Sunday, April 29, 2007

Christian Love?

The following invitation was sent to me by a 'friend of Israel'

Have You Ever Wondered…

What is the relationship between biblical and modern Israel?

How is the life of Messiah reflected in the history of the Jewish people?

Is there a connection between the conflict in the Middle East and Jesus’ expected Second Coming?

How should Christians relate to Israel and to the Jewish people?

How will Israel and the Church one day be united?

For Answers, Come To…

The Final Marriage

The Dramatic Love Story of

Israel and the Church

A multi-media presentation by André Villeneuve

Where? Rama 18 (Nachlaot)

(off Shilo st, near the shuk)

When? Thursday, May 10, 2007, 7:00 PM

For more info, call 0547-261439 or write to

Map below

Response of Mr. Ben-David to my letter


Thanks for you very thoughtful (and thorough!) response. I think I make it clear in my review the high regard in which I hold some of Arendt’s work, although we clearly disagree when it comes to her role as a specifically Jewish thinker.

I referred to The Origins of Totalitarianism as a work of political philosophy only in the broadest sense; it is indeed a difficult work to define (not quite history, not quite theory), and I’m not sure you have done so any better than me.

The reference to Chaplin as “Jewish” is meant in the same sense that Arendt uses in her essay on the Jew as pariah, not obviously in the literal sense (actually though, Chaplin clearly wasn’t a halachic Jew, his Jewish familial connections are still a matter of dispute).

Re: “It is entirely mistaken to assert that she lost all interest in what you term 'parochial Jewish affairs'; it is worthwhile remembering her involvement in the Committee for Jewish Cultural Reconstruction in Germany from the 1950's until her death, and her undeniable role as a 'Jew' during her public life in Germany.”

I only wrote that it “appeared” she lost interest in parochial Jewish affairs during the 1950s, because she published no work relating to it during that period.

Finally, re your remark that “Once the 19th century nationalism narrative ceased to have enough strength to be a secular political theology, there was nothing left in this country to be named a stronghold... ”; I think your report of the death of the “nationalism narrative” is exaggerated. Plenty of people still believe in it as a secular political theology, both here and elsewhere – not least the Palestinians and supporters of Palestinian statehood!

All the best,

Calev Ben-David

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sandra's remarks on my letter to Ben-David

Lieber Ari,

ich möchte Dir zu Deiner sehr scharfsinnigen und richtigen Antwort an Herrn Ben-David gratulieren. Natürlich, ich tue das von "außen", also ohne das "Jüdischsein" selbst erfahren zu haben. Aber Deine Argumentation inkl. der Hinweise auf Arendts Engagement für die jüdische Kultur ab den 50er Jahren scheint mir ungemein überzeugend. Auch: die Liebe muss eine andere sein als die Vaterlands-Liebe. Dass Israel diese andere, soz. "offene" Liebe braucht, um bestehen zu können, hast Du sehr klar gezeigt. Mir scheint das ein überaus entscheidender Punkt hinsichtlich der Zukunft des israelischen Staates.

Wird Ben-David das verstehen? Da habe ich Zweifel. Zu offensichtlich hält er sich an die Kalküle der Identität. An ihnen gemessen ist der Pariah-Status fast wünschenswert. Es geht hier übrigens wohl um ein anderes Pariahtum als das klassische, das Zugehörigkeit ohne Anerkennung bedeutet. Das übersieht auch Ben-David: der Pariah vom Typ Arendts (= die/der intellektuelle Pariah) erkennt selbst nicht an, er verweigert sich der Logik der Zugehörigkeit. Daher stört er, aber ohne Verachtung auf sich ziehen zu können, er stört aus einer starken Position.

Ich hoffe, Du kriegst eine Antwort von Ben-David. Wenn ja, schick sie mir bitte. Ich würde eure Diskussion gerne weiter verfolgen - so sie denn entsteht.



Friday, April 27, 2007

Response to Calev Ben David

It is an outrage that so much misunderstanding can be put in one article, in fact the article of Mr. Ben David in the Jerusalem Post can hardly be called a Book Review. Hereunder my response to this truly revolutionary piece.

Dear Mr. Ben David,

I've read with surprise your review on Arendt's recently published 'Jewish Writings', and the surprise comes by no means nolens volens but rather clothed in a thick air of what Nietzsche would call the eternal return of history; so that it is helpless to produce a proper response but however, one can grant himself the proper criticism. As things stand now, it is no longer surprising that the Israeli admirers and detractors of Hannah Arendt can hardly differ in their opinions - her lack of 'true' Jewishness or 'Jewish loyalties', her alacrity before issues surrounding the State of Israel following its establishment or her silence before Zionist issues after 1948 and in particular after the publication of the infamous Eichmann in Jerusalem; the humidity of this controversy has yet not ended some over fourty-five years after the Eichmann book and thirty following her death. Proof of the polemic character of this discussion has been even put into a book of contributions in Hebrew, by Israeli scholars and edited by Idith Zertal and Moshe Zuckermann, published in 2004.

Philosophically speaking Arendt is hardly the kind of thinker everyone would reckon with, her unpredictable style together with the ecclectic or original character of her reflections make her often an obscure thinker to conversate with, and one that even at that keeps leading political philosophers and commentators busy with their ideas. The difference between those polemic commentators like Dana R. Villa, Seyla Benhabib and Ágnes Heller (all of them Jewish, and not sure whether 'marginal' in your opinion) and the current Israeli public, is that as Arendt mentioned in regard to her Eichmann book, 'there's no discussion as heated as the one on a book no one has read'. It strikes me as particularly difficult to assess overall the oeuvre of a thinker whose roots in both Judaism and Western thought have not been properly explored and whose books remain unavailable to a great majority not only of the public, but also of the intelligentsia. Politically, it is undeniable that she stands out as one of the most influential theoreticians of the previous century and this is something few will argue against. Jewishly speaking, no less than ten years have unearthed Arendt's Jewish concerns and the paradoxical nature of her 'opinions' in the light of the Nazi Holocaust, the failure of Jewish assimilation in Europe and the State of Israel.

For your information, Arendt's 'Origins of Totalitarianism' examines the common roots of Nazism and Stalinism and their crystalization into Totalitarianism, altogether with the revision of other elements such as Fascism, Imperialism and Nationalism. This work was indeed the first one to establish this connection, and remains so far one of the most serious accounts; yet it is by no means a work of political philosophy as her later 'On Revolution' or 'In Between Past & Future' are. It is matter-of-factly a work of a historical outlook, at best one could call it philosophy of political history, yet not without being misled. This work did not aim to establish and raise empiricist objections about the writing of history, but rather to present a hermeneutic account of 'things as they were', if the saying of Herodotus could be deliberately translated into the past tense.

That Arendt was very difficult to classify as a Jew is beyond doubt, and this echoes to the long history of antisemitism (not only in modern times) where the Jews were unable to keep their identity in political terms because such had gone through a 'metamorphosis' by the onlookers everytime the 'chips were down' to use an Arendtianism, so that Jean-Paul Sartre would remark that in his opinion a Jew is who the others believe to be a Jew. This lack of labels and maverick-of-sorts style of Arendt is what undeniable characterizes her pariahdom and her Jewishness (not her Judaism) in the light of the public. A certain early Zionist writer commented that the Jewish people are a group whose existence is lived in time and not in space, characterization to which Arendt did not fail to live up. In her political philosophy she refused to come to terms with the lack of political role of Jews in Western history and this undoubtedly shaped her views on the concept of the political, no less than her inheritance from an old German-Jewish literary culture and her philosophical influences from personalities as divergent as Jaspers, Heidegger, St. Augustine and W. Benjamin.

For the record, the American discussion among political scientist on Arendt's oeuvre has by long ceased to be all too concerned with the Eichmann book, that few academic works cite today and that often has constituted the basis of reflections on ethics and moral philosophy, an inclination that Arendt kept through most of her active life, both in public and in writing. Eichmann in Jerusalem and the Origins of Totalitarianism were not written with a Jewish audience in mind and addressed both a concern with the public world (universalism, political theory) and with the already for long dichotomical and outmooded notion of privacy (particularlity, Judaism, the household). The book on Varnhagen is certainly a 'Jewish' text, to which even Gershom Scholem conceded broadly, yet its roots are a particularly German-Jewish problem that decissively shaped her thinking on politics during her exile in France.

The Jewish Writings are indispensable in any understanding of her work as a whole, because they shed the most information on subjects about which she remained silent, only if out of secular caution and an strict concern with privacy, no willy-nilly she was so fond of Auden's poem 'Private faces in public places / Are wiser and nicer than public faces in private places'. This only in order to show that no one really knows what Arendt believed in, yet her public life was in every respect remarkable. And precisely because Arendt constituted the last heir of that rich and old German-Jewish culture is the reason why her legacy should be explored and criticized; after the extermination of European Jewry, a certain tendency toward nihilism and values far removed from those of Classical Judaism took over the remnants in America and Israel; this lack of tradition (which Arendt recognized but that nonetheless she herself brought back to life in her writings) is precisely that 'gap in between past and future' that describes best the situation of Israeli culture and society in general.

