josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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20 Mar '13 11:02:05 PM

On 'people want to have something to share' (quoting myself from my 2010 aesthetics course):

'For some things, ‘having something to share’ means having some stuff, and sharing it means giving some of that stuff to someone else (which means you can’t have it for yourself).

For things like art, especially art that can be easily reproduced so that ‘everyone’ can have ‘the same thing’, ‘having something to share’ means ‘having’ something, and ‘giving’ it to someone else so that you can both ‘have’ it. Or: it means that you both have, or ‘everyone’ has, ‘the same thing’ together without any of them keeping it from the others. (This seems more apt of music, stories and poems, and in certain ways TV and movies; but even a dance can be given to someone without being lost. Paintings and sculpture are less readily ‘shared’, or at least, more easily kept from others.)

News, anecdotes, and gossip are especially things that someone might ‘have to share’, which must have something to do with one aspect of sharing art with others: introducing them to it, pointing it out to them, turning them on to it. One looks for people who haven’t heard, because who wouldn’t want to hear?

But once shared in this way—’given’—art can remain shared, something that two people continue to hold in common between them (something over which they meet, like ‘sharing a table’) long after the novelty of shared news would have lasted.

On the other hand, people share secrets, and secrets are diminished by being shared.'

19 Mar '13 06:44:40 AM

'S.R.: One of the many things that a reader can unexpectedly learn from your work is to appreciate silence. You write about the freedom it makes possible, its multiple causes and meanings. For instance, you say in your last book that there is not one but many silences. Would it be correct to infer that there is a strongly autobiographical element in this?

FOUCAULT: I think that any child who has been educated in a Catholic milieu just before or during the Second World War had the experience that there were many different ways of speaking as well as many forms of silence. There were some kinds of silence which implied very sharp hostility and others which meant deep friendship, emotional admiration, even love. I remember very well that when I met the filmmaker Daniel Schmidt who visited me, I don't know for what purpose, we discovered after a few minutes that we really had nothing to say to each other. So we stayed together from about three o'clock in the afternoon to midnight. We drank, we smoked hash, we had dinner. And I don't think we spoke more than twenty minutes during those ten hours. From that moment a rather long friendship started. It was for me the first time that a friendship originated in strictly silent behavior.

Maybe another feature of this appreciation of silence is related to the obligation of speaking. I lived as a child in a petit bourgeois, provincial milieu in France and the obligation of speaking, of making conversation with visitors, was for me something both very strange and very boring. I often wondered why people had to speak. Silence may be a much more interesting way of having a relationship with people.

S.R.: There is in North-American Indian culture a much greater appreciation of silence than in English-speaking societies and I suppose in French-speaking societies as well.

FOUCAULT: Yes, you see, I think silence is one of those things that has unfortunately been dropped from our culture. We don't have a culture of silence; we don't have a culture of suicide either. The Japanese do, I think. Young Romans and young Greeks were taught to keep silent in very different ways according to the people with whom they were interacting. Silence was then a specific form of experiencing a relationship with others. This is something that I believe is really worthwhile cultivating. I'm in favor of developing silence as a cultural ethos.'

19 Mar '13 06:23:19 AM

'Mirandize' is a verb in our language, how amazing is that?

18 Mar '13 08:52:38 PM

'a time swarms when the word / 'happy' sheds its whole meaning'

16 Mar '13 11:29:38 PM

Cover from torrents; reach out and touch.

16 Mar '13 08:35:31 AM

'The problem is no longer getting people to express themselves, but providing little gaps of solitude and silence in which they might eventually find something to say. Repressive forces don’t stop people from expressing themselves, but rather, force them to express themselves. What a relief to have nothing to say, the right to say nothing, because only then is there a chance of framing the rare, or ever rarer, the thing that might be worth saying.'

16 Mar '13 07:50:54 AM

It's as if there's a wish to be able to say: this is all that need be said about life.

16 Mar '13 07:03:33 AM

The weirdest thing about the Tractatus isn't the logic or the ethics or the nonsense or the being silent or whatever—it's the sudden appearance of life in the book. 'The world and life are one'—where the fuck did that come from?!

15 Mar '13 09:28:27 AM

In the end, in the 'Lecture on Ethics', the existence of language itself is what Wittgenstein wishes to say expresses what he seeks to express by describing the various experiences he puts forward in his examples (wonder at the existence of the world or the miraculous, a feeling of absolute safety, a feeling of guilt).