Author Topic: Aphorisms  (Read 1379 times)

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Aphorisms
« on: November 30, 2018, 07:42:01 PM »
Quote from: Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born
An aphorism? Fire without flames. Understandable that no one tries to warm himself at it.

I’m a big fan of aphorisms. I have long been an enormous enthusiast of Cioran, who is probably the greatest exponent of them in the 20th century.

As I’ve been on a big Don Paterson kick, I’ve been really enjoying his books of aphorisms. A nice touch is his aphorisms on aphorists. He openly admits he is aping Cioran, but the biggest compliment I can pay him is his best ones are as good as Emil’s. If nothing else he absolutely nails his style, which is no mean feat.

I am toying with buying Leopardi’s complete Zibaldone, who was a big influence on Cioran.

I recently read Lichtenberg’s Waste Books, which is just great. Chamfort is another favourite of mine.

Paterson really rates Antonio Porchia, so ‘Voices’ is next on my list.

Hit me with your aphorisms, bitch.

Queneau

  • That was a joke. That's all it was, it was a joke.
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2018, 07:45:12 PM »
Another from your man, Cioran which I've always liked:

Quote
It is not worth the bother of killing yourself, since you always kill yourself too late.

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2018, 09:09:49 PM »
Yes, his stuff on suicide surpasses the likes of yer Nietzsche and Camus, plus it’s funny to boot.

I like the story he recounts in an interview about meeting a man in Romania who was the most negatory person Cioran had yet encountered. The latter was enamoured of a girl at the time and the other dude just crushes his feelings for her by pointing out a blemish to her appearance. You get the sense that these encounters with everyday people were of as much import as the writers he read. Certainly, I find the aphorisms that spring from conversations - often with women - on the street to be some of his absolute best, and full of bathos and mordant wit.

I would dearly love a full English translation of the Cahiers, but there is no way a publisher is going to fork out for a 1,000 page tome that will appeal to 17 people. AFAIK the selected translations by Richard Howard is in publishing limbo - I don’t even know if it came out and is unavailable or if it never came out at all.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2018, 06:44:19 PM »
I've not read much Cioran, but I was never sure if I was supposed to take him seriously. Apparently he agreed https://dicocitations.lemonde.fr/citation_auteur_ajout/59538.php

I started wading through the Zibaldone recently. It's not particularly aphoristic (so far), if anything quite long-winded and stream-of-consciousness. I can see why your Ciorans, Nietzsches, Grays and so on would be fans though: 'Nature, as I have said, is great, reason is small and an enemy of the great actions that nature inspires'. I wonder if Conrad read Leopardi?

They aren't exactly aphorisms per se but I came across these 'news articles' by Felix Feneon recently, sort of pithy, cynical Day Today-esque news bulletins sneaked into a French newspaper in the 1900s.

-A dishwasher from Nancy, Vital Frerotte, who had just come back from Lourdes cured forever of tuberculosis, died Sunday by mistake.
-Scheid, of Dunkirk, fired three times at his wife. Since he missed every shot, he decided to aim at his mother-in-law, and connected.
-He had bet he could drink 15 absinthes in succession while eating a kilo of beef. After the ninth, Theophile Papin, of Ivry, collapsed.
-The sinister prowler seen by the mechanic Gicquel near Herblay train station has been identified: Jules Menard, snail collector.
-Seventy-year-old beggar Verniot, of Clichy, died of hunger. His pallet disgorged 2,000 francs. But no one should make generalizations.

You could also read a lot of Pessoa as aphoristic too. 'Every effort is a crime, because every gesture is a dead dream'; 'Never think about what you're going to do. Don't do it.'

This may just be due to the selections mentioned, but is there something in the nature of aphorisms that is inclined towards a certain misanthropy, pessimism or anti-Enlightenment?

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2018, 09:22:22 AM »
Adorno's Minima Moralia is another one, which may well prove your point about "misanthropy, pessimism or anti-Enlightenment" when we consider how much his philosophical project depending on challenging and critiquing the Enlightenment.

I must admit, I've never really got Minima Moralia in the way I have Aesthetic Theory or Dialectic of Enlightenment. It's something I really should read again.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2018, 07:11:08 PM »
Adorno's Minima Moralia is another one, which may well prove your point about "misanthropy, pessimism or anti-Enlightenment" when we consider how much his philosophical project depending on challenging and critiquing the Enlightenment.

I must admit, I've never really got Minima Moralia in the way I have Aesthetic Theory or Dialectic of Enlightenment. It's something I really should read again.

