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 May '04 12:40:29 PM

When I was a kid I would always take some little thing or other with me to school - a toy, a special pen, a watch or a ring. I didn't necessarily do anything with it: it's just that I had to have it. Not just any thing would do, because I agonized over what to bring on any given day. To what end, I am not sure. Often the thing would never leave my bag, or pocket.

At some point the need I felt began to be for books, instead of trinkets or whatnot. When I was at the stage where I read straight through every book I picked up, and could hardly be bothered to look up from the book I was currently reading, there was little question as to which book to take with me, although there was instead the perhaps more embarrassing (as in 'embarrassment of riches') question of which other book to take, in case I finished with the first one. For a long time now, though, that stage has been a fondly remembered but irretrievably lost one. Instead I read a dozen or more books 'at once' (misleading since I rarely finish any of them, or keep at them for any length of time), and am so worried about whether I'm interested enough in a given book, and whether I feel I can devote any effort to it on a given day, and whether it's what I 'should' be reading on that day (the ethical force deriving in an obscure way from a vaguely apprehended idea of what my half-project-half-quest is, that day), and so on and so on and so on, that I should just as well decide which books to put in my bag based on their covers, or on their weight (which would probably be the most practical factor to base my decisions on, by far).

It's never a guarantee that I'll 'need' to read from the book I bring that day. Or even that I'll try to once the opportunity presents itself (it always presents itself). I mean - of course, I allow myself to feel guilty over these things. But really I just need to have the book there, just like the toys from years ago.

So this is what I caught myself doing, just now, five thirty with the window cracked waiting for the signs of the impending storm to go away so that I can walk to school and try to write a little: flipping through some of the books I've gotten out during the night, trying to decide which one would be 'best' for today.

5 May '04 10:09:57 AM

'He who loves is attached not only to the "faults" of the beloved, not only to the whims and weaknesses of a woman. Wrinkles in the face, moles, shabby clothes, and a lopsided walk bind him more lastingly and relentlessly than any beauty. This has long been known. And why? If the theory is correct that feeling is not located in the head, that we sentiently experience a window, a cloud, a tree not in our brains but rather in the place where we see it, then we are, in looking at our beloved, too, outside ourselves. But in a torment of tension and ravishment. Our feeling, dazzled, flutters like a flock of birds in the woman's radiance. And as birds seek refuge in the leafy recesses of a tree, feelings escape into the shaded wrinkles, the awkward movements and inconspicuous blemishes of the body we love, where they can lie low in safety. And no passer-by would guess that it is just here, in what is defective and censurable, that the fleeting darts of adoration nestle.'

5 May '04 07:31:09 AM

DISENCHANTMENT OF THE CONCEPT

'Philosophy, Hegel's included, invites the general objection that by inevitably having concepts for its material it anticipates an idealistic decision. In fact no philosophy, not even extreme empiricism, can drag in the facta bruta and present them like cases in anatomy or experiments in physics; no philosophy can paste the particulars into the text, as seductive paintings would hoodwink it into believing. But the argument in its formality and generality takes as fetishistic a view of the concept as the concept does in interpreting itself naïvely in its own domain: in either case it is regarded as a self-sufficient totality over which philosophical thought has no power. In truth, all concepts, even the philosophical ones, refer to nonconceptualities, because concepts on their part are moments of the reality that requires their formation, primarily for the control of nature. What conceptualization appears to be from within, to one engaged in it - the predominance of its sphere, without which nothing is known - must not be mistaken for what it is in itself. Such a semblance of being-in-itself is conferred on it by the motion that exempts it from reality, to which it is harnessed in turn.

Necessity compels philosophy to operate with concepts, but this necessity must not be turned into the virtue of their priority - no more than, conversely, criticism of that virtue can be turned into a summary verdict against philosophy. On the other hand, the insight that philosophy's conceptual knowledge is not the absolute of philosophy - this insight, for all its inescapability, is again due to the nature of the concept. It is not a dogmatic thesis, much less a naïvely realistic one. Initially, such concepts as that of "being" at the start of Hegel's Logic emphatically mean nonconceptualities; as Lask put it, they "mean beyond themselves." Dissatisfaction with their own conceptuality is part of their meaning, although the inclusion of nonconceptuality in their meaning makes it tendentially their equal and thus keeps them trapped within themselves. The substance of concepts is to them both immanent, as far as the mind is concerned, and transcendant as far as being is concerned. To be aware of this is to be able to get rid of concept fetishism. Philosophical reflection makes sure of the nonconceptual in the concept. It would be empty otherwise, according to Kant's dictum; in the end, having ceased to be a concept of anything at all, it would be nothing.

A philosophy that lets us know this, that extinguishes the autarky of the concept, strips the blindfold from our eyes. That the concept is a concept even when dealing with things in being does not change the fact that on its part it is entwined with a nonconceptual whole. Its only insulation from that whole is its reification - that which establishes it as a concept. The concept is an element in dialectical logic, like any other. What survives in it is the fact that nonconceptuality has conveyed it by way of its meaning, which in turn establishes its conceptuality. To refer to nonconceptualities - as ultimately, according to traditional epistemology, every definition of concepts requires nonconceptual, deictic elements - is characteristic of the concept, and so is the contrary: that as the abstract unit of the noumena subsumed thereunder it will depart from the noumenal. To change this direction of conceptuality, to give it a turn toward nonidentity, is the hinge of negative dialectics. Insight into the constitutive character of the nonconceptual in the concept would end the compulsive identification which the concept brings unless halted by such reflection. Reflection upon its own meaning is the way out of the concept's seeming being-in-itself as a unit of meaning.'

5 May '04 06:44:16 AM

Based on the commercials, I expected 'Pictures of You' to have more of a chorus; but in actuality it seems a lot more of a piece with the verses than I hoped.

