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1 Base and Vile Things: Ontological Intrusions between Plato, Hegel, and Whitman

Darren Hutchinson (Non-)Abstract: In this essay, I attempt to trace the course of the loss of the things themselves through their incineration by the flames of Hegelian spirit. I find this loss perpetuated by Hegel through his inheritance of the Platonic desire to elevate one's discourse (and oneself) above base and vile things such as mud or hair. Out of the genealogy of this elevation, I diagnose the problem of (an)nihilational reason as it moves through contemporary discourse and explore a modest site of a return to the things themselves, a site of the touching of language and base and vile things, a site afforded by a philosophical encounter with the poetry of Walt Whitman.

THIS is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless, Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done, Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the themes thou lovest best. Night, sleep, and the stars.i

I. Insofar as language poises at midnight, standing between the dark opacity of the earth and the opened horizons of the stars, insofar as language already carries the wordless beyond itself, out of the black and into transcendence beyond sense, it may seem mad to express in language a desire to return to the things themselves. Even madder, at least from a certain vantage, would appear the expression that one has already touched the things themselves, gone to them, desiring alongside them, beyond reaching. We find ourselves on a road stretching backwards towards a nostalgia intensified into a perpetual mourning, a living though the death of the things themselves forever, lost in the time of passage, and forwards towards an affirmation of the destruction of the things themselves, of their dissipation into an infinity of differences, relations, depths, and distances. Insofar as language is always already thoughtful, in all of its manifestations, insofar as the destructive power of thought flows through language, even at the heights of poetic reverie, even at the depth of emotional exaltation, it may seem that the arachnid of language has already dispensed its poison along with its web, that in holding things near it burns them with its venom, preparing them for immediate consumption. In the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel satirizes those who would profess immediate knowledge of the things themselves, the sense of certainty that they apprehend them directly:
. . . it can be said to those who claim the truth and certainty of sensuous objects that they should refer back to the most elementary school of wisdon, namely the the old Eulinisian Mysteries of Ceres and Bacchus and that they first have to learn the secret of eating bread and drinking wine. For those initiated into these secrets come to not only doubt the being of sensuous things but even to despair of them, even participating in the annihilation of things, while also witnessing the things' participation in destroying themselves. Even animals are not excluded from this wisdom, but rather prove themselves to be most profoundly initiated into it, since they do not stand still before the sensuous things as if before beings in themselves but rather, despairing of this reality and in full certainty of their nothingness, they fall on them without further ado and eat them up. And the whole of nature celebrates these obvious mysteries, which teach the truth of sensuous things. ii

2 In professing the reality of everyday things, their proximity, their immediate being, the antiskeptic and anti-philosopher, the poetic empiricist and the prophet of common sense would dwell in self-delusion, unaware of the animal nature of the consumptive power of the claim of knowledge. In being posited as an object of immediate knowledge, the thing would already be rendered as mere being, a universal identity opposed to the universal (sensuous) I which apprehends it, beyond what would be naively meant through the initial claim. The claim of knowledge itself consumes what it would preserve, emitting digestive juices a priori on its object, annihilating the richness that was meant to be captured through its assertion. One meant to say Here is an apple, I hold it in my hand, I smell its rich aroma, this I know above all and to leave it at that, to stay with the apple, professing one's appreciation for it without moving beyond it. But in making the claim, one has already committed oneself to going further, for instance in being responsible for understanding that if one determines the apple as something that is here, then it can also be determined as referring to something not here, that the richness of the apple has been converted into the mere being of the it which substitutes for its vanished referent (the apple become simulacrum of itself, lost forever). In its appearing to the naively knowing subject, satisfied with the senses and what they bring, one already finds that there are no intuitions without concepts, that the intuitive immediacy of the present being has already exactly transformed it into a present being, even though what one intended was the apple, with its rich color and aroma. In fact, the color and aroma become (in the process of this unintentional destruction) properties which are understood to be possessed by the substantial unity of the abstracted applesubstance, an abstraction which persists only as long as one does not realize that its substantial unity is conditioned by an infinity of relations to the outside, by its specific differences from what it is not, into the forces and laws coordinating those differences, and finally into the reason which posits such forces and laws in the name of self-consciousness, so that even the initial unintended substance, the residue of the nave act of immediacy, is at last carried away into the subjective flow of self-creation. Indeed, instead of professing one's immediate knowledge of the apple, one should have eaten it right away, since its destruction and incorporation would have occurred without the comedy of delusion and delay. One might similarly parody the nave poet's profession, This is thy hour, O soul, thy free flight into the wordless. Instead of expressing his love for the night, at this moment, here and now, the poet should have perhaps actually went to sleep, obliterating even the night in the darkness of unconsciousness. As the wordless is given word, and the night is named as such and specified with a this which functions as a now, the poet encounters Hegel's patronizing smirk, which is the patronizing smirk of modernity itself as it encounters poetic naivete. Hegel: 'Now is night.' In order to test this sense certainty, a simple experiment is sufficient. We write this truth down. A truth cannot lose anything through being written down, as little as through our preserving it. But if we look again at this Now, its written truth, again at this noon, then we must say that it has grown stale.iii In the case of this particular poetic remark by Whitman, well over a hundred years old, the This which functions as a now in the poem is horribly belated, certainly not preserved in any immediacy; it is rather delivered over into the generality of a word which can be applied and reapplied, interpreted and re-interpreted, an anonymous time, the time of the poem belonging to everyone, not to Whitman, never even to him once, even at the moment which he wrote it. The point of the now becomes a pastness, itself endlessly divisible into other past nows, situatable within years, decades, periods, history in general. Insofar as the proclamation of the poet is an attestation of momentary certainty at the living present of the soul, then surely it carries with it its own death, the death of writing which Hegel already foresaw as the annihilation of any purely living presence. Language carries with it the truth of death of immediacy, wherever it manifests, wherever it goes, whether written or spoken. As Hegel notes, language is more truthful than the speaker of language, since what the speaker intends (meint, in Hegels terms) is

3 oftentimes performatively refuted in its enunciation.iv What the poet intended, no doubt, was now, this now, this midnight, this darkness which pulls me forth into the dreaming of the stars, but the very saying of the intention, as it finds words (and was it even an intention before words, was it not already lost in the depths of the soul before it arose to greet the night at its surface?) shows its devastation to already be at hand, the timely intention lost to the displacing infinity of meaning. In the poet's defense, one might claim that it was hardly the intention to produce an icon of sense-certainty. One might claim that the poet, well-aware of the loss inherent to the coming forth of language, intended this loss, intended the displacement of the point of the words into the meaning of the poem, the soul discovering itself precisely in the nighttime darkness of this loss, attuned to its need for perpetual revival through the saying of an impossible now, destined always for the future. This would be to say that the poet begins not with sense-certainty but rather at the same point which Hegel begins, at the end of spirit, aware of its passage into the eternity of becoming, carrying death with it always. One might even claim that it is of the essence of poetry to dwell within its own belatedness, to exist as a form of mourning for the death which moves through everything, eschewing the space of reasons and grounds, providing only epitaphs for the lost things themselves. Such claims certainly seem to have some resonance with another of Whitman's poems directed towards the night:
IN midnight sleep, of many a face of anguish, Of the look at first of the mortally wounded--of that indescribable look; Of the dead on their backs, with arms extended wide, I dream, I dream, I dream. Of scenes of nature, fields and mountains; Of skies, so beauteous after a storm--and at night the moon so unearthly bright, Shining sweetly, shining down, where we dig the trenches and gather the heaps, I dream, I dream, I dream. Long, long have they pass'd--faces and trenches and fields; Where through the carnage I moved with a callous composure--or away from the fallen, Onward I sped at the time--But now of their forms at night, I dream, I dream, I dream.v