Yes, critiquing the Enlightenment, or rather trying to make Enlightenment self-critical and thus realise itself. The idea that Adorno was 'anti-Enlightenment' is a myth put around by Habermas, who assiduously misunderstood his work.

Adorno was emphatically not a misanthropist, and it was that quality that he criticised in Kierkegaard for example. Adorno once said that he refused an invitation to join the Humanist Society, because he would prefer to to call himself an 'inhumanist', because he regarded the state of society as inhuman, and Humanity was something yet to be realised.

Minima Moralia was one of the first works I read by him, and I would say it's a good place to start. He would have hated the idea of any quotes or aphorisms being bandied about on the internet, but I'll do it anyway and say that "Wrong life cannot be lived rightly" is a sentence that has come to my mind almost every day for the last 35 or so years since I first read it.

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2018, 09:52:13 PM »
Wrong wife cannot be fucked nightly.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2018, 10:43:21 PM »
Great thread, interesting shit and I'll check some of these pithy gits out.

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2018, 10:48:51 PM »
The Trouble With Being Born would blow your tiny mind. You just mentioned being not even a speck of dust in another thread - there are a lot of Cioran aphorisms like that, or where he wishes he was born a mineral etc.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2018, 11:04:11 PM »
I'll get on it. X

Bennett Brauer

  • I'm not "likeable"
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2018, 01:44:16 AM »
An aphorism is an apophthegm in a hoodie.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #11 on: December 04, 2018, 08:52:46 AM »
-A dishwasher from Nancy, Vital Frerotte, who had just come back from Lourdes cured forever of tuberculosis, died Sunday by mistake.
-Scheid, of Dunkirk, fired three times at his wife. Since he missed every shot, he decided to aim at his mother-in-law, and connected.
-He had bet he could drink 15 absinthes in succession while eating a kilo of beef. After the ninth, Theophile Papin, of Ivry, collapsed.
-The sinister prowler seen by the mechanic Gicquel near Herblay train station has been identified: Jules Menard, snail collector.
-Seventy-year-old beggar Verniot, of Clichy, died of hunger. His pallet disgorged 2,000 francs. But no one should make generalizations.

I'm not sure I would have understood the humour in early 1900s France :-(

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2018, 09:01:09 PM »
Yes, critiquing the Enlightenment, or rather trying to make Enlightenment self-critical and thus realise itself. The idea that Adorno was 'anti-Enlightenment' is a myth put around by Habermas, who assiduously misunderstood his work.

Adorno was emphatically not a misanthropist, and it was that quality that he criticised in Kierkegaard for example. Adorno once said that he refused an invitation to join the Humanist Society, because he would prefer to to call himself an 'inhumanist', because he regarded the state of society as inhuman, and Humanity was something yet to be realised.

Minima Moralia was one of the first works I read by him, and I would say it's a good place to start. He would have hated the idea of any quotes or aphorisms being bandied about on the internet, but I'll do it anyway and say that "Wrong life cannot be lived rightly" is a sentence that has come to my mind almost every day for the last 35 or so years since I first read it.

I can see how that aphorism could be thought-provoking and useful, but I also wonder if it’s a bit too vague or potentially false, something that aphorisms can fall too easily into.

For example, a ‘wrong life’ can be lived ‘rightly’, as many bad people can do good things, or take a wrong course of action from which good can come. The opposite seems equally potentially untrue, in that a ‘right’ life can be lived wrongly (the road to hell is paved with good intentions).

You don’t want to be Wallace Stevens, who produced much excellent poetry but some aphorisms which are often very poor. This article doesn’t pull punches:

https://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/powerblogsarchive/2005/03/aphorisms-from-wallace-stevens-adagia-with-commentary.html

It seems to me that some of the best aphorisms depict momentary, personal truths. Only the very best aphorists can write something which broadly encapsulate the human condition:

Quote from: Leopardi
Death is not an evil, because it frees us from all evils, and while it takes away good things, it takes away also the desire for them. Old age is the supreme evil, because it deprives us of all pleasures, leaving us only the appetite for them, and it brings with it all sufferings. Nevertheless, we fear death, and we desire old age.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #13 on: December 05, 2018, 08:32:31 PM »
I can see how that aphorism could be thought-provoking and useful, but I also wonder if it’s a bit too vague or potentially false, something that aphorisms can fall too easily into.

For example, a ‘wrong life’ can be lived ‘rightly’, as many bad people can do good things, or take a wrong course of action from which good can come. The opposite seems equally potentially untrue, in that a ‘right’ life can be lived wrongly (the road to hell is paved with good intentions).

