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Showing posts from December 4, 2022

the horrific views of Mr. Macaskill

  There are very few passages in books that really horrify me. Some of De Sade's writing does, and certainly I am horrified by what is told about horrific mass murders, tortures, etc. But to be truly horrified by an argument is not my usual way of going about things.   So I was brought to a halt in a review of William Macaskill's book, What we owe to cryptocurrency fraudsters, oops, I mean, What we owe to the future. This is that odd philosophy book that had a million dollar publicity campaign behind it - just think how far Wittgenstein would have gotten with a million dollar publicity campaign! But I digress. Here is the passage I could not believe: "It is very natural and intuitive to think of humans’ impact on wild animal life as a great moral loss. But if we assess the lives of wild animals as being worse than nothing on average, which I think is plausible (though uncertain), then we arrive at the dizzying conclusion that from the perspective of the wild animals themse

Why De Quincey matters (ugh)

    This could be called why De Quincey matters, except I loathe all those books about why x matters. Too cute, that toy of publishers. But still... In one of those weird and brilliant essays in which De Quincey makes the performative case for   opium addiction (if it makes you as great a writer as De Quincey, why not?), “Secret Societies,” De Quincey claimed that at the age of seven (an important age for de Quincey – the age when his father died, and the age when he started dreaming vividly), he was introduced to the literature on secret societies – specifically, the dreaded Illuminati – by a thirty four year old woman. This woman keeps popping up – she pops up in the Confessions too. Her name was Lady Carberry, she was a friend of his mothers, and she floats above De Quincey’s career as a sort of guardian angel – or, devil.   She loaned him Abbe Barruel’s Memoires pour servir a l’histoire du Jacobinisme. Barruel’s book, according to Patrick Bridgewater (De Quincey’s Gothic Masquerad

The career or the soundtrack

  Q: In everyday life, do you sometimes have the impression of being in a film? Baudrillard: Yes, particularly in America, to a quite painful degree. If you drive around Los Angeles in a car, or go out into the desert, you are left with an impression that is totally cinematographic, hallucinatory. You are … steeping in a substance which is that of the real, of the hyper-real, of the cinema. This is so even with that foreboding of catastrophe: an enormous truck bowling along a freeway, the frequent allusions to the possibility of catastrophic events, but perhaps that is a scenario I describe to myself.” -From Baudrillard Live: selected interviews.   LI is of the opinion that post-modernity never happened, that all the features that are supposed to be postmodern – the hyperreal, the self as self-reference, the undermining of epistemic certainties by pure doxic moments (doxa, you Platonists will remember, are the half way real) – that all of this is what happens as we wander about

loaded dice

  What is happiness is an old and still pertinent question. I devoted a lot of time to this question in the 00s, when I was trying to write a book about what I called the Human Limit – the notion, overthrown in the Early Modern Age in much of Europe, that there was some limit as to what humans could do to the world. To my mind, the overthrow of that notion – the notion of fate, of nemesis, of some God with a balance in her hand – was made, I thought, under the banner of happiness – the idea that happiness, or well being, was not only the point of the individual life, but the shared premise of the preferred political and social order. The weird notions of longtermism derive, philosophically, I think, from one encoding of this notion of happiness. Because, in the end, happiness was justificative but not self-explanatory, the move was to simplify it: to make it a quantitative proposition. Thus, more of the x that “made you happy” was a good, so we should have more x, more and more. This

A Long Sunday Read

  One of Foucault’s most ingenious lightning strokes comes at the beginning of the essay with a name like a telegram from the Hotel Abyss: Nietzsche, Genealogy, History. It was published in 1971, and it had a large effect in the world of scholarship – diffusing a p.o.v. through philosophy, literature and finally history departments worldwide. Geneology is gray : it is meticulous and patiently documentary. It works on parchment that is tangled , scratched and often re-written. Paul Ree was wrong, like the English, to describe linear geneses – to organize, for instance, all the history of morality under the tutelage of utility ; as if the words had kept hold of their sense, the desires their direction, the ideas their logic ; as if this world of things said and willed had not known invasions, struggles, rapine, masks, ruses. It is this standpoint that serves as an indispensable resource for geneology : to note down the singularity of events, outside of any monotone finality; to spy them