When Brian (BBC Science prog) Cox picks up a stone and tells us that it is mostly composed of empty spaces he is speaking in analogical terms as though what we consider as empty in the normal way applies to the molecular level description. It involves a freezing in time of the molecular events which is essentially a falsification for practical purposes to produce a model of the molecule. This is useful but is not to be taken as the reality. It is an analogy with a very narrow focus in order to enhance understanding. Such abstraction is like the reducing of time to instants that gives rise to Zeno's paradox
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
Now as the water of a tank, issuing through a hole, enters in the form of a channel a number of fields, and just like them assumes a rectangular or any other shape, so also the luminous mind, issuing through the eye etc., goes to the space occupied by objects such as a jar, and is modified into the form of a jar or any other object. That very modification is called a state (vritti). But in the case of inference etc., the mind does not go to the space occupied by fire etc., for the latter are not in contacty with the eye etc. Thus in cases of perception such as, “This jar,” the jar etc. and the mental state in the form of these combine in the same space outside the body, and hence the Consciousness limited by both is one and the same, for the mental state and the objects such as a jar, although (usually) they are dividing factors, do not (here) produce any difference, since they occupy the same space. For this very reason the ether limited by a jar and that which is within a monastery is not different from the ether limited byh the monastery. Similarly, in the case of the perception of a jar as, “This jar,” the mental state in the form of the jar being in contact with the jar, the Consciousness limited by that mental state is not different from the Consciousness limited by the jar, and hence the knowledge of the jar there is a perception so far as the jar is concerned. Again, since the Consciousness limited by happiness etc. and the Consciousness limited by the mental state relating to them are invariably limited by the two limiting adjuncts that occupy the same space, the knowledge, “I am happy,” is invariably a perception.(from Vedanta Paribhasa on Perception)
Professor Bina Gupta (in The Disinterested Witness pg.103ff.) is dubious about the claim of V.P. that the luminous mind goes out to take the shape of the object. The shape of the object is what is termed the vritti or mental modification in the usual translation. What Gupta offers is a separation of these two assertions (a) the going out (b) the vritti. Retaining the vritti as an internal event is a turn towards psychologism and representationalism. The well known vulnerability to the private language argument proposed by Wittgenstein is a salient feature of these views. The strength of the traditional advaitin view is in the radical externality of the object of perception and the securing of our knowledge of it as it really is. The basis of this perceptuality lies in the common substratum of pure consciousness of both the mind and the object.
Gupta claims that this going out is a primitive physiological theory also held by the Greeks and is suggested by the problem :
How is it that the object is there at a distance, yet I am able to see it from here. What bridges this distance? This is an important issue in the psychology of perception. Thus the Advaitins had a nice, though scientifically incorrect, answer - the mind itself goes out there, the form I perceive is not just in my brain but is also out there in the thing perceived.
Here we are at the confused borderland of Metaphysics and Psychology. In the Advaitin metaphysics subject and object meet in the extra-personal field of Pure Consciousness and the knowledge precipitate is superimposed on the mind of the individual perceiver.
Monday, 10 July 2017
I am I. I was I. Do I need evidence for this? Could memory be evidence?? How might that be wrought? Might I look back and having a series of inward images, me climbing a wall, stealing pears, stuffing my shirt. And then my assessment: yes, that’s definitely me, no mistake about it. However as we and the bad cop know, memories can be induced and a person can be brought to believe a story in which they are the chief actor. Even if there was a movie made of my life that was the the same length as my life would that establish self-identity i.e. my identity for myself? It would prove that I was not in Bangkok on the day in question, maybe but should someone splice in a double boating down a canal even I might be bamboozled. Whether in Thailand or not I was still I. If that knowledge resists true evidence in the sense that we do not have to use a memory to establish identity then false evidence does not undermine identity either. It is immune to evidence. The empiricist hunger must rest unassuaged.
Thursday, 6 July 2017
And this is the aim of the following essay: to show that, when we come to put the right construction on the Bible, we give to the Bible a real experimental basis, and keep on this basis throughout j instead of any basis of unverifiable assumption to start with, followed by a string of other unverifiable assumptions of the like kind, such as the received theology necessitates.
Maudlin sentimen talism," says the Dean of Norwich, "with its miserable disparagements of any definite doctrine; a nerveless religion, without the sinew and bone of doctrine."
Nobody says and maybe they should, of Leonard Gardner, ‘he coulda been a contender’. Or ‘he retired undefeated’ or ‘there are no second acts in American lives’. There is a comeback kid who defies the cliché by not coming back. It is an awful fate to hit the highest point of your oeuvre on your first book and then fall back into self imitation subsequently. Gardner declined that shame. Fat City is an American classic and it is quite acceptable to have gone some rounds with Ernesto Hemingway and then knocked him on his ass.
He lived in the Hotel Coma—named perhaps for some founder of the town, some California explorer or pioneer, or for some long-deceased Italian immigrant who founded only the hotel itself. Whoever it commemorated, the hotel was a poor monument, and Billy Tully had no intention of staying on. His clean laundry he continued to put back in his suitcase on the dresser, ready to be hurried away to better lodgings. He had lived in five hotels in the year and a half since his wife had left him. From his window he looked out on the stunted skyline of Stockton—a city of eighty thousand surrounded by the sloughs, rivers and fertile fields of the San Joaquin River delta—a view of business buildings, church spires, chimneys, water towers, gas tanks and the low roofs of residences rising among leafless trees between absolutely flat streets. Along the sidewalk under his window, men passed between bars and liquor stores, cafes, secondhand stores and walk-up hotels. Pigeons the color of the street pecked in the gutters, flew between buildings, marched along ledges and cooed on Tully's sill. His room was high and narrow.
Smudges from oily heads darkened the wallpaper between the metal rods of his bed. His shade was tattered, his light bulb dim, and his neighbors all seemed to have lung trouble.
It’s not so much noir as grey, the colour of Tully’s underwear. If there’s hope it’s a rumour. He goes to the fields to top onions.
There was a continuous thumping in the buckets. The stooped forms inched in an uneven Hue, hke a wave, across the field, their progress measured by the squat, upright sacks they left behind. In the air was a faint drone of tractors, hardly audible above the hum that had been in Tully's ears since his first army bouts a decade past.
He scrabbled on under the arc of the sun, cutting and tossing, onion tops flying, the knife fastened to his hand by draining blisters. Knees sore, he squatted, stood, crouched, sat, and knelt again and, belching a stinging taste of bile, dragged himself through the morning. By noon he had sweated himself sober. Covered with grime, he waddled into the bus with his sandwiches and an onion.
Going to his old trainer and getting a few easy marks to ease his way back was a plan. He was good until he was let down and robbed off a title in Mexico City by crooks. He resents Ruben Luna but he knows him:
Confidence, Ruben Luna believed, was the indispensable ingredient of success, and he had it in abundance —as much faith in his destiny as in the athletes he trained. In his own years of battling he had had doubts which at times became periods of terror. With a broken jaw wired into silence, he had sucked liquid meals through a tube, wondering if he were even sane. After a severe body beating and a bloody urination in the dressing room, he had wondered if the big fights and large sums he had thought would be coming but never came could be worth what he had already endured. But now Ruben's will was Hke a pure and unwavering light that burned even in his sleep. It was more a fatahstic optimism than determination, and though he was not immune to anxiety over his boxers, he felt he was immune to despair. Limited no longer by his own capacities, he had an odds advantage that he had never had as a competitor. He knew he could last. But his fighters were less dependable. Some trained one day and laid off two, fought once and quit, lost their timing, came back, struggled into condition,gasped and missed and were beaten, or won several bouts and got married, or moved, or were drafted, joined the navy or went to jail, were bleeders, suffered headaches, saw double or broke their hands. There had been so many who found they were not fighters at all, and there were others who without explanation had simply ceased to appear at the gym and were never seen or heard about again by Ruben, though once in a while a forgotten face returned briefly in a dream and he went on addressing instructions to it as though the intervening years had never been.
Thursday, 29 June 2017
Subsequent to the previous post the editor of Essay Daily asks:
Craig here - I edit this series and am interested in your statement here, "I write this in the interests of precision which is a feature of the essay form". Is precision necessarily a feature of the essay form? I'm not so sure it is, at least not in many of the forms an essay may take.
Anyway, if you ever see this, I wonder if you might expand on this idea a bit.
It is certainly a feature of the classical essay. I’m thinking here of Montaigne, Bacon, Johnson. They often attempt an analysis of some topic or a received opinion. Hazlitt asks himself - ‘what is skill really and how does it differ from art’. They want to clarify for themselves as much as for you.
Try Coleridge’s Essays in The Friend
Even the modern essay if a collection from 1922 can be called modern respects the overwhelming givenness of the fact and its lineaments. Augustine Birrell writing about Carlyle:
No one at all acquainted with his writings can fail to remember his almost excessive love of detail; his lively taste for facts, simply as facts.
