Friday, July 31, 2015

"The idea of the social isn't very interesting. It isn't even very social."

The intellectuals read the papers but they still don't get the point.
Henry Farrell, ex-Catholic, ex-libertarian, still a political scientist.
He looks to his books, not to the world.

NYT
Three months ago, Mr. Price, 31, announced he was setting a new minimum salary of $70,000 at his Seattle credit card processing firm, Gravity Payments, and slashing his own million-dollar pay package to do it. He wasn’t thinking about the current political clamor over low wages or the growing gap between rich and poor, he said. He was just thinking of the 120 people who worked for him and, let’s be honest, a bit of free publicity. The idea struck him when a friend shared her worries about paying both her rent and student loans on a $40,000 salary. He realized a lot of his own employees earned that or less.
Read the links
Avant-Garde of what?
Picasso the bourgeois. T.J. Clark, likewise.
That care in Picasso's case was often mixed with Bohemian insolence and destructiveness does not alter the point. For who has not grown use to the paradox that in so many of the artists who seem to us now to have spoken most deeply of (maybe even for) bourgeois society -Flaubert, George Eliot, Simmel, Manet, Marx, Menzel, Baudelaire, Ibsen, Henry James- care seems indistinguishable from distaste? Bohemia was never as withering on the subject of bourgeois illusions as the great masters of the novel. The Communist Manifesto, we see in retrospect, is as much under the spell of Adam Smith and Balzac as looking for a way to set their world on fire. It is the great poem of capitalism's potential. And who are the heroines of the new order if not those who stare its horrible decencies most fully in the face: Olympia, Madame Bovary, Hedda Gabler, Kate Croy, The Daughters of the Vicar, Woman with a Hat? Maybe belonging and not-belonging, or respectability and disreputableness, just are -were- what is meant by bourgeois identity: they seem to be (again, in retrospect) what marks off this strange way of being-with-others-in-the-world from others before and since. 
"...care seems indistinguishable from distaste", and the reverse.

"Because the interior is the truth of space—for Bohemia, those last believers in the nineteenth century."

Art is made by loving something so much you see it honestly or hating something so much you see it in its complexity.
---
update. Something I remembered.
Arendt, The Human Condition
What the public realm considers irrelevant can have such an extraordinary and infectious charm that a whole people may adopt it as their way of life, without for that reason changing its essentially private character. Modern enchantment with "small things," though preached by early twentieth-century poetry in almost all European tongues, has found its classical presentation in the petit bonheur of the French people. Since the decay of their once great and glorious public realm, the French have become masters in the art of being happy among "small things," within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today's objects, may even appear to be the world's last, purely humane corner. This enlargement of the private, the enchantment, as it were, of a whole people, does not make it public, does not constitute a public realm, but, on the contrary, means only that the public realm has almost completely receded, so that greatness has given way to charm every- where; for while the public realm may be great, it cannot be charming precisely because it is unable to harbor the irrelevant.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

rewriting, page by page.
continued from here
We did final work on this number into the wee small hours of a Saturday night, and more than forty-eight takes were recorded. Everything that could have gone wrong did during the shooting of this number: an arc light went out; there was a noise in the camera; one of us missed a step in the dance, where Fred was supposed to catch me in the final spins; and once, right at the end of a perfect take, his toupee flipped off! I kept on dancing even though my feet really hurt. During a break, I went to the sidelines and took my shoes off; they were filled with blood. I had danced my feet raw. Hermes saw what had happened and offered to stop the shooting. I refused. I wanted to get the thing done. Finally, we got a good take in the can, and George said we could go home - at 4:00 a.m.
Ginger Rodgers’ feet covered in blood, and Matisse’s mud and flies
That is what normal people never understand. They want to enjoy the artist’s products – as one might enjoy the milk of a cow – but they can’t put up with the inconvenience, the mud and the flies.
Astaire and Matisse both struggled to make to make things look easy, but if you don’t see the struggle you miss the point. There’s no confusion of art and life, no delusions of utopia; the art, visibly as artifice, brings out in us a heightened desire for the impossible without denying its impossibility. Picasso did something else, but not for very long. He represents in 20th century painting something similar to what Michelangelo represents in the 16th, but in no way equal in importance. He manifests a contradiction in form, and manages to stabilize it and somehow to present it as a unity. It’s an illusion but a compelling one. Michelangelo is the equal of Shakespeare in the creation of a similar but far more powerful illusion: he’s the first to record, to describe and present, the modern imagination, the confusions of Hamlet.

The drawing by Raphael is an object lesson, literally, in the principles and poetics of the High Renaissance: simultaneously static and full of motion, a perfect but lightly held balance of action and reflection, observation, representation, and free craft; rigor seemingly without tension, or tension seemingly without its affect. The figures fly off the page, yet they're anchored as solidly in place as they would be seated and face forward in a Byzantine mosaic. Michelangelo did something even more compressed, since he put the tension seen among the figures on a page within single figures and single blocks of stone. The torqued muscles in a torso of a Michelangelo sculpture manifest a tension, equal parts unity and schism, unmatched in western art. And in writing that I’m not saying anything new or even debated. I first made the comments about the Raphael while standing in front of it at the Metropolitan Museum, to an old acquaintance and a man he’d introduced me to, a well-dressed Swiss. My friend smiled. His companion shrugged and said, “of course”. The only audience for whom any of this is new is the audience of pedants who write and read only for intent, who read text without for subtext, who are interested in the ideas of Rawls and G.A. Cohen without noticing the culture they’re a part of.

As with Gerome and Manet, but again at a much higher level, it’s not a question of technical facility but of its use. Gian Lorenzo Bernini is the greatest technical sculptor in the history of the west, or of the world. Few people think of him as a better artist than Michelangelo. Bernini indulged his skill; it was easy for him to take things for granted and he did. But he didn’t fetishize technique so much that he wasn’t in awe of Poussin, whose technical skills by comparison were limited. The Baroque was considered decadent precisely for the discord between easy artifice and rough integrity, but the period was focused less on the balance of ideal and worldly order as in the Renaissance, or on the more extreme dichotomy of otherworldliness and corruption -the panicked pretense of Counter Reformation Mannerism- than on a worldly sophistication as such: the narrativizing of ideal order. The Baroque is the culture of monarchy and aristocracy at the beginning of the age of theater, the age of the bourgeoisie.

By the beginning of the 20th century we’re far from all of this. It had been hundreds of years since fine art, the art of luxury, had played such a central role in the cultures of the day, or in our understanding of it. By the 19th century the bourgeoisie had many other -cheaper and more appropriate- ways to represent its interests and its preoccupations than mimicking the manners of the old regime. By 1914 nearly everyone admits the aristocracy is dying. It’s only if you want to see progress and advancement in everything that the next big thing becomes an improvement by default, as a car with a top speed of 60 miles an hour is better than one that goes no more than 20. Argue for progress in taste and we’re back again to intention and the imperatives of philosophy.

Picasso as a Modernist, in the 1920s, was a Mannerist. What Lichtenstein learned from him was that he had to find a way to deal with crap, to make something of value from what he had around him, and for him as it had been for Picasso, value meant ideal form.

Lichtenstein needed for personal reasons to find a way to return idealism to the romance comics he himself saw as fascist. He had to rescue the ideal from the banal. He had no interest in the mundane or every-day. The thought that something could be mundane and profound wasn’t idealist enough, and idealism was a moral imperative.
Antagonistic critics say that Pop Art does not transform its model. Does it?

