Meditations: Book VII-XII

Cricket Spillane 

I am a graduating senior majoring in International Relations and minoring in Peace Studies and Violence Prevention, Leadership and Social Change, and Spanish. After graduation I am going to Lugano, Switzerland to be an advisor for the Creating Sustainable Social Change study abroad program here at VT. After that, I will be going to Nyamyumba, Rwanda to work with a non-profit organization to conduct research on gender-equity.

Jackson Bracknell 

Hey all, I am a sophomore majoring in political science and minoring in history. After I graduate, I will be commissioning in the Marine Corps and hopefully earn the job as an Infantry Officer. I want to travel the world, help people, and experience different cultures. I am not sure what I want to do after the Marine Corps- maybe a history teacher, firefighter, or entrepreneur. When I retire, I would like to live in Montana with lots of land.

Natalie Buckland 

I am a junior majoring in Political Science with a concentration in national security and minoring in Leadership Studies offered by the Corps of Cadets. After I graduate, I am hoping to enlist in the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer. If I choose not to make the military my life career I’ll be seeking a job in a federal agency or law enforcement. One day, I hope to retire and live somewhere in New Zealand. 

Introduction: 

Marcus Aurelius wrote Meditations during his time as Roman Emperor from AD 161 to 180. His writings served as an outlet to express his ideas on Stoic philosophy and guide his own journey towards self-improvement. Perhaps the most striking quality of Aurelius comes from his commitment to virtue and tranquility above all else. 

Book VII

In Book VII, some of the most important themes touched upon include badness or evil, happiness, change, pain, human existence, and how we can control our destinies through self-control and organized thought. Through the application of ruling principles that are discussed by Aurelius, both peace and tranquility become attainable. He stresses that it is in our best interest to keep our principles at the forefront of our minds so we do not forget them, which is demonstrated by the quote below.

“How can our principles become dead, unless the impressions (thoughts) which correspond to them are extinguished? But it is in thy power continuously to fan these thoughts into a flame.” 

This scene from Spongebob demonstrates what would happen if we neglected our principles.

He also emphasizes the importance of remaining consistent when it comes to practicing our principles, and not to stray away from them even when surrounded by others. In this situation, it could be easy to become influenced by sophistry. However, by remaining resolute and unwavering when it comes to your values, you will succeed in trying to achieve the greater good, as developed in the quote below.

“For whatsoever either by myself or with another I can do, ought to be directed to this 

only, to that which is useful and well suited to society.”

Aurelius also notes that everything in the universe is connected and a natural order exists that should coincide with one’s principles. He points out that we are all a part of one universe, and we all have a place and purpose within it. He describes sentient beings as “rational animals” and says they should behave according to reason and according to nature, as shown in the following quote and song. 

“For there is one universe made up of all things, and one God who pervades all things, and one substance, and one law, one common reason in all intelligent animals, and one truth; if indeed there is also one perfection for all animals which are of the same stock and participate in the same reason.” 

“Imagine” by John Lennon pictures a world in which everyone lives as one.

He describes change as a part of the natural process of things, encouraging people to embrace it instead of shy away from it. According to Aurelius, without change, happiness cannot exist. Change is an essential part of the human existence, and can be witnessed everywhere in nature. This is exemplified by the quote and the song below.  

“Is any man afraid of change? Why what can take place without change? What then is 

more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? And canst thou take a bath unless 

the wood undergoes a change? And canst thou be nourished, unless the food undergoes a 

change? And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Dost thou 

not see then that for thyself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the 

universal nature?”

“Changing” by John Mayer celebrates a life full of change. 

He goes further into detail about life, death, and pain; all which fall in the natural order of things. Similarly to change, it is better to embrace the fact that they are inevitable rather than running from them. Pain will only bother you if you let it consume you, and you should not focus on death but rather on life. An individual can do nothing more than to trust the gods, and embrace their place in the universe and their destiny. This is exemplified by the quote below. 

“But, my good friend, reflect whether that which is noble and good is not something 

different from saving and being saved; for as to a man living such or such a time, at least one who is really a man, consider if this is not a thing to be dismissed from the thoughts: and there must be no love of life: but as to these matters a man must intrust them to the deity and believe what the women say, that no man can escape his destiny, the next inquiry being how he may best live the time that he has to live.”

He further advises against letting outside factors influence your character and affect your destiny. Even if you find yourself overwhelmed by your environment or the dangers of your living conditions, the power to remain virtuous and tranquil lies within your mind. You should not act for anything or anyone other than yourself and your destiny. This is exemplified in the quote below. 

“It is in thy power to live free from all compulsion in the greatest tranquility of mind, 

even if all the world cry out against thee as much as they choose, and even if wild beasts 

tear in pieces the members of this kneaded matter which has grown around thee.”

He moves onto more applications of principles to daily life in the following book. 

Book VIII

Perhaps the most important theme of this book is that one should not waste their time trying to figure out why things are the way they are and instead live in the present and accept things as they are. He calls for a life free from distractions and strict adherence to your principles. He emphasizes the importance of living in the present and embracing our connection with nature. The connection between nature and accepting life the way it is is highlighted in the following quote.

“Remember that as it is a shame to be surprised if the fig-tree produces figs, so it is to be 

surprised if the world produces such and such things of which it is productive; and for the physician and the helmsman it is a shame to be surprised, if a man has a fever, or if the wind is unfavourable.”

Just as Bob Dylan once said, don’t think twice it’s alright.

He goes on to talk more about how you should stick to your guns, and remain unwavering even if somebody tries to correct you. He also brings up freedom, and you can achieve it through your own actions. Everything should be done with a purpose and things such as worrying or finding fault in something do not have a purpose. He ties nature back into his principles by reminding us that nothing ever leaves the universe, everything will transform and return to us somehow. He questions our existence in the universe, but knows it is not for trivial reasons such as pleasure as demonstrated in the quote below.

“Everything exists for some end, a horse, a vine. Why dost thou wonder? Even the sun 

will say, I am for some purpose, and the rest of the gods will say the same. For what 

purpose then art thou? to enjoy pleasure? See if common sense allows this.”

Due to the transience of life, it is important to become good today rather than to become good tomorrow, Aurelius warns. All actions should be conducted with the good of humanity in mind, and anything done unto you is what the gods and universe intended. If you are benevolent, you will reap the benefits and gain satisfaction and happiness. He teaches us that there are three main relations between an individual and other things, as described in the quote below. 

“There are three relations between thee and other things: the one to the body which 

surrounds thee; the second to the divine cause from which all things come to all; and the 

third to those who live with thee.”

Aurelius reminds us that all of our power lies within, and we can expel any evil or negativity from tarnishing our minds with our will. He compares the separation of man from nature to that of losing a limb, and says it’s a great blessing that humans are capable of returning to nature as intended after getting separated from it. The universe and nature will make all things right again, it is our duty to trust in its power as well as our own. Nature will also not bring us anything that we cannot bear, so if you find yourself wondering if a burden is too heavy, it isn’t. He reintroduces the ideal that only the present is worth focusing on, as shown in the quote below. 

“In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the 

present.”

The importance of embracing any obstacles you may face is something that Aurelius touches on multiple times. He claims that any man who lives content with the obstacles presented to him will die happily. Anyone who becomes consumed by said obstacles or finds themselves tempted by fame, passion, or evil will not die happy. It is also implied those who find themselves swallowed by the past or worrying about their future cannot die happy. Those that worry not and do not ask “why” can die happily, as encouraged by the following quote. 

“A cucumber is bitter.- Throw it away.- There are briars in the road.- Turn aside from 

them.- This is enough. Do not add, And why were such things made in the world?” 

Book IX

In Book IX, places emphasis on neutralies that exist between both extremes. Being able to understand both approaches (or sides on a spectrum) would make one’s judgment more sound. The main end goal is one that is focused on tranquility. We can only be at peace with ourselves and others if we train our logic to guide our perceptions . It is in our nature to help one another so that we may thrive. This sentiment is repeated throughout the text and specifically in the quote below. 

“Now with respect to the things towards which the universal nature is equally affected- for it would not have made both, unless it was equally affected towards both- towards those who wish to follow nature should be of the same mind with it, and equally affected. With respect to pain, then, and pleasure, or death and life, or honour and dishonour, which the universal nature employs equally, whoever is not equally affected is manifestly acting impiously.”

 Marcus Aurelius also touches on the ever changing nature of the universe. He ties the concept of change into what one might experience in life. For example, there is nothing to fear in death because it is a state of being. In reality, we experience many forms of death. The way it is worded is a bit extreme, but it is no different than finishing a task. It is almost like thinking about an end of some sort. An example of this would be like how, at some point, we all went outside to play together with our friends for the last time. What may be perceived as loss is simply change or moving on to a “chapter” in life.  We grow, build new relationships, and make lives of our own. Of course it’s sad, but that is all a part of growing up. That’s life. 

“Soon will the earth cover us all: then the earth, too, will change, and the things also which result from change will continue to change forever, and these again forever.” 

Everyone is not destined to live a perfect life either. The world is so vast and transformative that every single little mistake that someone might commit doesn’t necessarily mean that they are terrible. The gods gifted everyone with negative traits, but they also have positive traits that balance our personalities. This concept applies to all individuals. Aurelius asserts that we should be patient and understanding when being approached by someone who may be abrasive. It is simply treating others how you want to be treated. 

“When thou art offended with any man’s shameless conduct, immediately ask thyself, Is it possible, then, that shameless men should not be in the world? It is not possible. Do not, then, require what is impossible. For this man also is one of those shameless men who must of necessity be in the world. Let the same considerations be present to thy mind in the case of the knave, and the faithless man, and of every man who does wrong in any way. “

Book X

In Book X, Aurelius questions whether or not his soul would stop yearning for what it doesn’t have or if it would ever be content with what it has. This conundrum is one that is prevalent in everyone. He implies that, no matter what it is, if it is bestowed from the gods it is something good and deserving. 

“Wilt thou, then, my soul, never be good and simple and one and naked, more manifest than the body which surrounds thee? Wilt thou never enjoy an affectionate and contented disposition? Wilt thou never be full and without a want of any kind, longing for nothing more, nor desiring anything, either animate or inanimate, for the enjoyment of pleasures?”

Endurance is a huge theme and Aurelius focuses on this concept throughout the book. Like many things, it will either make or break someone. If someone cannot persevere they will not last for too long, but if someone’s mind is able to adapt they are prepared to fight another day. Suffering can then be put into perspective and made endurable. Everyone encounters their own trials and tribulations, but it is up to us whether or not we choose to adapt to our environment. I always remember that I have survived 100 percent of my worst days. Into each life some rain must fall. 

“If, then, it happens to thee in such way as thou art formed by nature to bear it, do not complain, but bear it as thou art formed by nature to bear it. But if it happens in such wise as thou art not formed by nature to bear it, do not complain, for it will perish after it has consumed thee.” 

Life is a continuous journey that everyone builds and improves on; no matter how old they are. 

If someone is healthy and in their right state of mind they will not be filled with worry or  anxious about seeking approval. If there is someone that is not of sound mind, how are they expected to be fully aware of what they are doing? How would they know what they truly need to do to live a happy life? It shouldn’t be about materialistic things, but one about fulfillment. 

“And accordingly the healthy understanding ought to be prepared for everything which happens; but that which says, Let my dear children live, and let all men praise whatever I may do, is an eye which seeks for green things, or teeth which seek for soft things.”

Book XI

In Book XI, Marcus Aurelius explores the validity and rationality of the body and soul. He also provides some of his morales and how to deal with negative situations. Aurelius says that a soul owns itself and can perceive the universe as orderly and not unique- something that has happened to a person has happened before. 

Auerlius is skeptical of Christains in this book, saying that a soul should be able to leave its body when it is ready, not “from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show.”

Aurelius also explains how he is skeptical of newer comedies, but he thinks “useful sayings” and guidance can be found in old comedies, because he believes that helping the community and being an active member of society should be its own reward, which is another reason why he criticizes Christains, who practice morals for salvation. One aspect of this book that stood out to me was his emphasis on being involved in your community. He makes an analogy that someone isolating themselves from society is like cutting a branch off a tree, saying “So too a man when he is separated from another man has fallen off from the whole social community. Now as to a branch, another cuts it off, but a man by his own act separates himself from his neighbour when he hates him and turns away from him…” 

Aurelius also identifies nine aspects to remember when someone offends another person. Similar to his previous books, Marcus says to remember that all people have a bond, specifically sharing the “community of mind.” This reminds me of the recent fictional terror group who appear in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Disney+ Marvel series, which can be seen here:

His fifth rule also stood out to me: he essentially says to try to consider the circumstances that led the person to offend you. Sometimes I struggle with taking a step back and trying to see the situation from the other person’s perspective, saying “a man must learn a great deal to enable him to pass a correct judgement on another man’s acts.”

Finally, his sixth rule stood out to me, where he essentially says that life is short and not to waste it, which reminds me of this video of Kobe Bryant explaining how short life is:

This point leads to the ideas Auerlius’s next book, Book XII.

Book XII

The main idea of Auerlius’s Book XII of The Meditations is that life is short. He explains to not hold on to the past and to not look forward to the future but to live in the moment. Marcus says that at his death he wants to be someone who “shalt strive to live only what is really thy life, that is, the present- then thou wilt be able to pass that portion of life which remains for thee up to the time of thy death, free from perturbations, nobly, and obedient to thy own daemon (to the god that is within thee),” meaning to be adherent to the actions of one’s own body and desire of the sould.

This point is extremely important to so many people today. Students, along with much of the working class, look to the future for things to get better or “live for the weekend.” This is prevalent among college students with “Almost Friday” posts which can be seen here: https://www.instagram.com/friday.beers/ and in common songs such as Working for the Weekend by Loverboy:

According to Marcus, this is not the proper way to live life.

He also says that there is a plan that is beyond the understanding of humans, so it is pointless for humans to try to understand it, because our perspective is so small. Marcus gives the reader a paradox: “I have often wondered how it is that every man loves himself more than all the rest of men, but yet sets less value on his own opinion of himself than on the opinion of others.”

Aurelius thinks it is a paradox that even in the time of the Romans, people were self obsessed and cared more about themselves more than anyone else, yet people also value others’ opinion more than their opinion of themselves. I agree with Aurelius in this aspect, and this trend can clearly be seen especially in today’s youth. I have always listened to ex Navy SEAL Davis Goggins, and I have always valued this video on why not to care about other people’s opinion.

The final point that stood out to me in this book are the few foundational rules Marcus says to follow, for these are the rules he follows when he is upsetted by something: everything happens for a reason, humankind is a community of intelligence, whatever is troubling you is external, not internal, and everything that is happening has once happened before.

The guidelines provided by Aurelius provide guidance to someone who is easily corrupted by external forces in life and is a follower of sophistry.

On fostering a planetary view of the global environment

Author Bios: 

Keri Friedman:

Hi everyone! I am a graduating senior from the CNRE’s Natural Resources Conservation and Recreation Management program. I’m looking forward to continuing my journey as a Hokie this fall as a graduate student in the Science, Technology, and Society program. My research interests largely fall in line with the premises of this course, and I hope to explore environmental issues at their nexus with sociopolitics, particularly within the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I am originally from Oceanside, New York (Go Islanders!), but have found my true home right here in the NRV. Outside of classes, you can usually find me sipping on green tea,watching Avatar: The Last Airbender with my dogs, Atlas (a boxer mix) and Molly (a beagle mix), or playing guitar on my porch. 

Kel Drake: I am a junior, majoring in Environmental Policy and Planning and minoring in Spanish; I am also the Treasurer of SPIA Student Society, the undergraduate student society for students majoring in EPP or SSC. I am interested in global sustainability and development and the sociological perspective of climate change adaptation. I am originally from Ft. Lauderdale, FL; however, my current home is in Wilmington, NC. My interest in global sustainability and development was sparked by my time in the U.S. Navy and my own personal travel, including to El Salvador, Honduras, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and more. I am unsure of what my future holds but I aim to continue my research into sociological adaptation to climate change and continue traveling.

Evan Lautato: Hey! I am a graduating senior and double majoring in Political Science with a focus in legal studies and History. I plan on going to law school in Manhattan, hoping for St. John’s Law School. I am also from Long Island, New York, but grew up spending a lot of time in the city so I love the Rangers. I spend my free time with friends and producing music. I can play 10 different instruments and have been playing since I was 4. I am also super interested in sports and hope to make a career as a contact lawyer for a New York sports team. This class had me have a new understanding of environmental politics and legislation and could also see myself entering the environmental law field within the government to help continue the United States environmental plan through the Paris Climate Change agreement. 

Blog Post: 

Luke, Chapter 15: “Reflections from a Damaged Planet: Adorno as Accompaniment to Environmentalism in the Anthropocene” 

Luke’s final chapter criticizes the mindset of mitigation over minimization. As a refresher: minimization is a proactive approach to do as little damage as possible to whatever component of “the environment” may be harmed by the proposed activities. Mitigation, however, is a reactive approach to solving problems. The proposed activities include all the potential harm to the environment, but the solutions come after the damage has already been done. While minimizing harm is the ideal way to protect and preserve the environment, it can cut deeply into the profit margins of those seeking to extract natural resources in a destructive manner. Oftentimes, minimization requires extra research and development, as well as extensive engineering to create a more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternative, or it completely rules out the activity altogether. For example, the process of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is detrimental to the environment at every step of the process. It tears up the landscape, injects chemicals into the ground, uses millions of gallons of water, contaminates drinking water, and poses a significant risk of  oil spills, natural gas leaks (mostly methane), and even explosions. Finding a way to extract gas without the laundry list of negative impacts is nearly impossible, and the development of such technologies would be extremely expensive. For extraction corporations, shifting towards renewable energy is simply not an option. Rather than attempt to invest in the future wellbeing of the planet, corporations rely on mitigation because it saves them money in development costs and makes them more money because they can extract as much as possible while doing as much harm as necessary to line their pockets. It is cheaper to invest in carbon offsets and habitat restoration once the damage has already been done than it is to prevent the damage altogether. 

