“The subjectivistic interpretation of the aesthetic experience does therefore apply in large measure to man’s aesthetic response to nature. He does project himself into nature and he does tend to ascribe to it the expressive forms in terms of which he aesthetically apprehends it. It is not strange that some philosophers have been led to adopt a subjectivistic interpretation of all aesthetic response by an illegitimate generalization from man’s characteristic aesthetic response to nature.”—Theodore M. Greene (1940)
“But where an artist is rarely successful is in finding an outline which shall express the contours of the figure. For the contour should appear to fold back, and so enclose the object as to give assurance of the parts behind, thus clearly suggesting even what it conceals.”—Pliny, Natural History 35.67-68
“In our own days too painting has known an extravagance which must not be forgotten: the Emperor Nero ordered a colossal portrait of himself, 120 feet tall, to be painted on canvas, a thing previously unheard of. When the picture was finished, it was struck by lightning in the gardens of Maius, and burned together with the greater part of the gardens.”—
Pliny, Natural History 35.51
Nero also commissioned a statue of similar size: “After [Zenodoros the sculptor] had won his reputation in Gaul, Nero summoned him to Rome, where he made a colossal statue 119.5 feet in height. It was originally intended to represent the Emperor, but after Nero’s crimes had met with their punishment, it was dedicated to the worship of the sun” (34.45).
I like that the statue is measured to the half foot: CXIXS pedum. (My edition only gives one variant, CVIS, or 106.5 feet, which is still measured to the half foot.) This seems pretty rare even for shorter measurements, at least in these several chapters on art. Although the painting and statue are treated in different books, and Pliny doesn’t comment on it, I like to imagine that CXIXS is the correct reading and there is an interesting story behind it.
“Yet other painters became famous before the ninetieth Olympiad [420-417 BC], as for example Polygnotos of Thasos, who first painted women with transparent garments and gave them headdresses of various colors. This artist made a first serious contribution to the development of painting by opening the mouth, showing the teeth, and varying the stiff archaic set of the features.”—Pliny, Natural History 35.58
“They were all painters of note, yet they need not prevent my hastening on to the true luminaries of art, among whom the first to shine was Apollodoros of Athens in the ninety-third Olympiad [408-405 BC]. He was the first to give his figures the appearance of reality, and he first bestowed true glory on the brush. He painted a priest in prayer, and an Aias struck by lightning, which is still to be seen at Pergamon. No picture by any of his predecessors really rivets the gaze.”—Pliny, Natural History 35.60
“Two points then can be noted here about the origin of writing: (1) it is rooted in pictures, and (2) it happened several times. Writing grew out of drawing. In addition to the recognizable imagery of the earliest written symbols, indirect evidence for this can be seen in the fact that several ancient languages, such as Egyptian, Chinese and Greek, had only one verb meaning both ‘writing’ and ‘drawing’. Yet pictures do not become writing naturally. A major conceptual transformation is necessary to turn a picture, more generally, a visual sign of a natural object, into a sign of the name of an object. Present evidence suggests that this remarkable reinterpretation was effected independently at least four times in different parts of the world, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China and Mesoamerica. However, many details of the full story remain to be filled in, details as to how this was brought about, how things and their names were conceptually separated, and how Sumerian, Egyptian, Chinese and Zapotec draughtsmen reinvented themselves as scribes, replacing objects by words as the primary referent of the visible marks they inscribed on clay, stone and bone.”—Florian Coulmas (2003)
The ancient belief that the body lets go its ghost Only at death, like invisible thistledown—no! I can better believe the opposite is so, That flesh is the fly-away guest a spacious host Breathes in and out, an element at most That in transmission clings and starts to grow, Nameless today, tomorrow a face, a show, Parented, schooled, determinedly self-engrossed.
Till eyes’ exchanges seem reliable, And “Here I am!” agrees with “We have seen”. A few, though, slip behind the human screen, Where what they meet’s so wonder-terrible They never dare pretend again they’ve been More than a voice in the void, a link between.
I believe that forgeries that can’t be told apart from an original aren’t hard. (And I believe in genius, weirdly, but in a Musil ‘and if a clever fellow naturally has far more skill and experience with these twistings and turnings than a dim one, the slipping-through takes the clever fellow just as much by surprise; it is suddenly there, and one perceptibly feels slightly disconcerted because one’s ideas seem to have come of their own accord instead of waiting for their creator… the disconcerted feeling is nowadays called intuition by many people who would formerly, believing that it must be regarded as something suprapersonal, have called it inspiration; but it is only something impersonal, namely the affinity and coherence of the things themselves, meeting inside a head’ way.) If anything it’s shocking that TV shows have a hard time finding people who’ll successfully sustain the show once the original creator leaves. How can that be?
