Thursday, 22 December 2016

"But is Indian Thought really Philosophy?" (really, really)

It was probably a rhetorical question – “But is Indian Thought really Philosophy?” I suggest ‘eating the peach’ on that one. Try the opening sutra of the Kena Upanisad:

Willed by whom does the directed mind go towards its object? Being directed by whom does the vital force, that precedes all, proceed (towards its duty)? By whom is this speech willed that people utter? Who is the effulgent being who directs the eyes and ears?

2: Since He is the Ear of the ear, the Mind of the mind, the Speech of speech, the Life of life, and the Eye of the eye, therefore the intelligent men, after giving up (self-identification with the senses) and renouncing this world, become immortal.

In so far as these things can be known the Kena Up. is dated around about 500 B.C. which puts it in line with the Pre-Socratics and their physics and Heraclitus and his gnomic logoi. No one has ever disputed that they promulgated philosophy. In the Kena you have Self-Knowledge and Self-Identity, consciousness and the binding problem which continue to be an important part of Metaphysical speculation. What is perhaps different in Indian thought is that inquiry might lead to commitment. The immediate intuition that is Self-Realisation can lead to apodeictic justification or an intellectual reverse engineering. The analytically ‘trained’ will whinny and balk at that jump.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Time Travelling and Deontology

The stubbornness of clever people is commonplace and their retention of a view that is confounding to common sense should not astound us. But it does.

Have a look at
deontology paradox
and you will see what I mean. It exhibits the time travelling paradox whereby we eliminate one person to save the lives of many. Certainty applies to that scenario when we travel back in time to alter a present fact. From the present moment’s point of view looking to the prevention of multiple murders in the future only God could know that they were prevented because they never will happen or more correctly never shall have happened. Odd tense that. So now, having killed an innocent person, all we have is that death on our hands.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens (pub. 1957) / Trotsky, I concur.

Dwight Macdonald of whom Trotsky said:
- 'Everyone has the right to be stupid but Macdonald abuses the privilege', would never get away with such a careless review in the age of the internet savant, saving my presence. So often is the hatchet job that is supposed to have destroyed the literary career of James Gould Cozzens mentioned in reviews of Macdonalds essays that I must presume that it is on a publicist's cheat sheet of facts you ought to mention. Besides it will save you the considerable time it takes to read By Love Possessed. If you did as I did being as I am on the completist spectrum you would easily spot Macdonalds careless reading. But you probably won't because the book relates the adventures of a coterie of WASP lawyers and others in a county town in Pennsylvania or New England, I'm not sure which. It knocked Peyton Place off the best seller list in 1957 so it has some sex scenes in it which might have been written by that Egypto-Hellenic purveyor of filth, Plotinus. Is there some fustian in the book. Yes, certainly, some but not nearly as much as Macdonald makes out. Does it have some anti-Catholic, anti-Irish and anti-Semitic bias in it, via the characters in it? Yes it does reflect the reality of the characters, a primary aspect of any novel. Simultaneously it also depicts the Arthur Winner Jun. as a hypocrite and an enabler of the mingling of monies entrusted to his associate. Defalcation my friend. Over a weekend a deconstruction of WASP probity in every area of their lives is brought out into the strong sunlight from the usual adumbration. Like any long novel it has its parts that pull a bit like a razor that wants honing but it's never painful. I would recommend it.

find Macdonalds review at commentary
Find Cozzens' book in your friendly book barrow

Thursday, 15 December 2016

goober peas

You’d have to worry, if you were an American, about the unanimity of the liberal intelligentsia and its subsection the literary, liberal intelligentsia on the Trump phenomenon and now on the electoral college that must be extracted like an abscessed molar by a mad dentist who will wave it before your swimming eyes and say:
- Look at that baby!

But I’m not an American so I can be insouciant and sanguine yet, in my acceptance of that scenario as guaranteeing a permanent Democratic majority and the fife and drum band playing Goober Peas.

You had another question for me, Virginia, what was it again?

