Much writing on scientific biography focuses on the legitimacy and utility of this genre. In contrast, this essay discusses a variety of genre conventions and imperatives which continue to exert a powerful influence on the selection of biographical subjects, and to control the plot and structure of the ensuing biographies. These imperatives include the following: the plot templates of the Bildungsroman (the realistic novel of individual self-development), the life trajectories of Weberian ideal types, and the functional elements and personae (...) of the folkloric tale of the "hero's quest." The essay discusses the nature and application of these genre conventions in some detail, with the conclusion that biography, however useful, exerts a powerfully distorting influence on the image of how most science gets done. (shrink)
Abstract Biography is usually distinguished from history and, in comparison, looked down upon. R. G. Collingwood's view of biography seems to fit this statement considering that he says it has only gossip-value and that “history it can never be“. His main concern is that biography exploits and arouses emotions which he excludes from the domain of history. In the paper I will try to show that one can salvage a more positive view of biography from within (...) Collingwood's work and claim that his explicit attacks against biography target specifically the sensationalist kind. First, I will show that Collingwood, in his later writings, allowed that, not only thought, but also relevant emotions can be the subject matter of history, which means that even if one takes biography to deal with emotions, it can still qualify as history. Second, I will argue, based mainly on Collingwood's Principles of Art , that biography can be compared to portrait painting, in which case, it can be redeemed as a work of art and not just craft and, thus, have more than entertainment value. It can also be part of history, and more specifically part of the history of art which Collingwood endorses, if one takes the life of an individual, recounted by a biographer, to be an artistic creation, as Collingwood seems to suggest. (shrink)
Abstract Is `History Man', Fred Inglis' biography on R.G. Collingwood a successful biography? Inglis' explicit ambition is to portray the concrete figure Collingwood by abducting him from what he calls the vacuum-packed academic world of scholars. But the best biographers look for a balanced equilibrium between rendering philosophical ideas and dramatizing a philosopher's life. Put another way, they evoke the interweaving of a philosopher's thought with the vicissitudes of his life. Despite the unmistakable qualities of this biography, (...) Fred Inglis did not fully succeed in finding that very balance, mainly due to a lack of philosophical background. While Oxford University Press with the new edition of his works and manuscripts is thoroughly reorienting the traditional view of Collingwood, Inglis' fluently written but rather biased portrayal does no full justice to the heart of his fascinating philosophy and personality. (shrink)
Interviewing offers the biographer unique opportunities for gathering data. I offer three examples. The emphatic bacterial geneticist Norton Zinder confronted me with an interpretation of Barbara McClintock's science that was as surprising as it proved to be robust. The relaxed setting of the human geneticist Walter Nance's rural summer home contributed to an unusually improvisational oral history that produced insights into his experimental and thinking style. And "embedding" myself with the biochemical geneticist Charles Scriver in his home, workplace, and city (...) enabled me to experience the social networks that drive the practical events of his career, which in turn helped me explain the theoretical basis of his science. Face-to-face interaction and multisensory experience will shape each biographer's experience uniquely. Recent developments in sensory physiology suggest that the experience of integrating sense data encourages different patterns of observation and reflection. It is reasonable, then, to think that biography based on face-to-face interviews will, for a given author, have a different character than one based entirely on documents. I reflect on how interviewing shapes my own writing and I encourage the reader to do the same. (shrink)
The life of George Price (1922-1975), the eccentric polymath genius and father of the Price equation, is used as a prism and counterpoint through which to consider an age-old evolutionary conundrum: the origins of altruism. This biographical project, and biography and history more generally, are considered in terms of the possibility of using form to convey content in particular ways. Closer to an art form than a science, this approach to scholarship presents both a unique challenge and promise.
This book constitutes the first volume of a projected two-volume intellectual biography of Auguste Comte, the founder of modern sociology and a philosophical movement called positivism. Volume One offers a reinterpretation of Comte's "first career," (1798-1842) when he completed the scientific foundation of his philosophy. It describes the interplay between Comte's ideas and the historical context of postrevolutionary France, his struggles with poverty and mental illness, and his volatile relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, including such famous contemporaries as (...) Saint-Simon, the Saint-Simonians, Guizot, and John Stuart Mill. Pickering shows that the man who called for a new social philosophy based on the sciences was not only ill at ease in the most basic human relationships, but also profoundly questioned the ability of the purely scientific spirit to regenerate the political and social world. (shrink)
Richard Goldschmidt was one of the most controversial biologists of the mid-twentieth century. Rather than fade from view, Goldschmidt's work and reputation has persisted in the biological community long after he has. Goldschmidt's longevity is due in large part to how he was represented by Stephen J. Gould. When viewed from the perspective of the biographer, Gould's revival of Goldschmidt as an evolutionary heretic in the 1970s and 1980s represents a selective reinvention of Goldschmidt that provides a contrast to other (...) kinds of biographical commemorations by scientists. (shrink)
This paper explores the special problems encountered by the biographer of a living scientific subject. In particular, it explores the complex of problems that emerges from the intense interpersonal dynamic involving issues of distance, privacy and trust. It also explores methodological problems having to do with oral history interviews and other supporting documentation. It draws on the personal experience of the author and the biographical subject of G. Ledyard Stebbins Jr., the botanist, geneticist and evolutionist. It also offers prescriptives and (...) recommendations for future research. (shrink)
Theistic philosophers have perennially cited mystical experiences-- experiences of God--as evidence for God's existence and for other truths about God. In recent years, the attractiveness of this line of thought has been reflected in its use by a significant number of philosophers.1 But both philosophers and mystics agree that not all mystical experiences can be relied upon; many are the stuff of delusion.2 So they have somehow to be checked out, their bona-fides revealed. But can they be? I will (...) be arguing that (a) they must indeed be cross-checked to serve as good evidence; and that (b) they can't be--or not nearly well enough to permit pressing them into service as serious support for theism. The need for cross-checking, necessary in any case, is made acute by two facts: the extreme variability of mystical experiences and the doctrines they are recruited to support, and the fact that, especially in the face of this variability, mystical experiences are much more effectively explained naturalistically. Furthermore, our ability adequately to cross-check mystical experiences (hereafter, ME's), in a way that would reveal the hand of God, is crippled by the fact that theists offer no hypothesis concerning the causal mechanism by means of which God shows Himself to mystics. (shrink)