Transformation is a strange word to use. It implies that art transforms…. I think my work is different from comic strips—but I wouldn’t call it transformation; I don’t think that whatever is meant by it is important to art. What I do is form, whereas the comic strip is not formed in the sense I’m using the word; the comics have shapes, but there has been no effort to make them intensely unified.
Comic books are structured as films are, as visual narrative; the unity is a unity over time. But to Lichtenstein they’re simply indexical, non-art. By his logic to see comic books as art would be an error. The question is whether we see that designation as Broch does, as Eliot and James do, as the following and articulation of a sensibility -even couched in the language of a moral imperative- or whether we choose to see those imperatives as philosophers do, as Clement Greenberg and Michael Fried do, as representing a truth not about one person’s metaphysics –a relation to the world- but about the world itself.

Artists as artists can never allow themselves to forget that their models of utopia are inseparable from their chosen craft. Painters use paint, writers use words, singers, actors, and dancers, use their bodies. Their search for order is through artifice and whatever perfection they reach is perfection in artifice. There’s no art more ironic than a Fra Angelico. Without irony there’s only pedantry, and the sincere delusions of pedantry are much more dangerous than the ironic delusions of art. Most vocations are predicated on optimism. Art and historical writing are the only fields where you can spend your entire career articulating failure and tragedy with the only optimism being your ability to describe them well.

Lichtenstein’s paintings have a mix of innocence and irony that Picasso rarely matched. What was half-empty for Picasso the European was half-full for Lichtenstein, the American who wanted to make paintings, not films, not novels or comic books, and who had to find a way to make it work, while Picasso could rest on his laurels, or pose like a bohemian. Greenberg traveled a similar route from observer to pusher of kitsch but here he is in 1957: “I suspect that posterity will find a lot more that is truly ridiculous in Picasso’s recent art than we can” Lichtenstein needed be able to make -and at his best he succeeded in making- an art that gave full credit both to high irony and American optimism. He bypassed the tragedy, like Astaire and Matisse, but with more effort and a stranger result. Warhol couldn’t escape it: he had to face optimism and its opposite, and he found a way, resulting in the most profoundly terrifying paintings since Picasso’s in 1906.
A small repeat, just for fun.

Leiter the leftist:  "condescension from below"
A comment that may or may not make it, at Feminist Philosophers. It's sloppy.
The author responded to me by name without posting my comments. I waste too much time.
“But at least those of us with privilege can shut up and listen to it a little more”. And the people shouting to be heard will be in an adversarial relation to you. I’ll repost here what I tried to post elsewhere. We’ll see if it flies:
This entire debate is confused. Heath touts Habermas to the point of parody. “Thus the best arrangement will be one in which lots of different people study these questions, then challenge one another to robust debate, which will tend to correct the various biases.” It reads like a variant of Anatole France: The law, in its majestic equality, allows both rich and poor to engage in communicative action, or debate the importance of John Rawls.

Debate among the educated elite regarding their own beliefs is not enough. That’s why we have lawyers paid to make arguments they have no stake in beyond the urge to win.

Institutionalized adversarialism is the basis of democracy. And even then we know it skews towards the powerful. That’s why the most powerful adversarialism comes from below; social change comes from below. That’s not even debatable, it’s a fact of history. Change begins with the the janitors and the railway porters not college professors.

The model of the academy is collaborative. Heath is a white liberal and his politics is mediocre, but your background is in formalist philosophy which by definition is anti-politcal. If facts and events will always outflank liberalism’s best intentions, you’re living in Cloudcuckooland, with the fantasy politics of mathematicians and engineers.

And you’re all debating amongst yourselves within the academy. Real Politics as Geuss would call it, is outside.
Schliesser is a defender of philosophy as continuous with science, and a staunch defender of Zionism. He does not hear the shouting of Palestinians. Others do and that has led to change. What does that say about our ability to solve problems by reason? You have to be open to experience and allow yourself to be changed; the whole logic of analytic philosophy denies that. The recent “rediscovery” of experience by philosophers is comic. There’s no way to escape the need for others to argue, even to yell to get people finally to pay attention. A problem is that yelling can be self-perpetuating. Righteous anger can become an ideology. The history of oppression is mostly the history of rulers’ indifference to the suffering of others. Sadism is secondary. But sadism is primary to the experience of the oppressed and that leads to a misunderstanding of their own situation. Zionists see themselves as oppressed; they can’t imagine themselves the oppressors.

Heath asks when the anger of the poor becomes the whining of the careerist middle class. But then he falls back on the righteousness of the more serious middle class, by which he means himself. That doesn’t work. And Wallerstein simply elides the history of the relation of philosophy to theology, to the elite, the church and the crown. His response is also useless.

Philosophy can’t solve these problems, certainly no technically minded first-order curiosity, without self-awareness or irony.  “Irony is the glory of slaves." Czeslaw Milosz. Socrates hated poets.
updated etc. It's sloppy. I'll add links. Beginning with Leiter

A comment that may or may not make it, at Feminist Philosophers.
The author responded to one of my earlier comments while refusing to post either of them.
[in the end they were all posted, the first after the fact]. The second, just below it, after the three dashes, was accepted first.
Heath: “So who is best positioned – those who suffer from it, or those who do not? The inevitable conclusion is that neither are particularly well-positioned, since both will be biased in the direction of producing theories that are, at some level, self-serving, or self-exculpatory. Thus the best arrangement will be one in which lots of different people study these questions, then challenge one another to robust debate, which will tend to correct the various biases. This is, unfortunately, not how things usually play out. Instead, the field of study tends to attract, sometimes overwhelmingly, people who suffer from the relevant form of oppression – partly just for the obvious “me” studies reason, that the issue is greater interest to them, because it speaks to their personal ambitions and frustrations. But it can also set in motion a dynamic that can crowd out everyone who does not suffer from that particular form of oppression.”

As if there’s really any sort of equivalence between black working class anger and white college professors. The condescension is grotesque. If only railway porters had studied Hegel… His comments are obscene. But what are yours? You’re university professors in the most powerful state in the history of the planet. You’re playing at radicalism as an idea. I’m not going to listen to you when I can listen to the women of Hamas, or at least those who speak to them. None of you live in a favela. You worry about tenure, not your next meal. You want to pretend feminists were all college professors and not housewives, that Stonewall was led by PhDs and not hustlers and drag queens. “Naming and Necessity” was a product of the Me Decade. Scholastic formalism and academic radicalism are forms of narcissism.

Heath again, quoted approvingly by Leiter: “Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the Western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy,” Leiter signs off on pedantry and anti-politics. Neoliberalism, “Rubinomics” and “the end of welfare as we know it” can only be described as “non-crazy”. The politics sucks. And in response you offer the feminism of Bloomsbury. Give me the anger of their servants. Give me the anger of the niggers and the wogs.
---
I’ll put my response more simply. Give me adversarialism. The model of the academy is collaborative; you argue only amongst yourselves.
---
My longer comment I referred to was refused.
“But at least those of us with privilege can shut up and listen to it a little more”. And the people shouting to be heard will be in an adversarial relation to you. I’ll repost here what what I tried to post elsewhere. We’ll see if it flies:
This entire debate is confused. Heath touts Habermas to the point of parody. “Thus the best arrangement will be one in which lots of different people study these questions, then challenge one another to robust debate, which will tend to correct the various biases.” It reads like a variant of Anatole France: The law, in its majestic equality, allows both rich and poor to engage in communicative action, or debate the importance of John Rawls.

Debate among the educated elite regarding their own beliefs is not enough. That’s why we have lawyers paid to make arguments they have no stake in beyond the urge to win.

