Sunday, 31 May 2009

Niblung doggerel

Siegfired-kriegfried planted his seed
(a behind-the-firewall ploy);

He soon filled up 'kyrie Brunhilda
with a bouncing kriegfried boy.

Partuition caused division
in the noble Niblung house.

Various Germans hating her man
schemed to squash him like a louse.

Couldn't chance a sword or lance as
Siegfried's blade-zen too extreme;

So they, coy, sent potent poison
into Siegfried's red bloodstream.

Siegfired-kriegfried died in bedsheets
Brunhilda became a crier;

She took babby, blade and bolster
jumped upon the funeral pyre.

There's no more-y of their story:
neither spoken, rhymed nor sung

You don't need to see Siegfried
go all damn Gotterdammerung.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

How I learned to write

I learned to write the way infants learn to speak. First I babbled, producing pieces of work that resembled writing in certain ways, and could function in interaction as such (at least, up to a point). Then, awkwardly at first, but with increasing confidence afterwards, I began writing in ways that resembled actual writing. Eventually, and with enough interaction, my writing became fluent.

Friday, 29 May 2009

The world

Jerry Fodor says, very wisely [LRB 12 Feb 2009, 15]: ‘the world doesn’t mean anything, and isn’t about anything; it just is.’ But we can take this further. 'Is', unthought (divorced from cognition) isn't. The world floats free either of existence or nonexistence; we're the ones trapped in that vice.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

On my own name

There’s something about the name ‘Adam Roberts’ that seems to miss the mark. You would not believe how many people—often people who know me well—call me ‘Robert’, or ‘Alan’. It’s as if putting together the reasonably common surname Roberts with the perfectly ordinary Christian name Adam results in a BLIT-style monstrosity that people silently correct in their heads. This, I suppose, is a question of preference. Maybe Robert is a better Christian name than Adam. We may think of all the great kings (from the Bruce to the Bald), the writers—Browning, Jordan—the guitarists—Johnson, Plant—who have been distinguished with this forename. Alan is harder to comprehend. It’s harder to think of the great men called ‘Alan’ (a-Dale, Coren, that’s about it).

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


The moustachioed carp's
whole wisdom is: O.

Shouldering the air
like an acquatic Atlas,

adding diacritics to
the surface ripples' text.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Saturn and melancholy

Wikipedia: 'The latest estimate of Saturn's rotation based on a compilation of various measurements from the Cassini, Voyager and Pioneer probes was reported in September 2007 is 10 hours, 32 minutes, 35 seconds.'

Saturn presides over melancholy. And that’s right, because Saturn combines two things to an extreme degree that are both present in depression: extraordinary coldness, and a furious circling energy. (Remarkable that this huge, distant world rotates on its axis so much more quickly than Earth ...)

Monday, 25 May 2009

Purity of intent

You can get away with almost anything if you are pure of intent. People are very forgiving like that.

This, I'm sure I don't need to add, is a very bad thing. Purity is the most malign concept mankind ever imposed upon the cosmos, and 'getting away with anything' leads in most cases to enormous misery and suffering.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

On Lucian Freud

He has painted non-caucasian subjects, from time to time, of course; and other things apart from nudes. But it's the nudes that leap out at the viewer, when looking through a selection of Freud's canvases. Even his portraits (for instance, his HM the Q) have the nude feel about them. It is the unvarnished-ness, the intimacy and shamelessness of his style, I suppose. But the thing to note about his nudes, so obvious a thing that it perhaps doesn't get stated enough (or gets lost in amongst the admiring noises about texture, painterliness and formal solidity) is how repulsive they are. Repulsive in a compelling way I hasten to add: and that mixture of the repellent and the compelling is precisely the dynamic of sexual desire (of course). But nonetheless; I wonder if the key to Freud's corpus as a whole isn't race. An intervention into artistic and cultural-political discourses that valorised white skins as the acme of perfection, his art turns those assumptions on their head. He works and reworks, obsessively, a logic of representation of caucasian skin that renders it perfectly horrid. Revolutionary, in its way.

Saturday, 23 May 2009


It's easy to think of sleep as repose until you have kids; watching them sleep reminds you of the urgency of sleep; of how effortful and strenuous it can be.