There is a secular reverence in precision. It genuflects before the fact but if it stops there cannot inspire. Samuel Butler in his Ramblings in Cheapside considers the turtle and its defensive apparatus and concludes that he cannot really understand the beast until he consumes it but not having the half-crown to purchase it must move on: to metempsychosis.
So I cross post, Sue me. I left this over at essay daily site Chris Arthur's views on the National Essay. Is it even a thing?
You’ve been away for a while so let me correct you on a few points. The N.I. troubles are generally reckoned to have lasted 30 years, from Burntollet ‘69 to Good Friday ‘98. Others say 300 years but we won’t go into that. In terms of nation and national identity people on the island of Ireland are beginning to accept that there are British Irish, Anglo-Irish, Plain Irish and New Irish. What you refer to as Ulster is not the 9 county entity of the Gael but the Wee Six which the 26 regard as an ingrown toenail of a place and dread the idea of unity. The Irish essayists that you referred to were almost all Anglo-Irish. You left out Hubert Butler and Elizabeth Bowen both Anglo, the latter even spied for England during the Hitler war.
I write this in the interests of precision which is a feature of the essay form. It is combined with concision and, as a counterweight to incipient punctiliousness, creative rambling. As a Plain Irishman I freely admit that the English are pre-eminent in the field of essay writing. Amongst the Anglos that you mentioned it is Richard Steele that most has the Irish tint or taint of not coming to a point, of creating an emotional wash. Yeats valued that ‘stern colour and delicate line, that are our secret discipline’. Paudeen does not go in for that. It’s all allusiveness and whatever you’re saying say nothing when you’re talking about you know what.’
Another thing before I go, he said a half hour before leaving, give up that dismal ‘suspect’ and ‘suspicion’. It’s a hedging locution usually followed by waffle. Offer a ‘theory of interest’ by all means.
P.S. Keep her goin’, don’t stall the digger.
Monday, 26 June 2017
Here for your delectation, on historical principles, is an early use of a philosophic locution that is all too frequently encountered. I mean ‘worry’
Wantage had been shocked at the idea that he should go to bed before the Master got home, and was there to attend his needs. But Mary was already asleep when Gilbert and his guests arrived, and it must have been an hour or two later that she woke abruptly. Something was worrying her - what someone had said earlier about religion subsiding “below the level of belief or disbelief”. Surely that wasn’t quite right? ‘Below the level of argument’ he ought to have said. We have learned to distinguish these days between concepts which are verifiable and those by nature unverifiable - and which therefore can’t be argued about: so really we now need two words for ‘belief’ and two words for ‘truth’ in both cases.
After all, even Aquinas spoke of faith, as an act involving the will that distinguishes it entirely from verifiable truth - which is the only real truth, of course, she hastened to assure herself.
The time is 1923 and the young men discussing belief are Mary’s brother Augustine and his friend Jeremy both not long down from Oxford. The book is The Fox in the Attic published in 1948 by Richard Hughes. It is the first part of a trilogy left incomplete at his death in 1976. Augustine, up to the point that I have read is the protagonist. He like Hughes is the same age as the century. I read his A High Wind in Jamaica some months ago. Am I wrong in sensing elements of the same perversion in both these books? It hovers like a whiff of bad drains.
Sunday, 25 June 2017
How far can you trust the moral sense of someone who thinks that Israel is a modern and liberal democracy? That is an obvious big lie, the whopper so big the stunned mind thinks there might be something to it. After a cup of strong tea you recover your wits and realise that this is the belief of someone who is so blinded by sectarian interests that the truth is beyond their reach. Like a man lost in a snowstorm they are moving in a circle thinking that they will eventually arrive in a place of safety. I often consider what the situation in Northern Ireland would be today if Israeli tactics as applied to Gaza had been used. Assassinations, razing of the family homes of convicted terrorists, drone bombs and the disregard for civilians that the Israelis attempt to justify. To qualify: their justifications are a function of their contempt in that they are not intended to persuade. 'You need this kind of thing, we don't care. Every now and then the grass needs cutting.' The Israelis are at the Cromwellian phase of dealing with the natives who are offered the choice of 'to Hell or to Connaught (Gaza)'.
At this point even the liberal voices in Israel itself that deplore I.D.F. and settler actions in the Occupied Territories seem to be part of the plan to convince doubters that there is a reasonable element that can be talked to and will listen to reason. Meanwhile expropriation and extirpation can go on. They really don't care.
I once bought by mistake an Israeli product. A packet of razor blades. The good news is that they were useless.
Friday, 23 June 2017
In those days we didn't know we had a system.
Carlyle's system always had his own initials on it even at an age when one might be supposed to be working one's way out of a system he, following his study of Goethe, knew that you had to spin that web out of your own innards. Now it certainly might be a trap for yourself but it had the mark of your own spiritual power. To release that true energy, that ergos/work, it is necessary to bypass the rationalist system building that he took metaphysics to be. It is not thought but action that is the mainspring of life.
This is he whom business-people call Systematic and Theorizer and Word-monger; his vital intellectual force lies dormant or extinct, his whole force is mechanical, conscious: of such a one it is foreseen that, when once confronted with the infinite complexities of the real world, his little compact theorem of the world will be found wanting; that unless he can throw it overboard and become a new creature, he will necessarily founder.
This theme is dominant in all his writings and in his consideration of the West Indian negro's condition post emancipation certain rebarbative seeming comments are understandable. The freed slaves had no real work in the striving, strenuous sense that Carlyle understood it. Subsistence farming was a failure to truly exploit the possibilities of the colony. Very white man's burden. The potato was the Irish analogue to the pumpkin and evoked the same exasperation. Oatmeal was ever his own favourite food though arrowroot was his frequent recourse. I imagine grisly comedy of breakfast bulletins of the dyspeptic insomniacs Jane and Tom particularly during the period of the writing of Frederick the Great whose last victory was over their marriage.
Is Characteristics for all its verbal ebullience overstated? With Carlyle that's an axiom, he's a Lambeg drum man for subtlety. My own view is that you can leave the connatural good man alone, it is the majority addled by fake news that inquiry serves to free from the bondage of the bogus.
Monday, 19 June 2017
Taking the idea of re-membering which an anonymous commentor offered and distorting it into strange shapes I oppose it to its counter corellate dis-membering. We break into pieces the words of our interlocutors and create an index as when a book is broken up into its natural kinds but here only those elements that interest us are indexed and we reconstitute a different book. Memory is selective and even the association, the madelaine moment, reflects a bias. To keep our story straight we put as much truth into it as possible. The level of attention we give to our present moment predicts narrative detail. Would it be adaptive to live so close to the still point? Elision and omission may be necessary for reaction unless we can speed up our perception to where the bee’s wings are flapping like a heron’s. Bergson proposed a god for whom the whole history of the universe happens between tick and tock.
Friday, 16 June 2017
One might ask how it is possible that though the affection (the presentation) alone is present, and the (related) fact absent, the latter-that which is not present-is remembered. (The question arises), because it is clear that we must conceive that which is generated through sense-perception in the sentient soul, and in the part of the body which is its seat-viz. that affection the state whereof we call memory-to be some such thing as a picture. The process of movement (sensory stimulation) involved the act of perception stamps in, as it were, a sort of impression of the percept, just as persons do who make an impression with a seal. This explains why, in those who are strongly moved owing to passion, or time of life, no mnemonic impression is formed; just as no impression would be formed if the movement of the seal were to impinge on running water; while there are others in whom, owing to the receiving surface being frayed, as happens to (the stucco on) old (chamber) walls, or owing to the hardness of the receiving surface, the requisite impression is not implanted at all. Hence both very young and very old persons are defective in memory; they are in a state of flux, the former because of their growth, the latter, owing to their decay. In like manner, also, both those who are too quick and those who are too slow have bad memories. The former are too soft, the latter too hard (in the texture of their receiving organs), so that in the case of the former the presented image (though imprinted) does not remain in the soul, while on the latter it is not imprinted at all.(from On Memory and Reminiscence by Aristotle - memory)
This is the storage theory also espoused by Sherlock Holmes:
(from A Study in Scarlet)
“I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
The alaya vijnana of the Buddhists (storehouse consciousness) is sometimes understood as a ‘personal’ unconscious but that does not agree with the Buddha’s statements about his previous lives.
With his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs and inclines it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives (lit: previous homes). He recollects his manifold past lives, i.e., one birth, two births, three births, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, many aeons of cosmic contraction, many aeons of cosmic expansion, many aeons of cosmic contraction and expansion, [recollecting], 'There I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose there. There too I had such a name, belonged to such a clan, had such an appearance. Such was my food, such my experience of pleasure and pain, such the end of my life. Passing away from that state, I re-arose here.' Thus he recollects his manifold past lives in their modes and details. Just as if a man were to go from his home village to another village, and then from that village to yet another village, and then from that village back to his home village. The thought would occur to him, 'I went from my home village to that village over there. There I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, talked in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I went to that village over there, and there I stood in such a way, sat in such a way, talked in such a way, and remained silent in such a way. From that village I came back home.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, and bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, and attained to imperturbability — the monk directs and inclines it to knowledge of the recollection of past lives. He recollects his manifold past lives... in their modes and details.(From Kevatta Sutta)
Here we have moved away from the storage concept of memory, the standard model of neuro-science, to the transpersonal. This is the photo that is already taken (Bergson) and that exists ‘out there’ in the noos-sphere.
