31 August 2006


My thesis is turning into my garden, alas. Jasmine said I read a lot, but she hasn't seen me in a little while. I've been reading a lot: I've been reading the first fifteen pages of On Certainty over and over again. It's quite rich, though. I finally understand Wittgenstein's remark in the Tractatus about realism and idealism, when carried to their fullest extent, coincide. They coincide in that they try to say something that can only be shown. The way that Wittgenstein changes his conception of logic, now that's a fecund topic. I.e., in OC Wittgenstein says in 59,
What sort of proposition is: "What could a mistake here be like!"? It would have to be a logical proposition. But it is a logic that is not used, because what it tells us is not learned through propositions.--It is a logical proposition; for it does describe the conceptual (linguistic) situation.
A logical proposition describes the conceptual situation? I suppose that makes sense. Again, contra Ramsey, logic isn't a normative science. But that's not to say that it's all willy-nilley. I hate it when you say something controversial, and the interpretation that follows carries what you say to the most wild, stupid conclusion. Just because logic isn't normative, and it's rather descriptive, doesn't mean that logic is meaningless. It's still a strict taskmaster. But there's a difference between a boss that makes you show up on time, and a boss that let's you come in whenever you'd like. Similarly, a boss that demands the impossible. And the impossible can mean different things in different situations.

30 August 2006

Official Seal Generator

It's just O.K. (the seal generator is).

29 August 2006

How Could Something So Bad Feel So Right?

from Gawker

I'm burnt well out. I'm writing the great american novel. I'm a singer in the band. I'm trying to do everything. I can't. Every moment of my waking time could be spent doing what I would call work. I've been sleeping little and seeing the world through lover's eyes, fresh and confused.

This article is awesome. Too bad it's from the W$J. Oh well!
Much in the way Elvis fans travel to Graceland, Mr. Gould's admirers make pilgrimages to Ottawa from as far away as Japan to commune with the Gould artifacts on public display, which include his Steinway piano and the battered wooden chair he used instead of a piano stool for all his concerts and recording sessions. "People cry when they see the piano," says Richard Green, interim director of the music section at the Library and Archives. "They love to touch it." Aficionados also visit Toronto to see the red-brick house where the pianist lived as a child and to eat the Hungarian soup he favored at a diner called Fran's.

28 August 2006

The End of the World, part I

It's always seemed to me that Santa Fe is where Californians go to die. It's kind of like Miami Beach. But "go to die" I really mean "go after they sold their houses in the ridiculous, illogical housing boom in California thanks to equally ridiculous, illogical Prop 13 [thanks a lot, Prop 13]; and after selling their houses they buy cheap New Mexico real estate and install some turn of the 19c. horse-tending equipment and faux-aged stables and shit and walk around the Plaza looking lost, throwing a pittance at the Indians selling depressing jewelery; and they eat ice cream at 'what's been billed as the busiest Haagen-Daz in the world'" I.e., tourists and carpetbaggers.

Well, this just in: LA is gentrified. Sounds like Santa Fe:
Gelato. Back in the 1990s, coffeehouses were a pivotal sign of gentrification, showing buyers of means that a neighborhood was ready for its close-up — and a low-fat, no-foam latte. Espresso-based businesses generated street life, the air of Italian sophistication and an addicted customer base willing to pay obscene prices. The glamour began to fade, however, once Starbucks started grafting itself onto laundromats. Gelato shops – which offer a cream-free form of ice cream — are the new hubs of neo-Italian excitement, pushing a neighborhood from middle to upper class.

25 August 2006

If I Am A Stranger + Unheimlich

Like most people today, when the alarm went off I didn't want to get out of bed. I snoozed. But then I realized that I was being lazy and I got out of bed. Good. Once I got in the car I put on Ryan Adams' song Cold Roses and boy did that get my, uh, juices flowing. Really. Gosh. I feel like a thin line, long and straight; or an electric wire; maybe a razor--sharp and, well, brittle? I feel really sharp and, well, brittle today. I attribute this feeling to not having done any drugs or drinking recently. It does a body good.

I went to Saint John's for registration; what a clusterfuck.

I still haven't done any philosophy lately. I'm working towards a proposition in On Certainty, which is around 501, that says something along the lines of, Am I not getting closer and closer to saying that in the end logic cannot be described? It's a beautiful section, about 30 propositions deep. I can't help but picture Wittgenstein sitting in a room with a chair, a desk and a bed. That bed is his deathbed. He's sitting next to his deathbed banging up against the limits of his language. He's trying to say things; and he says things. Some things maybe go beyond this limit and he's inadvertently speaking nonsense: But he knows it. He often runs his hands through his hair, and then he gets up and stalks the perimeter of the room, pacing lengthwise over and over. He sits down again and writes that he's approaching saying that logic can't be described. But, of course, to say such a thing is to describe logic. He's running up against the apparent paradox concerning boundary-concepts that Kant ran up against in the Critique of Pure Reason: I.e., that the phenomenal is what we experience and the noumenal is the limit of our experience, a purely negative concept. A boundary-concept. Of course you'd like to say, This is it! This object is a noumenon--it cannot be an object of experience. But if you could say that, then the object would be an object of experience. There isn't even a last object of experience; there's only non-experience. A negative concept.

Something like an object of non-experience is an utterance of nonsense. Earlier (around 200 in OC) Wittgenstein says that logically, Moore is certain that he has two hands. To say you know it is nonsense, because, for one reason, the negation, I don't know I have two hands, is nonsense. This typification has to do with a logic to this language-game. (God, hyphens are ugly. This must be why Joyce abhorred hyphens [but not em-dashes instead of inverted commas for dialogue].) Logic in this situation can't be described. Is the feeling one gets upon hearing an illogical proposition something like the feeling of uncanniness? Of not being home, of something vague and spectral that's just wrong? I think it could be. I'm going to do a closer reading of the relevant passages this weekend.

Why not put together the Viennese writers of the early 20c? (I.e., Freud and Wittgenstein.) This isn't a methodological or ideological likening; it's putting two men together in a time and a place; ideas are local because customs and institutions are local.

24 August 2006

I'd Like To Thank You All For Nothing At All

You know that sound that a guitar makes when it's cranked up and you play a chord and there's the sound of the chord and then this thrummmm sound that reminds me of whales and that sound leads to a faint suggestion of feedback, a squealing afterthought?

I didn't go to work today. I still heard about the Hitler restaurant in Mumbai or whatever. Fuck that. (Talking Points Memoist Jonah Whatshisname raised a good point when he said we don't mind Soviet kitsch but we abhor Nazi kitsch. I guess the Jews have more clout than the Kulaks or something?)

I watched Devotchka last night. They were ok. Ok, I'm going.

