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About that Future Islands Article. Or, how Many Metamodernists can dance on Foucault’s Head.

“Paradoxically, the games of culture are protected against objectification by all the partial objectifications which the actors involved in the game perform on each other: scholarly critics cannot grasp the objective reality of society aesthetes without abandoning their grasp of the true nature of their own activity; and the same is true of their opponents. The same law of mutual lucidity and reflexive blindness governs the antagonism between ‘intellectuals’ and ‘bourgeois’ (or their spokesmen in the field of production). And even when bearing in mind the function which legitimate culture performs in class relations, one is still liable to be led into accepting one or the other of the self-interested representations of culture which ‘intellectuals’ and ‘bourgeois’ endlessly fling at each other.”

— Pierre Bourdieu

— Distinction, A Social Critque of the Judgement of Taste

“The era of the intellectual oracle is behind us.”

— Pierre Nora

— Le Debat



Is it possible that you have not yet heard the word – Postmodernism is dead.

Here’s the proof: “Postmodernism is dead, but its successor has not yet been crowned.”

That’s the opening from, Oscillating Towards the Sublime, by Sarah Helen Binney. It’s a book review in an online publication called, Metamodernism which has over the last ten years or so sought to position itself as the next thing, after the now dead previous thing, called, Postmodernism. It’s one of two articles we took the time to read, with the other being, About that Future Islands Performance.

We discovered this curious corner of the internet universe, because we were watching a video by “Dr. Layman” in which he took the time – so the rest of us don’t have to – to deconstruct the nonsense of someone called, The Armored Skeptic.

The Armored Skeptic is one of a loose affiliation, or cadre, of self described classic liberals, conservatives, and neo-fascists who deny they are regurgitating the greatest dance hall numbers from the fascist hit parade of the 1920s and 30s, and all agree that “Postmodernism” is a conjob cooked up by vile French intellectuals, and assorted effete reprobates determined to subvert the vital essences of the good guys. Layman makes quick work of the Armored Skeptic with some basic erudition, sarcasm and fact based details, which of course are the bane of YouTube reactionaries everywhere.

But, what really matters for our purposes here, is that Layman led us to Metamodernism and Metamodernism led us to a good laugh (at their expense) and this missive.

There’s two – at least – issues here.

First the absurdity of declaring an already baggy suit of a movement, that wasn’t a movement, dead, and secondly that both Binney and Metamod, seem blissfully unaware or blissfully indifferent to the consistent pattern of group A declaring group B, to be dead and buried; passé, and boring, the sort of thing that squares talk about where as the Hep Kats are all hanging at the new Kool space, listening to what’s new or really old, but having been resurrected it’s new again, and you can just fuck off. After all, just recall the scene in A Hard Days Night, where George wanders into the lair of a marketing thug, who demands to know if he is, the next big thing. In other words, this is an old situation and the honorable among us, neither tarnished nor afraid, go down those mean streets, sometimes guitar at the ready and slay the Madison avenue dragons.

Which brings us to how in the Modern(ish), era which we arbitrarily define as beginning with Twain’s Postmodern sleight of hand in the introduction to Huck Finn – where he has Huck say that he, Twain, is mostly honest – in other words, the character speaks to the author as if they were both authentic fictions or inauthentic people – Take your pick; six of one, half a dozen of the other – and ends with the French New Wave, – is defined by the urgency with which people assert the death of this or that movement, and the emergence of this or that new movement and is clearly not only a reflection of capitalism’s planned obsolescence, but is also a reflection of the acute, if not terminal anxiety in the face of the mass culture banality of capitalism.

In other words, Binney, a PhD candidate, needs a job, the tenure track is full, so, in the words of that noted philosopher, Sid Caesar, if you run out of doors to go through, build more doors. But also, having grown bored with “Postmodernism” within the context of how it is used, defined and discussed, by the narrative system of capitalism, Binney & co, have raised another flag – but, and this is crucial, without either being aware or not saying that they know they are using the basic methods of capitalism to declare something obsolete.

One of the hallmarks of this facet of capitalism’s economic thuderdome, is that academics periodically announce that some branch of some discipline, is to be excommunicated, and then they proceed to write lengthy papers, which become dense dissertations, which become books, they make their students read, so they can get papers published in magazines that confirm their previous announcement, that the older tenure hogging other gang, are a bunch of intellectually bankrupt deadbeats no one bothers anymore to read.

It is a circle of life project that repeats itself with the regularity of a bowel movement, and roughly the same amount of wit.

The result is that making statements like, Postmodernism is dead, are nowhere near as bold or even mildly interesting as the adherents believe. In fact it’s really dead (sic) on arrival.

The first thing to draw from that is that the declaration of Postmodernism being dead, is said in an a-historical sense, devoid of any recognition by the author & co, that these things don’t ever die, they just get recycled and not only because they have a kind of innate immortality to them, but because they are reflections of something that is constant – human consciousness.

What goes missing in arguments about things like Postmodernism, is that either one criticizes it as being essentially a deliberate con (thus positioning oneself as a reactionary and a committed cynic), or one critiques it based on the assumption that even if they were wrong, people like Foucault, or Barthes, or Pynchon, were/are operating in good faith and were/are not savants, who stumbled into an aesthetic the same way a drunk stumbles into the furniture.

The counter argument might take the approach that one can grant the premise, but times change, and perceptions change accordingly therefore, for example one does not, hear too many people talk about monads or Kantian certainty. (more on the old time-keeper in a moment).

