Asserted Quotes

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Categories: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
If the secret core of potlatch is the reciprocity of exchange, why is this reciprocity not asserted directly, why does it assume the 'mystified' form of two consecutive acts each of which is staged as a free voluntary display of generosity? Here we encounter the paradoxes of forced choice, of freedom to do what is necessary, at its most elementary: I have to do freely what I am expected to do. (If, upon receiving a gift, I immediately return it to the giver, this direct circulation would amount to an extremely aggressive gesture of humiliation, it would signal that I refused the other's gifts - recall those embarrassing moments when elderly people forget and give us last year's present once again ...) ... the reciprocity of exchange is in itself thoroughly ambiguous; at its most fundamental, it is destructive of the social bond, it is the logic of revenge, tit for tat. To cover this aspect of exchange, to make it benevolent and pacific, one has to pretend that each person's gift is free and stands on its own. This brings us to potlatch as the 'pre-economy of the economy, ' its zero-level, that is, exchange as the reciprocal relation of two non-productive expenditures. If the gift belongs to Master and exchange to the Servant, potlatch is the paradoxical exchange between Masters. Potlach is simultaneously the zero-level of civility, the paradoxical point at which restrained civility and obscene consumption overlap, the point at which it is polite to behave impolitely.

Slavoj Žižek
[Said during a debate when his opponent ridiculously asserted that atheism and belief in evolution leads to Nazism:] Atheism by itself is of course not a moral position or a political one of any kind, it simply is the refusal to believe in a supernatural dimension. For you to say of Naziism, that it was the implementation of the work of Charles Darwin is a filthy slander, undeserving of you, and an insult to this audience. Darwin's thought was not taught in Germany; Darwinism was derided in Germany along with every other form of unbelief that all the great modern atheists, Darwin, Einstein and Freud were alike despised by the National Socialist regime. Now, just to take the most notorious of the 20th century totalitarianisms, the most finished example, the most perfected one, the most ruthless and refined one, that of National Socialism, the one that fortunately allowed the escape of all these great atheists, thinkers and many others, to the United States, a country of separation of church and state, that gave them welcome, if it's an atheistic regime, then how come that in the first chapter of Mein Kampf, that Hitler says that he's doing God's work and executing God's will in destroying the Jewish people? How come the fuhrer oath that every officer of the Party and the Army had to take, making Hitler into a minor god, begins 'I swear in the name of almighty God, my loyalty to the Fuhrer?' How come that on the belt buckle of every Nazi soldier it says Gott mit uns, God on our side? How come that the first treaty made by the Nationalist Socialist dictatorship, the very first is with the Vatican? It's exchanging political control of Germany for Catholic control of German education. How come that the church has celebrated the birthday of the Fuhrer every year, on that day until democracy put an end to this filthy, quasi-religious, superstitious, barbarous, reactionary system. Again, this is not a difference of emphasis between us to suggest that there's something fascistic about me and about my beliefs is something I won't hear said and you shouldn't believe.

Christopher Hitchens
Study, along the lines which the theologies have mapped, will never lead us to discovery of the fundamental facts of our existence. That goal must be attained by means of exact science and can only be achieved by such means. The fact that man, for ages, has superstitiously believed in what he calls a God does not prove at all that his theory has been right. There have been many gods - all makeshifts, born of inability to fathom the deep fundamental truth. There must be something at the bottom of existence, and man, in ignorance, being unable to discover what it is through reason, because his reason has been so imperfect, undeveloped, has used, instead, imagination, and created figments, of one kind or another, which, according to the country he was born in, the suggestions of his environment, satisfied him for the time being. Not one of all the gods of all the various theologies has ever really been proved. We accept no ordinary scientific fact without the final proof; why should we, then, be satisfied in this most mighty of all matters, with a mere theory? Destruction of false theories will not decrease the sum of human happiness in future, any more than it has in the past... The days of miracles have passed. I do not believe, of course, that there was ever any day of actual miracles. I cannot understand that there were ever any miracles at all. My guide must be my reason, and at thought of miracles my reason is rebellious. Personally, I do not believe that Christ laid claim to doing miracles, or asserted that he had miraculous power... Our intelligence is the aggregate intelligence of the cells which make us up. There is no soul, distinct from mind, and what we speak of as the mind is just the aggregate intelligence of cells. It is fallacious to declare that we have souls apart from animal intelligence, apart from brains. It is the brain that keeps us going. There is nothing beyond that. Life goes on endlessly, but no more in human beings than in other animals, or, for that matter, than in vegetables. Life, collectively, must be immortal, human beings, individually, cannot be, as I see it, for they are not the individuals - they are mere aggregates of cells. There is no supernatural. We are continually learning new things. There are powers within us which have not yet been developed and they will develop. We shall learn things of ourselves, which will be full of wonders, but none of them will be beyond the natural. [Columbian Magazine interview]

