It Cant Be Known


“There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don’t even listen, just wait. Don’t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmaksed, it can’t do otherwise, in raptures it will writhe before you.”
Franz Kafka

“…we must acknowledge at the outset that our concept of ‘social identity’ is a product of that culture (American political culture) and that only within that culture can an author’s racial, ethnic, or gender identity found a politics of cultural curricular revision.”
John Guillary

Media today is the single most powerful force in shaping our sense of identity, and of socio-political reality. Mass culture. In the University, the structural determinant goes back to the formation of the canon. As Guillary points out, today the literary curriculum is not the site of cultural production (or consumption), per se, but critique of the canon has been treated like the Academy Awards.

The problem of canon critique has always been (in the U.S. anyway) the perception of a sort of seperated field, isolated from the ideology of the ruling class, politically. Notwithstanding, the infusing of progressive politics doesn’t do much except create new canons of exclusion. And the bigger problem of course is the nature of the institution AS institution. In other words, once you are speaking from within the corridors of the University, you are practicing a sort of exlusionary principle of study.
One can open up the syllabus to new voices, but those voices, themselves, will likely remain without access to the cultural capital produced at the institution. The non-canonical works are treated as somehow subversive, or transgressive. The problem has always been the practice of canon formation, not the artwork itself. If Bill Bennet wants a return to “values of western civilization” by making sure students read Shakepeare and Jane Austin, he is of course not really talking about the works of Shakespeare exactly, but about a canon of hegemonic power.

“translate the (false) philosophical problem of ‘aesthetic value’ into the sociological problem of ‘cultural capital'”
John Guillary



As a side bar, if one is an independent writer and researcher, one is not allowed access even now to most data banks. *Project Muse* is a perfect example.

“Authorized users are defined as faculty, staff, students, alumni and library patrons of the subscribing institution. Distance learners, alumni, and other off-campus affiliates may access Project MUSE if their Internet access is through the campus network. Subscribing institutions are expected to enable access only to those people who are authorized users of the campus network.”

This rather perfectly defines the exlusionary principles of the University. What possible reason can there be for this rule? The institution teeters between its role as an apparatus of control, and at a certain level of economic exclusivity, as an elite club for those fit to rule. State colleges, junior colleges, and local schools of higher education, are simply training centers for obedience and docility. The working class are provided with what is little more than rote research skills. Elite private universities retain a sort of academic autonomy, in principle anyway, but increasingly the pop-fan anti-elitism is actually just a deeper layer of elitism. Looking at the (admittedly small sample) of course reading lists above, personally I’d be quite interested in taking Auden’s class. And I don’t even like Auden very much. So, what is that about? The ironic is the answer. Jackie Collins is an ironic appreciation.

I think, on average, I hear the complaint “I just have been so rushed, or I just have no time now, or etc” about five to ten times a week. Literally. People I know. I have no time. Half these people don’t work. Don’t have an hourly salary. Modern life is one of almost impossible minor and trivial responsiblities. And it is being transferred onto younger generations. That children somehow HAVE to be taken to soccer games, basketball games, and that dry cleaning HAS to be picked up, and that some forms for something or other just HAVE to be signed today, is the new exhaustion. It is a spiritual exhaustion. I often wonder if people just would buy ONE item for any need they have. One watch. One phone. One pair of shoes. One jacket for summer. One jacket for winter. Etc. Just one item. Now I am speaking of the white bourgeoisie. Educated, incurious, skilled but not passionetly so, and living on credit, and or inheritence.

In a sense, David Foster Wallace’s syllabus is the equivalent of a digital Google Map photo, and Auden is the equivalent of, at the least, the photographs of Minor White, say. The truth content of the artwork is being erased in most of these class descriptions. It is also, true, that all institutional learning is going to tend to reflect the values of a hegemonic system of inequality and domination. It is still better to engage with Dante than Jackie Collins, however else you slice it.


I wanted though, to look at more specifically the idea of tragedy, specifically Greek Tragic Drama, and to see how the translations and presentation of the “classics” was an expression of the dominant ideology of the West. There is no doubt a great book yet to be written, on the politics of Oxford and Cambridge’s classics departments, and the template formed in those early translations of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides. The basis of later translations of the works of antiquity into English came from John Dryden, in the 17th century. There is something of a Cromwellian sensibility at work, coupled to the upper class misogyny and colonial thinking in the main group of Oxford and Cambridge dons coming a hundred years later. Notwithstanding….

“…two of the most important translators from the standpoint of history were women: Jane Lumley, whose sixteenth-century translations are probably the earliest in English, and Charlotte Lennox, whose interpretive translation of Pierre Brumoy’s comprehensive Le Théâtre des Grecs in the eighteenth century introduced many Greek plays into English for the first time and also suggested principles of translation for later practitioners.”
David Kutzko

Walter Benjamin, on translation:

“For what does a literary work ‘say’? What does itcommunicate? It ‘tells’ very little to those who understand it. Its essential quality is not statementor the imparting of information. Yet any translationwhich intends to perform a transmitting functioncannot transmit anything but information – hence something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.”

The meaning of Greek tragedy is not to be found in existing translations. For they are, as Benjamin said, exercises in the inessential.

“Michael Ewans repeatedsome of the premises that underpinned his Everyman
Aeschylus series.Coming from an academic background in drama, his aim is tocreate a text that is ‘accurate’ but also ‘act-able, capable of being delivered effectively by an actor on the modern stage’. The trickfor Ewans is to find an idiom that does not‘sound over-poetic to an audience of modern theatregoers who, unlike the original audi-ence, are unused to verse drama’.”

Stephe Harrop and David Wiles

Francis Alys

Francis Alys

There is so much wrong in this single short paragraph that the mind freezes up in trying to find where to start. The first place to start, however, is with the institutional backdrop. To explain this, let me step back to examine the sense of global crisis, today, and more specifically, the imperialist war machinery of the US military.

“A classical text must never be completely understandable. But those who are educated and who continue to educate themselves must always wish to learn more from it.”
Friedrich Schlegel

Today, the West, meaning primarely the United States, but to degree Europe as well, exist in virtual and often literal blood bath. A saturated morally curdled toxic emotional jacuzzi. If one were to only examine the US miltary’s bombing campaigns the last twenty years, roughly, it looks like this (per William Blum):

Iraq 1991 (Persian Gulf War)
Kuwait 1991
Somalia 1993
Bosnia 1994, 1995
Sudan 1998
Afghanistan 1998
Yugoslavia 1999
Yemen 2002
Iraq 1991-2003 (US/UK on regular no-fly-zone basis)
Iraq 2003-2011 (Second Gulf War)
Afghanistan 2001 to present
Pakistan 2007 to present
Somalia 2007-8, 2011 to present
Yemen 2009, 2011 to present
Libya 2011

County Fair, Delta CO, 1940

County Fair, Delta CO, 1940

In all of these cases, the US military was dropping bombs with depleted uranium tips. In the former Yugoslavia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, these have left a legacy of extreme birth defects, miscarriages, and immune system destruction. Birth defects so horrific that new medical categories had to be created. It is not polite to discuss this, however. Mainstream corporate media NEVER mentions it. I mean NEVER. The average American does not associate his or her citizenship, place of birth, culture, with war crimes. War crimes are committed by Arabs and Africans, and even sometimes by Europeans that are too close to Russian culture. War crimes are committed by people, if white, who use a Cyrillic alphabet.

“It is the task of the philosopher to restore, by representation, the primacy of the symbolic character of the word.”
Walter Benjamin

For Benjamin, the Tragic is an idea. It is realized in stage space. But it is not *communicated* in stage space.
There is in Benjamin’s ideas about language something that feels borrowed or inspired by the Greek dramatists. For Benjamin understood clearly the bourgeois mission to classify and catalogue and to describe. To what degree did this impulse at classification presage an enviornment so horrific and intellectually paralysing that to not have an actual *experience* of it was an act of psychic self preservation?


Frank Kermode, writing of Benjamin & translation:

“Translation is not a means of conveying information; all good translations of a particular text, taken together, constitute an attempt to reveal some hypothetical ur-language underlying that in which the original was written; every translation is in a sense a contribution to the restoration of an ideal never wholly knowable. He even says that a translation is linguistically more definitive than an original, since it can no longer be displaced by a secondary rendering; but that is a flourish, and the basic insight (founded on no more than the observation that we really always assume a text can be translated) is a Mallarméan sense that the imperfection of languages, as revealed in their plurality, implies an ideal, l’immortelle parole, to the discovery of which each translation contributes.

It follows that the translator ought not to try for a version that sounds original in his own language, but rather that he should let the original taint his version deeply. “

The Scribe Rames', New Kingdom

The Scribe Rames’, New Kingdom

Today’s institutional vulgarians, especially in theatre departments, but in literature as well, are intent on the exact opposite. The demand for making a translation “natural”, or the desire in directing Shakespeare, that characters sound *natural* is a kind of faded and tawdry intellectual backdrop to the classics. The desire that Shakespeare sound like Zadie Smith, that Sophocles sound like Avatar. The idea of tragedy is then reduced to an episode of Game of Thrones. Natural, but with a touch of british accent. ANY british accent. Meanwhile, there are growing drone bases throughout the world, and more and better weapons being developed. The United States used white phospherous at Falluja. A war crime. Yet, a character in the new series (produced by Speilberg) Under the Dome, ax ex-soldier, mentions he learned skills in Falluja. That’s all, no elaboration. Israel also used white phospherous against Lebanon.

It is reported that only 9% of Americans favor an attack on Syria. I believe that figure. But, I also know it’s meaningless, really, for those 91% against it will largely vote either Democratic or Republican next election. Benjamin, in his essay The Storyteller, said that after WW1, men returned home, from the battlefield, quieter, less expressive, less animated. Human experience had suffered a loss of value.

Today, with Google Maps, with cell phone technology, with digitalized world views in which every corner of the planet is photographed, the loss of experience has dropped even further. For those digital experiences are not the real place. They are screen images, and they resist experience. Even ocular ones. For the emphasis on “full HD” screens now is just a more intense distillation of surface. High resolution images, almost hallucinatory, and certainly not natural, are the everyday hyper-realist creation in our shirt pocket. It is as if the more a subject can point to the number of pixels, the concentration of pixels, the more experience need not be present. There is no searching of the image. No contemplation. Swipe the screen for the next image. Everything is gradually losing it’s hold on identity. The narrative is impersonal. Its Google’s narrative.

Koen Van den Broek

Koen Van den Broek

Except, its not even Google’s narrative, for there is no narrativee there. And here one can return to two ideas. One is Tragedy,. The other is what Benjamin saw in Medieval culture and art. For Benjamin sensed the acute psychological and spiritual crisis of the dissolving of antiquity, leaving a continent adrift spiritually, and in the Baroque cathedrals and paintings, all on the cusp of the Modern, Benjamin observed “The hereafter is emptied of everything which contains the slightest breath of this world,” and baroque man feels himself transported toward a “cataract,” toward “catastrophic violence.”

The catastrophic violence of the 21st century West is perhaps even more pernicious. Staring into an abyss of full HD graphic cards and high resolution pixels. Hearing the world on Altec Lansing speakers. The break of the middle ages, of a religiously ordered world, and of the narrow dogma that provided shape for daily life. If you were a serf, you worked. long and hard. But the world was also comprehsible, and the stasis almost a comfort, compared to the abuse and humiliation and shaming… and real threat of imprisonment, that the poor must deal with today. No set of stocks ever reached a half million viewers. The processions of mourners that passed, heads bowed, before the Cathedral, had the assurance of a Reaper whose work was regular as the clock in the town square. Life under a cult of technology, death is sudden, and it is extreme. People are vaporized. People are blown into literally countless parts. Or, or they just get hit by shrapnel, by a random bullet. They die in a car crash.

I have always believed that serious reading, at some point, provides a sort of psychic teflon coating, and more (probably not close to all) of hyperbranding and marketing slides off. It’s a crude sort of image, I know, but I believe it’s true. The deep reading of history, poetry, drama, and philosophy trains the mimetic faculty somehow.

And so today, into this vast cauldron of extreme violence, of a system manufacturing entertainment just utterly saturated in blood and mayhem, and living within the border of a war criminal rogue state like the U.S. today, arrives the selling of leisure as something one must extract value from, one must get one’s fair market share of “fun”. All this has neccessitated a dulling of cognition. More precisely, it has impaired these connective mental links that are needed for mimetic renarrating. The idea of Tragedy becomes a very small ceremony that has to take place hidden and restricted and almost covertly-

I do think people read differently than they did fifty years ago. I read differently than I did just twenty five years ago. I try to correct that, when I can, but clearly the internet has mediated the attention needed to even sit for a long spell and read Tolstoy. Reading today, mirrors the fragmentation of internet surfing.

“Just as a man lying sick with fever transformed all the words which he hears into the extravagant images of delirium, so it is that the spirit of the present age seizes on the manifestations of past or distant spiritual worlds, in order to take possession of them and unfeelingly incorporate them into its own self-absorbed fantasizing.”
Walter Benjamin

In a Year with 13 Moons, dr. Rainer Marie Fassbinder, 1978

In a Year with 13 Moons, dr. Rainer Marie Fassbinder, 1978

Tragedy occurs against a backdrop of social trauma. Not all such backdrops foment the tragic vision, however. There was a report this week that during the congressional hearings on the invasion of Syria, that John McCain was caught playing poker on his cell phone. He laughed about it afterward. Pretty funny, I guess. Now, oddly, this sort of leads me back to the ideas I wanted to try to attach to each other. Institutional power over thought, state violence, and the trivialization of daily life. Not just the trivialization, but the denuding of emotional life, the de-valuing of the “idea” of life. It is interesting that a culture so terrified of the corpses of its family, so obsessed with clinically elimating the experience of death, of *seeing* death first hand, can then so deepen and intensify the image of death if it’s on a screen. Education really does factor into all this. The canon, the University as the repository of the values of Imperial power, has now (since the 1940s I’d say) marketed the idea of ‘education for all’. A democratic ideal where everyone has access to a proper education. Of course that was never true, and today there is little pretense made about the basic inequality in eduacational opportunity. That ideal was never believed in because the power structure insisted on teaching as a low end profession, economically. Teachers dont even make what a dog catcher makes.

In the US, the taint or odor of brimstone and religious hysteria has never left the culture. It remains a Puritan society at its core. Punitive and harsh and stoic. The Tragic is linked to allegory; in a climate in which objects and space take on meanings outside of themselves, in which the duration of the mimesis, the narrating back to ourselves, of the personal violence, can carry the moral gravity that single human life might possess. The violence is that scream of the past that resonates and echos in our heads, and we the audience must account for our complicity in what has appeared on stage. For drama, on stage, is a form of thought.

Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

Today’s violence of the state does not just murder and assault indivuals, it is murdering and eradicating the pre-conditions for a work of Tragedy. For it is in that vaulting acute morality that the tragic resides. It is maybe what seperates barbarity from culture. The value of pain, of suffering. The cost of causing suffering.

John McCain plays internet poker, before voting to condemn children to months of terror, and perhaps death.

Today’s liberal, and as I’ve written before, a lot of the left, stage a sort of cynical anger for the purposes of debate. In a culture that has so throughly excised even the remnants of compassion, of the vulnerability of commpassion, the cynic is a savy navigator through the headwaters of domination. This makes sense also, if one thinks of Adorno’s critique of Beckett’s plays. Adorno wrote that Beckett’s work was “a history of the subject’s end”. Fifty years ago, Beckett was providing the autopsy for the death of Tragedy, and of meaning. We are living in the after subject times. Post subject. Adorno believed critical writing could “not recuperate Beckett”, and that in fact, philosophy lived in the shadow of how Beckett expressed meaninglessness.

Adorno saw bourgeois society on the wane, much as the stable world of medieval society waned throughout the Baroque. Only today, the waning is so irrational that thought cannot find a scale to comprehend it, at least not on its own terms.

Modern and post modern artworks tend to incorporate the history of art, whether as a negation, or an ironic comment, they rarely grasp the sense of the waning of rationality and the human in terms not themselves captured-in the deteriorating conditions of thought and emotion. In other words, the artwork’s conscious indicating of meaninglessness is not ever raised to social critique, let alone social critique rising to the level of asethetic form (as Adorno said of Beckett).

The tragic drama of Sophocles and Euripides, and Aeschylus, is something, probably, too far from us, to render any definitive judgements. And here I want to mention again the classics professors of Oxford and Cambridge, and the elite public school patina those translations carried. The daemonic and feverish sense of a single individual on scales, with an entire nation state’s moral
weight being balanced, is impossible for modern individuals to understand. The cheapening of pathos to bathos, to kistch, are stages on the seemingly endless spiral stripping away more and more layers of what makes us human. Individuals exist, and suffer, but ‘people’s’ perhaps do not as such anymore, or not in the sense they once did.

Jackie Collins

Jackie Collins

To read of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, and the rest of the bloated blood ticks of Wall Street, and their plans for further de-regulation of banking, the better to carve out increased profit from the Syrian attack, is to see the pointlessness of the instrumental logic of profit, of calculus and the frightening empty center of such men. The ruling class now openly shows contempt. The sense of violence can be catalalogued from the Parish Prison convicts left to drown as flood water rose in New Orleans. The assassination teams of Blackwater agents, local cops, and just random white vigilantes as they executed somewhere in the neighborhood of one to three thousand black men. The sense of violence comes in the black op sites around the world. The midnight landings, the quiet air field, and corrugated metal quonset huts, the cindar block control towers, out on some small atoll, or on a lost frigid coastline in Eastern Europe, or just along borderlands of one Islamic country or another, hot and dusty, the impatient palms of those accepting their pay off. The violence can be catalogued in SWAT teams kicking in doors for low level warrants, or the routine beatings of those brought in on misdemeanors. The violence of contamination is the worst pehaps. Poisoned lands, whose only fertility is the giving birth of cancer cells. So toxic and radioactive, still, that whole populations have given up on life. They wait to die. They dont want children, they dont want to risk the horror.

There are two things to keep in mind regarding Attic Tragedy. The first was the development of a written prose. Prior to written language the Greeks used the term *muthos* to mean formulated speech (a story, a plan, or a dialogue). *Muthos* is part of *legein*, and allowed for compound expressions such as *mutholegien*. This is from Jean Pierre Vernant, and he points out further on that the language of myth was used for communicating to a group of initiates a secret knowledge. It was not for the common crowd. What is important to note is that even Aristotle was working within a context that excluded the sacred speeches. The Greeks recognized that a written text allowed the reader time to reflect upon and analyse this text. Oral storytelling was for pleasure, and the written texts for more rigorous examination. The oral speech was an incantation, as performance, accompanied by dance, as part of something akin to magic. The written text also belonged to everyone. The text was at the center of the community, in a sense. The point here is that mimesis came out of magic and dance. It was mediated by the development of text. And from another angle by the secret knowledge of initiates.

