The Cretin

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  • 05 May 2012 at 9:50 pm #1138

    cantona
    Member

    I find myself slowly nodding in agreement with Aden on this. However, I’m a little confused with this couplet: “The true is the whole but the whole is no-thing but rather the continuous manifestation of an endless stream of parts. This is what the judge means when he says war is god”. Is this just saying that war/confict is untranscendable as it is who/what we are? If that is so, then, it can’t be Hegel, in the purest sense. Is the Judge the love child of Hegel and Nietzsche? I’m reading a very interesting book on the influence of Hegel in French thought – ‘French Hegel: From Surrealism to Postmodernism’, by Bruce Baugh – and the idea of Hegel minus Aufhebung is similar to Bataille’s reading of the philosopher ( for example, Bataille celebrates, or accepts, the ‘unhappy consciousness’). Could you, Aden, clarify your thoughts on this, please?


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    06 May 2012 at 9:17 am #1139

    aden
    Member

    The Aufhebung is the negation of negation. As such, Hegel says that it contains an essentially positive element. Hegel delineates the positive component of the Aufhebung as death in his discussion of the death of God and the death of Christ in the chapter on religion in PhG (especially §785). It should be noted here that Schopenhauer uses the same cognate term (Aufheben) to describe his concept of metaphysical nullification and cancellation as the final end (both teleological and ontological) of his system as well. As for Hegel’s discussion of history and war, it is best not to take the statements recorded in the lecture notes of his students too literally. The end of history is not actualized politically in the real practices of everyday people.

    As for McCarthy’s political thought as expounded through the judge in BM, I would recommend the Frenchman Maistre more than twentieth century French idiots who mangled Hegel. I’ll copy an endnote from my paper on political philosophy in BM presented ant the 25th anniversary conference below.
    _______
    Worth mentioning in this connection is the Catholic and continental Counter-Enlightenment conservatism of Joseph de Maistre (Maistre). Like Rousseau in Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts, Maistre does not argue that enlightenment simply leads to corruption; rather, he argues that popular enlightenment leads to the corruption of popular morality, which is the only kind of morality operative in the lives of most men. Maistre’s claim is that the Enlightenment as a progressive ideology underestimates the socio-political importance of the Church. One could argue the dilapidated and declining conditioning of all churches in Blood Meridian, in connection with the lack of moral restraint felt by the men inhabiting the novel’s landscape, indicates McCarthy’s agreement with Maistre and Rousseau on this matter.

    Furthermore, many of Maistre’s pronouncements on the metaphysical nature of war in the essay “On the Violent Destruction of the Human Species” (Maistre 23-31) sound eerily similar to those of the judge. “[H]istory proves that war is, in a certain sense, the habitual state of mankind, which is to say that human blood must flow without interruption somewhere or other on the globe, and that for every nation, peace is only a respite” (23). With this in mind, I would argue that the judge interpreted as the novel’s epic hero in a post-Christian world is very much in accordance with Maistre’s claim that the decline of the Church necessarily eventuates in violence and chaos. Maistre used this as an argument to support restoration. I would not argue that McCarthy holds any such hope.

    This puts McCarthy closer to Hegel philosophically, who, as noted above, accepts the death of the traditional Judeo-Christian God. However, unlike Hegel, McCarthy does not seek to legitimize Western modernity by giving firm footing to Protestant secularization. Rather, it seems as though, at least up through Blood Meridian, McCarthy sought to embrace decline, not unlike Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Whence the basis for the charges of nihilism and the evident presence of existential angst and despair. One could argue McCarthy’s work following Blood Meridian backs off the embrace as the Nietzschean desire to accelerate decline (see Rosen 1995) while continuing to manifest a kind of metaphysically conservative eschatology, minus reactionary and restorative millennialism. In this sense, McCarthy’s metaphysical conservatism is more thoroughgoing and consistent than reactionary conservatism that hopes for millennialism.


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    06 May 2012 at 10:27 am #1140

    Aden,

    You do a brilliant job of rationalizing the Judge as “the true.” It’s hard to disagree with you on the narrow philosophical ground you lay down for this colossus of a literary character. War, of course, is a rather continuous stream of rationalizations (to start-fight-end it), also of fear, anxiety, greed, stupidity, evil, animality, brutality, self-sacrifice, honor, compassion, heroism, and loads of suffering (before-during-after-war). Notice negatives here almost crowd out positives. I probably haven’t listed em all.

    While war is “god” to you and the Judge, it is not our true nature. Peace is. So say the great spiritual traditions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam. Hinduism? It encompasses war but transcends it with the true Self, which all of us have in us but it may take a zillion lifetimes for us to realize it. In the true Self war has dissolved in eternal peace.

    The near eternal question, Does McCarthy think “war is god”? To your thinking, Aden, the author probably does. But if we look at what the judge is, how he moves through the story, his fantastic appearance-nature-deeds, his preaching, his nonsense, how he ends up, then an ironical interpretation of him is inescapable. Cormac has reduced him to a huge, prideful, self-satisfied miles gloriosus dancing naked in a saloon, still preaching, the unwitting mother of all buffoons. Then Cormac erases the big boy with the Epilogue’s steel-stone-fire-in-the hole man.

