Wednesday, September 30, 2015

updated with a second video

I'm not much for TED talks; they're usually the opposite of the best of both worlds. But this one is good. It's a very clear description of art. In one sense it's very standard stuff, but it destroys every argument by anyone who talks about "aesthetics". Most artists aren't capable of being so blunt. They're too attached to their lies.

I've repeated this a dozen times. Lawyers are honest liars.
Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate. I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying. I was no longer entirely what my professional duties demanded, the old taxi on the rank waiting for the client to open the door and give his instruction, prepared to drive off in any direction, with the disbelief suspended."
WATTEAU, Pierrot, (formerly known as Gilles),  c. 1718-19

Videos: Colbert, Some thoughts of Pretending and Honesty, the honesty of Trump.  Marco Tempest, The Magic of Truth and Lies.
Three posts from November 2008.

Time and Consensus
When my family and I ate out in the Italy of my youth and early decades of my marriage, we would look for any plain trattoria where we could find the kind of cooking that was closest to what my mother and father were putting on the table at home. The person making the meal may have been the owner or his wife or his mother, or someone working in total anonymity. He or she was never referred to as the chef, but as il cuoco or la cuoca, the cook.

This was the old world of Mediterranean family cooking, a world where satisfying flavors had been arrived at over time and by consensus. That world hasn’t disappeared, but it has receded, making room for a parallel world, one where food is often entertainment, spectacle, news, fashion, science, a world in which surprise — whether it’s on the plate or beyond it — is vital. This is the world of chefs.
see "Rules and Beer" from the 24th, and "Rules vs Trust" from the 22nd, etc.

Marcella Hazan

Rules and Beer: Law is hard convention Convention is soft law

The connection should be clear enough.
note taking. my comments elsewhere. neatened up a bit here.
Between corporate and industrial culture and the cult of individual self-expression there's the culture of community, communication, and language. Nothing that's been made the same way for hundreds of years has actually been made the same way for hundreds of years; that applies to beer as much as law. It’s slow change. You put 20 people in a room you’ll get an argument. You put 3 people in a room followed by 3 more as the first ones leave and 3 more following again on and on for 500 years you might get something interesting, whether it’s or bread or beer or wine or cheese or Homer or the Bible.
Budweiser is not good beer. Microbrewers, by and large, miss the point. Of course they do, they’re beer geeks.

This is the critique from cultural “depth” which some conflate with mysticism or ‘spirituality.’ It’s simpler than that: subtlety takes time.

Rules vs Trust: Language always changes, so what are rules?

Communication isn't about ideas, it's about people.
Something Leiter et. al don't understand.

[above (in case it vanishes): Brian Leiter and Scott Shapiro-Hart/Dworkin and theoretical disagreement.]

Crooked Timber and Balkin

A judge is an orator, a public speaker trying to win over his audience, or at least gain their respect for the possible logic of his decision even if they disagree.
The purpose of law is not the search for truth but for for social stability and peace.
The truth itself is unknowable.
[Maybe he killed her, maybe he didn't.]

The foundational Ideological commitment in a democracy is the commitment to getting along. Truth is a function of the social and any conclusion must be socially acceptable.
Dworkin's Hercules is a fictional character, like Socrates.
Laws must be, or appear to be, non-contradictory. Principles are under no such obligation. Legal decisions are public performances in defense of one description of an illusory seamless web: our mythmaking of ourselves and our processes.

Positivists are interested in rules, in numbers and grammar, and of course they mythologize their own positions. Anything in language will be contextualized by history. American legal realism manifests itself as a datable aspect of an era, as does post-war American rationalism. There is no equivalent in physics or mathematics and to say otherwise is to analogize words as numbers, and perception as Platonism. Naturalized epistemology is an inappropriate philosophical basis for a democracy. The only foundation in law in a democracy is theater.

Again (a reminder): If 1 is next to 2, 2 next to 3, 3 next to 4, and 4 next to 5, is 1 therefore next to 5?
No. Numbers in their relations to one another neither evolve or devolve. Language always changes. Law in a democracy is one aspect of the public marking/manifestation of change.

The question in TVA v. Hill was whether the courts or the legislature had the right to make a decision and under what terms. Is it permissible in our system, as we define it at this time that the courts have such authority?
The question is: can we as we imagine ourselves now, get there from here?
Social truth not objective truth.
The argument in law is a public argument over the definition of our language and ourselves in the present, not an argument over external objective truths. The only natural law is the law that says language is and society are artificial.
and again
On general questions: Democratic justice is not justice, but one definition of justice. Justice or law can be defined as a language structure perceived commonly as manifesting a stable order in which things and people have a specific role and place. Law is a roadway and a map to the world. There is law and justice in a monarchy as long as people perceive it. Barbarism is society without law. Fascism is society of the hypocritical pretense of law: law as kitsch. The mechanisms of such an order make it far more violent than simple barbarism.

Art and culture are the history of human self-description and self-definition. This in law [its foundation and penumbra]

This is all so basic it depresses me to need to form it as an argument.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christopher Lebron Interviewed at 3AM.
This strand of perfectionism, as I interpret it goes something like this: there is no offense in saying that there are people who not only do some things better than others but that some people are better than others more generally; the real offense to my mind is when we are complacent about that fact or possibility, thus the person who can be better qua human potential, refuses to tax his or her own capacities, or – and this is actually important for my own brand of egalitarianism – those who are more advantageously positioned in this way withhold the resources (capaciously conceived) for others to more fully develop their skills. (I admit, little support for this last condition can be found in Nietzsche, but can be found in Mill.) I think some will find my position odd because on the one hand it affirms a position that most find inherently aristocratic but then tries to retrofit an egalitarian ideal over it. How does that work? I suppose it depends on an empirical hypothesis that could prove to be confused but in the absence of such proof I am supposing that each of us possesses a certain kind of genius to be better than merely competent moral agents.
Perfectionism is mannerism, a rigorous formality, propriety as opposed to logic, eliding contradictions out of fear. The language in the two paragraphs below is tied up in knots, the author craving attention, approval and respect, and then dismissing it.

