theologiapoetica

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Ancients  &  Moderns

Table of Contents:

      I.  Beyond Self-Expression: Thoughts on Truth and Death
      II. The Problem of Nature and the World of Ideas
     III.
Platonic Ideas, Natural Right and the Modern Separation of Word and Deed
    IV. Faith and Sin: Why Platonic Ideas are not Nominal “Concepts” that We Grasp
     
V. Original Sin: Christianity and "Mere Philosophy"
    VI. Note on Anamnesis and the Tripartition of Time
   VII.
Creation in the Torah?
  VIII.
Socrates on Suicide
     IX. The Problem of Nationality

      X. Note on Vico's Return to Plato's Republic
      XI. Vico on the Human Mind
     XII. Parenthesis: Why there is no "Philosophy of History" in Vico
    XIII. "Laws of Nature" in Lucretius?
    XIV.  
Socrates vs. Karl Popper
     XV.
Note on Genuine Freedom in Rousseau
    XVI.
Edgar A. Poe : un unsuspected critic of modernity?
   XVII. The Cartesian Tyranny: a note on Descartes as anti-Platonist
  XVIII. What is presupposed in Montaigne: A note on the Modern Revolution 
  XIX. Paralipomena

                                                                                    _________________________

ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἤδη ὥρα ἀπιέναιἐμοὶ μὲν ἀποθανουμένῳὑμῖν δὲ βιωσομένοιςὁπότεροι δὲ ἡμῶν ἔρχονται ἐπὶ ἄμεινονπρᾶγμαἄδηλον παντὶ πλὴν  τῷ θεῷ.


« But since now is the time to leave, I dying, you living on: which of us goes to a better affair is unclear to anyone, unless to the god. » (Plato, Apology of Socrates, 42C)

Socrates had already made it clear that, at least for him, dying is to live on, and to live on is to be among the dead.  For the philosopher identifying himself with mind, living is none other than dying, for death is after life no more than « metaphysics » is after « physics ».  Death is the very heart of life: it is living itself (as « the life of the mind »), where our masks are seen for what they are.  To die is an activity, a « deed » (pragma), rather than the loss of a deed.  The question as to which of the two, living or dying, is a better course of action, is religious or moral/legal, in the respect that its answer depends upon whether one acts well or not.  The question is accordingly answered, hypothetically, by a god, or rather, « the god » who’s will is law.

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BEYOND  SELF-EXPRESSION:

Thoughts on Truth and Death (with references to Christianity and Philosophical Disputations)

non in doloribus tantum sed in morte iocari solitos viros fortes doctosque comperimus: testes sunt Vespasianus princeps et Socrates philosophus
                                                          (Petrarch, Familiarium Rerum, VI.3.56)

The appeal to self-expression—the lure of self-expression—dominates that prototypically industrious age wanting to flee, to forget its bare roots: youth, striving to overcome its debt to ancestry, to possess itself, its independence, by exorcising the dreaded unknown with shared knowledge, or by replacing the abysmal recesses of origins with the reassuring surface of appearances ready-at-hand; with a world that absorbs all reasons into the flow of its attractions, marvels adequately translating all underlying or presupposed problems into our sense of certainty.

              Youth—for which truth is a beautiful dream, and to dream beautifully is to live the truth—dives continuously in the mirage of its ever-receding image, even when precaution is taken to grasp our image within a New World of universal collaboration, a stage onto which the “I” may finally appropriate itself as a fully autonomous, self-creating power. For what greater mirage could there be than a world of Machiavellian gods!

               Yet, what age can endure without illusions! What life is possible without hope, without beautiful or poetic promises? Does not philosophy, too, need to hide in discourses before the spectacle of chaos? Yes, but the attempt to gather the noumenal depths of things into phenomena, or to render the invisible fully or immediately visible, and as such manageable (since to see without mediation is to possess, and to possess is to hold in one’s own hands), is proper of youthful spirits, of characters hungry to conquer death, to triumph over the future, to master their own destiny, even at the cost of blinding themselves to the past; even where the spirit’s flight from origins must remain an exercise in camouflaging origins.

                Ulysses, in Dante’s Comedy, is such a youthful spirit, who takes a “foolish flight,” or the “flight of folly”—the folle volo. A later writer would speak of salto mortale, a “lethal” leap to tame infinity; to render the indeterminacy of life commensurate with convention; to prove our moral sentiment once and for all; to confirm our selfhood absolutely; to finally verify that properly human life is not in vain—that our moral certitude is not sheer folly, but that it is rather immortal, that it endures beyond the conventional boundaries of human life, as of the body that belongs to “Socrates” by convention. Dante’s Ulysses is then a fool precisely in fighting folly, in trying to reduce the irrational to reason. What greater folly than that of a leap to dispel folly once and for all, as if we could chain all of the uncertainties of life to some conceptual formula, or determination of thought; as if the future could be made to respond systematically to our expectations! So it is that Dante’s Ulysses must fail, submerged by untamable waters: a monstrous vortex. Folly itself, dare we say, would not allow the Greek to prove his moral stature, his mastery over experience, beyond doubt.

         Folly itself still eludes us to the detriment of any rational construct, but especially of a “kingdom of ends” populated by fully rational “individuals,” fully autonomous moral agents. Why does this “kingdom” recede before any attempt to bring it about? Folly’s lingering presence compels us to seek reasons for it, to embrace the world with our mind, to think the world as a whole, however much this whole may remain fragmented. But to think the world is at once to invite reasoning about the world, to render the world a topic for debate, whereby speech rises to the world’s outer or “metaphysical” limits, if only to account for reason’s incapacity to overcome the irrational, to subjugate the world, to possess itself as reason.

               To give a reason for reason’s failure requires access to the “end” of the world.  Does this reason-giving not signal an ultimate, otherworldly triumph of reason over its mortal spoils?  Is reasoning about the world as such not a reasoning taking “place” beyond worldly uncertainties? Is reasoning about the world as a whole, or about the nature of the world, not timeless? Is its proper “place”—the world’s own boundaries—not boundless? Does the ascent of thought to the world’s overarching a-topos not signal a move to root the ordinary in the extraordinary, or to render the worldly otherworldly, which is to say, to retrace the fleeting to permanent reasons, or at least to a permanent discourse—lest reason’s failures remain unredeemed?

              The desire to vanquish any suspicion that our works are in vain naturally translates into a quest to discover the roots of our works in an “other” world—a timeless horizon beyond any conventional expectation. If our moral code is irretraceable to immortal principles, why hold fast to it any more seriously than we ought to hold fast to our fleeting youth, to our mortal flesh? Yet, does the attempt to “ground morality” not translate at once into an attempt to reduce morality’s underpinnings to moral sentiments—to explain the unexplainable, to transpose the infinite into finitude, to cast the otherworldly into all-too-worldly terms? In fact, are “transcendent reasons” not sheer means, masks of self-justification? Is reason’s overarching victory over the world not a sheer veil over reason’s failures—an illusory victory explained by a stark defeat, by the triumph of folly over reason? Do we not invent our universal or “world reasons” so as to feel that our works, our decisions, our very selfhood, are not utterly futile—that death, the heart of our present mortal condition, cannot erase them? Do we not always think haplessly against the tide of death? Is any “other” world—this very world of folly when reduced to reason, or embraced by deliberate speech—anything more than a palliative for a life that may very well not be worth living, especially if the palliative makes everyday living expendable for having become entirely predictable? But in fact, even if our “deep reasons” could explain our irrational life, would it not be the case that the quest for depths necessarily converts into a quest for rendering reason commensurate with folly, and thus for flattening depths, which is to say, for appropriating depths onto the plane of our ordinary, moral experience? (Does literal “Platonism” not signal the elevation of empiricism to metaphysical heights?) Or does the quest for depths entail an outright departure from surfaces, and thereby a leaving behind of our conventional lives, our vita activa, our “occupied life,” or more simply, “our life” (nostra vita), to speak with the Dante of Inferno I.1?  Is “metaphysics” meaningful or, more precisely, rational only as long as it hovers far above the folly of “physics” to concern itself with divine entities (such as separate intellects or angelic substances), alone? Must reason seek its solstice by avoiding to confront folly—death deaf and blind to reason—altogether?

               Dante presents himself as a warrior who, in the face of death, departs from our life as “I, alone and one” (io sol uno), properly to penetrate the depths of our mortality—to acquire wisdom, or to discover the key to the human condition, a key that might set us free us from conventional bonds, and thus too, from our moral limitations. As long as we attempt to meet death through the mediation of moral or religious authority, we are doomed to labor in vain. An “other way” (altro vïaggio or altra via) is required to transcend the vanity or futility of all things under the sun. Yet, this other way is alien to the “subjectivity” of a Protestant spirituality, and all the more to a Romantic imagination. The solitary or contemplative Dante returns at once to the authority of Holy Church, and of the whole theological apparatus characteristic of it, as objective stage for his journey. The stage, the ecclesia, is not “internalized”; religion is not “psychologized.” No attempt is made to destroy, or even to abandon the normal surface of things.  Likewise, we might say that Dante does not destroy, but builds on nature, provided that by “nature” we understand phenomena, or the world as it appears “naturally” to us.  Yet, Dante’s “allegory”—his speaking “under the veil” (sotto il velame)—transcends appearances.  Dante’s Comedy as a whole is “built on” appearances, by leaving them intact, or rather by way of rebuilding or rectifying them.

              Dante’s purely philosophical quest is supposed to prove morally beneficial; it is supposed to turn us readers into better human beings. Religious authorities ought to be grateful to Dante; they ought to cherish his work, and thereby philosophy as way of life, or as way through which we can transcend our moral limitations without ceasing to live as morally limited creatures. The distinction between the solitary “life of the mind” and the social or conventional “life of the body” is not dispelled, but defended.  But is this not to conclude that Dante is an Averroist for whom there are two truths, one of philosophy and the other of religious or moral authorities? Is Dante inviting us to pursue truth with one foot, while keeping the guardians of morality at bay with the other?  Is morality merely expediential? Whether it is or not, Dante does not ignore its order to pursue “subjective” interests.  The moral order remains the overarching stage for a journey in the course of which the impersonal shines forth through the personal or moral dimension of life.  The Comedy would then be the way through which the moral universe is illuminated or partially redeemed from the ground up, allowing the philosopher to remain Christian without being merely Christian, and thus without identifying truth with any Christian’s self-expression.

          Fortunately for Dante, truth is self-expression at the antipodes of the Christian Gospels, of the Good News that truth calls us to let go of everything.  Modern “expressionism” is the nemesis of Christianity’s foremost tacit lesson that truth, like nature, abhors possession. Who has ever possessed nature? Who has ever subdued her, brought her to a final still-point? Only in herself as truth, is nature tamed beyond rebuke; only in Christ, at once Alpha and Omega, do we see the One who conquers the “snake” (ancestral image of nature) once and for all.  Christ kills nature.  But only to the extent that nature lives in Christ, as nature’s consummation—nature’s highest part.  Christ alone redeems nature (in Christ alone is my mortal body resurrected), as a sword that brings life.

               Does Christ’s conquering nature not signal—or better yet, reveal—the victory of mind over flesh?  But is mind here not the mind of nature? And is flesh not the lowest sense of nature? The highest has already conquered the lowest in the beginning.  The “battle” was a lost cause for flesh.  No sooner does mind enter flesh—the hyle, the selva, the desert or wilderness—than it proves its dominium above any hurdle. The “obstacles” are at once converted into means of success.  Thus, victory is achieved effortlessly—precisely the way nature is accustomed to proceed.  Nature dies under Christ by living eternally in him. But where is this Christ who names nature’s loftiest secret—who expresses its noblest part?  Is he not the Son of Man, the effigy of man (Dante’s effige), the one who, like Adam, stands at the centre of the universe, as a jewel in need of vindication—a gift in need of being disclosed, if only by becoming a blessing in disguise? Felix culpa.  The fault exposes the faultless.  The Old Adam is the new one’s first and foremost disguise—an Agent’s mask.

               What in essence is this hidden Agent, the New Adam?  Is he not a mask himself?  Not as long as he hides.   As nature hides—not as a who, but as an it, undisclosed, anonymous.  Yet, where does this first agent hide and in hiding act, if not behind masks, justifying our speaking of it as a he?  Will the masks be simply false, allowing for no partial truth, or no participation in truth? Is Christianity a Stoic teaching denying a hierarchy of masks—of necessarily many “goods” or “ends”—or is any strict denial a mere prelude to a stern reaffirmation? Is the call to leave everything behind, to let go of everything, including any vain hope (“let go of every hope, you who enter…”—lasciate ogne speranza voi ch’intrate—reads the anonymous law inscribed on the threshold of Dante’s journey), the end of The Story, or does the divine Fisherman’s radical call introduce a history dominated by hierarchies—a hierarchical history, or better yet, history as hierarchy—a mythical hierarchy of masks that are as true things possessing the façade of false things (as quel vero che ha faccia di menzogna—Dante’s designation for poetic inventions, including muses)?

