Monday, 30 December 2013

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch stole my Christmas


There are three novels in this book one of which might have been good if overseen by an editor with a sharp scissors. That one would have been an antiques procedural; Lovejoy in Manhattan saying ' you don't get that sort of work any more and patina is not a girl's name'. However what we got was a cake with too much fruit that sank and moreover had a soggy bottom. I've read two comparisons to Dickens in reviews which is only intelligible as a hint from the publicist. The hype balloon broke free from its moorings and was lost to sight.

We are told in almost an afterthought at the end of the book that the flashback which is its core is based on notebooks which the writer has been keeping from his youth. If that were so why is the early part of the story so decidedly not in keeping with the mind of a thirteen year old boy. He knows the colour of his mother's eyes very precisely. Really. We are not told of his position on accent walls.

Troops of tropes: ...the breeze was as heavy as teakettle steam......polychrome edge between truth and untruth....

The smells, the shadows, even the dappled pale trunks of the plane trees lifted my spirits but yet it was as if I was seeing another Park beneath the tangible one, a map to the past, a ghost Park dark with memory, school outings and zoo visits of long ago.

It hovers between the real and, yes Holden, the phoney. High end trash is what it is, 771 pages in large format paperback. I finished it, as one does, more in hope than in expectoration.

Non placet.

Going Astray


I see that Peter Geach’s (1916 - dec. 2013 ) Mental Acts is available on internet archive:
Mental Acts
Back in the dim and distant asking for it at the library desk where a few copies were on hold I was told that it would be kept in the Medical Library. Well I’ll be sectioned! Was there ever any more abstruse topic explicated with such clarity?

His observations on worshipping the wrong god (God and the Soul) seem to me to be unconvincing and the analogy from confusion of the personality and aims of some particular politician with another one and casting your vote on that basis doesn’t go on all fours. You may hold to a Triniatrian view of God and another to a singular Deity but to believe that prayers directed by a Jew or a Muslim go astray like a poorly addressed letter is not sensible. That is not his assertion but it seems a valid reductio.

God is the ultimate sorter. You may be going astray but you’re going astray in the right direction.


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The Tragic Sense of Life by Unamuno


"The Western theology," Dean Stanley wrote, "is essentially logical in form and based on law. The Eastern theology is rhetorical in form and based on philosophy. The Latin divine succeeded to the Roman advocate. The Oriental divine succeeded to the Grecian sophist."

And all the laboured arguments in support of our hunger of immortality, which pretend to be grounded on reason or logic, are merely advocacy and sophistry.
(from The Tragic Sense of Life by Miguel de Unamuno )


Eastern in this excerpt means Eastern Orthodox. There are some references to transmigration but it is the personal post mortem Christian survival that Unamuno is interested in; not paradoxically to resolve the question but to use his uncertainty to remain in a state of heroic suspension.


The absolute and complete certainty, on the one hand, that death is a complete, definite, irrevocable annihilation of personal consciousness, a certainty of the same order as the certainty that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles, or, on the other hand, the absolute and complete certainty that our personal consciousness is prolonged beyond death in these present or in other conditions, and above all including in itself that strange and adventitious addition of eternal rewards and punishments—both of these certainties alike would make life impossible for us. In the most secret chamber of the spirit of him who believes himself convinced that death puts an end to his personal consciousness, his memory, for ever, and all unknown to him perhaps, there lurks a shadow, a vague shadow, a shadow of shadow, of uncertainty, and while he says within himself, "Well, let us live this life that passes away, for there is no other!" the silence of this secret chamber speaks to him and murmurs, "Who knows!..." He may not think he hears it, but he hears it nevertheless. And likewise in some secret place of the soul of the believer who most firmly holds the belief in a future life, there is a muffled voice, a voice of uncertainty, which whispers in the ear of his spirit, "Who knows!..." These voices are like the humming of a mosquito when the south-west wind roars through the trees in the wood; we cannot distinguish this faint humming, yet nevertheless, merged in the clamour of the storm, it reaches the ear. Otherwise, without this uncertainty, how could we live?


Faith for Unamuno is no sort of knowledge and it has no aspect of self confirmation in the sense that living by it opens up vistas and capacities that are beyond the personal. He could not put off the old rationalist man and go into the unmapped territory of grace.


In any case it is not irrational to have a natural intimation of immortality. In the Kena Upanishad II.4:


It (i.e. Bhahman) is really known when It is known with (i.e. as the Self off) each state of consciousness, because thereby one gets immortality. (Since) through one’s own Self is acquired strength, (therefore) through knowledge is attained immortality.


Shakara’s Commentary: Pratibodha-videtam known with reference to each state of intelligence. By the word bodha are meant the cognitions acquired through the intellect. the Self, that encompasses all ideas as its objects, is known in relation to all these ideas. Being the witness of all cognitions, and by nature nothing but the power of consciousness, the Self is indicated by the cognitions themselves, in the midst of cognitions, as non-different from them. There is no other door to its awareness


There is no other door to its awareness. The natural path to the intimation of immortality is via the simultaneous synchronic and diachronic awareness of the self.


Unamuno being still under the influence of positivistic philosophy writes:


Also a principle of continuity in time. Without entering upon a discussion—an unprofitable discussion—as to whether I am or am not he who I was twenty years ago, it appears to me to be indisputable that he who I am to-day derives, by a continuous series of states of consciousness, from him who was in my body twenty years ago. Memory is the basis of individual personality, just as tradition is the basis of the collective personality of a people. We live in memory and by memory, and our spiritual life is at bottom simply the effort of our memory to persist, to transform itself into hope, the effort of our past to transform itself into our future.


This is the theory whereby memory has the magical power of creating its own subject. Memory does however show the reality of self-identity. That reality is best approached through a focus on the underlying structure of any state of consciousness. It is clear that all intimations of immortality and enhanced realizations of the self come about through an intense immersion in the present moment. Taking thought in a discursive way will not achieve that. We need to be still. Unamuno had no doubt a fine intellect but reading his way into self-realization simply dug the hole he was in deeper. Miguel, put down that shovel!


A wise counsellor, a discerner of souls is what he needed but I surmise, and I may be absolutely wrong, that this was something he dispensed with fearing that his authentic solution would be compromised. Still, I read on and it is a rescue remedy for the peevish smallness of Nothing to be Frightened Of.









Saturday, 21 December 2013

When Logos meets Mythos



It is an interesting thought experiment. When God has selected two suitable humans for infusion with a rational soul out of a population that is genetically similar how does this enhancement manifest itself? In what way would they be intellectually different from their former group? Are the hominids theo-zombies gibbering before the Monolith while Adam and Eve are devising bio-degradable underwear?

Theological speculation or logos is trying to save mythos. Kemp on Monogenesis takes you back in time but please don’t step off the theological ramp.

Kemp on Monogenesis



Friday, 20 December 2013

Unamuno on Reason, Right and Conviction


Interesting usage by Unamuno here during his barracking by the Falangists. He seems to be drawing the same contrast between ‘to persuade’ and ‘to convince’ that I intuitively discerned as allogenic and autogenic.

Millán-Astray responded: "¡Muera la inteligencia! ¡Viva la Muerte!" ("Death to intelligence! Long live death!"), provoking applause from the Falangists. Pemán, in an effort to calm the crowd, exclaimed"¡No! ¡Viva la inteligencia! ¡Mueran los malos intelectuales!" ("No! Long live intelligence! Death to the bad intellectuals!")
Unamuno continued: "This is the temple of intelligence, and I am its high priest. You are profaning its sacred domain. You will win [venceréis], because you have enough brute force. But you will not convince [pero no convenceréis]. In order to convince it is necessary to persuade, and to persuade you will need something that you lack: reason and right in the struggle. I see it is useless to ask you to think of Spain. I have spoken." Millán-Astray, controlling himself, shouted "Take the lady's arm!" Unamuno took Carmen Polo by the arm and left in her protection.
(from Wikipedia Unamuno)

Yes of course it’s Spanish but being a Romance language it stays even closer to Latin roots. Reason and right have to find a resonance in the person whom you are trying to persuade. This arising from within produces conviction.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

It's Life Jim


Some philosophers have been tightening with their little logic spanners the shy offering of LIFE . An attempt to capture our attention has worked like blood in a swimming pool of barracudas. Poor Mr. Joyce is quite skeletonised and yet the article itself has much to interest the philosopher who is prepared to exercise charity and finger tightening. The mystery of how humans arrived in a slow ascent from rocks and gas given the loss of many intermediate steps is not likely to be laid to rest in a logical fashion and caviling about the definition of life is captious.

Perhaps there ought to be a pejorative word like 'scientism' that applies to philosophy. Klismatism (klismos/chair) perhaps.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Shaktipath


Socrates sat down next to him and said, “How wonderful it would be, dear Agathon, if the foolish were filled with wisdom simply by touching the wise. If only wisdom were like water, which always flows from a full cup into an empty one when we connect them with a piece of yarn - well, then I would consider it the greatest prize to have the chance to lie down next to you.”

It seems that some Yogis have claimed to be able to do just that and have used this transcendental hello sailor to seduce naive followers. That does not mean that genuine shaktipath or initiation through touch or at a distance is not at the gift of a master. It isn’t wisdom or realization that is given in this manner but an experience of a higher level of consciousness that can confirm and strengthen the faith of the devotee. Such charisms are well attested in all the major traditions and have the added benefit of being Humeanly discounted. It can’t be evidenced because it can’t be true David says.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Plato is a Smart Man.....