Unfortunately for the rest of us, mitigation efforts are often far less effective than preventative measures, and we are left to bear the brunt of the environmental consequences from the activities of just a few large corporations. All the while, those same corporations sponsor initiatives that promote personal sustainability (like using a reusable straw in your Dunkin iced coffee) and shame typical household waste when they are the ones responsible for the overwhelming majority of the damage. It is easier for them to blame everyone else than to hold themselves accountable for the destruction they leave in their wake. One article from The Guardian (written in 2010, but still relevant) claims that the top 3,000 corporations would have to pay a third of their profit margins just to compensate for the 2.2 trillion dollars in environmental damage, largely comprised of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Understanding a planetary view of the environment means taking into account these types of interrelationships: corporations, the natural environment, the built environment, and the average people. Luke’s critique lies in the fact that mitigation is driven by capitalism and profit margins, not the long term wellbeing of the planet. Mitigation gives capitalists an excuse to exploit the landscape as much as they want to as long as they can greenwash themselves enough to make it seem like they really care about the harm they are directly causing-all while our tax dollars end up being spent to remedy their destruction. Mitigation will never be enough to heal the damage that has already been done, nor will it prevent future damage from being done. Minimization is the only true answer to the gordian knot of sustainability, yet corporations would rather slice through it like Alexander the Great and his sword with mitigation to save themselves some time and money in the short term. If they continue on this path, there will be nothing left to save. 

Stubberfield, “Chapter 5: The Greater Sage-grouse in the Global Environment: An Evaluation of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange”

Congruently, Chapter 5 of Stubberfield’s paper explores these dynamics in a particular case study on the Sage-grouse of Wyoming. While the case study is local, it holds global implications; he argues that the Environmental Defense Fund’s efforts to promote the conservation of the greater sage-grouse habitat has been perverted, both within the foundation and outside, and does more harm than good. As lackeys to the capitalistic entities that caused the sage-grouse to become endangered in the first place, EDFs idea of conservation allows for purchase of “habitat mitigation credits” and essentially gives these entities license to destroy the natural habitat of the sage-grouse and, in compensation, construct new suitable habitat. It is important to note that the habitat in which the greater sage-grouse resides, sagebrush, can take up to 50 years to grow properly and the species has no way of knowing that their current residence is subject to industrial development and if there is a suitable replacement habitat.

 These credits invariably tie conservation efforts to the offending industrial capitalism in a way that has global implications and inherently counterproductive. The commodification of these environments in the name of conservation effectively commodifies the subject of these conservation efforts. The global implications of this method of conservation sets a dangerous precedent and allows for industrial capitalists to insert themselves into conservation, mitigation, and adaptation efforts without actually contributing to these efforts. Industrial capitalists, driven by profit, will provide little to nothing to true environmentalist movements and agendas; therefore, EDF functioning as a lackey to such capitalistic agendas does little to help the conservation of the Greater sage-grouse and acting as a sellout to industry does more harm than good. As Luke addressed in the previous reading, mitigation efforts are inherently less effective than prevention efforts; therefore, it follows, that these efforts are not only counterproductive, but ignore the most effective option of conservation.

Stubberfield’s dissertation examines how conservation infrastructure can be used by the government to instrumentalize all kinds of production within a region such as commodities, space, subjectivities, and indirectly the production of species. It explores the production of eco-systems and how they meet the economic interests of the governing body with no regards to the environment, while also taking full control of the production of plants and animals within the region. It discusses how the sage-grouse in Wyoming shows how environmental liberalism through its instrumentalization by local, state, and federal conservation creates a fixed market for the production of the habitat. How it is guided by strategies of governance. How the government can drastically alter the environment without the approval of people (and non-humans) within the community for profit while claiming to be conservation efforts, are actually just economic efforts with no care for the environmental implications of their actions. Stubberfield argues that the production of habitat mitigation credits, “displays the power of capital to change and expand within a landscape through economic incentives by linking industrial capital to the production of territory and representations of habitat grounded in technoscientific construction, and management of milieux” (Stubberfield p.179). Environmental governance gives those with the most money and power to completely alter an environmental landscape with no repercussions under the guise of a nonprofit organization. Through geo-engineering the government has allowed for resource extraction enterprises to completely alter the Wyoming sage-grouse, for economic gains and economic gains only.

The Impact of Globalization on the Individual

Emily Whisenant: I’m a Junior Political Science major, with minors in Spanish and Environmental Policy and Planning. I will be graduating in December and hope to work within the realm of environmental politics; more specifically with environmental justice efforts. If I don’t secure a job right after graduation, then I plan to travel throughout Latin America for a while, cultivating my Spanish and volunteering with environmental organizations. 

Christen Cook: I am a senior majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Wetland Science. I like adventuring outdoors and hope to find a career that will allow me to work outside possibly in wetlands. After graduation I plan on finding a job that will provide experience in my field outside of the classroom. 

Michael Wheeler: Michael Wheeler is a senior majoring in Construction Engineering and Management (CEM). He was born in Blacksburg and lived the rest of his pre-undergraduate life 20 minutes down the road in Radford, Virginia. It may seem that Michael is not geographically diverse, which is not completely untrue. Through the years he has seen different areas in the United States through traveling but will always happily return to Southwest Virginia. Michael has been intrigued through this class because of the knowledge that has been obtained about environmental issues throughout the years, which goes hand-in-hand with construction because of the effects that industry has on the environment.

Death, Karen Litfin, “Chapter 16: Localism”

In Litfin’s chapter of Critical Environmental Politics, the movement of localism is described in detail with its connection to our modern world. In short, localism calls for the “relocalization of life,” in our individual ways of existing (156). Karen Litfin argues that recent globalization has spurred the movement of localism, where individuals think and act locally when it comes to their consumption habits. Just to give a few examples, localists go to a farmers market that they can walk or bike to, they support farm-to-table restaurants in their communities, and they recycle instead of throwing away all their trash. “All things being equal, a local economy will have low energy requirements and therefore be ecologically friendlier,” is the motto for the localism movement (157). When individuals act locally, whether that be by supporting the local economy with the purchase of a handcrafted vase at a small business downtown or riding the public bus to and from work, localism claims that we can have a significant impact on the environment. Localism promotes sustainability and going green at an individual level. It promotes this idea that we can stop rising temperatures and reverse climate change if we just buy our organic spinach from a local farmer instead of buying it at Kroger. Litfin argues that the slogan of ‘think globally, act locally’ has prompted people in the last quarter century to make changes that promote sustainability at an individual level if they really want to make a difference when it comes to saving the Earth (160). This expression has made us feel responsible for our changing climate, which is great that individuals feel the need to be more environmentally conscious, but at the same time we know that corporate capitalism overwhelmingly contributes to the pollution of the Earth. These individual environmentally conscious decisions are a product of green consumerism, circling us back to Week 4 of the course with Ecocritique (Luke, 1997). 

Litfin asserts that “local producers are not necessarily any more deserving or trustworthy than peasants or factory workers overseas,” (161). Our choices to eat produce grown in the county we live in don’t automatically make us more sustainable. A lot of the time we don’t know if our locally grown vegetables are any more sustainably produced than the organic ones we get at the grocery store. Now I’m not saying that farmers all over the world can’t be transparent about if they use pesticides and harmful chemicals or not on their crops, but just because we support our local farmers and businesses doesn’t make us better people for not buying pineapple imported from Costa Rica. Agriculturalists work hard all across the globe and they contribute to our global markets that we as consumers still demand. Even if you do consider yourself to be a localist, you’re probably still buying clothes that were made at a factory in China, eating fruits only grown in tropical regions of the world, or ordering products from Amazon so that you can get it conveniently and in two days. 

Though localists tend to buy their produce in season and from a local vendor, such as at a farmers market, what makes those local farmers reliable in their practices? How do we really know where the peppers we are buying come from and if they were ethically produced? The answer is that we really don’t know. We don’t know how much a farmer is paying their workers and under what conditions. A lot of us don’t even know where the location of that farm is. I know that I haven’t driven out to Floyd just to see where my peppers are grown after I’ve purchased them at the Blacksburg Farmers Market. It’s equally as important to consider how local any farmer is if they’re operating machinery that was produced thousands of miles away or in a different country. On another note, simply because a local farmer grows vegetables on their own land does not mean that they don’t purchase imported seeds to start growing and maintain their crops. 

A lot of the products that you consume on a daily basis are produced overseas, too. For example, Litfin mentions our smartphones and the hypocrisy of only thinking about means of sustainability on a local level (161). Ethics come into play, and not simply concerning our environmental impacts. For example, globalization has allowed us to constantly have access to Colombian coffee that we can drink before we go about our days, but at what social and 

environmental cost? Coffee producers are being directly impacted by our changing climate and need more money to take precautions for the survival of their business. Are we willing to pay a little more for our imported coffee so that a Colombian farmer can run their family business, or do we just want to pay our local barista an extra fifty cents to substitute cashew milk in our latte, because we think that cutting back on our dairy consumption is the best way to save the planet? 

This video explains the implications of our global coffee consumption in our changing climate, especially in developing countries, where coffee producers have an uncertain future ahead when it comes to their livelihoods. 

Luke, “The System of Sustainable Degradation”

In this article Timothy Luke discusses sustainable degradation and how it is masked by the term sustainable development.  Sustainable development is defined as “development that meets the needs of today without compromising future generations” (99). He states that sustainable development is “neither sustainable nor development” (99). Development means there is raw materials used and waste produced, which leads to degradation of the environment. In the system of sustainable development, ecological degradation still exists but at a slower rate.

Luke provides three strategies for how sustainable degradation is implemented in capitalism, they are ecomangeralism,ecojudicalism, and ecocommercialism. Ecomangeralism refers to legislation, activism and other things that address natural resource management, and capitalists use these sources of environmental awareness and display it positively. They use the situation to their advantage and see it as an opportunity for success in the market, instead of seeing as a roadblock in their business. Sustainable degradation is worked into policies and activism in an attempt to mesh economic and sustainable success. One method is putting a monetary value on ecosystem services, for example economists look at a plot of land that is forested and determine what is the value of it and what use will maximize profit? Should we use the trees for timber or should we leave the forest for recreational purposes? etc. managing the environment is all on how it is valued. This creates a bigger issue than environmental degradation alone. It allows for capitalists to keep developing and growing while making it look like they are doing good, when in reality not much has changed. People are fooled by this strategy because they think corporations are doing all that they can but they are actually doing the bare minimum. They are managing the environment to their benefit.

When a company tries to use less resources in their production, that is seen as positive because they are being environmentally conscious and recognize that we need to be more sustainable, the consumer will appreciate their efforts and purchase their product. It is merely a strategy to be more successful in a time where people want to be more sustainable. This is a form of sustainable yield that is more sustainable than before. Luke argues that this strategy will not improve degradation but magnify it.  With the smoke and mirrors that producers put up, there are some benefits and positive reactions to this. Minimizing environmental degradation of ecosystem services, waste, and over production and consumption is a better thing to do then not. Overall the issue is not being handled properly. The root of the problem is corporations still have the same goals that don’t include being  truly sustainable. This is because of the grow-or-die mentality inherent in capitalist development implying that “sustainability” is cast in terms of linear and continual growth regardless of resource use. There is little if any incentive for capitalists to change course and actually stop degradation. 

The second strategy that Luke discusses is ecojudicialism to consider environmental issues, but the goal is ultimately the same. Policies are created the same as industries create their products, strive to be more sustainable but the objective is the same. One example is Cap and Trade, it is a market for air quality, where pollution is still permitted but at a “sustainable” rate. The idea is to conduct as business as usual with the same goals but pollute less. There are many flaws in the system and the issue of air pollution isn’t really being dealt with. It is just a way for capitalists to say they are doing something about it but in reality, they aren’t doing much if anything to address the problem. This negates the idea of sustainability, nonrenewable energy like fossil fuels are still being used at a rate that isn’t sustainable. They are called nonrenewable for a reason: we consume them at a rate that is faster than they can be renewed. Cap and Trade is just cover for corporations to keep polluting so they can keep making money. Ecojuridicalism also stacks the deck in favor of the wealthiest polluters as court fees, lawyers, lobbyists, expert testimony and other forms of legal representation are prohibitively expensive for any who would use ecojuridicalism as a conduit of environmental change. Yet again we see how corporate environmentalism uses money for shaping “the environment” to their advantage through non-democratic means that increases the scope of technocratic rule against the rule of the demos. 

“The Story of Cap and Trade” is a little dated but provides a good background of cap and trade and the issues with it. It operates as business as usual instead of addressing the real problem. It also looks at flaws and how businesses can cheat the system, which leads to more pollution not less.

The last strategy Luke discusses is ecocommercialism, which is the root of two previous strategies.  Slight changes are made to reach them more “sustainably”, meaning they are still degrading but just at a slower pace. Ecocommercialsim is the front that is put up by corporations, and governments to positively advertise their degradation. Entrepreneurs support these efforts by funding them, which comes back to the incentive here is money not saving the planet. Investing in something that isn’t going to grow and develop is not a smart business move. An example is the corona virus vaccine, it could have been developed before the pandemic but there was no incentive, entrepreneurs and businesses didn’t see the value in it, but now they do. Just like Covid-19 it will be too late by the time the value in a clean environment is relizaed. 

Luke provides insight into corporations and how they are using ecocommercialism and incorporating it into ecomanergilism, ecojudicialism and ecoentrepreneurism. Consider this when you walk into a store and see a product that is being advertised as sustainable, you might want to investigate it to see if they actually are or if they are just trying to fool you into thinking they are. Also think about this when you see environmental legislation and consider what the goal is, are they really trying to address the climate crises or do they want to expand their capital under the banner of sustainability? In the end money makes the world go round, even if it won’t exist anymore.

Stubberfield, “Chapter 4: Localized Instruments: Epistemic Networks and the

Environmental-Industrial Complex”:

In this chapter the author generally dives into the environmental-industrial complex and the technocrat’s involvement with the evolution of technology, specifically analyzing the connections in Wyoming through the Wyoming Conservation Exchange (WCE). The Wyoming landscape was affected through the tactical insertion of technocrats that were focused on manipulating the environment and withdrawing the fossil fuels and trona in Southwestern Wyoming. Sage-grouse is also a big topic in the area given the population of these birds were decreasing and in relation to this event there are many working groups that work towards utilizing the machinery and policies to benefit the corporate rule, specifically the Southwestern Wyoming Local Sage-grouse Working Group (SWLWG). Wanda Burget and Julie Lutz were figures that spread awareness and pushed an environmentalism approach. The author refers to these figures because of the windows of insight into the networks of environmental degradation that have been occurring under an illusion that hides the economically rational, but ecologically unsound intentions that these technocrats – as extensions of the corporations they represent – have in mind. Both figures were involved with an environmental organization and they focus on the mining industry and conservation initiatives in Wyoming. The author points out that trona and the soda ash that follows the decomposition of trona will become more desirable as global urbanization increases. Trona (soda ash) is used greatly in buildings to soften the water in the building systems – in general trona is good for manipulating the chemical makeup in water. Tesla also used soda ash in their technology because of how much soda ash is used to make lithium from brine. Lithium batteries play a large role in Tesla’s batteries.

The author summarizes the chapter into four main points: how technocratic power is formed through the technocrats and their evolution alongside the technology involved; how technocratic power is correlated with environmental organizations and why technocrats are menaces to the environment and the living species part of society involving machinery operations and the GRSG assemblage; how Julie Lutz is a peer of Burget and is in the Southwestern Wyoming Local Sage-grouse Working Group (SWLWG); and exposing the politics behind LWGs (Wyoming Local Sage-grouse Working Groups), and how the SWLWG translated biopower from the GRSG assemblage into geopower that benefits the natural soda ash industry in terms of the paleotechnic complex. 

It is important to understand that Stubberfield, following Luke, sees and understands corporations as machines for producing and capturing capital and organizing labor. Touching on the first point, technocrats have a key role in the machinery and the materials that are needed for these machines along with holding a position of power that they can use to improve their area of work. These positions are referred to as “managers” in the author’s eyes, and don’t benefit any other focus other than supervising the machines. This “labor” is important in the production ensembles because of the continuous flow of capital and the human relationships between the technology and monetary exchange. This results in an aimless constant production of commodities and daily work from the humans involved. Technocrats sum up what these “workers” are and show extensions in the machinery involved which means they are well versed on how these machines work as well as the relationships that are needed to form a commodity flow. Therefore, technocrats are a perfect example of machine-human coevolution.

“What is a technocracy?” is a very good explanation of technocrats and how technocrats improve their focus of work. On the contrary, there are many other negative impacts this has on humans and the environment. This video touches on how the Greek economy was in a massive debt and experts brainstorming the idea of bringing technocracy into Greece to improve their economy. This example relates to the point of this chapter being how technocrats are utilized in society, but in most situations these technocrats are economically motivated to ignore the locality and the specifics of humans and their environment and focus on corporate needs. The video points out how in the early 1900’s, technocracies were prevalent to create an economical improvement which was especially needed in the great depression era. The video summarizes why technocracy’s are not as prevalent today, but the point of this video is to show the upbringing of technocrats. 

            The author begins to speak on the power elite and what it is while focusing on this “power elite” idea on the environmental issue of soda ash and hydrocarbon production. This production affects many different parts of the environment in Wyoming, which include the Greater Sage-grouse, the landscape in Wyoming, and those who inhabit this area. The environment in Wyoming where soda ash and fossil fuels are prevalent, are all negatively affected by “power elites” and technocrats.  As a result, this gives an “excuse” for power to become prevalent in the landscape of Wyoming which technocrats from transnational organizations are rewriting to protect their extractive and ecologically destructive enterprises under the false banner of sage-grouse protection. 

