Tag Archives: philosophy

“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.

On Hegel

Portrait of Hegel by Jakob Schlesinger [1]

Sometimes it seems I have no opinion of my own. And I’m not even sure if I should mind.

Take the case of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 – 1831).

Last week I met with a philosophy professor who said that Hegel marks the dividing line between contemporary philosophy and modern philosophy and in the book I’m currently reading, Short History of the Shadow, Hegel’s Science of Logic is mentioned in the introduction.

So I’m wondering. What is my position vis-à-vis Hegel? Do I have a personal connection with him? I first check Jahsonic.com where, in 2006, I cited Hegel[2] with regards to the other, from a Simone de Beauvoir book.

Speaking of de Beauvoir, have you seen her gorgeous nude photo of Simone de Beauvoir?

I digress.

Next I try Google, I search for the string “Nietzsche and Hegel,”[3] because Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) is in my canon and I’d like to know what he thought of Hegel.

Bingo!

I find French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, also in my canon, who in Nietzsche and Philosophy says:

“There is no possible compromise between Hegel and Nietzsche” […]

Since I like both Nietzsche and Deleuze, must I conclude that I do not like Hegel? Or will have a hard time liking him?

Can I form my opinion based on the opinion of another person?

should do no such thing of course.

But I could if I wanted to.

And I can trust Nietzsche when he says Plato is boring, can’t I?

I finally hold a copy of ‘Short History of the Shadow’ in my hands

Photo (I accidentally mirrored it) of three books by Victor Stoichita. It shows (from left to right) The Pygmalion EffectVisionary Experience in the Golden Age of Spanish Art and Short History of the Shadow.

The photo was taken against the backdrop of the University of Antwerp library at the Prinsstraat.

I was surprised to find these books in the collection of the Ruusbroec Institute of all places. Not so surprising it would appear the following day after doing my homework, as on February 6th 2014 Stoichita gave a lecture at the UCSIA, on the visionary experience in art. John of Ruysbroeck (after which the Ruusbroec Institute was named) was a Flemish mystic and Stoichita has written on the visionary experience.

A pity I missed that lecture.

Victor Stoichita’s oeuvre very obliquely reminds me of David Toop‘s and especially his last work Sinister Resonance: The Mediumship of the Listener (which I have still to read, or better said, “hold in my hands”, as I’ve researched it already online), in particular the chapter Art of silence. As I’ve noted in a previous post[1], in that book Toop references Stoichita. Three times[2], to be exact, I just checked.

I started reading Short History of the Shadow and in the introduction I found Plato’s cavePliny’s shadow and Hegel on lightness and darkness.

Finding Nemo

This page May 29, 2014 is part of the comics series. Illustration: Little Nemo sitting upright in bed

Illustration: Little Nemo sitting upright in bed

When we were children, there was a joke about three boys sitting in a boat. One was called biteme, another one pinchme and a third hitme.

Hitme fell out of the boat. Who remained in the boat?

You can guess what happened next.

In Rabelais and His WorldBakhtin describes a somewhat similar word game.

A 13th century medieval monk searched all biblical and patristic texts for sentences containing the word nemo, Latin for nobody.

He then interpreted phrases such as “nemo deum vidit” (“Nobody has seen God”), along with many other references to nobody, to mean that Nemo referred to a proper noun and thus was a certain person and that the phrase actually meant “Saint Nobody has seen God”.

That text, known as the “History of Nemo“, is now lost, but its story is not and it is easy to see why it so fascinated medieval everyman.

Bakhtin remarks: “everything impossible, inadmissible, inaccessible is, on the contrary, permitted for Nemo. Thanks to this transposition, Nemo acquires the majestic aspect of a being almost equal to God, endowed with unique, exceptional powers, knowledge (he knows that which no one else knows), and extraordinary freedom (he is allowed that which nobody is permitted.)”

I am reminded of another childhood memory. I have younger brother who is called Joost. There is a Dutch expression which says “Joost mag het weten,” (literally “Joost is allowed to know [it]”) meaning “heaven knows” or “God knows” (nobody knows).

When we were children, many people used to say jokingly to my brother “Joost mag het weten.”

One day — apparently fearing that some big secret was being kept from me — I asked my mother. “Mother, when am I allowed to know it?”

PS 1. If you like these word games, I recently posted on the medieval nonsense word blituri[1].

PS 2. Nobody is also a subcategory of the void and a sister category of nothing. I recently mentioned the void [2].