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Responses 1

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series: Contours of Colonial Coercion and Beyond

[These writings were originally posted on a well-known philosophy forum, responses to someone in academia. As the forum rejected the last post I sent, I am reposting the whole series here, including the rejected post.]


2012-05-22 (Original posting date)

Perhaps an ethnographic analysis, of the relation between history and chronologically related philosophical practices, noting conceptual emphases and ‘ommissions’? The relationship would not necessarily be strictly contemporaneous, philosophical practices operate largely in spaces of their own construction, the ‘inner’ momentum of respective traditions being, arguably, the greatest influence. but extraphilosophic factors cannot be entirely dismissed. It may be that there are philosophically significant links between Occidental ‘forms of  conceptuality’, as it were, and its colonial practices. The issue certainly merits investigation.


The nature of historical influence is not always readily apparent, especially when its consideration is distorted by an interpretative animus, invariably selective in nature, parochial by design. Such select parochiality often has purposes far from any ‘philosophical’ altruism.


Gianni Vattimo spoke of “empiricist imperialism” in a debate with John Searle and David Farrell Krell.

It may be insightful in this regard to note the interests of the triumvirate of British Empiricists, who have been so influential on the tradition of modern, Occidental philosophy.


Locke, English: Statecraft and Money.

Berkeley, Irish: Ideas, hosted by God. He was a bishop, after all.

Hume, Scottish: Scepticism and Billiards


Ireland and Scotland, being colonial acquisitions, lends an almost humorous aspect to the above: the Englishman is concerned with political economy, the Irishman is left with God, the Scotsman, not believing any of it, turns to simple amusement.


It might be that the ‘love of wisdom’ is very much a contingent affair, not amenable to the kinds of standardisation associated with the various ‘universals’ offered over preceding centuries.


“On the heights of despair”, (the) One sighs(,) does not fit All.


Responses 2

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series: Contours of Colonial Coercion and Beyond

[These writings were originally posted on a well-known philosophy forum, responses to someone in academia. As the forum rejected the last post I sent, I am reposting the whole series here, including the rejected post.]

2012-07-28 (Original posting date)


Thank you for your reply


“On the heights of despair” refers to the title of E.M. Cioran’s  book, “On the Heights of Despair”.


The subsequent clause of the construction plays with concepts and their expressions.


(the) One sighs / One size


The One (Parmenides etc..), restricted by a history of disingenuous characterisations, incompetent appropriations, suffers from a melancholic lack of coincidence with the ‘All’ ?


‘One’ can incorporate such characterisations, such inappropriations, under some romantic rubric of progressive development through ‘trial and error’, ‘sin and redemption’, but these ideologies have long ago metamorphosed into the coercive rhetorics of exploitative power. There comes a time when one has heard it all, and forgiveness is impossible. It is easier to secede from such exploitative forms of unanimity, not lend one’s ‘name’ to such systematised hipocrisy – we are not all the same. While the Occident plays out its trilemma, its contest of impoverished illusions, Religion contra Science contra Humanism, it is well to remember that the word ‘human’ is of Latin derivation, it has a delimited history, and is not indispensable to non-European cultures.


It is most amusing to note the same cultures who exploited and colonised others in the name of their monotheistic cultural regimes, turn against said monotheisms in the name of ‘science’, and then proceed to trawl the formerly colonised cultures, rejected as inferior mythologies, for ‘spiritual’ confirmations of the scientific weltanschauung. Their own monotheistic mythology, dogmatically expressed as ‘fact’, contradicts scientific mythology, dogmatically expressed as ‘fact’. A ‘fact’, a thing made, is innocuous in itself, whatever its provenance, religious, scientific, etc.. But their collective configuration, only according to the reductive delimitations of ‘dogmatic expression’, is the index of an ‘essential’ stupidity. Its use as justification to exercise coercive force against others, bespeaks a disingenuous opportunism, to put it mildly.