Institutionalized adversarialism is the basis of democracy. And even then we know it skews towards the powerful. That’s why the most powerful adversarialism comes from below; social change comes from below. That’s not even debatable, it’s a fact of history. Change begins with the the janitors and the railway porters not college professors.

The model of the academy is collaborative. Heath is a white liberal and his politics is mediocre, but your background is in formalist philosophy which by definition is anti-politcal. If facts and events will always outflank liberalism’s best intentions, you’re living in Cloudcuckooland, with the fantasy politics of mathematicians and engineers.

And you’re all debating amongst yourselves within the academy. Real Politics as Geuss would call it, is outside.
Schliesser is a defender of philosophy as continuous with science, and a staunch defender of Zionism. He does not hear the shouting of Palestinians. Others do and that has led to change. What does that say about our ability to solve problems by reason? You have to be open to experience and allow yourself to be changed; the whole logic of analytic philosophy denies that. The recent “rediscovery” of experience by philosophers is comic. There’s no way to escape the need for others to argue, even to yell to get people finally to pay attention. A problem is that yelling can be self-perpetuating. Righteous anger can become an ideology. The history of oppression is mostly the history of rulers’ indifference to the suffering of others. Sadism is secondary. But sadism is primary to the experience of the oppressed and that leads to a misunderstanding of their own situation. Zionists see themselves as oppressed; they can’t imagine themselves the oppressors.

Heath asks when the anger of the poor becomes the whining of the careerist middle class. But then he falls back on the righteousness of the more serious middle class, by which he means himself. That doesn’t work. And Wallerstein simply elides the history of the relation of philosophy to theology, to the elite, the church and the crown. His response is also useless.

Philosophy can’t solve these problems, certainly no technically minded first-order curiosity, without self-awareness or irony. 
“Irony is the glory of slaves.” Czeslaw Milosz. 
Socrates hated poets.
Wallerstein's email
In fact, contrary to what Audrey Yap claims, traditional philosophy does not represent the point of view of heterosexual males, because so many famous philosophers were probably gay (if that term has any meaning before the mid 20th century) or did not marry (were they asexual or homosexual?). Philosophy begins with Plato, who seems not to have been heterosexual. 
I don't know what's more absurd, Wallerstein's comments, or the fact that Yap seemed not to know Greek philosophers liked boys.

Leiter posts a letter
They've been very successful at imposing their hegemony on the left, especially in the U.S., so that they are the only "queer" people, so that they are always victims and that of course coincides with the rise of neoliberalism and the bourgeois offensive against the working class. It just suits Wall St. fine that the paradigm of oppression is no longer the guy or woman working for the minimum wage, but a disabled lesbian philosopher who didn't get tenure at an elite university. And most of us, myself included, feel very uncomfortable not being on the side of the victims, but there are victims and there are victims. I don't want to sound cynical, but if I were Wall St., I'd fund all leftwing identity politics groups to distract leftwing attention from class politics, just as the CIA during the cold war funded all groups defending "cultural freedom" behind the Iron Curtain.​
A comment by another professional pedant, Anne Jacobson contra Heath
As I have said here a number of times, I learned from my days in faculty governance that (many/most) white men do believe that those best able to study oppression or marginalization are those without experience of it. I had thought this idea was utterly exploded, but I do see Heath coming very close to endorsing it, at least to the point of not according those with the experience any privilege compared to their non-oppressd, non-marginlized debaters. I think he is in effect eschewing knowledge of the oppressed and marginalized, but you have reminded me that he doesn’t know it.

I am here reminded of a revealing exchange:
Hyper-distinguished English visitor: there is a love-hate relationship between Indians and the British.
Hyper-bright Indian colleague: there is no love.
There's no love, only a language and educational and legal system and system of governance. She's repeating someone's words, not observing the world.

I'll add one more. It won't be published but maybe someone will read it first

@annejjacobson: "I am here reminded of a revealing exchange:
Hyper-distinguished English visitor: there is a love-hate relationship between Indians and the British.
Hyper-bright Indian colleague: there is no love."

You give us an exchange between a condescending Brit and a bitter ex-colonial. The reality exists between and outside them.
The British empire left behind a language, an educational and legal system and a system of governance.
In your desire for simplicity you miss the ambiguities.

And maybe the Brit wasn't condescending and the ex-colonial was too bitter to care. I wasn't there. How would I know?
It would be a great scene to stage. You can play it so many ways.

That's not a defense of the Raj, Health, or Leiter. It's a defense of the moral weight of real politics, and for what it's worth, of real art.
The ambiguities of lived experience are the stuff of novels, and irrelevant to philosophy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Leiter 
A chronology of the road to marriage equality for gay citizens 
Interesting piece by Greenwald. The role of popular culture, especially television, was no doubt central to the quick change in public attitudes.
"The role of popular culture... was no doubt central..." When was it not?

Brown vs Board of Education; The Voting Rights Act; the end of Zionism.
Practice precedes theory. Railway porters lead; intellectuals follow.

Feb 19, 2004
This will be something for historians to discuss, but somewhere between Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the current political crisis, the dam broke. It's over.
February 2004 in LBGT rights 

Chicago. Archived by Duncan Black
Mayor Daley said Wednesday he would have "no problem" with County Clerk David Orr issuing marriage licenses to gay couples -- and Orr said he's open to a San Francisco-style protest if a consensus can be built.

"They're your doctors, your lawyers, your journalists, your politicians," the mayor said. "They're someone's son or daughter. They're someone's mother or father. . . . I've seen people of the same sex adopt children, have families. [They're] great parents.

"Some people have a difference of opinion -- that only a man and a woman can get married. But in the long run, we have to understand what they're saying. They love each other just as much as anyone else.''

A devout Catholic, Daley scoffed at the suggestion that gay marriage would somehow undermine the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

"Marriage has been undermined by divorce, so don't tell me about marriage. You're not going to lecture me about marriage. People should look at their own life and look in their own mirror. Marriage has been undermined for a number of years if you look at the facts and figures on it. Don't blame the gay and lesbian, transgender and transsexual community. Please don't blame them for it," he said.

Daley said he has no control over marriage licenses in Cook County. But if Orr wants to take that bold step, the mayor has no problem with it.

Orr said he was "game to looking at options" provided a consensus could be built.

"I'm fed up with people being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. We can't even pass a law that eliminates discrimination against gay couples. [But] whatever you do when it comes to challenging laws, you want it to be effective and not knee-jerk," Orr said.
Flowers from Strangers

“Being a Very Serious Person is about occupying a structural position that tends to reinforce, rather than counter, one’s innate biases and prejudices.”

continuing, because it fits.

I covered this at the time, but I didn't go for comedy. Farrell in 2010
Jonah Lehrer has an interesting post on the heuristic benefits of mixing it up by making online social contact with complete strangers.
this is why we should all follow strangers on Twitter. We naturally lead manicured lives, so that our favorite blogs and writers and friends all look and think and sound a lot like us. (While waiting in line for my cappuccino this weekend, I was ready to punch myself in the face, as I realized that everyone in line was wearing the exact same uniform: artfully frayed jeans, quirky printed t-shirts, flannel shirts, messy hair, etc. And we were all staring at the same gadget, and probably reading the same damn website. In other words, our pose of idiosyncratic uniqueness was a big charade. Self-loathing alert!) While this strategy might make life a bit more comfortable – strangers can say such strange things – it also means that our cliches of free-association get reinforced. We start thinking in ever more constricted ways. And this is why following someone unexpected on Twitter can be a small step towards a more open mind. Because not everybody reacts to the same thing in the same way. Sometimes, it takes a confederate in an experiment to remind us of that. And sometimes, all it takes is a stranger on the internet, exposing us to a new way of thinking about God, Detroit and the Kardashians.
The beginning of Lehrer's post
Over at Gizmodo, Joel Johnson makes a convincing argument for adding random strangers to your twitter feed:
I realized most of my Twitter friends are like me: white dorks. So I picked out my new friend and started to pay attention.

