Saturday, March 31, 2007

Research Notes - Dialogue, Love

It is impossible to consume such amounts of literature and philosophy without writing at all, unless one could be tedious enough as to write endless sets of research notes and references but that can hardly be called writing in the sense of 'techne'; this project indeed leads my mind toward that road of understanding which is the only thing I've sought for in philosophy - that voice, that place to stand. It is really difficult to amass in one go all the material I've compiled but it does make sense in my head and that's my entire concern, I must drill out quotations, sources, references and notes until I feel ready for the enterprise... it might take a week more more or less. My study begins in the spring of a manifold disappointment that threw me upon philosophy to search for a new language to be able to 'dialogue' with 'lovers of the world'. I set myself out to speak about Eros from a postmodern perspective, that of historical hermeneutics and ask the question on whether there's a social 'space' for love in a world that has done away with God other than the 'memory' and the 'expectation'.

In a way one could even dare say it is a question about the survival of love in our society from the perspective of everyday experience for which philosophy has come not to determine conditions (as in the pragmatism of the Romans or in the optimism of French Positivism); the question is necessarily one of the survival of Modernity - one that altogether cannot be asked, but for whose possibility there remains a whole deal of theoretical reflection in store that is in itself a 'builder' of Modernity, that project of 'loving the world'. In disagreement with the Augustinian doctrine -my initial point of departure, I turned toward the 'Dialoghi d'Amore' of the Rennaissance philosopher Leone Ebreo, an Italian-Jewish scholar from the 16th century; despite an interesting 'dialogical' confrontation (of course not at all alien to Rennaissance philosophy and derived from the medieval dialogues ever present in Jewish philosophy, in Yehuda Ha-Levy for example). Despite the great interest aroused by the text there was not enough profit available, together with copious philological work and a glimpse into other works of the period, namely Italian treaties on the philosophy of love presented as commentaries of Plato's Symposium and countering Jewish-Italian works under the same rubric, but in nature commentaries on the 'Song of Songs'. Lastly Ebreo's ultimate development is predominantly secular and Westernized while not forgetting the Neo-Platonic categories all too familiar to Augustine from the only Greek philosophy he knew: Plato and Plotinus. Dialectically speaking (in the Platonic sense) there's little to differentiate Augustine (albeit devoid of eschatology) and Ebreo.

Before returning to Augustine, I make a final stop on another philosophy of love - that of Franz Rosenzweig. In turn Rosenzweig does open with the Augustinian triadic concept of love but his development is partially different - this is perhaps what our age calls 'Jewish thinking' but I'm not entirely convinced of that as I don't adhere so faithfully to the idea of a 'Jewish philosophy' that I'd claim doesn't exist. Rosenzweig albeit opens with 'The Song of Songs' instead of Plato yet he retains a curious heading toward death in relation to love that doesn't distance him from both Augustine in the general philosophical trend and from Heidegger in his own age. There's this tendency to look for an 'ascend' in the whole of Classical philosophy and the Bible; this tendency is called 'The Good, the True, the Beautiful' in Greek philosophy, 'sumum bonum' in Stoicism and the rest of rather unattractive Roman philosophy yet it is known as 'Redemption' in the Bible not sure whether completely stripped off Messianic speculation but it is my feeling that yes. In the Book of Ruth an 'earthly love' (I shall return to this central importance of this later) is leading all the way up to what a certain Biblical commentator has sum up thus: 'Everything leads up, in the last instance, to David, and so the whole purpose of the Book is achieved in the final verse'. The 'leading up' is of central importance here, as it is this love that grows out of compassion in a previous narrative, what eventually 'brings the days of the Messiah'. In essence it is impossible at this point to ignore the import of Rosenzweig's 'dialogical hermeneutics' as a philosophy of love, but his 'layout' of the system as presented in the 'Star of Redemption' is impossible to reconcile with the 'ascend', as his system provides such a through and stiff answer to Hegel's political philosophy that there's a certain totality of things all over the place, his systems seems to fail exactly on the only point it deliberately wants to make. Yet not everything is misleading, for Rosenzweig does answer (and this together with his dialogical hermeneutics are the two aspects of his philosophizing most deliberately ignored in scholarship) to Hegel's political philosophy with a model that is certainly taken by Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas, in my feeling much more so by Levinas at least in the sense that Rosenzweig understood it.

I start to discover with Rosenzweig stumbling blocks that will be cleared only later, especially in regard to his philosophy of language (that shares affinities with Heidegger) and the 'dialectic' which he brings out into the public space and following Auerbach (he even claim that he was the 'founder' of Modernity). In this regard the philosophy can't be entirely achieved in 'solitude', it must be 'communicated' in the form of dialogue, the path of this dialogue is the neighbourly love that is perhaps more of a passionate love than it is charity in the Patristic sense. There I am without conversation partner, or my companion remains silent therefore I need to turn to other sources and leave Franz for a while, until I can 'dialogue' with... whoever. Lastly I give up in a way and find myself in need to wayfare other roads before a final landing in Rosenzweig and the political 'value' of his love.

I return again to Augustine but not without my eyes befogged by politics and Hannah Arendt as a guide. My research notes amount to the hundreds and they could be easily worked out into a dissertation but this isn't my purpose at the moment... I need to complete this study because it is the only way available to me to touch Rosenzweig ever again; I need to 'enable' my language to speak for a whole plurality of experiences and people for which it is 'temporarily' disabled, a philosopher of love that cannot bespeak a beloved is a lost man and perhaps if this so then the whole of Modernity is really a loss; this is in fact what my philosophical origins and intution tell me at times but I reject the idea for the sake of 'the concrete things' of the world, including the lovers of the world. And unlike Gillian Rose I didn't forget any of the partners, God - Man - World, but have paid less attention to God than would be usually accorded, in this I'm living up to my suspicion that secular times are over and done. This doesn't do away with either eschatology or history, but I'm simply wishful to believe that we're the actors of history insofar as the project of the modern human world will have any validity at all.

I will term Arendt's, a philosophy of 'possibility' - a journey from the individual to the particular and viceversa, a deciphering of essence (opposed to the old 'human nature' in previous philosophies) and in fact a 'political model' of conversation for which the concept of love is no stranger but one whose 'workings' in the public and private can hardly be foreseen as Arendt wayfares her way into the philosophy of the Will, her last completed project. Her claim for not loving God but the world made as early as 1928 holds really caustic power today in the light of her whole oeuvre; because of the moral implications it carries when you realize that the tragedy of all moral philosophies is actually that the questions are asked in relation to the self and not in relation to the world, therefore unconcerned with the 'community of believers'. The loss of the world of modern men is in fact also a loss of the self, therefore the ground of our 'judgment' remains quite loose a sly for as long as the 'cosmos' has been broken apart into 'totalities' that are not metaphysically grounded and the world stands only as a human world - an intricate network of relationships that not unlike in the case of Augustine, are experienced as philosophies of consciousness, as phenomenal descriptions of our earthly life. I think this is where I must start my interrogations... I can't cease to think about last night, Oh G., you really are of so much help to me, not only inspiration but the questions you ask... really. Hopefully I'll be able to put this through and then my letters will speak once again, they stand deadened today. Only then I'll be able to answer to Rosenzweig with you. Tomorrow another note, it's just too much material.

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