Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Category Archives: Writing

Conversations on Textual Strategy

I am absolutely buried at the moment, but I thought I would belatedly post a pointer to an energetic discussion still unfolding over at Larval Subjects on the question of the necessity of “difficult writing” in certain kinds of philosophical texts. From the original post:

Hopefully I have enough “cred” to inveigh against “difficult books” (I am, after all, mired in the work of figures such as Deleuze, Lacan, Hegel, etc., who are the worst of the worst), but I have increasingly found myself suspicious of the “difficult work”. On the one hand, I read texts in the sciences that express extremely complex ideas in very basic prose. Somehow I’m just unwilling to concede that what Hegel is trying to talk about is any more difficult or complex than what the biologist, complexity theory, economic social theorist, ecologist, or quantum physicist is attempting to articulate. This leads to my concern. I wonder if terribly dense styles such as we find in figures like Deleuze, Lacan, Hegel, Derrida, etc., etc., etc., aren’t a form of intellectual terrorism. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not referring to the quality of their concepts or arguments. What I am referring to is a general writing strategy that demands so much work on the part of the reader in the art of interpretation, that by the time you’ve managed to make heads or tails of what Lacan is arguing or Hegel is seeking to articulate or Deleuze is seeking to theorize, you have so much invested that you simply cannot think critically about that figure.

The rest of the post, and then the extensive discussion that follows, open interesting questions around the ways in which particular kinds of writing cultivate, or fail to cultivate, particular reading experiences and affective attachments to authors. Adam has also weighed in at An und für sich with a gloss on the original post:

I have some reservations about the recent Larval Subjects post about “difficult” books, but I think that, in part, it points toward a real phenomenon — one that I call “academic Stockholm Syndrome.” We’ve all seen it before: an academic invests great energy and undergoes profound suffering in the attempt to grasp a particularly difficult thinker and, upon succeeding, spends the rest of his or her career thoroughly identified with that thinker.

“Academic Stockholm Syndrome” sounds like it might not be a bad phrase to pick out a structural risk of a number of dimensions of academic training…

I’ve posted briefly in the discussion at Larval Subjects, before other commitments overwhelmed my blogging time. I wanted at least to put up a pointer for those who haven’t already seen the discussion…

Articulating Positions (Updated)

photo of the moments of a work process in motionIn the throes of writing over the weekend, but I wanted to put up a quick pointer to a post from Carl at Dead Voles, who is reflecting on the conversation Daniel and I had here, over the meaning of some of the terms I used when trying to contrast Lukács and Marx. I’ve been thinking back over this discussion myself – not least because the discussion connects up with a more general frustration I often feel about my own work with Marx, which often leaves me feeling a bit helpless to say anything, until I’ve outlined a good chunk of everything. I’m conscious that the nature of this kind of theory asks quite a lot from readers’ patience, I struggle a great deal over how to minimise this problem when I write, and I’m always somewhat sympathetic to others’ frustrations over why I can’t say what I mean more concisely. In any event, Carl’s post manages to transpose what I often experience as a personal frustration, onto the more general terrain of the difficulties of communication across two broad approaches to philosophy:

The conversation between N. Pepperell and Daniel strikes me as a classic sort of contrast between two very different ways of thinking about things, which I’ve tried to capture in my title for this post by hijacking Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle as a rough analogy. Daniel is an excellent philosopher, and he is oriented toward position. N. Pepperell is also a outstanding philosopher, oriented toward movement. The uncertainty principle tells us that we can know either position or movement, but not both.

This is a lovely framing for Carl’s analysis, which I’m almost tempted to quote here in full – instead, I’ll point readers to the original.

Carl’s observations reminded me of another recent discussion of the issue of communicating across broad approaches to philosophy – the conversation sparked by Roman Altshuler’s Do Continental Philosophers Have Arguments?, to which I responded in this post. The focus wasn’t quite the same (I was concentrating on the issue of “embedding”, rather than “refutation”, as a form of critique), but there are still interesting points of contact between the two sets of reflections.

