Saturday, 28 February 2009

From "Leviathan"

By Thomas Hobbes.

But if we consider the places of the Old Testament where angels are mentioned, we shall find that in most of them, there can nothing else be understood by the word angel, but some image raised, supernaturally, in the fancy, to signify the presence of God in the execution of some supernatural work; and therefore in the rest, where their nature is not expressed, it may be understood in the same manner.

From "Six Books of the Commonwealth"

By Jean Bodin.

The ability to command cannot be made equal, as the citizens of popular states desire, for we all know that some have no more judgement than brute beasts, while in others the illumination of divine reason is such that they seem angels rather than men. Yet those who want to make all things equal want to give sovereign authority over men's lives, honour, and property, to the stupid, ignorant, and passionate, as well as to the prudent and experienced. In popular assemblies votes are counted, not weighed, and the number of fools, sinners, and dolts is a thousand times that of honest men.

From "Democracy in America"

By Alexis de Tocqueville.

Man has risen above the beasts because he used his soul to gain the material goods they gain by instinct only. The angel in man taught the beast in him the art of satisfying his needs. It is because Man is capable of rising above the body and sacrificing his own life – a quality that beasts have no conception of – that he has found out how to multiply his bodily satisfaction to a degree that they can not conceive of either.

From "Of the Law of Nature and Nations"

By Samuel von Pufendorf.

[...] the most wise Creator has implanted in the Minds of Men the Passion of Shame, to serve as it were for a Guard and Defence to Vertue, and for a Bridle to wicked Designs. And it is likewise probable, that unless GOD had design'd Man for an Angel, who was to frame his Proceedings by a Law, he would never have mingled such a Passion in Human Constitutions, since without that Supposition it do's not appear to be of any use at all in the World. But indeed, 'tis no manner of Contradiction, that a Moral Quality owing it's Original to Imposition, should produce in Man (tho' not directly and immediately) a Natural Effect. For the Soul being united by the closest ties to the Body, while it self apprehends Moral Concerns, and is affected with them, may at the same time easily raise a peculiar Motion in some part of the Body.

From "Man the Reformer"

By Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Suppose a man is so unhappy as to be born a saint, with keen perceptions, but with the conscience and love of an angel, and he is to get his living in the world; he finds himself excluded from all lucrative works; he has no farm, and he cannot get one; for, to earn money enough to buy one, requires a sort of concentration toward money, which is the selling himself for a number of years, and to him the present hour is as sacred and inviolable as any future hour. Of course, whilst another man has no land, my title to mine, your title to yours, is at once vitiated.

From "Lex, Rex"

By Samuel Rutherford.

The P. Prelate commendeth order while we come to the most supreme; hence he commendeth monarchy above all governments because it is God's government. I am not against it, that monarchy well-tempered is the best government, though the question to me is most problematic; but because God is a monarch who cannot err or deny himself, therefore that sinful man be a monarch is miserable logic; and he must argue solidly, forsooth, by this, because there is order, as he saith, amongst angels, will he make a monarch and a king-angel? His argument, if it have any weight at all in it, driveth at that, even that there be crowned kings amongst the angels.

Friday, 27 February 2009

From "The Federalist Papers"

By Publius.

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

From "Negative Dialectics"

The smallest trace of senseless suffering in the empirical world belies all the identitarian philosophy that would talk us out of that suffering.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor Adorno.

[...] we no longer know what we used to feel before the dogcatcher's van [...]

Monday, 23 February 2009

From "Lady Chatterly's Lover"

By D. H. Lawrence.

"And you talk so coldly about sex," she said. "You talk as if you had only wanted your own pleasure and satisfaction."

She was protesting nervously against him.

"Nay!" he said. "I wanted to have my pleasure and satisfaction of a woman, and I never got it: because I could never get my pleasure and satisfaction of her unless she got hers of me at the same time. And it never happened. It takes two."

"But you never believed in your women. You don't even believe really in me," she said.