3 May '04 08:31:12 AM

Lists are not the most appropriate response to listlessness. But here is my current mix.

Lil' Flip - 'Game Over'
Jay-Z - 'My Name is Hov'
Cee-Lo Green f. Pharrell - 'The Art of Noise'
Alicia Keys - 'If I Ain't Got You'
Dilated Peoples f. Kanye West - 'This Way'
Usher f. Lil' Jon and Ludacris - 'Yeah'
Elephant Man - 'All Out'
Master P f. Lil' Jon - 'Act a Fool'
Sean Paul f. Sasha - 'I'm Still in Love With You'
R. Kelly - 'Happy People'
Kanye West - 'Through the Wire'
Christina Milian f. Fabolous - 'Dip It Low'
Petey Pablo - 'Freek-a-Leek'

30 Apr '04 12:19:33 PM

Sometime in the middle of February I made the following list of my favorite albums, whatever that means. I made it on paper, in no particular order (though I have alphabetized it here), and without much provocation or list-guilt urging me into it. It was a pretty free endeavor. Interesting, then, how false it rings to me now. Perhaps I'll say something about that eventually, if I can bring myself to believe that it's not too boring to do so.

There are fifty-one records listed. One might be considered a cheat, but I did buy it as a single item and it came in a little double-sized jewel case. When I wrote down 'Revolver' I originally wrote 'Rubber Soul' by accident, but I didn't mean anything significant by that.

I actually forgot at least one record that I probably would've put on the list before most of these.

By 'records' I mean 'albums', obviously. I could not even pretend to hope to make a similar list for songs or tracks, if only because I can't look at my shelf in order to fake a list.

The American Analog Set - The Golden Band
Derek Bailey - Ballads
The Beatles - Revolver
Boards of Canada - Music Has the Right to Children
Burning Airlines - Mission: Control!
Clipse - Lord Willin'
John Coltrane - Crescent
John Coltrane - Giant Steps
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Miles Davis - E.S.P.
Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
De La Soul - Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Don't Stand Me Down
The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Duke Ellington - The Complete Blanton/Webster Sessions
Missy Elliott - Da Real World
Brian Eno - Another Green World
Bill Evans - Sunday at the Village Vanguard
Fugazi - Red Medicine
Gastr Del Sol - Camofleur
Herbert - Bodily Functions
Herbie Hancock - Sextant
The Dave Holland Quartet - Conference of the Birds
Jay-Z - Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Kraftwerk - Trans-Europe Express
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Tyranny of Distance
Low - The Curtain Hits the Cast
Luomo - Vocalcity
The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs
Mekons - Journey to the End of the Night
Charles Mingus - Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
Mobb Deep - The Infamous
Thelonious Monk - Straight, No Chaser
The Necks - Sex
Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
The Notorious B.I.G. - Ready to Die
Nirvana - In Utero
Outkast - Aquemini
Pixies - Surfer Rosa
Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
The Sea and Cake - The Fawn
Sleater-Kinney - The Hot Rock
Sonic Youth - Dirty
Spiritualized - Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Stereolab - Dots and Loops
Tom Waits - Rain Dogs
Weezer - Pinkerton
Stevie Wonder - Fulfillingness' First Finale
The Wu-Tang Clan - Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One

29 Apr '04 07:54:52 AM

'Taste is therefore something like a sense. In its operation it has no knowledge of reasons. If taste registers a negative reaction to something, it is not able to say why. But it experiences it with the greatest certainty. Sureness of taste is therefore safety from the tasteless. It is a remarkable thing that we are especially sensitive to the negative in the decisions taste renders. The corresponding positive is not properly speaking what is tasteful, but what does not offend taste. That, above all, is what taste judges. Taste is defined precisely by the fact that it is offended by what is tasteless and thus avoids it, like anything else that threatens injury. Thus the contrary of "good taste" actually is not "bad taste." Its opposite is rather to have "no taste." Good taste is a sensitivity which so naturally avoids anything blatant that its reaction is quite incomprehensible to someone who has no taste.'

(Gadamer early in Truth and Method; I take it that this is one of the pieces of phenomenological inquiry, so that here he's talking in some sense about what people ('out there') mean by 'taste'.)

26 Apr '04 10:41:50 AM

Some songs I mixed together tonight.

Duke Ellington - 'Ko-Ko'
Reinhard Voigt - 'Liebe Deine Musik'
Justin Timberlake - 'Like I Love You'
Christina Milian f. Fabolous - 'Dip It Low'
The Magnetic Fields - 'Queen of the Savages'
Sonic Youth - 'Kissability'
Louis Jordan - 'Ain't That Just Like a Woman'
Styles P - 'Good Times (I Get High)'
Thelonious Monk - 'Japanese Folk Song [Kojo No Tsuki]'
Johnny Cash - 'In My Life'
D'Angelo - 'Spanish Joint'
Eric B. & Rakim - 'Don't Sweat the Technique'
Count Basie - 'Topsy'
The Cure - 'Pictures of You'
Farben - 'Love To Love You Baby'
The Specials - 'You're Wondering Now'

25 Apr '04 12:23:47 PM

'The naive self-esteem of the present moment may rebel against the idea that philosophical consciousness admits the possibility that one's own philosophical insight may be inferior to that of Plato or Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant, or Hegel. One might think it a weakness that contemporary philosophy tries to interpret and assimilate its classical heritage with this acknowledgement of its own weakness. But it is undoubtedly a far greater weakness for philosophical thinking not to face such self-examination but to play at being Faust. It is clear that in understanding the texts of these great thinkers, a truth is known that could not be attained in any other way, even if this contradicts the yardstick of research and progress by which science measures itself.'