Erwin Wurm

Erwin Wurm

Into this comes Greek drama. There are a number of theories about what evolved over the next couple centuries. For the purposes of understanding modern violence and what Tragedy might mean today, what seems significant is that a dialectical relationship was formed between those actors on stage, linked to the familiar myths of Homer and Hesiod, and the sense of community, of this same audience owning and sharing the texts of Sophocles et al.

“When tragedy takes over the mythical traditions, it uses them to pose problems to which there are no solutions.”
Jean Pierre Vernant

It is Hesiod who first declared the ‘truth’ of his stories, his narratives. They were not simply inherited stories, but the product of a singular vision belonging to the author. It is here, likely, that one can find the origin of a cultural practice that incoporated mimesis and mythic elaborations, and that was given as property of the common community (though not, of course the slaves).

The ‘mythology’ of the Greeks was disparate and contradictory. And it was this system that provided a kind of thinking. A collective debate on matters of mortality and civic morality, two fields well intertwined, as well as a personal sense of fate, or morality, of responsiblity, and of violence. Violence was sacred violence. Anything else was debated as animal level expressions of base instinct.

Vernant again:

“As early as the archaic period they recognized its (myth) value as a means of teaching, but an obscure and secret one. They considered it to have some function as truth, but this truth could not be formulated directly, and before it could be grasped had to be translated into another language for which the narrative text was only an allegorical expression.”

Aesthetics, for modern narrative, certainly for theatre and perhaps film, must find both a sense of the communal, and that allegorical expression.

What one hears again and again from theatre professors, and historians is the “playability” of a translation. I don’t actually know what they mean. You hear comments that make no attempt to excavate the hidden layers of the daemonic, of forgotten rituals and initiations. You get, as you did with that first generation of Cambridge dons, an elite Empire perspective — the Greeks were venerated, but condescended to as well. There were no works that attempted to realize the shared ceremonies of a complex mythology. Instead, this was replaced with kistch psychological explanations. Following that logic has given us the strained melodramatic bathos of most western productions based on these translations. Nothing, NOTHING of what is there in this work is worth saving, frankly. Its not Greek, its not particularly good poetry, and it is often embarrasingly camp in places. That influential school of Gilbert Murray, Francis M. Cornford, and James Frazer, however reliable the literal aspects of their translations, assumed they were writing of civilizational savagery from the heights of a civilizational superiority. Myth was pathological. All discussions of animism, and of sympathetic magic were going to lead to the perspective of advanced western logic, rationality, and ancient pre-logic. The love they bestowed on these artifacts is the same love colonial Masters gave to the native handicrafts. No amount of lip service to “the origin of Western Civilization” can disguise this.

In philosophy this can be seen in the difference between Heidegger’s approach to the Pre-Socratics, and that of almost any other thinker.

Finally, it is worth noting that Jung, or Eliade, or Kerenyi, or even Campbell, the effort is to syncronize the meaning with modern scientific construction. The collective unconscious then becomes some strange phylogenic transport mechanism for early symbols that still serve as cookie molds for “modern” man’s thought. The *psuche* of the Greeks, that deeply shared system of belief and sacrifice and ceremony, AND PERFORMANCE, cannot ever be ‘explained’ in terms satisfactory to an instrumental positivist of today.

Better work has actually been done with ancient Chinese and Tibetan texts and beliefs and practices, than with ancient Greeks.

J-T- Sheppard, Peithetairus, 1903

J-T- Sheppard, Peithetairus, 1903

Now, everyone from Jean Anouilh, to Ezra Pound, to Ben Bagley have translated these plays. Usually they translate translations. Often they translate translations of translations. There is nothing wrong with that, and in a sense Greek Tragedy as it is performed today is a short code for a certain classicism that allows for the new version to comment on the old version and make a superficial point (i.e. Neil LaBute, Luis Alfaro, etc) on contemporary culture and politics. What this is, really, is another commentary on the trivialization of art. When lack of rigour becomes something one is proud of, it is perhaps time to examine the role art is expected to play in the society.

Tragedy is saying not something else, but is saying what cannot be said any other way. It is saying the very thing it is. What that thing is, however, remains perhaps unknowable. The relationship between how is it said, and this thing it is saying, is a giant other discussion.

—A footnote on propaganda: On Ruder Finn and Hill & Knowlton. On the demonizing of Serbs, the erasure of real history, and then how it was repeated in Iraq and now again with Syria.

Las Monjas, Chichen Itza

Las Monjas, Chichen Itza


  1. I don’t know how closely this relates to what you’ve written in this post, but it may be tangentially related. In any case, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of cultural approbation or exoticism/scientific racism and how “non-western” people are seen by many Westerners, particularly Americans, as being the ‘other’. There’s no question exoticism is a racist practice, but I feel the opposite extreme is equally problematic. That is, in essence, the color blindness adopted by many on the extreme left. It’s this notion that cultural differences don’t exist or that they’re merely superficial. People like to believe Indian women wear saris merely for the amusement of tourists or that people in Turkey only perform whirling dervishes to amuse Americans and that surely “authentic” Turks and Indians have moved beyond such “folk” practices in their everyday lives. It’s the notion that “folk” practices aren’t allowed to co-exist with aspects of “modern” 21st century life, and I find it culturally intolerant on the part of many leftists. In a sense, I find both extremes to be racist and feel the truth to be somewhere in the middle. Why does praying in a mosque or performing a whirling dervish make people backwards? Why must people abandon ‘cultural’ practices to adapt to the modern world? Can they not co-exist? Is the abandonment of saris or Muslim prayer a sign of “progress”. The problem is when people objectify the other and reduce Indians to saris and curry, but to say such aspects of their culture have been maintained exclusively for the amusement of tourists feels equally intolerant even if such an attitude purports to be the exact opposite.

  2. I know this is a complex issue, since there are plenty of latte liberals, as well, who exoticize other cultures. It’s not just limited to 80-year-old retired Republicans who purchase overpriced package tours to Egypt and India. With that said, I think framing it in terms of West vs non-West is simplistic since even the French, Italians, and British are exoticized and objectified by Americans.

  3. thanks for the Koen Van den Broek introduction

  4. john steppling says:

    George…yeah, I love van den broek.

  5. Molly Klein says:

    Much o comment on again hardly know where to begin
    One – i used to hate people taking pictures all the time when travelling, but the other day when I was on the ferry to skiathos i felt if i didnt capture the beauty I was somehow letting something evaporate, irresponsibly. It has crept yup on my a few years into smartphone possession – the compulsion to record things I would have felt were preserved well enough in my experience of them. Now the ephemerality distresses me. I knwo this is partly aging – my grandfather used to take photos constantly; I understand now the reaction to time felt as fleeting in a way kids don’t> And in youth perhaps one wanted certain things to pass into obliivon – the possibility was how we retained hope of self fashioning (i know this has something todo with theatre but I can’t grasp it now, yet)

    I want to contest your affectiion for Heidy but that can wait

    on to the Greeks, translation. I have felt this stuff is so remote emotionally and psychologically and cognitively I’ve never minded that its status is simply exploited for whatever ends thespians have. But did you see this?

  6. Molly Klein says:

    This notion of ‘ordinary language’ seems actually tied to a bad modernist dogma that is the schlerosis of certain convictions of realism — theatre or dramatic arts generally as simulacrum (the ultimate is art for its own sake) instead of symbolic an allegorical (social) process

  7. Molly Klein says:

    symbolic and allegorical social and historical process, that should say

  8. Guy Zimmerman says:

    John, I’ve been meaning to respond to this fine post but was busy writing about similar terrain. Tuesday I went to see Travis Preston’s Prometheus, Bound (which I quite liked) and was working on a post about it when this post arrived. As you’ll see I end up in a similar place with respect to the not-knowing at the heart of the tragic vision:

    It’s great to read about Beckett (via Adorno) in this context, and I think you’re spot-on when it come to the ceremonial dimension of Attic tragedy. The point of Dionysian mystery cult was very much “the end of the subject,” with Dionysian dismemberment as the mythic enactment of that process. I also agree with you about the relationship to violence – that aspect of tragic drama that Rene Girard is so clear about. It always seems like such a shame to me that Girard has been marginalized in critical discourse, largely because of his insistent Catholicism. There’s gold in them there hills, and I know from the many dialogues you and I have had over the years you tend to agree.

    America is alarming me right now. The threat of violence can be felt everywhere. This morning I read a piece in Salon about the militaristic dimension of the new “Cross Training” cult…and then I watched a clip about the Fox news line up The Five with these absolutely thuggish guys – Eric Bollling and what-his-face Gutfeld. Roger Ailes is recruiting the real knuckle-draggers now, men who radiate naked aggression and are looking for any excuse to promote the use of violence against perceived enemies. I strongly suspect the real outbursts of organized aggression will come quite soon, sad to say, though who can tell what the precipitating incident(s) will be. And the whole dismal round will unfold…the empire kicking ass for a time and seeming invincible…and then the groundswell of violent rebellion from below…and meanwhile the rest of the animal kingdom will have expired and the environment will be a total disaster…this may sound gloomy, but I-we have been looking at down this road for long enough that I feel…well, I don’t quite know how to describe it…stoical, perhaps.

  9. john steppling says:

    Ok,….first @molly……

    Marcuse’ said heidegger’s real genius was in analysing classical texts. Putting all else aside. When you pick up his book on the pre socratics, its about the only place I know where there is at least (besides I guess Vernant) a sort of attempt to really get inside this sudden emergence of written speech. But…….yes, I dont know…..I agree that I find myself compulsively taking photos with my new Samsung. I hate myself for it. But….I make excuses. And Id say its rather different from the way in which almost an entire population is now constructing this social reality. Brad Evans lecture at McMaster….( is quite articulate about the ways and styles of how this reality is constructed. Militarized, financialized, and suddenly the normalization of *being at risk* is barely noticed. And war is not longer a specific war, its just war. WAR……..we are at war all the time. On TV, in movies, and in Iraq and half of africa and soon Syria, Again, its all normalized. And this does relate to self fashioning in youth. That quest for some authenticity is now shopping for style codes…..

  10. john steppling says:

    As for zoe caldwell’s Media. Ive not seen it. I can guess. I mean, this is exactly EXACTLY the problem. In a sense, you simply cannot take this plot, this story, and then attach these exaggerated emotions. I say exaggerated because in a sense the expression of acute suffering, I have a feeling, does happen in this way, or look like this. Its the problem with these texts as we’ve recieved them.


    I, as you know, admire and know travis preston. Ive also not seen this. But im sure travis is looking to do something interesting.
    He is a rare exception in theatre programs of universities.

    That said……..i think I have to write a second post on this topic. I feel it, I can feel the problem…..and i know its there, but its very very difficult to articulate. And yes, Girard is part of it. Vernant is part of it. It requires we somehow look to antiquity in new ways. And it , at least for me, makes me aware of what has happened, and IS happening to language.

    I had an odd experience the other night watching an old film *WUSA* from 1971 I think. Written by robert stone. Based on his first novel. With paul newman. Now its not a good film, but its certainly fascinating. But im really mentioning this because of one scene……..newman sits (he drinks a lot) in an apartment in New Olreans…the old New Orleans…..with two sort of hippes, smoking weekd. And its hot, and its a lazy early evening. And anthony perkins shows up…..etc. etc. But my point is, I remember those kinds of evenings. Sort of lazy and languid, hanging with smart people, and feeling no pressure to be anywhere else. And I realized I had not felt that or experienced that in twenty five years. The mechanisms of obligation….and institutional mandates and just the police …..always the police. Those evenings had no interenet, so cell phone, nothing. We all talked. And its all gone.

  11. Molly Klein says:

    re Heidegger but that’s just it – this is the origin myth of white supremacy, this fantasy of this truly creative tgought first time ever and last too for all that comes after is derivative if not other and inferior. And there’s no basis for it

    but I saw Caldwell’s Medea on B’way, and I have to say it was riveting. Not especially acccesible in the sense of any specific attempt to give her a modern psychology, as a gimmick, but it was very moving and tapped some emotions – like shame and jealousy – that do seem very nearly transhistorical, physiological>>>

  12. john steppling says:

    Well, i have to take a pass on the Caldwell because Ive not seen it. But I have to say I think the use of those translations creates a certain backdrop, and that language sort of somehow defies what was probably the meaning of Tragedy. And maybe its just impossible…..I think heidgger thought so.

    And I dont think thats what Heidy was doing in that particular book. Or in any of his stuff on early greek thinking. I dont want to go to far in defending Heidegger, but there is little question his work on the pre socratics changed the way those texts were treated. Im not going to convince you of this, but I think its clear Vernant and others drew on that book. There is interesting stuff out there now on ancient Egyptian texts, too. Its not a question of superior or inferior. It is though, a question of having lost the meaning of that work. It got translated down through the actual white supremicists at oxford and cambridge. That is certainly the problem with all of the productions of greek tragedy. It became its own small strange self generated sub phylum of theatrical language, and it followed all the standard bourgeois notions of realism and it flattered the Empire. Heidegger’s contribution is only to have NOT done that. And really, I think norman o brown, and girard sort of looked to find another way of talking about it.But i agree also, that in a sense, its unretrievable. its just too remote. And maybe its more than that, I dont know. Ancient taoist philosophy doesnt feel as distant…even though its older, much of it. Hall and Ames stuff on Confucious and taoism is a really intriguing experiment. So I think the origin of white supremacy lies in the later canonization of the Greeks via english public schools. I know there is a lot of yet untranslated german work on this, but since I dont read german, i cant comment. But what we all sort of reflexivly accept as greek tragedy is just British Empire melodrama.

  13. Guy Zimmerman says:

    Maybe I’m totally misreading this exchange, but I have to say I disagree with any notion that the Greek tragedies we have access to are somehow too remote to have an impact today. Even second rate versions deliver a jolt, and much more so fine adaptations…such as your Children of Herakles, John. It’s like that with Sappho too – Ann Carson’s recent translations struck me as pretty relate-able. Same with Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love – a pretty loose adaptation…and Racine is very different than the Greeks…but Kane showed how strong that kind of mythic foundation can be. Same thing with Soyinka’s work bringing effects out of Greek tragic drama to Yoruba myths. I don’t know what it says, but Ibsen and Chekhov (much as I admire them) begin to seem farther away than Euripides. But then, it’s not the plot or the characters in Greek drama that matters…but that awareness that is somehow inseparably linked to suffering…the voice of the subject as he or she is about to be pulled apart…this is, I think, what continues to resonate…all the rest is just exposition.

  14. john steppling says:

    Well, I think basically we disagree, but only in part. I DONT think any modern translations have any value at all. Not anne carsons, not any. What sarah kane did (and myself for that matter) is hardly adapting greek tragedy. Its more writing a commentary on all the ways we CANT adapt it.
    Now i think what Soyinka was doing was something else. See, thats the thing………….moderns borrow the “idea” of greek drama….they borrow a sensibility as they see it, and they borrow at least a part of the ritual as they see it. But I dont think it has very much at all to do with Sophocles. Or Euripides etc. And maybe my point is really about the way in which these plays have been passed down to modern audiences reflect more about their passage from the greece of their writing, than they do about the play. Even if we had gone to classics departments and learned ancient greek, we would still be accessing this work from a place that is firmly stuck in bourgeois culture, in the idea of the modern, and most importantly, stuck in the idea of character and performance we have learned over the last few hundred years. Say 3 to 4 hundred.

    When i see photos of any production, or when i see any production…….from Reza Abdoh to whoever…..I cannot get past the sense of western moderns ‘indicating’ their “tragic” pagan whatever. Its close to self parody even when its good. Literally, even when peter brook does it, there is an element of this. Brook minimizes it because i think he is aware of it. Blau was aware of it. The closest thing in theatre to greek tragedy was grotowski and Kanter for that brief window. Its NOT greek tragedy, but it clearly reveals the meaning. …it touches on what sacrifice and the tortional body can be, what twenty five years of rehearsing the same scene can do to you.

    Noh drama perhaps does too, in another way.

    When westerners do it………you cannot , simply cannot come close to shedding your modern body, your healthy chubby cheeks or trim treadmill body, or the vibrational bourgeois comfort that infects each line. So on one level its not just the translation. The translations are all useless, to my mind. Thats just me, But you can toss them all in the nearest landfill. What one is getting with the most skilled of these presentations is like a fifth generation dupe of something guessed at, and probably about 10% accurate. Thats it. I suspect we are all so starved for anything to rise above the level of what broadway gives us, or even worse regional theatre (i had a report from a friend today about the current disaster that the Ashland festival is) that we want to reach out to any sign, any faint glimmer of intelligence.

    But….this is what drove Artaud around the bend…… really is. It exactly is.Maybe a sophocles performed by rabid wild dogs…….somehow or schizophrenics……..i dont know. Im doing a production of Oedipus at Colonus next summer on a hill in norway, at midnight, while its totally light…….july……and on this hill are wild goats…lots of them in fact….and they are quite noisy. I dont pretend for a second this has anything much at all to do with Sophocles. It has to do with Freud, with Artaud, with Grotowski, and with Kathkali and noh and perhaps with something I havent identified yet. And i hope i learn more of why I cant really do greek tragedy, why nobody can.

    And this raises a few questions. If these productions….zoe caldwells say…..which is no doubt very smart and skilled. No doubt. What….what is it today’s audience responds to? Molly said shame etc…..that it approached something of that. I dont doubt it did. MODERN shame. Not tragic shame. And since we as a society have no idea what ritual collective shame is, or as i wrote in the blog post, and we lack a secret knowledge of emotion, or of societal forms for declarative speech of this sort. So the presentation is an odd agreed upon ritual of “ancientness”……this is ancient greece………this is T R A G E D Y. And if we went to a decent school, most will know enough to sort of get the idea of what we suspend judgement about. Now….maybe it has value as a modern new ritual. The *ritual failing of reaching beyond our knowledge while uttering dialogue with some vague relationship to dithrambic poetry*. It reminds me of movie scores, when the protagonist walks into an arab street….you hear the western orchestra hit a vew oddly minor chords, or quarter tones or whatever….to indicate “oriental”- Its only slightly better than that. AH, tetra chords….we are in asia!! Anyway……….none of this is to impugn what travis preston just did, or what zoe caldwell did. But……….it is to raise the question of what these things are??

    I guess my position is that aristotle was totally wrong. I actually believe he was ….per his Poetics. I just think he had no secret knowledge. And then on top of that I think he is translated in this one dimensional way. (I hesitate to bring up heidegger again…..but….)…….its nothing to do with superior or more authentic. It is simply that there is now constructed this giant hundreds of year build edifice of something weirdly western and bourgois and not greatly different than Ibsen, in fact.

