Friday, March 30, 2012

The Science Of Human Affairs

The thing Collingwood was really working towards was a science of human affairs. He claimed he wanted to come up with a method of study that would allow individuals to handle social problems as well as the natural sciences had allowed us to handle natural problems.

Then he died.

I intend to repeat his ambitions. The science of human affairs seems desperately necessary. Political problems don't seem to be handled very skillfully. At least not all the time.

I want to be a philosopher of the science of human affairs. But I need historical education to do this. I am, however, scared of history programs.

I just need to be a Collingwoodian.

Need to figure out how to push the Collingwood/Clausewitz comparison even further.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I fear capricious action.

I've recently been told, however, that is an indispensable form of action.

I'm very out of touch with that style of thinking and acting.

I internalize things and reflect on them.

I think this is a pretty bad thing.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Enlightenment Morality

I wish someone would want to talk to me about John Gray, Alisdair MacIntyre, or Collingwood.

I am so fixated these days on our cultural/political inheritance. I am so concerned with the Enlightenment.

I want to read more history.

On Reference

"My child-like creativity, purity and honesty, is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts. Reality is catching up with me, taking my inner child. I'm fighting for custody"

Don't hate.

Reference is an indispensable part of socializing. We must be able to say 'What do you do for a living?' or 'What kind of music do you like?'. There must be some kind of reference that we can make to the outside world. Reference is necessary.

But reference is also very damaging. Very dangerous.

We live in a very referential age. Internet, television, and radio circulates all kinds of images that are easily reproduced.

Referentiality in technological culture is one thing.

Referentiality in conversation is another.

Because in conversation reference can be so alienating. If someone wants to say something like oh 'I love Schopenhauer's such and such book,' or, Oh, 'This new band is so good because they are combining Nirvana and Pixies blah blah blah, they will kill a conversation.

In short, only a certain amount of referentiality is tolerable.

The problem is with referential density. How many layers of reference must I deal with? I can deal with references to work and cities, because I work, and I live in cities. But I cannot tolerate references to this band, this venue, this shit. Because you expect me to know too much. First I must understand the reference to the economic system, then the geography, then the local music scene, then the specific band. There can be too many layers to a reference.

Do me a favor, keep your references at a minimal density.

If you want to give me all this hyper-referential shit I'm going to laugh at you in my head.

Because this band or that bar isn't cool enough.

My hostility towards reference comes from my hostility towards Seattle.

I think this city is too referential. Too wrapped up in its own scene.

I think The-Dream is too referential. And man his music is amazing.

But he seems to be caught up with what 'the-dream' should sound like. His albums are so referential. He is trapped in his idea of himself.

Seattle, too, may be trapped in the idea of itself.

All this shit about the Seattle freeze, about the shyness, the awkwardness.

Self-fulfilling prophecies.

Oh, the pain.

Oh, the referential density.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Honesty. Honestly. Again.

It isn't easy.

I once told someone that I kept secrets from myself. They really didn't like this idea. They thought I was lying to myself. That the only issue was the decision as to whether or not keep secrets.

But the issue is a totally different one.

The issue is self-deception.

I don't understand myself. I seriously suspect there are things going on in my mind that I am most minimally in contact with.

I can feel the bubbling. The vague aching.

I know there are things hurting me, truths weighing on me, that I'm not yet able to face.

My consciousness, in many ways, is corrupt.

I am not artistic enough. I am not expressive enough.

I've got deep dark secrets of the most trivial nature.

I'm largely happy.

But I know I'm failing to be honest with myself.

Because the words won't come.

The words won't come.

I feel these insecurities, these pains, these deep dark feelings.

But they aren't words. They are feelings.

And as soon as I try to make them into words they hurt too much.

I keep secrets from myself because I'm not strong enough to tell myself certain things.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Philosophers and Philosophy

I have read quite a lot of philosophers.

I reckon myself a philosopher.

