amor mundi

Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Syllabus for My "What Is Compelling? Argument, Reconciliation, Obligation" Summer Intensive at Berkeley

Rhetoric 10: The Rhetoric of Argument 
"What Is Compelling? Argument, Reconciliation, Obligation"

Summer 2015, Session A, 10-12.30pm., Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 88 Dwinelle

Instructor, Dale Carrico: dcarrico@sfai.edy;

Participation/Attendance/In-Class Activities, 20%; Reading Notebook, 20%; Precis, 2-3pp., 10%; Mid-Term Exam, 25%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 25%. (Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies)

A Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One
May 27 Course Introduction
SKILL SET: Rhetoric as occasional, interested, figurative; The literal as conventional, the figurative as deviant. Definitions: Rhetoric is the facilitation of efficacious discourse and the inquiry into the terms on the basis of which discourse comes to seem efficacious or not.
An argument is a claim supported by reasons and/or evidence.
May 29 Immanuel Kant, Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose
SKILL SET: Reading Critically/Writing Critically; Audience/Intentions; Ethos, Pathos, Logos; Writing A Precis

Week Two
June 1 Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
SKILL SET: Four Habits of Argumentative Writing: 1. Formulate a Strong Thesis, 2. Define Your Terms, 3, Substantiate/Contextualize, 4, Anticipate Objections; Audience/Intentions; Performativity
June 3 Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail
SKILL SET: Audiences: Sympathetic, Unsympathetic, Apathetic; Intentions: Interrogation, Conviction, Persuasion, Reconciliatio; Rogerian Rhetoric; Writing A Precis
June 5 Dorothy Day Catholic Worker "On Pilgrimage," June 1966
Randal Amster, Anarchism and Nonviolence: Time for a "Complementarity of Tactics"
Arundhati Roy, War Is Peace
Mike Davis, Slum Ecology
Chris Hedges, Evidence of Things Not Seen
Precis should be posted to the blog by six pm, Thursday, June 4 

Week Three
June 8 William May, "Rising to the Occasion of Our Death"
SKILL SET: The Toulmin Schema
June 10 Workshopping
SKILL SET: Propositional Analysis; Enthymemes, Syllogisms, Formal Fallacies, Informal Fallacies
June 12 Nietzsche, On Truth and the Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense; Workshopping
SKILL SET: Literal/Figurative Language; Figures, Tropes, Schemes; Four Master Tropes

Week Four
June 15 Mid-Term Examination
June 17 Screening and Discussion of the Film, "A History of Violence," dir. Cronenberg
June 19 Tom Beasley, The American Atheist, Atheism and Violence;
Edward Oakes, First Things, Atheism and Violence;
Rabia Terri Harris, Fellowship of Reconciliation, On Islamic Nonviolence
Jeremiah Bowden, Jihad and the Qur'an: The Case for a Non-Violent Interpretation

Week Five
June 22 Frantz Fanon, Concerning Violence from The Wretched of the Earth
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations
Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute, From Ferguson to Baltimore: The Fruits of Government Sponsored Segregation
June 24 Hannah Arendt, Reflections On Violence and "Must Eichmann Hang?"
June 26 Workshopping Final Paper: Producing a Strong Thesis; Anticipating Objections; Providing Textual Support

Week Six
June 29 Octavia Butler, Kindred
July 1 Concluding Remarks: Judith Butler, from Undoing Gender and Precarious Life
Final Paper Due

Taker or Maker?

The fool calls "Makers" the ones on the make.
The cruel call "Takers" the ones who get took.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Syllabus for My "Patriarchal Philosophistry" Summer Intensive at Berkeley

Rhet 103A: Approaches and Paradigms in the History of Rhetorical Theory:
Patriarchal Philosophistry

Course Description

Rhetoric was conceived in antiquity as the art of speaking well. But the act of speaking in public was always also a doing of deeds, and even well done it could do you in -- whether one was declaiming in the assemblies and courts of the radical (and radically exclusive) democracies and anti-democracies of the Greek city-states, or drawing up ideal Republics in dreamy discourses among scholars, or engaging in the rough and tumble of state-craft and electioneering in the all too real and corrupt Republic of Rome, or circulating satires among sardonic snickers in the shadow of Emperors. In Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian engagements with and through rhetoric delineated critical, deliberative, civic, pedagogical visions of human agencies fraught with inhumanity.

The societies of Greek, Roman, and Christian antiquity were conspicuously patriarchal, they were societies in which Homeric heroes made history and conquered death with great words and deeds in an aspirational fantasy of masculine agency; they were horrific rape cultures in which women were conceived as beasts, slaves and dutiful wives, a patriarchy finding perhaps its quintessential expression in the Roman paterfamilias, the authoritarian male head of the household who held the power of life and death over his children, female relatives, and household slaves. But in philosophy and in poetry, in Greek tragedies and in Roman comedies we find glimpses of a considerably richer and more complicated world of gendered relations, erotic imaginations, and human possibilities, we encounter profound anxieties, ambivalences, and resistances to patriarchal practices and prejudices.

Although we will be reading texts in which philosophy declares its opposition to rhetoric's opportunism and deceit, we will read them as rhetorical skirmishes in the politics of truth-telling. Although we will read discourses on civic deliberation, we will read them as anxious testaments to ubiquitous corruption and violence. Although we will be reading orations aspiring to a world of Heroes and of Men, we will read them as brutal reflections on a world in which many were not heroes and many were not men. We will be reading works by Aristophanes, Aristotle, Augustine, Marcus and Quintus Cicero, Euripides, Gorgias, Homer, Juvenal, Libanus, Petronius, Plato, Quintilian, Sappho, Seneca, Suetonius, Terence, and Thucydides. All of the readings will be available either online or in a course reader.

Rhet 103A: Patriarchal Convention and Conviction in Classical Antiquity
Summer 2015

Instructor: Dale Carrico,,
Course Blog:
Session A, May 26-July 2, 2015, TWR 4-6.30pm, 160 Dwinelle

Participation/Attendance/In-Class Activities, 10%; Reading Notebook, 30%; Precis 1, 2-3pp., 15%; Precis 2, 2-3pp., 15%; Final Paper, 5-6pp., 30%. (Rough Basis for Final Grade, subject to contingencies)

Provisional Schedule of Meetings

Week One

May 26 –- Introduction, and a selection of poems by Sappho
May 27 –- Homer, Books I, II, IX, and XXIV from the Iliad, Gorgias, "Encomium of Helen"
May 28 –- Thucydides, Books I and II and The Melian Dialogue from the History of the Peloponnesian War, Plato Menexenus

Week Two

June 2 –- Euripides, Hecuba, Plato, Protagorus
June 3 –- Plato, Apology, and also Book V and Book VII from Republic
June 4 –- Aristophanes, Wasps; Plato, Symposium

Week Three

June 9 -- Plato, Gorgias, Phaedrus
June 10 –- Aristotle, Rhetoric, Book I and Book II and from Topics
June 11 –- Aristotle, Rhetoric, Book III and from Poetics

Week Four

June 16 –- Marcus Tullius Cicero, Against Verres, Against Cataline, Against Antony -- First Essay Due (5-6pp.)
June 17 –- Marcus Tullius Cicero, On the Ideal Orator
June 18 –- Terence, Eunuchus; Quintus Tullius Cicero, Commentariolum Petitionis

Week Five

June 23 –- Juvenal, Satires
June 24 -- Quintillian, from Institutio Oratoria: Book I -- Preface, Chapters 1-3; Book III -- Chapters 1-5; Book VI -- Chapter 1; Book VII -- Chapters 8-10; Book VIII -- Chapter 1-3, and also Chapter 6; Book IX -- Chapter 1; Book XII -- Chapter 1
June 25 –- Workshopping Final Paper

Week Six

June 30 –- Suetonius, Caligula; Seneca, Apocolocyntosis (divi) Claudii
July 1 –- Gaius Petronius, Satyricon
July 2 -- Augustine, from City of God, Read as much as you will, but Books I and XI are crucial, Libanius, "The Silence of Socrates" -- Final Essay Due (5-6pp.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Robocalypse Now

To say a robot has "learned" something is to denigrate every living learning being in what I consider an inexcusable and also dangerous way. Being existentially impressed by a computer cranking through sprawling arithmetic calculations faster than a genius is exactly as mistaken as being existentially impressed by a hydraulic press crushing objects that a strongman can't: calculation is more muscular than thoughtful. As Hannah Arendt wrote in the 1950s, "the newly invented electronic machines... are, like all machines, mere substitutes... of human labor power, following the time-honored device of all division of labor to break down every operation into its simplest constituent motions, substituting, for instance, repeated addition for multiplication... All that the giant computers prove is that the modern age was wrong to believe with Hobbes that rationality, in the sense of 'reckoning with consequences,' is the highest and most human of man's capacities." That is, calculation is an already instrumentalized dimension of thought as against the reflective, critical, imaginative dimensions of thought of the rational/political animal. The robocalypse is not and will not be a matter of killer robots conquering the earth, but of reductive robotic premises deranging our sense of the political substance of historical struggles for freedom and justice, and rationalizing the denigration, exploitation and abuse of people and fellow earthlings.


