writing 2012

WRITING January 2012

Learning. Oakeshott in “Rationalism in Politics” asserts that practical knowledge cannot be learned, thus restricting the word “learning” to apply only to learning of technical knowledge. I can’t see why. One “learns on the job”..etc etc (Botvinnik: chess can’t be taught, it must be learnt…; other “learning” quotes).. the word is commonly used to cover both kinds. Practical knowledge cannot be taught, granted, although one may learn it from a teacher, master, favourite practitioner. It’s a difference in terminology merely, but still, it would be a shame to lose the word “learning” to Rationalism, along with so much else… ie it’s a rationalistic use of “learning”. Although Hazlitt (eg “On the Ignorance of the Learned”) seems to have a similar sense in mind – one who follows theory into fairyland and drags mankind along with them..
note – we say “to practise an art” – meaning both to do it (practitioner) , and to learn. (practiser? student? …) – practical knowledge; to get it into your body.
also “to practise” eg piano = to maintain one’s technique, which otherwise would fall off…meaning “merely” muscular condition, the means to the end of performance. Painters, composers, poets don’t practise in this sense! Those are not “real-time” arts… They can get rusty, but that is in the brain, not the fingers…
to study: The different senses of “learning”.

Not knowing what you’re doing. “[Rationalism’s] philosophical error lies in the certainty it attributes to technique & in its doctrine of the sovereignty of technique; its practical error lies in its belief that nothing but benefit can come from making conduct self-conscious.” ie if you know what you’re doing, you ain’t doing nothing! hehe… I’ve been saying to my band recently that it’s better when we don’t know what we’re doing!… indeed.

Rationalism in Politics. p21 – (copy entire page +) : all politics is rationalist nowadays.. even the opposition to rationalism: of course! Hayek (and thus Thatcher) is the reaction against rationalism ad absurdum: the anti-ideology ideology, the anti-rationalism rationalism, anti-doctrine doctrine, etc etc ..oh, and in australia it is known as..”economic rationalism”!

Politics of the book. “Rationalist politics..are the politics of the book.” You must have one, or write your own…
“the book” here is a theoretical book… so – novels, poetry, are more..books of..practical knowledge?! Creo que si.. re Jefferson en “elevation” in Haidt’s Happiness Hypothesis… learning/practising loving the good & loathing the bad…

“Natural”. Re Yesim & the “natural”: “…the notion of Discipline and Interference lies at the very root of all human progress or power; that the “Let-alone” principle is, in all things which man has to do with, the principle of death; that it is ruin to him, certain & total, if he lets his land alone – if he lets his fellow-men alone – if he lets his own soul alone. That his whole life, on the contrary, must, if it is healthy life, be continually one of ploughing & pruning, rebuking & helping, governing & punishing…” – Ruskin, A Joy For Ever, p20
and Oakeshott: (re the American founders of independence) “..since both reason & nature were opposed to civilization, they began with a common ground; & the “rational” man, the man freed from the idols & prejudices of a tradition, could, alternatively, be called the “natural” man. Modern Rationalism & modern Naturalism in politics, in religion & in education, are alike expressions of a general presumption against all human achievement more than a generation old.”

Education = Training. “He sincerely believes that a training in technical knowledge is the only education worth while, because he is moved by the faith that there is no knowledge, in the proper sense, except technical knowledge.” p33

Four types of writing/talking about government. Oakeshott’s Morality & Politics in Modern Europe. “Whenever government has been reflected upon & talked about, two main topics have come up for consideration:
(a) Thoughts & expectations about the constitution, composition & authorization of the governing authority.
(b) Thoughts & expectations about the engagements, pursuits or activities of the governing authority.
…in respect of both these topics, reflection has, as a rule, been concerned either with elucidating & understanding the constitution & the office of government, or with determining the proper constitution or the proper office of government: it has been either descriptive or prescriptive. And on the occasions when these two attitudes have been mixed, which has not been seldom in the literature of political reflection, the result has been an unhappy but often significant muddle.
..for two reasons it is important to distinguish them. First, they are independent of one another..
Secondly,…at different times & in different circumstances they are apt to occupy different places of relative importance in the literature of political thought; & on certain occasions one or the other may take a place so pre-eminent as almost to exclude the other from consideration. And when this happens we should try to understand the reason for it.” p9-10
ie 1. what the g currently is, 2. what it does
3. what it should be, 4. what it should do.
also he talks about 3 levels on which these are conducted, but that’s another story…[possibly a joke in there somewhere – he uses an architectural/construction metaphor to explain them..1.building materials 2. style 3. philosophy of architecture]

