how many classic country songs have appeared in 2012? i have a count: at least one.
watcha readin, crispy? well i'm working on the nature of human freedom, if any, and i keep coming back to friedrich schelling. he's a wildly problematic figure, and in many ways, starting from idealist assumptions, he refutes idealism. if schelling's philosophy stood in the pantheon where his college friend/fierce rival hegel's stands, we would have had a better last couple of centuries in philosophy, in my opinion. on the other hand, i don't think his work could quite bear that kind of weight. he's very mercurial. and whereas hegel's prose is often just sludgy and unbelievably pretentious, schelling's at times just seems contradictory or even meaningless.
now, i'm reading zizek's book on schelling, the indivisible remainder. this zizek person, at his best, is really really good, and i think schelling has not, in at least a century, had so intent and creative an interpreter. now were it me, i would not throw in lacan (indeed, i would construct the world's largest catapult in order to launch lacan into deep space; who's with me?), but it's a more natural pairing than some, and characteristically, zizek gets into some good nooks.
maybe i've done this before. i greatly admire zizek, even though i think his politics is unbelievably wrong. he's always flirting back and forth with totalitarianism, if you ask me, though he says not, and such a thing is always inspiring to the academic left. but what an incredibly smart nut. he has the gift for provocation that seems to elude me no matter how hard i try. and that begins to register the fact that i also envy zizek his success; he's the taylor swift of philosophy, our pop princess. where do i get a little slice of that attantion? but the fact that you resent someone's success, unfortunately, doesn't mean he doesn't deserve it.
i do propose taylor swift's red as a seriously good thing. don't hold it against her that she looks like that lancome girl or whatever. don't even hold it against her that she sells billions of whatever it is they sell these days. it's easy to go 'britney, avril, taylor,' but she is a completely different sort of thing. sometimes the right person gets appointed superstar. let's run through a few of the songs; i'll leave you some surprises.
first off, here's what you get when you actually make a pop princess out of a writer. i believe part of it is about patti smith. just possibly it is a good thing for our girls to be listening to songs about patti smith.
and here is a songwriting lesson for whoever formulated 'firework' for katy perry:
that *voice* is made of starlight. "we could get married, have ten kids and teach 'em how to dream." i like this as an antithesis to the entire lifestyle portrayed now as the ideal in pop music, namely drunkenness and promiscuity. that one features a typical taylor inversion: she uses a stepped-down version of the chorus as an intro before she launches the persona.
or sometimes she just builds a song steadily to a climax (as in "all too well" or 'i almost do': "every time i don't, i almost do.") not the sort of thing you're going to get from katy or gaga. it reminds me more of chrissie hynde or joan armatrading.
even on something that seems as slight as "treacherous," she throws in things like "i can't decide if it's a choice, getting swept away," which i'll be working into my book on free will. or: "nothing safe is worth the drive." and when she finally pays off with the chorus (or is the bridge? it only comes once (wait, twice)), it is a choiring of angels, i.e. many taylor swifts.
even i will grow weary of the title track after nothing else has been on any radio station or target ad for a couple of years. but it is something like a perfect pop song: contagious as an apocalyptic plague.
"forgetting him is like trying to know somebody you never met"; everywhere the lyrics are better and more interesting than they need to be. the vocal arrangement is incredibly lush. taylor has a lovely touch with a bridge or with the end of a song, which she often treats as a second bridge or just an opportunity to vamp and soar in her inimitable fashion; the transitions and resolutions always come exactly at the right moment, with the right structure, in an intrinsic relation to the narrative (because she essentially sings stories or ballads). the real use of these robotic vocal effects was never going to emerge until they were humanized or combined with some real emotion; an analogy would be what annie lennox did over dave stewart's synth-pop on the early eurythmics records.
i don't want to hear any more crap about auto-tune; her pitch is delightfully eccentric.
and then for god's sake she gives you an extremely simple, pure, naive country waltz, but with a completely characteristic taylor melody so perfectly identical to the lyric that it'll make your heart stop:
and if the light-as-air '22' (below) doesn't make you feel happy and free and melancholy, put it on again until it does. it's going to be ok!
