The Communicative Problematique
A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Where then must tragedy have come from? Perhaps out of joy, out of power, out of overflowing health, out of overwhelming fullness? And psychologically speaking, what then is the meaning of that madness out of which tragic as well as comic art grew, the Dionysian madness? What? Is madness perhaps not necessarily the symptom of degradation, of collapse, of cultural decadence? Are there perhaps—a question for doctors who treat madness—neuroses associated with health? With the youth of a people and with youthfulness? What is revealed in that synthesis of god and goat in the satyr? Out of what personal experience, what impulse, did the Greek have to imagine the Dionysian enthusiast and original man as a satyr? And so far as the origin of the tragic chorus is concerned, in those centuries when the Greek body flourished and the Greek soul bubbled over with life, were there perhaps endemic raptures? Visions and hallucinations which entire communities, entire cultural bodies, shared? How’s that? What if it were the case that the Greeks, right in the richness of their youth, had the will for the tragic and were pessimists? What if it was clearly lunacy, to use a saying from Plato, which brought the greatestblessings throughout Greece? And, on the other hand, what if, to turn the issue around, it was precisely during the period of their dissolution and weakness that the Greeks became constantly more optimistic, more superficial, more hypocritical, and with a greater lust for logic and rational understanding of the world, as well as “more cheerful” and “more scientific”? What’s this? In spite of all “modern ideas” and the prejudices of democratic taste, could the victory of optimism, the developing hegemony of reasonableness, of practical and theoretical utilitarianism, as well as democracy itself, which occurs in the same period, perhaps be a symptom of failing power, of approaching old age, of physiological exhaustion, rather than pessimism? Was Epicurus an optimist—precisely because he was suffering?—We see that this book was burdened with an entire bundle of difficult questions—let us add its most difficult question: What, from the point of view of living, does morality mean? . . .
Kant on the im/possibility of explaining self-reflexivity:
That I am conscious of myself is a thought that already contains a twofold self, the I as subject and the I as object. How might it be possible for the I that I think to be an object (of intuition) for me, one that enables me to distinguish me from myself, is absolutely impossible for me to explain, even though it is an indubitable fact (1804/1983: 73).
Labels: Aesthetics, Angelus Novus, Birth of Tragedy, Blogging Pedagogy, Communicative Problematique, cyber rhetoric, Hall of Mirrors, Kant, Klee, life-world, Nietzsche, Technological Claustrophobia, Walter Benjamin