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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12 Nov '04 06:36:30 AM

'... as a sample goes on an old Public Enemy record you probably never heard'

12 Nov '04 06:31:00 AM

Love from Plum Drank.

9 Nov '04 04:13:57 AM

These are some notes for my own use later, on what Stanley Cavell says in The Claim of Reason about Wittgenstein's notion of a criterion.

Cavell takes Wittgenstein's notion to be dependent on (at least as far as its intelligibility goes?) the ordinary notion of a criterion; he surveys some real-world sources and comes up with seven elements functioning in the ordinary notion:

1. source of authority
2. authority's mode of acceptance
3. epistemic goal
4. candidate object or phenomenon
5. status concept
6. epistemic means (specification of criteria)
7. degree of satisfaction (standards or tests for applying #6)

The examples that I'm not reproducing here are helpful, but this will have to do: 'on this lay-out, criteria are specifications a given person or group sets up on the basis of which (by means of, in terms of which) to judge (assess, settle) whether something has a particular status or value' (from p. 9).

The interest in Cavell's point about the relation of Wittgenstein's criteria to the ordinary notion of a criterion comes when we observe the discrepancies or disanalogies between the two:

1. The criteria Wittgenstein appeals to never admit of a separate stage where one might, explicitly or implicitly, appeal to the application of standards; the question is simply, do the criteria apply or not? If there's doubt about it, the case is non-standard and we have no decisive criteria for it. (This is by itself interesting, and doesn't necessarily call for any sort of scramble for new criteria or reformulation of the existing ones.) [p. 13]

2. Whereas ordinary criteria apply to objects that somehow obviously call for evaluation or assessment, or a determination or settling of status or rank, Wittgenstein's apply to ordinary objects and concepts. Cavell's non-exhaustive list of examples:

whether someone has a toothache
... is sitting in a chair
... is of an opinion
... is expecting someone between 4 and 4:30
... was able to go on but no longer is
... is reading, thinking, believing, hoping, informing, following a rule
whether it's raining
whether someone is talking to himself
... attending to a shape or color
whether he means to be doing something
whether what he does is for him done as a matter of course

(A very significant passage follows here, that I haven't tried to get down the details about; for now it will have to suffice to note that Cavell takes this to be a sign that, to put it one of many ways, statements of fact and judgments of value rest on the same human capacities.)

3. The authority (see element #1 above) for the criteria Wittgenstein appeals to is always 'us', or (and I am slightly uncomfortable that Cavell is so quick to make this move) the human being generally. This point is one to which he raises some worries that for him get to the distinctive features of ordinary language philosophy; I have quoted one of his responses to these worries before.

The second worry ('if I am supposed to have been party to the criteria we have established, how can I fail to know what these are; and why do I not recognize the fact that I have been engaged in so extraordinary an enterprise?') is perhaps my best chance to bring this piece of Cavell's writing together with other things he has written, about the problems posed by modern art. In that case, one of the problems is that 'we haven't got clear criteria for determining whether a given object is or is not a painting, a sculpture [he might have added: music]'.

I want to bring these problems together so that I can take advantage of his thoughts on ordinary language philosophy - on appeals to 'what we say' as certain kinds of searches for community - in order to get any kind of understanding of how to let the stylistic, rhetorical, and formal features of philosophical writing (particularly Wittgenstein's) matter. And by 'matter' I mean, have philosophical import that is recognized on more than an individual basis.

8 Nov '04 08:55:16 AM

Something said here (which I linked to a bit ago regarding 'Mo Money, Mo Problems') about 'I Got A Story To Tell' gave me pause the first time I read it, but I couldn't figure out what my problem was until I went back to listen to the song. The author says that he's taking out 'about a minute of the overlong fade-out' since in his version of the record the song no longer comes at the end of a disc. I couldn't make sense of what he meant by 'overlong fade-out' until I realized he didn't mean the actual fade-out, that starts about 15 seconds before the end of the track, but the final part of the track - about two minutes of the total 4:43 - where Big re-tells the story that makes up the first part of the track. The song is perhaps slightly misleading about this, because at first it sounds (it sounded to me, for a long time) like Big finishes his verses, then they let the beat ride for this long stretch (which never bothered me - nothing long with letting the beat go for a while, especially at the end of a record) while there's some verite-style dialogue mixed low enough relative to the verses to kind of seem like background. But I think it would be a mistake to ignore that part of the song, and especially to cut it.

More on why later. I hope.

6 Nov '04 03:54:02 AM

Note on the back of Corporate Ghost, Sonic Youth's Geffen-era video collection:

'SY's pre-sellout "independent" videography forthcoming'

4 Nov '04 12:51:37 AM

Hell.

3 Nov '04 08:27:51 AM

Fine. More wait and see. Fine.

2 Nov '04 07:02:28 AM

Of the 518 songs I've played on my iPod in the past two months, there haven't been any whose names started with 'z'. I hit all the other letters, though.

I'm pleased by the possibilities for discovering inane factoids that technology provides me. I'm just not satisfied that I'm able to exploit every possibility at my disposal. I know there are more inane factoids I could use to make empty commentary on my listening experiences, if only my computer would let me discover them.

1 Nov '04 07:21:59 AM

'I bet your ass is darker than a Mobb Deep track'