a thread for mundane ironists

[b]Bianco Luno

what you don’t want to hear


It is important for me that you see me as a threat[/b]

Here it is not important, however, whether this point of view is a reasonable one. Instead it is a reasonable point of view if – for all practical purposes – it has become important to me that I describe things this way. For, say, whatever reason.

Besides, it’s not like I can really know if what I intend it to mean is what the author intended it to mean 17 years ago. In fact, I don’t even see the point in asking him.

And why should I not aim my own at times caustic, cantankerous [and occasionally calculated] cynicism at those I feel are not warranted in rejecting it? After all, if something makes sense to me I don’t embrace it by tolerating what does not make sense. And it’s not like I don’t also see things the other way around.

I’m just being realitstic. The fact is that, over the years, I have managed to embrace any number of additonal, contradictory vantage points regarding what Emile Cioran framed as “the trouble with being born”. In other words, I’m certainly not here to judge your point of view about it; even though [if you don’t endorse mine] I just did.

[b]Bianco Luno

“At times we must choose between the lesser of two evils.”
In a democracy, when is this not the case?[/b]

Why? Perhaps because [in nearly every case] what we see as good will almost certainly be seen by another as evil.

Pain assures me that criticism, in the guise of some altruism, is impossible.

Criticism always becoming just a point of view.

[b]Having been brutalized by some youthful illusion, now our business is to “be real”. On and on like this until this perception, too, is undone.

In the paper I read about a graduate student shooting himself in the head in Ravenna Park.

Academically outstanding, athletic, lots of caring friends, active in social causes, close family…but though he counseled others well, everyone repeats, he was unforthcoming about his own deepest concerns, etc.

(An advertisement for a crisis clinic is appended to the article.)

He must have had some?

And he was articulate and we have a sound or gesture in the language for every feeling and what we can’t express others, given the chance, would surely be able to infer, all of us, of course, partaking in the same humanity?

(I am compelled to lend these handy assertions the inflection of a question.)[/b]

Similarly, whenever I ingest the news I invaribly react in the same manner. Every exclamation point always ends in a question mark.

[b]Bianco Luno

“So much pent up hatred…”
You say this with a very public sympathy, as though it might be relieved against them, or as though it wouldn’t be trained on you.

If injustice existed I would hate less.[/b]

On the other hand:

Hatred in an essentially absurd and meaningless world is no less hatred. But it would be so much more appealing in one that was not essentially absurd and meaningless.

Still, I understand the yearning for injustice. If it existed then so would justice. And, perhaps, the hatred could be subsumed in the realization that you at least know what is injust.

But there is still the problem of “I” tumbling over the abyss into oblivion. What of justice and injustice then?

No, we still need a loving, just and merciful God before any of this can – ultimately – matter.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Consensus as an expression of the face: the eyes appear to glaze over.[/b]

Depends on the concensus though. And, of course, your distance from it. One says things like this in order to appear above it. And that is easy enough to do in a world of words. And there surely must be a consensus to confirm that trolls are to words what words are to trolls: vents?

[b]Bianco Luno:

When my ex-wife left me I came close to killing myself.
I groveled before her, unable to breathe because I couldn’t hate her without seeing my own wretched image.
That May the cherry blossoms and the weather were especially lovely.[/b]

Sometimes it unfolds like this and sometimes it doesn’t. Does it matter?

[b]Bianco Luno:

“The truth shall make you free,”
in much the same way death will.[/b]

But the truth – whatever you insist that cannot possibly be – is of far less use to you after you die.

Registered and went to vote.
Tore my ballot into four pieces and placed it in the slot.
In a democracy, “if enough people…,” blah, blah, blah.
If enough people don’t…ditto.

It’s easy enough to be cynical about democracy when you go trolling to impugn it. But voters really do put into office the most despicable kind of scumbags.

Is there really any viable alternative but to get them out?

Or should we go much farther and troll for revolutionaries.

[b]Bianco Luno:

How do you imagine that I see myself?
Sometimes as a precocious boy, more often as an imbecile.
But these are not offered as a sordid bouquet of suspiciously convenient self-deprecations.
The hatred I have is too great yet for a boy or an imbecile and never releases you from its sight.[/b]

Trust me: he is a man who knows how to take hatred lightly. And an imbecile only in the most ironic sense. Yet it took me years to understand why. I still refuse to take it lightly myself.

Not while going about the business of lving in this world.

When my ex-wife left me I nearly died.
We were hardly married, and to the extent we were, what did that mean?
The ceremony, held in her apartment, was witnessed by two deadbeats living next door, kindly interrupting their fishing trip to toast us.
She baked a cherry pie, which we all shared.
The county collected forty dollars.
The affair seemed to mean something to her.
We were together two and one half years.
My last year as an undergraduate I lived with a woman, and when she left me I nearly died too.
(Grist for a mill.)
What an image, what a relief it should have been!
For many years the ‘you’ in these notebooks was her.
I can’t be sure anymore who it is.

It was never me though. I became a troll and I mocked him. The “nihilist” he called me. Oddly enough I called myself a “Nihilist” back then.

[b]Bianco Luno:

When I see her (rarely) on the street, after a short nervous exchange, she wants to give me a hug goodbye.
It seemed to mean something to her, and yet I was the one who nearly drove his…car into a concrete wall.[/b]

A witty example of being fragmented. What does something mean to you when it means other things too? We become embarrassed and so we usually keep these things to ourselves.

Or disguise them as philosophy?

A generation later, in his second Sketchbook, Frisch is closer to where I am now; I am thinking of the irony with which he says he believes in the constitutional state.
What will I think at his age?

Max Frisch* explored an elusive relationship between human identity and alienation. But surely this can be probed more forthrightly in a constitutional state.

