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Showing posts from December 21, 2014

goodbye as morality

Philosophers have a tendency that we get a handle on the world through quantification – if we can number it, it exists. All, every, each, some, and none ride mankind.   Adam has a different idea. For each word, each thing, he has a goodbye. He has an essentially valedictory theory of reference: the referent is something you can farewell. You can say goodbye to green lights, blue buses, iceskaters, iceskating, basketball, sky, moon, doggie, pumpkin pants, and everything in between. I’m not quite sure of the deeper meaning here. There are certain objects, for instance, like the trees near the school, which, even in approaching, require a goodbye: goodbye trees. Green, as in green light, is also only goodbyeable. On the other hand, pumpkin pants only receive the valedictory benediction when they are taken off. They fit properly in the sequence of possession and mourning that pretty much makes up our lives. Hello, on the other hand, is something that comes less spontaneously. We have

Strauss II: esotericism and carnival

Leo Strauss can be credited as a definite influence in the advance of philological and rhetorical sensitivity towards philosophical texts within an academic discipline, philosophy, that, in America at least, has all too often rewarded philological and rhetorical insensitivity, which is another way of saying systematic wiseassness. In particular, Strauss was sensitive to the citational situation set up, so often, in major philosophical texts. A passage in, say, the Preface to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit can be read exoterically by trying to connect its themes and arguments without ever putting it in relation to the complex figurations of knowledge that are presented in the main text – but from the point of view of the main text, the preface must itself be in there – it exists as text as a sort of quasi-indirect discourse, a citation within the dynamic creating the figures of reason. The sensitivity to what I am calling the citational moment motivates the notion of the esoteric side

a note on strauss and esotericism 1

A note on strauss 1 The key Leo Strauss’s scholarly work is based on his recovery of esotericism, which he fully developed in the late 1930s, and which he took to be the key to understanding the ancients as well as understanding how the ancients were misunderstood by the moderns – how in fact modernity defines itself through that misunderstanding. Among the deepest pre-modern writers stretching back to the ancients, all writing had two sides: one is a surface of exoteric writing, in which meaning, theme and style is subordinate to the norms of the masses, while the other, deeper side esoteric, presenting truths in a suitably obscure manner that are not meant for the vulgar. In the golden liberal era of the 19th century (about which Strauss, like Hayek, had the most romantic notions), the urgency of the threat of persecution vanished, and made it harder for researchers to understand this two faced structure in older texts. Although Straussians like to paint Strauss as an intellectual