Monday, 30 September 2013

Metaphors and Thinking

"All I have done, really, is to replace one family of metaphors and images with another, trading in the Theater, the Witness, the Central Meaner, the Figment, for Software, Virtual Machines, Multiple Drafts, a Pandemonium of Homunculi. It’s just a war of metaphors, you say — but metaphors are not “just” metaphors; metaphors are the tools of thought. No one can think about consciousness without them, so it is important to equip yourself with the best set of tools available."

Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

'A Beautiful Idea'. (The Iranian Angel)

 Just a note really. I'd like to write something about what we mean when we say that something is a 'beautiful idea' - prompted by the passage below, courtesy of here. We don't mean that we immediately salute the literal  truth of the idea. Perhaps it has something to do with its relation to existing ideas, how it twists or reconfigures them. Also the way that it's not just a self-sealed idea, but a kind of metaphorical outline of other ideas which it invites us to take up -in the example below, ideas which have as their mobile elements corruptibility, mutability, justice, symmetry and much else..

"Giorgio Agamben writes:
…Iranian angelology… gives the guardian angel its most limpid and astonishing formulation. According to this doctrine, an angel called a daena, who has the form of a very beautiful young girl, presides over the birth of each man. The daena is the celestial archetype in whose likeness each individual has been created, as well as the silent witness who accompanies and observes us at every moment. And yet the angel’s face changes over time. Like the picture of Dorian Gray, it is imperceptibly transformed with our every gesture, word, and thought. Thus, at the moment of death, the soul is met by its angel, which has been transfigured by the soul’s conduct into either a more beautiful creature or a horrendous demon. It then whispers: “I am your daena, the one who has been formed by your thoughts, your words, and your, deeds.” In a vertiginous reversal, our life molds and outlines the archetype in whose image we are created."

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Life and the Writer Again..

It may be that the writer has delicate health, a weak constitution. he is none the less opposite of the neurotic: a sort of great alive (in the manner of Spinoza, Nietzsche or Lawrence) in so far he is only too weak for the life that runs in him or for the affects that pass in him. Deleuze

In this respect artists are like philosophers. What little health they possess is often too fragile, not because of their illnesses or neuroses but because they have seen something in life that is too much for anyone, too much for themselves, and that has put on them the quiet mark of death. Deleuze and Guattarri
This is a typically Deleuzian insight. Just as a flattened fence might be the index of the gale that has knocked it down, so the intermittent or poor health of the writer is here repeceived as the index of a pressing force of life. Only in relation to this force is there fragility; the 'fragility' is indeed a sign of this force, a kind of seismograph or photographic negative.

This is typically Deleuzian in that for him the perceptible world becomes a site where contending forces and relations are made visible through their effects and extrapolations.
But back to the writer:  his ill-health then is a symptom of sorts, not of pathology but rather a tremendous vitality which has become visible only in the body of the writer as a breeze becomes visible on the water's surface. This vitality is visible destructively in the health and creatively in the work. The same vitality that knocks down the health breaks through and flourishes in the work.

The question of whether the work 'compensates' for the failing health is revealed as a false problem, for there is a single Life running through both, a Life of which they are both, in different ways, the signatures. 

Friday, 20 September 2013

“Poetry is the attempt to represent, or to restore, by means of articulated language, those things or that thing, which cries, tears, caresses, kisses, and so on obscurely try to express.” Paul Valery

"One instinctively believes that in poetry language reveals its true essence, which lies completely in the power to evoke, to call forth mysteries that it cannot express, to do what it cannot say, to create emotions or states that cannot be represented – in a word to be linked to profound existence by doing it rather than saying it." Maurice Blanchot

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Literature/ Architecture

“[Kafka’s] vision is more stark, more painful, more obviously universal than that of his peers.”

Literary criticism frequently concerns itself with how the novel, the poem, the play, illuminates some recess of human nature, with what eternal verities have been restated with due eloquence. We do not ask these questions of architecture. If we approach a building by Le Corbusier or Gaudi, a Landscape by Capability Brown, the Duomo in Florence, we are not asking “How are they dipping into some great reservoir of Universality?” Instead: What has been done with space, with light, with persective. We marvel that something newly beautiful has arisen. We ask: “what new possibilities of play or work, worship or contemplation have been enabled?” Perhaps our approach to literature should have something of this attitude. Not what has been represented or restated, but what has been created and inaugurated - what has been done with language, what has been enabled, reconfigured, what it is like to enter or inhabit..

Sunday, 15 September 2013

To stop..

M’s fantasy was to stop time. Not with regard to himself. He was happy to age. Aesthetically, he thought there was an improvement. He looked more thoughtful and more distinguished. No, the world would stop. Everything except himself would halt. He, meanwhile, would sort out his health, he would read, he would prepare a whole sheaf of manuscripts. He would inspect, of course, the suspended world and he would move through it unheard, unseen. And then, after perhaps years, it would start up again, the clocks, metronomes, watches, alarms, the whole machinery of time would creak into motion. The world would resume. But now he would be prepared, he would not be lagging behind out of sync. They would think he had been afflicted with some terrible disease - loosened skin, deep dark rings around his eyes.. But nevertheless, despite the usual contusions of time, he would be in sync with the world, prepared to live.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

"it is not about something it is that something.” Wittgenstein and Beckett

“When someone says ‘I hope he’ll come’ – is this a report about his state of mind, or a manifestation of his hope?” (Philosophical Investigations). 

Wittgenstein tends toward the latter conclusion. When we say ‘I hope x will come’ we are not describing or reporting on a mental state (the state of hoping) but directly hoping. As a cry or sigh manifests pain or excitement, so “I hope he will come” is the audible part of our hope. It is hoping. 
What came to mind here is Beckett on literature, when he says apropos Joyce's work, “it is not about something it is that something.” This very early assertion from Beckett is consistent with many later underlinings that his work is not about anything. He does not mean it is nonsensical or meaningless. Rather Beckett’s insistence should lead us to think of what the words on the page directly are, like Wittgenstein’s ‘i hope', not what they are about

Of course, in Wittgenstein’s example, the statement has the appearance of being about something, of relating to something, but is in fact that very something in its raw state. And so with the writer, or the artist: the appearance might be that of reporting on something, but in reality the something is directly present, it IS.Wittgenstein’s example is regarding a relatively simple affect, hope*. Perhaps with literature we are dealing with more complex and extended affects – which the words conduct and which cannot be prised therefrom. 

Literary Criticism often asserts that the work is a perspective on or about a particular state, subject, condition or affect which is already constituted. The prose, the lines running through and between the words address something, point to something, take up a position in relation to X. In fact it is the critic who’s typical mode of existence is that of relating to something, of taking up a position. The writer by contrast is concerned with bringing something into being.

 *Although perhaps not in another sense. Any hope, as expressed by an individual will be a compound – i.e., any statement as expressed with voice and gesture (not simply written down) will be a unique amalgam – of anxiety, expectation, sentimentality , and perhaps other things – annoyance, uncertainty.. It is these things, or their facsimiles, that an actor would introduce in interpreting the line as it is simply written. The actor would embed the line within a new compound.