As the moon reflects the light of the disappeared sun, the space of the dream reflects the disappeared dead, doubly lost, strewn from battle, lying beneath the also lost beauteous skies, emblems of both the death of nature and the death in nature and even of the death which allows nature to appear as such, the deadly time of the dream itself. If there is knowledge contained in this poem, one might claim, it is precisely the preserved presentation of the endless passage of everything, even the dead, into the death of the future. In this case, the poem would bear witness to an obsession with the lost which are held in place through the traumatic dream, the mad need to recover the living out of the dead, the true vampirism of the spirit, but this obsession would be precisely overcome in the recognition that it occurs within a dream, a dream which iterates itself onwards, never ending. The dream itself, after all, (whether the dream at night or the dream of the poem itself) is the condition for the presentation of the scene, of its horror and beauty, of the life which, dying, speeds away from the dead, yet returns to them, only in order to lose them repeatedly. Without the dream, there would have

4 been no memory, no truth, no meaning, and no recognition: only the true darkness of the night of nonknowledge would remain, actual oblivion beyond recovery. And yet, in the poem, as in the previously referenced work on night, one cannot ignore the characteristic Whitmanian first-person present, the present first person, the one who at least pretends to stand there directly, immediately addressing the things he praises or mourns. When Whitman says I dream or This is thy hour, O soul or even I loafe and invite my soul. I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass, then regardless of the dialectical complications into which such statements can fall (or be directed), certainly what is meant (gemeint) is that I am here now, at night or in the day, in this dream or in this field, together with the dead, the grass, and the sky. No amount of creative re-interpretation designed to transport such poems from their nave home into the realm of spirit can entirely efface its mundane roots. The question rather becomes the ancient one, the one which asks whether poetry is relegated essentially to the domain of (self-)delusion or whether there can be another form of truth at stake in the poem, even another form of knowledge, beyond that of sensecertainty in its passage towards destructive preservation in the repository of spirit. Doubtlessly, such a question, such questions within the question, are highly problematic. The claims that there is a truth beyond the nihilational movement of reason, for instance, and that there is a knowledge which precedes the sense experience which has already lost its object seem already oxymoronic in their inscription, characteristic examples of the sorts of claims which Hegel parodies. One would only have to point out that it is indeed a truth which is being presented, a form of knowledge, both self-deluded instances of destruction which presuppose what they are designed to avoid. Insofar as the poet speaks in the ordinary language of common sense, a common sense which takes itself to address the things directly, without destruction or mediation, it would only have to be indicated that ordinary language is the language of metaphysics, that in naming ordinary language as such, as a site which has proximity and prominence in respect to the things themselves, then what one has actually done is to erect a barrier of appearance between those very things which are intended and ones desire to reach them through the meta-designation of a vehicle of access. After all, the common human being does not attempt to defend ordinary language against either the skeptic or the Hegelian usurper of poetic sense. The common human being uses language, employs it, speaks it, allows it to come forth, without defense, without attempting a stratagem of idealistic circumvention. The opposition to the passage of reason within such defensive postures which claim different modes of knowing or non-rational access already infects them with the opposed body of knowledge, causing them to revert to the primitive protests of a form of life which has already eviscerated what it defends (as if someone on a television program told us that we have to get back to reality.) It would seem that if poetry is to be saved from such a critique, it cannot be professed to contain a higher or other form of truth or knowledge. Rather, it must be returned to the usage of common-sense or else it must be elevated to the realm of spirit, conscious of the death of its words. But it also seems as if poetry fits neither of these molds precisely, that it neither articulates itself as a common tongue nor elevates itself into the domain of the eternal flow of truth. In fact, poetry which professes to be true, to teach lessons, to be a vault for the wisdom of the future, is nothing other than bad poetry. But likewise, poetry which merely speaks the common tongue, which would not mark itself as poetry through at least the scission of its placement, the lilting cadence of its voicing, or the strange arrangement of its characters would also be bad poetry, the worst, which is to say not poetry at all, merely the utterances of the rambling voice, the other end of poetry as we watch it deteriorate in the carelessness of coffee-shop improvisation. In order to confront this impasse, which is none other than the space of night, sleep, and stars, the choice between the transcendence of reason and the unconscious of the ordinary tongue, along with the darkness surrounding them both, we must indeed begin to ask how poetry operates outside the

5 space of reason, but this cannot be done through simple oppositions and protestations. We would be better served through attempting to understand the staging of the impasse, how it comes to be generated and what (if anything) is ignored or forgotten in its developmental architecture. Or, perhaps, rather than understanding anything we should rather eat, as Hegel would have us do, or sleep even, perchance to dream. II. The of knowledge which would return the things to life as sensuous objects does so because they have already been burned by its fire, by the fire it proclaims to have been always within everything, the fire of death in life and life in death, the spiritual overcoming of every thing. It is perhaps unnecessary to point out that in the dialectic of sense certainty discussed in the previous section, Hegel has engaged in a manifestly circular enterprise. The Phenomenology of Spirit is wellknown to presuppose its end as its beginning, to prefigure its full articulation in its first emblazoned words. One could expect no other, since the full self-consciousness required to produce, organize, and arrange a work which would follow through the very development of self-consciousness could be nothing less than complete. Otherwise, the project of spirits self-comprehension in language would be subject to the intrusions of rambling association, digressions, and even errors which would render it into a comedy rather than a divine tragedy of the proper inheritance of death in life. But in the Phenomenology, there is not only one circle. There are circles within circles, nodes which join revolutions of thought as they gravitate around central points. For instance, it is easy to show that the opening of the discussion of sense-certainty already prefigures the implementation of observing reason (beobachtenden Vernunft), a reason which is already participating in the process of universalizing abstraction, a movement which transfigures desire for the things themselves into the desire of reason for itself, for its autoerotic self-possession:
Consciousness observes: this means that reason desires to find and have itself as an existing object (seienden Gegenstand), in a really sensuously present way. The consciousness of this observation intends as says, of course, that to the contrary, it desires to experience not itself but rather the essence of things as things. The fact that this consciousness means and says this stems from its being as reason, but this reason itself has not yet become an object for it. If it knew reason had the same essence as the things and itself, and it knew that reason can be present in its proper form only within consciousness, then this observing consciousness would rather plumb its own depths and search for reason therein, rather than in the things. If it did find reason there, then it would be directed again out into reality to behold therein its sensuous expression while simultaneously taking this reality as concept. vii

