Music In the Key of Eros Monday, Apr 22 2013
Philosophy 5:26 pm
If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it (William Shakespeare)
Among the art forms music is the most sensual.
Sex and music are curious bedfellows in that both involve repeated performances of similar movements and are a bit different each time performed.
Music engages our emotions most directly… It flows, moves and evolves in a way that is similar to that sensual absorption familiar to people in love.
Eros and the Apollonides are the quintessential kissing cousins…
To appreciate any art work or art form one certainly must experience it–you actually have to see the painting, read the poem–and in hearing a tune there is phenomenon of the experiential unlike with any other art form. We have secondary literature about pieces of art and writings lost to history and with just a little imagination can surmise what this or that work conveyed. But we can never really know from mere description what the greatest heldentenor of the late 19th Century sounded like… Listening to music–bad or good–is the experience in itself.
In this same way the act of sex is wholly different from any other form of human engagement. It has knowledge and sensations in itself that CANNOT be known through any other fashion…
Even in the softcore/simulated “porn” of SKIN-EMAX fame what is being presented are sexual ideas, not sex.
If people ain’t fucking, it ain’t sex…but can be sexual… If sound ain’t being manipulated in some fashion, it ain’t music…
But is all sound musical?
Sound is an enigma…
The proverbial fallen tree has done nothing but fall if no ears are around to hear. Composer John Cage time-framed silence so as to make it audible…even deafening… And from Richard Strauss’ rute beaten on the ‘side’ of a bass drum to German Industrial band Einsturzende Neubauten’s fashioning the sounds of construction sites–like Hillbillies with washboards–into dance airs it appears that the experience of music, unlike the experience of physical beauty, is not at the mercy of the beholder but rather to the whims of the manipulator.
Is music the experience or the stimulus to experience?
Transmitters of musical information–cds, records, written compositions–are akin to paintings being transmitters of visions and architecture being an expression of symbiosis…but music itself is clearly not an object.
It is not altogether clear what music truly is…
Some say music is a particular kind of sound…others argue it is not sound at all but the experience we have of sounds when they are organized in such a way as to produce a compelling, cogent and flowing experience within us that is often emotional. In either case, this differs in kind from the experience with paintings, which are undeniably objects.
Objects exist apart from our experience with them.
A similar charge can be levied against sexuality which at base exists in experience.
There may be a danger to thinking that sexuality is like art.
I pose the question: Should one have an aesthetic experience of one’s partner during the act of sex?
It is quite possible to have fulfilling aesthetic experiences of the erotic…but it is just that, erotic. The very act of sex-qua-intercourse would be otherwise focused rather than a detached attention to form and detail that would normally be the characteristic target for aesthetes.
Something beautiful is happening inside of me…something sensual, it’s full of fire and mystery… (Depeche Mode)
If you’re tending to the form of your partner and taking some detached look on the overall elements–formal, essential, tactile–you are not having sex in the normative sense where one is given to abandon. The degree of absorption by participant in the act goes beyond what allows for an aesthetic response or relationship.
The only normative act of sex is when consensual partners are enthralled with a sense of losing themselves.
It’s only when I lose myself in someone else that I find myself … (Depeche Mode)
Music slightly ups the seductive ante because one can be absorbed in the sensuality of the harmonies AND still attend to the form and the way in which expression and meaning emerge out of the form. There are then degrees of losing oneself.
Music and sexuality both arouse emotional responses.
As far back as the ancient Greek modes there have been theories regarding emotional or characterological properties inherent in the pattern of intervals.
Many modern composers, musicologists and philosophers–such as Susanne Langer and Schopenhauer–have taken up this view.
A popular idea is that the shape and flow and profile of music has something in common with the same elements of emotion… Either in their inner aspect–how they feel and evolve in a psychological space–or in terms of their outward expression–the particular behavior, stance, gait or posture of someone experiencing those emotions will exhibit.
Music resembles emotions and is adept at doing so because it is inherently a flow or process that is most like our emotional structure…our moods and feelings…indeed, most like the course of our lives.
Music has an inside edge for capturing and hooking into the most emotional side of human existence.
A concern in the philosophy of music is how to analyze expressiveness in music. Is there a being or existing resemblance between emotions and the shape of the music?
The resemblance is the basis for the expressiveness, but the expressiveness must be rooted in the idea that resemblances make people hear in a certain way–a la Wittgenstein–that they have a specific kind of audible experience almost as if it were that actual emotion or a person or agent caught up in that experience…
A good example of this is in Isolde’s Liebestod aria from Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. When the soprano reaches the lines “ertrinken, versinken” (to drown, to founder) the orchestration creates an audible ebb and flow effect simulating a drowning…in this instance, under the weight of one’s emotions. Such a fine tuning of composition is when music is its most expressive.
When we hear longing or joy in a tune it gives rise to an empathy that inspires us to take music personably…to embrace it as though a person.
This is the charm of musical gesture.
There are three levels of musical gesture.
a–The literal level of gesture…the performance of the music…
b–What we hear the music as doing…striving, building… This is where we get to experience music as something emotional… We can imagine the sounds as a person expressing states.
c–This takes us to the normal behavioral gesture of how someone would express emotional states. A musician’s musical gestures are not necessarily identical to this but we are led to think of those as well and then it is easy to surmise that such and such a feeling is longing or joy or anger.
This trinity of gesture is best exemplified by either watching Jacqueline du Pre ecstatically perform Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor or hearing Glenn Gould’s recorded Wagner transcriptions for piano where you can actually hear him humming the tune as he plays. In both instances the audience becomes as swept away in the experience of the musician’s experience with the music, as with the music itself.
This audible experience is a stronger intravenous metaphor when the human voice is involved.
Consider the rawness of a Bessie Smith or the savagery of Nina Simone…or the emotive capacity of Bono…
From animal to man, voice is the most primal and immediate form of music.
Voice is the original outlet for conveying and evoking emotion through sound. I’m reminded here of Sergei Rachmaninov’s very moving Vocalise–a vocal exercise built merely on vowel sounds–as well, Psychic TV’s rare recording of howling, growling wolves which has an effect upon the listener comparable to chills and goosebumps.
Many argue that instrumentation is a secondary–almost parasitic–borrowing from voice…an allusion to the vocal… In Baroque music it is common to hear a cello or violin rendered as a kind of human sighing…operatic aria is often dueted with the lead violin…even an harmonica passage by Stevie Wonder on Debarge’s Love Me In A Special Way is fashioned in a manner that replicates an almost verbal expression of longing. Certainly there is a measure of instrumentation that is quasi-vocal gesturing.
But instrumentation goes a bit beyond merely echoing vocalization…a defense of which might be secured in the live recording of the Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. He manipulates the electric guitar in such a way as to create all manner of sounds only referenced by the lyrics… It is of little wonder that the Hendrix performance is titled by its original composition name rather than as the National Anthem. It is literally a transcription of Francis Scott Keys’ poetic masterpiece rather than another rendition of a national theme song.
The roots of instrumentation are founded in vocal expression, yet not limited or wholly subject replicating the voice.
Music has a tendency to be heard as a vehicle of meaning or significance of some kind. Certain genres lend themselves to producing music that is definitely more emotional or affective–more private–such as Classical genres, R&B, Blues et al. Still others produce music that have more social agenda–like Rap, Folk, Punk and Marches.
But all music must indeed be heard…and being heard, thereby felt.
So what is the relationship between Music and Eros?
They are both absorbing, sensuous, transportive, transfigurative…they take the participant out of a day-to-day, 9-to-5 self. The both have kinetic and dynamic aspects…
Both have this tendency to short circuit or sidestep–even undermine–reason and reflection. Each takes you out of yourself in a way that is welcomed but the downside is that one may be found at times in extreme risk. Here I am largely thinking on stagediving or moshing at a punk concert or being caught up in the heat of a sexual moment and succumbing to unprotected sex.
Each possesses its participant to such a degree as to preclude the solving of mathematical theorems or curing of cancers…judicial reasoning.
It is something of a longstanding cultural myth that listening to Mozart’s music will make one smarter. Listening to Mozart is definitely enculturating and perhaps taking a date to a Mozart opera will even get one laid, but in no wise will listening to Mozart open any mind to the elegance of spherical trigonometry unless that mind is already seasoned for such excesses.
The very effect of Mozart’s music–and music overall–upon the human soul is counterintuitive to such thinking.
Music and sexuality are both very difficult experiences to explain… Why do I love this or that person? Why am I moved by Richard Wagner but not Milli Vanilli? A mere analysis of types and aesthetics rarely uncovers the why of this root mystery.
The appreciation of both are of corporeal physical import. This is inarguably true for sex, but also for music. It is most evident with techno or dance music and the primal energies that are excavated when slamdancing or headbanging at heavy metal and punk concerts, but also very true when listening to the refined, delicate keyboard music of Rameau or Couperin…there is something that enters into your body that you feel like moving or dancing with… The body is involved however subliminally or overtly charged.
Music and sex are both present focused. What is going on in and of the moment is the issue at hand. In matters of sex this is generally agreed upon but with music opinions of musicologists and theorists vary. Many believe that what is important is tracing the architectural flow of composition in small increments.
This thinking is appropriate for regarding form and structure but does little justice for thinking on the immediate experience of a listener. It also hinders a potential listener’s foray into classical genres as it implies that there is some esoteric knowledge one must have of musical construction in order to be moved by the sounds.
Truth is, if it is good and to your taste, you will like it regardless of your knowledge of composition.
Music and Eros both involve the whole person…body and soul. They speak to us in a wholly integrated way.
In all this sameness there does exist a stark asymmetry betwixt the twain. Hector Berlioz once noted that music can evoke the moods and phases of love–in this case, love-making–but love cannot give you an idea of music. Why the asymmetry?
Music is a man-made communicative medium in which we naturally hear or look for significance and meaning… Music strikes us as being about something.
Love, too, is about something…but that something is largely itself…
Love is the ultimate self-referential.
