On the Narratology of Concept-Being, Lecture Six: Oration on the Dignity of Ratiocination

by Joseph Nicolello

A Discussion on Caroline Walker Bynum’s “Material Continuity, Personal Survival, and the Resurrection of the Body: A Scholastic Discussion in its Medieval and Modern Contexts”

This need for violence conflicts with civilization, that is, with the gradual refining of society and its laws, and the progress of democracy and human rights, all seen as endangering the survival of the social structure, as a destructive and undifferentiated demagogy that seeks to revoke humankind’s dependence on the very historical mediations that have enabled it to exist.

Giuseppe Fornari, Dionysus, Christ, and the Death of God, Vol. 1: The Great Mediations of the Classical World

In any case the old sentence of Macrobius’ Saturnalia – non possum scribere in eum qui potest proscribere [‘it is not possible to write against one who has the power to proscribe’] – is valid in all times of political concentration of power and for every publicist.

Carl Schmitt, Ex Captivitate Salus

Before we begin the final stages of this our reconsideration of what philosophical thought can or cannot do well as concerns contemporary concept-being, and the study of the narratives, or narratology, of how technological nihilism came to be what it is today, and what the ontological disclosure that seems to accompany aspects of the [authorial] dialectics of the concrete [Kosik’s note that ideology is equivalent to a “false totalization”, among others], I thought we would simply review an article. For the article in question tells us a good deal about the forthcoming narrative styles and moments up ahead in Plotinus, Dante, and maybe John Milton, maybe Melville[1] again, now that I have nothing more to say about him and just kind of like him as a person, or maybe even Bede. Why has theory hypothesized it may have run its course when it has never taken the step from Nietzsche back to Kant? Why, further, is the historiographical range of philosophical thinking in literary practice yet to approach Kant with the same sort of systematic rigor given to exhausted figures in the field such as Marx and Derrida? Today, my friends, I argue such is rather an appearance rather than any sort of hermeneutic facticity in that it is because literary scholars have not tried, and that they have not tried because they have no legitimate starting ground, or purpose, from which to construct a system. But the truth is that the foundation is in fact the very same starting place, compositionally speaking,[2] as Kantian aesthetics, in §10 of the third Critique.[3]

Phenomenology of Controversy, Phenomenology of Taboo

What is controversy? What is taboo? Strictly speaking, the recognition of things that exist that must be claimed to not exist despite everybody knowing that they exist. Hence the annual primitive chaos when a specific type of death transpires, but absolute silence over hourly thousands of deaths that transpire per annum that correlate to the very same people proclaiming that their mission (necessarily cloudy; it does not actually exist; it is Girardian animality, and was explicated by Plato re: ‘justice’ some time ago: hence one of the buried reasons for hatred of the classics) is to end the unlawful killings of certain people. But the whole vision disintegrates in about four lines under even an elementary Socratic investigation. Clearly, then, what is chanted – this is not the case; for whenever the overwhelming majority of mob-subjects die – and are not venerated by our new hagiographers, the corporate (fascist) media – there is silence. In another case, one hears that there is controversy that one of these said hagiographers notes that the State of Israel is less fixed in biblical values than it is essentially predicated on the Laws of Hitler; “Israel” is merely what Hitler thought, in ideology and structure, best for Europe.

Is reality itself controversial?  What does this say about reality? Truly, the answer is in the ontological disclosure of poetics that says, “That which can be destroyed by the truth, should be.”

The nauseating irony of this reality is thus transported back into the lap of the observer of the obvious:

One is reminded of C.S. Lewis: the doors of Hell truly are locked from the inside. It took me four years to understand the magnitude of this argument; and yet the shame of my delayed comprehension is nothing in comparison to the conceptual freedom I am gifted in coming to see the reality of the allegorical

Thus the need for a phenomenological examination of fascist narrativity is imperative; perhaps this is precisely the reason that anyone opposes fascism is branded as a backwards hick: because a handful of persons – perhaps even one – committed to a phenomenological deconstruction of the narratology of concept-being in crafters – not makers, but close; this is less a matter of digitality than it is Christological and anthropological – would at last pick up Heidegger’s hammer and go to work on the last nail in the coffin that is system of media objects.

These are the issues of our day, but keep in mind these are all more or less – visible or invisible – the thread, or golden thread – as I referred to the tradition of the house of letters in my book on Thomas Aquinas, aesthetic theory, and the possibility of a poetical renaissance – but they are also the issues of the masters. It is, I say again, a matter of ontological disclosure. One who doubts me is instructed to spend an afternoon with Hesiod and then go out and listen to the things persons are saying both publicly and privately; so long as one is pathologically consumed by the visible amplified by the equally pathological impossibility that oneself could ever have anything to do with one’s gravest problems, the people never even stop to consider banding together and going after the slavedrivers of our day, the invisible oligarchs. Really, this is all that our manufactured pathologies boil down to: throwing away attention given to reality and mental slavery and throwing the ball back into the ones who would dare look behind the curtain; such is the poet’s task, and also should the scholar of poetics: the implosion, rather than the veneration, of the narratology of concept-being that has thoroughly rendered a great part of the civilization a league of catatonic sleepwalkers.

