Tuesday, 8 August 2006

A Little More Lichtenberg

“That one can convince one’s opponents with printed reasons, I have not believed since the year 1764. It is not for that purpose that I have taken up my pen, but rather merely to annoy them, and to give strength and courage to those on our side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.”
[“Daß man seine Gegner mit gedruckten Gründen überzeugen kann, habe ich schon seit dem Jahr 1764 nicht mehr geglaubt. Ich habe auch deswegen die Feder gar nicht angesetzt, sondern bloß um sie zu ärgern, und denen von unserer Seite Mut und Stärke zu geben und den andern zu erkennen zu geben, daß sie uns nicht überzeugt haben.”]
G.C. Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher, (Frankfurt am Main und Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1984), E170 from Sudelbuch E (1775-1776), p. 203.

Thursday, 3 August 2006


Jean Baudrillard is set to appear at the Frieze Art Fair in London on the 14th October of this year [1]. Perhaps the organisers should promote it as a non-event.
[1] Charlotte Higgins, “Baudrillard to appear at London art fair”, The Guardian, 3rd July 2006.

The Howard League for Hazardous Reform

“Locking more men, women and children up for longer cannot be considered a serious, measured response to protecting and reassuring the public”, [1] says a press release from The Howard League for Penal Reform, whose members, having made some efforts to persuade themselves that putting criminals in prison does not protect or reassure the public, are determined to persuade the public itself that this is so.
.....Naturally our reformers are optimists, and are of the opinion that there is no man, however despicable or base in character, who cannot be corrected by the freedom to do good, or, failing that, by bribes; and, insofar as they understand their ideas to be fallible, they feel that, where criminals do not deserve the sanction of prison, the public deserves the risk.
.....I think Chamfort said it best: “Instead of trying to correct the intolerable way some people behave, we’d do better to correct the weakness of character of the people who let them get away with it.” [2]
[1] The Howard League for Penal Reform, “Home Office’s half-baked plans will create more victims of crime” (Press Release), 20th July 2006.
[2] Nicolas-Sébastien Roch de Chamfort, Reflections on Life, Love and Society, tr. & ed. by D. Parmée (London: Short Books, 2003), §47, p.51.

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Fewtril #110

A great test of character is whether one can — for the sake of truth or beauty or virtue — forbear originality.

Friday, 28 July 2006

Dogged Aetiology

“The root causes of youth crime and antisocial behaviour need to be tackled first, before we focus on the symptoms and attribute blame,” [1] says Ms Pamela Pollock in a letter to The Guardian. One might wonder whether a lady of her kind would do nothing to remove a dog from her leg until she had first determined the reasons for its randiness.

[1] Pamela Pollock, Letter to The Guardian, 28th July 2006.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Fewtril #109

Nothing is as important as it seems at first — or: complacency wins in the end.

Fewtril #108

One will sometimes hear a feminist opine that she is just one more outraged woman struggling to be heard, but this strikes me as humbug; for, in my experience, an outraged woman need not struggle to this end; it comes naturally.

Von Aufklärung

“We speak much of Enlightenment, and wish for more light. But, my God, what help is light if people either have no eyes or wilfully shut those they have?”
[“Man spricht viel von Aufklärung, und wünscht mehr Licht. Mein Gott was hilft aber alles Licht, wenn die Leute entweder keine Augen haben, oder die, die sie haben, vorsätzlich verschließen?”]
G.C. Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher (Frankfurt am Main und Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1984), L.469 from Sudelbuch L (1796-1799), p. 505.

Monday, 24 July 2006

Fewtril #107

The scepticism of intellectuals means that they are wont to look suspiciously upon any idea that does not first flatter them into believing that they are central to its realisation.

A Little Fluff

It is surprisingly rare to find atheism taken in earnest, even amongst self-professed atheists. More common is to find an airy sub-species of atheism that is keen to stress its own consolations. Consider the words of Mary Warnock, for instance, who in response to the question, “What happens to us when we die?”, replies: “We disappear from existence. But that doesn’t mean that we disappear from other people’s minds and hearts” [1].
.....If we are mortal, then we shall indeed disappear from existence, and the memories of us in other people’s minds will not constitute our continued existence, for such is a feeble consolation based on an equivocation; moreover, even the memories of us will one day fade to nothing.
.....For whom does Baroness Warnock believe these conclusions are too stark that they require the soft edges of fluff? For herself or for her readers?
[1] Mary Warnock, quoted in “Baroness Warnock: You Ask The Questions”, The Independent, 24th July 2006.

Thursday, 20 July 2006

A Higher Order of Despotism

Many used to fear the seemingly ineluctable march of Prussianism, that “despotism of officials”, as Lord Salisbury called it, by which society is stifled under the weight of bureaucratic regulation in service to the state. As it turns out, the state of Prussia itself, along with the Second Reich, did not achieve nearly so great a degree of state-intrusion as some of its after-comers have managed, including our own democracy.
.....Few now fear such intrusion; for most are inured to it, or even demand it, as though it were an essential part of life, without which they would lose their orientation. With the rise of democracy, where “identification of the State with society has been redoubled” [1], the threshold has been raised, and we may now fear something of a higher order, namely, totalitarianism. “We should make it impossible to separate society from state” [2], says Neal Lawson of The Guardian, doing a passable impression of Benito Mussolini of Il Popolo d’Italia. “Through its radical democratisation,” says Mr Lawson, “and the involvement of citizens and public sector workers as co-creators of its services, we can have a popular state”— or, as Karl Kraus put it, “the permission to be everyone’s slave”. [3]
[1] Murray N. Rothbard, “The Anatomy of the State”, Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays (Auburn: The Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2000), p.55.
[2] Neal Lawson, “We need to popularise the role of the state for this ageThe Guardian, 20th July 2006. (Tim Worstall also takes note of Mr Lawson's article.)
[3] Karl Kraus, Half Truths and One-and-a-Half Truths, ed & tr. H. Zohn (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1990), p.112.

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Uppity Queen

“[T]he anti-imperialist Boudica” [1] — only a cretin of the calibre of Johann Hari would dare make the Queen of the Iceni sound like a Leninist.

[1] Johann Hari, “London - a Vast CemeteryThe Evening Standard, 19th July 2006.

Fewtril #106

It seems no western intellectual comes to espouse cultural relativism except through an ulterior ideological motive, as is revealed in the exercise of his moral rationale: custom is reason enough, except when that custom is ours, in which case it is no reason at all.

Tuesday, 18 July 2006


I am back from my jollies, but am feeling quite lazy, and my mind is concentrated on the thought of cold gin-and-tonics. I shall write whenever I am enamoured or bothered to do so.

Tuesday, 4 July 2006

On Holiday

I’m off on holiday for a week or so. I shall return full of the joys and so forth.

Monday, 3 July 2006

Fewtril #105

It is good to spend an hour or two wondering how many of the faults and follies of the world have arisen and flourished because of the desperate attempt by fools to eschew what they believe fools believe.