political discussion as defence against experience: worse than ever

“And the question to be asked is not: What is my opinion of all this? That question is easily answered, but those who ask only that have fallen into the trap, for it is precisely the greatest error of our intellectual life to assume that the most effective way of dealing with any phenomenon is to have an opinion about it. The real question is: What is my relation to all this?”

Not just “my” relation, surely? Josh quotes Warshow: who I should read, of course. Influence doesn’t exist, but the sky on my planet is still that shade of yellow some days (today, for example). Hi Josh.

4 thoughts on “political discussion as defence against experience: worse than ever”

  1. ‘not just “my”‘ was certainly a theme of the rest of that essay, yes.

    you may be pleased to hear that the complete writings of manny farber also came in the mail with that warshow.

  2. “…but those who ask only that have fallen into a trap”

    I’m glad Warshow said “only,” since not having an opinion is rarely possible. It’d be like not having a hairstyle or not speaking with an accent. Even no opinion or no comment is read as an opinion or comment, an assent or an assertion of indifference.

    Opinions may be our most basic way of positioning ourselves in relation to each other. If we don’t then go further than the opinion, we’re stunting our thought, refusing to reflect. But nonetheless, opinion is usually where we start.

    I should reread Warshow to see, but in his writing, “experience” ends up too much as a buzzword. A few paragraphs on, in the essay Josh quoted, Warshow very problematically, and not very intelligibly, claims that mass culture “relieve[s] one of the necessity of experiencing one’s life directly.” But he doesn’t expand this sentence into an argument. I think what he really should have written was “relieves one of the necessity of reflecting on one’s life or considering alternative ways of behaving” — not that I would agree with the sentence as rewritten, but it would provide a clearer idea of what mass culture is supposed to be distracting us from. Whereas I’m baffled by the claim that having mass culture in one’s life makes it impossible to experience the rest of it, or anyway, makes it impossible to experience the rest of it “directly.” We wouldn’t seem to have the choice of not experiencing it.

    (“Phenomenon” in the passage you quoted may play a role similar (how similar? I’m not sure?) to “experience” later in the essay.)

    1. i suppose it is the marxist (marxian?) in him that is saying that, frank.

      lately i was reading the beginning of jay bernstein’s ‘against voluptuous bodies’, which is a philosophical defense of modernist painting (from a very adornian perspective), and bernstein is moved to make a similar remark and then give a rationale: he says that in the modern period ‘experience’ is systematically ambiguous. basically, the can’t-help-but-experience type of experience, and the new-world-in-a-moment experience.

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