Saturday, January 03, 2015

updated a bit. a repeat from September. I have my reasons.


Two versions: iconic/hieratic, and narrative/demotic, with very different implications even if I'm using them to tell the same story. In the first, Christ remains above, fitting the logic of the earliest image. In the second, the notion of Christ above becomes narrativized/historicized, fitting the logic of the most recent. The second becomes also a predella to the first, the predella itself a form that faded away, or grew to supplant static iconography. The whole thing's very tricky; all that's left is to do it as an animation.

Christ Pantocrator, the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (photo: Andrew Shiva)
Christ Blessing, Surrounded by a Donor Family, by an unknown German painter, 1560s-1580s. Metropolitan Museum, NY. Claude Lorraine, Landscape with Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene (Noli me Tangere) 1681, Städel Museum, Frankfurt.

Three images of Christ: Byzantine, 16th century Lutheran, 17th century Catholic; three images of the changing relations of Christ to god and Christ and god to man, and man to language, order and the world. Only the third could be said to represent a humanist sensibility. A basic lecture in art history and the history of culture. I could have gone on to Friedrich and then Turner, or after that to Rothko, by which point it all devolves to kitsch.

Philosophers discussing "difference" are like priests discussing democracy. They always want to drive the car, or they pretend that from their self-described superiority, they are already.
Christian Kerslake, Deleuze and the Meanings of Immanence [PDF]
In the chapter on ‘Immanence and the Historical Components of Expression’ in his 1968 book on Spinoza, Deleuze fashions a history of the philosophy of immanence, from the Neoplatonists through to Duns Scotus, that culminates in Spinoza. He presents the philosophical concept of immanence as a kind of ‘destination’ inherent in Christian theology. A secret tendency, says Deleuze, courses through the ruminations of theologians, a tendency that runs in the opposite direction to the negative theology of Meister Eckhart, which stresses the radical, unknowable transcendence of God, both in his nature and in his reasons for existence. It appears to originate in the Christian-inflected Neo-Platonism of third -and fourth- century Alexandria (Proclus and Dionysius the Areopagite). The Neo-Platonists did not see Platonism as a dualistic, ‘two worlds’ doctrine, but rather followed the lead of the Timaeus, where the pure forms or ‘Ideas’ are manifested or expressed hierarchically in material reality, with each being ‘participating’ more or less in the idea. Deleuze acknowledges the roots of the philosophical concept of immanence in neo-Platonism: “Everything may, it seems, be traced back to the Platonic problem of participation”. The “difficulties” that emerged were always the same: “The principle of participation was always sought by Plato on the side of what participates..., [but] if participation consists in being a part, it is difficult to see how what is participated in suffers no division or separation” (EPS 169; trans. modified). The primary task of the Neoplatonists was to “invert the problem”: “a principle that would make participation possible was sought, but one that would make it possible from the side of the participated itself. Neoplatonists no longer start from the characteristics of what participates (as multiple, sensible, and so on), asking by what violence participation becomes possible. They try rather to discover the internal principle and movement that grounds participation in the participated as such, from the side of the participated as such. Plotinus reproaches Plato for having seen participation from its lesser side” (EPS 170). According to Deleuze, Plotinus is already a kind of foreshadowing of the post-Kantian attempt to ground philosophy; he “subordinates ... imitation to a genesis or production” (ibid). His way of doing this, however, is through a theory of emanation. “True activity comes from what is participated in; what participates is only an effect, receiving what is given by its cause” (ibid). The problem is that the theory of emanation, once again as soon as it undergoes philosophical development, brings back the original problem of participation: how to conceive the principle of the self-differentiation of the One, the expression of the One in the material world.
Leiter quoting Raz in 2005
[C]ontemporary life, including philosophical life, is marked by its short span of attention. Within months of a new book by a respected author being published conferences about it are held, and special issues of journals dedicated to it are published, only to be superseded the following year by the new stars of that year. We think that we live in a dynamic and innovative age, whereas we live in a culture devoted to the ephemeral. In this intellectual climate much of our work is to try to stop people from forgetting today what everyone knew yesterday, and to reduce the intoxication with the latest word. A necessary task, but not one conducive to the longevity of the work. Perhaps in our hyperactive world the mode of progress in philosophy has changed. Perhaps it now lies less with the singular achievements of exceptional thinkers like the classics of modern philosophy: Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, and others, and more in the cumulative products of hundreds of worker ants. This would suggest that the history of philosophy may assume the relation to philosophy that the history of physics has to physics. It would even make the ephemerality and forgetfulness of the age less regrettable. I doubt, however, that that can be the whole story. It is probably yet another manifestation of the lack of clear horizons in contemporary philosophical thought.
Leiter, and Raz, now.
3:AM: Have you changed your mind about anything fundamental to your philosophical position during your time as a philosopher or has it been more a process of deepening and further discovery within a rather settled framework of thought? 
JR: For various reasons this is for me a difficult question. One is that I am not terribly interested in the question, and perhaps partly as a result, am often surprised when people point out, with actual quotations, what I wrote on some points in years past. One way in which I am sometimes surprised when confronted with previous writings is that I clearly remember that I felt tentative about this issue or that, and meant to express a partial or a tentative view only, and lo and behold: that is not how I wrote. I sound very definite. Have I changed my mind, or am I one of those people who tend to sound confident when they are not? But there are other difficulties with the question. 
Sometimes a deepening of a view may go so deep as to change its character without actually changing its letter. Ever since my student days I was interested in the social character of the law. More recently I have written on the social character of value in general, and on the ways in which the characterization of these two forms of social dependence differ, and the ways in which they are nevertheless interdependent. The result is that once embedded in the wider context my old views on the social character of the law while unchanged may have acquired, in my mind, a different meaning. There is more to say, but it is probably of no interest to anyone but myself. Similar changes probably affected other of my views.
To the pure all things are pure. History is bunk. What an idiot.