After all, think about the irony of being called a troll in, say, Saudi Arabia.

  • A few MAXims:

A man with convictions finds an answer for everything. Convictions are the best form of protection against the living truth.

Dignity: the doomed man’s final refuge.

I have no words for my reality.

Nothing is harder than to accept oneself.

Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.

You can put anything into words, except your own life.

We asked for workers. We got people instead.

[b]Bianco Luno:

If we knew what was wrong with her, we could insult her as well as mistreat her.
How dank, musty and pointedly male the perspective is here.
My unacknowledged responsibility for others and contempt for consensus—whom am I faulting as an impediment to my individuation?
Don’t I sometimes feel the caricature of boyish striving to trash the ‘ties-that-bind-us’?
I value (so predictably) the individual disproportionately?
How long can I go on degrading the connection that is essentially all that we are and can become?
It is my contention that the conflict between individuals and—not other individuals but—the relations they enter into is undeveloped.
The fall into one another’s arms must be so hard it almost kills (and in some cases does)—or else, it is no tragedy at all and the truth was never more than an inscrutable whisper in a prenatal dream.
My ex-wife was concerned with the relationship between us—and laudably took action.
As for me, I wanted to individualize myself against that unforgiving rock wall.[/b]

Here is the mind of a man who probed the mind of a man often accused of misogyny: Otto Weininger

Trolls across time probing their place [and the role of gender] amidst the masses by provoking, well, not the masses, right?

We are, after all, uncommon, aren’t we?

[b]Bianco Luno:

The radio reports a street kid’s comment from Rio de Janeiro, a city cleared of hordes of street children just before an Earth Summit: “I am an addict of everything.”[/b]

Or think of all the trolls portrayed in the film Bus 174. Some, it seems, just can’t help but tell us things we don’t want to hear.

Depending on who they are and who we are of course.

[b]Bianco Luno:

The source of icy resentment at a woman’s stoop (for it is a stoop) to maternalism: she pretends to think she can actually make things better.
Contrast the corresponding paternalism:
He really thinks he knows better.[/b]

Bianco roots his ethics here in human biology. Or largely does. But lots of women don’t pretend and, occasionally, you will come upon a man who really does not think he knows better.

So: which is closer to the way things really are?

On the one horn of the dilemma, self-deception; on the other, despair.
Squarely impaled.
But you, good-natured (we will concede), think we can drive right down the middle?

You not being me of course.

The curious thing about violence against women is that violence against men, so commonplace as to seem appropriate, counts for very little.
Each sex cultivates its own brand.

But we are never really only one brand or the other, are we? Still, testosterine and violence are the stuff of legends. Let’s declare war on it.

[b]Bianco Luno

The person you would meet were you to meet me in person would not be that person but a person more like yourself.
That person, the two of you could say, is more real than either of us exactly because he does not have to live among us…
So we can dismiss him and his antics from the technological distance afforded us in the concept of ‘we’.[/b]

The troll here then is always at a distance from the troll there.

[b]Bianco Luno

The most stable form government takes is oligarchy, rule by a circumscribed set.
Monarchy, tyranny, benevolent dictatorship at one end, true democracy at the other (each appearing as violent reactions to conditions) have short shelf-lives.
Their tremendous romance, however, lends them a greater reality than we have room to accommodate most of the time.
The oligarchy, to which little romance attaches, will, of course, ape one or the other as the age accords each in turn a place of honor.
For Plato, the person of the philosopher-autocrat, the construction of his literate class, was the ideal, the politically correct way of masking power.
In these times, democracies imagine themselves into existence with the same ease.[/b]

This is something we really don’t want to hear: A cynical troll’s take on Enlightenment. Too much [in places] like Herr Marx’s. Only, of course, including him.

An intense light emanates from the eyes when swollen with bottomless conviction. Everything visible is very clear and sharp, and there are no shadows, so what may lie in them we cannot see, try as we might.
But every conviction sleeps in one shadow or another.

A black hole seen from the other end perhaps. But equally mysterious.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Report from the fighting in Bosnia or some reverie based on such a report.
Not far from the ancient heart of Western “civilization and culture”, a woman was found impaled on a ten foot iron spike.
The spike entered through her vagina and exited through her mouth.
Further up on the spike, her small child…[/b]

The troll aims for the jugular here but there are far too many of them. It matters or it does not matter: “I can’t go on, I’ll go on…”

In the sculpture of war, flesh is the medium, conviction the tool.
It is, like it or not, the most important, the most affecting human art…
The handiwork is telling.
By contrast, this bombing of installations and infrastructure (and only incidentally of civilian shelters) from a technological distance is kitsch.

Imagine Barack Obama debating this with George W. Bush. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. So many buttons, so little time.

[b]Bianco Luno

Not even the images of post-World War I German Expressionism depicted in The Trench of Otto Dix measure up:
“…filled up with hideously mutilated bodies and human fragments. From open skulls brains gush like thick red groats; torn-up limbs, intestines, shreds of uniform,… Half-decayed remains of the fallen, which were probably buried in the walls of the trench out of necessity, and were exposed by the exploding shells, mix with the fresh, blood covered corpses. One soldier has been hurled out of the trench and lies above it, impaled on stakes.”
(Walter Schmits)
But these were men—and the word ‘victim’ applies, in the darkness of their pride, only with difficulty to them.
The report of the impaled mother and child may be apocryphal; I doubt photographs exist or whether the media (which, for my taste, is still far too squeamish in its presentation of the objects of popular outrage) would dare display them if they did.
Yet, even untrue, the image occurred to someone.
Art, like insult, need only purport to be true to deliver a reality of its own.
The mother and child on a spit easily supercedes the crucified son as our religious symbol.
You, I’m sure, refuse responsibility.
Throw them a morsel: by revealing a vulnerability, while you may disgust a few, alienate some, most will be gratified, knowing now in which pocket to place you.
Accessibility is the key to betrayal.
And for yourself, it provides a chance to destroy a new persona.
Each day, every hour, from Bosnia-Herzegovina, East Timor, Somalia, El Salvador… incidents more pertinent to my theme than I can make up or envision.
Why pick this one?[/b]

Of all the things people do not want to hear why indeed pick this one? Because it is both the farthest removed from philosophy and at its very heart and soul.

