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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: September 6, 2002
Latest Update: September 7, 2002

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Site Teaching Modules Commentary on Recent Lectures: September 6, 2002.

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, September 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

* * *

Comments grouped by course.
Subject of comment in green.
jeanne's commentaries in bright blue. Template:

  • Student Name: Soc 334 - Women in Society; Soc 367 - Sociology of Law; Soc 370 - Moot Court and Social Justice; Soc 595 - Reinterpreting Theory

    From Soc 334: Women in Society

    On Thursday, September 5, 2002, Marsha Walker wrote:
    On Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and the role of indigenous dialect in identity authentication.
    AND On Maria Pia Lara' s use of the term "reconstruct."

    hello, my name is marsha walker.On thursday when you talked about zora neale hurston it really sparked my attention. She is my favorite author and person. I read her book Their Eyes Were Watching God, and it so reminded me of the language that my older relatives on my father's side of the family used to use. My father hated it because he was very strict with us about using that kind of back woods, illiterate speech, as he called it. When I was reading the book it gave me a sense of pride because ancestry is ancestry, and I felt so relieved that some one actually wrote in that type of dialect. thanks.

    Schools often press those who are dominated to drop their own language and rituals. One reason for that is the one you give: the language and rituals provide a sense of continuing history and ancestry. Identities depend on that. And so, forbidding the use of that language and the culture it represents, yanks us out of nowhere and breaks up our identity. This is one reason there is so much interest in postcolonial theory today in reaching back in time to cultures and languages that once were, to recapture authentic identities and give back that pride in ancestry.

    Parents often encourage this socialization to a new language and culture for your own good - so that you will succeed, i.e, earn a lot more money than they were able to without those advantages. Though you may not see the struggle, such decisions are often as hard on the parents as on their children. And it screws up everybody's identity because it prevents our being in touch with our authentic identities.

    I have started to read Maria Lara and I tried to define the word "reconstruct" for my understanding: The reorganization and redefining or to remodel , make new, redesign, to redo again. Good resort to a dictioinary definition. Pia Lara's aim is to provide a new theory of the public sphere as a concrete (using a hard strong material Good resort to a dictioinary definition.) mediation in which justice connects to solidarity in a narrative (writing) fashion. Solidarity meaning having substantial quality. One definition of solidarity. She wants to bring new thought or new definition to the same concepts from a newer feminist perspective. Using an old cliche nothing stays the same everything changes. With theory, as society changes so too must concepts, and with the passage of time old ideas are overturned with new and better perspectives, ways and means of these and those perspectives. More importantly than anything else these ideas will be the views of a woman of some importance to the field of education.

    please make comments. That's why we have these commentaries, Marsha. Computers and I do not get along I do not even own one and must get help to turn the thing on just to get started. sending this message on September 5, 2002 You're doing very well for a beginner. Good for you for trying. jeanne

    Marsha, I checked through the first two chapters of Pia Lara, but couldn't figure out just which bits you were referring to. It's a good idea to reference to a page number in the text or to a filename on the site, so we can all follow your comments.

    Your first instinct, to use the dictionary, which, by the way, is prominently displayed on the site on the issue of the week main page, is a good idea. However, Pia Lara will use the term "reconstruct" in its philosophical sense, which is related to "deconstruct." Deconstruction is Derrida's theory that we all perceive the world differently, and that one must deconstruct an idea to determine what the underlying perceptions are, and then recognize the extent to which those perceptions channel the meaning of those concepts on which we depend. Deconstructions take ideas and institutions apart to discover their underlying components and values, and then recognizes the difficulty of both communicatioin and consensus, for the world looks different to each of us.

    There are two strains of postmodernism. One says our whole system is scewed up and needs to be replaced. The other says of course it's screwed up and we need to find ways to provide models for transforming it to a better system. The pessimism of the French School of Philosophy that suggest that the game is lost with little we can now do, all being relative and fragmented, is countered by critical theory and philosophers like Habermas, and their moderate postmodern colleagues who argue that we must transform the system to one that can be legitimate (guaranteeing representation and a good faith hearing of validity claims to each citizen), democratic, and an reconstruct the solidarity of communities that once existed in a non-globalized world.

