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THEOLOGIA POETICA

Theologia Poetica was a Renaissance code-word for ancient political philosophy.  The great mythical representative of Theologia Poetica was Orpheus, the poet (vas as vātēs) of ancient lore.  Under the "vulgar" guise of "new Orpheus" (or the like) Renaissance "poetic philosophers" were able to revive and promote a way of life discovered in classical antiquity (independently of Biblical Revelation) and partially eclipsed with the rise of Christianity, or where "Athens" and "Jerusalem" had come to be legally conjoined. 



A Site Contributing to "The Conversation of Mankind"

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Tout ce qui est arraché est perdu.


« Nous sommes obligés de retourner à l'origine des objets de notre désir.  Or, nous faillons atteindre cette origine, ce primum verum.  Par conséquent, il ne nous reste plus qu'à vivre en tension sans aucune satisfaction réelle: vides de toute solution.  Ou bien, la seule solution à notre portée reste nécessairement cachée au cœur de notre désir.  Vivre en tant qu'homme ne serait-il autre chose que de cultiver notre désir afin qu'il soit à la fois de plus en plus orienté vers son centre vital, et de plus en plus libre d'épanouir à partir de ce centre lui-même. »


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Si c’est seulement par le biais du visible que l’on peut remonter à l’invisible, c’est tout de même uniquement à partir de l’invisible que l’on peut bien juger du visible. Dans le premier cas, on a la via negativa du doute philosophique, alors que dans le second on a la via positiva du poète qui découvre les choses comme elles sont.

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«La vita umana è l’essenza della vita in generale, ossia viaggio verso la profondità celeta, o mistero della morte.  Per l’uomo, la morte non è mai solo superficie, o dato da accettare passivamente, quanto piuttosto interiorità di ogni superficie—di ogni illusione.  Dietro ogni dato si cela un baratro di morte, un abisso di senso.  La morte dunque non significa annientamento dell’uomo, ma sorgente di vita e sostanza di ogni illusione.  Perchè l’uomo non si risolve mai nelle illusioni, nei sogni, nelle speranze, nelle aspettative, nelle vacuità—per quanto possa o debba trarvi vantaggio—ma sempre oltre ad esse si spinge con la ragione, con il dubbio, con la forza che trae proprio dalle chiaroscure profondità del suo essere—del suo errare 

                                       *

Oracular intimation: Dante's Comedy hides its heroic pagans, its active or poetic minds, at the centre of Hell's opening (where Hell is at its broadest), of Limbo, where dwell the souls of the vast majority of men, or rather of those who live as shadows.  There, minds are invisible rulers of appearances seated in the very midst of appearances: as Platonic Ideas, they are stars brought (back) down from the firmament into the polis.  In order to see minds, we must rise to Paradise, the Garden of heavenly or beautiful visions.  

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Folie et Conscience Civique (online RECORDING)  

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Index:
         $.  Our Current Situation: A Prelude for Believers
         I.  True Eloquence
        II.  Why Philosophy: One brief apologia
      III.  Preamble to the Problem of Virtue
      IV
. Poetic Leadership in Times of Global Disillusionment
        V.  Alternatives to the Global Market
      VI.  Reflection
   VII.
  Seeing Ourselves: The Importance of Speech
  VIII.  Very Brief Phenomenology of the Human Condition
      IX. "Tradition" today?
       X. Freedom in Dante's Comedy (audio recording)

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Our Current Situation : A Prelude for Believers



        As all gods, money is a mask, but of all masks the vilest, the most plebeian. Demos, the Greek-Athenian word for plebes, signifies at once “taxable money”: demoi were subjects of Athens obliged to paying taxes. The demos meant “money” to its masters.

           How, in the modern world, money becomes the ultimate god, the ultimate mask is easily seen. The “economization” of man is the direct result of modernity's de facto abolition of divine mystery from public discourse, which is to say, from public interpretation of authority. Once the original bond between irreducible mystery and reasoning is rejected, all publicly relevant discourse becomes instrumental to a god devoid of all mystery or transcendence: money.

            Money today masks its own means or genesis: a pragmatic discourse standing upon the radical rejection of a classical, ancestral bond between discourse and “divine perfection,” or the ontological plenitude of a world of pure intelligibility. To speak here of a bond between discourse (Logos) and God may be misleading: signalling essences, our terms are altogether impersonal. No objection to evoking John 1:1: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. Understood in its essential or philosophical sense, the cited verse signals the original inherence of speech in “metaphysical” or undefiled mind: there is an original discourse—a discourse irreducible to appearances—and that discourse, seated in mind, is thought, which is one with mind, so that mind is thought. “Thought thinking itself.”