    I do understand why ibsen feels remote. But i feel like anne carson is just a better verson of francis cornford. And see, that group….Frazer and cornford et al……..who came up with these theories about the origin of tragedy…..gilbert murray is another…..are nonsensical. Even Ridgeway, the sharpest of that lot…..with his tomb theory………….Its not so much that he’s wrong, (he is but thats not the point here) but that when he says “tomb festival”……ive no idea what that means. None.

    So…………when you say the subject about to be pulled apart……..i guess …..but its not much to do with greek tragedy AND for me, its simply a sort of weirdly disquieting enactments of a basic western bad faith. You cant do it. Not the way it is imagined the greeks did it…..which they didnt do anyway. You cannot put on some robe, or solemn face, or ponderous speech meant to be declamatory……WHEN IN FACT, we are relating to these things from a modern psychological set of referents. People express such internally perhaps…………( i was thinking this actually as i am starting with my , ahem, adaptation)…..that everything feels unspoken in fact. Whispered at best…..because we have no public. We have no community, we have nothing to declaim to. The silence of Kanter at times, and grotowski…..I mean the virtuosity of stagecraft in travis version, or of performance in caldwell, only masks the basic invalidity of the enterprise.

    The lamentations, the chorus too………these are not anything modern audiences have a clue about. Now…countless productions have come up with countless metaphors….oh the chorus is the crowd in the street, the chorus is the army, whatever. Nobody in modern life occupies that role. Its false. To hear a chorus becomes false.

    Now i get i am in a minority on a lot of this. Its a wall ive banged my head on for a long time.

  15. john steppling says:

    and ….

    A great book is Cusine of Sacrifice………Detienne and Vernant………essays by a number of other people, too.

    It is worth reading’ Ritual as Instrumentality’, or Detienne s piece on women and violence. The blood of the tuna section…..(i know, i love these titles)……..anyway….because you begin to see what i mean about aristotle. He was reductive, and he’s been translated reductively.

    “For nearly ten centuries, guided by immutable cultic statutes, the greeks never failed to maintain relations with the divine powers through the highly ritualized killing of animal victims, whose flesh was consumed collectively, according to precise strictures”…Detienne.

    Also, joseph fontenrose’s book “Python”….a favorite of mine for years now. Fontenrose taught at berkely…..was a socialist and a steinbeck scholar too. Interesting guy. Anyway…………he again, was swimming against the current in conventional british thinking on the canon of greek dramatists. Fontenrose took particular interest in the Delphic oracle. As he said, all gods have an enemy….one that must be destroyed…over and over.

    Put all this togethter……..along with the fact that written language was comparitively new………and you see the inner terrors being addressed with drinking snake blood and acts of self purification. So I am suggesting these dialogues belong in such an other context as to make almost all modern translations useless.

    As norman o brown wrote……..”To rise from history to mystery is to experience the resurrection of the body here now, as an eternal reality…” he is writing of Boehme but also of the Biblical texts.

  16. Guy Zimmerman says:

    Well, on many levels I agree with what you’re saying. But Aristotle isn’t just wrong about tragic drama, he’s wrong in an extremely reactive way – Dionysus is mentioned I believe once in the Poetics. Dionysus, the implications of Dionysian worship and mystery cult scared the bejesus out of the philosophers, and their “love of the truth” was motivated by an anxiety reaction to the groundless becoming of the tragedians, the becoming-animal of the chorus of satyrs, the overwhelming affective engine of the tragic drama experienced collectively. Dionysus also prefigures Jesus, as is often noted. St Paul episode on the road to Damascus might as well have been scripted by Euripides. Again, anxiety reaction and an attempt to co-opt those energies. The whole explosion of Western culture, artistic, political, whatever, can be seen as a complex adaptive system from that initial explosion in Athens and tragic drama was implicated in a significant way in that explosion. Now, I’m just using the language of systems by way of analogy – but I do think our sensibilities – bourgeoise or otherwise – relate to what happened at that juncture, that threshold the way a tree relates to the seed it grew out of. Western culture is not just a particular expression of a general set of dynamics that might have been expressed differently…it’s a singularity that recreates and reiterates itself always with difference multiplying forward but also always with a “sensitivity to initial conditions” that limits and defines it. This is why even lame versions of Greek tragedies can have an uncanny and unmistakeable tone to them, as can the fragments of Pre-Socratic thinking Heidegger wrings such aching phenomenological pathos out of. We remain deeply entangled with that work. We are in some ways expressions of it. It remains alive for us even if we scarcely understand it and definitely if we are incapable of honoring it or replicating the experience of those first audiences.

    This is just a fragmentary response…and I agree with much of what you’ve written…

  17. Molly Klein says:

    Well seems to me heidegger’s theses are straightforward nazi nuttiness, and he dragoons ancient greeks (in interpretations many classicists dispute, I’m not qualified to judge the translations but the critiques seem to be very persuasive since Heidegger is so ahistorical and seems to have found ancients spouting his candy Hegel) here is it on Heraclitus;

    ‘To be sure, beings are still given. The motley mass of beings is
    more noisily and more widely given than ever before; but Being has
    deserted them. Because of this, beings are maintained in a seeming constancy ‘ Standigkeit) only when they are made into the “object”
    ‘ “Gegenstand’} of endless and ever-changing busy-ness.

    ‘When the creators have disappeared from the people, when they
    are barely tolerated as irrelevant curiosities, as ornaments, as eccen-
    trics alien to life, when authentic struggle ceases and shifts into the
    merely polemical, into the intrigues and machinations of human
    beings within the present-at-hand, then the decline has already be-
    gun. For even when an age still makes an effort just to uphold the
    inherited level and dignity of its Dasein, the level already sinks. It
    can be upheld only insofar as at all times it is creatively transcended. ‘

    If intended to mean anything, it’s gibberish, but you see it is this familiar gibberish that is Nazi woowoo.

    anyway, forget him – this stuff about ritual sacrifice is really fascinating and I wish I knew more. But what kind of relation can contemporary theatre have to this origin in rite? It seems that once you have spectacle driving out communal experience, that line is cut It may be this happened much later tan we usually suppose – the 19th century reallym and sealed by european modernism – but surely it happened. And now all engagement with that history is self conscious and meta-

  18. john steppling says:

    Well………i mean you know very well, molly, thats not not evidence of any kind. And its in fact a highly dubious non critique meant to win an argument that is laced with your unvarying agenda about those you have decreed as …..fill in blank.

    First off, no the arguments are hardly persuasive. But see, you once told me how much you liked tom stoppard. The reason you can say you like stoppard is the same reason you can call heidegger on the pre socratics gibberish. I dont think those two positions are unrelated in fact. But ok………duly noted. I only add Marcuse ‘s take on art was directly related to heidegger’s pre socratic writings…… which i do sort of set aside the rest of his ouevre.

    Yes, per rites and sacrifice…….the spectacle i think has probably done more than JUST drive it out. I wish i know or could articulate exactly what that more is. I sense it, and I feel it. I feel it when I work in theatre, I feel it when I go to theatre as part of an audience. And i agree, the 19th century signaled a profound change……..things were going on before vis a vis all this, but then this REALISM idea took hold…when you read work from the 18th century, it feels quite different. Von Kleist is different………..german romanticism is not part of realism. This white man thing built this house.of.the,real…………it really is, Im convinced, the modern white colonial brain…..began to be seen in painting from the early 19th century…..there were precursors and all…….and this is somehow why poets like Olson and bly and wright all sensed a wrong turn that arrived at Eliot. . olson was reading the mayans and bly the south american surrealists, and the spanish, and Arab poets…….and I get the sense of restiching that is attempted with that stuff. Even the beats in their way. I mean people could feel it…….issabele everhardt… Burroughs………this search for the revelation killed in modernism.

    I mean this week all I could see around me as I read the news was the robotic liberal fascists wagging their tails….this indifference to death…….unreality,.

  19. john steppling says:

    and I should add.– @molly and THEN guy…….

    that there has been a second change…which you molly, sort of clocked with Beller, and within all that is something I still have a hard time grasping, but which i sense to be there. And then the zizekians and the corporate media, and Jacobin et al……Mother Jones…..these horrible fan magazines. Thats what they are. On In These Times this edition is an article on an actress in Breaking Bad and an essay on Orange is the new Stupid. Not on……i dont know….Marlane dumas or someone….not on even Daniel Richter say, or on peter brook………..fuck, not even on Bruno dumont. NO…..but i did see james frano photoshop his face onto a character from a screen grab from SALO.

    This is what passes …this is what is encouraged, clearly. Childish. ALl things must be childish. And its interesting in design right now. At least what i see, in lux watches say………because im a closet watch junkie……..rolex new line of maxi dial versions of their older generation. The color is… looks like popsicles or toys or jujubees…..there are these horrid pale oranges….but its appealing to this childish audience. I see it in all design actually. There is great work…but often it is marred, and often marred by bad color. Im not sure i have an explanation for this.

    And guy. I need to think a bit to respond to that comment. I think you’re right….certainly about the road to damascus. But also aristotle. Benjamin agreed certainly.

  20. John:

    One think I feel should be said is that many conservative intellectuals, as much as we may disagree with them on certain issues, would agree with you whole-heartedly about orange watch dials, childish tastes, consumerism, zizek, orange is the new black, etc.

    By conservative intellectuals I mean people like Allan Bloom, Williams Buckley, George Will, Roger Scruton, etc. These same guys decried by Marxists detest many of the depravities of our contemporary cultural landscape that they themselves, the Marxists, despise.

    And not necessarily by contrast, they love the same things as well. Marxist intellectuals and conservative intellectuals both love Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach. They both love Dostoevsky, Dickens, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. They both love Rome, Paris, and Venice. In short, they both love ‘high’ culture and both view consumerism as an existential threat to its existence.

    Where they differ is on the issue of class. Conservative/Victorian intellectuals take a class-based, bourgeois endorsed structure of society for granted and in many cases ensorse themselves, citing “high culture” as a turf the “layman” is too stupid to intrude upon. Marxists, of course, do not take a class-based society for granted and feel it should be abolished or at the very least not taken for granted. Naturally, many intellectuals on the left are possessive of their turf, but for slightly different reasons that I would find rather tedious to delineate at 1 in the morning. I apologize for seeming laziness.

    My point of course being that there are well-intentioned people on both the left and the right and that both extremes get pieces of the puzzle correct. But we still haven’t developed a solution to the many issues that plague society. We’ve identified the problem but just haven’t come up with a solution. Naturally, unbridled capitalism is not the answer, but many Victorian intellectuals will resort to capitalist apologism under the pretext that it’s the lesser of two evils when juxtaposed with socialism. Leftism, however, has many pitfalls, as well. The crux being we still know nothing just as Socrates knew nothing. Is Marxism a solution? I don’t know. We still haven’t gotten past the stage of identifying problems, but many feel rushed to offer a solution.

    The extreme right hates just about everything the extreme left hates. The only thing they fundamentally disagree upon is the issue of class.

    If we were to tackle the issue of class it would become quite obvious the average layman is oppressed by corporate interests, but he just as soon would reject the sympathy of the Marxist intellectual, at least in the Anglo-American sphere.
    This issue of class has yet to be solved, and nobody’s come up with a solution, and it may take a few more millenia. And that’s okay. Slow and steady wins the race. Don’t worry, we know these’s a problem that needs to be fixed, and neither the right nor the left has offered a viable solution yet. The layman hates conservative elites because he feels economically oppressed by them, but he just as equally despises Marxist intellectuals for seeming “out of touch” with his everyday concerns.

    The reason so many well-intentioned people on the right support vested corporate interests is because it’s the lesser of two evils, and they’ve been trained to view socialism as a dirty word.

  21. The “lesser of two evils” in the eyes of conservatives, not in mine.

  22. I mean do you really think Roger Scruton or Allan Bloom would sooner watch Orange is the New Black than read Madame Bovary?

  23. Even someone like Michael Haneke most certainly hates the crass consumerism epitomized by Orange Rolex dials, Orange is the New Black, and the lack of articles on Bruno Dumont as much as you do.

  24. Whenever I read something Scruton writes I find myself constantly nodding my head in agreement until he begins to tackle Marx and French existentialism. That’s where he should keep his mouth shut.

  25. If Scruton could come to terms with the fact that there was a seismic shift in the fundamental nature of intellectualism following World War 2 he’d have the potential to be one of the world’s great living thinkers.

  26. Molly Klein says:

    Come on it’s gibberish, of course it is. Can you paraphrase it? Can you list five peopple with more Being and five with less than yourself? it’s nonsense! Now you’ll tell me I don’t get it becaause your being in more authentic and better than mine

  27. Molly Klein says:

    Seriously its gibberish but sinister too. But of course yes many people who weren’t positively evil were influenced by it – Sartre too, yet this accounts for where they went wrong and why that generation was unable to shake their crypto Christian idealism and masculism,

    As for the etymology is destiny posture, which worsens with Derrida even as it becomes self-aware, and comical in Agamben, it is grounded in this notion of originality (this capacity of authentic and virtuous Bink) mythically assigned to some tribal Greeks mythically imagined as a font of Yerup, who reallly thought, who for the first time truly created conceptually, and after whom everyone follows parasitically imitatively and derivatively, so that we exist in the kind of trap their Authenticity laid for us, never fitting our language as if it were pairs of too big shoes…It’s Spengler and worse rehashed in this euphemistic language. And we can have no doubt despte the rather thin quality of the veil of vague terms…he loved Junger and was imitating it, specifically insisting that The Worker was this book of correct ‘planetary thinking’ which he forced onto his students and colleagues at uni who thought it vulgar as well as malicious.

    Anyway enough Heidegger…

    The realism..I see realism is the first stage of spectacle as opposed to relational/social/ritual art. There was anticipation I think but realism is the birth of spectacle, the mysticism of capital. Because its not mimesis but a pseudo mimesis – not an imitation and reference but a substitution of a fraud for both a reality and a discursive product made from reality. Forgive me if I quote self:

    This Is Not A Post
    Just a post-it, to remind myself to say somethings about The Realist Ruse:

    1. Realism inaugurates the spectacle

    2. The realist character, filled up with artificial life, with detail and idiosyncrasy, loses its quality as fiction (allegory, metaphor, mimesis) and becomes (proto)Spectacle: referring only to itself. No more Tom Joneses, or Fabrizio del Dongos; by the time realism gave birth to modernism, a sense of affront had settled in should literary fiction be seen to refer to anything in particular, so that nothing could be more philistine than to judge a work, especially the portrayal of a central character, by measuring the quality of its mimetic performance.On the surface this has a certain appearance of more of something, but meanwhile a siphoning of a species of content is resulting in a great deal less of something else. The meticulous illusion of the irreducible individual, the non-type (post-type), is not (only) the (technical, philosophical, ‘psychological’) enrichment advertised by the schools and traditions producing it but a hollowing out of the function of reference, so that the more elaborate the portraiture of ‘individuals’ grows, the more entirely empty each unique and eccentric exemplar becomes with regard to meaning generation. Far from ’embedding fiction in reality’, realism and the post-realist trajectory through naturalism into modernism involves a cutting of the Montgolfier’s ties. By its own laws and the dominant regulations of reception, Mrs. Dalloway represents nothing, human or philosophical; she is no-one but herself (an elaborate and dazzling fraud; a fantastic improvement on Vaucanson automata), a simulacrum not of the well to do Englishwoman but of some specific one, with a biography, whose particularity flaunts a refusal of type in favour of a concocted point of view which is so atypical simply in order to usurp the notion and function of typicality itself; her character is nothing but itself, and that nothing is also usurping, substituting its function for typicality, banishing observed conditions in favour of a very precisely contrived imitation of contingency and will. The extremes of invention offer themselves as naturally occuring phenomena to which the act of invention is anathema. The irreducibility of humanity, the human condition, human material life, is thus embezzled for ‘the Individual’, inhabitant of the spectacular realm, a simulacrum. This full substitution of the (individual and singular) simulacrum for the (collective and multiple) model is the vaunted achievement of the most refined narrative art (Musil winked at this in his famous title) which then paradoxically trumpets its engagement in a social world of which the artwork no longer, as an artwork, even acknowledges the existence, much less the primacy.

    3. In contrast, Dumas and his heirs evoke human affairs constantly, the inseperable companion of phantasy and narrative; history is the unshakeable shadow and referent of every fiction, invention, testimony, flight of fancy, every exaggeration or ‘faithful’ reportage. Dumas’ novels, openly aspiring to re-enact, portray, dramatise and repeat human affairs – to produce history into narrative – do not disappear the world but ostentatiously mine, cultivate and depend on it. Where realism substitutes itself as a world, complete in itself, populated with ‘individuals’ generating a fantastic illusion of life, thoughts and relations, (with such vivid trompe l’oeil that nothing can ‘represent’ the human and the human can ‘represent’ nothing, but spectacle instead can entirely replace all, a seamless substitution of ‘Nucigen’ for Rothschild or ‘Arnheim’ for Rathenau alongside the sui generis irreplaceable Hans Castop, Jim, or Stephen Dedalus)- genre continued, even after 1848, to reproduce itself through the act of wrestling with and exploiting a palpably present metaphoric cargo located in an implied outland of human affairs.

    Anyway the childishness…this is almost a return of a mockery of the ritual…and not even a ‘black sabbath’ which is a stage just prior to realism that flourishes (Sade’s imagined scenes in literature and Sade’s theatres but also the Gothic theatre which flourishes in London just before the blue book drama)…the forms that arose from the dramatic arts have become spectacles of infantile games without the creativity, paper dolls, doll house games from which the spectators imagination has been removed…Professionals (like JJAbrams) boast of their infantile characters; how they are ‘fans’ or this or that, how they find this or that thing awesome, in a now only slightly slightly sarcastic manner. But this infantile substitute for drama and literature was anticipated by this fascist kitsch product Nietzsche and Junger and wagner’s librettos, which did not put forward something precisely so nakedly infantilized – not like the biillionaires in pajamas who boast of their childish joys as a way of boasting of their wealth and irresponsibility, their perfect liberty from what concerns most adults, theior unassailable authority, like child emperors on thrones — but it was something approachingm, a step in that direction, contrasting their own naive wonder to Jooosh guile and instrumentalizing rationality (being, existence in MH and Sartre’s coded versions)

  28. Molly Klein says:

    Or I should say the reason Heidegger’s explanation for modernity (decadence of being, impurity, mingling, rootless cosmopolitanism, oriental luxury) and commodification appealed to Marcuse and Sartre was because it jibed with their own dispositions unsurprisingly similar as they all belonged to the same narrow class and milieu; I think the Frankfurt school on Heidegger (Adorno is convincing about the j’argon of authenticity’) is very limited, conducted by a fragment of the class which produced this mythology who were almost arbitrarily expelled and denied birthright to this German intellectual product; it ends up being accepting the worldview and shifting allegiance and values on some kind of marginal points (preserving masculinity/virility and effeminacy as a ill, though shiftiing around some social qualities orbiting Reason etc). So it is not surprising that Marcuse would be attracted to Heidegger on these theories of the origins of that system of values and worldview upon which Marcuse’s own sense of status is grounded; it jibed with his own discomfort and suspicion of the apparent “decadence’ of the US working classes produced by easy living standards (bourgeois standards that is, the standards of his own class being in the post war boom enjoyed by 60% of the population). All this rather vague and hazy talk about Being is referential finally…its not speaking in tongues messages from the beyond. And the language is only chosen for the purposes of evasion and elevation (a secret mystical jargon in which to express things that appear vulgar and crude and can be objected to convincingly when stated more concretely).