Thomas A. Edison
To establish evolutionary interrelatedness invariably requires exhibiting similarities between organisms. Within Darwinism, there's only one way to connect such similarities, and that's through descent with modification driven by the Darwinian mechanism. But within a design-theoretic framework, this possibility, though not precluded, is also not the only game in town. It's possible for descent with modification instead to be driven by telic processes inherent in nature (and thus by a form of design). Alternatively, it's possible that the similarities are not due to descent at all but result from a similarity of conception, just as designed objects like your TV, radio, and computer share common components because designers frequently recycle ideas and parts. Teasing apart the effects of intelligent and natural causation is one of the key questions confronting a design-theoretic research program. Unlike Darwinism, therefore, intelligent design has no immediate and easy answer to the question of common descent. Darwinists necessarily see this as a bad thing and as a regression to ignorance. From the design theorists' perspective, however, frank admissions of ignorance are much to be preferred to overconfident claims to knowledge that in the end cannot be adequately justified. Despite advertisements to the contrary, science is not a juggernaut that relentlessly pushes back the frontiers of knowledge. Rather, science is an interconnected web of theoretical and factual claims about the world that are constantly being revised and for which changes in one portion of the web can induce radical changes in another. In particular, science regularly confronts the problem of having to retract claims that it once confidently asserted.

William A. Dembski
But that there is a simple relation between literary and other fictions seems, if one attends to it, more obvious than has appeared. If we think first of modern fictions, it can hardly be an accident that ever since Nietzsche generalized and developed the Kantian insights, literature has increasingly asserted its right to an arbitrary and private choice of fictional norms, just as historiography has become a discipline more devious and dubious because of our recognition that its methods depend to an unsuspected degree on myths and fictions. After Nietzsche it was possible to say, as Stevens did, that 'the final belief must be in a fiction.' This poet, to whom the whole question was of perpetual interest, saw that to think in this way was to postpone the End-when the fiction might be said to coincide with reality-for ever; to make of it a fiction, an imaginary moment when 'at last' the world of fact and the mundo of fiction shall be one. Such a fiction-the last section of Notes toward a Supreme Fiction is, appropriately, the place where Stevens gives it his fullest attention-such a fiction of the end is like infinity plus one and imaginary numbers in mathematics, something we know does not exist, but which helps us to make sense of and to move in the world. Mundo is itself such a fiction. I think Stevens, who certainly thought we have to make our sense out of whatever materials we find to hand, borrowed it from Ortega. His general doctrine of fictions he took from Vaihinger, from Nietzsche, perhaps also from American pragmatism.

Frank Kermode
Darwin, with his Origin of Species, his theories about Natural Selection, the Survival of the Fittest, and the influence of environment, shed a flood of light upon the great problems of plant and animal life. These things had been guessed, prophesied, asserted, hinted by many others, but Darwin, with infinite patience, with perfect care and candor, found the facts, fulfilled the prophecies, and demonstrated the truth of the guesses, hints and assertions. He was, in my judgment, the keenest observer, the best judge of the meaning and value of a fact, the greatest Naturalist the world has produced. The theological view began to look small and mean. Spencer gave his theory of evolution and sustained it by countless facts. He stood at a great height, and with the eyes of a philosopher, a profound thinker, surveyed the world. He has influenced the thought of the wisest. Theology looked more absurd than ever. Huxley entered the lists for Darwin. No man ever had a sharper sword - a better shield. He challenged the world. The great theologians and the small scientists - those who had more courage than sense, accepted the challenge. Their poor bodies were carried away by their friends. Huxley had intelligence, industry, genius, and the courage to express his thought. He was absolutely loyal to what he thought was truth. Without prejudice and without fear, he followed the footsteps of life from the lowest to the highest forms. Theology looked smaller still. Haeckel began at the simplest cell, went from change to change - from form to form - followed the line of development, the path of life, until he reached the human race. It was all natural. There had been no interference from without. I read the works of these great men - of many others - and became convinced that they were right, and that all the theologians - all the believers in "special creation" were absolutely wrong. The Garden of Eden faded away, Adam and Eve fell back to dust, the snake crawled into the grass, and Jehovah became a miserable myth.

