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Ovi Symposium; Eighty-Fifth Meeting Ovi Symposium; Eighty-Fifth Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2017-10-16 09:18:19
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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-fifth Meeting: 15 October 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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Indirect Participants within the Great Imaginary Conversation across the agesTolkien, Lewis, Homer, Epicurus, Seneca, Fellini, Plato, Aristotle, Whitehead, Marx, Descartes, Lucretius, Voltaire, Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Vico, Aluleius, Dante, Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Murakami, Kafka, Shphocles, Tarantino, Moses, Heidegger, Bergson, Shakespeare, Wilde, Maslow.

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Subtheme of session 85: An Exploration of the Transcendental Ideas of Truth, Goodness and Beauty in Western Philosophy: the nexus between Philosophy and Literature—Part II.

Table of Content of session 85:

Presentation 1: “How can the gods meet us face-to face till we have faces?” by Emanuel L. Paparella

Presentation 2: “The Author as Philosophy Teacher: Characterizing Epistemology in Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore” by Azly Rahman.

Presentation 3: “Living for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful” by Michael Newman.

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

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The attempt to divorce mythos (the imaginative) from logos (the rational) is as old as Plato’s Republic. The risk of that intellectual operation is that one ends up in rationalism, what Vico dubs “the barbarism of the intellect," pure reason rationalizing what ought never to be rationalized.

In this 85th meeting of the Ovi Symposium we continue the exploration of the nexus and mutual influence between beauty and truth, literature and philosophy, already begun in the last meeting and and continue asking ourselves the questions: are truth, beauty and Goodness interrelated, as the Greeks surmised; are they mere ideas transcendent to the immanent world of our present practical imperfect day-to-day reality; can what some consider an ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry be harmonized? Vico certainly thought so. But then, the ultimate more pressing question becomes, ought we live our lives by their guide?

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1

How can the Gods meet us Face-to-face till we have Faces?
A presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

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The Tolkien trilogy “Lord of the Rings” grossed Hollywood more than a billion dollars. Were one to stand outside the theater and poll people exiting from the movie, in regard to the other fine scholarly books that Tolkien wrote as professor of ancient Nordic languages at Oxford University, I suspect that precious few would be able to mention even one. The same would probably apply to Tolkien’s friend and colleague at Oxford, C.S. Lewis.

Many have read his The Chronicles of Narnia, few know his other inspiring books harmoniously joining literature to philosophy, mythos to logos. It is an intriguing phenomenon, this of the popularity (the exoterism) of narrative myths and the unpopularity (the esoterism) of abstract rational treatises. I’d like to explore it through the analysis of a novel by C.S. Lewis, which is really an ancient myth with a universal archetype: Till We Have Faces.

The phenomenon above described is not modern. It is in fact as old as Plato’s controversy against Homer in The Republic; or Roman Stoicism and Epicureanism. Few are aware that Seneca was also a fine poet and wrote Latin tragedies in verse. It was he who “inspired” that “wannabe poet” named Nero who was jealous of his own lyre, one of the mad emperors of the Roman Empire. One of Seneca’s tragedies, Oedipus, has even been translated and successfully staged in modern times. In the Renaissance his poetic tragedies were much better known than his Stoic philosophy.

In Fellini’s film Satyricon there is a scene where we see a Greek poet reciting beautiful poetry in Greek who at a certain point gets pelted with food by the Roman bacchantes. One wonders if those decadent Romans were pelting a poet banished by Plato or if they would have accorded the same welcome to a Plato or an Aristotle. Be that as it may, I’d like to explore the phenomenon by taking a look first at what passes for a plausible explanation of this intriguing phenomenon, one that I would dub esoteric, because it is usually put forward by those modern neo-Platonists and rationalists who consider philosophy the province of the few and the intellectual elites. 

The argument goes like this: most people are incapable of hard, serious thinking. This is because they are genetically not programmed for it (the Forrest Gump type strangely associated by some of my European friends with Americans in general…) or don’t have the time for it, or they are too lazy to bother with it; most people are pragmatic and make due with pragmatic reason, the cunning street reason of an Ulysses (what Whitehead calls practical reason), they do not need the reason of a Plato (what Whitehead calls speculative reason).

