1. There are only two genres which are absolute, and these are the aphorism and the lyric poem, as pertaining to philosophy-proper and to poetry-proper respectively. The more absolute the philosopher, the more he will adhere to aphorisms or maxims, as in the cases of La Rochefoucauld and La Bruyère. This is par excellence an idealistic, not to say an aristocratic, mode of philosophy, and thus its employment in a materialist age will be the exception to the rule, increasingly so as relative civilization becomes extremist, in deference to petty-bourgeois criteria of literary progress. Anyone who submits a volume of aphorisms or maxims (the two are approximately the same, though I tend to treat aphorisms as being longer than maxims but shorter than essays/essayettes) to a publisher these days is either a fool or a saint, since even petty-bourgeois philosophers, not to mention their bourgeois predecessors, steer clear of such flagrant concessions to philosophical absolutism. How is it, then, that one of the best-known and most widely discussed works of twentieth-century philosophy happens to be aphoristic? (I am, of course, alluding to Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-philosophicus.) I think any cogent answer to this question would have to take account of the fact that the milieu from which it arose, namely Habsburg Vienna, happened to be a very aristocratic one, and that Wittgenstein amply reflected this in his choice of, from the modern standpoint, an obsolescent or overly idealistic genre.
2. Between what might be called the aphoristic and poetic absolutes ... there exists a series of literary relativities: some, like essayettes and essays, stemming from the aphoristic absolute; others, like short prose and novels, aspiring towards the poetic absolute; one genre, the dialogue, approximately balanced between the two tendencies in a quintessentially bourgeois relativity. For thinking in class-evolutionary terms, one may define those genres which stem from the aphoristic absolute as grand bourgeois, and those, by contrast, which aspire towards the poetic absolute as petty bourgeois. And yet, the individual treatment of any particular relative genre will depend on whether it is in the hands of a philosopher or an artist; for it sometimes happens that the essayette and the essay are treated in a poetical way, short prose and the novel, by contrast, in a philosophical way. But, by and large, each of these genres either side of the dialogue is treated in a manner appropriate to its station. In the case of petty-bourgeois philosophy, however, it is usually short prose and the novelette that serve as vehicles for philosophical expression, the essayette and essay being more relevant to a grand-bourgeois epoch. As to the dialogue, it, too, can be written, despite its balanced chronological status, from either a philosophical or a poetical angle, depending on the type of author in question. (Schopenhauer wrote from a philosophical angle, Wilde from a poetical one.) But, like the essayette and essay, it has less applicability to a petty-bourgeois age than short prose or a novel.
3. If a petty-bourgeois philosopher can write philosophy, relative to the age, in short-prose and/or novelistic guise, could one assume, in jumping ahead, that a proletarian philosopher should write philosophy, relative to the proletariat, in poetic guise, since poetry corresponds to an absolute, and proletarian writing, like proletarian society, could not be other than absolutist in its definitive form? No, I shall assume no such thing, because the treatment of an absolute poetic genre in a philosophical way would amount to a contradiction in terms, unworthy of serious consideration. Poetry, especially when proletarian, could only be written poetically, in deference to poetic absolutism, not be bastardized through philosophical expression. That poetry has been bastardized, in this manner in the past, isn't altogether surprising, since whenever philosophical criteria have predominated, as in the grand-bourgeois and even bourgeois epochs of creative evolution, philosophy has overflowed its bounds, so to speak, and invaded the realm of poetry, or a poetry susceptible to philosophical intrusion by dint of its own relative backwardness, as intelligible within a grand-bourgeois or bourgeois epoch, and consequent adhesion to appearance, manifesting in regular rhythmic and rhyming devices.
