Some Favorite Junto Projects from the First 499
37 minutes ago
Straightening the tie (nervousness; habit; tie might need straightening).You think??
I don't like the FM3 Buddha Machine, but I kind of like it, too. It's a little Chinese gadget that plays a few ambient loops from a crappy little speaker. You had to make repetitive ambient loops play on a cute gadget for people to be interested in them: they have apparently sold thousands of these little things, way more than most ambient CDs sell, and they are expensive, too. This just proves you have to put something willfully obscure into the shape of something fun and somebody will likely purchase a few of them. I think the Buddha Machine would have been a lot cooler if it were not created by artists as an objet, but instead was some kind of crappy Chinese toy gone horribly wrong. It was supposed to play the love theme from Doctor Zhivago ("Lara's Theme"), but instead the stupid thing broke in transit and just grinds out a few tones until the batteries die. It's like the last few moments of a music box as it winds down, which are, as we all know, the most melancholy moments of music, any music, no matter what music, you will ever hear. I have an old music box that plays "Jingle Bells" and when it gets down to the end, that slow slow "Jingle Bells" is just the saddest thing you've ever heard. It's putting the Christmas tree of thirty-two Christmases out to the curb at the same time, it's like every day becoming December 26th at the stroke of midnight.Not simply an excellent writer, Brian provides us with glorious ambient mixes as well – check them out here.
[Everything in this paragraph seems like an overwrought version of Austin's bit about the finches that suddenly explode etc., and what we should say about them. I can't recall where that passage is. I need to read more Austin.]Well, everyone needs to read more Austin. Here's the quote from "Other Minds". Even in special cases (of deciding "whether it's real"), "two further conditions hold good": first, that it's not true that just "because I sometimes don't know or can't discover [e.g. because it flies away], I never can." The second is that "'Being sure it's real' is no more proof against miracles or outrages of nature than anything else is or, sub specie humanitatis, can be. If we have made sure it's a goldfinch, and then in the future it does something outrageous (explodes, quotes Mrs. Woolf, or what not), we don't say we were wrong to say it was a goldfinch, we don't know what to say." [Philosophical Papers, p. 88]
On the day the deal happened, I e-mailed my friend Tony, a die-hard Dodgers fan, and guaranteed him Manny would crush baseballs for six solid weeks. There was no doubt. I saw everything coming before it happened: the "Mah-knee! Mah-knee!" chants, the palpable buzz at Chavez Ravine, the steady stream of line drives and the bombs, amused smiles from teammates, the giddy hop in his step, the "Thanks again for trading Manny!" e-mails from my Yankee friends, the playful joshing with teammates, everything. Now the Dodgers are gunning for their first World Series in 20 years, led by the supposedly washed-up slugger who's only hitting .396 with 17 homers, 53 RBI, a .489 OBP and .743 slugging percentage in Dodger blue. [...] He's back in my life, only not the way I hoped.The whole article, complete with Fosteresque footnotes and a further dire prediction (take a guess), here.
So the lesson I draw from Proust's example is that novels are a safer medium than theory for expressing one's recognition of the relativity and contingency of authority figures. For novels are usually about people – things which are, unlike general ideas and final vocabularies, quite evidently time-bound, embedded in a web of contingencies. [...] By contrast, books which are about ideas, even when written by historicists like Hegel and Nietzsche, look like descriptions of eternal relations between eternal objects, rather than genealogical accounts of the filiation of final vocabularies, showing how these vocabularites were engendered by haphazard matings, by who happened to bump into whom. [107-8]I'll get back to raking Rorty over the coals some other time, but let me get to my point here. To that last quotation is appended its own footnote, which reads: "There are, of course, novels like Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus in which the characters are simply dressed-up generalities. The novel form cannot by itself insure a perception of contingency. It only makes it a bit harder to avoid this perception."
