Nasruddin Hodja—a master of the negative way

by Oscar Brenifier


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A—The negative way

1—Philosophy as science

But negative theology is mystical and comedy is a mere show, when philosophy is supposed to be of a rather scientific order: it should found itself on reason, on logic, on demonstration, draw a system, therefore ambiguity, innuendos, allusions, exaggeration and other such "literary tricks" are not exactly welcome. We can here just remember the Hegel lectures on Plato, where the mere fact that Plato tells a story like the Allegory of the cave signifies that at this time he is not producing a philosophical discourse. Philosophy can only be rational and scientific, and this Hegelian heritage will definitely model the face of philosophy. Therefore the image of the philosopher, as the nature of his productions, tends to be wise and direct, more than foolish and indirect. After all, in a culture founded within the matrix of Christian values, let us not forget that the "oblique" is the devil, for the devil is crafty. In French, the word "malin" means smart or shrewd, but it refers as well to the devil, since it comes from "malus": bad. The English word "devious" has something of that order, since what is not straight seems suspicious, and what is deviant is devilish.

To be moral therefore means to say the truth, to say things the way they are, and to behave according to established standards of the good and the recommendable. In fact, in the mentioned Plato dialogue, Hippias shows a rather often occulted but fundamental aspect of the sophist: the sophist is the one who knows, he says the truth, he is the specialist of the good, the technician of knowledge, the keeper of rightness and morality. Callicles claiming that one has to follow his impulses and desires and Gorgias reducing speech to mere rhetoric is only an attempt by Socrates to show the fundamental immorality of such a position. Since, as Pascal said, true morality laughs at morality. And knowledge is in itself immoral, for its pretensions and hypocrisy, its fundamental negligence of virtue, its disdain for the good, and moreover its ignorance of being, its absence of being. The rational and moral speech is merely the discourse of convenience and convention, of good conscience, the philosophical correctness that Nietzsche criticizes as the "small reason", in opposition to the "great reason" of life, or when he denounces the illusory concept of human conscience. For even though this trend of negative philosophy is not the hegemonic one and is even contrary to it, it maintains itself as the regular "other" of philosophy: its enemy brother, its shadow and denigrator.


Page created: 12.10.05. Page last modified: 18.11.09 14:36.