Tuesday, December 25, 2007


The reason I believe in Santa Claus is that, even though my only plans for the day are to get on a plane in 3 hours, I still could scarcely sleep.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I'm submitting an abstract for a conference, and it's a paper I haven't touched in a while. I re-read (mostly) one of the background articles, and I want to recap it in an attempt to better prepare and organize my abstract.

The article is "The Breaking of Form," by Harold Bloom, in Deconstruction & Criticism. I'm using it as a foil to discuss form in Joel Durand's Athanor.

Bloom's article serves mainly as a polemic against his detractors. His work on poetry--most famously The Anxiety of Influence--was received poorly (and Bloom would say unfairly) by some, and here he seeks to redress the balance.

Bloom's understanding of form, or the creation of form in strong poetry, is that of breaking. The prolonged discussion is on breaking from older (or elder) poets, though this can also, it seems to me, manifest in a breaking from form. Ultimately, these end up being the same thing (for me. Argument to follow). Bloom quotes Kenneth Burke on form: "A work has form in so far as one part of it leads a reader to anticipate another part, to be gratified by the sequence." Anticipation, especially in poetry, can be formed only through citationality (in music as well): if there is no preceding discourse (or syntax or semiotic system etc.) upon which to base expectations, there is no gratification. The corpus cited, of course, is precisely the o/elders. One wonders if this can be argued in such a way as to keep from dissolving into the old story of patricide.

Two things make this myth (all criticism is a myth, to over-generalize Bloom) more interesting than Oedipus. One is Bloom's capacity to think a history of poetry (or art) without invoking either organicism or any other teleology, however crude or sophisticated. The anxiety of influence is not a natural phenomenon that propels a poet to his (except Dickenson) greatness, but is a historical/cultural (documented in some cases) phenomenon with which we all struggle. The narcissistic aggression of the artist is what makes the work strong. This first labyrinth unsettles me on two accounts: I'm not sure I'm comfortable with a discourse of strength as it is deployed by Bloom, and I am skeptical of any framework with so openly places psychoanalysis (especially Freudian) at its foundation.

The other turn in this otherwise banal story is Bloom's deliberate position in the between. First, Bloom positions himself in between the over-coding and the abyss: "Language, in relation to poetry, can be conceived in two valid ways, as I have learned, slowly and reluctantly. Either one can believe in a magical theory of all language, as the Kabbalists, many poets, and Walter Benjamin did, or else one must yield to a thoroughgoing linguistic nihilism, which in its most refined form is the mode now called Deconstruction." (4) We have on the one hand the over-determination of meaning, and on the other the dearth of meaning. But which we chose is of no importance, Bloom says. In either case the poet/critic must wrestle for freedom from meaning(lessness): "Either the new poet fights to win freedom from dearth, or from plenitude, but if the antagonist be moderate, then the agon will not take place, and no fresh sublimity will be won. Only the agon is of the essence." (5) Again there is the problem of strength, but I would like to suggest that the positive in this analysis of analysis (or rhetoric of rhetoric, as Bloom prefers), is that there is not focus on the actual freedom, but on the struggle. It is in becoming-poet that is the poet, the canal from fetus to infant. The poetry is in the forgotten margin.

This loops us back to influence. For Bloom, a strong "misreading" of poetry (and we can only misread, it seems) involves reading the (anomalous) ratio between poems/poets (but maybe we have only poems; or to follow Bloom more closely, we have only readings of poems). His reading of Ashbery (which I've not yet finished) is closely tied to his understanding of Stevens and Whitman; it is always read as its influence (forget Foucault). Never, though, because that is where we find truth, or the meaning. Only because (I suspect) that is the only way we can ever read anything--Bloom prefigures, perhaps because of a common affection for Derrica, Spivak's scrupulous mistakes. So not only does Bloom deny authorial authority and the immanence of truth or meaning, but he refuses to search for meaning in the text itself, or even in the reader. Instead, meaning (or perhaps better, reading) comes from the space (and time) between one text and another--or perhaps there is only one text already. The reader--centered by virtue of its subject position--is also always already in the margin, perhaps experiencing its own anxiety of influence.

There is perhaps more I ought to say, particularly by way of critique, but I will forgo that for now, on account of the lateness. The use of this for my abstract is already partly manifest, but I should like to flesh it out some more.

In the original paper I make use only of Bloom's quotation of Burke, and then go on to demonstrate Durand's use of repetition, both on large and small scales, to generate repetition. My analyses (aside: firefox doesn't recognizes analyses?) focus primarily on rhythmic/motivic devises as well as structural (often mistakenly called formal) articulations. I use this in lieu of a more common pitch-class analysis, which seems to me quite out of place in Durand's music, not in the least because of his comment describing his aesthetic for Athanor as "unmodern."

From here Bloom himself becomes more useful. It is interesting to me that Durand could write music like Athanor after studying under Brian Fernyhough, a man who deliberately writes music so complex (or complicated, depending on whom you ask) that even the most virtuosic of performs are constantly, as they perform, forced to decide which mistake they shall make. Athanor stands in stark contrast to Fernyhough's music, just as does that of Reich, Glass and Carter next to the pedagogy of Nadia Boulanger. I worry here that this is too trivial. I'm reading in Durand's music the absence of Fernyhough's. I can complicate this by also reading it for Murail and Grisey, for whom Durand has some respect; the crucial difference here would be Durand's interest or skill with form. This can finally be expanded out to include the "unmodern" and read Athanor particularly as a radical break from and repetition of the modernist--or according to Burke, artistic--refusal of influence. This might suggest that Bloom is writing in circles (which wouldn't surprise, giving his reliance on Freud): if anxiety is posited as a universal for successful art, and if it is typified by absence and difference, then all that is needed to support they hypothesis--and perhaps even to prove it's unescapability--is change.

That's good for now. It's sleepy time.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lost in Translation

One of the books I found at Magus (for $1!) is Destabilizing Theory: Contemporary Feminist Debates. I bought it for Spivak's article, "The Politics of Translation," about which I knew nothing; but for a buck, it was worth a shot (also excited about art critic Griselda Pollock's "Painting, Feminism, History.")

So I read it. I think it's important.

"How does the translator attend to the specificity of the language she translates? There is a way in which the rhetorical nature of every language disrupts its logical systematicity. If we emphasize the logical at the expense of these rhetorical interferences, we remain safe. 'Safety' is the appropriate term here, because we are talking of risks, of violence to the translating medium." (178)

Spivak is talking about a number of things here. Spivak clarifies what she means when contrasting logic and rhetoric: "Post-structuralism has shown some of us a staging of the agent within a three-tiered notion of language (as rhetoric, logic, silence)." (179) Though Spivak doesn't engage directly in discussion silence, she has a clear interest in retaining (or emulating?) rhetoric. Being faithful to precise meaning (logic) may (does) destroy the rhetoric that gives a piece its intimacy (by breaking it's systematicity). However, adhering to rhetoric is dangerous, as one might do violence to the logic of the text (and one's reputation).

