Monomania as Philosophy

(People who like “Monomania as Philosophy” will probably also like “Where Both Philosophy and Sex Went Wrong“)

René Descartes, tr. Clarke, Discourse on Method, Penguin, 1999.

René Descartes,tr. Ariew / Cress, Meditations, Hackett, 2006.

I was then in Germany, where I had been drafted because if the wars going on there, and as I was returning to the army from the emperor’s coronation, the arrival of winter delayed me in quarters where, finding no company to distract me and, luckily, having no cares or passions to trouble me, I used to spend the whole day alone in a room that was heated by a stove, where I had plenty of time to concentrate on my own thoughts…. DM p. 11

If this were the beginning of a short story, we would know what to expect next: cabin fever, dementia,  haunting by ghosts, murder, suicide, or hopeless insanity. And in fact, Descartes did experience quite considerable distress:.

As I consider these problems more carefully, I see so plainly that there are no definite signs by which to distinguish being awake from being asleep. As a result, I am becoming quite dizzy, and my dizziness nearly convinces me that I am asleep….. Yesterday’s meditation has thrown me in such doubts that I can no longer ignore them, yet I fail to see how they are to be resolved. It is as if I had suddenly fallen into a deep whirlpool; I am so tossed about that I can neither touch bottom with my foot, nor swim to the top. M 10/13 (more…)

Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where philosophy and sex both went wrong

Plato’s Phaedrus, tr. Hackforth, Library of Liberal Arts, 1952.

Plato, tr. Hamilton,The Symposium, Penguin, 1951

According to Plato philosophy is eros, but it is an entirely non-carnal eros which is not the desire for physical consummation, but instead the desire for the knowledge of abstract, invisible Ideal Forms. It was upon this lucus a non lucendo that Western philosophy was founded. Plato’s description of the carnal eros (from which philosophy developed in stages) hardly prettifies it — eros, after all, is the desire or need for a Beauty which is absent, and is not itself beautiful.

The obsessed lover is driven almost mad with desire, and must misperceive the beloved as a god:

[The lover] beholds a godlike face or bodily form that truly expresses beauty, first there comes to him a shuddering and a measure of that awe which the vision inspired, first there comes on him reverence as at the sight of a god ….with the passing of the shudder, a strange sweating and fever seizes him; by reason of the stream of beauty entering through his eyes comes a warmth…. [he] throbs with ferment in every part…. (Phaedrus pp. 96-7).

Lovers are broken and desperate, driven helplessly by their need:

Each of this is thus the broken tally of a man…. and each of us is perpetually in search of his corresponding tally (Symposium p. 62). (more…)

Published in: on December 7, 2013 at 2:31 am  Comments (5)