Tuesday, March 31, 2015

repeat from November 2013. and a link to the post that followed it.

Two photographs from the Auschwitz Album, images of people on the way to their death. I'm going to use them to discuss art.

I'm tired of people defending art because of something they want it to be. I'm tired of defenses of art as a means of "truth", and the use of that term without irony. The image on the left is made of pixels, as the original is silver halide on paper. And the child depicted was no more or less deserving of concern than the other figures in these photographs. If it's the most affecting image, the most painful to look at, if the child draws our sympathy more than the others, it's because of the presentation: the isolated figure, lagging behind, the slightly oversized head turned away,  the turn making us need to imagine a face, hands in pockets and small legs, an image of adulthood in childhood. If this is the figure we're drawn to, if this is the child we most want to help, whose loneliness in her fate fills us with rage, it's got everything to do with art and nothing to do with justice, or justice as fairness, but the reflex and the anger are part of being animal, and human. We've chosen her as we would choose our own child, because art has given us the illusion that she's close. And the others may mean less to us, or more than they would without her reflected light. Either way, there's no justice. Justice is impersonal; it's blind.

Humanity is in particularity and partiality; the universal is literally inhuman, and there's no way to resolve the contradiction without sacrificing one or the other. The unreflective unity of the particular and universal in the name of religion, the unity of art and science, is barbarism. The contemporary intellectualized and fantasized unity of art and life is fascism. Nietzsche knew the difference, though he didn't always face it, and when he did it was only with words. But unlike Borges who didn't knew the difference, or learned it very late, he left the library at least often enough to die of syphilis. People now confuse barbarism and fascism as they confuse humanism, which allows for contradictions, with anti-humanism, which doesn't. The Enlightenment as it's come down to us is more associated with the latter than the former.

It's inhuman to deny intimacy, even the illusory intimacy of art.  Yet if we communicate only through forms and gestures, the difference between communication of the dead and living and of the living amongst themselves is a difference only of degree.  Good artists know that art's defined by irony because they know that communication itself is defined by it, and it's hard to con a con. And art may be a lie, but it's less of one than claims of artlessness. Art is commitment limned by irony; camp is irony as art; kitsch is camp without irony.

Another example of art, another image that claims our sympathy, of a child with the burdens of adulthood. And the odds are very strong, though still not strong enough, that this girl is still alive.

Only a tiny minority of Israeli Jews fit the description of Nazis, and the state though founded on the ideology of blut und boden, doesn't fit the description of a Nazi state. But Israel is founded on the ashes and the memories of the survivors of Auschwitz. The victims of extremist particularity, without irony, have themselves become ideological particularists, arguing that irony regarding their own lives is an insult to their memories and to their dead. Israel is founded on particularity as justice, denying the contradiction between particularity, partiality, and universalism. In the minds of most Israelis Israel is just by definition.

Barbarism needs no defense; it simply is. It's dynamic because it's honest, violent because it can be, not because it needs to be. Israel is founded not only on conquest but on the erasure of that conquest, even in the memories of those who committed it. If they could have shrugged it off the state and the society would be stronger than it is, but it was too late: a colonial enterprise in the era of decolonialization was bound to fail.  Fascism was a pedant's parody of monarchy, after the age of monarchy is over. Culture without the possibility of irony is kitsch. The lie of "liberal" Zionism has done more damage to Israel and Zionism than all the attacks and protests of the Palestinians combined.
2016, Aylan Kurdi
A repeat from January 2013, because sadly it will never grow old. It's been getting a fair amount of hits recently. Taruskin is smart, but he overplays his hand absurdly.

Richard Taruskin. For use here and maybe elsewhere. Annotations here and in the links.
..."The relation of the music to the action is unaccountable," he thought, unable to comprehend the reason why Shostakovich would have "the heroine and her lover strangle her husband on a large stage-sized four-poster bed to a lively dance tune." But the reason is clear enough: the dance tune is there to dehumanize the husband, and to diminish the heroine's crime to a matter of cruelty to animals at worst. What condemns him is nothing more than the fact of his being a part of Katerina's hated environment: he is the beneficiary of the social system that oppressed his wife, and that suffices to just justify his "liquidation." And all of this is conveyed to us by the music alone….

In one way only was Shostakovich faithful to Leskov: in his shockingly
naturalistic portrayal of Katerina's sexual passion. It is lust, pure and
simple, that he portrays; ignited by a rape, it turns Katerina into a love-slave, giving the lie to the claim that she is a liberated, aggressive woman in an age of feminine passivity, that her audacity is another justification for her crimes. In fact, the carnal theme is exaggerated in the opera beyond anything in Leskov. The rape music reaches its climax with an unmistakable ejaculatio praecox, followed by a leisurely detumescence. The salacious trombone glissandos that portray the behavior of Sergei's member achieved instant world fame when an American magazine dubbed them an exercise in "pornophony."...

"The music croaks and hoots and snorts and pants in order to represent the scenes as naturally as possible. And 'love' in its most vulgar form is daubed all over the opera. The merchant's double bed is the central point on the stage. On it all the 'problems' are solved…. This glorification of merchant-class lasciviousness has been described by some critics as satire. But there can be no question of satire here. The author uses all the means at his disposal and his power of musical and dramatic expression to attract the sympathy of the spectators for the coarse and vulgar aims and actions of the merchant's wife, Katerina Ismailova.  Lady Macbeth is popular among bourgeois audiences abroad. Is it not because the opera is so confused and so entirely free of political bias that it is praised by bourgeois critics? Is it not perhaps because it titillates the depraved tastes of bourgeois audiences with its witching clamorous, neurasthenic music?"
The third paragraph is Stalin. The quote at the top is Elliot Carter.
"The Opera and the Dictator: the peculiar martyrdom of Dmitri Shostakovich", The New Republic, March 20, 1989. The last paragraph.
In the liberal West, as we have been proudly reminded in recent weeks, we do not believe in banning works of art. If it is because we believe that they cannot threaten life and morals, then we are more vulnerable than we imaged to the dehumanizing message of this great opera. If it's because we believe that ethics has no bearing on aesthetics, then the process of dehumanization has already begun. If, for its inspired music and dramatic power, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is to hold the stage today, it should be seen and heard with an awareness of history, with open eyes and ears, and with hearts on guard.
Moralists are a confused bunch. "If it is because we believe that they cannot threaten life and morals" It isn't.  [leading here].  "Democracies have freedom of speech not because governments grant it but because the government is not granted the power to take it away." [leading here] The speech of both members of the American Nazi Party and of Sarah Silverman, on stage or on the street, is protected by the 1st amendment.

Taruskin on John Adams' Klinghoffer
"Music's Dangers And The Case For Control" NYT Dec 2001
In a fine recent essay, the literary critic and queer theorist Jonathan Dollimore writes that ''to take art seriously -- to recognize its potential -- must be to recognize that there might be reasonable grounds for wanting to control it.'' Where should control come from? Unless we are willing to trust the Taliban, it has to come from within. What is called for is self-control. That is what the Boston Symphony laudably exercised; and I hope that musicians who play to Israeli audiences will resume exercising it. There is no need to shove Wagner in the faces of Holocaust survivors in Israel and no need to torment people stunned by previously unimaginable horrors with offensive ''challenges'' like ''The Death of Klinghoffer.''

