Thursday, September 20, 2007

TLS September 4, 2007

from Adam Bresnick's review of Clive James's Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the margin of my time:

Given the torrent of arguments and cataract of topics under consideration, James relies on style to provide the glue for his project, professing his "faith that the unity would come from the style". Now style, as Roland Barthes once argued, amounts to the distillation of the writer's body, the scripted trace of his likes and dislikes as they move from impression to expression. Style is the very index of the writer's sensibility in the old sense of the term.

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For James, it is the Viennese writer Alfred Polgar, little known in the English-speaking world, but greatly esteemed in the Germanophone one, who is the model stylist, as Polgar manages to attend to his own text and the reality it would represent with equal acuity. James cites a few marvellous aphorisms that make one wish Polgar's works were readily available to the English reader: "The striking aphorism requires a stricken aphorist"; "It is the destiny of the emigrant that the foreign land does not become his homeland: his homeland becomes foreign".


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from Peter Hylton's review of Marie McGinn's Elucidating the "Tractatus": Wittgenstein's early philosophy of logic and language:

She argues that we should not attribute to Wiitgenstein "a form of realism that attempts to ground the logical structure of our language in the independently constituted structure of reality". As against that idea, McGinn argues that what is fundamental to Wittgenstein's thought is the idea of representing the world, of making claims about it which are determinately true or false. His aim, on her account, is "to make perspicuous...the essence of all representation of states of affairs". (The "metaphysical" or dogmatic element which she finds in his thought lies in the view that there is such an essence.) She interprets his apparent ontological claims as a reflection of what he takes to be the requirements of any system of representation. Any language that can make definite claims about the world must contain simple signs of a certain sort; on her account the assertion that there are simple objects is merely the reflection, on the non-linguistic level, of this requirement.

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