“Kafka’s Angel”

I came across this interesting essay, “Kafka’s Angel: The Distance of God in a Post-Traditional World,” in Janus Head.

In June 1914, Franz Kafka found himself overwhelmed by his life. Struggling person- ally, professionally, and artistically he sat one night to compose a story in his diary of a man confronted by the Divine. In this story, never published outside of his diary, Kafka sought to measure the distance between God and the individual in a post-traditional world. The result was the story of an aborted mystical experence in which Kafka defined the post-traditional existential experience in terms of failure. In so doing, Kafka also defined the post-modern existential condition in terms of the overwhelming distance the individual feels from God.

Read the whole thing here

There’s also a nice review of Kierkegaard’s Instant: On Beginnings

Awesome Parallels

While reading about Emilio de Cavalieri’s claim to be the first composer to have come up with the idea for what will later be called the opera (in his case, he is thought of as the first author of oratorio, which is, I suppose, just like the opera but for the church folk), I realized that if it is indeed the case, then the premiere of Cavalieri’s “opera” Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corpo in first weeks of February of 1600 at Oratorio de Filippini (adjacent to Santa Maria in Vallicella) in front of 35 cardinals would eerily coincide with the execution of Giordano Bruno on February 17, 1600 only 600 meter away on Campo de’ Fiori: birth of opera and death of Bruno.

I’m sure if I had a brain like Graham Harman’s, I would immediately find all sorts of awesome connections, provocative observations and projections of the future development of human race, but all I can come up with is: this is weird, innit? Continue reading

Monday Tune: Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno

Video of Handel’s 1707 oratorio from Festival de Beaune:


Le Triomphe du Temps et de la Vérité (Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno) fut composé en 1707 à Rome, lors du voyage de Haendel en Italie. Le livret de Pamphili oppose le Temps et la Vérité qui se disputent avec le Plaisir pour obtenir la soumission de la Beauté. Après moult atermoiements, la Beauté se détournera du “miroir trompeur” vers le “miroir du vrai” que lui tendent la Vérité et le Temps.

Pour le festival de Beaune, c’est Paul McCreesh qui dirige ses Gabrieli Consort & Players, l’ensemble sur instruments anciens qu’il a fondé en 1982. A leurs côtés Rebecca Bottone interprète la Beauté, Roman Colettt est le Temps, Renata Pokupic le Plaisir et Romina Basso la Vérité.

Revolution of the Giving Hand

A friend reminded me of the Sloterdijk-centered controversy and I found a blog that collected all the related links. To recall, Sloterdijk published an editorial last year challenging the various aspects of the German “welfare state” titled “Die Revolution der gebenden Hand” and caused a number of German intellectuals to respond. Having just finished Sloterdijk’s Rage and Time (in English), I have to say that I find his provocateur style to be slightly annoying, but this is still a rather important issue – I wonder if there could be as serious of a discussion of these issues in the US, instead of stupefying coverage of the supposedly mass rage at the government and taxation exemplified by “Tea Party” folks?

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 10.

This is a summary of the final chapter of the Essay, although the chapter is fairly short and hardly requires summarizing, so in addition to the summary, I think it would be fair to say a few words about the book as a whole.

The chapter discusses in a somewhat disjoined manner two topics: the question of the I and the issue of Maimon’s own position vis-a-vis materialism, idealism and dualism.

The section dedicated to “the I” presents a rather Kantian discussion of the basic difficulty of thinking the I – to put it bluntly (and simply): how can I think about the I if this very I is what does the thinking? Surely, I can think about thinking, but if the I is the ground of thinking (“a condition of all intuitions and concepts”), then my attempt to get at it is likely to fail since what I perceive/synthesize when I think about the I is already at work while I do what I do. To put it in Maimon’s terms, “as a result, it [the I, das Ich] can be thought as an object in general, but we do not have any cognition of it as a determined object (just because it is common to all objects).” [85/155-56] As Maimon illustrates this point, I can think of the I as a substance, but there is no way for me to have a cognition of the I as a substance because I have no intuition to subsume under it. Continue reading

Maimon Reading Group: Chapter 9 – Truth, Subjective, Objective, Logical, Metaphysical

Another fairly brief chapter but again very rich. Maimon’s aim is to distinguish and clarify various ways in which the word ‘truth’ can be used (the chapter’s title lists these) as well as to reflect on the objectivity of the forms of thought delineated in the Essay, all the time continuing certain broadly Kantian observations whilst entertaining certain criticisms of the Kantian project.

The chapter opens by defining truth not as a property of thoughts but of signs (Zeichen) and expressions (Ausdrücke) in relation to thoughts. Thus the expression ‘a right angled triangle’ is a true concept because through it a triangle can be thought as determinable and being-right-angled can be thought as a determination and the two then ‘taken together’ (zusammengenommen – see Chapter 7), the necessary connection of subject and predicate becoming visible. A false concept is one which “is taken to refer to something (a thought unity) that it cannot refer to” (80). A third possibility exists, of a concept which is neither true nor false, e.g. ‘a black triangle’ where thinking black does not lead automatically to the thought of a triangle; the one can be thought without the other and in fact nothing (or very little) is thought in such an expression. Continue reading