The John Muir Trail

Last week, Tumblin’ Tan and I completed a trek along the beautiful John Muir Trail. How lucky we were to live almost three weeks immersed in the Range of Light, observing its daily cycles, plants and animals, and eons-long geological processes. It was a dream come true. Sharing a trip report, note on bears, and our transcribed trail journal!

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Archives of an undisciplined mind

I just imported a trove of my old posts from an ancient blog I had started while in college in 2007. I called it “magni formica laboris” because I always thought of myself as an ever-toiling ant: hardworking but also simple-minded, following trails laid out ahead of me. The toil was due more to walking in circles than to ambition or work ethic.

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Twelve of the letters from Dr. Francisco Hernandez to King Philip II, and a petition:
  1. May 15, 1571. OK, I’m here in Mexico. Things are going well so far.
  2. May 15, 1571. Like my last letter said, the geographers and painters are doing well by me, but can I ask that you remove some of the legal limitations placed on me in this land, as they will impede my progress. Thanks.
  3. November/December 1571. So far over 800 completely new plants have been catalogued. You will be famous, like Alexander (and like Aristotle). I stay up each night thinking of new ways to serve you. By the way, could you extend my stay here, and pay me more?
  4. April 30, 1572. There is so much medicine here. I’m almost done with my third book (I’m writing in both Latin and Spanish). I’m having problems with the viceroy; if you can talk to him I might be able to finish in 2 years, otherwise it will be 20. I’m planning to travel further now (oh, could you send more money for that?). Also, I haven’t really been practicing medicine here as you told me, even though many people need care, mostly because of legal issues I’m having with administration. I seem to have misplaced some documents…
  5. September 22, 1572. I have made great progress here: three books on plants, and two more on animals. The exotic birds are great here. Unfortunately, I’ve been having some kidney problems. I feel better now, though. I promise I’ll send you some of these books soon.
  6. December 12, 1572. Things are going well, and I’m up to four books on plants now. I’d like to go home, but my duty to you and passion for my work keeps me here, and if possible I’d like an extension of another three or four years. Most of my time is unfortunately squandered between travel, illnesses, and bureaucratic red tape with your viceroy. Also, could you provide me with some native painters here in New Spain before I embark for Peru? They’ll only be more expensive en route or in that country.
  7. March 31, 1573. As I said, four volumes of plants, one of animals. 1,100 plants, 200 animals. I even catalogued the sounds they make. I really like the painters. (I’ve even named two in my will.) I need more herbalists. I’m also having trouble with a geographer; he refuses to go on my commission. Anyway, here’s the method I’ve developed. I don’t catalog a plant until:
    1. I have seen it ten or more times in different seasons
    2. I have smelled and tasted all its parts
    3. I have asked many native doctors individually what they think of the plant, and note their agreements and disagreements.
  8. November 10, 1573. I’m getting ready to ship you a bunch of stuff: six or even seven volumes. The viceroy talked some sense into the geographer and he is marking out the land as we speak.
  9. March 20, 1575. I would send my work to you now, but knowing this is coming to a close, and I am almost sixty and don’t have much time to live, I’d rather continue working until my time is up and send you the completed set. I still need to translate my books into Spanish, then Nahuatl so that the natives may benefit, and then collect all the seeds to send to you. But if you could possibly extend my time here, and send me more money, I can finish my work. My son is with me here, and helps me with everything.
  10. October 22, 1575. A ship is in port that I said I would return on, but please allow me to go on the next one, not this one. Also, I need more money. I think you will enjoy my masterpiece, which just needs some finishing touches. I am also working on a translation of Pliny.
  11. February 10, 1576. I know, I know. I should have left on the last boat. I’m sorry, but I still have work to do. I won’t make it to Peru, and I may not even survive the trip back to Spain. I need to be there to ensure the printing of these books. I have incurred many costs in this enterprise, spending over 20,000 pesos of my own money. What I would need from you is a letter of extension, a permit for departure, and more money.
  12. March 24, 1576. I am sending you sixteen volumes, the last two of which are incomplete. The paintings are out of order and I’ll need to sort everything out before printing. The medicines formed from these plants are already starting to make a difference here.
  13. Petition, early 1577. Many of those who have helped me, including doctors and Indian artists, have died from this latest plague. I achieved much in eight years, and here are my accomplishments:
    1. I catalogued the plants and animals of these lands. 
    2. I saw to the surveying of the land
    3. I wrote on the customs of the people of this land.
    4. I translated Pliny
    5. I described the plants of the islands of Santo Domingo, Cuba, and the Canaries.
    6. I wrote a treatise on sixty natural purgatives, from this land as well as Spain, used experimentally on patients here. [note, this is now lost to us]
    7. I sent fifteen plants in barrels, six of which survived.
    8. I sent sixty different types of seed, one of which is already sprouting, the rest will be planted in the spring.
    9. I’m sending some medicinal drugs I used in experiments in the hospital.
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A way to learn a language

The best way to learn a language is to start with the biggest words and work your way down to the smallest. Try it yourself! Here are all German words with 30 characters.

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Robert Johnson's mysterious death at 27

Johnson died on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27, near Greenwood, Mississippi, of unknown causes. Several differing accounts have described the events preceding his death. Johnson had been playing for a few weeks at a country dance in a town about 15 miles (24 km) from Greenwood. According to one theory, Johnson was murdered by the jealous husband of a woman with whom he had flirted. In an account by the blues musician Sonny Boy Williamson, Johnson had been flirting with a married woman at a dance, who gave him a bottle of whiskey poisoned by her husband. When Johnson took the bottle, Williamson knocked it out of his hand, admonishing him to never drink from a bottle that he had not personally seen opened. Johnson replied, "Don't ever knock a bottle out of my hand." Soon after, he was offered another (poisoned) bottle and accepted it. Johnson is reported to have begun feeling ill the evening after and had to be helped back to his room in the early morning hours. Over the next three days his condition steadily worsened. Witnesses reported that he died in a convulsive state of severe pain. The musicologist Robert "Mack" McCormick claimed to have tracked down the man who murdered Johnson and to have obtained a confession from him in a personal interview, but he declined to reveal the man's name. source:
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Cato the Elder, on Cabbage

It is the cabbage which surpasses all other vegetables. It may be eaten either cooked or raw; if you eat it raw, dip it into vinegar. It promotes digestion marvelously and is an excellent laxative, and the urine is wholesome for everything. If you wish to drink deep at a banquet and to enjoy your dinner, eat as much raw cabbage as you wish, seasoned with vinegar, before dinner, and likewise after dinner eat some half a dozen leaves; it will make you feel as if you had not dined, and you can drink as much as you please.

De Agricultura, 156
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Weinstein on Literature

The great virtue of literature (of art in general) is that it does not truck with abstract data, such as the dates of battles or elections, the numbers of this or that, or the rules or laws of this or that. One could argue that such “data” are rarely real for us, in any experiential sense, and that the business of art is precisely to translate data and information into living circumstance, to turn fact into fiction. It may seem that such a procedure moves away from reality, but the opposite is true. Facts start to live when we see them as part of experience, even fictive experience.
- Arnold Weinstein, in his guidebook to Classics of American Literature
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Time to read "Theory of Knowledge"

I was reading this article which contained the following interesting historical tidbit about the different words that survived in modern English:
Then there are doublets, less dramatic than triplets but fun nevertheless, such as the English/French pairs begin/commence and want/desire. Especially noteworthy here are the culinary transformations: We kill a cowor a pig (English) to yield beef or pork (French). Why? Well, generally in Norman England, English-speaking laborers did the slaughtering for moneyed French speakers at the table. The different ways of referring to meat depended on one's place in the scheme of things, and those class distinctions have carried down to us in discreet form today.
This is a great example of the consistency theory of knowledge (see Lehrer text).
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Reading Steinbeck

I just finished Of Mice and Men. Next is The Pearl, followed by Grapes of Wrath. Then I'll try to get through East of Eden.

“Boileau said that Kings, Gods, and Heroes only were fit subjects for literature. The writer can only write about what he admires. Present day kings aren’t very inspiring, the gods are on a vacation, and about the only heroes left are the scientists and the poor. . . . And since our race admires gallantry, the writer will deal with it where he finds it. He finds it in the struggling poor now.” —Steinbeck in a 1939 radio interview

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Theodore Roosevelt

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
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Excerpts from "The Case for Reparations"

These are all from this which I read over three days last week.
Nearly one-fourth of all white Southerners owned slaves, and upon their backs the economic basis of America—and much of the Atlantic world—was erected.
Do not underestimate the role European powers played in the slave trade.
In 1650, Virginia mandated that “all persons except Negroes” were to carry arms. In 1664, Maryland mandated that any Englishwoman who married a slave must live as a slave of her husband’s master. In 1705, the Virginia assembly passed a law allowing for the dismemberment of unruly slaves—but forbidding masters from whipping “a Christian white servant naked, without an order from a justice of the peace.” In that same law, the colony mandated that “all horses, cattle, and hogs, now belonging, or that hereafter shall belong to any slave” be seized and sold off by the local church, the profits used to support “the poor of the said parish.”
 Virginia. Maryland. More reason to finish The Internal Enemy.
The vending of the black body and the sundering of the black family became an economy unto themselves, estimated to have brought in tens of millions of dollars to antebellum America. In 1860 there were more millionaires per capita in the Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the country.
 I was unaware of that statistic.
“The Jim Crow South,” writes Ira Katznelson, a history and political-science professor at Columbia, “was the one collaborator America’s democracy could not do without.” The marks of that collaboration are all over the New Deal. The omnibus programs passed under the Social Security Act in 1935 were crafted in such a way as to protect the southern way of life. Old-age insurance (Social Security proper) and unemployment insurance excluded farmworkers and domestics—jobs heavily occupied by blacks. When President Roosevelt signed Social Security into law in 1935, 65 percent of African Americans nationally and between 70 and 80 percent in the South were ineligible.
 As late as 1950, the National Association of Real Estate Boards’ code of ethics warned that “a Realtor should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood … any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values.” A 1943 brochure specified that such potential undesirables might include madams, bootleggers, gangsters—and “a colored man of means who was giving his children a college education and thought they were entitled to live among whites.”
 On July 1 and 2 of 1946, a mob of thousands assembled in Chicago’s Park Manor neighborhood, hoping to eject a black doctor who’d recently moved in. The mob pelted the house with rocks and set the garage on fire. The doctor moved away.
 Similar suits pushed against corporations such as Aetna (which insured slaves) and Lehman Brothers (whose co-founding partner owned them) also have thus far failed. These results are dispiriting, but the crime with which reparations activists charge the country implicates more than just a few towns or corporations. The crime indicts the American people themselves, at every level, and in nearly every configuration. A crime that implicates the entire American people deserves its hearing in the legislative body that represents them.
 An America that asks what it owes its most vulnerable citizens is improved and humane. An America that looks away is ignoring not just the sins of the past but the sins of the present and the certain sins of the future. More important than any single check cut to any African American, the payment of reparations would represent America’s maturation out of the childhood myth of its innocence into a wisdom worthy of its founders.
 In 2011, Bank of America agreed to pay $355 million to settle charges of discrimination against its Countrywide unit. The following year, Wells Fargo settled its discrimination suit for more than $175 million. But the damage had been done. In 2009, half the properties in Baltimore whose owners had been granted loans by Wells Fargo between 2005 and 2008 were vacant; 71 percent of these properties were in predominantly black neighborhoods.
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One from Ta-Nehisi Coates

Looking forward to reading his new book. David Brooks was not so pleased with it. I think one commenter (Timmy) was onto something when s/he said that Coates's book could not "penetrate David's heavily fortified worldview":
For Brooks, it all comes down to “individual choices.” It is what permits Brooks to willfully ignore Coates’ revelations of the structural problems of violence, poverty, and prejudice that plague the nation. 
I don't necessarily agree with Timmy on this as I think Brooks's points are worth more consideration than that, but I was interested to think that so many of today's polemics are subsumed under the problem of free will. From what I've read of Brooks, he certainly is concerned more than most about "individual choices", which is a line of argument I'm used to hearing conservatives make. Is he then held to a firm belief in free will, whereas those concerned more with the effects of "structural" forces are held to a theory of determinism?

I cannot shake the feeling that underlying this debate is a more abstract philosophical one going back to the Stoics.

But anyway, for now, on Ulysses S. Grant:

Here is an excerpt from Grant's writing that Coates has quoted.
There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the other only lacking one. But when the institution became profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed; and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do with the justification of slavery. 
And also.
Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who were as earnest--to use a mild term--in the cause of secession as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy was scattered in like manner.
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Nietzsche's Parable of the Madman ("God is dead")

THE MADMAN----Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"---As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?---Thus they yelled and laughed
The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you.We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us---for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."
Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars---and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.] 
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Roderick on Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morality

From the end of Lecture 4 from his series on Nietzsche:

I will bring up a few things from the Genealogy again, but by the time we have reached this moment of The Death of God, we already have a strange change in the discourse of Nietzsche’s text. Because now the challenge will be for me to present what I have only so far indicated. And it’s indicated in the parable. What new games, new festivals, can human beings – insofar there is any life that remains – what can be invented, now? To make up for what has already been destroyed.
And that’s the challenge we’ll have in the next classes; is to see first what does Nietzsche offer us by way of any new myths like that, and more importantly, what myths could we construct ourselves; what games, what holy festivals, what interesting books, fascinating arguments, and new ways to live? Other than the pathetic tragic, stupid, banal array of ordinary, everyday, bourgeois stinking life. Surely we can do better than that. Surely.
So that’s the project that we will head out on, you know. Because we don’t want to end with the thought that always seems to me ghastly – and especially after reading Nietzsche – it’s that to imagine someone looking at your tombstone years from now, and it says: “Bill O’Reilly”, gives the dates – its always comforting, I visit graveyards, I like it – “Sold tyres” [crowd laughter]. Now I don’t know if you sell tyres, and I know people driven to that and worse, but still, that would be “Great salesman. Wonderful friend. Nice chum”.
To experience that horror, just that horror, may require some effort from us but I want us to experience it so that we might think of some new games, some new ways to live.
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From Song of Myself

With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums,
I play not marches for accepted victors only, I play marches for conquer'd and slain persons.
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John Adams caught on a bad day

Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.
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Nietzsche on truth

A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.

On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral [or Extra-moral] Sense
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A little-known fact about General Washington

Although Pennsylvania had begun an abolition of slavery in 1780, it permitted slaveholders from other states to hold slaves in the state for up to six months. After that time, slaves would gain their freedom. Members of Congress were exempt from Pennsylvania's Gradual Abolition Act, but not officers of the executive and judicial branches. Washington and other slaveholders rotated their slaves out of the state to prevent the slaves from establishing the 6-month residency needed to qualify for manumission. His slave Oney Judge escaped from captivity in Philadelphia, and he gradually replaced most of his slaves in Philadelphia with indentured servants who were German immigrants.

"This being the case, the Attorney General conceived, that after six months residence, your slaves would be upon no better footing than his. But he observed, that if, before the expiration of six months, they could, upon any pretense whatever, be carried or sent out of the State, but for a single day, a new era would commence on their return, from whence the six months must be dated for it requires an entire six months for them to claim that right."

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A great double-standard from Napoleon's civil code

  1. The husband may demand a divorce on the ground of his wife's adultery.

  2. The wife may demand divorce on the ground of adultery in her husband, when he shall have brought his concubine into their common residence.
(source: French Civil Code, Book I. Title VI. Chapter I. "Of the Causes of Divorce".
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William Doyle on the French Revolution

"This great drama [the French Revolution] transformed the whole meaning of political change, and the contemporary world would be inconceivable if it had not happened. . . . In other words it transformed men's outlook. The writers of the Enlightenment, so revered by the intelligentsia who made the Revolution, had always believed it could be done if men dared to seize control of their own destiny. The men of 1789 did so, in a rare moment of courage, altruism, and idealism which took away the breath of educated Europe. What they failed to see, as their inspirers had not foreseen, was that reason and good intentions were not enough by themselves to transform the lot of their fellow men. Mistakes would be made when the accumulated experience of generations was pushed aside as so much routine, prejudice, fanaticism, and superstition. The generation forced to live through the upheavals of the next twenty-six years paid the price. Already by 1802 a million French citizens lay dead; a million more would perish under Napoleon, and untold more abroad. How many millions more still had their lives ruined? Inspiring and ennobling, the prospect of the French Revolution is also moving and appalling: in every sense a tragedy."
            William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution 1989
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Coetzee's Disgrace

Lucy calls into doubt the value of all of the specifically European modes of artistic or linguistic expression that are the touchstones not only of David's career, but his worldview: she jokes with him that he must think her activities - running a boarding kennel and growing produce for a farmers' market - worthless, that he must think she 'ought to be painting still lives' or learning Russian (p. 74). Where David stresses the apparent rights of individual desire, or self-expression, of a concern with individual consciousness and its apprehension of the sublime, Lucy emphasizes individual responsibility and responsibility to others - including non-human others 

(p 28 of Andrew Van Der Vlies' J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace, Continuum 2010)
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Some thoughts

Reading Patterns of World History: Since 1750. On p789 it is asked:
Why did the industrial movement begin in Britain? Why not, say, in China in the Song or Ming period? Why in the eighteenth century? Why in such areas as textiles, iron, mining, and transport?"
The sort of answer that does not seem acceptable to a historian, but which I nonetheless think should hold some weight, is that it comes down to the contributions of key players in the industrial period. I am certainly interested in pursuing this question by looking at how the stage was set. How, so many factors came together in just the right proportion in order to create a climate where the ideas of such key players were fostered instead of neglected. But I cannot draw my attention away from those key players and the way they lived. Perhaps my early foray with the history of science has led me to this, because there it seems very plausible indeed that breakthroughs in science, or natural philosophy as it was called at the time, was almost like a torch being handed from player to player: from Copernicus to Galileo, from Maxwell to Einstein, etc.

To this end it would be useful to read the biographies of these key players, much in the way that Einstein's indebtedness to Maxwell can be gleaned from a close study of his life.

