Friday, June 29, 2018

Part of the problem here, as more than one reader has pointed out, is that since Ronell & co. don't have an actual Wissenschaft, cults of personality take the place of substantive skills and knowledge,...
Where to begin?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I think there's something to be said for returning money to the old category of "shit". Most people still follow the old pattern, but ideological liberals try to deny it, and moralizing leftists prefer to think of good vs evil. I think going back to the past is enough.
Capital Grille opened in 1994, the year that Newt Gingrich—the philandering former house speaker who crusaded for family values even though he told his then-wife he was leaving her as she lay ill with cancer—led the GOP takeover of Congress. It later became a favorite haunt of the late Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the former member of Congress who went to prison for taking bribes from defense contractors. As recounted in “The Wrong Stuff,” by Jerry Kammer and Marcus Stern, Cunningham used to dine at the Capital Grille and invariably order a filet mignon – very well done, the worst way to eat steak – with iceberg lettuce salad and White Oak wine.

On one occasion he invited his dining companions back to the “Duke-Stir,” his 42-foot yacht (where he frequently took female guests) and invited them all to join him in the ship’s hot tub, which was filled with water siphoned directly from the polluted Potomac River. Cunningham stripped himself naked and immersed himself in the filthy water, but his guests were so repelled that no one joined him.
Posted on twitter. "liked" by Sri Thiruvadanthai

Replying to his snide dismissal of Pankaj Mishra in the LRB.  I remembered the story and thought it might be an appropriate response.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vesely, continuing
Chapter 5, p. 249
In the current understanding, aesthetics covers the appreciation of beauty in everything from nature to art. Often it is simply identified with art, whose function par excellence is seen as the production of aesthetic objects. During the past hundred years, aesthetics has also taken on role oppositional to science and technology. This, as we shall see, is a misconception, and in fact a contradiction. Science, technology, and aesthetics belong together. The development of scientific objectivity depends, as we have already seen, on the subject responsible for the project of science. In other words, the more objective reality becomes, the more subjective must be the position of the individual who encounters in modern science by definition, as it were, only his or her own projection of reality. One might conclude that objectivity in science is in fact the product of human subjectivity.

The transformation of the traditional relationship of humans to the world did not affect only science, but became the basis for the gradual split of the whole of European culture into artificial domains of objectivity and subjectivity. With the first we are already familiar. The second contains everything that resists mathematization—qualities, perception, imagination, feeling, and fantasy. It was in this ambiguous domain of qualities that cannot be precisely determined, but at the same time cannot be completely suppressed or ignored, that aesthetics came into existence. It grew slowly out of repeated attempts to establish some kind of logic or order in the qual-itative world, aided as well by what could later be labeled a general aestheticization of culture.

The critical turning point in the formation of modern aesthetics was the contribution of Leibniz, who opposed the Cartesian autonomy of clear and distinct ideas that deprived human senses of any claim to understanding and truth. He firmly believed that our senses do, in their own way, reveal the nature and truth of the world. Unlike ideas, however, the senses are not clear and distinct but only clear and confused, and for that reason inferior. Somewhat poetically he compares them to the murmur of the sea:

"Although our senses relate to everything, it is not possible for our soul to attend to all individually, and that is why our confused sensations are the result of a variety, altogether infinite, of perceptions. It is almost like the confused murmur heard by those approaching the shores of the sea that arises from the accumulation of the reverberations of the innumerable waves." Leibniz's understanding of the senses is still based on the integrity of the scholastic world in which the sensible or visible is a manifestation of the universal order. This manifestation is also our main encounter with beauty, in which the perfection of the order is revealed. What is new in Leibniz is the shift toward individualizing such experiences, which coincides with his notion of the individual soul as monad. As he sees it,
the beauty of the universe could be learned in each soul, could one unravel all its folds which develop perceptibly only with time. But as each distinct perception of the soul includes an infinity of confused perceptions which embrace all the universe, the soul itself does not know the things which it perceives, except in so far as it has perceptions of them which are distinct and heightened and it has perceptions in proportion to its distinct form. Each soul knows the infinite, knows everything, but confusedly.
Such confusion arose, Leibniz and his contemporaries thought, because perceptions could not account for their own reason, because their origins and meaning remained hidden. For Leibniz himself and others who believed in providence, this obscurity was not a significant problem, because the unknown, inexplicable, and mysterious was seen as part of the divine plan of things. However, for those who believed in the transparency of the world, in reason, the inexplicable was very troubling. It was difficult to accept that whole areas of reality, such as works of art or the landscape, stirred strong feelings and a sense of beauty that could not be ignored yet could not be explained. This experience was described already in the seventeenth century as the "je ne sais quoi—I know not what."

Dominique Bouhours, who devoted a whole treatise to the issue, declares: "One can say with certainty that 'je ne sais quoi' is one of the greatest wonders and one of the greatest mysteries of nature." Montesquieu, some eighty years later, writes: "There is something in people and in things, an invisible charm, a natural grace, which cannot be defined and which one is forced to name le ne sais quoi.' It seems to me that this is an effect based primarily on surprise." The self-sufficiency of the Leibnizian monad was what brought the inexplicable into the domain of subjectivity, "each mind being as it were a little divinity in its own department."

With Leibniz, we stand on the threshold of a new epoch, in which the harmony and beauty of the world, revealed gradually in a dialectical process, became a field of aesthetic experience dependent on the cultivation of taste and on the role of the genius. The new experience created a distance from things and events, thereby contributing to the formation of modern aestheticism and historicism. Aestheticization itself is closely linked with the relativity of taste and the formalization of experience. 

--Aesthetics was an invention of the eighteenth century and the age of reason, a theory of art in the shadow of production, as something to be taken or left, optional, superfluous, “parasitic”.

--The Baroque was considered decadent precisely for the discord between easy artifice and rough integrity, but the period was focused less on the balance of ideal and worldly order as in the Renaissance, or on the more extreme dichotomy of otherworldliness and corruption -the panicked pretense of Counter-Reformation Mannerism- than on a worldly sophistication as such: the narrativizing of ideal order. The Baroque is the culture of monarchy and aristocracy at the beginning of the age of theater, the age of the bourgeoisie.
Leibniz: the unified and ideal in the multiform.
I read Vesely years before I returned to writing, but I didn't cite him. I need to.