The problems with modern cosmology are multivariate. Worse, each problem appears to create further problems, which implies that the problems themselves are at least potentially infinite. I’ll go through a few of the inherent issues that make modern cosmology self-contradictory.
Spatiality as unbounded.
Positing spatiality as bounded results in a number of issues that resulted in its being posited as unbounded by cosmologists. However positing spatiality as unbounded results in further issues with specific cosmological models that render them contradictory to the overall model.
The expanding universe model:
If spatiality is unbounded, at least in an apparent sense, we have to understand how it can simultaneously be finite and measurable. The problem with the latter is that it requires a perspective outside reality, which is not possible with the overall model. We can look at the problem in this manner.
The Earth is itself finite but apparently, at least from the perspective of someone on it, unbounded, i.e. the horizon appears infinite, it always regresses no matter how far we travel. We know that in practice it would prove finite even to someone on the Earth, since eventually spatial travel in a given direction would land that someone back where they started. The problem is that the simultaneous appearance of unboundedness with the real boundary of the Earth requires at least a potential perspective outside the Earth. Since technologically this perspective is no longer merely potential but a realized perspective, we know that it is a possible perspective that has in fact been actualized. The problem with reality as a whole being apparently unbounded but finite is that there is no potential perspective outside reality that would render it finite by giving it a boundary. This simultaneously means that there is no perspective that can measure such a boundary.
The further problem this creates with the expanding universe model is that, as unmeasurable in even a potential sense, there is no way to understand this expansion spatially. We would have no means of demonstrating that reality is in fact bigger today than it was a billion years ago, since we can’t measure reality now nor posit its size in the past.
The Temporal Boundary:
Since spatiality is modeled as unbounded, and temporality is understood as an aspect of spatiality, there is a contradiction in that temporality is itself understood as bounded. Thought about in the dimensional model, this would mean that spatial dimensions are unbounded while the temporal dimension is bounded, at least in the past, specifically in the current model bounded at 15.8 billion years. This boundary of temporality, like any posited spatial boundary, requires a possible perspective outside temporality. This possible perspective is posited as the perspective of the singularity itself, since it is temporally tensed, i.e. it was but no longer is, and is therefore temporally perspectival. This would imply, though, that the apparently infinite horizon of spatiality is itself a potentially perspectival spatial position. However that potentially perspectival position is simultaneously denied by the impossibility of there being a spatial point outside spatiality itself. Another way of describing the problem is that the perspective of the singularity is not temporal, since the creation of temporality is a function of the destruction of the singularity, yet simultaneously is temporal, in the sense that it no longer is but in some sense was. If it is not temporal then it is not a potential perspective on temporality, which implies that temporality would also have to have an infinite horizon, i.e. it could not have a temporal boundary, which means from any perspective within reality it could not have an apparent beginning. Without an apparent beginning, though, the singularity could not be tensed. In a sense it would have to always be, in whatever way we understand being in that case. This change in understanding is precisely the change in understanding of the creator-being from apologetics to theology. In the former creation was understood as having a specific temporal boundary, to the latter understanding of reality as a constant self-expression of the infinite horizon itself.
Boundary itself as being necessarily self-posited by the bounded being, and therefore destructive to the causal assumptions of the model itself:
If we look at any being as a systemic entity, the boundary of that being has to be self-posited, and self-posited retroactively, in order that the system itself arises, which destroys the mechanistic causality that is a fundamental presumption of cosmology. This can be understood through a specific example, but applies to any systemic entity from a human being to a galaxy and beyond to reality itself, if it is understood as a unified entity. As a specific example, we can look at a single celled organism.
The boundary issue arises for mechanistic causality at the moment that the boundary itself arises as a temporally specific moment. At the moment the boundary comes into being, the cell is not yet differentiated from its environment, the boundary itself creates this differentiation, and therefore simultaneously creates the cell and its environment as differentiated. However at that moment the interior of the cell is still undifferentiated from the rest of reality, since it is precisely the boundary and the resulting cell membrane that begins to differentiate the interior by allowing molecular movements to be differentiated inbound and outbound, creating an interior that is differentiated in a molecular sense from its environment. The boundary, then, is at its origin simply a posited boundary, since even as a membrane the boundary has to precede the physical membrane for the latter to come about. This in turn implies that the positing is done by a being, which in the case of a single celled organism can only be that organism. This self-positing, though, has to be done in a temporally retroactive manner. As causality, then, the movement of causality is temporally retroactive, which is contradictory to the temporal priority of mechanistic causes, although it allows the apparent paradox of telic causality to be properly understood.
