Philosophers-Composers


As much as these sorts of topics smack of Graham Harman sensibility (“Philosophers Who Were Also Lovers of Tea: The List” or “The Most Underrated Philosopher of Lower Bavaria” etc etc), I was listening to some music by Nietzsche (info below) and it occurred to me that I know of several philosophers who also happened to be composers. By “philosophers” here I mean “known primarily as philosophers” and I exclude all the composers who might be considered as philosophically inclined. Here’s my very short list: Continue reading

Soothsaying: How Its Done


Finally got my hands on Rousseau’s opera – Le devin du village (The Village Soothsayer) – and I have to say that it is quite good: toe-tapping and tuneful, plus the plot is quite simple (there are only three characters). Having been distracting myself from serious work of any kind lately, I got to reading books about 18th century operatic battles (burning effigies included), especially Le Querelle des Bouffons. Three-volume collection of all related documents edited by Denise Launay will never make its way to my desk due to Interlibrary Loan fails, but one can dream, right?

In related operatic news – Meyerbeer’s Semiramide is convoluted plot-wise (not his fault, I suppose), if you thought The Magic Flute was hard to follow, try this one. But the overture is quite soothing and I was whistling it’s main tune all day in between classes.

Rousseau vs. Hume: Hilarity In Action.


UPDATE: The book mentioned below is now available as a torrent on The Pirate Bay.

I believe this is my very favorite philosophical beef of all time, if you haven’t had a chance to read wonderfully entertaining and accessible Rousseau’s Dog you must do it this summer or die.  This story has so many cool twists and turns and almost none of them are philosophical. There’s a new book on the subject – The Philosophers’ Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding – and I am hoping to read it very soon: Continue reading

Philosophical Conversions.


I wonder if someone already wrote a book about it, but it would be nice to collect all the stories of philosophical conversions into one nice reference guide. I am thinking about examples like Rousseau’s realization that arts and sciences corrupt morals that came to him on the way to Vincennes in 1749 while he was on the way to visit jailed Diderot – since that resulted in 1751 treatise on arts and sciences, Rousseau’s first work, in a sense, Rousseau’s philosophical life begins at that conversion. Any examples for a future anthology?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Presents: Robespierre’s Terror


Some time ago, when I saw Zizek’s endorsement of Robespierre and all the buzz surrounding it – a very quiet buzz of course since Z’s “celebrity status” is not really that widely accepted outside of the academy – I didn’t really pay much attention to the effort because it looked more like a promotional stunt and self-advertisement trick: “Look how radical I am! Lenin and Robespierre!” Now I think Zizek actually did some good in raising the issues of the role of people like Robespierre (and Lenin) and the European tradition of revolutionary violence.  This is of course “bad violence” and cannot be compared to “good violence” or “acceptable violence” – I think Zizek’s “endorsement” of Robespierre is nothing but an attempt to ask a question, to point to an issue, even if it is done in his characteristically irritating manner.  Take Rousseau and his views in The Social Contract – a direct and accepted influence on Robespierre: Continue reading