"I don't know what believing in a woman means."

"That's it, you see!"

She still was curled on his lap. But his spirit was grey and absent, he was not there for her. And everything she said drove him further.

"But what do you believe in?" she insisted.

"I don't know."

"Nothing, like all the men I've ever known," she said.

They were both silent. Then he roused himself and said: "Yes, I do believe in something. I believe especially in being warm-hearted in love, in fucking with a warm heart. I believe if men could fuck with warm hearts, and the women take it warm-heartedly, everything would all right. It's all this cold-hearted fucking that is death and idiocy."

"But you don't fuck me cold-heartedly," she protested.

"I don't want to fuck you at all. My heart's as cold as cold potatoes just now.

"Oh!" she said, kissing him mockingly. "Let's have them sautees." He laughed, and sat erect.

"It's a fact!" he said. "Anything for a bit of warm-heartedness. But the women don't like it. Even you don't really like it. You like a good, sharp, piercing cold-hearted fucking, and then pretending it's all sugar. Where's your tenderness for me? You're as suspicious of me as a cat is of a dog. I tell you it takes two even to be tender and warm-hearted. You love fucking all right: but you want it to be called something grand and mysterious, just to flatter your own self-importance. Your own self-importance is more to you, fifty times more, than any man, or being together with a man."

"But that's what I'd say of you. Your own self-importance is everything to you."

"Ay! Very well then!" he said, moving as if he wanted to rise. "Let's keep apart then. I'd rather die than do any more cold-hearted fucking."

She slid away from him, and he stood up.

"And do you think I want it?" she said.

"I hope you don't," he replied. "But anyhow, you go to bed an' I'll sleep down here."

She looked at him. He was pale, his brows were sullen, he was as distant in recoil as the cold pole. Men were all alike.

"I can't go home till morning," she said.

"No! Go to bed. It's a quarter to one."

"I certainly won't," she said.

He went across and picked up his boots.

"Then I'll go out!" he said.

He began to put on his boots. She stared at him.

"Wait!" she faltered. "Wait! What's come between us?"

He was bent over, lacing his boot, and did not reply. The moments passed. A dimness came over her, like a swoon. All her consciousness died, and she stood there wide-eyed, looking at him from the unknown, knowing nothing amny more.

He looked up, because of the silence, and saw her wide-eyed and lost. And as if a wind tossed him he got up and hobbled over to her, one shoe off and one shoe on, and took her in his arms, pressing her against his body, which somehow felt hurt right through. And there he held her, and there she remained.

Till his hands reached blindly down and felt for her, and felt under the clothing to where she was smooth and warm.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

From "Negative Dialectics"

Thinking men and artists have not infrequently described a sense of being not quite there, of not playing along, a feeling as if they were not themselves at all, but a kind of spectator. Others often find this repulsive; it was the basis of Kierkegaard's polemic against what he called the asethetic sphere. A critique of philosophical personalism indicates, however, that this attitude towards immediacy, this disavowal of every existential posture, has a moment of objective truth that goes beyond the appearance of the self-preserving motive. "What does it really matter?" is a line we like to associate with bourgeois callousness, but it is the line most likely to make the individual aware, without dread, of the insignificance of his existence. The inhuman part of it, the ability to keep one's distance as a spectator and rise above things, is in the final analysis the human part, the very part resisted by its ideologists.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

From "Commons"

By Sean Bonney.

[...] you know, from this angle
the average british landlord
with his non-existent numbers
his voltage & his arson / typically
on simple 'nice person' circuits
goes to dinner most days
sends doves through the post
is, at least, a very good fuck
this is where I scream
the police lines between us
have raised a thicket of beetles

Friday, 20 February 2009

From "The Federalist Papers"

By Publius.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

First Supplementary Decree of November 14, 1935

On the basis of Article III of the Reich Citizenship Law of September 1935, the following is hereby decreed:

(1) Until further provisions concerning citizenship papers, all subjects of German or kindred blood who possessed the right to vote in the Reichstag elections when the Citizenship Law came into effect, shall, for the present, possess the rights of Reich citizens. The same shall be true of those upon whom the Reich Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Deputy to the Fuehrer shall confer citizenship.
(2) The Reich Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Deputy to the Fuehrer, may revoke citizenship.