insults are the best form of political inspiration; or at least, they're not as stupid and dangerous as 'charisma.' but obviously, only an extraordinarily mediocre person in every respect would vote for barack obama or mitt romney. only a dull person in every sense. a person whose every aspiration is a cliche. keep on doin what you did and you'll keep on gettin what you got. it should all have come down to last night's third-party debate. what do these parties have to do to discredit themselves in your eyes? or they're discredited, but it doesn't matter because no one can manage to think beyond the talking points they develop. song of the american voter: please manipulate me in that hyper-primitive way that social science recommends. i love your billion dollars in ads and your whole incoherent, hyper-repetitive schtick, and now i will reward you with infinite power.
watcha watchin, crispy? well as you might imagine or not, the abc seres nashville. i am a sucker for a soap, and i love nashville the city, where i lived for some years. the city is lovingly portrayed, with such real places as the bluebird cafe and the loveless hotel, where you might have found little crispy playing the open mic or chowing down on the biscuits long about 1991. i had sort of read the ingenue character played by hayden pannetierre as a stand-in for taylor swift, but not really. the plot is essentially itself the subject of many a country song: "catch a falling star." and son, t-bone burnett is the musical supervisor.
the music is interesting. first of all there are versions of every nashville sub-genre: pop country, hotel band, superstar, opry, alt, almost down to the buskers, but it is all originals. these are not exactly parodies, but re-enactments, rather bravura 'i could do a song like that' throwdowns. but i am so far rather disappointed with the songs that are proposed as serious music or great or pure country songs. they just have not particularly moved me, and i'll tell you this: they can do better. there are, quite as depicted in the series, hundreds of amazing songwriters in nashville; they are your server tonight or they are 40-year vets.
just one more element to put me in the tank, the thing features one of those people who grew up in the cast of general hospital: jonathan jackson aka lucky spencer. he plays in a band analogous to, say, jason and nashville scorchers.
apologizing to rik in advance, i'm going to do to the velvet underground what lately i've done to springsteen and michelangelo. let me make a few methodological remarks. if you really like the music of springsteen, let's say, you might actually feel personally insulted when i leave it at 'sucks.' however, he is not you. maybe i sound angry, and in some ways universal adoration for stuff i think is bad does rather irritate me. but i just say: let's play! i'm gonna formulate my attack in the sharpest or even most extreme way i can; ok come back at me! dude i listen to country music. attack! this is more or less what art is for, so we can all yell at each other. i definitely grew up in a high fidelity world. my brothers were all complete pop music fanatics, archivists, etc. we'd spend whole nights just wrangling about the the or whatever. so i just think this kind of thing is fun.
plus, note the sort of people that i'm always emperorsnewpantsing. it's people whose gigantical hugeness actually puts them above criticism. (i should make a list: oh you know beatles, wittgenstein, dylan, picasso, michelangelo.) now i think that these sorts of reputations do not necessarily arise by genius standing the test of time, but rather by (a) stampede of the usual human sort, and (b) the fact that a big enough reputation stupefies and intimidates people; only an idiot would say ulysses was jive, so if you do not want to appear to be an idiot, you don't say it. but it would take thousands of me working for decades even to corrode the solid-gold plating slightly. so i don't see as saying what i actually think could harm anyone or anything, while it might interrupt our annoying worship of others of our own species.
to vu, certainly one of the most idolized groups in rock history. now, what exactly was good about them? maybe lou reed or nico could really sing? oops lou wasn't exacty otis redding. maybe they played the shit out of those instruments, like the yardbirds or something. not exactly. they were opposed to melody in all its pernicious forms, preferring extreme monotony, which i guess could be an aesthetic, as long as i am not required to listen to it. no one who has available a martha reeves and vandellas song and a velvet underground cover of that song could rationally put the velvets' version on the turntable.