The WCE utilizes the power of the landowners and the industry to oversee the landscape and living subjects of Wyoming and have the ability to manipulate the environment. Wanda Burget gives insight of the vast mining network that exists in the Green River Basin in Southwest Wyoming. Global trading of natural soda ash exists in Southwest Wyoming (a majority of soda ash comes from this area), and this area is where local sage-grouse working groups are tasked with monitoring the population of these birds. In conclusion, Technocrats and those in power in the organizations (for example, the local groups) are able to create policies and enact machinery in the areas for the benefit of corporate rule. The focus by these power holders is for the non-living machinery, not the environment and a majority of the living species population. Other methods and social organizations are not brainstormed by these technocrats in “private sectors” because doing so would be working themselves out of a job. Yet again, we see the insertion of technocrats as extensions of corporate machines that allow those machines to write the rules for how we and other non-humans live and reproduce our patterns of life well beyond any notion of popular sovereignty or democratic decision-making. Our common world, even at the local level as the chapter shows, is being taken, written and ruled by actors with interests far removed from any particular locale. In the final analysis, the means through which “sustainable, local development,” is practiced in Wyoming is little more than a front for the largest polluters to write environmental policy in their continuing favor at the expense of an indigenous and unique avian found only on the North American continent and an icon of the West.

Meditations: Books I-VI – By Marcus Aurelius

Leila Shahidi, Finnegan Holmes, Kishan Balaji, & Jamal Ross

Stubberfield

PSCI 3015

24 April 2021

Discussion Post: Meditations Book I-VI

Introduction

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a book of personal thoughts of the emperor of Rome. In Book 1, he writes about what he has learned from people he viewed as mentors. In Book 2, he writes about his personal thoughts on stoic philosophy. In Book 3 he ponders the length and quality of human life as well as the concept of death. In Book 4 he encourages the practice of retreating into one’s mind, and he elaborates on his thoughts of death in previous books. In book 5 he discusses the balance between work and relaxation. In book 6 he explains his perspective on how the universe was made and humanities place in this universe.

Biography

Who Marcus Aurelius was is incredibly important to the value of the literature he produced. Marcus Aurelius was born in the year 121 AD and became the Roman Emperor in 161. He is considered to be the last of the Five Good Emperors. Much of his life and reign are argued by historians as there is minimal surviving evidence of specifics. It is known that he won several wars during his reign, notably against the Parthian Empire (mostly occupied by modern-day Iran). Marcus Aurelius is viewed in a historical context as essentially a “Philosopher King” similar to Plato’s conception. The accomplishments of Marcus Aurelius are significant to the value of his work because Mediations acts as a sort of diary for one of, if not the most powerful men in the world at the time. Meditations was never intended to be published and it is very rare to see the unfiltered personal thoughts of such an influential figure. Much of Mediations is believed to be written while Marcus Aurelius was planning military campaigns in eastern Europe.

This is a scene from the wildly imaginative movie, Gladiator (2000) where an elderly Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) talks to the main character Maximus (Russel Crowe). They share their views on Rome and look back on the successful conquests they have had.  

Book I 

In Book I of Meditations called Debts and Lessons, Marcus Aurelius writes about lessons he has learned from his influential peers and philosophers. One lesson he writes is from Apollonius which is being stoic in any circumstance that may arise, even extremely painful ones like losing a child because it allows one to be flexible, able to adapt to one’s fate. Similarly, he learns from Sextus to “live as nature requires” (Aurelius, 7), essentially accepting nature’s outcomes, and to be kind to others, even those that are unappealing people. One notable lesson is from who Aurelius calls his adopted father who he described to take advantage of material things if he had them, but never relied on them in case they were not there. Aurelius described him as someone who never paid much attention to his physical appearance or how he was perceived by others. He approached things logically instead of losing control of himself in difficult situations. He discusses desire in the sense that his adopted father did not have trouble avoiding things that most people have difficulties avoiding in life such as material goods that most people would indulge in like nice clothes or good food. Furthermore, at the end of book one, he discusses his thankfulness for not learning philosophy by charlatans or those that practice “writing treatises, or become absorbed by logic-chopping” (13). Philosophy aligns with Aurelius’ view that one should live life logically and with reason, separating what one can control and what one cannot. Philosophy, for him, is not about trivial details, rather a way to logically figure out main and relevant issues. 

Book II

In Book II of Meditations, Aurelius starts with “When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly” (17). This statement connects deeply to the stoic philosophy that one must be comfortable with the worst case scenario and be able to adapt to that circumstance without losing control of one’s self. He emphasizes that being angry towards people is “unnatural” and that being prepared to face unappealing people and situations, it is less likely one will feel angry at others. Throughout this book, Aurelius emphasizes death and the importance of focusing one’s life on the present and the tasks one is assigned. He says, “do everything as if it were the last thing you were doing in your life” (18) without allowing one’s emotions to take over them and to express the importance of discipline and how procrastination forces your mind to be a slave to impulsive desires. 

Aurelius talks about validation as well, and how the human mind can sometimes be conditioned to receive happiness from others validation, which he finds is disrespectful to one’s self. Aurelius and the stoic philosophy place importance on the mind and its thoughts being extremely important to the value of one’s life, shown when he says, “People who labor all their lives but have no purpose to direct every thought and impulse toward are wasting their time, even when hard at work” (19). I think this quote shows that although completing tasks are important, the quality of one’s mind and thoughts are more important for living a valuable life. Furthermore, even if one labors all their lives, this does not mean they are living a good life, especially if one uses the money for useless material that only brings them higher status among their peers. He also makes a notable point about the act of sinning out of anger versus out of desire and claims that sinning out of anger is better than from desire because “the man motivated by desire, who is mastered by pleasure, seems somehow more self-indulgent, less manly in his sins” (19). He explains that someone who commits sin, whatever that might entail, by anger is more like a victim to the sin because it was induced by pain, rather than being “moved to action by desire” (20). An angry person who commits sin is more like a victim to quick impulsive behavior, rather than a person who has premeditated desires.

 In section 12, Aurelius writes that the material world will be gone and forgotten, as if they are dead. To notice and understand why this makes the material world quite insignificant is important for the quality of one’s mind. Moreover, one prominent aspect that Aurelius highlights in Meditations is the idea of death as being something people should not feel afraid of or attribute negative feelings towards. He explains that one should break down the idea of death for what it really is: “It’s nothing but a process of nature” (21) and one should “accept death in a cheerful spirit” (21). In this, he is suggesting that whatever nature entails is not something evil in and of itself. It is something to be accepted for what it is and never meant to be controlled. In terms of “the scientific project”, many people think that science is a way for humanity to control nature for their benefit. This is definitely prevalent today as humanity is constantly trying to change human life expectancy through science or produce technology that could alter nature in some way to benefit people. Scientific laws help individuals come to the truth, rather than making assumptions based on your own biased perceptions. Aurelius would claim that nature is not something to control, but something to succumb to because nature is ultimately humanity’s true ruler. His emphasis on death being near for anyone is premised on the idea of death being a part of nature that you cannot avoid but should accept and move on from. Aurelius also discusses the concept of time and that even if someone were to be able to live for three thousand years, the life being lived in the present moment is the same for everyone because it can be lost from everyone in an instant, the past and future, however, cannot be lost because, “how could you lose what you don’t have?” (21). 

This video provides stoicism in a nutshell but with a modern-day perspective. As capitalism becomes more and more prominent, so does several people’s obsession and admiration for material things. Because people have a tendency to want to control the external, capitalism seems to lead more people into using or buying material things as a way to control the external. It also leads many to continue to desire things such as wealth, that ultimately do not lead to ultimate happiness. There is also a connection between the education of citizens and democracy. Clearly, if most citizens of a state are conditioned to indulge and care about material things that do not bring happiness, and as a consequence rely even more on them, these citizens are not living a good life with logic and reason. This will cause the overall democracy to lack logic and reason, and it will also cause those who run to rule the state to be no better, if not worse, than the citizens themselves. What’s worse, is that those who run to rule the state will acquire attention and votes from feeding into the indulgence and lack of logic of the citizenry. 

Book III 

In book 3 of Meditations, we are presented with yet another instance surrounded by the aspect of death, or say the length of life. The qualities which are presented are something that is heavily examined to provide closure and a response to the length of life. Length of life was represented by how one lives one’s life and the quality of it all. Aurelius states, “living longer doesn’t guarantee a continued quality of life”. He focuses on what encapsulates the quality of life and the different internal and external elements that could potentially prosper or deviate the expansion and quality of life. An example from this section is dementia. He goes into great detail about the disease of Dementia and how it results in the loss of one’s reason.  Aurelius illustrated how different things in one life shape them into who they are and the discussions he had made for a better understanding of what was at hand. Aurelius says life is actually even shorter than we think. This ties back to his discussion of external elements and ailments, like Dementia. The mind and the body are one within each other providing and supporting one another. Separation of the mind and body leads to loss of reason presenting a space for a downward spiral of one’s ability to lead a “good life”. Throughout Meditations, Aurelius emphasizes living life and doing different things because life is ever-changing and goes on. Aurelius states, “do it now, whatever “it” may be”.  

Aurelius presents many great stances on the different things about life and how to go about it. Aurelius states, “Do not waste the remainder of thy life in thoughts about others, when thou dost not refer thy thoughts to some object of common utility”. This shows how one should not live in worry or doubt about others and their opinions about one another. Living in retrospect and review of others’ statements and opinions only leads to unnecessary stress and unhappiness. Furthermore, common utility represents the usefulness and ability of an individual. Aurelius brings in the aspect of the perfect idea of nature stating “Things that display full maturation and are on the verge of decay—bursting figs, ripe olives hanging next to rotting ones, old men and women”. This statement is to remind us of nature and the circle of life. The statement could also be applied to the state and how as time goes on things within power change and as one decision of decision-maker leaves or fades out another “new” decision is brought to fruition. This presents a complete regeneration of power within and leads to modern views and changes being addressed. 

Book IV 

This book of Mediations opens with Aurelius discussing how men take vacations from their day-to-day life. He describes those who go to “houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains” (Aurelius, Meditations Book 4) as “the most common sort of men.” (Aurelius, Meditations Book 4) He goes on to elaborate that one should seek refuge in one’s own mind and soul because one has ultimate control over one’s mind and therefore ultimate freedom. He summarizes this concept by writing “Remember to retire into this little territory of thy own, and above all do not distract or strain thyself, but be free, and look at things as a man, as a human being, as a citizen, as a mortal.” (Aurelius, Meditations Book 4)

Marcus Aurelius shares his thoughts on the concept of death. He believes that no man should fear death and that it is simply the opposite of being born. “Death is such as generation is, a mystery of nature; a composition out of the same elements, and a decomposition into the same.” He goes on to elaborate and say that death is simply a part of nature, and it is inevitable. If death was not inevitable and it was possible to live forever he says, “if a man will not have it so, he will not allow the fig-tree to have juice.” This means that death is inherent to nature and to go against it would deprive nature of part of its cycle. He encourages people to do good while they are alive. He touches on the concept of an afterlife with the statement “If souls continue to exist, how does the air contain them from eternity?- But how does the earth contain the bodies of those who have been buried from time so remote?” (Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4)  Aurelius also seems to be concerned with the concept of a legacy. He mentions that “Camillus, Caeso, Volesus, Leonnatus, and a little after also Scipio and Cato, then Augustus, then also Hadrian and Antoninus. For all things soon pass away and become a mere tale, and complete oblivion soon buries them.” (Aurelius, Meditations, Book 4) This can be interpreted as he believes that even those with great legacies and fame will eventually fade into obscurity so there are other things one should try to accomplish with their life. 

Book V

This section of Mediations begins with Aurelius outlining the relationship between labor and rest. He states that like it is necessary to allocate time in the day for eating and drinking, it is also necessary to set aside time for work and leisure, that way these routines follow the principles of the person’s individual nature. Aurelius also explains that the attachment to either aspect is the same as doing a service and expecting to be thanked for it. He goes on to explain that the problem with having the expectation of a reward is the same as being attached to rest overwork or vice versa. Similarly, placing either the body or soul as more important than the other makes it difficult for one fully to recognize the relationship between the two. With that, Aurelius suggests that if prayers are offered to a divine, such prayers should be simple and straightforward, with the acknowledgment that nature dictates all.

The principle of a person’s own nature is addressed in this book as it goes on to explain the connection between a man’s own interests that both serve and are served by the common good, thus achieve the “good life”. The common good is the benefit of all and being able to address all interests presented. Aurelius states that certain animals and plants are the perfections of nature because they follow their own inherent nature. He tells himself to observe the behavior of other people similarly and without judgment. Aurelius reminds himself that no one can compel another to forget the nature of the universe, or to act against “my god and daimon.” He is then reassured that all is to the ultimate good, and he need not be upset by any adverse condition. In this argument, Aurelius exemplifies Stoic philosophy, which proposes an orderly universe. By allowing the right thought to guide action, a man can naturally perform their duty for which he has been created to carry out, just like the dogs, horse, bees, or fig trees Aurelius mentions. 

Book VI

This book focuses on the universe and how it unfolds over time. Aurelius explains this perspective by giving a number of examples that explore this phenomenon. He draws these examples from nature, the occupations from the highest emperors to the lowest laborers, and daily activities. According to Aurelius, ordinary people are distracted by the appearances of things and are influenced by superficial attributes that cause them to either praise or condemn others. This is akin to how people can fall under the influence of sophistry, as explained in our previous readings. Aurelius also states that it is curious that people spend so much time trying to figure out what others think of them, despite this being insignificant. To Aurelius, all that matters is what the individual thinks of himself. Aurelius returns to the idea that even the greatest of men die and that the important thing in life is to live through truth and justice and to consider the virtues of the living. This whole chapter reinforces the Stoic belief that certain conditions are placed upon all human beings by their fate. The only free will we have is either to accept those conditions or to reject them, which results in damage to both the individual and society. Aurelius’ goal in this book is to remember that distractions keep one from fulfilling one’s role as determined by fate. In totality, Aurelius informs us that everything from ethics to politics are entwined with the universe and operate through the stoic themself. 

Conclusion

Meditations provided readers with a deeper understanding of life by allowing for depictions and comparison to outline the length of life and death of an individual. Book one examined life’s lessons and the standpoint of Aurelius profoundly agreed with stoicism. Materialistic things are there for usage, but Aurelius learned to be sustainable of those material things were not there. Book two highlighted adaptation and the ability to address situations as time goes on to the best of one’s ability. This follows through to book three as Aurelius discusses life and what is important in one’s destiny and how things begin to decay painting readers a picture of the important things in life. Book four dives into the details of death reflecting from the latter and the length of life. In book four it is also discussed the strength and silence one’s mind and soul. Book five follows in the same manner and provides the reader with a different perspective on the balance of labor and rest. Comparing these opposing stances and providing how to balance life by working and knowing when one needs rest to rejuvenate for the following duty. Individuals’ own nature and realization of the “good life” was also present e in this chapter allowing for discussion to stem from excluding external judgment and reflecting on oneself. The final book provides a deep understanding of the universe and what it is offering. Aurelius addresses the superficial and materialistic desires one may present and how the importance of self-reflection.  Throughout each book of Meditations, Aurelius wanted to note the stressors of life and how to live a more fulfilling life throughout different duties and responsibilities presenting information about how important life is and how to live it to the fullest.

Week 13 Brain Clutter Post

Readings:

The Discourses, Books III and IV by Epicteus

Ryan Crispi:

I am a third year junior with a major in Political Science with an emphasis in National Security as well as a GIS (Geospatial Intelligence Systems) minor.  In some aspect, I hope to work for the government, whether it’s creating policies that will help change the lives of US citizens, or in the intelligence community. Either way, understanding philosophy and political theory will greatly impact both of my possible career paths.

Maggie Richmond:

I am a second year with a major in Political Science with a focus on National Security and a minor in history. I plan on commissioning into the Army and then working in the Federal Government in some way afterwards.

Introduction

Book III of The Disclosures is segmented into 17 chapters, each of which breaks down the importance of the ethics and morals in those who we hold to the highest of standards. Epicetus was born into slavery and spent much of his life as a captive, so his philosophy reflects that.  He created a school that was home to some  influential figures at the time, such as Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. 

The Misconceived Judgement of Man

Book III starts by Epicetus discussing the importance and power of judgement in a conversation he had with one of his students at the school.  Epictetus starts by asking this student what he thought of beauty and excellence, and more importantly, what makes beauty and excellence possible.  “Do we, then, for the same reason call each of them in the same kind beautiful, or each beautiful for something peculiar? And you will judge this matter thus. Since we see a dog naturally formed for one thing, and a horse for another, and for another still, as an example, a nightingale, we may generally and not improperly declare each of them to be beautiful then when it is most excellent according to its nature…”(The Discourses, Book III Chapter 1) Epictetus continues on by discussing that excellence resides in the possession of the person, object, or animal.  We desire to possess beauty, so we can show our friends and enemies just how much better we are than them. 

 Like I said before, Epicetus was a stoic man, not one for bragging or boasting, this is a take on those who are flashy and showy, “The second concerns the movements (toward) and the movements from an object, and generally in doing what a man ought to do, that he may act according to order, to reason, and not carelessly. The second topic concerns the duties of a man; for I ought not to be free from affects like a statue, but I ought to maintain the relations natural and acquired, as a pious man, as a son, as a father, as a citizen.” (The Discourses, Book III Chapter 2)  It’s almost amazing how spot on he was about not only his society, but 2000 years later in ours too.  How often do you see influencers and YouTubers showing off the $500,000 dollar car they just bought or the multi-million dollar mansions they buy in?  You open the front page of any social media platform and you’re almost guaranteed to see something about Jake Paul or Addison Rae or any other influencer with all the prized possessions they have.  We put these individuals on a pedestal, certainly not because of the good deeds they do or the Socratic good lives they live, but because they possess something we dream of, something of excellence and beauty.

