Charlotte Philosophy Discussion Group Message Board › SUGGESTED TOPICS FOR OUR MEETINGS


Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,425

Thanks for your ideas.

Those ideas, and others, have been talked about frequently in the administrative parts of our meetings.

Currently, the group is preferring to choose the topic by everyone putting a topic on a piece of paper and having one of those drawn from a hat. Also, however, as you know, we are building up a list of potential topics.

The grouip seems to have two wishes, namely, to follow the discussion wherever it seems to lead and to explore some particular topic in depth.

Our group, I think, is still in the process of experimenting with different procedures, and I believe we will ultimately have a better defined and persisting method.

My effort is to give the group maximum freedom to develop its ways of functioning, consistent with the basic idea of the group, exploration of and friendly debate about any system(s) of belief.

Sure wish you could come and see for yourself, and participate.
Matthew L.
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 8
I'm also interested in the "bad God" topic. #3, #4, and #5 in the list below are often left out of discussions on monotheism.

1) Good God
2) No God
3) Bad God
4) Disinterested or Neutral God
5) God is generally good, it just doesn't like you
Eva R.
user 13769436
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 2
I respectfully submit these suggestions for your consideration:

My topic suggestion is a discussion about the differences between religion and spirituality, and a consideration of the question -What is spirituality?

Begin the meeting taking the time to go around the table to have each person to briefly introduce herself/himself and say what is their core belief -- and how it informs their choices and daily life. (Maybe we would need a reasonable time limit for each introduction.)
The meetings are most meaningful to me when I learn about another group member and hear why they believe or don't believe specific philosophies or religions. I especially like hearing from those who clearly articulate ideas or religions that are not entirely familiar to me. I attend the meetings to LEARN.

Also of interest to me is the topic suggested above:
The mind-body problem and the free will vs. determinism problem. (If minds exist, why can we never observe them, and if everything occurs according to natural laws, how can we make decisions when what we do was going to happen anyway?)

After much consideration, I think that it could be helpful to use the "hat" method in a slightly different way.
At the END of a meeting, drop the suggestions in a hat. Then, read all of them and vote on them, to see which is of interest to most of the people. Perhaps that will encourage more repeat participation.

Thank you for your consideration of these proposals.

Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,436
Based off the discussion this turned into I'm looking forward to making it to a meeting. I have been unable to make it the last series of weeks.
Hope you can make it!

I'm curious as to what the group thinks about the "Human role". Meaning just because I was born human - why would I let that define my role in life? You wouldn't expect me to play a certain role if I was a women or if I was black. Or then maybe you would and that is my point.
I’ll list your topic as: Being born Human, do I have a “Human role”? If I do, what is it?

I consider myself free from the Pro-Human bias. I believe humanity is just a step in a process. As a rational being pursuing my own self-interest maybe it is better if "humanity" doesn't work out for most people. There are finite resources in this world and maybe I would have a better life with more resources than the average person. I think more people should question everything! One of these being: Collectivism is inherently good.

Your topic: “Is Collectivism inherently good (or bad, or neither)?”

- on a slight tangent -
My background is in computer software design even though I have a BS in Psychology.
I missing formal classes in Philosophy and Ethics. I'm interested in finding out how Ethics fits into my current world view. Hoping to have some good discussions on this.

Yes, “Ethics” has been a prominent part of our discussions. I would like to hear your ideas.
A former member
Post #: 442
I have one topic idea. Really needs to fleshed out more.

But, my topic up for group vote, is what would be the modern implementation of Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon.

Jeremy B. had an idea of an external material prison with visible prisoners but with an invisible guard.
However, the invisible guard was able to impose the effort of 'guarding' the prisoners onto the prisoners themselves by some visible surveillance device for which the prisoners could see..such as a spy scope..or what have you.
Then in a prisoner's game theory they would necessarily impose some degree of ultimatum on themselves as to what they where doing irregardless of whether the guard was actually at the 'spy scope'.

But, how might this 'Panopticon' idea be reflected in modern times such as when so much of what we do has
direct implementations to a surveillance society.
Such as information gathering from:
internet service providers, cable tv boxes, cell phone carriers, library records, cameras, rfid, etc.

Once one figures that with all the cameras that are around..and the technology we have like google,
or watson to sift a needle in a haystack instantaneously.

For example, the data mining of the audio/video in the below ted talk.

Deb Roy: The birth of a word

I subject that a panopticon prisoner would subject their behavior, when encountering artifacts of surveillance, reacting to their imagined audience to the other side of the surveillance artifact.

However, constant reaction to being monitored would just lead to mental churn

To be quick, I'm suggesting that we do not need to build prisons to confine someone.

The threat of force cleverly cloaked and overlooked under the guise of safety from surveillance
people and surveillance devices may become mentally internalized as a 'guard' in a 'prisoner'
in a panopticon.

The prisoner may 'act', 'work', 'behave', etc as to what the prisoner imagines as
the audience behind the 'spy scope' may be looking for; the good, the bad, and the ugly ;)
And, the prisoner would be doing all the work of the guard for them.

