Contemporary philosophy

Collapse 4

Collapse IV (2008)

Order it here.

This looks interesting. Nice cover too. A bit arcimboldesque. I wonder who did it. This is the cover of a contemporary philosophy magazine of which this issue is dedicated to the theory of horror. Any philosophy of horror and the representation thereof (which is also the theory of the aestheticization of violence) needs to start with Aristotle, as I’ve stated before. Aristotle said on the subject:

“Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies.” —Aristotle from the Poetics.

As you may have guessed by now, I have limited first-hand knowledge on some subjects; I do not have the patience to read Aristotle. Nevertheless, in my infinite ignorance, I dare to state that I like Aristotle and dislike Plato. Plato strikes me as a bore (much like Kant does), Aristotle was a sensationalist like myself. From “my” page on aestheticization of violence, Plato comes across as the sort of moral crusader I’ve never felt any sympathy for (except that they have sometimes pointed me in the direction of worthwhile art, see the censor/censored dilemma):

Plato proposed to ban poets from his ideal republic because he feared that their aesthetic ability to construct attractive narratives about immoral behavior would corrupt young minds. Plato’s writings refer to poetry as a kind of rhetoric, whose “…influence is pervasive and often harmful.” Plato believed that poetry that was “unregulated by philosophy is a danger to soul and community.” He warned that tragic poetry can produce “a disordered psychic regime or constitution” by inducing “a dream-like, uncritical state in which we lose ourselves in …sorrow, grief, anger, [and] resentment.

Back to contemporary philosophy. From Wikpedia:

“Philosophy has re-entered popular culture through the work of authors such as Alain de Botton. This trend is reinforced by the recent increase in films with philosophical content. Some films, such as Fight Club, eXistenZ, The Matrix trilogy, Little Miss Sunshine, and Waking Life have philosophical themes underpinning their overarching plots. Other films attempt to be overtly philosophical, such as I ♥ Huckabees.”

I’ve done Fight Club, eXistenZ, The Matrix and Little Miss Sunshine and of those three I like eXistenZ best. I will want to see Waking Life and I ♥ Huckabees. Where do I start. Huckabees? It stars Huppert. And from what I’ve Youtubed of Waking, it reminded me of Scanner Darkly, with which I was not too impressed (but has lingered on afterwards). Any thoughts, dear readers?

Update 17/4: More on Collapse. Collapse has links with New Weird and Speculative realism. The cover is probably by the Chapmans (“new etchings from Jake Chapman“). Of all its contributions I am most curious about Graham Harman on the unnatural bond between Husserl and Lovecraft and Iain Hamilton Grant on Lorenz Oken‘s naturphilosophische slime-horror.

14 thoughts on “Contemporary philosophy

  1. Mike

    Waking Life is pretty much an obnoxious “stoner” approach to philosophy 101. It’s as if they invented the animation technology and thought it was “trippy” but didn’t have anything to actually *use* the technology on, so voila– a reductive introduction to philosophy that manages to endure not even an ounce of substance!

  2. Tate

    “Any philosophy of horror and the representation thereof needs to start with Aristotle.”


    I know at least two long articles in the forthcoming Collapse are on Aristotle and his twisted relationship with horror: Aristotle and the horror of decay/ontology (Thinking with Nigredo), and Aristotle and horror of theology (Nine Disputations on Theology and Horror).

  3. nikki

    i thought waking life was pretty great. i’ve graduated in philosophy, and even though that does not make me an authority whatsoever, and didn’t think it was as mike makes it come off. also, the philip k. dick article that is being referred to in the movie i appreciated. in particular the last paragraph. part of my love for the movie might be that i used to lucid dream myself. but also because it kind of lets you eavesdrop in on conversations like they would actually take place. some people slightly pompous, some socratic. i’ve read all of aristotle, mainly in my class about ‘the good life’ (eudaimonia). he is a brilliant writer and philosopher. i don’t agree with everything aristotle wrote, nor with everything plato wrote. but i would like to disagree that he comes off as a bore throughout his writing. i’ve also read his entire canon and some of the socratic dialogues are incredible as well. you’ve gotten me excited about collapse. and i’m gonna watch i | huckabees tonight. i forgot if i’ve seen it before. post on how you like the movies. merci. bedankt. thanks.

  4. nikki

    ps. you must know it is linklater that did both waking life as a scanner darkly, that was considered somewhat of a follow up, but was received with much less praise.

  5. jahsonic


    Yes, I’ve seen Scanner Darkly and I knew of the connection. Over the weekend I tried to get hold of Huckabees and Waking Life, but without success.

    Please do let us know what you found of Huckabees.