23 August 2006

On Certainty + Knowledge

That dream action and so-called real action could be indistinguishable might seem to be a criticism of Wittgenstein’s notion of certainty. What kind of notion is this? Isn’t a dream action secondary to real action? If the two are put on the same plane, is something lost?
Such a criticism fails to distinguish between certainty and knowledge. Knowledge, which will be dealt with in more detail, is public—it depends on other people, a consensus view, as it were. Certainty, though, is a personal affair. As Wittgenstein says, “Knowledge is in the end based on acknowledgment” (328). This dictum helps to distinguish between knowledge and certainty. One would never acknowledge (in the usual usage of the word) that he’s certain of something. There are situations that may call for one’s saying, “I am certain of…”; but this usage is not the same as saying, “I know…”; the latter is an acknowledgement of a piece of discourse, a so-called truth. Such an acknowledgement takes place in a public sphere. To make sense of this distinction, think of something that only you could be said to know, your favorite color for instance. To say that you know your favorite color is to go only as far as saying that you have a favorite color. Saying you know your favorite color could be called for by a situation, someone doubting whether you have a favorite color, maybe. But it’s a piece of unnecessary verbiage to say, “I know my favorite color; it’s orange.” It is not so unnecessary to say, though, “I know the capital of the U.S.; it’s Washington”. The reason for this distinction is that knowledge hinges upon the ability for a state of affairs to be or not be the case; that is, for the negation of a knowledge proposition to make sense. To say, “I don’t know my favorite color” (assuming, though, that you have one) would be a piece of nonsense. To say, “I don’t know the capital of the U.S.” merely shows an ignorance. This asymmetry between knowledge and certainty hinges on the public nature of knowledge versus the private nature of non-knowledge propositions of the type dealing with favorite colors, pain or fear. Such a private proposition should not be regarded as part of a language, which is shared by people; nor should it be regarded as a piece of knowledge, for it’s impossible for one to be wrong about such a proposition. Something about which it’s impossible to be wrong underlies our entire system of knowing and speaking.

My Garden = This Blog

I keep this blog as a hobby. It's like my garden; I'm cultivating my own garden. It just so happens that the fertilizer, which I use in my garden, (by the way, I know so-called real authors don't give a shit about restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, and this concerns only hardcore dork grammarians, but come on: using 'which' and 'that' correctly makes writing much more clear. So-called real writers are already good enough with language to make language clear. I hate it when people misuse which and that) that fertilizer happens to be the lives and thoughts of other people. So in an ironic, somewhat paradoxical sense, my blog takes up the moral of Candide and then turns it on its head. Cultivating my personal garden means digging up other people's detritus.

So, as I was saying, my hobby... Yesterday I commented on a Wall Street Journal article and I got a lot of hits. It was a good article, yes. Today I tried the same thing, and I've gotten almost no hits. Everyone busy? I hate commenting on the WSJ because most people can't read the relevant article. So, with that said, I'm putting a moratorium on WSJ-commenting. I'm sticking to the Gray Lady.

I haven't done any philosophy lately. I'm going home tonight and I'm going to work through the rest of the instances of "comes to an end", which I found using Amazon's handy Look Inside feature, all instances in On Certainty. I.e., "But explanations come to an end." What does that mean? It means, actually, quite a few things. Coming to an end is in a way reducible to acting or action, but attendant to coming to an end is a whole intellectual outlook that remains, unfortunately, quite foreign to most people. Coming to an end hinges on a coherence epistemological model; it hinges on language-games; it hinges on certainty and knowledge; it hinges on a long perspective regarding all the preceding. It's an infinitely interesting phenomenon to me. To say that explanations come to an end (therefore, do, don't think) seems out of hand to preclude innovations in explanation. Maybe. But who really is doing the (real/pertinent/exciting/edifying/good) explaining? Not the philosophers.

American Jesus

I was reminded of the passage from Matthew 19:24,
...I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
when I read this story from the WSJ today. It seems Tom Cruise has been dropped by Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures. The reason? (What the fuck do you think?)
"It's nothing to do with his acting ability, he's a terrific actor," said Mr. Redstone. "But we don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot."
Notice a few things about what Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone said. It has nothing to do with Cruise's "acting ability". I haven't seen a Tom Cruise movie since, say, Jerry Maguire. And his early stuff? Risky Business, Cocktail, Rainman? Super! But I imagine that, as filmmaking technology changes, so too changes the demand put on actors. I haven't seen any recent Tom Cruise movies lately, but I've seen the commercials all over the fucking place. It must be hard to act in front of a blue screen. Yes, I'm talking to you War of the Worlds, Minority Report and Mission Impossible III. Anyway, Cruise's acting ability has nothing to do with this.

But why did Redstone say that Cruise "effectuates [sic] creative suicide"? Doesn't the "creative" denote something artistic, say, acting ability? I suppose the two cancel each other out. The decision is acting-based neutral. Now, when Redstone says, "costs the company revenue", now there's the ticket. Cruise, having went off the deep end, obviously costs parent company Viacom tons of money. Or, well, he doesn't earn as much money... But that's almost the same thing. OK.

That said, and even with all the riches of Tom Cruise, I think this decision makes him a little more holy. Now you might think there are millions of paths to the one true god God, the Father, who sits to the left of his Son, Jesus. I do, too. Getting fired can only help Cruise's spirituality and soothe his soul, really prepare it, for the time when he's ready to embrace a real religion, Christianity. (Probably on his death bed.)

This trend, though, is a little disturbing. Are we having another Red Scare in Hollywood? Are there going to be commissions set up to publicly persecute those who practice strongly their religious beliefs? First Mel Gibson gets shafted by Disney for being an Anti-Semite (really, is there a faith with a longer history?) and now Cruise gets cut for being a Scientologist. (I can only hope Will Farrell becomes some sort of crazy, multiple-wife-having Mormon Scientist who refuses to use contraceptives and fathers, like, 100 children in illegal marriages. Come on trifecta!)

22 August 2006

The Best New Blog of All Time Ever

Is here. Quote:

Like, so ridic!

--So, I was, like, reading the paper.
--No, online.
--It's still called a paper, dude. Even if it is online, it's still a paper.
--Really. Why do you think they have print and online editions? They're editions of the paper.
--Well, it's just like how people call condoms rubbers--they're not made of rubber: That's just what they're still called.
--Yeah. So I was read an article about how this group of, like, investors made money off this hedge fund. And, yeah, and, like, Rocky invested money and he made all this money and now the other investors want the money back because Rocky, like, cashed out before they all lost their money.
--Sylvester Stallone.
--Yeah, he's the one that played Rocky.
--No, that's On the Waterfront. How the fuck can you confuse those two?
--Anyway, so other people are suing, like, these hedge fund people. The people that lost money. And, like, this one guy said the funniest thing. This guy that was involved in this, like, hedgefund run by Bayou Management said,
Individuals who profited "should be sharing the pain," says Jeff Marwil, the federal trustee in charge of liquidating Bayou. "Our goal is to equalize in a fair and equitable fashion."
--Yeah. The stupid fucker was investing his money in a hedgefund and he has the fuckin stones, to, like, spout some socialist workers' union shit about fairness and equality. I don't think that, like, Fidel is all going to Prudential or whatever shit and sayin, like, Hey invest our money. We need to make tons and tons of money to, like, distribute it to the people in a fair and equitable fashion. Investment bankers are, like, the antithesis of socialists.
--Yeah. He should stop working 80 hour weeks and start hanging out in coffee shops and smoke clove cigarettes. Fuckin hippie.

If Winter Ends

That bright eyes.. He makes me doubt music oracle All Music. They gave Lifted... The Pretentious Album Title on the Spine a recommendation and all the stars. Well, that album sucks. It's like a retooling of Letting Off the Happiness. Just can't get that album out of my head when Lifted... The Story 'Neath My Brow plays. Songs in the same key, same chord changes--just a little gussied up. And, like, even MTV got wind of him when that album hit. Fuck it. I'll take the wine-spewing, bilious shit that I'm used to.

I feel like "area man". I can't help but think that I ruined it for everyone. That, or I'm going to get fired. We got an office memo this morning reminding us not to take mobile phone calls and to clock out for lunch, etc. I do the former and don't do the latter. You might think that I deserve to be fired, but this just is how the office was introduced to me. Super casual, eat a sandwich on the clock and so forth. Look's like the summer's almost over. They're a Buck Mulligan/Haines to my Dedalus. A Surgeon General to my Big Tobacco. A seal to my oil spill. My bosses are, that is. I have to get off my ass and do some real work, anyway. It's time.

