Thursday, August 31, 2023

Joan Miró

Max Ernst, Portrait de Joan Miró, 1948

Joan Miró, Self-Portrait, 1917

Sunday, August 27, 2023

If White was a sound... If White was a color...

Paul Klee – Polyphonic Setting for White, 1930


The title is appropriate, though the underlying (let's call it that) proposition is nonsense.  Colors are not sounds.

But so what if the proposition is nonsense? Compare: if a child said, "White is my favorite color," would it be nonsense? And would correcting her always be appropriate? 

Do you have to be a philosopher to consider these questions?  Could anyone considering these questions, by virtue of the act of consideration, be deemed a "philosopher"?

And what does it mean to say, "These questions are important"?

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Michael Butterworth Exhibition in Joshua Tree California

Michael Butterworth's "Circularisations" exhibition curated by Space Cowboy Books ran from June 1st through July 31st at Art Queen Gallery in Joshua Tree. Here is a video walkthrough of the exhibit.

Friday, August 25, 2023

National Fantasy Fan Laureate Awards for Michael Butterworth and Jean-Paul L. Garnier

I am happy to report that the National Fantasy Fan organization has presented two International Authors colleagues with Laureate Awards for 2023.

Michael Butterworth has received an award for Best Science Fiction Poet.  Earlier this year, Mr. Butterworth published the collection Complete Poems, 1965-2020. Please click HERE to read my review of this superb volume. Mr. Butterworth is a member of the International Authors Board of Editorial Advisors, and his poetry, essays and fiction have appeared in Emanations since its inception. Also, International Authors has published (or co-published) several of his books, including Butterworth and My Servant the Wind.  Please click HERE to view these works at the International Authors website.  Click the titles to go directly to the respective Amazon pages.

Jean-Paul L. Garnier, who has published a number of fiction pieces in Emanations, has won two Laureate Awards. The first is for Best Non-National Fantasy Fan Fanzine, The Simultaneous Times Newsletter. The second award presented to Mr. Garnier is for Best Podcast.  Please click HERE to visit Mr. Garnier’s projects.

Michael Butterworth

Jean-Paul L. Garnier

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Popular Technology









We shall place the astronauts right here
In vessels of our enthused projection
Approaching on a graphic shuttle
Spread from a clever brush, eternal images

 The timeline is unimportant
Now as then, when the plan
Resolves into a flash of true desire
Or some ambition of comparable worth

Friday, August 18, 2023

Cover Art for Emanations 10

I am happy to announce that artist, poet, essayist and urban planner Vitasta Raina is producing a painting for the cover of Emanations 10. Please click HERE to view her blog.

Vitasta in the studio.  (Shades of Johannes Vermeer?)


And Vitasta has published a novella, Writer's Block. Please click the cover image to view the Amazon description:

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Emanations 10 is coming soon







Striking new art and writing from around the world. It should be out mid-September.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Wittgenstein and Xenophon

Alas, Wittgenstein had nothing to say about Xenophon.  But maybe he should have, as I suggest here. 

In his excellent Brief Illustrated History of Western Philosophy Anthony Kenny very rapidly passes through Xenophon, remarking on Xenophon's closeness to Socrates, but otherwise Kenny characterizes (indeed, dismisses) Xenophon as a "historian."

I question this.

Compare Xenophon's Conversations with Socrates to the corresponding early dialogues in Plato, and all sorts of interesting things emerge. 

It is not very difficult to conclude that Xenophon is presenting us with Socrates while Plato gives us his Socrates. Yes, of course, in Plato's early dialogues Socrates does "break through," but Xenophon is educating us about Socrates, while Plato is educating us about his own ideas... wonderful as they are... but, still, there is a mode in exploring the subject where first we need to know about Socrates. 

And as he presents us with Socrates, Xenophon is also educating us about Plato.

It is proper to respond, "Well, Plato is after different game. He is exploring citizenship, politics, ethics, piety, the soul and eternity, and so on..." But of course so is Xenophon--and doing so selectively so as to respond appropriately to the subject. We could give Plato points for presenting a broader and more open field for students to consider the ambiguities... But Xenophon does this as well, while grounding his considerations in the actual events as they transpired; moreover, with 1) his own guiding opinions, and 2) his fidelity to the emotional texture of the trial, Socrates' posture, and so on.

