“A New and Severer Legislation”: De Quincy on Kant’s Last Days 1

The opening pages of the De Quincy essay contain much I find delightful and diverting.  But I thought I would start with one of the things I find deep.  In the long footnoted apologia for Kant’s language–for his writing in German and writing, eh, like Kant?–De Quincy points to two particular accomplishments of Kant’s work, accomplishments in logic and in ethics.  In both, De Quincy understands Kant to have provided “a new and severer legislation”:

Logic, with its proper field and boundaries more rigorously ascertained, would have re-entered upon its rights; renouncing a jurisdiction not its own, it would have wielded with more authority and effect that which is.  And ethics, braced up into stoical vigour by renouncing all effeminate  dallyings with eudaimonism, would indirectly have co-operated with the sublime ideals of Christianity.

De Quincy seems to me to grasp firmly what is at the center of Kant, and even to have caught, not only the sound, but also the importance of legal metaphor in Kant.  I will add more to this tomorrow


The Last Days of Immanuel Kant: A Discussion (Updated)

So, I started reading Thomas De Quincy’s “The Last Days of Immanuel Kant”.  I got a few pages in when I thought, “Hey, it would be fun to read this with some other folks.”  I now invite those of you who might be interested to read the essay with me.

Get a copy here.

Let’s talk over the next few days (until next Saturday) about the introductory section, which ends just as Wasianski prepares to speak.  Keep in mind that the footnotes are also fair game.  I was going to host a discussion on a free discussion board, but that seems too difficult.  So I will post here and those of you who want to can comment.


Philosophical Investigations and Three Kinds of Illusion

I am linking an essay of mine that has been hanging out in my Huh? File.  That is, the file in which I put things I have written whose merits and demerits are unclear to me, or so nearly even that I cannot decide whether to invest any more effort in them.  I wrote this for viva voce delivery.  I don’t know that it deserves further work, deserves my trying to make it a full-on scholarly essay.  If any of you have the time and the curiosity to read this, let me know what you think.  Thanks in advance!

Philosophical Investigations and Three Kinds of Illusion

“An Invitation to Love”: A Smidgen on Twin Peaks




It is that time again, that time of the year when I rewatch *Twin Peaks*, that time of the year when the owls are not what they seem.

I have been thinking a little about the role of the internal soap opera, “An Invitation to Love” in *Twin Peaks*.  It’s a structure Lynch likes, an embedded object of comparison for the embedding object.  What is “Invitation” doing embedded there?

Certainly the embedding show, *Twin Peaks*, has the superficial structure of a soap opera:  lots of beautiful characters, presented in kaleidoscope, constantly at work but never working, with little to do in their afternoons; melodramatic dialogue; romantic and monetary entanglements of extraordinary historical and momentary complication; etc.  “Invitation” ironizes this structure, and in so doing, asks the audience:  What is the difference between *Twin Peaks* and “Invitation”–and, more pointedly–what are the differences between aiming at art and aiming at entertainment?

That question gets its point from the risks *Twin Peaks* runs.  It aims at art.  “Invitation”, at best, aims at entertainment.  Lynch invites us feel the differences in those aims, the differences in the risks run.  For example, the risks run in aiming at entertainment are fewer and less severe in part because entertainment can be formulaic, and often is.  That there is a formula does not mean that everyone can succeed at it, do it, but it helps.  Put it this way:  the rules of entertainment are external to the making of the object that is to entertain.  It is possible to consult the rules.  But the risks run aiming at art are more numerous and more severe.  Art is not formulaic:  the rules of art are internal to the making of the object that is to be appreciated.  There are rules; but they cannot be consulted.  They come to be as the art object comes to be.  (This is one reason medium matters in art as it does not (in a way that it does not) in entertainment.  Entertainment shows a possibility of a medium, but art shows the conditions of a possibility of the medium:  entertainment ‘empirically idealizes’, art ‘transcendentally idealizes’.)  Lynch also wants us to feel the differences in the demands made on us by *Twin Peaks* and by “Invitation”.  Entertainment requires an audience but it does almost all the work for that audience–there is no need for the audience to do work in order to be entertained (in fact, doing work and being entertained typically exclude one another).  But art requires appreciators who are, in a limited way, collaborators, who are working in order to appreciate–who are bringing knowledge and experience and understanding and sensory refinement to bear on the art object.  Lynch wants us to recognize that watching *Twin Peaks* makes that sort of demand on us.  “Invitation” does not.

(I mean this to apply to the first season and part of the second.  It is a shame that the second season of *Twin Peaks* sinks into “Invitation”.  I wonder if that is why “Invitation” seems to disappear in the second season–it disappears into ubiquity, swelling from object of comparison to form?)

While of course Lynch cannot withstand comparison to Shakespeare (but, then again, who can?), it is worth considering how the relationship between *Twin Peaks* and “Invitation” shares features of the relationships between Shakespeare’s source materials and his plays, and the alchemical, metabasis eis allo genos changes that the source materials undergo as they reappear in the plays.  Often enough, Shakespeare made art out of entertainment, body and blood out of bread and wine.







Happy Birthday to Kierkegaard!

I smoked a cigar in his honor today.

Here’s something from Johannes Climacus:

So there I sat and smoked my cigar until I drifted into thought. Among other thoughts, I recall these. You are getting on in years, I said to myself, and are becoming an old man without being anything and without actually undertaking anything. On the other hand, wherever you look in literature or in life, you see the names and figures of celebrities, the prized and highly acclaimed people, prominent or much discussed, the many benefactors of the age who know how to benefit humankind by making life easier and easier, some by railroads, others by omnibuses and steamships, others by telegraph, others by easily understood surveys and brief publications about everything worth knowing, and finally the true benefactors of the age who by virtue of thought systematically make spiritual existence easier and easier and yet more and more meaningful—and what are you doing?

%d bloggers like this: