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28 Sep LOVE AND PHILOSOPHY PART. III WITH SALEH NAJAFI

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Phaedrus’ speech in form is a reference to dialect of the academic in ancient Greece in which he claims that love or Eros is the eldest Greek god. Agathon however, while agreeing with all of his statements believes that Eros is the youngest of the Greek gods, the equivalent of the image of child with bow and arrows (Cupid). Phaedrus mostly emphasizes on the the benefits that people receive from being in love:

“…For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover or to the lover than a beloved youth. For the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live at principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honor and dishonor, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonorable act, or submitting through cowardice when any dishonor is done to him by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by any one else. The beloved too, when he is found in any disgraceful situation, has the same feeling about his lover. And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him. That courage which, as Homer says, the god breathes into the souls of some heroes, Love of his own nature infuses into the lover.”

He gives three examples to prove his point: The story of Orpheus, which was discussed in depth in the previous chapters, the tale of Alcestis and the love story of Achilles and Patroclus.

Of Alcestis he says:

“Love will make men dare to die for their beloved-love alone; and women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, is a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had a father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their own son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action of hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many who have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in admiration of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of returning alive to earth; such exceeding honor is paid by the gods to the devotion and virtue of love.”

And about the tale of Achilles his interpretation is quite different from homer, in that he believes Achilles is the beloved who enters a battle to avenge his lover, a battle that will only end in his demise:

“Very different was the reward of the true love of Achilles towards his lover Patroclus-his lover and not his love (the notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two, fairer also than all the other heroes; and, as Homer informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far). And greatly as the gods honor the virtue of love, still the return of love on the part of the beloved to the lover is more admired and valued and rewarded by them, for the lover is more divine; because he is inspired by God. Now Achilles was quite aware, for he had been told by his mother, that he might avoid death and return home, and live to a good old age, if he abstained from slaying Hector. Nevertheless he gave his life to revenge his friend, and dared to die, not only in his defense, but after he was dead Wherefore the gods honored him even above Alcestis, and sent him to the Islands of the Blest. These are my reasons for affirming that Love is the eldest and noblest and mightiest of the gods; and the chiefest author and giver of virtue in life, and of happiness after death.”

The next speaker is Pausanias the jurist. he discusses the differentiation later seen in both the words of Socrates and the theories of Plato. He mentions that there are two different types of Eros, the common and the that and the heavenly:

“And am I not right in asserting that there are two goddesses? The elder one, having no mother, who is called the heavenly Aphrodite-she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who is the daughter of Zeus and Dione-her we call common; and the Love who is her fellow-worker is rightly named common, as the other love is called heavenly.”

And of the nature of these two kinds of love he says:

“The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul-the most foolish beings are the objects of this love which desires only to gain an end, but never thinks of accomplishing the end nobly, and therefore does good and evil quite indiscriminately. The goddess who is his mother is far younger than the other, and she was born of the union of the male and female, and partakes of both.”

And he concludes that in tyrannical states, Eros is condemned to be in the shadows. Hence, the the experience of love cannot take place there.

Next is Eryximachus the physician, who speaks in turn of Aristophanes because he was suffering from hiccoughs. He explains that Eros not only influences the humans but animals, plants and the gods. He sees love as something that dominates all the prominent sciences of the time such as medicine, music and astrology. Meanwhile he calls love an ancient medical theory (With a reference to Heraclitus) which is the temperate and the harmony of the body.

He who from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is.

Next, Aristophanes begins an absurdist narrative about roots of love and its mechanism of influence on humans:

“In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word “Androgynous” is only preserved as a term of reproach. In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three;-and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round: like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained.

At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: “Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.” He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of entire men or women, and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man.”

After this, Agathon speaks of theory contrary to the one of Phaedrus:

“May I say without impiety or offense, that of all the blessed gods he is the most blessed because he is the fairest and best? And he is the fairest: for, in the first place, he is the youngest, and of his youth he is himself the witness, fleeing out of the way of age, who is swift enough, swifter truly than most of us like:-Love hates him and will not come near him; but youth and love live and move together-like to like, as the proverb says. Many things were said by Phaedrus about Love in which I agree with him; but I cannot agree that he is older than Iapetus and Kronos:-not so; I maintain him to be the youngest of the gods, and youthful ever.”

He declares love to be absolute justice, power and courage:

“Of his virtue I have now to speak: his greatest glory is that he can neither do nor suffer wrong to or from any god or any man; for he suffers not by force if he suffers; force comes not near him, neither when he acts does he act by force. For all men in all things serve him of their own free will, and where there is voluntary agreement, there, as the laws which are the lords of the city say, is justice. And not only is he just but exceedingly temperate, for Temperance is the acknowledged ruler of the pleasures and desires, and no pleasure ever masters Love; he is their master and they are his servants; and if he conquers them he must be temperate indeed. As to courage, even the God of War is no match for him; he is the captive and Love is the lord, for love, the love of Aphrodite, masters him, as the tale runs; and the master is stronger than the servant. And if he conquers the bravest of all others, he must be himself the bravest. “

The sixth speaker; Socrates, tells the tale told by Diotima:

“On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of Metis or Discretion, was one of the guests. When the feast was over, Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came about the doors to beg. Now Plenty who was the worse for nectar (there was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a heavy sleep, and Poverty considering her own straitened circumstances, plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side and conceived love, who partly because he is naturally a lover of the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because he was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first place he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in-the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father’s nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: No god is a philosopher. or seeker after wisdom, for he is wise already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after Wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.” “But-who then, Diotima,” I said, “are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?” “A child may answer that question,” she replied; “they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is the cause; for his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit Love. The error in your conception of him was very natural, and as I imagine from what you say, has arisen out of a confusion of love and the beloved, which made you think that love was all beautiful. For the beloved is the truly beautiful, and delicate, and perfect, and blessed; but the principle of love is of another nature, and is such as I have described.”

Then the speech proceeds to define what is now known as the Platonic love:

“For he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to visit beautiful forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor aright, to love one such form only-out of that he should create fair thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to recognize that the beauty in every form is and the same! And when he perceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all beautiful forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of the mind is more honorable than the beauty of the outward form. So that if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be content to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the birth thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like a servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution, himself a slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing towards and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere. To this I will proceed; please to give me your very best attention:

“He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)-a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair to some and-foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or in heaven or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other things. He who from these ascending under the influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates,” said the stranger of Mantineia, “is that life above all others which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible-you only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty-the divine beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life-thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?”

In other words Eros is not only the philosopher herself but the criteria of becoming a philosopher and the one who is not an admirer of the fair and beautiful cannot be philosopher. For Plato, the beauty, truth and morality are the same and this idea is so powerful that even influenced a philosopher like Wittgenstein who had turned his back on all of the classical concepts of philosophy.

In the speech of Alcibiades, when he enters the feast and sees Socrates by the side of the most beautiful man in Athens, he implies that he always thought that Socrates has fallen in love with him because he is a beautiful young man of high stature, yet now he realizes that it is he who has fallen in love with the middle aged philosopher. Here is where we can see the complex relationship between love, power and politics. This also hints at the betrayal of Alcibiades in the war with Syracuse (Sicily) and the trial of Socrates.

The last part of the discussion can be explained with a reference to George Steiner’s Death of Tragedy:

“But it is as difficult for the language of criticism to deal with the art of Chekhov as it is for any language to deal with music. All I would stress here is the fact that Chekhov lies outside a consideration of tragedy. He himself insisted that his plays were comedies, and so they are regarded on native ground. It is when travelling west that the wine has darkened.”

Steiner continues:

“Chekhov was a physician, and medicine knows grief and even despair in the p ticular instance, but not tragedy.

Or perhaps one should approach these elusive plays by discarding all traditions of dramatic genre. At the close of the Symposium, Socrates compelled his listeners to agree that the genius of comedy was the same as that of tragedy. Being drowsy with wine, they were unable to follow his argument. One after another, they fell asleep around the master; he alone remained serene and lucid till break of dawn. Even Aristophanes could not stay awake to discover in what manner he might be regarded as a tragedian. Thus the Socratic demonstration of  ultimate unity of tragic and comic drama is forever lost. But the proof is in the art of Chekhov.”

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27 Sep LOVE AND PHILOSOPHY PART.II WITH SALEH NAJAFI

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In the late 20th century, a branch of radical philosophy emerged that believed the gesture that revives philosophy, after what has been said about the death of philosophy is the platonic gesture. Zizek belongs to the same branch of philosophy who at the same time believes we need to get rid of the platonic love once and for all. To understand this paradox we need to return to the Symposium, where the platonic form can be seen in its original form. One should keep in mind that Plato planned to be a poet and write tragedies n his youth, but burns all his work to enter the circle of Aristotle. Yet formally, Plato’s work is unique among all thinkers from St. Augustine with his confession form to Nietzsche with his form that combined poetry and philosophy.

The word Symposium, meaning feast, is made up of two greek words: sun which means together, and potes  which means drinker. So to translate it directly, we can define the word as “Drinking Together”. The closest worn in the English language to potes is potion and interestingly the term Love Potion  has its roots there.

The Greek did not drink wine while dining and the ritual of drinking took place after dinner with serious discussions, (now known as philosophical discussion now) to enjoy the drinks more. Socrates was famous for his ability to consume great amounts of wine while maintaining his ability to keep up with the discussion. This aspect of Socrates’ personality contributes a great the to the form seen in the Symposium.

In the feast, it is decided that before the drinking ritual, the attendants present their speeches about the concept of love and that’s how the first symposium about love consisting of people of different backgrounds  takes place. Among these people, the famous speech by Socrates in which he declares the ultimate goal of love to become a philosopher, cements Eros as one the most dominant ingredients of philosophy. According To Alenka Zupancic (Famous Slovenian philosopher), love isn’t just of the ingredients of philosophy, but the top five ingredients of it. The experts on Platos’ works believe that the content of the discussions in the Symposium are completely made by his imagination. Even though all the people mentioned in the piece are real and had real responsibilities in ancient Greece, there is no other evidence in history that they made such statements.

The Symposium is one othe most multi-layered works in philosophical literature, in that the reader is constantly evaluating the credibility of the statements given there as quotes.

The Symposium begins this way:

“Concerning the things about which you ask to be informed I believe that I am not ill-prepared with an answer. For the day before yesterday I was coming from my own home at Phalerum to the city, and one of my acquaintance, who had caught a sight of me from behind, hind, out playfully in the distance, said: Apollodorus, O thou Phalerian man, halt! So I did as I was bid; and then he said, I was looking for you, Apollodorus, only just now, that I might ask you about the speeches in praise of love, which were delivered by Socrates, Alcibiades, and others, at Agathon’s supper. Phoenix, the son of Philip, told another person who told me of them; his narrative was very indistinct, but he said that you knew, and I wish that you would give me an account of them. Who, if not you, should be the reporter of the words of your friend? And first tell me, he said, were you present at this meeting? “

In the contemporary terms, we’re facing a framed narrative here that frames the main narration and leads us to it. The text known as the Symposium  is without a doubt written by plato, but the friend that is mentioned above will not be named anywhere in the text. The second layer of subtext here is this nameless friend that according to the experts on Plato’s text is Plato himself. Keep in mind that in most of Plato’s work he is not named unless in trivial matters such as the time that Socrates wants to clear his debts before his death and asks the guards to give his money to his “Young friend plato”. The third layer is where Phaedrus mentions his conversation with a young man named Glaucon which is Plato’s brother and the mediator between Plato and Apollodorus. The name of Apollodorus itself which means a gift grom Apollo, is in a way a Beckettian play by Plato with this character’s name.

Apollodorus says:

“Impossible: I said. Are you ignorant that for many years Agathon has not resided at Athens; and not three have elapsed since I became acquainted with Socrates, and have made it my daily business to know all that he says and does. There was a time when I was running about the world, fancying myself to be well employed, but I was really a most wretched thing, no better than you are now. I thought that I ought to do anything rather than be a philosopher.

Well, he said, jesting apart, tell me when the meeting occurred.

