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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30 Dec '03 03:13:27 AM

189. Is lying a particular experience? Well, can I tell someone "I am going to tell you a lie" and straightaway do it?

30 Dec '03 03:09:22 AM

328. In philosophy it is significant that such-and-such a sentence makes no sense; but also that it sounds funny.

30 Dec '03 03:06:13 AM

From the Zettel:

447. Disquiet in philosophy might be said to arise from looking at philosophy wrongly, seeing it wrong, namely as if it were divided into (infinite) longitudinal strips instead of into (finite) cross strips. This inversion in our conception produces the greatest difficulty. So we try as it were to grasp the unlimited strips and complain that it cannot be done piecemeal. To be sure it cannot, if by a piece one means an infinite longitudinal strip. But it may well be done, if one means a cross strip. --But in that case we never get to the end of our work! --Of course not, for it has no end.

(We want to replace wild conjectures and explanations by quiet weighing of linguistic facts.)

28 Dec '03 07:18:58 PM

Good as they are, those remain selfish reasons for writing. I also think a lot now about people in depression who need help, but don't know, or do but won't go, or won't talk about it with those around them. Without help, their lives will be overcome by apathy, disaffect, unremitting misery. Some, to the point of suicide.

The prospect of at least one of those people benefiting from something they read here lightens me, momentarily.

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".'