I've noticed that my subconscious is very loud. It chatters to itself, and on the occasion when the rest of my brain shuts down from lack of sleep it is still working at a rapid pace. I've also noticed it's smarter than me. If ever my active mind is blanked out from emotion, whether it be sobbing hopelessly or extremely gleeful, it opens its big yap.

It's a second thought, you're stuck in endless grief with no window and it speaks up in that sullen little voice of it's own and says, "This is stupid. We could be reading." It shocks you sometimes that it can see things so clearly when the forefront of your mind cannot. Then of course there's the constant imagery. Way back in your skull, farther, farther! Okay stop, right there, you think of a random thing. A picture, a photo, or even a word will show up. It'll progress into something else, which goes into something else. I can lay down in the dark and watch my subconscious flee through pictures like a hypochondriac goes through a medical dictionary. It's amusing.

Then you start to realize, if given this subject you would never have been able to see the picture as clearly. That second voice, without it you wouldn't know what the hey the clearest easiest path to realization was. You'd be lost without your subconscious. It's thinking a billion thoughts a second even as you're floundering for words to use in a conversation when for the life of you you can't remember what the word for green is.

Or maybe I just have ADD.

Then you have dreams, your mind in the background trying to put the bits and pieces of the day together like a puzzle, while you finally get to watch. It's confusing sometimes, and other times it puts together this wondrous story you'd never have imagined while awake!

So really, my brain without my help is smarter, does that mean by not listening to its endless ebb and flow I'm stunting it's growth? Great I'm retarded because I obey the common laws of the universe. Screw you Gravity!

Getting restarted on E2

I have been away from E2 for some time trying to get my vignettes ready for publication. We are now on the road to do that and I am ready to have some fun with E2. I am planning to revise a book I wrote many years ago about a sailing trip I took all by myself. I single handed our Tartan 27 from Chespeake Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. I wrote a book about my trip but did not succeed in publishing it. I think if I try to revise it by talking about what was going on beneath the surface of my life on that trip that it would be interesting and fun to do.

Half of my vignettes are already on E2.

Talk about an October Surprise. It's no killer rabbit, but it'll do for some.

Well, I suppose it's more of a November Sacrifice to the gods of american electoral politics than an October Surprise. And to me, it isn't much of a surprise as I had both known about Saddam Hussein's impending doom for a couple weeks beforehand and I had long ago given up on any illusions of integrity among our political leaders, but just two days before the midterm elections they sentenced Saddam Hussein to the chair. Or however they kill people over there.

Why do I call it a sacrifice to the gods our leaders hold dear? Because it's been scheduled in advance, that's why. According to one observer of the trial, Columbia professor Scott Horton, most observers expected the {sentencing} date would be much later, but it seems to have been moved up. In an interview in The Nation, he says

In my experience, everything that comes out of Baghdad is very carefully prepared for U.S. domestic consumption. ... There is a team of American lawyers working as special legal advisers out of the U.S. embassy, who drive the tribunal. They have been involved in preparing the case and overseeing it from the beginning.
Exactly like the Nuremberg trials in 1946: get them for one of the least of their crimes, get them quickly, get them two days before the elections, and best of all get them before they can implicate the people who aided in some of the greatest of their crimes. Truly an American tradition.

I consider it doubtful that this maneuver — and however evil the man is, it is still a maneuver — will have the effect its pushers intended. While Shi'as and Kurds are dancing jubilantly in the streets, the Sunni minority is solemn, and protests in large groups, holding up portraits of Saddam. Will this highlight, to the American public, the deep and growing divisions that crisscross Iraq like fault lines? Will anyone glean satisfaction from this next step in what has been largely a theatrical judicial process long enough to let it affect their voting decisions in an election widely purported to be a referendum on the policies of the Bush administration and the Republican congress?

Believe it or not, though, death sentences of far greater import have been handed out in the land of Iraq in the last few months. I refer to the case of one Mohammed Munaf, an Iraqi-born United States citizen.

Mr. Munaf had traveled to Iraq with three Romanian journalists in 2005 from Romania, where Mr. Munaf lived with his wife and children, who are also United States citizens. With his knowledge of the language and culture of Iraq, he was a doubtless a great asset to the journalists. According to the U.S. military, however, he is also a terrorist.