Love calls us by name, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen… Music speaks to us about naming…signifying…
Music is about the world and things of the world… It is about our lives and emotions and desires…
It is a vehicle of communication that invites us to our inner selves…whereas love is our inner self, and we rarely hear a deeper call. But that music can call us to recognize these deeper modes within ourselves keeps this couple forever intertwined in romantic bliss.
The PSA Notebook Monday, Mar 11 2013
Philosophy 3:16 am
The “freedom of expression” should be a right extended to all regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation…but the “freedom of speech” should be reserved only for those who know what the hell they’re talking about…the rest can simply exercise their freedom to inquire…
The difference between religion and faith is that faith does NOT lapse into dogmatic lunacy.
The difference between making love and having sex is the former rarely becomes pornographic.
Natural order is a demand levied on species in relation to hierarchy…within each species there is social order…the notion of a human natural order is just fucking ridiculous.
The difference between fashion and style is the latter speaks for both itself and the possessor.
When a bully graduates from senseless, random taunting to methodical, premeditated cruelty, he becomes a more noble character…if only by virtue of refining his artistry.
Modesty represents a triumph of the soul over vulgarity. Humility is the vulgar suppression of a triumphant soul.
Having sex with women does not signify that a man is heterosexual…just like being circumcised does not signify that a man is Jewish.
Opinions are not like assholes because everyone has one, but because more often than not people’s opinions are chock full o’shit. One should be cautious of the word’s two I’s–properly ironical of the organs that share the same sound–as one represents Insight, the other Intuition. Before volunteering an opinion, the opiner should always consider the degree to which his knowledge of the subject is sound, as well the possibilities of what can be thought on the topic of critical interest. Otherwise, he should keep his opinion to himself.
Atheism and Existentialism are two branches of philosophy that will never peacefully co-exist. Students of Existenzphilosophie who are devout atheists seem to me like children who maintain that all conceptions are Immaculate because their fathers left.
Terms of Enfranchisement: ‘Sexual preference’ reduces human sexuality to fetishism…’sexual orientation’ exalts sexuality to its highest humanity.
Being born the noun–’genius’–only matters if your life is spent translating it into a verb… Think of it as having an Amex Platinum credit card…it is only valuable if it is activated in your name…
There is something incongruous in the thinking of an atheist who believes in extraterrestrials. I imagine that punctuating the universe with variations on a theme of Man–Adam, the pinnacle creation–is something a Creator god would actually do…
If the path to enlightenment is strewn with practical Eureka and brusque Satori–perhaps even despite formal education–then it is probably not a matter which traveler is smarter than the other, but which is less stupid… (I think this is more than mere semantics…)
Being guarded is not the same as being brave. Brave character has no stomach for the paranoia of guardedness. This is a nuance the cowardly can never fathom.
Philosophically, Latin machismo could learn thing or two from the Judaic menschkeit. Both are admittedly rooted in patriarchal grandeur, but the latter at least explores the symbiotics involved in the space between souls…how selves relate with other selves at the highest levels… The former seems to acknowledge other selves, but as inferiors…and not even by reason of intellect or ‘natural’ competence, just a magicless, base desiring (often culminated in a gratification that doesn’t even leave one satisfied…)
The machista can only ever wield desire as an infliction of power…never a sharing of it…
That he allows his wife to work the graveyard shift and sometimes doesn’t cheat on her while the kids are asleep…and maybe do the laundry…is the liberal thinking machista.
However innocent the intent, when someone imparts to me the amount of Gay or Black friends they do or do not have, I have to believe that this is the worst kind of bigoted and oppressive consciousness… The very notion of enumerating the people in one’s life for whatever reasons of categorization is the catalogical herdsman philosophy we find in harem-keeping and institutional slavery…the very personality WWII’s American Japanese internment camps and the horrors of the Holocaust.
The Baroque era was the last time music was made for the sake of making music…after Mozart all music became the property of art. Bach would have never said that he was a Baroque composer–that was a category after-the-fact, not some budding, tribal “scene”… But he would have said that Beethoven’s music had classical dimension…and that Wagner’s was truly art…
Before the Atomic Age asked, it was accepted that an atom was the smallest unit of matter… In considering digital imagery–easily the second most common way our eyes are fed daily–the pixel is the smallest accessible (addressable) element… Can a pel be split? And, if so, what does that mean for the possible infinity of an image’s content? (Are these questions proper of the Technological Age?)
That SNUFF films are considered a fringe of the pornographic arts is misleading… The sensibility that requires such extreme titillation is not one that has degenerated from exhaustive overindulgence in porn media…when that happens one often graduates to fetish films… People who are thrilled by death have tastes for a more visceral, immediate stimulus… Porn is often ripe with tedium and the only resultant death is metaphorical–the proverbial money-shot. I imagine the SNUFF sensibility to be one that can be equally satiated by watching the Islamo-terrorist beheadings that were internet vogue during the last decade.
If I’m to believe that a porn fanatic will eventually crave SNUFF–which is implicit in the genre’s appropriation of sex acts–I’d have to believe that because Boxing and UFC evolve from the ancient Gladiatorial arts, that avid spectators will eventually crave watching the athletes die in the ring. Death is counterintuitive to sportsmanship…
a) I have heard many racist, Nazi-inspired groups complain that it is unfair for minority groups to boast their pride–e.g. Black Power–but that Whites are chided for championing White Power… Well Black Power is a self-empowerment philosophy arising against the misguided notion that Whites are the most evolved race of the human species and therefore are destined by (G)od to lord over all the “lesser” races and species of the Earth…i.e. White Power.
b) I have heard many Feminist intellectuals rage against the importance of Mens Studies and the scholarship of Masculinism. The study of Men qua gender is NOT an attack on the empowerment of women…that is patriarchy… If the discipline is anything in that regard, it is a means for EVERYONE to come to a better understanding of why “White Men” made patriarchy such an enduring institution…not a defense of it…
Even now people are still unable to discuss the Marquis de Sade and his writings in a manner suited to his literary notion of the hero… He was an unapologetic descendant from the Ancien Régime, but forever likened to the French Revolution as a means of elevating his own “heroic” status and the import of his literary excesses…but both his writing and the Revolution would have still happened, one without the other… De Sade is that unlikely hero forced into rebellion by enlightenment thinking and the politics of his tastes…he’s not really radical…much like Blacks during the high Civil Rights era, largely ultra-conservative…thrust into a moment during a time that was ripe for change…
Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind… (So one wonders if a conservative nature feeds the fruit of heroism…)
Gauging how smart someone may be is in no way a means of discerning how stupid they can be…
According to human law, when a man kills another man he has killed off all the possibility of a single Man… According to spiritual laws, when a man kills himself he has killed off every possibility of every Man. Suicide is infinitely more repugnant than murder… It is a holocaust within a single soul.
It is rather laughable that people consider sex a private matter… When one is engaging in actual sex it is often with another individual…it is an inherently social act… Even pornography is intended for public consumption…
Fundamentalism as a spiritual ideology is forgivable because it is the last vestige of religious aestheticism…unfortunately it also the last vestige of socio-political ASS-theticism…
The Rhetoric of Snobbery: During the intermission my date confessed that he had never been to the symphony before…or the theater… Shooting him an incredulous glance, I asked “Not even as a child? What kind of parents don’t take their children to the theater?” He replied, “What kind of parents do?” I realized that his question was far more culturally relevant, therefore far less rhetorical.
Good taste is not something that is refined by wealth and education…I know many individuals who lack both but possess the most exquisite taste and excel in personal style. Rather I think it is a matter of considering what attracts you to something–why it speaks to you louder than other voices–and then seeking out those qualities in various stimuli and entertainments. The Thesean thread that winds the labyrinth of one’s aesthetic consciousness…
In this vein, it is also true that money cannot buy “class” but merely thrusts one into another category of it… Education does help, but lacking one is hardly an excuse…
As a dramatist/poet, Shakespeare was by no means a master of the English language…that is an honor only due the committee of translators who brought forth the King James Bible or a later figure like Charles Dickens who was paid by the word and thereby made flagrant use of the English vocabulary, which easily numbered a half-million in his time… (During the high Elizabethan/Shakespearean era the English vocabulary possessed upwards of 250,00 words…we are now at the 1,000,000 mark…at best the ol’ Bard made use of 100-150 thousand individual words.) But what makes Shakespeare a genius of the English language is that he mastered the internal language of the personalities of his characters…which is the language of us all…that private, often schizophrenic, dialogue between Me, Myself and I… And that is what makes any writer truly timeless…
The Masters of Inexhaustible Output: Writers, Pornographers and Physicists should be granted immeasurable time to indulge their passions…they’re the only minds who can truly appreciate the endlessness of possibility.
It is laughable when people discuss the “Will of (G)od” or the intent behind extraterrestrial visitation… We’re the only species on the planet that’s largely unaware of the drives behind our own desires–even the content of dreams leaves us largely stupefied–yet we express absolute certainty concerning the drives of otherworldly entities.
Physical labor requires common sense to function properly…mental labors are exercised with Reason and Logic… Common sense then is the physical labor of thinking… This is how we begin to consider it as a species of cognitive functioning that is different in kind from Reason and Logic.
The Irony of Airports: If birds were a cognizant species they would surely scoff at the notion that human beings require such a vast expanse of land merely to fly.
The Politics of Communication: Rhetoric = Fascism… Discourse = Democracy… Conversation = Socialism…
The Enduring Allure of Japantheism: The Japanese culturally encourage religious conversion… Embrace the god that fits the occasion…one can be born a Hindu, married as Christian and die a Buddhist. Japan is some form of sacred utopia where the number of registered faithful exceeds the total population.
Personal success begins to blossom once the soul of one’s efforts is individuated from the failures of the herd.