Literature, for Sartre, it could be said, is not so much an object of theory as the focus of a question. The notion of 'committed literature' is less prescriptive than it is interrogative: the title of the text most commonly associated with 'littérature engagée' is, after all, a question about literature itself, and the nature of 'commitment' lends itself much more to a practice of contestation than to implementation of any particular programme. In what follows, I shall be examining some (...) of the ways in which Sartre makes literature synonymous with a question. And I shall be arguing that the very terms in which literature is presented as a form of self-contestation make biography, rather than theory, the arena in which the notion of literature is most extensively opened up. (shrink)
Biography is an ancient literary genre. First of all—chronologically and logically it is a part of historiography. Whether we think of biography as more like history or more like fiction, what we want from it is a vivid sense of the person. The cover illustration of the fortieth anniversary edition of E. H. Carr’s What is History?1 is a close-up of an eye with fluffy white clouds against a blue iris and a dramatic black pupil in the center. (...) Magritte called this painting The False Mirror, an apt image for the untrustworthy nature of our perceptions of the world and, in its use here, for the uncertainties surrounding definitions of history in the past half century. Confusion has often accompanied .. (shrink)
Review of Manfred Kuehn's outstanding biography on Immanuel Kant. A critical point I raise concerns Kuehn's discussion of Kant's relation to Hume. Scholars are divided over the questions of (a) whether Hume was an actual inspiration for Kant’s Critical philosophy, (b) whether Kant’s defense really addresses Hume’s problem of causality, and, of course, (c) whether Kant’s arguments provide a satisfactory solution to the problem. Sometimes these questions are not clearly distinguished by interpreters, part of the reason Kant scholarship appears (...) so intractable to outsiders. While Kuehn’s answers to questions (a) and (b) appear to be ”Yes”, and while his reasons for the Yes to (a) are convincing, those for Yes to (b) are not; and (c) isn't addressed at all. (shrink)
This article considers the two major biographies of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, MD (1868—1935), an early campaigner for ‘gay rights’ avant la lettre. Like him, his first biographer Charlotte Wolff (1897—1986) was a Jewish doctor who lived and worked in Weimar Republic Berlin and fled Germany when the Nazi regime came to power. When researching Hirschfeld’s biography (published in English in 1986) Wolff met a librarian and gay activist, Manfred Herzer, who would eventually be a cofounder of the Gay Museum (...) in Berlin and publish (in German, in 1992) the other major Hirschfeld biography currently available. Using, inter alia, the correspondence between Wolff and Herzer, the article aims to explore and interrogate the boundaries and possibilities of ‘biography’ as a form of ‘doing history’. (shrink)
This work is the intellectual biography of the greatest of American philosophers. Peirce was not only a pioneer in logic and the creator of a philosophical movement pragmatism he also proposed a phenomenological theory, quite different from that of Husserl, but equal in profundity; and long before Saussure, and in a totally different spirit, a semiotic theory whose present interest owes nothing to passing fashion and everything to its fecundity. Throughout his life Peirce wrote continually about sign and phenomenon (...) (or phaneron). Consequently his writings must be studied chronologically if they are not to appear incomprehensible or contradictory. One of the merits of this book is to clarify Peirce's thought by analysing its development chronologically. We follow the evolution of Peirce's thought from his critique of Kantian logic and Cartesianism (Chap. I, “Leaving the Cave”: 1851-1870) to his discovery of modern logic and pragmatism (Chap. II, “The Eclipse of the Sun”: 1870-1887) and finally to a semiotic founded on a phenomenology the base of which is the logic of relations and the crowning-point scientific metaphysics (Chap. III, “The Sun Set Free”: 1887-1914). The book includes a detailed chronology, a general bibliography, and an index. (shrink)
This article is a response to Ole Martin Skilleås's "Knowledge and Imagination in Fiction and Biography." The first section of the article summarizes the line of the argument in four theses: (1) What is real is more influential than what is made up; (2) there is no metaphysical chasm between autobiographers and us; (3) (auto)biographies are not just empirical; and (4) the moral lesson of a fiction need not be accepted. In the second section each of these theses is (...) criticized. This criticism leads to the conclusion that we should welcome (auto)biographical texts in our moral investigations, but not at the cost of fictional texts. This conclusion is coupled with a proposal to formulate criteria to distinguish texts that matter from those that do not. (shrink)
Hayek’s Challenge is subtitled ‘an intellectual biography’ of Hayek, and the publisher describes it as ‘the first full intellectual biography’ of Hayek (front flap). But Caldwell himself appears to disagree: it was ‘never my goal’ to write ‘a comprehensive intellectual biography’ (177, note 10). Further, the book has a ‘secret title’: Caldwell’s Challenge (4). To assess what Caldwell has done, it is important to be very clear about what he was trying to do. Caldwell spells out in (...) detail, in engaging autobiographical passages, that his own interest is very much in the area of methodology; and.. (shrink)
Throughout his life, German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883–1969) recorded his experiences and reflections in diaries and correspondence. This comprehensive biography is the first to explore these extensive and candid private writings that illuminate not only Jaspers’ life and relationships but also the ideas he proposed in Way to Wisdom, The Question of German Guilt, and many other published works. Suzanne Kirkbright provides a sensitive and intimate portrait of the philosopher whose work on truth, personal integrity, and the capacity for (...) communication contrasted acutely with the erosion of such values in Germany in his lifetime. She describes how Jaspers’ Jewish wife, Gertrud, influenced his thinking, the loss in 1937 of his professorship at Heidelberg University, and his relationship with such celebrated colleagues as Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt. Kirkbright examines the unshakeable ethical content of Jaspers’ philosophy and demonstrates his unique and scrupulous personal adherence to the philosophical principles he espoused. (shrink)
A comprehensive biography which covers Adorno's life, work and times: from childhood, through to his student years, his years in emigration, his return to post-war Germany, his time in Frankfurt, his role as a public intellectual, and his ...
