Monthly Archives: March 2008

Discourse of Mastery and Unlimited Responsibility

Unlimited responsibility is both a theme that pervades the space of intersection in which
Heidegger and his best readers meet, and also the challenge that Heidegger offers us in reading him. Heidegger is one of ‘the few and the rare’ who set a standard by which even those who disagree with him may be judged.

  • David Wood, Thinking After Heidegger.

One of the things that caught my attention in reading this book was it’s wariness of anything that might resemble a “discourse of mastery”. It interested me because, in my terms, vom Ereignis could be translated as “from Mastery”, as much as “from Enowning” or “from the Event of Appropriation”. Heidegger does certainly mean the term in multvalent ways, but the intersection of mastery, particularly the discourse of mastery, with unlimited responsibility seems like an appropriate place to begin

What, fundamentally, is wrong with a discourse of mastery? Mastery involves many things, not the least mastery-over in the sense of over another. This is where, I believe, mastery becomes problematic in a postmodern scenario. Mastery over another without their choosing is the real issue, rather than mastery over another in general. Without a common goal the postmodern situation is indeed an-archic, and this an-arche can and should precede any defined and chosen arche, or goal (telos). So a discourse of mastery that doesn’t accept its own limitations and does not choose its own field of endeavour is precisely to be avoided. In other words, WIITWD is solely and simply for us meaning myself, mitda, and emmie, and any discourse that comes out of it can only be judged as it applies to our situation. Applying it elsewhere is to be done at the reader’s peril and only to the degree that it resonates with the reader’s own state of being.

Unlimited responsibility, then, is itself a chosen situation, or a decided event. Why would a master choose to be a Master, if it implies unlimited responsibility? Because that responsibility is the appropriate response to his/her slave’s giving up their self-ownership. Dasein (human being-there) is always, in the first instance, mine to each individual. Only in that situation of personal freedom can a truly consensual giving up of freedom occur. Only to the degree that my slaves were their own persons can they give up that ownership, in which they enown their Master to mastery in the first place. And only in a situation of personal freedom can the Master enslave the slave and take ownership of his/her being-there. This is the foundation of our Mitdasein (being-there-with) in which we choose and have chosen to exist. From the beginning this unlimited responsibility was the focus of my longing, the prize for which I endeavoured to become who I am. I didn’t ‘accept’ unlimited responsibility ‘in return for’ my slaves’ being-there, I responded to their giving of their dasein with the willful and appropriate response of appropriating their responsibility in an unlimited manner.

Domination to Mastery?

Saturday mitda and emmie went out shopping for a wedding dress (?) for a friend in the scene. Apparently they found a rather beautiful one. I stayed with the other girl’s Dominant (Master? Daddy?) and we chatted, did a couple of fixes to the car, put his juke box into the house from the garage, drank coffee, and chatted some more. It was a pretty good time, and it was good to hear about some of the issues other dominants have, particularly with the whole “being called a Master” thing. This was the day after the first MasT meeting in Austin, which the four of us attended. Even at the MasT meeting (Masters and slaves Together) very few of the Dominants were comfortable identifying with Mastery. Yet it seems to me a natural progression from Domination to Mastery, if not necessarily an easy one.

Anniversaries and Parties

Yesterday was the play party for the oldest and probably largest bdsm group in town. It was also emmie and E’s anniversary, so while they went to dinner mitda and I socialized and did a bit of public play at the party. The four of us met up later on and went dancing for a while, the club we had intended to go to was impossible to get in (or would have been, we didn’t bother trying) since a well known techno artist was playing there as part of South by Southwest. We went to another club we know that’s a good deal further from 6 th St and the attendant South by shenanigans, it was a pretty good time,, emmie got to dance to music she (sort of ) likes rather than the goth/industrial music mitda and I tend towards.

Today has basically been an at home day for the three of us, while E went into town to study and run. I feel tired but it’s mostly from side effects from a bad earache, so I’m trying not to sleep all day and then be up all night again.

Dominating versus Domineering


1. To have or exert strong authority or mastery.

  1. 2. To be situated in or occupy a position that is more elevated or decidedly superior to others.


  2. having or showing an exaggerated opinion of your importance, ability, etc;

These definitions, short as they are, point towards a fundamental difference between the dominating individual and the domineering individual. Notably, “mastery” is present in the definition of dominating but absent in the definition of domineering, while self-opinion is the decided factor in the domineering individual but absent in the definition of dominating.