Even the ironists are at a loss here. It all seems so fucking futile. Some have a pocket now for everyone. And a virtually endless supply of personas.

Just ask the Barry Obamas paid to sustain the current crop of crimes against humanity.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Not a pacifist, I can’t say there isn’t anything you might do that would provoke me to kill you.
But war, like love, is not something I would want the state to make on my behalf[/b]

The state can make it on my behalf in the event of another Fuhrer. But not in the event the military industrial complex needs another infusion of cash.

It’s a rare dream that compares in impact to my waking visions.

And, for some, it has little to do with a vivid imagination. You can’t just imagine these things.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Despite a valiant attempt at fairness in her treatment of female moral development, Carol Gilligan can’t seem to help performing a revaluation in favor of the predisposition toward continuity, prioritizing the relationship, the network or web of connection over separation, autonomy, and the isolating tendency of marking out obstacle strewn paths of individuation traditionally dear to one sex.
Though I can appreciate her view as corrective, I interpret differently one critical image she educes.
She quotes Jake, an eleven year old boy, who considers that one should have the right to destroy oneself with “a hand grenade” but not with “an atom bomb” (as then, presumably, the rights of others would be involved).
The image of violence is blindingly bright to Gilligan.
Amy, the eleven year old girl, (not in so many words but to the same effect) stresses the importance of communication and the responsibility we have for one another, and that the right thing to do is what preserves the relationship, not simply sustaining the negative obligation to refrain from trampling the rights of others…
My partisan reflex is to wonder which of these two small voices I find more immediately offensive:
Her responsible coziness or his brutal rambunctiousness?
In the boy’s defense, Amy is utterly humorless.
Might not the boy’s explosive humor be more indicative of a deep vulnerability to the idea of autonomy and a greater, more vivid, concern for its uglier consequences than her premature sincerity is of an understanding of the human connections at stake?
“…but not in the instance of any given bratty boy.”
And in the instance of this solemn girl?[/b]

Bianco takes seriously the role of biology in the gender wars. And it is easy enough to become a reactionary here: sexist twaddle!!

These things are too complicated for me to understand. But it is only when I insist they are too complicated for anyone else to understand that some take umbrage.

You, perhaps?

[b]Bianco Luno:

How quaint the contrasts I preserve between women and men, people and animals.
Won’t these come to an end, coalesce, resulting in simply one category of sentient flesh?—and eventually, just matter, substance as we expand our rights-conferring consciousness to engulf everything?
You, at some distant point in the future, when you come to judge me antique in my discriminations, will you understand that I am playing my music on period instruments, the best I can strain to acquire?[/b]

Quaint in relationship to what though? Certainly not to the truth.

Here for example is another period piece:

From The Magus:

We lay on the ground and kissed. Perhaps you smile. That we only layed on the ground and kissed. You young people can lend your bodies now, play with them, give them as we could not. But remember that you have paid a price: that of a world rich in mystery and delicate emotion. It is not only species of animal that die out, but whole species of feeling. And if you are wise you will never pity the past for what it did not know, but pity yourself for what it did.

Animals never come up though.

Truth, not as a correct representation of the world, but as an act of terror. A terrorist theory of truth.

And these are always delivered by trolls. Just ask the folks who receive them.

[b]Bianco Luno:

The most hateful thing about me is how transparent I am.[/b]

You can see right through him, can’t you? Only you are probably convinced he could never see through you.

Pose after pose.
Why ever settle for sincerity as long as we can keep this up?

And this would be true even in a world we weren’t forced to play games in.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Who wouldn’t sympathize with the Nazis?
As a dark-skinned, non-Aryan, with a distaste for authority, no less, I’m sure, had I been available to them, I too would have been fuel for their ovens and contributed to the peculiarly greasy soot that settled over the Polish countryside.
But I am available to you and my time may yet come.[/b]

Alas, nearly 20 years later and his time still has not come. Yet, as with you and I, he does draw closer and closer to that other fiend in history.

Please don’t unfurl your kindness toward me; if it does you a favor, it does nothing for me.

For some, to be or not to be selfless is just another way to note to be or not to be selfish.

The truly cynical troll.

[b]Bianco Luno:

“We do not have a choice between purity and violence but between different kinds of violence. [Because] to abstain from violence toward the violent is to become their accomplice.” Merleau-Ponty, Humanism and Terror.[/b]

But don’t you first have to believe this, asked the troll?

Well, given how few people there are who want to believe that.

The end of history—when ‘you’ and ‘I’ conflate to ‘we’, according to Marx—seems barely conceivable to me.
In Marx, as a descriptive thinker, I see no threat.
As when dead, it cannot matter to me then, at that time, as it so much unnerves me, still existing, now.
When the hardness of my separateness dissolves, so will my fear.
But as a normative theory it is a very hard sell; it may, I suspect, in fact, be the right thing to advance, but only according to a conception of rationality no individual (and who else could be the target of the promotion?) can think.
Like my plan for depopulating the planet, it will have to be seen as a joke, however intended.

He may well be describing only a particular historical age however. The one Ayn Rand susbscribed to from an entirely different direction. Besides, we all help to depopulate the planet eventually.