Quoting. Uyyy! Read Chapman’s Emerson & Stevenson.. (“On Looking Into..”:-) ) Realised I’d totally misunderstood the Stevenson essay – mainly because, I guess, I read it years ago and removed tiny sentences from it (ones that seemed outrageous/problematic/troubling/ interesting/fascinating etc) ..and now.. well, so difficult to quote from! I had to transplant whole pages at a time..and even they seemed too short… I copied far too much.. 7 pages of JJC & 1 of Emerson.. but well, they are so packed with insight(s).. I feel like such an idiot! And certain that JJC would be in full agreement! But also..well – I decided not to read any books on classical form, before embarking on composing seriously.. I had a similar feeling reading JJC’s exposing RLS & RWE’s foundations/ innards to the light… He praises RWE for not being an expert of writing – but for just writing. (to oversimplify what he says) ..& criticizes RLS for being an expert in a multitude of (old) styles…
An opposite problem last time I read through Nietzsche – too many good bits! but then he is “all nutshell”..
Ah well, some writers are like that – impossible to quote briefly! WJames, Santayana are like that!
Also this relates to “Rationalism in Politics”.. I feel (like) I’m searching for nuggets, little, well, nutshells, containing in a line the core of what the writer means to say….. but often this just ain’t possible.
And I think now that it’s better to quote at too-great length, than too briefly. (Besides, my earlier quotes collections were typed from my hand-writing..whereas now I copy and paste the text usually….)
Anyway…if it’s the content that’s important, “the thing”, the what not the how, I can & should put it in my own words… If the how, the style, is lo importante – well, I am suspicious of philosophical examples – a chair, a duck-rabbit, a game – that are essential, ubiquitous, over-used, the sole road to a high place..not easy to detect a fallacy in a picture!… I suppose philosophy “consists largely” (at least!) in being fooled by pictures..
PHILOSOPHER: One who makes a living by the words they write, & is led astray by the pictures they think.
PHILOSOPHY: Fooling oneself with images.
..and words? I guess, but the essential steps are made, the thinking is done, with images..

The truth & its shadow. “unfortunately we never fully grasp the import of any true statement until we have a clear notion of what the opposite untrue statement would be.” (WJ) – usually, unfortunately, it’s already a brilliant quip of Wilde’s. LOL
Also.. someone? (a Nietzsche expert.. but where?? maybe quoted in.. Nehemas? some good N book..) said than when u find something in N., keep looking until you find the opposite thing said, then try to work out what he meant….

Infinite, if… Bagehot remarks, talking of that-religious-armies-are-better, “This subject would run to an infinite extent if any one were competent to handle it.” …one could say that about anything, I guess! nevertheless a sweet &, er, commendable remark…

Military metaphors. Bagehot on the excessive use of military metaphors in language.. “Military morals can direct the axe to cut down the tree, but it knows nothing of the quiet force by which the forest grows.” Amen!! y muy Oakeshottean.

Swiss. Also just watching a silly movie “Topkapi” from 1964 set partly in Istanbul..when the crime gang tells his 3-point rules, the woman says, how Swiss etc.. in a joshing Oakshottean vein. ie so orderly, over-simple, pseudo-clean….

