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Showing posts from August 24, 2008

the privilege of turn 3

I’ve already commented once on Ginzburg’s essay, Making it strange: the prehistory of a literary device. Ginzburg traces the connection between the Stoic practices recorded by Marcus Aurelius and, link by link, the formalist notion of “making strange”, that formula which was so important to Victor Shklovsky. Ginzburg does not mention Shaftesbury in his essay; yet his explanation of the Stoic method can easily be applied to Shaftesbury's Philosophical Regimen: “Epictetus, the philosopher-slave whose ideas profoundly influenced Marcus Aurelius, maintained that this striking out or rearsure of imaginary representations was a necessary step in the quest for an exact perception of things. This is how Marcus Aurelius describes the successive stages: “Wipe away the impress of imagination. Stay the impulse that is drawing you like a puppet. Define the time which is present. Recognize what is happening to yourself or another. Divide and separate the event into its causal and material asp

privilege of turn 2

Second Part Shaftesbury’s Sensus Communis essay is, as he puts it, an earnest attempt to defend raillery. This is a very odd way to begin an essay on common sense, which is the kind of phrase that Shaftesbury’s tutor Locke was getting at with his notion that we receive our ideas from experience: “But perhaps you may still be in the same humour of not believing me in earnest. You may continue to tell me, I affect to be paradoxical, in commending a Conversation as advantageous to Reason, which ended in such a total Uncertainty of what Reason had seemingly so well established.” From the very beginning, then, Shaftesbury is presenting an explicit break between form and content. The form of the essay is, as Shaftesbury would know from Montaigne, the place of opinion, doxis, and is not a treatise. It deals with becoming – the characteristicks of men – rather than being – the universal forms. It is Shaftesbury’s piece of fun to defend mockery – his object – with a piece of reasoning. And tha

the privilege of turn 1 (revised)

Anthony, the third Earl of Shaftesbury (1670-1713) was born into a title that had been given to his grandfather, the first earl, who was the giant of the family. The First Earl was one of the grandees who designed the proto-whig culture that opposed James II, and brought about his downfall. He was the patron of John Locke, whom he first employed as a physician, then encouraged as a patron, used as a pamphleteer, made the entremetteur for his son, Anthony, the second earl (who married the woman Locke found for him) and finally employed to tutor his grandchildren. By chance (although it is a chance that one is not surprised at in class bound Britain) two of the English philosophers, Shaftesbury and Mill, could claim to be entirely educated by the reigning English philosopher that preceded them – respectively, Locke and Bentham. The third earl Shaftesbury dutifully followed in his grandfather’s footsteps – his father seems to have been an entirely ineffectual man – in promoting the Whig p

Congratulations, IT, on post 1000

IT has just logged her 1000th post . Alas, although I have thrown my typical Yankee fascist careerist advice at her – that she should be a regular writer for the Guardian, as she has a popular tone, leftist theory coming out of her fingernails, and a knack for hot button femme kultcha issues - does she listen to me? Does anybody? I think she is afraid of waking up one morning after a night of strange dreams to find that she’s been transformed into Polly Toynbee – or worse, Julia Burchill. She’s been on a roll with her series about what women talk about in the movies, which has somehow come to center on Sex and the City. I’m not sure how the Bechdel Test, as she calls it, deals with women playing men, vide Cate Blanchett, playing Bob Dylan. h I’d urge extending the topic to misogyny in movies, partly because some kindly soul put up half of the short film by Jean Eustache, Une sale histoire, which is a story of a man who becomes obsessed with staring through a hole bored in the wall b

all about foodviews

LI reader's might be interested in my review of two food books here. Hmm, the title of the review is a little more scary than what's inside - it is all about foodviews! I have high hopes for this review. If it catches the eye of some soul on the board of education, maybe it will suggest that the U.S., or at least Austin, should imitate the French and institute a semaine du goût. The American descent towards obesity and diabetes, which stems from our agribusinesses and inequalities, cannot be overturned by teaching children to look at taste before quantity or energy (sugar), but it can't hurt.

Cosi 3

It smells like girl It smells like girl LI suspects that, by the very nature of my research into the roots of happiness, I sometimes leave the impression that it was all a mistake. That the happiness culture was a terrible thing. That doesn’t actually reflect my opinion. My liberalism amounts to this: avoiding totalizing viewpoints. From one point of view, the mutual bond between the nascent happiness culture and the nascent market culture was a disaster from the beginning. From another point of view, it was progress. One and the same observer could move between those two points of view, and often did, in the eighteenth century. Of course, I’m not pretending, either, that those were the only two points of view on what was happening, simply two conflicting assessments. What is striking, however, is that gradually, the ability to pose questions about what happiness is, and about the passional norms which supposedly underlie individual lives and collectivities, were increasingly blocked b