LeBron in the Boston Review
On any given sunny afternoon, or appropriately dusky early evening, when the air seems filled with possibility and release, you can hear me coming a block away. Depending on your socio-cultural background you might not like what you hear. See, my car has thirteen speakers, two of which are subwoofers, and I get a great deal of gratification playing my rap music loud. I won’t reproduce any lyrics here, but suffice it to say, my preferred urban poets don’t always say very ‘respectable’ things. I often get side-eye from the police (playing my music the way I do is practically an open invitation to law enforcement to harass me), and from time to time white mothers and fathers clutch their sons’ and daughters’ hands a bit more tightly as I approach, leaning my lean, smirking my smirk (not at them, mind you).

I’m also the guy with a PhD from M.I.T and a faculty position at Yale. I’ve written a book that has won an important award in my field of political theory, I’ve published academic articles in good journals, and I’ve written for the New York Times as well as Boston Review. This despite having been on welfare, having collected unemployment, having been raised mostly poor, by a father without a high school education and a mother who never set foot in a university. I was the first in my entire extended family to get a four-year degree, much less a PhD, much less a PhD from the likes of M.I.T. Despite the fact that I’ve accomplished and produced more than many white counterparts, I’ve got to work hard to get what they tend to acquire with relative ease, which I do.
A portrait attributed to Bronzino in the Frick Collection is a characteristic specimen of the second phase of mannerism, which. is the very style of the Counter Reformation. It sets in almost precisely with the beginning of the Council of Trent and outlasts it only by a few decades. Now things were settled,but freedom of life and thought, happiness, and even beauty had to be sacrificed on the altar of the dogma, now firmly reestablished but oppressive and tyrannical as long as its rule was still threatened - and the same was true of morals and customs (Spanish dress; Tasso). Thus such a portrait has in common with the Raphael portrait that the figure is again quiet and full of composure; but it differs from it in that the carriage and expression are emphatically uneasy and unhappy. While in the Raphael portraits the self-restriction revealed a complete freedom and and self-sufficient harmony, it reveals here a constrained reserve deliberately secluding itself from the outer world. It is as though the life of these people had gone frozen, or hides itself behind a motionless mask, melancholy and cool, shy and supercilious at the same time.
Lebron is a "philosopher", interviewed at one of Leiter's favorite sites, a fan of Nietzsche's reactionary elitism, and exhibiting all the traits of Leiter's new favorite terms, ressentiment and reaction formation.  In his case it's the anger of Norman Podhoretz and Clarence Thomas, the anger of the striving insecure petit-bourgeois, the moralizing outsider who wants in just so he can say "fuck you" to his new peers and be a snob at the same time. Leiter himself like a character out of Philip Roth; maybe they all are.

As an outsider who had no way in Lebron might have gone for radicalism or religious fundamentalism, other versions of mannerist overdeterminism.  But times have changed and he's chosen the imperatives of elite academia, as Coates has found a home in the American press.

Lebron is responding to Randall Kennedy.
My parents inculcated in me and my two siblings a particular sense of racial kinship: in our dealings with the white world, we were encouraged to think of ourselves as ambassadors of blackness. Our achievements would advance the race, and our failures would hinder it. The fulfillment of our racial obligations required that we speak well, dress suitably, and mind our manners.

...They never suggested that these circumstances were just; to the contrary, they resented them and abhorred the prejudice and discrimination that littered with dangerous booby traps the pathways trod by their beloved children. They believed, however, that one had to face reality with clear eyes in order to fashion responses with any hope of success. They were under no illusion that strict adherence to their protocols would immunize us completely against the ravages of negrophobia; they knew that racism targeted “good” blacks too. But they reasoned that their strictures would at least improve our chances of surviving and thriving.

...Ta-Nehisi Coates, perhaps the most influential young commentator on contemporary race relations, has called the appeal to respectability one of the “most disreputable traditions in American politics”
"Booker T and W.E.B"the phrase I remember from childhood.  Everyone above is craving respect in the American mainstream, but at the same time they want to feel intellectually and morally superior. Coates just won a MacArthur grant.

Let's hear it for Jewish comedians

To explain what I don't want to: Drake identifies as Jewish. His mother's in the video. And of course popular culture is full of images and demonstrations of ressentiment, the anger of the powerless: the Panthers and the JDL, Farrakhan and Kahane The JDL and NWA. True fascism begins and ends as a pose. But Leiter who has power and identifies with power, mocks the anger of the weak.

Irony is the glory of slaves. I should make it into a tag.

The other question Leiter won't address is the role of reaction formation in sexuality.  Following the usual definition both drag queens and gay bashers are demonstrating self-disgust at the fact of their homosexual desires.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

An Afghan public affairs officer tried to shush the colonel as he spoke to a journalist at the Afghan Air Force base at Kabul airport. A United States Air Force public affairs officer looked on aghast.

But Colonel Qalandari kept on: “I will tell the truth. This is my country, and these are my men, and they deserve the truth.”

He tossed a map on the table, showing the effective range of the helicopter from its Kabul airfield: It cannot even reach areas where the Taliban normally operate. In summertime, its maximum altitude with a full load of fuel and ammunition is only 7,000 to 8,000 feet, he said — meaning it cannot cross most of the mountain ranges that encircle Kabul, which is itself at an elevation of about 6,000 feet.

“It’s unsafe to fly, the engine is too weak, the tail rotor is defective and it’s not armored. If we go down after the enemy we’re going to have enemy return fire, which we can’t survive. If we go up higher, we can’t visually target the enemy,” Colonel Qalandari said. “Even the guns are no good.”
The EU wants to make the point that the West Bank is not a part of Israel, she said. But according to the official policy of the Israeli government, “[Handovers of] Judea and Samaria aren’t even on the list of options we’re offering the Palestinians,” she announced. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while professing to support the creation of a Palestinian state in principle, “never said that the evacuation of Judea and Samaria is an option. He says we learned the lessons of the [2005 Gaza] Disengagement and that the world needs to get used to this idea. That’s one of the messages that I place great emphasis on.”

