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philosophy

Creative Pieces FILTERED RECOLLECTIONS - October 2018 Sybrand Veeger

To The Three Tuebingen Brothers

Written by Sybrand Veeger

Young philosophers and poets,

Romanticists and laureates:

Hegel, Holderlin, Schelling –

All boarded at the same dwelling.

 

Tuebingen: birthplace of this German school,

Housed the love for thought and God as World.

There the Spirit was wound up,

And charged up with philosophy’s jewel.

 

Before the romantic diamond was blasted

High into the Western firmament,

It was patiently polished by three friends,

Three brothers who looked through the same lens.

 

Our memory has been blurred somewhat,

By endless cynical tomes.

Let us do justice to this crazy lot

By listening to their polished tones:

 

Spirits and idealists,

Plaguing all their thought-lists,

Histories and dialectics,

Invading all our Geistes!

 

Hegel thought ideally,

Holderlin: poetically,

Schelling, the youngest madman:

Laughing stock of these boy-men.

 

Wisemen: human owls,

Obsessed with Grecian fouls,

“Philosophers of Nature”?

Transcendents of the Structure!

 

(Spinoza lived among them,

Both in thought and soul,

Forerunners of our Spirit,

– these Germans knew for sho!)

 

    -It’s Tuebingen! House of Genius!

 

Schelling und Zeit!

Was surely love at first sight:

– an expansive, contractive force,

Anti-hegelian with no remorse!

Schelling’s temporality,

Indeed lacked all possible linearity,

Question: Absolute Spirit?

Answer: No, Hegel, forget it!

 

Second boy, Hegel:

Napoleon, his World-Spirit,

No irony, his lyrics:

Too serious for satirists…

 

Third boy, Holderlin,

A true poet in his lyrics:

”Hyperion! The Greeks truly did it,

Philosophy, poetry, you name it!”

 

Holderlin willed no thought system;

He assigned verse to the Spirit’s voice:

“The poet’s vocation must be the combination

Of reason and energy, as musical expression”.

 

All these three combined,

Fused together are Divine:

They make up a human trinity

That deserves a space in memory:

 

Assign a corner of your soul

To this brotherhood’s legacy,

Hang a cross in your mind

As a reminder of their eternity.

MADNESS - July & August 2018 Sybrand Veeger

To Madness

Written by Sybrand Veeger

>

To Madness:

Just A Mad Ode:

A Merely Mad Mode?

Schizó, Psycho, Bi- : Political?

Yet, honest(l)y: is that its fundamental Property?

That one Uncle, occasionally Lyrical:

Flirts with Existence – never with Conformity.

>

Vibrant, just Because.

Its Intensity takes no Pause.

Recalcitrance or Equanimity,

Are those its hidden Cause?

>

The Madman within Me:

Compelling yet Cynical,

“Get Rid of it!” – They tell Mé,

– Never! It is to the Substance and I:

Umbilical!

>

A Reversal of the Logos,

Is that the Voice of God?

Profound and Superficial!

It’s a Ma(er)(s)k! It’s Official.

>

“Madness”: what’s that, anyways?

“Normality”, that’s Mad, – Always.

Suicidal – due to our Wa(y)ze.

Social-madness plagues the Highways.

>

Existence-and-existence,

Repeated with no Distance,

Schizó with no Resistance?

Society is his Resistance!

>

Then, does Madness not exist?

Is it like some sort of Mist?

Maybe Existence with a Twist?

Or a Twister: never, -Fixt!

>

Upon Reflection, I, Deduce,

Surely Mads-ness is my Muse,

Call me “Crazy” or “Obtuse”,

“Insanity”: Concept-misuse.

>

Anxiety and Depression:

Just any Youth’s Expression,

I fly Economy on Melancholy,

I fly First on a lick of Molly!

>

Flying, indeed Crucio,

Physically and spiritually,

Flying TitanicAir: a Nutshell,

Takes ticks of Self and Cruelty!

>

You think Hegel lived no Pain?

Or that Spinoza was a plain?

Great Spirits lovelive in Greatlie,

Please be Mad! Not only faintly.

>

Brandy Veeger,

14.07.2018,

FULLY Hope,

Infinity.