But he doesn’t know what Love is. This is the essence of Gregory Vlastos’s paper Plato: The Individual as an Object of Love(1973). With 101 footnotes and an appendix distinguishing Platonic Love as vulgarly understood from Plato’s febrile sublimations, this is the scholarship of shock and awe. Plato’s view of the person is instrumental, your value is located in your usefulness to others or to the state. This is in contrast to Aristotelian ‘philein’:

Let philein be defined, writes Aristotle in the Rhetoric, as wishing for someone what you believe to be good things - wishing this not for your own sake but for his - and acting so far as you can to bring this about.

Vlastos has the rare combination of precision and lucidity that makes reading a joy. After a night of insomnia spent reading it I toddled off to bed at 6A.M. quite rested. I found this paper in Philosophy Through Its Past (ed.Ted Honderich) a Pelican/Penguin from 1984.

As a theory of the love of persons, this is its crux: What we are to love in persons is the ‘image’ of the Idea in them. We are to love the person so far, and only in so far, as they are good and beautiful. Now since all too few human beings are masterworks of excellence, and not even the best of those we have the chance to love are wholly free of streaks of the ugly, the mean, the commonplace, the ridiculous, if our love for them is to be be only for their virtue and beauty, the individual, in the uniqueness and integrity of his or her individuality, will never be the object of our love. This seems to me to be the cardinal flaw in Plato’s theory.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Socrates died for our sins.


The Day of Socrates begins with the sunset, the Joke of Socrates begins with the punch-line. A retroactive benignity is cast over all dubious assertions. In a possible world a vendor does not know what he is selling and has no way of describing its benefits. This possible world is in a permanent state of economic depression. Timeo Danaos et non dona ferentes. Gorgias, that stumer, is unable to describe what his trade supplies or its something like - stick around me and you’ll pick up the knack I promise you.

Even when you were 11 or so and beginning to write essays at school you were advised of certain useful practices:
Mammy, where’s my pencil?
It’s not topped, where’s my topper, I can’t write with a 2H, I want 2 B or HB. This milk is too cold and I want to drink it now.

All that being fixed we put our thoughts in order of importance, with an introductory paragraph and so on and so forth. This is easy and works no matter what the topic is. Try not to repeat yourself. O.K.


Monday, 9 December 2013

The Spell of Socrates?


I have never been under the spell of Socrates but perhaps that is part of the intent of Plato or is that too subtle a reading. In F.J.E. Woodbridge’s book The Son of Apollo he seems to take this view:

 In the arguments into which he draws others he is not fair as a disputant. Of the tricks of logic and the devices of rhetoric he is a master and trusts more to them than to coherent reasoning. Flattery, cajolery, insinuation, innuendo, sarcasm, feigned humility, personal idiosyncrasies, brow-beating, insolence, anger, changing the subject when in difficulty, distracting attention, faulty analogies, the torturing of words, making adjectives do the work of nouns and nouns of adjectives, tacking on verbs to qualities which could never use them, glad of an interruption or a previous engagement, telling stories which make one forget what the subject of discussion was, hinting that he could say much more and would if his hearers were up to it, promising more to-morrow if they are really interested and want to go on — an accomplished sophist if there ever was one.
The argumentation of Socrates can claim little, if any, superiority to human argumentation generally.
It is not the arguments which give him significance, but he who gives them significance. Plato has made him the incarnation of all the subtleties men use in argument to confirm or destroy opinions.

I was directed to this book by the excellent source book on Socrates compiled by John Ferguson (Open University Book). It is available at Internet Archive:
https://archive.org/details/sonofapollo031753mbp
This at first glance seems to represent Plato as predominantly a creative artist presenting us Socrates as a character. Reading Gorgias at the moment with its haymakers which do not connect, its overcooked analogies, false disjunctions and a generally humourless animus towards rhetoric, it might be possible that its bad philosophy is good chamber drama. We understand that Socrates was clever and wise but does everyone else have to be stupid and ignorant to show this. This may be part of the deficiency of the dialogue form or an antique version of the political view that the other crowd are wrong about everything.

Friday, 6 December 2013

To Persuade, To Convince


I’ve been thinking about whether there is a distinction without a difference between‘convince’ and ‘persuade’. We read in the Acts: “ And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks”. I think that underlines what I am inclined to call the allogenic aspect of persuasion as against the autogenic force of conviction. In the philosophical mind rhetoric has captured the notion of persuasion and the link to covert influence as in ‘the hidden persuaders’ is well established. If we resist this leading however, appeal to rational grounds is an element of persuasion. Conviction comes when a position seems to conform to an inner sense of truth. We feel the force of it and as Coleridge said: “Deep Thinking is Deep Feeling.” Conviction follows in an autogenic manner. We are convinced.

Can persons within the Christian tradition be persuaded by the natural proofs for the existence of God? Certainly, all the elements of Rhetoric are in play. Outsiders have only the appeal to reason to respond to and that may be insufficient. ‘Converging and convincing arguments’ as the Catechism calls them fall short for many. They are not convinced.


Monday, 2 December 2013

Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes (2008)



A little learning makes them shallow in their religion said Cardinal Newman characterising the attitude taken by former co-religionists to one who has turned. I would add that if for 100 years there has been no religion in a very academic family then the treatment of it will be as deep as the tread of a pond skater. Julian Barnes is the flower of this culture of irreligion who feels that he has understood it well enough if 50 odd years ago he stood in assembly at school and has gone to a few burial services. He affects a wistful approach to the absence of God - I don't believe in God but I miss him. His brother Jonathan, the Ancient Greek philosophy scholar, thinks that's soppy. I concur, wet to the point of saturation and beyond: dripping a pool of aesthetic regrets. ' If I were religious then works of art that had a religious theme would incite a greater frisson'. That's my summary of his approach which is answerable by the evidence of the profound ugliness
of some sacred spaces which have been built by the most committed believers. Don't worry, a Bach Cantata would bounce off them. What matters is faith and whether it plays a role in the creation of sacred art is a matter for the individual artist. I am coming to the invidious conclusion that without faith an artist is likely to be without access to inspiration or only intermittently so. By faith I mean not merely a confessional adherence or not even that; it is more an openness to what cannot be established by reason, the more without which everything is less.

The book that might be for him an introduction to Christianity or clear-light Catholicism would be The Imitation of Christ. It's the ultimate 'you feel warm because your house is on fire' book. Then I read the fatuous judgement of his guru Rene Girard, the main source of quotable quotes in his book which mines the cahiers of Barnes's youth.
"Neither does Jesus propose an ascetic rule of life in the sense of Thomas a Kempis and his celebrated Imitation of Christ, as admirable as that work may be."

Julian Barnes is a good writer. I re-read his Flaubert's Parrot recently after many years and I enjoyed it even more. There is a smoothness and assurance to his prose and like the pond-skater he distributes his weight impeccably. When a shriek is about to form it is banished by qualifications and remains under the surface.

'Nothing' nots as Geach said of Heidegger. As a meditation on death and those that he seems to have been lightly attached to it had to wait for the serious upgrade that the death of his wife brought about. The curious thing is that the death of his wife occurred only a few months after 'Nothing' was published. This followed 37 days after the diagnosis of a brain tumour. Levels of Life: to be read.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Trolleyism


Trolleyism is an attempt to take the heat out of a serious ethical problem and to observe intuitions. Given the general amorality of our times I have always felt that philosophy should be putting the heat back in . We ought to be roused from our slumbers and not soothed by dismal whimsy.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Panpsychism by Thomas Nagel


I opened the inside cover page of Mortal Questions by Thomas Nagel in a second-hand bookshop in Dublin and there I saw the name of someone whom I knew that had died last year. ‘You’re really dead when your library is broken up’, I thought and I felt an intimation of mortality. He as a teacher had dined on the subtle air, the prana, of the book and invited his students to that feast. The essay Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness is extensively marked with underlining and occasional annotation. In the anatomy of the grave you have achieved your formal identity.

In the panpsychist view you are perhaps reduced to your elements and await re-location. The essay by Nagel on Panpsychism, unmarked by previous owner, has no thoughts on Molly’s ‘methimpikehoses’ or any other translation but he continues to admit the puzzle of how neural traffic becomes memories, dreams and reflections. This is the chit jada granthi of the advaitin, the knot between the inert and the conscious. Their position is that the mind itself is inert but being pervaded by Chit (Consciousness) shines with it and individualises it. Nagel stays close to the aporetic and to me his thoughts on Nonemergence are to me quite interesting as they state in his own very clear way the doctrine known as satkaryavadasatkaryavada by vedantins. He puts it:

There are no truly emergent properties of complex systems. All properties of a complex system that are not relations between it and something else derive from the properties of its constituents and their effects on each other when so combined. Emergence is an epistemological condition; it means that an observed feature of the system cannot be derived from the properties currently attributed to its constituents. But this is a reason to conclude that either the system has further constituents of which we are not yet aware, or the constituents of which we are aware have further properties that we have not yet discovered.

Nagel of course does not have the pervasion analogy of the Vedantins who also run a saturation analogy cf.salt solution in the Chandogya Upanishad. He looks to properties but seems to me to be a little tentative in his discussion of fundamental particles that possess them. He is quite opposed to Hume’s theory of causality.

Ture causes do necessitate their effects; they make them happen or make them the case. Uniform correlations are at best evidence of such underlying necessities.

