Bolaño and Fresán

In the essay “All Subjects with Fresán”, included in the collection Between Parentheses, Bolaño provides the following list of subjects he and his good friend talked about over various evenings:

1) The Latin American hell that, especially on weekends, is concentrated around some Kentucky Fried Chicken or McDonald’s.

2) The doings of Buenos Aires photographer Alfredo Garofano, childhood friend of Rodrigo and how a friend of mine and of anyone with the least bit of discernment.

3) Bad translations.

4) Serial killers and mass murders.

5) Prospective leisure as the antidote to prospective poetry.

6) The vast number of writers who should retire after writing their first book or their second or their third or their fourth or their fifth.

7) The superiority of the work of Basquiat to that of Haring, or vice versa.

8 ) The works of Borges and the works of Bioy.

9) The advisability of retiring to a ranch in Mexico near a volcano to finish writing The Turkey Buzzard Trilogy.

10) Wrinkles in the space time continuum.

11) The kind of majestic women you’ve never met who come up to you in a bar and whisper in your ear that they have AIDS (or that they don’t).

12) Gombrowicz and his conception of immaturity.

13) Philip K. Dick, whom we both unreservedly admire.

14) The likelihood of a war between Chile and Argentina and its possible and impossible consequences.

15) The life of Proust and the life of Stendhal.

16) The activities of some professors in the United States.

17) The sexual practices of titi monkeys and ants and great cetaceans.

18) Colleagues who must be avoided like limpet mines.

19) Ignacio Echevarria, whom both of us love and admire.

20) Some Mexican writers liked by me and not by him, and some Argentine writers like by me and not by him.

21) Barcelonan manners.

22) David Lynch and the prolixity of David Foster Wallace.

23) Chabon and Palahniuk, whom he likes and I don’t.

24) Wittgenstein and his plumbing and carpentry skills.

25) Some twilit dinners, which actually, to the surprise of the diner, become theater pieces in five acts.

26) Trashy TV game shows.

27) The end of the world.

28) Kubrick’s films, which Fresán loves so much that I’m beginning to hate them.

29) The incredible war between the planet of the novel-creatures and the planet of the story beings.

30) The possibility that when the novel awakes from its iron dreams, the story will be there.

Pyrrhonian Promises

I’ve been developing some ideas concerning the notion of the world and Skepticism, particularly of the Pyrrhonian variety, which I’ll soon share and post here on the blog. I’ve been reading Wittgenstein’s Tractatus and his magnificent On Certainty in addition to Heidegger’s Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics. Keep you posted…

Blunt Expression

In Allen Wood’s 1990 text Hegel’s Ethical Thought he has the following to say about Hegel’s Speculative logic:
“Viewed from the late twentieth-century perspective, it is evident that Hegel totally failed in his attempt to canonize speculative logic as the only proper form of philosophical thinking…Because Hegel regards speculative logic as the foundation of his system we might conclude from its failure that nothing in his philosophy could be any longer deserving of our interest. But that would be quite wrong. The fact is that Hegel’s great positive achievements as a philosopher do not lie where he thought they did, in his system of speculative logic, but in a quite different realm, in his reflections on the social and spiritual predicament of Modern Western European culture”.
I want to respond with a refutation but don’t feel requisitely prepared to tackle Wood. More to come…

Russell and Hegel

I have a few minutes break from work and I’ve walked to the Personalabteilung here at the University in order to take care of a few things. Because I’ve been told that I’ll have a longer than average waiting time, given the summer break, which means more people with whom to deal, I thought I’d jot down some thoughts through my new WordPress app. Never tried this before, but it seems quite easy.

The past few days, when time allows, I’ve been reading and rereading many short essays and texts of Bertrand Russell. Although my first foray into philosophical thought came as a result of problems encountered in the philosophy of religion (Modal Logic and its application to issues concerning divine foreknowledge and future free contingents; Ontological argument for the existence of God; and a combination of both thereof to wrestle with the so-called problem of evil) David Hume’s skepticism as presented in both his Treatise and Enquiry, in addition to his remarkable Dialogues and Natural History, texts with which I first wrestled and from which I emerged forever under the spell of philosophical thought. Bertrand Russell, too, quickly became someone in whom I invested quite a lot of time: reading closely and mimicking the wonderful clarity and simplicity of his rhetorical style.

