Thursday, July 30, 2009

"Rosy-fingered Dawn"

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I put up the link and took it down. There was no reason to keep saying "here it is... almost." But I'm much further along now.


The purpose of this essay was to argue empirically for a positive philosophy of arts and language. I didn’t want to add to the pile of essays and books written mostly by melancholic ex-priests, of reason and the Church, who did no more than argue against an illusory certainty. I was always annoyed by the generic confusion of the conceptual half-literature of much continental philosophy. And conceptual literature itself of Borges and others leaves me cold: the literature of anarchist control freaks and the bureaucratization of dreams. And Borges, like Duchamp was a reactionary.

The art of criticism, of art as criticism, is always reactionary in the literal sense that it is reaction: following and dependent on what it tries to leave behind. And imitation in all cases, from drag queens to Theodor Adorno, is the sincerest form of flattery. That’s the danger of political art and the anger of niggers and faggots rather than of men and women of one social or ethnic minority or another. The same trap has made Israel what it is today. To Israelis Jews are the oppressed: it’s logically impossible for them to be the oppressor.

So the language of academic politics, radical and liberal, is modeled on the language of bureaucracy and the academic -intellectual- fine arts are modeled on advertising and replicate its forms, when we don’t look at the windows of Chartres because they once functioned as advertising but in spite of it. All of this marks the distinction between art and illustration, including the illustration of the self, between the awareness and craft of dual consciousness and of assumption and intent. It marks the distinction that is if you’re aware that one exists.

We live creating patterns out of facts. Patterns offer continuity and continuity offers comfort, which has the force of a sort of inertia: we follow old patterns even when the facts change or new ones are added. The difference between animals and machines -between biological machines and lifeless ones- is the pull of such conditioned response. Our minds are divided between rationality in the service of various goals, and reflex. But reflexes aren’t illogic, they’re the lessons learned through a biomechanical heuristic of experience.

Earlier this year I won and lost a beautiful girl by expressing need rather than discreet desire. We had mutual interests and wonderful conversations but while I focused on the exchange of information she was also judging behavior: manner, confidence, openness, or lack of it, my ability to express interest and keep my cool. 
 Going on she began to test me and I got nervous. I began to grasp. She pulled away, I briefly gave chase. But you can’t chase from weakness so I stopped and waved goodbye; she waved back and laughed, and kept going. All of this happened as various forms of reflex; I pieced it together just before I stopped and waved. Trust isn’t what you say it’s how you say it. There was a very solid logic to the girl’s half-conscious decision-making process. Mine was more shaky. Need is not respect, trust and intimacy are not ideas.

Reflex isn’t always healthy. And conditioning can be a downward spiral. In no other country would a novelist with the stature of Philip Roth not be under a barrage of requests for his opinion on the current state of the culture, on politics and race relations. What does it mean that our ruling technocracy remains so optimistic about its own capacity for reason when so much of the culture at large consists in coming to terms with – documenting, describing- the presence of unreason?

The logic of modern economic thought begins in an understanding of the human animal’s tendency towards self-interest. And this has led to an acceptance of it, which some on the left still find inappropriate. I’m perfectly willing to accept realism as an aspect of morality, but it’s more complex than that, since the academy is still founded on a collaborative ethic and an ideal of disinterested reason, and it’s this that is claimed as a foundation for the understanding of the pervasiveness of its opposite. So is disinterested reason still something we should teach the children?

And in fact technocracy is founded not on adversarialism but collaboration. The contemporary drive for the professionalization of every field of knowledge, and of the press, is founded on collaboration; as if it’s all for the best if we all serve one cause, whichever cause that may be. The principle of divided government is based on the realist assumption that each branch will defend it’s own prerogatives, its own self-interest, and that the result will be dynamic tension. But what if self-interest is founded in servility instead of pride? There’s a logic to that too. Is servility a model of behavior for citizens of a republic?