Just a quick update that Daniel has responded over at Dead Voles, clarifying that, while I might have been worried about taxing his patience with my roundabout way of backing into his questions, this was the sort of interaction he had been seeking out:

As a good Wittgensteinian/Hegelian, I’m not inclined to view my remarks this way. As I was careful to say repeatedly, I’ve not read much Marx. I find him hard to read. So, my questions were all asked from, as it were, a very high altitude (or a great distance away, as through a telescope) — they were meant to help me get Pepperell’s/Marx’s project better in view. And I think they more or less served their purpose; they got Pepperell to talk about the sorts of things I’d wanted to hear her talk about in this context (mainly, denying that Marx/Pepperell are trying to carry projects of various sorts that I think are DOA, but which I’d suspected Marx/Pepperell were still trying to make work). Pepperell kept “running criss-cross over the countryside” to make clear what she/Marx was up to, and this was what I was wanting to be done. Rereading my comments, I can see that I wasn’t as clear about this as I’d intended to be: I was self-consciously “derailing” the thread, asking questions that a remark in the post had brought to my mind, but which weren’t questions about the post per se. My apologies for not making this clearer, Pepperell. I’ve been quite happy with how our little back-and-forth has gone.

Daniel’s full response outlines a nice argument on the need to understand a concept by seeing how the concept is put to use – I recommend folks visit the original to see this argument in full, but I can’t resist reproducing the final bit:

To generalize, you can’t have a proper view of any part of anything until you have the whole affair in proper view. But there’s no need for this to cause anxiety; it’s just good ol’ hermeneutics. False, partial, abstract views need not be merely false, merely partial, merely abstract; they can just as well be on the way to understanding what’s what.

I’ve frontpaged Daniel’s blog here before, but for those who don’t yet know it, you can find his writings over at SOH-Dan.

Now I really must ground myself until I have my paper written… 😉

[Note: photo from Andy Bennet, Barry Shank, Jason Toynbee (red.): The Popular Music Studies Reader (Routledge, London 2006), s. s. 231-238, via Excerpter]

Seeing What Was Already There

I’m in that stage in the writing process where the work of figuring things out is going on elsewhere, inaccessible to me – whatever part of me works out complex problems, has holed itself up, toiling away, and the rest of me is left waiting, a bit drained of energy, able to sense that intense work is being done, but excluded from the work process and in the dark as to what its end product might be. Keeping me company are various random associations that seem as though they have something to do with one another, and to whatever I’m trying to figure out. I figured I would toss some of those associations up here.

One of the things that troubles me with Lukács is his equation of the totality with the standpoint of critique – an equation that provides the touchstone, unifying concept throughout History and Class Consciousness. The opening to the essay “The Marxism of Rosa Luxemburg” makes this point particularly concisely:

It is not the primacy of economic motives in historical explanation that constitutes the decisive difference between Marxism and bourgeois thought, but the point of view of totality. The category of totality, the all-pervasive supremacy of the whole over the parts is the essence of the method which Marx took over from Hegel and brilliantly transformed into the foundations of a wholly new science. The capitalist separation of the producer from the total process of production, the division of the process of labour into parts at the cost of the individual humanity of the worker, the atomisation of society into individuals who simply go on producing without rhyme or reason, must all have a profound influence on the thought, the science and the philosophy of capitalism. Proletarian science is revolutionary not just by virtue of its revolutionary ideas which it opposes to bourgeois society, but above all because of its method. The primacy of the category of totality is the bearer of the principle of revolution in science. (p. 27)

Lukács’ emphasis on totality can be read as a sophisticated, Hegelian inflection of a common line of criticism of capitalism in the crisis-ridden period of the transition from the laissez-faire era to the development of more state-centred forms of capitalism: the critique emphasises the irrationality of capitalism, understood to be caused by the retention of an outmoded system of private property ownership and competition between capitals that prevents production and distribution from becoming fully transparent to itself, and hence rational, through centralised state planning.

The experiences of the mid-20th century led to an intense reaction against this form of critique, as state planning and the suspension of private ownership and competition, were realised in intensely repressive forms. “Rational” planning proved compatible with the rational administration of terror. In such conditions, the political ideal of a society that had become fully transparent to itself, no longer seemed to hold emancipatory promise but, instead, to imply that there would be nowhere left to hide. The pessimism of the first generation Frankfurt School issues out of its confrontation with what appeared to be the horrific oppressive realisation of socialist ideals.

