March 10, 2014
Snow Melt in the Odenwald
b. March 8, 1945
How Do You Translate Philosophy?
Justin E. H. Smith
One way to approach the seemingly irresolvable question as to the nature of philosophy is to ask: is philosophy as a human activity more like ballet, or is it more like dance? That is, is it a particular cultural tradition, or is it a universal human activity with many distinct cultural inflections?
I have suggested that there is something human beings do, qua human beings, that we should be looking for if we want to understand what philosophy is, rather than looking to one, or two, particular civilizational traditions that involve, as is the case in Europe and in India, a highly developed social practice of writing and institutionalized exchange. But what is this something? The full answer lies not so much in etymology or the comparison of names, but in what might be thought of as the anthropology of philosophy: the study of what human capacities are being activated when human beings reflect, infer, compare, classify, coin concepts, distinguish, and deny. My hypothesis is that, if we do this properly, we see that it is not a matter of translation at all. That is to say that there is such an activity, and that human beings engage in it qua human beings, rather than simply in virtue of contact with a particular tradition that extends back to Greece (or perhaps India). ‘Philosophy’ is not a proper noun.
Siegfried's Difficult Way to Brünnhilde
Idealism & exodus in the thought of Max Stirner
... I have to admit, Saint Max, as Marx called him, still floats around as part of the obsessional abyss around which my thought, such as it is, circles and re-circles. Stirner: egoist, proto-existentialist, anarchist, fascist, individualist, idealist, atheist, and, above all, unrelenting nihilist. If there was one thinker that I would have described as an intellectual hero, who I would have demanded everyone read, it would have been Stirner. Today, I rarely mention him- and certainly cringe at being introduced at an academic workshop once as “a Stirnerite”. So it seems like an engagement with this egoist is timely right now; besides which, it’s probably well past time I had some kind of reckoning with a figure that always looms somewhere in my own attempts to grapple with our nihilist age.
Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! You imagine great things, and depict to yourself a whole world of gods that has an existence for you, a spirit-realm to which you suppose yourself to be called, an ideal that beckons to you. You have a fixed idea! Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in a madhouse. What is it, then, that is called a “fixed idea”? An idea that has subjected the man to itself.
So proclaims Stirner in the mode of iconoclast against idealism. This is hardly tolerant language. The vast majority of humanity, or at least the intellectual classes that Stirner is addressing, and really this audience is comprised of his fellow radicals, stand accused of a kind of madness. This madness consists of being obsessed by a “spirit-realm” of ideas. The implication is clear: Western philosophy, at this time dominated by the Hegelian system of absolute idealism, is little more than a religion followed by fools. In our contemporary language I can’t help but feel that a more faithful translation to Stirner’s vitriolic barbs, if not to the original German, would be closer to “psychotics”. So Stirner looks to philosophy and finds only idealism and in idealism he sees little but a secularised version of religion, and those who commit to an ontology of Gods and spirits can only be the delusional and hallucinatory victims of insanity. Much later in history a professional at diagnosing and theorising phantasms would declare that all metaphysics are hysteria, but Stirner goes further: all metaphysics are psychotic. The irony here is that another of Stirner’s critics would claim that The ego… itself was the ‘conceptual expression of the paranoid schizophrenic’
Avenue du Maine, Paris
d. March 10, 1998
[Thomas Bernhard:] An Attempt by Ingeborg Bachmann (II)
translated by flowerville
The fact that a certain person writes at a distance from contemporary literature and increases this distance through solitude... is already a reason for not knowing how to begin to do him justice. Where does he belong, what does he want, where are his points of reference (to what end?), in which conversation, hence in which non-conversation, does this monologue of his participate, what does he have to say and to whom? And what about his society, his readers, his audience, his frontlines, his demands, his value?
If questions about where in the world his modernity, his newness, is to be found lapse into silence, this is doubtless because this newness is not legible from the outside, is not some alphabetic experiment, some calligraphic test of courage, but a radicalness that has its foundation in thought and [carries] it to its utmost extremity. The extent to which these books reflect their time even if they do not intend to will be discovered by a later age, just as only a later age has come to understand Kafka. In these books everything is precise, of the worst sort of precision, but we are as yet ignorant of the thing that is described here so precisely, and therefore of ourselves as well.