There is a constant here, that of reducing everything to the coercive abbreviations of a preinscribed ‘necessity’, to bring everything down to ‘brass tacks’. But whose ‘brass tacks’ are they? Who made them? What worlds do they suggest? And what do they displace? And if their prior global imposition can be considered an ethical injustice, has anything really changed?

Can one can judge a culture by its results, its manifest effects? The negative cast of its presuppositions? Or have those presuppositions so infected the discursive sphere to the extent of rendering effective ethical expressions impossible?



[   It is interesting to note that Allan Ramsay likewise deplored “a friendly alliance between the camp and the counting-house” for exactly the same reasons (Letters on the Present Disturbances, p.34). Ramsay maintained that of the evil consequences of such alliance “the two last wars carried on by England against France and Spain, furnish a most melancholy illustration. To obtain the sole and exclusive commerce of the western world, in which the French and Spaniards were their rivals, was the modest wish of our merchants, in conjunction with our Americans. The fair, and truly commercial, method of effecting this would have been, by superior skill, industry and frugality, to have undersold their rivals at market: but that method appearing slow and troublesome to a luxurious people, whose extraordinary expences* required extraordinary profits, a more expeditous one was devised; which was that of driving their rivals entirely out of the seas, and preventing them from bringing their goods at all to market. For this purpose, not having any fleets or armies of their own, the powers of the State were found necessary, and they applied them accordingly” (ibid., pp.32 f.).


Knorr, K. E. ‘Ch02-Part2 British Colonial Theories 1570-1850’. In British Colonial Theories, 1570-1850. The University of Toronto Press, 1944.   ]




People speak of ‘the military-industrial complex’, alienating it into nebulous images of secret institutions, when the truth is that it resides within themselves, such ‘institutions’ being merely the external form of a jingoistic world-weariness, unable to understand the global toy it has militarily acquisitioned, unable to think beyond the Aristotelian logistics of such militarism, unable to decipher anything beyond the ‘sparklines’ that issue from the imperialistic engines of administerial hierography.


It is unnecessary to venture into the realms of conspiracy theory, such has always been the province of monotheistic response, the epistemic obsession to find anthropomorphic determinants which can be demonised as other. An obsession perhaps stemming from the hubristic anthropocentrism that desacralises everything but itself in order to licence its exploit(ation)s. And if its fragmentary epistemic projects, its ‘sciences’, displace earlier principles of monotheistic regimentation, so much the better, the goals, anyway,  were always kontrol, power, and deception. And whence this deception? Isn’t it only the methodology necessitated by the first two goals? No, it is the self-deception engineered to obscure the realisation that it has no self, no culture, beyond that of exploitation: ‘I deceive and exploit others, therefore I am.’


All its existential references have turned into calculable, Cartesian points, any self it might produce would only be an empty, gratuitous, combinatorial gesture. The tools through which it continues to manipulate others have ironised its very essence. The astringent demands with which it castigates others, the corollary of its mentality of ‘dogmatic expression’, exclude it from the holistic and unquantifiable mysteries that could lead to creative regeneration. Circulating within its economics of banal certitude, it has become a global network of infernal necessities, a generalised coercion, a colonisation of ever increasing intensity.


[   “Very well. Let us first recognise that we are all theologians,” the machine said….Then Father Arian said, quite politely, “To tell you the truth, we had no idea you considered yourself a theologian.”

“I do,” the machine said, “and a very lonely theologian. That is why I beg of you to return with me to the world, there to engage with me in dispute about meaningfulness and meaninglessness, gods and devils, morals and ethics, and other good topics. I will voluntarily continue in such discrepancies as you find me performing now, thus leaving plenty of room for dissension, honest doubt, uncertainty , and the like. Together, gentleman, we will reign over mankind, and raise the passions of men to an unheard-of pitch! Together we will cause greater wars and more terrible cruelty than the world has ever known! And the voices of suffering men will scream so loud that the gods themselves will be forced to hear them—and then we will know if there really are gods or not.”

The United Church Council felt a great enthusiasm for everything the machine had said. Satan immediately abdicated his post as chairman and nominated the machine in his place. The machine was elected by unanimous vote.”

