Archive for the ‘Plato’ Category

Maybe a Monad (Phaedrus by the river)

July 15, 2007

My Alter Ecko has recently published two posts around Phaedrus – this beautiful dialogue between Socrates and his beloved one, with the impeccable scenery of a mythological river, an oak and a rock, an idyllic setup for discours amoureux.

Yet, while tapping into the conversation between the two, I felt a growing uneasiness. Maybe it was the merciless manner by which Socrates slaughtered Lysias’ speech, unwrapping it from its content (utilitarian love), from its style (rhetoric), from its medium (written on scroll) and [implicitly] from its audience (the crowds), leaving nothing behind, not even some grains of Lysiasian ashes for a hasty funeral.

But most probably it was the erotic love praised by Socrates through never ending parabolas [although beautifully narrated: the black horse, the white horse etc.] that evoked my discontent. For through the mists of heavenly passions I saw a stream, an oak and a rock. By the stream sat Narcissus; by the rock stood Echo [I was hiding behind the oak]. Narcissus-Socrates was looking at Phaedrus, through the watery reflection, remembering the lost heavens of his fallen soul; and Phaedrus, standing by the rock, his heart engulfed with emotions, was watching the figure that was Socrates, seeing nothing but his own image, Phaedrus holding a scroll, echoed back onto his eyes, again and again and again and again.

Echo and Narcissus by Waterhouse

No, this was not a dream: I have it all well written.

The Lover is his mirror.

“And thus he [the beloved one] loves, but he knows not what; he does not understand and cannot explain his own state; he appears to have caught the infection of blindness from another; the lover is his mirror in whom he is beholding himself, but he is not aware of this”.

The Beloved is his clone.

The qualities of their god they attribute to the beloved, wherefore they love him all the more… wanting to make him as like as possible to their own god… for no feelings of envy or jealousy are entertained by them towards their beloved, but they do their utmost to create in him the greatest likeness of themselves and of the god whom they honour.

Oh boy! A mirror and a clone, a love for oaks and rocks.

I’m not sure about my above distribution of the Echo-Narcissus roles; I do feel, though, that this erotic love, although praising the other, is deeply ego-centric to the point that I am willing to concede that indeed each and every one of us is a self-contained monad, all the others being eventually nothing but reflections of one’s own self.

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The Worst of Authors

July 12, 2007

“The worst of authors will say something which is to the point”. Socrates, Phaedrus

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And see also Words, jamais portés, as well as in the margins of philosophy here (comment#4).

The question, therefore, is not “What did the Author want to tell us?”, but rather “What did the Author want to hide from us?”

Philosophy in Four Hands

February 18, 2007

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Click image to see full size

Four philosophers, four realities, four hands.

Philosophy in Four Hands

Plato playing “Form”
Aristotle playing “Matter”
Roland Barthes playing “Text”
Michel Foucault playing “Power”

Lyotard: Against Input/Output Philosophy

February 1, 2007

I was listening this morning to a fragmented lecture by JF Lyotard on post-modernism. I liked what I heard, although I’m not convinced that I understood anything. Yet using my right to freely interpret, here is my understanding of this fragment, which elusively explains what’s post-modernism through an observation of what has happened to philosophy and what is the role of story telling in our culture.

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Since Kant, Philosophy has gradually lost its status as a meta-science, a science that provides the knowledge-of-the-self for all other sciences, and even – defines all other sciences. From this omniscient perspective, Philosophy has crashed down.

Why did it crash?

Lyotard doesn’t explain, but I could understand, and I might be just as wrong here, that Philosophy crashed because rational, linear discourse is always limited. Plato, Descartes, Spinoza and many others, always got to the point where they needed another medium in order to proceed.

What is this other medium?

Rising up again, the Philosophy returned to what has preceded it and to what has been its subject of negation and fighting for a thousand years – the stories, the legends, the myths. I’m not talking about their content, but rather about their form, the story telling as an explanatory medium.
The story telling, le recit, was that tool used when all other tools have failed. And so, post-Kant continental philosophy has started to develop a new brand of Philosophers, who excelled not [or not only] in mathematics, science and analytics, but rather in… story telling. And stories themselves have been repositioned as containers of philosophical value. And all this is Modernism.

So what is post-modernism?

Clearly, this modern phenomenon met the resistance of the utilitarian philosophers, implicitly labeled by Lyotrard as the Input/Output philosophers who, like any other cost-oriented scientists, are measuring philosophical narratives by their outcome: this is what went in, this is what came out – did we gain something out of it?
Those I/O philosophers, says Lyotard, can find themselves and did find themselves helping out hideous regimes to justify their acts, and its because of that, I think, that Lyotard defines post-modernism as a preference for short stories and limited narratives over never-ending epical narratives, which tend to provide a total framework.

Foucault, audaciously defined his writings as fiction, stating that his books are “experience books, as opposed to truth books or demonstration books”. And in his essay “What is Enlightenment?” he speaks about his preference to short fiction. Naturally, I’m doing an analogy here, but you will be able to see it in the following excerpt:

[…] the historical ontology of ourselves must turn away from all projects that claim to be global or radical. In fact we know from experience that the claim to escape from the system of contemporary reality so as to produce the overall programs of another society, of another way of thinking, another culture, another vision of the world, has led only to the return of the most dangerous traditions

(and see also Questions to which answers are not the right answer)

Methods and Black Squares – The Logo?

January 2, 2007

A proposal.

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Second Life – More Real

November 28, 2006

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In some eras human neglected his soul; in others – his mind; nowadays – it’s the body. It is of no wonder that in an era that exalts the aesthetics of the body, the body would be the thing finally neglected and abandoned in favor of a cloned image, a virtual avatar that will look so perfect – “a real more real than the real”. We are post-modern “AND” type of creatures and we should be modern in cultivating both of our Gardens.

The School of Athens

November 25, 2006

Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, whilst Plato gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms. from Wikipedia.

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Black Square

November 16, 2006

Black Square

Malevich, 1913

“To the Suprematist the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling.” Malevich, The Non-Objective World

Malevich’s feelings are not to be confused with sensual perception, which he defines as meaningless. Meaning comes from the soul, from feelings.

This is a Platonic concept, of course. The unpermutable soul holding the truth. And as we (now) know, the truth is the pure form.

Hence, Black Square.

At least this gives some philosophical depth to the incomprehensible paintings of modern art.