Wednesday, November 24, 2004

In re: the posts of The Stanley Bros. at Brian Leiter's site and the discussion linked to below at CT.

Is the work of Michelangelo a 'conceptual scheme.' How about von Karajan's recordings of Mozart, or anything and everything by Bjork? If specialization and technical knowledge are seen as superior, does that not imply that skill is a more important intellectual trait than curiosity? It seems to me that we could end up in a world where automobile mechanics compete against each other to design cars with lower gas mileage, but no one is able to imagine the electric train.

Back to the notion of connoisseurship. What does it mean that we are able to recognize a work as being by a specific author without being told? Is Mozart's ouvre a system? How do we describe the idiosyncratic patternings of one author in a given language? [Not that connoisseurs don't make mistakes: What allowed Adorno to treat Jazz with contempt?] When I first read the discussion of Davidson in the Stanford Encyclopedia it took me only a moment to think of the problems of literary translation. And I did so bypassing any reference in my mind to of Sapir-Whorf. Is this my genius or simply the result of the fact that my parents were students of literature rather than philosophy?

More specifically than a simple techncal/humanist divide, I'd say that the sciences now operate under the illusion that the thinking subject does not play a role in their activities. LIke a policeman who conflates himself with the law, those involved in technical fields of study- or in fields where it is possible to construct purely technical subsets- perform in a self constructed theater of the unhuman. How else could so many people be so unaware (and have such lousy taste in art)? I seem to have a few academic visitors these days, so in the interests of curiosity rather than dogma, I'll ask again: what is the difference between art and illustration? Why is science fiction so much the latter? What kind of knowledge is that of the bricklayer or the the connoisseur? Why are lawyers like philosophers, actors, and con men?
Are these not questions for philosphy?
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On the job-site yesterday, while sucking ancient fiberglass into my lungs and pulling BX through old plaster walls, the DJ on the station we were listening to switched from a block of Albert Ayler to Prokifiev. This wouldn't interest me much, except that the first piece was central to my childhood. At the the tender age of 6, when these days kids have Star Wars, I had Nevsky.
It was an odd afternoon.

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