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Saturday 29 September 2012

Love is the Law (2): Love is a test

Love is not a feeling, it is a test.”
- Wittgenstein

That is to say, there is nothing passive at play here. It doesn't just happen to you and then pass on. Even if we say that it happens unexpectedly, it creeps up, still it involves some work. Something is to be done. Put into a real situation, this is how we tell that it is love. Not that it can exist in the quiet ideal separtion from the world, but that it exists alongside one, through one's life in the functioning natural world. It becomes part of who we are. We are not a love sufferer, but a love dweller, we fight for love, fight for this change in who we are. A change in our priorities, in who and what we care about.

Another name change.

Another name change, this isn't the first?

That's right, a few years back I 'shifted the decimal point' of my name. You see, I was born with the name CG Morrell, but I moved the G from an other name to one of my family names, because it is a family name.

What are the new names?

My father's and my recently deceased friend's.

Why those names?

When I upgraded Godfree from a middle name to a family name, becoming Godfree-Morrell, it was to show my love, respect, and appreciation of everything my mum has done for me. Adding dad's and T's names to mine is intended to do the same thing.

You already carry your father's name - Morrell.

Yes and no. Morrell has always been my family name since birth, in one respect it is a gift from dad, but in another it is simply a continuation, for he was not any more a willing recipient of the name than I have been. Thus, to honour his memory requires an active choice. I keep Morrell, because it is who I am. I add his name because it is for him.

Will you add more names?

Perhaps, perhaps replacing or changing, although the latter two choices seem far less likely.

What is the criteria for choosing a name change? Why won't you end up with dozens of names?

Not one thing. Although perhaps a simple answer would be 'love'. As I mentioned before it comes from a desire to actively represent my love, respect, admiration, and ultimately my caring for those people in my life that have affected and influenced me so profoundly. One's own mum and dad seems obvious, obvious but overlooked. Although I have little respect for 'the family' or one's ancestors, that is, the continuation of a family name, it is by far the simplest and most immediate way to convey to others the love and respect I have for my parents. It is not a rash choice I make and it is not a slight impression they have made. I'm not adding the names (or changing the names) just because I like the sound of the names or find it amusing to alter my name (although, perhaps in part, all these are true). It's an expression of filial piety and loyalty.

Your friend is different however.

Yes, indeed, not family by blood but family by choice, or more poetically, one might say, "family by spirit." His influence on me was to rekindle my hope, my belief in goodness, that had always been tested and had begun to fade.

How will people know about this? I mean, only about five people are ever going to read this, so it's not that much of a profound expression, is it?

That's fine. I consider this to be 'name tattooing'. In a similar way to a tattoo with which one might mark a special person or event in their lives (or remembrance of such), my name tattoo is a changing of my permanent name to show my dedication to them. Also like a tattoo it remains mostly hidden, except from those people I share the information with personally (and utterly randomly and impersonally over the internet). For most people they simply see my name and imagine it as unusually long. Those people that know me see it as something else (perhaps). Indeed, a stranger seeing a tattoo without knowledge of its importance to the bearer might draw all sorts of negative conclusions and I suppose that's possible with me also (pretentiousness for one).

Really, this is just another example of you thinking too much about things, about what people mean to you and about your devotion to death.

Quite possibly.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Tales from Academia (2): Philosophy or Thinking Too Much?

I've been accused in the past of thinking too much, something that I'd always just dismissed. It can't be right, surely, for someone to think too much about something, indeed, it's more likely the case that most people simply don't think enough about things. At least, this is what I always told myself and to a certain extent that might be correct (that most people don't think enough), but it doesn't exclude the possibility that I or other people could be thinking too much. So, I waited to be corrected.

Then along came this conference notice.

Yes, that's right, the philosophy of running. At first one might think that these particular philosophers have just been 'spinning the wheel' particularly hard. You could imagine an almost infinite variety of 'philosophy and ...' conferences, papers, and books. Indeed, why not? Philosophy should be about the entirety of human life, including its banalities; hobbies, pastimes, activities included. Surely philosophy has something to say about sport generally, so why not running in specific?

A friend, a medical doctor and keen runner, who was with me at the time I received the email, said in response to the question What is philosophically distinctive about running? That there is nothing distinctive, why indeed ask the question at all? Just run.

