Turtle theory (complete), grumpy comments on Adorno, and miscellaneous other constructive contributions to the dialogue.


Any Kantians in the audience? Is this Kant’s turtle? It seems much like Leibniz’s preestablished harmony:

“Critical philosophy must then acknowledge a correspondence between consciousness and the being-thus of the world, which it terms a ‘lucky chance’ (glücklicher Zufall; recall that we started with the necessary idea of necessity) but for which we it will seek and will secure a transcendent guarantee– which, one immediately realizes, actually overdetermined everything at the start. God alone, in fact, as a ‘transcendental ideal’, alone fully determines the sense of being.”

(Cornelius Castoriadis, The Imaginary Institution of Society, p. 342, citing Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment, tr. Meredith, OUP, 1952 p. 23).

“Since the death of politics, radical theory has been above all about presenting oneself as superior. As such, theory must not be too easily understood, for readers must be tested and required to prove themselves. The theoretical concepts themselves might be difficult or they might be easy, but taking pains to present them intelligibly is not necessary. What is required, in fact, is quite the opposite.”

Adorno, Gesammelte Werke (my translation)

“What is needed is a definitive and tenable doctrine, not vagueness or inconsistency in adhering to an impossible one.”

Charles Hartshorne, Whitehead’s Philosophy, p. 42.

“Poetry Chicago” actually paid money to poets for their poems, which is how Vachel Lindsay and T S Eliot sometimes ended up side by side

The Turtle Theory of Theory

The myth of barter (that money was developed to replace barter) is believed and taught by all American economists even though the historical facts are known and have shown the theory to be wrong. Much the same is true of the social contract myth taught by political philosophers, which actually explains the same transition as the barter theory does.

In other words, we Americans are taught the social contract myth and the barter myth, whereas primitive peoples were taught that the world rests on the back of a large turtle. (Paul Radin’s informant informed him that the turtle who created the universe was not the same as the turtle they saw scuttling into the ditch. Similarly, political philosophers have always known that there was no social contract).

The proletariat is the turtle of the left.

The “state of exception”, however, doesn’t need to stand on anything. If you have enough weaponry you can be your own turtle.

Once you see one turtle explanation anywhere, you see turtle explanations everywhere. Turtles all the way down.


The Asshole Theory of Theory

As Gödel has shown, aporiæ are like assholes. Every system has one. Theory explains everything, but theory itself is just one more great big hairy ball problem.

In short, theory rides on the back of a turtle, and every turtle has an asshole.

The Fundamental Turtle of Western Civilization

Original sin is the turtle upon which Western civilization was founded. In “The World of Late Antiquity” Brown described the world of the young Augustine, a deflated world in which weddings were still priced at the older, more opulent level so that marriage had to be deferred to middle age, or even forever. Augustine’s immorality (an affectionate unmarried relationship) rose from this. It was this deflation that gave us original sin (and “primordial debt”: see David Graeber).

With original sin there can be no innocent victims, and the righteous can wreak havoc just as they please. Its fundamentals live on today, even for unbelievers, as Social Darwinism (some races should die off), free market dogmatism (the unproductive should die off), imperialism (the strong should dispossess the weak), and finally the simple, unthought brutality of bandits and thugs. The evolutionary, economic, nationalist, theological, and criminal justifications for brutality are not necessarily consistent with one another, but they all are firmly grounded on that turtle.

The World of Late Antiquity, Peter Brown


Lenin’s Turtle

Lenin’s turtle: “From the philosophy of Marxism, cast of one piece of steel, it is impossible to expunge a single basic premise, a single essential part, without deviating from objective truth.”

Pieces are just pieces, whether it’s a piece of steel or a piece of tin, and if you take something away from one if them what you get is just a smaller and differently shaped piece. What he presumably was trying to say was that Marx’s thought is systematic and that all parts of it are necessary for its functioning, but ten his steel fetishism took over.


