On the naivete of brain science
My friend and former roommate Wythe has a great blog (Chronolect) that is a reliable source of insight and wit. We were emailing back and forth about a TED video recently, and he posted some of my thoughts on his blog, in case you’re interested.
Read Emerson’s 1836 essay Nature online. link
Goethe in same room as unaware Hölderlin; hilarity ensues
I’ve already been at Schiller’s too, once or twice, the first time not altogether successfully. I went in, was greeted warmly, and barely noticed at the back of the room a stranger whose appearance, and what little he said at first, did nothing to suggest anything special about him. Schiller told him my name, and told me his too but I didn’t catch it. Coldly, almost without looking at him, I greeted him and was totally taken up, inwardly and outwardly, with Schiller. For a long time the stranger didn’t speak a word. Schiller brought in the Thalia, which contains a fragment of my Hyperion and my poem to Fate, and handed it to me. As Schiller then left us for a moment the stranger took the ioumal from the table, flicked through the fragment as I stood beside him, and didn’t say a word. I felt myself getting gradually redder and redder. Had I known what I know now, I’d have gone white as a sheet. He then turned to me, enquired after Frau von Kalb, the area and the neighbours round our village, and I answered all this in monosyllables, in a way I think I rarely do. But luck was simply against me. Schiller came back, we talked about the Weimar theatre, the stranger let fall a few words weighty enough to make me suspect something. But I suspected nothing. The artist Meyer from Weimar also joined us. The stranger conversed with him on various subjects. But I suspected nothing. I left, and learnt the same evening in the Professors’ Club (have you guessed?) that Goethe had been at Schiller’s that day. Heaven help me to make good my misfortune and my stupid behaviour when I get to Weimar. Later on I had supper at Schiller’s – he comforted me as much as he could, and with his wit and his conversation, which revealed the full force of his extraordinary mind, made me forget the disaster that had befallen me on the first occasion. I am also at Niethammer’s occasionally. I’ll tell you more of ]ena next time. Make sure you write soon too, dear Neuffer.
Yours, Hölderlin (letter to Christian Neuffer, 1794)
The role played by “sympathy” in the middle ages, as Foucault develops it in The Order of Things, is today played by “contagion” (though we don’t know it).
Excerpt from a letter, 1892.
Letter to A. S. Souvorin, November 25, 1892
“Science and technical knowledge are now experiencing great days, but for our brotherhood the time are dull, stale and frivolous, we ourselves are stall and dreary… Our illness is a lack of something, that is the rights of the case, and it means that when you lift the hem of our Muse’s gown you will behold an empty void… Now what about us? Yes, us! We paint life such as it is—that’s all, there isn’t any more… Beat us up, if you like, but that’s as far as we’ll go. We have neither immediate nor distant aims, and you can rattle around in our souls. We have no politics, we don’t believe in God, we aren’t afraid of ghosts, and personally I don’t even fear death or blindness. He who doesn’t desire anything, doesn’t hope for anything and isn’t afraid of anything cannot be an artist… I am not to blame for my disease, and it is not for me to cure myself, as I have to assume this illness has good aims which are obscure to us and not inflicted without good reason.”
is a dish best served unexpectedly
is best when it comes from unlikely sources. Two examples from today.
1. I saw The Road last night (good, depressing post-apocalyptic film) and was googling Cormac McCarthy today, and came across an interview with him done by the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading “Inspiration”
The last book I read was Joseph Schumpeter‘s Capitalism, Social, and Democracy, a book famous for coining the phrase “creative destruction” as a description of the process inherent to capitalism whereby old methods of production and commodities are incessantly obsolesced and replaced–an insight drawn, I believe, from Marx’s talk about capitalism constantly revolutionizing the means of production (compare also Deleuze and Guattari on on de/reterritorialization). Continue reading “Some support for Schumpeter”
If Callwood and Pascal had been pre-socratics, all would be either hate or love (respectively)
June Callwood: Hate is the underlying emotion of most men. In greater or lesser quantities, people hate all their lives.
Blaise Pascal: Who can doubt that we exist only to love? Disguise it, in fact, as we will, we love without intermission.
Continue reading “Pascal vs. Callwood”