  29. john steppling says:

    here is an old exchange with Fontenrose.

    Remy….the problem cant be reduced quite that far to this binaries…..but let me try to suggest two things. One is, Im not sure Scruton or Bloom hear the same mozart… which i mean these are men who appropriate the world around them for use,….to reinforce privilege. If one reads Scruton on the topic of democracy, one gets a pretty clear picture of just how lazy a thinker this guy actually is. Scruton, like willim f buckely, have created a persona of hyper intellectualism where little actually exists. Scrunton on gender equality for example is another stunning example of his actual severe limits of thought. LIMITS.
    But more to the point, culture is there not to be canonized or housed in protective cases or high end auditoriums for viewing by rich patrons. But that is the image one takes away from these discussions when they are framed by scruton or the like.
    Also….”well intentioned”……i dont know what that means.

    And Buckley or Bloom might hate pastel oranges but I suspect for different reasons. What they LOVE is corporate power and hierarchical privilege and — and they prop up in real terms and ideologically the appartatus that surpreses culture. They create the pastel orange dial to then from lofty heights of superiority, decry it. *oh, its ssssooooo sooo garish*…..buckley knew good shoes, and knew quality, and a lot of rich convervative know quality and they can afford it. Which is partly how they learned about it.- That doesnt mean much though in the big picture ….if we are speaking culture. Culture in engaged in a dialectical dynamic with authority and submission and state and populace…and on and on and on. It is both part of our collective expression of and questioning of the world around us, and a challanging of that world…and a person individual reflection of private dramas played out in a never ending silent narrative within,.
    The truth is buckely and scruton and allen bloom and harold bloom et al are not , any of them, terribly deep thinkers. The last reactionary I think was smart in that was Ortega y Gasset.
    I do think that material from archaic greece is embedded somehow in all westerners…………in one form or another. ANd i think there is a lot of new work following on Vernant and Detienne….and here is a fascinating example (and I hope Molly, i cant get a take on this from you too)………….because it so resonates as…well…it is being approached with a modernists Freudian bias i suspect….but also its suggestive of the great gulf that seperates us from the period

  30. Well I think this is part of the problem on the left. And it sort of dates back to Susan Sontag, this effort to “democratize” high culture. But you can’t democratize something without dumbing it down. Why? Because the average American or Briton just doesn’t care enough to spend a year of his or her life diligently reading Ulysses or Finnegans Wake. And they never will. But many will gladly watch a Masterpiece Theater production of David Copperfield, since the challenging intellectual content has been dumbed down for digestible consumption. In short, the average person isn’t all that bright and never will be. This is an inconvenient truth so many on the left can’t seem to accept. A genuine appreciation of high culture is something one is generally educated into from a young age. I apologize if I may be coming off a bit reactionary, but just as many sheltered members of the upper class could never develop the “street smarts” someone raised in a “dicey” working class neighborhood would, someone who discovers “high culture” for the first time at the age of 25 will never develop the cultural literacy or intellectual acumen someone raised from the age of 3 on Beethoven and Dickens would. Let’s face it, many of the most respectable minds on the left, such as Walter Benjamin and the French deconstructionists, along with Sartre, and even Godard and Pasolini came from privilege and had cultured upbringings.

  31. Molly Klein says:

    (And I don’t understand when you say it’s not evidence – that is a passage from Heidegger. You can see as well as I can what it says.)


    These same guys decried by Marxists detest many of the depravities of our contemporary cultural landscape that they themselves, the Marxists, despise.

    I think this kind of thing arises from a very recent adoption of the label Marxist by a bunch of more or less fascists and Fabians who because they work in culture industry find it difficult to identify as other than left and who have been confused about what Marx wrote because instead of treading Marx they pick up what they think Capital says from Negri, Foucault, Deleuze and Postone

    But yes of course ‘decadence’ is a theme of the right and of fascism the intellectual tradition of which as Zeev Sternhell wrote is ‘neither right nor left’ ; but abominating decadence in this way (lamenting massification and the inauthentic joys of the ‘middle class consumer’ of soc dem) isn’t a Marxist thing traditionally.

    ‘If we were to tackle the issue of class it would become quite obvious the average layman is oppressed by corporate interests, but he just as soon would reject the sympathy of the Marxist intellectual, at least in the Anglo-American sphere.’

    I don’t think its a question of anyone’s sympathy – people (virtually) never reject the elevation from exploited labour seller to capitalist rentier class. Nobody (with negligible irrelevant exceptions) prefers propertlyessness and drudgery. And the ‘angloamerican sphere’ is small and exceptional – 65% of population of France even when polled say they deplore capitalism, the commitment is much smaller outside the imperial core- and really only white population in the AngloAmerican sphere is really so dominantly devoted to the status quo of property and power.

  32. Maybe Scruton and the two Blooms are not particularly deep thinkers, but what about T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound or Virginia Woolf, or a filmmaker like Jean-Pierre Melville even? All respected artists and all sympathized with the powers that be and the hierarchical order of society. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many great artists were fascist sympathizers in the early twentieth century, even if it was a misguided knee-jerk reaction to what they perceived as the ills of an impending decadent and consumerist society.

  33. Why were so many great artists fascist sympathizers? It seemed the lesser of two evils at the time. They foresaw the unintended consequences of the democratization of “high culture”. And by “well-intentioned”, I mean they wanted to protect “high culture” from the dumbing down that would be inflicted on it by such democratization.

  34. Molly Klein says:

    that looks very interesting – i am planning to visit delphi soon

    “The last reactionary I think was smart in that was Ortega y Gasset.’

    yeah and though in many ways appalling, sickmakingly vile, I always am interested to read Mario Vargas Llosa and Roberto Calasso

  35. Molly Klein says:

    ‘why were so many great artists fascist sympathizers? It seemed the lesser of two evils at the time.’

    fascist thinking flatters artists and culture workers generally; its mythology and ‘philosophy’ arises as aesthetic theories in the late 19th century in France

  36. The difference between T.S. Eliot and Susan Sontag is that the former, much like a Borges or an Ezra Pound, understood the layman was stupid and that it took more effort than it was worth to try to change that whereas Sontag actually believed the masses could be initiated without their being any unintended consequences suffered by “high culture” itself.

  37. So maybe it would be more apt to compare the conservative views of Eliot or Borges to the more leftist leanings of someone like Walter Benjamin or the French existentialists and deconstructionists.

  38. John Steppling says:

    @molly…..fuck I just wrote a long long long response that disappeared- OK….lets start again.
    “As for the etymology is destiny posture, which worsens with Derrida even as it becomes self-aware, and comical in Agamben, it is grounded in this notion of originality (this capacity of authentic and virtuous Bink) mythically assigned to some tribal Greeks mythically imagined as a font of Yerup, who reallly thought, who for the first time truly created conceptually, and after whom everyone follows parasitically imitatively and derivatively, so that we exist in the kind of trap their…”

    I give you points for creativity…..(but nobody else reads the stuff this way, and I dont certainly…..but ok, points given for most eccentric take on said material).

    here is the thing though (before i return to MH late)….”the realist character filled up with artifical life”….yes exactly. And this is why such an emphasis is placed on observation and visually observed detail. Observation upon observation upon observ ation….until nothing remains but this observation. These accumulated details. And increasingly, banal details. At some point a hemingway was still able to wrest a mysterious resonance from a fishhing hook or something. But that gave way finally to a sort of product placement version. And if you go back further, to say 18 th century writing…….go back to Kleist and there is a curious sense of instability in those characters. (and this is, by the way, why students today have such a hard time with writing character and dialogue). The mimetic has been siphoned away. thats right.

    “it but a hollowing out of the function of reference, so that the more elaborate the portraiture of ‘individuals’ grows, the more entirely empty each unique and eccentric exemplar becomes with regard to meaning generation.”

    yes yes, exactly. Realism is not realistic. Not even by its own terms, but nobody notices because these products carry around big neon signs proclaiming “believable”, “authentic”, “original”…..etc…whatever other marketing ideas have been trumped up.

    As for JJ Abrahms et al………..tarentino…….this is fan BOY culture. Speilberg too. The aggrandizing of not reaching adulthood. And sure, the ersatz ritual is only kids playing at being grown up. I mean that is the hidden meme, in a sense, of a lot of TV franchises…Buffy, and Dollhouse, but also Star Trek etc etc…..True Blood….etc……this sense of kids playing a game. The sexuality is like shiny soft core porn….

    Im not sure i see a precursor in Wagners librettos. But that would likely bring me back to Heiddegger.

    “So it is not surprising that Marcuse would be attracted to Heidegger on these theories of the origins of that system of values and worldview upon which Marcuse’s own sense of status is grounded; it jibed with his own discomfort and suspicion of the apparent “decadence’ of the US working classes produced by easy living standards (bourgeois standards that is, the standards of his own class being in the post war boom enjoyed by 60% of the population). All this rather vague and hazy talk about Being is referential finally…its not speaking in tongues messages from the beyond. And the language is only chosen for the purposes of evasion and elevation (a secret mystical jargon in which to express things that appear vulgar and crude and can be objected to convincingly when stated more concretely).”

    well, this itself gets points for obtusness. I mean, again, I cant comment really…..other than as a blanket rejection of all these positions. A refusal to examine this stuff on your part leads to this kistch psycho-bio of marcuse, and an invented dream you had about what he might have thought etc etc etc. Funny, people do exactly what they accuse others of doing.

    anyway, I find that debate more tedious than I can express.

    But……………there is something sinister in the way these trends of narrative began to reflect back some sort of constructed “person”. A character who lives in a world today or normalized never ending war, or crisis, etc. And having watched World War Z last night……a film the Israeli propaganda dept should get story credit for… is clear that zombies now embody an overdetermined event for mankind (in WWZ the zombies…fast ones by the way……..scale the wall originally built to keep palestinians out……and dive into the sacred city of Jerusalem…..infecting it immediately. No amount of flame throwing and machine gunning can rid the place of infection. In this story, the israelis were “too soft”…..too helpful to immigrants. And brad pitt plays himself essentially, a celebrity, who has no real job…..its never ever explained what his fucking job is………….but he’s just there, hanging with the UN rep and head of joints chiefs of staff. So…….that is interesting to trace back to nazi tropes. The bolshie rat people, carrying disease etc. My problem with your analysis, is we’re talking about MH on the pre socratics…….but never mind, I dont want to bring this up again. I dont think the Frankfurt School was wrong about much to be honest. People seem to love to bash them these days. And yet, when I return to reading that stuff, its always a relief ….and also, I guess I find what you describe as hazy mystical evasive, anything but. But i would again, only suggest this is limits of thinkers who insist on this faux scientism that much of historical materialism ends up with. It ends up with its own hazy weird cultish “authenticism”……if you cant kick the tires, its just not worth talking about (its very macho, not surprisngly)… coffee, red meat, and materialism based on science. Being is just soft and evasive. And sinsister!! Oh my.

    @remy…………..look, this are slightly red herrings….or something…..your own mcguffins….the working class are perfectly able to digest Dante if they are allowed to. Or Beckett or whoever from this canon you want to pick. And yes, things are dumbed down. And roger scruton, trust me, watches masterpiece theatre before he reads the original. These partitions are artifical. Its perception. I think the entire culture has stopped reading, largely.

    many thinkers and artists come from bourgois backgrounds is not news. They were allowed exposure to culture. Im not sure i get the point, finally?

  39. The point is that blind leftist antiestablishmentarianism is not the solution to the world’s problems and that tossing around the dead white man meme and claiming that western civilization is the root of all evil is not going to improve things, especially when western civilization gave us the very “high culture” we wish to protect.

  40. Maniacs like Bush, Sarkozy, Obama, Cheney, and Blair are the problem, not white civilization itself.

  41. It’s this constant ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ that occurs on both the right and the left.

  42. There is no such thing as white civilization. The phrase is a condensed clump of white supremacist lies.

  43. This is the problem. Just because someone isn’t “radical” enough to proclaim Western civilization is the root of all evil they get demonized as white supremacists. Is it really that black and white? Is there no room for grey area?

  44. And it cuts off all debate.

  45. Isn’t that what genuine intellectualism is all about? Examining both sides of the spectrum with an open mind and not demonizing others simply because they have certain views that differ from yours. To be a true intellectual don’t you have to be willing to be challenged by opposing views without resorting to ideology that might not entirely have basis in facts? Mind you, both the right and the left are guilty of this.

  46. Conservative ideologues will cut off all debate regarding anything that even in the slightest reeks of socialism while leftist ideologues will do exactly the same with respect to anything that reeks even in the slightest of hierarchy.

  47. “the working class are perfectly able to digest Dante if they are allowed to. Or Beckett or whoever from this canon you want to pick.”

    But the working class already is allowed to read them. Checking them out of the library doesn’t cost very much nor does downloading them from the internet, since most of the works included in the literary/philosophical are in the public domain, so they’re accessible at no or at very little cost. If that’s not a form of socialism I don’t what it is. Should a writer’s works enter the public domain as soon as he or she dies rather than 70 years after death?

  48. John Steppling says:

    remy. You cant know what you havent been taught. Exposure means access to an education that provides a reason to learn. The US at all levels is shocking short on literacy. Lots of people also have no access to public libraries. You might have noticed like a huge percentage have shut down or limited their hours. Many people dont have internet.
    And bush sarkozy and cheney are all white men. You know what gandi said when asked what he thought of white civilization….he said I think it would be a good idea. White civilization is non existant. Remy, what you are staggering blind to…stunningly blind to, is that WHITE PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY, IMPERIALIST AND COLONIALIST IS WHO RUNS THE WORLD………largely, those giant trans national corporations and defense firms, and arms makers, and giant chemical works and telecom giants are all owned by WHITE MEN..
    And they protect their power and property. You want to pretend there is some weird level playing field in which we can all chat about this gray area ……this is highly reductive and sort of really immature thinking. I dont mean to be insulting……..but man, come on…………….you just seem to want to defend this status quo. I dont know you remy, but both sides ARE being analysed…history is being analysed….power is being analysed and the conclusion reached is that white male imperialism, proto capitalist, is destroying the planet.

  49. Molly Klein says:

    Im sure I’m not the only person who reads Heidegger’s hstory of Aryan inheritance from the ancient Greeks this way; every academic work discussing Heidegger in his place in the development and disssemination of political/’philosophical’ anti-Semitism recognizes this…

    ‘To be sure, beings are still given. The motley mass of beings is
    more noisily and more widely given than ever before; but Being has
    deserted them.’

    What does this mean? Strictly its meaningless. Being hasn’t deserted anyone. It’s a reiteration of a kind of crude mystical motif found commonly in neopagan strains of mitteleuropean romanticism, brought to a froth by Nietzsche. But as an assertion its empty. It’s a kind of innuendo by abstraction. Aryans or the German race when pure have something other mere material animal beings don’t have. What is it? It’s a made up thing, its Form, Being, volkish volky Excellence. And Heidegger’s story of where it comes from begins with a fairytale origin in this select tribal Greek dry ice and minor chords past. Thus his dicey interpretations re; “truth” which are anachronistic impositions of post-Hegelian schemes.

  50. Molly Klein says:

    But anyway this is somewhat related to the more interesting question because Heidegger;s famous misconstruction of the development of commodification as this fungal growth of enframing or whatever, which issues in Derrida’s meshugge pronouncement that capital is iteration (this is more codedly Deleuze’s assertion as well) and thus capitalization and capitalism existed before ‘culture’ and will remain after, is the grand substitute for a rather obviously available understanding of this historical development of abstract property and its manipulations. Among the things tat need to be repressed – in the sttrict sense of ignored by consciousness then motivating alll kinds of ruses and coverups – for this to make any sense are very obvious things like the sexual reproduction of the human species which a certain minority of humanity, these bourgeois men living in this industrial period in the core, actually could dismiss from consciousness>

  51. But most intellectuals are white men, as well. So it’s essentially one white clan against another. Just because Sarkozy and Blair are white doesn’t mean the entire white race should be held responsible for their actions, and many, such as yourself, are standing up to the bullshit. Many of the people in the US lacking exposure to Dante are also white. You’re white. I’m white. Walter Benjamin was white and so was Sartre. I’m not defending the status quo. I’m saying don’t throw the baby out with the water. There’s a lot of good in Western civilization, but there’s also a lot of bad. I think this should be obvious. So if you or I unequivocally considers the ‘white race’ the cancer of civilization isn’t that essentially ‘white guilt’, something leftist intellectuals constantly accuse latte liberals of while often suffering from it themselves. Yes, the people in power are mostly white men, but they also oppress a lot of white men while colonizing the rest of the world. Collateral damage if you will, or maybe not. The neocon establishment attempted to brainwash both and you and me, and we can presume they failed in that regard, but they succeeded in brainwashing the working man who lacked exposure to Dante, but for every man who was brainwashed another one saw through the bullshit. So what’s the difference between the one who was brainwashed and the one who saw through the bullshit, assuming they were raised in similar environments?

  52. Do we hold the entire Chilean people responsible for the atrocities committed by Pinochet, no we hold Pinochet responsible. Was Pinochet a tyrant because he was Chilean? No. He was a tyrant because he was a tyrant. Some people are just tyrants, whether they’re white, black, Asian, or Latino. But of course Sarkozy’s a psycho because he’s white. It’s not enough to just conclude he’s a psyhco simply because he’s a pshcyo.

  53. So if you’re next step would be to say that throughout history imperialism and colonialism has primarily been perpetrated by white men against non-white men, even if Sarkozy and Blair are individuals, can we conclude there’s something inherent in the DNA of white men that makes them naturally belligerent and power hungry? If that’s the case, keep in mind you’re white too, and so was Euripedes.

  54. Okay PInochet may have technically been Caucasian, but there are plenty of tyrants on this planet who aren’t white, as well, but do we hold entire races responsible for the atrocities committed by these individual men, like say Pol Pot? There are bad people of all races.

