Selections from Antidosis, On the Sublime, Against the Sophists, Dao De Jing

I pulled quotes from our readings this week that seemed to illustrate mastery of language aesthetics in terms of text construction and reception.


  • emphasis: language/speech as mastery of insight/knowledge – but what does this illuminate about how philosophy and language function? as distinct from rhetoric? sophistry?
  • antidosis: an exchange
  • “we are in no respect superior to other living creatures…there is no institution devised by man which the power of speech has not helped us to establish”
  • of geometry, astronomy, and studies of that sort: most men see nothing but empty talk as it has no useful application either to private or public affairs—these studies can be of no benefit after they have been mastered unless they are how one makes their living. study, knowledge, as mastered skills.
  • “it is not in the nature of man to attain a science by the possession of which we can know positively what we should do or what we should say, in the next resort I hold that man to be wise who is able by his powers of conjecture to arrive generally at the best course, and I hold that man to be a philosopher who occupies himself with the studies from which he will most quickly gain that kind of insight”
  • men who have been gifted with eloquence by nature are governed what they say by chance, while those who have gained this power by the study of philosophy/exercise by reason never speak without weighing their words

Longinus On the Sublime

  • emphasis: illuminates aesthetic appeal in the construction/delivery of literary texts (distinct from speech?) for a more nuanced look at their affects on audience. what function would this text serve? was it instructional?
  • treatsie on aesthetics in literature
  • sublime: authors have moral excellence in their writing that arouses emotion in audience: “a certain loftiness and excellence of language…which takes the reader out of himself”
  • words as “truly noble and sublime which always please and please all readers. For when the same book always produces the same impression on all who read it, whatever be the difference in their pursuits, their manner of life, their aspirations, their ages, or their language, such a harmony of opposite gives authority to their favourable verdict”
  • sublimity is a faculty natural, but is worthwhile to train up souls to sublimity
  • encourages “copying from fair forms or statuses or works of skilled labour”
  • oratorical image: digression of energy and reality in adding passion to the practical, argumentative parts of oration
  • five sources of sublimity: great thoughts, strong emotions, certain figures of thought and speech, noble diction, dignified word arrangement
  • “in art we admire exactness, in the works of nature magnificence; and it is from nature that man derives the faculty of speech. Whereas, then, in statuary we look for close resemblance to humanity, in literature we require something which transcends humanity”

Isocrates Against the Sophists

  • emphasis: distinguishing philosophy from sophistry on the premise of oratory instruction – why this distinction with philosophy instead of rhetoric?
  • “they promise they will make their disciples such orators, that they shall omit nothing in the nature of things; 10 nay, that they will teach them eloquence, like grammar; not considering the nature of each, but thinking, that, on account of the excellence of their promises, they will be admired, and the study of eloquence seem of higher value; not knowing, that arts render not those famous who insolently boast of them, but those who can find out and express whatever is in them” –  philosophy could effect this. Isocrates contrasts the teachings of sophistry with philosophy.
  • “But let no one think, that I imagine justice can be taught; for I do not think there is any such art which can teach those who are not disposed by nature, either temperance or justice; tho’ I think the study of popular eloquence helps both to acquire and practice it.”

Dao De Jing

  • emphasis: some elements of mastery as a points of comparison. The impulse is to compare it to the other texts (Western) to look at similarities/differences in how mastery of language is discussed and the structure of the text’s language. A focus on the dao as essence or virtue seems comparable to treaties on rhetoric as justice, though built on different premises.
  • Attributes of the Dao
    • (Those who) possessed in highest degree the attributes (of the Dao) did not (seek) to show them, and therefore they possessed them (in fullest measure). (Those who) possessed in a lower degree those attributes (sought how) not to lose them, and therefore they did not possess them (in fullest measure).
    • (Those who) possessed in the highest degree those attributes did nothing (with a purpose), and had no need to do anything. (Those who) possessed them in a lower degree were (always) doing, and had need to be so doing.
    • (Those who) possessed the highest benevolence were (always seeking) to carry it out, and had no need to be doing so. (Those who) possessed the highest righteousness were (always seeking) to carry it out, and had need to be so doing.
    • (Those who) possessed the highest (sense of) propriety were (always seeking) to show it, and when men did not respond to it, they bared the arm and marched up to them.
  • All in the world know the beauty of the beautiful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what ugliness is; they all know the skill of the skilful, and in doing this they have (the idea of) what the want of skill is. So it is that existence and non-existence give birth the one to (the idea of) the other; that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other; that length and shortness fashion out the one the figure of the other; that (the ideas of) height and lowness arise from the contrast of the one with the other; that the musical notes and tones become harmonious through the relation of one with another; and that being before and behind give the idea of one following another. Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech. All things spring up, and there is not one which declines to show itself; they grow, and there is no claim made for their ownership; they go through their processes, and there is no expectation (of a reward for the results). The work is accomplished, and there is no resting in it (as an achievement). The work is done, but how no one can see; ‘Tis this that makes the power not cease to be.
  • Dexterity in using the Dao
    • The skilful traveller leaves no traces of his wheels or footsteps; the skilful speaker says nothing that can be found fault with or blamed; the skilful reckoner uses no tallies; the skilful closer needs no bolts or bars, while to open what he has shut will be impossible; the skilful binder uses no strings or knots, while to unloose what he has bound will be impossible. In the same way the sage is always skilful at saving men, and so he does not cast away any man; he is always skilful at saving things, and so he does not cast away anything. This is called ‘Hiding the light of his procedure.’
    • Therefore the man of skill is a master (to be looked up to) by him who has not the skill; and he who has not the skill is the helper of (the reputation of) him who has the skill. If the one did not honour his master, and the other did not rejoice in his helper, an (observer), though intelligent, might greatly err about them. This is called ‘The utmost degree of mystery.’