This turning away from the things and into itself has already begun in the very first sentence of the Phenomenology proper, after the preface and introduction. At the beginning of Sense-certainty: or the this and intending (meinen), Hegel refers to the knowing which is at first or immediately our object when introducing the investigation into the the knowing of the immediate or existent. There are two crucial circular nodes here. First, the Phenomenology of Spirit begins not even with the attempt by Hegel to reach, achieve, or be together with the things themselves: he seeks to investigate the knowledge which claims to have performed such reaching, achievement, and togetherness. Already, spirit is reflected back into itself as knowing knows itself, instead of marshaling the barest attempt to go beyond. It seems that Hegel has learned his own lesson so well that he can no longer even pretend to be nave for the purpose of a bit of philosophical theater, presenting the things to lose them again in their displacement through intellectual mediation. This is the exact reason for his

6 sarcasm, since the claim to immediacy which is investigated at the beginning is from the initial point disavowed as impossible. There may indeed at one time have been an attempt by reason to reach the immediate, the existent, the things themselves, but not Hegels reason here and now, since that reason has already bypassed this starting point and yawns in retrospect at its failure. As a second crucial circular juncture, it also needs to be remembered that Hegel chooses an investigation of the claim of KNOWING the immediate, the existent, the things themselves as the opening of his inquiry. He does not, for instance, inquire into being together with things, or putting them in ones mouth, or using them as tools, or making them, or of burning them in celebration. That there is to be a knowing of knowing and that the knowing which is investigated must make a claim of certainty (as opposed to a claim of discomfort or irritation or pleasure or . . .) patently prejudices from the outset both the course and the result of the investigation. From the vantage of such a circular enclosure, the things themselves, the things as they would be without knowing, beyond knowing, beside knowing, before knowing, at the edge of knowing, or even before knowing would be left on the outside, discarded, a priori disintegrated with no spiritual remnant left behind. The thing would already be an object, the object would already be a universal, the universal would already be a sensuously-filled particular, the particular would already stand in the nexus of a host of subjectively-posited relations, the practice of producing and maintaining such nexuses left to be unfolded as the development of reason into its conceptual self-mastery. There would be an intensification of skepticism which would go beyond the distancing of material substance from representation and even beyond the imagistic encounter of thought with sense-impressions, as all affect beyond the intellect would be dissolved into the vapor of consciousness. According to Hegel, everything will be returned, the things will again arise, presented meaningfully to spirit out of its selfdiscovery, as they are revealed and determined as there for consciousness itself. But such recovery properly speaking cannot be a recovery at all, since the things which would be recovered could only be said to be there for spirit for the first time in and through its self-revelation, since otherwise it would have to be maintained that spirit is affected by an unknown outside and thereby remains forever unknown to itself. Spirit is and only can be God because in revealing itself to itself, it must also discover itself as the first and only origin of things. Things arise not in its finite substance (because God could have no substance which was not also self-limiting, this disposes of all medieval theo-ontology), not through its external power of engendering, because then God would have to fall outside himself, from eternal time into the time of darkness, but rather only through the eternal movement of spirit as it makes death into an eternity, an endlessness of relational self-overcoming which knows itself precisely and only to project beyond. On the one hand, it may seem easy to dismiss or scoff at such movements of solipsistic grandeur, to invoke finitude and non-epistemological relations to being and the end of humanism in order to circumvent this Hegelian circle where God first becomes who he is. But the truth for us in our post-Hegelian time, which is perhaps the only sort of time that beings such as us can even imagine, is that Hegels God is our Holy Spirit, his God of preserving devastation, the dove with burning wings reborn as a is the master of us all. We cannot see things except as constellations of relations, points in the midst of physical gravity, displacements of fields of difference, misinterpretations of abyssal images which perpetually transcend themselves, beings which are set back into the darkness of beings eventuality, items which are determined in contextual webs of practice, foregrounds against a background of bodies and meanings and desires. Even though the acid of spirit has (in a way perhaps (but only perhaps) unenvisioned by Hegel eaten through spirit itself, so that it no longer calls itself by its proper name of evanescence, by the unearthly yoking of the Christian and the classical which allowed it to exert its demonic influence directly in its appellation, spirit itself still moves through everything in the spirit of contextualization, dismemberment, historicization, hermeneutics, and all the

7 rest. Kierkegaard noted that Hegel did not stop with faith but went further. But he (and we as Hegels heirs) not only perpetually transcend faith: we also perpetually transcend everything else, all the things, and we do so in the name of a non-spiritually enlightened thinking which disowns all traces of its ghostly ancestry. The false egresses of the critiques of the Cartesian modes of knowing and the representational relation to reality and essentialism and metaphysics have left us precisely in the midst of the Hegelian exclusion of things from the movement of knowledge. One can only use a word such as exclusion with a wince and a sigh, since we now are confronted by a plethora of discourses which are in the process of turning everything excluded (bodies, natality, sexuality, animals, etc.) into objects of knowledge (although disavowed as such) situated within general fields of explanation. The Hegelian project is alive and well and thriving: we do not perpetually fall back into Hegels hands because we re-appropriate everything as representational truth or presuppose a representational stance or any other such formulae. It is alive and well because we are destroyers of things, that the life of the mind, even as it naively intends to preserve, destroys what it preserves, offers it up to the fires of the . To attempt to bypass the Hegelian circle is as difficult for us as it was for a medieval mind to avoid the ontological argument. For such a mind, Gods existence was included with His name, there could be no proper denial, because there could have been no sense or space for it. In such a case, atheism was confusion, madness, language and thought turned against itself, the very essence of an abomination. Likewise, for us, we cannot brook in the slightest, at least without the presence of naivet, self-delusion, or ignorance tantamount to intellectual madness even the mention of the things themselves, as they are, with no nexuses surrounding them, no substrates, no fields of difference in which they appear, no contexts, no determining matrices, no relations of relevance, no projects of preservation. The things themselves sound for us like Kants thing-in-itself, and with Nietzsche, we would have these drift away like this thing-in-itself into the nothingness which they have become. The question for us is not whether we can somehow think ourselves outside or beyond the Hegelian enclosure: we cannot as little as the medieval could avoid situating his or her practices in relation to the devil. Perhaps one day there will be post-Hegelians, true post-moderns, true beings which have gone beyond the existential predicament which follows from the hegemony of a thought which flows through us from our inception, a priori bearing on every deed and word, but that time is certainly yet to come, the future of a future of which one may not dare even to dream, since in dreaming one is retraumatized, confronted again with the images of the dead. III. The questions for us, rather are twofold. First, how did we come into this predicament, why are our intentions to designate things themselves always transcended a priori, destroyed on arrival, before the articulation of any claim? And second, when the poet, or we, in poetic moments, make such proclamations as
Let the reflections of the things of the world be studied in mirrors! let the things themselves still continue unstudied!ix

