6 December 2010


I got started on wading through the impenetrable denseness that is Being and Nothingness last night. From what I have read so far, I think what he is saying is that, historically it has always been thought that appearances were somehow lacking in something. He doesn’t mention Plato and Socrates, but the ideas about universals and essences date back to them. I vaguely remember something about caves, and the world we see being only a shadow or reflection of the universal truth that lives beyond. By this theory, when you look at say a log cabin block, that block is somehow drawing on the universal essence of the log cabin block, and that try as you might you can never reach the essence through the experience of the actual log cabin block.   

Sartre is discussing the idea that this worldview can be replaced by the idea that there is no distant or remote essence, that everything is tied up in the experience. That the essence of the log cabin block is simply (or not simply depending on how you feel about it) the sum total of all the log cabin experiences.

I don’t know how I feel about that. My first thought was that the essence of the log cabin is in the person who is looking at it. I look at it and decide its a log cabin because it fits my idea of what a log cabin is. Someone else might look at it and decide it’s not a log cabin because it is too wonky. 

On further reflection I am not so sure about this. It comes down to that old conundrum, if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound. Imagine if on a distant, lifeless planet somehow the geology is such that it forms distinct patterns in the rock, light and dark, which by chance happen to look exactly like a log cabin. Are they not log cabins just because no one is there to see them? Perhaps a log cabin design can only be a log cabin if there is intention on the part of someone for it to be a log cabin.

I don’t know whether Sartre’s ideas will allow a resolution to this or not. I guess it depends on whether his appearance requires someone to appear to, or whether mere appearance, unobserved is enough. I will have to keep reading to find out.

On a lighter note here are the three quilt blocks I finished today.

62 Square dance

30 Flyfoot

64 Fanny's favourite

The numbers relate to the numbers in the book, not to how many I have completed.



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