Consciousness then does not emerge in a flash at a certain point without those underlying necessities. Material complexity would not bring out consciousness unless it was somehow present in earlier simpler states. He refers to his ‘what it’s like’ notion of felt consciousness which is beyond a mere physical explanation of functional states.

His final paragraph is a fair indication that he is not afraid to challenge the dominant materialism of contemporary philosophy:

But we know so little about how consciousness arises from matter in our own case and that of the animals in which we can identify it that it would be dogmatic to assume that it does not exist in other complex systems, or even in systems the size of a galaxy, as a result of the same basic properties of matter that are responsible for us.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Guying the Metaphor


Skholiast was wondering like about my firm distinction between analogy and
metaphor. Metaphor arises out of analogy of course but it is more
general and unrestricted. An analogy has a narrow focus and serves to
draw out an aspect of reality that requires an aid to intelligibility
or serves to implant an image in the mind for rhetorical purposes. You
might say that someone had eyes like a hawk meaning that however remote
he was from your activity he was aware of it. Here the focus is on the
all seeing eye. However if you said that someone was a 'hawk' then the
extension of meaning into the sudden swoop of the raptor comes into
play as well. Polysemic might be the word for that expansion. That
generality can be 'guyed' for the purposes of mockery i.e. made an
effigy of, paraded through the streets and ceremonially burnt with
commination.

In the realm of advaitic analogy the snake/rope is a classic
illustration of superimposition. As I wrote, extending that analogy
into metaphor i.e. saying that the cosmos is a 'snake'and extracting
far more from it than was meant is also a classic wrong turn.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson


By the time they had lived seven years in the little house on Greeentree Avenue in Westport, Connecticut, they both detested it. There were many reasons, none of them logical, but all of them compelling. For one thing the house had a kind of evil genius for displaying proof of their weaknesses and wiping out all traces of their strengths.

Even a thrown vase that dented the plaster leaves a repair that looks like a question-mark. They are discontented and don’t know why.

I don’t know what’s the matter with us, Betsy said one night. “Your job is plenty good enough. We’ve got three nice kids, and lots of people would be glad to have a house like this. We shouldn’t be so discontented all the time.”

The novel (pub. 1955) begins with a particular everyman scenario that happens in 1953. but could be anytime. Tom is 33 and Betsy a little younger and they have been married for 12 years. To us that would seem a precipitous rush into adulthood. Tom is on about 7,000$ a year and as the sole earner in the house is beginning to realise that his job at a philanthropic institute will not be sufficient to cover their needs in the future as the children grow more expensive. At lunch he hears from a friend that there was an opening in the United Broadcasting Corporation which could pay from eight to ten thousand. It’s in public relations.
The next morning, Tom put on his best suit, a freshly cleaned and pressed grey flannel. He applies for the job and gets it and finds himself working closely with Ralph Hopkins the C.E.O. and workaholic extraordinaire. The closeness of the observation of this individual, his mannerisms and rationalisation of a fanatic devotion to all work and no play makes one think that Wilson had someone in mind. All through the book there is a quiet understated wit that is very effective.

Running parallel to the office story is the darker one of his war experience in Italy and the Phillipines during the tail end of the war. As a paratrooper captain dropped behind enemy lines he has had to kill with a knife a young German soldier to take his coat. The weather is freezing and the boy is an enemy but still though he’s not haunted by this in a P.T.S.D. way, its one of those events that continues to depress. The contrast of that and the grey flannel army is a consistent irony.

The two streams of his life run together when he recognises a lift attendant as a comrade in Italy and he hears news of the girl that he left behind him there. Has anyone every written about ‘Coincidence and enhanced Karma in the Novel’? We accept it because the idea of cosmic balance and the chance to relive things, and this time get them right, is a wish that life rarely fulfils.

This is an excellent novel and the film version with Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones stays close to the book and is also very good. I saw it before I read the book and Peck and Jones are just right. There is a recent re-publication but it was such a best seller that there must be tons of them out there. I got mine in a hardback reprint society edition for 5€. Highly recommended.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg


To mangle a line from Donnie Brasco:
If Sonny (the) Red says you’re a rat then you’re a rat. (fink, stoolie, snitch)
That’s it with Budd Schulberg and the special pleading from On the Waterfront which he wrote won’t serve. Being a friendly witness for HUAC puts you in line for a liberal OBE (one behind the ear).

What of the novel?(published 1950) It’s good, an insider story that has its evasions and who better to tell it than Schulberg whose father was a bigshot producer who allowed him to attend writer conferences as a kid. As a student at Dartmouth he went with Scott Fitzgerald on a script doctoring escapade and the Manly Halliday and Ann Loeb represent the writer and his lover Sheila Graham. Much is made of her Semitic profile but strangely enough there are no other Jews in Hollywood. Possibly Budd was on the run from Sammy (What makes Sammy run? which was accused of being anti-Semitic. As it happen Sheila Graham was Jewish but here I am getting caught up in the parallels with real life. It’s just a novel and coming from someone who wrote for the screen it has at times a broad storyboard feel to it. Consciousness as a personal viewpoint oscillates between Manly Halliday and Shep Stearns a junior writer whose Love on Ice story is with Victor Milgrim for consideration. This Victor is one of the best things in the book and is probably based on someone that Schulberg knew well. He is a grotesque anglophile snob who is anxious to use Manly to give himself artistic credibility and thereby get in with the Webster/Dartmouth governing body. An honorary degree. Dr. Victor indeed!

When the call to see Milgrim finally comes Shep is introduced to Manly Halliday who has decided that his debts are so large that he must whore just a little @ 2000$ a week for 10 weeks. This is January 29th. 1939 because that very day Barcelona just fell to the Loyalists. (Answer the question Mr.Schulberg) A lot of money even now. The rough diamond of the script will be given the artistic polish by the great but ‘all washed up’ writer whom Shep had written about for a college thesis. Adhering to the ‘no second acts’ trope Shep thought him dead, devoured by bears or rats with pink eyes.

The horror and the hilarity of the disintegration of Manly Halliday started by bubbly on the plane going to New York is described in detail. No sleep, benzedrine, alcohol and the snow and ice of winter Webster coupled with the uncanny cunning of the drunkard hastens the story to a debacle which is well told. Fitzgerald had left much documentary evidence behind him and from it all a credible voice is transcribed by Schulberg’s large talent. Flashbacks to the Manly/Jere//Scott/Zelda deadly dyad cover their frenetic partying including one given to celebrate a screen dog star. Quite funny in a dispiriting sort of way.

Great book, sort of sidelined by the the still fashionable leftism of Hollywood and scribbling intelligentsia. It is credited with playing a part in the Fitzgerald revival.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Locke, Newman, Clifford and James on Assent.


Reasonings and convictions which I deem natural and legitimate, he apparently would call irrational, enthusiastic, perverse, and immoral; and that, as I think, because he consults his own ideal of how the mind ought to act, instead of interrogating human nature, as an existing thing, as it is found in the world. Instead of going by the testimony of psychological facts, and thereby determining our constitutive faculties and our proper condition, and being content with the mind as God has made it, he would form men as he thinks they ought to be formed, into something better and higher, and calls them irrational and immoral, if (so to speak) they take to the water, instead of remaining under the narrow wings of his own arbitrary theory.

This is Newman writing in A Grammar of Assent about Locke on ‘Probability’ and ‘Enthusiasm’ in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. ‘Grammar’ was completed in 1870 and it is interesting that W.K. Clifford in his well known Ethics of Belief published in 1877 offers the same view of assent that Locke does. Personally I am persuaded by the psychological force of Newman’s rebuttals and his discovery of contradiction in Locke. It is instructive to compare his view of our normal acceptance of incomplete demonstration to that which William James limns in The Will to Believe from 1896. In that essay is a picture of spiritual anguish and of forced assent that is far from healthy-minded.

In this short note I merely draw attention to a cluster of views occurring around the latter quarter of the 19th. century. It may be that the ascetic had the more penetrating analysis of the three.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Beyond the Pale by Rudyard Kipling


You may take it for a fact that anything of this kind is not only noticed and discussed by a man’s own race, but by some hundred and fifty natives as well.
(from Beyond the Pale)

This puts the suggestion of John Holden’s double life being a secret as quite out the question and knowing by not-knowing as the Rudyard rood-yard of his art.

And in Beyond the Pale there is a young Hindu widow:

 She was a widow, about fifteen years old, and she prayed the Gods, day and night, to send her a lover; for she did not approve of living alone.

‘Benefit’ has another girl of a similar age, a coincidence but in the Eastenrn view of things there are no coincidences. A lively young man full of the health of England and with strong affiliations to the indiginous population through having been reared with them perhaps even suckled by one, with Hindi as his first language might be supposed to be drawn in that direction. Surmise is a poor guide but what logicians call abduction or inference to the likliest possibility is good practice. Did Kipling wander down a gully in his time? He knows too much not to have.

Durga Charan was careless of his women but in the end defended them according to his lights. The Charan caste would be regarded by the Raj army recruiters as a military race, Hindoo of course similar to the Rajputs. Good manly sort of chap, you know, has this thing about self-immolation and mutilation as a way of warding off threats. My blood be on your heads and on your children’s. Effective curse. Native princes kept them in the vanguard. Fierce fighters. Acquainted with spirituous licquour and opium and known to sacrifice animals to the Godess during Dassara. Not to be trifled with.