Further, this is true of all systemic entities, which includes reality as a whole if understood as a unified entity, as a universe in any sense of the latter term. The result is that reality itself, as a universe, would have to have self-posited its temporal boundary retroactively. In the case of a cell within reality we can understand this retroactive positing in terms of the reality of temporality as bidirectional as differentiated from its appearance as unidirectional, since the cell has potential temporal perspectives outside itself. We cannot understand retroactive causality though without such an external perspective, which is problematic if it applies to reality as a whole as a universe. Applying it to reality as a whole would involve the causal origin of the singularity to be a temporally retroactive positing by reality itself, but this is impossible if the singularity is simultaneously understood as the origin of temporality. If it is not understood in this manner it creates the same infinite causal regress that theology removed from the understanding of apologetics by removing the tensed nature of the creator as the infinite horizon, simultaneously removing the possibility of a temporal boundary to reality. The problems this engenders can be seen in the apologetics of cosmologists, specifically the anthropological principle itself, and the further apologetic as expressed by Hawking, that since reality is so complex, varied and radically improbable, we shouldn’t be surprised that its origin as the singularity is even more complex and varied, and infinitely improbable. These apologetics are the same as those of pre-theological Christian apologetics, which implies that the nature of the creator-being, which is the apparent difference between modern cosmology and pre-theological Christian cosmology, is in fact falsely differentiated, since the creator-being of modern cosmology has the same aspects as the creator-being of Christian apologetics, including a rationale for its inherent complexity and improbability. Theology has regarded the creator as untensed since Duns Scotus and more definitively since Aquinas, and as untensed and simultaneously necessary is not within the realm of probability equations.
(As an aside, I’ve often wondered how the majority of Roman Catholics, who are not theologically educated, simultaneously understand reality as temporally bounded, i.e. the moments of creation and end as real and not metaphorical, while not only hearing but repeating back in the weekly ritual of the Mass a definitive belief that the world is without beginning and end. From a theological perspective there is no issue, since beginning and end are understood as metaphor, not as reality. Reality is understood theologically as the self-expression of the infinite horizon of reality as the untensed origin of constant creation and destruction, and therefore itself infinite.)
The following looks at the major facets of right wing economics and the reasons they are fallacies and can never work:
Big government is wasteful.
Any large, hierarchical organization will be prone to areas of wastefulness, this is as true of any large corporation as it is of government, in many cases more so, since most shareholders are really speculators and have no concern for the workings of the corporation private corporations are less accountable to anyone. The problem though lies in the structure, not simply the size, of the organization in question. Simply put, the higher up the hierarchical chain authority is invested, the further from the source of information on what is happening and what ought to happen the authority is. “Edge” organizations, where authority is invested in those closest to the actual operations and management is generally tasked with coordinating different facets are more efficient and less wasteful. Most government spending is in fact necessary in modern society, and more efficiency, while desirable, would lessen the budget only marginally. As a result balancing the budget can only happen by raising overall taxation.
Higher taxes on the wealthy hurt the economy.
This one is a particularly obvious fallacy. The economy is firstly and lastly dependent upon demand. Without demand for goods and services there is no incentive to investment. For every dollar taxed off the poor and middle class a much more sizable portion is removed from economic demand for the simple reason that they need to spend a larger percentage of their income.
Simultaneously the lowering of demand reduces the opportunities available to the wealthy for actual investment, and the result is increased speculation in the stock market and real estate, creating bubbles that undermine the stability of the economy as a whole. Ironically the eventual puncturing of those bubbles hurts the wealthy far more than the poor and middle classes.
