Saturday, August 1, 2015

Explanations of Society

All “rational explanations” of society assume, and it’s an extremely dangerous assumption, that a reasonable argument might have any effect or impact on our society and this is, at least so I believe, the underlying fallacy of every social explanation. Since the dawn of history, societies have never been ruled by positive reason or by reasonable argumentations, but either by violence or deceit in various forms and disguise. In all documented human history there has never been any different society than that, and all those very few or small attemps to build a different way of cohabitation among humans have been crashed directly or indirectly by violence and ideology. At a certain point we should recognize and accept that the problem is in the fundamental settings of organized societies as we know them, but that’s something that nor reason nor violence can change, only real knowledge could help. The catastrophe that we are building for our species is, probably, just a consequence of this destructive pattern that our species has taken when the first organized societies appeared, not longer than five or six thousand years ago, and this short span of time of a few thousand years, compared to the timeline of human evolution, is not even “a glimpse through an interstice caught”…

(Dr. Divago)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jean Améry, Intellettuale a Auschwitz.

Ci sono libri che hanno determinato le coscienze di un’epoca e libri che, invece, vengono rigettati perché condensano il senso delle trasformazioni storiche nella silloge dei dolori, lutti e tragedie che queste epoche hanno portato e ospitato nel loro manto. I libri più belli, quelli che lasciano davvero tracce, sono quelli difficili da leggere e ancor più difficili da scrivere perché costringono l’autore e, conseguentemente, il lettore, a percorrere strade impervie tracciate dalle spine di antichi dolori che la memoria rigetta e il cuore riporta sempre a galla. Sono ormai troppi i grandi pensatori dello scorso secolo la cui voce è ormai quasi inudibile tra i corridoi della cultura ufficiale pesantemente lastricati dall’incultura della nostra epoca e Jean Améry è, senza ombra di dubbio, uno tra i più importanti intellettuali del Novecento ed è, allo stesso tempo, uno di cui non si sente quasi più il nome, nonostante ci abbia lasciato, in pochi libri, un grande patrimonio di pensieri ancora da pensare. Jean Améry, al secolo Hans Mayer, sopravvissuto alla più colossale mostruosità della nostra epoca, all’età di 65 anni, terminerà poi da sé, similmente a Primo Levi, compagno di baracca ad Auschwitz, quella vita che l’incubo nazista non era riuscito a distruggere. Il libro Intellettuale ad Auschwitz è un testo denso che è tanto un’interrogazione filosofica quanto un’esperienza, anzi, è un testamento filosofico dell’esperienza del male e dell’ingiustizia esperiti in prima persona. È un libro che, a prima vista, sembra parli della tortura e della deportazione ma, in realtà, è un grido di stupore intellettuale in cui l’autore, allibito, chiede, attraverso la scrittura, di render conto dell’antico tradimento dell’uomo verso l’uomo. Améry non ha qui scritto un trattato di filosofia accademica, ma ha voluto interrogarsi e interrogare sul significato del dolore e della tortura e sull’indifferenza con cui un uomo può infliggere dolore e morte ad un altro. Améry descrive la scoperta di una realtà in cui si entra non appena si riceve il primo pugno sul viso: “il primo pugno cambia tutto”. Dal momento in cui si finisce tra le grinfie dell’aguzzino, ossia tra le mani di uno degli innumerevoli esecutori sempre pronti e proni a eseguire il volere dei pochi con la feluca o la corona sul capo, il mondo in cui si era vissuti diventa un altro mondo, una realtà le cui porte si spalancano, con clangore ferrigno, sulla brutalità e indifferenza degli uomini, un mondo troppo lontano da quei sogni che avevano avvolto l’intellettuale prima di venire incarcerato e torturato dalla Gestapo e dagli aguzzini di Auschwitz, in una descente aux enfers in cui il reale assume il ghigno della più contorta follia. La nostra è un’epoca indifferente all’ingiustizia e, proprio in questo suo tratto, si configura come un’epoca diretta alla distruzione. L’enigma della grande prova è, allora, quello di riuscire a intravedere tra le maglie della brutalità dei tempi e capire se il mondo vero sia quello dell’esecutore, del malvagio che impugna saldamente lo stiletto o la clava e si erge come ferale nemico del suo prossimo, o se la realtà autentica sia proprio l’esatto contrario di quanto la forza del male vuol provare ad imporre. Questa è una domanda che Améry affronta con tutta la serietà che questa merita, ma alla quale non riesce a fornire risposta alcuna perché sulle carni gli bruciavano ancora le ferite inferte, mentre qualcosa in lui testimoniava di un mondo che rigetta il carnefice attraverso il pensiero in cui si riconoscono solo gli uomini e non i mostri o le bestie che sanno infliggere solo dolore, tortura e morte.


