Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The moderns

Tolstoi in 1868

A modern is someone who does not distinguish the past, the present and the future. It seems silly to say this, yet it is true. What interests a modern
in the past is the present; what interests him in the present is the future; and even, what interests him in the future is the present. This is why a modern has no chance of being understood or taken seriously. But he doesn't care, his public are the angels, some crazies of his time too, but mostly the angels.

A modern has nothing in common with a contemporary; he is quite incidentally contemporary. He borrows from his epoch, whereas a contemporary is borrowed by his epoch. A modern could be from any place at any period. Everyone has got that wrong. The contemporary cannot last: he is current news, burned by the moment, greased on the summer sand, the buzz of the town back from the beaches. In fact, a modern always gets on the wrong side of a contemporary, even if unwittingly, not surprisingly.

There are a few exceptions, like Frédéric Dard, who was clever enough to disguise himself as a yokel, made up as a jester. Dard was a mystic. Other than that, who are the moderns in literature for example? Artaud, Céline, Nietzsche, Bloy, Tolstoï, Dostoïevski, Shakespeare, maybe Cioran, there will be a handful in a few centuries. Sartre, Freud, Kant, Marx, for example, in two centuries we will come across them by mistake, and we will take them for the popular stand-up comedian of the moment, and vice versa.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Literary figures

One of my late friends knew Emile Cioran as a young man. I was not so fortunate: when I read him for the first time, not so long ago, I decided to ring at his doorbell, before learning he had committed suicide a short time before. He had an incurable disease. A cancer I believe.

Cioran never asked the why of things, which he shied away from like the pest for a simple reason, and which I think is common to a good number of artists: he was terrified of losing himself if he became truly contemplative.

It is a false alternative, at least it seems to me to be a false alternative. We imagine that art is necessarily a revolt; I do not think this to be true. Revolt or bitterness are tempting from the standpoint of inspiration, as conflict fecunds imagination. However, I do not believe in this obsession with negation from the viewpoint of artistic creation. Obviously, to not believe in it is more comfortable: it is always easier to lean on asinity to create, if only because it is without limit... whereas to lean on nothing can be daunting, and even scary. I think Cioran was frightened of that. He preferred his talent to truth. He loved his talent above all.

This is not, for example, the case of Frederic Dard, who was a delicious and tender person. Dard didn't care much for his talent. He had read Louis-Ferdinand Céline and decided there was nothing serious to be done in literature; he had wanted to do what Céline had done, and it was done. I like Dard, the writer and the man. He touches me deeply. Through his SanAntonian deliriums seeps a rare person, moving, very cultivated, a subtle soul.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


In reality, what Aristotle showed, and what few have since understood, is that ethics hinges on friendship! The main stages of ethics, which are hardly a “concept” or “customs” relative to a culture, but positively something that is universally human and natural:

1) Firstly I fall in love. At this stage, no one can do anything for me, not even me! I can not ask (myself) advice… That would mean whatever I was told “Hey Avatar, no, you’ve got it wrong, stop falling in love, come now, what are you doing?!!” No, at this stage, I undergo and I withstand.

2) Then I ask myself what is happening, and I judge if I should take it a step further or if it is best to make a run for it. Is this person “married”? I am “married”? What are the chances that this friendship can be long lasting? In short, I confer with myself ad I consider whether what attracts me is accessible or if I am taking a one way ticket to unhappiness or despair.

3) Further I ask myself if (to the extent that I have decided to take it a step ahead) what are the most appropriate means to attain my good, for the person that I love is MY good (I don’t delve here into the attitude of the other person, because obviously, in love, the vice versa is a requisite, and no one can be forced to love).

4) Then I step into action. It is the imperium, as when I decided to get up at 5 a.m. and that I prepared everything, and the alarm bell rings and I have to get up: now I must take action.

5) It is only at this stage that ethics spring up as a formalisation of PERSONAL behaviours in view of attaining a PERSONAL good as a sort of safeguard in view of taking action, i.e. of attaining MY good. Thus, Kant (for example) has ignored the first 4 stages, for it is only at this stage that the categorical moral imperative should appear, imperative which assails us. In truth, let’s be clear, 98% of good Catholics are Kantian as are 110% of Protestants!

6) It is only at this stage that justice appears, which is a universalization of individual morals, thus a moral extended to everyone else in as much as we recognize for them the possibility of living the same story as us. Moreover, and this is a parentesis, Muslims start here, at the 6th stage, for it is definitively justice which primes for them.

This begets the question, can we move from a common good to a personal good. The answer is no - at least that’s my opinion. That is also why I am dubious when I see that children in “personal difficulty” are “treated” by imposing a common good on them, presented as an individual good, even though they are devastated on a personal level. This is the same error that totalitarian ideologies such as communism make. We claim to save the person by diluting him in an encompassing whole… but we can not have a sense of the common good without one of our personal good. It’s impossible, lest we become a zombie, that is to say a living dead being.