Finally, increasing taxes, percentage wise, on those with lower incomes results in lower actual taxation than the same percentage increase on the wealthy, making it less useful in actually balancing the budget – i.e. those with lower incomes don’t make enough as a group at this point to have the deficit reduced substantially out of their incomes.
Income is based on merit.
Were this a meritocracy, the first thing that would have to be implemented would be an absolute standard that applies to everyone in terms of education and inheritance. Otherwise income primarily remains dependent on birth into a particular class or income bracket or the luck of the draw in having a skill set that happens to be in high demand.
This could be changed by banning all private education and tutoring, and taxing inheritance at 100%. The latter would have the simultaneous effect of massively increasing yearly taxation and lowering the incentive to hoarding money.
The main incentive to work is money.
Money is largely a means, money as an end in itself is a pathology found in a minority of people. Money is currently a means to respectability, a means of fostering an advantage for one’s offspring, and a necessity to enjoy a reasonable lifestyle, and it is these things, not the means to them, that is the main incentive to work, and the reason most people do work and work fairly hard. Removing the ability of money to foster an advantage for one’s offspring by banning private education and tutoring and removing the ability to inherit money would mean that the only means to foster an advantage would be to spend more time and personal effort with one’s children. Slashing the income gap between the wealthy, the middle income earners and the poor also increases these incentives to work across the board, improves economic demand, increases the stability of the economy and the financial system, and provides a much more viable claim to a meritocracy.
Probably the most unique thing about Java is the wealth of tools, frameworks and libraries available, the majority at low or no cost. The subsequent difficulty for new Java developers is what to learn, what to use, and what to avoid. Although this type of list can degenerate into a religious argument hopefully the reasons for choosing each will be fairly clear and at least thought provoking.
- Eclipse ecosystem: from its beginnings as IBM Workbench, which seemed like no more than a feature short, bloated attempt at replacing Visualage for Java with a tool that didn’t put all your Java directories into a Smalltalk repository, Eclipse has grown into the most comprehensive ecosystem available in any programming language. Whether using it for its wealth of plugins supporting just about every Java server, JDBC accessible database, program messaging system and scripting language; using it for its rich UI toolkit that can provide a flexible UI that will run unchanged on every major platform or even be remoted into a web browser; taking advantage of the speed of incremental in-memory compilation or the variety of code, style and syntax validators, Eclipse answers just about every need a Java developer might have in terms of features, capabilities and overall reliability. The cost of course is its complexity: you can’t learn the whole ecosystem overnight, and configuring it optimally with the right set of plugins for a given project requires a level of expertise in itself. That it’s open source and supported by every major Java vendor completes the picture.
- Java EE 5+: Keeping the capabilities of J2EE but automating the majority of the configuration and replacing the amount of rote code required in J2EE with simple annotations, Java EE 5 and its successor versions provide just about every major standard required for enterprise applications, nicely packaged, and with a choice of implementations of the most used standards, including EJB3, JPA for object-relational persistence, JMS for inter program messaging, JTA for transactions, including support for distributed transactions, and advanced server clustering.
- Apache Synapse / WSO2: from using Synapse as a small library with enterprise service bus capabilities to its full blown server versions put out by WSO2, the combination is the most flexible and reliable ESB solution available. And it’s open source with available support.
- Glassfish 4.0: There are a wealth of Java / Java EE servers available, but Glassfish stands above the rest in being open source, being the reference implementation for Java EE, which means it almost always supports the newest standards first, and the performance and flexibility of its OSGi engine.
- Open Identity Management stack (ForgeRock): taking Sun’s open sourced identity management stack abandoned by Oracle due to Oracle Identity Manager being a direct competitor, OpenAM, OpenDJ and OpenLDAP together provide a rock tight access and security foundation for Java and web applications, with built in integration and normalization of user repositories from various LDAP implementations to Active Directory. The provisioning component is coming along nicely as well, and for performance and scalability even the expensive solutions from Tivoli and Oracle can’t handle the number of users or achieve the performance offered by this stack.
- Netbeans 7.x: Netbeans doesn’t have the wealth of support, features and plugins of Eclipse but it does what it does very well. For those using Maven or Ivy Netbeans also offers the most transparent integration, although the addition of Maven integration to the Eclipse web toolkit project evens that up with Maven at least a fair bit.