4. True poetic writing only becomes possible in a proletarian epoch, when poetry transcends appearance in a context of maximum essence, achieved through abstract rhythm- and rhyme-defying arrangements designed to free words from all forms of grammatical constraint and, by implication, to elevate poetry from a relatively atomic to an absolutely post-atomic (free-electron) level of impression. Where poetry, enslaved to appearance, had formerly expressed some quasi-philosophical meaning or described some apparent phenomenon, its absolutist manifestation would free it from such expression and elevate it to a kind of 'thing-in-itself' abstraction only capable of impressing upon the reader some notion of the transcendent. It will become, in its absolute commitment to essence, fully poeticized.
5. Although I alluded to the possibility of a proletarian philosopher a short while ago, in reality there can be no such person; for philosophy, dedicated when most closely itself, to the classification and elucidation of the apparent, i.e. the world, cannot outlive a relative epoch or civilization, since it stems from the apparent absolute and can fulfil no useful purpose in an epoch or civilization exclusively aspiring towards the essential absolute. If, however, the philosopher must be buried along with relative civilization, then the philosophical theosophist, who may in some sense be regarded as his successor, stands as the root universal influence for an absolute civilization, which cannot come into being without his guidance, since he expresses the theories and beliefs by which it will live. In transcending all relative genres, including literary ones, he transcends the category of philosopher, which is rooted in the aphorism and inclined to the production of successive volumes of individualistic philosophy. One could describe this transcendence as signifying a convergence to omega on the level of philosophy, but that would entail the notion that the Transcendentalist, far from being the universalizing influence at the root of a future absolute civilization, was the climax to philosophical endeavour, and thus the ultimate philosopher. However, such a notion would hardly do justice to the fact that the Transcendentalist's theories are incapable of being assimilated into relative civilization, but are very often diametrically opposed to what philosophical tradition has upheld. Because the progression from bourgeois/proletarian civilization to transcendental civilization presupposes revolutionary upheaval, the philosophical theosophist cannot stand at the climax of a relative tradition, as the ultimate philosopher, but appertains to the spiritual inception of a new civilization, antithetical in constitution to everything that preceded it.
6. By comparison with the philosophical tradition, the Transcendentalist's work marks a more radical development of philosophical thought towards essence. In its earliest stages philosophy was predominantly apparent, that is to say, concerned with a classification and description of the phenomenal world. Metaphysics, as an attempt to understand and elucidate a world beyond appearances, only entered philosophy at a later date, and then very gradually, wherever civilization had attained to a fairly extensive degree of urbanization and acquired, in consequence, a metaphysical dimension. There were, in the Christian West, different stages of metaphysical development, corresponding to class-evolutionary progress from grand-bourgeois Catholicism to petty-bourgeois mysticism via bourgeois Protestantism, and, not surprisingly, philosophy mirrored and to some extent anticipated this development, becoming, in due course, more essential, that is to say, less concerned with the phenomenal world and correspondingly more concerned with a noumenal one. However, in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, there issued a materialist reaction against petty-bourgeois metaphysics, which took the double form of a Marxist reaction against Hegel and of a Nietzschean reaction against Schopenhauer - the one leading, with the twentieth century, to Communism, the other ... to Fascism. A similar reaction of Wittgenstein against Kierkegaard, though subordinate in consequence to each of the other two, confirms the anti-metaphysical bias of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century philosophy, a bias that went on to develop, via Jaspers and Heidegger, into Sartrean existentialism, which is still, to all appearances, the leading tone of contemporary petty-bourgeois materialist philosophy.
7. The Philosophes of the Enlightenment signify a bourgeois reaction against bourgeois Protestant and grand-bourgeois Counter Reformation metaphysics, as do Voltaire and Rousseau, the two outstanding materialist philosophers of the eighteenth century. Descartes, Pascal, Berkeley, Hobbes, Hume, Leibniz, Spinoza, and other such metaphysicians all came under attack, much as their grand-bourgeois predecessors had not escaped the scathing criticism of Bacon, Montaigne, Machiavelli, and other such sixteenth-century materialists. But the Enlightenment led on, in due course, to the metaphysics of Kant and Schopenhauer, Fichte and Hegel, Emerson and Carlyle, as well it might, since evolutionary progress within relative civilization passes from one class-stage to another, and petty-bourgeois metaphysics had no less of a right to exist, for a given period of time, than its bourgeois and grand-bourgeois precursors. The contemporary materialist opposition to such metaphysics, however, will be superseded by the acceptance of proletarian metaphysics, which is what, in transcendental terms, the greater part of my work is essentially all about. Thus does philosophy progress, in a kind of zigzagging fashion, towards its culmination in an anti-metaphysical petty-bourgeois guise and subsequent (metaphysical) transformation into philosophical theosophy - the most essential of all philosophical developments!
