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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24 Jul '13 06:18:08 AM

'There's fifty books about Clifford the Big Red Dog… They all tell the exact same story: Look how big this dog is.'

24 Jul '13 02:50:48 AM

'… the sky is so big…'

23 Jul '13 01:48:13 AM

'As television historians know, the first 10 years of Mr. Carson's run were erased by an NBC engineer.'

18 Jul '13 05:02:21 AM

For some, interpretation is, at best, something we're stuck doing—when something doesn't make sense, say because it's too complex or subtle or ambigious, or when there are competing perspectives on it which have yet to be sorted out in favor of the perspective. Interpretation is to be avoided whenever more decisive approaches are available.

I don't know if those people know what joy I can take in the least steps toward an interpretation. Take an offhand remark on Popeye and Wimpy made in a discussion of cartoons as movies, meant to question the extent to which animated human figures do justice to the fact of human embodiment:

'Does Popeye have a soul? Well, does he have a human body? A sailor is nicely suited for exaggerated forearms; and for the rest, Popeye's body survives, or ignores, everything that brute human strength can deliberately inflict upon it—if, that is, it at some point receives its magic infusion of canned fuel. His body is not so much fed as stoked, and with a substance for herbivores, anyway for creatures of non-violence, for mythical children. (His timid acquaintance is also associated with a childish food, ground meat, no real amount of which satisfies his need. Which other figures are indecorous enough to be shown eating?) Steam up, his body acts on its own, unaligned with, and not affecting, other avenues of expression: his face remains, through violence, preternaturally fixed; his voice goes on with its continuous static of undecipherable commentary; at last his pipe releases a whistle or two of satisfaction.'

One reason from way back that I wanted to do philosophy was that I had read any number of passages in which that happens—that kind of thinking, that kind of putting something to words, making it possible to see it anew, or perhaps to think much of anything about it at all—and I was convinced that it was a discipline in which that kind of thinking had a home.

I fear that when a lot of other philosophers hear that, they hear: 'just saying stuff'. They can't hear interpretation.

14 Jul '13 11:45:04 PM

Part I of Truth and Method could be subtitled, 'The Rehabilitation of Criteria'.

14 Jul '13 09:47:30 AM

'… abandoning the fragile hope that works of art might lead to new ways of life'

14 Jul '13 08:38:04 AM

'The main title, The Claim of Reason, refers at once to (1) the claim that reason makes for its own sovereignty; (2) the typical claim—the sort of claim—that one makes to know something (whether about the external world, our own minds, or other minds) or in judging actions or intentions; (3) our moral claims on one another; and (4) the kind of claim that reason stakes out in the realm of philosophy which is itself initiated as an enterprise.'

14 Jul '13 08:34:38 AM

'… that which presents itself to the spectator as the play of art does not simply exhaust itself in momentary transport, but has a claim to permanence and the permanence of a claim.

The word "claim" does not occur here by chance. In the theological reflection that began with Kierkegaard and which we call "dialectical theology," it is no accident that this concept has made possible a theological explanation of what Kierkegaard meant by contemporaneity. A claim is something lasting. Its justification (or pretended justification) is the primary thing. Because a claim lasts, it can be enforced at any time. A claim exists against someone and must therefore be enforced against him; but the concept of a claim also implies that it is not itself a fixed demand, the fulfillment of which is agreed on by both sides, but is rather the ground for such. A claim is the legal basis for an unspecified demand. If it is to be answered in such a way as to be settled, then to be enforced it must first take the form of a demand. It belongs to the permanence of a claim that it is concretized in a demand.

The application to Lutheran theology is that the claim of faith began with the proclamation of the gospel and is continually reinforced in preaching. The words of the sermon perform this total mediation, which otherwise is the work of the religious rite—of the mass, for example. We shall see that in other ways too the word is called in to mediate between past and present, and that it therefore comes to play a leading role in the problem of hermeneutics.'

13 Jul '13 12:34:28 PM

'… the wretched task / Of telling things I ought rather to ask'