08 November 2006

Wittgenstein + Interpol (band)

This little bit is probably the worst thing I've written in a while because I had in mind the whole time Derrida's critique of Husserl's so-called "metaphysical presupposition."

Wittgenstein responds to the challenge posed most strongly by Descartes’ Meditations: having been deceived in the past, how is it that humans can know anything for certain, secure objective knowledge? In order for philosophy and science to proceed, it seems as if this challenge must be satisfied—Cartesian knowledge must be grounded on something immovable. Therefore, Descartes situates the source of knowledge in the uniformity of nature and a priori truths, all of which fall under the concept of the Cartesian rational God. If there is a God who isn’t a deceiver, then humans can know things with certainty. Descartes metaphysical presupposition is that there is a rational God; this God is the ground for the possibility of objective knowledge, and this ground falls before all experience. Only by supposing the existence of God can humans have certainty, and therefore knowledge.

Wittgenstein doesn’t take direct aim at Descartes, though. Rather, he finds a similar type of metaphysical presupposition in a most unlikely place, G. E. Moore’s philosophy. In his attempt to prove the existence of an external world, Moore makes a metaphysical presupposition when he says, “I certainly did at the moment know that which I expressed,” by holding up two hands. He presupposes that he can say meaningfully, and with certainty, the he knows a fact of the type “I have two hands.” Wittgenstein’s criticism is not that such knowledge is impossible, but rather that an utterance like “I know I have two hands” is probably nonsense. That is, Moore presupposes that he can merely, unproblematically say, “I know I have two hands.”
When philosophers use “I know…” Wittgenstein says, “I want to reply ‘you don’t know anything!’—and yet I would not say that to anyone who was speaking without philosophical intention.” This asymmetric response to different utterances of “I know…” gives a demonstration of Wittgenstein’s notion of knowledge and its attendant utterances: knowledge is heavily dependent on a context, and the sense or meaning of the utterance “I know…” depends on the context in which it is used. Moore’s use of “I know…” lacks an appropriate context, and it therefore rests on the same type of metaphysical presupposition that Descartes makes in his Meditations. Moore’s utterance lacks a context within which it would make sense; and Moore’s thinking that it does make sense presupposes a transcendent sense of meaning that must be “further back” from the beginning. For Moore, the meaning of “I know I have two hands” is pre-given and predetermined. The role of context is supposed to replace meaning’s reliance on pre-givenness and predetermination.

The major criticism that Wittgenstein levels against Moore is that he tries to refute the claim that one cannot know things about the world with the claim that he can know; and the way in which Moore makes this claim is by saying things like “I know I have two hands.” The problem with skepticism—and the realism that Moore attempts to prove in order to refute skepticism—is that the meaning of both the skeptic and the realist seems to hang in mid-air. But this is not to say that Wittgenstein’s aim is to ground knowledge. The attempt to ground knowledge is precisely what Wittgenstein tries to end. His aim seems paradoxical: he both tries to point out the groundlessness of our knowledge, and to point out the objectivity of our knowledge. Therefore, Wittgenstein’s project in On Certainty is to remove the desire for a ground to objectivity.

However, I forgot how good is Interpol. Man. This is like my second or third favorite video ever maybe.

I think I saw that the director, Italian whats-her-name, directed a film or a music video or something. She's the one that's dancing.

07 November 2006

Midterms, duh

It's midterm election time. Just go out and vote. Of course, I read in Good Magazine last month that your vote doesn't matter.

Midterm elections are so uninteresting that political scientists have been able to write an equation for them:

Y1= B0+B1P1+B2 (∆E1)+u1

Edward Tufte's 1975 Economic Theory of Midterm Elections states that people vote for or against the president's party based solely on his approval ratings and their disposable income. Those lawn signs, local ads, and even the candidates themselves are irrelevant. The equation is more accurate than pre-election Gallup polls. And an easy way to outwonk your dorkiest friends. You want to end an argument with a poli-sci major, just start doing math.

So, uh. Yeah. I'm listening to that Fugazi album, smoking some cloves, editing a book about politics for a local writer, and I've got, like, three TVs strapped to my head to catch all the election day results as soon as they're frickin' available.

