jeudi, mars 23, 2006



If we could rename our species after what expresses our deepest aspiration we would call ourselves Homo aeternus, rather than sapiens. Death is our true and most hated enemy. Consider that, unlike what Christian priests often claim, Jesus’ top priority was not to defeat the devil, which remained as insignificant as ridiculous, but death itself. Indeed, the Orthodox interpretation of the Gospel has always been that Jesus saved us all from Adam’s mortality (and not (the original) sin as some Western theologians have inculcated).

Setting aside the Christian ideal of eternal life, death has also been the main foe to be defeated on Philosophical grounds. According to the historical sources, Pythagoras seems to have believed in transmigration, and Empedocles also believed in some form of re-incarnation. Likewise, Alcmaeon claimed that the soul is immortal and that it resembles the immortal gods in its unceasing motion. And Plato devoted a part of his work to spread and prove the idea that at least the human soul was immortal via certain arguments, the first of which (cf. the Phaedo) is the argument that can be styled the transition from Opposites.[1]

From a lay perspective, we try to defeat death everyday by moral means, which is to say: once one human is aware of or believes in his temporal finitude, he endeavours to overcome it by attaching a time transcending significance to his own existence. In this sense, each of us needs to believe in his own significance, which he maps onto immortality, whilst he believes in the insignificance and hence in the mortality of the others.

The kind of significance that transcends time and at the same time seems reachable to individuals is the Philosophical one. Everything in our existence must bear witness to this ideal and thus be a projection of the Philosophical dimensions of our everyday issues. And it is more than assuming that the Pizza we have for supper might have been served at Plato’s banquet. It is more like every love story we experience is unparalleled and unforgettable, and that the uniqueness of every moment translates a mystery inscrutable even to the wise in Olympus. And we are neither ready nor willing to give up, for we cannot detach our experiences from the importance we ascribe to them.

In this sense, Philosophy may be defined as the very role and meaning of humanity in the Universe.

However, this is a collapse theory of Philosophy. We establish an equivalence of the kind
For every x, x≡ Px,

Where x is any variable and P is the Philosophical attribute, which becomes ineffective if the proposed axiom above holds.
But in such a case, Philosophy becomes more than something banal: it falls apart, since it makes no sense anymore in talking about what is Philosophical from what is non-Philosophical.
Thus, a paradox obtains: for in our search for the means to overcome death by overcoming unimportance ends up making everything unimportant.

We can, however, skip this paradox and still cheat death by assuming that there are infinite eternities as just there are infinite infinities, and greater and smaller significances. If we follow this path, we may overcome the collapse by reckoning that Philosophy is more than the tentative answer to our deepest yearnings, that it is something that includes both the crucial visceral existential questions of humans and the products of our highest degrees of formalisation and rationality plus something else... (In the mean time, we fight death with balanced diets, exercise, homeopathy, faith, logic and pure air.)

[1] If something becomes warm it is because it has been cold, if becomes cold it is because it has been warm; if it is dry it is because it has been wet, and if it becomes wet it is because it has been dry. If someone dies it is because he has been a living being, and if someone becomes a living being it is because he has been dead.