So there are historical reasons for unease with Lukács’ vision of the totality as the standpoint of critique – fears that this sort of critical discourse is “normatively underdetermined” in the sense that it does not provide critical purchase on the kinds of oppression that are mediated by the state. A theory whose central critical concept is the “all-pervasive supremacy of the whole over the parts” sounds, to contemporary ears, much more likely to facilitate and apologise for oppression, than to bring to light emancipatory possibilities.

But it’s not just 20th century history that suggests that the totality is not the best way to conceptualise the standpoint of critique. I’m writing away from my books, and so I can’t demonstrate this point textually in this post, but there is considerable material from the Grundrisse and from Capital to suggest that Marx equates the viewpoint from the totality, with a particular moment in the process of the reproduction of capital (Murray has made the point, for example, that the category of capital is introduces using Hegel’s vocabulary for the Geist – suggesting, at the very least, that Marx would not agree with Lukács’ attempt to use a similar vocabulary for the proletariat, in order to claim the totality-eye-view as the perspective of the revolution…).

If Marx does not intend the totality to be his standpoint of critique, what does he intend? How does Marx conceptualise his critical standpoint? My suggestion – and I toss this out as a placeholder for future development, rather than as an argument I intend to make in any adequate way here – is that Marx finds his standpoint, precisely not in the totality, but in various “part contexts” that are generated in and through the process of the reproduction of capital, whose distinctive potentials we tend not to “see”, because our gaze focusses instead on the ways in which these parts are currently configured into a particular whole. A great deal of Capital consists of breaking larger wholes down into their various potential parts, exploring the implications of those parts – both as they are currently configured as moments that make a contribution to the reproduction of capital, and as they might potentially be reconfigured in order to realise very different forms of collective life.

Marx metaphorises capitalism as a kind of Frankenstein’s monster – as a reanimated creature – stitched together from disparate parts, each with their own distinctive tendencies, ensorcelled to contribute to ends that are not intrinsic or essentially bound to those parts. Social actors indigenous to this monstrous context find themselves adopting practical orientations toward these parts, reproducing the parts necessarily in the process of (unintentionally) generating the whole – the subjective and objective consequence of this process, is that the reproduction of capital necessarily drags along in its wake the reproduction of these diverse habits, forms of being in the world, material potentials, and other “resources” that can be repurposed to different social ends. Critique within this framework does not speak from the point of view of the totality (although it may need to recognise that a certain kind of whole is currently being reproduced), but rather from the point of view of the parts – of their disparate potentials, which are currently being abridged in order that this particular whole might persist. To seize these potentials, however, we need to shake off the enchantment that this particular whole, is the only possible whole – we need to learn to search beneath the totality, to begin to recognise the potentials of a diverse array of constituent parts.

I will hopefully write on all this much more adequately in the coming months. For the moment, I’ll just point to a fortuitous image – a poem that happened to be linked for other reasons entirely over at Concurring Opinions today – Kenneth Koch’s “One Train May Hide Another”:

In a poem, one line may hide another line,

As at a crossing, one train may hide another train.

That is, if you are waiting to cross

The tracks, wait to do it for one moment at

Least after the first train is gone. And so when you read

Wait until you have read the next line —

Then it is safe to go on reading.


One song hide another song; a pounding upstairs

Hide the beating of drums. One friend may hide another, you sit at the foot of a tree

With one and when you get up to leave there is another

Whom you’d have preferred to talk to all along. One teacher,

One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man

May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.

You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be important

To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

Thesis Problem of the Day

I have this section of my thesis that is effectively homeless. Or at least peripatetic. I keep moving it around from place to place. Internally, it’s fine. It does its job. It reads okay. But it’s like a picture hanging on a wall that is always just slightly out of kilter – everywhere I try to situate it in the thesis just… irritates me. It interrupts the flow, kills the argumentative momentum. But I think I can’t shake the sense that I “ought” to have this section somewhere in the thesis, it’s too long to tuck into a footnote, and yet doesn’t feel comprehensive enough to justify moving it to an appendix. Basically, the section is really annoying me. ;-P

What it does, is to make a textual case that Marx intends to construct Capital as a sort of Hegelian “science” – a textual case that this was, in some sense, “the plan”. As currently written, it makes this case in a very non-comprehensive way. It takes one illustrative example from the Grundrisse, and one from “Results of the Direct Production Process” – both of which are fairly direct illustrations in full Hegelian regalia of the sorts of claims I’m making – and then talks a little bit about the much more subtle hints in the first chapter of Capital. This is not exactly what you’d call an exhaustive demonstration of the point. I say this because it would be possible to pull together many, many, many more passages across these and other works that can be used to pile up evidence for this argument. So this section is at best illustrative – a sort of demonstration to the reader that my perception that the text is using this strategy, isn’t solely an inference, but also has some more conventional sort of archival evidence to back it up. It doesn’t, however, really seek to mobilise archival material as a major reason a reader should buy into my interpretation of Marx’s method. So there’s a base-covering element to the section – which I think is part of what annoys me about it.

