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Showing posts from April 13, 2008

He read Bayle

Via George Huppert’s The Style in Paris: Renaissance origins of the French Enlightenment, LI found this story about the Marquis D’argens in Jean Philibert Damiron’s Memoire sur le Marquis D’argens: He was never lacking in adventures, and if it wasn’t in one genre, it was in another. In returning from Italy and during the trip across [the Mediterranean] , he encountered a storm, the frightened sailors took vows to all the virgins of their countries of origin; a monk said his breviary in sobbing; two Calvinists trembled while reciting the psalms of Marot; for himself, he read the Pensees diverses of Bayle, and those who saw such cold bloodedness imagined that he was a saint, to whom the tranquility of his conscience procured his repose. – He read Bayle, that was his own breviary, his preferred book, the assiduous nourishment of his soul, which opened more and more to skepticism. If to doubt is to repose, it was that repose which his author of predilection bestowed upon him. [Memoires,

Mankind's impossible task: unhappiness

“Fyodorov used to say that the dead had to be resurrected,mankind should set impossible tasks for itself, and after its rebirth, mankind would exit earth as if from a waiting room, and leisurely take over the cosmos.” – From Victor Shklovsky’s Energy of Delusion LI has not read Nikolai Fyodorov’s Common Task of Mankind, in which he envisions our collective human energies devoted to resurrecting the dead and such. However, I would not laugh too hard at the project of resurrecting dead as the impossible task that humanity has set for itself, since it is my contention that humanity has set itself an equally impossible task, with equally unthought of but horrendous consequences – the spread of happiness to all peoples at all times. To each his obsessions; mine, of course, is to find out how the norm of happiness came to be the heuristic upon which we all agree, the ultimate reference for the political. David Leonardt’s column Wednesday took up some papers that dispute the Easterlin parad

Infinite Thought's Democracy in America: the short course

IT is back from America, and has taken advantage of opportunities undreamt of by Tocqueville (a monkey traveling companion, a digital camera) to write her own condensed version of "Democracy in America". She seems very impressed by our vast institutions of higher learning over here - and who wouldn't be? U.T., for instance, here in Austin is its own little city. Of course, this has less to do with the Texas belief in facilitatin' the Socratic method in appropriate architectural settings, and more to do with making money in real estate and construction - ah, the fortunes you can make in higher education. But I'm not gonna bitch too much - as an accidental byproduct of building a nice, expensive library building, you often get a library! You've got to stick something in there.

the ethics of garbage flies

Yesterday I scribbled down a post about the news that Bush aided, abetted and ordered torture. At the end of it my heart dribbled out of me. Though I believe that my posts are full of sound and fury and signify quite a lot, thank you very much, there is good reason to ask whether writing in every register, from the satiric to the analytical, about the scurrilous people who rule us is doing any good. From the aesthetic point of view – which is my point of view – what counts is the intangible quality of the insult, not whether it breaks your bones. However, the aesthetic point of view does merge, at some point, with the magical point of view. A curse might be beautiful poetry, but it should still be a curse. Richard III should go to hell with the ghosts’ voices ringing in his ears, even if, in the end, Richard III is a puppet imp. Such are the intangibles. Yesterday, I got hold of a copy of Steven Coll’s Family History of the Bin Ladens, and I’ve been enjoying the evidence pouring out o

Cold war noir revisited

LI saw Seven Days in May last night. How did we ever miss that flick? It is a generational thing – while I was not of the generation that was taught to hide under the desk if a bomb hit, I do clearly remember the impact of reading Hiroshima in the sixth grade – lent to me by my then best friend, Mike Sears, a boy who was way ahead of his time in the gore department- and having nightmares that mixed naked bodies and skin melting off them. This was just when naked female bodies were zooming to the top of the charts, as far as LI’s interest in things, so the whole thing was extremely disturbing. And it wasn’t unreasonable to actually think it could happen to good old suburban Atlanta. Why not? Any plane you saw in the sky could, potentially, be part of an attack squad that had made its way from Russia, unloading the h bomb at this very moment to fall and explode right above your own back yard. Hello Daddy Hello mom its your sk-sk-sk-skin-scrapin’/ cherry bomb But enough psychopathology

aux armes, citoyens!

I can say I hope it will be worth what I give up In 1908, Karl Kraus wrote a famous essay, the Sink of Inquity, which was later included in the collection entitled The Chinese Wall. It begins like this: Bourgeois society consists of two kinds of men: the ones who say that somewhere, someone is digging up a den of iniquity, and those who are worried, that they will get the address to it too late. This division has the advantage, that it often unfolds itself in one and the same person, because it isn’t the difference of world view, but only of circumstances and prospects that governs the choice of standpoints. But one goes wrong if one thinks that ethics and sensuality work quietly side by side: rather, they grappley together and are unceasingingly busy intensifying their forces one against the other and amplifying their object. It is now 1908 years that this jealous struggle of two life principles has gone on, in which indignation feeds on desire and desire on indignation, in which