Archive for Grand HIgh Re-Read of Kant’s Critique

17 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 17, 2013 by spinoza1111

First thing 20 min workout at 6AM: although I wanted to get to 250 lowrise steps, got only to 220. Will stay at this level for the next few days. Also did a short walk including 10 midrise steps.

Strawson’s The Bounds of Sense

Trying to complete, and understand, PF Strawson’s book, but the reason I don’t “get” it may be, other than fatigue, age and natural stupidity, Strawson’s ignorance of intuitionist mathematics. Strawson’s concept of infinity, which he uses to find faults in Kant’s “antinomies” of space and time (in which, in a four-part dilemma, we suppose space unbounded/infinite/etc.) only to find a paradox, then find yet another paradox when we suppose space bounded/finite, etc.

In Kant’s supposition, that time is infinite with no beginning, Strawson finds it unacceptable that a clock that started ticking at the beginning of time should have an infinite number of ticks recorded in some sort of log, or, minimally, should have ticked an infinite number of times. Why should it be unacceptable if we’ve already assumed that time has no beginning? If time has no beginning, all bets are off.

Kant, more than Strawson, seemed aware that “infinity” has two faces. We can easily enough specify an infinity by means of a rule, moreover we can specify two kinds of infinity.

We can say “zero is a number, and the successor of a number is a number”; we’ve just specified the “denumerable” integers of which there are a “denumerable” infinity such that between any two of these denumerable numbers there is no number. “Number” here means “integer”.

If we say on the other hand, “all integers are numbers, and furthermore between any two numbers N1 and N2 such that N1<N2 there exists a third number N3" we've just specified a far (far) (infinitely far) larger set of the real numbers.

Strawson doesn’t seem aware of the two types of infinity discovered by Georg Cantor in the 19th century as above, or of the two ways of thinking about infinity, as the above construction rules versus the Platonic idea of a finished infinity yet Kant, in a tortured “Whopper” of a sentence of 150 German, 180 English words (in the Guyer Moore translation) on p 613 of the G/M translation and p 712 of the 2nd edition, seems to have understood that there are two ways of thinking about (cognizing) infinity…and the Platonic way where we specify “infinity” simpliciter is where we get into trouble, for example by thinking of a clock that has logged an infinite number of ticks.

Strawson seems to believe that the bare possibility of such a monstrous thing refutes Kant’s argument by way of reduction to absurdity, but we have a lot more such “reductios” to deal with if we hypostatize (literally represent an abstraction as something concrete) a finished infinity going back infinitely to the beginning of time an infinite number of ticks ago.

Nonsense emerges from Kant’s hypostatizations of infinite time or space whether they are integer or real number simulations. In the integer model, if negative integers represent times before “now” there is an integer whose absolute value is infinitely small. It gets worse if in the real number model we ask what is the smallest real number r0>r1.

This is why I wish Strawson wouldn’t use “infinity” without precisely defining what he means as to the type of infinity (denumerable or non-denumerable) and the specification method (constructive as opposed to Platonic). Kant’s infamous verbosity resulted from his apprehension that there are “There are more things in heaven and earth …
than are dreamt of in [our] philosophy”.


I had a room in a motel that was also a sobriety center. Many meetings as I packed to go. I chaired one such meeting. The carpet of my motel room was fresh green grass and the room led out into the sunlight.

A Visit to the So-Called “Genius Bar”

I went in the waking world to the IFC mall since I needed to regain access to my computer, where about 4 keys have been disabled by the infamous Congee Spill of a few days ago.

I’d gone thru all the riga-marole and brou-ha-ha of signing up for a visit to a “genius” at the over-hyped “genius bar”: don’t pay people minimum wage and make them all wear the same shirt if they’re supposed to be “geniuses”, and don’t insult real geniuses with this bloody nonsense.

My “genius” was not as I’d hoped able to get rid of the short circuiting congee gunk on my keyboard so I wound up buying a new keyboard. I am now trying to get used to typing using the new keyboard on my lap and the laptop with its unused congee gunk keyboard on the rolling hospital tray table at a clumsy angle…with its touch pad that I am forced to use…like the man who bought the ill-fitting suit from Levine the Genius Tailor.

