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[AUGUST 2010.]

Origin Stories

He took up the problem yet again, four years later, in “The Only Possible Basis of Proof for a Demonstration of God’s Existence” (Einzig möglichen Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes), in order to present his view of teleology, in both the positive and negative senses, systematically and exhaustively, and to give it a foundation. Here he finds the proof for the existence of the divine being, customarily drawn from the purposive arrangement of the world, largely proportioned “alike to the worth as to the weakness of the human understanding.” But this latter point he raises more acutely than before, and points out the fundamental defect clinging to the whole methodology of physico-teleology. The conviction that flows from it may be “exceedingly sensory and hence very lively and gripping and both accessible and comprehensible to the most ordinary understanding,” but at no point can it stand up to the strict requirements of conceptual knowledge. For even supposing it were proved that order arose from disorder, a “cosmos” from “chaos,” by specific divine actions, that primordial being which ought to be thought as infinite and all-sufficient will precisely thereby labor under a basic limitation laid on it from outside. If crude matter is the opponent which this being has to overcome and it displays its goodness and wisdom only in that victory, then if the proof is not to lose all its meaning and effectiveness this matter has to be recognized as something in itself, as a given stuff with which the purposeful power must occupy itself. Hence this procedure can only serve “to prove an originator of the connections and artful composition of the world, but not of matter itself and the creation of the elements of the universe.” God will by this route always be shown only as master craftsman, not as creator of the world; the order and formation of matter appears as the work attributable to Him, but not its generation.

In this way the very idea of purposiveness of the world which is supposed to be establshed is put in extreme jeopardy. For there now enters into the world a basic dualism which, no matter how hard one may try to conceal it, is ultimately ineradicable. The shaping of the sheer stuff of being by intentional will is never absolute, but always something relative and conditioned: there is, in this mode of intuition, at least a definite substrate of being which as such does not carry the form of reason in itself but rather is opposed to it. The gap in the physico-theological proof is at this point clearly visible; it can be plugged only if we succeed in showing that what we have assumed to be the real and independent “essence” of matter and from which we can deduce its universal laws of motion is not alien to reason’s regulation but rather is an expression and a particular manifestation of these very rules.

Ernst Cassirer, Kant’s Life and Thought


Washed up on a bank, high enough that I can’t see the river going by. The sun.

J. has her academic work, with dates attached. So we both have paths that are supposed to branch into other paths, though it all seems a bit trackless at times—if the road on the map turns into an unpaved dirt road, does that make it false? What if the dirt road is only an abstraction drawn over a landscape of sand?

Another map of the interior in here. I do know how to draw maps of other things, but most of them are going into the fiction. There’s a certain kind of gaze on the wider world that is alien to me right now: to insist, this is the literature of the present, these are the politics of the present, this is the emblem of the present. For some reason it’s important to be contemporary. As if disappointing books disappoint because their forms don’t reflect the present, and not because their execution is just plain boring. The books that are self-conscious about the present are the worst of all. And then the theories of the present: someone says, the culture is sick in this way, someone else says, you’re ignoring the other way in which the culture is sick, and so back and forth, a doctors’ squabble in the ER while the patient croaks. I will say both that there is no saving the patient, and that fatalism is easy and no help.

If I’m not for cures, or snake oil labeled as a cure, then I must be for elegies—as I think I’ve said before. Elegies are no help either. Then they differ from fatalism how? It might be like the difference between a) a simple materialism, and b) asserting that this world is the only world, but wanting to address it as one addresses God. This is deep water now, but of course no one asked for my help anyway. If you want to help, you could donate to Pakistan, like Manan says.


So, now that you’re done molding the minds of today’s youth do we get the normal URL back?

I am a coward! I fear Google! The normal URL isn’t as high in my search results as it used to be—it seems to be overshot, hilariously, by autogenerated MP3 aggregators that say things like “P__ K__ is a famous star!”—but it’s still hanging around, and I am pusillanimous about hanging the laundry back out while I’m trying to be a businessman.

This is how I try: when I’m not writing my opus I tend to sit at home and learn about software by making idiot coding mistakes, but occasionally I will get on the speaker phone with people who could be described as “directors of major corporations,” though they’re pretty minor major corporations so far, and we confirm that everyone is doing great today, and then we yell proposals and counterproposals into the speaker phone, and we send them to each other for review, and everyone makes noises like their heads are about to pop off with delight. So fucking bizarre. Everyone talks as if there are great orchards of money trees out there waiting for harvest. And money is somewhere, in someone’s hands; and now and then a small, ripe leaf detaches from the tree and wafts down to me, and I stick it in my greedy pocket and look around for more. It is always just about to become a living wage. It is always just possible to believe that there must be a living wage somewhere around here, because the money is somewhere around here, I’ve seen it, only it’s behind my back where I can’t reach; and then I make another coding mistake, and I get back on the phone.

I have a new novel going, with commercial ambitions. You can guess what that means. For the present I’ll call it a potboiler set in the nineteenth century. Word count at left.


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