Think of how many things are tested

Download 67.29 Kb.
Size67.29 Kb.

Think of how many things are tested.

  • Literature tests: Ronell says “Very often literature understands the dilemma of tested being on which it bases some of its most harrowing narrations” (13).
  • Wars over objects and places (21).
  • Urine Testing for drugs(21) by corporations and the government.
  • School standardized tests (My note: Harvard recently stopped used the SAT scores, and other schools have followed.)
  • On-line web-sites polls on news stories (Do you or do you not think that a Woman has a chance to win this election? Check the box and see what others thought.)
  • VCU’s own web-site has it’s weekly poll on favorite meeting places, parks, events—not fact, just people’s collective opinions.
  • You can easily add them to your own blog or web-site.
  • Every government job has a test.
  • Driving Tests
  • Pregnancy Tests
  • IQ tests
  • Compatibility Tests for relationship
  • Personality Tests
  • Stress Tests
  • Competency to Stand Trial Tests
  • Medical Tests
  • Game Shows
  • Video Games
  • Eye tests
  • Allergy tests
  • What season are you—tests for optimum fashion colors, Spring, Fall, Winter, etc.
  • Can you think of any other tests?

The Test Drive by Avital Ronell

  • “Even in its most hallucinatory conditions of satisfaction, the ego senses that something may be missing: it becomes insecure and must start up the machinery of testing.”

First, let’s think about what a test is. Try to define “test.”

  • test1 (tĕst) n.
  • A procedure for critical evaluation; a means of determining the presence, quality, or truth of something; a trial: a test of one's eyesight; subjecting a hypothesis to a test; a test of an athlete's endurance.
  • A series of questions, problems, or physical responses designed to determine knowledge, intelligence, or ability.
  • A basis for evaluation or judgment: “A test of democratic government is how Congress and the president work together” (Haynes Johnson).
  • Chemistry.
    • A physical or chemical change by which a substance may be detected or its properties ascertained.
    • A reagent used to cause or promote such a change.
    • A positive result obtained.

Synonyms for “test

  • test
  • noun
  • A procedure that ascertains effectiveness, value, proper function, or otherquality: assay, essay, proof, trial, tryout. See investigate.
  • An operation employed to resolve an uncertainty: experiment, experimentation, trial. See investigate.
  • A set of questions or exercises designed to determine knowledge or skill: catechism, catechization, exam, examination, quiz. See investigate.
  • A means by which individuals are compared and judged: benchmark, criterion, gauge, mark, measure, standard, touchstone, yardstick. See usual/unusual.
  • adjective
  • Constituting a tentative model for future experiment or development: experimental, pilot, trial,, start/end.
  • verb
  • To subject to a procedure that ascertains effectiveness, value, proper function, or other quality: assay, check, essay, examine, prove, try, try out. Idioms: bring to the test, make trial of, put to the proof test. See investigate.
  • To subject to a test of knowledge or skill: check, examine, quiz. See investigate.
  • To engage in experiments: experiment. See investigate.

A few of the Oxford English Dictionaries definitions:

  • 1. orig. The cupel used in treating gold or silver alloys or ore; now esp. the cupel, with the iron frame or basket which contains it, forming the movable hearth of a reverberatory furnace:
  •  2. a. That by which the existence, quality, or genuineness of anything is or may be determined; ‘means of trial’ (J.); hence, in phrases to bring or put to the test, to bear or stand the test, the testing or trial of the quality of anything; examination, trial, proof.   
  • b. A proof, sample, specimen. Obs. rare.
  • c. Cricket and Rugby Football. Short for test-match: see 7b. In S. Afr., an international match in any of a wide range of games and sports, including Rugby.
  • 3. That by which beliefs or opinions, esp. in religion, are tested or tried; spec. the oaths or declarations prescribed by the TEST ACT of 1673; esp. in phrase to take the test; also, either of the test acts.
  • 4. a. Chem. The action or process of examining a substance under known conditions in order to determine its identity or that of one of its constituents; also, a substance by means of which this may be done.
  • b. Mechanics, etc. The action by which the physical properties of substances, materials, machines, etc. are tested, in order to determine their ability to satisfy particular requirements. Among these are bending test, compressive t., drop t., tensile t., transverse t., etc.; also with n. in objective relation, as boiler, brake, engine test; also ROAD TEST.
  • c. The process or an instance of testing the academic, mental, physiological, or other qualities and conditions of a human subject; in academic and similar contexts usu. implying a simpler, less formal procedure than an examination; freq. as the second element in a collocation or combination denoting a particular kind of test, or used contextually to imply one of these.   A number of other collocations and combinations will be found under the first element, as aptitude, blood, breath, intelligence, means, mental, performance, pregnancy, screen, skin, spot test.
  • 2. To subject to a test of any kind; to try, put to the proof; to ascertain the existence, genuineness, or quality of. to test out, to put (a theory, etc.) to a practical test. Phrases: to test (something) to failure or destruction; to test the water

Consider words that Ronell suggests could be synonyms for test:

  • According to Ronell:
  • Examination—as in School
  • Experimentation—as in Scientific Method
  • Judgment—as in God’s judgment, or in a court of law, where innocence or guilt is being tested
  • Torture—”The link between testing and torture is given ample consideration in Kafka’s works, relating his passion in more ways than one to that of Bacon” (13).
  • Question—as in witnesses in court are being tested as to their knowledge and veracity

Proving Grounds

  • “Dreams and beasts are two keys by which we are to find out the secrets of our nature. They are our test objects.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • “But what contributes most of all to this Apollonian image of the destroyer is the realization of how immensely the world is simplified when tested for its worthiness of destruction. This is the great bond embracing and unifying all that exists.” Walter Benjamin
  • “I always want to test everything to the point of death. Beyond.” Kathy Acker
  • To find out more about each of these writers/philosophers, check out their links.