Sigh: I shall try putting the laptop back on my legs and using it for most keys, using the new keyboard for the Netvigator (Internet) dongle and to poke in the keys that were hammered by the congee flood: exclamation point, 1, Q, A and delete. This way I can get back to the situation I had before, with the PowerBook on my lap and not using the hospital rolling table. OK. Let’s try that. I keep on mistyping in this situation. Why couldn’t that clown simply have cleaned my keyboard?

OK, the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. No, typing that was a nightmare. So now I go back to using the new keyboard exclusively and the touchpad…all because quickly just cleaning a keyboard so that keys send the correct signals is a lost art, and the bottom line at the “Genius Bar” is getting rid of the customer, for whom is shown no respect, while hopefully selling him or her something.

As soon as I can I am exiting the Apple world and getting a PC Netbook style machine. There are really only three silver linings in this whole dreary and sordid situation. The first is that I have to pay attention to what I type in order to make sure it is correct, and Attention is a good thing. I got into computer work to strengthen my capacity for rule-following and Attention.

The second is that I found inexpensive but fine chocolate at the IFC grocery store, the most expensive grocery store in the world taken whole, but one with some bargains, including Grey and Black and Marquesse de Sevigny Noir Absolut.

There I go again, buying trivial luxuries as consolation for the harsh world.

The third is that the visit confronted me with the near impossibility of managing on my own any more. I am trying to set up an appointment with a sort of eldercare center in Sheung Wan since it’s clear I need a place where I can shuffle to noodle houses and dim sum joints since dramatically, I am now He Who Shuffles where just yesterday I walked, strode and ran down the street without a thought.

Talk about Acceptance…more precisely don’t speak to me about Acceptance, since I am the one who must Deal here with this world-historical weenie. And I realize that your professional Christians are always delighted if that’s the word when some big rogue comes a cropper and is thereby humbled and in the lingo, “broken”. Well, I was “broken” a long time ago. I realized that I had no control. But I’m damned if I will celebrate this. I will just chronicle my efforts to make the best of a bad situation.

That is (das ist) this situation is so bad as to be amusing and to demand every effort in response to make it better as opposed to lying supine or prone and moaning and groaning. “That is not what we do around here.”

A Note on Facebook and the Truth

Facebook has just prompted me for the town in which I worked for “Bell-Northern Research” and, in an innovation similar to one found long ago in resume processing, Facebook, at least by default, forces one to select from a list of known towns and USA states where the town is “Mountain View”.

So you cannot just make up the town anymore. Boo hoo, since most of my career I have had to compete with psychopathic liars, and I think it’s a good thing that, more and more, truthiness is enforced.

16 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 16, 2013 by spinoza1111

20 minutes with pain and difficulty first thing at 6 AM after what was a good night sleep: my goal was 300 lowrise steps, had to stop for a breather after 220, and then resumed. Then, very tired, slept until 10:30 AM save for breakfast.

Chemotherapy after-effect?

COPR Challenge Question 2: Is Kant a nominalist and a realist? Is that even possible?

Look at Transcendental Deduction of the Pure Concepts of the Understanding #18 (B140): “one person combines the representation of a certain word with one thing, another with something else; and the unity of consciousness in that which is empirical is not, with regard to that which is given, necessarily and universally valid.”

Comments: It is possible (logically consistent) to be an epistemological nominalist (regarding it, as Kant regards it above, an “empirical” matter, a local agreement as it were, that two people agree on the referent of a word) and an ontological realist, regarding the ultimate fabric of the world as does Wittgenstein of the Tractatus “Independent of the will” (“the world is independent of my will”, Tractatus 6.373).

But: is “independent of my will” a definition of ontological realism?

15 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 15, 2013 by spinoza1111

20 minute workout first thing: 150 supine warmup movements without weights, 250 lowrise steps (goal was 300: did 150 with right leg pushoff, 100 with left leg pushoff – unable to get past 100 on the left leg, 250 total, will retry tomorrow), 150 supine movements with weights.


