Friday, 28 September 2007

Searle on Derrida's Intellectual Influence

Searle on why the mind-boggling Derrida became so fashionable in literary theory departments throughout the world (found in a review of Culler's book on deconstruction, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism after Structuralism from the New York Review of Books, vol. 30, no. 16, 27th October 1983):
It is apparently very congenial for some people who are professionally concerned with fictional texts to be told that all texts are really fictional anyway, and that claims that fiction differs significantly from science and philosophy can be deconstructed as a logocentric prejudice, and it seems positively exhilarating to be told that what we call "reality" is just more textuality. Furthermore, the lives of such people are made much easier than they had previously supposed, because now they don't have to worry about an author's intentions, about precisely what a text means, or about distinctions within a text between the metaphorical and the literal, or about the distinction between texts and the world because everything is just a free play of signifiers. The upper limit, and I believe the reductio ad absurdum, of this "sense of mastery" conveyed by deconstruction is in Geoffrey Hartman's claim that the prime creative task has now passed from the literary artist to the critic.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Because It's Funny

From The Age article on Casey Stoner:
Young gun: Casey Stoner, 21, with wife Adriana Tuchyna, 18. They met at Phillip Island four years ago when Adriana asked him to sign her stomach.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Nietzsche and Schopenhauer

A major philosophical influence on Nietzsche was Schopenhauer. Scandalously, Schopenhauer is often left unread these days and what is often a Schopenhauerian thought read in one of Nietzsche's books, who still retains an allure for the contrarian wishing to take on the world, is often misinterpreted.

Hence, the following from Ecce Homo, which is classic Schopenhauer and brilliantly expounded in his epistemology, is often just taken as an one of Nietzsche's sui generis philosophical insights:
No one can draw more out of things, books included, than he already knows. A man has no ears for that to which experience has given him no access.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Remedial French

I can read French reasonably well thanks to my already having grappled with Spanish and Portuguese, but I still have trouble with remembering the following little features:

QUI (subject) = who, which, that (of persons or things)
QUE (object) = whom, which, that (of persons or things)
DONT = of whom, of which (of persons or things)
LEQUEL = who, which, that (of two) (of persons or things)
DUQUEL = of whom, which, that (of two) (of persons or things)
AUQUEL = to whom, which, that (of two) (of persons or things)
DE QUI = whose, of whom (persons only)
À QUI = to whom, whose
QUOI = what (things only)
DE QUOI = of what (things only)
À QUOI = to what (things only)
QUEL, QUELS, QUELLE, QUELLES = which (persons or things)
LEQUEL, LESQUELS, LAQUELLE, LESQUELLES = sexed version of that or whom as in "La soeur de Jean, laquelle est riche".

CELUI = this (masc)
CELLE = this (fem)
CEUX = this (masc pl)
CELLES = this (fem pl)
CE = this
CECI = this here
CELA = that there
ÇA = that

NE verb PERSONNE = nobody (Je ne parle avec personne = I do not speak with anyone)
NE verb RIEN = nothing (Je ne pense rien = I do not think anything (nothing))
NE verb PAS ENCORE = not yet (Je ne joue pas encore = I do not play yet)
NE verb QUE = only (Je ne pense qu'à ma mère = I think only of my mother)

EN = of something or some person and is masculine, feminine, singular and plural = equivalent of DE plus a noun

J'en ai = I have of it, of them
En avez vous? = Have you some of it? Have you (of) them?
Combien en avez-vous? = How much of it (or them) do you have?
J'en ai une douzaine = I have a dozen (of them)
J m'en souviens = I remember it (EN used for verbs that require "DE" after them)

Y = there and used as preposition of place and object of verbs that require à = the chief difference between Y and EN is that Y is seldom used for persons.

j'y avais = I am going (there)
j'y ai ètè = I have been (there)

nous leur y en avons parlé = we spoke of them of it there

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Schopenhauer on Perception and Reason

In World as Will and Representation, #12:
Thus, for example, an experienced billiard-player can have perfect knowledge of the laws of impact of elastic bodies on one another, merely in the understanding, merely for immediate perception, and with this he manages perfectly. Only the man who is versed in the science of mechanics, on the other hand, has a real rational knowledge of those laws, that is to say, a knowledge of them in the abstract. Even for the construction of machines such a merely intuitive knowledge of the understanding is sufficient, when the inventor of the machine himself executes the work, as is often seen in the case of talented workmen without any scientific knowledge. On the other hand, as soon as several men and their coordinated activity occurring at different times are necessary for carrying out a mechanical operation, for completing a machine or a building, then the man controlling it must have drafted the plain in the abstract, and such a cooperative activity is possible only through the assistance of the faculty of reason.

