The title of the latest book by Carlos Fernández Liria does not mislead: Sex and philosophy, He talks about sex, especially in the beginning, but he talks more about philosophy. His biggest problem is that he is riddled with insistence. The same expression, the same idea is repeated over and over and over again. In return, in most cases it maintains the narrative force. Especially vibrant are the pages dedicated to Plato, whom he vehemently de-idealizes shortly after having highlighted the more materialistic aspects of Aristotle. After all, says the author, love is always directed to a particular material. “Love is simultaneously awareness of death and an attempt to make an eternity of the moment (…) a victory against time”, although time always ends up imposing itself.
And it is that, after crossing the valley of sex, the book stops at love, which “makes you a philosopher, whether you want it or not. There is always something crazy in love and there is always something crazy in philosophy. ” Love is what songs, novels, and movies narrate. The poetry. The poet, who some maintain that Plato wanted to expel from the city, is actually the one who restores the original value of the word, because he writes for eternity.
The book reproduces the scheme of the three Kantian critiques and is a defense of the Enlightenment, of progress that sums up the slogan “freedom, equality, fraternity”, whose Platonic correlate is “truth, justice, beauty” or, also, “science, law, poetry ”. And the meeting point, the reason. The Enlightenment is what the bourgeoisie stole from the French Revolution by turning it into a bourgeois revolution. Progress is the “most important idea in the history of philosophy” and it occurs every time an unjust law is corrected with another also unjust. “Progress is a deepening of freedom.” Hence the defense of the values of 1789. The most vigorous is fraternity. Without it, “freedom and equality are nothing more than a piece of paper”. A fraternity that links with the idea of beauty (and love). Because, argues Fernández Liria, “love happens when, suddenly, beauty is embedded in one’s life” and in the face of beauty “human beings feel free.”
A very different work is that of the Argentine Esther Díaz The aesthetic is political. A little book that traces the trends of contemporary art once, she assures, after having overcome postmodernity and entering what she calls the “posthumous era”, characterized by works that go beyond the moment of their creation. Examples: the interventions of the South Korean Anicka Yi and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The first adds epistemological to aesthetic criteria, which leads her to work with scientists from various disciplines to create organic works in constant transformation. The Whitney Museum regularly changes its venue. The current one is in New York and is the work of Renzo Piano. It was founded 86 years ago by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and has been largely run by women.
Díaz analyzes the cinema, focusing on Andréi Tarkovski, and what he calls “popular art”, defined as “easily understood”, with special attention to the bolero, “a technology of power over the feelings and the woman’s body”. With these wickers, he barely goes beyond pointing out the macho predominance of the lyrics until, recently, some women have started singing “anti-oleros”.
Despite the distance, both books have coincidences. The most striking, the recourse to the work of Van Gogh Peasant shoes, read in both cases in the light of Heidegger.
Fernández Liria repeatedly alludes to Romeo and Juliet as a prototype of love oblivious to obstacles. The book Hammering philosophy by fellow Argentine Darío Sztajnszrajber, uses the same work but as a starting point to reflect on love. It is a text with a provocative vocation. The author pretends to be in class with the students, so that the writing imitates the more or less usual exchange in a classroom. But if Fernández Liria assumes a conception of knowledge with a rationalist root, Sztajnszrajber takes as references Foucault and Derrida and all the licenses that postmodernism allows to wander from here to there. In this work, love, God, truth and democracy.
The speech always starts from the self. Not a Hegelian me that, as Ramón Valls said, goes from me to us, but a me, my, me, with me. An off-center self in a world that “deep down makes no sense because deep down there is no background”
Contrary to the love of Fernández Liria, total and reciprocal, regardless of the ways that it adopts, that of Sztajnszrajber is an exercise of power to deconstruct, because “there is no other way to start a kind of philosophy that is not from deconstruction.” Who knows what Kant and Hegel would do in their days who hadn’t read Derrida. So love is “a narrative” and “monogamy is unsustainable” since it only seeks to justify “the prevalence of the self over the other.” We will have to get to the next chapter, “the post-love” to think about love outside of marriage and proceed to a “radical deconstruction, knowing that leaving monogamy guarantees little because where do you get?” “Polygamy? To link anarchy? To polyamory? To the open couple? You can go anywhere, except science, because that would be to remove transcendence from love, to secularize it.
