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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3 May '19 11:26:51 PM

There's so much going on in Part Four of Claim of Reason that I've never fully considered what to make of the excessive four epigraphs to it—from Wordsworth, Yeats, Eliot, and Richards. The long quote from Eliot, from an essay on Blake, dwells on Blake and what makes him 'terrifying', his knowing what interests him and therefore presenting only the essential, 'only, in fact, what can be presented, and need not be explained'. This has always drawn my attention more than the start of the quote, about 'the eternal struggle of art against education':

'It is important that the artist should be highly educated in his own art; but his education is one that is hindered rather than helped by the ordinary processes of society which constitute education for the ordinary man. For these processes consist largely in the acquisition of impersonal ideas which obscure what we really are and really feel, what we really want, and what really excites our interest.'

The contrast to Richards' description of G.E. Moore in the next epigraph—'more interested in [the problem at hand] than, I think, I have ever seen anyone interested in anything'—evidently does a lot to suggest a subterranean dialectic for Part Four as a whole, given Cavell's use of a Moore-like 'lecturer' to perform the skeptical recital for the case of other-minds skepticism. But it also activates a contested sense in which 'the ordinary processes of society' constitute an education 'for the ordinary man' (an issue elevated to a sublime degree in Moore's work, let's say), so that, just like the concluding words of Part Four suggest, it's a traditional rivalry between philosophy and 'poetry' over everyday life that he has in mind. You could think, probably, of the shift to tragic and comic studies of skepticism, or of acknowledgement and its avoidance, into which Cavell tries to steer by the end of Part Four as presupposing the great pains he takes in 'The Avoidance of Love' to contrive a fragment of a reception-theory which would serve to focus critical attention as much as possible on de-impersonal-ized ideas of 'what we really are and really feel, what we really want, and what really excites our interest'.

Which is to say, as a fragment of an aesthetic theory, this contrivance would recognize that the artist's education in his art is not a straightforward liberation or exemption from the ordinary: for with his art he must make something accessible from within the conditions of the ordinary, and ideally something from which one could return, in an intelligible way, to the ordinary. Say, so that one has a way of making sense of the experience afforded by the artist's work.

(Competing senses of 'the impersonal' which each discipline's practitioners must work to personalize in their own ways. Suppose, though, that they might converge upon some model of attentiveness, consciousness of what one is saying and doing, doing and seeing.)

27 Apr '19 10:03:30 PM

Marshall Cohen on Cavell

27 Apr '19 09:45:03 PM

'Where is the missing literature of the 1780s?'

12 Apr '19 05:08:47 PM

'They have this fear that everything is being taken away.'

12 Apr '19 04:39:00 PM

'To begin one of his books can feel like entering a lecture that has already started.'

12 Apr '19 04:32:09 PM

Habermas as a historian of concepts

5 Apr '19 11:39:12 PM

‘"You give with one hand and take with the other!" Certainly, for I do not want to give anything to you, but only demonstrate giving and taking.’

3 Apr '19 05:26:11 AM

'… and he was told but these few words / which opened up his heart…'

1 Apr '19 12:26:52 AM

Just a trace of snow.