“Treatise of the Age. A metaphysical lecture” and “De Mundo Pessimo”, by Manlio Sgalambro

Fabio Presutti in Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol. 37, n. 2, dicembre 2006, pp. 223-224

Manlio Sgalambro is a ‘writer of philosophy’ more than a philosopher. His style contains concepts as tools of an ‘oratory’ art in which the ‘philosopher’ regains the right to create (and not to be submitted to) the concept of his enquiry. In the present works he offers a key to subvert many of the speculative foundations of academic philosophy. The Treatise of the Age outlines a ‘metaphysic of the age’, evoking a pessimistic version of the Spinozian conatus, whereas in De Mundo Pessimo ‘pessimism’ appears no longer linked to human suffering (p. 47), to the vulgar life of the socius, but in that which refers to the totality as to something that is inevitably contrary: “The true pre-assumption is instead that there is a world and that it is not representation” (ibid.).
The ‘knowing subject’ cannot sense, either, an internal process of erosion, or the external principle of destruction that are inexorably eating away at it. He lacks the necessary reflection to acquire a pure understanding (wisdom) of his body. In fact, the body is in some respect knowledge itself (Trattato 9), says Sgalambro, because it represents both the power and act of an ongoing human self-humbling. From the body, from what is perceived of its actual functions, we cannot disjoin the image of “the worms that devour it”. – “The connoisseur […] lives out of anticipations, not out of perceptions” (ibid. 10). Thus, what falls into sight cannot be ‘perceived’, hypostatized in the form of a real thing (being), because the state of perception (representation) is a series of operations which reproduce and maintain the external material that is never immediately experienced.
Here Sgalambro introduces the idea of reality as: “[…] something that is destroying us continually. Precisely, the idea of a continued destruction” (ibid.). Objects, man and any part referred to as Nature, contain: “That little of reality which allow them to be destroyed” (ibid. 11), to undergo a process of deterritorialisation that overlaps the agglomerating element of matter. According to the pattern of existence as duration of time through life’s different stages, the idea of the homogeneity of intuition (as single state of perception) links to that of consciousness as the principle that unifies reality in spite of the different stages of its becoming.
But the concept of becoming does not appropriately stigmatize the process of destruction which undermines the auto-containing extension of the body. “There is a time, but with neither duration, nor flux. A series of juxtaposing states without movement” (ibid. 37). In fact, the image of the decomposition of reality ousts any pretension of the subject to act as the referral of a centre of consciousness that unifies the dates of the becoming-experience into real categories. For Sgalambro, the maximum degree of actual intensity is reached in old age, when the process of the bodies’ annihilation is abruptly triggered by time’s injection into them. The ‘idea’ becomes the conceptual place from whence the detritus of the dismemberment of the ‘object’ pours out the foam of things, their spectre (cfr. Anatol, Adelphi: Milan 1990, p. 93).
The existence of things resides in what is not contained in their ideas, in that quantum of reality that the object cannot bear. The idea is what is subtracted from reality, insists Sgalambro, but an anthropomorphism of knowledge cannot be avoided due to the use of language itself: “It follows that finality cannot be eliminated from the system of necessity (as Spinoza wanted) but only through a ‘different’ finality (better, by a ‘counter-finality’), which unveils that things are not made for beings but are adverse and contrary to them” (Mundo 64).

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