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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13 Oct '04 07:20:47 AM

'Out of the consciousness of their truth they both are suspicious of truth in its more naive form of scientific knowledge. Not that they doubt the methodical correctness of scientific insight. But Kierkegaard is astonished at the learned professors: for the most part they live their lives and die, imagining that things would continue this way; and that, if it were granted to them to go on living, they would comprehend more and more in a continued direct ascent. They do not experience the maturity by virtue of which there comes a critical turning point, where, from this point on, it is a matter of comprehending, increasingly, that there is something missing that cannot be comprehended. Kierkegaard believes this is the most terrible way to live: to enchant the whole world through one's discoveries and cleverness, to explain all of nature, yet not to understand oneself. Nietzsche is inexhaustible in his devastating analysis of the types of scholars who lack the real sense of what they do, who are not able to be themselves, and yet believe they can grasp, with their ultimately vain knowledge, Being itself.

Because they both question the ability of all self-enclosed rationalities to communicate truth as a whole, they become radical opponents of the "system," i.e., that form which philosophy had assumed through the millennia and which led to its last burst of glory in German idealism. For them, "system" implies distraction from actuality, and hence lie and deception. Kierkegaard understands that for God existence can be a system, but not for an existing spirit; system and closedness correspond to each other, but existence is exactly their opposite. The philosopher who builds a system is like a human being who builds a palace but lives in the adjoining shanty: this phantastical creature does not himself inhabit that which he has thought up. Yet a man's thoughts must be the edifice in which he lives; anything else would be perverse. The fundamental question of philosophy, i.e., what it is itself and what is science, is posed anew and relentlessly. Nietzsche wants to be better at doubting than Descartes; in Hegel's foundering attempt to fit reason into the developmental process, he sees a Gothic attempt at storming the heavens. For him the will to create a system shows a lack of integrity.

Both express in the same way what they understand knowledge really to be. For them it is nothing other than interpretation.

Interpretation, however, has no end. Existence, for Nietzsche, is capable of an infinity of interpretations. For Kierkegaard, whatever has happened or was done in the past is always open to fresh understanding: as it is interpreted, it becomes a new actuality that has been hidden until then. Therefore temporal life can never be quite comprehensible to man; no man can penetrate absolutely his own consciousness.

Both use the simile of interpretation for knowledge of Being, moreover in such a manner as if Being were deciphered in the interpretation of interpretation. Nietzsche wants to strip the original text, homo natura, of succeeding layers of writing and to read it in its actuality. Kierkegaard assigned no significance to his writings other than that they are to be renderings of the original texts of individual human conditions of existence.

Connected with this fundamental thought is the fact that both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche - these most open and candid of thinkers - show a seductive penchant for concealment and the mask. For them, the mask is necessarily tied to being true. Indirect communication becomes the only way of communicating genuine truth; and indirect communication, as expression, belongs to the indecisive nature of truth in temporal existence, in which it must still be grasped in the process of becoming out of the wellsprings of each Existenz.

In their thinking, both encounter that ground which, in man, would be Being itself: Kierkegaard counters the philosophy that has asserted, from Parmenides through Descartes to Hegel, that "Thinking is Being," with the proposition: "As you believe, so you are," "Believing is Being." Nietzsche sees the Will to Power. But faith as well as Will to Power are mere signa, themselves not showing directly what is meant but themselves capable of limitless interpretation.

For both, honesty is the decisive motivating factor. For both of them it is the expression of the ultimate virtue to which they submit. It remains for them the minimum measure of the unconditional that is still possible within the confusion where all content becomes questionable. But it also becomes the vertiginous demand of a truthfulness that brings even itself into question, which is the opposite of that expedient brute power that believes it possesses the truth clearly in barbaric certitude.

It is a valid question whether anything at all is being said in thinking such as this. Indeed, both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are conscious of the fact that the comprehension of their thinking is not open to man merely as thinker. Rather, it is a matter of who it is that understands.

They address the individual who must bring with him and must bring forth out of himself what they can say only indirectly. Kierkegaard believes in Lichtenberg's epigram which he cites: Such works are mirrors; if a monkey peeks in, no apostle can peek out. Nietzsche considers understanding him a distinction that has to be earned. He states that it is impossible to teach the truth where the manner of thinking is base. Each seeks the readership appropriate to him.'

13 Oct '04 06:03:57 AM


13 Oct '04 05:39:14 AM

'From this it is evident that, although two attributes are conceived as really distinct - that is, one without the help of the other - we cannot infer from this that they constitute two entities, or, two different substances. For it is of the nature of substance that each of its attributes is conceived through itself, since all the attributes that it has were always in it at the same time and one could not be produced by another, but each one expresses the reality, or, the being of the substance. It is therefore far from absurd to ascribe several attributes to one substance. On the contrary, nothing in Nature is more clear than that each entity must be conceived under some attribute, and that the more reality or being it has, the more attributes it has which express both necessity (or, eternity) and infinity. Consequently, nothing is clearer than that an absolutely infinite being is necessarily to be defined (as we stated in Def. 6) as an entity which consists of infinite attributes, each of which expresses a certain eternal and infinite essence. But if anyone now asks by what sign we can recognize the diversity of substances, let him read the following propositions, which show that in the universe there exists only a unique substance, and that this is absolutely infinite. So the sign in question would be sought in vain.'

13 Oct '04 05:24:34 AM

Dear every single first person ever to type in song titles and submit them to my interweb CD database,

Is it really that fucking hard to type exactly what it says on the CD?



12 Oct '04 07:47:31 PM

I'm so confused. Somewhere after 'Just Blaze, Bleek & Free', M.A.D.E. very much stops sounding like a Roc-a-Fella album. I miss New York!

12 Oct '04 07:45:23 PM

They have a chef?!?

12 Oct '04 01:13:13 AM

A note on Derrida upon the occasion of his passing, by someone actually eminently qualified to write such a note, Alex Thomson.

10 Oct '04 05:34:10 AM

This Stylus review is a nice piece of thematic criticism; I slightly enviously wondered how they came up with the connection to Francis Bacon before realizing the obvious (that it shows up in the onesheet or some such). This of course does nothing to invalidate the work done in the review.

10 Oct '04 05:27:01 AM

This review of this year's four-hour Panasonic album Kesto focuses on the group's industrial predecessors to the exclusion of the high-art minimalist ones (slightly odd by itself since their earlier records, whatever noises occurred on them, cried out 'minimalism', but odder since two of the tracks are dedicated to Alvin Lucier and Charlemange Palestine) and so its capping point, that Panasonic have somehow made the industrial album to end all industrial music, goes slightly awry.

I doubt one need even to restrict the glance backward to the high-art minimalists, given the number of one-or-two-track drone albums that have passed through my stacks of CDs in the past ten years, without my even really trying.

Now, the thing, though, will be to actually hear the damn thing. I hope to do it all at once at first. But I'm not feeling up to it yet. Maybe next week.