Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Extracts from Book3 of The World as Will and Representation

Considering how much Schopenhauer loved Hegel:

"The height of audacity in serving up pure nonsense, in stringing together senseless and extravagant mazes of words, such as had been only previously known in madhouses, was finally reached in Hegel, and became the instrument of the most barefaced, general mystification that has ever taken place, with a result which will appear fabulous to posterity, as a monument to German stupidity."

Im going to put some of his thoughts on the positioning of aesthetic perception right next to Hegel's :0)

If I can figure out how to make links-as-words, be sure to click one and read up a little on the Principle of Sifficiant Reason.

Chapter 34
Raised up by the power of the mind, we relinquish the ordinary way of considering things, and cease to follow under the guidance of the forms of the principle of sufficient reason merely their relations to one another, whose final goal is always the relation to our own will. Thus we no longer consider the where, the when, the why, and the whither in things, but simply and solely the what. Further, we do not let abstract thought, the concepts of reason, take possession of our consciousness, but, instead of all this, devote the whole power of our mind to perception, sink ourselves completely therein, and let our whole consciousness be filled by the calm contemplation of the natural object actually present, whether it be a landscape, a tree, a rock, a crag, a building, or anything else. We lose ourselves entirely in this object, to use a pregnant expression; in other words, we forget our individuality, our will, and continue to exist only as pure subject, as clear mirror of the object, so that it is as if the object alone existed without anyone to perceive it, and thus we are no longer able to separate the perceiver from the perception, but the two have become one, since the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception. If, therefore, the object has to such an extent passed out of all relation to something outside it, and the subject has passed out of all relation to the will, what is thus known is no longer the individual thing as such, but the Idea, the eternal form, the immediate objectivity of the will at this grade. Thus at the same time, the person who is involved in this perception is no longer an individual, for in such perception the individual has lost himself; his is pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge.

Chapter 36
Whilst science, following the restless and unstable stream of the fourfold forms of reason or grounds and consequents, is with every end it attains again and again directed farther, and can never find an ultimate goal or complete satisfaction, any more than by running we can reach the point where the clouds touch the horizon; art, on the contrary, is everywhere at its goal. For it plucks the object of its contemplation from the stream of the world’s course, and holds it isolated before it. This particular thing, which in that stream was an infinitesimal part, becomes for art a representative of the whole, an equivalent of the infinitely many in space and time. It therefore pauses at this particular thing; it stops the wheel of time; for it the relations vanish; its object is only the essential, the Idea. We can therefore define it accurately as the way of considering things independently of the principle of sufficient reason, in contrast to the way of considering them which proceeds in exact accordance with this principle, and is the way of science and experience. This latter method of consideration can be compared to an endless line running horizontally, and the former to a vertical line cutting the horizontal at any point.


Whereas to the ordinary man his faculty of knowledge is a lamp that lights his path, to the man of genius [Schopenhauer here refers to a specific definition of genius as the inclination towards the apprehension of pure, ungrounded knowledge described above] it is the sun that reveals the world.

He [the poet] knows the Ideas perfectly, but not the individuals. Therefore it has been observed that a poet may know man profoundly and thoroughly, but men very badly; he is easily duped, and is a plaything in the hands of the cunning and crafty.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Extracts From Hegel's "Lectures on Aesthetics"

“The beauty of art presents itself to sense, to feeling, to perception, to imagination; its sphere is not that of thought, and the apprehension of its activity and its productions demand another organ than that of scientific intelligence. Moreover, what we enjoy in the beauty of art is precisely the freedom of its productive and plastic enegrgies. In the origination, as in the contemplation, of its creations we appear to escape wholly from the fetters and rules of regularity.”

“We would exchange the shadowland of the idea for cheerful vigorous reality. And lastly, the source of artistic creations is the free activity of fancy, which in her imagination is more free than nature’s self. Not only has art at command the whole wealth of natural forms in the brilliant variety of their appearance, but also the creative imagination has power to expatiate inexhaustibly beyond their limit in products of its own.”