Trejago got that limp from riding. Not a word of a lie old chap, good read though.

Find at Beyond the Pale
(Adelaide University site for ebooks, excellent stock)


Friday, 8 November 2013

Without Benefit of Clergy by Rudyard Kipling


Things were different then. The Nobel Prize committee (1907) cites:

The second, the note of sympathy and human kindness, is most clearly marked in «The Story of Muhammad Din» and in «Without Benefit of Clergy» (in Life's Handicap), a gem of heartfelt emotion.

‘Benefit’ on any reading is equivocal. A young official of the Raj buys a 14 year old Muslim girl from her widowed mother and keeps her for two years until she has matured to his taste.

At his feet sat a woman of sixteen, and she was all but all the world in his eyes. By every rule and law she should have been otherwise, for he was an Englishman, and she a Mussulman's daughter bought two years before from her mother, who, being left without money, would have sold Ameera shrieking to the Prince of Darkness if the price had been sufficient.
It was a contract entered into with a light heart; but even before the girl had reached her bloom she came to fill the greater portion of John Holden's life.

The arrangement was probably entered into for hygenic reasons and turning it into a romance is a sleight of hand that Kipling almost manages with roseate patter disguising one of the sordid boons of Empire that enabled jumped up clerks to live in an aristocratic manner. All parties concerned know that this is a temporary arrangement and John Holdens’ officers would have known about it too. I find a sly allusion to this and the reader may find me over-interpreting but the strength of Kipling’s art lies in the alternate readings that swim about between the lines and make an equivocal world that is very like the real one. ‘Be ye not double-minded’ says the epistle but we are though we try not to become aware of it.

The drawbacks of a double life are manifold. The Government, with singular care, had ordered him out of the station for a fortnight on special duty in the place of a man who was watching by the bedside of a sick wife. The verbal notification of the transfer had been edged by a cheerful remark that Holden ought to think himself lucky in being a bachelor and a free man.

I find a sly irony in that remark. As if the coming and going of a white man in another part of the city outside the cantonment would not be noted but so long as his separate life is kept that way the authorities will ignore it. A man has his needs after all.

Holden has a counter establishment where he has installed his mistress and her mother and a gatekeeper who keeps them both under watch. Local Muslim rules o.k..

Any one could enter his bachelor's bungalow by day or night, and the life that he led there was an unlovely one. In the house in the city his feet only could pass beyond the outer courtyard to the women's rooms; and when the big wooden gate was bolted behind him he was king in his own territory, with Ameera for queen.

Both mother and daughter know that this is a temporary arrangement and that in the end a white mem-sahib will be a suitable bride for an officer of the Raj but an event is about to occur which may bind Holden closer. Ameera is going to have a baby. Holden has come to love her and the man-child when it arrives is beautiful. The idyll continues but approaching the red-walled city as the dry season turns to drought is a cholera epidemic.

Kipling ran his cosmos according to Freemason Rules, by the line, by the level, by the plumb, by the square, by the all-seeing Eye. Clearly there were corrections to be made. Durga Dass the landlord of the house, a love-nest somewhat East of Stockholm, knows what to do:

When the birds have gone what need to keep the nest? I will have it pulled down—the timber will sell for something always. It shall be pulled down, and the Municipality shall make a road across, as they desire, from the burning-ghat to the city wall, so that no man may say where this house stood.

In his own way. with the artist’s sublime duplicity, Kipling has said where that house stood.

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Edmund Wilson who admired this story (The Wound and the Bow had a long relationship with a taxi dancer. Though it seems he was happy with her, there was no question of him marrying her. That would be the fate of a high caste Vassar girl who tried to smoke him out of his study by pushing burning papers under his door.
Aii chota sahib , kismet.









Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Losing your Temper with Analogy and Metaphor


What is the difference between an illustration and a metaphor? Put like that the question seems more soluble than if you were to ask; ‘what is the difference between an analogy and a metaphor’? That might be like the difference between a quadruped and a donkey. Or not. Could an analogy when pushed turn into a metaphor? Yes. Could an analogy used for the purposes of philosophical illustration when taken in the wrong sense end up as a metaphor which distorts its original intent? Yes.

Let’s take the metaphor ‘losing your temper’. Probably a lot of people would not be aware that this is a craft analogy from the time when all edge tools were periodically ground to renew their edges in preparation for honing. If excessive pressure was applied on the grindstone over a period of time without cooling through dipping in water the tool would turn blue at the edge and lose its temper. It would not afterwards be able to hold an edge. So don’t get overheated under pressure like the knife and lose your temper. ‘Temper’ I suggest here has lost its connection with its original analogical roots. Besides you won’t be able to ‘cope’. (f. couper/cut)

How dependent is philosophy on analogies? ‘Foundationally’ I would say and when ‘my spade turns’ (Wittgenstein) I know this is a sound ‘footing’.

But the greatest thing by far is be to a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learnt from others, and it also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.
(From Aristotle’s Poetics 22:1459)

Addendum/13.12.16: paragon

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Deadly Intent


I’ve been looking at the discussion on the related topics of why utilitarianism is detested and why Peter Singer is creepy.(timber 'Creepy’ good American word which I was surprised to find in a story of Edith Wharton’s from her collection Men and Ghosts. It has almost a prochronistic effect, but there it is, meaning in that case uncanny. In the Singer case it would refer to the shudder of distaste caused by rebarbative opinions unswervingly held with specious logic and requisite banality. His near perfect mastery of emotional cues is evinced by his serious discussion with a severely disabled person about the rational utility of her never having been born or if having somehow escaped screening should have as a neonate been put down.

His challenge to the logic of the intent of the dominant view of the Timberites is the kernal of the unease which they feel with him. Utilitarianism is after all about intent. As presented by Singer it would depreciate immediate intuitions of right and wrong. They are distractions from correct evaluation. Here is this compromised neonate which challenges your stated intent. Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if they were painlessly killed? It’s all about intent and remote effects. Anything else is just culture.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Analogies from Nowhere




Opponent: The comparison with the reflection of the sun in water cannot be reasonably upheld her (in the case of the Self), since nothing like that is perceived (here). A material thing, such as water, is seen to be clearly separate from and remotely placed from the sun etc. which are themselves material entities (with forms). There it is proper that an image of the sun should be formed. But the Self is not such a material entity (having form); and since It is all-pervasive and non-different from all, It can have no limiting adjuncts either separate or remote from It. Hence this illustration is inapt.

The opponent has a point, analogies on the same plane can be fruitful but the analogue from nowhere, the no place beyond physics, what are you standing under when you stand under that? Your analogy is a rumour from a resounding void but it is a void that inspires poetry when it is listened to . The vedic sages called it sruti, what is heard. Such analogies from nowhere are a Prolegomena to an Archetectonic of Pure Silence and Philosophy is what you pass through on your way there. A partial defence of metaphysical illustrations is that they are a reflection of a reality and enough to allow a useful transcendental postulate to strike (plant cutting metaphor). “As above so below” (Hermetic maxim)

"What is here is there, what is not here is not anywhere" (Tantric saying)

Note that the Magician of the Waite tarot combines in himself what the two philosophers of the School of Athens indicate.



Thursday, 31 October 2013

Shankara on Analogy (illustration)


Shankara's way with analogies (illustrations) has its contradictions but his starting position is that an analogy of its nature cannot be congruent with what it analogises.

Brahma Sutra Bhasya: III.ii.19, 20:

Opponent:The comparison with the reflection of the sun in water cannot be reasonably upheld her (in the case of the Self), since nothing like that is perceived (here). A material thing, such as water, is seen to be clearly separate from and remotely placed from the sun etc. which are themselves material entities (with forms). There it is proper that an image of the sun should be formed. But the Self is not such a material entity (having form); and since It is all-pervasive and non-different from all, It can have no limiting adjuncts either separate or remote from It. Hence this illustration is inapt:

Vedantin: The objection is being remedied:
On the contrary, this illustration is quite apt, inasmuch as the point sought to be illustrated is pertinent. For as between the illustration and the thing illustrated, nobody can show equality in every respect over and above some point of similarity in some way, which is sought to be represented. For if such an all-round similarity exists, the very relation between the illustration and the thing illustrated will fall through. Moreover, this illustration of the reflection of the sun in water is not cooked up by anybody's imagination. But this illustration having been already cited in the scripture, its applicability alone is being pointed out here.

Opponent: Where, again, is the intended point of similarity?

The reply is this: "A participation in increase and decrease”, inasmuch as the reflection of the sun in water increases with the increase of water, and decreases with its reduction, it moves when the water moves, and it differs as the water differs. Thus the sun conforms to the characteristics of the water, but in reality the sun never has these. Thus also from the highest point of view, Brahman, while remaining unchanged and retaining Its sameness, seems to conform to such characteristics as increase and decrease of the limiting adjunct (body), owing to Its entry into such an adjunct as the body. Thus since the illustration and the thing illustrated are both compatible, there is no contradiction.

This is a defence of the utility of the illustration of pure consciousness/Brahman as being like the sun reflected in many vessels of water. It may appear to be many according to the forms of limitation of the vessels but it is the one selfsame sun. When an illustration is taken as alike in every respect to the entity, an aspect of which it seeks to illuminate, then I would say that the analogy has become a metaphor. The curious thing is that Shankara appears to do this himself on occasion. More anon.


Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Agnes Repplier 1855 - 1950


Agnes Repplier: 1855 – 1950 Bio. note
I associate wit with compression and the ability to ignore your own felicities of expression. She combined this with perfectly weighted sentences that do not detain you with sententious uplift. Perhaps it was her Catholic, French and German background that saved her from this Puritan vice. The advanced thought of the day like that of our day or any day being vacuous fashion did not breach the consciousness of this independent woman who took to writing when the family finance foundered due to Papa’s unwise investment. She was a pert miss who was dismissed from two schools but by the end of her long life had received honorary degrees from several universities.

There are many collections of her essays in Internet Archive, cleanly scanned:

Is it, then, the mere desire to be obliging which induces a millionaire to surround himself with things which he does not want, which nobody else wants, and which are perpetually in the way of comfort and pleasure ? Does he build and furnish his house to support the dealers, to dazzle his friends, or to increase his
own earthly happiness and well-being ? The serious fashion in which he goes to work admits of no backsliding, no merciful deviations from a relentless luxury. I have seen ghastly summer palaces, erected presumably for rest and recreation, where the miserable visitor was conducted from a Japanese room to a Dutch room, and thence to something Early English or Florentine; and such a jumble of costly incongruities, of carved scrolls and blue tiles and bronze screens and stained glass, was actually dubbed a home. A home! The guest, surfeited with an afternoon's possession, could escape to simpler scenes; but the master of the house was chained to all that tiresome splendour for five months of the year, and the sole compensation he appeared to derive from it was the saturnine delight of pointing out to small processions of captive friends every detail which they would have preferred to overlook. It is a painful thing, at best, to live up to one's bricabrac, if one has any ; but to live up to the bricabrac of many lands and of many centuries is a strain which no wise man would dream of inflicting upon his constitution.
(From The Discomforts of Luxury (In the Dozy Hours coll.))



Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Linear Narrative


Generally I’m relaxed about ‘thankfully’ as a sentential nimbus, impact as a verb has none and the ban on ‘before’ and its replacement by ‘ahead of’ passes with a momentary shudder but ‘narrative’ brings on the horripilations. This morning in a blog I was asked to consider how people ‘narrate’ their lives.

The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked.
'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'

Now I see, ‘ahead of’ signifies linear ‘narrative’.

The Brother: You’re getting ahead of yourself
Moi: A bit previous. Where was I?

Monday, 28 October 2013

Metaphor: The Kingdom of the Undead.


Douglas Hofstadter knows what an oxymoron is, “genuine artificial intelligence,” as Hofstadter now calls it, with apologies for the oxymoron. (from James Somers's article in The Atlantic)
Atlantic
I doubt that Hofstadter, ‘he’, apologised for it because the bringing to computation of the human power of making analogies is the limen as he understands it. I first wrote ‘crucial limen’ there, and that would be a mixed metaphor which tends to take away what it never gave in the first place.

All these figure of speech can be considered as falling under the heading of Analogy (upper case). Different spheres of meaning are brought into association. In the Oxymoron they are contrary, in the metaphor there is the moving of one sphere totally into the domain of another. Thus language is full of dead metaphors that we no longer see as such because they have displaced their abstract analogues so effectively. We grasp, comprehend, apprehend and understand but what is it to do that, what is being shunted? Maybe to do philosophy is to try to find the basis of metaphor. What is that kingdom planted by the undead?

When I offer the distinction between the Analogy and the analogy(lower case) I mean that the latter can appear under various guises; attribution, proportionality and illustration. It early struck me that the confusion of metaphor with analogy/illustration is a major element in the misinterpretation of Advaita. I have recently been reading the Essays on Indian Philosophy by Professor J. Mohanty and find traces of that heresy. It is the hazard of offering analogies that they tend to be taken in a way that was not intended. Shankaracarya regularly finds the purvapaksha (opponent) guilty of this solecism. I have been collating his observations.



Monday, 21 October 2013

Oxymoron


Is ‘Military Intelligence’ an oxymoron?
Is ‘streamlined government’ an oxymoron?


No, no, despite the insistence of wits and wags none of these expressions are oxymorons.
Well then give an example of a true oxymoron.
Certainly:
Still as they run they look behind,
They hear a voice in every wind,
And snatch a fearful joy.

His honour rooted in dishonour stood,
And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true

foul justice


The idea is that each of those opposed terms standing singly seems to exclude the other so when they are conjoined in the one expression have a striking and arresting effect which moreover suggests a sense on a higher plane as it were. ‘Military’ and ‘Intelligence’ standing separately do not exclude each other. There is nothing about the idea of streamlining which excludes the idea of government. How about Morrissey’s Autobiography being an instant classic? This is an oxymoron as would ‘unrecognised classic’ or ‘unknown classic’might also be. When a book has the status of classic the implication is that it has been accepted as important by authoritative critics over an extended period of time. Could Morrissey’s book unread by any of the general public be regarded as a classic?

What about the (Penguin) Modern Classics series? That seems a a contradiction in terms which I think it is but it is also a true oxymoron. Some books seem to be raised into the classic status by acclamation practically immediately. There is no need to canonise them. They create the taste by which they are to be judged as Coleridge remarked (reported by Wordsworth in a letter):

These people in the senseless hurry of their idle lives do not read books, they merely snatch a glance at them that they may talk about them. And even if this were not so, never forget what I believe was observed by Coleridge, that every great and original writer, in proportion as he is great or original, must himself create the taste by which he is to be relished.

From Wordsworth’s Preface to the Poem (1815)
And where lies the real difficulty of creating that taste by which a truly original poet is to be relished? Is it in breaking the bonds of custom, in overcoming the prejudices of false refinement, and displacing the aversions of inexperience? 

Saturday, 19 October 2013

George Moore and the Revival of Irish (The Untilled Field / An t-Úr Gort)


George Moore was caught up in the enthusiasm for the revival of the Irish Language and offered to do his bit. The idea was that he would produce a collection of simple tales that could then be translated into Irish and serve as headline for writers in the native language. The originals would then be destroyed. Tadhg Ó Donnchadha and Pádraig Ó Súilleabháin did the translation and it was published as An t-Úr Gort, The Untilled Field in the original. I have never seen a copy and it seems that it plunged into the pool of indifference without a splash like an expert diver. T.W. Rolleston translated it back into Sacsbhréarla (Speech of the Saxons) and Moore declared it improved by its bath in Irish. And I’ve never seen that either.

Scholars of Joyce claim The Untilled Field as an influence on Dubliners. There’s a nice blog entry by David Wheatley on Joyce and Beckett under the influence:
influence
My own modest claim is that the story The Wedding-Gown has elements in it which seem translated from the Gaelic tradition picked up by Moore who if he had more that one hundred conversations with stable boys, jockeys and servants about Moore Hall would surely have heard. One of them is ‘bhiseach an bháis’ or the improvement in condition or lucidity that happens just before death to enable recollection and repentence. If you have seen or read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh the Irish Priest (Niall Tobín) at the deathbed of Lord Marchmain explains. It was the sign that Charles Ryder sought.
the divil in the room

The moiedered old woman comes to her senses and passes on the wedding gown to her niece. The garment has kept her chained to this plane but when the perfect moment has come she can let go. Fear of death in both the young woman and the old is vanquished. It’s a perfect story translated in so many ways, out of the grrreat Miiind as Yeats would say Out of the Grrreat Miiind . Indeed.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Mark Rowlands and the Moral Right to Believe


There has been a lot of talk recently about the danger of university teachers males in particular seducing their female students, in effect using the leverage of their status and power over academic careers. Personally I feel that agency on the part of these young women is not sufficiently stressed by academic philosophers, mostly males, who seem to take it as a given that they have but to cast their eye and ‘lovely woman stoops to folly’. Syllogism ripping stuff but it is the essay by Mark Rowlands of The Philosopher and the Wolf fame in Aeon magazine that brings to mind another aspect of the inevitable asymmetry of teacher and taught.
right to believe

The first thing to be said about it is the editorial decision I presume, to head the essay with a photo of people protesting the Obama administration’s health mandate relating to contraception, abortion and sterilisation. We are being led to accept that this is a typical issue where rational consideration can prevail over religious irrationality. Irish Catholics will remember the Penal Laws and the perfectly intellectually justifiable concern with the cancer of Popery.

What Rowlands maintains about the duty of teachers to challenge the beliefs of their students is correct. They also ought to present the strongest arguments for the position that they controvert. The difficulty is that there is a divergence of views on the rational defensibility of religion. What is being urged by Rowlands is that any position that cannot be rationlly held ought not to be held. Many philosopher Catholics believe that proofs of the existence of God are quite tenable. Others find that their faith is a self-validating experience, inevitably subjective but having the theological lineaments of their tradition. I have written before on Von Hugel’s description of the stages of spiritual development and the danger of getting stuck in any of the three phases.
law of trine

Rowlands introduces the classic dope trope: She has a valid claim to her belief that Pastafari created the world in the sense that she can defend it, if she so chooses, in the public arena. He has a moral right to be silly I suppose but when he introduces such arguments as arguments we have a right to shrug and move on.