Outlining of Transcendental Deduction continues but with great difficulty – recording Kant’s points verbatim, cannot translate them to simpler or more modern English lest I lose the meaning.

Have finished section 20 which, according to Dieter Henrich is key especially when conjoined with section 26 gist (perhaps) as a direct quote, and my comments in square brackets:

“All sensible intuitions [sense data in Humean terms, once transformed by the activity of our mind into intuitions such as “I see the sunrise”] stand under the categories [are defined by, judged to be dependent on, 1 or more categories].”

Extending this now with my own words:

“What I see isn’t an abstract painting or a figment of my imagination it is an instance of the category ‘sunrise’.”

We’re like the Terminator in the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Linda Hunt/Eddie Furlong movie Terminator II whose heads-up screen (a visor which displays information in line of sight) displays information about friends or enemies, that uses categories.

Reading Johansen (A History of Ancient Philosophy)

Also having difficulty with Platonic Ideas as discussed in various dialogues, covered by Johansen. To say that the Idea is just the perfection of a reality, which ignores Ideas based on Sophistical fictions and inferior things (the Idea of the Toilet) ignores the large amount of work Plato did on these counter-examples in the later dialogs including (if memory serves) the Timaeus. The problem right now being that I cannot conveniently access the dialogues in free Gutenberg form on my Congee-damaged PowerBook. Never say die, I can access them here on this Windows desktop in the common or day room, and get the PowerBook fixed, hopefully, as soon as tomorrow.

Johansen remains however readable in comparison to Kant or a commentator on Kant because the Platonic dialogues are less complex than the Critique of Pure Reason. Perhaps I am just being macho, trying to hold it together because, truth be told, I am still exhausted after ten hours of sleep. This isn’t good if it has to do with my illness. I will retire early and start the workout not earlier than six AM.

This could just be an after effect of chemo. The last blast was just last week. Then, one hopes, the greater mortality of the bad (cancer) cells will manifest in an increase in strength. But wir sagt?, who knows.

14 Sep 2013: The Congee Spill

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 14, 2013 by spinoza1111

30 minute workout first thing at 5:15 AM – 150 warmups (no weights) 300 lowrise steps, 150 warmups (with weights)

Overtired later in the day – unsatisfactory to get only 8 hours of sleep – go to sleep not later than 8:30 PM.

Discouraging spill of part of a bowl of congee on laptop – a couple of keys no longer work and as a result the unit is unusable although it boots properly. In fact, at first, I was able to use it and the problem only emerged after a while. Will need to trek to Apple’s center at IFC since my consiglieri has spent entirely too much time in moving my stuff out of my flat and has blown an Achilles tendon in this.

But hopefully the keys will “dry out” (or something) although that is improbable given that they stopped working after a while – after having had the opportunity, perhaps, to dry.

Switched to my “laptop”: one of those big, cheap, well-bound, well-made Chinese notebooks with the red and black cover, and preoccupied myself with reading Johansen (History of Ancient Philosophy) and outlininig the Transcendental Deduction in the Critique.

Kant COPR Challenge Question I, or, I Thought I Saw a Puddy Tat

In the Transcendental Deduction, Kant clearly states that all our perceptions, to be anything more than passive sensations belonging to no-one, like computer input, must be apperceptions starting with “I think”:

“The I think must be able to accompany all my representations.” (COPR B131)

But doesn’t this make Kant an idealist, if we can never just see, hear, feel, but can only say “I think I see the sunrise”. This sounds like we doubt the existence of a real world in a weakened form pf “strong” idealism, the Berkeleyan denial of an external world that scandalized Kant’s contemporaries and Kant himself.

No, because Kant’s “I think” considered as an operator which cannot adjoin the specific sensation report (such as “I see”) provides two forms of certainty, in place of the doubt found in a statement which adjoins “I think” and “I” sensationReport.

