Subject: ‘THE BIG LIE,’ and the stench that follows it . . . .
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
While re-reading Antonio Damasio’s 2003 book, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain, I came across the mention of a 1966 novel by Bernard Malamud (1914-1986), which Damasio recommended as an excellent illustration of the 17th-century philosopher’s ideas. This novel, The Fixer, was made into a movie by Dalton Trumbo in 1968 (two years before his death), and I was delighted recently to find available on the Internet this story of the 'natural law' of one man's challenge to the tyrannical hegemony of the state, inspired by the writings of Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677).
For anyone wishing to understand Spinoza and seeking to experience the effect of his liberating philosophy in our present Age of Political Deceit, which threatens to suffocate all of us, this film by one of the great ‘Hollywood Ten’ screenwriters comes highly recommended. Standing on the shoulders of giants, like Spinoza, Damasio brings a neurological expertise to this examination of the philosopher’s life and thoughts. “One of the values of philosophy,” observes this world-famous neurologist, “is that throughout its history it has prefigured science. In turn, I believe, science is well served by recognizing that historical effort.”(p.15) Damasio goes on to justify his scientific undertaking of looking for Spinoza :
The main purpose of this book, then, is to present a progress report on the nature and human significance of feelings and related phenomena, as I see them now, as neurologist; neuroscientist, and regular user.
The gist of my current view is that feelings are the expression of human flourishing or human distress, as they occur in mind and body. Feelings are not a mere decoration added on to the emotions, something one might keep or discard. Feelings can be and often are revelations of the state of life within the entire organism –a lifting of the veil in the literal sense of the term. Life being a high-wire act, most feelings are expressions of the struggle for balance, ideas of the exquisite adjustments and corrections without which, one mistake too many, the whole act collapses. If anything in our existence can be revelatory of our simultaneous smallness and greatness, feelings are.
How that revelation comes to mind is itself beginning to be revealed. The brain uses a number of dedicated regions working in concert to portray myriad aspects of the body’s activities in the form of neural maps. This portrait is a composite, an ever-changing picture of life on the fly. The chemical and neural channels that bring into the brain the signals with which this life portrait can be painted are just as dedicated as the canvas that receives them. The mystery of how we feel is a little less mysterious now.
It is reasonable to wonder if the attempt to understand feelings is of any value beyond the satisfaction of one’s curiosity. For a number of reasons, I believe it is. Elucidating the neurobiology of feelings and their antecedent emotions contributes to our views on the mind-body problem, a problem central to the understanding of who we are. Emotion and related reactions are aligned with the body, feelings with the mind. The investigation of how thoughts trigger emotions and of how bodily emotions become the kind of thoughts we call feelings provides a privileged view into mind and body, the overtly disparate manifestation of a single and seamlessly interwoven human organism.
The effort has more practical payoffs, however. Explaining the biology of feelings and their closely related emotions is likely to contribute to the effective treatment of some major causes of human suffering, among them depression , pain, and drug addiction. Moreover, understanding what feelings are, how they work, and what they mean is indispensable for the future construction of a view of human beings more accurate than the one currently available, a view that would take into account advances in the social sciences, cognitive science and biology. Why is such a construction of any practical use? Because the success or failure of humanity depends in large measure on how the public and the institutions charged with the governance of public life incorporate that revised view of human beings in principles and policies. An understanding of the neurobiology of emotions and feelings is a key to the formulating of principles and policies capable of reducing human distress and enhancing human flourishing. In effect, the new knowledge even speaks to the manner in which humans deal with unresolved tensions between sacred and secular interpretations of their own existence.
. . .