It's a puzzle how anybody could confuse, even for mere poetic effect, sleep and death. Not siblings, those. Not related at all.

Friday, 22 May 2009


Thinking, recently, a fair bit about the Volsung saga (or if you insist the Völsung saga), mostly because I've been writing a review of this recently published version of Sigurd and Gudrun's stories. This footnote struck me in passing:
After the Völsungs my father wrote (the Chosen), but struck this out. An etymological speculation on the origin of the name which (at any rate at one time) he favoured associated it with the Germanic words meaning "choose". [54]
Struck it out, right. Because, far as I can see, Völsung comes from Völsi, which means 'prick'. Here's Andy Orchard on that latter word:
Völsi. A horse penis worshipped as part of a cult practice ... when a pagan farmer's horse dies they eat the flesh, which was held to be taboo to Christians, and preserve the penis. which becomes the object of veneration, after the farmer's son has first waved it in front of the ladies, saying:

Here you can see
a rather big plonker,
one sliced off
the horse's dad.
Slave-girl, for you,
this völsi will be
none too sluggish
between your thighs. [386]

Orchard's translation, presumably ('plonker'); and what a charming farmer's son thereby portrayed.

This seems a rather obvious root for the family name at the heart of the saga: a tale of phallic productivity and assertiveness, with a great deal of to-do concerning 'swords' and 'rings', all tending to demonstrate that although it enjoyed its moments of triumph, the seed of the Völsi is doomed eventually to die.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Sitting poem

When you sit there
your feet a foot apart
your naked knees kissing;

Your left hand cupping
your right shoulder
lips a basin profile;

when becomes nothing
the same instant tocks
over and over.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Spicer says

Jack Spicer claimed that 'homosexuality is essentially being alone.'

Gobsmacking sort of thing to say, really. Did he mean this in an existential sense ... which is to say, a mandarin, or even Nietzschean mountain-top sense of elevated separation from humanity? Or in a more mundane self-pitying erotic-solipsistic sense? (But why would he think this latter unique to homosexuality?)

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Death of Tragedy

Though its not a bad book (a little old-fashioned, you know, but OK), the title of Steiner's Death of Tragedy is weak. It exists in too-obviously subaltern a relationship to Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy -- and stretches out an implicit, and rather ludicrous, timeline for the mode (The Adolescence of Tragedy; The Young Adulthood of Tragedy; The Mid-Life Crisis of Tragedy; Tragedy's Retirement ...)

Monday, 18 May 2009

On the Edibility of Africa

It's a Hansel-Gretel continent: the shortbread-coloured Sahara; gingerbread scrubland; the marzipan greens; the icing-layered mountain tops.

Alternate title for this post: The Colonial Imagination.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Yin Utopia

Le Guin thinks that 'Utopia has been yang. In one way or another, from Plato on, utopia has been the big yang motorcycle trip. Bright, dry, clear, strong, firm, active, aggressive, lineal, progressive, creative, expanding, advancing, and hot. Our civilization is now so intensely yang that any imagination of bettering its injustices or eluding its self—destructiveness must involve a reversal. ... We must return, go round, go inward, go yinward. What would a yin utopia be? It would be dark, wet, obscure, weak, yielding, passive, participatory, circular, cyclical, peaceful, nurturant, retreating, contracting, and cold.'

Doesn't her Yin utopia sound rather like a British autumn, or winter? Utopia is right here. I don't think I could ever live anywhere else, certainly.

Saturday, 16 May 2009


Only one wall remains of the Dickensian Marshalsea prison. There are some lovely photos of this on Wikipedia, including the one above: 'Angel Place, London. One of the walls of the Marshalsea prison can be seen on the right. To the left is Southwark's Local Studies Library at 211 Borough High Street, Southwark, London SE1.'

That man walks through the prison yard; separated only by a planck-length stretch of time.

The name 'Marshalsea' is a version marshalcy, "the office, rank, or position of a marshal" (deriving from Anglo-French mareschalcie). The prison was part of his court. But what gives the word unusual resonance, I think, is the way it ends: the counter-logic of 'sea', that vast open space, that opposite to a prison, working against the actual meaning of the word. The Northsea prison; the Caspiansea; the Marshalsea.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Artistic creation

Trying to get it clear in my mind why this waxbanks line seems to me so wrongheaded: 'Artistic coherence is mainly a characteristic of work done in good faith--' (Just that line, really; not the rest of the excerpt). It goes on ' that gets out of its own way' which is closer to the truth; but nonetheless there seems to me something quite distorting in porting-over the concept of acting 'in good faith' from normal human interaction to the realm of artistic creation. What's needed is something closer to (if not quite) artistic action in bad faith ...

