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By FLÁVIO R. KOTHE*

It is necessary to abandon the pretense of encompassing everything with one, four or ten categories of knowledge

For Plato, Aristotle or Vitruvius, slavery was not a problem but a solution that no sane and honest person should question. The boss should not treat the slave too badly, so as not to provoke revenge, nor too well, to the point that he wants to equal himself to the owner. It was, therefore, pious, honest and decorous to own slaves, to trade people. For Roman Law, the slave was equivalent to a mule and could, therefore, be flogged and even killed by the owner without penalty. Plato admitted enslaving people defeated in wars.

The art that served to exalt the greatness of the masters and show the baseness of the slaves was there within the standards of “veritas aesthetic logic”. This can be seen in Aristophanes and Plautus, as well as in Homer and Plato. Christianity opposed the thesis that all humans would have a soul, but it knew how to live with slavery for centuries, including enshrining it as divine will (based on the supposed curse of Noah). Baudelaire did, however, in the poem about “The race of Cain”, the inversion of the biblical discourse. When talking about ancient slavery, it seems that the problem does not affect us: our “correct” does not see the wage earner, the unemployed and those who live on odd jobs as modern slaves, cheaper than the ancient ones. We don't worry about what bothers us.

If there was no moral problem in admitting slavery as a social institution, there would be no problem in art being subservient and used to legitimize and auratize domination. That was "normal". At Poetics, Aristotle guarantees that the division of genders into high and low depended on whether the characters were of aristocratic or low origin. The poetics of genres internalized slavery. She did not admit a noble in ridiculous postures, although she had the example of Ajax falling, when disputing Achilles' weapons with Ulysses (no soldier could enter the dispute), in the dung of oxen sacrificed the day before, or a character of low social extraction having heroic profile. At Iliad, the soldier Thersites dares to present the soldiers' demands and complaints in the assembly. The “union leader” is presented as deformed and ridiculous. Homer's outlook was aristocratic, not democratic.

Kant's four definitions of the beautiful and the four of the sublime respond to the dictates of the table of categories, which he adopted without question: quality, quantity, manner, and purpose. If there had been ten in Aristotle, seven in the logic of Port Royal and four in Kant's time, today they seem reduced to just one, quantity, which means, in practice, that the work seems to be worth what it costs. The problem is that the work is the same when it is worth millions of dollars and when it is worth practically nothing. Therefore, quantity does not solve the problem of the quality of the work (a notion that needs to be recovered in the different senses proposed by Aristotle).

As important as the purpose is the origin, as it is not the same inside out, the other end of the skein: as an origin it defines what will result from it. When it appears in Heidegger, in the essay The origin of the artwork, to put it mildly: the origin of the work of art is the artist, just as the work of art makes him an artist. The two exist alone in the world, there is no receiver, no mediator, no action of power in the validation and circulation of works. One follows the other, one sees the back of the other's neck, with the pretense of, turning in hermeneutical circles, discerning what would be in between: artisticity. In this approach there is no history, social organization, politics, ideological struggle, although they are decisive vectors in the authors' survival. The ghost of art cannot be exorcised. He is a mystery only hinted at. So dances this tribe.

to speak of poetry (the dense, high-pitched composition), although Heidegger could have appealed to Homer or Horace, he preferred German-speaking poets: Hölderlin, Trakl, George, Rilke. Petrarca, Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Mandelstam, Fernando Pessoa are discarded. The outcome of the reflection depends on the factors taken into account. You don't get the same results with different vectors. He does not see a problem with Hölderlin dying of nostalgia for the Greek gods, he does not oppose the aristocratic spirit of Rilke with the popular spirit of Brecht, the evanescent spirit of Mallarmé as opposed to that of Trakl. Hegel thought that poetry would be the highest art genre because it was more universally accessible: he did not take into account that it depends on the language in which it was written.

Em Time and time, Heidegger claims to have carried out the analysis of To be there, without accepting that it would be a philosophical anthropology marked by the tensions of the Weimar Republic. Without this clarity, it blurs the political vision, confuses the atmosphere of the country with the “universal way of the human”. By emphasizing ontological supremacy, it loses the notion of the ontic mark. Disciples who confuse ontology with what Europeans said also lose it.

Plato did not deconstruct the philosopher's pretense of "universality" by making him ambitious for power, to the point of denying the evidence that puppeteers and slaves had already left the cave before him, either to copy external models or to look for firewood to feed. the bonfire or food for the tied lords. There is not the slightest gratitude for the slave effort, there is no thought of remunerating their work. Plato was a member of the Athenian slaveholding aristocracy and, although he showed the patrician class trapped in accommodation, he could not admit that slaves and artisans could claim to think for themselves and govern. He would not be a workers' party voter, although he detested tyrants. The writer went further than the ideologue, by making it clear that slaves and artists had left the cave beforehand: this, however, did not enter into the thinker's argumentation. One can understand that the philosophers would be deceiving there by claiming to know more and by proposing the sun as the center of the universe.