Censorship is always deplorable, but the exercise of forbearance can be noble. Not to be able to distinguish the noble from the deplorable is morally obtuse. In the wake of Sept. 11, we might want, finally, to get beyond sentimental complacency about art. Art is not blameless. Art can inflict harm. The Taliban know that. It's about time we learned.
More from, the Guardian  Interview with the librettist in 2012.   Taruskin attacked Barenboim in the same piece. Barenboim responds.  See also Nir Rosen and Joan Rivers

[if the video's gone: Sarah Silverman, The Aristocrats]

The Musical Mystique TNR, 2007
Belief in the transcendent human value of creative labor has always invested German romantic aesthetics with the trappings of a secular or humanistic religion. In the twentieth century, such a theory of art could be seen as a bulwark against totalitarianism. Adorno held it up as a counterforce also to the instrumentalizing and rationalizing tendencies of "administered" capitalist society, which turns human subjects into objects of economic exploitation. Since he was trained in music, he held up classical music in its least compromising forms (epitomized in the famously esoteric work of Arnold Schoenberg) as the chief example of "truth-bearing" art, as opposed to the dehumanizing popular music churned out by the culture industry for mass dissemination. 
Skeptics of this viewpoint, while often appreciating the loftiness of its aspirations, have pointed to the ease with which high ideals can shade into complacency, autonomy into irrelevance, and disinterestedness into indifference. My admittedly tendentious diction ("serve," "vehicle") signals my own skepticism as to the genuineness of its disinterestedness. This skepticism is not mine alone. Many have noted the relationship between this highly individualistic and self-celebrating concept of art and the social emancipation (or more accurately, the social abandonment) of artists with the demise of reliable aristocratic patronage, and suspected it of seeking a compensatory advantage. "Materialist" historians have long investigated the relationship between its high-minded claims and actual marketing strategies. 
Particularly as it pertains to music, the doctrine of aesthetic autonomy was pre-eminently a congeries of German ideas about German art that consoled and inspired the Germans at a particular point in German history. Even in the nineteenth century, it never won much credence in France or Italy or Russia (though Britain was susceptible). Now that the whole twentieth century has run its course and German music has run aground, the claim of universality is threadbare...
["...it never won much credence in France" (a link to Baudelaire). "L'art pour l'art". Nietzsche, in the original, uses the French]

And then later
To ask "what does it mean?" is death for music; but to ask "what has it meant?" can be illuminating. The one imposes arbitrary limits, the other welcomes all comers to share in the pleasure of engagement and response…. 
Higher is not automatically better; but opponents of snobbish pretension would be foolish to lose sight of the reality of the high-low gamut.
From the introduction to On Russian Music
It is yet another unfortunate consequence of the "poietic fallacy" that these pieces should have been read as attacks on Prokofiev–and "personal" ones at that, since they do not always reflect my opinion of the quality of the music, but rather my reaction to the ethical issues that its performance raises. He may not be altogether spared, but the "blame", if that is what one choose to call it (or the "problem", as I would prefer), is shared by all of the participants in our contemporary art world: composer, performer, audience, critics, mediating structures and institutions. “What is under critique in these pieces is not ‘the music itself’ but the whole network of social relations that comes into play in the maintenance of the activity we call ‘classical music’
Continuing an argument made first in an op-ed in the NY Times in 1991 that's not on the web, though the letters to the editor are.

Taruskin defines the "poietic" fallacy as "the conviction (or in practice the default assumption) that composers are the only significant historical agents in music and that scholarship should be an aspect of their defense against social mediation." 

The first paragraphs of Chapter 20, "Prokofieff's Return"
In January of 1990 Kurt Masur, soon to be appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, led the San Francisco Orchestra in a program that included Sergey Prokofief's familiar cantata based on his music to Sergei Eisenstein's 1938 film, Alexander Nevsky. The program had been set long in advance, and I was hired to write the notes for it. I did so during the summer of 1989, and was forced to confront anew the old problem of "political" art.
… Both film and music were shamelessly hyperbolic, dramaturgically blatant. They were, in short, propaganda. Could such a project possibly give rise to a first class work of art?  
"Like it or not, the answer is yes" I wrote in 1989, and went on to praise Prokofieff's music for its outstanding stylist and technical qualities, particularly the deftness, the originality, and the expressiveness of the orchestration. I felt I was making an effective answer to that complacent dictum that we tend to mouth in the West without reflecting: that art, to be authentic, must be politically or even morally "disinterested" (read: aloof). I quoted a letter that Ned Rorem had recently written to the editor of the New York Times, in which he had rehearsed his old refrain that "the more an artwork succeeds in politics the more it fails as art". Alexander Nevsky, I contended, succeeded both as politics and as art, and put the lie to what I called Mr. Rorem's smug and self-validating platitude. 
And then I went to the concert. Between the summer of 1989 and the beginning of 1990 the world had changed. Not three weeks before the performance, the contorted corpses of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu had shown up on television, the most startling evidence yet that totalitarian authority in Europe had suddenly collapsed.
The last
"Suffering and great as the ninetenth century whose complete expression he is, the mental image of Richard Wagner stands before my eyes," wrote Thomas Mann at the beginning of an immortal essay. We might not wish to claim a comparable greatness for Prokofieff. His sufferings were imposed, and his century was awful, the most atrocious and spiritually vacant in human history. But between man and times there was the same fatal congruence. As we say good riddance to the century, we may also find ourselves saying farewell, and sorry, to the man.
I'm not much interested in John Adams' music or in contemporary "classical" music. It's either academic or vulgar. And the struggle of Zionists to allow themselves to come to terms with their culpability is not something I'm able to take very seriously, at least intellectually. But art is concerned with honesty more than intellect. I love Titian's paintings for Philip II; I wouldn't expect a 17th c. European Protestant or an Amerindian to enjoy standing in front of a portrait of the leader of his torturers. That's another issue. Velazquez, in his works, has a conflicted even ironic distance from his own claimed beliefs that adds an intellectual aspect to his art, but I wouldn't use that to demand more. If I refuse to see Zero Dark 30, as I refused to see The Hurt Locker it's more from the fact that I'm too near to the events while at the same time too aware of world outside the American imagination to have the patience to watch America begin -and no more than that- to come to grips with the events of the past 10, 40 or 100 years. The US is responsible for more destruction than bin Laden was ever be capable of.  Chomsky is right: "Uncontroversially" George Bush's crimes "vastly exceed bin Laden's." But that says nothing about the films as art, only about my ability to be a disinterested observer, not objective but removed. There's an issue when a culture becomes so insular and defensive that even a disinterested viewer finds little to look at, but there's a lot to look at in American culture.

I can't help but add Charles Rosen's review of Taruskin's Oxford History, in the NYRB.
Quoting Taruskin
William, (Guillaume), seventh count of Poitiers and ninth duke of Aquitaine (1071–ca. 1127), was the first European vernacular poet whose work has come down to us. The tradition, socially speaking, thus began right at the top, with all that that implies as to “highness” of style, tone, and diction…. A troubador’s subject matter was the life he led, viewed in terms of his social relations, which were ceremonial, idealized, and ritualized to the point of virtual sacralization. In keeping with the rarefied subject matter, the genres and styles of troubadour verse were also highly formalized and ceremonious, to the point of virtuosic complexity of design and occasional, sometimes deliberate, obscurity of meaning.
while adding this
I shall make a poem out of [about] nothing at all:
It will not speak of me or others,
Of love or youth, or of anything else,
For it was composed while I was asleep
Riding on horseback.
And this, and this. The last is hanging on the wall above my desk. It cost a pretty penny.
Taruskin now has his own tag, including posts where he's not mentioned, but where his association with law is relevant.

