Monday, February 25, 2008

Another year of dogmat's life passes to great fanfare

"The wrinkles and creases in our faces are the registration of the great passions, vices, insights, that called on us; but we, the masters, were not home."
Walter Benjamin, 'The Image of Proust'

Friday, December 28, 2007

Deleted: foolish posts about Nihil Unbound

"'I have done that,' says my memory. 'I cannot have done that' - says my pride, and remains adamant. At last - memory yields."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 68.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More Musil

"The prevailing system was that of reality, and it was just like a bad play. It's not for nothing that we speak of a 'theatre of world events' - the same roles, complications, and plots keep turning up in life. People make love because there is love to be made, and they do it in the prevailing mode; people are proud as the Noble Savage, or as a Spaniard, a virgin, or a lion; in ninety out of a hundred cases even murder is committed only because it is perceived as tragic or grandiose. [...] Seen in this light, history arises out of routine ideas, out of indifference to ideas, so that reality comes primarily of nothing being done for ideas."
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities p395.
It appears that what is at stake here is one's self-understanding. We are limited in what we do not so much by the fact that an outcome is conceivable or not, but by whether it is comprehensible. The true value of art, literature and avant-garde cinema can only be seen in this light. When one cultivates more subtle or nuanced ways of perceiving oneself, the possibilities for action - that is, our potential - begin to broaden.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The essay

"The accepted translation of 'essay' as 'attempt' contains only vaguely the essential allusion to the literary model, for an essay is not a provisional or incidental expression of a conviction capable of being elevated to a truth under more favourable circumstances or of being exposed as an error (the only ones of that kind are those articles or treatises, chips from the scholar's workbench, with which the learned entertain their special public); an essay is rather the unique and unalterable form assumed by a man's inner life in a decisive thought.
There have been more than a few such essayists, masters of the inner hovering life, but there would be no point in naming them. Their domain lies between religion and knowledge, between example and doctrine, between amor intellectualis and poetry; they are saints with and without religion, and sometimes they are also simply men on an adventure who have gone astray."
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities p273.

'Eloge de l'amour': analytic professor finally writes Hollywood remake

A world first: screenplay published exclusively on facebook!

Respected academic: "Perfect!!! Sleepily leaving for airport: "tomorrow, tomorrow, i love ya - tomorrow, you're only a day away"!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"
Nubile young student: "Did you know that they make Belgian chocolates in Belgium? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"


Academic: "Great news darling. I'm promoted to improvers spelling. There's a course up in York this weekend and apparently the teacher's a real babe. They also do a basic arithmetic class to help with things like counting letters in names: e.g. bill and mark each have four! I'm almost on my way!!! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX"

Student: "Hope your meeting goes well darling and thanks for calling just now. Have a great meal tonight with Jez and i'll see you as soon as I possibly can!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx"

Academic: "Thanks lovely, it went well, although the usual hot air balloon was working overtime. Do let me know when you know when you'll be heading south. I'm SO looking forward to seeing you!! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX"

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Horse trouble

"Apropos of the bicycle: 'Actually one should not deceive oneself about the real purpose of the fashionable new mount, which a poet the other day referred to as the horse of the Apocalypse'"
Walter Benjamin, citing L'Illustration in The Arcades Project p97.

"But just then Ulrich suddenly read somewhere, like a premonitory breath of ripening summer, the expression 'the racehorse of genius.' It stood in the report of a sensational racing success, and the author was probably not aware of the full magnitude of the inspiration his pen owed to the communal spirit. But Ulrich instantly grasped the fateful connection between his entire career and this genius among racehorses. For the horse has, of course, always been sacred to the cavalry, and as a youth Ulrich had hardly ever heard talk in barracks of anything but horses and women. He had fled from this to become a great man, only to find that when, as a result of his varied exertions he perhaps could have felt within reach of his goal, the horse had beaten him to it."
Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities p41-42.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

