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The evil: the powerlessness of the spirit

Transgression of the Inexistent. A Philosophical Vocabulary
French-Tunisian philosopher Mehdi Belhaj Kacem wants to teach us the way to good through increased insight into evil.


First he broke through with a novel such as 21 year, then got an award for his role in the film Wild Innocence (2001), after which he retired to the country to devote himself to the philosophy that culminated with the father murder of his old teacher Alain Badiou (After Badiou, 2011). Here he attacks the notion that philosophy must be a procedure for the good life, for no one can use this for anything in their own lives, and not at all today, where technology has taken over. But what if something new is happening in philosophy that is worth listening to? “If the philosophers are so smart,” Kacem asks, “why is nobody believing in them? Why is it religion that dominates our self-declared secular age? ”As Lenin asks, what should be done? His answer is that we must try to understand evil as part of nature, civilization and man's own dramatic process. As a self-taught anti-philosopher, he would urge us to leave the schools of university philosophy and, with Reiner Schürmann (born German-French philosopher), instead pay attention to the tragic conflict and tension that marks existence itself.

Perhaps humanism is only possible as a form of grief work.

The evil. We are used to thinking of evil as a moral mistake, a defect of good. But one does not have to inconvenience the devil in order to understand the evil, as Rüdiger Safranski puts it. Evil is part of the drama of human freedom. Man is not pure nature, but tearing himself loose and freeing himself, leaving himself open to a horizon of possibilities. It gains something, but also loses something, namely the unconditional cohesion with everything living. It is therefore also in man that the conflict between the principles arises, that between the power of light and the power of darkness. In animals, this contradiction does not exist. With God it is brought into unity; in man it remains a precarious situation. The question is: Can man transcend himself with self-enlightenment, self-transcendence, overcoming selfishness, ie with love, the bright side? It is the task of freedom to maintain the ranking of principles. Man is free because it can choose both the good and the evil, as Schelling said. But because of the anxiety of life, man betrays the essential principles. It betrays the spirit because it neglects the residual, the irregular by reason of things that cannot be dissolved in the sense. This betrayal is part of the structure of evil, it is more than anything morally reprehensible, it is associated with a sin against the Holy Spirit, a spiritual force. For Kacem, however, the problem is not solved with the teachings of Christianity about the sin of inheritance, the release of consciousness from holiness and the garden of paradise. Religion cannot think of healing as a creative element (catharsis). Philosophy must take over. The first task will be to tackle the root of contemporary, which is nihilism.

“Mission is to bring truth to power. Politics is about winning power to defend the truth. ” 

The weak being. As it withdrew from the pure animal being, man began to imitate nature. Since then it has repeated this doubling through acquisition beyond any necessity. Agriculture imitates (imitates) the hunter / gatherer culture; natural science imitates the laws of nature; and today, politics imitates technology. Man is the endearing or annexing animal. Through the mimetic supplement and the technological cunning, man compensates for his lack of strength and instinct. Imitation (mimesis) results in technology that creates its own dangerous supplement. The problem arises in the institutionalized mimesis that Kacem calls "the tragedy of the news" that we have replaced the demanding news of repetition with the news of ceaseless exploitation and predatory behavior. It is this doubling of mimesis that leads to his theory of transgression, which is the root of so much unnecessary suffering and evil today.

Transgressions. According to Kacem, the policy has ended up as a technological administration for excess (mimicry): misery: false needs, abundance of luxury, leisure consumption, forced entertainment, forced ironization and parodying of life. Art, too, is content to revel in the transgression of darkness without going anywhere. The thought of transcending romance over the avant-garde, shocking the bourgeoisie and Rimbaud epics is dead. Today, the excess has ended as an ironic parody: vulgar Russians, neurotechnology's immortal forms, art performance hunting. The irony is for Kacem nihilism's symptom: the subject who does not think what it says. Modern politics has become the "language of bugs". We live surrounded by mediocrity, no significant events in sight, no excess. It will be a task in itself to find what is really interesting in our time. An anti-fascist task. Evil today takes many forms, the thought-market of mediocrity being one of them, another reluctance to think.

"If philosophers are so smart, why doesn't anyone believe them?"

Catharsis. The really interesting thing about Kacem is connected to the healing (catharsis). was at stake in the tragic drama and elegy of art – which reminded the political community of its failure and created a new insight. But we have ended up in a cul-de-sac he calls "the empty repetition", where we produce more suffering and human waste than ever before. How do we get on? Answer: We should not give up, but confront the inheritance of sin or the impotence directly in our lives: "We must bring the human event back to life on earth." Not as pure vitalism, but as a realization of life as an anomaly, as an event that requires repentance because it demands a concern for death and evil that bring life resonance and meaning to life. We can no longer make it an ethical project to deny evil and death (Spinoza, Deleuze). Maybe humanism is only possible as a form of grief, as Kacem reads his teacher Schürmans Broken Hegemonies. Hence Kacem's attempt to make the play a healing calling. The doctor is an overrun of the war because it is the only place where you enjoy and devote yourself to the rules. In order to think evil – the spirit of its powerlessness – we must, according to Kacem, today have to go back to the very ancient texts – Jewish scriptures, the Egyptian nomads, the Sumerian, the Indian, the Incas, the Babylonians. Despite hasty conclusions and loose bills, Kacem is on track for something significant. Whether he becomes the voice of a new ecological consciousness and / or a new self-critical consciousness, time will tell.

Alexander Carnera
Alexander Carnera
Carnera is a freelance writer living in Copenhagen.

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