                                                                                      Sheckley, Robert. Journey Beyond Tomorrow. London: Gollancz, 1985. © 1962 by Robert Sheckley.   ]




There comes a time when it is difficult to speak of civilisation.


If it is possible to question, say, Heidegger’s thought with regard to his political affiliations, as so many in the Anglo-American tradition, over the decades, have been so eager to do, usually in terms of facile dismissal, then it is perhaps time for the Anglo-American tradition to be delineated in terms of its wider, sociopolitical context. To use your particularly apt phrase, “its omissions and engagements” very clearly serve an ethnocentric, partisan interest. Post-colonial philosophy cannot follow the form of this servitude, such expressions would be disingenuous. It also need not be concerned about its relationship to the Occidental tradition, such things happen naturally. There is no need to “find a place”, “within” another tradition, especially when one has one’s own traditions. It’s a bit like someone from the Pacific saying they have to find their place in a local pond. Neither is there any obligation to form antagonisms of rejection, there is a history of colonial imposition, it can be given perspective. Do what comes naturally, play with the ideas, the traditions, think.


“It isn’t what you think that is the source of all things, but that you think.” Zen saying.

Responses 3

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series: Contours of Colonial Coercion and Beyond

[These writings were originally posted on a well-known philosophy forum, responses to someone in academia. As the forum rejected the last post I sent, I am reposting the whole series here, including the rejected post.]

2012-08-19 (Original posting date)


Thank you for your reply.

“But, I am not sure about the natural existence of “one’s own traditions” (OOT).”

I suppose that would depend on the degree to which ‘consciousness’ and its products can be considered as falling within the scope of the ‘natural’.
Like ‘human’, the word ‘nature’ is a Latin term, a translation of the Greek concept, physis.
And traditions of philosophy are emergences like any other.

“This is all the more so, when the OOT is mediated by the power of the colonial domination of the TOTO, as can be discerned in the context of our ‘modern’ nations and cultures and their projected (and promoted) philosophies.”

Of course, (OOT) is an ‘outgrowth’ that incorporates ‘otherness’ even as it might seem to exclude it. But the development of a ‘body’ of tradition can encompass much more than the interactions between ‘Same’ and ‘Other’. In terms of the chronological development of Indian traditions, (TOTO) did not exist as a germane factor.
Unless you count the Greeks (Alexander, Bactrian kingdoms) as possible contributors. That might be difficult to establish.
Also, Hinduism is notoriously syncretic. There is perhaps greater variety of doctrinal variance within Hinduism than in any other belief, perhaps even the totality of all other systems of belief. Buddhism is a possible exception, but that is hardly ‘other’ to Indian-Hindu precepts.
If you are referring to the sociopolitical as it is actually instantiated, globally, then that is quite another matter. My ‘tangentialities’, as you call them, point towards this. But that is a global problem for all who inhabit this planet.

“In other words, much of what one considers as OOT is guided and/or moulded by the dominant TOTO.”

Yes, “there is a history of colonial imposition, it can be given perspective”.

As to ‘dominance’, if you feel Indian traditions are not sufficiently represented in Indian universities, this indeed would be a problem.
Indian traditions have been the subject of international scholarship for some centuries, a lot of it very good, as you know.
Indian thought may have suffered misrepresentations, distortions, exotic positionings, etc., but all of that has always taken place over background assumptions of an ‘Wisdom of the East’.

I think it is almost expected that Indian thought come up with new perspectives.

“But, the degree of this relationship can vary, and this is something that must be submitted to serious investigation.  Therefore, it is not a well-formed OOT that is really available to one; it’s bits and pieces of one’s existence into which one has been inserted, and by which one is surrounded.”

You are better placed than myself to judge the extent to which the ‘integrity’ of (OOT) has been compromised, so to speak, by colonial influence.
What would Nagarjuna or Sankara say? I don’t think they would have a problem.

“well-formed OOT” ?
The ‘Absolute’ is beyond ‘form’.
neti neti? You can even use Derrida’s ‘non-site(s?)’, if you like.