The uncritical enthusiasm of gizmo-fandoms for useless landfill-destined consumer crap peddled as paradigm-shattering.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


It is intolerant, not tolerant, to tolerate intolerance.

ToMAYduh ToMAHduh

You can always tell a corporatist by the way he describes lying, cheating and stealing not as wrong-doing but as risk-taking.

Note To Jeb

A Republican having a tough time answering a question actually is not enough to indicate that the question was tough.

But... Can... A... Killer... Robot... Love...?

Time for A Tech-Talk Thought Leader "Deep Think"!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

To Whomever It May Concern

To those who declare participation in elections you are qualified to vote in and that have real consequences for better and for worse even when you fully approve of none of the candidates and, indeed, actively disapprove of all the candidates in some measure makes you a complicit celebrant in the worst evils in which these candidates take some part, even if you condemn these evils, even if you resist them, even when you struggle to rectify them, I must say three things. First: by such standards a person who accepts a summons to jury duty, pays taxes (including sales taxes, so it's shoplifting or bust I'm afraid), or even retains their citizenship in a nation-state complicit in such crimes is exactly equally complicit in such crimes as the everyday voting citizen presumably is and people in glass houses have no business throwing stones. Second, of course, I disagree that such standards make any kind of practical or even philosophical sense, indeed such a proposal confuses ethical (or possibly even aesthetic) values with political ones in my view and then proceeds from that error into the even larger and worse error of pretending that this mistake is some kind of sign of superiority rather than confusion and provides an occasion for stupid assholes making a self-righteous spectacle of themselves to no practical purpose, not least because treating everybody as guilty of great crimes is tantamount to treating nobody as guilty of them which is not in fact a way of demonstrating how much more seriously you take crimes than other people do but how you aren't really interested in crimes at all except to the extent that they provide excuses for ugly preening, which is not very nice when it comes to it. Third, apart from insisting that those who try in the heartbreaking compromised historical struggle toward social justice to do anything at all are essentially the worst of the worst for trying (since it would seem that not only voting in elections, but devoting one's adult life to teaching critical thinking and democratic politics as a precarious adjunct, advocating policies for sustainability and equity-in-diversity in writing and in public under one's name, engaging in actual civil rights and labor organizing and activism, and so on are all worthy of contempt and reveal one to be the worst of the worst), it is hard to see what positive contribution to the solution of problems of injustice and exploitation and violence those who rail against doing anything are actually managing in their doing nothing, indeed it is hard to see how these heroic revolutionaries are distinguishable in their actual conduct from the most uncritical complacent consumer reactionaries when all is said and done. If after a few joyless turns on the rhetorical merry-go-round with persons holding such views you find that you are still being denigrated as evasive and non-communicative, while war-crimes and genocide are being falsely and utterly irresponsibly attributed to you not even by convoluted inference (which would be bad enough) but directly and by name, and while cowardly pseudonymous commenters are applauded as they declare themselves (without proof or even plausibility) former students and give false testimony about your teaching practice and character and so on you should not really be surprised to discover that even the most patient and generous interlocutor may finally come to judge you to be little more than a troll and so call it a day.

So Many Manifestos

So Few Manifestations.

By Their Inactions Shall They Be Known

Why, oh, why is it so hard to distinguish the actual conduct of so many anarcho-insurrectionists from that of uncritical complacent consumers? Why, if it weren't for their mania for online manifesto writing one could hardly distinguish them at all!

Clown Car Traffic Jam

At this point there are over twenty candidates running, whether declared or not, for the Republican nomination for President, all of whom are being treated by their party and by pundits as "viable," because they have been elected to other prominent positions, have attracted large sums of donation money (possibly through the patronage of a pet billionaire), or have accumulated a large fandom through right-wing hate media or the Megachurch archipelago. Questions whether they were elected (if ever they were) by nationally representative constituencies, whether their tenure in office (or in any other position of authority) was objectively accomplished, or whether their stated policy views survive even minimal scrutiny by experts in the relevant fields are all, of course, completely disregarded in such attributions of "viability."