           Money today obscures the original nature of discourse, masking the modern discourse that raised money to the status of consummate mask or god—a god behind which hides, however, not only its propagandistic, propelling, or prophetic discourse (the deceiving rhetoric inculcating fear of money), but also the manner of life said discourse signals: a life alienated from rational mystery (traditionally speaking, an amoral or immoral life, or a life of vice)a life alienated from Mystery as a supreme philosophical category.

          What the alienation in question results in at once, was spelled out most vividly by the late Guido Sommavilla, S.J., as he examined and deplored the modern replacement of Mystery with the Absurd.


           Bibliographical references:

       ANDREACCHIO Marco, "The Discrete Permanence of the Ancient: Hilail Gildin On and Between the Lines,"  Interpretation : A Journal of Political Philosophy.  Vol. 43.1.

SOMMAVILLA Guido, Il pensiero non è un labirinto: dialettica e mistero. Milano, Jaca Book, 1981.

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True Eloquence


"unless of course they call a formidable speaker he who speaks the truth: for if this is what they are saying, then I too would agree that I am an orator, though not in their sense."
(εἰ μὴ ἄρα δεινὸν καλοῦσιν οὗτοι λέγειν τὸν τἀληθῆ λέγοντα: εἰ μὲν γὰρ τοῦτο λέγουσιν, ὁμολογοίην ἂν ἔγωγε οὐ κατὰ τούτους εἶναι ῥήτωρ)

These words Socrates utters in Plato's Apology (17b) before the Athenian demos.  Socrates' "δεινός" (rendered above as "formidable speaker") had come to be understood as "clever speaker."  The Greek term stems from δεός, or "fear." The δεινός is so effective a speaker that he can instill fear in his audience.  Indeed, the first persuasive speakers are sacred legislators, or fearsome poets.  However, in popular usage, the term δεινός came to (impiously) denote a merely persuasive speaker.  If only tacitly, Socrates is pointing back to an original sense of the term, but also "behind" it, so to speak, particularly since for Socrates the true δεινός returns in speech to the roots of (religious) fear.  In Horace's terms, he draws light out of the smoke left behind by bolts of lightning (...ex fumo da[t] lucem; Ars Poetica, V.143).  In any case, the good δεινός bespeaks the truth at the heart of rhetorical masks; he illuminates or points directly to the ground or reason of words that, in their "primitive" valence, are fearsome or terrifying.

In spite of, or properly as signalled by his dissembling "irony," Socrates truly is a "formidable speaker" (δεινός).  His rhetorical ability is displayed immediately as he "plays" on the divide that he rejects--but that Sophists and the demos alike accept--between "clever speech" and truth.  Socrates transcends that divide by recognizing the difference between "clever" in the eyes of the demos ("pragmatic cleverness") and "clever" with respect to truth proper.

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Why Philosophy: One brief apologia

There are theoretical assumptions underlying all practical or specialist endeavors, which, in turn, could not progress without in some fashion taking for granted or turning their shoulders to their ἀρχαί, their principles.  There goes a formulation of one of the liberating insights to which philosophical doubt exposes us upon our awakening to it.   


Philosophy in its pure form is not a progressive discipline, insofar as it dwells in principles, exploring, examining all that is apparently or supposedly left behind by all practical disciplines--allowing us to verify fundamental assumptions in the light of a natural τέλος, a path pointing straight to the infinite perfection of (our) being.  Philosophy is necessarily counter-current with respect to all future-oriented enterprises, including all past-oriented enterprises.


What is today called "science" or assumed as wisdom (since scientia is sapientia) entails at its origins a rejection of philosophy as originally intended, or its replacement by a "new philosophy/science" for which being-itself is essentially unintelligible because a-rationally mutating (a contingent reason may be always attributed to the mutation based on the absence of any permanent reason).  Now, this assumption is open to question.  The assumption that it is *not,* is part and parcel of the Logical Positivist/Empiricist program, and by extension of all endeavors stemming from it, if only unknowingly.


                                                                                                                                                                                                 (published on the 25th of June, 2014)

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Preamble to The Problem of Virtue

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(by way of breaking the spell of relativism)


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"Mais transporter ce modus operandi à la philosophie, aller, ici encore, des concepts à la chose, utiliser, pour la connaissance désintéressée d'un objet qu'on vise cette fois à atteindre en lui-même, une manière de connaître qui s'inspire d'un intérêt déterminé et qui consiste par définition en une vue prise sur l'objet extérieurement, c'est tourner le dos au but qu'on visait, c'est condamner la philosophie à un éternel tiraillement entre les écoles, c'est installer la contradiction au cœur même de l'objet et de la méthode. Ou il n'y a pas de philosophie possible et toute connaissance des choses est une connaissance pratique orientée vers le profit à tirer d'elles, ou philosopher consiste à se placer dans l'objet même par un effort d'intuition."