The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we imagine perception to be a kind of photographic limited by view of things, taken from a fixed point indeterminate by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception—a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all the points of space ? No metaphysics, no physics even, can escape this conclusion. Build up the universe with atoms: each of them is subject to the action, variable in quantity and quality according to the distance, exerted on it by all material atoms. Bring in Faraday's centres of force : the lines of force emitted in every direction from every centre bring to bear upon each the influences of the whole material world. Call up the Leibnizian monads: each is the mirror of the universe. All philosophers, then, agree on this point.(from Matter and Memory)
From a certain point of view memory as storage is like internal phrenology.
Thursday, 15 June 2017
What I took from my reading of Astavakra this morning was that there is nothing arising out of the practice of meditation. There are no benefits to enjoy if there is no enjoyer of those benefits. Feeling the force of this I fell into a mood of sobriety which resisted the insolence of ego. Almost.
Tuesday, 13 June 2017
And on the seventh day He almost rested. A fragment of the Great Mind, a junior god, made mud pies and dishes but not being very good at it was mixing in sand with the clay. In time as they dried they fell apart. That was the beginning of politics.
What do you think of Leo V., I asked:
Fianna Fail love him. He’s the blue shirt my father wore with a pink collar. He will be hard to remove. So very intersectional.
What are you going to do for Bloomsday?
Get out the iron frying pan and send a corner of lard skating. Fire down liver of any beast, rashers, tomatoes, sausages, an egg, fried bread with good red tea to gently ease it over the bourne of my tonsils.
Thursday, 8 June 2017
The person believes, that is assents to, the content of this experience. This assent does not, as in our previous argument, involve judgement of what the memory experience presents. For no one has the idea of 'the past' except in the first place from memory, and hence if memory is an experience the idea of the past must simply be in the experience: one cannot bring any primary judgement about the past to bear on the presentation. It is indeed difficult to see what the belief or assent consists in, as it cannot involve assessment of the experience. This was a problem which Hume felt strongly, and could not solve. It seems that assent can only be: allowing the memory experience to feel 'solid'. Plainly we have fallen into idealism.(from Memory, Experience and Causation (Contemporary British Philosophy ed. H.D. Lewis publ.1974))
The empiricist orientation which seeks a mark of some kind to show that an experience is a memory experience throws its weight against the solid supposedly idealist view. A house has fallen on you and you have been buried for 3 days. I would say that such was a solid memory marks or no marks. You don't need to have the impossible re-experienceable original for that. Nevertheless there's a spectrum from the very definite to the imaginary re-constitution of the original. Both count as memory because the same power is at work. Woozley's point that even if the original experience is not around anymore memory is still involved with it seems to be non informitively obvious. It's a route on which one might meet Bergson on his way back.
Sunday, 4 June 2017
- Who is that you are playing?
- Nick Drake. He died in the 1970‘s.
- Never heard of him. When you come to your autobiography write 'my father was musically illiterate. Books were his life. He lived in a world of books. Unfortunately he died a raving lunatic.’
- That book there< A.D. Woozley’s Theory of Knowledge : An Introduction pub.1949) looks weighty.
- It is only an introduction. The main thing would be too much for me.
Woozley’s (1912 - 2008) Introduction is a sly thing and owes more to the English habit of understatement than to the import of its content. By the way he was the last surviving member of the group of philosophers who started what became known as Ordinary Language Philosophy.
Woozley was the last surviving member of the original group of seven philosophers whose informal discussions from 1937-39 were the beginnings of Oxford ordinary language philosophy. There is an account of these original meetings in Isaiah Berlin's *Personal Impressions*, the chapter on J.L. Austin. Austin and Berlin organized the group; besides Austin, Woozley and Berlin, the members were A.J. Ayer, Stuart Hampshire, Donald Macnabb and Donald MacKinnon.(from Cora Diamond his widow)
There are two chapters on Memory which might be worth anyone’s consideration. He makes the point that although memory is fallible yet:
All collection of evidence, all theories, depend on memory, as Descartes found to his distress when he was trying to elaborate an error-proof method of attaining knowledge in any sphere
Memory is not regarded as a pramana (valid means of knowledge) in Hindu systems which is odd given that for the orthodox Smirti (remembered i.e. Tradition) is revered next only to Sruti (heard i.e. Scripture).
Memory has that mark of the individually dubitative which the sense of familiarity does not dismiss, in Woozley’s opinion. More anon.
Thursday, 1 June 2017
Astavakra in Chap.XVI.3 entitled Special Instruction whether that is witty subversion of his own or the editor’s is not clear, writes:
All are unhappy because they exert themselves. But none know this. The blessed one attains emancipation through this instruction alone.
The striving of the Trillings through depression and the Depression, and neurosis and feuds and the keeping of meticulous accounts of invidious behaviour is wearying. Marxism and Freudianism now of course utterly exploded were to them a frail wand of support. Can one imagine them as lifestyle Buddhists and Vegans?
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Of the twa Trillings I think I prefer Diana. She gave me a good laugh this morning when I read an extract from her The Beginning of the Journey. She was in her bed sick watching Lionel pushing the carpet sweeper one handed in a desultory fashion.
I would lie in bed, torn between guilt and impatience. It was unfair for him to have to do the housekeeping, it was not what he was supposed to do, but if he had to sweep the carpet, could it not put both hands on the carpet sweeper instead of gliding it about this loosely and aimlessly? I corrected him; he got angry. My criticism embittered him: Was he not already doing more than anyone had a right to expect of him?
Her claim that she taught him how to write is credible; just go from reading The Liberal Imagination to Matthew Arnold as I did. The former has sentences which have a flatness that could be used like a machinists surface plate in the testing of academic prose. Of the latter I thought, this is good, open, clear, non-recursive. She rewrote it for him it seems.
Lionel taught me to think; I taught him to write ... In a society such as ours, where despite the efforts of feminism, women continue to be treated with less generosity than men, I realise of course that whereas my statement that Lionel taught me to think will be received without a murmur, I put myself at risk by saying that I played a role in his literary accomplishment. In fact, I recently tested the response which I might expect to this bald assertion: I tried it on an old friend, the editor of a magazine to which Lionel and I had contributed. He made no attempt to conceal his displeasure. ‘How could you teach Lionel to write?’ he asked irritably. ‘He was a better writer than you are.’
There is a low peevishness to his criticism in The Liberal Imagination. In his mean essay on Sherwood Anderson he admits that he liked him when he first read him as a lad. Good, fine, splendid but a few pages later he remarks that when he lately re-read Winesburg, Ohio him he found he liked him even less. It’s the ‘even’ which suggests a correcting of an immature response. The source of this daft Orwellian critique appears to be Sherwood’s denouncing Henry James as a writer for those who hate. But I love James therefore ...... Even Boyd who wrote a harmless introduction to the Modern Library Edition must be disparaged. And why: Reading my own copy of that edition I see:
The rise of a serious periodical literature, whose virtue is neither the eternal negation of conservatism nor the mere success of immense circulation, is part of seems to be a genuine literary renascence in America.(Boyd)
An impugning of the New York Intellectual's mission is not to be borne. The worst sort of provincials are those who never leave the city. I will move on to Mrs. Harris by Diana and the Diet of Love that didn’t take.
Friday, 26 May 2017
Why, when there is a perfectly good marked pronoun is it not used? What is wrong with actress? Who decreed that it should be dropped in favour of ‘actor’?
Wise editors of philosophy papers strike out ‘he’, the unmarked pronoun and replace it with ‘she’ the marked. I understand that they want to encourage that delicate plant, the lady philosopher. What do you think of that Miss Anscombe? It’s all in the intention, don’t you know.
Thursday, 25 May 2017
The landscape of the pramana anupalabdhi accepted by Advaita is a strange one lit up by flashes of understanding. As ever negation is the way to knowledge. The Nyaya school do not accept non-apprehension of existence as a distinct valid means of knowledge holding that it is based on perception.
First though the positive thesis. Here I follow the line laid down by the Vedanta Paribhasa by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra. Put at its simplest it may seem otiose. Looking at a cleared table I can say ‘there is no jug on the table’. There is a non-apprehension of the existence of a jug. This is different from perception in that I cannot perceive what isn’t there. There is no non-jug that I perceive to be not there. I can further add that if there was a jug on the table I would see it. Only perceptible things are of interest here even if the pramana is not based on perception. It is claimed to be an immediate knowledge not delivered by sense perception. It proceeds direct to the mind.
It might be claimed that a vast number of things that are perceptible and tableable are not there so there is very little value in such information. That’s true but it is not the information but the means that is at issue. In any case this pramana is useful when we notice the absence of something that should be there. The book that was on the table is not there when I go to look for it. If the restaurant manager tells the waiter that ‘there is no water on the table’ that non-apprehension of existence is a direction to action.
