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Coleridge on the symbol

Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 21:23

Portrait of Samuel Taylor Coleridge on Dr John Dunn. Samuel Taylor Coleridge by Washington Allston oil on canvas, 1814

I'm returning after many, many years to read Samuel Taylor Coleridge, with a renewed freshness and understanding.

In his The Statesman’s Manual, Samuel Taylor Coleridge famously described symbols as ‘harmonious in themselves, and consubstantial with the truths, of which they are the conductor’.

In the sense of Coleridge’s definition, the symbol throws together the eternal and the temporal, the transcendent and the imminent. It is through the symbol that our awareness of the transcendent is made conscious. It opens up a path to that transcendent realm.

The symbol differs from the metaphor. The metaphor is a ‘carrying across.’ It compares a thing with something else. It is a way of speaking which can illuminate the mind, instruct the mind, but there is no relationship, i.e. not consubstantial with the object to which the thing is being compared.

The symbol, however, partakes in that which it is symbolising. A beautiful object which symbolises the holy is itself, although it is not itself the holy, participating in it.

I sense here that what is commonly considered to be the romantic sensibility was in fact a return to Renaissance concepts of what it means to be human. It was a rejection of the Spinozan kabbalism clothed in rationalism known as the Enlightenment. It saw mankind as symbolic of a higher divinity.

Central to this fallen world was the Renaisaance humanist view that in his capacity for creative spontaneity and play, frivolity even, man is the ‘living image of God’ (imago viva Dei) and has the capacity to be a ‘human god’ and a ‘second creator’ (capax Dei).

© John Dunn.

Conspiracy goes mainstream

Wednesday, 4 January 2017 at 21:10

Frankfurt School on Dr John Dunn. From top left to right: Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, LeoLöwenthal, Friedrich Pollock, Franz Leopold Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, Walter Benjamin.

Views long held by anti-semitic conspiracy theorists are now crossing into mainstream, conventionalist academia - and, what’s more, are being claimed as new ideas, albeit watered down considerably. On Youtube you can find a professor from Nottingham University postulating what she describes as ‘Philosphical Morranos’, ‘crypto-philosophers’ and ‘crypto-theologians’. Benjamin, Levinas, Derrida and their contemporaries in the Frankfurt School are the principle figures thus described. The academic rehearses the key point that ‘Judaism may be a key to profound connections in their philosophies’. She falls short of describing the connections as Sabbatean-Frankist, but if she continues to draw from the same sources for her theories, then no doubt this will be next.

Perhaps we really are moving into a post-liberal world.

© John Dunn.

Secular Paul of Tarsus

Monday, 19 December 2016 at 20:42

Marx on Dr John Dunn. Spinoza begins Ethics with his definitions, starting with the “cause of itself” or causa sui. Definition 3 says: “By substance, I understand that which is in itself and is conceived through itself; in other words, that, the conception of which does not need the conception of another thing from which it must be formed.”

This was the basis of Spinoza’s materialist outlook, even if we have to set aside the mystical origins of substance in Spinoza’s great presupposition.

Spinoza’s philosophy reflected the world around him, in his case, the nascent financial capitalist world of 17th century Amsterdam.

Marx famously said that -

The Jew has emancipated himself in a typically Jewish fashion not only in that he has taken control of the power of money, but also in that through him, money has become a world power and the practical Jewish spirit has become the spirit of the Christian people. The Jews have emancipated themselves insofar as the Christians have become Jews. The god of the Jews has become secularised and has become the god of the earth. (Marx, The Jewish Question)
Spinoza’s philosophy was the secular correlative of the emancipated Marrano Judaism of Amsterdam.

Hegel believed that he had superseded Spinoza with his own secular correlative of Christianity.

Marx did not so much turn Hegel on his head, but rather re-imposed a materialist Spinozism in a Hegelianised form. Marx was the secular Paul of Tarsus.

© John Dunn.

Warfare to welfare

Monday, 12 December 2016 at 22:01

Welfare on Dr John Dunn. The world really is changing and nothing in the liberal economy is sacred - including welfare. The distance of time is making radical views of welfare, if not mainstream, at least discussable in thinking circles. Take this tiny excerpt from an essay in the current e-flux journal.


The origin of welfare cannot be found solely within a logic of insurance against the risks of “work” and the risks of “life” (the Foucauldian school under managerial influence), but first and foremost in the logic of war. Warfare largely anticipated and prepared welfare. Starting in the 1930s, the two became indistinguishable.

The enormous militarization of total war, which transformed internationalist workers into sixty million nationalist soldiers, was “democratically” reterritorialized by and in welfare. The conversion of the war economy into the liberal economy, the conversion of the science and technology of the instruments of death into the means of production of “goods,” and the subjective conversion of the militarized population into “workers” took place thanks to the enormous apparatus of state intervention along with the active participation of “companies” (corporate capitalism). Warfare pursued its logic by other means in welfare.

Maurizio Lazzarato and Éric Alliez, To Our Enemies.

Posted by John Dunn.

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