Another part of what annoys me about it is that I read wonderful discussions of archival evidence periodically by people who simply do a much better and more comprehensive job of assembling this evidence than I do. Every time this happens, I think, “you know, my discussion of this is really half-assed”. Then I think, “But I’m not really writing a piece on archival evidence for a particular dimension of Marx’s method, so I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on this issue”. And so I end up keeping my little illustrative bit. But I continue to shove it around, in the vain hope of finding some place I can deposit it, where it doesn’t feel like it interrupts the flow of my argument, which largely tends to move from section to section by setting up some puzzle or problem presented by the reading thus far, which I’ll then try to resolve in the following section. None of these puzzles or problems intrinsically suggest that it would be interesting to go on a detour into a “proof text” for the sort of reading I’ve presented reconstructively, where the thrust of my argument has been “if we read the text with certain assumptions about method in mind, we can open some more powerful and interesting interpretations”. The reconstructive presentation keeps the focus on how the text can help us confront certain theoretical problems – so that those problems are central in my argument. What seems to happen (from my point of view at least) when I shift from reading Marx in a certain way, to trying to put forward evidence that Marx intends certain things, is that the focus of my argument is thrown into something where commentary on Marx becomes the end, rather than a means to something else I’m trying to understand… At the same time, some of the “proof texts” are far more unequivocal than anything I can do reconstructively. It’s difficult, for example, to get past a passage like this from the “Results of the Direct Production Process”, when trying to establish very clearly that Marx has Hegel’s “science” in mind when constructing his argument:

The commodity, as the elementary form of bourgeois wealth, was our starting point, the presupposition for the emergence of capital. On the other hand, commodities now appear as the product of capital.

The circular course taken by our presentation, on the one hand, corresponds to the historical development of capital, one of the conditions for the emergence of which is the exchange of commodities trade in commodities; but this condition itself is formed on the basis provided by a number of different stages of production which all have in common a situation in which capitalist production either does not as yet exist at all or exists only sporadically. On the other hand, the exchange of commodities in its full development and the form of the commodity as the universally necessary social form of the product first emerge as a result of the capitalist mode of production.

If, in contrast, we consider societies where capitalist production is fully developed, the commodity appears there as both the constant elementary presupposition of capital and, on the other hand, as the direct result of the capitalist production process.


[We proceed from the commodity, this specific social form of the product, as the basis and the presupposition of capitalist production. We take the individual product in our hands and analyse the formal determinations it contains as a commodity, which mark it out as a commodity… commodity circulation, and money circulation within certain limits, hence a certain degree of development of trade, are the presupposition, the starting point of capital formation and the capitalist mode of production. It is as such a presupposition that we treat the commodity, since we proceed from it as the simplest element in capitalist production. On the other hand, the commodity is the product, the result of capitalist production. What appears as its first element is later revealed to be its own product, and the more this production develops, the more do all the ingredients of production enter into the production process as commodities.]

The commodity as it emerges from capitalist production is determined differently from the commodity as it was at the starting point, as the element, the presupposition, of capitalist production. We started with the individual commodity as an independent article in which a specific quantity of labour time was objectified, and which therefore had an exchange value of a given magnitude.

Henceforth the commodity appears in a dual determination:

(1) What is objectified in it, apart from use value, is a specific quantity of socially necessary labour, but whereas in the commodity as such it remains entirely undetermined (and is in fact a matter of indifference) from whom this objectified labour derives, etc., the commodity as the product of capital contains in part paid, and in part unpaid labour…..

(2) The individual commodity not only appears materially as a part of the total product of the capital, as an aliquot part of the amount produced by it. Now we no longer have in front of us the individual, independent commodity, the individual product. It is not individual commodities which appear as the result of the process, but a mass of commodities in which the value of the capital advanced + the surplus value, the appropriated surplus labour, has been reproduced. Each of these individual commodities is a repository of the value of the capital and the surplus value produced by it. The labour applied to the individual commodity can no longer be calculated at all – if only because this would be a calculation of the average, hence a notional estimate….

