The NEW Philosoflicks 6: Appearing, Disappearing, and Reappearing — Visual Philosophizing With Hannah Arendt, Part 2.
The OLD Philosoflicks was a series of seven experimental works in philosophy that were published online in the edgy, radical philosophy blog Against Professional Philosophy between July 2015 and May 2016:
Philosoflicks 1: You Are Not a Machine!
Philosoflicks 2, Installment 1: Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, Preface & Letters I-IV.
Philosoflicks 2, Installment 2: Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, Volume 1, Chapter 1.
Philosoflicks 3: On the Metaphysics of Puppets.
Philosoflicks 4: The Vienna Circle Meets The Hollow Men Meets Flitcraft Meets Us.
Philosoflicks 5: caesargodkantgoldman.
Philosoflicks 6: Thoughtless Images, aka Guns R Us.
OK. So what’s a “philosoflick”?
Here’s what the author of The OLD Philosoflicks said —
In “Let’s Make More Movies,” the epistemological anarchist Paul Feyerabend wrote this:
The separation of subjects that is such a pronounced characteristic of modern philosophy is … not altogether undesirable. It is a step on the way to a more satisfactory type of myth. What is needed to proceed further is not the return to harmony and stability as too many critics of the status quo, Marxists included, seem to think, but a form of life in which the constituents of older myths — theories, books, images, emotions, sounds, institutions — enter as interacting but antagonistic elements. Brecht’s theatre was an attempt to create such a form of life. He did not entirely succeed. I suggest we try movies instead. (P. Feyerabend, “Let’s Make more Movies,” in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, Ch. J. Bontempo and S. J. Odell (eds), McGraw-Hill: New York 1975, pp. 201–210.)
By cine-phenomenology, I mean the direct expression of philosophical ideas in cinematic, visual terms, from a first-person point of view.
Intertitles are printed texts inserted into (especially silent) films in order to convey dialogue, descriptions, or expository material directly relevant to but not necessarily covered by the filmed material, e.g.,
And montage is the cinematic technique, discovered by Sergei Eisenstein, of combining, juxtaposing, ordering, and sequencing (more generally, synthesizing) visual images for the production of various kinds of aesthetic and emotional effect.
A philosoflick is an experiment in visual philosophy, blending text and images–employing cine-phenomenology, intertitles, and montage–inspired by Feyerabend and Eisenstein, by Chris Marker’s La Jetée, and by W.G. Sebald’s pictorial novels.
I think that The OLD Philosoflicks were very cool; but I also think that their author barely scratched the surface of what can done with this experiment in visual philosophy.
So that’s why I’ve undertaken a new series of philosoflicks here on Medium — hence The NEW Philosoflicks.
The first in that series was about Nietzsche’s critique of metaphysics, the nature of reality, and the profundity of movies, Nietzsche Does Hollywood.
The second was about human unhappiness, poetic empathy, and the minds, lives, and deaths of non-human animals, Death of Hedgehog.
The third was about our own lives and deaths, What Makes Life Worth Dying For?
The fourth was about what, if anything, might transcend rational human existence, and what we should be doing about it, Pascal Does Vegas.
The fifth, Appearing, by Snaut, was the first in a tetralogy that visuo-philosophically explores themes in the work of Hannah Arendt.
And this one, the sixth, also by Snaut, is the second installment in that tetralogy.
Part 2: POSTSCRIPT TO PART 1
I’m sorry. I have to come back to a point. In the text. Please take a step back. Go back to a point in the text quoted earlier. The point is a line. In German.
An important line glowing and glittering in the darkness evoked earlier.
Do you remember the darkness in that room? You say you were not aware then of its alleged glittering?
No. No Geistesblitz, scintillation or brain wave illuminating the dark for a second. Just a second.
Rather, the constant and imperceptible accumulation of dust in the four corners of the room. The process of accumulation itself is imperceptible for you and me because the slowness of the dust’s motion is too great to be captured by the machinery of our sense organs.
Slow motion. We’re not giants. We’re not able to follow the process.
Hence our surprise or rather, our shock, when we come to see the result, the glittering dark.
The dust falls ever so gently and slowly through the human mind as snow falls from the skies of centuries.