8. Oriental philosophy, unlike its Western counterpart, is still metaphysical, and on approximately petty-bourgeois terms. The essence of oriental philosophy, now as before, is denial of the will in a Buddha-like quiescence stressing awareness as the only good worth pursuing. This is not, of course, an erroneous assessment of the good life, but it has the disadvantage of being shackled with traditional adherence to naturalistic criteria, including a more or less complacent acknowledgement of the 'divine Ground', the oriental equivalent of the Christian Father, the Judaic Jehovah, and the Islamic Allah. Nor is Buddhism absolved from the contradictions arising from a confounding of this 'divine Ground' with the 'Clear Light of the Void' or vice versa, so that alpha and omega, no less than in certain other world religions, are all-too-predictably exposed, within the relativity of human life, to the possibility of periodic interchange and/or substitution. So, despite the appearance of absolutism, Buddhism, like Hinduism and Shintoism, retains a relative integrity rooted in nature, which precludes its evolving towards a proletarian absolutism and thereby embracing extensively artificial criteria, relevant to the technological aspect of long-term religious evolution. Although yoga, meditation, Buddhism, and other forms of oriental philosophy are in some ways preferable to the anti-metaphysical bias of contemporary occidental philosophy, the fact that no such anti-metaphysical philosophy has arisen in the East to challenge and discredit the traditional metaphysical integrity of oriental philosophy (Marxism being a Western import) precludes the possibility of a higher metaphysics eventually arising to replace both traditional metaphysical and anti-metaphysical philosophy alike. Paradoxically, the Western attack on petty-bourgeois metaphysics to some extent served me as an incentive to work out a proletarian metaphysics for the future absolutist civilization.
9. The fact that, hitherto, poetry has been written under the domination of literature in relative civilization means that it has been confined to either philosophical or pseudo-poetical guise, depending on the epoch in question and the temperament or proclivities of the individual poet. As philosophy evolved from its root aphoristic absolutism in a predominantly descriptive, analytical, interpretative relationship to the phenomenal world ... through successive bourgeois stages to its culmination in the novel, with a corresponding shift of emphasis away from the phenomenal towards the noumenal (though subject, as already noted, to periodic materialist reactions), so poetry evolved from a predominantly descriptive stance in nature to an increasingly instructive, expositional stance in the metaphysical, that is to say, from the apparent to the quasi-essential, from hymns to beauty to intimations of truth ... considered as the divine goal of evolutionary striving. This latter development, however, is still inadequate from a purely poetic standpoint, but may be described, if somewhat colloquially, as 'the best of a bad job', since the use of appearance, i.e. grammatical constructs of an expositional nature, to intimate of essence marks, despite its inherent contradiction, a significant evolutionary improvement on the use of a more radical appearance, employing (besides the aforementioned ingredient) regular rhymes, metres, stanza divisions, and other such traditional devices, to glorify the apparent, i.e. nature and natural beauty in general. So while, during the later stages of relative civilization, poetry has become more essential, and therefore superior to what it formerly was, it is still short of being genuinely poetical, by dint of the fact that such a status presupposes a complete severance from the apparent in maximized essence, which is to say, total abstraction. For not until poetry becomes abstract, in an absolutist age, will it have come into its own, and on terms diametrically antithetical to the absolutist inception of definitive philosophy as maxim or aphorism concerned not with essence but with appearance, as pertaining to the description and analysis of the phenomenal world. By contrast, genuine absolutist poetry will provide, through impression, an intimation of the noumenal world to come.
