It may be necessary to understand philosophy as a desert littered with the ruins of rusted and dead machines, a junkyard populated by inanimate mechanical skeletons. Plato and Plotinus, Aristotle and Aquinas, Descartes and Fichte, Leibniz and Hegel, all so many heaps of scrap metal contorted beyond repair.
It may be necessary, because the world in which we are trapped is slowly, but ever more rapidly, degrading and wearing out. Because the world is, now faster and now faster, ruining, decaying, and leaving behind more death than life to replace it. And this is not an easy task, as we are operators of the most massive system of reproduction even known – reproduction in the broad sense, not only of our biological species, but of the entire world, ‘organic’ and ‘inorganic’, ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’.
Philosophy already is born in a world always emerging anew from ever-growing graveyards of dead ideas, the always freshly christened calvaries of the Absolute. It would be necessary to read even Absolute Knowing as the melancholic sifting through bones, weeping over now Horatio, now Schelling, and now the dead King, and now the dead Professor, that first professor.
Philosophy already makes what it can of the ruins of the world, it is already the owl released by Minerva, already the unrequited lover of wisdom, always recoiling into the cave. This salvaging what remains – and not for long, not for much longer – and making of it what we will, this is the task of philosophy. It is a patchwork reconstruction of a world gone to ruin, not in a vain attempt to undo or halt or even slow the decaying process, but as to live according to it. To live according to ruin, by already reveling in the ruins yet to be cast off into nothingness!
The concept is essentially such a rescue of the ruin from its current contextual integration, an attempt to free the elements of this world, as much as possible, from their equipmental incarceration, to stand back and see them in all their weird and inexplicable glory. Sartre’s Nausea raised to a nearly mystical revelation. Yet this is like an operation for making philosophy out of philosophy, for seizing what passes under the name of philosophy so as to inhabit it philosophically, as one would inhabit the house of an unknown dead ancestor.
Making philosophy out of philosophy – by this we mean that, insofar as every philosopher understands what philosophy itself is on the basis of his specific philosophy or path to wisdom, which is also the path that circles and thereby avoids or keeps a distance from wisdom – can only mean inhabiting the essence of philosophy exactly as one would normally inhabit the individual apprehension of this essence. It can only mean to confront philosophy as a perplexing series of texts without reference or translation, a remarkable series of alien ciphers to be understood – not for the sake of doing so, but for the sake of nothing and no one. To inhabit the world and to understand it in all its reasonless singularity, its radical meaninglessness, and to devote oneself to nothing but living in accordance with this understanding… It can only mean to understand the meaninglessness of the world as the only possible justification for even attempting to abide in it, much less understand it, and to act accordingly. To understand the world and act accordingly, phusis and ethos, what else has philosophy ever sought?
*UPDATE* See Evan Calder Williams’ comments here, and my response below that.