Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rule#1. Make it idiot-proof.
I hate explaining this shit, but it's all I do.

geek |gēk|
noun informal
1 an unfashionable or socially inept person.
• [with adj. ] a person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest : a computer geek.
2 a carnival performer who does wild or disgusting acts.
DERIVATIVES
geeky adjective
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from the related English dialect geck ‘fool,’ of Germanic origin; related to Dutch gek ‘mad, silly.’
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The bottom two drawings are obviously models of human interaction: either in the present (mediated by language) or in the study of the past (mediated by language and time). The top two are diagrams of common utopian/dystopian fantasies [hopes] of far too many people.
I should have made this clear long ago, but I take people too much for granted.

We study the past not by studying the preoccupations of those who were there but by studying the record of those preoccupations. We live alongside one another through another version of the same process. We cannot claim to share their interests -in terms of the present we can't claim identity- though in some cases we can claim an affinity with them, but there remains a gulf between us and our subjects and each other. This gulf can be wider or narrower depending on their interests and ours. The applications of Mathematics can appear to collapse historical time and the distance between individuals, numbers live in an eternal present and in unity with one another, but we don't.
Our society is a society built upon isolation and simultaneously upon a fixation on a desire/fear of simple absolute unity. Raves and The Borg are products of the same fear, desire, sadness.
A geek is someone who is so wed to his own fixations that he is unable to imagine the world through the mind of another. Americans are the prototypical geeks, unable to imagine non-Americans. But geeks now rule academia, even the humanities. Literature is now studied in academia by literature geeks. Our soldiers are military geeks. That specifically is dangerous, but so is the rest.
The above is, objectively, how the world works. It's the diagram for water-cooler chitchat, presidential elections, academic advancement, and how to pick up girls. It's the model of life as theater, assuming of course that actors know they're being observed. It's the model for intellectual "progress" in that progress is only possible if the model is seen to apply to human behavior. It is also therefore a defense of the arts, of craft, as a mode of reflexive activity and social engagement. [lawyers are craftsmen]. It's the model of artists' relation to one another and of artist to critic, if the critic sees himself in a reciprocal relation rather than as voyeur vampire, what academics become when they imagine themselves as observers and others as animate objects. The sciences and the pseudo-sciences have become not only asocial but anti-social. I've linked to Colin McGinn enough, but I've been pointing out examples of this for years. "Truth" is the metaphysical glow that attaches itself to unknown facts. It fades with familiarity and those facts return to their previous status as mundane.

If you don't understand that what you are and represent is being recontextualized constantly, and if you're remembered at all it will be as others see you, then you have no right to call yourself an "intellectual." Even then it's a term best left for others to use to describe you, if they choose.

Reading any text, examining any man-made thing, you ask yourself what to respond to: text or subtext, the intention of the maker or what the thing seems now to represent. Ideally you learn from both, but perhaps you have no way of knowing the maker's intent. Either way you may learn to respect the maker of a resilient, dynamic, order -a structure- and begin to reconstruct the categories they worked with, that were their preoccupation. You ask: “Is there more to learn from this person as thinker or as symptom?" Just as meeting someone on the street you ask: "Is this someone to laugh at, or with?" The stuff that lasts never becomes dated; the memorable minds are never merely symptomatic. Philip Roth is a practitioner of philosophical naturalism. Brian Leiter is a professor of a branch of a school of late scholastic philosophy. Post-war rationalism, late modernism, baroque idealism: these are the categories that will be used to describe it. They're categories of history, not reason.
At some point this will become so obvious that even PhD's will understand it.

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