Monthly Archives: May 2015

Kant in film, and, the sexual lives of philosophers

Prompted by my previous post on Nietzsche in film, here is an interesting film on the life of Immanuel Kant, more particularly on his last days.

The film, Les Derniers Jours d’Emmanuel Kant is based on The Last Days of Immanuel Kant by English writer Thomas De Quincey.

In the film, Kant approaches the end of his life, which is entirely punctuated by habits acquired over many years. The leaving of his butler Martin Lampe will upset this well planned routine.

In the scene above, Kant reads a letter asking for help. It is a letter by Maria von Herbert, sent in August 1791.

The letter was also mentioned in La vie sexuelle d’Emmanuel Kant, about which I have written here.

Like so many philosophers, Kant was not sexually active. For all we know, Immanuel Kant died a virgin. I find this very interesting.

So did Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Genealogy of Morals he says on married philosophers:

“the philosopher shudders mortally at marriage, together with all that could persuade him to it—marriage as a fatal hindrance on the way to the optimum. Up to the present what great philosophers have been married? Heracleitus, Plato,Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, Schopenhauer—they were not married, and, further, one cannot imagine them as married. A married philosopher belongs to comedy, that is my rule; as for that exception of a Socrates—the malicious Socrates married himself [to Xanthippe], it seems, ironice, just to prove this very rule.”

So did Jacques Derrida.

Asked what would he like to see in a documentary on a major philosopher, such as Hegel or Heidegger, Derrida replies he would want them to speak of their sexuality and ‘the part that love plays in their life’. He criticizes the dissimulation of such philosophers concerning their sex lives – ‘why have they erased their private life from their work?’

Nietzsche in film

I’ve taken an interest in biopics.

Researching Nietzsche I stumbled upon the film Beyond Good and Evil (1977) by Liliana Cavani, which follows the intense relationship between Friedrich Nietzsche, Lou Salome and Paul Rée.

The film features the scene in which Lou Salomé reins Nietzsche and Rée in front of her cart[1] (above) as well as the horse scene in Turin [2](Nietzsche saw a horse being flogged, embraced it and collapsed and lived ten more years in a vegetative state).

Another interesting film appears to be Days of Nietzsche in Turin[3], a 2001 Brazilian film.

Referring to the horse incident, the film The Turin Horse[4] asks “what happened to the horse?”.

In director Béla Tarr’s introductory words:

“In Turin on 3rd January, 1889, Friedrich Nietzsche steps out of the doorway of number six, Via Carlo Alberto. Not far from him, the driver of a hansom cab is having trouble with a stubborn horse. Despite all his urging, the horse refuses to move, whereupon the driver loses his patience and takes his whip to it. Nietzsche comes up to the throng and puts an end to the brutal scene, throwing his arms around the horse’s neck, sobbing. His landlord takes him home, he lies motionless and silent for two days on a divan until he mutters the obligatory last words, ‘Mutter, ich bin dumm!’ [‘Mother, I am stupid!’ in German] and lives for another ten years, silent and demented, cared for by his mother and sisters. We do not know what happened to the horse.”

See Friedrich_Nietzsche#Depictions

RIP Marcus Belgrave (1936 – 2015)

Marcus Belgrave (1936 – 2015) was a jazz trumpet player from Detroit, born in Chester, Pennsylvania. He recorded with a variety of famous musicians, bandleaders, and record labels since the 1950s.

His “space jazz” composition “Space Odyssey”, originally released on Gemini II (1974) was included on the anthology Universal Sounds of America (1995) and was reprised on The Detroit Experiment (2003, above).

“Space Odyssey” is on the Caribou 1000 but I have not included it on the Jahsonic 1000.

“I would prefer not to”

Bartleby the Scrivener” (1853) is a short story by Herman Melville famous for its dictum “I would prefer not to,” uttered by the reluctant clerk Bartleby.

Many existentialists and absurdists have regarded the story as a prescient exploration and embodiment of their concerns.

French philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote an essay on the text titled “Bartleby, or, the Formula” (1989).

Above is the Encyclopædia Britannica film adaptation of 1969.

RIP Peter Gay (1923 – 2015)

RIP Peter Gay, 91, American psychohistorian.

Peter Gay (June 20, 1923 – May 12, 2015) is the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, a multi-volume award winner; Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (1968), a bestseller; and the widely translated Freud: A Life for Our Time (1988).

Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider (1968) – Peter Gay [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (1995) – Peter Gay [] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The most misogynist joke ever

I finished reading The Possibility of an Island a week ago.

Some recollections:

There is a great and almost childish emphasis on the bliss of the insertion of the phallus in the vulva.

The most misogynist joke ever is in the novel:

“How do we call the fat around the vagina? Woman.”

Another dictum:

“The sexual life of man can be broken down into two phases: the first when he prematurely ejaculates, and the second when he can no longer manage to get a hard-on.”

Above: a clip from the film based on the novel, directed by Houellebecq himself. It show the bikini contest at the beginning of the film. The film has the meager IMDb score of 3.5. Nevertheless I’d very much like to see it.

‘The Possibility of an Island’ is world literature classic #110

[] [FR] [DE] [UK]

The Possibility of an Island is very much a philosophical novel, as is most of Michel Houellebecq‘s fiction. In this particular novel Houellebecq juxtaposes Plato’s soulmate theory to Saint Paul‘s ‘one flesh’ remark in the Epistle to the Ephesians, remarking that this ‘love craving’, this need for emotional symbiosis is the origin of much unhappiness.

In the words of Houellebecq:

“It was [Plato’s Symposium] that intoxicated Western mankind, mankind as a whole, which has inspired in it disgust at its condition of a rational animal, which had engendered in it a dream that it had taken two millennia to try and rid itself of, without completely succeeding.”

Below is Plato’s soulmate theory in which Zeus split the four legged and four armed primeval humans in two parts, giving birth to creatures who are forever searching for the other half, the soul mate, to reunite their flesh:

“[Primeval man had] … four hands and four feet, eight in all … they made an attack upon the gods … Zeus discovered a way [to punish them] … I will cut them in two … after the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half … longing to grow into one … when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them … and clung to that … so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man … each of us … is always looking for his other half. Suppose Hephaestus … [was] to come to [a] pair who are lying side by side and to say to them … ‘do you desire to be wholly one … I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together, so that being two you shall become one … if you were a single man?’ … there is not a man … who when he heard the proposal would deny … that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need … and the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love.” —Plato’s Symposium

And this is Saint Paul’s remark in the Epistle to the Ephesians:

“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

This is not the new flesh but the old flesh.