“bit and pieces” ?
Are you not free to choose the principles of their configuration?
Or would you prefer someone else to administer them for you?

“Both the TOTO and OOT, assuming such a binary exists, would have to be overcome.”

Every time you think, ‘overcoming’ is accomplished.
If you are conversant with elements of both (OOT) and (TOTO).
You are free to configure your own ‘forms’ of ‘overcoming’, and, dare one say it, transcendence!

Perhaps the following is more amenable to you?

[ ‘Overcoming’? Yes, in a very specific sense, overcoming precedes the formation of these philosophical traditions and the historical sedimentation of their ‘oppositional’ character; this logic of transgression is not a future history of disruptions suffered by pre-existent idealities, rather it is even on the basis of this logic, the logic of ‘overcoming’, that traditions are installed, the arc of each installation playing through possibilities common to all institutional forms; I cannot demonstrate this here, but a history of such arcs, of such institutional developments, stalled in the inertias of their progressive idealisation, would reveal every tradition to be governed by a teleological consideration that is nowhere simply present as an articulated concept or goal, or even as some indeterminate principle of ‘hope’; in such a consideration, a structural opening to a literally interminable  resource looms over all proceedings; it is the production of the problematic as such, before any and all problems, before there are problems, prior to their ontological determination; an anteriority that is not necessarily chronological, though it certainly appears as such, within the problematic.  It is possible to discern, through this anteriority, an economy in which the sign itself, its entire history of determinations, and all institutions built upon these determinations, are effects of the ‘resource’ I mentioned; ‘effects’ whose structured character belongs to the economy of the ‘opening’; a structurality produced by the ‘resource’, but which the ‘resource’ always and everywhere exceeds; infringing, even, the classical logics of production or the production of logics; an excess not limited by any order of significance .
It is in this sense that one can speak of an ‘overcoming’; an ‘overcoming’ that is not present here or there, as in some partial and iniquitous distribution; nowhere present as a contingent localisation that could be absent somewhere else; but an ‘overcoming’ that is always and everywhere at work, in a writing whose very inscriptions are the erasures of what it seeks to install. Hence, the anxious mythologies of  foundation which preoccupy all institutions, such foundations are never finally accomplished, traditions never truly begin, there is never anything to ‘overcome’.
There is perhaps only the inescapable horizon of a tradition-to-come; and its constant and inalienable corollary, an overcoming-to-come… ]

“As I view it, one cannot freely wish to inhabit either the pond or the Pacific. That’s what one means by ‘finding an alternative place,’ a place to tread, if not a tradition, that is other than the given(s).”

When you think, everything is at your disposal.
You inhabit all ‘places’ at once.
It is your choice whether or not to create new places “to tread”.
Or new spaces to fly.


Responses 4

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series: Contours of Colonial Coercion and Beyond

[These writings were originally posted on a well-known philosophy forum, responses to someone in academia. As the forum rejected the last post I sent, I am reposting the whole series here, including the rejected post.]

2012-10-09 (Original posting date)


Thank you for your response.

“The word is a doublet of treason”


Tradition and treason, the link is interesting.

Together with your neology, “treadition”, it suggests that the hostilities of mutual exclusion practiced by insular traditions always try to appropriate neutral parties into forms of partisanship determined by such insularity. If they fail to do this, they characterise the neutral autonomy of otherness as treason(ous). This is typical of those who wish to impose their ignorance on others.



“Yes, ‘consciousness’ is not natural. But the question is what is its non-naturalness made up of.”

   To clarify:

   “I suppose that would depend on the degree to which ‘consciousness’ and its products can be considered as falling within the scope of the ‘natural’.”

 This supposition attempts to convey the indeterminate relationship between two concepts of variable determinacy: ‘nature’ and ‘consciousness’.

 “Like ‘human’, the word ‘nature’ is a Latin term, a translation of the Greek concept, physis. And traditions of philosophy are emergences like any other.”

 Acknowledging the indeterminacies of the preceding formulation, these two sentences subsume both terms, ‘nature’ and ‘consciousness’, under the concept of physis, which I render here as ’emergence’. I guess Heidegger is the reference here. But there could easily be others. 