Testing 1: On Being Tested

  • Testing is all around us in everyday life. We are being tested in many different ways:
  • “whether you are entering college, studying law, or trying to get out of an institution; whether they are giving you the third degree; whether you are buffing up on steroids, or she had unprotected sex, . . . Whether they have to prove their mettle or demonstrate a hypothesis or audition for the part, make a demo, try another way, or determine paternity; whether you roll back to the time of the Greeks who first list their understanding of basanos, or to the persecution of witches and press forward to push out the truth in the medium of torture and pain:
  • It seems as though everthing—nature, body, investment, belief– has needed to be tested, including your love.
  • What is the provenance of this need to torture or test?
  • A link between torture and experiment has been asserted ever since Francis Bacon; yet, what has allowed acts and idioms of testing to top out as an essential and widening interest? A nearly unavoidable drive?” (5)
  • Basanos" or "touchstone" tests the degree of accord between a person's life and its principle of intelligibility or logos: "Socrates will never let [his listener] go until he has thoroughly and properly put all his ways to the test [188a]. The Greek word "basanos" refers to a "touchstone", i.e., a black stone which is used to test the genuineness of gold by examining the streak left on the stone when "touched" by the gold in question. Similarly, Socrates' "basanic" role enables him to determine the true nature of the relation between the logos and bios of those who come into contact with him.

The God of the Old Testament especially is constantly viewed as testing humanity.

  • Kant, shortly after completing his Critique of Judgment, questioned this in response to a public questionnaire, examined the problem of testing the faith of theology students.
  • Kant’s question: Can faith be tested or is it not the essence of faith to refuse he test—to go along, precisely on blind faith, without ground or grade? (6)
  • Think of Christ, Peter, Abraham, Judas, Adam and Eve, Job—everyone is tested.
  • Satan was kicked out of heaven for not fulfilling certain requirements.
  • The Devil has become a “visible mark of a permanent testing apparatus” (6)

The German, “Versuch” unites the idea of test with temptation. This image shows Jesus telling Satan to be gone. Jesus has passed the test.

According to Ronell, the idea of testing has not been adequately addressed critically up to the present. Even when testing is mentioned in contemporary thought, key theorists and philosophers tend to mention, but not explore the terms full potentialities.

  • Husserl steps on the brakes the moment when the question of testing emerges in his reflections on science (6).
  • Heidegger stated that “science falls short of thinking” (7).
  • Contesting Heidegger, Derrida links science to mourning and memory . . . Always there, ready to erupt, amaze, or blow you away” (7).

The figure of the test belongs to what Nietzsche saw as our age of experimentation. For that reason, Ronell spends an entire section of this book discussing Nietzsche and testing in his The Gay Science.

However, “Nietzsche construes the possibility of a science that also bears the force of interminable resistance”(7). What dos Nietzsche mean by this?

  • With the Scientific Method, that always demands that the scientist “has developed in himself the ability to inquire back into the original meaning of all his meaning structures and methods” (8). In other words, is willing to continually retest his work, hypotheses, and results ad infinitum.

The idea behind the Scientific Method meshes with Dostoevsky’s ideas on true responsibility:

  • True responsibility, the kind that Dostoevsky, cited by Levinas, sees as always excessive—one is never responsible enough, I am more than anyone else responsible for the other—depends on a self-testing that is never satisfied with its results, never finished . . . . Nor can it rely upon the reassuring precepts of a determined knowledge” (Ronell 9).
  • Never finished . . . This “multiple disengagement” and re-engagement that scientific method supports in the testing, ad infinitum, is a situation to which Husserl might apply the term “open infinitude.”
  • What Ronell calls “the test drive” is “circumscribed by an endless erasure of what is” (10).

Interesting fact:

  • Dionysus is the god of the test. According to Ronell, he rules “a force that affirms multiplicity and is affirmed by it.”
  • He is viewed as the promoter of civilization, a lawgiver, and lover of skeptic

“ . . . alternation between obligation and recreation, responsibility and freedom, can be appreciated within larger time frames. The student will readily acknowledge that a "good week" consists of the weekend’s reward of Dionysian indulgence (not to say excess) following the Apollonian restrictiveness of Monday thru Friday. Similarly, one endures fifty weeks of obligation to enjoy two weeks of vacation, and a near lifetime of attention to business for a few years of golden retirement.”

