Monday, November 28, 2011
Reiner Schürmann recaps the story of our tragic condition so far; from Broken Hegemonies.
For a century and a half—since the deaths of Hegel and Goethe—hegemonic fantasms have suffered a polymorphous suspension. Hölderlin declared that he had received from the gods a knowledge heavier than he could digest, a knowledge which had to do with a certain condition of being becoming obvious in this late modernity; then Russians appeared, calling themselves nihilists and anarchists; lastly, Nietzsche announced that the true world had become a fable. . . . The half-century which elapsed between Hegelʼs death in 1831 and August 5, 1881, when the thought came to Nietzsche that the world is made up of incessant constellations of forces—these five decades are doubtless the most difficult ones to understand in our entire history. One might say that gazes then dared to wrest themselves away from authorities that were posited as consoling and consolidating, and that once again they allowed themselves to bear witness to the truly primary condition, the tragic condition that, since Euripides, the functionaries of humanity had busied themselves with banalizing by subsuming it under a genus (“mors et alia huiusmodi,” ‘death and other things of that kind {genre},ʼ Thomas Aquinas will say in a sovereign manner). The fracture that death inflicts on any ultimate thesis or position is declared in discourses unheard of until the middle of the nineteenth century. Hölderlin and Nietzsche felt as if they were stricken by the oldest of obvious facts—that of the mortal labor that exerts the disparate on life. The tragic is defined, as was seen, by that labor.

How could the truth of this suspension, which has become our manifest destiny, be gathered up? Here, even more than was the case with the destitution of the hen and natura, it is important to read carefully. That the Greek “one” and the Latin “nature” lost their power to impose a regime troubles hardly anyone but those persons nostalgic for an immutable order (a nostalgia which illustrates how slow fantasms are in dying off). But whoever takes the hegemony of self-consciousness to task should beware. The utopianists of an ideal discursive community are watching, avatars of the philosophical bureaucracy assigned to transcendental and reflexive service.

P. 513
"The half-century . . . between . . . 1831 and August 5, 1881. . .

American historian F.O. Matthiessen identifies a midpoint, 1850-55, as the highpoint of an American renaissance in the arts and literature in the U.S. In a struggle against the American establishment at such institutions as Harvard, where it was taboo to refer to European thought or to use it as a model, American intellectual genius prospered but only briefly. Then, of course, the American Civil War changed the popular consciousness so thoroughly and with the cultural changes of immigration left arts and literature at the fringes of interest. The economics of imperialism has taken over ever since to satisfy as a vision.
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