Moreover, most people need to make a living and lack the time and the leisure needed for such esoteric activity; they are the “ilioti” of the times of Plato: they work so that people like Plato can have the leisure to think for them in the academy, cogitating on the cogito, be it the ivory tower or a closet. This of course begs the question: what happens to the many, those that Marx called the proletariat, and the aristocratic elites of Europe called “the unwashed masses?" How are they to cultivate their mind, assuming they have one? Well, let’s see, for them there is the poetical with which to sugar-coat the bitter pill of pure unadulterated reason. Within this line of thought, it stands to reason that the metaphor dealing with particulars is to be considered inferior to the abstract concept dealing with the universal.

Enter Descartes in the 17th century to inform us via his Discourse on Method that in fact these humanistic modes of thought associated with the poetical and the metaphorical are nothing but an inferior kind of reasoning to be discarded for geometrical abstract thinking; it is inferior because associated with the mind-set of a child who uses imagination in lieu of reason. Children and semi-idiots like Forrest Gump imagine fairy tales, men on the other hand reason and device philosophical rationalistic schemes and ideologies galore. To entertain the simpletons, the intellectual elites may once in a while, noblesse oblige, even throw in a myth or two as an illustrative point to help the feeble minded, as in fact Plato does in some of his dialogues. 

Lucretius, who wrote De Rerum Natura, would probably explain the phenomenon that way. He wrote his masterpiece of Latin verse, still studied today by classicists for its sheer aesthetic beauty, merely to sugar coat the bitter pill of atheism for the masses: the fear of the gods, or religion, which enslaves men to idolatry, superstition and ignorance to be relinquished by the rational mind. Not too dissimilar from the premise of modern rationalists such as Voltaire many centuries later. Now, Plato would see a definite problem with such a posture, as we read in The Republic.

For him, De Rerum Natura, despite its aesthetic beauty, would still be bad poetry. Why so? Because it is the kind of poetry that does not praise the gods and does not exalt the heroes. Lucretius, "gotch you!" To exile you go. You are a subversive of the established order in the republic; the beauty of your poetry, its form, makes it all the more deceptive and alluring to those who cannot think; it sugar-coats a pernicious content. So Plato gets busy, and as a philosopher-king that he is, he legislates laws which would swiftly banish Lucretius or any other “bad poet” from the polis, and if he will not obey the laws, then capital punishment is the final solution, because evil needs to be excised from the purity of the body politic.

Evil is anything that threatens the common good. If it all sounds rather Puritanical, it is. All Puritans are Platonists: at any time they may in good conscience kill your material body to save your spiritual soul imprisoned in the body and they would rather hear "soul of Christ" in church rather then "body of Christ". Moreover, within Platonism, the beautiful, which is to say poetry, literature, painting, music or any other poetical enterprise must relegate itself to its proper place: to be a handmaiden to philosophy.

At this point one is tempted to ask the question: would Plato tolerate aesthetically inferior poetry as long as it serves the purposes of the body politic and the common good? Of course Plato was no Stalin but his conception of the role of the poetical begins to echo that approved in the former Soviet Union only some twenty years ago. There, fine poets such as Boris Pasternak could only be published abroad; his Doctor Zhivago, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, had to be published in Italian in Milan. Idem for Alexander Solzhenitsyn who was first imprisoned and then banished from the Garden of Eden called the Soviet Union and ended up in idyllic Vermont, USA.

One begins to wonder if indeed the failure of the praxis at Syracuse of Plato’s political abstractions indicates something wrong with his philosophy just as the failure of the praxis of Heidegger’s existential philosophy within that other garden of Eden, the Nazi Wagnerian mythological kingdom of the Neibelung Nordic sagas, may also indicate something wrong with his theoretical scheme of reality.