The danger brings us to Spivak's second theme: the crisis. Though she doesn't dwell on the possibility, I think the central motivation behind Spivak's conception of a good translation is one of not managing crises. Being safe is always being complicit. The translator (of Third-World texts) has to behave dangerously, both for the sake of the text and for those who are invariably represented by the translation (because all texts represent, even when they are not intending to), because a lot is at steak.

The generality of the first quotation above led me to believe Spivak covertly meant this article to be not only about literal (and literary) translation. Spivak makes this clear when she talks about "Translation in General," and Toni Morrison's Beloved. The details will be forgone here; it is principally important that Spivak is talking about, in some instances, translating form English to English, or translations in which no language is involved, or translation itself is resisted.

Which is where I come in. As usual, I'm going to take writing on a very serious subject (the lingering effects of colonialism and the current effects of multi-national capitalism), and apply it to music. After all, in a very real sense, music fits the post-structural conception of language. Indeed, a great deal of the music-theoretical literature is on justifying the rhetorical in terms of the logical, and the most often cited example of John Cage's avant-gardism is 4'33", in which not a note is played (though this piece is never, to my knowledge, analyzed). Much of music theory, one might say, is about being safe: about effacing the rhetorical in favor of logic.

So this article finds its way into two of mine. The most apt is my paper on aesthetics. Spivak serves to understand the margin, and to understand all music as in some ways marginalized. I must be careful not to degenerate into discipline hating.

Secondly, I can work this into the end of my paper on minimalism, as an alternative to the distrust of metaphoric depth and penetration.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dangerous Magus

The problem with a good used bookstore is that it costs me the same to shop there as it does to shop at any other book store. I could go to the U book store and get two good books for $30, and feel like I just tossed too much money at something I won't read for quite a while, or I could go to Magus--you know, just on the way to the bus, as something fun to do for a few seconds--and spend the same $30. The problem is now I've got 8 new (old) books to read when I can't even finish the stuff I've already got going. At least I knocked off one of the books from my list: No longer need bell hooks' Resisting Representation.

Maybe I can weave some of it into the queue.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Via Reddit

Thanks Erik, for wising me to reddit.


There seem to be (to simplify) three positions re: gay rights. It's not an issue, it's an issue, and it's not an issue. At least the Anglicans have made it to phase two.

Edit: Just read this in "9 Chickweed Lane": "Good work is taken for granted. That leaves us with little else to celebrate than the bungled and criminal." Unrelated to the above.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


I may have thought up a way to expand my paper on philosophy and music. The paper ends (awkwardly) by suggesting that John Cage's work (and that of others) exists in the margin between music and non-music, and that this margin of undefinability is created by the (often gendered) reification of "true" music. (I don't spend enough time discussing the positive, that is to say generative, side of this process. I think I give the impression that I am damning the entire enlightenment tradition, but it is important to note that it is through that tradition that the margin can be created. Apologist?)

I would like to take some time to refine this position. I may have inadvertently implied that Cage's habitation of the margin is a result of his status in the avant-garde. Were this the case, composers from Schoenberg to Lachenmann would sit in this same place.

But I don't think that works. What I'd like to do is use the writings of Schoenberg to establish his debt to Hegelian thought as well as the 19th century German organicists, such as Goethe (articles have been written on this, so I won't need to do too much original reading, which will ease some of my burden). I'd also like to spend some time with Adorno's "Vers une musique informelle" to distinguish between the late Darmstaat serialists, whose debt is to Hegel and Marx, and Cage. Is it problematic here merely to point at debt as evidence? I think so. Especially since Cage's debt is supposedly to Zen Buddhism, the genealogy of which is utterly foreign to me.

So I think what will be important is to read the texts from Adorno and Schoenberg as what they are: source texts. That is to say that their influences, for lack of a better word, are certainly important, in so far as they are tangible, but it is more important to see where they stand in their work itself. I may have to talk to Dr Durand about connections between Lachenmann and Adorno; I don't remember seeing them clearly.

The main point though is to partially recapitulate Peter Burger, who distinguishes between three avant-gardes. I don't want to be so general (and indeed haven't the time to do the necessary work), but I do hope to point at the danger of generality by positioning each of these composers, all of whom are on the edge of music, in different places in regard to institutional validation.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Returning to an earlier post about Spivak and Agawu: When our guest speaker talked about Agawu's book, he said Agawu was making use of Spivak's "strategic essentialism" in order to establish a politics of the same in which music, on a global scale, is defined by the immanence of tone. Leaving aside for the moment what tone is, and why it is could be said to define music without also incorporating speech and lonely trees, I'd like to comment a bit on what I see as Agawu's misuse of Spivak.

Because of Spivak's intellectual debt to Derridian deconstruction, I think it's unlikely that she would deploy strategic essentialism to buttress or even quarantine a concept. Agawu's claim seems to be that, since we have to have a working definition of music in order to study it in a cross-cultural context, we need to chose a solid definition that will serve our strategic ends. For Agawu, those ends are the disruption of Western (or Northern) aesthetic hegemony. Whether it is possible for a metropolitan scholar, even one from the third-world intellectual diaspora, to accomplish this--whether it is indeed even possible to think the non-Western in the context of late capitalism--doesn't seem to be questioned. But again, I digress.