  So now the question is, how can one exercise themselves against the shallow desire to keep up appearances?  Epictetus has an answer for this as well.  “As we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, so we ought to exercise ourselves daily against appearances; for these appearances also propose questions to us. “A certain person son is dead.” Answer: the thing is not within the power of the will: it is not an evil. That is a thing within the power of the will: it is a good. If we train ourselves in this manner, we shall make progress; for we shall never assent to anything of which there is not an appearance capable of being comprehended.” (The Discourses, Book III Chapter 8)  In modern day terms, just don’t be shallow.  Embrace your nature, “Man, consider first what the matter is, then your own nature also, what it is able to bear. If you are a wrestler, look at your shoulders, your thighs, your loins: for different men are naturally formed for different things,” (The Discourses, Book III Chapter 15) but conduct yourself in they way in which the gods planned for you,  “The business of the wise and good man is to use appearances conformably to nature: and as it is the nature of every soul to assent to the truth, to dissent from the false, and to remain in suspense as to that which is uncertain; so it is its nature to be moved toward the desire of the good, and to aversion from the evil.” (The Discourses, Book III Chapter 3) This goes for expanding your own character, as well as when interacting with others.  When we are told something that has happened to an individual, something that is out of both of our controls, in Epictetus’ case it was a ship being lost or a man being sent to prison, in our times it might be failing a test or forgetting to do an assignment.  What can we do about these events occurring? Simply, we can’t do anything to help or solve the problem, so why allow ourselves to feel pain for something out of our grasp?  Epicetus cites an old philosopher Italicus, who would claim hearing this bad news and allowing it to vex him would slowly kill him as well, making him a weaker man.  This goes back to earlier when we talked about the stoic philosophy of Epictetus.  He truly was a guarded man, who wasn’t one for the sharing of feelings or the listening to the complaints of others, and his philosophies directly reflect that. 

Nevertheless, Epicetus carries on in his discussion with the young student, “Man, in every kind there is produced something which excels; in oxen, in dogs, in bees, in horses. Do not then say to that which excels, “Who, then, are you?” If you do, it will find a voice in some way and say, “I am such a thing as the purple in a garment: do not expect me to be like the others, or blame my nature that it has made me different from the rest of men.” (The Discourses, Book III, Chapter 1) Who, then are you?  Epictetus is harnessing his inner Pete Weber here.  Who do we think we are as human beings to judge those around us based on what we possess or based off of what the gods have given us?

But how does all of this relate to living the Socratic “Good Life” you might ask.  Epictetus has an answer for this too in the following chapters, “There are three things in which a man ought to exercise himself who would be wise and good. The first concerns the desires and the aversions, that a man may not fail to get what he desires, and that he may not fall into that which he does not desire. The second concerns the movements (toward) and the movements from an object, and generally in doing what a man ought to do, that he may act according to order, to reason, and not carelessly. The third thing concerns freedom from deception and rashness in judgement, and generally it concerns the assents.” (The Discourses, Book III, Chapter 2)   Of all of these things, Epicetus believed that the first concern is the most urgent and most important of the criteria to live a good life.  It goes back to our earlier discussion of possessions and how they hold such a great influence over our society.  It really goes to show the relationship between a solid character and the good life.  If you are a greedy, shallow, self-centered person with no substance outside of what you possess, how can you possibly live a good life?  Yes, you might make others envy you with intense jealousy, but how is that productive to the development of your character and your soul?

Epictetus continues to dive into discussions about good men and the good life.  “I am sick here,” said one of the pupils, “and I wish to return home.” At home, I suppose, you free from sickness. Do you not consider whether you are doing anything here which may be useful to the exercise of your will, that it may be corrected?” (The Discourses, Book III Chapter 5) It’s an interesting concept Epicetus touches on. As someone who spends more than 60% of the year at school 2,500 miles away from home, I can come to terms with the idea of “homesickness.”  Epicetus describes homesickness as having fear that your home life, well being, and money will be lost without you present in your place of comfort.  It’s this fear that drives a man or woman to question their strength.  When you have a lack of strength, you are vulnerable from those who wish to take what you have amassed.  But this should not phase the good man living a good life, for “The good man is invincible, for he does not enter the contest where he is not stronger. If you want to have his land and all that is on it, take the land; take his slaves, take his magisterial office, take his poor body. But you will not make his desire fail in that which it seeks, nor his aversion fall into that which he would avoid. The only contest into which he enters is about things which are within the power of his will; how then will he not be invincible?” (The Discourses, Book III Chapter 6) A good man will always retain a strong will, therefore will never be weak to any attack on him or his livelihood.  

Introduction

Book IV of is split into six chapters and discusses his views on a stoic type of freedom. Book IV continues the

Lectures and discussions  

Freedom, from a Stoic Perspective

Those who do not want to act upon the teachings of Stoicism should not bother to read it. Oddly enough, in the New York Times link, former President Clinton was a avid reader of the Stoic philosophy found in Marcus Aurelius Meditations, an interesting connection to how the ancient ideas affect modern leaders.

It’s pretty obvious that the effects of Epictetus prior life as a slave have a large effect on his life and especially here during his outlook on slavery. In the beginning he compares and decides the difference between freedom and slavery in the context of Stoicism and to what extent freedom should be utilized. Epictetus poses the question “Does freedom seem to you to be something great and noble and valuable?” (Book IV). It really asks the question, especially as Americans to what extent is freedom a thing? And how do we synthesize freedom from the perspective of a Stoic using the earlier views of Epictetus on controlling the world and you in it? Is It safe to assume that we can control how personally free we are but society as a whole cannot decide how free they are? I think its safe to assume that would be correct if we use the philosophy of the Just State in conjunction with Stoic philosophy. So how free a person is from the perspective of the Stoic is dependent on outside forces, that can be beyond your control. But you can decide how free your Soul and life is.

 How to be Happy

The goal of Stoicism is happiness to a more abstract and expansive sense. As seen in the quote below:

‘He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is neither subject to compulsory nor to hindrance, nor to force; whose movements to action are not impeded, whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not fall into that which he would avoid. Who, then, chooses to live in error? No man. Who chooses to live deceived, liable to mistake, unjust, unrestrained, discontented, mean? No man.”(Book IV) 

Epictetus goes on to share how a stoics view happiness, as a means for not getting what you want, but getting what you need out of life. But what does it mean to be happy as a Stoic? Is going with the flow and not caring about life going to make you happy and how does the Stoic maximize happiness? The video below helps explain quickly about how the Stoic views happiness and the search for “the good life”.

Finally, Inner Peace

 Chapter 4 of Book IV, gives a good viewpoint of how to analyze what the good life is through the lenses of Stoicism. Interestingly, it seems that Epictetus harshly criticizes the views of Sophists saying 

“Remember that not only the desire of power and of riches makes us mean and subject to others, but even the desire of tranquility, and of leisure. and of traveling abroad, and of learning. For, to speak plainly, whatever the external thing may be, the value which we set upon it places us in subjection to others. What, then, is the difference between desiring, to be a senator or not desiring to be one; what is the difference between desiring power or being content with a private station; what is the difference between saying.”

Epictetus, The Discourses (Book IV)

I think its a interesting critique of the other forms of philosophy we’ve studied this year and how it relates to the good life and those who are seeking it. 

Materiality, Sustainability, and the Dark Enlightenment

By: Julianna Rodrigues, Keyonna Washington, and Larissa Delarue

Stubberfield, “Chapter 3: Fictitious Materiality: An Examination of the Wyoming Conservation Exchange”

Chapter three is written in three sections and begins by explaining how the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has laid the framework for conservation exchange (a new market-based instrument) and how it works regarding the Wyoming Core Area Protection strategy. What is explored in this chapter is how the Wyoming Conservation Exchange (WCE) plays a role in being an instrument used for neoliberal environmentalism and promotes commodity flows. Dr. Stubberfield, in this chapter, works to explain why he believes that the WCE “does not produce any real commodities, but instead circulates fictitious commodities” (Stubberfield, 2019). 

Dr. Stubberfield begins the first section regarding environmentality- specifically through how instruments hold power as they work through normalizing themselves in populations, and how we regard them in the scope of their domination. The role of instruments in our society is to share information through various conduits in populations. They also share the role of rewriting the context of how we see and interact with knowledge but also dictate the production and circulation of commodities. Techononature plays a role by using these instruments to redefine how “the real, the natural and the true” is viewed which leads to the topic of security (Stubberfield, 2019). Essentially, since instruments and the way they are used and normalized in societies are highly interconnected and can be manipulated, they are also exposed to “environmentalized security strategies” to police what is able to be presented as information (Stubberfield, 2019). Security within this manner is related to maintaining commodity circulation, policing of information or elements that could be regarded as dangerous, and continuous promotion of political economies.

Dr. Stubberfield states that regarding neoliberal environmentalism, EDF should provide “an examination of their proposed solutions to environmental problems through their instruments” (Stubberfield, 2019). EDF has been a part of several programs that has promoted new instruments of conservation and advertised for them to lead to the creation of new markets that regard the loss of biodiversity and promote conservation projects. However, as you read through the chapter, what becomes apparent is how they have worked within their own terms. This can firstly be seen through EDF working with the Department of Defense at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas in the 2000’s, in a conservation effort that utilized tactical instruments and militancy to try and accomplish their goals. While it should be noted that the original intention was to aid the Golden-cheeked Warbler, the economic benefits gained, and steps taken to continue them, outweighed the conservation aspect and destroyed much of the habitat of the Golden-cheeked warbler. In fact, the species is still endangered to this day, however this collaboration was vital in supporting EDF’s future projects. The collaboration showed that landowners could ‘be a part of conservation offsetting,’ while also benefiting economically. Dr. Stubberfield also briefly touches on the Recovery Credit System and how it provided a way to allocate resources among private landowners and put the responsibility of taking care of the warbler under individual landowners by financial incentivization. 

The second section starts with how the WCE came out of a collaboration between several groups, and how its purpose is to try to create opportunities to “conserve and restore ecosystem services across Wyoming” (Stubberfield, 2019). By having people such as Eric Peterson who link the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) and the Greater Sage-grouse (GRSG) to the WCE, what becomes apparent is how easy it is to connect the Federal biopower to local milieu and the impacts they could potentially have on any location. With people such as Peterson being able to be a bridge between several agencies, the way a project can be handled becomes easier, as they are able to manage the decisions of the buyers/sellers, work between the local, state, and federal initiatives, and most importantly, working with those who hold the most power economically between the projects.  It’s important to note that within Wyoming, there have been conservation districts that were formed to combine the different goals from different agencies, however by collaborating with the GRSG, a shift occurs (much like with the Warbler) where conservation is not the focus, but rather using commodified land “represented as an exchange-value determined at auction that can then be accumulated by debtors as capital” (Stubberfield, 2019).  Habitat credits, produced by the WCE, are also another aspect to be aware of as they play a large role in this chapter as Dr. Stubberfield argues that they are fictitious commodities that support extractive infrastructure. 

For people like Peterson to have so much control over the usage of land that is supposed to be used for conservation efforts, something called habitat credits that can be bought and sold for different projects. Habitat credits are scored by judging properties against the Habitat Quantification Tool (HQT) (created by the EDF) by measuring the quality of habitat a landowner has created in comparison to the needs of a targeted species, and then scoring it based on the “perceived use-value to GRSG by the acre” (Stubberfield, 2019). The score that they received is then categorized into a project type, enhancement, restoration, add stewardship and is then sold based on its perceived value, the WCE uses habitat credits as instruments of labor through the commodification of property.  The WCE furthers this by auctioning the credits to debit projectors “occurring proximally to the credit project (though no real measure of proximity has been specified)” (Stubberfield, 2019). He argues that the functional acre created by habitat credits are a fictitious commodity as it only works within projects like the Golden-Cheeked Warbler project, or GRSG conservation in which economics and capital gain are the primary motivators. 

In the final section, Dr. Stubberfield refers to Chapter 2 in which he talked about the 2015 USFWS decision to delist the Greater Sage-grouse (GRSG). As CCAAs are “agreements between USFWS and private landowners that allow for incidental take protection of species in the event that it is listed under the ESA,” and the decision to de-list GRSG was made, he explained how federal management authorities benefited from working with CCAAs as they could create regulatory certainty in which landowners are protected in the case a species becomes endangered and federal management also benefits from being able to set practices for the landowners to follow (Stubberfield, 2019).

An important point to take away however is how Karl Polanyi argues that, “land, labor, and currency are not real commodities but belong to a class of fictitious commodities” (Stubberfield, 2019). This was stated in the first section where Dr. Stubberfield stated his intention to explore the way in which the WCE circulates fictitious commodities. The commodity being traded and circulated within the WCE is a fictitious commodity. When discussing fictitious commodities, one must understand that they are produced and circulate within incomplete markets that rely on state intervention. An example of a fictitious commodity is the functional acre.

Functional acres work through systems that are incomplete as they rely on state intervention for the circulation of money to occur because debts to the species are calculated through instrumental metrics that are supported and designed for the purposes of constructing a sage-grouse credit market through state and federal intervention such as the Wyoming CAP. This is an example of purposeful market creation and what is known as pump priming in an attempt to solidify a market through the implementation and support of a new technology – the conservation exchange. It is also regarded as fictitious as it requires private landowners to create land that can be sold off and might not actually have any real benefit to GRSG as sagebrush can take 50 years to mature to a usable habitat qualities for the species. This means that companies and extractive industry are able to carry on destroying sage-grouse habitat through promissory notes entered into a database concerning GRSG habitat that might not exist yet. This systemic loophole means that while individual birds lose their homes to oil, gas, coal and trona extraction, the state and its partners can pretend that they are helping the species by reserving land for future populations that haven’t existed and haven’t necessarily chosen the spaces reserved for them. This endangers the rangewide population of GRSG through adjusting how states, agencies and actors “see” the sagebrush steppe through their calculational metrics that may refer to nothing “on the ground.” In the last analysis, it is apparent that within the “balance” of ecology and economy concerning the Greater Sage-grouse, that it is economic concerns sedimented through instruments such as the WCE that is the governing rationality for GRSG conservation and that the WCE is just another attempt at turning the Greater Sage-grouse and representations of her habitat into crisis commodities in step with neoliberal environmentalism that places its faith in “markets” to solve environmental problems. The WCE appears to be another way of ignoring and pushing the GRSG problem around the map to allow for continued destruction of her habitat for fossil fuel extraction through the phenomenon of the commodity fetish. In the end, the WCE seems to be just another way of circulating representations and images without any real material form behind them – it simulates habitat, in other words, to allow for the continued operation of the Wyoming extractive economy responsible for killing the bird and creating the problem in the first place. The WCE, then, is another example of ‘sustainability’ discourse and its marriage to corporate fueled economic extractivism as a fundamental dynamic within neoliberal environmentality propagated by the Environmental Defense Fund and their partners.

Luke, “Corporate Social Responsibility: An Uneasy Merger of Sustainability and Development.”

Within this short article, Timothy Luke analyzes corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs as they developed within the United States towards the end of the 20th century. CSR programs within businesses adopted the concept of sustainable development and utilized the concept for their own political and economic motives. Such programs prioritize growth and development over sustainability, which then sets the standard for many businesses to promote sustainability but fail to truly do so. There is no concrete definition of sustainability; however, the concept focuses on keeping a balance between the natural resources a nation requires without depleting the supply entirely. CSR programs and the companies that have acquired them have however put on a facade in order to maintain power and economic gain as they present an image of sustainability and environmental protection to the consumer. As the ecology movement advanced towards accepting greater responsibility in preserving the environment, emerging sustainability policies also marginalized underdeveloped and impoverished states. Sustainability is connected to development in that those “underdeveloped” places who are not able to put sustainability into play, and will not be able to develop properly. In this instance they are left out of the conversation of sustainability, so they are unable to advance past their underdeveloped status and affluent countries benefit and prosper. 

CSR programs ultimately benefited from such marginalization, while advocates of sustainability remained skeptical of “sustainability as clean lean corporate green living” (Luke, 2013). In most cases, CSR programs practice what Luke termed as weak sustainability, which defines society as being capable of retaining its ability to acquire more man-made capital such as the functional acre and the Greater Sage-grouse habitat mitigation credit. Those who support weak sustainability hold the assumption that nature and its resources are everlasting. On the other hand, there exists the notion of strong sustainability which opposes weak sustainability in its belief that man-made capital cannot be an alternative to natural capital. Strong sustainability promotes the preservation of natural capital in order to safeguard society as a whole. CSR programs have a perceived responsibility to sustainable development, which pertain to a business’s goals towards engaging with the outside community and upholding environmental standards. Nevertheless, weak sustainability is present within such programs, leading to sustainability goals often being neglected and economic growth and modernization being prioritized as in the Wyoming CAP. 

Sustainability is a vague concept that many individuals have attempted to tackle and has now transferred over into the wider business world where CSR programs are able to hide behind the positive message their sustainable practice suggests. The influential philosopher John Stuart Mill presented his stationary state economy model that implied that if human society were to reach the utmost limit of economic growth, sustainability practices would be necessary. Herman Daly on the other hand opted for a steady-state economy in which he warned against the continuous expansion of industrial society due to the devastating impact it would have on Earth’s natural environment. In today’s modern society however, we are at risk of losing our supply of natural capital entirely as a result of the production of man-made capital.

In attempting to protect the Earth’s natural capital, the implementation of CSR programs within many businesses has occurred. Sustainability practices that have previously been utilized range from convincing consumers to adopt a “green” lifestyle to concentrating on development aimed towards obtaining profit through supposedly environmentally-friendly methods – such as habitat credit production and carbon offsetting. These tactics that try to use growth as a means to alleviate their problems prove to be futile considering the extent to how quickly we are advancing compared to how little we have left. Now, when it comes to merging sustainability and development, what might appear to be a situation in which everyone wins, the environment in most cases gets the short end of the stick while big business profits as we see in the example of GRSG in Wyoming. CSR programs claim that their number one priority is sustainable development focusing on, “people, planet, profit” (Luke, 2013). However, it is necessary to question their motives because more often than not, profit is above everything, including our planet.

This video dives into the CSR programs that BMW implements in South Africa in order to give back to the community. These CSR programs concentrate on three main areas: Local Community Upliftment, HIV and AIDS prevention & mitigation, and Education. By pouring resources into this community, BMW is able to bring awareness to the environment in South Africa and supposedly create sustainable conditions.

Luke, Chapter 14: “The Dark Enlightenment and the Anthropocene: Readings from the Book of Third Nature as Political Theology”

Timothy Luke in this chapter directs his attention towards what he termed the Dark Enlightenment. This is a movement led by neo-reactionaries (NRx) who oppose democratic values and society due to their fear of the government attacking the wealthiest members of society through the imposition of taxes. One NRx thinker, Curtis Yarvin, better known as Mencius Moldbug, developed one theory in which the state, or what he called “the Cathedral,” cannot be abolished, and therefore must be “cleansed” through neo-cameralism (Luke, 2019). For Moldbug, neo-cameralism meant that, “a state is a business which owns a country” and therefore, the U.S. is nothing but a corporation (Luke, 2019). NRx thinkers perceive the state to be a business, therefore it should be run like one and serve its consumers, or citizens, efficiently and effectively. 