             The history of Christianity is justified only in Christ—not simply by Christ, but where the history, the hierarchy, the myth, remains open to Christ, oriented towards Christ, intimating him.  Otherwise, the Church remains a castle of cards, a cathedral of sheer deceits, or a cesspool of vermin. All vanities must be seen in the light of the truth that transcends them and that calls us to let go of all vanities—above all, of ourselves as masks. For where is the hierarchy disclosed by Christ if not among men, as the society of men? Are we not the stuff hierarchies are made of? Are we not those fictitious ends that Immanuel Kant will take—or pretend to take—all too seriously? Is the Church, the “Body of Christ,” not a hierarchy of people? And is this body, this social hierarchy, not a lie, a poetic conceit, unredeemable, meaningless, aside from truth, aside from making itself accountable to truth, aside from letting truth shine forth through its crevices, through the dark recesses of the social order, through the poor, the rejects, through the meek but otherwise worthy, through lambs, who are truth’s best servants, since they hold fast to nothing but truth, forgetting themselves in the service of truth itself, the truth of or behind all masks?  For are these “useless” servants of truth not those who care most properly for the hierarchical universe of masks, delaying its implosion, its fatal closure to its creative spring? Are the signs of our collective failure to establish Heaven on Earth—of our plan “not to leave anyone, any mask, behind”—to be shunned, or are they to be cherished, even revered, as Grace’s blessings in disguise?  Or, to echo Nietzsche, are the meek the truth behind the “truth” in whose name the meek are defended? Is truth the mask of the meek—the means for their revenge, the expression of their resentment against the powerful, of a repressed will to power, of a will that asserts itself continuously, unabashed, in the face of death, in the face of all decline, in the face of all failure?  But is this un-relentless pursuit of success not sheer madness?  Does it not amount to recklessly courting disaster? Does it not signal, at every moment, the primacy of death over a will that flees death in the very act of impinging upon it—of driving death back into the future, by “expanding” the present indefinitely? What is this “expansion”—this attempt to use space to overcome time; accumulating properties as Capital, by way of safeguarding oneself from decline—if not a dressing of the table for death’s own meal, for the greatest of bonfires?   Whom do the powerful serve if not death, and death’s own enjoyment in dismembering all of our accomplishments, in tearing down all of our conceits, in ripping apart all of our possessions, finally stripping us of all power—of all identity, of all that we, the powerful, the unabashed lovers of power, have hitherto striven for, reckoning this striving a “life,” whereas now not even the crumbs of it escape the gorge of death? The power-craving postponement of death appears now as an exercise in making of death, of the encounter with death—with the end of all conceits—a farce: Where, the noble, heroic battle against the devourer of dreams?  Where, the manly confrontation with its menace?  Not a trace of them in the curious, frail pretenses of the powerful!  Where is their power upon meeting our natural demise? Has it not been exposed inexorably as a lie, a mirage, consummate futility? Have its lovers lived merely in the name of a delay of inevitability—a delay cherished even, no, only at the end, as a picture-book of faded memories, palliative against life itself?  Have they sought life as mice dig holes, conceiving it as sheer concealment, sheer flight from death, but also—if only unwittingly—as escape from a life that meets its end face to face, without blinders, not as receding cowards struck by the enemy in the back, but as valiant soldiers armed with bravery rather than with death’s own fuel—with immortality, rather than with the stuff death itself is made of.  Yet, surely we eat mortal food even while cultivating virtue, while letting truth live through us, illuminating the course of our life.  Even the bravest of soldiers must rely on more than virtue.  “Yes”—he will rejoin—“but only to renew, to confirm our stance in the face of death; only insofar as death can be used to serve life; only insofar as death is understood as occasion for discovering truth.”


          No man can live without encountering death, the inanimate, and transforming it into life or soul. Our life is nothing but this encounter and transformation, this conversion of the lot that is given to us—death—into what it ought to be.  But what ought it to be? This is our end, which we do not know or possess, but which we seek throughout our living, our erring on the quest for the life into which death is converted once and for all.  But this must be eternal life, the life of wisdom, or the Sage who no longer strives, who no longer speaks, for he has found what is given in the beginning—the truth concealed beneath death, the truth that calls us to itself, that calls us to unmask it beneath the dreadful threat of death.  What door and path is there to this hidden truth other than valiant confrontation with fear of violent death?

                 Virtue meets our fear in the heroic effort to convert fear’s object into one of desire, namely into love as proper form of desire. Yet, beneath our fear of violent death, the love we discover still poses a problem for us: even the god of love, the lovable one, especially this One, is feared by man. The first fear, the fear discovered through virtue or by the hero, is more fundamental than the fear of violent death, or of radical indeterminacy—of the apeiron, the indefinite.  More primordial than the infinite is absolute finitude, a necessary limit to which even the unlimited is bound, beyond itself.  Before this higher necessity, this supreme anankē, men bow in awe, in religious fear, as to a god over nature, a god that saves men from the dread of violent death, or from violent death as ancestral dread.

                 The discovery of divine love remains a problem for men who are not simply wise, but who thrive in search of wisdom—who are still worldly, who still speak.  In speaking they attempt to account for, to give themselves and each other a reason for the given, even and especially when what is given to us is supposed to be the true end of all thriving.  The revelation of this true end does not silence those who speak in search for truth—those who thrive in converting our undifferentiated lot into genuinely human life.  Nor is this thriving hushed with the establishment of a human order that has supposedly conquered nature or death once and for all.  Our thriving survives even before the consummate incarnation of a Spirit into which death has been fully converted, so that time now is sheer food for the spatial expansion of Spirit’s incarnation.  This “Hegelian solution” to the problem of philosophy’s un-resoluteness is itself a problem for philosophy proper.  “The End of History,” of efforts to convert death into life, signals a new understanding of philosophy as no longer heroic, erotic thriving, but as aesthetic witnessing of the work of Spirit conqueror of nature, of a Spirit that thrives by effortlessly converting death into Spirit’s own incarnation, of an evangelic Spirit that realizes itself in its expansive incarnation.  The Sabbath, the “Seventh Day” of the history of Spirit is characterized by a restful, or contemplative enjoyment of the channeling of nature’s flow into a human order coinciding with the perpetual glorification of Spirit, a glorification that lives on by confirming its dawn at the End of History, and so too at the end of philosophy as understood throughout the course of History.

                The leap from old philosophy, relentless exploration of the heart of everyday life, to a new philosophy that is Wisdom is characterized by the identification of the end of old philosophy with a spatial determination of time.  Old philosophy questions this determination, this “flower” of philosophy; Hegelian Wisdom can only admire it, or it admires itself in it.  The human order at the end of History stands as mirror of Spirit’s own eternity.  In sustaining the mirror, we partake in eternity; in contemplating the mirror, we awaken to our own eternity.  But is this not to contemplate Platonic Ideas within the City of Man?  Is Hegelianism—the fullest explication of modern rationalism—not merely exposing the essence of Platonism?  Is the new philosophy not simply the truth about old philosophy, a truth that had remained concealed until the rise of the new philosophy?  Does Hegelianism not mark the ascent of philosophy over and above all conceits?  Does Hegelianism not mark the victory of old philosophy over the World, or the final conversion of all human beings to old philosophy? Or is something “of the essence” for old philosophy eclipsed by the rise of Hegelianism?  Is the supposed revelation of the essence of philosophy obscuring the very path, the art, leading us to the heart of philosophy?  Does old philosophy pay a dire price in its Hegelian “triumph”? Does this “triumph” not entail the concretization of philosophy in or as positive Will?  And does old philosophy not thrive by questioning any will, by postponing its own consummation, by pulling back from any resoluteness, by turning to the “dregs” left behind by the current of things, or more simply by hiding, if only by pointing back to what is constitutionally hidden?  Does old philosophy not survive only in its conceit, in its privileging the hidden above the revealed? Does it not seek its “revelations” only “within,” or in the intimacy of thought’s own secluded castle?  But does old philosophy not, in turn, question its conceit?  Does it never rise to make itself publically accountable for its conceit?  Does it not try to justify its silence, or its speech as legitimate conduit of silence?  After all, old philosophy does speak, if only of that which is unuttered—of that which remains hidden in nature, or which shines within nature’s deepest recesses, even and especially when it is proclaimed in an Apollonian light beyond all Dionysian afterthoughts.

               In sum, for old philosophy the proper place for truth’s own disclosure transcends all concrete relations, all ethical concerns, or all social-moral bonds.  For Hegelianism, metaphysics and morality must coincide. The ethics of old philosophy is oriented back from the “physical” to the “metaphysical”; with Hegelianism (beyond Christian other-worldliness) the old “philosophical ethics” is dead and replaced by a movement forward whereby the metaphysical stands with and in front of us as the stage of historical actuality upon which the physical is set free, or upon which nature is converted into Spirit.  Old philosophy looks down upon the stage of Spirit’s consummation as an otherwise ill-conceived poetic fiction.

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The Problem of Nature and the World of Ideas


The essential orientation of old philosophy—whether mechanistic/materialist or Platonic/idealist—can be accounted for only on the basis of a conception of nature as complete prior to our impinging upon it as we ask, or even demand, that it transform into pure spirit. For old philosophy, such a transformation pertains not to essential nature, but to nature relatively to us: the transformation is to be understood as disclosure of the essence or “secret nature” of nature. Are we then faced with the characteristically Romantic dilemma concerning whether we discover truth in nature or create truth beyond nature? Faced with the dilemma, Hegelianism or “subjective idealism” (a doctrine identifying the “Self” as “substance-in-the-making”) proclaims that truth is nature’s own self-disclosure, or that nature creates itself as truth: creation and discovery coincide, insofar as discovery entails the emergence of nature through and ultimately as human creation. Human creation must then signal the gradual actualization of nature as truth/spirit, or of the hidden into the disclosed. In turn our “works” or “discoveries” must presuppose the agency of a nature that gives itself in our very work to fully disclose itself. The secret truth about nature would then be manifest in our work as nature’s own self-surpassing, an activity taking place precisely through man or in human labor/creativity.

               We are here faced with a “constructive” conception of truth, i.e. of the truth about nature—a conception that is, in turn, rooted in a mechanical or materialist conception of nature. The new or derivative conception exposes a peculiarity latent in its underlying conception, namely the fact that matter is necessarily incomplete. Whereas ancient materialists had approached nature’s “mechanisms” as rock-bottom truth, modern derivative or mixed materialism seeks the rock-bottom in a nature transformed idealistically. Modern materialism supplements ancient materialism with a lesson drawn from ancient idealism concerning the primacy of form over matter. Unlike ancient idealism, modern idealistic materialism regards form as fuel for matter, and thus not as end in itself.

             Is ancient idealism defensible in the light of modern “idealistic materialism,” or of a materialism that adopts form as mutating or “historical” mask for the playing out of power? Ancient idealism agrees with modern materialism that power is inadequate foundation for any account of reality or of what really is the case with the world. However, against ancient idealism, modern materialism assumes that power, the motion of bodies, moves or can move in the direction of becoming the rock-bottom truth about the world. Does modernism or “modern history” exemplify the possibility of matter’s moving in the direction of manifesting itself as the consummate ground of all forms? Ancient idealism would object that possibility necessarily presupposes actuality.

               Our terminology may be said to stem from Aristotle, via Latin Aristotelianism, but surely the roots of the terminology are independent of the Greek’s linguistic “crystals,” insofar as not everything that is is apparent to us, and that what is, but is not apparent to us, we as a matter of course, or “naturally” call possible: “possible” relatively to our uncertainty as regards to its appearance. Some things we call possible as long as we do not see adequate evidence for them. We then assume that they may be somewhere, hidden to our present purview. We are not, because we cannot be certain of their actuality. Yet, no sooner does something manifest itself to us than we naturally assume that prior to our seeing the “something” it was somewhere. But where? When the “something” is considered in its irrepeatable singularity, we are pre-reflectively inclined to imagine its “pre-existence” on a plane of reality transcending our ordinary experience, since it would seem that the “something”—e.g., Socrates, or this particular flower—could not have been anywhere in “this world” prior to emerging or being born in our world.

                An other world in which particulars are prior to appearing to us, or rather prior to emerging within the universe of our ordinary experience, is a constitutionally hidden world. In the Platonic terms that Aristotle never refutes, Socrates is prior to his becoming, i.e. prior to his birth, and the Socrates that is prior to his being in this world, we could call a metaphysical Socrates, or “the Idea” of Socrates, i.e. Socrates as purely intelligible being, or Socrates as contained purely in mind or intellect, i.e. in an eternal, immutable boundary/form. This “Platonic” way of speaking is fully compatible with our common sense, or the imaginative powers of all religious peoples. What People does not imagine an “other world” in which things inhere after and before they are born? Far from dismissing the “otherworldliness” of things, esoteric Platonism interprets it as referring to a world beyond imagination or myth and thus also beyond the letter of religious accounts of otherworldliness. It is not that religion is “Platonism for the masses,” but that Platonism points to the essence of religion, or to that which is constitutionally hidden in all religion. In so pointing, Platonism speaks, thereby retaining a literal or “mythical” dimension. Platonic myths presuppose pre-philosophical myths, of which they remain imperfect imitations, imitations that are inferior to their religious/poetic prototypes (in Plato’s case, a notable prototype is Homer).