  • “ . . . alternation between obligation and recreation, responsibility and freedom, can be appreciated within larger time frames. The student will readily acknowledge that a "good week" consists of the weekend’s reward of Dionysian indulgence (not to say excess) following the Apollonian restrictiveness of Monday thru Friday. Similarly, one endures fifty weeks of obligation to enjoy two weeks of vacation, and a near lifetime of attention to business for a few years of golden retirement.”
  • Thro, Michael. “Apollo vs Dionysus: The Only Theme Your Students Will Ever Need in Writing about Literature.”VCCA Journal, Volume 10, Number 2. Summer 1996, 11-18.
  • Apollo and Dionysus are often found along the edges of that borderline, on the divine side and the human; they provoke that back-and-forth in men, that desire to go beyond oneself, which we seem to cling to even more than to our humanity, even more than to life itself. And sometimes this dangerous game rebounds on the two gods who play it." (Roberto Calasso. The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony, pg 59) The KITHARA, a plucked string instrument, came to be linked with Apollo, the god of the Sun and reason, while the AULOS, a loud double-reed instrument, came to be identified with Dionysus, the god of wine and ecstatic revelry.

That our perception of Apollo and Dionysus should be a relative and dynamic matter finds precedence in Nietzsche’s protean views of their natures:

  • “It has been overlooked that the Dionysus whom Nietzsche celebrated as his own god in his later writings is no longer the deity of formless frenzy whom we meet in Nietsche s first book. Only the name remains, but later the Dionysian represents passion controlled as opposed to the extirpation of the passions which Nietzsche associated more and more with Christianity.... The later Dionysus is the synthesis of the two forces which are represented by Dionysus and Apollo in The Birth of Tragedy -- and thus a certainly not anti- Apollonian Goethe can appear in one of Nietsche s last books as the perfect representation of what is called Dionysian.” (Walter Kaufmann 106)
  • More on the subject at:
  • Kaufmann, Walter A. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1950.
  • (For Kaufmann quotes select above link. For more on Philosopher Walter A. Kaufmann, visit:
  • One of Kaufmann’s thoughts (to read in original context, visit link below):
  • "Let people who do not know what to do with themselves in this life, but fritter away their time reading magazines and watching television, hope for eternal life.....The life I want is a life I could not endure in eternity.  It is a life of love and intensity, suffering and creation, that makes life worth while and death welcome.  There is no other life I should prefer.  Neither should I like not to die.“
  • Walter Kaufmann, The Faith of a Heretic, Pg 386.
  • "Dionysic stirring arise either through the influence of those narcotic potions of which all primitive races speak in their hymns, or through the powerful approach of spring, which penetrates with joy the whole frame of nature. So stirred the individual forgets himself completely... for a brief moment we become ourselves, the primal Being, and we experience its insatiable hunger for existence. Now we see the struggle, the pain, the destruction of appearances, as necessary, because of the constant proliferation of forms pushing into life, because of the extravagant fecundity of the world will. We feel the furious prodding of this travail in the very moment in which we become one with the immense lust for life and are made aware of the eternity and indestructibility of that lust."
  • Friedrich Nietzsche in 1882. Born October 15, 1844 Röcken, Saxony, Prussia Died August 25, 1900 Weimar, Germany
  • For more on this subject, visit:

Testing 1, 2, Why Science Amazes Us

The test belongs to both scientific and philosophic protocols.

  • The experiment gives shape to the test in science and philosophy.

The test “at once affirms and deprives the world of confidence”(14).

  • What does this mean?

Nietzsche states that “science alone is forbidden by God: the Almighty manifested time and again His mortal terror of science. Faith is a veto against science” (14)

  • What do you think this means?
  • (My note: I don’t particularly agree with Nietzsche on this point—a Creator of a Universe would not be afraid of science, because such a Creator uses science to create the universe—such a Creator would be the ultimate master of Science.)

Ronell says that a subtitle of her work could be “Why Science Amazes Us.”

  • “I want to say simply that science truly amazes us. It fascinates. Which is to say, also, it blinds us and may itself be blinded to its own trajectories, axiomatic resuppositions, procedures, and premises; not to speak of the unmarked status of scientific desire, whether in crisis or, on the contrary—but this is not a contradiction—self-assured and well funded, state supported. So much blindness compels an inward turn . . .” (15).
  • Ronell is saying that Science must continually self-examine its own testing, procedures and methods, precisely because of its funding, its state support, its amazing results that the public so much desires.
  • Question for discussion: Why should State support and public desire in turn require that Science carefully polices or tests itself and its own methods?

Ronell has a concern about Science:

  • One has every right, in fact it is a duty, to ask of science if it is capable of devoting itself to securing the conditions for thinking joyousness and the affirmation of life” (15).
  • Another subtitle Ronell considered: “The Price We Are Paying for Science” (16).

Testing 1, 2, 3 Controlled Experiment

  • Literary and philosophical studies, art and art criticism, risk getting sucked in by the ruling scientific claims, the alienating authority of what Husserl calls “objectivism.” The attitude that science gives us, this Einstellung, is life-depleting and aura-sapping. It has left a toxic residue of uninterrogated policies, now become decisive. The delusion of self-sufficiency, a mark of the self-evisceration of the sciences detached from their reflective ground and forgotten abysses, is dangerous for us all, blocking vision and eclipsing futurity. . . Nietzsche, cried: “The wasteland grows.” Still, I am not about gloom and doom but want to heed what Husserl and others . . . Say about “man’s now unbearable lack of clarity about his own existence and his infinite tasks.” This may sound old-fashioned, that is to say, pre-Freudian, ante-Balaillean, post-Enlightenment, and so forth. For who today hungers for clarity as if darkness did not send out its own special light” (17).
  • Einstellung--A mindset, in decision theory and general systems theory, refers to a set of assumptions, methods or notations held by one or more people

This is the question that Ronell wants to “bring to the table”:

  • Why has the test—throughout history, and perhaps most pervasively today—come to define our relation to questions of truth, knowledge, and even reality?
  • According to Ronell: “It is not a matter of choosing between a science of fact and a science of essence—between an account of why things are actual rather than possible.
  • Nor is it simply a matter of technological self-understanding, as if the scientific reflection on its own procedures and premises could satisfy a philosophical hunger.
  • . . . I am not insensitive to the liberating potential of testing one’s ground . . . Throwing off the security blankets of time and history” (18).

