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Showing posts from May 27, 2012

McTaggart and Borges

If you are a man of a certain age, according to all the wisdom literature I know, and it is a peaceful Saturday morning, and the adventures that have been the wind in your back or the life you have sloughed have come to a standstill, for one moment, then you turn your reflections to time and its possibility, or even its possible non-existence, a non-existence that would annul the fact that you are a man of a certain age, that it is Saturday, that adventure could have ever happened to you, and that you have a moment to reflect. But reflect on time one must, because we are not watches. Watches toil not, neither do they sow – even though our language has given them hands and a face. Instead, they infinitely visit the same neighborhood of numbers. One can imagine watches different –one can imagine a little computer that you could strap to your wrist and that would just record the seconds, like a timepiece on a bomb, and thus give you a finegrained sense of your slice and dice a

the book of the world

The sign, the text and the title formed a devise so powerful that its counterpart, in the end, seemed to be the world itself. At first the physical world and the heavens, for the cuneiform cultures, were defined by the boundaries marked out by the gods – there was a world for the humans and a world for the gods, which the latter ruing the former. But both worlds came into focus as the counterparts of the text. From a very early point in the history of writing, written signs were compared to the world’s objects: the stars in the sky to the words on a writing surface, for instance. So when we speak of the book of the world, we are speaking of the text’s relation to an object that is defined in relation to some magical first text. In Genesis 1:14, the relation between the world and the text is, as it were, sealed in the very act of creation: “ And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seaso

some small bank reform suggestions

An article by Thomas Phillipson is summarized here : “I find that the unit cost of intermediation has increased since the mid-1970s and is now significantly higher than it was at the turn of the twentieth century. In other words, the finance industry that sustained the expansion of railroads, steel and chemical industries, and later the electricity and automobile revolutions seems to have been more efficient than the current finance industry.” He further finds “that this (annual) unit cost is around 2% and relatively stable over time. In other words, I estimate that it costs two cents per year to create and maintain one dollar of intermediated financial asset.” The bottom-line of Philippon’s findings is that bankers’ compensation is increasing, contributing to a static unit cost, even though technology is automating: “The income share grows from 2% to 6% from 1870 to 1930. It shrinks to less than 4% in 1950, grows slowly to 5% in 1980, and then increases rapidly to more than 8% in 2010

christine lagarde puts on the cloak of distance, but it has a hole in it

If I could become rich simply by wishing the death of Chinese mandarin on the other side of the world, would I do it? This is a question that comes up in a famous passage in Pere Goriot, expressing the moral seduction of Rastignac by Vautrin. Rastignac asks a friend of his, Bianchon, if he remembers a passage somewhere in Rousseau “in which he asks the reader what he would do if he could become wealthy by killing an old Chinese mandarin, without leaving Paris, just by an act of will?” Carlos Ginzburg, in his essay, the Killing of A Chinese Mandarin, has traced the way Rastignac’s inexact memory of Rousseau (the passage seems rather to come from Diderot and Chateaubriand) articulates a long tradition, in moral philosophy, concerning distance and the good. Ginzburg points out that distance, in the way Aristotle considered it – where it plays approximately the same role as Gyges rings, a manner of hiding oneself -   becomes, necessarily, different when distance itself becomes differen

the scribe and the title

Almost all the titles are lost. That is, almost all the titles of the ancient Egyptian texts that we now possess are lost. “The title of the book, a summary of its contents, or the opening words, were at times written on the reverse side or at the outside of the scroll’s beginning, with the name of the author (“made by”) immediately after it. As scrolls generally lost their edges first, few titles have comedown to us. Fewer authors were identified..Sometimes, however, lists of titltes were written on the walls of temples or pyramids,though the books themselves have not survived. Small deeds and other documents at times were provided with titles. Onne book of the dead was entitled “Book of the Coming into the Day of Osiris Gathesehen, daughter of Mekheperre.” Long texts were sometimes divided by the chapter numbers, marked by ht , “house”.” (Leila Avrin, 91) It has been a long time since Jacques Derrida published the chapters of On Grammatology concerning Rousseau and writing