So then how can the resurrection of the body, in Dante’s age, help us with any of this? In the most basic sense, that one is perhaps tempted to laugh the idea out of the room; and yet one’s entire reality was constructed around the conviction that one did in fact rise from the dead. And that this would in some way or another be the case for good and faithful servants. If one can get closer to understand how an apex of poetics understood the various ways of dissecting and restructuring the literary cognition of resurrection (more specifically, a literal Resurrection of the Word)… [&c.]

[To begin, we read in Bynum that “to twentieth-century non-Christians and Christians alike, no tenet of Christianity has seemed more improbable-indeed incredible-than the doctrine of the resurrection of the body” (51). That despite our modern inclination to perhaps allegorize or at least de-literalize the matter, “from Tertullian to the seventeenth- century divines asserted that God will reassemble the decayed and fragmented corpses of human beings at the end of time and grant to them eternal life and incorruptibility” (51-2). At the same time, in certain ways eschatology sat uncomfortably among other tenets of scholastic theology, although the doctrine of Resurrection was nonetheless never abandoned. Both Albert the Great and Giles of Rome wrote treatises about it. Peter of Lombard’s theories relay aspects of Augustine’s City of God, Gregory, Julian of Toledo, Jerome, Hugh of St. Victor, among others. Peter chose to consider final things in a way which gives pride of place to questions of the material reassemblage or reconstitution of the body (54). Here are some of Peter’s concerns: He chose to consider final things in a way which gives pride of place to questions of the material reassemblage or reconstitution of the body. In distinction 44, he asks: What age, height, and sex will we have in the resurrected body? Will all matter which has passed through the body at any point be resurrected? Must bits of matter return to the particular members (e.g., fingernails or hair) where they once resided? Will the bodies of the damned as well as the saved rise with their defects repaired? Are aborted fetuses resurrected? How can the bodies of the damned burn without being consumed? Will demons (although incorporeal) suffer from corporeal fire in hell? Distinction 45, after considering where souls reside between death and resurrection and asserting (without explaining) that the blessed will experience an increase of joy in bodily resurrection, turns to lengthy consideration of the usefulness of prayers for the dead. Distinctions 46 and 47 explore in detail God’s justice, especially the punishment of the damned. Distinctions 48 and 49 discuss specific questions concerning what we might call the topography and demography of blessedness: Where exactly will Christ descend as judge?

[But theologians were also curious about whether or not food digested ascended with one to the pearly gates; they also asked whether we will smell sweet odors or touch other bodies in heaven. Will the dead eat or taste? This carnality seems to contradict the idea of eternal life in the spirit; but theologians were also vexed by the resurrected Christ in Luke 24:42-43, who’d eaten boiled fish and honeycomb with his disciples.

[Then there was, in the shadow of the specter of Thomism, the question of cannibalism. Eaten human remains will be resurrected in the person to whom they first belonged; the missing matter will be made up in the second person from the nonhuman stuff he or she has eaten. But what (hypothesized Aquinas) about the case of a man who ate only human embryos who generated a child who ate only human embryos? If eaten matter rises in the one who possessed it first, this child will not rise at all. All its matter will rise elsewhere: either in the embryos its father ate (from which its core of human nature, passed on in the semen, was formed) or in the embryos it ate. Although the cannibal- ism question had been considered seriously at least since Tertullian (d. ca. 220), the issue did not remain the same. To the early fathers such questions were challenges raised by the enemies of Christianity, against whom one asserted, in answer, the absolute power of God to supplement missing matter in any way he chose. Aquinas, in contrast, insisted on tracking the bits of matter as far as possible through the processes of digestion, assimilation, and reproduction before resorting (as he also had finally to do) to divine power to make up the difference.

[Much of the debate about the resurrection of the body and about the relation of body and soul revolved not around a soul/body contrast but around the issue of bodily continuity. Scholastic theologians worried not about whether body was crucial to human nature but about how part related to whole-that is, how bits could and would be reintegrated after scattering and decay. The crucial question to which discussion of the resurrected body returned again and again was not “Is body necessary to personhood?” Medieval theologians were so certain it was they sometimes argued that resurrection was “natural.” Peter of Capua suggested, for example, that it was a consequence not of divine grace but of the structure of human nature that body returned to soul after the Last Judgment. The crucial theological question was rather, What accounts for the identity of earthly and risen body? What of “me” must rise in order for the risen body to be “me”? Only by considering the specific examples debated by schoolmen can we see the extent to which, between 1100 and 1320, they were really debating how far material continuity is necessary for identity. The issue of bodily continuity (of how identity lasts through corruption and reassemblage) was manifested as an issue not merely in the bizarre limiting cases considered by scholastic theologians but also in pious practice: in the cult of saints and relics, in changes in legal, medical, and burial procedures in exactly this period, in the kinds of miracle stories that were popular with preachers and audiences – a connection between actual church practice and the debates of ivory-tower intellectuals, and this connection is easiest to find not in the general philosophical issues such scholars considered but in the strangest of their specific examples.

