Dried Roses

Sunday cat pix: New Year’s Edition



LinkJanuary 1, 2005 in Cats

Sunday cat pix

In this new year, Cat Pix is determined to move forward into the future.


LinkJanuary 2, 2005 in Cats

Nil nisi bonum

You have only to inhabit for a little while the stacks of a library to realize that the fate of most of what we write is oblivion. The act has its moment and is gone. Though its traces remain, the odds are high that no-one will revive them. Historians have come to resist the assimilation of history to memory, and for good reason. Nevertheless history remains, for the public at large, first of all memorial or commemoration. The dead, but for continued recollection, would cease to be altogether. In this world, if not in the next.
Edward Lutyens, Thiepval Memorial to the Missing
(1928–1932). Source: The Great War
Remembering can present itself as an obligation. A disaster, once it has followed its course, brings with the emptiness of loss the desire that the dead must not be forgotten. Whether they are one or many makes little difference. Near our house, at the corner of Grand and Magnolia, a lamppost was for at least a year adorned with flowers and the picture of a young man—a memorial to Dejuan Banks, a blind 16-year-old killed on that corner by a hit-and-run driver. Someone’s duty it was to remember him.
The memorial was testimony to his continuing presence in our world—a presence “by power”, to borrow a phrase from theology. God is immensum by virtue of his presence everywhere; that presence consists not in his being located everywhere (which would imply that he is extended), but by his acting everywhere to conserve all created things. Action here entails existence, because an immediate cause must coexist with its effect. A remote cause need not. It is as a remote cause that the deceased can be known to retain a presence in this world, a presence that depends on the living, and first of all on remembrance.


LinkJanuary 5, 2005 in Ethics · Society

Des monstres: images et savoirs

The Bibliothèque Interuniversitaire de Médecine in Paris presents a “livre-exposition” on monsters in the Renaissance. The text was written by, and the images selected by, Annie Bitbol-Hespériès. From the introduction:
Le livre-expositionThe book-exhibition “Monsters in the Renaissance and the Classical Age” starts from three observations: a profusion of images of monsters beginning in the second half of the 16th century; in particular the great variety of engravings, often ambiguous; and the diversity of authors who treat monsters. The period considered is indeed the time of monsters. The word enjoyed its greatest extension with Ambrose Paré; moreover, various sources first converged, and competing systems of knowledge later confronted one another, in the study of monsters. Les Monstres à la Renaissance et à l’âge classique part de trois constats : d’abord une profusion d’images de monstres à partir de la seconde moitié du seizième siècle, ensuite une grande variété de gravures, souvent ambiguës, enfin la diversité des auteurs qui traitent des monstres. La période retenue est vraiment le temps des monstres, puisque le mot connaît sa plus grande extension avec Ambroise Paré, et qu’autour des monstres convergent des sources variées, avant que ne s’affrontent des savoirs concurrents.
Monstrous births—individuals born with deformities—were a problem for both the old & the new science. In Aristotelian science, the existence of individuals visibly departing from the norm at which the generative power of each species aims required explanation: not only a “material” explanation that would show why in these instances nature falls short,
Source: Paré, Monstres et prodiges,
p. 1091 (BIUM)
but also a teleological explanation by which the præter- or contra-natural could be accommodated in a world planned and made by an all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent deity.
For the proponents of the new science, monsters offered a pretext for arguments against Aristotelian finality, and an opportunity to exercise their ingenuity while offering mechanistic accounts of generation. Descriptions and illustrations of animals developing in the womb did not yet greatly constrain philosophical speculation. Only in the eighteenth century did natural philosophers begin to understand that monstrous births could be treated as “experiments” in generation—to realize that the abnormal could be made to yield information about the normal.
Monsters were not only objects of scientific study. Like other unusual events, they were portents. The birth of a monster must signify, must point to something else by way of some similarity or mark (see Céard and Daston & Park). Science itself no longer accords the status of knowledge to the interpretation of prodigies. But interpretation goes on regardless: AIDS was said to be “God’s wrath upon homosexuals”. One lesson that the study of cultural history teaches is that styles of thinking rarely vanish altogether: they migrate.
Added 22 Jan 2005: My original reference for the site was Carnet de Zénon (see “All Philosophy, Addendum 2”.
Bitbol-Hespériès, Annie. Le principe de vie chez Descartes. Vrin, 1990, « Bibliothèque d’Histoire de la Philosophie ». 236 p. [ISBN: 2-7116-1034-9]
Céard, Jean. La nature et les prodiges. L’insolite au XVIe siècle en France. 2nd ed. Geneva: Droz, 1996. 560 p. (Orig. publ. 1977.) [ISBN: 2-600-00502-1]
Daston, Lorraine and Katharine Park. Wonders and the order of nature, 1150–1750. Zone Books, 2001. [ISBN: 0942299914]
Paré, Ambroise Ambroise Paré,
. Vingt cinquième livre traitant des monstres et prodiges, in Œuvres. Paris, G. Buon, 1585. Bitbol-Hespériès notes that “La première édition de ce traité est de 1573 avec pour titre Des monstres tant terrestres que marins. Dans les Œuvres Complètes, publiées en 1575, rééditées en 1579 et 1585, le titre devient celui de Monstres et prodiges”. hook hook

