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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6 Jan '04 08:56:22 AM

It irritates me that in order to find out how Cavell reads Wittgenstein, I have to read 500 pages of Cavell on the problem of skepticism. In a cruel irony for a philosopher sitting in an analytically-dominated department, the problem of skepticism is way up high on the list of things that give me narcosleepy.

Anyway, here's Cavell from 'The Availability of Wittgenstein's Later Philosophy':

'If the little I have said makes plausible the idea that the question "How do we know what we say (intended to say, wish to say)?" is one aspect of the general question "What is the nature of self-knowledge?" then we will realize that Wittgenstein has not first "accepted" or "adopted" a method and then accepted its results, for the nature of self-knowledge - and therewith the nature of the self - is one of the great subjects of the Investigations as a whole.

It is also one of the hardest regions of the Investigations to settle with any comfort. One reason for that, I think, is that so astonishingly little exploring of the nature of self-knowledge has been attempted in philosophical writing since Bacon and Locke and Descartes prepared the habitation of the new science. Classical epistemology has concentrated on the knowledge of objects (and, of course, of mathematics), not on the knowledge of persons. That is, surely, one of the striking facts of modern philosophy as a whole, and its history will not be understood until some accounting of that fact is rendered.* In a smart attack on the new philosophy, Russell suggests that its unconcern with the methods and results of modern science betrays its alienation from the original and continuing source of philosophical inspiration. "Philosophers from Thales onward have tried to understand the world" (My Philosophical Development, New York, 1959, p. 230). But philosophers from Socrates onward have (sometimes) also tried to understand themselves, and found in that both the method and goal of philosophizing. It is a little absurd to go on insisting that physics provides us with knowledge of the world which is of the highest excellence. Surely the problems we face now are not the same ones for which Bacon and Galileo caught their chills. Our intellectual problems (to say no more) are set by the very success of those deeds, by the plain fact that the measures which soak up knowledge of the world leave us dryly ignorant of ourselves. Out problem is not that we lack adequate methods for acquiring knowledge of nature, but that we are unable to prevent our best ideas - including our ideas about our knowledge of nature - from becoming ideologized. Our incapacity here results not from the supposed fact that ordinary language is vague; to say so is an excuse for not recognizing that (and when) we speak vaguely, imprecisely, thoughtlessly, unjustly, in the absence of feeling, and so forth.'

[*] 'Bernard Williams, in a review of Stewart Hampshire's Thought and Action in Encounter, XV (Nov., 1960), 38-42, suggests one important fact about what I have, parochially, called "modern philosophy" (by which I meant the English and American academic traditions, beginning with Descartes and Locke and never domesticating Hegel and his successors) which, I think, is related to its unconcern with the knowledge of persons and in particular with self-knowledge; viz., its neglect of history as a form of human knowledge.'

6 Jan '04 08:29:32 AM

I suppose I briefly appreciated the Mouse on Mars EP comp, too. And at least that was kind of a proper reissue. Too bad I hardly played it again and also that I couldn't stop saying 'aye dee em' under my breath, Tourette's-style, while listening. But, still, nice. I guess.

I took a nap to it once. This is actually a positive test for my records.

6 Jan '04 08:23:45 AM

I'm not sure which I consider the most significant obstacle to voting:

1. not having enough records to vote on
2. not having cared enough to listen to records
3. not having cared enough to write about any records

(Including old ones.)

6 Jan '04 08:17:37 AM

Yeah. I would have listed the Michael Mayer mix, as it happens.

I'm making a quiet sighing sound now.

6 Jan '04 08:12:27 AM

Besides not helping me any with music totally new to me, that lack of enthusiasm mentioned below also kind of barred me from trying at all with records that I stood some chance of liking, like records by artists I already liked, some even good records, maybe, and some I had been anticipating. However. If this were a classroom I would be handing back these artists' tests folded lengthwise in order to preserve the privacy of their failure, or mediocrity, or good effort, depending.

(When I have cause to write 'good effort' or something like it I can never resist the temptation to underscore the limited nature of my praise by writing it something like: 'good effort, at least'. Or: 'at least you tried'. It may perhaps not be the most prudent thing, pedagogy-wise, to have depressives evaluate student work.)

6 Jan '04 08:01:18 AM

I received an invitation to vote in the Voice poll again this year, but I never turned in a ballot. The deadline was 5 PM today. I had been idly considering it, but I took so long idly considering that when I sat down to make a list at ten til midnight and read the instructions, I found I was about seven hours late. That's just as well, I suppose. The reason I was so idle is that I really didn't listen to enough new albums for their places on a year-end list to matter to me. At least, not enough to move me into making the list. Perhaps later I will write some about why this is so. (So, given my record, I will probably not write about this later. But I should.)