I don't assume for a moment that he is discounting any form of thought about one's running practice; what route one takes, one's gear, when to run, and so on. However, what he's taking exception to is the amount of thought that a philosophical investigation into running must entail. Simply, you're wasting your time. You're over-thinking.

Now, part of me shares this intuition, but then I also rail against the destructive 'common sense' attitude. This is because this attitude also tells us that art can only be entertainment and not educational, something that I want to discuss in a future post (indeed, I've been meaning to for a while now). At any rate, we might find that this distinction between valuing the work of philosophy and a common sense attitude that disregards unnecessary intellectualism is one based in our own aesthetic valuing of the activities or what have you. Art, for example, is philosophically a worthwhile subject of study/further thought, whereas running may not be. Sport is a valuable area of study, the Twilight series is not.

Is this a question of over-specification? That is, is our problematic based in (a reaction against) the current academic climate? One that positively encourages precisely these sorts of close readings and individualised attention. General questions are worthwhile because they give a wide area of study, but over specification gives a limited and potentially worthless amount of study. This seems wrong, over-generalisation would be as bad as over-specification, but how much is too much? A difficult question. Is the problem that this sort of specification (with a conference devoted to running) trivialises philosophy? In whose eyes is it belittled? Why should philosophers worry what everyone else thinks about them? More questions, without any immediate and easy answers.

On the other hand, does it simply come down to personal taste; running is a subject for philosophy, beach volleyball is not, Batman is, the X-Men is not. Asking why this is, is to ask the basis for our aesthetic judgements at all, and whether they are social or psychological, rational or intuitive.

Have a look at this website,, and you will find many other examples of 'philosophy and', check for yourself which you think are worthwhile and which not. It might be interesting to question your own intuitions at this point.

I must admit that when I see an email notification of a new title, 'Family Guy and Philosophy' for example, my first response is typically embellished with colourful swearing and immediate dismissal. Is that simply because my taste, or to put it another way, my 'common sense attitude' of what constitutes philosophy (or simply a worthwhile intellectual discussion) is set against this series, because it's not as if Blackwell aren't noted for publishing some of the most interesting philosophy books (they are). Perhaps my problem here lies in something that the series editor (William Irvin) states, he tells us that "philosophy is everywhere." I would answer that, no it's not and for good reasons as well. Philosophy is not the philosophical life. Philosophy is an academic discipline that approaches things in a certain manner. The philosophical life IS everything, because it is life.

What conclusions can we draw from all this? Is it appropriate to have a conference about the philosophy of running, or publish books about various TV shows and philosophy? My own answer is that academic philosophy should not 'be everywhere' and should chose its battles (philosophy loves combat based metaphorical descriptions) and battlefields a trifle more carefully. We should think and think philosophically, about those things that matter to us in our own lives, but it isn't the place of academics to detail every moment in their meticulous manner, the basis for the judgements seems worthwhile, the specifics not so much.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Suggestion #4

All my morality (and most other people's) is a patchwork of lies and inconsistencies, assumptions that are unproven or, at best, unprovable - and this is not enough.

written in the throes of despair at the death of a dear friend

Saturday 22 September 2012

Love is the Law (1): Poetry of Love

Here's something a foolish boy once wrote about Love:

Poetry comes from love, not from despair or darkness, this is only self-indulgence.
Love makes everyone a poet. Love of another person makes for a short lived career, unless one keeps their larder constantly stocked, as some poets do. This view is rather narrow. It is the love of the world that is the poet's life force, the mystical love that powers the greatest poets and their greatest works.
Despair looks at a point, eyes downcast, a view inward.
Love looks all around and into eternity.

Now, although we shouldn't be too critical of the young in case it puts them off from doing some serious thinking in the future, I would say this about the above aphorism... 

And before we get too critical it could be pointed out in their defence that this is about love as it relates to poetry and not people.


Love of another person... is rather narrow.

The author of this aphorism seems to find (or, more likely, imagine) that loving other individuals is lesser to the love of the world, in a mystical sense. The idea might start, as follows, that one's love of an other is always derivative to the love of the wider world as we begin with our world-love and people come later. On the other hand, maybe they want to say that people are just 'smaller' than the world and so the love for other people must always be a fraction of the mystical love for the world (so, it doesn't matter that it has primacy in order of loves but that it is greater).