Suppose we see something, and we’re drunk. As long as we’re not unconscious, we receive, let’s guess, a confused sensation and we say “I think I see a Jackson Pollock painting”: although a “Jackson Pollock painting” could be considered to be an artistic vision of raw Kantian sensation, as long as we retain a unified consciousness though we’re drunk (where an “alcoholic blackout” may be an interesting example of the absence of a unified consciousness and its unified pain), our report “I think I see …” is idealistic in the sense of admitting doubt:

He thought he saw an Elephant
That practised on a Fife:
He looked again, and saw it was,
A letter from his wife.

– Lewis Carroll, The Mad Gardener’s Sing

Just remove the phrase “I think” from the example and keep “I see”: “I see a Jackson Pollock painting” doesn’t have to be true (our drunk art appreciator could be seeing a Rothko, or a letter from his wife for that matter) but if it is true it is certain (synthetic apriori). And, if it is false it still has Humean certainty because the viewer cannot doubt a sensation report in Hume, or in Kant.

But because it can be wrong even when the art appreciator is sober (he may be looking at a forgery, a clever reproduction, or a Rothko) this means there is an external world after all in which objects make judgements objective. I conclude that “I think” isn’t an idealistic predicate, it has the sole function of establishing a unity of consciousness.

13 Sep 2013: workout, pain, Kant study and my need for a citation, and other such crap

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 12, 2013 by spinoza1111

20 minute workout first thing: 50 motion warmup without weights and 300 lowrise step aerobics. No physio anticipated because I have to go to Causeway Bay to get a higher magnification in my readers. Running out of commercially available magnifications at 300, do not need this magnification when rested; a midday nap often eliminates the need. Do not look forward to hike to stall/shop near public library, but will check library status if I feel up to it. Need to make an appointment thru my Grantham doctors with an eye doctor.

No need for pain-killah before workout, mild to moderate pain now. This despite the fact that on my request the doctor has reduced the Fentanyl patch dosage to about 2.1 mg per day (6.4 for three days) on my request. I don’t want to be sent let’s say back to Chicago with Fentanyl need, for this will probably be assumed to be an addiction.

But that’s stupid. If I have metastatic pain then won’t I need some form of opioide? Even during the summer of 2012 before my son’s death I was using Tramadol, an opioide, probably just as addictive as Fentanyl, psychologically. Which means that to be close to my son & grandchildren I will have to travel back on the Grantham prescription and get some sort of pain control > Bayer aspirin at the other end. This pain is not my friend.


Reading the Gorgias dialogue of Plato as I read Johansen (History of Ancient Philosophy) on Plato. Take one book (Johansen) and the large red notebook into Causeway, the laptop too heavy.

Asked Bill Liktor at his Sitdown Tragedies blog to give credit to my use of diagrams as the “objective” source if his, where my understanding is that you cite when the previous work has or could have been a source “objectively”. No reply. I really hate having had to make this request but I did discuss “a picture is worth a thousand words”, the relation of Kant to art, etc last summer and would appreciate the acknowledgement. But my picture is sloppy and may not have been seen by Liktor…who may not be replying to the thread because of my demand for a cite…quite possibly disturbing Internet crap to him.

I used another type of “art”, the sentence diagram, to discover something interesting about Kant’s complexity of style in doing just a partial diagram of “the whopper”, an enormous 180 word sentence on p 613 of the Guyer/Moore translation.

But there is a real issue raised. Sensation to concept can go to multiple concepts at the same level or thru a series of lower then higher level concepts, and is this part of what Kant called the empirical. I think it must be, with the final concept (possibly a logical expression with more than one part such as “clown(x) & evil(x)”) emerging into the timeless/spaceless world of phenomena as a final step.

Need then to redraw last June’s “evil clown” diagram to show this.

Same deal as at Coursera where I’d waste time with peer review to get a piece of meaningless paper. Same instinct as of old (1971) to leave humanities with all its BS, for computer science or math, where you can be right if you are right without a lot of BS.

All is vanity. Do I just want to be recognized as right? I am old, time must have a stop: after many a summer dies the swan.

