Skip to main content


Showing posts from May 16, 2010

Clinamen and a flush

Kant mentions, in his Anthropology, one of the favorite card games of the eighteenth century, pharaon. In Thomas Kavanagh’s essay, Libertine’s Bluff: Cards and Culture in Eighteenth-Century France, Kavanagh contrasts pharaon with the century’s other favorite card game, brelan. Pharaon was, it appears, even banned in France for a time in the 18th century, but brelan was not. In his article on brelan in the Encyclopedie, Diderot wrote: "it is most enjoyable, that is, most ruinous when there are three or five players." In fact, the amounts won or lost by brelan were legendary. Kavanagh, however, wants to get past the anecdotal and point to the central social symbolism of card games for the French – and, in general, the ancien regime’s – aristocracy, and he wants to draw a contrast between pharaon, which was a game of chance, and brelan, which was a game of strategies that became part of the pool of metaphors that informed the libertine vocabulary of seduction. Is it right, i

Kant and gambling, 2

I’m back from viewing wilderness and… well, from the deep reaches of love. About which you will hear not hear me make a sound, since love has a bower bird’s instinct for building the most elaborate nests to hide its secrets in. … Instead, I’m going back to where I left off – that is, with boredom’s fit into the system of wants and ‘needs’. A fit that that comes, in Kant, with a scenario that seems to haunt not just the grand seigneurs, but all of art as well. To repeat the last graf of my last post: “The division between the game as a whole – which is played for the sake of being played – and the different moments of the game, the hands – which are played to be won – gives us, then, an activity that isn’t ‘serious’ – and yet one that fools boredom, playing its own game in the margins.” Recognize, here, purposiveness without a purpose - wrenched from its place in aesthetics - and taking on another form in the world formed when the chief motivation is not need, but the lack of need – tha