The Gods, Sir Hugh, Mr.Perrin and Other Worlds


Why, good Sir Hugh, did you change the ending of Mr.Perrin and Mr.Traill for the American edition called The Gods and Mr.Perrin? I discovered this when I bought the 1939 Penguin yesterday. Right up to the last section the story remains the same even what I took to be a mistake in the American text referring to the little china man is there. I thought this must be the classic yellow and red porcelain mandarin 'di-di' which with dogs, girls in swings and shepherd lasses populated all available nooks, niches and shelves. I still hold to my original reading, there's something not quite right about 'little china man' which 'little Chinaman' corrects. That's a small or even a little point but to change the fate of Perrin alienates. I had suspended my disbelief in a certain direction even though the uplift factor was high and unreal. The original has a similar charity but with a different outcome. A reader is disinclined to make an emotional investment in inconsistent characterisation even though in his life he meets with startling alterations in habitual behaviour. In fiction we are determinists. Roll the dice and get an ending out of several offered, sealed naturally, but having done so please don't look at the alternates. Alea jacta est, les joux sont faites.

So what did you think of your ending? !

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Mr.Perrin and Mr.Traill by Hugh Walpole


Hugh Walpole's (1884 – 1941) Mr.Perrin and Mr.Traill was published when he was just 27 (1911) and it must have incorporated some of the experiences he had as a master at Epsom College and at the several schools which he attended as a pupil. The novel is an astonishing achievement and does not belie the regard in which he was held by such judges as James, Woolf, Bennett and Conrad. O.K. So he networked assiduously and made himself useful but drawing a recommendation from Virginia Woolf who looked down the vista of her nose at practically everyone is not to be slighted.

Central to the story is the skewed, twisted and bitter consciousness of Vincent Perrin mathematics master, a Cambridge graduate who came to Moffat's 20 years previously as a temporary device, as did all the masters, and stayed and stayed and became the embodiment of all the sarcastic teachers you have ever known and loathed. He is a bachelor with his own room in the college and eating common meals in the refectory. It is mutton three times a week, hearty fat mutton. You can feel it as a skim on your teeth perhaps to be displaced by tapioca pudding. Perrin's only emotional tie is to his old mother to whom he writes every week. He is often at variance with the other members of the staff being a spy for the headmaster, the odious cleric Moy-Thompson.

It was about half-past nine when Perrin, looking up at the sound of the opening door, saw Traill standing there. Traill filled the doorway, and Perrin knew at once that there was going to be a disturbance. He had had disturbances before, a good many of them, and always it had brought to him a sense of pathos that he, with an old mother (he always saw her as a crumpled but vehement background), should have always to be fighting people—he, so unoffending if they would let him alone. However, if anyone (especially Traill) wished to fight him, he would do his best.

Traill is the new master and recent Cambridge graduate, rugger blue, hero to the boys, devastating swerve and all that and the lover, at a distance, of the young Isabel Desart also connected with the school. His early view of the school which he regards as a stop gap:

The Rev. Moy-Thompson, the head master— a venerable-looking clergyman, with a long grizzled beard and bony fingers—sat at the end of the table in an impatient way, as though he were longing for an excuse to fly into a temper. For the others, Traill only noticed one or two; Perrin, Dormer, and Clifton were there, of course. There was a large stout man with a heavy moustache and a sharp voice like a creaking door; a clergyman, thin and rather haggard, with a white wall of a collar much too big for him; an agitated little Frenchman, who seemed to expect that at any moment he might be the victim of a practical joke; a thin, bony little man with a wiry moustache and a biting, cynical speech that seemed to goad Moy-Thompson to fury; a nervous and bald-headed man, whose hand continually brushed his moustache and whose manner was exceedingly deprecating. There were others, but these struck Traill's eyes as they roved about.

Perrin's fantasy of marriage to Isabel Desart who is unaware of his existence and who is attracted to the uncomplicated Traill is the setting for a convincing depiction of a descent into madness. Even the ornament on his mantelpiece begins to take notice:

The little red and yellow chinaman on the mantelpiece, Perrin saw, had been watching the conversation with great curiosity, and Perrin felt that he was a little disappointed now when matters promised to finish comfortably. Perrin himself was only too ready for peace. These quarrels always brought on headaches, and, in his heart, he longed eagerly, hungrily, for a friend. He already was beginning to feel again that he liked young Traill very much.

Other divisions of Perrin emerge possibly watched over by Mother. There is a man in a box trying to get out but the lid is being sat upon by a skeleton, there is Perrin 2 – The Evil One – there is a simulacrum of Traill always watching him from beside the door, not that he sees him there precisely as he slips out when one tries to see him, soundlessly. Worst of all the Chinaman leaves his perch on the mantelpiece:

Perrin sat back in his chair; the room was going round and round, and he had a confused idea that people were running races. He pressed his hands to his head; the little chinaman leapt, screaming, off the mantelpiece and ran at him, kicking up his fat little legs; and with the breeze from under the door, a pile of French exercises fluttered, blew like sails in the wind, and then slid, scattering, to the floor.

And thoughts:
Perrin was quite clear in his own mind now that he hated Traill very much indeed, but he could not be very definitely sure of any reasons. There had been something once about an umbrella, and there was something else about Miss Desart, and there was even something about Garden Minimus; but none of these things were fixed very resolutely in his mind, and his thoughts slipped about like goldfish in a pond.

It's quite sustained until the unravelling of the shabby cardigan that is Perrin comes to the consideration of methods of slaughter. Here is the lair of Moy-Thompson:

And so he went to see Moy-Thompson. You can, if the simile is not too terribly old, imagine Moy-Thompson as a spider and his study as his web; it was certainly dusty enough, with faded busts of Romans and Greeks on the top shelves of the book-cases, and gloomy photographs of gloomy places on the walls. The two men seemed to suit the place well enough, and its depression really brightened Mr. Perrin up. But it must be remarked once more that it was not from any anticipation of doing Traill damage that he embraced and cuddled his little piece of news so eagerly, but only because it helped his sense of importance. He was already wishing that he had told Garden Minimus to write his Euclid thirty times instead of fifteen, so cheered and inspired did he feel.

This classic deserves to escape the doom of detention.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Gods and Mr.Perrin by Hugh Walpole


In Britain it had the title Mr.Perrin and Mr.Traill, in America it was called The Gods and Mr. Perrin(from Internet Archive). Who can plumb the mind of the marketing man but in the former a business relation is implied perhaps. If you called a man Babbitt for instance it was because you went to school with him or or belonged to the same fraternal society, the Masons,that sort of thing. In Britain of the early 20th.century that title means you are looking in and what you seeing as you read is the hell that is a minor public school in Cornwall. Hugh Walpole or Sir Hugh Walpole possibly not Sir Hugh, the idea of a people's knight had not caught on at that time though here my reading of the British mind falters in the fog of nuance. There are things which must remain opaque, high holy things. Yes.

This was Walpole's first success and with it he entered into the rising star category along with Compton Mackenzie and Somerset Maugham (D.H.Lawrence distant but gaining). A schoolboy who is bullied by both the masters and the other boys in the book is called Somerset Walpole which brings the common acquaintance with that hell to the fore. More anon but if you are down town and rooting in the barrows and find it under any style or title, buy it.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Interview


Are you getting bored with lifeless interviews 3amthat are in reality pseudo-responses to pre-issued questions which are merely prompts to the next slab of text. The internet makes it too easy to do this. It's like the wonderful retorts that you think of on the way home but life has no delete or ctrl+z function. Philosophers like to fine tune their arguments and given time enough and fear of making a blunder will surround the divine spark of insight with hedging locutions and an impeccable exposition of the history of a problem without actually saying anything new. Susanna Schellenberg interviewed by Richard Marshall uses 'I suspect' a mere once, the unmarked 'her' as a matter of course but does not get down to the metaphysical basis of her views beyond mentioning that she keeps such an exotic pet. Marshall who is 'biding his time' ought to be able to draw her on this. Perhaps he tried and the result was blanded out in the to and fro of e-mails. Schellenberg mentions De Anima and Malina by Ingeborg Bachmann and The Trial amongst her favourite books. What, no science fiction or comix, the trade will never stand this.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Twas on the Isle of Capri that I met him. (Lawrence and Mackenzie)


To balance and really ‘fair and balanced’ is a worthy goal, we must completely ignore the daft elements in the, well, not thought but visceral responses, or ‘gut reactions’ of David Herbert Lawrence. Compton Mackenzie in his novel The West Wind of Love (publ.1941) introduces us to the prating of one Daniel Rayner who requires no key to be seen as D.H.L. Only the names have been changed to protect the boring. This was literary revenge for the inclusion of the Mackenzies in two stories from the Collection The Woman who Rode Away. They were Two Blue Birds and The Man Who Loved Islands.

They met on the Isle of Capri IRL and the meeting in the novel is on Citrano somewhere in the South of Italy just after the end of the Kaiser War. Mackenzie best known now for Whisky Galore and Monarch of the Glen describes ‘our Davey’. Was he called that. I’m making it up. Why not? The sketch in ‘West’ is I think fair and represents the impression he might have had on a lot of people. Ford Madox Ford, who first published him, wasn’t much taken either.

In the first place he had sprung from the people, preserving the Midland accent of his upbringing among the ribbon-and-lace makers of Warwickshire and his education at a council school. Neither should have been a handicap at the University of Birmingham, but that English respect even for the synthetic gentility that is painfully manufactured by third –rate public-schools pretending to the authentic tradition of the historical factories of the English gentleman implanted in him early a resentment against the reminders, sometimes real but often imaginary, of his humble origin. The natural result was that conscious of his own genius he became aggressive and self-assertive.
(John Ogilvie’s, the protagonist of ‘West’, view of Rayner)

They discuss industrialisation:

”Man went off the track long before machinery was developed” Rayner replied contemptuously. “Man went off the track when he started to think here,” he tapped his forehead, “instead of here,” he pointed to the generative centre. “I want to find people who think here,” he declared passionately, and somewhat to the surprise of passing country-folk stood still in the middle of the alley with his long white index finger directed like a signpost towards the fly of his trousers.