But I don't really know what 'philosophy' means.

It means to be a lover of wisdom. One who is curious about life and knowledge.

But I don't yet dare to speak in generalities.

I know what Foucault says.

What Collingwood, Gray, Schiller, Zizek, or Scarry says.

I know what these philosophers said.

But I don't know what philosophy is.

I understand it as an activity of individual minds.

But i don't understand it as a pure activity.

I bet Collingwood's Essay On Philosophical Method would be helpful with this.

But I don't have that kind of time right now.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Reflexivity In Painting, Writing, And Living.

Frankly, this idea I outlined last time is essay worthy. No mere blog post could cover those topics!

We must move these ideas to a word document!

Ahhhh but no!

I have another essay I wanted to write!

The one about agonistic pluralism and duty!


Plus I'm slowly but surely working on another painting.

I don't have a lot of free time, son!

What am I to do?!

And just while I'm sharing, this is what my latest painting looks like so far:

I want it to be a series of rolling hillsides with a very dark earthy muddy green color to them. With some hints of lighter green grass, and even some very bright pink and yellow flowers. I secretly want to put a burning village or something on the furthest hill. I want to make weird bluish white streaks of lighting on the black sky. I am tentatively titling it: 'The day the birds took over the sky'.


I'm not sure. But I like the sort of pockets of white I preserved in making a very black sky.

I hope to work on it tonight when I get home from work.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

These Are Notes

Reflexivity in Painting, Writing, and Living.

Tomorrow I want to write a post of that title.

It has to do with epistemology.

With the way that all of those things involve a more or less noticeable degree of reflexivity.

Painting is so obviously reflexive.

Writing, still yes, but less so.

Living, hardly noticeable, but still reflexive.

All of this has something to do with my relationship with technique or craft.

In painting, the gap between what is in my mind and what I can produce technically is so large, that when I begin to paint I am forced to find a middle ground between my technical capacity and the image in my mind. That is, I am not skilled enough to put what is in my mind on paper that I have to change what is in my mind to match what is on the paper. Writing, similar, but different.

Living, hardly noticeable. What are the shortcomings in my existential technique? And how does my living change as a result?

Reflexivity, as developed by Roger Smith in Being Human, is such a compelling epistemological argument. I find myself massively swayed by it.

My jaw dropped when I read Smith.

Yet, I cannot incorporate his thinking into my living.

How am I to regard life as a supremely reflexive process? Changing changing changing.

My recent explorations in painting (in addition to being incredibly enjoyable), are prompting reflections about this issue of reflexivity. Painting gives me a very intense example of a reflexive process. One that might serve as a useful analogy for thinking about reflexivity in other parts of my life, such as writing and living.

I'm the best!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yeah, I Finished Schiller. Big Whoop. Wanna Fight About It?

For about six weeks or more I slowly pushed through Friedrich Schiller's On The Aesthetic Education Of Man.

It took me quite a while because it is a challenging book. I found it very difficult. His writing style is not clear. His terminology is not consistent. And his organization is not apparent.

So, no, I don't understand it! Sometimes you read stuff slowly and you still don't read it so well.

Something about beauty as a emergent property or composite factor.

Something about the play impulse as the proper way to mediate between man's sensuous and rational sides.

Something about three distinct phases through which both man and society must pass if they are to be free.

Something about the appreciation of beauty as the prerequisite to freedom.

Who knows.

I gotta skim him at some point and see what else I can learn from him.

He struck me as remarkably similar to Clausewitz, which is excellent, because Clausewitz probably read him.

Means I'm not crazy in the connections I'm making.

And it turns out that Peter Paret, who some have called Clausewitz's leading biographer, claims that the relationship between Schiller and Clausewitz deserves more attention.

I'll try to figure it out.

Today I Wondered

If I am just writing about philosophy.

Or if I am writing philosophy proper.

It is hard to know.

But there is clearly a difference.