Once the 19th century nationalism narrative ceased to have enough strength to be a secular political theology, there was nothing left in this country to be named a stronghold, so that the youth of Israel have preferred to turn their backs not only to everything that can be called their own, but are decidedly rejected by everybody else for that very same reason. Western Postmodernism is not an alternative for a Jewish nation, not for the nation of the Bible, and the fact that it has slowly found a warm nest among the citizens of Israel, can only be a sign that those you call marginal like Arendt and Heine, do represent after their own fashion a bridge in between the old and the new that was irretrieveably lost in the course of modern Jewish historiy. The narrative has ceased to be able to narrate the reality, and whatever else might be of recourse to fix this problem, is demonized as 'diasporic' or 'old-fashioned', not in the case of Arendt though, thereby it is simply called 'German'. Forgetting of course the role German Jewry played in the revival of the Hebrew language, the foundation of the earliest insitutions like the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the printed media and the literary culture in general... so that today in the postmodern generation German Jewry remains a vital source of Jewish culture for a good number of educated Israelis that found themselves in this 'gap' where the Israeli Modernity could by no means re-invent itself because of the lack of relevance of the categories on which it had been founded.

It is entirely mistaken to assert that she lost all interest in what you term 'parochial Jewish affairs'; it is worthwhile remembering her involvement in the Committee for Jewish Cultural Reconstruction in Germany from the 1950's until her death, and her undeniable role as a 'Jew' during her public life in Germany, helping to shape positions and propositions that remain nowadays difficult to swallow even among the most liberal fractions of European society. Needless to go into details regarding the Eichmann controversy, that has been abused by the Israeli left to claim Arendt for their own ideological purposes; whoever takes the time to read this book not as a historical account but as a philosophical text and the memoir of a generation that lived in the old Jewish burgeoisie and experienced the Holocaust and the rather difficult course taken by the Israeli state, will see that what is most poignantly important about this book is not its 'facts', for since the Enlightenment already, truth has been decissively separated from matters of factuality, so that the notion of truth in politics is as futile as any attempt to assert the reality of politics itself.

Arendt did make quite clear what this lack of 'love for the Jewish people' meant, so that once again one returns to her original intellectual conception of the co-existence of the universal and the particular in one person (which had been already echoed in Goethe) instead of circling around dialectics. Arendt sustained a lively correspondence with some members of the German political and literary elite, with whom she made clear her position in the world as a Jew, no less than when speaking about public affairs in her adopted country. Her speeches at the receipt of the Lessing and the Sonning Prize, clearly attest to this. To her this narrative remained the only way to speak about the Holocaust as a Jew and whatever she foresaw as the outcome of Israeli politics has come into reality now more than ever; we have certainly not failed to sustain the country and protect it, but no doubt we have failed in doing politics. The conformity in the air and the lack of revolutionary spirit that accompanied the 19th century Zionism are today more stringent than ever before; few would be able to take this country as a political institution seriously, its secured position as an 'existential home' for the Jewish people is not political, it is a distinction made on the basis of an awful blend of love and guilt, and ultimately of pity. Arendt's work has for long been associated with the Augustinian dictum 'for the love of the world' (amor mundi) but in radically reverse terms, this is certainly proven by her involvement in public affairs, instead of the contemplative position to which the philosopher since Plato, has been relegated. Hannah Arendt, not unlike her favourite character, Lessing, refused to make herself at home in this world but yet remained so critically committed to it, and ideology is something that quickly jumps out the window whenever the word criticism is around.

Arendt's pariahdom and that of those she wrote about (Benjamin, Heine, Varnhagen) is something we really could not comprehend today, so that instead of mourning we might as well try and catch a fragment of what it meant back then before the greatest tragedy of the Jewish people to which Arendt, without theologies or theodicies to help her, could never come to grips with. Chaplin did not represent a 'pariah Jew', for as you well know he was not Jewish, but it was his natural courage and ability to distinguish between right and wrong what won him a place among those heroes of Arendt's legends that resemble more Germanic folk-tales than political essays, and that is where her talent at its best displayed: Gathering so much aestheticism from the ruins of dark times not in order to atone for them, but to show the obsure clarity of the abyss they have placed before us.

That Arendt is a marginal Jewish thinker is something that only time will tell, for certainly the price of pariahdom is very high but it does not come without a reward, it comes with the ability to love the world enough to make ourselves responsible for it with body and soul, to quote Arendt... a responsibility that escapes most of us in the inexorable demands that a 'home' bestows upon us. Because the outcome of our education has proven the opposite true, that there is no such a love for the world any more but rather a mere conformity before the unfolding circumstances, is the main reason for which these so-called 'Jewish Writings' deserve to be read with care, not only by the scholarly community, but by those of us who still harbor the hope that in not giving up the difficult enterprise of asking difficult questions, we might as well engage in handing over to the next generation a world in which they might be able to live in, rather than surviving, like most of us at present do, without much success.

Ari Akkermans-Amaya

Correspondence with Barbara

Dear Barbara,

I have a couple of questions for you this time, I hope maybe you can be of some help. I've been reading again your paper from the Jerusalem Rosenzweig conference and as of late I'm a little bit bewildered about how you come about with the 'bridge' between Rosenzweig and Benjamin; I've just read the book of Scholem on Benjamin (with some reservations thereof) and their 'Briefwechsel' so that I found out Benjamin was undoubtedly familiar with the 'Stern' and thought possitively about it, moreover Scholem himself had been learning in Frankfurt for a few months at the 'Lehrhaus'. Do you know of any secondary literature that treats this topic of Benjamin's relationship to Rosenzweig? I don't think he might have specifically spoken about him in any of his many essays and unpublished fragments, but my discovery of the metaphysical religiosity of Benjamin (whereby I see the faults in his Messianism, that is of the antinomian kind... perhaps the only antinomian Jewish Messianism except for the Sabbateans, but then Benjamin wasn't working exclusively in Jewish terms...there's a piece in German of S. Lehmann discussing this in the context of his 'apotaktasis') does echo to Rosenzweig, but not in a very positive light I think. There's an essay of Stéphane Moses on Benjamin and Rosenzweig in the volume edited by G. Smith in 1989 about Benjamin but I don't like the writing much, it lacks some pervasive philosophical seriousness and Moses' French book about Benjamin doesn't fare any better. I'll tell you briefly why I'm interested in this, I'm preparing a lecture to deliver in Germany this summer about Arendt and Rosenzweig on Love and Politics, subjects that permeates both thinkers to their core ideas... but they're really far distant from each other... The only possible link I can see in between them is St. Augustine's account of love and perhaps to a lesser degree a 'metamorphosis' of some of the historical content of the 'Stern' passed onto Arendt by late Benjamin and in particular the 'Thesen zur Begriff der Geschichte' that together with the fundamental ontology of Heidegger shaped decisively Arendt's thinking about the political.

At any rate I think the comparison is interpretively very difficult, so I decided to solve the problem of hermeneutics into the realm of politics by presenting two comparable 'models of Christian-Jewish dialogue' with very similar end-goals, one particularly distinguishable for its silence before the question with all the secular caution it involves (Arendt) and the other by tackling it in the open but achieving similar results (Rosenzweig). Of course the Germans will not like to hear that I use both Rosenzweig and Arendt to advocate a model of ecumenism that wants to take no part in 'love of alterity' but merely in politics. Yet I believe something can come out of it. If you think on any relevant material on Rosenzweig/Benjamin or have any comments please let me know. As far as Arendt is concerned I believe the topic is completely fresh, but there's really not much to say unless you venture into your own philosophy. Lastly let me know if your book came out, I'd like to have a look at it sometime.

An embrace from Jerusalem



Dear Ari,

I think you have all the relevant literature, and I also do believe that you are entering into something valuable, something that no one else has touched in any extensive way, something to which only you will be able to do full justice. You will see connections, partly from your strong, solid and wide base in both German Jewish thinkers and in the Christian thought that was a stream in their thought from European history of ideas, and partly (mainly) from your lightning-speed mind that knows how to make connections others can't see. When you've completed what you'll be reading, please do send it to me--but only when it's completed, okay? I'll be leaving for Italy on June 14th, and so if you send it during the last two weeks of June, I wouldn't be responding till about the 4th of July, when you'll likely still be in Germany.

Thank you for asking about the book; I've attached the launch invitations. Too bad we both can't be in the same places at the same time. So, hold the fort bravely and safe!