    In this sense, "reconstruction" means taking the parts that work effectively and fitting them into a whole which meets the goals of a legitimate democratic system based on social justice as we understand it. Those postmodernists who insist that all is fragmented and relative and that any value or judgment is just as good as any other, are retreating from the responsiblity of reconstructing that which the 19th and early 20th Century deconstructed. Those of us who seek peaceful and sustainable paths to Earth's future believe that we must begin to reconstruct. Maria Pia Lara wants to reconstruct philosophy and meaning and values on the basis of what feminists have learned and contributed to philosophies that failed to take into account the importance of community and solidarity to the production of a good life. "Solidarity," in this sense means a comfortable grasp of who I am both as an individual and as a member of a larger group, for we humans are social beings, and we rely on the grouup for emotional and spiritiual sustenance, as well as for economic and intergroup sustenance.

    There is no point to being the richest man on earth, if there's no one left on a sustainable earth to applaud? or decry? your wealth.

    On Friday, September 6, Sabrina Johnson wrote:
    On the dilemma of how we best provide for those who are hungry and homeless, while preserving a concern for what is best for all.

    Subject: Homeless people

    The comment that said, "Is it fair for us to have to feed those people who are hungry?" My answer is yes, because those people are in need. There is a saying: We are one pay check away from homeless". What the student who asked about fairness must understand is that we can never say "never," and one day someone may have to feed her . For example, the truckers from that company that were laid off never expected to be laid off. Things happen in life that we have no control over. Some are able to bounce back and some are not. Like Jeanne said, we should learn to look at the issues from an illocutionary point of view. We may not agree with the situation but understanding both points of view is important to create balance.

    Well said, Sabrina. Rawls and Nozick will better inform us on the extremes of belief on the tensions betweem fairness and individual freedom to achieve the good life unencumbered by the community or group. And the truckers laid off so unexpectedly on Labor Day are a good example. Are we responsible for them and for their families? And who's included in that "we." And does this include them all? The slackers as well as the sincere hard workers? And is it in the best interest of us all to take on that responsibility?

    Liked your recognition of the complexity and of the need for illocutionary discourse. jeanne

    Sabrina Johnson
    Soc 334

    On Friday, September 6, Toni Giuiliano wrote:
    On the role of religion in moral responsibility to our fellow humans, reference to Pia Lara's Moral Textures.

    Subject: class discussion on god

    hi jeanne...i wanted to let you know how much i enjoyed thursday's discussion regarding god, hell, and our responsibility towards our fellow humans. i thought that our comments showed the concept of "illocutionary force" as described by m. pia lara as being..."a speech act in which 'alter and 'ego understand one another soley on the basis in which well argued reasons..."and whose to simultaneously transform preceding views...such that after the action is performed neither party remains the same." (page 2).

    Good quote, Toni, and thank you for giving us the page number. The latter part of the sentence is particularly important: "simulteaneously transform . . . both parties." Maria Pia Lara differs from Habermas, in that Habermas believe that public discourse must come to a consensus. Many of us believe that such consensus is unnecessary, as well as being just plain impractical in today's world. But if we take the goal of public (civil) discourse to be that of illocutionary force, the use of speech actions, and other means of communication, to better our understandings of who we are, especially in relation to Others, then the good faith hearings of the stories of Others bring us a little closer to an understanding of their claims, and them a little closer to recognition with an attendant lessening of frustration.

    another note to the discussion of our responsibility toward others: i believe that ultimately we are to a certain extent morally obligated to others who are in need. i believe that this concept was one of the primary bases'for the establishment of organized religion...the responsibility of the members of a group to care for other members for the greater good of the group as a whole. (how it turned into an agent of social control is a whole other discussion!) the biblical basis for this- do unto others...and christ's instruction to "...feed the hungry, shelter the homeless..." only one of (i am sure) other cultural doctrines regarding this subject.

    This is another argument in favor of Rawl's position on "Justice as fairness." Nozick, however, and those who follow his point of view, argue that curtailing the ability of the individual to be rewarded as much as he can manage for his achievements, by forcing a more equal distribution of resources amongst all, will decimate the individual's motivation and in the end harm human success as a species.

    see you on tuesday. have a nice weekend.

    toni giuiliano
    T/TH 11:30 am

    On Friday, September 6, 2002, Latoya Lewis wrote:
    On the similarity between "listening in good faith" and "illocutionary performance."

    Hello Jeanne,

    My name is Latoya Lewis and I'm currently in your re-interpreting theory graduate course on Tue.and Thurs. You mentioned, if I am correct, illocutionary force in our discussions. You explained that this was used for the purpose of understanding. I have been in some other classes with you, and I was wondering would this term mean the same as to listen in "good faith"?

