Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Harmony, which is a science and an art, is a human invention in view of abstracting laws. But one must be careful, for that is precisely where lays a subtle adjustment, which looks unimportant, yet the consequences of which are far reaching downstream. The Swiss know it well, the source of the Rhone and of the Rhine are relatively close by, but downstream it's a whole other story. One must not mistake the source!

Thus the subtle adjustment, which is crucial, is this one: there is an order in nature, but neither mathematics nor harmony are principles in themselves of this order. They are the fruit of human intelligence which interrogates and seeks to understand these principles. In realist philosophy, this is called a "quiddity", in other terms the intelligibility of a reality.

Let me put forth an example, a true story, to show what a quiddity is but also the error consisting in mistaking it for the first principle. Once upon a time, a little boy was looking at a sculptor chipping away at a large piece of marble. After a few days, out of the marble rose a horse on its hind legs, magnificent, down to the smallest detail. The little boy cried out to the artist: wooooow, and since how long was the horse inside the marble? Well it is the same mistake when someone says that man has not invented mathematics, but has discovered them (just as the little boy could not imagine that the sculptor insufflates a quiddity into the marble, nor creates the horse - the horse was in the marble and the sculptor discovered it.)

This is quite a lovely farce, which has seduced many and close between. I know some who, after hearing this story would say: "well I wish to remain like this little boy". And here we enter into an illusion, that which equates infantilism to the spirit of youth.

Friday, February 20, 2009


Fear, its object, its consequences, it is part of a large family: timidity, doubt, creeps, alarm, disquietude, apprehension, dread, frisson, stage fright...

What characterizes fear is its object - the unknown - whereas the rest of the family focusses on a known or imagined object. The unknown is obviously death and its by-products, and one should carry out a comparative cost/benefit analysis between the two attitudes confronted to the unknown... all the more so since the modern age person has eliminated fear by disposing of the why of fear.

Clearly, if there is no longer an object, there is no more reason to be afraid. It was thus necessary to find another name for fear, a generic name which qualifies a sentiment with an unknown object, and angst fit the bill.

We are anguished without determining the source, and we speak of an ill-being, which is left to specialists to treat the symptoms of, so as to re-establish a well-being of sorts... which has no more reason to be than the ill-being it replaces!

PS Hey! Being must be rolling on the floor and laughing its ash off to hear that it has been donned with an ill or a well... My! Here I am as an ill-being, do you recognize me luv? I assure you, it's me! lol Hey! Jeepers, you really gave me the creeps, I kid you not... you know, I wouldn't have recognized you otherwise!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Descartes errors

To recap, in short, Descartes' errors:

1) Firstly, the error consisting in giving precedence to thought over the sensible and immediate experience of proper sensibles, which he declares to be subjective, and to do it at the source of his philosophy.

2) Then the other error consisting in holding the common sensibles to be objectively experimented under the pretext that these can be the object of a measure, notwithstanding a measure is a figment of our intelligence, because yards/meters or gallons/liters don't grow on trees.

3) Further the error consisting in confining intelligence to logic, which is only one of the tools of intelligence amongst others.

4) last (but not least) the error consisting in assimilating what is true to reality.

Those are four very infantile errors for a realist philosopher, four beginners' errors... I take that back, a beginner with a normal constitution wouldn't make those errors. Yet not only does Descartes make them, but he proudly displays them as his claim to fame.

Once again, "I think, therefore I am" is obviously not wrong but what is highly toxic is to prop an entire philosophy against that principle.

". . . I noticed that while I was trying . . . to think everything false, it was necessary that I, who was thinking this, was something. And observing that this truth "I am thinking, therefore I exist" was so firm and sure that all the most extravagant suppositions of the sceptics were incapable of shaking it, I decided that I could accept it without scruple as the first principle of the philosophy I was seeking. [Discourse IV, para. 1; CSM, I, p. 127.]"

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Master and disciple

Arnold Schoenberg writes in the introduction of his treatise on harmony that one must absolutely be wary of any musician who teaches, for that signifies that he has failed in his career as a musician. In truth, and for diverse reasons, any professor of music understands this remark.

In fact, no high level musician has ever left a treatise behind. When Schoenberg writes this he has fled Nazi Germany and has gone to live in the US, where his talent is not recognized. He teaches music, like Beethoven, at times, when he found himself in financial straits.

Let’s look at this more closely. Bach did not leave a treatise. He left the art of the fugue, 22 fugues written on the same theme, without a single comment. Vivaldi left nothing. Mozart didn’t fare any better. I think only Berlioz left an orchestration treatise, which between you and me is of little interest. In jazz it is the same story: Monk, Bud Powel, Armstrong, Parker, Duke Ellington, Mingus, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans… nothing, not the slightest word! What's more… these people did not take any classes! For them, the master is the ear.

There is hence two ways to learn:

The first is to follow the theoretical classes given by a professor, with the risk that Schoenberg has pointed out.

The second is to find a “master” and to “absorb him" in silence, that is to say to imitate him to the point where one is capable of him in any situation. Then one must assimilate him, that is to say emerge oneself from what one has swallowed, lest one remain a clone of the “master”. Someone I know, let’s say his name is Marc Martin, a saxophonist, assimilated in that way all of John Coltrane, to the point where he took himself for him and where in effect, both in the notes and in the sound, he was rigorously his clone. One day he is playing with a great organist, and during the concert he accelerates at top speed into Coltrane type passages, just as if he was Coltrane. In the end, the organist turns to him and says: "Great, you play really great! But just one thing: hey Marc, where is Martin?" lol

Further to this, an encounter with a “master” underscores two other difficulties: the first is that one can only understand a master to the extent that one has already understood him, for I know people who didn’t think before they encountered a master, but ever since they have encountered one, they have stopped thinking! I would even go so far as saying that if we are really in presence of a master and a disciple, the disciple must ultimately understand the master better than the master understood himself, else it is a fiasco.

Now we see that the first difficulty is twofold: is the master really a master? Can I measure myself to him or will I remain a disciple all my life? For a disciple who has understood the master no longer quotes him – and that is certainly the sign, for truth belongs to no one in particular.