“And on the other hand seeing that art is what cheers and animates the dull and withered dryness of the idea, reconciles with reality its abstraction and its dissociation therefrom, and supplies out of the real world what is lacking to the notion, it follows, we may think, that a purely intellectual treatment of art destroys this very means of supplementation, annihilates it, and reduces the idea once more to its simplicity devoid of reality, and to its shadowy abstractness.”

Monday, 15 December 2008

Taxi Fun

London has changed alot in the past decade, and while I don’t agree with those who opine that the very “soul” of the city has been lost (I refer here to the kind of Londoner who doesn’t begin his diatribe without first thoroughly scrutinizing your origins through your accent, clothes, composure and physiognomy, in order to ensure he is not wasting his breath on an uncomprehending outsider), I can at least see that in their terms, with their definition of “spirit” and “soul” as being general concepts of local kinship based on shared prejudices, each of which constellate around levels of affluence and their specific urban locations; that indeed if this is what constitutes the genuine life of a city for some people, then for them London has indeed been radically emptied of reality, of “soul”, shaken-up and rendered incoherent and unintelligible. Passing through a field of inexplicable and alien phenomena, from tapas bars to cafes with outdoor seating, to the raucous cacophony of languages, to the spectacular array of uncategorisable fashions; those who find themselves searching for a consistent set of images -groups of markers indicating a social distinction- become utterly lost in an assemblage of discrete particulars that is so vast and shapeless, so uniformly unfamiliar that for them it is impossible to determine any of its edges, let alone its constituent parts. In this case the city can take on a menacing aspect for someone who had called it home, for the person who had shared it in the past with other (never entirely dissimilar) people that had clustered together to form a finite number of discernable groups. There may have been rivalry, aversion, even contempt between the groups; but every member of each was equipped with a conventionalized understanding of the other, a set of defining characteristics based on origin, language, labor and wealth that provided a reasonably accurate, reasonably extensive abstract of their role in the city. Whether in covetous fascination, contempt or pure hatred there was a unity spun of mutual recognition, an exchange of affirmations hidden in reciprocal condemnations and stereotypes; there was a dialogue of parts which was constantly reaffirming the identity of the city as a whole, reminding its inhabitants that they were cells in functioning organs which, over-and-above any differences between them, preformed together to maintain the life of the city. To someone who had been imbedded in this experience of London, in this world of newspapers, vocations and football clubs, of utter equilibrium between balanced parts, of the total absence of the unknown, of the absolute constancy between appearance and prejudice; to someone rooted in that London -in the mechanics of the tabloid- this city that has befallen them must seem like a terrifying cancer eating away at those healthy organs which comprised his society, a freakish growth of horribly malformed biological matter, caked together in a pulsating mound of uncontrollably proliferating cells. There is too much difference for any form of shared sereotypification let alone dialogue, too many degrees of transition between classes, too many incommensurable systems for anyone to be able to span them all, to recognise their own place by seeing other people in theirs: there are no clear divisions, no clear parts, and no clear functions, only the blur of a film in fast-forward. Or rather I would like to say there is a blur for some, but for others there is the abundance of a nature in full fertility, in ripe luxuriance, in all her feminine fullness. For some the essence of London (its “spirit” and “soul”) was a combination of repetition and predictability on the level of exchange between a finite number of groups, and the grounding of them in a clear spatial order around the city; for some that is what made their home legible, what made urbanity comfortable, and the diluting of this order by a burgeoning multiplicity of groups, habits, behaviours and ethnicities has left them floating with no reference point, feeling like outsiders in a place that has no “soul” anymore. And so I am guessing that maybe for some this beautiful Babylon, whose multiplying forms I find it so difficult no to see as the arrayed breasts of the Ephesian Artemis, swollen with succour for the aesthetically undernourished, may see instead the heaving corpse of an organism to be mourned. Although there is always much to remember, to miss and perhaps recall with nostalgia, when it come to the people who occupy this vast area of ground (as opposed to the volume of buildings which they occupy, and the mass of institutions they empower), I find it impossible to mourn. Wouldn’t that be a mourning the object of which is not dead, and which one nevertheless has to occupy each day, from morning til night? Would that not render you as totally exterior to the very thing you had belonged to, and still exist within? It would be a conscious rejection of urbanity for the simply reason that its state had changed, a willfully inflicted impoverishment because nothing could be recognised, a forcing of oneself into the position of an outside outsider without realizing that there is now a fellowship of outsiders. It seems like a form of unpleasurable masochism whose presumably uncontainable and explosive anxiety was directed at me yesterday, in the form of a cabby who became progressively more aggressive towards me, finally kicking me out of his taxi in the middle of Portland Place, about 5minutes after I had referred to the West End as “Central”. After asking what country I was from, then exactly what part of London I lived in, what age I was, what I studied –after these attempts to situate the strangeness of my terminology (he had never heard the term “Central” used instead of “West End” before) in origins suitably alien had failed, he shattered both our composures by desperately demanding that I should (especially as an “original” Londoner, as if a species in its own right) stick to what all Londoner’s can understand: that the West End is the West End, will always be, and should therefore be referred to as such, and that by calling it by a different name I was doing violence by him, was excluding him. I mentioned that unofficial or rather everyday words and names change as much as people do, from generation to generation, place to place, and reflect taste and style and convenience, and that there can be more than one word or name for something, and that often the meanings they refer to are slightly divergent (stupidly I tried to explain that “Central” generally refers to Zone 1 of the tube, which includes but is not itself the “West End”), and so there was no need for him to be upset: our two terms were commensurable. He demanded I admit that London is his London, and can be no other way, that everything is static: I suggested he write a definitive dictionary/encyclopedia for London, and that I would make sure to read it before meeting him next time, so as not to misname anything or mention anything that doesn’t really “exist” in his city, and so not upset him. At that point I was deposited into the street opposite a lovely façade by Robert Adam.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Santa Cecilia

