I write this inspired by the work of Ian Hacking on looping effects, human kinds and so on. My sympathies are with Hacking on this. Still, I believe there’s something that needs to be added: the social looping effect needs a binding effect in reality to remain stable. This has consequences: it is too easy to reduce a specific kind of humans out of the human kind just because they are confronted with a reality that happens to be out of the social norm.
Let me make up a story, a parable of sorts, about an imaginary civilization in which an evil both real and socially constructed exists. A parable has the virtue of edification because it illustrates a point without risking the muddle of prejudice which will inevitably surround any actual real and/or socially constructed concept or behavior.
Mountains, social exclusion and initiation rituals ahead:
“It was full of phonies. And mean guys. You never saw so many mean guys in your life. For instance, if you were having a bull session in somebody’s room, and somebody wanted to come in, nobody’d let them in if they were some dopey, pimply guy. Everybody was always locking their door whens somebody wanted to come in.”
J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, p. 174, Penguin Books, 1958.
“(..) And besides (..)”
“How would you know you weren’t being a phoney? The trouble is, you wouldn’t.”
ibid. p. 179.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 24-01-2010. Wonderfully short and off-topic.]
I’m too old for it now. I guess I grew out of it. Or thought I grew out of it. But did I? Apparently not or I wouldn’t be quoting it. No, ít grew out of me maybe. Forgot it, or suppressed it. Maybe I was a phoney all along and these quotes the kind of thing a phoney sympathizes with; in order to shield himself in his own thoughts: from being a phoney. Continue reading
‘Tis true, ’tis day, what though it be?
O wilt thou therefore rise from me?
Why should we rise, because ’tis light?
Did we lie down, because ’twas night?
Love which in spite of darkness brought us hither,
Should in despite of light keep us together.
Must business thee from hence remove?
Oh, that’s the worst disease of love,
The poor, the foul, the false, love can
Admit, but not the busied man.
He which hath business, and makes love, doth do
Such wrong, as when a married man doth woo.
John Donne, The major Works, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 102.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 16/11/2008. No idea what this will be about.]
Nothing like an early 17th century poem delivering an early 21st century truth. It is a testament to the ease with which words can travel. ‘Busy, busy, busy,’ – the more time we reclaim from nature, the less time we feel to have.
“It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts
The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
Everything counts in large amounts.”
Depeche Mode, The Best Of Depeche Mode, Disc 1.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd 05-10-2008. Posted here without any real review, just to give a sign of life.]
Faced with complex issues we try to find complex solutions. Administrations of most dinosauric dimensions are engaged to tackle, tune & tweak complexities. Heads of those administrations, whether private or public, achieve heroic status, and adopt appropriately heroic characteristics. Like Alexander the Great they strive to build an empire that can last forever, like Hercules – with self-acclaimed Herculean efforts – they stand the most extreme tests of character.
Complexity breeds grand nobility.
“Sommes-nous pas bien brutes de nommer brutale l’opération qui nous fait?” M. de Montaigne, Essais III, Chapitre V, p. 132, Éd’s Gallimard, 1965.
[Amateuristic English translation: “Aren’t we brutes for calling the action that made us brutal?”]
It’s been a while. Let me talk about myself a bit: Continue reading
“Do good things and good things will happen to you.” from ‘My name is Earl’, US comedy series (which used to be) running on channels all over the world (and is now probably degraded to early morning status).
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dated 28-01-2008. Even heavy, overweight blogs sometimes try to lighten up – although this is not yet exactly lightweight. It’s a bit confused but with a high dose of benevolence there’s something in it for those with an open mind.]
It should be as simple as that. And maybe it is. I doubt whether anyone has ever really tried. Nature is competition, one cannot argue with that and I certainly will not argue against that. Does that mean we have to take our competition personally? Is there a thing that can be called ‘our’ competition? Continue reading
“The tear naturally starts in our eye on the apprehension of a warm sentiment of this nature: our breast heaves, our heart is agitated, and every humane tender principle of our frame is set in motion, and gives us the purest and most satisfactory enjoyment.”, The enquiries concerning human understanding and concerning the principles of morals, D. Hume, Clarendon Press, 1975, p. 257.
I chose this quote six weeks ago and can’t quite remember what I then thought. This is what I (try to) think now: Continue reading
“Courtial n’a commis qu’une erreur! Mais elle ètait fondamentale! Il avait pensé que le monde attendait l’esprit pour changer… Le monde a changé… C’est un fait! Mais l’esprit lui n’est pas venu!… “
“(..) le désordre (..) c’est la belle essence de votre vie même!”
