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Jul 28, 2006, 1:04 pm

Wow- if you build it, he (and they) will come.

So, tell me Tim, is there anything you aren't interested in?

So let's through some terms around- I'm a Jacobite Red Tory with Communitarian sympathies. Anyone else care to label themselves?

Jul 28, 2006, 8:09 pm

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Jul 29, 2006, 9:59 pm

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Jul 29, 2006, 11:54 pm

Are you actually a fellow zionist or was that just tongue-in-cheek?

I would characterize myself as being influenced by a syncretic mix of Trotskyist and the LaRouche Movement.

Jul 30, 2006, 1:44 am

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Jul 30, 2006, 4:48 am

The possibility of these two schools of thought being in the same (virtual) room is a very good reason not to have groups!

Jul 30, 2006, 8:28 am

Hi guys,

I'm interested in the definition of war. What are, in your opinion, the best books about it?

In my opinion we have a good definition in the Leviathan.

8pomonomo2003 Primeira Mensagem
Jul 30, 2006, 12:44 pm

I have been on the internet long enough to know that groups with a focus as broad as this tend to break up into acrimonious name calling over time. First everyone reveals their pet enthusiasms, then, finding no echo, everyone reveals their indignations. Unfortunately, these last are endlessly echoed. ...Perhaps a more focused approach would help?

We could perhaps instead do readings of some select, but crucial, semi-contemporary works (none too long, attention wanes) led by someone interested in those works. Or perhaps allow the reading of each work to circulate among interested members.

I am assuming this group is about political philosophy and not mere politics. Assuming that, I will weight this list towards the theoretical, and I will try to include the best contributions of several schools of thought, while trying to stay away from 'secondary material' while also including works that, though 'unpolitical', had an impact upon political philosophy. - That said, some of the more important, and influential, books of the last century (or century and a half) were:

Adams: THe Education of Henry Adams
Adams: The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma
Adorno: Negative Dialectics (Far too long)
Adorno/Horkheimer: Dialectic of Enlightenment
Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism (Too long)
Arendt: On Revolution
Bakunin: God and the State
Benjamin: Illuminations
I. Berlin: Four Essays on Liberty
Castoriadis: Crossroads in the Labyrinth
Chesterton: What's Wrong with the World
Chesterton: Orthodoxy
Clausewitz: On War
Deleuze: Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Far too long)
Deleuze: Nomadology: The War Machine
Derrida: A Taste for the Secret
Foucault: Archaeology of Knowledge
Foucault: Madness and Civilization
Freud: The Future of an Illusion
Freud: Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Girard: The Scapegoat
Gramsci: Selections from the Prison Writings
Habermas: The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures
F. A. Hayek: The Constitution of Liberty (Too long)
F. A. Hayek: The Road to Serfdom
Hobhouse: Liberalism
Lenin: Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder
Lukacs: History and Class Consciousness
Lyotard: The Postmodern Condition
Heidegger: Being & Time (far too long)
Heidegger: An Introduction to Metaphysics
Heidegger: Nietzsche (Volume IV, Nihilism)
Horkheimer: Critical theory
Horkheimer: Eclipse of Reason
Keynes: Economic Consequences of the Peace
Kirk: The Conservative Mind
Kojeve: Introduction to the Reading of Hegel
Kojeve: Outline of a Phenomenology of Right
MacIntyre: After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory
MacIntyre: Whose Justice? Which Rationality?
MacIntyre: Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition
Marcuse: Eros & Civilization
Marcuse: One Dimensional Man
Marx: Grundrisse (far too long)
Marx: Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of right
Merleau-Ponty: Adventures in the Dialectic
Merleau-Ponty: Humanism & Terror
Mises: Human Action (far too long)
Mises: Liberalism
Nietzsche: Beyond Good & Evil
Nietzsche: Genealogy of Morals
AJ Nock: Memoirs of a Superfluous Man
Ortega Y Gassett: Revolt of the Masses
Orwell: The Road to Wigan Pier
Orwell: Homage to Catalonia
Pareto: The Rise and Fall of Elites
Rizzi: The Bureaucratization of the World
S. Rosen: Hermeneutics as Politics
S. Rosen: Nihilism
Rothbard: Power and Market
Sartre: Critique of Dialectical Reason (far too long)
Sartre: Search for a Method
Schmitt: Concept of the Political
Schmitt: Political Theology
Schumpeter: Capitalism, Socialism & Democracy
Spengler: Decline of the West (far too long)
Spengler: Man and Technics
Sorel: Reflections on Violence
Strauss: On Tyranny
Strauss: What is Political Philosophy?
Strauss: Persecution and the Art of Writing
Trotsky: Terrorism and Communism
Trotsky: The Revolution Betrayed
Voegelin: New Science of Politics
Voegelin: Science Politics and Gnosticism
Weaver: Ideas of Consequences
Weber: Politics as a Vocation ('From Max Weber: Essays in sociology')