Yes, an embrace, this one from Montreal,

Another Conversation(s) -fragments

People always tell me, why do you always paint? You should live! It's difficult to tell them cause I'm living all the time when painting, cause it's so passionate, if I would not live this crazy life, I would have nothing to paint, my motifs all come from the living and cracking middle -the most incredible desire to live and lose myself and at the same time a broken tie toward all things and a 'healthy life' bah! You know what I'm talking about. Kisses from the atelier to G.

You can't imagine this weird place of Ringstraße, painting there and listening to the geschäftgespräch in the nearby cafeteria, it's all so artificial and hochglanz, just a minute ago Ghadaffi passed the promenade.

Aghhhhhhhhhh... I'm so angry again, I think one day this man will kill my nerves, thing is... I think I like it and dying of anger strikes me as something really beautiful, fuck... I think I need alcohol.

J. Anger needs something else, not alcohol... because anger is not enough melancholy or Angst for drinking, anger is just.... agggggggggghhhh... like the present tense.

What a strange lonely night... I spent it in such unrest, I'm in nowhere time, night turned so quickly into early morning business, walking around, driving roung Ringstraße with taxi, visiting another painter, why am I so addicted to not sleeping? Ah, I enjoyed so much talking on the phone last night, good morning!

I spent all night smoking, listening to very loud music, copying zittaten from Benjamin, dreaming awake and talking to G. and you in my mind, ah! it feels too great to wait for the morning and say 'fuck you' to the alltägliche durchschnittlichkeit and then continue daydreaming with the sun outside. Das Licht der Öffenlichkeit verdünkelt alles.

....Well my dad agreed to send me cash on Monday, not knowing I have all but 50 shekels left in the bank. So another month of passion, drinking and philosophy at the expense of the burgeoisie.

Ah, let them pay and enjoy to the fullest, she yehieh keff!

Notes on the Preface to the Phenomenology

Preface to the Phenomenology


'These forms do not only differ, they also displace each other because they're incompatible. Their fluid nature, however, makes them, at the same time, elements of an organic unity in which they not only do not conflict, but in which one is as necessary as the other; and it is only this equal necessity that constitutes the life of the whole'

This is one of the most interesting and fateful paragraphs in Hegel's writings. In Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza, in Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, or in Kant we find no comparable conception of philosphical disagreement or the 'progressive development' of truth'. Different philosophies according to Hegel are not to be viewed as laid out next to each other in a spatial arrangement; they cannot be fully understood as long as their temporal relationship is ignored. Studying a single system is like studying, say, a blossom; the study of the whole plant and of living organisms corresponds to the study of the development of philosophy to the present time. Different philosophies represent different stages of maturity.

Here, then, at the beginning of his first book, Hegel announces the vision that led him about fifteen years later, as a professor at the Univ. of Berlin, to establish the history of philosophy as a subject of central importance for students of philosophy- which it had not been before.

'Necessary' and 'necessity' in the last sentence are questionable. Hegel means that philosophies should not be understood as capricious webs spun by wayward thinkers but as significant stages in the development of thought. When a philosopher disagreer with his predecessors, we should not reject the lot because they cannot agree with each other; rather we should ask how the later thinkers correct the partiality of the former, and how each contributes to the gradual refinement of knowledge. Hegel notwithstanding, this does not imply any genuine necessity. Hegel often uses 'necessary' quite illicitly as the negation of 'utterly arbitrary'. -Kaufmann.

'And when, in addition to all this, the seriousness of the Concept descends into the depths of the subject matter, then such knowledge and judgement will always retain a proper place in discussion'

'The seriousness of the Concept': der Ernst der Begriffs is one of Hegel's phrases. Some of the preceding might strike readers with no predilection for philosophy as an invitation to pedantry. But consider the Philistine who reads the final speech of Goethe's Faust, in the fifth act of Part II, and says 'I always knew that nothing good would come out of boundless striving; one has to settle down for a job and do it well'. He has got hold of a 'naked result' or a 'lifeless generality'. Real comprehension depends on a grasp neither of the play, but of 'the result together with its becoming'. In the case of a philosophical position, too, the becoming involves not only the detailed arguments but also the 'serious of life in its fullness' (Ernst der erfüllten Lebens). Yet this, however necessary, is not enough for philosophy which requires, 'in addition to all this, the seriousness of the Concept'.-Kaufmann.


'Philosophy, however, must beware of wishing to be edifying'

Hegel's polemic against mere edification and the wish to be 'edifying' (erbaulich) brings to mind Kierkegaard's 'Edifying Discourses'. Kierkegaard's many polemical references to Hegel are better known than the fact that Hegel published his critique of Kierkegaard six years before the latter was born. Kierkegaard's autorship of 'Edifying Discourses' and 'Concluding Unscientific Postscript' has to be understood against the background not only of Hegel's Logic, which is also cited in this connection, but also of the Phenomenology, which is too often ignored by Kierkegaard's expositors'-Kaufmann

'The strength of the spirit is only as great as its expression; its depth is only as deep as it dares to spread and lose itself in its explication'

'empty depth': a splended phrase, by no means applicable only to the Romantics of whom Hegel was thinking primarily. The last sentence offers a superb formulation of one of Sartre's central ideas: 'for the existentialist, there is no love apart from the deeds of love; ... there's no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art. The genius of Proust is the totality of the works of Proust... In life, a man... draws his own portrait and there is nothing but that portrait....'You are nothing else but what you live'.-Kaufmann.


'But just as in the case of a child the first breath it draws after long silent nourishment terminates the gradualness of the merely quantitative progression -a qualitative leap- and now the child is born, so, too, the spirit that educates itself matures slowly and quietly toward the new form, dissolving one particle of the edifice of its previous world after the other...

The Phenomenology of the Spirit is the story of the Bildung of the spirit- Kaufmann.

'The first emergence is only its immediacy or its concept.'

Unmittelbarkeit means for Hegel quite literally that which has not been mediated or gone through an intermediate condition - Kaufmann.

'But the actuality is this simple whole consists in this, that these forms which have become mere moments now develop anew and give themselves form, but in their new element, in the sense that has emerged.'

Sometimes 'stages' comes a little closer to Hegel's 'Momente' than 'elements' would. The new 'element' is philosophy.What has developed must now be comprehended and developed all over again, in thought. Kaufmann.

'While on the one hand the first appearance of the new world is only the whole shrouded in simplicity or its general basis, the wealth of its previous existence is, on the other hand, still present to consciousness in memory'

The partisans of 'immediate knowledge' suffer from amnesia: what they claim to know immediately was in fact mediated by a long historical process. What seems self-evident now was not obvious in the past, and what seems simple is in fact the whole development 'shrouded in simplicity'. -Hegel.

'For the understanding is thinking, the pure ego; and the sensible is the already familiar and that which science and the unscientific consciousness have in common- that whereby the latter can immediately enter science'

intelligibility: Verständlichkeit; intelligible: verständlich; understanding: Verstand; the sensible: das Verständige. The basic idea of section 1.3 so far, and of this paragraph especially, is that time has come for all men to demand equal access to philosophy; and to become common properly philosophy must become scientific. To become exoteric and democratic, philosophy must be available to every intelligent person who is willing to shirk no effort -regardless of whether he belongs to some special group or clique, whether the romantic circle or a religious denomination. The time for special privilege is past.

On the fact of it, it is ironical that this insistence on universal intelligibility should appear in the preface to a work of legendary difficulty which even professionals have the greatest trouble in understanding. And after all is said, this irony remains striking. But it should be noted that Hegel's position does not commit him to popularization. Science, including higher mathematics and advanced physics, is exoteric and democratic in the sense here at stake; and Hegel constantly insists that philosophy requires the most serious exertion and hard work. Indeed, this is part of what he means when he speaks of elevating philosophy to the level of science.-Kaufmann.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Just one freaking disappointment followed by another one, and another one and yet another one. That's really my autobiography - a long account of heresies, jealousy, egoism and all of it wrapped neatly in a golden chain of disappointment. But there's perhaps no other way, this is what one's summoned for.... this morning I learnt from the Talmud that Rabbi Yochanan says 'Jerusalem was destroyed just because it was judged according to the Laws'; it is perhaps one of the most amazing things I've ever heard. The anger doesn't have a purifying effect anymore so that at most I can only laugh with embarrassment at my lack of care, my lack of interest, my lack of benevolence... and uncelebrate this mad joy of selfnishness. I want to throw it overboard, really... but I know I can't, as long as I can't live with this incredible sadness of disappointment, it is even worse to realize how much I'm unable to function and to be just as much when without them. For now I just owe to keep silent, as silent as a stone... not to feel anything at all and let the time overtake the little difference between the joy and the death, undifferentiated characters from the vantage point of eternity, from the vantage point of salvation. I can't write anymore, not for a few days... Perhaps I can only indulge myself in dreaming and reading, reading, reading... trying to understand, trying to gain some moral selfness as to concern myself with others too, and what makes me really frustrated is how awful I'm at that... my love is always so vain and futile, so useless before life, so unable to build anything, anything at all... but at best I can write nice letters, that perhaps in the end of the day do not reflect at all the inner storm within me, it is not one of purification but rather of utmost violence and aggresivity, tainted only by the times when it all breaks free and I escape the image in the mirror, I see myself loving and living a little bit better, going out of my way to live 'beyond the letter of the law'; and only because I still have some of those images I can truly live in the Biblical sense. I'm still waiting and waiting, for the same damn evening, and no matter how disappointed I get every time, I keep lingering about and waiting... in the end maybe he's right, and it will amount to nothing... but I don't know any other way to exist but this. Even if it amounts to nothing, I did it with faith... and no more than love failed me, I failed him.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Ah, les gens là... Mon A..... Où est ce que toi? You're always in my heart, yes -always, nowhere else... I'm writing you this letter, it's difficult for me, words never like me too much, my tongue humpelt immer, I'm just living a strange life, seeking only passion and crazy laughter, living in an art-hospital....

