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October 29, 2007


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Great imagery, the reader and the author stalking one another in the semiotic jungle. I think that it goes both ways, the texts become a dialog.

AKMA is brilliant as always, but he is leaving something out. In talking about committed interpreters, the figure of what that commitment is towards is missing. The quoted passage talks all about what a liberal believes, which puts an unnecessary slant on the idea of objective neutrality as embodied in scientific method. This method is about eliminating beliefs (pre-conceptions), not in the elimination of the faith of commitment to life (as lived).

Let's talk a bit more deeply, and I hope AKMA will comment here about what is unspoken. Faith in what? Commitment to what? It is not necessary to answer these questions with clear words, with a creed you affirm, but we necessarily answer it in action, in the choices we make everyday. To be part of a community, a family, or to look out for number one.


What struck me about Akma's post is the repositioning of interpretation on "knowledge" to "being in the world," from meaning to ethics. That is a key move, one characteristic of the Hellenistic philosophers and Jesus himself. Objectivity is about knowledge, commitment is about integrity within a community of conscience (not Ameya preserve necessarily).


Yes, that is a key move. Being in the world is, after all, prior to knowledge. Value precedes knowing.

Reminds me of this analogy that Michael M. suggested to me:

knowledge : method :: belief : habit

I have suggested to him that we extend it to a third term:

:: truth : faith

Not suggesting any singularity for these terms, but just in the sense we are discussing. That our conscience, our personal sense of right action, how to be a good person comes from a different space that knowledge. From the truth of who we are (whether we know it or not), of what is.


"Who is my neighbor? asks the Pharisee, hoping to get into a debate. Jesus tells him the parable of the Samaritan, which is taken almost as a rebuke. The thing is to help others, not split hairs about who is deserving. What kind of man asks the question? That is what Jesus seems always to reframe, so that we are left with a sense of compunction, that we should do more, not just interpret commandments, but actually follow them.


Sorry, I was offline most of the day, and am have used up one day's worth of brainpower on a presentation. I promise to duck back in tomorrow.


Thanks, Akma. We have been talking here about how in Hellenistic philosophy the favorite metaphor for philosophy was "healing." The philosopher is a physician who heals the soul tormented by earthly desires, rather than simply instructing. Words are remedies. They are judiciously administered in the hope of a cure. On this model the reader is the sick person. The test of efficacy is whether the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the half-dead awaken. That the reader was unchanged by the text means that another more potent one should be prescribed. The one who has been healed lives a life in harmony with the good.


Most likely, the truth is a room a writer can't enter, and he makes his craft in presenting various routes to the door, guided or misguided as they might be, hoping someone else will go in.


I mean, in re "stalking a text that shyly evades him like a deer in the woods" - yesterday I watched Andrei Tarkhovsky's film "Stalker" which I couldn't believe my library had it when I saw it, it was all scratched up too, and if you know the movie, it was exactly about this.


"I have read the text so carefully, I just can't be sure I found the meaning." Right, and the Text may have decided you were not the one, not to bother with you, that being understood by such a one would be a disgrace.


What a crazy world in which a text can misread a reader!


OK, the presentation is stalled, so I'll come back and answer my interlocutors here.

Gerry reminds us that “The quoted passage talks all about what a liberal believes, which puts an unnecessary slant on the idea of objective neutrality as embodied in scientific method. This method is about eliminating beliefs (pre-conceptions), not in the elimination of the faith of commitment to life (as lived).” Are “beliefs” the same as “preconceptions,” and does the scientific method (to the extent that there is a singular such thing) truly aim at eradicating all of them?

I would first question the identification of “belief” with “preconception.” When Fish says “Liberals believe,” he is not asserting that liberals hold certain preconceptions — many of the beliefs he cites show clear marks of being the result of deliberative conclusion (at least ad fontes — they may be held without deliberation by people who have come to accept them as given, just as scientists surely hold some axiomatic premises about their observations and conclusions). The point in question, for Fish and Milton, is the possibility of extracting norms for life and interpretation from their entanglement in practices and axioms. With Fish and Milton, I’d say you just can’t do it. A liberal, in the sense in question, holds that one can identify methods, facts, laws, and so on that bind the rational observer to specific conclusions.

