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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6 Jun '19 06:02:37 PM

Public opinion – a brief, gnostic history

4 Jun '19 02:56:11 AM

'A georgic poem will make farming yield meanings that a seed catalog would not insist upon.'

29 May '19 04:54:17 AM

'It doesn't show us a camera or eyes and expect us to act differently. It simply acts directly on us according to the prerogatives of the system.'

29 May '19 01:45:49 AM

Mulvey without all the psychoanalytic theory

28 May '19 08:33:50 PM

''Will', 'the Will', can be a confusing concept, especially in its grandiose uses, as by Kant, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein. It can be a term which, seeming to deal with or explain a large matter, halts reflection at a crucial point. It may be better, as I suggested earlier, to restrict the term will, as 'willing' or 'exercise of will', to cases where there is an immediate straining, for instance occasioned by a perceived duty or principle, against a large part of preformed consciousness. What moves us – our motives, our desires, our reasoning – emerges from a constantly changing complex; moral change is the change of that complex, for better or worse. Herein intellectual experiences, states of reflective viewing of the world, are continually moving in relation to more affective or instinctive levels of thought and feeling. Experience, awareness, consciousness, these words emphasise the existence of the thinking, planning, remembering, acting moral being as a mobile creature living in the present. Such, as it might seem here, obscure and complicated pictures are, we should remind ourselves, frequently and convincingly described by great novelists. St Augustine too, using a great many real-life examples, pictures will as a blend of intellect and feeling. (Plenty of experiential volume.) The problem of the freedom of the will must be thought of as lying inside such a picture. Freedom (in this sense) is freedom from bad habit and bad desire, and is brought about in all sorts of ways by impulses of love, rational reflection, new scenery, conscious and deliberate formation of new attachments and so on. There are good modes of attention and good objects of attention. 'Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.' (St Paul, Philippians 4. 8.) Any look at the contingency of our strange and interesting world, its oddity, its surprisingness, its jumble or its neatness can provide such objects and occasions. These 'things' which are just and good assist our attention when we try to make just and compassionate judgments of others or to judge and correct ourselves. Faced with difficult problems or terrible decisions we may feel the need, not so much of a sudden straining of unpractised will-power, but of a calm vision, a relaxed understanding, something that comes from a deep level. This darkness must be stirred and fed, as the deep mind of the artist is fed intuitively by his experience. There is a 'moral unconscious'. This is how morality leads naturally into mysticism and has a natural bond with religion. (By religion I mean a religious attitude and form of life, not a literalistic adherence to a particular dogma.) There can no doubt be a mysticism of the extreme ascetic. But there is also a natural way of mysticism, as indicated by St Paul, which involves a deepened and purified apprehension of our surroundings. The truth-seeking mind is magnetised by an independent transcendent multiform reality. Unselfish attention breaks the barrier of egoism. Living in the present: I really see the face of my friend, the playing dog, Piero's picture. These visual cases also have a metaphorical force. We instinctively dodge in and out of metaphor all the time, and in this sense too are fed or damaged spiritually by what we attend to. Simone Weil uses the image of becoming empty so as to be filled with the truth. She speaks of the mountain walker who sees many things besides the mountain top. Eckhart speaks of emptying the soul so that it may fill with God. A moral position much higher than our own may only be imagined as deprivation. The idea of negation (void) or surrender of selfish will is to be understood together with the idea of purified desire as purified cognition.'

28 May '19 05:38:25 PM

'… O to be self-balanced for contingencies…'

27 May '19 12:35:43 AM

'On Slanted, Pavement makes things happen where nothing happened before. Pavement takes you to oil wells and houseboats, deserts, and starscapes, a city spread out like peanut butter, no man's land, and the place where summer ends. The lyrics fill the air as well, enigmatic and fresh, stuff about making mistakes, catching angels, listening to the radio, and waiting for your dreams to come shuffling over the horizon, waiting in a sunlight that blisters the soul.'

26 May '19 06:10:43 PM

'Not only does the wind of chance events shake me about as it lists, but I also shake and disturb myself by the instability of my stance: anyone who turns his prime attention on himself will hardly ever find himself in the same state twice. I give my soul this face or that, depending upon which side I lay it down on. I speak about myself in diverse ways: that is because I look at myself in diverse ways. Every sort of contradiction can be found in me, depending upon some twist or attribute: timid, insolent; chaste, lecherous; talkative, taciturn; tough, sickly; clever, dull; brooding, affable; lying, truthful; learned, ignorant; generous, miserly and then prodigal – I can see something of all that in myself, depending on how I gyrate; and anyone who studies himself attentively finds in himself and in his very judgement this whirring about and this discordancy. There is nothing I can say about myself as a whole simply and completely, without intermingling and admixture. The most universal article of my own Logic is DISTINGUO.'

23 May '19 07:05:49 AM

'… It is necessary to work our way backwards and understand how one who is so thoroughly immersed in the time flow 'sees' the city and its social relationships: understand, that is, what kind of vision of the whole is implicit in the novel with a suspense plot.

I shall try to clarify this with two examples, one concerning the social dimension of the modern city, the other its spatial features. Lukàcs has written that Lost Illusions narrates a story set in a period of extremely rapid expansion of capitalist social relationships, which invest and subjugate even the field of 'spiritual production'. Second: when Lucien tries to sell the manuscript of his historical novel he is forced to turn to several publishers, and thus compelled to roam Paris's entire intellectual milieu and observe its urban and architectonic peculiarities, local slang, representative individuals, and so on. These two statements – one 'on' and one 'from' Lost Illusions – are, doubtless, true. But then it would seem that what has been said thus far needs revision. It would seem that the suspense plot – as depositary of the meaning of the text – is yielding to social history on the one hand, and to some new form of description and classification on the other. One is led to believe that the plot is simply an instrument, the necessary means to the emergence of much more substantial realities.

Yet this is not the case. In the Balzacian novel, social relationships and the urban landscape, far from disputing the primacy of the plot, have a right to citizenship only within the limits dictated by the plot itself. They are evoked only to reinforce the plot as plot: to intensify its complexity and unpredictability. Thus, the plot is not at their service, but they at the plot's. The syntagmatic axis not functional to the institution or the explication of paradigms (as in the case of myth): rather, the paradigms are the springboard for the story. It is not a 'story' at the service of a 'moral' capable of summarizing it, but thousands of 'morals' aimed at developing the taste for suspense, that is, for the temporal flow abstracted from the content of individual episodes in and for themselves.

If we now translate these observations into terms of urban psychology we perceive that the novel accustoms us to 'seeing' the city in a glance – not so much 'absent-minded' as intermittent. We see the city to the extent that it hinders a specific action, interposes between us and something else, and makes us 'waste time'. This situation culminates in some of Hitchcock's films, but it is experienced daily by anyone who lives in the city. It is precisely this interlocking of time and space that explains one of the city dweller's most bizarre perversions: his unswerving, arrogant and deliberate ignorance of the place he lives in. The urban dweller seems to make a point of honour of knowing as little as possible about his city, and is capable of walking a hundred times past a church by Borromini without ever going inside. How so? Because, the city dweller complains, I have no time. He lies; no one has ever had more free time. It is not that he has no time, but that city life does not allot time to contemplation. It allows time only for activity, of whatever kind. It allows for a time always dedicated to weaving relationships, obtaining things, and carrying out duties. It conceives of the flow of time and of the organization of life as the most gripping story possible, compared to which the city cannot stand out as an object worthy of attention in and for itself. It is only background: perceived perhaps clearly and violently, but always framed and defined by the exigencies of a temporal order.'