Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

On the drive back from a lovely week-end in Vancouver, my beloved spouse stopped speaking to me when I said, as we were discussing directions, "The people who say 'route' [pronounced 'root'] routed the people who say 'route' [pronounced 'rout'], and the people who say 'route' ['rout'] rooted out the people who say 'route' ['root']."

"I'm not talking to you," she said.

"Who are you talking to?" said Fingers Hilarity from the car seat in back.

"I'm talking to a raspberry. Raspberry, don't you get sick of these stupid puns? 'Yes, I do.' Me too. I knew you would understand. May I eat you now? 'Yes, you may.' OK." Plop, into her mouth went the raspberry.

Fingers Hilarity found this hilarious. So we all started talking to the raspberries as we ate them. Fingers found it funniest when the raspberries protested their demise. "No, no don't eat me! Aaaahhh!! Ooooh!! Ohhh!!" [Inchoate gargling screams as chewing commences.]

Coincidentally, I found, from conversing with the raspberries, that many of them had recently been reading
Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, by Richard Rorty, as I have been, and I enjoyed discussing the book with them, though some of them were bitter about my lack of solidarity despite our common interests, while others found it merely ironic.

I'm only on the 2nd chapter, but I don't find Rorty's case against language as a medium persuasive, and I don't believe he's persuaded himself. I should finish the book before commenting -- should should should.

My take-away so far:

Metaphysical essences are unfashionable.

Contingency, chance, and time are this year's fashion in metaphysical essences.

Because metaphysical essences are unfashionable, it's best not to speak of contingency, chance, and time as metaphysical essences
directly, but to speak of them as such indirectly is fine.

Language is a game, but not one that one should teach another to play. (Huh? Makes no sense, I know.)

A language is a tool that is more or less useful than another language, but that usefulness has nothing to do with its relationship with the world. (Huh? Makes no sense again.)

Philosophy is a casino, and the house always wins. Philosophers compete to be the house. (Rorty appreciated metaphors, so this one's for him. I don't appreciate his loading the dice by arguing against others while saying he's neither arguing nor making his case to be argued for or against; by hiding behind the fig leaf of "metaphor" and saying, in effect, "Hey, man, these are just metaphors; take 'em or leave 'em.")

Despite my cavils, I'm finding the book engaging and stimulating. Rorty's analogy between the un-teleological nature of Darwinian evolution and scientific history -- I don't find it persuasive, but it does help explain why there haven't been any decent overviews of rock history since about 1970. Rock history is more difficult to encompass than jazz or classical history because rock musicians don't think of themselves as building on the past, as jazz and classical musicians do. The concept of "Building on the past" gives the illusion that the past leads up to the present as a story of progress -- which is in fact how jazz and classical histories have often been told. But pop and rock are brutal fashion (and youth) driven genres, and the attitude is more, "Let the dead bury their dead." (Jesus said that -- harsh dude, huh?)

Rorty is also very good on the incommensurability of private self-creation and public responsibility -- a hang-up that politically-minded poets (and, to a lesser extent, songwriters) get hung up on. (My method of addressing that riddle: Poetry or lyric addressing public matters requires a public rhetoric, which is subtle in itself and very different than rhetorics of self-creation and private life, though there is no reason that a poet or lyricist could not have access to both.)

The raspberries were tasty. We had to finish them before reaching the border.

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