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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2 Sep '14 02:12:29 PM

—And so the emotions have to do with what? In Wittgenstein's case, say: what sorts of feelings are caught up with your language, your relation to it? With its not just being yours, but still: being yours?

1 Sep '14 06:20:04 AM

It would be wrong to suppose that what stops you would always, at bottom, be you—at least, you alone, unrelated to others. Even with their 'I's, books pertain not just to you, or you and the author, but to others. A book is, as it were, an instrument for relating differently to others. For relating readers to others. And really, what doesn't stop us from relating differently to others? Us, them, the books, our reading. Whichever, failure is the rule. Still, a book promises that: connection, new relation—offers a chance. A complex opportunity which awaits realization.

30 Aug '14 05:39:54 PM

What takes work is realizing what you've read. Or seeing why you haven't; won't. What stops you.

28 Aug '14 01:56:18 PM

As if about that work, emotional work, PI §26, slightly modified, would say: 'One can call this a preparation for the uses of words. But what is it a preparation for?' Reading as readying yourself.

27 Aug '14 01:58:28 PM

I know few generosities greater than the ones practiced in reading.

26 Aug '14 03:07:03 PM

I've asked myself often in the past several months, why reading, why books. Why that constant in my life? Still hurt, the past winter, by a sense of being rejected by my discipline, by my profession, I felt newly aware of a level of emotional work I had invested in what I did, everything I did, had done, for years. But most of all in my reading. And I felt newly indignant, suddenly, about not having that work recognized, neither counted as work nor counted as the kind of work it was, a peculiar kind, sure, mainly centered on me, but not confined to me, a sort of deep investment of myself in something not myself, with obscure but real profit for others the potential but unrealized result, especially those others with whom I could share the books in which I had become more deeply involved. I don't know how to say how that work was work with, or on, my emotions; why it should be that it be due that kind of recognition, that kind of understanding. I know it from the inside, as a reader. As someone whose life has been spent with books—with my nose in a book. I was that kind of kid, the kind for whom 'avid' or 'voracious' sound like trite labels for what was really more a constant, natural affinity for, fluency with, the printed word, not so much a hunger for it as a decided wish to be there rather than here. 'In' a book. Since, when I was younger, I could read fiendishly fast, I tended to prefer whatever would last, or whatever I could readily read more of: mysteries, fantasy, science fiction—genre fiction, especially if it came in the form of a convenient series of 5 or 10 or 100 books. And my reading would often run into the demand from others that I not read. My parents owned a tract of under-developed land, a field, hills, woods, located out in rural Iowa, far enough away to mean a tedious drive whenever we would visit it, which would often be on summer weekends, bright and early, under what I felt to be a kind of conscription to brush-clearing, wood-carrying, hill-trudging duty, to be escaped through constant efforts to return to the truck—and the book waiting in it—to read. So of course, as I grew up and learned what people say about books, about their value, I wondered if I read mainly to escape, if that was the attraction of books for me. Who wouldn't want to escape study hall? Or the schoolbus? But with experience and perspective I could see, and start to talk about, how in reading I was doing something, something else besides hiding, shirking, withdrawing: something like building something up for myself, or making, or growing. Reading's privacy acquired a positive valence. Most recently for me, that particular potential in reading was highlighted by reading Schopenhauer. I had read some, in English, enough to get a picture of what was going on. But I was also teaching myself to read German so that I could work on Wittgenstein while writing my dissertation. And as my power to read improved, and my frequent weariness with reading more Wittgenstein (the defeats, the perplexities, the feeling of not knowing where you stand, at all) demanded some kind of recompense or restoration, I took to reading Schopenhauer in German as well. Very little at first: often just the first few sections of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, day after day, along with breakfast, before making slash allowing myself to get back to work on Wittgenstein: 'Es wird ihm dann deutlich und gewiß, daß er keine Sonne kennt und keine Erde; sonder immer nur ein Auge, das eine Sonne sieht, eine Hand, die eine Erde fühlt; daß die Welt, welche ihn umgibt, nur als Vorstellung daist, d.h. durchweg nur in Beziehung auf ein Anderes, das Vorstellende, welches er selbst ist'. I read this with difficulty, and little fluency, used as I was mainly to Wittgenstein's relatively direct German, but helped by philosophy's love for a familiarly small circle of words, concepts, and with enough Heidegger to be enchanted by the morphology of words like 'umgibt' and the newly strange cast given even pronouns. This was enough for me to stay interested—I think because I felt it gave me a way into better understanding the grand traditions of epistemological and metaphysical speculation that had always felt somewhat remote to me, inaccessible. So I kept reading, now and then. But a few years later, when I found myself unemployed, searching futilely for another teaching job, living as an adult with my parents, and worst of all, grasping at ways to redeem myself, make myself more competent, more expert, more marketable, more of a philosopher, I took to reading Schopenhauer more seriously. Evidently as a source of emotional support, stability: every day I would wake up, prepare to leave the house, and visit a coffeeshop, to sit and read Schopenhauer, sometimes for a few hours at least, before turning to some less cosmically irrelevant or possibly more materially remunerative work, like writing job application letters, or writing a book proposal, or poking away at 'papers'. Pessimism a consolation, ha, I know. I don't know any better there, than in any other case, how I should say that work constituted partly emotional work for me. Rather, I don't know how to relate the many small ways in which I know it to have been, like any other serious act of reading, also emotional work; I don't know how to sum those things up and make them seem relevant to the investments of feeling others will recognize and accord the importance and response due to 'the emotions'. But I know—say—that's what it was for me: emotional work.

25 Aug '14 03:12:49 PM

So much of my life hangs on fantasies, dreams, about what 'we' could mean; hopes for what books could be.

11 May '14 05:44:47 PM

'… if there was no opacity (i.e. no noise) there's be no (sense of a need for) conversation – and yet conversation is humanly necessary for more reasons than merely exchanging and clarifying plain information.'

10 May '14 04:51:38 AM

'It is a being, but not a life, to be tied and bound by necessity to one only course.'