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.

newest | archives | search | about | wishlist | flickr | email | rss

13 Jan '04 11:31:53 AM

Today I listened to:

Grant Green / Am I Blue
Steve Reich / Music for 18 Musicians
Luomo / Vocalcity
Stevie Wonder / Music of My Mind
Thelonious Monk / Monk in Tokyo
Thelonious Monk / Monk in Tokyo
Luomo / Vocalcity

I would like to say, because of its compactness, that the Luomo records flirts ceaselessly with being interminable on its way to the blissful 12:07 of 'Tessio'. But I don't know that it's sensible to call it 'flirting'. Can a domme be said to flirt with you if she's got you tied up and keeps you on edge for an hour?

(And when does that stop counting as 'teasing'?)

13 Jan '04 07:26:41 AM

'TRADITION AND KNOWLEDGE

In the mainstream of modern philosophy we can no longer - pardon the odious word - be in the swim. The hitherto dominant philosophy of the modern age wants to eliminate the traditional moments of thinking. It would dehistoricize the contents of thought and assign history to a special, fact-gathering branch of science. Ever since the fundament of knowledge came to be sought in supposedly immediate subjective data, men have been enthralled by the idol of a pure present. They would endeavor to strip thought of its historic dimension. The fictitious, one-dimensional Now became the cognitive ground of all inner meaning. On this point there is agreement between patriarchs of modernity who are officially considered antipodes: between Descartes' autobiographical statements on the origin of his method and Bacon's idol theory. What is historic in thought, instead of heeding the timelessness of an objectified logic, was equated with superstition - and to cite ecclesiastically institutional traditions against inquiring thought was indeed superstition. Men had every reason to criticize authority. But their critique misconceived that tradition is immanent in knowledge itself, that it serves to mediate between known objects. Knowledge no sooner starts from scratch, by way of a stabilizing objectification, than it will distort the objects. Knowledge as such, even in a form detached from substance, takes part in tradition as unconscious remembrance; there is no question which we might simply ask, without knowing of past things that are preserved in the question and spur it.

From the outset, thinking as an intratemporal, motivated, progressive motion is the microcosmic equivalent of the macrocosmic motion of history that was internalized in the structure of thinking. Among the achievements of Kantian deduction, one ranging foremost is that even in the pure cognitive form, in the unity of the "I think" at the stage of imaginative reproduction, Kant perceived remembrance, the trace of historicity. Because there is no time without its content, however, that which Husserl in his late phase called "inner historicity" cannot remain internal, a pure form. The inner historicity of thought is inseparable from its content, and thus inseparable from tradition; the pure, perfectly sublimated subject, on the other hand, would be absolutely devoid of tradition. A knowledge wholly conforming to the idol of that purity, of total timelessness - a knowledge coincident with formal logic - would become a tautology; there would be no more room in it even for transcendental logic. Timelessness, the goal which the bourgeois mind may be pursuing in order to compensate for its own mortality, is the acme of its delusion. Benjamin innervated this when he strictly foreswore the ideal of autonomy and submitted his thought to tradition - although to a voluntarily installed, subjectively chosen tradition that is as unauthoritative as it accuses the autarkic thought of being. Although reflecting the transcendental moment, the traditional moment is quasi-transcendental: it is not a point-like subjectivity but the properly constitutive factor, what Kant called "the mechanism hidden in the depths of the soul." There is one variant that should not be missing from the excessively narrow initial questions in the Critique of Pure Reason, and that is the question how a thinking obliged to relinquish tradition might preserve and transform tradition. For this and nothing else is the mental experience. It was plumbed by Bergson in philosophy, and even more by Proust in the novel, though both men were kept under the spell of immediacy by their disgust with the bourgeois timelessness that will use conceptual mechanics to anticipate the end of life. Yet philosophy's methexis in tradition would only be a definite denial of tradition. Philosophy rests on the texts it criticizes. They are brought to it by the tradition they embody, and it is in dealing with them that the conduct of philosophy becomes commensurable with tradition. This justifies the move from philosophy to exegesis, which exalts neither the interpretation nor the symbol into an absolute but seeks the truth where thinking secularizes the irretrievable archetype of sacred texts.