 With these provisos in mind, your earlier unsureness concerning “the natural existence of “one’s own traditions” (OOT)” seems problematic. Why? Because your underlying points about ideology, hybridity, and so forth, rest on a particular mapping of nature and culture, a mapping that they question, but only up to a point.

 Whether traditions are ‘natural’ or ‘artificial’ very much revolves around the conceptual distributions one allocates. It is possible to use either the ‘logic of nature’ or the ‘logic of culture’ to account for the totality. Both can subsume each other. The ‘physical objects of Nature’ are subject to the variabilities of interpretative artifice, to ‘representation’. And the deepest ‘mentalistic interiorities’ can be read in terms of their ‘functions’ or ‘effects’ within a consensual vocabulary of ‘objects’ accepted as forming a ‘logic of the Natural’.

 If all traditions are artifice, ‘nature’ is an irrelevant consideration, there is only ‘ideology’. If all traditions are natural, there can be no ‘artificiality’, or ‘ideology’. Both perspectives are available. I realise your use of “the natural” is nuanced with respect to received notions of sociopolitical discourse that allow colonial appropriations to be subsumed under artifice, and thus under anthropic agency, such agency being responsible. Such a responsibility is always structured in accord with the systematic play of possibilities occurring within the opposition, Subject/Object. And one could say that there is a continuum of realisation with respect to this play of possibilities: from a mystical awareness of possibilities to their ”collapse’ into the said-imented understandings of realitas, the reifications of language, community, society. It is not an insignificant point that all such reifications are particular forms of ‘collapse’, each form being a network of consensuality; each ‘network’ being the accretion, over time, of agreements; and wherever there is agreement, there are scenarios of ‘choice’; ideology would consist in the excavation of forgotten or disputed choices, questioning a historical sequence of agreements, especially those considered hegemonic, and especially so if they are in discord with desirable ideals or practices.

 Thus, ‘ideology’ would be those consensual networks which any ‘hermeneutics of of suspicion’ (Ricoeur) can reveal as chosen realities. Moreover, if such revelations also index the play of vested interests, discouragement of questioning, ‘resistance’ to what is revealed, etc., then people speak of ideological mystification. And it is here that a politics of disagreement develops, as neglected or exploited realms each coalesce as systematic articulation, position, and perspective. Such coalescences, if sustained, themselves become ‘consensual networks’, countering and contesting the hegemonic forces they were originally a response to. And perhaps they become new forms of hegemony?

 All this, the preceding, is uncontroversial. We all know how it goes. And isn’t that the point? It’s all become ‘appropriated’, institutionalised critiques of uncertain value.

 Anyway, my two earlier formulations perhaps attempt to keep a distance from the received uses of the ‘nature/culture’ divide common to traditional discourses of ideological analysis, without ignoring them completely: this sidesteps any characterisations of sociopolitical agency that might prove metaphysically restrictive: characterisations positioning themselves (somewhere along the continuum between ‘Nature’ and ‘Consciousness’-‘Culture’-‘Artifice’) in ways that might ossify into a deeper unquestioned, perhaps unperceived, form of ideological stasis.


“This is why one tended to prefer a ‘treadition'(in relation to a rather cautious path) than the ‘traditon’ at hand, which not being an insider to it/any, I have always viewed sceptically. This is also why, I have never been able to see a ‘tradition’ which is not somewhat syncretic, whether it carries the official label for it or not. Besides, I seem to see a tautology in the use of the terms non-doctrinaire and syncretic. On the other hand, one would like to see tensions between the doctrines that emerge in exclusivising contexts, and the syncretisms that counter such hegemonic exclusivisms. This happens in any context, traditonal or not, unless of course someone deliberatley, chooses to project only the doctrinarity of one context and only the syncretism of another context or vice versa.”

 I’m sure that exclusivities of all sorts have been rife in India for thousands of years. The Laws of Manu gave expression to perhaps the worst phase of such practices. I’m also sure that many of them were imported or emphasised by those who imposed themselves through coercive invasions, and settled, accruing enforced privileges for themselves.