The world needs to internalize that the West Bank is to remain under Israeli “de facto sovereignty,” Hotovely said. “It’s not a bargaining chip. It does not depend on the Palestinians’ goodwill. It’s the land of our forefathers. We don’t intend to evacuate it, certainly not for the Islamic State or al-Qaeda or other extremist organizations that would sure to gain control over the territory.”

Friday, September 25, 2015

Toni Morrison, grande dame of African-American literature, proclaimed Coates the intellectual heir to James Baldwin.
She called Bill Clinton "the first Black president".
Tim Russert told me that, according to his sources, Bill Clinton, in an effort to secure an endorsement for Hillary from Ted Kennedy, said to Kennedy, “A few years ago, this guy would have been carrying our bags.”
Baldwin wouldn't have put up with this, but he was more sophisticated. That's where we are. It's sad.
But then, just as he had much of America listening to him, Coates decided to move to Paris for a year. He had discovered the city relatively recently, not having travelled abroad until well into adulthood. “The first time I came here,” he admits, “I guess I felt sort of stupid for falling in love right away. It was like I have become the writer stereotype. Sometimes I feel like a total cliché for the affection I feel.” 
Glou, the restaurant he has chosen, is known for the freshness of its ingredients. “We’ve been here a month; I’ve been here 10 times,” he says. Upstairs, the window is open on to the Picasso museum’s stately back garden, where teenagers are playing football.
A gentle and courteous presence, Coates shows none of the cold anger of the pages of Between the World and Me.

...We place our orders, starting with a shared plate of seafood tapas and a glass of wine each. His restaurant French (arguably the essential level for foreigners) is serviceable.
He was a protege of David Carr
In the 1990s, Coates met his professional mentor: David Carr, the New York Times journalist who died unexpectedly at the age of 58 in February. When they met, Carr was editing Washington City Paper. “There isn’t a dude outside my dad who had greater influence on my life,” Coates says. He still instinctively talks about Carr in the present tense: “He’s also just a tremendous friend; I can talk to David about anything — my kid, my marriage, delinquent taxes. 
“When I met him I was 20. I had only the vaguest sense of what writing was; I had been a failing student, I was not sure I was going to do anything with my life. I sent him some poetry. He called and said, ‘Take this internship.’ I was expecting what they called ‘scut work’, running around doing a bunch of shit for other people. But they were like: ‘Go find stories.’ When I came to David, I wanted to be an essayist, writing music reviews and giving my take on things. He wasn’t having that. You had to go out and report on the city, talk to people. He used to tell me: ‘Tell stories, less of the theory.’”
"I wanted to be an essayist,.." "Tell stories, less of the theory."
Baldwin was an essayist; he had no interest in theory.

Carr's other famous protege, Lena Dunham
Three years ago, New York Times media reporter and occult career-bender David Carr was taking a tour through South by Southwest and asked the festival's film person what movie he should see. She tipped him off to a movie called Tiny Furniture and he fell in love. He gave the movie and its creator/star, a 23-year-old woman named Lena Dunham, 1,000 words in the Times.

It was the first big write-up for Tiny Furniture and Carr "knew right away she would end up as a big deal." Dunham and Carr got dinner a month later and became fast friends. In the three years since, he's been a huge booster of her work, taking to various corners of the internet to spread the Dunham love:
People love to ankle bite her because she grew up well-situated, but nobody gave her a tv show for that. Nobody convinced Judd Apatow to co-produce because of who her parents were and HBO did not pick up Girls for a second season because she is wired.
It's true that Judd Apatow didn't decide to work with Dunham because of who her parents were. Instead, he chose to work with Dunham thanks to David Carr.

In 2010, Dunham had a blind script deal for HBO. What she was missing was the imprimatur of a Hollywood heavyweight. Meanwhile, Apatow, who is friends with Carr, was asking the Times columnist if he knew of any promising up-and-comers. Carr did know one.

Carr also knew, with his eye on the angles, that the director/writer/producer had a woman problem. Dunham was someone who could make Apatow's then-checkered track record with female characters disappear. Carr told Apatow to get a look at Tiny Furniture.
Most of the rest of the article is a list of posted tweets
david carr @carr2n
ducked a fine dining rez and went with @lenadunham to Hill Country Chicken. What did we eat? #Everyeffingtthing.
Carr was a reactionary from the mold of moralizing Catholic junkies for whom intimate moral honesty renders politics unnecessary. As punk journalism it's Baudelaire as boilerplate, and slips easily into cafe society, J.J. Hunsecker and The Sweet Smell of Success. The other name that comes to mind is James Wolcott. If Carr was strategic and cynical enough to hook up Apatow and Dunham, he certainly wasn't above seeing that a smart black kid on the make in the 90s would be a good investment for an "occult career-bender".

There's a fine line between decadence and its description. Conservative politics, even deeply ironic conservative politics, is not anti-politics. And moral indignation is not moralism. I don't care about Carr's corruption; the obliviousness of his audience is the worst of it.
It is the ingenuousness and sincerity of Larsson’s engagement with good and evil that give the trilogy its power to attract so many millions of people. There really is no suspicion in these books that his heroes’ obsessions might be morbid. Certainly the reader will not be invited to question his or her enjoyment in seeing sexual humiliation inflicted on evil rapists. That pleasure will not be spoiled. It’s not surprising, reading biographical notes, that as an adolescent Larsson witnessed a gang rape and despised himself for failing to intervene, or that in his twenties he spent time in Eritrea training guerrillas—women guerrillas, of course—and then much of his mature life investigating and denouncing neo-Nazis.

