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Showing posts from March, 2012

Reconciliation with the Past

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4. Creation Amid the Ruins
Because revenge and remorse can neither win redemption, Nietzsche had to find another path which the Übermensch could take. This path however is shrouded. Nietzsche is ambiguous as to how this higher redemption is to be actually attained; perhaps it can never be fully received. What he is clear about is what the Übermensch has to reclaim: his freedom. 
    It is freedom after all which essentially is robbed from a man who is impotent in reclaiming his past; because he can no longer undo what has been done, he not only experiences his loss of freedom in not being able to will back, but he also feels unfree in the present in not being able to will at all. What thus truly sadden us when we revisit difficult experiences in the past is our powerlessness and loss of will. Whence the sighs, the shrugs, and the tears one sheds always only too late.
    Yet while the will cannot will backward, or may it be neutralized in the present with remorse, Nietzsche …

Caravaggio's Tactics: On the Problem of Painting Medusa

We all know the story already. Medusa was one of the three Gorgons, daughters of Ceto and Phorcys. Her two sisters were immortal while Medusa was mortal. All three had serpents for their hair, wings of bright gold, thick scales covering their bodies and had tusks of boars for teeth.
Their famed cruelty did not lie in their appearance and strength however; what made them more frightening than what they already looked was that they had eyes whose gaze would freeze into stone another gaze that meets it. In other words, here is Medusa the invisible: a monster who kills you either by the sheer terror upon seeing her, or freezes you forever upon being seen by her overpowering gaze. Medusa is invisible not by fact but by necessity because as Perseus cleverly found out, the only way to kill her was to first always look away, and then let her see herself in the reflection of his shield.
As with the Greek hero, Medusa would also be a handful for the painter. (One can imagine that no portraitis…

The Artist as Creator: van Gogh’s Cypresses in Saint-Rémy

Excerpts from a paper on Schelling
I admit that it is difficult to say what one means, to express oneself properly—just as one cannot paint things as one sees them.
—Vincent van Gogh

We owe to the artists much of the beauty produced by mankind, and to the truly great artists, we owe a lot more—for it some times happens that they pay gravely for the beauty they create. One celebrated example (perhaps cited too often already) is the Dutch Post-Impressionist master Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), born a year before Schelling’s death. Without unnecessarily going into many of the already well-documented anecdotes about his life and death, genius and madness, passions and demons, what follows here are just two short texts drawn from his famous letters to his brother, Theo, and to his fellow artist and friend, Paul Gauguin. Schelling’s philosophical descriptions of the artist and the nature of his work can perhaps come to life through some of the words of the genius van Gogh.
The following lette…

Late Reflections on Charles Peguy's Portal of the Mystery of Hope

Among the three theological virtues, Péguy says, it is hope which surprises God the most. He almost cannot believe it, this ability of man to hope.
Faith is obvious.It is easy. We can easily believe in God because one look at his creation tells us that he is real, true, ever beautiful. We cannot but see God around us “in the universe of [His] creatures,” in “the stars of the firmament and in the fish of the sea,” “in the gaze and in the voice of children,” in “the kingly eagle who flies upon the peaks” and even in “the serpent who tricked the woman.”* “I am so resplendent in my creation,” says God, so visible, so present in the marvel of all that he has made and all that he will make. 
How then can one evernot see God, not have faith in him? “In order to really not see me these poor creatures would have been blind.” You have to close your eyes in order to not have faith in him or lose it. Otherwise he is all there—evident, obvious, unmistakably there. To not have faith then is not natur…

Men of Dark Times

The three students who will speak this afternoon will present the thoughts of three different philosophers—two of them are self-confessed atheists and, as Ricoeur called them, are "masters of suspicion"; while the other one you will hear of today is a Christian existentialist thinker. Despite these stark differences, I realized only recently as I was going over their final drafts that Jaime, Alex and Jorge, though coming from very different perspectives, were in their own separate ways trying to respond to something very similar, and also something very urgent. Alex’s thesis entitled “An Exposition on Karl Marx: Capitalism as the Root of Alienated Labor” portrays what Marx described to be the concrete situation of the modern day worker in a capitalist society. Today’s worker, as Alex contends, is exploited by his very own labor and livelihood which, instead of affording him the leisure and happiness that all free men aspire for and strive to attain, paradoxically take away fr…

The Week

There are days that have the ability to teach you lessons. Most of them are difficult. Naturally.

What you see is not necessarily what other people see. But you have to defend what you see. Otherwise why say anything? And as long as you are a just person, you shall not be very far from the truth. The unjust most of time are correct because they use reason wrongly for their ends. So I say give it to them. Plato says that "he who commits injustice is ever more wretched that he who suffers it." Higher than man's injustices is what the Greeks saw as cosmic justice, ever measuring the bounds of everything, keeping all things together, still, in balance.

That no matter how confident you are, you will still make mistakes. And while common sense tells you to go back and retrace yourself to find out where you made the wrong turn, the challenge is to keep on going at the risk of getting all the more lost. Because sometimes there is just not enough time to go back. "There is …