L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze (1996)

The eight-hour series of interviews between Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, filmed by Pierre-André Boutang in 1988-1989. There’s a couple of videos. I like these for mannerisms, I can’t claim to be able to understand everything. For a transcript/translations go here.


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Pessimism Is Back

During these bright times of financial crisis, Seneca is back

The Roman philosopher Seneca should be the author of the hour. Living in a time of continuous financial and political upheaval under the emperor Nero, Seneca interpreted philosophy as a discipline to keep us calm against a backdrop of continuous danger. His consolation was of the stiffest, darkest sort: “You say: ‘I did not think it would happen.’ Do you think there is anything that will not happen, when you know that it is possible to happen, when you see that it has already happened?” Seneca tried to calm the sense of injustice in his readers by reminding them, in AD 62, that natural and man-made disasters would always be part of their lives, however sophisticated and safe they thought they had become.

If we do not dwell on the risk of sudden calamity, in the markets and otherwise, and end up paying a price for our innocence, it is because reality comprises two cruelly confusing characteristics: on the one hand, continuity and reliability lasting across decades; on the other, unheralded cataclysms. We find ourselves divided between a plausible expectation that tomorrow will be much like today and the possibility that we will meet with an appalling event after which nothing will ever be the same. It is because we have such powerful incentives to neglect the second scenario that Seneca asked us to remember that our fate is forever in the hands of the Goddess of Fortune. This goddess can scatter gifts, and then, with terrifying speed, make a 50-year-old company disappear into a worthless asset, or let a balance sheet be destroyed by an evaporation of demand.

Scientology on Trial

So a woman in France is suing The Church of Scientology for fraud – apparently after a “free” psychological test she was pressured into paying large sums of money: 

The woman at the centre of the case says she was approached by church members in Paris 10 years ago, and offered a free personality test. But, she says, she ended up spending 21,000 euros ($29,400, £18,400) on lessons, books and medicines she was told would cure her poor mental state.

Her lawyers are arguing that the church systematically seeks to make money by means of mental pressure and the use of scientifically dubious “cures”.

Does that mean if she wins I can sue my old university for giving me a scholarship and then demanding I pay up when it ended in three years? Was there a mental pressure to graduate and make something of myself? Interesting.

Dear (Hockey) Dairy II

Dear diary, 

I feel so smart these days, because I predicted that Penguins are going to the Finals in the East, they are up 3-1 against the might Canes in Game 3 and if they go up 3-0 in the series, I will be very thankful. I know you’re not Jesus or anything, but please work your diary magic. 

Chicago’s Khabibulin had a horrible 5 mins in Game 3 and I’m sorry to have seen him pulled out but I’m sure Huet is a great goalie as well, it’s the best goalie rotations in the NHL for a reason (I think). It would be nice to see the Hawks get a win tomorrow in Game 4 and even the series.


Normativity (in sensu cosmico)

Reading a bit of Jäsche Logik this afternoon, came across some observations on the nature of philosophy. Since the status of this text is different from even your usual student lectures, it’s hard to cite it as belonging to Kant himself, although it is clearly in the spirit of what Kant writes elsewhere on the matter (see below):

Philosophy is thus the system of philosophical cognitions or of cognitions of reason from concepts. That is the scholastic concept [Schulbegriff] of this science. According to the worldly concept [Weltbegriff] it is the science of the final ends of human reason. This high concept gives philosophy dignity, i.e., an absolute worth.


In this scholastic sense of the word, philosophy has to do only with skill [Geschicklichkeit], but in the relation to the worldly concept, on the other hand, with usefulness [Nützlichkeit]. The the former respect it is thus a doctrine of skill; in the latter, a doctrine of wisdom, the legislator of reason, and the philosopher to this extent not an artist of reason but rather a legislator. 

The artist of reason… strives only for speculative knowledge, without looking to see how much the knowledge contributes to the final end of human reason; he gives rules for the use of reason for any sort of end one wishes. The practical philosopher, the teacher of wisdom through doctrine and example, is the real philosopher [der eigentliche Philosoph]. For philosophy is the idea of a perfect wisdom, which shows us the final ends of human reason. [9:24] (English translation from Cambridge edition, 537) Continue reading

How Philosophers Think

Interesting discussion on the matter over at Crooked Timber and plenty of insightful comments as well:

Philosophy seems to be an outlier within the humanities, just as Linguistics is; we have less in common with the other humanities in terms of the concepts and methods that we deploy, and even the subject matter, than they have with one another (I don’t think I could make the case for that claim in a rigorous way, but I’m convinced its true). Some philosophers, furthermore, seem largely uninterested in any other kind of intellectual endeavour, and this just increases the sense of the other humanists that we are arrogant; worse still, those of us who are interested in other disciplines frequently look to the sciences and social sciences rather than to the rest of the humanities (speaking for myself, I read history and literature for fun, but I read sociology and economics for work).

Speaking of Cogito ergo doleo

From the NYTimes blog Happy Days: The Pursuit of What Matters in Troubled Times comes this article about uncertainty causing unhappiness. I know it’s no shocker, but my own depressive natures are definitely reflected in not knowing what the heck our lives are going to look like a year from right now. 

What You Don’t Know Makes You Nervous

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Seventy-six years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt took to the inaugural dais and reminded a nation that its recent troubles “concern, thank God, only material things.” In the midst of the Depression, he urged Americans to remember that “happiness lies not in the mere possession of money” and to recognize “the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success.”

“The only thing we have to fear,” he claimed, “is fear itself.”

As it turned out, Americans had a great deal more to fear than that, and their innocent belief that money buys happiness was entirely correct. Psychologists and economists now know that although the very rich are no happier than the merely rich, for the other 99 percent of us, happiness is greatly enhanced by a few quaint assets, like shelter, sustenance and security. Those who think the material is immaterial have probably never stood in a breadline.