I remember being cold and wet; or rather I remember peering down roads looking for a façade resembling the one described in our guide-book, and all of those streets down which I peered being mute, empty and smothered in a blanket of the exact shade of grey that I associate with Novembers in London and not afternoons in Rome, afternoons which I always assume to be vivid and flagrant in their nudity, tense in tight congregations of yellows and reds half hidden by their own shadows but given so much more weight thereby. For a Londoner ‘grey’ is not an adjective that can be applied to something, it is not a descriptive term of appearance but an essential quality that touches on every aspect of that in which it has been discovered; grey as a colour is in London what gives sustenance to all other impressions, it is the primordial root of a civilization whose only true reference before itself, and anterior to itself is the atmosphere produced between the liquid slate of the Thames and the unrelenting ceiling of clouds. For a Londoner grey is a condition of existence in all its breadth, and that is why I cannot trust my memory when I say I remember being cold or wet, because before I can recall those impressions I remember the streets being grey, and the strength of that image would have opened up a rupture in those streets in Trastevere through which they would have been soaked in damp, and chilled by the wind pouring in from a London ever-ready to inhabit all the colourlessness in the world. And it was Rome, my bright city that wears its age so lightly -how could it have been as I remember, it must have been some confused clouds on their way to Ostia who placed themselves there to distract me in my recollections; but nevertheless, there was a lack of Roman colour and volume in the streets that day as we were looking for a church with a famous sculpture. Marco desperately needed the toilet and so I remember when we finally came across the entrance to the church there were a few shops in front of it, none of which (for future reference) had publicly accessible toilets. This famous sculpture by the brother of Carlo Maderno is of a martyred saint (the patron saint of musicians), a beheaded lady whose martyrdom is indicated by a crevice around the back of her neck. This is gently made the centre of ones attention as the body is laid out in a horizontal figura-serpentinata whose most concrete point of inflection is precisely at the back of the neck, precisely at the moment where the potentially somnolent curve of her body which faces the viewer turns and rotates in a movement that is clearly not one of life, leaving the features of the martyr turned away from us. It is a statue of violence but it is elegant and perfectly poised, it is harmonious but not idealised and inhuman, it effects pathos but is in no way dramatic. I remember being momentarily impressed and perhaps having briefly pondered the simultaneous opening of her curving torso, outpointing arms, and the closing of her thoughts, her face looking away to somewhere not of this world; but I had completely forgotten about her until yesterday, I had forgotten her name and her church. She was Santa Cecilia, she was a wealthy noblewoman of the divine city, her church now was her house during her life, she was ordered beheaded by the prefect Turcius Almachius in 230 for being a christian. The order was carried out unsuccessfuly, and with a mutilated neck she lay dying for three days in that very house. In the midst of inconsolable grief, but in an elevated serenity on the shores of her infinity she began to sing. In Cecilia the conjunction of extreme violence and her corporeality, of excrutiating physicality and its contemplating consciousness -when given enough time to know for itself the trajectory it was tracing- produced music, produced song, lyric, rhyme; at the moment of closure she didn’t make statements or talk but she sang. Like the immediateness of the odor of saintliness she released the vapour of aesthetics, she exhaled the all-forgiving and all-forgetting balm of that which unravels fear and regret, that which passes through the fortresses of inclement minds because it is not of the same plane of existence, it is not aware of even the possibility of barriers. From little lips came the massive affirmation of the Lyrical as the incandescence of life, of the Musical as the turning point around which rotate all oppositions. I had forgotten all of this until I read the poem below by WH Auden, and then not only did I remember her, but that statue grew warm and began to hum quietly in echoes and I reclaimed it as a measure of affirmation; that crevice at the back of her neck became the infinitely broad line where emptiness and dissilusion become exultant; the repose of her body became loud passions extinguished in quiet melodies and her hands pointed out not at the observer and his space, but at her words in songs that are drifting through the centuries. Through the poem Auden imbues the statue with a heavy profundity which echoes its form perfectly; his poem draws lines which extend exactly from its creamy silhouettes, and spreads their presence through other dimensions and spaces in a movement which pulls Cecilia’s story up into it and recomposes the poem, story and sculpture (for those who know all three) into an impression that reverberates around every mode of appreciation. But then of course the poem is glorious and fecund and better left undescribed, so that it may be felt the more. I am going to rome in a week and I am going back to the church of Santa Cecila.