My understanding of "strategic essentialism" is from Spivak's phrase: "One cannot help but essentialize, but one must essentialize strategically." (I don't know the book or the page, but I'm pretty sure that's close to verbatim) When Spivak says this, she's coming, according to her, directly from Derrida. Derrida, something of a defeatist, but in an empowering way, has also claimed that narrative is inescapable, and that feminism is another form of phallocentrism. What s/he is pointing at here, I believe, is the impossibility of beginning (without a ground). Because knowledge is abyssal, because it does not stand on firm ground but instead only upon knowledge, there must be those "facts" which we implicitly take to be true. And in order for our discourse to be both critical and mutable, we must take these essentials on implicitly, but be able to undermine them when confronting them. So reifying tone as the essential quality to all music is precisely not what Spivak is advocating. On the contrary, what she's saying is that when we say "music," the implication of tone already exists: stating it outright does nothing to clear this up (unless it is done critically) but does do much to reify the term, preventing it from being mutable. In short, Agawu takes the fluid term (the catachrestic term) "music," and makes it rigid, erecting it as the center for his new hegemony. It is, it seems to me, the opposite of a deconstruction.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rereading McClary

From the introductory chapter of Feminine Endings, commenting on Edward T. Cone's attempt to circumvent the "feminine cadences" in Chopin's Polonaise in A:

"Cone is concerned here with 'butching up' a polonaise, a genre that is distinguished from other dances by what [Willi] Apel labels as 'feminine' endings. Now, Chopin's polonaise is a remarkably vigorous, even aggressive composition, and I would argue that it is precisely the emphatic stres on the second ('weak') beat that gives the polonaise its arrogant swagger, its quality of always being poised to plunge into the next phrase. But given that this technicality is conventionally classified as 'feminine,' Cone feels the need to rescue the piece from its 'incorrigibly feminine' endings. He can do so only by violating Chopin's score and in effect weakening the rhythmic integrity of the composition. But at least then the cadences won't sound 'feminine' (even if the resulting performance concludes with what sounds like a failure of nerve, a normalization that 'corrects' the groove's idiosyncrasy)." (10-11)

My only brief comment for now will be that I find it interesting that McClary adopts a discourse so similar to Cone's. "Failure of nerve," "weakening of the rhythmic integrity"... More later, I'm sure

EDIT: more:

She goes on (11) to suggest that Cone is (silently) reading feminine cadences as "excess" (which is possible) and as "refus[ing] the hegemonic control of the barline." I agree with the possibility of reading feminine cadences as excess, though I have not begun to theorize it so. My inclination would not be to go in McClary's direction with the term. In fact, I would argue provisionally that Cone is the one trying to transgress the tyranny of the barline, and that a properly feminine cadence, with all its conservative baggage, can exist only within the ostensibly masculine framework of a "strong" feeling of meter.

Monday, October 8, 2007


I had a dream last night. And in it, I had done something wrong. I think it was a _An Invitation to a Beheading_ kind of thing; I remember asking one of my interrogators whether it was ok to even ask him if he believed concieving of an epistemological shift was even possible, and I think he said it was ok to ask, but dangerous to think about.

I was being tortured to death for whatever I'd done. For a bit, I was okish with this. The more vivid part was when I asked the above question. The interrogator's assistant had a plastic slip knot around my right elbow, and every time I was asked a question, he tightened it. After that, I was to be flayed or something, and then punctured by a thousand yard-long needles, thrown by a guy on some sort of giant lizard (I don't really understand that part...).

I started to argue with the interrogator to the effect that, since they're going to kill me, torture isn't really that necessary; they weren't asking me questions for information, but to educate me about what I was doing wrong. He didn't seem to think it was a good idea to forego the torture.

The weird part is that I then thought about making a break for it. The whole thing was hypothetical. Did I think I could make it to that cliff over there (we were in an open courtyard with quite a few people strolling around, minding their own businesses) before they caught up with me? I thought it through and was caught. So I imagined what I would have done if I had made it. Would I have jumped? What would that have looked/felt like? Turns out it felt pretty exhilarating (I knew it would!). At each step, as soon as I thought about the possibility, even if my exploration convinced me of immediate failure, it followed that I had tried and succeeded simply by hypothesizing.

The water at the bottom of the cliff was pretty shallow. Clear as far as you could see (I was on an island on the sea), with medium-sized sandstone rocks covering the immediate floor. The impact hurt, but that was ok, because I could immediately go through the falling process for as long as that diverted me. I thought with a mixture of mirth and horror about the people swimming near where I impacted.

But then I went on to the afterlife for reincarnation. I wandered aimlessly through the crowded rooms for a while, before getting over my usual trepidation at approaching someone I don't know for directions that I'm convinced will turn out to have been already obvious.

"Go see the woman in section BB about your reincarnation. But be careful. If she doesn't think you're cute, you'll be stuck in red tape for months." That's not exactly what he said, but as close as I can recall. He didn't say "red tape." he had a different expression that escapes me now. (And for some reason it's this part of the dream that embarrasses me.)

I see the woman in section BV (right next to BB), and am informed of my mistake. Fortunately, BB is the next desk to the right. She sees me, and I put on what charm I can muster. She looks through her computer for a bit, and, after asking me a few terse clarifying questions, she produces a slightly oversized yellow sticky note with writing the color between red and orange. This she affixes to my face. It's painful to pull off my dry lips, but it's good news.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Gayatri Spivak

I went to a talk last Friday on Kofi Agawu's book, _Representing African Music..._. The author apparently makes use of Spivak's work, coming up somewhere quite unexpected. He points at Kant et al. as the perveyors of a politics of difference, in which difference is seen as weakness (I think), and says that ethnomusicology has replicated this sin in always considering African music to already be different. The development of alternative (read: non-European) notation to document African music is a symptom of this tradition. Agawu posits that the solution is to introduce (European) formalism into ethnomusicology, under the rubric of what he calls a politics of the same.

I find this shocking, particularly because it ostensibly stems from both Spivak and Gilles Deleuze. Spivak deliberately avoids the question of the subject, prefering instead to refer to the subject-position, which is always, as she says, centered. She doesn't explore the question of what it is that constitutes a subject, in part, I think, because deconstruction will ultimately lead to the answer that nothing constitutes the subject (the abyss). Diane Elam argues just this point, leading her to call for a groundless solidarity, rather than a humanistic solipsism. Deleuze centers his philosophy on radical difference as well, celebrating that which keeps us from trying to all be the same. To then martial these thinkers behind "the immanence of the tone," as Agawu calls it, seems dishonest at worst, and questionable at best.

Of Agawu's "Immanence of the tone," one must ask this: what is a tone? Clearly he doesn't mean pitch. Rhythmically controlled sound collection? Deliberate, audible articulation? Where does the line lie between music and speach if tone is our ground? Is tone a sufficient criterion for a sameness, without being broadly inclusive of every blip or fart? And in the other direction, by demanding the same to ground all music, what happens to those things which are not recognizably musical to a given critic? Where does fluxus end up after this revolutionary dust settles? When Yoko Ono flushed her toilet, did that fit within the same as well? Does it when I flush? This is the limit of formalism (and humanism, I think). Lines cannot be drawn, catagories cannot be named, without abjecting that which ought to be included.

That being said, I need to read the book before I make this official

Sunday, September 30, 2007

courtesy of feministing.com


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

courtesy of Erik, as in the comment below.

What I've done is stolen excerpts and added commentary. I realize this is something of a straw-man approach, but I'll try to be intellectually honest about this.

The author begins with his own background in philosophy, why he entered the field, and why he left.