To borrow a phrase:

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The effort or work of the 'guard' to watch the 'misbehaving' prisoners has been deflected onto
the prisoners themselves, theoretically.

I, also would like to pursue, whether a mental construct of a 'harsh parent' or 'god' may also be internalized as the invisible panopticon 'guard'.

I hypothesize that when an actual real world artifact such as a 'camera' gets tied to a mental landscape of an actual incorrect belief of a 'harsh parent' or 'god' then the prisoner acts as his own panopticon guard monitoring their own thoughtcrimes.

Just as with the belief of an all knowing 'god' for some religions with types of invisible sentient agency that too may also be a type of 'camera' or panopticon guard in the sky.

Anyhow, I'm confusing myself at this point.

FYI, here is a documentary about how to get young people to want things which are bad for them
throughout their lives.


A former member
Post #: 455

Reversing the Panopticon

But while the inmate is seen by the inspector, he himself cannot see.
“He is the object of information, never a subject in communication” Foucault points out.
The Panopticon’s power was "visible and unverifiable” -- that is, the inmate could not see the inspector, only the looming tower:
he would never know when he was actually under surveillance.
This uncertainty, along with the inmate’s isolation and loss of privacy, is the means of his compliance and subordination.
Uncertainty becomes the principle of his own subjection.
It assures that, in Foucault words: “surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if discontinuous in its action”.
And thus Foucault draws our attention to our own very modern condition, locked within:
“a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power”.

In retrospect, Bentham’s social reform is recognized for its modern characteristics, achieved through an unprecedented kind of social control, an institutional architecture that provided for an efficient technology of coercive and punitive surveillance.
It was a clean, rational, instrumental architecture whose internal mechanisms constructed physical preconditions of asymmetric power relations.
Foucault refers to the Panopticon as a “pure figure of political technology”.
And so it remains.

Ever-more subtle and sophisticated Panoptic mechanisms continue to reduce the individual's privacy and integrity.
Panopticism continues to limit the space in which civil liberties can be freely deployed.
In the face of manipulative technologies, inventive reverse-engineering strategies are necessarily distributed, multiple, simultaneous, hybrid, interdisciplinary, opportunistic.
We recall the dazzling efficacy of Ariadne's fragile silk thread in the face of the Minotaur's brutality.
Last night, panelists reviewing the challenges to civil liberties wrought by SDMI and DMCA underscored the need for resistance through collaborations that reach across disciplinary boundaries and specializations. Institutional and disciplinary isolation -- and preaching to the choir -- constitute a prison of their own. Unexpected collaborations can offer productive strategies, and it is hoped that Cryptome and Cartome libraries offer useful tools towards the conceptualization of such novel strategies.

A former member
Post #: 456

Source: Foucault, Michel Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison (NY: Vintage Books 1995) pp. 195-228
Bentham's Panopticon is the architectural figure of this composition.
We know the principle on which it was based: at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower;
this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring;
the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building;
they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to the windows of the tower;
the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other.
All that is needed, then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy.
By the effect of backlighting, one can observe from the tower, standing out precisely against the light, the small captive shadows in the cells of the periphery.
They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible.
The panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately.
In short, it reverses the principle of the dungeon; or rather of its three functions - to enclose, to deprive of light and to hide - it preserves only the first and eliminates the other two.
Full lighting and the eye of a supervisor capture better than darkness, which ultimately protected. Visibility is a trap.

To begin with, this made it possible - as a negative effect - to avoid those compact, swarming, howling masses that were to be found in places of confinement, those painted by Goya or described by Howard.
Each individual, in his place, is securely confined to a cell from which he is seen from the front by the supervisor;
but the side walls prevent him from coming into contact with his companions.
He is seen, but he does not see; he is the object of information, never a subject in communication.
The arrangement of his room, opposite the central tower, imposes on him an axial visibility;
but the divisions of the ring, those separated cells, imply a lateral invisibility.
And this invisibility is a guarantee of order.
If the inmates are convicts, there is no danger of a plot, an attempt at collective escape, the planning of new crimes for the future, bad reciprocal influences;
if they are patients, there is no danger of contagion;
if they are madmen there is no risk of their committing violence upon one another;
if they are schoolchildren, there is no copying, no noise, no chatter, no waste of time;
if they are workers, there are no disorders, no theft, no coalitions, none of those distractions that slow down the rate of work, make it less perfect or cause accidents.
The crowd, a compact mass, a locus of multiple exchanges, individualities merging together, a collective effect, is abolished and replaced by a collection of separated individualities.
From the point of view of the guardian, it is replaced by a multiplicity that can be numbered and supervised;
from the point of view of the inmates, by a sequestered and observed solitude (Bentham, 60-64).