She’s a Christian, but isn’t afraid of sex. She seems to have some problems trusting men, but she’s not afraid of them, either. She’s very proud of her fiscal responsibility. She looks lovely in her faux modeling shots, although I am surprised how much her style aligns with what I consider mall fashion when she’s a grown woman in her twenties. Her home is Detroit and she’s finding the process of buying a new car totally frustrating. She spends an embarrassing amount of time tweeting responses to the Kardashian family.

One of the best things about Twitter is that, once you’ve populated it with friends genuine or aspirational, it feels like a slow-burn house party you can pop into whenever you like. Yet even though adding random people on Twitter is just a one-click action, most of us prune our follow list very judiciously to prevent tedious or random tweets to pollute our streams. Understandable! But don’t discount the joy of discovery that can come by weaving a stranger’s life into your own.
a commenter on Farrell's post links, without realizing it, to criticism of the post at Gizmodo.
 A similar attempt at self-improvement gone patronizingly wrong.
Farrell
oh god – that is in fact the post that Lehrer links through to, which I had not read (stopping with Lehrer’s own argument). Don’t think it invalidates the underlying point (that it is good and enlightening to read people writing and thinking from very different perspectives), but it does point to the ways in which this can go horribly, horribly wrong if these people are treated as funny/quaint/weird inhabitants of some human zoo. 
"Don’t think it invalidates the underlying point"
The underlying point is that Jonah Lehrer read a post titled, Why I Stalk a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter (And Why You Should, Too) and then preceded to write about why it's good to talk to strangers. "We naturally lead manicured lives" Some of us refuse to. Most have no choice not to. The quote from Lehrer is almost painful.

Farrell: Weak Heterophily
Lehrer: Twitter Strangers
Joel Johnson: Why I Stalk a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter (And Why You Should, Too)
Shani: The Odd Habits And Foibles Of Sexy Black Women On The Internet.

Zadie Smith
But to live variously cannot simply be a gift, endowed by an accident of birth; it has to be a continual effort, continually renewed. I felt this with force the night of the election. I was at a lovely New York party, full of lovely people, almost all of whom were white, liberal, highly educated, and celebrating with one happy voice as the states turned blue. Just as they called Iowa my phone rang and a strident German voice said: “Zadie! Come to Harlem! It’s vild here. I’m in za middle of a crazy Reggae bar—it’s so vonderful! Vy not come now!”

I mention he was German only so we don’t run away with the idea that flexibility comes only to the beige, or gay, or otherwise marginalized. Flexibility is a choice, always open to all of us. (He was a writer, however. Make of that what you will.)

But wait: all the way uptown? A crazy reggae bar? For a minute I hesitated, because I was at a lovely party having a lovely time. Or was that it? There was something else. In truth I thought: but I’ll be ludicrous, in my silly dress, with this silly posh English voice, in a crowded bar of black New Yorkers celebrating. It’s amazing how many of our cross-cultural and cross-class encounters are limited not by hate or pride or shame, but by another equally insidious, less-discussed, emotion: embarrassment. A few minutes later, I was in a taxi and heading uptown with my Northern Irish husband and our half-Indian, half-English friend, but that initial hesitation was ominous; the first step on a typical British journey. A hesitation in the face of difference, which leads to caution before difference and ends in fear of it. Before long, the only voice you recognize, the only life you can empathize with, is your own. You will think that a novelist’s screwy leap of logic. Well, it’s my novelist credo and I believe it. I believe that flexibility of voice leads to a flexibility in all things.
The passage from Zadie Smith is a repeat. The link is at the bottom of the page, here. See also this. And this is appropriate as well. The aftertaste of gall.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

comments posted elsewhere. more fun with philosophers
Most academics who defend competition and adversarialism and the vagaries of the market live their own lives as academics abjuring the behavior they claim to celebrate: by the light of disinterested reason, they claim the universality of interested reason. Academics who argue against the model of adversarialism and for collaborative reason nonetheless spend their lives in endless competition and status seeking within the intellectual marketplace of the academy. Both claim for the academy a rightful near monopoly of intellectual authority; both are a model of what Kant referred to as "private reason." Rawls epitomizes the reversal of Kant's hopes. Rawls and Cohen abjured the practice of virtue ethics in favor of the search for ideal calculations and problem solving "machines" to remove the burdens of moral responsibility. The result are books manifesting a erudite sorrowful self-pity.

Cohen:
It's difficult to expect a person who lives in a particular social niche to depress the circumstances of himself and his family below a certain level even for the sake of principles that he sincerely affirms. 
...the transition from being wealthy to being not wealthy at all can be extremely burdensome and the person who has tasted wealth will suffer more typically from lack of it than someone who's had quote unquote the good fortune never to be wealthy and therefore has built up the character and the orientation that can cope well with it.
Pure unctuous sleaze.

Jason Brennan is a libertarian and explicitly opposed to democracy, I can only assume, because democracy is not "true". Robert Paul Wolff claims that "anarchism is 'true'". He fantasizes a utopia of equality if only some imaginary others would stop behaving as they do. The only truth I can see is that most people are shorted-sighted and self-interested, and that all of us are idiots much of the time. The only "values" I can imagine for myself -the explicit overlaying of metaphysics upon facts- is that greed is boring, a mark of the incurious, the lowest form of vulgarity, something to be outgrown.

The only person above who seems to understand this is Wolff, who seems to have chosen virtue ethics as a model of personal behavior while still spending his career spouting scholasticism. But actions being more important than words, the form of language taking precedence over "ideas", I salute him.
the references are repeats. [Brennan is recent] As I think I've said before, I transcribed the Cohen interview; it's in an unpublished post.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Old wine in new bottles... Drift

Change at the New York Times
Israel, Don’t Level My Village 
SUSIYA, West Bank — IN 1948, as Israeli forces closed in on his village of Qaryatayn, my grandfather carried my father in his arms to Susiya, about five miles north, in the South Hebron Hills area.
“We will go back home soon,” my grandfather told my father.
They did not. Qaryatayn was destroyed, along with about 400 other Palestinian villages that were razed between 1948 and the mid-1950s. My family rebuilt their lives in Susiya, across the 1949 armistice line in the West Bank.
Change for Henry Farrell.
A Brief Theory of Very Serious People 
Tyler Cowen argues that the concept of “Very Serious People” refers to people who “realize that common sense morality must, to a considerable extent, rule politics.”
...Shorter Theory of Very Serious People.
1. Being Tom Friedman Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry.
Farrell
...my mental model of Tyler often sit[s] on my shoulder while I blog, making polite and well reasoned libertarian criticisms of my arguments...
etc.
What an extraordinarily interesting debate. Thanks to everyone. It seems clear to this reader–who has nothing at stake–that Henry is refusing to see things, while Kerr is smoothly awful
Davies the moralist
[re: Gawker] But "if you're ashamed of cheating on your wife, don't cheat on your wife" - is that really too much to ask? 
Bankers have had their day under scrutiny
The post got more offensive as time went on
Henry Farrell: "Ted Barlow (of glorious memory)"
Ted Barlow
The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
Maria Farrell: "In any case, as Henry says, yes, I was extremely anti the war"
(Even by the most generous standard of measurement, by 2011 any moral distinction between Iraq and Afghanistan had vanished.)