I appreciate that I'm not really thinking about music when I say so.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


It might even be a core observation about the Götterdämmerung (one that applies to the originary myth, but becomes particularly magnified in Wagner's treatment) that it is, in important ways, about under- and unmotivated actions; about holes in the Reasons Important Things Happen. The Prelude, with its (splendid, tremendous, beautiful) full orchestral articulation of the love between Brünnhilde and Siegfried, sets the tone. There's a stirring emphasis upon the pledging of oaths between the two lovers, but at no point does the text address the fundamental problem: if they are so in love then why is Siegfried buggering off? Handwaving of the 'she sends him on new adventures' or 'he must regain his kingdom' kind won't do here (and aren't actually mentioned in Wagner's libretto) ... why not marry and then do whatever it is Siegfried has to do?

The real answer is that Siegfried has to go because the plot requires it: in order that he can be tricked into drinking the potion of forgetfulness, marrying Gutrune, and so precipitating the tragic sequence of events. But that reasoning can't be incorporated into the logic of the text on the level of actual representation, so we're left with this great gap.

This in turn prefigures the grand finale: the whole world's ending. Why? Notionally because Wotan's staff gets broken (he has details of all his treaties etc upon it). But this is so thoroughly underdetermined as causality for so mammoth an event as the end of everything that all it does is to advertise its own sequential inadequacy. In fact the whole Götterdämmerung thang is a ratio superior elaboration of the same hole in the logic of things that motivates Brünnhilde and Siegfried's parting in the prelude. It's a weighty, operatic articulation of the celebrated metric: what's 6 x 9? 42. "I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe."

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


As a kid the American usage 'gas' for petrol annoyed me for the literal-minded reason that petrol is a liquid not a gas. I knew that 'gas' was short for 'gasoline' (Wikipedia has some interesting little factoids on the derivation and etymology of the word: it seems it caught on in American because, in the late C19th, 'petrol' was a trade name) but that didn't stop my first reaction being annoyance upon hearing -- on film, for instance -- petrol being called gas, on the grounds that petrol is a liquid not a gas.

Now I've changed my mind. The issue isn't one of absolute definition, after all, but simply timing. Petrol is a liquid when you pump it out at the petrol station; but it's a gas in the engine as it makes the car go, and that's when it's most itself. So maybe 'gas' is better.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Gradisil poem

Earth tied our inner ear in the knot
That weightlessness loosens.

The mistless, hazeless uplands:
the belly curve of the earth --

a thread of sunlight hems it.

Monday, 11 May 2009


We all know about the Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space acronym explanation of this name. Yes. But part of the reason why 'Tardis' sounds sort-of right as the name of a time machine is its 'tard' element: a temporal concept (from the Latin tardo, 'to make slow, to hinder,delay, retard, impede, prevent') that echoes in the English 'tardy' and the French 'tard'. We might think the machine 'retards' itself, temporarily speaking, to go back in time; or holds itself steady and 'retards' a bubble of spacetime around it to go forward.

Maybe the actual name of the machine should be the future-perfect ('you will have tarded'): tardaveris. Maybe it is, and tardis is only a contraction. But, then, why the second-person singular? Ah the mysteries of Who.

Sunday, 10 May 2009


Realising that nothing changes
Changes everything.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Good things of day begin to droop and drowse

Of course it doesn't matter that Shakespeare almost certainly didn't know this: it still gives me pleasure that a couple of his most beautiful lines ('Light thickens; and the crow/Makes wing to the rooky wood' [lines 50-51]) play so neatly with the Old Norse word rökr ('dusk', 'twilight').

The closeness of this latter to rök, 'destiny' (as in Ragnarök, 'the destiny of the Gods') led to some Old Norse authorities confusing it with, and indeed changing it to Ragnarökr: 'the twilight of the gods'. Hence the whole Wagnerian, Götterdämmerung vibe, so fitting to a consideration of Macbeth.