Accelerationism is a significant concept when considering the Dark Enlightenment in that it calls for the utter and complete collapse of modern, capitalist society. For accelerationists, the successful demise of capitalism is needed in order to rebuild a more efficient society. Their tactics might include purposefully “accelerating” environmental collapse as a political project to spur anger and resentment toward the U.S. government. Their goal is to stoke civil unrest through accelerating environmental degradation beyond the point that any one government or agency can address it. This would be a systemic failure calling into question the regime which helped produce it and, in their minds, this would exacerbate existing inequalities to the point of social upheaval creating a social wreckage to be rewritten into a neo-cameralist – or corporatist – system of governance.

The term “unablogger” is also introduced and is used to describe individuals within the Dark Enlightenment who conduct “disinformation wars” with the goal of attacking capitalist society and providing what they consider better alternatives. Unabloggers take to social media without any limitations to what they say and continuously critique and criticize modern-day society in an elitist tone. On these media platforms, accelerationists often downplay the severity of the consequences that would follow the collapse of capitalism, including the environmental repercussions. The foundation of NRx thought emerges from what one would call cyber spatial networks. Much of the world’s money circulates within and throughout these technological and data-driven machines, signaling our move into the book of third nature in which human interaction is dependent on the cyber-world. The Dark Enlightenment has led the way past first and second nature and into third nature, which is considered the accelerated movement into a modernity focused on technological advancement. Throughout each shift from one nature into the next, we have had to adapt to the changing environment around us, illustrating the co-constructive nature of human-beings and their environment. Accelerationists require current society to change quite rapidly and whatever stands in their way, including the government and other institutions, will be targeted. Dark Enlightenment thinkers want change through advancing or “accelerating” the social and political collapse through cyber networks that are becoming increasingly prominent within society.

As we experience this shift into a new era of modernity in which cyber space and technology has taken an influential role in society, proponents of the Dark Enlightenment seek integration of nature and culture, “at which a population becomes indistinguishable from its technology” (Luke, 2019). The Dark Enlightenment in a way does advocate the movement towards trans-humanism due to their goal of merging together humans with the technology they have created. Accelerationist and NRx thinkers envision a new society that has been reprogrammed entirely following the demise of capitalism. What they consider to be the path towards restoring society can be broken down into three simple and hard steps: become worthy, accept power, rule (Luke, 2019). Whether or not accelerationism and neo-reactionaries are successful in accomplishing their goal of terminating our current capitalistic society, the rapid advancement of the technological sphere and its impact on humanity cannot be ignored. 

Here we have Mencius Moldbug discussing what is perceived by many as an extremist view towards how the international system of states and governments should essentially be entirely dismantled. Moldbug introduces the acronym ‘RAGE’ which stands for ‘retire all government employees.’ Moldbug criticizes democracy and instead calls for the establishment of dictatorships because states are run like corporations and corporations have CEOs. While Moldbug’s perspective does appear to be quite extreme, he offers an interesting look into how the world might progress and evolve.

Keyonna Washington: I am a Senior majoring in Criminology, Sociology, and Political Science. After graduation I plan to travel for a year and then attend law school. While in law school, I plan to focus on criminal law and hope to obtain a job once I finish school.

Julianna Rodrigues: I am a Junior majoring in International Studies and International Public Policy and minoring in Spanish. After next year, I hope to work within the non-profit sphere, and in the future move to Europe and pursue a career within the United Nations. 


Larissa Delarue: Hey everyone, I am a Junior majoring in Political Science and minoring in Theatre Arts. I am from Woburn, Massachusetts but have lived overseas my whole life. After graduation, I hope to move to Japan to work under the JET program and teach English for a year or two, afterwards I hope to get a job in the State Department as a Public Affairs Officer.

The Discourses by Epictetus

Alanis Comiotto – I am a junior majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I enjoy learning about the philosophical ideas of the past that were once considered radical and how they apply to our lives today.

Matt Manilli – I am a senior majoring in Political Science with a concentration in National Security. I enjoy deciphering the texts of philosophers and implementing them into situations that are relevant to modern day circumstances. 

Trevor Kinman – I am a junior majoring in Political Science with concentration on National Security classes. I have always been interested in politics, especially political stances and debates. I enjoy seeing where our early looks on modern politics came from and see how different or similar they have become. 

The linked video is a presentation by Les Stroud, also known as Survivorman. He is the original wilderness vlogger and his show has inspired many others such as Man Vs. Wild, Dual Survival, Naked and Afraid, and Alone. Stroud would go into the wilderness with little more than a multitool and 50 lbs. of camera equipment to film himself, without a crew, surviving by himself for a week or more at a time in some of the harshest and most rugged landscapes on the planet. In the above video, Stroud discusses his ecosophy – Earth Wisdom – which shares attitudes with Epictetus and stoicism regarding nature and being. Any real survival expert will tell you that it is a mental game beyond simply procuring the means of subsistence and that attitude is what many have relied on to pull themselves out of dangerous situations and back to safety. Stoicism, both above and below, is about surviving and thriving in difficult and challenging environments – as the former slave, Epictetus will tell you.

The Discourses by Epictetus

This week we are covering books I and II of the Discourses, which are a collection of informal lectures by Epictetus, a Stoic, that were written down by his student Arrian back in Ancient Greece around 110AD. To remind everyone, Stoicism is the belief that those who are in harmony with the higher powers and have reached intellectual and moral perfection do not experience any “bad” emotions. Epictetus believed that happiness is a choice, and we must learn what we have in control and what is out of our control in order to achieve happiness in life.

Book I: Chapters 1-11

https://gifs.com/gif/stay-positive-gZ1K2l

Leo from that 70’s show with a Stoic message. 

 “Of the Things that are in our Power, and not in our Power”: In chapter 1, Epictetus begins his Discourse discussing whether things like music or grammar can tell you to sing or to write, and asserts that music will tell you how to play and grammar will tell you what to write but neither will tell you whether or not you should sing or write, as that can only be done with rationality. Rationality is the only thing that can be used to make judgments and decisions. It speaks for those things as they cannot. Epictetus then moves on to discuss how the only power that we do have is to be rational, or the “right use of appearances,” because it was the only thing the Gods, aka Zeus, shared with us. Zeus tells Epictetus that the power of appearances is all that he has, and he would have given Epictetus more power and freedom had he been able. He then discusses how people should do the best with what they have and not let external things drag them down, which could even mean relationships that one might have, “We must make the best use that we can of the things which are in our power, and use the rest according to their nature”. I think so far Epictetus has a great point and this is one of my life philosophies, although I do not agree that it makes you immune to any negative emotions. There are so many things that are out of our control, and if we cannot make a change ourselves then what is the point of dwelling on the negatives? For the rest of Book I, Epictetus discusses different circumstances and how a person should just accept their outcomes because they should be enlightened in some way and know that their minds are above whatever physical punishment is being placed. To be enlightened according to Epictetus is to fully know yourself and continually strive for personal betterment. Life goes on (unless you’re being beheaded).

“How a Man on every occasion can maintain his Proper Character”: Epictetus begins chapter 2 by stating that man, as an animal, is made of everything irrational, but is attracted the most to what is rational. He then goes on to argue that what is rational and what is irrational is different depending on the person, and that is why discipline is necessary, unlike Plato who just thought rationality was just out there and the same for all. People must consider what is appropriate to each person and how the concept of rationality applies to the world and nature around them. I think this quote does a good job summing it up, “for it is you who know yourself, how much you are worth to yourself, and at what price you sell yourself: for men sell themselves at various prices.” Only you can know yourself well enough to know what would be rational or irrational for you to do; no one can do that for you. Epictetus uses a lot of historical examples in this writing, and in this chapter, he makes an example of the Stoic philosopher Helvidius Priscus, who believed that the emperor should only act with the approval of the senate (Britannica.com). 

Before going into the senate, emperor Vespasian ordered him not to go in and speak, but Helvisius said he must stick to his duties and his morals even if it cost him his life. Through this example, Epictetus is saying that being moral and sticking to reason is more valuable than life. He then discusses how there is no way to tell what is rational for another human being because they have different life experiences and something that might matter a lot to them might be meaningless to someone else. He does this through an anecdote of an athlete who did not want to get his male “package” amputated. Epictetus ends this chapter by saying that one should not neglect to look after themselves because of the desire to reach perfection. 

“How a man should proceed from the principle of God being the father of all men to the rest”: Epictetus argues in chapter 3 that if men just accepted that they are a creation of God, and God also created other gods like Zeus, then they would not be self-deprecating. He then states how if someone would consider more personal and corporeal facts like who their parents were then they might fall into those bad emotions, for example, a person adopted by Caesar would be arrogant about it. Men are more than just flesh, they have intelligence like the gods, and should act that way. The main message of this chapter is that we cannot be too attached to the physical world as we are more than just animals. 

“Of progress or improvement”: “For it is always true that to whatever point the perfecting of anything leads us, progress is an approach towards this point”. Epictetus begins chapter 4 by asserting that people should do what they want, in the context of their desires, or else they will not be happy. But one should not fall into the things that they know are immoral or things they know that they should avoid, but should instead keep their drive on what good they desire. Virtue is what everyone should really be striving for, because virtue brings about good fortune and tranquility, aka peace of mind. Epictetus then begins to talk of Chrysippus, another Stoic philosopher who is actually considered to be one of the founders of Stoicism (DailyStoic.com). He makes an example of how a person can know Chrysippus and his writings, but knowing is not enough their actions also matter. He also makes a point that a person cannot be afraid of failing, or else they are actually not making progress, “that he may be able to say when he is in fetters, “Dear Crito, if it is the will of the gods that it be so, let it be so,”; and not to say. “Wretched am I, and old man;”””. As we have seen in class, Crito is a whole dialogue written by Plato. Reading Epictetus is extra interesting because of these references that he makes to other philosophers. Epictetus then makes an interesting note mentioning that people have erected temples to celebrate those heroes and gods that have brought them things like wheat and grapes but not for those that have shown the light, the real gift from the gods, that came from their human mind. 

“Against the academics”: In chapter 5 Epictetus poses the questions of what should one do if a person is so stuck in their own ignorance that they do not listen to rational arguments. People can be hard-headed because of things like understanding or shame. Someone who has the ability of perception but pretends not to is “even worse than a dead man”, someone that cannot comprehend is in pretty bad shape, but one that can perceive and still does not make changes for the better is the worst. In this chapter, Epictetus seems to be making the point that people can be in many different conditions that can affect why they are not seeking virtue and a good life, and some are worse off than others, but nothing is as bad as chosen ignorance. 

“Of providence”: Epictetus argues in chapter 6 that God created everything for a reason, and so that things can work together, like man and woman, or even just the existence of light that enables us to use our vision to see. One must recognize creation and praise Providence so that they may appreciate and be thankful for everything that they can do. It is not sufficient to simply exist, you have to understand the purpose behind things, like why animals are the way they are. God has given “powers” to humankind so that they can experience the wonders of the world, the good and the bad. It is very important to understand that everything has a purpose that it was made for, and accepting that is a step towards happiness. 

“Of the use of sophistical arguments, and hypothetical, and the like”: Like in chapter 6, Epictetus discusses in chapter 7 how not only do things have a purpose and people must understand that, but people must also understand the concept of consequences and how they affect their lives. One of the duties of life is to question everything, even the things you may know so that you can gain perspective. He is almost saying to be like Socrates when it comes to questioning everything no matter the cost, “… purposes to conduct himself skillfully in reasoning, the power of demonstrating himself the several things which he has proposed, and the power of understanding the demonstrations of others, including of not being deceived by sophists”. He then discusses that people should stick with what they do and the conclusions they draw, as long as the premises for that conclusion remain the same as when they were made. This also applies to something that may seem like a false conclusion. The way to not give in to false reasoning is to stick with what you know and not be pushed into ridiculous arguments. 

“That the faculties are not safe to the uninstructed”: It is not only important to know to argue but to also know the different ways one can make arguments. I had to google a couple of words here for chapter 8. Enthymeme is an argument that is not completely stated (Britannica.com), and syllogism is an argument that has two premises that lead to a conclusion. You cannot only know perfect syllogism, but you must also master imperfect syllogism to be able to argue. Someone who is not educated might try to make arguments that are imperfect, you must be able to explain their imperfect arguments and then use reason against them, or else they will bring you down. Everyone kind of has their own thing and one must understand their different perspectives or appearances, with reason. 

“How from the fact that we are akin to God a man may proceed to the consequences”: Epictetus really touches the heartstrings with chapter 9, where he states that a man should not say that they are Athenian or Corinthian, and state where they are born or reside, but should instead say they are a citizen of the world when asked where you are from. To say you are from a country or a state is to limit yourself, as a real community should be between man and God, with man united as one people. He thinks that this should be enough, “to have God for your maker and father and guardian, shall not this release us from sorrows and fears?”. People should not rely on others but on themselves for their needs. Epictetus then makes an interesting point, if we came from God and in death will return to him, why not just kill ourselves so we can join him sooner and leave the wretchedness of the physical world. To this, he says that one must accomplish their purpose and God will bring them back once they are ready because there is a reason behind it all. He also quotes Socrates, who argued that God has given us a post and we must not desert it until it is time. Even if people fall into ill conditions, they can reach for help so that they can move forward, instead of looking for pity and sentiment. 

“Against those who eagerly see preferment at Rome”: I think this is probably one of the parts that most resonates with me, chapter 10. Epictetus makes an example of a man he knows who is superintendent of corn in Rome. The man told Epictetus that his life had been too busy, about work for others and no time for himself, and he would be returning from exile and leading a life of tranquility. The man, however, got some letters from Ceasar and immediately gave up on what he said, and went back to work. We spend so much time slaving away and working jobs that are not helping us grow as people and completely leave ourselves behind. I have seen this personally so many times in the restaurant industry, where people succumb to their jobs with awful hours and usually quite terrible management just to get by because they have given up. 

“Of natural affection”: Epictetus used an interesting anecdote to explain the concept of affection and nature in chapter 11. Epictetus is speaking to a man who is unhappy with his wife and children and tells Epictetus that while his daughter was sick he could not bear to be around to see it, and instead left and awaited someone else to tell him what had happened. The man states that it was his natural response to leave. Epictetus then uses the argument of reason and goes through different scenarios with the man to explain how his decision to leave his daughter can be seen as. The conclusion is that if the man really loved his daughter he would have been there to show her affection and support while she was sick, as affection is the natural response of parents towards their children. Epictetus kind of explains here that not everything is black and white or right and wrong, and it is a person-by-case basis. People have their own opinions and their own free will. 

Book I, Chapters 12-16: God and Man

In regards to god, Epictetus refers to himself and society that worships a higher being as having two sides. He reiterates this point through Chapter 12 where he states, “For if there are no gods, how is it our proper end to follow them? And if they exist, but take no care of anything, in this case also how will it be right to follow them”. If there happens to actually be a god why should an individual worship a being that does not benefit someone and only brings more trouble to one’s life. Throughout chapter 12 Epictetus reiterates this point with examples of “bad parents” or being “dissatisfied with your children” makes it acceptable for an individual to be a bad son or a bad father. This reasoning is based around the fact that if a god truly does exist and he puts you through the misery of externals outside of your control it then justifies bad character. Why make your life even harder by accommodating these externals when you didn’t have the choice of picking these circumstances in the first place. How should one act to please the gods above continues through Epictetus’ writings. 

When it comes to eating the gods want us to eat in a well mannered fashion, however what becomes of us if we asked the servant for iced water and they brought us warm water. Would we then be given the right to lash out and order around a servant who made a mistake. It becomes important to remember where one came from first and be understanding, thus the notion of living by the laws of the gods or being bound by the dead man’s laws. By abiding by the dead man’s laws simply means to be human and to respond to inconveniences with emotion rather than reason. However, if you live by the laws of the gods, you understand that you are superior and that no external force can change that.  Epictetus continues to clarify the lines of man and god. Earth and all of its beauty is a creation of god, hence making man one of those creations that he oversees. When god believes that you are obeying his wishes and acting proper he has the power to guide you down the correct path, but only if you embrace his presence and trust in his power. Epictetus uses his wisdom of philosophy much like a god to a human when helping a man who has issues with his brother. When healing a wound that is associated with hate and anger the only solution is time. Epictetus references this solution with the fig-tree metaphor and informs the man that nothing happens overnight. Consistency, hard work, and time are needed in order to grow a fig-tree which is the same as healing a brother with hatred in his heart. God continuously works in ways that man cannot understand, but must try to appreciate. The appreciation of what god has given humanity is important, something that must be recognized through Epictetus’ philosophy. Animals do not require the same needs as man because they were created as tools to help humanity. Epictetus reiterates this point by stating, “For, animals not being made for themselves, but for service”. Humanity is blinded by stupidity and foolishness if they do not realize the gifts and tools god has given them in order to survive. 

Book II: 1-5 The Philosophy of Man

Epictetus Begins chapter 1, Book 2 stating that philosophers opinions could be paradoxical. Caution and confidence are two solutions that can be used when dealing with certain circumstances. However, what happens when a situation arises and you need both caution and confidence? When dealing with problems of the unknown you cannot be confident because it is a situation you are unfamiliar with. However, Epictetus states that one can have confidence in their caution towards a situation. Epictetus then correlates when man should use confidence and caution by stating, “Confidence then ought to be employed against death, and caution against the fear of death”. However, there is a common conundrum where man flips these two and becomes cautious of death, but when a situation occurs that could kill an individual they become more confident and want to survive. The most important notion Epictetus refers to through chapter 1 is the fact that the body and soul at some point will be separated and is why it should not be feared. Being cautious or fearing of the inevitable seems to be a waste of energy in the eyes of Epictetus. 

Moving to chapter 2, Epictetus discusses the importance of only caring about what is in your own power of doing. When one continuously worries about things outside of themselves such as “poor body” and “little property” you become grounded to things outside of your own control and become consumed and bound to these externals. An example of this can be found when Epictetus states, “ For when you have subjected to externals what is your own, then be a slave and do not resist”. Epictetus uses this example to show when you are consumed by an element or situation outside of your own control you then become a slave to whatever it is you are after. Epictetus then uses Socrates as an example of someone who lived his life in a just manner through his actions and teachings. Therefore, living his life through the things only he can control and not being dominated by problems outside of his control like the trial. 