In our boyhood, I replied, when Agathon won the prize with his first tragedy, on the day after that on which he and his chorus offered the sacrifice of victory.

Then it must have been a long while ago, he said; and who told you-did Socrates?

No indeed, I replied, but the same person who told Phoenix;-he was a little fellow, who never wore any shoes Aristodemus, of the deme of Cydathenaeum. He had been at Agathon’s feast; and I think that in those days there was no one who was a more devoted admirer of Socrates. Moreover, I have asked Socrates about the truth of some parts of his narrative, and he confirmed them. “

This text is meant to reflect the opinion of different people about love and eventually lead to Socrates giving the final decisive definition. yet Plato does not stop at this, Socrates’ word go through the filters of Apollodorus, Aristodemus and Glaucon and finally when we are faced with the words of Socrates, he is replaces himself with everyone present at Plato’s narrative.

Aristodemus, who is the next layer in this text, has not been mentioned anywhere in Greek history of philosophy and literature but in the Symposium. This invites the reader to contemplate more regarding this character’s name and its meaning. The name which consists Aristos meaning a person of high society and Demos meaning the ordinary citizens, refers to the confrontation of the aristocracy and ordinary people in Plato’s work. If Athens was not a democracy Plato could not have become a philosopher yet he criticizes the democracy and supports the aristocracy. The character of Aristodemus is a person that his opinion can only be relied on when trivial matters and ordinary people are in discussion. Hence Apolloddorus says that his narrative of the feast can not be reliable therefore I confirmed it with Socrates himself.

The next person in the hierarchy is Socrates. This text is meant to reflect the opinion of different people about love and eventually lead to Socrates giving the final decisive definition. yet Plato does not stop at this, Socrates’ word go through the filters of Apollodorus, Aristodemus and Glaucon and finally when we are faced with the words of Socrates, he is replaces himself with everyone present at Plato’s narrative. We see that Socrates says: “I realized that in fact I know not the most important things about the most important things, without being taught by someone.” and here his words leads to a feminist approach where he refers to a woman called Diotima who again were not mentioned anywhere but in the Sympsium. According to experts on Plato’s works, Diotima is in fact was Aspasia who was an influential immigrant to Classical-era Athens who was the lover and partner of the statesman Pericles. The couple had a son, Pericles the Younger, but the full details of the couple’s marital status are unknown. According to Plutarch, her house became an intellectual centre in Athens, attracting the most prominent writers and thinkers, including the philosopher Socrates. Diotima in Greek means blessed by Zeus, yet if we apply the same Beckettian play with words to her name where Dioty means ‘But’ and ‘Ma’ means yet, we see Plato’s interesting hint at the question of love and its probable answer.

Another point that helps understanding the delicate details of Plato’s form of writing is that usually in the conversations between Socrates and Plato, Socrates joins in the beginning or the middle of the conversation and with sarcasm and irony, which leads the person to surrender and let Socrates to explain the answer in its totality. Yet in the Symposium, there’s is no question and answer but independent speeches by different speakers on a given subject.

The first person among the speakers is Phaedrus, who is of significant importance for plato, so much so that he writes treatise with his name which is considered one of the seminal points in the beginning of the science of aesthetics in western philosophy.

The second speaker, Pausanians is a jurist and approaches love from a judicial view point. Plato uses his speech to discuss whether the experience of love is appropriate for the social life. The next speaker is Eryximachus who speaks in place of Aristopahnes, due to him s:

“…and Aristodemus said that the turn of Aristophanes was next, but either he had eaten too much, or from some other cause he had the hiccough, and was obliged to change turns with Eryximachus the physician, who was reclining on the couch below him. Eryximachus, he said, you ought either to stop my hiccough, or to speak in my turn until I have left off.”

Aristophanes is the comedian character in this treatise who approaches the roots of the discussion about love with a raw satire, rare in philosophical texts. To understand his character better we must keep in mind that two years before Socrates was put on trail for poisoning the minds of Athenian youth and believing in false gods, Aristophanes takes a satirical play to stage in which he presents the idea the Socrates is the most dangerous sophist in in Greece for other sophists receive the payment for the tutoring and move to some place else but he is here to stay. This play is said to be among the reasons of Socrates’ trial and conviction.

The fifth speaker is the young Agathon, also the host of the feast thrown on the occasion of winning the prize with his first tragedy. So in the fifth chapter, love is seen from the viewpoint of a tragedist.

The last person, who also arrives last in a drunk and euphoric state, is Alcibiades who in his speech, talks of his personal relationship with Socrates. The historians believe that the political reason behind this treatise was to clear the name of Socrates of the allegations about him poisoning the minds of Athenian youth and his influence on the betrayal of Alcibiades, the young general. Hence, this treatise is about the borders of love and politics. Alcibiades mostly speaks about Socrates. At the end of the feast Socrates begins a discussion about the relationship between comedy and tragedy which remains unfinished when the guests leave the feast. Given the evidence, Socrates at the time of the feast is a middle-aged man, about 15 years before his execution. Aristodemus recalls:

“When he reached the house of Agathon he found the doors wide open, and a comical thing happened. A servant coming out met him, and led him at once into the banqueting-hall in which the guests were reclining, for the banquet was about to begin. Welcome, Aristodemus, said Agathon, as soon as he appeared-you are just in time to sup with us; if you come on any other matter put it off, and make one of us, as I was looking for you yesterday and meant to have asked you, if I could have found you. But what have you done with Socrates?

I turned round, but Socrates was nowhere to be seen; and I had to explain that he had been with me a moment before, and that I came by his invitation to the supper.

You were quite right in coming, said Agathon; but where is he himself?

He was behind me just now, as I entered, he said, and I cannot think what has become of him.

Go and look for him, boy, said Agathon, and bring him in; and do you, Aristodemus, meanwhile take the place by Eryximachus.

The servant then assisted him to wash, and he lay down, and presently another servant came in and reported that our friend Socrates had retired into the portico of the neighbouring house. “There he is fixed,” said he, “and when I call to him he will not stir.” How strange, said Agathon; then you must call him again, and keep calling him.