Zhang Yimou, Andreas Gursky, Laibach, Rodgers and Hammerstein

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The ideal of Modernism was that it was a sort of return to the Renaissance, but the Renaissance was a loosening of rules, while Modernism was a closing down. Gursky’s nihilism begins in Seurat. To see Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as the high-point of 20th century painting is to imagine a century beginning with the Carracci and Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas and fading into mannerism. The idealism of Modernism is always the idealism of a church, or the equally strict, fearful, ironic mockery of the same church.

The odd man out here is Matisse, who reached neither Picasso’s heights nor lows. His great ugly paintings were never as graceless as the best Picasso. To stand with an open mind in front of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon at MoMA in New York the question still comes up of how something so broken can function, can be an order and not an absence of order. I imagine it as the tastes of an Ortolan in reverse order: first you get the bones and shit. It manages to be the worst of the most vulgar pornographic early Cezanne, and his best. Matisse never reached that level of dissonance, and Picasso never reached when he tried, more that he was able briefly to manage it when it wouldn’t go away.

Picasso’s best works were anti-formalist; Matisse knew he had to make formalism rich enough to be more. His works come closer to what I’ve called design -his closest imitators were designers- if only because he fit the model of an ideal Renaissance art that Modernists claimed for themselves, in his case a cross between Andrea della Robbia and Fred Astaire. "Why not a brothel, Matisse?" "Because nobody asked me, Picasso.” Blasphemy was common in Modernism; casual blasphemy was common mostly among the unserious. Matisse’s response to Picasso’s glib, ersatz communism carried the weight of a commitment that Picasso lacked, not a commitment to revolution or dreams of utopia but to the social itself, to the world around him, including the world of other people. There’s a way in which Eliot’s wry comments on James fit Matisse as well, because there’s always a mimetic power to his work. Figures and plants are never simply an excuse; there’s always a sympathy, even if it’s a physical rather than psychological or intellectual sympathy. There’s still in Matisse the warmth of other’s bodies.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"When Matisse was working hard he used the most appalling language. 'What a goddamn way to make a living!' he would say over and over." —Rosamond Bernier

Monday, July 20, 2015

on and on...
If visual art were taken to be like other arts, and stripped of the association with philosophy and finery, the age of mechanical reproduction would have begun with Gutenberg. The sense that a photograph can be said to act as an index, in Peirce’s terminology, now a ubiquitous reference, is the end of photography as art. It’s the definition of photography as illustration, the model of Gerome and Winterhalter and Madison Ave.
Using the terms of Charles Sanders Peirce's semiotics, though the photograph appears to be an icon (through resemblance) and though it is to some extent a symbol (principally through the use of the camera as a codifying device), its proper sign type, which it shares with no other visual representation (except the cast and, of course, cinema), is the index, i.e. a sign causally related to its object.
The viewer is said not to be looking at the photograph, but at the thing depicted. To repeat what I wrote above: a Holbein portrait is first a painting, second a Holbein, third a portrait, and fourth a portrait of. According to the art theorist Thierry de Duve writing in the journal, October, in 1978, -theorists being neither historians nor critics but both and more - photography has succeed where all others failed in reversing that order. And what’s left?
How does one relate to a space of such precision? One thing is certain: it doesn't give way to a reading procedure. For an image to be read requires that language be applied to the image. And this in turn demands that the perceived space be receptive to an unfolding into some sort of narrative. Now, a point is not subject to any description, nor is it able to generate a narration. Language fails to operate in front of the pin-pointed space of the photograph, and the onlooker is left momentarily aphasic. Speech in turn, is reduced to the sharpness of a hiccup. It is left unmoored, or better, suspended between two moorings that are equally refused. Either it grasps at the imaginary by connecting to the referential series, in order to develop the formerly into a plausible chronology, only to realize that this attempt will never leave the realm of fiction. Or it grasps at the symbolic by connecting to the superficial series, in order to construct upon the here a plausible scenography; and in this case also the attempt is structurally doomed. Such a shock, such a breakdown in the symbolic function, such a failure of any secondary process -as Freud puts it- bears a name. It is trauma.
de Duve ends on a high note of grand intellectualism and cheap melodrama.
Hegel's prophecy that art was about to come to an end was published in 1839, the very same year in which Talbot and Daguerre independently made public the invention of photography. It might be more than mere coincidence.
His piece is a discussion of long and short exposures, time and snapshot, which he treats as distinct up to a point. If he were more of a historian and less of a philosopher he’d have noted that the advances that made the snapshot possible did the same for cinema and collage, both of which returned language to photography even accepting the limits of photography itself as he describes them. Long exposures have a compressed but visceral sense of narrative, and that narrative quality returns expanded exponentially in film. Photography though ubiquitous even after acceptance as an art was still kept apart, as a smaller form; collage was accepted as immediately as any of its competitors, while film emerged as the most important visual art of the century. Finally although it’s easy to blame the market for novelty for photography’s place now in contemporary art it makes more sense to argue that photography would never be fully integrated into the model of art comparable to painting until it was seen as independent from its role as index. It’s a sign of just have much we’ve changed, and how much we haven’t that the contemporary exemplars of the honesty of Manet’s Olympia are Cindy Sherman’s portraits of herself.

Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida, includes a photograph from 1865, of one of John Wilkes Booth’s collaborators before his execution. Barthes’ caption reads, "He is dead and he is going to die ..." That is the base ground on which any photographer has to build if they want to make anything that will be remembered as anything other than one anonymous image among others. Barthes certainly would never wish that anonymity on his own writing. A couple of years ago as I was walking out of the annual show put on by the Association of International Photo Art Dealers, AIPAD, in NY, a well dressed couple were hurrying in, the man obviously on the prowl. As they walked by me the man turned to the woman, “Remember, it’s it not the image… It’s the material!” No serious connoisseur of photography, rich or poor, critic or collector, has ever been interested in photographs as index as opposed to art: the relation of formal construct to the world. Photographs on paper are physical things; until recently the prints were made by hand and eye, and nothing like the images in a book or on a screen. Film and video are immaterial, intangible, but made of thousands of images in series. Different forms have different capacities, strengths and weaknesses. Philosophers like to claim now to find exceptions, to discover or invent. Mechanically produced images and words are now the rule. Before saying they do new things you should be able to show they don’t do old things in new ways.
Benjamin
This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. Communism responds by politicizing art.
Freud
In a passage from one of the Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis Freud says that as the result of a successful treatment repression is replaced by 'the condemning judgement'. He doesn't explain the difference between the two. What's the difference between "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother" and "I don't want to kill my father and sleep with my mother." Is the first, louder and more nervous? More declarative? More cocksure? I don't know but it's a question conceptualists can't answer.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Alexander Gardner: Portrait of Lewis Payne 1865
"He is dead and he is going to die ..."

The above approximates the layout of one page from Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida.

I've never forgotten seeing it for the first and only time, leafing through it at a bookstore in the mid 80s. It's the first time I understood the taste for cheap melodrama underneath all the pretensions of high theory. I was amazed. I was shocked.
Rewriting the paper. Nothing new except I'm reading the stupidity I avoided reading years ago.
A long exchange with Amos Schocken on Twitter. The connection of German Jews, especially the patrician, to the homeland is still very strong, and very unexamined. [Jason Stanley, and others]


I said he needed to pick one or the other. A back and forth until this:

"The west Germans have done an outstanding job in taking responsibility/ for the Holocaust and in educating the young accordingly."

