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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8 Aug '12 09:25:49 AM

Though Hadot is always eager to appeal to some feature of the written form of a piece of philosophical writing in order to explain its role in some spiritual exercise, or its use in philosophy practiced as a way of life, his explanations are often unsatisfying to me. It seems that the writing is left behind too quickly, to be obscured by principles, as in his Marcus Aurelius essay.

One mark of this is the way the terms appropriate to writing are left behind in Hadot's anxiousness to reject what he takes to be misinterpretations of Marcus' Meditations. He classes them as hypomnemata, 'notes written on a daily basis for the author's personal use', as opposed to fragments of some completed or planned systematic treatise, or to personal notes which were to serve as 'a personal diary of [Marcus'] inner states'. The interpretation of the Meditations as fragmentary might fall under another essay of Hadot's like 'Forms of Life and Forms of Discourse'; he spends most of his time here on the last interpretation, of Marcus' writing as not just psychologically documentary writing, but as psychologically symptomatic (e.g., of Marcus' supposed pessimism).

It seems easy for Hadot to make the latter case; his target's interpretations seem dumb. Where he wants to deny just that Marcus' 'psychology' can be read from his writing, things seem to get a bit more brusque in the way I've noted. 'It is too facile for us to imagine that, like many modern authors, ancient writers wrote in order directly to communicate information, or the emotions they happened to be feeling', Hadot warns. '[W]e must try to understand why these phrases were written or spoken; we must discover their finality.' OK. But as he begins to deploy his real explanation, he loses sight of the writing as writing, as hypomnemata, as all the terms of explanation begin belong to Stoic logic, physics, and ethics, or refer to worldly things and the reactions of Marcus or a generalized person to such things.

How far does this go? 'The function of Marcus' physico/objective definitions is precisely to make us realize that the feelings of repulsion we feel in the presence of some phenomena which accompany natural processes are nothing but an anthropomorphic prejudice.'

Where did we come in?! This was supposed to be an interpretation of 'notes written on a daily basis for the author's personal use'. Even if we're reading over Marcus' shoulder somehow, how is it that what he writes for his own use can serve—function—to 'make us realize' anything?

7 Aug '12 08:35:04 AM

The notebook I bought is thin, with a fraction of my usual number of pages. I meant it to be deliberate. When I buy a new notebook, my first thought is of filling it, something that, if done, is rarely done to a specific purpose. (I made a special notebook to write my dissertation, though.) For this one, I meant to make an experiment: to keep a journal for something, and to see it through until I have a sense that I am done (with… something). When I have a specific purpose in mind for a journal, I am more likely to abandon it quite early once it stimulates me to think elsewhere, or once my mood alters.

The advent of new work has suddenly shifted my schedule, and now it's been several days since I wrote in my journal. Because it was prompted by the work I've been doing on philosophical journals, I chose, as the subject of the journal: the keeping of a journal. Specifically, me and my own (past) keeping of journals, since that's often something that has been more instrumental than the subject of reflection for me (if that could really be accurate for someone not unused to reflexive reflection).

This seems to have given a point, a focus, to the light sense of neglect, of being out of touch, that can come of being away from a journal that has been being kept. While working on anything I might have the feeling of distance from it if the work is allowed to slip away for some number of days, or if other thoughts intervene. Keeping a journal about keeping journals, I feel that I'm out of touch with both, the thoughts—the work—and with myself.

6 Aug '12 06:22:29 PM

'“The Corner” ended with De’Andre’s first adult arrest, and Simon recalled that McCullough was frustrated with that conclusion. “He said, ‘You write that like it’s the end. Maybe that’s not the end,’” Simon said.'

6 Aug '12 10:31:56 AM

If the virtue most in request by record buyers (or thieves) is not what they call 'consistency' in an artist's work, but what Emerson calls conformity, that says little about what the self-reliant artist's career would look like: there are so many things for aversion to oppose, to turn away from.

5 Aug '12 08:00:46 AM

'When I ask for a garment of a particular form, my tailoress tells me gravely, "They do not make them so now," not emphasizing the "They" at all, as if she quoted an authority as impersonal as the Fates, and I find it difficult to get made what I want, simply because she cannot believe that I mean what I say, that I am so rash. When I hear this oracular sentence, I am for a moment absorbed in thought, emphasizing to myself each word separately that I may come at the meaning of it, that I may find out by what degree of consanguinity They are related to me, and what authority they may have in an affair which affects me so nearly; and, finally, I am inclined to answer her with equal mystery, and without any more emphasis of the "they,"—"It is true, they did not make them so recently, but they do now."'

4 Aug '12 09:37:49 AM

Ways to work:

grow something, build something, create something, move something, cook something, clean something, prepare something, fix something, sort something, gather something, dig something up, cut something down, break something up, set something up, assemble something, count something, calculate something, watch something, watch someone, drive something, haul something, package something, study something, serve something, wait on someone, take care of someone, help someone

3 Aug '12 08:40:30 PM

It's always funny when a scholar writes, 'I do not have time here to...'. Is there a moderator holding a stopwatch? Why not say 'I do not have space here to...'. But who are you, Fermat? Get another piece of paper!

2 Aug '12 08:15:40 AM

Dual principles (Nov. 11, 1851):

'"Says I to myself" should be the motto of my journal.

It is fatal to the writer to be too much possessed by his thought. Things must lie a little remote to be described.'

2 Aug '12 03:27:55 AM

If you want to use the word 'ineluctably' you might want to look it up and make sure you aren't hankering after the wrong kind of impossibility just because it sounds so fancy and distinctive somehow.