Friday, June 11, 2010

In the News, plus Kant and Rousseau!

Air Canada snaps Professor's Lute in half.

This is horrible. As a lute owner (note I don't say player...) I can totally understand how horrible he must feel. I think something people often don't understand about musicians is that they develop rather strong attachments to their instruments. This intuitively makes sense, but I many of those commenting I think see this as something easily replaceable - it's not.

One can talk of essences here, where losing an instrument you have gotten to know, to love, has a massive impact. Suddenly, all those zen-like aspects of one's playing, the way in which one knows how to produce a particular sound without knowing how, is suddenly lost, and one must relearn, develop a new relationship.

Perhaps one of the strangest aspects of our consumer culture is that we greatly desire things, but we remain deeply alienated from them.


Toronto is slowly becoming a police state in preparation for the G20. Although media focus has been almost entirely on the cost, Rick Salutin today reminds everyone of the real costs (you mean economic costs aren't the real ones?) . It seems that pretty much everywhere around me is slowly, inexorably being locked down.

I now go through a number of security checks, all designed I guess to make sure that the same pass I show the first person doesn't morph into something else when I get to the second one...when you ask security, they, like nearly everyone it seems, shrugs their shoulders and says I don't make the rules...

We are all instruments of the law now. This struck me forcefully last night as I read Dieter Henrich's Between Kant and Hegel, based on a suggestion from here.

An admission - despite the fact that my interests as a Germanist span the period between Goethe and Heine (with DDR film as a kind of randomizing interest), my background in German philosophy of the period is sorely lacking. Indeed, it is the one significant lacunae in my philosophical schooling, and I find myself struggling to immerse myself in part because I'm not sure if there is another time where the literature of the day is so entirely steeped in the philosophical issues of the day - it would be as though Zadie Smith et al. were writing books on vagueness, and Saul Kripke were reading them! Utter madness!

Anyway, I am really enjoying this book so far. His philosophical readings of the texts, as opposed to the ahistorical overview one often finds in introductory works, is illuminating.

Henrich points out at the Kant's deep, deep indebtedness to Rousseau. In courses I took, Rousseau was mentioned as an influence, but it was always Hume's influence that was emphasized. Hume is presented as the philosopher who transformed Kant from a neo-Wolffian rationalist into uh...Immanuel Kant.

On Henrich's account, it is Rousseau who really turns the knife into Kant's philosophical back, forcing him to rethink the entire aim of his philosophical program. Fascinating stuff, if for no other reason that one can even espy here the analytic/continental divide that no one thinks exists but that we can all pretty much discern.

So, back to Toronto - when I read Kant's desire to ground humanity's freedom, and I note our current total lack of desire to build a movement in Canada that strives to emancipate ourselves from our own benevolent consumerist/barely democratic despotism, it is difficult for me not to conclude that the Romantics did indeed win the political struggle, and that this is not a good thing...

To the barricades, then? Or perhaps, at least, to the coffeehouses?

No comments: