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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21 Apr '08 08:04:18 AM

'Eternally asleep, his dreams walk about the city where he persists incognito.'

8 Apr '08 08:05:51 AM

'A dog wandered in, half mastiff, half pointer, its fur yellow and mangy, tongue hanging from its mouth. What should they do? Not a bell in sight, and their servant was deaf as a stone! They were shivering furiously but didn't dare budge for fear of getting bitten.

Pécuchet thought it wise to shout threats, rolling his eyes. The dog started barking and jumping about the scale, while Pécuchet, clinging to the ropes and folding up his legs, tried to stay as high up off the ground as possible.

"You're not doing it right," said Bouvard. And he began making ingratiating faces at the animal and uttering coaxing sounds. The dog evidently understood. It tried to lick the man's face, clamped its paws on his shoulders, and scratched them with its nails.

"Oh, great! Now look - he's got my underwear!"

The dog circled over the garment and lay down.

Finally, with utmost precaution, they ventured, one to come down off his scale, the other to climb out of the tub. And when Pécuchet was dressed, this exclamation escaped from his lips: "You, my dear fellow, will come in very handy for our experiments!"

What experiments?

They could inject the dog with phosphorus, then shut it in a cellar to see if it would breathe fire through its snout. But how would they inject it? And besides, no one would sell them phosphorus.'

8 Apr '08 07:57:58 AM

'Descartes is not the first philosopher reputed to have constructed a mechanical companion. Albertus Magnus was said to have a robot that could move and greet visitors with the salutation Salve! ('How are you!'). Thomas Aquinas, his pupil at the time, is reported to have attacked and broken the gregarious android when he came across it unexpectedly in the night.'

8 Apr '08 07:55:20 AM

'And, quite independently of this line of argument, Julian Jaynes has speculated that Descartes may have named his daughter Francine after the Francini brothers, who were responsible for creating the mechanical moving statues of gods and goddesses in the grottoes under the Royal Gardens at Saint-Germain. This idea carries with it overtones of Descartes constructing his daughter on the model of a mechanical doll. And in a more explicit way, a late nineteenth-century biography of Descartes, in a popular 'Philosophic Classics for English Readers' series, makes the claim that Descartes' interest in his daughter (and by implication women generally) was purely scientific, maintaining that it was no accident that Descartes' daughter was conceived in 1634, the very year when Descartes was working on his treatise on the formation of the foetus, for this was simply part of a scientific experiment, whereby Descartes 'carried his theory of bêtes-machines a step higher than he confessed in public', and his sexual 'adventure' was 'merely the result of scientific curiosity'. And commentators have not been content to limit his scientific curiosity in bêtes-machines to foetuses: as recently as five years ago, a writer on Descartes confidently tells us that he alienated his wife (Descartes was in fact never married) by experimenting on the family dog.'

8 Apr '08 07:49:04 AM

'Since the eighteenth century, there has been in circulation a curious story about Descartes. It is said that in later life he was always accompanied in his travels by a mechanical life-sized female doll which, we are told by one source, he himself had constructed 'to show that animals are only machines and have no souls'. He had named the doll after his illegitimate daughter, Francine, and some versions of events have it that she was so lifelike that the two were indistinguishable. Descartes and the doll were evidently inseparable, and he is said to have slept with her encased in a trunk at his side. Once, during a crossing over the Holland Sea some time in the early 1640s, while Descartes was sleeping, the captain of the ship, suspicious about the contents of the trunk, stole into the cabin and opened it. To his horror, he discovered the mechanical monstrosity, dragged her from the trunk and across the decks, and finally managed to throw her into the water. We are not told whether she put up a struggle.'

31 Mar '08 08:56:17 AM

'song alone escapes the greedy funeral pyre'

26 Mar '08 06:23:26 AM

All our conversations go: why don't you read this book? - and there they stop.

26 Mar '08 06:18:09 AM

'As it is, we've heard it all, seen it all too often, heard the promises, and they are like any words which have been gone over so much that they are worn strange. We don't laugh, we don't cry; and we don't laugh that we don't cry, and we obviously can't cry about it. That's funny.'

15 Mar '08 05:13:11 AM

'In giving the entirety a higher value, the usual an element of secrecy, the well-known the value of the unknown and the finite the appearance of infinity, I romanticize.'