As Deleuze puts it at the beginning of Difference & Repetition: "There is a great difference between writing history of philosophy and writing philosophy. In the one case, we study the arrows or the tools of a great thinker, the trophies and the prey, the continents discovered. In the other case, we trim our own arrows, or gather those which seem to us the finest in order to try to send them in other directions, even if the distance covered is not astronomical but relatively small. We try to speak in our own name only to learn that a proper name designates no more than the outcome of a body of work - in other words, the concepts discovered, on condition that we were able to express these and imbue them with life using all the possibilities of language" (xv).

What am I doing?

Mostly writing about philosophy. Mostly studying the work of others. What else can I do? I am too young. Not yet well read enough.

Oh well!

Sometimes I try to write philosophy on my own.

But my voice is still muddled. Still uncertain and drowned beneath my references.

Someday I'll have a clearer voice of my own.

Someday I'll be a real philosopher, and not just someone who writes about philosophy.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The attitude I respect the most is humility. The confession I respect the most is that we do not know.

The other night a friend said something to me about how such and such a people overlook the most basic implications of dialectical thinking. Which, on the surface, sounds like it could be a vague jargony statement. But he is quite right. Dialectical thinking is of the utmost importance.

Especially when we realize that dialectical thinking is properly contrasted with eristical thinking, in which an individual merely tries to convince someone of their point, regardless of the merits of the other's point. Eristical thinkers merely argue their own point, never striving for understanding or synthesis.

Outrage, I declare! Bullshit, I say!

I always want to work with you. I always want to understand you. I always want to be dialectical with you. Never eristical.

Yet our culture, both popular and political, seems to be saturated with eristical modes of thought. We only care to convince other people that we are right.

This type of culture, I suspect, emerges from a common source: The Enlightenment.

That is what John Gray wants me to believe.

And, man, the more I think about it the more I stand by Gray.

The more I think about him the more I realize that Gray is central to my thinking.

All of my work, on the aesthetic existence, on technology, on nihilism, all connects to Gray.

For Gray is humble! Gray would never dare tell us what the best form of social organization is. Because we can't know! Ah!


Where is the humility! Where is the gentle engagement with this uncertain world! Where is the remorsefully decisive attitude I long for!

Oh! No!

I love certain songs so much.

I love Chad Van Gaalen's song 'Sara'.

It kills me. So simple.

So lovely!

I'm amazed at singers, songwriters, and poets. The way they can create these sounds that go together with all these different words. How marvelous that your words connect with your images and your images with your sounds!

Because, I, despite all my attempts, do not feel like a multi-disciplinary artist. I am a writer. I am a thinker. I use words. I am good at careful reading, creative synthesis, and argument. I don't know how to be an artist. I try.

But I feel like a writer more than anything else.

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Am

A blogging secret luddite.

I fear the internet.

I fear what it is doing to me.

I fear what it is doing to culture.

I deeply distrust technology.

Some Kind Of Light. Some Kind Of Dark.

When the powers out
And its dark in the house
I will run

When those lights flash
And I'm out on the streets
I won't run

Deep at the end of space
Further than the sun
Is a crowd of chairs

I was running in the snow
Thinking about that red
Wanting to know now

Way out on a crystal sea
Protecting you and me
Is a battleship

Way down deep in my heart
I know what is on the horizon
I know what my soul is like

They will discover you
Walking down the avenue

They will find us
Living in their memories

Never saying a word
Waiting to live again

Wondering about the end
On those things which we depend

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Duty, Agonistic Pluralism, and Historical Pedagogy

Ah! I have an idea again! I already wrote about it briefly in my last post on duty.

But now I a beginning to try and take those vague ideas and turn them into an essay.

In fact, I think that I'm going to write that essay as a part of AZI.

I took some notes by hand today. I'll share them at some point soon.