The New Testament invokes “speaking in tongues” as a language-act that communicates to all races, creeds and faiths…the Pentecostal with his nonsensical utterances and theatrical spasms that baffle congregants and scare little children is far from this Christian splendor… Rather than being possessed by the Holy Ghost, it seems that the ghosts of the builders of that famed Babel Tower jumped out of the Old Testament after Yahweh smote their tongues and leapt right into the souls of these Christian thespians. They are much like those foolish individuals who somehow believe that pronouncing the letters of a word in reverse is in actuality talking backwards.
The folly of people who try to talk backwards by pronouncing the letters of a word in reverse is, above all things, their failure to recognize that verbal communication does not possess mathematical elegance. Because 3+4=7 is also 7=4+3 does not mean that SIHT will equal THIS verbally… The same is also true for MOM, POP, and WOW…I or A…
The Physics of the Heart: The human mind begins to comprehend the simultaneity of all possible worlds the moment the human heart embraces the simultaneity of all possible loves.
Der Meisterstückmaschine: Thinking on Michael Jackson canonically we find he is rife with Mozartian splendor…producer of a large body of work from youth of immense likability and sustained (even persistent) excellence… In POP culture he is a veritable Plato, where everything before him becomes an explanation of how we get to him and everything after merely part of an extended footnote to his greatness… Like Shakespeare he was culturally transformative…and the ONE who was…. But I find him most in the league of Michelangelo, Goethe, Beethoven, Dickens and Kubrick…artists whose bodies of work consists ONLY of masterpieces… Even the most lackluster attempts are head and shoulders above the rest…
The Zen of Project Runway: It is not enough to possess the ability to do something…one should be moved to do something well… This is why it is imperative to pursue interests in life that one loves to the core of their being…to be moved to excel in performance and production…with regularity. Otherwise, ability is just potential…and potential means ‘This is shit but perhaps something can be done with it.’
Whenever I encounter people who wonder why other individuals whose mental and physical faculties are in such irreversible decline do not readily succumb to the peaceful oblivion of death rather than continue to suffer indignities, I want to remind them that we are not on this planet for peace–political or personal–we are here for life…and the dignity of life is measured by how much the possessor will fight to preserve it…
It is neither the size of the man nor the size of the fight in the man that matters most but the reason behind that fight…
It is often asked if I am bisexually oriented because I have had relationships with women… I am in every sense a 100% no meat-by-product homosexual…EXCEPT when attracted to that spark of excellence in any flourishing human soul…then I am bisexual. I’m inclined to believe that ALL culturally evolved human beings have to be… It is the only civilized way to socialize amongst our species…
The Discreet Charm of Trophy Wives and Kept Husbands: When we settle for someone who is less than we believe in our hearts we deserve, it is not because of insecurity or feelings of inferiority but laziness… Human beings will improve for reasons of education, social status, careers…but when it comes to significant others, we start talking of ridiculous complacencies like being accepted for who we are or, if in a relationship, having let ourselves go and no longer needing to impress our mates… (How can I expect someone to accept me as I am when I am not even striving on a regular basis to be the very best of me that I can…?) For such an upwardly mobile species in the history (thus far) of evolution it is somewhat queer that we crave an Angeline Jolie by our side, but won’t strive to be a Brad Pitt…metaphorically speaking… There is something to be said for those folks who have to stay in a constant state of self-improvement because they married for money and were married because of their looks… (This also applies to intellectualism…you can attract more Marie Curies as a Pierre Curie than you can as a high school dropout…)
“Unconditional love” is a beautiful sentiment, but let us not be too swayed by rhetorical indulgence, ALL LOVE IS CONDITIONAL… The very sensitive nature of the connections that such an experience is established under dictates that it has to have boundaries…and however far reaching, they are nevertheless boundaries. People may love blindly but no one loves willy-nilly or haphazardly… Love does not lend itself to frivolity…
La Grâce Discrète des Mormons: One can only surmise that some deus ex machina is at work in this American faith which has endured for so long despite its poorly written scripture and even more poorly wrought Christian theology…
If a driver hits and kills a raccoon then drives off, the raccoon is roadkill… If that same driver hits and kills a human being then drives off, the victim is…not roadkill? Why is that? Further, why does that driver keep hitting shit?
Every day in the life of a child’s mind is an exercise in SATORI… (By comparison being in the mind of an adult fucking sucks!)
If a man views being a good person as something of a task, then he should also recognize that it is one he has already failed.
It is not the volume of one’s presence that matters, rather how deafening their absence is…whenever you leave a conversation, make sure whoever was listening is left wanting to hear more…
People who believe money cannot buy happiness either don’t know how to spend it or shop… Truth is, human beings are largely uncertain of their desirings so most end up in regret when their (often misguided) expectations are not met. It is wiser to note that money DOES NOT make life (or its choices) easier…the more money we accumulate the more aggravations we are likely to suffer…and the more our desirings will confound us. As for happiness, that is neither easily gained nor maintained…and perhaps not meant to be, which is why it is something pursued rather than secured as per the charge of our Declaration.
The oracle commands, γνῶθι σεαυτόν…the Bard recommends, to thine ownself be true…it is by these laws solely that one may have the happiest spree…
Because something is detailed we should not automatically think it deep…the ironic beauty of pornography is that it is a very detailed medium and the farther one ventures into that world the more neurotically specific matters become–a successful ejaculation may be entirely reliant on the placement of a hand or cock or clock–but however profound these effects, in no way is pornography itself a deep genre.
Perhaps that is why de Sade and Bataille saw fit to infuse it with philosophy…
I am still perplexed by what is meant in the utterances “I don’t judge” and “I’ll reserve judgment…”? The ability to judge is encoded in the evolutionary project of every animate species… If it moves independently of external forces, it probably leaves judgment calls in its wake. It is a natural survival mechanism…even zombies have to judge between living and dead brains for the nutrition necessary to remain undead. (Perhaps that is why one never hears talk of zombie-cannibalism?) Judgment is a largely autonomous function on par with breathing and we can only hold our breath but so long. There are better and worse ways of breathing respective of varied activities, the same surely holds for judgment, even if only by degrees. We often indulge it politely as ‘discernment’, but there is also ‘prejudice’, ‘misjudging’, ‘poor judgment’ and ‘final judgment’. People who claim to NOT be judgmental seem a curious and untrustworthy lot…how can such a figure ever survive the far more determined judgment of a starved, attacking zombie…?
That sad truth is that ALL men have a poor understanding of Feminism…even Gay men, who are often considered the penultimate female sympathists of our gender…for had we a better understanding of the liberation of the female sex such binary roles as TOPS and BOTTOMS would appear utterly neanderthal. Although homosexuality is not some perverse form of misogyny, Gay men are the worst chauvinists because we are not only (still) mystified by heterosexual paradigms, but the most heterosexist of those structures…when penetration equals subjugation…or in our case, emasculation…
Important announcement for undergraduates studying the Humanities: Jesus of Nazareth was the “founder” of Christianity in that same way Socrates devised the Socratic Method…not at all… (Paul and Plato…Paul and Plato…Paul and Plato.)
Music and Faith: I have no problem reasoning how an atheist can fully appreciate the beautiful grandeur of Bach’s masses and cantatas…but atheists who love Bob Marley confound me… His music is the most subtle and sublime gospel… Bach’s music speaks to all people, but Bob’s music was speaking to all people on behalf of (G)od…and to (G)od on behalf of all people. The ensemble was called “Wailers” for a reason…
Chivalry died the moment someone realized that perhaps simple human decency might just be enough for men to treat women well without behavioral indoctrination… We’ll see…
It is far easier to answer ‘What is Philosophy?’ than it is to figure out what Love and Art are…but when we realize that all three are less about what we are beholding at that moment and more about the Eternal that is excavated in our souls, the closer we get to a comprehension of our experiences with them…
Pornography Taxonomy après Sontag: Pornography from de Sade to the video era is about sex, whereas Internet Porn is about fucking…in that same way that Spirituality is about communion with the Divine and Religion is about going to church.
Thoughts on my morning walk as cars go hissing by: the Hebrew tribes, Buddha, Jesus, Petrarch, Ghandi and MLK all succeeded as culturally transformative figures not because they were so far ahead of their respective worlds but because they kept perfect pace with the evolution of mankind… Walkers have a deeper understanding of the world in that they move at the speed of Life…
The Curious Martyrdom of Modern Athletes: I’m finding that more and more athletes are being publicly outed and de-laureled for taking performance-enhancement drugs. This seems a bit trite. I recall (almost fondly) that during finals time in undergrad at Columbia, instead of simply taking my Ritalin like a good li’l Prozac-Nation boy, I would crush it up and snort it…intensifying its effects. This was (and still is) a very common indulgence for students at such institutions… Should the college board revoke my degrees? Many male pornstars have been known to take Viagra during filming… Do we no longer watch their wares? No on both accounts. And why is that? Because myself or someone like Ron Jeremy (not that I’m accusing him, in particular) already possessed abilities that thrust us into these arenas, to perform at peak levels, crush the competition and yes, receive due accolades and commendations from our peers and betters. Should we not enhance those abilities? The world turns a blind eye to us…but athletes, who we WANT to truly believe superhuman, are damn-near crucified when they strive to be so…
All pornographers are philosophers by virtue of their attempts to articulate some utopian ideal…where everyone has and wants very ambitious sexual experiences…unfortunately the degenerative nature of the human personality precludes ANY utopian possibilities… And human beings break quite easily… (These problems are curiously–but perhaps not coincidentally–dominant in religious idealism.)
There are two types of “stupid” people in the world, those who do not understand they should take the arts seriously and those who do understand they should take the arts seriously…so being part of the latter won’t make you smarter, but it will make you a better person. (FYI: The smart one is that guy who does not have to understand, but just does…)
On the Philosophy of Menswear: Along the spectrum of male ceremonial wear and uniformity, tuxedos and military dress are philosophical kissing cousins in that each strives to simultaneously signify social status while leveling class distinction… What undercuts this idealism is that a tuxedo in all its vicissitudes and socialized relevance is ONLY about status and even beyond the inherent branch/rank science of uniforming, to don a uniform professionally automatically puts the wearer in a position of obligatory servitude…even unto his fellow-feathered… Uniformity is never an aesthetic of true empowerment.