let me put it like this: the point simply could not have been the music, which is incompetently performed and extremely boring. the point is the cultural liberation they represented, and then their influence on punk. i can see how it might be important for many kids of the era to suddenly see gayish people onstage, so i'll give them that. but in my opinion, the aspects of 60s/70s culture they represented were precisely those that made the whole social transformation of the era essentially meaningless: mindless hedonism pursued to the point of total annihilation. you thought you were helping to liberate humanity from its narrow strictures and doing something important. i say you just fucked everybody and did all the drugs because you wanted to, in a total commitment to narcissistic self-indulgence and the destruction of oneself and others. really i would say that the notion that having anal sex with everybody was going to redeem the world was probably not the most plausible political philosophy in western intellectual history, inspiring though it is. it's all heroin and lou reed taking a dump on someone during an eightball orgy (see please kill me). millions of people all over the world reacted like that was what freedom meant, though one might with as much plausibilty say it is what unfreedom means. thousands of people are dead because they thought this sounded like a good idea. i don't blame the velvet underground; i blame the bad taste of the deceased. it doesn't help that i kept having to see lou reed in the '80s and writing it up. these may have been the very worst gigs i ever witnessed; he fucking despised the audiences for adoring him, which i admit is rational. you think he's deep and changed everything. i think he's a completely uninteresting lout, and that that is exactly what every one of his records represents.
typical tuneless, meaningless, interminable crap:
10:40 ok now the pro-obama stampede.
10:29 yesterday in carlisle, at the halloween parade, police had to taser a man who was jumping in front of the children to grab the halloween candy.
10:22 romney actually can't do anything ith this gun control question; he starts into education and opportunity, believe it or not.
10:21 i've been stockpiling artillery pieces before the ban.
10:17 candy is actually fact-checking on the fly. she is very very sharp.
10:08 they are quite combative. candy had to sit mitt down just now. but actually it's a relatively lively debate on that interpersonal clash level, despite the lapses into boilerplate.
10:03 obama is good on attacking romney tonight. the right balance of aggression and restraint. he is much much less convincing on his own record, a blank on what happens next. it's hard, actually, not to be disappointed even if one's expectations for obama were relatively realistic.
9:55 ok it's getting to be nappy time. boilerplate.
9:40 women! you are beautiful! romney: "they brought me binders full of women."
9:27 hasn't romney developed an entirely new tax program?? now he will not under any circumstances reduce the taxes of the top whatever.
9:26 say romney caps deductions, so that middle-class families don't pay more, but people in top brackets do. why isn't that a tax increase in the current republican vernacular? what does grover norquist say?
9:24 obama says 'good-paying' rather than 'well-paying.' thank god.
9:20 whoa they are going at it on energy policy: approaching one another, interrupting each other, contradicting eac other.
9:16 we ought to get off coal, man, and stop blowing up mountains.
9:15 romney is standing up ok, though.
9:14 focus group approval plemmets as soon as obama starts attcking romney.
9:13 obama: 'this is what i've done: natural gas production is at its highest level in decades.' he did that?
9:12 obama is doing very well indeed at the moment.
9:07 if education were the key to employment, all these kids wouldn't be unemployed.
9:03 they should kiss like sacha baron cohen and will farrell in the ballad of ricky bobby.
8:57 i hope al qaeda shows.
8:11 if i were advising obama, i'd tell him to go for shock and awe tonight. contest or at least snicker derisively at every assertion. insult the man's looks and stuff; maybe actually do an impression; the mitt romney robot is always a winner. use all that oppo research on his mom. his base really wants to see obama aggressive, ready to lead them in a march to a glittering future, over the corpses of their enemies.
7:43 i am so much a better pundit than all these cunts on television, and i'll tell you why. i really don't have a stake in who wins, see? you have to be an anarchist or a fascist or a marxist-leninist-maoist or an utter enigma even to yourself to see what's really going on, otherwise you are blinded by your pitiful partisanship. actually i of course do not claim to be objective simpliciter . in the everyday way i am riddled with all sorts of irrational preferences, hideous blindpots, and so on. but i do claim to be more objective along partisan political lines than anyone else. in the whole world.
i'd say that bruce springsteen has devolved into self-parody with stuff like 'land of hope and dreams,' currently the baseball playoff theme song. but actually i never really didn't hear the stuff that way. here he just bellows in his overwrought, quasi-operatic, extremely mannered manner: really he could skip the lyric and just emote pseudo-hysterically. he hits basically one tone in all his rock-type songs: humorless, grandiose, converting 'ordinary american lives' into huge symbolic clouds of hooha: every fucking beer another tragedy, every verse another bludgeon. the melodies are extremely samey, liltless, charmless, monotonous, profoundly unimaginative. the lyrics could have been generated by a simple turing machine; he's written so many of these anthems to america that i think it's time for the country to disband, just to shut the man up.
