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05 octobre 2006 @ 14:37
Philosophy & Fine Art  
Dear Mendaciloquent,

Less than a fortnight has passed since we last saw one another, yet already I feel your absence as an ache within my breast so heavy that it compels me to sit down and pen you a missive. The month we spent together with Mother at the chateau is forever burned into my memory. The long walks through the woods, the late nights by the fire sipping white wine and discussing French New Wave films, the mornings spent sacrificing cocks to Eos, the afternoons spent picnicking and wrestling in the damp grass as the brook babbled nearby and created delicate white bubbles of froth against the bank – oh my friend, how I miss you! I can still see you smiling in the late summer sunlight, a small trail of hot, white stickiness dripping down from the corner of your mouth. (You always were a fan of my buns!)

Though I will always remember those halcyon days spent with you at the chateau, I find now that my mind, perhaps propelled by the onset of autumn, has turned to more intellectual pursuits, videlicet, the relation between philosophy and the fine arts.

Contrary to the way the vulgar think about philosophy, my dearest Mendaciloquent, you and I both know that it is not the duty of the philosopher to refute the Skeptic. For men like us, there is nothing the skeptic gives us with which we can work; there is only his doubt, only his possible yet forever unrealized Love for that which endures and is beautiful. Once the most primitive notions of involvement, belongingness, camaraderie, and acquaintance are demolished by the insensitivity of the brawny mind, how are we expected to argue philosophically with such a person? Those who expect philosophy to accomplish such a task take it to be like a shovel or a cudgel, rather than Beautiful and Pointillistic as it truly ought to be.

Nay, my friend! Philosophy is not meant to refute the skeptic; all it can do is give us non-skeptics – those of us guided by the spirit of Beauty and Nature – internal reasons to think that we are rationally justified in holding the beliefs we do. But we must start with beliefs! I am reminded of that staid and saintly Prussian philosopher of old, Immanuel Kant, who refused to begin his philosophy with doubt but rather started with our engagement with and knowledge of the world, so that he might show the necessary preconditions underlying it. He knew as well as we do that there is no passage from absolute ignorance to knowledge; there is no path one may construct to connect absolute immorality with morality. Just as nothing can make a cubicle rat see why he should put a dimple in his tie or wear French cuffs rather than button cuffs, so there is no way to make these myopic philistines see what is so plain to us every day, what you and I feel as easily in our being as we feel the fresh air in our lungs. Those who believe we have neither knowledge nor morality cannot be convinced by argument that we do. One would sooner meet with success casting pearls before swine then try to get one of these bean-counting pinheads to see one bit of Truth. The only thing that will convince them is if they let go of their fear and once again orient themselves to lambent Beauty. But since their state of self-imposed ignorance reinforces their fear, they leave us with no choice but to turn our backs and return to the task of hybridizing orchids in the aviary.

My mind is drawn once again to the work of Hegel, who showed in his Phenomenology of Spirit that we cannot logically defeat the antagonist, but rather we must convert him. Think of those times in your life during which you have really changed your mind, Mendaciloquent. Were those changes the result of logical argumentation, or did some path of activity suddenly lead you to turn around and undergo what seemed at the time to be a religious conversion?

What these self-styled skeptics fail to see, and what you and I see all too clearly, is how utterly disappointing knowledge is. People today, brought up as they are in this slop we call “modern life,” expect that anything of value must have a USE. Everything must be brought to a purpose. Philosophy, according to them, has no value unless it can accomplish something, if it can solve some “real world” problem. I will be the first to admit it, my friend: Philosophy can do no such thing! Nor should it! All philosophy can do is provide justification for a way of life of which we are already a part.

Therefore, we do not begin with premises and rational argumentation. On the contrary, we begin with genealogy, so that we may unlock the logic of our own responses, the responses into which we have been cultured, the sentiments that are too close to us to even notice. Once we have perspective on our beliefs, then and only then are we free to transform them in a productive way.

Philosophy therefore does nothing more than make explicit the internal logic of our experiences and practices. It gives them conceptual shape, thereby making perspicuous the beliefs and practices we already inhabit.

Even as I write these words, my friend, I can see that boyish grin of yours slyly spreading across your dimpled and downy face. Right at this moment you are beaming, thinking to yourself, “But Apperception, that’s just what novels do!” And you are absolutely right, my dove. There are different logics by means of which we make things explicit; some are narrative as in novels, and some are representational as in painting. They’re all ways of making explicit those congealed little difficulties in a human life. Philosophy is the version of that activity that uses concepts.

I can sense that I’ve already given you plenty to read; I know how frail your constitution has become, and so I’ll give you time to rest before sending you more of my thoughts on this matter. I hope my letter finds you in good spirits and in good health.

Until next time,
I am your most humble and devoted friend and servant,

P.S. - If you see that "rogue," Shelley Snodgrass, send him my regards. Will you? -A