December 14, 2009

It's Irrefutable!

"Althusser informs us that 'it is an irrefutable fact that the Family is the most powerful State Ideological Apparatus'" (from Tony Judt's 1994 New Republic review article, reprinted in his recent book "Reappraisals"). I sometimes tend to think it's more like state ideology is the most powerful family apparatus, in all the engendered senses of that inversion, but that's just a detail, right? After all, Althusser's talking irrefutable fact here, so he can't be wrong, right?

Despite his obvious humourless totalitarian tendencies and socially unperceptive work (and life, for that matter), Althusser was once taken Very Seriously Indeed by people I knew and respected in Sydney, and I'm sure somewhere in the stash of books I left with my brother when I moved to London there's a dog-eared copy of "For Marx" or "Reading Capital" (probably both). Reading Althusser as an engineering student who was also doing a serious history and philosophy of science (HPS) second major was a transformative experience, but not in the way it probably was for most non-techie readers. More than the deliberately obtuse and jargon-laden prose (seemingly designed to do the familiar trick of being allusive without actually pinning Althusser down to anything you could test or criticise without him (or his acolytes) protesting that you'd misread or misunderstood him), I think it was his misuse of the words "science" and "scientific" that did it for me. It's that classic sleight-of-hand shell game equivocation where a hollowed-out version of "science" is used as a stand-in for something quite different, but still lends it the aura of objectivity (the dead giveaway with Althusser is that nothing non-trivial in science is an irrefutable fact). And I was left with the stark difference between the "show the work" and "evoke the metaphor" poles of my then-academic reading life….

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November 13, 2009

That Positivist Eschatology

Along with a handful of other people I spent an enjoyable few hours last weekend showing John Wilkins the Sights Of The City (and Berkeley). John's a real philosopher and historian of science, a field I really only dabbled in at university, and the various conversations over lunch or bagels or out in the streets ranged from mathematical models used in cladistics through species concepts and the storybook version(s) of science history taught to scientists, to what a positivist eschatology might look like (OK, that one was inspired by a previous comic non sequitur over a beer, but never mind), to Australian accents (his accent's noticeably more authentically Australian than mine; I think my accent's sui generis now, it doesn't belong to any country or region any more, which is a little unsettling). And he knew who the real Jimmy Little is, which was somewhat impressive for a philosopher (I was there as the Real Me, fortunately).

John's book Species: A History Of The Idea has just been published here by UC Press. One of John's arguments (at least as I understood it), which got aired on the weekend, is that the notion within biology that earlier scientists or philosophers — Linnaeus or Aristotle, for example — used essentialist conceptions of "species" is wrong, and that the notion that they did use such conceptions is itself a modern misconception, one that's been rather influential in modern biology and history and philosophy of science (HPS). A more nuanced look at what earlier scientists and philosophers actually meant when they used the term "species" suggests that few if any earlier such usages were essentialist.

That intrigues me, and might help explain a few things that have puzzled me about the history and sociology of modern biological; but I guess what I've always been most interested in with things like this (and what motivated me to do HPS at university) are the sociological and psychological reasons how and why such an idea might spread and take hold in intellectual circles (and anti-intellectual circles, for that matter) — and how such ideas die out or marginalised. History and sociology often only make sense to me when taken with a healthy dose of psychology (tempered with a great deal of skepticism); I can't help feeling this is one of those cases.

I've ordered his book; it turns up in the mail today or tomorrow; let's see how much of it I can misunderstand or misconstrue….

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October 10, 2009

Mystical Maths

In Moe's this morning I buy a copy of Alain Badiou's "Number and Numbers", and present it to the clerk, a guy who's sold books to me here for years.

Him: "Ah, Badiou! Man of the moment!"
Me: "But I bet you thought you'd never sell any copies of this book…".
Him: "It's Berkeley. Someone's going to buy a copy eventually…"
Me: "Yeah, that someone's me, I guess. I just love reading stuff like this to see what happens when philosophers try to take on math; it's nearly always some sort of semi-mystical train wreck."
Him: "Ha! A friend of mine used to read Badiou — and Deleuze and Derrida and all those guys — a lot, but he was always high, and he never stopped giggling and chuckling his way through it all. Made me kinda wonder what was in those books."
Me: "Yeah. Treating it as a species of entertainment is probably the best way to cope."