Ronell asserts that “there is something about the relationship to truth that depends on the test.

  • For example, why is it that the most pressing ethical and political issues of our day increasingly seem to have more to do with testing than with other names for questioning, hesitation, and certainty?”

In The Test Drive, Ronell tries to focus on the ways in which the test—and in particular the rhetoric of testing –has restructured the field of everyday and psychic life.

Types of tests, according to Ronell:

  • One test stands its ground, standardized and equipped with irrefutable results. So it claims and so it stands.
  • This first register of testing offers results—certitudes—by which to calculate and count on the other (including the self as other, as tested other).
  • Another test crashes against walls, collapses certitudes, and lives by failure—lives by dying or, at least by destroying
  • This second test consistently detaches from its rootedness in truth: self-dissolving and ever probing, it depends on boundary-crossing feats and the collapse of horizon. It implicates the politics of risk that Nietzsche has shown, on one page, to be linked to a concept of freedom. On the next page, he characteristically contradicts himself, paying the price for science by pointing to the gravest risks ascribable to the culture of the Versuch, the test or trial.
  • “These two principal registers do not lead separate lives . . . But imply and breach one another at critical junctures (according to Nietzsche) (18).

Prototype A Testability and the Law

  • Derrida gives focus to a key element of testing: the hypothesis. “The most fundamental determination, however, one which is to be found in Plato but has nevertheless been covered up and neglected throughout the renewals of Neoplatonism and the Renaissance, . . . Is the hypothesis, the concept of hypothesis” (23).
  • Cohen “newly appraise(s) the Lutheran Reformation”—”In allying itself with critical science, with the hypothesis, with doubt, with the history of knowledge, with the putting-in-question of institutional authorities, and so on, ‘the Reformation placed the German spirit at the center of world history’” (24).
  • According to Cohen, it is owing to the concept of hypothesis that Kepler was able to develop his astronomy and mechanics (24).
  • Thus, what Cohen proposes, under the rubric of hypothesis, is “indeed a determination of the idea as an opening to the infinite, and infinite task for ‘philosophy as a rigorous science.’” (page24, 25 for more)

The test and . . . The motif of testability stay lodged within the very possibility of justice” (26).

  • The theoretical issue . . . Entails at least three major subdivisions:
  • What is the relationship of law to science?
  • Can a judge preside over scientific evidence without relying on scientific expertise?
  • What constitutes scientific expertise?

“Under both Daubert and Frye a jury is permitted to hear proposed scientific testimony only if a judge determines beforehand that the testimony pertains to genuine science” (27).

  • P 27, Describes cases of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. details.
  • Adina Schwartz argues that facts are theory-laden.
  • “Contrary to Daubert’s assumption that judges can make such determinations without deferring to scientists, the history and philosophy of science show that it is in principle impossible for judges, or anyone else outside the scientific community to rationally decide whether science is being done” (27).
  • Schwartz’s article discusses Daubert case and states “While Daubert suggests four factors that judges may appropriately consider in this determination, only one of the factors is plausible. The factor is the falsifiability, or refutability, or testability” (29). (adopted from philosopher Sir Karl Popper).

Sir Karl Popper,The point is that, whenever we propose a solution to a problem, we ought to try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it. Few of us, unfortunately, practice this precept; but other people, fortunately, will supply the criticism for us if we fail to supply it ourselves” (34). “The point is to let go in good faith of the massive defense mechanisms that attend thought, to allow if not to provoke the dissolution of the solution, to affirmatively invite failure by losing the attachment to a solution made in service to a dogmatic principle” (34).

Ronell likes Popper’s viewpoint, but makes the following interesting and valid question:

  • Who tests the tests?
  • This has been in the news of late—with the fallibility of SOL tests and with Harvard throwing SAT test scores out the window.

On Passing the Test

  • The philosophy of the future, Nietzsche projects, belongs to the testers and attempters, to those who are willing to risk themselves on the Versuch: ‘A new species of philosophers is coming up: I venture to baptize them with a name that is not free of danger. As I unriddle them, insofar as they allow themselves to be unriddled—for it belongs to their nature to want to remain riddles at some point—these be philosophers of the future may have a right—it might also be a wrong—to be called attempters [Versucher: tempters, testers, experimenters]. (133).
  • “The hundred attempts and temptations –the tests and trials, the inescapable ordeals—are, Nietzsche insists, a burden and duty felt by the philosopher who risks everything as s/he plays beyond good and evil” (138).
  • Nietzsche asks, concerning the bold experimenters, “Does their passion for knowledge force them to go farther with audacious and painful experiments than the softhearted and effeminate taste of a democratic century could approve?”
  • Now, Nietzsche almost sounds like he approves of these “experimenters” in the above quotes, but he does not necessarily—he just seems to believe that they will have the power to change our future.

