Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Tyrant and the Rebel

"Resist all you like," said the tyrant, "I draw my strength from your resistance."

"Oppress all you like," replied the rebel, "we draw our strength from your oppression."

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Genius is

reaching the limit of a thought without indulging the desire to feel stupid.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where to?

When the farthest corner of the globe has been conquered technologically and can be exploited economically; when any incident you like, in any place you like, at any time you like, becomes accessible as fast as you like; when you can simultaneously "experience" an assassination attempt against a king in France and a symphony concert in Tokyo; when time is nothing but speed, instanteneity, and simultaneity, and time as history has vanished from all Dasein of all peoples; when a boxer counts as the great man of a people; when the tallies of millions at mass meetings are a triumph; then, yes then, there still looms like a specter over all this uproar the question: what for?—where to?—and what then?

Also sprach Martin Heidegger in 1935 (IM 40 [28-9]). "Regular television broadcasts [had begun] in Germany in 1929." "[Muhammad] Ali regained his title on October 30, 1974 by defeating champion George Foreman in their bout in Kinshasa, Zaire." "The first "modern" network technology on digital 2G (second generation) cellular technology was launched by Radiolinja (now part of Elisa Group) in 1991 in Finland on the GSM standard." Tonight, Fran Lebowitz answers the question concerning technology on HBO. Her answer is: "No." Where to then? "Here."*

*"I have none of these machines, which allows people to not be wherever they are. Since I don't have them and I'm forced to be where I am all the time, which is why I'm noticing what people are doing." It does not get much more Heidegerrian than that, does it, friends?

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I was surprised that Google only turned up one instance of the sentence "Science is the methodical pursuit of knowledge". When I articulated it for myself, I certainly didn't think that I (or, as it turns out, "ChrisM") was saying something original. So if anyone knows of a classic version of that dictum, please let me know.

The straight pangrammatical homologue is: politics is the mandated pursuit of power. But all depth in philosophy, as Wittgenstein said, is the depth of a grammatical joke. Here the joke might go as follows:

If science is the methodical pursuit of knowledge, politics is the mandacious pursuit of power.

Only a pangrammarian would get it, of course. Only if the word "method" immediately calls up "mandate" will "mandacious" have any meaning at all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Conservation of War

Here's an astute and surprisingly still-relevant observation from Norman Mailer in his debate with William F. Buckley made in September, 1962, published in Playboy in 1963, and reprinted in the Presidential Papers (pages 170-1). Replace the Cold War with that peculiar vector of financial crisis and the "war on terror" that Obama inherited from Bush and the point, I think remains valid.

So long as there is a cold war, there cannot be a conservative administration in America. There cannot for the simplest reason. Conservatism depends upon a huge reduction in the power and the budget of the central Government. Indeed, so long as there is a cold war, there are no politics of consequence in America. It matters less each year which party holds the power. Before the enormity of defense expenditures, there is no alternative to an ever-increasing welfare state. It can be an interesting welfare state like the present one, or a dull welfare state like President Eisenhower’s. It can even be a totally repressive welfare state like President Goldwater’s well might be. But the conservatives might recognize that greater economic liberty is not possible so long as one is building a greater war machine. To pretend that both can be real is hypocritical beyond belief. The conservatives then are merely mouthing impractical ideas which they presume may bring them power. They are sufficiently experienced to know that only liberalism can lead America into total war without popular violence, or an active underground.

As far as I can tell, Rand Paul is not hypocritical in this sense. Like his father, he has always granted that the "huge reduction in the power and budget of the central Government" implies an enormous reduction in military spending, i.e., a reversal of imperial "total war" strategy. The larger argument, in the pages leading up to this paragraph, is worth examining. Mailer works through the budgetary wiggle room that a rollback of the welfare state implies and then introduces the problem raised by Goldwater's promise of not "economizing on the nation's safety".

Note to self: the longish post here, which saved me half the typing in that long quotation from PP, could make for an interesting engagement.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Songs of Praise and Libel

I just listened to John Coltrane's "Song of Praise" and Bob Wiseman's "Libelous" back to back. It's worth doing either. Also both.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rand Paul, Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow

I believe the world would change (or would have already changed) if Rachel Maddow gave Rand Paul an interview that looked (and especially felt) like the one she gave with Jon Stewart. The important thing here is what she let him say and how it did not destroy the mood. It suggests the following utopian vision:

Rand Paul is president. Jon Stewart is the host of the Late Show (that IS going to happen, right?)*. And Rachel Maddow anchors the evening news.

*Update: if you want to feel that this "IS" going to happen watch this clip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Notes Toward Composure

The aim of poetry is to extricate the subject from the history of peoples, just as the aim of philosophy is to extricate the object from the world of things.

It is the task of the poet to present the subject by noting the emotions that position it in a particular history. It is the task of the philosopher to present the object by noting the concepts that relate it to a universal world. In a profoundly disturbing sense, the poet is to "the party" what the philosopher is to "the university".

Philosophers fail when they merely posit the object, just as poets fail when they merely pose the subject. The aim of philosophy is to bring the thing out and ground it objectively in the world as an object subsumed under a universal concept. Anything less is but an academic exercise. The aim of poetry, likewise, is to bring the person out and situate him or her subjectively in a history as a subject obligated to a particular emotion. Anything less is merely toeing the party line.

(I don't know if everyone appreciates these exercises. But they make me tingle. Just saying.)

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Monday, November 08, 2010

Rand Paul

I think Rand Paul did really well in this interview, and I don't think it's fair to say that he deals in "sweeping generalizations". I think he sounds as level-headed and intelligent as Obama did when he was running against Hilary Clinton.

His position is basically that the U.S. gov't can't keep behaving like "everything is an emergency". He wants to downsize it from a four trillion dollar operation to a two and a half trillion dollar operation. Like he says, that's still a very big government. If you want specifics, he refers you to a book by Christopher Edwards. Don't say that's skirting the issue. If you're going to downsize a government in that scale, you'd better have read a few books on the subject.

Most importantly, it seems to me that he'd take seriously the idea that pulling out of Afghanistan and legalizing pot are two very good ways of reducing needless government spending. So I'm looking at him with interest. He doesn't seem corrupted.

I know he's said some disconcerting and puzzling things in the past. But I mostly cringed with him, not at him.

Friday, November 05, 2010


Has anyone noticed that one can bring a "suit" against someone else and one's "case" can come up in court. You can also hire a lawyer (who will be wearing a suit) to write a brief. Lawyers don't keep their underwear in their briefcases, by the way. But when they travel they put their suits in their suitcases. They wear suits and carry briefcases, they keep their briefs (of their cases and suits) in those cases.

I don't know. Maybe it's important.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Kate's Own Eyes

This 30 minute film about Kate Greenstreet and her latest book, The Last 4 Things, is well worth watching. Kate's America, like Tony's, is a wondersome place. Thanks, Max.