This is the first comprehensive biography of John Locke to be published in nearly a half century. Setting Locke's life within exciting historical and intellectual contexts, which included the English Civil War, religious persecution, and the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Roger Woolhouse interweaves an account of Locke's life with a summary and development of his ideas in theory of knowledge, philosophy of science, medicine, economics, philosophy of religion, and political philosophy. Systematic and encyclopedic in its coverage, Woolhouse's biography (...) offers both an account and explanation of Locke's ideas, while treating seriously his emotional relationship with Elinor Parry. Based on broad research and many years of study of Locke's philosophy, this volume is an authoritative biography on one of the most significant early modern philosophers. (shrink)
Of all the thinkers of the century of genius that inaugurated modern philosophy, none lived an intellectual life more rich and varied than Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Trained as a jurist and employed as a counsellor, librarian, and historian, he made famous contributions to logic, mathematics, physics, and metaphysics, yet viewed his own aspirations as ultimately ethical and theological, and married these theoretical concerns with politics, diplomacy, and an equally broad range of practical reforms: juridical, economic, administrative, technological, medical, and (...) ecclesiastical. Maria Rosa Antognazza's pioneering biography not only surveys the full breadth and depth of these theoretical interests and practical activities, it also weaves them together for the first time into a unified portrait of this unique thinker and the world from which he came. At the centre of the huge range of Leibniz's apparently miscellaneous endeavours, Antognazza reveals a single master project lending unity to his extraordinarily multifaceted life's work. Throughout the vicissitudes of his long life, Leibniz tenaciously pursued the dream of a systematic reform and advancement of all the sciences, to be undertaken as a collaborative enterprise supported by an enlightened ruler; these theoretical pursuits were in turn ultimately grounded in a practical goal: the improvement of the human condition and thereby the celebration of the glory of God in His creation. As well as tracing the threads of continuity that bound these theoretical and practical activities to this all-embracing plan, this illuminating study also traces these threads back into the intellectual traditions of the Holy Roman Empire in which Leibniz lived and throughout the broader intellectual networks that linked him to patrons in countries as distant as Russia and to correspondents as far afield as China. (shrink)
Nicholas Capaldi's biography of John Stuart Mill traces the ways in which Mill's many endeavors are related and explores the significance of his contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, social and political philosophy, the philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of education. Capaldi shows how Mill was groomed for his life by both his father James Mill and Jeremy Bentham, the two most prominent philosophical radicals of the early 19th century. Mill, however, revolted against this education and developed friendships with (...) both Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge who introduced him to Romanticism and political conservatism. A special feature of this biography is the attention devoted to Mill's relationship with Harriet Taylor. No one exerted a greater influence than the woman he was eventually to marry. Capaldi reveals just how deep her impact was on Mill's thinking about the emancipation of women. Nicholas Capaldi was until recently the McFarlin Endowed Professor of Philosophy and Research Professor of Law at the University of Tulsa. He is the founder and former Director of Legal Studies. His principal research and teaching interest is in public policy and its intersection with political science, philosophy, law, religion, and economics. He is the author of six books, including The Art of Description (Prometheus, 1987) and How to Win Every Argument (MJF Books, 1999), over fifty articles, and editor of six anthologies. He is a recent recipient of the Templeton Foundation Freedom Project Award. (shrink)
René Descartes (1596-1650) is the father of modern philosophy, and one of the greatest of all thinkers. This is the first intellectual biography of Descartes in English; it offers a fundamental reassessment of all aspects of his life and work. Stephen Gaukroger, a leading authority on Descartes, traces his intellectual development from childhood, showing the connections between his intellectual and personal life and placing these in the cultural context of seventeenth century Europe. -/- Descartes' early work in mathematics and (...) science produced ground breaking theories, methods, and tools still in use today. This book gives the first full account of how this work informed and influenced the later philosophical studies for which, above all, Descartes is renowned. Not only were philosophy and science intertwined in Descartes' life; so were philosophy and religion. The Church of Rome found Galileo guilty of heresy in 1633; two decades earlier, Copernicus' theories about the universe had been denounced as blasphemous. To avoid such accusations, Descartes clothed his views about the relation between God and humanity, and about the nature of the universe, in a philosophical garb acceptable to the Church. His most famous project was the exploration of the foundations of human knowledge, starting from the proof of one's own existence offered in the formula Cogito ergo sum, `I am thinking therefore I exist'. Stephen Gaukroger argues that this was not intended as an exercise in philosophical scepticism, but rather to provide Descartes' scientific theories, influenced as they were by Copernicus and Galileo, with metaphysical legitimation. -/- This book offers for the first time a full understanding of how Descartes developed his revolutionary ideas. It will be welcomed by all readers interested in the origins of modern thought. (shrink)
(2013). A brief biography of Sir Alan Cottrell FRS, FREng 17 July 1919–15 February 2012. Philosophical Magazine: Vol. 93, Special Issue in honour of Sir Alan Howard Cottrell, pp. 3697-3702. doi: 10.1080/14786435.2013.808772.
Theodor W. Adorno—philosopher, cultural critic, sociologist, and music theorist—was one of the most important German intellectuals of the twentieth century. This concise, readable life is the first attempt to look at his philosophical and literary work in its essential political context. Central to Adorno’s intellectual development were his musical training, his father’s Jewish roots, and the rise of National Socialism in Germany, which forced him to emigrate to the United States. While in exile, he and Max Horkheimer wrote Dialectic of (...) Enlightenment, a bold attempt to illuminate the dark side of modernity, and on his own Adorno wrote a series of connected essays on the “culture industry”—his indictment of mass culture. A co-founder of the famous Frankfurt School, Adorno returned to head it after the war, assuming a key role in the intellectual life of postwar West Germany until his untimely death in 1969. Ja;ger’s biography sheds new light on many aspects of Adorno’s life and writings and on his relationships with such figures as Paul Celan, Bertolt Brecht, and Walter Benjamin. (shrink)
