Saturday, April 07, 2007
(10:11 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Thoughts on Reading[Note: This post has been enhanced with a video of the ground-breaking third installment of "Mr. Sprinkles," from Acceptable TV.]
Lately I've been feeling drained of anything substantive to say. (Luckily Brad and Anthony have been keeping things going at An und für sich.) One can never go wrong by substituting griping for substance, and so I will share with you some thoughts on what I've been reading:
- John Calvin -- a master of the old trick of casting reasonable objections as "insane rantings." Theologians have always had a tendency to equate heresy with insanity, but Calvin takes it to whole new levels. I would be more inclined to accept his psychological judgments if his descriptions of the likely responses to his doctrines weren't always completely and totally wrong. For instance, the doctrine of double predestination is supposed to produce a tranquil humility. I can see how it might do so, but that doesn't strike me as the most likely outcome.
It doesn't help that on the topics I'm actually interested in, he tends to move pretty quickly, while on the topics I don't care about (i.e., the entire Reformation problematic of justification by faith), he goes into exquisite detail. Overall, literally no one I have ever read has so perfectly fit with the stereotypes of what he's like.
- Judith Butler -- How many rhetorical questions can one fit into one book? How many can one put in a row before the reader's eyes start to glaze over? How about an entire paragraph?
I'm also getting a little bit tired of throw-away lines that basically invert a quoted statement in a completely unsupportable way. For example, in Antigone's Choice, she quotes a soldier who says he didn't bury the brother or see it done -- and Butler inserts a little line about how this implies that seeing and doing are somehow related, that seeing the crime committed would mean being complicit (of course she prefaces this with "as if"). My natural response to this is, "Um... no?" But it's not as though she's actually putting any weight on this link between seeing and doing -- it's a total throw-away line. It's as though she specifically wants to torment me.
Also, though they have very little else in common, Butler and Calvin both share an absolute and utter lack of a sense of humor.
- Joachim of Fiore -- why the hell has no one translated this guy's works? I haven't actually read anything of his yet, mainly because it's in Latin and I know that it will therefore take for-fucking-ever for me to read it. One could postulate that reading this will make me "better" at Latin, but I don't think my reading speed will increase appreciably in the course of an 80-page treatise. At least the text I'm reading is a Bible commentary (Enchiridion super Apocalypsim) -- for some reason, Bible quotes are always basically transparent to me in any language I'm able to read, even quotes from books of the Bible I'm not very familiar with (say, Revelation). I'm not sure why this is, but others I've talked to have had the same experience. The Holy Spirit must be involved somehow.