Post-humanism, anti-humanism, pre-modern, anti-democratic, authoritarian... I can like or love the art - See Pollock and Kubrick and Gursky- but I can't stand its righteous defenders.

repeats from the NDPR
Overall, Seaford’s book is interesting, insightful, and combines expertise in ancient sources with careful reasoning. It certainly offers an invaluable discussion of the origins and cultural contexts of early Greek philosophy. But Seaford’s concern with the historical explanations of Greek philosophy suggests that his book may not appeal to scholars interested exclusively in the philosophical content and argumentation of Presocratic texts. The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors (219; 253–4; 273). In fact, he insists that comprehending the relevant cultural factors is necessary for understanding Presocratic metaphysics. We must, he maintains, avoid treating ancient philosophy as if it were created in a “historical vacuum” (10), even if this threatens most Presocratic scholars’ “control of their subject and the autonomy of ’doing philosophy’“
"The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors."

Like a theologian the last thing a philosopher wants to imagine is that his beliefs are manifestations of changes in language and culture: results and not causes. The last thing an avant-garde wants to imagine is that its works are what artworks have always been, not discoveries of possible futures but descriptions of the present. Historians understand how philosophers' dreams become dated.

His students called him, "the last humanist":
And finally: besides constituting a natural event in space and time, naturally indicating moods or feelings, besides conveying a conventional greeting the action of my acquaintance can reveal to an experienced observer all that goes to make up his "personality." This personality is conditioned by his being a man of the twentieth century, by his national. social and educational background by the previous history of his life and by his present surroundings but it is also distinguished by an individual manner of viewing things and reacting to the world which, if rationalized, would have to be called a philosophy. In the isolated action of a polite greeting all these factors do not manifest themselves comprehensively, but nevertheless symptomatically. We could not construct a mental portrait of the man on the basis of this single action. but only by coordinating a large number of similar observations and by interpreting them in connection with our general information as to his period. nationality, class. intellectual traditions and so forth. Yet all the qualities which this mental portrait would show explicitly are implicitly inherent in every single action; so that. conversely every single action can be interpreted in the light of those qualities. 
Deleuze's interest in folding, the fold and the baroque makes perfect sense. As a philosopher he has no option other than to be a conservative.
The decadence of mannerism presents as the self-narrativizing of a concrete idealism, attempting to inoculate itself against increasingly dominant narrative (relativist) culture. Mannerism is the model of aristocratic art in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater.
update- and now this: Brian Leiter, SSRN, The Case Against Free Speech. Amazing.
3AM-Have you changed your mind about anything fundamental to your philosophical position during your time as a philosopher?
Raz -For various reasons this is for me a difficult question. One is that I am not terribly interested in the question.
more here for now

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