           Precisely by being “inferior,” Platonic myths are more illuminating than Homeric myths. Plato’s myths seduce us to think about their background or backstage: their literal “strangeness” or “incredible” character compels us to seek out a hidden meaning, there were Homeric poetry compel us to remain on its surface, to follow the flow of its images. Whereas Homer’s otherworld is a compelling replica of this world, Plato’s otherworld is a not-so-compelling account of Homer’s otherworld that gently invites us to doubt it, and in doubting to awaken to the presence of the otherworldly, or the inherence of eternity in time. In this sense, the Idea is none other than the absolute presence of its “empirical imitations.” The Idea of “this table” is this table in its absolute constitution, as something for which “possibility” and “actuality” coincide perfectly. Must this “something” not become within the mind, whereby its form must remain unchanged even as the something or the something’s content or “matter” changes? What is at stake here is the eternity or immutability of the form or completeness of any given motion. To speak “Platonically” of the Idea of one flower in particular is to speak of the original perfection of the particular flower independently of any eventual attempt to perfect the flower from without. The eternal Idea of this flower, independent of experience, must contain in a fixed manner all of the mutations this flower might ever undergo. Likewise in his Idea, Socrates is one beyond any subjection to worldly compulsions. In his Idea, Socrates’ very body is free from all constrictions. The body presupposes a “metaphysical independence” with respect to both other bodies and “laws” foreign to itself. More generally speaking, the World of Ideas is a world of “bodies” not subject to laws—a world in which bodily forms live on beyond the bonds of convention, or as unborn bodies. Prior to being empirically born, the bodily Socrates is complete to the extent that his end is given in eternity and no “subsequent” concession, no contingent law, can account for Socrates’ original perfection, for his eternal independence.

           The eternal Socrates, or Socrates considered absolutely, must contain and thereupon transcend all of his/its modifications. Platonically speaking, the world of everything considered absolutely is “The World of Ideas,” which logically would seem to entail an overarching form or unity—a Mind that at least for early Christians is God. Plato says nothing of this God. His World of Ideas, or of absolute actuality, has no need for a creator, or for an overarching myth.

                It is in order to understand the character of Plato’s Ideas that we return to the question of nature, insofar as nature is envisioned by ancient philosophers as a world beyond all conventions—a world in which alone man can be, or originally is “fully free,” i.e. himself. The world of nature is envisioned upon supposing that all conventions, all laws presuppose a common world beyond all nominal differences, a world beyond morality (“good and evil”). This is the natural world, which Plato presents as the world of eternal things, i.e. of pure eidoi or “forms.” There would seem to be no place for this “natural” world where a God is revealed beyond all conventions, as a creator or legislator beyond all “myths.” Not only does the Bible not presuppose philosophers’ “nature;” it precludes its very possibility by occupying its “place” with a God beyond all poetic inventions. Unlike ordinary pre-philosophical myths, the Bible has no “receptors” for philosophy proper. Upon meeting philosophy, the Bible must either subsume it within a “theological-authoritative” context, or it must reconsider its absolute claims, converting into a myth among others, if only into a superior or more rational myth, or a myth that is fully supportive of philosophy—a myth that defends philosophy against all conventional or pre-philosophical suspicions. But in order to fully benefit from this latter transformation of the Bible, philosophy must concede that the Bible has the authority to confirm philosophy; at least on a literal or superficial or politically relevant plane of discourse, philosophy must grant that the Biblical God is not a sheer myth, but that he presides over philosophy, and that thus he could in principle prohibit philosophy or make philosophy expendable.

              It behooves a philosophy accepting the Bible as absolute confirmation of philosophy’s legitimacy in the face of all pre-philosophical objections, to labor in interpreting the Bible, to show that the Biblical God’s will is incompatible with a betrayal of reason, or that the divine hidden intent, divine providence, is fully rational or constant, that it is necessarily compatible with the flourishing of philosophical freedom, or the exercise of the virtue or strength proper of the human mind. In short, acceptance of the Bible’s “protection” does not spare philosophy the trouble of battling against its detractors, who are prone to read the Bible against philosophy, as if the Biblical revelation could ever render philosophy an expendable tool, or even evidence of an unduly lingering hubris. Biblical interpretation becomes a “new stage” for the battle between philosophy and non-philosophy, a stage on which philosophy compels itself to re-invent itself as a mysticism owing its legitimacy to no authority falling short of the one in whose divine abyss philosophy’s reason hides.

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Platonic Ideas, Natural Right and the Modern Separation of Word and Deed

"Si les philosophes aujourd'hui subvertissent plus qu'ils ne légifèrent, ils entendent rarement abandonner, ou seulement examiner, le privilège qui les constitue: l'affirmation selon laquelle rien n'engendre la philosophie, sinon l'acte pur d'un geste fondateur" (Jean-Louis Fabiani, Les Philosophes de la République, Paris, Les Editions de Minuit, 1988; p. 172)
The modern world stands on a separation of word and deed; it defends that separation, making it possible to have a separation of state and church, or politics and religion. Yet, this separation remains imperfect, or ambiguous. The religion of state (politics) remains constantly exposed to the question of its raison d’être and thereby to the need for something eternal, something permanent, a guiding principle of action transcending all particular actions. Likewise, the separation of word and deed stands over a notable exception to the rule imposed: the rule itself entails a coincidentia of word and deed. The separation of word and deed is affirmed by a word that is a deed, a sacred word, a word inseparable from a decisive line of conduct. This word, this rule cannot be pronounced aside from a specific deed separating all other words from deeds, divesting them of their sacred character. The word that is inseparable from deed is evidently that of a public religion—a religion of state. Yet, the state and its religion require a justification they fail to give themselves. They fail to assert themselves as simply self-justifying, as absolutely autonomous, as self-evident. What is self-evident is not the law separating deed from speech—not the religion of state—but rather the right or even the principles in virtue of which the law may be affirmed. Now, the principles in question—to paraphrase the United States’ Declaration, “civil life, meaning civil liberty, meaning the pursuit of the common good in which alone happiness is real”—transcend any law, as much as they may find some degree of representation in a legal document. The natural principles of a religion of state, not the religion per se, is what is self-evident—self-evident precisely by being natural to us.

           Any “law” separating deed and word is exposed to a natural root, a source in the light of which the law acquires its aura of sacredness. An aura, we say; not a backbone. The law separating deed and words remains an abstraction with respect to the real marriage of deed and word seated in our nature. In order to affirm itself, the law must remain anchored to its natural foundation. To stop at the law in returning to the basis granting us the ordinary liberty to critique courses of action without being condemned for our doing so, is to mistake an abstraction for its source, a signpost for a destination. What is inalienable is not a set of propositions or values, but our right to that which certain propositions may invoke, namely an end in itself or an absolute good. A natural right entails a nature freely oriented towards an end. Where this end is tended to by nature or freely, and thus independently of chance or mechanical necessities, it is our natural right to pursue it. Our tending towards the end is naturally right insofar as the end is the right one. It is naturally right for us to pursue what is right for our nature.

            To return to our natural right as allowing us to distance ourselves from deed in speech—to articulate suppositions, hypotheses, to ask questions about both good and evil—is to return to a teleological conception of human nature; it is also not to mistake a legal fiction for an absolute, unquestionable principle of action. The nominal separation of word and deed will then depend upon a word’s original inherence in our nature as idea. No law, no fixed formula of words, will be allowed to stand as sacred or religious mask for deeds beyond question. Even the “law” separating word from deed must be subject to criticism and thus abstracted from the particularity of its imposition. We must be capable of “abstracting” it, of considering it in itself, rather than as bound to deeds, not to speak of a “historical context.” Otherwise, the abstraction will appear “off the hook,” impervious to critique, allowing itself to serve as necessary mask for a fateful uprooting of all speech from principles allowing speech to guide our deeds. Once our speech is denied the capacity to guide our deeds, a supervening word may surreptitiously intervene as a leveling agent conforming all deeds to itself. It is by way of countering this deus ex machina (long invoked by nominalists or legalists) that Plato’s Socrates appeals to the inherence of our word in our nature, as idea. Plato’s doctrine of ideas imposes itself as an antidote against doctrines imposed as ultimate guarantors of liberty.

        We have stressed this elsewhere: ideas are the perfection of particulars that allow for perfection.  All particulars possess perfection as long as they are or may be related to human things. A “tree” has its idea or “noetic form,” its real perfection, only to the extent that it is present in the human mind, which, however, can “contain” the tree only imperfectly. The human mind may contain ideas only of human things. Of all other things, it can contain only abstractions, rather than perfections—geometrical shadows rather than metaphysical realities. However, of human things human minds contains the real perfection, the Platonic idea. G. B. Vico argued this point at length, intimating that a mind containing the ideas of natural things (the the God of or over Nature) is a human idea, or the reified guise of the perfection of the human mind in the human will (the human mind being the perfect or proper form of the human will). Accordingly, Vico argues that metaphysics is properly accessed through the poetic or the political; for Platonic ideas are perfect counterparts of human things or forms “objectified” outside of the human mind. The world of ideas is then the “heavenly” foundation of the human or civil world, of the world of morality—“the world of nations.” The ideas are not the perfection of the natural or physical world. The physical or corporeal has no metaphysical perfection of its own. The physical owes its identity to the metaphysical perfection of the human, aside from which the physical is an empty possibility. We “impose” geometrical forms on the physical and then measure it, identifying things such as clouds, stars or galaxies. These entities are defined through our own forms, aside from which, as far as we can reasonably tell, they are not defined or definite at all. It is not that we create stars, but that “stars” are formed/limited in relation to our metaphysical ends.

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Faith and Sin: Why Platonic Ideas are not Nominal “Concepts” that We Grasp

In words we can rise to the stars and beyond, to the limit of all things, seemingly transcending all physical boundaries. Yet, is it the proper goal of words to rise to the seat of gods? We have heard words about divine seats, promises of eternity demanding faith in return for their sweetness. Heavenly words can be no more than anticipations of something they fail to deliver in substance. We must believe them in order to enjoy them. They satisfy us only as long as we use them to blind ourselves to our physical dissatisfaction—only as long as we pretend to be gods. No sooner do we cease to pretend, “loosing our faith,” than we are dropped to the ground, abandoned by words in a valley of physical misery. “Sinners, repent! Return to your faith, believe in the divine promise, or in the promise of divinity!” But who can “believe” without ever doubting, without ever turning to “certify” the concreteness of the content of words, on the ascent to the light of day? Orpheus stands as our model. Carrying speech to heavenly heights is a madness that not even ancient “fools” abandon themselves to. The price for rising “empty handed” to the heavens is nothing falling short of the fall of the most diligent of angels. Orpheus’ “turn” is justified by a desire to thwart the eclipse of all genuine human dignity; his loss is more primordial than the fall of Adam, inviting us to ask if Lucifer’s original failure may not have resulted from a foolish attempt to avert any further failures. May the debasement of a certain facet or dimension of our lives aim at saving us from the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, of a complete debasement? Is Lucifer the dimension of man that we foolishly sacrifice so as to avoid remaining in utter darkness upon finding ourselves deceived by an inscrutable divine will?

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Original Sin: Christianity and "Mere Philosophy"

Does the Christian doctrine of original sin best account for evil?  Maybe not.


It surely seems preferable to the "inheritance"/miasma myth against which St. Augustine battled, and which is reproposed mutatis mutandis by modern materialists.  For only if I sinned in Adam could I have access to understanding or returning to the roots of evil with my eyes open, as it were.  Only thus might I ever be in the position of escaping all evil, if only in, through, if not as a Second Adam.


Is the doctrine of original sin/fault (culpa) a matter of "guilt" or a feeling thereof, or not rather of "access to the roots" of evil?  Only if, in an original sense, evil is an option open to choice, rather than a fateful imposition beyond my choice, can I respond to it in a truly active manner. 


The Christian doctrine of original sin appears to "crystallize" a philosophical intuition, making it necessary to posit Christ as intermediary between my present life and my presence at the roots of all life.  Philosophically speaking, in order to have access to the roots of evil, I must *be* before I am "born into death," i.e. before I begin making mistakes in this life, blind as I am born to my real condition.  I must "be free" before I am enslaved to the physical world, so that I must have "fallen" into my present condition as a result of an "original" choice that I made in my original mode of being (even though, of course, I no longer recognize this mode of being, thereby viewing myself as innocent with respect to the fact that I find myself "born into death").  Christ stands as the "revelation" reconnecting my present imperfection to my original perfection.  Christ indicates the coincidence of the Omega and Alpha of my existence--the fact that the Alpha is never an anachronism. 