                                                                                                                                                                           (Henri Bergson, Introduction à la métaphysique)


In the context of the universal "market of ideas," anything we may say or do is deemed to be an object of trade the significance of which is relative to the use it is made of.  If something cannot be imparted, exchanged, or purchased, it must be irrelevant, senseless, if not outrageous.  Nothing aside from the market itself is to be regarded as possessing inherent or universal worth or meaning.  

           "Old" claims to universality beyond trade are to be either shunned, or "compartmentalized" (contextualized or framed) within the new market regime.  Old Philosophy is not to be lived, but treated as an error, a delusion, even a disease that, when taken "too seriously," converts into an outright evil.  Everyone and everything anyone does or says is deemed to be radically exposed to trade/revision, radically "contingent" or reducible to one of the indeterminately many "free-floating" signifiers of postmodernist discourse.

         Now, nothing anyone says or does can be recognized as possessing universal significance and relevance as long as it is approached within the unquestioned frame of reference of a market of exchange shut to anything outside of itself--a market for which "transcendence" means nothing aside from "expansion".

             The universal market resembles the evil-natured "she-wolf" (lupa) that in Dante's Inferno, Canto I, "emaciated, seemed pregnant with all desires" (di tutte brame sembiava carca nella sua magrezza).  Dante frees our natural desires from the spell of the "she-wolf," restoring them on the way to their proper ends.  Dante's "war" (guerra) against the deadly threats of "the beast" (la bestia) takes place in the beast's barren womb--a womb that fails to contain Dante's desire, which rises high above the expectations of the she-wolf, to sentence it back into the  dark recesses of the mind, whence it had first emerged.

         Dante's way (via) is our own.  Accordingly, the present Forum "strikes back" at the "global system" hosting it.  It strikes from within the belly of its technocratic whale, addressing the problem of "the nature of context" by way of rising from "the dark matter" or "obscured wilderness" (selva oscura) of the universal marketplace to a permanent horizon of meaning.  The aim is to rediscover or uncover anew Philosophy as Way of Life that is both right and true.

              The first question addressed on this Forum pertains to the possibility of teaching virtue--the proper "food" of Philosophy.  It is not difficult to understand that if virtue could be taught by any man in any way, then there could be no Philosophy at all, and sheer opinion/appearance would be all.  The problem of "teaching virtue" pertains to the question of "the roots of virtue." If any man could teach virtue, then the virtue he were to teach would be something peculiar or relative to him and thus not something equally significant for all.  The whole Socratic tradition (from Plato and Aristotle to St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, from Dante and Vico to Leo Strauss and Orpheus Vas) argues against virtue as "importation" from an empirical somewhere without us.  Virtue is emphatically not learned from anywhere in particular: it is not imparted by anyone in particular, no matter how.

               Whence virtue, then?  Christian theologians' answer is, God.  God is the root/source of all virtue.  Our cultivation of virtue requires empirical conditions that, once met, allow God's virtue to manifest itself in us (most notably as a charisma).  In no way is any empirical "example" the source of virtue.  Virtue cannot be "transferred" from one place to another.  To claim otherwise would be to deny the rootedness of virtue in God, and to reduce virtue to physicality.     

               In Plato, the impossibility of teaching/imparting virtue is tied to the doctrine of anamnesis, which points to a disparity between false knowledge imparted by someone (in fact, mere opinion), and true knowledge imparted by no-one.


                                                                                                                                                                  (published on the 14th of June, 2013)

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Poetic Leadership in Times of Global Disillusionment

« Disons-le tout net, notre temps n'est pas celui du secret, mais de son opposé, la transparence.  Il y a même, plus ou moins confusément, une idéologie de la transparence qui assimile implicitement la transparence à la vérité, à la rectitude et même à l'innocence, tandis qu'à l'inverse le secret comporterait, dans ce qu'il cache et qu'il n'avoue pas, de l'inavouable et de la culpabilité.  L'idéologie de la transparence entend que tout peut s'exposer, devenir public pour être soumis au regard des autres, être également l'objet de procédures de surveillance et de contrôle.  Le plus inquiétant est que l'idéologie de la transparence est aujourd'hui souvent liée à l'idée de démocratie.  Comme si le progrès de la démocratisation était corrélatif de l'extension de la transparence et du recul du secret.  Mais qui ne voit que cette démocratie ressemblerait à un cachot sans murs ni verrous, un cachot étendu à la société entière, et la vie de l'homme démocratique à un enfer? »          

(Yves Charles Zarka, "Ce secret qui nous tient," Cités 26, 2006; reprinted in La destitution des intellectuels)