Transparency of character exhibited in the human personality is a far more beneficial social strategy than those of the more introverted and “mysterious” sort. People who lay all their cards on the table (provided they know well how to play the hand) leave their beholders at the worst disadvantage…being completed demystified while still profoundly perplexed. They are always thinking there is still something up one’s sleeve… This is so largely because people forget that although it is endearing to keep another’s secret–that shared chuckle resulting from discreet whispers–it is most insidious to harbor one’s own.
Closed books are intriguing, but it is when they are open and read that they fulfill the destiny of their essence.
Thinking about laws of desiring in human magnetism: There are things that are appealing and un-appealing…there are only degrees of attraction…there is no un-attraction. These are the only laws.
Appeal is a public anxiety aroused by what is generated within from without…e.g. I am not partial to blondes or women but I find Heidi Klum irresistible, largely because I am informed by media efforts that she is someone I should be drawn to and a measure for what should constitute my attraction to other human beings… One cannot act on appeal AND hope for a happy union with another soul as it is largely a function of cognition that is beyond one’s control. (I think therefore I can be wooed.) If I meet a guy who looks like Brad Pitt and I date him for those reasons when social consciousness decides to campaign contra-Pitt appeal so, too, goes the root of what drew me to him. (I think therefore I can be swayed.) Appeal is of the mind.
Attraction on the other hand is an anxiety generated within from within and because of the conscious-level “appeal” factors involved (rendering ALL human beings largely uncertain as to the nature of their attractions…sexualized and socialized) we are hardwired to develop/activate prejudices when these attractions do not gel with media-informed signifiers. (I feel therefore I question.) If I was raised in an environment that eschewed the appeal of White men, then my first interpersonal attraction to a White male is bound to be rife with emotional unrest…which almost justifies the charge of attraction. (I feel therefore I suffer.) Attraction is also not within our ability to control but because it operates on the deeper levels of human consciousness whether or not appeal is a factor, it generates anxieties peculiar to each individual personality and generally cannot be undermined by merely altering social tastes and milieus. ATTRACTION ALWAYS SURFACES DESPITE OUR BEST EFFORTS TO SUPPRESS IT. One need not act on every attraction as the psychological and emotional impact is too challenging–which is why pimpin’ as a personality trait is largely fictitious beyond its economic role. (For example, the pimp icon, Hugh Hefner, is literally so in every sense of the word.) But one should always take responsibility for his or her attractions, as attraction is (strangely enough) of the heart.
Philosophers are to thinking as Supermodels are to walking…
Whenever someone makes much ado about keeping promises made to others, it is a sure sign that they are of low character. People of high character understand that PROMISE is something fulfilled in one’s personhood in relation to others…with or without prompting. People of high character bring home Olympic Golds and Nobel Prizes because they realize their efforts are not all about them…people of low character remember to bring home the milk merely because they are asked.
It is one thing to give your word…it is something completely different–greater–to BE your word.
Whenever I hear someone say “You think too much” I’m reminded of claustrophobes trapped in an elevator with other people: “STOP BREATHING! YOU’RE SUCKING UP ALL THE AIR!” The human mind is as vast as the Universe…there’s enough thought to go around so that everyone can breathe freely.
The Art of Friendship: I find it misleading to refer to select individuals as “best friends”. All of my friends are best friends largely because I strive to be the best friend I can to each… The only other social categories available are Family, Strangers, Acquaintances and People Who Have Fallen Out Of Favor…none of whom are revered by me as are my friends.
I don’t disparage people their need to invoke (G)od in their petty successes or failures by means of thanks or curse, but I do find it laughable. That such a Divine Intelligence, which lords over the Universe and all of its multiple dimensions and possible worlds would be concerned with a Grammy or Little League trophy seems the most vulgar example of cockiness. (G)od has no stake whatever in who wins the lottery. It’s a comedy I liken to someone trying to convince me that his understanding of Quantum Physics made him a wiser voter…the principles and drives that govern the flow of the Universe and the Democratic process are millions of light years apart.
We all crave some manner of personal and professional successes. The truths–nay, trapdoors–behind these human endeavors are IF YOU ONLY EVER DO IN LIFE WHAT YOU KNOW AND HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED TO DO, YOU’VE ALREADY FAILED AND DONE NOTHING AT ALL; IF YOU ONLY ADHERE TO THE VISIONS OF BEAUTY YOU’VE BEEN INDOCTRINATED WITH, YOU’VE SEEN NOTHING PROFOUND IN THIS WORLD; IF YOU ONLY SPOUT THE TRUTHS OF OTHERS BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT FACE YOUR OWN THEN THE WHOLE OF YOUR LIFE IS A LIE…AS SUCH, ONE CAN NEVER HOPE TO BE AN INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE OR INFLUENCE. And sadly, one can never know success.
My father used to tell me it is imperative that in all of my life’s pursuits I push myself beyond my comfort zone…because what awaits me on the other side is SUCCESS.
Imitatio Christi cum Thelema: When we love those we do not have to is when LOVE blossoms most fully… Love is indeed the Law and the Whole of the Law…there is no higher command.
When novices misspeak and proclaim that they do not BELIEVE in philosophy–as though it were a faith-based option like believing in (G)od–I laugh to myself and wonder if they also do not buy into psychology but BELIEVE in neurology…
If wise Solomon was right and “all is vanity” then the person who avoids their reflection is as self-consumed as the one who basks in theirs…perhaps even more absorbed considering their anxiety causes them to snub even the mirror’s generous matter-of-fact candor… Reflections cast everything but judgment and stones…that’s the Ego’s job.
Snobs can only think of themselves as better than others. Elitists can explain why they are better than others.
Theologians and Philosophers share in the Artist’s paradox of being that no matter how relevant one wants to be in the here and now, all efforts and creative output will matter more to generations down the line…it is a strange shifting of creative pressures and anxieties… And very Christian… But it also makes me wonder if Montaigne was right about philosophy preparing one for death…perhaps it is death that prepares one for philosophy.
A Lesson on the Machiavellian Approach to the Philolexian Kill In Discourse: Everyone commits fallacies in discourse…they’re inescapable… The trick is to get yours in under the BULLSHIT radar and sink the other guy’s fallacies first. Remember, no one ever really knows what they’re talking about…so just appear the least clueless…
Whenever I hear people say they have a “special relationship with (G)od” I think of that awkward moment when two people are hanging out, having a good time and in the heat of the moment one says “You’re my best friend”…and the other stays silent…
The Paradox of Conversion: A rabbi once told me that conversion to Judaism is something only technically recognized but, scripturally speaking, converts are not spiritually the Chosen People..birthright is an essential component of the faith. I replied, “Scripturally speaking, isn’t Judaism technically a faith founded on conversion?”
Depending on how one (practically) applies the conclusions, “thinking too much” can render life less complicated… I have found that my most complicated (and often unresolved) dealings have been with people who do not “think” at all…
It is no surprise that the Ancient Greeks formalized philosophical thinking AND institutionalized athletics–gymnasium, the Olympics–as philosophers have to be the most intellectually agile in all of the academy…always poised to return any volley, they have to be cognitively fit for peak performance when engaging various topics…and not only perform with the excellence of a Michael Jordan or Muhammad Ali but with the range of a Bo Jackson… (And the best of us are contortionists.)
<Taken from my Friendship Journal> During my morning walk I found myself caught up in a rabble of butterflies…it was enchanting. Had it been a swarm of bees, I should be struck with fear…or cockroaches teeming toward me, then dread (and twice that over the ones that can fly). I think these feelings mirror how I view my circles of friends. Q: Do I exterminate the ones that do not enchant me?
Man would have just as easily come into being without (G)od… Mankind–civilization?–never…
American Racism in the Age of Obama: We are finally able to begin a sincere dialogue on Racism as a pathology rather than simply a reductionist politic. Certainly there are huge political backlashes evident in the Racist agenda but politics function in Racism like sex functions in Rape, a means by which to INFLICT one’s power ideology.
Good writers listen at the door when the world is having sex… Great writers peep through the keyhole… And the greatest of these just waltz right in…
(Yahwisdom) Ignorance is a sin…willful ignorance is evil.
SADO-MATHEMATICS: Because 2+2 always equals 4 we know that to minus 2 from 4 will yield 2…but there are peculiar math equations whose inverse operations do not follow this logic, often yielding beautifully paradoxical conclusions… I liken this curiosity to thinking on the misunderstood passions of Sado-Masochism…a masochist can blissfully suffer pains inflicted by either a party that is enjoying the task or not enjoying the task (think about the parental folly “This is gonna hurt me more than it hurts you”)–the titillation is only marginally affected by the sufferer’s knowledge of the tormentor’s intent. Inversely, the sadist MUST have a perpetual victim…an “anima” that is a machine of suffering-reborn to fulfill the mania… The moment the inflicted pain turns to pleasurable revelation, the sadist can no longer reason the logic of his own selfhood.
The Culture of Mendacity: Honesty and sincerity are the auras of truthtelling…many truthtellers are surprised when they are accused of dishonesty…largely because they fail to see that the charge is levied against their manipulation of truths, not an outright telling of lies. And those who are most shocked by this charge are even being dishonest in their (affected?) shock.
(The Culture of Mendacity) Cat/People: Vanity and a peculiar pathological bend toward self-presentation is the evolutionary bond that unites us and house-cats…a sympatico for his exaggerated sense of entitlement endears us to the lion…but it is the human being’s poorly wrought stratagems of misrepresentation that will keep us forever prey to the starkly paradoxical truth of the panther.