And that’s true, except of course, if you drill down into Postmodernist writing you’ll find that most if not all of its methodology sounds more or less like the Buddhism with a Brogue of David Hume, and talking about Hume means you’re going to have to talk about Kant (among others), and in fact you’re going to find yourself, if you’re honest, talking about how Plato was responding to Heraclitus, which became Aristotle, which was regurgitated by Hume, who knocked Kant on his uptight ass, which was then absorbed by Hegel, who was misunderstood by Marx, who was bounced off of Merleau-Ponty, who took classes from Alexander Kojeve (and had, among others, as classmates, Andre Breton, Georges Baitaille, and though he denied it, J.P. Sartre) who was friends with Friedrich Hayek, who connects to Harold Bloom, who connects to Francis Fukuyama, who was a student of Francois Furet, who was a conservative French intellectual who didn’t like French lefty intellectuals like Foucault and Sartre, and whose writing was aimed at overturning the then dominant left wing narrative about the revolutions of 1789, and the Enlightenment, which required a new excavation of, among others, Kant.


And so, the truth is, not only do none of these people and their ideas ever “die” but every declaration of “new” is almost guaranteed to be false. In order for an idea or a movement based on an idea, to be “new” it must be in dialogue with that which it declares “old.” The moment it does that the condition of one and the other, is a matter of the economics of the university, the publishing houses, the media, and the politics of the moment. A symbiosis is formed and, even if one were to posit that Metamodernism is a genuine aesthetic, in order to understand it, one would have to understand what it is not, what it is in opposition to, and the context of its emergence. All of which means that, even if Postmodernism is a corpse, then whatever comes after it, has to drag it around like a dead weight, which paradoxically means, it’s not dead, is very much alive and what the Metamods are really saying is – we need jobs. And that of course means that any honest discourse about the subject would include an excavation of its context including but not limited to – sexuality, class, education, historiography, structuralism, post structuralism, and so on.

In other words, everything Postmodernism defined as going into the mix of the meta narrative, about which, per Lyotard, they (the Postmodernists) remain both skeptical and in a borderline, paranoid crouch.

And the reason for that is not only as they say in philosophy departments, that the history of philosophy is more or less a series of footnotes to Plato, but because human consciousness really hasn’t changed much since Plato was scoping young boys around the Agora and trying to figure out how he was going to get away with exiling all the poets. And because, as footnotes to Plato, they are admitting, with a sideways glance, that there is essentially nothing new under the sun.

The truth is, one may, for example, enter through the front door of the logical positivists with say, Bertrand Russell, and exist through the back door with your head buzzing with Hume’s bundles, but when you sit down to listen to Sartre explain why Hume was wrong, you quickly realize he’s essentially regurgitating Parmenides, while insisting he’s being original.

The reason is, aside from professional competition, that consciousness, even taking into account changes in diet and other important issues that may have or certainly did impact the development of the brain, it (consciousness) hasn’t really changed much and defining one’s experience of being aware today, is more or less similar to the attempts to do the same thing, 2,500 years ago

And we note with still more wry amusement that Binney proves the rule rather than the exception, because in order to prove her point about the death of Postmodernism, she reaches back to discuss, Kant’s conception of the sublime.

While it is true, and bares consideration, that there have been some serious changes, a lot of things have pretty much stayed the same.

For example, when Jean Baudrillard wrote: The invention of the railroad was also the invention of the railroad accident, a lot of people said, holy shit, that’s a profound contextualization of how the modern consciousness, tends to create artificial narratives, and insist that they are objective, when in truth they are subjective and arbitrary and that which we define as the object, is in fact also that which we define as its opposite, in that they form a symbiosis and a network of associations.

Other people of course said, he was just full of shit, but we don’t care about that right now, but we do care about how Baudrillard wrote that as if it was an original idea, when in truth, it’s just a variation of Heraclitus writing: The path up the mountain is also the path down the mountain. That which is this is also that which is the other.

Which later became Hume’s Bundle theory, which later became Roland Barthes’ S/Z except Hume didn’t mention Heraclitus, and Barthes didn’t mention Hume.

To add how much things don’t change, it’s worth noting that the responses to Heraclitus were more or less the same as the ones thrown at Baudrillard with some saying Heraclitus was a genius, and others saying he was a crank.

Another example comes to mind, and we want to begin by explaining that we shall turn to it again in a wider excavation of these issues, but present here as a kind of wry rebuttal to the declaration of the demise of Postmodernism.

We draw your attention to another old plumber by the name of Herodotus, who wrote a famous blues number called, The History of the World.

In it he writes, more or less to the best of his abilities, the truth about the world and sort of starts the business we now refer to as Historiography.

In this weighty tome he mentions his voyage to Egypt, where he conversed with the local wise men. They explained a lot of things and he dutifully recorded their words. In turn he asked them what they thought about Homer.

Oh, they said, very nice, very romantic if you like that sort of thing though, they said, there was one problem. What, asked Herodotus, was that?

Well, they said, the thing is, Homer had it all wrong. Helen wasn’t in Troy, she was in Egypt the whole time.

Well needless to say you could have knocked Herodotus over with a papyrus scroll or a feather – whichever was closer to hand – and he said, what do you mean she wasn’t in Troy?

