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Exile in the Flow of Time

On Memory and Immortality in Plato’s Republic

Claudia Baracchi

In its contents as well as discursive strategy, Plato’s Republic occasions a few reflections on the phenomenon of memory. The essay situates the philosophical discourse, along with that of divination and poetry, in the context of the practices of memory and, more broadly, within the sphere of Mnemosune. The figure of the philosopher retains traces of archaic humanity, most notably of the Homeric hero. At the same time, in the Platonic Socrates we discern a transfiguration of heroic heritage, in the direction of a thorough ethical recalibration emphasizing the awareness of mortality, the art of finite life (βίος), and the visionary celebration of life (ζωή) in its excessive and indestructible movement. In this way, at the very heart of the Republic we may heed the cipher and resonance of Dionysus.

Claudia Baracchi

Abstract

The essay follows the fil rouge of ancient Greek thinking in the work of Gregory Bateson, an unusually multi-faceted and energetically nomadic intellect in the landscape of twentieth-century hyper-specialized disciplines, whose eclectic research focused on the question of life and of human participation in a living world. Through the reverberation of Neoplatonic motifs and echoing pre-Socratic intuitions, Bateson reflects on the “pattern which connects”—the λόγος that says one and all things, and the interpenetration of one and all things, thus operating as the connective tissue of all that is, the communicational web of contacts, exchanges, and transmissions, perhaps the nervous system of life.

Claudia Baracchi

Abstract

The artist understands his work as intimately connected with the life and symbolism of plants. Art, thus, demands an attunement to life’s elemental operations, the thrust “into dimensions far removed from the conscious process.” The first part of the present essay aims at recovering what is implied in the imagery of trees, delving into ancient archives of dormant collective memories and immemorial imaginal stratifications. The second and third parts, deploying the re-energized figure of the tree, explore the theme of the relation between art and life, indeed, what Klee calls the “art of life.” By reference to Klee’s 1924 Jena lecture and the artist’s diaries, the discussion addresses the intersecting themes of artistic formation, mindful self-formation, the vital importance of worldly roots, and the transcendent fragrance of flowers and fruits.

Claudia Baracchi

Abstract

This essay considers the tensions informing Nietzsche's reflection on intertwined issues of nature, art, sexuality, and the feminine. Through the figure of Dionysus, Nietzsche articulates a suggestive understanding of generation as the upsurge of nature in its transformative movement. The juxtaposition of Luce Irigaray's elaboration of the Dionysian calls for an interrogation of Nietzsche's work regarding (1) the sublimation of nature into art and of sexuality or sensuality into artistic drives, (2) the oblivion of sexual difference in the coupling of Apollo and Dionysus, and (3) the disappearance of love from the scene of creativity and procreation and, concomitantly, the emphasis on suffering and dismemberment.

Claudia Baracchi

Abstract

In spite (or because) of the infinity of (the) voice, of the boundless mystery it carries and exhales, of its disembodied traversing and joining, sayings follow barely traced courses. They travel along fragile lines of memory, often discontinuous bridges, transpositions into notational forms. They travel alone, exposed to corruption, consuming friction, repetition - their beginning and final destination often lost to those who listen to them and send them past. In spite of the power of memory and its arts, there are sayings and stories handed down to us in fragments, like decapitated Níke and disfigured Diónysos. There are poems reaching us, race of diggers and preservers, through somebody else's reminiscence, recovery, or loving quotation. In turn, our receiving and sending (stretching) forth, our being thus traversed, shares something with the destiny of these sayings and sculpted deities - being sent, crossing and (un)covering distances, in the fragmented continuity of dialogues, or what remains of them. The present essay is devoted to a meditation on the question of temporality and history in its epistemologico-metaphysical implications. It is developed mainly by reference to Aristotle, after Heidegger.

Claudia Baracchi

Abstract

The essay focuses on human self-understanding as it arises from out of the experience of nature—the experience of a relatedness to nature that is at once a belonging in nature. At stake, then, is not a conceptual approach to the question of nature but rather the emergence of the human within the embrace of what presents itself as a mystery irreducible to the human, inhuman in the sense of other-than-human.The experience of nature “hiding itself” (as Heraclitus said) gave rise to the longing for mastery (e.g., the rationalistic-scientific project) as well as to a celebration of the mystery in its wonder and beauty. The juxtaposition of Giordano Bruno's cosmological vision and Renaissance painting (Tiziano Vecellio, Raphaël, and Leonardo da Vinci) illuminates this latter perspective, disclosing mystery not so much as that which would lie beyond appearances, but as that which inhabits appearances and in them becomes manifest as such.

Claudia Baracchi

Heraclitus reportedly said that πόλεμος is “father of all, king of all” (Fragment B53). However, we should be cautious around the translation of πόλεμος as “war.” How to hear this term in its multifarious signification is precisely the theme of the present essay. The analysis of various Heraclitean fragments, furthermore, may call into question the view of politics as constitutively involving war and violence (thinkers as diverse as Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, Hobbes, and Marx offer varying formulations of this position) and contribute to the task of understanding politics otherwise. Granted, the examination of Heraclitean texts may appear rather tangential, even remote, with respect to this question. And yet, however obliquely, this study points to a meditation on politics as genuinely and meaningfully resting on the practice of peace—or, one might say, on a radically other understanding of the word “war.”