The resulting circus atmosphere is hardly surprising -- even without actually thinking through its causes the accumulating experience of each successful wave of Republican presidential dopefuls has been crazier and crazier each time around and so one has to expect it by now. Needless to say, Republicans themselves are worried about the spectacle they are making of themselves by now (that their outdated ugly values and outrageous failed policy prescriptions might actually have to change is never seriously taken up by these Very Serious handwringers, naturally), but even their expressions of concern do little but re-enact the nonsensical spectacle itself. Via The Washington Post:
For now, the candidates say they want to avoid chaos. “This whole process is to elect a Republican nominee,” Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, told reporters Friday in Scottsdale. “It’s not to provide a media circus. It’s not to provide entertainment to the masses and to create a show that would be delightfully pleasant for the opposition to watch.”
Of course, the whole reason this garish spectacle of stupidity and bigotry and madness provides an "entertainment... delightfully pleasant for the opposition to watch" is that it consists of killer clowns exactly like Huckabee, none of whom, very much including him, grasp that they are the circus they claim to disdain.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jeb Bush Unveils Upcoming Infomercial Run

After calling for the repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act during a Thursday stop at a brewery in Tempe, Ariz., Bush touted the potential of the health apps on his new Apple Watch. "On this device in five years will be applications that will allow me to manage my healthcare in ways that five years ago were not even possible," Bush told his audience.
Everybody has already had a good laugh at Jeb Bush's audition for a post-presidential run to be spent hawking consumer crap, just in case he fails to sell feudalism to enough white-racists to get to the White House. Yes, the idea that an awkward crappy media gewgaw could replace healthcare is stupid and cruel, but it is perfectly continuous with the stupid and cruel assertions one hears from Republicans who pretend that poverty doesn't exist because lots of people have color tee vees or microwave ovens. If they want to pretend a dumb-phone could replace welfare why not pretend it can replace healthcare? Given the anti-futurological axe I am always grinding hereabouts, I would add that Bush is expressing an essentially futurological prophesy here, that what appears to be a future-prediction is in fact a advertisement for a present-product, and that the politics of the utterance are essentially reactionary. It's a nice quotidian illustration of connections I make all the time.

The Bends Depends

The arc of history bends from just us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Living for SFAI Adjunct Tortilla Activism


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Prince's "Baltimore"

Santa Precaria, We Pray, Protect SFAI from Wrongdoing

Administrators, Donors, Friends of SFAI, Alumni,
Look deep into your hearts in the silence of this long night
And contemplate the insecurity of SFAI's adjuncts
Who have devoted their years and months and days
To SFAI's students and school.

Have a care, we implore you, be respectful,
And value our dignity, our long commitment to our community,
Always in the service of our students' potential.

We are brought here by the force of Contingency,
Unleashed by profiteers who gamble with the lives of educators.
Look upon us, who would foster culture, creation, and criticism
And are made the incarnation of Precarity.

Santa Precaria, tear away the veils of cynical spin and suave deception,
Move the administration into partnership with their teachers,
Bring them back into good faith negotiations,
Bring them into the light of common sense and justice for us all.

Soften the hearts of our administrators,
That they will treat us fairly.
Open the eyes of SFAI's donors and alumni,
That they will open their mouths to protest unfairness.

Santa Precaria, O merciful light in the darkness,
Watch over us in our struggles
Against the iron shackles of eternal temp work
From underemployment and unending insecurity.

Break the dead weight of our bonds and recognize our living connection
To our school and to our students.

Santa Precaria, awaken in the ones who would glory in control,
Their share in our mortal destiny, their own need of a shared world of care.

To teach is a sacred vocation,
To teach is to be generous, to be civil, to be fair,
To devote yourself to respect and to care.

Santa Precaria, guide those who are guided to administer education
To grant to the majority of SFAI's teachers the security and respect and fairness
Of real contracts and paths of advancement.

To this necessary and inevitable end we pray, Amen

SFAI Adjuncts Invoke San Precario

On bended knee
We pray to Thee
For the Majority
Of SFAI Faculty
Living in Uncertainty

How Do You Solve A Problem Like the Neoliberal Academy?

How do you solve a problem like the neoliberal academy?
How do you catch their spin and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means the neoliberal academy?
A PR release? A digital app? A killer clown?

Many a thing you know they'd like to sell us.
Many a fraud we ought to understand!
But how do you make them stop,
And listen as standards drop?
How can you steal supply and meet demand?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like the neoliberal academy?
How do you eat the future with your hands?

Goods and money get confused,
All the teachers just get used,
While administrators multiply at will...
Unpredictable your fate,
Until Death demands his date:
You’re a cypher! You're a loser! Take a pill!

All that's solid melts in air,
Individualize your hair,
Education's just like tee vee, if you're hip!
MOOCify the classroom, stat!
All the think tanks tell you that.
School's a TED Talk!
Sinking ship!