Avant-Propos

Absorbed by the shadows of the marketplace, chasing the mirage of a “success” over which hangs the Damoclean sword of death, the child of global disenchantment cherishes his moments of glory as ever-narrowing windows over the abysmal insignificance and unpredictability of his endeavors. Rare ephemeral victories disappear in the face of a desert in which they appear: solitary instants promptly buried, forgotten by all. Confronted with the specter of death, the child moves further, builds castles of shadows, seeks an audience in an ocean of self-absorbed shadows pretending to listen, shadows drawing upon any glimmer of light as momentous means to stay afloat in a world of shadows competing for dominion over each other. Any means seems legitimate to the child refusing to be absorbed by shadows, refusing to be reduced to the condition of a shadow among shadows, all equally formless. Confused, the child moves chaotically, or his motion is his confusion, for he is born in confusion, or his birth is his entering into his present condition. Whence is he born—born to die? That which is prior to his birth is what the child seeks, if only by rushing through dead-ends, to gather resonance for his return. The child is born to announce his own death, or rather to proclaim his own prenatal hiddenness. His victories, his fame, all point to nothing other than his original abode. Our achievements stand as feeble monuments to this abode.

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«Telle est la vie des hommes. Quelques joies, très vite effacées par d’inoubliables chagrines. Il n’est pas nécessaire de le dire aux enfants.» (Marcel Pagnol)


«…il faut distinguer différence et altérité. La première n’est pas nécessairement du registre de la seconde. L’exaltation contemporaine tous azimuts de la différence est peut-être même le signe le plus foisonnant de la disparition de l’altérité.» (Dominique Quessada, Court traité d’altéricide)


A corollary to Leopardi’s lesson concerning the capital importance of national lies is that the radical liberalization of illusion kills our illusions.  Art becomes meagre consolation the moment we no longer believe in art—the moment we begin using art against its natural grain to delay a confrontation with all that is beyond art.  Art is displaced by a plaything of disenchantment, of radical distaste for life, for birth; displaced by the instrument of death, expression of a morbose compulsion to witness the erosion, the destruction of all that is true without remainder, of all that is pure, immaculate, transparent.  “Art” no longer means what is hidden to us and outside of us; it no longer divines genuinely. Instead it revolves within the parameters of our passionate expectations, ghettoized, exiled from a life capable of shattering all of our expectations. Divination is replaced by fixed expectations, frozen formulas of words so ingrained in our everyday movement that their affirmation no longer requires explicit representation.  Thus neutralized, thus neutered, art is eclipsed in its essential character by a covert shadow of art, an artless talk about art: what we now name “art” is fetish, rather than agent—an empty pretension to art; entertaining advertisement, the Global Market’s everyday fuel.

            As much as we may feel immune to the mirages produced by art, our sense of art’s background or constitutive context tends to remain a byproduct of a mechanical imitation of art, an imitation cut off from the life that art originally introduces us to.  The art that begins shaping “the self” is no longer allowed to free the self from its determined shapes.  As a result, we tend to seek liberation from the self’s limits in an indefinitely expanding plurality of selves.  Pluralism offers us a salvation we no longer seek in a radical alternative to the Global Market.  Is no such alternative available to us, today?  May no illusion serve as mast for every new Ulysses sailing through the Global Market’s waters?  Blinding us to what is low for the sake of what is lofty, may poetry not serve as our mast, allowing us to withstand the storm of passions as we attempt to hear the voice of nature’s depths undistorted by the clamor of raging waves? 

             Is a return to the origin of the self possible without a provisional self-binding to a cardinal illusion, a poetic illusion? And can this illusion be other than the self itself—a poetic invention in its own right? Is Ulysses a self binding itself to itself, alone amidst others, blind to his social environment for the sake of returning to his “home-ground,” his fatherland, where he is anonymous father to all lost personae—master in a world of pure poetry, a purely poetic fiction?   Is Ulysses a poet returning to his own environment, to a purely human realm? Upon returning to his Ithaca, he would be himself again, independent of any mask, being ruler of them all.   Must the self remain alone in order to awaken to its author, freeing itself from the mirage of indefinitely refracted authorship?  May the assiduous practice of abiding in a purely poetic world serve as training in our confronting the open-sea of the passions without being overcome by its tempestuous currents, swallowed into its abysmal gorge? Does Ulysses’ emblematic stratagem intimate an art habitually practiced by poets preparing to perform their “Orphic” or civilizing work?  In this case, Ulysses’ self-blinding would serve as pre-sentiment or covert annunciation of our own return to the universe of poetry—not merely to a “self” alone, but to a kingdom in which the lonely self is secret sovereign.  Ulysses’ literal withdrawal would point back to a further, substantive withdrawal preparing every poet to live his life in the midst of selves no longer aware of their poetic nature—of their being fictions of one poetic mind.  The poetic return “home” would anticipate a return to homelessness, to a wilderness ordinarily inimical to poetry.   Confiding in his original kingly role, the poet attempts to enlighten un-enlightened selves to their true, illusory nature.