Indeed he was so active in these matters that he felt it wise not to make his address public, or even his relationship with Eva Gabrielsson, his partner of thirty years. The two didn’t marry, she has explained in an interview, because under Swedish law marriage would have required publication of their address. Nor did they have children. As a result, when Larsson died of a heart attack at fifty in 2004, shortly before the first part of the trilogy was published and without having made a will, his estate passed to his father and brother, to whom he was not particularly close, leaving Gabrielsson with none of the vast income that was about to accrue. A man with a better eye for plot, one feels, would not have allowed such a loose end to threaten his achievement; unless these are precisely the pitfalls of remaining a free individual outside any confining social system.
Happy Birthday H.P. Lovecraft. I highly recommend the essay on him by the French reactionary writer (and one of my favorites, to be honest – I don't care about his views on Islam) Michel Houellebecq.
The link to Tim Parks' review of Larsson is a repeat as well.
see also above, a more scholastic version of the self-satisfied conservatism of the American new black elite.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The previous post.

The only ethos of service permitted under liberalism is the military.  The geek-technocratic need for clarity, for private reason, contradictions ignored that need to be open and negotiated, makes things even more dangerous. All contradictions are externalized, expunged from the ideologically defined non-contradictory self.

Reason divorced from obligation to anything but itself is a form of self-interest. Identifying with the absolute as if you could become the absolute by force of will is the theater, performance art, of scientism. I once asked a Marine on a milblog whether he was a soldier first or citizen. His response was "Semper Fi"

"The Churchlands are like Puritan believers in predestination who nonetheless dress simply and with the utmost [predetermined?] false modesty to demonstrate that they're among the elect."
One afternoon recently, Paul says, he was home making dinner when Pat burst in the door, having come straight from a frustrating faculty meeting. “She said, ‘Paul, don’t speak to me, my serotonin levels have hit bottom, my brain is awash in glucocorticoids, my blood vessels are full of adrenaline, and if it weren’t for my endogenous opiates I’d have driven the car into a tree on the way home. My dopamine levels need lifting. Pour me a Chardonnay, and I’ll be down in a minute.’ ”
For instance, both he and Pat like to speculate about a day when whole chunks of English, especially the bits that constitute folk psychology, are replaced by scientific words that call a thing by its proper name rather than some outworn metaphor. Surely this will happen, they think, and as people learn to speak differently they will learn to experience differently, and sooner or later even their most private introspections will be affected. Already Paul feels pain differently than he used to: when he cuts himself shaving now he feels not “pain” but something more complicated-first the sharp, superficial A-delta-fibre pain, and then, a couple of seconds later, the sickening, deeper feeling of C-fibre pain that lingers. 
It's all the same shit.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

I should have included the source.

Bertram: Why Corbyn won, the Peter Mair explanation
Over at the Monkey Cage, our very own Henry Farrell sets out how Peter Mair’s brilliant Ruling the Void helps explain Corbyn’s recent triumph. A shout-out too for my friend Martin O’Neill’s treatment of Corbyn’s victory at Al Jazeera
Two very different treatments of the same questions.


Technocratic elites and the pretense of epistocracy.

Farrell at the Monkey Cage. My comment is sloppy.
"Mair’s book is a study of European political parties — and how they no longer play the role that they are supposed to.
...European political elites — the people who really make decisions — are finding that they don’t really need the party rank and file"

Farrell is a political scientist who refers to a book by another political scientist that quotes a third, all of them describing a process that's been pretty obvious for a long time.  To top it off the article and the book and the quote exemplify the logic and practice of "epistocracy". It's more than a bit absurd for self-described experts who have a professional disdain for democratic politics to point out that elected leaders share their disdain. I'm more interested in how that disdain came to be.  We live in a time of anti-democratic elites.
Oh, for a political history of political science.

What are we to make of philosophers such as David Estlund who want to make "truth safe for democracy” or "to put democratic convictions on more secure footing."  What are we to make of the fact that Rawslian "public reason" follows the logic of what Kant called "private reason"?  All of this is possible only because of the rise of liberalism, over republicanism. Republicanism is not individualistic, but individualism is the sine qua non of modern liberalism.

Farrell used to be fond of libertarianism, but he seems to have outgrown it. He hasn't outgrown his sense of his own superiority. But there's no way to resolve the contradictions between his claim of support for democracy and his anti-democratic sensibility. As I've tried to point to him over the years, technocracy is not democracy.

The reason for democracy, contra all of the arguments above, is that truth is never on a secure footing; epistocracy is not possible.  But that doesn't stop the Weberian elite, elected and unelected, from pretending otherwise, in the name of "science" and self-interest.
Farrell, the unctuous passivity of a condescending priest.
If Mair is right — and parties have become increasingly disconnected from their base of support — then Corbyn’s election may be seen as a way of trying to revitalize this connection. The problem is twofold. It isn’t clear that the base for mass parties is there as it used to be, but it is is clear that the elites whom parties have come to depend on like the system the way that it is, and have resources that they will use to protect it. Corbyn likely isn’t the leader that the Labour left would have chosen, if it had thought it had a real prospect of success (and indeed he was in part chosen by the people who now oppose him). More importantly, perhaps, it’s not clear that the social and political conditions which once allowed people like Corbyn to succeed are there any more.
He didn't predict the Arab spring and he hasn't had a goddamned thing to say about it. Israel ditto. Politics is advocacy and prudence. If disinterest were the only model we wouldn't need lawyers.

Leiter quotes himself on "The Death of God and the Death of Morality"
Consider the Nietzschean Trolley Problem (apologies for anachronism): a runaway trolley is hurtling down the tracks towards Beethoven, before he has even written the Eroica symphony; by throwing a switch, you can divert the trolley so that it runs down five (or fifty) ordinary people, non-entities (say university professors of law or philosophy) of various stripes (“herd animals” in Nietzschean lingo), and Beethoven is saved. For the anti-egalitarian, this problem is not a problem: one should of course save a human genius at the expense of many mediocrities. To reason that way is, of course, to repudiate moral egalitarianism. Belief in an egalitarian God would thwart that line of reasoning; but absent that belief, what would?
Again, republicanism is neither individualist nor egalitarian. Individualism is a modern invention and it's amusing how much Leiter trusts the masses to know who to kill. Who's he talking to?