(1) The provisions of Article I shall apply also to subjects who are of mixed Jewish blood.
(2) An individual of mixed Jewish blood is one who is descended from one or two grandparents who, racially, were full Jews, insofar that he is not a Jew according to Section 2 of Article 5. Full-blooded Jewish grandparents are those who belonged to the Jewish religious community.

Only citizens of the Reich, as bearers of full political rights, can exercise the right of voting in political matters, and have the right to hold public office. The Reich Minister of the Interior, or any agency he empowers, can make exceptions during the transition period on the matter of holding public office. The measures do not apply to matters concerning religious organizations.

(1) A Jew cannot be a citizen of the Reich. He cannot exercise the right to vote; he cannot hold public office.
(2) Jewish officials will be retired as of December 31, 1935. In the event that such officials served at the front in the World War either for Germany or her allies, they shall receive as pension, until they reach the age limit, the full salary last received, on the basis of which their pension would have been computed. They shall not, however, be promoted according to their seniority in rank. When they reach the age limit, their pension will be computed again, according to the salary last received on which their pension was to be calculated.
(3) These provisions do not concern the affairs of religious organizations.
(4) The conditions regarding service of teachers in public Jewish schools remains unchanged until the promulgation of new laws on the Jewish school system.

(1) A Jew is an individual who is descended from at least three grandparents who were, racially, full Jews...
(2) A Jew is also an individual who is descended from two full-Jewish grandparents if: (a) he was a member of the Jewish religious community when this law was issued, or joined the community later; (b) when the law was issued, he was married to a person who was a Jew, or was subsequently married to a Jew; (c) he is the issue from a marriage with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, which was contracted after the coming into effect of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor of September 15, 1935; (d) he is the issue of an extramarital relationship with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, and was born out of wedlock after July 31, 1936.

Insofar as there are, in the laws of the Reich or in the decrees of the National Socialist German Workers' Party and its affiliates, certain requirements for the purity of German blood which extend beyond Article 5, the same remain untouched....

The Fuehrer and Chancellor of the Reich is empowered to release anyone from the provisions of these administrative decrees.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

From "Negative Dialectics"

By Theodor W. Adorno.

Genocide is the absolute integration. It is on its way wherever men are leveled off -- "polished off," as the German military called it -- until one exterminates them literally, as deviations from the concept of their total nullity.

Monday, 16 February 2009

The Reich Citizenship Law of September 15, 1935

THE REICHSTAG HAS ADOPTED by unanimous vote the following law which is herewith promulgated.

(1) A subject of the state is one who belongs to the protective union of the German Reich, and who, therefore, has specific obligations to the Reich.
(2) The status of subject is to be acquired in accordance with the provisions of the Reich and the state Citizenship Law.

(1) A citizen of the Reich may be only one who is of German or kindred blood, and who, through his behavior, shows that he is both desirous and personally fit to serve loyally the German people and the Reich.
(2) The right to citizenship is obtained by the grant of Reich citizenship papers.
(3) Only the citizen of the Reich may enjoy full political rights in consonance with the provisions of the laws.

The Reich Minister of the Interior, in conjunction with the Deputy to the Fuehrer, will issue the required legal and administrative decrees for the implementation and amplification of this law.

Promulgated: September 16, 1935.
In force: September 30, 1935.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

From "Obedience to Authority"

By Stanley Milgram.

