The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #59: Godwin's Law

General Introduction
– David can’t get enough of your love
– What’s on the blog? (Not much.)
– On specialization and knowledge gaps

Godwin’s Law
– The origin of a meme
– You’re worse than Hitler
– Why is it so cutting?
– Overuse of Nazi comparisons
– The mathematics of the formulation
– You’re worse than Stalin/Pinochet/Genghis Khan/Pol Pot

Why the Internet Is a Problem
– Or is it?
– The microcosm/macrocosm haze
– God terms, devil terms
– In-fighting in small groups
– Distance becomes an issue

But What Does John Mark Reynolds Have to Say?
– “The Art of Online Conversation”
– Why blogs are dangerous
– Practical tips
– Blogging and the four classical virtues

Psychologizing Your Opponents
– Do motives matter?
– Beyond rationalization
– When is ad hominem okay?
– Authorial ethos

New Developments
– Being a raging earhole on message boards
– The joys and sorrows of Facebook
– The lamest message board fight EVER
– The podcast as internet artifact

Making the Most of Our Time
– Christians under the microscope
– The shattering of the inside/outside binary
– Nudity and nakedness

12 thoughts on “The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #59: Godwin's Law

  1. Not to split hairs Michial, but saying “Foucault’s Panopticon” makes it sound like it’s his idea not Betham’s. I’m sure Foucault would have had much to say about the subject (though I haven’t read much of his work) but the idea predates him by at least a century.

  2. My guess, though, is that Michial heard of the Panopticon when Foucault was talking about Bentham. I know that’s how I heard of that particular idea. Before I ran into Foucault in the English department, Bentham, for me, was the moral-calculus, proto-utilitarian guy from History of Philosophy 201.

  3. Nathan is correct, though I agree with Gus that I would better serve the idea by attributing it to its correct source. Mea culpa.

  4. That’s ok, I’m an uncultured bumpkin myself and couldn’t remember anything that Bentham did until I learned about the Panopticon in a class on Penology and Social Oppression.

  5. Bentham? I best remember the “Nonsense on Stilts” line and all the good stories about students stealing the detached head from his mummified body.

  6. Beckett nicely formulates the theme with which I would like to begin: “What does it matter who is speaking;’ someone said; ‘what does it matter who is speaking.'” In this indifference appears one of the fundamental ethical principles of contemporary writing [écriture].

    Even when an individual has been accepted as an author, we must still ask whether everything that he wrote, said, or left behind is part of his work…In current usage, however, the notion of writing seems to transpose the empirical characteristics of the author into a transcendental anonymity…It would seem that the author’s name, unlike other proper names, does not pass from the interior of a discourse to the real and exterior individual who produced it; instead, the name seems always to be present, marking off the edges of the text, revealing, or at least characterizing, its mode of being. The author’s name manifests the appearance of a certain discursive set and indicates the status of this discourse within a society and a culture. It has no legal status, nor is it located in the fiction of the work; rather, it is located in the break that founds a certain discursive construct and its very particular mode of being…
    A switch takes place in the seventeenth or eighteenth century. Scientific discourses began to be received for themselves, in the anonymity of an established or always redemonstrable truth; their membership in a systematic ensemble, and not the reference to the individual who produced them, stood as their guarantee. The author function faded away, and the inventor’s name served only to christen a theorem, proposition, particular effect, property, body, group of elements, or pathological syndrome. By the same token, literary discourses came to be accepted only when endowed with the author function. We now ask of each poetic or fictional text: From where does it come, who wrote it, when, under what circumstances, or beginning with what design? The meaning ascribed to it and the status or value accorded it depend on the manner in which we answer these questions…
    How can one reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world? The answer is: One can reduce it with the author. The author allows a limitation of the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations within a world where one is thrifty not only with one’s resources and riches but also with one’s discourses and their significations. The author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning. As a result, we must entirely reverse the traditional idea of the author. We are accustomed, as we have seen earlier, to saying that the author is the genial creator of a work in which he deposits, with infinite wealth and generosity, an inexhaustible world of significations. We are used to thinking that the author is so different from all other men, and so transcendent with regard to all languages that, as soon as he speaks, meaning begins to proliferate, to proliferate indefinitely.

    The truth is quite the contrary: the author is not an indefinite source of significations that fill a work; the author does not precede the works; he is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses; in short, by which one impedes the free circulation, the free manipulation, the free composition, decomposition, and recomposition of fiction. In fact, if we are accustomed to presenting the author as a genius, as a perpetual surging of invention, it is because, in reality, we make him function in exactly the opposite fashion.

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