In those years school life is life itself, it stands for all that life is, school interests bound the horizon that every life needs in order to develop values, through which, however relative they are, the character and the capacities are sustained. They can, however, do that, humanly speaking, only if the relativeness remains unrecognized. Belief in absolute values, illusory as it always is, seems to me a condition of life. But my friend's gifts [i.e., Leverkühn's] measured themselves against values the relative character of which seemed to lie open to him, without any visible possibility of any other relation which would have detracted from them as values. Bad pupils there are in plenty. But Adrian presented the singular phenomenon of a bad pupil as the head of the class. I say that it distressed me, but how impressive, how fascinating, I found it too! How it strengthened my devotion to him, mingling with it – can one understand why? – something like pain, like hopelessness! [Lowe-Porter translation, altered slightly]So described, the young composer sounds quite a bit like Rorty's "ironist," and indeed, the next paragraph discusses "one exception [i.e., mathematics] to [Leverkühn's] uniform ironic contempt." Here, though, the skepticism is explicit. Belief in absolute values, however necessary "as a condition of life," is always illusory. The only alternative to "absolute" is "relative," and regarding some value as (merely) "relative" is equivalent to rejecting any claims it may have to validity. Where Leverkühn differs from Zeitblom is that the former did not let the recognized illusoriness of absolute value stop him from acting as if he accepted it. He even excelled at what others took seriously, while he himself saw it as merely a game – one he was good at, but a game nonetheless.
[In a few countries] there have been fruitful discussions between positions of analytical philosophy and of phenomenological hermeneutics. But the few, timorous attempts to initiate a discussion between representatives of these two movements and French post-structuralist semiologists have met with almost no response. [p. 1]I'm not sure I would characterize What is Neo-structuralism? as "timorous", exactly. Maybe he's referring to attempts other than his own. In any case, a footnote insists on an important distinction to be made here.
My respect for the representatives of this direction of thought calls for a distinction to be made between them and those befuddled opponents of enlightenment (allegedly) following in Foucault's footsteps and above all the intellectual Calibans of the 'Anti-Oedipus', whose garbled 'discourses' one can hardly study without experiencing the sort of pleasure that Schopenhauer felt when reading Hegel.From my brief perusal of that volume some time ago, I don't remember What is Neo-structuralism? being so harsh on Deleuze. "Intellectual Calibans," phew! I wonder what exactly set him off.
[A] single word has the power to alter our whole perception of another person—and possibly sour the relationship before it even begins. When we hear a description of someone, no matter how brief, it inevitably shapes our experience of that person.Fair enough, and of course this result is congenial to anyone suspicious of, say, the neutral Given. Here's their example (pp. 73-4):
Think how often we diagnose a person based on a casual description. Imagine you're set up on a blind date with a friend of a friend. When the big night arrives, you meet your date at a restaurant and make small talk while you wait for the appetizer to arrive. "So," you say, "what do you have planned for this weekend?" "Oh, probably what I do every weekend: stay home and read Hegel," your date responds with a straight face. Because your mutual friend described your date as "smart, funny, and interesting," you laugh, thinking to yourself that your friend was right, this person's deadpan sense of humor is right up your alley. And just like that, the date is off to a promising start. But what if the friend had described your date as "smart, serious, and interesting"? In that light, you might interpret the comment as genuine and instead think "How much Hegel can one person read?" Your entire perception of your date would be clouded; you'd spend the rest of dinner wracking your brain over the difference between Heidegger and Hegel and leave without ordering dessert.Because of course no one who's smart, funny, and interesting could ever spend his or her weekends reading Hegel. That'd be crazy!
Yes, I'm currently rereading Glauben und Wissen – usually translated Faith and Knowledge, but "Glauben" means "belief" as well as "faith" – because I really think Hegel's conception of skepticism, especially early on, before the Phenomenology, is key to any really useful contemporary appropriation of his views.Now I've learned something: she's probably serious (be still, my heart!). It could still be a joke; but even if so, I've learned that a) she knows something about Hegel, so she can't think it would be crazy to spend one's weekends on him; and b) her sense of humor is such as to try to squeeze every last drop of irony from one's facetious suggestions.