A good place to start would be learning more about James Watt and his endeavors to perfect the steam engine around 1765.
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Reflection on Literature and Kafka

Assuming the common starting point of solipsism that we all share, and hopefully lose at some point during childhood or adolescence, we can all now ask ourselves the question: at what point am I happy with my understanding of my relationships with others? To which we might respond: it's a never-ending battle. It's even what defines life, a constant struggle to live among other minds. Now if it's not a never-ending battle, perhaps it is literature that will take us to the end. Certainly we'd like to think we could do it without literature, but I think it's safe to say that literature would facilitate an understanding of relationship. But then there remains a question: how do we bridge the gap between what we learn from the text of the literature--what we observe from the safe vantage point as reader--and our own lives? Weinstein mentioned in one of his discussions that (I paraphrase) it's easier to judge characters in a novel than the characters in our own lives. I agree, and think it upsets the direct transaction between literature and real relationships. It says that the process is not as simple as (1) we read a text, (2) we analyze and draw inferences from the text, and (3) we apply these inferences back to our everyday lives.
To read Kafka's stories is to step into Kafka's world. In this world there is a "law of metamorphosis." There is also an accentuated father/son relationship. How are we to then step out of that world and back into our own? Another writer may have equal and opposite laws and models from the ones drawn from Kafka's world. How could they be reconciled? Obviously there is no great arbiter of truth. In the end I find myself feeling that the plight of literature is a difficult one, unless its end is to gratify our presupposed notions (or simply to bring our simian minds pleasure). Seeing from a different viewpoint, or "becoming the Other," might be impossible. It is against Darwin's Nature, which would only require us to become the Other insofar as it benefits our own reproductive fitness. Lastly in this hodgepodge of sentiments, I would like to ponder if literature is indeed very much in tune with Darwin's Nature, from the perspective of the writer. Weinstein mentioned that in writing these stories about fathers and sons where the father overpowers the son, Kafka weilds literature as a sort of weapon against his own father. How are we then to learn about the Other, and about our relationships, from a weapon? I have asked many questions but have few answers. These questions hopefully combine to show that I have doubts about the plight of literature, doubts that come from my reluctance to step into Kafka's world and call it my own.
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Hamlet the Moral Subjectivist

Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true.
Let me question more in particular: what have you,
my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?
Prison, my lord!
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me
it is a prison.

Compare this to Protagoras' statement that each person is a scale, and to Sextus Empiricus' claim about rain and cold.
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Hamlet's noble advice

After the First Player's speech in Act 2 of Hamlet, one of my favorite speeches in Shakespeare (the performance by Charlton Heston is phenomenal), an exchange between Hamlet and Polonius reveals an interesting bit of Hamlet's moral fiber:

'Tis well: I'll have thee speak out the rest soon.
Good my lord, will you see the players well
bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time: after your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
God's bodykins, man, much better: use every man
after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?
Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less
they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.
Take them in.

I'm convinced that Shakespeare's lines in total serve as a sort of treasure trove of 16th-century English culture. Hoping to study them closer in the ensuing months.
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Locke in 1669 on the method of medicine

Recently I've been reading Locke's biography by Roger Woolhouse. On p. 94 the discussion is on his manuscript de Arte medica:

"He that thinks he came to be skilled in diseases by studying the doctrine of the humours, that the notions of obstructions and putrefaction assist him in the cure of fevers, or that by the acquaintance he has with sulphur and mercury he was led into this useful discovery that what medicines and regimen as certainly kill in the latter end of some fevers as they cure in others, may as rationally believe that his cook owes his skill in roasting and boiling to his study of the elements, and that his speculations about fire and water have taught him that the same seething liquor that boils the egg hard makes the hen tender." - Locke 1669: 223, 225
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from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, on a meeting with Clinton

When we asked him what he was reading, he sighed and mentioned a book on the economic wars of the future, author and title unknown to me.

"Better to read 'Don Quixote,'" I said to him. "Everything's in there." Now, the 'Quixote' is a book that is not read nearly as much as is claimed, although very few will admit to not having read it. With two or three quotes, Clinton showed that he knew it very well indeed. Responding, he asked us what our favorite books were. Styron said his was "Huckleberry Finn."

I would have said "Oedipus Rex," which has been my bed table book for the last 20 years, but I named "The Count of Monte Cristo," mainly for reasons of technique, which I had some trouble explaining.

Clinton said his was the "Meditations of Marcus Aurelius," and Carlos Fuentes stuck loyally to "Absalom, Absalom," Faulkner's stellar novel, no question, although others would choose "Light in August" for purely personal reasons. Clinton, in homage to Faulkner, got to his feet and, pacing around the table, recited from memory Benji's monologue, the most thrilling passage, and perhaps the most hermetic, from "The Sound and the Fury."

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Some things to investigate

I've been interested in the appeasement policy of the British right before WWII.  It should be worth some time, given what the wikipedia writers had to say about it:
The term is most often applied to the foreign policy of the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain towards Nazi Germany between 1937 and 1939. His policies of avoiding war with Germany have been the subject of intense debate for seventy years among academics, politicians and diplomats. The historians' assessments have ranged from condemnation for allowing Hitler to grow too strong, to the judgement that he had no alternative and acted in Britain's best interests. At the time, these concessions were widely seen as positive, and the Munich Pact among Germany, Britain, France and Italy prompted Chamberlain to announce that he had secured "peace for our time".[3]
The onus, which I felt placed on me upon reading the bolded text, to get off my ass and start studying reminds me of something I read on Alain Badiou's wiki that got me interested (though for a short time) in starting to read his stuff:
Slavoj Žižek has written of Badiou that he is "a figure like Plato or Hegel walk[ing] here among us"
[Note: that quote was removed from his wiki site on 11 September 2012, commenting "(removing outrageous example of aggrandizement from lead)"]
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Carl Sagan on the best stance regarding the future

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
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Reading the beginning of Coetzee's The Lives of Animals

"We-even in Australia-belong to a civilization deeply rooted in Greek and Judeo-Christian religious thought.  We may not, all of us, believe in pollution, we may not believe in sin, but we do believe in their psychic correlates.  We accept without question that the psyche (or soul) touched with guilty knowledge cannot be well. We do not accept that people with crimes on their conscience can be healthy and happy. We look (or used to look) askance at Germans of a certain generation because they are, in a sense, polluted; in the very signs of their normality (their healthy appetites, their hearty laughter) we see proof of how deeply seated pollution is in them" - p. 21

"I want to find a way of speaking to fellow human beings that will be cool rather than heated, philosophical rather than polemical, that will bring enlightenment rather than seeking to divide us into the righteous and the sinners, the saved and the damned, the sheep and the goats." - p. 22
(on the same point:) "I could fall back on that language, as I have said, in the unoriginal, secondhand manner which is the best I can manage.  I could tell you, for instance, what I think of Saint Thomas's argument that, because man alone is made in the image of God and partakes in the being of God, how we treat animals is of no importance except insofar as being cruel to animals may accustom us to being cruel to men" p. 22 (cf. Summa 3.2.112, quoted in Animal Rights and Human Obligations, ed. Tom Regan and Peter Singer, 1976 p. 56-59)

"Even Immanuel Kant, of whom I would have expected better..."
"Both reason and seven decades of life experience tell me that reason is neither the being of the universe nor the being of God.  On the contrary, reason looks to me suspiciously like the being of human thought; worse than that, like the being of one tendency in human thought. Reason is the being of a certain spectrum of human thinking. And if this is so, if that is what I believe, then why should I bow to reason this afternoon and content myself with embroidering on the discourse of the old philosophers?" p. 23

The relating of factory farms to Treblinka, and Ramanujan to Red Peter, is insane and biting.  Though controversial, I can't help but agree.

"Yet, although I see that the best way to win acceptance from this learned gathering would be for me to join myself, like a tributary stream running into a great river, to the great Western discourse of man versus beast, of reason versus unreason, something in me resists, foreseeing in that step the concession of the entire battle" - p. 25

"In the olden days the voice of man, raised in reason, was confronted by the roar of the lion, the bellow of the bull.  Man went to war with the lion and the bull, and after many generations won that war definitively.  Today these creatures have no more power. Animals have only their silence left with which to confront us. Generation after generation, heroically, our captives refuse to speak to us. All save Red Peter, all save the great apes." - p.25

footnote: "cf. Gary L. Francione: 'However intelligent chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans are, there is no evidence that they possess the ability to commit crimes, and in this sense, they are to be treated as children or mental incompetents.' 'Personhood, Property and Legal Competence' in Cavalieri and Singer, Great Ape Project, 256."

Compare that incredible footnote with the following:
"Sultan knows: Now one is suppose to think. That is what the bananas up there are about. The bananas are there to make one think, to spur one to the limits of one's thinking. But what must one think? One thinks: Why is he starving me? One thinks: What have I done? Why has he stpoped liking me? One thinks: Why does he not want these crates any more? But none of these is the right thought. Even a more complicated thought - for instance: What is wrong with him, what misconception does he have of me, that leads him to believe it is easier for me to reach a banana hanging from a wire than to pick up a banana from the floor?--is wrong.  The right thought to think is: How does one use the crates to reach the bananas?" - p.28

"..leads him to ask questions about the justice of the universe and the place of this penal colony in it, a carefully plotted psychological regimen conducts him away from ethics and metaphysics toward the humbler reaches of practical reason" -p.29
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The wisdom of Jefferson

How fitting.  Reposted from

Quotations on Idleness

1787 March 21. (to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "Of all the cankers of human happiness, none corrodes it with so silent, yet so baneful a tooth, as indolence. Body and mind both unemployed, our being becomes a burthen and every object about us loathsome, even the dearest, Idleness begets ennui, ennui the hypochondria, and that a diseased body. No laborious person was ever hysterical. Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, chearfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends. It is while we are young that the habit of industry is formed. If not then, it never is afterwards. The fortune of our lives therefore depends on employing well the short period of youth. If at any moment, my dear, you catch yourself in idleness, start from it as you would from a precipice of a gulph. You are not to consider yourself unemployed while taking exercise."

1787 May 21. (to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "A mind always employed is always happy...The idle are the only wretched. In a world which furnishes so many emploiments which are useful, and so many which are amusing, it is our own fault if we we ever know what ennui is, or if we are ever driven to the miserable resource of gaming, which corrupts our disposition, and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind."

1790 April 26. (to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I think both you and Mr. Randolph will suffer ennui at Richmond. Interesting occupations are essential to happiness: indeed the whole art of being happy consists in the art of finding emploiment. I know none so interesting, and which croud upon us so much, as those of a domestic nature."

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Iñarritu's movies are more realistic than they seem...

An incident in Central California last week was so bizarre that the headlines it generated wouldn't be out of place in a supermarket tabloid next to tales of alien babies and Elvis sightings: "Man Killed by Rooster." More specifically, one of the feathered contestants in an illegal cockfight in Tulare County, armed with a blade attached to its leg, apparently stabbed 35-year-old Jose Luis Ochoa in the calf, and Ochoa was declared dead of "sharp force injury" two hours later.

This isn't the first time someone has died in what is supposed to be blood sport for birds; last summer in Merced, two men got into an argument over a $10 bet, one pulled out a gun and killed the other, and the victim's brother and another man allegedly beat the shooter to death. But aside from the question of whether cockfights are humane for humans, they raise serious concerns about whether the state of California is doing enough to discourage them.
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The doctoral dissertation (1799) of Gauss
contained a proof of the ”fundamental theorem
of algebra” which states that every complex
non-constant polynomial in one variable has at
least one complex root. In 1807 Gauss became
a professor at Gottingen University. When
planetoid Ceres was discovered on January 1st,
1801, Gauss was able to compute its orbit from
only a few observations. On December 31st of
the same year, Ceres showed up again, exactly
where Gauss had predicted. Gauss had used
”least-squares” prediction which is based on the
assumption that the observation errors were
normally distributed. Gauss invented modular
arithmetic in 1801, and in 1831 introduced the
term ”complex number”. Together with
Wilhelm Weber, Gauss constructed the
electromagnetic telegraph in 1834.

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Etymological Tidbits

From a list I've been compiling little by little for the past 4 years (mostly from two different Word of the Day sources: and mirriam-webster online)

Chatoyant's poetic origin lies in the French chatoyer, "to gleam like a cat's eyes," from the French chat, "cat."
Before the standardization of writing from left to right, ancient Greek inscribers once used a style called "boustrophedon," a word meaning literally "turning like oxen in plowing." When they came to the end of a line, the ancient Greeks simply started the next line immediately below the last letter, writing the letters and words in the opposite direction, and thus following the analogy of oxen plowing left to right, then right to left. "Reverse boustrophedon" writing has also been found in which the inscribers turned the document 180 degrees before starting a new line so that the words are always read left to right with every half turn. The word "boustrophedon" itself is formed from the Greek word for the ox or cow, "bous," and the verb "strephein," which means "to turn."

profligate L. "overthrown, broken down in character",

hoary OE "white/gray, (old and venerable) as if by frost cover"

spurn ON sporna "to kick"

callow bef. 1000; ME, OE calu bald; c. D kaal, G kahl bald, OCS golŭ bare

maudlin - ORIGIN late Middle English (as a noun denoting Mary Magdalen): from Old French Madeleine, from ecclesiastical Latin Magdalena (see magdalene ). The sense of the adjective derives from allusion to pictures of Mary Magdalen weeping.

jubilee - ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French jubile, from late Latin jubilaeus (annus) ‘(year) of jubilee,’ based on Hebrew yō b ēl, originally ‘ram's-horn trumpet,’ with which the jubilee year was proclaimed.

some call the Adam's apple the Adam's walnut, la nuez de Adán
some speakers say to go crazy is rayar la papa, scratch the potato
Popinjay is from Middle English papejay, popingay, meaning "parrot," from Old French papegai, deriving ultimately from Arabic babagha.

esemplastic - "Unusual and new-coined words are, doubtless, an evil; but vagueness, confusion, and imperfect conveyance of our thoughts, are a far greater," wrote English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in Biographia Literaria, 1817. True to form, in that same work, he assembled "esemplastic" by melding the Greek phrase "es hen," meaning "into one," with "plastic" to fulfill his need for a word that accurately described the imagination's ability to shape disparate experiences into a unified whole (e.g., the poet's imaginative ability to communicate a variety of images, sensations, emotions, and experiences in the unifying framework of a poem). The verb "intensify" was another word that Coleridge was compelled to mint while writing Biographia. Coinages found in his other writings include "clerisy" and "psychosomatic," among others.

kiosk - ORIGIN early 17th cent.(in the sense [pavilion] ): from French kiosque, from Turkish şk ‘pavilion,’ from Persian kuš

bikini - ORIGIN 1940s: named after Bikini , where an atomic bomb was exploded in 1946 (because of the supposed [explosive] effect created by the garment

"Saxicolous." It's not a word that exactly rolls off the tongue, but it's a useful designation for botanists. The word is from Latin, naturally. "Saxum" is Latin for "rock," and "colous" (meaning "living or growing in or on") traces back to Latin "-cola" meaning "inhabitant." Other "colous" offspring include "arenicolous" ("living, burrowing, or growing in sand"), "cavernicolous" ("inhabiting caves"), and "nidicolous" ("living in a nest" or "sharing the nest of another kind of animal"). All of these words were coined in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe the flora and fauna of our world.

sycophant - derives from Greek sukophantes, "an accuser (especially a false accuser) or rogue," from sukon, "fig" + phantes, "one who shows," from phainein, "to show."

school - ORIGIN Old English scōl, scolu, via Latin from Greek skholē ‘leisure, philosophy, place where lectures are given,’ reinforced in Middle English by Old French escole. cf. Aristotle on genesis of episteme

delta - ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: originally specifically as the Delta (of the Nile River), from the shape of the Greek letter (see delta 1 ).

parchment - ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French parchemin, from a blend of late Latin pergamina ‘writing material from Pergamum’ and Parthica pellis ‘Parthian skin’ (a kind of scarlet leather).

pukka - "Pukka" tends to evoke the height of 18th- and 19th-century British imperialism in India, and, indeed, it was first used in English at the 1775 trial of Maha Rajah Nundocomar, who was accused of forgery and tried by a British court in Bengal. The word is borrowed from Hindi and Urdu "pakkā," which means "solid." The English speakers who borrowed it applied the "sound and reliable" sense of "solid" and thus the word came to mean "genuine." As the British Raj waned, "pukka" was occasionally appended to "sahib" (an Anglo-Indian word for a European of some social or official status). That expression is sometimes used as a compliment for an elegant and refined gentleman, but it can also imply that someone is overbearing and pretentious. These days, "pukka" is also used as a British slang word meaning "excellent" or "cool."

tenderloin - ORIGIN: late 19th cent.: originally a term applied to a district of New York, seen as a ‘choice’ assignment by police because of the bribes offered to them to turn a blind eye

Farrago comes from the Latin farrago, "a mixed fodder for cattle," hence "a medley, a hodgepodge," from far, a sort of grain.

Laodicean - ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from Latin Laodicea in Asia Minor, with reference to the early Christians there (Rev. 3:16), + -an

sciolist -ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from late Latin sciolus (diminutive of Latin scius ‘knowing,’ from scire ‘know’ ) + -ist .

The first jacquerie was an insurrection of peasants against the nobility in northeastern France in 1358, so-named from the nobles' habit of referring contemptuously to any peasant as "Jacques," or "Jacques Bonhomme." It took some time — 150 years — for the name of the first jacquerie to become a generalized term for other revolts. The term is also occasionally used to refer to the peasant class, as when Madame Defarge in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities tells her husband to "consider the faces of all the world that we know, consider the rage and discontent to which the Jacquerie addresses itself with more and more of certainty every hour."

defile - The "defile" that means "to contaminate," a homograph of today's Word of the Day, dates back to the 14th century and is derived from the Old French verb "defouler," meaning "to trample on" or "mistreat." Today's word, on the other hand, arrived in English in the early 18th century. It is also from French, but is derived from the verb "défiler," formed by combining "de-" with "filer" ("to move in a column"). "Défiler" is also the source of the English noun "defile," which means "narrow passage or gorge."

canicular - The Latin word "canicula," meaning "small dog," is the diminutive form of "canis," source of the English word "canine." "Canicula" is also the Latin name for Sirius, the star that represents the hound of Orion in the constellation named for that hunter from Roman and Greek mythology. Because the first visible rising of Sirius occurs during the summer, the hot sultry days that occur from early July to early September came to be associated with the Dog Star. The Greeks called this time of year "hemerai kynades," which the Romans translated into Latin as "dies caniculares," or as we know them in English, "the dog days."

"Tantivy" is also a noun meaning "a rapid gallop" or "an impetuous rush." Although its precise origin isn't known, one theory has it that "tantivy" represents the sound of a galloping horse's hooves. The noun does double duty as a word meaning "the blare of a trumpet or horn." The second use probably evolved from confusion with "tantara," a word for the sound of a trumpet that came about as an imitation of that sound. Both "tantivy" and "tantara" were used during foxhunts; in the heat of the chase people may have jumbled the two.

To the Romans, the shameless were "without forehead," at least figuratively. "Effrontery" derives from Latin "effrons," a word that combines the prefix "ex-" (meaning "out" or "without") and "frons" (meaning "forehead" or "brow"). The Romans never used "effrons" literally to mean "without forehead," and theorists aren't in full agreement about the connection between the modern meaning of "effrontery" and the literal senses of its roots. Some explain that "frons" can also refer to the capacity for blushing, so a person without "frons" would be "unblushing" or "shameless." Others theorize that since the Romans believed that the brow was the seat of a person's modesty, being without a brow meant being "immodest," or again, "shameless."
Megrim is from Middle English migrem, from Middle French migraine, modification of Late Latin hemicrania, "pain in one side of the head," from Greek hemikrania, from hemi-, "half" + kranion, "skull."