“What is a philosopher?” I would never give myself such a title, personally or professionally–I don’t even make use of “Dr.”, and I earned that one…but once while on an excursion through the bohemian streets of Austin, Texas, I happened upon a young man in the 8th grade who asked me what I did for a living. I replied that I “think”. I laughed that answer off and offered instead my standardized “I’m a writer…I’m a scholar…”, which seemed to satiate his curiosity. (Even young minds, with all their ability to make phenomenal leaps in fantasy, still crave comprehensive tangibility and familiarity in answers given.) Reflecting on this moment I realize that my gut answer, “I think”, is truly the most earnest. Work is essentially a repetitive act performed by one individual for the sake of producing for another. No one “works” in a vacuum. I, of course, think for myself as all “persons” do, but as well I am laden with the responsibility of thinking for others…or better put, helping to facilitate a life of clarity. (Which is why there’s no such reality as a “personal philosophy”, it doesn’t even make sense as an idea.) So, I think therefore I am employed. I should get a raise.
Considering Marvel’s Earth 1610 Multiverse: It amazes me that there are not more religionist fanboys…there is no greater scriptural excess in modern entertainment than comic book series…with all of their intricate character connections, limited degrees of separation, utopianism and stringent high-moral fiber, it’s like reading Homer or the Old Testament…
Despite the tumult and anxiety it often arouses, experiencing a true and deep love for something or someone is the only time when human Reason functions with less elegance but is most beautiful.
Whenever I hear of Straight Baiting– Gay men “seducing” Straight men by means of coercion or inebriation–I am often struck by the subtle social poetry in this admittedly rapacious act…there’s an underlying hint of cultural backlash to the psychosexual impulse of Fag-bashing.
Religion is (still) mankind’s most enduring Psychology.
One cannot hope to achieve any level of spirituality without religion–”religio”, the bond… Mankind must be bound by some institutional gravity, else we would be foolish souls and minds floating willy-nilly in the vast cosmos…anarchic…bumping into one another’s sphere of existence from time to time…only to disrupt… This is NOT spirituality… Spirituality is a procedural elevation of individual souls into a unity of benevolent consciousness. Where is this more evident as an institution of thinking (however misguided) than in the Church, Temple or Mosque?
There is time enough to be concerned with the existence of (G)od when one is dead.
Why I Think I’ve Remained A Christian (Thought for Bertrand Russell): I know of no other faith in recorded religious history that sheds tears over the living as beautiful as the ones shed over the dead. How sweet a world wherein compassion and empathy were all the finery one needed to be gorgeous. Such sentiment is not often expressed in the application of the Christian Ethic…but it is undoubtedly the stuff Christian dreams are made of…
Contra-Montaigne, it was death that prepared me for philosophy…and all that I am able to say on the matter is that both are invariably unfortunate yet necessary conditions for my existence.
Whenever people refer to Slavoj Zizek as a “Philosopher”, I think they must have no real understanding of one AND the other. I’m reminded of an ex-boyfriend who kept calling Camille Paglia a “Feminist”… One day I was forced to say to him (in front of friends) “You obviously have never read anything she’s written…or know what a Feminist is…” (We broke up days later…)
(G)od does not exist outside of our faith in (H)im…and yet this is not to say that (H)e doesn’t exist… Or (S)he… Or (T)hem…?
However much they function privately, Religion, Politics and Sex are inherently social matters–we vote for other people, have sex with other people and usually worship gods that tell us what other people to steer clear of–so I am always suspicious when individuals invoke these as private concerns… They must have something to hide.
The average atheist knows no more about Science than the average theist knows about (G)od…which is often very little…and both profess still to know more about the other’s “faith”…
Abrahamic Last Word: It’s not that there is ONLY one (G)od, there are just no more new gods left to find. All future gods will be mere variations on a theme.
The Folly of Suicide: The most irrational manner in which to cancel an upcoming birthday, when merely asking everyone else to cross it off their calenders would have been sufficient to prove a point. The day still happens whether you’re dead or not.
A student of Atheism once said to me–as his prelude to a bashing of Christian Ethics–that Jesus was no more than a “fictional character” in the mind of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John… Fictional? Perhaps composite…which was a common teaching technique employed by Axial Age thinkers… Socrates, for example, was fashioned by Plato, Aristotle, Aristophanes and Xenophon…yet I find myself hard-pressed to toss out the Socratic method and the noble pursuit of Truth based on the premise that four dead guys far wiser than myself could not produce a birth certificate of a figure MEANT to be idealized and exemplary.
Sex always makes for stranger bedfellows than politics…more disparate minds have collaborated over carnal pleasures than have met to legislate order.
Thought for Harold Bloom: I cannot wax as eloquently on the character of GENIUS…but I do know that I pray every night to be struck down by its contagion…never to recover…
Neo-Christian Family Values: If marriage is truly meant to be about love alone then we should disband the institution altogether and instead concentrate on the cause…
(The Folly of My Mind, A Satirical Monologue) As a Post-Modern-Neo-Christian-Liberation-Theology-Infused-But-Secularly-Friendly-And-Globally-Minded critical thinker I hold three truths to be self-evident in the Common Era…the world after the Crucifixion is inescapably Christian, all thinking after Descartes is inherently Cartesian, and all art after Wagner is tragically Wagnerian…all based on a singular premise…that civilization was Freudian long before there was ever a Freud… Ironically, this has kept me from going batshit insane…
Idle hands may produce the Devil’s work, but at least they produce something…an idle mind produces nothing.
In America there is always this annual call for reviving the Christianity in Christmas…yet however admirable this sentiment, the peculiar zeal of American Yuletide seems essentially Buddhist. I am thinking here of the Sand Mandalas painstakingly made by Tibetan Monks only to be ritualistically destroyed upon completion by said monks, reinforcing their doctrinal belief in the transitory nature and impermanence of material life that often sits in stark contrast to the human striving toward permanence. What is more painstakingly indulged during American holidays than Christmas decorating? An annual flexing of ritualistic excess–hanging of lights, tinseling of trees, heirloom ornamentation, elaborate giftwrapping–wherein the creative impulse necessitates a destructive resolution following the birth of a new year… Even the manger gets leveled. (One might be tempted to say this is also true of Halloween, but just a glance at the difference in electric bills for an average middle class family that fully celebrates both holidays will lay that comparison to rest.)
I have no interest whatsoever in curbing my bigotries…the prejudices I hold are the only things that keep everyone else from being better than me.
People who can but do not read live a life where words are mere grist for communicating information, nothing more…truly these folk do only live once. This saddens me.
After overhearing me speak with spirited criticism concerning “the Risen Christ”, an attractive young gentleman–Mormon, I think–approached privately and asked if I subscribed to Atheism, to which I answered that I did not. He pressed on, “So you do believe in (G)od?” I replied that no one “believes” in (G)od…that on both camps–atheists and faithful alike–it is a necessary lie we perpetuate, an illusion of belief/disbelief/doubt, to encourage a healthy intellectual evolution…it keeps our brains from becoming atrophied. My inquisitor was not at all pleased by this answer and pressed on earnestly, “What do you believe then?” (It is truly amazing how much one man’s “belief” affects another man’s anxiety.)
Rarely Explored Theological Considerations: Contextually the dialogue between Eve and the serpent could never have happened as it was Adam and not she who had the gift of communicating with animals…only he “knew” the beasts, for the purposes of naming and classification… Eve would only have had the ability to communicate with Adam and Yahweh.
“You think too much.” I can only be wary of the thinking of those who make the accusation. I imagine them to be like claustrophobes stuck in an elevator charging that the others likewise trapped are inhaling MORE than their share of oxygen. Perhaps the charge should be: “You think too much…stop it or you’ll think up all of the good stuff in the cosmos and leave me suffocating in my own ignorance.”
While reading the transcript of an Alan Watts lecture on myth and religion, I was struck by a very curious interpretation he offered of the Freudian libido…that it was “blind lust”… This made me laugh. Of all the emotions that warp collective reality [jealousy, anger, greed...love] lust is the only one that “sees” with the utmost clarity.
The Folly of Conversion: All religions harbor the same truth at core. If one fails to “see the light” (aka Truth, the Revealed) of the faith they were born into, they are not likely to be enlightened elsewhere, religiously speaking…this is a spiritual common sense even toted by the Dalai Lama, figurehead of a spiritual discipline whose number of converts are globally outranked only by Islam and Christianity. There are certainly moments of profound insight…severe adapting to ritual behaviors, a change in diet perhaps…supplanting of doctrinal language…but one would be hard-pressed to argue a true transcendental shift in consciousness. This same holds for sexual conversion. It has been well established that Gay-to-Straight conversion therapies are laughable efforts when not downright offensive. It is Stepford-wifery at best. Its alternate current, Straight-to-Gay, has long been a suspected homosexual stratagem. We wish to turn the world “Gay”. (Once again, laughable when not downright offensive.) Being more amorous of men than is healthy for any human constitution mixed with a very liberal “appeal” filter that responds irrespective of sexual orientation, I have faced many a pointed finger… “J’ACCUSE!” But as I’ve told Straight men time and again, the least of all things I desire in them is some socio-sexual “lifestyle” allegiance…I’m not trying to make them Gay…I want them to stay Straight before, during and after…they just have to fuck me, not march in my parade. All sexualities harbor the same truth at core.
Small talk is the Devil’s rhetoric.
Death. Anxiously anticipated while vigorously avoided…and never eluded. But when? It is an eeriness of human mortality to be able to look back upon the lives of others and say “Ah, this is when Fate destined you to die!”, yet remain clueless as to the date and time of one’s own death… I hope I die during a Super Bowl… It’s not an event I care for, so I won’t feel as though something is being missed…
Misreading Marquis de Sade: I think most people who encounter Sade irresponsibly look to his musings on sex and violence, intoxications and atheisms as something akin to Dionysian…largely because most individuals confuse excess for rebellion… If the writings of the “divine Marquis” are about anything they are certainly about order…everything discussed is always in measures and degrees and development…every act is calculated and working mathematically toward some grand crescendo… There is no Dionysian frenzy in his writings. There is no chaos. There is sex, there is violence…laid bare in Apollonian sequentials. And by virtue of that effort alone he didn’t so much do philosophy as much as create one… (Not unlike Ayn Rand perhaps…just more likable…yet no less Conservative. I always secretly laugh at people who read either writer and believe they’re being risque.) His work is by no means the crowning achievement of 18th Century French Enlightenment thinking…but maybe the logical conclusion…
In the divine comedy sexuality is but a pun…in the human one, the punchline.
