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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14 Mar '19 03:30:46 AM

'Was Heißt Denken?', in a new translation by Will Britt.

13 Mar '19 06:24:58 AM

'But this choice between "must" and "ought" is not merely occasional in the moral life; it is essential to it. "Ought," unlike "must," implies that there is alternative course you may take, may take responsibility for; but reasons are brought to urge you not to. (Cf. "Must We Mean What We Say?", pp. 28–31). However, unlike the case of games, what is and is not an alternative open to you is not fixed. Actions are not moves, and courses of action are not plays. What you say you must (have to, are compelled to…) do, another will feel you ought to do, generally speaking, other things equal, etc., but that here you ought (would do better) not to. (That is a much more usual moral conflict than the academic case of "You ought to do X", "You ought not to do X".) What you say you must do is not "defined by the practice", for there is no such practice until you make it one, make it yours. We might say, such a declaration defines you, establishes your position. One problem of the freedom of the will lies in what you regard as a choice, what you see as alternatives you can take, and become responsible for, make a part of your position. This is a deeply practical problem, and it has an inexorable logic: whether what you say you "cannot" do you in fact will not do because of fear, or whether out of a consistent conviction that it is not for you, in either case that is then your will. If the alternative is blocked through fear, then your will is fearful; if from single-mindedness, then it is whole. It is about such choices that existentialists say, You choose your life. This is the way an action Categorically Imperative feels. And though there is not The Categorical Imperative, there are actions which are for us categorically imperative, so far as we have a will. And though Respect for The Law may not sustain moral relationship, respect for positions not our own, will. And if the only thing good in itself is a good will, then the only thing evil or corrupt in itself is an evil or corrupt will. (That all actions which are, in this sense, categorically imperative, are self-imposed, our choice, indicates that the mere fact of self-imposition is not enough to achieve what Kant, or Freud, would mean by autonomous action. Compare Thoreau at the eighth paragraph of Walden: "It is hard to have a Southern overseer; it is worse to have a Northern one; but worst of all when you are the slave-driver of yourself." Cf. The Senses of Walden, p. 78.)…'

11 Mar '19 08:16:38 PM

Reading along in Epictetus, I happened upon a passage (they are common) in which (in Robin Hard's translation) he is exhorting a 'poor wretch' to whom he gives the diagnosis that he has 'neglected and ruined' that part of himself 'by which we desire things, or seek to avoid them, or exercise our motives to act or not to act'. I suspected that I'd find a form of meletai in the original, and sure enough:

ἀλλὰ πολύχρυσος εἶ καὶ πολύχαλκος: τί οὖν σοι κακόν ἐστιν; ἐκεῖνο, ὅ τι ποτὲ ἠμέληταί σου καὶ κατέφθαρται, ᾧ ὀρεγόμεθα, ᾧ ἐκκλίνομεν, ᾧ ὁρμῶμεν καὶ ἀφορμῶμεν. πῶς ἠμέληται; ἀγνοεῖ τὴν οὐσίαν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ πρὸς ἣν πέφυκε καὶ τὴν τοῦ κακοῦ καὶ τί ἴδιον ἔχει καὶ τί ἀλλότριον. (3.22.31–32)

For many years before I got around to reading all of Foucault's Hermeneutics of the Subject lectures, I had been caught on the early days in which it seemed to me that all he was doing was emphasizing a distinction without ever illuminating its content—the one between knowing oneself and taking care of oneself:

'Whatever meaning was actually given and attached to the Delphic precept "know yourself" in the cult of Apollo, it seems to me to be a fact that when this Delphic precept, this gnōthi seauton, appears in philosophy, in philosophical thought, it is, as we know, around the character of Socrates. Xenophon attests to this in the Memorabilia, as does Plato in a number of texts to which we will have to return. Now not always, but often, and in a highly significant way, when this Delphic precept (this gnōthi seauton) appears, it is coupled or twinned with the principle of "take care of yourself" (epimeleia heautou). I say "coupled," twinned." In actual fact, it is not entirely a matter of coupling. In some texts, to which we will have to return, there is, rather, a kind of subordination of the expression of the rule "know yourself" to the precept of care of the self. The gnōthi seauton ("know yourself") appears, quite clearly and again in a number of significant texts, within the more general framework of the epimeleia heautou (care of oneself) as one of the forms, one of the consequences, as a sort of concrete, precise, and particular application of a general rule: You must attend to yourself, you must not forget yourself, you must take care of yourself. The rule "know yourself" appears and is formulated within and at the foremost of this care. Anyway, we should not forget that in Plato's too well-known but still fundamental text, the Apology, Socrates appears as the person whose essential, fundamental, and original function, job, and position is to encourage others to attend to themselves, take care of themselves, and not neglect themselves.…'

I didn't realize at the time that his listeners were just being given a (preliminary) hint, an instrument, with which to be able to notice more; something that would cast philosophy and philosophical texts in a different light. And as with Hadot's reconstruction of 'philosophy as a way of life' (which relies pretty crucially on a model of self-relation that he finds in the Stoics), I didn't realize just how much it would be indebted to a fairly overt and regular feature of Epictetus's discourses, there to be read off the surface, as it were.

10 Mar '19 12:06:40 AM

'I hear those greatest of punk rock virtues: negation and refusal.'

10 Mar '19 12:03:48 AM

The Necessity of Being Judgmental: On "k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher"

7 Mar '19 12:52:31 AM

'… you never thought that hip-hop would take it this far…'

2 Mar '19 05:12:30 PM

'All the way through Psycho, uncertainty is Hitchcock's little game. This may seem odd, for his usual watchword was, 'Clarify! Clarify!'. This very watchword may ring oddly, when you consider that his stock-in-trade was mystery (plus MacGuffinry). But a mystery works on controlled implication: you have to clarify what it is that you're being mysterious about, and what sort of thing might count as clues, hints, suggestions, suspicions (or red herrings). Here, Marion's impenetrably innocent behavior keeps the audience uncertain. More important still: when, eventually, we discover her decision, we realise that seeing everything, we knew nothing; that unspoken thoughts are always brewing… like those 'mental shapes' working away within the cityscape… The hotel scene uses ambiguity of the alternating type (Sam blowing hot and cold). The office scene uses ambiguity of the parallel type (spoken versus unspoken).

Howard Hawks noted another factor: Discussing the script of Rio Bravo (1959), he said, 'Television has come in and… [has] used so many thousands of plots that people are getting tired of them. They're a little too inclined – if you lay a plot down – to say, "Oh, I've seen this before." But if you can keep them from knowing what the plot is, you have a chance of holding their interest. And it leads to characters… [i.e. meaning: more detailed characters]'. The Marion story is very low on plot, very high on detail. Indeed, 1959 was to be the year of the vanishing plotline: in Psycho, L'avventura, La dolce vita.

In both Psycho and L'avventura, a woman disappears, a third of the way through, and then a couple look for her, in vain.'

1 Mar '19 12:15:17 AM

A human (but human, all too human?) measure: 'some days are worse than others'.

(The quotidian pessimist's variant: 'some days are better than others'.)

25 Feb '19 07:46:12 AM

'Statt »Ich habe ihn gemeint« kann man freilich manchmal sagen »Ich habe an ihn gedacht«; manchmal auch »Ja, wir haben von ihm geredet«. Also frag dich, worin es besteht, ›von ihm reden‹!'