The NEW Philosoflicks 1: Nietzsche Does Hollywood.

The OLD Philosoflicks was a series of seven experimental works in philosophy that were published online in the edgy, radical philosophy blog Against Professional Philosophy between July 2015 and May 2016:

Philosoflicks 1: You Are Not a Machine!

Philosoflicks 2, Installment 1: Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, Preface & Letters I-IV.

Philosoflicks 2, Installment 2: Frankenstein; Or, The Modern Prometheus, Volume 1, Chapter 1.

Philosoflicks 3: On the Metaphysics of Puppets.

Philosoflicks 4: The Vienna Circle Meets The Hollow Men Meets Flitcraft Meets Us.

Philosoflicks 5: caesargodkantgoldman.

Philosoflicks 6: Thoughtless Images, aka Guns R Us.

OK. So what’s a “philosoflick”?

Here’s what the author of The OLD Philosoflicks said—

In “Let’s Make More Movies,” the epistemological anarchist Paul Feyerabend wrote this:

The separation of subjects that is such a pronounced characteristic of modern philosophy is … not altogether undesirable. It is a step on the way to a more satisfactory type of myth. What is needed to proceed further is not the return to harmony and stability as too many critics of the status quo, Marxists included, seem to think, but a form of life in which the constituents of older myths — theories, books, images, emotions, sounds, institutions — enter as interacting but antagonistic elements. Brecht’s theatre was an attempt to create such a form of life. He did not entirely succeed. I suggest we try movies instead. (P. Feyerabend, “Let’s Make more Movies,” in The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy, Ch. J. Bontempo and S. J. Odell (eds), McGraw-Hill: New York 1975, pp. 201–210.)

By cine-phenomenology, I mean the direct expression of philosophical ideas in cinematic, visual terms, from a first-person point of view.

Intertitles are printed texts inserted into (especially silent) films in order to convey dialogue, descriptions, or expository material directly relevant to but not necessarily covered by the filmed material, e.g.,

And montage is the cinematic technique, discovered by Sergei Eisenstein, of combining, juxtaposing, ordering, and sequencing (more generally, synthesizing) visual images for the production of various kinds of aesthetic and emotional effect.

A philosoflick is an experiment in visual philosophy, blending text and images–employing cine-phenomenology, intertitles, and montage–inspired by Feyerabend and Eisenstein, by Chris Marker’s La Jetée, and by W.G. Sebald’s pictorial novels.

***

— Very cool.

But I also think that the author of The OLD Philosoflicks barely scratched the surface of what can done with this experiment in visual philosophy.

So I’m going to undertake a new series of philosoflicks here on Medium — hence The NEW Philosoflicks — and see what happens.

***

The Next NEW Philosoflick.

***

INTRODUCTION

This is Friedrich Nietzsche, in a philosophical-biographical nutshell

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.

Now Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the first motion pictures in their Lyon factory and also began presenting them publicly in Paris, in 1895.

Did Nietzsche ever watch a movie?

No. He died in 1900; but he’d gone mad in 1889, so the story goes, after witnessing the flogging of a horse near the Piazza Carlo Alberto in Turin and throwing his arms around its neck to protect it; and he never recovered.

So Nietzsche never knew what a movie is, nor, obviously, did he ever watch one, much less ever watch a Hollywood movie.

Nevertheless, some of Nietzsche’s most important philosophical ideas naturally evoke what I’ll call a cinematographic view of reality, whose prime ironic manifestation — as the essential product of what the cultural anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker so aptly called “Hollywood, the dream factory” — is the Hollywood movie.

So that line of thinking is what I’m going to explore philosoflickly in what follows.