I'm not at work work today! (I work as a tutor at some local schools.) Every kid in Santa Fe gets the day off because it's election day. How sweet is that? Growing up in upstate NY, I'd never get such a frivolous day off because administrators knew that we needed our bullshit days to use as snow days. And if we didn't use all our snow days, well, we'd get out of school early.

I swear to god, these kids go to school less and less. That sounds like what my parents used to say. But when I say it it's true. But it's only cause the kids do go to school less and less--they always "ditch." The word "ditch" means to skip school. I don't know why they don't just say "skip," but "ditch" sounds OK. Anyway, they always ditching. Or, as they say, "deetcheeeeeeng."

I don't know why, but I get a lot more hits on my blog now that I don't write very often. Over the summer I would write every day. No one read it. Except for that one time I fucked with Ilm. Good times.

Maybe I'll write about Derrida tomorrow. Maybe later today I'll write about Wittgenstein. I will do all that. But only because I have to do all that anyway. You'll see. Watch this Mr. Show clip.

06 November 2006

Cause I Like You I Never See You: 5 Things I Like



Largehearted Boy linked to this top-33 Canadian musicians list that reminded me that I really like the Diableros. I even learned that the song of theirs that I most like has a video.


The other day I was in Borders, where I like to pick up (literally) books. I like to leaf or flip through them. I picked up this Robert Creeley book b/c I heard he was, like, in tight with Robert Lowell. Yeah, about that. Creeley does something totally diff. from Lowell; but they're both awesome. (I go to school with a writer who used to hang out with Creeley. I have to remember to ask him about the one eye thing.)

Since I picked up (figuratively) the book, I'm only a few pages into it. I noticed that the first volume, The Charm, has a lot to do with being lonely and one's relation to the interior and exterior, and how this is mediated by streets and doors. I really like this 'un.

Quiet as is proper for such places;
The street, subdued, half-snow, half-rain,
Endless, but ending in the darkened doors.
Inside, they who will be there always,
Quiet as is proper for such people--
Enough for now to be here, and
To know my door is one of these.

Notice the similarities to Ben Jonson's succinct, well-punctuated verse. Artifice through good old hard work.


I really like having a car again. This picture, shown somewhere in the vicinity of this point, isn't of my car. But I have a gold-colored stationwagon. It gets something like 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. I don't understand why it gets a 50% boost from being driven straight and constant, but I figure that's a good metaphor for the good life in any case. I got it for a song, and it might last me through the year.


Ghostface is rumored to be working on a new album, More Fish. I really like Ghostface, and I really really like this song that is supposed to be on the new album.

01 November 2006

Gawker's Funny

Tough Life or Why Hot-shit Young New writers Suck

Oh yeah I wish I could be like this guy. [Gawker]
Brian, a 26-year-old M.F.A. candidate in fiction, earns a modest living from teaching, assisting professors, and writing magazine articles. His parents pay his tuition as well as a $140-a-month gym membership at Equinox. The rent for his half of a West Village two-bedroom is $1,800 a month, most of it covered by his parents. Each month, Brian pays $125 for cable and Internet access,$59.31 on his Verizon cell-phone bill, and $96.67 for a shared desk at Paragraph, a writing space.
I thought that, like, Starbucks was a "writing space." There're about eight things wrong with this character(ization).

I probably constituted this meaning a little askew, though, through a vaseline-smeared lens of schadenfreude. How I wish I were one of the few, the proud: the (rich) parent-supported. I'm sitting here looking at two ppl, a guy and a girl, eating some sandwiches at the counter. They're dressed in fatigues, and the guy has a little nick on the back of his buzzcut head. And a weak chin. The guy just got up to grab a napkin and I saw his name sewn on his uniform. "Fike." I bet MFA Brian has nice features, and his $1,680/annum gym membership probably keeps him in better shape than military training. His heart, I'm sure, is stronger for not having to fear the fall of a mortarshell, shrapnel and rubble flying, and the immanent loss of limb that should follow. I'd give anything not to have to support myself; I'd join the army too if I didn't think it would fuck me up, which would thereby negate or render useless the whole end behind not having to support myself.