with regard to some arguments i'm getting into, i want to draw your attention to an extremely obvious fact: the let's say non-libertarian left, from obama leftwards, represents a profoundly hierarchical philosophy. in a number of ways, but most simply in this: the solution to any problem or non-problem is more government power and more state domination of resources. if the right countenances an extreme economic hierarchy, the left countenances an extreme political hierarchy. some people are vastly politically privileged in this society: officials and those they coddle. most people sort of might vote, but actually do not wield any political power at all. the idea that the left is egalitarian is not entirely false: well, that's the rhetoric, and they are opposed to constructing this hierarchy based on race, class, gender, or sexual orientation. but the entire conception rests on something like a total assymmetry of power, which comports well with the sort of technocratic/education-obsessed elist left of the moment. your'e dependent on us because you need our help. but you're not going to be making your own decisions (let's say about what to eat), because we're better to do that for you. what both sides are not really good at making obvious is that the two hierarchies tend to coincide in the long run, or i guess sort of oscillate to some degree as we swing left and right.
now, the idea that you could develop a political philosophy over a century or two and not see the incredibly obvious fact that your own philosophy is extremely hierarchical does not, let's say, speak very well for the theories and theorists in question, who one must suspect are either incapable of grasping the most obvious facts or who are incredibly self-deluded or seduced somehow by theory. well, one of the theories would be that only economics is real and so only economic hierarchies are real hierarchies: but the next bureaucrat who makes your life a misery might be no richer than you are, same with your prison guards, your inspectors, etc. but you can't say their power is unreal. i just want to assert to you too, that the hierarchy of power your philosophy consists of originates in violence, and would collapse without its threat and application.
10:33 i guess my assessment is that biden did a bit better as he went on and ryan was kind of drippy. still i'd give it to ryan.
10:31 i disagree with ryan that 'we face a very big choice.'
10:28 ryan: 'there are a lot of good people who could lead this country.' the right tone.
10:25 o'day strikes out a-rod. still 1-1 in the 8th.
10:23 i don't think there's nearly enough negative campaign advertising. i live for that shit!
10:21 robert bork can't possibly be alive.
10:18 oh no biden's going all husky and emotional.
10:16 catholicism is so over.
10:02 obviously there is no substantive distinction between ob and r&r on afghanistan. i'm trying to think of what there is clearly a distinction about: the r&r strategy.
10:00 want my vote? show me the benefits, bitch!
9:56 biden just said 'we don't cut' the defense budget. what?!
9:54 biden certainly is prosecuting the class war very directly.
9:52 i must say ryan isn't really impressing me either. but maybe he's winning by contrast with....that.
9:50 small business can fellate me. (these are bits of my own nihilist veep candidacy input.)
9:46 generosity toward the rich is still generosity. we are one america.
9:43 i'm sick of medicare, har har.
9:38 biden finds every single thing ryan says laughable. that is not going to work. calmly refute the claims.
9:35 martha is charmless.
9:32 biden just claimed that he voted against 'putting the wars on the credit card.' did he?
9:28 the increase in poverty has been one of the obama admin's great achievements.
9:27 jb stop your cacklin.
9:21 biden's all like 'oh god!' better stop now or that will be the story.
9:20 netanyahu has been tough since menopause.
9:18 i welcome a nuclear exchange with iran. bring it, mullahfuckas!
9:16 biden had better tone down the derisive smiling and the condescending attitude. he will hang himself reaction-wise.
9:15 the beligerence on iran is troubling, but i don't believe the poicy would be substantially different under r&r. so i'm foing with 'ob' for 'obama-biden' and "r&r' for...
9:14 actually the elephant in the room is that we've been defeated in afghanistan. r&r should hop on that, but then again they wouldn't do anything about it in office.
9:11 actually biden is being extremely defensive on libya. they did not ask for more securiy. oops or we didn't know they did etc.
9:09 the development of hd tv has not been kind to ageing politicians.
9:06 it's silly for reps to jump on libya. it was just confusion, dude. you think this was a pr strategy?
9:05 joe biden will track you to the gates of hell.
9:03 i'm hoping for a hyper-violent audience riot.
9:02 'first and only' veep debate is stupid, martha.