William Fielding Ogburn was located on and helped to create the “cutting edge” of developments in twentieth-century American sociology — particularly its increasing emphasis on statistics and objectivist methodology. His life, which spanned the period within which the changes he advocated were institutionalized, can be seen as having significance as a marker of a transition. From this perspective, studying well-chosen individual lives has the same heuristic value as studying particular historical events. They can, to quote Philip Abrams, “mark decisive conjunctions (...) of action and structure;... moments of structuring at which human agency encounters social possibility and can be seen most clearly as simultaneously determined and determining.” Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology, 199. My analysis of Ogburn's advocacy of scientific sociology — one that differentiated science from both emotion and politics — reflected and reinforced his solutions to problematics in his personal life. His “response” to the separate spheres that defined gender relations in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America, helped to construct a reflection of them in twentieth-century American sociology. It is in this way — through concrete social action within specific historical conditions — that personal life and gender shaped the intellectual and professional culture within which he lived and worked. Ogburn's life story suggests that action, particularly advocacy, is grounded, at least in part, in a personal agenda, but that personal agendas, just like any others, need to be understood sociologically. Ogburn's “problem” was not idiosyncratic. Indeed, it is because it was shaped by social conditions, rather than uniquely individual ones, that his solutions were more likely to be recognized, accepted, and institutionalized by his mostly male audiences. Tracing these connections within a concrete historical case, within a single biography, demonstrates how personal life is connected to action and, thus, needs to be included in any sociological theory of human agency.Ogburn's life coincided with a set of opportunities that made it possible for sociologists to gain a more prominent place in national affairs and to develop sociological knowledge in a particular direction. This development was, in turn, accompanied by the creation of a language and practice in which the scientific authority of sociology became associated with it being devoid of an appearance of politics and emotion. The emergence of this language and practice, and the beliefs on which they were based, however, cannot be explained solely by the circumstances that fostered them or the career opportunities that they made available. They reflect the practical actions of human agents within historically specific settings. But these agents must be recognized as gendered and the problematic of gendering must be incorporated into the history of American sociology.As Steinmetz has argued, the stories that we tell are important for what we do — and what we do not do — because they structure social consciousness and social action. George Steinmetz, “Chronicles and Narratives in German Working class formation,” paper presented at the 1989 meetings of the Social Science History Association. For a version of the history of sociology in Europe that has some similarity to the story told in this paper, see Wolf Lepenies, Between Literature and Science: The Rise of Sociology (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1988), especially chapter 3. But Lepenies also does not make the connection between the history about which he is writing and gender relations, despite their relevance. As long as we write the history of American sociology as an ungendered narrative, we will not only misrepresent that history but we will also limit our capacity to understand and affect changes in it. Differentiation was (and is) a strategy more available to men than women and the norms and organization of professional life that embody that strategy need to be understood not as general but rather as gendered. There is a gender dimension to the history of American sociology to which more attention could usefully be given. Although the impact of political and professional interests has been widely recognized in this history, the impact of personal life in general and gender relations in particular have not been systematically incorporated into accounts of this process. Yet gender relations — and the meanings and actions that are shaped by them — are an important part of the story being told here and an important source of the energy that institutionalizing social change entails. Biography provides access to these personal and gendered dimensions of our professional history in ways that can more adequately acknowledge the complexities of the structuring process. (shrink)
"The terrain of the self is vast," notes renowned psychiatrist Arnold Ludwig, "parts known, parts impenetrable, and parts unexplored." How do we construct a sense of ourselves? How can a self reflect upon itself or deceive itself? Is all personal identity plagiarized? Is a "true" or "authentic" self even possible? Is it possible to really "know" someone else or ourselves for that matter? To answer these and many other intriguing questions, Ludwig takes a unique approach, examining the art of (...) class='Hi'>biography for the insights it can give us into the construction of the self. In The Biography of the Self, he takes readers on an intriguing tour of the biographer's art, revealing how much this can tell us about ourselves. Drawing on in-depth interviews with twenty-one of our most esteemed biographers--writers such as David McCullough (the biographer of Truman and Theodore Roosevelt), Wallace Stegner (John Wesley Powell), Gloria Steinem (Marilyn Monroe), Leon Edel (Henry James), Peter Gay (Freud), Diane Middlebrook (Anne Sexton), and many others--and interweaving fascinating observations of his own practice, Ludwig takes us through the labyrinthine hall of mirrors we term the self and shows us how malleable, elusive, and paradoxical it can be. In chapters such as "The 'Real' Marilyn," "Psychoanalyzing Freud," "How Did Hitler Live With Himself?" and "What Madness Reveals," we sit in as biographers talk not only about their work, but about their subjects (Allan Bullock on Hitler and Stalin, for instance, or Arnold Rampersad on Langston Hughes) and how their subjects saw themselves. Ludwig describes how biographers must impose a narrative structure on their subjects' lives to create order out of a mass of often contradictory views, baffling behavior, and inconsistent self-representations, much in the same way that psychotherapists try to foster self-awareness and understanding in their patients. In his concluding chapter, Ludwig introduces a new concept--biographical freedom--which brilliantly reconciles free will and determinism. We can, he asserts, become biographers of ourselves. Like the biographer, we are constrained to consider all the available facts of our lives--the personal experiences, cultural forces, and predetermined scripts that shape us--but we remain free to interpret, emphasize, and fashion these givens into a cohesive and meaningful narrative of our own choosing. This thought-provoking volume offers not only a wide-ranging and informative commentary on the biographer's art, but also a highly original theory of the self. Readers interested in biography and in the lives of others will come away with a new sense of what it means to be a "person" and, in particular, who they are. (shrink)
A condição cultural contemporânea desafia a vivência religiosa. Vivemos um momento de nova demanda: busca-se hoje, uma relação com o dogma e uma vivência religiosa mais livres. Corre-se o risco, todavia, que esse desejo, que é de fato um dos grandes valores de nossa cultura, acabe se satisfazendo com propostas espirituais superficiais. A partir dessa preocupação, e entendendo que a mística, enquanto processo vivido pelo sujeito rumo ao encontro com o Mistério Santo, tem contribuições importantes para essa problemática, procuraremos empreender (...) uma reflexão sobre a relação entre mística e teologia, o desencontro moderno e os sinais de reencontro que já se pode visualizar na atualidade. Refletiremos sobre a marginalização e mística, ocorrida na modernidade, as suspeitas que pairaram sobre os místicos, a divisão entre espiritualidade e teologia que adveio do triunfo do racionalismo e finalmente sobre o novo interesse pela mística que vai se esboçando na teologia contemporânea a partir da afirmação de uma nova concepção de revelação no contexto de renovação conciliar. Palavras-chaves : Mística. Espiritualidade. Teologia.Our contemporary cultural condition challenges our religion experience. As a result, we live in a moment of a new spiritual demand: people are seeking a relationship with the dogma and at the same time a less strict religious experience. However, we are taking a risk with this new spiritual desire, which is in fact one of the strongest values in our culture; this might lead to religious satisfaction via superficial spiritual propositions. This concern, along with the mysticism involved in the process of one’s path towards the acceptance of the holy mysticism, has indeed contributed to this issue. We shall reflect upon the relationship between mysticism and theology and its modern mismatch, as well as on the signs of reunion that we can already visualize nowadays. We shall reflect about the marginalization of mysticism which occurred in modern times, and on the suspicious attitudes that float over the so-called mystics. Furthermore, the separation between spirituality and theology that arose from the triumph of the rationalism; and finally about the new interest concerning mysticism , which emerged in contemporary theology from the declaration of a new revelation concept, in the context of Vatican II renewal. Keywords : Mystique. Spirituality. Theology. New Roc�;o�NN;mso-fareast-language:PT-BR'>Keywords : D. Luciano Mendes de Almeida. Biography. Internalization. Testimony. (shrink)