Two points.
1. Mystical? Why might this be the appropriate place for the poet? Surely a poet (a lover, a human being) should be based on the experience of the world and not a transcendental experience of entirety. Well, we might say that this is part of the experience of being human (the mystical) or at least a fuller experience, or weaker, a poetic experience. At any rate there seems no strong reason for the mystical world-love to be greater than the love one might have for another human. Indeed, more positively, we might say that the love for another being is so different from the mystical world-love that one need not destroy the other. They are so remote from each other.
2. People, lesser? The strongest argument for the mystical world-love seems to reside in its ontological primacy. That is, one must begin with this to experience the lesser love for human individuals. However, why would it be logically (or emotionally, or physically) appropriate to count world-love as the first and greatest love. We learn about the world from those we love and who love and care for us as we grow. That is, from our parents and from those adults that care for us as children. We simply begin with the love of others or special individuals and only then, from them, do we learn the possibility of world-love. The mystic's world-love is derivative from the love of a child for a parent, for a person or another person. That is, if we are saying that they are related.

At least, this is true of the religious mystic. As they start with this, seemingly, world denying world-love (a paradox that drives the spirit of religious mysticism). How might one be a mystic without be religious? More about this godless mysticism later, but this mysticism need not deny the importance of the love of individuals.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Suggestion #3

Faces in clouds, but not hands or other body parts or things, not always human faces, but faces are common enough all the same.

Do surgeons see spleens or plumbers pipe schematics?

I can set myself the task of seeing a body in a cotton wool blanket, as we fly above the clouds, but I cannot force it, I cannot invent it.

Even if there is something that I complete, I cannot create its first appearance.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Some Updates, or The Last Year (and a bit)

1. I've quit my PhD. Paying too much for too little. Going nowhere. No potentially positive outcome. Vanity project. Etc etc...

2. I've buried my dearest friend. He died too young. It's a mark of the loss that the only person I feel I could properly talk to about it, is him.

3. I've found God. He was behind the fridge the whole time. /sarcasm

4. I've fallen in love. This time with a person and not an idea.

5. I've started writing a novel, or rather, I've started writing my thesis as a novel. Sort of. Vanity project, take two.

6. I've decided to try and post more regularly on the blog. That is, at all. Give it a week.

7. I've got a job I don't hate, but that doesn't pay that well and doesn't give me enough hours to live on.

8. I've got lovely hair. I'm told.

9. I've turned 34. Not dead yet, but feeling that I'm old! Urgh.

10. I've lost a dog. He died, he didn't run away. He was a good dog. Damn shame.

11. I've stopped being a Pescetarian. Decided I didn't really care enough to continue with the whole personal martyrdom thing.

12. I've made a good few friends. No, better, a few good friends. Maybe. People come and go I suppose.

13. I've got back in touch with someone I thought had drifted away for good (see above). Actually, it was all because of my mum. Thanks mum.

14. I've gone through the most serious and sustained period of depression in my life, thus far. It came before falling in love and before the death of my friend (this is perhaps more surprising) about a year ago. In the end nothing really brought me out of it, no single event anyway, I just came out the other side.

15. I've changed my name again. I've added my friend's and my dad's first names to my name. I'll talk more about this later.

16. I've decided that I'm better suited as an artist than as a philosopher, that I need to work creatively and openly and not in the confines of academia. What will come of this? We'll see.

17. I've also decided to not be so precious about certain things, i.e. maintaining a personal distance on the blog (hence this list), being overly concerned about upsetting some people (hence the joke @ 3), generally acting in a manner that protects my fears and does not combat them. There's only so much time.

Friday 7 September 2012

Quotes worth saving (11) Borderliners by Peter Høeg

Borderliners by Peter Høeg
Originally titled, De måske egnede
Translated from Danish by Barbara Haveland
Published in 1993, published in English by the Harvill Press in 1995

Time refuses to be simplified and reduced. You cannot say that it is found only in the mind or only in the universe, that it runs in only one direction, or in every one imaginable. That it exists only in biological substructure, or is only a social convention. That it is only individual or only collective, only cyclic, only linear, relative, absolute, determined, universal or only local, only indeterminate, illusory, totally true, immeasurable, measurable, explicable or unapproachable. It is all of these things. (p.235)