Blood Meridian Tidbits

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  • 08 May 2015 at 4:58 pm #7083

    davor123
    Member

    He could be refering to a historical narrative or history as a narrative. World history is the central Hegelian narrative in which oppositions are formed and sublated. There is a famous Hegelian quote: “die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht,” though I think Friedrich Schiller invented the phrase. It means “world history is the world’s court” and it may answer the question what the judge is a judge of and what is his court.
    Hegel talks about many types of narratives (tragedy in particular) but this is the central one though he probably understood it as sui generis and not just as a type of narrative. Still, I’m just guessing and maybe McCarthy was talking about something else.
    The easiest way for me to understand Hegel was by reading his Lectures on the Philosophy of History (though I’m no expert and when I say I understand him it is an overstatement). He was an Aristotelian and it is difficult to understand Hegel (or the his idea of subjectivity or self-relating negativity) without understanding Aristotle to some extent. Spinoza was also very important for Hegel. I think McCarthy was alluding to Spinoza in The Counsellor with the Jewish diamond expert in Amsterdam (maybe the diamond was a metaphor for Spinozan substance or lens he was perfecting).


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    21 Jul 2015 at 5:45 pm #7342

    davor123
    Member

    Another philosopher who could have influenced McCarthy is Max Stirner. Though many people think that the judge is a Nietzschean it is difficult to sustain that opinion because we are talking about different time periods. Nietzsche wrote his masterpieces after the events described in Blood Meridian and this is not quite Nietzschean (though he was concerned with nihilism but in different way):

    “And yet there will be one there always who is a true dancer and can you guess who that might be?

    You aint nothin.

    You speak truer than you know.”

    Max Stirner in The Ego and Its Own writes:

    “They say of God, ‘names name thee not’. That holds good of me:
    no concept expresses me, nothing that is designated as my essence
    exhausts me; they are only names. Likewise they say of God that he
    is perfect and has no calling to strive after perfection. That too holds
    good of me alone.
    I am owner of my might, and I am so when I know myself as unique.
    In the unique one the owner himself returns into his creative nothing,
    of which he is born. Every higher essence above me, be it God, be
    it man, weakens the feeling of my uniqueness, and pales only before
    the sun of this consciousness. If I concern myself for myself, the
    unique one, then my concern rests on its transitory, mortal creator,
    who consumes himself, and I may say:
    All things are nothing to me.”

    Other Stirnerian thoughts are these judges claims:

    “The judge placed his hands on the ground. He looked at his inquisitor. This is my claim, he said. And yet everywhere upon it are pockets of autonomous life. Autonomous. In order for it to be mine nothing must be permitted to occur upon it save by my dispensation.”

    “Whatever in creation exists without my knowledge exists without my consent.”

    You can see that he could be using the Stirnerian concept of ownness (Eigenheit) and autonomy. Nietzsche was a bit sceptical about autonomy because of its Kantian heritage and for some other reasons.


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    24 Jul 2015 at 2:19 am #7369

    davor123
    Member

    The following quote is also something that could have inspired McCarthy:

    Connected with this is the discernment that every judgment which I pass upon an object is the creature of my will; and that discernment again leads me to not losing myself in the creature, the judgment, but remaining the creator, the judge, who is ever creating anew. All predicates of objects are my statements, my judgments, my — creatures. If they want to tear themselves loose from me and be something for themselves, or actually overawe me, then I have nothing more pressing to do than to take them back into their nothing, into me the creator. God, Christ, Trinity, morality, the good, etc., are such creatures, of which I must not merely allow myself to say that they are truths, but also that they are deceptions. As I once willed and decreed their existence, so I want to have license to will their non- existence too; I must not let them grow over my head, must not have the weakness to let them become something “absolute,” whereby they would be eternalized and withdrawn from my power and decision. With that I should fall a prey to the principle of stability, the proper life-principle of religion, which concerns itself with creating “sanctuaries that must not be touched,” “eternal truths” — in short, that which shall be “sacred” — and depriving you of what is yours. (Max Stirner, The Ego and its Own)


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    24 Jul 2015 at 1:32 pm #7370

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: Stirner’s EGO AND ITS OWN

    That certainly fits.

    It also fits with what Leslie Harper Worthington argues in his book, CORMAC MCCARTHY AND THE GHOST OF HUCK FINN. That Judge Holden represents the extreme childish I-am-the-center-of-the-universe Ego, which is why he is described as an enormous infant.


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    24 Jul 2015 at 5:09 pm #7372

    Glass
    Member

    Davor123,

    That is an interesting argument that McCarthy, in his creation of the judge, would not use as influences people (Nietzsche, for example) who lived or, more specifically, wrote their important works, after the time period in which BM occurs. I think you are arguing that but I could be wrong because I am wrong about lots of things. Not sure I would agree but find it intriguing. Relatedly, I have heard people argue about what the judge could have known about geology, for example, or whether he could have known about the Anasazi. The Stirner connection seems apt.

    Richard L., Leslie Harper Worthington is female.


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    24 Jul 2015 at 5:49 pm #7373

    Richard L.
    Member

    Thanks, my mistake. Leslie’s book is certainly a valuable contribution to McCarthy crit-lit.

