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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25 Jun '19 10:47:56 PM

'Philosophy is new every time.'

25 Jun '19 05:49:16 AM

'Two almost abstract voices in an almost abstract space. That is what strikes us first, this sort of abstraction: as if these two beings who converse in a square—she is twenty, a servant; he, older, goes from store to store selling things of little value—had no other reality than their voice alone, and in this accidental conversation exhausted whatever a living person still has in the way of chance and truth, or more simply of speech. They have to speak, and these cautious, almost ceremonious words are terrible because of the restraint that is not only the politeness of simple lives, but is made of their extreme vulnerability. The fear of wounding and the fear of being wounded are in the very words. The words touch each other, they withdraw at the slightest contact; they are assuredly still living. Slow, but uninterrupted, never stopping for fear of not having enough time: one must speak now or never; but still without haste, patient and on the defensive, calm too, the way speech is calm that if it did not restrain itself would break out into a cry; and deprived, to a painful degree, of that ease of chatter that is the lightness and freedom of a certain sort of happiness. Here, in the simple world of need and necessity, words are devoted to the essential, attracted only to the essential, and so are monotonous, but they are attentive also to what must be said in order not to avoid the brutal formulations that would put an end to everything.

It is a matter of dialogue. How rare dialogue is; we realize this by the surprise it makes us feel, bringing us into the presence of an unusual event, almost more painful than remarkable. In novels, the "dialogued" part is the expression of laziness and routine: the characters speak to put white spaces on a page and out of an imitation of life, where there is no narration, only conversation; from time to time one must give speech to people in books; the direct contact is an economy and a repose (for the author even more than for the reader). Or, the "dialogue," under the influence of some American writers, can be wrought of an expressive incommunicativeness: more threadbare than in reality, a little below the meaningless speech that suffices for us in current life. When someone speaks, it is his refusal to speak that becomes obvious; his discourse is his silence: closed, violent, saying nothing but himself, his abrupt massiveness, his desire to emit words rather than to speak. Or simply, as happens in Hemingway, this exquisite way of expressing himself a little under zero is a ruse to make us believe in some high degree of life, emotion, or thought, an honest and classic ruse that often succeeds and to which Hemingway's melancholy talent gives various resources. But the three great directions of modern novelistic "dialogue" are represented, in my opinion, by the names Malraux, Henry James, and Kafka.'

12 Jun '19 01:08:08 AM

'The act of listening again has defined music culture for a century.'

9 Jun '19 07:45:43 AM

'… to me the more salient tool in the logician's kit is the counter-model.'

6 Jun '19 04:02:37 PM

Public opinion – a brief, gnostic history

4 Jun '19 12:56:11 AM

'A georgic poem will make farming yield meanings that a seed catalog would not insist upon.'

29 May '19 02:54:17 AM

'It doesn't show us a camera or eyes and expect us to act differently. It simply acts directly on us according to the prerogatives of the system.'

28 May '19 11:45:49 PM

Mulvey without all the psychoanalytic theory

28 May '19 06:33:50 PM

''Will', 'the Will', can be a confusing concept, especially in its grandiose uses, as by Kant, Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein. It can be a term which, seeming to deal with or explain a large matter, halts reflection at a crucial point. It may be better, as I suggested earlier, to restrict the term will, as 'willing' or 'exercise of will', to cases where there is an immediate straining, for instance occasioned by a perceived duty or principle, against a large part of preformed consciousness. What moves us – our motives, our desires, our reasoning – emerges from a constantly changing complex; moral change is the change of that complex, for better or worse. Herein intellectual experiences, states of reflective viewing of the world, are continually moving in relation to more affective or instinctive levels of thought and feeling. Experience, awareness, consciousness, these words emphasise the existence of the thinking, planning, remembering, acting moral being as a mobile creature living in the present. Such, as it might seem here, obscure and complicated pictures are, we should remind ourselves, frequently and convincingly described by great novelists. St Augustine too, using a great many real-life examples, pictures will as a blend of intellect and feeling. (Plenty of experiential volume.) The problem of the freedom of the will must be thought of as lying inside such a picture. Freedom (in this sense) is freedom from bad habit and bad desire, and is brought about in all sorts of ways by impulses of love, rational reflection, new scenery, conscious and deliberate formation of new attachments and so on. There are good modes of attention and good objects of attention. 'Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, think on these things.' (St Paul, Philippians 4. 8.) Any look at the contingency of our strange and interesting world, its oddity, its surprisingness, its jumble or its neatness can provide such objects and occasions. These 'things' which are just and good assist our attention when we try to make just and compassionate judgments of others or to judge and correct ourselves. Faced with difficult problems or terrible decisions we may feel the need, not so much of a sudden straining of unpractised will-power, but of a calm vision, a relaxed understanding, something that comes from a deep level. This darkness must be stirred and fed, as the deep mind of the artist is fed intuitively by his experience. There is a 'moral unconscious'. This is how morality leads naturally into mysticism and has a natural bond with religion. (By religion I mean a religious attitude and form of life, not a literalistic adherence to a particular dogma.) There can no doubt be a mysticism of the extreme ascetic. But there is also a natural way of mysticism, as indicated by St Paul, which involves a deepened and purified apprehension of our surroundings. The truth-seeking mind is magnetised by an independent transcendent multiform reality. Unselfish attention breaks the barrier of egoism. Living in the present: I really see the face of my friend, the playing dog, Piero's picture. These visual cases also have a metaphorical force. We instinctively dodge in and out of metaphor all the time, and in this sense too are fed or damaged spiritually by what we attend to. Simone Weil uses the image of becoming empty so as to be filled with the truth. She speaks of the mountain walker who sees many things besides the mountain top. Eckhart speaks of emptying the soul so that it may fill with God. A moral position much higher than our own may only be imagined as deprivation. The idea of negation (void) or surrender of selfish will is to be understood together with the idea of purified desire as purified cognition.'