He discovered nothing. JJ Chapman on Emerson: “It is solely as character that he is important. He discovered nothing; he bears no relation whatever to the history of philosophy. We must regard him and deal with him simply as a man.” Hmm… (no relation?! a major inspirer of at least N, WJ, Dewey etc etc?!…he’s not a philosopher, well ok, but..?!)
He discovered nothing?! seems hardly right. Nothing “statable” in a nutshell perhaps.. but, well… so much the worse for words. His contribution, then, is.. himself?! Finely appropriate! But.. is it not, more accurately, ourselves? Or I should speak only for myself – he gave me myself. (discuss this amongst myself)

Conformity and concealment. “There are many savages who can hardly be said to care for human life—who have scarcely the family feelings—who are eager to kill all old people (their own parents included) as soon as they get old and become a burden—who have scarcely the sense of truth—who, probably from a constant tradition of terror, wish to conceal everything, and would (as observers say) “rather lie than not”—whose ideas of marriage are so vague and slight that the idea, “communal marriage” (in which all the women of the tribe are common to all the men, and them only), has been invented to denote it.” Well.. I’m thinking of this in regard to Carolyn & other Maoris… & the tendency to “impostorism” I found.. ie pretending to know, to..be able to do everything/things. And I had read/thought that “most people are terrified of themselves” – but perhaps, more likely, it’s a remnant of being terrified of the tribe! (not that such things are not still acting today in various ways).. there seems something to that…

Active. Bagehot, P&P, IV “…all new settlements, being formed of “emigrants,” are sure to be composed of rather restless people, mainly. The stay-at-home people are not to be found there, and these are the quiet, easy people. A new settlement voluntarily formed (for of old times, when people were expelled by terror, I am not speaking) is sure to have in it much more than the ordinary proportion of active men, and much less than the ordinary proportion of inactive; and this accounts for a large part, though not perhaps all, of the difference between the English in England, and the English in Australia.” And I was just reading my 1985 Europe diary – almost everyone at Chartres youth hostel was from Australia & NZ! & wondering why..they are travellers! ..we, I mean 🙂 ..in an atmosphere of travelling. To such an extent that would be impossible in non-migrant countries.. Almost everyone from o/s, or descended from people who came from overseas in last 100 years…
(Also am ever wondering why Oasis is called “Oasis Active”, & so many australian women say “I am active” & what it means..)

Titles. Something quite satisfying & Nietzschy about making up “headlines” for each little thought! And announces the subject..hay algo to be said for it. (Maybe I may have a footline too?) Yes, maybe.

Analytic philosophy. It has always repelled me! And only led to more confusion – eg Kivy on music. Good explanations of why in Collingwood on phil. method (on scepticism & analytic phil.), Haidt’s happiness book, Nietzsche, W. James, Dewey – all my favourite writers I guess! oh, & Lichtenberg… I have had a hard time explaining which philosophy I AM into.. “more kind of essayists, great writers”.. – ones with a heart, who never forget the whole human scene… ones connected to wisdom, history, passion, love… ones who – even to read them is a kind of “elevation” (Haidt uses that term in his book).. They write with their whole person, heart & mind & gut… They are their own hero, & mine.

Plato, Ideas, nature, poetry, truth, morality. “The truth, which is a standard for the naturalist, for the poet is only a stimulus; and in many an idealist the poet debauches the naturalist, and the naturalist paralyses the poet. The earth might well upbraid Plato for trying to build his seven-walled cloud-castle on her back, and to circumscribe her in his magic circles. Why should she be forbidden to exhibit any other essences than those authorized by this metaphysical Solon? Why should his impoverished Olympian theology be imposed upon her, and all her pretty dryads and silly fauns, all her harpies and chimeras, be frowned upon and turned into black devils? How these people who would moralize nature hate nature; and if they loved nature, how sweetly and firmly would morality take its human place there without all this delusion and bluster!” (Santayana, Ideas, in Soliloquies in England & Later Soliloquies, p232)

Food or Self?. What can we see, read, acquire, but ourselves? versus The sun may shine, or a galaxy of suns; you will get no more light than your eye will hold. What can Plato or Newton teach, if you are deaf or incapable? A mind does not receive truth as a chest receives jewels that are put into it, but as the stomach takes up food into the system. It is no longer food, but flesh, & is assimilated. The appetite & the power of digestion measure our right to knowledge. He has it who can use it. (Nat.Hist.Intell.)
It becomes us, or it already was?! Discuss.

