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.


Pop-Princess Fatale: Lana Del Rey & the Art Deco, Los Angeles Style

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


In 2016 James Franco released a small poetry book, Straight James/Gay James, dedicated to Lana Del Rey. The work’s ostensive homosexual theme is illustrated in the cover art: “Lana” is tattooed on his forehead; the image of her face trails down his neck. He stares into a mirror, gazing at himself, allowing his other-self(“Gay James,” perhaps), in turn, to gaze back at him, reflecting the duplicitous identity that ruptures the product— “James Franco.” He rather be Lana Del Rey, but qualifies this longing in an early stanza, “Not because I don’t enjoy my man/Body […/] but because I love yours.[1]” So he is left to lament the tragedy of having to wear a mask; one face, the surface of the mask itself, is “branded,” concealing the “naughty face,” and “A secret devil/Beneath/The slick surface/Of the Gucci smile.[2]” At night both merge in a singularity, “They are but/One: me.[3]” What strange phenomenon is at play that desires to split the actor’s persona? This love for Lana Del Rey, the pop-star, consumes him so completely, reducing the authentic to the sleepy shadows of private-midnight? The answer, I dare entertain, resides in a sinuous captivation of Lana’s two-fold aura. When she alludes to David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, for instance, we feel ourselves collapse into that smoky nightclub, hanging on every word the neo-noir singer electrifies. For the duration, I am the criminal mad-man “Frank,” infatuated and bewitched, while equally assuming the naïve, inquisitively pale, awe-struck role of “Jeffrey.[4]” The latter, an enticed school-boy, out of his element, and the other, a crazed addict, whose only distraction from nefarious cruelty is the antiquarian tune of the velvet singer. We might trace the origin of the fracture Franco speaks of in the dichotomy that is Lana, herself. The faces of Franco are, or so I conjecture, an aesthetic-response to the mid-century Los Angeles aura she embodies, coupled with a contemporary celebrity style, i.e., the art deco, beach-bikini princess. This is what draws us in. A juxtaposition of irregular qualities (e.g., we brush against this same feeling when we consider the psychological appeal of steampunk): we imagine a brunette singer who reads Proust with sexy tattoos—out of place, in a cool-blue, historiographic dream. We rhythm with the base while tuning in to her subtle references, e.g., Nabokov’s Lolita, post-modern filmmakers—all staged in a monochrome mish-mash reminiscent of Los Angeles in 1944. The grasping of both faces, simultaneously, produce an auratic emergence, and an alluring marriage of distinct horizons. The songs of the West-coast siren[5]break us apart on the California shore. There is no one identity to Lana or ourselves when we enter her contemporary noir-pop milieu.  For a small interval, we are taken to the past, but only as a slippery past-presence, summoned by our current-present. Neither can exist on its own. Neither is a hindrance to the other. One opens the other. This is a hermeneutic of iconography.  

End Notes


  • [1]Franco, James. Straight James/Gay James. New Jersey: Hansen Publishing Group, LLC, 2016. 
  • [2]Ibid. MASK, 14. 
  • [3]Ibid. 
  • [4]Frank: Denis Hopper; Jeffrey: Kyle MacLachlan 
  • [5]Ironically enough, “Sirens” is the name of one of her early, pre-chart albums.