"Philosophy doesn't really have a subject matter in the way math or history or most other university subjects do. There is no core of knowledge one must master. The closest you come to that is a knowledge of what various individual philosophers have said about different topics over the years."

This is partly true. I agree that philosohpy doesn't have a subject matter, but it seems presumptuous to claim a subject matter for the sciences or history. Indeed, one of the achievements, if I may use so misleading a word, of post-war continental philosphy is the theory that subjects or disciplines create their own subject matter. Michel Foucault (the so-called "historian of the detail") pioneered this way of thinking in the late 60's in his studies of the penal system, the insane assylum and the clinic (_The Achaeology of Knowledge_ seems to be a good place to start. I've not read the books on the aforementioned subjects, but have begun this last one, and it acts in some ways as a summary). We might say that, by talking about an object (madness, for example) in a systematic way, we create it. Of course, we cannot talk about it before it exists, so there is the problem. I've not yet got to Foucault's theory of how these objects originate, but I would provisionally suggest that they originate from objects that have themselves already originated by the same mechinisms. For example, madness might be a refiguring of possession (in the Biblical sense).

Ultimately, every subject matter, every collection of objects of a given discourse, could be seen as defined by, and understood in terms of, the discourse used to describe it. Everything then is inextricably tied to words, and, in so far as we are able to communicate an object to someone else, that object could be said to be only words.

Graham reaches this same conclusion, to some extent, turning to Wittgenstein:

"The real lesson here is that the concepts we use in everyday life are fuzzy, and break down if pushed too hard."

But where this errs, it seems to me, is its contextual exclusivity. Graham suggests that only in math and science do concepts keep from getting fuzzy (and why should our concepts always have to remain so hard and rigid all the time? Why do we insist upon keeping them erect?); but I would suggest that it this is true in almost every discourse that doesn't involve reflection upon itself. Things break down in philosophy (lately) because it is the role of the philosohper (if philosophy isn't dead) to break it down (word). But if you looked at music theory, you'd see the same lack of fuzzyness you find in math (usually).

"The most valuable way to approach the current philosophical tradition may be neither to get lost in pointless speculations like Berkeley, nor to shut them down like Wittgenstein, but to study it as an example of reason gone wrong."

I've not read Berkeley or Wittgenstein, but I would like to point out that Wittgenstein has been hugely influencial; he doesn't seem to have shut anything down, but rather to have blown things up. I do agree that it's important to read philosphy as an example of things gone wrong (maybe not reason, but then again maybe), but I'll get to that later.

Graham offers the following as an example of post-Wittgenstein "word salad":

"Gender is not like some of the other grammatical modes which express precisely a mode of conception without any reality that corresponds to the conceptual mode, and consequently do not express precisely something in reality by which the intellect could be moved to conceive a thing the way it does, even where that motive is not something in the thing as such. [14]"

I admit I have no idea what this means. So I read the footnote.

"[14] This is actually from the Ordinatio of Duns Scotus (ca. 1300), with "number" replaced by "gender." Plus ca change."

This is not an example of post-war philosophy, it's nearly ancient. So of course it's a word salad: it's excised from a discourse with which none of us is likely to be familiar, it's a translation from a dead language, and a word has been inexplicably replaced with another. This is really odd to me. There are a Brazilian examples of equally convoluted text from his target group that he could have chosen, and which would have been extremely effective in supporting his point. I can't imagine why he used this. Maybe I've missed something?

Graham has a solution for what is wrong with philosophy. It began with Aristotle, whose goal was "to discover the most general truths," but while remaining nobly impracticle. Here's Graham's counter-proposal:

"I propose we try again, but that we use that heretofore despised criterion, applicability, as a guide to keep us from wondering off into a swamp of abstractions. Instead of trying to answer the question:
What are the most general truths?
let's try to answer the question
Of all the useful things we can say, which are the most general?"

1) I was looking through my roommate's introductory combinatorics book at dinner. I don't think applicability is going to keep us from wandering off into any swamps.
2) Aristotle, according to a professor of mine who has a PhD in Classics, forms the base of most Catholic thought since the 10th century (when students in Paris rioted for the right to read him). Regardless of his intentions, Aristotle has been hugely applicable, although, as Irigaray points out, not always in a good way.
3) I would suggest that Aristotle's problem (and philosophy's in general, pre-war) isn't that it's unapplicable, but that it privileges generality. Why isn't that questioned here? What does posing the question "What are the general truths?" do to affect (or even effect) it's answer?

This last is my chief objection. What is the benefit of generality? and, perhaps more importantly, what are it's risks?

One of Graham's arguments seems to be that philosophy actually has nothing to say. It's not so much that it's necessarily confusing, but that it's deliberately confusing, in order to get tenure:

"In order to get tenure in any field you must not arrive at conclusions that members of tenure committees can disagree with. In practice there are two kinds of solutions to this problem. In math and the sciences, you can prove what you're saying, or at any rate adjust your conclusions so you're not claiming anything false ("6 of 8 subjects had lower blood pressure after the treatment"). In the humanities you can either avoid drawing any definite conclusions (e.g. conclude that an issue is a complex one), or draw conclusions so narrow that no one cares enough to disagree with you."

I think we should look at this first from a different angle. Philosophy is certainly not the only opaque academic discipline. The sciences in particular, who are estemed for their applicablitiy, are quite impenetrable to me once one gets above the high school level. It seems to me that philosophy gains its obscurity not from a desire to befuddle a committee in the interest of sneaking into the academy, but rather in the interest of not being fuzzy. Philosophical texts are impenetrable not to keep people from seeing the man behind the curtain (and how often has it not been a man, after all?), but in order to be precise. Precision, as I've hinted at above, requires jargon. I can't talk about math in lay-terms, because that wouldn't be precise enough for math. Similarly, a philosohpy can't discuss sublimity without the discourse on sublimity. This is why I can't make any sense of Graham's quote from ca1300: I don't speak that jargon; it's not confusing or fuzzy, it's obscure. To condemn philosophy for obscurity makes no more sense than leveling similar charges against biology or mathematics.

"You can start by writing things that are useful but very specific, and then gradually make them more general. Joe's has good burritos. What makes a good burrito? What makes good food? What makes anything good? You can take as long as you want. You don't have to get all the way to the top of the mountain. You don't have to tell anyone you're doing philosophy."

This is the beautiful conclusion. And I'm not being snarky at all; I realize my tone may sound defensive in some of the above, but I really do like this ending. It is important to remember that philosophy doesn't hold a monopoly on abstraction, wisdom, truth, or anything but a partcular(ly obscure) way of talking. Access to this way of talking can be useful, of course; with out it, I wouldn't know to ask "what is good?" and "what are the implications of supposing there is a single unifying characteristic amongst all good things?"

