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Ovi Symposium; Eighty-Fourth Meeting Ovi Symposium; Eighty-Fourth Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2017-09-15 08:34:23
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

Between Professors Emanuel Paparella, Ernesto Paolozzi, Michael Newman and Azly Rahman
Eighty-fourth Meeting: 15 September 2017

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Symposium's regular participants

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

 

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

newmanProf. Michael Newman received his Master’s of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Eastern Michigan University.  He discovered his love for teaching English as a Second Language while living abroad. He moved to South Florida and began his journey for a tenure track position at Broward College where he has recently earned a tenured position teaching English for Academic Purposes.  Another great passion of his is that of philosophical writing and discussion.  

azlyDr. Azly Rahman holds a doctorate in International Education Development from Columbia University, and multiple Masters Degrees in the fields of International Affairs, Peace Studies, Communication, and Education. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. He has edited and authored seven books. He resides in the US where he teaches courses in Education, Philosophy, Cultural and American Studies, and Political Science. His interest in research and writing lies in the cultural interplay between Cybernetics, Hegemony, and Existentialism.

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Subtheme of session 84: An Exploration of the Transcendental Ideas of Truth, Goodness and Beauty in Western Philosophy.

Indirect Participants within the Great Imaginary Conversation across the ages: Plato, Vico, Rembrandt, Rumi, Homer, Dante, Bertrand del Bornio, Hume, Levinas, Whitehead,

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Coordinator’s Preamble to the 84th Meeting (September 2017)

In this month’s meeting of the Ovi Symposium we explore the transcendental forms of the True, the Good and the Beautiful and begin with revisiting a conversation among gods, heroes, poets and philosophers on Mt. Olympus, one of the first contribution by Emanuel Paparella to Ovi magazine.

Due to the impact of the powerful hurricane Irma on Saturday and Sunday the 9th and 10th, I was compelled, as a coordinator to send the final draft ahead of time and the contributions of the my other three colleagues could not be accommodated. We will do so next month when we repeat the theme of the Platonic transcendental forms. For the moment the following presentation will have to do, functioning as a sort of virtual imaginary symposium.

The issue of the transcendental forms existing, as per Plato, eternally outside of time and space is a perennial one in philosophy. It continues to preoccupy philosophy even today. It was the philosopher North Alfred Whitehead who once quipped that the whole of Western philosophy is nothing but a footnote to Plato. That may be an exageration, for there have been powerful philosophical voices who have taken  issue with, even challenged the notion of the forms, beginning with Aristotle, all the way to Hume, Vico and Levinas.

The genius of Vico’s unique challenge in philosophy, with which the first presentation of this month symposium’s deals, lies in pointing out, within the Western philosophical tradition that the poetical, far from being unfriendly and antagonistic to reason, is complementary to it, necessary, in fact, for the grasping of a holistic view of man’s humanity. Without it rationality degenerates into the rationalism of ideological fanaticism, unable to contemplate worlds outside of one’s own abstract, positivistic schemes, even into what Vico dubs “the barbarism of the intellect.” These ideas are explored in the first contribution by Dr. Paparella which imagined as a lively conversation on Mt. Olympus titled “The Nexus between the Poetical and the Philosophical:An Imaginary Symposium on Mount Olympus among Gods, Poets and Philosophers.”

Participants to the Imagined Symposium on Mount Olympus                         

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Plato                  Vico                 Hermes                    Rumi

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Homer                 Rembrandt

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1.

The Nexus between the Poetical and the Philosophical:
An Imagined Symposium on Mount Olympus
among Gods, Poets and Philosophers

Presentation by Dr. Emanuel L. Paparella

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Vico: Good morning Plato. Here is a letter just delivered by Hermes. It is addressed to me but I’d like to share it. It supports my insight that even avowed rationalists and clever chess-players when impelled by powerful emotions, will return to the origins of language and break out in song and lyrical poetry. It is a poem by Jelaluddin Rumi.

Plato: Who? Never heard of him. But then you already know what I think of Homer. I doubt that this Rumi you mention will change my mind on the nature of poetry. The poetical, not only does not lead to truth but often it is used to deceive. It is all explained in The Republic, book X especially.           Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer by Rembrandt

Vico: The Republic is your letter and it has been delivered already. But let us stay with this particular letter from a particular poet in a particular place in time.

