical sense? How was and is the concept nature formed, historically and cognitively? John Betz is missing all the points here. (2021.12.26)