Why having to choose between pessimism and optimism?

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How easy it is be stuck in some kind of apathetic pessimism these days. Falling into the trap of a bleak appreciation of things has become the new norm, as enough bad news are flooding our social feeds to make us want to hibernate in spring. Of course, dramatic things are taking place both at the local and global levels. From the rise of nationalism across Europe to the situation in Syria and the first moves of Trump’s presidency – you name it. All of this is sending shivers down our spines, and for the right reasons. But Philosophie Magazine was asking in March whether it is possible to be well in a world that isn’t (“Peut-on aller bien dans un monde qui va mal”) – I want to ask, when has the world ever been OK?

Not only does this kind of positioning seem to obscure the ongoing atrocities that have accompanied humanity across the ages, but it also reveals something of the nature of our reflection on things and of the illusion that lies at the core of it: that the world is something that can be ordered, unified, and that any event that does not go towards this unity is bad, ill-conceived, a cause of desperation and apathy. As French philosopher Michel Foucault said, “my point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is danger­ous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apa­thy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism. I think that the ethico-political choice we have to make every day is to determine which is the main danger.” Continue reading

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The case of antibiotic resistance – one of the new faces of our crisis of modernity

7193“The place of the worst barbarism is that modern forest that makes use of us, this forest of chimneys and bayonets, machines and weapons, of strange inanimate beasts that feed on human flesh.”  ― Amadeo Bordiga

Modernity is in crisis – a view from Edgar Morin

When the French thinker Edgar Morin declared that modernity was in crisis at the start of this century*, that was to express how the combination of technique, science, economy and capitalism, what he called the “four motors of the propelled spaceship Earth”, had failed in its mission of bringing progress to humanity. He explained that humans had fallen short of observing that each of these areas of supposed advancement presented an ambivalence, in other words a mixture of positive and negative outcomes.

Where technique has brought comfort in developed countries, it has also led to the dehumanisation of the workplace through the invention of the work chain. Where science has brought the progress of medicine, it has also created the nuclear bomb. The capitalist modes of production have engendered an economic development on some fronts, but they have also unleashed the forces of neoliberalism which have propelled competition as the new prominent norm in every aspect of life, reinforcing economic inequalities and a sense of despair at the individual level. Continue reading