Monday Morning Blues: “Pains and Laze and Brainlessness”

Borrowing a passage from Stephen MacKenna on this close, gray morning.

August 13 1908

A day of nothingness, of prehumous death:  pains and laze and brainlessness.  Probably I could have saved this day and given it some value, had I but frankly from the early morning proclaimed it a day of rest:  it is always nobler to rest diligently than to work listlessly.  Life is in activity, and if one can’t be active in work, the only living is to be lively in play.  If one can’t write seriously, one can read seriously:  if one can’t read long, perhaps one can think long:  if one has no thoughts, one can read lightly:  if one can’t read light things or talk pleasantly, then better to go to sleep, thus at last doing something seriously useful.  If sin is sin by dampening life, then a morose dawdling is among the deadliest of sins; it is a very subtle shaft of the Gille nach chorp.  Few acts could sink a man further from God’s service, or from the mastery of himself more fatally or more miserably, than spineless discontented actlessness.

Kosman on a Characteristic Strategy of Plato

Rather than siding with one or the other moment of a controversial distinction, Plato often reframes the terms of the controversy in order to reveal lines of priority and to reveal the modes of dialectical dependence and underlying kinship that explain why thinking people could have in the first place held each side of the controversy.

Thus appearance is not (as though on some false Parmenidean model) figured as unreal by Plato, but rather (as on a true Parmenidean model) thought to constitute–although posterior to being–the very condition of its human appropriation, the condition, we might say, of being’s appearance.  Similarly with rhetoric and other modalities, both ontological and cognitive, in which the hierarchical relation of prior and posterior provide a more accurate model for reading Plato’s thought than do Gnostic-like models in which appearance is figured as illusion or rhetoric as lie.  –“Nature’s Law and Second Nature:  Philoosphers on Nomos and Physis”

Chisholm and Sellars

I’m teaching a seminar this term on Chisholm’s classic Theory of Knowledge and Sellars’ Metaphysics of Epistemology lectures.  Sellars spends a fair amount of his time commenting on Chisholm (on the 1st edition of Theory of Knowledge) in the lectures.  I am curious to see how this will go.  Right now, we are considering Chisholm’s response to Austin’s “Other Minds”, and wondering whether the JTB account of knowledge is as compulsory as Chisholm makes it seem, at least early in the book.

Starting Over

One thing about being a professor is the rhythm of it, especially the returning sense–one that I have at least–that each new year is a fresh start, a new beginning.  I spend the summer repenting of my teaching the year before  (“…Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the first…”) and face the new year hoping for life and light.  But every fresh start augurs a new failure.  The fun, I guess, is in finding out exactly how I fail this time.  Sometimes the failures are qualitatively identical if not numerically identical with past failures–but somehow still new, in their way.  Sometimes the failures blindside me, revealing yet unguessed weaknesses and indecisions of character.   Oh, well:  self-knowledge is bitter.  (Is that a bit of grammar, or a discovery about how it is with me?)

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