Just listened sad music whole hours long, lying on bed, very tired, too tired to go to sleep, now I go to some bar in sperlgasse...

My life is all about seeking this crazy passion and it makes me so sad that life always fails at me in precisely that, the only thing I want... maybe it's only for that reason that I keep trying everyday, failing everyday, only so I'm able to live.... 'there's an infinite amount of love but just not for us'; who if not him to have understood the whole of Benjamin?

I think Eveline and G. are the only people who understood Benjamin at all, or at least the way I did, that makes me feel so 'heimlich', but the 'heimlichkeit' is so urgent that the present becomes all fear, it kills... then the heimlichkeit becomes useless and unheimlich again in a way.

It scares so badly as they're looking always for security, so living with no compromises means at the very essential point, to understand that there's no security, just empty air under your feet. Your concept is a philosophical concept in the most radical and brutal sense, as it allows no divisory lines between concept and life. A concept not only aesthetically, and because he loves you, he understands the concept even if he cannot live it.

Sure, but the break of the boundaries between life and thought is all what has been ever wanted from thought and life themselves; when they see it come alive, they feel at home in the world again but soon enough they also discover that this 'heimlichkeit' also kills, but this 'death' is the truth of living (in the ontological sense). Then the burgeoise consciousness advises one to escape but it's not entirely possible, so that one returns again in order to live but not for long, as he knows nothing will make sense after that. 'Socrates laughed once and he never wept'

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Arendt & Oakeshott III

Dearest Efraim,

Oakeshott does strike me as a particularly relevant philosophical character, despite both my disagreements with his theorizing (that are strictly epistemological and not political) and the oblivion to which a great part of his oeuvre has been condemned by the current 'leading figures' like Benhabib and Habermas; but as you well know they see themselves as the 'heirs' of critical theory, which is something that despite Eveline's inclinations to read Adorno, I cannot share by any possible means and beyond his 'Jargon of Authenticity' which is the only serious critique of the philosophical politics of Heidegger as a whole ever written, there's very little or almost nothing of interest I can find in those Marxist sociologists that call themselves philosophers.

Oakeshott is certainly far from being a tory in the old meaning of the word, and my slight familiarity is some of the classics of British political thought can only confirm on the basis of my suspicions these claims. This can only prove once again true what Arendt says about the controversy stirred by the Eichmann book, which I mentioned to you already: 'There's no discussion as heated as the one on a book no one has read' (an Austrian wit which to my knowledge is originally a Talmudic dictum). People like Rawls and MacIntyre are indeed conservative thinkers that lack the flexibility of Oakeshott when the chips are down and thinkers (but not political men acting in the plurality of contingency - the philosopher might be able to make some predictions about himself, but not unlike Heidegger and Weise he might greatly fail) are summoned to take a position.

I'm happy you agree with on his minimizing the importance of the political, and while I cannot say whether I like this or not, I find it a cunning problem in integrating him into a broader picture of politics, because after all, as you know, despite of not doing metaphysics I do remain highly ontological (that is, doing the sort of metaphysics that one is granted doing, after phenomenology) and share with Arendt (but not with Heller or Goodman-Thau) the imperative necessity of considering and re-considering the foundational aspects of politics. I don't think Oakeshott disregarded at all the 'nature of politics' and also agree with you that in his thinking about politics it is clear that their significance cannot be overstated.

It is certainly a fundamental problem to tackle Arendt's position from an Oakeshottian or even from a 'political-theoretical' stand-point because they certainly do not mean the same with politics nor do they agree with the concensus of the 'traditional schools' on the meaning of the term; and that is why I believe a discussion is most likely a profitable enterprise. With a certain tendency to 'yearn' for the social and political reality of the Polis, Arendt does integrate politics within the realm of culture, meaning in Modernity, as a part of the bridges that enable communication beyond the structures of the imaginary institutions that 'represent' Modernity (here, therefore, her particularly contradictory remarks on the meaning of the private and the public space/sphere, particular in 'The Human Condition') and that upon the demise of religion and the 'community' altogether with world alienation make it impossible otherwise.

At this point (and this is beyond doubt in Oakeshott) I believe there's a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding in translating these remarks to the discussion going on around the French and American left, trying to hermeneutically compare Arendt with Marx; her concepts of alienation spring from Jaspers' philosophy of existence and only later during her work on Totalitarianism, do they become intertwinted with the Marxist narrative, but yet they never clearly separate again. This is of course, one of my own theses, so you shouldn't take it for what it says but for what it might potentially endeavour. However, where the dialogue with Marx is indeed possible (and this has been overlooked without exception by all the critics) is with Hegel. The 'association' to the political and social reality of the Polis belong in Hegel until the 'Phenomenology of the Spirit' in that institutions become positive and therefore dead if the spirit (of freedom for example) leaves them. This point was made by Heller, by she failed to explain to me its broader implications and I am inclined to believe the problem has much more to do with Heidegger than with Hegel. The 'Philosophy of Right' is a different story and because they read the whole of Hegel's doctrine of the ideal modern state, nor Heller neither Avineri can come to conclusions on this matter in regard to Arendt. There're many heroes in her 'stories', at times Jesus, at times the Polis, at times revolution... one needs to contextualize anew everytime.

She's then leaving the social question out of politics (with a good intention though, but leaving too many gaps in between philosophy and theory) because she believes that politics is not what the mob usually refer to by this (schools, education, social security, institutions) but a rather a realm in itself with primacy in regard to action, so that your remarks are absolutely correct in my opinion. For sure her 'green grass' has very little to do with yours and only because it springs out of the political experience as a 'Jew' and from the sources of 'dark times' I am in fullest agreement with her (except with the definition of culture itself, hers belongs undoubtedly in the Weimar sociology and mine is hermeneutic) and could never compromise with your hedonistic notion, not even one centimeter. There's indeed this aspect of politics being bestowed with some aestheticism, but I think it belongs more to both the 'poetic imagination' of Benjamin and the 'dekonstruktion' of Heidegger (which obviously Derrida misunderstood in each and every possible way) than with classicist nostalgia as found in rather conservative political theoreticians.

Lastly we return to philosophy again. What I mean by ontologizing politics (rooting them therein) is that she is often clustered by many of her followers as an Aristotelian renewer, in particular connected to the concept of praxis; but what she is doing (and in this, completing Heidegger's project to its political dimension) is shifting the hierarchies of political life from 'praxis' and 'poiesis' that Aristotle had, into 'techne' and 'episteme'; this is grounding politics as an indepent realm with ontological validity and this is the 'recovery' out of the sources of the tradition which she attempts not as re-enacting the wisdom of the past (either dialectically as in Hegel or interpretively as in Strauss) but by working on the tradition itself, showing with even more rigour, the gap in between past and future and the irretrievability of the tradition; politics 'ex nihilo', hence the concern with 'beginnings'.

Realist phenomenology means all modern phenomenology (not Lambert and Hegel) in between Brentano and Husserl that with Nicolai Hartmann and Heidegger shifted onto an ontological differentiation in between 'existential' and 'existentiell'; which is in my opinion one of the greatest break-throughs of Heidegger but in the last minute his 'opening' (which I think derives from Simmel) falls back upon the same old categories in its 'turning toward death' (and hereby Heidegger's long exegesis exercises on Greek and German poetry) instead of reaching the plurality of human existence that Arendt and Jonas set out to improve, but only the former with any degree of success. Arendt remains a phenomenologist and at that, whenever she engages in descriptions, they're not a theoretical devise to raise empiricist objections but rather the 'story-telling' is a deciphering of essence each time; and such concepts that obviously postmetaphysics wouldn't dare approach, you can derive from Duns Scotus or Descartes. And this is exactly what she does in politics, which is rather contrary to Aristotle and very Heideggerian indeed; but she doesn't make up her mind entirely on whether the source of this tendency is the notion of plurality she finds in the Hebrew bible or the radical ontology of Heidegger. This is material for a long discussion, thus for now I await your answer and our discussion tomorrow.