Plato: Your problem, dear Vico, is that you seem to have misread the classics of Western philosophy or you would know that, as Olympus is beyond the clouds outside of time and space, the habitat of the gods and demigods such as ourselves, truth is not found in the particulars of time and space and the world of the senses. The transcendental ideas of the Good, the True and the Beautiful are beyond the material senses. You would know that within history and the contingent there is only appearance and self-deception. I am concerned with the essences, the universal, not the particulars of the phenomenon as apprehended by the senses. I am no Anglo-Saxon empiricist or pragmatist. Mine is not the world of science and positivism but that of philo-sophia: love of wisdom.

Vico: I know your opinion of history and the particulars of history, Plato, and you know mine which does not reject your universal verities, it simply begins with the particular, but be kind enough to humor me for a while and let us at least hear what this fellow Rumi has to say for himself or Hermes’ effort in delivering this message precipitously will have been all but in vain. Surely you are curious! You would not know Rumi; how could you! He was born some fifteen centuries after your time in Balkh, Afghanistan. He was a contemporary of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. Another mystic of the times. But on Olympus time and space do not matter, you’d agree. In any case, like you he ran a distinguished philosophical academy in Konya, Turkey, and was a scholar and a brilliant teacher. He dealt with ideas. He considered himself enlightened by the light of reason. Then something happened to him in 1244 when he met Shams of Tabriz, and from then on he became a poet and dealt only with poetry.

Plato: Not so fast, Vico; before you continue lecturing us on the origin of language as poetical, as it is your custom, let me take a look. Uhm. Homer it is not! But obviously there is a meaning to this poem that I cannot fathom yet.

Vico: Why don’t we read the poem together and perhaps we shall know whether or not Rumi is a philosopher with the mask of poetry on, or a poet who thinks through images? May I remind you that in some way you did the same operation via the Myth of the Cave, and that the Classical Greek theater did exactly that: it spoke through masks, but there is nothing wrong with putting on masks when no deviousness is intended. Just a reminder, Plato.

When one reads Homer its authenticity is unmistakable; Homer is the common wisdom, the common sense, of all the Greek people. A true poem is always true to life and as such it is devoid of the irony and cynicism of rationalists. The fact that the poetical is more authentic shows that it came first when men were endowed with a robust imagination; just as children still are. To return to origins is to return to the poetical, albeit it was not a self-conscious poetry at its origins.

Plato: You know my views on that issue, Vico. We need not repeat them here again or we’ll go on ad infinitum… But, are you telling me that this passionate poem from the Middle Ages, and by a Moslem to boot, is more authentic than a well reasoned logical argument expressed in classical Greek or Latin? That an Aquinas basing his philosophy on Aristotle is due just as much attention as an Aristotle or myself?

Vico: Indeed. The logical argument may be clever indeed, even very clear and distinct, but as such it can better hide what is authentic. Poetry being more naïve is less able to be ironical and cynical, unless one reduces it to a mere didactic tool or to morality. But why don’t we read the poem rather than argue ad nauseam about the nature of poetry about which we’ll probably never concur?

Plato: Fine, if you insist. Let us do so, but then let us also see how you defend it rationally under the light of reason. But please conduct your defense in prose, not in poetry or I may get seduced by the beauty of the poem. So much deception and fallacy in philosophy is sugar-coated with poetry. That kind of operation may be fine for a wedding ceremony but please do not introduce it into serious philosophy.

Vico: Here is the poem written by Rumi and delivered by Hermes, but please remember that this is a translation from the original Arabic; as such it may deliver the content but be unable to be faithful to the form which is always integral part of any poetical work in any medium.

Plato: Yes Vico, I understand, but as philosophers we are more interested in its content, its logos or meaning. Go ahead please and read the poem.

Vico: Let’s do so. I would only ask you to please close your eyes as you listen to it. Keeping your eyes opened can only be a distraction:

“…Think how it is to have a conversation with an embryo. You might say, "The world outside is vast and intricate. There are wheatfields and mountain passes, and orchards in bloom." 

