Tag Archives: philosophy

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

“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.

Coke? The perfect commodity.

Coke? The perfect commodity. Why?

In The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology documentary Slavoj Žižek explains.

The documentary is now online in full. (update: the documentary was taken offline a few days after I had posted it.)

Slavoj Žižek is unique in using films to prove philosophical points, see film and philosophy.

The full text of the The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology is here[1].

 

“The road up and the road down are the same thing”

Heraclitus by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Via research into the canonical Giordano Bruno I stumbled upon the concept of the unity of opposites, which in turn led me to Heraclitus who is famous for two dicta: one involving a river: “You cannot step in the same river twice” and one involving a road, “The road up and the road down are the same thing.”

I’ve put the two dicta above in my category Dicta at http://artandpopularculture.com/Dicta. I currently have 330 dicta. The first 330 of what will become an unranked top 1000.

I spent some time trying to find out why Heraclitus is often depicted with a globe. Unsuccessfully. Anyone?

Michel Houellebecq in ‘Near Death Experience’

Near Death Experience is a 2014 French film directed, produced and written by Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern coming to local screens from September onwards.

The film stars French writer Michel Houellebecq as Paul, a burn-out man who escapes to the mountains on his racing bike with the plan to commit suicide.

Some of Houellebecq’s work has already been filmed.

Several years ago I saw the decidedly philosophical film Extension du domaine de la lutte (also known as Whatever) which is now on YouTube in its entirety.

The “our hero” of Whatever reminds me of Paul.

Houellebecq’s debut as protagonist has been acclaimed.

He is part of my canon.

We cannot know the thing in itself, because the thing is …

[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

During my holidays I read La vie sexuelle d’Emmanuel Kant (1999) by Jean-Baptiste Botul (above), a small literary mystification on the non-existent (or undocumented) sex life of Immanuel Kant, which I’d bought in a ‘book shop/coffeeshop’ in a village, not far from where we were staying in Le Bar-sur-Loup.

I have a great interest in sex and ergo in the personal lives of authors and philosophers, about which I’ve written before[1].

Coming back home I did quite some research into this little book and Kant’s personal life.

La vie sexuelle d’Emmanuel Kant was written by French ‘Le Canard enchaîné’ journalist Frédéric Pagès.

The information on Kant’s personal life was probably taken from The Last Days of Immanuel Kant (1827) by Thomas de Quincey, which in its turn is based on Immanuel Kant in seinen letzten Lebensjahren by Kant biographer Wasianski.

Frédéric Pagès must have been both flattered and amused when in 2010, not realizing that the work was a hoax, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, in his work De la guerre en philosophie, cites very seriously from this work and builds its argumentation around it.

It is incredible that Lévy did not notice the hoax when he read:

“La Chose, c’est le Sexe. C’est évident. Nous ne pouvons pas connaître la Chose en soi, nous avertit Kant : nous n’en sommes pas capables, mais surtout nous n’y sommes pas autorisés.”
“The Thing is the sex (vulva). That speaks for itself. We cannot know the thing in itself Kant warns us: we are incapable of knowing it, but moreover we are not allowed to.”

Ha ha.

See also asexualityhoaxvita sexualisKant and ErosMartin Lampe, historical examples of bachelors (men who never married).

Gaston Bachelard @130

Gaston Bachelard by Jean Philippe Pierron (2012) with illustrations by Yann Kebbi
[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Happy birthday Gaston.

Gaston was a philosopher so sui generis that he is indefinable.

He would have turned 130 today had eternal life been possible.

His intellectual heir is Peter Sloterdijk.

Update: I accidentally posted this several days early.