Arendt & Oakeshott II

Dearest Ari,

I am very glad you liked Oakeshott. Your first impression conifrms my opinion that those who think Oakeshott was an archi-conservative would have changed thier opinion - if only they had read him!

I agree with you that Oakeshott, unlike Arendt, minimises the significance of the political. Yet this is precisely why I like him. It does not mean that he completely disregarded politics. Yet he thought that politics should be kept within strict limits, and that its significance should not be overstated. He considered politics to be 'a second-order activity', which is required in order to provide room for the things that are important for the civilisation (and which I call 'the green grass'), but which cannot be seen as possessing any inherent value.

The question of how all this is different from Arendt's position is a bit complicated. At first glance, the two thinkers seem to be poles apart from each other. Yet, it seems to me that Arendt, in her idiosyncratic ways, gives politics a meaning very different from the common one, and probably different from the one that Oakeshott attacks. In a certain sense, she seems to be incorporating politics into the realm of the green grass, whereas she sees in the 'social' the main danger to the green grass (although of course her green grass is not my green grass - it is too coloured by Jeiwsh neuroticism, but then, who could blame her?) - politics being bestowed with some element of aesthetic significance and clasicist nostalgia. And this is why, although Oakeshott is certainly different from her, they could share something in common not on the level of philosophical generalities but rather on the level of practical attitude to some social and cultural issues of the modern world.

I must confess that, being a down to earth historian of ideas I am, I always find it difficult to make sense of a too abstractly formulated philosophical discourse with its preoccupations with 'epistemology', 'ontology' and other clever words. So your second paragraph was a bit dense for me. Perhaps, we should have a long conversation on this on Friday, so that I will understand what you mean by speaking about the 'ontology that follows the demise of realist phenomenology to be replaced by existential phenomenology', in order to be able to feel with all striking intellectual clarity the sweetness of my ineivtable intellectual defeat at your hands.

Yours etc.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Contradictions of Political Modernity? (in process)

Association with the French philosopher Michael Löwy from his article 'Politique et histoire: Retour sur Hannah Arendt', review of the book 'Hannah Arendt: une juive. Expérience, politique et histoire' by Martine Leibovici.

In a rather friendly reappraisal of the 'political' work of Hannah Arendt, Löwy touches upon some issues of the first order in his review of Leibovici's book; as great deal of literature has been devoted to Arendt in the English and French speaking world the interminable seas of discussion on some key points of Arendt's philosophizing are in vogue today and at no other time has so much confusion reigned - as it is the case with any canon, in particular at the axe of an age whereby historical philosophy is slowly being relegated only to the scholars and the majority of the speakers dare address the audience in the 'I' of hermeneutic philosophy; as Goethe would have repeated himself today by saying 'to the things themselves', with the risk of interpretive freedom that hinders the accuracy of philological and comparative work for the sake of 'commonality'; a language in philosophy that might enable students of philosophy to engage in discussions with one another unburdened by traditions and scholarly canon. This tendency is by no means philosophical, but rather springs from the undercurrents of 'free speech', with all the charges that go in hand with such an engagement.

It is already out of fashion to ask the question of 'what's Arendtian about Arendt? where's the system?'; for she allegedly refused to integrate her philosophy into a coherent system and with the exception of her first and last book ('The Concept of Love in Augustine' and 'The Life of the Mind') she refused to refer to them as philosophy of any kind and opted for the label of 'political thought'; yet she lived up to the nature attached to philosophy since Plato in that her thinking was entirely resultless and not seeking truth - an almost uncanny tendency to altogether avoid metaphysics and that has been proven by more recent philosophy to be an entirely impossible enterprise, e.g. Deleuze and Levinas. At the same time she did keep a keen eye on the 'light of the public' where political events unfold and remained contientiously committed to their critique with an interpretive tool springing from somewhere else, today almost unanomimously referred to as her 'phenomenology of the social world'. The term, while remarkable and new, is greatly misleading in the light of two particularly Arendtian problems. Her troubling accounts of the concept of the world and her deliberate decision to leave the social question out of political reflections, the former one of her most interesting features (philosophically) and the latter undoubtedly her greatest failure (politically).

Because of her belief (and mine) in the end of the tradition, there was no possible alternative but a fragmentary 'system', namely unlinked reflections that in the eternal recurrence of their topicality and development link to one another in such a way that certain objections can be raised in the empirical sense. Metaphysics stood long dead by then and no willy-nilly most modern philosophers (since Hegel) have 'avoided' metaphysics but have unknowingly indulged in them not without 'blaming' their predecessors for being 'metaphysicians' and setting themselves to 'correct' the philosophical mistakes of the past. No better example of this than Heidegger, whose thorough 'shaking' of the hothouse of Aristotelian metaphysics as presented in his early work was entirely 'turned inwardly' later on with the possibility of either recanting everything said after his magna opera 'Being & Time' or as it was the case, returning to the metaphysics of Aristotle and Leibniz in his later work enframing the concept of 'Being' in an almost untouchable aura of 'sacredness' that echoes back to Protestant mysticism and the Aristotelian tradition of Christian theology. Metaphysics is no strange household for Arendt, who in despite her distaste for the idea even, worked on theoretical models of the faculty of the 'Will' (quintessential for two of her favourite thinkers, Augustine and Duns Scotus) that rely on unmovable assumptions.

Yet her metaphysical inclinations were of a different kind than those encountered in the long history of Western philosophy (despite the tautology one has to face when speaking of 'time' and 'history' in classical metaphysics, something as contradictory as the interlapse in between metaphysics and positive logic, encountered in the age of Rationalism - one of the greatest peaks of metaphysics. The historical distinction is unknown to philosophy prior to the historical hermeneutics of Hegel, alas! Eternity is broken!), they were of a fragmentary kind; no doubted inherited from two well-known sources, the concept of history in Walter Benjamin (as present in the 'Theses on the Philosophy of History) and the 'temporality' of the Heideggerian system. Arendt reflected upon political institutions on the light of this rather curious methodology; but the Wizard of Oz behind this tendency is found in the non-hierarchical nature of her musings. As a paradigmatic parallel one cannot help thinking about the concept of 'everyday life' found in Max Weber, Mannheim and in Marxist thinkers like Lukàcs and early Ernst Bloch - a hierarchical edifice of the 'life-world' (a concept I suspect inherited from the 'life-philosophies', Bergson and Dilthey) present in the 'everyday' that no doubt hearkens back to Hegel's own 'everyday' from both 'The Phenomenology of the Spirit' and 'Philosophy of Right'. The subsequent generation presents a more diversified concept of the everyday that agrees with Leibniz's own view of the modern world, 'one with just as much great diversity as great unity'; this is perceiveable in the own 'everyday' of Henri Lefebvre, Michael Foucault, Ágnes Heller and Ernst Bloch. The 'everyday life' is beyond recognition, an abstract term, and at that one for an infinite number of 'mathematical operations' that occur in the social world, but upon the conditioning factors of contingency, this therefore obscures the possibility of systematic accounts of the concept that as in the Greek concept of history coined by Herodotus and Thucydides ('to tell what is', legein ta eonta, without reference to the 'event' lost in between past and future encountered everywhere since Plotinus through Heidegger) is an anticipatory concept, meaning that it already engages in 'prediction', but the prediction would be rather be left to 'desire' than to 'forecast'; metaphorically speaking this is of very little importance... but as Arendt knew well, it is definitely not in the realm of action.

The predictable nature of history works perfectly fine under the assumption of a cyclical concept of history but it already irrational (and non-rational means not quite the same) and engaged in the sooth-saying of antinomian versions of Messianism; those that either inform you in advance of who/what the Messiah is or necessarily warn you that he will never arrive, at least not in 'this world' (as though we had a clear account of what this concept entails when we've done away with the 'cosmos' as soon as philosophy exists, the shift from cosmological to anthropological representations of truth). Hermeneutically speaking the 'everyday' can be traced back perhaps as far as St. Augustine and the interrelations/events that surround the so-called 'Christian times' described in his Sermones, philosophically the concept is foreign to the world of the natural philosophies (that are not our current philosophies of science) and is perhaps of very little importance before the 'discovery' of burgeoise property relations inherited from the rising social science during the age of positivism. The 'everyday' coupled with history, are the spaces of immanence par excellence and therefore what I would call, the 'stumbling block of trascendence'; an absolute immanence like that of the modern world has become in itself the space of trascendence so that one of the manifold accounts of 'Modernity' is the attempt to 'trascend' the human world in order to repair its fragility. But the human world cannot be repaired without being destroyed, or at least radically modified so that linguistic problems arise anew.