18 months ago, the three journalists and Mr. Munaf were kidnapped by a group of insurgents. When they were released three months later, Mr. Munaf was immediately taken into custody by the U.S. military. Held for sixteen months, the situation finally came to a head in October of 2006.

The story goes like this: the judge overseeing the case was ready to dismiss the charges against Munaf, because there was a dearth of evidence against him and because the Romanian government wasn't seeking charges against him. At the figurative last minute however, two American army officers appear. One claims to represent the Romanian government. They urge the judge to give Munaf the death penalty. The officers met privately with the judge — no defendant, no lawyers, just the two officers and the judge. When the judge came back, he sentenced Mohammed Munaf to death.

An American citizen. Death. On evidence he did not have the chance to hear about or refute. No due process, nobody even knows how many constitutional rights disregarded, and the guy isn't even threatening to detonate a dirty bomb in the middle of New York City in the next three hours. What a rip-off.

Do you feel comfortable knowing that your government can and will suspend the rights of your fellow citizens based on who knows what evidence? Even if you do accept the idea that they must have a fantastic reason for denying Munaf his constitutional rights, do you think that they — ordinary people with inordinate power — will not eventually abuse that power? Our rights were established for a reason, and that reason was not that people who gain power gain a proportional amount of virtue as they get it. Has the government, any government, ever given up any power voluntarily? I don't want you to vote Democrat. I don't want you to vote Independent. I want you to give this country a shock to its system, because that's what it's going to take. What I mean to say, really, is:
Osama bin Laden is still free. Are you?
I always feel a litte bit crazy after I write something like this, but then again it's a crazy world. Luckily, the Secret Service is here to defend us against 14 year old girls.

A video of one of Munaf's lawyers discussing the case: http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/43489/Scott Horton's The Nation interview: http://www.commondreams.org/views06/1018-23.htm

The hymnal of death is three lines long.

  • The first line is a grumbling in the distance.
  • The second, a few slurred words of congratulation.
  • The third, a long sigh of smug satisfaction followed by a photograph of a comfortable bed.

Don’t know where I’m going these days, true, but that’s nothing new under the sun.
Has love led me astray? Has friendship?
(And astray from what, exactly?)
You have to have a path to stray from it.
When entering upon the study of a science, we need to have some idea, if only a provisional one, of its nature. We want to have in sight a goal to strive towards; we want some point to aim at that will guide our steps in the right direction. The word ‘true’ can be used to indicate such a goal for logic… (Gottlob Frege)

Taking my life as a science (which it is, though one in disarray), I’ve yet to find such a point. Taking my life as a science, which I shouldn’t, my research programme is less likely to get funding than its competitors. Which is to say, you know more of me than I do, and can articulate it better. And you needn’t even know me; in fact, shouldn’t and won’t. That’s science.

You’ve been right that I look in the shortest time spans for the meaning of the longest. You’ve been right that for me the present is not just the cutting edge where the past meets the future but indeed is the focal point of both, the intensification of their meanings clustered and bundled and tightly enfolded into a crystalline unfolding, whose structure spreads out and covers everything. Any interests in history are motivated by self-examination.

That’s the privilege of youth: the disdain for what doesn’t remain.

What’s a motive for self-examination? Betterment. Likely as not that’s not mine. I’d wager rather that the notion of motivation is mostly useless in my case. Examination is a pathology which has lain waste to whatever good things managed to cling desperately to life in the rocky soil of my melon-head.

Lately, well perhaps since last winter, I’ve been thinking about this idea of the complete concept of a thing which Leibniz has. Someone mentioned it in passing in a class I had and I never bothered to follow it up or check what Leibniz meant by it. But what I got from it has stuck in my mind. The idea is that the complete concept of a thing (or, more specifically) of a person is that concept which covers all aspects of that persons relation to everything else in the world. The idea is that if you could grasp the complete concept of one person (or one monad, for that matter) you could grasp the infinite of possibilities of everything else at the same time. Sort of the one in the many, everything is everything, etc. For some reason Leibniz’ view of it struck me more than any of the other ones. It made me think of every person as a host of strands linked with every other strand. I think in my view the monad is unimportant, its not strands stemming from any particular unit, its strands all the way down, everywhere, filaments are the firmament. I guess that’s my dilettante’s predilection for string theory and my rube-ish notion that Deleuze is to string theory what Descartes et al were to Newton. But perhaps the gap isn’t that wide, and perhaps the connections aren’t that clear, and perhaps none of this is helpful except as cloud-lined dreamery.