I'll be writing soon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I feel that Schiller has finally provided me with an adequate definition of aesthetic beauty. I feel like talking about beauty is usually super difficult and kind of lame. It is a vague word, no one know what it means, and we mostly revert to the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That is to say, a discussion of beauty often collapses into relativism. Or, there may be that link between beauty and truth, of course. Which is also good.

But Schiller doesn't speak of beauty in this way. He describes beauty as a composite or emergent property of a person. He argues that in individuals we find three distinct types of relationships: our relationship to the physical, to the logical, and to the moral. That is, we relate to our body and emotions, to our thought and rationality, and to our morality and sense of right. There is, however, a fourth quality: a thing may also "relate to the totality of our varies powers, without being a specific object for any single one of them; that is its aesthetic character. A man can be pleasant to us through his readiness to oblige; he can cause us to think by means of his transactions; he can instill respect into us by his high moral standards; but finally, independently of all these and without our taking into consideration any law or any design in our own judgement of him, but simply contemplating him, simply by his manifesting himself–he can please us. In this last-named character we are judging him aesthetically" (On The Aesthetic Education Of Man, Note pg 99). Thus beauty as a composite or emergent property. It is something that emerges from contemplating the whole formed by the relation of the parts.

I very much like this idea of beauty.


Duty, according to Mr. Collingwood, is the highest form of practical reason. We behave most responsibly, most authentically, when we say 'this is what I must do, this is my duty'. Duty, in other words, is the type of practical reason that recognizes that we are unique individuals acting in a unique situation, doing what we must because the situation compels it. It is not that we are not free. It is that when we really pay attention to ourselves and our situation, we can only act in one way. We have a duty to ourselves to choose a certain course of action.

This is how I think of my own behavior. I rarely feel like I am making a difficult decision between one option or another. I feel compelled to do what I do. I do what I must. I do what I feel it is my duty to do. 

To put it another way, duty is the form of consciousness that lets us see every individual as a rational agent, acting in a way that is always within the same world of thought that we exist. Although Collingwood did not fully develop his idea on duty until late in his life, he hinted at it in his early work. In Speculum Mentis he claims that there is something called 'absolute mind' that leads to a similar view: "The agent is now conscious of himself as absolute mind, and of every other agent, whether in agreement with himself or not, as coequal with himself. This means that he ceases to regard himself or his country or his party as in the right and everybody else in the wrong, but he regards all actions as manifestations of a will which is always and necessarily rational even when 'in the wrong', and therefore never wholly in the wrong. He thus sympathizes even with his opponents, and in proportion as he becomes truly rational he ceases to regard any one as an unmitigated opponent, but sees in every one a fellow-worker with himself in the cause of the good.... In absolute ethics the agent identifies himself with the entire world of fact, and in coming to understand this world prepares himself for the action appropriate to the unique situation" (304-5, my italics). 

Further, history, Collingwood claims, is duty's theoretical counterpart. That is, duty is knowledge of the self as an individual acting in a unique situation, and history, similarly, is knowledge of the other acting in their unique situation.

Something about forgiving everyone for everything, as I've often said. Absolute mind, absolute ethics, duty, history. 

These things deserve my attention.

Because utilitarianism is lame.

Further, because John Gray and Isaiah Berlin, and their ideas on 'agonistic pluralism' have quite a lot in common with this stuff. In this conversation John Gray explains how agonistic pluralism, too, humbly says, 'this is what I must do'. This is because, on their view, the world is made of incommensurabilities. That is, even when doing the right thing, we may have to do something wrong. There is no pure right or pure wrong. The world is made u on competing claims to right and wrong that can never be fully reconciled. We must humbly make decisions, do what we feel is right, even though we are breaking hearts and lives in the process. 

I wish to act dutifully. I wish to think historically. Only in this way can I continue to act while forgive myself and others.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Technology, Smart Phones, and Standing By Words

Tonight I saw Andrew W.K. in concert. How interesting it was! What fun it was!