    Yes, Latoya. Good connection. Listening in good faith is listening for the sake of understanding the other's argument. So one may listen in good faith, even when one is not in agreement. The terms are similar.

    On Friday, September 6, 2002, Victoria Gory wrote:
    On the micro and macro perspectives of helping those in need: Rawls and Nozick.
    And on the importance of seeing beyond the "personal" in illucutionary performance.

    Subject: WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Dr. Curran, I was very saddened to hear my classmate Candis' opinon regarding not helping those who could very well help themselves. I'm not taking this personal, but it really made me think of my selfish relatives who believe you can't get ahead if you keep helping others. Isn't that the same as saying I got mine, now get yours the best way you can? Thank you for explaining to me that you can't take everyone's story so personally.

    I was told you learn something new everyday.

    Thanks!!! For being my teacher.

    Thank you for your willingness to learn. You are responding to Candis' argument from the micro perspective of those who are truly in need. Candis is suggesting that many who claim such need are in fact capable of helping themselves, and she is responding to the macro perspective of how our society can most effectively progress. Both argue important points.. We will review the theory behind this complex and difficult problem when we cover Rawls and Nozick, on the philosophy of justice and equality.

    I'd also like to go over your interpretation of the phrase: "you can't take everyone's story so personally." I think what I would mean by that is that the story we tell, especially the story to bring recognition of the harm done us, is not always completely autobiographical. Sometimes we add dramatic features; sometimes we exaggerate; sometimes we repress. When you empathize too thoroughly, you run the risk of putting yourself into our imaginary instead of into our shoes.You must remember that we are each unique, and that our stories have in the end a unique effect for each of us.

    If I remember correctly our talk on the day we talked about God and being our Brother's keeper, you were expressing the disillusionment and pain that come when you can't use your own skills and alternatives to help someone whose story touches you. But they don't have your alternatives. Remember, that's what I call "the laying on of alternatives." You need to assume an illocutionary stance; help them as they need and want to be helped. Listen to their needs in good faith. Do not try to lay your alternatives on them, for they will not have your resources of love, of caring, of skill, whatever. Gee, doesn't all this sound just like what Father Obi and Father Adjakpey told us we should do if we wanted to help our brothers and sisters in Africa?

    On Friday, September 6, 2002, Audra Collier wrote:
    On the embeddedness of discounting women in the public sphere.

    Subject: embeddedness (Soc 334)

    Hey jeanee,

    In Soc 334 you were speaking on how society treats women. Women are expected to be dominated housewives with no mind to think for themselves. The Taliban are a prime example of this. The Taliban favors men and downgrades its women. Boys are favored because they will grow up to become warriors. I mean this makes no sense. Shouldn't the woman who can carry another human for nine months and give birth to a boy be called the soldier?

    Audra Collier

    Yes, Audra, this is a good example of the way women are devalued and of the way in which such devaluing is embedded in our cultures. But then you ask a rhetorical question in the end, to which you know I have no answer. How about considering whether the Taliban are so different from the men of our own culture, and then considering ways in which we might engage males in illocutionary performances in wich we both talk and listen and transform ourselves into more understanding humans who can come a little closer to genuine public discourse on these issues.

    On Thursday, September 5, 2002, Francisco Reynoso wrote:
    On internal hell and how to do a better job of letting me know what you've learned.

    Subject: Re: Sociology 334 - Class Discussion on 09-05-02

    Hello, My name is Francisco Reynoso. I am in your Sociology of woman on Tuesdays and Thursday From 11:30-12:45 I am emailing regarding the discussion we had on Thursday. I found your lecture interesting. I have a question for you, Do you feel those who do evil will eventually begin to experience internal hell.?

    Hi, Francisco. I sure hope all the bad guys eventually experience internal hell. They deserve it, I rather think, and as long as it's internal, they should have a fair chance to hear their own voices of defense.

    But I'd like to go back to the fact that you found the lecture interesting. Telling me that you liked the lecture is like what they taught you to write in high school: "This was an interesting field trip, or whatever." I would know more about what you learned if you just told me one thing you were interested in and why? Think you could do that for me? jeanne

    On Thursday, September 5, 2002, Brandi Quiette wrote:
    On the separation of the public and private spheres.