A proper anti-egalitarian would sacrifice his own life; a vulgar nouveau riche would kill the riff-raff and brag about it. And I keep forgetting to repeat this: the only ethos of service permitted under liberalism is the military.  The geek-technocratic need for clarity, for private reason, contradictions ignored that need to be open and negotiated, makes things even more dangerous. All contradictions are externalized, expunged from the ideologically defined non-contradictory self.

Traditions have major figures and minor ones, and each produce the other. Without the tradition the great composers we know would never have existed.  Leiter  follows his own tradition slavishly in a way Beethoven and Nietzsche would have found abhorrent. He's a righteous follower; his snide superiority is the condescension of someone who would never teach anyone below his own station. The elite reproduces itself, unconnected to the world, until the world gets annoyed and overthrows it, or just moves on.

And try this one: five (or fifty) ordinary people, or 5 of Beethoven's friends and family, his brother, his nephew, his "immortal beloved".  Considering how great artists often respond to trauma with great works, I'd vote to off his family.

SE/DG and Bertram
"Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
If, by “recent” you mean 1705, you may be right.
And another one for the list.
My name is tante but when I was born my parents didn’t know that so they called me “Jürgen Geuter”. 
Yasha Levine, friend of David Golumbia, critic of Omidyar, Snowden, Greenwald et al is a fan.
Levine has tweeted attacks on the ACLU for defending Nazis.

None of them can say anything about the effect of the wikileaks cables on middle east politics. It's a debate between narcissistic anarcho-libertarians defending free speech and narcissistic authoritarians defending the state. Varieties of hippy/geek uniformity.

next, more of the same.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Art and The Auschwitz Album
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. ...
It's inhuman to deny intimacy, even the illusory intimacy of art.
The top two photographs will be remembered. The bottom one won't. Some people have said the only reason is context.

Alva Noë: How Art Reveals the Limits of Neuroscience

my comment, on the fly.  Noë is an idiot.
Discussion of aesthetics is silly. Actors don't discuss the aesthetics of a performance of Hamlet. Consistency, nuance, dynamics, yes. Aesthetics no. Lawyers don't talk about aesthetics when talking about how to seduce a jury. Martin Luther King didn't talk about the aesthetics of religious oratory.

Art is the communication of experience, not of ideas; it's the communication of subjectivity. An actor's job is to make you feel emotions; their job is to manipulate. They don't have to feel a thing. But as artists and not simply con men their job is to lie while demonstrating how they're doing it, to make you cry while reminding you that you're crying for nothing, while still making you cry, so that you understand. They lie to you and smile at you and you thank them for lying and they bow.

Art is intimate empiricism. It's what makes you cry over a picture of a dead baby while another picture would simply make you a sad for a moment. It's the illusion of proximity. Why were people so upset by the pic of the dead kid on the beach? Because he was physically intact. He looked like he was sleeping but he was stiff, like an abandoned doll, a lonely image of death. That's what "aesthetics" means. But the photos themselves are crap illustration, because they aren't made to show you how they work.

Photojournalism is manipulative and voyeuristic. A mature work of art with an image of a dead child teaches you to respect the distance between you and others. You don't believe the fantasy that you're the child's parent; you know you're not and you know you're feeling the wish you were, and that's where it leaves you, in your own world, re-centered of your own world but with a respect for the experience even the tragic experience of others.

Photojournalism is cheap sentiment and cheap politics. It's pity and self-pity, not concern.

What really disgusts me about all this happy-talk-philosophizing about aesthetics is that it says nothing about the importance of art as describing pain and moral ambiguity as experience. It's not art it's "design". It says nothing about The Wire or The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, and that's just American TV. I won't even bring up the stuff you've never heard of.

The difference between design and art is the difference between the optimism of the makers of Grand Theft Auto and the moral pessimism of gangsta rap.

Of course neuroscience can explain it. It can explain away your entire life and the life of the condescending ass who's explaining it to you. Determinism means there's no difference between Alex Rosenberg and Lady Gaga. What then?
Tell me about it, assholes 

Monday, September 14, 2015

James C. Scott, interviewed in Gastronomica, The Journal of Critical food Studies.
Gastronomica has been the go-to journal for important conversations about food. With its diverse voices, cross-disciplinary mix of articles, and cross-cultural orientation, Gastronomica takes food as a starting point to probe timely and necessary questions about the role of food in everyday life. Through studies of historical trends and transformations in food and eating, analyses of the political, economic, and social dimensions of food production and consumption, research briefs on emerging issues in fields related to food research and innovation, creative reflections on the aesthetic qualities of food, and interviews with key figures in the world of food (scholars, activists, producers, and consumers), Gastronomica is at the forefront of the dynamic world of critical inquiry and debate about food.
I was trained as a political scientist and the profession bores me, to be frank. I am truly bored by mainstream work in my discipline, which strikes me as a kind of medieval scholasticism of a special kind. People ask me about the intellectual organization of my interdisciplinary work, and I have to say, it’s the consequence of boredom and the knowledge that so many other things had been written about peasants that are more interesting than anything political scientists have written about them, that I should go to those places and learn these things and read things outside of the discipline like Balzac and Zola, novels about the peasantry and memoirs. If you spend all of your time reading mainstream political science, you are going to reproduce mainstream political science. Nothing else can happen from that particular place. It seems to me, anything interesting that happens in political science is probably an import from some exotic place outside political science and I happen to go to different exotic places than other people and once in a while I stumble across something that helps me understand. The thing that attracted me to anthropology is that it insisted on a kind of eyes-wide-open fieldwork and total immersion in a peasant community and so I went from political science to a kind of anthropology envy. I can remember the first time I gave a talk when, I think it was in Toronto, and they didn’t know what discipline I came from, and they said, “Jim Scott, social anthropologist from Yale” and I thought, oh my God, I’ve finally passed. I felt so proud that they didn’t know I was a political scientist; I had succeeded in transcending my background.
Gastronomica has a chef's page [dead, now but the interviews themselves are still up] where they interview Daniel Humm, the chef and partner at 11 Madison Park

Business Insider rates it the best restaurant in America. "While the menu has changed, the decadence remains."