Ha ha.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Every time the boy brought home something he thought precious, found in a ditch, he was met with derision, and the lattice of feelings, on which he’d trained to grow enough hope as to seem inhuman, crumbled.
What he selects now from the gutter is decomposed or barbed or smelly, and ready—the boy is now always, like a scout, ready.[/b]

I’m always ready for whatever you bring here.

It must be, you feel, the boy might have reacted differently, or can now.

And I’m the one always ready to retort, “really, in the end, what’s the difference?”

[b]Bianco Luno:

Stupidity n., term of art: the subconscious suppression of an unprepossessing truth for comfort. Suppression for survival should tend to be more conscious—for survival, i.e., to avoid suicide, insanity or worse—and perhaps excusable through being tragic.[/b]

When you become intent on bringing this all up to the surface you will have chosen to live in the world of distractions. Like me. Nothing is tragic here. How could it be?

Panhandler: “Not all that bad, Christmas, for business. Folks get sappy and reach in their pockets. Worst time is summer. Everybody thinks you’re having too much fun and they walk on.”

For everything there is a season: turn, turn, turn.

[b]Bianco Luno:

Incompatibility of consciousness and sincerity.[/b]

Unless, of course, you become conscious of the right things. If you’d like, I’ll make a list of them.

Two women in conversation in a café.
I can only see the face of one and barely hear anything.
Her expression alternates between amazement and nodding acknowledgment or approval.
Do I ever have conversations where I can make use of such faces?
Or am I just unaware of my substitutes for them?

The faces that most intrigue me always seem to alternate between outrage and fear.
And that is because my own often betrays the fear I feel in confronting those that most enrage me.
I want them gone. I can’t make them go away. Not without the sort of consequences that will make me go away.
If only there was a viable substitute for having to live with this.

[b]Bianco Luno

Why can’t kindness to others also be a kindness to oneself?[/b]

Or cruelity to others as well.

There is no going back.
If there ever was a golden time it is irretrievable.
Without sounding too hopeful, we must come to embrace the darkness more and more.
Yes, we lie ourselves to the grave but it appears to work.

Not if we believe a lie about going back is the truth. That works too.

Are my mannered questions lightly disguised, now antique, aphorisms?
Is an awareness of the impossibility of things a feigned ignorance?
Are we shirking the responsibility of sincerity?
Don’t I really know enough to be sincere?

Do we know enough about ignorance to feign sincerity [or sincerity to feign ignorance] in confronting those who claim to understand those things we insist are impossible to know?

Must we always tie words like this together in a slip knot?

[b]Bianco Luno

Cold morning sun, like faith.
Like Bach.
I have not lost everything.
I can still remember the rapture of what it was like to believe.[/b]

Me too.

The acidity of mind.

Especially when thinking the things no one wants to hear. Though not necessarily in the minds that hear them.

Bemoaning the loss of faith may be human but it is not the right thing to do.
The latter will always be just out of

Well, it will be in acidic minds.

The music in church was the only thing that never seemed phony to me.
I still find pleasure in remembering when it still didn’t.

It still doesn’t to me. Whatever pleasure that still brings.

[b]Bianco Luno

I care about this homeless mendicant, so I give my change.
Certainly, I say to myself.[/b]

The games we play with ourselves: are they more or less corrosive than the games we play with others?

It is not even true that we care only for ourselves.

And even this is not even true on occasion.

Prudent—if we were that, we would never know regret.

Yes, but what is prudent I regret to say.

Self-love is an exaggeration.

For some however it is an understatement.

Cynic: one who has not let off trying in earnest even after it has become rather amusing is most deserving of the badge of the dog.

If that is true this dog is dead.

[b]Bianco Luno

Someday, to be sure, men will be violent after the manner of women today, who, it is hoped, will have progressed to as yet unimaginable forms.[/b]

On the other hand, testosterone is still the killer of choice in nature.

“You remain so dense. Out of the language of reason and truth you think you wring new inventions. The rules of thinking predate your integrity and will not brook your having enthroned it. The point of living escapes you.”

Nature invented intellectuals in order to entirely miss this point.

The woman, who calls herself the most intense and alive human being she knows, with whom I spend time when I spend it with anyone, said to me, “I’ve never been more alone in my life…”, leaving me to finish the thought, “…than now with you.”

This is Olivia I suspect. She subscribes to The Word. Especially this one: Thanatos.

[b]Bianco Luno

The meat we cannot stand to slaughter.[/b]

But are never more eager to consume.

You cannot bear that I turn into a question of taste what you deem a question of right. But no relativist, I think there are absolute standards of beauty in the universe, and though unattainable, they are somehow connected with moving through difficulty while embracing it…
Or into deeper and deeper difficulty.
And the worst difficulty I can imagine is the absence of hope—not merely its absence but that it never can exist; its every appearance a sham.
And this is unconscionable to you.

We can of course go around and around and around and around here; but I will concede the futility if you will.

I try to imagine a pure real hope, what form it would take, how I would recognize it, as I might, say, a liquid feeling in a line of Bach…
The logical function of sorrow: welling in the eyes momentarily blurs the unforgivingly sharp outlines of truth.

May you reach that point in life where the only hope left is to die. And may you live a long time before you do.

[b]Bianco Luno:

How possible is it for a genuine Marxist to experience a local sadness or personal joy?
Marxism is ethically unimpeachable; its trained manners (trained to proscribe indulgence), on the highest plane; the rest of us, profligate sentimentalists, worthy of the scaffold.
But the urgency for violence is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the rest of us will quite voluntarily wither away when our eyes are fully opened—that is to say, when we learn to look through them.[/b]

Local sadness and personal joy are located as much in the bowels of dasein as dasein is located in the bowels of a particular political economy located in the bowels of a particular historical regimen.

Here what is deemed not ethical is easily enough proscribed, isn’t it?

