Saturday, 30 August 2014

Meaning of Optimism

What is optimism in the genuine, that is, in the philosophical, sense?

The blog format and my own laziness precluding a history of the term's usage, excepting a vague memory of Leibniz's philosophy, I will hazard the following statement:

Optimism is the long, hard (and at times painful) coming to realisation that the world as it is and our own being-in-that-world - including our financial, familial, social, creative situation - is optimal, all things considered, that is, taken into consideration, pondered over and scrutinised.

Someone would be an optimist when he or she feels, i.e., intuits, that his or her being-in-the-world, despite what may at first appear rationally in a cogitating sense, is in an optimal and optimum state given both his own being and the world he or she inhabits (on the topic of habitation see my post How to Become Master of the World).

To know oneself which amounts also to knowing the world since world is already at once readily disclosed and pre-given, i.e. world is disclosed wherever and whenever there is Dasein, human existence, (or, in my language, 'the world is in us who in-habit it' - see aforementioned post), is part of optimistic drive to reach the realisation that yes, all things considered, my life is optimal given both my nature which I have come to know and the spiritual world that is disclosed to me in everyday-ness which I also have come to know.

The affirmation and internalisation of Eternal Recurrence - that I want my life to recur forever in the same way - would be part of this optimistic drive.

Eternal Recurrence as the optimally optimistic conception of time's, that is, Dasein's, circular movement.

Note. The virtuous circle of optimistic thought, as I see it, is encapsulated, in part, by the formulation in Lord of the Rings
"Where there's life, there's hope."
and, in part, by the converse, "where there's hope, there's life."

Thus, as long as there is life, there is hope, and provided one is hopeful then life is assured.

[For more on 'optimism' see later writing Psychological Effects of Ideals & Utopias]

Monday, 25 August 2014

On the Laws of Knock-About Table Tennis

While on Summer Holiday in Normandy, France, staying with some friends, there was a brand new outdoor ping pong table which enabled me to observe the faces of the avid ping pong players as they won and lost points, batting the ping pong ball to and fro, each player vying for number one position.

I myself dared knock about a few balls, but stayed short of playing a match, other than with my own father who is closer to my level in the game.

Yet it dawned on me that knock-abouts are not as uncompetitive as all that. By this I mean that there is an element of reciprocity at work in friendly ping pong ball exchanges and if someone decides to smash the ball - sometimes the temptation is too strong - then the other party will no doubt hesitate much less in smashing the ball when the occasion arises on his half of the table.

The point being that friendly knock-abouts which do not have the burden and competitive angle afforded by score keeping, still have a negotiating edge, that is, ping pong knock-abouts are negotiations for who will or will not smash the ball first and introduce friction in the knock-about rallying and otherwise casual batting exchanges.

Thus war - in this case, a ping pong match - is always close by, as the friendly knocking about, which could be termed diplomatic negotiation by comparison, barely hovers over outright competition - and the winner and loser rationale that comes with score keeping - where only one may come out on top.

A fine line it is then between diplomacy and war, where diplomacy depends on a fragile sense of reciprocity which is liable to be broken the moment one party makes a weak move (in the case of ping pong, a smash-able shot) which invites the other party to humble him and seek overall lordship.

Composing and Interpreting



As a minor piano musician who creates his own pieces and improvisations, the following insight sprang to mind in discussion with my girlfriend over my latest piano recordings. 

Composing for the piano in my case follows an innate, gut instinct but also reflects my own piano style down to the bone, to use a hackneyed yet in this case literal coinage, as well as my technical capacities (as determined by my technical limitations) and my own emotional life at the moment of devising a new piece or improvisation which itself reflects my own progress not only as a musician but also as a human being. 

It dawned on me that my compositions and improvisations follow the movement of my body and my thought pattern and that playing my own work as opposed to interpreting works as laid down by ready-made compositions follows a law of its own, in so far as the memory of my pieces is far deeper implanted in my fingers so to speak than pieces I have learnt over the years. 

The reason for this is not only the fact that I practice my own music to a greater extent than learnt pieces but that there is an immediacy of connection with my own piano work which is no doubt symptomatic of my own bodily physiology as a musician-piano player. 

To look at this phenomenon from another angle, I grew up learning to play Bach's preludes and fugues. Bach shaped my understanding of the instrument but also made exploring the work of other composers rather unfamiliar and difficult, to the extent that, aged sixteen, I took up popular piano lessons so as to be able to play and sing The Beatles, which my classical training made a more difficult exercise than it would seem at first glance, Bach and Beethoven being prima facie more difficult to play and master. 

A study should be made - and no doubt such a study has been made - of how interpreting is also, to a large extent, a matter of physiology and of the physiological compatibility between interpreter and composer. After all there is Beethoven, there is Bach, there is Chopin, there is Debussy... 

