Dried Roses

Des jouebs, des blogues, des blogs

  • Cor ne edito
    Des citations presque exclusivement. On y lira par ex. Leibniz, Bacon, Héraclite. Matière à penser ou à se distraire.
  • Ad Usum Delphinorum
    Comme “Cor ne edito”, à quelques notes personnelles près. Fontenelle, Nietzsche, Henri Corbin.
  • La Bibliothèque du XXIe siècle
    Des livres et des auteurs, par ex. Nicole Loraux, Maurice Olender, Patrice Flem. Bonus: une centaine de textes classiques au CNAM. Pour d’autres textes, voyez ClicNet à Swarthmore.
  • Bartlebooth
    M. Bartlebooth est le personnage centrale du roman La vie mode d’emploi de Georges Perec. Derrière son nom se cachent le Bartleby de Melville et le Barnabooth de Larbaud. Dans ce journal on trouve des notes sur la littérature, la critique, et les mots; des photos aussi. Added 5 Mar 2005: The link above is to the new location, but I haven’t yet succeeded in reaching it.
  • Calligraphie
    Le forum de toutes les écritures. Des avis techniques, des galéries.
  • Le trésor de la Langue Française Informatisée
    Au CNRS. Comme l’OED en anglais: les définitions sont rangées dans l’ordre historique avec des citations. On peut chercher aussi par “domaine technique”, e.g. ‘épistémologie’. Voyez aussi l’ATILF (Analyse et Traitement Informatique de la Langue Française).

LinkFebruary 4, 2005 in Books · Language · Web/Tech

Conservative is the new black, pt. 2

This is the second in a series of posts on issues raised by Mark Bauerlein’s Chronicle piece. See Part I, Part III, and the Appendix (Colorado).
Unlike George Will, I don’t think Bauerlein’s piece is dazzling. I do think it is an interesting document, rich in implications. Here’s the first paragraph again:
Conservatives on college campuses scored a tactical hit when the American Enterprise Institute’s magazine published a survey of voter registration among humanities and social-science faculty members several years ago. More than nine out of 10 professors belonged to the Democratic or Green party, an imbalance that contradicted many liberal academics’ protestations that diversity and pluralism abound in higher education. Further investigations by people like David Horowitz, president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, coupled with well-publicized cases of discrimination against conservative professors, reinforced the findings and set “intellectual diversity” on the agenda of state legislators and members of Congress.
I’ve already taken up the references to the American Enterprise Institute and to Horowitz. Consider next the bit about setting diversity on the agenda of state legislators. Bills have been introduced in Colorado, Georgia, and other states, the substance of which is Horowitz’s “Academic Bill of Rights”. In the interest of getting through Bauerlein’s piece, I’m going to give a full account of events only in the case of Colorado, and treat the others more briefly.

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LinkFebruary 6, 2005 in Academic Affairs · Current Affairs

Sunday cat pix

HS in repose.

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LinkFebruary 7, 2005 in Cats

Sunday cat pix

I’m envious…

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LinkFebruary 13, 2005 in Cats