[b]John Lennon:

Living is easy with eyes closed/misunderstanding all you see…
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out/it doesn’t matter much to me.[/b]

I keep my eyes [and my ears] wide shut now while stomaching a True Believer.

[b]Bianco Luno

This though: there is no Marxist aesthetic.
“…and its opposite is fundamentally immoral.”[/b]

Or moral as the case may be.

[b]Bianco Luno

“You make a clever joke of anything serious.”[/b]

Which explains why so few of us are laughing.

The image of my upended dignity (which doesn’t consist of anything but a kind of algorithm) is so frightening to me that I think I will go to my grave shirking all the costumes of sentiment except perhaps one, a stately sadness.
I forfeited the rest when I decided I would not cry as an infant, when the angel told me what was up.
What faces were left to me?
But the very face of distraction: a wandering eye, unsteered but by pretense and will.

Yet here he is ever intent on distracting us from whatever works in distracting us from what we do not want to hear.

The Devil’s refrain: I would gladly see the truth but for the person telling it.

And how is this not God’s refrain too? And [of course] mine?

[b]Bianco Luno

At the funeral of a girl who committed suicide, a man with a video camera, trained on the mother in mourning, captures on tape another man approach and fire a gun directly into the head of the woman and continue to fire on her body as she collapses to the ground.
The frame reels, the man who controls it makes noises “like a wounded dog”.
The television news anchors are visibly uncomfortable showing the tape.
The woman probably deserved to die, according to her ex-husband, who shot her: she was the cause of the daughter’s suicide.[/b]

Gaps between what unfolds inside our head and what unfolds inside the heads of others reacting to what we do when what unfolds inside our head…snaps?

So many of us deserve death—not because of anything in particular we might have done, but because we did nothing to deserve being born—and continue behaving as though this were not true.

On the other hand, words like “deserve” were invented in order to distract us from all this. And if it does then it worked.

The real scandal was the camera man’s squeal and the news anchor’s squirm.
The crime was committed against them; for the rest of us can repose in all of the little that we really are in private: the tape showed discernible pieces of flesh splashing from where the bullet entered…

Or, one might argue, the crime was committed for them. For them to see. For the world to see. For, perhaps, God to see.

[b]Bianco Luno:

The boy in his cell took his excrement and smeared it across the wall.
He tried to make something beautiful but could do nothing about the smell.[/b]

He’ll get used to it. In time he will not even notice it is there. But he may never be able to stomach the reaction of a cell mate who insist it is not beautiful at all.

It is the only thing going for the truth—that you can call it that—as it is, in all respects and at all times, painful.
What can function so well without this concession scarcely needs it.
If no blossom were ever truly beautiful, but only seemed to be, what would change?

Exactly. Whatever reality [truth] works. And right up to the point where it stops working.

[b]Bianco Luno

Rereading the chapter13 from The Brothers Karamazov where Ivan nervelessly continues to lament the suffering of innocents…
The children and the animals perhaps didn’t suffer: the girl of five, beaten into one large bruise, locked in a privy, excrement smeared over her face and stuffed into her mouth by her mother, all the while crying “dear kind God”; or the feeble little nag whipped on its “meek eyes” for not being up to its burden; or the boy of eight, shredded by hunting dogs in a display before his mother for having injured the retired general’s favorite dog’s paw with a thrown stone—
perhaps none of these suffered in a sense appreciable by us.
True suffering implies an awareness we exonerate these victims of in the same act of according them that innocence so endearing to us.
We suffer more than they in contemplating what happens to them.
This is how it is.
Merely consider that it is not evil that cries for explanation, rather the awareness of evil in the notions of harmony, justice, kindness, a benevolent God, a perfectible species…
The innocent, though our best victims, still do not suffer like we do.[/b]

That is one way to think about suffering. But there are so many other ways as well. How do we make calculations about such things from the one true perspective? We suffer by enduring what they suffer at the hands of those who might well take pleasure in inflicting it.

And if we think about these things long enough we begin to sputter. Especially when evil begins to grin.

We become outraged. But that means nothing to evil. And we would confront it boldly if we were not innocent too.

[b]Bianco Luno

“A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
—Oscar Wilde
Wilde, like many, confuses the cynic with the pessimist.
Diogenes would have quoted you the price joyfully and marveled over how impossibly valuable nothing really is.[/b]

Being realistic, the price is what it is on the sticker, the value is what it is in our head.

Not between a rock and a hard place, but between a rock and something that will turn the rock into powder.

And that is before we get to the quandary imploding me.

[b]Bianco Luno

Ayer, for instance, relieves the stress
from the freedom/determinism impasse by showing us how freedom, as we commonly use the term, implies an absence of constraint, not a dearth of causation, a clear requirement for avoiding freedom’s devolution to sheer chance.
The terms, ‘determinism’ and ‘causation’, are given a threatening cast by our fear of being forced, brought to heal by others or circumstances when all they suggest is that it is possible to provide an explanation in the light of past events for present or future events.
His critical distinction—that cause is not constraint but an observable enabling regularity—intended to soothe our alarm and give the determinist her or his minimum, itself, however, too facilely assumes we will compromise with fate.
All along we could have done that with less ceremony and stilled this inquietude and many others were we willing to live within the small boundaries of facts.
It is hardly accidental that we allow the figurative grime on our terms the reign we do.
What you so coolly, offhandedly, offer me as a facilitating circumstance I choose to view as blackmail because I want to read meaning in excess of what I would attribute to you if you were a stone.
It is from a kind of love that I accuse you of the greatest crime in the world: impersonating a stone.
But my hatred, too and not less, would honor you.
Ayer surely jokes.[/b]

Surely then, that settles that.

