“Could it be only Descartes’ fault?”
First we have the guilt problem, then the problem of the actuality and, finally, the comparative issue. I won’t take very long. A few words about each. First, the guilt. It was an interesting issue, although I didn’t know where the “dead dog” expression really came from. I was more like noticing several hilarious things. First of all, we take the “communist incrimination” step, and then we reach the good context just before World War II. From here, we take another step back to reach the other good context, the one before the revolution from October. We only need one more step back to go before the French Revolution which is responsible for all the evil, the Enlightenment, the modernity with its modern exaggeration, but we cannot really stop here. We can easily organize the incrimination of Descartes and his trial, this courageous philosopher and modernity’s basic sinner. Descartes, the first to teach us to think not with the authority of those who have it, but with the independence of our own mind. But could it be only Descartes’ fault? We can go even further. Plato’s trial is consumed, but between the two of them also stands St. Paul’s intrusion. Because we all intrude somehow, and we understand things filtered through our own spirit, be it Breban, Ianosi or Aron. But isn’t it what culture is all about? So if we really want to take the guilt back, to its origin, we will probably reach Cain. I believe all judgments should be suspended, at least from a moral point of view. And if it isn’t a moral judgment what we’re looking for, then we’re through with the question of guilt and we may move to the actualization process. I definitely reject the idea that the two protagonists of today’s reunion, Marx and Nietzsche, should be judged inside their separate, particular contexts. What’s very interesting is the following: do these writers and philosophers still have something to say, nowadays? What does Marx mean today? Well, why shouldn’t Marx have something to say? Marx is particularly actual for two reasons. Anyone who says his predictions didn’t come true, is totally wrong; probably because here we discuss only those that came true. One has definitely come true: “History has a lot more imagination than people”. It was reflected from our realization steps, even in the last fifteen years. First time as a tragedy, the second time as a practical joke. Beyond this fulguration, the serious and real part, the Capital theory and the end of the capitalism theory, they all deserve a sharper attention and understanding. As a matter of fact, any kind of speech related to Marx may create a certain discomfort, and not only today. I recall that, in the mid 80’s, I made a debate proposal at one general meeting of the party – I admit I was a party secretary – a debate entitled “Euro-communism and Contemporary Marxism”, which provoked serious trouble at the university center level. You see, the paradox is that Marx was considered subversive. He has been labeled as subversive since the end of the 70’s. All because inside him, there was a subversion seed, a romantic flavor that made him very interesting and attractive. Beyond the subversive wall, it is clear that some of his positive statements, like those from the Capital, should be somehow distantly and doubtfully perceived. Because, what does Marx do? Like Nietzsche, he also starts from being a romantic, but the difference between the two of them is similar to the difference between reason and imagination. In the spirit of his times, Marx takes his romanticism to a rationalized level, while Nietzsche chooses to strengthen his imagination. It is the real difference. After all, reason’s number one danger isn’t faith, but imagination. Now, in the Capital, we have the classic theory of industrial society developed, only that we do not live in the industrial society anymore. Thus, it seems that most of Marx’s writings, the entire theory of the plus-value which is, by the way, grounded on the false argument that value would spring from the effort of working and achieving a certain goal, when we are all aware of numerous cases in which people work hard and do not achieve anything glorious, therefore, these writings, as I was saying, have been constantly receiving critics from the entire economic Austrian school. I have raised myself many questions – as I work precisely in this field, like electronic economy – for instance: can we explain the actual virtual economy on the basis of post-Marxist accredited economical theories from the industrial society? No. Therefore, where can we find a comprehensive key to the understanding of what is going on today when we ended up earning money talking instead of working? Well, we found the answer inside Marx’s earlier works, among which The Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts, but mostly in a book written in 1857 and which remained practically unknown until 1932. It is said there, that it will soon be the time when the source of richness will change from work and property, to the general intellect. This model of united thinking among all people, seems possible from the perspective of the Internet infrastructure. I am convinced there are numerous well-articulated ideas to be found inside these texts, many of which ought to receive an improved attention. Therefore, I am grateful to Ion Ianosi and Nicolae Breban for their intrusion, that is having filtered the two thinkers, through their own spirit. Furthermore, the simple selection of quotes resembles to the links made among intertwined documents on the Internet. It is the very result of such books. Thank you very much, I am so very grateful.
