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cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

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Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Poems and Problems

Posted by John Holbo on 05/31/05 at 11:39 AM

I've got a draft of a paper for you to knock back with comments, if you would be so kind. [UPDATE: final draft available by request. Just email me and ask.] Actually, it's another of my patented mock-Platonic dialogues. It's titled "Poems and Problems" (PDF) and is a modestly expanded version of what you get in this old post. 5,000 words about Nabokov and chess and Macbeth and interpretive theory and poetry. [UPDATE: the draft contains an apparently erroneous imputation of chess hatred to Denis Donoghue. See this post.] Some good jokes. It needs part II, but that isn't done. Part I should be moderately freestanding, despite the teaser ending. Please tell me what you think. I'm not sure what to do with it. Maybe send it to Philosophy and Literature.

By the by, I'm thinking about trying to have a draft-a-week feature here at the Valve. Something a bit like Brian Weatherson's papersblog, but less dedicated. I'm not taking submissions yet. I gotta think. (I want to earn my editor's stripes, but I don't want to work too hard.) Suggestions about how it might work? A simple question. Is there any problem inviting people to submit drafts of papers to be posted, while having that little Creative Commons badge up? Obviously, if it's hosted at the Valve (my paper is not), it means people are releasing their drafts under Creative Commons. Does anyone think that is a bad idea, i.e. might it make trouble for anyone who wanted to publish a final version of their draft somewhere else? I wouldn't want that.


I think most journals retain copyright, so releasing a draft of something under a license which would prohibit that doesn’t sound like what you want out of life.

By Jonathan on 05/31/05 at 12:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmmmm, does anyone else know about this? Because under CC you technically retain your copyright and so can presumably transfer it. But can you revoke the CC? Anyway, a final draft would be a different work than a draft, no? I think journals shouldn’t mind if someone posts drafts so long as they are substantially different than final versions. (As in the present case: missing its ending.)

By John Holbo on 05/31/05 at 12:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Is there any problem inviting people to submit drafts of papers to be posted, while having that little Creative Commons badge up? Obviously, if it’s hosted at the Valve (my paper is not), it means people are releasing their drafts under Creative Commons.

I’m not sure exactly what questions you are asking.  If an author submitted a draft to The Valve, the copyright rights retained by the author will be determined by any agreement between the author and The Valve.  Such an agreement need not be under the terms of the Creative Commons, although the parties may certainly agree to such. 

Why does the author need to release any other copyright rights except those necessary to publish the work on The Valve?

By on 05/31/05 at 02:02 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Quibble: “For example, the challenge of chess problems, of the sort Nabokov favored in particular, often hinges on the impossibility of an intentional interpretation. In problems of retrograde analysis, for example, one must deduce from a board position what the previous move, or series of moves, must have been. These positions are typically senseless, in the sense they could never arise in actual play.”

The logic underlying these positions typically depend upon being accessible from the starting position, though not necessarily requiring the reconstruction of the full sequence of moves. Definitely not ‘could never arise’. It is in fact a constraint upon chess problem composition generally that the position be legal[1], i.e. can arise from ‘real’ play (and not include promoted pieces in ‘standard’ problems). The impossibility[2] obtains from resistance to an externally imposed order, an intention not supported by the text (which is designed to refute it).

There is a more general conflation of chess problems (poetry) and chess games (prose); the aesthetics strictly observed in the former often contribute to an appreciation of the latter (the frisson of combinations particularly). Is MacBeth a poem, or does it contain poetry? (Though comparison to The Immortal Game is apt, in some sense.) Would “Poetics and Problematics” perhaps capture more of what you’re after without sacrificing the thematic core?

[1] In PaleFire, the old king’s old flame, Iris Acht, translates to Iris Eight, or ‘irisate’, i.e. render iridescent (as the sun does to her photograph marking a secret escape), or, briefly, ‘i8’, a flight square not on the board.
[2] Sam Loyd, the first best US problem composer (including retrograde), was also a puzzler extraordinaire. But he made diddly off his most successful invention, the 14-15 puzzle, being denied a patent because, the puzzle being insoluble, he could not provide a “working version”.

By on 05/31/05 at 03:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Blah, the author doesn’t have to reserve fewer rights to publish on The Valve, if I understand the policy correctly. And my understanding is that everything hosted here—posts, comments, PDF files, .doc files, images, etc.—is automatically Attribution-NoDerivs-Noncommercial CC licensed. That kind of license is practically All Rights Reserved; it’s just a step beyond fair use, ensuring that the entire work is and continues to be publically accessible (i.e. if you published a draft here ARR, you could decide to take it down later, and if John had allowed you to host it at The Valve ARR, he’d have to depublish the draft). The only thing I can do with John’s draft is print it out, make copies, and distribute it without having to pay John royalties. Or I could save the file and upload it to my web space if I want. But I can’t make any changes; I can’t even change it to a slightly different font. I’d be surprised if a journal had a problem with this kind of license.

Being kind of an open source/copyleft radical myself, if I published anything on The Valve, I’d want it to be under an Attribution-ShareAlike license (would an author here be able to do that?). Journals would likely have a problem with A-SA, because with A-SA, people can use the work commercially, and the author sets a precedent of allowing derivative works, which some people view as questionable and illegitimate offspring, and decreeing that derivatives are to be licensed under A-SA too, so you have the viral licensing thing, upon which journals might frown.