But I saw a person using a smart phone in the middle of the concert and I had a thought. This title came to mind and I knew I had something to write. 

It was a shocking moment because the room was so collectively effervescent. A term I've heard attributed to Durkheim. Don't you just feel the magic of a crowd sometimes? The collective effervescence of the moment? 

A smart phone, though, temporarily banishes that communal energy. It creates a space separate from the moment in which we can escape the bodies and minds around us.

And this is where I begin to write seriously.

The problem with technology is that it encourages us to have a certain relationship to time. That is, technology implicitly tells us to think about the future. The process of developing technology is always about what can be created in the future, what the next advances will be. The use of technology, too, often inclines us to think about the present, about the elsewhere. We use technology to organize our lives, to plan the future, to keep in touch with people distant from us. All of which is great, incredibly useful, invaluable. These uses of technology, however, are similar in that they incline us to think about the future instead of the present. 

Perhaps it is possible to speculate about the future, as technology necessitates, and still remain in the present moment. Perhaps we can use technology and still be mindful. I'm not sure. But the Wendell Berry of the mid 80s believed that thoughts about the future often came at the expense of the present. Moreover, Berry believed that excessive thought about the future compromise our capacity for honesty. “People speaking out of this technological willingness,” Berry argues, “cannot speak precisely, for what they are talking about does not yet exist. They cannot mean what they say because their words are avowedly speculative. They cannot stand by their words because they are talking about, if not in, the future, where they are not standing and cannot stand until long after they have spoken. All the grand and perfect dreams of technologists are happening in the future, but nobody is there” (Ibid., 60). 

I worry about the cultural consequences of the internet. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Withdrawing From Words

I, Riley Paterson, aspiring wordsmith, might be temporarily withdrawing from words.

Not entirely, of course. Don't worry, folks, I'll still be doing plenty of talking! Sometimes I'll be writing.

But I find myself in an odd situation. I finished my nihilism essay and was very pleased with the results. I had a great time writing it, and, after reviewing it, I think my writing is somewhat clear. Further, I don't want to continue on the AZI project. Admittedly, I should probably finish the section I am on, because all that would mean would be to discuss The New Leviathan in relation to my analyses of Collingwood's other work. Sure, easy enough. But I don't feel like it. Besides, I already know where finishing that writing will put me: Knowing the the only thing I can do in response to Collingwood's oeuvre is to connect him to the Clausewitzian pedagogical project. And I'm not ready to do that yet.

I feel like relaxing for a little bit. I don't feel pressured to push myself into my reading. After Virtue is a remarkable book. After 80 pages I can already tell that Alasdair MacIntyre is pushing me to think in very serious ways. It isn't easy, though. On The Aesthetic Education Of Man, too, is a fascinating book. Schiller seemed to be a bizarre mind. I have no idea why. Talking about 'melting beauty' and shit. Very odd. So MacIntyre and Schiller are on my radar. I plan to finish both the books. I'll have to see how it goes.

But I don't want to get all wrapped up in these things right now. I need to maybe apply to graduate school this year. I should be focusing on that. And my graduate work is going to have a lot less to do with this stuff! I need to begin to change the direction of my thinking.

I think that is why my mind has become so odd in the last few weeks. I'm trying to shift mental gears and it is a real challenge. Gotta start thinking about different stuff.

I'm painting some. Finished three, which I posted. Working on a fourth. Just producing them for fun. Why else? It is just an interesting thing to do.

Trying to think about poems. I should read some poetry or some fiction.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Another One

You will pull strange gifts
From the heart of trees

Unforgotten love
Not forgotten peace
Oooooooooh no

Will you drag me into
The heart of the boiling sea?
Oh Sara, I hear you calling me:


You're a golden beam
Breaking into the ocean deep
On a single breathe
To be led to escape, nooooo

Now you cast your light
And Exposing the same colors
You consume my mind into silence
Oh Sara, I hear you calling me...