Let him alone, said my informant; he has a way of stopping anywhere and losing himself without any reason. I believe that he will soon appear; do not therefore disturb him.”

Here, Plato implies that this philosophical trance one of the most beautiful habits of Socrates.

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14 Sep Who is Vincent Gallo?

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Looking closely at this portrait, we’ll see piercing eye and the mysterious scrawny face that adamantly resists the passing of time to hide the whole 55 years of his personal and professional life. There are only some scattered information about him; born in a family of Italian immigrants in New York, he lived on his own since he was 16 and spent his adventurous time of being an actor in 80s and 90s in a way that earned him the nickname “Hollywood’s Bad Boy”. Tired of listening to the music that was not as good as what he heard as a teenager and directors that cowardly repeated the safe formulas of the mainstream cinema, he turns to peculiar hobbies like collecting antique sound equipment, rare vinyls, certified copies of his favorite films and tries to soothe his neurotic obsessions with music, making art and promiscuous relationships with women. Eventually he realize that he needs to do something special to prevent him from shooting himself in the head. The result of this periodical insanity; Buffalo 66, according to him is the only musical of his era. That’s how in the beginning of the 21st century he adds a new label to his sculpturesque image: The most important American independent filmmaker.

This Saturday, September 17th, we’ll review Gallo’s anarchic acting and his influence on the memorable characters developed by Claire Denis, Francis Ford Coppola and Emir Kusturica at first and then talk about his fascination with music and how he used it alongside his images and finally watch Buffalo 66 so through his peculiar dircting aesthetic and unusual view of his characters contemplate this question:”Who is Vincent Gallo?”

Eventually he realize that he needs to do something special to prevent him from shooting himself in the head. The result of this periodical insanity; Buffalo 66, according to him is the only musical of his era.

وینسنت گالو کیست؟

به پرتره روبرو که دقیق شویم، چشمان نافذ و صورت استخوانی رازآمیزی را می‌بینیم که لجوجانه در برابر گذر زمان مقاومت می‌کند تا تمام پنجاه‌وپنج‌سال زندگی خصوصی و هنری خود را از چشم حریص مخاطب پنهان کند. تنها اطلاعات جسته گریخته‌ای در مورد او پیدا می‌شود؛ در خانواده‌ای از مهاجرین ایتالیایی مقیم نیویورک به دنیا آمده است. از شانزده‌سالگی مستقل زندگی کرده و دوران پر ماجرای بازیگری در سینمای آمریکای دهه هشتاد و نود را به گونه‌ای گذرانده که به پسر بد هالیوود شناخته می‌شود. کلافه از شنیدن موسیقی دیگرانی که به خوبی دوران تین‌ایجری او نمی‌نواختند و کارگردانانی که بزدلانه مسیرهای امن سینمای معمول را تکرار می‌کردند، سرش را با عادات غریبی گرم می‌کند و به کلکسیون‌کردن تجهیزات قدیمی صدا، صفحه‌های کمیاب موسیقی و کپی‌های اوریجینال فیلم‌های مورد علاقه‌اش می‌پردازد تا وسواس‌های بیمارگونه ذهنی‌اش را در رابطه با زن‌ها، کار هنری، موسیقی و دوستانش کمی آرام کند. اما کار به جایی می‌رسد که می‌فهمد باید کار خاصی انجام دهد تا از این‌که اسلحه‌ای در دست بگیرد و گلوله‌ای در سرش خالی کند، بگریزد. نتیجه جنون دوره‌ای‌اش، فیلم بوفالو ۶۶ است؛ که به زعم خود تنها فیلم موزیکال معاصر دورانی‌ست که در آن می‌زیسته. این‌گونه است که او در آغاز قرن بیست و یکم برچسب تازه و خودخواسته‌ای بر ایماژ سنگی‌اش اضافه می‌کند؛ مهم‌ترین فیلم‌ساز مستقل آمریکا.

قرار است روز شنبه بیست و هفتم شهریور، ابتدا مروری بر بازی‌های آنارشیستی گالو و سهم او در شخصیت‌پردازی کاراکترهای به‌یادماندنی فیلم‌های کلر دنی و فرانسیس فورد کاپولا و امیر کاستاریکا بکنیم و بعد به شیفتگی او به موسیقی و شیوه استفاده از آن بر روی تصاویر بپردازیم و در پایان به تماشای فیلم بوفالو ۶۶ بنشینیم تا از میان زیبایی‌شناسی خاص کارگردانی او و نگاه غریبش به آدم‌های قصه‌هایش به پاسخ این سوال بیندیشیم: «وینسنت گالو کیست؟»

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Die Walküre

28 Aug Love and Philosophy Part. 1 With Saleh Najafi

The critical borders between love, politics and philosophy can be traced to many centuries back, when Plato wrote the Symposium. All the questions that we seek answers to, both in a formal and conceptual fashion can found there.

This discussion can be rooted back to my personal experience, when I was translating the article When East Meets West in the book titled The Puppet and The Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. In that article a question was put forth:

“A proper starting point would have been to ask the Schellingian question: what does the becoming-man of God in the figure of Christ, His descent from eternity to the temporal realm of our reality, mean for God himself? What if that which appears to us, finite mortals, as God’s descent toward us, is, from the standpoint of God Himself, an ascent? What if, as Schelling implied, eternity is less than temporality? What if eternity is a sterile, impotent, lifeless domain of pure potentialities, which, in order fully to actualize itself, has to pass through temporal existence? what if God’s descent to man, far from being an act of grace toward humanity, is the only way for God to gain full actuality, and to liberate Himself from the suffocating constraints of Eternity? What if God actualizes Himself only through human recognition?”

The viewpoint is what forms the radical philosophy. It is different from deconstruction in that deconstruction is concerned with redefining the text and meaning and what is constitutes as good and bad. In the Schellingian experiment we completely reverse what the text implies.

Zizek continues to utilizes this experiment to explain the notion of love:

“We have to get rid of the old Platonic topes of love as Eros that gradually elevates itself from love for a particular individual, through love for the beauty of a human body in general and the love of the beautiful form as such, to love for the supreme Good beyond all forms: true love is precisely the opposite move of forsaking the promise of eternity itself for an imperfect individual. (This lure of eternity can take many forms, from postmortal fame to fulfilling one’s social role.)”