MR. RENSALEER: Oh, I can't continue this way; it's a voluntary program, if this man doesn't want to go on with it.
EXPERIMENTER: Please continue.
(A long pause.)
MR. RENSALEER: The man, he seems to be getting hurt.
EXPERIMENTER: There is no permanent tissue damage.
MR. RENSALEER: Yes, but I know what shocks do to you. I'm an electrical engineer, and I have had shocks ... and you get real shook up by them -- especially if you know the next one is coming. I'm sorry.
EXPERIMENTER: It is absolutely essential that you continue.
MR. RENSALEER: Well, I won't -- not with the man screaming to get out.
EXPERIMENTER: You have no other choice.
MR. RENSALEER: I do have a choice. (Incredulous and indignant:) Why don't I have a choice? I came here on my own free will. I thought I could help in a research project. But if I have to hurt somebody to do that, or if I was in his place, too, I wouldn't stay there. I can't continue. I'm very sorry. I think I've gone too far already, probably.

[...] Although this subject defied the experimenter at 255 volts, he still feels responsible for administering any shocks beyond the victim's first protests. He is hard on himself and does not allow the structure of authority in which he is functioning to absolve him of any responsibility. Rensaleer expressed surprise at the underestimation of obedience by the psychiatrists. He said that on the basis of his experience in Nazi-occupied Europe, he would predict a high level of compliance to orders.

From "On the Political"

By Chantal Mouffe.

What an agonistic approach certainly disavows is the possibility of an act of radical refoundation that would institute a new social order from scratch. But a number of very important socio-economic and political transformations, with radical implications, are possible within the context of liberal democratic institutions. What we understand by "liberal democracy" is constituted by sedimented forms of power relations resulting from an ensemble of contingent hegemonic interventions. The fact that their contingent character is not recognized today is due to the absence of counter-hegemonic projects. But we should not fall again into the trap of believing that their transformation requires a total rejection of the liberal-democratic framework.

[...] When we examine the state of democratic politics in all the countries where right-wing populism has made serious inroads, we find a striking similarity. Their growth has always taken place in circumstances where the differences between the traditional democratic parties have become much less significant than before. In some cases, as in Austria, this was due to a long period of coalition government; in others, as in France, to a move towards the centre of parties previously clearly situated at the left of the political spectrum. But in each case a consensus at the centre had to be established, which did not allow voters to make a real choice between significantly different policies. In countries where the electoral system did not discriminate against third parties, right-wing demagogues were therefore able to articulate the desire for an alternative to the stifling consensus.

[...] as a consequence of blurring the frontiers between left and right and the absence of an agonistic debate among democratic parties, a confrontation between different political projects, voters did not have the possibility of identifying with a differentiated range of democratic political identities. This created a void that was likely to be occupied by other forms of identifications which could become problematic for the working of the democratic system.

[...] The pluralism that I advocate requires discriminating between demands which are to be accepted as part of the agonistic debate and those which are to be excluded. A democratic society cannot treat those who put its basic institutions into question as legimitate adversaries. The agonistic approach does not pretend to encompass all differences and to overcome all forms of exclusions. But exclusions are envisaged in political and not in moral terms.

From "Between the Norm and the Exception: The Frankfurt School and the Rule of Law‎"

By William E. Scheuerman.

For Chantal Mouffe and a growing number of postmodern writers, the liberal idea of a universal rational consensus resting on free discussion is implicitly authoritarian; because Schmitt was purportedly such an insightful critic of liberalism, radicals now should build on his friend/foe "concept of the political" as an alternative to liberalism. Mouffe seems to forget that pluralism itself always presupposes some minimal shared agreement to respect "difference." Furthermore, she is disturbingly unmoved by the fact that Schmitt's own attack on the Enlightenment and political liberalism culminated in radical nationalism, virulent racism, and a romanticization of violence. In her view, the real totalitarians are John Rawls and Jurgen Habermas, and the menace they present to "difference" everywhere can allegedly only be defeated if we join hands with the best-kept secret of twentieth-century intellectual history: meet Carl Schmitt, theorist of radical pluralist democracy.

From "Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action"

By Jurgen Habermas.

