The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Every Little Thing About Things

So, I’ve been following this Columbia U course blog called “thing theory” for a while now, enjoying the smart discussions of philosophy of things as they’ve trickled out. (Things are a personal passion of mine, and my dissertation is on the material culture of modernist art/lit/cinema.)

Well, it being the end of the semester, the blog is now positively blowing up. People are taking stances, saying what and who they like and don’t like, and generally trying to put it all together for future thinking about, um, things.

So if you like sentences like these:

I understand that if one focuses on these aspects, the zebra ceases to exist, but the zebra is not a hard concrete thing, it is the manifestation of a particular network, a network that repeats itself (with slight variations of course) to create millions of similar networks we call zebras. I get it.

Then, my friend, you’ve got to jump in and check out this discussion. Tell them that Snarkmarket sent you.


Ah, the academy:

(Also, as Sev observed last week, Latour still wants to still

Har har. Yes, even graduate students (and professors) sometimes write awkwardly phrased sentences that capture awkwardly formed thoughts. And then lightning strikes, and they hit on the critical terminology or key analogy that makes it all clear.

BTW, the swarm of bees thing is true not just of the brain, but of the gut too. Remember, we are equally bone and meat and guts as well as brains.

Shades of Hofstadter and the ant colony — the anteater speaks, not with the ants, but with the colony. The colony is composed of the individual ants, just as the ants are only explicable in terms of the colony.

(What is it about the brain/self that always reminds us of bugs? I guess it’s the most familiar experience we have of lots of little dumb things making a big smart thing.)

Hmm, I don’t read it as awkward phrasing — I read it instead as jargon & in-group language.

My favorite giveaway: Whenever someone refers to some thinker’s “project”, you are assured that that person has been to grad school!

The only part I peg as jargon is “metaphysical position.” All the other words/phrases are fine in themselves — it’s the piling up of one on another that creates the convolutions.

“Do politics” — esp in quotes — is a giveaway, too. Is that the English translation of a German or French word? Does it have a well-known originator? (Like is it an implicit quotation/citation of [X]?) I feel like I see it a lot.

I guess it could be a hash of “faire de la politique” in French… you could translate it as “doing politics” but it means something closer to “getting political.”

But “doing politics” is totally idiomatic English too — “we need a new way of doing politics,” etc., usually preceded by “way of,” more often pejorative. In French it would be “Une nouvelle mani

You could say that, but I think you much more often hear something along the lines of “we need a new kind of politics.” Ooh, now that’s interesting. Language favors politics as object (as thing??), not politics as process.

It’s a subtle dig, really — you do politics, but we have politics.

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