Friday, 8 May 2009


'Valhalla' has a weird, poetic, alien sound to it. But as Wikipedia points out ('the word is from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain"') it just means 'Fall-Hall', the hall in which those who have fallen in battle pitch up. Perhaps we should translate it as KIA-Hall. Or maybe Casualty.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Round the Horne

What am I, mid-forties now? Why has it taken me this long to realise that there's a descriptive double-entendre in the title of this show? Of course (entendre un) the main man's name actually was Horne; but then again (entendre deux) a good proportion of the whole (Rambling Sid Rumpo and Julian and Sandy hardly scratch the surface) was comedy generating laughs specifically by negotiating a particular path around the (taboo in the 60s) articulation of sexual feelings.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


There's an enormous amount to admire about Simone Weil's writing (and indeed about her life); but L'Enracinement/The Need for Roots might be the most wrongheaded book I have ever read. Written slap in the middle of the Second World War, it is an attempt not only to think how the future might best be organised but to get to the bottom of the then-present catastrophe in Europe. But Weil's inability to sacrifice her spiritual commitment to 'rootedness' ties her into a profound knot as she attempts to blame Fascism not (as was actually the case) on a too fixed emotional and political investment in 'roots', but rather on a sort of modern-malaise rootlessness. 'Whoever is uprooted himself uproots others,' she declares. 'Whoever is rooted himself doesn't uproot others' [45]. As if Nazi Germany's problem was that it was insufficiently connected with the heimat.

The postwar period has revealed, I think, the error here. The ongoing, mass exodus of every people everywhere has brought diversity and cultural variety to most of the world; and these, rather than uniformity or unity, are the strongest options.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


I propose a new project. Time to break the stranglehold certain translations exert over certain texts simply because the translation in question was undertaken by the author. It's a sort of textual tyranny (why can't we get with the author-is-dead programme, people?). Best of all, this project will give us double the translation fun for our money.

I suggest we start by coming up with two new versions of Beckett's most famous play. I'll make a start on Whilst Awaiting Godot (from the French), if someone with better French than I could pitch into Attente de Godot (from the English). And remember to make it fresh ... new translations for a new century, guys!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Thoughts occasioned by Dickens's Christmas Carol

Birth belongs to the future. Hope belongs to the future. Life belongs to the future. Death belongs to the past.

No matter how he thinks it -- no matter how he frets and agonises and imagines -- Napoleon cannot change the course of Waterloo. That battle is finished and done and buried in the ground in the past. The spirit of the past is a skeleton. The spirit of the future a baby: Dickens got this exactly the wrong way about in his Carol.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

For compromise

In his LRB review of Ben Wilson’s What Price Liberty? Terry Eagleton weighs in against the idea of moderation.

“The moderate path between authority and freedom—the true meaning of liberty,” [Wilson] tells us rather sanctimoniously, “had not yet been discovered: that was the achievement of enlightened modern men [sic}.” When in doubt the English think of an equipoise … Those who believe, astonishingly, that middle ways are always to be preferred (what is the middle way between tax havens and coughing up, or Nazis and Jews?) should recall that the British taste for compromise is itself amongst other things the fruit of a bloody sectarian conflict in the 17th century about which threw was nothing middling or moderate.
I suppose ‘…should recall…’ is rhetorical shorthand for ‘people who believe such things are ideologically blind and if they considered the history of “compromise” they would no longer believe so blithely in it.’ But that’s bollocks. I’m quite prepared to believe that the structural political commitment to compromise (‘the politics of consensus’) originate the C17th—although not ‘compromise’ itself, which is surely as old as human communication—without thereby losing faith in the enormous pragmatic socio-political virtue compromise embodies. That it had a bloody birth is neither surprising nor disqualifying in this regard.

As for Eagleton’s ‘astonished’ dismissal of ‘middle ways’, I’m not sure whether to take it seriously: ‘what is the middle way between tax havens and coughing up, or Nazis and Jews?’ Is he really asking this? (I mean: is it anything more than a not-very-well-thought-through rhetorical question?) If he is asking it, then the answer is: well, the middle way between paying no tax at all! and forking out 90% of your income is: paying a moderate amount of tax. I’d say precisely that most nations have found, empirically, this to be the best tax policy. And the middle way between the beliefs of millions of German Nazis that Jews should be annihilated, and the lives of millions of Jews, is that the German Nazis should modify their views, such that they no longer pursue genocide, and that Jews should—the demands of specific justice aside—forgive the German Nazis sufficiently so as not to spend their lives seeking revenge.

