Showing posts from March, 2021

On the importance of being absent (series: notes to myself)

There is a quiet space, inside your mind, where facts, and reasonings, and sensible ideas, are expected to prevail. There, they grow undisturbed, duly attended. There, details matter, meaning is essential, logic applies, noise is unwelcome.  It is an hortus conclusus , the walls of which have been built through decades of carefully honed distraction, deeply-acquired habits of hardened indifference, and willful rejection of pleasant whispers. That quiet space is not natural. But it was already a naturally protected corner of your solitude.  A promising spot in a gentle valley, where the winds of chatting voices always struggled to reach, hollow concerns never had strong roots, fashionable trends were usually a rare and short season.  It took efforts to build the protections. Distance from people. Some readings, chosen. Thoughts shaped and reshaped like pebbles in the river of doubt. Feelings, but only the robust ones, that could cement the unfelt. These and other heavy stones are now sh

On the expression "not necessarily" (series: notes to myself)

I have a smart colleague who, when he disagrees about something, likes to premise his objection with a "Not necessarily".  He is not a logician, a mathematician, or a serious philosopher (the hilarious ones use the expression "not necessarily" as he does,  ad libitum ). He is a scholar of great learning and of subtle views. Yet he deploys the expression with an attitude so cavalier that, no matter whether he might actually have a point, it grates on my rational nerves. Painfully. Because the clause gives a whiff of credibility to anything that follows, when in fact it is almost inevitably mere rhetoric, and of the pretentious kind to boot. Say you argue that Brexit is a disaster, or that true AI of the Hollywood kind is not going to happen. "Non necessarily..." he may reply. And of course, he is right. Brexit is not necessarily a disaster, not in the same sense in which a triangle has necessarily three sides. But a disaster it is nonetheless. Patently, ob

On "yes, but..." (series: notes to myself)

“I have not read [insert here your choice of document: article, comment, book, blog, reply, etc.] but …”. THAT “but”, those 3 precious letters …  that is your last chance to keep quiet and not behave like a fool. Stop on the “but”. It's like a red light.   Hit the break. Think. Not twice, but for once. Use that little, last spark of awareness judiciously and …  read the damn document first, before blathering about nothing, for BUT sake! PS  Not stopping at the BUT is linked to the bad linguistic habit of " howevering ". 

On writing and the importance of knowing when the flowers bloom (series: notes to myself)

Once upon a time, in Rome, during one of those pretentious, boring, self-aggrandising dinners (salotto) among “intellectuals” competing to show who had read, or watched, or listened, or met, or visited more and better this or that, I was quietly trying to keep inside my own mind when I was asked, rather abruptly, by a famous Italian writer, why I did not write myself.  He knew me as a philosopher.  I replied, trying to be nice but coming out as abrasive as I did not mean and yet wished, that it was because I had no idea about which flowers bloom when.  He looked at me a bit puzzled.  I realised we did not share the same readings, so I told him it was - in my view a very funny (philosophers’ jokes are a joke) - reference to Proust, and his famous description of the student who had failed to write a decent philosophical essay.  The room went quiet, but luckily the garrulous host, spiritually empty in her soul, as I still had to discover, yet sharply witty in her mind, by which I used to