An excursion via Thomas Bernhard's My Prizes
After reading Bernhard, one is left with the impossibility of doing justice to the silence behind the game. Clearly this is due to the moderating activity of the critical act and its tendency to orchestrate traditions rather than self-blinding before singularities, but this is also present in the malady of existence, as brought forth by Thomas Bernhard so clearly in his narratives. So, yes, My Prizes is a minor work, a collection dredged from the publisher's bottom drawer and dilute compared to the novels, and, yes, while the anecdotes expose the grotesque vanity and philistine violence of municipal art culture so brilliantly that it is probably enough only to celebrate the comedy, the anger and the excess of My Prizes, none of this would express anything new or worth saying. Every week someone announces to a startled world how funny and dark Bernhard is or how unfunny and dark Bernhard is, and everything they say is true or not true and not worth saying again
This is the key to Bernhard's radicalism and why he is more than a scourge of bourgeoise pretensions, or whatever else the critics say, and why it's impossible to pin him down. His prose soars, exploding like fireworks illuminating the landscape for a moment before plummeting to earth in darkness. If he knew where he belonged, what he wanted, what he had to say and to what end, in what conversation or non-conversation he might participate, his work would be very different; das gewöhnliche Zeug, to borrow Kafka's uncle's phrase: the usual stuff.
Three men on steps
Ilse Bing - Queen of the Leica
A Poem of Unrest
Men duly understand the river of life,
misconstruing it, as it widens and its cities grow
dark and denser, always farther away.
And of course that remote denseness suits
us, as lambs and clover might have
if things had been built to order differently.
But since I don’t understand myself, only segments
of myself that misunderstand each other, there’s no
reason for you to want to, no way you could
even if we both wanted it. Do those towers even exist?
We must look at it that way, along those lines
so the thought can erect itself, like plywood battlements.
Ygdrasil, Autumn in Auvergne
March 07, 2014
d. March 7, 2006
Spring and All [pdf]_______________________
William Carlos Williams
The universality of things
draws me toward the candy
wilh melon flowers that open
about the edge of refuse
proclaiming without accent
the quality of the farmer's
shoulders and his daughter's
accidental skin, so sweet
with clover and the small
yellow cinquefoil in the
parched places. It is
this that engages the favorable
distortion of eyeglasses
that see everything and remain
related to mathematics -
in the most practical frame of
brown celluloid made to
represent tortoiseshell -
A letter from the man who
wants to start a new magazine
made of linen
and he owns a typewriter -
July 1, 1922
All this is for eyeglasses
to discover. But
they lie there with the gold
earpieces folded down
tranquilly Titicaca ·-
More Dutch Safety Posters
Bonfires in the garden
Translated by David Hackston
Write about what really happens.
Write if you dare.
About things that simply happen,
things that happen all the time.
If you dare.
But to what end?
Poetry, by definition, has fled,
fled from things that
happen all the time.
If all goes well,
if I don’t slip in the street,
if I don’t trip on the carpet
or on my own socks,
a rapidly degenerative disease,
can I once again
encounter the spring,
see the anemones raise their eyes,
see the hills, golden with cowslips
casting their bonnets to the wind
to greet the summer
and the future.
But if things don’t go well,
I simply want to amble
invisible along the hillside.
The trouble with "us"
The blurring of social roles and the consensus illusion
Translation by Samuel Willcocks
The consensus illusion is everywhere, affecting our perceptions about the frequency of certain personal characteristics, or of mental problems, eye colours, tastes in food or films, religious attendance or participation in sporting events. The effect occurs most often when those affected find one another attractive and can reasonably assume that they will stay in touch in future. The effect is even present when respondents know for sure that the majority does not share their opinion; they consistently overestimate the size of the minority to which they belong. False consensus is more prevalent within a group than it is between group members and the outside world.