I saw a friend last night. We had some adventures: preseason Monday Night Football; trying to bribe a pimply store clerk to sell us Madden '07 a day early; crime fighting; ill fate and abundant wine. He's quite a fan of Alphonso Lingus. I don't know what to make of this Lingus, but he seems to like Che. The friend of my enemy is my enemy, I guess. But who the fuck am I to say who Che is? Is he a socialist dictator, a bloodthirsty, delusional tyrant? The Reign of Terror repersonified in Latin America? Is he a hero of the people and boon to tshirt manufacturers worldwide? Something onto which one projects his revolutionary dreams and fears, a rorchach test? The latter, I think.

Nevertheless, it's time to be courageous. That's true. Courage is neglected or vilified. Courage isn't NFL players or soldiers or doctors or Donald Rumsfeld. Courage is the unity of thought and action where action is primary and thought is an epiphenomenon, a savoring of one's own action. It's a freedom of the will's to raise itself up to the level of thought through manifest courage. Courage sets us free of the bondage of language and thought. The rational, appetetive and courageous need balance; too often the latter two are quashed and denied. The courageous and hungry are an antidote to our superrational authoritarian times. I'm sick of the sly, bookish people's being, which is bonded to the grounds of seclussion. Parlor games and academic frippery. Beauty and nobility must be draped on the lithe frame of courage. Yeah, I'll, uh, stick with that.

21 August 2006

Not Right Now

I spent wasted used up my weekend. A broad heading under which it would be filed: Partying.

I made a late start of the day because of having to go to the MVD (motor vehicle department). Isn't it supposed to be DMV? The signs leading up there couldn't even agree; they alternated between MVD and DMV the whole time.

Shakespeare got to get paid. No time for philosophy or even blogging today.

19 August 2006

Foster Wallace + Serious Writer + Federer

David Foster Wallace cares.

DFW is the most talented living American writer. When he was younger he seemed a little too precocious and in love with his own ability. But his last few books show something new, something that he even proclaimed in his essay on Dostoevsky from Remember the Lobster. His writing now has a moral gravitas. And if you know me, you know that I'm all about moral gravitas. Something about recovering from sin. It's appealling. But, so. DFW maintains his technical genius while aiming it precise like a laser at Things That Matter.

His article on Federer, for example. It seems at first that he's writing about Aesthetics. As something transcendental, something that urges us to go past the bounds of language (a task in which we fail), this tack would seem aimed at something that Matters.

The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.


You more have to come at the aesthetic stuff obliquely, to talk around it, or — as Aquinas did with his own ineffable subject — to try to define it in terms of what it is not.


he looks like what he may well (I think) be: a creature whose body is both flesh and, somehow,


Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform — and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled.

Within this smattering of breathless talk about the Aesthetic value of Federer's game, DFW intersperses technical detail. No surprise. But if I'm correct in assuming that DFW decided early on (likely just after his debut, Broom of the System) that he wanted to be a Serious Writer, he realized something: There is nothing higher than the transcendent. The variety of descriptions one desires to use have the form of analogy, simile and metaphor. DFW uses these well. And I don't make a claim for his originality here, but I think he realized another avenue to the transcendent--exhaustion. He exhausts subjects with comprehensivness, vocabulary, descriptive overload and technical detail. Endless chains of chemical formulas and syntheses; in-depth descriptions of the inner workings of cruise ships; being a floating eyeball at a porn festival. Through exhaustion of subject matter DFW manifests something higher: boredom, ennui, loathing, frailty, desire, exhaustion itself. DFW makes through sheer persistence of assertion through structure a narrative framework that is itself unsupported yet self-sustaining. He manifests Ethical and Aesthetic problems and solutions.

(I'm running up against the limits of my language.)

At first I thought it was a DFWian trope. He has little ticks, little verbal-descriptive-narrative ticks. He early in the article described the final cointoss for the serve in the match between Federer and Nadal. A child who had overcome cancer tossed the coin.

Later, at the top of page 4 DFW interpolated a little bit of seemingly unrelated data about the child with the cancer. For a little gravitas, right. He uses this technique and it's pretty neat. He did it all the time in his 9/11 essay and his McCain essay and, well, all the time in Infinite Jest. Neat, an interpolation.

Another neat thing about DFW's style is the footnote thing. You might hate it, 'natch. But in this essay--wow. I quoted the body's final paragraph above, it's the last quote. It seems to wrap up the body-Aesthetic thing a little. It's a little bit of fluff. But the final footnote really ends the article. It ends it a few paragraphs before the article actually ends in the body.

DFW takes the same path that, say, Blake took in writing Songs of Experience and Songs of Innocence. Little lamb, who made thee? Tiger, what immortal hand or eye formed thy fearful symmetry? The Big Thing: how could the creator of the lamb, so meek and mild, be also the creator of the Tiger, of burning bright in the forests of the night fame. This might not be that interesting of a question. But DFW makes the same move.

One wouldn’t want to make too much of it, or to pretend that it’s any sort of equitable balance; that would be grotesque. But the truth is that whatever deity, entity, energy, or random genetic flux produces sick children also produced Roger Federer, and just look at him down there. Look at that.

But there's more. The "just look at him down there. Look at that" reemphasizes the Aesthetic concern. White liberal guilt, maybe, necessitates such a concern, but: Why isn't DFW writing a prolix, verball impressive and sure to be widely-read article about children with cancer? Why is he at Wimbledon? In the lap of luxury? Watching a sport? As much work as it is to compete, watching sports is something of a leisure activity. Tennis? LaCoste? Isn't all a little bourgeoise?

But D
FW almost anticipates this concern. It would be grotesque to think that, say, a million cancerous children equals one Roger Federer. But there is something transcendent to a Federer. Trying to get at this transcendental-ness, isn't this a worthy task? If you can't heal sick children, what better alternative is there than to give sustenance to the human faculty that values physical genius and spiritual rectitude? Even in a fluff piece on tennis, DFW continues to make a bid at being The Serious Writer. (Compare this piece to his piece on Michael Joyce from Esquire. But there is no comparison [as the saying goes]: It's the difference between a church and a stripclub.)

18 August 2006

Manhattan + Wittgenstein + Pop

The sweet, sweet sensation of burning in the back of your throat. Bulemia? Crack? No, silly: Drinking a Manhattan. Blogging from the patio, drinking a Manhattan and working on my thesis. Fridays do not get much better. I haven't made any signifant leaps. I think, maybe, that I understanding Wittgenstein perfectly. I'm going in circles and confusing myself.

Wittgenstein puts it well when he says, “The difficulty is to realize the groundlessness of our believing” (166). This isn’t to say that our beliefs are unjustified; but they may appear unjustified if we keep asking for justification on top of justification. Such an interrogation of justification leads inevitably to an infinite regress. When we set out to test an empirical proposition there must be something that is not justified. Wittgenstein asks,

Now am I to say that the experiment which perhaps I make in order to test the truth of a proposition presupposes the truth of the proposition that the apparatus I believe I see is really there (and the like)? (163).

and I believe the answer must be, “No.” It’s not a criticism to say that “scientific disinterest” or the “scientific method” is itself a presupposition. To criticize the scientific method, say, in such a manner—i.e., to say that the scientific method itself presupposes the validity of its methods and that there is such a thing as the outside world—is to share similar presuppositions. Such a critic shares, for instance, the presupposition that the world exists. He shares the presupposition that a method must be valid to have value. He shares the presupposition of the criterion of truth. He is already within “our system,” so to speak. To have such an argument makes manifest a shared system of discourse, a shared culture. This point answers in affirmative Wittgenstein’s question, “Doesn’t testing come to an end” (164)? In a way, a person sacrifices his good faith facility for doubting when he acts with certainty. If you can ask a question, such as “How do you know you’re not dreaming?” I wouldn’t know how to respond. For if I am dreaming, then I’m also dreaming your question—it would seem that this state of affairs would render your criticism senseless. (If I have a dream in which someone tells me that I’m the President, should I expect to be President upon waking?) On the other hand, shouldn’t your questioning whether I’m dreaming be proof enough that I’m not dreaming; that is, unless you happen to be dreaming. (I don’t know what it would be to exist as a figment in someone’s dream.) The clich├ęd response to a situation in which one thinks she may be dreaming is to pinch herself. The underlying assumption behind the act, I think, is to give oneself a painful enough stimulus to awaken from any sleep. It’s conceivable that one would then awaken into another dream. But even in dreams, one would eventually start acting, doing things. If you went through your whole day in a dream, and as you went to bed that night you woke up to the real world—faced with another day to go through—your two days would be indiscernible.