And they said, just what we said – she was here. See after she and Paris blew out of Dodge, a great storm came up and knocked them off course. They ended up here where, his most gracious majesty, surveyed the scene and said: well Paris old sport here’s the deal. I’m not getting into a pissing contest with Agamemnon and his crew, so I’ll keep the babe here while you get back to your pops in Troy. After you settle your business with the Greeks, I’ll return her to Agamemnon.

And as he was on the run, far from home, and seriously outgunned, Paris agreed.

Needless to say when the Greeks got to Troy and the Trojans said, she’s not here, the Greeks didn’t believe them and swore that they could see here.

Now, dear reader you may be wondering how the Greeks could have, per the Egyptians, been so stupid. After all, either she was there or she wasn’t.

The answer has to do with a little something called bicameralism.

This is, in a nutshell (pun intended) the theory promulgated by the late Julian Jaynes, that in antiquity, the hemispheres of the brain did not fully recognize each other and as a result when one side of the brain “spoke” the other “understood” it as an external voice of command. Rather than rehash a lengthy and complex theory here, we refer you to the link below.

And we return to the story at hand in which, “Helen” in Egypt was authentic, and “Helen” in Troy was a bicameral echo. The Egyptian for all their intelligence didn’t know that. They knew something was up but not exactly how so they did their best. The Egyptians were telling Herodotus a story whose true meaning was unknown even to the ones telling it, because for them, as for so many others experiencing bicameralism, what we today define as either absurd, or only myth making, was in fact a genuine attempt to explain a genuine experience. The bicameral Egyptians believed the external voice that told them “Helen” was there and that what the Greeks “saw” was only a ghost. That “ghost” was the vapor trail of a slowly fading evolutionary reality.

This duality appears in multiple places in many stories. Prometheus and his brother representing the two split hemispheres, Pandora having two urns, one for each hemisphere, or Hesiod talking to the muses who invent truths and lies, representing the two sides of consciousness, Ulysses, hearing the Sirens who, are dismissed as an interesting myth but we believe represented the voice of command that was experienced as external, and so on.

But, what truly matters is that to make use of the details, to excavate this story from Herodotus, is to engage in Postmodern discourse; it is to make use of the hijinks of Borges and Pynchon, and narratives that are aware of themselves, as narratives, not only because it’s amusing (to the author) but because it is a system – among many – that allows us to process what we call reality and our experience of it.

Postmodernism is dead, you say?

Tell that to Helen.

Wherever you find her.

Which brings us to the second article at Metamodern.

Future Islands is a Baltimore based band, that has regurgitated 80s Brit synth pop and added something approximating American Blues. Since all modern music contains some approximation of something that sounds like American Blues we will leave that point aside for now.

We focus instead on two things. First how Metamod uses the band and a then recent performance on The Late Show with David Letterman, as a fulcrum on which they claim to prove the new aesthetics of their system.

Central to their argument is that the new Metamod Hep Kat is aware of their use of older styles and tropes but, unlike the dead hand of Postmodernism, they utilize them without ironic detachment and thus, armed with a new found sincerity, they act.

That’s a nice story, and points for trying. Which, we mean, sincerely.

The problems begin with the stubborn fact that attaching the idea of detached irony to Postmodernism is to buy the hype of anti-left, reactionary capitalism, which had to find a way to discredit the anti capitalism and anti-establishment attitudes of the Postmodernists.

Keeping in mind that while of the left, as in, being against the establishment, Foucault & co were for the most part never card carrying Marxists. That is they did not join the party, even if they were in sympathy with those who did.

And the suggestion that they were awash in a kind of tepid do nothing nihilism, defined as, “detached irony,” is not only betrayed by the record of their involvement in the events of May 1968, but other events in which they took direct action, but also is betrayed by the reactionary response that sought to seize control of the narrative.

The vapor trail of that can be found today in the mutterings of Jordan Peterson and other YouTube goons, and assorted right wing hobgoblins, who know nothing about Postmodernism, and denounce it in a kind of bible thumping manner that reminds one of Brownshirts saying, when I hear the word culture, I reach for my gun.

The truth is that the Metamods are aping capitalist rhetoric while claiming to be in the vanguard of a new anti-capitalist movement. Their motivation (though they would deny it) is that they need jobs and their method, ironically, is proof of the on going accuracy of Foucault’s Postmodern aesthetic, that holds these cultural moments to be examples not of objective assertions of facts, but subjective assertions of assorted provisional fictions, contextualized by dynamics of power. Thus: X has a job. Y needs a job so Y declares X dead. Give me a research grant and put me on the tenure track, you bourgeois punks.

In the case of Metamods spin on Future Islands they end up being right, but for all the wrong reasons, except where they are just flat out wrong.

They correctly define the band’s similarity to a host of other bands, and that the bands lead singer, who looks like a slightly zaftig Burt Reynolds imitating a not yet porcine Marlon Brando, is a bag of gestures, each of which seems almost sincere but, while not really only schtick, are not quite authentic. But – and this is crucial for the Metamodern sales pitch – he knows he’s imitating everyone else but, he’s being sincere about it therefore get off of his back and enjoy the show.

All well and good except that in addition to the problematic issues outlined above, what goes missing in the Metamod narrative is the banal truth about the band.

Allow us to explain.

The band is not from Baltimore but is from the deeper South, and moved to Baltimore because Rolling Stone declared some years ago that Athens, Georgia was dead (sic!) and the new absolute center of new music in America, was Baltimore.

