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Showing posts from February 8, 2009

The myth of the noble European

It is, of course, much too late in the day to call back the myth of the myth of the noble savage. Curiously, attacking the myth of the noble savage seems to be a sport that every generation of historians engage in. Yet, the sport is curiously foreshortened, on the principle of the White magic: As without, so NOT within. The White magic is so powerful that the historians who operate within this principle seemingly are unaware of it – unaware that they are taking as a norm a certain view of European “civilization” which, in actuality, was a rare thing in 16th and 17th century Europe. In fact, it might not be a thing at all. Some progress here has been made. As Terry Ellingson has pointed out, the term noble did not originally mean “morally elevated” when applied to the Indians. The first appearance of the phrase “noble savage” in English occurs early in the 17th century, in a translation of Marc Lescarbot’s account of French Canada. Why did Lescarbot call the Indians he met noble? Becaus

editorial changes

As some of my readers have remarked, LI’s posts lately are a lot more dense. There is a reason for that. For the past year and a half, I’ve been using this site to do a sort of research note experiment. Usually, when you are researching a book, you type up your notes in various computer folders. But I thought it would be interesting to do this in the open, on a blog. Among other posts, The Human Limit posts would show the way research happens in real time. The principle was really the same as in those 24/7 webcams showing hot hot hot sorority girls dressing, undressing and living the vida loca with dildoes – just, you know, everyday life. Same with my research notes. THL is not meant to be a philosophy text or a regular history. It is ‘an unofficial view of being’ – to use Wallace Steven’s definition of poetry. I’ve laid down almost all the themes I need, and now I have to start tying them together. But I’ve decided that this will require a little more order on this blog. Which means

As Without, So Within

A history could be written in the time honored manner of horror movies, which take old characters and pit them against each other: Dracula vs. Frankenstein, Godzilla vs. the blob. This episode could be called anti-christ vs. the universal, with both corners suitably decked out in lowrent F/X. Would the philosopher-villain, arising from his unmarked grave among the roots of great oaks – if, indeed, they scattered acorns on his plot as he requested– have found a place at last in B movie limbo? He would, at least, have recognized that the mad scientist was none other than the philosophical fucker, lightly transposed, but still dreaming an outsider cosmology, a metaphysical explanation for every horror. It was the beta ray accident that awoke the dead, Gidget! The history of the human limit – that is, the history of its erasure - obeys a formula that transforms the old alchemist’s principle, as above, so below, into the principle of universal history – as without, so within. That is, t

venus' booty

Montesquieu, on his travels through Italy, toured the Uffizi in Florence. He made copious notes, which were published in 1892. He was impressed by the statue known as the Medici Venus, about which he wrote: Her front side is small, neither too flat nor too round. Her eyes, neither too deep, nor too little, well curved. A head, small. Cheeks, fresh and firm. The part which joins the ear, admirable. The ear, mediocre and well turned. The mouth, big enough for it to be proportionate to the lips. The neck, which is gradually enlarged from the head to the shoulders, and which appears flexible. Beautiful shoulders, but less large than a man’s. Her arms, round and which join to the arm [sic – probably meant hand] by degrees. They have the appearance of firm flesh. Her hands, long and as though made of flesh. Tits, separated, not too low, nor too high. Thighs, admirable: they are elevated a bit from the mons pubis and then diminish little by little to the knee. Her foreleg is admirable: you


Klossowski, in the essay on the “philosopher-villain” that begins Sade, my neighbor, uses Sade’s own mocking division between the philosophers in his “own” works, who are decent people, and the philosophers in Justine, where, in an ‘inexcusable clumsiness that was bound to set the author at loggerheads with wise men and fools alike,” “all the philosophical characters in this novel are villains to the core.” In a sense, what Sade is doing is employing the Russellian distinction between types, here – the philosopher-villains exist in quoted space. In one’s own work, where the citational melts away, the philosophers are decent – as decent as any lab worker who operates on the human product, as they used to say at the AEC when feeding selected American detritus – the poor, the non-white – bits of plutonium. I remarked last time on Magris’ notion that transgression is embodied in the Nazi bureaucrat and the leader, which I think is a typical argument against Bataille’s notion of transgress

And I got an A + in Macro and Onanism!

The attack on the stimulus plan is unsurprising, coming as it does from the usual redoubts of the gated community wealthy – the NYT business page, Rush Limbaugh, the Democratic and Republican parties. The plan is one wing of the Obama schizophrenia. On the one hand, we are given a stimulus supposedly big enough to combat a recession that will last at least the year. On the other hand, we are given a bank plan tacitly premised on the idea that the financial section will be returning to its old glory any day now, thanks to the splendor of the self-adjusting market. The little thread that ties these things together is the housing market. It is as if the media sphere decided to throw Marx a surprise party: in his honor, they are demonstrating just what commodity fetishism means. The housing market has been curiously disembedded it real location in the world of social labor, and transported into the never land of econospeak and graphs. In the never land, there is never and there will neve