An open letter to Miguel de Beistegui

I must begin by admitting that I was a trifle disappointed by the legalistic tone and dry, academic style of your letter. I expected some panache, some élan, though perhaps I expect too much.
Before getting down to business, as it were, I would like to make an apology. The original post was written after taking a little more than a little something to drink, and thus my clarity may have been compromised. I did not intend to describe the whole of Truth & Genesis as "rubbish" (I have it from M that your book is rather good). The description was merely meant to apply to the page of material that has given birth to this fruitful dialogue.
Now to your letter. You take my claims to be (i) I accuse you of plagiarism, and (ii) I "draw conclusions that aim at discrediting an author" and that I insinuate disingenuousness.
This is mistaken. I have little or no problem with plagiarism. And, importantly, I never use the word 'plagiarise' in my original post. Rather, I raise doubts about your intellectual integrity; doubts which I would like to elaborate here in more detail.
First, you call into question the status and meaning of plagiarism regulations in the university. Let me explain. It is peculiar that, with all your readers and editors at Indiana, you are unable to notice a whole page taken very nearly verbatim from another author (especially where that author is the focus of the chapter), when an 18 year old kid is expected to avoid much subtler 'errors' on her tenth coffee, at five in the morning on the day of her essay deadline.
What's more, it is your job, your duty, to cry foul and notify the authorities when such student 'mistakes' occur. Something is definitely amiss here.
Second, I would like to challenge your assertion that we are dealing with nothing more than missing quotation marks. Here we might appeal to scholarly practice. If the page in question was intended as a long quote, there are one or two details which indicate that the passage lacked more than quotation marks. In the two places where the text diverges from DeLanda's, there should be square brackets in place. The first line of the passage contains a clarification of terms which is parenthesised (ie, enclosed in round brackets) when it clearly requires square brackets to indicate that those are not the words of the quoted author. In addition, the passage ends with a longish quotation (from Albert Lautman) which matches DeLanda's exactly. This definitely does not conform to style standards. The scholar does not lazily reprint another scholar's quote. And if your intention was to separate the Lautman quote from the DeLanda quote, then the organisation of the whole passage would have to be changed in order to avoid a complete mess.
Furthermore, after an - admittedly - brief perusal of your book, it seems that the section of text we disagree about would make for the longest quotation by far. Surely Deleuze or Heidegger are much more worthy candidates for quoting at such length? In all, the proposal that you intended to make a quotation of 'our passage' looks very uncertain.
This brings me to my third point. I completely accept that you aren't trying to take credit for DeLanda's work (you do refer to him all the way through that chapter), though I have difficulty understanding why you would devote a sizeable section of your book to material that you have apparently not come to terms with. In the first year, they tell us: "You have understood the text if you can put it into your own words."

That was the main thrust of my response. I would now like to clear up one or two misconceptions that you happily propagate in the third paragraph of your letter.
Given what has happened since I published my denunciation, it must be self-evident why the blog is anonymous; though in fact many students and a few lecturers know who I am, and it wouldn't be at all difficult to pierce the flimsy veil of anonymity...
And as for Axel, I should have you know that he is a very fine young scholar, in spite of our divergent philosophical tastes.
The most important of your claims in this paragraph, that I am "actually proud of not having read any of the work", requires an explanation on my part. I absolutely reject any ascription of anti-intellectualism. I have a vague knowledge of Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy since I happened to have the misfortune to run my eyes over half the book a few years ago.
As those who are familiar with dogmat will know, I believe that there is a ship of fools sailing through British universities; not Bernard-Henri Levy's vessel (a ghost ship of his feeble imagination), but a nightmarish construction, always already commandeered by witless British students, Saint Gilles and Saint Felix thrown overboard before setting foot on deck.
Dogmat simply does not wish to be press ganged aboard.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"After all, we wouldn't want people accusing him of plagiarism..."

Here is de Beistegui's response to my previous post. I have decided to publish it, though not without a degree of - ahem - encouragement. My own remarks to follow shortly...

"My attention has been brought to an accusation of plagiarism from a philosophy student’s Blog. As this is something I take very seriously, I’d like to respond right away.

As I don’t have DeLanda’s book to hand (many of my books are in storage these days), I haven’t been able to verify this accusation. But since I have been told that the two paragraphs in question from Truth and Genesis are virtually identical to the ones in DeLanda’s Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the claim. This accusation calls for an immediate and firm response.

It’s one thing to point to an error or an omission within a book (and had the blog done just that, I would have been grateful). It’s another to draw conclusions that aim at discrediting an author, to insinuate “disingenuousness” on his part, without having read his book, or even the passage accused of having been plagiarized. The author of the accusation remains anonymous (why?), and is actually proud of not having read any of the work (whether DeLanda’s or my own, preferring instead to rely on Axel’s (!) expert judgement). This does not stop him (or her) from qualifying the work in question as “rubbish.”

Turning to the passage in question, then, and re-reading the relevant pages from T&G (that is, those pages devoted to DeLanda, and which run from p. 258 to p. 274), I have found the following:
My intentions and sources are clearly stated from the start, on p. 258: "Throughout [my analysis of dynamical systems], I shall refer to technical analyses and examples developed in de Landa's Intensive Science and Virtual Philosophy." DeLanda is then mentioned on p. 259, 261, 263 (quotation), 264 ("returning to de Landa's analysis..." from which I had deviated for a while). The latter page clearly stipulates that I am within de Landa's analysis. And then comes the passage I'm accused of having plagiarized. Right in the middle of it, there's a footnote (footnote 38, p. 269, in which DeLanda is again mentioned, in the context of his own sources). This suggests clearly that I am still following DeLanda’s analysis, despite the fact that quotations marks were omitted (an omission I plan to rectify at the earliest opportunity). De Landa is again quoted on p. 276. It's obvious that it's his analysis and his point of view that are being put forward in that section of the chapter. Equally obvious is the fact that, should I have wished to conceal my sources, and take credit for DeLanda's work, which I am the first to hail in that work, I could and should have done a much better job.

In short, having looked again at the entire portion of the chapter in which the two paragraphs in question appear, I feel reassured regarding transparency and the explicit references to sources. There are hundreds of quotations and references in Truth and Genesis. Despite my rigorous editing, and that of my editors at Indiana, an omission wasn’t picked up on. In any future edition, I would insert the relevant quotation marks." [My copy-and-paste job has elimated the italics. Thankfully, this only applied to book titles.]

I think SF sums up my situation well: "Dogmat, you may not be one of the greatest minds of our age, but you sure know how to irritate them." (And that is irritate, not imitate)