I spent the night reading Hegel, and the day ill in bed. There's probably a moral there somewhere.
Every few months I try to read his stuff, and each time it's like trying to chew my way through a wall of cardboard.
Lenin wrote that to understand Marx fully, you need to understand Hegel thoroughly. Well, either Lenin was wrong, or there's the distinct possibility that no one in the world understands Marx.
On the other hand, seeing as there are a dozen or so incompatible interpretations of Hegel's system in academia, maybe it's not surprising there are so many Marxisms.
Here's an example from last night's reading, chosen at random:
Being is the notion implicit only: its special forms have the predicate ‘is’; when they are distinguished they are each of them an ‘other’: and the shape which dialectic takes in them, i.e. their further specialisation, is at once a forth-putting and in that way a disengaging of the notion implicit in being; and at the same time the withdrawing of being inwards, its sinking deeper into itself. Thus the explication of the notion in the sphere of being does two things: it brings out the totality of being, and it abolishes the immediacy of being, or the form of being as such.
- Hegel, "Shorter Logic", Chapter 7
Bertrand Russell is a joy to read, Hume isn't difficult, Wittgenstein's aphorisms are wonderfully suggestive, Descartes is long winded but clear, Kant needed an editor, Nietzche could have done without his editor, even Heidegger I can make some sense of. But Hegel...gah!
Stephen P took me out to lunch at the weekend.
He's rejoined the university's computer animation course, and is working on a short graduation film. The script and themes are almost shamefully Beckettian, and he needs appropriate music for it.
Which means he needs someone who (a) knows Beckett's work and its philosophy in depth, (b) can write and record music and (c) can do it to a filmic timeline. In other words...me!
Though all anyone else knows is I was taken out by a diminutive Irish blond cherub who's almost as gay as I am. Sometimes it's best to leave people with the first conclusions they jump to.
I'm told that, for each of his novels, Frederick Forsythe spends six months doing nonstop research on every aspect of the story. I can believe it. For one short story I've had to learn about the materials used in archery equipment, the structure of the British police force, autopsy procedures and a few other things
And I've had to brush up on Greek and Roman mythology. For this I used a Reader's Digest encyclopedia from 1964. Now, for me Reader's Digest is something of a symbol of everything that's wrong with the British middle classes.
It publishes "condensed" (abridged) versions of painfully formulaic novels about spys and romance in exotic countries. There's a monthly magazine containing articles like "Why We Need Identity Cards" - it's because of terrorists, apparently.
They also contain lists of obscure words to memorise and work into conversations - for the kind of people who think knowing long words makes them impressive - and the kind of "uplifting christian sentiment" that makes real people throw up. Though readers never say "throw up" or "puke" - it's always "vomit".
Reader's Digest publishes books of it's own, like "How to Do Just About Anything on a Computer", where "Anything" is recording your family tree, designing your garden and making christmas cards.
And it does encyclopedias like this one, with a section on myths and legends. Not Hindu myths, not Norse legends, not Celtic or Aboriginal stories - just the ones from Athens and Rome, because knowing about them makes you "educated", as opposed to merely knowledgeable.
Except it gets some of the myths wrong. Pluto wasn't the god of wealth - that was Plutius. Pluto ran Hades, which is not the same as Hell. And there were two characters called Ajax in the Illiad, which did not contain the Trojan Horse story.
Still, one of the useful things about being middle class is...you get to have a second home in the middle of nowhere, where you can lock yourself away for a week with no distractions to write your stories.
So that's what I'll be hopefully doing next week - sitting with a laptop in my parent's holiday home, miles from the mad crowd, with nothing to do but write. Or else be very very bored. One or the other.