- JDeveloper: too specialized to Oracle technologies to win out over Eclipse or Netbeans, JDeveloper is still a very good IDE if those are the technologies (Oracle DB, Oracled’s ADF implementation of JSF, and Toplink in particular) that your organization has settled on.
- Glassfish ESB / OpenMQ: With the best guaranteed once and once only message delivery other than IBM’s very expensive MQ Series / Websphere MQ, but a zero dollar price tag and better flexibility than IBM, Glassfish ESB and OpenMQ together offer a compelling ESB and message queuing solution.
- Apache Service Mix: Similar to Glassfish ESB / OpenMQ, Service Mix offers a vastly scalable, from the very small to the very large, and from the very centralized to the very distributed, system with excellent reliability and the option of using RabbitMQ to support telephony protocols (i.e. non TCP/IP based messaging).
- Apache Geronimo 3: with similar performance and flexibility to Glassfish (and even a similar design with an OSGi based engine), in many cases the choice of Geronimo 3 or Glassfish ¾ comes down to one’s preference for the libraries chosen to be included (and tested) with the server. Glassfish currently edges out Geronimo 3 due to its support for Java EE 7 and the easy to configure embedded version.
- IntelliJ IdeaJ: Idea was once a fairly advanced development environment, but today it falls well behind all the other major IDEs in terms of features, framework support and performance, with the added disadvantage that all the others barring JBuilder are free, while IntelliJ wants to charge for anything but an introductory version.
- Oracle Service Bus: not to be confused with Oracle Enterprise Service Bus, a decent but overly expensive ESB solution, Oracle Service Bus is the old Aqualogic ESB sold by BEA before Oracle bought them out. Aqualogic didn’t work back then and hasn’t changed, and is really nothing more than a toy to get-you-in-the-door and then upsell you to the far more expensive Oracle ESB. Do yourself a favour and use one of the open source ESBs mentioned above, and avoid messing with OSB or paying for OESB.
Tomcat Java Server: abandoned by its developers in favour of a complete rewrite (Glassfish), the original Java server reference implementation is a hopeless anachronism. Yes the base server starts up quickly, which developers like when having to restart a Java server over and over to test code changes, but by the time you add enough libraries to give it a reasonable set of capabilities it becomes much slower to start up, never mind its performance once running, than Glassfish or Geronimo. Tomcat also has more potential race conditions in its code than the Paris-Dakar rally, so anyone using it outside the developers’ machines is just asking for trouble.
Intuitive understanding often has a significant advantage over logical, subjective thinking. This is simply because intuitive understanding involves the whole self, with all its complexity, and is therefore far more capable of understanding similarly complex systems. Attempting to understand a system as complex, for instance, as a country’s economy, with the aid of logic and mathematics is inherently doomed to failure because the I-Subject and its available tools are far too simplistic for that kind of task.
Those who work with complex systems, however, intuitively understand them, generally so well that they know where effective changes can be applied, something that logic, mathematics, and even philosophy fails miserably at. This is the advantage of common sense. The problem is that when a system has a problem, the intuitive solution, while zeroing in on the area where the problem can be solved, can be intuitively right or wrong when it comes to precisely how to affect the system at its leverage points.
In areas where common sense intuitively gets things right, we barely notice the problems, because they’re quickly solved and we move on. The problems we notice are those that recur again and again despite every effort to prevent and/or reverse them. These are precisely the problems where the intuitive solution, although it has zeroed in on the right place where action can be effective, intuitively does the wrong thing in that place. The place where a solution can affect a system without an equivalent push back from another area of the system is correctly identified, but the solution itself is counter-intuitive, and since common sense can only rely on intuition, it intuitively does the wrong thing repeatedly without any idea of why it not only doesn’t solve the problem, it most often exacerbates it.
The economy, as it turns out, is a good example of this issue. While taxation is a lever, it’s a lever with limited influence, because other aspects of the system such as price hikes relative to wages, and profit margins relative to taxation, will generally nullify much of what is done in that area. Governments, economists and simply intelligent individuals intuitively understand where the more effective lever is, in economic growth, predominantly measured by GNP/GDP.
