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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28 Dec '03 06:56:18 PM

For a long time now, too long, I've wanted to write directly and explicitly here about being depressed. But unease at feeling so exposed to the people around me always led me to keep quiet (mostly). Things have changed a lot since I got so bad that I went in for help last summer. Now I suspect most of the people I interact with from day to day know at least a bit about the state of my life. People I don't interact with, as well - before the winter break I received some empathetic mail from an old acquaintance who'd heard through the grapevine (i.e., chatty-cathy philosophy professors) what was up. All of which makes it easier for me to be open, now. But more importantly, I have exchanged unease at feeling exposed for irritation with ignorance. And the best way to fix that is to start writing.

26 Dec '03 04:23:27 AM


Year five.

20 Dec '03 07:24:05 AM

Bits of Anarchism Is Not Enough by Laura Riding.

20 Dec '03 06:50:22 AM

'Anybody's welcome to it.
Take: a raft of stuff.'

11 Dec '03 10:30:03 AM

'Although a university education was at this time no longer unusual for a woman, Beauvoir was intent on a specialization in the almost entirely masculine domain of philosophy. She achieved this goal, despite parental opposition, and became only the ninth woman in France to receive the agr├ęgation in philosophy. Beauvoir did exceptionally well in her examinations, finishing second only to Sartre, who was three years older than she and re-taking the exam after his failure the previous year. (Beauvoir was also the youngest person to date to pass the exam.) The examiners had a long debate over which of the two should recieve first place: "If Sartre showed great intelligence and a solid, if at times inexact, culture, everybody agreed that, of the two, she was the real philosopher."

Despite her obvious ability and the close run with Sartre, Beauvoir concluded that she did not have a philosophical mind on a par with his and decided to pursue literature instead. In this regard, much has been made of an apparently decisive discussion she had with Sartre during their preparation for the agr├ęgation exam, a discussion in which she felt he "took apart" her ideas. The experience was not an isolated one: "Day after day, and all day long I set myself up against Sartre, and in our discussions I was simply not in his class."

We need, however, to remember that the "class" Beauvoir had in mind was that of the highest level of creative philosopher. She had, she acknowledged, a remarkable ability to understand philosophical ideas and "penetrated to the heart of a text" more readily than Sartre. But this very facility, she said, was due to her "lack of originality", which made her better able to assimilate others' ideas. As a philosopher, she thought she could have been an excellent expositor and critic but not "a genuinely creative talent". What she means is clear from her response in an interview with Margaret Simons, who expresses doubts about Beauvoir's claim that "she is not a philosopher": "For me, a philosopher is someone like Spinoza, Hegel, etc., or like Sartre: someone who builds a great system, and not someone who loves philosophy, who can teach it, who can understand it, and who can use it in essays, etc., but is someone who truly constructs a philosophy. And that, I did not do." She adds that there are, in her sense, perhaps only two philosophers in a century and says that "Sartre, in my opinion, will be one of them". Given this, her turn away from philosophy was a sign less of self-deprecation than of high ambition: "I possessed far too much intellectual ambition to let this satisfy me." She wanted to "communicate the element of originality" in her own experience and "in order to do this successfully I knew it was literature towards which I must orient myself".'

5 Dec '03 08:24:46 AM

'It furthers one to have somewhere to go.'

5 Dec '03 05:45:14 AM

HAMM: The whole thing is comical, I grant you that. What about having a good guffaw the two of us together?

CLOV (after reflection): I couldn't guffaw again today.

HAMM (after reflection): Nor I.

5 Dec '03 05:27:41 AM

How are value and judgement related?

I can think of several sorts of situations that are said to involve judgement. Essentially, they all involve a person choosing between two or more alternatives, or deciding whether something is appropriate or correct or whether it otherwise meets some norm. The norm is usually implied in the choices between alternatives, too. I suppose it's the involvement of the norm that urges us on to thinking about judgement in terms of statements like 'x is good' or 'x is right' or 'x is beautiful'. Then it's a small step to making sense of value in terms of those things about which statements like 'x is beautiful' are true.

But consider two different situations: one where a person is deciding between two shirts, and points to the yellow one and says 'that one', and another situation (if it could be called that - I have a hard time making up a context for it, in my head) where a person is judging whether 'this shirt is beautiful' is true. It does depend on what one thinks about words like 'beautiful' and 'true', but I think it's more in the latter situation that we feel inclined to understand 'value' in terms of the extension of words like 'beautiful'. And it's just because of that word, 'beautiful', and words like it. It sounds as if it ought to pick out a class of things: the beautiful things, the yellow things, the heavy things. Compare to the former situation, where we can't yet say whether the indexical phrase 'that one' picks out a class of anything. If the context were made more elaborate, we might have cause to say so. Or not. Especially when it's taken into account how often judgements like 'that one' might be made without even the pointing and talking, without an explicit formulation of judgement at all, it seems to me as if there are much more interesting ways to think about value.

[Choice; reasons at the time of choosing for making the choice; what is done with the thing after it's chosen? Why is this last such an important question?]

4 Dec '03 05:53:42 PM

'I was having a problem with liking her, so I came up with a plan to ask her out and have her turn me down.' It's like somehow Michael wrote a story about my life for me, except that I generally don't make it to the point of actually trying my plan. Or she says no. Which is still better than a half-date, I suppose.