Say yes, say no

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By FLÁVIO R. KOTHE*

Things exist, however, with some self or without any self, they do not depend on it

The authoritarian tradition excommunicated contradiction. It was considered proof of error, not a record of problems that still needed further thought. She wanted unity, obedience. Only at the end of the 18th century, when the great outbreak of the bourgeoisie and popular movements had already occurred, did the formulation of dialectics emerge with Fichte, but as a problem of logic: the self generates the non-self; the non-self generates the self.

These two statements, although one is the opposite of the other, would both be true. How could two statements that negate each other be both true? It would also be possible to say that both are not true. It would be possible to assume that the non-self exists before any self, but it could not be called a non-self if there were no self: it can only be called a non-self in terms of a self that founds it. This would mean that the self generates everything. Each self would be a god who created everything. This absolute idealism can be projected onto the figure of God or be the translation of God into the subject.

Things exist, however, with some self or without any self, they do not depend on it. They existed before man and will continue to exist after him. One only knows the non-self, however, as it begins to participate in the self. If there is no-self in the self, the unconscious is a formative part of the self. The self is made up of conscious and unconscious; the non-self is also formed by dimensions that we can know and others that remain unknown to us. For the self to know the non-self, it needs to internalize the non-self. There would, therefore, be a non-self in the self (which would be unconscious, or the unconscious).

Self-awareness would be the self becoming aware of oneself. If, however, this self would have an unconscious dimension in the cognizing subject, it would be expanded by the fact that there is also the dimension of what we do not know in the things that exist. Therefore, in addition to the subject's unconscious, we would have to admit the unconscious of things, in things. They do not exactly coincide with our objects of knowledge. These objects are not identical to things.

Schelling thought he would have the Absolute when the subjective and objective coincided. So there would be God, the self would be god. Undaunted mistake. The subject can even assume that what he imagines things to be, pretending to think, is identical to what exists inside him. Everything transcends: there is no absolute, something separate from everything. A self that intends to position itself as a counterpart to everything that exists is an illogical megalomania.

Schelling had not questioned the central concept of philosophy, truth. He continued to think that it would be, more than coincidence, the equivalence of the subjective with the objective. He did not know that this scholastic concept of truth was false. What is in the mind may be objective for the subject, but it is only “objective” in the subjective dimension. It may have little to do with the things that exist. A man told me that he believed in life after death: I replied that for me it was only true that he believed in it. The belief was real, but it did not make what was the object of the belief real.

Passing through the opposite thesis allows the postulated thesis to be tested. We only have a notion of the antithetical, however, when in addition to the thetic we have a certain notion of what surpasses each of them and both together. There is a need for a space of freedom that transcends them. This space is not, however, just the dispute between the thetic and the antithetical, each wanting to be right about the other. The synthetic is not a mere junction or sum, but transcendence.

Nietzsche stated that the very definition of truth (as adequacy: of ad aequum, X = Y) is false. He therefore formulated an antithesis to the dominant thesis, causing it to be seen as just a thesis, something thetic. What he said may be true, but it was not a solution. Kant said that we tend to consider true that which corresponds to our will (Will) did not promote her as the owner of the truth. This also did not occur with its developments in Schopenhauer (the world as will and representation) or Freud (Wish, the desire for something, flattened will).

the notion of will to power, of will directed towards power, seemed to Nietzsche in the 1880s to be a simplification, one resulting from contradictory forces, some conscious, others unconscious, but full of desires, frustrations, limitations, motivations. It would be necessary to break down the concept into its components, to realize that it is too imprecise to bring together what one wants to subsume in it. Emphasizing the will in the sense that it turns to power would mean having to open up to the foundations of the political issue (for example, the notion of equality).

Famous in Brazil has been the conception that, for Heidegger, truth would be a clearing (Helle). It is not even the truth of the forest, but an exception that allows us to glimpse aspects of it around, totally different from the clearing. A forest made of clearings is not a forest, but a wasteland. It may have been once, then it stopped being.

Heidegger himself emphasized, in the final part of his work, that the revealing of something is not just an unveiling, but contains a new veiling. The gesture of pointing to something, showing something, serves to divert the eyes from other aspects, which may be more relevant, but which you do not want to be seen. When the philosopher met with psychoanalysts in Zollinger, several basic questions were no longer raised.

Freud had already seen this in “saying yes, saying no”, in which agreeing to the reconstruction of a traumatic scene can, with a yes, serve to divert attention from what the actual scene would have been, just as an emphatic no could suggest who was saying yes. Other times, saying yes could be complemented with details, just as saying no, denying the reconstruction, could awaken the scene that would have actually occurred. Therefore, yes can mean yes or no, just as no can mean no or yes.

The issue is more complex, however, than opting for something thetic or something antithetical or seeing the thetic in the antithetical and the antithetical in the thetic. Does this choice between yes and no, day and night, resolve the question of truth, can it capture the nature of things? Saying no ends up not resolving the issue.

Heidegger tried to face it in several ways: he prayed in the temple of his oracle Hölderlin, he listened to pythons of hermetic poetry (Trakl, Rilke, Stephan George, etc.), he wrote hundreds of hermetic poems, he filled hundreds of pages on “Event”, other thousands of pages were stored in the black notebooks, made portentous essays. Can you say that you have arrived at a magical definition of truth? Is there a concept that brings together so much wandering? Where are the limits of your thinking, so that you can understand your “system”?

He wanted to examine the difference and connection between being and being (Sein), but he went on to write “Sein”, in whose spelling we have the insertion of an old y instead of i and even crossing out the term, as it is not adequate to what it should express. What entity is this? When does it appear and reveal itself? There may be an “event”, a Event, the occurrence of the appearance of something that transcends the entity in which it appears. It must generate a strange magical quartet: heaven – earth – gods – men.

Whoever procreates gods must be a god. What god is this? He can no longer be the Christian god, despite the thinker's Catholic training and origins. It is crossed out. It also can no longer be the Being of the metaphysical tradition, as then it would not need to be crossed out or written in an unusual way.

Kant observed that the human mind can only think in terms of finite things. Even though there is mathematical infinity as something that lies beyond our horizon, when we reach this beyond we discover that it is made up of finitudes. Aristotle, when talking about space, took as a model an amphora in which wine is placed: the liquid is circumscribed by what contains it, the amphora is circumscribed by the room, which is inside a house, which is on a street, which is in a city , which is in a region, a country, a planet and so on.

In short, the bigger thing needs to be surrounded by an even bigger thing. Every last thing becomes penultimate to the next that circumscribes it. Scholasticism “solved” this by pretending that there was “God” doing everything, and being the first and last of everything. We don't know the size of the cosmos, but when using this term we are talking about something organized, finite. Placing “outer spaces” will not solve this either: there is always the reduction to a “Being” being dictated by man. The concept of “size”, even counted in light years, would not be appropriate, as it is a distance between bodies. The notion of space derives from the perception of the distance between bodies, the movements that bring them closer and further apart. Distances generate the notion of space, but it is space that makes distances possible.

That "Sein” by Heidegger (which has been translated by Seer, when perhaps “Çer” could be more a symptom of the unknown) procreates gods as men, heavens and earths. For Kant, man's finite mind would not be able to understand infinity. God's infinite knowledge would be a mystery to man (but not to the Church). So “He” could only be characterized by non-being, by what “He” would not be. He would not reveal himself. Would be a "Atheos absconditus".

He could not exactly be a god, since gods show themselves to men. How can we complain that we live in an era without gods if these gods do not show themselves and cannot be confused with “influencers, cultural icons, famous”. Pantheism would not be a solution, as it would be the harbinger of the death of God in nature.

Should such a debate receive a decisive contribution from our philosophers? Probably not, because the existing translations of Heidegger are wrong in basic terms. How can we expect someone to go further if they haven't reached a broad and competent list of great thinkers? From courses such as Literature, Journalism, Arts and so on, it is unlikely that a precise intuition will come, a definition that takes a leap forward. We are not accustomed to the dense clash of abstract concepts. Does not matter. Thinking that sociology is enough to examine literature is myopia.

What happens in an aphorism or a haiku is the capture of an entity, a kind of striking of a flash in something, in which a transcendence is foreshadowed and enunciated, something that goes beyond that something. Then the guy starts hunting thousands of these flashes, as if he were a catcher of fireflies and fireflies. Even if he knows how to distinguish between light on the front or back of the animal, he will only be able to fill a jar with animals, condemning them to death, victims of scientific greed. Creating a private cemetery thinking it is enlightenment is a sweet illusion.

It is not enough to say to which species the entity in which we try to capture the difference belongs, the “Difference”, the division, the disjunction, the separation that hides below. The main problem is not the difference (different) proclaimed by Derrida instead of difference (difference), as if it would be a great solution to write with “a” what is usually written with “e”, or with “s” what normally comes with “ç”. Shifting the difference to spelling atrophies speech, as if it were less relevant, as if erudition were superior knowledge. Although the pronunciation is the same, there is a specific identity in each graphic version, which does not point to unity in speech.

Derrida's example is not a happy one. When talking about difference, an identity is presupposed. Even the “game of differences” that Saussure proposed as a solution for speech, with various types of phonemes, is only possible because each phoneme has an identity: it is what it is. If he is not your oppositional pair, he is not your antithetical. In the metaphor, the reader is faced with an entity as an initial unit, for something in which the author saw an identification with something else, a union of that which differentiates itself. How can something be right and be something else at the same time?

There is an identity in difference, whether written in one way or another: within it is what it intends to deny. Derrida thinking that Saussure's linguistics could be the key to this oppositional game of phonemes as differences was not realizing that there was already an identity in each phoneme, that there was an identity logic when proposing oppositional pairs. Derrida did not consider the research carried out by the Swiss linguist when searching for hidden words in Latin texts. However, it is not enough to search for ancient acrostics to believe that a new hermeneutical key has been arrived at.

When we differentiate ourselves from ourselves, our old face becomes a mask that we no longer wear. The penultimate one we use is the mortuary, before we get to the skull of being or not being, being or not being, living or not. It is quite easy to distinguish the entity from a scene reproduced in a short poem and point to a moral conclusion, just as we can start from a reflection and then arrive at its demonstration, its factual “showing”. It is difficult to “define” their conjunction.

The problem is that the very search for a definition that combines thousands of examples, of fulgurations captured with surgical verbal precision, ends up leading to an abstraction of concrete cases, in favor of a logical abstraction, like the “ideas” in the divine mind. Instead of going forward, we regress to medieval scholasticism. Of which we may not have a good idea, but we know well that it is only supported by belief and abdication of logic.

* Flavio R. Kothe is a retired full professor of aesthetics at the University of Brasília (UnB). Author, among other books, of Benjamin and Adorno: clashes (Attica). [https://amzn.to/3rv4JAs]


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