“In other words: the measure of the desire for knowledge depends upon the measure to which the will to power grows in a species: a species grasps a certain amount of reality in order to become master of it, in order to press it into service.”—Friedrich Nietzsche (via azspot)
“How can we improve our reward system for excellence in filtering, interpreting, and synthesizing the vast body of so-called information with which we are deluged?”—Murray Gell-Mann when asked by edge.org: what questions are you asking yourself?
“Most scholars with a linguistic interest in the subject … recognize as writing graphic systems that, in addition to being codes learned by instruction, embody the principles of their learnability. By virtue of their graphic composition they reveal the procedures on the basis of which they must be used. In this sense writing is auto-indexical. Every written document not only embodies the message ‘I am meant to be read’ but also instructions, however indirect, as to how this can be done. In other words, the systematic make-up of writing contains a key to its own decipherment.”—Coulmas (2003:21) on distinguishing writing from other graphic signs.
“The acts of the mind, wherein it exerts its power over simple ideas, are chiefly these three: 1. Combining several simple ideas into one compound one, and thus all complex ideas are made. 2. The second is bringing two ideas, whether simple or complex, together, and setting them by one another so as to take a view of them at once, without uniting them into one, by which it gets all its ideas of relations. 3. The third is separating them from all other ideas that accompany them in their real existence: this is called abstraction, and thus all its general ideas are made.”—John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)
“We are about to study the idea of a computational process. Computational processes are abstract beings that inhabit computers. As they evolve, processes manipulate other abstract things called data. The evolution of a process is directed by a pattern of rules called a program. People create programs to direct processes. In effect, we conjure the spirits of the computer with our spells. A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer’s idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all. However, it is very real. It can perform intellectual work. It can answer questions. It can affect the world by disbursing money at a bank or by controlling a robot arm in a factory. The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer’s spells. They are carefully composed from symbolic expressions in arcane and esoteric programming languages that prescribe the tasks we want our processes to perform.”—Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, Abelson et al.
“Our genes may be immortal but the collection of genes that is any one of us is bound to crumble away. Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. Yet it is quite probable that she bears not a single one of the old king’s genes. We should not seek immortality in reproduction. But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.”—Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene. Ancient Greek culture was obsessed with the idea of mnemonic immortality, and we know that their linguistic ancestors also sang songs about unwithering fame. Woody Allen thought differently: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work, I want to achieve it by not dying.”
“Aristotle says that he married two wives: his first wife was Xanthippe, by whom he had a son, Lamprocles; his second wife was Myrto, the daughter of Aristides the Just, whom he took without a dowry. By her he had Sophroniscus and Menexenus. Others make Myrto his first wife; while some writers, including Satyrus and Hieronymus of Rhodes, affirm that they were both his wives at the same time. For they say that the Athenians were short of men and, wishing to increase the population, passed a decree permitting a citizen to marry one Athenian woman and have children by another; and that Socrates accordingly did so.”—Diogenes Laertius on Socrates (2.26)
Remember when DJ wanted to be a witch for Halloween and Dan told him that he had to be a warlock instead because “witches are girls” and, in the end, Dan grudgingly concluded that he could still love his son because this was probably just a phase? This is the true message of Halloween.
“On Saturday morning, June 25, 1977, Sullivan was struck while fishing in a freshwater pool. The lightning hit the top of his head, singed his hair, traveled down, and burnt his chest and stomach. Sullivan turned to his car when something unexpected occurred — a bear approached the pond and tried to steal trout from his fishing line. Sullivan had the strength and courage to strike the bear with a tree branch. He claimed that this was the twenty-second time he hit a bear with a stick in his lifetime.”—This is Wikipedia’s description of the seventh and last time Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning. His wife was also struck once; he was there, but was unharmed. He says he was also struck once as a boy, but can’t prove it, whereas these seven cases (1942-1977) were all documented by the parks department where he worked. “He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 71 over an unrequited love.”
“…when dying, I hope not to console myself for a life of unhappiness by saying, “Well, but I was so smart and right about everything!” Much better to look back on happy memories, kindness and joy, and not still waste time with pride about mind or body or anything else”—
Mills was the first person who followed me and I think all the rest of you are probably reading this because of him ultimately. Even more importantly, in his enthusiasm he turned me on to Karl Popper and then later to David Deutsch and suavely solved many nagging problems for me and put to rest a good deal of intellectual angst. I don’t think he ever gave himself enough credit for all the positive intellectual energy he stirred up here. All problems with Tumblr that you can imagine are because Mills doesn’t publish enough anymore. I’d like to meet him; I’m glad he was born. Happy Birthday!
“I have always felt that the only hope of humans ever coming to fully understand the complexity of their minds is by modeling mental processes on computers and learning from the models’ inevitable failures.”—Douglas Hofstadter (via azspot)
“Strabo’s refutation of Eratosthenes in 1.2 of the Geography is perhaps our clearest surviving example of how, at least in antiquity if not more recently, scholarly space is normally found by encroaching on the territory of others.”—Richard Hunter, “Plato’s Ion and the Origins of Scholarship” (2011)