Even imagining that a naturalized epistemology generalized from the hard sciences is possible, the mechanical model of consciousness would say that a man-computer programmed with data only on automobiles would supply logical and therefore morally defensible answers on questions of transportation policy, notwithstanding the lack of any reference to public transportation. The moral logic of expertise rewards you for knowing only what you know. It’s the moral logic of geekdom: of the replacement of the world of experience by an inflexible model with the defense that after all someone else may have a contrary inflexible model and then we battle it out. If this is the desired relation of the military to the civilian population in this country, we have a problem.

The military philosophy of piety is in a contradictory relation to the ethic of democracy and free inquiry. That our now professional military does not teach their recruits to understand the full weight of their moral responsibility -of their having dual and conflicting obligations that each of them will have to negotiate on their own- is a danger. Military culture follows a blunt variant of the rule of non-contradiction, a rule foundational to naturalized epistemology, when contradiction is and needs to be first principle.

What holds the relationship together, the same thing that holds society itself together, is not law but trust; which is why a citizen army is preferable. Society is made not only of formal rules but informal overlapping obligations, and the latter are primary. Obligations are flexible and dynamic because they’re not unbreakable. It’s up to each individual to make choices, case by case. When rules are all you have it's over.

Formal logic in the world of experience is pedantry. Fascism is the rule in civic life of military pedantry. But history has shown in fact that pedantry will always become hypocrisy. Policemen enforcing law will always tend to identify themselves not with its enforcement but its embodiment. “I am the law” And by identifying themselves with law the laws’ perfection will become theirs. “To the pure all things are pure.” That’s the pull of the short circuit, of identification.

The counterforce to pedantry can not be another form of pedantry Scientists, technologists, and the new model of intellectual bureaucrats are now no more immune to this sort of identification than the military and police, because they are not taught to see themselves as having a divided consciousness, nor do that see its cultivation as morally necessary. To the modern bureaucrat, bureaucracy is a non-contradictory truth unto itself. The new intellectual class does not reflect enough to recognize that before their first experience of universal systems of computation there was a desire in them for a simplifying order, and that their primary interest in that order is not that it models the world but that it gives them comfort. Our new intellectuals are incapable of appreciating the maturity and irony of Horace Rumpole and his creator, a jobbing lawyer and an author of popular fiction.

Monday, July 27, 2009

So I make an additional comment to the point that the police ethic of military piety is anti-democratic, that the military and police don't teach their recruits to understand the full weight of their their conflicting obligations, that each of them will have to negotiate on their own, that military culture is a form of "geekdom" following a blunt variant of the rule of non-contradiction; and Brian Leiter pulls my comment off the page. 

Then reposts it edited with the above comments removed. amazing. 

And on the specifics of the case: between the indignant rant of someone demanding obeisance and the letter of the law [read the comments] I let the law slide. Gates' arrogance is more offensive to me than the cops' response.

As I said below, Farrell later pulled the post.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

An addendum to the video post below
Another example, similar and opposed on the same theme: our relations of the individual to the collective. In the first, individual and collective consciousness are identical. In the second, the collective exists only in the individual's memory.

In both the forms of abstraction are forms of representation, very specifically serving mimesis and narrative..

Friday, July 24, 2009

...or just class?

Gates again, in The Root. He comes off as an idiot.
And there’s a second police statement by a latino officer and there are already attempts to psychoanalyze him. It reminds me of the response to Clinton's tears. Rationalism without facts, and without paying attention.

Maureen Dowd was right about John Edwards in the same way she was right about Clinton, because she paid attention not just to the words but their performance.  It would be much harder to defend political commentary by theater critics if those who mocked it actually paid as much attention to the meanings of words as they claim, but as with Clinton when the words say things the earnestly rationalizing faithful don't want to hear they're ignored. How long is the list of articles, blogs posts, and comments, laced with bitter irony on the subject of Gates in "post-racial America" -"This is what happens to a black man in America!"- when he was arrested by a post-racial assortment of cops?