I have tried to include all tastes on this list: Conservative, Liberal, Marxist. Libertarian, Fascist, Christian, Straussian, Postmodern and even a little Anarchism. This list was done 'off the top of my head'. I just typed up works I thought important (to this group) and then put them in alphabetical order. Of course, this list of suggestions is open to addition and changes. In a group like this (if we were to do a reading) I think we should try to find works of contemporary import that are also intelligent and, in addition, could/should be of interest to the majority of the group. Obviously there are other considerations: is the book easily and cheaply available? - i.e., in a paperback edition. Since I made this list I naturally used books that I own. I am open to others.


Jul 30, 2006, 4:50 pm

Bleeding heart liberal, permanently angry pragmatist

Jul 30, 2006, 10:45 pm

Oakes, actually, my whole responce was tongue-in-cheek. I'm a leftist, although currently an indeterminate one.

I think pomonomo2003's idea is a great one. Who is going to start?

Jul 31, 2006, 12:07 am

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Jul 31, 2006, 12:10 am

I'll join in a Foucault read—but it does have to be short. He's brilliantly, sometimes incoherently wrong, and I look forward to being annoyed about it.

13WalkerMedia Primeira Mensagem
Jul 31, 2006, 12:23 am

I've also experienced the flame war problem pomonomo2003 mentions above and hope we can avoid it here. The idea of targeted discussions of key works from the clearly varied viewpoints of group members sounds fun, too. But I sincerely hope that funneling all our resources into one public works project isn't the *only* way for us to maintain civil discussion or a social contract here. Maybe it's just my libertarian tendencies coming out, but I think we can negotiate a bit more pluralism than that.

14tertullian Primeira Mensagem
Jul 31, 2006, 12:27 am

I second, or third, Foucault, but perhaps something even a bit shorter like Nietzsche, Geneaology, History, or any of the essays/interviews in Power/Knowledge.

Jul 31, 2006, 12:28 am

Fine, I'll do a Foucault one. How is this going to work, we pick a work, allow some reading time and then discuss, or what?

I look nothing like him. Actually, here is an early photo of me:


Jul 31, 2006, 12:31 am

Fine, I'll do a Foucault one. How is this going to work, we pick a work, allow some reading time and then discuss, or what?

I look nothing like him. Actually, here is an early photo of me:


Jul 31, 2006, 9:17 am

I think whoever is doing the reading has the right to choose. But one should be sensitive to the interests of other people on the list. ...One might end up just talking to oneself. People on this list have varied interests and a work that is 'essential' or 'crucial' or 'obvious' to some members may not even be on the radar of others. And thus not in their library either. Decide on the reading you intend to do and give the list members a week to purchase it or at least get it from a library. The essay 'Nietzsche, Genealogy, History' mentioned above is interesting; as is 'Nietzsche, Freud, Marx'. Both these essays are collected in 'Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology' which is Volume 2 of 'Essential Works of Foucault'. It is in paperback and can probably be picked up used. ...But, ultimately, this is kray's decision unless someone else steps up to the plate.


Jul 31, 2006, 5:58 pm

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Jul 31, 2006, 8:21 pm

At the risk of raising the ire of some (but presumably not oakes), I'll mention that I did track down a pdf of Nietzche, Genealogy, History via Google.