I have enjoyed a kind of relationship with agriculture as a mediocre farmer, as a mediocre sheep raiser, and as a mediocre beekeeper—and I’m serious about the mediocrity, I’m right there in the middle. 
The art of the designer and the happy hobbyist, without risk, not the defense attorney who defends drug dealers and killers, or the ER surgeon who loves saving lives and the danger of making the mistake that takes them.

He's happy to have "passed" as an anthropologist, and historians are an important influence, but the interviewer refers more than once to bis "intellectual project" and he doesn't challenge the terminology.

The reference to medieval scholasticism is nice.
from 2013: "Scott is an engineer of ideas defending the moral importance of a hobby."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Farrell: "George Scialabba is one of the great writers and intellectuals of our time."

Henry and his sister, the Church, the military.

Scialabbia, ex Opus Dei, a moralist who thinks Shakespeare is a cheap nihilist, a "very clever wordsmith, but no more than that".

[Banality, Boredom, Culture, Determinism, Futurism and Data Culture, Make it Idiot-Proof, Mannerism and The Gothic, Naturalism, Pedants and Children, Philosophy, Politics, Sexuality]

Farrell: "My personal favorite is this devastating piece on Isaiah Berlin"

Scialabbia's piece, originally in Dissent in 2001, the first sentences, and last
Securus judicat orbis terrarum, says a maxim of Roman law; which means, loosely translated: the New York Times, the New York Review of Books, and the Times Literary Supplement can't all be wrong. Isaiah Berlin is a certified sage, an object of near-universal veneration. ...

Forty years ago Irving Howe wrote: "But if the ideal of socialism is now to be seen as problematic, the problem of socialism remains an abiding ideal. I would say that it is the best problem to which a political intellectual can attach himself." So it was, and still is. And Berlin still hasn't.
Hitchens on Berlin in the LRB in 1998, first sentences and last.
In The Color of Truth, the American scholar Kai Bird presents his study of McGeorge (‘Mac’) and William Bundy. These were the two dynastic technocrats who organised and justified the hideous war in Vietnam. Cold War liberals themselves, with the kept conservative journalist Joseph Alsop they formed a Three of Hearts in the less fastidious quarters of Washington DC. Another player made up an occasional fourth man. Isaiah Berlin was happy, at least when Charles (Chip) Bohlen was unavailable, to furnish an urbane ditto to their ruthlessness....

But irony originates in the glance and the shrug of the loser, the outsider, the despised minority. It is a nuance that comes most effortlessly to the oppressed. Czeslaw Miloscz, Isaiah Berlin’s non-Jewish Baltic contemporary, went so far in his poem ‘Not like This’ as to term irony ‘the glory of slaves’. He did not, I am certain, intend to say that it was a servile quality. But Berlin’s aptitude in this most subtle of idioms was conditioned in part by his long service to a multiplicity of masters.
Scialabba: "The concrete situation is just what he has rarely had a word to say about."

Every reference in his piece is to philosophy, or to literature as uplift: Berlin's failure is a failure to cleave to affirmative ideals. Scialabba the moralist abhors irony.

Hitchens' piece refers to a history of actions and events. He says Berlin's failure is cowardice and ends quoting a poet's black humor.

I've linked to the Hitchens piece before

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Professor Raymond Klibansky  Historian of philosophy in the Platonic tradition who, a refugee from the Nazis, was an apostle of tolerance.
Although he took a keen interest in the great British philosophers - he later discovered and edited some new letters by Hume - he shared Cassirer's dismay at the blinkered approach of the analytical philosophers who dominated the Oxford scene: ignoring the historical context of thinkers such as Leibniz, the only thing they wanted to know was whether his statements were true according to their own criteria.
Is Our Identity in Intellect, Memory or Moral Character?
Many philosophers have argued that our identity is rooted in our continuous memories or in our accumulated knowledge. Drs. Strohminger and Nichols argue instead that we identify people by their moral characteristics, their gentleness or kindness or courage—if those continue, so does the person.
-Many philosophers have argued that our identity is rooted in our continuous memories or in our accumulated knowledge.

-They would, wouldn't they?

For "moral characteristics" read "patterns of behavior".
See also, "doing philosophy"

Maybe I should start a Mandy Rice Davies tag.

Monday, September 07, 2015

One late scholastic philosopher disparaging another, neither of them capable of leaving behind their claims to authority; neither capable of choosing to be (emulate) Euripides, Chaucer, Dante, Shakespeare etc. Better to be an ex-philosopher/theologian flirting with nihilism than a playwright or a lawyer (better my sister in a whorehouse than my brother on a rice burner). What's left is precocious, gamey immaturity. And in the last paragraph -I remember pulling my hair out 30 years ago- the explicit conflation of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, humanism and science.  Without that it all falls apart, for both Foucault and White. Fucking frogs. Fucking college professors. What fucking idiocy.

Hayden White, The Content is the Form  5."Foucault's Discourse: The Historiography of Anti-Humanism", with comments [ ]
The work of Michel Foucault, conventionally labeled as Structuralist but consistently denied by him to be such, is extraordinarily difficult to deal with in any short account. This is not only because his oeuvre is so extensive but also because his thought comes clothed in a rhetoric apparently designed to frustrate summary, paraphrase, economical quotation for illustrative purposes, or translation into traditional critical terminology.