    Re: What does the Judge know about natural science?

    Chamberlain’s MY CONFESSION says that the historical Judge was always giving lectures about geology and natural science, so McCarthy’s Judge follows suit, if to an enlarged degree.

    The historical events in BLOOD MERIDIAN take place at the same time that Melville was writing MOBY DICK, although it wasn’t until later, in his revisions, that Melville enlarged the novel to the cosmic themes to which BLOOD MERIDIAN pays tribute. All philosophy is timeless.

    We had a thread on the relationship of MD to BM and other McCarthy works, and I’m sure it must have been mentioned by Mr. Glass in this thread a time or two.


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    24 Jul 2015 at 6:19 pm #7374

    Glass
    Member

    Richard, I only knew that because I met her at the Berea conference. Anyway, that’s interesting stuff on science and the judge. I kind of recall either Rick or Peter Josyph talking about whether it was possible the judge could have known about the Anasazi, and I know Rick has talked about other scientific things the judge could have known. Super interesting.


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    14 Aug 2015 at 7:00 am #7464

    davor123
    Member

    Glass,

    I think that the meticulousness that went into making of Blood Meridian can hardly leave a doubt that McCarthy would avoid anachronisms. The “might is right” claim that the judge seems to be making is already present in Stirner and it is his central point (not that he is the first to make it, but it is central to him). Stirner also demeans morality like Nietzsche. In any case, any Nietzschean influence could be interpreted in some other way. The specific Nietzscean points concerning pessimism, nihilism, tragedy etc. seem to be missing in the judge.

    Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about Plato’s influence. The whole point about the judge’s ambiguity could be related to Plato’s (and maybe Aristotle’s) thinking about matter as something undetermined or without form (pure potentiality) which is in his view evil. This is from FWJ Schelling’s essay on the essence of freedom:

    As far as we can judge, it will be better to speak of the question concerning the reality of evil from the Platonic viewpoint. The notions of our era, which treats this point far more lightly and pushes its philanthropism [Philanthropismus] to the brink of denying evil, have not the most distant connection to such ideas. According to these notions, the sole ground of evil lies in sensuality or animality, or in the earthly principle, as they do not oppose heaven with hell, as is fitting, but with the earth. This notion is a natural consequence of the doctrine according to which freedom consists in the mere rule of the intelligent principle over sensual desires and tendencies, and the good comes from pure reason; accordingly, it is understandable that there is no freedom for evil (in so far as sensual tendencies predominate)— to speak more correctly, however, evil is completely abolished.(FWJ Schelling, Philosophical Inquiries into the Essence of Human Freedom)

    The point about the judge seems to be that if you deny the existence of evil and think that everything can in principle be rationally explained then you are commited to explain the judge or in McCarthy’s words to seek “the verification of a principle, a validation of sequence and causality” which does not in fact exist. So McCarthy seems to be forcing us to either accept the existence of evil or to put the judge under some principle.

    In light of this interpretation “a man progressing over the plain by means of holes which he is making in the ground” is McCarthy himself carefully expunging all historical references that could explain the judge. In light of the Platonic conception of evil the judges pure potentiality (he could be anything and nothing) and ambiguity is evil.


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    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  davor123.
    14 Aug 2015 at 9:28 am #7466

    Richard L.
    Member

    Re: “This is the kind of proposition that one repeats to oneself countless times. One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature over and over again, and one is merely tracing around the frame through which we look at it.”

    Yes, and this gets us back to Nietzsche (that is, the Nietzsche of THE BIRTH OF TRAGEDY, the tripartite division of art into the Apollonian, its Dionysian antithesis, and their synthesis in Greek tragedy) and even to Plato. In BLOOD MERIDIAN, the two hats on the bar, the Judge’s conversation with the Coldforger who isn’t there. Reality exists, but we can never talk of it or even think of it in words for to do so is only to get at the art of it, which is never the thing itself but only a metaphor. A representation.


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    14 Aug 2015 at 12:00 pm #7467

    davor123
    Member

    Another quote from Schelling’s essay may explain what happened in the jakes and how McCarthy could be exploiting our “false imagination” (logismoi nothoi):

    If the dark principle of selfhood and self-will in man is thoroughly penetrated by the light and at one with it, then God, as eternal love or as really existing, is the bond of forces in him. But if the two principles are in discord, another spirit usurps the place where God should be, namely, the reversed god, the being aroused to actuality by God’s revelation that can never wrest actuality from potency, that, though it never is, yet always wants to be and, hence, like the matter of the ancients, cannot be grasped actually (actualized) by the complete understanding but only through the false imagination (logismoi nothoi), which is sin itself; for this reason, since, having no Being itself, it borrows the appearance of Being from true Being, as the serpent borrows colors from the light, it strives by means of mirrorlike images to bring man to the senselessness in which it alone can be understood and accepted by him. That is why it is presented correctly not only as an enemy of all creatures (because they come to be only through the bond of love) and, above all, of man, but also as the seducer of man who entices him toward false pleasure [falsche Lust] and the acceptance of what does not have Being in his imagination; there it is supported by the tendency to evil proper to man, whose eyes, being incapable of beholding constantly the luster of the divine and the truth, always look away to what does not have Being [das Nichtseiende].


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