Intuitively, to increase overall wealth, GNP/GDP should be increased. However historically this has consistently worsened poverty, average income differentials, etc. The reason is not all that difficult to understand. Wealth is not the amount that flows in and out of an economy, which is what economic growth indicators measure, but the amount that remains. Increase in the former without increase in the latter will preferentially migrate a constant or even depleting amount of wealth towards those that have money, since economic growth preferentially grows prices and profit margins more than wages. The result is an economic situation that gravitates more and more towards a third world economy. In the U.S. we are already there in terms of how much is owned by a very small percentage of the population and the average income differential. Over the long term this has historically been disastrous for a civilization, since wealth can only be stripped from the already poor to a smaller and smaller degree, and the more that it is stripped, the greater the resentment of the median person, which eventually, and predictably, leads to a refusal to participate that may be peaceful or violent, but in either case destroys the economy itself by taking away its means of maintaining itself.
Countries that have maintained or grown median wealth over a sustained period, such as the Low Countries in Europe and the Scandinavian countries, have simultaneously maintained a low growth rate over a sustained period, as measured by economic indicators. Even in the short term, over the last ten years the growth in economic indicators has been higher in the U.S. than in Canada or Australia, yet the median income in those countries has grown by over 30%, while the median income in the U.S. has dropped by 8%. If we go back historically far enough tribal peoples maintained a median wealth consistently over hundreds, even thousands of years. In times of low economic input wealth would drop, but the kinds of drops in economic input caused by agricultural famines and economic depressions in agricultural and industrial economies have consistently been more devastating.
The difference between countries such as Canada and Australia versus the U.S. has to do not only with absolute growth according to GNP/GDP, but fundamentally the ratio between what flows into the economy versus what flows out. The U.S. has had higher growth primarily in order to create wealth that naturally flows out of the economy, via increased military spending and regressive taxation as the most cogent factors. While increases in the output of the military-industrial complex do increase GNP/GDP, since virtually all of that increase flows out with no equivalent increase flowing in, the natural tendency of high economic flows to increase income disparity is magnified by magnitudes, with regressive taxation only adding to the problem. By contrast, in Canada and Australia the increases are not only lower, but preferentially affect flows in, via increases in harvesting of natural resources, and are not nullified by increased military spending or equivalently regressive taxation, resulting in more retained wealth in the country.
To increase median wealth the end of regressive taxation is necessary but inadequate, since it simply redistributes a constant amount of overall wealth. The more important lever, as we intuitively understand, is to affect economic growth. But we need to push the levers the other way. Economic growth as a goal needs to be replace with a sustainable, maintained economic output, since economic input is largely determined by external causes that are not effectively controllable. Simultaneously the economic output has to be directed toward areas that tend to remain within the economy, such as infrastructure and long term social improvements, and directed away from areas that tend to flow out of the economy, such as spending on the military-industrial complex, movement of productive capability out of the country, and the creation of false wealth through the stock market and the real estate market that inevitably collapse in any case.
This counter-intuitive solution can only be arrived at by beginning with intuitive understanding and thinking on its results well. Since simple logic and mathematics remains inadequate to that task, it is only through the complexity of thinking well, the complexity of philosophy, that solutions to complex systemic problems can be arrived at.
Ecstatic temporality, as Heidegger describes it, is the way in which Dasein opens a World, and as such is itself ontological as a being. Ecstasy itself originated in the phrase “ekhistanai”, which meant “to place, to make stand out”, or to determine. In Ancient Greek it had come to mean being apart from one’s Self. By the seventeenth century in Christian mysticism it had come to mean the erotic rapture experienced in contemplation of the divine.
Heidegger names our founding experience of temporality out of our ability, itself founded in that temporality, to experience ourselves “as if” from outside, from the meaning the term had in Ancient Greek. However this term itself originates in a term that denotes what makes Dasein properly ontological already as a self-aware Self, prior to the creation and self-positing of the I-Subject. This ability, though, is itself founded on the erotic, and as such can simultaneously mean what it did for the later Christian mystics, or for that matter why it came to be slang for a drug that was initially intended to “draw (intimate) couples closer”.
