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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31 Dec '03 06:03:49 AM

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

31 Dec '03 06:02:35 AM

'Having defined Wilkins' procedure, we must examine a problem that is impossible or difficult to postpone: the merit of the forty-part table on which the language is based. Let us consider the eighth category: stones. Wilkins divides them into common (flint, gravel, slate); moderate (marble, amber, coral); precious (pearl, opal); transparent (amethyst, sapphire); and insoluble (coal, fuller's earth, and arsenic). The ninth category is almost as alarming as the eighth. It reveals that metals can be imperfect (vermilion, quicksilver); artificial (bronze, brass); recremental (filings, rust); and natural (gold, tin, copper). The whale appears in the sixteenth category: it is a viviparous, oblong fish. These ambiguities, redundancies, and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia called the Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies. The Bibliographical Institute of Brussels also exercises chaos: it has parceled the universe into 1,000 subdivisions, of which number 262 corresponds to the Pope, number 282 to the Roman Catholic Church, number 263 to the Lord's Day, number 268 to Sunday schools, number 298 to Mormonism, and number 294 to Brahmanism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and Taoism. Nor does it disdain the employment of heterogeneous subdivisions, for example, number 179: "Cruelty to animals. Protection of animals. Dueling and suicide from a moral point of view. Various vices and defects. Various virtues and qualities."'

30 Dec '03 04:20:56 AM

'We can at least see what philosophy is not: it is not contemplation, reflection, or communication. This is the case even though it may sometimes believe it is one or other of these, as a result of the capacity of every discipline to produce its own illusions and to hide behind its own peculiar smokescreen. It is not contemplation, for contemplations are things themselves as seen in the creation of their specific concepts. It is not reflection, because no one needs philosophy to reflect on anything. It is thought that philosophy is being given a great deal by being turned into the art of reflection, but actually it loses everything. Mathematicians, as mathematicians, have never waited for philosophers before reflecting on mathematics, nor artists before reflecting on painting or music. So long as their reflection belongs to their respective creation, it is a bad joke to say that this makes them philosophers. Nor does philosophy find any final refuge in communication, which only works under the sway of opinions in order to create "consensus" and not concepts. The idea of a Western democratic conversation between friends has never produced a single concept. The idea comes, perhaps, from the Greeks, but they distrusted it so much, and subjected it to such harsh treatment, that the concept was more like the ironical soliloquy bird that surveyed the battlefield of destroyed rival opinions (the drunken guests at the banquet).'

30 Dec '03 04:13:27 AM

189. Is lying a particular experience? Well, can I tell someone "I am going to tell you a lie" and straightaway do it?

30 Dec '03 04:09:22 AM

328. In philosophy it is significant that such-and-such a sentence makes no sense; but also that it sounds funny.

30 Dec '03 04:06:13 AM

From the Zettel:

447. Disquiet in philosophy might be said to arise from looking at philosophy wrongly, seeing it wrong, namely as if it were divided into (infinite) longitudinal strips instead of into (finite) cross strips. This inversion in our conception produces the greatest difficulty. So we try as it were to grasp the unlimited strips and complain that it cannot be done piecemeal. To be sure it cannot, if by a piece one means an infinite longitudinal strip. But it may well be done, if one means a cross strip. --But in that case we never get to the end of our work! --Of course not, for it has no end.

(We want to replace wild conjectures and explanations by quiet weighing of linguistic facts.)

28 Dec '03 08:18:58 PM

Good as they are, those remain selfish reasons for writing. I also think a lot now about people in depression who need help, but don't know, or do but won't go, or won't talk about it with those around them. Without help, their lives will be overcome by apathy, disaffect, unremitting misery. Some, to the point of suicide.

The prospect of at least one of those people benefiting from something they read here lightens me, momentarily.

28 Dec '03 07:56:18 PM

For a long time now, too long, I've wanted to write directly and explicitly here about being depressed. But unease at feeling so exposed to the people around me always led me to keep quiet (mostly). Things have changed a lot since I got so bad that I went in for help last summer. Now I suspect most of the people I interact with from day to day know at least a bit about the state of my life. People I don't interact with, as well - before the winter break I received some empathetic mail from an old acquaintance who'd heard through the grapevine (i.e., chatty-cathy philosophy professors) what was up. All of which makes it easier for me to be open, now. But more importantly, I have exchanged unease at feeling exposed for irritation with ignorance. And the best way to fix that is to start writing.

26 Dec '03 05:23:27 AM


Year five.