I guess I already questioned the value-neutrality of the “scientific method” above — but permit me simply to add that in a way very aptly pertinent to our neighbors at Wealth Bondage, science and the flow of capital have formed an alliance that seems ill-suited to claims about value-neutrality. Gerry’s closing paragraph underlines this point — someone who devotes her energies to scientific discovery has not eschewed “commitment” or “preconceptions,” surely.

What is the increment of value associated with being able to claim that one is “objcetive” or “value-neutral”? Does not the claim that one’s reading, or one’s politics, or one’s ethos, make a better, richer, healthier world suffice? If one contests such a claim — “Tutor, your dumpster world injures more than it cauterizes, befouls more than it illuminates; get you hence!” — would the claim that either (or both) parties to the contestation is objective resolve anything? “Ooops, sorry, I thought you were subjective as I am.”

When Phil says that “words are remedies,” I’d just want to submit that words fall among the countless gestures by which we build up weal or inflict woe. Using words to torture is not more humane than water-boarding just because it doesn’t result in organ failure. Using words to remedy is not less commendable than surgery just because it doesn’t physically remove diseased tissue.

When in a moment I return to working on my paper, I’ll be trying to find a way to get at the premise that expressions are wagers, and meaning is (as it were) the stake. Swift bets that his cause will be well-served by readers finding A Modest Proposal and concluding that the British conscience would respond by taking action to redress Irish poverty. Some [powerful] readers reached a different conclusion; in those cases Swift’s wager miscarried. Many readers over the ages have reached the conclusion Swift was betting on; I would estimate that his wager was, in the aggregate, amply successful. The words themselves did not convey meaning; there’s no objective textual basis for distinguishing A Modest Proposal from other hyperbolic apologies for exploitative racist triumphalism. Swift was a gambler, we’re all gamblers, and we’ve developed a semiotic economy where we do well enough, most of the time, to keep playing. That doesn’t make our low-stakes, sure-thing bets “non-wagers” (though the U.S. government persistently treats high-stakes market gamblers as though they were entitled to the benefits of successful gambles, but in need of relief from their unsuccessful gambles. Go figure).


Meaning as wager, but what is the forfeit? Not just meaning miscarries. Swift and his friends worried that they like Defoe might end up in the pillory or have their ears docked. Christ and Pilate are playing a game of mutual wager, but what is the bet? What is the forfeit for one and the other, and who won what? "Reached the conclusion that...." does not do justice to your insights, AKMA. You are still treading the maze of meaning, where winning the bet has something to do with inflicting, or deflecting, or capturing a meaning. You are still hung up on truth values, and decontructring naive reifications of truth, rather than doing justice to "the moment of truth." The wager, the remedy, the pharmakon, speak to a change of life, metanoia, or repetence, or seduction, or confusion intentionally sown, or misunderstanding intentionally sown as understanding, as St Mark says of parables. The moment of truth is not an interpretation. It is a cross born. The words that lead us to that moment of truth are also a cross born. They can be shrugged off, but the words impell us on the via dolorosa. We can be faithful or unfaithful in that walk, but interpreting words correctly is not the heart of it. That is not the hardest part, you might say, when the man says, "Give all you have to the poor and follow me." Knowing what he meant is not the hard part.

What does the text mean is not a trivial question, but "How should I live?" is a more fundamental one in that interpretation too is a form of life, whose ethos and ethic you are explicating from within that game. What the game is oriented to, though, has always been the question. By what is the hermeneutic ethos tethered, what end does it serve, other than play? Could we in your case say, "Virtue, or Salvation, or the transmission of a living apostolic tradition, or to bear witness to the holy ghost?" If not, the game is idle and your parishioners should ask for a refund. To get the meaning may be still to miss the point.