  6. pancime

    In (partial) defence of Plato:
    That happiness might be considered a fundamental element of formation of states is underlined with a look at Plato’s Republic. In Greek the title is Politeia (πολιτεία), which has a broad meaning including constitution of a state, a prominent subsidiary meaning of which is republican government. ‘Constitution’ indicates a sense of the broad political matrix of the society, such as might be meant by the English ‘constitution’ (though excluding reference to the actual type of state) and does not refer to a written constitution. ‘Constitution’ is, in fact, the most pertinent translation for Plato’s πολιτεία. The aim of a constitution for Plato (or Socrates) may be summed up in the following:
    ‘our aim in founding the State was not the disproportionate happiness of any one class, but the greatest happiness of the whole; we thought that in a state which is ordered with a view to the good of the whole we should be most likely to find justice, and in the ill-ordered State injustice: and having found them, we might then decide which of the two is the happier.
    But Plato cautions:
    We were enquiring into the nature of absolute justice and into the character of the perfectly just, and into injustice and the perfectly unjust, that we might have an ideal. We were to look at these in order that we might judge of our own happiness and unhappiness according to the standard which they exhibited and the degree in which we resembled them, but not with any view of showing that they could exist in fact.
    and thus:
    I said: ‘until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils, – nor the human race, as I believe, – and then only will this our State have a possibility of life and behold the light of day.’ Such was the thought, my dear Glaucon, which I would fain have uttered if it had not seemed to extravagant; for to be convinced that in no other State can there be happiness private or public is indeed a hard thing.’
    Plato is stating an ideal which equates with a work of art. In proposing this he states: [this is the most important part]
    Would a painter be any the worse because, after having delineated with consummate art an ideal of a perfectly beautiful man, he was unable to show that any such man could ever have existed? He would be none the worse.
    Thus, for Plato, the aim of the state is the greatest happiness for all. However the best system to obtain that objective is not necessarily achievable. Plato’s philosopher king is only possible in the abstract. It is only possible as an ideal form. Plato’s ideal aim is not dependent upon his ideal means to accomplish it – the rule of the philosopher king. Thus Jowett asks:
    ‘Was [Plato] loyal to Athenian institutions? — he can hardly be said to be the friend of democracy: but neither is he the friend of any other existing form of government; all of them he regarded as ‘states of faction’ (Laws); none attained to his ideal of a voluntary rule over voluntary subjects, which seems indeed more nearly to describe democracy than any other; and the worst of them is tyranny.’
    Plato, however, saw democracy as unstable, leading to tyranny.
    Aristotle, too, elevated happiness, seeing it as the ‘most excellent, most noble, and most pleasant thing in the world.’ It is ‘something final and self-sufficient, being the end of all things which are and may be done.’
    In Nicomachean Ethics (Ta Ethika) Aristotle equates happiness with the chief good of society. In Politics (Πολιτικά) Aristotle has it that ‘the end then for which a city is established is, that the inhabitants of it may live happy.’ Again, the best practical solution is democracy ‘ Russell summarizes Aristotle:
    Monarchy is better than aristocracy, aristocracy is better than polity. But the corruption of the best is worst; therefore tyranny is worse than oligarchy, and oligarchy than democracy. In this way Aristotle arrives at a qualified defence of democracy; for most actual governments are bad, and therefore, among actual governments, democracies tend to be best.
    For Aristotle and Plato virtue was the means to happiness, and happiness was the highest good. However, Russell notes that Christianity and Stoicism place virtue above happiness, and virtue is as possible for the slave as for the master. This tussle between virtue and happiness as the cornerstone of human social organisation has been one of the enduring themes of western ethical and political philosophy.
    Post Bentham, we are now in an era which privileges happiness over virtue. And, I, at least, like it that way.

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  8. jahsonic


    Thanks, you understand my appreciation of “secondary sources.”


    thanks too, for alerting me to the virtue/happiness dichotomy.


  9. lichanos

    …you understand my appreciation of “secondary sources.”


    I’ve tried commenting several times on your blog recently, and they don’t appear. At first, I thought I’d been blackballed, but then one did appear. Are you having technical problems? It’s annoying to ponder for hours over le mot juste, type it in, only to have it disappear into nothingness…

  10. jahsonic

    …you understand my appreciation of “secondary sources.”

    what I meant by that is that I’d rather read Plato through a good secondary source (meaning Popper) that Plato himself.

    I am really sorry about the tech problems. Did you include external links? These are sometimes regarded as spam (but I’ve checked the spam queue and there’s nothing there).

    The only advice I can give when typing long comments is to copy them before you type senc (I always do), than you only have to press paste when re-posting.

    Sorry again.

  11. jahsonic


    Saw Waking Life yesterday, it deals exclusively with philosophy in the first 30 minutes, afterwards I fell asleep. The film uses the same technique as A Scanner Darkly, but is a much more likable film, although almost just as dizzying. The philosophical content was a little too overt for me, I rather get my philosophy subcutaneously, as in films such as Haneke’s Caché (with its brilliant reflection on truth and lies).

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