motto lotto

Saturday, August 30, 2008

back to the rough ground!

107. The more narrowly we examine actual language, the sharper becomes the conflict between it and our requirement. (For the crystalline purity of logic was, of course, not a result of investigation: it was a requirement.) The conflict becomes intolerable; the requirement is now in danger of becoming empty.--We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk: so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

116. When philosophers use a word--"knowledge","being","object","I","proposition","name"-- and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must always ask oneself: is the word ever actually used this way in the language-game which is its original home?--

What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use.

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Friday, August 29, 2008

"meaning of life" video game

You play as Tim, a tiny character scuttling his way across the screen through a series of mind-bending puzzles. You have to figure out when to move forward and backward in time.

As you play more, you realize that Tim has a lonely past — and is alienated from his lady love. And that all the moving backward and forward in time is a metaphor for Tim's attempts to figure out what went wrong in his relationship and where exactly he fits into the universe. When you rewind time, the screen turns red and the music plays backwards — it's disconcerting and disorienting, just as plumbing your own past can be unsettling.

"It's a meaning-of-life kind of game," says Braid designer Jonathan Blow. "Everything about our daily lives that we consider meaningful is predicated on the difference between past and future.

Roberts also says that unlike most game makers, who test-market their games incessantly, Blow wasn't trying to satisfy any particular audience. Rather, he felt driven to make the game, if for no other reason than to please himself.

Xbox's 'Braid' A Surprise Hit, For Surprising Reasons (
What's interesting to me here is not so much the game itself as the drives at work in the person who created it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

glenn greenwald on the DNC

..there is almost no mention of, let alone focus on, the sheer radicalism and extremism of the last eight years. During that time, our Government has systematically tortured people using sadistic techniques ordered by the White House; illegally and secretly spied on its own citizens; broken more laws than can be counted based on the twisted theory that the President has that power; asserted the authority to arrest and detain even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and hold them for years without charges; abolished habeas corpus; created secret prisons in Eastern Europe and a black hole of lawlessness in Guantanamo; and explicitly abandoned and destroyed virtually every political value the U.S. has long claimed to embrace.
Even our unprovoked and indescribably destructive attack on Iraq, based on purely false pretenses, has received little attention. Those things simply don't exist, even as part of the itemized laundry list of Democratic grievances about the Bush administration. The overriding impression one has is that the only things really wrong during the last eight years in this country are that gas prices are high and not everyone has health insurance. Those are obviously very significant problems, but they are garden-variety political issues which don't begin to capture the extremism that has predominated in this country under GOP rule, and don't remotely approach conveying the crises on numerous fronts the country faces.

What's missing from the Democratic convention? -Glenn Greenwald

I'm not sure about everyone else but i'm not behind the dems because of their take on the economy or health care (though I often prefer their positions and the term 'liberal' doesn't scare me). I'm behind them this time because everything is so messed up and i'm not up for more of the same. But it's becoming harder and harder to get behind any of these political charlatans (not that it wasn't hard to begin with) when they often refuse to even talk about the most important issues or take good stands on the most important issues (FISA) because of "political realities". Real change is probably going to have to come from a social movement, that's probably the best place to put energy. Vote well but if you want something to be done about the issues you care about you have to try to tackle them as directly as possible.

Accountability Now -Greenwald
Change Congress -Lessig
The Eternal Value of Privacy -Bruce Schneier blog

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

literary criticism

I've been working through The Art of the Short Story. Unfortunately, when I came across this section I noticed some factual errors.

Don't be afraid, what we're doing here is completely natural.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ongoing attempts to defy the 'unitary executive'

This article is worth reading if you haven't.
On July 3, Chief Judge Vaughn Walker of the U.S. District Court in California made a ruling particularly worthy of the nation's attention. In Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. v. Bush, a key case in the epic battle over warrantless spying inside the United States, Judge Walker ruled, effectively, that President George W. Bush is a felon.

Judge Walker held that the president lacks the authority to disregard the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA -- which means Bush's warrantless electronic surveillance program was illegal. Whether Bush will ultimately be held accountable for violating federal law with the program remains unclear. Bush administration lawyers have fought vigorously -- at times using brazen, logic-defying tactics -- to prevent that from happening. The court battle will continue to play out as Congress continues to battle over recasting FISA and possibly granting immunity to telecom companies involved in the illegal surveillance.