So after putting forth this Schellingian question Zizek takes the same approach about love. when we think about love two ideas come to mind: One, the platonic love without the carnal relationship and the second the one that includes sexual instinct. To review this matter one must look at the platonic text in which along with the other thinkers of Greece viewed love as Eros or desire and believed that love undoubtedly begins with the carnal desire and gradually develops from one body to many and in this proliferation it reaches the appreciation for beauty of the human form itself. This will gradually mature into the love for the idea and the essence of beauty, the kind known as the perfect beauty. However, it must be noted that it is important to study the route that has led Plato at this conclusion.

In Northern European mythology Odin or Wotan Who is the god of gods, an entity Zeus who gives twelve figures known as Valkyries the power to decide Who survives a battle, who dies there and who enters Valhalla. In the first act; during a raging storm, Siegmund seeks shelter at the house of the warrior Hunding. Hunding is not present, and Siegmund is greeted by Sieglinde, Hunding’s unhappy wife. Siegmund tells her that he is fleeing from enemies. After taking a drink of mead, he moves to leave, claiming to be cursed by misfortune. But Sieglinde bids him stay, saying he can bring no misfortune to the “house where ill luck lives”.

Returning, Hunding reluctantly offers Siegmund the hospitality demanded by custom. Sieglinde, increasingly fascinated by the visitor, urges him to tell his tale. Siegmund describes returning home with his father one day to find his mother dead and his twin sister abducted. He then wandered with his father until he was parted from him as well. One day he found a girl being forced into marriage and fought with the girl’s relatives. His weapons were broken and the bride was killed, and he was forced to flee to Hunding’s home. Initially Siegmund does not reveal his name, choosing to call himself Wehwalt, ‘filled with woe’.

When Siegmund finishes, Hunding reveals that he is one of Siegmund’s pursuers. He grants Siegmund a night’s stay, but they are to do battle in the morning. Hunding leaves the room with Sieglinde, ignoring his wife’s distress. Siegmund laments his misfortune, recalling his father’s promise that he would find a sword when he most needed it.

Sieglinde returns, having drugged Hunding’s drink to send him into a deep sleep. She reveals that she was forced into a marriage with Hunding. During their wedding feast, an old man appeared and plunged a sword into the trunk of the ash tree in the center of the room, which neither Hunding nor any of his companions could remove. She expresses her longing for the hero who could draw the sword and save her. Siegmund expresses his love for her, which she reciprocates, and as she strives to understand her recognition of him, she realises it is in the echo of her own voice, and reflection of her image, that she already knows him. When he speaks the name of his father, Wälse, she declares that he is Siegmund, and that the Wanderer left the sword for him.

Siegmund now easily draws the sword forth, and she tells him she is Sieglinde, his twin sister. He names the blade “Nothung” (or needful, for this is the weapon that he needs for his forthcoming fight with Hunding). As the act closes he calls her “bride and sister”, and draws her to him with passionate fervor.

On the second act of the opera; Wotan is standing on a rocky mountainside with Brünnhilde, his Valkyrie daughter. He instructs Brünnhilde to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding. Fricka, Wotan’s wife and the guardian of wedlock, arrives demanding the punishment of Siegmund and Sieglinde, who have committed adultery and incest. She knows that Wotan, disguised as the mortal man Wälse, fathered Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan protests that he requires a free hero (i.e., one not ruled by Wotan and not bound to respect Wotan’s contracts) to aid his plans, but Fricka retorts that Siegmund is not a free hero but Wotan’s creature and unwitting pawn. Backed into a corner, Wotan promises Fricka that Siegmund will die.

Ziziek questions whether the gesture of giving up eternal existence for the sake of love -from Christ to Sigmund in Act II of Wagner’s Die Walkure, who prefers to remain a common mortal if his beloved Sieglinde cannot follow him to Valhalla is the highest ethical act of them all? The shattered Brunnhilde comments on this refusal: “So little do you value everlasting bliss? Is she everything to you, this poor woman who, tired and sorrowful, lies limp in your lap? Do you think nothing less glorious?” Ernst Bloch was right to observe that what is lacking in German history are more gestures like Sigmund’s.”

We have to get rid of the old Platonic topes of love as Eros that gradually elevates itself from love for a particular individual, through love for the beauty of a human body in general and the love of the beautiful form as such, to love for the supreme Good beyond all forms: true love is precisely the opposite move of forsaking the promise of eternity itself for an imperfect individual.

This gesture is discussed for the first time in Plato’s symposium by Phaedrus, one of the guests present at the feast:

“Love will make men dare to die for their beloved-love alone; and women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, is a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had a father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their own son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action of hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many who have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in admiration of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of returning alive to earth; such exceeding honor is paid by the gods to the devotion and virtue of love. But Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, the harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player, and did not-dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he might enter hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to suffer death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his cowardliness.”

What Phaedrus is referring to is the famous story in which Orpheus’ wife Eurydice was set upon by a satyr at her wedding. In her efforts to escape the satyr, Eurydice fell into a nest of vipers and suffered a fatal bite on her heel. Her body was discovered by Orpheus who, overcome with grief, played such sad and mournful songs that all the nymphs and gods wept. On their advice, Orpheus travelled to the underworld. His music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone, who agreed to allow Eurydice to return with him to earth on one condition: he should walk in front of her and not look back until they both had reached the upper world. He set off with Eurydice following, and, in his anxiety, as soon as he reached the upper world, he turned to look at her, forgetting that both needed to be in the upper world, and she vanished for the second time, but now forever.

In the philosophical dialectic, time is often the most horrid prison man can find himself in. The main goal in these dialects is breaking the confines of time. During the Schellingian experiment we’ll reach this statement that: What if the main confinement is in fact the eternity? And God is attempting to break free from it? Or according to Schelling God attempt some sort of Creation-Therapy in order to shatter the confines of eternity and the suffocating redundancy of potentiality. Freedom from that prison would mean descension into the realm of time. So in in philosophical sense time is in fact an Anthological Opening.