New Age mysticism & Mum. Santayana says, in an essay on Emerson: “So long as he is a poet and in the enjoyment of his poetic license, we can blame this play of mind only by a misunderstanding. It is possible to think otherwise than as common sense thinks; there are other categories beside those of science. When we employ them we enlarge our lives. We add to the world of fact any number of worlds of the imagination in which human nature and the eternal relations of ideas may be nobly expressed. So far our imaginative fertility is only a benefit : it surrounds us with the congenial and necessary radiation of art and religion. It manifests our moral vitality in the bosom of Nature.
But sometimes imagination invades the sphere of understanding and seems to discredit its indispensable work. Common sense, we are allowed to infer, is a shallow affair: true insight changes all that. When so applied, poetic activity is not an unmixed good. It loosens our hold on fact and confuses our intelligence, so that we forget that intelligence has itself every prerogative of imagination, and has besides the sanction of practical validity. We are made to believe that since the understanding is something human and conditioned, something which might have been different, as the senses might have been different, and which we may yet, so to speak, get behind — therefore the understanding ought to be abandoned. We long for higher faculties, neglecting those we have, we yearn for intuition, closing our eyes upon experience. We become mystical.
Mysticism, as we have said, is the surrender of a category of thought because we divine its relativity. As every new category, however, must share this reproach, the mystic is obliged in the end to give them all up, the poetic and moral categories no less than the physical, so that the end of his purification is the atrophy of his whole nature, the emptying of his whole heart and mind to make room, as he thinks, for God. By attacking the authority of the understanding as the organon of knowledge, by substituting itself for it as the herald of a deeper truth, the imagination thus prepares its own destruction. For if the understanding is rejected because it cannot grasp the absolute, the imagination and all its works — art, dogma, worship — must presently be rejected for the same reason. Common sense and poetry must both go by the board, and conscience must follow after : for all these are human and relative. Mysticism will be satisfied only with the absolute, and as the absolute, by its very definition, is not representable by any specific faculty, it must be approached through the abandonment of all. The lights of life must be extinguished that the light of the absolute may shine, and the possession of everything in general must be secured by the surrender of everything in particular.” (Santayana, Emerson, in Interpretations of Poetry & Religion)
This seems to me to describe my mother and the New Age “style” precisely. I’ve never read an account before of “what is wrong” with that thinking. I noticed that she had no need of art, played only background music (New Age muzak or classical, er, baroque – used as new age muzak I guess), thought science an evil conspiracy, though mightily impressed by PhD or ex-NASA after an author’s name.. She had an affair with a married man, justifying it as much “higher” than mere earthly love – a spiritual love & partnership etc..

Rules/mistakes/not knowing what you are doing, where you are going.

Harvest of leaves. ”About the middle of the nineteenth century, in the quiet sunshine of provincial prosperity, New England had an Indian summer of the mind; and an agreeable reflective literature showed how brilliant that russet and yellow season could be. There were poets, historians, orators, preachers, most of whom had studied foreign literatures and had travelled; they demurely kept up with the times; they were universal humanists. But it was all a harvest of leaves; these worthies had an expurgated and barren conception of life; theirs was the purity of sweet old age. Sometimes they made attempts to rejuvenate their minds by broaching native subjects; they wished to prove how much matter for poetry the new world supplied, and they wrote “Rip van Winkle,” “Hiawatha,” or “Evangeline”; but the inspiration did not seem much more American than that of Swift or Ossian or Chateaubriand. These cultivated writers lacked native roots and fresh sap because the American intellect itself lacked them. Their culture was half a pious survival, half an intentional acquirement; it was not the inevitable flowering of a fresh experience.” – Santayana, Character & Opinion in the United States, Ch.1 The Moral Background

..if religion is a dreaming philosophy, and philosophy a waking religion.. – Santayana, Character & Opinion in the United States, Ch.1 The Moral Background