Robert G. Ingersoll
Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate 'relationship' involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the 'married' couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other. The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology. For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere. There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children. What they have they have in common, and so, to them, helping each other does not seem merely to damage their ability to compete against each other. To them, 'mine' is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as 'ours.' This sort of marriage usually has at its heart a household that is to some extent productive. The couple, that is, makes around itself a household economy that involves the work of both wife and husband, that gives them a measure of economic independence and self-employment, a measure of freedom, as well as a common ground and a common satisfaction. (From "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine")

Wendell Berry
Edward genially enough did not disagree with what I said, but he didn't seem to admit my point, either. I wanted to press him harder so I veered close enough to the ad hominem to point out that his life-the life of the mind, the life of the book collector and music lover and indeed of the gallery-goer, appreciator of the feminine and occasional boulevardier-would become simply unlivable and unthinkable in an Islamic republic. Again, he could accede politely to my point but carry on somehow as if nothing had been conceded. I came slowly to realize that with Edward, too, I was keeping two sets of books. We agreed on things like the first Palestinian intifadah, another event that took the Western press completely off guard, and we collaborated on a book of essays that asserted and defended Palestinian rights. This was in the now hard-to-remember time when all official recognition was withheld from the PLO. Together we debated Professor Bernard Lewis and Leon Wieseltier at a once-celebrated conference of the Middle East Studies Association in Cambridge in 1986, tossing and goring them somewhat in a duel over academic 'objectivity' in the wider discipline. But even then I was indistinctly aware that Edward didn't feel himself quite at liberty to say certain things, while at the same time feeling rather too much obliged to say certain other things. A low point was an almost uncritical profile of Yasser Arafat that he contributed to Interview magazine in the late 1980s.

Christopher Hitchens
Is power like the vis viva and the quantite d'avancement? That is, is it conserved by the universe, or is it like shares of a stock, which may have great value one day, and be worthless the next? If power is like stock shares, then it follows that the immense sum thereof lately lost by B[olingbroke] has vanished like shadows in sunlight. For no matter how much wealth is lost in stock crashes, it never seems to turn up, but if power is conserved, then B's must have gone somewhere. Where is it? Some say 'twas scooped up by my Lord R, who hid it under a rock, lest my Lord M come from across the sea and snatch it away. My friends among the Whigs say that any power lost by a Tory is infallibly and insensibly distributed among all the people, but no matter how assiduously I search the lower rooms of the clink for B's lost power, I cannot seem to find any there, which explodes that argument, for there are assuredly very many people in those dark salons. I propose a novel theory of power, which is inspired by... the engine for raising water by fire. As a mill makes flour, a loom makes cloth and a forge makes steel, so we are assured this engine shall make power. If the backers of this device speak truly, and I have no reason to deprecate their honesty, it proves that power is not a conserved quantity, for of such quantities, it is never possible to make more. The amount of power in the world, it follows, is ever increasing, and the rate of increase grows ever faster as more of these engines are built. A man who hordes power is therefore like a miser who sits on a heap of coins in a realm where the currency is being continually debased by the production of more coins than the market can bear. So that what was a great fortune, when first he raked it together, insensibly becomes a slag heap, and is found to be devoid of value. When at last he takes it to the marketplace to be spent. Thus my Lord B and his vaunted power hoard what is true of him is likely to be true of his lackeys, particularly his most base and slavish followers such as Mr. Charles White. This varmint has asserted that he owns me. He fancies that to own a man is to have power, yet he has got nothing by claiming to own me, while I who was supposed to be rendered powerless, am now writing for a Grub Street newspaper that is being perused by you, esteemed reader.

Neal Stephenson
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