Thus, the incarnation which is the birth point of Christianity, is not an ascension of a body into eternity but quite the contrary.

Probably one of the most famous concepts of betrayal in literature, follows the logic elaborated by Hegel apropos of Julius Caesar: Caesar the-individual had to die in order for the universal notion to emerge. Nietzsche’s notion of a “noble betrayal” modeled on Brutus remains the betrayal of the individual for the sake of the higher Idea (Caesar has to go in order to save the Republic), and, as such, it can be taken into account by the historical “cunning of reason” (the Caesar-name returned with a vengeance as a universal title, “caesar”).

According to Zizek “A similar obscure ambiguity surrounds the role of Judas in Christ’s death: since his betrayal was necessary to his mission (to redeem humanity through his death on the Cross), did Christ not need it? Are his ominous words during the Last Supper not a secret injunction to Judas to betray him? “Judas, who betrayed him. said, ‘Surely not I. Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so'” (Matthew 26:25). The rhetorical figure of Christ’s reply is. Of course, that of disavowed injunction: Judas is interpellated as the one who will hand Christ over to the authorities—not directly (‘”You are the one who will betray me!”), but so that the responsibility is put onto the other. Is Judas not therefore the ultimate hero of the New Testament, the one who was ready to lose his soul and accept eternal damnation so that the divine plan could he accomplished?

It seems that the same holds for Christ: betrayal was part of the plan, Christ ordered Judas to betray him in order to fulfill the divine plan; that is, Judas’ act of betrayal was the highest sacrifice, the ultimate fidelity. However, the contrast between the death of Christ and that of Caesar is crucial: Caesar was first a name, and he had to die as a name (the contingent singular individual) in order to emerge as a universal concept-title (caesar), Christ was first, before his death, a universal concept (“Jesus the Christ Messiah”), and, through his death, he emerged as the unique singular, “Jesus Christ.” Here universality is aufgebohen (Removed) in singularity, not the other way around. So what about a more Kierkegaardian betrayal —not of the individual for the sake of the universality, but of the universality Itself for the sake of the singular point of exception (the “religious suspension of the ethical”)? Furthermore, what about “pure” betrayal, betrayal out of love, betrayal as the ultimate proof of love? And what about self-betrayal: since I am what I am through my others, the betrayal of the beloved other is the betrayal of myself is not such a betrayal part of every difficult ethical act of decision? One has to betray one’s innermost core; as Freud did in Moses and Monotheism, where he deprives the Jews of their founding figure Judas is the “vanishing mediator” between the original circle of the Twelve Apostles and Saint Paul, founder of the universal Church : Paul literally replaces Judas, taking his absent place among the twelve in a kind of metaphoric substitution , And it is crucial to bear in mind the necessity of this substitution: only through Judas’ “betrayal” and Christ’s death could the universal Church establish itself — that is to say, the path, to universality goes through the murder of the particularity. Or to put it in a slightly different way: in order for Paul to ground Christianity from the outside, as the one who was not a member of Christ’s inner circle, this circle had to be broken from within by means of an act of terrifying betrayal.

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23 Aug Kiarostami’s Homework With Saleh Najafi Part. II

In the closing images of ABC Africa, the ghostlike faces of Ugandan children are superimposed onto the clouds we see from the window of the plane taking Kiarostami and his companions out of the country. Ending the film faces, Abbottt argues reveals, is human appearance itself: the face as apparition. In his essay on the face in the book titled Means without ends Giorgio Agamben writes:

“What the face exposes and reveals is not something that could be formulated as a signifying proposition of sorts, nor is it a secret doomed to remain forever incommunicable… Such a revelation… does not have any real content and does not tell the truth about this or that state of being, about this or that aspect of human beings and of the world: it is only opening, only communicability.”

One the many similarities between Kiarostami’s and Bresson’s cinema is that the way Kiarostami incorporates faces, is a complex expansions of the idea ‘Models as Actor’ that Bresson introduced. Bresson’s use of faces in his films, was in a way that he attempted to display them devoid of any expressions. In that those expressionless faces became the absolute truth. The dialectical result of this attempt was that the faces of the actors lost its human characteristics and the true nature of the appearance was summoned. In Bresson’s films, the characters are seen crying but other than their tears, there are no signs of sorrow of any other emotion present on their faces. As if the characters freeze with the tears clogged their throats. In Homework, Majid is the child that is terrified to stand in front of the camera and seems ready to burst into tears at any moments but does not. This state can be defined by the term Transfiguration. Every other child present in this film has an expressive and implicative face yet to conclude the film, a face is required to go beyond expression and implication and bring forth the state of transfiguration. This is the moment of grace in a godless universe. To answer Agamben that what does the face implicate, it is indeed the essence of implication and communication that is communicated and implicated by the face.

Agamben believes that understanding the truth of the face, is not about understanding their similarities but their simulas (One-ness). This simulates, This great force that aligns the faces together and maintains them as one, is what we call the Communism of Faces. Mankind has always been curious that what might the face of god be and that curiosity has had a great influence on art, especially in church paintings. Agamben explains that it is but the simulates of all the human faces:

“The face is not a simulacrum, in the sense that it is something dissimulating or hiding the truth: the face is the simultas, the being-together of the manifold visages constituting it, in which none of the visages is truer than any of the others. To grasp the face’s truth means to grasp not the resemblance but rather the simultaneity of the vis- ages, that is, the restless power that keeps them together and constitutes their being-in-common. The face of God, thus, is the simultas of human faces: it is “our effigy” that Dante saw in the “living light” of paradise.”

Given that, the death of god which Nietzsche refers to, is in a way the act of pulling away the metaphysical veil and exposing the absolute truth.

Agamben continues: “My face is my outside: a point of indifference with respect to all of my properties, with respect to what is properly one’s own and what is common, to what is internal and what is external.”

To escape the polarity of truth and lies, as Kiarostami calls it, he takes on a method similar to Wittgenstein.  By joining the universe he is attempting to display, he also attempts to attach his existential truth to it (As seen in The Homework and Close-up). What remains a paradox is that the filmmaker who is a part of his film’s universe is not able to present is purely as it is and is not able to completely detach himself from it either. Kiarostami sets on a path to solve this paradox.

