File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0001, message 23

Subject: Re: BHA: Adorno on style
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 19:44:35 -0500

Hi Mervyn--

>        The more novel (creative, original - 'thought which is not
> idle') the process of thought, the further it departs from the familiar
> (I'm sure you must agree with this - after all, it's a tautology -
> otherwise I have to think you really are being flip, or what Hegel
> called lacking in seriousness). At the extreme the paradigm-shifting
> thought effects a revolution in the familiar, etc etc - the stuff on the
> epistemological dialectic in DPF Ch1 seems all very relevant here.

Possibly one of the difficulties in our discussion is this metaphor of
"distance" (e.g., "the further [novel thought] departs from the
familiar...").  In a way one might suggest the opposite as well: I have in
mind Marx's comment about thought advancing from the abstract to the
concrete.  Also there's the problem of the "paradigm shift," which I don't
think can be understood satisfactorily as a "departure" or a new "distance"
from the familiar, and would often be better grasped as a switch from one
theory-defining metaphor to another.  And speaking of the epistemological
dialectic, we might also consider whether the concept of "difference"
inherent in the metaphor of distance is suitable for a discussion of change:
RB criticizes analyzing change in terms of difference--but perhaps there's
an argument that the notion of difference really is adequate here anyway.

> Our means of arriving can certainly include insights derived from
> hallucination as one part of the overall process of thought. But that is
> not what you seemed to be maintaining originally - and it in no way
> undermines the tautology! Adorno uses the tautology to make the point,
> which shouldn't need labouring, that original thinking is in the nature
> of the case (at first, for it becomes familiar in its turn...) somewhat
> difficult to communicate and understand, and that to go on obsessively
> about clarity is to put the mockers on genuine creativity.

Yes, I was using the issue of hallucination differently (sic!) in my
previous post.  Anyway: I'm still not convinced that original thought is
necessarily difficult to communicate and understand, or at least not any
more than any *other* sort of idea or analysis that is new to someone: for
example, few people grasp integral and differential calculus instantly, and
those forms of math have been around since the late 1600s and so hardly
classify as innovative today.  Thus it seems to me that what we're
discussing is really the question of *learning* (including the innovator's
own learning).  Interestingly, there are some allusions to the learning
process in DPF, though unfortunately RB doesn't develop them.

As for "going on obsessively about clarity," this judgment depends entirely
on the reader's subjective response.  For comparison, I know of a book
manuscript that a publisher sent to an outside reader, who then excoriated
the manuscript as unrelievedly marxist (and therefore tripe), despite the
fact that Marx was cited somewhat in passing only in a few footnotes and
class analysis was pretty much relegated to the background.  Obsession is in
the eye of the beholder?  And I doubt that a philosopher or scientist who
didn't seek to clarify her own insight in order to sharpen it would be
considered much of an innovator: it seems more like fuzzy-mindedness.  Then
again, probably clarity is in the eye of the beholder as well.  Which is one
reason why I prefer to discuss these matters in relation to an audience (we
went over this issue during a previous round, so I don't propose re-opening

> I can't agree that RB doesn't give an argument for the social cube,
> though I can say that at this stage I'm not entirely happy with it. (I
> say at this stage because in my experience I have often found that a
> pretty good argument turns out, after some persistence on my part, to be
> 'there', when at first it didn't seem to be ie I come to see how he got
> across the 'gaps'.) But that's next up, isn't it? Can we talk then?

Yes, I'm eager to get there.  I've found this discussion of style
stimulating, though.  Meanwhile, the section at hand--?

Cheers, T.

Tobin Nellhaus
"Faith requires us to be materialists without flinching": C.S. Peirce

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