In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day's sport, The city sleeps and the country sleeps, The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time, The old husband sleeps by his wife and the young husband sleeps by his wife; And

these tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them, And such as it is to be of these more or less I am, And of these one and all I weave the song of myself, x

affirming an outside beyond the interior of knowledge, beyond studied comprehension, even an outside which intrudes into the inside, reaching into it, even woven into it like sheeps wool into a blanket, then how are we to take such utterances? Are we supposed to treat them as mistakes, the errors of the common tongue as it misspeaks, forgetting the ethereal grounds of its appearance, proclaiming what has been derived from the studious movement of reflection as anterior to it, even beyond it, even generative of it, as it were, following the old saying, putting the cart before the horse? Or are we to see these as expressions of profundity, all too cognizant of the transfigured things, the transfigured bodies, the transfigured composures which form us, to which we can authentically profess an external relation precisely because we are aware that they were always already part of a song of ourselves, a discovery of the parts of the whole which we always were, together in body as spirit? Let us suppose that spirit has wisdom, the wisdom to seek itself in the things themselves, the wisdom to find the pleasure of self-satisfaction first within itself and not within worldly things. If this is the case, then our predicament is a predicament of old, a predicament where the meinen of intended sense turns into the meinung of an opinion which ignores the possibility of its own truth, an eternal relation to the things of truth which had already encircled it, before it attempted to reach towards sensuous things, and the poets naivet or wisdom can be precisely judged from this perspective of transcendent inheritance, an inheritance which was lost in the descent of spirit into the body in the involved in the incorporation of birth. This is to say that the Hegelian (re-)nascence into the wisdom of spirit is nothing other than the Platonic descending ascent as the soul is lost and reborn into the presence of the intelligible. To find Platonic wisdom working in the Hegelian text is far from surprising, but it would be beneficial to stay awhile with this ancient wisdom and note its advantages and disadvantages in providing access to the things of sense, even the things themselves. To do so, after all, does not require one to delve into obscurity, into hidden doctrines and strange figures within the Platonic corpus, it does not require sophisticated insights into the intricacies of the Platonic dialogues. Rather, we can find the prefiguration of Hegelian wisdom in the most clichd of places, in the most standard tropes in the history of philosophy, in the figure of the divided line and the allegory of the cave. And even then, we need not ascend, need not travel into the planes of abstraction nor even brave the light of the blinding Platonic sun. As we poised at the beginning with Hegel in the very initiation into the knowledge of sense certainty, let us stay awhile with the reflections and shadows which became the emblems of the delusions which immediately plagued that certainty. For not only before there is and , but even before there is and , there is the unnamed relation to the surface of reflection and even to the being of reflections themselves which conditions all Platonic wisdom thereafter. Plato configures the first two segments of the divided line as follows:
Now take a line which has been cut into two unequal parts, and divide each of them again in the same proportion, and suppose the two main divisions to answer, one to the visible and the other to the intelligible, and then compare the subdivisions in respect of their clearness and want of clearness, and you will find that the first section in the sphere of the visible consists of images. And by images I mean, in the first place, shadows, and in the second place, reflections in water and in solid, smooth and polished bodies and the like: Do you understand? /Yes, I understand./ Imagine, now, the other section, of which this is only the resemblance, to include the animals which we see, and everything that grows or is made.xi

9 Already here, from the outset, even in moving from the image () towards the thing which it reflects, there is an original effacement of the things hidden within this directing movement. Reflections on the surface of water or shadows on the wall or resemblances produced on the polished plane of a well-made shield are not in themselves nothing, things merely to be moved beyond towards their originals. The smooth-grained texture, the flat surface of the water, and the dusty backdrop of the stone wall are necessary constituents of such images and likeness, not merely the originals which they mime. We can, of course, forgive Plato for not knowing that there are atomic differences within surfaces on which light shines or from which it is withheld, that there are material differences in the physical event of reflection which allow it to take place as such. Light is never merely re-transmitted or re-emitted without there also being an atomic imprint, a physical transformation of the surface from which it shines which would, perhaps, for the proper eyes and the proper equipment serve as well as a photographic negative which would provide a history of proximity. Having no knowledge of such interactions, not having moves beyond the and of the ancient mind concerning electromagnetic interactions, Plato could not have known such things. But certainly he realized, and even says, that there are surfaces and substances in which images are produced, substrates for the appearing of their appearance, grounds which allow for what is displayed yet hidden to be made manifest. After all, he knows that there must be water or smooth surfaces or cave walls in order for images or likenesses to be produced. They are not, after all, said to appear in the emptiness of thin air. As a line already stretches to infinity when first inscribed, the endless directionality of the geometrical figure already prefiguring its designation as line, the divided line for Plato is already moving beyond the things, erasing and transcending them, from the first moment of its positioning. This is to say that the things are a priori always abstracted from by Plato, treated as geometrical instantiations of higher ideas, before first being considered in and of themselves, even though he pretends they have been properly determined and understood at their appropriate level. Exactly in the elucidation following the initial presentation of the divided line, Plato explains that the philosopher moves beyond the sensible things and towards the ideas rather than fetishizing these things, just as the geometer does not take the models through which geometrical figures are presented to be stopping points but rather understands these as expressing perfect geometrical ideas. The model for the geometer is a means to an end, a pedagogical device to move beyond, to use in teaching, to allow the student entry into the realm of higher ideas, and for Plato, the things themselves are such models or tools, means to an end, already prefigured in their initial reception as sites of egress. Of the geometers, Plato maintains:
And do you not know also that although they make use of the visible forms and reason about them, they are thinking not of these, but of the ideals which they resemble; not of the figures which they draw, but of the absolute square and the absolute diameter, and so on --the forms which they draw or make, and which have shadows and reflections in water of their own, are converted by them into images, but they are really seeking to behold the things themselves, which can only be seen with the eye of the mind? xii

For the geometer in the movement of , the visible inscriptions are pulled back towards the shadows and reflections which they make in water, the image of a circle inscribed into a wall mirrored on the surface of a calm reflecting pool for the geometer becomes like its reflection, something unreal, something which is immediately supplemented and transcended by the original which it would represent, the real thing as opposed to the false thing. There is, thus, not only a forward movement of

10 the intellect beyond the things and towards the forms, but there is also a forward movement of repudiation whereby even the figures or animals and artifacts and harmonious models are dragged into the repudiated substratum of that which lies even below the image of the sensible, the sensible image, which is to say the substratum too base to even be mentioned or considered in the quest for knowledge. It might be maintained, and perhaps fairly, that the analogy of the divided line is just that, an analogy. It might be maintained that Plato does not neglect or disavow the substrata of shimmering surfaces and dusty walls and smooth-grained material (even while mentioning them incessantly, as if the held a strange attraction). These would rather, from the vantage of the analogy, be things like any other, things to be noticed and transcended in the seeking of the pure , beings among beings in the sensible realm. But here one can also recall the passages from The Parmenides where Plato considers the limits of the doctrine of forms:
Tell me,' said Parmenides, 'do you think that the abstract ideas of likeness, unity, and the rest, exist apart from individuals which partake of them? and is this your own distinction?' 'I think that there are such ideas.' 'And would you make abstract ideas of the just, the beautiful, the good?' 'Yes,' he said. 'And of human beings like ourselves, of water, fire, and the like?' 'I am not certain.' 'And would you be undecided also about ideas of which the mention will, perhaps, appear laughable: of hair, mud, filth, and other things which are base and vile?' 'No, Parmenides; visible things like these are, as I believe, only what they appear to be: though I am sometimes disposed to imagine that there is nothing without an idea; but I repress any such notion, from a fear of falling into an abyss of nonsense. xiii