I'm hopeful of a little bit more than entertainment, though: there's evidence in a quick flip through the book that Badiou's not just interested in waving his hands ostentatiously in front of the usual mathematically-ignorant philosophy types. We shall see….

Later, in the supermarket, with some typically overheated Dylan song supplying a smooth soundtrack, the (huge) woman behind the deli counter has a (huge) black and white badge on her chest that says "God is good — all the time!". Somewhere out there, God's rolling in his grave.

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August 25, 2009

There's A Riot Going On

"What are we to make of a scientific materialism which formally accepts the findings of physics about matter, yet makes so little effort to link these findings with the class struggle, revolution, or whatever. Does not the abyss between proton and the proletariat conceal an unacknowledged metaphysical conception of man?" — Benedict Anderson in a footnote to Imagined Communities (p10 in my edition).

At first glance this is an absolute riot of category errors (and the context doesn't save it). At second glance it's hard to make enough sense of it to know whether they're really category errors or not. But never mind: this is a frustrating book, but one I keep reading. And reading it is like reading a map prepared by someone who navigates to a completely different (even hidden) set of stars (Marx, Gellner, et al); it's like unearthing a time capsule from a long-vanished era and having to struggle to remember some of the cultural, philosophical, and political references that Anderson must have assumed we'd all get or at least recognise as Important and Relevant (itself a word of its time…). In short, a book that seems colonised by the time and place of its writing.

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June 18, 2009

Imagination Run Riot

"The great instrument of moral good is the imagination" (Shelly, quoted in Charles Simic's review of Slako Goldstein's "1941: Godin koja se vraca" in the latest NYRB).

No, it's not imagination, it's that special form of imagination, empathy. Imagination without empathy too often becomes the sort of murderous paranoia that Goldstein's book describes (and that periodically plagues America). When that sort of imagination runs wild, people tend to die in real life, people tend to forget that there are individual humans at the center, the start, the end, the sights, of even the most imaginative movement or abstract noun.

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March 08, 2009

Life On Mars

In Moe's I stumble upon Felix Guattari's "Chaosophy: Texts and Interviews 1972-1977" (Semiotext(e), ed. Lotringer, natch), a book I just have to buy after a quick skim, if only because the blurb describes "Anti-Oedipus" as one of the most important books of our time, and because in one of the chapters Guattari, when asked for a brief overview of something or other in an interview, goes on for several unstoppable pages (unintentional comedy is always the best comedy).

I've long had a soft spot in my intellectual heart for Guattari — his analysis of R.D. Laing's Kingsley Hall anti-psychiatry adventures (included in this collection) is characteristically perceptive and droll, and it's hard not to be sympathetic to an agenda that attempted to get psychology (as a practice, if not a science) out of the whole claustrophobic Oedipal thing and more engaged with broader social and institutional contexts (at least). But this collection was written at a time when it was possible to discuss psychiatry and psychology in great detail without once even mentioning neuroscience or neuropathology (except dismissively in passing), and to talk about something like schizophrenia entirely in social or institutional terms. Not that Guattari himself does this (at least not here), but this was a time when it was even possible to straight-facedly discuss "curing" schizophrenia using Freudian analysis; reading bits of the collection over the past few days has been a sort of mental Life On Mars for me.

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January 31, 2009

Science Taken For Wonders

Reading George Makari's "Revolution In Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis" (Harper, 2008), the question that keeps leaping up at every turn is: how did anyone take Freud seriously for so long? Put another way, what deep psychological need did Freudian psychoanalysis — a sort of astrology of the mind, short of real evidence, a mishmash of wishful thinking and received prejudices masquerading as the key to unmasking wishful thoughts and prejudices — what deep needs did it tap to be able to seduce several whole generations of philosophers, analysts, and patients? Now that's a problem best studied by psychology (or social psychiatry, perhaps). In this history, Freud himself comes across as mercurial, manipulative, spiteful; the group of Freudians around him as a typical cult, concerned mostly with a desperate struggle not to alienate the Leader and find themselves on the outside. Not a pretty picture, but not that untypical of any insurgent movement, in the field of science or elsewhere.

Freud's monumental reputation loomed large in the Easter Island of philosophy I inhabited in Sydney all those years ago (where he seemed to have been regarded as a founder of the science and philosophy of mind), but he and Freudianism were basically invisible in the science and history of science courses I took at the same time. And it's easy to see why: at every step of the history as told by Makari I want to leap up and ask "but where's the evidence?" or "how could you conceivably test that?" after some new assertion or complex model has been unveiled. Entire theories seem to have been spawned by (or grounded on) anecdotal evidence often gained from a single unverified clinical case (and then just as easily abandoned). The whole history comes across as a whirl of epicycle upon epicycle, self-validating, unfalsifiable, almost medieval, a sort of ungrounded Aristotelian hermeneutics of the mind, and as fundamentally changeable as Freud himself.

But Freudianism isn't necessarily Freudian any more, and while it's a lot of fun, it's unfair to visit the sins of the father on his children (especially since he abandoned so many of them). In the ferment of ideas about the mind during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, I have to admit that Freud seems to have had a good productive line of suggestive metaphors, established some useful vocabulary, and done a lot of good in deliberately letting quite a few essential cats out of the bag. But science? What Freud does seem to have bequeathed science isn't so much a science of the mind (we're still a long way from that), but a series of suggestive and largely-untested models for such a science; whether they'll be successful in the longer term isn't clear. But it makes for a very readable history….

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January 11, 2009

No True Scotsman

In a rather over-the-top and unintentionally-funny article for Design Observer, the great Murray Moss flails away at design windmills with whole paragraphs of things like:
"When he says 'come down a notch or two,' does Mr. Cannell [in an NYT article on design and recession] mean that Design should retreat from its current expansive, ambitious, fearless, exploratory, guild-breaking, all-encompassing plateau, from its hard-won re-positioning in the Arts? And revert back to what? To the perceived mid-century notion of efficiency and comfort?"
Those words seem almost, well, designed to set off the puffery detectors; "fearless, exploratory, guild-breaking, all-encompassing…"? Lordy, it's just design, dammit; and what is design but art harnessed for commerce and / or practicality? Self-importance? Moi?

"Designers and their true supporters have fought hard over the last fifteen years to expand the definition of design, not shrink it." And I guess that those of us who haven't fought hard for quite the same things — the expansion of the Design empire, for one — or bought any of the $10,000 designer chairs Moss mentions as exemplars of Design — just aren't True Supporters. Oh well. It's back to the drawing board for me, I guess….

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January 06, 2009

Fnoffle

Maybe I just like saying fnoffle ("We say that 'fnoffle' is a unary predicate…"), but maybe it's also because Aatu's such a consistently good read on Usenet (that ancient inflammable backwater) and carries Torkel Franzen's flame so effectively (it's hard to go past "The confused idea at issue is a perfect illustration of a very real danger in philosophy of mathematics, of reading philosophical significance into technical results without special argument" as an articulation one of my pet peeves…).

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December 04, 2008

IQ

There's a lot of talk of intelligence failures after the Mumbai attacks, but what would it take to have an intelligence success in this sort of thing? Massive surveillance, either centralised (the whole Panopticon thing) or distributed (networks of informers), or both, unfortunately. Yet those of us who rail on about intelligence failures are also often enough those of us who deplore the encroachment of government (and industry) on the private domain; that protective Big Brother looking over everyone's shoulders is more than just a riposte to that chip on our shoulders.

You can't have individual privacy, democracy, and safety from other individuals all in the same society; one or more has to give, at least to some extent….

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November 29, 2008

The Novelist's Talent

Elif Batuman's rather delicious skewering (or shoveling, for those who've read it) of Elisabeth Roudinesco's "Philosophy In Turbulent Times: Canghuilhem, Sartre, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida" in a recent LRB does the near impossible by making me relish the thought of reading the book itself (a book I just know will send me into reveries of "how could they think that?!"). And all those incantatory titular names, so familiar from a world away, another century away (I mined the relatively-sane Canguilhem for ideas for an undergrad HPS paper a long long time ago, and Althusser was, for reasons that never made the slightest bit of sense, a bright star in the somewhat confused and distant philosophical firmament at Sydney)….

"Roudinesco has a novelist's talent for distilling the scattered nonsense of a certain sociohistorical milieu into pithy soundbites." Indeed. That novelist's sense (intentional or not) is just what's needed….