I was particularly impressed with Gerry Schroeder's point-by-point refutation of what I call the "monkey theorem." This idea, which has been presented in a number of forms and variations, defends the possibility of life arising by chance using the analogy of a multitude of monkeys banging away on computer keyboards and eventually ending up writing a Shakespearean sonnet.I can't even write all this out; it's too gruesome. Many entirely pointless mathematical-sounding calculations later:
Schroeder first referred to an experiment conducted by the British National Council of Arts. A computer was placed in a cage with six monkeys.
After hearing Schroeder's presentation, I told him that he had very satisfactorily and decisively established that the "monkey theorem" was a load of rubbish, and that is was particularly good to do it with just a sonnet [...]. If the theorem won't work for a single sonnet, then of course it's simply absurd to suggest that the more elaborate feat of the origin of life could have been achieved by chance.Yikes. I think that's the worst of it, but if you do choose to read this book: you have been warned.
[T]he holism that is the central focus for my account became an increasingly important, if sometimes still under-developed, theme in Davidson’s own writing over the last fifteen years or so. The idea of triangulation, in particular, which can itself be seen as a development out of the notion of charity, and the associated idea of the indispensability of a notion of objectivity in understanding, is particularly significant in this regard. In triangulation, arguably the central idea in Davidson’s later writing, the idea of what I here termed ‘psychological holism’ (which on my account is seen as itself incorporating an externalist commitment) can be seen as being developed through the notion of the interdependence, not only of the attitudes and behavior of individual agents and speakers, but also of the concepts of the subjective, the objective and the intersubjective.Tell it, brother! I took the original version of this book out of the library once during my early acquaintance with Davidson's work, but (heh heh) never got to it. Again, better delayed, &c.
A man who allegedly photographed more than 3,000 women's bottoms as they toured Venice has been arrested.I say! Quite! This reminds me of an interview with Brian Eno, in which the interviewer brings up Eno's self-documented fondness for what the interviewer (a Yank, no doubt) referred to as "women's bums" – to which a horrified Eno replied, "'bottoms'! Please!"
The man was stopped after police became suspicious of a large bag he was carrying as he followed women through St Mark's Square.
He has been charged with infringement of privacy. It is a cheeky crime, which could earn this 38-year-old Italian from six months to four years in jail.
Of course, I don't mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, "There are no facts, only interpretations." By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain "rules" of interpretation.Sounds nasty, all right. Note the offhand "(rightly)" in the first paragraph. Somehow I don't trust Ms. Sontag to be able to tell us what sense that is, in which N. is right, especially as she gets the quote wrong: it's not "there are no facts," (as of course there are facts), but "there are no 'facts'", where I take the scare quotes, in the spare and artificial context of The Will to Power, to indict, not the objectivity of the real world, but instead the hyperobjectivity of Platonism. FWIW; I wouldn't put too much emphasis on that overanalyzed little snippet either way.
Directed to art, interpretation means plucking a set of elements (the X, the Y, the Z, and so forth) from the whole work. The task of interpretation is virtually one of translation. The interpreter says, Look, don't you see that X is really—or, really means—A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C? [...] The modern style of interpretation [as in Marx and Freud] excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs "behind" the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one.
What I have described in terms of a twin-bed marriage must be seen as a ménage à trois: philosophy, literature, and science. Science is faced with problems not too dissimilar from those of literature. It makes patterns of the world that are immediately called in question, it swings between the inductive and the deductive methods, and it must always be on its guard lest it mistake its own linguistic conventions for objective laws. We will not have a culture equal to the challenge until we compare against one another the basic problematics of science, philosophy, and literature, in order to call them all into question.A three-way, eh? (Those Europeans!)