In part, the idiosyncrasy of Foucault's rhetoric reflects a general rebellion of his generation against the clarté of their Cartesian heritage. Against the Atticism of the older tradition, the new generation is adamantly "Asiatic." But the thorniness of Foucault's style is also ideologically motivated. His interminable sentences, parentheses, repetitions, neologisms, paradoxes, oxymorons, alternation of analytical with lyrical passages, and combination of scientistic with mythic terminology- all appear to be consciously designed to render his discourse impenetrable to any critical technique based on ideological principles different from his own. [He can undermine but can't escape, so he plays the court jester]

It is difficult, however, to specify Foucault's own ideological position. [Ignore original intent; read the words. It's a book not an equation] If he detests liberalism because of its equivocation and service to the social status quo, he also despises conservatism's dependence on tradition. And although he often joins forces with Marxist radicals in specific causes, he shares nothing of their faith in science. The anarchist Left he dismisses as infantile in its hopes for the future and at in its faith in a benign human re. His philosophical position is close to the nihilism of Nietzsche. His discourse begins where Nietzsche's. in Ecce Homo, left off: in the perception of the "madness of all "wisdom" and the "folly" of all "knowledge." But there is nothing of Nietzsche 's optimism in Foucault. His is a chillingly clear perception of the transiency of all learning, but he draws the implications of rho perception in a manner that has nothing in common with Nietzsche's adamantine rigor.

And this because there is no center to Foucault's discourse. It is all surface—and intended to be so. [A novelist would describe the emotions, desires, needs; the unity and depth would be in description, with no need to hide contradictions behind slippery language, no need for evasion] For even more consistently than Nietzsche, Foucault resists the impulse to seek an origin or transcendental subject that would confer any specific meaning on existence. Foucault's discourse is willfully superficial.  [He's a philosopher and a Catholic, his Cartesian heritage; he needs to be right] And this is consistent with the larger purpose of a thinker who wishes to dissolve the distinction between surfaces and depths, to show that wherever this distinction arises it is evidence of the play of organized power and that this distinction is itself the most effective weapon power possesses for hiding its operations.

The multifold operations of power are, in Foucault's view, at once most manifest and most difficult to identify in what he takes to be the basis of cultural praxis in general, namely, discourse. Discourse is the term under which he gathers all of the forms and categories of cultural life, including, apparently, his man efforts to submit this life to criticism. Thus envisaged. and as he himself says in The Archeology of Knowledge (1969), his own work is to be regarded as "a discourse about discourse" (205). It follows, then, that it if we are to comprehend his work on its own terms, [You can't; you should see his work in the context of the world] we must analyze it as discourse—and with all the connotations of circularity, of movement back and forth, that the Indo-European root of this term (kers) and its Latinate form (dis-, in different directions," + currere, "to run", suggest. [Cutesy scholasticism] Accordingly, I have sought entry into the thicket of Foucault's work [trying to understand Manet by painting a bad Manet] and, I hope, a way out of it by concentrating on its nature as discourse. [You're going to try to beat him at his own game because that's somehow more respectful; biographers want to kill their subjects]

My approach will be generally rhetorical, and my aim will be to characterize the style of Foucault's discourse. I think we will find a clue to the meaning of his discursive style in the rhetorical theory of tropes. This theory has served as the organizing principle of Foucault's theory of culture, and it will serve as the analytical principle of this essay. Briefly I argue that the authority of Foucault's discourse derives primarily from its style (rather than from its factual evidence or rigor of argument); that this style privileges the trope of catachresis in its own elaboration; and that, finally this trope serves as the model of the world-view from which Foucault launches his criticism of humanism, science, reason, and most of the institutions of Western culture as they have evolved since the Renaissance.
Rebelling against Daddy but having defined yourself as rebelling against Daddy, needing a Daddy to fuck you in the ass for rebelling.

repeats, repeats, repeats, A philosophy professor reviews a book by a historian for the NDPR
Overall, Seaford’s book is interesting, insightful, and combines expertise in ancient sources with careful reasoning. It certainly offers an invaluable discussion of the origins and cultural contexts of early Greek philosophy. But Seaford’s concern with the historical explanations of Greek philosophy suggests that his book may not appeal to scholars interested exclusively in the philosophical content and argumentation of Presocratic texts. The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors (219; 253–4; 273). In fact, he insists that comprehending the relevant cultural factors is necessary for understanding Presocratic metaphysics. We must, he maintains, avoid treating ancient philosophy as if it were created in a “historical vacuum” (10), even if this threatens most Presocratic scholars’ “control of their subject and the autonomy of ’doing philosophy’“
We must, I maintain, avoid treating contemporary theory as if it were created in a “historical vacuum”

I forgot, Halperin wrote a book on Foucault.