Song for St. Cecilia’s Day
WH Auden

In a garden shady this holy lady
With reverent cadence and subtle psalm,
Like a black swan as death came on
Poured forth her song in perfect calm:
And by ocean’s margin this innocent virgin
Constructed an organ to enlarge her prayer,
And notes tremendous from her great engine
Thundered out on the Roman air.

Blonde Aphrodite rose up excited,
Moved to delight by the melody,
White as an orchid she rode quite naked
In an oyster shell on top of the sea;
At sounds so entrancing the angels dancing
Came out of their trance into time again,
And around the wicked in hell’s abysses
The huge flame flickered and eased their pain.

Blessed Cecilia, appear in visions
To all musicians, appear and inspire:
Translated daughter, come down and startle
Composing mortals with immortal fire.

I cannot grow;
I have no shadow
To run away from,
I only play

I cannot err;
There is no creature
Whom I belong to,
Whom I could wrong.

I am defeat
When it knows it
Can now do nothing
By suffering.

All you lived through,
Dancing because you
No longer need it
For any deed.

I shall never be different. Love me.

O ear whose creatures cannot wish to fall,
O calm of spaces unafraid of weight,
Where Sorrow is herself, forgetting all
The gaucheness of her adolescent state,
Where Hope within the altogether strange
From every outworn image is released,
And Dread born whole and normal like a beast
Into a world of truths that never change:
Restore our fallen day; O re-arrange.

O dear white children casual as birds,
Playing among the ruined languages,
So small beside their large confusing words,
So gay against the greater silences
Of dreadful things you did: O hang the head,
Impetuous child with the tremendous brain,
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain,
Lost innocence who wished your lover dead,
Weep for the lives your wishes never led.

O cry created as the bow of sin
Is drawn across our trembling violin.
O weep, child, weep, O weep away the stain.
O law drummed out by hearts against the still
Long winter of our intellectual will.
That what has been may never be again.
O flute that throbs with the thanksgiving breath
Of convalescents on the shores of death.
O bless the freedom that you never chose.
O trumpets that unguarded children blow
About the fortress of their inner foe.
O wear your tribulation like a rose.