    Subject: week 2, soc 334

    Brandi Quiette

    True or False?
    The public and private sphere have generally been regarded as separate.

    I believe this statement to be true because as stated in your notes, the public sphere deals with outside the home, which is more open. Whereas, the private sphere is more private dealing with family and home.

    OK, I see your point. They are separate because action associated with them occurs in different spaces. Good, the home, and the outside world. One of the objections that feminists have made to this concept of the public and private spheres as separate is that it was an artificual separation caused only by the dominance of males in a patriarchal setting. Feminists have shown that in the US how many tribes were governed by women, changing only to male chiefs after the colonization of the Eastern colonies. Nag me to find the link to this story and put it up. No time now. jeanne

    If you are planning to work for an A in the course, I'm going to insist on either more frequent such pieces, or at the very least, that you talk to me, reflecting that you have read my elaborations. But this is a good start, at a time when no available computer at school meant I couldn't help very much. Good for you.

    On Friday, September 6, 2002, Donna Woods wrote:
    On our recourse to dominant discourse and the difficulty we seem to have in hearing ourselves respond through the normative patterns.

    Subject: lecture Thrusday

    Hi Jeanne,

    The class discussion was enjoyable. It was evident to me that many of us had been raised on Christian doctrine. I couldn't help but notice the traditional, patriarchal language. Perhaps it is just human nature to assign our unseen protector a form - "Cognitive dissonance" was expressed when Candis introduced a valid point about our society. The willingness to help others isn't a normative universal act. The lecture was great, Thanks.

    I think we all enjoyed the discussion, Donna. And the reason we have these discussions is to give you the chance to notice the things you did: that we refer largely to Christian doctrine, that we rely on traditional, patriarchal language, that we are distressed by the suggestion that there is another way to think about the issue than that which we recognize from dominant discourse. Perhaps with enough opportunity to engage in these public discourse forums, with an illocutionary force in mind, we might discover that more of you, like Candis, will think outside of the box, and call into question our unstated assumptions and our acceptance of embedded tradition without any thought as to how the world has altered the structural context in which that tradition is now playing itself out.

    On Friday, September 6, 2002, Donna Woods wrote:
    On using our own imagination to help another see an alternative path. Transforming discourse.

    Subject: Painting

    Hi Jeanne,
    I was just looking at your drawing of the dancers and I thought of a way that you could possibly transfer the image to canvas. First, bring a portable easel, and a canvas to your office. Whenever you have a reflective moment, apply a light pencil image of the dancers to your canvas (your students will understand). Once the image is on the canvas it will beckon you to paint.

    What a good idea. Maybe I'll try it next week. A studio in the office. Why not?

    Donna had heard my complaints of no time to paint. She, too, is an artist, and we lament continuously that we don't find enough time for our art. But she listened in good faith, and came up with a way to help. Painting in my office, while we all talk, I presume. What a great idea. Allthough I think Donna said I should penicl in the drawing. Donna, I almost never pencil aanything in. Ink or paint, right on the canvas or the paper. But it should be a fun experiment.

    From Soc 367: Sociology of Law

    Later on Friday, September 6, 2002, Latoya Lewis wrote:
    On Marx's debt to Hegel.


    My name is Latoya Lewis. I am in your Soc. of Law course, and I was reading chapter 1 of Bruce Arrigo's book, Social Justice, Criminal Justice:The Maturation of Critical Theory in Law, Crime and Deviance. On pg. 18, Arrigo referes to Hegel's 'objective realism' theory. I don't completely understand it, and would like if you could post on the site a clear explaination of his theory. The book states that he was once under the teachings of Hegel but later rejected his teachings regarding things being mental constructs. Because Marx is one of the founding fathers of sociology, it's interesting to me to find out how he began to think outside the box, so to speak.

    Here's some information on Marx and Hegel.

    Marx did take much from Hegel. But Hegel considered objects as not objectively real, but as constructs of our minds. Marx disagreed with this and believed that objects in the real world were real and had an existence outside of our minds. But he continued to use Hegel's approach; the dialectic concept of the swing back and forth until a balanced moderation is found. I think this means that Marx saw Hegel's idea of the dialectical swing as a method he could use in applying it to the idea he had of how society would come to recoognize the material harm of economic injustice and follow that throuh in a dialectical manner to revolution and social justice in a fair distribution of society's resources. This is a very rough and simplistic answer. More information is on Marx and Hegel.

