[2, 3] wandering amongst the dead earth and rubble
An allusion to The Wasteland (Eliot, 1974):
“What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water”
The image of figures wandering amongst a barren landscape also echoes Waiting for Godot (Beckett, 2006). In a filmed version (Foley et al., 1996) the play is situated in a bleak landscape, very much an echo of Eliot’s Wasteland: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”. It is an image of entropy and decay, of civilization falling into dust, crumbling and breaking up.
[viii, 12-14] could I use a conversational, dramatic form, a form I had developed through my own studies – the single most important question, raised also in the body of the text itself, is in the use of conversation. Why write in a conversational method? And to what extend does this method support the ambitions of the author or impede engagement? The conversational method not only has philosophical precedents (Plato, 1993) but is also linked to a philosophical project I have been pursuing for just under 30 years. Since 1988 I have been working on a philosophical project which attempts to formulate a (mathematical) notation, method and grammar for a philosophical science. In the earlier stages of this project I studied phenomenology, critical theory, structuralism and hermeneutics alongside Sufi thought (see Lewisohn (1999a, 1999b)) and classical literature. In the last ten years of work I began to distil an ultraconceptual (or ultratheoretical) symbolism with its own operating grammar, topological structures and a fixed lexical set. A key thinker in this work was Wittgenstein (2001). In order to carry out unearthing of metaphysical skeletal structures I read across theoretical boundaries, mixing conceptions and ideas from incommensurable conceptual systems – for example, the school of traditional metaphysics under Frithjof Schuon (Schuon and Smith (1996)) and structuralist psychoanalytical thought (Lacan and Fink (2007)). With the inevitable difficulties of reading across theoretical boundaries I needed a thinking and writing method that allowed me to document and enumerate the complexities and multiple perspectives without settling on one conceptual system. The method I developed finds its most articulate presentation in Bakhtin (1984) and his discussions of the dialogic and polyphonic novels – especially the writing of Dostoevsky. A brief paraphrase of his approach, from the foreword to Dostoevsky’s Demons (1988) reads: “Dostoevsky suppresses narrative commentary on his characters’ words and feelings, explanations of their motives, examination of their thoughts, the broad ‘painting’ of descriptive realism. All commentary comes from other characters, among whom is the narrator-chronicler himself”. My own intellectual practices were dialogic both in the various studies I carried out and in the method of formulating and distilling a conceptual symbolism to articulate primordial theoretical relations. An early discovery through this method was the discovery of the structural isomorphism between Diotima’s discussion of the lack in Eros in The Symposium (Plato, 1993) and Kojève’s discussion of the lack of Desire in Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (1980). A persistent question that constantly emerged out of this conceptual and symbolic work was: how would I teach someone this new symbolism, the post-metaphysical skeletal form that existed in the intersection of mathematics, language and art? What education system would approach these innovative ultra-theoretical developments? This led me to the decision that the conversational method, if crafted correctly would support the ambition.
The idea for this companion book and website of notes and annotations was initially inspired by reading Ulysses Annotated (Gifford, 1989), The Dante Encyclopaedia (Lansing, 2010) and Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on Aristotle’s Politics (Aquinas, 2006)). With these books I found myself studying the complex and dense imagery, the historical references and the philosophical depth of the original works. With Aristotle and Dante it could be argued that reading their texts without some supplement (notes, companion books, encyclopedias) results in a superficial reading. Joyce deliberately wrote in a style that demands a supplement. Dante wrote to appeal to the wider readership and the supplement helps us bridge the references his audiences would have known. Of course one can glide over the surface and pick up images and events but without a supplement it is fairly easy to miss the density of the allusions, images and concepts buried in the text.
By providing a supplement to the main text my aim is to recognize that conversation is, by its very nature, fluid, dynamic and jagged. Arguments do not necessarily unfold from one line to the next but can be interrupted. The notes therefore serve a twofold task: to unpack some of the imagery and allusions but also foreground the threads that appear and disappear throughout the text. The aim is to deepen one’s grasp of the themes and images that run through the book. It is hoped that you have read or are reading ‘Against Capitalist Education’. If not, I would highly recommend doing so.
The notes are given in the following format:
[page number, line number(s)] followed by a partial quote in bold – and then the annotation and note.
What is music? And how can it reveal something of the ontological dynamics of existence?
Music, like language, is common to all human beings and for some, it is an essential part of what it means to be a human being. But why? what is so special about music? And, equally so, what can we learn from thinking about music?
Is music just ‘decoration’? Something that belongs to the decorative arts? Or is it a serious art form, coming to life in dialogue with philosophy?
Music is a dynamic temporal structure (rooted in repetitive patterns and complex evolving harmonic relations). This is explicit in the rhythmic music of Nik Bartsch. Musical structures only exists in a flow. If the flow ceases so does the music. The structures – the musical patterns or forms – you are listening to, also mutate, distort and shift over time, giving us something like a narrative. All music seems to share these two properties: structure and narrative. In the classical tradition we have forms of the fugue, the canon and, critically, the sonata (still one of the best images of a dialectic I can think of).
Let us say that ‘truth’ is like a seed buried deep in the fabric of the world. Under the right conditions it will emerge, it will flower and appear in the manifesting surfaces and forms of the phenomenal. Music creates a set of conditions. Think of these conditions as a dynamic scaffold, constructed over an infinite abyss (cf Meister Eckhart). If the listener is tuned in to the music then they sense this flow, moving both upwards and inwards through the musical scaffold.
That is my contention. And it is a fragile contention. It requires thinking Swedenborg with music but it also links Bartsch to the dynamic of Qawwali music, an ecstatic spiritual form which explicitly enacts this upward and inward movement through the scaffolding of the music.
Nik, I suspect, senses this in music. He calls his music “Ritual Groove Music” or “Zen-Funk’.