The future belongs to the experimenters . . . . Dolly, the cloned sheep. Need I say more? The two sights below show the flip sides of the coin on cloning: one used to clone for cloning’s sake—because we can—the other, to try to preserve endangered animals, etc. Wild animal cloning to preserve DNA AMA discussion of cloning potential and ethical/scientific issues

  • Derrida offers: “Today the acceleration of technicization concerns the border of the nation-state.” This issue needs “to be completely reconsidered, not in order to sound the death-knell of democracy, but to rethink democracy from within these conditions” (134-5).
  • Along these same lines, Nietzsche posits: “this democracy to come is marked in the movement that always carries the present beyond itself, makes it inadequate to itself” (135).
  • For Nietzsche and others, it is important for us to question the relationship between science and contemporary formations of power—more specifically, about the suspicious partnership of so-called advanced democracies and high technology.
  • What makes these forces match up with each other? What allows these structures mutually to hold up?

My Example 1: Pharmaceutical Companies and domestic drugs issue. Why can’t we import cheaper drugs? Why did our government support the Pharmaceutical Companies on this issue? My Example 2: Doctors being paid by Pharmaceutical Companies to test their drugs and then speak at conferences. Is there influence here to push certain drugs despite their performance in testing?

The Test Drive: On Nietzsche’s Gay Science

  • “There was once a man; he had learned as a child that beautiful tale of how God tried Abraham, how he withstood the test, kept his faith and for the second time received a son against every expectation . . . . This man was no thinker, he felt no need to go further than faith . . . . This man was no learned exegete, he knew no Hebrew; had he known Hebrew then perhaps it might have been easy for him to understand the story of Abraham.” Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
  • The philosophical pressure is on for science to come clean, to declassify the language usage and rhetorical combinations that have supported the prodigal domination of science over other interpretive interventions and possible worlds.
  • Re: “expressivity of objects”: Nietzsche at times saw himself as a scientific object. . . . . He writes: “ I should have been at the electric exhibition in Paris” as an exhibit at the world’s science fair (154). He also saw himself as dynamite.
  • Question: Taking these articulated mutations seriously—one of his masks will have been the scientific object—how can we make sense of Nietzsche’s call today?

A Ronell (& Nietzsche) argument for Science’s power and ability to be independent rather than influenced of government:

  • “Nietzsche saw in science the potential for uncompromising honesty in terms of understanding who we are and what we can become . . . . Science does not owe anything to anyone; it does not have to bend its rules to suit this or that transcendental power broker. In principle, science does not have to rhyme with nation-state or God but should be able to bypass the more provincial tollbooths of ever narrowing global highways. Science, if it wanted to do so, could, . . . Travel its zones with a free pass” (155).

However, the public has good reason to be suspicious and anxious about science’s direction:

  • But science has many ethical destinations “of which we remain ignorant—[this] is why experimentation is a locus of tremendous ethical anxiety” (157).

Jean-Luc Marion, French Catholic theologian, in God without Being discusses the gaze of the test:

  • “The test abides no idol, which is why its essential effectivity is located at once everywhere and nowhere” (233).
  • According to Ronell about Marion’s view, “this roving eye, which resembles that of a surveillance apparatus, disables its object without violating or even bothering to denounce. . . . Marion claims that ‘Teste’s gaze puts to the test what it beholds as one holds an enemy to the ground, in order to destroy him,” and, “By transpiercing every visible being with his gaze, Teste ‘does not annihilate it so much as he disqualifies its pretension to offer the idol, which precisely would have fixed this gaze. No violence, no refutation, no speech even, but only the advance of the gaze, as if nothing were” (231). . . .
  • “the Teste-gaze attests, moreover, to the vanishing of experienceability—a Benjaminian insight. Something has supplanted our relation to experience as presencing or recalled” (232) . . . .
  • “the Teste-gaze is unstoppable” (232).
  • “Boredom works for Marion as the underlying mood of testing/detesting because it has little to do with nihilism, renouncing without any tragedy or spark of courage the very intention of any idolatry” (232).
  • For a conversation with Jean-Luc Marion, visit:

M. Teste (Monsieur Teste) often resembles a liberal—in fact, his prints appear to match those of the liberal ironist who roams the essay of Richard Rorty’s “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity”:

  • “M. Teste often resembles a liberal—in fact his prints appear to match those of the liberal ironist who roams the essay of Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. . . . Rorty uses “ironist” to name “the sort of person who faces up to the contingency of his or her own most central beliefs and desires—someone sufficiently historicist and nominalist to have abandoned the idea that those central beliefs and desires refer back to something beyond the reach of time and chance”. . . .
  • “Liberal ironists are people who include among these ungroundable desires their own hope that suffering will be diminished, that the humiliation of human beings by other human beings may cease.”
  • Nor would Test ever be caught saying that he resides in one of “the lucky, rich, literate democracies.” an eminently falsifiable description for which Rorty shows unambivalent fondness” (233).