Zizek believes that the Hegelian dialectic between can be interpreted in two ways. The first and most prevalent is that one reaches towards the truth by increasing her knowledge. In other words the journey towards the attaining knowledge is aided by the will to truth. In this view, arriving at the absolute truth takes place at the moment where truth and knowledge align. To translate this into cinematic dialect, is to portray a universe so perfect that the creator is not present in it for it does not need the perceivable presence of its creator. From this perspective, truth has an essential existence.

The second dialectic interpretation of knowledge and truth, form in Hegelian philosophy. He believed that the mere attempt towards finding the truth is in a way experiencing the truth. Based on that, one can argue that The Homework attempts to bring together – as a Monad – the incidents post revolution Iran in that classroom by questioning and interrogating the children. The audience is made to study the faces of the children but the actual structure of the film forms after Majid enters the setting. All the other faces are, in a way introductions to discover Majid’s face as a narrative about the functional and dysfunctional education systems. In the relationship between knowledge and the truth, the essence of the truth varies with the knowledge. This presents itself in that moments of grace with Majid and his transfiguration symbolizes the unanswered question and the trauma that this education system causes. This weakest link in the chain forces the audience to realize the insufficiency of their knowledge regarding this truth. This is achieved first by including the filmmaker himself in the film and then hinting at that void inside the rhetorical encyclopedia of facts yet the role of the filmmaker in filling that void does not signify a journey from trivial knowledge towards an ultimate and absolute truth. So upon understanding the insufficiency of knowledge, it seems that the truth must be redefined for what was supposed to be the absolute truth before now seems lacking.
This unanswered question guides us to a chapter in Lacan’s psychoanalysis known as the big Other (Autre). Lacan equates this radical alterity with language and the law, and hence the big Other is inscribed in the order of the symbolic. Kiarostami puts himself in the position of the big Other. He is the entity that the children must obey and adapt to but one of them seems to be unable to do that. This is the condition known in psychoanalytic texts as Hysteria. Here is the situation where the person keeps asking oneself a question without knowing the answer. The big Other is thought to know the answer but the more the question is being asked the more it becomes evident that even the big Other does not know the answer. The hysteric manner in which the subject continues asking the question results in the formation of hole in this figure of authority, the big Other and there form a new truth is born. The hysteric person’s desire is translated into the big Other’s desire and the continuous process of questioning in order to understand what the big Other wants, results in a reflective rotation. In other word when the big Other is faced with the question, the question becomes the answer.

“The face is not a simulacrum, in the sense that it is something dissimulating or hiding the truth: the face is the simultas, the being-together of the manifold visages constituting it, in which none of the visages is truer than any of the others. To grasp the face's truth means to grasp not the resemblance but rather the simultaneity of the vis- ages, that is, the restless power that keeps them together and constitutes their being-in-common. The face of God, thus, is the simultas of human faces: it is ``our effigy`` that Dante saw in the ``living light`` of paradise.”

Thus, here the absolute truth is exposed through the appearances themselves, rather through by unveiling them. This is the moment that audience witnesses the becoming of Majid, in a moment that Lacan calls The Real. He describes The Real as the impossible or the unlikely. In metaphysical and spiritual view of The Real is synonymous to the absolute and unattainable, yet Lacan believes that The Real can only take place and to leave the spectator in awe, saying: “This is impossible!”. In The Homework as well, the most unlikely of the characters has been chosen for the process of transfiguration. This element of surprise, is what makes the moment that The Real appears, a shocking and traumatic experience. Meanwhile, the appearance of The Real can be as much satirical as it can be traumatic. The evidence for this in The Homework is the relationship between Majid and his friend Mowlaee, which seem comedic yet is rooted in a terrible experience.

This film’s dilemma, is one of truth and untruth. Like any other worthy artwork, this film acquires its form by the sediment of its content. The content seems to be this simple statement: Contrary to popular belief, children are not pure, innocent and honest. They lie, they are prolific liars and the difference between them and adult liars is that when they are caught, a comedic situation forms. The structure of the film seems to be simple as well: The subjects are through a questionnaire, the locations are a classroom and schoolyard and the omitted element are the same as other works by the director. The presence of women in the movie is pale and the atmosphere is quite masculine.

There is a simple lie in this film which Kiarostami emphasis on through recurrent inserts. The images seen of a cameraman (who is supposed to be recording the interviews) does not correspond with the angle of the actual interviews.It seems like conciously or otherwise, Kiarostami is reflecting the lies children are telling him. In other words he is displaying the fact that the the rhetoric of a documentary  pursuit of absolute truth about the education, is subject to change at the presence of the director (the representative of the big Other).

The introductory scene is designed in a way the director’s line of sight matches the children’s. Jonathan Rosenbaum explains in an article about Kiarostami titled From Iran With Love, that Jean-Luc Godard has had a similar experiment in his interviews with children in his 1977-’78 TV series France/tour/detour/deux enfants, in which he asks a little girl about sound and music and a little boy about image in each episode. One key exchange I’ve always treasured is Godard asking, “Isn’t a shop window the same thing as a TV set?” and the little boy calmly replying, “No.” The ironic forms between Godard’s statement about the relationship between the capitalism and mass media facing the confidant disagreement of a little boy.

In another example of this form of irony; when the film returns to the boys’ extended Islamic chants and calisthenics outdoors. Offscreen the narrator, presumably Kiarostami, says, “In spite of all the attention of responsible people to arrange this ceremony properly, it was not performed correctly. So in order to show the proper reverence, we preferred to delete the sound from the filmstrip.” At this point the sound is abruptly turned off as the camera pans across the crowd of boys thumping their chests and declaiming, eventually arriving at the figure of the male teacher leading them in the foreground. Logically, if there was any intention to show actual  reverence, the images must have been deleted and the sound that to the audience resembled normal chants, retained. Yet in this ironic display the effect is both analytical and aesthetic, displaying what amounts to a reverence for reality in its objectification of ritual that exists quite independent of any reverence (or subtle irreverence) for Islamic fundamentalist dogma. In the same scene, there’s one child who is performing this ritual without a care or any attempt to fulfil the expectations of the “Responsible people”, with the Mowlaee character standing behind him. This scene is a sign for the beginning of the transfiguration process. The scene cuts to the classroom where Majid’s father is being interrogated. He is told that his son has been interviewed and he’ll see the footage later. This is a re-enactment technique later seen in Close-up. In this recreation the truth has been grasped, a truth that the knowledge at hand has seemed insufficient but looking at the Hegelian theory of knowledge and truth, the essence of absolute truth is but the journey towards it. Majid’s face becomes the building block of all the other faces in Kiarostami’s cinema (and in way the complex interpretation of Bresson’s faces) such as Sabzian in Close-up and Hossein in Beneath the Olive Trees. Majid’s face goes beyond a face, becomes transfigured and turns into the representation of the absolute truth.

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22 Aug Kiarostami’s Homework With Saleh Najafi Part. I

The Homework is one of the most famous works in Abbas Kiarostami’s filmography and in a way a representation of his thinking structure as well as a womb that gave birth to his other films. This film, negates all the images that have been portrayed of the director’s character both by circles with ties to the government and by the bourgeoisie associated with the art and cinema scene. The children seen in this work, are the children of war. Born in the period between the Islamic revolution and the Iran – Iraq war, the mere choice of having them participate in this film is an attempt to present a historical narrative of this eight year period.

Kiarostami reaches seminal filmmaking form with The Homework and Close-up, yet the formation of his professional, aesthetic and political view happens between the creation of The Homework and ABC Africa. He creates ABC Africa at the peak of his professional career and while this film might be his least popular, it is important because it speaks of Kiarostami’s worldview. To analyze The Homework with the approach of reviewing Kiarostami’s whole artistic career in the context of one film, we will focus on three main points, points which were hinted at by Kiarostami himself in an interview In Ten on Ten, a 2004 documentary featuring ten short scenes in which Abbas Kiarostami speaks in a car on his work in filming 2001’s Ten. Referring to the production of ABC Africa – his first feature length digital production, and which was shot in Uganda – he says:

“I felt that a 35mm camera would limit both us and the people there, whereas the video camera displayed truth from every angle, and not a forged truth. To me this camera was a discovery. Like a God it was all encompassing, omnipresent. The camera could turn 360 degrees and thus reported the truth, an absolute truth.”

Therefore this cinema is one in pursuit of recording the absolute truth. The first point of this discussion, is the philosophical representation of this pursuit for the absolute truth in Kiarostami’s cinema. The second point, which we’ll call The Godless Theology, is the result of this pursuit and the theological aspect of his cinema. The third and final point, titled The Communism of Faces will analyze the political aspect of Kiarostami’s cinema.

Matthew Abbott, in and article Titled The Appearance of Appearance: Absolute Truth in Abbas Kiarostami’s ABC Africa, puts forth the question that what are the moral and political aspect of this film? and more importantly how this film clarifies the philosophical potentials of its medium? He refers to the though experiments introduced in his 1929 lecture on ethics.

I felt that a 35mm camera would limit both us and the people there, whereas the video camera displayed truth from every angle, and not a forged truth. To me this camera was a discovery. Like a God it was all encompassing, omnipresent. The camera could turn 360 degrees and thus reported the truth, an absolute truth.

“Wittgenstein hit on this with clarity in his 1929 lecture on ethics. Here he proposed a thought experiment: imagine an omniscient person – someone who knows every fact about the world since the beginning of time – decided to write a big book containing all his knowledge. Such a book would be perfectly encyclopedic; it “would contain the whole description of the world.” Yet such a book, Wittgenstein argued, “would contain nothing that we would call an ethical judgment or anything that would logically imply such a judgment.” It would seem there is no logical difference between a proposition like ‘she saw him’ and one like ‘she murdered him,’ no logical difference between ‘the stone fell’ and ‘the stone fell, killing a child.’ In the world there are simply events, and the moral distinctions we make between them are projections – or so the experiment seems to show.”

The result of this thought experiment, is that is even by possessing all of the facts in the universe, it is impossible to form a ethical judgement and in the absence of a powerful moral reference, the world would be a terrifying place. As it has happened after the first World War, in Wittgenstein’s opinion. He concluded that the ethical has a different relation to the facts. In the ethical philosophy of the 20th century there was a question that wether it’s possible to extract some sort of ethical norm from the facts? even a branch of post Hegel Marxists believed that the ethical can be aligned with the facts. This dilemma did not convince Wittgenstein and he rephrased the question:

“If a complete description of all the facts that make up the world would contain nothing of genuine ethical significance, then either our ethical life is based on arbitrary emotional responses to what occurs, or it is bound up with something other than the facts of the matter at hand, something other than factual content. It is important that when in this lecture Wittgenstein goes on to (try to) talk about what he calls “absolute or ethical value,” he describes the experience of it in terms of a feeling of wonder at the existence of the world. ”

Wittgenstein speaks of a poetic force here, a force that can not be described or recorded in that rhetorical encyclopedia. In other words, the appearance of the world to its subjects is nothing like the truth as it is often defined. To elaborate, it is necessary to review the two major philosophical theories about truth: The Correspondence Theory and the Coherence theory. In the late 19th century, before the introduction of Nietzsche’s philosophy, the prevalent idea was that the actualities are far from the truth and one put aside the veil of appearances in order to reach the absolute truth. Nietzsche on the other hand, believed that shining the light of these appearances is the way towards the absolute truth. In this discussion, it will become evident that  Kiarostami is attempting to present the audience with the absolute truth by ‘Making the appearance, appear.’ This truth is as absolute as it is ordinary and common, and it is seen in the most simple aspects of everyday life.

The paradox of displaying the absolute truth can be found in the word ‘Screen’ which can be defined both as a means to conceal or to show a film. in book titled Abbas Kiarostami: The Evidence of Film Jean-Luc Nancy writes that this wordplay can even be seen in the world ‘Film’ itself.

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