Quoting the dead and famous gives off the impression that one is cosmopolitan, literate and insightful but really it’s just confessing that yours is NOT the deepest thought on the subject. (Which is why I’m immensely fond of quoting myself…)
It is common for most people to pretend they are not at all ignorant and that all others are infinitely moreso…I, counterintuitively, embrace my own ignorance in the promising light of others…this is how I stay young in wisdom… (That and remembering all others are infinitely more ignorant than I…)
(#107 REDUX) Contra-Montaigne, it was death that prepared me for philosophy…and all that I am able to say on the matter is that both are invariably unfortunate conditions for my existence. Surely I will not sacrifice the latter (although it can quite easily reason me into the arms of oblivion), only to paradoxically discover that an unexamined life is truly not worth living anyway. Therefore I have to make a concerted effort to be less consumed by the former…think less on it, even as I veer closer to it every day.
Who killed Cobain and Kennedy? A person’s death should always be left that taboo romance between killer and victim. When the collective investigative mind begins to reason death it becomes a conspiracy of re-killing…the masses are so titillated by the deaths of their famously beloved that they have to repeat the act over and over again…with a different finger on the trigger each time…it is said that this a form of justice or peace for the grieving and their memory of the deceased–keeping some deranged and twisted hope alive for answers to questions already mooted by the advent of death. But what can be of more consolation than the knowledge that the person is finally dead. (THERE ARE NO MORE QUESTIONS AFTER DEATH…EVEN FOR THE LIVING.) Human vitality has too petty a nature to respect the true meaning of REQUIESCAT IN PACE… We fear facing our own deaths, but are secretly jealous it happened to someone else…
The Freudian Backlash of Aronofksy’s NOAH: In the biblical tale Ham’s happening upon Noah’s nude drunkenness is overcast with a mood of (incestuous) homosexualized intimacy…the second of its kind in the Bible after Yahweh plants the kiss of life upon Adam’s lips. It begs us to consider that part of the male psyche that desires one’s father sexually…yearning for the protective and steadfast embrace that originally seduced one’s mother and became the very reason for life. Human desiring is heterosexually trained, even in psychosis the boy yearns for mother, girl for father. And we all want back in the womb. But there is an entire cosmos that generates in the seed of men where we find ourselves before the womb…where we find ourselves before ourselves…and all of mankind goes back to the before of what it now is (cf. genetics)…perhaps our collective desiring does as well. To Ham, Noah is not only the Patriarch of their family, he is the Patriarch of a new beginning for all that is defined as “life”. How ravishing such a sentiment must be for a young man’s mind–the Father of us all, eroticized . What a subject for an artist of Darren Aronofsky’s caliber to explore. So, why reduce Ham to mere Oedipal instincts? Did Aronofsky’s own father not warrant a big-boy crush?
It might be more apropos to think of the cinematic zombie post-Romero as The Sprinting Dead… One does not have to indulge Paul Virilio to reason that acceleration is conducive to violent impact and/or eruptive consequences, yet speed alone does not maximize the horror inflicted upon the audience, just the anxiety…the horror affect is paradoxically minimized…even impotent… Making one “jump” (startled) is not “horror”. We learn from Poe that real horror flowers in the presence of persistent–even relentless–stealth.
The Culture of Mendacity: The greatest sentimental lie ever uttered is “It’s the thought that counts.” Thoughts count that prompt actions otherwise it was a brief neurological hiccup…not even prayer…
I often find that people like one another best when they’re in agreement… I tend to like people least when they agree with me.
(On viewing Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and Aronofsky’s NOAH) I have heard it said that popular television and Hollywood actors often relish taking a much coveted bite of Shakespearean or religious drama…but most don’t fare well in either…they should bite a lesser theatrical apple to exercise their jaws…like pornography.
(Kierkegaard + Cabernet) Loneliness erupts in lives that are too steeped in expectation.
In Ars Veritas: For Nietzsche, Art Speaks True Thursday, Feb 21 2013
Uncategorized 7:01 pm
Does art speak truths about the world that human eyes fail to see…mouths fail to utter?
Is that its purpose?
Friedrich Nietzsche was a tin-eared composer but a virtuoso writer. His writing maintains an exalted canonical status as both philosophy and literature. His piano music unfortunately leaves one wanting… No matter how questionable his artistic output, it is an indisputable fact that Nietzsche took art seriously. Perhaps the most art-obsessed philosopher in the whole of Western culture. He regarded himself as a serious poet and composer, as well as a great thinker. Until its almost Freudian demise, the philosopher’s closest bond was with composer Richard Wagner…the artist-philosopher to Nietzsche’s philosopher-artist. A relationship such as theirs is virtually unknown in each discipline, even as far back as the ancient Greeks.
Nietzsche thought that the functions of art, music and theater was to give us a hint of the truth…the truth that the world was chaotic and meaningless.
Art also had to shield us from this dreadful reality.
The Birth of Tragedy focuses on the art of tragedy but also illuminates even more about art in relation to truth. It echos Arthur Schopenhauer, who thought the world a vile and ghastly realm…and to grasp the nature of it is to likewise behold the vulgar mistake that it is… The whole of human existence is a terrible mistake. Nietzsche readily jumps on this train of thought but rides it to a more distant station…ancient Greece. For Nietzsche, the Greeks found a way to use this truth that existence was awful to energize their culture through tragic art. The Athenian culture flourished, he believed, because they had discovered something profound in this art form.
Through this genre, Athens was able to share with the world a hint of the dark irrational forces that cloak existence. Yet they were able to shield themselves from the full impact of such recognition by laying over the horror an illusory forcefield…there’s a glimpse of the truth but it is made more palatable…the pill sweetened…a spoonful of sugar as Mary Poppins might say.
We need the truth to energize ourselves, but we need the illusion to keep ourselves from being torn asunder.
Render unto Apollo that which is Apollo’s…but do not forget to satiate Dionysus.
In Nietzschean philosophy the Apollonian/Dionysian balance is the Yin-Yang of the Western soul.
Apollo and Dionysus lord over various metaphysical levels.
The reality of the world’s chaos and destruction and meaningless striving belongs to Dionysus.
When we encounter beauty–elusive and illusory–we are in moods of Apollo.
The Classical Greek tragedy ingests the curse Dionysus lays upon the world but uses the treacle of Apollo to stomach the swallow. This was the divine synthesis par excellence Nietzsche believed defined the beauty of tragic art.
But those Olympians could not foresee the coming of the human-god of Reason…Socrates!
Enter Socrates, goodbye tragic beauty. The Birth of Tragedy is really about the death of tragedy. Socratic thought’s new Weltanschauung supplants the old (grander?) vision.
The irrational world is now regarded as the unreal. There can no longer be a view such as the Dionysian because in this newer world-view there is a curious equation mused between reality and reason and goodness.
In effect, from a Nietzschean perspective, what then happens is a certain strain of the Apollonian mood that had previously kept us from being consumed by the horror of reality now becomes reality.
Medea murdering her children and Oedipus bedding his mother will not make sense again until we enter the mind of Sigmund Freud.
Socrates makes tragedy impotent. It can no longer serve its purpose for mankind.
Nietzsche becomes the Viagra that revives…reinvigorates…re-hardens…
But the Dionysian force was important for the world-view. Schopenhauer and the Greeks were hip to something that we even see echoed in popular music movements ranging from Punk Rock to Goth and Grunge…that the world in its innermost nature is indeed chaotic and dreadful. The pre-Socratic Greeks had found a way of drawing strength from this idea…after Socrates all that tragic wisdom is denied. The air gets thinner and man is robbed of that fundamental, primordial oxygen that Dionysus originally breathed into the lungs of the world.
The Birth of Tragedy is indeed about its death…but the end of Nietzsche’s Birth is rightly about re-birth.
(There is a subtle poetry to this being his premier philosophical treatise.)
Modernity, for Nietzsche, would herald the resurrection of this culture-sustaining genre again. The Socratic world-view led to Christianity but the Modern world-view would eventually drown those screaming Christs. And if the Socrato-Christian mural is scratched and chipped to pieces, Dionysus will rise again and we ought in principle to be able revive that sublime synthesis of glimpsing the Dionysian truth, breathing again that raw, primal oxygen, simultaneous with making life livable under the veil of Apollo.
Art makes life livable.
If we saw the world for what it was we would not be able to carry on. The world is nothing but a meaningless bunch of ruthless becoming and destruction…no pattern…no reason…no rhyme. I’m reminded of a chorus from the Punk band The Exploited that repeats over and over “Death and Destruction…and don’t forget the Chaos!”
If this is the correct view of reality, then the sentiment of individuality–of particular people, particular objects–is an illusion…a mere aesthetic of the necessary Apollonian farce.
What are we then? Nothing more than the froth on a maelstrom torrent of waves breaking for no one and nothing… The Shakespearean sound and fury…
What do we signify?
This oblivion for Nietzsche is energizing…but there’s too much of it. The human psyche collapses when it discovers that there is no “ME”… Who can survive the knowledge of being no more than a random confluence of splashes and currents?
We do thunder for a second or two…and that’s it… Was there no point to any of it…?
Was there no point to “ME”?
If we have come into this being as the illusory individuals that we are then perhaps it is better for us to not have existed at all. The runner-up to this nihilistic thinking is to die as soon as possible. One can only look at their life as a mistake when confronted with the illusoriness of one’s individuality.
