American Hustle

Nietzsche argued in a short book titled “Why I Am So Wise” that a person can read only what they have experienced and know. Thus, a person cannot just read anything and know something. Either through a deus ex machina or through happenstance, a person is brought to gather the life experiences that enable them to know, and then they are brought to the reading material that can corroborate knowledge. It is all quite odd. Obviously, writing requires knowing. But to suggest that reading also requires knowing is a remarkable thing to suggest, and that is exactly what Nietzsche did, which in turn set the foundations for Heidegger and the phenomenological method.

Thus, if knowing is a matter of what Heidegger called “Transcendental Subjectivity,” then knowledge cannot be confined or limited to what is empirical or positive. As David Welch argued:

“We must all acknowledge that the world as it is, the world as it is studied, and the world as it is known are not, and cannot be, precisely the same things. We must also acknowledge that what scientists see depends in part upon how they look and what they look for. Thus we must concede to the critics that there is no perfectly objective world to be studied perfectly objectively, and that the quest for a body of statements about the world that corresponds precisely to that world is ultimately vain.”

Until the postmodern age – which began arguably in 2007 when the internet and social media took off – the public sphere was what Daniel Drezner called “a genteel oligopoly.” Drezner wrote: “The old public sphere was a genteel oligopoly; the current ‘Ideas Industry’ is something else entirely. In one sense, it is far more competitive.” Drezner added that “the ability of anyone to establish a personal intellectual empire has increased dramatically.”

The public sphere is where ideas and thus one’s power is demonstrated, given that reality is shaped by the power of one’s ideas and thoughts. Thus, the public sphere is where ideas and thoughts are brought to the fore in shaping the affairs and realities of one’s society. Because the public sphere is no longer monopolized by a few privileged talking heads with White-American wives who are hard to maintain and satisfy, almost anyone can effectively demonstrate their power and their ideas to the world. In the past, social status was determined largely by an Ivy League degree and a White-American wife. Now, social status is determined to a large extent by content. Also, white folks were once seen as the archetype for what a human being should act like and look like. Now, conventional thinking is being deconstructed and flipped on its head.

Moreover, there is a market for anyone or anything. But the market is now becoming more ubiquitous, by virtue of the fact that “private markets” are now being brought out into “public arenas,” as Robert Pastor once told us during a class lecture. “Private markets into public arenas” is a phenomenon that is being facilitated by technology and the internet. In turn, preferences and tastes can either become expansive and wider, or they can become narrower and optimal, given the greater ability to know as a result of the nature of the market in this globalized and technological age.

The global marketplace of people, ideas, commodities, goods, and other things is now more dynamic and fast-moving than it has ever been before. But as mentioned before, this does not necessarily mean that preferences and tastes can dramatically evolve or widen. Perhaps the more a person knows, the simpler things can get in terms of preferences and tastes. Or perhaps one has no choice but to simplify in order to both know for oneself and for others to know.

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