‘When Plato manufactured the connection between the beginning of philosophy and its fulfilment, by projecting the Thales anecdote onto his Socrates, he neglected the discrepancy, which was supposed to have been so important to Socrates: the retreat from natural philosophy and his new definition of the theoretical task centred on humanity and its morality. Nietzsche has followed this line of Plato’s: his Thales of Miletus is the first opponent of myth in favour of the self-assertion of the Ionian cities, and his Socrates is the perfector of destroying myth, particularly in the form of tragedy. Thales, like Socrates, supposedly stood against myth, except that Socrates no longer understood what it was about when he did it—and even if he had understood, it would have been too late. Thus the death of Socrates no longer functions within the archaic reservoir of images as epigonal delay on completing a decision, which had been pronounced by Thales under the compulsion of naked self-assertion. The decision was philosophy; the historical consequence, science. Socrates pulled philosophy down to the bourgeois sphere, privatised its public spirit and prepared it to become an assisting organ in the long run for the realisation of Christianity.’
Hans Blumenberg, The Laughter of the Thracian Woman (Trans. Spencer Hawkins)
Is there anything quite like this book, in which Blumenberg details how a single anecdote can be distorted and reoccupied through the ages, narrating the prevailing sentiment toward speculative thinking?
‘Because Nietzsche’s thought meditated on a lived experience to the point where it became inverted into a systematic premeditation, prey to an interpretative delirium that seemed to diminish the ‘responsibility of the thinker’, there is a tendency to grant it, as it were, ‘extenuating circumstances’ . . . For what do we want to extenuate? The fact that his thought revolved around delirium as its axis. Now early on, Nietzsche was apprehensive about this propensity in himself, and his every effort was directed toward fighting the irresistible attraction that Chaos (or, more precisely, the ‘chasm’) exerted on him —a hiatus which, starting in his childhood, he strive to fill in and cross over through his autobiography. The more he probed the phenomenon of thought and the different behaviours that result from it, and the more he studied the individual reactions provoked by the structures of the modern world (and always in relation to his conception of the ancient world) the closer he drew to this chasm.’
Pierre Klossowski, Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle. (Translated by Daniel W. Smith)
“I also think I have an affinity with [Pierre] Klossowski. Yes, no doubt, a great affinity of soul . . . I’d like to speak to Klossowski. But no, not speak. With a soul perhaps so similar to mine, it would be better to sit side by side in silence.”
Maria Gabriela Llansol’s journal (1979). (My translation). Her friend, Vanda, lent her one of Klossowski’s books, which provoked this response.
I spent much of this afternoon with Klossowski’s Nietzsche (Monoskop PDF), which may be the book Llansol found so compelling. His argument, captured in the fragment above, is sufficiently absorbing (and contrarian) that I must pick up a hard copy of the book.
‘Raulff: As I understand it, almost every philosopher has had a vision of the good and the right or of a philosophical life as well. What does yours look like?
Agamben: The idea that one should make his life a work of art is attributed mostly today to Foucault and to his idea of the care of the self. Pierre Hadot, the great historian of ancient philosophy, reproached Foucault that the care of the self of the ancient philosophers did not mean the construction of life as a work of art, but on the contrary a sort of dispossession of the self. What Hadot could not understand is that for Foucault, the two things coincide. You must remember Foucault’s criticism of the notion of author, his radical dismissal of authorship. In this sense, a philosophical life, a good and beautiful life, is something else: when your life becomes a work of art, you are not the cause of it. I mean that at this point you feel your own life and yourself as something “thought,” but the subject, the author, is no longer there. The construction of life coincides with what Foucault referred to as “se deprendre de soi.” And this is also Nietzsche’s idea of a work of art without the artist.’
From this 2004 interview.
‘You feel that you bid farewell, and perhaps soon—and the evening blush of this feeling shines within your happiness. Pay heed to this testimony: it means that you love life, and yourself with it, indeed, that you love the life that you have lived until now, and that has shaped you [. . .] But know this!—that transience is always singing you its brief song, and that, hearing its first lines, one can die of longing, at the thought that all of this can pass way forever.’
This is, I think, Krzysztof Michalski’s own translation of Nietzsche, quoted in his The Flame of Eternity: An Interpretation of Nietzsche’s Thought from, I think, Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe.
“Let us proclaim it, as if among ourselves, in so low a tone that all the world fails to hear it and us! Above all, however, let us say it slowly…. This preface comes late, but not too late: what, after all, do five or six years matter? Such a book, and such a problem, are in no hurry; besides, we are friends of the lento, I and my book. I have not been a philologist in vain—perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading. I even come to write slowly. At present it is not only my habit, but even my taste—a perverted taste, maybe—to write nothing but what will drive to despair every one who is “in a hurry.” For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all—to step to one side, to leave themselves spare moments, to grow silent, to become slow—the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow, fine work, and attains nothing if not lento. For this very reason philology is now more desirable than ever before; for this very reason it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of “work”: that is to say, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-skurry, which is intent upon “getting things done” at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not “get things done” so hurriedly: it teaches how to read well: i.e. slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dawn of Day. (trans. John McFarland Kennedy)