Eyeballs spooned out, impalings through body cavities, genital mutilations…
A few of us engage in this sort of thing and worse; the rest delight (and not even secretly) in hearing about it, reading about it, expressing offense.
This is supreme love.

And yet, depending on one’s point of view, that may well be the least of it.

I think Ayer is right in a way. Most people are not going to go in deeper and will be satisfied to know they do not have contraints, when free.

But that’s really meaningless. They don’t have a they. In what sense are they even separated out from their environment. It’s just dominoes. Sure, there are internal dominoes and external ones. Like, whoopie.

I know that’s true.
I know that’s not true.
Then what?

[b]Bianco Luno

I know that what I entertain here shall be construed to the least effect.
It shall stand as evidence of a disabled character or illness on my part.
And the children of your flesh and dreams, your ever-fearing love will shield from this.
“What a waste!”
Not that what I say isn’t eminently forgiveable—for I know I have already been forgiven: you think too highly of yourself not to.
Just that the waste is unnerving.[/b]

Been there, done that: I can’t go on, I’ll go on. And how do you forgive someone who, as Joan said of Bob, “is so good with words, and at keeping things vague”?

My ex-wife: it must have been for her like it was for Bardamu (Céline) when he left Molly.
She was an uncommon female fan of the writer.
I have no doubt that in her own way…

What? We will never know will we? Fortunately, I don’t have any fans.
Or, on occasion, unfortunately.

[b]Bianco Luno

Have I found “what scares those bastards so” in the darkness at the end of the night?[/b]

You may find it, sure, but there are plenty of antidotes. And, absent those, there are even more distractions. In the end you wind up in a venue like this one telling yourself things you don’t want to hear.

And feeling compelled to anyway.

What is not absolutely horrible is desperately sad: the forms of happiness sketched against this field.

Then plow it. Again and again and again. Like Sisyphus

I hear a poet say, “Poetry puts us back to how it was with the first people, when everything was God…”
Through the fear and the knowledge that followed there must have been tremendous evil perceived, and demons everywhere, and this, as well, might have caused their words to twist and bend backwards.
A newer face of arrogance, attempting to recover primordial stupidity, emerges as the apposite form for the honesty remaining.

Is the nihilist more or less arrogant still? Oh, and how does one approach that honestly?

I’m not sure which parts or if you mean all parts of what I wrote.

Then what? Well, let’s say my response to Ayer was correct. The first thing is that Ayer has fooled himself into thinking he has made the idea of determinism non-threatening. (basically I was agreeing with you but coming at it my own way). This does not make the situation nice. I have not defended free will. But perhaps at least some of the people who think they think it is really OK are simply telling themselves stories and then passing off these stories to others, often with some implicit condescension. IF what I wrote is correct, perhaps either 1) some would realize this and join us in the dismay, if we have it or 2) we would at least be able to ignore voices that do not know how to address us, because they are involved in, on some level, fooling themselves.

And this is not a small thing.

Someone is raped. This is a horrible experience in an of itself. Then they are counseled to view this as a ‘learning experience’ (solely) or an act of God to test their faith and that they should feel good or OK about the experience.

This is a double victimization.

And let me make it clear, I am not accusing Ayer or something on that level. I am using and extreme example to show how damaging explanations of how it is really OK or even good or doesn’t matter can be.

If you and I or one of us or someone comes to believe that these explainings away are inadequate at best, then perhaps we are more ready for some other step. But this in itself is no small thing.

I mean, it is all very nice for the ‘I have no self, I do not persist through time, I have no free will, there is no meaning, we are all separated by filters from reality and others. (etc)’ camp to say ‘and I am just fine with that.’ they ‘are not like the deluded religious or the believers in selves or freedom or others weak enough to be bothered by this.’ Fine. I think this is likely much less true then they believe. I think they often confuse their little mental thinky opinions with what they believe. But who knows, perhaps they really don’t mind. In the end however skeptical I am, I don’t really care. and the more that noise is moved out of my own head - one can see them as mirroring back ideas already present in my own mind - perhaps I can discover something new.

The parts about going in deeper, constraint and being free. You can make an argument that concurs with the manner in which Ayer, Luno, you and I find them meaningful [together] and an argument that does not. But the relationships themselves are so complex and intertwined in the problematic nature of “existence” how would you really be able to resolve it?

This sort of discussion fits right into Rorty’s conjectures about ironism.

Determinism [if true] is threatening [dismaying] to some but not to others. As is autonomy. We have particular narratives we pick up. Why? Because we encounter some sets of ideas but not all the other ones. And what we think we know about the ideas becomes intertwined in the experiences we have or do not have.

So, how does anyone really know if they are fooling themselves about the extent to which this is something they are doing because they chose freely not to choose something else.

These are ways to stay on the surface. It happened because [for some reason] it was meant to. The determinists just take that argument, ratchet it up and take it out to the very end of the limb: everything happens because it could not not have happened.

Or so it seems to me. But I will be the first to admit the problem here is me: I really don’t know what the hell I am talking about. It’s just over my head.

For me, however, the next step is rooting all of this in dasein. And in conflicting goods. And in a world where there is no way in which to determine [philosophically, scientifically etc.] how one ought to live, how one ought to behave around others.

Well put. But: Our ideas about these things will always be situated out in a particular world—one that we actually experience from day to day with more or less happiness, contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction etc… The idea is to live your life using whatever works. Until it bumps into the lives of others and there is conflict.

Then you have to try to figure something out.

The parts about going in deeper, constraint and being free. You can make an argument that concurs with the manner in which Ayer, Luno, you and I find them meaningful [together] and an argument that does not. But the relationships themselves are so complex and intertwined in the problematic nature of “existence” how would you really be able to resolve it?

This sort of discussion fits right into Rorty’s conjectures about ironism.