Moving into chapter 4, Epictetus talks through the implications of fidelity and its correlation with adultery. If an individual’s significant other cheats on them with their neighbor, what are the consequences to the neighbor who did an act of adultery. How is the individual now supposed to see you as someone trustworthy after you broke such a sacred act of love. Should that individual see you as a neighbor, a friend, or anything at all. The trust or bond that was once there between two neighbors is now crushed to dust and something that can never be fixed. Epictetus emphasizes this point when stating, “You have no place where you can be put”. There is no justifiable act a man can do that would ever atone for ruining another man’s marriage. 

Lastly, chapter 5 touches on the importance of only worrying about what is one’s own control. By casting a die you have no choice what the numbers will be, therefore making it an external that should not be stressed upon. Only ones will is a defining factor when it comes to dealing with externals. No one chooses the externals that are placed upon them, however an individual does have the power to turn a bad external into a better one through will power and perseverance. Thus, the analogy between the ball being good or bad doesn’t matter and all that matters is the will power you put into making a bad ball a good ball or turning a good ball into a great ball. One cannot be their best version if they continuously worry about externals or things that are out of their control. By focusing all will power and attention on turning something bad into good is all one can do and all one should really ever focus on. An example of this can be seen through Socrates’external misfortune where it is stated, “Life, chains, banishment, a draught of poison, separation from wife and leaving children orphans. These were the things with which he was playing; but still he did play and threw the ball skillfully”. This is a clear example of how an individual can actively turn negatives into positives by simply not allowing your externals to define you as a person. 

Book II: Chapters 6-15

Chapter 6: Of indifference

In chapter 6, Epictetus is talking about hypothetical proposition. Everyone has opinions, experience, and expertise on various different subjects. Oftentimes judgment is used by many people, but “life is indifferent but use of it isn’t. When someone tells you these things are indifferent, don’t become negligent”. Epictetus goes to give examples of indifference, say for example a man tells you not to do something; reflect on yourself to see if it is something you can honestly do. Do not immediately judge him or his opinion, rather look upon yourself to see if it’s achievable by your experiences and character. If it is not, then let the man who knows more about it do it and then follow in suit. A person should play to their strengths and weaknesses and grow from them. As another example of life’s indifference, always remember what yours is and what is others by staying around what is yours, you should not be troubled in any way. God gave your choice and abilities, so stay within the nature of them. If you do not and get caught up in a series of consequences, acknowledge how you got there and learn from it.

Chapter 7: How we ought to use divination

In chapter 7, Epictetus is talking about the responsibilities to man and divinity. Epictetus, he questions why people turn their backs to some of life’s responsibilities for the sole purpose of divination. Paying too much of one’s attention to divination, seeking knowledge of the future or the unknown by supernatural means, could hurt one’s well being when it comes to life. He discusses if divinity is something that is telling me good from evil why are some acts of sacrifice necessary. A balanced person should know what their best interest is. Epictetus points out that it is odd when we resort to divinity only when it is in our own selfish needs and for rewards. Good things are favors and bad things are too fearful to do anything about. Here Epictetus later states that indifference in God’s words are important, “we come to God also as a guide; as we use our eyes, not asking them to show us rather such things as we wish, but receiving the appearances of things such as the eyes present them to us. But now we are trembling, taking the augur by the hand, and, while we invoke God.”

Chapter 8: What is the nature of the good

God is beneficial. But the Good also is beneficial. It is consistent then that where the nature of God is, there also the nature of the good should be. What then is the nature of God? Flesh? Certainly not. An estate in land? By no means. Fame? No. Is it intelligence, knowledge, the right reason? Yes.” Epictetus here is talking about looking for the nature of good. You can look for good in any nature that was given by God, . He relates it to character, very similar to the saying, “what would Jesus do?” if you were aware of the image of God in you, would you still do the thing that you are doing? If you are doing something knowingly bad, is it right to be at the anger of God and his nature? Epictetus brings up ignorance as an example here, the nature of ignorance in a person can deflect the nature of all things good.

Chapter 9: That when we cannot fulfill that which the character of a man promises, we assume the character of a philosopher

A man is a rational, logical, mere mortal being. A being that thinks, talks, and grows and that is highly separated between wild beasts. If you stray away from the basic pillars of being a man, you will resemble a wild beast. Ensuring that man does not behave like wild beasts only benefits nature, society, and the way of life. We can not lose ourselves and lose rational, it is what makes us, us. This will lead us to becoming animals and will only keep us stagnant as beings. Epictetus brings morality towards man in chapter 9, between modesty and immodesty. The idea being that modesty keeps a man pure and happy, immodesty leads to fault and bad things. Epictetus in the end talks about the role and experiences of being a philosopher. How there are times where what they learn and practice can lead to immodest things, which can help build character in the right people. By this, I mean, the right people can learn from mistakes. Faults and mistakes faced with responsibility and action, builds character.  

Chapter 10: How we may discover the duties of life from names

Here in chapter 10, Epictetus focuses on asking who you are. He asks upon people to look at themselves from the in and out and consider your being. You are alive, you are human being, and a natural person to the world you walk around on. You as a being have logic and reasoning, how will you use it? We can’t see the future, only what we allow. Our path is written by us and us alone, some may feel there are outside forces that may play apart and maybe there is, it is still always up to the person to follow, listen, and act. Our choices in nature open paths that we can choose to take or not to take. Only thing we know as humans that the future holds is death, so we have to make the choices that will benefit us and the beings around us the best. We men all have faults in character and are not 100% good throughout, and there is no concrete way to stop this, it is simply nature. But we have to reflect and divert ourselves away from bad to the best of our ability to stay as civilized as possible or we will decline to the level of beasts. All men experience damage, you act upon it, using rational, is the most important.

Chapter 11: What the beginning of philosophy is

In chapter 11, Epictetus explains how philosophy is a “door opener” that can lead to questions and ways to live life. If you break it down piece by piece, you will find that philosophy is essential to man. It is the tool to use our logic and rational to its fullest extent. Men were given curiosity and many things amongst it for a purpose, philosophy gives us opportunity. “We come into the world with no natural notions of math & science, but we learn about them in due course.” There is never a right or wrong when asking questions, it only opens doors to more questions, in essence it is a rabbit hole that man is destined to follow. With opinions left and right it’s never a bad thing to stop and ask about life’s perfections and imperfections. Anything in life can be questioned and by questioning it, is the beauty of philosophy.

Chapter 12: Of disputation or discussion

Philosophers have shown what you need to do to use the art of debate, but it is obvious that it is not always practiced. As an example, consider every illiterate man. Abusing or ridiculing him will not get you too far with him. If you try to convince a guy to change his ways, do not mock or threaten him. The idea of political or philosophical debates is not to degrade the other but rather try and understand the adversary. We are all different beings; we have different upbringings and opinions and that is no means for degrading. This chapter is one of the most applicable to modern day politics, we see no matter the side of reason the other is quick to insult rather than to reflect and ask questions. Poking fun and trying to offend in a discussion or debate discredits the philosophy behind it. That is the pure beauty in using our logic, two people have different views, they both explain and spark conversation and questions. Not one person talks and the other employs rude comments. We can see how Socrates did this; he never became irritated in argument, never to utter anything abusive, but to bear with abusive people.

Chapter 13: On anxiety

Epictetus’ chapter on anxiety is a short one compared to his others in book two but that does not mean it needs to be overlooked. “When I see a man anxious, I say, “What does this man want? If he did not want something which is not in his power, how could he be anxious?” For this reason, a lute player when he is singing by himself has no anxiety, but when he enters the theatre, he is anxious even if he has a good voice and plays well on the lute; for he not only wishes to sing well, but also to obtain applause: but this is not in his power.” The biggest thing to take from this quote is the last few words, too often, and I am even at fault here, but it is being anxious over something that one cannot control. Too many times many people get anxious over times in life where it was out of their control. There are countless successful people in the world who will tell you this. Being fearful of something that is uncontrollable is a waste of energy and time. It is more beneficial to put one’s efforts into the aspects that can be controlled. Keep your understanding, time, confidence, energy, and logic in the things you can control. You can’t make things always go your way, but there are many things you can control, and you should stick to those.

Chapter 14: To Naso

“Every art, when it is taught, causes labour to him who is unacquainted with it and is unskilled in it, and indeed the things which proceed from the arts immediately show their use in the purpose for which they were made; and most of them contain something attractive and pleasing. For indeed to be present and to observe how a shoemaker learns is not a pleasant thing; but the shoe is useful and also not disagreeable to look at. And the discipline of a smith when he is learning is very disagreeable to one who chances to be present and is a stranger to the art: but the work shows the use of the art.” Here in this chapter, learning is sometimes never a pretty thing to experience, but it is the byproduct of that learning that makes it amazing. Using what is learned can be great for the mind, body, and soul. It provides a sense of reward for using that time to learn. Which comes hand and hand with philosophy. When you see or hear something that can be questioned and you question it as such, it can be rewarding in a way.

Chapter 15: To or against those who obstinately persist in what they have determined

Epictetus’ 15th chapter is another short one in book two but discusses, “that a man ought to be constant, and that the will is naturally free and not subject to compulsion…” It is important to know yourself, if you know you are unhealthy but appear to be you should not brag, the only act you should do is become the best version of what you want to portray. The example Epictetus gives is he witnessed a man not eat for 3 days, and he asked the man if it was right, had it been right, to leave the man alone, but had it been wrong Epictetus should try and lead him to a healthier path. The takeaway here is if someone is doing right try and not divert them but if it is wrong and harmful attempt to dissuade the action. It can be challenging to try and persuade people to change their minds but it never hurts to try. 

Commodity Development and Global Environmental Zoning

Amanda Runnels: I am a senior majoring in Natural Resources Conservation and after graduation in May I will be going to UVA to get my Masters in Elementary Education. I plan to teach during the school year and work in Outdoor Recreation in the Summers. 

Ryan Groene: I am a senior Political Science major, and after graduation I hope to work in the public service sector.

Luke Chapter 7 “Marcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology” (Ryan Groene)

In Luke, Chapter 7: “Marcuse and the Politics of Radical Ecology”, Luke discusses Marcuse, as Luke describes as a ‘radical ecologist’ whose work was overlooked for years. In most of his work, Marcuse claims that Nature serves as ‘man’s inorganic body’, and he often humanizes Nature to emphasize the importance of respecting the environment’s integrity and order. In Chapter 7, Luke analyzes Marcuse work through the means of society and discusses the negative impact that social institutions have had on Nature, “The radical transformation of nature becomes an integral part of the radical transformations of society.” Breaking down his work, we first see the perspective of “Subjectivity and Productivity” where Marcuse discusses freedoms and the relation to human needs. He states that human needs are preconditioned, and the freedoms that we have are a result from our needs. Humans have “True Needs” and “False Needs,” where “True Needs” are your basic food, shelter, clothing, etc. and “False Needs” are what stems from social interest that result in societal misery and injustice. We then take these ideas and can understand that societies “False Needs” is what truly exploits Nature and creates ecological disaster because of our material existence that allows for, what we see as, a ‘comfortable living’. “Everyday material existence can be quite tolerable, rewarding, and comfortable because it requires deep, long-run, ecological disaster to sustain its shallow, short-run institutional reproduction. False needs become that cause of and excuse for continuing such environmental destruction as everyday life merely vindicates “the freedom to choose”. 

Furthermore, Marcuse also discusses technology and science, and essentially sees these as instruments of society used in a way to create domination, power, and control over Nature and man. “Humanity’s increasing control over the environments of Nature through technological means necessarily results in a greatly increased ability to dominate human nature.” A “New Science”, or a new foundation of the instrument, and a “New Sensibility,” or understanding of these instruments, linked not to domination, but to liberation, can result in a ‘reconstruction of reality’ that would allow for humanity and Nature to become one.

After reading this chapter, it immediately made me think of these “False Needs” that Marcuse discusses. We live in a throw-away society that has a materialistic way of life, we pollute the air everyday when we drive to work, we use paper cups at the water fountain, plastic straws, all sorts of pointless things that simply make our lives ‘more comfortable’. Something that has stuck with me is this video of Oprah visiting a family in India:

We all live in homes (even apartments or dorms at school) ten times bigger than this. We use up so much land and space for comfort, not realizing the environmental impact that we have made. The need for comfort for many is increasing everyday, as our technology is constantly developing, making more people comfortable at the expense of someone else, as many feel they ‘need’ that new iPhone, ‘need’ that new iPad, etc. and it becomes a never ending cycle that will only dig the hole deeper. 

Stubberfield, Chapter 2: Building the Laboratory: Instrumentalizing the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming (Amanda/Ryan)

Dr. Stubberfield begins Chapter 2 by introducing the background for how institutions were used in the deterritorialization and reterritorialization of Wyoming in response to the Greater Sage-grouse problem. When the Greater Sage-grouse populations began to decline, it served as a threat to the economy of Wyoming. This chapter discusses the processes that occurred for so-called the protection of the Greater Sage-grouse through the Wyoming Core Area Protection strategy (CAP) which was ultimately a political move to look like a good thing. In 2010 it was suggested for the Greater Sage-grouse population to be added to the Endangered Species list because the population is only 56% of what it was before the expansion of the Western United States and Canada. Despite the population being heavily affected by habitat fragmentation and loss due to human activity, it remained a low priority for the Endangered Species List to the USFWS and was deemed a “candidate species.” 

Although the USFWS did not provide any regulatory control for helping the species, it started a conservation effort with management and regulatory plans to protect the habitat and research the species behavior and living conditions.The CAP rezoned Wyoming’s land according to the GRSG populations by deterritorialization and reterritorialization based on species specific areas. The CAP showed how social environments were used for biopolitics and ultimately how the Endangered Species Act was used by governments as a vessel for other purposes. 

The CAP created relationships within public and private industries with government and non-governmental parties working together. Following this, zones were split between private and public managerial authorities, and new zoning conditions were then placed. These zoning conditions depended on the biological needs of the populations within the area. This new form of managing and controlling created new loopholes to appear as though the species in these areas were being protected, when in fact far more disruptions to the natural habitats were happening within the zones. The instability that this created allowed for an unjust and dangerous expansion where guidelines and rules were taken advantage of for capitalistic purposes. 

Luke, Chapter 11:  “On the Road to Marrakesh: A Politics of Mitigation or Mystification for Global Climate Change?” (Amanda Runnels)

Luke, Chapter 11: “On the Road to Marrakesh: A Politics of Mitigation or Mystification for Global Climate Change?” starts off by discussing the overall opinion that the details of climate change negotiation often lack attention from the public because it is not as captivating as an inauguration in the United States or the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Many countries have made pledges to reduce carbon emissions and do their part to lower the world climate by 2050, however there are still many climate change doubters, “clean coal” advocates and industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels. All of these reasons show that the Paris Agreement will be highly contested and difficult to meet its goals. 

Climate change is not something that we can turn a blind eye to. It is important to ensure that all localities are educated and made aware of the problems and negative effects that climate change causes. It is difficult to ignore the melting of all the ice in the Arctic Ocean, the droughts that are occurring in areas that were once very wet regions, sea level rise happening in coastal areas, and the loss of biodiversity that is occurring in nearly every biome on Earth. The ability for countries to make plans to alter these negative impacts of humans on Earth is becoming more and more urgent and important to life on Earth. 

The UN-backed Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was first held in April 1992 and was responsible for the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The negotiations that followed the Earth Summit began playing upon the idea of “common but differentiated responsibility” for countries trying to mitigate climate change. This meant that larger and richer countries were held to high standards of making large cuts to carbon emissions and greatly reducing their impact on climate change, but smaller, less developed countries demanded that they remain able to pollute as much as they desired to attain economic growth. The Kigali Agreement to limit HFC use exemplified this discrepancy between developed and developing countries by directing countries such as the United States, Japan and the European Union to start removing HFC use in 2019. 

Alternatively, it was expected that developing countries would wait to begin until 2024 and the negotiators reasoned that with the large countries acting first, the smaller countries would follow quickly in their footsteps. There are pros and cons to the differentiated policies among countries. Instead of using a one size fits all approach to mitigating climate change, different countries have the ability to develop plans that mesh well with their cultures and ways of life of their country. Oppositely, many of the larger regions are somewhat stuck in their energy-intensive growth such as China in order to achieve economic growth. With this, it is highly likely that their strategies will be slow, make less of an impact, and be mostly unmonitored. 

All of these factors have shown that the targets of the Paris Agreement for only a 2°C increase in temperature will be reached sooner than the original goal of 2100. Continuing business as usual, as many countries have shown that they will continue to do, can lead us to raise the climate temperature 4.5°C. Knowing that prediction, even countries that have put together weak plans for mitigation strategies are better prepared than countries without plans at all.

On Sophistical Refutations

Tiffany Hakenson

I am a senior in my last semester as a Political Science major here at Virginia Tech. As a Political Science major I have a strong interest in understanding theory and its applications in public policy.

Ryan Grannan

I am a Senior with a major in PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) and a minor in Leadership. I am interested in Teaching, as well as politics. I think that the readings I have done for this class will help me put a variety of the concepts from social studies into their historical philosophical contexts.

Bryson Dannewitz

I am a senior getting my Political Science degree with a National Security focus. I am about to commission into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant, and I hope to be able to put the skills that I have learned in my major to work during my career as an Army officer. I have always had an interest in politics and the origins of our political system, which is why I decided on this major.

Cade Ashby

I am a junior majoring in Political Science: National Security Studies, and minoring in Russian Area Studies. I Transferred to Virginia Tech last year from VMI where I was a part of Army ROTC. I have always been interested in philosophy, and figured that understanding political philosophy would be useful for the career in federal law enforcement that I plan to pursue.

Why read sophistical refutations?

Economies of images and appearances are where sophistry manifests. We see this heavily in our political discourse and news media which makes it important to know how to counter and find fault in typical sophistical arguments to safeguard the state through public discourse.