Ago 1, 2006, 7:26 pm

Sorry it took me so long to get back here. Anyway, a good short work of his is the first volume of the history of sexuality, but his best book is the second volume which is much longer.

Ago 1, 2006, 7:36 pm

I would like to join in the Foucault discussion as well, but do not as yet own any. I might comment late as I chose the Super Saver Shipping option, but I ordered the volume 2 Essential Works so I'm equally supportive of either "Nietzsche..." essay. If it's online somewhere, I can read earlier and have a copy to mark up later. :)

Ago 1, 2006, 7:39 pm

As soon as I posted, I saw kray's message! I ordered the first volume of the history of sexuality at the same time, so I'm OK with that selection as well.

Ago 1, 2006, 10:45 pm

It might be a good idea to start with something modest, essay-sized. Easier to squeeze into our reading schedules.

Ago 2, 2006, 12:14 am

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Ago 2, 2006, 1:46 pm

Oakes reminds me of a saying: "To do continental philosophy you must have read all of the literature; to do analytic philosophy you need not read any of it."

Ago 2, 2006, 2:11 pm

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Ago 2, 2006, 2:19 pm

Pomonomo's list is good, yet heavy on the continental philosophy. I'll throw in these titles and philosophers as possible reads:

Niccolo Machiavelli - The Prince
John Calvin - On Civil Government
Thomas Hobbes - Leviathan
John Locke - Second Treatise of Government
Jean-Jacques Rousseau - On the Social Contract
J.S. Mill - On Liberty
Rosa Luxemburg - Leninism or Marxism?

I would also suggest, for those threads that are reading one book or another, that works in the public domain are selected. It would be easier to direct other readers to a particular selection if it's web-based. Marxist.org carries a lot of Marxist, socialist and communist works, for those who are interested.

Ago 2, 2006, 2:22 pm

I'm certainly in agreement, though I find philosophers on either side of the divide seem to think it supports their view. :)

Ago 2, 2006, 2:24 pm

Sorry, that should have been Marxists.org - it's more collective that way. *g*

Ago 2, 2006, 3:45 pm

oakesspalding writes "I just jumped the gun and read "Nietzche, Genealogy, History." I found it almost completely impenetrable. Aside from picking up a few tidbits, from the trivial--words and concepts often change their meanings over time--to the controversial and unargued for--one cannot evaluate the truth of propositions involving certain concepts (even the concept of “truth” itself) independent of the historical context--I have absolutely no idea what Foucault was trying say. No idea whatsoever. Can anyone else point to a meaningful or clear claim that Foucault makes in this piece?"

While I do not want to actually defend Foucault I will point out the self-confessed radical Kantian roots of Foucault's thought. In the collection Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, Volume II there is an essay almost entirely ghost-written, and thus approved of, by Foucault. The essay 'Foucault' (p. 459) begins thusly "To the extent that Foucault fits into the philosophical tradition, it is the critical tradition of Kant, and his project could be called a Critical History of Thought." There is thus a way that Foucault (and postmodernism in general) can be understood by those steeped in Anglo-Saxon philosophical analysis - go back to their mutual Kantian roots. Some steps along this way are the work of Hans Vaihinger ("Philosophy of As If") and also Jules de Gaultier From Kant to Nietzsche. The former I read (but never owned) in an inadequate fashion on the floor of the Strand (NYC) three decades ago and thus do not remember very much of it. I can say that it is an early example of the understanding of philosophy as mythic construction. The latter, written around 1900, is a wonderful example of exactly how old the 'postmodern' is. This aesthetic vitalism, stemming from a 'radical Kantianism', can be nicely seen as an early example of postmodern writing. As a matter of fact, very recently there has emerged an attempt to understand Nietzsche himself as a (radical) Kantian by several analytically minded commentators. Some of these works are:
Michael Steven Green Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition
George J. Stack Nietzsche's Anthropic Circle : Man, Science, and Myth
R. Kevin Hill Nietzsche's Critiques : The Kantian Foundations of His Thought
Robin Small Nietzsche in Context
Perhaps it shows that I am too easily excited but I am delighted by this emergent trend in Nietzsche interpretation. Also I should point out that Nietzsche is at his most 'Kantian' in the notes he never saw fit to publish (i.e., Will to Power). Now, these works on Nietzsche should be in any college library but I doubt that most public libraries would have them. These books on Nietzsche understand themselves to be, for the most part, disputing the postmodern understanding of Nietzsche. They can however, or so I would argue, be understood to be exposing the radical Kantian roots of this postmodernism. The history of radical Kantianism (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Postmodernity) has yet to be written! It can best be recovered by first reading Kant through the eyes of some of his later readers (i.e., Kuno Fischer (yet another author I have yet to read), Jules de Gaultier, Friedrich Albert Lange, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Hans Vaihinger) and then reading the Nachlass of Nietzsche himself.