Determinism [if true] is threatening [dismaying] to some but not to others. As is autonomy. We have particular narratives we pick up. Why? Because we encounter some sets of ideas but not all the other ones. And what we think we know about the ideas becomes intertwined in the experiences we have or do not have.

So, how does anyone really know if they are fooling themselves about the extent to which this is something they are doing because they chose freely not to choose something else.
Well, a determinist by being a determinist really cannot claim they know the reasons they have for their beliefs. Not that someone who believes in freewill can therefore claim they do - or doesn’t have other problems.

I just need to be very clear, my example had nothing to do with determinism. Perhaps one could tie them together, but that was not my intent. I was simply drawing an analogy between a person experiencing something unpleasant - the potential truth of determinism, being raped - being told why it is really OK or doesn’t bother someone else.

I actually see no reason to believe determinists would be more likely than anyone else to try to explain away the naturalness of reacting very negatively to being raped.

I know, I think, what I am talking about, but I am avoiding many areas of the debate. I would think of trying to demonstrate free will, for example.

I don’t see how determinism or free will being the case actually changes our choosing how to live. It may depress us or scare us into suicide, respectively, I suppose. But I can still strive to be kind and good, regardless of whether this has all been determined in advance or the world really could go in a number of directions and from some uncaused place I can choose.

If I was utterly convinced determinism was the case, I would not then decide to act meanly to children.

so how does this relate to free will and determinism? To me, in terms of relating to other people, its like the difference between living on a world without the color blue as opposed to a world without the color red. The issue has ramifications for how I feel about life, but in terms of how I want to relate to other people, it really doesn’t matter. I think, at least.

Can you tell me how the lack of resolution on the issue affects how you interact with other people or your moral code, etc.?

They can claim to know but the fact of the claim itself is not something they chose freely. Their beliefs are only what they must be.

But how does the proponent of free will get around the arguments the volchoks make about matter being the same “stuff”; and all rooted in the laws on physics?

I don’t know. And I don’t know how we can know. It’s an antinomy.

If determinism is not true, I root reactions like this in dasein. And in the evolution of psychological defense mechanisms. We rationalize [or explain away] many things in order to make them less painful.

But the determinist necessarily sees everything as “natural”. Being raped or not being raped is merely human dominoes falling in one direction and not another. Same with our reactions to rape.

Human biology is what it is. And human mental, emotional and psychological reactions are what they are. These, in my view, are the implications of determinism the volchoks don’t really own up to. They keep harping about how we choose and the dominoes don’t as though it really makes any difference if we cannot choose to choose something else instead.

I just don’t get “compatibilism”.

If that works for you, great. But if I believed that choosing to be kind and good is something I could not not have chosen then I recognize that those who choose to be rotten sons of bitches are in the same boat. I’d like to believe instead that “I” had something to do with it. While acknowledging the manner in which “I” is always embodied in dasein—and in all of the things “I” do not understand or control.

Here you lose me. If you are “convinced determinism is the case” then you are deciding only what you must decide. It’s only the illusion of choice.

If we have some measure of autonomy in the things we choose we have some capacity to decide what brings us happiness, contentment, fulfillment and satisfaction. Is it music? is it a career? is it raising a family? is it believing in No God?

But this is always deeply embedded in dasein—in the particular life we actually live [existentially] out in a particular world that, up to a point, shapes and molds us.

I interact with others ambiguously, precariously. I see good reasons for endorsing many conflicting sides in most moral and political issues. I make my leap knowing that, had things been different in my life, I might not have.

As, in other words, an ironist.

[b]Bianco Luno

The price of clarity.
The number of premises of my life, as though it were a good argument, are few and too elegant to be undangerous.
If I lost my cat or O. I would come to a conclusion.[/b]

Let’s not leave out the value of clarity.

Eventually, of course, we lose everything. The cat, for example, is almost certainly gone. And O. is approaching 70.

You can find another cat though. Or another philosophy.

I don’t know that violence ever actually happens.

How many different ways are there to understand violence and things that don’t happen. Even when they do.

[b]Bianco Luno

“Is there anything that makes you happy or at least content?”
Humming seems to have this effect on me.
Whether it was the drone of an oscillating fan on a steamy Gulf Coast afternoon of my childhood as I lay on the cool linoleum floor, or Glenn Gould’s vocal accompaniment to keyboard Bach, or the irregular motor sounds my cat makes sitting on my chest… Wittgenstein’s feeling of being ‘safe’ (for the time being) and still, in a world of tyrannical displacement and alarm…
“But is it possible that a purposeful human act be pleasing to you?”
No, I can’t right away think of any.
“Yours is a passive, one could say, negative vision of what is humanly possible.”
One does say that.
“Do you feel this is sufficient, comprehensive enough? That maybe more might be demanded or expected of the world?”
The world brazenly volunteers so much, I can’t imagine what might still be held out for.
“The things you mentioned seem so undeliberate, incidental, auxiliary to the main business of…”
These sorts of ornament offer me some pleasure.
“Would a useful, constructive act ever?”
To the extent it failed and became beautiful.
“It seems your attitude would curtail investment in the world. You seem always to be cutting your losses.”
Goodness abounds.
My losses?
My shortcoming is that my own industry is too susceptible to a seriousness that real accomplishment will never confirm.
Confining my attention to the few steps ahead of me, I notice progress, but the feeling that purposeful movement is somehow desirable is undercut by a glance at the ever receding horizon.
Even this dialogue with you, as far as I appear to be defending a point of view, is frivolous; it is sophistry.
“But you once said that the point of life lay in focusing on those few steps in front of you.”
I did.
It was a lament, as, for instance, Aristotle’s moral philosophy, interpreted in the best light.[/b]

You need to read between the lines and imagine a purpose that anyone might bring to a discussion that begins with Wittgenstein’s feeling of being safe and ends with Aristotle’s moral philosophy.

