Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

"Nothing but Little Lines"

Academic journal article Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

"Nothing but Little Lines"

Article excerpt

This philosophical essay--written in a non-conventional and playful way, in the form of a dialogue with a friend and with other philosophers ranging from Socrates to Gilles Deleuze--asks the elemental question of what philosophy is and why such a question is raised in old age. In the tradition of Hegel, Heidegger, and Arendt, the author explores the significance of 'old age,' while intertwining his prose with that of a book written by Deleuze and Guattari, What is Philosophy? (1991). The passing reference to the "oriental sage" in the book is highlighted and analyzed. Oriental thought, as expressed in Rumi's notion of the old mentor or gray-haired shaykh, is interpreted by the author as well as juxtaposed to other European notions of philosophy and old age.


For D. S.: Two Dedications

To You, in your old age. And to Philosophy. I know, you don't take this juxtaposition to be a title of honor. Not necessarily, you would say, not necessarily an honor for you. I

I wonder, though. And I will, therefore, not separate, for the time being, not write two separate dedications. One for literature, let's say, and one for philosophy.

The question of What is Philosophy'? can perhaps be posed only late in life with the arrival of old age and the time for speaking correctly. (Deleuze/Guattari 1) (2)

Do you think that such things could be a matter of age? Or, to be more precise, of old age? There is an age of philosophy, and more astonishingly, there is an age for asking what philosophy is. Seriously, soberly. An age when it is time to know her or, at least, when it is time to desire to know her, finally.

This, at least, is what some philosophers say. They also say, or make someone say, that it is a matter of pleasures, of exchanging pleasures. And it looks, rather, like exchanging pleasantries. Remember, when Plato has those two old men, Cephalus and Socrates, dance around each other and their life's journey? "Oh yes, says Cephalus, it is marvellous, one is never left without. When the pleasures of the body fade away, the pleasures and charms of conversation increase. Oh yes, says Socrates, you know how much I love conversing, and there is nothing better than conversing with old men." (3)

But, Socrates, when you conversed with young men, how often did you tell them of your love of conversation? And, by the way, didn't you say at the end of your life that seeing and judging things through the lenses of pleasure and pain is the "worst evil" because it nails the soul to the body?

... There are times when old age produces not eternal youth but a sovereign freedom, a pure necessity in which one enjoys a moment of grace between life and death, and in which all the parts of the machine come together to send into the future a feature that cuts across all ages.... (1-2)

It seems to be the body. The body ages. The aging philosopher's body ages. And now will be time for two dedications. One to philosophy whose time has come, "when a figure of life has grown old"--in the words of Hegel--and one to the question: What is Philosophy?

Old philosophy, old philosophers, always old, old before their time. Oh, old philosophers, what did you do in your youth? Did you live, already then, in your old bodies and minds, thinking, wondering how the fire would go out? Extinction or exhaustion, violence or old age? One wouldn't know, at that age. And probably it didn't matter, at that age.

How or when the fire would die, was of no concern. One was so involved in one's plans and ideas--was just 'doing philosophy'--that the thought, the question, never occurred. What did it matter, if one's life was going to be a life where, as you, Deleuze, put it, there is no sudden breakage, a life that just slowly goes out, or if it would, just stop? It didn't seem to matter. For a philosopher, at least, there were guarantees. In case he would have wondered, despite his youth. …

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