Monday, January 29, 2007

"..." 3

A student in a mood of deep depression, for which he felt that Wittgenstein's philosophy was in some way responsible, went to Wittgenstein and explained: "Life seems to me pretty pointless and futile. In a few years I shall have ceased to exist. And it's no consolation that human life will go on. It may be millions of years yet, but in time the sun will cool down, life will become extinct, and it will all be as if life had never been." Wittgenstein replied: "Suppose you were sitting in a room, facing a door which is completely black, and saying to yourself sombrely over and over again, 'That door is black! That door is black!' After a bit you could easily begin to feel miserable about it, and to feel that it was the blackness of the door that was the melancholy fact which had produced your gloom."

—From "Wittgenstein as a Teacher" by D. A. T. Gasking and A. C. Jackson in Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Man and His Philosophy

2/16 update:
"Life is a message scribbled in the dark."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The possibility of philosophy

Below are some previous posts dealing with the role and capacity of philosophy (in ascending chronological order).

(And for no particular reason, I'm going to emphasize importance throughout this post with font size.)

i. The future of philosophy
ii. Journal Entry - The Philosophical Jigsaw Puzzle
iii. What's left of metaphysics
iv. phi‧los‧o‧phy |fəˈläsəfē|
v. "..." 2
vi. My problem with philosophy
vii. Random accumulated thoughts and quotations


For the most part I still agree with all of these, but I've lately reconsidered a few things and acquired a different appreciation for what I called 'dogmatism' in one post. Since that post is rather short, I'll repost it here:

noun ( pl. -phies)
the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.


1. the synthetic clarification of language
2. dogmatism
3. the intermingling of the above two (esp. in a scholarly arrangement)

Ignoring the sardonic undercurrent, you may wonder: "Where does epistemology fit in then? Does it rest in the meaning of words? Is it only dogmatism--non-sense?"

One could imagine two possibilities on this matter:

(1) There is a distinct form of meaning—independent of language (though conveyed by it)—that says fundamentally what we may intuit or not intuit in order for those thoughts to have sense... that is, there is a greater meaning behind the words than their relation to each other and their use in our language-game. This would require the creation of another category and ostensively posit realism.

(2) Thoughts of the sort necessary for epistemological inquiries are bound to language. That is, language is a medium necessary for abstract thought processes to take place.. and as such, the evaluation of the boundaries of interrelated concepts rests in the way that they are described—for this so-called "abstract" thought is of the kind that is rooted in language-games and in no other domain.

I'm struggling to provide a proposition unique to the former... perhaps the Cartesian "I think, therefore I exist"? But this statement wouldn't work on two levels: (1) it expresses a contingent, empirical fact, and (2) it expresses analytic synonymity ("I" think, presupposes I; "I exist" confirms that "I" is presupposed... i.e. I = I).

On this note, I'd like to say something about the mention of "synthetic" in 1. above. I've read that Quine found the analytic-synthetic distinction to be superfluous.. and although I haven't read his arguments proper, I disagree to some extent with the shorthand explanations I've found.

Take, "All bachelors are unmarried" and "2+2=4". Admittedly, the latter has the form 'P = Q', but the former does not. The word bachelor, if it may be said to be so for our purposes, is composite. It contains two aspects: the first is that it is a man, the second is that the man is unmarried. The statement "All bachelors are married" takes the latter aspect and isolates it—in other words, it denotes that the predicate is a constituent element of the subject, although the subject and predicate are not identical. Similarly, a statement like "All black things are black" would operate on similar grounds if the subject is understood to be "black things" or a single word with that meaning. And of course something like "2+2 = 4" or "black is black" would be analytic without the composite aspect.

Synthetic statements, on the other hand, are not true by virtue of meanings alone—they're true pending contingent, empirical validation, e.g. "All frogs were once tadpoles." So in my mind the distinction is merited on some levels.

Now, when I wrote 'the synthetic clarification of language', I must have been under some spell or overlooking something. The possibility for the 'clarification of language' is undoubtedly there.. but whether the elucidations that stem from philosophical inquiries are synthetic or something of a different sort still seems a little fuzzy to me. Regardless, it seems clear that these elucidations operate strictly within the domain of language and not outside of it. So instead let's ask, "Can statements tell us something about language that is not encapsulated within that very language?" I had thought for a while that philosophy could say things about the very nature of, say, ethics (i.e. metaethics) by examining our relation to it and its limits, but lately I've been thinking that the answer to the posed question is "assuredly not."

At this point, the list could be re-evaluated as:

(1) an elucidation of concepts and relationships in language
(2) dogmatism
(3) a combination of the above

Next, let's re-consider (2).

What I meant by 'dogmatism' when I wrote the post were personal aesthetic convictions that are not founded in logic but in possibilities... these have more of an emotional or psychological basis than one that is necessarily rational (in short, they are opinions rather than propositions founded from the ground up).

* In hindsight, how does it make sense that one should express an opinion without a rational basis? Perhaps the implications are discussed but not the formulation? Or maybe it would make more sense for aesthetics to be rational, but intrinsically linked to the somato-psychological. That is, it's rational, but only when considering the somato-psychological aspect (again, provided that it is a word) as an input. Thereof, one wouldn't say something rather pallid with logic, such as proving that two propositions do not contradict one another; instead, one would say, "This is how I feel... and with that feeling as a presupposition..."

Lately, however, I've begun to think that this sort of philosophy is quite possibly the most valuable.

