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Apparently, the same people who wish to be only happy in life, are the same people who the next moment willingly put on sad music and make themselves become sad. Why?

What is familiar to us is often habitual, and thus includes whatever routine we have of music listening, including our favorite sad music.  I may know a sad piece of music completely by heart, and yet experience it as though for the first time on each occasion I put it on.  Music merges with what is habitual in our life, adds to it an extra weave in the already complex pattern we cannot describe because it is constantly changing. Music – listening, performance, appreciation, scholarship, learning – is taken up into our life and becomes routine. I may not even have sought it out initially. Someone may have played it to me, or I encountered it first totally on a whim. This may be one answer to our question: I listen to sad music because it is simply what I do.

Sadness sought out in music? Does such a person think to himself: ‘This music is sad; I want to be sad; therefore, I put this music on to be sad’? No, of course not. A person in this situation has no need to inform himself why he is doing what he is doing. First, there is typically no such thought process preceeding a musical experience, or following it. It is not characteristic of listening to or performing music to bethink to oneself one’s motivation as if the experience must be accompanied by a spoken soliloquy to make sense. Second, such a thought process cannot inform me in the same way as it informs you. For you, it is information. For me, a point of emphasis. Do we see the picture here: it is the picture which intrudes of a thought process that explains my action.

Now, a person may talk to himself inwardly while the music is on, but not to give himself information. What is the meaning of this monologue? His words may convey his level of interest in the music (a melody, a recurring theme, how the trombones sound, etc) and function more like an exclamation than a descriptive statement. Certainly, one can imagine this occurring in upbeat or joyful music. In sad or melancholic music, self-talk is expressive of the sad quality perceived in the music. Again, it stresses what is noteworthy in the music. The music merits attention. It really did impress one.

We want to be sad for a time; at least, sad for as long as the music lasts. Music presents a face, and we resonate with it in understanding as long as we are interested. It is really like fellow-feeling. I do not even wish to say that we aim in music listening to recreate sadness, happiness, or any such fleeting emotional response. We do aim, I believe, to empathize with what is perceived in the music as expressive of our own human interests, wants, desires, hopes, etc. We find it there in music, and return to it habitually; in part because we find it in so few other places.


Selected abstracts:

Has the Later Wittgenstein Accounted For Necessity?

Javier Kalhat, University of Reading

In this paper, I argue against the later Wittgenstein’s conventionalist account of necessity. I first show that necessary propositions and grammatical rules differ in ways that make an explanation of the former in terms of the latter inadequate. I then argue that even if Wittgenstein’s account were adequate, the explanation of necessity it offers would still fail to be genuinely reductive of the modal notion.

Necessity and Language: In Defence of Conventionalism

Hans-Johann Glock, University of Zurich

Kalhat has forcefully criticised Wittgenstein’s linguistic or conventionalist account of logical necessity, drawing partly on Waismann and Quine. I defend conventionalism against the charge that it cannot do justice to the truth of necessary propositions, renders them unacceptably arbitrary or reduces them to metalingustic statements. At the same time, I try to reconcile Wittgenstein’s claim that necessary propositions are constitutive of meaning with the logical positivists’ claim that they are true by virtue of meaning. Explaining necessary propositions by reference to linguistic conventions does not reduce modal to non-modal notions, but it avoids metaphysical accounts, which are incapable of explaining how we can have a priori knowledge of necessity.

Three Wise Men, 2007 


We investigated whether the pairing of facial expressions of emotion with colours is consistent among different cultures, in particular between Australian and European people. Two groups, one consisting mainly of younger and the other of older people, participated in two experiments. For each of six faces, which expressed the basic emotions anger, surprise, disgust, sadness, happiness and fear, single colours and combinations of three colours were selected for the best visual ‘fit’ with the faces. The performance by the two groups was essentially identical. The different emotions appear well characterised by the paired colours. Two approaches were used for analysing the results of the experiments: one using techniques from the discipline of psychology, the other from the discipline of design. The six emotions were compared with regard to the position of each colour in the CIELAB colour space, the warm/cold characteristics, and the contrast between the three colours of the triplets. The process whereby facial expressions were ‘translated’ into colours and colours into faces could also be demonstrated. From an examination of the successes and failures in communication it is possible to propose single colours and colour combinations for each face that could be described as ‘correct’ and which can serve as a guide for designers.

Entire paper here at Colour: Design and Creativity

61. Is the contempt in which administrators are held sometimes justified? For no one is better than an administrator at forgetting where one comes from; why one is here in the first place.

60. It is I who remember, not the memory-image in my mind. The memory-image can at best remind me of what so-and-so looked like. It takes memory to tell me that what is presented to me is a representation of the past.

59. The problem with philosophy and with academic scholarship generally, especially in the humanities, is the danger of the swelling spiral of commentary. We heap comment upon comment, until the stink of it reaches so high that we lose sight of the real world. Not only do philosophers use their own jargon, but they wash their own laundry. Like any self-perpetuating bureaucracy, the tail we devour is our own.

At, a Philoctetes Center discussion with Edward Casey, Francisca Cho, Harry Eyres, Robert Michels, Mark Norell, and Christopher Peacocke.


58. It doesn’t matter how many Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. That one was unjustly killed is crime enough. Related to this is Wittgenstein’s observation: ‘No cry of torment is greater than the cry of one man’.

56. Satre: ‘Hell is other people’. How reassuring. Did he dare think this: heaven is other people?

57. ‘The whole world is rotten’. Indeed, it is. And the same rottenness that exists in the world is in you, in me, in everyone everywhere (even in some children). Which is reassuring, because in rare moments when the world is good and kind, it is thus and so because we are good and kind. It is as though all people are innocent and wicked.

55. Facial recognition technology and human recognition. One might say that the recognition computers approximate what humans do in recognition, and that the  difference is currently one of degree, not one of kind. This way of thinking encourages the view that if the scientists have more information about how humans recognize, then it would seem inevitable that they could, in principle, design a computer that recognizes as we humans do. It is only a matter of time, apparently, before this happens.

December 2007
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