(3) The commodity now reveals itself as such – as the repository of the total value of the capital + the surplus value, as opposed to the commodity which originally appeared to us as independent – as the product of capital in reality as the converted form of the capital which has now been valorised – in the scale and the dimensions of the sale which must take place in order that the old capital value may be realised, along with the surplus value it has created. To achieve this it is by no means enough for the individual commodities or part of the individual commodities to be sold at their value.

And so on… On one level, these sorts of passages illustrate the claims I’m making about Marx’s appropriation of Hegel’s method in a clear and definitive way. On another level, these passages also introduce other sorts of (extremely interesting) issues, but prematurely, with reference to what I’m trying to discuss in the early chapters, where I’m making preliminary claims about Marx’s relationship to Hegel in order to get the narrative underway. So there’s a problem created by the need to draw a reader’s attention to how these texts support the claims I’m making about Marx’s method, without getting distracted into interpreting these passages themselves… And there’s simply the problem that introducing a section that talks about textual evidence of Marx’s intentions, seems to me to keep interrupting the flow of my argument…

I’ve been toying with the question of whether I can deal with this problem with a slightly more elaborate version of what I did for the conference paper. There, I said that I would leave aside the whole issue of textual evidence for Marx’s intentions, and instead ask what difference it would make for our reading, if we approached the text with certain key assumptions in mind (assumptions I had derived from an interpretation of Hegel’s method). I’m toying with the idea of doing something similar in the thesis, via pointing to the various works whose express purpose is to demonstrate this sort of connection between Hegel and Marx – so to include just a couple of sentences or a paragraph in transition from Hegel to Marx, mentioning that better scholars than I had done wonderful work on this issue, and so I’ll presuppose certain things as given, based on their work, and focus instead on how the text opens up, when we confront it with those premises. My hesitation here is that there are differences – sometimes slight, but sometimes significant – between how I personally read both Hegel and Marx, and the readings that inform other attempts to demonstrate the Hegelian underpinnings of Marx’s work. So, while I think it’s been fairly well-illustrated that Marx intends Capital as a “science” in a certain Hegelian sense, and a few of the authors who think this also share a similar conception of how the derivation of categories works, at least in a general sense, any works I might cite will also be making claims about Marx, Hegel, or both that don’t entirely jibe with my reading – and I don’t want to act as though I’m implying that other scholarship supports what I’m doing, more than it actually does. And, of course, launching off onto a long digression about how, exactly, I differ from a number of specific works that address this issue, carries much the same disadvantages as just outlining my own textual evidence: it distracts from the flow of the argument into a side issue…

I’m sure this all makes scintillating reading… ;-P Just depositing the problem here to see if the process of complaining about it, helps me work out a better strategy for writing my way around it…

Nothing Will Help

A post from new blog The Implex captures my mood today:

A writer is most unsatisfied when writing is done, but also while writing. Between times she is anxious. While writing he mistrusts the easy flow of the pen. A good day can be as deceptive as a bad one. She lives for despair; only then is her self-deception at ease with itself. This is not to say that to be an artist one has to be melancholic – not at all. Once you’ve accepted the unshakable burden of tradition, the poverty of language, the confusion of thought, the provisional nature of every sentence, the long time needed to develop what in the mind takes but an instant, the divide between imagination and work, the misunderstanding with which others, and even you, on-again, off-again, view the finished work, the false starts and falser endings, in short, once the absolutely unlivable conditions of writing become habit – and this almost never happens; only on the doorstep of the madhouse – at this moment you become optimistic, cheery even. There blooms the sense that nothing will help.

One of the things I like best about this blog, is that all of its posts are categorised “Uncategorized”.

Spectral Supervision

karl marxMy office at the university is part of a string of offices that, although private and enclosed, have a section at the top of their walls that is glass, meaning that we can each see into the upper fifth or so of one another’s rooms. The day that I started this round of revision in earnest, a new neighbour moved into the office next door. There is only one spot in their office visible to me when I’m seated writing at my computer. In that spot, they have hung a gigantic poster of Karl Marx.