I don't much identify with the values neutrality language. I work in a field full of values neutral values-based planners wh are really just motivated by business goals. That is not values-neutral, but embodies the values of shopkeepers, publicists, and other servants of wealth.

How should I live? If you start with that question, you never get to "values-neutral" except as an expedient strategy to accomplish something like making a living, being inoffensive, getting an interviewing job on NPR, etc.

We all have taste, all have values, and most are deplorable. Elevating those, cultivating those is the work that Swift did as both preacher and satirist. Glad to see you, AKMA, return to Swift as your proof text. Sermon and Satire - that is the telling contrast, more so than sermon and science.

When use sermon, when use satire? Can a person master either without some skill with the other? If the goal is to save souls? Pindar wrote of the poet's role, "Praise what deserves praise and sow blame for wrong-doers." If we are to heal the body politic we need both sermon and satire, to prasie what is praiseworthy and blaming what is blameworthy.

The right approach is not found in a texbook or by consulting your professional role. If you interlocutor is infected with sin, the question is what will be the cure? Sometimes silence, sometimes a joke, sometimes a rebuke, sometimes sermon, sometimes satire, sometimes hard time in the slammer, sometimes a week in the pillory. A good healer makes wise choices, with the moral health of his beloveds, his sheep, his sacrifiicial victims, in mind.


A lot here to mull, just an observation: The features of many wagers that we'd all recognize as such tend to include (1) risk, because we don't know the outcome (2) intensity, because we are putting a lot, perhaps everything, on it, and doing so in the dark, (3) courage/folly, as the stakes can be quite large, (4) rapidity, because if it's all or nothing there's no need/chance for deliberativeness. Then there's the matter of hedging one's bets, as well as practicing folly with a sneaky secondary subprocessor calculating the risk.


Thank you for the thoughtful response, but I can't let you off easily about belief. Fundamentally, I find belief a really weak concept. It's what you say when you don't really know.

How much will you wager for a belief? Better do another gut-check and figure out just how much is at risk, think about options. (Echoing Tom's points here.)

Let's not split hairs about objective and/or neutral. I'm not trying to privilege the scientific method, just using it as an example. Extending the bounds of what we can say objectively gives us a common foundation and language such that results can be reliably reproduced. Analytic thought can also place firm limits on what it can and cannot decide, assuring us that there will always be a mystery to explore beyond the bounds of Cartesian projections.

And if science can swallow the dualities of waves and quanta, then the world can allow for a multiplicity of truths in the space beyond objectivity and even rationality. I am fascinated by the resonances and synchronicities in the diversity of answers to the unanswerable. I see no need for finality in any of it.


It is fitting, having begun with Stanley Fish, that we should touch on the notion of the text stalking the reader. One might even say (trying to make this cohere) that Milton made a rhetorical wager in painting Satan in a false-heroic light, the stakes being the reader's salvation. Which is of course precisely what god did in giving man free will. Herbert does a nice job of meta-hermeneutic reversal in The Collar in which the 'poet' falls (fortunately) into a pit-trap laid by a merciful god. For Herbert, the phenomenal world can be read as a text created by God for the purpose of getting with touch with us sinners. But the message often doesn't get through due to our incessant presumptuous interpretation.

Of course, any mention of a wager in this context inevitably calls to mind Pascal's wager. Perhaps we should think in terms of two simultaneous wagers (or two stalkers). God is betting that the sinner will start betting on God, and vice versa. Likewise, communication is a collaborative process. Notions like author, text, and reader are phantom ontological epiphenomena. (I would argue that notions like God and sinner are too, but that's another matter.)

The point at which this becomes ethically problematic, is when it moves out of the test tube and into the so-called real world. It is one thing for Herbert to illustrate God's workings in a poem, but it may seem manipulative if we are caught trying to concoct teachable moments. Playing God, if you will. My advice to anyone practicing outbound hermeneutics is, don't get caught. And if you do get caught, play dumb.