"Philosophy is as young now as math was in 1500. There is a lot more to discover."

This, however, is what it ultimately comes down to. What Graham is interested in doing is laying claim to things. He is directly in, as I understand it, the Kantian tradition (Kant also wanted to simplify language and make words unfuzzy).

So here's what I think:
Philosophy has often been quite obscure. Whether this was necessary depends on one's point of view. It was necessary to communicate the intended information (the information in another form would be different information), but if the information itself was not useful (who decides?) then the obscurity (which is, to some extent, the informatin) was also not useful, maybe. I've read some obscure stuff, and some of it I understood little enough that I must own that maybe it didn't mean anything (what does it mean to mean?). (It's interesting, as an aside, that Hegel, in his _Phenomenology of Spirit_, uses textual obscurity to mirror his points: when he's describing a particularly dizzying element of the spirity, his prose gets even dizzyinger than usual.)

Philosophy has always been about application, even when it's said by the author to be otherwise. I won't get into my opinions on the unknowability of authorial intention (I don't think it's knowable), and that's not important here, I think. What is important is how the text can be said to function in discourse and the history of discourse. We read Aristotle for a reason (and it's not just so we can laugh at him: he thought high notes were higher because they travelled faster, and never mind testing this hypothesis): he shaped much of the history of thought in Europe. Gayatri Spivak's _Critique of Postcolonial Reason_ starts with excellent readings of Kant, Hegel and Marx in terms of their influence on (or perhaps their reflection of) the development of European colonialism, for example. Even Aristotle's privileging of impracticality is a polical maneuver: who has time to behave impractically, and why would it be in Aristotle's interest to call such people noble?

The preference for generality needs to be questioned (and has been elsewhere).

There's a lot to be said for using big words just to be pretentious :)

Saturday, September 22, 2007


"I am quite willing to admit that they are also a deception but right now I believe in them so much that I infect them with truth." (Vladimir Nabokov, _Invitation to a Beheading_, 138)

Elam for Minimalism

I was flipping through Diane Elams' _Feminism and Deconstruction_, and I came across a passage I had underlined, with the anotation, "3 ways to apply to minimalism":

"Heirarchy is always grounded on the assumption that differences are differences of degree, along a homogeneous scale. If femininity is a natural category, then differences between women are merely the effect of degrees of false consciousness, and liberation arrives when all women have come to authoritative consciousness of their own, identical, sexual identity." (43)

Now I just have to try to remember the 3 ways...

1) a) What is often mis-labeled the anti-teleological in minimalism, it's driving repetition and lack of drive (?), is ostinsibly the removal of heirarchy, in that it eliminates defining dramatic moments.
b) (Via Brian Hulse and Deleuze) Viewing the repetition in minimalism as difference (not the same again) suggests, maybe, that the scale of heirarchy is shifted, or that the transition from one point to another is foregrounded, while the points themselves are diminished (I would like very much to keep this distinct from "becoming").

2) On the flip side. Minimalism as a representation of the impossibility of the late-capitalist phallus suggests reading this corpus not as an ostensibly feminine anti-teleology, but as a similacrum for ideal masculinity: unattainable, unsustainable, hollow, and ultimately fragile. In effect, this reading entails saying "men" instead of "women," and "masculine" instead of "feminine," in the above.

3) Not sure what 3 was... maybe it was 1b? Maybe these are all new.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Book list

This is a list of books I need to get (and may become my Christmas list). I'll keep editing it as I remember which ones I've forgotten.

Giorgio Agamben - The Coming Community

Kofi Agawu - Representing Africa: Postcolonial Queries, Notes and Positions

Jean Baudrillard - The System of Objects

Jean Baudrillard - The Spirit of Terrorism: And Requiem for the Twin Towers

Jean Baudrillard - Forget Foucault

Jacques Derrida - Of Grammatology

Homi K. Bhabha - The Location of Culture

Michel Foucault - The History of Sexuality (vol 1-3)

Ellie Hisama - Gendering Musical Modernism

Luce Irigaray - An Ethics of Sexual Difference

Luce Irigaray - Speculum of the Other Woman

Alice Jardine and Paul Smith (eds.) - Men in Feminism

Susan McClary - Feminine Endings

Jean-Luc Nancy - Birth of Presence

Jean-Luc Nancy - Hegel: The Restlessness of the Negative

Keith Potter - Four Musical Minimalists

Edward Said - Orientalism

Ruth A. Solie (ed.) - Musicology and Difference

Edward Stickland - Minimalism: Origins

Virginia Woolf - Mrs. Dalloway

Saturday, September 8, 2007

2" X 1"

Spiders should be illegal.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Air Force Charges Victim in Her Own Rape

Military woman gets raped by three men, the Army brings charges against her.This more or less speaks for itself.

Edit: you have to click on the link below to get the site. Or go directly to feministing.com

Edit II: The first comment that went up on this on digg:
"I'm getting dizzy from all this spin...

'Due to stress and harsh interrogation tactics by the Air Force, she eventually refused to testify against the airmen.'

So in other words:

Some chick got wasted at a party, and participated in a gangbang. Feeling guilty, she reported it as rape. Later, she changed her mind and realized she was in over her head, and admitted she just got wasted and had sex with them.

Now she's being accused of indecent acts(Participating in a group sex with other Airmen) by the Airforce. Acts she admitted to.

The spin on this is incredible. Go burn some bras."

This is why we need feminism. This is sexism at its most powerful. In this Meatball's (his screen name) estimation, the only, or most plausible, explaination is that she's so horny, that she's so mad with penis envy, that she completely ignored her own (that is, our own) ethics or morality. Now we've all been drunk enough to do something maybe we regretted, but have you ever called the cops on someone you did it with and try to get them sent to prison, so you wouldn't feel guilty anymore? But, of course, women don't think like we do. They're just physical animals with no higher-level morality to restrain them (is the sarcasm coming through the type there?).

I'm not saying Meatball's bigoted hypothesis is impossible. But given that we live in a country where women are 3 to 4 times more likely to be raped than they are in any other industrialized nation, a country where violence against women is an everyday part of life, a country of brotherhood, and where boys will be boys, which of these two hypotheses, feministing's or Meatball's, seems more likely? In which case would we be causing more violence through the act of believing?

read more | digg story


It's fairly common knowledge that the Beatles were a horrible band. Everything they wrote is painfully stupid.