              A return to our primordial illusion emerges as necessary condition for our navigating across the sea of disillusionment without being overtaken by its foreign, floating shadows.  We may not know these foreign shadows’ author, but as enlightened poets we are now accustomed to confronting shadows as poetic illusions, rather than as fearsome beasts (to echo verses of Dante’s Inferno).   We need not know the author of sirens and other monstrous temptresses to treat them all as harmless illusions, and indeed to make providential use of them.   The use is “providential” (rather than fortuitous or opportunistic) properly insofar as it presupposes a poetic vision of kingship or of ends.  The use that enlightened poets make of shadows they fail to retrace to their own doing reflects qualifiedly the use they make of shadows of their own making.  If in the latter case the poet is king, in the former he is minister or servant of an unseen king, with the understanding that the true king is minister omnium (Dante, Monarchia I.12). The two worlds—the poetic and the natural—remain commensurate to each other, so that that which the enlightened poet would not do for himself, he would not do for others.

                 In the absence of enlightened poetry, nature strikes us as violent death, as a senseless brutality that art is summoned to embellish, lest we fail to carry out the work of death (to borrow a Hegelian phrase).   The absence of enlightened poetry prevents us from believing in art, insofar as art starved of enlightened poetry—art “freed” scientifically from any assumption of enlightenment—is dead.  We look down upon it as hapless before the task of nourishing us, of leading us to a life worth living.  We are thus driven to seek the object of belief outside of art.  Yet, what we find outside of our dead art, our faint shadow of art, is not life, but an obscure valley of death.  Disillusioned, we return to our dead art to render death bearable—to extend an authoritative veil over death and swell the veil with the wind of death pro-grammatically channeled.   Violent death is filtered into “a system of currents” of exchange—a “new home” for our everyday yearnings.


Alternatives to the Global Market


The inhabitants of the Global Market sleep a sleep induced by a philosophy wanting to be left alone. The sleep is induced by seemingly replacing natural boundaries of consciousness with a rigid or empty formula reorienting our imagination “inwardly.” In the Global Market we are not supposed to feel exposed to a divine abyss before which all market demands and expectations are extinguished. We sense mystery beneath our social life, pointing us back to the Global Market as foremost guarantor of salvation for the present life.

          The “internalization” or “subjectification” of mystery presupposes the dominion of a machine seemingly cutting us off from a mystery that remains external or “objective” with respect to our sense of certainty—a mystery before which even the Global Market risks annihilation. It is true that we remain capable of imagining the demise of the Market as we sense it, but the Market’s logic tends to dominate our sense of the possibility of the Market’s demise as long as we remain subject to the threat of its demise, or to the Market-produced vision of the Market’s demise as apocalyptic extinction of meaning. Nor is the “communistic” or “anarchic” vision of the end of the Global Market independent of the regime of market-production, insofar as the vision in question remains negative, constitutionally shut as it is to a positive alternative to the Market’s logic, for the present.

              The anarchist’s hope that the Global Market will soon be shattered, or that it will soon destroy itself through the interplay of its inner contradictions, is not exposed to a horizon of meaning informing our present understanding of the Market, thereby making it possible for us to live now independently of the Market’s logic. The anarchist must yearn for the Market’s demise; the Market itself compels him to yearn; the Market binds him to a yearning that is Market-driven or Market-induced. In a word, the anarchist remains resentful and his resentment is a byproduct of the Market. The anarchist is blind and is compelled to remain blind to any otherworldly or religious vision in which the Market remains an expendable presence in a World it fails to encompass. For the anarchist, whatever transcends the Market must make use of or rely upon the Market: the Market appears as absolutely necessary, if only as an “apparent evil” that must be overcome. In short, the anarchist fails to abide in indifference to the Market. Abiding in complete indifference to the Market would seem to be possible only in two ways: by being a radical religious orthodox, or by being a pure or classical philosopher.

These two alternatives—pure religion and pure philosophy—promise us genuine independence or immunity from all Market demands. Yet, in the first case, independence requires self-induced ignorance.

               Far from requiring that we blind ourselves to or escape from the “noise” or “pollution” of Market demands, pure philosophy draws us to a nunc stans, a still-point or a silence at the very heart of all noise, albeit at the dire “price” of negating ourselves. Pure philosophy “saves” us from the very possibility of our being affected by the Market—whether “consciously” or “unconsciously”—by disclosing our sense of self-certainty to the essential centre of all motion: not to a “subjective” feeling of peace in spite of all external confusion, but to an “objective” place presupposed by all confusion, without its presupposing any motion at all. In short, pure philosophy draws us back to a pre-sensory dimension of things, or to a state or order underlying all physical motion. This order is a world governed by the pure principle of motion; a world in which reason is king; a world in which “selves” are ideas, which is to say rational bodies; a world in which words (nominal forms) are gathered in a luminous communion, having served as vehicles for the harmonizing of sensory motion. Words are now disclosed as forms, not of motion, but of eternity or of pure meaning, so that speech pertains directly to the essential constitution of things, rather than merely intimating this constitution in the process of transporting or translating sensory impressions back to “things themselves” (res ipsae). The world of ideas is then a world of pure words, rational horizon of a discourse or dia-logos that has left no motion behind. To this world philosophy turns; this is the world the philosopher or genuine thinker wants to abide in, the world towards which his motion is logically oriented.