Dust gleaming in the very room by means of which you imagined your “inner self,” gave a form to it, equivocal but not vague, to that self, the room you metaphorically call your “Self,” perhaps even with a capital “S.”
– I’m afraid we have to go back to and re-enter that room for a little while. Just for a little while.
I do not know how it happened. It must have been due to moving along too smoothly. You know what I mean. Moving by scrolling over the text’s surface, rolling along over and over that shiny screen by that coordinated, movement of your eye and your index finger, without ever moving back. Eye and index finger are accomplices. Riding down and down the moving text.
So here we are again.
Just you and I. As I said. I am quoting from myself. Or am I quoting from you? I do not know. In that dark you and I become indistinguishable from each other. By conjunction or disjunction. Choose your favorite operator. You and I. Who can tell in the dark? And there’s a reason why you cannot tell. It’s in the text. I will tell you that reason in a little while. While we are both back in the darkness. Back to back or face to face. One of us said:
“You are a plurality. At least you are ‘two-in-one’ (Arendt, Apologie des Sokrates, p. 59). Maybe you are becoming me. Or I am becoming you. Maybe both.”
And here is why. Why it doesn’t seem to make any difference…
As I said, the point is a line. An important line I went over too quickly. Worse. It is much worse. It is a line I omitted. So I quoted this line:
“Doch kann das Selbst, mit dem ich in der Einsamkeit allein bin, niemals dieselbe klar umrissene und einzigartige Form annehmen, welche alle anderen Menschen für mich haben; es bleibt vielmehr stets veränderlich und ein wenig ambivalent.” (Hannah Arendt, Apologie des Sokrates, pp.60–61.)
Then I stopped. I wish I hadn’t, since the very next line tells you why. Why you are two-in-one. Why I may be you, or you may be me:
“Und in dieser Form von Veränderlichkeit und Ambivalenz repräsentiert das Selbst für mich, wenn ich allein bin, alle Menschen, die Menschlichkeit aller Menschen.” (Ibid.)
Alone, with you, as with me, as talking to me as to you, I am talking to every possible person there is or can be on earth, or rather, in the world, the place I was supposed to talk about in the next part of the text, instead of taking a step back.
I do not want to disrupt the text; rather, I’d like to see its dissolution. Dissolving the text, dissolving into the text: I am becoming the text. I reappear in the text.
My body becomes the body of the text, it is no longer made of flesh, blood and bones, but of black letters, characters combining like strings of a strange DNA I do not understand, and do not need to understand.
I am just the messenger, not the message. The messenger does not need to understand the message.
“DER SINN DES BOTEN IST DIE BOTSCHAFT.”
“Denn die Organismen dienen der Übermittlung — und nicht umgekehrt; wenn man von der Übermittlungsprozedur der Evolution absieht, bedeuten die Organismen nichts, sind sie sinnlos wie ein Buch ohne Leser.” (Stanislaw Lem, Also sprach Golem, p.49.)
I do not like the idea of being senseless, meaningless. Read me. Look into my black, pupil-less eyes when you are going over the single parts of my dissected body. Recombine them. Arrange them into a text. Make it mean something, make my body meaningful. The body I am not able to understand. Read the message, if there is one. What do I mean? Tell me. Please.
Make the crucial point again. Note:
If the Self in that dark virtually is any possible person you can be talking to, when no one else is around, then of course, you need not wonder why you appear to yourself only in a blurred, fuzzy way, if you take “blurred” as the visual equivalent of “equivocal.”
Just talking to yourself as to a possible person is not sufficient to make you appear as the person you actually are. — The very person that does not give, but rather is the answer to the question:
WHO ARE YOU?
The answer to that question cannot be given by the person as she is talking to herself but only by her as she is talking to and acting under the eyes of her fellow humans: The answer is given to them, not to her.
It is crucial, however, that the person is talking to herself as to another possible person, since it is only by scrutinizing all possible facets of a person — the person as murderer, mother, lover, teacher, friend,… — that her views of what to expect of other persons are actually shaped. These views only emerge in her soliloquy, although properly speaking, talking privately to yourself is not a monologue, but a dialogue: you to yourself.
Here is something else to note:
THERE IS NO MONOLOGUE
in the sense that a person is talking to nobody, adressing nobody. I love this idea. It is very consoling.