The reason I considered voting despite my lack of enthusiasm is that, in principle, I think lack of enthusiasm is just as worthy a core critical attitude as any other that will guide Pazz and Jop ballots, and thus should be - needs to be - represented. For what the representation's worth (little). My level of enthusiasm would be apparent from just the content of my albums list, I hope:

Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
John Fahey - Red Cross
Thelonious Monk - Criss-Cross
Thelonious Monk - It's Monk's Time
Thelonious Monk - Solo Monk
Mouse on Mars - Glam
Outkast - Big Boi's Speakerboxxx
S PRCSS - MNML

I know that's eleven records. I don't really know whether I would end up choosing the Mouse on Mars album, a reissue I enjoyed earlier in the year but then never played again, or the Outkast album (one half of it, really, since Dre's half just annoyed me when I first played it, so I never put it on again), which I played a lot more and enjoyed but found a bit... thin, let's say. If I had played it any I might list the Dizzee Rascal album, which was nice but which I didn't really feel drawn to, or the Michael Mayer mix, which I think Gff made me a copy of but which I haven't even listened to yet. As far as rarely listened to records go, I haven't played the Fahey much since the spring, preferring to play an old record of his that I acquired later instead, but I would still rather leave it on than make space for something else because it captured my attention with less attenuation. Which unfortunately may be my primary way of sifting through records, this year.

The main thing about the list displaying my narcosleepy, though, is the presence of six reissues (seven if you count the Mouse on Mars, which is a different kind of reissue and which really I think I'm excessively pedantic for counting as a 2003 release). But. The Dylan remasters really do sound better, and I hear things in them I never heard before, and I have been listening to them ever since they came out. The Monk reissues are basically the same, but I had never heard those albums at all before. In either case, once I decide to count reissues, and since I don't care about letting artists on my list more than once, I don't even really need to think about including the records: imagine if six great records by two of any of your favorite artists came out in the same year. I was slightly disconsolate about my apathy before I had those reissues late in the fall. But only before.

I suppose I could stick the 'deluxe edition' of Dirty in there too, then, but aside from the fact of its being released during the year I can't think of anything at all new about the original album tracks. They might sound better than the old issue but this never occurs to me. (In fact I think they're just not remastered at all, but I'm too lazy to check again.) The b-sides are alright and the demos are interesting, but I never listen to them. I did listen to the album a lot, though, along with more other Sonic Youth records than ever before.

And Stereolab. Maybe this means someday I'll be able to listen to Cobra Phases and Sound-Dust again.

Speaking of reissues, AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted was remastered this year.

The Basement Jaxx record and the S PRCSS record, then, are the only ones that felt like what in a normal year would be records vying for spots on my list. I like both a lot, the S PRCSS more than the Jaxx, but then the Jaxx is a lot more interesting than the S PRCSS, which probably lucked out by comforting me and being catchy. Pop-cultural lyrical references never hurt, either.

Now. Singles are a slightly different matter, since I can honestly say I did enjoy them this year and did care about them. But since I did it casually and informally, and without buying anything, mostly just hearing them on the radio and BET (i.e., the way singles were meant to be heard), I don't know what I liked well enough to make a list at the moment. Maybe later. I would include the 'Tessio' remix on the Luomo album just because I listened to it so compulsively (the rest of the album made me ever so slightly uneasy which was enough to drive me away this year) - and loved it. 'Crazy In Love' would probably go down as my favorite single, but not like eyes bugging out jumping up and down favorite. More hey oh is it hey turn the radio up to an impolite level making other passengers wince but then grin infectiously favorite. Which doesn't put it far from whichever Sean Paul single it is that I liked so much. (I always get 'Get Busy' and 'Shake That Thing' confused in some way that has nothing to do with what any idiot could use to distinguish between them on a cursory listen.) Others, too, like 'Right Thurr', 'Milkshake', 'Beautiful', 'The Jump Off', 'Pump It Up', maybe 'Belly Dancer' but I have trouble feeling shit that I only see on TV once in twelve months, certainly 'I Luv U', whatever I can get by the rules lawyers from Kish Kash, 'Never Scared' (most awesome thing seen on TV, musically: maybe the entire 106 & Park audience shouting along, totally amped up, totally happy), and then, you know, whatever.

5 Jan '04 10:35:19 AM

'It is chuckleheaded to desire a way through every difficulty.'

4 Jan '04 08:36:17 AM

Last week I insisted to Lora that despite appearances, there really are rules one must follow when doing philosophy, in particular academic philosophy. Rules like 'good writing is suspicious' and 'distrust metaphors'. Here's another: no concepts allowed. (Picture it painted on an old board and nailed up outside the clubhouse a la 'no girls allowed'.) Maybe it needs to be written teutonically to make sense: no Concepts allowed.

31 Dec '03 06:03:49 AM

'the poetic truths of high-school journal-keepers'