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Showing posts from November 20, 2022

lynyrd skynyrd and Proust

  Unexpectedly, a bit of my teen years in suburban Atlanta visited my son's French elementary school yesterday. As part of a show and tell, one of his roommates brought a guitar and played a riff from Freebird. Freebird! I looked down my seventeen year old nose at Lynyrd Skynnyrd and basically all Southern rock of the seventies. But perhaps that music had its revenge on me, for I can, actually, in a mesmeric trance, lipsync Freebird. I wonder what Proust would do with this material? The agents of the memory that unleashes In Search of Lost Time are taste and smell - the taste of madeleines, the most common cookie, and the smell of various perfumes and flowers. If, however, the young Marcel had lived in Clarkston, Georgia, I'm pretty sure the agent of memory would be sound - the sound on the radio of pop songs. Some station in Atlanta, in the seventies, got the kids up to go to high school by playing, every day, Dylan's Rainy Day women song (they stone you when you're go

The expulsion of the giants

  There is a valiant but small tradition of scholars who see the connection between the so called Western tradition and that of the “East”: among whom the most famous is, perhaps, Martin Buber. Before writing his masterpiece in the twenties, I and Thou, Buber published a “translation” of the Chuang-Tzu that was really a translation of the English translation of the Chuang-Tzu made by James Legge. In a wonderful essay by Jonathan Herman, “The Mysterious Mr. Wang: the search for Martin Buber’s Confucian Ghostwriter” (one of those rare academic titles that evokes the Fu Manchu series by Sax-Rohmer), the background of Buber’s effort is exposed. Sinology was constructed in the German speaking countries in the 19th century on terms that were consistent with a long theme in German culture stemming from Herder, which on one reading promoted a basic equality between cultural productions around the globe. The idea that one should accept the Chinese philosopher as an equal in the dialogue of ph

the murder on trolley track b

  From my piker’s point of view, moral philosophy can be illuminated by imaginary scenarios, but it can’t be based on imaginary scenarios. If we treat these scenarios like "experiments" -and if we grant there can be experiments that are, by design, possible only in the imagination - than we have to have some idea of what narration is about, and what varying a narrative does. I think the recent riot of utilitarians all exercising their effective altruism is a case of thought experiment poisoning. Too much depends on the “trolley problem”, and not enough interest is put into analysing the narrative of the “trolley problem” – including the odd use of the word “save” which pops up in trolley prob discussions.  When people start to talk about “saving” others, I start to ask about the psychopathology of the saviour complex. I saved no body today by not driving up on sidewalks and ramming into people. That is a bad, but comic, description of driving down the street.  If a scenario