the heroism of flattery

“I will be as ready as a chessman to be wherever your Majesty’s royal hand shall set me. -- Bacon

Francis Bacon would have immediately understood the how the CEO of Hewlett Packard, Patricia Dunn, got kicked bumpety bump down the winding staircase up which she had advanced, since he, too,
fell in the aftermath of a rather shady scandal that began when, as attorney general, he vetted an application for a patent of monopoly concerning the manufacture of silver and gold thread for a brother and a cousin of the King’s favorite, Buckingham. Ever since Macaulay made the abuse of this patent (by Giles Mompesson, among others, a splendid example of a 17th century buck, unscrupulous, mean, the model for Massinger’s Sir Giles Overreach in A New Way to Pay Old Debts) the centerpiece of his accusing essay about Bacon, Baconites have rushed to the man’s defense.

And one of these days, LI will dawdle over a post about the whole thing – but – yesterday, when we were looking for scholarly work on flattery (of which there is surprisingly little) we came across a passage in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in which the master says much that we want to say, except with his own vocabulary. Hegel is rather a big, black yawning cavern, and his terms are the stalactites and stalagmites of that cavern – those large, impressive accumulations of what exists, in much simpler, particulate form, in the little drops of water out of which they were formed. You have to be a good spelunker to get anywhere with H. And the Phenomenology is a little like the Anatomy of Melancholy – or, actually, Gravity’s Rainbow – in that it tries to contain everything. So you never know what you will find there.

Hegel’s passage about the transition from ‘heroic service” to “heroic flattery” is found in the sixth chapter, on the self-alienated spirit. To which I will go in my next post. At the moment, my work load has suddenly gotten heavy (thank you, God, Allah, and the million names of Shiva!) So I have to do these things in little bits.


it said…
Happy I could contribute to the heaviness of work-load, but less happy that it also involves Hegel. What must you think of us?