Crambe repetita (50)
There seem to be so many more horses about at nine o’clock too. Lots of philosophic, chilly-looking men on drays refuse to be hurried, and to-day four carts were racing round Marble Arch in front of our bus. They’d come from Covent Garden and their drivers were waving whips and cursing cheerfully. A little man with a cartload of cabbages and a trotting donkey was behind them, taking up most of the fairway. Our conductor leant out, and shouted: ‘Now then, Ben Hur, get off the rails!’ And the donkey bolted.
—Jane Oliver & Ann Stafford (Business as Usual, p. 39f)
The other day I happened see something about a fashion photographer’s memoirs and was bored and the ebook was available from the library, so I succumbed to the temptation of my phone and looked. It had the expected condescending, self-assured tone, with a rhythm to its prose like the jolting trot of a school-horse (willful, tired, and hard to sit through) – but fashion is intended to be uncomfortable to those outside it. I did not read it through, but slipped to the chapter on ‘taste’, which formed a coda at the end, a guide for the fashionably perplexed.
At first, the essay charmed. He distinguished nicely, wearily between fashion, style, and taste (so often conflated to the confusion of all) and mocked (brutally, savagely, accurately) the banalities of advertisements that sell the lie that correct taste is (a) some tangible thing that exists and (b) can be bought. He also said that, concerning clothing, one needs to consider how things suit what one is and how one looks – where the line cuts, I believe was the phrase. Certainly appearances (given money and time, etc.) can be modified, but the core of character remains and cannot be so easily retouched; indeed, ’tis character that gives clothes their power (otherwise there’s only a stuffed suit or a belching socialite).
I also thought he said that this held true for ideas – that one needed to consider the ways in which the ideas one holds are fitting for one’s character (or the character one would like to be) not just something one apes from those one admires (or wishes to become). When I went back through to copy out the quotation (for I was sure there was a quotation), I could not find any such stuff. The second look also showed up the poor tailoring of the prose to its content, and the glamour of the text not surprisingly faded. I make a note of it here, however, because it (the text, the idea of what I mean to write) kept going through my head and I hope, by attempting to articulate my error, to be rid of thinking about it.
The actual context within with the actual user is really seeking something is not capable, moreover, of classification. Granted, such an index is objective and attains the full objectivity of the given text. Granted, every selective index signifies a subjective interpretation of the text. Granted, this is deplored by every individual user as a defect. For that reason, the users will find useful not the ‘perfected’ index but only the index which corresponds with their own subjective points of view. And that is the one which they compile themselves. Only such an index is so selected that it potentially ‘reminds’ in all its data. It ‘reminds’ as the presentation given by the context index of the machine is unable to do. This is because the latter does not rediscover in itself individual memory traces but necessarily offers everything that it ‘knows’. Whether this is helpful to the users in presenting, for example, new observations to them is the question. There will be such cases. But there will also be the opposite, where one is looking something up while one should be reading.
—Hans-Georg Gadamer (‘Theory, Technology, Praxis’,
in The Enigma of Health, trans. J. Gaiger & N. Walker, p. 27)