Now, we get to ineffability:

  • According to Ronell, the ironists want all things to be made new. They want “the sublime and the ineffable, not just the beautiful and novel —something incommensurable with the past, not simply the past recaptured through rearrangement and redescription. Dissatisfied with mere linguistic makeovers, the ironist theorist demands ‘apocalyptic novelty.’ He still wants ‘the kind of power which comes from a close relation to somebody very large; this is one reason why he is rarely a liberal. Nietzsche’s superman shares with Hegel’s World-Spirit and Heidegger’s Being the duality attributed to Christ: very man, but, in his ineffable aspect, very God . . .” (235-6).
  • A hundred years before Heidegger's essay "On the Essence of Truth," Kierkegaard raised a dreadful linguistic question on behalf of the Biblical Abraham: How can one speak of an experience which eludes the clench of language? Of that whereof one must remain silent? Language, even the language of art, has no words for what is individual. "So soon as I talk I express the universal, and if I do not do so, no one can understand me." (11) I make myself understood, Wittgenstein would say, by the fact that my meanings are shared by others. And since a private language is impossible, the individual has none. "Humanly speaking he is crazy and cannot make himself intelligible to anyone." (12)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche's case against language is equally nominalistic: "Fundamentally, all our actions are altogether incomparably personal, unique, and infinitely individual ... but as soon as we translate them into consciousness they no longer seem to be. " (13) Consciousness is equivalent to language: a net of communication allowing men to speak not of the singular but only of the "average."
  • For both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche language is an arbitrary scheme imposed upon reality to make it recognizable. Grammar, that "metaphysics of the people" as Nietzsche called it, can never capture truth within its discourse. . . .
  • Nietzsche and Kierkegaard thus say the unsayable. By respecting [end p. 25] the ineffability of the "sublime," talking around it, showing how language is unable to lay hands on it, they establish the void of unsayable truth at the center of their discourse. This absential presence distinguishes their language as poetic. For poetry is subject to a tragic paradox: knowing the frailty of its language, it persists in its quest for disclosure. It hopes to turn the lie of the word into truth. And if it establishes truth it is only through the deceptions of language....." (17)

Define “ineffability:”

  •  To say that something is "ineffable" means that it cannot or should not, for overwhelming reasons, be expressed in spoken words (as with the concept of true love). It is generally used to describe a feeling, concept or aspect of existence that is too great to be adequately described in words, or that inherently (due to its nature) cannot be conveyed in dualistic symbolic human language, but can only be known internally by individuals.
  • In Zen it is often said that (by analogy) the finger can point to the moon but is not the moon; likewise words and actions can point towards what is ineffable but cannot make another know it.
  • The image is René Descartes’ image of Duality of the mind and body. Inputs are passed on by the sensory organs to the epiphysis in the brain and from there to the immaterial spirit.

Things that are often termed ineffable:

  • Things incommunicable
  •  Sensory experiences such as colors or flavors
  • Spiritual experiences, e.g. Søren Kierkegaard's discussion of Abraham in Fear and Trembling
  • The human soul and consciousness
  • The musical experience, as discussed by Theodor Adorno, among others.
  •  The psychedelic experience is largely considered ineffable to psychologists, philosophers and psychonauts alike.
  • Things incommunicable because of incomprehensibility
  • Infinity.
  •  The universe (before the Big-Bang Theory, and realistically, post-Big Bang Theory).
  •  A universe with five or more dimensions.
  • Things considered too great to be uttered
  •  Yahweh (by orthodox Jewish tradition)
  • The "Will of Bob" in Mostly Harmless, part of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

A Few Fun Quotes about “ineffability”:

    • "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." — Ludwig Wittgenstein
    • "The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name." — the Dao De Jing
    • "What can't be said, can't be said. And it can't be whistled, either." — F. P. Ramsey
    • "If a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up." — Tom Lehrer
    • "What cannot be spoken in words, but that whereby words are spoken." — Kenopanishad
    • "We shall grapple with the ineffable, and see if we may not eff it after all." — Douglas Adams in Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
    • "I'm in the business of effing the ineffable."-Alan Watts

One of the places of testing is the university, & professors:

  • How much of a soapbox should professors enjoy,expounding on pet social and political subjects?
  •  “. . . If he feels called upon to intervene in the struggles of world views and party opinions, he may do so outside, in the market place, in the press, in meetings, in associations, wherever he wishes. But after all, it is somewhat too convenient to demonstrate one’s courage in taking a stand where the audience and possible opponents are condemned to silence.” In the classroom the teacher must clean up his act, tone down the prophetic pathos, and follow a nonideological teaching plan.
  • (quoted from Weber) (Test Drive201)
  • Discussion Question: Why shouldn’t a professor at the very least challenge students to think beyond their cacoon? To stretch out and consider other points of view? If not at the university, then where and when will they learn this skill? At home, they will naturally hear what their parents believe for the first 18 years of their lives. I would think they should be exposed to other points of view from other areas of culture and the world at the university. Shouldn’t university be a place of “testing one’s beliefs”?
  • What do you think?

Another place of testing, according to Rorty is the Democracy: “Rorty wisely urges that one stop looking for political rehabilitation beyond the domain of contestatory democracies. Rather than leaping for new and revolutionary promises, one would be well advised to inhabit and test the politics of democracy that binds at least some of the world. Surrendering extant forms of democracy to revolutionary phantasms pushes away the luxurious complexity of the present, which deserves and needs acts of continual, committed, and rigorous probling” (234).