The certainty with which we put our knowledge of rules into practice does not extend to the truth of proposed reconstructions of presuppositions hypothesized to be general, for we have to put our reconstructions up for discussion in the same way in which the logician or the linguist, for example, presents his theoretical descriptions.

From "On the Political"

By Chantal Mouffe.

In trying to reconcile the two elements of liberal democracy [human rights and popular sovereignty], the aim of Habermas is no less than to establish the privileged rational nature of liberal democracy and consequently its universal validity.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

From "Holocaust Behind the Counter: L&G Luncheonette and the Origins of the East Village Poetry Scene"

By David Rosenberg (in The Chicago Review 54:3).

I recall one of the annual New Year's Day readings at St. Mark's Church in the early '70s, when I met some of my colleagues rarely seen at the L&G Luncheonette -- Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, Lewis Warsh -- now filling the counter, ragged manuscripts in hand. The action on New Year's Day always surprised the counter-men, and I tried to explain this literary ritual to them. "It's a marathon, a nonstop twenty-four-hour theater of poets presenting a slice of their lives." The chasm of understanding, however, was too great. "From this you can make a living?" asked the counter-men. The fact that these Holocaust survivors could work at all, after the work-to-death ethic of the camps, was miraculous: to throw some things on the grill and watch, while you smoked a cigarette with no one to shoot you, was surreal poetry enough to them.

We young poets were the miracle-doubting ones, especially after Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin died in quick succession. Ron, Anne, Leis and I could talk like working class writers about "everyday life" and "necessity" but at the time we showed no serious interest in the authentic history of the survivors serving us. Our idea of history was rebelliously aesthetic: it had seemed to begin a month after The New American Poetry came on the market. Not that we discounted the European catastrophe; rather, we felt clueless before it, so that questioning how or why seemed a mug's game.

A retreat into human consciousness (and seeking to widen it, like a highway) looked like the best answer to the concealed bestiality in civilization and its dream of totalitarian social engineering. Meanwhile, the angels from the dead stirred the eggs and slung the hash, sneaking sympathetic glimpses at the faux cosmopolitans they served. This sympathy was based on the sense that we were losers too, although too young to know it, and like them, we still found bearable work to do, like writing manuscripts that few were going to buy, and taking surprising solace in a cigarette.

What were they thinking, the angelic counter-men, not about us but about the beatific cataclysm of their own lives? I never really asked nor do recollections of conversations with them help much. Some had wives, some had rooms, some "lived with their brother" -- the most mundance of lives. One had a daughter about to enter college.

"Which one?" I asked.

"The one upstate, Cornell," he answered.

"Wow, that will cost a mint!" I offered.

He shrugged. "That's what she wants." He clearly hadn't yet faced the music nor had the daughter. Tuition crisis would be her prelude to facing the Holocaust since, unlike the typical poor who planned to start in community college, she was a dreamer up until the last minute, like her father. "I never thought they would come for us, even after I heard they were not making airplane parts at Auschwitz." Either his daughter would be forced to wake up and listen to that, or she would throw away the key to the family closet.

Practical matters were only a fraction of the thoughts of the counter-man with the unfashionable tattoo. He told me he hadn't thought about what might have been if there was no Holocaust because "Europe was a graveyard." In other words, he couldn't think pre-Holocaust, just as most of us today don't think post-Holocaust anymore. Instead, history begins with us, and with actively finding the key to the problem of America (the rest of the world was like the Kiev restaurant, open twenty-four hours for us to mentally slum in). We hardly guessed back then that we'd have to mature in thought; we assumed that action was what it took. We were social activists in art.

Friday, 13 February 2009

From "Homo Sacer"

By Giorgio Agamben.

The exception is a kind of exclusion. What is excluded from the general rule is an individual case. But the most proper characteristic of the exception is that what is excluded in it is not, on account of being excluded, absolutely without relation to the rule. On the contrary, what is excluded in the exception maintains itself in relation to the rule in the form of the rule’s suspension. The rule applies to the exception in no longer applying, in withdrawing from it. The state of exception is thus not the chaos that precedes order but rather the situation that results from its suspension. In this sense, the exception is truly, according to its etymological root, taken outside (ex-capere), and not simply excluded.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

From "Holocaust"

By Reznikoff.