Although the eclogue (a poem in which shepherds converse) first appeared in the Idylls of the Greek poet Theocritus, it was the 10 Eclogues (or Bucolics) of the Roman poet Virgil that gave us the word "eclogue." (The Latin title "Eclogae" literally meant "selections.") The eclogue was popular in the Renaissance and through the 17th century, when less formal eclogues were written. As our example sentence suggests, the eclogue traditionally depicted rural life as free from the complexity and corruption of more citified realms. The poets of the Romantic period rebelled against the artificiality of the older pastoral, and the eclogue fell out of favor. In more modern times, though, the term "eclogue" has been applied to pastoral poems involving the conversations of people other than shepherds, often with heavy doses of irony.
Sybarite is derived from Greek Sybarites, from Sybaris, an ancient Greek city noted for the luxurious, pleasure-seeking habits of many of its inhabitants.

fingere - L. to shape ==> feign, figure, effigy, figment, fiction

"Recrudescence" derives from the Latin verb "recrudescere," meaning "to become raw again” (used, for example, of wounds). Ultimately, it can be traced back to the Latin word for "raw," which is "crudus."
diatribe - by 1581, from Latin diatriba "learned discussion," from Greek diatribe "discourse, study," literally "a wearing away (of time)," from dia- "away" + tribein "to wear, rub."
blarney - The village of Blarney in County Cork, Ireland, is home to Blarney Castle, and in the southern wall of that edifice lies the famous Blarney Stone. Legend has it that anyone who kisses the Blarney Stone will gain the gift of skillful flattery, but that gift must be attained at the price of some limber maneuvering — you have to lie down and hang your head over a precipice to reach and kiss the stone. One story claims the word “blarney” gained popularity as a word for “flattery” after Queen Elizabeth I of England used it to describe the flowery (but apparently less than honest) cajolery of McCarthy Mor, who was then the lord of Blarney Castle.
hermetic - by 1663, "completely sealed," also (1637) "dealing with occult science or alchemy," from Latin hermeticus, from Greek Hermes, god of science and art, among other things, identified by Neoplatonists, mystics, and alchemists with the Egyptian god Thoth as Hermes Trismegistos "Thrice-Great Hermes," who supposedly invented the process of making a glass tube airtight (a process in alchemy) using a secret seal.
crepuscular - The early Romans had two words for "twilight." "Crepusculum" was favored by Roman writers for the half-light of evening, just after the sun sets; it is a diminutive formation based on their word for "dusky," which is "creper." "Diluculum" was reserved for morning twilight, just before the sun rises — it is related to "lucidus," meaning "bright." We didn't embrace either of these Latin nouns as substitutes for our Middle English "twilight," but we did form the adjective "crepuscular" in the 17th century. At first, it only meant "dim" or "indistinct," often used in a figurative sense. In the 1820s, we added its special zoological sense, describing animals that are most active at twilight.
gadarene - Gadara, in Biblical times, was a steep hill town just southeast of the Sea of Galilee. In the account given in the book of Matthew (8:28), Jesus, on a visit there, exorcised the demons from two possessed people and sent the demons into some nearby swine. The possessed swine ran in a mad dash down a steep bank into the Sea and drowned. “Gadarene,” an adjective used to describe a headlong rush (and often capitalized in recognition of its origin), made its first known plunge into our lexicon in the 1920s. The swine sometimes make an appearance as well, as when an imprudently hasty act is compared to “the rush of the Gadarene swine.”
maverick - ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from the name of Samuel A. Maverick (1803–70), a Texas engineer and rancher who did not brand his cattle.

comstockery - ORIGIN named for Anthony Comstock (1844–1915), U.S. author and reformer.

A malapropism is so called after Mrs. Malaprop, a character noted for her amusing misuse of words in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy The Rivals.

Bowdlerize - ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from the name of Dr. Thomas Bowdler (1754–1825), who published an expurgated edition of Shakespeare in 1818
toady - c 1690 for noun, possibly shortened from toad-eater "fawning flatterer," originally referring to the assistant of a charlatan, who ate a toad (believed to be poisonous) to enable his master to display his skill in expelling the poison. The verb is recorded from 1827.
syncretism - ORIGIN early 17th cent.: from modern Latin syncretismus, from Greek sunkrētismos, from sunkrētizein ‘unite against a third party,’ from sun- ‘together’ + krēs ‘Cretan’ (originally with reference to ancient Cretan communities).

Ancient mariners noted that all the stars in the heavens seem to revolve around a particular star, and they relied on it to guide their navigation. The constellation that this bright star appears in is known to English speakers today as Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper, but the Ancient Greeks called it Kynosoura, a term that comes from a phrase meaning "dog's tail." "Kynosoura" passed into Latin and Middle French, becoming "cynosure." When English speakers adopted the term in the mid-16th century, they used it as a name for the constellation and the star (which is also known as the North Star) and also to identify a guide of any kind. By the early 17th century, "cynosure" was also being used figuratively for anything or anyone that, like the North Star, was the focus of attention or observation.
talisman - by 1599, from French talisman, in part via Arabic tilsam (pl. tilsaman), a Greek loan-word; in part directly from Byzantine Greek telesma "talisman, religious rite, payment," earlier "consecration, ceremony," originally "completion," from telein "perform (religious rites), pay (tax), fulfill," from telos "completion, end, tax."

"Espiègle" is a corruption of "Ulespiegle," the French name for Till Eulenspiegel, a peasant prankster of German folklore. Tales of Eulenspiegel's merry pranks against well-to-do townsmen, clergy, and nobility were first translated into French in 1532 and into English around 1560. In the 19th century, Sir Walter Scott introduced his readers to the adjective "espiègle" and the related noun "espièglerie" (a word for "roguishness" or "playfulness") in his Waverley novels. Other 19th century authors followed suit, and even today these words are most likely to be encountered in literature.

The history of "maudlin" owes as much to the Bible as to the barroom. The biblical Mary Magdalene is often (though some say mistakenly) identified with the weeping sinner who washed Jesus' feet with her tears to repent for her sins. This association led to the frequent depiction of Mary Magdalene as a weeping penitent, and by the 16th century even the name "Magdalene" suggested teary emotion to many English speakers. It was then that "maudlin," an alteration of "Magdalene," appeared in the English phrase "maudlin drunk," which, as one Englishman explained in 1592, described a tearful drunken state whereby "a fellow will weepe for kindnes in the midst of his Ale and kisse you."

"Berserk" comes from Old Norse "berserkr," which combines "ber-" ("bear") and "serkr" ("shirt"). According to Norse legend, "berserkrs" were warriors who wore bearskin coverings and worked themselves into such frenzies during combat that they became immune to the effects of steel and fire.

The origin of the term Hobson's choice is said to be in the name of one Thomas Hobson (ca. 1544-1631), at Cambridge, England, who kept a livery stable and required every customer to take either the horse nearest the stable door or none at all.
Egregious derives from Latin egregius, separated or chosen from the herd, from e-, ex-, out of, from + grex, greg-, herd, flock. Egregious was formerly used with words importing a good quality (that which was distinguished "from the herd" because of excellence), but now it is joined with words having a bad sense. It is related to congregate (to "flock together," from con-, together, with + gregare, to assemble, from grex); segregate (from segregare, to separate from the herd, from se-, apart + gregare); and gregarious (from gregarius, belonging to a flock).

Cajole derives from Early Modern French cajoler, originally, "to chatter like a bird in a cage, to sing; hence, to amuse with idle talk, to flatter," from Old French gaiole, jaiole, "a cage," from Medieval Latin caveola, "a small cage," from Latin cavea, "an enclosure, a den for animals, a bird cage," from cavus, "hollow." It is related to cave, cage and jail (British gaol).

The word serendipity was formed by English author Horace Walpole (1717-1797) from Serendip (also Serendib), an old name for Sri Lanka, in reference to a Persian tale, The Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes "discovered, quite unexpectedly, great and wonderful good in the most unlikely of situations, places and people."

Nefarious - 1595–1605; < Latin nefārius wicked, vile, equivalent to nefās offense against divine or moral law ( ne- negative prefix + fās law, right) + -ius -ious, with intervocalic s > r

Roue comes from French, from the past participle of rouer, "to break upon the wheel" (from the feeling that a roue deserves such a punishment), ultimately from Latin rota, "wheel."
alternative: 1790–1800; < French, noun use of past participle of rouer to break on the wheel (derivative of roue wheelLatin rota ); name first applied to the profligate companions of the Duc d'Orléans (c1720)

Craft - ORIGIN Old English cræft [strength, skill,] of Germanic origin; related to Dutch kracht, German Kraft, and Swedish kraft ‘strength’ (the change of sense to [skill] occurring only in English). Sense 2 , originally in the expression small craft [small trading vessels or lighters,] may be elliptical, referring to vessels requiring a small amount of “craft” or skill to handle, as opposed to large oceangoing ships.

Truckle is from truckle in truckle bed (a low bed on wheels that may be pushed under another bed; also called a trundle bed), in reference to the fact that the truckle bed on which the pupil slept was rolled under the large bed of the master. The ultimate source of the word is Greek trokhos, "a wheel."

Gelid comes from Latin gelidus, from gelu, "frost, cold."

Calvary ORIGIN from late Latin calvaria ‘skull,’ translation of Greek golgotha ‘place of a skull’ which is likewise from an Aramaic form of Hebrew gulgoleth ‘skull’ (see Matt. 27:33)

Kismet (means destiny or fate) comes (via Turkish) from Arabic qismah, "portion, lot."

Rodomontade comes from Italian rodomontada, from Rodomonte, a great yet boastful warrior king in Italian epics of the late 15th - early 16th centuries. At root the name means "roller-away of mountains," from the Italian dialect rodare, "to roll away" (from Latin rota, "wheel") + Italian monte, "mountain" (from Latin mons).

vanilla ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Spanish vainilla ‘pod,’ diminutive of vaina ‘sheath, pod,’ from Latin vagina ‘sheath.’ ( See vagina.) The spelling change was due to association with French vanille.

Aplomb is from the French word meaning "perpendicularity, equilibrium, steadiness, assurance," from the Old French phrase a plomb, from a, "according to" (from Latin ad) + plomb, "lead weight" (from Latin plumbum, "lead").

weird - noun archaic chiefly Scottish
a person's destiny. cf kismet

ignis fatuus - ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: modern Latin, literally ‘foolish fire’ (because of its erratic movement).

threnody - ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Greek thrēnōidia, from thrēnos ‘wailing’ + ōidē ‘song.’
Sub rosa comes from the Latin, literally "under the rose," from the ancient association of the rose with confidentiality, the origin of which traces to a famous story in which Cupid gave Harpocrates, the god of silence, a rose to bribe him not to betray the confidence of Venus. Hence the ceilings of Roman banquet-rooms were decorated with roses to remind guests that what was spoken sub vino (under the influence of wine) was also sub rosa.

Halcyon derives from Latin (h)alcyon, from Greek halkuon, a mythical bird, kingfisher. This bird was fabled by the Greeks to nest at sea, about the time of the winter solstice, and, during incubation, to calm the waves.

Muscle - ORIGIN late Middle English : from French, from Latin musculus, diminutive of mus ‘mouse’ (some muscles being thought to be mouselike in form).

eldritch ORIGIN early 16th cent.(originally Scots): perhaps related to elf

rostrum - mid 16th century: from Latin, literally ‘beak’ (from rodere ‘gnaw’). The word was originally used (at first in the plural rostra ) to denote part of the Forum in Rome, which was decorated with the beaks of captured galleys, and was used as a platform for public speakers.
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Lerer's 4 Myths of Language

1. Myth of Universality - there is, as far as we can tell, no universal language. Maybe at some point of the distant past there was, but today it's almost impossible.

e.g. - Republic of Georgia, mama means father and deda means mother. The ultimate nail in the coffin of the myth of universality.

2. Myth of simplicity - No language is harder or easier for its own speech community to learn. A six-year-old in any culture has the same relative ability to master their language as any other.

3. Myth of teleology - language does not move towards a goal, nor evolve, nor change at a steady rate.

4. Myth of gradualism - language changes in fits and starts. See the Great Vowel Shift.
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The Arabian Euclid

Heath tells us that "the Caliph al-Mansur (754-775) sent a mission to the Byzantine Emperor as the result of which he obtained from him a copy of Euclid among other Greek books, and again that the Caliph al-Ma'mun (813-833) obtained manuscripts of Euclid, among others, from the Byzantines."

Most of the Greek learning that was preserved in the Library at Alexandria must have ended up in Rome before the Christians and Arabs gradually destroyed it. It is reasonable to think that copies of pagan books then made their way from Rome, the capital of the old, western Roman Empire, to Constantinople, the capital of the new, eastern Roman Empire, before Rome was sacked in the 5th Century. Constantinople did not fall until 1203, leaving plenty of time for Greek science to migrate into the Islamic empire.

The first Arabic translation that we know of was made by Al-Hajjaj j. b. Yusuf b. Matar (Al-Hajjaj) in the 8th Century. A manuscript copy of this version still exists. It is one of many manuscripts of Arabic translations that have survived.

The translation of Greek works into Arabic peaked under Al-Ma'mun (813-833) who "founded a research institute, the 'House of Wisdom,' in Baghdad," headed by Hunayn ibn Ishaq (808-873) in collaboration with his son, Ishaq ibn Hunayn, two of the most important translators of Greek works. (Lindberg, 169)

In 747 the Arab empire extended into Spain, establishing schools and libraries. Muslim Spain, according to Lindberg, became the focus of translation of the Arabic translations of Greek science into Latin:

"Spain had the advantage of a brilliant Arabic culture, an ample supply of Arabic books, and communities of Christians (known as Mozarabs) who had been allowed to practice their religion under Muslim rule and who could now help to mediate between the two cultures." (Lindberg, 204)

In the 10th c., Arab libraries at Baghdad and Cordova, Spain, were the first to rival the Library at Alexandria. (Sarton, 12) When Spain fell to Christian armies in the 11th c., the riches of its libraries were preserved. (Lindberg, 204)

Heath (p. 367) agrees with Lindberg's assessment of the importance of the Spanish connection, adding that it was Athelhard's translation from Arabic to Latin of a Spanish copy of Euclid that kindled European interest in Greek mathematics.


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Ode to the unappreciated

Despite their heavy-bodied appearance, groundhogs are accomplished swimmers and excellent tree climbers when escaping predators or when they want to survey their surroundings.[6] They prefer to retreat to their burrows when threatened; if the burrow is invaded, the groundhog tenaciously defends itself with its two large incisors and front claws. Groundhogs are generally agonistic and territorial among their own species, and may skirmish to establish dominance.

General Beauregard Lee is a groundhog that resides at the Yellow River Game Ranch in Lilburn, Georgia just outside of Atlanta. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Georgia - "DWP, Doctor of Weather Prognostication" and Georgia State University - "Doctor of Southern Groundology." He has been predicting early springs or late winters for fourteen years and the Game Ranch claims a 94% accuracy rate. However, he did have one major miss: in 1993 he predicted an early Spring but Georgia was hit with a blizzard that crippled the Southeast for nearly a week and a half, sometimes called the "Storm of the Century".

(source: wikipedia)
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There's no use in a strong impulse [in poetry] if it is nearly all lost in bungling transmission and technique. This obnoxious word that I’m always brandishing about [technique] means nothing but a transmission of the impulse intact.--Pound, 1914
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No longer in Lethean foliage caught
Begin the preparation for your death
And from the fortieth winter by that thought
Test every work of intellect or faith,
And everything that your own hands have wrought,
And call those works extravagance of breath
That are not suited for such men as come
Proud, open-eyed and laughing to the tomb.
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Yeats on the Greeks

Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things;
Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings;
World-famous golden-thighed Pythagoras
Fingered upon a fiddle-stick or strings
What a star sang and careless Muses heard:
Old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird.

- From Among School Children, verse 6
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The nature of Socrates

Is he some sort of a midwife, or more like a Silenus statue? The import of this question was emphasized by Prior in The Socratic Problem, from the Blackwell Companion to Plato

The midwife analogy from the Theaetetus:

"The common reproach against me is that I am always asking questions of other people but never express my own views about anything, because there is no wisdom in me, and that is true enough... With those who associate with me it is different. At first some may give the impression of being ignorant and stupid; but as time goes on and our association continues, all whom God permits are seen to make progress - a progress which is amazing both to other people and to themselves. And yet it is clear that this is not due to anything they have learned from me." (excerpts 150c4-d7)

The Silenus analogy from the Symposium (told by Alcibiades):

"To begin with, he's crazy about beautiful boys; he constantly follows them around in a perpetual daze. Also, he likes to say he's ignorant and knows nothing. Isn't that just like Silenus? Of course it is! And all this is just on the surface, like the outsides of those statues of Silenus. I wonder, my fellow drinkers if you have any idea what a sober and temperate man he proves to be when you have looked inside ... In public, I tell you, his whole life is one big game - a game of irony. I don't know if any of you have seen him when he's really serious. But I once caught him when he was open like Silenus' statues, and I had a glimpse of the figures he keeps hidden within; they were so godlike - so bright and beautiful, so utterly amazing - that I no longer had a choice; I just had to do whatever he told me." (Smp. 216d2, 216e-217a2)
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Readings on Legal Positivism

1. "It is arguable, however, that law's functions in our culture are more closely related to its coercive aspect than Hart seems to have assumed. Contemporary use of ‘game theory’ in the law tends to show that the rationale of a great variety of legal arrangements can be best explained by the function of law in solving problems of opportunism, like the so called Prisoner's Dilemma situations. In these cases, the law's main role is, indeed, one of providing coercive measures. Be this as it may, we should probably refrain from endorsing Austin's or Kelsen's position that providing sanctions is law's only function in society. Solving recurrent and multiple coordination problems, setting standards for desirable behavior, proclaiming symbolic expressions of communal values, resolving disputes about facts, and such, are important functions which the law serves in our society, and those have very little to do with law's coercive aspect and its sanction-providing functions." - The Nature of Law from
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Plato's magnificent Beast Analogy

see 6.493A-C

"The image of the Beast conveys a great deal of what Plato wanted to say about democracy. Fundamental is the thought that in a political system of direct popular rule, where key decisions are taken not by an individual or a body with restricted membership, but by the assembled populace itself, the people become the source of all values in the society. As we might put it, democracy is in this regard a totalitarian system. More specifically, the power of public opinion generates a radically corrupt system of values. This is because it is the passions and appetites of the populace which in the end dictate the contents of what passes for wisdom. If they like something, that counts as good (i.e. as what we should truly want), in the teaching of the sophists as for everyone else; if they dislike it, the opposite. Necessity--that is (presumably), political expediency--is what gets dignified by the language of moral approbation: 'just', 'fine'. What has happened to reason as the basis on which judgments are made? An animal has no reason, but simply passions and appetites. You might think that the sophist--a practitioner of wisdom, someone dedicated to education--would as animal-keeper bring independent reason to bear on the business of ethics. But not so. The message is that the Beast controls him, not the other way around." - Schofield, Plato: Political Philosophy. Oxford University Press: 2006"
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Protagoras the Sophist

"Concerning the gods I am unable to know either that they are or that they are not, or what their appearance is like. For many are the things that hinder knowledge: the obscurity of the matter and the shortness of human life." (Eusebius, Preparation of the Gospel 14.3.7 = 80B4)

Buddhism and Jainism are agnostic religions. Protagoras, Democritus, Hume, Emmanuel Kant, William James, Herbert Spencer, Albert Einstein were agnostic.

from an atheism website:

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the wise Catalonian

He treated the classical writers with a household familiarity, as if they had all been his roommates at some period, and he knew many things that should not have been known, such as the fact that Saint Augustine wore a wool jacket under his habit that he did not take off for fourteen years and that Arnaldo of Villanova, the necromancer, was impotent since childhood because of a scorpion bite.

