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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18 Jul '12 03:04:48 PM

I imagine that painters just think of their paintings as 'this one', 'that one', 'the one of...', 'the one from...'.

17 Jul '12 10:42:57 PM

That something needs saying is not a matter of degree, so much as it is of what would be said, and when. Dorothy Wordsworth, May 19th [18th], 1800:

'The mountains from this window look much greener & I think the valley is more green than ever.'

This much is enough.

17 Jul '12 09:42:43 PM

'The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said...'

'I once wrote, the only correct method in philosophy consists in not saying anything...'

These dicta continue, of course. The interest of later philosophers is almost always in their continuations, in the ways they specify what you can say or how to critique what is said wrongly or the attitude to strike toward someone whose lot or good fortune it is to receive your critique. Authors who indulge this interest often seem to have an apologetic air, aware that the pages they fill trying to explain, or get clear on, the specifics are embarrassed by something else you can hear - something Wittgenstein brought out plainly in his paraphrase of himself - in that line from the Tractatus: 'not saying anything', 'to say nothing'.

I'm drawn to the idea of saying only what needs to be said. I find it hard to read almost anything and think that it needed to be said. It's not that I think there's nothing to say. I just rarely feel that I've read words that had to be said, that were called for, that someone was drawn to say, had to get out, needed to put on the page.

One of the most remarkable ways to write is to write to a friend. It's as if the friend frees your thoughts. Where you might otherwise have nothing to say, the expectation that somehow, your words would be reflected, or inflected, back toward you so as to surprise you, can make you eager, voluble. The friend makes your own words fresh, thoughts new.

The writing the world expects one to do is rarely directed toward a friend.

17 Jul '12 03:31:21 PM

'And I want to say: The difference between real and imaginary, between existence and absence, is not a criterial difference, not one of recognition.'

Imagine someone saying: 'I can tell that this is a real thing, it's like the other real things I've seen before.'

17 Jul '12 03:12:08 PM

Will Oldham's archaisms often add a touch of artifice to his songs in just a way that the narrators seem more real, present, because of their self-consciousness. Characters become singers playing characters. But that phrase in 'Darkness' - 'its dreadful and position' - lingers on like a thing.

17 Jul '12 03:48:05 AM

Cavell interviewed in Bookforum, on 'underwriting':

'JR: Yes, in The Senses of Walden [1972] and elsewhere you speak of Emerson and Thoreau as "underwriting" what has come to be known as ordinary-language philosophy. Can you explain?

SC: Well, first of all because they shun philosophical language. That is, they don't shun philosophy, but whatever they can't put in their own voice they don't. And as far as I was concerned, they were putting just about everything in their own voices, and I found that inspiring, unfashionable and inspiring, and partly one because of the other.'

16 Jul '12 10:11:31 PM

'One of the few books I've ever had that was stolen - not by me, as it happened, but by a girl I persuaded to steal it for me - was William Carlos Williams' The Wedge. It proved fire of a very real order.'

16 Jul '12 01:45:34 PM

Philosophers—perhaps only insofar as they are scholars, or worse, 'professionals'—like to talk about 'the arguments'. They ask, what are the arguments? And they size others up by seeing whether or not they 'know the arguments'.

Sometimes, in this, philosophers fancy themselves to be like mathematicians. But mathematicians ask for a proof, not the proof. They recognize that there may be other ways to establish a conclusion, and often would like to know them, not just for reasons of economy of assumption, but because the other proofs are nicer; more elegant; give more insight.

Philosophers relate to their arguments differently than mathematicians relate to their proofs. And to arguments not yet heard, as against proofs not yet found.

16 Jul '12 12:34:37 AM

'Now was his last chance to see her; his plane left tomorrow.'