Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Artists of the spirit

(some definitions in the comments section.)

In my view, there are only two possible routes to metaphysics (first philosophy): either one starts with relation to go to substance, or one starts with relation to do away with substance. There are presently two philosophies on the market, not three, two, and to divide philosophy between philosophy of spirit on the one hand, and philosophy of relation on the other hand, is a mirage, for what else does human intelligence do but abstract and produce universals... and what is the universal but a relation!

Therein lies the choice, since we are de facto obligated to start with relation: either we start from there to climb up to substance, or we turn our back to substance and we let ourselves drift with the current of logic. This is what the Buddhists do, pushing the dialectic to its extreme limits, to the point where it is in denial of itself, where it lifts the spirit as in a state of splendor. The Buddhists annihilate the spirit as Heidegger annihilates beings (das Seiende) to make (being of) being gush out. But if I deny reality to make being gush out, what remains? By Jove, what remains is being in the mind, which is not being! And so I can just as well call that being or non being, like I could call it Geraldine or Albatross!

As the human spirit can create relations but not being, many have been seduced by a metaphysics of relation, for in this manner they become creators. With a metaphysics of being, we receive, whereas with a metaphysics of relation, we have the privilege of creating links and rapports, to the point of absurdness. We thus can see the possible confusion between metaphysics and a philosophy of art, even though the latter is at the service of a philosophy of substance. In my view, Buddhists are more artists than they are philosophers. In fact, they have seduced and still seduce quite a few Western artists. They are artists of the spirit.


  1. relation = one of Aristotle's ten categories of being(e.g., double, prettier). A relation is a being which is in dependance.

    Substance = proper principle of what is.
    According to Plato susbtance is the permanence in being.It is the source of all determinations.

    Using an analogy, if all realties were works of art, substance would be the idea of the artist;if all realties were in becoming, substance would be nature, etc.

    A principle is what is first in its order - it stands on its own.

    Universals = things that are said of many (eg dog, tree, child)

  2. Is this a case of I think, therefore I am?

  3. Hello VGP,
    With this, Descartes sets his thought as the first stone of his philosophy. So both are a philosophy of spirit/relation. More on that in the future.

  4. I think it may be important to distinguish Buddhist meditation from Buddhist philosophy. The meditation - at least the Vipassana version of which I have some personal experience - is presented as a personal discovery process. This process seems to me to be a movement from relation toward substance. The instruction is to observe sensations of one's own body with equanimity i.e. without craving or aversion. Not surprisingly, people discover that when they practice equanimity then feelings of equanimity become more accessible.

    It is possible to practice the meditation without buying in to philosophical questions about the nature of the world.

  5. WB,
    Thanks for your comment and pointing this out.

  6. I am interested in learning about he Buddhist philosophy but my objective is to achieve mindfulness through meditative practices. My spiritual foundation is Christianity and am unsure how to perceive the little I know about Buddhism.

  7. By the way I was very confused my your tweet until I read your profile. I did not understand that you were translating so please excuse the Tweet and BC replies. Sometimes it takes me awhile to catch up.

  8. I don't know that much about the meditative practices LLnL. Winton above may have a point! See ya! :)

  9. As an artist I must agree that Buddhists are artists of the spirit. WB has a valid point I think. Meditation is the relation that leads to substance. Perhaps, what we call creativity is basically the same as meditation since both have the object of reaching substance. Look at beautiful brush drawing you placed on this post. What is this? Is it just perception or is it substance or is it relation. Or, is it all of these things. Perhaps, it is only perception that has been trained to see a man in these mere ink blobs. Count Sneaky