Upset by two nostalgias facing each other like two mirrors, he lost his marvelous sense of unreality and he ended up recommending to all of them that they leave Macondo, that they forget everything he had taught them about the world and the human heart, that they shit on Horace, and that wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.

- From One Hundred Years of Solitude
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A High point in the Dialectic of Teleological Judgment

Because we have in the understanding and sensibility two stems of cognition independent of one another, we must distinguish between possibility and actuality (otherwise we would have an intellectual intuition); because we are both sensible and rational beings, the moral law appears to us as what ought to be, not as what is or volition (otherwise we would have a holy will); because our understanding is discursive, the power of judgment judges organisms inevitably as natural purposes (otherwise we would have an intuitive understanding). And since Kant in all three causes insists that the ground for our corresponding judgments lies in our subjective character and not in things themselves, he draws for us general limits of cognition and at the same time indicates that it is necessary to attempt to think beyond those limits, at least experimentally. Such an attempt, if undertaken seriously, will hardly be without consequences.

- Eckart Förster, The Significance of §§76 and 77 Of the Critique of Judgment for the Development of Post-Kantian Philosophy (Part 1) , p. 7.
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a wikistatement

Diogenes believed human beings live artificially and hypocritically and would do well to study the dog. - Wikipedia.
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poet juice

Aristotle was a little man with
eyes like a lizard, and he found a streak
down the midst of things, a smooth place for his feet
much more important than the carved handles
on the coffins of the great.

He said you should put your hand out
at the time and place of need:
strength matters little, he said,
nor even speed.

His pupil, a king's son, died
at an early age. That Aristotle spoke of him
it is impossible to find—the youth was
notorious, a conqueror, a kid with a gang,
but even this Aristotle didn't ever say.

Around the farthest forest and along
all the bed of the sea, Aristotle studied
immediate, local ways. Many of which
were wrong. So he studied poetry.
There, in pity and fear, he found Man.

Many thinkers today, who stand low and grin,
have little use for anger or power, its palace
or its prison—
but quite a bit for that little man
with eyes like a lizard.

- Humanities Lecture, William Stafford
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Joseph Beuys: 7000 Oaks

Thus, 7000 Oaks is a sculpture referring to peoples' life, to their everyday work. That is my concept of art which I call the extended concept or art of the social sculpture.

I wish to go more and more outside to be among the problems of nature and problems of human beings in their working places. This will be a regenerative activity; it will be a therapy for all of the problems we are standing before.... I wished to go completely outside and to make a symbolic start for my enterprise of regenerating the life of humankind within the body of society and to prepare a positive future in this context.

I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time. The oak is especially so because it is a slowly growing tree with a kind of really solid heartwood. It has always been a form of sculpture, a symbol for this planet.

The planting of seven thousand oak trees is thus only a symbolic beginning. And such a symbolic beginning requires a marker, in this instance a basalt column. The intention of such a tree-planting event is to point up the transformation of all of life, of society, and of the whole ecological system...

They are basalt columns that one can find in the craters of extinct volcanoes, where they become a prismatic, quasi-crystalline shape through a particular cooling process-which produces these shapes with five, six, seven, and eight corners. They could, and still can, be found lined up like perfect, beautiful organ pipes in the Eifel region. Today, most of them are protected. But we didn't have to have these particular splendid organ pipes, we just wanted a material with basalt characteristics from the environs of Kassel. So there we found basalt columns which are part crystalline, that is to say, they have sharp corners, but at the same time tend toward amorphousness.

My point with these seven thousand trees was that each would be a monument, consisting of a living part, the live tree, changing all the time, and a crystalline mass, maintaining its shape, size, and weight. This stone can be transformed only by taking from it, when a piece splinters off, say, never by growing. By placing these two objects side by side, the proportionality of the monument's two parts will never be the same.

So now we have six- and seven-year-old oaks, and the stone dominates them. In a few years' time, stone and tree will be in balance, and in twenty to thirty years' time we may see that gradually, the stone has become an adjunct at the foot of the oak or whatever tree it may be
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Intellectual Interest in Natural Beauty

"The fact that nature has produced a vast multitude of objects that we find beautiful, as if they were made for us, makes us think that we somehow fit. It seems to us as if this were a gift or blessing given to us by nature or by God. From the perspective of human autonomy, we might also say that it is not that nature does us a favor, but the other way around: we do nature a favor by finding it beautiful. But in any case, Kant suggests that this makes us think that ideas and higher purposes of our inner nature, like freedom and morality, may be realized in outer nature and society where human beings live together under moral laws. Reason thus takes an interest in any sign or trace in nature that might indicate a bridge between freedom and nature.” (Wenzel 115)

“But since it also interests reason that the ideas (for which it produces an immediate interest in the moral feeling) also have objective reality, i.e., that nature should at least show some trace or give a sign that it contains in itself some sort of ground for assuming a lawful correspondence of its products with our satisfaction that is independent of all interest… reason must take an interest in every manifestation in nature of a correspondence similar to this; consequently the mind cannot reflect on the beauty of nature without finding itself at the same time to be interested in it. Because of this affinity, however, this interest is moral…” (5: 300-1)

"Taste can serve moral autonomy only if morality can also recognize aesthetic autonomy" - Guyer, Kant and the Experience of Freedom, p. 19.

"Without a God and without a world invisible to us now but hoped for, the glorious ideas of morality are indeed objects of approval and admiration, but not springs of purpose and action." (A813/B841)

"Hence an immense gulf is fixed between the domain of the concept of nature, the sensible, and the domain of the concept of freedom, the supersensible, so that no transition from the sensible to the supersensible is possible (and hence by means of the theoretical use of reason), just as if they were two different worlds, the first of which cannot have any influence on the second" (KU 5:175-6)

"Expressed in terms of the geopolitical metaphors, the initial complicating factor is that, on the one hand, these two legislations [Gebiete] are over a single territory [Boden], namely, the sum total of objects of possible experience, while, on the other hand, neither of these legislations is supposed to interfere with the other. Thus, the laws of nature stemming from the understanding determine what is the case, and the laws of freedom derived from reason dictate what ought to be; and these two orders must be viewed as being compatible without one being reducible to the other, that is, without forming a single domain. This irreducibility is essential because the idea of a "reduction" of what is to what ought to be (of nature to freedom) would be nonsensical for Kant, whereas the more familiar reduction in the other direction yields a naturalistic form of compatibilism that would undermine genuine freedom, and therefore morality." Allison, p. 202
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Strawson on Kant

from "Imagination & Perception" (in Foster and Swanson, Experience and Theory. Massachusetts, 1970.)

"Of course when you first see a new, an unfamiliar thing of a familiar kind, there is no question of past perceptions of that thing being alive in the present perception. Still, one might say, to take it, to see it, as a thing of that kind is implicitly to have the thought of other possible perceptions related to your actual perception as perceptions of the same object. To see it as a dog, silent and stationary, is to see it as a possible mover and barker, even though you give yourself no actual images of it as moving and barking; though, again, you might do so if, say, you were particularly timid, if, as we say, your imagination was particularly active or particularly stimulated by the sight. Again, as you continue to observe it, it is not just a dog, with such and such characteristics, but the dog, the object of your recent observation, that you see, and see it as." p. 40-41.
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Just to keep in mind...

When he was in his twenties, [Miguel Mihura] wrote his best known comedy, Tres sombreros de copa, but its humour was not appreciated by the conservative pre-war Spanish society. Tres sombreros de copa was not staged until 1952, achieving a great success.

cf. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, others, and Ray's instructive query into the criteria of truth with respect to one's artistic decisions, and his response that the audience has a major role.

also think of poems of canonical poets not yet canonical. It's a precarious situation...
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Battles over the word 'science'

1. Thomas Carlyle's Foresight
It is admitted on all sides, that the Metaphysical and Moral Sciences are falling into decay, while the Physical are engrossing, every day, more respect and attention ... This condition of the two great departments of knowledge; the outer, cultivated exclusively on mechanical principles---the inward finally abandoned, because, cultivated on such principles, it is found to yield no result---sufficiently indicates the intellectual bias of our time, its all-pervading disposition towards that line of enquiry. In fact, an inward perusasion has long been diffusing itself, and now and then even comes to utterance, that except the external, there are no true sciences; that, to the inward world (if there be any) our only conceivable road is through the outward; that, in short, what cannot be investigated and understood mechanically, cannot be investigated and understood at all.
- Edinburgh Review, 1829, Vol. 49, pp. 444-447

2. Ruskin growls a warning:
It has become the permitted fashion among modern mathematicians, chemists, and apothecaries, to call themselves 'scientific men', as opposed to theologians, poets, and artists. They know their sphere to be a separate one; but their ridiculous notion of its being a peculiarly scientific one ought not to be allowed in our Universities. There is a science of Morals, a science of History, a science of Grammar, a science of Music, and a science of Painting; and all these are quite beyond comparison higher fields for human intellect, and require accuracies of intenser observation, than either chemistry, electricity, or geology.
- John Ruskin, Ariade Florentina, 1874.

3. And another:
The use of the word scientia, as if it differed from knowledge, [is] a modern barbarism; enhanced usually by the assumption that the knowledge of the difference between acids and alkalies is a more respectable one than that of the difference between vice and virtue.
- "The Three Colours of Pre-Raphaelitism" 1878.
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Firmicus Maternus's defense of astrology

Look how in one part of his work [Plotinus] attacks the power of the necessity of fate--quite foolishly and carelessly it seems to me--and he forcefully rebukes people who fear the decrees of Fortune. He grants no power to the stars, and he offers no necessity to fate, but says that everything is within our power...
And look how, when he was secure in his impudent rashness, the power of fate compelled everything: first his limbs became stiff from a chilling and torpor in his blood, and the sharpness of his eyes slowly lost their clarity as the light in them failed. After this, his whole skin erupted in a pestilence fed by malignant humors, so that his putrid body melted away into death with soured blood, failing limbs. Every day and every hour small parts of his viscera were dissolved by the creeping disease, and what was seen as intact one moment was deformed the next by the ulceration destroying his body. Thus corrupted and dissolved in appearance, the whole shape of his body fallen apart, all that remained in the--so to speak--dead body was the mind so that, being destroyed by the horrible progressing disease, he was convinced by his own torments and by the authority of true reason to see the force and power of fate. Thus broken and with a mangled, destroyed body, he received the sentence passed by Fortune. - Mathesis 1.18-21

If Saturn makes people prudent, serious, slow, greedy, and quiet, and Jupiter mature, good, kind, and moderate ... why are some groups constituted so as to have particular common characteristics? The Scythians alone attack with beastly and savage cruelty, the Italians show an ever-noble regality and glory, the Gauls are thick, the Greeks effeminate, Africans cunning, Syrians greedy, Sicilians sharp-witted, Asians always preoccupied with luxurious pleasures, and Spaniards foolish with ridiculous boastfulness. - Mathesis 1.2.2-3

-- translations from Lehoux's "Tomorrow's News Today: Astrology, Fate, and the Way Out"
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Strange cause of death

1. Early explorers to the land of the Inuit were given raw liver by the natives, which contained a toxic overdose of vitamin A for the white explorers; however, the same amount was harmless to the Inuit, who had no other source of Vitamin A except animal livers.

source: forgotten
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Nietzsche and Heraclitus in Blood Meridian

cf. to Judge Holden, "If war is not holy man is nothing but antic clay." p. 307

cf. Heraclitus fragmenta:

"War is both father and king of all; some he has shown forth as gods and others as men, some he has made slaves and others free." (53)

"It should be understood that war is the common condition, that strife is justice, and that all things come to pass through the compulsion of strife." (80)

From Zarathustra:

I tell you: one must have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star. (Prologue, 5)

I would only believe in a God that knows how to dance. (I.7)

vs. the theme of dancing and the judge as a skilled dancer.

From GM:

Without cruelty there is no festival: thus the longest and most ancient part of human history teaches — and in punishment there is so much that is festive! (2.VI) [In this one the link to BM is especially appreciable.]

That every will must consider every other will its equal [ie. Kant's categorical imperative] — would be a principle hostile to life, an agent of the dissolution and destruction of man, an attempt to assassinate the future of man, a sign of weariness, a secret path to nothingness. (2.XI)

It is possible to imagine a society flushed with such a sense of power that it could afford to let its offenders go unpunished. (2.XI)
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few from Nietzsche's Genealogy

Some of the salient passages from GM:

1. Every animal, including la bête philosophe, strives instinctively for the optimum conditions under which it may release its powers. Every animal, instinctively and with a subtle flair that leaves reason far behind, abhors all interference that might conceivably block its path to that optimum. (3.VII)

2. It is easy to tell a philosopher: he avoids three shiny, loud things--fame, princes, and women; which is not to say that they won't seek him out. (3.VIII)

3. Even measured by the Greek standard, our whole modern existence, insofar as it is not weakness but power and the consciousness of power, looks like sheer hubris and impiety: things exactly contrary to the ones we reverence today had for the longest time conscience on their side and God for their guardian. Our whole attitude toward nature, our violation of nature with the help of machines and the heedless ingenuity of technicians and engineers, is hubris; so is our attitude to God as some putative spider weaving purposes and ethics behind a vast web of causation... so is our attitude toward ourselves, upon whom we perform experiments which we would never perform on any animal, cheerfully and curiously splitting open the soul, while the body still breathes. What do we care any longer for the "salvation" of the soul? (3.X)

4. An observer viewing our terrestrial existence from another planet might easily be persuaded that this earth is strictly an ascetic star, the habitation of disgruntled, proud, repulsive creatures, unable to rid themselves of self-loathing, hatred of the earth and of all living things, who inflict as much pain as possible on themselves, solely out of pleasure in giving pain--perhaps the only kind of pleasure they know. (3.XI)

5. Let us, from now on, be on our guard against the hallowed philosophers' myth of a "pure, will-less, painless, timeless knower"; let us beware of the tentacles of such contradictory notions as "pure reason," "absolute knowledge," "absolute intelligence." All these concepts presuppose an eye such as no living being can imagine, an eye required to have no direction, to abrogate its active and interpretive powers--precisely those powers that alone make of seeing, seeing something. All seeing is essentially perspective, and so is all knowing. The more emotions we allow to speak in a given matter, the more different eyes we can put on in order to view a given spectacle, the more complete will be our conception of it, the greater our "objectivity." But to eliminate the will, to suspend the emotions altogether, provided it could be done--surely this would be to castrate the intellect, would it not? (3.XII)

6. The real danger lies in our loathing of man and our pity of him. If these two emotions should one day join forces, they would beget the most sinister thing ever witnessed on earth: man's ultimate will, his will to nothingness, nihilism. (3.XIV)
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The Judge's final words

(from last 50 pages, excerpt copied from some other blog)

One could well argue that there are not categories of no ceremony but only ceremonies of greater or lesser degree and deferring to this argument we will say that this is a ceremony of a certain magnitude perhaps more commonly called a ritual. A ritual includes the letting of blood. Rituals which fail in this requirement are but mock rituals. Here every man knows the false at once. Never doubt it. That feeling in the breast that evokes a child's memory of loneliness such as when the others have gone and only the game is left with its solitary participant. A solitary game, without opponent. Where only the rules are at hazard. Don't look away. We are not speaking in mysteries. You of all men are no stranger to that feeling, the emptiness and the despair. It is that which we take arms against, is it not? Is not blood the tempering agent in the mortar which bonds? The judge leaned closer. What do you think death is, man? Of whom do we speak when we speak of a man who was and is not? Are these blind riddles or are they not some part of every man's jurisdiction? What is death if not an agency? And whom does he intend toward?

That man there. See him. That man hatless. You know his opinion of the world. You can read it in his face, in his stance. Yet his complaint that a man's life is no bargain masks the actual case with him. Which is that men will not do as he wishes them to. Have never done, never will do. That's the way of things with him, and his life is so balked about by difficulty and become so altered of its intended architecture that he is little more than a walking hovel hardly fit to house the human spirit at all. Can he say, such a man, that there is no malign thing set against him? That there is no power and no force and no cause? What manner of heretic could doubt agency and claimant alike? Can he believe that the wreckage of his existence is unentailed? No liens, no creditors? That gods of vengeance and of compassion alike lie sleeping in their crypt and whether our cries are for an accounting or for the destruction of the ledgers altogether they must evoke only the same silence and that it is this silence which will prevail?

I tell you this. As war becomes dishonored and its nobility called into question those honorable men who recognize the sanctity of blood will become excluded from the dance, which is the warrior's right, and thereby will the dance become a false dance and the dancers false dancers. And yet there will be one there always who is a true dancer and can you guess who that might be?

You ain't nothin.

You speak truer than you know. But I will tell you. Only that man who has offered up himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the floor of the pit and seen horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart, only that man can dance.

Even a dumb animal can dance.

The judge set the bottle on the bar. Hear me, man, he said. There is room on the stage for one beast and one alone. All others are destined for a night that is eternal and without name. One by one they will step down into the darkness before the footlamps. Bears that dance, bears that dont.

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Melville and McCarthy

Melville had begun to suspect that violence and death (as opposed, say, to liberty and justice) defined American history. That is why the bloody business of whaling, and not something more benign like the spread of railroads or the "annex" of new territories (which were, of course, only relatively benign), stands as his metaphor for American capitalist and imperial aspirations. (Philips 8)
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The state of literature

(from a recent interview with Harold Bloom on Blood Meridian)

AVC: You’ve been extremely critical of the politicization of teaching literature…

HB: Critical, young man, is hardly the word. I stand against it like Jeremiah prophesying in Jerusalem. It has destroyed most of university culture. The teaching of high literature now hardly exists in the United States. The academy is in ruins, and they’ve destroyed themselves


I showed Zack this quote and neither of us are certain of what "the politicization of teaching literature" actually is, can anyone throw light on this?

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Blood Meridian as critique of Determinism

Learning from Art: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood
Meridian as a Critique of Divine Determinism

by Dennis Sansom

[after examples of Voltaire's Candide critiquing Leibniz's optimism, Huxley's Brave New World critiquing Marxism]

The artist’s imagination, especially in literature, pictures what can happen. Aristotle may be right in saying that art imposes an ideational form upon matter, but art can also indicate whether an ideational form should be imposed upon matter. In keeping with Aristotle’s terminology, the actuality of the idea may pervert or hinder the potentiality of the matter. Some ideas do not fulfill the potentiality of the human experience and they should be rejected, though they are logical, systematic, and clear. Some philosophical ideas cannot stand the test of the imagination. How does the artistic imagination test an idea?