Spinoza saw drives, motivations, emotions, and feelings –an ensemble Spinoza called affects—as a central aspect of humanity. Joy and sorrow were two prominent concepts in his attempts to comprehend human beings and suggest ways in which their lives could be lived better.(pp.7-8)
Spinoza was a contemporary of René Descartes (1596-1650), who was 37 years older and had discreetly migrated to Holland in 1629 to avoid hostilities from the French Church. In 1633, the year Spinoza was born, Descartes moved to Amsterdam. It was also the year that the Vatican condemned Galileo Galilei’s writings on the heliocentric system of the planets (on June 22, 1633). The significance of this latter event was not lost on Descartes; he withdrew immediately from publication his Treatise of Man (which was published posthumously thirty years later, in 1662) and he promptly reoriented his work, le Discours de la méthode (in 1637) et the essays which followed, in particular Méditations métaphysiques (1641) and his Principes de la philosophie (1644), all of which attempted to accommodate the hegemony of Church dogma.
By 1642, in contradiction with his earlier thinking, Descartes was postulating an immortal soul separate from the perishable body, perhaps as a preemptive measure to forestall further attacks. If that was the intent, the strategy eventually worked, but not quite in his lifetime. Later he made his way to Sweden to mentor the spectacularly irreverent Queen Chrisina. He died midway through his first winter in Stockholm, at the age of fifty-four.”(p.22).
His preemptive measure which failed in his life time took a life of its own as an ontological error of monumental proportions and has been used in support of ruling class dogmas in the centuries that followed his death.
Spinoza, by contrast, remained true to his discoveries. He too was persecuted by organized religion, and he had seen his ‘protector’, Jan De Witt a leading liberal political figure in the Netherlands, murdered in a gruesome fashion on August 20, 1672. Spinoza felt his life to be in immediate danger. According to the description offered by Damasio :
For most of Spinoza’s life Holland was a republic, and during Spinoza’s mature years the Grand Pensionary Jan De Witt dominated political life. De Witt was ambitious and autocratic but also was enlightened. It is not clear how well he knew Spinoza, but he certainly knew of Spinoza and probably helped contain the ire of the more conservative Calvinist politicians when Tractatus (1670) began to cause scandal. De Witt owned a copy of the book since 1670. He is rumored to have sought the philosopher’s opinion on political and religious matters, and Spinoza is rumored to have been pleased by the esteem De Witt showed him. Even if the rumors are untrue, there is little question De Wit was interested in Spinoza’s political thinking and at least sympathetic to his religious views. Spinoza felt justifiably protected by De Witt’s presence.
Spinoza’s sense of relative safety came to an abrupt close in 1672 during one of the darkest hours of Holland’s golden age. In a sudden turn of events, of the sort that define this politically volatile era, De Witt and his brother were assassinated by a mob, on the false suspicion that they were traitor’s to the Dutch cause in the ongoing war with France. Assailants clubbed and knifed both de Witts as they dragged them on the way to the gallows, and by the time they arrived there was no need to hang them anymore. They proceeded to undress the corpses, suspend them upside down, butcher-shop style, and quarter them. The fragments were sold as souvenirs, eaten raw, or eaten cooked, amid the most sickening merriment. All this took place . . . literally around the corner from Spinoza4s home, and it was probably Spinoza’s darkest hour as well. . . . Spinoza was undone. The savagery revealed human nature at its shameful worst and jolted him out of the equanimity he had worked so hard to maintain. He prepared a placard that read ULTIM BARBORORUM (ultimate barbarians) and wanted to post it near the remains. Fortunately Van der Spijk (his landlord) . . . prevailed. He simply locked the door and kept the key, and Spinoza was thus prevented from leaving the house and facing a certain death. Spinoza cried publicly –the only time, it is said, that others saw him in the throes of uncontrolled emotion. The intellectual safe harbor, such as it was, had come to an end.
. . .
Only twenty-seven years separated the death of these two part-time contemporaries. . . . Both spent most of their lives in the Dutch paradise, Spinoza by birthright, the other by choice –Descartes had decided early in his career that his ideas were likely to clash with the Catholic Church and monarchy in his native France and left quietly for Holland. Yet both had to hide and pretend, and in the case of Descartes, perhaps distort his own thinking.(p.21)
Damasio comments on another similarity between the two thinkers; Descartes prepared the inscription for his own tombstone :
He who hid well, lived well.
