On Men of Science

“The necessary knowledge for a high position in military action is therefore distinguished by this, that by observation, therefore by study and reflection, it is only to be attained through a special talent which as an intellectual instinct understands how to extract from the phenomena of life only the essence or spirit, as bees do the honey from the flowers; and that it is also to be gained by experience of life as well as by study and reflection. Life will never bring forth a Newton or an Euler by its rich teachings, but it may bring forth great calculators in War, such as Conde’ or Frederick.

It is therefore not necessary that, in order to vindicate the intellectual dignity of military activity, we should resort to untruth and silly pedantry.”

General von Clausewitz, 45. Of The Nature of This Knowledge

“Durch Nacht und Blut Zum Licht”

“We see, therefore, how, from the commencement, the absolute, the mathematical as it is called, nowhere finds any sure basis in the calculations in the Art of War; and that from the outset there is a play of possibilities, probabilities, good and bad luck, which spreads about with all the coarse and fine threads of its web, and makes War of all branches of human activity the most like a gambling game.”


General Carl von Clausewitz, On War

Eat This

The Consumption of Billy Graham

“You know what violence is? Violence is American Professional Wrestling. And I am going to introduce this man to wrestling . I am going to introduce this man to American style wrestling. He’s from Poland right?… He doesn’t know what real violence is, he does not know what real broken bones are and pulled ligaments and ripped tendons and popped cartilages. I am going to introduce the man to violence. To pain. I am going to teach the man how to say uncle. Understand what I am talking about?……… I am going to bury my fist; do you know what a fist sandwich is? … Salt and pepper, tomatoes, lettuce, ketchup. This sandwich, I am going to bust his teeth out and bloody his nose. It’s going to be violence. I am coming.”


“Eating prohibitions and obligations thus seem to be theoretically equivalent means of ‘denoting significance’ in a logical system some or all whose elements are edible species”

Pre-Fight Speech by American Wrestler Billy Graham

Claude Levi Struass, The Savage Mind

Dissolving Thought : The Sporting Shooter

Because agents apprehend objects through the schemes of perception and appreciation of their habitus, it would be naive to suppose that all practitioners of the same sport (or any other practice) confer the same meaning on their practice or even, strictly speaking, that they are practicing the same practice.  It can easily be shown that the different classes do not agree on the profits expected from sport, be they specific physical profits such as effects on the external body, like slimness, elegance or viable muscles, and on the internal body, like health or relaxation; or extrinsic profits, such as social relationships a sport may facilitate, or possible economic or social advantages. And, though there are cases in which the dominant function of the practice is reasonable clearly designated, one is practically never entitled to assume that the different classes expect the same thing from the practice….

Only a methodical analysis of the variations in the function and meaning conferred on the different sporting activities will enable one to escape from abstract formal ‘typologies’ based (it is the law of the genre) on universalizing the researchers personal experience; and to construct the table of the sociological pertinent features in terms which the agents (consciously or unconsciously) choose their sports.



Bourdieu, Distinction

Ensnaring Gifts: The Wine Fed Ones

Elegy for Gwaednerth Ab Llywri

A fitting song of a noble host:

The sound of fire and thunder and flood tide.

Excelling in courage, a horseman in the turmoil,

A blood shedding reaper he longed for war.

The warrior tirelessly rushed to battle

In whatever land he heard tidings of it.

With his shield on his shoulder he would take up a spear

As if it were sparkling wine from glass vessels

There was silver round his mead, gold was his due;

Gwaednerth son of Llywri had been reared on wine.


A.O.H Jarman, The Gododdin

Rolling the Dice: Domnall Brecc’s Head and The Cosmology of Competition

Gododdin , I make claim on thy behalf

In the presence of the throng boldly in the court:

And the song of the son of Dwywai, of high courage,

May it be manifest in the one place that it vanquishes.

He was not weak or base before the well- fed fire,

The pine logs blazing from dusk to dawn,

The doorway lit up for the purple clad traveller.

Since the gentle one, the wall of battle, was slain,

Since earth covered Aneirin

Poetry is now parted from the Gododdin

I am about to start reading more heavily in the direction of Philosophy of Science and Neurology both unfamiliar subjects in part. As a means of relaxing will stay on more familiar ground with a very different subject.

Just started reading Mary Douglas immediately strayed across an idea never thought of before, luck. Here she cites from a scholar dealing with the subject. Some differences as the heroic culture that interests me is one in which the luck has run out. A culture which lost the battle for survival but lived on in later medieval memory.

“Among Chieftains, this gift of victory shows in its full splendor. We find men of military genius who bring victory in their train wherever they go. All the Norwegian kings of Harald Fairhair’s race had this great gift of victory. And when Carl Harkon was able to fill for a time the place as a ruler over Norway, it was due not least to his luck in winning victories in perusing and killing. It kept the people on his side, for they held that no one could be like him in respect of this particular gift. A like tone  is apparent in the opening  of the story of Beowolf about Hrothgar’s kingdom; unto him was given war speed and battle honour, so that his kinsmen followed him until the younglings were waxen and gathered about him in the host….’ And when they saw their leader fallen, they fled every man’-this sentence occurs again and again in the sagas, and its truth is confirmed again and again by history. If the great man’s war-luck failed, what could the lesser luck of lesser men avail?”

Interesting on first glance to wonder if luck is a magical element at play in the cradle song that I cited a couple of posts back extolling the Fathers hunting skills. In contrast to the warriors considered above the protagonists in the Gododdin obey the symbolic rules they are playing with to the letter and fight to the death.

Next examine the symbolic element related to alcohol and the notion of gift giving between lord and warrior that forms one of the core themes of the poem. Then the relationship between mother, farther and warrior more fully and start to map out the rules of the game which the warrior must live by. They stand at complete odds with the rules of the settled community; these are creatures of death, blood and gore who feast and delight in the rotting flesh of the battlefield like the wolf and the raven.

I saw mighty men who came with dawn.

And it was Domnall Brecc’s head that the Ravens gnawed


Gronbech, The Culture of the Teutons, cited in M. Douglas, Natural Symbols

song: Keening of the Three Mary’s

A.O.H Jarman, The Gododdin (The Reciters Prologue)

This weeks Reading

A couple of the usual suspects first Mary Douglas’s  Natural Symbols, book I have been meaning to read for years.  Re-reading Pierre Bourdieu’s “Distinction.”

I will be rounding off the week with Bohm and Peat’s, “Science, Order and Creativity”