Andrei Ionescu: I wish to salute this most inciting initiative, occurring in a somehow unfit moment. The presiding spirits, represented by the authors of these dense anthologies, show us there is a perennial actuality of these men (Marx and Nietzsche) and their efforts of looking for the truth. They are radical spirits, Nietzsche embodies the poet, Marx springs from romanticism also, but with a scientific influence and an objective language. What they both correspond to, is that definition of the uncomfortable intellectual, who is asked to remain silent when he speaks and to speak when he remains silent, the kind of intellectual from whom are expected final solutions and miraculous solving of all problems. This is how their strength makes them vulnerable, as in easy to manipulate by pragmatic people. I am convinced of the futility of manipulative opportunities and that the spirit of two great personalities of thought and expression is more than welcome into actuality, throughout the present initiative that I salute and thank you for.
“A liberal mentality is dominant”
Adrian-Paul Iliescu: I find Nicolae Breban’s remark particularly just regarding the observation that such a theme should have produced an explosion of interest, although I can easily provide an explanation for this matter. It didn’t raise people’s interest because there is a dominant liberal mentality, which isn’t quite the reflection of the authenticity of liberal debates on modern ideas, but rather the reflection of a liberal political correctness. And from this liberal political point of view, of course both Nietzsche and Marx are undesirable. This seems to be part of an even larger paradox, and this is exactly what I desire to stress out: that the contemporary liberalism owns big time to both Marx and Nietzsche. The same contemporary liberalism has taken over, even without admitting, Nietzsche’s critique of the general wellness utopia. Even today, numerous liberal thinkers disapprove with the idea of a society based on general wellness, only reinterpreting the basic themes from Nietzsche. From where, of course, the idea of an individual wellness pursued by each member of the modern world, while the general wellness remains to be nothing but the sum of individual happiness. From Marx directly, the contemporary individualism acknowledged the fact that the state is always subdued by various groups of interest. It is true that nowadays liberals do not refer to social classes like Marx used to, and do not consider the state a class instrument. Only that the liberal thinking pattern is unusable without admitting that the state will always be grabbed by powerful groups of interest, therefore any general happiness distributed or simply projected by the state will fail to achieve its purpose, due to the influence of various groups of interest upon the state. From this very point, the liberal mentality reaches the principle that the state should be minimized and forced to fail looking after a happiness that will never be everybody’s happiness, but the one sketched and imposed by a certain group of power. In this perspective, if we were to discuss frankly Nietzsche and Marx, we could refer to them as co-founders of the contemporary liberal mentalities. As we said, we do not discuss it sincerely, but rather from the account of liberal politic correctness clichés. From this angle only, both Nietzsche and Marx were lacking a liberal mentality, a structure manifested by tolerance and trust in a certain social dialogue. It is precisely from this point of view, that we keep pushing them aside, into oblivion. Thank you.
Gheorghe Ceausu: I am an university professor with UATC and collaborator of professor Ion Ianosi, for a long time. As concerning the system issue, you said that Nietzsche is the owner of a system, as if it were a value criterion. An elaborative system, a system of one’s work must not be a judgment of value. The era of philosophical systems has ended with the most thorough system ever, the one constructed by Hegel. And from there on, the attitude of thinkers, anthropologists and philosophers was one of complete repulsion for more systematic constructions. Marx, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are against the system, especially because it keeps the whole world captive beneath the equations defined and established by Hegel. As a mater of fact, the 20th century has no passion left for the systematic placement, on the contrary, it worships the fragmentary style and thinking. This is what I wanted to say concerning the system issue. Anyway, Pascal does not have a system either, but I guess you’re right about his coherence. It is precisely the coherence that brings the flavor of systematic arrangements, and the elaboration on rigorous chapters, common to Kant, Hegel and even Plato. Secondly, I have just recalled Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man, where he does similarly to Nietzsche, as you said, formulating an apothegmatic sentence. Namely that Nietzsche embodied the prophet, but also determined the nihilism and the 20th century relativism, through the analysis of the timonic man. Those two things were all I wanted to refer to.
Nicolae Breban: Thank you. He is right, the three of them do oppose to Hegel, only that after that moment, the system was partially rehabilitated by Husserl and Heidegger. For me, personally, the system consists namely of two things: the capacity of the entire vision and the obsessive motives. Thus, the obsessive elements. Hegel is the dominant model, the one who’s also contradicted by Nietzsche but, as I am forced to repeat myself, in my personal view, any creator with a totalizing vision and coherence through motives of obsession, has his own system. A vision deeply sustained by obsessive, recurrent elements. At Nietzsche, the elements create a possible vision, with the substitution of what Hegel and the others did in a much more pedant way. Whoever has a structure, may propose a vision. And a vision is already a system.