Credit drawing: Fritz at hikingartist.com

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The metaphysical touch

The metaphysical touch is to reality what an absolute ear is to music. If for example you strike a glass and you correctly recognize the sound as a B flat, you have an absolute touch. Those who do not have an absolute touch have a relative touch, and they consequently perceive essentially the intervals between the notes. For example, they hear in the same manner the series of three notes “do re mi” and the series of three notes “sol la si”: in both cases the intervals between the notes are the same. A metaphysical touch is therefore a type of absolute ear in the order of being, whereas a relative ear captures mostly modes, accidents and relations.

Credit image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/emilyl/

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Question: in the act of knowledge, intelligence only grasping form, can we not deduct that substance is irreducibly inaccessible to it?

Answer: You write: “in the act of knowledge, intelligence only grasping form...”

Do we agree on what form is? A quick reminder on what is meant by “form”.. A form answers the question of “what is it”, or again “that by which what is exists as it exists”, and can thus beget diverse answers according to the order in which we interrogate this reality. For example, if I look at you in the order of intelligibility and ask myself what determines you firstly, I will say you are a human being. “Human being” is a form abstracted by intelligence which seeks what is most intelligible in you, what is most significant, determining. In fact, I have never met “human being”, only such and such concrete human; I thus abstract this form “human being” from a multitude of singular people I have crossed. It is very difficult to describe “human being”... I could describe you if I met you, and even take a picture of you, but “human being” is not as easy to describe as one would think! Yet Everyman understands what I signify by “human being”.

If I look at you in the order of life, after having come across a multitude of living beings, I will say what firstly determines you is your soul. Thus the soul is the form of the living.


But contrary to what you write, intelligence does not solely know through forms, it also knows via the sensibles, for it never ceases to cooperate with the five senses, to an extent that we would know nothing of reality without them. Further, the abstract wouldn't exist, since the abstract proceeds form the concrete... it is One from the Multiple. In short, there are two ways intelligence can acquire knowledge: the abstract mode and the concrete mode... there are no others!

Now then, in the order of what exists, thus of the concrete, you are what comes first, and realist philosophers call that the first substance, in other words the subject, you, Veritas, whereas “human being” is first in the order of intelligibility, and we call that second substance or “quiddity”.

We thus have a first substance, Veritas, and a second substance: “human being”.

The substance which you are thinking of, which we can call substance-principle, is neither the first substance nor the second substance. It is what explains that Veritas is first in his order, and that “human being” is first in its order. In other words the substance-principle which you are seeking is what explains that the concrete is concrete and the abstract is abstract, that first substance is first substance and that second substance is second substance, thus it is neither one nor the other, neither concrete nor abstract... It is in fact because it has something to do with first substance and second substance that it is neither one nor the other... for if it were abstract, the concrete wouldn't exist, and vice versa. It is thus necessary, with regards to these two correlatives – the concrete and the abstract – that there be a reality that is present in both but at the same time beyond both.

Thus when you write: “can we not deduct that substance is irreducibly inaccessible to it?”...

...you are right in the sense that one can not concretely touch nor abstract substance-principle according to the form of what is! For substance-principle is neither concrete, else we could touch it, nor abstract, else it would only exist in our intelligence. So how can we be certain it is a reality since we can only know in a concrete or abstract mode? We must induce it... it is only through induction that one can find substance, principle according to the form of what is, for if substance-principle is neither concrete nor abstract, it nevertheless exists; in fact, it is!

You are thus right in expressing a doubt concerning the abstract mode of knowledge, since intelligence must simultaneously renounce the concrete and the abstract. You can neither take a picture of substance-principle, nor abstract it, nor describe it, nor figure it, not even imagine it... and that is precisely why many deny it exists, for no one has ever made a full circle around substance-principle, to the extent that if anyone tells you one day “that's it, I have seen precisely what substance-principle is”, you can rest assured that either that person is joking or he is clueless. In fact, it would be just as silly as another who would profess “that's it, I love my wife, I have gone full circle around her, I don't need to see her anymore”, for we never go full circle around a person, something always escapes us, which possibly proceeds from the substance of that person!

One must thus think about what an induction is. For the moderns an induction is often Baconian – i.e. quantitative – whereas for Aristotle an induction is qualitative... Now then, substance-principle is a reality in the order of being, thus is qualitative, not at all quantitative! The induction of substance-principle is quite poor! It hardly has the brilliance of a mathematical demonstration... which may explain why this necessary meagerness of intelligence to induce substance-principle, in other words this aspect of us which begs for what is at the heart of reality, does not go down well with a self-important spirit. Metaphysics is for the poor.