Friday, December 29, 2023

Here again the convergences in the translations are striking. But the minor variants talk to us too. Proust’s narrator speaks of ‘l’idée que je me suis faite du sadisme’. Nelson’s phrase ‘my conception of sadism’ is close to Scott Moncrieff and Carter’s ‘my idea of sadism’, while the original Scott Moncrieff version expands the phrase into a sort of commentary: ‘my idea of that cruel side of human passion called “sadism”’. Kilmartin and Davis respond more openly to the mention of the idea’s making – ‘the notion I was to form’ (Kilmartin), ‘the idea which I formed’ (Davis) – and Grieve does so at greater length: ‘a certain notion of the meaning of sadism was to form ... in my mind.’ The little train of words Proust’s narrator offers to describe Mlle Vinteuil’s ‘air’ as she closes the shutters (‘las, gauche, affairé, honnête et triste’) creates a quietly interesting puzzle. All the translators but one start with ‘weary, awkward’ (Kilmartin goes for ‘languid, awkward’) and they all end with ‘sad’. ‘Affairé’ and ‘honnête’ turn out to be more elusive or questionable. The suggestions here are ‘fussy, prim’ (Nelson), ‘fussy, honest’ (Davis), ‘busy, trustworthy’ (Grieve), ‘bustling, sincere’ (Kilmartin and Carter), ‘preoccupied, sincere’ (Scott Moncrieff). Small differences, but our view of the narrator’s view of Mlle Vinteuil shifts quite a bit as it moves among them. And in this context, the choice between staying with Proust’s grammar and speeding it up is intriguing. Four translations out of six convert Proust’s ‘might perhaps still not have lost faith’ (‘n’eût peut-être pas encore perdu sa foi’) into ‘might still have continued to believe’; Grieve elaborates a little: ‘preserved some scrap of faith’. We are looking perhaps at the difference between relaying meaning and tracking movements of thought.
An hour or two drifting from Levinas on the Talmud, to the Talmud, and then to someone's memories of Quine. It still amazes me how many people search for the meaning in the world itself, as if meanings were subatomic particles. It's the definition of theology, and that's one thing I have no interest in at all.

I've said it all before. My writing's changed. I don't try as hard.
And drifting again, I end back here.

If you're going to spend your life studying Proust or Michelangelo, in the end you're using them to study yourself: your own perceptions of things. It's better to admit you're using them as material. The scholarship of false humility is creepy: the creepiness of biography, and journalism.

Philosophers vs historians again, on Arendt.
Geuss vs Pocock, The Machiavellian Moment

In terms borrowed from or suggested by the language of Hannah Arendt, this book has told part of the story of the revival in the early modern West of the ancient ideal of homo politicus (the zoon politikon of Aristotle), who affirms his being and his virtue by the medium of political action, whose closest kinsman is homo rhetor and whose antithesis is the homo credens of Christian faith. Following this debate into the beginnings of modern historicist sociology, we have been led to study the complex eighteenth-century controversy between homo politicus and homo mercator, whom we saw to be an offshoot and not a progenitor—at least as regards the history of social perception—of homo creditor. The latter figure was defined and to a large degree discredited by his failure to meet the standards set by homo politicus, and eighteenth-century attempts to construct a bourgeois ideology contended none too successfully with the primacy already enjoyed by a civic ideology; even in America a liberal work ethic has historically suffered from the guilt imposed on it by its inability to define for itself a virtue that saves it from corruption; the descent from Daniel Boone to Willy Loman is seen as steady and uninterrupted. But one figure from the Arendtian gallery is missing, curiously enough, from the history even of the American work ethic: the homo faber of the European idealist and socialist traditions, who served to bridge the gap between the myths of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. It is not yet as clear as it might be how the emergence of this figure is related to the European debate between virtue and commerce; but because industrial labor in America conquered a wilderness rather than transforming an ancient agrarian landscape, homo faber in this continent is seen as conquering space rather than transforming history, and the American work force has been even less willing than the European to see itself as a true proletariat. The ethos of historicist socialism has consequently been an importation of transplanted intellectuals (even the martyr Joe Hill left word that he "had lived as an artist and would die as an artist"), and has remained in many ways subject to the messianic populisms of the westward movement.

Fun and frustration, mostly frustration. 

In America there are comparatively few who are rich enough to live without profession. Every profession requires an apprenticeship, which limits the time of instruction to the early years of life. At fifteen they enter upon their calling, and thus their education ends at the age when ours begins. 

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. 

Beginning in the 1950s and blossoming since 1961, a major scholarly controversy has sucked The Federalist into its gravitational field: What was its role in the great shift from republicanism to liberalism in American political thought? These complex bodies of ideas and practices have almost no direct links to today’s Republican party or modern American liberalism; moreover, these terms have become so vague that many historians have abandoned both words as useless.

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