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Showing posts from January 23, 2011

a more personal beginning

I've been worrying that the style in which I'm trying to write my Bio of H.E. is too scholastic, and not gnostic or eccentric or personal enough. So I am thinking of beginnning something more like this. ... I was in my second year of college, in the town of S., a long time ago, hen I first came down with what I know now is a sort of disease: the want of a desire to want. I was living in a furnished apartment above a garage full of old photographs. The garage was attached to a mansion inhabited by an eccentric and presumably wealthy couple, although I only had any relations with the wife, Mrs. M., a former CIA agent and photograph enthusiast (hence, the piles of old darkroom equipment and boxes of photographs in the garage, along with a very old and never driven Bentley I was happy with the furnishings, and especially with Mrs. M.’s choice of firehouse red as the predominant color in the kitchen (stove, table, chairs, and even tea kettle). Then my father came by one day – they l

diderot - nature and folly

In a letter to Sophie Volland on September 2, 1769, Diderot wrote: I believe that I told you that I made a dialogue between D’Alembert and me. In re-reading it, I was taken with the fantasy of making a second and it was made. The interlocutors are D’Alembert who dreams, Bordeu and the friend of D’Alember, Mlle de l’Epinasse. It is entitled the Dream of D’Alembert. It isn’t possible to be more profound and more crazy [plus profound et plus fou]. [Diderot, OC 1875, II, 101. My translation.] In the 18th century, depth and folly were normally dissociated. Yet Diderot, who viewed himself as, above all, a combatant on the philosophe side, saw them as allies. In the letter to Sophie Volland we quoted about the two Enlightenments, Diderot had already contemplated the idea that the world was a ‘stupidity’ – a ‘beautiful stupidity’. If this were so, then a problem, or rather a cognitive abyss, opens up before reason, and the rational man, going through that door, falls into it. The pit is thi

the tableau method and historical consciousness

I’m not sure I want to explore this in my homo economicus book. But it fascinates me. In Schumpeter’s history of economic analysis, he devotes a section to the excellencies of the tableau as a tool. 1. “First of all, the tableau method achieves a tremendous simplification. Actually the economic life of a nonsocialist society consists of millions of relations or flows between individual firms and households. We can establish certain theorems about them, but we can never observe all of them. But if we replace them by relations between classes or by flows of class (or other) aggregates, the unmanageable number of variables in the economic problem suddenly reduces to a few which are easy to handle and follow up.” 2. “Second, the simplification of the analytic pattern achieved by the tableau method opens up great possibilities for numerical theory. Quesnay was more alive to these possibilities than had been Cantillon and, in this particular respect, he carried the latter's work much fur