Like the works of poets, thinkers and artists, these names reflect a certain sensibility and bodily constitution, a certain spirit, a certain outlook on life or, in Heideggerian terms, a certain understanding of Being (Seinsverstandnis) - which, by the way, is what distinguishes the creative from the scientific arts, in so far as in scientific work the names of the great shakers and movers are of lesser import than in the realm of poetic art-making, of ποιήσις. 

Thus in maths, the theorem is what matters, not so much the name of the mind who established the theorem; in art, it would seem that the creator's name has more import by reason of the greater influence of the creator's physiological constitution and Seinsverstandnis on the created work (ἔργον).

I have a very fast metabolism which reflects I think in my piano creations; to take an example, Nietzsche's piano works are more ponderous, slower, more majestic than mine, perhaps because his metabolism as an individual was slower and used (that is, habituated) to a different climate - namely a Mediterranean one, at least at some stages of his life journey (as opposed to the erratic and dank climate of the British isles where I am based). 

This physiological understanding of composing and interpreting could perhaps help explain why some interpreters have their pet composers, e.g. Gould and Bach, Kempff and Beethoven, Rubinstein and Chopin, Michelangeli and Debussy... Would this be a meeting not just of minds but, since minds themselves are physiologically determined, a meeting of metabolisms, of bodily approaches to the piano as a physical instrument?

It would seem that an interpreter brings his own body and fingers to his playing the work of composers which is no doubt why, in the world of classical music unlike popular music, interpretations of the great works are just as key among connoisseurs as the composed works themselves; for example, I own about five interpretations of Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Klavier, all of which are equally valid (though not equally as good) appropriations and incorporations of Bach's 48, each version adding its own dimension and ring tone to the sheet music, so to speak. 

Thursday, 21 August 2014


Many thinkers of the Modern Age and the Modern World defined themselves and their work in revulsion against the bourgeoisie. Marx is the most notorious example but the same holds for many other thinkers of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries (or the first century Before the Day of Salvation and the first and second centuries After the Day of Salvation - see post Post-Christian Calculation of Time).

My work too arguably finds much inspiration in its revulsion and disgust with bourgeois spirit  - though I am the first to admit that my background is, by and large, bourgeois, at least the creative/bohemian variety. 

Why is this? What is it in the spiritual world intended by the word bourgeoisie which causes such angst and friction amongst free standing thinkers? What is it in bourgeois modes of evaluation and representation which disgusts thinkers so (who by this very phenomenon become rebels)? Whence the vulgarity and mediocrity associated with the bourgeoisie? Why do great thinkers have to become rebels in order to make their points and achieve, if they are hard enough, intellectual authority? What is the bourgeoisie? What is bourgeois? Why is the bourgeoisie? Why is bourgeois?

Production, Creation







Note 1. That is to say our glands, digestive systems and bodies generally excrete and secrete and man-made technological production (τέκνη) can be interpreted organically as excretion if mankind is taken as a whole and as a giant body in communion with the earth, the sky and divinities - that is to say, mankind as a species excretes in technological production in a fashion akin to the human digestive system excreting digested foods and liquids after a passage through the body.

Ditto, but with a slight nuance, creative production can be interpreted as secretion in so far as creative drives and energy (ἐνέργεια) secrete in creative deeds and works (ἔργα), requiring so much time and labour in their pre-secretive phase, like the continual and continuous production of spermatozoids in male genitalia which are secreted in sexual climax.

Note 2. Following the above insight we could draw a distinction between production as technological excretion and creation as poetic secretion. The distinction between technology (τέκνη) and art (ποιήσις) would then be a matter of determining whether the mode and produce of technological and poetic production is excretive or secretive in nature.

Note 3. We could take a step further in terms of rank ordering considerations (see previous posts) and make value judgements in saying that a creative work is good when secreted and follows the mode of secretion (i.e. it is active and self-originating in the sense that male testicles produce spermatozoids) and a creative work is bad when excreted, following the mode of excretion (i.e. passive and merely expelling waste which has been digested by the body).

Note 4
. What then is the distinction between excretion and secretion? An excretion is a waste product whereas a secretion has a function. But waste also has a function, the necessary and vital elimination of unwanted elements in the body. Thus even in biological science the political import of words still wreak havoc and this political nature of language must be taken more seriously.

Sunday, 17 August 2014


or: what is extant immaterially, i.e. what does not constitute matter, such as radio waves, Wi-Fi and so on but also in the sense of what does not pertain in a material sense to the matter at hand, e.g. that The Dude from The Big Lebowski should become President of the United States of America is a virtual consideration compared to the material consideration of the funding required for a real life (i.e. not unreal, i.e. realisable in everyday reality) US Presidential campaign?

Note. The considerations pertaining to the concepts material and virtual require a great deal more labour as well as those pertaining to the concepts of real and unreal.

