Nabokov On the Move

I was reading an interesting article in the travel section of the NY Times yesterday about Nabokov’s journeys with his wife Vera across some of the more desolate parts of America, which form the basis for the extended sequence in “Lolita” in which Humbert and Lo desolately crisscross the desolate country. It occurred to me that the four pillars of the Nabokovian sensibility are: chess, tennis, butterflies, and language. I can, as they say, relate. These four items seem to me to form a natural family, but I would be hard pressed to say what they have in common. Perhaps they all exemplify what VN calls “unearthly splendor”.

Net Heads

We need a meme to express what seems to be happening to people’s brains. The internet has created, along with other cultural forces, a certain type of mind, which affects even people who should be immune to it. I propose to call them “Net Heads”. We can also speak of having “net head” or being “net-headed”. Also: “Blog Fog”. I know they’re not wonderful, so maybe someone can come up with something better. Suggestions?

Carruther’s Review

I just read a rather silly review of my book Inborn Knowledge by Peter Carruthers. Was he even trying to get the point? I make it a policy not to reply to reviews, especially silly ones, but there is a point I would like to correct because it concerns a friend of mine: Jerry Fodor. Carruthers bizarrely interprets my observation that major twentieth century philosophers have not been much concerned with questions of innateness as some sort of tacit suggestion that Fodor is not a major philosopher. I certainly think he is, and he has written on innateness; but that does not contradict the fact that Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Moore, Carnap, Kripke, Quine, Davidson, et al had little or nothing to say on the subject compared to earlier philosophers. The rest of the review is at the same level, I’m afraid.


I’ve started to think that the customary way we divide up the mind into the conscious, the unconscious, and the preconscious is too crude and unrevealing. The connection between, say, a perception and an immediate memory of it is far too close to be captured by these categories. Isn’t it the same thing that exists in memory and exists in perception? Thus I want to introduce the idea of the paraconscious–that which exists in parallel with consciousness but isn’t present to consciousness. The question is whether this notion makes sense.

Tom: In Memoriam

Tom was a feral cat that lived on my property. I fed him every day for two and a half years, two or three times a day. He was half blind and quite lame; he often had wounds on his head. I used to pat him occasionally, but then one day he bit me, so I stopped. I had no intimate relationship with Tom, such as I have with my own cats, and in truth he was not easy to like. Also, he would sometimes get into the house to eat my cats’ food, urinating as he went; I had to chase him out with a broom. In addition, leaving food outside for him was a problem because it attracted possums and raccoons. No doubt, Tom was a very mixed blessing.

The other day I found his body lying in the carport. Evidently he had died of natural causes, and was lying in a pool of urine. I buried him in the garden in which he had long lived. I wondered if I had done everything I could to make his life as good as it could be, and had my doubts. Thus he bit me morally even in death. This made me think that there is an aspect of moral obligation that goes unremarked: that it is biting.

The New Madness

The world has been becoming steadily more insane for the last few years, but the era of the Great Orange Blob marks a new high. It would be funny if it weren’t so scary. Are we seeing the dawn of a new fascism or is it just a passing phase of the overheated media? I wish the madness were localized to this but it seems to engulf everything.