Monday, February 21, 2005

Still in bed. It's a holiday.


M: “One cannot choose to believe in something one already knows to be false - that’s just not a coherent idea -“

S: I don’t suppose you get out of the house much, but for that reason alone, you should try reading a novel or two. You might learn something; people make these sorts of choices all the time. I’m assuming that you are trying to ’best make sense of the world’ but perhaps that’s not the case.

Art duplicates and documents the way decisions are made in the world. Philosophy seems content to describe the reasons people give for their actions. Again: actions define values. People lie to themselves and others. As for the distinction between ontological and epistemological objectivity: if you want to stick to parlour games there can be none. And both are a fantasy.

M: When I read a novel I know that it is a novel, a work of fiction. I do not believe that it is actually a true historical account BECAUSE I know it is a work of fiction. I may find novels and films ’believable’ or ’realistic’ but that is a whole order of difference away from believing it to be literally real or true.

S: You miss the point. Novels are descriptive [of the present] in that they are manifestations of the categories we choose to live by, rather than arguments for categories we would like to pretend we live by.
Stories are merely the invention of their author and as such are not true. But the language is the product of a community and a time, and the author’s use of that language is both a document and a fact.
The stories may not be true but the language is.
That’s probably too complex for you I know. Philosophers are literalists these days. And they read children’s book for fun.

As I responded in my earlier comments, which you've chosen to ignore, it was necessary for homosexuals, as for blacks, women and other minorities to construct public and therefore political personas in order to bring attention to their situation. Would it have been better if this were not the case? Is it possible to depoliticize race gender and sexualty?

But is there a difference among them as their nature as public or private? I'll put it more simply than i did before. Can you count all of the casual public expressions of heterosexuality you witness every day on the street? Do homosexuals think of themselves as being able to take the same gestures for granted? You describe what are in fact 'gradations' of shame in regards clothing and nudity [or 'nakedness'- nudity is something else] How do you reconstruct that subtlety once it's been destroyed?
And it was necessary for them to be destroyed.

I am not defending as an ideal the transformation of the private into the public, or of the fact of a thing into its ideological defense. My mother still tells the story of how my brother as a child when pointing out his best friend in a class photo used every descriptive term possible, his friend's height, his clothes, his position in the photograph, without thinking to mention the color of his skin. And I'm still annoyed when the Hispanic reporter for NPR, after giving a report in accentless english signs off giving the spanish pronunciation of her name, therby implying that anyone addressing her should do likewise. I find that demand to be arrogant and rude. Still, I understand the history, and history is something you seem to have no interest in.

How students of philosophy as it is now constituted imagine they can speak authoritatively about anything of consequence is beyond me. That and we are probably the only country on the planet with a political culture built on un-self-awareness to the degree that only the con men know the truth. News-hounds are shocked, shocked! that the transformations in Iranian culture - what we call 'entertainment'- could have political implications. And the literalism of the writing of the American political academy is as vulgar and self-indulgent as the mannered opacity of anything from the comp. lit brigades. I hate these people. I hate them with a passion.

Looking up something to continue with, I stumbled on this from March 9th 2003. It fits:
I can barely listen to Politicians in this country. Dean is talking to Russert as I write and his arguments are so middling; its an embarrassment to anyone who has an opinion, about anything at all.

I'm going to the Velazquez-Manet show today, but I'll tie up some loose ends before I go:
First I want to clarify my post on T.S. Eliot. Eliot's politics are repugnant, but I don't defend his poems because they're politically neutral -they aren't. They're as reactionary as he is. But they are an honest description of the mind of a reactionary. They are the poetry of reaction. There is no better antidote to the ideological defense of monarchy than the rambling monologues of an impotent and asexual nihilist desperate to maintain a sense of even the shadow of absolute moral order. It is heartbreaking to watch him cobble his arguments together. But brilliant obfuscation is still brilliant, and he is forced by circumstance and by his respect for order that his form has be so modern to be true. After all, modernity is all he knows. He can't allow himself to fall for cheap nostalgia. I read Eliot and still get a chill up my spine.

Arthur Schlesinger -that asskissing creep- has a piece on Henry Adams' 'Democracy' in the New York Review this week. Schlesinger talks about Adams' conflicted sympathies concerning the various characters as if somehow Adams should have made up his mind. The request is laughable. In the same issue Aileen Kelly has a piece on Dostoevsky documenting the long attempt of a few to make clear -to us in the west- the importance of the relationship between Dostoevsky's intellectual and artistic lives. But why should there even be a question? The intellectual life of this country is still so immature that intellectuals still have no idea what art is.

The words in a piece of writing may describe a blue sky and happiness, and the author may even imagine that that is what the piece is about. But the sentence structure, the phrasing, the music of the sounds of the letters strung together as you speak them may spell out dispair. Do you think Milton wanted the Devil to get all the good lines?
That's why it's called "art". The artist creates a structure that he/she decides is right. If he's lucky he nails it, according to some principle or other. And that principle has as much to do with rhyme or paint as a drawing room comedy has to do with furniture -they are all props- and everything to do with family, god, rationalism, nihilism, democracy athiesm, sex, or any other subject you can name. Those subjects in whatever form they appear to the maker, are then not illustrated -if the thing is good enough- but made manifest in the product itself. Of course the result is contradictory. If it weren't contradictory it wouldn't be very interesting. Even Fra Angelico is contradictory, he's just so gracious it seems too violent a word to use.

It seems to me that since we now look at religious art with athiest eyes we forget that subject matter exists for all art. Add this to our moralizing protestant streak, and it makes sense that we in this country make our art in secret and then deny it. The Blues. Jazz. Hollywood.

It may seem odd to use this as an illustration but it fits. I ran into John Waters on the street last night, and we chatted for a bit. I've know him as a friendly stranger for a few years, through CDL. And he has a show up now at the gallery. John is in the Eliot mold in a sense: innately conservative, but aware of the emtiness of it; he want's to take himself seriously but can't (but does in secret), caught between high, low, and now middle. There's a lot of sadness to him, but it's manic.

What a country.

Something I wrote years ago.
The wonder of Velazquez' royal portraits is that they describe a friendship between two men both of whom knew which of them would be remembered and which forgotten, and who knew equally that this would never be acknowledged by either of them nor by anyone that they would ever meet. Velazquez used all his skill to demonstrate to the world the power and just authority of the Spanish monarchy, but a humanist education and honesty could not bring him to show people as other than he saw them. So we see weak and melancholy kings and noble dwarfs, and -- for perhaps the first time in art in 1500 years-- not an image of the nobility of a political or religious order but an image of the nobility of the need to believe.
There's some nice stuff in there, even a little that's original. But it disgusts me that I should have to use it to try to explain things to otherwise educated adults, let alone those interested in politics.

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