And this, again, is what has happened. Nazism was, of course, a great deal more than simply an ideology of race hate (although it was, of course, that too); and I daresay nobody, not even Eagleton, would consider the eradication of all the beliefs associated with that movement from the hearts and minds of an entire nation possible. Or even, perhaps, desirable. The moral objection to Nazism is not that German Nazis subordinated their personal lives to the good or the whole, that they worked hard, that they were patriotic and so on (similarly: the moral objection to Italian fascism is not that it made the trains run on time). The moral objections to Nazism had to do with other aspects of the Nazi Weltanschauung. And the ‘solution’ to the problem is a middle way precisely in the sense that German popular beliefs were modified (to become, broadly, less racist, militaristic and expansionist); and that Judaism has contented itself with coexistence (as opposed to pledging a war of annihilating revenge). The alternative—that the only solution to this problem is the eradication of Nazism (or Judaism)—is it itself a Nazi solution: a final solution.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Wipe the beak

Pascal says: 'the parrot wipes its beak although it is clean.' But of course it does. 'Continual cleaning' is necessary for cleanliness. The alternative is to wait until I am dirty before I clean myself, which establishes dirt as the ground of my being, and cleaning as the occasional remedy. But cleaning is prophylactic, not remedial.

Friday, 1 May 2009


Reading some Badiou has made me think of the perniciousness of set theory. What I mean is: Badiou’s account of set theory as a means of providing solidity and precision to an ontology of ‘inconsistent multiplicity’ kept putting me in mind of ideological strategies of oppression. Here’s Oliver Feltham and Justin Clemens summary of Badiou’s position:

Since Aristotle ontology has been a privileged sub-discipline of philosophy; otherwise known as the discourse of being. Badiou puts forward a radical thesis: if being is inconsistent multiplicity, then the only suitable discourse for talking about it is no longer philosophy but mathematics. For Badiou mathematics is ontology … This thesis enables Badiou to reformulate the classical language of ontology—being, relations, qualities—in mathematical terms: more specifically, those of set theory, because it is one of the foundational disciplines of contemporary mathematics; any mathematical proposition can be rewritten in the language of set theory. [Feltham and Clemens, ‘An Introduction to Alain Badiou’s Philosophy’, 13]
Set theory ‘is the formal theory of non-unified multiplicities’. One of the reasons Badiou is drawn to it because it avoids the need to ground his ontology on any absolute definitional ‘foundation’.

There is neither definition nor concept of a set in set theory. What there is in its place is a fundamental relation—‘belonging’—as well as a series of variables and logical operators, and nine axioms stating how they may be used together. Sets emerge from operations which follow these rules. [15]
Or again:

Sets are made up of elements. The elements of a set have no distinguishing quality save that of belonging to it. … The relation of belonging is the basic relation of set theory: it is written α ε β; α belongs to β, or, α is an element of the set β. There is another relation in set theory, terms inclusion, which is based entirely on belonging. Sets have ‘subsets’, that are included in the sets. [17]
I appreciate, of course, that this language is adopted straightforwardly from mathematics, where these terms (‘belonging’, ‘inclusion’) are deployed in a neutral sense. But when mathematics is recast as ontology, and ontology then determines a set of specifically political, psychoanalytic and aesthetic philosophical engagements with the world, I wonder if things don’t get problematic.

I understand (I think) the appeal of Badiou’s sets to an anti-foundationalist mindset; an anti-foundationalist is a very desirable one to possess. Badiou’s thinking in terms of sets avoids essentialism (what some people call humanism) in ontology; it formulates ontology in a rigorous and schematic way that nevertheless retains the invigorating fluidity and relativism that so intoxicates postmodernists and hard-line deconstuctionists—for, in a mathematical sense, belonging to any given set does not fix an element. In fact, any given element belongs to an infinite number of sets that are continually overlapping and reconfiguring the relational possibilities of the element itself depending on context (the fact that 9 belongs to the set of odd numbers doesn’t prevent it belonging to the set of square numbers and so on.) Nor is Badiou, of course, suggesting anything so crude as mapping set theory directly onto the world in which we live. In Being and Event he says: ‘we are trying to think multiple presentation regardless of time (which is founded by intervention) and space (which is a singular construction, relative to certain types of presentation) [293]. If I understand it correctly, Badiou’s ontology concerns the structure of situations, rather than situations themselves.