Of the refrain, the staccato resounding of the same problems to the same beat. Similarities and harmonies underwritten and structured by tiny fissures along which we’d run, hand-in-hand, only occasionally worried about falling in, taking the plunge. Talking it up, playing it up for the crowd composed of us. Merriment on the rim of the abyss, on the end-points, merriment and flight to the edges where the small estates carved out of this glacial possibility abruptly cease and once more we settle into a chasm, covered over by no clasped hands, run along by no happily weary feet, gazed upon with no loving disdain.

That’s the harmony of the military march, resonating edgeless into the breach. Not once more, but at last, and firmly. We can only think here, in the soundless compression where rhythm escapes the beat.

Q: What is clarity? A: Siberia!
What to do is never clear, even when it is.

I’m taking a course entitled “The Concept of Political Culture”. I find most of it interesting.

The political culture hypothesis suggests that a political culture determines (or in some way constrains the possibilities of a political system. So certain political systems are only possible given certain political cultures, or cultural preconditions of some kind. In order to understand what this claim amounts to, we must first have a clear idea of what we mean both by ‘political culture’ (and, I suppose, by ‘culture’ more broadly)and by ‘political system’.

So what do we mean by political culture, then? What is a political culture? How can we individuate distinct political cultures? What is a political culture.

A tentative suggestion is that a political culture is or derives from (in what ways, blah blah blah) a particular historical narrative which is accepted (at least tacitly) by some group, however vaguely defined. Such narratives, it is suggested, take the form of interpretations of particular sequences of historical events. (A French political culture might be distinguishable by its reference to the crowning of Charlemagne, the French Revolution, etc; and English political culture by the Magna Carta, by certain common legal edicts, etc.—these are two facile state-based examples). Even so, two distinct political cultures may in some be based upon the ‘same’ events: they will differ, however, in their interpretation of those events. So, for instance, we might have a German political culture, an Israeli political culture and an Austrian political culture both of which define themselves partially in relation to the defeat of the Third Reich, though with varying interpretations of what this event means for future political action, and therefore with differing political systems. But this too is overly simplistic, as these three nations clearly relate to disparate as well as similar historical sequences. But let’s keep things overly schematic anyway, to see the elements at issue at least somewhat clearly.

So we have historical events, which are interpreted, and whose interpretation provides the substance of political cultures, these interpretations can become institutionalized and concretized in particular political systems.

We have historical events, or sequences of historical events at least.

Not simply ‘events’ but ‘historical events’, a terminological difference which seems of key importance. What makes them historical is precisely that they relate in some sense to human endeavours, to human meaning and systems of meaning. I’m not sure that the political culture proponent would suggest that these historical sequences can in any sense be excised from a particular interpretation so that we reach some abstract purity: there is no uninterpreted view of the signing of the Magna Carta. To understand this event is precisely to understand it by interpreting it in relation to some cultural outlook. But, nevertheless, this does not mean that there are not elements of these historical events which are objectively verifiable: elements which we can look to and say that particular interpretations get RIGHT and others get WRONG. Take the Magna Carta, again, it is correct to view the signing of this document as crucially important for the subsequent development of constitutional governance. This is a fact about a historical event’s place in a system of subsequent meanings. Any account of the Magna Carta as a historical event will have to take account of this. Of course opinions may differ as to what exactly its importance amounts to, or how we should connect our own endeavours with it.

only secondarily was she a gruesome blobulon

Sometimes I strain so hard to make a point and then realize halfway through that I don’t know what point I’m making, why I’m making it, or whether I’m making any point at all. I think my point is that despite historical events being always interpreted, there is still a sense of ‘objective’ correctness that we can uphold. But the objectivity does not mean there are these brute uninterpreted, or ‘meaningless’ or purely abstract things called historical events. We don’t have to reduce objectivity to a sense of sheer meaningless billiard-ball materiality. Aronovitch makes this point over and over again, and it’s in Weber and in Charles Taylor and a million other places, and its hard to see why its worth making so much until you read some social science, or, more properly, theories of social science. Being involved in the act of interpretation does not mean you must necessarily be unfair or unobjective about whatever it is you are interpreting. Though there is a huge epistemological tradition which, in different words, amounts to precisely that belief. I’d say that this is a wrongheaded view of what science is about that makes everything so hard for us to think about ourselves.