As my interest in Hegel grows more and more intense with each passing day, and as I continue to surround myself with analytic philosophers, and as I continue to be more and more attracted (a return really as I worked under the tutelage of Sandy Goldberg, Dien Ho and Bradley Monton as an undergraduate) to newer manifestations of analytic metaphysics, my reading schedule has included lately hefty selections from Russell’s massive corpus. Why this connection? That is, why, if I’m interested in new developments in metaphysics would I return to Bertrand Russell and the grand/parents of analytic philosophy.? For isn’t analytic metaphysics as contradiction? Doesn’t the Linguistic Turn represent the motivating domain of analytic philosophers as so eloquently argued by Michael Dummett? However, a brief detour through the founding texts of analytic philosophy shows that, according to Dummett’s stringent criteria, many of the grandpappas and pappas of the analytic movement do not in fact count precisely as anayltic philosophers. Frege’s On Concept, Thought, etc. Read through most of Russell’s work on one will encounter standard metaphysical concepts addressed on nearly every page. Furthermore, depsite Russell’s many twists and turns he didn’t subscribe to Dummett’s fixation on linguistic analysis; rather he was consistently concerned with the nature of the world and our knowledge of it. Wittgenstein, Moore, etc. The word “analysis” emerged from the pen of Bradley as he railed against the method of analysis as practiced by his new enemies. Bradley objected to analysis because, after breaking something down into its constitutive components one ends up not with the fact with which one started: To dissect is to murder.

Russell’s philosophical Kehre pivots around his and Moore’s (really Moore’s and Russell’s following) defection from British Idealism’s Hegelian influence as detailed in a number of Russell’s works. In My Philosophical Development he states that upon his rejection of the axiom of “internal relations”  he began to “believe everything the Hegelians disbelieved” and a nice passage from Our Knowledge of the External World. Here’s an excerpt from the latter:

“Mr Bradley has worked out a theory according to which, in all judgment, we are ascribing a predicate to Reality as a whole; and this theory is derived from Hegel. Now the traditional logic holds that every proposition ascribes a predicate to a subject, the Absolute, for if there were two, the proposition that there were two would not ascribe a predicate to either. Thus Hegel’s doctrine, that philosophical propositions must be of the form, “the Absolute is such and such”, depends upon the traditional belief in the universality of the subject-predicate form. This belief, being traditional, scarcely self-conscious, and not supposed to be important, operates underground, and is assumed in arguments which, like the refutations of relations, appear at first such as to establish its truth. This is the most important respect in which Hegel uncritically assumes the traditional logic.” (Quote copied from email exchange…I don’t have this memorized!)

I’m not concerned at the moment with engaging too intensely with this passage and what I believe is its fundamental misconception of Hegel’s arguments regarding subject-predicate form and judgments. Furthemore,  the “uncritical” assumption Russell believes Hegel unjustifiably made misses completely the critical motivation of Hegel’s SL. On the road to understanding Hegel my current status thinks that the last sentence from Russell is not accurate. The main methodological point of the SL is the introduction of a hyper-critical, presuppositionless beginning, one which does not assume any particular logic to be true or valid for thought or constitutive of the nature of thought in order that thought can determine itself to the philosopher. A fundamental disagreement Russell had with Bradley and not necessarily therefore with Hegel, because I’m not sure to what extent Hegel agreed with Bradley, was the holistic nature of B’s idealism. Russell therefore opposed his own atomistic pluaralism to Hegel’s reported “bowl of jelly” ontology. We could also note here a space of disagreement between Frege and Wittgenstein on the one hand and Moore and Russell on the other given the former’s commitment to a “context principle”, clearly in tension with the latter’s atomistic analysis of treating atoms as meaningful in themselves.

Kritik des unreinen Gedankes


A student once asked Professor Hegel, “Professor Hegel. Why are you so smart?” Hegel responded by claiming that any thought which he thinks; any portrayal of the development of thought; any insight regarding the delicate manner in which concepts slide into their opposites ; these are the result not of an empirical subject denominated “Hegel”; rather, it is the work and labor of Thought itself. Indeed, philologically, Hegel’s choice of vocabulary indicates he takes the work and employment of thinking Thought and its development and nature quite seriously. Unlike Wittgenstein in Über Gewißheit Hegel, as perhaps the greatest of modern philosophers, will not allow even the slightest presupposition to pass unaccounted for in order to eliminate arbitrariness but most importantly to eliminate the ordinary conception of methodological thinking. Standard methodological thinking takes as given a reflective notion of method as “application”, a given domain of objects to which the inquirer applies her or his presupposed method, and an epistemological Zweck  (das Absolut). The presuppositions of standard methodological thinking is anathema to Hegel’s presuppositional account of thought.