This situation is a fine analogy for the kind of phenomenon that Wittgenstein describes. Our everyday action is as ungrounded as a dream action. This isn’t a criticism, because criticism seems to imply a higher standard than what’s actually before us. A potential critic our system of action, certainty, belief and knowledge comes from one of two places—a higher vantage or a different system altogether. Wittgenstein’s point is that there is nothing higher. The system that he sees everyone using is, simply put, a human system. A god would be higher, but it would be neither wrong nor right; for, “In order to make a mistake, a man must already judge in conformity with mankind” (156). There must already exist a practice to which to compare any given thing.

* * *

I've rediscovered the Kings of Leon. I was in London when the hype landed, which, after thudding, had little impact anywhere else. I guess America had had enough of CCR. But the Kings manage to compress, say, the greatness of Proud Mary into 2.5 minute pop songs. Their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak got such a bad rap; but I think it's significantly better than their debut. The song structures are weird! They're like the southern Bob Pollard (sometimes) with songs that last well under 3 minutes. Some of them are just a hook, or a chorus. For this the were rewarded how??

Their music is often referred to as Southern Rock, although it doesn't rock at all-- it lacks force, velocity, and power.

Well, then. You know what--fuck Pitchfork. Forget I namechecked CCR. Forget how critics overuse words like 'damaged' when describing unconventional genre-fuckers. The Kings are awesome. They make damaged pop songs. They seem to have fabricated their backstory, but that shows they were on the cutting edge of American Art. (C.f. LeRoi, JT; Frey, James; Blair, Jayson.)

Oh yeah, how's about this. I couldn't remember that Blair guy's name. (Popmatters had a great story on him, though; I shoulda remembered.) So I Googled searched in Google's portal for "ny times disgraced journalist" and the first hit was a bingo! I feel so lucky.


The epilogue of yesterday's post meant this: I think that the kids are frontin just a little too hard. I'm not a music historian, but my guess is that pop music is something like impressionism (was)--a rebel, unconventional artform that's scorned by the high-art crowd and embraced by the starving, skinny artistes. Something like that.

But aridiculous thing strikes me: It's all pop music. Radiohead, Jay-Z, the Beatles, the Knife, the Beach Boys, Matmos, Missy Elliot, Aphex Twin, My Bloody Valentine etc. Those bands aren't jazz, they're not classical etc. Labels [blah blah blah--labels]. But rock music is a subset of pop music. 3 minute songs with some variation of drums, bass, guitar and singer. Of course, the drums, bass and guitar may be created on a laptop, and they might actually be little strings of pitch and tone that were synthesized on protools. There might not be a singer. But all music that get's talked about on the blogs and the zines is pop music. When pop bands start composing on sheet music, or riffing on Greensleeves--then I'll change my opinion.

The passage supra was deemed unworthy for human comsumption.

17 August 2006

Explanation Comes To An End + The Knife

A few propositions of On Certainty deal with coming to an end.

The series of propositions starting with 24 begin for the first salvo against sloppy usage. Flying in the face of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend logic, Wittgenstein takes issue against a target of Moore’s. (It’s in response to Moore that Wittgenstein writes On Certainty.) Wittgenstein settles his sights on the idealist—a philosopher of little faith—who doubts whether he actually has two hands. Such a doubt, Wittgenstein says, occurs only in a specific language game (I.24). But one shouldn’t take this view too far. For example, it might seem that calculations are unimpeachable; we’re tempted to say that a rule, such as a formula, guides our actions; and such a rule logically excludes our making a mistake (I.26). Wittgenstein is quick to point out any such rule would contain a caveat, “‘in normal circumstance’” (I.27). The very application of such a disclaimer, limited as it may be, shows Wittgenstein’s emphasis: The primary medium of expression is action, not logic. That is, logic does not prescribe actions to which human life needs must fit. There exists the possibility that a rule, which possess the steel-clad rectitude of a logical form, may run afoul in its application; or in its application, a rule may be subverted or adapted. Take for example the expression “2X + 1”. It would seem that this expression gives us a rule for generating odd numbers. If you were to think that, then you were probably raised in a western culture that takes for granted the teaching of simple algebra to its students. A form of life can be imagined, though, for which the expression “2X + 1” is a rule for generating even numbers or nonsense. Even in a western culture, one’s application of the expression “2X + 1” may not generate a series of odd numbers. If, for example, the expression was given on a math test in a question for which X is supposed to equal infinity. Or the expression could be given as a piece of graffiti on the side of a building. If the building on which the expression was scrawled happened to be a mathematics classroom, would the expression have a different meaning if the building happened to be an English classroom? The meaning of the expression as a piece of graffiti is poorly defined.

The point of the argument is that doubts about meaning and certainty appear and disappear depending on the language game in which they’re employed. For this reason one couldn’t say that a particular expression has a fixed, absolute or sublime meaning. The one thing that runs through all use and meaning is action. Wittgenstein offers a cryptic remark,

What is ‘learning a rule’?—This.
What is ‘making a mistake in applying it’?—This. And what is pointed to here is something indeterminate. (I.28).

that I take to manifest the general meaning of the whole work. There’s a tension in the above quote in that it seems both definitive and absolutely vague. The two things Wittgenstein calls “This” to which rule and mistake point are “indeterminate”. This passage, then, doesn’t seem very illuminating. But the next passage sheds light on it; the overall meaning is about as obscure as a full moon. Wittgenstein says, “Practice in the use of the rule also shews what is a mistake in its employment” (I.29). The critical words are “use” and “employment”. The reason why “This” can’t refer to anything in the text is because it refers to not to another piece of text, but rather to another context. Learning a rule is not a logical process that can be prescribed by something higher. Learning a rule is accomplished in a world of action. The process is something like a child who walks underneath the dining room table. He’s playing with a toy, and his attention is wholly spent on his play. He’s short enough to walk underneath the table, and so he doesn’t even bother looking up as he does it. But one day the child is too tall and he his head smacks soundly against the table’s edge. There is no universal, prescriptive rule for when the child will hit his head. But at some point he will hit his head on the table, and he should have learned a rule; this rule will be different for all children. Thinking that a rule can universally prescribe a course of action is like thinking that this child can tell other children not to walk under tables when they reach 1,500 days old.