The story of how Al-Haramain's lawyers negotiated the journey thus far to Judge Walker's ruling -- a team of seven lawyers that includes me -- sheds light on how much is at stake for the Bush administration and the country. It is a surreal saga, involving a top-secret document accidentally released by the government, a showdown between Bush lawyers and a federal judge, the violent destruction of a laptop computer by government agents, and possibly even the top-secret shredding of a banana peel.
Our proof is a top-secret classified document, which the government accidentally gave to Al-Haramain's lawyers in August of 2004. We call it "the Document." It appeared in a stack of unclassified materials that the lawyers had requested from OFAC. Six weeks later, after the government realized its blunder, FBI agents personally visited each of the lawyers and made them return their copies of the Document. But the agents made no effort to retrieve copies that the lawyers had given to two members of Al-Haramain's board of directors, who lived outside the United States.

I can't publicly reveal what's in the Document because, well, it's a secret. I would be committing a crime -- a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 -- if I were to do so. But we assert the Document as proof of allegations we have made that in March and April of 2004 the National Security Agency conducted warrantless electronic surveillance of attorney-client communications between a representative of Al-Haramain and two of its attorneys, and that in May of 2004 the NSA gave logs of those surveilled communications to OFAC.

Suing George W. Bush: A bizarre and troubling tale

Friday, August 22, 2008

Vonnegut on the moderately gifted person

tapdancer, source: wikipedia
I think that could go back to the time when people had to live in small groups of relatives--maybe fifty or a hundred people at most. And evolution--or God or whatever--arranged things genetically, to keep the little families going, to cheer them up, so that they could all have somebody to tell stories around the campfire at night, and somebody else to paint pictures on the walls of the caves, and somebody else who wasn't afraid of everything and so on.

That's what I think. And of course a scheme like that doesn't make sense anymore, because simply moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but the world's champions.

The entire planet can get along nicely now with maybe a dozen champion performers in each area of human giftedness. A moderately gifted person has to keep his or her gifts all bottled up until, in a manner of speaking, he or she gets drunk at a wedding and tap dances on the coffee table like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. We have a name for him or her. We call him or her an "exhibitionist."

How do we reward such an exhibitionist? We say to him or her the next morning, "Wow! Were you ever drunk last night!"

Kurt Vonnegut - Bluebeard
I was going to say, "but Kurt, now we have the internet where even those moderately gifted exhibitionists sometimes get their five minutes of fame." But someone already beat me to it -- "There ARE a million monkeys sitting at a million keyboards, but the internet looks nothing at all like Shakespeare."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

wonder bread

Wonder Bread Logo - Source: wikipedia8/18/2008

To me, understanding philosophical paradigms is primarily about interpersonal relationships. Understanding a person is roughly equivalent to understanding a philosophical paradigm. More often than not, the former is more valuable than the latter but the realms aren't entirely distinct.

This understanding, combined with wonder, is the essence of philosophy.

Note: my new thing-- standing around pointing and naming the essence of things

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the "ancient" midwest

THE earthworks left behind by the long vanished civilizations of the Midwest are harder to spot than the pueblos and kivas of Arizona and New Mexico. For a long time many of them were hidden in plain sight or dismissed as little more than heaps of soil. But the more today’s archaeologists learn about the Midwestern mounds, the more intriguing is the picture that emerges from 1,000 or more years ago: a city with thousands of people just a few miles from present-day St. Louis, a 1,348-foot earthen serpent that points to the summer solstice, artifacts made of materials that could only have arrived over lengthy trade routes.

Ancient Midwest Keith Mulvihill (nytimes)
Something to explore next time I'm in St. Louis.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Edwards on Heidegger and Wittgenstein

Just got back from backpacking.A couple interesting quotes from this book review of The Authority of Language: Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and the Threat of Philosophical Nihilism - James C. Edwards.

Edwards connects representational thinking with nihilism in terms of a reading of Heidegger's interpretation of Nietzsche's discussion of nihilism, which Edwards "most emphatically" judges to be a poor reading of Nietzsche (18).

Edwards mentions but does not discuss Heidegger's actual involvement with Hitler's political program, but he does discuss the political direction of Heidegger's path beyond representational thinking. That direction is away from the rational criticism so characteristic of Socratic inquiry and enlightenment politics. Though he concedes Heidegger would quickly reject any identification of LANGUAGE with a particular deity or leader, Edwards is convinced that the position of LANGUAGE in the later thought of Heidegger is pervaded by what he calls a "totalitarian architecture" (226).

