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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8 Apr '08 07:55:20 AM

'And, quite independently of this line of argument, Julian Jaynes has speculated that Descartes may have named his daughter Francine after the Francini brothers, who were responsible for creating the mechanical moving statues of gods and goddesses in the grottoes under the Royal Gardens at Saint-Germain. This idea carries with it overtones of Descartes constructing his daughter on the model of a mechanical doll. And in a more explicit way, a late nineteenth-century biography of Descartes, in a popular 'Philosophic Classics for English Readers' series, makes the claim that Descartes' interest in his daughter (and by implication women generally) was purely scientific, maintaining that it was no accident that Descartes' daughter was conceived in 1634, the very year when Descartes was working on his treatise on the formation of the foetus, for this was simply part of a scientific experiment, whereby Descartes 'carried his theory of bêtes-machines a step higher than he confessed in public', and his sexual 'adventure' was 'merely the result of scientific curiosity'. And commentators have not been content to limit his scientific curiosity in bêtes-machines to foetuses: as recently as five years ago, a writer on Descartes confidently tells us that he alienated his wife (Descartes was in fact never married) by experimenting on the family dog.'

8 Apr '08 07:49:04 AM

'Since the eighteenth century, there has been in circulation a curious story about Descartes. It is said that in later life he was always accompanied in his travels by a mechanical life-sized female doll which, we are told by one source, he himself had constructed 'to show that animals are only machines and have no souls'. He had named the doll after his illegitimate daughter, Francine, and some versions of events have it that she was so lifelike that the two were indistinguishable. Descartes and the doll were evidently inseparable, and he is said to have slept with her encased in a trunk at his side. Once, during a crossing over the Holland Sea some time in the early 1640s, while Descartes was sleeping, the captain of the ship, suspicious about the contents of the trunk, stole into the cabin and opened it. To his horror, he discovered the mechanical monstrosity, dragged her from the trunk and across the decks, and finally managed to throw her into the water. We are not told whether she put up a struggle.'

31 Mar '08 08:56:17 AM

'song alone escapes the greedy funeral pyre'

26 Mar '08 06:23:26 AM

All our conversations go: why don't you read this book? - and there they stop.

26 Mar '08 06:18:09 AM

'As it is, we've heard it all, seen it all too often, heard the promises, and they are like any words which have been gone over so much that they are worn strange. We don't laugh, we don't cry; and we don't laugh that we don't cry, and we obviously can't cry about it. That's funny.'

15 Mar '08 05:13:11 AM

'In giving the entirety a higher value, the usual an element of secrecy, the well-known the value of the unknown and the finite the appearance of infinity, I romanticize.'

29 Feb '08 07:02:13 AM

To a bus driver, the bus is always 'my bus'.

19 Feb '08 07:16:34 AM

On the bus I spied the driver running his white ipod headphones down the back of his neck, underneath his stocking cap, to avoid detection.

19 Feb '08 07:11:56 AM

'Defoe and Richardson are the first great writers in our literature who did not take their plots from mythology, history, legend or previous literature. In this they differ from Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton, for instance, who, like the writers of Greece and Rome, habitually used traditional plots; and who did so, in the last analysis, because they accepted the general premise of their times that, since Nature is essentially complete and unchanging, its records, whether scriptural, legendary or historical, constitute a definitive repertoire of human experience.'

- not written by a computer programmer.