I told him he looked like Richter. He took it as a compliment, missing the irony. He's a decent man.

Friday, July 17, 2015

writing, rewriting.
When I was young I chased a girl. I said: “I love you.” She said: “No, you don’t.”
 How did she know? She couldn’t read my mind; she had no way to prove she was right. And now I think she was, but I didn’t at the time. She made her decision by following not just my words but my performance of them. She listened and watched for subtext and saw conflict. Meanings are private, locked in, we negotiate decision-making processes by interpreting form. Debates over the definition of abstract truths in language are not only useless, they’re counterproductive: they’re based on a misunderstanding and as models for intellectual activity they set a bad example. This is what humanists find so annoying about debates over the truth or falsity of religion. I have no interest in god or gods but I can’t prove they don’t exist any more than I could have proved my love existed for the girl. And I can’t prove people believe what they say they believe, or for the reasons they claim. Truths are unavailable to us. It means nothing that Donald Rumsfeld is an atheist, he commanded a military campaign based on faith. And now I think the girl had a better grasp of reality than I did.

If you can’t know the truth of what’s going on in other people’s minds, you also can’t teach the skills to read their gestures. You can teach rules but not judgment, the ability to read the space between assumptions. You can’t teach things that are learned primarily through experience. And connoisseurship as observer is tied to connoisseurship as producer: you can teach techniques but not craft. A violin teacher is a coach; the students teach themselves the distinctions necessary to improve their playing. Connoisseurship is empiricism, and in a world where objective reality is unknowable, it’s a necessity.

The history of modern intellectual life, more even than the history of modernity itself, if it were to be written now would need to need to be written by a historian from Mars, someone so far removed from the events of the past century that their biases are wholly other. Objectivity does not exist; the sociological history of the present describes the present no more than cognitive science describes the mind. You can’t pretend to describe
yourself and call it science. Skinner was right to call cognitive science “the creation science of psychology”. There’s no scientific study of ideas as ideas; there’s no scientific study of metaphysics. They’re what we are as persons, as people with experiences, desires, and names. Once you’ve acknowledge yourself as “Rudolf Carnap” any hope of the end of metaphysics is gone. It was never there to begin with. What you’re left writing is poetry.
Perceptions precede ideas and together they’re the first tools in our study of facts, but since our tools are our enchantments science is no more than comparative enchantment. The more formal the technics the more the enchantments are shared, and being shared they seem to fade. But they don't fade. The culture of technics qua technics is the sociality of elision, at this point known as the culture of geeks. The culture of shared enchantment in public life is the conversation of polite racists and earnest liberals about “the Jews”, “the Negro problem”, “the strangeness of foreigners”, and “what women want”.

The history of modern Germany cannot be understood without the history written by Jews. The history of modern Judaism cannot be understood without the history written by Palestinians. There’s no end to it. Absent that the best we’ll get is the equivalent of the feminism of men. Philosophers now imagine a gender neutral feminism but even if that’s true, or “true”, neutrality is the result not the cause.
The recorded descriptions of modernity are voluminous, if only because of the technological advances in recording. We have a record of ourselves greater by scale of thousands than of any time in history. But the operative term again is description. The failures of modern criticism are greatest when description becomes positivism and prescription. The philosophy of empiricism is still the practice of rationalism; empiricism itself is something else. Quine was a logician. The philosophy of biology is not biology. And I will argue here that the arts, not as idea but as activity, are the most intimate description, the most intimate empiricism that we have. If you want to understand the Vienna Circle, Plato, Kant, or Wittgenstein, you need to read their works as logic, as documents of history, as desire, and as form.

The Oxbridge Marxist G.A. Cohen could have been a character in someone else's novel. He was raised a Stalinist and died a maudlin sentimentalist. He was the product of his time who was unwilling or unable to model his own relation to it. He wanted people to be nice to one another but there was no sense that anything beyond the individual actor was constitutive of our world of experience. In the middle of his career he was a proponent of “Rational Choice” Marxism, or as he also called it “Non-Bullshit” Marxism. At the end of his career he was an ex-Marxist. ...
a comment at the Boston Review
This entire debate is absurd. Singer says we should aim for more than doing well; we should do good. But regardless of his claims even the word "Altruism" is a form of patting himself on the back.

But what do the naysayers have a response. Angus Deaton refers to studies by the Cochrane Collaboration, and who are they?
We are a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers, and people interested in health. 
Cochrane contributors - 37,000 from more than 130 countries - work together to produce credible, accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest.
Effective Altruists? 
The only point worth making about this stupid debate, the one point avoided, is that you can't do good without getting dirty, if not physically dirty then morally dirty. Deaton's arguments as intended are as anti-political as Singer's: everything seen from the distance of "reason" of one sort of another. 
I met a woman in a bar. She was an ER surgeon. She's been doing it for 20 years and wanted to do nothing else. I said "You feel like a god until you kill your first patient". She looked at me, shocked. "You understand!" Nurses if you're curious have their own kinks. 
Altruism is virtue ethics for pedants, and Deaton responds with the condescension of political realism delivered as a kind of intellectual idealism. How's that for perversity! 
A friend's neighbor is a trial lawyer: big money, drugs and guns and everything else. He says "I'm at the forefront of the defense of your civili liberties". He's right.

The world is the playground. The library is a place to visit not to live in. But still I'd be a bit ashamed to be as rich as Singer or Deaton.
not bad.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Collared shirts and ties
I admit it's become one of those aesthetic mysteries to me. They're basically useless.
Everything I am is normal. Everything I think of as odd, is odd.
[The post is about lawns]

Lawns are a transitional space between the private and the public. In America, "a home is a castle". The rich have moats too. And a few days ago he complained about gentrification.

The rise of the Geek, the One Dimensional Man.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The paragraph below is an example of the division it describes. For politics as discord among individuals, read politics as discord in the mind of the author, J.S. Mill. That discord is a requirement before any other.

"On Liberty"
In politics, again, it is almost a commonplace, that a party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life; until the one or the other shall have so enlarged its mental grasp as to be a party equally of order and of progress, knowing and distinguishing what is fit to be preserved from what ought to be swept away. Each of these modes of thinking derives its utility from the deficiencies of the other; but it is in a great measure the opposition of the other that keeps each within the limits of reason and sanity. Unless opinions favourable to democracy and to aristocracy, to property and to equality, to co-operation and to competition, to luxury and to abstinence, to sociality and individuality, to liberty and discipline, and all the other standing antagonisms of practical life, are expressed with equal freedom, and enforced and defended with equal talent and energy, there is no chance of both elements obtaining their due; one scale is sure to go up and the other down.
to utilitarianism and to...

See Aristotle and Montesquieu, and republicanism

"Because I am an MP, not only am I the youngest,  but I am also the only 20 year old in the whole of the UK that the chancellor is prepared to help with housing."

The youngest MP since the reform act of 1832.

@MhairiBlack

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ali Khamenei speaking in 2012
"It is interesting to realize that America overthrew his government even though Mosaddeq had shown no animosity toward them. He had stood up to the British and trusted the Americans. He had hoped that the Americans would help him; he had friendly relations with them, he expressed an interest in them, perhaps he [even] expressed humility toward them. And [still] the Americans [overthrew] such a government. It was not as if the government in power in Tehran had been anti-American. No, it had been friendly toward them. But the interests of Arrogance [a term Khamenei often uses to symbolize the United States] required that the Americans ally with the British. They gathered money and brought it here and did their job. Then, when they brought their coup into fruition and had returned the shah, who had fled, they had the run of the country."
I posted it before, but it's a good time for a repeat.
Filed under determinism, etc.

