On “The Dictionary”
Yesterday (Wednesday) was such a fine day, weather-wise I mean! . . . I decided to live a secluded life. I worked like mad, contemptuous of the sun and the glorious breeze outside. I wrote articles on Baumaker, Bauer, and Baur; I perfected articles on Bernhard Bolzano (B.B.), Roger Josef Boscovich and Beatitude. I considered, but later dismissed, Bain, Bayle, and Bohm. I am literally B-sick, and I am craving for C and D, but I still have a long way. [Bryn Mawr, April, 1961]
I went back home [Friday] with the purpose of writing some beautiful lines on the controversial concept Ens. I did write such lines, but they were not beautiful. I therefore started writing on Space (Espacio); Malebranche, Locke and Leibniz gave me opportunities to display my talents for synthesis. At 12:30 A.M. (Saturday), Ens and Space had been completed, and it was time to take a napa long one.
I have been working for an article on Enthusiasm (completed). You know, the Ion, Plotinus, Marsilio Ficino, Shaftesbury, and all that jazz. Most disappointing. I decided to wrap letters A, B, C (including Ch), and D in four huge packages and send them to the publisher. Leafing through was a painful experience. I detected errors, vague sentences, misprints, mistypings galore. Strong temptation to check and double check everything again. Temptation dismissed; lack of guts. I'll be more careful beginning with letter 'E' and will recommend readers in a brand new Preface to skip A through D (inclusive).
In a state of profound sadness for my failure as a scholar, I decided to lie down and read bits of Heidegger, (Holzwege), bits of Monsieur Weber (La psychologie de l' art). Bits of A. Castro (De la edad conflictiva), bits of Bochenski (History of Logic), bits of Bruno Nardi (Saggi sull'aristotelismo padovan), bits of Kleiber (Logoslehre): bits, bits, bits.
Tired. Lack of energy. Shifted to lighter reading. Learned something about the $41,000,000 Federal program for Inter-State highways. Listened to music (Bach, Scarlatti, Connie Francis). [Oct. 10, 1961]
I am expanding my article on Space (Espacio): I hate it. I am going to write a new article on Emotivism (An ethical theory thus called). [Bryn Mawr, Oct. 27, 1961]
I finished Space (Espacio), Hope (Esperanza), and have started revising and rewriting “Experience” and “Expression.” I want to get through the E as quickly as possible; unfortunately, after the E comes the F, and after that a few letters more until I reach the most desired Z, and remain free for more substantial undertakings. When the great moment will come, I am at a loss to say. I am sick of it. [Bryn Mawr, Nov. 6, 1961]
I exhausted myself trying to find a way in a maze of thoughts. I feel so disappointed I did not succeed! I feel particularly disappointed, especially as I had tried to do something really good. . . . I am a failure. So I devoted the entire evening to bibliography, which is a soothing science, and one in which brains play a rather modest role.
Perhaps my so-called “intellectual vocation” is bibliographical. Perhaps I have no intellectual vocation. Perhaps I should not care whether I have one or not.[Bryn Mawr, Nov. 17, 1961]
I wrote four or five cute little articles for my Dictionary, and have started writing a rather longish one. [Bryn Mawr, Dec. 2, 1961]
I even found the dinner party with the historians relatively exhilarating. I almost succeeded in convincing said historians that history writing is a hopeless undertaking. I can no longer remember the reasons I forged to that effect, but when produced they seemed rather overwhelming. I went to bed rather late, with full confidence in my intellectual powers temporarily restored.
The word 'temporarily' has a meaning. My confidence has not lasted long. The slight cold I caught a week ago has not cleared up entirely, and as a consequence my head has been intermittently clogged. Worst of all, I have not done any work worth mentioning. Lassitude and languor have contributed to the most shameful laziness. I started writing a brief article on the philosophy of Fink (Eugen), and had to give it up; it was unreadable. I vaguely read. I had dinner with J and almost got stuck on the way back in snowy roads filled with stalled vehicles. Skill (and chance) saved me from some long wait in a wintry night.
I will have to organize the Christmas vacation to push my work a little bit. Unfortunately, errands and learned papers will possibly kill half of my drive. I wish I could start writing something really good. [Bryn Mawr, Dec. 10, 1961]
This afternoon (Sunday) I went to the lib. to work; I have almost completed 'F' but as I was reading through the thick pile I detected a number of mistaken and/or insufficient references. (I had quoted Thomas Aquinas' Summa II-IIa on Faith, but was not sure whether it was Quaestio 4: entries on “Physicalism” (Fisicalismo) looked fishy, and highly improbable; the works in Portuguese of Farias Brito had no diacritical signs, and I have no Portuguese Dictionary at hand; Pedro de Fonseca was born in Cortizada or in Proenca-a-Nova, and I had to decide where; Fechner was born in Muskau, Niederlausitz or in Gross-Saerchen, Niederlausitz [the correct answer is: “Gross Sarchen bei Muskau, Niederlaustiz,” according to the Schweizerische Enzyklopadie], and so on and so on).
Besides working on the 'F' I have been reading, and grading, term papers, so to avoid having some 60 or 65 of them after classes. I'll return a first batch of 16 tomorrow, and wait for more. I now realize that I have to do something for my Syracuse lecture, as well as for the Heidegger Sem. [Bryn Mawr, nd]
Too bad I did not write this letter before, when I was inspired, or at any rate not plunged into a deplorable state of brutishness caused (no doubt) by hard, uninterrupted, almost frantic work. Saturday morning I decided to get rid of the 'G' with its various new articles: Gaunilo, Geiger, Gemelli, Genio, Gottingen (Escuela de), Grado, Guastellaand what notand painstaking modifications and/or enlargements of old articles: Godel (Prueba de), Gorgias, Gusto plus innumerable corrections. Well, I worked steadily for some fourteen hours, with only brief and/or hurried stops. Then, this Sunday I have been doing much the same, so now I am steadily and gloriously heading toward the 'H,' which is coming nearer and nearer, with its splendors: Hegel, Heidegger, Husserlits minutiae: Haberlin, Hobhouseand its perplexities: Hecho, Humanismo, Hipostasis. It's a maddening thing. Will I ever finish? . . . I begin to doubt. [Bryn Mawr, nd]
I tried to write an article on Nexus, but I discovered that it would be scarcely publishable. There is so much to say about that thing. I will confine myself modestly to an article on Non-Ego, which is something that seems to exist less and less, egos having taken the upper hand. [Bryn Mawr, nd]
I started working, but have not succeeded in doing much, just preparing lectures, and writing letters, and expanding bibliographies, but nothing really serious so I am disappointed and begin to think that I am good for nothing, but I don't believe it at the same time.
I (why should I begin this letter, I mean each paragraph of this letter, with 'I'; do I look obnoxious?) am slightly worried by my future work. There seems to be little opportunity for working out the unwritten parts of my philosophical system. This Dictionary kills me; it really does.
I have written an infinite number of articles on concepts and philosophers nobody (including myself) could care less about. All this is for the sake of completeness, to be sure. [Bryn Mawr, nd]