Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Helden Erobern Rasch

Beloved, don’t fret that you gave yourself so quickly!
Believe me, I don’t think badly or wrongly of you.
The arrows of Love are various: some scratch us,
And our hearts suffer for years from their slow poison.
But others strong-feathered with freshly sharpened points
Pierce to the marrow, and quickly inflame the blood.
In the heroic ages, when gods and goddesses loved,
Desire followed a look, and joy followed desire.
Do you think the Goddess of Love was calm for long
Once Anchises attracted her in the groves of Ida?
If Luna had waited to kiss her beautiful sleeper,
Ah, then envious Dawn would have woken him swiftly.
Hero saw her Leander at a loud feast, at once
Her hot lover leapt out into the midnight flood.
Rhea Silvia the royal maiden went to the Tiber
To draw water, and the God captured her there.
So Mars conceived his sons! – And so a she-wolf
Suckled twins, so Rome became Queen of the World.
- Goethe, "Roman Elegies III"

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Imagining Public Spaces Outside of Ideology

What is the difference as Kant explains it between the public and private use of reason? Does Mendelssohn largely agree with Kant on this matter of the two uses of reason or not?

The public sphere is a place where people are free from obligation of their calling, and subjects are free to write or speak critically (Kant 59, Outram 2). The private sphere is a place where people have an actual duty to restrain the expression of wayward political judgment, in the interest of upholding the ruler’s will and lessening the likelihood of the outbreak of chaos (Kant 59, Outram 2). As Kant explains it, a clergyman is bound to lecture to his congregation according to the symbol of the church which he serves. But as a scholar, “he has the complete freedom to communicate to the public all of his carefully tested and well-intentioned thoughts on the imperfections of that symbol and his proposals for better arrangement of religious and ecclesiastical affairs” (Kant 60). In fact, Kant goes as far as to point out that it is indeed the clergyman’s calling to communicate his thoughts on the imperfections of the church. Kant divides actions/thoughts into either public or private categories. He does not see these categories as contradictions, and points out that if these uses are carefully separated then the clergyman should have “nothing to burden his conscience” (Kant 60). Kant sees the clergyman as an agent of his church and therefore requires him to teach something he does not agree with “as a consequence of his office” (60-61). Therefore, Kant views the clergyman’s use of his reason before his congregation as a private use of reason and his use of his freedom as a scholar who speaks to his own public through his writing as a public use of his reason (61).

Mendelssohn does not agree with Kant on this matter of the two uses of reason. He notes that “the destiny of man as a measure and goal of all our striving and efforts” and argues that the more status and duties in civil life correspond “throughout all the states, with their vocations…the more culture the nation possesses” (Mendelssohn 54). In other words, Mendelssohn does not segregate use of reason into two spheres and instead requires man to reconcile them into one way of being. As a result, he points out, “if the unessential destiny of man comes into conflict with the essential or nonessential destiny of the citizen, rules must be established according to which exceptions are made in cases of collisions decided” (Mendelssohn 55).
Kate Prudchenko

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name

'Arcturus' is his other name—
I'd rather call him 'Star.'
It's very mean of Science
To go and interfere!

I slew a worm the other day—
A 'Savant' passing by
Murmured 'Resurgam'—'Centipede'!
'Oh Lord—how frail are we'!

I pull a flower from the woods—
A monster with a glass
Computes the stamens in a breath—
And has her in a 'class'!

Whereas I took the Butterfly
Aforetime in my hat—
He sits erect in 'Cabinets'—
The Clover bells forgot.

What once was 'Heaven'
Is 'Zenith' now—
Where I proposed to go
When Time's brief masquerade was done
Is mapped and charted too.

What if the poles should frisk about
And stand upon their heads!
I hope I'm ready for 'the worst'—
Whatever prank betides!

Perhaps the 'Kingdom of Heaven's' changed—
I hope the 'Children' there Won't be 'new fashioned' when I come—
And laugh at me—and stare—

I hope the Father in the skies
Will lift his little girl—
Old fashioned—naught—everything—
Over the stile of 'Pearl.'
-Emily Elizabeth Dickinson

Monday, September 22, 2014

Intersections of the Social and Economic (Socially DIstanced) Life

In the movie, "A Beautiful Mind", John Nash's eureka moment occurs while he is with his friends in a bar. Five girls enter the establishment and Nash and his friends start contemplating who will get the blonde.

Eventually the conversation turns to Adam Smith and one of his famous quotes, "In competition, individual ambition serves the common good."

"Everyman for himself, gentlemen" says one of Nash's friends.

And another adds, "and those who strike out are stuck with their friends."

Eventually the blonde looks over at Nash, and he joins the conversation, "Adam Smith needs revision." Nash goes on to state that no one should pursue the blonde since they will all "block each other and not a single one of us will get her. Then when we strike out, none of her friends will have us because no one likes to be second choice. But what if no one goes for the blonde? We don't get in each others way and we don't insult the other girls. That's the only way we win."