***

F. Nietzsche, How the “True World” Finally Became a Fable: The History of an Error*

  1. The true world — attainable for the sage, the pious, the virtuous man; he lives in it, he is it.
Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, with Biblically Big Hair, carrying the eponymous items on “stone” tablet studio props. Nietzsche is saying (i) that classical philosophers believed in a fundamental distinction between (ia) the hidden “true world,” aka God aka REALITY, intuitable via reason, and (ib) manifest mere appearances, perceivable through the human senses, which inevitably cloak that “true world” and forever impede our cognitive access to it, and also (ii) that an elite cult of human animals (“the sage, the pious, the virtuous man”), amongst whom are the classical philosophers themselves, and the initiates of that cult alone, have direct cognitive access to that “true world.”

(The oldest form of the idea, relatively sensible, simple, and persuasive. A circumlocution for the sentence, “I, Plato, am the truth.”)

Plato’s conception of the “Forms” was the earliest Western philosophical conception of the “true world,” aka God aka REALITY. Here Sal Mineo, as John “Plato” Crawford, gazing at Plato’s Forms, is thinking “I, Plato, am the truth,” and James Dean, as Jim Stark, gazing in wonder at Mineo/Plato, is thinking “How in God’s name does he do that?,” in Rebel Without a Cause.

2. The true world — unattainable for now, but promised for the sage, the pious, the virtuous man (“for the sinner who repents”).

As I’ve pointed out, and as Nietzsche implies, God is just another name for the “true world,” aka Plato’s Forms, aka REALITY. Heston/Moses here is looking in wonder at God’s perceivable manifestation, the Burning Bush, in Stunning VistaVision no less. According to the incomparable and infallible Holy Wikipedia, in this scene Heston/Moses also provided “the voice of God as the Burning Bush in a low register.” Nietzsche is saying that the cult of those who are permitted cognitive access to the “true world”— the cult of “the sage, the pious, the virtuous man (‘for the sinner who repents’)” — is a highly exclusive club indeed, with special admission requirements. After suffering a bit, Heston/Moses now belongs to the club.

(Progress of the idea: it becomes more subtle, insidious, incomprehensible — it becomes female, it becomes Christian.)

A mere appearance (studio poster) of a mere appearance (Sister Luke, aka Gabrielle “Gaby” Van Der Mal), of a mere appearance (Audrey Hepburn playing a role in a movie) of a real human being (Audrey herself). Nietzsche-wise, as Sister Luke, and especially in this poster, she embodies the “subtle, insidious, incomprehensible” idea of the “true world” as “it becomes female, Christian.”
But doesn’t she look infinitely more beautiful in the movie, at only two degrees of separation from the real human being Hepburn, than in the poster? Ultimately, Sister Luke/Gaby/Audrey rejects her nun-driven cult of the “true world,” aka God aka Plato’s Forms aka REALITY, in favor of “the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and … in life, creativity, power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those situated in a world beyond.” You go!, Nietzsche-girl:

3. The true world — unattainable, indemonstrable, unpromisable; but the very thought of it — a consolation, an obligation, an imperative.

Ray Milland, as Dr James Xavier in “X”: The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, makes a Faustian pact with the new God, post-atomic-bomb Natural Science, for a shot at cognitive access to the “unattainable, indemonstrable, unpromisable” so-called “true world,” aka God aka Plato’s Forms aka REALITY, by torturing the natural world with scientific experiments until it gives him x-ray vision. Alas, it turns him into a monster who can see the sub-atomic world, but can’t even see the mere appearances. And after he hallucinates about an “eye that sees us all” in the center of the universe, he plucks out both of his own.

(At bottom, the old sun, but seen through mist and skepticism. The idea has become elusive, pale, Nordic, Königsbergian.)

“[E]lusive, pale, Nordic, Königsbergian”: this fits Immanuel Kant’s Critical metaphysics to a T. Kant’s name for the “true world,” aka God aka Plato’s Forms, aka REALITY, was Ding an sich: the “thing-in-itself.” Kant said in The Critique of Pure Reason that we’re inherently driven by our own rational human nature to try to know or grasp the thing-in-itself, but must always, tragically, fail. OK, misty and skeptical Mr K: but now what is to be done?
Another “elusive, pale, Nordic, Königsbergian” supplicant for admission to the cult of the “true world”: Marlon Brando as Christian Diestl in The Young Lions. It’s an ironic paradox that Nietzsche, one of the pioneers of Existentialism, was also a Nazi flavor favorite.

