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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21 Jun '12 10:36:04 AM

I remember my friends and I, readers all, once being a little fascinated, maybe perplexed, by the maxim, 'the only real reading is re-reading'.

Perplexed, of course, because it seems to say that reading means, needs, repeating: before you repeat you won't have read. As if the point of reading were to get every word, and the dumb advice dispensed to achieve that aim were simply to keep staring dumbly at the pages, over and over, until you have pieced it all together. Of course, that assumes that you can. Maybe it never ends, never terminates, culminates, and no reading is real.

Perplexed also, because it contradicts the lowest level of our experience as readers: if you've read something once, you have read it, you haven't read nothing, you didn't not read. So how could your reading be any less real? (I think 'real' in its contrast to 'counterfeit' might be useful here: imagine someone else testing your reading to see if it's real, to see if they'll accept it, let it into circulation. Circulation of what?)

But all reading is re-reading in the sense of reading again, to again perform the activity of reading. I would like to say that the only real reading is reading that unites these two senses, the first, obvious one of reading the same book in repetition, and the second, of reading as a continuation of (past) reading into which repeated reading is taken up. At its lower limit rereading destroys sense rather than clarifying or deepening it, as when a word said or looked at over and over loses its meaning. As we similarly suspect, at least vaguely, sometimes, about repeated greetings, expressions, jokes, stories (the detective: 'he's not making any sense, he just keeps giving me the same story over and over'), rituals. This has something to do with why both senses of re-reading are called for for real reading, and it means in part that other reading is, is to be interleaved among the repeated readings of those books we return to.

20 Jun '12 10:09:43 AM

'…our labors, our outward condition… to which we are "religiously devoted," are our sacraments, and the inward state they signal ("our very lives are our disgrace") is our secret belief that the world has already come to an end for us.'

20 Jun '12 09:43:45 AM

'The social contract is nowhere in existence, because we do not will it; therefore the undeniable bonds between us are secured by our obedience to agreements and compacts that are being made among ourselves as individuals acting privately and in secret, not among ourselves as citizens acting openly on behalf of the polis. The logic of our position is that we are conspirators. If this is false, it is paranoid; if it is not, we are crazy.'

20 Jun '12 04:53:21 AM

'What gives the impression that Wittgenstein wants to deny anything? What in particular does he seem to deny? Not, as he says over and over again, that "The other has his sensations; I don't"; or anyway, not that "He may be suffering when I am not". He is not denying the truth of that assertion; but then that is not the assertion the skeptic stops with. The skeptic goes on to say something about what the other knows, and whether I can know it. And he means that to have the same obviousness as the fact that the other may be suffering and I not; indeed, one might say, he takes it to be the same undeniable fact. And that Wittgenstein does deny.'

A short way: ask, how do you know what the other knows? (As one asks a witness: why am I supposed to trust what you say? What ever gave you any knowledge of so-and-so anyway? Or using a word that Cavell and Austin favor: what put you in a position to know that?)

19 Jun '12 01:20:44 AM

The difference between going home in a car to sleep with your date, and going home with your date on the bus, same reason.

19 Jun '12 01:17:29 AM

One of my most precipitous trips home dragged on forever: that night that we snuck an awful lot of wine from the storage closet. Unable to ride it out, I had to bang on the back door and holler insistently to the driver who wouldn't let me trample over the little snow fence set up in Como Park. As I spilled out the back door I voided the contents of my stomach all over the snow. The air the rest of the way home couldn't be cold enough.

19 Jun '12 01:07:44 AM

If you bus then you are probably a school district, a public transit company, a municipality. But there are those who 'bus it', even those who say transitively that they are gonna bus it over to the, from the to the, in from the, until they get their, because it's.

19 Jun '12 01:01:01 AM

'walking to and from various buses and places to be in between the buses'

19 Jun '12 12:59:14 AM

Buses where the routes are colors seem friendly.