10. Although I referred, a short while ago, to the
materialist reaction against metaphysical philosophy, I do not wish to
the reader with the impression that petty-bourgeois philosophy ceased
written, in the twentieth century, along metaphysical lines; for that
very far from the truth! On the
contrary, from being essayistic such philosophy became largely
is only to be expected with the gradual evolution of philosophy away
appearance and further into essence, this requiring, if consistency was
maintained between form and content, a corresponding advancement from
relatively philosophical to relatively literary genres, including works
short prose (the philosophical equivalent of short stories) and the
novelette. Characteristic of
petty-bourgeois philosophers with a metaphysical bent are Aldous
Huxley, Hermann Hesse, Henry Miller, André
Gide, and Jack Kerouac.
There were others, of course, with a non-metaphysical bent,
Sartre, Koestler, Faulkner, D.H. Lawrence,
and Camus. Generally
would define those who, irrespective of their ideological bias,
also wrote essays as belonging to an earlier or lower stage of
philosophy - one stemming, as it were, from the bourgeoisie. By contrast, those who only specialized in
novels and/or short prose I would define as belonging to a later and
stage of petty-bourgeois philosophy - one aspiring, as it were, towards
proletariat. Thus Hesse,
Miller would correspond to the earlier stage, Kerouac, Faulkner,
11. All these petty-bourgeois philosophers, regardless of whichever side or stage to which they would seem to belong, have taken theoretical speculation further into essence than their bourgeois predecessors, and thus closer to poetry. They may be defined, with reason, as pseudo-philosophers, since philosophy-proper is concerned not with intimations of or theories about the Divine Omega, conceived as transcendent spirit, but with a catalogue and analysis of the phenomenal world ... as applying, in the main, to nature. The fact that philosophy gradually evolved away from this root concern and abandoned its absolute form in the process ... is an indisputable fact. And we may contend that the further away from phenomena it evolved, the more pseudo it became, especially from the bourgeois epoch to the current day. Yet philosophy-proper still survived on something approximating to its own terms by progressing from a critique of nature through a critique of morals to a critique of language; a progression, in other words, from the natural to the artificial via an ethical compromise. There was thus a kind of class evolution of philosophy, within the Western context, from grand-bourgeois (Bacon) to petty-bourgeois (Wittgenstein) via bourgeois (Kant) stages. And it was possible to retain the aphorism throughout this evolution or, at any rate, even with its climax, as Wittgenstein demonstrated. And yet, even though such a thematic evolution had been possible, indeed inevitable, the critique of language becomes a pseudo-philosophy in relation to the critique of nature, that root concern of philosophical exegesis. It is only 'genuine' philosophy in relation to the novelistic writings of the pseudo-philosophers, both metaphysical and anti-metaphysical, though particularly with regard to the former.
12. Unlike philosophy, the evolution of poetry began in the pseudo, as a description of and hymn to the beauty of natural phenomena, particularly nature and woman, and only gradually progressed away from a 'philosophical' bias, under the hegemony of philosophy, towards a poetic one, in which spiritual instruction began to outweigh the descriptive element and, in some cases, to entirely supplant it. But even with this gradual progression towards essence, poetry remained pseudo, because composed from a relative angle, in accordance with the dictates of a bourgeois age and civilization, and thereby falling short of total abstraction, the criterion of any genuine poetry. In retaining meaning, poetry was obliged to remain expressive in consequence of its enslavement to appearance, the instructive approach to essence no less than the descriptive approach to appearance. Only when it becomes impressive, with the development of an absolutist civilization, will poetry be genuine - wholly genuine in total abstraction, not merely the least pseudo of poetic stages. Mallarmé ten times over, so to speak, with a word sequence that intimates, as no instruction ever can, of the transcendent. A word structure, in short, that breaks the connection with appearance by depriving words of their meanings.