4. The true world — unattainable? At any rate, unattained. And being unattained, also unknown. Consequently, not consoling, redeeming, or obligating: how could something unknown obligate us?

(Gray morning. The first yawn of reason. The cockcrow of positivism.)

Brando/Diestl, neither consoled, redeemed, nor obligated, yawning with reason and cockcrowing with positivism in the grey morning, on his way to seeing directly into the Nazi Heart of Darkness.
Twenty-one years later Brando/Diestl, as Brando/Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, sees directly into another Heart of Darkness, this time in Vietnam — “the horror… the horror” — and dies yet again:

5. The “true” world — an idea which is no longer good for anything, not even obligating — an idea which has become useless and superfluous — consequently, a refuted idea: let us abolish it!

So, when Nietzsche says that the very idea of the so-called “true” world, aka God, aka Plato’s Forms, aka REALITY aka thing-in-itself, is “an idea which is no longer good for anything, not even obligating — an idea which has become useless and superfluous — consequently, a refuted idea: let us abolish it!,” is he saying as per The Matrix, that our world of mere appearances is nothing but an illusion — whether created by God, by our own minds, or even computer-generated?

(Bright day; breakfast; return of bon sens and cheerfulness; Plato’s embarrassed blush; pandemonium of all free spirits.)

HELL NO! Mineo/Plato blushes with embarrassment as he suddenly realizes that we always needed, above all, to rebel against that very thought, and anticipates “[b]right day; breakfast; return of bon sens and cheerfulness” and “the pandemonium of free spirits.” Therefore Dean/Stark is the archetypal Nietzschean rebel WITHOUT a cause, whereas Mineo/Plato is the archetypal Nietzschean rebel WITH a cause.

6. The true world — we have abolished. What world has remained? The apparent one perhaps? But no! With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one.

“With the true world we have also abolished the apparent one”: Keir Dullea, as Dr David Bowman, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, learning the profound Nietzschean insight that when the “true world,” aka God aka Plato’s Forms aka REALITY aka the thing-in-itself, becomes a fable, then we ALSO thereby abolish the very idea of the world as nothing but “mere appearances.” The two ideas stand or fall together!
The four Marx Brothers — Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo — in the greatest political movie ever made, Duck Soup. Groucho, as Rufus T. Firefly, der Führer of Freedonia, learns that political-authority-as-God, and the State-in-itself, are ALSO absurd shams, ALSO belonging to the now-abolished conception of the “true world.” You go!, Nietzsche-bros.

(Noon; moment of the briefest shadow; end of the longest error; high point of humanity; INCIPIT ZARATHUSTRA.)

But now what is to be done? Here we are at “noon; moment of the briefest shadow;” our philosophical High Noon; the “high point of humanity;” INCIPIT GROUCHO. As our “human, all too human” story finally begins, Harpo, Groucho, and Chico perfectly illustrate the even more profound Nietzschean insight that the “true world,” aka God aka Plato’s Forms aka REALITY aka the thing-in-itself, is no more really real than their bare legs stuck through folding Hollywood chairs turned backwards. In other words, we must belly-laugh at the fable of the “true world” vs. mere appearances, Grow Up and Get Over “the longest error,” and learn to love the world, AS it’s presented to us in all its bare-legged glory, AS such.

*F. Nietzsche, “How the ‘True World’ Finally Became a Fable: The History of an Error,” in F. Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, ed. and trans. W. Kaufmann (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, UK: Penguin Books, 1983), Twilight of the Idols, Or, How One Philosophizes With a Hammer, pp. 463–563, at 485–486.

***

The Next NEW Philosoflick.

***

The NEW Philosoflicks is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.