Even though Plato in the voice of Parmenides responds to the young Socrates, telling him that later when philosophy will have a firmer grasp of you, then you will not despise even the meanest things, it is difficult not to hear this despising of the mundane substrates of things throughout the Platonic text. Here, one might find something operative quite other than the quest for knowledge and the problem of how vague and indeterminate entities might have forms. Not only mud and dirt are mentioned, things perhaps similar to water and fire, flowing beings which would contest the very idea of the , but hair and other things which are base and vile. One might indeed locate a set of values which hover between a sort of cultural drive for cleanliness and neatness, an anti-barbarian aesthetics which prizes the ordered being of the city over the chaotic flows of the wild and perhaps even a personal affliction with something like obsessive-compulsive disorder, an anxiety and nausea which overcomes one when the dirty, the disorganized, the unmanaged and uncounted interrupts into the limits of a controlled life. In any event, regardless of the reassurances of Parmenides concerning his later appreciation of the meanest things, it is obvious in the Republic that Socrates has not yet learned his lesson. A certain disdain for such things moves throughout. It moves, for instance, into the analogy which introduces the discussion of the line, the preceding comparison between the soul and the eye, where the eye is compared to the sun and then to the soul, turned into a poetic emblem of access to that on which truth and being shine. To problematize the analogy, it hardly needs to be pointed out that the eye is a bloody, layered, fragile, wet, and complicated organ, nothing like the purified Greek sun of Plato, nothing other than the pure radiance of Aten displacing even the images of the gods. Even though Plato no doubt had no knowledge of the complexities of the retinal nerve endings and the bio-chemical mechanisms of sight, doubtless even he had seen destroyed eyes, damaged eyes, removed eyes, but he conveniently forgets all of these things, purifying the eye into an intelligible icon, creating out of its artificial cleanliness and purity the first real icon of the modern soul, even the invention of the soul

11 itself as it would be inherited through the later Christo-psychological traditions from which we are now emerging into the complexities of neuroscience. And Platos disdain for mundane things moves immediately beyond the divided line, into the cave where his prisoners are kept, bodies held in chains outside the radiance of the sun. When considering this scene, one would begin precisely too late if one (like Heidegger) begins to analyze the scene in terms of a whereby the movement from hiddenness into unhiddenness is captured and determined through the relation to the visible and the eye orchestrated by the , gesturing towards a more original hiddenness (the hiddenness belonging to the withholding-concealing of be-ing) as well as a more original unconcealment, where the grounding displacement of the withdrawal of be-ing is brought to light. One would rather have to be much more involved with that which is base and vile, those things which are not even hidden from the prisoners, those things which they need neither education nor the further lights of fires or deified suns to access. After all, the prisoners, when they glance at the shadows, when they trace and follow their movements, naming them, interpreting them, tracking and remembering them, also see the wall of the cave. Plato does not describe the contours and crevices and outcroppings and shadings and grains and layerings of this wall, but surely the prisoners would have also endlessly fascinated themselves by noticing its multi-varied surface, the wall becoming a universe of difference in itself. And likewise, would not the prisoners have noticed their chains themselves, felt the bindings as they were tightened, as well as smelled the horrific sores which would have formed had they been chained for so long in one place? In and through the allegory, would one have the nerve to attempt to educate the prisoners regarding such base and vile things? It will not do to say that the prisoners only sense their walls and their chains, that these things are only images and likenesses for them, that they need to move into the true light in order to have true access or they need to enter more deeply into the profundity of the being-in-the-world in order to encounter their situation and condition more authentically. The very terms of the allegory requires that the movements of the shadows represent the fundamental concealments of sensation which are involved in the human condition. The shadows are emblems of the sensible concealment of being which is to be revealed through the intellectual turning within as the permanent, stable, and beautiful. But the things beyond and before and beneath the shadows, the things which are the prisoners lives, the things of life and death with which they are directly involved, even beyond and before and beneath sensible immediacy are not emblems. Within the allegory of the cave, after all, there is already presupposed an , a speaking openly within an assembly, a direct togetherness of the cave-dwellers as they dwell in common, in the vile and paltry conditions of their imprisonment, conditions not worth mentioning for one so elevated to have spent his entire life free, above the station of the common slave. What is involved in the allegory of the cave is not a movement from darkness into truth, from the sensible into the intelligible, from ignorance into wisdom. Rather, what is involved is the changing of venues, the moving of discourse from the closed interior of the hut, the barbaric cliffside dwelling, the basement quarters of prisoners of war and into the well-lit and clean spaces of the market square and even into the chiseled and polished walls of the Senate, where hardly a blemish is to be found, certainly not residues of mud or dirt or hair. IV. The desire for the beautiful which drives the movement from the sensible is thus conditioned by a certain disgust concerning things which are beneath mention, things which one turns from almost instinctually, if one values cleanliness and purity and order. The very idea of the sensible which is that of an inscribed line which overcomes itself in the movement towards infinity, a spectral surface which is forgotten as its images touch the absolute, is an original occlusion, one which leaves images to hover over an abyss. If the abyss is filled with the substance of the intelligibly pure, the being beyond being

12 of the One, then the images are transcended in the inheritance of the absolute. If one finds this One, this pure intelligibility to be itself an image, such that the sensible and intelligible are overturned, opened onto the groundlessness of the spectral movement of the imagination, reflection and fantasy without cessation, then one is involved in the same occlusion, as the things beneath the contempt of the imagination, too low to even countenance, are etherealized and forgotten. To acknowledge such base and vile things, the very thingliness of things, even the things themselves, before they are already idealized, turned into ideas, lined up before the infinities of their presentations, whether these infinities are determinate as the idea or indeterminate as the yawning void, thus before they are sublimated into objects of philosophical knowledge (objects which are a priori destroyed as they are presented, since such destruction belongs to the very essence of the object) would require nothing other than a song of praise sung within the darkened halls where they might be found, in the night where full visibility is not to be had, in the intimacies where bodies are together, even with their excreted fluids and odors, along with their dirty dishes and unclean laundry. Hymns of praise may be sung, even in the lowest of places, provided that one if willing to linger with the lowly bodies there, even finding them to be beautiful in their mundane poverty. Such desire would have to be one which is overfull of itself, capable of giving instead of taking, a desire which is not a vampiric lack which consumes the life from the things it touches in order to turn them into food for the spirit but rather a positive, impulsive desire which pushes one towards the things as they are, to be together with them, to touch them and enjoy them without the frustrating death of consumption. Such desire could not, thus, be driven by the spirit of Platonic , the moving void which drives one beyond the things of the earth and towards the heavenly spheres. Diotima gives the advice to young Socrates that even when guided by , then one cannot still immediately transcend ones sensible situation and directly access the unearthly radiance of the eternal. Rather, she says,
It is necessary . . . for one who proceeds correctly in this matter to begin when young by heading for the beautiful bodies; and first, if his guide leads him correctly, he must love one body and generate beautiful speeches therein. Next he must understand that the beauty in any body is brother to that in any other body, so that if it is necessary for him to hunt for beauty in form , it is altogether mindless not to suppose beauty to be one and the same in all bodies. Having understood this, he must establish himself as a lover of all the beautiful bodies, by this reflection relaxing his zeal for one, condemning [that zeal] and supposing it to be a trifle.xv