Nevertheless, this emphasis on ‘belonging’ keeps knocking a heavy knout against the back of my head. Belonging? Is there a less ideological neutral word in any language? It’s the core strategy of oppression; the identification of ‘one of us’ and its inevitable correlative ‘not one of us’. To think of a political-historical structure that enacted belonging as its root determinant is to think (for me) of the old Apartheid South Africa. What I mean by this is that, more than enacting set-theory in a crude literal sense (parceling human beings into the sets ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘coloured’ and so on) the old, unmissed South African regime elaborated a politics grounded in an ontology of belonging.

More, this Apartheid set-theory didn’t pretend absolutely to fix its elements, just as set-theory doesn’t absolutely fix its elements. What I mean by this is that including a certain human being in the set ‘black’ does not prevent them from also being included in lots of other sets (‘workers’, ‘church-goers’, ‘people who must pay their electricity bills’ and so on). Of course, including 9 in the set ‘odd numbers’ means, even though 9 can be included in an infinite number of other sets, nevertheless 9 is stuck in that set—it cannot appeal against its inclusion. It is always an odd number for ever, without right of dissent.

Now, you might say: but 9 is an odd number. (A proponent of Apartheid might say: but Nelson Mandela is black). Or, you might say: people are not numbers. But if set theory is to become ontology, then people (amongst other things) are elements, determined ontologically by the various facts of their ‘belonging’ and ‘not-belonging’.

‘Belonging’ has its neutral flavours, of course; but in terms of human relations it connotes slavery (this person belongs to me, the wife belongs to the husband) and capitalism (my money, my possessions, my property, my belongings). If a set is constructed, it is surely worth asking: who has determined that this is a set? To what end? And more importantly: how can it be contested and challenged?’

One of the dangers of introducing mathematics into philosophy is that it tends to suggest that this latter question must be answered: it cannot. That’s just the way it is. Dostoevsky, in Notes from the Underground talks about this when he discusses the appalling tyranny of ‘two plus two equals four’. But to imagine an ontology of political action, rather than of ‘belonging’, is to require us to refuse all tyrannies.

In ‘Philosophy and Politics’ Badiou defines ‘political justice’ in terms of egalitarianism. But ‘equality’
does not refer to anything objective. It is not a question of equality of status, of income, of function, and even less of the supposedly egalitarian dynamics of contracts or reforms. Equality is subjective … is in no way a social programme. Moreover it has nothing to do with the social. It is a political maxim, a prescription. Politcal equality is not what we want or plan, it is what we declare under fire of the event, here and now, as what is and not what should be. [71]

There’s a kind of romantic individualism at the heart of this (‘in matters of justice … it is true, as true as a truth can be, that it all depends on you’). Certainly ‘the State’ has no part to play in Badiou’s understanding of political justice:

Any definitional or programmatic approach to justice turns it into a dimension of the action of the State. But the State has nothing to do with justice. … The modern State aims solely at fulfilling certain functions, or at crafting a consensus of opinion. Its sole subjective dimension is that of transforming economic necessity—that is, the objective logic of Capital—into resignation of resentment. [73]

But isn’t the objective logic of Capital precisely belonging (‘this belongs to me’) Imagine a world in which ‘belonging’ is actually just another word for ownership (which is to say, possession); and possession is the opposite of freedom. Sets are defined as much by what they exclude as what they include; and the dominant experience of humanity in the world is exclusionary. The desire—political, cultural, racial, even philosophical—to stress inclusion, the comfort of belonging, the ‘we’ that provides solace, necessarily involves the possession of x by y.

Those people who derive meaning and comfort from belonging to the sets Aryan, German, wealthy orient a larger number of people via un-belonging, the malign-belonging, of poor, exterminatable and so on. Philosophy’s duty is to what the set excludes, not to belonging as such.