No misdeed, no crime, no tragedy fills the op-ed pages of top American newspapers quicker than an elite college admissions scandal. Injustices surely more heinous happen every day, such that a cynic might begin to wonder if all those deeply personal expressions of indignation are less about systematic assaults on equality than they are about stolen valor.
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Fallacies Left and Right
Having watched some of the Cohen testimony this week and more importantly the reaction of congressional Republicans to it, I’m reminded of an apothegm that I’ve rehearsed in my head for years nearly certain that I didn’t come up with it myself:
We’ve seen from the coffeehouse commissars in the West in the time of Stalin that the fallacy of the Left is thinking that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.
But the Right has its own enduring fallacy: that godless men can do God’s work. That’s what they thought in 1930s Europe. It’s what they thought in 1970-80s Latin America. And it’s what they’re fooling themselves into thinking today.
If you can’t persuade your MAGA family or friends to come over to your side (and you probably cannot), it’s worth it at least to remind them that you know the song their singing.
Lakes are people, my friend
Pride in place came a little too late. Kudos to my former home!
In general, it’s an interesting response to the abdication of regulatory authority by the governmental agencies responsible for environmental, labor, and consumer protection. If, under neoliberal governance, the only right respected is the right to private ownership, then everything should be made a private owner.
The eyes have hills
Bergson famously pointed out that we’re almost totally incapable of speaking about time without the language of space. And in order to do so, Bergson found that he had to bracket time altogether, imagining a language of duration. What’s presupposed here is that thought without language is nearly impossible. In order to go further into the metaphysics of change and integrity, we have to go back through the linguistic maze by another entrance.
The other day, for the first time in ages, I put on contact lenses. What I saw in the mirror was the equivalent of looking underneath my skin. I saw what I had very quietly assumed but never needed to think about because I have either been too blind to see it in detail or else it was obscured by the frames of my glasses: there’s a topography to my eyes. Noticing a few scattered bits of gray on my temples or chin is nothing like the sudden appearance of crescent valleys, bulging peaks, and dried up river beds stretching over my very own ocular cavities. Ageing is no longer just something my peers have been up to.
I’m sure that’s why my dreams of late have been about present problems and problem figures invading the sanctuary of my youth. Worries and regrets invert the careful set design of my adolescent plays, and I can’t remember any of my blocking.
All of this–I think–is also tied into the realization that in a few short months it’ll have been a year living in another country. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been dwelling so much lately on Tommy Saxondale’s (Steve Coogan’s greatest creation) eloquent quotation of Hartley: The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
Bergson said that when time calls, it’s space that answers. But I think that’s only true when we’re trying to articulate the present as a device taking in the past and spitting out the future, like the endless strip of tape on a Turing machine. Or, more to the point, the Turing tape may be what time has to be in language. But whether you think of the ontology of time as Bergsonian duration or, as Heidegger would have it, the pulse of a present arrangement, I think that when it comes to time, there’s a third mediating term between language and reality. When when we look at time, it’s place that looks back. Yes, the past is a foreign country, a place distant from the place we presently stand. But as a place (actually, manifold places), the past is also relational distances, distances between those which inhabit that place. Which means that it cannot be condensed and replicated as a file in some world hard drive.
–To hastily conclude because I’ve run out of time and am unlikely to return to this post soon–
Presumably the same is true of the future. From this, we can take a couple things. First, the space-place contrast suggests that there is indeed non-representational, non-symbolic thought. Thought mediates itself. Second, aesthetics has to be at the root of anticipatory practices about the future. I’m currently thinking about the possible anticipatory practices of embodied machines, and that second point is going to be tricky. But we’ve got to start there. More ideas about that to come.
New article in Open Philosophy
My last post was all of those months ago when I was at the brainstorming stages of this article, which eventually became “How to be a Realist about Similarity: Towards a Theory of Features in Object-Oriented Philosophy.” You can see it here.
There are also many other amazing pieces published in this inaugural issue. I’m making my way through them and would encourage you to do the same.
Global Warming and the Poetics of Experience; or WHINGE is my Factory Setting.
First, a personal whinge: In the months leading to my move to Sweden, I followed the local weather pretty closely in order to get a baseline. It seems that they had a late start on winter, but when the snow did arrive, it kept coming. All the way to April. As the months before my departure became weeks and days, I became far more concerned with what still needed be done in Toledo. And by the time I got on the plane, I had no specific idea about what kind of ground conditions to expect when I landed. But I had heard that things stayed pretty wet and cool until July, so I happily packed my rain jacket into my backpack with a near certainty that I’d have to pull it out as soon as I stepped out of baggage claim.
When I say “I happily packed my rain jacket,” I mean just that. I was happy. Not just that I’d be prepared, but because I like cool, dreary days. I always have. Mind you, I don’t walk around with black eyeliner and I’m not at all displeased that Friday I’m in Love is only Cure song most people know. And yes, there is a point of diminishing returns if it stays dreary for too long. But I generally like my days in grey tone.
For one, the heat is not a good look for me. I sweat a lot. And excessive sweat does ugly things to curly hair and a ruddy complexion. Ugly things. Imagine Dylan Thomas in a sauna. Or don’t.
For another, the sun has always seemed to me a sort of luciferian figure. Yes it illuminates the world for us; but when you actually walk around in the sunshine, your head is forever bowed. When it’s too bright, the ground in front of you is all there really is to look at. But on a grey day, light is less homogeneous. It breaks for the turn of a single leaf and the whole cityscape alike. The world is less illuminated, but the things in it are more vibrant.
The Onion or NYT Op-ed?
Columbia professor who sabbaticaled in France for a year reports that Europeans take a much more nuanced approach to things.
I am well aware of the excesses of so-called identity liberalism; but out here in the provinces, it is not just a play thing of the bored, hyper-privileged kids who populate Professor Lilla’s classroom (who will be fine no matter what they look like, no matter who is president). Out here, being black and female and gay and poor and Muslim still burns white hot with political energy. Identity politics was not the undoing of the Clinton campaign, but perhaps the failure to address geographical identity was. Lilla is from Detroit. He should know better.
these angels are not the better.