I'd never be so insulting towards writing that didn't claim to be more than writing, but theory wants to be seen both as art and as better than art. 
I leave it up, even as I'm working on it. It's better, less oblique. Still a mess.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Enter the Dragon
Simply put, if you broached the issue of beauty in the American art world of 1988, you could not incite a conversation about rhetoric — or efficacy, or pleasure, or politics, or even Bellini. You ignited a conversation about the market. That, at the time, was the "signified" of beauty. If you said "beauty," they would say, "The corruption of the market," and I would say, The corruption of the market?!" After thirty years of frenetic empowerment, during which the venues for contemporary art in the United States had evolved from a tiny network of private galleries in New York into this vast, transcontinental sprawl of publicly funded, postmodern iceboxes? During which time the ranks of "art professionals" had swollen from a handful of dilettantes on the East Side of Manhattan into this massive civil service of PhDs and MFAs who administered a monolithic system of interlocking patronage, which, in its constituents, resembled nothing so much as that of France in the early nineteenth century? While powerful corporate, governmental, cultural, and academic constituencies vied for power and tax-free dollars, each with its own self-perpetuating agenda and none with any vested interest in the subversive potential of visual pleasure? Under these cultural conditions, artists across this nation were obsessing about the market?—fretting about a handful of picture merchants nibbling canapés on the Concorde?—blaming them for any work of art that did not incorporate raw plywood?  
Under these cultural conditions, I would suggest, saying that "the market is corrupt" is like saying that the cancer patient has a hangnail. Yet the manifestations of this pervasive idée fixe remain everywhere present today, not least of all in the sudden evanescence of the market itself after thirty years of scorn for the intimacy of its transactions, but also in the radical discontinuity between serious criticism of contemporary art and that of historical art. At a time when easily 60 percent of historical criticism concerns itself with the influence of taste, patronage, and the canons of acceptability upon the images that a culture produces, the bulk of contemporary criticism, in a miasma of hallucinatory denial, resolutely ignores the possibility that every form of refuge has its price, and satisfies itself with grousing about "the corruption of the market." The transactions of value enacted under the patronage of our new "nonprofit" institutions are exempted from this cultural critique, presumed to be untainted, redemptive, disinterested, taste free, and politically benign. Yeah, right.  
During my informal canvass, I discovered that the "reasoning" behind this presumption is that art dealers "only care about how it looks," while the an professionals employed by our new institutions "really care about what it means." Which is easy enough to say. And yet, if this is, indeed, the case (and I think it is), I can't imagine any but the most demented calf giddily abandoning an autocrat who monitors appearances for a bureaucrat who monitors desire. Nor can Michel Foucault, who makes a variation of this point in Surveiller et punir, and poses for us the choice that is really at issue here, between bureaucratic surveillance and autocratic punishment. Foucault opens his book with a grisly, antique text describing the lengthy public torture and ultimate execution of Damiens, the regicide; he then juxtaposes this cautionary spectacle of royal justice with the theory of reformative incarceration propounded by Jeremy Bentham in his "Panopticon."
A friend gave me the book when it came out. A bit much, Eagles reference included, but smart.

Dave Hickey It slipped my mind.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

repeats. follow the goddamn links.

Transgender narcissism, geek narcissism and futurism, fascism and self-hatred. Aaron Swartz was too good for this world

And again
I absolutely believe that there is a coalition that is forming. I don't think it's new or unexpected at all though. It's the coalition of humanity! We've been slowly acting and encouraging and inspiring and discovering for thousands of years, and we're only just scratching the surface. I think that we've been realizing the existence of structural and institutional problems in our society for millennia, and challenging them and improving them -- especially in the last five hundred years or so. As for our next chapter, it's already starting to happen. We're starting to realize that there are other people who don't look like us or experience the world like us that actually think and feel the same way that we do. Its' an incredible leap for humanity to start to break down the automatic factionalism that gender, race, sexuality, and culture have been the basis of since time immemorial. In America, we can see this with all the different vectors and factions that are starting to align with each other in a way that doesn't fit into a "one size fits all" category. This will continue at an exponential rate, I hope.
Manning is braver than Swartz.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

"Davidson is also known for rejection of the idea of a conceptual scheme, thought of as something peculiar to one language or one way of looking at the world, arguing that where the possibility of translation stops so does the coherence of the idea that there is something to translate."

etc. etc.

SSRN: Founding-Era Translations of the Constitution
Before its ratification, the United States Constitution was translated into
German and Dutch for the German- and Dutch-speaking populations of Pennsylvania and New York. Although copies of both the German- and Dutch- language translations have been preserved, they have largely escaped analysis — and public awareness — until now. For the first time, this Article examines the text of the founding-era translations of the federal constitution and explains how the translations can clarify the meaning of the original text.
From Jack Balkin
Christina Mulligan, Michael Douma, Hans Lind and Brian Quinn have recently shown that during the ratification of the Constitution in 1787-1788, German and Dutch translations of the Constitution were distributed to non-English speakers in the crucial states of Pennsylvania and New York. These translations differ from the English text in interesting and important ways. As a result, English speakers may have understood the proposed Constitution in one way, while non-English speakers may have understood it quite differently. 
This essay uses this example to show why original public meaning is not a set of facts that lawyers simply discover and report. Rather, it is a theoretical construction that lawyers fashion in order to do the work of constitutional interpretation. There is no single way to construct original public meaning from the materials of the past. What we do construct depends in part on what we think constitutions are for and how they are supposed to work. It also depends on the practical needs of lawyers in search of a distinctively legal meaning that they can employ in legal argument.
Kieran Healy's new paper: Fuck Nuance
As alleged virtues go, nuance is superficially attractive. Isn’t the mark of a good thinker the ability to see subtle differences in kind or gracefully shade the meaning terms? Shouldn’t we cultivate the ability to insinuate overtones of meaning in our concepts?
I wonder if his wife has read it?

As conservative societies modernize the women are the first to adapt.
Healy's the only writer at CT who's on good terms with Leiter. He still runs the numbers for his rankings, etc.

Rakesh Bhandari as usual when he shows up makes a good comment.

The post following Healy's. Quiggin: The great replication crisis.

Healy comes off better in an interview at CHE
It doesn’t make much sense to argue against the idea of nuance per se. What counts as nuance depends on whom you’re speaking to, and why. Instead I have a specific phenomenon in mind: the tendency to demand more detail, insist on a more-sophisticated approach, or assert things are more complex than has been said — without having anything much to say beyond that. In particular, it’s the tendency to think doing so makes you a deep thinker.
but he still misses the point:
It is not the job of theory to verbally reproduce the complexity of the world.
Any theory that isn't seen as modeling the complexity of the world, even the social world that made it, will be forgotten. Theory is not science. Any theory will become historicized or vanish.

The biggest problem is that academics in the social sciences want to be theorists, seen as original thinkers. They all want to be soloists and not orchestra players. They indulge in artiness and call it art, and they want to think of themselves as scientists in the most technical sense. See the annoyed responses of statisticians and others in Quiggin's post who are happy to think of themselves as technicians or cogs in the scientific machine.