Crooked Timber hosts a cop. Read the post and comments, including his.

Liberals tend to think that policemen owe them deference, but that's not the case. Cops owe deference to the formal rules of law, not to you. It's not their job to believe you or anything you say. Courtesy is formality not friendship, and certainly not deference.

As always, people who assume their own position as moral or righteous don't like having that questioned, but that's a cop's job. The cops' mistake is to assume that representing the law is embodying it, personalizing the law by analogy. "I am the law", is fascism. Many liberals arguing from their own overweening assumptions of self-worth can't tell the difference.  Many conservatives, from the other side of the argument, can't tell it either.


The post by the cop was deleted, at some point after May 2013. "Police Discretion: A Different Perspective", by Brandon del Pozo. Found at  

Thursday, July 23, 2009

summer repeats: from one year ago

I:Cube. Adore

I experienced the modern version of The Floating World for the first time in the late 90's, at a small private party in a rented room on the lower east side. I said to someone it felt like Limbo as an airport lounge in 1974. The soundrtack was Air, and I amused myself a bit more by deciding that Prada was Halston in brown.

The effect is akin to a narcosis that not only slows but regulates motion. It's Chaplin's Modern Times at 5 frames per second, with the gears wrapped in fine silk: aestheticized anesthetic motion. The rhythms, bass and snare and little clicks invite improvisatory response, touches of free will in a rigidly deterministic world. At 1:20 when the strings come in and at 1:29 when they modulate and the plane begins to glide across the screen I get a shiver of aphasia.
And the the scream at 0:26 is Hitchcock.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Race vs Class

He forced the door open with the help of his cab driver, Professor Ogletree said, and had been inside for a few minutes when Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department appeared at his door and asked him to step outside.

Professor Gates, 58, refused to do so, Professor Ogletree said. From that point, the account of the professor and the police began to differ.
Bourgeois black man pulls rank on a white police officer, a humiliation the cop might take from a white man of Gates' rank even though he'd be in his rights to demand he prove his status as the homeowner. He might or he might not, I don't know what happened. Maybe the cop is by the book in which case it's all on Gates.

Gates has made a career explaining black people to whites. He's a self-made man of liberal racial politics with the arrogant thoughtfulness of certain self-consciously earnest zionist intellectuals: he's worked hard to gain the title Sage and he's not going to let you forget it. I don't know anything one way or the other about Gates vis-a-vis Israel, but the petty-bourgeois striver's romanticism of the shtetl or the little town in Virginia, it's the same thing. I'm only somewhat less suspicious of easy claims of racism than I am of easy claims of anti-semitism.
Update: Gates' statement
The police report
The more I read about this the more Gates comes off as an asshole.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A link from As'ad AbuKhalil
As the Acting President's support shrinks at home, the plotters are lobbying to have Mr Micheletti shored up from abroad by means of a declaration of legitimacy from the US Congress. That scheme is not prospering. Enrique Ortez Colindres, the supremely undiplomatic octogenarian appointed foreign minister by Mr Micheletti, has had to resign, but not before he called Barack Obama "a negrito who knows nothing about anything", on Honduran television.

For some of the plotters it is their second attempt to overthrow an elected reformist government in Latin America: the group includes prominent figures involved in the 2002 ousting of President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who was kidnapped for 48 hours and sent to a Caribbean island before being restored to office after widespread popular protest.

I've rewritten the last post- posted a rewrite of the passage from elsewhere. Most of the changes are at the end.
The ideas aren't new, just the patience to explain them.
I've done the same with the post on Adorno. They follow each other directly in the paper as well.

Make it idiot-proof VI

Friday, July 17, 2009

Rosen contra Brendel continued. All of it, images included, is in the paper: [and here]
Rosen and Brendel are both arguing explicitly from within their culture because what they are each interested in, indeed preoccupied by, is not the truth value of that culture -or of culture as such- but its ability to foster a wide range of categories of event and experience.