On a personal note this is precisely the opposite of the advise given to me by the Clareman on the building job long handled shovel
“Use your head and not your lad”.

With a note of despair we are told:

Day and night for nearly a month John and Rayner talked, and then early on a June morning Rayner came to the tower when John was still in bed and announced that he and Hildegarde were leaving Citrano that morning.
“I’m choked here,” he announced. “These small bright people get on my nerves. It’s like watching a butterfly on the inside of a greenhouse fluttering up and down with the glass between him and the sun.”

A week later John received a postcard from Monte Cassino. This place is rotten with the past. A year later a postcard from Rarotonga: If you are thinking of coming here, don’t. These soft brown people are dissapointing.



Sunday, 6 October 2013

D.H. Lawrence on Democracy (pub.1936 in Pheonix date of writing uncertain)


Democracy as D.H.Lawrence sees it exalts the average over the individual. He presents this as obvious and not worth arguing for thereby denying the historical evidence to the contrary. In the Athenian progression to democracy via tyranny and oligarchy we see the rise of the personal voice as central to democracy. Its temporary lapse in the time of Socrates and their revenge on him for his apparent collaboration with the oligarchs demonstrates the Athenians desire not to have the individual voice that could participate in the polis thrust back down into a mass that required only a philosopher king to guide and decide.

Opposed to this specious cult of the average Lawrence opposes the doctrine of individualism. Only a new Democracy will bring about the rebirth of this. Now there is an outbreak of mystical capitalisation:

When I stand in the presence of another man, and I am my own pure self, am I aware of the presence of an equal, or of an inferior, or of a superior? I am not. When I stand with another man, who is himself, and when I am truly myself then I am only aware of a Presence, and of the strange reality of Otherness. There is me, and there is another being

Further:
So, now we know the first great purpose of Democracy, that each man shall be spontaneously himself - each man himself, each woman herself, without any question of equality entering in at all; and that no man shall try to determine the being of any other man, or of any other woman.

The straw from the straw man of ‘the average’ is recycled into corn dollies:

That is horribly true of modern democracy - socialism, conservatism, bolshevism, liberalism, republicanism, communism: all alike.

Bracing gibberish.

Some Books


The brother who gets out more than I do tells me that the ‘green shoots’ of a reviving economy is not a rumour put out by the government. You notice more houses with sale agreed signs on them, more building going on and reports of ready cash paid over by the prudent. Never being the first in or the last out, they build their middling wealth. It is their creeping confidence that draws the rest of us up. Down town today was busy and the book shop was full. Trove:
Paradox and Platitude in Wittgenstein’s Philosophy by David Pears(new, cloth, €10)
Dinner at Antoines by Frances Parkinson Keyes (€1)
The Disenchanted by Budd Schulberg (pristine Penguin €4)
Selected Essays by D.H. Lawrence (Penguin/Belles Lettres€2)

The Keyes and the Schulberg came out in ‘49 & ‘50. Another keyes book Joy Street duked it out with 'Disenchanted' in the best seller lists of the time by Zhiv’s Zhiv latest post. The ‘Dinner’ is supposed to be a classic murder puzzle with all clues embedded. ‘Disenchanted’ is based on an alcoholiday in Hampshire with Scott Fitzgerald. Was it true, did his face draw back to a pallid skull as Hemingway describes in ‘Moveable’? Probably not.

I propose to educate myself on the nature of ‘Democracy’ by reading an essay of that title by D.H.L. He starts by reflecting on the meaning of ‘the average man’, the unit of democracy as he sees it. I fear this ‘average man’ may turn out to be inflammable.

Yesterday we here in Ireland had an outing in that popular exercise of democracy, the referendum. I am delighted that contrary to all polls the government parties were defeated.

Pears’s book on a quick scan seems a close examination of some of the points of the classic Philosophical Investigations which played its part in the ‘private cogito’ remark I addressed to Heaney.








Saturday, 5 October 2013

Seamus and I at the Yeats Summer School


I can now reveal that I was snotty to Seamus Heaney once. This was 1966 at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo. Myself and Jimmy were having a drink in the evening at the Columban Club the apres lecture venue. It was crowded and we were standing up not far from the doorway. We were talking about Descartes as it happened and Seamus was behind us. 'Ah says he, with the Northern accent which seems to varnish all utterances with mocking drollery: 'Did I hear the name Descartes being mentioned'. 'Yes', says I, we're having a private cogito here'.

He took that as a rebuff, which it was and turned away as though he had tasted sour milk in his tay. He could have come back with a quip of his own. In Ireland, either you're quick or you're dead and an excellent recovery from a difficult position is respected. I still think fondly of the Dublinman who called me 'a fascinating gobshite'.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Santayana's marginalia on Dasgupta's A History of Indian Philosophy


Substance is not more real than appearance, nor appearance more real than essence, but only differently real. When the word reality is used invidiously or eulogistically, it is merely in view of the special sort of reality which the speaker expects or desires to find in a particular instance. So when the starving gymnosophist takes a rope for a serpent, he misses the reality of that, which is lifeless matter......W hen substance is asserted, appearance is not denied ; its actuality is not diminished, but a significance is added to it which, as a bare datum, it could not have.
(from Scepticism and Animal Faith)

The gymnosophists/naked sages known in India as ‘avadoothas’ or sky-clothed are generally far from starving. I’ve seen two myself, one basking on a pavement in Bangalore and the other marching along a country road in Andra Pradesh. The only kit they carry is a water pot made from a gourd and a strong staff. At the Kumba Meelah when they take their bath in the ganges en masse, films of this auspicious event show them to range from well-fed to corpulent.

The classical confusion of snake for rope occurs at dusk. Error happens as the result of a defect in the conditions of perception, the default is veridicality. The advaitic view is similar to Santayana’s (qv above) and marginal notes in Dasgupta’s History of Indian Philosophy from Santayana’s library show that he appreciated its insights:

It is because we have an awareness of blueness that we speak of having perceived a blue object
How good all this is
Note on page 154 of History of Indian Philosophy (taken from George Santayana’s Marginalia: A Critical Selection Bk.I ed. John McCormick)

The idea of the illusion having its locus in the substratum of the rope broadly conforms to Santayana’s concept of substance and the illusion itself has its link to reality through its counterpositive or a real snake.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Self-Observation


Santayana would reject the 'bundle of perceptions' theory of the self as espoused by David Hume. He says in his chapter on Objections to Belief in Substance (Scepticism and Animal Faith): “But it is utterly impossible that one perception should perceive another, and it is improper to call an intuition a perception when it has no existing object.”

There appears to be implicit in the Humean analysis an inner mental subject surveying an inner mental object. That internal division is assumed by classic meditation techniques which involve control of the mind, watching the thoughts arising and so forth. Why is a mistaken doctrine being accepted as a basis for practice? I think the answer lies in ripeness. While you are still green it is useless to mouth the slogans of advaita on the basis of an intellectual understanding of its philosophy. You have to ripen before you naturally fall. Ramakrishna said as much to Vivekananda when they first met. You live where you are until you realise a different level.

By observing the stream of consciousness one is accepting the dualistic stance that is normal alienation. However by continuous attention to it and analysis of its specious reality its grip is progressively weakened. One then may experience an unbroken stream of consciousness from time to time which is naturally blissful. Eckhart Tolle reports that his bliss came from the sudden breaking of the negative commentary of the divided self which was causing him to sink into despair. That absorption in the unbroken flow of consciousness is the report of mystics from all the great traditions.

When Blake writes:
“To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering”
“To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination”
“To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration”

and Yeats:
LOCKE sank into a swoon;
The Garden died;
God took the spinning-jenny
Out of his side.

they are not indulging in overblown rhetoric. They are pointing to the consolidation of alienation by philosophy and scientism. Certainly internal division has always been an element of human psychology but the intensity and virtual ratification of it as an element of human nature has increased in the modern age.

In a book written by Maurice Nicoll Psychological Commentaries II based on the teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky that I came across recently he has a note on self-observation. (Great Amwell House, September 20, 1947)
Now the Work says, for instance, that self-observation is a method of self-change. It says this quite early........Now a man should observe what he observes. To observe is difficult. It needs a conscious effort. You cannot observe yourself mechanically. That certainly will change nothing. But in such a case, if you become cleverer, you will begin to observe that you always observe only two or three things over and over again. This will not separate you from your mechanical self. For has not observation now become a very part of your mechanical self? The function of Observing 'I' is to move inwards, more and more deeply, so that more and more of yourself can be seen by it. If Observing 'I' remains on the surface of yourself it cannot perform its real task, which is to make a man more and more objective to himself, more and more aware of what he has hitherto calmly taken as himself. If self-observation is truly carried out and not blocked by some strong attitude or picture that the man or woman cannot observe, then it leads to seeing bits of one's life and behaviour all together.