Ion Ianosi: The idea of the dominants of coherent thinking may be called, after all, “systematic”. Not in the traditional sense of a closed system, of course. I must say that I entirely agree to your point of view, I also had, concerning Zarathustra, a tendency to demonstrate how very much alike elements, obsessions and recurrent themes repeatedly transformed Thus Spoke Zarathustra into a hardly chaotic book, as it seems at a first look, yet profoundly dominated by various fixations, we may say. Therefore, I invite you to rehabilitate the idea that even great creators may sometimes turn into monomaniacs. Referring, of course, to their obsessions, to the way they rhythmically keep repeating their ideas, just like some of the authors we have spoken about. In fact it is all about the same ideas in a different order or differently paginated. And about the two writers we have referred to, surely they are the reaction and opposition to the classical movement, as Kierkegaard is, of course, and the others. They eventually managed to build a coherent, unitary and systematic model of perceiving the world. It is said that the three most revolutionary spirits of the modern world, would be Marx, Nietzsche and Freud. Eventually, Freud’s scheme may also be reconstructed. And by “scheme” I do not mean something primitive, but the very marrow or the nervous system of the organism. I believe this is not a contradiction. Of course that the old great systems, at one point believed to be the latest word, have not been reedited, as such.
Nicolae Breban: Among the few people spared by Nietzsche’s demolishing hammer, there is also Goethe, the perfect role model. But what is Goethe, after all? He is one of the last systematic poets of mankind, after Dante, but at a couple of centuries difference. As I am really concerned lately, I fight within my writings, the enormous and powerful American originated decadence spread on the entire Europe, and even on the Romanian cultural ground, the illness of fragmentariness. It is namely the idea that, as one person fails to grab the whole, to embrace the entireness of things, we must seek refuge on fragments, on a fragmentary kind of structures. This is why both of them (not only Nietzsche, but also Goethe), do not really seem up-to-date. The thing with Goethe is precisely that he’s the last of the modern or pre-modern, to dare build a vision polemically related to the Antiquity (as Nietzsche did, too), but also accompanied by an exhaustive vision on the human-being. At this very moment of the present time, probably even as we speak, there is this profoundly skeptical and nihilistic idea, that has been circulating within the Occident, for almost a century now, that the writer, the creator and the philosopher cannot embrace anymore the entireness of the universal phenomena. I reckon this is a sign of a decadence similar to the one promoted by Nietzsche, which in fact equals with the fear of the creator and the recoil from the totalized being. Furthermore, I believe that after we will die, especially us, the old people, a new better generation will spring and they will find the strength and courage to seek again, for the connection with these titans that, today, we find untouchable and obsolete, the ones who dared crayon a personal vision on the humanity. You see, it is possible that the recoil of the modernity was a justified response to a certain kind of system (communist-fascist) that often interpreted the human being in a false and brutal key. We maintain the confusion between political systems and thinking systematic establishments. Nevertheless, personally, as a modest marginal Romanian writer, in today’s Europe, I refuse the French and even the German reflexes of being skeptical regarding the totalizing vision. On the contrary, I believe I have the right and even the duty to contemplate the human being and the world, in their totalized essence. This journey seems more than ridiculous to many people, of course. They are right, it’s ridiculous, as my friend Mihalache used to say, we also assume the ridiculous from the cultural diseases other than poverty, solitude, calumny. Being ridiculous is one of the social diseases assumed and accepted by a great artist. Therefore, I assume the ridiculous belief that the art, literature and music related decadence, will end once we refused the fragmentary set up and gained our courage back again; maybe the men and the civilized world will then take one more step forward, in their desire to survey the very essence of human nature. Allow me to present a short final example. In the entire painting trend where human figure has been eliminated from, right there, within modern painting, this refusal of the figurative may be clearly seen. As men became impossible to draw. Only that the entire Antiquity and the Renaissance deeply focus on human figures. And it will be so, in the future to come.
Ion Ianosi: Just one more observation concerning another hooting of a Marxist remark, that the transformation of the world comes from Goethe. In fact, Marx was deeply influenced by Goethe. The idea that at the beginning it was the deed, the celebrated Faustian formulation and the monologue tackling that it is not the word but the fact that really matters, these all prove that the idea of the transformation by the deed, was standing up right in the middle of things. Goethe had a prior feeling about this within Faust. He has foreseen, for instance, all that later on, The Frankfurt School eventually decoded as mercantile alienation through relationships of power. There is a continuity here, we do not have to spit out phrases one by one, saying: look what crossed his mind. Because what did cross his mind was something configured in time and based on a certain continuity. Marx was very much influenced by Goethe, both in a reserved, self-contained manner and in plain sight. And so on. Nietzsche also stated that the greatest stylist of all German poets was Heinrich Heine. There is a very radical statement to be found in Ecce Homo – a stylistically performed eulogy for Heine, in comparison with many others he rejects as poor handlers of the German language (as Nietzsche was particularly critical concerning German writers).