Analytic philosophers write novels:
Colin McGinn has written two, the most recent self-published. (Amazon)
I remember reading an enjoyably cruel review of the first one.
Timothy Williamson has  a "Tetralogue"
Alex Rosenberg's now written The Girl from Krakow (also Amazon)

Not so long ago fictions were no more than lies.

correction: Rosenberg from an exchange with Williamson in 2011
That doesn’t mean anyone should stop doing literary criticism any more than forgoing fiction. Naturalism treats both as fun, but neither as knowledge. 
extra: a line I should have quoted years when I was comparing him to Lady Gaga.
I dismiss no phenomenon, I dismiss attempts to reconcile naturalism with intentionality, human agency, free will and finally the enduring self.
"I... I dismiss the... self"
---

Filed under determinism, etc.
"I claim no expertise on Iran..." 
"With an actual deal, with definitive text and conditions, now in place, I wanted to share a few initial reactions..." 
Critics in Washington, Israel and the Gulf nations that neighbor Iran say the deal will merely delay the country's path... 
First take: Obama's winning streak continues with Iran deal... 
Sanctions, inspections, and decision-makers: The number of things that could still trip up an Iranian nuclear agreement is small, but they're ...
What a stupid fucking country.

Filed under determinism, etc.

BBC, Celebrations in Tehran
There are people who lived in Tehran in the 90s who look back with nostalgia, even if they laugh at themselves doing it.

Conservatism fails, whether or not those who call themselves conservatives are trying to do what they think is the right thing.

Monday, July 13, 2015

D Davies in two comments in 2009.  My comments were deleted, but archived. I always remembered the exchange but missed something in his exchange with others. I should have been much tougher.
...I, in fact, don’t think that there are “tragic dilemmas”, if this is to mean anything other than that there are situations in which one wants to have one’s cake but also (tragedia!) to eat it. There are questions of fact, upon which it is possible to be right and to be wrong, and with the perspective of six years, it is actually pretty easy to see who was right and who was wrong. I must confess that all this talk about “tragic dilemmas” looks an awful lot like relativism to me, and I know how much you hate that.
--- 
"However, one mark of crass consequentialism is to ignore the possibility of tragic dilemmas, yes?"
A “tragic dilemma”, as I understand it, is a situation in which consequentialism gives a clear answer about which alternative is better, but the answer in question is unpalatable. I don’t see why, in such a situation, consequentialism should be described as “crass” rather than, say, “jolly sensible”.
A tragic dilemma is the choice between feeding you child and cancer medicine for your wife.

That helps to explain his obliviousness.

Quiggin. Not the post, the comments.

Wiesenthal: Greece's new deal rests on an privatization scheme that's already been tried once and failed.
Sell the airports, the bridges, the islands and the Parthenon.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Varoufakis: Germany won’t spare Greek pain – it has an interest in breaking us

Yves Smith

Evans-Prichard was right.
rewriting, page by page, the references below quoted in the text.
Eliot was like James but also Duchamp, who less refused to embalm the past than made art out the art of embalming itself: an art about post-adolescent nostalgia. The question for Santayana, and for Duchamp -or at least his later academic champions- is whether this observant counterpoint to Modernism can be called analysis, since that implies a claim to objectivity that Santayana might otherwise avoid.

Anti-moderns were moderns who opposed the present and preferred an idea of the past; the past itself was gone. The paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites represent a fantasy, at best borderline kitsch; Eliot understood that and wrote about and against his own desire. Duchamp avoided the fate of Alfred Jarry as Warhol avoided the fate of many of his “superstars”, by understanding them better than they understood themselves. Santayana refers to distance, and “the outer world”, dodging the fact that it’s no more than a relation, Europe to America, and one relation among others. Rather than fantasizing a historical place he fantasizes the history of a manner: James, Eliot, Duchamp, Russell and Proust, all hewed to the manners of the aristocracy and the high bourgeois. But Santayana indulges aristocratic sentiment and Russell elides it, trying to escape contradictions that all the artists dive into head first. Santayana chides Russell but in the end they’re both philosophers, men of ideas before experience. And again that’s the final subject here: the relation not of art to science, but of art and science to independent philosophy and theology, of empiricism to rationalism.

It would take more of a philologist than I am to describe to the history of analysis, with all the word implies, because all of the various 20th century pseudo-sciences begin in the 18th century, and earlier. It’s not a question anymore whether or not Descartes’ imagination was formed in the 17th century counter-renaissance. “History” he writes, “is like foreign Travel. It broadens the mind but does it not deepen it.” Stephen Toulmin quoting him in the early 90s is much too polite. James Boon, twenty years before Toulmin, writing about the relation of Levi Strauss to the Symbolists is apologetic to the point of obsequiousness. But it’s no longer a question whether or not Saussure and Mallarmé exemplify the concerns of an era, whether ideas of synchrony and timelessness, of ideal order, satisfied a desire in an age of dynamism and instability. It’s interesting that in books on the relation of fine art to philosophy, reticence is the least of the authors' problems, again due to the historical relation of the fine arts to the Church, to theology and to “truth” as opposed to fiction and “lies”. Eliot and Santayana both would be surprised to find Duchamp, another heir to Huysmans, hailed as a philosopher by none other than the editor of the Journal of Philosophy. But Arthur Danto was nothing if not an heir to the genteel tradition.

Monday, July 06, 2015

The founding logic of the EU, and the euro.

2015. FT
For years, Italy and Brussels have squabbled, made peace and fought again over how to regulate food and wine produced in the eurozone’s third’s-largest economy. But a new row has now burst into the open after the EU demanded that Italy scrap a 1974 law — banning the use of powdered and condensed milk in cheese — on the grounds that it represents a “restriction to the free movement of goods”.
 2010. Bloomberg
Italian rules allowing candy makers including Nestle SA to label their products as “pure chocolate” breach European Union law, the region’s highest court said.
Permitting chocolate made from pure cocoa butter to be called “cioccolato puro,” or “pure chocolate,” clashes with EU-wide measures which allow chocolate laced with vegetable fats to be marketed as chocolate, the tribunal in Luxembourg said.
EU law “makes no provision for the sales name pure chocolate,” the court said. Allowing an extra sales name for chocolate that contains no vegetable fat “is likely to mislead consumers and thus interfere with their right to obtain correct, neutral and objective information.”
 etc
German roofers were under pressure from the EU a few years ago because in Germany you were not allowed to start your own company without 7 or 8 years of experience, and other countries were far less strict. But German roofers were considered the best in Europe. At the same time small batch cheese makers in Switzerland are under pressure now from industrial cheese manufacturers in Germany, who buy up all the milk. 
If generalizations are truth then so are mediocrities.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
Simon Blackburn's Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, comparisons, changes and additions made at some point between the first edition in 1994 and 2005

Humanism
Most generally, any philosophy concerned to emphasize human welfare and dignity, and either optimistic about the powers of human reason, or at least insistent that we have no alternative but to use it as best we can. More particularly, the movement distinctive of the Renaissance and allied to the renewed study of Greek and Roman literature: a rediscovery of the unity of human beings and nature, and a renewed celebration of the pleasures of life, all supposed lost in the medieval world. Humanism in this Renaissance sense was quite consistent with religious belief, it being supposed that God had put us here precisely in order to further those things the humanists found important. Later the term tended to become appropriated for antireligious social and political movements. Finally, in the late 20th century, humanism is sometimes used as a pejorative term by postmodernist and especially feminist writers. applied to philosophies such as that of Sartre, that rely upon the possibility of the autonomous, selfconscious, rational, single self, and that are supposedly insensitive to the inevitable fragmentary, splintered, historically and socially conditioned nature of personality and motivation. 
The underlined was added.
"...renewed celebration of the pleasures of life, all supposed lost in the medieval world." 
"supposedly insensitive to the inevitable fragmentary, splintered, historically and socially conditioned nature of personality and motivation."
Snide, and wrong.