Imagine yourself as the judge of a poetry competition, where every entrant is asked to write on the same subject. Comparing the results you’re not comparing the poems’ relation to the objective truth of the idea, event, or object on which they’re based, but on the poets’ ability to build a complex and evocative description out of their perceptions and responses. You’re not judging the ability to see a thing in absolute terms, since you’re no more capable of that than they are, but the ability of each to make you see what they see, which however must begin with the assumption that at a basic level you already do, since the object or theme has a common, public, form. From a simple commonality, a common denominator, each participant is asked to develop a perspective which is then reformulated in language (returned) as a new and more complex common form. The process is one of group mimesis, collectively developed representation, of the world and from that of the community itself. The subject matter, the external world, is not irrelevant but secondary. What’s primary is the public act, the method of description of the world, the world as experienced and responded to in time. So the vulgarity in Wagner and incipient in Beethoven—hence the need in Rosen’s terms for ‘tact’—is not the vulgarity of subject but of the composer’s assumptions about and attitude towards language. Beethoven is in a line of gradation with Wagner, Gerome and Helmut Newton, in the sense that Wagner indulges a bombast that Beethoven at his best merely passionately describes. Wagner’s music is written for Wagnerians in the same sense that Newton’s photographs are made for voyeurs, yet identification—as pseudo-community—is encouraged but not yet a requirement. All communities are communities of selves and others. Collective identity, as imaginary collective unity, is either a false—unrealizable—ideal or mere collective reflex: the community of fetishists and junkies.

The experience of the sex act is social, formal, communicative, and if the world is seen as the social realm, world-creating. The moment of orgasm as reflex is aformal, asocial (isolate), ecstatic and if the world is seen as social, world destructive. Sex as performance is a form of communication; orgasm is artless. The pretense of an ‘art’ of orgasm is vulgar. The popular understanding of Pollock’s work is as an ‘act’ of ‘expression,’ as orgasm not structure. Mondrian saw structure. Duchamp thought nothing about cutting off a few inches of Mural (1943) because it was too big for Peggy Guggenheim’s wall. And Pollock didn’t complain. The what and how of communication for Pollock’s work are complex; as complex in their way as the question of orgasm in Beethoven.

What Rosen is debating with Brendel then is the increasing presence of instrumentalism in form: the growing tendency to craft to reflex that reaches its apogee in the illustration and the false community of the fetish: of pure instrument. Wagner is preaching to the choir (and Pollock is in there somewhere); Gerome is a soft-care pornographer playing to an audience, Newton and his audience are almost interchangeable, his form of communication identification with the masturbator which is to say barely communication at all, one step away from the final shift, the final descent from interpersonal communication to masturbation in public.

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. This is the crux of the struggle over the human imagination that begins in the 18th century.
Jean Leon Gerome The Snake Charmer, 1889
Helmut Newton Saddle 1, 1976

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From 3arabawy
How in the context of modern social life does one make a statement or a proposition that acknowledges both the integrity of that statement, the speaker's desire that it be 'true,' and the possibility, most often the fact, that it doesn’t operate on that universal level? How in the modern age do you manage irony and belief, and the dual imperatives of integrity and sociability? If all communication is communication among individuals through mediating forms -of which language is the prime example- then beyond the most rudimentary functions we always operate on speculative induction and generalization. And we should be clear on this: we often build on foundations of desire and hot air. Only in language can one live a life on the 10th floor of a building that doesn't reach the ground.