My previous remarks on this topic can be found by putting ‘anupalabadhi’ in the search box. Notice the incorrect spelling - without spellcheck my English spelling would be no better.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
84. Disciple: If this is so, Sir, what is my fault when the mental changes resembling sound etc., and resulting in the reflection of Knowledge, My own nature, are produced in Me who am of the nature of changeless and eternal Consciousness?(from Chap.II Upadesa Sahasri Knowledge of the Changeless.)
85. Teacher: It is true that you are not to be blamed. Ignorance, as I told you before, is the only fault.
Ignorance in Vedanta (avidya) has a specific meaning. The central example of ignorance is taking something to be what it is not. We mis-take the rope for a snake, the nacre (shell) for silver, the stump for a man etc. It does not have the meaning of being ignorant of the finer points or any point of string theory for instance, a particular blank spot in other words. What the Teacher is saying is that there is a natural tendency to get fascinated by the changing panoply of consciousness and to look for a central permanent element in those phenomena. This is a structural tendency, but it is not ontological because it can be altered. How?
Tuesday, 23 May 2017
Of Montaigne Hazlitt writes:
He did not in the abstract character of an author, undertake to say all that could be said upon a subject, but what in his capacity as an inquirer after truth he happened to know about it. He was neither a pedant nor a bigot. He neither supposed that he was bound to know all things, nor that all things were bound to conform to what he had fancied or would have them to be. In treating of men and manners, he spoke of them as he found them, not according to preconceived notions and abstract dogmas; and he began by teaching us what he himself was.( The Periodical Essayists from Lectures on The English Comic Writers given in 1818)
The recourse to classical ‘topoi’ in Montaigne was part of a normal education and therefore not pedantry. They are the stepping stones across the stream of his consciousness and to experience them as obstacles signifies our decline. Hazlitt in his remarks on the writers he considers favours robust and manly forthrightness over the glancing tastefulness of conventional moral attitudes. Steele’s soldierly vulgarity is preferred to the harmonious musings of Addison. As a man given to like combat Hazlitt was perhaps thinking of:
What arms the great Alexander used, is uncertain; however, the historian mentions, when he attacked Thalestris, it was only at single rapier; but the weapon soon failed; for it was always observed, that the Amazons had a sort of enchantment about them, which made the blade of the weapon, though of never so good metal, at every home push, lose its edge and grow feeble.(from The Tatler no 31)
He impugns the Rambler essays of Johnson for the attitude evinced by him when out strolling in the streets of London with Boswell they were accosted by a bawd. ‘Girl, this will not do’ said Johnson.
His ' Letters from Correspondents,' in particular, are more pompous and unwieldly than what he writes in his own person. This want of relaxation and variety of manner has, I think, after the first effects of novelty and surprise were over, been prejudicial to the matter. It takes from the general power, not only to please, but to instruct The monotony of style produces an apparent monotony of ideas. What is really striking and valuable, is lost in the vain ostentation and circumlocution of the expression; for when we find the same pains and pomp of diction bestowed upon the most trifling as upon the most important parts of a sentence or discourse, we grow tired of distinguishing between pretension and reality, and are disposed to confound the tinsel and bombast of the phraseology with want of weight in the thoughts. Thus, from the imposing and oracular nature of the style, people are tempted at first to imagine that our author's speculations are all wisdom and profundity: till having found out their mistake in some instances, they suppose that there is nothing but common-place in them, concealed under verbiage^and pedantry; and in both they are wrong.
The report of the correspondent Amicus may have given rise to this attack:
The anguish that I felt, left me no rest till I had, by your means, addressed myself to the publick on behalf of those forlorn creatures, the women of the town; whose misery here might satisfy the most rigorous censor, and whose participation of our common nature might surely induce us to endeavour, at least, their preservation from eternal punishment.( from The Rambler of Tuesday March 26th. 1751)
These were all once, if not virtuous, at least innocent; and might still have continued blameless and easy, but for the arts and insinuations of those whose rank, fortune, or education, furnished them with means to corrupt or to delude them. Let the libertine reflect a moment on the situation of that woman, who, being forsaken by her betrayer, is reduced to the necessity of turning prostitute for bread, and judge of the enormity of his guilt by the evils which it produces.
It cannot be doubted but that numbers follow this dreadful course of life, with shame, horrour, and regret; but where can they hope for refuge: "The world is not their friend, nor the world's law." Their sighs, and tears, and groans, are criminal in the eye of their tyrants, the bully and the bawd, who fatten on their misery, and threaten them with want or a gaol, if they show the least design of escaping from their bondage.
"To wipe all tears from off all faces," is a task too hard for mortals; but to alleviate misfortunes is often within the most limited power: yet the opportunities which every day affords of relieving the most wretched of human beings are overlooked and neglected, with equal disregard of policy and goodness.
Hazlitt used prostitutes himself to relieve an appetite he experienced as a burden. Married love eluded him.
What happened to The Leftovers show? It’s going Down Under to die. The first two seasons were excellent, inventive, obscure and coherent in their strangeness. In this season sex scenes are a clear sign of poverty of invention. Add dismal profanity for an unhappy death. Sad!
There was an avalanche of evidence against O.J. from which the defence team managed to take away a few snowballs and say - ‘there you see it’s not an avalanche at all’ thereby giving some reason, any reason, for the jury to do what it wanted to do. Their deliberation was shambolic. The documentary was superb. I will watch this again. Fred Goldman came out of it well as the Nemesis with the club of legal pursuit.
Sunday, 14 May 2017
82. The disciple said, How then am I who am changeless, the knower, as you say, of all the mental modifications, the objects of my knowledge?
83. The teacher said to him, I told you the right thing. The very fact (that you know simultaneously all the mental modifications) was adduced by me as the reason why you are eternally immutable.
This is the insight which is confirmed by the protphaenomenon of Deep Sleep or Sushupti which I have written about extensively. The disciple fascinated by the constantly changing contents of consciousness is identifying with this mutability. He takes his Self to be those contents that are somehow knowing themselves. If that were the case then the contents would be known sequentially and the problem of identity would devolve into a ‘binding problem’. How does that series of conscious states related to the various sense modes come together or know itself as a series (Hume). The teacher cuts through the starting point for complex Buddhistic theories of the self, skandhas etc., by reminding the disciple that all mental states/modifications are known simultaneously. I would add that they are attended to sequentially according to a practical hierarchy.
Not identifying with the contents of consciousness gives the sage’s personality that bright alertness and lack of fixity. There are no special states of mind for him to focus on. In the chapter on Abiding in the Self Astavakra declares:
A stage of life or no stage of life, meditation, control of mental functions - finding that these cause distraction to me, thus verily do I firmly abide.(Astavakra Samhita Chap.XII.7)
Saturday, 13 May 2017
April 21st. 1832.(from Table Talk)
INTELLECTUAL REVOLUTIONS. MODERN STYLE.
There have been three silent revolutions in England: —first, when the professions fell off from the church; secondly, when literature fell off from the professions ; and, thirdly, when the press fell off from literature.
Common phrases are, as it were, so stereotyped now by conventional use, that it is really much easier to write on the ordinary politics of the day in the common newspaper style, than it is to make a good pair of shoes. An apprentice has as much to learn now to be a shoemaker as ever he had ; but an ignorant coxcomb with a competent want of honesty, may very effectively wield a pen in a newspaper office with infinitely less pains and preparation than were necessary formerly.
Things have not improved particularly since the professionalisation of journalism in Ireland via a communications degree. Previously the better writers might have started out as office boys and brewers of tea and attenders at conflagrations to count the tenders. Gradually they came to develop their independent style and views. Now the graduates are quite progressively predictable and not worth reading or should I say not worth paying for the privilege of reading. For news I read aertel headlines being aware that any interpretation past the bare facts will be a partisan distortion.
Friday, 12 May 2017
Moving from one sort of Indian Jugglery, Advaitic contortions, to another we note William Hazlitt asking himself:
The hearing a speech in Parliament drawled or stammered out by the Honourable Member or the Noble Lord; the ringing the changes on their common-places, which any one could repeat after them as well as they, stirs me not a jot, shakes not my good opinion of myself; but the seeing the Indian Jugglers does. It makes me ashamed of myself. I ask what there is that I can do as well as this? Nothing. What have I been doing all my life? Have I been idle, or have I nothing to show for all my labour and pains? Or have I passed my time in pouring words like water into empty sieves, rolling a stone up a hill and then down again, trying to prove an argument in the teeth of facts, and looking for causes in the dark and not finding them?
Is this an irritating display of false modesty or inverse humilty? The skill that he developed as a painter under the instruction of his brother John was marked and if he chose to abandon painting for journalism, even of the higher sort, his justification that he would never be a Titian or a Rembrandt lacks scale. Why not be an excellent William Hazlitt? Looking at his portraits of which there are some examples remaining I consider them to have a firmness of line and the tincture of life and freedom. His refusal to leave out the warts was a hindrance to his professional progress and that characteristic he carried into his writing and life.
