Monday, November 20, 2017

To take literature seriously is to believe it reveals how language and experience are related. Writing, we imagine, is a sort of controlled experiment in living with meaning, affording precise observations of the connection between words and deeds. Perhaps it is the radical difference between the black marks on the page and the bruised skin of the body that suggests this precision.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Life is a series of simple pleasures foregone in pursuit of superior amusements.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A thing (among other things) is experienced,
immediately and specifically, in intuition.
The object is thought in general
and mediated by the concept.

The self (and the other) is experienced,
immediately and specifically, in institution.
The subject is felt in general
and mediated by the emotion.

In imagination, they are brought together.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"It took eighteen centuries of Christendom before Kierkegaard could come back alive with the knowledge that ... the characteristic way modern man found knowledge of his soul [was] ... by the act of perceiving that he was most certainly losing it." —Norman Mailer, preface to Deaths for the Ladies (and Other Disasters)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Pater Humilias

But you must know your father lost his name,
That father named, lost his, and the children bound
In filial abasement for some term
To feel their father's shame. But to persevere
In base humiliation is a course
Of impious stubbornness. 'Tis inhuman guilt.
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschooled.
For what we know must be and is as common
As any vulgar outrage is to sense,
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie! 'Tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the family, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is humiliation of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first course till he that was shamed today,
“This must be so.”

Homo Ignavus

Will the Age of Social Media be remembered as the evolutionary niche that selected for cowardice?

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Memo to John Keats from Ezra Pound

Truth is truth, justice justice.
Beauty is difficult.


"The problems arising through a misinterpretation of our forms of language have the character of depth. They are deep disquietudes; their roots are as deep in us as the forms of our language and their significance is as great as the importance of our language. Let us ask ourselves: why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep? (And that is what the depth of philosophy is.)" (Wittgenstein, PI§111)

"At least my theory of technique, if I have one, is very far from original; nor is it complicated. I can express it in fifteen words, by quoting The Eternal Question And Immortal Answer of burlesk, viz. "Would you hit a woman with a child?—No, I'd hit her with a brick." Like the burlesk comedian, I am abnormally fond of the precision which creates movement." (E. E. Cummings, preface to is 5)

Thursday, November 02, 2017


When the scientist no longer believes in truth,
When the politician no more desires justice,
When the priest no longer keeps the faith,
When the artist dwells no more with beauty...

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Is it possible that our understanding of the soul has advanced as much as our understanding of the world over the past 5000 years? Or is it rather that we learned of the soul first and have pushed the boundary of our ignorance steadily outwards?

Is it sometimes necessary to be inauthentic in order to be virtuous?

It would seem that it is sometimes necessary to be inauthentic in order be virtuous because the good man seeks perfection and no man is perfect. An ethical life is grounded in habits and some habits are good while others are bad. Thus, at times, the good man must thwart his own desires in the pursuit of justice, and authenticity is to live in accordance with one's own desires. Therefore it is sometimes necessary to be inauthentic in order to be virtuous.

On the contrary, a tedious old fool says, "This above all: to thine ownself be true."

I answer that, It is never necessary to be inauthentic in order to be virtuous, for the desire for perfection is the mark of the good man, and he who breaks with the bad habits that he has in order to acquire better habits that are not yet his is living in accordance with a desire that is higher, and thus more virtuous, than the man who is content to be himself as he is. Virtue is not a state but a power; one is never in a good place but, when virtuous, on a good way. A man is only truly himself insofar as he betters himself.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

We are given
to know the fact,
to believe the claim,
to understand the statement,

to imagine the picture
and the procedure,

to obey the command,
to desire the outcome,
to master the act,
which takes us.



This should perhaps be ramified as follows (though it loses some pith here as its aim improves):

We are given
(in these empty spaces)
to know the fact,
(on pain of ignorance)
to believe the claim,
(on pain of doubt)
to understand the statement,
(on pain of confusion)

to imagine the picture
and the procedure,
(on pain of dullness,
on pain of darkness)

to obey the command,
(on pain of disloyalty)
to desire the outcome,
(on pain of misery)
to master the act,
(on pain of impotence)
which takes us
(in the fullness of time).

What is Art?

Perhaps it's not what it is
but what it should be,
perhaps it's not what it should be
but what it pretends
to be. Perhaps it is
what it should pretend to be.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Passion is as distinctly human as reason.

We are as connected by our reasons as our passions.

(It should perhaps be said that philosophers and poets are often most instructive in their failures. We admire philosophers for their misunderstandings, and our poets, for their disobedience.)

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The philosopher tries to understand how imagination makes knowledge possible.

Imagination also makes power actual. The poet tries to obey.

You do not know what you do not believe,
nor believe what you cannot understand,
nor can you understand what you will not imagine.

Who you do not imagine, you cannot obey,
Who you cannot obey, you will not desire,
Who you do not desire, cannot master you.

Belief is to desire as knowledge to power,
as understanding to obedience.
In imagination, they find composure.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Those who will not face their ignorance cannot grow in knowledge.

Those who cannot manage their impotence will not grow in power.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Photons are the lightest things in the universe.
And when heavy metals are created in the collision of dark stars,
gravity waves ripple through space-time.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Your subjective passions shape your desires. They are not objective reasons to hold your beliefs. There is a passion to seek a reason. But the passion is not itself a reason. Nor does the passion invalidate the reason once it's found.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The right to enjoy bourgeois pleasures is predicated on the obligation to maintain our institutions. This, perhaps more than anything else, explains the crippling, joyless guilt of the middle class.

There is something unsettling about hearing the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy announce that the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature will be given to Kazuo Ishiguro for "uncover[ing] the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world". After all, the Nobel Prize in Physics this year was given to Rainer Weiss, Barry Barish and Kip Thorne "for decisive contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves." Gravity waves presumably exist.

Has the Swedish Academy declared my sense of connection with the world illusory? Has Kazuo Ishiguro proved the existence of an abyss beneath my being? Has he discovered my nothingness?

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The image is
thought by the mind,
felt in the heart.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The water is still and dark.

The hand passes
through the surface
as the eye dwells
on the appearance.

The water is shimmering and wet.

Sunday, October 01, 2017


Beneath an ethical life,
the daily grind.

Beneath the grind,
political struggle.

Beneath the struggle,
a killing field.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

As you are distressed
by my reasons,
I am confused
by your passions.


Distress is a decomposition of passion. Confusion is a decomposition of reason.

Reason finds its composure by distinguishing things clearly from each other. Passion finds its composure in our intense identification with each other as people.

To distress is to "draw apart" to the point of suffering. To confuse is to "pour together" insufferably.

Composure, then, is a very precise kind of suffering. It is where things are kept apart despite our passions, and where people are kept together despite our reasons. It finds a balance of clarity and intensity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Disobeying Hitler is not a way of obeying your muse.

Misunderstanding Heidegger is not a way of understanding your existence.