The artistic imagination is not just a fanciful thought experiment or a mirror of experience. In the Critique of Judgement Kant argued that artistic imagination has a creative effect, not just a reproductive one. It enables us to imagine what the pure reason of science and the practical reason of moral universalizeability cannot enable us to know. As fruitful for knowledge as science and morality may be, they are limited to what is experienced in the senses, synthesized by a priori categories, or universalized to a dutiful necessity. Because science and morality are restricted in what they can know by their own modes of reasoning (that is, pure and practical), they lack a creative ability to envision a different world.

Cormac McCarthy’s 1985 novel Blood Meridian can be read as an artistic critique of a philosophical-theological idea. The novel shows what we can narratively imagine to be the lived experienced of an idea—a teleology of God’s implacable will and human history, especially as it involves violence and war. Though the novel does not use the phrase, we can call it the “Theo-Determinist” philosophy of human destiny. It is simple, direct, and clear (similar to Leibniz’s optimism): (1) because God is absolutely sovereign over everything, God is the omni-causal agent of everything; and (2) every action thus reflects God’s holy will. Of course, religious believers within Theo-Determinism may relate affectionately and sincerely to the God of this idea, but there is an absurdity to Theo-Determinism. If we examine only the idea’s consistency and comprehensiveness, we may be compelled to assent, but when we try to envision a life defined by it, we become repulsed. McCarthy’s literary imagination reveals why we should reject it, and as was the case in Candide and Brave New World, and now with Blood Meridian, we have an artistic imagination critiquing a philosophical-theological idea.

The novel’s plot puts the reader in a quandary of beliefs throughout by forcing the reader to accept a paradox that we intuitively never want to admit—in moral terms, there is no difference between nihilism and divine sovereign determinism, for each is beyond good and evil.

The removal of these shackles unleashes instinctive energies of human will, and thus Zarathustra dances. He dances because he is a nihilist.

McCarthy’s Blood Meridian shows that in terms of moral distinctions and moral accountability, the moral difference between divine determinism and moral nihilism is a difference without a real distinction because in terms of how we would evaluate life, metaphysical determinism requires moral nihilism.

We do not understand the contradiction’s poignancy by only examining the logic of Theo-Determinism because according to its logic, if God is sovereign and determines everything, and God is holy, then all human affairs reflect God’s holy will. There is no contradiction. But by imagining the idea put into a narrative about the judge, the scalpings, the kid, and the senseless acts of cruelty, all supposedly determined by God, as McCarthy does in Blood Meridian, we see the moral absurdity of the logic of Theo-Determinism.

If God is the omni-causal agency of this world, then moral distinctions are not only irrelevant but an obstacle to the “dance”.

On a rise at the western edge of the playa they passed a crude wooden cross where Maricopas had crucified an Apache. The mummied corpse hung from the crosstree with its mouth gaped in a raw hole, a thing of leather and bone scoured by the pumice winds off the lake and the pale tree of the ribs showing through the scraps of hide that hung from the breast. They rode on. The horses trudged sullenly the alien ground and the round earth rolled beneath them silently milling the greater void wherein they were contained. In the neuter austerity of that terrain all phenomena were bequeathed a strange equality and no one thing nor spider nor stone nor blade of grass could put forth claim to precedence. . . . [N]othing more luminous than another . . . all preference is made whimsical and a man and a rock become endowed with unguessed kinships. (247)

The judge laughs, because the card confirms his suspicions of the kid. Card readers interpret the Cuatro de Copas (the Four of Cups) in several ways. The card depicts a man sitting underneath a tree, contemplating three cups while oblivious to a fourth cup offered to him. Is the reclining man indecisive, conflicted, unaware, or doubtful? He contemplates and weighs what he sees. The picture indicates an intense inner struggle, for whatever reason. The kid, in turn, is internally struggling with the blood meridian, while all along participating in its war. He is incongruent with the blood meridian’s force of life and death. Like the Four of Cups, his subjectivity is out of sync with the objectivity of the blood meridian. His internally troubled state is the first step toward finally rejecting the blood meridian. His eventual break begins in his contemplation of human cruelty. It is because we have the subjective experience of contemplating moral obligations that we know we do not live in a world controlled by an intractable divine will.

Throughout the novel, we witness mayhem and death but we never hear anyone cry or show pain. It is as though there is no subjectivity in the blood meridian, and indeed the inner world of contemplation, emotional conflicts, pain, and sorrow are incoherent in a world completely determined to be what it is. [- This book now seems to be so contra-Humean (ie. without a psychological account of sympathy) that it verges too far into fiction; but this is one of the points that Sansom makes about art critiquing philosophy anyway. Also, Hume's account is perhaps impossible in a Theo-deterministic world, I should think about this.] [a second note on this: perhaps we need to assume that every character (besides the kid?) signs on with the Theo-determinist doctrine. In this way, perhaps, violence would no longer elicit emotional responses (contra-Hume). But this makes little sense because Hume holds that it is by the very nature of human psychology that we have specific responses to violence, save the case of the sociopath.]

Wittgenstein's "Big Book" though experiment"
“Suppose one of you were an omniscient person and therefore knew all the movements of all the bodies in the world dead or alive and that he also knew all the states of mind of all human beings that ever lived, and suppose this man wrote all he knew in a big book, then this would contain the whole description of the world; and what I want to say is, that this book would contain nothing that we would call an ethical judgment.”
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Equine Gothic

In the "Old Man" sections of The Wild Palms (1939), the flood throws forth its "charging welter of dead cows and mules and outhouses and cabins and hencoops." Faulkner's prose strikes an elegiac note as the convict's skiff rides "even upon the backs of the mules as though even in death they were not to escape that burden-bearing doom with which their eunuch race was cursed" (145-46).

in Blood Meridian (1985) … having a mule drowned intentionally: "The Yumas were swimming the few sorry mules ... across the river. . . . Downriver they'd drowned one of the animals and towed it ashore to be butchered" (253). … That the image of the drowned mule also occupies a subliterary folk status in the South is perhaps attested by a common simile in which a wealthy person is said to have "enough money to burn up a wet mule."

6. Falls from cliffs. The novel Blood Meridian (1985) establishes Cormac McCarthy as unchallenged king of literary mule carnage. No fewer than fifty nine specific mules die in the book, plus dozens more that are alluded to in groups and bunches.

12. Overwork. As Reynolds Price observes in Blue Calhoun (1992), it takes a sorry man to work a mule to death?" Back then white trash didn't mean poor or lazy. People saved it to use on vicious families . . . who beat their children mercilessly or plowed their mule till it died in harness" (71).

One old mule that is almost worked to death but awarded a brief indulgent respite before its end is the centerpiece of a remarkable scene in Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eves Were Watching God (1937), in which a full-dress mule funeral takes place complete with singing sisters and eulogy: "He spoke of the joys of mule-heaven to which the dear brother had departed this valley of sorrow; the mule-angels flying around; the miles of green corn and cool water, a pasture of pure bran with a river of molasses running through it; and most glorious of all, No Matt Bonner with plow lines and halters to come in and corrupt" (274).

…an anecdote that used to circulate in oral tradition in parts of the South, about how two fellows (call them Joe and Bob) decide to raffle off a mule at a dollar a chance. After they sell about a hundred tickets the mule dies. Bob says, "Well I guess we'll have to give all the people their money back," but Joe says, "No way. I'm just going to keep on selling tickets." Bob, being an honest man, drops out of the deal; but on the night after the drawing, curiosity prompts him to call his former partner and ask how things went. "Just fine," Joe reports, "I made about three hundred dollars." Bob says he'd bet there were a lot of angry ticket holders, and Joe replies "Naw, just one, and I gave him his dollar back."

Ernest Hemingway's contention that you do see them in war but nowhere else: "In twenty years of observation in civil life I had never seen a dead mule and had begun to entertain doubts as to whether these animals were really mortal. On rare occasions I had seen what I took to be dead mules, but on close approach, these always proved to be living creatures who seemed to be dead through their quality of complete repose" (135-36).

I like to think that - at least in our South - mules experience not actual death but transmogrification, a deliverance through the transforming power of art from mortality's corruption to a fierce foreverness in the well-wrought urn of Southern literature.
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From Achinstein's "Is There a Valid Experimental Argument for Scientific Realism?"

Achinstein's definition of scientific realism:

a doctrine committed at least to the claim that unobservable entities exist.

Three alternative definitions:
(1) Scientific realism is a view about truth and reference in scientific theories generally.
(Psillos, Laudan, Boyd). They are committed to at least the following claims:

(A) Scientific theories (at least in the "mature" sciences) are typically approximately true, and more recent theories are closer to the truth than other theories in the same domain.
(B) The observational and theoretical terms within the theories of a mature science genuinely refer (roughly, there are substances in the world which correspond to the ontologies presumed by our best theories).
(C) Successive theories in any mature science will be such that they "preserve" the theoretical relations and the apparent referents of earlier theories (that is, earlier theories will be "limiting cases" of later theories).
(D) Acceptable new theories do and should explain why their prede- cessors were successful insofar as they were successful.

Boyd adds:
(E) The reality which scientific theories describe is largely independent of our thoughts or theoretical commitments (op. cit., p. 42).

(2) Scientific realism is a view about the aim of science. Here is van Fraassen's formulation:
Science aims to give us, in its theories, a literally true story of what the world is like; and acceptance of a scientific theory involves the belief that it is true. This is the correct statement of scientific realism
(3) The scientific realism of interest to philosophers is not itself an internal scientific question, to be settled by scientific reasoning, but an external one concerning the adequacy of the scientific representation of the world. It cannot be established by empirical means. Both Rudolf Carnap and Arthur Fine have defended a distinction between internal and external questions. Their views about internal questions are somewhat similar, although they take very different positions on external questions.


Antirealists object to the following type of argument, for reasons addressed in the paper:

Eliminative-causal argument:

(1) Given what is known, the possible causes of effect E (for example, Brownian motion) are C, Cl,...C,, (for example, the motion of molecules, external vibrations, heat convection currents). (In probabilistic terms, given what is known, the probability is high that E is caused by one of the Cs cited.)
(2) C1l...,Cn do not cause E (since E continues when these factors are absent or altered). So probably
(3) C causes E.


Reply. An antirealist who argues in the previous manner looks at the situation as one involving so-called stratified sampling. The population of As is divided into two classes or strata: the observables and the unobservables (if any). To make inferences about the entire class of As with respect to a property B, the antirealist is claiming, one needs to select randomly members from both strata for observation. Since one cannot select unobservable members for observation, one cannot legitimately, without potential bias, make inferences about this stra- tum, but only about the observable stratum. (14)


The scientific realism implicit in Perrin's arguments can be put like this:
(1) There are unobservables (for example, molecules).
(2) Their existence and their properties can be inferred (only) on empirical grounds, in some cases from experiments, so that a claim to know they exist and have these properties is justified.
(3) A legitimate mode of reasoning that can be used for this purpose involves two important components:
  • (a) causal-eliminative reasoning to the existence of the postulated entity, and to certain claims about its properties, from other experimental results;
  • (b) an argument to the conclusion that the particular experimental results obtained are very probable given the existence of the postulated entity and properties.
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We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
- Laplace, Introduction to the Essai.

... if we conceive of a being whose faculties are so sharpened that he can follow every molecule in its course, such a being, whose attributes are as essentially finite as our own, would be able to do what is impossible to us. For we have seen that molecules in a vessel full of air at uniform temperature are moving with velocities by no means uniform, though the mean velocity of any great number of them, arbitrarily selected, is almost exactly uniform. Now let us suppose that such a vessel is divided into two portions, A and B, by a division in which there is a small hole, and that a being, who can see the individual molecules, opens and closes this hole, so as to allow only the swifter molecules to pass from A to B, and only the slower molecules to pass from B to A. He will thus, without expenditure of work, raise the temperature of B and lower that of A, in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics.
- Maxwell, Theory of Heat
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Faraday's personality

"Elspeth Crawford has sought to understand Faraday's creativity by studying his learning process. As she rightly emphasizes, learning about nature was for Faraday a form of self-knowledge and one that led to a particular emotional state by which he could, through humility, free himself from prejudice and give rein to his curiosity and creative powers." (Michael Faraday: Sandemanian and Scientist p. 263)
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More from Kant's Groundwork

“Whenever an object of the will has to be laid down as the basis for prescribing the rule that determines the will, there the rule is none other than heteronomy; the imperative is conditional, namely: if or because one wills this object, one ought to act in such or such a way; hence it can never command morally, that is, categorically.” (G 444)

The will’s principle to serve as a ‘compass’: common human reason “knows very well how to distinguish in every case that comes up what is good and what is evil, what is in conformity with duty or contrary to duty, if, without in the least teaching it anything new, we only, as did Socrates, make it attentive to its own principle (note – a reference to ‘recollection’); and that there is, accordingly, no need of science and philosophy to know what one has to do in order to be honest and good, and even wise and virtuous.” (G 404)

"From love of humankind I am willing to admit that even most of our actions are in conformity with duty; but if we look more closely at the intentions and aspirations in them we everywhere come upon the dear self, which is always turning up; and it is on this that their purpose is based, not on the strict command of duty, which would often require self-denial." (G 407)

Against virtue-ethics:
"Nor could one give worse advice to morality than by wanting to derive it from examples. For, every example...must itself first be appraised in accordance with principles of morality, as to whether it is also worthy to serve as an original example, that is as a model...Even the Holy One of the Gospel must first be compared with our ideal of moral perfection before he is cognized as such; even he says of himself: why do you call me good? none is good but God only (Matthew 19:17)." (G 408)

“If we now attend to ourselves in any transgression of a duty, we find that we do not really will that our maxim should become a universal law, since that is impossible for us, but that the opposite of our maxim should instead remain a universal law, only we take the liberty of making an exception to it for ourselves (or just for this once) to the advantage of our inclination.” (G 424)

“One cannot give too many or too frequent warnings against this laxity, or even mean cast of mind, which seeks its principle among empirical motives and laws; for, human reason in its weariness gladly rests on this pillow and in a dream of sweet illusions it substitutes for morality a bastard patched up from limbs of quite diverse ancestry, which looks like whatever one wants to see in it but not like virtue for him who has once seen virtue in her true form.” (G 426)
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on Maxwell

"The traditional term 'natural philosopher' may be aptly applied to a scientist who was also a scholar, deeply conscious of the historical roots and philosophical import of his physics." - Harman

"Around 1850 the science of physics came to be defined in terms of the unifying role of the concept of energy and the programme of mechanical explanation. Quantification, the search for mathematical laws, and precision measurement, the attainment of accurate values in experimentation, came to be seen as normative in physical science." (Harman 3)

[Remember the two pivotal statements Rynasiewicz made about history of science: 1. There is no philosophy of science without a history of science; 2. If you want to study history, there are three central texts that must be read (and to which almost all other historical texts refer): Ptolemy's Almagest, Newton's Principia, and Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism.]

"Maxwell urged caution in accepting claims that science could alone provide intellectual enlightenment. He pointed to the unexamined assumptions that lay behind the optimism voiced in the rhetoric of some of his contemporaries, which looked to a clerisy of scientists to rebut obscurantism and establish a scientific and secular enlightenment...Maxwell rejects the hubris of 'a supposed acquaintance with the conditions of Divine foreknowledge'; there are boundaries to scientific knowledge." (Harman 12)

"Forbes' allusion to Descartes prompted Maxwell to study with critical attention the ovals in Descartes' Geometrie."

"In his Theorie des Fonctions Analtiques (1797) Lagrange took the derivative (rather than the differential) as the fundamental concept of analysis, defining the derivatives of a function as the coefficients of the terms in its expansion as a Taylor series...[George Peacock] declared that 'Taylor's Theorem...exhibits the whole theory of the Differential Calculus'. " (Harman 22)

"The dimmed outlines of phenomenal things all merge into another unless we put on the focussing glass of theory and screw it up sometimes to one pitch of definition, and sometimes to another, so as to see down into different depths through the great millstone of the world" - Maxwell, from 'Analogies in Nature'
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A few moral quotes, Hume and Kant

“Hume is a Socratic thinker. He believes that in order to avoid being plagued by [skeptical doubts and] anxiety we must achieve self-knowledge. The philosopher stands in need of it as much as his or her fellows do. Socrates would have agreed; but he appeared to think that self-knowledge was to come through the pursuit of the dialectical questioning in which the philosopher is expert, and Hume does not think this. Hume thinks that he has available a scientific mode of understanding that illuminates our nature for us, and that the philosopher must turn to this to save himself. Our nature is intelligible; and once we have learned its key features, we can avoid those influences in philosophy (and in religion) that would lead us to do violence to it. The understanding of human nature that Hume urges on us is different indeed from that deriving from Socrates, at least as Plato presents him to us.” – Terence Penelhum, Hume’s Moral Psychology from CC to Hume

Duty is derived from "Hume's explanation of how it is that we sometimes perform acts from a sense of duty that others perform from benevolence. He says that someone may be conscious of the fact that he lacks a character trait (such as kindness to children) that causes us to approve of those who have it. He may then come to 'hate himself upon that account' and may perform the action 'from a certain sense of duty, in order to acquire by practice, that virtuous principle' (T On this view, the sense of duty is a conscious substitute for more natural motives, and is a product of self-hatred. To feel it is to feel the disapproval of your own lack of a virtuous inclination."
[- these phenomena occur, though I think we may doubt whether they are the key to the origin of the sense of duty. (it doesn't explain why we pay taxes, or return money we borrowed from the bank)]

From the Treatise of Human Nature, Book II:
"Since reason alone can never produce any action, or give rise to volition, I infer, that the same faculty is as incapable of preventing volition, or of disputing the preference with any passion or emotion. This consequence is necessary. `Tis impossible reason cou'd have the latter effect of preventing volition, but by giving an impulse in a contrary direction to our passion; and that impulse, had it operated alone, wou'd have been able to produce volition. Nothing can oppose or retard the impulse of passion, but a contrary impulse; and if this contrary impulse ever arises from reason, that latter faculty must have an original influence on the will, and must be able to cause, as well as hinder any act of volition. But if reason has no original influence, `tis impossible it can withstand any principle, which has such an efficacy, or ever keep the mind in suspence a moment. Thus it appears, that the principle, which opposes our passion, cannot be the same with reason, and is only call'd so in an improper sense. We speak not strictly and philosophically when we talk of the combat of passion and of reason. Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them. As this opinion may appear somewhat extraordinary, it may not be improper to confirm it by some other considerations."