At night there are million of galaxies, and in sunlight the beauty of friends dancing at a wedding.” 
You ask the embryo why he, or she, stays cooped up in the dark with eyes closed.

Listen to the answer. There is no “other world.” I only know what I’ve experienced. You must be hallucinating. –

Plato: Here is a reason, if we needed one, of why some poets ought to be run out of the city. The logos of this poem is what I would characterize as the philosophy of regression. Back to the cave! Obviously this poet has regressed from the hard won world of reason to his mother’s womb and there determined that one can only speak authentically out of one’s own experience and only poetically. And so if one has no experience what does one speak of? Of nothing? Don’t you see Vico that this is nihilism pure and simple? We are here now on Mount Olympus, in a better world, consorting with the gods, but I was able to see this world when I was living on earth too, and I apprehended it with my own God-given reason, and I dare say I was not hallucinating, far from it.

Vico: I would rather call it the philosophy of origins, Plato. One does not regress. That is impossible within time unless we can find a way to travel faster than light. If you mean regressing culturally, that I understand, for only sixty years ago the Nazis regressed to the cave of the barbarism of the intellect and did crimes that not even primitive man ever did. There was even a famous philosopher who was speaking at the time of “originative thinking” and instead ended up joining them. What I am proposing is returning with one’s imagination to the place of origins where form and content, mythos and logos, are one, to be able to go forward again. One proceeds by respecting the phenomenon. Part of the phenomenon is time and space. Some of us may be able to dispense with imagination and deal in abstractions and universals. But even you Plato did not disdain to create your own myths, such as that of the cave to which you just alluded. Speaking of the devil on Mount Olympus, look who is here, Homer. How is it going Homer?

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Frontispiece to Vico’s New Science (1744) with Philosophy
and Poetry (Homer’s figure) deriving wisdom from God

Homer: Fine, thank you. I may be blind Plato but I heard your comments to Vico about poetry and the poetical in general. I cannot say I am surprised. You never minced words on the issue. Surely you will soon be writing a new law for your Republic, to make sure that blind people like me do not enter Olympus. And yet you understood the Rumi’s poem as read by Vico with your eyes closed. Your imagination did the work that needed to be done. Had you been an embryo your imagination would have been there potentially in your genes, but would have had nothing to work with and your wonderful Platonic other world of justice and peace and goodness would have been unperceivable. It would app! ear that to perceive the perfect, one needs to begin with the imperfect; to get to the universal one needs to begin with the particular, yes? That might not have been so at the very beginning when the Word was and that’s all there was, but something seems to have gone wrong and it is not so now, and we need many words and still do not perceive the light. Unlike the gods, for us the verum factum are not convertuntur. We do not think and make at the same time. And surely you know that I believe that Vico understood better than you what I was all about. I was not an esoteric poet the way you are an esoteric philosopher: I was merely the exoteric common wisdom of the Greek people.

Plato: I understand your sympathy for Vico who crowned you none other than the true educator of Hellas, dear Homer; for I too am fond of your poetry; it is great poetry but whether is proper for the common good of the polis, that’s another story. Its proper place is entertainment, not the teaching of Hellas wisdom in a serious academy. But that still does not solve our conundrum. Does poetry lead to any truth and why did Rumi regress from rationality to the poetical?

Homer: Here we go with regression again. That is why, dear Plato, you need to keep your ears open and read, really read out loud book III of Vico’s New Science which is dedicated to the discovery of the true Homer. Why should it be embarrassing for an intelligent rational man such as yourself to admit to changing one’s mind in the light of further revelations from worlds that you, as an embryo in a womb, cannot even fathom yet by the mere light of reason? Remember Dante’s “lantern man” (the poet Bertran del Bornio) in a cave doing light to himself with his own decapitated head?

Plato: Are you trying to turn the table around on us by judging philosophy with the poetical?