9:00 middle class! scranton! that town in wisconsin!!!
8:58 at least this debate is between two white guys. there's comfort in that.
8:57 nate mclouth homers for orioles.
8:55 tonight paul ryan will crush you and your pathetic socialist egalitarian dreams!!
7:03 nice walk-off by werth though!
6:35 i know you've been wondering. so i grew up in nw dc. the men in my family were big sports fans, but tended to die young. so i heard that my father's father saw walter johnson play (yo sammy baugh too; yo also josh gibson). so by the time i was coming up, those senators had left and become the twins. i rooted for the expansion senators, who sucked and then moved. i used to go to senators games with my best friend steve porter's family, and when the second senators became the texas rangers the porters would go up to baltimore to see the orioles at memorial stadium. this is early seventies, when the orioles, e.g., had one of the best starting staffs in baseball history. anyway, that was my team even before i married a girl from baltimore and moved to charles village up near memorial in '82: just used to walk up to the bleachers with michael warner, now the queen of queer theory, long about the third inning. that cal-eddie team won it all in '83, though by that time i was living in london. so anyway i've never really gotten onto the nationals back from the o's, though i wish them well all things being equal.
6:23 certainly i expect gary johnson's running mate, whoever or even whomever he may be, to cover himself in glory at tonight's debate.
5:20 as i do from time to time when the subject of biden comes up, i'm linking to a transcript of biden's questioning of samuel alito at the latter's confirmation hearings. well i'll give you this: one of the more comical moments in the history the senate.
i solved the free will/determinism/moral responsibility problem last night. sheesh! that was a long few millennia. here's a wee slice, super-rough, from entanglements:
I think we should experiment with the notion of detaching moral responsibility from freedom. First of all, we should appreciate that our practices of blame are quite equivocal in this regard. As research in a variety of areas proceeds, and just as a matter of human common sense, we know that the more carefully you examine the antecedents of an action and the agent who performed it, the less free it appears, and in general that the sort of agency constructed in certain legal and philosophical segments of Western culture does not appear very aptly to describe things such as ourselves. We keep learning about the effects of geneology or environment on the formation of character, for example. Then we might approach the question of responsibility from the point of view of the configuration and connections of the agent: does the act emerge in the right way from the right sort of self? Only I want to emphasize that if we start in this direction, I will not tolerate an account of the right sort of self according to which it consists of a rational commander and a slave body. Freedom might be one dimension to explore, but it is not the only dimension. I do think, as well, that we had better reconceive psychological afflictions as well as capacities as at least often intrinsic to the person who possesses them, even in cases where they eventuate in 'compulsive' action; in such cases, it seems to me, a person should be deemed responsible for the acts that eventuate.
I myself on a bad day more or less blame everything for everything. I often blame information-processing devices, and informally atribute to them a malevolent agency bent on thwarting my desires. I often hold plumbing fixtures or cabinetry responsible for various balky or malfunctioning episodes, and I often punish such things by smacking them. It's often said that no one is stupid enough to blame inanimate objects for things, but I doubt I am alone in doing just that. Now presumably the sticky silverware drawer is not directing the various physical parts of itself by a rational will etc. Still I do not think blaming stuff for shit is entirely wrong or irrelevant. I blame the drawer for being what it is: old, shoddy, flimsy, and so on. It doesn't strike me as evil, only as configured so as to frustrate the function for which it was manufactured. I blame and punish it for that, and I may even have to go to Home Depot in a serious effort at rehabilitation. If I judge the drawer incorrigible, I might even issue a death sentence. The other day I rodneykinged my vacuum cleaner, which after having wrestled with the damned thing for three years I found extremely satisfying. It constituted a kind of justice.