The entry, unchanged, for Montaigne. No mention of humanism.
Montaigne had no very high opinion of the faculties and achievements of mankind. His attitude found ample confirmation in the work of Sextus Empiricus whose motto "Que sais-je" ("What do I know?") Montaigne adopted to himself.
Erasmus, unchanged
One of the earliest and greatest humanists of the Northern Renaissance,
...had little confidence that the unaided powers of men were capable of forging new utopias. 
Blackburn can't keep his definitions straight.

The entry for Thomas More doesn't refer to him as a humanist though he's referred to in other entries as a humanist. He and Erasmus are linked in both their entries.
He is remembered philosophically partly as a friend of Erasmus and a key figure in the renaissance in England but, also as the author of Utopia (1516) a description of the quest for a political ideal that is satisfied by a system of communism, national education, and free toleration of religion.
No mention of irony.

1994 - Entry for Liberalism but not for Republicanism, for Isaac Newton but not Blackstone. Both were added.  Locke is treated deferentially, Montesquieu snidely. No changes.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A banker's job, viewed from the ideal of efficiency, is making money. I'm not sure I'd want to be operated on by a brain surgeon who didn't see his job as brain surgery.
---

New descriptions for old arguments.

The paradox of efficiency. [not the Javons paradox]
Sartre's waiter as a descriptive model of geekdom, (the best I've ever read) but not of waiters.
How do you reason yourself out of pedantry?
  1. The purpose of a business is making widgets that can be sold for a profit.
  2. The purpose of a business is making widgets that can be sold for a profit.
  3. The purpose of a business is profit.
  1. A carpenter's job is making things that can be sold for a profit.
  2. A carpenter's job is making things that can be sold for a profit.
  3. A carpenter's job is profit
  1. An economist's job is...
  2. A philosopher's job...
  3. A scientist's job...
  4. A writer's job is...
  5. A musician's job is...
  6. A chef's job is...
What's left to be done "for it's own sake"? What class of people are permitted an explicit combination of social and economic exchange? And what class of people are permitted to reverse the priority?

Social life is seen as intellectually inefficient.  It's assumed to be economically inefficient.

Working lawyers (not law professors) describe themselves as tradespeople. Their skill is social as well as technical. They're not rule-followers they're players at rule following; the playing is constitutive of their success and of their knowledge. The contemporary culture of crafting, by comparison is aestheticized rule-following, fitting the model of the "hospitality industry", of techs and ad agency "creatives".

Crafting as geekdom finds its apotheosis in Sartre's waiter, but Sartre follows the model of efficiency celebrated by philosophers, and as such by Modernists, that sees craft as nothing but illustration, and fantasizing individualism and "authenticity" he misses the point.
Let us consider this waiter in the café. His movement is quick and forward, a little too precis, a little too rapid. He comes toward the patrons with a step a little too quick. He bends forward a little too eagerly; his voice, his eyes express an interest a little too solicitous for the order of the customer. Finally there he return, trying to imitate in his walk the inflexible stiffness of some kind of automaton whale carrying his tray with the recklessness of a tight-rope-walker by putting it in a perpetually unstable, perpetually broken equilibrium which he perpetually reestablishes by a light movement of the arm and hand. All his behavior seems to us a game. He applies himself to chaining his movements as if they were mechanisms, the one regulating the other; his gestures and even his voice seem to be mechanisms; he gives himself the quickness and pitiless rapidity of things. He is playing, he is amusing himself. But what is he playing? We need not watch long before we can explain it: he is playing at being a waiter in a cafe. There is nothing there to surprise us. The game is a kind of marking out and investigation. The child plays with his body in order to explore it, to take inventory of it; the waiter in the cafe plays with his condition in order to realize it. This obligation is not different from that which is imposed on all tradesmen. Their condition is wholly one of ceremony. The public demands of them that they realize it as a ceremony; there is the dance of the grocer, of the tailor, of the auctioneer, by which they endeavour to persuade their clientele that they are nothing but a grocer, an auctioneer, a tailor. A grocer who dreams is offensive to the buyer, because such a grocer is not wholly a grocer. Society demands that he limit himself to his function as a grocer, just as the soldier at attention makes himself into a soldier-thing with a direct regard which does not see at all, which is no longer meant to see, since it is the rule and not the interest of the moment which determines the point he must fix his eyes on (the sight "fixed at ten paces"). There are indeed many precautions to imprison a man in what he to as if we lived in perpetual fear that he might escape from it, that he might break away and suddenly elude his condition.  
"A grocer who dreams is offensive to the buyer, because such a grocer is not wholly a grocer." 
Even if the buyer is a tailor? Sartre is a member of the class permitted to join art and leisure and he pretends to be artless. He sees others living through their social roles and pretends -the French bourgeois leftist intellectual- that he's not doing the same. "The child plays with his body in order to explore it, to take inventory of it." So does a dancer, why not a waiter.  Lawyers play with their minds, and so do philosophers. But lawyers play in pairs. Philosophers' model of sport devolves to onanism, or similar. The link's to McGinn [!]

This is all for the paper, which already has this.
If communication is a circuit, reflex is a short. The fantasy of the premature ejaculator is a state of eternal orgasm. The mania for progress becomes no more than simply the desire to go faster. If knowledge is measured in conclusions not in processes then the shortest distance between two points, the short circuit, is the obvious choice.
Kant on rule-following, Critique of Pure Reason
If understanding as such is explicated as our power of rules, then the power of judgment is the ability to subsume under rules, i.e., to distinguish whether something does or does not fall under a given rule (is or is not a casus datae legis). General logic contains no prescriptions whatever for the power of judgment; nor can it. For since general logic abstracts from all content of cognition, there remains for it nothing but the task of spelling out analytically the mere form of cognition as found in concepts, judgments, and inferences, and of thus bringing about formal rules for any use of understanding. Now if general logic wanted to show universally whether something does or does not fall under them, then this could not be done except again by a rule. But for this rule, precisely because it is thus we find that, whereas understanding is capable of being taught and equipped by rules, the power of judgment is a particular talent that cannot be taught at all but can only be practiced
"...the power of judgment is a particular talent that cannot be taught at all but can only be practiced..."

Like playing the violin or making one, like surgery or slicing lox, like seducing a woman or a man, a jury or an electorate.

A banker's job, viewed from the ideal of efficiency, is making money. I'm not sure I'd want to be operated on by a brain surgeon who didn't see his job as brain surgery. It's a subtle distinction, but a very important one.

I found the passage looking for sources on Kant and Wittgenstein, through Cogburn, who's still an idiot. [as I said: "'The return to metaphysics' is a return to theology as science, to 13th century scholasticism, to fantasies of truth." (more)] The point is to tie both Kant and Wittgenstein back into pre-Enlightenment Humanism, (pervious post) and the fading (again) of scholastic pedantry.

Time is change; Wittgenstein and Robert Wilson.

Dogmatic slumber: Cogburn goes to church once a week at least.
I don't make affirmative defenses of atheism as belief. I make affirmative defenses of secularism as practice, but that doesn't mean I have patience with affirmative defenses of religion as such.
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Earlier mention of Kant, as pedant.