Thus one must indeed start with the singular body, with the body as thing, before ascending to the finality of the beautiful One. But in already starting with the beautiful body, one has subjected it to the sublime judgment of harmony, one has already aestheticized and ordered ones relation to it. The problem here is not that the end of the beautiful is prefigured in the beginning, that one must already be able to judge concerning what is beautiful before one begins the ascent, recollecting a bit too much, having more knowledge than one can justify in mortal life. This Platonic circle is indeed a problem, the problem of a certain drive which returns to itself, a certain requirement for order which finds itself everywhere, which professes to have no beginning other than its own self-completeness. But the immediate problem for Socrates occurs because Diotimas so-called wisdom seems to incapacitate him from doing the very thing she requires of him. One is supposed to begin with the concrete forms of beautiful bodies before ascending, not coyly seducing them only to replace what was promised with the emptiness of the . In the famous seductive dance between Alcibiades and Socrates, is it not the case that Socrates even fails to begin with a beautiful body himself, as well as failing to allow Alcibiades a proper entry

13 onto the ladder towards the heavens, thus failing not only in the proper course of ascent but also in the proper essence of ? We have our scene in the darkness, once again, in the closed and intimate space of the bedroom, after the servants are gone and Alcibiades has professed his love for Socrates. They lie together in bed, Alcibiades heavy cloak draped around Socrates body, the two intertwined together, and nothing happens except for sleep. According to (Platos presentation of) the words of Alcibiades, Socrates refuses the beautiful body next to him: I arose, having spent the night with Socrates in no more extraordinary a sense than if I had slept with my father or older brother. Is not such a withholding, not beginning with the beautiful body of Alcibiades, exactly a bypassing of the appreciation of beauty in the world, not first seeing it there, not responding to it with an appropriately erotic response? One might object that Socrates is at this point aged, that he has already learned his lessons through entering into and passing beyond beautiful bodies, so that he now contents himself with the pure of beautiful discourse. But even if this is the case, then why would he deny Alcibiades a proper entry into the path of knowledge, rather than rather dogmatically forcing him into the madness of proximity and intellectual detachment? In any event, we know that what Socrates practiced in relation to Alcibiades did not work: Alcibiades did not become a philosopher. After this scene of failed seduction, Plato wraps Socrates in a different sort of cloak: he has Alcibiades praise Socrates precisely for his resistance to physical hardships, to the cold of winter and the dangers of famine and battle, linking together Socrates abstinence from physical pleasures with a divine resistance to the brutality of the world: The first notable thing was that he survived the hardships not only better than I did but better than everyone else. Whenever we were cut off from supplies and compelled to go without food, as happens on campaign, the rest were nowhere when it came to endurance. Yet when provisions were plentiful he was unique in his enjoyment of them; in particular, while he preferred not to drink, when compelled he beat everyone at it. And the most surprising thing of all, no living person has ever seen Socrates drunk. Thus even when Socrates partakes of the physical, comes into contact with it, and takes it in, it does not touch him, as if he were a prefiguration of the gnostic Jesus, a living spirit, light in human form; or as if he destroyed the content of the alcohol, the affective quality of the drink, with an erotic metabolism which annihilates everything real. In the Platonic embodiment of the , we have, therefore, a constellation of relations which condition its movement towards the unthingly eternity of the One beyond things. A. The unthematized appeal to the mundane which happens prior to its incorporation into philosophical knowledge (not only the forgotten polished surfaces and cave wall, but also the bloodiness of eyes and even the fact that Socrates and Alcibiades wrestled together, already quite physically coupled even without intercourse, as if there was a magical line between modes of bodily pleasure and touching desire). B. The disgust, disdain, and general avoidance of the base and vile, refusing to allow not only mud and hair to enter as proper objects of knowledge but also the disavowal of the effects of alcohol in the proper philosopher, as well as hunger and thirst, the everyday common needs with which we all have to cope. C. The elevation of this disgust and disavowal into a form of courageousness before the hardships of the world coupled together with its inscription as the necessary ground of the transcendence towards true beauty. D. The determination of desire in relation to these three prior aspects: as the negational movement which leaves the body empty and dissatisfied with the things of the world, taking them in order to consume them, to move beyond them towards their true essences, only to be satisfied with the entirely unearthly, arrived at only (if then) in a state of Silenusian silence and detachment, when one is totally uninvolved with anything else rather than contemplation itself. When comes to be translated as Reason or Vernunft in the modern period, it precisely still carried with it this constellation of relations, this set of virtues and affects and neglects, as it comes to inhabit and form the body of the man of knowledge, the progenitor of the proper form of discourse which will be called
xvi xvii

14 science. V.
The voice, articulation, language, whispering, shouting aloud, Food, drink, pulse, digestion, sweat, sleep, walking, swimming, Poise on the hips, leaping, reclining, embracing, arm-curving and tightening, The continual changes of the flex of the mouth, and around the eyes, The skin, the sun-burnt shade, freckles, hair, The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body, The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out, The beauty of the waist, and thence of the hips, and thence downward toward the knees, The thin red jellies within you, or within methe bones, and the marrow in the bones, The exquisite realization of health; O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul, O I say now these are the Soul!xviii

Both organic and inorganic things can be understood, explained, and seen as subject to laws. In fact, already in their classification between organic and inorganic, between living and dead, between self-moving and moved, between metabolic and merely molecular, those things have already been subject to being understood, explained, and placed within the field of laws of nature. But long before the discovery and detailing of the laws of nature actually allowed us to do anything effective, long before the meta-descriptions of beings allowed for anything of practical import to take place, the proliferation and defense of such laws still occurred, almost as if the laws were necessary in and of themselves, regardless of practical import, as if natural beings not governed by the transcendence of laws were sites of evil, chaos waiting to happen. We live in a history of humors and ethers, natural teleologies and souls, occult and alchemical forces, mysterious powers of causation, entire realms of hidden, heavenly constructions, entire infrastructures of God and the gods, in short a history of metaphysics, discourses and valuations and images and institutions which have turned away from physis through turning towards its interior, seeking secret harmonies within. Almost as if by a miracle, the movement into the inside eventually transformed into a reliable technology efficiently able to manipulate, control, and transform beings in a way which would seem more magical than any metaphysics to the ancients, but this miraculous productivity was conditioned and prefigured by a drive which was anything but pragmatic. The Hegelian drive of nihilational reason, the reason which destroys things and leaves objects in their stead, the reason which transports itself with disdain and disgust beyond mere immediacy, the reason which seeks comfort in its self-ordering propagation, attempting to free itself from the disfiguring intrusions of things in the world and rather require them to submit to its spiritual order is nothing other than the end of this ancient multi-faceted drive, its coming to fruition in a non-practical structure of absolutely comprehending transcendence. As Heidegger understood, ancient metaphysics indeed became technology in its miraculous transport into practical success, but the ancient drive towards a purifying transcendence became another sort of thing, a meta-physics which properly distilled the ancient elitism into glorified fields of meaning. Those who understood the Hegelian system as re-commencing a metaphysical idealism were profoundly deluded, since Hegelian idealism could not rest itself in any thing, even some thing as pure and abstracted as the spiritual substance of the mind: such a substance is still too coarse, too earthly, too mundane, and as Hegel and others correctly note, too filled with the earthly images and associations which made it possible to achieve any real transcendence.