I apologise - I didn't make it clear that that was the last line from a longer piece of writing on p38-39 of Minima Moralia, piece no. 18 here (though a million times better to read the book. You can find it for about £6.):

https://thecharnelhouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/theodor-adorno-minima-moralia-reflections-on-damaged-life-1944-1947.pdf

'Life' here is not to understood in the way you've taken it from me quoting the sentence in isolation. It's not 'a life'.

I would be interested in your thoughts about the whole aphorism. One way in which the specific content speaks directly to me is the feeling I and millions of others have of disgust with the profusion of possessions surrounding me in my home, and the simultaneous awareness of the equal hopelessness of the idea that ridding myself of them would be any better.

There are people on this forum and everywhere else who make their compromise and accomodation with life, such as 'minimalism' or for example eschewing all close friendship and being 'emotionally self-reliant', and present that as a Good. I often question it when people do that, and that aphorism, and indeed the whole of Adorno's work, speaks to why.

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #14 on: December 06, 2018, 12:37:02 AM »
Interesting stuff, cheers. Yes, I now see it’s a more sophisticated and earlier version of the famous Krishnamurti dictum. I only really know Adorno’s writing on music, the weighty Richard Leppert tome. I was aware of that book, but didn’t know much about it. Having read that section I am intrigued to read more, as the tone of it definitely appeals.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #15 on: December 07, 2018, 04:14:44 PM »
I also wonder if it’s a bit too vague or potentially false, something that aphorisms can fall too easily into.

That was Wilde's (knowing) approach to aphorisms wasn't it?

-All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does.  That’s his.
-Is that clever?
-It is perfectly phrased!

Something Kraus was aware of too: 'An aphorism can never be the whole truth; it is either a half-truth or a truth-and-a-half.'

I've remembered that obviously the most widespread 'aphorisms' today are of the motivational variety, particularly prevalent in the corporate environment.  Whenever you log onto a bloomberg terminal, for example, you get one of these popup. One morning I logged in and was surprised to see the name Samuel Beckett appear. It was the 'fail better' one. I wonder why they didn't go for:

For me it all came down to: thought words - words inane - thought inane.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #16 on: December 07, 2018, 10:59:47 PM »
One morning I logged in and was surprised to see the name Samuel Beckett appear. It was the 'fail better' one. I wonder why they didn't go for:

For me it all came down to: thought words - words inane - thought inane.

That 'fail better' thing is the sort of atrociousness that really does make me want to burn down the whole World Wide Web. Beckett would have just stopped writing faced with that kind of recuperation and denaturing of his work. He censored his own plays when he felt they had become too familiar and comfortable, words inane - he removed the quaquaquaqua monologue from performances because it had become a crowd pleaser and a dead thing.

Log off and read the shitting books you corporate pukebrains, for all the good it would do you.

On the other hand, I'll excuse you quoting that longer Nietzsche piece a while ago, even though I somewhat disagreed with the argument you were using it to illustrate, because at least it wasn't pulling anything out of context, and might have made at least one person reflect on themselves and maybe look to the source.

Bennett Brauer

  • I'm not "likeable"
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #17 on: December 08, 2018, 02:57:22 AM »
at least it wasn't pulling anything out of context
  Unlike your ma.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2018, 05:07:31 PM »
  Unlike your ma.

I think my ma probably fancied Samuel Beckett. She really liked a similarly craggy-looking scotsman who visited us once.

She didn't pull my da out of context though, she pulled him on a blind date in a cafe in Oxford. Unless you were being reallly rude, in which case I shall have to ask you to step outside, you rapscallion.

Bennett Brauer

  • I'm not "likeable"
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2018, 06:22:26 PM »
I think my ma probably fancied Samuel Beckett. She really liked a similarly craggy-looking scotsman who visited us once.

She didn't pull my da out of context though, she pulled him on a blind date in a cafe in Oxford. Unless you were being reallly rude, in which case I shall have to ask you to step outside, you rapscallion.

    The joke was that I   yer man Beckett was then pulling your words out of context. Seemed funny at 3am, not so much now.

Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #20 on: December 09, 2018, 01:12:02 AM »
No, I think that's clever now I get it, just rather oblique!

Bennett Brauer

  • I'm not "likeable"
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #21 on: December 09, 2018, 01:18:30 AM »
No, I think that's clever now I get it, just rather oblique!

Would have been a good pen name for him.  Samuel O'Bleak.

Twit 2

  • Just me and those big old waves rolling in
Re: Aphorisms
« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2018, 11:09:00 AM »