Acres of books

Language Hat has some remarks on a piece in the New York Times on Kathie Coblentz, a librarian at the New York Public Library who has managed to fit 3600 books into a one-bedroom apartment (Carole Braden, “A Bibliophile, 3,600 Friends and a System”, New York Times 10 Feb 2005—this link may not last). Of course, this being the Times, there must be (i) a trend and (ii) an angle.
The trend is toward the traditional:
[…] home libraries are becoming more of a preoccupation, posing challenges for decorators as well as for book lovers. “Every room can have bookcases,” said Thomas Jayne […]
Buzz Kelly, a designer at Jed Johnson Associates, has devised a string of book-dedicated spaces in the last year. These days “a library is as standard as a master bedroom,” he said, citing one client’s recent decision to sacrifice a formal dining room for an eat-in kitchen and a cubby filled with leather-lined shelves for the family’s books.
In an odd way it’s comforting to know that even people who can afford the services of Jed Johnson Associates have to make the occasional sacrifice.
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On the other hand, it’s disturbing to realize that for the Jed Johnson set, libraries are fungible with dining rooms. —Eat, read, eat, read… Which is it to be? Ah, but these days libraries are a “preoccupation”: that settles it! Buzz, build me a cubby filled with leather-lined shelves! Rich Corinthian leather!
The angle is that Coblentz has put together the NYPL Home Library System. It’s $40 from the NYPL. There are certainly less deserving outfits to send your money to. On the other hand, your own city’s library probably needs the money just as much (). Unless it’s in Monowi, Nebraska.
Modest obsessions
Aside from the amusement of seeing a Times reporter confuse Melvil Dewey with John, the article gave me a new (or newly reinforced) word: completist.
It turns out Ms. Coblentz is a voracious consumer of Clint Eastwood films and has a large category dedicated to him. […] “I’m a completist where Eastwood is concerned,” Ms. Coblentz said.
Some people have a “completist syndrome”: about Morgan Llywelyn, for example, or Williams and Elfman. You can also buy a completist toothbrush.

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LinkFebruary 17, 2005 in Books

A useful corrective

Some time ago, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Robert L. Park laid out the “seven warning signs of bogus science”. He forgot the eighth sign: being the pet theory of a Bush appointee. For a detailed report on studied ignorance and outright bogus science in Bush’s first term, see Scientific Integrity in Policy Making: Investigation of the Bush administration's abuse of science, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as the concurrent statement on Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policymaking, signed by 62 prominent scientists.
Climate change is one example: see Derrick Z. Jackson, “Bush Fries Climate Change” (originally published in the Boston Globe 20 June 2003) and a recent report on the distortion and suppression of research at “Ignoring Science?”, also from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
I never was much enamored of the tendency among some radical critics of Western thought to denigrate truth, and to regard relativism as integral to a progressive politics of knowledge (). It is one thing to note that those in power often lie, or are indifferent to truth, and that crimes have been committed in its name (is there any ideal not so sullied?). It is another to suppose that a hermeneutics of suspicion extended so far as to cast out truth (with a small ‘t’, not the Truth), and for which argument is simply another exercise of power, could somehow advance the cause of the oppressed. The oppressors—as is apparent in the current administration—will only too happily accept the substitution of power, which they have, for truth, which doesn’t matter to them. (See Franklin Foer, “The Closing of the Presidential Mind”, New Republic 5 July 2004: how sad it is that now Nixon’s term looks like a Golden Age).
() One locus classicus is Nietzsche’s “Of truth and lie in an extra-moral sense” (1873; the German original is in Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, eds. Sämtliche Werke, Kritische Studienausgabe 1:872–890). Truth is “a mobile army“Was ist also Wahrheit? Ein bewegliches Heer von Metaphern, Metonymien, Anthropomorphismen kurz eine Summe van menschlichen Relationen, die, poetisch und rhetorisch gesteigert, übertragen, geschmückt wurden, und die nach langem Gebrauche einem Volke fest, canonisch und verbindlich dünken: die Wahrheiten | sind Illusionen, von denen man vergessen hat, dass sie welche sind, Metaphern, die abgenutzt und sinnlich kraftlos geworden sind, Münzen, die ihr Bild verloren haben und nun als Metall,nicht mehr als Münzen in Betracht kommen” (KSA 1:880–881). of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins”. This after a dubious discussion of the origin of truth in the defenses employed by the weak against the strong, in which truth arises as part of a “peace pact” ending the war of all against all, and some observations to the effect that all words are metaphorical (because, it would seem, all general terms are abstractions, and none can touch the individual as it is).
The essay argues, in effect, against certain naïve conceptions of the relations of language to the world, and notes correctly that “survival value” and “truth” are only loosely correlated: a creature can tolerate imprecision in its perceptions and conceptions, and even (according to some accounts of secondary qualities) certain sorts of systematic illusion, without thereby being destined for extinction. Following out the rest of Nietzsche’s argument, one might well agree with much of what he says; but then take it, not as an argument for rejecting the notion of truth or the “will to truth” properly understood, but as an indication of how difficult it was, and continues to be, to bind ourselves to attempt to comprehend the world as it is, and how precarious those social ideals that fall under the heading of “objectivity”, “integrity”, and so forth really are.
I must admit that I once found this kind of talk—armies, marching metaphors, defaced coins, and so on—more intoxicating than I do now. It is a fine antidote against smugness, a potent dissolver of dogma. To see that some talk of truth, like some talk of justice, is only a velvet glove worn by would-be dictators in their more conciliatory moods, is salutary. But then one begins to see that to deprive yourself of the means by which to call a lie a lie, or more generally to abandon the various obligations summed up in words like “honesty” and “integrity”, is to make the decision—which will be made, as in the case of climate change—entirely a matter of power relations. A certain kind of realist would have it that that is how things “really” work, whether we like it or not; but I am enough of a Kantian to suppose that we have the capacity successfully to bind ourselves to obligations to tell the truth, or at least to avoid deliberate deception, no doubt within certain limits (e.g., concerning self-knowledge); if there is mutual agreement to bind ourselves thus, then what comes to be accepted as true will not be entirely a matter of power relations.