11 Sep 2013

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 10, 2013 by spinoza1111

30 minutes, 300 lowrise steps, 250 movements with weights and 100 without first thing at 5:15 AM. No physio today: have to go to chemo and cancer followup.

Rested, the usual pain, a sort of tug deep within the butt as if a malignant dwarf is ringing changes inside my leg for my funeral Mass. Prospero says in the Tempest, i’th’old play,

And thence retire me to my Milan, where
Every third thought shall be my grave.

The nice thing about pain is that you don’t have to dress in black, and pray all the time, and pull a long face and rebuke the children for farting around, there is the pain to make every third thought to be of your grave.

Study? No progress. But see where Mr Sitdown tragedies realizes as I have the utility of diagramming:

If only Kant were an artist, he says. But his diagram doesn’t explain the formation of multi-level concepts.

cf also my comment at his site. Abstract expressionist painting the representation of pure sensation?

The chorus of soft screaming, the singing, the “ay-yahs” erupt as we awake to pain.

7 Sep 2013 (significantly updated 8 Sep)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 7, 2013 by spinoza1111

Couldn’t sleep, had the idea to do my first-thing workout at 3:38 AM, but keep it at only a supine 20 minute workout. Had a surprisingly vigorous if supine 25 min workout: 150 motions warmup, 250 with the weights and then a conductus (air conducting) of the fourth movement of Beethoven’s 3rd or Eroica symphony. Not having a chopstick to hand, I did open hand stickless conducting to great effect, communicating my intention for a liquidity to occur using a very flexible hand wave, but, of course, the result was strangely like Leonard Bernstein, the conductor of the recorded music.

Hope that this tires me out enough to get some sleep [it didn’t]. Will need to reset, limiting my sleeping during the day in order to get up at dawn on Sunday.

The problem was that I ate both large Lindt bars and this has been a caffeine and theobromine blast. When will I learn … I cannot eat like a kid with what used to be called terminal cancer. It’s just that the 90% Lindt bar is soooo good, altho now the thought doesn’t appeal, I am sated unpleasantly. Yes, I should kiss the joy as it flies even the selfish solitary food joy which growing up in a large family causes (you don’t want to fight for it) but I don’t want to destroy my taste for quality chocolate, either.

My grandmother, my father’s grande dame mother, a Hochwalt, praised my temperance once, searching my character desperately for signs of noble conduct for she’d had hopes for me that were destroyed by my smoking and hippie behavior. I am glad that after her death I was finally able to live up to her ideal and even, in some measure, that of my father, for after I started running my father said I reminded him of Edward Joseph the war hero and perfect Elder Brother, fulsome praise indeed.

When Grandmother praised my temperance I’d merely refused a second helping of ice cream. She was always kind and lived in hope. I honor her memory now in my struggle with the same prostate cancer her husband had.

Indeed, I didn’t know “where I got off” with not being an athlete. Athletics definitely filled in, not all the craters on my airstrip but a large number of them. I realized that I wasn’t fooling anyone by rebelling against my father’s ideals, expressed as they were by Casablanca. The rebellion was that of a bum and it was hellbound. Dad was right, men need to be noble, and protect women. Oh women don’t need it? Protect ‘em anyway. It’s what the male primate is made for. And running prepares it and him.

But now my running is reduced to supine movements and a low-rise step. The drop foot is at 110 and not 90 degrees with respect to the leg and if run as of the glorious Old, and I come down with the foot anywhere between 110 and 120 it won’t be pretty. And, it’s unlikely that I can reverse the drop foot, all I can do is keep the angle at 110 degrees by wearing the ski boot between 1 and 2 hours per day. But the ski boot won’t enable a return to running. A grim prognosis since for a primate, which among many other things I am, being able to break even for a second per stride “the surly bond of earth” this flying as first confirmed by Muybridge’s photos, is, for the primate, ju-ju of a high order.

One smallish, almost invisible hopeful sign, like the ship some goers to the Palais Louvre see and others do not in Delacroix’ Raft of the Medusa is the fact that my foot rise has, I think, increased by five or ten degrees, probably as a result of using a boot to keep the left foot’s angle at 90 degrees.