What seems to be the distinction between holder of truth and dominated by appearance is only an appearance of truth: the sun is not the center of the universe, a criterion proposed to counteract episteme e doxa. Since only members of the aristocracy could become “philosophers” there, it was a question of an aristocratic ideology rather than philosophy. They could come to power because they were already in power. When they came to power through “merit”, they would try to stay in power. The common good would be dictated by them in the sense of “my goods”. Neoplatonism did not see this. He was an ideological deviant, who did not want to make the relevant criticism. The US university system reserves the best education for the plutocracy. The prestige of the “great universities” is dictated by the interests of the oligarchy, although they do everything to prove that they deserve it.

For Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Vitruvius and so many ancient thinkers, it could not be a philosopher, military commander or ruler who came from outside the aristocracy. They thought slavery was normal, they believed that oligarchy had a divine origin. The lower social strata lacked schooling, medical care, and the chance of social ascension. With the educational reform introduced in Prussia by Frederick II – compulsory education, free boarding schools for talented young people, public universities – Germany became a power.

Kant was the son of a carpenter; Fichte was poor, he survived by giving lessons to the children of aristocrats; Hegel had to be a gymnasium director to support himself. Napoleon was of low social extraction and dominated Europe. There are great composers from poor backgrounds: Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt. Germany maintains free higher education to give equal opportunities to all.

Not needing to work and having time to devote to philosophy, art or politics makes life easier for those who make this type of choice, but it is not in itself a guarantee that they will produce well. You don't make serial geniuses. In The red and the black, Stendhal placed a Don Juan who had no aristocratic origin as the protagonist. Flaubert, in Madame Bovary, told the tragedy of a low-bourgeoisie woman who had an idealized image of the nobility; Zola narrated the conditions of the miners; Proust mocked the aristocracy.

In none of the repeated readings of Plato or Aristotle does Heidegger see a problem with being slaveholders or aristocrats. “Classical studies” were oligarchic. In this sense, his work reveals a right-wing tendency, which allowed him to sympathize with Nazism in 1933-34, although he later wrote anti-totalitarian texts, such as when he made freedom the essence of truth. Nietzsche, who was against socialist egalitarianism, only used the term “philosopher” ironically. As much as it differs in its schools, philosophy does not usually question its own assumptions. Literary theory, when reading it as a text, manages to capture ideological schemes underlying propositions.

What to do? In Brazil, there is almost no literary theory capable of questioning the ideological substrates of philosophy and literary canons. Among professional philosophers, there is almost no openness to what advanced literary theory would have to propose. Between two denials, the path to be taken outside the Literature and Philosophy courses is difficult: technicians from other areas are generally not able to understand the problem nor do they want to take the questioning forward. In this context, anyone who sets out to follow this pretentious path is an unfortunate adventurer.

Questioning metaphysical foundations has meant questioning the Christian view of the world, with its values, monuments, institutions, as it is what dominates ontotheology. It's a lot of mill for little Quixote. These structures are giants that control our way of perceiving, evaluating, judging. It is not enough to sum up the purposes attributed to art in different cultures and times. It is not enough to follow Heidegger and Hölderlin, it is necessary to face what these structures mean, in a way that is not usually accepted: without subservience to the assumptions and dictates of belief.

It also means not regretting that we are in a world abandoned by the Hellenic gods: if the Greeks idealized in the gods the physical type of the patriciate to the detriment of the slave races, if the “immortals” were anthropomorphic explanations for events in nature, to have rid ourselves of them is a progress of freedom and enlightenment. It remains today to get rid of the Christian gods in order to think with less prejudice. A modern deception is to take shelter in the mathematical illusion of the so-called exact sciences, assuming that with it they apprehend reality in a precise and complete way. In the whole and in the details, art demands more exactitude than science, it does not admit averages nor is it restricted to correction according to paradigms. The essence of art is not the lowest common denominator of works considered artistic in different times and cultures.

Inverting the question of the purpose of art, giving space to the origin is not enough. Taine wanted to explain the work through race, medium, and moment. The social, biographical or political origin does not explain the great work. Two seeds in the same place give rise to plants of different size and shape. The origin is a series of conditions: genius is one who goes far beyond the average. There is no sociology to explain it. It is not reducible to the purpose they want to attribute to it.

Brazilian students still do not learn Homer, Euripides, Shakespeare, Cervantes and other universal classics at school. They continue at the university without taking notice of them. Taking them as a reference and still seeing their ideological limitations does not lead to deference. Ignorance becomes arrogance, for which what it ignores is of no importance. The literary production that emerges beyond the horizon of the canon is not taken into account, it is not valued, as it is outside the substrate that was sown in the school.

It is necessary to abandon the pretense of encompassing everything with one, four or ten categories of knowledge. They only occur within the horizon of discourse, as if the truth were in the language and not the thing itself appearing. There is, however, a truth that goes beyond this truth: the occasional hint of the unknown, of the Sein as the truth of Being, to use Heidegger's terms.

Just as there is an unconscious in the subject, there is an unconscious in the thing, that which we do not know about it, and there are things of which we have not the slightest notion. There is no universe, there is no center, there is no absolute. There is no closed whole, which turns around in itself and is reducible to logical categories. Therefore, there can be no final word: there are only provisional suggestions. The Tupi-Guarani language indicates the tense of the thing with suffixes on the noun: so it is the thing itself that is modified, which is more logical than allocating the change in the verb, separate from the noun.

* Flavio R. Kothe is professor of aesthetics at the University of Brasilia. Author, among other books, of Culture semiotics essays (UnB).

 

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