Zizek, one of our best readers of Hegel (as much as it pains me to say it), and one of our best pilferers of Hegel, appropriates the aforementioned anecdote (re Hegel’s response to his student’s inquiry) in his remarks concerning the difference between a Stalinist and Communist leader. After a rousing speech delivered to supports and enthusiasts, after receiving thunderous and reassuring applause, the Stalinist leader will stand stoically, soaking in and savoring the excitement and applause for he’s done something magnificient and historic. However, the Communist leader, like our Hegel, claps along with the throngs of devoted enthusiasts in order to indicate and symbolize that he or she has done nothing: It’s not me; it’s the party. Or, perhaps more historically palatable: It’s not me; it’s the Idea. It shouldn’t be ignored that clapping and cheering involve a rhythm and, oftentimes, a melody. Contrary to textbook depictions of Hegel’s method as a tripartite dialectic which presupposes an end (Absolut) and operates in according with this end throughout its development thereto, I believe that Hegel’s method works and labors much more improvisationally, much more akin to Jazz than Kant’s preferred marching music. Furthermore, I believe that Hegel’s improvisational/presuppositionless “method” plays an essential role to Hegel’s work than has been noted hitherto by the secondary literature . Only if we take seriously the idea that Hegel’s philosophical thought entertains and enacts a presuppositionless procedure, assuming nothing like good modern philosophers, can we see the parallel to both Jazz improvisation as well as improvisational comedy. While for most readers of this submission Jazz’s improvisational procedures are relatively well-known and understood it’s less likely that readers are equally as familiar with the ins-n-outs of improvisational comedy.  For example, within the context of presuppositionless thought and NOT in the context (yet) of thought’s development (because I’d have to deal with improvisational comedy’s aversion to negation) a member of an improv troupe is determined as an individual or, more relevant, “funny” only to the extent that she or he moves within the give-and-take of improvisational structure. Often, as is the case with Will Ferrell, people are off-put when they encounter improvisational comedians outside the context of their (the comedians) normal station because the improvisational dynamic isn’t governing the interaction and they don’t appear within the new context as “funny”. My point here is simply the following: An improv troupe functions presuppositionlessly insofar as the comedian must submit her or himself to the development of the structure of the comedic situation. Furthermore, the synthetic interaction between both the general comedic structure (form) and the local comedic structure (the comedians’ sentences or exclaimations) creates a logical space in which the comedian can be funny. Be one can be funny only insofar as she or he is set up to be funny.A properly functioning improvisational troupe functions properly if and only if the persons composing the group properly set up each other qua group and qua person.

