arma virumque

So I was toying with what I suppose has turned into a kind of riddle, along the following lines:

i: you embrace it — and build yr worldview round the fact of the embrace — bcz you believe it will deliver us from bother
ii: But then the bother arrives anyway, and is itself primarily fashioned around this fact of yr embrace
iii: And if you ever think to reach for it, to dispel this bother, you well know you simply affirm the logic of your foes and redouble their will to bother you…
iv: … which is the very model of an enraging positive-feedback pickle.

When I began, “it” was something like the “right to carry” or “gun culture”, and I was niggling idly away at the sheer baffling venom of the discussion in the US [edit: baffling as seen from anywhere else]. Except gradually it struck me that plenty of other “its” somewhat fit this bill: for example, “critical theory” engenders similarly over-reactive defensiveness when fingered as a symptom, as indeed does “rationalism”. But I don’t think the wars that bubble up out of such self-arming and the reactions against it are — at least straightforwardly — proxies for class politics as we ordinarily understand it (or indeed for religious or “philosophical” conflicts as we’d loosely sketch them).

model this

“Wittgenstein was insisting that a proposition and that which it describes must have the same ‘logical form’, the same ‘logical multiplicity’. Sraffa made a gesture, familiar to Neapolitans as meaning something like disgust or contempt, of brushing the underneath of his chin with an outward sweep of the finger-tips of one hand. And he asked: ‘What is the logical form of that?'”
(Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir, pp. 58–59)

Faintly recall from student days long ago that N.Malcolm was hard work and unrewarding as a philosopher (trans.: I was a confused and unsatisfactory philosophy student, far as Anglo-Am Analytical etc goes). But this is a good story, and — whether or not LW drew the correct conclusions at length — Sraffa’s intervention was strong, and Wittgenstein was right to be impressed and unsettled. I’m tempted to argue that music — all music, from Blobby to Boulez — is making much the same gesture to all other intellectual activity: here’s something you can’t do. That might be too strong — other things are always going on in music (including rapprochement, or attempts at same), and of course the various forces and layers never aggregate to a single decisive intent or content anyway — but it’s definitely an element I value in music, and don’t see well grasped in its discussion.

ipsos custodies

Of course It helps no one to say that — as a child watching pop on telly — I always found him cold-eyed and creepy.

I was brought up not to mock strange people — not to point at them in the street or to gang up tease them at school. The only two fights I ever got in I was defending the weird kid against the popular bully — even though I wasn’t really friends with the former (no one was) and on the whole got on fine with the latter. (I was also rubbish at fighting, so these interventions weren’t exactly of consequence…)

But in this instance I think this completely fritzed with my antennae. Continue reading “ipsos custodies”

platonism and anger management

Entirely unsurprisingly, the word ‘troll’ now has a politicised range of meanings—all the way from anonymous internet bully to subtly provocative dialectician, with a fractally wriggly continuum linking these extremes—and the comment this is a response to (a) made it reasonably clear which meaning one s/he had in mind* and thus (b) deserved a better (or at least more self-aware) answer than “By using the word X you can only be saying Y about me and I know myself well enough to say this is false.” Of course dsquared was trolling here — and it’s not as if Farrell is historically that good at identifying the motivations of the people he deems trolls by his own over-simplified (which is to say self-exculpatory) definition. The revealed fact of the faultline is an indication that people on both sides are uneasily (=angrily) aware that they too exist within contradiction: “just a lot less so than those OTHER deluded clowns,” the more twerpish partisans on both sides are busy telling themselves.

*And yes, s/he later disappointingly backed away from a good strong usage…

I have measured out my life in unclicked threads

Which is likely to depress me more: a Guardian debate between a scientist and a philosopher, or a Crooked Timber thread on Westerns and John Hughes?

(Truly you can hunt for them yourselves and please keep the answers from me…)

gooncounters of the blurred kind

“No men with names that sound like Aglooka or Toolooa leap from the [crew lists of the Erebus and Terror] in the manner of ‘Ill-kern’/Pilkington or ‘Oolizhen’/Allison. However, it should be remembered that [Vilhjalmur] Stefansson found that even after repeated coaching the Inuit pronounced ‘Jim’ as ‘Perk’ or ‘Zerk’ and that to them ‘Rae’ sounded just like ‘Nerk’.”
Unravelling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony, by David C. Woodman, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1st pb edn 1992, p.197