RHETORIC

In its dependence - patent or latent - on texts, philosophy admits its linguistic nature which the ideal of the method leads it to deny in vain. Like tradition, this nature has been tabooed in recent philosophical history, as rhetoric. Severed and degraded into a means to achieve effects, it became the carrier of the lie in philosophy. In despising rhetoric, philosophy atoned for a guilt incurred ever since Antiquity by its detachment from things, a guilt already pointed out by Plato. But the persecutors of the rhetorical element that saved expression for thought did just as much for the technification of thought, for its potential abolition, as did those who cultivated rhetoric and ignored the object.

In philosophy, rhetoric represents that which cannot be thought except in language. It holds a place among the postulates of contents already known and fixed. Rhetoric is in jeopardy, like any substitute, because it may easily come to usurp what the thought cannot obtain directly from the presentation. It is incessantly corrupted by persuasive purposes - without which, on the other hand, the thought act would no longer have a practical relation. The fact that all approved traditional philosophy from Plato down to the semanticists has been allergic to expression, this fact accords with a propensity of all Enlightenment: to punish undisciplined gestures. It is a trait extending all the way to logic, a defense mechanism of the materialized consciousness.

The alliance of philosophy and science aims at the virtual abolition of language and thus of philosophy, and yet philosophy cannot survive without the linguistic effort. Instead of splashing around in the linguistic cascade, a philosopher reflects upon it. There is a reason why sloppy language - inexactness, scientifically speaking - tends to be leagued with the scientific mien of incorruptibility by language. For to abolish language in thought is not to demythologize thought. Along with language, philosophy would blindly sacrifice whatever is not merely significative in dealing with its object; it is in language alone that like knows like. Yet we cannot ignore the perpetual denunciation of rhetoric by nominalists to whom a name bears no resemblance to what it says, nor can an unbroken rhetoric be summoned against them.

Dialectics - literally: language as the organon of thought - would mean to attempt a critical rescue of the rhetorical element, a mutual approximation of thing and expression, to the point where the difference fades. Dialectics appropriates for the power of thought what historically seemed to be a flaw in thinking: its link with language, which nothing can wholly break. It was this link that inspired phenomenology to try - naïvely, as always - to make sure of truth by analyzing words. It is in the rhetorical quality that culture, society, and tradition animate the thought; a stern hostility to it is leagued with barbarism, in which bourgeois thinking ends. The vilification of Cicero and even Hegel's aversion to Diderot bear witness to the resentment of those whom the trials of life have robbed of the freedom to stand tall, and who regard the body of language as sinful.

In dialectics, contrary to popular opinion, the rhetorical element is on the side of content. Dialectics seeks to mediate between random views and unessential accuracy, to master this dilemma by way of the formal, logical dilemma. But dialectics inclines to content because the content is not closed, not predetermined by a skeleton; it is a protest against mythology. Mythical is that which never changes, ultimately diluted to a formal legality of thought. To want substance in cognition is to want a utopia. It is this consciousness of possibility that sticks to the concrete, the undisfigured. Utopia is blocked off by possibility, never by immediate reality; this is why it seems abstract in the midst of extant things. The inextinguishable color comes from nonbeing. Thought is its servant, a piece of existence extending - however negatively - to that which is not. The utmost distance alone would be proximity; philosophy is the prism in which its color is caught.'

11 Jan '04 11:35:45 AM

I would have been listening to the new Diamanda Galas records all day if it weren't for Joyce.

