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Showing posts from January 15, 2023

Orientation, nocturnal micturation, and all that Kant

  Last night, I got up to urinate, a not uncommon urge working its sly way in   my sixty-five year old mechanism. I have travelled through our apartment all in the dark a million times. But this time I kept overshooting and bumping into things. The bookshelf, the door. There was no major pratfall – my footfalls to the bathroom and back were just off by the merest stroke of the compass. But I was reminded, as so   many of us are in the depths of our   nightwatches, of Kant. Kant’s little writings are all too little known, except for the all too known What is Enlightenment. One of his most entertaining papers is entitled “What does it mean to orient oneself in thinking.” It was written to interfere in a dispute between Mendelssohn and Jacobi over the limits of reason and the rights of genius. Mendelssohn, in the course of this dispute, talks about being “oriented” by common sense, or healthy reason, and opts for a religious purified of enthusiasm, worshipping a rational God. Kant, with

Kill kill kill kill kill the poor - from 2016

  Kill kill kill kill kill the poor One of my emphases in the little book I wrote on Marx some time ago was that Marx made the great leap towards what became Marxism in Cologne in 1842, when he became the editor of a newspaper there and did a few articles on a local controversy: the new legislative rules that eliminated the time honored custom of gathering sticks in forests owned by the great landholders. Marx at this time was a graduate of law school. He gets it that the legislature is creating something new here – a property – out of the denial of something old – a customary right. But it occurred to him that it was not enough to remain on the level of the law – for what was driving the legislative proces was not so much any legal confusion, or any unfolding of some previous logic in the legal code, a la Hegel, but instead, was a basic, extra-legal social force. The custom of gathering fallen wood, as Marx came to see it, had its roots in another kind of social order. Marx latter

Plea for the ax murderer

  There is a line in lit crit, which was cemented in mid twentieth century,   that the modernists invented the novel in which the anti-hero is the dark eminence, and true prince of our sensibilities. This, however, really isn’t the case. Greek myths, the Grimm’s fairytales, Daoist anecdotes are all seeded with mildly or strikingly dislikeable personages. Aristotle, in a sense, is asking a similar question in the Poetics about tragedy. We can admire Antigone, we can even admire Achilles, but we don’t – we are never intended to – befriend them. For Aristotle, plausibility is a sort of meta-rule of narrative production. Plausibility is not reality, but rather, reality as seen by a certain credentialed set. It inscribes class into the very heart of aesthetics. Plausibility is not just continuity and logistics, but it gives us our sense of what typifies a character – what they would do in character, what they are “like”. For we are all equipped with a social consciousness that tells us what

J.P. Hebel

  When I was a kid, my folks – like W.G.Sebald’s grandfather – bought a “farmer’s almanac”. Or was it a purchase? Surely in the grocery store or the gas station it was thrown before the cashier and rung up with the soda pop, the ten gallons of gas, and the candy bar,, but I remember the almanac as an almost natural product that appeared on our low table in the living room, like fallen leaves appeared on the lawn   or dirt clods – the latter always good for a satisfying throw at a tree trunk, where it would leave behind a spot of clay – could be found in vacant lots. I know this about Sebald’s dad because, in his essay on J.P. Hebel, Sebald mentions the Kemton Almanac. Since Hebel is the master almanac writer – comparable to Benjamin Franklin in America – this is as good a way as any to introduce Hebel to an anglophone audience. For German audiences, Hebel has been sat on by the 20 th century greats – Benjamin (whose essay on Hebel is only five pages long in the Collected Writings),