My apologies if you already knew all this. Maybe The Valve would let you post something ARR. Frankly, though, I rather doubt it, because the most significant difference between ARR and A-ND-N is that with ARR, you could order The Valve to depublish your draft, and depublishing, as I’m sure you know, runs counter to ethical norms in blogging.

By Clancy on 05/31/05 at 04:20 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Clancy, one thing that academic authors may wish to do with a draft is, precisely, depublish it once the final version is settled. They don’t want confusion from people quoting and criticizing a draft rather than the final version. That would be the main source of a CC problem. Presumably the thing to do is indicate that, in certain cases, copyright is retained by the authors.

nnyhav, those are useful comments and I like your title. I may use it.

By John Holbo on 05/31/05 at 09:07 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Plodding questions, John.  A chess computer may announce its move, but we do not infer that it has intentions.  That makes sense.  It follows then that competing against a computer can’t really be a game in Nabokov’s sense and certaintly not a beautiful game?

In that case, though strongly intentionalist views are as untenable as strongly formalist ones, when it comes to considering artistry, intentionalist views have the better share of the argument?  It’s possible to conceive of meaning without intention, but not art?  I’m assuming that S will show P’s account of his theme as blending to be wrong, but, I confess, how and why aren’t leaping out at me.

By on 05/31/05 at 11:49 PM | Permanent link to this comment

p.s.  Why is Donahue speaking “more fundamentally” than Gide?  Wouldn’t his remark suggest that he’s a defender of Shakespeare and the Immortal against the systematizer?

By on 06/01/05 at 12:36 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hey, thanks for reminding me about that. I need to track down a reference for the Donaghue quote. I distinctly remember it as being from “Ferocious Alphabets” but then when I looked I couldn’t find. Annoying. I have to verify its existence if I want to keep it. As to why it is more fundamental - well, I just meant that in an ironic sense: at the deepest level, some folks just don’t like certain things. All this metaphysics is just symptomatic on that. (Bradley: “metaphysics the provision of bad reasons for what we believe on instinct.") I’m not sure why you would take him to be a defender of the “Immortal”. It’s still chess.

As to your previous remark, yes this does get worked out, I hope. Your inclination to defend intentionalism further is some hint as to how I should go. I am a bit surprised. I thought I gave intentionalism the more thorough drubbing.

Exactly why are you suggesting that art requires intention? I think I know why, but tell me what you are thinking. The objection would be that computer might devise a very pretty chess problem. You might find it pretty without realizing the author was a computer, or even considering the elegance of the construction from an intentional aspect. Nabokov would acknowledge that, I think. (I have a quote that will back me up: an appreciation of the purely formal, intention-free aspects of a board position.)

By John Holbo on 06/01/05 at 12:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Some aspects of this have been anticipated by Deep Thought and its progeny. But the aesthetic appreciation remains (e.g. Open diary, #282: “The by now well-known eerie beauty of incomprehensible chess.") But even the computer has not yet made inroads into deeper complexities[1], though it’s not clear whether or not href="http://yutopian.com/yutop/cat?product=PAY17">we have</a>.

[1] “The answer, in a nutshell ...”—insert obligatory Hamlet and Pale Fire references.

By on 06/01/05 at 08:57 AM | Permanent link to this comment

For Reti, the beauty of chess depends on the sense that a human mind is responsible for the strategems perceived in a game.  The pathos of the immortal depends--doesn’t it?--on the achievements and failings of human intelligence, on Anderssen’s sprezzatura and Kiesertsky’s failure to match it.  Deep Blue can’t seem artful to us in this way, I assume, because not being a human mind, it’s moves can’t seem the product of unusual difficulty or accomplishment--just as, if there were an android version of Suzanne Farrell, its dance, even if technically perfect, would not seem artful.  I think William Morris said, without resistance in the material there is no art.  In chess, the material is the board and pieces and rules, but what creates the sense of art is the way they enable a drama about the capacities of and limits to human ability, no?

By on 06/01/05 at 10:30 AM | Permanent link to this comment

I thought you were positioning Donogue as an implicit defender of the kind of art apparent in the immortal because the paragraph runs: the immortal is not a model of formal elegance; Steinitz the sytematizer dislikes it for this reason; “likewise” Gide dislikes Shakespeare; . . . Donoghue hates chess.  Guess I misread your intention there.  I thought the point was that Donaghue’s tastes run contrary to Gide’s and Steinitz’s.  But the main point is simply that people do have different tastes and that they invent untenable metaphysical justifications for their tastes (as do formalists and intentionalists?).  Do I have that right? 

My tastes run to intentionalism, I guess, so I suppose it’s not surprising that I thought intentionalism got the better side of the argument.  The (maybe bad) reason I had for that sense was that, while S. does show that we’re not driven to consider intentions by general considerations of linguistic meaning, the case for that is (necessarily?) only the thinnest expression and one that can’t include, e.g., intimation, subterfuge, daring or timidity, meaningful ambiguity.  You can understand the meaning of Nd5 without reference to intention, but not ‘Nd5,’ and it’s only with the latter that you get art. 

Of course, a computer could generate a game that you could find beautiful, in the same way nature tosses up combinations that are beautiful.  But you wouldn’t describe either as artful, I think.

By on 06/01/05 at 08:58 PM | Permanent link to this comment

i love poems i do want to stay with my boyfriend
i dont want to have problems no more i have to much stuff

By on 06/10/09 at 12:51 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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