I saw Zero Dark 30

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ingres,  Jacques-Louis Leblanc, oil on canvas 47 5/8" x 37 5/8", Madame Jacques-Louis Leblanc, oil on canvas 47" x36 1/2", 1823.

Memling, Tommaso di Folco Portinari,  Maria Portinari,
c. 1470 Oil on Wood, Two panels, each 16 5/8" x 12 1/2"

All at the Metropolitan, NY

I'll repeat what I've said before about the Memling
If they are wedding portraits, as people assume, then he's 38 give or take, and she's about 14. They're wonderful paintings but their relation to one another seems slightly comic. He looks blank, or blankly devout, and she looks annoyed. She's a teenager. The curve of her mouth makes me laugh. But that leaves the wrong implication. The richness of the paintings isn't separate from their function as portraits. They're not paintings of poses, stock images beautifully made, but paintings of people posing as stock images recorded as they are, as actors. The Met refers to the two panels as "among the masterpieces of Northern Renaissance art" and that has much to do with the tension they manifest between the political and moral, the exterior and interior, the requirements of ideal form and honest, direct, description of life lived, of experience.
"...people posing as stock images recorded as they are, as actors."  Better to say the Portinari are posing without acting. Maria Portinari plays her role grudgingly. The Leblancs on the other hand are performers of the first rank, posing and acting the parts of their public roles, stating directly that this is how they want to be seen, that this is how one would want to be seen,  the mirrored smiles out of one side of their mouths, a double irony: the noble acknowledgement of the nobility of the falsehood.

The Portinari formed the wings of a triptych; the Leblancs were painted probably to hang across from one another, looking on us benignly, from above.

Friday, March 20, 2015

repeat from 2013
47. Syria   
Syria detained, interrogated, and tortured extraordinarily rendered individuals. It was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects.”1496
The CIA extraordinarily rendered at least nine individuals to Syria between December 2001 and October 2002.1497 The case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was transferred to Syria from New York by the CIA in 2002, is one of the most well-known cases of extraordinary rendition involving Syria.1498 See the detainee list in Section IV. 
Individuals extraordinarily rendered to Syria include Arar, Abdul Halim Dalak, Noor al-Deen, Omar Ghramesh, Bahaa Mustafa Jaghel, Barah Abdul Latif, Mustafa Setmariam Nassar (Abu Musab al-Suri), Yasser Tinawi, and Mohammed Haydar Zammar. See the detainee list in Section IV. 
Known detention facilities where extraordinary rendition victims were held in Syria include the Palestine Branch/Far Falastin Prison (in western Damascus) where detainees were held in communal cells and also in an area called “the Grave,” which consisted of individual cells that were roughly the size of coffins.1499 Detainees report incidents of torture involving a chair frame used to stretch the spine (the “German chair”) and beatings.1500 
There have been no known judicial cases or investigations in Syria relating to its participation in CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations. 
A repeat from last year that's been getting some hits recently.
Also in reference to the previous post, Zionism and philosophers.

Moral Realism as Moral Relativism - The Nuremberg Laws or the Final Solution in Gaza

"The leading legal philosopher in Israel" draws the line.

"Controversy over an Israeli scholar's "legal opinion" justifying cutting off water and electricity to Gaza."

Response and exchange.

Leiter: "David Enoch, the leading legal philosopher in Israel, who teaches on both the law and philosophy faculties at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes":
Apparently, one of the measures considered by the Israeli government against the Hamas in Gaza is to cut off Israeli supply of water and electric power to Gaza (which pretty much consists of all of the supply of water and power to Gaza). Israeli government lawyers are apparently opposed to such measures.

Here ends the good news, though, because right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset have found the legal scholar who would write an opinion permitting such practices: Professor Avi Bell, from Bar Ilan University and the University of San Diego School of Law, has written such an opinion. (Though he refused to share it with me, I now have a copy, and I’ll be happy to share it with anyone who may be interested; I should say, though, that it’s in Hebrew) An item about this appeared in the daily Haaretz.
Enoch is the author of Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism
This book develops, argues for, and defends a strongly realist and objectivist view of ethics and normativity more broadly. This view — according to which there are perfectly objective, universal, moral, and other normative truths that are not in any way reducible to other, natural truths — is familiar, but this book is the first in-detail development of the positive motivations for the view into full-fledged arguments. And when the book turns defensive — defending Robust Realism against traditional objections — it mobilizes the original positive arguments for the view to help with fending off the objections. The main underlying motivation for Robust Realism developed in the book is that no other metaethical view can vindicate our taking morality seriously. The positive arguments developed here — the argument from the deliberative indispensability of normative truths, and the argument from the moral implications of metaethical objectivity (or its absence) — are thus arguments for Robust Realism that are sensitive to the underlying, pre-theoretical motivations for the view.
From Enoch's page. Click on the first link below before continuing.
My book Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism was published in 2011. A paperback edition is supposed to come out any day now. Here's the publisher's website for it. And here it is on Oxford Scholarship Online, where you can also find the abstracts of each chapter.
For the first commentary on the book -- inspired by the picture linked above -- see David Heyd's Victorian Children's Story
 The final link is to a MSWord Doc. I'm reposted in its entirety below.
Taking Morality Seriously
A Victorian Children’s Story
David Enoch
(Simplified for real children by David Heyd)

Once upon a time there was a child whose dad had an obsession: he thought people are threatening morality by not taking it seriously enough. So he left everything and went to defend morality almost single handedly. He was so serious in his defense that he did not have time to read his child bedtime stories, spending much of his time in all kinds of demonstrations against all kinds of evil. When he realized that there is no way that he can defend morality in real life, he was shrewd enough to opt for defending it in a book. That made the child feel even worse, since now his dad was busy all day at the computer and in faraway conferences.

When the book came out, dad was cruel enough to read it to his child before sleep. The little child was sure that if his father had such tough time defending morality, its enemies must have been extremely powerful.

So the child asked, “Dad, what is morality?”. The father answered, “that you be a good boy”. “But I am a good boy” answered the angelic son, “why should everybody attack morality and force you to defend it so vigorously?”. “There are strange and evil people who are called expressivists, although they can hardly express themselves, and constructivists who should rather be called destructivists”, said dad. “You should take care when you meet them since they will call you “queer” and you know how bad this word is.