Who knows.

“I strive to avoid any reference to this transcendental as a condition of possibility for any knowledge. When I say that I strive to avoid it, I don’t mean that I am sure of succeeding. … I try to historicize to the utmost to leave as little space as possible for the transcendental. I cannot exclude the possibility that one day I will have to confront an irreducible residuum which will be, in fact, the transcendental” -Michel Foucault

I look everywhere for that gleaming actuality, something realer than the dust surrounding me. But I have the good sense to know that my looking is the gleaming. Assholes.

We can be right or wrong.

So I take it the political culture view takes it that any particular political culture can be realized in a number of different political systems.

In a series of lectures delivered at the College de France entitled Society Must Be Defended, Michel Foucault discusses the history of a conception of political legitimation which is intimately connected to this narrative understanding of political culture. Foucault traces this notion of legitimation through to its origins in sixteenth century French and British historiography. We might think of this as a fact. A number of questions have been floating around.

What is the relation between historical interpretations of specific event points or sequences and the legitimation of political authority? Or, properly, what possible forms can such a relation take, and what are the conditions which determine these forms? Can I expect the problems of my life to be sorted out within the next year and replaced with others, or shall I assume that these are the problems I’ll have until I die? Which may be soon. That’s not up to me. And I hope it’s not up to you. Do these historical interpretions create political culture or are they themselves the political culture?

What effects does political culture have, does it affect the types of governance which are possible, and the type of action structuring (i.e. formative elements) which are possible? Does political culture determine forms of governance which eventually result in structuring society

Other than all the political culture stuff, which to be honest I haven’t been thinking about enough to the point that I can’t even really formulate a possible paper topic for, other than that, I’ve been thinking a lot about axioms and inference and atomism/continuity. In a sense my interests in politics (whatever that might mean) are connected to these “more basic” (I think yes, they are more basic, in a confusing sense which doesn’t gibe with everything else I think) than political concerns.

Anyway, so as a dilettante is wont to do, I’ve been reading all sorts of logic and set theory stuff. As an aside, I think philosophy could profit from more attention to Kurt Godel as a philosopher properly speaking, rather than as a logician or mathematician. There is a collection of George Boolos’ papers called “Logic, Logic, and Logic" which I find funny. There’s a good paper in there outlining the iterative conception of a set, entitled “The Iterative Concept of a Set” appropriately enough.

I think it’s interesting that at bottom problems with continuity and atomism blur into each other. Hegel says things about this problem which I find irritating, I imagine Heidegger talks about it as well, though I wouldn’t know where to look. I think it’s a good idea to push logic on this point, though I’m not mathematically savvy enough to talk continuity that well. I think in one sense it’s good to be a dilettante about math if you are philosophically interested in it, most novel philosophy of math (which leads to novel developments in mathematics itself) is done by people pursuing purely mathematical aims. Look at Cantor—his interests in the infinite were mathematical but also very religious. And from that we get set theory. Same with Brouwer and Godel, maybe less so with Hilbert.

I’m starting to realize how little I understand the notion of a function. For some reason I get this daunting sense like I’m on the edge of something really important when I think about how a function can’t simply be correlated with its input/output table. Or shouldn’t be anyway. The problem is thinking this leads you to an object, the problem is reifying functions just because we can’t understand them. Maybe it’s psychological.

Joan Weiner writes well about Frege. She has an excellent book called “Frege in Perspective” that I haven’t read all of, but which I find really fascinating in the parts which I have read. Last year some time I wrote this paper about Frege and what his writings about logic imply for the ontology of logic and I referenced here a bit in it. Here is a sample from that paper which I just reread because I was bored, I think it’s pretty good as far as things I’ve written go.

