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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7 Jun '15 04:45:57 PM

'Montaigne shaped his response to the world-theater by drawing on the humanist tradition. If it is true that "most of our occupations are low comedy," should we laugh or cry? To the sorrowful compassion of Heraclitus Montaigne preferred its fabled opposite, the laughter of Democritus. This compassion heightens the contrast between the two positions and renders compromise less likely. Once again, we have every reason to believe that Montaigne wholeheartedly subscribed to the lesson that he draws from the traditional cultural stereotype:

(A) Democritus and Heraclitus were two philosophers, of whom the first, finding the condition of man vain and ridiculous, never went out in public but with a mocking and laughing face; whereas Heraclitus, having pity and compassion on this same condition of ours, wore a face perpetually sad, and eyes filled with tears.… I prefer the first humor, not because it is pleasanter to laugh than to weep, but because it is more disdainful, and condemns us more than the other; and it seems to me that we can never be despised so much as we deserve.… We are not so full of evil as of inanity; we are not so wretched as we are worthless.

Here, Montaigne is temporarily adapting to his own purposes an attitude that dates from the beginnings of philosophy: Democritus laughs at the world's folly, but it grieves him just the same, and in fact he exacerbates his melancholy by his relentless efforts to get at the causes of the folly he mocks. (Later, in 1621, Robert Burton would publish his Anatomy of Melancholy under the pseudonym Democritus Minor, invoking the name of Montaigne among his precursors.) Hamlet repeats a line remarkably similar to one in the passage of Montaigne cited above: "Use every man after his desert, and who should escape whipping?" And Freud mentions this verse from Hamlet more than once, most notably in "Mourning and Melancholia," where it is adduced as evidence for the clear-sightedness of self-accusation on the part of the melancholic. By what special privilege do such judgments of melancholy, more than other words, pass down through the ages, linking the author who pronounces with the reader who reads and pronounces in his turn? Should we conclude that the propensity to quote (about which we shall have more to say later on) is a consequence of the self-denigration of the melancholic? Montaigne's excuse for the borrowings that serve him as embellishment is that he prefers to speak through the stronger voice of a Seneca or a Plutarch. Citation, an avowal of weakness, shows a marked predilection for the discourse of melancholy.

But Montaigne does not merely take seriously the lessons of the masters of antiquity and try to live in accordance with precepts consecrated by tradition. He goes even further. When he casts his eyes about him, he thinks he sees the end of the world: "Now let us turn our eyes in all directions: everything is crumbling about us.… It seems as if the very stars have ordained that we have lasted long enough beyond the ordinary term. And this also weighs me down, that the evil that most nearly threatens us is not an alteration in the entire and solid mass, but its dissipation and disintegration, the worst of our fears." When everything seems to be in collapse, is it not time to remedy our dissatisfaction, to press our questioning with ever-greater urgency, to arm ourselves with higher standards, to shun every vanity (including even learned discourse on vanity), and to bring to our defense every available resource of sophistication and irony? Desire for independence becomes the main source of energy, though this need not interfere with listening to the past or reading the exemplary texts it provides.'

6 Jun '15 10:41:57 PM

'… preferably someone who shares your desperate nihilism…'

6 Jun '15 10:37:27 PM

'Love alone will not save us.'

5 Jun '15 09:05:26 PM

'… businesses are increasingly taking a cynical economic view of how emotion is triggered, altered, monitored, and then integrated into managerial and marketing-type strategies.'

31 May '15 05:14:39 PM

'The game is the fuckin game.'

30 May '15 06:12:43 PM

One sees scholars noting their reasons for preferring a Being and Time translation, essentially always either 'it's the standard', or 'it's just clearer'. But strangely, no one ever says: aw hell naw I ain't readin two of those fuckin things all the way through.

29 May '15 03:03:23 PM

Yep, nothing says real-world applicability like pretending to go bankrupt.

29 May '15 03:02:03 PM

Well. The fake jobs build confidence to chase after real ones!

But no real one lasts long.

29 May '15 02:52:31 PM

Well. At least they get to strike!

But the strikes are fake too.