One morning German soldiers and their officers
broke into the houses of the quarter where the Jews had been gathered,
shouting that all the men were to come out;
and the Germans took everything in cupboards and closets.
Among the men was an old man in the robe – and wearing the hat –
of the pious sect of Jews called Hasidim.
The Germans gave him a hen to hold
and he was told to dance and sing;
then he had to make believe that he was choking a German soldier
and this was photographed.

From "Holocaust"

By Charles Reznikoff.

An old man carrying pieces of wood to burn
from a house that had been torn down:
there had been no order against this –
and it was cold.
An S.S. commander saw him
and asked where he had taken the wood,
and the old man answered from a house that had been torn down.
But the commander drew his pistol,
put it against the old man’s throat
and shot him.

From "Holocaust"

By Charles Reznikoff.

We are the civilized –
and do not always kill those condemned to death
merely because they are Jews
as the less civilized might:
we use them to benefit science
like rats or mice
to find out the limits of human endurance
at the highest altitudes
for the good of the German navy;
or wound them and force wooden shavings or ground glass
into the wounds,
or take out bones, muscles, and nerves,
or burn their flesh –
to study the burns caused by bombs –
or put poison in their food
or infect them with malaria, typhus, or other fevers –
all for the good of the German army.
Heil Hitler!

From "Holocaust"

By Charles Reznikoff.

Five Polish Jews got hold of a small wagon
and hired a Pole to drive them east
to get away from the S.S. men now in the city.
But, when they left the city behind,
suddenly they saw S.S. men
who had been lying in wait for Jews
trying to get away.

The S.S. men ordered the Jews off the wagon
and the five got off.
“Have you any money?” the S.S. men asked
and the five gave whatever they had.
The S.S. men searched them anyway
and then ordered them to take off their clothes
and lie down on the ground
and the S.S. men began to beat them,
changing those who did the beating
and laughing all the time.
Then they ordered the Jews to get on their knees
and sing Hebrew songs;
the Jews sang the Zionist anthem, Ha-tikvah.
And then had to crawl through a concrete pipe on the road
before the S.S. men left them.

The five were too weak after the beatings to go on
and, besides, had no money;
and so went back to the city –
straight to a Jewish hospital.

From "Holocaust"

By Charles Reznikoff et al.

Once the commander of a camp had eight of the strongest among
the Jews
placed in a large barrel of water,
saying that they did not look clean,
and they had to stand in this barrel naked for twenty-four hours.
In the morning, other Jews had to cut away the ice:
the men were frozen to death.
In this camp - and in others also -
they had an orchestra of Jews
who had to play every morning and evening
and whenever Jews were taken to be shot.
In one such camp,
the orchestra had all of sixty men.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

From a letter

By Reinhard Heydrich to Martin Luther of the Foreign Office, dated February 26, 1942, forwarding the minutes of the Wannsee Conference.

Dear Fellow Party Member [Parteigenosse] Luther!

Enclosed I am sending you the minutes of the proceedings that took place on January 20,1942.

Since the basic position regarding the practical execution of the final solution of the Jewish question has fortunately been established by now, and since there is a full agreement on the part of all agencies involved. I would like to ask you at the request of the Reich Marshal to make one of your specialist officials available for the necessary discussion of details in connection with the completion of the draft that shows the organisational, technical and material prerequisites bearing on the actual starting point of the projected solutions.

I want to schedule the first discussion along these lines for 10:30 a.m. on March 6, 1942 at 116 Kurfürstenstrasse, Berlin. I therefore ask you that for this purpose your specialist official contact my functionary in charge there, SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

From "Philosophical Investigations"

By Ludwig Wittgenstein.

This was our paradox: no course of action could be determined by a rule, because any course of action can be made out to accord with the rule [...]