My own view is that this philosophy [German Idealism] gave [Coleridge] a general intellectual apparatus with the help of which he tried to say what he had to say and to give a more systematic appearance to his empirical discoveries, but that he was not concerned to make himself into a post-Kantian idealist on the German model. True, in the collection of extracts from the notebooks called Anima Poetae, he says "In the preface of my metaphysical works, I should say: 'Once for all, read Kant, Fichte, etc., and then you will trace, or, if you are on the hunt, track me.'" But here he is answering charges of plagiarism, and seeking to make a kind of omnibus acknowledgment while saying at the same time that the thoughts had been his own before he had heard of these writers. in any cas the track of Coleridge is more complex than Kant and Fichte: among other paths it leads along the road to Xanadu.Wild woodcut-ish drawing of the Ancient Mariner on the cover. Here's another take, by Hunt Emerson:
I must force myself to recognize the merits, however splendid, of Durkheim, whereas Max Weber never irritates me even when I feel most remote from him. As for Pareto, he no longer provokes me to any strong reaction one way or the other.I think we can all relate to that. Right next to the Sociology section was the Science section (usually slim pickings there, mostly way out of date), where I picked up:
5. Tighten by pulling on the opposite folded ends. Adjust by fiddling. This is the subjective, artistic phase of the process. You may opt for the loose, floppy glass-of-cognac-in-the-morning Churchill look; the precision-perfect Fruit of Islam, Farrakhan-bodyguard look; or somewhere in between. As in life, somewhere in between is probably best.Or your wife, I imagine.
6. Admire handicraft in mirror.
7. Consider whether you really want to do this. Keep in mind that when you wear a bow tie, people will make assumptions about you, and probably should. The good news is, you'll never commit adultery when you wear a bow tie; you won't have the opportunity. The bad news is, strangers will snicker at you in airports. Is it worth it? Only you can be the judge.
There are several descriptions by her fellow nuns of moments when they saw her with glowing features, writing as if at a heavenly dictation. But not all the supernatural states that possessed Teresa were equally welcome to her. She herself tells how, in prayer, she would be lifted into the air, to her own consternation and to the alarm of those sisters who were praying beside her in the choir.Eww. The next book I espied was a nondescript-looking volume with a plain brown cover:
These mysterious levitations were matched after her death by the equally mysterious incorruptibility of her body. Both are well-known phenomena which occur in the histories of many saints and that can only be accounted for by some actual change in the physical structure that takes place at the same time as spiritual transformation. In Teresa's case the fragrance that surrounded her uncorrupted body led to most disgraceful results. In the wild rush to acquire sacred relics, various of her limbs were torn from her corpse. Her old friend Father Gracián, who had only lately so disappointed her by failing to accompany her on a journey, inaugurated her dismemberment by cutting off one of her hands.
Few only know the truth. The rest will hateI assume "Om Tat Sat" means something like "Tat Tvam Asi" (thou art that; though apparently on one interpretation it means "thou art not that". Go figure.).
And laugh at thee, great one; but pay no heed.
Go thou, the free, from place to place and help
Them out of darkness, Maya's veil. Without
The fear of pain or search for pleasure, go
Beyond them both, Sannyasin bold! Say––
"Om Tat Sat, Om!"
Thus, day by day, till Karma's powers spent
Release the soul for ever. No more is birth,
Nor I, nor thou, nor God, nor man. The "I"
Has All become, the All is "I" and Bliss.
Know thou art That, Sannyasin bold! Say––
"Om Tat Sat, Om!"
If Zen is approached with the usual mental attitude, it will seem quite incomprehensible. Our average Western intellectuality would consider its paradoxical language simply as a play upon words. Its full significance is revealed only when we approach it in a different manner, making our minds available to the new processes of inner perception which it suggests. [following sentence underscored by previous owner] A certain flexibility of thought is necessary so that the study of a new subject may be fruitful and revealing.Later on [p. 81]:
Reality Transcends the Duality of 'Mobile and Immobile'
A clarification of our views on the problem of movement is desirable. Without this there might seem to be a number of contradictions.
It may be said with good reason, that movement is a function of time. As Kant expressed it: 'We create time ourselves as a function of our receptive apparatus.'
This is obvious.
Therefore we must make it clear that in the preceeding lines we have considered movement as the essence of phenomenal reality.
The complete Reality of the universe includes the phenomenon and the noumenon. It is neither movement, as we know it in the manifested universe, nor immobility, as suggested by the mind (that is to say the notion of immobility in opposition to our idea of movement).
It is obvious that Reality Itself, in its entirety, is beyond the traditional oppositions of mobility and immobility.