Descartes's body was first buried in an orphans' grave outside of Stockholm, as a Catholic in a Protestant nation. In 1663, his works were placed on the Index of Prohibited Books by Pope Alexander VII. In 1666, after devout French Catholics came to his defense, his remains were transferred to Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, in France; then in 1671, Louis XIV prohibited the reading of Descartes in France. In 1792, the National Convention planned to transfer his remains to the Panthéon, but instead he was reburied in 1819 at the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondisement of Paris, his skull and a finger missing.
Spinoza’s grave is located in the backyard of the New Church in The Hague. There is no cemetery; his grave is a flat stone lying in the yard, with a vertical tombstone, announcing whose grave it is, with the inscription of one word: CAUTE ! This is the word Spinoza habitually used at the end of his correspondence, written beneath the drawing of a rose. For the last decade of his life, his writings were indeed sub-rosa, and his parting advice was always the same: “BE CAREFUL !” Spinoza’s body in inexplicably missing from this grave . . . .
If René Decartes' efforts to conceal his original ideas to accomodate the hegemony of the Chruch fooled no one in his life time, this subterfuge had a devistating effect on future generations. Baruch Spinoza, by contrast, insisted that powerful emotions could create feelings that would protect the the mind from self-destruction and could embolden it to demand justice, conforming to 'natural law,' even in opposition to 'statutory laws.'
The 23 items below offer CEIMSA readers a view of the problematic times which we have inherited, when power concedes to nothing but power (to paraphrase the escaped slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass). We would do well to remember the price paid for unfinished revolutions. The stakes today are high and the dangers should not be minimized. The writings of Spinoza and Descartes serve as testimony to the theory and practice of the human mind and the laws which govern it, over the laws which govern capitalist hegemony.
Professor emeritus of American Studies
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
Cold War, Today, Tomorrow, Every Day Till The End Of The World
by William Blum
NATO (= USA) has been surrounding Russia for decades. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov captured the exquisite shamelessness
of this with his remark of September 27, 2014: “Excuse us for our existence in the middle of your bases.”
By contrast here is US Secretary of State, John Kerry: “NATO is not a threat to anyone. It is a defensive alliance.
It is simply meant to provide security. It is not focused on Russia or anyone else.”
From: "À la Une de Là-bas" <email@example.com>
To: "FRANCIS FEELEY" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, 4 October, 2016 7:47:56 PM
Subject: Trump/Clinton ? Le mur de Calais ? Le braquage de Kim Kardashian ?
Trump/Clinton ? Le mur de Calais ? Le braquage de Kim Kardashian ?
The Empire Strikes Back
by Chris Hedges
“There are no boundaries in this struggle to the death,” Ernesto “Che” Guevara said. “We cannot be indifferent to what happens anywhere in the world, for a victory by any country over imperialism is our victory; just as any country’s defeat is a defeat for all of us.”
Wall Street: The Trump-China missing link
by Pepe Escobar
The yuan is about to enter the IMF’s basket of reserve currencies this coming Saturday - alongside the US dollar, pound, euro and yen.
This is no less than a geoeconomic earthquake.
Trump's Hypocrisy on NAFTA
Tim Wise and Paul Jay discuss how Trump's call for import taxes would lead to trade wars and that his commitment to high profits is at odds
with his plans to keep jobs in the US.
Proposed Killing Julian Assange By
by The Toronto Sun
“Can’t we just drone this guy?” she pondered during one high-charged meeting, State Department sources reportedly told True Pundit. According to the website, others in the room laughed. But not Clinton, who called the Assange a “soft target.”
Hillary Clinton-Pandora Redux
by George Capaccio
Come Election Day, when I enter the curtained booth at my polling location, I will be thinking of those victims — from Palestine,
Iran, and Iraq to Honduras, Yugoslavia, and Ukraine — and mark my ballot accordingly.