This is where Arendt proves an interesting discussion partner, because whichever talk about metaphysics held today leads unavoidable to street talk about the rise of Modernity and Auschwitz - the greatest achievement of the 'social contract'. Not in vain did Nietzsche remark how the obliteration of the 'true world' will lead to the disappearance of the 'apparent world'; so that philosophically we are condemned to live in a duality that truly is a monism reified into two different apparatuses, the metaphysics of the 'lower forms' (political science) and the metaphysics of the 'higher forms' (theology) and the divorce between the 'formness' inherent to human life is as dangerous as the Cartesian doubt that divorces thinking from being in order to assure the 'accuracy' of both, but out of this Promethean enterprise there can be no other result than the most radical atrophy of both. The radical separation between the organized religion(s) and the state which became soon enough the Enlightenment religion and thoroughly preached by its annointed priest: The definition of the modern state laid down by Hegel's late philosophy. This separation is by no means curious, it springs from the disappointment of Hegel with the previous model of politics based on the political and social reality of Athens; therein there's a total unity (or rather unicity) of the realms of religion, philosophy, art and morality, yet as exemplified in the Greek tragedy (and later in the death of Socrates) there's no space for the 'individual'; the perfect synthesis of the aforementioned realms nullifies the 'moment of decision' that fails in all modern ontologies and that by means of persuasion engenders the mass man of the Totalitarian regime - one that has no private space nor public space, he remains suspended in an 'anti-world'. This model precludes the moment of 'pathos' inherent to any existential decision; the 'pathos' of Kierkegaard is not the 'peitho' of Plato; and in Plato himself the 'peitho' (persuasion) that works under the rubric of mythologies (like in the famous Diotima story in the Symposium) is not an illustrative philosophical character, but rather a theological one in the sense that Plato gave to 'theology' in the Republic - the education of the elites to rule over the mobs.

Hegel experiences this disappointment after his radical political writings during the 'road' of the Phenomenology from consciousness to the absolute knowledge. Yet it is true that absolute knowledge is not the 'end' of the phenomenology but rather the middel way of its movement through the 'Spirit'; but he also recognized that the 'Spirit' is not the 'nous' of Parmenides and that the concept is in its entirety Christian. Therefore I would be inclined to conclude from this that lastly Hegel fails to make up his mind on whether the 'absolute knowledge' is in religion or in philosophy and accordingly the Phenomenology of the Spirit concludes with 'Golgotha' and the Resurrection; laying the foundations of the political life of the 'community' in a historical event, what would appear absolutely non-sensical to Kant and that even today would bother any philosopher concerned with ethics, so that instead the locus of the 'Phenomenology' is displaced onto metaphysics again and by no means unproblematic to reason in the sense of Logic (a 'science' that surprisingly did not know a name until well into modern times). The solipsism trades locations with history and viceversa, and the dialectic is helplessly unable to find a solution to this problem, lest it were to deny itself to make space for facts. And here we speak about the facts of reality in its lack of reality, so that the manifold images of earthly existence cannot be broken into a statement of philosophy, regardless of whoever is claimed to be dead. In Hannah Arendt's thinking about politics a paradigm of this kind comes out in the open, first under the guise of the paradox of freedom found in the Kantian version

Arendt & Oakeshott

My dear Efraim,

Reading Oakeshott's book (unlike Kafka's) is what can be called a pleasure, and the more I look into it (after having briefly put myself through 'On Human Conduct' and 'Experience and Its Modes') the more interesting I find it. In fact I think the comparison between Arendt and Oakeshott couldn't be any more timely, as Canovan's interpretation starts to wane away, in particular because regardless of the canonical status of her book on Arendt she's a social scientist in the empirical meaning of the word and fails to account for both Arendt and Oakeshott beyond the space of the immanence of political theory and this is therefore entirely unphilosophical.

There're many things in common between Arendt and Oakeshott, what I particularly dislike is that Oakeshott, not unlike the other great theoreticians (Rawls, MacIntyre, Habermas, Benhabib) doesn't address too much the 'concept of the political', namely the foundations of political science and politics itself. Somehow I start to feel that he remains a political philosopher while Arendt is a philosopher of the political and with all the failing it involves, this is perhaps her greatest contribution to 20th century political philosophy. Nonetheless I'd shift the balance of importance from people like Schmitt and Habermas to enthrone Arendt and Oakeshott as perhaps the most important (and best) political philosophers of the past century. I entirely disagree with the idea that nothing 'really serious' can happen in politics, and Arendt has this experience and therefore projects endless reflections on the nature of freedom and action, on the concepts of the unlimited and limited in both. She shows the contingencies of political life in a way unknown before her and of course unrecognized by the tradition.

But in favour of Oakeshott I can say that no matter how much I don't pretty much accept his dealing with the social question he's not left it out of politics and this is where Arendt has the greatest failures, and this is a Heideggerian failure. Oakeshott is also much easier to follow, because I guess that coming from British Idealism he's rather epistemological, while Arendt as an existentialist is only concerned with ontologies. All her concepts are ontologically rooted, not in the meaning of Wolff's ontology (which is really the last stage of metaphysics in between Leibniz and Kant) but in the meaning of Heidegger... the ontology that follows the demise of realist phenomenology to be replaced by existential phenomenology. Arendt is a great philosophical essayist of the political and Oakeshott a great political philosopher. Their ideas on education are not as far as one would like to believe but I follow Arendt because she does root them on ontological experience and not in any pragmatic considerations, that as Arendt shows, are as contingent as the use of truth in the public space.

Arendt's theorizing because of its narrative character and its axiological but fragmentary nature is not a working model of politics but remains a paradigm of Modernity, while Oakeshott's model seems to me a lot more concerned with 'praxis' without forgetting its philosophical quality and the necessity of it expressed in his writings on education. This undoubtedly should be included in my work as one the central topics and no doubt this has barely been explored before. Heller argues that Oakeshott does not delimit enough the nature of politics in his theorizing (to the same extent that Rawls is concerned with justice, Habermas with formal ethics and MacIntyre with social organization, but not with the question of politics!) whereas Arendt does, and I tend to agree... but at the same time my disagreements with Heller at many junctures (especially in regard to ethics) are so outstanding that this demands a whole reconsideration of the whole issue. Certainly Oakeshott does not appear to me as either conservative or liberal or a maverick in any way, and in this he shares an undeniable ground of expression with Arendt that paves the way to the natural course of Modernity so terribly perverted by people like Habermas.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

On Metaphor

..this is pretty amazing!

Begriffe wie Gott, Welt, Zeit oder Geschichte u.a. scheinen sich nicht anders als durch Metaphern begreiflich machen zu lassen. „Der Raum der Metapher ist der Raum der unmöglichen, der fehlgeschlagenen oder der noch nicht konsolidierten Begriffsbildunge” [19] Dadurch erhält die Metapher eine Funktion der vorgreifenden Orientierung.

'Concepts like God, World, Time or History among others, appear in themselves as nothing but metaphors to let something be conceptualized. The space of the metaphor is the space of the impossible, the abortive or at least not yet consolidated determination of a concept. Therefore the Metaphor gains a function of proleptic or anticipatory orientation.'

-Hans Blumenberg, 'Arbeit an Mythos', 1984.

Today's Conversation on Arendt


Arendt définit la liberté par l'action ("être libre et agir ne font qu'un"). Il n'existe de liberté que politique. L'action est la réalisation effective, l'incarnation de la liberté. Or, l'action se situe dans le domaine des affaires humaines, qui est fondamentalement contingent, de sorte qu'il est impossible de maitriser les conséquences de ses actes. Où situer la responsabilité? Comment assumer les conséquences de ses actes, si on ne peut pas les connaitre?
Auries tu une idée de passages de textes où Arendt répondrait à ce problème??


La responsabilité, face à des conséquences qu'on ne peut prévoir, peut s'imaginer comme sur le mode judiciaire sous la forme de règles appliquées à quelqu'un selon la gravité de ses actes.

Homicide involontaire ou homicide volontaire tombent sous le coup de la loi chacun avec des sanctions différentes mais bien réelles. La responsabilité dont il s'agit ici est une responsabilité civile.