LinkFebruary 18, 2005 in Current Affairs · Science

Sunday cat pix

A rare sight: LG with both the kittens. LG has only recently shown signs of more than just tolerating them. If he & they were human, he would almost certainly deplore their taste in music.

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LinkFebruary 20, 2005 in Cats

Sunday cat pix

An all-Josie installment.

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LinkFebruary 27, 2005 in Cats

Epistémè

Épistémè is the website of a “séminaire sur les modalités et méthods d’accès à la connaissance” in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It includes Études Épistémè, an online journal with special issues on topics like pastoral and melancholy. Of greatest interest to philosophers is no. 1 (mai 2002) on the representation of the passions, with articles on Descartes, Hobbes, and Charles Le Brun.

LinkFebruary 27, 2005 in History of Philosophy · Literature

Taine on feline philosophy

At Textes rares: Hyppolite Taine, “Vie et opinions philosophiques d’un chat”, with illustrations by Gustave Doré.
Le chien est un animal si difforme, d’un caractère si désordonné, que de tout temps il a été considéré comme un monstre, né et formé en dépit de toutes les lois. En effet, lorsque le repos est l’état naturel, comment expliquer qu’un animal soit toujours remuant, affairé, et cela sans but ni besoin, lors même qu’il est repu et n’a point peur ?
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Lorsque la beauté consiste universellement dans la souplesse, la grâce et la prudence, comment admettre qu’un animal soit toujours brutal, hurlant, fou, se jetant au nez des gens, courant après les coups de pied et les rebuffades ? Lorsque le favori et le chef-d’oeuvre de la création est le chat, comment comprendre qu’un animal le haïsse, coure sur lui sans en avoir reçu une seule égratignure, et lui casse les reins sans avoir envie de manger sa chair ?
Ces contrariétés prouvent que les chien sont des damnés ; très certainement les âmes coupables et punies passent dans leurs corps. Elles y souffrent : c’est pourquoi ils se tracassent et s’agitent sans cesse. Elles ont perdu la raison : c’est pourquoi ils gâtent tout, se font battre, et sont enchaînés les trois quarts du jour. Elles haïssent le beau et le bien : c’est pourquoi ils tâchent de nous étrangler.
Other philosophical texts at the same site include:
Marmontel, Contes Moraux, 1761. Les promenades de Platon en Sicile.
D’Alembert, Dialogue entre Descartes et Christine de Suède aux Champs Élysées, 1787.
A brief account of the career of Victor Cousin.

LinkFebruary 27, 2005 in Cats · History of Philosophy · Jeux d’esprit · Literature