Monday, 30 September 2013

The Idiot Questioner


To say that a proposition is true is not to say that we are justified in accepting it as true, and to say that we are justified in accepting it as true is not to say that it is true.
(from The Myth of the Given by Roderick Chisholm)

There is a flux of immediate experience of which it makes no sense to say that we are justified in accepting it perhaps because that would entail a justification of our not accepting it in some circumstance. Justifications and foundations are an element of the mental or as Santayana might say, metaphorical constructions of reality. But are they true the idiot questioner asks?

The Negation is the Spectre; the Reasoning Power in Man
This is a false Body: an Incrustation over my Immortal
“Spirit; a Selfhood, which must be put off & annihilated alway”
To cleanse the Face of my Spirit by Self-examination.
To bathe in the Waters of Life; to wash off the Not Human
I come in Self-annihilation & the grandeur of Inspiration
To cast off Rational Demonstration by Faith in the Saviour
To cast off the rotten rags of Memory by Inspiration
“To cast off Bacon, Locke & Newton from Albions covering”
“To take off his filthy garments, & clothe him with Imagination”
“To cast aside from Poetry, all that is not Inspiration”
That it no longer shall dare to mock with the aspersion of Madness
“Cast on the Inspired, by the tame high finisher of paltry Blots,”
“Indefinite, or paltry Rhymes; or paltry Harmonies.”
Who creeps into State Government like a catterpiller to destroy
“To cast off the idiot Questioner who is always questioning,”
But never capable of answering; who sits with a sly grin
“Silent plotting when to question, like a thief in a cave;”
Who publishes doubt & calls it knowledge; whose Science is Despair
(from Milton by William Blake

In dreams there is no negative and therefore no logic. If we want to negate something we have to undo it. In a dream a man wants to find the source of the self. A guide instructs him to proceed 5 steps to the right, 10 steps forward, 5 steps to the left, 10 steps back and then 5 steps to the left. He is to dig there to find the treasure. He is digging in the spot he started from. Why not say ‘dig where you are now’? The instructions symbolise the spiritual discipline that enable one to ‘know the place for the first time’.

We shall not cease from exploration,
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.
(from Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot)

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Always carry a clean handkerchief


I had been searching the internet for relief but it was not given unto me until:donald anderson

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Portrait of a Man with Red Hair by Hugh Walpole


So you finished Portrait of a Man with Red Hair.

Yes.

What was your final verdict?

On the whole excellent but I’ve noticed that he puts in elements in his stories which belong in much longer novels.

You mean an extended incident which might be natural in War and Peace but threatens to capsize a 187 page novel.

Precisely. I put it down to plot block. He doesn’t know quite how to proceed and tries to write himself out of it.

Is this the concept of ‘narrative traction’ that you mentioned before.

Amn’t I telling you. Any fool can write but it takes real talent to narrativize.

I like that last word, only available in American spelling I imagine.

The evil of the eponymous Crispin and his sadistic theory of love through pain is well wrought. The relationship of Crispin pere and fis and which of them is the dominant one is an acute observation of twinned psychosis. But it is in the passage where the rufous rascal,

Hold it you’ve used ‘eponymous’ and ‘rufous’ recently. Put your €2 in the Fowler box and I think €1 in the Partridge.

Might I continue. When Crispin shows Harkness his gems, jades and prints - By the way Peter Lorre would be perfect for the role with his glabrous pate covered by en brosse carrotty – it is with the horror of the true connoisseur that Walpole write:

"Yes, yes, I could show you then my power." His voice vibrated with sudden excitement. "You think me absurd. Yes, yes, you do. You do. Don't deny it now. As though I couldn't perceive it. Do you think me so stupid? Absurd, with my ridiculous hair, my ugly body? Oh! I know! You can't hide it from me. You laugh like the rest. Secretly, you laugh. You are smiling behind your hand. Well, smile then, but how foolish of you to be so taken in by physical appearances. Do you know my power? Do you know what I could do to you now by merely clapping my hands?

"If my fingers were at your throat, at your breast, and you could not move but must wait my wish, my plan for you, would you think me then so absurd--my figure, my hair, ridiculous? You would be as though in the hands of a god. I should be as a god to you to do with you what I wished. . . .

"What is there that is so beautiful that I, ugly as I am, cannot do as I wish with it? This--" Suddenly he took up the "Orvieto" and held it forward under the candlelight. "This is one of the most beautiful things of its kind that man has ever made, and I--am I not one of the ugliest human beings at whom men laugh?--well, would you see my power over it? I have it in my hands. It is mine. It is mine. I can destroy it in one instant--"

The beautiful thing shook in his hand. To Harkness it seemed suddenly to be endued with a human vitality. He saw it--the high, sharp, razor-edged rocks, the town so confidingly resting on that strength, all the daily life at the foot, the oxen, the peasants, the lovely flame-like trees, the shining reaches of valley beyond, all radiating the heat of that Italian summer.

He sprang to his feet. "Don't touch it!" he cried. "Leave it! Leave it!"

Crispin tore it into a thousand pieces, wrenching it, snapping at it with his fingers like an animal. The pieces flaked the air. A white shower circled in the candle-light, then scattered about the table, about the floor.

Clearly his evil knows no bounds. Definitely Lorre. Didn’t Walpole write for Hollywoood?

Yes he adapted the David Copperfield of 1935 which had W.C.Fields playing Micawber. You will remember that Uriah Heep is red haired.

Finally and in conclusion.

Excellent, a neglected classic of the macabre genre.






Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Now Reading


What are you reading?

Portrait of a Man with Red Hair by Hugh Walpole.

What's it about?

Hard to say, I'm not far into it but it draws me on.

The story so far.

Harkness an American a literary gent,30's, the unrecognised love child of Henry James and Edith Wharton is in a train on his way to Treliss via Trewth in Cornwall or Glebeshire, Walpole's onomatopoeia County. In the seat opposite him is an aged man, a grumpy individual who hearing that he is going to that resort hopes that the place won't be spoiled by his like ie. Americans, trippers and riff-raff. It drives the real place away and leaves a simulacrum in its place. Chelsea in London has fetched up in a place you wouldn't suspect.
Is this man an Ancient Mariner?

Perhaps.

What has sent him to this Brigadoon?

Via a conversation with James Maradick at the Reform Club where he was staying while his own was being cleaned.


The old strangers one meets while ones club is being cleaned device

Precisely. They talk about places they have been. Maradick suggests that Treliss is a place one ought to visit. In a strange reverie at the club projected on a sun-lit wall he sees the image of a sea-side town.

Flash Forward.

Yes. He gets out of the train at Trewth and sending his luggage on to the hotel decides to walk the three miles over the hill to Treliss. Coming in sight of Treliss he recognises it as the seaside village of his reverie.

And the eponymous rufous?

He is staying at the hotel along with his newly wed son and daughter-in-law. There's something sinister about this set-up. The beautiful new wife is distressed and enrols Harkness as a messenger to some other man. And this is where I am now, at page 57 if you want to know.

Bags I read it after you

No can do. I have it on an e-reader from Gutenberg Australia.

The writing?

Usual Walpole. smooth with intermittent heightening and a suggestion of the diction of Harkness.

Monday, 23 September 2013

George Santayana and John Heil


Neo-Platonism opened vistas into the supernatural, but the avenues of approach which it had chosen and the principle which had given form to its system foredoomed it to failure as a religion. This avenue was dialectic, and this principle the hypostasis of abstractions. Plato had pointed out this path in his genial allegories. He had, by a poetical figure, turned the ideas of reason into the component forces of creation. This was, with him, a method of expression, but being the only method he was inclined to employ, it naturally entangled and occasionally, perhaps, deceived his intelligence; for a poet easily mistakes his inspired tropes for the physiology of Nature. Yet Platonic dogma, even when meant as such, retained the transparency and significance of a myth; philosophy was still a language for the expression of experience, and dialectic a method and not a creed. But the master's counters, current during six centuries of intellectual decadence, had become his disciples' money. Each of his abstractions seemed to them a discovery, each of his metaphors a revelation. The myths of the great dialogues, and, above all, the fanciful machinery of the Timaeus, interpreted with an incredible literalness and naive earnestness, such as only Biblical exegesis can rival, formed the starting point of the new revelation. The method and insight thus obtained were then employed in filling the lacunae of the system and spreading its wings wider and wider, until a prodigious hierarchy of supernatural existences had been invented, from which the natural world was made to depend as a last link and lowest emanation.
(from Santayana’s essay The Poetry of Christian Dogma

An interesting passage in itself but it contains in it the basis of his particular usage of ‘trope’. It departs from its meaning in Rhetoric as a figure of speech particularly one which has become established and characteristic so that the mind naturally flows into its form. This sense of the trope as an attractant, one thinks here of ‘the strange attractant’ of chaos theory, gives rise to the derived meaning of ‘trope’ as used in ontology. In the flux of essences we turn to (tropein/to turn) again and again tropes to organise what would otherwise be chaos.

John Heil in his latest book which I am perusing by Googlepeek - The Universe as we find It in his chapter on Universals expresses great admiration for the philosophical insight of Santayana and he traces the trope concept in its shape shifting progress from him through C.B. Willams and on to David Lewis. If Santayana had not written so well he would be taken more seriously is his assessment of the cause of the neglect of a thinker who was trying to re-direct American thought away from the miasms of idealism as exemplefied by Royce et al. Says Heil:
James, Dewey, Royce, Thoreau, Whitman, even Emerson, native enough by birth and animus, drenched themselves to distraction in the imported liquors of German idealism, of French spiritualism, and even of Indian mysticism.

All very interesting and from what I’ve read clear and jargon free.