Ronell also makes note of the anti-women or anti-feminine language used by many philosophers on the subject of testing:

  • “When the experimental disposition is announced in Nietzsche, it is often accompanied by the caccophony of woman-hating ranting. I have often stopped the sentences I quote at that moment, as if they were stoppable, so that I could go on and produce an argument. Nietzsche doesn’t always close out women, but he does so often enough, with or without transvaluative complications” (237).
  • “The baseline structure of material sites of experimentation is linked to misogynist language and practice. Objects under study acquire in Haraway’s account essentially feminized traits, which is to say they are relentlessly subjected to the intrusive violence of the scientific probe. Whether this is a fundamental quality of laboratory practice remains to be seen” (141).

Testing Your Love, or: Breaking Up (sometimes it’s necessary)

  • Nietzsche tested his love for Richard Wagner, and walked away from his friendship with Wagner. The book did not clarify why this separation became necessary.
  • Nietzsche speaks of Wagner almost like he was a drug:
  • “For I was condemned to Germans. If one wants to rid oneself of an unbearable pressure, one needs hashish. Well, I needed Wagner. Wagner is the antitoxin against everything German par excellence—a toxin, a poison, that I don’t deny.” Nietzsche

Nietzsche uses the example of his “addiction” for Wagner as an example of whether it is all right to change one’s position on a subject, to walk away, to reverse one’s position, to leave.

  • Part One “Of the Three Metamorphoses” begins, “To carry out later in coolness and sobriety, what a man promises or decides in passion: this demand is among the heaviest burdens oppressing mankind” (311).
  • Nietzsche continues: “Because we have vowed to be faithful, even, perhaps, to a purely imaginary being, a God, for instance; because we have given our heart to a prince, a party, a woman, a priestly order, an artist, or a thinker in the state of blind madness that enveloped us in rapture and let those beings appear worthy of every honor, every sacrifice: are we then extricably bound? . . . . Was it not a conditional promise, under the assumption (unstated to be sure) that those beings to whom we dedicated ourselves are the beings they appeared to be in our imaginations? Are we obliged to be faithful to our errors, even if we perceive that by this faithfulness we do damage to our higher self?” (311)
  • In a section of Human, All Too Human, entitled “On Convictions and Justice,” Nietzsche asks, “Why do we admire the man who remains faithful to his conviction and despise the one who changes it?” (310).
  • “The crucial place that Brutus assumes in the Nietzschean corpus can hardly be overstated. A quotation from Nietzsche’s notebooks reads, “In that which moved Zarathustra, Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, Plato, Brutus, Spinoza, Mirabeau—I live, too.”
  • All of these people turned on their people or turned the tables in some way” (310).
  • Question: Is turning on someone in the same category as reinterpreting or turning the tables philosophically (as a Jesus or a Mohammed or Moses did). I’m not sure I would group those two ideas together. What do you think?
  • It is good to love, for love is hard. Tenderness from one person to another is perhaps the most difficult task assigned to us—the most extreme, the final test and examination, the work, for which all other work is only a preparation.
  • - Rainer Maria Rilke, Briefe I. 1904 -

The Wanderer Philosopher

  • Nietzsche famously ends Human, All Too Human by raising up the wanderer—a figure propelled by the effects of breakup. The wanderer, an early generation of nomad, travels in shifts and ruptures, intellectually torn from any lasting habitat by an experience of homelessness tied to time. To the extent that time is, the wanderer moves on, moving away from positions grazed or occupied: “We then stride on, driven by the intellect, from opinion to opinion, through the change of sides, as noble traitors to all things that can ever be betrayed—and yet with no feeling of guilt.”. . . This is the “noble traitor as the wanderer who knows when to fold, when to leave” (314).
  • My interpretation: Nietzsche seems to approve of this image. He seems to be saying that it is right to continually test one’s positions on everything, and then walk away from them if need be, if they fail the test. This idea could apply to relationships, or to any philosophic, spiritual or scientific belief.
  • Do you agree?
  • To me, it seems almost necessary to allow this “walking away” if one believes in the need to continually test an idea—if you aren’t willing to walk away from that belief, then what good is the test?
  • However, what does this say about loyalty, faithfulness, faith—especially as they relate to relationships?

A Chance to Explore a Few Tests Used Today:

Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922) was the son of a painter. He became a Swiss psychiatrist. Very interested in psychoanalysis, during the early 1910s he published several psychoanalytic articles and experimented with the interpretation of inkblots, as did Leonardo da Vinci and Justinus Kerner. In 1921 he published Pschodiagnostik, which had 10 inkblots and a guide to analysis on interpretation—now considered a classic of psychiatry and art as well. The test is commonly called the Rorschach Ink Blot Test. Below is one of its classic images.

Its origins go back at least to the experimentation of Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli, and also lie in children’s games, experiments on visual perception, studies of the effects of hashish, as well as the testing of immigrants at Ellis Island.

After the MMPI (the Rorschach Ink Blot test is the second most widely used test by members of the Society for Personality Assessment. It has been employed in diagnosing underlying thought disorder and differentiating psychotic from nonpsychotic thinking in cases where the patient is reluctant to openly admit to psychotic thinking. There are ten official inkblots. Five inkblots are black ink on white paper. Two are black and red ink on white paper. Three are multicolored. After the individual has seen and responded to all the inkblots, the tester then gives them to him again one at a time to study. The patient is asked to note where he sees what he originally saw and what makes it look like that. The blot can also be rotated. As the patient is examining the inkblots, the psychologist writes down everything the patient says or does, no matter how trivial.