Two and a half centuries later, do we discuss these ambiguities in veiled, literary, archetypal, and oblique terms, mindful of the difficulties of Athenian politics, as does Plato, or do we speak in "Xenophonic terms"--in terms of sharp specifics--terms that are more appropriate to the citizens of a twenty-first-century constitutional republic?

Contrast Xenophon's Dinner Party with Plato's Symposium, and--by Zeus!--one can't help but to be struck that Xenophon forcefully controverts Plato, with apparent facts, with a greater humanity, and with a more sympathetic and sensitive style of expression. Plato's characters are representative archetypes reflecting the character of their ideals and they speak in dicta, while Xenophon's characters speak like men. Xenophon's Dinner Party tells us about the world--and much about real love in that real world--while Plato is merely presenting theories about love, and interesting as those theories are...

But allow me to set forth a thesis, and point this toward Wittgenstein.

Xenophon--and despite Kenny's dismissal--is exercising an approach to philosophy that could be said to reflect Wittgenstein's posture, as well teasing out some distinctions and modalities that Wittgenstein--or students of Wittgenstein--should find very interesting.

Take, for example, this line from the Anabasis (The Persian Expedition), in which Xenophon advises the captains to encourage the Greek soldiers, now lost in Persia:

But there will be a great rise in their spirits if one can change the way they think, so that instead of having in their heads the one idea of "what is going to happen to me?" they may think "what action am I going to take?

In response to Kenny, isn't this distinction a profound philosophical insight that must be carefully unpacked? What could be more "philosophical" than thinking in such terms... and thinking about and then actually possessing the competency to direct oneself to map out a plan among many many possible actions, moreover under very difficult circumstances (I'm thousands of miles from home, and the Persian Empire is after me...)


Now, in regard to students of Wittgenstein, isn't this just the sort of distinction that Wittgenstein would seize upon?


Here I offer a nascent list of modalities:

1 What do we say to ourselves--what kinds of considerations do we entertain--when we ask, "What is going to happen to me?"

1.1 What are the ethical implications of picturing things *happening* to you?

1.2 What is the character of the language we use when we consider "What is going to happen to me?"

2 What do we say to ourselves when we ask, "What am I going to do?"

2.1 What are the ethical implications of thinking about possible actions you might take?

2.2 What is the character of the language we use when we consider, "What am I going to do?"

3 How might the practice of 1 and 2 be considered as characterizations of "the kind of person I am"?

4 Political Philosophy

4.1 What is the character of a polity that thinks "What is going to happen to me?"

4.2 What is the character of a polity that thinks "What am I going to do?"

5 Education

5.1 What are the consequences of teaching people to think "What is going to happen to me?"

5.2 What are the consequences of teaching people to think "What am I going to do?"


And on we go. 


Some remarks on Xenophon’s use of language should be considered as prelude to our identifying and characterizing his sensibility, which neatly compares to the weltanschauung of analytic and “ordinary language” philosophy. Let's keep Wittgenstein in mind as we consider Xenophon's language:


Pierre-Maxime Schuhl on Xenophon in the Methuen Dictionary of Ancient Greek Civilization:     

Nearly all his works, especially the Memorabilia, Symposium, Anabasis, and Oeconomicus, are highly readable. When he writes on Socrates he is admittedly less profound than Plato, but Plato attributed many of  his own personal ideas to the master; Xenophon was a simpler and perhaps a more reliable witness, when he described Socrates conversing freely and pleasantly with  his friends without a hint of pedantry. As a historian, Xenophon is clearly very inferior to Thucydides, but his narrative is clear, easy and witty and has great qualities of its own. Apart from certain aristocratic lapses, his language is natural and graceful. His style is that o f the ‘plain blunt man’, who makes no claim to be a writer but writes as he speaks, with ease, distinction and wit. Talented essayist as he was, Xenophon  treated too many subjects to excel in every one of them. He was the originator of two new literary genres, the biography: (Agesilaus) and the novel (Cyropaedia). The ancient Greeks gave him the nickname  of  the ‘Attic bee’. Although Xenophon ranks somewhat beneath the greatest writers, he earned himself an important and lasting place in Greek Literary history.

Eve A. Browing on Xenophon in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The range of his areas of expertise and the glancing charm of his down-to-earth writing style continue to fascinate and repay our study.

 She attributes additional originality:

[H]e was a pioneer in several literary genres including the first-person military memoir (Anabasis) , the biographical novel (Education of Cyrus), and the continued history (Hellenica).