Shared tastes in consumer culture – or the lack thereof – among groups of friends has become the subject of study in the last fifteen years, as a side-effect of work on marketing algorithms. Nothing in the research findings indicated any significant correlation between certain circles of friends and shared tastes in books, films or music. Nevertheless many people will insist, privately and in public, that they share their friends' tastes in most matters or, at the very least, that they would be able to recommend media to suit their tastes.
As soon as one examines it more closely, consensus among friends proves to be an illusion in other questions of opinion too.
The Swarmachine: A Historical Puzzle (Part 1)
Deterritorial Investigations Unit
(....)Deterritorial Investigations Unit
If the ‘becoming-revolutionary’ of civil society is marked by emergence, it is the distributed network that forms the aesthetic representation and functional model of this form. Civil society cannot be measured spatially, nor can it be broken down into structural analyses of the institutions that shape social composition. Civil society transcends space, and moves through these institutions; before, but especially after, the rise of information technology we find that civil society is generated through communication: the exchange of words, information, images, signs of all shapes and sizes, allow for a cohesiveness that is both forceful and amorphous. The distributed network eliminates both centralization (where there is a large, fixed center to the network) and decentralization (where there are multiple, smaller network centers) in lieu of a fluid environment where any point is capable – and is compelled – to connect with any other point. There are innumerable examples of the distributed network in action. Alexander Galloway and Eugene Thacker, for instance, have maintained “that in recent decades the processes of globalization have mutated from a system of control housed in a relatively small number of power hubs to a system of control infused into the material fabric of distributed networks.”vi On the flip side, Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have rendered the distributed network as their model of the “multitude,” the transnational civil society produced by the forces of globalization. In their understanding, the distributed network, particularly in the context of internet-driven information communication technologies, allows for a certain tactical advantage over both the outmoded, decentralized organizations of power leftover from the previous world order, and the new, flexible arrangement of postmodern power. They write:
When a distributed network attacks, it swarms its enemy: innumerable independent forces seem to strike from all directions at a particular point and disappear back into the environment. From an external perspective, the network attack is described as a swarm because it appears formless. Since the network has no center that dictates order, those who can think in terms of traditional models may assume it has no organization whatsoever- they see mere spontaneity and anarchy. The network attack appears as something like a swarm of birds or insects in a horror film, a multitude of mindless assailants, unknown, unseen, and unexpected. If one looks inside a network, however, one can see that it is indeed organized, rational, and creative. It has swarm intelligence.
Exploring Neoliberal Cartographies
Ukraine, Putin, and the West
There’s a reason Ukraine is at the heart of the most significant geopolitical crisis yet to appear in the post-Soviet space. There is no post-Soviet state like it. Unlike the Baltic states, it does not have a recent (interwar) memory of statehood. Nor, unlike almost every other post-Soviet state aside from Belarus, does the majority population have a radically different language and culture to distinguish itself from the Russians. In many cases, for these countries, the traditional language suggests a natural political ally—Finland for the Estonians, Turkey for the Azeris, Romania for the Moldovans. These linguistic and cultural affinities are not without their difficulties, but they do give a long-term geopolitical orientation to these countries.
Ukraine has this to some extent in its western part, formerly known as Galicia, which has strong cultural and to an extent linguistic affinities with Poland. But the country’s capital, Kyiv, has much stronger ties to Russia: Russians consider Kievan Rus, which lasted from the 9th to the 13th century (when it was sacked and burned by the Mongols), to be the first Russian civilization. Russian Orthodoxy was first proclaimed there. Most people in Kyiv speak Russian, rather than Ukrainian, and in any cases the languages are quite close (about as close as Spanish and Portuguese). On television, it is typical for any live broadcast—whether it’s news, sports, or a reality-TV show—to go back and forth seamlessly between Russian and Ukrainian, with the understanding that most people know both. Russians too often assume that these cultural affinities mean that there is no such thing as a separate Ukrainian people. There is. But the closeness of the two peoples makes forging an independent path for Ukraine extraordinarily difficult.