    I’ll probably be accused, as I’ve been before, of being too reductive of the judge and BM as a whole, and maybe my accusers are right. But how one can ignore the irony of the novel and keep coming up with all kinds of positive, rather exotic rationalizations of Holden beats me. Besides, that last saloon scene defies common sense and the western culture of the time. Soon as the Jedge leaped on that stage naked, puritannical, homophobic lawmen would’ve rushed up there, arrested him and thrown his ass in the jailhouse.


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    06 May 2012 at 10:47 am #1141

    aden
    Member

    Bob,

    Peace and war are mutually determining, like subject and object. One is by definition implicated in the meaning of the other. Thus saying that war is the true is saying that peace is also the true, and vice versa. It is the tendency of Western modernity to deny the inevitably of war writ large that McCarthy criticizes in BM. As I like to point out, this is confirmed by the well-known quote from the 1992 interview.


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    06 May 2012 at 1:57 pm #1142

    Aden,

    Don’t think peace and war are mutually determining. If two nations strongly disagree there’s nothing in the cosmos that says it’s inevitable that they slug it out in war, though a lot of times they do because they choose to ignore the alternatives to war that the great spiritual traditions have been offering them for centuries.

    If a person I like or dislike shows up at my party and farts loudly like J-Bone did in SUTTREE, there’s nothing inherently warlike in me that’s wants to slug him. The kind of guests I usually invite and I are likely to guffaw at him. If he keeps on farting, he’ll stink up himself and the place so bad that he’ll have to leave by general will. If he doesn’t, well the cops are just up the street.

    You might argue that farting on us is like an act of war that requires a police action to stop it. But farting is not killing. It’s not the do-or-die game-stuff the Jedge gasses about. This party fugger may just be digestively challenged. If his intent is malicious, he’s simply made a stinking ass of himself.


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    06 May 2012 at 2:42 pm #1143

    Somehow the technology wouldn’t let me continue with my last post. I just wanted to say that McCarthy’s conservatism, particularly as shown in BM vexes me. Lawd knows, I’m no bleeding heart liberal. Sometimes I’m with you, Aden, particularly when you blast ultra liberalism. It could be argued that since it began to dominate American thought in the late 50s and 60s it’s brought us worse headaches than those it sought to cure. It’s pretty much ruined the academy and made reasonable immigration a joke.

    But I don’t think McCarthy’s conservatism which at worst becomes fatalism is any antidote to what ails us. It’s excellent literature, mind you, but bum philosophy. There’s something old and tired about it, too much original damn sin in it, little to no hope, no energy for change or even the possibility of change, a gloomy staleness, a kind of pathetic stasis.

    I’m not talking about his work as a whole but most of it up to THE SUNSET LIMITED and THE ROAD. These are the kind of works the creative you writes when you’re not too far from death, when you really love somebody, when inebriation’s not worth writing about, when you’ve got the Judge out of your system, when there just might be something besides the heavy hand of doom hanging over this finite globe, something universally grand like “Goodness will find the little boy. It always has. It will again.”


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    08 May 2012 at 7:56 am #1146

    cantona
    Member

    Aden,

    Thanks for your very interesting reply to my question(s). I think your reading of the Judge is pretty damn powerful in the sense that it is difficult to deny that the man bows to no one – unlike Ahab, the Judge is not a tragic figure. Harold Bloom said that the quality which makes a work of literature canonical is ‘strangeness’. There is no doubt that Blood Meridian is a ‘strange novel’, unlike anything in post-war American Literature and unlike anything in McCarthy’s own body of work. However, I would say that it’s this very quality of ‘strangeness’ that parenthisises your critique, as with any other, as a very interesting but not altogether conclusive reading.

    Also, and fairly inevitably, I take issue with your blanket dismissal of modern French philosophy. If Hegel is mangled by Bataille, Sartre, and the like, then it’s the kind of mangling I like. Mangles are also machines that help iron out creased fabric. The mangling of Hegel with Husserl, Heidegger, Nietzsche and Freud is why there are very few creases on my forehead. In other words, I understand, and tolerate, Hegel better through this admixture. But I think you’re really indulging in yr customary bit of leftie-baiting. Am I right?


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    08 May 2012 at 10:09 pm #1148

    Mike
    Member

    Cantona,

    “But I think you’re really indulging in yr customary bit of leftie-baiting. Am I right?”

    For the “Lefties”(as Aden labels them), I am pretty confident that The Judge could all too easily bait any(all of them) with his rhetorical brilliance/poetry (a la Paul Valery) and eat them for breakfast. The Judge in his many monologues is able to out-existential Sartre and kill God quicker than Nietzsche or Freud.

    Mike


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    08 May 2012 at 11:02 pm #1149

    cantona
    Member

    “The Judge in his many monologues is able to out-existential Sartre and kill God quicker than Nietzsche or Freud.”

    The reason why your statement is irrefutable is because it is quite MAD.


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    08 May 2012 at 11:11 pm #1150

    Mike
    Member

    Cantona,

    We can both laugh at such a MAD thought, but we must consider that it could be McCarthy’s intent with the many monologues of the suzerain who moves like a “great ponderous djinn”.

    Mike


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