“But dad, I have had nightmares dreaming about all kinds of bad people – a coarse guard, a Simon who is black and burns, and someone who looks like Mackie the Knife – all taking morality very lightly; what shall I do?”. Loving dad said to his child, “this is only in your head; these bad guys are not real; they are only shadows?”. He kissed his son robustly and promised him that after hearing dad’s story, he will fall asleep and this time will see in his dreams moral facts rather than constructions and expressive attitudes. But before falling asleep, the child whispered, “Dad, can I see moral facts also when I wake up in the morning?”. “No”, said dad sternly, “you see them only in two places: in dreams and in my book”.
Enoch is thanked in the first sentence of the preface of A Just Zionism: On the Morality of the Jewish State, by Chaim Gans
The book presents an analysis of the justice of Zionism. After a short historical introduction, the first two chapters discuss the justifiability of Zionism's defining principles: its ethnocultural nature and the principle calling for the Jewish return to the Land of Israel, which is mainly based on the historical rights argument and the defense of necessity. It is argued that if these principles are properly interpreted, they are compatible with liberal justice. Chapter 3 argues that the hegemonic interpretation of Jewish self-determination common in Israel is justified only circumstantially and is applicable only to the domains of demography and security. Chapter 4 discusses the implications of this limited hegemony for the arrangements between Israel and the Palestinian people outside Israel. Specifically, it addresses the implications of the justice of Zionism with regard to the Palestinian demand for the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, and some arguments concerning the just borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state. Chapter 5 spells out the implications of the limited hegemony conception of Jewish self-determination for internal Israeli policies. It deals with issues related to the inequality between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. The concluding chapter sums up the main points of the book and explains how Israel's implementation of a just version of Zionist ideology today would affect not only Zionism's moral standing in the present and in the future but also the legitimacy of Israel's reliance on the justice of the Zionist past.
The ghost of Panofsky, "Whichever book you open, you will find precisely the passage you need":
Chaim Gans, today in Haaretz,  Zionist settlers are wrong - but so are the post-Zionists

Hannah Arendt responds to Scholem
How right you are that I have no such love, and for two reasons: first, I have never in my life "loved" some nation or collective — not the German, French or American nation, or the working class, or whatever else might exist. The fact is that I love only my friends and am quite incapable of any other sort of love. Second, this kind of love for the Jews would seem suspect to me, since I’ve Jewish myself. I don’t love myself or anything I know belongs to the substance of my being… [T]he magnificence of this people once lay in its belief in God — that is, in the way its trust and love of God far outweighed its fear of God. And now this people believes only in itself? In this sense I don’t love the Jews, nor do I "believe" in them…. We would both agree that patriotism is impossible without constant opposition and critique. In this entire affair I can confess to you one thing: the injustice committed by my own people naturally provokes me more than injustice done by others.
"What do you think of the Jews?"
"They’ve put before them graven images."
"Images of what?"

And again, updating every day. These are the images from Gaza that are too graphic for many US news outlets to publish.  Enoch is not protesting this. My note to Leiter: "If [as Leiter argues] the law is only law and has no relation to morality then it is our moral obligation at this point to speak of morality and not of law."

Zionism as pathology. Idealism in the face of the world of events rationalizes from personal preference, collapsing ideal and self.
"I took the children with me, for they are too good for the life that would follow, and a merciful God will understand me when I will give them the salvation ... The children are wonderful ... there never is a word of complaint nor crying. The impacts are shaking the bunker. The elder kids cover the younger ones, their presence is a blessing and they are making the Führer smile once in a while. May God help that I have the strength to perform the last and hardest. We only have one goal left: loyalty to the Führer even in death. Harald, my dear son — I want to give you what I learned in life: be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country ... Be proud of us and try to keep us in dear memory ..."
The ghost of Panofsky. Often enough to deserve its own tag.
More from Enoch here. Again from Leiter who writes: "It's well worth reading, and makes a nice point." Wrong on both counts.
For example, the Palestinian side could hold a nonviolent campaign for national independence.
The world doesn't need philosophers; it needs historians.
More on Gans, here
repeats of repeats, bracketing the new.

Crooked Timber August 2004
The Islamic world has ample reasons for legitimate criticism. Anti-Semitism, sexism, lack of democracy, lack of opportunity, nurturing of terrorism… these are sad realities, not the hallucinations of right-wingers. Anger and criticism are appropriate, but our approach has to start with the assumption that Muslims are not going away. Short of deliberate genocide, there’s no way forward in the long run except for “hearts and minds.”
"Short of deliberate genocide,..." My comment is still up on the page.

Crooked Timber, November 2004 (recent repeat)
One of the things that I find most depressing about discussions on Crooked Timber and elsewhere is that it seems to be absolutely impossible to have a civil argument about Israel and the Palestinians. 
CT in 2008  "Veil of Ignorance" The post isn't as offensive as the title, but the comments are.
CT 2013, start here, for fun

CT 2015, Corey Robin quotes Yousef Munayyer
For Israelis, there’s currently little cost to maintaining the occupation and re-electing leaders like Mr. Netanyahu. Raising the price of occupation is therefore the only hope of changing Israeli decision making. Economic sanctions against South Africa in the 1980s increased its international isolation and put pressure on the apartheid regime to negotiate. Once Israelis are forced to decide between perpetual occupation and being accepted in the international community, they may choose a more moderate leader who dismantles settlements and pursues peace, or they may choose to annex rather than relinquish land — provoking a confrontation with America and Europe. Either way, change will have to come from the outside.
Robin also quotes a "philosopher" and friend. Samuel Fleischacker
It breaks my heart to say this, but today I don’t feel I can call myself a Zionist any longer.
A commenter responds to Robin and to a previous commenter
I’m curious how widespread is the sentiment articulated by Fleischacker. 
I think the bigger picture is that there’s been a steady drift towards anti-Israeli positions over the last few years, and this result means that the drift isn’t going to stop any time soon. So Fleischacker’s move from “liberal Zionist” to “no longer a Zionist” sounds huge, but it’s part of the same process as somebody moving from “critical of Israel but not in favour of BDS” to “qualified supporter of BDS”, and somebody else moving from “BDS but not for academics” to “BDS across the board”. And my impression is that that broader shift is very widespread indeed.
"I think the bigger picture is that there’s been a steady drift"

repeat from 2011. (Rosen is linking to Munayyer)
Nir Rosen (on Facebook) is right: "fucking brilliant!"
NY Times March 20 1947
Whatever the degree of their superiority complex, however, the Jews are certainly confident of their ability to bring the Arabs to terms - by persuasion if possible, by might if necessary. The program of the largest terrorist group, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, is to evacuate the British forces from Palestine and declare a Zionist state west of the Jordan, and "we will take care of the Arabs."
NY Times May 14 2011
After Israel declared independence on May 14, 1948, armies from neighboring Arab states attacked the new nation; during the war that followed, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes by Israeli forces. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were also destroyed. The refugees and their descendants remain a central issue of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I reposted the Rosen link before in a longer discussion of art and politics, responding to Robin and others on Hitchens.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

make it idiot-proof


Days before the Israeli election...

Newsweek: US removes Iran and Hezbollah from terror list

Netanyahu: "If I'm elected, there will be no Palestinian state"

...and after

Max Blumenthal is on twitter crowing over the earlier accusations that Goliath was only agitprop or "reverse Hasbara".

The head of the Arab League, quoted in the Times of Israel, says Bibi didn't mean it.

