28 September 2006

Bush + Detainee Bill + Responsibility

This makes me sick to be an American. I hope everyone knows what are this piece of news' ramifications. There's more to life than drinking, listening to music and being young. And there's more than contemplation and philosophy. In the tradition of Aristotle, Spinoza, Moore and Levinas: Ethics = First Philosophy. As human beings we have a responsibility to other human beings. There is no justification for this responsibility; but its existence is manifest in every one of our dealings with other people. You can call that shared culture, reason or whatever the fuck.

27 September 2006

Why Hip-Hop Sucks in '06

On a whim last night I decided to download off bit torrent to go out and buy a bunch of hip-hop (using hip-hop as the general label covering rap, old school, trap music etc.) albums that I'd never heard. I want to really get into hip-hop. My favorite albums as of two days ago were probably not the all-time classics: 1) 36 Chambers; 2) Illmatic; 3) Endtroducing...; 4) the best tracks of the two Kanye albums; 5) A Grand Don't Come For Free.

So I got a shitload of albums last night: The first two Eric B. & Rakim; Low End Theory; Raising Hell; The Chronic; Hard to Earn; By All Means Necessary; Straight Outa Compton; Doe or Die; Let's Get Free; Dr. Octagonecologyst; It Takes a Nation; E 1999 Eternal; A Book of Human Language; The Infamous; Masters of the Universe; and Funcrusher Plus. I loaded up only hip-hop albums on my ipod. I really can't connect w/Tupac; I only have that one song with the jacked Bruce Hornsby piano hook. So fuck all y'all haters: Tupac sucks. Just one man's opinion.

I do things like this project of trying to get really into hip-hop all the time. I don't know why. I still listen to non-hip-hop at home. I got Slint's Spiderland last night, which is fabulous. Will Oldham even took the picture on the front cover! What an awesome album. I'm listening to the Killers' new album, Sam's Town. It's OK so far: This is my first listen. There aren't any immediately horrible-sounding songs (c.f., that song on Hot Fuss with the chorus: "I got soul but I'm not a soldier"). Eh.

I was thinking last night that Aristotle necessarily begs in the Metaphysics the question of Intelligence's being the first cause and first substance. Using something like a primitive hypothetic-deductive form of reasoning, Aristotle simply posits the existence of a surprisingly large number of things, of which he proves a surprisingly little number. I feel I could modus tollens his modus ponens and end the argument with as much ambiguity and doubt as his reasonings (at times). I admit it's deeply unsatisfying for there to be no cause as such; but it should be incumbent on Aristotle to prove such a claim. Kant, I think, does a better job of proving his metaphysics. Well, I'm still working on that. I haven't read nearly enough Aristotle. He's in no way a source of my opprobrium. I'm merely skeptical as to how convincing Aristotle makes his argument.

25 September 2006

The Strokes

Back in aught one, when I was a freshman, I ordered from ebay a special, U.K.-version of the Strokes' Is This It. It cost me $40, I think. I don't know why: But this morning when I was in the shower I was singing along to a song in my head and that song was The Modern Age.

I was in London when the Strokes' second album dropped. I bought it. (Two U.K.-versions, sweet!) Well, not so sweet. But that one song that sounds like the soundtrack to a prom, Under Control, well. That one's pretty much the best song they did. OK. (Side note [one that I think I've made before--but goddamn it's important]: This Ryan Dombal from Pfork wrote a track review of some stupid shit the Strokes did recently and he and I agree, the Strokes are better at these slow, dancy soul-ish songs.)

I was in Santa Fe when the Strokes' last album leaked to the Internets. I got it and I deleted it in the same sitting. Fuck the Strokes, fuck David Cross, fuck expensive music videos--fuck Juicebox.
So when I was taking a shower this morning (got to wrap this up, time to go to an eye exam) I was thinking and singing and I was thinking about why the Strokes suck now.

1) They don't tell stories anymore (c.f., New York City Cops, Soma, Modern Age, Barely Legal [basically all of Is This It].)

2) They don't sound lo-fi anymore. Not that they ever sounded like Bob Pollard, but the albums get more and more clearer and less and less awesome-sounding.

