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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20 May '16 06:40:50 PM

Belief by proxy.

12 May '16 02:26:30 AM

I like when products say things like 'SAME AMOUNT OF CHEESE' on their packaging, it's reassuring.

9 May '16 10:26:36 PM

From referees to peer review

7 May '16 02:02:50 AM


6 May '16 05:01:32 AM

My rabbit priors have changed.

3 May '16 03:22:05 PM

'It was a thing you could do where nothing mattered.'

2 May '16 06:39:00 AM

(In Either/Or, A is suspicious of metaphors but he uses one 'to call the reader's attention' to something because, he says, it's 'the only means I have for putting myself in touch with him', p. 130.)

30 Apr '16 05:31:00 AM

The right to be believed in what one says, i.e., authority.

29 Apr '16 07:48:55 PM

Notes toward a reading of Either/Or:

Eremita, the editor of the papers of A and B, remarks right away on the relation between inward and outward (a 'point of philosophy' on which he is of a 'somewhat heretical temper') and reports on his own findings from 'observations and investigations' concerning it:

'Little by little, hearing became my favourite sense; for just as it is the voice that reveals the inwardness which is incommensurable with the outer, so the ear is the instrument whereby that inwardness is grasped, hearing the sense by which it is appropriated. Whenever I found a contradiction between what I saw and what I heard, I found my doubt corroborated, and my passion for observation increased. A father-confessor is separated from the penitent by a grille; he does not see, he only hears. Gradually, as he listens, he forms a corresponding exterior. Consequently, he avoids contradiction. It is otherwise, however, when you see and hear at the same time, and yet perceive a grille between yourself and the speaker. As far as results go, my observational efforts in this direction have met with very varied success. Sometimes I have had fortune with me, sometimes not, and any returns along this road always depend on good fortune. However, I have never lost the desire to continue my investigations. Whenever I have been on the point of ruing my perseverance, my efforts have been crowned by an unexpected stroke of luck. It was an unexpected stroke of good luck of this kind that, in a most curious way, put me in possession of the papers I hereby have the honour of presenting to the reading public. These papers have given me the opportunity to gain an insight into the lives of two men which corroborated my suspicion that the outward was not, after all, the inward. This applies particularly to one of them. His exterior has been in complete contradiction to his interior. To some extent it is also true of the other inasmuch as he concealed a rather significant interior beneath a somewhat ordinary exterior.' (Preface, pp. 27–28 in the Hannay translation)

Just after, he illustrates with the story of finding the papers in an escritoire, which is evidently a parable. So he affirms twice over, in the abstract and internally to his narrative form, a principle of, let's say, partitioning. It applies to the form as well, the writing which collects and presents the found papers: given the words on the page, assigned to 'speakers' we do not see but only 'hear', we are in the position of being screened off from those speakers. A 'grille' separates us from them. The sentence in which Eremita remarks that 'it is otherwise, however, when you see and hear at the same time, and yet perceive a grille between yourself and the speaker', follows oddly on the preceding one in which it seems it must follow that the father-confessor should perceive the grille just as well, and thus not only hear but see. But it accounts for the fact of the writing, that in it its editor, or author, can undertake a speaking which must first be seen to be heard, which itself screens him from his reader. The writing is the grille.

Later, in A's essay on 'the musical erotic' (essentially an essay in genre- and medium-criticism focused on the exemplary status of Mozart's Don Giovanni with respect to a principle much in line with Eremita's concerning the voice: that in that opera is best expressed some idea of passion, of something like the sensual in human life as such, thus something for which music is most apt though related significantly to language), he comes eventually to affirming and identifying with a partitioning principle of his own:

'Well-attested experience tells us that it is not pleasant to strain two senses at once, and it is often distracting to have to make much use of the eyes when the ears are already occupied. We have a tendency, therefore, to close our eyes when listening to music. This is true of all music to some extent, of Don Giovanni in a higher sense. As soon as the eyes are engaged the impression gets confused, for the dramatic unity afforded to the eye is entirely subordinate and defective compared with the musical unity which is heard simultaneously. My own experience has convinced me of this. I have sat close up, I have sat further and further away, I have resorted to an out-of-the-way corner of the theatre where I could hide myself totally in this music. The better I understood it or believed I understood it, the further I moved away from it, not from coolness but from love, for it wants to be understood at a distance. For my own life there has been something strangely puzzling about this. There have been times when I would have given anything for a ticket; now I needn't even spend a penny for one. I stand outside in the corridor; I lean up against the partition separating me from the auditorium and then the impression is more powerful; it is a world by itself, apart from me, I can see nothing, but am near enough to hear and yet so infinitely far away.' (I.2, 'The Immediate Erotic Stages', p. 122)

He believes in the principle, and is himself learning up against a partition. (Which puts the reader in the auditorium, I suppose.)

Later, obviously, the reading of the music itself relies on related ideas of the coordination of voices (in harmonizing, in resonance, in discord, etc.), but there is also the significant differentiation of dramatic action from 'immediate action', that appropriate to the sustaining or developing of mood, in terms of the way the figures interact and relate. For instance:

'Here we see what I mean when I say that Don Giovanni resonates in Elvira, that it is no mere phrase-making on my part. The spectator is not meant to see Don Giovanni, is not meant to see him together with Elvira, in the unity of the situation; he is meant to hear him inside Elvira, coming out of Elvira, for although it is Don Giovanni singing, the way he sings is such that the more developed the spectator's ear the more it sounds as though it was coming from Elvira herself. As love fashions its object, so too does indignation. She is obsessed with Don Giovanni. That pause and Don Giovanni's voice make the situation dramatic, but what makes it musical is the unity in Elvira's passion, in which Don Giovanni resonates while it is nevertheless through him that her passion is posited. Musically conceived, the situation is matchless. But if Don Giovanni is a character and Elvira equally so, then it is a failure and a mistake to let Elvira unburden herself in the foreground while Don Giovanni jeers in the background, for that requires me to hear them together yet without my being given the means to do so, quite apart from their both being characters who could not possibly harmonize in that way. If they are characters, then it is in the encounter which forms the situation.' (p. 124)

If 'characters' encounter one another, have encounters, in situations, then we must say that we and those who speak in the book do not, cannot; they are not characters, cannot be.

B, Vilhelm, is a 'judge'. And in A we find it remarked in passing, of the Commendatore, the exceptional figure in the opera who appears as 'spirit', as a ghost, the only obstacle Don Giovanni cannot overcome: 'The second time it is as spirit that he appears, and the thundering of heaven resounds in his earnest, solemn voice, but as he himself is transfigured, so his voice is transformed into something more than human; he speaks no more, he judges.' (p. 126)