Narrar artisticamente o Mistério Santo que habita entre nós: Leitura místico-teológica da obra “Guerra e Paz” de Cândido Portinari. (Narrating artistically the Holy Mystery that lives among us: Mystical-theological reading of the panel "War and Peace"). - DOI: 10.5752/P.2175-5841.2013v11n31p867 A revelação é um conceito fundamental para a teologia cristã: ele se refere à experiência que fundamenta o discurso sobre Deus. No século XX, operou-se uma transformação importante nessa concepção fundamental, uma renovação que implicou na desconstrução do conceito tradicional de revelação (...) focado em doutrinas e dogmas e na emergência de uma nova concepção que coloca como fundamento da revelação a experiência do incondicional, experiência mística. A partir dessa renovação, passou-se a considerar a problemática da dificuldade de uma linguagem que expresse a complexidade dessa experiência paradoxal. Toda criação artística, na medida em que provoca uma forte experiência estética, é uma maneira de falar de revelação. A linguagem da arte com seu poder evocativo e não definível é certamente capaz de expressar essa experiência do divino sem constrangimento do sagrado e sem desvalorização do humano. Esse trabalho consiste em fazer a leitura dos painéis Guerra e Paz de Cândido Portinari, evidenciando que através da arte é possível narrar artisticamente o Mistério Santo que habita entre nós. Palavras-chaves: Mística. Arte. Espiritualidade. Cândido PortinariRevelation is a key concept to Christian theology: it refers to the experience that underlines the discourses about God. In the twentieth century, an important transformation on this concept led to a deconstruction of its traditional meaning, originally focused on doctrines and dogmas, and further to the emergency of a new conception, which places the mystical experience in the very foundation of the Revelation’s concept. Since this renovation, the difficulties of a language to express the complexity of this paradoxical experience were highly problematized. All artistic creation, as long as it provokes a strong aesthetic experience, is matter of Revelation. The Art’s language, with its non-definable and evocative power, is certainly capable of expressing this divine experience without devaluate the holy or the human depreciation. This work consists on the reading of Cândido Portinari’s “War and Peace” panels, pointing out that, through art, it is possible to narrate artistically the Holy Mystery that dwells among us. Keywords: Mystics. Art. Spirituality. Cândido Portinari. (shrink)
Henry Sidgwick was one of the great intellectual figures of nineteenth-century Britain. He was first and foremost a great moral philosopher, whose masterwork The Methods of Ethics is still widely studied today. He also wrote on economics, politics, education and literature. He was deeply involved in the founding of the first college for women at the University of Cambridge. He was also much concerned with the sexual politics of his close friend John Addington Symonds, a pioneer of gay studies. Through (...) his famous student, G. E. Moore, a direct line can be traced from Sidgwick and his circle to the Bloomsbury group. Bart Schultz has written a magisterial overview of this great Victorian sage. This biography will be eagerly sought out by readers interested in philosophy, Victorian literary studies, the history of ideas, the history of psychology and gender and gay studies. (shrink)
The existentialist philosopher Karl Jaspers is the father of a discourse on the spiritual consequences of the Holocaust. First addressed as the Schuldfrage (the question of guilt) by Jaspers immediately after the Second World War in his famous Heidelberg lecture, it has reappeared in various forms in German life and letters. Post-unification Germany has witnessed the valorization of the German experience of the Second World War. This ongoing re-evaluation has its antecedents in the generational literature of the 1970s and 1980s. (...) Whereas the Vaterliteratur of the 1970s (by authors such as Christoph Meckel, Uwe Timm, and Peter Henisch) was often embedded in a left-wing critique of the establishment, recent contributions to this growing genre (by Marcel Beyer, Stephan Wackwitz, Wibke Bruhns, and Ulla Hahn among others) speak to the issue of collective identity and transgenerational family trauma outside distinct left- and right-wing interpretations of National Socialism. The current writings on the life during the Third Reich (filtered through the experiences of discrete generations) are a confluence of historical writing, memorial literature, biography, and fiction. They are closely related to the discussions that W. G. Sebald initiated in his 1997 lecture series on the silence of German postwar literature with respect to German suffering. The subsequent debate on how to bring closure to this ?German suffering? was intensified by Günter Grass's widening of the concept of German victimization beyond the air war controversy in his book Crabwalk (2002). As Grass distinguishes clearly between the various post-World War II generations (and their different perspectives on historical events), the question becomes whether these recent writings will bring about a final so-called ?zero hour? in German postwar history. (shrink)
continent. 2.2 (2012): 66–75 ~*~ We’re Doomed. Pessimism is the night-side of thought, a melodrama of the futility of the brain, a poetry written in the graveyard of philosophy. Pessimism is a lyrical failure of philosophical thinking, each attempt at clear and coherent thought, sullen and submerged in the hidden joy of its own futility. The closest pessimism comes to philosophical argument is the droll and laconic “We’ll never make it,” or simply: “We’re doomed.” Every effort doomed to failure, every (...) project doomed to incompletion, every life doomed to be unlived, every thought doomed to be unthought. Pessimism is the lowest form of philosophy, frequently disparaged and dismissed, merely the symptom of a bad attitude. No one ever needs pessimism, in the way that one needs optimism to inspire one to great heights and to pick oneself up, in the way one needs constructive criticism, advice and feedback, inspirational books or a pat on the back. No one needs pessimism, though I like to imagine the idea of a pessimist activism. No one needs pessimism, and yet everyone—without exception—has, at some point in their lives, had to confront pessimism, if not as a philosophy then as a grievance—against one’s self or others, against one’s surroundings or one’s life, against the state of things or the world in general. There is little redemption for pessimism, and no consolation prize. Ultimately, pessimism is weary of everything and of itself. Pessimism is the philosophical form of disenchantment—disenchantment as chanting, a chant, a mantra, a solitary, monophonic voice rendered insignificant by the intimate immensity surrounding it. In pessimism, the first axiom is a long, low, funereal sigh. ~*~ We’re Still Doomed. No one has time for pessimism. After all, there are only so many hours in a day. Whatever our temperament, happy or sad, engaged or disengaged, we know pessimism when we hear it. The pessimist is usually understood as the complainer, forever pointing out what is wrong with the world without ever once offering a solution. But more often than not pessimists are the quietest of philosophers, submerging their own sighs within the lethargy of discontent. What little sound it makes is of interest to no one—“I’ve heard it all before,” “tell me something I don’t know,” sound and fury, signifying nothing. In raising problems without solutions, in posing questions without answers, in retreating to the hermetic, cavernous abode of complaint, pessimism is guilty of that most inexcusable of Occidental crimes—the crime of not pretending it’s for real. Pessimism fails to live up to the most basic tenet of philosophy—the “as if.” Think as if it will be helpful, act as if it will make a difference, speak as if there is something to say, live as if you are not, in fact, being lived by some murmuring non-entity both shadowy and muddied. Had it more self-assurance and better social skills, pessimism would turn its disenchantment into a religion, possibly calling itself The Great Refusal. But there is a negation in pessimism that refuses even such a Refusal, an awareness that, from the start, it has already failed, and that the culmination of all that is, is that all is for naught. Pessimism tries very hard to present itself in the