In light of what we have argued so far, what is one to make of Tolkien’s and Lewis’ reverting to mythological narrative as a strategy to re-introduce the poetical and the transcendental into a Western culture mired in the positivistic, the rational, the scientific, the overtly material and the merely immanent; a culture in love with its rationality and efficient push-button technological solutions and pill-popping fix-alls. Which of course begs the question: are they also what Plato would define as “bad poets” trying to fool the unwashed masses by making more palatable their more esoteric scholarly works, while Hollywood laughs all the way to the bank? Here too, there is much to ponder.

In any case, I would argue that such is not the case with either of the two scholars since they did not conceive poetry/reason as a duality of sort. Rather they saw them as a unity, in a Vichian sense. That explains in part the popularity (the exoterism) of their narrative. The uniqueness of Vico lies in his consummate ability (the “ingenium’) to bring together the poetical and the rational by tracing the development of human reasoning from cave man in the era of the gods, to that of the heroes, all the way to the full-fledged reason of Plato and then showing how this repeats itself cyclically without destroying a purpose apparent in cosmological and human history.

The ancient and modern rationalists, on the other hand, have a penchant for subsuming the poetical under the rational. In so doing they lose sight that without the poetical reason becomes mere rationalism rationalizing what ought never be rationalized, planning an Holocaust in two hours and making the trains run on time without inquiring as to their destination…; that while it is true that one may not reason by images alone, the other side of the coin is also true: that one may not reason by concepts alone at the risk of losing sight of reality out there and having logic without experience or experimentation eat its own tail deluding itself that everything can now be explained by an ideology formulated in a closet.

The other delusion is that of thinking that within the world of human reason, the universal precedes the particular and the relative. Even the classical rationalist Aristotle recognizes in his Metaphysics that it is the other way around: the particular precedes the universal. Things may be different within the mind of God wherein verum and factum are one and the same, but Vico is analyzing how the human mind functions by examining human artifacts such as language, institutions, artistic objects galore, etc. He goes as far as saying that nature which has been made by God will never be fully known by Man. What is more properly scientific and knowable by Man are the cultural products as encountered in his/her history. Which is to say: Man is his own history.

 After this brief recapitulation of Vico’s speculation on the poetical let us see how Lewis’ Till We Have Faces reflects those Vichian principles. The quote contained in the very title of this essay by the heroine Orual supplies the title for this mythological novel which, with the exception of Perelandra, C.S. Lewis considered the best he had ever written. Curiously enough, it had little commercial success. So, perhaps commercial success is not such a reliable yardstick by which to judge the power and endurance of a myth but rather, as Jung has pointed out, the existence of certain collective persistent archetypes of the human imagination which seem to be vital for a proper understanding of the human condition. They seem to repeat themselves in different forms in different cultures, even those with no contact with each other, but always retain their underlying logos.

The myth has no author; rather, the myth expresses the collective unconscious, the common wisdom of a people and it is usually poetical. Vico calls it “the common sense” of a whole people and he proved it by pointing out that philologically the Odyssey and the Iliad could not have been written by the same man. Which is to say, there is no Homer proper and Plato was misguided in subsuming him under rationality and demoting the symbol of the common sense of the people from “educator of Hellas” to the role of a mere poet entertainer. That was on operation which subsumes the common exoteric wisdom of the Greeks to Plato’s own esoteric wisdom fit only for a few elitist initiates.

The story in Till We Have Faces is basically a retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche (as told by Apuleius) but with a twist. The twist is that in this story Psyche’s sister is not jealous. Although we do not know the name of Phyche’s sister, Lewis gives her the name Orual. In a sense she is the personification of what later Lewis in his The Four Loves will call filia (friendship: the second kind of love) and eros (sexual love: the third kind of love).

In the character of Orual there is much of Joy Davidman, the American admirer with whom Lewis corresponded for several years and whom he ends up marrying, passing from filia to eros and eventually to agape, as portrayed in the movie A Grief Observed. It is not however a realistic portrait of her. As with Dante’s Beatrice this is a real woman who has been transformed into a myth, a myth that grows on the reader every time the novel is read. The archetype that Orual incarnates is that of the spiritual journey, from pagan worship to apostasy and atheism and then, by way of Platonism, to her final surrender to God.

