Micro Essay

A Heap Of Broken Images

16 May , 2016  

[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.

Micro Essay

Lost Souls

16 May , 2016  

[1, 19] re-treading the same ground

One of the first allusions to the song ‘Wish You Were Here’ (Pink Floyd, 1975). The lyric runs like this: “We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year, running over the same old ground”.

Micro Essay

PREFACE

16 May , 2016  

[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.

Micro Essay

Bibliography

16 May , 2016  

 Updated: 16 May 2016

Adorno, T.W. (2003) Aesthetic Theory. Edited by Robert Hullot-Kentor. London: Continuum.
Aquinas, T. (2006) Commentary on Aristotle’s Politics. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.
Badiou, A. (2007) Being and event. Edited by Oliver Feltham. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Bakhtin, M.M. (1984) Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Edited by Caryl Emerson. 10th edn. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Beckett, S. (2006) The complete dramatic works of Samuel Beckett. London: Faber & Faber Plays.
Benjamin, W. (1988) Illuminations. Edited by Hannah Arendt and Harry Zohn. New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Benjamin, W. (1995) Reflections: Essays, aphorisms, autobiographical writings. Edited by Peter Demetz and Edmund Jephcott. New York: Random House USA.
Blake, W. (1795) Newton [Colour print, ink and watercolour on paper]. Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/blake-newton-n05058 (Accessed: 16 April 2016).
Borges, J.L. (1989) Labyrinths: Selected stories and other writings (twentieth century classics). United Kingdom: Penguin Books.
Borges, J.L. (1999) Collected fictions. Edited by Andrew Hurley. London: Allen Lane.
Borges, J.L. (2000) The total library: Non-fiction, 1922-1986. Edited by Eliot Weinberger. United Kingdom: Allen Lane.
Boyle, N. (2003) Goethe: The poet and the age: Volume II. Oxford University Press, USA.
Butler, R. (2010) Borges’ short stories: A reader’s guide. United Kingdom: Continuum International Publishing Group.
Davidson, D. (2001a) Essays on actions and events: Philosophical essays. 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Davidson, D. (2001b) Inquiries into truth and interpretation: Philosophical essays. 2nd edn. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Davidson, D. (2001c) Subjective, Intersubjective, objective: Philosophical essays. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Descartes, R. (1996) Descartes: Meditations on first philosophy ; with selections from the objections and replies. Edited by John Cottingham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dostoevsky, F. (1998) Demons: A novel in Three parts. United Kingdom: Vintage Classics.
Eliot, T.S. (1974) Collected poems, 1909-1962. London: Faber & Faber Poetry.
Ferrari, G.R.F. (ed.) (2007) The Cambridge companion to Plato’s ‘Republic’. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Beckett on film (1996) Directed by Sean Foley, Pat Kinevane, Karel Reisz, Enda Hughes Tyrone Productions.
Gifford, D. (1989) ‘Ulysses’ annotated. United States: University of California Press.
Goethe, J.W. (2014) Faust: A tragedy, parts One and Two. United States: Yale University Press.
Heidegger, M. (1976) What is called thinking? Edited by Glenn J. Gray and Fred D. Wieck. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Hillier, P. (2016) Theatre of voices. Available at: http://theatreofvoices.com/ (Accessed: 9 April 2016).
Hookway, C. (1992) Peirce – Hookway. London: Routledge.
James, W. (2000) Pragmatism: And other writings. Edited by Giles Gunn. New York: Penguin Group (USA).
Kafka, F. (2009a) The Castle. Edited by Ritchie Robertson. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kafka, F. (2009b) The metamorphosis and other stories. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kafka, F. (2009c) The Trial. Edited by Ritchie Robertson. New York: Oxford University Press.
Kafka, F. (2012a) A hunger artist and other stories. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Kafka, F. (2012b) The man who disappeared: (America). United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Kierkegaard, S. (2010) The Present Age: On the death of rebellion. Edited by Walter Kaufmann. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Kojève, A. (1980) Introduction to the reading of Hegel: Lectures on the ‘Phenomenology of spirit’. Edited by Allan David Bloom and Raymond Queneau. New York: Cornell University Press.
Kraut, R. (ed.) (1992) The Cambridge Companion to Plato. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lacan, J. and Fink, B. (2007) Écrits: The first complete edition in English. New York: Norton, W. W. & Company.
Lansing, R. (ed.) (2010) The Dante Encyclopedia. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.
Lewisohn, L. (ed.) (1999a) The Heritage of Sufism: Classical Persian Sufism from its origins to Rumi (700-1300): Volume 1. Boston, MA: Oneworld Publications.
Lewisohn, L. (ed.) (1999b) The Heritage of Sufism: Legacy of medieval Persian Sufism (1150-1500): Volume 2. Boston, MA: Oneworld Publications.
Lings, M. and Guenon, R. (2009) The essential Rene Guenon: Metaphysical principles, traditional doctrines, and the crisis of modernity. Edited by John Herlihy. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom Books.
Marlowe, C. (2005) Doctor Faustus: A two-text edition (a-text, 1604 ; b-text, 1616) contexts and sources criticism. Edited by David Scott Kastan. 4th edn. New York: Norton, W. W. & Company.
Marlowe, C. (2008) Doctor Faustus and other plays: Tamburlaine, parts I and II; doctor Faustus, A- and b-texts; the Jew of Malta; Edward II. Edited by David Bevington and Eric Rasmussen. New York: Oxford University Press.
Menand, L. (ed.) (1997) Pragmatism: A reader. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Nasr, S.H. (1993) The need for a sacred science. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Nasr, S.H. and Smith, H. (2007) The essential Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Edited by William C. Chittick. United States: World Wisdom Books.
Peirce, C.S. (1992) The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings: V. 1: 1867-1893. Edited by Christian J Kloesel and Nathan Houser. Bloomington, IN, USA: Indiana University Press.
Peirce, C.S. (1998) The Essential Peirce: Selected Philosophical Writings (1893-1913), Vol. 2. Edited by Nathan Houser. Bloomington, IN, USA: Indiana University Press.
Pink Floyd (1975) Wish you were here Abbey Road Studios, London: Harvest, Columbia.
Plato (1993) The dialogues of Plato, Volume 2: The Symposium. Edited by R E Allen. United States: Yale University Press.
Reich, S. (2015) Proverb.
Rorty, R. (1990) Philosophical Papers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Schleiermacher, F. (2011) Schleiermacher’s introductions to the dialogues of Plato. Translated from the German by W. Dobson. Edited by William Dobson. United States: British Library, Historical Print Editions.
Schuon, F. and Smith, H. (1996) The transcendent unity of religions. 2nd edn. Wheaton, Ill., U.S.A.: Theosophical Pub. House.
Alien (1979) Directed by Ridley Scott Twentieth Century Fox: .
Wittgenstein, L. (1998) Culture and Value. Edited by G. H. von Wright, Peter Winch, and Alois Pichler. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
Wittgenstein, L. (2001) Philosophical investigations: The German text with a revised English translation: German text, with a revised English translation. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, P Hacker M. S., and Joachim Schulte. 4th edn. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
Zuidervaart, L. (1993) Adorno’s ‘aesthetic theory’: The redemption of illusion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Žižek, S. (2009) The Parallax View. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Micro Essay

Introduction

16 Apr , 2016  

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.

Micro Essay

Nik Bärtsch’s Mobile – Continuum, 2016

16 Mar , 2016  

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’.