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Antonio Gramsci Quote

"We are all conformists of some conformism or other, always man-in-the-mass or collective man."

I believe the point he is trying to make here is akin to Ludwig WIttgenstein against the possibility of a private language.

But Antonio Gramsci (1891 - 1937), being Gramsci, phrased the point so as to make it more political.

Amartya Sen suggests that Gramsci may have influenced Wittgenstein's move away from the picture theory of knowledge.


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Leiter on Nietzsche

Regular readers will know that I often owe my material for this blog to Brian Leiter, of the University of Chicago, and more pertinently (just now) proprietor of the wonderful philosophy blog Leiter Reports. 

This will be another example. Here is a piece of an essay on the interpretation of Nietzsche's philosophy that Leiter published back in 1992. He has recently posted it on his blog, indicating that he still believes it worth discussing (there are many things I was writing in 1992 of which I would not say the same, of which I will never be posting here.)

So ... this is Leiter, controverting one important interpretation of Nietzsche:

Alexander Nehamas’s 1985 book Nietzsche: Life as a Literature offers an elegant synthesis of themes from other (then au courant) readings of Nietzsche by Jacques Derrida, Sarah Kofman, Paul DeMan, and Richard Rorty. He effected this synthesis primarily through the introduction of a novel interpretive rubric: what Nehamas calls "aestheticism.&qu…

Philosophy and the Chain of Custody

Yesterday in this space I quoted a fragment conventionally attributed to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus and, in essence, free associated from that.

That doesn't advance the cause of scholarship one tiny bit but, heck, it's a hobby blog.

Somewhat more interesting than my personal train of association chugging along its tracks might be the question: how did fragments like that get from Heraclitus to us?

Fortunately, the tradition whereby philosophers write the history of the issues with which they deal goes back a long way. Setting Plato aside (because of the dramatic/literary demands of the dialog form), Aristotle started the practice of setting one's own table historically.

A less well known later fellow named Sextus Empiricus seems to have played a big role. SE lived in the second or third century of the Christian era. He was a skeptic, that is, he believed that no firm beliefs are rational, and that by accepting our ignorance we can achieve tranquility.



Yes, one…

A fragment of Heraclitus

"This cosmos was not made by immortal or mortal beings, but always was, is and will be an eternal fire, arising and subsiding in measure."

The presumption that the cosmos was not made by immortal or mortal beings draws out attention to the verb. The cosmos was not "made" at all, so there is no answer to the question who made it.

The cosmos was not made precisely in the sense that it has always been.

So far so good, we might attribute to Heraclitus something akin to the steady-state theory of the cosmos and knock off our exegetical work for the day. But then what are we to do with the final clause? The cosmos continues to exist by "arising and subsiding in measure."

To continue with the categories of contemporary cosmologists, this seems like a "Big Crunch" theory. The universe is a closed one, in that it will not expand forever (that would be an expansion without "measure"!). It will at some point start to fall in upon itself, with al…

Searle v. Derrida on Speech Acts

I've referenced John Searle in this blog fairly often, I believe. But it has always been as the inventor of the "chinese room" thought experiment. Today I hope to describe another aspect of his life's work: his view of "speech acts," and the conflict with Jacques Derrida over same.

In 1972, Jacques Derrida wrote an essay about J.L. Austin's book, "How to do things with words," a work published in 1962 based on lectures delivered in 1955. Austin's over-riding point was that much of what one does with words is a performance, even if it masquerades as a description. For example, "I'm sorry," in the context in which an apology is socially appropriate.  This is an action, not a report on the degree of one's personal sorrow.

Derrida's essay, "Signature, Event, Context," expresses the view that, yes, Austin had a valid point. But Derrida devotes a lot of attention to the things Austin didn't say, questions he …

The Philosophy of Gilligan's Island

Whatever your own aspirations, and whatever are the difficulties in reaching them, you can if you like call the latter your condition of being stranded, the island on which you are stuck, and you can refer to the former as the task of "getting off the island."

Thus the situation that provides the plot of most of the series' episodes is quite generalizable.

The heart of the philosophy of the show is this: to achieve anything in life, you have to suppress your inner Gilligan. Some part of you probably has adapted pretty well to your island, to the limits of your life, to the frustration of your ambitions. That part of you will frustrate efforts to get off the island. But it (he) will do so in an amiable way, a way that doesn't look like sabotage, and that may even seem ... funny.

DON'T TOLERATE THAT. Be tough on your inner Gilligan.