There’s a schizophrenic element at work here. Per Hegel, Hegel’s point in the SL is that the activity of philosophy is actively passive. It’s certainly not the case that Hegel subtracts the emprical or logical subject from the SL. Analogously, it’s not the case that an improvisational setting subtracts the individual.  On the contrary, an empirical logical subject has penned the book and many empirical logical persons have found solace, exasperation, and insight in reading the arguments presented therein. To employ a Heideggerian etymological ploy, Hegel’s philosophy is speculative in the etymological sense that speculative philosophy “watches closely” (from the Latin speculari). One is simultaneously a part and a non-part. A participant and an aparticipant.  Once confronted with the thought of pure being as unmediated indeterminacy, there is nothing else to do than simply watch closely what happens when one thinks through this first thought. There’s a religious dimension to Hegel’s conception of the philosopher: the philosopher must actively prepare herself to let go of one’s individual rub in order to let thought develop, as Socrates said thereof, whereever it may lead us. Or, in more christian imagery, to abide or dwell with thought. As I’ve often argued concerning Bill Evans Trio (here Jazz artists reveal themselves as good Hegelians, forming Trios) when he deconstructed the hierarchical presuppositional structure of Jazz –that is, an authority brings a melodic idea to the set from a place external to the set– and opted for a more democratic set-structure, one in which chaos reigned in the form of each artist autonomously developing his own musical thoughts until a melody (or method) emerged from WITHIN the musical notes and their relations themselves. The melody (method) wasn’t imported from an external place; rather, much more in sync with Hegel’s presuppositionless labor, it developed internally according to the whims of music and the music itself. Pure thinking constitutes its own method in the course of thinking itself through. I argue that this internal self-positing of thinking Hegel calls “the absolute method of knowing” precisely because it is nothing but the “immanent soul of the content itself”. Hegel claims further, “It is this self-constructing path alone which enables philosophy to be an objective, demonstrated science”. Only later, ex post, can we gaze behind us and find some kind of necessity in thought’s development; we can peer into developED thought and determine the way thought has paved for itself. Hegel, in the Phenomenology, stresses exactly this point that the absolute is to be grasped not, as his detractors commonly argue, as a presupposition of thought but, rather, as the result of thinking. Indeed, the absoulte as the result of thinking is precisely what Hegel means by Absolute Idea: thinking of thinking which thinks itself as such. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then,why the entire chapter on the Absolute Idea consists solely of the articulation of the method of dialectic: Thinking comes to itself, that is, that it grasps itself as self-determining thinking, is nothing  else than the reconstruction of the path of which can be said retrospectively, that thinking has taken it. The Will-Have-Been is essential here. Determinate negation Will-Have-Been central to dialectics am Ende not, as in standard method, at the beginning of the investigation. The dialectical slippage exists but it’s philosophical/conceptually indeterminate insofar as the dialectical negation of X into Y is not yet posited as a principle of thought. The philosopher lacks the conceptual resources with which to determine thought’s movement as A, for example determinate negation. The philosopher functions, in some way, as Thought’s analyst insofar as it allows Thought to articulate its own problems and thereby (the philosopher) becomes a receptor  for those problems rather than framing those problems, or to some degree creating those problems via framing, in terms of one’s  terms of reference. The iversion of the personal problems into the impersonal is necessary here. One needs to pursue the experience of personal alienation to a point where one realizes that one’s self is a vehicle to a necessarily impersonal conceptual domain: pushing the personal appropriation of philosophical problems to the point where the problems themselves appropriate one’s person. To engage in philosophy conceived thus is no easy task. Hegel, humourously, provides his readers with some practical advice: go read some abstract logic texts; practice in your real life abstract thinking. I imagine Hegel had his students in mind when composing these passges given that he composed SL while a gymnasium teacher in Nürnberg. (Attached, see the photo I snapped of the Hegel-Schule. Interestingly, the Schule is located on Neue Hegelstrasse, and now more than ever we need to think Hegel anew. Also of note, Tucherstrasse is just around the corner, named after the local Weissbier brewery, Tucher. Hegel’s wife’s nachname was Tucher. Not sure whether there’s any relation.)

Street leading to Gymnasium

Sadly, once one has managed to abide in the concept, giving up oneself to the concept, losing one’s life in order to gain it: This is only the beginning. A mere first step. One has been born again in a sense in thought to Thought and that wobbly, unbalanced first step awakens an active-passivity. To begin to move toward philosophy one must sharpen one’s understanding of her or his own inabilities at least so that such inability receives articulation in conceptual form.

Hegel’s thought is strange indeed. Komisch: both comedic and strange. The English equivalent being “Funny”. Terry Pinkard’s biography is wonderful for many things but, for my purposes here, his details concerning Hegel’s interest and enjoyment of dance is relevant. One must feel the rhythm of thought in order to walz appropriately to its internal movement. But, Hegel’s thought seems counter-intuitive. Therefore to dance with thought in the pale moonlight one must become attunedto discordant, dissonant, even alien harmonies while refusing to walk away exasperated, holding one’s hands over her or his ears.

N&S Conditions for Knowledge

Just as a fun exercise, tonight, it seemed necessary to articulate the classical conception of knowledge as it’s generally formulated within analytic philosophy. Because my most live philosophical option im Moment is, to borrow Brandom’s phrase, “rationally reconstruct” the work of Hegel, more specifically both the Wissenschaft der Logik and the temporally subsequent Realphilosophie, I’ve recently taken to engaging in improvisational epistemological-related scribbling in order to reactivate my repressed analytic sentiments. Frege, Carnap, Wittgenstein, and Lewis were once my hereos. I later abandoned them after “going Continental”; however, now, after coming to believe that the continental-analytic distinction, like Frege’s submission to Russell and American Deconstruction, is just another Anglo-American marketing invention that’s duped an unfortunate number of academics, i can proceed philosophically without much worry. I simply don’t care anymore about this fictitious distinction. Thankfully, it seems that such nonsense has largely been ignored in Germany. My philosophical sentiment remains that if one attends a logic seminar and is approached by Field or Pryor and they ask, “So, what’s that Hegel guy up to in the SL”? And, one responded: “Well, that’s easy. You see the Idea, namely, in positing itself as absolute unity of the pure Notion and its reality and thus contracting itself into the immediacy of being, is the totality of this form…” I believe their either person, or both, has the right to walk away. However, after studying the SL for the past four or five months, I’m convinced that, with the apprioriate translation manual, Hegel can read in a way that makes this complex, but relevant thinker available to contemporary philosophical problems.