It parallels Joy’s pilgrimage from her Jewish background by way of atheism and Communism to her final conversion to Christianity after reading Lewis’s own description of his conversion experience in Surprised by Joy, written some thirty years before he met Joy, who in some uncanny way becomes the incarnation of the phenomenon of sudden unexplained joy and grace which led him to God; the reversal of Dante’s experience who thirty years later meets Beatrice as a “donna angelicata” [an angelic woman] via imagination. Which is to say, the myth of Joy appears in Lewis’ life before the real Joy and it lasts long after Joy has transcended time and space. Myths and symbols in fact have that kind of power: they transcend time and space even as they incarnate the history of mankind.

In the novel there is the physical Joy, the middle aged and not particularly good-looking woman who for a long while Lewis considers nothing more than another friend, just as Baudia in the novel treats Orual. So the theme of friendship in the true sense of that word, i.e., as filia going beyond mere affection, is explored but not exhausted. The theme merges into that of the beautiful woman married for love in the ordinary sense and then the sudden perplexity as one jumps forward some twenty years or so to find her middle aged, tired, no longer physically attractive. It is important to remember that Lewis and Joy married when they were both in their fifties.

The question Lewis seems to be exploring is: Does love survive? Is the love of affection and friendship (the first two kinds of love as described in his The Four Loves) stronger, even better, than erotic love? Lewis was already exploring this issue in his youth when he is writes a ballad on the story of Helen of Troy. There too we find a twist. Menelaus meets Helen ten years later, after the fall of Troy and finds her an utter disappointment: she is now tired and beaten by the terrible realities all around her. But on the way back home he finds out that the real Helen is in Egypt, as beautiful as ever. The same theme of Helen having a double who has gone to Troy with Paris is also explored by Euripides in his play Helen of Troy, and again in modern times by Haggard and Land’s The World’s Desire. Menelaus now has to choose between the two Helens. In fact, the real Helen is the tired Helen of Troy and not the beautiful Helen of Egypt.

 It is intriguing that Lewis dedicates the novel to Joy Davidman, who is by now his wife and a few years away from her tragic death with bone cancer. Are the two Helens, combined into Orual, none other than Joy? For this work, much like Dante’s Commedia, is an allegory, which is to say, a work of historical imagination: Psyche is an instance of anima naturaliter Cristiana, that makes the best of the pagan religion she had retreated to (just as Virgil did) and in so doing is guided toward the true God. In a way she is like Christ as every good man and woman is like Christ. She is not a mere symbol but a case of human affection in its natural condition: true, tender, suffering.

However, since this love is natural, not yet agape (the ultimate, fourth kind of love), it is still possessive, ready to turn to hatred should the beloved cease to be its possession. What such love cannot stand is to see the beloved passing into a sphere where it cannot follow; into that fourth dimension of love wherein a Therese of Avila and a John of the Cross, or a Francis of Assisi and Clare, can be true friends on this earth and forever after, wholly bypassing the third stage of love.

This is undoubtedly a recurring myth in Western Literature and ironically it has been called “Platonic love.” The very title of this novel suggests that at the end of the journey we shall meet the gods because we shall have taken off our comfortable masks and our hubris to be known as we really are. Then each of our lives will be translated into the universal language to be placed in the book of Life and everybody will be able to read everything about everybody else. That will be the ultimate history book. The story will be everlasting and in it, true intimacy shall reign, without jealousy or promiscuity. Indeed, after all our peregrinations we will arrive at the place we were exiled from and know the place for the first time.

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2

 The Author as Philosophy Teacher:
Characterizing Epistemology in Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore
A presentation by Azly Rahman

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NOTE for OviSymposium readers: For this session’s dialogue pertaining to perennial questions of faith, spirituality, ethics, and epistemology, I’d like to share below an essay on one of the widely read contemporary novelists of our times, a nominee of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, the Japanese author Haruki Murakami and how his work Kafka on the Shore gave me insight into how Philosophy is taught through novels. In this novel, perennial questions on life, matter, consciousness, Fate, Free Will, and the meaning of death is explored through a delightful plot as well as effective characterization.