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September 01, 2008

It's A Dirty Job…

Mars is telling me that "Space Is The Place" (come on guys, you did that one last year) but on Telegraph it's usually more of a void, and in Moe's remainders section I buy one of those unintentionally cute authoritarian tracts on Architecture (with a capital "A"), "New Architecture 5: Truth, Radicality, and Beyond in Contemporary Architecture" (capitalisation normalised for readability), published before-it-all-went-wrong to celebrate the radical future Architecture and Architects were planning for us all back in 2000 (one of the buildings discussed is metaphorically on my front doorstep, so it cuts close to home sometimes). It's got a foreword by Baudrillard (of course!) with whole paragraphs of things like:
Does architecture peter out in its reality, in its references, in its procedures, in its functions, in its techniques? Or does it go beyond all that and lose itself in something else, which is perhaps its own end, or something that might permit it to go beyond its own end? Does architecture exist beyond truth, beyond its own truth, in a sort of radicality that challenges space — rather than controls it — that challenges society in its obedience of its conventions and insititutions, that challenges the very creation of architecture and the creative architect with his illusion of control.
Super! Pure poetry!

Allusive words, meaningless in their ability to mean almost anything; in fact the whole foreword is a sort of densely-packed tar pit of phrases that evaporate when exposed (and that I just know I'm going to return to over and over…). The engineer in me wants to say that these are the words of someone in love with the sound of words (and in love with the sound of themselves); the architect in me says that both the foreword and the tract itself show that it's infinitely easier to construct whole shining cities full of seductive phrases than it is to create a single building worth inhabiting — and seemingly impossible to write simply and thoughtfully about architecture's products from the potential user's point of view….

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August 07, 2008

The Dreaming

Michelet's "Each epoch dreams the one to follow" seems quite wrong; every epoch dreams the one it follows. We sleepwalk the one to follow….

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July 02, 2008

The Art Of Spin

Benjamin's famous "Such is the aestheticizing of politics, as practiced by fascism. Communism replies by politicizing art." (italics in the original). But capitalism trumps both by spinning politics and art into entertainment.

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April 11, 2008

Total Immersion

William Mitchell's "e-topia: 'Urban Life, Jim — But Not As We Know It'" (MIT, 1999, bought as the usual remainder at Moe's): a book as dated in its hip cultural references and words as the phrase "Mondo 2K" (a phrase he actually uses; I admit to once knowing someone briefly associated with all that) or the word "e-topia" (or the Matrix, which it tries to use as an exotifier with the same leaden academic effect it usually provokes in the non-academic), a book that breathlessly (and often perceptively) attempts to explore a wired utopia and its meanings (for architects and planners, mainly), while glossing a bunch of things like security (in any of its shaded meanings — apparatus vs. security from such an apparatus, for example), or crime, or terrorism, or even the huge energy budget of the revolution.

For example, Mitchell talks a fair bit about the future of immersive technologies, smart spaces, etc., but doesn't spend a lot of time discussing what it is you're most likely to be immersed in — advertising (think "Minority Report"; does anyone think totally immersive (and absolutely intrusive) smart advertising is not a part of our future?) — and what those smart spaces will be up to (clever ways to keep tabs on what you're doing and how to get you to do things you might otherwise not do). In something of a throw-away paragraph he envisages controlling all the smart appliances in your home with a simple palm-sized remote control, but misses the obvious flipside to this: the ability to remotely control the smart appliances in someone else's home, or even control a person in their smart immersive home with a similar little control. It's the human here who's most likely to be the smart appliance (does anyone really think that isn't part of our future?). Similarly, when Mitchell breathlessly describes his wired dwellings bringing choice and opportunity to the inhabitants, he honestly just doesn't seem to understand that being wired is to be tethered, something that can just as easily take away choice and opportunity from the masses. Something he might want to consider is that he's really describing the updating of Corb's "machine for living in" to "machine for selling in" or even a "machine for conforming in".

He barely seems to notice the flipside to even the basic network technologies he seems to see as liberating: by being immersed, you're also trivially trackable, absolutely awash in surveillance and coercion opportunities. Again, he simply doesn't discuss what it is you'd be so effectively immersed in, nor who makes and controls that immersive reality. He (weirdly) misses a couple of crucial dimensions to these network technologies: he has little or nothing on that creepy convergence of surveillance and marketing that's probably the biggest thing in Web 2.0, for example. Let's face it: from the implementers' point of view, the web's really just a way to sell browsers to product pushers; the government and other surveillance is just a happy by-product of the mechanism to do that.

