This is an experiment in which I claim no expertise. The previous sentence will be my only disclaimer.
The goal is to join together people to examine the justifications for a belief I have: progress is the nature of language. I hope this is not an original thought because if it would be its examination would have to rely on the unlikely coincidence that the right people would find me and join me in a sustained way despite my strenuous use of language. I further hope that people do join and, if so, that they join in the spirit of amateurism. Why the latter? Because my belief entails – or so I believe – that any true communication presupposes that amateurs, if sufficiently motivated, can contribute to it (call that “the grounding principle“).
Let me not get ahead of ourselves though: before we can get to the goal we have to cover our preliminaries. In this case, we have to establish a common context (a mental meeting place if you will) where we of course may see things differently but not because we see different things. This is the starting point as individuals can only come together after having established a common context i.e. after having formed a community. I know all this begs the initial question. That shouldn’t be an issue, I spoke of my belief as a belief and we have time to come back to whether it is justified or not (so I ask you to apply another corollary of my belief – one coined by Grice – “the principle of charity“).
The following three objectives are set for individuals aspiring to be part of this community:
We (all chances are this will turn out to be a most appropriate royal ‘we’) will start digging my tunnel, chipping it away quote by quote from The Tunnel by William H. Gass (page numbers referring to the Dalkey Archive Press edition of 1999 reprinted 2007). The post will look a lot like this or like that (I have been exercising).
The Tunnel is a beast of a book. If it were a Miss Universe contestant it would have to hope inner beauty was key to winning the contest. This is an awkward metaphor since The Tunnel is about everything but winning a contest, and: every sentence in it is a thing of beauty. The thing is that it is one of those books that appear not to want to have readers. What better tribute then to write an interminable succession of idiosyncratic posts mirroring (in a muddy puddle type of way) this beast of a book (sawing a sequoia solo with a hand saw).
What is certain though is that whereas my posts may better be characterized as idiotic, this book is the book of how human stupidity binds with stupid inhumanity to create a destructive force way beyond that of the Death Star.
Yes, it is also about fascism.
Below the fold are the policies and procedures applying to this exercise (on the off chance of there being interest to make contributions).
“The best the logician can do is to recommend gathering more data.”
Henry E. Kyburg Jr. & Choh Man Teng, p. 200, Cambridge University Press, 2001.
A small piece on a forgotten (or, let’s be optimistic: not yet discovered) pearl of this human endeavor called ‘thinking’. I learned Mr. Kyburg died a couple of years ago. Given that is a fact, one can only hope that he turns out to be an instance of the reference class of great thinkers that have ideas requiring the environment of thought of a generation coming well after their own generation. Kyburg is one of three B-list philosophers on which I based my Cognitive Science dissertation: “Do Humans Think?’.
But let’s cut to the chase: Read more »
“(..) insight can come from outside the mind.”
G. Gigerenzer, Adaptive Thinking, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. vii (a.o.).
There’s something deeply unnerving about scientists, especially neuroscientists: it is the idea that whatever there is can be located somewhere. Localized so as to make it a candidate for treatment of some sort. In this sense, neuroscience took over the world because the world is filled with people who believe things can be pinpointed and then addressed. Forget about the butterfly effect, the butterfly is in our current world view pinned down where it can be examined.
Nothing can be farther removed from the ecological point of view (this includes most people who see themselves as the ‘advocates of ecological preservation’). It may well be that this world view of pinning down, setting apart and solving is the root cause of us not applying evident solutions to the issues we have, in a broad sense, with our environment. Read more »
“7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (p. 89), Routledge Classics, 1961.
Allow me to have some innocent fun by messing up a popular quote. I attended a three-hour lecture on ‘Satz 7′ a week or so ago. The only thing I could keep on thinking was why not the other way around? – it is highly probable, by the way, that this is the side effect of an overdose of Musil ‘look for the opposite’-irony. It’s also of some value to add here that it is difficult to keep focused on what basically is just one sentence – no matter how valiant the effort is on the part of the lecturer to uncover layers and layers of deeper meaning in it.
Anyway, somewhere halfway the above ‘Satz 0′ (please try to pronounce in German) had lodged itself in my brain. It has been there ever since. I tried to Google it to find one million people who came to the same sentence and found none. So I couldn’t remove ‘Satz 0′ because of lack of originality (you might argue that not every sentence once thought is on the internet but you really shouldn’t think so blasphemous a thought).
I struggled a couple of days more. I wanted to believe that ‘Satz 0′ was at least trivial, if not just obviously grammatically incorrect. I did not succeed in convincing me of either. ‘Satz 0′ was so damned sticky that I even numbered it and slowly realized it was absolutely cool to imagine it pronounced in German.