Mais cela va plus loin que le concept de responsabilité civile. Les règles appliquées à une personne dépendent plus généralement du code moral de la civilisation à laquelle elle appartient. Les règles qui sont appliquées sont fondamentalement différentes d'une région à l'autre de la planète. Et cela prouve qu'il est très difficile de répondre de manière univoque à la question "faut -il ou non faire subir à quelqu'un qui a commis involontairement une action mauvaise pour un individu ou un groupe d'individu un châtiment et si oui lequel?".

La diversité des réponses possibles répond à la diversité de la notion de bien et de mal.

La responsabilité morale, purement morale, pourrait je pense être appréhendée comme une suite d'épreuves auxquelles l'esprit de l'individu est soumis au cours de sa vie. Donc dans la mesure où la responsabilité morale de l'individu le pousse à la culpabilité qui est un cas particulier du sentiment de compassion, la responsabilité morale sculpte la relation de la personne avec son environnement humain , et donc avec l'autre.

Donc pour des actes dont les conséquences étaient imprévisibles c'est la structure même, le noyau dur de la relation à l'autre que la responsabilité morale permet de mieux connaître.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Philosophy learns in the Street with Edith Piaf (Midrash to 'Thinking in Dark Times')

'I know he will never be mine, nor will I be his... but I am willing to sacrifice everything for love, even if it can only mean loss for both of us' -Edith Piaf


La fille de joie est belle
Au coin de la rue là-bas
Elle a une clientèle
Qui lui remplit son bas
Quand son boulot s'achève
Elle s'en va à son tour
Chercher un peu de rêve
Dans un bal du faubourg
Son homme est un artiste
C'est un drôle de petit gars
Un accordéoniste
Qui sait jouer la java

Elle écoute la java
Mais elle ne la danse pas
Elle ne regarde même pas la piste
Et ses yeux amoureux
Suivent le jeu nerveux
Et les doigts secs et longs de l'artiste
Ça lui rentre dans la peau
Par le bas, par le haut
Elle a envie de chanter
C'est physique
Tout son être est tendu
Son souffle est suspendu
C'est une vraie tordue de la musique

La fille de joie est triste
Au coin de la rue là-bas
Son accordéoniste
Il est parti soldat
Quand y reviendra de la guerre
Ils prendront une maison
Elle sera la caissière
Et lui, sera le patron
Que la vie sera belle
Ils seront de vrais pachas
Et tous les soirs pour elle
Il jouera la java

Elle écoute la java
Qu'elle fredonne tout bas
Elle revoit son accordéoniste
Et ses yeux amoureux
Suivent le jeu nerveux
Et les doigts secs et longs de l'artiste
Ça lui rentre dans la peau
Par le bas, par le haut
Elle a envie de chanter
C'est physique
Tout son être est tendu
Son souffle est suspendu
C'est une vraie tordue de la musique

La fille de joie est seule
Au coin de la rue là-bas
Les filles qui font la gueule
Les hommes n'en veulent pas
Et tant pis si elle crève
Son homme ne reviendra plus
Adieux tous les beaux rêves
Sa vie, elle est foutue
Pourtant ses jambes tristes
L'emmènent au boui-boui
Où y a un autre artiste
Qui joue toute la nuit

Elle écoute la java...
... elle entend la java
... elle a fermé les yeux
... et les doigts secs et nerveux ...
Ça lui rentre dans la peau
Par le bas, par le haut
Elle a envie de gueuler
C'est physique
Alors pour oublier
Elle s'est mise à danser, à tourner
Au son de la musique...

Arrêtez la musique ! ...

[...Verbum sapienta.... Iterum]


'Late through the morning
I find no comfort in my sleep
I still wander through devenir
Who am I to please, indeed?

Still didn't get a haircut
In still, smoked, I've been
Devoid of thought, enfin
I no longer believe the time.

Neither remember whether I lived,
Nor the tongue I now speak,
Happily gay, even queer,
A child lived thorough in me.

Below his arms, I could falter
Above the earth, I hasten
Ever since grew old my answers,
I dwell'd in the moon, the sea, oh! father.'
(one of my poems, from Nov. 2004)

This beautiful song, one of the most popular of Edith Piaf has an interesting story, when Piaf (the sparrow) had been still a young man but already paving her way to become France's most popular singer a young man came to her house in Paris and stood by her portico for about three hours attempting to convince the maid to summon the sparrow to him; the young woman filled with fame and foul couldn't be any less concerned but after several hours she thought for herself 'if he's already here, why not then?'. A young soldier walks into the large salon to encounter Piaf and remarks to her that he's written a song for her and that he wants to play it. He adds while laying his riffle outside, that the day after he would be going to the army to fight in a war and the young woman delaying her agents and composers sits idly to hear the man play and adds 'you have three minutes to play', and after a minute she says 'I want it... everybody out of here! I must practice' and she stays in the salon next to the piano learning the song from the young man as he plays... the young man remained unnamed and was never meant to return from the war, while Piaf adopted the song and sang it at one of her first concerts at the Olympia [see Edith performing this song]. Not unlike 'L'accordeoniste' also her most famous song so far, 'Je ne regrette rien' that also rained upon her thus. The older woman already in her late fourties and burdened with arthritis and worn out from long years of irresponsible alcohol and morphine had been recovering from a nervous breakdown for about a year already in the 1960's; the agents, contractors and insurance companies were extremely troubled at the situation and set themselves to assess the situation, on whether she would be able to give at least a last concert in the Olympia as she had been by then enthroned as the singer of Paris.

In the middle of the conversations the nurse turned to Mdme. and informed her about the two musicians gathering at the door waiting to present her with a song, Michel Vaucaire (the lyrics) and Charles Dumont (the music). The musicians came in and Paif once again remarked to them, 'Please be quick, I'm tired'. But in a rendez-vous from the old story soon after the song started playing the soothed and asked for it to be played again; the lyrics were written by Vaucaire in honour of Piaf's defiant attitude toward the past - the ability to 'create ex nihilo', to produce new beginnings. She thought it had been the song she had been awaiting for her whole life:

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal... tout ça m'est bien égal
Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Car ma vie, car mes joies
Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi !
[see Edith performing this song with the original music composer in 1961]
Immediately she phoned the director at the Olympia and scheduled a concert, took with her the cross of St. Therese and prayed and then sang, sang like only the cricket-male sings himself to death in the woeing of his maiden. Piaf sang at the Olympia one of her last concerts and dedicated her performance to the French Legion in Algeria. Just before she sank into the anonimity of illness, of solitude, of disappointment, of life... In her last years while vacationing in California she agreed to give an interview at the beach to a young journalist in which she was asked what would be her advise to adult people? 'Love', and to the youth? 'Love', and to the children? 'Love'.. while serenely she attempted to knit as in the old days while the arthritis waned on her. Just like Arendt remarked on Friedrich Von Gentz, the political journalist of the 19th century; 'Gentz gave himself to life so entirely so that it would consume him'. Once while living in New York as a younger woman in love with a married man who would die in a plane crash on his way to her, after giving a concert in an exclusive salon a beautiful woman would approach her and say: 'I haven't been to Paris for many long years, but tonight while hearing you sing I was back in Paris, to its streets and cafes, to its people, to the sounds of its wind and the rhymes of its night'.

This is not very different from my feel, so that today in the chains of Prometheus I would remember those long wafting idle afternoon in Neuchatel surrounding the whole of the lake with only one arm and sitting in cafes, in the company of the long fur coat that would wrap Christine inside with her Catholic tawdriness together with my northern alacrity. We would sit in those cafes for whole days and attempt recover the innocence philosophy had already lost in the streets of Tel Aviv, on the long journey with Sylvia from Jericho through the Dead Sea and then into the plains of the Sharon, the greener meadows, greener than the English fields but drier inside than the water of faith. We listened to those songs with the same eyes that Katherina and me would have some three years later when the Greek poetry could no longer hold together the life and the world; the French language had been then a way to recover this innocence and to remember in a way of understanding that only from the ugliness of the darkest times may the poet rise in freedom, immaculate and serene... the lines remembered engraved in our tar-blackened lips since the 7th grade, 'Oissive jeunesse / A tout asservie / Par delicatesse / J'ai pardu ma vie'. A few years later I would read from Arendt's journal, 'hilflos, verratende Jugend' (helpless, protracted youth).

Germany had been already a permanent exile for more years than I could count on for myself or of myself. A tale all to cunned with tragedy as to become the source of the 'poiesis' of Aristotle - the praxis of beauty and Eros, comprising all of politics, philosophy, poetry and morality. A pitiful love affair that would bridge Vienna and Jerusalem forever, whereby one could only bring himself to listen to those beautiful French songs and make himself at home in this world in a way, in whichever way, at any price... even if the price of permanence and immanence is also the price of damnation, of forsaking eternity if for the sake of eternity as well. I would listen carefully to Guilel's cunning remarks on French philosophy and would remember myself reading Montaigne, Voltaire and Malebranche with Cecile on the grass after the Biblical Hebrew class, while totally despising Rousseau and Durkheim; his remarks would remind me more of my own philosophizing than they could ever refer to his own - a philosophizing (mine) whose Eros is a betrayal of itself, a contradiction that leads into failure per necessite but that leaves the philosopher untouched yet kinder, because he's speaking with the authority of death, and even at that the Jewish philosopher speaking with the authority of life would sit idly in the Occident and play games with death, games of eros and semantics, games of history and reason.