[Editor’s Note]: As you may recall, sophists and sophistry were endemic to Athenian society and held and influenced the arc of power in Athens and elsewhere in the ancient world. As you’ll recall, the death of Socrates in Apology is caused, in part, by sophists accusing Socrates of sophistry (hilariously, it would appear that Socrates in Euthyphro is picking apart a sophist from a place of ignorance thus providing a small refutation of the charges in Apology). Their arguments and presentations of Socrates as a threat to Athens relied on images of him and his actions to ground their accusations. In this way, we can see that sophistry is an actual political force within democratic society and Gorgias himself in his writings argues for the sophist as an endemic species of democracy. However, as we saw in Gorgias the sophist relies on the use of rhetoric for purposes of mass persuasion and you’ll recall that Gorgias himself said that rhetoric can be a tool to make any man a slave. Further, you’ll recall from Sophist that the sophist is a sort of angler – a fisherman – and attempts to ensnare, hook or tangle their targets in environments of images produced by the sophist through the use of rhetoric. This is mostly aimed at serving the sophist who grows from selling images and beliefs regardless of their veracity but more as a form of flattery. As we saw in Republic, as Socrates engages with his eventual executioners, the sophist does not care about or possibly believe that there is an “objective Truth” as Plato or Aristotle do and thus their ethical commitments to “truth” are grounded in what will draw in the most power, capital and influence. Their targets, as you’ll recall, are typically young men of well-to-do families in need of formal instruction. The sophist instructs the young in the use of rhetoric and not necessarily the production of knowledge and the pursuit of “truth.”

Both Plato and Aristotle are suspicious of democracy. Why? Because democratic orders can be chaotic with multiple avenues to degrade into tyrannies simply because democratic citizens are ruled by their desires and not necessarily their reason. This is a point of ethical conduct for Plato and Aristotle as one cannot divorce Ethics from Justice in their thinking. This means that it may be difficult, if not impossible – depending on whether you ask Plato – for democratic citizens to really advocate for the interests of society in general as this would require a wider rationality than simply acting in self-interest in the pursuit of desire. As you’ll recall, Plato, in particular, believed that democracies contain the seeds of tyranny as they are composed of petty dictators acting in their self-interest and not the interest of the collective state. Aristotle recognized demagoguery as a symptom of a failing democracy, and at the core of demagoguery is the use of rhetoric to ensnare and channel the desires of those to whom the demagogue appeals most. This means that sophistry is connected not only to the administration of state but is also part and parcel of populational management within democracies as it is used to sway the emotions and desires of its audience.

Now recall that Gorgias has said rhetoric is an art central to sophistry and that rhetoric can be used coercively – in other words it can be used to, in his words, enslave others. How does it do this? Simply by convincing others to accept the presented images and rhetoric of the sophist. Here’s a question for you, dear reader, how would you know if you actually hold authentic desires? That is, desires you came to that you know or understand to be yours and are genuinely grounded in your self-interest or possibly altruistic motivations or other duties which you have accepted freely and without coercion. Socrates seems to display an authentic example of this sort of desire in Crito as he accepts his execution in lieu of exile from Athens. His argument, as you will recall, is grounded in his sense of justice and duty to the state. Despite Athens adopting the trumped up charges of his accusers, Socrates still recognized his life as part and parcel of Athenian democracy and accepted his execution as one guided by his love of Athenian society and senses of duty and justice. Furthermore, and as you’ll recall, Socrates famously proclaims “the unexamined life is a life not worth living,” at his trial but this remark is emblematic of the broader Socratic quest for truth and knowledge as a matter of living “the good life.” At his death, one can assume, Socrates allowed this quest to end, but it doesn’t stop for you or anyone else who still live within democracy.

As you’ll all dutifully remember from Century of the Self, American society was remade into the mass consumer republic that it is out of the horrors of WWI and the growth of Public Relations as a vocation and as a function of governance. The rise of mass scale consumer society was, in part, advanced by the increasing power of corporations as one of the pillars of U.S. society incubated since the colonization of the Eastern Seaboard by, for example, the Virginia Company, The Massachusetts Bays Company, The Hudson Bays Company and many others such as the slavers, The Caribbean Adventurers. In other words, the organizational infrastructure was already in place for Public Relations to hold sway over the minds of their consuming publics through the mouthpiece of the corporation growing from the history of mass scale industrialization in the US from the 1880’s onward. The modern corporation, as some of you may be aware, was thought of as a person in U.S. law before black slaves and the history of corporate personhood in the U.S. had included protections for corporate personhood grounded in English Common Law dating back to the Dartmouth College Charter. This trend was carried forward in the growing and expanding economies of the U.S. and the corporation became one of the central pieces in U.S. political and economic organization as the documentary argued – recall how Calvin Coolidge tried to give himself a personality within governance through connecting the White House to stardom, spectacle and entertainment.

Corporations argue for their self-interests publicly and privately. Privately, one can see this through lobbying efforts in Congress, for example, or through how laborers might identify their interests with the interests of their organizations – surprise, surprise, people want to keep their jobs. Publicly, however, corporate self-interest is usually manifested through the production and circulation of images through advertising and Century of the Self argues that it is both the rise of PR and its birth of more aggressive forms of advertising even branching into gorilla marketing – remember “torches of freedom” and the rich debutants adopting cigarettes to break the taboo against women smoking specifically orchestrated by tobacco interests to open a new consumer market – that shows how desires can be tapped and expanded within consuming publics to advance private interest. Further, this displays the use of strategic ambiguity in that “freedom” as a term is polymorphous and tobacco interests were able to use the ambiguity of “freedom” to imply a woman’s ability to smoke without the pain of social and cultural sanctions. This was not done to liberate women but to open a new market and increase profits.

Now recall Marx, from way back, and his remarks on capital: it can and does take many forms and the corporation is really just a massive concentration of capital is terms of money, labor power, asset ownership, and public persuasion. When a corporation speaks, it is its duty to protect its assets and increase its profitability (just ask Milton Freedman). So, not only do we have a society dominated by the corporation as a mode of social organization (just look at your generation and who or what is educating it) but also, as the Coolidge administration showed, central to statecraft in the U.S. republic. As I’m sure you’re aware, economic viability is the name of the game in terms of international political economic development and the centrality of the corporation in U.S. politics and society exhibits those institutions as vital pieces of a governing system that relies on economic expansion to ground the value of its currency. Thus, it makes no odds whether people are actually in touch with their authentic desires, it only matters that they desire in terms of systemic viability and governance.

As you’ll recall from Statesman, the goal of statecraft is to connect differing parts into functional wholes. The statesman does not look to the next election but to the next generation and it is their job to ensure social and political reproduction. They are not sophists, but they aren’t philosophers either and their judgements can and do have an environmental effect as they influence the interactions between social and political parts. Now recall the centrality of education and art from Republic and the Allegory of the Cave. As the corporation is now one of the loudest speaking components of the U.S. republic and as PR is grounded in the use of rhetoric, and as corporations are the primary mode of social organization, and, as capital, embodied by them, it is not unreasonable to conclude that sophistry is a project of mass management and that duty falls primarily on the Producers more so than the Auxiliaries or Guardians. This is an easy jump to make when you consider that the notion of ‘person’ includes collective personas such as organizations and that corporations are concerned almost solely with self-interested production and reproduction as they are locked in a competitive struggle against others for consuming publics. This means that sophistry need not be located in the individual human but can be a mass scale project of direction and management through individuated collectives – if but a chaotic one as both Aristotle and Plato would say. This means that the environments in which we live contain the persuasive pieces of sophistry that aim at influencing and reproducing Desire much like the cave walls displaying the shadow puppets of the puppeteers. To the point of the Allegory of the Cave: how do you know your “cave” isn’t entirely sophistry? How would you know if you ever left the cave? Where do your desires come from? Are they yours really or are they pieces left by “people” trying to manage you? What can you do to ensure that someone else isn’t taking advantage of you or trying to get you to have a desire that you wouldn’t have otherwise? How would you know if you’re under the influence of a demagogue and are being miseducated or led astray (just ask Facebook and Cambridge Analytica)? These are some of the dangers within a producers republic and a quick examination of The Federalist Papers will reveal that the founders discussed these problems in other language.

The answers to the above are of paramount importance as “the good life,” is not only the goal of the state, but the ethical project of all who desire happiness according to Plato and all those who aspire to excellence according to Aristotle. How are you supposed to know if you’re leading “the good life” – one in which you are a self-legislating subject pursuing truth, knowledge and justice – if you can’t be sure whether you’re captured by sophistry and thus are acting on behalf of someone else as a mental slave? Below is Aristotle’s answer that reflects his teacher’s – logic. It is logic that will be the tool for liberation and logic that will keep you safe from sophistry. Far be it from a simple annoyance as a text, Sophistical Refutations may be the handbook for wrecking sophistical arguments and exposing their fallacious reasoning that would lead you and your state away from “the good life” – a central project of state as you’ll recall from Statesman and Republic – and into the economies of appearances manufactured by sophists. As sophists are an endemic species of democracies, a healthy and vibrant society might include them, but it is the duty of the democratic citizen to protect and keep their democracy as its jealous guardians. How do we do this? How are we to pursue “the good life” – the examined life – and ensure our desires are our own when we cast a ballot, when we advance an interest, when we engage in public debate? Logic. [End Editor’s Note]

Introduction

On Sophistical Refutations is typically viewed as a part of Aristotle’s body of work on logic. This book focuses on how debates were structured in ancient Greece, the common tactics used by orators and how the student ought to respond to these tactics. Section One focuses on introducing the reader to the debate format, and defines some of the basic tactics and goals of orators. Section Two focuses on how the reader might use these tactics to question the arguments of a Sophist, and section three focuses on how the reader should defend their arguments from Sophist’s questions. Overall, the book identifies and explains many of the debate strategies and tactics that are still used today, and provides interesting context into one of the most enduring forms of human communication, the argument.

On Sophistical Refutations: Section One

Section one of Aristotle’s On Sophistical Refutations is divided into ten chapters. Chapters one and two act as the work’s introduction, followed by chapters three through eight which address tactics of the questioner, and chapters nine and ten which provide an interlude. The questioner and answer in Athenian dialogue were expected to follow a pattern when debating. The questioner poses a propositional question, the answerer selects his position, and the questioner then attempts to refute the answerers position using a deductive argument. Chapter 1 explains that some arguments or refutations are not truly deductive, but only appear to be so. Used by Sophists, these sophistical arguments are fallacious, the remaining chapters designed to explain these fallacies.

Chapter three describes the goals of this type of questioner, those being to simply refute the answerer’s claim, to show that he has committed a fallacy, to lead him into a paradox, to force the answerer to use an ungrammatical expression, or to make him repeat himself.

Chapter four explains how sophistical reasoning is divided into two groups, one of which is dependent on language, the other of which is not. The first group contains six sophistical refutations, “ambiguity, amphiboly, combination, division of words, accent, and form of expression.” Additionally, there are seven sophistical refutations independent of language, which include “that which depends upon Accident, the use of an expression absolutely or not absolutely but with some qualification of respect or place, or time, or relation, that which depends upon ignorance of what ‘refutation’ is, that which depends upon the consequent, that which depends upon assuming the original conclusion, stating as cause what is not the cause, and the making of more than one question into one.” Chapter seven explains why these fallacies are able to trick people, primarily by appearing very similar to answers that would in fact be correct. Chapter eight describes the fallacy of refutations which, although legitimate and correct, are only appropriate in the specific circumstance of the question.

Fallacies in the language (in diction)

Equivocation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmIqWT7qMj4

Amphibology: https://youtu.be/O1pouhVGS7M

Composition: https://youtu.be/gE4IW_0GKNQ

Division: https://youtu.be/2bgjZxs7wYk

Accent: https://youtu.be/4qGxFsqEpSk

Figure of speech or form of expression: In which the literal meaning of a phrase is not the understood meaning of the phrase for the purposes of the debate.

Fallacies not in the language (extra dictional)

Accident: https://youtu.be/IlbnOFy3UTs

Secundum quid: Applying General Rules to specific circumstances, or holding that things which are only usually true are always true.

Irrelevant conclusion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzroWL3NlZA

Begging the question: https://youtu.be/IJ2dWrI-PTA

False cause: https://youtu.be/qMP4OXoOBtU

Affirming the consequent: https://youtu.be/_WDDVz-EWFw

Fallacy of many questions: https://youtu.be/7QPBLxOx6T0

Chapters nine and ten act as an interlude before Aristotle addresses tactics for the answerer in the second section. In chapter nine Aristotle rejects that arguments can be directed at either a person’s words or thoughts, and instead, in chapter ten that argues that these differences must be discussed within the argument, rather than being presupposed by them. Both arguments can be made, but this distinction comes within the argumentative structure, not before it.

On Sophistical Refutations: Section Two

Aristotle’s On Sophistical Refutations Section 2, brings to light the fallacies within arguments and other discussions. This section is broken up into ten subsections that layout different tactics, rules, and tricks when it comes to sophistical arguments. There are many rules and tricks discussed throughout the writing which allow for one to find deeper ways to win over or skew people in an argument. Some of which create a facade to others and in turn allows for the fallacies in an argument to come to light. This turns the entire discussion in the favor of the one who guides the answerer to this fallacy. This section also brings to light tactics for the answerer as well because many times one may find himself not on the questioning end but on the opposite. Being able to comprehend and utilize all these tactics can allow one to control the direction of almost any discussion.

In chapter 12 Aristotle discusses the importance of framing your argument as well as setting up your opponent so that their fallacies are presented because of how they frame their argument. A very important aspect that Aristotle brought up was that one should never present a controversial question right away. A rule that is helpful in allowing a fallacy to come about as he states is “one should draw the answerer on to the kind of statements against which one is well supplied with arguments.” This allows the one arguing to control the discussion by staying ahead of the answerer. He says that arguing from one’s opinions will allow for an opportunity to rebut against the answerer’s desired opinions when the moment presents itself. Hearing someone out instead of raising one’s voice allows for the listener to hear the entirety of one’s argument. This can also give the idea that one is winning in a contentious argument before the rebuttal has even presented itself. Another tactic brought to light in chapter 13 is the use of babbling. Being able to bring someone to a state of babbling allows them to seem as though they have no true premise to their argument, and can discredit them because they try to make the same point in too many different ways.

In chapter 15 the discussion of the tactics for the questioner is drawn to a conclusion. Within this chapter, Aristotle discusses how when you are in the discussion it is difficult to keep track of several aspects at once. The questioner may also use speed as a tactic to confuse and leave the answerer behind in the discussion. This may cause the answerer to become agitated or even angry, and when someone is angered, they are less capable of creating rational thoughts. They then may react very emotionally and say or do something that could discredit themselves. Aristotle describes the elementary rules for producing anger as “to make a show of the wish to play foul, and to be altogether shameless.” This makes the answerer feel as though the questioner is being demeaning to them which again can make them act irrationally. Another trick that is brought up is having a strong appearance of having been refuted in an argument. A questioner without proving anything can give their final proposition as a statement giving the perception that they have proven it rather than giving supporting evidence. In a sense, this is arguing from ignorance, which can work in a case where the arguing parties do not have known evidence of what is being discussed. From the audience’s perspective the confidence of the perception of winning the argument can truly mean winning or losing. If the audience feels the confidence of the argument the entire attitude shifts away from the opponent’s argument.

Chapter 16 starts to bring the answers tactics to play in an argument. Having and being able to utilize specific tactics as an answerer can allow one to combat against the tactics used by the questioner. Aristotle also says that following this study is useful for philosophy because it will sharpen your semantic insight, which can be useful when reacting to fallacies in an argument. Being able to answer questions in a logical manner allows for the answerer to seem intelligent. One’s reputation can be built in a positive manner if one is able to intelligently answer questions. Aristotle says that to have a reputation of being well trained in everything can allow for one to point out fallacies, and by doing so you can make it seem that the questioner is inexperienced.

Chapters 17 and 18 describe different ways that one can stand in the way of the questioner’s real or apparent success. It describes how one should not hesitate when it comes to pointing out fallacies and introduces distinctions, even if one does not see how the questioner could exploit the ambiguity. An important defense that is described in chapter 18 is by providing a solution to a false deduction. There are different ways to solve deductions, one of which is by pinpointing the premise of that deduction or falsehood. By doing so one should then demolish the idea of that deduction with facts to exhibit the falsehood in the argument.

Chapter 19 brings the idea of ambiguity to question. Being able to use ambiguity in an argument can do one well in many ways. For one, it shows the intelligence of the answerer because the questioner overlooked the possibility of any such outcomes in their statement. By restating the question asked with a different sense in the conclusion you can make the questioner question what they do and do not know about the topic. This can also work from the questioner’s aspect because it can create an opportunity for the answerer to disprove themselves if the question is stated properly. Chapter 20 begins to bring into light the solutions to sophistical refutations that depend on the use of language.

On Sophistical Refutations: Section Three

Section three is a continuation of examples on how an Answerer should respond to a Sophist Questioner’s various tactics. This section encompasses chapters 21-34 and touches on each individual fallacy by example.

Chapter 21 details how you would respond if someone tries to use the accent fallacy, otherwise referred to as the emphasis fallacy, to refute your argument. Chapter 21 states that the accentuation of a word within an argument does not give way to fallacious arguments. The Accenture does not change the meaning of the word itself. We would look to defend against this in cases in which your opponent is attempting to use your intonation to refute the point you’re trying to make.

Chapter 22 examines how to respond to a fallacy involving figure of speech. Aristotle states that sometimes sophists will get you to agree to a premise and manipulate that premise to say that you agreed to something that isn’t necessarily what you agreed to. Aristotle states that this should be countered by telling the sophist exactly what the premise you agreed to means.

Chapter 23 details that the answerer should always take the opposite tactic of whatever your debate opponent, assumed to be a sophist, relies on for their argument. If your opponent uses reasoning that requires combination, then your solution should consist of division, then combination. If it depends on an “acute” accent, then the solution is a grave accent and vice versa. If the argument depends on ambiguity, then you must use the opposite term.