Homer: Not at all. I judge not, and because I judge not my poetry is able to see another world alien to me and my concerns and describe it. That is your problem Plato. You want to see clearly with the eyes of the intellect; you are proud of your “sharp vision” and yet refuse to open your ears to other worlds that have no part of your theoretical abstract concerns. You reduce those worlds to the sensual and the Epicurian. On that route I am afraid we eventually end up with what our friend Vico here calls “the barbarism of the intellect.” You were too close to the poetical and the heroic to be affected by that kind of barbarism, but it but not so with a rationalist such as Descartes 2000 years later, who wished to simply dispense with the poetical as so much childish stuff and ends up dehumanizing Man. Today down there they think of man as another machine: as so much extension into space. I am afraid that to get to the source of light you need to look inward and for that you need ears more than eyes dear Plato. With ears you may be able to return to origins, the poetical, and thus recover your whole humanity. Another famous philosopher, Pascal, put it best: the heart has reasons that reason know not

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Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer by Rembrandt

Plato: And how pray, do you propose to do that right here and now? You certainly have not convinced me yet nor do I expect to ever be convinced by mere poetry. I need logical proofs, reason, not smoke and mirrors, dear Vico.

Homer: I have a solution which may do for the moment, my friends... Let us ask our postman Hermes, who is still around eating lunch, to go and fetch us from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the famous painting by Rembrandt of Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer; that is to say, the common wisdom of the Greek.

Plato: What does Aristotle have to do with anything here? Everything he knew he learned it from me.

Homer: Plenty, for he was the one who while appreciating your instruction and while remaining friendly to you, disagreed with you on the importance of the experience of the senses and the existences of the ideas in another Platonic world, no pun intended. He also believed that Truth belonged to no one man but accumulated over time, as he points out in his Metaphysics. But we need a poetical painter (Rembrandt) to illustrate that message and we need Hermes to carry the message, so that the readers, by simply remembering the image presented to them, will hermeneutically, share in this conversation and become part of it.

Vico: As you know, Homer, I added a frontispiece to The New Science, with you in the very center of it, which had the very same hermeneutical function you just described.

Homer: That is precisely where I got the idea. In fact, I would be grateful if you cared to elaborate a bit on the image of Aristotle contemplating the bust of Homer. Here is Hermes, already back from the Metropolitan museum. I see that he is still able to beat the Internet. Go ahead Vico.

Vico: I will do so schematically. Otherwise we leave nothing to the viewer’s imagination. In looking at this painting, the viewer should contemplate several things, just as Aristotle seems to be doing. He should in the first place dwell on the fact that for a holistic humanity both philosophy (reason, content, logos) and the poetical (mythos, imagination, the poetical) are needed, and they need to be in harmony with each other; friendly to each other; complementary to each other. The artist, Rembrandt for this particular painting, functions as a messenger of sort. He is trying to persuade us of something but not via language, but via art revealing a poetical image. This rhetorical strategy presents us with the inner meaning of what is being displayed while at the same time appealing to our aesthetic sensibilities. Both are important to apprehend the whole for the True is also the Beautiful and the Good as you Plato has taught us. It seems important to me to be aware that this is one man reflecting on another man who is blind but is as the same time a ‘seer” able to see, via imagination, with his inner eyes. In looking at this painting the viewers need to turn and look into themselves the way Aristotle seems to be doing by looking at Homer’s bust. Art becomes here a mirror reflecting its creator; it becomes a mythos that can be recollected at any time by the viewer. Thus one gets to self-knowledge; a type of knowledge not emphasized by the classical philosophers but important in understanding history as “the story of Man.” If this painting does not accomplish that for the viewer, then it is mere sterile decoration or entertainment; an excuse to go to the Metropolitan museum and have tea talking of Michelangelo.

Plato: Vico, I am afraid that you still have not convinced me with your rhetorical stratagems. We need to meet for tea some other time and continue the discussion; but not at the Metropolitan Museum. Perhaps Yale University may be a better place.

Homer: I am afraid it will all be futile; those who are deaf to the poetical are truly blind!

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 END  OF 84th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (15/09/2017)

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Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

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70th Meeting -71st Meeting - 72nd Meeting - 73rd Meeting - 74th Meeting - 75th Meeting -

76th Meeting -77th Meeting - 78th Meeting - 79th Meeting - 80th Meeting - 81st Meeting -

82nd Meeting -83rd Meeting - 84th Meeting -

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   Download for FREE the "Ovi Symposium" Part I & Part II EBooks, HERE!

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