This of course was an attempt to ride the coattails of the stealth reactionary narrative of stealth reactionary David Simon’s efforts to turn Black Americans into a fetish for White hipsters. And that was of course because, The Wire which, in a decadent manner typical of capitalist realism, had, ironically made Baltimore popular, was then a popular show.

And secondly it was a way for the increasingly on financial life support Rolling Stone to declare itself arbiter of a new stomping ground similar to, say, an unemployed or under employed academic declaring that Postmodernism is dead.

But while it is certainty not illegal for a hungry band to move to Baltimore what Metamod leaves out is that Future Islands is a gimmick disguised as a band, pretending that its not only hip to its own jive, but that it is doing the gimmick with sincerity, so get the fuck off their back and enjoy the show.

Except that it’s not sincere and what is sincere is the same old same old attempt at a conjob, within the wider conjob that is America’s socioeconomic thuderdome. That is, genuine imitation leather.

Future Islands is a product that has no sincerity, and sounds more or less like a hundred other bands and when we watched their lead singer roll into clubs in the “Art district” of Baltimore, they were entering a world that was a combination of Weimar whore house and wax museum, without the charm and dominated by a vibe that was a retread of every other moment where insecure people, haunted by economic insecurity, suffering through a seemingly never ending case of the existential jitters and shakes, broke off into loose cadres dedicated to a Manichean sense of survival, punctuated by coded references to increasingly obscure pop culture talking points as if to say, not, I am holier than thou but, I am kooler than thou.

There was absolutely nothing about the band that said, we feel your pain, we’re like you only with talent, no sense of solidarity, or even the rocket fueled selfishness of a great artist on a trajectory towards fame, sacrifice, and self immolation. In other words neither The Doors nor James Brown; not Springsteen, or Kendrick Lamar.

What they were, was a musical Bud Light being sold as a fine Bordeaux.

Speaking of his critics, who defined him in his Brave New World era, as a sad failure, Huxley responded that, amid the ruins of the world in 1945, if he was an example of the sad failure of the intellectual class, then, he assumed, that made his critics hilarious examples of success.

Metamodernism strikes us, as hilarious.



For a look at our previous look at Julian Jaynes:

For a look at Metamodernism:

For a look at Binney:

And lastly, we draw your attention to our previous piece, Hamlet on Broadway, where we discuss the intrinsic longevity of ideas expressed through art and to which we add, that like them or hate them, “Postmodernists” like Foucault, or Baudrillard, or assorted anti-Postmodernists, endure.

Regarding Bourdieu, it’s worth considering this passage, which we quote at length, from his seminal work, Distinction:

“Up to now the sociology of the production and producers of culture has never escaped from the play of opposing images, in which ‘right-wing intellectuals’ and ‘left-wing intellectuals’ (as the current taxonomy puts it) subject their opponents and their strategies to an objectivist reduction which vested interests make that much easier. The objectification is always bound to remain partial, and therefore false, so long as it fails to include the point of view from which it speaks and so fails to construct the game as a whole. Only at the level of the field of positions is it possible to grasp both the generic interests associated with the fact of taking part in the game and the specific interests attached to the different positions, and, through this, the form and content of the self-positionings through which these interests are expressed. Despite the aura of objectivity they like to assume, neither the ‘sociology of the intellectuals’, which is traditionally the business of ‘right-wing intellectuals’, nor the critique of ‘right-wing thought’, the traditional speciality of ‘left-wing intellectuals’, is anything more than a series of symbolic aggressions which take on additional force when they dress themselves up in the impeccable neutrality of science. They tacitly agree in leaving hidden what is essential, namely the structure of objective positions which is the source, inter alia, of the view which the occupants of each position can have of the occupants of the other positions and which determines the specific form and force of each group’s propensity to present and receive a group’s partial truth as if it were a full account of the objective relations between the groups. ”

This offers a glimpse into the symbiosis of which some segments of different cadres are aware, and the extent to which they are dependent upon each other.


16 comments on “About that Future Islands Article. Or, how Many Metamodernists can dance on Foucault’s Head.

  1. That was a doozy. I wonder why this is a view so rarely heard. Maybe it’s because there is no consciousness without unconsciousness. Sort of like the morbid dualism of dragging around the corpse of what is denied. Dissociation is baked in.

    A possible explanation is memetics. The lack of originality is because the thinker isn’t the source of thought. For it is the thinker who is thought by the thought. That is to say ideas have a life of their own and they don’t care about who claims credit. I’ll resist the temptation of throwing in biomimetics via diet, microbes, etc. For purposes here, it is unnecessary to know what creates the conditions for a particular set of thoughts to think themselves. We only need to observe and describe the phenomenon itself.

    But I will note that there is a reason we speak of footnotes of Plato, i.e., footnotes of the literate consciousness of Plato. Not footnotes of Socrates and the Presocratics, much less the footnotes of Homer or Hammurabi. From Socrates to Plato, something finally died within Greek oral culture. Then again, did it really die? Not really, as the bicameral lives on in unacknowledged form, not to be found in any philosophical footnotes of the Western canon. That would be the life force driving the thought thinking itself.

    We no longer hear voices. That is because we’ve come to claim them as our own. Their origins, however, precede us. Following ancient ruts, the mind has been set on repeat for millennia. Yet to consciousness, obsessed with originality, a thought is a thing to be possessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. rauldukeblog says:

      A doozy indeed. Regarding the thinker is the thought: Godard says: At the cinema we do no think, we are thought. Not sure how different if at all that is in French but it strikes me as on point vis your comment.