To speak merely philosophically, however, "Christ" can be none other than my implicit "terminus ad quem" (the point of arrival): myself as man in my original perfection, a rational perfection that is eclipsed, though not erased by my "original fault".  In this respect, Adam sins only in the respect that he is Eve, or in the respect that the Rational extends or is projected into the Sensory.  So "Christ-Logos" must be Adam's irreducibility to Eve, or Adam in his capacity to govern (and redeem) Eve.  More prosaically, my original being and mind is never altered by my existence, which remains eternally open to my original perfection.  Mere philosophy cannot accept Christ as "revelation," or as "intermediary" beyond my present finite capacity to return to my original strength.  Even at the price of never returning to the absolute unity of his being, the philosopher as philosopher prefers his finite strength to any reliance upon a religious reminder of his original strength, a strength for which the philosopher acknowledges no present proof/revelation, but only and at best evidences, signs, or intimating traces, the best available of which the philosopher identifies with philosophy itself. 

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Note on Anamnesis and the Tripartition of Time

Where Plato’s anamnēsis (ἀνάμνησις) is key to Aristotle’s Physics, our “motion” is disclosed as our tending towards all that is presupposed by the present, all that lies under the surface of the present. Sensory perception itself is nothing but a vehicle for a return to the pre-sensory interiority of things, or for returning appearances to their “home-ground,” independently of what we may otherwise expect of them. Insofar as the origin of the present or of “present things”—things present-at-hand—is conceived as a given, or insofar as it is necessarily presupposed by the present, we naturally imagine it as past: for the past, the realm of the dead, is the arena in which we lose the ground of the present, and imagination grasps always and only what is lost, or in the process of being lost: ghosts. Upon failing to grasp the origin of the present imaginatively or as past, we are naturally inclined to divine it as future: the future emerges as that constituent of the ground of the present that completes the past, or in the light of which the ghosts of the past are made fully present or certain. Yet, the ground of the present refuses to be made present.

                  No sooner does the future impinge upon the past to make it present, than the present is exposed to itself as already past, or as lost in the midst of the shadows of the imagination. Does this not mean that the future as future fails to complete the past, or that the present is the result of the future’s necessary failure to liberate the past from its incompleteness? Or rather, if the future is nothing other than the horizon of divination—a world that is supposed to convert past uncertainty into present certainty—is the failure we attribute to the future not traceable back to the imagination’s erroneous identification of the ground of the present as past, rather than as eternal or a-temporally permanent? Is the appeal to “the future” as compensation for the inadequacy of the past not doomed precisely insofar as that which it seeks to make present is an illusion, rather than the genuine foundation of the present?

                  Are we to understand the Mosaic condemnation of divination as based upon the realization that divination is an exercise in futility insofar as the restoration of the past as answer to the problems of the present could be brought about only from the vantage point of the end of all time, or from a revolutionary future beyond all ordinary futures?

              Though it may see through the illusion of the imagination, is the Mosaic “solution” to the problem of the present’s constitution, or to the present as problem, fully adequate? Does the Bible not merely postpone or reify the foundations of the present, highlighting the radical problematicity of the present as such, and thus the inadequacy of “the present world”—this world—as place of disclosure of its own ground as of the consummate point of convergence of past and future?

               Unlike the Bible, Plato’s fable concerning “recollection” (anamnēsis) is incredible and does not want to be believable. What is to be recollected philosophically is an ensemble or community of ideas, a timeless world presupposed by all experience. This is to say that the ground of the present cannot be past: the ancestral past, our underworld, is no more than a mask of eternity. If what is to be restored is not the past, then in terms of what are we to understand the problematicity of the present? What are we to turn to, if not to the past, or to the future?

                  If according to Plato, i.e. for philosophy, the past is properly a mask of eternity, then the philosopher is entitled to make judicious or didactic use of the past to expose the problematicity of the present, to question our present expectations, and thus to distract us from the future. Accordingly, or blinding us to the spectre of death, philosophy tends to make us immune to all worldly fears, even as it does not compel us to entertain otherworldly fears. For philosophy the present as present is unacceptable, and with it any attempt to make fully present, or to reveal the solution to the present.

             Does philosophy proper limit itself to highlighting the problematicity of the present, exposing the body as prison (sõma-sēma), or does philosophy not translate the problematicity in question, no less than the body, into eternity? Does Platonism not read the problematicity of the present as shadow of permanent problems, problems that are at once vital answers to the question of how we are to live? Is the philosopher’s aloofness not accounted for by the fact that he abides fearlessly in eternal questions, forms at once independent and at the heart of any particular content?

                                                                                             

                                                                                             空: gate, gate, pāragate, pārasamgate, bodhi svāhā.


                The transcendence to which pure philosophy exposes us demands that its pursuer penetrate through the “interiority” of things as underworld. The realm of the dead, the past, stands now and forever as the abyss of matter, which all particular forms must cross, or through which all motion is returned to its beginning. The pivot of conversion of motion from its derivative, refracted instantiations to its primal spring, is death in its absolute sense (in Christian terms, damnation, or Dante’s “second death,” personified most vividly by Belzeebub in the last Canto of Inferno). The horizon of genuine transcendence—of pure poetic contemplation—is then disclosed through death, i.e. through the death of all particular forms, or the relapse of all motion into the vortex of nature.

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Creation in the Torah?


בראשית ברא אלהים את השמים ואת הארץ

                                                                          b’reshith bara elohim et hashamayim v’et ha’aretz


Thus reads the opening verse of the Torah.


Suggested translation:

«In a head  (בראשית), when the gods (Elohim, plural form of "El") as one separated ("shaped/cut/crafted out") the sky ("expanse-above") and the earth... »

            (where ברא (bārā) as "shape-out" appears in the second-person singular)


Or:


«In their head, where the gods unify to distinguish the sky and the earth...»  (noting that the gods are truly "strong" where they are one, "El" indicating "the strong one")


Here, the gods would unify/converge so as to divide,* or "establish / bring-forth as distinct": explicit multiplicity or division produced by the unification of implicit multiplicity/division, or "noetically": the physical distinction beween the high and low being the projection or shadow of a noetic distinction, or of a hierarchy underlying or seated at the heart of the unity of the intellect ("head").


Again, in the head ("monarch"), gods ("divine ones" or "best ones": aristocrats) are one.  Being one, the gods can establish a distinction beween what is physically high and what is physically low, on the way to shedding light upon, or governing the latter--whence verse 1.3, marking the first proper "creation" of Elohim, being "light":**


אמר אלהים יהי אור ויהי אור׃  (Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or):


«And the gods-as-one said, "Let light be" so "light is"»: "light" being none other than its pronouncement in the one head of all gods: the light of the speaking intellect, or of logos.


* «the first chapter of Genesis is based on a division by two,or what Plato calls diairēsis (division by two)...The account of the world given in the first chapter of the Bible is not fundamentally different from philosophic accounts (Leo Strauss, "On the Interpretation of Genesis", pp. 13-14).

** «Creation is the making of separated things, of things or groups of things which are separated from each other, which are distinguished from each other, which are distinguishable, which are discernible. But that which makes possible distinguishing and discerning is light. The first thing created is, therefore, light.» (Leo Strauss, "On the Interpretation of Genesis", p. 10).


Conclusion: the "God(s)/Elohim" (in he plural, but as one: "the gods strong in unity") of the Torah is/are not the origin of the universe/whole, but of one distinction between what is physically high and physically low.  This distinction or separation, irreducible to any material or physical underpinning, emerges at the beginning of all human or political order, which extends beween the physical and the purely noetic, between motion and stillness.  It is politically-speaking that the physical is ordered in the light of the purely intelligible, the body being governed or ordered (bay, being constituted) towards or in the light of the unity of mind. 

  It is reasonable, then, for the Torah to point away from and against knowledge of the material underpinning of the political-civil-moral universe.  "Natural philosophy" would have to be condemned as the impious attempt to dispense with or even to undermine the principle of separation upon which is based all human order.***


***«The Bible reflects in its literary form the inscrutable mystery of the ways of God which it would be impious even to attempt to comprehend.» (Leo Strauss, "On the Interpretation of Genesis", p. 20).




Selected Bibliography:


Leo Strauss, "On the Interpretation of Genesis"  at http://www.persee.fr/web/revues/home/prescript/article/hom_0439-4216_1981_num_21_1_368159 )


Robert Sacks, "The Lion and the Ass: A Commentary on the Book of Genesis (Chapters 1-10)" at http://interpretationjournal.com/backissues/Vol_8-2-3.pdf )


On/against "creation out of nothing" (creatio ex nihilo), see:


Bob Becking & Marjo C.A. Korpel, "To Create, to Separate or to Construct: An Alternative for a Recent Proposal as to the Interpretation of the Verb ברא in Genesis 1:1-2:4a",  Journal of Hebrew Sciptures, Vol. 10 (2010), at

http://www.jhsonline.org/Articles/article_131.pdf

   and

E.J. van Wolde, “Why the verb ברא does not mean ‘to create’ in Genesis 1,” JSOT 34 (2009), pp. 3–23

   and

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4730-creation


On the indefinitude of b'reshith, see https://cs.uwaterloo.ca/~dberry/FTP_SITE/reprints.journals.conferences/breshit.accepted.pdf

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Socrates on Suicide

In Plato's Phaedo, Socrates refers to a popular *opinion* denouncing suicide.  Socrates shows himself willing to accept as plausible the *popular opinion* that men belong to gods (*not* "God" singulare tantum, as we find in "Christianizing" translations) as to good masters (ἄρχοντες ἀγαθοί) and that consequently men-as-such are not the owners of their lives.  Yet, Socrates further invites us to consider that there are ever better gods/masters in the afterlife (63c), opening the door to the possibility of justifiably freeing oneself from subjection to the personal gods of convention.  The presence in the afterlife, i.e. in death, of the impersonal gods ("forms") of philosophers, makes it preferable for philosophers not to live under the gods of the Polis.  Only as long as we are still under their subjection, do we owe them our lives.  Now, as "political philosopher" (abiding among non-philosophers) Socrates "sacrifices" himself to wait upon the order of Athens' gods/laws before departing from the Polis, where Socrates lives as if in a prison (where "soma sema").  The philosopher lives a life mediated by (*not* based upon) the laws of his city: he is "dianoetic" in departing from Athens as he is in staying, inviting others to serve as mediums for the formation of opinions (letting others speak on his behalf).  In short, Socrates places himself in the position of best using the Polis to evade it.  Somehow, Socrates compels Athens to compel him to die.  Only thus, it seems, can Socrates show Athens the legitimacy of "suicide," or the ultimate independence of man from the gods of his city, the gods under whose authority men live as slaves.
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The Problem of Nationality

Philologists who attend merely to the "short" or unpoetic sense of words teach us that "nations" are essentially modern entities: they are "nation states" based on peculiarly modern notions of political identity, or of the "contractual" constitution of political order.  Yet, even if we concede the legitimacy of a "literalist" reading of nationhood, we still face the inextricability of "contracts" from a natural background.  Nation (natio) is fundamentally inextricable from the question of nature (natura) or birth.  


In the XVIII century, the Italian political philosopher Giambattista Vico opposed a contemporary fashion for which a new world order could be established on a strictly artificial basis,  "geometrically abstracted" from the problem of nature.  Natural necessity was acknowledged as a problem, but not as an unsolvable problem.  In the words of the XV century French mathematician Franciscus Vieta (François Viète),  by following the correct algebraic  method or "analytic art" (ars Analytice) mankind could eventually reach a condition where no problem is left unsolved (nullum non problema solvere).


The early-modern assumption that natural necessity could be, at least in principle, overcome, depended upon a mechanistic reading of nature akin to that of ancient materialists (from Democritus to Epicurus).  Yet, ancient materialists had not regarded natural necessity as tamable.  For them nature was a fateful "vortex" that we could, at best, follow peacefully or passively.  Modern materialism rejects the pure passivity (vita contemplativa) of its ancient counterpart, combining it with the "activity" (vita activa) of ancient political idealism, i.e. with "Plato." Already Socrates had performed a "turn" of contemplation towards activity or political life, yet this turn was in both means and ends explicitely contemplative.  Modern materialists "apply" contemplation to political life or human conduct whereby the contemplative mind is "filled" with material nature.  In Descartes' terms, res cogitans is originally empty of any substantive meaning or ends, which it must "create" by applying itself to a nature construed as res extensa, or quantifiable and radically malleable matter--matter devoid of permanent substantive features; matter bereft of any essential or original form.  


The universal applicability of modern "universal mathematics" (mathesis universalis) is guaranteed, not by nature's possessing an essentially mathematical or determinate character, but precisely by its lacking any essential determination.  Precisely if nature is radically unpredictable or "irrational," it can be conquered by a radically predictable or "rational" technique.* What ancient materialists had assumed to be an obstacle to the conquest of nature, or to man's self-appropriation, i.e. to the triumph of his spirit over any higher authority, is now seen as the perfect opportunity for conquering nature.  Nature's radical impermanence emerges as nature's incapacity to oppose a systematic project to channel impermanence to serve a universal end or the constitution of a "kingdom of ends" (Kant): freedom "from nature" is obtainable, albeit only by using nature to serve the interests of our freedom.  Nature--Nietzsche's woman--must be tamed and enslaved.


