A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Thursday, 28 April 2016

...And Some Foreground

I am finishing my piece on Plato In Search of a Language without Particulars in the Timaeus, and anticipating, be it somewhere in the back of my mind in this very moment, the Western Coast Workshop in Flagstaff AZ, this time dedicated to Plato's Philebus, and perhaps some wandering in Grand Canyon afterwards.

In the meantime, it is budding Easter this Week.

PS: We had the honour and pleasure to host an artist and a philosopher today at UWO, Angela Melitopoulos and Maurizio Lazzarato, who collaborated and produced "Assemblages: Félix Guattari and Machinic Animism". Very interesting in both form and content, and a wonderful homage to the work of the French philosopher and psychoanalyst. I have great respect and sympathy for his critique of psychoanalysis (he was himself student of Lacan; consider his work Anti-Oedipus with Deleuze) but when it comes to experimenting with real people suffering from schizophrenia, who were left without medication for the sake of theoretical enhancements, I reach my limits. This is outrageous and a completely "white" experiment.

PPS: Turning the page to someone who deserves, as I see it, the title of a philosopher (for, it is a title), even if an artist: I co-organised a Tarkovsky screening with a student of mine. We watched the Mirror and chatted about Sculpting In Time, and in particular the time of remembering. There are a few people interested in culture in this part of the world I am in. One just needs to search for and find them. Finally some oxygen and feeling "at home" in London ON. I am European, after all, which I detected, interestingly, only after coming to North America.

Grand Canyon. One glimpse.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Terrence Malick 2016: From "To the Wonder" to the Wonder Itself, or, "The Knight of Cups"

Culture is indeed coming to this North American town: the new Terrence Malick is out and will be soon screened in London ON. Very patiently looking forward to it. I might go every evening I can and call it an Ontario festival of culture.

PS: The director refuses to give interviews. What is available to us is the work, as it should be. How nice it would be to chat with him not about his films, if he does not wish, but about Ryle and Wittgenstein and Heidegger. No pens or notes, nor recording devices but attentive perception.

(After the film, the first viewing
How can one write about the possibility of a new beginning in philosophy? How many philosophers have attempted to do so and what does it mean that someone succeeds in doing so? 
How can someone film a new beginning in one's life, a transition from one world to another? How should one narrate the time that has passed, and from which perspective, the one before or the one after the transition? By letting the time evolve as it did before the new beginning; and by reconstructing the chain, and the fated sequence of events as necessitating what followed? No. Malick narrates an entire dream sequence. We do not know from which perspective the dreamer narrates. And we will not find out at the end of the film which the new world is. What we have access to is the dreamer's praying and inner dialogue with God throughout his past life, the life before the new beginning. Admittedly this is too much for the elevated taste of many of us, some friends of mine are in haste to point out to me. No comment on this. Plato and Nietzsche are cited, and the new beginning evolves freely and not as necessitated. We will watch again and again this film and wait patiently for anything Malick wishes to offer us as a present, at any time he chooses to be the right time, holding our breath, when watching, so as to listen to the words and whispers. Of course, there will always be the ones who will complain that the actor was wearing Armani at the seashore, or that Malick is preaching...I really do not care. No need for chats, just works and gems.
Fragments, pieces of the film, after the second viewing
"Dear friend, I wonder where I was at that time."
"Dreams are nice, but you can't live them."
"So much I was given, so much I have behind."
"You can start over."
"Where will I meet you?"
"I loved my brother then."
"I died a different way."
I turned you upside down, my son."
"Fragments, pieces of a man.")

No PS: On another note, my debating class blew me away this term. I hear that the level of the students deteriorates, a judgment which I was not able to make compatible with what I experienced in this class. Was I extremely lucky then? There was not just a couple but really a good number of critically thinking young people, mostly very young people, very interesting and very interested at the same time. I was surprised to see how we could build on their philosophical debates, in contrast to political debates. After the first classes, a student of economics came to me, frustrated by what we were doing, especially after reading the confusing Lysis. And then he started explaining what we were doing, and I told him this is exactly the case and what should keep on being the case. More students of economics came to the office hours. They were the most perplexed, and also, interestingly, the most intrigued by our questioning our principles, utilitarianism, among others. 

As I was pondering, before the beginning of the course, which I should choose among our philosophical texts in order to formulate our debates, and was considering Marcuse's One-dimensional Man, I decided not to include it in the material, because this would bring us too far on the path of critical thinking. So I thought.
What happens in the last session as we were trying to ask the right questions with regard to the similarities between the film Matrix I and our situation (we had started the course by trying to ask the relevant questions about Plato's Cave)?! A lady raises her hand and formulates Marcuse's critique of mass culture, which I had been thinking to draw upon for our course!! We must become able to learn from this youth. When we raise high expectations, it shows us that they were not high enough.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

One Art

End of the academic year, as far as teaching is concerned. As the end of the term was approaching and after a couple of excellent conferences and while one gets ready to keep on writing, I was looking for some fresh air, some good culture, in this "desert of reality". The problem is that I do not have that much time to devote to reading literature, and, on top of it, I had not undertaken something cultural for a while. A good friend was reading passages from Βιζυηνός' Το τελευταῖον τῆς ζωῆς μου ταξίδιον to me, and I was listening this marvellous story with curiosity, a familiar guest in the language I was brought up to consider as my own. But his lines were not music to my ears: such a burden, such an attempt to elaborate on the language, wear it earrings and necklaces, many more than what I could bear. And then...I encountered, in a kind of serendipity, some verses written by Elizabeth Bishop. This was the music I was looking for without knowing it: an utter simplicity, which has given up on adornments, of all kinds. Music to my ears, oxygen for my soul and the break I enjoyed, without leaving London ON...One can celebrate the unpretentious work on the language:

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied.  It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.