The willing submission to what is there issuing from the enforced humility of the copyist endued him with the realisation of the difference between mere mechanical skill which ought to service artistic vision but very often supplants it.
This power is indifferently called genius, imagination, feeling, taste; but the manner in which it acts upon the mind can neither be defined by abstract rules, as is the case in science, nor verified by continual, unvarying experiments, as is the case in mechanical performances. The mechanical excellence of the Dutch painters in colouring and handling is that which comes the nearest in fine art to the perfection of certain manual exhibitions of skill. The truth of the effect and the facility with which it is produced are equally admirable. Up to a certain point everything is faultless. The hand and eye have done their part. There is only a want of taste and genius. It is after we enter upon that enchanted ground that the human mind begins to droop and flag as in a strange road, or in a thick mist, benighted and making little way with many attempts and many failures, and that the best of us only escape with half a triumph. The undefined and the imaginary are the regions that we must pass like Satan, difficult and doubtful, ‘half flying, half on foot.’ The object in sense is a positive thing, and execution comes with practice.
His Satan is of course Milton’s from Paradise Lost Bk.II. together with his own characteristic slight misquote:
That fury stayed —
Quenched in a boggy Syrtis, neither sea,
Nor good dry land — nigh foundered, on he fares,
Treading the crude consistence, half on foot,
Half flying; behoves him now both oar and sail.
76. The disciple said, Knowledge is the meaning of a root and therefore surely consists of a change; and the Knower (as you say) is of a changeless nature. This is a contradiction.(from Upadesa Sahasri Chap.II:The Knowledge of the Changeless)
77. Teacher: It is not so. For the word knowledge is used only in a secondary sense to mean a change called an action, the meaning of a root. A modification of the intellect called an action ends in a result in itself which is the reflection of Knowledge, the Self. It is for this reason that this modification is called knowledge in a secondary sense, just as the action of cutting a thing in two is secondarily called its separation in two which is the ultimate result of the action of cutting the thing.
The idea here, as I understand it, is that you have various inflections of the root ‘know’ e.g. knowing, known, knowable, knowledge. By implication you have also the polar opposite of ‘not know’ or ‘ignorance’ and its cognates. So we seem to have a condition i.e. knowledge, that arises out of activity or is an activity and is therefore not changeless. The Teacher does not deny that there is activity but he holds that it is only by being pervaded by Consciousness that knowledge arises out of it. Without that there would be no body of knowledge. This is the ‘secondary sense’ or ‘reflection’ of knowledge. In the cinema screen analogy, it’s as though the action had to pass through the permanent screen in order to be known.
Wednesday, 10 May 2017
Why anyone would spend their good money on a Fine Arts post graduate degree in Creative Writing when they have Table Talk by Hazlitt to read is clear to me. It’s the belief in instruction by osmosis or the sense that being in the presence of a master practitioner will cause a spark to jump. Also there is the corrective adjustment of your story offal that brings out the delightful oddity of your vision. Hazlitt describe the relationship between what can be taught and learned and what is true art:
You can put a child apprentice to a tumbler or rope-dancer with a comfortable prospect of success, if they are but sound of wind and limb; but you cannot do the same thing in painting. The odds are a million to one. You may make indeed as many Haydons and H——s as you put into that sort of machine, but not one Reynolds amongst them all, with his grace, his grandeur, his blandness of gusto, ‘in tones and gestures hit,’ unless you could make the man over again. To snatch this grace beyond the reach of art is then the height of art — where fine art begins, and where mechanical skill ends. The soft suffusion of the soul, the speechless breathing eloquence, the looks ‘commercing with the skies,’ the ever-shifting forms of an eternal principle, that which is seen but for a moment, but dwells in the heart always, and is only seized as it passes by strong and secret sympathy, must be taught by nature and genius, not by rules or study. It is suggested by feeling, not by laborious microscopic inspection; in seeking for it without, we lose the harmonious clue to it within; and in aiming to grasp the substance, we let the very spirit of art evaporate.
Calling those writing courses fine art degrees is a sad irony; not that Hazlitt in his need for folding green energy would not have set up a school and given good value. Eschew double negatives as tending to induce a state of bafflement would be a tenet of his I don’t doubt. What else might I fail to learn from him besides the sweet irascibility of which I am an apt student. The Lucknow boys will have learned that Hazlitt could revise and eliminate cf:Immortality, 2 versions the bum note. In the case of The Indian Jugglers it would be hard to find any. What of the caudal obituary for John Kavanaugh? Is it there to fill up the quire? If you have ever played a sport or practised a craft seriously you will know that beyond the mechanical skill there is pure effortless flow. We know that it’s art but we don’t like to say so in case it might be thought that another locker room is needed.
It’s a very fine day here and there is a lot to do in the garden. I will get back to a consideration of The Indian Jugglers this evening.
((Rule No.1: Write to please yourself))
Sunday, 7 May 2017
The few Indian readers that I have are probably less in number than the metals that make up the amalgam (panchaloha) used in sacred vessels. The gold and silver are drawn to my advaitic rambling, the baser metals hope to get an idea that they can use in a paper on Hazlitt’s essay On the Feeling of Immortality in Early Youth. Oh ye deluded ones lost in the mists of Maya. I allude to both groups but here I concentrate on those of a Macaulayist tendency:
It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgement used at preparatory schools in England.(Thomas Babington Macaulay: 1835 Minute on Indian Education)
If ‘Immortality’ is the only one of Hazlitt’s essays that you have read then your English medium education will merely befit you to be an engineer. May I suggest that you next read the essay in Table Talk called The Indian Jugglers.
Thursday, 4 May 2017
Jim Al-Khalili lays out the history of Magnetism and Electricity in a very clear way on BBC 4‘s Open University Course. It’s wonderful the way you are whisked to all the laboratories where the pioneers worked and their experiments are demonstrated on the very equipment that they used. Yet why does Jim traduce the power of Zeus, Thor, and Old Jehovah to create lightning and assign its understanding to mere mortals clothed in the alb of science? Does he not fear their wrath? How can it even be possible for religious persons to pursue science and continue to hold to such beliefs? Baffling indeed, but yet they do.
Bettany Hughes on the BBC 4 Open University great minds program on Nietzsche found that God was dead because he said so. Transvaluation of all values particularly slave values and so forth. What might this mean for the Samaritan for instance? Leave him there, don’t waste valuable resources on a stranger. Bettany had to be reminded by another expert that Nietzsche did not score high on compassion. But it was his bad sister that made him sustenance for Nazis. Really? One doesn’t have to look very hard in his books to find their comfort food. Bettany who is a humanist likely takes the view that if N. was anti-Christian then he can’t be all bad. There was scarcely any critical examination of his ideas. This is the OU you know.
The other mystery is why Bettany wore the same clothes throughout her trips to London, Sils Marie etc? Is it the BBC as magic carpet? Those boots, Canadian lumberjack lace ups, were suitable for Nurenberg but wrong for Turin.
Tuesday, 2 May 2017
74. ......but I have doubts about the changeless nature which, you say, pertains to me.(from Upadesa Sahasri Chap.II: The Knowledge of the Changeless)
Teacher: What doubts?
Disciple: Sound etc., do not exist independently as they are non-conscious. But they come into existence when there arise in the mind modifications resembling sound and so on. It is impossible that these modifications should have an independent existence as they are exclusive of one another as regards their special characteristics (of resembling sound etc.,) and appear to be blue, yellow, etc. (So sound etc., are not the same as mental modifications). It is therefore inferred that these modifications are caused by external objects. So it is proved that modifications resemble sound etc., objects existing externally. Similarly, these different modifications of the mind also are combinations and therefore non-conscious. So, not existing for their own sake they, like sound etc., exist only when known by one different from them. Though the Self is not a combination, It consists of Consciousness and exists for Its own sake; It is the knower of the mental modifications appearing to be blue, yellow and so on. It must, therefore, be of a changeful nature. Hence is the doubt about the changeless nature of the Self.
75. The teacher said to him, Your doubt is not justifiable. For you, the Self, are proved to be free from change and therefore perpetually the same on the ground that all the modifications of the mind without a single exception are (simultaneously) known by you. You regard this knowledge of all the modifications which is the reason for the above inference as that for your doubt. If you were changeful like the mind or the senses (which pervade their objects one after another), you would not simultaneously know all the mental modifications, the objects of your knowledge. Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time). You are, therefore, absolutely changeless.
The core idea is this: all the mental modifications (vritti) come along in waves and are distinguished from each other by their relation to each sense modality. Note that the disciple proffers a representational account of cerebral events. These events become knowledge successively and in a self-luminous way. The self of this series of conscious states must then be changeful. This view has a Buddhist cast.
The teacher rejects this mental compartmentalisation of consciousness i.e. each sense modality serving the cause of knowledge successively. He asserts that the totality of consciousness takes in all that is present to the person. It is immediate and global though he would not deny that attention can switch as we navigate through our situation. Otherwise the practice of ekgratha (one pointedness) as a useful mental discipline would be pointless. Possibly it is this input switching which gives the feeling that consciousness is moving along with our attention. In reality events are moving through the screen of consciousness. As the Zen teacher said: The bridge flows, the river stands still.