Ancient materialists would have objected that the very project of conquering natural necessity is bound to follow the determinations of nature, being "moved" by forces transcending it.  Late-modernism acknowledges this difficulty, "deflating" or "diffusing" the overt optimism or optimistic propaganda of early modernity.  Yet, later modernism retains its forerunner's general projective orientation.  Late modernity may acknowledge that it does not know where it is going, and thus whether or not it is progressing or regressing with respect to "long-term" ends, but it finds a sense of liberation in its ignorance.  Not knowing where it is going--and no longer caring to know--late-modernity feels free to attend to short-term "progress," or to attend to "low" or "technical" progress unhampered by questions of a "higher" or "metaphysical" order.  This way the essence of modernity is fully explicated as a spirit or will that appropriates itself as a feeling or sense of certainty independent of any extraneous considerations.  What "counts"--what is in "practical" terms, or what is "relevant"--is what is felt.  In one way or other, late or post-modernity expresses the principle that, "to be is to feel." 


Once the essence of modernity makes itself fully manifest as the equation or coincidentia of being and sense--once modernity "comes of age" as essentially self-referential spirit--thereupon it is left with itself as an unsolvable problem.  Ultimately, modernity fails to free itself from the essential character of nature as understood by pre-modern man.  Instead of solving "the problem of problems," modernity merely postpones or masks it by attributing nature's necessity to itself as pure spirit.  Modern wisdom or "Science" comes to face itself as radically inexplicable and thus, too, as essentially indistinguishable from non-science or ignorance.  The essence of modernity unfolds as outright absurdity.


Now, Giambattista Vico showed that what is said of modernism's "wisdom" in general, applies to modern nations in particular: the "boast" (boria) of authorities (dotti learned in the language of authority) is mirrored by the "boast of nations" (boria delle nazioni).  Both run their course within the boundaries of natural necessity, so that precisely where they posit themselves as possessing unbridled freedom, at once they are tyrannized by everything outside of their "atoms" of self-certainty.


Vico's warning against the tyrannical outcome of the rise of Cartesianism is still pregnant with lessons for us who live in the belly of tyranny.  Most importantly, Vico guides us into recognizing the poetic or imitative roots of modernity.  Nations themselves are exposed as ancient poetic entities rooted in nature.  The unmasking of nations as fictions does not make nations illegitimate--impostors beggining for "deconstruction."  On the contrary, once we recognize national identities as children of poetry, we are no longer threatened by supra-political or divine(d) "beasts"--above all the one Dante designates as she-wolf (lupa)--religiously eager to capitalize on the limits of political order.  Our nations are nourished, not toppled, by the ancient "Platonic" lesson concerning political great lies: nations are poetic entities constituted on a basis of continuity of ends among great local minds.  Once these minds are silenced, nations fall to foreign "supra-national" forces.  Once "national" poetry is displaced from its natural place as rightful guide of a people, the people no longer recognizes itself as one, but merely as many; it no longer lives in unity, but divided, even disintegrated into scattered leaves whipped into a vortex of recurrent waves--as we see in the "covert" verses of Dante's Inferno III.


* The distinction between nature as entirely predictable (mathematical order) and nature as entirely unpredictable (mathematical disorder or chaos) appears in Machiavelli in terms of the relation between Natura and Fortuna.  Nature is no more Chance than order is disorder.  Yet, Chance emerges through the interstices of Nature: disorder lurks from beneath order.  In Machiavelli, the "geometrical" conquest of Nature is made possible where Chance is a disorder underlying Nature's apparent order.


(published on the 12th of July, 2013)



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Note on Vico's Return to Plato's Republic

In a 2013 work entitled "Vico e l'errore di Platone e Cartesio," Federico la Sala presents Vico as countering Plato's proposal to exile Homer from the ideal Republic.  For La Sala, Vico is,

"colui che ha osato disubbidire alle Leggi della Repubblica di Platone, riammettere nello Stato, a pieno titolo, Omero e i “poeti”..."

La Sala rests his allegation that Vico departs from Plato upon textual fragments in which Vico seems to criticize Plato.  I have already addressed those passages in articles published by Interpretation and Historia Philosophica, showing that the fragments  are by no means conclusive, and that they are to be read as inseparable ingredients of a lengthy argument throughout which Vico purges Plato from received opinions, by way of returning to Plato himself, or even of presenting himself as the true Plato.
 
La Sala stresses a commonplace for contemporary Vico scholarship, according to which, against Plato, Vico would have admitted Homer in his own Republic.  Yet, this is not the conclusion Vico himself invites us to reach, most notably in his magnum opus, Principj di Scienza Nuova (1730 and 1744), aka Scienza Nuova.

Speaking of his own Work as a Republic of sorts, in Axiom V of the "Of the Elements" section of his Scienza Nuova (1744) Vico writes:

"This Axiom sends far away from the school of this Science the Stoics...the Epicureans...for both deny Providence...and it admits Political Philosophers, and first of all [principalmente] the Platonists, who agree with all Legislators on these three principal [principali] points: that Divine Providence be a given; that we should moderate human passions and make human virtues of them; and that human souls be immortal..."

Axiom V is followed by two Axioms in which Vico highlights the distinction between philosophers and non-philosophers who prefer rolling in the dung of the senses (Vico is citing Cicero) rather than rising into Plato's Republic.  It is for the non-philosophers that a Religion of Laws is of paramount importance.  The "very few" or pochissimi who want to live honestly, do not need Legislators to free them from common vices in the guise of a "Divine Legislative Mind" (VII).  This Mind is none other than the human mind in the face of men enslaved to their own passions.  For,

"The human mind is naturally kneeling with the senses to see itself outside in the body, and with much difficulty by means of reflection to intend itself as it is." (ibid. LXIII)

Vico's intendere is exchangeable with divinare or indovinare, according to his own indications: to "intend" is "to see within," or to "surmise, divine, guess." The human mind may use the outward (bodies) as reflection of itself.  Reflection is here a "means" (mezzo) for philosophical divination, or for "seeing" the outward inwardly, or rather as sign of what is hidden.  Vico would seem to be setting out to replace man's natural religion (the mind's physical "kneeling" by which the mind finds itself naturally subject to a superior divinity) with what Renaissance Platonists would call "poetic theology" (theologia poetica) or a philosophical divination of the truth/background of all appearances (see further pp. 520-23 of the 1744 edition of the Scienza Nuova).  The "natural kneeling" is not dispensed with altogether, but supplemented with reflection.  The end or aim of the natural kneeling, or of natural religion, has shifted, insofar as the sense of "nature" has shifted.  What is "natural" now, is no longer physical or sensory, but pre-sensory, as it were.

Insofar as it entails "much difficulty," Vico's "reflection" will be genuinely appreciated only by the "very few" (pochissimi) who have grown, if not altogether indifferent to, at least dispassionate in the face of the endowments of chance or Fortuna.  In Vico's "Science," the dogmas or "three principal points" of the Religion of Laws will be reaffirmed and even defended.  These dogmas, spelled out in the fifth Axiom cited above, entail upholding Law as safehaven for bodies, as leader of bodies to civility, and as confirmation of civility in eternity, i.e. beyond mortality (the demise of bodies).  All three points are said to be upheld by political philosophers, but first of all or principalmente by Platonic political philosophers who may very well understand the "points" differently from the way they are understood by others who are not Platonic political philosophers. 

For the sake of introducing us to an approach to "laws" (and authority) that benefts the co-existence of philosophers and non-philosophers, Vico's Scienza exiles "monastic" or non-political philosophers.  Vico has no need to exile non-philosophers, since they are not among those wanting to  inhabit Vico's Work--his Republic.  Accordingly, the "Conclusion" of Vico's work opens thus:

"We close, at last, this Work with Plato, who produces a fourth species of Republic, in which honest and righteous men were supreme Lords; and this would be the true Natural Aristocracy.  Such a Republic, which Plato intended, did Providence lead..."

The Platonic Republic to which Vico returns conclusively, is not "the great City of Nations founded and governed by God," but "this World" (questo Mondo) that has "doubtlessly come out of one Mind" transcending all particularity (p. 523 of the 1744 ed. of the Scienza Nuova).  What is to be doubted is not the unity of the mind out of which the human/civil or poetic world unfolds, if only by way of folding back into it.  What is to be doubted is the nature of the one Mind.  Vico has already doubted its identification with God, inviting his careful reader to discern the Scienza Nuova as a poetic World in which "honest and righteous men" and thereby the philosophical life, are finally vindicated.  Vico makes it no secret that this "World of Nations" is his own invention.  The full title of his Work reads, Principj di Scienza Nuova delle Nazioni di Gianbattista Vico d'Intorno alla Comune Natura delle Nazioni.  We may render the title thus: "Principles of Legislation in a Philosophically-Ruled World Circumscribing all Political Life." But the "Principles" in question can be none other than the political philosophers who are "principally" admitted in the Scienza Nuova.  Consequently, Vico warrants our translating his title as follows: "The Republic of Vico, being a true Platonic Political Philosopher." 

The need for a "return to Plato" understood as a "rediscovery" or "rebirth" of Platonism, Vico accounts for, for example, throughout the "Of the Elements" sections of the Scienza Nuova, with reference to Christianity and the inadequate manner in which modern political philosophers, most notably Hobbes,  have reacted to the tyranny of Christian inquisitorial theologians.

(published on the 22nd of January, 2014)


Vico on the Human Mind

Tuniversal rule embracing all of its contents. This, in substance, is the message G.B. Vico sends his reader in the thirty-second axiom of the “Of the Elements” section of the Scienza Nuova 1744 (hereafter SN44). The axiom is followed and illuminated by the indication that those ignorant of the human mind’s natural indetermination ignore the human mind’s function of mediation between things and their occasioning or moving context. “The ignorant” identify the ultimate context of things with “the will of God, without considering the means” separating the divine will and things.

             Vico’s modern reader tends to assume that Vico is calling for a “scientific” study of the mechanisms by which things come to be, instead of explaining things “away” by appealing to a deus ex machina. Yet, Vico is a staunch critic of mechanistic or materialist conceptions of nature. Vico’s “master key” to the relation between things and their context is poetic, or human. The human mind is this productive key or principle of all becoming—that which stands indeterminate between particular, empirical determinations and their universal context. Not knowing itself, or rather precisely in order to know itself, the human mind converts itself into the God of Nature. This is the determined universal rule of all things. The quest for knowledge presupposes a desire for universal determination. This desire is the natural divination of a determination through which the desire awakens itself out of the cycle of natural occurrences. In the absence of poetic “knowledge of God,” human desire has no proper form. This is to say that our desire’s form is originally absolutely undetermined, or unfettered, being infinite.

           Is Vico inviting us to conclude that possibility precedes actuality absolutely? This cannot be, considering that indetermination presupposes an actual motor, namely human desire constantly tending towards divine or infinite perfection as means to remain free from all determinations. Yet, no sooner does desire project itself in God than desire itself appears as the means of a divine will. God is the means through which human desire emerges as means.

(published on the 14th of March, 2014)

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Parenthesis: Why there is no "Philosophy of History" in Vico

Vico scholarship has yet to come to grips with the fact that the expression "philosophy of history" never appears in Vico--that the only "overarching history" we find in Vico is a poetic stage or legal construct (Vico's own "Scienza") for the "renaissance" of political philosophy (not by accident does Vico invite only "political philosophers and principally the Platonists" as inhabitants of his Scienza).  

Vico's poetic stage (after Dante, Camillo, Poliziano, etc.) is called for in response to Christianity's failure to resolve the hiatus between philosophy (mind) and non-philosophy (body).  Vico explicitly critiques and rejects the solutions offered by the likes of Hobbes and Machiavelli as based on an erroneous understanding of mind.

The notion of a "philosophy of history" arises in the wake of modern thinkers (most notably Hobbes, after Machiavelli) who begin to present Providence, i.e. the divine will (formally held to be humanly inscrutable) as humanly comprehensible, if only within human boundaries.  "History" emerges as the stage on which the divine will ("metaphysics") makes itself known to man as man ("politically").  

Now, it is true that for Vico metaphysics is eminently possible through a "geometrical" lens, but this lens is a human construct for divining what is beyond it.  Vico's "eternal, ideal history" (so often invoked by Vico scholars as index of Vico's supposed "philosophy of history") is not the (existential) expression of a divine mind, but the (poetic/legal) fabrication of the human mind.   Consequently, the history in question is at once "eternal" (a-temporal) and "ideal" (ideated/conceived by the human mind), as basis for the temporal or physical "course/re-course" of political things.  The eternal/poetic is necessarily presupposed by the temporal "circle" of human life, namely by our physical dimension.  