      The dualism and the corpse. It something baked in and very old. Reading Baudrillard and realizing he is paraphrasing Heraclitus and not acknowledging it was hilarious and stunning. But there’s also social pressure – hard to get a tenured gig if you say you’re paraphrasing someone else. But that speaks to defects in the system which may in turn be a reflection of what’s hardwired into consciousness?

      the corpse/dead weight/still alive paradox. Hard to be a “Metamodernist” w/o dragging Micky Foucault and those French rascals around with you.

      The mimetics issue is fascinating. It makes me think of T Gondi and the symbiosis between cats and rats. What if (assuming some ergot/Jaynesian dynamic) “thought” is a symbiont using the hominid? Maybe it doesn’t matter even if it is true but it may be that were closer to Jaynes’ Homeric bicameral consciousness than we think ?

      However I agree there is clearly a break that occurs around the period from the Pre Socratics to Plato.

      In rereading Plato his antagonism (a great of which is voiced through “Socrates”) towards the rhapsodes/poets is much easier to understand if you start with a Jaynesian premise and that Plato is indicative of a moment where the emergent consciousness (half way between bicameral and fully post bicameral) comes into the picture; asserts itself and finds bicameral consciousness both moral and aesthetically repugnant.

      At the same time, as you say, it didn’t “die” and it may be that it can’t.

      hmm, as I type this I’m reminded of an old original Star Trek where they encounter “Jack the Ripper” except it is an alien that feeds on fear and keeps assuming new shapes “moving out into space as humans did like rats moving across the Earth” – says Spock or something like that. Pop culture issues aside one finds cultural trinkets and artifacts that even unintentionally reflect deeper truths. As you put it: “For purposes here, it is unnecessary to know what creates the conditions for a particular set of thoughts to think themselves. We only need to observe and describe the phenomenon itself.”

      In regards to the issue at hand, two dynamics seem to be reflecting each other. the social system that pushes “originality” as a condition of employment and status. And the mechanism of thought which pushes itself as a condition of employment and status.

      The result is that as one would expect they form a mirror or two hemispheres that hear each other as external voices but seeks to possess them to prove that the thinker exists.


      1. What I liked about this post is how you gave a sense of the flows and eddies of thought. How individual thinkers get caught up the in the current of influences, from one mind to the next and sometimes circling back around. Each great thinker splashes about in a separate tidal pool as the tide comes in and goes back out, drenching them all in the same ocean water.

        “But there’s also social pressure – hard to get a tenured gig if you say you’re paraphrasing someone else. But that speaks to defects in the system which may in turn be a reflection of what’s hardwired into consciousness?”

        The system and consciousness, I’d argue, is of the same cloth. The influences slip under the egoic defenses. I’d give the great philosophers credit in most often genuinely not knowing what they inherited, no more than a cat owner knows he what is squiggling in his brain.

        “In rereading Plato his antagonism (a great of which is voiced through “Socrates”) towards the rhapsodes/poets…”

        There is the antagonism. And there is something else as well.

        Socrates also acts as a placeholder of the not quite yet literate consciousness — Socrates listening to his muse, discussing divine inspiration with Phaedrus, expressing respect and worrying about blasphemy as his muse chastises him. The bicameral mind is intimately real to Socrates, even as it is being demoted and cordoned off.

        But Plato, in writing about Socrates, adds another layer to hold the bicameral mind at an even further distance. Socrates, the critic of literary consciousness, is made into a Platonic figure of literary consciousness. The bicameral mind is then fully contained, remaining only as a historical trace to the literate mind. Socrates’ muse, once a living voice, is made into a dead word.

        Plato acts is a taxidermist of the bicameral mind. Socrates and his muse are made safe. The vital conflict within Socrates is made impotent. Now it all can be used as material for footnotes.

        BTW I meant to say biomemetics, not biomimetics. But both are interesting terms. I was thinking about the biomeme hypothesis because it was brought up in an article. The author does mention the cat parasite, in quoting a paper about the hypothesis:

        “It seems that something like Toxoplasma gondii would be a good preliminary candidate for the role of our hypothetical microbe that promotes religious behavior as it is prevalent and widespread (as religious practices are) and its infection is associated with some behavioral traits and it is capable of latently residing in the human brain. Coincidentally, the sacred status of cats, definitive hosts of Toxoplasma gondii was part of the ancient Egyptian religious tradition for centuries. To our knowledge, no research on the association between toxoplasmosis or similar infections and religiosity has been performed, thus such an association could have been overlooked”

        And it just now occurs to me that, though dogs had been human companions going far back, cats only became part of human culture with agriculture… toxoplasma gondii plus ergot plus exorphins. Others have observed that the domestication of cats didn’t seem to serve a practical purpose, as there are plenty of other animals that are better at catching pests — so maybe there was another purpose for keeping them around.

        There is another article sort of interest where biomemetics and biomimetics are brought up:

        Liked by 1 person

      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Glad it worked. I think deep reading in literature makes it obvious. the idea that they are distinct “disciplines” prevents people generally from seeing the flow and the extent to which there is that emersion. The result is one can see “Camus” or “Hume” as characters as well as real people.

        I agree the system and the thought that thinks the thinker are one and the same. Dancer and dance.

        I think your sense of Plato’s taxidermy with Socrates is first rate. Plato does of course kill Socrates but in a sense it is his way of exiling the poets and bicameralism even if he didn’t know that’s what it was he was trying to finish.

