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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27 Jan '17 07:56:05 PM

And again: 'One may almost doubt if the wisest man'—say, Socrates—'has learned any thing of absolute value by living' (i, 10), meaning: if he has, it is not by living, but by, say, dying, or preparing to. But the practical, know-howsy flavor of Thoreau's comments in these paragraphs (the example, styled proverbially: knowing enough 'to fetch fresh fuel to keep the fire a-going') alludes to problems of survival, uncertain subsistence, preparation and provision, or as he'll style it later, 'getting a living'. So, to philosophize is to learn not to die?

27 Jan '17 10:26:27 AM

The first of Thoreau's paragraphs on learning and being taught by others, or experience, quietly includes a criterion: 'what every body echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow' (i, 10). 'Truths' unspoken because untested, or spoken too much though never tested, contrast here with a possibility of not being told, of not being tellable-to, by others. Your experience, like your experiments, are yours, your findings never settled or overturned by what they report of theirs. So what you can say of yours must be somehow limited, conditioned.

27 Jan '17 09:17:07 AM

'… seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offences; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility, or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him' (i, 7): the odd note in this persuading-to-let sounding, perhaps, because the money that would ordinarily mediate it has already been mentioned, and the transaction between craftsman and customer, seller and buyer, has been redescribed as if each party stood to do the same thing, to make the shoes or import the groceries, if not for the choice to have it done by the other. But without the money in the picture, 'persuade your neighbor to let you make his…' sounds like a task with no evident motivation—why would you want to? why would he want to? why would he have to be persuaded to want to?—calling attention to the moment of persuasion, of persuasive self-presentation, somewhere between civility and generosity, by which a business-doing man makes and keeps himself 'useful' to others, gets into and stays in his trade, generally. In particular, when it is part of his task not because he wants to persuade this buyer, this man, but because he's gone in on shoes, or coats, or groceries, and needs to keep persuading buyers to keep being his buyers, to let themselves be sold to. Thoreau's phrasing suggests that your choice is (so far) already made, but it is to see that your neighbors' be made accordingly. The coin for which you work is an alienated choice, stands for two or several choices, all those that circulate between men who let themselves be done for.

27 Jan '17 08:13:00 AM

'A sojourner in civilized life again': there, back, for the day; as if it could be left and returned to like a city; as if the citizen's recognition under the state's laws were at his will, rather than its; as if civilization were not a stage but a place, not to be risen to but to be come into the vicinity, proximity, of. Before, when living at Walden and writing Walden, he 'lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor': at a distance, which suggests after the fact, having returned, that civilized life is as much distance from the woods, from nature, as if his—recognition?—under nature's laws were just as much at his will, rather than its.

27 Jan '17 07:49:23 AM

'I do not propose to write an ode to dejection': the first thought, that he shall not address himself to it.

26 Jan '17 09:40:40 AM

'… an indistinct tallying…'

26 Jan '17 09:27:58 AM

'… the current of reading is not divided, and in the matter of reading novels, all things raise a question less of existence than of intensity.'

25 Jan '17 05:26:29 AM

Gathman on Chamfort

20 Jan '17 11:51:50 PM

'It's almost like a funeral.'