Moreover these divisions are arbitrary. The experience of Satori is a result of emancipation from the arbitrary practice of partitioning our mind.
It is absolutely useless and vain to try and imagine or think of a reality that includes and dominates at the same time the two aspects of mobile and immobile. All discussion in this field leads us astray.
If someone had come then to lead me away to a place of execution I would have gone meekly, without a word, without so much as opening my eyes, just as people who suffer from violent seasickness, if they are crossing the Caspian Sea on a steamer, for instance, will not offer the slightest resistance should someone tell them that they are about to be thrown overboard.No, it's not H. P. Lovecraft, though this whole passage does sound pretty overheated out of context (that's some simile, isn't it?). I actually prefer the rules of the previous go-round, which told you simply to give the one sentence, letting us guess the context. This time we are told to provide three more sentences, which is a bit less fun; but let's go ahead anyway, and see if we can't give Tom (above) a run for his money.
Whatever was going on within me, said Austerlitz, the panic I felt on facing the start of any sentence that must be written, not knowing how I could begin it or indeed any other sentence, soon extended to what is in itself the simpler business of reading, until if I attempted to read a whole page I inevitably fell into a state of the greatest confusion. If language may be regarded as an old city full of streets and squares, nooks and crannies, with some quarters dating from far back in time while others have been torn down, cleaned up, and rebuilt, and with suburbs reaching further and further into the surrounding country, then I was like a man who has been abroad a long time and cannot find his way through this urban sprawl anymore, no longer knows what a bus stop is for, or what a back yard is, or a street junction, an avenue or a bridge. The entire structure of language, the syntactical arrangement of parts of speech, punctuation, conjunctions, and finally even the nouns denoting ordinary objects were all enveloped in impenetrable fog.Whew! Glad I wasn't reading Proust. But let's go on – he's just getting warmed up:
I could not even understand what I myself had written in the past—perhaps I could understand that least of all. All I could think was that such a sentence only appears to mean something, but in truth is at best a makeshift expedient, a kind of unhealthy growth issuing from our ignorance, something which we use, in the same way as many sea plants and animals use their tentacles, to grope blindly through the darkness enveloping us. The very thing which may usually convey a sense of purposeful intelligence—the exposition of an idea by means of a certain stylistic facility—now seemed to me nothing but an entirely arbitrary or deluded enterprise. I could see no connections anymore, the sentences resolved themselves into a series of separate words, the words into random sets of letters, the letters into disjointed signs, and those signs into a blue-gray trail gleaming silver here and there, excreted and left behind it by some crawling creature, and the sight of it increasingly filled me with feelings of horror and shame.Wow. Bet you didn't see that coming! (Great book, btw.)
the view that [in Quine's words] philosophy is 'not ... an a priori propaedeutic or groundwork for science, but [is] ... continuous with science' [...] In the USA it is widely held that with Quine's rejection of 'the' analytic/synthetic distinction, the possibility of philosophical or conceptual analysis collapses, the possibility of resolving philosophical questions by a priori argument and elucidation is foreclosed, and all good philosophers turn out to be closet scientists. (MS p. 2)For the record, Hacker believes that regardless of what Quine's arguments show about "the" analytic/synthetic distinction, the philosophical project of "conceptual analysis" is not threatened:
The thought that if there is no distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions, then philosophy must be 'continuous' with science rests on the false supposition that what was thought to distinguish philosophical propositions from scientific ones was their analyticity. That supposition can be challenged in two ways. First, by showing that characteristic propositions that philosophers have advanced are neither analytic nor empirical [but still a priori]. Secondly, by denying that there are any philosophical propositions at all.Myself, I never thought that the point about "continuity," about which naturalists make so very much, was that helpful. "Continuity" is cheap. Sure philosophy is "continuous" with science; but it's also "continuous" with art, literature, religion, law, politics, and, I don't know, sports. But I am being perverse here. Let me try instead to be not-perverse.