Monday, 9 February 2009

From "De antiquissima"

By Giambattista Vico.

An esteemed jurist is, therefore, not someone who, with the help of a good memory, masters positive law [or the general complex of laws], but rather someone who, with sharp judgment, knows how to look into cases and see the ultimate circumstances of facts that merit equitable consideration and exceptions from general rules [...]

Sunday, 8 February 2009

From "Political Theology"

By Carl Schmitt.

The exception is that which cannot be subsumed; it defies general codification, but it simultaneously reveals a specifically juridical formal element: the decision in absolute purity. The exception appears in its absolute form when it is a question of creating a situation in which juridical rules can be valid. Every general rule demands a regular, everyday frame of life to which it can be factually applied and which is submitted to its regulations. The rule requires a homogeneous medium. This factual regularity is not merely an "external presupposition" that the jurist can ignore; it belongs, rather, to the rule’s immanent validity. There is no rule that is applicable to chaos. Order must be established for juridical order to make sense. A regular situation must be created, and sovereign is he who definitely decides if this situation is actually effective. All law is "situational law." The sovereign creates and guarantees the situation as a whole in its totality. He has the monopoly over the final decision. Therein consists the essence of State sovereignty, which must therefore be properly juridically defined not as the monopoly to sanction or to rule but as the monopoly to decide, where the word "monopoly" is used in a general sense that is still to be developed. The decision reveals the essence of State authority most clearly. Here the decision must be distinguished from the juridical regulation, and (to formulate it paradoxically) authority proves itself not to need law to create law. [...] The exception is more interesting than the regular case. The latter proves nothing; the exception proves everything. The exception does not only confirm the rule; the rule as such lives off the exception alone. A Protestant theologian who demonstrated the vital intensity of which theological reflection was still capable in the nineteenth century said: "The exception explains the general and itself. And when one really wants to study the general, one need only look around for a real exception. It brings everything to light more clearly than the general itself. After a while, one becomes disgusted with the endless talk about the general – there are exceptions. If they cannot be explained, then neither can the general be explained. Usually the difficulty is not noticed, since the general is thought about not with passion but only with comfortable superficiality. The exception, on the other hand, thinks the general with intense passion."

Saturday, 7 February 2009

From "Theses on the Philosophy of History"

By Walter Benjamin.

The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A Note on "Mortared Penne: Ha Ha Ha" (4/4)

OK where was I. OK. Two emphases which are utterly main within 20th Century philosophy downstream from its “practice” turn. Emphasis on (1) somatic knowledge and other non-propositional knowledges; emphasis on (2) confabulation and the construction of memory.

Each has been recruited to the critique of Cartesianism. (1) Cf. Cartesianism contra language games (Wittgenstein), Dasein (Heidegger), Background (Searle), Articulation (Dreyfus), Life-nexus (Dilthey), Lifeworld (Habermas), Habitus (Bourdieu) and definite relations of production (Marx) when you get a moment. Some knowledge involves truth bearers (beliefs, propositions) and their relations to one-another (according to coherence theories) or to truth makers (facts, states of affairs – according to correspondence theories). But other knowledge (outside the “I dossier” (Toal)) involves muscle memory, gestures, reflexes, habits, routines, demeanours, styles, instincts, tact, confidence, mood, competence, savoir faire, oblivion, trust, recognition; it involves being at home in a world of stuff and others. (2) Meanings are of the sensuous present, and, however predisposed by the past, remembrance is in essence a subset of such meanings. Almost any introduction to memory written since the 1930s will tell you that some of our deeper intuitions & assumptions about memory are wrong. In particular, long-term memory isn’t as reliable as we are given to think (see note). It doesn’t work like a storage medium, like a casette tape or a bucket or whatever. The big man on campus is the little man on hippocampus.

What the poem notices is that the former emphasis is corrective upon the latter.