Monday, 1 May 2017
Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are, and what they ought to be. We weep at what thwarts or exceeds our desires in serious matters: we laugh at what only disappoints our expectations in trifles. We shed tears from sympathy with real and necessary distress; as we burst into laughter from want of sympathy with that which is unreasonable and unnecessary, the absurdity of which provokes our spleen or mirth, rather than any serious reflections on it.(from On Wit and Humour by William Hazlitt from his series of lectures on The English Comic Writers)
To explain the nature of laughter and tears, is to account for the condition of human life; for it is in a manner compounded of these two! It is a tragedy or a comedy—sad or merry, as it happens. The crimes and misfortunes that are inseparable from it, shock and wound the mind when they once seize upon it, and when the pressure can no longer be borne, seek relief in tears: the follies and absurdities that men commit, or the odd accidents that befall them, afford us amusement from the very rejection of these false claims upon our sympathy, and end in laughter. If everything that went wrong, if every vanity or weakness in another
gave us a sensible pang, it would be hard indeed: but as long as the disagreeableness of the consequences of a sudden disaster is kept out of sight by the immediate oddity of the circumstances, and the absurdity or unaccountableness of a foolish action is the most striking thing in it, the ludicrous prevails over the pathetic, and we receive pleasure instead of pain from the farce of life which is played before us, and which discomposes our gravity as often as it fails to move our anger or our pity!
If you read The Assistant by Bernard Malamud keep this in mind but remember also that the very same story told by an Irish writer would have to be a comedy, the beal bocht (the poor mouth) and the catalogue of catastrophes being a form of scorn which is the lustral water that accompanies ululation. Here we are deep, deep, deep in woe is me Jewish writing. Don’t paint all four walls of your room black, allow a contrast wall, canary yellow would be good. Aubergine would not be good. The blending in of humour adds pathos and human scale to the tragedy but at this point in his writing career Malamud lacked the wit to, as Johnson said, to keep it sweet.
Friday, 28 April 2017
Standing at the rail overlooking the waterfall I tried to hear and see it and at the same time feel the dampness of the wooden rail. Is it obvious that this is possible or is it a user illusion? Might we not be skipping from one input to the other smoothly. Still although we are having an animated conversation in a crowded room our ears will twitch if our name is mentioned. There was global attention all along apparently.
Then if I look at a specific part of the waterfall, I notice the recurring pattern of the casting of spray. This seems to occur within the experience and is not a layer of abstraction. Everything is unified in flowing time and we can no more stop it and separate out its elements that stop the waterfall. As a natural event this continuous crash has a symbolic suggestive value which inclines towards the sublime.
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Not only had he carefully selected the rooms which he felt it would be worth his while watching from time to time either for the mere amusement of eavesdropping for its own sake -or for the furtherance of his own designs.
His methods of disguising the holes which might so easily have been detected if badly positioned, were varied and ingenious, as for example in the chamber of the ancient Barquentine. Master of Ritual. This room, filthy as a fox's earth, had upon its right-hand wall a blistered portrait in oils of a rider on a piebald horse, and the young man had not only cut a couple of holes in the canvas immediately beneath the frame where its shadow lay like a long black ruler, but he had cut away the rider's buttons, the pupils of his eyes as well as those of the horse's. These circular openings at their various heights and latitudes afforded him alternative views of the room according to where Barquentine chose to propel his miserable body on that dreaded crutch of his. The horse's eye, the most frequently used of the apertures, offered a magnificent view of a mattress on the floor on which Barquentine spent most of his leisure moments, knotting and re-knotting his beard, or sending up clouds of dust every time he raised and let fall his only leg, a withered one at that, in bouts of irritation. In the chimney itself, and immediately behind the holes,a complicated series
of wires and mirrors reflected the occupants of the de-privatized rooms and sent them down the black funnel, mirror glancing to mirror, and carrying the secrets of each action that fell within their deadly orbit - passing them from one to another, until at the base a constellation of glass provided the young man with constant entertainment and information.
In the darkness he would turn his eyes, for instance, from Craggmire, the acrobat, who crossing his apartment upon his hands might frequently be seen tossing from the sole of one foot to the sole of the other a small pig in a green nightdress -would turn his eyes from this diversion to the next mirror which might disclose the Poet, tearing at a loaf of bread with his small mouth, his long wedge of a head tilted at an angle, and flushed with the exertion, for he could not use both hands -one being engaged in writing; while his eyes (so completely out of focus that they looked as though they'd never get in again) were more spirit than anything corporeal.
But from the young man's point of view there were bigger fish than these - which were, with the exception of Barquentine, no more than the shrimps of Gormenghast - and he turned to mirrors more deadly, more thrilling: mirrors that reflected the daughter of the Groans herself - the strange raven-haired Fuchsia and her mother, the Countess, her shoulders thronged with birds.
Monday, 24 April 2017
Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKitrick Ros was read by the Inklings on quiet nights when none of the participants had any of their own work to read to the club and there was no particular pressing matter to discuss. The crack was: how much could be read before the audience laughed. Here is an example from Chap. IV:
WHEN on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over the prospects of a bright and happy future, whilst meditating upon the risky right of justice, there we remain, wanderers on the cloudy surface of mental woe, disappointment and danger, inhabitants of the grim sphere of anticipated imagery, partakers of the poisonous dregs of concocted injustice. Yet such is life.
Sir John’s visits began now to be numerous at Dilworth Castle, each visit serving further to strengthen the link of relationship, and bury, in the heaving breast of seeking solace, the dull delight of the weary past. As the weeks wore on, he reckoned them only as days, when comparing their loving length with those of the bleak years he tried to enjoy alone, before taking such steps—yes, serious steps—as those fancied by the would-be bachelor.
At first he was careless and indifferent to the flowery harangues of mothers who paid him periodical visits, with their daughters, of apology, and firmly retained the obstinate qualities of an autocratic ruler, until softened in the presence of one he found he was learning to steadily love. He believed now that the chief stripes, viz.—observation, inclination, advancement and accomplishment, in the well-spun web of matrimony, must harmonise with the groundwork of happiness, without which our lives are not worth an unstamped coin.
Is this purple? Nay, the grape crushed by the grateful feet of Umbrian peasants on a fine autumnal morning is merely the diaphanous transparency of a sky of bewildering clarity. I in my occluded state of consciousness adumbrate the ineluctable modality of the risible.
Wikipedia entry: Amanda McKitrick Ros
Sunday, 23 April 2017
This exclamation, however, aroused my ire against Tom; and as I always looked upon him as my special paid henchman, who, in return for such services as supplying me with tiny boxing-gloves, and fishing-tackle, and bait, during my hale days, and tame rabbits now that I was a cripple, mostly contrived to possess himself of my pocket-money, I had no hesitation in exclaiming,
'Why, Tom, you know you're drunk, you silly old fool!'
At this Tom turned his mournful and reproachful gaze upon me, and began to weep anew. Then he turned and addressed the sea, uplifting his hand in oratorical fashion:—
'Here's a young gentleman as I've been more than a father to—yes, more than a father to—for when did his own father ever give him a ferret-eyed rabbit, a real ferret-eyed rabbit thoroughbred?'
'Why, I gave you one of my five-shilling pieces for it,' said I; 'and the rabbit was in a consumption and died in three weeks.'
But Tom still addressed the sea.
'When did his own father give him,' said he, 'the longest thigh-bone that the sea ever washed out of Raxton churchyard?'
'Why, I gave you two of my five-shilling pieces for that,' said I, 'and next day you went and borrowed the bone, and sold it over again to Dr. Munro for a quart of beer.'
'When did his own father give him a beautiful skull for a money-box, and make an oak lid to it, and keep it for him because his mother wouldn't have it in the house?'
'Ah, but where's the money that was in it, Tom? Where's the money?' said I, flourishing one of my crutches, for I was worked up to a state of high excitement when I recalled my own wrongs and Tom's frauds, and I forgot his relationship to the little girl. 'Where are the bright new half-crowns that were in the money-box when I left it with you—the half-crowns that got changed into pennies, Tom? Where are they? What's the use of having a skull for a money-box if it's got no money in it? That's what I want to know, Tom!'
Saturday, 22 April 2017
To see things clearly you must get yourself out the way. That was Matthew Arnold’s dictum but those great writers and artists who have affected us deeply and permeated our aesthetic sensibility are in the vedic phrase the eye of the eye. In Fathers and Children (Constance Garnett’s trans.) we see what we have been trained to see and that is something we have to admit before our natural guile or critical intelligence subverts the author’s leadingi. We notice then that Turgenev’s own soft hearted love of the rising generation and Bazarov his ‘favourite child’ can rebut materialist ideology by following with a lyrical passage. Nikolai the father of Arkady represents this aspect of Turgenev:
In vain, then, had he spent whole days sometimes in the winter at Petersburg over the newest books; in vain had he listened to the talk of the young men; in vain had he rejoiced when he succeeded in putting in his word too in their heated discussions. 'My brother says we are right,' he thought, 'and apart from all vanity, I do think myself that they are further from the truth than we are, though at the same time I feel there is something behind them we have not got, some superiority over us.... Is it youth? No; not only youth. Doesn't their superiority consist in there being fewer traces of the slave owner in them than in us?'