Kant's Groundwork:
"On the other hand, to preserve one's life is a duty, and besides everyone has an immediate inclination to do so. But on this account the often anxious care that most people take of it still has no inner worth and their maxim has no moral content. They look after their lives in conformity with duty but not from duty. On the other hand, if adversity and hopeless grief have quite taken away the taste for life; if an unfortunate man, strong of soul and more indignant about his fate than despondent or dejected, wishes for death and yet preserves his life without loving it, not from inclination or fear but from duty, then his maxim has moral content." - (AK 4:398)

"It is undoubtedly in this way, again, that we are to understand the passages from scripture in which we are commanded to love our neighbor, even our enemy. For, love as an inclination cannot be commanded, but beneficence from duty - even though no inclination impels us to it and indeed, natural and unconquerable aversion opposes it - is practical and not pathological love, which lies in the will and not in the propensity of feeling, in principles of action and not in melting sympathy; and it alone can be commanded." (AK 4:399)
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A few from Hume's 2nd Enquiry

"When I was twenty, says a French poet, Ovid was my favourite: Now I am forty, I declare for Horace." (5.30)

"Inanimate objects may bear to each other all the same relations, which we observe in moral agents; though the former can never be the object of love or hatred, nor are consequently susceptible of merit or iniquity. A young tree, which over-tops and destroys its parent, stands in all the same relations with Nero, when he murdered Agrippina; and if morality consisted merely in relations, would, no doubt, be equally criminal" (Appx 1, 17)
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1. There is something slightly artificial about Heidegger's choice of the entity to be questioned (i.e. ourselves). We must avoid any suggestion that the being of human beings is to serve as the model for the being of all other entities. The real ground for his choice is that what distinguishes our being from that of other entities is that it includes an understanding of being. Dasein is not an entity from which the meaning of being is to be abstracted [or 'read off'] it is what he calls the 'place of the understanding of being'. (Gorner 22)

2. However, such [ontic-type] theory building itself depends upon taking for granted certain basic ways in which the given discipline demarcates and structures its own area of study; and those foundations tend to remain unthematized by the discipline itself, until it finds itself in a state of crisis. Relativity theory precipitated such a crisis in physics... Such conceptual enquiries are not examples of theories that conform to the standards of the discipline, but rather explore that on the basis of which any such theory could be constructed, the a priori conditions for the possibility of such scientiic theorizing In Heideggerian language, what they reveal are the ontological presuppositions of ontic enquiry. (Mulhall 4)

3. [Is] Heidegger making mere things dependent on equipment, and isn't this simply absurd? Equipment becomes equipment by mere things being given functional properties by human beings. The dependence is the other way round. But this supposes that what H is talking about is ontic dependence, the dependence of one sort of entity on another sort of entity. In fact he is talking about ontological dependence. Presence-at-hand is dependent on readiness-to-hand in the sense that the understanding of presence-at-hand presupposes the understanding of readiness-to-hand. The relationship is one between understandings of being, not between entities. (Gorner 46-7)

4. If Heidegger is right about the primacy of engaged having-to-do-with over mere perception, then a traditional philosophical problem -- that of our knowledge of the external world -- simply does not arise. What Heidegger means by 'world' is not external anyway. It is an existential, a structure of Dasein's being. What are external, in the sense of being other than Dasein, are ready-to-hand and present-at-hand entities. If the primary mode of access to entities is perceptual, then the scepticism about the existence of external objects is possible. But if perception is dependent on engaged having-to-do-with, then scepticism about entities other than Dasein makes no sense. (Gorner 50).

5. Contrast such having-to-do-with or engagement, which ... is the primary mode of comportment to things, with merely looking at things (perception) ... Traditionally this has been treated as though it were the basic relation we have to things and the foundation of all the rest... A striking thing about Heidegger is that he reverses the traditional order of priority. We are first and foremost engaged with entities. Mere perception of entities arises when engagement is held in abeyance. Perception is a modification of engaged having-to-do-with, what he calls a deficient mode of concern (61). (Gorner 39)

6. Knowing what it is for something to be a hammer is, among other things, knowing all [the indefinite number of other tasks that a hammer can be used to perform, of other objects that might be used instead of a damaged hammer or adapted so as to be usable in these ways...]; and knowing all this is an inherently open-ended capacity -- one which cannot be exhausted by a finite list of precise rules whose application from context to context is transparent. Our practical activities always engage with and are developed in specific situations, but there is no obvious way of specifying a closed set of all the possible ways and contexts in which our knowledge of a hammer and its capacities might be pertinently deployed. Insofar as any attempt to reduce readiness-to-hand to presence-at-hand necessarily involves reducing our understanding of an object's serviceability to a grasp of a finite set of general rules together with a precise specification from a finite set of situations in which they apply, then it is doomed from the outset. (Mulhall 56)
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Few from 'The Fellowship'

1. "Until he was 11, Galileo was educated privately at home, by his father and the occasional tutor. Among his other talents, Galileo developed an aptitude for the lute (his father's favourite instrument) and reached professional standard; although he only played for amusement, the instrument remained a source of pleasure throughout his life." (Gribbin 26)

2. "The thing that looks particularly weird to modern eyes is that Bacon was trying to develop a method for doing science in a step-by-step approach that would lead even the humblest practitioner to the correct conclusions, with no need for geniuses or flashes of insight -- no room, in fact, for the imagination. He made an analogy with the difficulty of drawing a straight line freehand, which required a steady hand and a real deal of practice, and drawing a straight line with the aid of a ruler, which anyone could do. His method was to be to science what a ruler was to the drawing of straight lines, a mechanical aid to discovery, or an inductive engine." (78)

3. "[Newton] proposed the idea of employing specialists in different areas of scientific research of interest to the Society -- an important step away from the notion that all of science could be adequately comprehended by one man, an idea which essentially died with Hooke." (268)
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Hobbes on algebra

"He had no patience with algebra's 'scab of symbols,' the shorthand that made a mathematical page look 'as if a hen had been scraping there.' He conceded that these symbols might be useful, even necessary, aids to demonstration, but 'they ought no more to appear in public, than the most deformed necessary business which you do in your chambers.' " (CC to Hobbes, 114)
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from the Cambridge guide to EMP

1. "Malebranche...reiterates the Augustinian view that, before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their passions were forceful enough to protect them from harm but not so strong as to distract them from the one true good, namely God. It is part of humanity's punishment for original sin that our passions are now much stronger and more compelling than they were, so that any attempt to lead a good life is an unremitting struggle, and the task of overcoming or counteracting our affects is a central aspect of any good life." (James 203)

2. In the modern period: "writers indebted to Stoicism viewed the passions as erroneous judgments, and argued that reason ought in principle to transcend them completely. People who progressively overcome their passions by cultivating a rational and correct understanding of the world are gradually released from the emotional ups and downs of a passionate life, and come to experience a state of...ataraxia" (205)

3. True understanding of the good is achieved extra-rationally: "An enormously influential version of this stance had been articulated by Luther, who argued that, since reason cannot enlight us as to how God wishes us to act, the only way to attain virtue is to cultivate a passive faith in the diety, who may then grace individuals with a kind of unmerited righteousness." (208)

4. On Locke's Essays on the Law of Nature: "Human beings can infer both the content and form of natural law from empirical observations. From the manifest design of the universe, we can infer the existence of a supremely wise and powerful Creator. And since we need to live 'in society with other men,' it is evidently God's will that we do so. But how can we do so if there are collective action problems and if, as Locke also believes, self-interest is the only rational motive? God does not will in vain, so since our only rational motive is self interest, he must have created supernatural benefits for compliance and burdens for noncompliance, beyond their natural consequences, sufficient to make obedience invariably in each agent's interest, and, moreover, given us a way to determine ourselves by our knowledge of this very conclusion. This effectively gives Locke a deduction of the immortality of the soul, the availability of self-determination, and the doctrine of eternal sanctions as necessary conditions for the very possibility of morality and reasonable social unity." (Darwall 227)

5. "In a striking opening move, Hume reverts to Hobbes's analysis of the impotence of reason and, reversing orthodoxy with a rhetorical flourish that Hobbes would have admired, pronounces reason to be the slave of the passions." (James 214)

6. "For Aquinas, natural law and individual benefit effectively provide the same normative standard. In the classical view, teleological metaphysics is what gives natural law its normative purchase. Inherent in every being's nature is an ideal end: what that being should be. Normativity is 'built into' nature." (Darwall 222)

7. The 'Grotian problematic': "Lacking hope of agreement on a common good rooted in a shared religious outlook, Grotius attempted to articulate a conception of moral and political order that could be convincing to people without a common vision of the good life or any reason to believe that outcomes that would be good for one must be good for all." (223)

8. On Spinoza's 'source of darkness': "The masses thik God made everything for their benefit. They develop their own ways of trying to influence God to direct all of nature to satisfy their own 'insatiable greed.' Thus the prejudice that everything in nature works for an end 'was changed into superstition' and lodged firmly in men's minds. We would all have remained in this sorry state had not mathematics, which is not concerned with ends, 'shown men another standard of truth.' It will take a clear deductive demonstration of the truth, such as his own Ethics, to free men from their superstitions; but this is exactly the kind of thinking most people cannot follow." (Schneewind 332)

9. "By identifying Aufklarung with adopting a maxim, Kant rejects all views holding that the clouds are dispelled simply by the removal of factual or scientific ignorance." (i.e. he rejects the 'sources of darkness' of Hume and d'Holbach.)

10. "The enlightenment maxim ('Have the courage to use your own reason') is 'a negative principle in the use of one's faculty of cognition.' By this Kant means that the Enlightenment maxim will lead us to reject certain cognitive claims - those made by the advocate of superstition or enthusiasm...To accept what they urge upon us, we must accept the principle that there is some nonmoral way of pleasing God. This is what enlightened agents reject [acc. to Kant]. When thinking for themselves, they will always reject any claim grounded on the belief that there are nonmoral means to God's approval...we conclude that we do not know what the religious advocates claim to know. In this way the maxim leads, as Kant also says, to the death of both aberrant forms of divine service." (340, 346)
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Lockean skepticism

Locke provided an implicit criticism of Hobbes’s rejection of incorporeal substance when he noted that our idea of corporeal substance is no clearer than our idea of spiritual substance, since we take both ideas to signify the unknown “substratum” that we suppose to underlie spiritual or corporeal qualities or operations. Locke concluded that we can no more infer to the nonexistence of spirit from the lack of a clear idea of an immaterial substratum than we can infer to the nonexistence of matter from the lack of a clear idea of a material substratum.

— Schamltz, The science of mind. Cambridge Companion to EMP, p. 147.

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a thread

"Had he stood alone in the world he could easily have ridiculed the whole affair, though it was also certain that in that event it could never have arisen at all" - Kafka, The Trial (Lawyer)

"Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains" - Rousseau
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Excerpts from Black Boy

1. "Each event spoke with a cryptic tongue. And the moments of living slowly revealed their coded meanings. There was the wonder I felt when I first saw a brace of mountainlike, spotted, black-and-white horses clopping down a dusty road through clouds of powdered clay.
There was the delight I caught in seeing long straight rows of red and green vegetables stretching away in the sun to the bright horizon.
There was the faint, cool kiss of sensuality when dew came on to my cheeks and shins as I ran down the wet green garden paths in the early morning.
There was the vague sense of the infinite as I looked down upon the yellow, dreaming waters of the Mississippi River from the verdant bluffs of Natchez.
There were the echoes of nostalgia I heard in the crying strings of wild geese winging south against a bleak, autumn sky.
There was the tantalizing melancholy in the tingling scent of burning hickory wood.
There was the teasing and impossible desire to imitate the petty pride of sparrows wallowing and flouncing in the red dust of country roads.
There was the yearning for identification loosed in me by the sight of a solitary ant carrying a burden upon a mysterious journey.
There was the incomprehensible secret embodied in a whitish toadstool hiding in the dark shade of a rotting log.
There was the great joke that I felt God had played on cats and dogs by making them lap their milk and water with their tongues.
There was the love I had for the mute regality of tall, moss-clad oaks.
There was the hint of cosmic cruelty that I felt when I saw the curved timbers of a wodden shack that had been warped in the summer sun.
And there was the quiet terror that suffused my senses when vast hazes of gold washed earthward from star-heavy skies on silent nights..." (Ch. 1)

2. "From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city--that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing." (end Ch. 1)

3. "The days and hours began to speak now with a clearer tongue. Each experience had a sharp meaning of its own.
There was the breathlessly anxious fun of chasing and catching flitting fireflies on drowsy summer nights.
There was the drenching hospitality in the pervading smell of sweet magnolias.
There was the aura of limitless freedom distilled from the rolling sweep of tall green grass swaying and glinting in the wind and sun.
There was the feeling of impersonal plenty when I saw a bool of cotton whose cup had spilt over and straggled its white fleece toward the earth.
There was the pitying chuckle that bubbled in my throat when I watched a fat duck waddle across the back yard.
There was the suspense I felt when I heard the taut, sharp song of a yellow-black bee hovering nervously but patiently above a white rose.
There was the drugged, sleepy feeling that came from sipping glasses of milk, drinking them slowly so that they would last a long time, and drinking enough for the first time in my life.
There was the excitement of fishing in muddy country creeks with my grandpa on cloudy days.
There was the fear and awe I felt when Grandpa took me to a sawmill to watch the giant whirring steel blades whine and scream as they bit into wet green logs.
There was the dry hot summer morning when I scratched my bare arms on briers while picking blackberries and came home with my fingers and lips stained black with sweet berry juice.
There was the morning when I thought I would fall dead from fear after I had stepped with my bare feet upon a bright little green garden snake.
And there were the long, slow, drowsy days and nights of drizzling rain..." (Ch. 2)
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Three from Wright's 'Black Boy'

1. "At the age of twelve, before I had had one full year of formal schooling, I had a conception of life that no experience could ever erase, a predilection for what was real that no argument could ever gainsay, a sense of the world that was mine and mine alone, a notion as to what life meant that no education could ever alter, a conviction that the meaning of living came only when one was struggling to wring a meaning out of meaningless suffering." (end of Ch. 3)

2. "There are some elusive, profound, recondite things that men find hard to say to other men; but with the Negro it is the little things of life that become hard to say, for these tiny items shape his destiny. A man will seek to express his relation to the stars; but when a man's consciousness has been riveted upon obtaining a loaf of bread, that loaf of bread is as important as the stars." (Ch. 12)

3. "With ever watchful eyes and bearing scars, visible and invisible, I headed North, full of a hazy notion that life could be lived with dignity, that the personalities of others should not be violated, that men should be able to confront other men without fear or shame, and that if men were lucky in their living on earth they might win some redeeming meaning for their having struggled and suffered here beneath the stars." (end)
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Some scribbles from late Spring semester '08

Putnam's slogan: "Scientific realism is the only philosophy of science that does not make the success of science a miracle." (xxii)

"What should be noted is that agnostic empiricism comes in two varieties: naive and sophisticated. The naive variety stresses that the only rational option is suspension of judgment as to the truth of theoretical assertions. The sophisticated variety, associated with van Fraassen's approach, is that being agnostic is no less rational than being scientific realist." (Psillos xxi)
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Misc. Wittgenstein and Prophets I

A quote from Nordmann's Cambridge introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus:

1) "The theory and practice of the Tractatus distinguishes not just three, but four uses of language, including the one in which it is written ... While Wittgenstein scholars have learned to accept that some sentences might be senseless but not nonsensical (ie. logical propositions), most will not find intelligible the inverse claim that other expressions are literally nonsensical and yet make sense, for example, in that they help us 'see the world right' (TLP 6.54)." (Nordman 9)

and from Megill's Prophets of Extremity:

1) "...the loss of the transcendent dimension, prompted by the notion of Kritik as a pervasive power, leads to modern man's homelessness in the world. This is the crisis. It is the loss of authoritative standards of the good, the true, and the beautiful to which reason has access, coupled with loss of the Word of God in the Bible." (Megil xiii)

2) For those against the Prophets of Extremity, "refutation in any normal sense is impossible. To refute these writers, one must presuppose the very canons of logic that they attack, so that every refutation necessarily begs the question." (xiv)
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The tenets of Logical Positivism

From Ladyman:

1) Science is the only intellectually respectable form of inquiry.
2) All truths are either: (a) analytic, a priori and necessary (tautological) or (b) synthetic, a posteriori and contingent.*
3) So far as knowledge goes, it is either purely formal and analytic, such as math and logic, or it is a kind of empirical science.*
4) The purpose of philosophy is to explicate the structure or logic of science. Philosophy is really the epistemology of science and analyzing concepts.**
5) Logic is to be used to express precisely the relationships between concepts.
6) The verifiability criterion of meaning: a statement is literally meaningful if and only if it is either analytic or empirically verifiable.
7) The Verification Principle: the meaning of a non-tautological statement is its method of verification; that is, the way in which it can be shown to be true by experience.

* - Godel's Incompleteness Proof seems to undo these two tenets, or at least to obfuscate the analytic/synthetic distinction (in Mathematical Logic)
** - This seems to have failed.
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Signing on with Constructive Empiricism

Excerpt about this scientific outlook in Ladyman, James, Understanding Philosophy of Science, Routledge 2002.

"The constructive empiricism of van Fraassen has provoked renewed debate about scientific realism. Van Fraassen is happy to accept the semantic and metaphysical components of scientific realism...but he denies the epistemic component. He thinks that scientific theories about unobservables should be taken literally, and are true or false in the correspondence sense, depending on whether the entities they describe are part of the mind-independent world. However, he argues that acceptance of the best theories in modern science does not require belief in the entities postulated by them, and that the nature and success of modern science relative to its aims can be understood without invoking the existence of such entities.
"Van Fraassen defines scientific realism as follows: 'Science aims to give us, in its theories, a literally true story of what the world is like; and acceptance of a scientific theory involves the belief that it is true'. On the other hand, constructive empiricism is the view that: 'Science aims to give us theories which are empirically adequate'. To say that a theory is empirically adequate is to say: 'What it says about the observable things and events in this world, is true'. In other words: 'the belief involved in accepting scientific theory is only that it "saves the phenomena", that is that it correctly describes what is observable'...
"The scientific realist and the constructive empiricist disagree about the purpose of the scientific enterprise: the former thinks that it aims at truth wrt the unobservable processes and entities that explain the observable phenomena; the latter thinks that the aim is merely to tell the truth about what is observable, and rejects the demand for explanation of all regularities in what we observe. Van Fraassen says that explanatory power is not a 'rock bottom virtue' of scientific theories whereas consistency with the phenomena is. Hence, for the constructive empiricist, empirical adequacy is the internal criterion of success for scientific activity." (185)
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Galen's view of science

"One must be daring and approach the truth: for even if we may not grasp it completely, yet we will get closer to it than we are now" - Galen

[In light of this it appears that the prototype modern scientist enjoys tenets of Epicurean, Utilitarian, Thomist, reductive materialist, and Galenic thought. Contrast with what the modern scientist is not: Kantian, Platonic (most, at least), Aristotelian, Humean, ...]
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on Stoic physics/cosmology

from The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics, article by Michael J. White:

"Another illustration of Stoic accommodation of ontological monism to more conventional ways of thinking and speaking about reality is found in one feature of the Stoic doctrine of cosmic cycles. For a monist such as Spinoza, the identity of god and nature is axiomatic. For orthodox Stoics, the doctrine of cosmic cycles allows them to 'qualify' this identity to a degree. During the phase of conflagration or ekpurosis within a cosmic cycle, god may be regarded as completely existing 'in himself', so to speak. As a passage from Origen, quoted previously, puts it, 'the god of the Stoics has the whole of substance (ten holen ousian) as its controlling principle, whenever there is the conflagration'...This 'god-phase' of the cosmic cycle imparts a quasi-transcendence to god and allows the Stoics more naturally to speak of a deity as the creator of the world order - as the 'creative fire that proceeds systematically to the creation of the cosmos encompassing all the seminal principles (spermatikous logous)...' During the remainder of the world cycle, however, god is immanent in the cosmos as its soul or rational, controlling principle...Thus, the temporal phases of the world cycle permit the orthodox Stoics to maintain their monistic commitment to the unity and cohesion of what exists by identifying god and cosmos, while allotting to god a phase where he is manifested in quasi-transcendental perfection" (p. 137-8)
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some Greek philosophy

--various funnies brought to you by The Hellenistic Philosophers

21S Lucretius 4.622-32
"When the bodies of the diffusing flavour are smooth, they give pleasure by touching and stimulating all the moist and oozing regions in the tongue's vicinity. But by contrast, the more each of the bodies is furnished with roughness, they prick the sense and tear it in their encounter. Next comes pleasure from the flavour at the boundary of the palate. But when it has plunged right down through the throat, there is no pleasure while it is all spreading into the limbs. And it makes no difference at all what diet nourishes the body, provided that you can digest what you take and spread it out in the limbs and keep a moist tenor in the stomach" (p.118-119).