The Human Body

as dying organic matter?

Note. which here intends the same as living organic matter since life and death are not absolute oppositions in the philosophical sense but part of a united whole which is to say that life's end being death, end understood both in the sense of stopping point and finality (τέλος), living can be conceived as dying (since both concepts can cover that of aging), the moment of birth and even conception being sealed by the fate of eventual termination in the sense of the ceasing to be here, the ceasing of Da-sein which is as being-towards-death (Sein-zum-Tode) - Being and Time. 

Organic is here understood in the sense of matter which follows the organisation in, by and of organs and matter itself understood in the sense of what is extant materially as material as opposed to what is extant immaterially as virtuality, the concept virtuality requiring further careful study.

Saturday, 16 August 2014


Pretentious, Moi?
What is pretentiousness? How does it compare with pretension?

Much thinking, or, more precisely, theory, is pretentious and I could perhaps include this blog in this bracket. What is it that makes writing, speaking, creating, pretentious as such? What warrants something to be described as pretentious?

A pretension is making a claim to something which one may not normally, that is, in a normative and normalising sense, lay a claim to. For example, so and so has the pretension to be a classical pianist, that is, he makes a claim to being a classical pianist, which claim, and this is implicit in the word pretension, does not bear scrutiny or deeper analysis, perhaps, say, because he does not actually make his living by playing classical piano. 

Something or someone is pretentious when it or he makes a pretension, that is, pretends, to be better or more sophisticated than it or he is in reality which basically comes to covering over (ψεύδεσθαι) a lack of substance, a lack of genuine thoughtfulness - hence the expression pseudo, such as Michel Foucault's describing psychiatry as a pseudo-science, i.e. psychiatry makes a claim to scientific respectability and exactitude but in truth the pseudo-scientific veneer of modern psychiatry is merely covering over (ψεύδεσθαι) a lack of authentic scientific substance. Yet psychiatry is not targeted with the label 'pretentious' because pretentiousness is reserved for deeds and persons deemed to be outside prevailing moral standards. 

Pretentiousness, in other words, always contains an element of pretension, of pretence. In any and every case pretentiousness covers over a dearth of substance and quality. What is quality? Precisely the opposite of pretentiousness, that is, quality needs no covering over (ψεύδεσθαι), no pretence, since quality always speaks of and for itself. 

The fight against pretentiousness is, at the same time, a fight for quality. This is why Nietzsche saw mediocrity as a necessary precondition for quality, since mediocrity can and does act as a spur for the pursuit of quality, however unreasonable in real life terms such a pursuit may prove to be. 

To circle the circle then, we will say that for someone or something to be genuinely pretentious, and not merely said to be by hostile commentators, that someone would have to betray pretension, i.e. lay a claim to a quality which is not properly his and in so doing have the pretence to be better than he actually is in his shameless pretending to be above his station as a creative individual. 

In the case of writing, then, pretentiousness would consist in dressing up a simple thought in convoluted, theoretical language, which has the effect of obfuscating the writer's lack of authentic understanding, i.e. understanding rooted in the the ontological difference between Being and beings (Heidegger). 

To call someone's work pretentious is to call out their bullshit, so to speak, to force them to reveal their true colours, their true philosophical underpinnings, so that, by this dialectical and conflict-ridden process of pretension and calling out (λόγος πόλεμος ἐστιν), simple insights are gained which is part of that endlessly self-overcoming process which Nietzsche, Heidegger and myself call the rank order (see Rank Ordering and Writing and Rank Order), that is, the establishing of who may say what in which context since we are not all created equal and not necessarily worthy of setting up an everyman's tribunal to differentiate (κρίνειν) what is greater from what is lesser. 

The question of the rank order is synonymous with the problem of authority and it is no accident that in her collection of essays Between Past and Future, Hannah Arendt asked the question
"What is authority?"
or even
"What was authority?" 
given, and this is implied in that question, that the current social order does not satisfactorily resolve the urgent and pressing problem of authority, i.e. of who may say and do what when, leading to the opposite scenario of a society based on authority, namely, a society based on violence and coercion, if not manipulation.

As such the fight against pretentiousness is a healthy dialectical struggle for the bringing to light of thoughtful insights and, if I dare use the word, truths.

Let us conclude, then, with Heidegger (Contributions to Philosophy) that
"Truth is untruth." (since untruth, when challenged and rectified becomes truth) and hear this excellent snippet from his didactic poem Aus Der Erfahrung des Denkens 
"Thinking's case would be more auspicious if there were already adversaries [i.e. fellow rival thinkers vying for position] and not mere opponents [i.e. those who are only anti-thought]."
(which is also a way of saying that pretentiousness and the mediocrity which goes with it is absolutely necessary for the furtherance of truth, that which makes meaning possible).