This regret is balanced immediately by the evocation of a beautiful evening:
'But to renounce poetry?' he thought again; 'to have no feeling for art, for nature ...'
And he looked round, as though trying to understand how it was possible to have no feeling for nature. It was already evening; the sun was hidden behind a small copse of aspens which lay a quarter of a mile from the garden; its shadow stretched indefinitely across the still fields. A peasant on a white nag went at a trot along the dark, narrow path close beside the copse; his whole figure was clearly visible even to the patch on his shoulder, in spite of his being in the shade; the horse's hoofs flew along bravely. The sun's rays from the farther side fell full on the copse, and piercing through its thickets, threw such a warm light on the aspen trunks that they looked like pines, and their leaves were almost a dark blue, while above them rose a pale blue sky, faintly tinged by the glow of sunset. The swallows flew high; the wind had quite died away, belated bees hummed slowly and drowsily among the lilac blossom; a swarm of midges hung like a cloud over a solitary branch which stood out against the sky.
He can also cast a cold eye on the progressive:
The town of X—— to which our friends set off was in the jurisdiction of a governor who was a young man, and at once a progressive and a despot, as often happens with Russians.The woman question gets a mention:
Bazarov scowled. There was nothing repulsive in the little plain person of the emancipated woman; but the expression of her face produced a disagreeable effect on the spectator. One felt impelled to ask her, 'What's the matter; are you hungry? Or bored? Or shy? What are you in a fidget about?' Both she and Sitnikov had always the same uneasy air. She was extremely unconstrained, and at the same time awkward; she obviously regarded herself as a good-natured, simple creature, and all the while, whatever she did, it always struck one that it was not just what she wanted to do; everything with her seemed, as children say, done on purpose, that's to say, not simply, not naturally.
Arkady gets a glimpse of the cruelty that is not too far away from the behaviourism that Bazarov espouses. They are about to quarrel; enacting an anticipation of of class war:
Fighting?' put in Bazarov. 'Well? Here, on the hay, in these idyllic surroundings, far from the world and the eyes of men, it wouldn't matter. But you'd be no match for me. I'll have you by the throat in a minute.'
Bazarov spread out his long, cruel fingers.... Arkady turned round and prepared, as though in jest, to resist.... But his friend's face struck him as so vindictive—there was such menace in grim earnest in the smile that distorted his lips, and in his glittering eyes, that he felt instinctively afraid.
Madame Anna the aristocrat and Bazarov the Nihilist are hobbled by their cool rationalism and unable to move towards ordinary human happiness. Ideology and prudence are a non combustible mix. Some people are pursued by happiness but they manage to keep ahead of it.
At many points in this novel I was moved but did not feel that I was being cozened into emotion. Being a father you have to stay where you are and let your child come to you. Bazarov was coming back, doctoring in the district, helping his father out and then well ...
Friday, 21 April 2017
Shaving with a genuine antique, a Wilkinson’s straight razor from 1893, is a very pleasant way to do experimental archaeology with an added smug factor of 9.5 because those plastic gadgets that are the usual tools for this task are not recyclable. They go straight to landfill and their minute but cumulatively significant energy is lost for ever and well, they are expensive. My razor in its original case cost me 6 Pounds sterling. Can you even buy a 4 blade refill for that? There was a couple of spots of surface rust on the blade and it needed bevel setting, honing and stropping. Warranted real German hollow grind is stamped on it. A real singing razor. A gruff 5 day crop is swished away without tiresome clogging and skidding with manly sound effects. A one pass shave taking 5 minutes is quite adequate but I generally take a second.
I read that in America 2 billion disposable razors per year end up in landfill. Do the world wide sums. I’m greener than Kermit.
Tuesday, 18 April 2017
God Almighty has entrusted us with the use of reason, and we use it to the disorder and corruption of our nature. We reason ourselves into all kinds of folly and misery, and make our lives the sport of foolish and extravagant passions; seeking after imaginary happiness in all kinds of shapes, creating to ourselves a thousand wants, amusing our hearts with false hopes and fears, using the world worse than irrational animals, envying, vexing, and tormenting one another with restless passions, and unreasonable contentions.(from A Serious Call pub.1729)
Monday, 17 April 2017
Reading the usual blogs that someone such as myself with an interest in literature and philosophy would read I feel as though I had somehow got on the wrong bus and was delivered to a re-education camp. Like a travelling symptom the 'paranoid style' which afflicted conservatives has jumped to the other side of the American divide. Perfectly legal immigrants such as Amod Lele feel that they might be lifted and find themselves back in, OMG, in Canada.
Amod make it a nine-fold path. Add 'get real or 'get a grip'. Declaring yourself anti-Trump is becoming the liberal version of a loyalty oath.
Friday, 14 April 2017
A SONG [WITHIN]
O, no more, no more, too late
Sighs are spent; the burning tapers
Of a life as chaste as fate,
Pure as are unwritten papers,
Are burnt out: no heat, no light
Now remains; ’t is ever night.
Love is dead; let lovers’ eyes,
Lock’d in endless dreams,
Th’ extremes of all extremes,
Ope no more, for now Love dies,
Now Love dies, — implying
Love’s martyrs must be ever, ever dying.
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
Experience the present as though it were being remembered.
Is that dissociative or is it trying to do what we are already doing? The latter is a blocking regress or a trying to try. It initiates an automatic pause or poise and that is a good thing for the mental carousel.
That is what I would call a special meditation as against a general practice like mantra/japa. It might be considered an experimental reconfiguration.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
I watched on youtube Hedda Gabler with Ingrid Bergman, Ralph Richardson and Michael Redgrave. Bergman acted with high Strindbergian, Nordic devil woman twitching. Richardson as Judge Brack was a fine insinuating seducer,Redgrave a perfect bemused scholar, and Trevor Howard a fair Lovborg. I also looked at briefly Janet Suzman (B.B.C. play)who adopts a malign sweetness.
“Her hair is not particularly abundant” says Ibsen in his stage directions. Of Mrs. Elvsted he directs "Her hair is remarkably light, almost flaxen, and unusually abundant and wavy”.
She is remembered by Hedda as that girl with the irritating hair. Mrs. Elvsted also has a memory:
Yes, but you were in the class above me. Oh, how dreadfully afraid of you I was then!
Afraid of me?
Yes, dreadfully. For when we met on the stairs you used always to pull my hair.
Did I, really?
Yes, and once you said you would burn it off my head.
The startling thing is that the timid Mrs.Elvsted has left her husband, an up country official to be the muse and sponsor of the alcoholic genius Lovborg while Hedda a maenad manque is terrified of scandal.
LOVBORG.As a woman without much of an inner life she fills the void with the confidences of others, Lovborg’s and Elvsted’s. Knowledge is power and that is what she wants but somehow her plans go awry and Brack is too cunning for her. Too cunning for himself in fact for instead of playing his trump he ought to have held back and Hedda would out of boredom agreed to the triangular set up. Because she’s worth it.
[Clenches his hands.] Oh, why did you not carry out your threat? Why did you not shoot me down?
Because I have such a dread of scandal.
Yes, Hedda, you are a coward at heart.
A terrible coward. [Changing her tone.] But it was a lucky thing for you. And now you have found ample consolation at the Elvsteds'.
I know what Thea has confided to you.
Thursday, 6 April 2017
Here is a man who is about to be denounced as a beast:
As he thought of it, and as that visit up-stairs prolonged itself, he almost thought it would be best for him to be round with her! We all know what a husband means when he resolves to be round with his wife.
Louis Trevalyan is Mr.Right in this case and Mrs. Right nee Emily Rowley daughter of the Governor of the Mandarin Islands, Sir Marmaduke. She is a proud creature, unwilling to be corrected and as a colonial perhaps unaware of the nuances of proper stiffness with any males. Colonel Osborne an old friend of her father and the same age as him is regarded by Trevalyan as being overly familiar with his wife. He is a jealous man and conscious of the great benefits he has conferred through his generous taking up of a dowryless wife and her sister. There is no doubt that the Colonel likes to hover about pretty married women and has been the cause of rifts.
Trollope can be acute and the analysis of polite marriage requires his anguished ironies. Will he forbear to talk to the reader, well hardly, for my citation shows that he already has. Will there be fox-hunting? I like it when there's fox-hunting. Someone will come a cropper, I feel it in my water. The edition I've just begun is in the Oxford Classics series, a beautiful format 6x3.75 inches, virtually the golden section with a dust cover for 1Euro.