Wittgenstein's turn away from representational thinking is also a turn from the attempt to understand or represent linguistic practice as a calculus. Since rules need to be interpreted and rules don't interpret themselves, there must be more to language than a calculus of rules. But interpretation itself won't be the answer, because interpretations-no less than the voices of angels or the whispers of LANGUAGE-are in precisely the position that rules are in. They stand in need of interpretation. According to Wittgenstein, linguistic practice rests on the "brute fact that most of us are able to master certain physical routines of appropriate imitation and continuation" (156). In the end, language leans neither on far-sighted calculation, nor on pious listening, but on "utter contingency" (239).

Edwards emphasizes that Wittgenstein does not replace the authority of rational principles with the authority of a mysterious, primordial LANGUAGE. But he cautions that this does not mean anything goes. Languages lean on the authority of nature, our natural reactions. These natural facts are not unified in any person or principle; they are dispersed and various. They include our having upright posture and our being likely to notice this and to laugh at that: the whole of the biological dimension-there are others-of what Wittgenstein calls forms of life.

The central difference between Heidegger's and Wittgenstein's turn away from the principles-rules-of the enlightenment is that Wittgenstein proposes "a grammatical dispersal of authority, not its centralization" and mystification (227). Edwards calls him a "polytheistic thinker;" thus implicitly contrasting Heidegger's monotheism (227). In this way Wittgenstein's path away from the enlightenment does not, like Heidegger's, lead in a totalitarian direction.
"Polytheistic" is a great term to play with but maybe "pluralistic" would be sufficient there. Bearn goes on to suggest Wittgenstein's take may not be totalitarian but that it may not stand up well to charges that it is oligarchic.

Related: Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Zen, Wittgenstein and the inescapable

Monday, August 11, 2008

Handey and Heidegger on tradition

another backpacking picA Heidegger quote I actually like this time--
The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, can bring about nothing in itself other than self-deception and blindness in relation to the historical moment.

Martin Heidegger - The Age of the World Picture
We tend to scoff at the beliefs of the ancients. But we can't scoff at them personally, to their faces, and this is what annoys me.

Jack Handey
Anyone got a better Handey quote on tradition?

only 20 days left to vote - Heidegger vs. Handey

Friday, August 8, 2008

Hip Hop philosophy

Talib Kweli - Source: WikipediaTalib Kweli vs. Seneca
What have you done with your life?
Everybody time comes to be embraced by the light
You only scared to die when you ain't livin right, man

Talib Kweli - Good Mourning 1 audio
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death's final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.

Seneca 2

Outkast vs. Montaigne (Erasmus)
I know you'd like to think your shit don't stink
But lean a little bit closer
See that roses really smell like boo-boo
Yeah, roses really smell like boo-boo

Outkast - Roses 3
As it was ingeniously and aptly put by the man who first said it: 'Stercus cuique suum bene olet.' [Everyone's shit smells good to himself.]
If we had sound nostrils our shit ought to stink all the more for being our own.

Michel de Montaigne 4

Thursday, August 7, 2008

on gaining "sound nostrils"

Montaigne on conversation, education, reproach, form vs. substance.
You are in quest of what is. Why on earth do you set out to walk that road with a man who has neither pace nor style? We do no wrong to the subject-matter if we depart from it in order to examine the way to treat it - I do not mean a scholastic donnish way, I mean a natural way, based on a healthy intellect. But what happens in the end? One goes east and the other west; they lose the fundamental point in the confusion of a mass of incidentals. After a tempestuous hour they no longer know what they are looking for. One man is beside the bull's eye, the other too high, the other too low. One fastens on a word or a comparison; another no longer sees his opponent's arguments, being too caught up in his own train of thought: he is thinking of pursuing his own argument not yours. Another, realizing he is weak in the loins, is afraid of everything, denies everything and, from the outset, muddles and confuses the argument, or else, at the climax of the debate he falls into a rebellious total silence, affecting, out of morose ignorance, a haughty disdain or an absurdly modest desire to avoid contention. Yet another does not care how much he drops his own guard provided that he can hit you. Another counts every word and believes they are as weighty as reasons. This man merely exploits the superior power of his voice and lungs. And then there is the man who sums up against himself; and the other who deafens you with useless introductions and digressions. Another is armed with pure insults and picks a groundless 'German quarrel' so as to free himself from the company and conversation of a mind which presses hard on his own.