Vico's "circle" is not an image for "history," but for the physical dimension of political things, insofar as they fail to resolve nature in themselves.  The failure in question rests upon our incapacity to resolve the disparity between time and eternity, which is at once to say that we cannot "resolve" (explain, prove, etc.) the indefinite nature (indefinita natura) of the human mind.

If Vico is not "a philosopher of history," if there is and can be absolutely no "philosophy of history" for Vico; we do, nonetheless find in Vico a "universal history."  Vico speaks of a "universal history," not as the existential context modernity is used to invoking, but as a "universal profane story"--a sort of account or narration of human things that is habitually and universally given according to the human imagination.

What Vico shows, most notably in his Scienza Nuova 1730/1744, is that the "universal history" or the story universally "narrated" (in fact, a story about "the universe") is always spun "perpetually" by the human mind.  The story is "perpetual" in Vico's text.  The story is at once "ideal" (or ideated) and "eternal": it does not mutate; it does not go anywhere.  It is utterly mythical.  Everywhere, for every people/nation, the universal story, or even the story of the universe, is a necessary fiction.

Already in his De Antiquissima Italorum Sapientia Ex Linguae Latinae Originibus Eruenda ("Of the very ancient wisdom of the Italians exhumed out of the origins of the Latin tongue"), Vico sets out to expose the fiction or fictional wisdom underlying human language and order.  Key to the Work is the Proemium, where the author avows to exhume "the most ancient wisdom of the Italians from the very origins of the Latin tongue." These origins appear twofold, as is the "wisdom" they are supposed to contain, both natural/physical and civil/legal.  In the first case, we have pre-Pythagorean "Ionian doctrine" (Jonum doctrina);  in the latter case, we have Etruscan religious erudition with its "doctrine of magnificent sacred things." With the Etruscans, the natural is reduced to the civil: Theologia naturalis is at once Theologia civilis.  

Now, Vico's De Antiquissima is exposing, not primarily the "wisdom" of Ionians, but that of Etruscans ("On the Ionian doctrine there is not much for me to teach"--De Jonum doctrina non est ut multis doceam).  The reason is made plain: the "wisdom" of Ionians already has its flower in "the Italian school of Philosophers" (Italica Philosophorum secta).  The point is rearticulated in Vico's Scienza Nuova (esp. 1730/1744), especially with respect to the relation between Latin (standing for religious doctrine) and Greek (standing for philosophical doctrine).  Greek philosophers hastened to curb language to serve philosophy, eclipsing the noumenal, terrible nature of civil society.  Latin, on the other hand, preserves its origins vividly, in part thanks to Christianity, which, in the De Antiquissimais mirrored by Etruscan religion.  Vico's study of Latin is then aiming at uncovering something that the doctrinal development of philosophical schools has obscured, namely the religious origins or nature of politics, or the inseparability of the theological and the political.  Ionian and Etruscan "wisdom" are one and the same (contra Verene's reading; cf. his Knowledge of Things Human and Divine: Vico's New Science and Finnegans Wake [Yale, 2003], p. 103).  Knowledge of the human is, at its dawn or in itself, knowledge of the divine.  

What prompts Vico to address his subject is the contemporary imposition of linguistic "abstractions" upon common life (Proemium): both Christian theology and modern physics impose upon us strictures that tend to be tyrannical in their capacity to fool us into believing that unsolved or unsolvable problems have been solved or are in the process of being solved, ex machina.  

Rather than overtly opposing either Christian theology (as had done the "atheist" friends to whom, otherwise, Vico professes gratitude; cf. De Antiquissima, dedicatory remarks to Paolo Doria) or modern physics, Vico sets out to make use of both, if only upon having avowed to serve both.  Specifically, in the course of his De Antiquissima, Vico makes use of doctrines that "determine" the human mind, in order to stress man's incapacity to solve or even to approach a solution to permanent problems, including the question concerning the nature of mind.  The human mind is not its own object.  

Among the problems Vico leaves or exposes as "unanswered," is the unity of the universe (see esp. Ch. VIII.3: "De Fortuna").  The Christian universe is supposed to be at once physical and polical/moral (Mundus...naturae Resp.): Fortuna is God's good will (Fortuna autem Deus est...atque eo pacto adversa naturae sint bona).  Avowing to write a work adapted to the feableness of man as established by Christian piety (see e.g. "Conclusion"), Vico accepts the ancient Latin belief that Fortune/Fortuna is good/fortus, with a grain of salt, as reducing particular injustice to a universal harmony.  What is said of the natural universe and its God is a mirror or shadow of what occurs in the human world, where the monarch ruling universally over all is a mythical form that, far from solving political problems, discloses them (compare the conclusion of Dante's Monarchia).  The pre-philosophical or sensory "wisdom" of ancient Italians stands not as solution, but as bedrock to our problems.

(published on the 30th of March, 2014)

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"Laws of Nature" in Lucretius?

Contrary to what many a textbook and translation teach us, the Roman Epicurean Lucretius speaks not of "laws of nature" (not to speak of anything like modernity's "physical laws") but of ratio or foedera of nature, suggesting a "natural bond" or fatefulness of things as they appear to our senses (not through our mathematical symbolic formulas). 

Lucretius also speaks of "laws of time" (aevi leges) in a "poetic" sense (Nietwsche's amor fati comes to mind).  However, stricto sensu, for pre-modern materialists "laws" are human creations, whereby, e.g., men place themselves "willfully under strict legal justice" (sua sponte sub leges artaque iura--DE RERUM NATURA, Bk. V).  These are products of art, gradually taught slowly and by degrees, "simultaneously by usage and the experiments of an industrious mind" (usus et impigrae simul experientia mentis).  For ancient materialists and Platonists alike, nature is beyond all laws or quantifiable constraints.

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Socrates versus Karl Popper

Pre-Socratic « naturalist » philosophy appears to produce intuitions outside of political relations. Socrates/Plato critiques pre-Socratism for not having adequately appreciated the nature of philosophical/scientific intuitions. For Socrates these intuitions are neither merely divine (entering the human sphere ready-made from without), nor merely human (politically reducible). They are rather essentially « theological-political, » i.e. they take shape politically, although they are rooted and point back to a fundamental (not-falsifiable) reality (« the Ideas ») transcending political life.


This way our intuitions would never be completely falsifiable or completely unfalsifiable, but falsifiable/verifiable in the light of intelligible principles (whereby it would be possible to recognize, e.g., a natural hierarchy of veracity among competing « value statements/jugements »).


Rather than pointing to ultimacy on their own, our intuitions would partake in a Dialogue or Logos that is « teleological » in the respect that it is rooted in and points back to permanent features of reality.


Some intuitions more than  others could do justice to ultimacy, but always and only to the extent that they conserve « the political » open to its ultimate source of dignity: only to the extent that they genuinely animate Dialogue, in its essence the one and only perfect pointer to ultimacy.


Accordingly, Socrates does not limit philosophy/science to what is falsifiable. With Socrates, a philosophy/science shut to purely intelligible, unfalsifiable (and thus, too, inappropriable) principles, would be « scientific » only nominally. It would be no better than « shadow-chasing».


The mechanistic conception of nature at the heart of the "naturalism" questioned by Socrates is recovered by modern natural philosophy, or "Science".  Accordingly, the whole apparatus of (neo-)positivist discourse (understood as including the discipline of "philosophy of science"--incl. Popper, Lakatos, van Fraassen, et alia) is based upon the early-modern "in vitro like" intuition (so caracteristic of the likes of Descartes and Kant) that thought (cogitation or "co-agitation") imposes itself mechanically upon an otherwise inimical nature (reducible to merely-quantifiable "res extensa"), rather than, say, emerging in harmony with a fundamentally intelligible/meaningful nature. 


(Far from freeing itself from Cartesian-like "ego-centrism", pragmatism's critique of positivism tends to radicalize the sense that "nature" (with its absense of detectable permanent structures) justifies the expansive industry of egoic-constructions, now conceived as ontologically akin to merchandise.)


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Note on Genuine Freedom in Rousseau


« Je n’ai jamais cru que la liberté de l’homme constât à faire ce qu’il veut, mais bien à ne jamais faire ce qu’il ne veut pas… »

(Jean-Jacques. Rousseau, Rêverie VI)


In his sixth Rêverie, Rousseau presents himself as enemy of those who do not want to be free, of those whose will is contrary to freedom. To the extent that the will can counter freedom, freedom is independent of the will. The will can occlude the “flux” of genuine freedom. Yet, freedom cannot counter a “negative” will—a will to refrain from doing something; a will turning away from production. The “freedom” we appeal to against our negative will is not genuine freedom. The interests of genuine freedom cannot run against our impulse to philosophize, to turn back to the origins or essential nature of all production. Is this not because genuine freedom and philosophy are one and the same thing—one and the same return to the true nature or inner life of all things? Behind the veil of appearances, behind the promise of “never doing what one does not want,” stands an activity independent of all production, a pure reflection that is the true destiny of man, the life of the “true man” (homme vrai).

             Yet, does Rousseau not force his enemies to endure his presence among them, and is not this enduring somehow a matter of “production”—of doing something—against one’s will? Not properly speaking, if Rousseau’s presence is an obstacle to a will to produce, or a will to power (a will for empowerment, for augmentation, for life), rather than a will to return to the inception of all power. The production of resentful deeds amidst Rousseau’s enemies depends not upon Rousseau, but upon the evil or corruption of his enemies. They compel themselves into doing evil as a result of rejecting Rousseau’s invitation to desist from pursuing power or survival as an end in itself.


(published on the 17th of April, 2014)

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Edgar A. Poe : un unsuspected critic of modernity?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E599WEi9Pe4

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The Cartesian Tyranny: A Note on Descartes as Anti-Platonist

(Part of the following Note is extracted from a "Comment" posted at the bottom of http://theologiapoetica.webs.com/ancients-moderns)


A Note to address the problem of reading Descartes unphilosophically, i.e. superficially, ignoring the tension between the argument and the action of a text.  The Note counters the modern practice of "intellectual historians" who mistake empty words as "essences" and res extensa as "existence" .


         One understands nothing of Descartes if one does not heed the interaction of the argument and the action of his writing. Textbook "philosophy" could not possibly take this path, which alone helps us understand that D is a materialist at heart.
         Descartes (arguably in the company of Spinoza, Leibniz, and Montaigne, among many an early-modern revolutionary thinker) is not a secret materialist "contrary to" what he argued, since what he argued is ill-understood aside from the "theatrical" dimension of his text. To take his argument seriously or philosophically is to examine the "vital manner" of his speech (and of course, possibly to study his speech in the original language). Only then does D come to life; only then is he dangerous. Beyond all journalistic intellectualism, which reduces philosophical arguments to commercial propositions.
          D is usually considered to be a rationalist at heart.  His invitation, for instance, to attain to "complete control over the passions" may be read as the mark of Aristotelianism, if not of outright Platonism.  It may be, on the other hand, a mere profession of faith astutely serving anti-philosophical intents. To understand it one needs to examine its "poetic" context. Let us address a single textual point to exemplify the manner in which most D scholars tend to reach firm conclusions based on superficial/quick, erroneous readings.
           Part I, Section 50 of D's Les passions de l'âme ("The Passions of the Soul") carries the following title: "Qu’il n’y a point d’âme si faible qu’elle ne puisse, étant bien conduite, acquérir un pouvoir absolu sur ses passions."
           We might be tempted to assume that D is inviting us to transcend our passions through philosophy.  Yet, no conclusion could be more contrary to D's message.  D's "soul" (the feminine âme/anima is actually quite "physical") can be (or rather, should be) at once feeble and possessing absolute power over its passions. That is possible where the soul is well "conducted » (n.b.: not educated).  D concludes that all those having "the most feeble souls" (akin to those of beasts) could possess "a very absolute empire over all of their passions" (un empire très absolu sur toutes leurs passions). Do we then need no reason at all to conquer completely all of our passions?  How could this be possible?  D has explained this in a somewhat convoluted manner.  The "secret" is to make fools subject to appearances (incl. textual ones) conditioning their thoughts more powerfully than their pituitary glands. So the fool’s thoughts can be cut off from his passions, only to be enslaved to appearances.  So much for the need of philosophy!  To read D's treatment of the passions as rationalist would be as mistaken as reading, say, Spinoza's professions of faith as Christian. 
          The Cartesian Method (seemingly replacing philosophy as such) is supposed to conquer the world of fools, freeing them altogether from the empire of their passions—replacing this empire with the tyranny of the Method. But whence does this Method arise in the first place? A careful study of D’s texts could show that the Method is supposed to be given fundamentally by the universal movement of matter intuited by D beyond the limits of both glands and words.  Just as in Pascal there are reasons that our reason knows not, so too in D there are passions far beyond the reaches of our own. 
         We have seen that in Passions de l'âme I.50 D's "soul" can master its private passions without philosophy.  Art. 48 had already well prepared us for this lesson, partly by way of explaining the Cartesian sense of Art. 47, which ends with the description of a combat in which a "will to be daring" overcomes fear.  The volonté D speaks of is not philosophical in the least.  The "will" in question presupposes no philosophical education.  It is "naturally" there (D speaks of "ceux en qui naturellement la volonté peut le plus aisément vaincre les passions et arrêter les mouvements du corps qui les accompagnent").  The so-called "strong soul" is such because it uses "its own weapons" (in this sense, the soul is said to be naturally strong).  These are in substance moral dogmas ("ses propres armes sont des jugements fermes et déterminés touchant la connaissance du bien et du mal, suivant lesquels elle a résolu de conduire les actions de sa vie").  But these dogmas are opinions, such as those appearances D speaks of in Art. 50.  Returning to Art. 48: the soul is strong only insofar as it determines itself to follow certain judgements (...se détermine...à suivre certains jugements).  These are representations that are not determined by contradictory, present passions.  A superior imagination is required to overcome local tensions between opposed passions.  Art. 49 explains that « the proper weapons » making souls strong are usually determinations (even false ones) of passions.  These determinations can become firm (apparently based on habit) whereby they are capable of leading our actions beyond contradictions between local passions.  So the soul is strong completely INDEPENDENTLY OF PHILOSOPHY and TRUTH.
          When in Art. 49 D speaks of "knowledge of truth," he is merely adding a moral consideration:

Mais il y a pourtant grande différence entre les résolutions qui procèdent de quelque fausse opinion et celles qui ne sont appuyées que sur la connaissance de la vérité ; d’autant que si on suit ces dernières, on est assuré de n’en avoir jamais de regret ni de repentir au lieu qu’on en a toujours d’avoir suivi les premières lorsqu’on en découvre l’erreur. 