low, sustained tones of a Requiem Mass, or the tectonic rumbling of Tibetan chant. But it frequently lets loose dissonant notes at once plaintive and pathetic. Often, its voice cracks, its weighty words abruptly reduced to mere shards of guttural sound. ~*~ Maybe It’s Not So Bad, After All. If we know pessimism when we hear it, this is because we’ve heard it all before—and we didn’t need to hear it in the first place. Life is hard enough. What you need is a change of attitude, a new outlook, a shift in perspective... a cup of coffee. If we have no ears for pessimism, this is because it is always reducible to something as reliably mutable as a voice. If pessimism is so frequently disparaged, it is because it brings everyone down, determined as it is to view each day as a bad day, if only by virtue of the fact that it is not yet a bad day. For pessimism the world is brimming with negative possibility, the collision of a bad mood with an impassive world. In fact, pessimism is the result of a confusion between the world and a statement about the world, a confusion that also prevents it from fully entering the hallowed halls of philosophy. If pessimism is so often dismissed, this is because it is often impossible to separate a “bad mood” from a philosophical proposition (and do not all philosophies stem from a bad mood?) The very term “pessimism” suggests a school of thought, a movement, even a community. But pessimism always has a membership of one—maybe two. Ideally, of course, it would have a membership of none, with only a scribbled, illegible note left behind by someone long forgotten. But this seems unrealistic, though one can always hope. ~*~ Anatomy of Pessimism. Though it may locate itself at the margins of philosophy, pessimism is as much subject to philosophical analysis as any other form of thought. Pessimism’s lyricism of failure gives it the structure of music. What time is to the music of sorrow, reason is to a philosophy of the worst. Pessimism’s two major keys are moral and metaphysical pessimism, its subjective and objective poles, an attitude towards the world and a claim about the world. For moral pessimism, it is better not to have been born at all; for metaphysical pessimism, this is the worst of all possible worlds. For moral pessimism the problem is the solipsism of human beings, the world made in our own image, a world-for-us. For metaphysical pessimism, the problem is the solipsism of the world, objected and projected as a world-in-itself. Both moral and metaphysical pessimism are compromised philosophically; moral pessimism by its failure to locate the human within a larger context, and metaphysical pessimism by its failure to recognize the complicity in the very claim of realism. This is how pessimism makes its music of the worst, a generalized misanthropy without the anthropos . Pessimism crystallizes around this futility—it is its amor fati , rendered as musical form. ~*~ Melancholy of Anatomy. There is a logic of pessimism that is fundamental to its suspicion of philosophical system. Pessimism involves a statement about a condition . In pessimism each statement boils down to an affirmation or a negation, just as any condition boils down to the best or the worst. With Schopenhauer, that arch-pessimist, the thinker for whom the philosopher and the curmudgeon perfectly overlap, we see a no-saying to the worst, a no-saying that secretly covets a yes-saying (through asceticism, mysticism, quietism), even if this hidden yes-saying is a horizon at the limits of comprehension. With Nietzsche comes the pronouncement of a Dionysian pessimism, a pessimism of strength or joy, a yes-saying to the worst, a yes-saying to this world as it is. And with Cioran yet another variation, futile yet lyrical, a no-saying to the worst, and a further no-saying to the possibility of any other world, in here or out there. With Cioran one approaches, but never reaches, an absolute no-saying, a studied abandonment of pessimism itself. The logic of pessimism moves through three refusals: a no-saying to the worst (refusal of the world-for-us, or Schopenhauer’s tears); a yes-saying to the worst (refusal of the world-in-itself, or Nietzsche’s laughter); and a no-saying to the for-us and the in-itself (a double refusal, or Cioran’s sleep). Crying, laughing, sleeping—what other responses are adequate to a life that is so indifferent? ~*~ Cosmic Pessimism. Both moral and metaphysical pessimism point to another kind, a pessimism that is neither subjective nor objective, neither for-us nor in-itself, and instead a pessimism of the world-without-us. We could call this a cosmic pessimism ... but this sounds too majestic, too full of wonder, too much the bitter aftertaste of the Great Beyond. Words falter. And so do ideas. And so we have a cosmic pessimism, a pessimism that is first and last a pessimism about cosmos , about the necessity and possibility of order. The contours of cosmic pessimism are a drastic scaling-up or scaling-down of the human point of view, the unhuman orientation of deep space and deep time, and all of this shadowed by an impasse, a primordial insignificance, the impossibility of ever adequately accounting for one’s relationship to thought—all that remains of pessimism is the desiderata of affects—agonistic, impassive, defiant, reclusive, filled with sorrow and flailing at that architectonic chess match called philosophy, a flailing that pessimism tries to raise to the level of an art form (though what usually results is slapstick). ~*~ Song of Futility. An ethics of futility pervades pessimism. Futility, however, is different from fatality, and different again from simple failure (though failure is never simple). Failure is a breakage within the heart of relations, a fissure between cause and effect, a fissure hastily covered over by trying and trying again. With failure, there is always plenty of blame to go around; it’s not my fault, it’s a technical difficulty, it’s a miscommunication. For the pessimist, failure is a question of “when,” not “if”—failure as a metaphysical principle. Everything withers and passes into an obscurity blacker than night, everything from the melodramatic decline of a person’s life to the banal flickering moments that constitute each day. Everything that is done undone, everything said or known destined for a kind of stellar oblivion. When scaled up in this way, failure becomes fatality. Fatality is the hermeticism of cause and effect. In fatality, everything you do, whatever you do, always leads to a certain end, and ultimately to the end—though that end, or the means to that end, remain shrouded in obscurity. Nothing you do makes a difference because everything you do makes a difference. Hence the effects of your actions are hidden from you, even as you deceive yourself into thinking that, at last, this time you will outwit the order of things. By having a goal, planning ahead, and thinking things through carefully, we attempt, in a daily Prometheanism, to turn fatality to our advantage, to gain a glimpse of an order that seems buried deeper and deeper in the fabric of the universe. But even fatality has its comforts. The chain of cause and effect may be hidden from us, but that’s just because disorder is the order we don’t yet see; it’s just complex, distributed, and requires advanced mathematics. Fatality still clings to the sufficiency of everything that exists... When fatality relinquishes even this idea, it becomes futility. Futility arises out of the grim suspicion that, behind the shroud of causality we drape over the world, there is only the indifference of what exists or doesn’t exist; whatever you do ultimately leads to no end, an irrevocable chasm between thought and world. Futility transforms the act of thinking into a zero-sum game. ~*~ Song of the Worst. At the center of pessimism lies the term pessimus , “the worst,” a term as relative as it is absolute. The worst is about as bad as it gets, “the worst” as “the best” in disguise, shrouded by the passage of time or the twists and turns of fortune. For the pessimist, “the worst” is the propensity for suffering that gradually occludes each living moment, until it eclipses it entirely, overlapping perfectly in death... which, for the pessimist, is no longer “the worst.” Pessimism is marked by an unwillingness to move beyond “the worst,” something only partially attributable to a lack in motivation. In pessimism “the worst” is the ground that gives way beneath every existent—things could be worse, and , things could be better. “The worst” invariably implies a value judgment, one made based on scant evidence and little experience; in this way, pessimism’s greatest nemesis is its moral orientation. Pessimism’s propositions have all