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Mort à crédit, p. 389-390 & p. 358 resp., Gallimard, 1952.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dated January 3d 2008, with excitement 😉 Rather proud of this one: for all of its quasi-complete lack of intelligibility, it conveys a thought that is interestingly actual, also for me.]
(Amateuristic English translation: “Courtial only made one error! But it was fundamental! He thought the world waited for ‘spirit’ to change … The world did change … It’s a fact! But spirit did not come into it!…” (note: ‘esprit’ is a tricky one and in the original I translated with ‘mind’), and the second one: “chaos (..) simply is the essential feature of your very life!” (note: ‘désordre’ is a tricky one and I also changed this translation, the previous one was even lousier))
In attempting a translation I realized I’m far from sure whether I get it. Still, it is a theme that – certainly after a long read of Bergson – is compelling. Maybe an inclination to well ordered formulae combined with an allergy for the grand & magnificent lead to a fascination for indeterminate chaos, ‘désordre’. “Order!” is a French thing. It’s the substrate for the spirit of ‘esprit’. Decline in French thought over the past centuries is nothing else than a hang-over, from drinking too much Descartes.
“Il faut estre tousjours boté et prest à partir, en tant qu’en nous est, et sur tout se garder qu’on n’aye lors affaire qu’à soy:
Quid brevi fortes jaculamur aevo
M. de Montaigne, Essais, Livre I, Chapitre XX, Flammarion 1969, p. 134 [quoting from Horace, Odes, II, XVI, 17.]
[I am not so sure about the below translation but it fits exactly with the idea of negligence/responsibility I am carrying around, lately.]
(amateuristic English translation: We always have to be prepared & ready to leave, insofar as we have it in us, and above all ensure that at that moment we only need to heed ourselves:
Why, in a life so short, form projects with such
This is the opposite of the 90’s: a decade where striving to become irreplaceable jumped from nowhere to the top of the list of ‘things everybody should try to do if they don’t want to be seen as major losers’. The great men are now measured by what havoc they leave behind when they die (and it is not a coincidence that once in a while a woman is considered to be one of ‘the great men’). Everybody else is considered a ‘loser’; with some luck people will find the ‘silent passing’ as something that is ‘fitting’, maybe even ‘endearing’ but invariably the death girl’s opinions are received with: ‘Whatever, major loser!.”
Such is the legacy of a fin de siècle in which the sky was the limit. But how to step over this addictive point of view (it’ll be a.o. about our dearest little daughters’ and sons’ education)?
“Il les laisse heritiers de cette sienne liberalité, qui consiste à leur mettre en main les moyens de luy bien-faire.” Michel de Montaigne, Essais Livre 1 (Flammarion 1969), Chapitre XXVIII
(amateuristic English translation: “He leaves them as heirs of his liberalism, a liberalism that consists in giving them the means to treat him well.”)
[Re-posted from http://quoughts.skynetblogs.be (the original was dated November 1st, 2007): I knew it was going to be awkward to read & review this old stuff, but it would have been cowardly not to do so. Still, I was shocked at reading this. Shocked to see how badly written it was; but mostly shocked at what I tried to write, back then. Shocked at having felt so lonely. Nothing much has changed since then, except for how I feel about these things which is – mostly – better. I rewrote a lot but kept the insight (which is challenging but which I can still buy) as well as the feeling (which I lost, for the most part, but which may resonate with some). Hope you like it.]
I am not sure I get it. It is not a pure coincidence that I start with something I am not sure of. A good quote is never the one-liner equivalent of a slam-dunk type of argument. A good quote always leads to wonder: it fuels your creativity, & it stimulates your thought.
I didn’t reread the entire chapter. I guess it doesn’t make a romantic plea for altruistic friendship of the kind that would make people forget themselves in an attempt to help others. Friendship – as a specifically human trait – involves at least two people. It would be self-defeating if one of them would forget herself. Although there may be a lot of benefits in that for the other, friendship will not be among those benefits. That being said, friendship cannot just be a relationship between two (or more) people. Indeed, friendship understood as pure reciprocal relationships is nothing else but the romanticized version of the economic quid pro quo. At heart we know for sure that friendship is of a different kind than a purely economical relationship. And, in the end, our interest in friendship is an matter of the heart so let us direct our reason to the feeling rather than to a redefinition of the concept that makes it more clear at the expense of keeping it to the point.
So this much is the fruit of my first wonder: friendship requires, at least, two people and something else. What can the something else be?