Because a serious work of literature must provoke the senses, agitate spiritual sensibility, and raise questions on the meaning of this and that, it ought to be conceived as a vehicle for philosophical discourse, alluring the reader into the world of linguistic and ideological tempestuality by playing with texture and (borrowing the term for the sixties art movement “Fluxus” meaning conceptual malleability,) the flux-ibility of text as reality, in the mind of the reader. In other words, beyond the physicality of the narrative arc, of interactions of characters, and the Aristotelian formula of story-telling, I believe engaging literature should present and next, possess the reader with metaphysical questions of the notions of beingness, Time and Space, Fate and Free Will, and phenomenology of existence, amongst others. It must do so to create in the reader-responder, the "swing of delight" of the cognitive beingness and must leave him/her with the thirst and hunger offered by the thematic temptations of Philosophy.

Two out of three plates of offerings in the Banquet of Abstract Thinking -- Epistemology (Theory of Knowledge) and Ontology (Worldview) -- might be worth savoring in one's reading of a literary text borne out of the womb of Philosophy, be it Continental or Eastern. It is within this analytical framework that I discuss Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore as a "metaphysical novel", specifically pointing out instances in which the author present teachable moments in Philosophy, particularly of Shinto-Buddhism.

Each character an epistemology

Haruki Murakami’s 467-page-49-chapter Kafka on the Shore is an elegant translated from the Japanese prose of a hero’s journey of a fifteen-year old boy from Tokyo who left his home not knowing that he is to embark on a pre-determined complex journey of “self-actualization” which included “killing his father, sleeping with his mother and his sister,” a prophecy that came true reminiscent of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex (pg. 199). Kafka Tamura, as he renamed himself, entered the battlefield of joy and suffering, of the Buddhist notion of samsara, of mediating the complex dilemma of Fate and Free Will, and resolving anger – these in an epic psychological drama of dream sequences of both deeply poetic-erotic and violent proportions (396-400). His quest is to break a curse of being in erotic love with his mother, Miss Saeki (438-444). After journeying through a web and labyrinth of mind-bending experiences as in the Gilgamesh’s Enkidu, he resolved the issue of being abandoned by his mother by forgiving her.

How is Kafka on the Shore a metaphysical novel that teaches Philosophy, deliberately?

In this metaphorical and semiotic novel, Haruki uses his characters to impact philosophical themes familiar to Chaos Theorists and Shinto Buddhists. By the former I mean the philosophy characterized by the thinking that life, the universe and everything are a matrix of patterned randomness and that any insignificant change in one aspect can, albeit in a non-causal way, through Time and Space bring about major systemic changes. What exists is an “everchanging present” in a complex network and weltanshauung of cause and effect (pg. 286-287). In Shinto-Buddhism, which I contend primarily informs this novel, similar theme could be discerned: of life as existence of consciousness, of causal relationships, and a reason for the Universe’s interplay between Determinism and Free Will, and that there is a fine line between Reality and the Dream World. There is a blurry notion of Evil but for lack of a better word, “inner demons” or “The Demon Mara” or “dark energy shrouding the path to enlightenment manifested in anger and the attachments to things,” (pgs. 451-452) – these are taught by Murakami through the characters in the novel.

Epistemologically, the main character fifteen-year-old Kafka is a voice for sense perception,  discovery, and Enlightenment, as well as the will for a human being to be set free, Nakata the sixty-year-old idiot-savant the voice of the human being imbued by the spirit of Animism (he talks to cats and stones) (Chapter 10) and supernaturalism (he is a vehicle for prophecies), and twenty-five year old Hoshino (a truck driver who lectures Nakata on socialism and enjoys cigarillos, women, and liquor), a voice for Socialism and Epicureanism (pgs. 323-326), Oshima the transgendered thirty five-year old the voice for Liberal Humanist philosophy (he is a librarian who imparts great ideas and explains them to Kafka whenever he has the chance.) (pg. 181 and pgs. 315-316) These main characters of Kafka on the Shore embody the way human being acquire knowledge and impart them. The special character, a crow named “A Boy Named Crow” represents the powerful god-like inner voice symbolizing Fate and Determinism (pgs. 442 and 280-281), out to guide Kafka and to battle demons, at the end of the story (pgs. 431-434). Even a prostitute serving Hoshina spewed philosophical ideas, (quoting Henri Bergson and Hegel) when she was in the intense heat of serving her client (pgs. 273-274), by virtue of her role as a college student majoring in Philosophy, moonlighting as a hooker. Two characters were crafted from American popular culture: Colonel Sanders (pg. 271) and Johnnie Walker (pgs. 139-149); the fried chicken man and the whiskey guy, serving important roles in presenting the corporate capitalist epistemology slanted towards Pulp Fiction mannerisms, ala radical film-maker Quentin Tarantino's Absurdist hyper-enhanced representation of characters (see Chapters 16 and 28).

In all these instances, Murakami uses all his characters as promoters of a variety of philosophical offerings, each as a strand of epistemology itself, a reservoir of how knowledge is acquired. Each character is not only memorable but a product crafted with such finesse’ that even challenging philosophical ideas get presented in a most naturalistic way by their actions and the predictability of how this and that person with this and that orientation would do and say. In other words, each of them embodies a strand of the theory of knowledge well, revealed gradually in his elegant way of creating the necessary suspense at end of each chapter, in order to have the reader savor the language style, and most importantly the philosophical trajectories of the story.

 Kafka’s world an ontology

Naming oneself Kafka (pg. 32) evokes a philosophical aura of the world of the main character: of the absurd Man and how “god is dead” notion life and the existential path one is to take will not only determine the end of the story but also perhaps, alter Fate. There is no higher power or a Moses-looking god as in many a monotheistic religion nor a three-million-or-so pantheons and avatars of the manifestations of a monotheistic philosophy, such as Hinduism, in the world Murakami built. There is the world constructed out of the elegant bricolage of psycho-philosophy of consciousness. By this I mean a world in which the inner and the outer self, if it is to be harmonizing and in a state of “boddhistavic balance” ought to be a one in which the enlightened self understands the nature of the “inner labyrinth and outer labyrinth” one is in and how one’s existence is both a metaphor and the will to find meaning (pg. 416). Murakami is teaching the reader a basic lesson in Shintoism, I argue. Shintoism, though essentially a folk religion dear to the Japanese, has its influence in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, or the “Buddha Maitreya” if one studied the genealogy of the two-thousand-year-old Indian philosophy of human consciousness.

The characters are locked in this spiritual-psychological ontology, or the world view in which the universe is conceived as a place fluctuations and metamorphoses of beingness and nothingness, good and bad karma, silence and screams of consciousness, prison-house of language and freedom through death, and the core of these lie in the idea that the root of suffering is attachment of things. Therefore, at the journey, Kafka’s “reincarnation and the arrival of enlightenment” and the coming of age as the “toughest fifteen-year-old” (pg. 467) lie in “forgiving” his mother-cum-lover, Miss Saeki, and concluding the journey he crafted as a runaway clueless about where he is heading. In the end his mother, upon accepting his son-lover’s forgiveness (pg. 442), lets go of her memories by burning her three-binder-filled life-long writing (391-392), before allowing Death to take her, in her ultimate goal, whether conscious or not, of leaving this world of things and memories for good (pg. 395)

Ecstasy and brutal torture and anything in-between are the domains of the control of the Ruler of the Kingdom of Dreamscape, in a world of Freudian Philosophical problematique addressed nightly (or whenever one falls asleep,) should the occasion of dreaming arise (pgs. 386-388). At times, the dreamer wished the dreams to be real and at times wishing otherwise. Either way, life, whether conceived as an illusion or otherwise must continue until the conclusion to the world of "being-in-this-world" as Heidegger terms it -- of a world of meaning-making, and of being able to feel the dualism of Mind and Body, as the mathematician and philosopher Rene' Descartes called it, -- either way a conclusion must be reached. Where one goes when consciousness dissipates into Nothingness is a perennial topic of Philosophical and Theological discourses since Man began to love talking about his love for wisdom. That activity called philosophy or "philos and sofia" or the love for wisdom.