But I've figured out why that stupidity bothers me. I listen to a lot of stupid music (stupid's obviously the wrong word for simple), but that music's stupidity doesn't seem to bother me. The problem is in the canonization process. For example: Mos Def is a great rapper. He's got what the kids call mad skills. But he's not a genius (well, maybe he is, but that's not the common claim). Rappers, it seems to me, are viewed more as craftsmen than artistic geniuses. And The Cure are great, as are any number of other bands I like, but again, they're not canonized into the cult of genius. The Beatles, as well as Bob Dylan and a host of others, are sacred (which is why it's so fun to make fun of them). I think my frustration has grown from these people being considered geniuses while their music so clearly reveals that they are crafts(wo)men (wo in rare cases. Or maybe in no cases, as I try to think of an example...). I don't think there's anything wrong with craftsmen. I'm not so caught up in a dead modernism to believe that, even if geniuses exist(ed), they are necessarily better musicians than craftspeople.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Just because...

First of all, I've got about 4 shots of vodka in me, so, while I'm not exactly smashed, I'm also not totally lucid.

Earlier today I saw a bumper sticker that said "Just because you have one doesn't mean you have to act like one."

Now it seems pretty obvious, particularly since this is a bumper sticker I'm talking about, that they meant "dick." What struck me as interesting is that "pussy" would, semantically, work just as well (though obviously the meaning would be different). Thus two quite common colloquialisms, both derogatory, mirror the social gender divide; dicks are aggressive, attention-getting and insensitive, while pussies are submissive, passive, and weak.

Now I stopped calling people pussies years ago, for the obvious reason that I object to the rehearsal of the construction of feminine passivity. Pussies are not inherently passive or submissive, and equating the female sex organs with weakness is as misogynist as calling a woman a bitch just because she didn't let you have your way (you spoiled frat boy, you).

But the dual meaning presented by the bumper sticker made me reconsider my position on calling people dicks. I call people dicks all the time (but not to their face, cuz I'm a pussy [joking!]). My rationalization of this was this:

1) calling someone a pussy reinscribes the woman as passive and myself as dominant. Because most often the object of ridicule--that which is being called a pussy--is male, the implication is that the person in question has failed to adequately perform his gender role. Now, I'm not so post-modern as to presume that passivity or weakness are always valid choices, so when I felt someone was being unethically weak, I had to find alternative terminology (wuss seems to work. I used pansy for a bit, but that's clearly homophobic).

2) Dick, like pussy, is an appellation most commonly reserved for males. In this case, the man is being too male. Either his cockyness has impinged upon another man, requiring a retaliatory re-assertion of masculinity, or it has imposed itself upon a woman, who, like a strategic bit of territory, must be defended against such an unseemly advance. Now here, of course, I'm being critical of common usage, but it seems to me that "dick" can be redeployed in the service of critiquing this proprietary gender model. So when I call you a dick, I'm saying "dude, quit acting the part of the patriarch."

But is that true? Or am I embedding myself (like I work for CNN) in the conflict and, as a result, only acting out the normalized role? Does "dick" necessarily re-cite essentialist models of gender difference, or can it serve as a critique of essentialism?

EDIT: It was pointed out to me that the bumper sticker was probably talking about "assholes." I think it says a few things about me that that never occured to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


I suppose some of you won't find this very shocking, but it's interesting to hear from the General. One wonders only why he said nothing earlier.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Why am I so insufferably stupid?

I cannot get this paper written. I can't even get it started. I've become an intellectual porridge, incapable of stringing together coherent ideas.

Here's what I'm trying to say in my talk:

I'm going to begin with a quotation from an article on minimalism that reflects upon the difficulty the music analyst faces in trying to "penetrate" the music and find the governing meaning beneath the surface. In minimalism, ostensibly, there is not beneath the underneath.

I will then circuitously reapproach this observation.

1) Michael Fried, Hal Foster, and Kate Linker. These articles in art criticism, placed here in chronological order (and I think I'll retain this ordering) reinforce the reading of minimalist art as a project in the service of decentering the artist-subject. For Fried, this is a bad thing, and it renders the work of art a "mere object," devoid of what Hegel called subjectivity. It is important that this modernist critic dismisses minimal art precisely in terms of an unreferenced Hegelian aesthetic model. The subject fails to present itself.

Foster reitterates this critique, but, rather than dismissing minimalism as a theatrical non-art, claims it for the cruz of postmodernity. For Foster, the subject seems to be successfully gotten rid of (though we ought not to presume he really believes this). We can see this as an artistic movement self-conciously breaking from modernism as represented by Hegel and the centered autonomous subject.

Linker may prove to be unnecessary. I've used her in my paper to draw the explicit link between Barthes (who also might not be so necessary) and Reich, since she uses wording that connects the two quite clearly. Maybe this belongs later in the paper?

Chave gives us the necessary critique of Foster.
1) the artist is of course always present in the work. In my terms: just because the author is no longer to be considered the privileged source of meaning does not mean that he (naturally) is not one of the pieces assembled into the text.
2) Minimalism can be seen as a replication of the devices of late capitalism (she doesn't use that term). It's phallic power is both ever-present and empty/fragile. It is necessarily unitary, devoid of depth or detail, and in this regard mimicks the valid sex organ. However, its vain attempt to desubjectify the creator (by means of being so phallicized), in conjunction with the vapidity and fracturedness of the postmodern Western Subject undermines its unity. Chave looks at Andre's line of bricks (the 136 brick long phallus that could be dismembered by an absent-minded kick) and Flavins "angle of exstacy" which burns out regularly and has to be replaced. This is analogous in music to the degree of concentration required to perform early minimalist works, particularly in relation to the simplicity of the result (4 organs, for example, fell appart when performed in Boston because the performers couldn't concentrate. Also, Reich was initially apprehensive about the viability of live phase-shifting music, since it was probably too hard to do. Compare also Les Moutons de Panurge).

Further similarity is the lack of depth. Take, for example, Tony Smith's Die, which is large and bleak, but seems also quite hollow. The openning quote (that I didn't put up here) reflects this in music. The fragility and hollowness (lack of penetration) of minimalist music is in part what keeps it from repeating Schoenbergian or Schenkerian organicism. Instead, it serves as a critique of the emptyness of late capitalist culture.

