Saturday, February 07, 2015

The fifth one down and the bottom are new.

Max Weber
Consider a discipline such as aesthetics. The fact that there are works of art is given for aesthetics. It seeks to find out under what conditions this fact exists, but it does not raise the question whether or not the realm of art is perhaps a realm of diabolical grandeur, a realm of this world, and therefore, in its core, hostile to God and, in its innermost and aristocratic spirit, hostile to the brotherhood of man. Hence, aesthetics does not ask whether there should be works of art.
Pierre Bourdieu
A Rose for Emily [a short story by Faulkner] is a reflexive story, a reflecting story which encloses in its very structure the program (in the computer sense) for a reflection on the novel and for naïve reading. In the fashion of an experimental text or device, it calls for repeated reading, but also for the divided reading which is needed to combine the impressions of the first naïve reading, and the revelations it arouses, with the second reading, the retroactive illumination that the knowledge of the ending (acquired at the end of the first reading) casts on the text, and especially on the presuppositions of a naïve ‘novelistic’ reading. Thus, caught in this sort of trap— a veritable provocation to a truly paradoxical allodoxia since it results from the natural application of the presuppositions of the doxa,—the reader is forced to acknowledge openly everything he customarily and unwittingly grants to authors who are just as unaware of what they are demanding of the reader.
John Quiggin
‘Truly this is the sweetest of theologies’, William said, with perfect humility, and I thought he was using that insidious figure of speech that rhetors call irony, which must always be prefaced by the pronunciato, representing its signal and its justification – something that William never did. For which reason the abbot, more inclined to the use of figures of speech, took William literally …
Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose
Having run afoul of irony in both directions lately (having my own ironic post on Lent taken literally, then taking literally an ironic comment by Chris), I’ve come to the conclusion that HTML needs its own version of the pronunciato.

Here’s my proposal: Text meant to be taken ironically would be surrounded by tags. Such text would render normally, but would have a hover property such that, when the mouse hovered over ironic text, it would flicker through a range of suitably ironic colors. Not perfect, but a lot more appealing than a smiley :-).
The claims about Art criticised in Art, an Enemy of The People, are very similar to those made by most religions, namely that there is a special category of people (prophets or artists) and a special category of activities (Religion or Art) which yield transcendent insights into the human condition, and which should be accorded special privileges over other people and other ways of finding meaning and enjoyment in life.
Henry Farrell
It took me a couple of reads, and some consultation with a third party, before I was reasonably sure that this was a beautifully constructed satire. It’s so deadpan, and so close to the tone of a certain kind of glib-management-theory-building-on-the-new-institutional-economics-book, that the reader isn’t sure whether this is seriously meant or pince-sans-rire. And this is what brings it close to trolling. Its underlying logic is similar to a Jonathan Swift style Modest Proposal, but Swift is all visible saeva indignatio . He takes the language and assumptions of English elite debates on the Irish question and uses them to dress a solution that is objectively appalling. The reader is discomfited – but has a very clear understanding of Swift’s intention. Toner, instead, strands his reader in a kind of Uncanny Valley of intentionality, with a proposal that may, or may not be seriously meant. It’s a much more profound sense of intellectual discomfort. I don’t think that the piece is trolling – but it evokes a feeling of intellectual confusion that’s related to the kinds of confusion that really good trolling produce. So that’s not, obviously, a definition of first rate trolling, or even an example of it. But it maybe sort of helps all the same.
I had provided MYSELF with the popular books of the day (this was sixteen or seventeen years ago), and for two weeks I had never left my room. I am speaking now of those books that treat of the art of making nations happy, wise and rich in twenty-four hours. I had therefore digested —swallowed, I should say— alI the lucubrations of all the authorities on the happiness of society -those who advise the poor to become slaves, and those who persuade them that they are all dethroned kings. So it is not astonishing if I was in a state of mind bordering on stupidity or madness. Only it seemed to me that deep in my mind, I was conscious of an obscure germ of an idea, superior to all the old wives’ formulas whose dictionary I had just been perusing But it was only the idea of an idea, something infinitely vague. And I went out with a great thirst, for a passionate taste for bad books engenders a proportionate desire for the open air and for refreshments. ...
The late Scholastic logicians devised amusing helps to memory by which the many forms or figures of syllogism (conclusions from a major and minor premise) could be remembered. These mnemonic devices consisted of words of three syllables partly real and partly made up for the purpose. Each syllable stood for one of the three propositions, and the vowels therein signified the character of these propositions. The vowel a, for instance, denoted a general and positive statement; the vowel o, a partial and negative one. Thus the nice name Barbara, with its three as, designates a syllogism that consists of three general and positive propositions (for instance: 'All men are mortal all mortal beings need food consequently all men need food"). And for a syllogism consisting of one general and positive proposition and two partial and negative ones (for instance: "All cats have whiskers some animals have no whiskers consequently some animals are not cats"), there was coined the word Baroco, containing one a and two os. Either the word, or the peculiarly roundabout fashion of the main of thought denoted by it, or both, must have struck later generations as particularly funny and characteristic of the pedantic formalism to which they objected in medieval thought , and when humanistic writers, including Montaigne, wished to ridicule an unworldly and sterile pedant, they reproached him with having his head full of "Barbara and Baroco," etc. Thus it came about that the word Baroco (French and English Baroque) came to signify everything wildly abstruse, obscure, fanciful, and useless (much as the word intellectual in many circles today). (The other derivation of the term from Latin veruca and Spanish barueca, meaning, originally, a wart and by extension a pearl of irregular shape, is most improbable both for logical and purely linguistic reasons.)
Sitting in a bar a year ago, a screen above my head showing an early episode of Breaking Bad: family and friends sitting around the coffee table trying to comfort Walter, every word out of their mouths betraying confusion and mixed intent. I'd never seen the show and I made a comment to the bartender. "Yeah!" -his eyes widened- "and it get's better!" We both laughed.

If all humility is false humility then Socratic humility, as Socratic irony, is the irony of contempt. Euripidean irony is the irony of our shared burdens, and failures.

Bourdieu: "In the fashion of an experimental text or device, it calls for repeated reading..."

All books worth reading call for rereading. Actors, lawyers and college professors make their living in rereadings. Our relations with the world and with each other are a constant "rereading" of what we've seen applied to what we're seeing now.

I don't want to telegraph that Bourdieu's interpretive skills are at the level of an earnest high school freshman but I think I have no choice, as I have no choice but to name the figure in the photograph as Immanuel Rath.

These assholes are the children of Plato and Luther. They're not interesting as authors, only as characters.

I need to add something that I've said before and that here I'm embarrassed to admit I forgot. The humanists who followed the scholastics did not need the pronunciato, and no one has needed it since. That Quiggin in 2004 wanted to return to it makes every point I've made about all of this more clearly than I ever have or could.

"If the anthropocentric civilization of the Renaissance is headed, as it seems to be, for a 'Middle Ages in reverse' -a Satanocracy" Panofsky again. How many times have I quoted it?

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