11 Jan '04 11:33:40 AM

Today's listening:

A mix I made the other day for Britt (in order to ingratiate hip-hop to her) but then didn't give her when I remembered that she sold her car with the CD player in it for like twenty dollars to the insurance people. It contained:

1. Killer Mike - A.D.I.D.A.S.
2. Geto Boys - Mind Playing Tricks On Me
3. Shel Silverstein - If I Had a Brontosaurus
4. Jay-Z - 99 Problems
5. Biggie - Ready to Die
6. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - Summertime
7. Kardinal Offishall - Maxine
8. De La Soul - Ooooh
9. Kelis - Milkshake
10. Nas - N.Y. State of Mind

She didn't want it until she found out 'Milkshake' was on it. I think that means I win, somehow. But probably all I win is that she will use my CD to play 'Milkshake' over and over.

Then, there were actual pre-recorded records:

Mobb Deep - The Infamous
Joyce & Banda Maluca - Just a Little Bit Crazy
Thelonious Monk - Monk in Tokyo

I think I'm forgetting something but I don't feel like going to check. This might be because I've been listening to the Joyce record all night and it's made me all limpid. Well, partially limpid. Moderately. It's Brazillian; it has flutes and Bugge Wesseltoft and stuff on it. Bugge Wesseltoft is not Brazillian. He is Norwegian. In a stunningly corny turn of events, his name is apparently pronounced 'boogie'. Oh yes. Also, he's apparently one of those four million guys who all think they have a new conception of jazz because they play it with a Fender Rhodes and have 'electronica' in it. Which I am not surprised to find; I think I must remember him from that Erik Truffaz remix record. It's been a long time since I worked at KURE, though, so I don't remember if his remix was one of the good ones. Anyway, not that he's the main attraction here or something. He's nice, and he makes some wooshy noises. Very tasteful. Joyce, now, I can say this about: a) she was named after James Joyce, b) she's been making Brazillian music for like thirty years, back when it was apparently a big deal to write songs in the first person (this may only have been the case for chicks who wrote about being chicks, which is of course a perennial no-no - if I remember right we didn't start allowing that sort of thing in the US until like the mid-nineties), and uh c) eh, I guess that's all I've got. It's a very nice record. Happy-making, like Since I Left You only, like, different.

10 Jan '04 08:08:10 PM

I actually only slept for four hours. And I didn't say, oh, my head. I'm a bit disappointed.

Britt, last night, upon (brace yourself) turning off 'Make It Funky': 'this isn't upbeat enough... it's bringing me down'!

I am as appalled as you are.

10 Jan '04 10:36:16 AM

Tomorrow morning I think I will say: oh, my head. Let's see.

('Morning'.)

9 Jan '04 12:10:27 PM

Hmm. Apparently something is wrong with my post editor.

9 Jan '04 12:07:32 PM

Ron Silliman is reading Proust one sentence a night. I would like to say that I would try this just to see how it can be other than totally agonizing (kind of like eating a pie one bite a day, or better yet, fucking one, er, fuck? per day). But after just one sentence like this one the pull is too much and I have to keep going, which is probably why I haven't touched Swann's Way in weeks:

'Finally, continuing to trace from the inside outwards these states simultaneously juxtaposed in my consciousness, and before reaching the horizon of reality which enveloped them, I discover pleasures of another kind, those of being comfortably seated, of sniffing the fragrance of the air, of not being disturbed by any visitor, and, when an hour chimed from the steeple of Saint-Hilaire, of seeing what was already spent of the afternoon fall drop by drop until I heard the last stroke which enabled me to add up the total, after which the long silence that followed seemed to herald the beginning, in the blue sky above me, of all that part of the day that still remained to me for reading, until the good dinner which Françoise was even now preparing and which would strengthen and refresh me after the strenuous pursuit of the hero through the pages of my book.'

(The prize is 'of not being disturbed by any visitor'. Of course.)

9 Jan '04 11:54:06 AM

Today's listening:

Group Home / Livin' Proof
Mobb Deep / The Infamous
Bill Evans / Portrait in Jazz
Miles Davis / Birth of the Cool
Mobb Deep / The Infamous
Low / The Curtain Hits the Cast
Steve Reich / Music for 18 Musicians