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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19 Aug '12 09:57:36 PM

Thoreau often considers 'the reader' in some way when he writes about keeping his journal, but without specifying who the reader is—which often suggests his principle 'says I to myself' at work. But there are times when he takes up the topic of a journal as other, or as substitute for an other (Apr. 4, 1852):

'I have got to that pass with my friend that our words do not pass with each other for what they are worth. We speak in vain; there is none to hear. He finds fault with me that I walk alone, when I pine for want of a companion; that I commit my thoughts to a diary even on my walks, instead of seeking to share them generously with a friend; curses my practice even. Awful as it is to contemplate, I pray that, if I am the cold intellectual skeptic whom he rebukes, his curse may take effect, and wither and dry up those sources of my life, and my journal no longer yield me pleasure nor life.'

The conditional can be more surprising than it first seems. 'If', he is saying, my friend has accurately recognized me, seen me for someone to be justly rebuked: if so, then may 'those sources of my life'—Thoreau's solitary walks?—wither, and his journal, fairly considered his daily work, or part of it (cf. Walden's 'labor of the hands', vii, 4), no longer yield him pleasure, further thought, life. But all the latter are things Thoreau could hardly be imagined to give up, ever. They are non-negotiable. So Thoreau is expressing a kind of conviction that he is not well-recognized by his friend; that to the contrary, he knows himself. So he already takes himself to be more warm, more companionable, despite his tendency, as it appears even to his friend, to harbor some of his most valuable thoughts privately, ungenerously.

The figure of the journal as an other seems to come from Thoreau's friend; it appears as an other in comparison to the real other (himself) whom the friend imagines Thoreau confiding his thoughts in. Maybe it could be said that in contrast, Thoreau is not thinking of his journal as an other; nor as 'me'; but it is his.

19 Aug '12 08:52:15 PM

'… the solid and sunny earth, the basis of all philosophy, and poetry, and religion even.'

19 Aug '12 08:29:48 PM

Jan. 28, 1852:

'Perhaps I can never find so good a setting for my thoughts as I shall thus have taken them out of.'

19 Aug '12 08:26:58 PM

Jan. 27, 1852:

'I do not know but thoughts written down thus in a journal might be printed in the same form with greater advantage than if the related ones were brought together in separate essays. They are now allied to life, and are seen by the reader not to be far-fetched. It is more simple, less artful. I feel that in the other case I should have no proper frame for my sketches. Mere facts and names and dates communicate more than we suspect. Whether the flower looks better in the nosegay than in the meadow where it grew and we had to wet our feet to get it! Is the scholastic air any advantage?'

19 Aug '12 05:27:39 PM

One of the most basic principles: if you're keeping a journal, you can't know where it's going as you write it.

18 Aug '12 04:38:32 AM

'All his yearning… was for living, an unaffected person, in his home.'

18 Aug '12 04:29:17 AM

You hardly need to be Nietzsche to be struck by how Greek (still, in the fourth century) Athanasius' life of St. Antony is: the introduction addresses a community of monks who want to outdo another one in their askesis of virtue.

A bit further on: 'Even toward those of his own age he was not contentious, with the sole exception of his desire that he appear to be second to none of them in moral improvements'.

17 Aug '12 08:50:27 PM

(Nietzsche employs it in a noticeably concentrated way in the latter half of book III of The Gay Science, referring to other aspects of human beings by talking about their bodies, parts of their bodies, conditions or productions of their bodies, in around fifty different aphorisms: faces, tongues and mouths, voices, hands, stomachs, whole bodies, and illnesses of them. The bodily lexicon stands out especially in contrast to passages about self and others in earlier books, like chapters 6, 7, and 9 of Human, All Too Human I, where the remarks are formally just as concise and sequentially sustained, but not lexically selective in that way.)

17 Aug '12 08:54:32 AM

An aphorist's ploy: embody ideas in words about bodies.