>

To Punctuation and Capitalization (another day at the Word:Lab):

“…c;O,m”- m!A.?.

ode to the Ode: anatomy of the Ode: meta-Ode

Keats: that great Preacher of the Ode.

Keats! that great Creature of the Ode.

Borges: why don’t you ode?

Nietzsche: that mad(denning) Death: also an Ode?

>

It describes and creates.

Is it bounded to a nutshell?

It is yet King of All Space!

Discovered: an Obsession!

Maddening and heavenly,

With great Intentionality:

The depths of my Affection.

>

Obsessed: a Discovery!

A strange Columbian Enterprise,

Philosophy in disguise?! Or Reason in the Skies?!

Nietzsche screams “Genealogy”!

Heidegger: Poiesis,

Look there! You see Homer?

He oded through Ulysses!

>

Maybe the Origin of Spirit,

With great Certainty its Future,

Timeless and ethereal,

(Modernity: its Butcher?)

>

The Soul in vocal Form,

The Form and Soul and Wrath,

…Before Plato was born,

The Song was dressed in Math!

The Rhythm and the Beat,

The tempo of my feet:

The Temple of Delight…

Silence…what a Fright!

>

An Ode throughout the World,

The World through in the Ode,

The Metronome of Joy:

Orchestrating. Whole.

>

Spinoza: Odal Geometry!

The recipe for Harmony:

A base of God or Nature,

Bring mind, bring soul to Structure.

A cup of strength and rigor.

Voila! Now Man is bigger!

>

Borges: He did ode.

The Maze indeed abode.

Reflections to Infinity,

In story and in poetry,

His essayistic whisper,

Containing all Eternity.

The Mirror and the Mirror,

Repeating my existence:

The echoes of my soul!

The great eternal Ode!

That is God! Ich bin Whole.

>

Dr. Brandy Reyes,

1272018,

FU11Y Hope-,

Infinity.

 
Floris van Dijk POLITICAL UTOPIAS - March 2018

Ambitio Sine Qua Non

Written by Floris van Dijk

I don’t think Schopenhauer was right in saying that desire is the source of all pain. Human ambition is not necessarily harmful. It just needs to be filtered to bring out the good, and avoid the evil.

Ambition can take countless distinct forms, but it has never been a major concern to conceptualize them. Historically, all forms were encompassed by the term ambition. In Latin, ‘ambitio’ is derived from the verb ‘ambire’, to strive. Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics claimed that there was no word in Greek that unambiguously represented the virtuous intensity of ambition. This lack of conceptual clarity perpetuated for centuries, as it remains vague usage that we know today.

The establishment of the feudal system in Europe was paired with a general critique of ambition. Ambition was taboo because human agency bred an impulse at odds with the infallibility of the natural order, the will of heaven. At a time in which identity and rank were determined by birth, ‘reaching for the stars’ was deemed immoral.

Even as late as 17th century France, ambition was defined as the “unruly passion for glory and fortune”, in contrast to piously seeking the reward of admission to heaven. The ideal citizen was eager to perfect subservience to the king and church.

This distinction, however, held only as long as clerics held the supreme power. The French Revolution, American Independence, and the victory of British free trade principles all gave way to a more liberal turn by the end of the 18th century. This brought the possibility of a larger part of the population claiming political and economic opportunities, and was accompanied by the redemption of ambition in language and literature.

As early as 1815, Benjamin Constant was one of many who believed that “ambition is compatible with a thousand generous qualities.” Today, the word ambition as a whole has a positive connotation across languages and cultures: most universities select ambitious students, recruiters search for ambitious applicants, parents want ambitious children.

Nevertheless, unanimity on the value of ambition has not been reached. Philosophy of the arts and architecture-professor Yehuda Safran wrote that “to have no ambition is perhaps the highest ideal.” The reasoning behind her belief is understandable: beyond the personal gains that the tranquility of the ambition-free mindset brings to an individual, the rejection of ambition can be considered beneficial to society, in that it dissolves a fundamental cause of systemic instability.

Photo by Faustin Tuyambaze

When looking at democratic political practice, ambition is indeed dangerous; it was the ambition of individual men that brought down the Republics of Rome, and Weimar. It was the ambition of individual politicians that caused the fragmentation of political parties in the French National Assembly during the interbellum, which caused years of governmental instability and ineffectiveness. It was the ambition of individual warlords, trying to reinforce their personal influence, that explains the death toll of 40 million during the Three Kingdoms period in China.

