Trump’s Punctuation

I pay close attention to the syntax and vocabulary of Trump’s tweets. People have been writing about his bizarre use of quotation marks, making the plausible suggestion that he uses them so as to hedge his prose, about which he feels insecure. This sounds right to me: he is clearly uncomfortable with the written word, as his speech indicates. He is semi-literate and he knows it. This may account for his popularity as well as his shaky ego. His relationship to language is distant and tenuous, like his relationship to people.

Chuck Berry

Probably the greatest rock and roller of all time, and those guitar riffs! His songs never grow stale. No wonder the Beatles and Stones covered him religiously.

Trump Psychology

People say Trump is a narcissist. I don’t think so: I think Trump hates himself and with good reason. What he loves is his image–that garish, vulgar, money-saturated image. This is why he hates to be criticized and disrespected: it hurts his image. Once you grasp that everything he does is meant to promote his image it begins to make more sense. There is really nothing to him apart from his image.

Prehensile Primates

I was watching Planet Earth II, the gorgeously shot nature series from the BBC, and the opening segment was about spider monkeys, with their long prehensile tails. It made me think that my book Prehension would be a best seller in the spider monkey community. Finally someone appreciates the prehensile among us! But humans seem reluctant to acknowledge the centrality of human prehensility to their world domination. Yes, we got it from them.

A Beheading

I’m reading for the first time Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading about a man, Cincinnatus C., who is condemned to die by beheading. His crime is mysterious at first, though clearly diabolical in the eyes of his gaolers. Eventually we learn that he is guilty of “gnostical turpitude”–a crime so serious as to defy definition, though it evidently has to do with knowledge. For this he must have his head cut off (the head being where knowledge resides). The novel is a masterpiece on the arbitrary madness and calm cruelty of power. Anyone in a position of power, from the power of decapitation on down, should read it.

Enemies of the People

Surely President Trump is casting his net too narrowly. If “the press” is an enemy of the people, surely those who support the press are enemies of the people too. Aren’t professors enemies of the people if they criticize Trump? Democrats must also be. Isn’t anyone who speaks out against the President an enemy of the people? Aren’t most of the people enemies of the people?

Silver Lining

Since I retired from my job four years ago I have dedicated myself to philosophy. I have never worked so long and hard. This is a consequence of the freedom afforded by retirement: no more teaching, professional obligations, faculty meetings. That’s the thing about retirement: you can get some work done! Partly it’s a matter of time and energy, but more important it’s because of the lack of distraction. You can focus for weeks on what you are working on without having to worry about professional obligations. I have therefore been able to go deeper and range wider than ever before. I would not have been able to do the work I have if I were still holding down a job. I feel this acutely. I feel that before retirement my work stayed at the surface, but now I feel that I have dug deeper; at any rate, I’m happier with my work. Certainly, the quantity is far greater than I could achieve while working as a professor. Retirement has changed me as a philosopher.