File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 90

Subject: Ethics of Aesthetics?
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2001 10:07:00 +0800

G'day Hugh,

As you were saying,

> Let us imagine ourselves "outside" the so-called real world, Cosmos,
> Universe(s), observing all that "is" - Including all that is to
> deists,
> atheists - the "facts" we obey to survive.
> Dream of Gods dreaming people dreaming Gods.
> Refuse to pore over the intricate mental constructs of religious,
> scientific and philosophical pasts, (historians excepted) and think about
> the future of the physical and mental worlds, the real and symbolic
> universes we inhabit.
> Why should the species be bound by the past?  Why
> not invent new ideas of the sublime, the unknown, the varieties of
> experience, with all the confidence of ancient ancestors?

Maybe because they didn't know any better, and I am not supposing we do, but
at least we know there is the possibility of something better. It is just,
how do we know if something is better without looking to the past?

Here is a rather long extract from a rather obscure source (and as a form of
reply it is rather convoluted, sorry:) -

'A democratic society in its thirst for liberty may fall under the influence
of bad leaders, who intoxicate it with excessive quantities of the neat
spirit; and then, unless the authorities are very mild and give it a lot of
liberty, it will curse them for oligarchs and punish them.'
'That is just what a democracy does.'
'It goes on to abuse servile and contemptible those who obey the authorities
and reserve its approval, in private life as well as public, for rulers who
behave like subjects and subjects who behave like rulers. In such a society
the principle of liberty is bound to go to extremes, is it not?'
'It certainly is.'
'What is more,' I said, 'it will permeate private life and in the end effect
even the domestic animals with anarchy.'
'How do you mean?'
'Well,' I said, 'it becomes the thing for father and son to change places,
the father standing in awe of his son, and the son neither respecting nor
fearing his parents, in order to assert what he calls his independence; and
there's no distinction between citizen and alien and foreigner.'
'Yes, these things do happen.'
'They do,' I said, 'and there are other more trivial things, the teacher
fears and panders to his pupils, who in turn despise their teachers and
attendants; and the young as a whole imitate their elders, argue with them
and set themselves up against them, while their elders try to avoid the
reputation of being disagreeable or strict by aping the young and mixing
with them on terms of easy good fellowship.'
'All very true.'
'The extreme of popular liberty is reached in this kind of society when -
male and female - have the same liberty as their owners - not to mention the
complete equality and liberty in the relations between the sexes.'
'Let's have the whole story while we're at it, as Aeschylus says.'
'Right,' I said; 'you shall. You would never believe - unless you had seen
it for yourself - how much more liberty the domestic animals have in a
democracy. The dog comes to resemble its mistress, as the proverb has it,
and the same is true of the horses and donkeys as well. They are in the
habit of walking about the streets with a grand freedom, and bump into
people they meet if they don't get out of their way. Everything is full of
the spirit of liberty.'
You're telling me!' he said. 'I've often suffered from it on my way out of
'What is all adds up to is this,' I said; 'you find that the minds of the
citizens become so sensitive that the least vestige of restraint is resented
as intolerable, till finally, as you know, in their determination to have no
master they disregard all laws, written or unwritten.'

That comes from Plato's "The Republic." (Part Nine [Book Eight])

We can not return to Eden. There will always be a socius. We can only become
more and more aware of ourselves and of our fellow human beings. Having mere
knowledge of others and their subject positions is not enough, we must learn
to believe, at least just for a moment, what and how they believe. Thus
restraining ourselves more, which, eventually, will lead to the most
socially just liberty possible. Any other way is ego-centric

>And Nietzsche,
>> "It is only as an
>> aesthetic experience that life can be justified. " .

I agree that life is justified only as an aesthetic experience, but not all
aesthetic experiences are justified by life.
Everyone not only has the right to live, but also to feel alive, otherwise
what is the point?
Maybe the authority of history could be disregarded, but not all of the
lessons of the past...



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