It's not that the vision is chilling, it's that it's chilling that he can't see the downside, or just dismisses it with a wave of the hand. The question for an academic like Mitchell who's claiming to explore a wired (or, increasingly, wireless) future is whether he wants to be complicit in — or a booster for — the sort of immersive smart wired utopia he glosses. All I can say, based on this book alone, is that he's not exactly a reliable guide to the future — bring your own map and cross-check repeatedly.

(There's a less than subtle hint of where he's coming from academically in his use of the word "telematics", a word not usually encountered in the field itself, a word that's more usually found in the original French, or nestled translated in thickets of language more appropriate to a virtual reality and rhizomes (another such word he uses) than in the world of networks or systems engineering I've inhabited for a long while now).

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March 15, 2008

Cantor Rulez!!! (A Philospher Writes…)

Why Cantor matters (and Wittgenstein's just an interesting historical oddity): "Writing decades after Cantor's death, Wittgenstein lamented that mathematics is 'ridden through and through with the pernicious idioms of [Cantor's] set theory,' which he dismissed as 'utter nonsense' that is 'laughable' and 'wrong'." (from Wikipedia's entry on Cantor).

From the Olympian heights of philosophy, mathematics must seem so grubby, and, well, useful, but to this reader, it's hard to get past Cantor's transfinite numbers for examples of abstract beauty and the stringent clarity of the purely counter-intuitive. I think the first time I read about — and understood — the various comparative transfinite cardinalities of the integers, the rationals, the reals, etc., (and, crucially, the associated proofs) was when I realised I could do mathematics in ways I can't do arithmetic (don't ask me to add things up). To a young Woy Woy boy struggling with high school in the foreign reaches of Canberra, this was a revelation.

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February 19, 2008

A Scientist Writes…

Robbe-Grillet dies, and, ironically, of all the mainstream press it's the crusty old Torygraph that so far seems to have the most sympathetic and encyclopedic obituary of this agronomist, scriptwriter, novelist, and general all-round storyteller.

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February 11, 2008

Wired

In the wired utopia only the privileged will be allowed face-to-face contact; only the privileged will have offices and be able to separate work from home; only the privileged will be able to unplug.

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December 23, 2007

Burn Baby Burn

"Architecture Must Burn", Aaron Betsky and Erik Adigard (Thames and Hudson, 2000, recently picked up in Moe's as a remainder): I'm a sucker for this sort of unintentionally earnest manifesto, teetering back and forth between the twee and the seriously ludicrous. Like nearly all manifestos, it's reactionary and utopian; and like all utopias, totalitarian; in this case in a creepy "we really care" sort of way. A sort of insistent dog barking in the intellectual night somewhere far off that you can't quite dismiss, despite the lack of overt meaning. There's some breathtaking writing here, spoiled by an almost contantly breathless tone and general incoherence; the book itself's a design disaster, in that very self-conscious and rather forced late-1990's way (and in a way that very deliberately becomes an issue in itself).

And I think I'll scream if I see such hip imports as "strange attractors" in a non-science context again; it's a sort of token exoticism or cargo cult that lets the writer indulge in a shell game of equivocation, where the smokescreen of vagueness lets you get away with giving the impression of profundity and depth without ever pinning things down, even generally. If you're vague enough, you can get away with convincing almost anyone that you've said something both profound and agreeable.

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October 11, 2007

Ornamentalism

In his "Design and Crime", Hal Foster takes Adolf Loos's famous "the evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects" (and the associated "ornament and crime" tirade about civilization and purity) seriously, as ideological baggage. But if you're going to take a statement like that seriously and at face value (rather than as the drily amusing polemical provocation I tend to think it is), you have to take it seriously as a psychological phenomenon rather than politically or ideologically. You're not going to get too far into why such slogans seduce without delving deeply into the subconsciouses of the sort of people for whom Purity and Authenticity appeal so much. It's about Belief, not about ideology. In such people, Belief prefigures ideology (but again, given Loos's actual output, you can't help feeling he's just stirring; like Schoenberg, he protests about protesting just a little too much).

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September 27, 2007

Tagline Tyranny

"Agencies waste countless hours concocting slogans of incredible fatuity. […] Notice that all these bromides are interchangeable — any company could use any of them." David Ogilvy, quoted in Michael Bierut's "Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design" (No. 36).

But isn't that the point? It's not an individual tagline that's significant, it's having any tagline at all that's significant. Taglines are anonymous floating signifiers; in most cases the tagline's not about a specifc product or company, and definitely not about product pragmatics or usage: taglines are about distraction and deflection, they're about identification with lifestyles that value taglines, they're about a 1984-esque kenosis of meaning. Not so much the society of the spectacle as the tribes of the taglines.