Veronica Iliescu: I am a philosophy teacher with a certain high-school from Bucharest. First of all, I would like to say I have been pleasantly impressed by this entire plea made in favor of the idea that the great minds of the world should not be conditioned whatsoever, therefore the comprehensive access also, should not be politically or historically contextual-inclined. That based on the power of their minds and valuable ideas, we ought to find a way pass beyond this petty and disastrous conditioning. Starting from here, I must say it puzzles me a little bit that guilt is all they were looking for, that they needed to place the blame, of course not those who believed we should praise these personalities, but many others, especially the wider “society”, unfortunately, be it in a restrained or enlarged meaning. Thus, they have always looked for the fault within the ideas of these great writers, inside their work, but never where I actually found it, that is within the reception of their work and of these great thoughts of humanity. And I believe this is exactly what encouraged the abuse that took place in various unfortunate political contexts. An abuse performed by those who held the power and had the possibility to fragmentarily take over certain ideas, highly disproportioned if confronted with their real contextual meaning, isolated from their natural cultural being, and exploited deeply against society, but for the benefit of certain local groups of political interest, at that time, similar to the way it actually happened to Nietzsche and Marx, from past to present day. Therefore, one the one hand, I attribute the guilt to the fact that the ones who abusively used their ideas, have never known or read their books, they have never had a serious reflection of their ideas, and this allowed them to use and interpret some of the ideas other than they should. On the other hand, today, we also carry part of the guilt, because instead of a performing a critical judgment based on a certain system of values, we still rely on reflex prejudice. So, instead emitting value judgments, we definitely have a thing for prejudice, and it is from this perspective that we ventured to suppress ideas (and suspend them in brackets), in certain contexts that do not match the cultural and political interest of various groups. The desirable proportion of these personalities’ life work is not correctly rendered valuable. Furthermore, the actual fault, the guilt, the sin, all these do not belong to the owners of the ideas, but rather to those that keep perceiving and interpreting certain ideas due to a wrong reception. Thank you.
Aura Christi: After the early 90’s, there took place an unquestionable raise of interest for Nietzsche – and this was proved at the recent Gaudeamus Book Fair. His master was somehow disadvantaged – the great Schopenhauer, author of The World as Will and Representation which
appeared in a cheap, partial edition at a couple of obscure publishing houses, shortly after 1990.
Nicolae Breban: The first translation of The World as… belongs to a Romanian.
Aura Christi: Instead, the aphorisms were released.
Ion Ianosi: Not completely, they weren’t, the ones released were only chapters.
Nicolae Breban: It is very strange. He is, in fact, Eminescu’s master and Maiorescu’s too.
Aura Christi: As I was saying, there is a large growth of interest regarding Nietzsche; but also concerning Dostoevsky. As a matter of fact, those three books (and I am introducing a editorial break-through here) – Karl Marx in 1234 Fragments selected by Ion Ianosi, Fr. Nietzsche. Commented Maxims by Nicolae Breban, and Dostoevsky – The Tragedy of the Underground by Ion Ianosi – these are among our top sales. The head of the list is taken by the first Romanian monographic work to tackle the Templars Order and the Free-Mason topic. It is entitled The Templars. History and Mysteries and signed by our dearest friend Cristian Tiberiu Popescu, writer and specialist in medieval history. It seems that the European Idea Cultural Foundation – this prestigious and very ambitious institution – has begun stepping with the right foot. It is also true that we sometimes find things very hard to accomplish. The Romanian Sponsorship Law is, as we all know, inefficient, and the state institutions do not have a real strategy of the funding distribution, as far as it concerns the cultural phenomena. The allocated funds are ridiculously small and their usual deliverance is hugely delayed. I will provide a single example. The National Subvention Comity of the Ministry of Culture has allocated to the Contemporary cultural magazine a total sum of 150 million to be partly, bit by bit, transferred to our bank account, which is more than insufficient; in fact, to appear within the present printing conditions the magazine has a need for at least one billion. What I mean is that I am not the only person responsible, behind these editorial events and projects, I do not possess such a power. I would like to thank very much Ion Ianosi and Nicolae Breban, also Andrei Potlog, the European Idea Cultural Foundation director, and our team that keeps our magazine alive. The European Idea elaborates all the past, present and future titles, with, technically speaking, only five employees and two collaborators. I’m talking about Mihaela Eftimiu, Adrian Preda, Horia George Plugaru, Mihaela David, Cristian Negoi, cover artist. We also thank BCR, the Pfizer Corporation, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture for having supported our editorial projects, and we invite you to keep an eye on us. It is definitely worth it. You will soon have the opportunity to convince yourselves!
Text reproduced after The Contemporary. European Idea, issue no. 4/2005
Copyright owned by The European Idea Cultural Foundation