I’ve been following this week’s discussion on Leiter Reports and Crooked Timber about the value of analytic, professionalized philosophy. I like the CT thread a lot better, though it’s interesting to see how divergent those conversations have been.
Marcel Duchamp would create readymades upon request from buyers. Often the buyer would already own the object being purchased from Duchamp. He made a dozen reproductions of his famous R. Mutt urinal. Collectors would call him on the telephone and ask him to baptize their urinals, and he would oblige, if the price was right. To create a readymade, he would simply designate it so, an act of creation very much like the act of naming. He didn’t even need to leave his studio, he could create art from hundreds of miles away, over the telephone. Duchamp was a magician, a priest.
A sufficiently sophisticated art is indistinguishable from philosophy.
Kite surfing is the hot thing this summer. Down at Spanish Bank there were dozens of people out on the water, twisting and skating along under their sails. I forgot my camera, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Abandon the ship, we only need the sails.
Predictably, the Crooked Timber thread became yet another tribunal on Derrida. I’ve never read Derrida, but I have read Rorty on Derrida, and since I adore Rorty I always fall on the side of the Derrideans. Or at least on the opposite side from people who think we need theories to tell us whether reality is really real, or whether Derrida is sufficiently enthusiastic about believing in the actual existence of the world. To each their own, I guess.
I have no culture, myself. Or rather: my culture is a contradictory mash of pop fragments and scavenged bloody giblets of the Western canon and shit I read on the Internet. Not that I’m complaining, I’m just saying.
Basically, I lack seriousness.
That’s what I was thinking about during Waiting for Godot the other night. It was my first experience with that play, although obviously I knew what it was about since I’m not a philistine and I’d just read two excellent biographical essays about Beckett this week, so I knew what to expect.
The idea that you can’t appreciate a sophisticated work of 20th century literature unless you’ve studied it in a classroom and internalized a set of interpretations fills me with horror and existential despair: the perfect emotional stance from which to appreciate Waiting for Godot.
Here is a short play inspired by Waiting for Godot:
Le Troisième Homme
SCENE: an empty street. Dim, gauzy lighting suggests early morning. SAMUEL enters stage-left. He wanders about erratically for several minutes, as if lost. Producing scraps of paper from his coat pocket, he looks, examines his surroundings, then puts them away again.
Samuel: (muttering) Terrible, terrible… Just awful…
JOSEPH enters stage right, carrying a briefcase and walking determinedly.
Joseph: The library is two blocks that way (points).
Samuel: What is that to me?
Joseph exit stage-left.
Samuel exit stage-right.