Grumpy comments on Adorno

In Minima Moralia a member of the high bourgeoisie, dialectically transformed into a proletarian, expresses his dialectical sense of regret for the destruction of the hated class of his birth by an interloper who destroyed incorrectly.

“Every visit to the cinema leaves me, against all my vigilance, stupider and worse. (Adorno, Minima Moralia, #8).

I pretty much agree, but there’s a solution: don’t go to movies. What’s wrong with that guy.

Adorno, like me, is a grumpy old man, and people are surprised that I don’t like the guy. But that just shows their unawareness of how grumpiness works.


“Bad films cannot be put down to incompetence; the most gifted are broken by the business set-up, and that the untalented flock to it is due to the affinity between lying and swindling”. (Adorno, Minima Moralia).

That was exactly the opinion of Ben Hecht, the author of decadent novelist and friend of German Expressionists who later (strictly for the money) became one of the great screenwriters of all time — “Gone with the Wind”, “Front Page”, “Scarface”, etc. Decadence and kitsch (like the bohemians and the bourgeois, H. L. Mencken and the revivalists, and the revivalists and organized crime) are inextricably entwined, the two faces of the same coin.


“The unity of Expressionism consists in expressing that people wholly estranged from one another, life having receded within them, have thereby become, precisely, dead”. Adorno, Minima Moralia, p. 191.

“Language is neither reactionary nor progressive; it is quite simply fascist”. Barthes, oral tradition.

“Precisely” and “quite simply” in the sense of “not at all, really”, just like the supposedly new usage of “literally” to mean “figuratively”, or the use of “of course” when you want to sneak in something doubtful.


Ticket balancing in national elections may seem like a bad idea, but without it the lives of John Wilkes Booth and Leon Czolgosz would have been tragically wasted.


Miscellaneous wisecracks

When George Will, David Brooks, et al express their doubts the possibility of solving problems in this fallen world, they never express doubts about the possibility of profit maximization.


All Is One and We Are The World, but not really in what you would call a good sense.


“The Confidence Man” is the greatest of all novels, the others are all at the retail level of dowries, inheritances, and who fucks whom, whereas Melville talks about the big realities.


I’ve probably seen 20 third parties come and go in my lifetime. So if a new one comes along, it’s not a third party, but a 23rd party.


For early October, yesterday’s weather was unbelievably nice. Portents of doom have never been so pleasant before.


Intimacy is a nice word for sex, but somehow “casual intimacy” still doesn’t sound right.


The people ahead of me in line were not really extras in a Fellini movie, my blood sugar was just low.


I determined, therefore, to attempt the reformation; I consulted the best lawyers, and the most skillful astronomers, and we cooked up a bill for that purpose. But then my difficulty began; I was to bring in this bill, which was necessarily composed of law jargon and astronomical calculations, to both of which I am an utter stranger. However, it was an absolute necessity to make the House of Lords think that I knew something of the matter; and also to make them believe that they knew something of it themselves, which they do not. For my own part, I could just as soon have talked Celtic or Sclavonian to them, as astronomy, and they would have understood me full as well: so I resolved to do better than speak to the purpose, and please instead of informing them. I gave them, therefore, only an historical account of calendars, from the Egyptian down to the Gregorian, amusing them now and then with little episodes; but I was particularly attentive to the choice of my words, to the harmony and roundness of my periods, to my elocution, to me action. This succeeded, and ever will succeed; they thought I informed, because I pleased them; and many of them said, that I had made the whole thing very clear to them; when, God knows, I had not even attempted it.

Lord Chesterfield, March 18 (o.s.) 1751, to his son

In a way, the preachers believe what they preach, but it is as men who have taken a bad £10 note and refuse to look at the evidence that makes for its badness, though, if the note were not theirs, they would see at a glance that it was not a good one.

Samuel Butler, Notebooks

Published in: on October 21, 2015 at 1:19 am  Leave a Comment  

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