                 In thinking, as philosophers we are working-out intuitions that are given to us, attempting to “reconstruct” them—to return to or recollect them. That which is first given to us—that to which we are ordinarily radically exposed, or exposed prior to any reflection—remains opaque to us as long as we do not attempt to return to it, and thus too prior to our departing from it. For the return to “the given” naturally presupposes a departure from it, a departure justified by our inadequate grasp of the given, and thus by a certain distance ordinarily separating us from the given even prior to our distancing ourselves from it. Reflection bears witness to the fact that sensory immediacy is an illusion, or that our apparently immediate sense of certainty—the very substance of our moral intimacy—is a mirage begging to be dispelled by reason.

               The false immediacy of sentiment is a “self” that is conventionally named, a self that lives (survives) by dying, by killing itself, or rather by being placed in a condition wherein it must negate itself continuously in order to endure, or to the extent that it is destined to endure. Why is the self given or filled with its content? Why do we live? At every moment the self is reminded that it is given or filled with its content not for the sake of the self (wherein the content would revert to its “material” condition). What is this personal “self” but a mask in which an anonymous actor or active principle “forgets” itself, but also through which the actor awakens to itself? As another “self”? No, this agent behind selves recedes infinitely before the possibility of a disclosure as “self.” The only manifestation this agent admits is as the infinite perfection of a “God of Nature,” i.e. of the invisible or supra-sensory form of all physical motion. This is the God of the Hebrew Bible—a God that is absolute Law, or the Hebrew Law conceived absolutely. The Hebrew God is an eminently political vindication of the political, signaling the triumph of Law over the physical interstice between all laws or legal constitutions. Pure philosophy cannot refute this absolute God, but withdraws from or beneath its revelation, inhabiting its “underworld,” a natural order that is its own tacit “law.”


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Reflection

In transcending the limitations of a “scientific philosophy” ensnarled by its own offspring—the Global Market—the philosophical life, the life of pure reflection, cannot but strike most of us as foreign, as utterly “other” with respect to our ordinary expectations, our ordinary sense of right-and-wrong. Estranged from pure reflection, we revolve restlessly in a cycle of appearance-and-disappearance, a cycle in which and over which we strive to be masters.

               Insofar as mastery over appearances entails possession of appearances on their own ground, we are commonly driven to return all appearances to their original ground—the ground of our own vision.  The loftier the appearance, the more enticing the challenge of “re-grounding” it, of leading it back into its ground, of freeing it for its birthplace, or bringing it back to its original, pristine, undefiled life. Yet, as the "interiority" into which we are tend to grasp appearances fails to contain them (for the "I" contains only the nominal shadows of things), our usual inclination does not stop at drawing the lofty back to its unborn condition. Upon regaining the apparent for its creative fount—upon negating “the given” (if only through a child’s “no!”) within ourselves—we are ready to draw it back out into appearance—to manifest it on a ladder or hierarchy of manifestations at the pinnacle of which stands ethereal divinity: the sublime; that "self capable of containing things in their fullness.  For meeting the invisible only in the visible, failing to grasp things on their own home-ground, we are naturally inclined to seek them ever-anew in their manifest “realizations.”

         The cycle of ascending production and descending destruction characterizing all poetic endeavors, beginning with the workings of bodily senses, is compelled by the opacity of its objects. As long as the object of production and destruction remains opaque to us—and it is such to the extent that we remain determined, or to the extent that we seek objects on the basis of our self-determination—the cycle remains an unbroken chain. Yet, no sooner does the self brake loose from its determination through pure reflection, than the poetic cycle comes to a still, yielding an underlying order wherein things no longer “come-and-go,” but are prior to any “coming-and-going.”

             The success of the self, the very pursuit of success, is understandably inimical to reflection. Reflection signals the vacuity of all success through recognition of the coincidence of production and destruction. As long as the self pursues the success or triumph of production over destruction, it bars itself from pure reflection, mistaking it for an evil minister of destruction. Yet, most suspicious, if not altogether hateful of pure reflection is the self that feeds upon others’ success by drawing the “heavenly” into the earth. Eve seeking her success in the shadow or fall of Adam is at best altogether indifferent or oblivious to the life of pure reflection--the life of an agent unmoved treader across the waves of illusion.  As the Bodhidarma (蘆葉磨) here depicted standing on a fine reed


(published on the 27th of January, 2014)

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Seeing Ourselves: The Importance of Speech
(with brief references to classical Chinese terms)

All human beings by nature desire to know [i.e., they reach out to behold form in the midst of formlessness, order out of disorder].  A sign of this is our cherishing of sense perceptions; for even apart from their use, they are cherished in and for themselves, and more than all others the perception that comes through the eyes.”

              πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει. σημεῖον δ᾽ ἡ τῶν αἰσθήσεων ἀγάπησις: καὶ γὰρ χωρὶς τῆς χρείας ἀγαπῶνται δι᾽ αὑτάς, καὶ άλιστα τῶν ἄλλων ἡ διὰ τῶν ὀμμάτων.  (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 1.980a)



The self desires to see itself as it is, but it fails. Thereupon, it turns back to discover, to intend, to divine itself either as a substantive God (体), or as a functional nothing, i.e. an impersonal agency (用 or 中庸). The self’s projection or outward expansion is at once fall into visibility, and occasion for its return to invisibility. Yet, this return is itself occasion for care (caritas): expansion for others, or “fall/sin” to save others, i.e. to awaken the world to the original purity of expansion: immaculate nature. The self’s failure is then a means to return to (to “navigate a second time”) the world of appearances—this shore (此岸)—to rectify (正) it so that it may reflect its true constitutive agency (用). The confusion characteristic of failure begs for our return to gather, not to abandon the fragments of loss, to vindicate them into a human order partaking in an eternal world.

                  Now, the human order is a world created by man, a poetic universe, a “world of nations” (Vico’s mondo di nazioni), or a fiction in words born of the human mind. Man reinvents his body in words in order to escape death, or by way of divining himself immortal. Our words are then reflections of immortal bodies, or entities opposed to mortal ones.

                  What is the significance of the death we seek to escape? The death at hand stands as obstacle to, or negation of our immortality. Must “death” not thereby stand as instrument of gods who do not wish that we usurp their eternal abode? In fearing death, do we not necessarily fear gods placing us under death’s sway, or denying us their immortal status? Are we not intimately aware that death is our preordained lot, that death marks the necessary dividing line between men and gods, a line preventing men from being raised to the status of gods, but more importantly, making gods irreducible to men?

            Nonetheless, we escape death, if only in discourses (logoi) continuously reminding us (for we remind ourselves through them) of their “physical” or “natural” derivation, and thereby of their ultimate inadequacy—their falling short of being us. In speaking we cannot ignore the hiatus separating our words from ourselves—created forms from their productive agency—even as we attempt to be or transpose ourselves in our words, or to abide in a purely human world. As inadequate as our words are, we hold fast to them lest we forget our immortality, or lest we remain trapped in our bodily projections, our fears. (Is language a ladder we rid ourselves of pragmatically upon reaching its mystical summit, or is it rather Parnassus, a mount at the pinnacle of which stands the eternal coincidence of word and thing, i.e. Apollo as divine logos?)

                   Just as we do not, because we cannot fully identify ourselves in words, so too do we not want to be regarded as mere words: we do not wish that our works mask our true selfhood, the abyss of our selfhood, but only our bodily shadows, the signs or traces of our abyss. In speaking we wish to clothe, to conceal our immortality so as to testify to our immortality. (In their infancy, words serve us as strategically placed, humble fig leaves, not as trees—as much as our leaves may presuppose a tree, a forest, or even a wild, mountainous terrain—not to speak of cathedrals, towers, or labyrinths: rhetorical monstrosities signaling a betrayal of the original telos or natural course of speech.) We thereby wish that our words be fully appreciated independently of or after our death. In speaking we are thus inclined to “idealistically” take as our best audience future generations, rather than the present. All speech is characterized by an “idealistic” streak, speech’s tendency to unfold or transport itself over death, to remain above death’s tide, to ignore, or distract both speaker and audience from the physical shadow or darkness of the mind.

(published on the 24th of February, 2014)

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Very Brief Phenomenology of the Human Condition

To examine our present condition seriously or philosophically is to investigate its origins, and there where something's origins lie, its nature lies, as well.  To examine the present aside from the question of origins is a pretence mistaking truth for the perpetuation of illusions.  Now, "origins" signify the proper place of things, the place of things as they are naturally: the "natural place" of things.  It is here, in the birth of things--the beginning of their past--that philosophy or "serious examination" intends to discover, or to return to the motor, or moving agent of things.  There where things are first given or instantiated, so too are they supposed to best testify to their raison d'être.

     Whence does the human being, begin?  From a certain idea of divinity, a certain divined entity, a certain entity divined outside of physical compulsions.  Falling short of such an idea, man is a mere beastHumanity is born there where divinity appears, divined, evoked, out of the vortex.  Thereupon, man emerges as inferior counterpart of a god.  And there where the god "dies," so too dies man.  The origins of man bespeak man's end or perfection, the fullness of his becoming, his "actual being.," foremost object of desire, crown of all human desire: love.  