15 As the end of Platonic , even God has to be dismembered, turned into the death of the spirit, the lowest God of mortal transcendence. The God of substance, according to Hegel, has nothing astonishing about it, precisely because it is held together in an immediate relationship, and in order to maintain oneself within the astonishment of spirit, precisely what one must do is go beyond this immediacy, precisely finding spirit only in utter dismemberment. Hegel elicits his famed courage to tarry with the negative precisely so that the mythological immanence of metaphysics, in its false transcendence, will no longer be maintained, to show that it cannot maintain itself. In so doing, however, Hegel does not escape from Platonism but rather fulfills it, finally allowing the full scope of his reign, letting him move through everything, finally returning to himself as a demonic aura of perpetual movement and displacement, thought holding its place (through destroying what is not thought, incessantly) in time. But what if one does not opt for dismemberment? What if one wishes to leave reflection for mirrors and also to allow the things themselves to continue unstudied? That is, what if one resists allowing the habitation and hegemony of as the spirit of the negative, the destructive transcendence within immanence which submits all things to their death? Is there even a capacity for such resistance, even a possibility, in philosophy, in poetry, or somewhere between them? And what if, following Whitmans words (that could be mistaken for similar words written by Nietzsche) those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead, we would both wish to be true to the living bodies of the world, both our own and others, finding them to be sensuously beautiful things in themselves, not wishing to pass beyond them into the necrophiliac raptures of intellectual asceticism and yet be able to bear witness to this devotion, not merely withdrawing into the silence of Silenus, which already, in being named, becomes Platonic and ushers one towards those very raptures? In order to pose these questions, if they are questions to be posed, then one must negotiate through and with what Hegel calls spirit. Spirit, the truth of the transcendence of immediacy which is also the truth of the disavowal and repulsion from base and vile things, is here with us, in these words, in the middle of every question, at the heart of philosophy, as thought comes forth, and if one wishes to bypass such a spirit, such a powerful organizing presence, such a magisterial thing, without negotiating with, seeking terms for a circumvention, submitting at least to a riddle from its Sphinx-like prominence, then one (without knowing) fully submits to it, and one should have as well eaten one's words as spoken them. For instance (and these are only instances in the pervasive realm of spirit which we inhabit and which inhabits us, single insects among an uncountable multitude), if one wishes to remind the reader of the physicality of things, their depth and power and gravity, their capacity to touch and transform us, or if one wishes to remind the reader of the contextual dependence of things, their lack of being-in-themselves and their situatedness within broader fields of engagement and practice, or if one wishes to remind the reader that the body is not an object but rather a source of encounters, a quasi-transcendental site of touching displacement, or if one wishes to remind the reader that within every thing both a shining forth of almost unimaginable radiance and a withholding of darkening depths occurs, the mere objective presences of the world cast beyond themselves into twisted dimensions of sense beyond sense, or if one wishes to remind the reader that things are always already things of history, timed things, passing things, things to come, ecstatic sites of projection, perpetually at the edge of the world, or if one wishes to remind the reader that there are excesses in the encounter with things to both knowledge and intellectual mastery, that a priori raptures govern every economic attempt to preserve stable beings then one is doing nothing other than holding an audience in the presence of the king. All of the foregoing reflect nothing other than the dismembering power of spirit, as it finds the things of the world and goes beyond them, tracing the course of divine movement again and again, from the things into their material depths, their environments, their embodied openings, the proscenia of their presentation, the cadences of their successions, and the joys of their encounter. In all

16 of these formulations, spirit does nothing other than find itself in the midst of dismemberment, precisely in the movements of mediating externalization to which the things are subjected in the midst of the praise of their non-intellectualized, non-metaphysical being. The meinen which is included in the attempt by the intellect to return to the things themselves or to return them back to the non-metaphysical world or to show their grounding within the abysses beyond presence is not as truthful as the philosophically erotic language through which it is expressed. The Platonic spirit of is here and now in these words, in all philosophical words, just as sure as there is saliva in your mouth and blood in your veins, this spirit lives and moves through us as we write and speak and think (it is nothing other than philosophical writing, speech, thought) and while those activities take place, it will not be denied. Therefore, if one wishes (meint) to resist spirit, to resist dismemberment, to resist the ascetic desiccation of things in the movements of abstraction characteristic of modern thought, then ones very wishes carry one into their frustration and one is condemned to Syssiphusian labor, the gravity of the boulder of spirit returning it to the starting position each time it moves. It has long been recognized that the metaphysics of presence destroys things through an objectifying presentation which effaces their singularly displaced occurrences, but it has not been well-recognized that the movements of deconstruction heralded in the overcoming of such presentations are nothing other than the redeployment of the Socratic , now spiritually institutionalized as a discourse of overcoming. This discourse, true to its Platonic heritage, has no practical value, it finds delight in passage, it loves death, it holds itself at the edge of a transcendent void, and then precisely as , as precisely as the Geist which hovers over the surface of the waters of language, it returns to itself, reveling in the new enlightened concepts of non-representational thinking. The lauded resistance to nominalization, the turning of be-ing into a being, the figuration of death, the linearization of time, the bringing of ecstatic passage into the present which it conditions, the movement of re-appropriation and the hegemony of the es which perpetually unites in giving is nothing other than the fulfillment of metaphysics proper, the fulfillment of meta-physics, whereby the things of the world are disowned, disavowed, ignored, treated with contempt, lorded over, turned into symbols, drawn and quartered, pulled asunder by ropes stretching into no-thing-ness. Since is not a proper god of magisterial presence and grandeur, since he is the lowest which pulls and draws towards the highest, has had to give up his proper name, he is no longer celebrated in a joyous economium. But in giving up his proper name, he gathers a host of others, he pluralizes himself into the destructive transcendences which finally supplant the One, becoming ends in themselves. becomes spirit becomes temporality becomes withdrawal becomes contextualization becomes . . . all the improper names of movements without name, which is what was all along. always had many names. And he destroyed things wherever he went, in the name of love. Perhaps we should, however, follow the poet Whitman and proclaim The thin red jellies within you, or within methe bones, and the marrow in the bones, The exquisite realization of health; O I say, these are not the parts and poems of the Body only, but of the Soul, O I say now these are the Soul! This would be to proclaim not only that the heavenly substance of the mind is the brain, neuro-fibers, biochemical, electrical impulses, hardly more but also to proclaim that the body is also wherever the spirit of and the of spirit raises its head. Perhaps is the charming glance of Socrates which lures in the youth as his prey, perhaps spirit is a flow of adrenalin, an urge to destroy, along with the ecstasies of serotonerigic upsurges, orchestrated through a life of looking at maps, staring in mirrors, devouring books as if they were food, collecting notes on painting, being afraid of open spaces in the dark where one is lost and totally alone. Perhaps, the discoveries of the abyssal and the relationality of everything and the endless chessboard on which the game of being is played is nothing other than pulse rates increase during the car ride out of the city and into the wastelands, the