Wager, Tom, recalls Pascal's wager on the existence of God. It also reminds me of "the moment of truth," when we wager all on confrontation with those who are perhaps more powerful in wordly ways, but weaker in ways of the spirit.

Wager also makes me think of risk arbitrage, risk management, and insurance. "The law of large numbers" in gambling or insurance turns uncertainty of gain or loss into a return that is predictable.

In the moment of truth equation the many confront the few in power. A few or one of the many who have little worldly power confront the few who have little truth but much worldly power. The risk/return calculation for a Christian Martyr is not so easy to calculate. It involves the Kingdom not of this world, and it takes into account the effect on others, and the ultimate fall of a corrupt empire. A pinch of incense on Caesar's altar or death in the arena. Many chose death. Go figure.


Lovely comment, Jeff, thank you for the insights, erudition, and cautions. Who commits these strategems today? Who games us from birth on? Are the gamesters just the poets and prophets? Could the gamesters wagering for our souls and those of our children also include the advertisers, marketers, think tank thinkers, propagandists, and pundits? The game of rhetoric, these wagers, are already out of bounds, Jeff. We find ourselves already a chip in the game, before we even come to consciousness. The Roman Catholic Church says the age of reason is 7. At what age is the child put as a chip into the game of the advertiser, who plants in the child's soul, the weeds of earthly desire, and the snakes of passion and sin? Neutrality or sitting around not being in the game is not an option. We are "always already" at stake and risk in the game. We think we are seated in the Colisseum, watching the show, and we are, but what got us there and taught us blood lust was the false poetry of advertising.


The "always already" seems implicit in AKMA's model of expression as wager. The game is larger than just the cheesy coinage of USian middlemen. What's curious is how a reading of "gamble" seems to veer unstably between naked risk and canny stratagem.


Games of risk involve strategy as well as chance. Skill and luck. A certain kind of brilliant reader outwits the text in order not to be touched by it. Many a Christian reads the Bible that way, as a kind of vaccination against the message of Christ.


Lovely comment, Jeff, thank you for the insights, erudition, and cautions. Who commits these strategems today? Who games us from birth on? Are the gamesters just the poets and prophets? Could the gamesters wagering for our souls and those of our children also include the advertisers, marketers, think tank thinkers, propagandists, and pundits? The game of rhetoric, these wagers, are already out of bounds, Jeff. We find ourselves already a chip in the game, before we even come to consciousness. The Roman Catholic Church says the age of reason is 7. At what age is the child put as a chip into the game of the advertiser, who plants in the child's soul, the weeds of earthly desire, and the snakes of passion and sin? Neutrality or sitting around not being in the game is not an option. We are "always already" at stake and risk in the game. We think we are seated in the Colisseum, watching the show, and we are, but what got us there and taught us blood lust was the false poetry of advertising.


Certainly, Phil, we are 'thrown'. We are not given the choice not to choose. This is painfully obvious in the current political climate. While a generation slumbered, the reactionaries industriously beat the plough shares of deconstruction into the sword of propaganda. Now Rip Van Winkle awakes to discover that he has been 'framed'. It would be folly to dither, agonizing over sincerity, as if we still believed in a mythical language without rhetoric. Politics, in the widest sense of the term is not so much the art of the possible as the art of the plausible. As Auden said, "Only those who love illusion and know it will go far."

A friend recently showed me a paperweight his girlfriend gave him that asked the question: "What would you do if you knew that you could not fail?" I suggested that a more interesting question might be "What would you do if you knew that you could get away with it?"

My cautions were only intended to help increase the likelihood of getting away with it.