     Primo Amore (after Dante): this is love in its primary sense, as original end or consummation of desire.  Something that is "given" at desire's own birth; something essential to the constitution of desire.  An original "face" or "form" towards which "desire tends" aside from all compulsions, all "movers" outside of desire.  Shut to its "first love," desire dies out, overcome by compulsions, by "false gods."  Thereupon, desire yields to hope; activity to passivity.

   It is the work of a certain species of artist to reawaken desire in us by evoking a divinity beyond falsehood, beyond finitude: a form transcending all finite expectations and demands weighing upon desire, upon us, at present.  The evoking in question is opposed to and by the servants of finitude, the ministers of determination, of classification, of digitalization: producers of false gods, initiators of false love, love as mask of inertia, of ignorance; love as trap for desire, fed to desire so as to occlude its primal receptive faculty.  In short, to put us to sleep.

      The "first love" is, then, incompatible with the finite or determined loves, the enticing mirages upon or under which desire turns after its birth.  Catering to these mirages is a language cut off from infinity, a "dead poetry" (morta poesì), a linguistic maze in which we are driven, compelled to hide at the price of lack of reality, of substance.  What the language of death offers us is universality requiring virtuality.  Universality aside from birth, eclipsing nature, our own nature.  Universality as fraud.

(published on the 9th of September, 2014)

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"Tradition" today

Contemporary official scholarship is publicly recognized as authoritative only to the extent that it presents itself as "scientific".  The notion of "science" implied here goes back at least to René Descartes, who, notoriously, set out to debunk all "tradition" in the name of first-hand analysis.  Yet, today, the "scientific" or Cartesian approach to the thought and writings of the past is seen by its inheritors as firmly established, as the only universally valid hermeneutics, so mush so that it is supposed to constitute a veritable Tradition.  All readings that do not fit within the boundaries of the Cartesian "Tradition" are viewed as suspicious, irrational, if not altogether nihilistic.  The problem arises especially in the case of the study of old times philosophy.  

         Today's scholarship is by and large prone, then, to read ancient philosophy within the scope of vision set by Descartes and comparable modern thinkers.  These thinkers were supposedly radically opposed to any appeal to a "tradition".  Yet, today Cartesians understand themselves in terms of Tradition simplicity.  Is there no contradiction, even a perversion, in appealing to the prophet of the abolition of tradition (Descartes) only by way of setting up a universal tradition? 

         Today's Cartesian is, from the standpoint of all previous thought, a literalist, someone for whom all thought must be literally or textually superficial, measurable, or manageable.  No care is given to trans-literal depths.  But is there a good alternative to reading carefully the argument and action of a text in their proper interaction, beyond all literalism?  To read Plato thus, for instance, would be to come to understand Plato directly, NOT THROUGH ANY SUPPOSED TRADITION—to understand what no tradition could ever encapsulate, properly because traditions are always carried on for the most part thanks to non-philosophers. 

        The universalist flattening of all thought onto the ultra-modernist horizon of « intellectual history » betrays fear of thought itself. Intellectual history gives us no fundamental alternatives at all. It merely gives us some set or other of "cosmologies", or rather opinions concerning everything philosophers appear to non-philosophers to have ever said. Intellectual history, so well exemplified in British academic circles, is *consolation* in the face of the belief that philosophy proper—philosophy beyond all opinion and opinion-spinning—is nihilistic. As if there could be no truth beyond the certainties of One Dimensional Men.

          Philosophy proper is mocked, later even demonized and robbed of its name, in the interest of the rise of a new, universally marketable "Tradition" that is supposed to appropriate for itself all speech and thought. But what "tradition" are we talking about? Nothing but a modern construction, a fiction stemming from the modern "scientific" abolition of the rationality of mystery, of the rootedness of thought in eternal, permanent realities. This "tradition" collects the opinions of the past onto a puzzle in which all fits the expectations and whims of the puzzle-maker. Whatever does not fit is made to fit, until the picture of universal harmony is confirmed. In the interests of the Universal Homogenous State.

          Philosophers have long been appropriated, even made famous, by non-philosophical « authorities » believing they could make non-philosophical use of philosophers’ words. Medieval theologians tried to domesticate and reify philosophy; their modern, secular counterparts have tried even harder.

(22 August, 2016)


Freedom in Dante's Comedy Recording
Daimonium (Mukashinomichi)
0:00/6:40

SUGGESTED READINGS


G. Leopardi, Discourse on the Present State of the Customs of the Italians (1824).  Viewable online at http://it.wikisource.org/wiki/ Discorso_sopra_lo_stato_presente_dei_costumi_degl%27Italiani.


Orpheus Vas, Comments, in "Ancients and Moderns" at http://theologiapoetica.webs.com/ancients-moderns  


Yves Charles Zarka.  2010.  La destitution des intellectuels et autres réflexions intempestives. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.


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