But I still think they were the most important band of the aughts.

24 September 2006

White Tea + Pseudoephedrine Hydrochloride

I bought this morning a box of Walgreen's brand pseudophed. It took about ten minutes: Pseudophed is kept in New Mexico behind the pharmacy counter; it's regulated, which means that as a step towards purchasing any pseudophed had to enter--a) my name; b) my driver's license number; c) my address--she had to enter these into the cash register; and there's a monthly maximum allowance of pseudophed that a person may not exceed. For reals.

I'm drinking this white tea that I got and it's good. All teas that one's likely to buy in a regular-type (i.e., non-Whole Foods) supermarket are made from the same tea leaves (for the most part). The color of the tea--black, green, (red?), white--is determinable by the duration of time in which a tea is roasted. The process is like that in processing coffee. White tea is roasted least.

I got Kaplan's 2007 GRE book, and I've got to say that I feel a lot better about taking the GRE now. I'm not certain that I want anymore to study Wittgenstein. (This path, which takes the form of a, say, Hegelian dialectic, is familiar; something seems awesome, but once I'm sufficiently immersed I realize it's not so awesome.) I'll figure something out.

I'm glad to see Matt Hasselbeck decided to throw the fucking ball. I still started McNabb and that's going pretty well for me. Have to play next week by ear. Well, actually. It seems now like I'm going to some guy's house to watch the Bears play Seattle and the Bears are home; so I think McNabb will be my starter for the time being. My fantasy team was all kind of injured, and I totally forgot I had Clinton Portis. This week was going great until I looked at the Washington box score and then realizations and questions and screaming and all that shit ensued. Why didn't I start Portis>!~>#?! I didn't even know he was still alive, though.

This blog thing isn't so fun anymore. But as things turned out, I had to take off from life this week. I might be more apt to write now that we're resuming our normal viewing schedule.

13 September 2006

Married to The Sea

It's my goal to get everyone to read Married To The Sea.

I'm realizing that it's more difficult than first I thought to write a thesis, study for the GRE, go to school and work a few jobs.

12 September 2006

I am not afraid of you and you will read my ass.

I feel seachangingly better. I feel like Giotto di Bondone--I've finally found me some perspective. Fuck it, I love getting sick because the feeling of feeling better is one of the best feelings in the world. There is morning but there are no dust motes. There's sunshine but no effluvia. Everything is clear, clean and bright. Rather than smelling of sleepbreathe and ozone the bedroom one finds upon waking into wellness smells like nothing. How good is that?


Belief’s role is somewhere in between certainty and knowledge. It precedes knowledge and proceeds from certainty. Belief posses two main features from which follows a third main feature. One’s beliefs form a system; one’s beliefs are personal; and from these two we find—as if by supercession—the final feature of belief: There are certain beliefs that one just could not stop believing. The first feature is somewhat unique to belief, and the second distinguishes belief from knowledge. The final feature brings belief very close to what one would call certainty.

When we talk about things like knowledge and belief, we tend to use vertical-spatial metaphors: foundation; base; grounded; at the bottom. Wittgenstein’s spatial metaphors tend to subvert such vertical-spatial images. He’s fond of using the house as a metaphor for these epistemological concerns. Instead of the foundation holding up the rest of the house, he says “these foundation-walls are carried by the whole house” (248). Wittgenstein’s imagery follows from his desire to question continually the human impulse to speaks as if belief and certainty really were grounded, founded upon, based etc. For belief, he gives a stunning image that reorients this desire to ground, saying,