  55. This is a long and fertile exchange and I just tuned back in. One thing I want to mention is that the core of white male hegemony is rooted in the belief in Truth…the Truth. This fabulous invention (I’m paraphrasing Nietzsche’s “Of Truth and Lies in a NonMoral Sense” which he wrote when he was, like, 21) conferred on the West its blinkered mastery over technology and animated its imperial drives from Athens forward. Instrumental reason. The most pernicious form of this belief is the idea of unity – the truth as a unity produced via negative dialectics, a doctrine that finds its fullest expression in Hegel. It’s all wishful thinking. There is no unified body of truth, even in the sciences where differential fragmentation of disciplines proceeds right alongside empirical advances. Hume is the one who blew the whistle on the dreams of unity and a command of causal “laws” and modern philosophy can to some extent be viewed as a reaction to Hume’s skepticism. So one issue with Marx (a giant, no question!) is the extent to which he erected his critique on a scaffold of rationalism and an embrace of Aristoteliian habits of mind in which a general-particular syllogism holds sway…It just always seems non-sensical to me to protest the dominance of white male hegemony on the one hand while with the other gripping tightly to the flagpole of that hegemony with the other. I just never understand it.

  56. “It just always seems non-sensical to me to protest the dominance of white male hegemony on the one hand while with the other gripping tightly to the flagpole of that hegemony with the other. I just never understand it.”

    I was just about to ask the same thing.

  57. I think we need to decide whether it’s more important to get rid of white patriarchy or to preserve high culture, because you can’t have one without the other. As Guy implied, “high culture” is essentially the “flagpole” of what’s referred to as “white hegemony”. But I think we should avoid conflating Eurocentrism with US hegemony (e.g. neoconservatism). They have nothing to do with each other.

    “High culture” is by it’s very nature elitist, and it’s preservation and existence implies the presence of some sort of hierarchy. When you label David Lynch middlebrow or Roger Scruton a shallow thinker while praising Fassbinder and Euripedes, you’re essentially endorsing the existence of some sort of hierarchy, and that’s okay. You can’t save high culture while dismantling the apparatus that ensures its existence, and no, the neocon movement has nothing to do with the apparatus to which I’m referring. “High culture” is the culture of Western Civilization.

  58. Molly Klein says:

    white supremacy is a mythology justifying and fancilitating conquest plunder exploitation mass murder enslavement
    it is whiteness that is the problem and people identified with and devoted to it

  59. So basically, if one happens to be Caucasian, one is either a white supremacist or self-loathing white person? Is that what’s being said here?

    Here’s a quote I found in another article that gets at the issue:


  60. Here’s the quote, and I think it applies to any “Western, Christian” society:

    “For white North Americans, nevertheless, coming to terms with white privilege exacts a price…As James Baldwin said years ago, “It is not really a ‘negro revolution’ that is upsetting the country. What is upsetting the country is a sense of its own identity” (Baldwin 1988, 8). And as one white student put it, “I mean now I really have to think about it. Like now I feel white. I feel white” (Gallagher 1994, 165). This “feeling white,” when coupled with a repudiation of white privilege, can disable a positive self-image as well as a felt connection to community and history, and generally can disorient identity formation.”

  61. John Steppling says:

    ok, first Remy. What do you mean most intellectuals are white?

    Second, you’ve stopped making sense so I cant respond. What is it you want exactly ? What is the complaint about this post?

    well, no I dont think there is a whole body of agreement that says MH’s single book on the pre socratics is the source material for the SS and Goebells. But that aside….

    do i have to pull a quote from someone you dont think gibberish to demonstrate any out of context three sentences will look meaningless…….literally…here…from a book in front of me…..
    “. But we have seen that
    primary perception is a non-thetic,* pre-objective and pre-conscious
    experience. Let us therefore say provisionally that there is a merely possible stuff of knowledge. From every point of the primordial field
    intentions move outwards, vacant and yet determinate;”

    what does that mean? I wont tell you who it is, yet.
    The point though, for all this, is that for western thought a certain shift occured with aristotle. I think thats safe to say. And then with the Enlightenment. The instrumental part began with plato and aristotle….and was only intensified. Now as Guy says, The Truth…..well, yeah, and here one might trace the christian mystics forward to augustine and etc. What happened? We have these figures who served as the classifiers and unifiers.

    Thats my point about sophocles………its work that occured and came out of that moment when the West began to put words down…to write an alphabetic language. They did in china before and egypt.- But to that degree it was a strange pivotal period. I dont think, by the way, that Vernant or Fontenbrose etc see this as somehow the origin of wisdom.- But it is the origin of something still embedded in us. And Heidgeer, whatever his other extrapolations, voided the oxford and british sort of monopoly on the “classics”. On ancient greece. And again, its the british who cannonized this shit. Made it into some fantasy of tranquil contemplative strolls in the hills…………it was camp. It IS camp. So THAT meme came out of the english speaking classicists. Anyway………, it was a slave economy, and elitist and the social trauma of athens at that time connected to all manner of economic force around them. Whats of interest though is that moment when hesiod and homer butted up against Parmenides and then Aeschylus. The result is this delerious strange ecstatic ritual, sacrifical, and communal and linked to these secret texts, initiates and to oracles. And i have a great huge fascination for the Oracles. At delphi primarely. And it is because I sense this is the start of theatre. Answers without questions.

  62. John Steppling says:

    Remy…., now listen………….try…………….

    saying one thinks Euripides is valuable and David Lynch a charlatan, is not endorsing white supremecy. White supremecy is an ideology. Its the belief in a master race of superior beings, based on whiteness. I dont believe that. Im white. Im also male, but I recognize what gender relations mean, what patriarchy is, and what and how misogny works and I recognize the ways these things are obscured and mystificed by a system run by those white men, who believe that ideology. White supremecism is the projecting of white power and beliefs into other places. It is conquest and domination and control.

    You are very confused. I dont know where to begin. There is a difference between aesthetic education, and political oppression. Elitism might be a factor, from some perspective I suppose, in talking about culture, but i sort of doubt it. In the social realm, elitism is class, is power and privilege….expressed by all manner of thing.
    What is it you want, I keep asking. In your world remy, what should be said? what is allowed and what isnt.

    Yeah, I mean Im with you……..but………..those sub-categories of existence, still remain inhabited….you know? A mountain is a mountain until its something else, and then at the end its a mountain again. The trick it seems to me is recognizing there is only illusion, and letting go of the attachments that drive fear and anger and aggression….while also recognizing material suffering cannot be shunted aside somehow. In one sense its recognizing and living with a certain form(s) of contradiction. That one can hear something one day, from someone who is a psychopath, and hear it as still useful , as still a part of the puzzle.
    Because otherwise, we can all go live as wild dogs and forget everything else. And it might be best, I dont know. But see, when i listen to a lot of americans, when I read Remy here, I hear the sound of defended insecurity, And of either/or binaries. So i guess Im not sure what flagpole we’re talking about exactly.

  63. This encapsulates much of what I’m attempting to say:

    “For white North Americans, nevertheless, coming to terms with white privilege exacts a price…As James Baldwin said years ago, “It is not really a ‘negro revolution’ that is upsetting the country. What is upsetting the country is a sense of its own identity” (Baldwin 1988, 8). And as one white student put it, “I mean now I really have to think about it. Like now I feel white. I feel white” (Gallagher 1994, 165). This “feeling white,” when coupled with a repudiation of white privilege, can disable a positive self-image as well as a felt connection to community and history, and generally can disorient identity formation.”

    This is what baffles me. So many WHITE people on the left criticize “white guilt” as some bourgeois middlebrow intellectual pastime, yet they indulge it in themselves by unilaterally labeling the WHITE race the cancer of civilization. People oppress people. Whites don’t oppress non-whites. Many of the oppressors just happen to be white, and many of those they oppress are also white. We even have “non-whites” like Obama, Condy Rice, and Holder oppressing both whites and non-whites. Are WHITE men like Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Socrates, and Fassbinder responsible for the repression of the downtrodden? What I want is for people to acknowledge the rights of all people, whether or not their Caucasian. Whether you’re Japanese, Indian, Turkish, Italian, French, or Egyptian, there’s nothing wrong with embracing your ethnic identity. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with accepting the fact that you’re a white person. Self-acceptance doesn’t necessarily imply white supremacism. And when I said that most intellectuals are white or certainly that many of your intellectual heroes are white, what I meant is that it’s as if you’re implicating even them in the repression of the downtrodden when you blame all the world’s problems on white patriarchy. So if white patriarchy has destroyed the world and Fassbinder or Sartre happens to be white it may come off as if the two aforementioned men are implicated in said patriarchy, which we know they’re not. When referring to the good aspects of Western Civilization I’m referring to the contributions made by people like Fassbinder, Walter Benjamin, Balzac, and yes, even Marx.

  64. “And it might be best, I dont know. But see, when i listen to a lot of americans, when I read Remy here, I hear the sound of defended insecurity, And of either/or binaries. So i guess Im not sure what flagpole we’re talking about exactly.”

    All I’m thinking is that when I read these unilateral attacks from much of the left on Western Civilization and “white supremacism” as an oppressive force in the world I just find myself thinking, “Well, Kafka, Sartre, and Balzac are part of Western Civilization too, and they’re all white just like Sarkozy and Blair are, and Western Civilization has also given us wonderful places like Paris and Venice.” That’s really my main gripe. When you unilaterally attack Western Civilization sometimes I just find myself wondering who and what is being implicated exactly aside from the obvious like neoliberalism/neoconservative, and imperialism.

  65. So I’m wondering, do we remain in the West and try to make it a better place or do we just pack our bags and move to North Korea? I just feel, John, that you can come off as being somewhat nihilistic about the state of Western culture, far more nihilistic than Godard, Sartre, or Walter Benjamin ever would have.

  66. Maybe I’m just a little more hopeful than you seem to be about what the future holds for us. I don’t know.

  67. “There is a difference between aesthetic education, and political oppression. Elitism might be a factor, from some perspective I suppose, in talking about culture, but i sort of doubt it.”

    But what is aesthetic education? Does aesthetic education imply one has to read Gilgamesh, Euripedes, Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Cervantes, Moliere, Balzac, and Dostoevsky in that order. I feel you lament the oppression of the Western Canon, or the Canon of Great Books often imposed in many elite institutions of higher education but then go on to put people on a guilt trip for not having read the very same classics of Western literature included in that canon and in the order in which they were written. I would think the implication of rejecting the oppression of the Great Books approach to education is that it’s okay to read that Thomas Pynchon or Paul Bowles novel sitting on your shelf even if you haven’t read Euripedes yet. In other words, people don’t have to feel guilty for reading Bowles or Burroughs even if they haven’t actually yet gotten around to reading Euripedes. That’s usually what the rejection of an oppressive canon should imply I would think. I’ll admit it. There are many works in the literary pantheon I haven’t yet read, but the more I feel obligated to read X, Y, and Z, and in that order the less reading I actually do get done. Now if you do feel I should read X, Y, and Z and in that order. That’s fine, but I still feel that would be contradicting what you said about how imposing a canon of Great Books is oppressive. So in a sense, you do approve of the works included in the Canon of great books, you just don’t approve of the rhetoric that’s often used to promote such a canon by bourgeois armchair, pipe-smoking intellectuals.

  68. In other words, ‘I want to read these books. I just don’t want my pipe smkong, twead jacket wearing professor forcing me to read them.’

  69. tweed*

  70. So you speak out against Western Civilization and the oppression it’s often caused throughout the centuries, yet you support that very same civilization’s intellectual heritage, it’s bedrock if you will, which includes, among others, Euripedes, Socrates, Homer, Plato, Shakespeare, Balzac, and even Marx..

  71. So I just have trouble making the connection sometimes.

  72. John Steppling says:


    “People oppress people. Whites don’t oppress non-whites. Many of the oppressors just happen to be white, and many of those they oppress are also white. We even have “non-whites” like Obama, Condy Rice, and Holder oppressing both whites and non-whites. Are WHITE men like Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Socrates, and Fassbinder responsible for the repression of the downtrodden? ”

    ok, actually you need to really do some reading. With due respect, this is the core problem for you. Who runs the world? What system dominates the world? What system and what people drove to dominate and conquer the world? One can go find all sorts of historical examples from a thousand years ago…but right now…for five hundred years, white europeans have exercised a highly disproportionate control of land, property, and people, and certainly wealth. Some white people are poor. Some are artists and revolutionaries and that does not preclude the truth of the ideological backdrop. Its childish to suggest oh, people oppress people. Yeah, in the sense that carrots dont. And seals dont. But you have to think as a system, as a force, what does it mean that this white male dominance has such traction and durabilty. In what ways does it continue to exercise its control and domination. Who pays for the wars in africa …between africans……who created that state of inequality, and who profits from it. Of course some white individuals are good and revolutionary. Thats not the issue. the issue is recognizing the system at work in oppressing the planet. Who are the fascists? Who was colonized and by whom? Its pretty simple. Do women dominate the world? do they exploit and extract toil and rape and murder men? No….there are some women performing the roles of men…Condi rice …hillary….etc. Thatcher. That doesnt mean women are not oppressed. I think here are few links…………

    i mean if you read fanon, and pedagogy of the oppressed for example, and the one dimensional man, marcuse………and then rosa luxembourg, and read hobsbawm’s four part history of the western expansion…. age of empire is a nice start….

    seriously, its good foundational material.

  73. Okay, I see where you stand, and I’m completely aware of everything you’ve written, and I’m not disagreeing with you. I’m aware it’s in the “national interest” of the US to perpetuate chaos in sub-Saharan Africa. I just think it’s a glass half-empty vs. glass half-full issue. We agree on the issues for the most part, but we often disagree on rhetoric. With that said though, it’s really only the super rich that are the oppressors, the 1%. It only applies to white people of a particular privileged social class. Your average Caucasian HS teacher in Alabama or the average Caucasian postal worker in France or Germany doesn’t benefit from the white privilege you’re complaining about. It’s people from Greenwich, CT and Manhattan’s Upper East Side who benefit and they don’t make up the bulk of white people.

  74. I guess part of my point is this. When someone mentions the phrase “French culture” to you what do you think of? You probably think of culture. And that doesn’t necessarily entail Sarkozy and Chirac. That entails Culture with a capital C (i.e. wine, cheese, Balzac, Nouvelle Vague, Degas, Moliere, Baudelaire, Proust, Baudelaire, Pascal, Morisot etc. )

    Likewise, the phrase “Russian culture” brings to mind caviar, Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy, Vodka, etc.

    That’s the problem with the US. It often seems to have no culture other than apple pie and Rocky Balboa.

    Must we throw away the culture largely developed by the ‘people’ due to the bad seeds like Sarkozy or Merkel pulling the strings at the top.

  75. Why do you think so many American writers fled to Europe? Like Henry James, Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, James Baldwin, etc. Because they wanted to be surrounded by Culture. Sure, European society was plagued by issues like imperialism and white supremacism just as the US is. But it was still preferable to a land that seemingly had hardly any Culture whatsoever.

  76. The problem is Western capitalism, not the cultures of individual “Western” nations. The 1% couldn’t give a damn about Culture, even though they’ll give it lip service from time to time to save face when they know they have to.

  77. Molly Klein says:

    MH was the nazis most famous philosopher. Goebbels was a propagandist. they developed the same source materials for their different products. normally philosophy product is derivative of the wider distribution stuff than the other way aro\ound but there is always an exchange in a milieu – all the nazi culture producers were part of the same circuit, developing the same themes and motifs…Of course many intellectuals who weren’t actually active nazis also used these themes and exchanged with Heidegger but MH himself was the a significant Nazi thinker and the Nazi ideologue and intellectual with probably the highest standing today as a thinker, certainly the most prestigious of all Nazis in philosophy.

  78. Molly Klein says:

    ‘But we have seen that
    primary perception is a non-thetic,* pre-objective and pre-conscious
    experience. Let us therefore say provisionally that there is a merely possible stuff of knowledge. From every point of the primordial field
    intentions move outwards, vacant and yet determinate’

    I find this perfecty intellegible and possiible to judge if it is correct or not; its common propositions in phenomenology and there is nothing here, no term, that has no sense.

    In contrast ‘Being’ has no sense. It neans nothing. It refers to nothing. The introdiction of this idea is a ruse of ideology to cultivate a language in which to discuss euphemistically the distinctions between the Germans/Aryans and the degenerates and savages.

    So if you accept that Being is strong in the master race, is the assertion about the motley beings losing Being true or false? Why is it true? Have you lost Being or are you one of those beings in whom Being is strong? How do you know?

    It’s like astrology.

  79. John Steppling says:


    Id sort of agree with that. For the sake of this argument, I”just sort of pass on it.

    Its a bit like our debate about Hitchcock actually.

    My feeling is that you insist on these absolutes. MH was a nazi. Ergo, nothing he said was ofany value. I dont agree. When its pointed out that Marcuse visited him first when he returned to germany, then it becomes marcuses own failing….his need for this or that. It just cant be that heidegger had to be taken seriously somehow.

    Nobody is arguing MH wasnt a nazi. Or, that a large part of his thinking served a vision reinforcing nazi ideology and values.

    His analysis of the pre socratics however is still the deepest and richest that exists. Its almost revelatory….in fact it is revelatory. Its also the only corrective, until vernant i guess, for the main academic take on that material. So…. I can live with the fact he was a nazi.,. It warrents attention, and probably further analysis, but calling it gibberish has no weight. its obviously not. But then….you think that of hitchcock too.

    There is a whole movement of japanese philosphers who were students of the late heidegger. I think the main guy I kenji Nishitani- Interesting gibberish.

  80. John:

    I think a large part of what I’m struggling with is that I feel you’re driven largely by politics, and I find I tend to take more of an epistemological approach to an appreciation of “high culture”, and I find you tend to downplay the epistemological. I’m not criticizing you. I’m just wondering if you have your reasons. I could be wrong, and I could misunderstood you completely. I get the sense you tend to view an epistemological approach to knowledge as ‘bourgeois’, and I don’t really understand why, since I often feel that if the majority of people on earth made an effort to seek knowledge the political issues would probably solve themselves. People don’t read enough, yes. But if people read, maybe many of these issues would go away by themselves.

  81. The white patriarchal oppressors don’t actually read literature and philosophy, and that’s largely the problem.

  82. Molly Klein says:

    No I am not saying that Being is nonsensical because MH was a Nazi. You’re not a nazi and it is you I am disputing with about Being.

  83. Molly Klein says:

    But it is just wrong to say all of MHs influence was among non Nazis lke Macuse. Its not true:he was extremely influential at his university from the 1920s and very much a major figure in the nazification of university culture, not just by carrying out Nazi policies expelling Jews but in propagating the anti-intellectual (in both senses but mainly re phenomenology) ideas that became the mythology of Nazism as well as the sense of aggrieved authentic Beings persecuted by mere beings like Cassirer etc

  84. Molly Klein says:

    And on this age old debate about Nazims and intellectuals, I would reject certain dogma about the meaninglessness of being a Nazi and say instead

    !. In general being a Nazi does say a great deal about someone’s worldview and intellectual and moral limitations
    2. while it is true that just the ad hominem ‘he s a Nazi’ doesn’t invalidate an argument, it doesn’t validate it either. It’s not a credential. And everything oen knows about an author, his worldview an education and project, is relevant to interpreting this kind of work.