But what is a dream and what is wide awakeness but two circles without boundaries merging and metamorphosing, and a phenomenon conceived and debated amongst philosophers, theologians, and of late cognitive scientists and chaos theorists. This theme is also a feature of the psychology of Shinto-Buddhism addressed in Murakami’s novel.

Conclusion and Reflection

In crafting Kafka Tamura’s world, Haruki Murakami created a set of characters that speak the language of Philosophy, particularly of Shintoism, a folk religion influenced by Buddhism, whose core ideas and premises are similar to the modern-day field of study called Chaos or Complexity Theory. Murakami lets his characters live and breathe, and preach Philosophy. They become important subtexts to the grand narrative of Epistemology and Ontology called Kafka on the Shore. I contend that Haruki Murakami attempts to teaches Philosophy deliberately through this novel.

The challenge of doing a reading of any "metaphysical novel" is the ability to deconstruct the text, approaching it from a meta-cognitive and meta-literary perspective, as well as ultimately doing a meta-reading of it. Seemingly, one need to be equipped with a repertoire of knowledge of philosophical ideas employed by the author to construct his/her prose or poetry or personal narrative. A meta-reading is different, in that merely enjoying what one is reading, of which the aim is to find pleasure in responding to the text. The challenge, especially of reading a work of literature that weaves in key issues and propositions in both philosophies of the Ancients and the Moderns, to both find extreme pleasure and ecstasy in being absorbed in the eroticism of the philosophical discourse skillfully sculptured into the text, in the process of its creation. It is not enough for literature to merely pleasure and entertain and bring joy and comfort in all its glory of crafting happy endings in the entire scheme of this ideological construct called "poetic justice" much in the tradition of Shakespearean Comedies or the plot of the Ramayana or The One Thousand and One Nights, not enough. More is needed in this world shaped by the interplay between Fate and Determinism, of randomness of chaos, and the Bergsonian notion of multiplicity and multi-dimensionality of perspectives.

More than the claim above, a piece of work should shatter perceptions, beliefs, and stab and would and even maim the reader by the use of powerful words, sentences, passages and ultimately elegant prose that carpet bombs the reader's consciousness, leaving him or her undergoing a reader-response-linguistic karma of sort in the process and in the aftermath of devouring the piece of work. The piece of work must then be a teacher of Philosophy, whose lessons not only resonate in the reader but also render him/her stark naked and left to die on the shore, on a tempestuous midnight. But where do we find such a piece that can also be metaphysically addictive and joyfully fatal, and like the Law of Manu destroys, constructs, and sustains this ephemerality called "consciousness" or memories that is said to dissipate upon death? In Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, I’d say.


I end this brief essay with the words of Kafka Tamura’s inner guide, “A Boy Named Crow” who said at the beginning of the journey:

“… And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about. “(pg. 6)

BIBLIOGRAPHY:  Murakami, Haruki (2005). Kafka on the Shore. (New York: Vintage)

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3.

Living for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful
A presentation by Michael Newman

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“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
                                    ~William Shakespeare

This is a fine motto for our age!  And such a notable source!  Who could argue with the Bard!  Of course, it has layers of meaning to it, as spoken by Hamlet, but it feels good to think that everyone has an equally valid point of view, and that what is beautiful to one person, might be ugly to another, and vice versa. Truth likewise is subject to interpretation, for, of course, it depends what your definition of is is.  Additionally, what is good, or as a corollary, what is excellent?  Why, again, it comes down to what is good for you.

This fall semester, Broward College and Florida Atlantic University are hosting an open discussion that seeks to answer the question:  What is your truth and how do you find it? 

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This question then is not one that has been readily laid to rest.  It raises its head for each new generation, and so this question of what is truth (and what is beautiful, and what is good) must be answered again and again.