If I have space, I'll follow this up by delimitting the historical boundaries of minimalist music. For Glass, minimalism begins to vanish with his longer, complicated works such as Music in 12 Parts. For Reich, the transition is more interesting (cuz he's actually a good composer). It begins just after Drumming, and involves at least two important features. 1) voice. Voice was important in Reich's first minimalist pieces (Come Out, It's Gonna Rain, and that one where concert-goers had their voices recorded and phased) but was always treated like a found object rather than like an intrument. In the post-Drumming period, performers begin to sing and the corporeality of the musicians becomes important. Gone is the faceless replication of post-industrial society, and it is replaced with people ("All music is ethnic music," says Reich at this point). 2) Duration. By adding sustained tones to his music (which began in 4 Organs and came back in a different guise at this point), phasing, and hense mechinization, stops being the only process in the music. Hence the music becomes more complicated, and consequently both less unitary and less fragile.

Now that's only 3 pages.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Striking image of a situation unlikely to end well (PIC)

" by TehSwat 20 minutes agoWhy can't we all just put away religious and past differences and get along? We are all 99.97% the same."

Pardon my lack of websavitude.

This sort of comment pisses me off. We're all the same, so let's be nice? The problem with this (racist) reasoning is that all we need to do to sanction violence is efface any similarity. This is the flaw of humanism. If similarity is all that's needed to stop violence, all that's needed to erase someone's humanity is to focus on difference. Instead, we ought to recognize that we are all potentially radically different from one another, and that that's no excuse for hatred.

read more | digg story

Friday, July 20, 2007

An I.'s Light (I.Luce-idation) on Woolf

Pretentious title, eh?

First of all, I'm surprised to find that, as far as I can tell, Luce is Irigaray's given name.

I'm reading Virginia Woolf's Orlando and I've come across an interesting passage about half-way through. She and Mr. Pope (presumably Alexander Pope, since Anne is currently Queen) are riding to her (Orlando's) house through the streets, and it being night, long periods of darkness intrude upon their conversation. This is for the better, since the danger Pope poses is the danger of Truth:

"A poet [Pope] is both Atlantic and lion in one. While one drowns us, the other gnas us. If we survive the teeth, we succumb to the waves. A man who can destroy illusions is both beast and flood. Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the earth. Roll up that tender air and the plant dies, the colour fades. The earth we walk on is a parched cinder. It is marl we tread and fiery cobbles scorch our feet. By the truth we are undone. Life is a dream [remember: Orlando loves Shakespeare]. 'Tis waking that kills us. He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life--(and so on for six pages if you will, but the style is tedious and may well be dropped)" (203, Woolf's jabs at English writing style pepper this book. It's really much funnier than anything else I've read by her, though that asks little, since her other books have been very depressing.)

This is followed by the carriage ride, during which Orlando is not reduced to a "heap of cinders" because of the poor street lighting. During the moments of light, Orlando is repulsed by the humanity of the poet (perhaps Pope is chose not only because of his historical location and well known wits), but during the ten-minute-long darknesses, she is convinced not only that he is divine, but that she is the luckiest of women for being so near him, and surely history shall remember her for it. Just before reaching her house in Blackfriar, they pass what is not Piccadilly Circus:

"The light blazed in her eyes, and she saw, besides some degraded creatures of her own sex, two wretched pigmies [sic] on a stark desert land. Both were naked, solitary, and defenceless [sic]. The one was powerless to help the other. Each had enough to do to look after itself. Looking Mr. Pope full in the face, 'It is equally vain,' she thought, 'for you to think you can protect me, or for me to think I can worship you. The light of truth beats upon us without shadow, and the light of truth is damnably unbecoming to us both." (206,7)

First, the role of the pigmies is reminiscent of the Feuerlaender in Spivak's reading of Kant: those who are condemned to poverty, in the spiritual and intellectual sense. But for Kant, the "naturally uneducated" were to be pitied as exceptions to the grand narrative of metaphysical knowledge. Woolf, in contrast, is using them to illustrate that we are all naturally uneducated. Knowledge (Subjective knowledge) is utterly unattainable in the face of the blinding light of truth. Hence our reliance on shadow and illusion.

What drew my attention to this passage though was the use of light, and it's parallels with Irigaray's writings. Now it's probably only because I'm reading both of these authors so close to one another that this seems interesting to me. After all, using light to signify truth is hardly Woolf's invention.

But what's interesting is that both authors use light as a dangerous bringer of knowledge, not as a savior from darkness:

"Finding the ecomony of light in all its dazzling brilliance, without risk of combustion and death, marks humanity's first steps into philosophy. And just as the sun, even in eclipse, must be observed only indirectly, in a mirror on pain of blindness, even so the spirit will serve as an additional reflector that helps us to look upon the Good. In a strict sense, mortals cannot look upon Good." (Speculum of the Other Woman, 148. As far as I know, the French words for "good" and "god" do not bear the close relationship they do in English.)

She goes on:

"But the consuming contact of light will also be avoided by paying attention to forms alone. Vision protects itself from the risk of blindness by using daylight for the exact perception of 'beings' and for the calculation of the relations and correlations 'beings' have with their ideal inscription in the psyche. Direct vision means looking directly ahead, of course, but ti also means doing so through an optical apparatus that stands between man and light and prevents light from touching him at all." (148)

Woolf does not make use of mirrors the way Irigaray does. Irigaray is interested in mechanisms that protect the viewer (man) from direct vision, and is using this to critique the Western philosophical tradition. Woolf, on the other hand, uses darkness. She's an author instead of a philosopher/psychoanalyst, and that manifests here. Instead of arguing that we've deliberately mediated our interaction with knowledge in an overly determining way, Woolf argues that we've hidden ourselves from truth, and that what we call knowledge is merely our own self-delusion, willfully mistaking the shadow of a seat cushion for a noble forehead.

I keep getting interrupted in this post, and as with all my posts, I didn't really plan it out ahead of time, so I'm afraid I've lost track of my point.

So there. Two feminist authors criticizing light, I guess. Whatever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Body, limp.

“The Body, and its language, which is of course, all language.... But that male body, how IT dominates the culture, the environment, the language. Since 3000 B.C. in Sumeria, Tiamat’s monsters again and again, and every myth an effort to keep the sun rising. Save the sun... will it rise again will it will it rise again? The language of criticism: ‘lean, dry, terse, powerful, strong, spare, linear, focused, explosive’—god forbid it should be ‘limp’!! But—‘soft, moist, blurred, padded, irregular, going around in circles,’ and other descriptions of our bodies—the very abyss of aesthetic judgment, danger, the wasteland for artists! That limp dick—an entire civilization based on it, help the sun rise, watch out for the dark underground, focus focus focus, keep it high, let it soar, let it transcend, let it aspire to Godhead——————”
--Frances Jaffer, as quoted by Susan L. Stoops in More than Minimal.

