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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30 Jul '09 08:02:29 PM

A method for trying to understand writing like Adorno's or Nietzsche's which uses narrative structures so thoroughly:

Isolate the shortest 'story' you can find in the text, say in a sentence. Imagine one person saying it to another, as if reporting something he saw over across the way, or in another land, or when he went on a vacation; or as if reporting his history, his childhood, his family story, and so on. What would the storyteller have to know to tell this story truthfully? How would he find out about it? If the listener wasn't sure he believed the story and wanted to come to find out more about it for himself, how would he do that? If the story has trouble being believed or standing on its own, how much more would it take—how much longer a story, how much more detail? Is there anything about the source narratives which is compromised when they're transferred into the realm of everyday little stories?

(The results may be either positive or negative, but even contrasts are useful with writing like this.)

29 Jul '09 06:01:12 AM

Oh shit 'Midnight Train to Georgia'

27 Jul '09 03:40:01 PM

'…the world must thereby become quite another…'

23 Jul '09 11:03:48 PM

'There are three fields of study in which the man who is going to be good and excellent must first have been trained. The first has to do with desires and aversions, that he may never fail to get what he desires, nor fall into what he avoids; the second with cases of choice and of refusal, and, in general, with duty, that he may act in an orderly fashion, upon good reasons, and not carelessly; the third with the avoidance of error and rashness in judgment, and, in general, about cases of assent. Among these the most important and especially pressing is that which has to do with the stronger emotions; for a strong emotion does not arise except a desire fails to attain its object, or an aversion falls into what it would avoid. This is the field of study which introduces us to confusions, tumults, misfortunes and calamities; and sorrows, lamentations, envies; and makes us envious and jealous—passions which make it impossible for us even to listen to reason. The second field of study deals with duty; for I ought not to be unfeeling like a statue, but should maintain my relations, both natural and acquired, as a religious man, as a son, a brother, a father, a citizen.

The third belongs only to those who are already making progress; it has to do with the element of certainty in the matters which have just been mentioned, so that even in dreams, or drunkenness, or a state of melancholy-madness, a man may not be taken unawares by the appearance of an untested sense-impression. —This, says someone, is beyond us. —But philosophers nowadays pass by the first and second fields of study, and concentrate upon the third, upon arguments which involve equivocal premisses, which derive syllogisms by the process of interrogation, which involve hypothetical premisses, and sophisms like The Liar. —Of course, he says, even when a man is engaged in subjects of this kind he has to preserve his freedom from deception. —But what kind of man ought to engage in them? —Only the one who is already good and excellent. —Do you, then, fall short in this? Have you already attained perfection in the other subjects? Are you proof against deception in handling small change? If you see a pretty wench, do you resist the sense-impression? If your neighbour receives an inheritance, do you not feel a twinge of envy? And is security of judgment now the only thing in which you fall short? Wretch, even while you are studying these very topics you tremble and are worried for fear someone despises you, and you ask whether anybody is saying anything about you. And if someone should come and say, "A discussion arising as to who was the best of the philosophers, someone who was there said that So-and-so was the only real philosopher," immediately your poor little one-inch soul shoots up a yard high. But if another party to the discussion says, "Nonsense, it's a waste of time to listen to So-and-so. Why, what does he know? He has the rudiments, but nothing else," you are beside yourself, you grow pale, immediately you shout, "I'll show him who I am, that I am a great philosopher!" Yet we see what a man is just by such conduct. Why do you wish to show it by anything else? Do you not know that Diogenes showed one of the sophists thus, pointing out his middle finger at him, and then when the man was furious with rage, remarked, "That's So-and-so; I've pointed him out to you." For a man is not something like a stone or a stick to be pointed out with a finger, but when one shows a man's judgements, then one shows him as a man.'

23 Jul '09 06:53:42 AM

The resigned anguish of nights when one thinks, really—every stop?—really?

22 Jul '09 06:18:47 PM

Imbrication is not necessarily a formal principle here.

22 Jul '09 12:46:15 AM

'It will shock you how much it never happened.'

22 Jul '09 12:32:41 AM

A criterion for distinguishing between genuine conversation and other kinds of talking: when someone says "didn't we already talk about that?" the response is nevertheless to talk about it, gladly, again.

21 Jul '09 11:55:06 PM

1. a poison giver
2. one who sets fire to the house
3. one who attacks with deadly weapons
4. one who plunders riches
5. one who occupies another's land
6. one who kidnaps a wife