Hence the major effect of the Panopticon:
to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power.
So to arrange things that the surveillance is permanent in its effects, even if it is discontinuous in its action;
that the perfection of power should tend to render its actual exercise unnecessary;
that this architectural apparatus should be a machine for creating and sustaining a power relation independent of the person who exercises it;
in short, that the inmates should be caught up in a power situation of which they are themselves the bearers.
To achieve this, it is at once too much and too little that the prisoner should be constantly observed by an inspector:
too little, for what matters is that he knows himself to be observed;
too much, because he has no need in fact of being so.
In view of this, Bentham laid down the principle that power should be visible and unverifiable.
the inmate will constantly have before his eyes the tall outline of the central tower from which he is spied upon.
the inmate must never know whether he is being looked at at any one moment;
but he must be sure that he may always be so.
In order to make the presence or absence of the inspector unverifiable, so that the prisoners, in their cells, cannot even see a shadow, Bentham envisaged not only venetian blinds on the windows of the central observation hall, but, on the inside, partitions that intersected the hall at right angles and, in order to pass from one quarter to the other, not doors but zig-zag openings;
for the slightest noise, a gleam of light, a brightness in a half-opened door would betray the presence of the guardian.
The Panopticon is a machine for dissociating the see/being seen dyad: in the peripheric ring, one is totally seen, without ever seeing; in the central tower, one sees everything without ever being seen.

A former member
Post #: 457

about running a panopticon..

Source: Bozovic, Miran ed. Jeremy Bentham: The Panopticon Writings (� London: Verso, 1995)

I. Idea of the Inspection Principle
II. Plan for a Penitentiary Inspection-house
III.Extent for a Single Building
IV.The Principle extended to uncovered Areas
V.Essential Points of the Plan
VI.Advantages of the Plan
VII. Penitentiary-houses - Safe custody
VIII. Uses - Penitentiary-houses Reformation
IX. Penitentiary-houses - Economy Contract - Plan
X. Choice of Trades should be free
XI. Multiplication of Trades is not necessary
XII. Contractor's Checks
XIII. Means of extracting Labour
XIV. Provision for Liberated Persons
XV. Prospect of saving from this Plan
XVI. Houses of Correction
XVII. Prisons for safe Custody merely
XVIII. Manufactories
XIX. Mad-Houses
XX. Hospitals
XXI. Schools


VII. Chapel introduced
VIII. Inspection-Galleries and Lodge

A former member
Post #: 458

Sylvère Lotringer. The Panopticon. 2011­, Sylvère Lotringer, literary critic and cultural
theorist talking about Michel Foucault's "Discipline and Punish."
In this lecture Sylvère Lotringer discusses sovereignty and discipline in Foucault, the production of subjectivity, the concepts of Bentham's Panopticon and the plague, the reversal of control, Panopticism vs. perspectivism (Nietzsche), reversal of power, the individual and the loner.
Excerpt of seminar at the European Graduate School EGS Media and Communication Studies department program Saas-Fee Switzerland Europe 2011.

Sylvère Lotringer, Ph.D., born in Paris, is Jean Baudrillard
Chair at the European Graduate School EGS and Professor Emeritus of French literature and philosophy at Columbia University.
He is based currently in Los Angeles and Baja, California. Sylvère Lotringer is a literary critic and cultural theorist, and as general editor of Semiotext(e) and Foreign Agents book series was instrumental in introducing French theory to the United States. His interests range from philosophy, literature and art to architecture, anthropology, semiotics, avant-garde movements, structuralism and post-structuralism.

Sylvère Lotringer studied at the Sorbonne and received his doctorate
from the École Pratique des Hautes Études VIe section, Paris (1967).
As General Editor of Semiotext(e) and of the "Foreign Agents" series,
Lotringer was instrumental in introducing French theory to the United
States. His teaching interests include Dada and surrealism,
situationism, Mallarmé, Proust, structuralism and post-structuralism,
as well as anthropology, semiotics, philosophy and art in relation to
20th-century literature.

Among the books Sylvère Lotringer has published, he has co-written
with Paul Virilio: Pure War (1983), Crepuscular Dawn (2002), and The
Accident of Art (2005), and with Jean Baudrillard: Forget Foucault
(1986), Oublier Artaud (2005), and The Conspiracy of Art (2005).
Sylvère Lotringer has also written extensively on Georges Bataille,
Simone Weil, L. F. Céline, Marguerite Duras, and Robert Antelme, and is the author of Antonin Artaud (1990), French Theory in America
(2001), Hatred of Capitalism (2002), David Wojnarowicz (2006), and
Overexposed (2007). Silvère Lotringer frequently lectures on art and
has published catalogue essays for the MOMA, the Guggenheim Museum, the Musee du Jeu de Paume, Modern Kunst and has edited numerous magazines and books such as Philosopher-Artist (1986), Foreign Agent: Kunst in den Zeiten der Theorie (1991), and Nancy Spero (1995).

Bill Van F.
Group Organizer
Charlotte, NC
Post #: 1,453
Okay, I will add it as:

Panopticon: God and/or Big Brother is/are watching you, at all times, maybe. Are you being good?

At least this is my take so far.

And of course it is related to the concept of domination/submission, a concept that unfortunately our standard model of child rearing is naturally based upon, to our enormously tragic detriment. (And therfore deep down we feel that to do what someone else would be pleased by is submission.)
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