The first and continuing terror of the age of "reason" is not the power of science, though that's what many—even many of the terrified—assume but its power as an analogy. The age of reason is the age of the theater of science, of people brought to submission not by the violence of law and order policies but by the moral rhetoric behind them. The strangeness of Adorno it seems to me reading him for the first time, is that he’s terrified by men in lab coats because he’s terrified that in some way they represent objective truth. But from the start in the 18th century the rhetoric of truth overshadowed -overwhelmed- any interest in facts themselves. Facts alone are inert and banal. Only the human imagination makes them glow with life. Adorno the idealist like his science-loving enemies -and love is an emotion not a form of reason- imagines that facts glow on their own in the objective world. Adorno is terrified of disenchantment even though he knows that enchantment is false. Raised to believe in progress, he intuits (correctly) that the enchantments of science result is a linguistic short circuit, but as an idealist he can’t see beyond the false paradox of his assumptions. He can't recognize the rhetoric of scientific enchantment for what it is, and that facts in the world, absent our desire, are brute and silent, saying nothing about how we should respond to them. And the irony of ironies is his near fetishistic image of his preferred art, though he could almost be Schoenberg’s Baudelaire, marking his work as the latter had Manet’s: ‘first in decrepitude.’ Adorno is unable to separate instrumentalism from the instrument (it's been a nearly universal error.) He's seen by many as the condemning father but he's a child, the victim of a father's cruelty that he can't help but see as just.

Enchantment is part and parcel of our relations in the world. Language and all related formal systems, from poetry to law, are how each of us in our enchantments communicate: in collective form across enchantments. There is no aspect of scientific knowledge that mandates institutionalized instrumental reason. There is no telos to the world beyond entropy, and even that puts too much of a glow on physical events. The 18th century was the age of enchantment with science, an enchantment morphing over time into various forms of a philosophy along a line similar to that described above in the arts, beginning from the argument that all men are equal, to one that all men are alike, to the final study of man only as alike: the study of people only in terms of generalization. And in this the logic of individualism becomes its opposite. The earlier models of course are the vulgar Left and Right, but the most recent and is what can only call the “vulgar Middle” including both contemporary classical economics and the perverse scholasticism of contemporary academic thought. This is the opposite of the intellectualism of language and the arts, that begin with the lowest common denominator, this is the intellectualism that ends there.

Autistic Ecstasy -The Happy Fetishist
Issey Miyake in the Times. Interesting the explicit reference to optimism, which is both the strength and limitation of design. The richness of his work originates less in optimism than an ongoing effort to justify it. The difference between Fra Angelico and Velazquez: between faith and the desire for faith: a noble lie.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on my hometown, Hiroshima. I was there, and only 7 years old. When I close my eyes, I still see things no one should ever experience: a bright red light, the black cloud soon after, people running in every direction trying desperately to escape I remember it all. Within three years, my mother died from radiation exposure.

I have never chosen to share my memories or thoughts of that day. I have tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to put them behind me, preferring to think of things that can be created, not destroyed, and that bring beauty and joy. I gravitated toward the field of clothing design, partly because it is a creative format that is modern and optimistic.

I tried never to be defined by my past. I did not want to be labeled “the designer who survived the atomic bomb,” and therefore I have always avoided questions about Hiroshima. They made me uncomfortable.

But now I realize it is a subject that must be discussed if we are ever to rid the world of nuclear weapons. There is a movement in Hiroshima to invite Mr. Obama to Universal Peace Day on Aug. 6 the annual commemoration of that fateful day. I hope he will accept. My wish is motivated by a desire not to dwell on the past, but rather to give a sign to the world that the American president’s goal is to work to eliminate nuclear wars in the future.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg's Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses

In the mail. Once I found out somebody had written it I really had no choice.
To the bureaucrat, bureaucracy like the Church is a truth unto itself.

Reading Weber. Only in language can one live your life on the 10th floor of a building that doesn't reach the ground.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Nobody, but nobody, in the hip hop world has his combination of hard power and soft power."
What fucking idiots. And again.

Whenever anyone refers to Yglesias talking about culture [see the 2nd link] I'll repost this, from Sam Rosenfeld, then of TAP, to me in an email from about 2002. He'd misunderstood my point:
"And for the record (don't post this), Yglesias as an individual has a great, self-aware sense of humor and is much more starkly honest (if also unapologetic) about his own elitism than most liberals. Take him out for a beer and I think you'd find that."
My comments are at the first of the two links.