This kind of philosophy is the one that asks questions to which there may not be an answer... it is not concerned with the 'Truth' in the Western philosophical tradition, but of possibilities. It provides a means for one to re-evaluate their contextualization of the World—and to understand it anew from different angles. Whereas logical explication and the elucidation of concepts and relations in language-games are tasks of philosophy proper (i.e. philosophy in a narrow sense), 'dogmatic' philosophy is philosophy in a loose sense: non-sense, but in a non-pejorative, constructive way.

Disagree? What if I were to claim that axiology is 'dogmatism'? Or for that matter most of what you've just read?

1/29 update:

Suppose this were scribbled in the margins, if there were any:

You know.. maybe there is a therapeutic aspect of philosophy. The mind constructs interpretations that are independent of philosophy---all aesthetic experiences put together and interwoven---and while philosophy can proffer the "truth", which is independent of those experiences and rather vapid and inconsequential—impotent, even—in its own right, it can also make one realize the inadequacies of one's disposition, even if this revelation and its cause are quite artificial.

2/28 update:

One may find that the fluctuating font sizes make the post chaotic. This should underscore the fact that it's wrong on a few accounts; a conclusive statement on the role and domain of philosophy would not permit uncertainty to stand unattended. Then again, I also thought that the post's lack of academic treatment made it somewhat interesting.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Poem 17

Strangers are seated on one another's laps
quietly pacing in dream and thoughts
under the brooding twilight.

As the tremble of thunder warms the air,
an upswelling blooms—gently and lithely—

a melodic breath punctuated by a shrill lapse
breaks the terse, billowed ether—
a cooling, cooing, cocooning exaltation
stirring thick, cream-coloured clouds.

And from the swells of this tempest's heir
springs rousing verve and trepidation,
and the strangers from their chairs.

With shaken glances, their eyes dot
across the dense, tenebrous room, searching
for faces familiar, and ageless,
of those latent in memory's womb.

Here and there, a mouth, a nose,
an eager ear, a friendly shoulder,
and at last, among the faces, their own.

Hardly a feature appears set in stone—
like the prose of pageless novels—
yet there it is, absent of dubiety and touch and feel,
and with nascent eyes that reflect the room.

With every passing look, the room grows smaller,
and the eyes behind surrounding darting glimpses
grow less pensive, more familiar—
Until lights return.

Though the room remains crowded and beaming,
and its denizens piled lap on lap,
the clouds have retreated and features have returned
to the countenances of those time forgot,

hardly a dream or thought stands stoically idled or pacing—
instead: coalesced, interwoven, flirting, pleated—
sharply and still-seated.

And as the seated find in each other's glances, their own,
an apron'd muse walks leisurely by from behind, bringing
at last plates to accompany their coffee.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Foundations drawing in a nutshell

At KU there are four prerequisite courses that need to be taken before advancing to other fine arts classes--two design courses and two drawing courses.

In my experience, the principles that are actually taught in these (or at least those that I picked up) can be summed up quite laconically. For those that would rather opt for self-study, I think these principles could be a useful start.

So, in a nutshell:

2-D design: the basics of Gestalt psychology and some rudimentary color theory. (And inadvertantly that FedEx Kinko's is outrageously expensive.)

3-D design: an unrelenting emphasis on function, as well as presentation and intentional lighting. The rest was craft oriented.

As to the drawing courses, it should be noted that drawing can't really be taught in the traditional sense. All that one can do is put forth some considerations to remain mindful of, and these in addition to practice and hand-eye coordination should hopefully result in personal improvement.


Drawing in general:

-The first lines you begin with are the edges of your page or drawing surface.

-Every mark alters your entire drawing. It's therefore best to work all over the page, from simple to complex, rather than from one area to the next (and to stay continuously mindful of your composition as a whole).

-If your medium allows, build up as gradually as possible, saving the darkest tones for last. If you don't do this, you'll have much less control over the range and placement of value. (This is something I still need to work on, as is evident in the drawings below.)

Drawing from observation:

-Determine the page's composition before getting into any detail with simple guide-marks and shapes. This determines scale, angle and placement.
-Judge proportions in relation to surrounding forms.

-To help with accuracy, continually reference both positive and negative shapes.

-Pay attention to the quality of your marks (length, width, path, speed) and use these variations in quality accordingly. Most drawings will develop their own set of "rules" for the use of these techniques.

-And the rest are pretty much aesthetic subtleties, such as implying tension, movement and weight...

...texture... (This is actually a drawing from high school, note some problems with perspective, non-sensical lighting, and the range of value.)

...the relation between shading and line...

...and the application of tone. (Again, pay attention to the whole composition. I neglected the background and tried to fill some of it in later... it didn't work out.)

And beyond that, it's pretty much practice and personal exploration.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Journal Entry: Baya-baya-ba

I was trying to finish a poem (#15) while listening to "Katamaritaino" from the Katamari Damacy soundtrack (which to my delight is now my wake-up ring on my phone--the music from Star Light zone in Sonic is my ringtone), and right now I'm thinking that this song is what "art" should be... this is poetry. No squabbling over trite discontentments or grandeur, just what is needed to evoke a feeling of humble, optimistic satisfaction.

Poetry can do much more than this, but this is what the world needs.


"Poetry" can elicit the whole spectrum of human emotions, but it need only elicit those that prevent one from growing sorrowful or complacent. It is a delicate act of balancing one's emotional composition in such a way that allows for one to move forward without forgetting what is ahead or growing fatigued.


Sorrowful beauty is profound but overused, yet the felicific need not reject sorrow--it need only recognize it as a malaise, like itself, that it marries in order to achieve a meaningful present and future.

**Katamaritaino, Hideki Tobeta/Yui Asaka**

Friday, January 5, 2007

"Every RPG Ever Made"

Here's a great comic from PSM. I read it years ago and hadn't been able to find it since.

1/6 update:

And another old gem: