Tagged: Theory is Conservative

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, esp.as 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.