One thing I would like to articulate as an important principle of my philosophy: things are at fault. Things suck. They are constantly getting in the way. Things wear you down, you know? This is meant as a cure for the tendency, manifested in the ontology chapter, to treat the material univese like a beautiful and holy thing. Perhaps or certainly so, and yet much of the material universe is almost unbelievably stupid. The idea that we don't hold things, or maybe time and so on, responsible, because those things aren't agents because those things can't do otherwise than they do is just silly. We do it all the time. Maybe we oughtn't. But I think we are in fact well within our purview. But then this suggests in the most radical way that moral responsibility needs to be detached from the whole complex of freedom, agency, action, goal, decision, deliberation. Now, I do not want to suggest that this detachment of responsibility from freedom rests on the claim that inanimate objects are responsible for stuff; it's a queston of about human moral responsibility. Still the first move is usually just a perfunctory appeal to our intuitions, as in the 'argument' that knowledge requires something more than true belief. And I am saying that the inanimate object case shows that our actual practices are very far from what philosophers represent as our obvious intuitions. To some extent, their account of out intuitions is captured in our practices: in the murder statutes that require deliberation for maximum culpability, for example. But that an intuition is enforced does not necessarily show it to be widely shared, and I'm not sure that, all things considered, an impulsive serial killer will be regarded by most folks as less culpable than a serial kiler who is a master of Aristotelian practical rationality.
When I moved into my little schoolhouse here in Adams County, I realized I had a rather serious poison ivy problem: there were vines growing up into the trees, up the walls of the house, crawling out of the underbrush into the yard with those glossy green leaves. I came to think of the thing as one huge organism or vine that had my house in its clutches like a hand. I fought back with Roundup, but the thing delivered many rashes. The skirmishes continue. I'm at war with the brown marmorated stinkbugs yet again this year: stupid agents, but sort of relentless. My car deserves the junkyard. In short, we or at least I blame all sorts of things for all sorts of things, or on the other hand credit them for their smoothness or slickness or effectiveness or their goodness after their kind. We credit them with beauty or hilarity or strangeness, in virtue of being what they are.
And I think that, fundamentally, this is what we do to each other. If you were a victim of sexual abuse, do you think that the alleged fact that the action was compulsive actually make you blame the perpetrator less? Now that we've learned that you're a psychopath, it's no less rational, putting it mildly, to blame and punish you more rather than less harshly in virtue of what you are; but maybe psychopathy is more instrinsically connected to personality than some other mental conditions, at least it is in the sense that there don't seem to be good treatments so far. Our practices are at least equivocal in this regard. So the fact that one is an alcoholic, even where this is supposedly exclusively conceived on a disease model, is not a defense against a charge of drunk driving. Now maybe this is just meant to have a utilitarian deterrent effect, but it's also not out of keeping with our actual practices of holding people responsible.
Various philosophers - Chisholm, for example - have argued that people who are 'naturally' good, generous without effort, and so on, are less praiseworthy than those for whom generosity is a terrible struggle. I just don't think that lines up with our practices, and a naturally good person is a kind of saint, and is liable to be widely admired and credited with her good works. He quotes Thomas Reid quoting the Roman historian Velleius Paterculus on Cato the Younger: "He never did a right action solely for the sake of seeming to do the right, but because he could not do otherwise" (Loeb p. 126). Chisholm approves Reid's remark that this "strictly, is not the praise of Cato, but of his constitution, which was no more the work of Cato than his existence" (Chis in Pereboom 145, Essays on the Active Powers of Man, essay iv, ch. 4). Obviously, however, Velleius Paterculus uses this as the highest praise imaginable, and indeed in a Cato-style Stoic worldview, the moral praiseworthiness of one's actions cannot depend on their voluntariness. Indeed, I would think that the idea that Cato is not morally praiseworthy because his character is not his own doing is something that would only occur to someone laboring under a theory; it surely does not correspond at all to our natural reaction or our practice with regard actyually to dealing out praise.
We are not constantly pressing people whom we praise or blame for the antecedents of their actions or proof that they are free much less for proof that they are responsible for the excellence of their own character - and I just do not think that freedom plays the sort of role in attributions of responsibility that various philosophers believe it does. We might entertain the idea that there are many sources of responsibility, or many circumstances under which we attribute responsibility, or many factors that are relevant to the question of whether someone is responsible and to what degree and for what exactly. Chisholm's view of free will - which is sort of beautiful in its reactionary perversity - is sometimes called the 'agent causation' view: an act is free and the agent responsible for it when the agent is the cause of the action, when the agent genuinely chose the action and brought it about. And then Chisholm distinguishes the agent from the agent's beliefs and desires; if the agent is caused to act, even by her own beliefs and desires, she is not acting freely. There is insight at the heart of this: one is responsible in part in virtue of how the self is configured at the time of action. Or: if the self is the right sort of causal factor in the act, then one is responsible for it. But on my view we need not pass the relation of agent-causation through the concept of freedom: all we need for moral agency is responsibility, and the two can be severed.