Wednesday, 5 April 2017
It might well be insisted that you either understand or you don’t, there is no liminal condition. Understanding is a success verb. When you understand you’re there, you’ve got it. That is the rigorist view and it has its place in the Q.E.D. world of Euclidean demonstration. What of the more hazy world of philosophy, politics and economics in which understanding is vague and can be said to dawn where there is a gradation of let us call it nous factor from one to five, i.e. from god like clarity to ‘sit down O’Toole you’re wasting the time of the class’.
Sometimes understanding is at the tip of your mind, it’s dawning; the night of inconscience is giving way to the bulking shadows of cows and trees. Philosophy of a certain sort has this gradualism of understanding. Even the hyper-smart philosophers of the Partially Examined Podcast speak of the initial recoil from the counter intuitive theories of Bergson
P.E.L. on Bergson
to a later feeling that there was a profound point that required time to develop.
The First Rule of the Podcast is: Only talk about the set text. That is a limitation for the discussion of difficult Bergsonian concepts of intuition, image, duration etc. The text in question was an essay Introduction to Metaphysics first published in 1903 and included in the book The Creative Mind.
In an essay on philosophical intuition, in the same book, he discusses the difficulty of attaining the intuition of Berkeley. What was his sense of the wholeness of things, that unbroken continuity, that plenum. and not merely the elements lain side by side which we get in any account of his thought? Bergson in the attempt to draw us into his own intuitions of the real used analogies and metaphors which highlights his idea that the image is next to the intuition. An analogy is, so to speak, an active image and can function as a portal to the central intuition. Here I think is the key to deep understanding and how it might relate to Coleridge and the adhiropa/apavada of Advaita is something I will have discern through the fog of inconscience. Later.
Friday, 31 March 2017
The whole difficulty of the problem that occupies us comes from the fact that we imagine perception to be a kind of photographic view of things, taken from a fixed point by that special apparatus which is called an organ of perception - a photograph which would then be developed in the brain-matter by some unknown chemical and psychical process of elaboration. But is it not obvious that the photograph, if photograph there be, is already taken, already developed in the very heart of things and at all the points of space? No metaphysics, no physics even, can escape this conclusion. Build up the universe with atoms each of them is subject to the action, variable in quantity and quality according to the distance, exerted on it by all material atoms. Bring in Faraday's centres of force: the lines of force emitted in every direction from every centre bring, to bear upon each the influences of the whole material world. Call up the Leibnizian monads: each is (pg 32) the mirror of the universe. All philosophers, then, agree on this point. Only if when we consider any other given place in the universe we can regard the action of all matter as passing through it without resistance and without loss, and the photograph of the whole as translucent: here there is wanting behind the plate the black screen on which the image could be shown. Our ‘zones of indetermination' play in some sort the part of the screen. They add nothing to what is there; they effect merely this: that the real action passes through, the virtual action remains.(from Matter and Memory pub.1896)
Thursday, 30 March 2017
I have been watching the youtube lectures of Dr.Robbins and they are an excellent way of getting a grasp of the exceptionally complex and difficult thought of Henri Bergson. What I found particularly useful was his explication of the concept of images. The analogy that he uses is that of holographic reconstructive waves. Until they are used there is no imageable content. It looks nothing like what was first projected in the initial wave. The brain is the instrument of the reconstructive wave. Now it may seem anachronistic to apply such an analogy to Bergson's thought on the image but in fact he prefigured the theory in Matter and Memory when he stated that the brain was not the repository for images, like an album of photographs but that in fact the photo was out there already taken. I found this illuminating.
The concept of the image in general is like an iron mountain creating deviation into the classic patterns of thinking about it. Sartre's critique of Bergson on the nature of the image is selected by Robbins for castigation. One doubts that the notion of the hologram ever came up in the interminable discussions in the Dome.
Sartre and Bergson
Tuesday, 28 March 2017
we believe a thing when we are prepared to act as if it were true. Now, if you and I had not habitually acted on the assumption of the uniformity of nature from the time when we could act at all, we should not be here to discuss the question. Nature its selecting for survival those individuals and races who act as if she were uniform ; and hence the gradual spread of that belief over the civilised world.
This uniformity may be merely a uniformity of phenomena, a law relating to my feelings. So long as I only am concerned, it seems to me that the idealist theory is perfectly sufficient. It is quite capable of explaining me but when you come into the question it is perfectly at a loss. ... I do believe that you are conscious in the same way that I am ; and once that is conceded, the whole idealist theory falls to pieces. For there are feelings which are not my feelings, which are entirely outside my consciousness; so that there is at least an external world. But let us consider now in what way we infer it; why do I believe that there are feelings which are not mine ] Because, as I belong to a gregarious race, the greater part of my life consists in acting upon the position that it is true,
Thus spake William Kingdom Clifford as quoted by William Hurrell Mallock in his review (included in Atheism and the Value of Life) of the Essays and Lectures of same (Lectures and Essays by the late William Kingtdom Clifford, F.R.S. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Frederick Pollock, with an Introduction by F. Pollock. Two vols. 8vo. London : 1879.)
It is just on this external world idea that Mallock finds the error in his thought and the inconsistency in the well known principle concerning the ethics of belief. Gregariousness seems a frail foundation for belief in the external world. It is an impasse for Clifford particularly as he holds that all knowledge is based on experience:
How,'he says,'this inference is justified, how consciousness can testify to any thing outside itself,I do not pretend to say .I need not untie a knot that the world has cut for me long ago....The jwsition of absolute idealism may therefore be left out of count, although each individual may be unable to justify his dissent from it.
Perhaps Clifford might have been wiser to say that experience is itself the proof of the external world or is the world rather than a proof of the external world. I think I mean something by that. Invarient events imply invarient structure. We know from the work of Piaget that it takes time in the early life of a human being to establish this.
Clifford reflects on the ding an sich and ventures a theory:
The thing in itself is, he tells us, elementary feeling, mind-stuff, or quasi-mind ; and this is known to us as matter. With every moving molecule of matter there moves also a small particle of mind-stuff which is attached to it.
This form of panpsychism, of feeling without consciousness, seems to have come round again. He was the first to take it up in the English speaking world. As with others who followed him in that philosophy it appears to be a naturalistic answer to the problem of how consciousness could have emerged given the fact of evolution. Mallock finds it incomprehensible.
If what we have said applied to Clifford only, it would hardly perhaps have been worth saying ; but, as we have observed already, it applies not to Clifford only, but to the whole modern school. If, as many think, that school is a really formidable foe to religion, it will be at any rate some comfort to know that it will certainly not destroy religion by replacing it. Its prestige, further, will be rendered less formidable if we reflect on how one of its best instructed and most gifted spokesmen has exhibited himself in these two volumes as hopelessly untrained in philosophy, hopelessly ill-read in history, and without the smallest grasp of that refractory human character of which he boasts that in the future his school will have the sole guidance.
Much as I sympathise with Mallock's views it the following citation is more the bay of the liberal intelligentsia:
Only for another half-century let us keep our heavens and "hells and gods." It is a piteous plea; and it has soiled the hearts of these prophets, great ones and blessed, giving light to their generation, and dear in particular to our own mind and heart. These sickly dreams of hysterical women and half-starved men, what have they to do with the strength of the wide-eyed hero, who fears no foe with pen or club . . . That which you keep in your heart, my brothers, is the slender remnant of a system which has made its red mark on history, and still lives to threaten mankind. The grotesque forms of its intellectual belief have survived the discredit of its moral teaching. Of this what the kings could bear with the nations have cut down; and what the nations left the right heart of man by man revolts against day by day. You have stretched out your hands to save the dregs of the sifted sediment of a residuum. Take heed lest you have given soil and shelter to that awful plague which has destroyed two civilisations and but barely failed to slay such promise of good as is now struggling to live among men.'(from Clifford)
Thursday, 23 March 2017
Analogies are fluid devices that can easily be expanded to comedic levels. If I were were to say to you:
- I feel like my life is a play, a drama that will end inconsequentially.
You might respond:
- Have you forgotten your lines, or are you being upstaged by a clever dog?
Philosophical analogies or improvised epistemological devices can likewise expand past their original intent, not explosively but of the order of a trick cigar. The superimposition (adhyasa) snake/rope analogy has a slight touch of this. We can break it down into it two parts:
(a) Something is transferred to the mind of the percipient
(b) And this something is false.
There is in the preamble to the Brahma Sutra Bhasya a recognition of the aporetic nature of perception, namely - how is it possible given the disjunction between the conscious and the inert. This is the (a) part often termed the chit/jada granthi (the knot between the inert and the conscious).
Generally though (a) and (b) are run together as a unit even though Shankara plays down the mechanism by which it happens as not being relevant to his main point which is the demonstration of transfer of the object into the mind of the percipient. The paradox of the false perception being the exemplar of any perception has not been remarked on.
The (a) + (b) understanding is spun out into - only two perceptible things can be confused, both must have a potentially objective status. Shankara counters this, asserting that both elements do not have to be perceptible. Is this a defence of the original analogy or a wholly new understanding which refers back to (a)? That has the flavour of the adhiropa/apavada strategy.