The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

June 2024

fundamentals

7 June 2024, around 7.30.

Two worn hands hold a book on a man's lap, with a pair of spectacles balanced atop the book

August Sander, Farmer (ca. 1925)

Let us say that what separates the great book from the merely good (or interesting) is that a great book, however it innovates, whatever its oddities, will teach the reader how it is to be read.1 Grundrisse is not, then, a great book, but it is still in an interesting one in that it teaches the reader not how to read it (perhaps because, as a collection of notebooks, it is not really meant to be read) but rather how Marx was in the habit of reading. One senses the thread of a thought being untangled – but it is not being untangled on the page, but rather through it.

I will note that I am a very lazy reader of Marx and do not apply much living labor to his interpretation; it is perhaps no surprise that, of his writings, I find his journalism the most appealing, although the cute nicknames for and sarcasm directed at the authors criticized – particularly Ricardo, Malthus, Say, and Proudhon – make Grundrisse a close second and certainly superior (as a reading experience) to the early economic and philosophical manuscripts.

  1. This is in reference to books that might have a claim to greatness; a textbook teaches one (hopefully) how to read it, but that seldom makes it great qua book. []

Citation (78)

10 June 2024, around 4.10.

Un historien a bien des devoirs. Permettez-moi de vous en rappeler ici deux qui sont de quelque considération, celui de ne point calomnier, et celui de ne point ennuyer. Je peux vous pardonner le premier, parce que votre ouvrage sera peu lu ; mais je ne puis vous pardonner le second, parce que j’ai été obligé de vous lire.

The duties of an historian are many and various. Allow me to remind you of two of them, which are of some consequence; these are, never to slander, and never to be tedious. For the first I can easily excuse you, because your book will be the less read; but for the last I cannot possibly forgive you, because I have been obliged to read it.

—Voltaire (Lettre à M. Norberg, trans. Smollett et al.)1

  1. Originally seen in Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, p. 223. []

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