…what Frege intends with his elucidations is something like the following. Given a pre-systematic understanding of the rules of correct inference (that is, given a particular form of human life), and given a certain set of absolute simples which can never be properly formulated but which are implicit within our pre-systematic understanding—given all this—Frege’s nonsensical elucidations, because they arise out of this pre-systematic understanding, are at least likely to succeed in functioning as a propadeutic to properly systematic logic. There is accordingly a pre-systematic realm of meaningfulness prior to a science of the meaningful. Thus, elucidation is not an attempt to step outside the conditions of sensibility to some meta-perspective which is nevertheless meaningful. Rather, elucidation is Frege’s way of struggling to show us what it is we are constrained to do; they show us the constraints of a logic which must live within language. Because the logically simple items of the science of logic are only simple or primitive relative to a particular system, we can step outside that system and speak of them meaningfully, though not precisely. There are (or may be) possible alternative systematizations, and once we enter into such a system we cannot speak with precision about the basic elements of the system. Thus Frege’s elucidations constantly oscillate between the pre-systematic and the systematic, and it is this oscillation which can lend them the appearance of sheer nonsense; but this appearance is nevertheless the result of their success in introducing us into the system. Without our understanding of the subject matter of the science, i.e., without entrance into the system, these elucidations would not yet have the appearance of nonsense.

Because these relatively simple items are preceded by our pre-systematic understanding, their meaning can be clarified by relatively nonsensical elucidations. In other words, because there are alternative systematizations, Frege’s particular systematization of logic cannot be viewed as setting down the conditions for meaningfulness or truth. Rather, it sets down one possible system of such conditions. Now, this system of conditions, if valid, maps the deeper ontological structure of the absolutely simple. Thus, there should exist for any successful logic a relation between the basic items of its system-ontology and the absolutely simple items of the ontology of the world, the ‘ultimate constituents of reality’. So, whenever Frege struggles to talk about what a ‘function’ is, his struggle is not absolutely nonsensical but only nonsensical relative to a given systematization of the conditions of sensibility. ‘Function’ is not an absolute simple, but is a simple term within a given system (i.e., Frege’s) which attempts to map an absolute simple. Thus, when Frege notes the elucidations he offers of the term ‘function’ fail to map what it is he means by ‘function’, he speaks from within meaningfulness, but from outside the intentions of his system. Frege is able to understand his system of logic in this way precisely because it is not the system of logic, but one possible systematization resulting from the possibilities determined by the absolute simples, which themselves cannot be mapped definitively within any particular system insofar as they make possible all systems.

Of course this understanding of elucidations comes with a considerable amount of ontological baggage for Frege. I take it that in order for this vision of Fregean elucidation to hold any water, Frege must at the very least be committed to the existence of some ontological entities which are prior to the mental, the physical, and even the third realm. Such entities give these respective realms their structure and, by dint of their generality, allow interaction between the realms as well.

It seems to me that Frege’s strident tone of anti-psychologism is what leads him (and us, his interpreters) into trouble when it comes to the ultimate basis of his system. Because he is so committed to the expulsion of anything remotely mental from the realm of logic, he glosses over the fact that the basic elements of logic can only be used to found a system once they are apprehended, or grasped in some sense. And they can only be so grasped if they are the result of an ontology in which absolute ontological simples anchor the connection of human life to the realm of thoughts. So, discussion of logic can only take place given this firm ontological commitment, as well as a particular understanding of the relationship between the human mind and logic itself. Thus, Frege’s attempt to excise all psychology from logic, understandable and useful though it may be, is itself at the outset dependent upon the ontological ‘graspability’ of logic. So it would seem that while psychologism can perhaps be excised from any particular systematization of logic, the very possibility of systematizing logic presupposes an ontology which requires interaction between thoughts and thinkers. If this is not the case, it seems impossible to countenance Frege’s elucidatory remarks about logically simple items as anything other than utter nonsense.

I like Frege, he’s very easy to read and has fascinating ideas and is generally very above board in what he writes. He never tries to impress or slide anything by you, that is a surprisingly rare quality. In writers and people more generally. I try and cover over things all the time because I’m too weak to live up with what I’ve done. All day I do that.

At 5:10 AM what I think about you is limited to what I can hate about you.