(© 2015, Sergio Caldarella)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The invisible corruption of the human soul

                                                  

Tzu-kung, disciple of Confucius, after travelling to Ch’u in the south, came back by way of Chin. When he was passing through Han-yin he saw an old man who was engaged in irrigating his vegetable plots. The way this old man did it was to let himself down into the well-pit by footholes cut in the side and emerge clasping a pitcher which he carefully emptied into a channel, thus expending a great deal of energy with very small results.
   “There exists,” Tsu-Kung said to him, “a contrivance with which one can irrigate a hundred vegetable plots in a single day. Unlike what you are doing, it demands a very small expenditure of energy, but produces very great results. Would you not like me to tell you about it?” The gardener raised his head and gazed at Tsu-Kung. “What is it like?” he asked. “It is an instrument carved out of wood,” said Tsu-Kung, “heavy behind and light in front. It scoops up the water like a bale, as quickly as one drains a bath-tub. Its name is the well-sweep.” A look of indignation came into the gardener’s face. He laughed scornfully, saying, “I used to be told by my teacher that where there are cunning contrivances there will be cunning performances, and where there are cunning performances there will be cunning hearts. He in whose breast a cunning heart lies has blurred the pristine purity of his nature; he who has blurred the pristine purity of his nature has troubled the quiet of his soul, and with one who has troubled the quiet of his soul, Tao will not dwell. It is not that I do not know about this invention, but that I should be ashamed to use it.”

(Chuang Tzu)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Aspetti ebraici del Pater Noster



Uno studio sulle radici ebraiche della preghiera del Padre Nostro alla ricerca delle fonti dell'ebraicità dell'invocazione fondamentale del cristianesimo.

http://www.lulu.com/shop/sergio-caldarella/aspetti-ebraici-del-pater-noster/paperback/product-22105784.html

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Scientism, nihilism or horror vacui?

The rise of nihilism in contemporary society has been largely underestimated in virtue of a curious psychological blindness that seems to afflict modern man regarding his view of large part of the aspects of cultural, social and political life of his world. Kierkegaard or Nietzsche already pointed out this “stale” in the soul of modern man followed by eminent scholars such as Freud and Albert Schweitzer, Adorno, Marcuse, Horkheimer, Huxley or Fromm, just to mention few of the more relevant thinkers that warned us about this grim state of affairs. In the twenty-first century any discussion on this stale and numbness of contemporary spirit, seems to have been banned from the public view/discussion and, through subtle and deceitful means of schooling and ideological propaganda, it has been institutionalized and imposed on the globalized society as one of the ways of the desirable behavior for our time. As Aldous Huxley skillfully pointed out in his parody of our world, “Being dull is an absolute necessity; it vastly increases the ability to think rigidly and inflexibly”. The same Huxley, in a time when Nazi-fascism was on the rise, published Ends and means (Chatto & Windus, London 1937 – on his sixth impression in August 1941!) a lucid book that, if properly read and understood, could have made – with few other books – a huge difference in the events of the twenty-first century. But sadly, books and ideas take very little part in the public events of our time.