But it also exists one other place, in the ocean and in swimming. The ocean, full of our trash! My used and stinky running shoes going back to Sep 1981 when they seemed so magic out of the box, New Balance light grey are floating somewhere in the Pacific Garbage Gyre! Shame, shame, nothing but shame on me for pursuing a product, but honor, honor too for discovering how to break the surly bonds of earth and experience ** JOY ** in chasing after Eddie and Peter, not anger: God how they ran everywhere in the sunshine of Mountain View, lookit dose jungle trees. It’s … complicated.

It is tragic this denoument. It is like Phedre and I am Theseus for sure or even Phedre herself: “Jusqu’au dernier soupir, de malheurs poursuivie,
Je rends dans les tourments une pénible vie.”
However I do not believe that I have committed a frightful crime. I just want to be able to say those lines and to SCREAM “Je rends dans le tourments une pénible vie” and thereby put in art all our pain, and, like Bottom, condole in some measure.

But staying up ALL NIGHT and writing reams! It’s what moony adolescents do, not 63 year old retired gents.

A mystery body change is coming to me. I have no hair anymore other than on me head. My new skin (for skin as an organ replaces itself) is that of a baby or woman, soft and slightly fatty under the epidermis. My old grey pubic hair is disappearing, gone on the left side of my dick, almost gone on the other side. My John Thomas lolls limp and exhausted having done its work of reproduction, thinking on past insertions but definitely hors de combat. This would be caused by the hormone therapy, I’d hazard. The skin so pleasant to feel. Is this a fatal disease? A transfiguration, death and transfiguration? Stun me if I know.

Idea: Leonard Bernstein in a Box

Surely the software technology exists to support a software package with the scores and a mechanical, machine-made performance of a menu of works including the Third symphony, or alternatively the score and some conductor’s version.

OK, so the user stands or sits in front of his laptop with its Web camera and a motion sensor in the software (eg., no new hardware), and the computer alters the performance to correspond to the user’s specific hand motion. BOOM, like Flight Simulator, an empowered Walter Mitty!

I would definitely like this technology to exist for my use and I’d pay for it, but my music and software skills are deficient with respect to my idea. I hope someone steals it and creates the program for profit or Open Source. If they create it as a proprietary program I hope to see a cheque for this idea but I won’t hang by the thumbs. All men live in hope, but cheques for mere ideas are a capitalist myth.

It may exist. I don’t want to add a search for it to my overweight List of Things That I have not done, or have ill done and done to others harm.


Kant: Three forced marches through Dieter Henrich’s 1969 essay on “The Proof Structure of Kant’s Transcendental Deduction.” Still unclear. Need to outline the essay after seven forced marches.

Sections 20 and 26 are “two parts of the same argument?” I am still confused. Did Henrich really penetrate and solve once and for all the mysteries of “Chapter II, On the Deduction of the Pure Categories of the Understanding”? That is his boast.

No, it’s called literally, in English translation, “Transcendental Analytic, Second Section, On the Deduction of the Pure concepts [not “categories”] of the Understanding.” I had thought that Kant’s own loose and shifting lexicon excused his reader from precision: it does not since Kant’s own murk is quite enough without you Structuralist chaps setting off a blasted feu de joie, and adding, if I may be permitted a metaphor and I bloody well may be at this point, your own French confusion, damme your eyes and rot your boots.

My edition is not only broken in its spine at several points, the glue of the backing gaping thru having given way, so that you have to check to make sure pages haven’t fallen out, the pages are greasy as if soaked at some point with skull-sweat. I never busted out crying or slit my wrists after reading critical passages seven times only to be as ignorant as I was before I started but it was a near run thing.