To return to calculations, one might be certain that given the expression “2X + 1” she could derive all the odd numbers. But, as Wittgenstein says, “One does not infer how things are from one’s own certainty” (I.30). To think that one’s certainty entails a particular action is to get it all backwards. Rather, certainty is manifested by certain actions. If I saw you look both ways and then run across the street, I wouldn’t have to ask you if you were certain of your being able to avoid traffic. Your actions as good as told me. Likewise, in calculating an expression for deriving odd numbers, one doesn’t infer that she’s correct from her being certain of her calculations. Her certainty is tied to a range of experiences. Among those experiences are her training, education and memory. Wittgenstein says,

If someone is taught to calculate, is he also taught that he can rely on a calculation of his teacher’s? But these explanations must after all sometime come to an end. (I.34)

which begins a reductio ad absurdum argument against trying to entail from certainty a particular way of acting (rather than entailing certainty from a particular way of action): Why are you certain of your calculation? One may respond that she’s read about a particular theorem in her textbook. Why are you certain of the textbook? One may respond that her teacher gave her the textbook, and besides which her teacher told her the same thing. Why are you certain your teacher is correct? One may reply that her teacher went to a fine university and her teacher’s teachers are all regarded well in their fields… Etc. All those things can be said to contribute to one’s certainty. But nothing can justify a priori one’s certainty.

Certainty is something of a dirty affair. It cannot be gotten by reason alone. If it could, then explanations for being certain would not “come to an end”. But this expression seems somewhat vague. For it might seem that the foundation of certainty would be one’s final explanation. It seems, maybe, that the final explanation—and not, as I would have it, action—is the foundation of certainty. But what would this final explanation look like? Would it be something like, “I’m certain because my teacher said so” be the final explanation for one’s certainty over a calculation? This explanation doesn’t seem to carry the finality that one would expect certainty to carry. For the question can always be posed: Why? In language such explanations will never come to an end. The whole history of thought can be pointed to as an explanation of why one is certain of a calculation. But when one acts is the point at which such explanations come to an end. One might be asked why he’s certain a particular bridge will hold the weight of him and his automobile. A swarm of explanations can be given; and they will be given to no great effect. This isn’t to discount modern engineering. But after the engineers have been interrogated and all their explanations exhausted, what’s left? The final vote of certainty is to act. You drive across the bridge. Action is the period that punctuates a final explanation.

In other news

I don't get The Knife, recent indie music blog darlings. I think, maybe, that they're this year's version of Annie. I didn't really get Annie, either. The pop-oriented obsession that the P'fork displays is a little too studied, affected, for me: Small-dicked middle managers driving Corvettes; deeply repressed gays who just seethe with homophobia; dance-phobic indie kids that claim to love Annie, The Knife and whatever the latest Top 40 single (Toxic, Get Ur Freak On, Promiscuous etc.)--they've all got something to hide, and this hidden thing naturally expresses itself in some way. Not to get all Freudian, but aren't there a few doctoral theses waiting to be written about indie's love of pop?? No?

Updates + That's The Way It Is

Even though he had to live with me for a year, my freshman roommate from college was still my friend by the end of college. I remember one night he was up on stage playing that Bruce Hornsby song that Tupic eventually used to make that song Changes. Man, was that ever lame. But Jimmy, my roommate, was a nice guy. And I mean that in the nicest way. Not the usual, "he's a nice guy"-type comment when you can't think of anything else to say.

This blog has changed. That's just the way it is. Somethings will never change. But this isn't it.

16 August 2006

Meaning + Torture + Talking Points Memo

A few points. I'm totally sick of writing anything here. But this here is something like a refrigerator on which I can make magnetic poetry. Except instead of magnets, there's hyperlinks and stupid pictures parlayed from Google Images. And less imagery. Well, and when I'm done making magnetic poetry, I can't open up the computer monitor and get a beer and make a sandwich. Actualy, the two--blog and refrigeratormagnet poetry--are quite diff. Well.

A data dump. A thought landfill. Refuse and rubbish. I use the word rubbish, e.g., "Please show me the rubbish bin." What a fag. No one ever knows what I mean when I ask this. Fuck them. My point: I like to just dump things on here; the dumping gets me thinking. Veeeery similar to another great thought callisthenic.

I was reading the excellent Talking Points Memo, well, just a moment ago, and I meeting me was this.

Living in a major American city, I take it for granted that my wife and I live under a certain general threat of major terrorist attacks. In that sense I'm not really different from everyone else in the country to this or that degree. Back in late 2001, when I was living in DC and we were in the midst of the Anthrax scare and various reports of sleeper cells in the United States, I remember having moments where I hoped the FBI and CIA were doing everything imaginable to shut these guys down, whatever the constitution might say.

Now, here's the point I want to focus in on. I want to make a basic distinction between the things we might think or feel impulsively when in the grip of fear and things we really think ought to be done. I never thought we should be torturing people or rounding people up. What I am saying is that I remember the atmosphere of those days just after 9/11 and the primal gut instincts that made part of me wish those things were happening.

All of which I agree with. This post reminded me of Wittgenstein's muttering about games and intention in the little footnote-ish thing at the bottom of a page of the PI towards the beginning. I'm not going to look it up on Amazon's booksearch (a great tool for paper writing), but it says roughly,

--Teach my kid a game.


--WTF!?! You taught him dice! I didn't mean for you to teach him dice! Jesus Christ..

--But did you have before your mind as you said, 'Teach my kid a game' that you didn't want me to teach him dice?

The answer, which is suppressed, is no. You did not have before your mind the prohibition against teaching the kid dice as you told me to teach him a game. You just didn't. But you meant for me not to teach him. Those are two different processes. The clash of forms of life that result from these misunderstandings ground many a shitty Hollywood film. E.g., culture-clash buddy cop films.

--Let's listen to some tunes.


[Radio blares hip-hop.]

--What is this?!? I said music! That's not music, that's just... noise!

The meaning of "music", like "game" is in a sense predetermined. But the words are not determined by a mental image. They're determined by form of life, perhaps. (Among other things, granted.)

So when I say,

--Stop terrorism!

and then someone, i.e., Bush, goes on to, like, hook up electrodes to prisoners' balls and put feeding tubes down hunger-strikers' throats and all sorts of dumbshit shit, well, I want to say,

--But I didn't mean for you to do all that! I just want to be able to get out of bed and go to work in the morning without being so scared shitless that I have to down a fifth of Scotch and smoke a fucking pack of cigarettes. I just don't want to be scared!! But I didn't want you to, like, kill people... Sheesh.

But the liberal response versus the fascist response versus the conservative response, well, all the responses, they show a certain difference in form of life. OK. But how is this interesting? I don't know. This blog is my pot, and this post is my dump and I'm just trying to think.

I was talking to my thesis advisor on Monday, and I was pretty concerned with relativism/nihilism being the natural outcome of my project. From this thought I got to thinking maybe Wittgenstein was in a Heideggerian anti-rationalist. Wasn't he just saying that actions speak and words obfuscate? But people all act in different ways. I'd never pull a Joe Stalin and throw people in the gulags. Etc., etc. But my advisor made a good point: The Big Three totalitarian dictators of the 20c., Stalin, Mao and Hitler, offered reason and reason and reason. They were reason givers. Maybe their reason prodded them into doing unethical things. That is, maybe instead of being unethical people, they could have been ethical actors, in fact, they were ethical actors, until their policy decisions forced their hands into acting unethically. Or something like that. Normal people merely act, and those actions are surrounded by a moral context against which we rarely struggle. We know right from wrong, but this knowledge is not manifested in Hamlet-lite inner monologues treating of delight and deception; our ethical knowledge is manifest in our actions.

If we obviate reasons, then all we're left with are unjustified actions. And this is the fertile crescent of human life, the dirty gaping maw from which all significance springs. Words just try to tidy up things. I'm exhausted. But, as you can see, this all was going to be pulled together. Right.

Conclussion: Roughly speaking, people who were trained within the generally accepted parameters of a given society will be possessed of an indubitable ethical framework that they generally won't question and from which they won't stray. But, when this framework is transgressed, the first sign will be some sort of reason-giving maneuvre.


