“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, April 20, 2007

idle fellows as I am





The Enlightenment has been subject to an odd and schematic misreading over the past ten years. The colonialist mentality that appears at the end of the period, and that takes a very sharp and harsh look at enlightenment figures has been moved backwards in time, and the sharp and harsh look well nigh forgot. This reading derives from taking Kant’s notion of the enlightenment as a sort of official goodhousekeeping seal on the whole enterprise, thus skipping over, specifically, the disagreements that were expressed with Kant’s whole philosophical stance by his contemporaries, such as Lichtenberg, and more generally, the reality of enlightenment literature and its preferred forms over the period from, say, the Glorious Revolution to the French Revolution. LI doesn’t want to get into Kant’s bent for universalist prescriptions here, but simply note how odd it is that no justification seems to be needed, lately, for reading the Enlightenment through Kant’s essay on the Enlightenment. We suspect that an essay of a certain length and clarity that can easily be taught and anthologized will have an effect on the teaching of intellectual history that it might not have had within intellectual history.

LI thinks that the lineaments of any particular past are deposited under other pasts – that our assumption that our current routines are somehow the end result of all past processes, and as such so easily projected backwards as to give us an inlet into the sort of secret rationality at work in the historical process, will bump up against too many accidents, disasters, contingencies and false images to be of use as a valid measure. It will soon be wrecked by facts. And even the starting point is jinxed – for, in fact, assumptions about our own times are provisional, limited, and subject to the massive and inescapable bias of vanity and p.o.v.

My own bias is to fish in the torrents of time for certain images – to try to describe their destinies – and to rescue their essential oddness. There is a nice phrase of John Aubrey’s, who ends his ‘brief life’ of the ‘celebrated beautie and courtizane”, Venetia Stanley, with a description of the monument her husband, Kenelm Digby, erected to her, which was looted during the English civil war. Aubrey writes:

“About 1676 or 5, as I was walking through Newgate-street, I sawe Dame Venetia’s bust standing at a stall at the Golden Crosse, a brasier’s shop. I perfectly remembered it, but the fire had gott-off the guilding: but taking notice of it to one that was with me, I could never see it afterwards exposed to the street. They melted it downe. How these curiosities would be quite forgot, did not such idle fellows as I am putt them down!”

9 comments:

northanger said...

{scratching head}

is this what you said yesterday what you'd talk about tomorrow?

roger said...

North, my rule has always been, indirections finds direction out. Or something equally Agatha Christy-like.

So I can't really say that this is, uh, what I said I was going to talk about, but it is in the neighborhood. Four doors down. Hang a right. Hang a left. Stick your right foot out. Put your right foot back. Throw your hands in the air like you just don't care!

northanger said...

don't tell me you're a gemini. you sure do sound like one.

roger said...

Hey, what do you take me for? A good old sag, born on st. nick's day - December 6. Although, considering nick is the devil and St. Nicholas is Santy Claus, there is a tension there. The old Derridian pun of the gift/gift (poison). This was my birthright, goddamn it.

Actually, as I've been reading Ibn Tufayl's story, I'm ... more puzzled by it. It is like Mowgli from the Jungle Book combined with Robinson Crusoe combined with a Sufi interpretation of a proto-empiricist notion of ideas. I'm a little lost in this soup.

northanger said...

what do you take me for?

you want the honest answer or should i lie a little?

hey! i was close enough. gems & sags share polarity (aka, they're opposites). what's your ascendant?

Hayy Ibn Yaqzān — there's a pdf link in there.

don't know what i enjoy more, watching you make soup or watching you swim through it. what was that chef called on seinfeld? Soup Nazi!

roger said...

North, I believe my risin' sign is Scorpio, which is where my great loves seem to cluster.

I've heard of this Soup Nazi. I've seen some Seinfelds, but I never saw the ones about the Soup Nazi.

However, I'm not in the soup. I'm more like stuck in a giant plate of cold linguine.

roger said...

North, I believe my risin' sign is Scorpio, which is where my great loves seem to cluster.

I've heard of this Soup Nazi. I've seen some Seinfelds, but I never saw the ones about the Soup Nazi.

However, I'm not in the soup. I'm more like stuck in a giant plate of cold linguine.

northanger said...

see. i knew u were a gemini.

northanger said...

pasta nazi!