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The Thing: A Phenomenology of Horror (Dylan Trigg, 2015/#73): To be honest, I find post-Kantian Continental philosophy a mostly meaningless confusion of linguistics for epistemology and psychology for ontology; to me, it looks like the solipsist residue left behind when you grab natural philosophy, and take out everything that works consistently and intersubjectively. But I'll be the first to acknowledge that I'm quite ignorant of the subject.

That said, and although this book was at times dreamlike (I could follow the logic of the text, but only in terms of the logic of the text), I liked some of the images in it. It does have a point, I think, but it's one about psychology, not about the world (I think the book spent 90% of its length discussing how both things are different, correlated, the same, sharing a subject, etc, etc, etc; aren't you supposed to internalize the difference between what's inside your head and what's outside of it before age six or thereabouts?).

Quotes I liked, 1/3:


Insomnia is constituted by the consciousness that it will never finish—that is, that there is no longer any way of withdrawing from the vigilance to which one is held” (Levinas 1985a, 48). This constant vigilance is unwavering and yet without purpose. Its correlating object is nothingness, an "impersonal existence" (48).


Quote two:


After all, if the prepersonal body remains alien to personal existence, can we be sure that its buried teleology coincides with our own cognitive intentionality?


Quote three:


The uncanny is distilled in this act of horror, gaining meaning in a retrospective way—that is, long after the horror itself has begun to impart its presence and thus revealing itself as having been there all along.


The Middle Passage (James Hollis, 2015/#74): A traditional but readable account of the "middle age crisis" in terms of Jungian psychology (on one hand, I do believe I'm going through it; on the other hand, I feel like I've been going through one of those every year or two since age sixteen). Of course, the title is awfully unfortunate (let's go with that word).

The Venetians (Paul Strathern, 2015/#75): My long-standing interest in books about Venice continues unabated, and this one, without giving any novel view of Venetian history, tells some quite interesting stories. For example, the Venetian nobility at one point thought about relocating the capital of the Venetian empire somewhere eastwards (this was in the context of a war they were losing, but it would have made strategic and economic sense if they could've pulled it off; the same idea kept the Roman Empire alive, if at the end barely, for a thousand years after the city itself fell).

Another: There was this guy called Rizzo di Marino; the Council of Ten wanted to execute him for a (possible) plot involving the Queen of Cyprus, but there was the possibility that he had been simply working as a messenger for the Sultan of Egypt, who was known to be friendly to him. So they announced (in a hush-hush way) that they had executed him, and waited for a few years to see how the Sultan would react. If he got angry, they'd say "sorry, our mistake" and send the guy back. As the Sultan didn't seem particularly bothered by the fact, they just went and executed Rizzo for good. I don't know why, but I quite liked the deviousness. Once upon a time, Venetian diplomacy was among the best in the Western world (they aren't mentioned particularly in this book, but their archives are deservedly legendary).

It also has this quote from Gibbon, one of the English language's masters of elegant understatement: As the eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon put it, when it came to John XXIII's trial, "The most scandalous charges were suppressed; the Vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy and incest."


The Dictator's Handbook (Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, 2015/#76): A reread (I'll be giving a talk about it next Friday).

The Secret History of Hermes Trismegistus (Florian Ebeling, 2015/#77): A reread.

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oflittlefaith
Nov. 15th, 2015 02:45 am (UTC)
Venice will always make me think fondly of Indiana Jones, that being, to the best of my recollection, the first time I'd heard of the city.

And now you've made me want to reread Gibbon, on top of the staggering stacks I already have before me. You beast.

On the other hand, I do have a very pretty copy which needs to be broken in...no! Bad Jason. You can dive back into Rome the -next- time your girl goes on vacation.
__marcelo
Nov. 16th, 2015 01:50 am (UTC)
I keep thinking of Venice as almost fictional; it's something Ursula K. Le Guin could have created.

Leave to the ancients their memento moris. I don't know a more intimate reminder of the fleetness of time, the finitude of life, and the folly of mortal's intentions than an steadily growing stack of books to be read.

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cass, can you not
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