But his friend quickly adds, "If this is someway for you to get the blonde you can go to #%^*!"

"Adam Smith said that the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself, right? That's what he said. Incomplete. OK, because the best result would come from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself and the group."

Friday, September 19, 2014

My Mistake!

MUCH have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez*, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
- John Keats, "On first looking into Chapman's Homer"
*In point of historical fact, it was the members of Vasco Núñez de Balboa's expedition who were the first Europeans to see the east coast of the Pacific, but Keats chose to focus on Hernán Cortés; "Darien" refers to the Darién province of Panama. Keats had been reading William Robertson's History of America and apparently conflated two scenes there described: Balboa's finding of the Pacific and Cortés's first view of the Valley of Mexico. The Balboa passage: "At length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they should discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes. When, with infinite toil, they had climbed up the greater part of the steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to halt, and advanced alone to the summit, that he might be the first who should enjoy a spectacle which he had so long desired. As soon as he beheld the South Sea stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his hands to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself. His followers, observing his transports of joy, rushed forward to join in his wonder, exultation, and gratitude" (Vol. III).

John Keats simply remembered the image, rather than the actual historical facts. Charles Clarke noticed the error immediately, but Keats chose to leave it in, presumably because historical accuracy would have necessitated an unwanted extra syllable in the line.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Bear from hence his body;
And mourn you for him: let him be regarded
As the most noble corse that ever herald
Did follow to his urn.
- Shakespeare, "Coriolanus"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Today is.

A dream lies dead here. May you softly go
Before this place, and turn away your eyes,
Nor seek to know the look of that which dies
Importuning Life for life. Walk not in woe,
But, for a little, let your step be slow.
And, of your mercy, be not sweetly wise
With words of hope and Spring and tenderer skies.
A dream lies dead; and this all mourners know:

Whenever one drifted petal leaves the tree-
Though white of bloom as it had been before
And proudly waitful of fecundity-
One little loveliness can be no more;
And so must Beauty bow her imperfect head
Because a dream has joined the wistful dead!
- Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.

God’s lioness,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,

Berries cast dark

Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Something else

Hauls me through air—
Thighs, hair;
Flakes from my heels.

Godiva, I unpeel—
Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I
Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.
The child’s cry

Melts in the wall.
And I
Am the arrow,

The dew that flies
Suicidal, at one with the drive
Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.
- Sylvia Plath, "Ariel"

Saturday, September 6, 2014


William Butler Yeats, this arch-conservative, was right in is diagnosis of the XXth century, when he wrote: "...The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / the ceremony of innocence is drowned; / the best lack all conviction, while the worst / are full of passionate intensity." (The Second Coming, 1920). The key to his diagnosis is contained in the phrase "ceremony of innocence," which is to be taken in the precise sense of Edith Wharton's "age of innocence": Newton's wife, the "innocent" the title refers to, was not a naïve believer in her husband's fidelity - she knew well of his passionate love for Countess Olenska, she just politely ignored it and staged the belief in his fidelity... In one of the Marx brothers' films, Groucho Marx, when caught in a lie, answers angrily: "Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?"

This apparently absurd logic renders perfectly the functioning of the symbolic order, in which the symbolic mask-mandate matters more than the direct reality of the individual who wears this mask and/or assumes this mandate. This functioning involves the structure of fetishist disavowal: "I know very well that things are the way I see them /that this person is a corrupt weakling, but I nonetheless treat him respectfully, since he wears the insignia of a judge, so that when he speaks, it is the Law itself which speaks through him". So, in a way, I effectively believe his words, not my eyes, i.e. I believe in Another Space (the domain of pure symbolic authority) which matters more than the reality of its spokesmen. The cynical reduction to reality thus falls short: when a judge speaks, there is in a way more truth in his words (the words of the Institution of law) than in the direct reality of the person of judge - if one limits oneself to what one sees, one simply misses the point. This paradox is what Lacan aims at with his les non-dupes errent: those who do not let themselves be caught in the symbolic deception/fiction and continue to believe their eyes are the ones who err most.
- Slavoj Zizek, "With or Without Passion: What's Wrong with Fundamentalism"

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Delphian Oracles

THERE all the golden codgers lay,
There the silver dew,
And the great water sighed for love,
And the wind sighed too.
Man-picker Niamh leant and sighed
By Oisin on the grass;
There sighed amid his choir of love
Tall pythagoras.
plotinus came and looked about,
The salt-flakes on his breast,
And having stretched and yawned awhile
Lay sighing like the rest.
Straddling each a dolphin's back
And steadied by a fin,
Those Innocents re-live their death,
Their wounds open again.
The ecstatic waters laugh because
Their cries are sweet and strange,
Through their ancestral patterns dance,
And the brute dolphins plunge
Until, in some cliff-sheltered bay
Where wades the choir of love
Proffering its sacred laurel crowns,
They pitch their burdens off.
William Butler Yeats, "News For The Delphic Oracle"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014