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


To add to my remarks on ‘losing your temper with metaphor and analogy’;
losing your temper
once you have managed to grind your blade or intellect without drawing its temper you need to hone it to keep it razor sharp - sharp enough to split hairs. For that you need a paragon. An ‘akone’ is a whetstone (Gk.) against which (para) you hone away your rough edges, emulous as you are. If you study philosophy let not your paragon be the terror of the seminar room. Such persons are abrasive certainly but produce a scabrous edge. Some would say a rough edge is a good working edge, suitable for politics. Certainly a knife edge won’t last very long on a hatchet.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Superimposition / Adhyasa as manifest in ordinary Awareness. Upadesa Sahasri 8

54. The teacher said, Listen. It is true that the Self and the body are well-known, but they are not well-known to all people to be objects of different knowledge, like a human being and a trunk of tree. (Question): How are they known then? (Reply): (They are always known) to be the objects of an undifferentiated knowledge. For, no one knows them to be the objects of different knowledge saying, "This is the body" and "This is the Self". It is for this reason that people are deluded about the nature of the Self and of the non-Self and say, "The Self is of this nature" and "It is not of this nature". It was this peculiarity with reference to which I said that there was no such rule (viz., only well-known things could be superimposed on each other).
(from Chap.2 Upadesa Sahasri)

What Shankara is doing here is moving the concept of Superimposition to a new locus viz. to human self-awareness. The Self as encountered empirically is not known as separable from the physical entity through which it manifests. Consciousness is always manifested under some form or other. We can conceptually grasp the reality of the Self. However this apprehension is always in some state or other of manifest awareness. This is the basis of the pratibodha videtam (known with reference to each state of awareness) as delineated in Kena Up. II.4. cf. my previous remarks:
pratibodha videtam

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Adhyasa (Superimposition) as a Two-Stage Rocket. Upadesa Sahasri 7

51. The disciple said, Though eternal, I am not the Supreme Self. My Nature is one of transmigratory existence consisting of agency and experiencing of its results, as it is known by evidences such as sense-perception etc. It is not due to Ignorance. For it cannot have the innermost Self for its object. Ignorance consists of the superimposition of the qualities of one thing on another e.g., well-known silver on well-known mother-of-pearl or a well-known human being on a (well-known) trunk of a tree and vice versa. An unknown thing cannot be superimposed on a known one and vice versa. The non-Self cannot be superimposed on the Self, for It is not known. Similarly, the Self cannot be superimposed on the non-Self for the very same reason.
(from Chap.2 Upadesa Sahasri)

Here is kernel of the problem with using analogies. They can be mistakenly understood in two ways. (I’d love to be able to find three ways to conform to standard philosophical practice) First there is the error of misconstruing what the element is that you are attempting to offer an analogy for and second the tendency to overgeneralize the point of the analogy i.e. to turn an analogy into an homology. So we can take the superimposition analogy to be about error or scepticism or belief and get sidetracked into the interesting but irrelevant to the purpose of the analogy, ways of establishing veridical knowledge or the status of the ‘false’ object etc.

The disciple here is making the over generalization error. He views the template of their having to be two separate and separable things as the fixed nature of superimposition. In fact as a teaching strategy the introduction to the advaitin concept via a graduated explication is an excellent one similar to the adhiropa/apavada device. It’s a two stage rocket!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A Plea for Tolerance of WASPS....(James Gould Cozzens)

"I merit the reproof, no doubt," Julius Penrose said. "I can't say instinct is silenced; but I, perhaps, ought to be! Perhaps I should not glance at Mr. Brophy's religion. First; prejudice is in itself held censurable; an evil thing. So I'm anti-Catholic, am I? Still, in passing, I'll confess I wonder, as one of them, why the only people who may be openly criticized, found fault with, and spoken ill of, are those of white, Protestant, and more or less Nordic extraction. I, it seems, am game and fair game for everybody—a kind of caput lupinum. Nobody writes the papers threateningly when I'm decried or disparaged. I don't say this is unreasonable. I myself have no wish to abridge any man's right not to like me if he so chooses. Only, in my bewildered way, I keep thinking there ought to be a turnabout. There isn'tl Not only may each bumptious Catholic freely rate and abuse me if I reflect in the least on his faith; but each self-pitying Jew, each sulking Negro, need only holler that he's caught me not loving him as much as he loves himself, and a rabble of professional friends of man, social-worker liberals, and practitioners of universal brotherhood—the whole national horde of nuts and queers—will come at a run to hang me by the neck until I learn to love."
(from By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens)

I’m in the middle of this long, quite excellent novel, now moving in the direction of legal procedural which might be imagined to be dull but it isn’t. Clean, crisp prose which by not soaring shows that it is already elevated. I only came to know of him through an O’Hara biography. Naturally Cozzens was native to clubs which would not have O’Hara for a member. Don’t believe what you read about him. Some of his statements are not so much trolling as exquisitely delivered dry flies at the banks where the critics hover like cannibal trout.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Appointment in Linebrook with John O'Hara