Whenever I pause in my writing, trying to make sense of what I should say next, I tend to look away from my computer. The automatic direction of my gaze? That poster. Karl stares me down, cheerfully, but insistently, every time I stall in my writing.

And the name of the person occupying the office next door?


Intensification of Labour

intensification of labourApologies for the quiet around here lately: I seem to be caught in the shifting sands of a chapter that reconfigures itself every time I look at it. I have hopes that the most recent redraft will settle all but the transitional moments between this chapter and the next… We’ll see how I feel about this when I wake up in the morning…

I’ve been trying to get the thesis out of my thoughts so that I can sleep (without some sort of transition to make myself think about something else – something I can finish thinking about before going to sleep ;-P – I find myself bolting awake every few minutes with some reconfigured sentence structure or organisational improvement for whatever I’m trying to write), I ran across Hugo Gellert’s Karl Marx’s ‘Capital’ in Lithographs (hat tip Unemployed Negativity). One could argue that, strictly speaking, this isn’t terribly far removed from the thesis. ;-P And, I have to admit, I found myself glancing down periodically at the text, rather than the images, and thinking, “Shit! I have to write something on this passage!” Still, it was at least a different way to associate to Capital.

[Note: image from the online text at Graphic Witness]

Writing from Home

A very small sample of interactions with my son today: Read more of this post

Coming Unshelved

I’ve been to my university library three times today. It’s about to close for a week for the holidays, and I’m finding myself having panicky, pre-withdrawal, symptoms. I keep anxiously associating to books I’ve been meaning to read, and running down there to check them out. This impulse is generating new, flow-on anxieties. As it happens, several of the books I’ve attempted to check out, aren’t held at this campus, and so have to be recalled from other places: they won’t get here before the break. Some irrational part of myself – evidently certain that, over the next week, I’ll read through the seven books that I’m in the middle of right now, the dozens of other books I’ve had littering my office, untouched, for months, plus all the books I’ve just checked out today – is somehow finding energy for anxiety that I won’t have immediate access to these recalled materials. It’s like part of me is going, but, if you don’t have these exact books, a major breakthrough in your research will, will, er… um… be delayed a week!

The reality is, what I need most to do in the coming months isn’t really to read (although I’ll certainly be doing a fair amount of that, as well), but write – and write – and write. My theory is the absurd anxiety over lack of access to reading material, has more to do with the recognition that now, finally, is that “quiet time” I’ve been asking for – away from meetings and everyday distractions – so that I can finally revise a whole pile of material into some sort of coherent and linear shape. Wish me luck… 🙂

Coffee and Spirit

So, in a flashback to last summer, I’ve been working on Hegel in the coffee shop. My habit when working on a difficult text is to photocopy or print out the section on which I’m intending to write, so that I can scribble over the text and in the margins, while working up how I want to characterise the argument. I also, though, carry the entire text with me in book form, so that I can flip around in sections I haven’t printed out (and I often scribble on this text too – I just try not to obliterate it with notes in the same way I do with my printouts).

So I’m at a table, printouts scattered all around me, scribbling madly on one page, and with the book sitting neglected in an outside corner of this chaos, when an older couple wanders in. I can see them staring at me – this isn’t unusual, and it’s probably somewhat inevitable to attract some attention when sprawling papers all over a table in a public space. After a few minutes, the gentleman wanders over: “Excuse me, could I borrow your book?”

Looking up, “Uh… sure.” I figured that he must know the text, but he volunteered, “I was curious what this was, because I’ve never seen the word ‘phenomenology’ before”. I volunteered a three-word suggestion for contextualising the term, and he said, “Could I take this back to our table for a bit?” I said sure, figuring he’d have a quick flip through and then bring it back.

Instead – and this was just unspeakably cute – he pulled his chair over beside his partner’s, and they sat there for a good forty-five minutes, reading through bits of the preface, pausing often to share impressions. I couldn’t hear much – the coffee shop plays music, and they were speaking quietly. I caught isolated words and phrases – “Oh! It’s philosophy!”… “Nature”… “Science”… “This isn’t easy…” They kept at it, long enough that I stopped trying to eavesdrop and went back to my own reading. Finally, the man wandered back over, somewhat regretfully returning the text: “That’s some difficult stuff!”

Given the lack of progress I feel I’m making, in trying to decide how to write on the section on Force and Understanding, I’m inclined to agree…