  • Methods of interpretation differ. Rorschach scoring systems have been described as a system of pegs on which to hang one's knowledge of personality. The most widely used method in the United States is based on the work of John E. Exner. In the Exner system, responses are scored with reference to their:
  • level of vagueness or synthesis of multiple images in the blot,
  • the location of the response,
  • which of a variety of determinants is used to produce the response (i.e., what makes the inkblot look like what it is said to resemble),
  • the form quality of the response (to what extent a response is faithful to how the actual inkblot looks),
  • the contents of the response (what the respondent actually sees in the blot),
  • the degree of mental organizing activity that is involved in producing the response,
  • and any illogical, incongruous, or incoherent aspects of responses.
  • Using the scores for these categories, the examiner then performs a series of mathematical calculations producing a structural summary of the test data. The results of the structural summary are interpreted using existing empirical research data on personality characteristics that have been demonstrated to be associated with different kinds of responses. The calculations of scores are often done electronically.
  • A common misconception of the Rorschach test is that its interpretation is based primarily on the contents of the response - what the examinee sees in the inkblot. In fact, the contents of the response are only a comparatively small portion of a broader cluster of variables that are used to interpret the Rorschach data.
  • Other outdated factors (not included in the Exner system of scoring) include according to one 1950 source:
  • Average time per response for which a time of about one minute is suggested as normal with doubling of times considered to be a possible indicator of depression.
  • The time it takes for the person to react when first faced with a coloured card.
  • Rejection of a card which it is suggested should not be considered normal.
  • Turning of the card with failure to turn being labelled a possible sign of depressive psychoses.

Have some fun exploring and taking a few tests:

  • Have some fun exploring and taking a few tests:
  • (to take a fun version of an inkblot test)
  • (serious personality test, can take it for free, but have to pay for results)
  • Other psychiatric, personality, and psychologic tests:
  • The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is one of the most frequently used personality tests in the mental health fields.This assessment, or test, was designed to help identify personal, social, and behavioral problems in psychiatric patients. The test helps provide relevant information to aid in problem identification, diagnosis, and treatment planning for the patient.),
  • Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality questionnaire designed to identify certain psychological differences according to the typological theories of Carl Gustav Jung as published in his 1921 book Psychological Types (English edition, 1923). The original developers of the indicator were Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. They began developing the indicator during World War II, believing that a knowledge of personality preferences would help the women who were entering the industrial workforce for the first time to identify the sort of war-time jobs where they would be "most comfortable and effective

MMSE, or mini-mental state examination (MMSE), mini-mental status exam or Folstein test is a brief 30-point questionnaire test that is used to assess cognition. It is commonly used in medicine to screen for dementia. In the time span of about 10 minutes, it samples various functions, including arithmetic, memory and orientation. It was introduced by Folstein et al in 1975. Any score over 24 (out of 30) is effectively normal. The normal value is also corrected for degree of schooling and age. Low to very low scores correlate closely with the presence of dementia, although other mental disorders can also lead to abnormal findings on MMSE testing. The presence of purely physical problems can also interfere with interpretation if not properly noted; for example, a patient may be physically unable to hear or read instructions properly, or may have a motor deficit that affects writing and drawing skills. The sight below effectively explains to seniors how to take such a test, and lists the questions it contains: The image below refers to the final question on this test in which a person has to draw a figure that combines two other figures.

Terms used in The Test Drive:

  • Basanos or touchstone tests the degree of accord between a person's life and its principle of intelligibility or logos: "Socrates will never let [his listener] go until he has thoroughly and properly put all his ways to the test [188a]. The Greek word "basanos" refers to a "touchstone", i.e., a black stone which is used to test the genuineness of gold by examining the streak left on the stone when "touched" by the gold in question. Similarly, Socrates' "basanic" role enables him to determine the true nature of the relation between the logos and bios of those who come into contact with him.
  • Einstellung refers to a mindset, in decision theory and general systems theory, refers to a set of assumptions, methods or notations held by one or more people
  • Falsifiability, or refutability, or testability” (29). (adopted from philosopher Sir Karl Popper).
  • Ineffability If something is ineffable it means that it cannot or should not, for overwhelming reasons, be expressed in spoken words
  • Überwindung overcoming
  • Versuch unites the idea of test with temptation


  • Sources
  • Kaufmann, Walter A. Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. Princeton: Princeton U. P., 1950.
  • Kaufmann, Walter. The Faith of a Heretic, Pg 386.
  • Ronell, Avita. The Test Drive. Urbana: U of Illinois Press, 2005.
  • Thro, Michael. “Apollo vs Dionysus: The Only Theme Your Students Will Ever Need in Writing about Literature.”VCCA Journal, Volume 10, Number 2. Summer 1996, 11-18.
  • Oxford English Dictionary.
  • NOTE: In attempting to share Ronell’s ideas from The Test Drive, I have tried to be fairly comprehensive. Still, I have only shared some, and left out much—focusing on those thoughts that particularly reached me.

Download 67.29 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page