A Song of Things to come…indefinitely

Finished A Song of Fire and Ice. I think because I consumed all the books in the past year I do not have the same sense of epic disappointment and frustrations as long times fans regarding the last book, A Dance with Dragons. However, I do see some valid concerns as the plot thickens, thickens, and well, thickens some more – lots of stuff going on. It’s an interesting dilemma Martin has created for himself as he risks losing the control of his story in order to properly ground and tell the story of the upcoming books. Is Winter Coming? Or is it permanently in abeyance secondary to the ever increasing machinations of different parties vying for power? Some of the tension is, unfortunately, leaving the series since The Others and Winter are receding into the background, no longer feeling like an imminent threat. We’re teetering ever close to things going dark but the constant focus on the dithering of others leaves one wondering how any of it can be resolved, how it can all lead, without some sort of deus ex machina, into the winter we all expect.

For my part, the high point of the series is Storm of Swords though it is also the first book where I cringed a little at the world Martin created. The less I read about the Unsullied the better – gruesome but it is all a bit, eh. Cheesy. The next two books ( though functioning as one altogether) are really not as bad as they’re made out to be but I myself want to see the payoff. If Martin, for example, decides not to try and “resolve” certain story-lines but have doom and destruction, fire and blood, consume the land and have everyone scurrying for cover I’d be impressed but concerned on exactly how he intends to make the effort the readers have put into his series all of worth it.

Part of the intrigue of this whole thing so far is that while the political machinations, the fact that the series itself is grounded in a “game of thrones” among humans the “real threat” or a serious threat looms in the background. Certainly, the game is itself interesting ( and why it’s all so good) but it is situated in a larger context – it is taking place while something else slithers dangerously in the background. The problem Martin has created for himself is that while the series has been very good because of his focus on the various power struggles it cannot be ignored that a huge source of why these struggles are so important is the impending conflict these varying struggles hardly address. The reader can get a little impatient with it all, knowing full well that “The Winds of Winter” are coming and much of what is going on is not going to matter. Or is it? I can’t see much of what is happening be thoroughly addressed and assume that just like a major story arc in Dance involving a Dorne, things will simply end badly. And unlike in this book, I am concerned that the “journey” if things are simply to turn to ash will justify the effort.

I envy the man his talents, not the next few years though.

Later I’ll try and add some specific comments on aspects of the whole work – favorite moments, etc. Typical stuff. And here I have to thank Paul Newall for suggesting Martin in the first place. Newall has yet to fail in his recommended readings, non-fiction or fiction. I salute you, Holbling!

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I need to read Sartre in depth. I’ve been collecting quite a bit of books from him and have been more and more intrigued by random bits – currently nibbling, hoping to feast on his works soon. Sartre’ harsh or “severe” Ethics as one commentator puts it ( man is responsible for himself in the fullest sense) is something I’m particularly drawn to but quick to qualify. That is, as I read his passage about making choices and not scapegoating biology, the environment, culture, etc, I can’t help thinking “Right, Sartre, but not yet.” In other words, and typical of my philosophical influences (ah!) , I think the human Sartre judges, the man that is fully responsible in every sense, has not fully arrived yet. Funnily enough, I think this man is what we should strive towards and exploring an ethos like Sartre gives us an idea of what it really means to be “free” – it is not simply the availability of different alternatives to “choose” as if shopping at the mall but the very ability to determine and create the choices themselves.

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Great time away. Almost finished with A Feast for Crows. And will have to purchase and complete A Dance with Dragons before devoting my reading time to something else. AFFC is not liked too much by series diehards and I can see why – a lack of certain characters and not nearly as much action as the third book. However, the book is quite good in spite of all that as the intrigue and new plots make up for the action. It also helps that I did like the new perspectives ( Cersei is quite overbearing but because of her issues) though I did not like that Martin chose to do his chapter headings differently, titling certain chapters by the titles of the characters than their simple names.

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Will be gone a while…

Work and vacation. Will be back wondering what to write in about three weeks.

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Great Quote

“Self-esteem is a thing invented by psychologists to explain things which otherwise require harder thinking”— Bradford Keeney

Eventually, I will do some more writing for this blog but for now random quotes and links will suffice. The above is a great one I chanced on.

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“I am not voting because the choices are intolerable.”

An excellent article over at Feral Scholar arguing why we should not vote In the U.S. General Elections. What puts it over the top for me is his analysis of arguments for voting and his explanation of the concentration of power that makes voting futile and, even worse, an act that legitimizes something that is illegitimate…in his eyes. Solid analysis.

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A Cacophony of Horrors

Just finished A Clash of Kings the sequel ( and second in the overall trilogy – A song of Fire and Ice) to George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I think I like it better than the first which says a lot. However, the joy I got from reading this book was tempered somewhat by all that was going on – it’s one thing to admit you’re riveted but to reflect on all that’s happening, you can quickly get quite sad. Great writer that, Martin. And he doesn’t spare you. There are several instances in the book where I simply did not want to read the next chapter for fear of what other horror was awaiting, then a chapter would end with a splinter of hope, only for it to be complicated by more horrors. The character of Theon Greyjoy, in particular, exemplifies this book to me: his story arc is a comedy of horrors except, of course, it actually does happen to the people in the world making it all the worse.