the gravitas of a bad joke. Perhaps this is why the true optimists are the most severe pessimists—they are optimists that have run out of options. They are almost ecstatically inundated by the worst. Such an optimism is the only possible outcome of a prolonged period of suffering, physical or metaphysical, intellectual or spiritual. But does this not also describe all the trials and tribulations of each day—in short, of “life?” It seems that sooner or later we are all doomed to become optimists of this sort (the most depressing of thoughts...) ~*~ Song of Doom. Rather than serving as a cause for despair, gloom and doom are the forms of consolation for any pessimist philosophy. Neither quite affects nor quite concepts, gloom and doom transform pessimism into a mortification of philosophy. Doom is not just the sense that all things will turn out badly, but that all things inevitably come to an end, irrespective of whether or not they really do come to an end. What emerges from doom is a sense of the unhuman as an attractor, a horizon towards which the human is fatally drawn. Doom is humanity given over to unhumanity in an act of crystalline self-abnegation. Gloom is not simply the anxiety that precedes doom. Gloom is literally atmospheric, climate as much as impression, and if people are also gloomy, this is simply the by-product of an anodyne atmosphere that only incidentally involves human beings. Gloom is more climatological than psychological, the stuff of dim, hazy, overcast skies, of ruins and overgrown tombs, of a misty, lethargic fog that moves with the same languorousness as our own crouched and sullen listening to a disinterested world. In a sense, gloom is the counterpoint to doom—what futility is to the former, fatality is to the latter. Doom is marked by temporality—all things precariously drawn to their end—whereas gloom is the austerity of stillness, all things sad, static, and suspended, a meandering smoke hovering over cold lichen stones and damp fir trees. If doom is the terror of temporality and death, then gloom is the horror of a hovering stasis that is life. At times I like to imagine that this realization alone is the thread that connects the charnel ground Aghori and the graveyard poets. ~*~ Song of Spite. There is an intolerance in pessimism that knows no bounds. In pessimism spite begins by fixing on a particular object of spite—someone one hardly knows, or someone one knows too well; a spite for this person or a spite for all of humanity; a spectacular or a banal spite; a spite for a noisy neighbor, a yapping dog, a battalion of strollers, the meandering idiot walking in front of you on their smart phone, large loud celebrations, traumatic injustices anywhere in the world regurgitated as media blitz, spite for the self-absorbed and overly performative people talking way too loud at the table next to you, technical difficulties and troubleshooting, the reduction of everything to branding, spite of the refusal to admit one’s own errors, of self-help books, of people who know absolutely everything and make sure to tell you, of all people, all living beings, all things, the world, the spiteful planet, the inanity of existence... Spite is the motor of pessimism because it is so egalitarian, so expansive, it runs amok, stumbling across intuitions that can only half-heartedly be called philosophical. Spite lacks the confidence and the clarity of hatred, but it also lacks the almost cordial judgment of dislike. For the pessimist, the smallest detail can be an indication of a metaphysical futility so vast and funereal that it eclipses pessimism itself—a spite that pessimism carefully places beyond the horizon of intelligibility, like the experience of dusk, or like the phrase, “it is raining jewels and daggers.” ~*~ Song of Sleep. A paraphrase of Schopenhauer: what death is for the organism, sleep is for the individual. Pessimists sleep not because they are depressed, but because for them sleep is a form of ascetic practice. Sleep is the askesis of pessimism. If, while sleeping, we have a bad dream, we abruptly wake up, and suddenly the horrors of the night vanish. There is no reason to think that the same does not happen with the bad dream we call “life.” ~*~ Song of Sorrow. Nietzsche, commenting on pessimism, once castigated Schopenhauer for taking things too lightly. He writes: ...Schopenhauer, though a pessimist, really —played the flute. Every day, after dinner: one should read his biography on that. And incidentally: a pessimist, one who denies God and the world but comes to a stop before morality—who affirms morality and plays the flute... what? Is that really—a pessimist? We know that Schopenhauer did possess a collection of instruments, and we also know that Nietzsche himself composed music. There is no reason to think that either of them would ever banish music from the Republic of philosophy. But Nietzsche’s jibes at Schopenhauer are as much about music as they are about pessimism. For the pessimist who says no to everything and yet finds comfort in music, the no-saying of pessimism can only be a weak way of saying yes—the weightiest statement undercut by the flightiest of replies. The least that Schopenhauer could’ve done is to play the bass. I’m not a big fan of the flute, or, for that matter, wind instruments generally. But what Nietzsche forgets is the role that the flute has historically played in Greek tragedy. In tragedy, the flute ( aulos ) is not an instrument of levity and joy, but of solitude and sorrow. The Greek aulos not only expresses the grief of tragic loss, but it does so in a way that renders weeping and singing inseparable from each other. The classicist Nicole Loraux calls this the mourning voice . Set apart from the more official civic rituals of funerary mourning, the mourning voice of Greek tragedy constantly threatens to dissolve song into wailing, music into moaning, and the voice into a primordial, disarticulate anti-music. The mourning voice delineates all the forms of suffering—tears, weeping, sobbing, wailing, moaning, and the convulsions of thought reduced to an elemental unintelligibility. In the collapsed space between the voice that speaks and the voice that sings, pessimism discovers its mourning voice. Pessimism: the failure of sound and sense, the disarticulation of phone and logos . Have we rescued Schopenhauer from Nietzsche? Probably not. Perhaps Schopenhauer played the flute to remind himself of the real function of the mourning voice—sorrow, sighs, and moaning rendered indistinguishable from music, the crumbling of the human into the unhuman. Failure par excellence of pessimism. ~*~ Song of Nothing. In Buddhist thought, the First Noble Truth of existence is encapsulated in the Pali term dukkha , conventionally translated as “suffering,” “sorrow,” or “misery.” The Buddhist teachings are clear, however, that this is an objective claim, and not simply one point of view among others. Existence is suffering and sorrow—and yet this is not, the teachings tell us, a pessimistic attitude. It is likely that Schopenhauer, reading the Buddhist texts available to him, recognized some filiation with the concept of dukkha . But dukkha is a multi-faceted term. There is, certainly, dukkha in the usual sense of the suffering, strife, and loss associated with living a life. But this is, in turn, dependent on the finitude and temporality of dukkha , existence as determined by impermanence and imperfection. And this ultimately points to the way in which both suffering and finitude are grounded by the paradoxical groundlessness of dukkha as a metaphysical principle—the insubstantiality and the emptiness of all that is. Beyond what is worse to me, beyond a world ordered for the worst, there is the emptiness of dukkha as an impersonal suffering... the tears of the cosmos. In this context, it is easy to see how Schopenhauer’s pessimism attempts to compress all the aspects of dukkha into a nothingness at the core of existence, a Willlessness coursing through the Will. Though one thing for certain is that with Schopenhauer we do not find the “ever-smiling” countenance of Buddhism—or do we? The texts of the Pali Canon also contain lists of the different types of happiness—including the happiness of renunciation and the strange happiness of detachment. But Buddhism considers even the different types of happiness as part of dukkha , in this final sense of nothingness or emptiness. Perhaps Schopenhauer understood Buddhism better than he is usually given credit for. Thus the experiment of Schopenhauer’s philosophy—the point at which a Western pessimus and an Eastern dukkha overlap or exchange glances. Empty sorrow, a lyricism of indifference. The result is a strange, and ultimately untenable, nocturnal