NYT Editorial
Israel’s election has done a lot to reveal the challenges facing the country and the intentions of the men who seek to lead it. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outright rejection of a Palestinian state and his racist rant against Israeli Arab voters Tuesday showed that he has forfeited any claim to representing all Israelis.
Middle East Monitor: It's confirmed, Israel is aiding Al Qaeda in Syria.
The article in the second link in the Times editorial was rewritten entirely a few hours after it appeared: "Netanyahu Expresses Alarm That Arab Voter Turnout Could Help Unseat Him" became  "Deep Wounds and Lingering Questions After Israel’s Bitter Race"
The former article used the words “racism” (twice), “racist,” and “racial fearmongering.” The second line of the piece read “Opponents accused Mr. Netanyahu of baldfaced racism that smacked of desperation.” It included statements and quotes such as:
  • The Zionist Union alliance denounced Mr. Netanyahu’s language as racial fearmongering.
  • “No other Western leader would dare utter such a racist remark,” Shelly Yacimovich, a senior member of the bloc, wrote on Twitter. “Imagine a warning that starts, ‘Our rule is in danger, black voters are streaming in quantity to the polling stations.’”
  • “A prime minister who conducts propaganda against national minority citizens is crossing a red line of incitement and racism,” said Dov Hanin, a Joint Arab List candidate. “Such a message, voiced by a prime minister on the very day in which citizens are supposed to be encouraged to go out to vote, is testimony to a complete loss of compass and his preparedness to smash all principles of democracy just for the sake of his own leadership.”
The latter article removed the quotes from Netanyahu’s opponents, leaving only the line “Opponents accused him of baldfaced racism.” And, no longer at the beginning of the piece, this sentence is now buried in the middle, where studies show most readers will not see it.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

a repeat from 2010, this time with a video, which may not last.

Deafman Glance

Wilson's theater is called a "theater of images", part of a history of abstract non-representational art made in the context of representational means; think the formalism of Eliot going back through James, through the decadence of Huysmans and the aestheticism of Pater (as always I repeat myself). This modernism is distinct from the modernism of the abstract ideal; it's the formalism of stifled desire, of representation sought, denied and affirmed in an absence that the form itself is constructed to describe. It's the bowl and the water that dare not speak its name.

The distinction between the two is ignored by much modern criticism, at least in English. Even those who've tried to bring Surrealism into the discussion argue from idealism if not regarding form than intellect, and the second formalism is transformed into a critical and philosophic art. In the language of critics the first formalism replaced conversation with silent and ideal form, while for critical supporters of the second, grammar itself or ideal politics are central. The actions of the speaker speaking are elided, communication is depersonalized, seemingly disembodied. But in criticism the shadows are removed, and later in the hybrid Critical Theory they're replaced by ideology.

In a perverse way, James and Eliot, through Duchamp, all conservative formalists of sex, have been devolved from poets into critics. In the minds of theorists of speech acts, acts themselves are secondary. The primacy of form has become the primacy of "content". The first modernism is performative and silent; the second, once loquacious and evasive, diffident, coy, ironic, but deeply emotive, has become talkative and anti-social. Conceptualism renders practice functionalism and results, output; the heuristics of the physical and of performance are denied. The ironic distance from, not denial of, emotion has become the defense of bureaucracy; the mass-singular noun "individual" replaces the description of individual experience. And rationalist idealism ignores history (see the second note here on the history of the European anti-bourgeois). It's interesting to see the faux-aristocratic high bourgeois critique of vulgarity transformed into the moral philosophy of the super technocrat in the age of instrumental reason, to see how Henry James became Max Weber.

I've rarely been so simply struck by all this as I was yesterday. The formalism of Deafman Glance is the reenactment of trauma transposed, overlapping the before and after into the timelessness of an eternal present. It's the poetry of formalism as pathology. And yet it's moving. It evokes and denies as Eliot does. It makes sense that Louis Aragon would recognize this: "[Wilson] is what we, from whom Surrealism was born, dreamed would come after us and go beyond us.” (see the top link)

The relation of abstraction to representation in art begins in the relation of abstraction to representation in language, which in politics and government is the relation of the letter to the spirit of the law. To argue from the spirit in law or language is subjectivism and subjectivism is inarticulate, in-formal, isolate: the end of the social. But to argue only from the letter can be cold, inhuman: unjust:

"He's just a boy! He didn't mean it! He's my son!"
"It doesn't matter. It's the law."

To communicate is to translate emotion into form: the description of a scream is not a scream. Our emotions themselves are locked in: truth is private. Our audience reads only performance, as courts of law refer only to "facts". Articulated communication is possible only through the use of an indifferent medium manipulated in performance towards a desired response from others, either an intellectual agreement or a seemingly parallel but independent expression of emotion. We argue on a case by case basis the relation of formal language to the private truths of interior life, and of law to the informal truths of "Justice". This begs the question of whether a society can have an interior life or whether justice is a category with a reality outside of language, outside of what society decides that it should mean.

"It is now time to ask why Pippin thinks that his discussion of these films actually amount to doing political philosophy."

Imagine an economics professor asking if studying the actions of businessmen is doing economics.

Apparently, studying off the cuff "intuitions" regarding philosophical questions is philosophy while studying complex but indirect intellectual activity based on the same questions might not be. That, even though there are more "ideas" in John Ford's movies than in anything written "about" them.
In reference also to Kieran Healy's wife, the philosopher, and her book on "Transformative Experience".  I've been thinking about it again since I read some praise for it from someone who should know better. Yes; time changes you. Robert Wilson in 1980 and 2013.

I understood Wilson in 1980, and I understood that he would change; that his work was about change, changing as coming to terms.

footnote 4
Jill Johnston covers similar ground in a recent article on Robert Wilson. (Family SpectaclesArt in America, Dec. 1986) Although she does not take it quite as far as I have, she nonetheless is aware of the implications. Wilson grew up in a strict world that he has internalized. The obsession in his work with 'wounded' figures and 'great men' (Joseph Stalin, Frederick the Great, the Shah of Iran); his early denial/refusal of the narrative of theater and his interest in autism, is layed out very clearly. All of this relates him closely to Duchamp, Warhol, Morris, and Koons.
and Wittgenstein, before and after: from Russell to Proust.

Friday, March 13, 2015

repeat from 2013. remembered because someone else found it.
Art Market Maneker links to N+1 for a "hard to locate analysis" of Steven Cohen, markets, art making and collecting, by Gary Sernovitz, novelist and Managing Director of Lime Rock Partners

Maneker doesn't understand the criticism; the author of the piece doesn't understand the contradictions. Capitalism has always been theorized as permanent revolution. The aristocratic arts, following the ethos of the aristocracy, were signposts of stability. Following the logic of the new economic aristocracy (based on money not on land) the aristocratic arts now celebrate change, while the bourgeois arts -literature, theater- defend continuity, through memory, in the context of change.  The banker as novelist sees himself as the honorable bourgeois; the banker as collector of avant-garde art lives a bourgeois fantasy of individual pseudo-monarchic authority. The avant-garde artists fantasizes revolution in the cafe; the theoretician does the same in the faculty lounge; and the fine arts devolve into design, aesthetics, and fashion.
not too shabby.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

High formalism, as high moralism, high absurdity, or both. High Modernism as farce: the definition of Mannerism.
Years ago, I heard about a sign pinned to an office door in Princeton, New Jersey. The office door was Gilbert Harman’s, and I was told the sign read, ‘Just say no to the history of philosophy’. 
[Harman] ...I believe my views about the history of philosophy are mostly orthodox nowadays. The history of philosophy is not easy. It is very important to consider the historical context of a text and not just try to read it all by itself. One should be careful not to read one’s own views (or other recent views) into a historical text. It is unwise to treat historical texts as sacred documents that contain important wisdom. In particular, it is important to avoid what Walter Kaufmann calls ‘exegetical thinking’: reading one’s views into a sacred text so one can read them back out endowed with authority. For the most part the problems that historical writers were concerned with are different from the problems that current philosophers face. There are no perennial philosophical problems.

