Thursday, August 02, 2007

Autonomy and Immediacy

There are a few words I need to say, and I'll be saying them poorly, so brace.

"... If rape or arson, poison, or the knife
Has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff
Of this drab canvas we accept as life—
It is because we are not bold enough!"
--Charles Baudelaire, from the preface of "The Flowers of Evil"


Nice, indeed. And just what everyone wants to hear. But you've got to admit -- it's amazingly shocking even after one hundred and sixty years, and that's something in itself. Was Baudelaire really a dandy?

We wanted boldness, and so we said, "Sapere aude," but of course we all understood something nice and tidy and civilized would be inherent in the boldness we wanted, or we'd put what we wanted (our "pleasant" touches) into or over all conceptions of boldness we'd choose to toy with, just as we'd sling a slip cover over any ugly couch...We'd put nicety in the form of an "academic" treatment over boldness even if every real indication we perceived ruled against just such nicety and tideity and civility in any real boldness we might find until any boldness we touched wouldn't be boldness and wouldn't even resemble boldness much after our work was done.

Kant had said that people failed to overthrow their self-incurred tutelage because of cowardice.

Kant also said this,

"..then nothingness(immorality) with gaping maw would drink the whole realm of (moral) beings like a drop of water." - as quoted in "The Dialectic of Enlightenment" on page 67.

which may be more comprehendable if I give the more complete DoE context of the quote,

" The theories are logical and hard while the moral philosophies are propagandistic and sentimental, even when rigorous in tone, or else the moral the moral philosophies are acts of violence performed in the awareness that morality is nondeducible, like Kant's recourse to treating moral forces as facts. His attempt to derive the duty of mutual respect from a law of reason, although more cautious than any other such undertaking in Western philosophy, has no support within the Critique. It is the usual endeavor of bourgeois thought to ground the respect without which civilization cannot exist on somethingother than material interest--an attempt more sublime and paradoxical than any that went before, but just as ephemeral. The citizen who renounced a profit out of the KKantian motive of respect for the mere form of the law would not be enlightened but superstitious-- a fool. The root of Kantian optimism, according to which moral actions are reasonable even when base ones are likely to prosper, is a horror of relapsing into barbarism. If--Kant writes in response to Haller--one of these great moral forces, reciprocal love and respect, were to collapse,"then nothingness(immorality) with gaping maw would drink the whole realm of (moral) beings like a drop of water." -- Embibed 'em, page 67.

I've ached to speak of Kant-Sade for the longest time, but I've held off...out of fear of boldness....the formulation of a Kant-Sade is just as savage as the Baudelaire I quoted above; hats off to Lacan ( and to Adorno and Horkheimer, who say what I take to be basically the same thing,) for performing that piece of wet work.

Have I ached to speak of my own sadism, perhaps stemming from the same source as Kant's -- some weird line where cowardice isn't perceived as cowardice, but as some absolutely necessary caution, prudence? No, I think not. But I'm going to take a stab at it now.

Kant's cowardice is evident in various places in his work.

The question I want to ask is whether or not there are some time(s) or place(s) where cowardice is transformed in such a way that it is warranted, and if so, where and when. Do we at these times and places, wherever and whenever, simply drop the ambitions to autonomy because at those crucial points the quest for autonomy is in dangerous and deadly opposition to civilization?

"No one must be hungry or cold. Anyone failing to comply goes to a concentration camp."- joke from Nazi Germany, quoted in DoE.

Or is cowardice never warranted, always in and of itself poisoning, the entry and beginning point of what makes any action despicable, horrible, barren, sad-passioned?


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