Friday, May 28, 2010

Left Alone

Eric Dolphy did wonders with this tune, but I kind of like this version with the sharp contrast between McLean's attack and Waldron's comping, as if to say the song both is and is not a minor blues.

I've left the blog alone quite a bit lately while I've been pursuing math—I hadn't studied math properly since grade school and now I will need to pass a calculus class for my biology degree, so every day it's math, math, math, math and math. It's all going swimmingly but I've let my readings in philosophy slip while I cram for exams. I've no intention of giving up the blog, or philosophy.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 7:10 PM. 9 comments

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Mary Lou Williams Centennial

NPR marks the centennial of Mary Lou Williams' birth with links to some fine performances.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 6:04 PM. 0 comments

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Presence of the Listener in the Utterance

The presence of the listener is inscribed in the utterance. It is I who speaks, Jacques says, but we who say. He asks, "What happens to the philosophical status of the person if we replace the individual's cogito with the proposition 'I speak, but we say'? (Difference and Subjectivity, p. 9) For one thing the refutation of "I do not exist" becomes problematic.

But should we allow such a distinction between speaking and saying? Is there a speaking that says nothing, a babble that isn't somehow destined for language? Is there an impersonal babble? Perhaps. Perhaps necessarily.

What of the inscription of the presence of the listener in the utterance? This echoes an idea of the intertextuality of the utterance while at the same time it responds to Buber, to a sense of that everything in discourse is affected by relations between the I and the you. The listener is not merely referred to but is there in the interlocutive event. Present. We won't shy away from the idea. It's difficult. How do we describe the presence of the listener? How does the listener appear? As the "other side of language," i.e., perhaps it need not be apparent at all? As an ethical constraint? Imperative? Does the listener present us with an imperative for coherence, for example?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 4:55 AM. 4 comments

Friday, April 16, 2010

Afroblue Polyloquy

Here's soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome having some fun:

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posted by Fido the Yak at 2:51 PM. 0 comments

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Prehistory of Repetition

Michael Balter, blogging for Science, reports that engraved eggs suggest early symbolism. He asks:

What do Homo sapiens have that our hominid ancestors did not? Many researchers think that the capacity for symbolic behaviors—such as art and language—is the hallmark of our species. A team working in South Africa has now discovered what it thinks is some of the best early evidence for such symbolism: a cache of ostrich eggshells dated to about 60,000 years ago and etched with intricate geometric patterns.

The team writes:

The standardized production of repetitive patterns, including a hatched band motif, suggests a system of symbolic representation in which collective identities and individual expressions are clearly communicated, suggesting social, cultural, and cognitive underpinnings that overlap with those of modern people.

Beyond the dichotomy of "naked" repetition and "clothed" repetition repetition manifests as a variety of nakedness, the human paradox of being able to be naked because we have clothing and vice versa—we never get beyond the dichotomy but the idea of the dichotomy must be for thought to get beyond it, if thought is the right concept here.

Can we, in thinking, retrace the origins of repetition? We think beyond our endowment only to discover our endowment, our earthly bestowal. What would we have discovered had we striven to think within our bestowals, within the chemistry of the naked and the clothed?

Repetition. I use it (see above and passim) but I don't understand it, not in the way of having an understanding I can hold on to, a practical grasp that I can agree with. In one true sense, the sense that corresponds with the category and the production of the same, i.e. sameness, repetition appears to be impractical, but that can never be the whole truth, and being of the categorical it's the sort of truth that asks for wholeness. (Indeed I envision other kinds of truth, other constancies, even as I recognize that constancy creates problems for the intellect, if that's what we're talking about here, specifically a problem of the other.)

Could wild repetition possibly be repetition for the sake of repetition? Wild, naked, raw, empty handed. Is mere decoration not characteristically human? Ornate repetitions, repetitions that don't yet exist as examples of repetition, fluid, lived, merely enacted repetitions: can these be accessible to thought?

p.s. Jonathan Amos of the BBC has done some reporting on the paper by Texier et al. Amos quotes Texier talking about the cross-hatching motif: "The lines are crossed at right angles or oblique angles by hatching. By the repetition of this motif, early humans were trying to communicate something." We need in fact to question the relation between communication and repetition, the semiosis of the decorative. What prejudice do we introduce to our archaeologies by identifying a pattern as a "motif" (implying repetition) as opposed to, for instance a "design"? Are we prisoners of pattern recognition? Or doubt? Surely the cross-hatch design on these egg shells deserves to be called "motif," but what is the communicated of the motif?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:09 PM. 8 comments

Monday, March 01, 2010

Primate Archeology

Brian Switek reports on recent archeology of a chimpanzee tool assemblage dated between 4300 and 2200 BP. We will definitely have to give up the idea that culture is uniquely human, unless perhaps we accept a contention that culture equates to language. What goes out the door with culture in this case? Historicity?

How natural is nature, I wonder. Has the concept passed its best-by date? And if we have to rework what it means to be a natural phenomenon, what sense do make of culture? Does an inhuman science even make sense, or must it remain fundamentally contradictory? A parahuman science?

