“I found myself lost, beyond all paths, in a lonely faraway place made gloomy (…) by a blinding sun.” That’s from a novel by Luigi Pirandello. (I found this quoted in a book on Italo Calvino, I don’t know if the Pirandello’s been translated or not.) I thought of this after reading a bit from With Sober Senses, which said “Hegel argued that ‘the owl of Minerva’, that is knowledge and understanding, only takes flight at dusk….that is after the events and the changes have happened. Frankly that isn’t much use for those of us caught in the thick of it. It is thus necessary to attempt read in the present the tendencies of the future and paint outlines of where we think things are going so we can intervene and perhaps break open the possibilities for the formation of emancipatory politics.” I like that. It seems to me there’s a kind of certainty that’s possible retroactively, and simply not possible in the present moment. After the fact we have access to kinds of evidence, and we have the time to reflect, that we don’t have during the fact, so to speak. That doesn’t mean only thinking after the fact, don’t wait till dusk, it means thinking in the sunlight, think during the fact, even though that thinking will have limitations and be more speculative or probabilistic/hypothesis. This also reminds me of a metaphor in some writings by Soren Kiergegaard, where he talks about living on 70,000 fathoms of water. As I (mis?)remember it, people are exposed and life is fundamentally uncertain. Many people reach for ways to cover up that uncertainty intellectually, flinching from that truth of human existence, when instead the point is to recognize that uncertainty and to move on. That’s primarily an ethical or subjective matter rather than a theoretical one – it’s a matter of learning to live with something and learning to best respond to it, rather than a narrowly philosophical problem. It’s something to live with rather than a problem to solve. I think a lot of people turn to religion or churches to deal with this. Kierkegaard as I remember it wants religious people to be religious in spite of this uncertainty but doesn’t want them to use their religion to avoid or hide from this condition (I may be remembering the Kierkegaard wrong, but that’s not the bit I’m particularly interest in, it’s the image/metaphor I’m interested in mainly). I think often some versions of marxism are also this kind of church for people. I’ve been reading a bit recently where Michael Heinrich and Ingo Elbe talk about the growth of what they call ‘world-view marxism,’ the idea that marxism is an all-encompassing philosphical system or outlook which people can take up. That arose historically as part of what I think of as the church-ification of marxism (one such dominant church was the SPD in Germany and the other was under the Bolsheviks in Russia). I think it is a kind of ethical failing to flinch in the face of that uncertainty that comes with living on top of 70,000 fathoms of water, and that flinching is part of what some people do with their marxism, seeking a kind of certainty – wanting dusk-like understanding of circumstances while standing in the sun at noon – and pretending they have it.

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