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Showing posts from July 17, 2022

Our little crew of relativists and scoundrels

  I am among the crew of nominalists, relativists and other scoundrels, who think that universals are made, not given. This crew is often accused of being insufficiently condemnatory of the Holocaust and the Gulag – although the people who make these accusations often shuffle their feet when it comes to the genocide in the Trans-Atlantic slavery trade and the wholesale mass slaughter of indigenous people and the theft of their territory. The latter group often wants us to remember the good things about, say, Thomas Jefferson, and not the fact that he lived on a kidnapped and enslaved work force, and chose his mistress, aka raped, among that work force. The idea is you absolutely condemn Hitler and Stalin, on the one hand, and eyeroll about giving America back to the Indian nations, on the other. Nominalists can be as excited in their denunciations of Auschwitz as anyone else. It is just that they don’t see the invocation of the absolute, here, as doing any real moral work. Not that t

Notes on Robert Louis Stevenson

  Marcel Schwob, in his essay on Robert Louis Stevenson, makes a claim that may not be true, but is charmingly suggestive: “One could characterize the difference of the old regime in literature and that of our modern times by the inverse movements of style and orthography. It seems to us that all the writers of the fifteenth and sixteenth century were practitioners of an admirable language, while they wrote the word each in each’s own manner, without worrying about their form. Today, now that the words are fixed and rigid, dressed up in all their correct and polite letters, immutable in their orthography, like the guests at a soiree, they have lost their individualism of color. Those people dressed themselves differently: now the words, like the people, are dressed in black. And they are not very distinguishable. But they are correctly spelled. Languages, like peoples, have been organized in refined society where we have banished all clashing colors.” It is interesting what a diffe

Notes on Nervi 1

  We were swimming into the sea, passing the rocks, when Luca was stung by a medusa. I am liking it here on the Ligurian coast. We are renting a couple of rooms in the E. condominiums in Nervi, which is a small town that got conglomerated into the greater town of Genova after the war. It is hot. It is, I read, a climate emergency in England. It is also a climate emergency in Paris. If we were there, we’d stay inside during the brunt of the day. But we haven’t rented this place in Nervi to stay inside. We mean to swim, to walk the passagiata, to go get our pesto at the pesto specialty store, to eat pizza at the pizzeria downtown. There’s a large pool at the place where we are renting. Around it, retirees organize themselves on chaises longues and absorb sunlight. So much sunlight. Some are baked so deep it is hard to look at. Other guests have kids. There’s a diving board, but not too high. I impressed Adam by doing a jack knife. Then he worked up the courage to dive, and now it is