  85. As for what else I want, I feel the left has largely turned its back on intellectualism. Susan Sontag-style in the name of equality/subjectivity/relativism. They reject the highbrow/lowbrow dichotomy as oppressive and hierarchical, and they’re wary of epistemology, because it doesn’t address the cause of the downtrodden, or at least not in an obvious manner. So I feel certain intellectual values might unintentionally get lost in the process, and even if you don’t seem to be disowning intellectualism I feel the way you sometimes frame things could feasibly pave the way for that. Now if the implication is that once the revolution has succeeded there’d be no more need for intellectualism, and you’re okay with that, then that’s fine. But the question is would you accept such an end result? And I’m not asking that rhetorically. It seems like many intellectuals on the left tend to have a love/hate relationship with intellectualism, because they accept the value and importance of the material itself but reject the implied highbrow/lowbrow hierarchy.

  86. “while it is true that just the ad hominem ‘he s a Nazi’ doesn’t invalidate an argument, it doesn’t validate it either. It’s not a credential. And everything oen knows about an author, his worldview an education and project, is relevant to interpreting this kind of work.”

    Whatever happened to separating the art from the artist?

  87. John Steppling says:

    of course being a nazi says a lot about that person’s thought. its part of it.
    We are talking about one book essentially. At least I am. A hugely influential book. But one book. And one that took a radical perspective on an exhuasted topic. By virtue of that position, that perspective, it opened up thinking about the pre Socratics.

    You can say this is gibberish, and oh, Being has no meaning. But you write as if someone, anyone, is persueded by this? I got it. You think its gibberish. And no, that excerpt is not intelligible outside of its context. Its just not because you’ve no idea what those terms are referring to.

    Heidegger is certainly guilty at a certain point of just inventing his own vocabulary….but not in the book in question. Look, we can go round about this endlessly. I simply reject this idea that heidegger is gibberish…and Im sort of amused I have to even write that sentence. With anyone else, Id not have bothered at this point.

    Heidegger’s certainly in places close to impossible….but again, not in this book

    and i mean, its funny, because in a sense, if you reject MH on Heraclitus for example… may as well reject heraclitus. Nobody else on the topic is readable. Thats the irony. The rest is Empire classicism. Its doggerel. Kirk and Raven. Whoever…which is sort of the point of this post. If we try to talk about Tragedy…..and violence and sacrifice……..its impossible to ignore heidegger.
    Plato actually asked what “being” meant….though i dont recall where,. Im sure however he did…to the effect we once knew the meaning of being and now do not, and now are confused. Anyway…… of my favorite books, i sort of hate to admit is the heraclitus seminars, Eugen Fink and Heidegger. Its just notes from students and transcriptions of stuff students wrote down…remembered. Its like reading a strange stream of consciousness, a dark poem about madness….and you know, Heidegger translated bits of the tragedies….this from Sophocles…Antigone…

    “He set sail on the frothing waters amid the south winds of winter . . . and [he] hunts the
    beasts of the wilderness and the native creatures of the sea . . . And he has found his way to
    the resonance of the word, and to wind-swift all-understanding, and to the courage of rule
    over cities”

    now…..its a translation of a translation…….and its still a whole gigantic fucking lot better than any penquin classic or Cornford or whowever……Kitto. I mean it just is. it is a glimpse at something inexplicable……its art. It is a place where the uncanny hides in the shadows… Maybe its not even thought per se…its not unified philosophy. My old friend Jim Bauerline, was marcuse’s graduate secretary for one year at UCSD. He said, Heidegger was impossible….and marcuse said he was too but marcuse also said, he was simply brilliant in classes, lecturing, speaking….that no student ever thought he was not learning …..and learning on some more substantial level. And that his analysis of classic texts was his true genius. And i think a wholesale rejection of that, because its not ….I dont know…comfortable……is a sort of very narrow position to take. Its forcing this idea that everything heidegger wrote is just ayran propaganda. It may indeed contain those seeds. Yeah, perhaps. But its s of a philistine position to refuse it out of hand.

    But you know…duly noted, ten times.

    REMY……..jeez, dude. YOU DO NOT SEPERATE art from anything. Nothing is seperated. Its not a competitive sport, or the academy awards or something. Its just not remotely that simple-.

  88. John:

    All I meant by that was that someone shouldn’t dismiss an artist’s or philosopher’s work simply because he or she isn’t or wasn’t a very nice person.

  89. I feel a conundrum plagues the intelligentsia, and they have yet to solve it, and you John, seem to be caught right in the middle. You’re essential problem with the contemporary left is they reject art and take refuge in pure ideology. You sympathize with many leftist platforms, as do I, but you love art too much to take the leap. Yet, you entirely refuse to turn your back on leftism as that would be tantamount to Oxbridge classicists taking “tranquil contemplative strolls in the hills”. It’s a conundrum the intelligentsia has yet to solve, and part of the problem is there’s dearth of great thinkers. There are no modern-day Heideggers or Sartres. Scruton, Sontag, and Chomsky are not great thinkers. They’re partisans/ideologues. Naturally, a leftist partisan will be more palatable than conservative partisan. But being a leftist ideologue does not make one a great thinker. Sure, there are plenty of exceptionally bright intellectuals out there on the left, but there’s no Heidegger out there willing to take that great leap forward (no pun intended) that will take us one step closer to solving the aforementioned conundrum. The issue is leftism and “high art” often have trouble peacefully co-existing. Susan Sontag epitomizes this. How do we solve this conundrum? Also, why do so many leftists question the superiority of “high culture”? Well a lot of it I think has to do with the “dead white men” meme. So I don’t really know what I want. I don’t have an answer or a solution. I’m just trying to point out problems and inconsistencies that I feel need to be solved by a great thinker on the level of Heidegger or Walter Benjamin. It has nothing to do with being a white patriarchy or imperlialist apologist. I feel like you’re labeling me an imperialist simply because I’m not a blind “screw you dad”, Occupy, antiestablishmentarian. And by the way, aren’t the very leftists you have issues with the Zizek-loving Occupy protestors who go home and watch Noah Baumbach and Lena Dunham films after they’re done protesting. And isn’t antiestablishmentarianism a form of reactionaryism in and of itself, since you’re essentially rejecting anything that gets thrown at you from the other side? Now of course there are plenty of relativists on the left who hate Dunham. So if it’s not a hypocritical beneficiary of white privilege like Dunham then it’s a second-rate non-Caucasian filmmaker like Abdellatif Kechiche who’s embraced in the name of multiculturalism or diversity or whatever. You know, because Yasujiro Ozu, Borges, James Baldwin, and Satyajit Ray are proverbial “dead white men” at this point. It’s this that I have a problem with. I’m not suggesting you yourself are guilty of said relativism, but it’s leftist ideology and politics that inevitably leads to these kinds of hypocritical attitudes, which probably explains why people like Heidegger, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot were near fascists, not that I’m condoning fascist sympathies, but it was probably a knee jerk reaction to what they saw as the unintended consequences of leftist politics. All I’m saying is the intelligentsia needs to solve this conundrum, but they’re not doing a very good job of it at the moment.

  90. So what I’m asking is how can we maintain our leftist sympathies while simultaneously making peace with the fact that most great philosophers, artists, and thinkers do in fact happen to be “dead white men”?

  91. This is why I so often find myself disenchanted with the left. Deep down inside they really would like to like “high culture” and all that it stand for, but they then revert to relativism and subjectivism when the dominance of “dead white men” flies right in the face of their multicultural agenda.

  92. Why can’t leftists and traditionalists just get along once in a while? After all, the more extreme they become in either direction they more they seem to be two sides of the same coin. The more the left rejects objectivity and epistemology the more I find myself siding with the traditionalists, as flawed as their thinking often is.

  93. And just to finish, I feel like there’s confusion between the micro and the macro. Things like imperialism and white patriarchy are serious issues, but they’re also micro issues. Great artists and thinkers are judged primarily by the way in which they grapple with macro issues, or eternal questions of the human conditions that transcend politics or the oppression of non-whites by whites. Someone like Chomsky is largely concerned with the micro. I mean do we say a work of art is great because it displays how white men oppress black men? No, because that would be camp. It’s Spike Lee or Jesse Jackson. Sure, there are a lot of leftist undertones to the films or Godard or Pasolini, but that’s not why they’re considered great art. They’re great because of how they approach the macro or the big questions that go deeper than politics or the bourgeoisie. Addressing the flaws of the bourgeoisie is really just a pretext for asking larger questions. I could be wrong, but I guess I just feel you downplay the macro in favor of the micro, and I don’t really see how that would be an underhanded way of tolerating white patriarchy.

  94. Molly Klein says:

    ‘He said, Heidegger was impossible….and marcuse said he was too but marcuse also ‘said, he was simply brilliant in classes, lecturing, speaking….that no student ever thought he was not learning …’

    i don’t care what somebody said somebody else said Heidegger;s godorful students thought of him – after he threw all the non aryans out —

    Who was impressed by him? Uni students in Germany, a narrow group of the most gullible and cowardly people who fear not understanding who are easily fooled who accept anything that flatters them. He was adored and revered by his Nazi students and those whowould have been Nazis had they been allowed.

    There are endless commentaries on what a con Heidegger is…Adorno, Bourdieu for example. I am far from alone in find thing this stuff laughable. But yes if you get your understanding of humanity and the universe from Plato, who thought the moon was made of cheese basically, then of course this will appeal. It’s like astrology.

    You can say anything about Being in the discourse of philosophy, ontology. The discourse is itself a nonsense game; it is a nominally secular theology> It has no meaning in context or out of context, If it had sense you could paraphrase it. You could summarize the discussion of Herclitus. But you cannot.

    Quotation here requires that i take something ‘out of content’ to highlight it but it is not offered out of context. I refer you to the entire work and ask you what being means IN CONTEXT.
    Let us both assume the context of Heidegger’s entire oeuvre.
    (It is precisely this context you declare irrelevant )

    So since we both know the context, can you say what that passage means? In what way have misconstrued it?

    And no I don’t share the ancient Greek’s beliefs, their cosmology, theology, biology, anthropology, and neither do you.

    And of course nobody can judge the translations who is not a scholar of ancient Greek; I’m not, you’re not> People who are generally find fault with Heidegger especially on his anachronistic impositions of concepts of early 19th century romantic conceptions of things such as Truth.

    Marcuse knew exactly nothing about this. He’s not an authority on classics> Moreover he came from Heidegger’s own intellectual milieu.

    It is plain that the point of Dasein instead of humanity is that humanity would refer to our entire species and Heidegger wants to exclude most of the species from the protagonists of history and of his analysis. From Being. You John accept that you have Being while I am a mere existing thing. What is this difference? How do you have Being that I lack? It’s like cooties and cool.

  95. Molly Klein says:

    “So too, Heidegger’s method of presentation of Greek texts
    is reminiscent of the use of the Gospels in Christian sermons:quotation of short passages in translation; explanatory translation, or more precisely paraphrase, which works out the
    implications seen in the text by packing them tendentiously
    into the translation itself; and a lengthy exegesis which aims
    to work out everything implied or concealed within the text.
    And yet, viewed within this light, Heidegger’s mode of exegesis is very odd: for he is almost always at considerable pains
    to work against the text, to struggle against its apparent
    meaning in support of some other level of signification which
    is far from obvious. Thus even if Heidegger’s own variety of
    pneumatic exegesis is ultimately derived from a theological
    tradition, in him it takes on an extreme and problematic
    form. To understand this, let us turn to the second thesis.
    2. Heidegger’s Greeks are the speakers of a lexicon of primal
    philosophical terms.
    It is a striking fact about Heidegger’s use of the Greeks
    that he never interprets at length a whole text of Greek poetry or philosophy from beginning to end, but instead focuses restrictively upon short sections, chapters, indeed often
    only sentences. In dealing with longer texts that have been
    transmitted in extenso, he evidently prefers to fragment
    them into smaller ones. What is more, he seems strongly to
    prefer to deal with texts that are transmitted in a fragmentary form rather than with ones still extant in their entirety,
    and in interpreting the surviving testimony of ancient Greek
    philosophy he devotes most of his attention to especially
    brief fragments. One extreme, but not uncharacteristic, example is provided by What Does Thinking Mean?: here he
    expends about one quarter of the whole book upon a single
    line of Parmenides (WhD 105–49). But what he apparently
    most prefers to interpret is not even Greek texts, not even
    fragmentary Greek ones, but above all single words of the
    Greek language. Heidegger’s interpretation of single Greek
    words tends to take one or the other of two forms: either he
    interprets a transmitted text, which is composed of one or
    more syntactical units, by explaining one by one all or most
    or at least some of the individual words it contains; or else
    he simply discusses a small number of individual key
    words—for example, fuvsi~, ajlhqeiva, lovgo~, noei`n—in isolation from any particular text containing them.
    So Heidegger, as an interpreter of Greek thought, consistently prefers parts to wholes, fragments to parts, sentences
    to fragments, and single words to sentences. In fact, he often
    goes even further, preferring the purported etymological
    roots of words to the attested meanings of the words themselves. Thus Heidegger may be said to lexicalize Greek
    thought. He seems to see the Greek language as a collection
    of individual substantives in the nominative case and ignores
    almost completely any other parts of speech than nouns or
    infinitives as well as the whole structure of syntax which permits Greek sentences to yield a meaning.
    Heidegger’s Greeks do not actually write, and if they do
    write, the less they write the better. The best Greeks, for Heidegger, seem to be ones who merely speak, and who speak
    single, heavily charged substantives with which they tacitly
    connect highly sophisticated and profoundly meditated but
    unspoken associations. Heidegger’s Greeks do not so much
    compose literary or philosophical texts as rather simply
    enounce to one another these primal philosophical terms.
    They look at one another, say fuvsi~, and nod slowly. That is
    why Heidegger must interpret the surviving Greek texts so
    often against their apparent meaning, for he is trying to restore them from the condition of factitious actual utterances,
    to which they have fallen, back to their originary, fully authentic status as a primal archive of philosophy.
    3. Heidegger’s Greeks are only some Greeks.
    Heidegger speaks often about “the Greeks.” But most of
    the real Greeks of the ancient world seem to be a matter of
    complete indifference, or even ignorance, to him.
    First of all, he turns the Greeks into the Greek language: it
    is only insofar as the Greeks are producers of written texts or
    speakers of the Greek language that they interest him.
    degger displays no interest in, or even awareness of, Greek
    history, Greek warfare, Greek economics, Greek politics,
    Greek cuisine, Greek sports, Greek slavery, Greek families,
    Greek women, or Greek children. He hardly mentions Greek
    religion, and—with apparently only one exception—does so
    only so as to explain certain aspects of Greek philosophy, for
    example referring to Artemis as a context for Heraclitus (GA
    55.14–19); that exception is his discussion of the Greek temple in his essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” where however it is difficult to imagine what if anything the reflections
    Heidegger associates with that building have to do with
    Greek religion as understood by ancient or modern scholarship (H 30–44). So the Greeks, whom Heidegger celebrates as
    the last representatives of a nature still untainted by the defects of Western civilization, in fact seem to interest him only
    as the producers of the traditional monuments of high culture. But even here, Heidegger ignores such other forms of
    Greek high culture as art and sculpture and focuses exclusively upon Greek words. Characteristically, he tends to neglect the biographies of ancient thinkers, except in his lecture
    on Heraclitus, where however he radically reinterprets a few
    anecdotes of doubtful authenticity in order to provide them
    with a deep philosophical meaning (GA 55.5–13)”

    That about captures it

  96. John Steppling says:

    you know, in a sense, this reflects most of our debates. And it quickly becomes a pointless and tedious set of rhetorical gambits designed to win some point. In this case, the value of heidegger’s thinking on the pre socratics. Since as you rightly point out, neither you nor I can read ancient greek, we rely on secondary sources. And its the same dealing with Heidegger, or most anyone not writing in English. Listing articles that favor your position, isnt really resolving much or proving much. I could easily site an equal number in defense of my position.

    Im having a hard time knowing how to respond to this last laundry list of declarations. I mean you dont know which students felt what. I dont either, really. Its all secondary. And you also simply parrot what you have read in the articles you choose to defend your position with. So, the only thing I can respond to, I think , a few sort of specific points related to these secondary assumptions.

    Now, you seem to be asking for a summary of Heidegger’s philosphy…..which I know you realize is just idiotic on the face of it. One does not do thumbnail summerizing of philosophy. Even if one asked for a summation of Freud, you would have a hard time doing it any justice in less that several pages. The same for adorno, or whoever you want to pick out. I mean summerize Kierkegaard. Its silly. Its a sort rhetorical three card monte game. Its a strategy for argument, which I find sort of offensive at a certain point. Well, not sort of, i DO find it offensive. Its more about YOU, than it is about what is being discussed. What is it you want to achieve here? There is not going to be the winning comment, its not contest. One can only state one’s position and talk about that. Which has been done. And repeating over and over and over and over….”heidegger is con…..and everyone sees this….” etc etc…..over and over is not an honest discussion. Im not stupid. I know and can tell the difference in intentions when people discuss things honestly. My question though, again, is what do you expect? You are repeating yourself a good deal here. So, in the interest of what? What are imagining you are going to win?

    ” That is
    why Heidegger must interpret the surviving Greek texts so
    often against their apparent meaning, for he is trying to restore them from the condition of factitious actual utterances,
    to which they have fallen, back to their originary, fully authentic status as a primal archive of philosophy.”

    I think indeed that is partly right, except its not to their originary status exactly. It is to restore what he saw as their originary meaning. Its quite simple, really.

    And yes, he focused on single words, often. Which you find full of sinister import. There is nothing sinister in this. Same as there is nothing sinister in a lot of say, Tom Hare does with ancient Egyptian inscriptions. And really, as I ve tried to make clear, this is about something else to do with Greek thought as it relates to tragedy and the origin of performance and theatre. Im not a heidegger scholar. Im not writing about Heidegger’s philosophy per se.

    “public knowledge by means of writing ….did soo either in the form of books, such as those of anaximander and Pherecydes …or those of Heraclitus deposited in the temple of artemis at Ephesus, or in the form of parapegmata, monumental inscriptions on stone similar to those on which the city engraved the names of its magistrates or priests. their ambition was not to make a display of their own discoveries or opinions; in setting forth such a message es-to-meson, they wished to make it the common property of the city, a standard that would,like the law, be applicable to all.” Vernant….Origins of Greek Thought.

    So you see, in fact, single sentence takes on another role, and THAT is what is of interest to me, because that places these thoughts on the cusp of private and civic and silent and spoken, and magical and legal, and performative and individual. Such inscriptions were to meant to be debated, and often, understandably, found their way into the plays of the dramatists, who nonetheless worked off the well known myths handed down through the oral tradition.