What I think about you is limited to what I can dangerously peck out about you at one WPM while I admire my gruesomely iron-starved, tendrilous, tendonized hands. These string-wrought, guy-wired appendages I've acquired. No longer the beautiful artisan's sensualities I once had.

No longer because diseased by work and weal. Diseased, that is, by the common lament of the common man, the lament that runs roughly thus: "My body resists that which you exact from it, my life desires other than your quantum extractions". Yes, all those complaints, none of which will be or should be answered.

I 'work' quietly enough, a job which would make diamond minors in the 60 degree heat shrug. Shrug not exactly in laughter, but in confusion that complaint would seem to arise.

Is my conceit an affront to their questioned dignity? Probably. Certainly. My concerns are barely worth addressing even given the paltry concerns with which I dare to have become acquainted. (such hubris here, such undaunted hubris!)


I SING no harm, good sooth, to any wight,
To lord or fool, cuckold, beggar, or knight,
To peace-teaching lawyer, proctor, or brave
Reformed or reducèd captain, knave,
Officer, juggler, or justice of peace,
Juror or judge ; I touch no fat sow's grease ;
I am no libeller, nor will be any,
But—like a true man—say there are too many.
I fear not ore tenus ; for my tale
Nor count nor counsellor will look red or pale.

A citizen and his wife the other day
Both riding on one horse, upon the way
I overtook ; the wench a pretty peat,
And—by her eye—well fitting for the feat.
I saw the lecherous citizen turn back
His head, and on his wife's lip steal a smack ;
Whence apprehending that the man was kind,
Riding before to kiss his wife behind,
To get acquaintance with him I began
To sort discourse fit for so fine a man ;
I ask'd the number of the plaguing bill ;
Ask'd if the custom farmers held out still ;
Of the Virginian plot, and whether Ward
The traffic of the island seas had marr'd ;
Whether the Britain Burse did fill apace,
And likely were to give th' Exchange disgrace.
Of new-built Aldgate, and the Moor-field crosses,
Of store of bankrupts, and poor merchants' losses
I urgèd him to speak ; but he—as mute
As an old courtier worn to his last suit—
Replies with only yeas and nays ; at last
—To fit his element—my theme I cast
On tradesmen's gains ; that set his tongue a-going.
“ Alas ! good sir,” quoth he, “ There is no doing
In court or city now” ; she smiled, and I,
And, in my conscience, both gave him the lie
In one met thought ; but he went on apace,
And at the present time with such a face
He rail'd, as fray'd me ; for he gave no praise
To any but my Lord of Essex' days ;
Call'd that the age of action—“ True ! ” quoth I—
“ There's now as great an itch of bravery,
And heat of taking up, but cold lay down,
For, put to push of pay, away they run ;
Our only city trades of hope now are
Bawd, tavern-keepers, whores, and scriveners.
The much of privileged kinsmen and store
Of fresh protections make the rest all poor.
In the first state of their creation
Though many stoutly stand, yet proves not one
A righteous pay-master.” Thus ran he on
In a continued rage ; so void of reason
Seem'd his harsh talk, I sweat for fear of treason.
And—troth—how could I less ? when in the prayer
For the protection of the wise Lord Mayor,
And his wise brethren's worships, when one prayeth,
He swore that none could say amen with faith.
To get off him from what I glow'd to hear,
In happy time an angel did appear,
The bright sign of a loved and well-tried inn,
Where many citizens with their wives had been
Well used and often ; here I pray'd him stay,
To take some due refreshment by the way.
Look, how he look'd that hid the gold, his hope,
And at return found nothing but a rope,
So he at me ; refused and made away,
Though willing she pleaded a weary stay.
I found my miss, struck hands, and pray'd him tell—
To hold acquaintance still—where he did dwell.
He barely named the street, promised the wine,
But his kind wife gave me the very sign.

-John Donne

Fuck sometimes Donne is straight the most hilarious shit ever. Good notes to end on. And so we shall. I hope I get another message from the E2 copyright fanatics assuring me that my use of Donne is fair. I won't sleep a wink until I do you can be sure of that.

The best revenge is feeding someone's sons to them baked into a pie and getting to see the look on their face when they realize what you've done

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