        The info on t gondii is fascinating. It makes me think that there was a cluster of things that resulted in consciousness and the back and forth from bicameral to what I call emergent and than post bicameral may be down to the unsteady nature of diet both in terms of content and amounts. Food supplies must have been tenuous with a lot being dependent on a good harvest and having a good harvest several years in a row could have had a profound impact on the evolution of the brain or maladaption or both.

        That’s an eye opener about the cats. It make sense. The Egyptian cult suddenly makes even more sense.

        Thanks for the links. I have a stack of books next to me making me feel guilty but I started reading a book on line (Pierre Boudrieu’s Distinction A social Critique of the History of Taste) so I’ll double back and dive in.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I mentioned a book I was looking at. There is much of interest in it, specifically discussion of rhetoric and repetition. It is helping me with a post I’m writing, a doozy of a doozy. But for your purposes, I came across a passage about the radicalism of the telescope. It literally and imaginatively allowed people to see the world with new eyes. And so allowed them to think of humanity in new ways.

    As a tangent, this could be related to larger issues of health. I’ll bring in two related examples about human sight and the starry sky.

    Back in the 1990s, there was an earthquake that hit the West Coast. Los Angeles lost power and the entire city went dark, maybe for the first time since electric lights were installed. The emergency service became clogged up with people calling in not about accidents but about the strange lights in the sky that worried them. It took a while to sort it all out. Authorities finally figured out that these city-dwellers were seeing the fully starry sky for the first time in their lives and it was so awe-inspiring that it scared them.

    We laugh at those idiots who didn’t know what stars looked like. But our individual and collective sight has been growing dim for centuries and probably for millennia. There was an incident maybe in the 1800s or 1700s. Someone with their Western scientific mindset had brought a telescope to a remote area in Africa, Australia, or somewhere like that. They had a native guide with them. The telescope was to watch a distant star being eclipsed, a star that no Westerner could see with a naked eye. The native guy, though, simply looked up and told the Westerner exactly when the eclipse began. It is partly our inferior diet, having begun with agriculture, that has caused decreased physical development in all aspects, eyesight included.

    Consider then what the telescope meant. Westerners and other civilized people suddenly could see stars that no one in their society had seen in not just living memory but historical memory. Yet these stars remained everyday experience to natives around the world. The Westerner looking through a telescope was able to look past his own dim vision, no different than the lights going out in Las Angeles to reveal the heavens. Agriculture, like industrialization, shrank down our worldview as all of our bodily senses became dull. The shock of the telescope was truly radical, in both senses of the word — radical in challenging the self-enclosed worldview that dominated but also radical in bringing Westerners back to the roots of human experience in the world.

    Here is the passage:

    Darwin’s Pharmacy
    by Richard M. Doyle
    pp. 74-75

    Psychologist Stanislav Grof recalls that early researchers thought of LSD as a tool analogous to other visualization devices in science:

    “In view of these observations, it did not seem far-fetched to see LSD as a tool comparable to a microscope or telescope. Like these devices, LSD made it possible to observe and study processes that were normally not part of our everyday experience.” (125)

    Recall, with philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend, that observers greeted the arrival of telescopes with anything but consensus. While telescopic observation as practiced by Galileo would seem to offer nearly demonstrative proof of the location and movements of the planets and their moons, his contemporaries appear to have been anything but convinced. In terrestrial use, the telescope, guided by a feedback loop with naked-eye observation, was duly trusted, but once the lenses were turned to the cosmos, a rhetorical crisis ensued:

    “Trouble promptly arose: the telescope produced spurious and contradictory phenomena and some of its results could be refuted by a simply look with the unaided eye. Only a new theory of telescopic vision could bring order into the chaos.…Such a theory was developed by Kepler, first in 1604 and again in 1611.” (Feyerabend, 99)

    Feyerabend cites Geymonat arguing that it was only by being Corpernican that Galileo was able to view the telescopic observations as reliable.

    “Galileo had believed for years in the truth of Copernican theory. In Galileo’s own mind faith in the reliability of the telescope and recognition of its importance were not two separate acts, rather, they were two aspects of the same process.” (Ibid., 104)

    This reversal of the role of observation—here observation is guided by, meshed with, premises, rather than the other way around—nicely foregrounds the role of a highly interactive observer, and it reminds us that some technoscientific observations require a new form of subjectivity—a de-centered one at that—to make the best use of a new instrument.

    Our technoscientific investigations constantly browse through ideas that are far from perceptual “equilibrium,” and they seem to yield insights that are not psychologically understandable by a contemporary subject formation—the way of being of a self enabled and or permitted by the infrastructure and institutions of any given historical moment. Galileo first imagines a heliocentric cosmos, dethroning human experience from its central role in nature, and then invests the telescope with the capacity to visualize a Copernican cosmos, despite the many difficulties associated with early telescopic perception.

    Even concepts can require forms of subjectivity capable of affirming them before they can be validated. Evolutionary insights, for example, appear to provoke cognitive dissonance in subjects attached to notions of a static human identity. This has led evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller to propose a new requirement for evolutionary theory—that it satisfy the human “hunger for self-explanation”

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    1. We’ve discussed how psychedelics are the opposite of addictive drugs, even to the point of being directly anti-addictive. Not only are psychedelics not addicting but they are known to break addiction to other drugs and to reset addictive behavior in general. Part of addiction, as Johann Hari argues, is that it isolates and disconnects people. It limits one’s experience of self and other. Psychedelics do the opposite, expand outward.