I'm not sure much needs to be said about this. I may bring it into my paper on musical aesthetics and feminism.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Freedom of Speech

This is an endnote from the introduction to Hal Foster's The Return of the Real, an art criticism book focusing on the "second neo-avant-garde" and the development of post-modernism in the arts:

"I address a further reciprocity between leftist provocations and rightist prohibitions in chapter 5. As this work of (dis)articulation proceeds, the neoconservative strategy of the last two decades comes into focus [published in 1996]. Its essence is twofold: first, to denounce vanguard and popular cultures as hedonistic, and then to blame this bad culture for the social ravages incurred from a capitalism that is hedonistic; second, to celebrate traditional and authoritarian cultures as ethical, and then to use this good culture (of family values and the rest) to buy votes for this rapacious capitalism (that, never mindful of the working class, is evermore heedless of the middle class as well). It is a clever trick, but why do so many people fall for it even as they see through it? This is where the work of (dis)articulation comes into play (let alone the critique of cynical reason)." (229)

This reads well, I think, with an article published by Edward Said in 1983 ("Opponents, Audiences, Constituencies, and Community," in The Anti-Aesthetic, ed. Hal Foster). From the article:

"Our political discourse is now[, in the early years of the Reagan administration,] choked with enormous, thought-stopping abstractions, from terrorism, Communism, Islamic fundamentalism, and instability, to moderation, freedom, stability and strategic alliances, all of them as unclear as they are both potent and unrefined in their appeal. It is next to impossible to think about human society either in a global way (as Richard Falk eloquently does in A Global Approach to National Policy [1975]) or at the level of everyday life. As Philip Green shows in The Pursuit of Inequality, notions like equality and welfare have simply been chased off the intellectual landscape. Instead a brutal Darwinian picture of self-help and self-
promotion is proposed by Reaganism, both domestically and internationally, as an image of the world ruled by what is being called 'productivity' or 'free enterprise.'" (136-7)

Both of these authors (the former clearly influenced by the more prolific latter) reveal the brutally ingenious stupidity of late capitalism's mechanisms of political and social (in this case the same thing) control. Ultimately, both accounts point at the usurpation by the political authority of an ostensibly democratic narrative. This narrative is co-opted, as is frequently remarked, through the use of fear. What makes the brutality ingenious is that, instead of creating an arbitrary political scapegoat to focus popular fear (as did the Nazis, for example, or as Rene Girard describes the origins of sacrificial violence), the neo-liberal, late-capitalist political/economic apparatus focuses fear on exactly those who work to expose late capital's hedonism, and that fear is focused in part by reflecting the critique of late capital back on the critics themselves. This is the necessity of free speech. It exists not to free the masses from the yolk of oppression or to foster the free exchange of ideas, but rather to nourish an oppositional base that can in turn be debased. After all, if avant-garde art and leftist scholarship were forbidden, fear would have to be focused either arbitrarily or fantasmatically (as in 1984, and to a lesser extent, in contemporary popular discourse on terrorism, as indicated by Said). The fact that there is a fantasmatic evil currently does slightly undermine by hypothesis on free speech, though it can be partially recuperated by considering "terrorist" not only as a foreign body, but a domestic label, as in "If you _____, then the terrorists have already won," or "you're either with me or you're with the terrorists." (I'm obviously not claiming that terrorism doesn't exist, but rather am suggesting that it is made use of politically as a means of accruing power in a way that is incommensurate with any practical solution to the terrorist problem.)

Freedom is slavery, but not in the Orwellian sense. It is not the demand for freedom that will eventually lead to slavery. It is by granting freedom that sustainable slavery can be attained. Clearly I mean slavery somewhat metaphorically: I'm not implying that the contemporary American condition(s) are equivalent to any historical or contemporary state of actual slavery.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Gay Science

"New Struggles.-- After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave--a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead: but given the way men are, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.--And we--we still have to vanquish his shadow, too." (108)

"A dangerous resolve.-- The Christian resolve to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad." (130)

"Incense.-- Buddha said: 'do not flatter your benefactor.' This saying should be repeated in a Christian church--right away it clears the air of everything Christian." (163)

"Need.-- A need is considered the cause of the origin: in truth, it is often merely an effect of what did originate." (205)

"Against mediators.-- Those who wish to be mediators between two resolute thinkers are marked as mediocre: they lack eyes to see the unparalleled; seeing things as similar and making them the same is the mark of weak eyes." (228) *blush*

"What is the seal of attained freedom?-- No longer being ashamed in front of oneself." (275)

These are a few aphorisms Walter Kaufman selected from _The Gay Science_, by way of further illuminating the text of _On the Genealogy of Morals_. I'm doing exactly what I'm not allowed (by Kaufman) to do: quoting them out of context. I disagree with him: I think they do hold valuable meaning even when excised from their surrounding text. Undoubtedly this meaning is other than it was intended, but the intended meaning is always already lost, whether one is "in context" or not. After all, by what arrogance could I ever claim to be in Nietzsche's contexts? At any rate, these are fun little bits, particularly when one considers their own genealogy, both before and after.

Saturday, June 9, 2007


Maybe Schopenhauer was right (I shouldn't say that. I've only read a chapter or two).

Maybe there are only two things: I and everything else. Subject/Object. Maybe this talk of multiplicities is an excuse. Maybe I am irriducible, autonomous, partitioning and unpartitionable. Ultimately alone (for the object can never intrude upon the subject, never penetrate me, stab me in the I).

Maybe the postmodern pursuit of the fractured self is nothing but an excuse for the shame of lonelyness.

Maybe the assumption is backwards. Maybe the problem is not the fascism of humanism, the dehumanizing assumption that there exists an I and maybe you are not it (if I can't see you, if I only see your object). Maybe we err when we point at the xenophobia of subjective autonomy.

Maybe the mistake is the incomplete adoption of the subject/objet: I am not I enough when I gaze in your eyes and see mine. Perhaps the problem is not the dehumanizing of the other, but the anthropomorphizing (as Elam slays Haver). If, as Schopenhauer says, there is only the subject and the object, and the two halves do not overlap at all, then you are always object. There is no you beyond my representation of you. So maybe the mistake is not in assuming the I, but in eyeing (I-ing) the you (not ewe).

But then what about eyeing myself (speculating with my internal speculum)? Where does the I-for-myself fit into the I-in-myself? Can I object my subject, or must I object to such an intrusion?

And were are bodies in all of this?

PS. Maybe Freud was right about penis envy (by accident). Maybe women want penises so men will stop being such dicks. Penis envy as a corridor to platonic love?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


I don't know what happened with my old blog. I can still access it, but I can't edit it, and it's not part of my account. Here it is, if you feel like reading it: ThePeat.blogspot.com

Now I just gotta wait around and see if this one breaks too.