Former CIA Detainees Describe Previously Unknown Torture Tactic:
A Makeshift Electric Chair
by Alex Emmons
Two former CIA captives recently described being threatened with a makeshift electric chair — a previously unreported torture method — while being held in the U.S. government’s infamous “Salt Pit” prison in Afghanistan.
the US Armed-up Syrian Jihadists
by Alastair Crooke
The West blames Russia for the bloody mess in Syria, but U.S. Special Forces saw close up how the chaotic U.S. policy of aiding Syrian jihadists enabled Al Qaeda and ISIS to rip Syria apart, explains ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.
Syria - The U.S. Propaganda Shams Now Openly Fail
by Moon Of Alabama
The Obama administration, and especially the CIA and the State Department, seem to be in trouble. They shout everything they can against Russia and allege that the cleansing of east-Aleppo of al-Qaeda terrorist is genocidal. Meanwhile no mention is ever made of the famine of the Houthis in Yemen which the U.S. and Saudi bombing and their blockade directly causes.
Why Everything You Hear About Aleppo Is Wrong
(Video-with free-lance journalist Vanessa Beeley)
What's really going on in Aleppo? Are Assad and Putin exterminating the population for sport? Is it a war against US-backed "moderates"? That is what the mainstream media would have us believe. We speak with Vanessa Beeley, a journalist who just returned from Aleppo for the real story.
U.S. “Military Aid” to Al Qaeda, ISIS-Daesh
by Prof Michel Chossudovsky
Uses Illicit Arms Trafficking to Channel Enormous Shipments of Light Weapons
The US, France and Britain Scrap United Nations Diplomacy, Embrace Terrorism against the People of Syria...
by Felicity Arbuthnot
“An ambassador is a … gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.” (Attributed to Sir Henry Wotton, 1568-1639.)
News And False Flags:
Pentagon Paid $540mn For Fake ‘Al Qaeda’ Videos
by Crofton Black and Abigail Fielding-Smith
Russia is upping its stake in Syria. Additional Russian SU-24, SU-25 and SU-34 jets are arriving.
Barbarism in Words and Deeds
by James Petras
The US representative to the United Nations, Ambassador ‘Ranting Sam’ Samantha Power, accused the Russian and Syrian governments of ‘barbarism’, claiming Moscow or Damascus had attacked an unarmed United Nations humanitarian convoy delivering aid to civilians in Aleppo.
Expanding the Debate: Jill Stein "Debates" Clinton & Trump
by Democracy Now!
While the Green Party’s Jill Stein was escorted off the campus at Hofstra, what would it sound like if she actually participated in the debate?
We air excerpts from the presidential debate and get response from Green Party presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein.
Kaepernick Forces Americans To Choose Sides
by Matt Peppe
When Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers chose to remain seated during the national anthem on August 26 prior to the start of the team’s game against the Green Bay Packers, as the rest of the stadium stood, he was not the only one engaging in a political act. But Kaepernick was likely the only one doing so consciously. And though he was outnumbered by tens of thousands in the stadium, and millions who watched on their television sets, Kaepernick’s bold statement was infinitely more powerful and outsized in its impact.
Peres Was No Peacemaker
by Robert Fisk
I’ll never forget the sight of pouring blood and burning bodies at Qana.
Peres said the massacre came as a ‘bitter surprise’. It was a lie: the UN had repeatedly told Israel the camp was packed with refugees.
Shimon Peres: Israeli War Criminal
Peres epitomized the disparity between Israel’s image in the West and the reality of its bloody, colonial policies in Palestine and the wider region.
Israel's $38 Billion Scam
by Philip Giraldi
Bibi wants more and Congress might deliver.
National Prison Strike Enters Third We
Many prisoners are on hunger strikes and there are signs of discontent among officers with the prison administrations, says Pastor Kenneth Glasgow.
From Slavery to Mass Incarceration, Ava DuVernay's Film "13th" Examines Racist U.S. Justice System
Expanding the Debate: Green Ajamu Baraka "Debates" Pence & Kaine
Part Part 1
Democracy Now! Special