          The strong soul is strong by believing an opinion, by being firmly resolute in its moral stance.  But--adds D elliptically--if, rather than "proceeding from" this opinion, our resolution stands firmly on "knowledge of truth," then it will surely be without regrets or repenting, because it will not discover its error.  The falsity of opinion is here given by the distance of the opinion, or by the fact that the opinion adhered to is not received firmly as knowledge of the truth—as it is, for instance, in the case of certain Christians, who never doubt the basis of their resolutions.

Textual References:
     Jacob Klein, "The Concept of 'Number' in Descartes" (Sec. II.12 of  Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origins of Algebra.)
     René Descartes, Les passions de l'âme. 

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What is presupposed in Montaigne: A note on the Modern Revolution 

Michel de Montaigne is often considered as a non-systematic thinker.  Yet, Montaigne gives us reasons to think otherwise.  As David L. Schaefer has argued in his "Montaigne and Leo Strauss," Montaigne clearly avows that philosophers "sometimes obscure their natural opinions and falsify them to accommodate themselves to public usage.  They do not want openly to profess ignorance ... so as not to frighten the children."  As Schaefer points out, Montaigne "alludes at several points to the contrast between the philosophers' public advocacy of moderation with respect to bodily pleasures, the sacrifice of the individual's interest to the common good, and unqualified respect for the law, on the one hand and their private hedonism, self-regard, and unwillingness to subordinate their judgment to the civil laws, on the other."  Schaefer adds:

"Whatever the true attitudes of those philosophers towards conventional morality and religion, Montaigne's criticisms of such beliefs are far more direct and open than anything to be found in their more popular writings. But at the same time, his account of the classical philosophers' rhetorical concealment as well as his intimations that he himself finds it necessary to obscure his real beliefs provides support for the suspicion that the multitude of contradictions with which the Essais abounds reflect a carefully planned rhetoric rather than a genuine inconsistency in Montaigne's thought. … This appearance makes it safer for Montaigne to launch his most extensive and open (albeit ostensibly hypothetical) attack on the grounds of Christian belief in the "Apology for Raymond Sebond." Finally, the more personal and engaging tone of Book III (as well as of Montaigne's additions to the earlier books in the later editions) helps to win readers over to the "Epicurean" and libertarian attitude he espouses there." (here and hereafter, boldface added)

               The link Montaigne-Machiavelli is not hard to discern:

"Despite the manner in which Montaigne outward y seems to distinguish himself from Machiavelli on the subject of political ethics (II 17 631-2 [491-2]; HI, 1), I believe that he pursues and elaborates the most fundamental elements of Machiavelli's project...In opposition to those who would set people's "aim" higher than the target in order to make it more likely that they reach it, he argues that "men have often made the precepts and laws of our life strict beyond universal reason" (III, 10,983 [769]), and that "a goal that we cannot reach seems unjust" (III, 9, 969 [757]). He describes the ultimate goal of life as pleasure or freedom from pain rather than virtue (, 14,56-7 [38]; I, 20, 80 [56]), and praises bodily health rather than "future and absent" goods as the greatest of natural gifts (II, 12,464 [357])."


              It is not difficult to discern System behind Montaigne’s superficial a-systematicity, his apparent lack of a "metaphysical" background.  Yet, even as he shows Montaigne to be seriously indebted to classical antiquity, Schaefer stresses that Montaigne’s esoterism is at odds with that of the Frenchman's ancient teachers:


"in contrast to the ancient belief that there is an inevitable and unbridgeable gap between philosophy and political society, owing to the divergence between the skepticism that is required for the pursuit of truth and the firm belief that is needed for the maintenance of political order, Montaigne believes it is possible to achieve an ultimate "rationalization" of the opinions on which political society rests, thus eliminating the need for philosophers to conceal their opinions in the future. It is for this reason that he expresses his unbelief in the established religion far more openly (notably in the "Apology for Raymond Sebond") than the classical political philosophers did.43 As Montaigne puts it, although he may conceal the truth out of "knowledge," he does not do so out of "conscience (I, 21 104 [76]) In his denial that the tension or opposition between philosophy and politics is a permanent or essential one, and his endeavor to overcome that tension by means of his book, Montaigne anticipates the practice and belief attributed by Strauss to "an ever-increasing number of heterodox philosophers" beginning "about the middle of the seventeenth century," who wrote "not only to communicate their thoughts but also because they desired to contribute to the abolition of persecution as such.""


             Yet, Schaefer acknowledges that Montaigne holds fast to a contemporary separation between the philosopher and the non-philosopher.   Schaefer writes:

"In harmony with the classic philosophic tradition, Montaigne frequently alludes to the vast gap between the philosophic minority who are capable of genuine intellectual independence and the "vulgar" multitude who are not (I, 25, 134-5 [98-9]; II, 12, 481-2, 541 [371, 419-20]; III, 3, 797-8, 802 [622, -5]). Rather—as the conclusion of the "Apology" explicitly indicates—his liberation of popular attitudes from traditional authority and his popularization of a form of skepticism are intended to direct people's concerns entirely away from Being or eternity, which he represents as unknowable, toward an indulgence in the pleasures of earthly existence that he labels "diversion" (II, 2; III, 4). His critique of the assumption that human language reflects the structure of reality, frequently cited by contemporary deconstructionists, must be understood in the light of this intention: by challenging the belief that the essential structure of the universe is intelligible to us, Montaigne aims to undermine the claims of those who assert an overarching, natural or God- given telos that the human species is obliged to follow. The non-human universe is "blind, deaf, and soulless" (I, 26, 151 [112]), as well as indifferent to man's well-being (II, 37, 746 [582]); while external things are available for our "use" through a technologically-oriented natural science (III, 11, 1003 [785]; cf. I, 8, 33 [20]; II, 37, 744-5 [580-1]), their essential nature or meaning is inaccessible to us."

              Here Schaefer stresses the principle that Descartes is so well-known for: the reduction of nature to res extensa.   Schaefer’s general diagnosis?  


"The reduction of nature to meaningless matter, to be subjected by science for the sake of what Bacon called "the relief of man's estate," left us without moral guidance as to how the power that modern science put at our disposal was to be used. And the attempt to liberate humanity from theocratic tyranny and religious warfare by undermining religious belief left the species confronted with a terrifying abyss that encouraged either a meaningless materialism or a new, ideological sort of fanaticism that turned against both liberalism and reason."


           Schaefer's prognosis amounts to a return (via a confrontation of the modern revolution with classical antiquity) to a "natural" understanding of political things as "first things".


*** Bibliographical reference: "Montaigne and Leo Strauss" (Montaigne Studies 1990).  

_________

Paralipomena

  Note on Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo: Favola in Musica (1607)

The message of the Orfeo (Orpheus) by Monteverdi: we can attain to the object of desire only heavenly (contemplatively), not in the flesh. Outside of the temple of the mind, the object of the mind remains radically uncertain (our pursuit of it remains subject to chance). Yet, in order to ascend to contemplation, one must die to all mortal objects of desire: Orpheus must cross the underworld of the flesh to rise out of it and follow a paternal counsel to view mortal beauty (bodily forms) in its general/heavenly guise (heavenly, “Platonic” forms).

            The resolution at hand entails an eclipse of the physical. The divine consummation of desire would thereby seem to blind Orpheus to the human nature of desire, where properly human desire opens the physical to its meta-physical source. Becoming a god would seem to have a dehumanizing effect. 

              The divine perfection of man is chosen at a dire price, although only after virtue has failed where, in principle, it could have succeeded. The Apollonian apotheosis of man expresses virtue’s last resort to save itself—for a new beginning, a poetic beginning marked by the vision of poetic entities named "stars" (after Dante).  The new beginning is poetic, then, as is the heaven of the Orfeo.  Properly or poetically understood, Monteverdis divine man does not blind us to the human; rather, he invites the deification of poetry, or "poetic theology".  The Favola helps us understand the divine as poetic, even as it encourages us to recognize the divine irreducibility of the poetic to the physical.  The New Man, the renewed Orpheus, is Monteverdi himself.

              Monteverdi is not merely a producer of music, but a composer who awakens Music (Musica) to reawaken Poetry (Poesia), which alone can introduce us to an "Orphic" art underlying the disjuncture between Music and Poetry.  In Monteverdi's Favola in Musica, Music is Queen (Regina).  But it is Poetry that carries us into the depths (underworld) of nature, if only upon Music's restoring of the body to a "mature" or "polite" pleasure.  Music alone can domesticate nature, thereby preparing it to heed Poetry's guidance.  Poetry leads us to a world in which Music is the hidden or "silent" discourse of the mind, the thinking presupposed by the body.  It is this "silent" music (this Philosophy) that Monteverdi must hear in order to compose "the Queen" who is supposed to save us, if only provisionally, from barbarism.  Salve dunc Regina!


   The Essence of Poetry

What is the poet as poet originally up to?  Does he not discover the sensory as a pathway to the eternal--to the pure contents of an unmoving form, which is to say, of mind?  Is he not responsible for the emergence (out of a "chaos" of sense) of the sensory or physical world as a world or unity, and thus as an order of things, no matter how narrowly circumscribed this world may be conceived to be?  (For even a flower, even a grain of sand is a world of its own: its name defines it as such.)  And is this order, this whole not originally and constantly thereafter constitutionally open to a transcendent perfection?  Is our sensory world not necessarily subject to a higher or supra-sensory order?  What original poet would posit his sensory world as ultimate?  What poetry would regard the sensory world, the originally poetic world, as self-sufficient, as resolving its form--its creative mind--within its contents, its motions?  The unity of the sensory world would be thereupon destroyed and therewith poetry itself.  The poet as poet must then be constantly aware of a tension, a hiatus between the poetic unity of the sensory world and sensory motion--between the One as such and the One insofar as it is refracted, diluted, dispersed indefinitely.  This tension between the One and the Many is what conserves the sensory world open to a world where the tension is resolved, a world where the One and the Many coincide, or where the Many are eternal and unchanging things, things the names of which are their contents.  Does Platonism not expose this world as the world of Ideas, of the "gods" of the poetic mind?

   Philosophy and Psychology?

We have heard this provocation many a time: "Is not philosophy encompassed by psychology?Can psychology explain philosophy...away?

What
wonderful philosophical questions!

To speak of the constitutional difference between philosophy and psychology is to speak philosophically.  Psychology (by which we here mean a modern "scientific" discipline, as opposed to a discipline that understands itself as a facet of philosophy) knows nothing of essences, properly because it compels itself to remain blind and deaf to natural ends, or more simply to the very idea of The Good.  All that which for philosophy proper is a falling-short-of a positive end, for psychology is a pathology resolved only through conformity or assimilation to the ordinary course of events.  It is true that for psychology absolute assimilation to the ordinary requires a continuous critical vision, but this vision remains blind to an Ought transcending the empirical Is.  Conversely, for philosophy proper (Platonism is its essential costitution), the true Ought is the Is itself, beyond all experience, no matter how "deep" or "deeply felt" the experience may be.  For philosophy or pure rationalism, experience is constituted always and only in the light of an absolute transcendence whence depends the essential, natural or original orientation (telos) of experience.

   Note on "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go" (by Thomas H. Benton)

(What follows is a brief consideration sparked by an article published at http://chronicle.com/article/Graduate-School-in-the/44846)    

As terribly naive as this may sound to many, I have always thought that the (real) study of human things aimed, not at a good retirement, but at a good death (which is to say at living in the face of timeless things).  I see the problem here as being a confusion of ends.

