david on fun
image: henrik drescher: https://www.hdrescher.com/
from david graeber‘s essay – what’s the point if we can’t have fun (2014): https://thebaffler.com/salvos/whats-the-point-if-we-cant-have-fun?
The reading group for David’s ‘What’s the point if we cannot have fun?’ tomorrow at 8.00pm GMT. In the same zoom group as always:https://bit.ly/3kifxZY
Nika, Elizabeth and Oihane will deliver a summary of the text as well as interlock it with other thinkers’ ideas and theories.
So along with David’s essay, we will also touch upon:
– Kropotkin’s ideas on animal play and cooperation. And perhaps Nilolay Evreenov’s ideas on animal play too.
– Butler’s ideas on gender as a performance.
– A theory which states the universe has a sense of humour. And perhaps myths which seem to claim the same.
– How mainstream western philosophy has mostly tried to explain ‘the self’ from an individualist point of view, rather than a social one.- As well as scientist Roy Bhaskar’s theories about reality.
This is the link to David’s essay: https://thebaffler.com/…/whats-the-point-if-we-cant...
Hope to see you there.
and next day this:
Today in the reading group #MuseumofCare we will talk about “What’s the point if we can’t have fun?”, probably one of David’s major texts, where he links ideas about philosophy, theoretical physics, biology, and social theory. He writes about Kropotkin and the “Russian view of Darwinism.” I am immediately reminded of Nikolai Yevreinov, who wrote: “A man is vividly moved only by what lends itself to its theatricalization.” Later he described the same “theatrical instincts” in animals. It is worth understanding that Graeber, Kropotkin, and Yevreinov are reflecting primarily on freedom and on the causes of consciousness.
notes\quotes from essay:
Generally speaking, an analysis of animal behavior is not considered scientific unless the animal is assumed, at least tacitly, to be operating according to the same means/end calculations that one would apply to economic transactions. Under this assumption, an expenditure of energy must be directed toward some goal, whether it be obtaining food, securing territory, achieving dominance, or maximizing reproductive success—unless one can absolutely prove that it isn’t, and absolute proof in such matters is, as one might imagine, very hard to come by.
I’m simply saying that ethologists have boxed themselves into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behavior in rational terms—which in turn means describing an animal as if it were a calculating economic actor trying to maximize some sort of self-interest—whatever their theory of animal psychology, or motivation, might be.
humanity needs to let go of any form of m\a\p
That’s why the existence of animal play is considered something of an intellectual scandal. It’s understudied, and those who do study it are seen as mildly eccentric. As with many vaguely threatening, speculative notions, difficult-to-satisfy criteria are introduced for proving animal play exists, and even when it is acknowledged, the research more often than not cannibalizes its own insights by trying to demonstrate that play must have some long-term survival or reproductive function.
Why do animals play? Well, why shouldn’t they? The real question is: Why does the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them, strike us as mysterious? What does it tell us about ourselves that we instinctively assume that it is?
Kropotkin’s actual argument is far more interesting. Much of it, for instance, is concerned with how animal cooperation often has nothing to do with survival or reproduction, but is a form of pleasure in itself.
“Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man,” Schiller wrote in his On the Aesthetic Education of Man, “and he is only wholly a Man when he is playing.” If so, and if Kropotkin was right, then glimmers of freedom, or even of moral life, begin to appear everywhere around us.
cooperation for pleasure, as an end in itself, simply could not be recuperated for ideological purposes. In fact, the version of the struggle for existence that emerged over the twentieth century had even less room for play than the older Victorian one.
Many are finding it increasingly difficult to come up with justifications for ascribing any of these things even to human beings. Once you reduce all living beings to the equivalent of market actors, rational calculating machines trying to propagate their genetic code, you accept that not only the cells that make up our bodies, but whatever beings are our immediate ancestors, lacked anything even remotely like self-consciousness, freedom, or moral life—which makes it hard to understand how or why consciousness (a mind, a soul) could ever have evolved in the first place.
dennett formulation: ‘Yes, we have a soul. But it’s made of lots of tiny robots.. ‘.. How do apparently robotic cells and systems combine in such a way as to have qualitative experiences: to feel dampness, savor wine, adore cumbia but be indifferent to salsa? Some scientists are honest enough to admit they don’t have the slightest idea how to account for experiences like these, and suspect they never will.
There is a way out of the dilemma, and the first step is to consider that our starting point could be wrong. .. What would happen if we proceeded from the reverse perspective and agreed to treat play not as some peculiar anomaly, but as our starting point, a principle already present not just in lobsters and indeed all living creatures, but also on every level where we find what physicists, chemists, and biologists refer to as “self-organizing systems”?
Or more to the point, why are we perfectly willing to ascribe agency to a strand of DNA (however “metaphorically”), but consider it absurd to do the same with an electron, a snowflake, or a coherent electromagnetic field? The answer, it seems, is because it’s pretty much impossible to ascribe self-interest to a snowflake. If we have convinced ourselves that rational explanation of action can consist only of treating action as if there were some sort of self-serving calculation behind it, then by that definition, on all these levels, rational explanations can’t be found. Unlike a DNA molecule, which we can at least pretend is pursuing some gangster-like project of ruthless self-aggrandizement, an electron simply does not have a material interest to pursue, not even survival. It is in no sense competing with other electrons. If an electron is acting freely—if it, as Richard Feynman is supposed to have said, “does anything it likes”—it can only be acting freely as an end in itself. Which would mean that at the very foundations of physical reality, we encounter freedom for its own sake—which also means we encounter the most rudimentary form of play.
I don’t deny that what I’ve presented so far is a savage simplification of very complicated issues. I’m not even saying that the position I’m suggesting here—that there is a play principle at the basis of all physical reality—is necessarily true. I would just insist that such a perspective is at least as plausible as the weirdly inconsistent speculations that currently pass for orthodoxy, in which a mindless, robotic universe suddenly produces poets and philosophers out of nowhere. Nor, I think, does seeing play as a principle of nature necessarily mean adopting any sort of milky utopian view. The play principle can help explain why sex is fun, but it can also explain why cruelty is fun. (As anyone who has watched a cat play with a mouse can attest, a lot of animal play is not particularly nice.) But it gives us ground to unthink the world around us.
Zhuangzi was right. So was June Thunderstorm. Our minds are just a part of nature. We can understand the happiness of fishes—or ants, or inchworms—because what drives us to think and argue about such matters is, ultimately, exactly the same thing.
from play page:
What ultimately lies behind the appeal of bureaucracy is fear of play. – David Graeber, the utopia of rules
261 (in footnotes)
157\ and if one is playing a game, the ‘play’ element is the unpredictable element, the degree to which one is not simply enacting rules, but applying skill or rolling the dice, or otherwise embracing uncertainty
more from play page: