On the Tired Platitudes of Philosophical Apologia

“…and novelty, when it becomes standardized, is the only moral currency we have—hermeneutically speaking. Truth–simply is…a moral concept.”

J. Lucas II. a.k.a. Aesthetarchon


My POV begins somewhere around one-to-two steps after Rorty’s liberal ironism–a self-inaugurating moment of ‘philosopher-as-critic’—which afforded him the wherewithal to subsume a portion of Derrida’s later work under the guise of something he liked to call “private ironism” e.g., with books such as, “Postcard,” “Glas,” etc. These ironists, Proust and Nabokov especially fit this category, turned away from Platonism and classical metaphysics by way of refusing any dialectical stage that would loop back to the Hegelian-like-helix: thesis, antithesis, synthesis: that is, rather than making the same mistakes later Nietzsche, later Heidegger, and early Wittgenstein had, private ironists simply took up their own projects, creating evermore interesting vocabularies–that didn’t so much resolve the older aporias or familiar binary-camp arguments…but such new language-games seemed to obsolesce the old questions, altogether, via supplementing newer and more innovative ways of talking that spawned a whole taxa of different questions. Rather than relapse into The Speculative Turn (our current cultural milieu), Metaphysics, the Absolute, etc., this line of reasoning postulates that there is a time to stop doing traditional philosophy. Here’s where the distinction between Philosophy and Literature, Sophism and Philosophy, for example, ceases to be of any use. However, private projects were never enough for Rorty, and a large part of his concern resided in a democratic liberal utopianism that centered on contingency. He could never allow Nabokovians, or proud aesthetes to leave Ethics well enough alone if that was their theoretical taste. See, here’s what happened behind the scenes (if I may infer after years of studying Rorty’s work): “cosmopolitanism” works too well with “contingency” and “irony” —to not work well with “solidarity”—and thus, we’re tempted, inadvertently back to systematic philosophy rather than the edifying-hermeneutic approach Rorty praises (See: “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity”). This is where Rorty loses me. And this is the climate Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Brassier, Latour, and Garcia are exploiting — and to immense commercial success. My position, on the contrary, involves importing more of Nietzsche’s notions of “self-creation” and “giving style to one’s character,” and “aesthetic redemption through singular taste,” where Rorty had emphasized liberal utopian Democracy, i.e., “Liberal Ironism.” For me, even his cosmopolitan “solidarity” is teleological, i.e., the amenability of democratic institutions only secures an “Ethics” or a “Politics” iff it is demonstrated, via metaphysical self-coronation, to be the ultimate, meta-comparative “best for ALL.” And for Rorty, recall, there are no “final vocabularies” or “hidden secrets the ironist can hope to find […] there are only little mortal things to be rearranged by being re-described” (CIS, 99). For my part, I refuse to give “ironism” a genuine substantive “-ism,” e.g., this notion remains consistent only in the event that it refer to a unique object for every utterance-act: the (or indefinite article) ironist. Undoubtedly then, I am weary of today’s philosophico-commercial band-wagon: Speculative Realism/Materialism; Flat Ontology; Object-Oriented-Ontology, and so on. Rather than re-enter ontology via a newly-wrapped first-science, i.e., (post-) cantororian set theory, I opt for a neo-perspectivism and aestheticism (what I believe to be an extension of Nietzsche’s canon that exceeds even Nehamas’ Proustian reading of his bibliography, outright) that places “pedagogy” in front of “Truth”: the notion of a capital-w “World” (capable of deciding, independent of humans, the truth-value of sentences purporting to refer to ‘the “World’” as a criterion-specific epistemology; thus, you might say, I’m a ‘P-P-P-Modernist’ (i.e., triple-p Postmodernist): anti-New Speculativism and O-O-O-Harman-brand philosophy. What I’m after is nuance, idiosyncrasy, and a a turn of phrase altogether different from the history of ‘obvious Western platitudes.’ …If Marxists and Frankfurt Cultural-Theorists think that’s immoral (e.g., an originary illusion resulting in capitalist complicity)—then, I’m already asleep. Mediocrity is worse than falsity; and novelty, when it becomes standardized, is the only moral currency we have—hermeneutically speaking. Truth–simply is…a moral concept. There is no final vocabulary of Being, Reality, or Goodness; there is innovation and there is the influence of one’s predecessors to worry about. My pursuits are non-epistemic, but unwaveringly tenacious in employing new means, methods, and vocabularies conducive for optimum critical play. This is a manifesto against liberal apologia! …. I make no apologies. I’m here because I’m mad for the phrase; for an orgasmic panorama of ink and vellum in textual montage–pleasures shared among curators, archivists, and bibliophiles; a lust for the rare; and a mad-love fire for the intoxication of intertextual play.