Already in Plato, although the epiphanic experience of sudden knowledge is discussed specifically in terms of philosophical eroticism. The “true” philosophical apprehension of the Ideas is described as being in a sense ‘already dead’. The erotic, as what draws towards, is itself indefinite, anything can be seen as erotic and only through the projections of fantasy is anything in particular seen as erotic. It is precisely in these projections that we project who we are, as a Self, out of ourselves as historical but oriented to what we might become. This stretching constitutes ecstatic temporality. Heidegger’s early notion of Entschlossenheit parallels Plato’s thanatic conceptions, as willful being-towards-death. Its replacement after Ereignis with Gelassenheit as letting-oneself-be-drawn-towards whatever is projected authentically in the particular moment retreats from Plato’s thanatic pre determination of the Self through knowledge of the eternal forms back to the origin of knowing-understanding in epiphanic coming to know what we were erotically drawn towards. Hegel’s placing of the origin of self-awareness in the situation of the Lord / Bondsman is interesting both in terms of the posited situation being a common sexual erotic fantasy, but also because the being-drawn-together of the Lord and Bondsman, as innately erotic, itself goes unquestioned.
In being-drawn-towards what authentically draws our attention and projecting ourselves towards it we give ourselves a constantly changing partial determination. As erotic and open to change it is not an over-determination in the sense of Plato’s thanatic knowledge or Heidegger’s willful being-towards-death. It is a narrative of the self where the end remains unknown, indeterminate. That we are drawn towards, that aspects of reality can be erotic, leads to our continuing to expand our World, to learn, to grow, in spite of the uncanny, unfamiliar nature of being-in-the-world itself.
We project imaginatively, that is, by fantasizing. The notion of fantasy immediately evokes erotic or even specifically sexual fantasy, not due to a simplistic “drive” (we can only experience drive in that something has already captured our attention) but due to the erotic nature of being drawn towards, the erotic nature of having our attention captured.
Fantasy though is simultaneously experienced as narrative. The Self is always a narrated Self. Authenticity of a narrated Self, at the sime time, implies that we are our own authors. Our basic self-awareness is experienced as our own story, out of our personal and shared history, towards what draws us at that moment, a story whose ending is as yet unknown. This fantasy is enacted, actualized as place, prior to the split between spatiality and in-timeness it is what we experience as the ‘age of man’, as an individual and shared Self. The word for this personal and shared ‘age of man’ in Anglo-Saxon is still the only appropriate word – ‘World’.
22.6 Schelling and the Metaphysics of Evil
Schelling’s remarkable attempt to solve the problem of evil in a Christian context deals directly with some of the avenues a solution might be sought that are implicit in the Catholic view, which primarily derives from Aquinas. If Epicurus’ argument can be controverted, it has to be in the way Epicurus’ assumes the being of omnipotence or perfection. At the same time human self-will is still the assumed origin of evil, and one of the guiding assumptions Schelling retains. However in Schelling “will” becomes precisely the name for the being of things in general, not simply human being, or even only animate being.
Since human self-will, for Schelling, differs from Divine will precisely in its ability to intend evil, it is only via this will-to-evil that the pure goodness of God’s will can be known. This comes back, though, to the phrase “God’s pleasure” in Aquinas. How is the demonstration of God’s goodness, if it requires evil in order to differentiate itself from it, not a selfish will? Schelling’s answer is that the ability to intend evil was not itself willed by the living God. Through a complex series of speculations, Schelling is able to posit the origin of the “who” of human being, the will of each human being itself, precisely in God, or more specifically, the ground of God, the dark ground that God Himself cannot know. It is this origin, for Schelling, which gives us our sense that we have always been who we are.
This series of speculations thus leads to the startling conclusion, from the Christian perspective, that the source of human self-will is simultaneously the cause of God coming out of His ground and becoming the living God of creation, and that human Self will, though limited, is free in a sense that God’s will is not.