I don’t matter…you don’t matter…neither does whoever brought you into this world nor whomever you bring into it…
What makes us matter is our illusions!
In the sky is not a bird or a plane or Superman or Mighty Mouse… It is Apollo who has come to save the day!
The arts and illusions give shape, coherence to a world that is ultimately flux… The Apollonian ideal is pimping an untruth to protect us from THE TRUTH.
One of these Apollonian tricks of the trade in tragedy is to have recognizable characters with coherent motives who act in ways that we recognize in people. This is Apollonian because the familiarity masks for us the truth that all life is strife and chaos. I’m reminded here of that splendid scene in The Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lecter cuts into his cannibalism reverie to express a familiar sense of civilized, humane taste by adding that he ingested a human liver with “some fava beans and a nice chianti”. For a brief second we are reminded that his tastes are as human as our own…despite his monstrousness…
(It does beg the question then as to who we really are…)
The art of tragedy offers other trappings by giving us a plot which is intelligible, offering characters that interact with one another in ways that make sense and presenting a story that unfolds while subtly masking that famous inevitably tragedy is meant to have. These are all threads in that veil Apollo uses to persuade us that life does indeed make sense.
There’s a decidedly seismic shift in Nietzsche’s thought after he pens The Birth. Its ending as I’ve noted holds up the promise of a re-birth of tragedy and as he wrote the treatise, he truly believed this was going on, especially in the music dramas of Richard Wagner…for whom Nietzsche was a willing propagandist…perhaps the most astute and able propagandist any artist has ever had… Much of what is truly going on in the text is that it’s a song of praise to Wagner and Wagnerian drama.
Not since Aeschylus had there been a mind so capable of reviving the tragic art form. Here was proper art again…doing what art should be doing.
It was shortly after The Birth of Tragedy that Nietzsche has a falling out with Wagner… He becomes disenchanted with this father-figure and decides that what he once thought a great reborn tragic art was in fact everything that was despicable about Christianity…disguised as art.
This episode was Nietzsche’s after-Birth…
(Whether or not Nietzsche was wrong–and indeed I believe he was–is a question that even time will never be able to answer…)
The moment Nietzsche saw Wagner as charlatan was immediately followed by art suffering a downgrade in his philosophy. In his pantheon of importance it becomes one of those minor deities. Simultaneous with this forced orphaning, Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy also loses its charm and dignity…which he begins to consider the enemy of everything good and wise.
Having relegated Schopenhauer to that Hadean realm where all that matters is dissolute, this new Zeus became skeptical of his metaphysics, which had previously underpinned everything he was striving for in The Birth.
Nietzsche becomes Oedipus!
A grown traveler…seeking his own space…kingdom and country… Rebelling against, even killing his intellectual fathers.
It is curious that in Nietzsche’s divorce from Schopenhauer he still retained property rights to the knowledge that the world is chaotic…that the nature of existence lacked meaning…but he no longer mused on it as a deep metaphysical point that behind appearances–our illusions–everything is just turmoil and nonsense. He would believe that we can get to this truth and survive, even thrive in it…and the route is through science.
Although this was a brief period he does hoist his Jolly Roger upon the mast of science…resulting in a most ironic joyful wisdom. It is here that his poetics most uncharacteristically confess the idea that it is possible to make the world a better place.
There was still the specter of gloom that what we would uncover about the world would be most disturbing. Ultimately, art would still maintain a stronghold on Western consciousness… We should be able to do without art once we got used to these ugly truths about life, but for the time being this provision of illusion still had a protective role in our cultural convalescence…
This period was undoubtedly the most un-Nietzschean phase of his existence. He was positivistic to the point of even believing mankind could alleviate suffering.
Nietzsche’s almost paradoxical optimism is curiously Christian in that manner we think of Christians today, rather than the Nazarene who posits there will always be poverty and suffering and heads the battle on the field of Armageddon.
His enlightenment happens when he discovers that this thinking is not him–Friedrich Nietzsche, the philosopher wielding Thor’s hammer…discharging Zeus’ lightning bolts. He recovers from his feverish gaiety with greater vehemence that there is something sublime about suffering as part of the human condition. Now, the idea of abolishing suffering as a means of making life better would be for Nietzsche the classic expression of an impotent, empty existence…a life on the terminal decline to the uninteresting and void…
Such a life is unworthy of that primal energy of the Greeks…unworthy of inhaling that divine Dionysian oxygen.
So the world is an ugly and vile place. It is inherently chaotic and indifferent to the hopes and dreams and needs of human beings. It is a meaningless world and this reality presents us with grave challenges particularly if we don’t want to avail ourselves of some of the more obvious ways of confronting this senselessness. One way is the Socrato-Christian model which maintains that this meaninglessness is only apparent and if one looks hard enough one can see that it is all for the good, all for the best…that this is indeed the best of all possible worlds and situations. For Nietzsche this is the most dangerous of fantasies and one we should learn to do without.
Indeed, we do have a heartless world but, according to Nietzsche, not in the strict Schopenhauerean sense, rather in a straightforward and immediate sense…and one which we ought to know better than to tell ourselves grandiose wholesale lies about gleaned from Socrates and Jesus. Instead, we should tell ourselves little lies that do not falsify the entire character of existence but act as a local anesthetic that make portions of our existence bearable.
I’ll settle for one day to believe in you… Tell me lies… Tell me sweet little lies… Oh no, you can’t disguise… (Fleetwood Mac)
This is accomplished by the way we think about the world in which we live and also by making something of an illusion of ourselves and give style to our character…
In a Warholian sense, we need to turn ourselves into something akin to a work of art.
All philosophers agree that truth is a good thing because it ushers in knowledge…likewise art is a good thing because it has some valuable knowledge it imparts to us. It is always been the trend in culture to take art seriously, even by those that claim it does not possess the value culture often invests in it… The counter to that philistinic thinking is to defend art as having these highminded, epistemic purposes… We invoke ideas like canon, schools, styles…history of… But really all we are saying is that it makes us feel better when we’re shopping–spending exorbitant amounts of money on food and clothing to keep our family well–to hear Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles piped in over the sound system…and believe that in that moment these artists truly understand our common daily strife.
And that’s what makes all the difference…
That is the truth.
Cogito Ergo Creo (A Fantasia In the Key of Nietzsche) Friday, Feb 8 2013
Philosophy 1:03 am
Philosophy Is Best Undertaken As An Art Form
Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty? (Paul Gauguin)
Most people do not think of philosophy as an art, but more akin to science. All philosophy is a work of art as all art is philosophical. Both are entangled lovers in a web of doing and becoming.
After pursuing philosophy and theology for the bulk of my adult life I’ve come to think of them as art forms. I find that the greater distance I put between myself-as-thinker and the academy the more my idea of Philosophy, in particular, as an art form has flourished. What I mean by philosophy as an art form is I think of myself as a philosopher which is an admittedly pretentious stance to take even within the academy, but I feel such a title is not dissimilar to calling oneself a musician. I, of course, am not saying that I am Nietzsche or Plato or Wittgenstein…but I am confessing that I feel responsible to the standards that are embodied in the 2000+ years of philosophical tradition that I was trained to live up to and the one body of thought whose history keeps me humbled.
In defining oneself as a philosopher one is not claiming to be tried apart and above, rather claiming to have made some special study of a certain tradition. It seems to me that this is a kindred feeling with artists… If I were a novelist I could claim to be so without summoning airs that I am Dickens or Faulkner, but that I have been wisened by their styles… I ought to be able to say the same being another carny at the fair that is philosophy.
Art implies that there are a set of skills you need to have a working knowledge of in order to engage the discipline with any hope of success, but it also implies that, in principle, it is open to anyone. I had a boyfriend from Dublin who used to tell me that ALL Irishmen and children are poets. In this same way I think every person is a philosopher…or has one residing inside…like that miniature golden god that resided in Socrates.
All golden idols are in need of molding, chiseling and eventual polishing. The care and maintenance of a work of art is instructive to the development of a thought.
The history of a discipline–its canon–teaches us the myriad ways wherein a pretender to that throne might spy the myriad approaches to said subject. There isn’t, for example, just one way to write poetry…we learned that from Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and the Beats. They offered newer, braver styles… One can go off, write a poem and however bad or good it is to the tastes of its readers, the writer will never be chastised for having failed to write a poem. The Anglo-American institution of philosophy conversely has a stranglehold on what is taught as philosophy within departments. Why?
Twentieth and twenty-first century philosophy has lost its fourth wall…philosophers generally write for philosophers. It’s a professional deformation, a narrowing of intellectual horizon as a result of philosophy being almost exclusively produced for consumption in university settings…somewhat in common with the strain of literary criticism that is read only by the academe as distinct from what a casual reader encounters in the press. The British and American university setting has allowed a certain paradigm of philosophy to dominate to a disastrous extent. Part of the reason it is so disastrous is it is one form amongst many but so suffocates the soil that other flowers in the garden are not allowed to bloom.
It is this particular form that likes to think of itself as modeled on the sciences…but I don’t think that’s the most dangerous characteristic. The most dangerous characteristic is that it is predominantly negative. To become trained as a university philosopher is to become trained as a sort of Socratic bullshit detector. One learns to detect fallacies rather than decode philosophies.
As a student I was taught to believe that the great fallacy in the history of philosophy is the belief in a private language. Wittgenstein proved it is an illusion we harbor that there is an inner language-world to which each of us is privy. I would then go back and re- read Locke, Descartes, Plato and exclaim “Look! He committed the private language fallacy!” That is not performing philosophy!
Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
It is perfectly acceptable to go around detecting fallacies but I think the more substantial philosophical approach to take when people start producing thoughts that really don’t add up, when they produce words that don’t quite make sense, is to respond with, “That’s interesting…you’re trying to say something that you can’t quite figure out how to say in a sensible way. Perhaps you’re in need of a broader language. Let’s discuss what you’re really trying to say and why it is that you have trouble communicating it.”
The cure for paraphasia.