Such L o v e l y Pictures

J. Lucas II. a.k.a., Aesthetarchon


Here’s how New Critical lemon-squeezing works. Question: what’s the theme of Clockwork? Answer: the moral dilemma of science and technology in criminal rehabilitation; specifically, where the possibility of immoral decision and action is removed—and “genuine” ethical responsibility becomes nil; consequently,  we face the binary oppositions: freewill/determinism, individual/state, mind/matter, etc. Congratulations! This sophomoric term paper is en route to an ob(li)vious A+! Yet, some of us witness the continuation of this modus operandi and its ready-moral platitudes, and we’re. . .  just. . . bored and old. We sigh and fight the perpetual urge to declare, “Could anything be more passé, academically, philosophically, intellectually?”  

What makes Clockwork an unparalleled post-Joycean masterpiece…? The heart of the work resides in Burgess’ self-manufactured rebel-youth colloquialism, i.e., a language he calls Nadsat. The meter or rhyme is nothing we would want to schematize: an onslaught of hurly-burly neologisms that brush against a mania uniquely reminiscent of Ludwig Van’s 9thsymphony, itself. Through onomatopoeia and the morphological play of affixing heterogeneous roots, the reader can pick up a textual orchestra—finding the feet moving and flowing, despite the carnage and violence of whatever mis en scène Burgess is choreographing in the semantic content of his lines. It’s no wonder Kubrick captured the balletic aspects of his menacing prose so well (McDowell’s improvisation of “Singing in the Rain” was so inexplicably fitting, Kubrick shot the scene for a week prior to acquiring the rights). One does not come to know the milieu of Alex and his droogies, but plays alongside the hyper-colored hedonism, e.g., there is a jollying-along to the “Old Town” robbery, outright, or there is a lost and offended reader. A reader of the kind we spoke of earlier (s/he missed the Yale Critics but read enough Aristotle and Kant to annoy us for life).



Aesthetic Bliss—of the Nabokovian variety! That’s where we ought to journey, but only by way of a distinct detour from today’s reinvigoration of Nabokov studies—which ceaselessly looks for any element, autobiographical or fictional, to mount a logically coherent apologia for his aestheticism. These “scholars” are so ideological and politically charged, they even find reason to ignore Nabokov’s declaration of what constitutes Orwellian “topical trash.” This is an unabashedly popular cause. One comes across it everywhere. One can’t read about Fitzgerald’s life without hearing a tangent regarding how much, at heart, Scotty “actually” hated wealth, privilege, and elitism. –I am Jack’s perpetual disillusionment with the upper-echelons of academe—. At this point, I don’t care if Scotty bootlegged hooch for a year in an effort to self-publish This Side of Paradise, buy designer suits, and coerce Zelda into marrying a cat-fish author. The age of Apologia is over. Neo-Marxism is over. The Frankfurt School is over. We’re all still asleep in our (under-) graduate-level epistemology lectures…and, deciding now, on the precedence of . . .“s u c h lovely pictures”. . .  to choose falsity before mediocrity.