LinkJanuary 6, 2005 in History of Science

Lamp & blank paper

One philosopher whose œuvre I would feel fortunate to emulate is Gaston Bachelard. Among philosophers Bachelard is best known for his writings in épistémologie, a field that has no exact analogue in anglophone philosophy, overlapping as it does with philosophy of science, history of science, and the theory of knowledge. Among literary theorists he is better known for his studies in what he called “psychanalyse”—the investigation of the imagination and its objects, mostly through literature.
La flamme d’une chandelle was the last work of Bachelard published in his lifetime, a reprise, in a way, of La psychanalyse du feu, his first work on the imagination. It has the feeling of a farewell, not only to a long life of teaching and writing, but to an era in which the nocturnal student read by the ever-varying light of a candle or oil-lamp, and not by the electric glow of filaments or phosphors, more reliable than flame, certainly, at least in the wealthy parts of the world, but less suggestive to the imagination.
The last chapter of this last book is an epilogue, “Ma lampe et mon papier blanc”. It begins:
En se souvenant d’un lointain passé de travail, en réimaginant les images si nombreuses mais si monotones du travailleur obstiné, lisant et méditant sous la lampe, on se prend à vivre comme si l’on était le personnage unique d’un tableau. Une chambre aux murs flous et comme resserrée sur son centre, concentrée autour du méditant assis devant la table éclairée par la lampe. Durant une longue vie, le tableau a reçu mille variantes. Mais il garde son unité, sa vie centrale. C’est maintenant une image constante où se fondent les souvenirs et les rêveries. L’être rêvant s’y concentre pour se souvenir de l’être qui travaillait. Est-ce réconfort, est-ce nostalgie que de se souvenir des petites chambres où l’on travaillait, où l’on avait l’énergie pageturnsymbol.png de travailler bien. Le véritable space du travail solitaire, c’est dans une petite chambre, le cercle éclairé par la lampe. Jean de Boschère savait cela, qui écrivait: «Il n’y a qu’une chambre étroite qui permette le travail.» Et la lampe de travail met toute la chambre dans les dimensions de la table. Comme la lampe de jadis, en mes souvenirs, concentre la demeure, refait les solitudes du courage, ma solitude de travailleur!
Translation: “In remembering a distant past of labor, in imagining again the images, so numerous but so monotone, of the obstinate worker, reading and meditating under the lamp, one takes to living as if one were the unique figure in a painting. A room with vague walls and as if wound up about its center, concentrated around the meditator seated before the table lit by the lamp.
During a long life the painting has undergone a thousand variations. But it keeps its unity, its vital center. It is now a constant image into which memories and daydreams are fused. The one who dreams concentrates so as to remember the one who worked. Solace it may be, or nostalgia, to remember the little rooms where one worked, where one had the energy to work well. The true space of solitary work is in a little room, in the circle lit by its lamp. Jean de Boschère know this well when he wrote: ‘Only in a narrow room can one work.’ And the work-lamp fits the whole room into the dimensions of the table. How the lamp of yesteryear, in my memories, concentrates my dwelling, and refashions the solitudes of courage—my work-solitude!”
Books mentioned
    Bachelard, Gaston. La flamme d’une chandelle. PUF, 1961 (reprinted in the collection Quadrige, 2003). · 2130539017 · English: The flame of a candle. Trans. Joni Caldwell. Dallas: Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, 1989. · 0911005153
    Bachelard, Gaston. La psychanalyse du feu. Paris: Gallimard, 1938 (reprinted in the collection Idées, 1949). · 2070323250 · English: The psychoanalysis of fire. Boston: Beacon Press, 1987. · 0807064610
Online sources