We believe, so to speak, that this great building exists, and then we see, now here, now there, one or another small corner of it. (276)

which is drawn to contrast with the notion that we build up our beliefs from some foundation, and upon these beliefs we pile more and more until we have some sort of certainty-orienting edifice. This image of Wittgenstein’s gives the lie to such a notion, though, in a remarkable way. When we’re fit to question them, our beliefs already exist. That is, there already exists “this great building”, our beliefs. The idea that we consciously build up our system of beliefs one piece at a time, always going by means of logical entailment from one to the other is shown false by a simple thought experiment. If someone asks you if you believe you’ve descended from great-great-great-grandparents; or if someone asks you if you believe you haven’t, say, descended from felines; or some such other strange-sounding—yet obviously true—notion, you would say, “Yes, I believe…”. Just by being human in a human society one’s larder of belief comes well-stocked. Such beliefs (e.g., “I believe I descended from great-great-great-grandparents”) “may never have been expressed; even the thought that it was so, never thought” (159). When the occasion calls for it, we do shine a light in the great building of our belief—and we discover a new nook here or there that corresponds to a belief we’ve always had, which yet we’ve never expressed nor thought.

There is a reason why it seems like we have an infinite supply of beliefs about which we’ve never thought; and this reason also underlies Wittgenstein’s main point that beliefs actually resist vertical-spatial metaphors: We don’t acquire single beliefs—i.e., single propositions—but, rather, we acquire whole systems of beliefs, whole systems of propositions (141). Prefiguring the “great building” metaphor, Wittgenstein says, “Light dawns gradually over the whole” (141). A person cannot believe one belief in isolation, that is, exclusively. Even the simplest sort of belief, such as “I believe I live here” relies on other beliefs: the belief that my language itself makes sense; the belief that I haven’t fallen prey to a deceptive plot; etc. More well-developed beliefs rely on an even wider net of beliefs. The belief that the Cardinals will win the World Series relies on beliefs about the Cardinals’ personnel; beliefs about the game of baseball; beliefs about the efficacy of baseball’s officiating; beliefs about the fairness and uniformity of the game’s rules; and so on.

This picture of belief may seem like it could support a foundational-type notion of belief. But the picture does not if what one means by “foundational-type notion of belief” is that there will be a certain belief upon which all other beliefs rest. But this isn’t to say that there are no such things as well-founded beliefs. For example, when I say, “I believe I’m a human being”, I’m uttering a well-founded belief. Within my whole system of beliefs, this belief is heavily relied upon by many other beliefs. I have no beliefs that seem remotely to contradict this belief. It’s very firmly rooted within my system. As Wittgenstein says, a belief isn’t firmly rooted because it seems a priori true, but, “it is rather held fast by what lies around it” (144). It’s never occurred to me that I believe that I’m human, but as I write this, it’s as if a light shone upon this belief and exposed many other beliefs standing about it that could hardly fail me. Just as I believe I’m human, I also believe my name is Brian Payne; I believe I live in Santa Fe, NM; I believe I attended such and such a high school; and I believe that these are all normal human beliefs. But none of these beliefs ground another of them: They are all mutually dependent upon one another, like threads woven into a wall hanging. Certain threads could even be removed from the wall hanging and the picture would still be intelligible; but if too many were removed, the wall hanging would lose its coherence and it would cease to represent anything. However, no one thread is the most important thread, and no one thread serves as the foundation for the rest of them. Concerning beliefs we find that at the bottom of things there is, as it were, no bottom. That is, there is no foundation for well-founded beliefs (253).

This wall hanging is not a museum piece: It isn’t public. This isn’t to deny the notion of widely held beliefs; i.e., there are beliefs that are shared by many. Comparing “I believe” to “I know” best shows the idea at which I’m getting. If someone were to say, “I know there’s a God” one would have to ask how it is he knows. Does this person who knows there’s a God have a proof? Has he been privileged to divine revelation? Etc. But what could one say to the person who says, “I believe there’s a God”? Wittgenstein retorts, “If his opponents had asserted that one could not believe this and that, then he could have replied: ‘I believe it’” (520). A belief doesn’t pretend to assert a truth about a state of affairs. A belief asserts something about the believer, something about which the believer may be wrong; but the belief is not something that is open to public correction. (An utterance of the form “I know…” is open to public correction.) It seems possible that a people is persecuted for its religious beliefs precisely because of this feature of belief. Unlike something for which one needs to give an account—i.e., an “I know…” utterance—a belief requires no account. If there needs be no evidence for a belief, then there may be no evidence against a belief.

