Unreal Nature

July 22, 2017

Frustrated Work

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:49 am

… When disturbance and destruction occur intentionally, when they are “pragmatic,” their motive is impure and so not “pure evil.” And what is not pure evil is none at all but rather the frustrated search for freedom.

This is from the chapter on ‘Destroying’ in Gestures by Vilém Flusser (2014):

… Overturning the [chess] board is a “move” in the chess game, one of the gestures that can be made within the universe of the game. But it is a “move” against rules. So the disturber is not someone who “no longer is playing” but someone who has decided to continue to play, against the rules. Only the decision explains that the rules are disturbing him. If he really were no longer playing, then the rules couldn’t bother him. He decides to disturb the disturbing rules (to overturn the board and avoid the defeat to come) exactly because he was in the game when the decision was made.

In this example, Zerstõrung (disturbance) and Destruktion (destruction) part company. “To disturb” means to get rid of the rules that put things in order and so cause these things to fall apart. Nothing of this sort happens with the overturning of the chessboard. This movement does not undermine the rules of chess but rather confirms them by not following them (it dis-turbs, as a thief confirms the law). Disturbers (barbarians) are not necessarily destructive spirits. On the contrary, they can have a constructive effect.

[line break added] As the Germans disturbed the Roman Empire, they transferred its rules (its structures) into other areas, for example, into the Church. If destructive spirits (e.g. cynics or Epicurians) had triumphed, the empire would actually not have been disturbed, but it would have been destroyed. Disturbers disturb that which is disturbing; destroyers destroy structures. Disturbers are thieves and are unlike destroyers in that they do not deny the law. Disturbers are frustrated conservatives; destroyers are frustrated revolutionaries.

The player overturns the board because he is afraid he will otherwise lose. His motive is the avoidance of defeat through a rule averse “move.” His intention is to disrupt the game, to break it apart. He turns the board over “intentionally,” and for exactly this reason, the gesture is not evil. … Evil would be to overturn a board where two unknown players are sitting, whose game holds no interest.

[line break added] The motive for such a gesture would consist in a decision to disturb an uninteresting game. It would be a gesture with no intention. The motive would be “pure” (in a Kantian sense of disinterest, complacence). For what such a gesture disturbs, what provokes the gesture, is not a specific state of play, and not the rules of the game, as in the case of destruction, but the fact that this is a rule-governed activity.

[line break added] The decision does not mean “these rules are disturbing,” nor does it mean “these rules are wrong”; rather, it means “this game is disturbing because it has rules.” So, [it’s] not “made, but disturbing,” nor “badly made, and so disturbing,” but “made, therefore disturbing.” That would be “pure malice.” It is rare, because it is inhuman, that is, unintentional, a gesture with pure motives.

… Observing the gesture of destroying enables us to consider the question of evil. It lets us avoid the trap set by those who claim that disturbance and destruction are evil. … They are basically saying “disturbance and destruction are evil because the disturb me.” Disturbance and destruction are not evil, however, as long as they have an intention. Disturbance with intention is frustrated conservatism; destruction with intention is frustrated revolution. When they coincide, frustrated work is the result.

… When disturbance and destruction occur intentionally, when they are “pragmatic,” their motive is impure and so not “pure evil.” And what is not pure evil is none at all but rather the frustrated search for freedom. When they are without intention, however, when they occur with “pure motives,” then they are evil, which happens rarely because it is inhuman (as is “pure good,” regrettably). And then they are terrifying.

My most recent previous post from Flusser’s book is here.

-Julie

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