Are you certain you shouldn't kill my dog with a spiked baseball bat?

15 August 2006


My thinking has reverted to the point at which I stood at fourteen or fifteen years of age. My mind's not right. From the commonest of coincidences I interpret the most important things. Tea leaves turned up on the table, soggy and mouldering. Looks like a woman? A cloud? Wild like the wind--capricious. Must be linked.

It's sad to see happen.

14 August 2006

Wu-Tang + Cold War Kids + Wittgenstein

I have to say, I'm kind of bored with this so-called blogging thing. But it's tres useful for me to type up things in the morning after having slept on it or whatever. I don't believe in sleeping on things. Moving on to some other things I've been doing lately.

Wu-Tang is da bomb!

The Cold War Kids will be the next big indie thing.

Understanding what Wittgenstein means by “certainty” is central to understanding his work. The concept of certainty runs through all of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Indeed, it seems as if this concept is a clue that connects Wittgenstein’s early and late philosophy. More than any other philosopher, Wittgenstein seems to have completely reversed his thinking about his subject matter. The Tractatus-Logico Philosophicus seems to differ entirely from the Philosophic Investigations. But with his final work, written almost on his deathbed, flies in the face of the dichotomy that is commonly drawn to describe the alterity between the TLP and the PI. On Certainty offers a range of thought that draws on both the TLP and the PI. The thread that runs through these works is woven of Wittgenstein’s use of words and phrases like “proposition”; “fact”; “to know”; “to be certain of”; “picture” and “form of life”.
Wittgenstein’s remarks in OC bear out an unexpected consequence: Certainty is not a language game. Language games belong to language. (It is true that in a language game there is significantly more than language itself in play.) Rather, Wittgenstein assigns to certainty a kind of non-linguistic prominence. He says that certainty is beyond justification. It is, “as it were, as something animal”. Utterances are offered as justification. If I’m asked if I’m certain that the world exists, it’s nonsensical to reply, “Yes, I am certain.” Such a reply justifies nothing. The justification for certainty is “something animal” in that it is non-discursive; I justify my certainty by acting. Wittgenstein asks rhetorically, “Does a cat know that a mouse exists?” The sensible answer is that the cat does not know that a mouse exists. Or, if a cat could speak, it would make no sense for the cat to say, “I know that mouse exists”. The cat’s certainty of the mouse’s existence is shown by its stalking the mouse. This is the type of certainty to which Wittgenstein refers when he says that certainty is “something animal”.

To move on, this point naturally moves toward another entry in the Wittgenstein Glossary. Why is it nonsensical to say that the cat doesn’t know that a mouse exists? The cluster of remarks implies (correctly) that it is nonsensical for a man to say that he doesn’t know that his hands don’t exist. This fine distinction hangs on Wittgenstein’s use of “to know”. OC was written in response to a G.E. Moore essay in which Moore says that he knows that he has two hands. Nothing will ever convince him otherwise. Wittgenstein’s criticism of Moore can be summed up by saying that he thinks Moore misuses “to know”. He equivocates its meaning with the meaning of a phrase of the type “I am in pain”. The latter cannot be doubted. Therefore, Moore thinks the former cannot be doubted. Wittgenstein uses “to know” in a very specific way. (Although, he does say, “I would like to reserve the expression ‘I know’ for the cases in which it is used in normal linguistic exchange”. )

Wittgenstein says that “to know” expresses a relation between a subject and a fact. There are various times when sensibly we use “I know”; i.e., it would make sense to say, “I know my bicycle is locked to the parking meter”. There is a fact—“my bicycle…”—and “I”, who has taken into account the fact. There seem to be a class of propositions that are not facts. This distinction gives a clue as to why Wittgenstein criticizes Moore’s usage. “That I have two hands” is not a fact. This proposition forms part of my world-view, which is a necessary condition of my making judgments at all. I am certain of such propositions.

Wittgenstein says that one could not give up such a proposition for fear of giving up his whole system of beliefs; such a proposition has the character of a rule. In this way, certainty relates to a large portion of the PI, which deals extensively with rules and rule following. There are propositions of which we are certain, and there are propositions that we know. (I ignore for now propositions that we believe.) The latter have the character of empirical knowledge. Wittgenstein says, “it is always by favor of Nature that one knows something.” I take this to mean that propositions that we know can be confirmed or denied. These propositions relate to what Wittgenstein calls “facts” in the TLP. Propositions assert a state of affairs, to which they may or may not agree. When Wittgenstein says, “The world is all that is the case”, he means that the world is composed of all propositions that correctly express the facts. Propositions of which one is certain differ from propositions that one knows. Just one example of their difference is that the negation of a proposition of which one is certain makes no sense. If I say, “Water will freeze at 100 degrees Celsius”, then something may be wrong with my entire world-view. I may not know what the words “freeze” or “water” mean.

As I said above, certainty cannot be justified with words. A result of this phenomenon is that we believe things for which we have no good reason to believe. Wittgenstein says, “At the foundation of well-founded belief lies belief that is not founded”. Part of what this means is that a belief in the efficacy of an analgesic in relieving a headache is founded ultimately on a whole system of beliefs—e.g., in modern medicine, in advertising, in experience and so forth—that mutually support one another.

10 August 2006

Terrorists + Heathrow + Wittgenstein + Experience Machine + Whaa?

I don't think Wittgenstein's proclivities changed altogether as much as people make them out to have. That is, his Tractarian views are something like more unrefined post-Tractarian views. It was his masterpiece. (In the original sense of the phrase, the piece on which he worked to end his apprenticeship and gain the title of master.) He makes a curious statement late in the book.
There must indeed be some kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but they must reside in the action itself. (6.422)
And I got to thinking.

--I'll ignore for the moment how to translate this sentiment into later Wittgenstein. How exactly does the reward and punishment reside in the action itself?

--You've already asked and answered this question. You said that the reward/punishment lay in a sort of coherence to other peoples; i.e., that your actions would make sense to other people. Your action qua action avoids incomprehensibility. And since being understood is paramount in being accepted and loved, then the coherence of your actions is paramount.

--But what if you grew up in the dirty south during the beginning of the 18th century? If you owned slaves your actions were coherent and understandable. They may even have been lauded.

--How now! Then the reward/punishment cannot be a social consequence. It must illumine or darken your insides, as it were. Is Foucault, then, wrong to speak of the social ramifications of punishment? Was he treating of ethics? Ethics in a vacuum?

--What a queer concept. Does ethics exist without other people?

And things got off topic. I often lead myself astray. The point is this: The Wittgenstein passage got me thinking about reward as well as punishment. The ethical life, as I characterize it, is a life of both prohibition and encouragement. Reward and punishment are meted out with equal ardor.

The idea of reward clicked with the idea of terrorist attacks. E.g., the one being reported on today. Would a suicide bomber be correct in acting if he were in the Experience Machine? He can take in the cultural baggage that he wants; and this would hamper him, I dare say, even more than it would hamper whomever Nozick was imagining entering the EM. Imagine the suicide bomber is offered the chance to hook up to the EM and have the ability to suicide bomb ten, a thousand or a ka-jillion people. He would be confident his plan would work, and he would be certain he was going to heaven. (Or, you know, whatever it is that people think they'll get from suicide bombing.) It could even be set up in a way like Bill Murray's Groundhog Day, in which he could suicide bomb every day, or every hour.

The rub is that he would have to agree to enter the machine knowing that he would only be fooling himself into thinking he was suicide bombing all the time. He would actually die an old, hobbled man who had been hooked up to the EM for most of his life. But during that life...oh what a life.