11 September 2006

10am automatic

It's doubtful I'll post much in the next week or two. I have a lot of work. This line, the final one from NYT's profile of Mastodon, caught my eye.

“I don’t know how viable we are for the kids,” he drawled. “We’re more a grown man’s type of music.”

07 September 2006


A few things. I might get bronchitis soon if I don't quit my ways. I need to rest. I'm going to Zozobra, which is a kooky New Mexico tradition in which is publicly burned a huge old man upon whom you're supposed to project all your darkest fears.

I finally get The Knife.

I finally got Joanna Newsom's Ys. (A great story: Pfork leaked the album. Great.)

Indietorrents is awesome.

I apologize for this being such a link-happy post; but I'm really wiped out and I need to save my strength for drinking lots of beer and dodging bullets.

06 September 2006


The last few propositions of On Certainty are dated two days before Wittgenstein's death on 29 April 1951.

Keeping in mind Wittgenstein's view of language-game, it seems obvious that he shares something with Hegel, who said, "Philosophy is its own time raised to the level of thought."

For the man who said,
6.4311 Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no limits.
what signifance could death have? I don't have any more to say.

05 September 2006


There occurred in me last night a spiritual revolution. Only, revolution is the wrong word; for revolution carries with it, connotates, something violent, abrupt and discontinuous. But this was an organic shift, an inevitable shift, towards a new countenance. Moishe's shining face.

An intelligent way of doing philosophy is to divide up the words we use and examine their usage, like a glossary. 'Natch.

Belief is something personal, and it's largely ungrounded. When the "I believe" is uttered, something is expressed, which one hardly wishes to give up. It's possible for the "I believe" to refer to something obviously false. The utterance doesn't open up itself to criticism, rather persuasion.

The "I know" is a public utterance; it raises the "I believe" to the level of community. By uttering the "I know", one opens herself up to criticism--but also praise. In this way does knowledge solidify. What interests me are different ways of transmitting knowledge, and the different circumstances surrounded the "I know". It seems to me that knowledge is acknowledgement. When the "I know" is uttered, it may then be rejected. For it to gain purchase it must be accepted. The "I know" is uttered; and acknowledgment is sought. When another acknowledges your "I know", then something like knowledge is.

Like the Arts, philosophy is practiced and crafted in order that the world--the community--gives its practitioner understanding. The transmission of knowledge (which is something like philosophy) moves in different ways. Just for example, knowledge can be taken; sought; offered; hidden; or forced upon. This last, forced upon, is a method that interests me. I don't think it's the right method, but I've somewhat given up the notion of right methods. But there is something seductive about knowledge, which is forced upon. Prophets, poets and politicians find often that forcing upon, besetting people with language, is the most efficacious means for making themselves understood. I disagree with this view. There is something I would call destructive philosophy, and something I'd call constructive philosophy; and the two would roughly correspond to the appetitive and the rational. Yet I'm tempted to regard Plato's method--dialectic--as destructive.

The inevitable shift with which I started this post has taken for me the form of a denial. To deny while cultivating beauty, God and community. Never to impose, yet never to hold back.

And so I hold myself back and swallow the call-note of my dark sobbing.
Ah, whom can we ever turn to in our need?
Not angels, not humans, and already the knowing animals are aware
that we are not really at home in our interpreted world.
Perhaps there remains for us some tree on a hillside, which every day we can take into our vision;
there remains for us yesterday's street and the loyalty of a habit so much at ease
when it stayed with us that it moved in and never left.

01 September 2006

Ruth Minnikin

This morning I answered an email from Ruth Minnikin. She's a singer that sounds kind of like an old lady; or a young girl. I'd say she's kind of like Joanna Newsom in that you can't describe her voice well. Well, that's why God made mp3s. (And Real Player streams.)

Ruth Minnikin - Angel At the Dawn (from Wrestle the Future to the Fucking Ground [itself a good thing.])

Ruth Minnikin Says
To be rerecorded for my new album. The words came from a war poet's poem written in 1917 by James Lyons from Manchester (public domain). I wrote the melody and music after being asked to donate a song for a British compilation (it hasn't been released yet).