      This is demonstrated in visceral ways, such as sensory enhancement that is probably caused by the shutting down of normal perceptual filters. While tripping, people see, hear, taste, smell, and touch more intensely. They notice details and patterns they previously overlooked. It can feel like a sensory overload. Some argue that this had an evolutionary advantage for hunter-gatherers. But opening the senses in this way wouldn’t be optimal for societies built on control.

      Hunter-gatherers have long been known to have powerful capacity for perception. A great example is that of the tracking abilities of Australian Aborigines, in their ability to detect the smallest of signs while running in pursuit. Considering we know that psychedelic use was much more common among certain hunter-gatherers, this sensory enhancement probably was the result of more than a mere healthy diet.

      “Acuity enhancement is a heightening of the clearness and clarity of vision. This results in the visual details of the external environment becoming sharpened to the point where the edges of objects become perceived as extremely focused, clear, and defined. The experience of acuity enhancement can be likened to bringing a camera or projector lens that was slightly blurry into focus. At its highest level, a person may experience the ability to observe and comprehend their entire visual field simultaneously, including their peripheral vision. This is in contrast to the default sober state where a person is only able to perceive the small area of central vision in detail.[1]

      “While under the influence of this effect, it is common for people to suddenly notice patterns and details in the environment they may have never previously noticed or appreciated. For example, the complexity and perceived beauty of the visual input often become apparent when looking at sceneries, nature, and everyday textures.

      “Acuity enhancement is often accompanied by other coinciding effects such as color enhancement and pattern recognition enhancement.[2][3] It is most commonly induced under the influence of mild dosages of psychedelic compounds, such as LSD, psilocybin, and mescaline. However, it can also occur to a lesser extent under the influence of certain stimulants and dissociatives such as MDMA or 3-MeO-PCP.”

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      1. rauldukeblog says:

        It makes sense. The number of extant records documenting “LSD” cults in antiquity speaks to a vastly different sense of “reality” and that of course is echoing the nomadic cultures that came before. Have you read the Yage Letters? I may have mentioned them? Burroughs and Ginsberg’s accounts of going to S. America in search of a specific hallucinogen. The descriptions are fascinating and on point for what you’re describing – the sense of creating connection vs the effect of isolation in addiction.

        J. Hopkins did a study a few years ago about the benefits of mushrooms and specifically how it worked as an effective treatment for “depression.” But we’re a long wat from treatments involving these sorts of drugs – big pharm can’t patent shrooms so they have to be classified as “evil” or schedule one or whatever designation turns them into a crime.

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      2. “The number of extant records documenting “LSD” cults in antiquity speaks to a vastly different sense of “reality” and that of course is echoing the nomadic cultures that came before.”

        From my dietary/lifestyle perspective, I’m beginning to think of bicameral societies as a transitional social order. I’m specifically thinking of the the city states from the early Bronze Age.

        As bicameral humans were farming at a smaller scale and with little margin of error, they were still heavily relying on a fair amount of hunting and gathering. This required them to maintain aspects of the hunter-gatherer mindset, which could be argued why psychedelics remained a key component. They weren’t accidentally eating ergot in their bread or whatever but were intentionally ingesting it as part of organized rituals.

        They hadn’t yet fully embraced urbanization and so lived in a world that still had much wilderness. The ancient Egyptians, for example, built their amazing pyramids all the while lacking the most basic infrastructure of roads and bridges. The average ancient Egyptian was living a rural lifestyle and during the agricultural off-season they got together to build mammoth stone structures.

        “Have you read the Yage Letters?”

        I haven’t. But I should. And I eventually will.


      3. rauldukeblog says:

        I agree. I break them down into three rough/approximate groups.

        Fully bicameral. Emergent or transitional moving back and forth between fully bicameral and post bicameral. and the third would be post bicameral.

        I think you can see this in the extant literature. I’ve been rethinking the story of Ulysses and the Sirens. I was reading Adorno and Horkheimer and was struck by the turgidity of the style and that their doctrinaire “Marxist” reading was too narrow.

        they have a length section on the Sirens and what struck me was that the ancient Greek anxiety about being led astray by the voices might have been a reflection of a growing evolutionary transition from wholly bicameral to post.

        That’s why Ulysses wants to experience the Sirens but not to be led astray by them.

        There are echoes of that dynamic in other stories going all the way back to Hesiod who is quoted by “Homer” in regards to the ability of the Muses to tell lies and truth – a duality that suggests the duality of the hemispheres. Hesiod and “Homer” were approximate contemporaries but The Odyssey is fragments recorded over time so the details of Ulysses encounter with the Sirens could be a later addition to the earlier text.

        You can probably find the Yage letters on line?

        Liked by 1 person

    2. rauldukeblog says:

      At a distance of 400 or so years it’s hard for people to grasp the impact that telescopes and microscopes had. Even the advent of the home computer is not the same because we were already accustomed to the idea of the computer and the “future” as filtered through sci fi.

      The impact of the new better lenses was a profound historical event. And you’re right what also goes missing is the sense of resistance and skepticism about what was suddenly visible.

      The “hunger for self-explanation” is a striking concept. the pressing need to stop being the dog chasing its tail? Echoes of bicameralism? And the cognitive dissonance at the social level can be seen in the fierce reactions to anyone suggesting the personality is fluid. Hume is not on the public radar the way Foucault is to the YouTube reactionaries but they can’t stand the idea that they are not “masters of their domain.”

