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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11 Aug '12 01:10:26 AM

'If any man consider the present aspects of what is called by distinction society, he will see the need of these ethics. The sinew and heart of man seem to be drawn out, and we are become timorous, desponding whimperers. We are afraid of truth, afraid of fortune, afraid of death, and afraid of each other. Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen them for us.'

10 Aug '12 07:26:04 PM

'In the report, doctors said that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has "a complex personality disorder displayed through her activist stance, and desire for self-realisation." They reported that Tolokonnikova was self-assured and has a tendency to voice her opinion emphatically.'

10 Aug '12 07:12:58 PM

'All that remains is the desire to be, to grow and to give, to share. I want prison ecstasies, epiphanies and revelations about freedom, the lack of freedom and which of these a person needs more for his or her development. I have a tremendous urge to think and feel: in the absence of external stimuli, one’s inner life develops at a furious pace.'

10 Aug '12 07:05:16 PM

'Мы свободней, чем все эти люди, которые сидят против нас в обвинении. Потому что мы можем говорить, что хотим. И мы говорим, что хотим.'


10 Aug '12 09:33:06 AM

A good word, from Emily Dickinson (#588), to include among the words related to 'life' circulating in the wake of the Romantic-era expressivist view of the self: 'deaden'.

'those little Anodynes / That deaden suffering'

10 Aug '12 04:58:32 AM

In his essay on 'Self Writing', Foucault treats correspondence as the counterpart to keeping a notebook for purposes of ethopoiesis. '[A]s Seneca points out, when one writes one reads what one writes, just as in saying something one hears oneself saying it. The letter one writes acts, through the very action of writing, upon the one who addresses it, just as it acts through reading and rereading on the one who receives it. In this dual function, correspondence is very close to the hupomnemata, and its form is often very similar.' He nearly leaves the principle behind the closeness unstated here: that a letter is addressed to one other.

It comes into play again when he notes that '[t]he letter one sends in order to help one's correspondent - advise him, exhort him, admonish him, console him - constitutes for the writer a kind of training...'. Imagine other forms (like a broadsheet, a book), or imagine a public audience. It seems true that in ways they too could be advised, exhorted, admonished, consoled. But now imagine the same form, the letter, but with a different relationship between the one who addresses it and the one addressed - at least, different from the one you probably presume. Imagine getting a letter from a stranger: 'Eat your vegetables!' 'Get some exercise!' 'Form proper conceptions of what depends upon you and what does not so that your false judgments of things no longer disturb you!'.

9 Aug '12 09:10:15 AM

(A passerby tries his hand at exhortation: 'Eat your vegetables!'. Or 'Get some exercise!'. What are the responses? 'Thanks!' 'Mind your own business!' 'Fuck you, buddy!')

9 Aug '12 09:05:36 AM

You can exhort someone else, or perhaps any number of people, and you can exhort yourself in various degrees of privacy (in your room, in front of the mirror; backstage or in the locker room; off to the side, speaking quietly but insistently to yourself, if at the risk of minor embarrassment), but there seems to be something about doing it in writing: exhorting yourself in words on the page, written only for you, not even spoken aloud.

Imagine a Marcus Aurelius remark projected onto a building, in public, a la Jenny Holzer but with the uncanny thrill replaced by cosmic glumness.

(Who has the power, or rather the authority, to exhort others? To exhort you?)

9 Aug '12 08:57:29 AM

(My question over the last couple days has been: if, like I suppose, a philosophical journal can but needn't particularly relate the journal keeper's day to day experiences, so long as the thoughts he records somehow grow out of the matrix of those experiences, then why do Foucault and Hadot seem so insistent upon associating journals or diaries with the recording of those experiences, and the use of writing they have in mind—which seems an awful lot like the keeping of a philosophical journal—with anything but? And another question: why, nevertheless, does it seem kind of right to say that Marcus' Meditations just aren't personal enough to really count as a 'journal'? Can his text be thought of as fundamentally expressive, or not?)