The other biography of John O’Hara that I’m reading is by Finis Farr which was published just 3 years after the death of its subject. Just from the first chapter I can say that it is better written that the MacShane production which seems to be a quickly run off item. The Farr book hews more closely to the life reflected in the stories, the log of his life, as it were. Was O’Hara an alcoholic? Yes I would say but not a ‘fucking alcoholic’ who is someone that you don’t like who drinks as much as you do yourself. For a good account of the wreck alcohol has wrought amongst American writers read The Thirsty Muse byThomas Dardis. Some of O’Hara’s pals are there featured but he gets a billing in the also starring.

Subverting the normal arc of a life, Finis Farr begins at O’Hara’s last day on earth which was much like many of the others since he had given up ‘the drink’ 17 years previously and took to writing big novels interspersed with short story collections in the years between. Appointment in Linebrook (his house) was pencilled with the minor stroke that admonisheth firmed up by the stroke that felleth.

The description of the study where he wrote through the night on his Remington Noiseless is so complete that Farr must have been there.

Professional care had assembled the reference books around the writing hutch, and the number of dictionaries alone would surprise anyone except another writer. In a commanding position stood the 2,515-page Oxford Universal Dictionary, concise in comparison to its thirteen-volume parent, the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language, which O'Hara did not own. But he had an unabridged Webster, and thirty other dictionaries in various languages. Macmillan's Everyman's Encyclopedia supported the two Britannicas, and a dozen histories of Pennsylvania showed O'Hara's interest in his home state

There are innumerable memorabilia and photos, silver boxes and ash trays but other than reference books and editions and translations of his own work there is no literature. He seems not to have read much but assiduously kept up with things by taking 5 newspapers a day. He yearned to be admitted to the club of the great writers but his novels of the rich and dissolute lacked spiritual scale. He thought himself due the Nobel Prize. Reading the requirements for its awarding:
Among the five prizes provided for in Alfred Nobel's will (1895), one was intended for the person who, in the literary field, had produced "the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"
It is clear that the Nordic bluenoses would not consider his writing to represent an ideal direction. Any more than Joyce did.

He intended to buy a Rolls with the money if he won the Nobel. He bought one anyway:

O'Hara liked to use his money for the pleasure it would bring him and his family. He had always wanted a Rolls Royce and had promised himself that if he won the Nobel Prize he would buy one with the proceeds. But when it seemed unlikely that he would win it, he decided to buy the car anyhow. He went to New York to inspect the Rolls showroom and then, with feigned casualness, he ordered what he wanted by phone. It was a four-door Silver Cloud III, painted dark green. He asked that his initials be painted on the door and sent in his check for $17,300. Most of his rich friends had Bentleys, which is the same car as the Rolls except for the Rolls's distinctive radiator grille. But O'Hara decided he could not afford this kind of inverse snobbery. "None of your shy, thumb-sucking Bentley radiators for me," he wrote. "I got that broad in her nightgown on my radiator and them two R's, which don't mean rock 'n' roll. Maybe I ought to start going to the Friday concerts again. Who dat? Man, dat Johnny O'Hara, from Pottsville, writes like a son of a bitch, he do."
(from The Life of John O’Hara by Frank MacShane pub.1980.)

Friday, 2 December 2016

John O'Hara's Graven Image short story

Shall we read a story? Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin. Find E.L. Doctorow reading John O’Hara’s Graven Image (1943) at the New Yorker Podcast here:

My Thoughts:
So many layers, so many interpretations. I may be completely wrong about this but the anti-Semitic aspect that Doctorow sees seems to me to arise from his own Jewish sense of exclusion. You would need to be very ‘pushy’ indeed to want to join a club whose totemic animal was chosen to exclude the ‘chosen’. Another thing that was missed is the matter of loyalty. The hinge of the story is the recognition of the jerk in the blue suit who had been to Browning’s house in his father’s time. That connects to the Pocellian fraudster who commanded automatic loyalty. What would Browning’s father think of him, pork in pocket, if not cap in hand, going to Under mensch Secretary, one of the short assed ‘you fellows’. It is an unconscious reflex that causes Browning to throw the job back in in Joe’s face and win both ways firstly in the using of the under-secretary’s need to show dominance, a small man’s triumph, and secondly in saying just the wrong thing. One can imagine Browning talking to his fellow club members afterwards, saying –

- When it came to the point I just couldn’t go through with it.