Saturday, December 27, 2003

The oddest thing to me about the cojoining of academic philosophy and law is that the two are so obviously contradictory. Philosophy attempts to analyze the tension between the twin imperatives of construction and observation, but quite obviously prefers one to the other. But law has both a langue and a parole and it has a parole of the school and another of the courtroom. As in liberal discourse, moreover, where the lower class, or the uneducated, or the unemployed, are objects, one gets the sense in listening to academic legal debate—at least under the labels of Law and Philosophy—that not only the public but lawyers, those who are performers in the courts, stand as inferior before the ideals of the imagination. I would expect a more reciprocal relationship to apply.

It is one of our losses that intellectuals are no longer orators, and that skill with language is looked down upon, or worse, indulged as mere style. Mentioning this brought about the end of my correspondence with Belle, who sees formalism as tragic but inevitable, and acts accordingly, even as her language overpowers her ideas (leave it to me to debate the merits of fatalism with a hooker.)

One of my accidental presents this year was a CD of an Otto Klemperer St. Matthew Passion from 1962. The sprightly baroque-isms of my more recent British recording always annoyed me, but now I'm faced with this. Is it possible that the lateness of the Klemperer style is manifest in owing too much to the meaning of the text, while the lateness in the style of John Eliot Gardiner is exhibited in his not paying it enough attention? If one is too close to the content, is the other content merely to replicate the form? A question for philosophers of art and language.

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