    “To speak of a public cult is to speak of a city cult. All the old sacra, badges of investiture, religious symbols, emblems, xoana (wood images and statues) jealously preserved as talismans of power in the privacy of palaces or the crannies of priestly homes, now moved to the temple, an open and public place” Vernant.

    This is the nature of those thinkers that came before plato.
    As to Being…… Horkheimer wrote………..”thus the only modern philosophical work that radically rejects any aspiration to being a social philosophy, and which discovers true Being exclusively within the individual’s inner self , namely in heidegger’s Being and TIme,…”care” (sorge) stands at the center of attention. This philosophy of individual human existence is not, according to its simple content, transfigurative in hegel’s sense- For this philosophy, on the contrary, human Being is only unto death, mere finitude, it is a melancholy philosophy.”

    Now, my only point is that while one may decide Heidegger is inherently totalitarian, and Id probably not argue that very much, he isnt exactly Werner erhardt either. And the way you describe this work is as if there is simply no value and its a great big con. And if so, then a lot of pretty sharp people are being conned. And that leads to the problem with this sort of blanket condemnation, and I hate to say this, but its what I continually run into with a lot of leftists who seem afraid of anything that cannot be evaluated in very mechanical terms. And that sensibility is the very one leftists so often take pains to attack as instrumental.

    you write….

    “First of all, he turns the Greeks into the Greek language: it
    is only insofar as the Greeks are producers of written texts or
    speakers of the Greek language that they interest him.
    degger displays no interest in, or even awareness of, Greek
    history, Greek warfare, Greek economics, Greek politics,
    Greek cuisine, Greek sports, Greek slavery, Greek families,
    Greek women, or Greek children. He hardly mentions Greek
    religion, and—with apparently only one exception—does so
    only so as to explain certain aspects of Greek philosophy, for
    example referring to Artemis as a context for Heraclitus (GA
    55.14–19); that exception is his discussion of the Greek temple in his essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” where however it is difficult to imagine what if anything the reflections
    Heidegger associates with that building have to do with
    Greek religion as understood by ancient or modern scholarship (H 30–44). So the Greeks, whom Heidegger celebrates as
    the last representatives of a nature still untainted by the defects of Western civilization”

    I dont think that’s wrong, I just dont find it sinister. Actually, the conclusion is wrong, because its simplistic. But yeah, MH broke with a lot of thinking on this topic. Feel free to reject it. And look, feel free to imply all sorts of other characteristics to this project…..though you arent likely to find evidence for it. But what you describe is also true of a great many other western thinkers when they write about the greeks. This clearly is problematic for you because you have a narrow inflexible set of acceptable positions for discussing things. It must further your political analysis. Which….honestly…is fine I suppose. But thats what it is. And the stridency and insistent repetition betrays something more. —-though what, im not sure. Now, everyone from Benjamin to ..well, countless others actually…….ernst bloch, Derrida, etc…..tend to be fascinated with the text….at the expense of social history. I think that’s a valid complaint, but its not exactly reason for dismissing the work out of hand as a con.

  97. Exir Kamalabadi says:

    “tend to be fascinated with the text….at the expense of social history. I think that’s a valid complaint, but its not exactly reason for dismissing the work out of hand as a con.”

    Actually, I’d argue that this could be the exact definition of a “con”. Cons aren’t necessarily intellectually empty, just misguided. The trouble with Heidegger is that he is dealing with historical topics, and his fantastic segues into ahistorical territory can have no real historical relevance, only personal and aesthetic relevance. In other words, you’ll like it if it’s your kind of poetry, and you’ll dislike it if it’s not your kind of poetry. Nothing more. It’s not history.

  98. John Steppling says:


    Well, you and molly certainly think this. Im not sure we can discuss this as if things dont bleed into one another. Also, history is embedded within the poetry. Now…….there are certainly people who claim *their* history IS history. And its also different from revisionist history. This is a textual analysis……..dealing with a very small chunk of the spectrum….a pretty well defined set of writings, and fragments ….so is it then incumbant upon the anaysis to provide ….what? A history? And what does that mean? And if thats the case, then we are going to labeling a lot of philosophers are cons. A lot. It starts to feel very weird to me. its like almost puritanical. So…….first off we would have to decide there is something false in this analysis of heraclitus , say. And what would that be? Does the lack of specific history render the analysis false? I mean I guess I get confused when people say, its ashistorical. For me, its not ashistorical, its just not discussing the history very much. Its not excluding it. And thats a rather significant point. What does ”your’ history look like? Man, ive read so much bad writing on the pre socratics………which is, in theory, historical. Its just very bad reductive history. And its kistch history, and it bleeds into the content of the writings. This is where benjamin seems sort of important to me. Anyway, if you look at Jonathan Barnes book. “The Presocratic Philosophers”, which is pretty much a standard text on the subject, you dont get a lot of history either. Some, but not much. If you read historians on the period you get very little textual analysis. Barnes is useful though for tracking the translations made via christian monks, etc. And mostly, he simply takes a very simple straightforward view. On the famous “you cant step into the same river twice” fragment…of which three versions exist……..he doesnt even accept plato’s allegorical analysis. He imagines these as folk wisdom mostly. Advice to farmers etc. He quotes a few other people who saw Heraclitus as the pre socratic Wittgenstein. And here he introduces the ideas of the time on change ….He compares the fragments to hesiod…and then quotes aristotles pretty brief take. My point is that this sort of leaves out what I consider the important aspect of these writings. Which I wrote about above. And their relationship to theatre, to ritual, and sacrifice. And its also why I think Vernant is so useful. But i still think heidegger probes the texts in ways that reveal more than Barnes does.. One can assume MH expected students to have some familiarity with the historical context. He wasnt writing that book. And neither is Barnes, really. Its different approaches. I think its too easy to reject any of them out of hand this way. And if you read barnes, Id think you would be hard pressed to not see it as rather superficial.

  99. Molly Klein says:

    that isnt me its the cllassicist G Most
    who doesnt share my politics so you will have to revise the ad hominem to invalidate what he says

  100. john steppling says:

    that line of debate is over. You want to clog up the thread with varying classics studies in defense of your position, thats coool…. but you know very well i can find at least an equal amount in defense of mine. And this proves what? I mean i get that a lot of classics scholars hated heidegger’s readings. Ok. Lots admired them.

    I admire them. That debate sailed hours ago.

  101. john steppling says:

    to be clear……you cant discuss pre socratic thought, and Heidegger’s reading of ancient greek in a comments thread with links to brief articles. You just cant. And to suggest you can is a good part of the problem actually. There is a sort of weird hostility toward the material itself……and as Ive said before, lurking within the heart of a lot of the left is a less than fully conscious hatred of art and culture. I even sort of understand this. And thats a topic worth discussing. But some things you cant do much more than state an opinion, footnote it however you like, and move on. You do realize the astonishly repetitive nature of this way too long debate. Its not progressed AT ALL. And thats not really anyones fault so much as the material does not allow itself of a readers digest treatment.

    And if one thinks it does……we have then identified problem number two.

  102. Molly Klein says:

    i didnt want to clog up the thread! just showing my view is commonplace and i thought he said the main things well; hes a guy who write often about this myth – not confined to Heidegger and other Nazis, but everywhere touched by the race theories of Kant and Hegel and their supporting historigraphical fictions – of yerup and yerupeen supremacy (the Greco european adventure said Derrida) having its origins in this sui generis Greek miracle, this story of germanaryan spirit born, of which tradition from faascists forward Heidegger’s mystification of Greek texts, alongside Barres on Sparta and the like, is a key document. Most writes about these classical works explaining they are a niche of culture product in its regional context, not ‘original’ anymore than anything else is; the illusion of species elevating epiphany that Heidegger creates is maintained by widespread ignorance of the cultural context and this kind of priestly-astrologer-oracle treatment of fragments from texts as described above, as if they contained sacred coded messages. Most debunks this mythology of ancient unspoiled Greek authenticity and specialness (which Adorno long ago exposed for its sinister politics) which is key to elite versions of white supremacy. Being as distinct from Existence is nothing other than Whiteness, after alll, this mysticism of transcendent form in the bad romanticism of mitteleuropean 19th century. And Heidegger is dressing up in these mysterious trappings motifs from fables like Schlemihl and treating them as the secrets of ontology, a mystical cosmology.

  103. Molly Klein says:

    and i didn’t think it is irrelevant because this is the topic – Heidegger is the fascist explanation for capitalization and the spectacle,for this ruse of real-ism that is the recession of the real. Heidegger’s kvetch about massification and mingling is the fascist riposte; this mystical return to the soil and authenticity an the realization and purification of german tribal form – recapture and reassert beung against the lowly mere existence of us riff raff (and this is ironically not so different from Lurianic kabbalah’s notion of tikkun and the regeneration of adam kadmon)– is an alternative response and analysis t the mediological and Marxist one and its mystifying, turning all on its head> For Heidegger it is the imperial Yerupeens who are being drained and massified and made decadent by their contact with the colonized merely existing animals – it is ideology, reality on its head. The White Race has this unique form,, this spirit and pith inherited from this original miraculous Greeks,, and touching thhe dark hoil polloi spoils and stains and drains and rots this unique property – this is the bourgeois white way of fictionalizing imperial plunder. Orientals and savagaes are stealing White Essence, whose pure form is latent but has been covered an MH shows the traces of it in ancient Greek texts; and the way you get this back, this wonderful Being, is purfication of the nation, beginning with things like kicking non aryans out of his university, stripping them of citizenship- to identify them as lacking Being, as carries of the sickness of animal mortality and instrumental rationality (‘Jewishness’) that infects Being – and so forth. It”s not like this was just a lot of harmless irrelevant or purely academic musing – this is core elements of the theory of a praxis.

  104. Molly Klein says:

    ‘his is a textual analysis……..dealing with a very small chunk of the spectrum….a pretty well defined set of writings, and fragments ….so is it then incumbant upon the anaysis to provide ….what? A history?”

    Well yes doesn’t he have to? There are criteria for the interpretations of texts, and knowledge of the language in which they are written is one. MH goes about his practice exactly the way people deal with the prophecies of Nostradamus. There are some very clear cases of the kind fo overinterpretation Eco describes and spoofs in Foucault’s Pendulum. If you are to read the phrase ‘Mind the gap’ annd instead of realizing it is a line to be read by a voice over provider for recordings on the London undergroound to alert people to watch their step and instead take it as a context free communcation from the divine, the results will be other than the historical work – and Hediegger claims specifically and emphatically to be doing historical inquiries — and it would be very easy to interpret ‘mind the gap’ inn the vein of German idealism and fascism to be an injunction to exterminate Roma for the repair of aryan being. And so we need to understand the context of Heidegger’s work to interpret it correctly – the know its purpose and its conditions. We shouldn’t repeat his manoeuvres, but understand them for what they are. Heidegger’s observations out of context are pretty vacuous fancies of vague but momentous sounding meanings which,, iof not taken as flattery of us for our birthrigt in this miraculous authentic tradition of Being, accomplish nothing except to flatten and homengenize all the texts supposedly enjoyed,m making them all nothing but randomly painted diverse husks for the same bland pronouncement about truth and death over and over with no variation.

  105. Molly Klein says:

    ‘the result would be other than the historical work advertised’ that should say

  106. Molly Klein says:

    Also I think its clear your defense of this stuff has to avoid all notice of or reference to the actual content of what Heidegger writes, the actual essays and their exegesis and conclusionsm and uses diversions like ad hominem – my motives are bad so what i say must be wrong no matter what it is – and procedural dispute – its not fair to quote two paragraphs auotation itself is an invalid act; no sentence in any text in any language can be construed or paraphrased except by Heidegger himself; here are no criteria for judgements of this kind of work its all just to be stared at in awe and applauded – to avoid engaging with the assertions and signification of the work you’re advancing as enlightening.

    And this permits you to avoid addressing the fact that what Heidegger writes – with torn up texts as pretexts – about kampf polemos, struggle and about the distinctiveness of GrecoGerman tribe is exactly what every other Nazi writes about this.

    And the only imaginably way to contest this is to state in plain terms how what Heidegger says about these topics differs from what every other Nazi says.

  107. Molly Klein says:

    And his interpretations of the pre Socratics, his imaginary pre Socratics, his fantasy authentic ‘the Greeks’, are undertaken specifically in the service of his Nazi project. He says explicitly that the kind of kampf he and his fellows have to wage as Nazis for the fatherland is the battle as he mis/construes – for this purpose – Heraclitus to be discussing in frag 53. The whole point of his ahistorical and basically inaccurate interpretation of Heraclitus is to provide Nazis crazyway of thinking with glorious ancestors, to locate in this sacred past of European culture the Nazi beliefs and commitment to their project, to claim Heraclitus as their forebear and font of mystically pure thought and Being, ‘the Greek’ before the Fall (Plato) providing an authenticity licensing the Nazis’ concrete contemporary extermination policies. And he was the one Zizek is mimicking in the evasions of saying ‘well I mean kampf in the sense of dancing’ kind of thing…just as he decided ‘death’ really means something that requries we understand that no prisoners actually died in auschwitz as the merely existing non Beings are incapable of death, death being something only the authentic Dasein – SS officers, for example — can experience. This is sophistry but its effects are the dissemination of topoi and themes that advance the power of the already dominant

  108. Molly Klein says:

    and according to all the Heidegger fans the supposedly great insights of his exegesis are things like ‘discovering’ that polemos doesn’t mean war as a contest of armies but a spiritual struggle like Hitler’s and the SS. And this is:

    a) simply wrong – (and yes it is possible to make false statements about such things, historical knowledge is not impossible, this ‘purity or nothing’ mysticism is another thing Heidegger developed and popularized)

    and b) dogmatically asserted – no historical or philological argument is offered, one is simply meant to accept this off the wall translation because it makes it possible to make a fragment of Heraclitus sound like an ancient original Nazism (‘some step into the light as lords and others as slaves due to the strife and struggle of Being’ – which is just Nazi kitsch Hegel slipped into the place of Heraclitus). while claiming to produce historical discoveries – better truer more accurate translations of ancient texts which convey better the original sense and connotations – this baseless Nazification of the prose is asserted, soimply on the inisistence that the Greeks were these authentic originators of German tribal spirit and consciousness who must have known the Hitlerian truth, the highest Beings whose issue have regrettably degenerated due to modernity following from ‘Socrates’ (picked up as code for Jewishness from Nietzsche, his circle and other romantics like polish T Micinski Gospel of Lucifer) but whose state can be regained by their ‘historical’ heirs.

    And it is this game of mistranslation as priestly deciphering that results in Heidegger’s later suggestion that Hitler aimed for the right goal but wasn’t warlike enough, which then is repeated as Zizek’s assertiion that Hitler aimed that the right goal but wasn’t violent enough; both statements asserted like dogwhistles to remain sounding the regret for military defeat and celebration of bloodthirstiness even when disavowed by claiming the terms are metaphors.

    Now if this is trivial – this combination of crude scholarly error and crass politics – then there is simply nothng to defend here, because this crude error and crass politics are precisely the celebrated content.

  109. John Steppling says:

    jesus christ………….all of what you just wrote, you had ALREADY written. Do you not read what you write, or is it just some musclar spasm , some graphomania that cant be controlled? All i can say, because this has been adressed repeatedly, is that its not a question of originary anything. You conveninetly avoided all mention of Vernant. And that is because it doesnt fit your Heidegger narrative. So lets put Heidegger aside…….and again, there are THOUSANDS more articles about this topic that spin off EXACTLY heidegger’s reading of these texts. But lets put that aside, and discuss the idea of greek thought. What you suggest is that there is NOTHING significant going on here:? Correct? May as well read………I dont know….mesoptamian cooking lists………..because all we need is an invented history of some sort….however partial……….and they are always partial when we go this far back. And the impulse to make pedestrian anything written during the distant past. Thats the project, yes? Why study ancient texts other than to learn a few details about trade, and customs. See. what is the historical retreival project then, exactly? If we arent meant to attribute anything special to any set of texts……….they are all just texts………same as all texts I suppose……..then why are we bothering at all? And…..i find it curious that in fact, Vernant and others…..Nietszche even….do examine this stuff in a highly specific historical context. In fact, like Fontenbrose, the texts are seen as special exactly because of where they arrive in the trajectory of Hellenic culture. The problem is actually WHAT YOU ARE DOING, and the analysis you support, is the white imperial project here. It is the degrading and devaluing of ancient text in the name of a certain scientific rationalism….white science. You approach these texts the same you approach factory time cards. Vernant based a good deal of his analysis on the findings of Mycenean Linear B script…..which sort of re-dated the entire civilizational near eastern time line. The writings at Knossos and Pylos, suddenly placed the Greek world very close culturally to the Alalakh and Hittite etc. So that one actually reads Homer with a different perspective…..because it is seen as even more of a rupture with the prevailing order of near eastern kingdoms. Nylson was one of the historians claiming greek thought had been connected to and was then disconnecting from Mycenaean society. Types of kingship changed, etc., The greeks suddenly did away with a single divine king. This marked what historians call the dark ages of greek society….where little new cultural work developed, until say 500bc……….Im not a historian and various theories remain……..but the point is that the eruption of thought in greece at the time of the pre socractics marked a large cultural shift….and one in which the beliefs of the near eastern kingdoms were being adjusted, as were the earlier Ionic customs etc etc etc. As i say, this is all in Vernant and Fontenbrose and Deteinne, and Nylson, et al. So…..when i say provide a history…..I mean beyond THIS history that is already well documentted……but which came to light around 1950 with the discovery of a single chunk of stone cunniform writing. The arrogance is on the side of those assuming somehow this is NOT a unique moment culturally and historically. The problem though, can be encapsulated around exactly how linear b and linear a are transcribed. And this is where vernant had a huge impact. Because he said….yeah, in fact, they wrote one thing, in a certain script, and then the same thing in a slightly different script, depending on how the secret meaning was to be read. Pythagoras for example, was said by contemporaries, to have written special codes for priests. There is obviously going to be contention around this. But it is very telling when you get to the greek tragedies, based on myths from a distant past……and including hesiod……suddenly perhaps the banality of Cornford/s translation…up through all modern translations……is because we sense the void, the missing part, the absent body of meaning that has been erased. Nobody is avoiding fucking anything. What would you like to debate here on this comment thread? Heideggers analysis of Heraclitus? Sure…..let me know if you have questions. But dont say, oh, just paraphrase because thats not a question. Be specific. And i will try to answer. The rhetorical gambit employed by the vulgar marxist is always the same. ALWAYS . ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS.. Im suprised you dont bore yourself to death, actually. And it is the voice of an extraordinary arrogance……this has been a good part of why i did this blog……because marxists of the china meiville stripe.*(which i dont imply you are)…all those quasi and half educated charaltans that see no opportunity for snark should be left unrealized. Proyect, and richard seymour, and on across the entire spectrum. The project is the same. It is the trivialization of history, in fact. Not the erasure of history, for that is what the state does, what corporate media and the US state dept do… but the trivializing of it. Chris harmen and the trots version of history as a large factory . And culturally, this manifests in leftist circles with the almost 100% guarentee of bad cultural criticism. Lousy taste in art.