Like Benjamin and Heine I could only pray in French back then, because St. Therese wouldn't bother to have learnt German, and in a world where there was no political help for poetry no more the Classical education could help no one, like a Celtic poem puts it:

'Looking back at my youth
I was content
Without dead knowledge
I was young, without time
Now I'm sorrowful
Those days are long past
Sadness and loss
The great days of my youth
They were full of expectation
The great journey that was before me then
Happiness was in store for me'

Not in vain Romain Rolland writes to Stefan Zweig before the beginning of WWII, 'Art can provide consolation as individuals, but it is powerful before reality'; statement for which all of the Sophists and Platonists, be they poets or philosophers, would have shared in the fate of Socrates on the very same day. So I search endlessly for chances at exile, even in my room... but the no-return points surround me and embrace me with their warmth, the warmth of the gallows, of the hangman... And I helplessly remember the streets of Neuchatel and the French spoken in the streets, so that I would feel like living in Exile without being at all forced, yet those little alleys have long vanished from my mind to be replaced by the cumbersome arrogance of Jerusalem's adulthood. At the same time the philosophy had lost all sanity and innocence in these streets, in the warmth of foreign bodies and conversations with strangers, in living one day more, either in Rehavia or in Ma'alot Dafna... all its content became theologically unsayable and mute, so that the French philosopher would always tend a happy hand to my ailing poetization. Nowadays I spend countless hours writing my own verses in French, which I might send to somebody one day, when it no longer matters... trying to discuss with Lasker-Schüler and Susman if perhaps it's granted us, Jews, to pray in a language other than German when praying is no longer possible; whenever the chips are down and every act of love, every letter, every entanglement with the in itself praying. Praying in a world where there're no conversations, where they've become ardously impossible, alacrous, even vanquishing. In the rooms of my mind the songs play all day long and people sit in procrastination, remember the old poems and make themselves think that they can save one at times from the urgency of the Hebrew language, from history, from lack of hope and even from the uncanny beauty of death.

Dans le désert et brūlé par le soleil
De Jérusalem, de Jérusalem
Un homme en blanc, au loin, assiste au réveil
De Jérusalem, de Jérusalem.... (from Piaf)

But it can only remind you how the only cure for your cynicism is that moral suffering that isn't ethical in principle but with a tad of far-sight it already creates you from within yourself. All of them parted too early as to live for long enough to gather wisdom, Piaf, Rosenzweig, Kafka, Rose, Hegel, Von Gentz... and perhaps it is alloted for us to be the opportunist and hold onto our wait, but you can't know those things for sure. The ugliness of your privacy eventually turns into light, beauty and love... but only for others, so that you might make sure not to save yourself. You dream not of gardens but of evenings under the stars, even when you're already so dead and have so little to offer, so much lack of beauty, and of life. All of it the price of philosophy, and the price of love. The price of love's work. 'Keep your mind in hell and despair not'.

Then in the middle of my endless entanglements with wayfarers and pilgrims, 'One more love affair, why should I care? Love is nothing new and I know what to do', until the Diotima comes to me in the graces of a woman, and we spend three days rejecting all possible philosophies, destroying them, making them impossible, if only for our own sake. On our last day (without me knowing it) I bring her to meet the motif of my painting so that I can keep myself from showering him with the callousness of my momentum of death and keeping my mind into place, stating the obvious and not deflecting any blames. The charm of their conversation appalled me and made me so uneasy that I almost reached heaven, Oh...

(Piaf, another song written by Michel Vaucaire)
Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu !
Encore un peu,
Mon amoureux !
Un jour, deux jours, huit jours...
Encore un peu
A moi...

Le temps de s'adorer,
De se le dire,
Le temps de se fabriquer
Des souvenirs.
Mon Dieu ! Oh oui...mon Dieu !
Remplir un peu
Ma vie...

Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu !
Encore un peu,
Mon amoureux.
Six mois, trois mois, deux mois...
Pour seulement

Un mois...

Le temps de commencer
Ou de finir,
Le temps d'illuminer
Ou de souffrir,
Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu ! Mon Dieu !
Même si j'ai tort,
Un peu...
Même si j'ai tort,
[see 'la Mome' performing this song]

The anger and the beauty turn to the same objects for inspiration, for amelioration... so that after our estrangement together she could only remark, 'you guys are so beautiful' and on a third drink somewhere else we toast 'to fallen angels'.The next day the eyes of the philosopher turn dark, not unlike mine and sooth themselves in the hope for beginning life again, for another in-road, for a resurrection that leads to salvation without a crucifixion... We laugh hysterically at our destinies and then I return to my French verses and she sinks into a profound early sleep. In between I return to 'The New Science of Politics' and read about the Roman foundations of political life in their theology, while altogether in between I'm torn asunder by 'But we, my beloved companion, have life, useless hope, true friends and fire consuming our souls' and then immediately joining a Neo-Platonic chorus not knowing whether such makes me so infinitely sad or extremely happy and comforted. But I insist and return to the philosophy again, while in the middle of it my mind returns to the streets, to the French and the German and I can't be reconciled with anything so that I'm unable to move at all; thinking that I'm just in foul, postponing the present forever like the old philosophies and I try to throw myself at the present but its lack of vehemence and coherence and willingness to live, leave me greener than grass. I set myself to write and thus mourn the philosophical death which is unsurprisingly turned into a statement of life; the hours pass and the writing cannot stop because every sentence rests upon a wisdom of the streets, a wisdom in a modern language, historical even... and I see myself gathering the ashes of the times into a prayer so that I can only gather the strength to continue writing from those who were without compromises prepared for their parting,

My Ode flows into the streams of God -
I lay switfly my foot
On the alley that leads to my eternal home.(Else Lasker-Schüler)

I finish my article while the light is already glittering on my window but I just lie down and let myself be engraved by thoughts of recent pastness, the noises in the house preclude my sleep and the dreams leave me exasperately mellow. I know I want to be alone just about all the time, but I can't really... I can't... confessing oneself to be alone means that you fail to keep yourself company, there's no solitude for you. I awake late in the morning quite uncomfortable but strangely sober, and after spending an hour or two with the French verses again, I want to turn to the philosopher and bid her farewell, but I'm startlingly encountered by a small letter which didn't make me at all sad because I could have written it myself:

'Dear Leo, I decided to leave at the dawn so as to jump into my new life-start with the sunset, Hugs, Daria'

Then I felt myself to be home alone, for the first time in several weeks and somehow I couldn't bring myself to sing in happiness, although I wasn't miserable either. I could only bring myself to leave the house and go to the theatre, smell the springly cold and mingle with the denizens of this world, hear their prayers and understand their sounds. In the end, I might not say farewell either, for the time being all can I do is write and write and write like just the madman certain about the nearness of his end could. But as I concluded in my article, every end is the opening of an endless beginning - that's how the Rabbinic commentators start their reflections on the Hebrew Bible. The love makes me ill, because it can only remind me of death only if out of correlative familiarity, but I hold onto everything of this world as it is,

'He clings to his solitude, to his affected indifference and his grown up ways, but it's just an act, so as never, never to show his real feelings. Poor Peter, how long will he be able to go on playing this role? Surely a terrible outburst must follow as the result of this superhuman effort?' -Anne Frank

By the end of the day and the night, still writing.. and one can only conclude with a modern Latin poem which is inspired by the engraving in the portico of Marilyn Monroe's last home 'my journey ends here', while I'm more fond of the Homeric dictum, 'kata to daimona eautou' (each one to his own fate):

'Cursum perficio.
Verbum sapienti:
quo plus habent,
eo plus cupiunt.
Post nubila, Phoebus
Iternum' -(Roma Ryan)

I follow and end my course.
A message to the wise:
The more [people] have
The more they want.
Past the clouds, Phoebus(*)
Journeying...journeying... forever(**)
(translation is mine)

(*)The Greek Apollo, this is a paraphrase of the Roman saying 'after the clouds comes the sun' or 'after rain comes sunshine'
(**) The word in Latin is not very clear, but obviously 'iterum' has a meaning of 'iterative', always on the move, of journeys and 'iternum' (although it does occur in some Vatican manuscripts) is not a real Latin word and of course could easily be a late Latin slang for 'aeternitas'. I've played with both to recreate some meaning.