Mastery is defined in the following way:

  1. Possession of consummate skill.

  2. The status of master or ruler; control: mastery of the seas.

  3. Full command of a subject of study: Her mastery of economic theory impressed the professors.

Notably mastery over another human being is only mentioned in “the Status of master or ruler” and even there ignored in the example. However mastery in the sense I understand it when my slaves call me such involves all three definitions, in that I have a certain status to them, I have a command of them as a subject (of study and otherwise), and this command of them is a consummate skill. In fact the three definitions could be simplified into “full command of a subject” assuming that subject means what is inferred in the phrase “British Subject” as well as a subject of study such as economics.

People outside the M/s community, however, often conflate dominating and domineering in terms of the personality of the dominant partner. People within the M/s community also can mistake a domineering personality, for a while at least, with a dominant personality type. There is however a strong element of facade in the domineering personality type born of personal insecurity. The self-opinion of the domineering type is often a facade covering insecurity regarding their abilities, personality, and self-worth.

Not that the Master is never insecure. There is no school of human mastery, no examination of one’s abilities, other than the daily examination of the effect of one’s actions upon one’s subjects by oneself and one’s subjects, or slaves in the popular M/s terminology. However the domineering individual cannot maintain their “dominating” style when mastery is completely absent, and their apparent dominance is soon seen through,

Mastery itself, especially in the idea of a “Discourse of Mastery”, is very much frowned upon in postmodern circles, this in spite of the fact that “vom Ereignis”, in the subtitle of Heidegger’s Contributions to Philosophy, could as easily (and more frugally in terms of adding new verbiage to an already verbose language), be translated as “from Mastery”. Translating Ereignis as the “Event of Appropriation” as it was in earlier translations only underscores this meaning, as what is “ Appropriation” if it doesn’t involve both “taking” and “placing into the appropriate, or proper, positions”? Of course the “ appropriate” position of a human being could be egalitarian viz another human being, and I would promote any laws upholding this idea. But self chosen servitude or mastery, appropriately enacted, should be a choice available to the individual. I often see the term “enowning” as a correspondent term to “enslaving”, in that the slave or subject “enables” the Master to own them, just as simultaneously the Master enslaves the subject in his/her submission.

This enownment is impossible for the slave to grant to the merely domineering individual as they do not possess the mastery inherent in accepting the slave’s submission and working with it. Human mastery is a consummate yet constantly evolving set of skills that ensure the safety, satisfaction and fulfillment of the slave’s being, as well as that of the Master.

“Natural slaves or submissives, Masters or Dominants”

Passive submission is not submission at all, just the act of a person willing to
give themselves without actually having themselves to give in the first place”

What exactly is “passive” submission as apparently opposed to “ active” submission, and how does this play into Aristotle’s concept of the “natural” slave?

Passive” submission, on the site from which I took the quote, is equated with the “doormat” type of person, who is generally submissive to anyone whether that person is a dominant, his/her Dominant, or not dominant at all. It’s theorized on the site that this type of person is submissive due to nurture as opposed to nature, and needs to go through some sort of self-realization prior to knowing whether they are in fact by nature submissive. “Active” submission is the act of submitting to another, generally only one person, in a cognizant way. This act is generally the act of the “natural” submissive who is fully aware of his/her proclivities and chooses to live in this manner.

The other party in the debate has three distinctions, between the “doormat” type, the “natural” submissive, who is generally submissive in all areas of his/her life, and the “not-submissive but a submissive in a D/s relationship to only one person”.

To clarify my earlier post about “natural” slaves, “Nature” for Aristotle meant the entire universe, hence Physics was the study of Nature. As a result there is no nature versus nurture argument within the Politics or the Ethics, as nurture is simply another part of Nature-as-a-whole. The later Metaphysical separation of nature versus nurture has always been problematic in practice, as adopted children raised together have both similar and different proclivities, while twins raised apart can also have very similar proclivities or very different ones. As a result I tend to avoid the debate and look phenomenologically at the person as they have become, rather than trying to source the cause of this becoming.

Of the “natural” slave or submissive, what causes this tendency, then, is unimportant to me. Whether by nature or nurture people can have more or less self-realization and that self-realization could result in a dominant, submissive or egalitarian tendency in their most fulfilling relationships. Male or female, placing someone into a position that they do not have the tendency for will inevitably result in frustration and dissatisfaction with the relationship. Of course the same person could have a submissive, dominant and egalitarian relationship with different people, a “person” is not a unitary phenomenon, any more than is a “society”.

My only criteria for a “natural” slave or submissive and a “ natural” Master or Dominant, is their choosing to be such in a freely adopted manner. Laws or societal expectations concerning slavery or servitude, other than the basic law that such cannot be forced upon a person either by societal “values”, laws, or other measures, is basically a wrong foisted upon individuals who cannot express their fundamental tendencies.

As per Nietzsche, we are in dire need of a “revaluation of all values”. As per Heidegger what is so “valued” is in fact robbed of its true worth.