In the frame of the modern world, science moved, slowly, from naturalism into nihilism and the scientism proudly declared by many “scientists” is just one of the many forms of contemporary nihilism. Almost paradoxically it’s the Judeo-Christian layout in which science is rooted to bestow the intrinsic nihilism of which it is soaked in. Having erased any theological explanation from his world view, but being at the same time teleological oriented toward an end/purpose (τέλος), some modern scientists felt they just had to exchange the “divine” with “nothingness”, and substitute the spiritual cause of their predecessor with a material cause. For contemporary science, the choice has become then draconian and dualistic: if there is no deity then there is nothing, aut aut (it is not coincidental that dualism is another religious form of thinking). It was Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, in 1799, writing a letter to Fichte, to accuse him of nihilism and defining it as an “Absolutization of negation (Verabsolutierung der Negation)”. Since then, nihilism assumed so many different faces and dissolved in the main opinions of modernity: there is nihilism in the Enlightenment to which the nineteenth-century opposes Romanticism, but there is also nihilism in the contemporary capitalistic ideology that has turned the human being into a mere “carrier of interests” (from here derives the anti-ethical mantra of contemporary man: “what’s in it for me?”). This mainstream ideology transforms man itself into a means to an end – while every man is an end in itself. How easy is, in our society, to hear the statement: “For me, going to college is just a means to an end, a way to get a better job”, showing that even knowledge, another “end in itself”, has so easily been turned into a means to an end (there are many ways to argue that this is the greatest and unperceived catastrophe of our time).

Every division is also a conceptual distinction and that indicates how science has also roots in theology, starting from the Mazdean way of thinking in dualistic terms. It is with Aristotle, the great dualist, that the Pythagorean tendency to divide between substance, quantity, quality, here and there, up and down, said or non-said, become the habit and the norm for Western thinking: if it’s “a” cannot be “non-a” (although this formulation is a late one). The entire world becomes then matter of pre-predicamenta, predicament, and post-predicamenta. Before Aristotle conceptual boundaries were not so clear cut: Heraclitus made opposition and contradiction the core of reality, Parmenides admitted only an unmovable core of reality and the impossibility of nothingness, while Plato skillfully mediates between his predecessors. Aristotle indicates instead only the way of his categories and divisions: everything must be forced into some sort of classification, even the root of roots, The unmoved mover (πρῶτον κινοῦν ἀκίνητον, Metaphysics, Book 12 or Λ), basically crashing metaphysics into mechanicism. From there is all the way down to a lot of other cosmological principles even culminating in the contemporary theory of the Big Bang. It’s extraordinary to notice how ideas that appear to be so contemporary can have, instead, their conceptual roots in the cultural dawn of mankind.

In time, the divisions that science identifies have become more complex and sophisticated, but the basic method of science is still in the Aristotelian tendency to divide, i.e. the way of the West, because Eastern thinking evolved through very different patterns. Theological thinking, before Judeo-Christian religion, had different ways to look at an uncreated universe inhabited by many gods, demigods and all kind of divine and fairy creatures. Scientific thinking looks, instead, at a universe emptied of gods, but filled with atomic forces and dark cosmic energies. Hundred of years ago the inquisitor was claiming there was an Almighty, and he was His absolute servant on earth, today the inquisitor speaks the opposite language claiming there is no Almighty in the heavens and science is the only all-mighty power left. In ancient times the Almighty was the simplest explanation for everything; nowadays the simplest explanation is in the divisions of science that has been turned into the depositary of the “absolute truth” based on “facts” – as if truth is absolutely knowable and facts are not affected by interpretation. It’s strange how irrationalism can wear any coat that fits the human hubris of the historic moment. Because some men believe there is “nothing” above our skies (as if “nothing” could ever “be”) then they wish to put themselves into that vacuum, crowning man, once again, as Lord of the universe, an old idolatry for a new time. Hamlet would probably have answered: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.”

Sergio Caldarella 
(© 2015)


(Text of the lecture Scientism, nihilism or horror vacui?, given at the Association for the Advancement of Learning, Public Service Conference Center, Washington D.C.)