Jeff, I wish I knew you better. Your point about deconstruction is one I have often made. I know many good people who absorbed that ideology as a way loosening what I.A. Richards called, "doctrinal adhesions," but the same ingenuity that might go into deconstructing Paradise Lost has been turned against the Bill of Right and the Constitution, with Stanley Fish showing the way. We have sown sophistry and reaped oppression. There is a country saying: "Never pull down a fence until you know why someone put it there." We can deconstruct the best the human mind has created, and may feel swaggeringly superior for awhile, but the forces unleashed, those of will to power, lead to what? What can check desublimated power but force, and what does that yield but war, subterfuge, surveillance, torture, lies? Maybe what checks such force is love, but love-unto-death, as on the cross.

I would love to know more about your background and how you came to your insights. I note a little Heidegger in your allusion to "thrownness," but you seem not to be in his entourage.

Oddly, it seems of his children that the existentialists have most now to illuminate our own predicament. Authenticity and sincerity may be somewhat dated concepts, as is "choice," but in whatever way, we seem each of us to be collaborating today with the unacceptable, "the plague," as Camus suggested.

The resistance - what makes one resist and one collaborate? What makes one join a think tank and prosper as a servant of power that puts itself above the law, while another thinks and writes for real, at risk? Being precedes essence or the other way around? Character determines choice, or the other way around? Any way you look at it we are limning our own moral portraits.


It is remarkable what can be sold under the rubric of "the plausible." Truly remarkable.


I will introduce myself as soon as I finish my apologia.

Kindly forward my introduction to all your fascinating friends over at Wealth Bondage, too. I am looking forward to getting acquainted with all of you.


OK, Here's more than you want to know about me:



oops, I thought TypePad would make a url into a link if I just put angle brackets around the it. I guess not. Here's the real link:



TypePad is very picky about links, you also need to quote attribute values or it rejects the formatting and links.

Interesting bio, I'm sure we would all like to know more about what you are up to at Handmeon. At first glance it resonates with me, and I want to invite you to interconnect your networks and mine. For example you might find Source Tree Commons resonates with what you are trying to do.

Some of us are really interested in new kinds of economic systems based on gift ecologies as much or more than markets and exchange. The language of currencies (taken broadly, beyond exchange only) and the creation of alternative currencies is one way to go, there are many.

For this post I will return closer to the topic. I have been reading Multitudes and periodically reading critiques for and against and other background materials. I really respect people who can keep all of the individual ideas and sources distinct, I tend to lose track of that in the integration of many ideas.

What strikes me is the way ideology replaces thought in this. Some critiques assume they know what the authors are saying based on the genealogy of the ideas, and in particular if Marx is anywhere in the family tree the ideas can be dismissed with a formula. The genealogy is interesting and sometimes useful in deeper interpretation, but when it becomes a purity test, thought has stopped.

I really like the move of creating a plural networked subject, and as I understand it we are involved in the work of creating that subject in the production of shared content on blogs, wikis, as well as code and other media that are produced collaboratively in a common space. Not being singular a network can move in several directions at the same time.

Similarly, Christians, Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists ..., can all live committed lives to seemingly contradictory truths without conflict. My truth does not have to deny your truth to remain true. It can't. No more than a photon can shed either its wave nature or its particle nature.

There still seems to be a singular ultimate frame behind it all, but it always remains hidden. When science was able to pin down nature at a very fine grain, we could no longer form intuitive models of the foundational entities. Like the blind men exploring the elephant we throw out many tentative explanations, and if we are lucky and dilligent we discover the elephant, but it is still largely mysterious to us.


Most likely, the truth is a room a writer can't enter, and he makes his craft in presenting various routes to the door, guided or misguided as they might be, hoping someone else will go in.

I like it, but I resist the idea that truth can be found in a room (too singular).

The relationship of faith and truth is subtle. If you place your faith in some particular beliefs, and these are later found to be inconsistent with the truth, you are in danger of losing your faith. Faith doesn't determine the truth, it seeks it. Faith is patient when the truth remains veiled. Faith is expressed by science in Einstein's quote about how God is subtle, but not malicious. If we seek faithfully, all will be revealed in time.