Ago 6, 2006, 11:27 pm

Greetings! I just found, and joined, this group.

I consider myself a neo-Kantian, somewhere between left-liberal and democrat, and am interested in the "critical pragmatisms" of the most recent Frankfurt-School-volk.

Would be interested in reading Foucault, if somebody can help me "get" him. He's someone whom--I feel that I understand the words as I'm reading, but once I've finished, I've completely missed the point.

Ago 12, 2006, 3:23 am

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Editado: Ago 12, 2006, 3:45 pm

Here's an attempt an off the cuff, relatively pithy, plain-language summary of Foucault and what he's good for. (Though the one copy of Foucault I had with me is slowly making its way by sea back to the states, so I'll probably get things wrong. I expect to be vigorously corrected by the group. A Foucault discussion is surely the best place for some disciplinary correction).

So, here it goes:

What if the world and the processes that consitute it are not the clockwork-like apparatus that began to be imagined by Enlightenment thinkers in the 18th century? (Imagine a universe in which physical and social processes, while certainly concrete and possessed of certain predictable and law-like regularities at a micro scale, are chaotic and accidental at a macro scale)

What if, furthermore, language is one such aspect of an accidental universe? What if the language--and by extention the logic--we humans express through it is not referable to any settled realm of being exterior to the vagaries of human life? (Imagine a language that, while still referring to indisputably real things exterior to subjective human life, unavoidably adds social-linguistic baggage to any concept by perpetuating an accidental and undermotivated traditional *idea* of reality as an absolutely valid and necessary *reference* to reality).

Well, if you believe that the traditional (dominant) way of understanding the world is accidental and if you are furthermore suspicious of the way traditional understanding is used to shore up existing power positions by reference to the "natural" or "objective" or "self-evident" or "true", you might start looking for ways to understand how this process works.

Thus Foucault's work on Language/Power and a lifelong research project attempting to come to terms with subtly coersive (and for Foucault seemingly unavoidable) institutional discourses: the prison, sexuality, etc.

This may also be an explanation for Foucault's prose: trying to write your way out of the inexcapable dominance of language while, you know, having to use language to write with, may have tended to tie his prose into knots.

What Foucault's generally on about then, is this: hey, we've all been trying to get at the truth of things, but one of the problems with this world (if you're not a fan of the divine right of kings or "I'm not sexist, but women are naturally inferior it's a fact" or "math and science will save us and make us whole") is that the terms in which we try to get at the truth are reductive: they obscure the greater capacity for movement, thought, political development and life that actually exist for us if only we had the vocabulary to see them with.

This is also what Foucault can be good for, in a political theoretical sense: uncovering previously unacknowledged patterns of subtle yet persistent coercion that restrict our and others' capacity for action because they are internalized and treated as natural, absolute, and self-evident.

Ago 12, 2006, 3:41 pm

As for the Nietzsche article, here is what I recall in a nutshell:

Nietzsche says some things about origins and the false assumption of authenticity that Foucault seconds and expands on. The historian's task should not be the attempt to discover ultimate origins (these will always be false and thus obscure important aspects of the past). Rather the historian should attend to the geneaology of an event: the chronology of its unfolding in time informed by a lively awareness of the accidents that went into its making.

This genealogical approach allows the historian to avoid a deterministic retelling of history that makes a given event seem predetermined by effacing the many moments when things could have gone either way.