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August 02, 2007

Transgressions

How does he do it? Hal Foster, in the middle of an otherwise clearly-written preface (to his "Design and Crime"): "I think we need to recapture some sense of the political situatedness of artistic autonomy and its transgression, some sense of the historical dialectic of critical disciplinarity and its contestation [...]". I'm tempted to say I get it! I get it! but the joke's still on me.

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May 05, 2007

Longer Days

Mars tells me now that Longer Days Mean Shorter Skirts, but all I see is bondage gear in their windows and the usual derros, ancient hippies, and ageing self-important boomers strewn along the begarbaged blocks of Telegraph. In Moe's I buy a cheap remaindered paperback of Adorno's collected essays on music, a rich collection of easy targets. Adorno's writings on music are one of those sprawling guilty pleasures for me: he's so certain of the details (and so often right about the details) that he seems to completely miss the bigger picture. He's a Man On A(n Aesthetic) Mission, and he never lets us forget it — and like reading any literate True Believer, reading him is like entering another universe, something as entertainingly off-kilter in its way as Ben Marcus (an author Our Theodor would Not Approve Of, I'm sure).

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April 15, 2007

Andrew Sullivan's Soul

"Sullivan splashes excitedly around like a dog in a mud puddle, snarling ferociously at any other dog who challenges his position du jour. He's less a skeptic than a mercurial, and somewhat flirtatious, born believer" — Jonathan Raban reviewing Andrew Sullivan's "The Conservative Soul: How We Lost It, How to Get It Back" in a recent NYRB.

Sullivan's a smart, complex, tragic, and (for me, at least) rather attractive and exemplary figure (for all the wrong reasons), a man who seems to struggle mightily with having to bear a whole bunch of crosses, not least of which is that he's a True Believer trying desperately to belong in the skeptical house of Oakeshott, and he's the sort of person (common enough in academia and politics) whose rhetorical abilities far outstrip his self-knowledge. Like many True Believers, he seems defined by his need for True Enemies (rather than the True Enemies themselves), someone who navigates by a constantly changing constellation of intellectual enemies.

"For the fundamentalist ... there is one moment of real conscience, the moment when he makes the decision to conform his mind and will to an external authority. After that, his sole task is obedience [...]". (Sullivan dissing fundamentalists, as quoted by Raban).

Sullivan's real tragedy, though, bubbling below the surface, is that he failed the greatest moral and philosophical test of his life, throwing himself in uncritically with the quite plainly Rationalist (in Oakeshott's usage of the term) Bush project immediately after 9/11 (and especially with the Iraq invasion). He became fundamentalist at the crucial moment; or, rather, he seems to be a serial fundamentalist who latched on to another True Belief in the heat of the moment. His latter-day reflections on quite why he behaved that way seem disingenuous or quite unable to get to the heart of the matter: we weren't all fooled, we didn't all Believe in the way he did.

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March 25, 2007

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

"Walter Benjamin once wrote that in observing a city, outsiders concentrate mostly on the exotic and picturesque, while the natives always see the place through layers of memory" — Amos Elon reviewing Orhan Pamuk's "Istanbul: Memories and the City" in a recent NYRB.

But it's precisely because of people like Benjamin (and Pamuk, for that matter), that even outsiders see cities like Paris (or Istanbul) through layers of memory — other people's memories, for sure, but what's most striking (for me, at least) about visiting a city like Paris or New York or London or LA is the overwhelming sense of recognition of the ordinary rather than strange exotica. You can't read those cities like unknown books, you read them through layers of half-remembered (or vividly-remembered) memories of other texts and memories, you re-read them (this time in the original). What perhaps feels exotic is the source of the sense of remembrance in each place.

(When I moved to London I felt like I was inhabiting books; coming to California was about inhabiting TV and film).

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March 03, 2007

Épater le Bourgeois

"This [notoriety] suited Ibsen: scandalising the bourgeoisie was the best way of becoming a certified Modern." — Martin Puchner reviewing Toril Moi's "Henrik Ibsen and the Birth of Modernism" in a recent LRB. Well yes — bourgeois scandalising the bourgeoisie would seem to be the very definition of a model Modern movement. Postmodernism? A project concerned mostly with celebrating the bourgeoisie with faint praise.

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