Sunday, February 19, 2006

As Slow as Molasses

Yesterday was an energy sucking day. When I got up and sat with my Bookman and coffee at the breakfast table I could see the thermometer through the window and it said minus 12 degrees fahrenheit. Pfft! All my ambition for the day disappeared. The only consolation: I didn't have to go outside (unlike Friday when with the wind chill it felt like minus 18). My thermostat is set to heat my house up to 66, but when it is minus 12 out, 66 even made me shiver. Since my odds of winning the Powerball jackpot would have only improved by a tiny fraction if I had actually bought a ticket, I knew I wouldn't be able to turn the heat up to a reckless 70. So I shivered under a quilt all day yesterday, crying foul because this kind of weather was supposed to happen in January and by all rights it should have been a toasty 30 outside. I tried to get myself moving by putting on some upbeat music but the best I could manage was tapping my foot while working on a jigsaw puzzle. Even reading two essays from The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne was hard. And it didn't help that the essays were boring and filled with philosophical jargon. I started off making an effort to understand the arguments and look up the unfamiliar words, but soon opening a dictionary was too much work. The first essay by Ian Maclean, "Montaigne and the Truth of the Schools," tried to show where Montaigne fit in the philosophical realm. The reigning school of philosophy during Montaigne's Renaissance was Aristotelian. Montaigne did not like Aristotle but used his ideas and methods of arguments. Maclean tries to argue that Montaigne is a hybrid, a sort of skeptical pragmatist when the philosophy of pragmatism hadn't even been thought of yet. The second essay, "The Investigation of Nature," by George Hoffman, agrees that Montaigne was anti-Aristotle, but calls him an Epicurean and tries to place his philosophy into that of the naturalists of the time. Naturalism during Montaigne's time involved a setting aside of divine, or first causes, in order to search for secondary, or non-supernatural causes. This led to all kinds of amusing theories such as the one that suggested humans were created by spontaneous generation from the earth or that fossils were made of salt. Montaigne's thinking did not go that far, however. His naturalist thinking, Hoffman argues simply allowed him to examine cause and effect rather than analyze means and ends. This change in method meant Montaigne examined actions and consequences which left him as the first person to do a recognizably psychological study of human nature. Are you yawning yet? Perhaps a grumpy essay on the degradation of the English language, writing and literacy, will wake you up:

But it's not enough to simply vomit out of your fingers. It's important to say what you mean clearly, correctly and well. It's important to maintain high standards. It's important to think before you
Heh. "Vomit out of your fingers." I like that. Tells you what kind of mood I'm in today.