17 feeling of shock as one walks down a strange, foreign city street, aware of suspicious eyes, the leap into the temporal and deathly is a suicidal urge, a deep disquietude with the present, a desiring of the movement of death as a replacement for a departed God, the fascination with the groundless (non-)originality beyond being is a repetition of a childhood escape from the boundaries of the yard fence, wandering down an empty road that seems to go on forever, exhilarated and terrified (among other things). But philosophy is difficult, and we can only follow the poet so far. Just as we can only follow the prophets of transcendence so far, tracking their eccentricities until they revert into brute facts of nature, beautiful things in themselves certainly, but also certainly not what they meant in their formulations, we can also only follow the poet so far in his exclamation that the The curious sympathy one feels, when feeling with the hand the naked meat of the body, The circling rivers, the breath, and breathing it in and out are parts and poems of the soul. In the naked allowance of the return of phenomenological description which attempts to re-situate things from their determination as objective presences into opened planes of arising, the phoenix of spirit re-ignites and burns them again, but in the exuberant voicings which caste forth direct identifications of spiritual living with the organic multiplicities they confront, the phoenix of the spirit returns as well, as more meaning is given to the immanent undergoings of life than they can bear (a walk down a street is a walk down a street). The most difficult thing in either philosophy or poetry is to allow those things that one cares about, that one thinks about, that one wants to understand and praise and follow, that one wants to dedicate ones life to because they are literally the only things that matter, simply to co-exist, to be alongside one another, be spread out and intertwined and intermixed, strange textures and objects on the surface of a sculpted collage. Such a site of allowance, a site between philosophy and poetry, a site even beyond the liminal scissions of transcendent interruptions, the (non-)surprise of the being beyond of the erotic, would require a strange, new, expansive, pluralized ontology, an ontology even more generous than that require by the third-man, an ontology so concrete that it could no longer be called an onto-logy. Such an impossible ontic discourse would, as it were, practically have to let the of things in, to take in their cast off skins, for them to take off from the page with Borgesian wings. Such a discourse would have to countenance not only the standard things of the world, things which are really never standard, always singular and unique, the stones and trees and houses and mountains and rivers but it would also have to brook impossible things, things outside the orders of knowledge to which we have been assigned. A site of transcendence, an egress, an opening onto nothing, a movement beyond, a rupturing event can only be designated as such, after all, in relation to an already established body of knowledge of which it demarcates an egressive limit. But if the order of knowledge is expanded to include extraordinary things, then such erotic flights of wisdom return to earth, to settle alongside the stones and trees and houses and mountains and rivers. Voice, articulation, whispering, shouting loud, the curious sympathy one feels, along with what would have been called relational properties, colors, sounds, shadows, echoes, darkness, along with the fabrics of meaning and contexts, along with death itself, emerging as a thing, as things, both stiffening in the casket and cascading into the vanishing distance, along with the soul, now become body at last, shining as an organism which contains a multitude, along with spirit itself, the body of knowledge becoming the substance of its own god, a new self-consciousness as the encompassment of everything touches itself and shelters within its own fold, holding everything, yet alongside everything, both total and finite, God transfigured. Such a nonnihilational discourse would erupt in free flowing cadences of nominalization, free from performative prayer, free from attempting to scission the word at every turn with the trace of being-beyond, allowing for an incessant onticalization of everything, free from all of the hyphens of be-ing and even meta-

18 physics, as the siting of transcendence come to earth, celebrating proximities without even the depth of presence. Doubtlessly, to attempt to mean or intend for such a site to arise would to be to ask too much of language, even poetic language, even language at the edge of philosophy and poetry. Doubtlessly, we would have to sing together with Whitman that The love of the Body of man or woman balks account and The expression of the face balks account, that not only the body leaves behind the possibility of voicing, but also that the love of this body slips beyond its warm resonance: both that since love of the body proceeds from the body itself, is the body itself, the soul and spirit of love being the body, then this love would be forever beyond accounting and that this love, in emanating, in arising, in happening, and radiating would also tend to evaporate into the transcendence of the ethereal beyond, passing to other realms, giving birth to failure. And in either instance, whether in the silence of an ontological mysticism or the equally silent sounding of the vibration of excess, the spirit of the body would envelope either alternative, returning them to mere words, mere concepts, already transcended and effaced. But when poised, in the dark of night, in the space of the wordless, with the rhythm of your breath with you as you read this, with the saliva in your mouth touching your tongue, with the glowing screen or cool paper in front of your eyes, with the solid weight of your chair almost pushing upwards against you, with the air flowing around your face, all of these together with the words which set themselves back into their surfaces, black residues, hardly anything, and also with the laws of propriety keeping you in place, with the hopes for the future as real as the appointments in your phone, with the knowledge of the ages kept within micro-devices accessible to your hands, with your mind always already outside itself, as ordered as an office or a well-kept den, with the spirit of the ages embodied not in Napoleon but rather in the webs which draw in everything and turn it into digitized dots, remember that there are things other than accounts, that there is something other than the accounting for everything which spirit requires, requires even here, as it remembers that it still speaks, always and everywhere you do. And even though they are impossible, even if language, as the possibility of possibility itself forbids them, even though they are dissimulated into the night of non-knowledge and the poverty of utter consumption, keep alive the intentions to go to the things themselves, not to know them, not to experience them, not to consume them in the fires of objectivity, not to find them vanishing in waves of non-determination, not to use them as vehicles of transport towards the unearthly, not to allow them to symbolize what they are not, not to preserve them as icons of present meaning, not to allow them to serve as new divinities for which only a negative onto-theology would suffice, not to describe them with unheard of concepts which will become the tropes for new generations, the icons of spirit to be inherited and surpassed through gestational thought, not to sacrifice in the midst of your own quest for acknowledgment and mastery, as you risk death for the eternity of spirit but rather merely to return, even eschewing to determine the present as the past or the projective future which slips away from itself, to where you are, together with the things around you, touching you, together with you, underneath you, within you, safely insulated from the fires of ontology. Perhaps such a mad meinen would even be a desire of desire, not one where an emptiness comprehends another, but rather one where an overflow of life propagates itself, something which loves vile and paltry things, even human things, beyond beautiful forms.
I have perceivd that to be with those I like is enough, To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough, To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,

To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a momentwhat is this, then? I do not ask any more delightI swim in it, as in a sea. There is something in staying close to men and women, and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well; All things please the soulbut these please the soul well. xx

i Walt Whitman, A Clear Midnight, in The Complete Poems (New York: Penguin Classics, 2005), 497. ii G.W.F. Hegel, Phaenomenologie des Geistes, translation mine (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag), 91. iii Hegel, 84. iv Hegel, 85. v Whitman, Old War-dreams, 494. vi Whitman, Song of Myself, 73. vii Hegel, 186. viiiHegel, 82. ix Whitman, Respondez! 606. x Whitman, Song of Myself, 79. xi Plato, The Republic: The Complete Unabridged Jowett Translation, trans. Benjamin Jowett (New York: Vintage Classics, 1991) 250. xii Plato, The Republic, 251. xiiiPlato, The Parmenides, translated Benjamin Jowett (Maryland: Arc Manor, 2008) 6. xiv Plato, The Republic, 249. xv Translation from Plato's Symposium by Stanley Rosen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987) 264-265. xvi Plato's Symposium, 308. xviiPlato's Symposium, 311. xviiiWhitman, I sing the body electric, 135. xix Whitman, I sing the body electric, 128. xx Whitman, I sing the body electric, 130.