The question unanswered, though, is how self-will intends evil. Self-will intends various things, for the most part in a pragmatic, coping fashion. Every aspect of the Self, at the same time, is partial. We only partially understand, we are only partially with-others, etc. Going back to the early definitions of evil as something disproportionate, something not of a proper measure, when the Self wills evil what the self wills in a disproportionate way is determination itself. The living God of creation lacks precisely the ability to determine, hence the ability to will evil.
Things are things by being-determined, but in avoiding the uncanniness of the world we are tempted to determine things inappropriately. This inappropriateness can be due to insistently determining something or someone via a preconception, a prejudice that is held onto against experience. It can also occur by holding a partial determination that is not equal to the being as a full determination, creating a reduction in the potential meanings inherent in the being. Finally it can occur by ending a being’s potentials prematurely, thus fully determining something that in itself had further determinations to come. The ontology of evil demonstrates evil to be, essentially, an evil ontology. In over-willing our ability to determine things we will their determination to their end, including our own. This will-to-determine-to-the-end is what is seen, albeit dimly, in Freud’s “death drive”, that is it wills everything to be determined in such a way that it no longer is. It is thanatic ontology, a deathly ontology. Its thanatic nature is exposed via its totalizing quality.
From “Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” “ -
“Hence the final part of Althusser’s argument: How is it that individual subjects are constituted in ideological structures? Or, in other words, how does ideology create a notion of self or subject?
All ideology has the function of constituting concrete individuals as subjects–of enlisting them in any belief system, according to Althusser. That’s the main thing ideology as structure and ideologies as specific belief systems do–get people (subjects) to believe in them. There are three main points that Althusser makes about this process of becoming subjects-in-ideology.
1. We are born into subject-hood–if only because we’re named before we’re born; hence we’re always-already subjects.
2. We are always-already subjects in ideology, in specific ideologies, which we inhabit, and which we recognize only as truth or obviousness. Everybody else’s beliefs are recognizable as ideological, i.e. imaginary/illusory, whereas ours are simply true. Think, for example, about different religious beliefs. Everybody who believes in their religion thinks their religion is true, and everyone else’s is just illusion, or ideology.
3. How does ideology (as structure) get us to become subjects, and hence not to recognize our subject positions within any particular ideological formation? How do we come to believe that our beliefs are simply true, not relative? Althusser answers this on 245b with the notion of INTERPELLATION. Ideology INTERPELLATES individuals as subjects. The word “interpellation” comes from the same root as the word “appellation,” which means a name; it’s not the same as the mathematical idea of “interpolation.” Interpellation is a hailing, according to Althusser. A particular ideology says, in effect, HEY YOU–and we respond ME? You mean me?? And the ideology says, yes, I mean you.
You can see examples of this every day in commercials. I saw one the other night for a home gym system, claiming that “this machine will give you the kind of workout you desire, meeting your needs better than any other home gym.” Each instance of “you” in that ad was an interpellation–the ad seeming to address ME PERSONALLY (in order to get me to see myself as the “you” being addressed, and hence to become a subject within its little ideological structure). This is also what Mr. Rogers does, when he looks sincerely into the camera and says “yes, I mean you.” It also happens in the Uncle Sam recruiting posters which say “I want YOU for the Army.”
Althusser makes some final points about ideology working this way to “hail” us as subjects, so that we think these ideas are individually addressed to us, and hence are true. He says that ideology, as structure, requires not only subject but Subject. In using the capital S, he invokes an idea similar to that of Lacan (whom Althusser studied and wrote about), that there is a small-s subject, the individual person, and a capital S Subject, which is the structural possibility of subjecthood (which individuals fill). The idea of subject and Subject also suggests the duality of being a subject, where one is both the subject OF language/ideology (as in being the subject of a sentence) and subject TO ideology, having to obey its rules/laws, and behave as that ideology dictates.
The interpellated subject in the ideology of the home gym commercial would thus order the gym, behave as if bodybuilding or rigorous exercise was a necessity, something of central importance. The Subject here would be some notion of physical perfection, or body cult, the rules that the subject is subjected to. Althusser uses the example of Christian religious ideology, with God as the ultimate Subject–the center of the system/structure.
On p. 248 Althusser links his ideas about ideology to Lacan directly, noting that the structure of ideology is specular (like Lacan’s Imaginary, like the mirror stage).”