We ask the question: What is it for someone to believe something?
Is belief a particular kind of mental state? Or: Is belief an inferential posit made in virtue of behavioral mechanisms. That is, we posit that S must believe X,Y,Z because we can infer these propositions based on the behavioral comportment of S?

Three aspects essential to belief
1. Propositional content
2. Bivalency
3. Justification

Consider S’s belief that the cat is on the mat. “That the cat is on the mat” is the propositional content of S’s propositional attitude, in this case, belief-attitude. The subject betrays an epistemic relationship to the proposition, that the cat is on the mat, and this relationship can be defined as one of belief, where belief is understood to be S’s taking the world to be such that, in this world, the cat is on the mat.
“Truth condition” here will be defined as the following: how the world would have to be in order for S’s belief to be true or false.
So, S’s belief that the cat is on the mat is true iff it is a fact that the cat is on the mat. More generally, in biconditional terms, S’s belief that p is true iff P. The right side of the biconditional states what would have to be the case in order for the left side of the bicond. to be true.

Propositional content is constructed out of concepts. For example: that the cat is on the mat. “Cat”, “mat”, “is”, “on”, etc.
So, a simple exposition of the truth of the proposition would run something like this: If it’s the case that the cat is in fact on the mat, that is, if it’s the case that the referant of the concept mentioned in the subject position does in fact manifest the property mentioned of it in the predicate position, being on the mat, then we can say that the proposition, the cat is on the mat, is in fact true.

Suppose that Mary believes the cat is on the mat. We can ask what evidence or reasons she has for believing this proposition to be true. Sensory evidence? Testimony? Conceptual evidence? Does she have reasons or evidence which makes it rational for her to believe P? Epistemic reasons. This is important determination. Many believe that people can have non-epistemic reasons for certain beliefs, take belief in the existence of God as an example. There are pragmatic reasons and epistemic reasons. The former do not speak to the truth of a proposition only to the pragmatic benefits of taking a proposition as true. Pascal’s famous argument can be construed as an example of the former. If the argument is convincing it doesn’t prove anything with regard to the truth of the propositions in question. Instead, it gives us a pragmatic reason for believing in God. The argument does nothing by way of improving the likelihood that the proposition, that God exists, is true.
I can anticipate an objection here. Suppose we encounter a situation in which a scientist employed for the Discovery Institute claims that Global Warming isn’t
caused by human actions. He cites a number of relevant journal articles, statistical data, conceptual arguments, empirical measures, etc. What are the necessary conditions for epistemic reasons? How can one detect whether and to what extent the reasons one takes to increase the likelihood of a propositions truth is based     on epistemic reasons or pragmatic reasons? That is, one could selectively cite a number of articles favorable to one’s position; one’s Institute could be funded by major corporations whose financial success depends on NOT taking global warming and climate change seriously. These distinctions depend on the presupposition that an inquirer can achieve a beautiful-soul-status by virtue of which it’s possible to emerge out of ideological commitments, etc. in order to employ as evidence for a propositions truth only those reasons which are properly epistemic. But, why can’t epistemic reasons also be pragmatic? That is, isn’t it pragmatic to hold true beliefs instead of false ones?
We could say that those persons who believed that the earth was the center of the universe held a belief that was reasonable or rational; however, the proposition is false. It was believed to be true for the available reasons on offer at the time. However, the progress of knowledge and the equipment for knoweldge detection eroded the strength of the propositions truth. A person, then, could have reasons on offer in support of a certain proposition and the proposition be false. Suppose I believe the Sun is the center of the solar system. X believes the earth is the center of the solar system. The available evidence, we would say, shows the former to be true. But, does true mean “more reasonable by virtue of available and credible evidence”?
What I don’t quite understand about the knowledge-doxa of justified-true belief is the following: If we ennumerate the necessary conditions for knowledge and this     ennumeration includes 1. Belief  2. justification 3. truth, how does 3 emerge into the equation? Isn’t the inclusion of 3 question-begging? That is, if we’re trying to determine the truth of a proposition, we examine the available credible evidence which could increase the likelihood of the proposition’s truth. Suppose we do so.
We find, after doing the requisite intellectual labour, that all the evidnce indicates that Jupiter has thirty moons. Is the belief then true?