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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30 Apr '03 07:53:37 AM

Is Giddens right that the main difficulty in accepting the reality of American music would be administrative - figuring out how to fairly select jurors? The reason there would be disagreements about which jurors to pick is presumably that there is disagreement over what counts as valuable music. Deep, deep, deep disagreement. But Giddens knows that. Perhaps phrasing it in the way he does is a concession: the disagreement is so serious that to hope to resolve it by simply starting to acknowledge (with shiny shiny prizes from guys in elbow patch jackets), potentially, any musical creation, is pointless. That can't happen. So the solution is to try to represent as many different partial points of view as possible. Now, imagine the strong disagreements that exist inside the circles of jazz critics, art music critics, pop critics, sneering arts weekly critics, jaded post-ILM pan-musical hipsters, what have you - and then try to imagine whether those disagreements would persist when we tried to look for critics that could move comfortably within all the circles. If we could even find any.

30 Apr '03 07:21:35 AM

"You ever hear the one about the middle class idiots who sorta spend all their time analyzing their own emotions, and writin' bullshit poetry, that we're s'posed to read? I mean, as if we're fuckin' interested."

29 Apr '03 08:09:03 AM

"put your hands opposite to the ground if you lovin that sound"

28 Apr '03 10:52:13 AM

And what do you suppose is more profitable, looking for an ethical theory promoted by a television show, or looking at how the show explores - investigates, experiments with - how we go about being ethical? (And the answer won't be: well, first don't we need do figure out what the ethical theory should be, or what the one they're using is, so that we can know how they're doing? Isn't it clear that all the parts from your favorite ethical theories are in there, knocking around, like kids bashing G.I. Joes together? And if it's not, will we really get anywhere by arguing about that point?)

(Cite Charles Taylor in Sources of the Self - can't agree with his goal in particular, whatever exactly it is, but in general part of his deal is, look, to get a decent account of good human life you can't go following this or that constitutive definition of the good, like Mill's or Kant's, out into Bizarro world: you've got to try to keep all the balls in the air, somehow.)

28 Apr '03 10:39:53 AM

Or as Geoff put it - "oh no they're talking and it's moving and going so fast and I can't keep up!"

28 Apr '03 10:39:09 AM

For example - reading, I get the impression that the show is actually just a big set of dialogue, and those really are just there to express the stances and actions of traditional moral agents. When am I gonna come across something, anything, that wonders at the significance of the way Buffy constantly seems mock-imperious, in kind of an idiotic, confused-child way, when insisting in the face of a problem that the Scooby gang has to do this, this, and this, when "this" almost always amounts to "do the thing that will fix this problem somehow" in a totally non-substantive way? There's always an element of determination in that, I suppose, coming as it does when they have a problem they have no idea how to respond to: OK, uh yeah we're gonna be OK, we've gotta do it, do something, what what what, go guys and do it. You can sense it in the Scoobies' reaction - a tinge of resigned acceptance, yes we will soldier on in apparent (temporary we hope because it's always worked before) futility, ignoring the fact that you are telling us "we really have to do something you guys" when we are well aware of that fact. And it's not always that way - just look at the frequent tension in the group, say in the final story arc especially, where everyone keeps chafing and blowing up at Buffy's insistence that they have to do something, because the not getting anywhere has gone on too long, the futility is getting to be too much to bear. When is that look on her face, that tone in her voice, going to show up? How does it factor in to what the show "says" "about" "duty"?

28 Apr '03 10:29:41 AM

You might imagine a scholarly book collecting broadly philosophical papers on Ulysses, or Molloy, or Mahler's "Kindertotenleider", or Battleship Potemkin. If the essays in this book consistently showed only a cursory engagement with the object in question, with the textual details, people wouldn't take the book seriously. There is a strong tradition in place, one which says that in order to really get something out of certain kinds of artifacts, we must do a close reading - the closer the better. And though I want to be careful not to think we can go drawing conclusions wily-nily from this (regarding value, taste, what people find important or interesting or good), I think something in it makes sense - that to really do a good job, you should be getting in there.

So why is it that so many books ostensibly "about" pop cultural artifacts - music, movies, TV, comics, video games - just skim around on the surface? Yes, this Buffy book is probably marketed in some way at people who know something about philosophy but not much about Buffy. (It's probably marketed at lots of conflicting markets, which is, er, a conflict.) But in that case, will an uncommitted engagement with the text really do it for those people? Or will they say, oh look, another half-assed "applied philosophy" book. And what about the people who know about Buffy but not really about philosophy? The opposite problem: the book can't be much better than a general introduction to philosophy, only with a bunch of post-its stuck inside with things like "Anya - ethics of care!!" scrawled on them; without serious engagement with the details of the show, the book does almost none of the work of thinking philosophically about the show. It simply notes that it's possible to do so, and one way (flawed as it is) is to basically just go read some philosophy and then say "oh hey look this might be in there somewhere" or even worse "look an application of Kant's theory of justice!".

(Cavell on impossibility of quoting film, here?)

Or, in other words: one ILX thread on Buffy feels to me as if it gets dirtier than these essays. Come on, roll up your fucking sleeves or don't even bother.

(This belligerent mood won't pass, I hope - it makes me write more even if I am all bluster.)

Surprising to me that even though ethics of care shows up a bit, the words "communitarian" or even better "community" aren't in the index!

28 Apr '03 10:01:50 AM

What passes for "work" is pretty appalling sometimes. I am not exempt from that, either. But at least I've written something down tonight. It's now officially my birthday. Time for bed.

28 Apr '03 09:56:46 AM

It's an open question how much, in the case of each remark, to draw from nearby or faraway surrounding remarks in order to get at the ordinary background. In 63, for example: "To say, however, that a sentence in (b) is an 'analysed' form of one in (a) readily seduces us into thinking that the former is the more fundamental form; that it alone shews what is meant by the other, and so on. For example, we think: If you have only the unanalysed form you miss the analysis; but if you know the analysed form that gives you everything. -- But may I not say that an aspect of the matter is lost on you in the latter case as well as the former?"

In light of this, I might say: one thing forgotten in the Bizarro world is that just those parts obtained from analysis are not enough to get the meaning of the ordinary sentence. So in the background is whatever goes on when we mean things, and foregrounded as strange is this particular picture of meaning, which presumably goes along with a theory, such as one that says language is compositional, and sentences get their meanings as a function of the meanings of their constituent parts, like the names of things.