Lastly, there is the man who cannot see reason but holds you under siege within a hedge of dialectical conclusions and logical formulae. Who can avoid beginning to distrust our professional skills and doubt whether we can extract from them any solid profit of practical use in life when he reflects on the use we put them to? 'Nihil sanantibus litteris.' [Such erudition as has no power to heal.] Has anyone ever acquired intelligence through logic? Where are her beautiful promises? 'Nec ad melius vivendum nec ad commodius disserendum.' [She teaches neither how to live a better life nor how to argue properly.] Is there more of a hotchpotch in the cackle of fishwives than in the public disputations of men who profess logic? I would prefer a son of mine to learn to talk in the tavern rather than in our university yap-shops.
Let him remove his academic hood, his gown and his Latin; let him stop battering our ears with raw chunks of pure Aristotle; why, you would take him for one of us - or worse. The involved linguistic convolutions with which they confound us remind me of conjuring tricks: their slight-of-hand has compelling force over our senses but it in no wise shakes our convictions. Apart from such jugglery they achieve nothing but what is base and ordinary. They may be more learned but they are no less absurd.
In my part of the country and during my own lifetime school-learning has brought amendment of purse but rarely amendment of soul.
The world is but a school of inquiry. The question is not who will spear the ring but who will make the best charges at it. The man who says what is true can act as foolishly as the one who says what is untrue: we are talking about the way you say it not what you say. My humour is to consider the form as much as the substance, and the barrister as much as his case, as Alcibiades told us to. Every day I spend time reading my authors, not caring about their learning, looking not for their subject-matter but how they handle it; just as I go in pursuit of discussion with a celebrated mind not to be taught by it but to get to know it.


It is not merely the reproaches which we make to each other which can be regularly turned against us but also our reasons and our arguments in matters of controversy: we run ourselves through with our own swords. As it was ingeniously and aptly put by the man who first said it: 'Stercus cuique suum bene olet.' [Everyone's shit smells good to himself.]

Our eyes see nothing behind us. A hundred times a day when we go mocking our neighbor we are really mocking ourselves; we abominate in others those faults which are most manifestly our own, and, with a miraculous lack of shame and perspicacity, are astonished by them.
I do not mean that nobody should make indictments unless he is spotless; if that were so no one would make them. What I mean is that when our judgement brings a charge against another man over a matter then in question, it must not exempt us from an internal judicial inquiry. It is a work of charity for a man who is unable to weed out a defect in himself to try, nevertheless, to weed it out in another in whom the seedling may be less malignant and stubborn. And it never seems to me to be an appropriate answer to anyone who warns me of a fault in me to say that he has it too. What difference does that make? The warning remains true and useful. If we had sound nostrils our shit ought to stink all the more for being our own.

On the art of conversation - Michel de Montaigne 1

Monday, August 4, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn - "A World Split Apart"

Alexander Solzhenitsyn RIP (1918-2008)
If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge, we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

From A World Split Apart (1978)

Though I'm not the fan I used to be, he lived an extraordinary life and had some great things to say.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Jack Handey vs Martin Heidegger

Earth - Source:wikipediaIn my ongoing fatuous quest to determine the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, today I'll compare a quote from Jack Handey and Martin Heidegger.
What is a world picture? Obviously, a picture of the world. But what does "world" mean here? What does "picture" mean? "World" serves here as a name for what is, in its entirety. The name is not limited to the cosmos, to nature. History also belongs to the world. Yet even nature and history, and both interpenetrating in their underlying and transcending of one another, do not exhaust the world. In this designation the ground of the world is meant also, no matter how its relation to the world is thought.

Heidegger - The Age of the World Picture

[a couple more pages defining 'picture' follow]
Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself. Basically, it's made up of two separate words — "mank" and "ind." What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that's why so is mankind.

Handey - Deeper Thoughts: All New, All Crispy (1993)

Who is the greater philosopher? Mankind may never know.

More quotes-- Handey and Heidegger on tradition

Update 8/4: Charlie Huenemann has a follow up to this post.
It looks like Handey is still out in front.