Rather than reducing the utterer to muteness, the philosopher should want to listen for deeper tones, moods…inflections…not merely the words.
There is music in discourse…rhythms in ordinary speech… Recitativo–the talk of opera–illumines the music of communication.
The devil’s advocate in me–don’t we all sympathize with Lucifer, he who illuminates–wonders then what to do with those who set themselves up as gurus but spout all manner of inanities with very urgent voice and are taken most seriously. Is there not some value in exposing their con-artistry? Of course, there are idiots who ought to be exposed but if there are a lot of people who take heed to these voices they must have some sort of appeal.
A responsible philosopher tries to work out what that appeal is. He must connect a shimmering rainbow from tiny dots of color…like Van Gogh.
Amongst atheists for example it is distressing that they think people harbor religious beliefs/ideals because they are simpletons…whereas the truth is there are just as many smart theists as smart atheists…just as many stupid atheists as are stupid theists. Atheists do a disservice to their own cause by assuming that only ignorant people hold religious beliefs and there is nothing that is not contemptible in the mind of a believer. Or they think the only question is can the existence of (G)od be proven, when the truth is only atheists are preoccupied with whether or not any gods existent. These attitudes undermine readings of visionaries like Descartes.Theists on the whole are less concerned with divine ontology than they are with what such an entity represents. For them it is a matter of faith and that no one can truly know what GOD means. They may have some interesting things to say about the idea of faith as opposed to knowledge. They can rhapsodize more beautifully on themes like LOVE, or what it means to love someone…to love mankind.
What does it mean to love someone? Does it mean you have to know completely what the object is…? Or is it better to be open to the notion that your beloved will continuously surprise you…? These are issues on which religious people have profoundly interesting things to say. There is a need for thinking creatively about such topics but the pugilistic atheist is never going to hear any of these things.
What I find intriguing is that in the secular world there’s a popular phrase, “Thinking outside the box”, which is a call to thinking creatively, but this exercise seems to escape most secularists in their approach to religious ideology. Religious thinking and theology have to be the most creative of all the branches of philosophy.
I am notorious for correcting people who refer to me as a theologian…I am a practitioner of theologically-infused philosophy or a scholar of the religious arts.
I am worried about what passes for the best kind of philosophy for it is an exercise in closing one’s ears and mind. The philosopher that students are largely trained to emulate are those (mythical?) masters of discourse and dialogue. But that killer instinct approach gets one no deeper in thought. For example, I was talking with a student once and I said a phrase, aesthetics of popular discourse…he felt the best approach to gather my meaning was to ask pseudo-Socratically, in respective of their order, what I meant by each term. He believed he was engaging in a philosophical discussion with me and by this means would entrap me in some semantic interlude, but by this means of questioning we never reached a purpose in communicating.
This style of inquiry impedes the philosophical process… Such an approach to discourse is often confused for being philosophical, but in reality it is but a cog in the philosophical machine and not philosophy itself.
People who pursue philosophy because they think it will make them smarter and set them apart are treading the wrong path and will be left very lonely, very stupid unrequited lovers.
What is philosophy?
It is merely knowing what questions are not philosophical…like the lover knows what is NOT his beloved.
The question then is not for Epistemology, but for Existential engagement. The lover always asks himself if he will recognize his desired…
Even when disguised? (There is no answer.)
I would echo Kierkegaard who reminds us that the true philosophical question arouses more questions, in high Socratic fashion…but add the caveat that random inquiry into this or that term is an encyclopedic endeavor rather than philosophical. One does not get to a meaning of things merely because all of one’s definitions are lined like ducks.
Kierkegaard seems to personify the philosopher as an artist. He doesn’t sit down and write I am the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard and here’s what I have to say, but writes under pseudonyms and noms de plume. His texts are written by such-and-such, edited by Soren Kierkegaard…claimed to be found in some drawer or like container. He treats both his subjects and writing styles as (thought) experiments. What if you thought about the subject this way or that…?
When philosophers discuss philosophical works as having literary qualities–Plato, Descartes, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche–they’re really confessing that they have no inkling as to the power of literature. Often what is meant is that these works were penned with some extraordinary elegance and featuring lovely epigrams. Yet, the great thing about many of these elegant thinker-writers is not that the works are beautifully composed–they are–but that there is a sense of symphonic architecture to the compositions.
It is misleading to take away one sentence and say that is the view Soren or Rene is putting forth and I should read it for this point. One doesn’t just listen to the Allegro Moderato from Gustav Mahler’s sixth symphony, then declare understanding all of the Tragische. Rather, it is a journey.
Although symphonic highlights are the cultural bread and butter of the classical music world, most well-trained musicians that I’ve met in the related genres have told me that it is harder to understand the music chopped in that fashion. We are all familiar with the opening four notes of Beethoven’s fifth symphony but truthfully they only make sense when we see how the whole project is resolved in the final movement.
Such symphonic beauty permeates Spinoza’s Ethics, Hegel’s Phenomenology and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. I would even venture as far to say that Jung’s Seven Sermons to the Dead is written as something of a Requiem mass.
Philosophy is the highest music. (Plato)
I began to appreciate this style of philosophy the more I grew in appreciation of the music of Richard Wagner…the master of the Magnum Opus. It is impossible to successfully highlight Wagner for recital purposes. There is also the demand that one has to sit for three to five hours at a shot to truly drink in his operatic vision…and further, for a number of days to experience its scope.
Spinoza and Wagner are the truest heralds of the Existentialist tradition as they are wholly unto themselves…apart in even the traditions they exalt. Richard Wagner is a German composer, but his music is Wagnerian over being merely Germanic…even his Italian contemporary Giuseppe Verdi, whose work was likewise grand in scale, was a master of Italian opera, but in no wise do we ever consider it as Verdian.
When the tools of his trade fell too flat, Wagner blew into the orchestra his own horn.
The fault of the academy is that it concentrates on small scale arguments rather than taking in the beauty, magnificence and truth of a work done on a larger scale.
Art like life, dictates systems to philosophy. (Naum Gabo)
Philosophers such as Kierkegaard have found a place in history, but I challenge any contemporary thinker who is able to finesse their medium as beautifully to carve a permanent place for him or her self in today’s academy. This can be a very strange and worrisome world for a thinker to measure himself against.
This isolated existence has also produced some of the most longstanding meditations on mind and spirit, ethics and morality.
Our deepest notions of the social are often born of solitude…
The discipline of philosophy is one of the most extraordinary art forms in western history; it is multilingual and cross-cultural going from Greek to Latin trickling down into diverse modern languages. Students the world over are raised in a tradition hellbent on thinking of themselves as sons and daughters of Socrates…curatorial heirs of a Socratic imperative to acquire knowledge. Perhaps rightly so… Not unlike fine artists, philosophers also work in the grand tradition of. It is somewhat disheartening that such a grand discipline is confined to the little glass houses that make up university philosophy departments.
The eternal task set for the philosopher is a daunting one–to find the time and place for philosophy and still be a philosopher…it is an important and difficult one and in no wise differs from the artist’s anxiety.
It is done with only tolerable success in the academy.
In the fine arts you can’t really teach someone to become an artist you can only teach them techniques. Philosophy is not far different. You can instruct students on techniques of inquiry, history of arguments and detecting fallacious arguments, but you cannot instruct someone on having a vision and being sensitive to that vision.
We have to rediscover what is meant by teaching…
For any philosophical education the best route is taken in the dialogue between the teacher and student where the goal is not so much to transfer a bit of doctrine like one might switch a file from a personal computer to a laptop, but to experience the disquietude that happens on the road to reaching certainty. Picasso once said that what all painters should learn from Cezanne is anxiety…I would readily apply this to the philosophical education… What we all need to learn from Socrates is the anxiety of listening for the right questions to ask…knowing that there WILL be many more to consider.
It is misleading that a philosophical lecture should end in a Q&A, when all philosophical inquiry is a matter of QAQ…
A fool brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence, University education. (George Bernard Shaw)
For a painter it is not simply a matter of hues and how to use them but the fastidiousness of one’s personal technique or touch. Likewise, in philosophy it is not a matter of offering one hundred points to remember, but instilling in a thinker that it might be best to slow down and carefully examine all the data present and then apply one’s personal touch to nuance thinking on the subject.
I am of the opinion that you cannot TEACH someone to think philosophically, but you can teach them what has been thought on a given subject and how these inquiries were carried out. It is not just the ideas that need to be taught, but the negative-space around those ideas…the silence that happens between ideas and conclusions.
Here is where pacing and patience take precedence.
Bertrand Russell spent a year of his life going into the study every day, getting out a blank sheet of paper–his canvas–and then staring at it all day…and thus finished with his day’s work. He was often stuck as to where to go with his thought…constipated… Authors call it “writer’s block”, artists call it anxiety.
How do you approach teaching someone that it can take years to flesh out a thought?
Wisdom is an anorectic experience…philosophy is not. One becomes wise about all things…philosophy is merely the long and winding road to Wisdom.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)
G.E. Moore was a famously taciturn philosopher. Whenever students would approach him and beg illumination on a particular subject–tell me about life…tell me about God–he remained silent. It has been said that Moore silenced a generation of thinkers.
It is not that Moore made a generation stupid, rather he knew better that being silent is an intelligent and often wise thing for a philosopher to do. Like Wittgenstein, he too instilled an anxiety of quietude in modern thinking.
I am dumbstruck before a Caravaggio as I am when reading the words of Plato. I am taking in the many hues and moods, the visual language. I’m not caterwauling opinions coarse with rhetoric. I am solemn…reverent…caught up in the majesty of feelings and sensations…like when I listen to a Brahms melody…
This is all simultaneous with an acute awareness of myself enraptured…
I am living in that world AND my own.
I do not know all of the specifics of color and stroke…notation. Still I stand there curious. desirous of curiosity…wanting to learn more…craving comprehension…so I shut-up…listen…and think.
Beginning to philosophize…yearning also to create…