48E Plutarch, On common conceptions 1078B-D
"If blending occurs in the way they [the Stoics] insist, the constituents must come to be in one another, and the same thing must both be enveloped by being in the other and by accomodating it envelop it. But on the other hand neither of these is possible, since the blending forces both things to pervade each other and no part to lack any part but every part to be filled with all. This is the point presumably at which the leg made famous in Arcesilaus' lectures arrives stamping with derision on their absurdities [snide remarks not unfamiliar to Plutarch's texts]. For if blendings are through and through, what prevents not only the armada of Antigonus, as Arcesilaus said, from sailing through the leg that has been severed, putrefied, thrown into the sea and dissolved, but the 1,200 triremes of Xerxes along with the 300 of the Greeks from having a battle within the leg?"

54O, Plutarch On Stoic self-contradictions 1044D
"...Chrysippus says that bed-bugs are useful for waking us, that mice encourage us not to be untidy, and that it is only to be expected that nature should love beauty and delight in variety. He then adds, in these very words, 'The best evidence of this would be supplied by the peacock's tail. For it shows that in this case the animal has been created for the sake of the tail, and not vice versa. That is how the peacock came to be created, with the peahen as concomitant."


Stoic Epistemology:

1) "Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, illustrated sensation by the outstretched hand, assent by the curled fingers, apprehension by the closed fist and knowledge by the grasping of one hand by the other (Cicero, Academica Priora 2.145 = LS 41 A); for knowledge for the Stoics is part of a whole system, and while individual statements can be true (or false), truth, as opposed to just 'what is true', is a property of the system as a whole."

2) "The problem is, of course, that while we receive many impressions of which we can be reasonably sure that they represent their sourecs accurately, it is less easy to find examples of individual impressions which simply could not be in any way distorted or misleading...A man can normally recognise hsi own wife without ther ebeing any doubt about the matter; but this was not so for Admetus in Euripides' play when his wife Alcestis had returned from the dead."

3) "The second important Stoic contribution to 'logic', in their own broad sense of the term, was their theory of the lekton or 'that which is said'. Consider Cato walking, and some who says out loud in Latin, with Cato in view but without pointing to him, 'Cato ambulat'. A person who does not know Latin will see the walking Cato - who is a physical object - and will hear the sounds the speaker utters, which are also physical objects (modifications of the air). But he or she will not connect the sounds with the physical object Cato behaving in a certain way, and has thus failed to apprehend a third, incorporeal thing, the lekton or what the words are actually saying." (this anticipates the modern distinction between sense and reference)

(Sharples, R.W. Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. London: Routledge, 1996.)


On Aristotle's Physics, introduction by R. Glen Coughlin

(Coughlin, Glen. Aristotle Physics or Natural Hearing. South Bend: St. Augustine Press, 2005.)

1) a quote from Werner Heisenberg's Physics and Philosophy:

" of the most important features of the development and the analysis of modern physics is the experience that the concepts of natural language, vaguely defined as they are, seem to be more stable in the expansion of knowledge than the preceise terms of scientific language, derived as an idealization from only limited groups of phenomena. this fact is not surprising since the concepts of natural language are formed by the immediate connection with reality; they represent reality...On the other hand, the scientific concepts are idealizations; they are derived from experience obtained by refined experimental tools, and are precisely defined through axioms and definitions... But through this process of idealization and precise definition the immediate connection with reality is lost." (xvi)

2) "Thus the Physics, the first of Aristotle's works of natural philosophy, treats just those common notions mentioned above. Since the particular includes the universal in its notion, e.g., the falling of heavy bodies is a sort of motion and cannot be conceived apart from motion, we are compelled to start with the universal. In this way, the present work naturally and necessarily gives us the first part of the study of nature. Besides, we are more certain of the universal than of the particular..." (xi)
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on the Stoics, pt. 1


1) "Zeno, the founder of the Stoic school, illustrated sensation by the outstretched hand, assent by the curled fingers, apprehension by the closed fist and knowledge by the grasping of one hand by the other (Cicero, Academica Priora 2.145 = LS 41 A); for knowledge for the Stoics is part of a whole system, and while individual statements can be true (or false), truth, as opposed to just 'what is true', is a property of the system as a whole."

2) "The problem is, of course, that while we receive many impressions of which we can be reasonably sure that they represent their sourecs accurately, it is less easy to find examples of individual impressions which simply could not be in any way distorted or misleading...A man can normally recognise hsi own wife without ther ebeing any doubt about the matter; but this was not so for Admetus in Euripides' play when his wife Alcestis had returned from the dead."

3) "The second important Stoic contribution to 'logic', in their own broad sense of the term, was their theory of the lekton or 'that which is said'. Consider Cato walking, and some who says out loud in Latin, with Cato in view but without pointing to him, 'Cato ambulat'. A person who does not know Latin will see the walking Cato - who is a physical object - and will hear the sounds the speaker utters, which are also physical objects (modifications of the air). But he or she will not connect the sounds with the physical object Cato behaving in a certain way, and has thus failed to apprehend a third, incorporeal thing, the lekton or what the words are actually saying." (this anticipates the modern distinction between sense and reference)

Sharples, R.W. Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics. Routledge: London, 1996.
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on Cone's Persona, Protagonist, and Characters

"Actually there is a subconscious element in the verbal component as well. Speech is language projected by voice. Just as singing intensifies the expressive power of the sound of the voice through the formalization of its inflections, poetry---like good prose, for that matter---intensifies the expressive powers of the language through the formalization of the choice and ordering of words" (34).
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on Adorno's "Music, Language, and Composition"

Important quotations:

1. "Music is similar to language. Expressions like musical idiom or musical accent are not metaphors. But music is not language. Its similarity to language points to its innermost nature, but also toward something vague. The person who takes music literally as language will be led astray by it" (401).

2. "...quite a few things in music come rather close to the 'primitive concepts' that are dealt with in epistemology" (401).

3. "In comparison to signifying language, music is a language of a completely different type. Therein lies music's theological aspect. What music says is a proposition at once distinct and concealed. Its idea is the form of the name of God. It is demythologized prayer, freed from the magic of making anything happen, the human attempt, futile, as always, to name the name itself, not to communicate meanings" (402).

4. "Music aims at an intention-less language, but it does not separate itself once and for all from signifying language, as if there were different realms. A dialectic reigns here; everywhere music is shot through with intentions--not, to be sure, only since the stile rappresentativo, which used the rationalization of music as a means of coming to terms with its resemblance to language. Music without any signification, the mere phenomenological cherence of the tones, would resemble an acoustical kaleidoscope. As absolute signification, on the other hand, it would cease to be music and pass, falsely, into language. Intentions are essential to it, but they appear only intermittently" (403)

5. "But to play music properly means, above all, to speak its language properly. This language demands that it be imitated, not decoded. It is only in mimetic practice--which may, of course, be sublimated into unspoken imagination in the manner of reading to oneself--that music discloses itself, never to a consideration that interprets it independent of the act of execution. If one wished to compare an act in the signifying languages with the musical act, it would more likely be the transcription of a text than its comprehension as signification" (403)

6. "Signifying language would say the absolute in a mediated way, yet the absolute escapes it in each of its intentions, which, in the end, are left behind, as finite. Music reaches the absolute immediately, but in the same instant it darkens, as when a strong light blinds the eye, which can no longer see things that are quite visible" (404).

7. "Music does not exhaust itself in intentions; by the same token, however, no music exists without expressive elements: in music even expressionlessness becomes an expression" (405).

- note: The same can be said for the visual arts. As Andy Warhol's soup cans taught us, whatever takes the place of art inevitably becomes art.

8. "Music is a means of cognition that is veiled both for itself and for the knowing subject. But it has this much, at least, in common with the discursive form of knowledge: it cannot be fully resolved in the direction of either the subject or the object, and each of them is mediated by the other. Just as those musics in which the existence of the whole most consistently absorbs and moves beyond its particular intentions seem to be the most eloquent, so music's objectivity, as the essence of its logic, is inseparable from the element within it that is similar to language, from which it derives everything of a logical nature" (405-406)

9. "Hence, it cannot stop with the abstract negation of its similarity to language. The fact that music, as language, imitates-that on the strength of its similarity to language it constantly poses a riddle, and yet, as nonsignifying language, never answers it -must, nevertheless, not mislead us into erasing that element as a mere illusion. This quality of being a riddle, of saying something that the listener understands and yet does not understand, is something it shares with all art" (410).

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A few quotes from King Leopold's Ghost

A few quotes from: Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's Ghost. First Mariner Books, New York: 1999.

1. Furthermore, unlike many other great predators of history, from Genghis Khan to the Spanish conquistadors, King Leopold II never saw a drop of blood spilled in anger. He never set foot in the congo. There is something very modern about that, too, as there is about the bomber pilot in the stratosphere, above the clouds, who never hears screams or sees shattered homes or torn flesh" (4).

2. Joseph Conrad found in Africa "the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience" (4).

3. Past the Canary Islands you would enter the Mare Tenebroso:
"In the medieval imagination [writes Peter Forbath], this was a region of uttermost dread... where the heavens fling down liquid sheets of flame and the waters boil... where serpent rocks and ogre islands lie in wait for the mariner, where the giant hand of Satan reaches up from the fathomless depths to seize him, where he will turn black in face and body as a mark of God's vengeance for the insolence of his prying into this forbidden mystery. And even if he should be able to survive all these ghastly perils and sail on through, he would then arrive in the Sea of Obscurity and be lost forever in the vapors and slime at the edge of the world" (6-7).

4. To the priests' surprise:
"Like many white evangelists who followed them, there were horrified by polygamy; they thought it was the spices in the African food that provoked the dreadful practice" (9).

5. Good Catholics:
"The priests who strayed from the fold struck to their faith in one way, however; after the Reformation they tried to ensure that none of their human goods ended up in Protesant hands. It was surely not right, said one, 'for persons baptized in the Catholic church to be sold to peoples who are enemies of their faith' " (10).
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on The Birth of Tragedy, pts. 14-18

from the text:

1. " 'Virtue is knowledge; sin is only committed out of ignorance; the virtuous man is a happy man'; in these three basic forms of optimism lies the death of tragedy. For the virtuous hero must now be a dialectician; there must now be a necessary, visible connection between virtue and knowledge, faith and morality; the solution by transcendental justice in the plays of Aeschylus is now debased to the shallow and impertinent principle of 'poetic justice', with its usual deus ex machina" (70).

2. In a dream, Socrates was impelled by a figure to 'make music' (see Phaedo, 60e5ff).
"The words spoken by the figure who appeared to Socrates in a dream are the only hint of any scruples in him about the limits of logical nature; perhaps, he must have told himself, things which I do not understand are not automatically unreasonable. Perhaps there is a kingdom of wisdom from which the logician is banished? Perhaps art may even be a necessary correlative and supplement of science?" (71) (compare to what Azar Nafisi said)

3. "Thus people feel shame and fear in the face of the Greeks - unless there be one individual who reveres truth above all else and is therefore able to admit even this truth to himself: that the Greeks are chariot-drivers who hold the reins of our culture, and every other culture, in their hands, yet the chariot and the horses are almost always made of too-puny stuff and unequal to the glory of their drivers, who then regard it as a joke to drive such a vehicle into the abyss - and then jump across it themselves with the leap of Achilles" (72).

4. "At present, however, science, spurred on by its powerful delusion, is hurrying unstoppably to its limits, where the optimism hidden in the essence of logic will founder and break up. Fr there is an infinite number of points on the periphery of the circle of science, and while we have no way of foreseeing how the circle could even be completed, a noble and gifted man inevitable encounters, before the mid-point of his existence, boundary point on the periphery like this, where he stares into that which cannot be illuminated. When, to his horror, he sees how logic curls up around itself at these limits and finally bites its own tail, then a new form of knowledge breaks through, tragic knowledge, which, simply to be endured, needs art for protection and as medicine" (75).
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on The Birth of Tragedy, pts. 9-13

from the text:

1. "When we turn away blinded after a strenuous attempt to look directly at the sun, we have dark, coloured patches before our eyes, as if their purpose were to heal them; conversely, those appearances of the Sophoclean hero in images of light, in other words, the Apolline quality of the mask, are the necessary result of gazing into the inner, terrible depths of nature - radiant patches, as it were, to heal the gaze seared by gruesome night" (46).

2. "The myth of Prometheus (in Aeschylus' play) presupposes the unbounded value which naive humanity placed on fire as the true palladium of every rising culture; but it struck those contemplative original men as a crime, a theft perpetrated on divine nature, to believe that man commanded fire freely, rather than receiving it as a gift from heaven, as a bolt of lightning which could start a blaze, or as the warming fire of the sun" (49).

3. "Like Plato, Euripides undertook to show the world the opposite of the 'unreasoning' poet; as I have said, his aesthetic principle, 'Everything must be conscious in order to be beautiful', is a parallel to Socrates' assertion that, 'Everything must be conscious in order to be good.' Accordingly, we may regard Euripides as the poet of aesthetic Socratism" (64).

4. "Socrates believed that he was obliged to correct existence, starting from this single point; he, the individual, the forerunner of a completely different culture, art, and morality, steps with a look of disrespect and superiority into a world where we would count ourselves supremely happy if we could even touch the hem of its cloak in awe" (66).

from Lenson:

1. "With Euripides begins mass culture, or the representation of ordinary people from above in an easily accessible way that makes no demand of them for their betterment, but instead praises them for being just as they are. Modern mass culture does precisely that" (68).
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on The Birth of Tragedy, pts. 5-8

from the text:

1. "...for only as an aesthetic phenomenon is existence and the world externally justified..." (33)

2a. "Even when a musician speaks in images about a composition, as when he describes a symphony as 'pastoral', calling one movement a 'scene by a stream' and another a 'merry gathering of country folk', these too are merely symbolic representations born out of the music (as opposed to the objects imitated by the music), representations which are quite incapable of informing us about the Dionysiac contents of music, and which indeed have no exclusive value as compared with other images" (35).

2b. " itself, in its absolute sovereignty, has no need at all of images and concepts but merely tolerates them as an accompaniment" (36).

--NB - in 1956 Theodor Adorno, in his Music, Language, and Composition essay, reiterates this theme:
"Music aims at an intention-less language, but it does not separate itself once and for all from signifying language, as if there were different realms. A dialectic reigns here; everywhere music is shot through with intentions--not, to be sure, only since the stile rappresentativo, which used the rationalization of music as a means of coming to terms with its resemblance to language. Music without any signification, the mere phenomenological cherence of the tones, would resemble an acoustical kaleidoscope. As absolute signification, on the other hand, it would cease to be music and pass, falsely, into language. Intentions are essential to it, but they appear only intermittently" (Adorno, Theodor W. Music, Language, and Composition. Musical Quarterly, Vol. 77, No. 3, 1993. p. 403.).

3. Hamlet and the Dionysiac
" In this sense Dionysiac man is similar to Hamlet: both have gazed into the true essence of things, they have acquired knowledge and they find action repulsive, for their actions can do nothing to change the eternal essence of things; they regard it as laughable or shameful that they should be expected to set to rights a world so out of joint" (40).

4. The concentric structure of the Greek theater:
"The form of the Greek theatre is reminiscent of a lonely mountain valley; the architecture of the stage seems like a radiant cloud formation seen from on high by the Bacchae as they roam excitedly through the mountains, like the magnificent frame in which the image of Dionysos is revealed to them" (42).

From Lenson:

1. "This is Nietzsche's greatest contribution t the theory of tragedy: the notion that the stage figures are not merely imported from Homeric epic and Olympian mythology, and then given a musical accompaniment; the notion that music came first, and that actors rose from the music to take on provisional individual identities" (58).
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on The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas

Here are some notes from an early summer endeavor (Eco, Umberto. The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas. Boston: Harvard College, 1988.)

1. "When we talk about the medievals' taste and spontaneity, their immediate sensuous pleasure in the beauty of the world, we at once raise another problem. Did they always think of art as didactic, or were they capable of disinterested aesthetic experience?" (Eco 13)

2. Suger describes beauty in a way completely contrasting Saint Bernard:
" Another element in medieval aesthetic pleasure appears in a passage in which Suger relates what it is like to contemplate the beauty of his church. It is an experience which unites the sensuousness of beautiful materials with an awareness of the supernatural, in a manner which he describes as 'anagogical.' In the medieval Weltanschauung there was a direct connection linking the earth with heaven, and this must be taken into account when one considers their aesthetic perceptions.
'Thus, when--out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God--the loveliness of the many-colored gems has called me away from external cares, and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect, transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial, on the diversity of the sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling, sa it were, in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven; and that, by the grace of God, I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an anagogical manner' (Panofsky, Abbot Suger, pp. 63-65)." (Eco 15)
(Note: this is the self-same medieval Weltanschauung that denounces this world in praise of 'the next,' which Nietzsche would eat right up)

3. Aquinas's knowledge of material beauty through poetry
"We might observe, for instance, that Aquinas was compelled to make his poetic creations follow existing melodies, with each syllable corresponding to a change in existing melodies, with each syllable corresponding to a change in pitch, in the classical maner of the plainchant sequence. In fact this put him in vital contact with a creative process in which music leads to the birth of poetry and imposes on it the imperatives of consonance and proportion. However, all of these considerations are by way of introduction. They show that when Aquinas wrote about beauty and artistic form he was not dealing with mere abstractions, cut off from experience. He was referring, implicitly, to a world which he knew well" (Eco 17).

4. " humans alone there exists the possibility of a pleasure quite extraneous to tactile pleasure. And this is aesthetic pleasure" (Eco 18).