 

A personal truth feels good, especially in the beginning of the discussion.  However, intuitively, many of us reject those claims.  We see the problems that exist when you adopt them. Because when pushed, it quickly becomes apparent that conflict will arise, and someone will have to give in.  Does might make right?  Or is there a philosophical high ground?  Does truth actually exist? 

According to Platonic thought, yes, it does, though in its pure form, it is unattainable.  Similarly, Christianity attributes Truth to God Himself, though Christians can reflect that truth.  With truth comes standards that you can hold someone to.  However, as anyone who has ever failed a test will tell you, when you fall short of the standard, the feelings of disappointment and anger are abundant and if that standard is unable to be reached, a call for eliminating the standards ensues.  Truth, it is claimed, is personal, and the standards should be dismissed.

With no objective standards, pragmatism reigns.  It doesn’t matter how it works, just that it does.  The utility becomes the utmost concern.  And this is the biggest problem that this author sees is that a lack of standards often reduces our view of the world to one of utilitarianism.  While functional, utilitarianism doesn’t promote anything beyond the function, and drudgery can set in.  Many of us can relate to working in a workplace, that is functional, efficient and designed solely with serviceability in mind.  While workable, it engenders no feelings towards it one way or another.  Perhaps this is what the architect had in mind.  And so, when the time comes to demolish it, when its utility has run its course, no one misses it. 

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University of Michigan Law School

However, how many of us have been in a building that has history and beauty built into it?  I recall beautiful buildings on the campus at the University of Michigan where I visited and worked.  The rich history there and the sheer beauty of the place made me realize why so many people grow attached to their universities.  Additionally, many of us can relate to seeing space that has been well designed, whether indoors or outdoors, and we feel great pleasure from seeing it, or being in it.  Modern buildings that are well thought out, and have beauty in mind as one of their goals, create a comfortable and enjoyable space to be in.  Additionally, gardens come to my mind.  I went once with my fellow author, Dr. Paparella, to a lovely garden one afternoon.  We enjoyed the sculptures and vistas, the man-made beauty and the natural beauty.  It was relaxing and refreshing.  The statues we saw served no real utility, strictly speaking, yet they spoke to us.  The flowers, the trees and the butterflies all provided a respite from the humdrum of the week, and we were reinvigorated.

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We need to have the good, we need to have the true, and we need to have the beautiful, for these are things that make life worth living.  If your life is a lie, you dont want to live it.  I have had friends whose lives were a lie, and they stop the lies, or they stop their lives.  If there is no good, people lose their desire to continue.  We see these principles reflected in books and movies that begin with the humdrum, the grey and the utilitarian.  [A good movie from 2014 that deals with this in a novel way is a movie with Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep called The Giver.]  In those worlds, eventually, someone wakes up one morning and asks the question:  Why is the world this way?  The rest of the movie is about finding meaning and moving forward in life.  Inevitably, there is a moment of beauty, of goodness, or of truth.  This moment propels the hero forward into hoping, working and fighting for a better future.  If nothing is beautiful, then there is nothing to inspire us and to work towards. So what do we work towards?  The Good, the True and the Beautiful. 

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Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde said, “Beauty is the only thing that time cannot harm. Philosophies fall away like sand, creeds follow one another, but what is beautiful is a joy for all seasons, a possession for all eternity.”  You need to have them in life.  We look at people without them as wasting their lives.  According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs people at the highest level live and work to become the best version of themselves.  It is this that we strive for.  It is this that we watch and enjoy.  It is this that we praise.  It is this that we celebrate. We know that life is hard and painful in many different ways, and so we look for the reprieve of it.  We know it has ups and downs, so we celebrate the ups and muddle through the downs.  Everyday we strive for something beyond ourselves, an ideal that drives us forward.  The good, the true and the beautiful are our guides towards a better life.  As Kierkegaard stated, “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”  When the goodness, truth and beauty are in our lives, that is a reality to experience.

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 END  OF 85th SESSION OF THE  OVI  SYMPOSIUM (15/10/2017)

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Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

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

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