(I read this years ago, so please correct me if I'm wrong)

Ago 13, 2006, 2:31 am

I was the one who was burdened with the task of explaining Foucault, and I kind of feel like an errant schoolboy. The truth is that I was busy all of last weekend. Anyway, Oakes, you had the right idea in your initial summary of his essay. The essay is Foucault's interpretation of Nietzsche’s theory of history. He does this by using the many various remarks Nietzsche made and the kind of methodology that he uses in some of his work.

Genealogy can be understood as tracing the original of a present form, such as a cultural form, physical form, etc. etc., through the various forms that preceded it. Traditional history tends to think that there is an unbroken line of causation linking present forms to past forms, and that the task of the historian is simply to uncover and present these causal chains. For Nietzsche, there is no continuous series of events that link the present to the past in some kind of complete description. It is instead a messy haze of conflicting drives, meanings and purposes, with no overriding reason for being.

A part of this idea can be seen in Nietzsche’s critique of teleology (the idea that the current uses of certain forms can explain their origins). Nietzsche states that history is just an endless series of these conflicting drives. A continues cycle of forces coming into conflict, being subjugated, dominated, and twisted to new purposes. A genealogy of descent would reveal these arbitrary and shifting transformations. It does not form a clear line of descent, but some kind of complex patchwork of multiple forces interacting in many different ways.

However, this is not a blind mechanical process. Nietzsche’s claim is that knowledge, ideas, concepts, and beliefs are part and parcel of this process. When he says ‘interpretation’, he means that for a certain time, one particular force has come to dominate the others, and therefore interpretations can be used to mean ‘utility’, ‘tyranny’, etc. Nietzsche’s genealogy of morals is just another instance of one ‘will’ coming to impose itself on the multiple elements surrounding it. This is why the genealogist is aware of his own part of this process more so than the objective historian.

This is what is meant by ‘perspectivism’.

I don’t think he owes much of his inspiration to Kant at all. Kant was partially revived by Hannah Arendt on the ethical side, and by Lyotard and others on the aesthetics side. I think Foucault avoided both of these revived usages of Kant. After the history of Sexuality, he was much more closely related to Aristotle than Kant. Overall though, his biggest influence was Nietzsche.

Ago 13, 2006, 9:25 pm

I finally read the Foucalt. While I didn't find it impenetrable, I also happen to own and have read both On the Genealogy of Morals and "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life" (from Untimely Meditations.) While I don't think you need to have read most continental philosophy to understand the essay, you really do need to have studied the two works above, and the early History essay is one of Nietzsche's more obscure works. Since I don't speak German, a bit of the essay was lost on me, but thankfully I do know enough French to grasp the distinction between "connaitre" and "savoir" as kinds of knowledge. I did enjoy the way Foucalt describes history as occurring in the interstices rather than as constructions on bodies with clear boundaries, and I expect I will enjoy this object-less approach described more fully in his other works. My natural inclinations lie closer to continental than to analytical philosophy.

Yet, I too am plagued by one issue oakes faces; I have a full-time job, and it's not in academia. While I am far more well read than the general population of college graduates, philosophy was not my undergraduate major. Given finite reading time, I'd like to spend it where it will be most fruitful. I don't want to read a movie review for a movie I haven't seen, so to speak, so if future group readings have "prerequisite" works or require in-depth knowledge of certain terminology, could the nominator of the reading state this up-front to everybody? I'm not suggesting keeping all readings to the lowest common denominator, just a heads-up warning for the hobbyist philosophers. While some of you are reading a specialist work, I can concentrate on working my way through some of those foundation texts I haven't yet tackled. In the meantime, I will enjoy reading the comments of those who have clearly spent more time on philosophy than I have, making notes on things to read in future.

37mccallco Primeira Mensagem
Ago 14, 2006, 11:35 am

While I don't think that Foucault is necessarily inappropriate for this group, I do think that this particular text is. NGH is text on method, and thus is not very germane to those who wish to discuss issues in political philosophy, however broadly conceived. I don't have access to my books right now, but if memory serves, there are some texts and interviews in the Power/Knowledge volume that will be more accessible (and interesting) to people with little knowledge of Foucault's thought.