Strikingly, the Manifesto of the Vienna Circle, of which Carnap was both an author and signatory, pronounced that ‘the essence of the new scientific world-conception in contrast with traditional philosophy [is that] no special “philosophic assertions” are established, assertions are merely clarified’. [The Scientific Conception of the World: the Vienna Circle (Reidel, Dordrecht, 1973), p. 18] According to this view, the result of good philosophizing is not the production of analytic propositions peculiar to philosophy. Rather it is the clarification of conceptually problematic propositions and the elimination of pseudo-propositions. (p. 3)
[So instead of being "continuous" with science, Hacker claims, philosophy is] categorially distinct from science, both in its methods and its results. The a priori methods of respectable philosophy are wholly distinct from the experimental and hypothetico-deductive methods of the natural sciences, and the results of philosophy logically antecede the empirical discoveries of science. They cannot licitly conflict with the truth of scientific theories – but they may, and sometimes should, demonstrate their lack of sense. (p. 4)
In general, [Quine] contended, ‘It is our understanding, such as it is, of what lies beyond our surfaces, that shows our evidence for that understanding to be limited to our surfaces’ [The Ways of Paradox, p. 216]. But this is mistaken. The stimulation of sensory receptors is not evidence that a person employs in his judgements concerning his extra-somatic environment, let alone in his scientific judgements. My evidence that there was bread on the table is that there are crumbs left there. That there are crumbs on the table is something I see to be so. But that I see the crumbs is not my evidence that there are crumbs there. Since I can see them, I need no evidence for their presence – it is evident to my senses. That the cones and rods of my retinae fired in a certain pattern is not my evidence for anything – neither for my seeing what I see, nor for what I see, since it is not something of which I normally have any knowledge. For that something is so can be someone’s evidence for something else only if he knows it.No, wait, that's Hacker again, from later in the paper (p. 13). Here's Davidson, criticizing as "Cartesian" Quine's "proximal" theory of meaning and evidence:
The only perspicuous concept of evidence is the concept of a relation between sentences or beliefs—the concept of evidential support. Unless some beliefs can be chosen on purely subjective grounds as somehow basic, a concept of evidence as the foundation of meaning or knowledge is therefore not available. [...] The causal relations between the world and our beliefs are crucial to meaning not because they supply a special sort of evidence for the speaker who holds the beliefs, but because they are often apparent to others and so form the basis for communication. [p. 58-9]The relevant stimulus is thus not "the irritation of our sensory surfaces" but instead the rabbit whose appearance prompts the utterance of "gavagai." (See the rest of this key article; it's reprinted in the fifth volume of Davidson's papers, Truth, Language, and History, which I think is now available cheap.) Again, though, this is for reasons concerning the conceptually interconstitutive nature of meaning and belief, not a simple recoil from naturalized epistemology to conceptual analysis. That is, while considering these matters conceptually, as Hacker does, Davidson's argument presents a specific conceptual analysis (if that's what we want to call it) which in its content may be just as fatal to the "purely a priori" as is Quine.
from the thought that we have no criterion of truth to judge between sensible appearances. Citing a further appearance, even one apparently ratified by ‘science’, i.e. common experience, will not resolve the puzzlement. Similarly, we have no criterion to judge whether we are awake or asleep, since anything we may come up with as a criterion may itself be part of the content of a dream. So the true sceptic holds that we cannot know whether we are awake or asleep. We are called upon to show that he is wrong and where he has gone wrong. To this enterprise neither common sense nor the sciences can contribute anything. [Again, as cited above, Hacker's conclusion, now in context, is that] [t]he problems [skepticism] raises are purely conceptual ones, and they are to be answered by purely conceptual means – by clarification of the relevant elements of our conceptual scheme. This will show what is awry with the sceptical challenge itself. (p. 8-9)There's more in this vein, attacking Quine's offhandedly deflationary conceptions of knowledge ("the best we can do is give up the notion of knowledge as a bad job") and belief (beliefs are "dispositions to behave, and these are physiological states"), and "the so-called identity theory of the mind: mental states are states of the body." Hacker's comment on this last is typical ("This too is mistaken"), and here too I agree. (Nor, since you ask, am I happy with Davidson's early approach to the mind-body problem, i.e., anomalous monism. But let's not talk about that today.)