“Natural” Masters and slaves

“those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast – and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them – are slaves by nature….For he is a slave by nature who is capable of belonging to another – which is also why he belongs to another”

The question is how does one know that one person is a “natural” slave. Firstly, Aristotle opposes slavery “by law” such as the slavery of the conquered, or the slavery of children of slaves. Which notably was a very progressive view at the time. I have held for a while that legalized slavery would obviate and make impossible true consensual slavery. This is so because only when slavery is always and only entered into freely can one truly know that the person entering that state of being feels it “natural” for him or herself to be in that state. By the same token, Mastery, as something not freely entered into is a responsibility that many if not most would refuse. Those who do freely feel that it is their appropriate state, and who want and thrive on the responsibility, can only choose to do so in a situation where they never and in no way are asked to take that responsibility as a matter of law, tradition or inheritance.

Contact Lenses and Work

I’m actually emailing this post to myself so that nobody in IT sees my browser going to a site called Domination and Mastery.  I’m very unused to hiding my proclivities, even at work, so it’s a bit of a new experience for me.   Not that my new job is restrictive in the way my last one was – there they simply told me up front that they watched all browser activity and any “non compliant” activity would result in dismissal.  Even posting to technical forums was absolutely disallowed, what a joke for a programmer!
I’m waiting for the girls to drop by with my sunglasses, I left this morning while it was still dark out and as a result didn’t think to bring them, and now the sun is shining fiercely and with my eyes hurting already I don’t feel like driving home without.  And why are my eyes hurting?  Well I just got contact lenses, for the first time in over ten years, and I am not used to them.  I do see better with them as they cure the astigmatism better than glasses, and I found out I actually have peripheral vision when not wearing glasses!  I think I’d really favour Lasic surgery but funds don’t support that idea at present.
The girls attended the Democratic caucus for our precinct last night.  I didn’t attend due to not being American but apparently it wouldn’t have mattered – I just wouldn’t have signed in or voted.  While our precinct went 7-4 for Obama Texas as a whole went for Hillary, as mitda was hoping. 
I’ve actually done so much work this morning my hands are cramping from typing, so I’m going to end this post and see whereabouts the girls are at.  After they arrive I’m going to take the new (to us) car in for an oil change and Spring checkup around the corner and let my eyes and hands rest for an hour or so.

Aristotle on Slavery

“those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast – and they are in this state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them – are slaves by nature….For he is a slave by nature who is capable of belonging to another – which is also why he belongs to another”

“Slaves get the guidance and instructions that they must have to live, and in return they provide the master with the benefits of their physical labor, not least of which is the free time that makes it possible for the master to engage in politics and philosophy. “

“not everyone currently held in slavery is in fact a slave by nature. The argument that those who are captured in war are inferior in virtue cannot, as far as Aristotle is concerned, be sustained, and the idea that the children of slaves are meant to be slaves is also wrong”

“Aristotle uses the discussion of household management to make a distinction between expertise in managing a household and expertise in business. The former, Aristotle says, is important both for the household and the city; we must have supplies available of the things that are necessary for life, such as food, clothing, and so forth, and because the household is natural so too is the science of household management, the job of which is to maintain the household. The latter, however, is potentially dangerous.”

“expertise in business is not natural, but “arises rather through a certain experience and art” (1257a5). It is on account of expertise in business that “there is held to be no limit to wealth and possessions” (1257a1). This is a problem because some people are led to pursue wealth without limit, and the choice of such a life, while superficially very attractive, does not lead to virtue and real happiness. It leads some people to “proceed on the supposition that they should either preserve or increase without limit their property in money. The cause of this state is that they are serious about living, but not about living well; and since that desire of theirs is without limit, they also desire what is productive of unlimited things”

Newest Shit n Things

I’ve really been remiss at blogging, what with car issues, a new job etc etc. Yesterday mitda and I celebrated our anniversary with an evening out at a smoky bar with great food and a lot of people playing Texas hold em. We didn’t join in the card games but it was a great atmosphere.

After messing around with two Mercedes (a 300ce and a 190e) we settled on a BMW as our 3 rd family car. It’s nice, big enough to carry the four adults around in comfort (it’s a 750iL long wheelbase model) and the V12 packs enough punch to haul the package pretty quickly. Everyone has had a try at driving it, even emmie who is unused to big cars. Of course it’s not new, not by a long shot, but it has reasonably low mileage and we purchased it for a good $3k less than its price rating.

The job is going reasonably well. I like the place and like the people and the project doesn’t look dauntingly difficult. Just enough to be interesting. All in all I’m hoping to settle things down financially and personally in the next few months. It looks like mitda will also be returning to work and 3 income will be a nice change for the household.