Between a hypocrite and a thug I'd choose the thug. I've been shown respect by people who understood what I was and wasn't and who understood that I understood. Hypocrites show no respect.
From 2003
War only can be used as entertainment in two ways by two groups of people: those who treat it as a game played by choice- a deadly game but one that can be left and rejoined- and those who know only war. The most important difference is that the former have never been the victims of a war, only the warriors. They didn't learn to kill by feeling pain.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Text and footnote [#5] in Clement Greenberg's essay Avant Garde and Kitsch, from 1939. In Art and Culture: Critical Essays
Returning to our Russian peasant for the moment, let us suppose that after he has chosen Repin in preference to Picasso, the state's educational apparatus comes along and tells him that he is wrong, that he should have chosen Picasso - and shows him why. It is quite possible for the Soviet state to do this. But things being as they are in Russia - and everywhere else- the peasant soon finds the necessity of working hard all day for his living and the rude, uncomfortable circumstances in which he lives do not allow him enough leisure, energy and comfort to train for the enjoyment of Picasso.This needs, after all, a considerable amount of 'conditioning' Superior culture is one of the most artificial of all human creations, and the peasant finds no 'natural' urgency within himself that will drive him toward Picasso in spite of all difficulties. In the end the peasant will go back to kitsch when he feels like looking at pictures, for he can enjoy kitsch without effort. The state is helpless in this matter and remains so as long as the problems of production have not been solved in a socialist sense. The same holds true, of course, for capitalist countries and makes all talk of art for the masses there nothing but demogogy*

*It will be objected that such art for the masses as folk art was developed under rudimentary conditions of production - and that a good deal of folk art is on a high level, Yes it is - but folk art is not Athene, and it's Athene whom we want: formal culture with its infinity of aspects, its luxuriance luxuriance, its large comprehension. Besides. we are now told that most of what we consider good in folk culture is the static survival of dead formal, aristocratic, cultures. Our old English ballads, for instance, were not created by the 'folk' but by the post-feudal squireachy of the English countryside to survive in the mouth--. of the folk long after those for whom the ballads were composed had gone on to other forms of literature. Unfortunately, until the machine age, culture was the exclusive prerogative of a society that lived by the labor of serfs or slaves.They were the real symbols of culture. For one man to spend time and energy creating or listening to poetry meant that another man had to produce enough to keep himself alive and the former in comfort. In Africa today we rind that the culture of slave-owning tribes is generally much superior to that of the tribes that possess no slaves.
A mixture of Rabbinical snobbery and German idealism: rationalism on a foundation of hot air. Compare to T.S. Eliot
It requires some effort of analysis to understand why one person, among many who do a thing with accomplished skill, should be greater than the others; nor is it always easy to distinguish superiority from great popularity, when the two go together. I am thinking of Marie Lloyd, who has died only a short time before the writing of this letter. Although I have always admired her genius I do not think that I always appreciated its uniqueness; I certainly did not realize that her death would strike me as the most important event which I have had to chronicle in these pages. Marie Lloyd was the greatest music-hall artist in England: she was also the most popular. And popularity in her case was not merely evidence of her accomplishment; it was something more than success. It is evidence of the extent to which she represented and expressed that part of the English nation which has perhaps the greatest vitality and interest.
Greenberg begins his essay from 1939 with a discussion of the fact that one culture can produce both the art of Eliot and the kitsch of Tim Pan Alley. Marie Lloyd died and Eliot published the above as a 'London Letter' in The Dial in 1922.
see earlier

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Modernism has always been tied to kitsch because both modernism and kitsch are defined by wishful thinking: extreme forms of intentionality. Modernity, illustration, kitsch.

The "chains of music itself."
Rosen contra Brendel
Brendel: The lyrical hymn in A flat that carries the piece to its end becomes more and more euphoric until another, ultimate liberation is achieved: finally, after an exertion that surmounts two fortissimo diminished seventh chords, the "chains of music itself" are thrown off. This last extreme effort amounts to a kind of musical self-immolation; it needs to be conveyed by the performance before silence takes over.

