Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Thinking. Solving problems elsewhere.

‘Innocent’ formalism, the play of the imagination, the timeless present of children, anarchic and pre-humanist.

The formalism of the untrained, in the world of experts. Le Douanier Rousseau

The formalism of elision, of speaking and hiding, originating in childhood experience but continuing in schooled, articulate, adulthood. James, Elliot, Borges

The formalism of autistic savants.

The art of the periods in-between, the aristocratic as opposed to bourgeois culture of time, of absolutism trying to come to terms with contingency in the forms of the baroque, the contradictory ideal theater.

The intellectual as counsel to the king, or theologian, becoming the intellectual as academic.

The intellectual as jester, the anarchist at court, and the anti-utilitarianism of aristocratic leisure, becoming the anti-academic intellectual as cosmopolitan observer, artist, critic, flaneur.

Some of the tensions are or seem to be specific to Christian Europe and the Socratic contempt for democracy. The evangelical idealism that separated truth from rhetoric –and linked object making and no other art with philosophy– sets Europe apart.

Interesting to see the last two thousand years in the west as largely "post-democratic",  rebelling against the model of Athens and the Roman republic.  Opposition to democracy precedes its re-invention. And liberal philosophers oppose democracy, since they have to be the authors of the state. The word most come before the act. But that's not how it happens.

And repeats: the two cultures of the two cultures. The UK divides pedants and ironists/ philosophers and novelists; French philosophers are both.  The UK legal system is adversarial; the French is inquisitorial: the ironic philosopher is the French intellectual model.
Anglosphere philosophers are pedants; Anglosphere lawyers are ironists.

Athens: a culture with a great official material and literary tradition.

The best way to come to terms with Athens is to refuse to see it as western.

"You can't understand the complexity of Athenian art, dynamic/naturalistic and hieratic, until you see it, and the best of it. Its closest parallels in Asia don't match it. Nothing in Europe matches in since."


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