Otherwise, I think the suggestion to discuss texts here is a good one, and I think the idea to keep them at a manageable size is a good one.

Ago 14, 2006, 1:00 pm

Okay, let's move on from Foucault. How about Marx? I'm sure most of you have Elster's An Introduction to Karl Marx. I think we should read chapter 10, then start the discussion.

Ago 24, 2006, 6:53 pm

...Or we don't have to . Why isn't anyone posting?

Ago 24, 2006, 10:20 pm

5 of 43 own the Elster text. I suspect some validity to ExVivre's suggestion that texts in the public domain might solicit more participation. Perhaps you could post one or two central issues from Elster's chapter on what is living and dead in Marxism, and readers on this list could discuss these concepts based on readings from Marx's writings. Some of us might only be able to contribute based on a refresher reading of The Communist Manifesto, while others could bring in discussion of longer or secondary texts, with touchstones for later reference. (I tried the marxists.org website to perhaps recommend some *short* primary readings as per suggestions above but found that collectively they couldn't manage to keep the site up.) Then again, it may be that most of the people on the list really are overextended time-wise and it will be difficult to get discussion going no matter what.

Ago 25, 2006, 12:47 am

Yeah, I foolishly didn't pay attention to the number of owners of An Introduction to Karl Marx. I'll post a summary of the chapter tommorow.

Ago 25, 2006, 5:20 am

Just eavesdropping on your chats out of idle curiosity - there is a London-based Forum for Marxism, Science and Philosophy which may interest you - suggest you search the web. Some members are associated with the non-party organisation Democratic Left and/or the magazine New Times, so there may be a link there.

Ago 25, 2006, 6:52 pm

2 things:

I was finally able to get past the "page not found" message to the marxists.org site and it actually looks pretty cool for a site completely contrary to my belief system! Lots of information there, both primary and secondary.

Kray, *just in case* tone didn't come through well, I wasn't trying to be negative, just hoping to solve your question. I'm an odd case; since I don't drive, it's actually more difficult for me to get something from the library than it is to order it online and have it delivered. I didn't want to buy the book, but I'm looking forward to the discussion.

Out 7, 2006, 4:22 pm

Just in case anyone`s interested, I`ve started a new LT group for W E B Du Bois. The young Du Bois, as you may know, was friend and pupil to the philosopher William James, so I thought it might be of interest.

Editado: Jan 3, 2007, 3:05 am

"If I read a paper defending a particular theorem in linear algebra, or making an argument in Swahili, I would have virtually no understanding of its content. Nevertheless, concerning linear algebra or Swahili, if I asked someone conversant in one of those subjects to explain the paper to me, I am confident they could do so, at least on some basic or superficial level."

When you talk about Swahili, do you mean somebody conversant in the language, or somebody who understands its linguistic properties? I can understand somebody being able to parse a paper on Swahili as a language into something simpler, but it seems obvious to me that there might be something in any given Swahili statement which is untranslatable.

This relates to Foucault in that I think people are capable of extracting meaningful statements out of a reading of him without necessarily being able to explain a particular text in a way that you (or anybody else) might understand. It might appear that such people are only claiming to understand Foucault "if only to prevent people from thinking that (they) were an idiot" . . . but I feel the way towards Freudian repression that you do towards Foucault, and yet the concept has a meaningful existence, with predictable ramifications (predictable in the sense that they are distributed across a particular discourse in a way which is visible), to many people.

I'm also confused by the line you're drawing between Nietzche and Foucault. It seems like you are saying that despite an obscurity in his style, his work can be parsed into a set of actual claims which constitute the measure of his relevance . . . but that would seem to indicate that you prefer the claims to the work itself. Do you see any function (beyond as a cognitive tool) at all to the text being cryptic, ambiguous, metaphorical etc.?

Editado: Mar 24, 2007, 2:03 am

Mensagem removida pelo autor.

Editado: Set 27, 2012, 5:18 pm

@#8 I am amazed that this post has been up for over 6 years and no one has jumped at your offer! I think that this is a fantastic idea! How do you see it working? Starting another forum or group discussion to talk about the current read? Let me know if there is still (speaking as if there was ever any) interest in this idea!