"The humanities" as they stand strike me as afflicted by the same problem characterizing "the economic system" they long sold their soul to.  The expression "pyramid scheme" comes to mind.

Providence and Blind Fate: Questions concerning a Review of Mann's "Joseph Tetralogy"

The following notes are addressed hypothetically to the author of a thought-provoking review titled, "A Reflection on Thomas Mann's Joseph Tetralogy -- From Schopenhauer's World Will to DivineProvidence."

*** Full citation: Farley, Gerard C., "A Reflection on Thomas Mann's Joseph Tetralogy -- From Schopenhauer's World Will to Divine Providence"
(2013). Philosophy Faculty Publications. Paper 7.   http://fordham.bepress.com/phil_facultypubs/7)

The author's approach to the Bible strike me as essentially utilitarian-pragmatic.  For he writes: "The fruits that come into our lives as a result of using such exemplary figures as guides serve as a reason for accepting the authority, the truth value, of the teachings which such figures represent."  But are we certain about this?  Is it not possible that marvels ("good results," as the author calls them) can be achieved as a result of believing in an illusion?  And can the fruits be any more than "signs" rather than "proofs" of a root-cause, the "authority" of which is manifest precisely in terms of fruits?  

The author seems to consider "the shrewd and crafty Jacob" as paradigmatical for understanding Jewry on the way to being "redeemed" in the light of Christianity's teaching concerning Providence.

A reference to "an atheistic European version of Buddhism," is well put.  Yet, it is followed by a suggestion that the idea of Providence is alien to non-Biblical religions and in particular to Buddhism, which is supposed to teach that life is guided by a blind/mechanical (amoral) "will force" (not to speak of "a cruel blind destiny"). 

Is the author aware that in traditional (canonical, pre-modern, etc.) Buddhism, "quietism" counts as "heresy" (deviation from or betrayal of the life dedicated to truth)?  


The author must know that in Plato the Good is not personal, i.e. not a will in the ordinary sense of the term.  Does Plato not offer a "third way" with respect to cosmic mechanism on the one hand and the Bible (or Hebraism, in Matthew Arnold's sense) on the other?

On p. 4, the author seems to be teaching that Socrates thought that philosophy is the service of the law.  What are the textual grounds for this teaching?

In various passages, the author seem to treat as interchangeable, "belief" and "reality"--as if, e.g., my belief to be in personal communion with God were ipso facto a personal communion with a good will ruling the whole universe out of and back into itself. 

On a closely related subject, see: "The Politics of Encroachment: Thomas Mann's Critique of Democracy" by Scott Roulier
In INTERPRETATION, Vol 34/1 (Fall/Winter 2006): http://www.interpretationjournal.com/backissues.php

   Depressione

La cosiddetta depressione è un'invenzione moderna, o se si preferisce, il prodotto d'una maniera di vivere moderna.  In ogni caso, la "depressione" è maschera della paura dell'insignificanza della propria esistenza.  Uno non sa dove andare a sbattere la testa, ed allora rimane bloccato con un sapore amaro in bocca: un sentore di decadenza, di squallore, di morte, difficile da scrollarsi di dosso.  Perchè difficile è a quel punto recuperare l'innocenza, la fiducia nella ragione, nel dialogo, nella fraternità.  Difficile è "lasciare ogni sospetto" in favore della scoperta di un dubbio aperto al bene, e dunque al buon vivere che è vivere da buono con i buoni. 

   La Moneta  (money, money, money!)

Evidentemente nelle nostre società la moneta è necessaria al buon vivere, che è  vivere per quanto possibile liberi dalle compulsioni.  Il mal vivere, ossia la corruzione del buon vivere, scambia la necessità per il fine, donde la vita è posta in funzione della moneta. 

In taluni casi, si sviluppa una dipendenza morbosa alla moneta dalla quale si fa dipendere la propria salvezza--come se il fine fosse definito dal mezzo.  Tale è il caso di coloro che usano la moneta per nascondersi dalla vita vera, che è vivere onesto (che altro è l'onestà se non coraggio di fronte alla verità o ragione delle cose?).  I poveri illusi si affidano alla moneta come ad una barriera che consenta loro di non affrontare i problemi della vita nella loro nudità o veracità.  Allora la moneta la si adora come una maschera del buon vivere, per non dover mai vivere bene.  Come se il buon vivere, che è il vivere tra i buoni, fosse un peso da evitare a tutti i costi! 

Che consigliare di fronte a tale ignominiosa follia, se non di tentare ad ogni costo di far buon uso della moneta!

   Piccolo Dialogo sul Bene e sulla Paura della Morte

STREPSIADE: Ah, ancora tu, Socrate!  Mi spiace, ma debbo proprio andare.  Ho molto da fare e non posso proprio dilungarmi con te.   Stammi bene!

SOCRATE: Il bene è vivere da buoni.  Tanto è ciò che ti auguro, caro Strepsiade.

STREPSIADE: Mi aspettavo la tua reazione di moralista.  Non cambi mai, Socrate! Vivere da buoni? Ad essere buoni ci si rimette in tutti i casi ed io ne sono consapevole, tu lo sai benissimo.  Ti dico, se non lo hai capito o fingi di non averlo capito, che sono stanco di questi continui battibecchi che non hanno fine.  Ho quasi raggiunto la soglia dei miei 77 anni e mi sento indebolito nelle forze fisiche e pschiche; di conseguenza desidero tranquillità e riposo.

SOCRATE:  Ma dimmi, caro Strepsiade, in cuor tuo preferiresti che tuo figlio Fidippide fosse cattivo, piuttosto che buono?  Oppure buono con te, ma cattivo con tutti gli altri?

STREPSIADE: Io non voglio suggerire niente a nessuno. Si è buoni con le persone che lo meritano.  Nel corso della mia vita sin dall'età della ragione ho sempre cercato di non farmi scrupoli impegnandomi sempre  a fare i miei interessi e non sento alcun rammarico.

SOCRATE: Forse intendi che il bene ed il male siano delle maschere che noi assumiamo in funzione del nostro interesse?  Ma ecco, appunto questo interesse è il punto interrogativo.  Qual'è, cos'è questo interesse personale? 

STREPSIADE: Ah, ancora con queste domande vacue!  Continua pure a vivere tra le nuvole, Socrate mio.  Io, qui, debbo pensare a sopravvivere.

SOCRATE: Mi pare di capire che tu indentifichi il tuo proprio interesse con la sopravvivenza del tuo corpo, il quale sarebbe tuo nel senso che tu gli appartieni in quanto servo.  Così, il tuo bene non varrebbe più del bene d'una vacca, d'un porco, o d'una mosca, supponendo che anche per loro il bene sia la sopravvivenza del corpo.  Eppure, io non credo che tu sia disposto ad ammettere questa equivalenza di valore.  Mi spiego.
          A me pare piuttosto che tu voglia protrarre i tuoi piaceri, piuttosto che la mera esistenza del tuo corpo.  Essendo i tuoi piaceri strettamente legati al tuo corpo, è comprensibile che tu dia tanta importanza alla sopravvivenza in quanto tale.  Facendo dipendere i tuoi piaceri dal corpo, tu ti fai schiavo di un dio mortale. 

STREPSIADE: Ma cosa vai insinuando?  Io faccio quel che posso, come tutti.  Tutto muore.  Smettila di cercare sotterfugi. 

SOCRATE: Forse non ti sei mai destato a riconoscere un bene immortale?  Eppure questo è la vera fonte di qualunque attrattiva abbia mai il piacere carnale per chiunque.  Ciò che ci attrae nel piacere dei sensi è qualcosa di eterno, qualcosa che le bestie e chi vive come loro sentono solo nell'istante in cui lo perdono.  Come Orfeo che vede Euridice solo nell'atto di perderla per sempre.  "Amore ad ultima vista," anziché alla prima. 

STREPSIADE: Guarda, io non voglio problemi; ho già tanti affanni, senza dover pensare alle tue sciocchezze.  I miei piccoli piaceri mi bastano.  Non voglio altro.  Che male c'è!

SOCRATE: Le bestie e gli uomini rozzi sentono il bene solo al buio, o ne vedono solo l'ombra evanescente e sempre cangiante.  Eppure nell'uomo rozzo sussite sempre lo spettro della morte, della fine della caccia alle ombre.  Per rimanere rozzo, l'uomo deve lottare arduamente e continuamente per cancellare dalla propria vita l'immagine, la memoria assillante della morte.  Duro è il vivere da bestia.

Ahi quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Perchè Dante dice, "nel pensiero"?  Perchè la morte del corpo è paurosa nel contesto d'un pensiero immortale, un pensiero che è essenzialmente libero dai confini della selva selvaggia.

STREPSIADETi avevo chiesto per favore, e non è la prima volta, di non tornare sull'argomento dei buoni e dei cattivi, e per tutta risposta tu mi hai dispiegato un trattato.  Ti ho detto non so quante volte che a me non occorrono suggerimenti relativi al modo di vivere. 

SOCRATE: Oh, povero il mio Strepsiade!  Liberarti dal male, o trascendere la morale, non è facile come tu credi.  Nell'ignoranza, non si trascende la morale, ma ne si diviene ciecamente schiavi.  Dante ci offre un'eccellente lezione a questo proposito.  Ne l'Inferno, egli incontra gente che aveva sperato di liberarsi del male senza affrontarlo, ossia senza penetrarlo alla radice (come farà il protagonista della Commedia).  A questi "folli", Dante consiglia un coraggio a loro finora sconosciuto, un coraggio incarnato già dagli "antichi spiriti" di cui Dante si fa fiero testimone e compagno.  Senza la volontà eroica di Dante, la fuga dall'assoggettazione al male rimane folle arenarsi nell'abisso del male (vortice dell'inesistenza evocato per altro dal Satyricon di Fellini) e per conseguenza un assoggettarsi a tutte le pene che al male si convengono: timori ed angosce strazianti, morbidi presagi, incubi tenebrosi ed avvilenti.  Malori propri d'una vita malvagia, rancida fino al midollo. 

STREPSIADE: E allora?  Certo: la vita è una voragine nella quale noi tutti siamo arenati.  E tu non puoi farci nulla!  Proprio nulla!

SOCRATE: "E io sol uno," dichiara, all'insegna dell'Apollo solare, un Dante guerriero che riaffiorerà dal 'circo' delle pene infernali, ossia proprie d'una mente sprofondata nel corpo rendendosi incapace di voltarsi oltre ad esso, di uscire dal sepolcro corporale a 'rimirare le stelle'.

STREPSIADE
: Ma quale stelle!  Io sono un uomo, e delle tue stelle me ne infischio.  Guardati in giro, Socrate!  Cosa vedi?  Cosa senti?  Dappertutto un circo di resoconti allucinanti.  Per me sono fatti che accadono sempre e negli ultimi tempi sono nella normalità, come lo dimostrano i numeri: i popoli in tutti i paesi vivono in modo degenerato. 

SOCRATE: Non mi sembra che in tutti i paesi la brutalità sia legittimata dalla legge.  Per altro il numero delle storie di brutalità non conferma alcuna norma o normalità.  La degenerazione è segno d'una perdita di normalità; segno di una barbarie di fronte alla quale noi ci troviamo testimoni.  Rimaniamo confrontati da scelte morali.  O la si combatte la barbarie, o ce ne rendiamo complici.  S
ì, anche "nel nostro piccolo" bestiale.

STREPSIADE:  Ma svegliati, Socrate!  Chi non è una bestia?  Siamo tutti bestie.  E allora, Socrate, mi hai stancato.  Non posso più rimanere ad ascoltarti.  Tu va per la tua via, che io v
ò per la mia.  Non me ne volere.  E stammi bene!

SOCRATE:  : Ti auguro lo stesso.

 

(published on the 21th of May, 2014)

________________________________________________________________________________________

Suggested Readings

M. Andreacchio.  2013.  "Autobiography as History of Ideas: an Intimate Reading of Vico's Vita (from «Lord Vico» to «The Names of Law»)," in Historia Philosophica: An International Journal.  Vol. 11.  Click here for PDF file free of charge.


J. Klein.  1968 [1934-1936].  Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra [Griechische Logistik und die Entstehung der Algebra].  Dover: New York.


N. Langiulli and A. DiClementi.  2008.  Brooklyn Existentialism: Voices from the Stoop explaining how Philosophical Realism can bring about the Restoration of Character, Intelligence and Taste.  South Bend (Indiana): Fidelity Press.


F. Petrarca.  Epistolae Familiares (after Cicero's Epistulae ad Familiares).   See esp.  apologies of poverty composed in Avignon.


L. Strauss.  1989.  An Introduction to Political Philosophy.  Edited with an introduction by Hilail Gildin.  Wayne State UP: Detroit; see esp. "Three Waves of Modernity," pp. 81-98.


G.B. Vico.  1744.  Principj di Scienza Nuova delle Nazioni di Gianbattista Vico d'Intorno alla Comune Natura delle Nazioni.  Anastatic copy at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k84339f/f3.image .




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