Lorenzo Bernaldo de Quirós speaks of secularized religions in In defense of liberal pluralism. The volume alternates the description of this pluralism with diatribes against the left (“termites against the liberal democratic order”). There may also be a certain threat that comes from traditionalism, but the author is repeatedly sympathetic to it, since he understands the rebellion against a “coercive secularism” that seeks to substitute “the religious or considered natural ethics for the secular, converting the State in sanctioner of morality ”. Even on immigration “some of the paleoconservative criticisms of the ‘alien invasion’ are correct, reasonable and shared by many sensible people”, from which it could be deduced that the paleoconservatives are not sensible people.
He outlines the roots of a hypothetical liberal morality: Ockham, Locke, Hume, Stuart Mill, even Kant, accepting that the construction of an objective morality is a rational impossibility, since morality is an individual feeling and its only judge, conscience, which makes it impossible to find ethical laws since “in the field of morality, the power of reason is so reduced that each one ends up taking refuge in a dogmatic and irrational commitment to the ethical precepts he professes.”
Against the pluralistic liberalism stands the secular monism of the Marxist left, which includes all postmodernists. They are characterized by being secular religions, although they lack a spiritual component. They share with religion the affirmation of a dogma, the construction of a system of indoctrination, the prescription of an absolute code of conduct, a narrative projected towards the final goal, the identification of the external enemy, the will to silence dissent.
After the collapse of the socialist bloc, the left has changed the battlefield, abandoning the economy and focusing on culture, following the guidelines of Gramsci, Lúkacs, Adorno, Marcuse, Habermas and Lévi-Strauss, Althusser, Foucault and Lacan. It fosters struggles no longer of class but with new forms, seeking the confrontations of women against men, homosexuals against heterosexuals, ecosocialists against deniers. An activity that emanates from the “three main secular churches”: the climate, the animalist and the feminist, dedicated to the apology of inequality.
Faced with the drift, the liberal program remains: the limitation of the power of the State, the free economy and the protection of the rights of individuals, elements that have fostered the welfare society. However, a rudder is appropriate, because liberal democracies are corrupted from within by materialism, multiculturalism, relativism, selfishness and consumerism. We must defend “the heart of the West” which consists of freedom, democracy, individualism, equality before the law, constitutionalism and private property. For this, it would be convenient to consolidate a hegemonic power capable of articulating civilization politically and economically, and the areas of security and defense.
This defense of freedom has little to do with that made by Étienne de la Boétie (1530-1563) in Voluntary servitude, one of the most direct pleas in favor of freedom, that excited Montaigne. It is now reissued in a new translation and serves to pose a difficult question to answer: why do people obey tyrants when they are more dominated? Of course, by fear (we cannot always be the strongest), but also attracted, he suggests, by deception or confusion. Frequently, the crumbs that are received from collaboration with the oppressor are seen as a great loot by those who have nothing or expect to have less if they do not bow before tyranny, so that the right to civil disobedience is renounced. And then custom, great school, says de la Boétie, of servitude. But, nature, argues the author, has made men free and education can help them to withstand submission or the opposite because ¨books and doctrine give men more than anything else, the meaning and understanding to recognize themselves and hate tyranny ”. Although there is also room for self-deception. Peoples succumb to flattery and, when they are “foolish,” fabricate their own lies and then believe them.
Sex and philosophy. Carlos Fernández Liria. Includes an epilogue by Santiago Alba Rico. Akal Editores. Madrid, 2020. 352 pages. 22 euros.
In defense of liberal pluralism. Against postmodern religions. Lorenzo Bernaldo de Quirós. Deusto Editorial. Barcelona, 2020. 208 pages. 17.95 euros.
Hammering philosophy. Darius Sztajnszrajber. Ariel. Barcelona, 2020. 290 pages. 18.90 euros.
Voluntary servitude. Étienne de la Boétie. Translation by Luis González Castro. Indomitable Page. Barcelona, 2020. 106 pages. 14 euros.
The aesthetic is political. Esther Diaz. IndieBooks. Electronic edition. Buenos Aires, 2020. Equivalent to 36 pages. Only available on the Leamos and Baja Mas platforms.