Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

My attempt to place public pressure on myself not to blog during the holidays appears to be failing miserably. This failure places me, I think, in a particularly hopeless subset of resolution renegers: where most people will make new year’s resolutions, only to see their resolve falter at some point during the new year, I have now twice broken my resolution – and have yet to reach New Year’s Day…

I have, of course, been sorely tempted (surely everyone else who breaks a resolution does so willfully and in the complete absence of provocation… ;-P). But I ask you: who could maintain a vow of even temporary silence with LMagee in the background, lobbing provocative emails that positively beg to be publicly acknowledged and addressed.

First there was the labour of love involved in assembling the list of all the works we’ve read and discussed together this past year. What an appropriate thing for a period of year-end reflection! How could I not post it to the blog? And besides, that post required no new thinking, no novel problem-solving, no creativity on my part – surely that post didn’t count? So I posted – my rationalisations at the ready: see, even the title suggests that, in spite of appearances, this isn’t really a post – not deep down where it counts. In the text, I suggest that the entry should be interpreted, not as a post, but merely as an organisational update – oh, and don’t mind that bit of anecdotal window-dressing, which was simply tossed in for a bit of local colour, so the entry wouldn’t be so dry… I then use some sleight of hand to qualify my original resolution – ex post facto, one might say – suggesting that I had only ever intended to declare a hiatus on something I now called “serious blogging”…

But now I must surrender even this pretence. And, once again, LM is to blame. Last night LM sent me the most extraordinary email – all innocence and light:

Hope you have a lovely new year’s eve, with as little distraction from Hegel as possible (although it will be the bicentennial of the Phenomenology, as far as I can tell).

What a deliciously underhanded, self-undermining directive – evoking such flagrant historical symbolism (of which I otherwise would have been completely unaware) in the guise of insisting that I ignore it and enjoy my break. By this morning, my resolution reduced to a mere flinch of embarrassment, I suggested to LM that perhaps serious blogging wasn’t completely ruled out during this period – although this would, of course, break with the established order in which we had agreed to conduct our online reading group discussions. Scenting weakness, and not willing to let me off so lightly, LM followed up with:

And of course, with the sounds of fireworks vaguely reminiscent of Napoleon’s cannons at the battle of Jena, just as the Phenomenology was being completed, what time could be more apposite than New Year’s Eve for posting on Hegel?

How delightful – and, whether intended this way or not, what a lovely tacit critique of the comparative comfort in which we currently reflect on these issues.

In any event: in honour of LM’s self-deprecating (and, often, just plain deprecating… ;-P) sense of irony, I’ll write something on the preface to the Phenomenology today – and queue the post to appear at the stroke of midnight, Melbourne time… My post, I should flag, will likely be rather bad: there is a reason I had originally not intended to write on Phenomenology until late January… Hegel tells us:

We may rest assured that it is the nature of truth to force its way to recognition when the time comes, and that it only appears when its time has come, and hence never appears too soon, and never finds a public that is not ripe to receive it. And, further, we may be sure that the individual thinker requires this result to take place, in order to give him confidence in regard to what is no more as yet than a matter for himself singly and alone, and in order to find his assurance, which in the first instance merely belongs to a particular individual, realized as something universal.

If we are to take this seriously at all, I fear we’re forced to suspect that – with no truth I can identify attempting to force its way into my recognition at the moment – my midnight mutterings might best be drowned out by the Melbourne firework displays… It’s not for the symbolism alone that I’ll schedule the post to go up at a delay… ;-P

Still, regardless of the actual value of its content, LM might still be well-advised to savour this post. For apparently our small reading group has recently garnered unexpected and august attention – attention that admires the concept, but finds our implementation to be somewhat… base and common – ripe for improvement by just the right sort… I have therefore been approached – on the sly, as it were, so do please keep this information between ourselves – to join a newly-forming Reading Supergroup (“invitation only”, I am told), in which I would apparently be exposed to heights of intellectual virtuosity without precedent in my hitherto thwarted intellectual development.

As tempting as this sounds, I find myself quite happy with my current reading group, and confused as to the benefits to be found in seeking out another. I shared my confusion with LM, who originally thought I might be worried about the perception of conflicting loyalties, and graciously gave me permission to attend as many reading groups as I like… :-) LM even suggested that our reading group might benefit from my participation in other groups, as a sort of double agent or reading group sleeper:

You have my consent and blessings to participate in a rival reading group. In fact I think this would be useful as an effort to conduct a form of reading group espionage. I am concerned of course that our reading group efforts could be plagiarised by what could eventually be numerous other [...] reading groups (all so-called “invitation only”). I can foresee that, left unchecked, there will also be many parasitic blogs developed, leeching the content from our primordial foundry of criticism. There may even eventuate reading groups for ARC projects, set up solely for the purpose of reading materials actually related to the projects themselves (although this does seem at the limits of speculative reason). I fear without proper corrective measures the pristine and pure objectives our group will thus be corrupted by these derivative organisations, which seem grow virus-like from our original cell. The possibilities for being “unpopular” only hint at what to me seem the logical organic development here: of bitter rivalries, jealousies, factionalism, vituperative cross-postings and derailments of careers, as groups compete for what scant prestige exists in the modern academic world…

In any case, I’ll see you Wednesday. Perhaps we can discuss these dire implications further then.

When I protested that I have no desire to participate in a rival reading group – whatever important intelligence I might gather – LM volunteered an analytic perspective:

I think in psychoanalytic terms it must be admitted that your desire, far from being non-existent, has been sublimated and repressed, requiring a form of coercion to encourage its realisation. Your superiors no doubt recognise this and are merely interceding on your behalf…

While it does sometimes appear that certain persons have come to such a conclusion, and oriented their actions accordingly, I must say that I find myself… resisting this interpretation… Crass attempts at coercion seem quite consistently to result in the opposite of their intended effect. No: it takes something much more nefarious to provoke me to action against my will – something, perhaps, like sly references to events that resonate with the potentials of the historical moment… Tell me how some Supergroup will be as able to satisfy that desire… ;-P

But the countdown to the new year approaches – all too soon the fireworks will begin to fall, and I have a bad post on Hegel to write! Happy New Year’s Eve to everyone! And may you all find more success in keeping your resolutions than I have done (and as much joy as I’ve found in breaking them… ;-P)!

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3 responses to “Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

  1. Pingback: Roughtheory.org » Hegelian Fog

  2. Pingback: Roughtheory.org » New Year Traditions

  3. Pingback: Roughtheory.org » Before the Science

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