5. Medieval collections
"Collections were made with a lack of discrimination which today would earn a museum curator dismissal or contempt. But then it earned fame for notable treasuries such as that of the duc de Berry, which contained the horns of unicorns, St. Joseph's engagement ring, whales' teeth, coconuts, and shells from the seven seas. Other collections might list as many as 3,000 items, including 700 paintings, a stuffed elephant, a hydra, a basilisk, an egg found by an abbot inside another egg, and manna fallen in the desert" (Eco 14). (See Jules Guiffrey, Inventaire de Jean, duc de Berry, 2 vols. (Paris, 1894-96))
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on The Birth of Tragedy, pts. 2, 3, and 4

from the text:

1. Apollo is a mere veil of the Dionysian
"In the Dionysiac dithyramb man is stimulated to the highest intensification of his symbolic powers; something that he has never felt before urgently demands to be expresseed: the destruction of the veil of maya, one-ness as the genius of humankind, indeed of nature itself. The essence of nature is bent on expressing itself; a new world of symbols is required, firstly the symbolism of the entire body, not just of the mouth, the face, the word, but the full gesture of dance with its rhythmical movement of every limb. Then there is a sudden, tempestuous growth in music's other symbolic powers, in rhythm, dynamics, and harmony. To comprehend this complete unchaining of all symbolic powers, a man must already have reached that height of self-abandonment which seeks symbolic expression in those powers: thus the dithyrambic servant of Dionysos can only be understood by his own kind! With what astonishment the Apolline Greeks must have regarded him! With an astonishment enlarged by the added horror of realizing that all this was not so foreign to them after all, indeed that their Apolline consciousness only hid this Dionysiac world from the like a veil" (21)

2. Apollo as the supreme Olympian
"The very same drive which assumed sensuous form in Apollo gave birth to that entire Olympian world, and in this sense we are entitled to regard Apollo as its father. What, then, was the enormous need that gave rise to such a luminous company of Olympic beings?" (22)

3. The symbiosis of Apolline vision and Dionysiac chaos
"Here, in the highest symbolism of art, we see before us that Apolline world of beauty and the ground on which it rests, that terrible wisdom of Silenus, and we grasp, intuitively, the reciprocal necessity of these two things. At the same time, however, we encounter Apollo as the deification of the principum individuationis in which alone the eternally attained goal of the primordial unity, its release and redemption through semblance, comes about; with sublime gestures he shows us that the whole world of agony is needed in order to compel the individual to generate the releasing and redemptive vision and then, lost in contemplation of that vision, to sit calmly in his rocking boat in the midst of the sea" (26).

(This goes back to the quote of Shopenhauer's: "Just as the boatman sits in his small boat, trusting his frail craft in a stormy sea that is boundless in every direction, rising and falling with the howling, mountainous waves, so in the midst of a world full of suffering and misery the individual man calmly sits, supported by and trusting in the principium individuationis" (World as Will and Representation, I, p. 416).)

4. The limits that apply to the 'semblance of semblance'
"As an ethical divinity Apollo demands measure from all who belong to him and, so that they may respect that measure, knowledge of themselves. Thus the aesthetic necessity of beauty is accompanied by the demands: 'Know thyself' and 'Not too much!', whereas getting above oneself and excess were regarded as the true hostile demonds of the non-Apolline sphere, and thus as qualities of the pre-Apolline period, the age of the Titans, and of the extra-Apolline world, that of the barbarians. Prometheus had to be torn apart by vultures on account of his Titanic love for mankind; Oedipus had to be plunged into a confusing maelstrom of atrocities because his unmeasured wisdom solved the riddle of the Sphinx; these examples show how the Delphic god interpreted the Greek past" (27).

And some from the Companion:

1. "Like the Dionysian, which is its source, the Apollinian also comes from nature, from Dionysus. This is an important clarification, because it helps to illustrate Nietzsche's 'anti-dialiectic.' Once again it would be easy, at this point in the essay, to see Apollo as 'civilization' and Dionysus as the opposite--nature. Yet through the tragic age, civilization and nature were not opposed. This is almost a perfect echo of Schiller's definition of the naive. In all of their myriad aspects, Nietzsche sees the two gods always as extreme ends of a continuum, rather than as opposites. In this way he tries to get away from the formation of a simple, logical antimony" (Lenson 46).

2. "Sparta is introduced as evidence that Apollinian consciousness reacted to the advent of Dionysus by becoming rigid, by creating a dictatorial political power to defend its precious illusions. The calm man in the boat, weathering the stormy sea, is now chained to the oarlucks just in case" (Lenson 49).
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on the Birth of Tragedy, s. 1

Two quotations from the Student Companion (Lenson, David. The Birth of Tragedy - A Commentary. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co, 1987.)

1. "Thomson, in Aeschylus and Athens, gives a continuation of the myth of the young god's birth fromm the thigh of Zeus: 'Enraged at the honors which Zeus was bestowing on the child, Hera suborned the Titans and persuaded them to destroy it. Accordingly, having provided themselves with attractive toys... The Titans enticed the child from the Kouretes, in whose charge it had been placed, tore it in pieces, threw the limbs into a cauldron and boiled and ate them... When Zeus discovered what had happened, he blasted the Titans with his thunderbolt, and in some way... the dead child was brought to life again' (Thomson, George. Aeschylus and Athens. New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1968.). The notion of a god whose birth and death are both cause for celebration was of course borrowed by Christianity, which put the birth of the god in the winter and conflated his death and rebirth into a single event in the spring" (Lenson, 26).

2. "Schopenhauer's depiction of the individual as a sailor on stormy seas resembles Richard Wagner's musicological conception of singers' voices as shipes floating upon the sea of the orchestra. The image of a calm individual weathering a chaotic world is a vivid one and gives a clear sense of what Nietzsche intends Apollo to stand for" (Lenson, 33).

Now a few from the text, section 1:

1. "Every human being is fully an artist when creating the worlds of dream, and the lovely semblance of dream is the precondition of all the arts of image-making, including, as we shall see, an important half of poetry. We take pleasure in dreaming, understanding its figures without mediation; all forms speak to us; nothing is indifferent or unnecessary. Yet even while this dream-reality is most alive, we nevertheless retain a pervasive sense that it is semblance..." (15)

2. "Indeed Schopenhauer actually states that the mark of a person's capacity for philosophy is the gift for feeling occasionally as if people and all things were mere phantoms or dream-images. A person with artistic sensibility relates to the reality of dream in the same way as a philosopher relates to the reality of existence: he attends to it closely and with pleasure, using these images to interpret life, and practising for life with the help of these events" (15).

3. Approaching the Dionysiac: "Now the slave is a freeman, now all the rigid, hostile barriers, which necessity, caprice, or 'impudent fashion' have established between human beings, break asunder. Now, hearing this gospel of universal harmony, each person feels himself to be not simply united, reconciled or merged with his neighbour, but quite literally one with him, as if the veil of maya had been torn apart, so that mere shreds of it flutter before the mysterious primordial one (das Ur-Eine)" (18).
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on The Birth of Tragedy

Some particularly interesting quotes from Raymond Geuss' introduction:

1. "The highest form of culture we know, Nietzsche thinks, is that of ancient Greece, and the most perfect expression of that culture is fifth-century Attic tragedy, but the depredations of time make our knowledge of that culture at best fragmentary and indirect" (x).

2. "Roughly speaking, The Birth of Tragedy asks: how can we remedy the ills of 'modern' society? Nietzsche's answer is: by constructing a new 'tragic culture' centered on an idealized form of Wagnerism" (x).

3. "The synthesis of Apollo and Dionysos in tragedy (in which the musical, Dionysiac element, Nietzsche claims, has a certain dominance) is part of a complex defence against the pessimism and despair which is the natural existential lot of humans" (xi).

4. "Modern individuals have developed their talents and powers in an overspecialized, one-sided way; their lives and personalities are fragmented, not integrated, and they lack the ability to identify with their society in a natural way and play the role assigned t them in the world wholeheartedly. They cannot see the lives they lead as meaningful and good. Schiller, Holderin, Hegel, Marx, Wagner, Nietzsche, (and many other lesser-known figures) all accept version of this general diagnosis. Theoretical and practical reactions to this perceived problematic state differ enormously. Some (like the later Schiller) thought that what was needed was a new elitist classicism; others (such as Marx) thought that only radical political action directed at changing the basic economic structure of society could deal effectively with the situation. The strand of response to this perceived problem that is most important for the genesis of Nietzsche's view is Romanticism" (xii-xiii).

5. "Early Romantics had been obsessed with one or the other of two such idealized past societies. Some gave their allegiance to an idealized antiquity, presenting some version of the ancient city-state as the model for a harmonious and satisfying human life; others, and this came to be thought the more characteristically Romantic option, followed the lead of the poet Novalis in praising the purported all-encompassing unity of the Catholic Middle Ages. There are strong elements of both of these views in Wagner, whose ideas about the work of art are strongly informed by his reading of Attic tragedy, but who tends to derive the plot and setting of his music-dramas from the Middle Ages" (xiii).

6. "Archaic Greek society, Nietzsche claims, is different from and superior to the modern world because archaic Greece was an artistic culture, whereas modern culture is centered on cognition ('science') and 'morality.'" (xiv).

7. "Nietzsche's utter contempt for 'democracy' seems to be one of the most basic features of his intellectual and psychological makeup. It certainly antedated the development of any of his characteristic philosophic views' (xv).

8. "In contrast to Wagner's view that the artistic culture of ancient Greece could not be revived because it deserved to perish--founded as it was on slavery--and that a fully satisfactory work of art 'of the future' could belong only to a society that had abolished not only chattel-slavery but its modern equivalent, the wage-slavery characteristic of capitalist societies, Nietzsche asserts that slavery is an essential feature of any society that aspires to high cultural attainments. He does seem to think it is rather a shame that this is the case, but he never suggests that the price is not worth paying" (xvi).

9. "The situation, however, is even more complex, because while dissolution of our identity and individuality is in one sense what we fear most, it is also potentially the highest and most intense kind of pleasure" (xviii).

10. "The pleasure we experience in various mundane orgiastic experiences when the sense of separate, differentiated self is lost is a vague analogue of the real pleasure (and horror) of genuine self-dissolution. Finally, just as dissolution of identity is both horrible and pleasurable, so equally knowledge that our identity is an illusion doomed imminently to be dissolved is both attractive--which explains partly the appeal of tragedy--and repulsive. In fact, Nietzsche claims, full, undiluted knowledge of the metaphysical truth about the world would be strictly intolerable to humans; it would produce in us a nausea in the face of existence that would literally kill us" (xviii-xix).

11. "The paradoxical duality in tragedy mirrors an underlying metaphysical paradox: what we take to be most real about ourselves, our very individuation as separate beings, is nothing but an illusory appearance generated by a non-individuated metaphysical entity (the Will (cf. Schopenhauer)). This is what makes tragedy the highest form of art, and, as such, 'the true metaphysical activity'" (xix).

12. "The production of individuated Schein is the work of 'Apollo' and it is this work that allows the spectators to survive. Tragedy requires the cooperation of Dionysos with Apollo, of music and words. Pure or absolute Dionysiac music would be too direct an expression of this truth; we survive a Wagnerian music-drama only because of the illusions Apollo creates" (xxi). (Note: This idea of Nietzsche's is later dismissed by Geuss as mere Wagner propaganda; it was the Master's way of elevating his music above symphonic composers such as Beethoven.

13. "The non-individuated reality behind all appearances, what Nietzsche calls das Ur-Eine, or the Primordial One, is itself a kind of artist. In an image taken over from Heraclitus Nietzsche writes that this primordial unity is like a child playing in the sand on the beach, wantonly and haphazardly creating individuated shapes and forms and then destroying them, taking equal pleasure in both parts of the process, in both creation (Apollo) and destruction (Dionysos). Our world is nothing but a momentary configuration of shapes in the sand" (xxiv)
(Note: it would be good to notice how Geuss does not suffuse his introduction with qualifiers such as "Nietzsche claims that..." or "According to Nietzsche..."; instead he states the main premises of the work as if they were his own)

14. "The archaic Greeks are 'pessimists', but 'pessimists of strength', not, as Nietzsche claims in the main body of TBOT, pessimists in the sense in which Schopenhauer is a pessimist (and what Nietzsche now calls 'pessimism of weakness'). That is, he seems to think that what is finally significant in a philosophy is whether or not it contributes to an affirmation of this world, and that one can in some sense distinguish issues of pessimism/optimism from issues concerning affirmation or negation of this world, our world of everyday life. Since both Schopenhauer and Christianity agree that this world is not to be affirmed, they are really instances of the same kind of weakness, and the difference in their metaphysical views (that the Christian thinks the underlying reality of the world, God, is to be affirmed while Schopenhauer thinks this underlying reality, the Will, is to be negated) is irrelevant" (xxvi-xxvii).

15. *parallels with Jung* "The idea specifically derived from TBOT which has become perhaps most influential in the twentieth century is the conception of the 'Dionysiac' and its role in human life, i.e. the view that destructive, primitively anarchic forces are a part of us (not to be projected into some diabolical Other), and that the pleasure we take in them is real and not to be denied. These impulses cannot siply be ignored, eliminated, repressed, or fully controlled. As Euripides' Bacchae shows, they will have their due one way or another and failure to recognize them is just a way of, eventually, giving them free rein to express themselves with special force, destructiveness, and irrationality" (xxx).
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more on A Primer of Jungian Pyschology

Some of the more profound Jung quotes are located in the conclusion; here they are:
"Theories in psychology are the very devil. It is true that we need certain points of view for their orienting and heuristic value; but they should be regarded as mere auxiliary concepts that can be laid aside at any time. We still know so very little about the psyche that is positively grotesque to think we are far enough advanced to frame general theories. We have not even established the empirical extent of the psyche's phenomenology; how then can we dream of general theories? No doubt theory is the best cloak for lack of experience and ignorance, but the consequences are depressing: bigotedness, superficiality, and scientific sectarianism." (Vol. 17, p. 7)

*Kant content* 'Jung pointed out that, after all, causality and finalism are arbitrary modes of thinking employed by the scientist for ordering observable phenomena. Causality and teleology are not themselves found in nature.' (p. 128)

'Jung also pointed out another practical value of the finalistic attitude when working with patients. A purely causal attitude is likely to produce feelings of resignation and despair in a patient, since from the standpoint of causality he is a prisoner of his past. The damage has already been done, and it is difficult and sometimes impossible to undo this damage. The finalistic attitude offers patient hope and something to work toward.' (p. 128) Hall then goes on to talk about the concept of synchronicity, and how Jung tried to incorporate this into his psychic theory.

"What have all our cultural achievements led to? The fearful answer is there before our eyes: man has been delivered from no fear, a hideous nightmare lies upon the world. So far reason has failed lamentably, and the very thing that everybody wanted to avoid rolls on in ghastly progression. Man has achieved a wealth of useful gadgets, but, to offset that, he has torn open the abyss, and what will become of him now--where can he make a halt? After the last World War we hoped for reason; we go on hoping. But already we are fascinated by the possibilities of atomic fission and promise ourselves a Golden Age--the surest guarantee that the abomination of desolation will grow to limitless dimensions. And who or what is it that causes all this? It is none other than that harmless, ingenious, inventive, and sweetly reasonable human spirit who unfortunately is abysmally unconscious of the demonism that still clings to him. Worse, this spirit does everything to avoid looking himself in the face, and we all help him like mad. Only, heaven preserve us from psychology--that depravity might lead to self-knowledge! Rather let us have wars, for which somebody else is always to blame, nobody seeing that all the world is driven to do just what all the world flees from in terror" (Vol. 9i, p. 253) from 1948

"Personality is the supreme realization of the innate idiosyncrasy of a living being. It is an act of high courage flung in the face of life, the absolute affirmation of all that constitutes the individual, the most successful adaptation to the universal conditions of existence coupled with the greatest possible freedom for self-determination" (Vol. 17, p. 171)
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from A Primer of Jungian Psychology

"The goal of amplification is to comprehend the symbolic significance and the archetypal roots of a dream, fantasy, hallucination, painting, or any other human product. Thus, for example, Jung writes concerning the song of the moth:
'Under the symbol of "moth and sun" we have dug deep down into the historical layers of the psyche, and in the course of our excavations have uncovered a buried idol, the sun-hero, "young, comely, with glowing locks and fiery crown," who, forever unattainable to mortal men, revolves around the earth, causing night to follow day, and winter summer, and death life, and who rises again in rejuvenated splendor to give light to new generations. for him the dreamer longs with her very soul, for him the "soul-moth" burns her wings' (Vol. 5, p. 109). In the sun-hero, we see the representation of an archetype, the product of countless generations of men experiencing the great power and radiance of the sun." (p. 112-13)

"The essential features of Jung's theory of symbolism are disclosed in this statement by him: 'The symbol is not a sign that veils something everybody knows. Such is not its significance; on the contrary, it represents an attempt to elucidate, by means of analogy, something that still belongs entirely to the domain of the unknown or something that is yet to be' (Vol. 7, p. 287)." (p. 116)

"What is it that is 'as yet completely unkown and only in the process of formation"? It is an archetype buried in the collective unconscious. A symbol, above all, is an attempt to represent an archetype, but the result is always imperfect. jung contended that man's history is a record of his search for better symbols, that is, for symbols that realize fully and consciously (individuate) the archetypes. In some periods of history, for example, the early Christian era and the Renaissance, many good symbols were born--good in the sense that they fulfilled many sides of man's nature. In other periods, notably the present century, symbolism tends to be sterile and one-sided. Modern symbols, which consist largely of machines, weapons, technology, international corporations, and political systems, are expressions of the shadow and persona, and neglect other aspects of the psyche. Jung very much hoped mankind would create better (unifying) symboles before it destroyed itself in war." (p. 116-117)

"The symbolism of alchemy attracted Jung because he saw in it an effort to encompass all sides of man's nature and to forge opposing forces into a unity. The mandala or magic circle is the chief symbol of this transcendent self." (p. 117)

..."Retrospective analysis exposes the instictual basis of a symbol, and prospective analysis reveals the yernings of mankind for completion, rebirth, harmony, purification, and the like. The former is a causal, reductive type of analysis; the latter a teleological, finalistic type of analysis...Jung believed that the prospective character of a symbol ahs been neglected in favor of the view that a symbol is solely a product of instinctual impulses and wishes striving to assert themselves." (p. 117)
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from The Wasteland

IV. Death By Water

Phlebas the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
And the profit and loss.

A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as
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one from GEB

“One could suggest, for instance, that reality is itself nothing but one very complicated formal system. Its symbols do not move around on paper, but rather in a three-dimensional vacuum (space); they are the elementary particles of which everything is composed. (Tacit assumption: that there is an end to the descending chain of matter, so that the expression “elementary particles” makes sense.) The “typographical rules” are the laws of physics, which tell how, given the positions and velocities of all particles at a given instant, to modify them, resulting in a new set of positions and velocities belonging to the “next” instant. So the theorems of this grand formal system are the possible configurations of particles at different times in the history of the universe. The sole axiom is (or perhaps was) the original configurations of all the particles at the ‘beginning of time.’ This is so grandiose a conception, however, that it has only the most theoretical interest; and besides. Quantum mechanics casts at least some doubt on even the theoretical worth of this idea. Basically, we are asking if the universe operates deterministically, which is an open question.” – p. 54

[If we are to take Tom Stoppard's Arcadia as food for thought, it seems Thomasina was right by suggesting that the laws of Thermodynamics (even the combustion engine) repudiate this Newtonian species of Determinism. - ed. Summer 08]

[Maxwell thought of this asymmetry as well - ed March '09]
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