farting around, professionally speaking

a truth

For our first assignment in ENGL527: Topics in Multimedia Writing, we were to create a two minute story to introduce ourselves to one another, presenting the same story in two different Web 2.0 platforms. Despite the short time frame, this project took substantial time to create, which always seems to be the case. While I didn’t explicitly track the hours invested, I would estimate the total to be upwards of 50. No exaggeration. While some of this was due to nasty spurts of “perfectionism”, it was also the sputters that come with finding images for fair use, exploring utilities of platforms (many platforms) and their abandonment, and actually creating content.

Perhaps not very extraordinary, my first platform was Youtube. I haven’t done anything with video before, aside from recording myself teaching during my internship to share with my class. I got my first video camera for Christmas this year and wanted to try it out. I edited the piece in iMovie and recorded narration to lay over the video in Audacity. While the video isn’t what I imagined when I created a story board for it, I think it works. Simple? Maybe. But creating wasn’t simplistic, even though I was using user friendly tools. Example: It was difficult to figure out how to get rid of audio from when I recorded the movie. I thought recording narration would just sort of trump the original audio, which wasn’t the case. I don’t want to know how many hours it took me to figure out how to solve this. In the end I turned down the original audio in each clip; perhaps this doesn’t truly qualify as “solution”.

For my second platform, after much experimentation, I used
Vuvox – an interactive collage/slideshow tool. I arranged photos that I’ve taken along with photos that met creative commons fair use standards from Flickr. I didn’t use the same narration from my video, opting to create a podcast in Garageband of the story instead to accompany the visuals. Vuvox also allows users to embed video/links/other media within their collage. A little icon on the image indicates that something is there, and when hovering over it, a description comes up for the viewer to pursue if they should choose. Kinda neat. No real issues with this platform beyond aesthetics.

(I wanted to examine the effects of telling the same story once with images, and once with video. I tried the two different audio recording programs just as an experiment in their usability, features, etc. I don’t think I can say much on their range of abilities, as I just recorded my script straight through in both programs. Garageband seemed easier to use, mostly because exporting from Audacity was a little tricky (required downloading “lame”; kind of weird, but straightforward after that). I’m not sure if I’ll use Audacity again, since my Mac comes with Garageband and Audacity is just taking extra space.)

Now, The Tale of Two Platforms. Thinking of a story is difficult. I went to Japan last spring and wanted to tell something about my trip, but couldn’t decide what was interesting/appropriate (not that my trip was inappropriate) to share. Searching my experiences and tidbits about myself, nothing seemed “worthy” of telling. I decided to tell the story for self searching, which ended up as selfs searching. I titled my story “A series of Stops and Starts: Vignettes on Discovering I in the Plural”. This is particularly poignant at this very instance of time (right now, and the moment right after that). Identity exploration and formation is at the heart of my graduate school experience. I came here for a reason, but I wasn’t sure what it was. It’s easy to assume that graduate education is something to do, an accolade, an accomplishment, an extra acronym to put within the education section on my resume. But it’s all exploration. I is not a singular construct to be achieved. I left teaching because I didn’t feel like I. Obscure. Try again. I felt like I had to be a singular I, and that this I was in tension with the other I’s that compose me. Try again. What I wanted to do as the educator I was in conflict with the I the school hired me to be, with the I dominant structures of education want me to be. I started contorting to fit these I’s for my position, but I would never fit this frame.

Identity is something often associated with a profession, a credential, a passion. I am a neurosurgeon. I am a painter. I am an activist. These I’s are singular, but no one is this concise, this limited. We exist as many I’s all the time; sometimes one is simply the focus. Because it’s easier to convey? Constraints of time to explain? Because we’re worried we’re uninteresting in our other I’s (why does neurosurgeon impress more than lunchbreak painter of colleagues’ trash and scraps in the lunchroom?)

I charted my identity identifiers from childhood until now: a gypsy, Jacques Cousteau, a science-ist of some kind, a studying chemist, a studying English major (which does not necessarily equate to “Writer”), an “English” teacher, a graduate student, an explorer. I ended with a quote (wait. you’re not supposed to start/end on a quote! tacky! how very cliche.) from the very quotable Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. from A Man Without a Country “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.” I’s think that sets it up/sums it up quite well. Don’t you’s?