Nothing to Do or the Invisible Ethics

By Stefanescu, Dorin | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Nothing to Do or the Invisible Ethics


Stefanescu, Dorin, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


Abstract: According to Fondane, rationalist philosophy implies arguments that aim at a separation of the intelligible and the sensible which, in the Platonic tradition represents a degradation of the de-signified individual. Supporting itself on Lévinas' thematization of the ethical as a prime philosophy, the interpretation regards the nucleus of the strong relation between morality and religion. Following the Christic example, the moment man is emptied of himself, he may free himself from his fake central placing. A radical passivity of a de-moralized conscience that, having nothing to do, gives itself to the Good from before its possibility of choosing it. A humiliated ethics, invisible to transcendence, in the light of which it is not primordial to do something good, but to let oneself be made by the immemorial Good.

Key words: existential philosophy, Platonic tradition, ethics, transcendent, de-moralized conscience, Good, religion, de-creation.

"One must fight with all reason against someone who would struggle to annihilate knowledge, wisdom, and intellect by any means"1. The text that B. Fondane proposes as an answer to the survey began by "Cahiers du Sud"2 is structured around - and against - this position. To proclaim the stringent fight against somebody who attacks the ontological precedence of knowledge and that of the intellect - as Plato does and, after him, an entire tradition of the Western philosophical thought - equates with the desperate attempt to save the purity of the intelligible and to shelter it from any infection coming from the sensible. According to this hierarchical vision, the superior (the intelligible) should be separated from the inferior (the sensible). If the place of the intelligible is the correlation between knowledge and being (in Parmenidian terms: thinking is equal to being), the thought that is its expression does not function meaningfully unless it is separated from the sensible, isolated in a proud single cell. "The wise - writes Aristotle - can still dedicate himself to contemplation, event left alone with himself"3, as the body is a chimera, adds Descartes, and "what is called feeling in me... is nothing but thought"4. Faced with the possible insurrection of the body and of the sensible in general, and in order to surpass the possible nefarious consequences of such a logical dead end, (clear and distinct) rationalist philosophy uses the most subtle arguments, according to which -writes Fondane - "what happens must be understood not only in its relation to itself, but to the whole as well; the world has more rights to become the owner of Providence than the people; through his thought, man has to reach such a level of generality so as to feel indifference towards his own existence; evil is necessary to Good, even if only opposed to it; evil does not exist, it is an exclusive act, an absence". There follows an equal number of degrees of degradation and marginalization of the individual without significance; not as much its elimination, but its absorption into a category considered superior, which would immunize its meaning, would pull out its nefarious thorn and would integrate it into a realm where it would lose touch with the ground. It is the reverse of a metonymic act, for here it is not the part that stands for the whole; the whole does not recognize the part unless it is integrated in its assimilating order and never in its partiality that cannot be interchangeable. It is a huge organism seen as individuum that rejects prohibitively any dividuum. Talking about the parts of the universal body, Plotinus writes that "some die because they cannot stand the order of the universe, just like a turtle caught in the middle of a grand procession that moves rhythmically and who suffers because it cannot escape the rhythm of the choir but if it coordinated its movements, it would no longer suffer from it"5. Thus - Fondane continues commenting on this fragment - "the responsibility of the intelligible world is exceptionally saved; the Laws cannot dance but according to perfection and cannot care about anything else; anything else, that is history, the anonymous crowd of turtles, stepped on by the dancers' feet". …

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