LinkJanuary 8, 2005 in Literature · Reading Notes

Sunday Cat Pix

Back in September, you could sit in the open window, enjoying the breeze.


LinkJanuary 8, 2005 in Cats

Friday’s Sunday cat pix

The beginning of the semester wreaks its usual havoc. Hence the delay.


LinkJanuary 21, 2005 in Cats

Conservative is the new black

This is the first of what will be several posts devoted to issues raised by Mark Bauerlein’s Chronicle piece. See Part II.
An earlier post looked at George Will’s “The Left's Last Paradise” (see also the longer version “Academia is diverse in all ways but thought”at the Arizona Star), criticizing his use of statistics. Now for more substantive points (). Will concludes that
Many campuses are intellectual versions of one-party nations—except such nations usually have the merit, such as it is, of candor about their ideological monopolies. In contrast, American campuses have more insistently proclaimed their commitment to diversity as they have become more intellectually monochrome.
When I was growing up, one-party states were a very bad thing. The Free World was a world of multiparty democracies; behind the Iron Curtain there was only the Communist Party, which is to say, the League of Satan. But now we see that Harvard and other paradises of the Left are worse than Ceausescu’s Romania. Romania, bless its heart, at least had the decency to forego any lip-service to diversity. Or Somoza’s Nicaragua. No dissembling there either, just straight-out greed and violence.
Something has gone seriously wrong when an intelligent person like Will, who is not a flack, resorts to absurd comparisons like this. Will draws on what he calls “a dazzling essay” in The Chronicle of Higher Education (12 Nov 2004), by Mark Bauerlein. The essay, entitled “Liberal Groupthink Is Anti-Intellectual” (also at Michael C. Munger’s website), argues that if there were more conservatives on college campuses, intellectual life would improve. Not only that, but we might even become more influential (a point picked up by Will). Here’s how it starts:
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.
I don’t need my sunglasses yet. In fact I think I’ve seen this before: a tired military metaphor, reference to a survey from a right-wing think tank… We’re in Op-Ed Land.


LinkJanuary 22, 2005 in Academic Affairs · Current Affairs · Society

Sunday cat pix


LinkJanuary 23, 2005 in Cats

Christmas cheer revisited

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people”. Luke 2:10.
Christmas is over, but in case you want to get a head start on next year, here’s a suggestion. It’s the “Patriot Parade Christmas Ornament”. Only $39.95, but you’ll have to wait until 16 February, because it’s not in stock. I notice that people who bought the Patriot Parade also bought Slander.
Also available in February: the “Frosty ’n’ Free” ornament. It’s “a fun way to add a dash of red, white, and blue to your Christmas tree. Your children or grandchildren might even follow Frosty’s example and include the flag next time they build a snowman”.
On the other hand, they might not:
The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise. […]
The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. […]
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.

LinkJanuary 27, 2005 in Current Affairs