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Game of Thrones

Finished. Now, I can watch the HBO series in peace. However, I’m immediately moving on to A Clash of Kings to the chagrin of my lady since we’re supposed to be reading the books together. Quite well done, the book. It ends on a terrifying, stupendous note but leaves so much unresolved you immediately want to devour the next in the series. Some great characters, I tell you. What happens with the Lannisters? The Starks? The ongoing war? Oh, and Joffrey, well on his way to being the “Mad King 2.0.” I wish terrible, terrible things on that “boy” and George R.R. Martin made me do it.

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Note on Schelling…

Here is a quote from Schelling that I think clearly situates the debate between Idealism and so-called Realism (“so-called” because Idealism is not necessarily opposed to Realism). In the excerpt ( it is only necessary to read the first part) Schelling is defining the concept of transcendental philosophy. In order to do this Schelling begins by identifying the twin poles from which the problem of knowledge is attacked: the objective (nature) and the subjective (mind). Schelling makes the point that in the act of knowing i.e experientially, we are unable to determine which, the objective or subjective, has priority. In normal experience, the consciousness of the objective and subjective is simultaneous therefore we cannot determine from mere experience which has priority. This is to say that in normal experience I’m conscious that “there exists things without me ( stones, rocks, cars, trees etc)”; and I am also conscious that “I am perceiving the things.” This experience is simultaneous and does not by itself tell us which has priority. I am not conscious of “things without us (matter)” then later conscious of myself, or vice versa, I am not first conscious of myself then conscious of matter but I am conscious of both simultaneously. As result of this, we are unable to determine in the act which has priority. In order to determine this, we must theorize or philosophize this very act of experience, knowing.

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A little note on the problem of Universals…

In thinking about the problem of universals I try to make it concrete by aligning it with the experience of perception, for example, focusing on the perception of a single object and thinking about it from both perspectives. The general problem I have with Nominalism is that it asserts the existence of particulars only, and as a result, ironically, is unable to describe them since what we normally see as ‘particular’ objects cannot be what the Nominalist claims is the single object. Nominalism ends up in an infinite regression of representation because the particular ‘object’ it says exists is never experienced but inferred, all the while the ‘object’ is imagined to be the very ‘object’ we normally experience.

That is, the nominalists’ says we form concepts after grouping familiar perceptions ignoring the fact that to see a single object ( as opposed to it being merely present) requires concepts. Concepts fix and separate the mass of perceptions for us. There is no conceptual-less perception from which we generalize to concepts. Concepts enable us to see ‘particular’ objects. Take away the concept of the ‘object’ and you’re left with perceptions without definiteness or boundaries. It cannot be the actual object that forced us to think about it’s properties for it has been stripped of all elements constitutive of it – at least, as experienced. I qualify with “as experienced” because the nominalist may well want to quarrel that because concepts are constitutive ‘in’ the perception of objects does not mean the object as such is constituted by concepts.

In other words, the nominalist may take a sort of Kantian position. But this is a disaster. Certainly, not the result the nomanilist wanted. After all, nominalists generally take themselves to be empiricists, vindicating and affirming that the particular objects we see are what exists and hence have no need for abstractions and ‘spooky’ universals in addition to the normal, everyday objects we see. There is no need for a bloated ontology, full of reified abstractions. Except, of course, the “particular” as just argued becomes the spooky “thing-in-itself” the most notorious abstraction that continues to baffle and impede generations of philosophers. The issue is simple: the “particular” is just as much an abstraction as the “universal” is. In attempting to describe the “particular” the nominalist is always forced to distinguish between the object that is perceived and what they want to say solely exists. The former is what they want to affirm “exists” as such but by asserting the existence of only particulars, they cannot – because the object as such is concept-laden.

The realist, on the other hand, commits the same mistake in recognition of the latter argument by hypostasizing concepts, denying the reality of perceptions. That is, in realizing that the particular to be recognized as such, must involve a concept, begins to talk only of the concept only. This is the Platonism that us moderns react in horror against ( whether it represents Plato’s actual view is something I’m not so sure about). Where is horse-ness? Wolf-ness? Humanity? The so-called “universal” then seems to hover mystically as another thing “behind” objects. One forgets that what the argument has shown is not that one aspect is superior to the other but that each form a single unit. Thus, what has occurred is the separation of a whole, a single unit, into concept and object, and a claiming of reality of a single one. Perceptions and concepts constitute the object. The notion of an “Object” or “Thing” insofar as we’re thinking of anything concrete presupposes concepts. It should not be “concept and object” but “Object: concept/percept.”

The difficulty with all this, in my view, is the difficulty of thought in general. The difficulty of thought is in recognizing the reality of thinking – the idea that our thinking is itself constitutive of our world. Concepts are not merely thoughts or categories about t things but essential to the thing themselves – there is no thing without a ‘concept.’ We find ourselves in a double bind when we try to think the object onto itself – i.e apart from thought altogether. Of course, the correlationist alarm is off the Richter scale at the moment but such is my viewpoint. If this line of thinking is legitimate then the intriguing question is ontological: what would it mean for an object to be irreducibly a mental/physical hybrid? In what sense could thought, indeed, be about t things but also constitutive of things?

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