...For reasons I do not fully understand, I have sometimes upset people by distinguishing between philosophy and the history of philosophy or by noting that philosophy is what the history of philosophy is the history of.

I also think as an empirical matter that students of philosophy need not be required to study the history of philosophy and that a study of the history of philosophy tends not to be useful to students of philosophy. (Note ‘tends’.) Similarly, it is not particularly helpful to students of physics, chemistry, or biology to study the history of physics, chemistry, or biology.

...That is not to say that I have anything against the study of the history of philosophy. I do not discourage students or others from studying the history of philosophy. I am myself quite interested in the history of moral philosophy for example and have occasionally taught graduate seminars in Kant. I have done a certain amount of work on Adam Smith’s relation to Hume and others.
"In particular, it is important to avoid what Walter Kaufmann calls ‘exegetical thinking’"
[Walter Kaufmann]

"There are no perennial philosophical problems."

"a study of the history of philosophy tends not to be useful to students of philosophy. (Note ‘tends’.) Similarly, it is not particularly helpful to students of physics, chemistry, or biology to study the history of physics, chemistry, or biology."

Scalia: The Constitution is "dead, dead, dead"

Soames: I outline a theory of legal interpretation I call “Deferentialism”, which can be taken to be a version of originalism, though I hope it is an improved version.

Dennett: "...Some philosophical research projects -or problematics, to speak with the more literary types- are rather like working out the truths of chess."

According to Dennett the only difference between chess and chmess is that chess has a history. Chmess is to chess as a cult is to a religion; old whores, like old buildings gain respectability, which explains the failure of Esperanto to win out over French: a lack of richness or depth of reference, or more simply "depth".

Timothy Williamson: "Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth."

When I read Dennett the references to Austin just slipped by.

Oh, why not?...
The release or deliverance achieved by the Baroque period can be observed in every field of human endeavor. The Florentine intermedios of the manneristic theater (similar to the English masks) abounded in such complicated allegories as seen in the Intermedio of 1585 and 1589 where the conclusion of Plato’s Republic appeared on the stage, including the Planets, the Harmony of the Spheres, the Three Goddesses of Fate, and even Necessity, holding the adamantine axis of the Universe (fig. 40). We happen to possess the diary of a nobleman who saw this play and stated that it was very beautiful but nobody could understand what it was all about. A few years later those allegories were replaced by the modern opera, full of natural emotions and tuneful melodies (Rinuccini’s Daphne, 1594; Monteverdi’s Orpheus, a bit later). The very style of writing had assumed a specific manneristic character all over the continent (Gongorism in Spain, Euphuism in England: Lyle, Greene and Donne). This too was overcome by Cervantes and Shakespeare. A beautiful instance is Shakespeare's Winter’s Tale (1610-11) deliberately ridiculing the euphuistic prose of the courtiers, and opposing to it the emotional and even versified, but beautifully natural, profoundly human speech of the main characters.
History is bunk.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Indeed, the most intense feeling we know of, intense to the point of blotting out all other experiences, namely, the experience of great bodily pain, is at the same time the most private and least communicable of all. Not only is it perhaps the only experience which we are unable to transform into a shape fit for public appearance, it actually deprives us of our feeling for reality to such an extent that we can forget it more quickly and easily than anything else. There seems to be no bridge from the most radical subjectivity, in which I am no longer "recognizable," to the outer world of life.42 Pain, in other words, truly a borderline experience between life as "being among men" (inter homines esse) and death, is so subjective and removed from the world of things and men that it cannot assume an appearance at all.43

Since our feeling for reality depends utterly upon appearance and therefore upon the existence of a public realm into which things can appear out of the darkness of sheltered existence, even the twilight which illuminates our private and intimate lives is ultimately derived from the much harsher light of the public realm. Yet there are a great many things which cannot withstand the implacable, bright light of the constant presence of others on the public scene; there, only what is considered to be relevant, worthy of being seen or heard, can be tolerated, so that the irrelevant becomes automatically a private matter. This, to be sure, does not mean that private concerns are generally irrelevant; on the contrary, we shall see that there are very relevant matters which can survive only in the realm of the private. For instance, love, in distinction from friendship, is killed, or rather extinguished, the moment it is displayed in public. ("Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be.") Because of Its inherent worldlessness, love can only become false and perverted when it is used for political purposes such as the change or salvation of the world.

42. I use here a little-known poem on pain from Rilke's deathbed: The first lines of the untitled poem are: "Komm du, du letzter, den ich anerkenne, / heil- loser Schmerz im leiblichen Geweb"; and it concludes as follows: "Bin ich es noch, der da unkenntlich brennt? / Erinnerungen reiss ich nicht herein. / O Leben, Leben: Draussensein. / Und ich in Lohe, Niemand, der mich kennt."

43. On the subjectivity of pain and its relevance for all variations of hedonism and sensualism, see §§15 and 43. For the living, death is primarily dis-appearance. But unlike pain, there is one aspect of death in which it is as though death appeared among the living, and that is in old age. Goethe once remarked that growing old is "gradually receding from appearance" (stufeniveises Zuriicktreten aus der Erscheinung); the truth of this remark as well as the actual appearance of this process of disappearing becomes quite tangible in the old-age self-portraits of the great masters—Rembrandt, Leonardo, etc.—in which the intensity of the eyes seems to illuminate and preside over the receding flesh.
Arendt again. It's been on my mind. For now, in reference to this, and the previous post and ones before.

The blankness of technocrats; the inability to read the details of behavior: to sense the casual arrogance of the wealthy, the humility, insecurity and anger of "the lower classes". The retreat to books and ideas. Kenworthy can't or refuses to read lies or elision, snobbery, sadness, regret. He can't or refuses to read subtext, because subtext is ambiguous. Empiricism is only generalization and numbers.

"Is Income Inequality Harmful?" The odds are he and his wife pay someone to pick up after them and their kids. endless repeats.

"Never seek to tell thy love / Love that never told can be." Arendt's quoting Blake, without naming him. Those days are gone.
James’s critical genius comes out most tellingly in his mastery over, his baffling escape from, Ideas; a mastery and an escape which are perhaps the last test of a superior intelligence. He had a mind so fine that no idea could violate it…. In England, ideas run wild and pasture on the emotions; instead of thinking with our feelings (a very different thing) we corrupt our feelings with ideas; we produce the public, the political, the emotional idea, evading sensation and thought…. Mr. Chesterton’s brain swarms with ideas; I see no evidence that it thinks. James in his novels is like the best French critics in maintaining a point of view, a view-point untouched by the parasite idea. He is the most intelligent man of his generation.
What the public realm considers irrelevant can have such an extraordinary and infectious charm that a whole people may adopt it as their way of life, without for that reason changing its essentially private character. Modern enchantment with "small things," though preached by early twentieth-century poetry in almost all European tongues, has found its classical presentation in the petit bonheur of the French people. Since the decay of their once great and glorious public realm, the French have become masters in the art of being happy among "small things," within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot, extending to these things a care and tenderness which, in a world where rapid industrialization constantly kills off the things of yesterday to produce today's objects, may even appear to be the world's last, purely humane corner. This enlargement of the private, the enchantment, as it were, of a whole people, does not make it public, does not constitute a public realm, but, on the contrary, means only that the public realm has almost completely receded, so that greatness has given way to charm everywhere; for while the public realm may be great, it cannot be charming precisely because it is unable to harbor the irrelevant.
"..within the space of their own four walls, between chest and bed, table and chair, dog and cat and flowerpot"  Vuillard, Cezanne, and Proust, T.J Clark's Picasso and The Blue Room

It would be interesting to see if Eliot read Arendt.  He would have learned a lot from her, without having to give ground. And as far as anti-Semites go, she had Heidegger, and Eliot had Groucho Marx.

