Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quote for the Week

The second part of the Dexter/Raskolnikov comparison is going to wait a bit, but here's something to keep us occupied and sort of on target:
The system in which the sovereign mind imagined itself transfigured, has its primal history in the pre-mental, the animal life of the species.  Predators get hungry, but pouncing on their prey is difficult and often dangerous; additional impulses may be needed for the beast to dare it.  These impulses and the unpleasantness of hunger fuse into rage at the victim, a rage whose expression in turn serves the end of frightening and paralyzing the victim.  In the advance to humanity this is rationalized by projection.  The “rational animal” with an appetite for his opponent is already fortunate enough to have a superego and must find a reason.  The more completely his actions follow the law of self-preservation, the less can he admit the primacy of that law to himself and to others; if he did, his laboriously attained status of a zoon politikon would lose all credibility.

The animal to be devoured must be evil.  The sublimation of this anthropological schema extends all the way to epistemology.  Idealism—most explicitly Fichte—gives unconscious sway to the ideology that the not-I, l’autrui, and finally all that reminds us of nature is inferior, so the unity of the self-preserving thought may devour it without misgivings.  This justifies the principle of the thought as much as it increases the appetite.  The system is the belly turned mind, and rage is the mark of each and every idealism.  It disfigures even Kant’s humanism and refutes the aura of higher and nobler things in which he knew how to garb it.  The view of man in the middle is akin to misanthropy: leave nothing unchallenged.  The august inexorability of the moral law was this kind of rationalized rage at nonidentity; nor did the liberalistic Hegel do better with the superiority of his bad conscience, dressing down those who refused homage to the speculative concept, the hypostasis of the mind.  Nietzsche’s liberating act, a true turning point of Western thought and merely usurped by others later, was to put such mysteries into words.  A mind that discards rationalization—its own spell—ceases by its self-reflection to be the radical evil that irks it in another.

Adorno, “Idealism as Rage,” Negative Dialectics, p. 22-3, my emphasis

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