Ambition is a cause for political coups, a cause for rebellion, a cause for war. Thus, a world without ambition would be a utopia less likely to experience these threats. Yet, if humanity wasn’t moved by the powerful forces of hope, desire, and aspiration, what would the world look like?

It is unthinkable to achieve goals without ambition. So what we ought to do is not to indiscriminately suppress ambition as Schopenhauer would’ve advised, but treat the topic with a little more nuance.

Naturally, extreme forms of ambition can be destructive. This is common sense, but as I perceive it, ambition can have three different outcomes: preservation, creation, or appropriation. There are different expressions of ambition with different psychological and behavioral manifestations; respectively, the ambition to cultivate, the ambition to build, and the ambition to conquer.

The ambition to cultivate aims at preserving a capacity or skill; like keeping a particular ability strong, or maintaining an impeccable backyard. It’s best represented by the example of an athlete: he runs in order to maintain his health and to ensure his fitness over 20 years. Another intuitive example is the practice of a language, done with the sole goal of staying proficient. Not with the underlying goal of applying in the future for one specific job, but for the cultivation of personal knowledge.

The ambition to build seeks creation. It’s the motivation of the architect drawing up blueprints for an opera house with an incredibly imaginative design. In a way, it’s what causes the academic to forget himself in order to focus fully on his study of a subfield for 50 years, in order to contribute to the elaboration or refutation of theories. And of course, it belongs to the emotional core of artists, businessmen, and city mayors.

The ambition to conquer is, without doubt, the most spectacular. It’s this ambition that fuelled the establishment of the great ancient empires, the subjugation of almost the whole world by the European sea powers, and finally the initiation of the Imperialist and Fascist world wars. Essentially, the ambition to conquer seeks appropriation, colonization, annihilation. History books are full of it; many wars were directed by just a few men seeking prestige, while some were started by a nation seeking status. Such ambition is often presented in epics as both glorious and heroic, particularly those actions fueled by a desire for revenge.

Of course, actions are rarely motivated by only one of these forms of ambition. Hybrids of diverging intensities of one form or the others are the rule rather than the exception. Though the most common critique of ambition as a whole concerns this third kind. In a utopia, this form of ambition should no longer exist. It is simply too dangerous.

Most notably, the high-powered nature of the ambition to conquer is destructive at its core. A striking example is Paraguayan President Francisco Solano López. One of the major causes, if not the main cause, of the deadliest South American war was this man’s ambition. It led his small, technologically-inferior nation of half a million into an unwinnable war against an alliance with a combined population of 11 million. This “war of the Triple Alliance” led the Paraguayan population to be cut from 525,000 to 221,000, of which only 28,000 were men. The ambition to conquer has put unbearable sufferings on people across time and space.

Photo by Danka Peter

Numerous victories aren’t satisfactory for the conqueror, either. Success only feeds this ambition, creating a bottomless abyss, a self-produced addiction. After beating one enemy, you can’t wait to face the next. Pyrrhus couldn’t be satisfied by becoming king of Epirus; he next invaded southern Italy, and then Sicily, and then Macedon, and then the Peloponnese. Each new campaign meant the loss of prior winnings, and eventually the loss of everything else (including his life). Alexander the Great’s empire stretched from Macedonia all the way to Persia for a few years until it crumbled because he just couldn’t get enough. The leader trapped in the vicious circle of conquest resembles Sisyphus trying to roll a boulder up a hill.

A final warning, the ambition to conquer inevitably affects the individual’s relation to others. It’s the suspicion that friends stand in your path to success so you must drop those friendships holding you back from your potential. After all, as French surrealist and poet Phillipe Soupault said “the main enemy of friendship is ambition”. Famously, former French prime minister Edouard Balladur betrayed his close friend the former president Jacques Chirac, as he stood in his way in the race for the presidency. Examples of self-destructing ambition are numerous throughout history. Again, reference should be made to Alexander the Great. Not only did he lose the loyalty of the exhausted soldiers whom he fought alongside for a decade, but he also killed one of his dearest companions, Cleitus the Black. Supportive relationships can never be more than a means to an end for the conquest-driven soul.