How do you solve a problem like the neoliberal academy?
How do you stop them while they tear it down?
How do you find the words that scream neoliberal academy?
A faculty of temps? Thought Leaders and pimps? A company town?

Many a con you know they'll try to sell us
Until the day we finally understand,
That nothing will make them stop,
But fighting back they drop!
Can't you see ruination 'cross the land?

Oh, how do you solve a problem like the neoliberal academy?
Now you must see the future's in our hands.

Monday, May 11, 2015

First Lady Michelle Obama's Tuskegee Commencement Address

You may have seen snippets of this barn burner, but here's the whole speech.

Brother's Sleeper

Jeb Bush is so stupid it takes him three letters to spell W.

Fight The Feudal Future!

Tech talkers will never stop selling their landfill hellscape as a toypile to heaven. But we can stop buying it.

More Futurological Brickbats here.

More Musk Rat Love

boing boing is reporting that celebrity tech CEO Elon Musk had some choice words for an employee who skipped work to witness the birth of a child:
That is no excuse. I am extremely disappointed. You need to figure out where your priorities are. We're changing the world and changing history, and you either commit or you don’t.
I don't doubt that PR teams are busy massaging (with release) the message, and we will soon be treated to apologies and corrections, spiritually akin to that dude who ended up apologizing to Dick Cheney for Cheney shooting him in the face. (The denial has arrived and would appear to be fact-checkable.) Be that as it may, the rich are not like you and me. For one thing, they are Gods. Or at any rate they are ascending superlatively godward on piles of ill-gotten cash. You may recall that I have described Elon Musk and Peter Thiel as The Koch Brothers of Reactionary Futurology, what with their techno-transcendental pretensions and anti-government harangues conjoined to hoovering up endless government cashola. Musk's con-job peddling low earth orbit amusement park rides for the superrich as the same thing as a real space program as well as his robo-evangelical summoning of the demon of superintelligent AI are especially egregious, though it looks like the battery business may bear fruit, I guess. President Obama certainly has been going on and on about investment in new battery technology since the Recovery Act, but I don't doubt it will turn out Musk is the real Randroidal fountainhead of all good things when it comes to it. Master Builder Musk is so right! That pathetic mehum (that's "merely human," noob!) worker drone who is blessed to be a part of Musk's revolutionary world-changing history-shattering techno-transcendental movement of making new landfill-destined crap gizmos for consumer dupes seriously needs to get his priorities straight!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Julia Ward Howe, "Mothers' Day Proclamation," Boston, 1870

Mother's Day may seem to be nothing but another Hallmark Holiday, merely the occasion for a phone call and an online order for a flower delivery, but the holiday originated as an anti-war protest in the aftermath of the Civil War and the holiday becomes more the moment we make it so.


Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.

As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, May 09, 2015


You have more voice than your vote. By all means educate, agitate, organize to protest an election outcome you disapprove.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Long Teaching Day

And last teaching day... until summer term begins at Berkeley. This morning we will briefly survey some pieces on digital humanities -- in which structural racism and a vulnerability to promotional hype reveal limitations in the latest Very Serious academic engagement with networks, and we will also talk a bit about connections between social/relational aesthetics and social software, between participatory art/curation and vacuous participation in net-utopian discourse, on "design" discourse as reactionary politics framed as aesthetics. In my graduate survey of critical theory we return to the distinction of literal from figurative language, recall that fetishes are structured like figures that field false facts -- and embrace the fetishism of all facticity. The larger narrative beginning in the tale of Marx Nietzsche and Freud as foundational figures moving from philosophy into post-philosophical discourses inaugurating critical theory as critiques of fetishism, then re-oriented in the biopolitics of post-war UN-internationalism in Arendt, Fanon, and Foucault, finally culminates in planetarity in Spivak as dis-figuration, culture as translation, classrooms as laboratories for convivial praxis, a repudiation of digital globalism and founded in racist/sexist stratifications and an embrace of sustainability as responsibility to others in a futural we that is here but yet to be. I end with thoughts on the radicalism of King's beloved community (which does not apply non-violence but re-constitutes what counts as violence, which does not know how to love everyone in advance but solicits everyone -- including beings that are not yet understood as "people" -- into a companionate responsibility in which love is made possible). A mile high stack of grading then awaits. My class on the patriarchal construction of philosophy against rhetoric in classical Greece/Rome -- and possibly the last-minute addition of a class on argument as compulsion/interrogation of compulsion -- begins at Berkeley in just two weeks. No rest for the weary, bills have got to be paid. Union updates likely sporadically to follow -- that situation is getting hairy. Today, tho, blogging will probably be low to no.