Sure, they can claim to know, but basically for all they know this claiming is like your leg jumping when the doctor does a knee reflex test.

I don’t have an argument for the best versions of these. I have repeatedly said that ‘physical’ is a meaningless term and also that we are in the middle of the history of science, not the end, so final proclamations seem weak to me.

Basically the determinist has to argue that there are two possibilities: random and completely controlled events. Or what is basically a combination in stochasitic processes. We use deduction from here and decide free will is not supported by either. Fine. But science has thought it understood the range of possibilities before and then found out this was not the case.

Sure, the determinist could ARGUE like this. But as social mammals I see no reason for them too. And, in fact, non-determinists, for example religious ones, have justified rape either openly or indirectly with victim blaming coded messages.

It’s just not my experience that determinists are less sympathetic here. In the abstract, they could be, using some line like you say, but I don’t find that they do. Whatever the weakness of the rationalist determinist, they seem less likely to certain kinds of mental manipulation - such as the kind that can justify rape.

I find that most people do not actually try to see what ideas do in situ. What is actually happening, not what should happen given the words in the mind and the logic in the mind, etc.

I find Stanford’s online philosophy resource generally very clear. Here is their article on compatibilism.
However I suspect that what you really mean, or will end up meaning, is how compatibilism will satisfy your concerns, even once you ‘get’ it. It probably does not.

But notice what your focus is on here: your focus is on how you feel about the whole situation. You have not argued that you would no longer strive to be kind. Or to put this in determinist terms. You are not arguing that believing in determinist would CAUSE you to be more cruel or less caring. And this was the issue. I absolutely agree about the emotional effects of the non-existence of free will, but that I would end up being meaner, I don’t think so.

So we change the language into determinist. I don’t think that if I was convinced determinism was the case, this would cause me to treat children or anyone else less well. How bout you?

I interact with others ambiguously, precariously. I see good reasons for endorsing many conflicting sides in most moral and political issues. I make my leap knowing that, had things been different in my life, I might not have.

As, in other words, an ironist.
YOu mean if you became convinced determinism was true you would no longer be an ironist, no longer see conflicting sides in moral and political issues, etc.?

[b]Bianco Luno:

Glibness indicates the liar.
But how can this be when it is all our ears can pick up?—when whatever we would call the opposite of a lie is heard only at frequencies within the range of beasts, small children and the occasional idiot?
What Kaspar Hauser (in Herzog’s film) gathered from the sound of the wind in the grass, a rolling apple, the testing puzzles of an examining academician, and in the tinny hammers of an ill-tuned clavichord.[/b]

We all have our own such intimate liaisons with the things we hear. Fortunately [or unfortunately] what is true is always what we think we hear. Even this.

It used to be like the sun which would blind you but now it seems like the horizon which you must either see as beautiful, in itself, or avoid looking at altogether and never think that it is some appalling place you personally will visit, howevermuch it is our destiny.

Death, perhaps? Or life?

For all any of us know. To wit:

That is basically my point to volchok: just because I don’t have a definitive argument now doesn’t mean there isn’t one. And science is just beginning to explore this particular characteristic of the human brain. And the brain is surely the most complex matter around. Sans God.

How does consciousness grapple with explaining what consciousness itself is? What does it even mean for “I” to know this?

Yes, the determinist has to argue this. As for a random universe I simply cannot wrap my mind around it. Even the quantum folks are still baffled over this. And that, perhaps, is just in this universe.

But doesn’t reason enter into it here only as an inherent manifestation of matter evolving into it per the immutable laws of matter? The “mental” is merely matter that has been manipulated [molded] by nature into imagining it is not manipulated at all. That it is “free” to choose its own way.

And non-determinists like me root rape and our reactions to it in dasein—in daseins rooted [in unimaginably complex ways] in nature intertwined [in unimaginably complex ways] in nurture.

I get stuck on the idea that, given determinism, to choose one thing as opposed to something else is just an illusion. What is happening actually is what actually must happen. “I” have nothing to do with it other then in having acquired matter in my brain that evolved to the point I can note this. But I cannot not note this.

But where does how I think about the whole situation stop and how I feel about it begin? Or the other way around? I can imagine someone raised in an environment where being kind and good [at least to each other] is the functional norm. But I can also imagine an environment in which you come to assume it is basically a dog eat dog world and being kind and good is a weakness you just cannot afford.

These things are always situated [for each of us] in a particular world rooted in a particular time and place. Evolution [human biology] provides us with the capacity to be either kind or cruel. Does it provide us with the capacity to choose one over the other? Does it provide us with the capacity to encounter new experiences, new relationshipos, new points of view…and change our minds?

Yes. But to what extent is any of this done autonomously?

I don’t understand the “determinist terms” here. If determinism is true, I am kind or cruel per nature’s design. Just as the tides ebb and flow per nature’s design. What is the difference other than, unlike the tides, I embody the illusion of being able to freely choose one over the other?

To wit:


If I was utterly convinced determinism was the case, I would not then decide to act meanly to children.


Here you lose me. If you are “convinced determinism is the case” then you are deciding only what you must decide. It’s only the illusion of choice.

If I was absolutely convinced of determinism – if science demonstrated it beyond all doubt – I would think: I may be kind toward children, I may be cruel. But my choice to be one or the other is mine only in the sense that a lightbulb chooses to be on or off depending on the position of the switch.

In some ways that might comfort me, in other ways it might not. But so what? My reaction is also just a manifestation of the ineluctable law of matter.

Again, “compatibilism” here is still illusory to me. The bottom line: what happens must happen.

Yes, but I would be like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator. I would make choices but only as I was programed to by nature.

Some “choice”, eh?