One should wonder, against Kenny, if the person who originated all these modes of literary presentation might not have something to say regarding philosophy, moreover considering his close relationship with  Socrates and, ahem, the intelligent things he has to say. Intellectual activity is interesting, though, as Wittgenstein might say, what do you do with it? Hang it up on a wall?  Intelligence, meanwhile, has about it the character of grace, ease, humor, stillness, beauty, insight, the "flash of discovery," understanding, and truth.

I earlier remarked that Xenophon “controverts” Plato, and I should specify that this is both regarding 1) historical fact, and 2) philosophical understanding--which has significance to the student of analytic philosophy


1) A historical example:  In the Symposium, Plato portrays Aristophanes and Socrates in lively and friendly debate; now, everyone knows of the character Socrates in The Clouds, and what a laughingstock Aristophanes makes of him. From Plato’s Symposium, scholars might conclude Aristophanes meant no ill, but was simply using the name of the well-known philosopher to “flesh out” the aspersions that he directs on the “scientific” theories of the pre-Socratics and the moral relativism of the Sophists.  Aristophanes is not present in Xenophon’s Dinner Party, where Xenophon moreover very sharply states that Aristophanes’ use of Socrates’s name in the The Clouds was a slander, which should lead us to recall some of the things Plato has said about censorship at the service of instructing people and shaping/managing society; that is, in Plato’s happy—and unreal--universe, there is no animosity between men, and so on…


Let's digress a moment. In other dialogues, Plato is not so tolerant. As Debra Wells says in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia:

Plato’s Socrates says at his trial (Apology 18a–b, 19c) that most of his jurors have grown up believing the falsehoods attributed to him in the play. Socrates calls Aristophanes more dangerous than the three men who brought charges against him because Aristophanes had poisoned the jurors’ minds while they were young. Aristophanes did not stop accusing Socrates in 423 when Clouds placed third behind another play in which Socrates was mentioned as barefoot; rather, he soon began writing a revision, which he circulated but never produced. Complicating matters, the revision is our only extant version of the play. Aristophanes appears to have given up on reviving Clouds in about 416, but his comic ridicule of Socrates continued. Again in 414 with Birds, and in 405 with Frogs, Aristophanes complained of Socrates’s deleterious effect on the youths of the city, including Socrates’s neglect of the poets. Aristophanes even coins a verb, to socratize, conveying a range of unsavory behaviors.

 Wells makes this remark, and presents some good arguments for it:

Xenophon was a practical man whose ability to recognize philosophical issues is almost imperceptible...

In response, I think the line I’ve already quoted from the Anabasis suggests Wells is not reading Xenophon carefully enough, nor in the way an analytic philosopher would, and should—which brings us to 2: 

2) An analytic example: Present at Xenophon’s Dinner Party is the cynic Antisthenes, who in reference to Plato’s theory of ideas says something to the effect, “I can certainly see horses but I don't see Horseness.” 

Is this remark not of interest to the analytic philosopher?

Meanwhile, of greater interest to me is Xenophon’s advice about thinking and self-perception (let’s call it that, and in all lower-case letters) when deciding to take action… as presented in the quote I’ve several times mentioned from the Anabasis.

And so once again let's keep in mind our descriptions of Xenophon's language, and see how this language compares to our understanding of Wittgenstein:

Xenophon's "direct" language as well as his activity--his arguments in the Dinner Party, for example--compare with Wittgenstein's notion that Philosophy leaves everything as it is.

Philosophy "neither explains or deduces anything" (PI §128), but "leaves everything as it is" (PI§124). Philosophy does not contribute "to human knowledge, but to human understanding" (Hacker, 1996, p. 98-99). Philosophical problems are misunderstandings caused by conceptual (and historical and biographical) confusion. Once these misconceptions are understood, philosophical problems are revealed to be nonsense, but not "beyond sense" or metaphysical--as Wittgenstein had conceived them to be in the Tractatus. Philosophical theories are latent, concealed nonsense; the task of philosophy is to transform them into patent nonsense (PI §524). In the Investigations Wittgenstein introduces a new analysis based on descriptions of the way we use expressions. This descriptive analysis is synoptic in the way context operates as a determining factor in our understanding of the meaning of an expression.

Xenophon's use of the dialogue (and, yes, as well as Plato's) and Xenophon's use of fiction represent an arena for the exercise of "ordinary language"/analytic assessment through the construction of a synoptic overview, yielding appropriate description, accurate reporting and understanding.