Wednesday, April 17, 2013

From "Filosofía con niños y jóvenes" by Maximiliano Lopez: Text for our Inaugural Reading Laboratory

Below is a short except from the last chapter of Maximiliano Lopez's 2008 book Filosofía con niños y jóvenes. It was translated from the Spanish by David Backer and Jason Wozniak, and will be the subject of our inaugural reading laboratory in Milbank Chapel, 4pm, April 19th. 

Front Cover

Chapter VI

A tragic maieutic

At the beginning of this work, we raised the idea that "philosophy for children" might be considered a tragic meautic. As is well known, in Greece, maieutic was the work of midwives, female aids of the birthing process. Socrates, a midwife's son, used this term to define his own activity, considering it a way to help give birth, not in the physical sense but rather in the realm of thought. We also might consider "philosophy for children" a maieutic, given that it is an attempt, once again, to give birth--only in this case to a palabra propia(one’s own word).

To grasp the sense in which we must understand the expression "palabra propia," it's necessary to think of the above maieutic as a "tragic maieutic," rather than just another another thing with a tragic intensity. In the first chapters of this book we thought of the tragic in terms of two interconnected topics: on the one hand, the relation between form (which is necessarily limited) and formlessness (which is infinite); on the other hand, the relation between chronological time (time that may be mediated and represented) and becoming-time (pure, immediate time).

Definitively, we can stipulate that the tragic constitutes a theory of creation, and, as such, points directly to the border separating and linking life and death, form and infinity, words and the unspeakable, the past and the yet-to-come. The tragic is a tentative way to understand the relation that exists  between historical continuity and creation, between the causal chain of events and the emergence of a novelty for which deduction is impossible and causality irrelevant. 

In the previous chapter we saw how the form-formlessness relation and the distinction between chronological time and becoming-time can help us to understand the rift between wisdom and feeling. While knowledge accumulates or disappears as (linear) time passes, feeling is a kind of event which produces an intense temporality, a kind of time that's born and dies every time a word is pronounced. While this relation is often thought in the context of subjectivity--that is, the knowledge of self--we find that there exists within us this tension between that which we know about ourselves--and, out of which which we construct an identity--and that which appears within us as feeling. This feeling, we've seen, escapes any representation, given that it doesn't express that which we are but rather that which we are becoming, that which does not permit of transformation into anything else.

The "palabra propia" is a generative word, a singular word, an event which no law regulates. This is why we may only help its birth indirectly. The figure of the midwife seems appropriate here once again. S/he helps you give birth but will never give birth for you, or take your place in your own birthing process. In the same way, the midwife may help to give birth to a palabra propia but s/he may neither say what that word is nor find it for you; it is only possible to try and prevent words from becoming cliches.

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