1) The EM cuts you off from religious incentive to do good.

2) The EM cuts you off from political incentive to do good.

3) Actually, all social interactions as a piece are taken away from your influence.

But the question is coaxed from me (never begged): What of the ethical reward/punishment residing in the act itself? I know I've waffled on this, but this Tractarian Wittgenstinian ethical proposition sounds like the Kantian model of the ethical will. And damn if I don't think that the EM is a fine--maybe even perfect--tester of that will. The suicide bomber, if he were a secular Kantian, would hook up to the EM.

09 August 2006

qua qua qua qua

The great phenomenologist auteur.

Stemwinders + Lieberman + November In Any Even Number-Ending Year

I love the phrase stemwinder. It's one of those olde-timey newspaper phrases, like ombudsman, from whose frequent use I get the feeling that no one knows what they mean, exactly. That's ok, though. If a words well-defined use is to be used as an ill-defined word, well then--all the better. Like using the word nebulous to describe 'today's office conditions at four pm'. It's all a little nebulous. (Like when Wittgenstein says in the TLP, "Roughly speaking, objects are colorless." Like, WTF does that mean?? I love the phrase 'roughly speaking'. Roughly speaking, my I shit gold doubloons; likewise roughly speaking, objects are made from tiny, odorless, colorless....OH MY GOD OBJECTS ARE MADE OF RADON!)

Crazy-ass Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) lost her primary.
Despite her defeat, McKinney was unbowed, unleashing a stemwinder of a concession speech in which she barely mentioned her opponent but praised leftist leaders in Cuba and Venezuela, took aim at the efficacy of electronic voting machines and offered several swipes at the media.
and so did Sore Loserman. The WP article makes little reference to stemwinding or ombudspeople, so I'll refrain from quoting it. I'm absolutely reading Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia. I hope to have finished by the midterms. Bleh.

I hope to have finished it by this weekend. Nozick makes some claims. Boy does that Nozick make some claims. He seems to be a little in love with explaining everything. I suppose that's a good-ish thing; but I could do with some elliptical reasoning sometimes. Just think of all the trees that could be saved if everyone wrote like Derrida. (Not prolifically--that defeat's the enterprise--I mean elliptically.)

08 August 2006

The Experience Machine + Descartes

I love the word 'parlay'.

This morning I was riding my bike to work. As I was high on sanctimony, looking at unwashed, smog-dogged autos, I realized I could parlay the Experience Machine (EM) for my Wittgenstein project. That is, hook up Descartes and Wittgenstein with the EM in order to talk about epistemology, ethics and Lebensform.

In the EM there are no ethical ramifications to having no emissions standards. I could drive a fucking Hummer. Could I? If everything were exactly the same then wouldn't I think, maybe, that I shouldn't be driving a Hummer? I should like to parlay an answer, but does a second-order reality really elude the problems of a first-order reality: I think not. [Descartes disappears.] I need to find the hinge.

07 August 2006

The Experience Machine

Yesterday during breakfast my friends brought up the Experience Machine (EM). I thought the EM was some sort of new Jimi Hendrix-based roller coaster or something that the kids are into; but it's actually a thought experiment, which Nozick inaugurated in Anarchy, State, and Utopia.
Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into this machine for life, preprogramming your life's desires?...Of course, while in the tank you won't know that you're there; you'll think it's all actually happening. Others can also plug in to have the experiences they want, so there's no need to stay unplugged to serve them. (Ignore problems such as who will service the machines if everyone plugs in.) Would you plug in? What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside? (43)
The EM was brought up in a political context, but as things developed (i.e., my friends and I ate our food and sobered up) things got more punchy, and we tried to figure out what people would really do and what the differences are between the EM and reality?

I have a friend who's a total dork; and he thinks the EM is perfect, like the perfect video game. He wishes it upon his family and friends. He seems to think that experience is experience of phenomena, i.e., mental states. And I think this commits him to a Berkleyan-type idealism. For the move Kant makes seems to require something actually there, objects about which we can never know absolutely everything; and Husserl's method requires the human to give meaning to already present objects, both historically and personally; and neither idealist wants to go as far as Berkeley. I think my friend wants to say, though, that rather than human understanding imposing a meaning upon the necessarily-given world, the human understanding simply creates the given world. For he says there's no difference between the EM and reality, and in fact, the former is better than the latter.

This answer to the thought experimentseems to defy tradition, so I'm down with it. But I think my friend is rather callous and inhuman. Under the way I was thinking about things, speaking about the EM is a different language-game than speaking about reality as such. Speaking about the EM is a different language-game than speaking about video games, or reading realistic, Zola-esque novels. I.e., you would want to say that it's OK to kill people in the EM because they're not really people--you're not creating any victims (in the hotshit parlance of whatever). Even though there's no epistemic difference, there is an ontological difference. And that difference in language-game means that something is different. If the words themselves are the same, and the meaning is different, then you can be certain that the context, use or practice is different. This difference in action is the difference between the EM and reality.

Is it OK to kill someone in the EM? Why don't skeptics commit more atrocious crimes? (Or become priests, mediums to the other world of which ours is a poor reflection.) In another world in which, say, there is no ethics, can you act in whatever way you want? How would your actions be different in this non-ethical world and our (supposedly) ethical world?

06 August 2006

Middle Age + Single + G.E.D.

[Pictured above: Mr. Tom Ryan, rockstar, hat afficionado, uneducated and unmarried.]

This story in the Times, strangely compelling and depressing; it includes the life of Mr. Ryan.
Tom Ryan used to share a home outside Denver with a girlfriend but now lives alone, enjoying the ability to keep the house as he pleases. That includes a hat rack covered with dozens of commemorative baseball caps.

Mr. Ryan, 54, an electronics specialist who lives outside Denver, bought his ranch house with a girlfriend over a decade ago. He had to buy out his girlfriend quickly when the relationship suddenly ended — or else lose his home.

Mr. Ryan, who attended music college for a year and spent his 20’s singing in a local rock band, did not feel ready [for marriage].

He learned to enjoy the silence and the ability to be as fastidious at home as he pleased.

When he walks in the front door after a weekend trip or a run or a bike ride, he often puts a commemorative baseball cap on his coat rack, and now, about three dozen hats cover the rack, with no apparent space for a purse or a diaper bag.

Mr. Ryan, too, said he enjoyed being single. He stood talking in his kitchen on a Saturday when he had no plans other than a solo bike ride. It was a slow weekend day — his birthday, in fact — and though the phone never rang, he was free for dinner.
The man is "fastidious". This story deserves a daytime Emmy. And what's with the last line? "though the phone never rang, he was free for dinner"? If no one ever calls you, will you ever have plans? I would maybe replace 'expectedly' for 'though'.

04 August 2006

Bill Simmons + Music

An intensely argued, well-crafted and sustained assault against the Sports Guy's music preferences.
What further infuriates is that Simmons is not an anomaly in the music-writing world; he is the norm in a guild that overvalues the music of its youth. The reason that the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and other artists of the mid-‘60s to early ‘70s are regarded as the greatest of all time has less to do with their particular talents and more to do with the fact that they are the favorite bands of the people who own all of the music largest publications and television networks. So, I’m not blaming Bill Simmons for his obtuse view of the music world, but I am criticizing him for perpetrating like he has an educated opinion of the matter.

Temptation + Dead Rockers

I think yesterday constitutes my resolve's failure. I'm tempted to write about music and literature since those are the things on which I spend most of my time. Yesterday I wrote about Mel Gibson, a man whose descent boasts a celerity heretofore unknown in Christendom. What an ass. But I tried vainly to couch my inane commentary in ethical terms. (I still think everyone's a racist.)