Even if you are deprived of any human company, you are still in the company of yourself, that is, of another possible person, of all possible persons…
No more omissions! The text I was quoting earlier continues like this:
“Was ich von anderen Menschen erwarte — und diese Erwartung geht allen konkreten Erfahrungen voraus und überlebt sie alle –, ist weitgehend bestimmt von den stets veränderlichen Möglichkeiten des Selbst, mit welchem ich zusammenlebe.” (Arendt, Apologie des Sokrates, pp.60–61.)
You can talk to yourself as to another person.
But there are rules. There have to be rules. At least one. Rules are normative of course, do not ask me how normativity makes it appearance in this world.
Don’t you see the dark question mark in the guise of my face?
Anyway, speaking of rules, here is one that should govern your multifarious conversations with yourself. In fact, it is a basic law of logic, the law of noncontradiction.
├ ¬(A & ¬A)
It’s very simple. Something cannot be and not be the case, just as a proposition refering to or expressing a state of affairs cannot be both truth and false. — Of course not, you might say. You are not crazy. No one completely out of his or her mind would doubt that.
But what does a basic law of logic has to do with your private conversations with yourself? Can’t you just say whatever you want to yourself? That you are tired of plowing through this text which, as I gently remind you, has become my body, the body of the text is my body, so what? you say, you want to smoothly scroll down, not plowing through any one’s body.
Aren’t you tired? You are not. You are and you are not at one and the same time. Still, you do not need to contradict yourself by saying that. You could be tired of it in one respect (it is too long, too boring, the body of the text, the text body, is not very attractive), but still interested in it in another (you like surfing on the surfaces of texts, and the surface of this one is good for scrolling through it quickly, so why not ride it a little longer?)
Aren’t you afraid of contradicting yourself? — You are able to contradict yourself, you know that, and you are able just because you are split up, you are at least two, one being the proxy of the other, and why should the one not contradict the other?
“Die Angst vor dem Widerspruch gehört zur Aufspaltung, gehört dazu, dass man nicht länger eins mit sich ist, und aus diesem Grund konnte der Satz vom Widerspruch die fundamentale Regel des Denkens werden.” (Arendt, Apologie des Sokrates, p.57.)
DO NOT CONTRADICT YOURSELF.
By contradicting yourself you are violating a basic law of logic. But there is more.
People who contradict themselves are unreliable. You cannot trust them, can you?, if they do not even agree with themselves.
If there is anything like a minimal, basic criterion of rational behavior, then it should be this:
A person behaves in a minimally rational way if she is not contradicting herself in her words or actions.
That is, not contradicting oneself is sufficient for behaving in a minimally rational way.
– Of course, the specification “in words or actions” is not redundant only if you do not conceive of talking as a kind of acting.
There are speech acts, of course. Not every utterance, however, is a speech act by itself. –
But wait a minute, you might say and abruptly stop scrolling.
Isn’t it unfair to scorn someone for contradicting “himself”, if this SELF, this PERSON, as you repeated over and over again, is not one, but at least two, up to “all possible persons”?
If I am potentially all possible persons, what should it mean that I am contradicting myself?
If “I” and “myself” are not the same? but different? Different aspects, different possibilities?
And by the way, does the same criterion also apply to texts as it does to persons?
Since you are just a text, as you never get tired of stressing, then why care?
The text is not its own author. So the text is not responsible for its content, its body.
The problem with your answer is this: You are only — potentially! — many, namely if you talk — and just talk — to yourself as to another person; but you are — actually! — only one, namely in the very moment you start talking to another person, a real one, by using your voice.
Note that you have only one voice, although you contain the possibilities of all persons.
“Denn es ist ja das Gespräch mit den anderen, das mich aus dem aufspaltenden Gespräch mit mir selbst herausreißt und mich wieder zu Einem macht — zu einem einzigen, einzigartigen Menschen, der nur mit einer Stimme spricht und von allen als ein einziger Mensch erkannt wird.” (Arendt, Sokrates. Apologie der Pluralität, 2016, p.57.)
If you talk to yourself, you are two. If you talk to another, real person, then you are one.
That’s what I wanted to add. Now go ahead. Scroll. Scroll down. Over my body, caress the body of the text with both your eye and your index finger. We’re accomplices.
Maybe we’ll see each other again. In that place we call
The NEW Philosoflicks is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.