    From Soc 370: Moot court and social Justice

    On Thursday, September 5, 2002, Brandi Quiette wrote:
    Is internal satisfaction with one's values and achievements a valid counter to external denial of reward for achievement?

    Subject: week 2, soc 370

    Brandi Quiette
    Question d: If you have worked hard for everything you've achieved, what recognition is missing when someone tells you that society is unjust?

    Just because society can be seen as unjust, it does not take away from the things you accomplished in life. This does not mean that you do not get recognition from what you accomplished. The world is not fair. This does not stop the person from striving and becoming the best person you can. You get pride from self and from working hard.

    Good answer, Brandi. That's what David Riesman used to call the internal anchor that guides us. But external recognition does count. What I think is really missing when someone tells you that society is unjust, is that such injustice is a structural fault that we need to work at correcting. That's a critical theory approach. Even if we're doing a good job, we still need to figure out what's working and what's not working, and that which isn't working. On the micro level, your own identity and self satisfaction, your internal knowledge of you and who you are may be adequate. But on a macro level, you have been silenced when society doesn't recognize your achievements. You have been harmed. And as Maria Pia Lara says, that harm cries out to be recognized as harm that should not have occurred.

    From Soc 595: Reinterpreting Theory

    On Friday, September 6, 2002, Bobby Nelson wrote:
    On the conceptual linking of social justice to the specific text we're readingor discussing.

    Subject: Pia Lara I am tring to fit social justice in this article.

    I presume you mean, Bobby, that you've started reading Moral Textures and can't quite see how what you're reading fits into the overall concept of social justice. Good question. Here's how.

    Oner the last quarter century we have become increasingly aware of the extent to which Western power, and most recently, US power, has dominated the globe. We have also become aware of how, in the process of that domination, we have caused harm to the peoples we dominated. This is not to be confused with the suggestion that the US hasn't accomplished anything of which we should be proud. We've done lots that we can be proud of: we:ve developed a remarkable technological revolution that has superceded the industrial revolution all over the world. We' ve shown that democracy works, sort of, for most of us. We've increasingly admitted the need to broaden access to the benefits of all this growth, albeit a little reluctantly (or a lot reluctantly) on the part of those who were in positions of power able to keep most of the wealth for themselves. Despite the termendous greed we unleashed, and the concentration of power and money we failed to break, we have improved the lives of most Americans, and many others who have followed our lead. We have set an imaginative model before the world, that, so far, has been pretty successful for most of those it serves.

    But critical theorists, such as Maria Pia Lara, still look at the US model and its grip on this world, and remind us of all those who have not prospered under our dominion. The third world. The poor. Those who don't fit into the normative patterns, and so are deprived of the spoils of our great success, at least to some extent. Those who care more for our spiritual and moral success, and find those areas neglected in our dominion. Money has become all that counts to many of us, despite our apparent beliefs in God and goodness, and sharing. We have just celebrated the erection of a $200 milliion cathedral to the glory of something or other (I doubt that God could glory in it.) in the heart of a downtown area that has been cleared a little more of the homeless without any substantial attention to why and how such prosperous and generous Christians can ignore those of little status whom they have so cermoneously self-congratulatorily displaced.

    Maria Pia Lara calls our attention to social justice and the extent to which we are managing across the world to ignore it. She speaks of recognition of the voices of those poor and disadvantaged through narratives, stories their voices tell if we deign to listen in good faith with the illocutionary force, as she describes it. That is, if we listen, intent on hearing in all honesty, without resorting to self-soothing denial, the stories of the harm we have caused, the harm they have suffered, in our imperial interest of being the most successful (wealthy) nation in the world.

    Pia Lara goes much further. She suggests that the poor and disadvantaged do cry out in their own voices, and that part of their suffering demands is to be heard, to be recognized. And that if we recongize that suffering through good faith participation in illocutionary performance, then we are changed for that listening, we grow in our capacity to see and to understand our world. And in the voicing for their need for recognition, they, the poor and disadvantaged, are also changed, and some of their need is satsified. So that now perhaps we are a step closer to being able to hear and understand each other, so that peaceful resolutions may one day be found to our differences. Pia Lara doesn't suggest that this will happen all at once, but that each time we engage in illocutionary performance, the speaking and hearing of the voices of others for the sake of understanding, we come a little closer to gaining control of our hatreds and hurts, and to discovering a world in which we can survive with one another.

    Does this help, Bobby?