[I fall into a watch, then a Prose and then a dream while watching reruns of Sharpe’s rifles on my computer…thank G-d for YouTube…zzzz…shhhh don’t wake Grampa…]

When the Sarn’t Major (the one who hated me) found my copy while rooting in my kit in Portugal he screamed at me why did I make it harder on myself and my mates with this extra weight? I honestly don’t know save that Kant is so painful as to be analgesic with respect to lesser pains such as when my foot was half shot off at Corunna and dangled at an angle, causing me agony in the slightest movement. The Sarn’t Major (the one who hated me) positively oozed consideration: as i’th’old play,

“Consideration, like an angel, came
And whipp’d the offending Adam out of him,”

and he asked whether I shouldn’t like to burn my Kant since we’d be heading over the mountains to rejoin Hooky (Wellington) after Sir John Moore’s death. I said no since I had only read it five times through and found it amusingly incomprehensible. It was literally the only book in our entire division save for Moore’s Army Regulations, Johnson’s Dictionary, and a bound set of Tatlers, all three of which volumes constituted Sir John’s library. After his death, the Sarn’t Major was seen to abstract (steal) the Tatler with the Duchess’ udders on the third page but that was understandable. Good old Sir John. But I digress…zzzzz…who’s that?…hmpf bllllrrrrrgggg…Esme?…you want another Roundabout Mouse?…very well…there’ll be rest enow when I’m gone…

[I awake from my dream…]

Ancient Philosophy: Johansen’s finest hour: chapters on Stoics and on Socrates.

The Stoics caricatured of course as nihilists but I noticed in 7th grade (in Evanston’s magnificent public library) that at least in the humanities, arguments apparently cogent were being constructed all the time to prove A and ~A. This seemed connected with my ability, almost a tic, to modify mentally any word to any other by a short series of letter relations based on sounds.

The caricatures of the Stoics, and the sympathetic if patronizing Platonic dialogues, still don’t let us access the truth of the Stoics.

As Johansen relates, Plato had every advantage in life…the equivalent of a trust fund. He was related to Tyrants (Critias and Charmides).

It has always been so plain as pikestaffs that graduate students and untenured faculty with trust funds can always outcompete others, that one wonders, how could anyone believe otherwise? Plato used this in his war with the Stoics who, underneath the polite phrases, wanted Plato dead, for Plato, unlike Thrasymachus (a Stoic and major foil to Plato’s Socrates in the Republic) Socrates and Plato could afford to believe in Truth and not Power…Socrates because like Diogenes, Socrates managed his needs, and Plato because Plato had powerful relations.

In fact, the Stoics’ epistemology looks far-forward to Foucault. Ask yourself this question which I find in Foucault: what if words needed no one-for-one referent? It’s too facile.

What if there is no truth, no power and just truth-power as in certain African philosophies “truth” has to be translated rough and readily to “that which gets over in council, and whups other competing truth-powers’ ass”?

Oh? That’s skeptical? Well boo hoo. Is skepticism a luxury good destined for the metropolis? Nuts to that.

The Stoics needed Truth and Power to make space for Truth when faced, as they clearly were in Johansen, with an Athenian Power quite ready as in Socrates’ case to put people to death. We cannot blame the Stoics any more from the standpoint of a world in which the children of the wealthy and the haute bourgeois struggle through test preparation classes such that the more the parent can afford, the harder the child must struggle to pass and complete, not only the exam, interview and/or paper required for admission but also the test prep classes. The Stoics seem to me to have been in my position as a non-tiger, struggling, and isolated teacher trying to survive and avoid academic fraud, for I retained my hunger for truth. Indeed, truth is the fun part.

Who even, in the contemporary world, remembers “Critical Legal Studies”? Precisely because in the 1990s, CLS threatened to bring back free Legal Aid for the poor and the middle class from the 1960s, Legal Aid and Critical Legal Studies delenda est: like Carthage and for much the same reasons. Because of the 1964 Civil Rights act and associated jurisprudence Queer Legal Studies and racial theory survives on life support but the idea that the merely middle class person might be systematically wronged by lack of access to the courts is a non-starter which a general legal theory from the left would bring back.

That is (das ist)

I’ve been born, and once is enough.
You don’t remember, but I remember,
Once is enough.

– TS Eliot, Fragment of an Agon