But it is remarkable that, in the first kind of activity, where one man alone is supposed to execute something in an uninterrupted course of action, rational knowledge, the application of reason, reflection, may often be even a hindrance to him. For example, in the case of billiards-playing, fencing, tuning an instrument, or singing, knowledge of perception must directly guide activity; passage through reflection makes it uncertain, since it divides the attention, and confuses the executant. Therefore, savages and uneducated persons, not very accustomed to thinking, perform many bodily exercises, fight with animals, shoot with bows and arrows and the like, with a certainty and rapidity never reached by the reflecting European, just because his deliberation makes him hesitate and hang back. For instance, he tries to find the right spot or the right point of time from the mean between two false extremes, while the natural man hits it directly without reflecting on the wrong courses open to him. Likewise, it is of no use for me to be able to state in the abstract in degrees and minutes the angle at which I have to apply my razor, if I do not know it intuitively, in other words, if I do not know how to hold the razor. In like manner, the application of reason is also disturbing to the person who tries to understand physiognomy; this too must occur directly through the understanding. We say that the expression, the meaning of the features, can only be felt, that is to say, it cannot enter into abstract concepts. Every person has his own immediate intuitive method of physiognomy and pathogony, yet one recognises that signatura rerum more clearly than does another. But a science of physiognomy in the abstract cannot be brought into existence to be taught and learned, because in this field the shades of difference are so fine that the concept cannot reach them. Hence abstract rational knowledge is related to them as a mosaic is to a picture by a van der Werft or a Denner. However fine the mosaic may be, the edges of the stones always remain, so that no continuous transition from one tint to another is possible. In the same way, concepts, with their rigidity and sharp delineation, however finely they may be split by closer definition, are always incapable of reaching the fine modifications of perception, and this is the very point of the example I have taken here from physiognomy.

This same property in concepts which makes them similar to the stones of a mosaic, and by virtue of which perception always remains their asymptote, is also the reason why nothing good is achieved through them in art. If the singer or virtuoso wishes to guide his recital by reflection, he remains lifeless. The same is true of the composer, the painter and the poet. For art the concept always remains unproductive; in art it can guide only technique; its province is science.

Schopenhauer and the Faculty of Reason

In his World as Will and Representation at #8 we have:
As from the direct light of the sun to the borrowed reflected light of the moon, so do we pass from the immediate representation of perception, which stands by itself and is its own warrant, to reflection, to the abstract, discursive concepts of reason (Vernunft), which have their whole content only from that knowledge of perception, and in relation to it.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Beautiful Libraries

It's a compendium of classic libraries (all of which make Melbourne's State Library look decidedly tame).

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Women and Spiders and Martin Amis

From Martin Amis's The Information:
Gwyn said slowly, "I find I never think in terms of men. In terms of women. I find I always think in terms of... people."

There was an immediate burble of approbation: Gwyn, it seemed, had douched the entire company in common sense and plain humanity. Richard had to raise his voice, which meant that his cough kicked in -- but he went ahead with his passionate speech.

It was the little rapt pause before the word people: that was what did it.

"A very low-level remark, if I may say so. Hey, Gwyn. You know what you remind me of? A quiz in a colour magazine -- you know, Are You Cut Out To Be a Teacher? Final question: Would you rather teach a) history, or b) geography, or c) ... children. Well you don't get a choice about teaching children. But there is a choice, and a difference, between history and geography. It must make you feel nice and young to say that being a man means nothing and being a woman means nothing and what matters is being a... person. How about being a spider, Gwyn. Let's imagine you're a spider. You're a spider, and you've just had your first serious date. You're limping away from that now, and you're looking over your shoulder, and there's your girlfriend, eating one of your legs like it was a chicken drumstick. What would you say? I know. You'd say: I find I never think in terms of male spiders. Or in terms of female spiders. I find I always think in terms of... spiders."

Richard sank back, rhythmically sighing or whinnying with all that this had cost him. He didn't have the will to look up, to look up into that unanimity of downward revision. So he started at the tarnished tablecloth, and saw only the rising -- no, the plunging -- seahorses that lived behind his eyes.