John Gray: The Soul of the Marionette, an enquiry into human freedom

John Gray: The Soul of the Marionette, an enquiry into human freedom

Δημοσίευσηαπό Στάθης Μαρκόπουλος » 03 Δεκ 2017, 14:54

Συνημμένο θα βρείτε ένα βιβλιαράκι μαριονετοφιλοσοφίας που κυκλοφόρησε πρόσφατα και το βρήκα σε epub (το έχω μετατρέψει σε .pdf ).
Δεν το έχω διαβάσει ακόμα (οπότε επιφυλάσσομαι), αλλά φαίνεται ενδιαφέρον.
Ακολουθεί μία παρουσίαση του βιβλίου στο The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/ ... ray-review)
Καλή ανάγνωση!
Soul.zip
(521.01 KiB) Έχει μεταφορτωθεί 155 φορές



The Soul of the Marionette by John Gray
Review: John Banville
Saturday 25 April 2015 11.00 BST
Last modified on Wednesday 29 November 2017 11.49 GMT

In these times the west, or what we used quaintly to call the civilised world, is threatened by two opposing perils, one actual and near, the other notional though becoming a reality at an ever-increasing pace. At one pole, there is the outright, unrelenting and often violent rejection of western modernity by fundamentalist movements, Islamic, Christian, Jewish; at the other is the seemingly limitless development of computer technology, which, as some highly intelligent people, Stephen Hawking among them, have been warning of late, may well end in producing machines much cleverer and even more destructive than we are. The future will be another country.

John Gray, in his bleak yet bracing new book, once again addresses himself to the follies, delusions and willed blindness of our smugly arrogant times, in which, despite our arrogance, we cower before the twin menaces of old and new barbarisms. He is a stoic Cassandra, who, if he did not find them so tragic, would be shaking his head and chuckling at the idiocies of modern life.

Gray must be one of the best read of contemporary philosophers, trawling insouciantly through high-, middle- and low-brow literature with the sharp-eyed eclecticism of a magpie of genius. He opens here by bringing to our attention a masterly 1810 essay on marionette theatre by Heinrich von Kleist – a great German writer little regarded in the English-speaking world – which in the space of half a dozen pages expresses as much about the nature of art, consciousness and human freedom as all of Goethe’s and Schiller’s philosophical musings taken together. Yes, it is that good. (And it can be found, along with a number of other pieces on the same theme, in a handsome and delightful little volume from Notting Hill Editions, On Dolls, edited by Kenneth Gross.)

Kleist argued that, paradoxical as it may seem, the puppet is free in a way no human being can manage to be, precisely because it lacks consciousness; for us to achieve the gracefulness of puppets, which “only glance the ground, like elves”, we should have to have “either no consciousness or an infinite amount of it”: that is to say, we should have to be either a marionette or a god. This contention Gray takes as the starting point for and, to some extent, the focus of his brief but intricate “enquiry into human freedom”.

Through all of his books, from Straw Dogs onwards, Gray reiterates the point that what we consider free thinking is really no more than a ragbag of religious remnants, what Coleridge called spilt religion, whether of the secular, Socratic kind, or the version of Christianity invented by St Paul. “All modern philosophies in which history is seen as a process of human emancipation,” Gray writes, “ … are garbled versions of [the] Christian narrative, itself a garbled version of the original message of Jesus” – for as Nietzsche observed, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.
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In The Soul of the Marionette, however, Gray makes a profound observation when he points out that at present the faith most educated people hold to, especially in the west, is Gnosticism. According to the Gnostics of old, the world was created not by God but by a wicked and wickedly playful demiurge, although most people are unaware of the fact. In the Gnostic view, Adam and Eve were right to eat the forbidden apple, and the Fall of Man was in fact a fall into freedom, “a fall”, as Gray beautifully puts it, “into the dim world of everyday consciousness”. Furthermore, our fallen state is not final. As Gray writes: “Having eaten its fill from the Tree of Knowledge” – gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge – “humankind can then rise into a state of conscious innocence”, which will be, as Kleist’s essay has it, “the final chapter in the history of the world”. And this, Gray argues, is exactly the faith to which, all unknowingly, so many of us cling today: “throughout much of the world, and particularly in western countries, the Gnostic faith that knowledge can give humans a freedom no other creature can possess has become the predominant religion,” by the tenets of which “the boldest secular thinkers are possessed”.

He examines an extraordinarily broad range of literary sources in pursuit of his theme, from Kleist and Bruno Schulz – an extract from Schulz’s superb and unnerving text “Tailors’ Dummies” is included – through Borges and Jeremy Bentham, Leopardi and Stanisław Lem, Baudelaire and Philip K Dick, taking in subjects such as human sacrifice in the Aztec world, the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro by Italy’s Red Brigades, theories on robotics by Norbert Wiener and John von Neumann, and the occult adventures of John Dee, Elizabeth I’s favourite wizard. Not incidentally, then, the book is highly entertaining, even if its implications overall may freeze the cockles of the reader’s heart.

In the early pages, Gray questions the notion that human beings desire freedom, at least in the active sense of being free to choose how to live – as an admirer of Isaiah Berlin, he does have a soft spot for the concept of negative freedom, “that consists in an absence of human obstacles to doing what you want or may come to want” – and suggests that, on the contrary, what we unwittingly desire is freedom from choice. People do yearn for inner freedom, and wish to practise a kind of quietism, especially “in a time of endemic instability, when political systems cannot be expected to last” – sound familiar? – yet simultaneously cannot accept that they merely drift through life in an affectless trance. Hence the present-day fondness for conspiracy theories of all kinds, since, as Gray writes, “if someone is pulling the strings behind the stage, the human drama is not without meaning”.

In the closing pages of the book he turns to the prospect of super-computers mutating into über-marionettes which will either turn the humans of the future into lotus-eaters by taking on all the dirty work that people today have to do for themselves, or else will rampage through the world like science-fiction monsters, blindly rending and tearing at all that is most precious and delicate in the poor old human sphere. However, Gray in his wisdom acknowledges that irresistible force which we so often forget about, entropy, and in a passage at once wryly funny and poetically affecting, he imagines a time when “the machines humans have invented will develop faults and flaws of their own”.

Soon they will no longer be aware of parts of their own minds; repression, denial and fantasy will cloud the empty sky of consciousness. Emerging from an inner world they cannot fathom, antagonistic impulses will govern their behaviour. Eventually these half-broken machines will have the impression that they are choosing their path through life. As in humans, this may be an illusion; but as the sensation takes hold, it will engender what in humans used to be called a soul.

And so the whole sorry business will start up all over again, only this time without what William Burroughs liked to call “soft machines” – us, and our like – and instead, a lot of rusting clunkers inside which a ghost clamours frantically for release.
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John Gray: The Soul of the Marionette, an enquiry into human freedom

Δημοσίευσηαπό Δήμητρα Κωνσταντινίδου » 03 Δεκ 2017, 22:25

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