"the subjectivity of pain and its relevance for all variations of hedonism and sensualism" The Body in Ecstasy: The Making and Unmaking of the World

Again and again and again: Elaine Scarry is a fucking idiot. Her stupidity haunts me. The book was published in 1986, when Foucault was a hero, and made no references to sex. The foundation to technocratic liberalism: the ambiguities of life lived mean nothing next to the light of pure and puritan reason. But the word "puritan" gives it a subtext that reason itself does not allow. And the only art acceptable to reason is children's fantasy, because fantasy doesn't undermine the law of non-contradiction, which "literary" fiction breaks constantly, as we do in our own lives.

House of Cards: In the original you sympathize deeply both with the victims and the glorious bastard of a villain. The US version reduces that conflict to a moralizing prurience; we have contempt for all the characters and we're left with nothing but the unexamined moral superiority of voyeurs. The original, among other things, was a comedy.

We've been here before

the under-represented voices of the children of presidential advisors

I’m delighted to introduce Juliet Sorensen who is a Clinical Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern Law School’s Center for International Human Rights. Instead of annotating her CV here, I’d rather share how we met. The Public Voices Fellowship is an initiative of The OpEd Project whose mission is to get more under-represented voices onto oped pages.
The comments are unintentionally[?] hilarious
Tabasco 03.03.15 at 4:00 am
Related to Ted? 
Maria 03.03.15 at 10:22 am
Welcome, Juliet! 
Map Maker 03.03.15 at 1:10 pm
Daughter of Ted & Gillian.
She has her own wikipedia page

Sunday, March 01, 2015

repeat From 2011

Contemporary defenders of naturalism are prone to argue from a very artificial sense of self. Dan Sperber in the NY Times, NewAPPS and elsewhere. I'm beginning to think all academics now descend from priests. It's depressing.

We reason when we perform basic functions, calibrating our actions when we walk, ride a bicycle and drive a car. From Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket
Joker: "How could you shoot women and children?"
Door Gunner: "Easy, you just don't lead 'em so much."
The question is formed by and concerns complex reason: intellectual, philosophical, moral. The stated answer is formed by and concerns simple reason: basic empiricism, calculation. The exchange itself, in a screenplay and therefore as art, is formed by and concerns reason as reflection (intellectual and philosophical, empirical and rational), playing off the disjunction between the two forms of reason proffered at cross purposes, the whole manifesting as ironic comment.

Simple reason is driven by simple preference, though it may include complex calculation. Complex reason is ruled often by complex desire. Reason in the service of greed or glory is not reason as such. We tend to believe what we want to believe; and loyalty, to dreams and to people, is considered generally to be a virtue.

"He studies the ashtray, and tries to rule out/ preference/ preferring over/ not preferring/ but he prefers."

Robert Ashley, from Private Lives.
It's dated, and in a sense it was when in was made. But the first few minutes have stayed with me.
I prefer his line reading in the original video.

The super-ego is a supreme narcissist

Below is almost nothing but quotes and links, even if a few are to this blog.
"Show don't tell"
(also continuing this)

Adam Phillips in the LRB
Like all unforbidden pleasures self-criticism, or self-reproach, is always available and accessible. But why is it unforbidden, and why is it a pleasure? And how has it come about that we are so bewitched by our self-hatred, so impressed and credulous in the face of our self-criticism, unimaginative as it usually is? Self-reproach is rarely an internal trial by jury. A jury, after all, represents some kind of consensus as an alternative to autocracy. Self-criticism, when it isn’t useful in the way any self-correcting approach can be, is self-hypnosis. It is judgment as spell, or curse, not as conversation; it is an order, not a negotiation; it is dogma not over-interpretation. Psychoanalysis sets itself the task of wanting to have a conversation with someone – call it the super-ego – who, because he knows what a conversation is, is definitely never going to have one. The super-ego is a supreme narcissist.
 Leiter posts and recommends, Peter Railton's Dewey Lecture, "Rupture Liberation, and Solidarity"
Like most philosophers, I suspect, I wasn’t a particularly good fit with high school.

...When I reached the sections in Philosophy, something hit home. As before, I’d reach for the most impressive-looking books, thick volumes like Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. And there in black and white were the problems that tormented my teenage soul: Do we have free will? Can we ever have knowledge? Do I even know myself? What is human nature, or a good society, and can morality exist without God?

So here, in these philosophers, was stuff that seemed just as hard as the physics and chemistry that were bringing me to New York. Moreover, philosophers seemed to value a lack of confidence—telling me, not to ignore my doubts and get back to studying, but to push my uncertainty as far as it could go. Sartre explained why this is inescapable—only by self-deception can we hide from ourselves the fact of choice and the depth of our inability to anchor life in external or internal certainties. Like it or not, we were in the end responsible for who we are and what sort of world we inhabit. I wanted to study and understand science, but I wanted to live philosophy. In short, I was in ’way over my head, and my solitary night-time ramblings got longer and darker.

My self-absorbed angst got put in its place, however, by events happening in the world around me. Demonstrators in the South, civilly demanding nothing more than equal rights, were harassed by an angry and contemptuous white populace, set upon with police dogs, splayed against walls and sidewalks by high-pressure hoses, and beaten to the ground before our eyes on the evening news.

...A wave of anger spread across campus and hundreds came to a mass meeting that afternoon in Memorial Church. They decided to initiate the first Harvard strike since students had walked out of class to protest rancid food in the 1700’s. Three days later, 10-12,000 students tramped across the Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River to the Harvard Stadium, and debated a whole body of questions that had only been on the agendas of partisan groups a week before: “How must Harvard be changed?

...Why now? As in civil rights struggles and the war in Vietnam, innocent people are being killed— their lives cut short, their promise lost, and their families and friends devastated. It’s just too late in the day for “Don’t ask, don’t tell”. Our children, our students, the young faculty forced to live for years with insecure or term-limited jobs—they are under unprecedented levels of stress, and this is showing itself in rising public health statistics for depression and anxiety. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for post-secondary students, and rising. And its chief cause is untreated depression. Twenty percent of college students say their depression level is higher than it should be, but only 6% say that they would seek help, and still fewer actually do.
From the misery of a suburban high school student in 1965 to the misery of graduate students 50 years later, with references to other things in between. "Rupture Liberation, and Solidarity" Disruption (again). See also Robert Paul Wolff.

Railton is a "moral realist", as Wolff must be as well ["On the basis of a lengthy reflection upon the concept of de jure legitimate authority, I have come to the conclusion that philosophical anarchism is true."] but that leads us back also to Aaronson, and David Enoch.