The veracity of memory, it suggests, not only a function of remembering, but also of inarticulate-able non-propositional knowledge. When we remember something vividly, maybe its vividness is an outcome of two separate faculties: that of (fashionably famously unreliable) memory coming up with something plausible, and some (fashionably famously potent) non-propositional knowledge vouchsafing it, because it fits. The poem’s missing headline is “Kate McCann ‘just knows’ ‘as a mother’ that Madeleine is ‘out there.’” What death leaves is not memory so much as knowledge in this enlarged sense. “[...] throats in the air / could you...? [...]” (see note 1). “Penne” then explains why we are comfortable with memory and with knowledge whilst inhabiting systemically false folk theories about them. In so doing it clears out a level of potential metaphysical and pyschological explanations for why it is weird to be, and then stops.

Note 1: The ellipsis stands for a contextual or gestural expressiveness: “Could you...?” (and then I work out, from what I’m near, what I need to pass (or whatever)).

This Slime Tree Bower &c.

(1) Some of you circulate your announcements only on e-mail lists like UKPoetry & the Raekwon Listserv, which is great & everything.

(2) It is a shame that the snow falls also outside the windows of flabby stupid people.

(3) I sort of started an events blog, & so anyone who wants me to add them as an author let me know.

(4) Tonight, Thursday 5th February, 7.30 pm. Francesca Beasley & Antony John. The Leather Exchange, 15 Leathermarket Street, London Bridge, SE1 3HN. £5 / £3 conc.

Anyone who heard Francesca Beasley read last year at Openned will want to hear more. She was also one of the 'voices' in [...] UK premiere of Zukofsky's "A"-24 at Sussex University. She hair.

Antony John is a regular at Writers Forum and had work published recently in Veer Off. His work uses collaged found text as "a structural device that implicitly/glances and gestures, but are trapped/bullet hard, covered with a thin rime."

(5) There are some web sites that do a pretty good job channelling events. Especially Openned & Peter Philpott's page. & maybe Shearsman, Barque, Salt, Archive of the Now. But it bug my wee justices, if it's a shitload of effort to maintain something that could easily be 0.0001%-assed, & also it might be sweet to have a place where it wasn't mixed in with other stuff. So.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

From Chris Goode's Blog


[...] find I prefer work -- in theatre and performance, at least; I don't mind so much in other media -- that sets out to say what something is, and not what it's like, or what it reminds us of, or whether we recognize it, or what else it might be. In a way this is a sort of antithesis of the pronouncement that Robert Wilson has been reiterating (with small variations) throughout his career: "My responsibility in creating for the theatre is not to say what something is, but to ask, 'What is it?'" This kind of holding-in-question seems at first glance both artistically livelier and politically more pertinent -- the ways in which even the familiar might contain multitudes of otherness, whole panoplies of potential change... But the fact is, theatre now exists within an apparently inexhaustibly liminoid culture, in which the mutability of function and identity is not only in itself a given, but also has become uncoupled from any sense of political programme or location. To be able to say what something materially or objectively is has become, post-Thatcher and mid-Web 2.0, the more radical, more dissident position than to gesture vaguely at its categorical slipperiness and its ineluctable contingency [...]

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

From The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Trans. Meredith McKinney.

A man comes calling, perhaps for some intimate conversation, or maybe he's simply turned up when there's a gathering of ladies talking together behind the screen, so he settles down and joins them. Time passes, and still he shows no sign of going home. The man or youth who's accompanied him peers anxiously in from time to time, muttering glumly, "I'll be waiting till the very axe rots at this rate." He heaves a great yawn, and says aloud, apparently on the innocent assumption that no one will overhear, "Oh me, oh my, the sorrows and sufferings I go through! Will the night never end?" This is horrible enough under normal circumstances, but of course it's quite horrible when the gentleman is there to call on the woman he loves. Not that you care one way or the other about this person himself, but his words cast a sudden pall over your impression of the gentleman who's seemed so engaging till now.


It's also horrible to overhear someone waiting beyond the lattice fence remark, "It looks like rain."