Discussing ambition “in its essence” is impossible, since the word doesn’t have one single essence. Ambition is a neutral term, but we should not uncritically support all forms of ambition. We should hold on to our desire to build or cultivate while limiting our drive to conquer. To build the ideal society, humanity doesn’t have to abandon part of what makes it human, but instead learn to avoid the unsustainable and destructive form of the ambition conquer.

Jurek Wotzel POLITICAL UTOPIAS - March 2018

Good, Better, Impossible? – The Value of Dreaming of a Different World

Written by Jurek Wötzel, Head Writer

1516 was a pretty good year for visionaries because of the publication of a certain English novel, Thomas More’s “De optimo rei publicae statu deque nova insula Utopia”. Utopia for short.

Written at a time in which humanism still lay in its cradle, More’s book turned many long-standing assumptions on their heads, but, More was not the first to hypothesise a fictional society, this political idealism has its roots in ancient Greek. Plato outlined the ideal state in the Republic, followed by Aristotle in Politics, yet, it was More who gave this idealistic spirit a term: ou-topia, The non-place. Anglophones eventually gave it a new meaning: eu-topia, the good place. In everyday parlance, calling an argument utopian really means: “nice idea, but that is just unachievable”. It seems unlikely that More thought that England could turn into Utopia immediately after the book’s publication.Then we might wonder what it was that drove him to write this work. It is frustrating to find justification in immersing oneself in dreams about the optimal, if the optimal is illusionary, unfeasible, a mere thought-experiment.

The novel is centered around a dialogue between the fictional representation of More, and a sailor, Raphael Hythloday, who claims to have lived with the so-called ‘Utopians’ for a time. Recounting his life in Utopia, Raphael paints an antagonistic picture of the reality of 16th-century English life. Raphael shows Thomas how it could be different by explaining the structure of the Utopian society. There is no private property, everyone has access to healthcare, education is directed towards both mental and physical labor. Parts of it still seem utopian nowadays.

There is great value to be found in Thomas and Raphael’s conversations. Utopias bring us guidance. They make us aware of the imperfections of the present, and more so they make us aware of society’s problems. They give us a space in which we can open up a moral dialogue without overhanging ideologies of religion or the realism of science. An arena of argument that is absolutely crucial for societies to determine a desirable long-term path.

We should ask ourselves what it means to live a good life, and what role society plays in enabling us to do so. Discussing Utopias, our ideal societies, can provide that link between how societal conditions can help us enjoy our own lives and realize our social responsibilities, and it points to the ways in which current circumstances prevent us from doing this.

One example that provides food for utopian thought is automation. The striking developments in the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence promise a world of extreme productivity, in which no one has to do much work. Maybe it could be this which would allow us to be a fisher in the morning and a philosopher in the evening. It could be this that allows us to use our time to actually develop and enjoy all the capacities that make us human. However, this is only possible if progress is managed in an egalitarian fashion.

The framework of representative democracy makes it easy for us to lose sight of those goals that take longer than one government term. Voting behavior is bound to stay within the realms of that which is attainable in the short-term, and so are policies made to deliver in the short-term. If a government wants to be re-elected, the voter must feel the success of policies before the next elections. The public sphere marked by discourses of pragmatism, risk-avoidance, and reactionary attitudes plays in an endless cycle.

This is why we need to keep talking about utopias; why we need to keep bringing them back on the agenda. It’s revolutionaries that push the reformers, the minds of dreamers that change the minds of realists. It is the Raphaels whose messages inspire the Thomases. Of course, it is impossible to achieve Utopia if we immediately discard the good place as the impossible place. Even if we will never reach the absolutely good place, coming close to it will already be pretty great.

Yes, heavily subsidizing renewable energies may lead to temporary economic stagnation and market inefficiencies. Yes, reforming the democratic system to make make it more participatory and emancipatory is a disruptive process. And yes, gender or race-based affirmative action programs can foster temporary feelings of injustice. But the rewards for these measures are coming.

A fight that is given up before it’s fought cannot be won.

Healthy, reasonable debate about Utopias can help to take off our blinding short-term glasses. What we need is more Raphaels, and more Thomases that give them a voice. What we need is more ambition and creativity. What we need is more Utopianism.