So what is the matter with ‘Satz 0′? Let me tell ya, below the fold. Read more »
“Esa noche, mientras trabajaba en la puerta del bar, se entretuvo en pensar en un tiempo de dos velocidades, uno era muy lento y las personas y los objetos se movían en este tiempo de forma casi imperceptible, el otro era muy rápido y todo, hasta las cosas inertes, centellaban de velocidad. El primero se llamaba Paraíso, el segunda Infierno, y lo unico que deseaba Archimboldi era no vivir jamás en ninguno de los dos.”
Roberto Bolaño; 2666, p. 1001-1002, Anagrama, Collecion Compactos, Barcelona 2009.
[My English translation: "That night, whilst he worked the door of the bar, he whiled away the time, thinking of time at two speeds, one of them was very slow and persons and objects moved in this time in a way that was barely noticeable, the other was very fast and everything, up to and including the non-living things, was moving with scintillating speed. The first was called Paradise, the second Hell, and the only thing Archimboldi wished for was not to live in any of them."]
Why is Paradise slow? I guess because it gives you the time to think things through, and to appreciate what happens instead of merely playing along.
Why is Hell fast? Presumably because its speed is unforgiving. Shit happens - and you are a part of ‘that shit’. No time to write about it. Nor to expand on it.
Why doesn’t Archimboldi want to live in either? I haven’t got the faintest of clues, as I do not think Archimboldi is one of the best worked out characters in this (or indeed in any other) regard, & whether that’s a good or a bad thing you will have to work out for yourselves. But I do know that Paradise is boring and Hell is painful. And therefore that neither is better than reality, even if reality cannot truthfully be spelled with this or that capital letter (which is an interesting application of truth, said in passing).
“The difference between the social and individual theories of the development of mind, self, and the social process of experience or behavior is analogous to the difference between the evolutionary and contract theories of the state as held in the past by both rationalists and empiricists. The latter theory takes individuals and individual experiencing – individual minds and selves – as logically prior to the social process in which they are involved, and explains the existence of that social process in terms of them; whereas the former takes the social process of experience or behavior as logically prior to the individuals and their individual experiencing which are involved in it, and explains their existence in terms of that social process. But the latter type of theory cannot explain that which is taken as logically prior at all, cannot explain the existence of minds and selves; whereas the former type of theory can explain that which it takes as logically prior, namely, the existence of the social process of behavior, in terms of such fundamental biological or physiological relations & interactions as reproduction, co-operation of individuals for mutual protection or for the securing of food.”
George Herbert Mead, On Social Psychology, The University of Chicago Press, 1977, p. 242.
I wanted to edit and shorten this but I didn’t. In fact, I needed to battle the urge to go on quoting the next page. It is what it needs to be: the sober discovery of an inescapable truth we could not but evolve to discover. Nevertheless, evolution works in mysterious ways; after half a century the fact is that the traditional (and false) position still prevails. Whatever. Read more »
“So conceived and supported, the Test of Time is nevertheless made ineffective by the intractable naiveté of its assumptions. For isn’t it naive to suppose that history will allow only the best to survive? (..)
(..) Considering the frequency of natural calamities, our treatment of warfare as a seasonal sport, and the insatiable squirrelliness of human greed, it should be an occasion for surprise when anything excellent survives.”
W. Gass, Tests of Time, The University of Chicago Press, 2002, p. 110-111.
As is his habit, Gass approaches his topic as one who out of curiosity approaches a body lying on the ground only to skirt it and skid away at a 90° angle from his incoming trajectory without even having ascertained whether the person whose body was near inspected was still alive.
The question isn’t whether what survives is excellent but whether who excels is, or can be, mortal. The answer is that the excellent cannot perish. Read more »
“The press exaggerates the state of the world after having created it.”
Karl Kraus (free translation of), In dieser grossen Zeit (Auswahl 1914-1925), Langen-Müller, 1977, p. 18. (original below)
A hundred years on and here we are again: living in depressingly decisive times. We have to do this. They have to do that. Public opinion goes that way and then it slings back to hit us right in the back of our heads. Everybody disagrees except on what is crucial: that the objects of their disagreements are crucial. Europe will split because it can’t unite and if it splits the very idea of uniting is exposed as the hogwash that some people need it to be in order for them to be as prophetic as they have others proffer they are.
Each decisive time has its surface where the generals of public opinion will make our decisions. Each surface conceals the nature of the terrain that in the end will determine the outcome. God has been sacrificed in one of the former battles – there being nothing concrete to stand on, nor in heaven nor in hell; the goal of those dividing us is to terminate once for all the concept of unity. For man should not be able to migrate but the flow of money should be as fluid as the diarrhea it really is. Read more »
and none to
B. Childish, The Deathly Flight of Angels, Hangman Books, 1990, p. 53.
Not chosen, not worthy, pitiable and wonderful. It kind of summarizes not only me.
One week even the worst seem to have something going for them. This week everybody seems at their worst. And there is only one plausible difference: the beholder. What the hell is wrong with me in picking up noise and assigning value to it? I have an infected prostate, a mental condition which does not pass the test for being a condition, too much time to lament the lack of time I experience as keeping me from anything significant and The Family which is one week all joy & this week all worry.