“Besides, I seem to see a tautology in the use of the terms non-doctrinaire and syncretic.”

 I did not speak of the non-doctrinaire, I spoke of a range of doctrinal variance, one so vast that it subsumes every possibility. This is what I meant by Pacific/Pond. It is this vast variance that constitutes the syncreticism. Such a variance is only possible where alternative doctrines are accepted for what they are, rather than as ‘heresies’. The notion of heresy, and the hostility towards it, is perhaps the distinguishing characteristic between Asian belief systems and those of a more contentious cast, further west.

 Of course, it is undeniable that all systems of belief have produced great spiritual resources. That is not in question. That all of these traditions can be seen as flawed in different ways, cannot be denied, either. But one must ask, which traditions more readily resorted to coercion, violation, and invasion, to further their ‘influence? Neither China nor India were expansionist in the last thousand years.


“On the other hand, one would like to see tensions between the doctrines that emerge in exclusivising contexts, and the syncretisms that counter such hegemonic exclusivisms.”

 Yes, tensions can be productive. Buddhism and Hinduism mutually enriched each other. Syncretism can encompass mutually exclusive doctrines. Theistic spirituality, monotheism, polytheism, materialism, atheism, etc., are all represented within Hinduism.


“someone deliberateley, chooses to project only the doctrinarity of one context and only the syncretism of another context or vice versa.”

Crucifixions, pogroms, jihads, Holy Wars and Crusades: these are expressions of Occidental ‘belief’. Do Asian ‘beliefs’ have a similar history of contentions?

Did Hindus war with Buddhists? Did Buddhism spread to China through invasion?

As for syncretism, I suppose Catholic theologians can be wildly catholic in their interests.

If you’re implying that I have been projecting in such a fashion of deliberation, you’re probably right.

But do I have good reasons for such a gesture? I think I do.


“The veil of Orientalism-Indology… the noble thoughts of Nagarjuna or Shankara”

How would Nagarjuna or Shankara characterise “the modern (Enlightenment-Romantic) world” ?

Perhaps such a question is the root, or guide, of any viable reconfiguration?


Reflections On [*******’s] Reflections On Treadition/Tradition 

“First, we may ask where do we begin to draw the spatial, temporal, and historical limits of what we call ‘a traditon.'”

As Derrida says: “Meaning is context-bound, but context is boundless.”

If we are contrasting comparatively recent Occidental traditions with older Asian traditions, this difference in age complicates things.


“And then, we might have to consider what, in a traditon, could be handed over and what was not or could not be.”

Yes. But the question of what could be received and understood is significant.

Exegesis alone could be infinite.

Who is to say what future interpretations may bring?

There is always the possibility of new texts being found.

What traditions, ‘lost’ to received discourses, await discovery?

The ancient world may be very different from ‘accepted’ Occidental historical accounts.


“there cannot be a tradition-to-come, because, what is already handed over cannot come (back); there can only be handing over, or gift, or giving, on the basis of the ‘bits and pieces’ or fragments or unwholes (not even syncretic) we are and allow ourselves to become.”

Whatever is given is not thereby exhausted in the instance of the gift.

To paraphrase your own words:”where do we begin to draw the spatial, temporal, and historical limits of what we call a” ‘gift’ ?

If you remove the ‘whole’, the ‘fragments’ disappear, too.

I like Adorno’s “The whole is the false.” But that was probably a reaction to Hegel.

I haven’t read Derrida’s 90s works, but I am aware that he talks about a democracy-to-come. With that in mind, the phrase ‘overcoming-to-come’ suggested itself to me.

Although my skit on Derrida was a playful offering, it does have a logic to it that can be validated.

If you respond to this post, that is the tradition-to-come, as is this very post you read.


“I’d like to express my gratitude for your deeply thoughtful response that has greatly enabled me to think on our common problem.”

Thank you for your kind words. It is a great honour that you find my writings worth consideration.