Chapter 24 describes how to deal with an argument that depends on Accident. Aristotle states that one and the same solutions meets all cases. Solving refutations that rely on Accident may be solved by taking down or deconstructing the original proposition that was asked by asserting that they do know and don’t know the same object. False reasoning is used to suppose a solution which becomes a false solution. Aristotle uses the example that is X may have a child or may state that this is “my child” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that X is the father of the child. Using the principle of ambiguity could solve this issue simply by stating that ‘X is your father,’ ‘son’ or ‘slave’. Campaign slogans such as “Make America Great Again” are an example. What does “great” mean? Is America not already great?

In the video above Jeff Daniels picks apart a question that relies on ambiguity.

Chapter 25 describes how to deal with Secundum Quid. Arguments that depend upon an expression that is valid in a particular situation but is not valid in the absolute should be solved by considering the conclusion you’re trying to draw in relation to its contradictory. For example, “Can a liar tell the truth?” We know that liars lie, but it is possible for the liar to tell the truth even though they are generally a liar?

Chapter 26 details how to deal with refutations that depend on the definition of a refutation. Refutations that depend on the definition of another refutation must be met by comparing together the conclusion with its contradictory and seeing that it involves the same respect, relation, time and manner.

Chapter 27 is how to deal with refutations that beg the question. Refutations that depend on begging the question – assuming the original point to be proved – are determining the nature of the question to be obvious. Even if it’s representing a generally agreed upon belief the questioner should be providing a refutation that’s independently proved from the original point being made. In addition, the answerer should state that the point granted wasn’t meant to be used as a premise, but should reason against it, in the opposite way from the adopted refutations on side issues. Dialectic reasoning is at the center of Plato and Aristotle’s works. In Hagelian dialectics there’s an idea that thesis and antithesis combining into synthesis. These are two seemingly contrary ideas resulting in truth. From this perspective, Aristotle is recommending that you provide the antithesis if your opponent tries to beg the question.

Chapter 28 follows up on discussions about begging the question. If someone is begging the question to you in their refutation this should be evident in what they’re stating. Aristotle states that the fashion in which the consequences unfold follows a twofold path. Either the universal is stated as “if A is always found with B then B must always be found with A” or is opposite to these terms for “if A follows B, then A’s opposite must follow B’s opposite.”

Chapter 29 discusses how to deal with false premises. When any refutation presented reasoning depends on some addition, absurdity should follow upon the subtraction of that addition. For example, stating: “It’s warm outside. Therefore, it must be summer,” when it is, in fact, spring, or fall or winter.

Chapter 30 discusses how to deal with the fallacy of many questions. Refutations that make many questions into one should be dealt with by making the distinction between them from the start. Questions should be singular and have one distinct answer to avoid the confirmation or denial of many questions with a singular answer. The man who answers double questions may be made to say that several things are the same even though they are not. An example of a loaded question may be “Hey Bryson, when did you decide to stop beating your girlfriend?” Where by answering you may implicate yourself in the crime of beating your girlfriend by just simply replying.

Chapter 31 details how to deal with opponents who push you to repeat yourself a number of times. When being drawn into repeating yourself multiple times, proclamations of relative terms should be assumed as not having meaning in the abstract by themselves. The term defined in the abstraction is not the same as the whole phrase.

Chapter 32 describes how to deal with solecisms. Solecism is a phrase that breaks grammar rules. Questions such as, “Can he be a she?” or “Is a thing what you say it to be?”

Chapter 33 and 34 wrap up in a quick conclusion, re-stating the ideas presented in the previous chapters. For the modern audience, the concepts presented here are best applied to live debates or discussions in popular media. Understanding these debate tactics can help modern readers understand why two debaters or panelists are doing what they are doing. It is also important to remember Aristotle’s warning that these tactics can be misused to provide the appearance of a refutation or argument where none exists. Modern debates cannot always be analyzed efficiently in real time, but the concepts presented here can give modern audiences a starting point at finding the truth and instill a healthy sense of skepticism by showing them how the sausage is made.

Sources:

Krabbe, Erik C. “Aristotle’s On Sophistical Refutations.” Topoi, vol. 31, no. 2, 2012, pp. 243–248., doi:10.1007/s11245-012-9124-0.

Aristotle. “The Internet Classics Archive: On Sophistical Refutations by Aristotle.” The Internet Classics Archive | On Sophistical Refutations by Aristotle, W. A. Pickard-Cambridge, classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/sophist_refut.1.1.html

Group Blog Post: Devin Welsh, Lilly Church, Merrill Wheeler

Global Environmental Issues: Dr. Stubberfield

4/8/21

Hybridity: in Death, Alan P. Rudy and Damian White (Devin Welsh)

The authors in this reading draw attention to the discursivity applied to the idea of ‘society vs nature.’  Historically and as a result of The Enlightenment, nature and society have been viewed as two different entities completely separate from one another.  This has been detrimental to human understanding of how the world works, and how humans influence it directly.  This idea that society is somehow separate from the world it inhabits is absurd, and more importantly dangerous.  When the two are divided then it leads people to think their actions in one entity will not, and even cannot, have an impact on the other.  This is evident within the capitalist economic structure; ignore the negative effects you wish did not exist. We see this with a willing ignorance of the subaltern or poor populations across the globe who both suffer from capitalism’s effects while also being forced to take part in it, as they are the cheap labor capitalism is built on. The authors bring us to the idea that nature is itself a construction of humanity.  ‘True’ nature by definition has not existed for a very long time, as now everything on earth has been touched in one way or another by humanity.  What we think of as nature in current times is an artificial recreation of what humans arbitrarily designate as nature.

Rudy and White in their chapter in Critical Environmental Politics introduce us to Bruno Latour, a French sociologist who used the term ‘hybridity’ to better understand the concept of ‘modernity’. Hybridity is combining different fields of study usually believed to be distinct from one another, to better understand how they influence each other.  In this sense, it is applied to combining society and nature into a hybrid to better understand how they are directly related.  Latour posits the idea that humanity does not understand its role in directing ‘society’, or lack thereof, and how that role directly influences ‘nature’.  Society is a set of norms that are hard to turn against in an effort to see change, yet nature is actually extremely malleable and susceptible to human decision making.  He claims that modernity today is built on the idea that we cannot change our politics, in the same manner that we manipulate ecosystems and our environments. Essentially humanity is locked into a social system that it thinks it cannot change, although we have altered ecologies around us.  It is an almost intentional contradiction that does not allow a restructuring of the current societal hierarchy, most likely because elites are happy with the way it is, while also maintaining their power over much of society.  He calls us to see the connections between cause and effect across multiple fields of inquiry.  Hybrids have been historically viewed in a negative light, as illegitimate combinations that should not have happened, such as unwanted animal or plant half-breeds.  But hybrids have a key role to play in the future, not as half-breed plants or animals, but by combining fields of knowledge.  The hybridity of society and nature, long previously thought to be distinct from one another, will be vital to bettering humanity’s impacts on the world it inhabits.

Donna Haraway is the next scholar introduced to us.  Her arguments are along the same lines as Latour, but she adds in other specific social elements often left out of the equation.  Her focus on hybridity is constantly laid in front of the backdrop of ‘socialist feminism.’  An interesting point she makes is how ‘modernity’ is built off social conceptions birthed in colonialism and its conception of ‘the other’.  This dualism is evident today in nearly every societal situation, where one’s situation is inherently separate from the conditions that may have caused it.  The authors point to several of her works and how they draw from multiple fields to offer a better context of social situations, while I was most interested in her article titled, ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s’.  In this work she lays out a fictional scenario where cyborgs have taken the place of humans as a hyperbolic example of modernity, where humans and technology are inexorably intertwined. In this work she details the decisions facing female cyborgs in a world where technology is inherently masculine, and how the world shapes individual decision making.  Essentially, she is calling attention to the role physical situations influence decision making, and not just trying to understand decision making in a vacuum. We see how technology is used widely across the Global North as a solution to current physical situations, such as carbon capture to combat climate change, or gene-editing to combat disease. These new technologies are widely accepted because they are seen as a solution, without much contemplation on how they could influence things further down the road, it seems the era of cyborgs is already here. 

We as humans must look harder at the connections between cause and effect, and how one situation can and does affect another.  There needs to be a hybridity of nature and society as well as a hybridity across the fields of academia.  Researchers and scholars must do a better job of working together across the scientific and social fields to create a better understanding of how humans shape the planet.  We need to take accountability for our actions, unlike capitalist elites who just close their eyes and hope the negative externalities of their decisions just disappear in a magic cloud of carbon emissions.

Bio: My name is Devin Welsh, and I am a senior in my final semester here at Virginia Tech.  I am studying International Relations while pursuing a minor in German.  I love watching soccer and I really hope Paris Saint-Germain beats Bayern Munich in their first champions league matchup this week.  Bayern fans feel free to tell me I’m wrong, but I think it’s PSG’s year to win it all.

An excellent little presentation on public lands, waters, environment and social behavior.

“On the Politics of the Anthropocene” Luke, Chapter 10 (Lilly Church)

Proponents of the Anthropocene are social warriors calling for change and trying to get nation-states to “do something”, while other groups such as scientists depoliticize and refuse to work together. The goal to depoliticize means they want to move away governments making and enforcing decisions about the environment that have political-motivated biases. This removes “the environment” as a space for democratic politics and political solutions by sequestering decisions about it to “experts” that can be under the employ of global commercial organizations and governments, such as the U.S., that have a vested economic interest in continuing business-as-usual and others with more altruistic motivations advocating for environmental protection through top-down, non-democratic decision-making. This means that “the environment” under this way of thinking, can be designed and administered by technocrats beyond the reach of democratic politics and their decisions have the potential to have global effects. A dividing question between these groups is if the products of humans are actually significant on a geological timescale, and if so, what should the response be? Many people who have studied this want the Anthropocene to be a warning and a call to action, but there have been warnings about this for over 150 years, even as far back as 1864. An important question for critics to be asking is if new concepts and terminology around the Anthropocene are actually helpful to pinpointing a problem and clearly stating how to fix them. 

Arcology is a concept coined by Paolo Soleri to describe a (theorized) compact living structure that combines natural and unnatural elements to support a family in a sustainable way. Arcology is not actually practiced anywhere, but it does provide insight into how to create more sustainable cities. As human shelters and cities arise, agriculture spreads, and arcologies are formed. Agriculture and habitat are the two indicators of human existence, and without them, we cannot exist. Obviously, food and shelter are two out of three of the absolutely crucial factors for humans to survive. When we look from a technonatural view, technology is essential to this architectural design because of the materials needed to keep such a network running.

Soleri’s claim is that shelter is the most imposing feature of humans, and the suburban home is the most consuming and wasteful shelters we can create. Only a few people actually benefit from the amount of space that humans take up, while the by-products are destructive for local, regional, and global systems. Soleri’s claim is that the only solution to saving the environment stems from the city, because the city and the environment are connected in terms of habitat. The only way to move forward is to recenter the attention on arcologies and fix the way we consider and improve them.

Soleri’s Arcology was tried nearly 50 years ago in the Arizona desert. Its name is Arcosanti and Soleri was trying to design a city seated at the intersection of ecology and architecture.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ideas as to when the Anthropocene actually began, and it again ties into the process of depoliticalization. Crutzen pins the start of the Anthropocene on the invention of the steam engine in 1780, while other anthropologists, paleobotanists, and stratigraphers argue that there are multiple stages of the Anthropocene. And still others from fields like conservation biology and physical geography want to put their own claims and characteristics on the Anthropocene, which can only be because of the political power that comes from control of the narrative over the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is politicized through “expert” scientific claims gaining power by condemning environmental crises. Earth system science (ESS) is a relatively new study for analyzing changes in the Anthropocene by multiple organizations trying to discover new ways of surviving it. ESS creates discourse of sustainable development for the purpose of policy creation. Yet with this discourse, there is little conclusion of what to do because that decision is left to policy-makers. This allows for aesthetically pleasing debates, resumes, and research without actual positive impacts on our consistently degrading environment. 

Luke makes the statement, “As long as scientific experts peer at these turbulent currents of planetary transformation through the taxonomies and terms of Victorian science, the arcologies of the earth will continue to destructively omnipolitanize the planet-state, but in strong accord with peer-reviewed Anthropocenarios from ESS labs and their panels of expert authority.” To elaborate on this quote, Luke is saying that people who study the evolution of Earth through the ESS framework are foolishly defending the science through a 19th century lens. This inevitably leads to destroying the Earth by politicizing it and using poorly researched and backed up Anthropocene critiques by other ESS supporters to defend it. Unfortunately, there is not yet an answer as to who is in control of the response going forward. The media normalizes trends of human damage to the environment by examining it only as a fascinating trend of our society. ESS demonstrates how we must impose ourselves on the future in order to move forward in remaking the world. Bu there is hope in that the Anthropocene addresses the multifaceted evolution of the world and does not assume that world solely exists for humans.

Bio: Lilly Church is a senior majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) with a minor in Theater Arts. She was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and only left so she could spend her college years in Blacksburg. She has never left the country, leaving her entirely uncultured. For this, she would like to thank COVID-19, which cancelled her study abroad. Lilly is taking this class in order to have a better understanding of the critical environmental issues which are so engrained in all three of her major’s key subjects. 

Chapter 1: Instruments, Assemblages and Environmentality: Toward the Technonatural (Merrill Wheeler)

    In this chapter the author explores the use of instruments in assemblages, specifically relating to the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming, that leads to a bigger commentary on technonature. Though a study of instruments that are part of bigger capital machines, we can see a bigger pattern of an expansion of technonature. These instruments are described as causing the production of artifacts. Specifically, the animal and plant life of Wyoming is being subjected to strategies of environmentality that is only concerned with the production of commodities. The author sees technonature having historical power because it is now seen as a natural feature of the environment that’s being made and affecting the plant and animal life through social activity, thus showing the growing expansion of technonature through these instruments that are functions of machinic assemblages and further link human and non-human populations. 

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 Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming: The Technonatural Condition: Synthetic and Organic Imbrications of the Machine

    Machinic assemblages use instruments with organic components to further industrial activity leading to a concern of a hybrid of infrastructure between human and non-human economies. There has been an evolution of both humanity and non-humananity through tehonology, as they develop together there are human-non-human assemblages that create the production commodities in technonaturalism. This can be seen through technoatural lifeforms, topographies, environments that were previously autarkic but are now part of the technonaturalization system. Technonature as concerned by the author is simply the continuance of civilization through means of technological infrastructure and commodity production. When we add organic components to this equation through geo-engineering, we are headed to a what the author calls a “megamachinic consciousness.” We can’t escape geotechnic hybridity because it is deeply ingrained in the creation of our civilization. Things like the carbon cycle have been commodified, by the instrumentalization of previously autarkic organic things through, for example, the global production and trade of carbon credits or offsets. Instrumentalization means that organic systems have been used as tools and instruments to further the advancement of some agency. 

More Power to the Machine: Strategic Control of Synthetic Flows

     Synthetic assemblages employ the formation of technonature and environmentality – environmentality being the materialization of the organic and synthesized – further cementing technonatural history in the material and the concept of human-non-human history. The author describes this as a Megamachine: “Megamachine is a planetary life support system for one formulation of culture that rules over and dominates global flows of energy, humanity, and infrastructure.” This is key to understanding that technonature is humanity’s movement away from the autarik and can be seen in organic assemblages assimilated to the Megamachine.  The Megamachine is a tool to move away from harsh economies of nature and into harsh economies of the Machine because we are ruled by artifice inside the most “advanced” industrial economies as a matter of social material reproduction. Technonature is then an artifact of the Megamachine because it is a manufacturing of synthetic assemblages that display their global connections thus revealing more how the human experience is manipulated technocratic management. 

Technonature and Environmentality: State-of-the-Art as Art of the State

     To maintain the power of the Megamachine hybridization and synthetic environments, technocrats designed and utilize enviornmentalities. As stated, “Environmentality, for my purposes, is a socio-techno-environmental process that organizes the relationships of living, and non-living through the production of knowledge/power regimes such that they create administrable environs.” It is explained through an analysis of Michel Foucault’s ideas of governmentality which is referenced as the ‘conduct of conduct’. At its core it connects to the idea of environmentality that government and non governmental actors can and will turn environmental crises into commodities and profits. This creates a biopolitical regime that instrumentalized ‘nature’ and humanity within synthetic assemblages for the Megamachine.  The people who create and profit from the Megamachine should be free but really not because the deployment of environmentalists leaves us all in a geotechnical hybridity of infrastructures that we can not separate from our civilization. Therefore, based on the logics of capitalist modernity, the tools used for social reproduction and the imperatives of continual capital development within organizations, even the CEO of any given commercial organization is ruled by and administers artifice itself.  

From Instruments to Technonature: A Conclusion 

     As reviewed in this chapter the there are major problems with using the ‘conduct of conduct’ market as to talk about conservation discourse. The market is the governing discourse for the environment, as seen through the production technonature. According to specific operationalizations of governmentality, Technonaturialization works to separate organic things from their autarkic nature and create synthetic assemblages that exhibits the movements of, and creation of capital through an instantiation of governmentality. Instruments of technonature turn ‘the organic’ such as found reserves of oil into artifacts for a greater scheme of environmentally, or the commodification of humanity and nature. Technonature is a result of instruments and instrumentalization of ‘nature’. This can specifically be seen in an example of the Greater Sage-grouse in Wyoming showing this cycle of technonature, explained in later chapters. 

Merrill Wheeler: I am a senior who is set to graduate in May 2021 from Virginia Tech. I am a double major is PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) and Psychology. I am from Mclean Virginia and love to take advantage of all the great parks located on the Potomac River. 

Editor’s Note: Technonaturalization is directly inspired by the Starcraft series. I was able to get a handle on the idea of instruments dominating space and recreating life in the image of capital and technology by thinking of how technological frontiers might be formed and advance. I used “the Creep” necessary for infrastructural advancement of the Zerg army from the aforementioned series to help conceptualize the advance of The Megamachine through the instrumentalization of life and territory. The video below displays how “the creep” is formed and extends through Starcraft‘s virtual environments. As I said at the start of class, inspiration can come from anywhere. For those of you familiar with the Starcraft lore, the Zerg Army is a technonatural army run-amok displaying the fragility of technological systems and the inherent risks of technonaturalization.