The obvious danger in the notion of a plural networked subject is just how uniform the plurality actually is. (e.g. fascism) I am skeptical of the notion of 'dangerous ideas', but I do sometimes wonder if some concepts are less stable than others. Does the idea of 'networked plurality' somehow go bad too easily, mayonnaise? For instance, the ideal of a democratic society is often perverted into the idea that the majority is by definition correct. (Consider our fascination with public opinion polls.) I sometimes fear that any idea with more than one moving part is too complex for public consumption.

I don't have a problem with Marx, but I did wonder sometimes reading Negri to what extend his marxism was reconstructed rather than repackaged. This is something that puts people off about Bourdieu, for instance. Is he saying 'multitude' but thinking 'proletariat'? On the other hand, as long as the concepts are useful, who cares about the paradigmatic purity of their originator. Maybe concepts are like sausages that way, and we shouldn't worry too much about the circumstances of their production.

So yes, I agree that we need to think outside the Enlightenment paradigm of the conscious individual subject, fundamental as it is to western judicial, political, and religious systems.

But the idea of epistemological relativism (which is how it is likely to be received) is going to prove very difficult for many people to swallow. It is widely accepted, for instance, that epistemological relativism entails moral relativism.

Maybe global warming will perform a useful didactic function and pound the notion of 'ecology' into public consciousness. At which point, in can be used metaphorically to introduce systems thinking into other arenas.


Jeff, I had read your bio more than once, and also your list of books on handmeon. I was wondering about your education, or self-education. Are you are former academic? You have intellectual "taste," something really rare. You aren't citing books, you are writing from within a sensibility formed by a specific tradition, not French, but informed by French thought, and aware of the differences.


Handmeon was started by our friend from the original Giving Conference in Chicago, Michael J. See his nod to gifthub


Handmeon harks back, I think, to Lewis Hyde's The Gift. Can we say that "truth" at least in some aspects is like a gift or a coin that passes current only in circulation? We have more truths, I am afraid, than today pass current. Jeff, Michael J, Tom Matrullo, AKMA, I and you too Gerry are trying to keep what we have found "true" in circulation, even though every effort is being made elsewhere in the system to substitute counterfeits.

Espionage services will introduce counterfeit currency to undermine a regime. We might introduce the real thing under current circumstances to achieve the same result.


Jeff, the political import in the US of sophisticated thought from the tradition of Derrida, Heidegger, Carl Schmidt, Nietzsche, and Machiavelli is an interesting topic. To some extent the neocons (via Strauss) are in reaction against it, in other respects they are carriers of it. But that Machiavellian, or Platonic conception of the "insider" who knows, and who leads or misleads the multitude seems well-entrenched in both theory and practice. One way that manipulative viewpoint expresses itself to day is by hyping the categories of "choice," "self" and "freedom," as in Freidman. We have the basic concepts of classical liberalism as well as Christianity mirrored back to the people by leaders who have long since abandoned any living commitment to those concepts. What we have now, it seems, in business, marketing, pr, think tanks, and politics is will to power plain and simple.

What stands against it? I find myself going back to the roots of liberalism under Nero and Cromwell. There are very good reasons that liberalism arose under tryanny and civil war, as an alternative to oppression, cabals, assassination, and secret tribunals. What goes around comes around, not just on handmeon. Those who live by the sword die by the sword. Tit for Tat leaves a river of blood. We have not exhausted the Anglo-American-Neoclassical tradition and its resources, we have simply forgotten them. They have been withdrawn from circulation and replaced by counterfeits.


Phil, I updated my bio on Handmeon - some of your concrete questions re my education are answered there.

I am rather a slow reader (and thinker.) My strategy generally is to read a small amount of a writers work very carefully and then try to imaginatively recreate their world view in sufficient detail to imagine the contents of their other works. A perverse and inefficient method, inspired perhaps by Borges.