Now, on my view, the human self is a real thing that has real causal effects. I think it is a material thing, if it is anything, and I think that it is volatile, and I think that it is composed of other things. Now, I do think that whatever the human self is doing at any given time is whatever all the pieces of that self are doing at that time, but the reduction of the self to particles or faculties or whatever is no more or less justified than the production of the self out of particles, and the particles are no more real causal agents than is the whole self/situation. So I think in some cases human selves are real causal factors in events, and if they are the right sort of factors, then those selves can be held responsible. There may be no entirely clear or systematic way of characterizing the circumstances under which a self is in the right sort of configuration and relations, or there may be a wide variety of such configurations and relations that could support a reasonable attribution of of the act to that self, or any particular degree of responsibility for it.
But I want emphatically to distinguish the sort of self I am countenancing or declaring myself to be from Chisholm's, which has the problem we see arise again and again: the self is always receding, is an extensionless point: in short, is a soul, monad etc. My self is a congeries, no more or less a single real thing than a table or possibly a heap. And obviously I am not going to trace any causal chain in some ultimate sense to an origin in a self, conceived thinly or thickly; the self I am saying I am is fully, entirely embedded in the ongoing flood of physical causation. The question isn't whether the causal chain originates in the agent; the question is whether it runs through the agent in the right ways, whether the action was indeed something you did.
In other words, more or less accepting some form of determinism or at least declaring it to be obscure how freedom actually does or could emerge in a natural universe, it is open to us what approach to take. We could start to suggest that our attributions of responsibility should be attenuated or even eliminated. They are not necessary, for example, to a utilitarian justification of punishment, and in any case toning down the blame might be appropriate. This actually does seem to be proceeding in many arenas including the criminal law, which is in a slow transformation to what we might think of as a medical model or the self as beset by illnesses and treatable by pharmaceuticals, for example. Or one could take the compatibilist approach of continuing to regard responsibility as important and even as underlain by freedom, but a freedom compatible with physical causation. Or one could take the approach of decoupling responsibility from freedom, as I am suggesting.
This reflects, as I have said, for one thing a desire to myself take responsibility even for acions in which I did feel compelled; I think that even if certain sorts of compulsion constitute legitimate excuses, others do not. In the familiar way (familiar at least since Austin's "Plea for Excuses") we need to carefully distinguish different sorts of cases. Perhaps doing somehing because you're being blackmailed and doing it by accident, by sheer inadvertence in the prosecution of your normal activities have in common that you could not have done otherwise, sort of, but that doesn't mean they are the same sort of case or that either should be expanded willy-nilly to include all 'involuntary' acts. As the Frankfurt cases tend to show, the question turns on whether the agent has the right sort of relation to the act, not on whether various counter-factuals obtain.
 "Rocket" Rod Chisholm, "Human Freedom and the Self," anthologized, for example in Free Will, Derk Pereboom, ed. (Indianapolis, Hackett: 1997), 144.
ok so andrew sullivan is freaking out. so are a lot of people i know. i don't really get this. now the first thing is that the freakout is exactly proportional to how insanely, unbelievably, magniloquently important you think it is that obama be re-elected. aww by fucking up he has betrayed all that is good and pure, at this moment where we must choose america's direction! first of all, i feel that the urgency is absurdly disconnected from the actual stakes, and i doubt you'd really notice much difference between the obama and a romney administration. and second: for god's sake if you're a frigging 'pundit' can't you get some distance and view the point of your particular contribution not as helping someone win but as thinking about or analyzing what is actually happening? and third: oh for heaven's sake, i think the mo is liable to switch back and that obama has systemic electoral-college advantages etc. so chill the fuck out! plus it just wasn't as bad a performance as say sullivan or john stewart are saying. anyway, ditch catastrophic panic mode as unbefitting your, er, manliness and dignity.
why was obama "so bad"? it was his 20th wedding anniversary. he spent the hour before with michelle, who was pissy as hell and having hot flashes. by the time he came out, he was tired and disillusioned. the same thing happened when he met with netanyahu last year. that is my diagnosis!