In what ways are wild chimpanzees participants in our culture? What claims do they naturally have? Egalitarianism?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:46 PM. 11 comments

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Reader is Warned

"The reader is warned," writes Francis Jacques without a jot of irony, "that he or she will not find ideas or analyses that can be isolated and used in other contexts; the meanings of such ideas would suffer if they were detached from the book's overall trajectory, which covers questions taken in part from the rapidly developing field of the linguistic of utterance and in part from literary criticism, but also from psychoanalysis and theology" (Difference and Subjectivity, p. xxiii).

There's evidently a duality within the philosopher's image of himself as a speaker of philosophy. He decontextualizes and at the same moment, in the manner of a Heraclitus I guess, he doesn't decontextualize.

Will this work for me in the context of a blog post? Let's see. Jacques imagines that philosophy "remains rooted in the resources of everyday language, which is the universal metalanguage. The aim of philosphers is to articulate an interpretation of their experience as a whole. They attempt to bring about a process of semantic extension within various domains of ordinary discourse. Their own difficultiy is how to put forward a coherent and overdetermined interpretation of experience using a set of interdependent metaconcepts" (pp.xxiii-xxiv, my bold).

Do I just blithely skip over the part where philosophers are radical empiricists—would that it were true—in order to talk about (metaconceptual) gatekeeping? The reader is warned. . . . The reader is suddenly aware of culture of reading that allows for such things as warnings from the author along the way. Or charities. It could be otherwise, it occurs to me. Now, as thinkers, then, if we're really alive to our whole experience as readers of texts, then shouldn't we have acquired some basis for charitable writing, that is, writing that doesn't bar the way? Should lucidity of a certain kind—lucidity of love?— be a part of one's enculturation into the whole world thing of the philosophical text?

And now I'll put the shoe on the other foot. I assume that we know, you and I, gentle reader, that a more charitable reading of Jacques than the one suggested above is called for. Indeed any text given to us in some way as a work of philosophy (like a work of music, with that same ontic ambivalence, an existence in "performance" or "utterance" broadly conceived and at the same time not localizable within that in), any such philosophical text cautions charity. Or precautions? Have we begun to read when we have read the preface? At what point is the entire trajectory of the book apparent to us? When can we begin to read in good conscience?

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:06 PM. 0 comments

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eternity with a Forward Direction

Kangas writes that by contrast with Plato, for Vigilius Haufniensis, Kierkegaard's pseudonymous author of The Concept of Anxiety, "the instant of eternity has to be thought of as the 'extreme opposite' of eternity" (p. 189). He continues:

The instant, in other words, is not allowed to be reduced to mere evanescence or illusion; rather, it is precisely the real. The event is not a passage to reality, but reality itself. Or more simply: passage as such is real, identity is illusion. This evaluation of what remains between being and nonbeing is conditioned on defining eternity with a forward direction. Eternity is not what remains eternally self-present, or what can be reduced to that, but what never ceases to beckon and threaten from the future. The eternal cannot as such be integrated into the present but remains essentially futural: the present and the eternal are thus extreme opposites. This essential gap, the excessive futurity of the eternal, awakens precisely anxiety. And anxiety imposes the most strenuous demand upon the subject.

(ibid., Kangas' emphases, my bold)

Why would the recognition of a reality of passage be conditioned upon any sort of eternity, or indeed, an extreme dialectics? Is the real being reified surreptitiously for the sake of dialectic, in contradiction to any professed relaxation within the anarchy of the instant? Well, we are speaking of passage as such, passage considered apophantically. In what sense aren't we speaking of the real from within an idealism?

I harbor serious doubts about excesses of futurity. Are these doubts consistent with a practice of ataraxia? How does the skeptic deal with the sudden, existentially? Is there any existential import to skepticism—would it be arrogant to deny any such importance, as arrogant as the denial of edifying discourses, perhaps?

Possibly there is no merely about the evanescent.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 12:51 PM. 0 comments

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Elephant Glass

While being administered a Wechsler IQ test I balked during a task of placing numbers and letters in sequence when the same number was given to me twice. Is the intelligent answer "1,2,5,8, b,f,h,r,t, or "1,2,5,5,8 b,f,h,r,t"? I became preoccupied with my problem of repetition. Does anybody else have a problem with repetition, I wondered. Am I afflicted by an abnormality of thinking, an inability to process repetition that causes symptoms of mental confusion, or, indeed, actually confounds me in a way that nobody else could clearly understand but merely diagnose? What am I at this moment bewildered by repetition? How is it possible to go on thinking at all?

Kangas writes (citations omitted):

If at any moment repetition were allowed to occur, the very idea of repetition, a movement "by virtue of the absurd," beyond representation, would be annihilated. Repetition is essentially deferred. To think repetition can therefore occur only by means of an even greater thinking of its difficulty, at a limit, its impossibility. Thinking repetition takes shape as a continual stepping back from the present and self-presence to the point where freedom—whose "supreme interest" is repetition—discovers its destitution, in the ordeal. To think is to arrive ever again at the point where though discovers an abyss (vibrations, rotations, whirlings) and freedom finds itself ungrounded. Thinking proceeds up to what cannot be thought.

(p. 123)

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posted by Fido the Yak at 8:31 PM. 3 comments