For instance, I read Descartes "Discours de la methode" and was struck by his assertion that he had spent years systematically seeking to free his mind of all preconceptions. This struck me as an interesting experiment in mental hygiene and I subsequently devoted three years to the experiment of avoiding to the maximum possible extent having any opinions whatsoever. It was one of the most valuable intellectual exercise I have ever undertaken. I wonder how many academic specialists in Descartes have actually taken him seriously enough to bother trying something similar themselves? Not many, I'd wager. And therein lies my major beef with academia.

As you can probably guess, in contrast to Strauss, I prefer 'Socrates' to 'Plato' (with all the usual caveats concerning fictive identity.) Similarly, in contrast to the pope, I prefer 'Jesus' to 'Paul'.

I agree about the carrier/reaction role of Strauss. Derrida, Heidegger, Carl Schmidt, Nietzsche, and Machiavelli are an interesting grab-bag. Much to say there and a lot of hype surrounding the bunch of them. And the difference in their reception here! - the American Derrida is as different from the indigenous variety as bottled Guinness is from draft. And so on.

As for 'What is to be done'? Do you have a reference for the roots of liberalism under Nero and Cromwell? This is clearly a gap in my education.


Try Martha Nussbaum's Fragility of Goodness or Therapies of Desire. I have extrapolated wildly.


Jeff, we seem to have been at Yale in the same era, and been subjected to the same gravitational forces. I was in the grad school in English 1975-81. Tom Matrullo was there in Comp Lit in the same era. AKMA was there in that era in the Div School before studying in Paris. Thank you for joining in here. Fascinating to see how the ideas current in those years have been refactored by those of us who lived through it.


Jeff, by the way, were you in fact influenced in starting hand me on by Lewis Hyde? Marcel Maus?


I hadn't read Lewis Hyde. But certainly Mauss, and also Malinowski.

And thanks for the generous welcome.


Jeff, I would seldom recommend a book, but the Lewis Hyde would be one you will treasure. He picks up on Mauss and Malinowski, but also on Ezra Pound's attitude towards "usury." A certain kind of culture is supported by the gift and undermined by "micro-lending" and the like.


Thanks for the recommendation. As a matter of fact, I had already started it, having heard about already via Mike. I'm just beginning the second half.

I took a trip to the philosophy section of the local bookstore to check out the Nussbaum books you mention and gained a little insight into the Derrida-Heidegger-Schmidt-Nietzsche-Machiavelli controversy. (I hadn't realized it was such a cause célèbre.) There was a book written by some ex-students of Strauss' purporting to debunk the Strauss-Neocon conspiracy. I only gave it five minutes, but something about it rang false to me.

The pages I opened the book to were devoted to 'proving' that Strauss does NOT take the side of Thrasymachus in the Republic. In the course of which they skirt the real issue: the deeply objectionable nature of what Socrates himself is proposing: that the task of ruling should be given to philosophers and that deceiving the public is a legitimate political expedient. (Shades of Le differend!)

I am perhaps being very unjust to the Zuckerts (I only read two pages) but this strikes me as a classic neoconservative exercise in disinformation à la Dinesh D'Souza, written with an admirable clarity and directness, and yet fundamentally disingenuous.

We have on the right hand disinformation masquerading as truth, and on the left hand, an occasional real insight swaddled in willful obscurantism. O tempora, o mores.


Thanks, Jeff. My earlier remarks we elipitcal and probably unfair, but your comment highlights the point I was trying to make. When we see truth and justice as language games played by rules subservient to power, we start with debunking and end in alibis. How do we converse about justice with Thrasymachus, when he funds our think tank?


We must be as the Native American warrior who goes into battle saying "Today is a good day to die", except that for us, the present-day equivalent is: "Today is a good day to get fired."


"I’d just want to submit that words fall among the countless gestures by which we build up weal or inflict woe."

"It's the damage that we do and never know, it's the words that we don't say that scare me so"


A good day to get fired. Is your barge in France vacant now? Could you maybe do the Handemon thing with it? We could each use it for a month upon termination? Empyting our minds, like Descartes? Emptying our emotions like Cicero and Seneca?

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