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
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
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.
Compatibility Tests for relationship
Competency to Stand Trial Tests
What season are you—tests for optimum fashion colors, Spring, Fall,
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.”
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
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).
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”
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.
Constituting a tentative model for future experiment or development: experimental,
pilot, trial,, start/end.
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
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
Consider words that Ronell
suggests could be synonyms for
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
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
“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
“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
Testing 1: On Being Tested
Testing is all around us in everyday life. We are being tested in many different
“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
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
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
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
Dionysus is the god
of the test.
According to Ronell,
he rules “a force that
and is affirmed by it.”
He is viewed as the
lawgiver, and lover
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.
“ . . . 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.
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: http://www.vccaedu.org/inquiry/vcca-journal/thro.html
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: http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~adspear/kaufmann.htm)
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
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
The test “at once affirms and
deprives the world of
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
“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
“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
. . . 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
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).
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
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
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
Can a judge preside over scientific
evidence without relying on scientific
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
“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”
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
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
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
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
“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”
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: http://www.jcrt.org/archives/07.2/marion-
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)
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
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
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
The universe (before the Big-Bang Theory, and realistically, post-Big Bang
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
A Few Fun Quotes about
"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
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
What do you think?
Another place of testing,
according to Rorty is the
“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,
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
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
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
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
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
Have some fun exploring and taking a few tests:
http://www.stupidstuff.org/main/rorschach.htm (to take a fun version of an inkblot
http://uk.tickle.com/test/inkblot.html (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
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
Versuch unites the idea of test with temptation
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.