Gloss/Marginalia: Part 3

[via Gabriele Beveridge]

[See below posts for explanation]

The homage nowadays rendered ‘creativity,’ for example, is nothing but a modern version of the glorification of art for art’s sake, though by ‘creativity’ is meant excretion for the sake of excretion, the more tempting for being conducted outside of truth and falsehood, good and evil, beauty and ugliness – where the doing, in other words, counts for more than what is done.

That cuts right to the quick – and makes me look again at my enthusiasm for ‘the aesthetics of process’ as advocated by Valery and Gilson. What are the implications of a metaphysics of becoming as opposed to being? At first glance it seems to place one squarely among the shades of grey and very far from any sort of certainty.

Which makes me wonder if this is my particular contradiction and struggle, for as much as I yearn for certainty (perhaps naturally), I can only find evidence of problems and inquiries. I wish for being and what I find is becoming. And what does that mean for systems of physics and metaphysics? I’m wondering if there’s a logical contradiction in trying to determine a system of becoming.

Wouldn’t something like this lead to a world where ‘everything is permitted’ ? Or am I missing some necessary intermediate steps?

As Milosz says,

If nothing binds human values to the inviolable laws of the universe, then there is nothing to protect mankind from extreme cataclysms and calamities. Then even the passion for truth, so precious to the man of science, remains inexplicable, ungrounded.

I guess I don’t understand atheism. I don’t see how it works. Maybe I’m missing something that everyone else in this modern century has discovered, but I cannot see it. I don’t understand my theism (or whateveryoucallit), but I cannot think of existence or thinghood or being without positing some eternal, total Being – not the Christian, loving God which seems to me to be more a fabrication or synthesis (which is apparently what Kant says elsewhere), but some Being between what Aristotle describes and what Aquinas proves. I can’t be more clear than that and so I’m sure my hazy idea is full of holes and problems.

I need to re-read The Brothers Karamazov, that much I know.


But man is also anti-Nature, divided, at war with the animal in him, afflicted by not being able to live without the means to assuage his existence, whatever name we give to those means. Deserving of wonder, yes, but also of pity, immense pity, the greater in that man can only be pitied by man.

Many students chose to focus on this issue – war-torn man, his reason at odds with his inclinations – and we would focus on the struggle as described by Paul and Augustine and even Kant (in different terms).

I wondered (aloud at times) if contradiction wasn’t the common denominator in man’s experience – and that the attempt to focus on logical validity and certainty is a reaction to that experience just as ‘relativism’ and shades of grey are.

I’ve read very little of Simon Weil’s writings (only picking up Gravity and Grace after one of the students I worked with recommended it to me – along with Swedenborg), but Milosz mentions her as his representative of dualism – of a religion and Christianity which stands firmly amidst the contradictions and pays no mind to practical implications and ‘compromise.’

He mentions her maxim: ‘La distance infinie que separe le necessaire et le bien’ as the cornerstone of her system.

Milosz’s summary of her ideas:

God, having created the world, withheld dominion over it, letting it take its own course, as untenable as that may be to human reason. He anted a world without good, that is, a world below good and evil. He (the good) distanced himself from the world (necessity) by an infinity. Another version of that indifferent God the Clockmaker of the eighteenth-century Deists? No: Weil’s God is tragic, loving, the dying God on the cross. The words spoken by Christ before his death, ‘Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me,’ were, for her, the most powerful affirmation of Christianity and of humanity, which occupies the lowest of all levels, above the innocence of Nature but bound by her laws, longing for the good ‘not of this world.’ By way of qualifying our blackboard inscription, one would have to add another of Weil’s maxims: ‘Contradiction is the instrument of transcendence.’

That seems to be at least a very clear statement of what I was circling around before – the belief in God is an ultimate sort of contradiction – the contradiction that we are so familiar with in our normal lives.

Milosz finishes his section on Weil with:

If the present book has a dominant theme, it is this ‘morbidity’ intrinsic to man, this balancing of the human weight on the very edge of the scale so that one pinch dropped on the other is enough to tip it. Simone Weil taught me that my hatred for life was not deserving of absolute condemnation, that a longing for putirty may disguise itself as morbidity. And that my love of life, equally strong, is no less real, since we live by way of contradictions. Ultimately, her elucidation of the role of contradictions, even logical contradictions, is one of the most valuable lessons to be gained from reading her works.

What happens to us when we attempt to pare away all contradictions from the experience of man, excising them as deformities, depravities, twisted enemies to Reason? Isn’t that what is so initially discomfiting about Kant’s morality? No contradictions are to be admitted and so it seems so utterly inhuman. He recognizes this of course, but stresses the necessity of this sort of system. I just wonder if there isn’t some better way of marrying temperance and prudence with a recognition of the human struggle with contradiction. Could Aristotle’s Ethics help us here perhaps?