The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

October 2022


5 October 2022, around 13.55.

The door of a medicine cabinet, in a state of distress

The historian’s relative choice, with respect to each domain of history he gives up, is always confined to the choice between history which teaches us more and explains less, and history which explains more and teaches less. The only way he can avoid the dilemma is by getting outside history: either by the bottom, if the pursuit of information leads him from the consideration of groups to that of individuals and then to their motivations which depend on their personal history and temperament, that is to say to an infra-historical domain in the realms of psychology and physiology; or by the top, if the need to understand incites him to put history back into prehistory and the latter into the general evolution of organized beings, which is itself explicable only in terms of biology, geology and finally cosmology.

There is, however, another way of avoiding the dilemma without thereby doing away with history. We need only recognize that history is a method with no distinct object corresponding to it to reject the equivalence between the notion of history and the notion of humanity which some have tried to foist on us with the unavowed aim of making historicity the last refuge of a transcendental humanism: as if men could regain the illusion of liberty on the plane of the ‘we’ merely by giving up the ‘I’s that are too obviously wanting in consistency.

—Claude Lévi-Strauss (The Savage Mind, p. 262)


6 October 2022, around 16.38.

‘In their doctrine freedom of spirit is taken from man in the name of his own happiness; social eudaemonism is set up against liberty. If truth does not exist, then nothing is left but this compulsory organization of social happiness.’ —Berdyaev, Dostoevsky (trans. Attwater)


10 October 2022, around 6.39.

In the dream I was trying to buy a book on Samothrace at the local bookstore. I was supposed to meet someone there, but kept missing the streetcar stop and having to go around the entire loop again, as all the other nearby stops were closed; I ended up alighting some ways distant and returning to the bookstore on foot. The book was a surprise. I had to climb a very complicated ladder to reach it, as none of the nearby booksellers was interested in doing so, and I stood for a long time at the top of the ladder inspecting the book. It was in very good condition, with a very good dust jacket (although the dust jacket, like many things in dreams, had an uncertain existence, at times showing a distressing tendency to disappear and reappear, which made holding the book somewhat complicated). The pages were very pleasant, with a cottony feel and no flecks of wood pulp. The book itself wavered in appearance, at times being the rich dark green of early twentieth century Macmillan books, at other times the smoother, darker blue of mid-century Clarendon Press. The name of the first author appeared to be Greek and started, I think, with the letter P, while the coauthor was French and could have been Vernant or Vidal-Naquet, or some other of that ilk. When I opened the book to check the price ($171 in faint 2H pencil), the first author’s name had undergone a metamorphosis and started with Cz, which was followed by a bristling string of consonants that I could not distinguish. When I took the book to the register to purchase it, there was some dispute about its price, as the putty-colored slip of paper to which barcodes for old books were applied was missing; this meant that the buyer who had originally purchased it for the store (and who was of course hidden away in a warren of shelves) had to be consulted. The booksellers chatted quietly amongst themselves about their evening plans, and I waited for the absent book buyer fruitlessly, becoming increasingly impatient and melancholy at the growing realization that I would not be able to carry the book away, until finally I just woke up.

in smoke

20 October 2022, around 16.40.

Smoky autumn light on a bookshelf

How to sleep in a world without a lullaby, without a lulling refrain, without a capacity for forgetting, without unconsciousness itself, since Eros and Thanatos patrol everywhere shamelessly, sardonic watchmen armed with whips and cudgels? How to sleep in a world hypnotized by the vision of its own absence of vision of the world, as well as by the inanity of all visions that have dissolved but that always used to promise awakenings, triumphant mornings following splendid evenings in the blaze of which night has been forever discredited?

—Jean-Luc Nancy (The Fall of Sleep,
trans. Charlotte Mandell, p. 39)

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