Well, I tried. Yesterday, Love's Arthur Lee (pictured above) died from acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 61. I'm sure the Hype will fill with Love songs, just as it filled with tracks from the Madcap Laughs when Syd Barrett died. I wonder if that oldspouses' tale of death's tripartite longing, the dreaded dying in threes, will be vindicated. Who's next?

Anyhoo. I'll be writing about philosophy next week. I have to work on my MA thesis and I'll have to do some more philosophy to do that. Be advised.

03 August 2006

Daily Write + Mel Gibson

I decided at some point to update at least Monday through Friday. I don't know why; but this is a policy decision with which I'm sticking. Another piece of evidence for an externalist/behaviorist-type reasoning about states of mind: I think things, and I think I think things and I thought I think thinks; the ambiguity in the use of the word think comes clear when I write things. Then I see all things, those of which I'm certain and those which fall under the aegis of the delete key.

How many anti-Semites does it take to make a culture anti-Semitic? With an eye toward the future, i.e., America's youth, here are some comments on the Mel Gibson story from US Weekly. (Idea shamelessly stolen from Gawker.)
Everyone makes mistakes. Lighten up on the guy. He’s a great actor and he’s made some fantastic movies. Of course he should be more careful about what he says because everything you do or say is magnified when you are a celebrity.

WHAT does OJ Simpson have to do with Mel Gibson? [Someone previously had brought up OJ Simpson.] There is no comparison here. OJ killed 2 people and got away with it. Mel Gibson admitted he was drunk driving; said some hurtful things - proved he’s human. He’s accepting the consequences of his actions and trying to apologize (maybe way to much but…. at least he did).

I think Mel just has a typically Australian sense of humor, and just to give the guy a break. Not for the speeding & drinking of course, but his wry and cutting remarks. John Lennon used to do it, so do typical Australian males whether drunk or not and no one gets after them. Sure he is a celebrity, and this along with all other tabloids nowadays, will probably boost his career media-wise rather than condemn it in the long run.

The reason why I wanted to look at the comments has to do with my non-rhetorical question at the top of this paragraph. One would be predisposed to call Mel Gibson a racist cracker nutcase, right? Well, I don't know about the average age of these US Weekly readers, but I'd assume they're not that old. They probably haven't seen Mad Max, Bird on a Wire, Lethal Weapon. Hell, I haven't seen that many Mel Gibson movies. I know the latest ones have been pretty brutal. (In, well, the jargonastic and literal senses.) The comments on the US Weekly board were generally all positive. These three stood out as being the most articulate. The "everything you do or say is magnified when you are a celebrity" angle was used in Gibson's latest apology.

What is the different between Aunt Sally spouting off racist comments and Mel Gibson's doing so? In the former, Aunt Sally faces opprobrium only from the people in her vicinity. In the case of Gibson, he faces everyone's reproach. (You would think.) The second comment goes along with these lines--his using religious epithets "proved he's human", which is unfortunately the case. Human beings seem generally bigoted, warmongering and hateful. From his public persona I had never particularly formed an opinion of Mel Gibson. (Before the Passion of the Christ, I suppose.) This is boring.

I put in the last comment because it was plain ridiculous. John Lennon wasn't Australian, and Mel Gibson's career is fucked for the time being.

My point in bringing this up, though, is that the form of life in America is one of anti-Semitism. Maybe I grew up in a generally uncultivated area of the country, but "Jew" was used as a transitive verb, e.g., "You Jewed me out of five bucks." When I was in college, the same stereotypes held. Part of this, I think, is cultivated by pop culture Jewish comedians like Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman. But I find that hurtful Jewish stereotypes are common and pravelant.

Does Mel Gibson speak for America? You would think the answer is no; but if you just look and see what's before you, then the answer is yes. Is there a way to reform this view? Is it even unethical to be racist? What if you never act on your racist beliefs? What if you never offended someone? I think the startling answer is that it is not unethical to be racist in itself. That's why societies still are generally racist. But by racist in itself I don't mean one is justified in committing hate crimes or genocide. But if you live in a community of 1500 people, none of whom are black or Jewish or Chinese, and you never meet any of those people, then who are you harming?

But in an overarching manner, if you think ethics is based on some sort of conceptual plurality concerning practical problems (as Putnam seems to), then I don't think he can say that this racist action is unethical. And the kids seem to agree.

02 August 2006


Wittgenstein refused to live on carpet. He thought the only way to clean a floor was to cover it with used tea leaves, wait for the leaves to dry and then sweep them out the door. Wittgenstein liked to eat the same things every day. He hit children when they wouldn't learn. He liked westerns. Tolstoy. Not Shakespeare. Wittgenstein broke off an engagement with a Bloomsbury chick-a-dee. He walked down the same streets as likely I have. He's a person whom I'm comfortable following.

I was going to work on a MA thesis regarding Wittgenstein and skepticism. But after reading On Certainty, the issue seems more than settled. In fact, I feel certain about Wittgenstein's kinda-sorta refutation of skepticism. In my bones, like an animal, I feel certain. I shifted my focus onto ethics, which was a spiritually rewarding and intellectually damaging project. I'm focused still on that, but Wittgenstein and I--we need to take a break.

I'm going to be reading other people. I know that at first, it might be awkward. Wittgenstein will be on my shelf, and I'll gesture. My hand will extend. It might seem like I intend to take up the Philosophic Remarks or maybe Remarks on Color. But I'll be clasping in my hand some Heidegger, instead. Maybe Rorty and I will be at a cafe, a cafe where I used to read hunched over, my head in a torrent from caffeine and reading over and over again 133 of the Investigations. A place where I used to undergo therapy. But I'll be reading about hermeneutics and analytic and all the things I missed out on since I've made a commitment to Wittgenstein. We were 'exclusive'. Things just went to fast. I read Augustine, and that got me in the mood. And then the Tractatus was so seducing. Die Welt ist alles, was der fall ist. That little singsong, like a bird or a nursery rhyme. Disarming and arousing true Eros, philosophy. But things just went too quickly after that. I need a break. It's not you; it's me.

01 August 2006

Conceptual Relativity + Dualism + Putnam + Wittgenstein + Kant

Rather characteristically I did not follow through with my planned reading of Ethics Without Ontology last night. I thought I had exhausted Putnam's line of thought on ethics in that book, and I needed to start another project. That project's not applicable here, though.

I was wondering about Putnam's conceptual relativity, which goes something like,
In certain cases what exists may depend on which various conventions we adopt. (39)
which, I assume, is supposed to seem like a ridiculous notion on first sight. It fails to outrage or amaze me. It seems somewhat reminiscent of Kant's transcendental idealism, but with a desultory nod toward Wittgenstein's notion of Lebensform and language-game. Does Putnam's conceptual relativity commit him to object-appearance dualism?

I think it does; and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It seems to me, and this seemed to me a while ago to hold, that Wittgenstein in a way offers an alternative way to derive categories of the understanding, a non-empirical a posteriori method of looking and seeing what's common. Different people may see different aspects or derive different rules from the same situation depending on a variety of conditions: prior training, culture or even native tongue.

Putnam seems just to enunciate to a further degree of explicitness this Wittgenstinian implication. When looking at the duck-rabbit (pictured below), can you say the rabbit exists if you only see a duck? Vice versa? In some way (one that's probably not very mysterious) our category determines the existence of the aspect that we see. In an analogous way, the category of causality, for instance, determines how different object relations appear to us. But whereas Kant sought to legislate our appearances, Wittgenstein actually keeps the human autonomous.

I'll go on further later. Work is picking up.