    Perhaps my biggest question though, vis a vis heidegger, is why you molly feel compelled, obsessively compelled to just repeat the same position for over 80 or 90 comments.? Does that not strike you as strange? I mean you said the same thing at the top, and I grant you, its not possible to do much more than that on a comments thread. Oh, lets dissecnt Kierkegaard in a comments thread, or on facebook. Its hopeless, and the very assumption that it can, speaks to what is really driving this discussion. Its not about the truth. Its about winning an argument. Its about nothing more than that, because i can match you article for article and prove nothing. But the point is, from norman o brown to vernant and the rest……*putting heidy aside for a second*, is that history is provided, these are classics scholars. History is inherent in any project of this sort. Heidegger too did not ignore history. But that doesnt fit your narrative….none of that reality. You can claim crude scholarly error……and i can show you scholarly articles saying the opposite. And i can show you those who complained about, say, Bly;s translations of Rumi, or Lorca, or Trakl. Oh, its not scholarly. Perhaps….but definitions of the academy in the west. I’ll stand with bly on that one. I mean your sources are the establishment university departments that you might otherwise criticisze. so you see, all one can do is pick and choose and evaluate what one decides, judges, to be the most truthful………to reveal something of use. That is all one can do. I have certainly read a good deal on this stuff…….im guessing more than you…………for forty years in fact………..and I always stay abreast of the new discoveries and changes in attitude. And what is most clear to me is that the anglo english classics departments were the ones who created a certainb mythology. Not Heidegger. Not the french or german or japanese even. The british, during the start of the long autumn of the empire. That colored all discussion. But such is your obsessive need to comment 90 times ….the same comment….NINETY times………about somehow this is all a nazi propaganda tool, and the source of white surpremicism, that you actually rather stunningly miss the real source of the white supremicist co-option of Hellenic culture. My point has been from the start………..that its not about the origin of white specialness, in fact its the fact that these texts do something very different from that for which they are given credit by the Oxford and cambridge establishment…..the TE Lawrence and Lord Kitchner backdrop of most available english translations……of sophocles, for that is where this started. Heidegger’s admittedly unique take is just one, but I find it useful, not sinister, but then I dont subscribe to the crude leftist polemics of the pseudo thinkers on that side of aisle these days. In fact culturally, they are probably as damaging if not more damaging than Time Warner and SONY. No, MH was just one source. There are, if you read the post again, a host of others………..the point, which seems beneath you to address, is what the actual tragedies were doing, what greek tragedy meant, and how it arrived when it did, and its relationship to shakespeare and later to the 20th century theatre of beckett and kantor and Boal and brook. THAT was the point. Not the sophmoric jokes of umberto eco…………..and I find no problem using heidegger’s translations as part of an attempt to unearth what i see as having been covered over by the anglo white empire of cultural appropriation.

  110. Molly Klein says:

    this ad hominem tirade is irrelevant
    you say exactly nothing about heidegger
    you just declare this Nazi cant be grasped or criticized
    its an awesome divine ineffable oracle
    your own infalloble moral compass is locked to your pleasure and everything you like is holy and everything that doesn”t grab you is depraved shit
    just because
    heidegger can’t be construed
    just becaue
    he just can”t
    im just too lowly
    and this at least illustrates your affinity with Heidegger

  111. Molly Klein says:

    ‘its not about the origin of white specialness,’

    what are you talking about? do you even read Heidegger? do you know what the Nazi party he belonged to advanced ideologically and did? you outlaw quotes for a reason evidently, simply to deny what these texts say. This is what MH says:

    ‘But if there should be science and if it should be for us and
    through us, then under what condition can it truly exist?
    Only if we again place ourselves under the power of the beginning of our
    spiritual-historical existence. This beginning is the departure, the setting out, of
    Greek philosophy. Here, for the first time, Western man rises up, from a base
    in a popular culture [Volkstum] and by means of his language, against the
    totality of what is and questions and comprehends it as the being that it is. All
    science is philosophy, whether it knows and wills it – or not. All science
    remains bound to that beginning of philosophy. From it science draws the
    strength of its essence, assuming that it still remains at all equal to this

    he three bonds – by the people, to the destiny of the state, in spiritual
    mission – are equally primordial to the German essence. The three services
    that arise from it – Labor Service, Military Service, and Knowledge Service –
    are equally necessary and of equal rank.
    The primordial and full essence of science, whose realization is our task,
    provided we submit to the distant command of the beginning of our spiritualhistorical existence, is only created by knowledge about the people that
    actively participates and by knowledge about the state’s destiny that always
    keeps itself prepared, both at one with knowledge about the spiritual mission.
    It is this science that is meant when the essence of the German university
    is delimited as the “high” school that, grounded in science and through science,
    educates and disciplines the leaders and guardians of the German people.
    This primordial concept of science obligates us not only to “objectivity,”
    but, above all, to make our questioning in the midst of the historical-spiritual
    world of the people essential and simple. Indeed, it is only then that objectivity
    can truly ground itself – i.e., discover its nature and its limit.
    Science, in this sense, must become the power that shapes the body of the
    German university. This contains a twofold task: Teachers and students, each
    in their own way, must become seized and remain seized by the concept of
    science. At the same time, however, this concept of science must intervene in
    and rearrange the basic forms in which the teachers and students each act in a
    scientific community: in the faculties and as student bodies of specific
    departments [Fachschaften].
    The faculty is a faculty only if it becomes capable of spiritual legislation,
    and, rooted in the essence of its science, able to shape the powers of existence
    that pressure it into the one spiritual world of the people.
    The student body of a certain department is a student body only if it
    places itself in the realm of this spiritual legislation from the start and thus
    tears down departmental barriers and overcomes the staleness and falseness of
    superficial professional training.
    At the moment when faculties and departmental student bodies set the
    essential and simple questions of their science into motion, teachers and
    students are already encompassed by the same final necessities and pressing
    concerns of the existence of people and state.
    The unfolding of the primordial essence of science, however, demands
    such a degree of rigor, responsibility, and superior patience that, in
    comparison, the conscientious adherence to or the eager alteration of
    established procedures hardly matter.
    But if the Greeks needed three centuries just to put the question of what
    knowledge is onto the right ground and on a secure track, we have no right to
    assume that the elucidation and unfolding of the essence of the German
    university will occur in the current or coming semester.
    But there is one thing we do know from the indicated essence of science:
    The German university will only gain shape and power if the three services
    primordially coalesce to become one formative force. That is to say:
    The teachers’ will to essence must awaken to the simplicity and breadth of knowledge about the essence of science and thus grow strong. The students’
    will to essence must force itself to rise to the highest clarity and discipline of
    knowing and integrate, demanding and determining, engaged knowledge
    [Mitwissenschaft] about the people and its state into the essence of science. The
    two wills must confront one another, ready for battle. All abilities of will and
    thought, all strengths of the heart, and all capabilities of the body must be
    unfolded through battle, heightened in battle, and pre-served as battle.
    We choose the knowing battle of those who question, and we profess with
    Carl von Clausewitz:
    “I renounce the frivolous hope of salvation by the hand
    of accident.”
    [*Translator’s note. Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), for many years head of the
    Prussian War College, was the author of the influential Vom Krieg (On War).]
    This battle community of teachers and students, however, will only
    recreate the German university into a place of spiritual legislation and establish
    in it the center of the most disciplined preparation for the highest service to the
    people in its state if teachers and students arrange their existence more simply,
    more unsparingly, and more frugally than all the other members of their people
    [Volksgenossen]. All leading must concede its following its own strength. All
    following, however, bears resistance in itself. This essential opposition of
    leading and following must not be blurred let alone eliminated.
    Battle alone keeps this opposition open and implants in the entire body of
    teachers and students that basic attitude that allows self-limiting self-assertion
    empower resolute self-examination to come to genuine self-administration.
    Do we, or do we not, will the essence of the German university? It is up
    to us whether, and to what extent, we concern ourselves with self-examination
    and self-assertion, not just in passing, but starting from its foundations, or
    whether we – with the best of intentions – merely change old institutions and
    add new ones. No one will keep us from doing this.
    But no one will even ask us whether we do or do not will, when the
    spiritual strength of the West fails and its joints crack, when this moribund
    semblance of a culture caves in and drags all forces into confusion and lets
    them suffocate in madness.
    Whether this will or will not happen depends solely on whether we, as a
    historical-spiritual people, still and once again will ourselves – or whether we
    no longer will ourselves. Each individual participates in this decision even
    when, and especially when, he evades it.
    But we do will that our people fulfill its historical mission. ‘

    It’s perfectly explicit.

  112. Molly Klein says:

    “What would you like to debate here on this comment thread? Heideggers analysis of Heraclitus? Sure…..let me know if you have questions. ‘

    I asked

  113. Molly Klein says:

    and ‘its better’ ‘i like it more’ ‘its harder to understand’ ‘its shorter’ are not the sort of answer I would consider satisfactory

  114. John Steppling says:

    you accusing anyone of tirade is pretty funny,.

    What you deem irrelevant is not my responsibility. Again, im not sure what you ask for .

    Let me explain something to you. In norway there are two official languages….old and new, and the new is actually the historically older. It was sort of reclaimed to rid the language of danish-isms. Now….there are a host of very distinct dialects, too. And kids in norway, and even more in Denmark are all taught english in school. They talk in english a lot, but write in it less. However, now with big immigration populations, they are adopting words from vvarious places, arabic, tygrinia, thai, etc. And danish kids now add danish suffixes to these english and arab words. And there is even a term for this, though i cant remember it, its a slang term. Anyway, these kids have mixed lexical systems of word storage. Its pretty cool and sort of blade runner-ish……and there is no written script for this (add to this the fact that danes swallow the last syllable of danish, much like cuban spanish, and its a werid phantom lexicon). I mention this because what is at work is what is always at work, and that is the impulse to poetry …..a poetics of language….and its curious what the meanings evolve into. A secret system is formed here. The somali kids i have in my norwegian class have no dictionary for their tribal dialect. Its hard for them, but they are highly adaptive, and creative. There is also almost a muscular memory of older speech…….i know in the south of france there is that odd dead language…….but more, in eastern europe…Gural, or dalmatian….etc. Some thought is lost, some migrates….and evolves. So………..notwithstanding this prolonged tantrum you are having about heidegger……… seems what he wanted to do was reveal something of the hidden meanings in pre socratic texts. Clearly you dismiss this as a nazi ploy etc. Fine…duly noted, For the 94th time. And i accept it as valid up to a point. I think it warrents a deeper look probably. But………..the overall impulse of your criticism is highly reactive…..and its part of always always looking for the cynical rationalist expose of something sinister, or just the need to be somehow superior to the material at hand.

    If you dont accept the need to see emergent poetics in all langauges….but clearly, in the need to find such things in ancient texts, then one does wonder what you are keeping on about? Its the same attitude of most US history departments, actually. If a culture is stolen, a people robbed, the same mechanisms of explanation are employed. In this case, you apply your cut out interpretation……and all the while NOBODY has argued he wasnt a nazi. Im only arguing that doesnt disqualify some of his interpretations as valid.

    Polemos……….(and what do the above quotes have to do with fucking anything. Are you just accustomed to bullying people in discussions, or trying to? Its like Mick…..god……ugh)……ok, but lets be clear……(i know thats hard for you)…..dont ask as if I havent admitted heidegger was a nazi. I have. The question has to do with …is his thought worth looking it because he has a great thinker, or should it be burned along with whatever else you want to burn? Im only interested for the puruposes of this posting, with what he said about the pre socratics. And his intention in translating this stuff. Now…Ive also not said there arent probably lots of embedded totalitarian and authoritarian interpretations. I said that from the start. But because I try not to think like a nazi myself……ahem…….I dont like to dismiss stuff out of hand. And if people are significant as marcuse saw value, then I figure it worth looking at………………ok…Polemos……….the only real difference in what heidegger says of that fragment, from what Kirk and Raven say for example, is in how the idea of fathers and rulers are to be viewed….and even then its not all that huge a difference. The fact is that, as i bothered to explain to you above, this epoch marked the shift of kingship beliefs………the Theogony of hesiod relates to this. But the fragment is about Zeus and warfare and the debate of interpretation is around more the second half of the fragment………but no interpretation Ive read could not be fitted for the sound of totalitarianism. Im sure Heidegger loved it. And mostly he turned to holderin to back it up. But he also wrote this…

    “. Struggle first projects
    and develops the un-heard, the hitherto un-said and un-thought. This struggle
    is then sustained by the creators, by the poets, thinkers and statesmen. Against
    the overwhelming sway, they throw the counterweight of their work and capture in this work the world that is thereby opened up. With these works, the
    reign, phusis, first comes to take a stand in what comes to presence”

    which deviates a bit from conventional translations (though actually not as much as one might think). These are the ontological poetics he considers here. Now for the final time……yes heidegger was a nazi……..he wrote carl schmidt about this very fragment……etc . I only look to see that other dimension of his interpretation, which I find very useful as a corrective to the simplfying academic readings which eliminate the deeper history of religion and kingship and the oracular secret meanings. Thats all, that is the sum total of what I find valuable. He (MH) later added a critique of nihilism, sort of as technology,. that the loss of some originary struggle causes the world to turn away. That is foreshadowing the whole gestall discussion, the ‘standing reserve’……so that it the loss of direct experience. Honestly, one doesnt have to see sinister meaning in any of this. His interpretation of this particular fragment is less idiosyncratic than many of his other ones (or his actually very bizarre take on holderin , where you could make a stronger case for nazi propaganda). So thats it. I guess you can stamp your feel some more……but Ive explained this about as well as i can in this context.

  115. John Steppling says:

    “. The phenomenological hermeneutic of facticity thus sees itself as called upon to
    loosen up the handed-down and dominating interpretedness in its hidden motives,
    unexpressed tendencies, and ways of interpreting, and to push forward by way of a
    dismantling return” MH……referring to heraclitus …the polemos . And this was the point. The hidden meaning ignored in most translations. There are secondary echos here of seeing the hidden reading as cautioning against a forgetting. Dismantling as forgetting. Ok…mercifully I have another posting to put up……….

  116. John Steppling says:
  117. Molly Klein says:

    the question was

    in what specifics does Heidegger’s remarks on polemos, struggle, strife, kampf differ from what every other nazi said on these topics?

    is there a nazi you can think of who differed on these topics? we know that people who weren’t nazis generally disagree with these musings and propositions insofar as they are intelligible. is there a nazi who disagreed? if you are in agreement with Heidegger, you are in agreement with all the Nazis who wrote on these topics.

    ‘Honestly, one doesnt have to see sinister meaning in any of this’

    of course its sinister but if you believe there is a distinction of status order and nature between Dasein and the motley beings like me then of course it all seems reasonable to you. But really if you dont find what he explicitly states is his understanding of the relation of his fantasy greeks to contemporary German Nazis sinister…then fine, Heidegger was writing for you.

    i find this stuff absurd, personally.

  118. Molly Klein says:

    and that the gestall discussion is foreshadowed doesn’t make it any less racist and crazy.

    there are thousands literally thousands of writers of the same era who managed to engage capitalism modernity abstraction and spectacle without advancing Nazism and exterminationism

    one of my favourites is Musil
    i think you may have blogged this before

    “The uncertain history of this division in human experience has unfortunately never been pursued and portrayed without prejudice – whether by rationalist hair splitters or addicts of religion. It seems, however, that a bifurcation runs through the whole of human history, dividing it into two spiritual conditions, which, even though they have influenced eachother in many ways and entered into compromises, have nonetheless never properly mixed with eachother. One of the two is familiar as the normal condition of our relationship to the world, to people, and to ourselves. We have evolved – if one were to describe this condition in relation to the other – by means of the sharpness of our mind to what we are: lords of an earth on which we were originally a nothing among monsters. Activity, boldness, cunning, deceit, restlessness, evil, a talent for the hunt, lust for war, and the like are the moral qualities to which we owe this ascent. Today we demote these qualities to the status of vices as soon as they appear in excess within our communities of interests; but they dominate the interactions of these unions of interest with each other as they always have (war, exploitation, and the like): and – what is far more difficult to change – they penetrate even the spiritual attitude of people in our civilization to the ultimate degree. Measuring, calculating and tracing, that positive, causal, mechanical way of thinking that is so often held against the people of our day, is an expression of the same aboriginal mistrust and struggle for existence as the dominant role of money as regulator of the world in which only the lower qualities of the human being count as solid and calculable; money is to be used, so to speak, as the only reliable material for constructing society. The popular task of ‘improving’ man is far more difficult than is generally assumed; it cannot be done just with the popular attitude toward avoiding evil, for without his evil qualities there is nothing left of the human being that we are but a formless heap. Even morality itself is, in its most profound nature, totally alloyed with and compromised by the sharp and evil basic qualities of our spirit; even its form, as rule, norm, command, threat, law, or the quantifying and weighing of good as well as evil, reveals the shaping influence of the metric, calculating, mistrusting, annihilating will of the spirit.
    In contrast to this spiritual conditions stands another, no less demonstrable historically even if it has left a less powerful imprint on our past. It has been characterised by many names, all of which are vaguely in agreement. It has been called the condition of love, of goodness, of renunciation of the world, of contemplation, of vision, of approach to God, of entrancement, of will-lessness, of meditation, and many other aspects of a fundamental experience that recurs in the religion, mysticism and ethics of all historical peoples as universally as it has, remarkably, remained undeveloped. This other spiritual condition is always described with as much passion as imprecision, and one might be tempted to see in this shadowy double of our world only a daydream, had it not left its traces in countless details of our ordinary life and did it not constitute the marrow of our morality and idealism lying within the fibrous threads of evil. Today, if one does not have one’s own thorough researches as a base, one must renounce the temptation to try to say more about the nature and meaning of this other condition; for until recently our knowledge of it was about as extensive as the rest of our knowledge about the world in the tenth century. But if one simply extracts a few main, common characteristics from the purely descriptive accounts of a literature that is thousands of years old, one finds again and again the presence of another world, like a solid ocean bottom from which the restless waves of the ordinary world have drawn back; and in the image of this world there is neither measure nor precision, neither purpose nor cause: good and evil simply fall away, without any pretense of superiority, and in place of all these relations enters a secret rising and ebbing of our being with that of things and other people.

    – Robert Musil, Toward A New Aesthetic

  119. Molly Klein says:

    ‘ what do the above quotes have to do with fucking anything. ”

    It is a key passage from the texts you are claiming to comment on.

  120. Exir Kamalabadi says:

    Um, what exactly is the “hidden meaning ignored in most translations”? I’ve heard a lot of mention, but still don’t know exactly what that is.

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