On speaking terms. “…their humour and shrewdness are sly comments on the shortcomings of some polite convention that everybody accepts tacitly, yet feels to be insecure and contrary to the principles on which life is actually carried on. Nevertheless, with the shyness which simple competence often shows in the presence of conventional shams, these wits have not taken their native wisdom very seriously. They have not had the leisure nor the intellectual scope to think out and defend the implications of their homely perceptions. Their fresh insight has been whispered in parentheses and asides; it has been humbly banished, in alarm, from their solemn moments. What people have respected have
been rather scraps of official philosophy, or entire systems, which they have inherited or imported, as they have respected operas and art museums. To be on speaking terms with these fine things was a part of social respectability, like having family silver. High thoughts must be at hand, like those candlesticks, probably candleless, sometimes
displayed as a seemly ornament in a room blazing with electric light.” – Santayana, Character & Opinion in the United States, Ch.1 The Moral Background

Accounts. Philosophy is a matter of accounts of things, situations, properties, phenomena, faculties, etc etc – stories, like mathematical proofs in narrative form, but nothing necessary about them..necessarily. Or so I thought I realised in Kant class one day, many years ago. What I thought it was before that, I don’t know! Truths? Systems? hmm..

Lullianism. Humanist combinatorics. Wilde. Ariel. logorrhoea. magic. creativity mechanised. Undoubtedly sometimes and in some places a very useful approach.. (Where did I read about him? Gardner? )

Spanish/English/Latin connections

Hacer. The Spanish hacer (to make/do) is from (“partly rooted in” at least, says Henry Hutchings..) the latin facere, to make/do, as in: fact, facsimile, factotum, fax, facile, effect, factory, facilitate, facility etc. facil = easy (to do)..facile = easily, willingly. facilis = that which is easy to do, that which does a thing easily, skilful, ready, willing. facilitas = easiness, ease, willingness, readiness. facio = to make, to do. facinus = 1. an action, deed. 2. a bad deed, crime. factio = a making, doing. the right of making or doing. a political party, faction, side. factiosus = fond of power. factito = to make/do frequently. factum = that which has been done, an act, deed. factus = worked, polished, refined. facultas = capacity, power, ability, means, eloquence, abundance.
fact = res, factum.


All people are hypocrites; and most so when complaining of the hypocrisy of others. (Complaining about others complaining about the hypocrisy of others is, however, a sign of true wisdom.)(Complaining about that activity is.. well – is it really turtles all the way up?!)
Hell is other people; I myself am Satan.

I hope you’re enjoying yourself, because I’m not enjoying you. – me
Are you enjoying myself?

To quote is to misunderstand. – me
A quote is a pound of flesh. Life is gone from it. – me
A way of understanding is always also a way of misunderstanding. – me

Names for Fictitious Books….. (or chapters in a book)
What is Called Heidegger?
The Principles of Collingwood.
The Importance of Being Wilde
Feeling and Reason in David Best
Rationalism in Oakeshott
Critique of Kant
What Makes William James Significant
Experience & Dewey
What is Tolstoy?


BIBLIOGRAPHY ie books to use in my.. book/essays/etc… I have a motto for it:
Almost all our writers share the defect of cultivating themselves through other writings & then merely putting them together…They read about a thing before they have thought about it, so that in the end their whole knowledge consists of knowing that which others have known.
– Lichtenberg

David Best – Feeling & Reason in the Arts, Allen & Unwin, 1985
J.J. Chapman – read more of him!!
G.K. Chesterton – essays
Collingwood – lots!
John Dewey – lots!
R.W. Emerson, Essays – & everything
J. Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis
W. Hazlitt, The Plain Speaker
W. Hazlitt, Table Talk
W. James – lots
La Bruyere
La Rochefoucauld
George Lakoff and Mark Johnson – lots
Peter Levine – Living without Philosophy
Walter Lippmann – Public Opinion – & lots
F. Nietzsche – everything
M. Oakeshott – Rationalism in Politics.. & lots
José Ortega y Gasset – lots
Hilary Putnam – Realism with a Human Face
Robert & Michele Root-Bernstein, Sparks of Genius
John Ruskin, A Joy For Ever – & lots
Oscar Wilde – lots

ALSO (not so important)

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