      Your comments about Galileo make me think that the people who were most rattled by his ideas must have truly thought he was trafficking in magic because there could be no other explanation for what he was doing or claiming. Which of course is a striking type of irony – that the connotation of “blasphemy” in his case is that it is kind of magic. So the militantly magical thinkers accuse the empiricist of being a trickster.

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      1. “And you’re right what also goes missing is the sense of resistance and skepticism about what was suddenly visible.”

        But I was also thinking about how more and more of the sky became invisible over time, replaced by abstract notions of heaven. As smog and light pollution obscured the night sky over Los Angeles, a theological haze and agricultural dimming kept pre-telescope Westerners from really seeing the stars for what they were. It was both loss of sensory acuity and sense of connection toward the larger more-than-human world. And this began way back.

        Even an illiterate voice-hearer like Socrates could argue that all he needed to know could be learned from other people within his beloved city, a rather small city at that. The appreciation for nature was already less compelling all those millennia ago. I’m willing to bet that those like the Greeks were also experiencing falling levels of health as they became urbanized, and so the related dulling of the senses. The world became less vivid, maybe also partly because of how the psychedelic Eleusinian mysteries became less central to Greek life.

        Socrates was not all that different than the early American Puritans in their protected villages, their little islands of civilization at the edge of the demonic wilderness. They looked inward for their identity and the only time their gaze turned outward it was with fear. Unlike the hunter-gatherer, they did not feel at home in the larger world. They quite literally could not see the world through native eyes. And that promotes fear for there is nothing more disturbing than being unable to clearly sense the world around us.

        Hunter-gatherers didn’t have this kind of fear. Going back to the Piraha as an example, more than anything else, what has stuck with me is their lack of anxiety and depression. They live in one of the most dangerous ecosystems in the world and yet don’t express any obvious signs of worry about death. That is because they know the world around them and can sense potential threats from far off and threats hidden nearby.

        Daniel Everett was walking through water with the Piraha and one man suddenly pulled him back explaining that he had almost stepped on a caiman. He simply didn’t see it. The caiman was apparently of no great concern, as long it wasn’t stepped on. But Everett with his crappy Western eyesight couldn’t detect what was obvious to the keen vision of the Piraha. And so Everett was walking around partly blind, a distressing situation.

        That is similar to how indigenous people can know the location of every predator in a large area, simply by listening to the sounds of animals who will alert to their presence. They don’t have to be afraid of the predator since they know exactly where it is and, if they consider it a danger, all they have to do is to make sure they aren’t in the same place as it. Their sensory awareness is so capable that the world is familiar, not fearful.


      2. rauldukeblog says:

        Two things come to mind. the first is I’m reminded of H.D. Thoreau’s reverence for nature which puts me in mind of assorted “Romantics.” Wordsworth and Co used to go on extraordinary “walk-abouts” in order to encounter the sublime.

        The second thought is that there clearly has been a trade-off in terms of physical attributes as technology has created a new set of realities. One does not need great eyesight because the technology saves the effort. There’s a cartoon somewhere about the “decent of man” ending with him as an appendage to a car or it might be from one of those dreaded Postmodern novels (I think by the very PoMo Juan Goytisolo – a Spanish expat known for his very complex narratives). Regardless it’s an issue – this sense of being transformed by the connection to the natural order being cut. That puts me in mind of the film about Farley Mowat – Never Cry Woolf. Good book and good film as I recall.

        There’s definitely an issue there – that cut that goes back to the rise of the cities. I concluded some time ago that there’s an anti technology quality to the Old Testament; almost a Unabomber Manifesto quality full of denunciations for the evil sinful cities vs the purity of nature.

        The anti urbanites of the OT viewed their relation to “god” and nature as one of being subject to whims, thus, god shows up whenever and wherever as a burning bush or a voice in the whirlwind vs the city based cults which viewed “god” as a time and place that could be controlled by rituals which summoned god to the individual.

        That’s a split that goes back to antiquity.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Butter Balls says:

    Hard to take someone seriously who accuses all those who disagree with them or post-modernism in general to be fascists and/or reactionary hobgoblins. And Jordan Peterson isn’t the only one who’s less than enthusiastic about post-modernism. Noam Chomsky isn’t too impressed either. In general hard to be very impressed by the likes of Foucault and Derrida (or Sartre and de Beauvoir for that matter) when they signed a petition to legalise paedophilia in the 70s. Yes, arguments should be judged on their own merits but Jesus, it doesn’t exactly make you rush to check out their ideas knowing that.


    1. rauldukeblog says:

      Not everyone who disagrees with PM is a reactionary fascist/hobgoblin but Jordan Peterson is all three and Chomsky is a senile hack on the payroll of the regime.

      As to the rest your comment betrays the typical atrophied intelligence one expects.

      Thomas Jefferson enjoyed fucking his slaves.

      Does that mean you wont exactly rush to check out his ideas? Or do you believe slavery is less offensive than pedophilia?

      FDR’s family fortune was built on selling opium to the Chinese.

      Does that mean you wont rush to check his ideas. Or is drug dealing less offsensive than pedophilia?

      Thanks for getting touch.

      We always enjoy hearing from people who remind us that Mark Twain was right when he said: It’s better to remain silent and leave people unsure if you’re an idiot than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

      Liked by 1 person

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