Rosen: I agree that the lyric euphoria of the final page of opus 110 is extraordinary. In his letter, however, Brendel has now added the additional metaphor of "musical self-immolation" which is less persuasive. It is not so much its lack of clarity that is unfortunate (who is being immolated, Beethoven, the pianist, or the sonata itself?) but the Wagnerian resonance which can be applied to Beethoven only with a certain lack of tact.
Books have been written on the argument taking place in those two paragraphs, but few of them make the division so clear. For Charles Rosen, the classicist, the thought of escaping material form -linguistic, musical- is irrationalism. Beauty and communication are made possible only through form. The desire to escape either is both illogical and a betrayal. For Brendel the desire is a source of beauty.

But that's too simple in this case, since both Brendel and Rosen are performers of Beethoven ["...a certain lack of tact."] For Rosen too the desire is a a source of beauty, but the thought that it can be achieved, and through an act of [self] destruction is the betrayal.

Keeping it simple: The experience of the sex act is social, formal, communicative, and if the world is seen as the social realm, world-creating. Orgasm is aformal, asocial (isolate), ecstatic and if the world is seen as social, world destructive. Sex as performance is a form of art, orgasm is artless. The pretense of an 'art' of orgasm is vulgar.

As I've said before, The Body in Pain is a stupid book.

Continued here. All included in the essay linked on the right of this page (or here) and here
Reviewed by a book critic not a lawyer. Waiting for commentary from Jack Balkin, et al.

Make it idiot-proof VI
Interesting to watch the slow move away from the idealization of elite culture and back towards a defense of democracy. The arguments over judicial review track with a general move -a pendulum swing- away from the idea of a political esthetic or intellectual Avant-Garde.

[The discussion of the 60's in elite -white bourgeois- culture always centers around the dreams and traumas of that culture. The political activism of the black lower middle class from the mid 50's to the mid 60's is always secondary.]

What happens when the vanguard becomes self-perpetuating and self-serving?
A social scientist may do a study that finds that the people of a given society are not willing to accept proposal "A," but assuming the study is valid all it shows is the society in a contextless present. Without an understanding of processes (of relations over time) the study has [needs to be seen as having] limited use. The opinions of a people are not absolutes, except in as much as to say that Population 1 held opinion X about proposal A at time T.
To say it is a fact that people at any given time are opposed to unions, national health care, higher taxes, gay rights, or anything else is not a reason to argue against them.

Two societies may have the same restrictive form of government, or one may be less restrictive than the other. What matters more than those facts is the societies' direction. There is no science of human attitudes absent the science of their change over time.

The realist acceptance of greed became the optimist's celebration of it. Why? Because the dream of predicting human frailty was used as proof of the opposite.
The pessimist's understanding of our animal tendency to act on reflex became the optimist's defense of reflex as reason.

The driving force behind this was the American ideology of optimism.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The comments too.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

If Beer had been successful it would have been temporary: at its best and worst long enough for the human population to have turned into a mass of unimaginative drones, so when the crisis hit as it would, they would be hopeless.
It continues to amaze me that the dream of some people revolves around ways of rendering their grandchildren into happy idiots.

The modern left is as touched by the enlightenment as every other aspect of modernity. We are all always both producers and produced.
The difference between Marx and Smith et al and 20th century thinkers of technocracy is that the earlier authors were great orators and writers, using every seductive trick in the literary book to create compelling total fictions. That’s why its possible to read them and to become more imaginative, more flexible and more aware. But only if you read for subtext and elision not only for intent. Marx and Smith were craftsmen.

What annoys me about Toulmin is that he defends rhetoric rather than just arguing that it’s ubiquitous. Everything we argue is touched by blind preference. The choice for generalities over specificities, for mathematics over trial law, begins as preference. We build rationality over our sensibilities. And the road to hell is paved with good intentions.