form of Buddhism. ~*~ Cioran once called music a “physics of tears.” If this is true, then perhaps metaphysics is its commentary. Or its apology. ~*~ Pessimism would be more mystical were it not for its defeatism. Mysticism is much too proactive for the pessimist, and pessimism too impassive even for the mystic. At the same time, there is something enviable about mysticism—despite its sufferings. There is a sense in which pessimists are really failed mystics. ~*~ You, the Night, and the Music. In a suggestive passage, Schopenhauer once noted that, “music is the melody to which the world is the text." Given Schopenhauer’s view on life—that life is suffering, that human life is absurd, that the nothingness before my birth is equal to the nothingness after my death—given all this, one wonders what kind of music Schopenhauer had in mind when he described music as the melody to which the world is text—was it opera, a Requiem Mass, a madrigal, or perhaps a drinking song? Or something like Eine kleine Nachtmusik , a little night music for the twilight of thought, a sullen nocturne for the night-side of logic, an era of sad wings sung by a solitary banshee. Perhaps the music Schopenhauer had in mind is music eliminated to non-music. A whisper would suffice. Perhaps a sigh of fatigue or resignation, perhaps a moan of despair or sorrow. Perhaps a sound just articulate enough that it could be heard to dissipate. ~*~ Teach me to laugh through tears. ~*~ Pessimism always falls short of being philosophical. My back aches, my knees hurt, I couldn’t sleep last night, I’m stressed-out, and I think I’m finally coming down with something. Pessimism abjures all pretenses towards system—towards the purity of analysis and the dignity of critique. We didn’t really think we could figure it out, did we? It was just passing time, taking a piss, something to do, a bold gesture put forth in all its fragility, according to rules that we have agreed to forget that we made up in the first place. Every thought marked by a shadowy incomprehension that precedes it, and a futility that undermines it. That pessimism speaks, in whatever voice, is the singing testimony to this futility and this incomprehension—take a chance and step outside, lose some sleep and say you tried... ~*~ Is there a music of pessimism? And would such a music be audible? ~*~ The impact of music on a person compels them to put their experience into words. When this fails, the result is a faltering of thought and language that is itself a kind of music. Cioran writes: “Music is everything. God himself is nothing more than an acoustic hallucination.” ~*~ If a thinker like Schopenhauer has any redeeming qualities, it is that he identified the great lie of Western culture—the preference for existence over non-existence. As he notes: “If we knocked on the graves and asked the dead whether they would like to rise again, they would shake their heads.” In Western cultures it is commonly accepted that one celebrates birth and mourns death. But there must be a mistake here. Wouldn’t it make more sense to mourn birth and celebrate death? Strange though, because the mourning of birth would, presumably, last the entirety of that person’s life, so that mourning and living would the be same thing. ~*~ To the musical idea of the harmony of the universe corresponds the philosophical principle of sufficient reason. Like the music of mourning, pessimism gives voice to the inevitable breakdown of word and song. In this way, music is the overtone of thought. ~*~ The Patron Saints of Pessimism. The patron saints of pessimism watch over suffering. Laconic and sullen, the patron saints of pessimism never seem to do a good job at protecting, interceding, or advocating for those who suffer. Perhaps they need us more than we need them. Lest we forget, there do exist patron saints of philosophy, but their stories are not happy ones. There is, for instance, the fourth century Saint Catherine of Alexandria, or Catherine of the Wheel, named after the torture device used on her. A precocious fourteen year old scholar, Catherine was subject to continual persecution. After all forms of torture failed—including the “breaking wheel”—the emperor finally settled for her decapitation, a violent yet appropriate reminder of the protector of philosophers. There are also patron saints of music and musicians, but theirs too are sad stories. In the second century, Saint Cecilia was also subject to persecution and torture. As she knelt to receive the blade that would separate her head from her body, she ardently sang a song to God. It took three attempts before she was fully decapitated, all the while she continued, perhaps miraculously, to sing. Does pessimism not deserve its own patron saints, even if they are unworthy of martyrdom? But in our search, even the most ardent nay-sayers frequently lapse into brief moments of enthusiasm—Pascal’s love of solitude, Leopardi’s love of poetry, Schopenhauer’s love of music, Nietzsche’s love of Schopenhauer, and so on. Should one then focus on individual works of pessimism? We could include Kierkegaard’s trilogy of horror— Sickness Unto Death , The Concept of Dread , and Fear and Trembling —but all these are undermined by their fabricated and unreliable authors. Besides, how can one separate the pessimist from the optimist in works like Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life , Shestov’s Postetas Clavium , or Edgar Saltus’ under-read The Philosophy of Disenchantment ? Even in cases where the entire corpus of an author is pessimistic, the project always seems incomplete—witness Cioran’s trajectory, from his first book, On the Heights of Despair , to the last unpublished notebooks of acrid and taut aphorisms. And this is to say nothing of literary pessimism, from Goethe’s sorrowful Werther, to Dostoevsky’s underground man, to Pessoa’s disquiet scribbler; Baudelaire’s spleen and ennui, the mystical Satanism of Huysmans and Strindberg, the hauntologies of Mário de Sá-Carniero, Izumi Kyoka, H.P. Lovecraft, grumpy old Beckett... even the great pessimist comedians. All that remains are singular, perhaps anomalous statements of pessimism, a litany of quotes and citations crammed into fortune cookies. Patron saints are traditionally named after a locale, either a place of birth or of a mystical experience. Perhaps the better approach is to focus on the places where pessimists were forced to live out their pessimism—Schopenhauer facing an empty Berlin lecture hall, Nietzsche mute and convalescent at the home of his sister, Wittgenstein the relinquished professor and solitary gardener, Cioran grappling with Alzheimer’s in his tiny writing alcove in the Latin Quarter. ~*~ There’s a ghost that grows inside of me, damaged in the making, and there’s a hunt sprung from necessity, elliptical and drowned. Where the moving quiet of our insomnia offers up each thought, there’s a luminous field of grey inertia, and obsidian dreams burnt all the way down. ~*~ If pessimism has any pedagogical value, it is that the failure of pessimism as a philosophy is inextricably tied to the failure of pessimism as voice. I read the following, from Shestov’s The Apotheosis of Groundlessness : When a person is young he writes because it seems to him he has discovered a new almighty truth which he must make haste to impart to forlorn humankind. Later, becoming more modest, he begins to doubt his truths: and then he tries to convince himself. A few more years go by, and he knows he was mistaken all round, so there is no need to convince himself. Nevertheless he continues to write, because he is not fit for any other work, and to be accounted a superfluous person is so horrible. (shrink)
The first part of this comment presents the biography of Henryk Elzenberg whose creative life is shared between four centers of intellectual life in Poland: Cracow, Warsaw, Vilnius and Toruń.The second part of this article depicts the creative profile of H. Elzenberg: a philosopher forming an axiological vision of world and man, directing attention towards a general theory of value; where he placed the foundation for his ethics, esthetics and the philosophy of man.
Ceea ce ne uneşte: istorii, biografii, idei. Sorin Antohi în dialog cu Moshe Idel (Those things that bind us: histories, biographies, ideas. Sorin Antohi in dialogue with Moshe Idel) Ed. Polirom, Iaşi, 2006.
The affirmation of the will -- A tour for a trade -- A father's death : a philosopher's birth -- The university years -- The better consciousness, causes, grounds and confrontations -- Goethe, colors, and eastern lights -- The single thought of dresden -- Failure in Berlin -- Ich bin kein Berliner -- The Frankfurt philosopher -- The dawn of fame and the end of life.