More from Aaronson.
“The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic”
No, I’m not talking about me! 
Check out an amazing Nautilus article of that title by Amanda Gefter, a fine science writer of my acquaintance. The article tells the story of Walter Pitts, who [spoiler alert] grew up on the mean streets of Prohibition-era Detroit, discovered Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica in the library at age 12 while hiding from bullies, corresponded with Russell about errors he’d found in the Principia, then ran away from home at age 15, co-invented neural networks with Warren McCulloch in 1943, became the protégé of Norbert Wiener at MIT, was disowned by Wiener because Wiener’s wife concocted a lie that Pitts and others who she hated had seduced Wiener’s daughter, and then became depressed and drank himself to death. Interested yet? It’s not often that I encounter a piece of nerd history that’s important and riveting and that had been totally unknown to me; this is one of the times. 
Update (Feb. 19): Also in Nautilus, you can check out a fun interview with me.
From the article on Pitts
In 1923 [McCulloch] was at Columbia, where he was studying “experimental aesthetics” and was about to earn his medical degree in neurophysiology. But McCulloch was a philosopher at heart. He wanted to know what it means to know. Freud had just published The Ego and the Id, and psychoanalysis was all the rage. McCulloch didn’t buy it—he felt certain that somehow the mysterious workings and failings of the mind were rooted in the purely mechanical firings of neurons in the brain. 
Though they started at opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, McCulloch and Pitts were destined to live, work, and die together. Along the way, they would create the first mechanistic theory of the mind, the first computational approach to neuroscience, the logical design of modern computers, and the pillars of artificial intelligence. But this is more than a story about a fruitful research collaboration. It is also about the bonds of friendship, the fragility of the mind, and the limits of logic’s ability to redeem a messy and imperfect world.
I'd read the piece weeks ago, and made my usual comment. There's nothing anti-mechanistic about Freud's arguments. The question is the nature of the mechanism.
"the limits of logic’s ability to redeem a messy and imperfect world." The mind is either mechanical or it's not. You can't have it both ways. 
Consciousness is not calculation it's conflict. Two mechanical processes, calculation and conditioned response, mandate different responses to the same stimuli. The haze that results is what we call sentience.
Of course Freud wanted it both ways too: he wanted to transcend mechanism. Vulgar anti-Freudians -and "geeks" are the most pathological of anti-Freudians- celebrate one aspect of it, as if computational mechanism were freedom.

I posted a comment on Aaronson's page for him to read, since I knew he wouldn't post it. It's cruel, but useful in the face of stupid arguments over science and anti-science, and "agnotology".

Everything below, except for the Von Neumann quote, I've been posted 1, 4, 5 times before.
Some notes on logic and empiricism:

Crooked Timber -Comment 312 by "Magistra"
One of the things that occurs to me from reading Scott Aaronson@213 (and some other posters), is that some people feel far more unhappy with ambiguity than others: they want really strict, precise rules about what is right and what is wrong. And I wonder whether that kind of personality it connected with a strong mathematical/scientific bent

Comment 313 by "hix" -But there is another aspect too. One just starts to despise unclear rules when one notices that whenever there is ambiguity about rules, that ambiguity is sytematically used to favour certain types of people and disadvantage others.

Comment 317 Scott Aaronson-
magistra #312 and hix #313: Yes and yes!

WVO Quine-
Once the theory of meaning is sharply separated from the theory of reference, it is a short step to recognizing as the business of the theory of meaning simply the synonymy of linguistic forms and the analyticity of statements; meanings themselves, as obscure intermediary entities, may well be abandoned.

[Fantasies of a world of language without meaning. For "Evening Star" and "Morning Star" read "Palestine" and "Israel".]

Oskar Morgenstern -“[Gödel] rather excitedly told me that in looking at the Constitution, to his distress, he had found some inner contradictions and that he could show how in a perfectly legal manner it would be possible for somebody to become a dictator and set up a Fascist regime never intended by those who drew up the Constitution."

[See references to Gödel and David Addington (Cheney advisor and theorist of executive power)]
Sanford Levinson and Jack Balkin, "Constitutional Crises" http://www.english.upenn.edu/~cavitch/pdf-library/LevinsonandBalkin.ConsitutionalCrises.pdf

Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog, "Engineers of Jihad"

Abstract. "We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both realms. This is all the more puzzling for engineers are virtually absent from left-wing violent extremists and only present rather than over-represented among right-wing extremists. We consider four hypotheses that could explain this pattern. Is the engineers’ prominence among violent Islamists an accident of history amplified through network links, or do their technical skills make them attractive recruits? Do engineers have a ‘mindset’ that makes them a particularly good match for Islamism, or is their vigorous radicalization explained by the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries? We argue that the interaction between the last two causes is the most plausible explanation of our findings, casting a new light on the sources of Islamic extremism and grounding macro theories of radicalization in a micro-level perspective."

John Von Neumann- "If you say why not bomb them tomorrow, I say why not today? If you say today at 5 o'clock, I say why not one o'clock?"

[The Character of Dr Strangelove was based on Von Neumann]


"Former friends have recounted that [Jared Lee] Loughner had a fixation for grammar and words, saying that he challenged Giffords at a previous public meeting with the impenetrable question: 'What is government if words have no meaning?' "

Wall St. Journal 2009. http://www.wsj.com/news/articles/SB123275572295011847

Surveying the wreckage of a neighbor's bungalow hit by a Palestinian rocket, retired Israeli official Avner Cohen traces the missile's trajectory back to an "enormous, stupid mistake" made 30 years ago.

"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah.

[In 1987 Israel deported Mubarak Awad the Christian founder of The Palestinian Centre for the Study of Nonviolence, while allowing Ahmed Yassin to preach.]

Yaakov Peri, former head of the Shin Bet: “We did not create [Hamas], but we did not hinder its creation.”

[Before the election in 2006 Hamas declared an end to suicide bombings, which it has maintained since, and removed the call for destruction of Israel from its manifesto.]

[Yassin in 2004, shortly before his assassination] https://web.archive.org/web/20040430114615/http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2004/675/re1.htm

[A good post from 2008 by the wife of a former member of the NSC under Nixon and Carter.]

But as I know– because I was the conduit of one of these threats– threats of lethal violence were sent by the Israelis to any Palestinian “independents” who might be even considering joining a Haniyeh-led government. As a result, none of them did; and the government that Haniyeh ended up forming was 100% Hamas.

...I have written about it before. It was Ziad. The threat was conveyed to me by Ziad’s and my mutual friend Ze’ev Schiff, a decent man who had been extremely close to successive generations of the leaders of Israel’s security establishment for half a century before his death last year.
To be specific, when I spoke with Ze’ev on the phone before I went to Gaza in March 2006– and he did help me to get in– he asked if I was going to see Ziad, who was then widely reported to be considering an offer from Hamas to be Haniyeh’s Foreign Minister (as he subsequently became, during the brief life of the 2007 national unity government.) I said yes. He said– and he repeated this a couple of times to make sure I got the meaning clear– that I should tell Ziad he would face “the worst possible consequences” if he joined the Haniyeh government, and that he said this “on good authority.”
I did pass the message on to Ziad.
Ziad also faced considerable family-based pressure from the Americans since his three children from his first marriage were at college here in the US, and I suppose if he had joined the Haniyeh government and then tried to visit them here he could be arraigned on all kinds of charges of aiding and abetting terrorists. But Ze’ev’s words about “the worst possible consequences” struck me as constituting a more severe and immediate threat.

[On Gaza recently in the London Review of Books. Both pieces include a lot of data.]