[In this ecclesial and more generally secular disputation, for instance, Aquinas’s theory of the human being as a hylomorphic (form/matter) union of soul and body is thus a victory over dualism. Outright condemnation of Aquinas’s ideas in the 1270s and 1280s are seen in this interpretation to stem from suspicion that, exactly in their close union of soul and body, such ideas might threaten the immortality of the soul and lend support to the despised teaching we have discussed in seminar, Averroism.

[Bynum notes that 12th, 13th, and 14th century scholars were more on board with another writer we have read, in poet Bernard Sylvestris, who expressed a conception of matter as pregnant, yearning stuff, filled with potential. “Matter,” he wrote, “the oldest thing [in creation], wishes to be born again and in this new beginning to be encompassed in forms.”

[Expressing a similar notion that body is necessary both for person- hood and for eternal bliss, Bonaventure wrote, in a sermon on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary: “Her happiness would not be complete unless she [Mary] were there personally [i.e., bodily assumed into heaven]. The person is not the soul; it is a composite. Thus it is established that she must be there as a composite, that is, of soul and body. Otherwise she would not be there [in heaven] in perfect joy; for (as Augustine says) the minds of the saints [before their resurrections] are hindered, because of their natural inclination for their bodies, from being totally borne into God.”

Richard of Middleton, like Bonaventure, actually saw the soul’s yearning for the body as a motive for the saints in heaven. The blessed around the throne of God pray all the harder for us sinners, he asserted, because these blessed will receive again their own deeply desired flesh only when the number of the elect is filled up and the Judgment comes.

[But even those who departed from theories of material continuity were uncomfortable with, and inconsistent in, their departure. The philosophically elegant new identity theory implied by Thomas and Giles of Rome and finally articulated by Peter of Auvergne, John of Paris -a theory that obviated any need to consider material continuity-never caught on. Not only were certain of its consequences explicitly condemned; it was not fully used by its creators, who continued to speak of the resurrected body as reassembled by God from its own tiny bits of dust scattered throughout the universe. This last point needs explanation in a little more detail. In the course of patristic discussion, theologians had come to see identity as the heart of resurrection. As John of Damascus said (and scholastic theologians quoted him repeatedly): it is not resurrection unless the same human being rises again.58 But what does it mean for a person to be “the same”? In the twelfth century, some felt that only the continuation of exactly the same matter qualified as sameness. Indeed some thinkers held that nutrition and growth were in a natural sense impossible because food could never change substance and become flesh. Hence to Hugh of St. Victor, for example, any growth was a miracle: the growth of Eve from a rib of Adam or of a child from the seed of its father was likened to the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

[By the early thirteenth century most thinkers held that each person possessed a caro radicalis (a core of flesh) formed both from the matter passed on by parent or parents to child and from the matter that comes from food. It was this caro radicalis that God reassembled after the Last Judgment. Thus, as William of Auxerre argued in the early thirteenth century, summing up previous teaching, there must be material identity for numerical identity: the ashes of Paul must rise as the body of Paul. If matter is somehow lacking, the power of God must make up the deficit by miracle. This insistence on material continuity raised, as I explained above, a host of problems. If, for example, all our matter comes back (and, on this point, theologians found Luke 21:18-“Not a hair of your head shall perish”-very troubling), will not the fingernails of those who died adult be too long in heaven? And, on the other hand, where will the matter come from for those who died in the womb? To these problems, the theory of form as identity, adumbrated by Aquinas and articulated by John of Paris and Durandus, was an elegant solution. Since only substances exist, matter does not exist apart from form: prime matter is potency. When the human being dies, therefore, one cannot say that its body or its matter waits to be reassembled, for its body or matter does not exist at all. When the human being is resurrected, the body that is matter to its form (which is also its form of bodiliness because it is its only form) will by definition be its body. The cadaver that exists after we die, like the body that exists before, is second matter-formed matter but the cadaver is informed not by the form of the soul but by the form of the corpse. Thus, says Durandus, we may not say that God can make the body of Peter out of the body of Paul, because this is nonsense; if it is the body of Paul it is the body of Paul. But God can make the body of Peter out of dust that was once the body of Paul. And he need take no more or less dust than necessary to make a perfect human body. Indeed in the discussion of eaten embryos, which would not come up if identity were only formal, Aquinas not only made material continuity the principle of identity, he also tipped the scales toward matter in a second way, violating the Aristotelian theory (which he elsewhere adopted) that the father provides form, the mother matter, in conception.

[Controversy erupted in the 1270s over the implication that, if the cadaver is not the body, then Christ’s body did not lie in the tomb for the three days between crucifixion and resurrection. Not all the events in the course of the debate are clear; but the record shows that the argument that a dead body is just a body equivocally (i.e., that the word “body” in the two phrases “dead body” and “living body” is merely a homonym) was condemned at Oxford in 1277. The doctrine of the unicity of form was also condemned in England in March 1277. We must not make too much of the condemnations. Some were later revoked. What is informative for our purposes is the context of the discussion. Theologians themselves related abstruse considerations of the nature of body and person to such practical matters as burial customs and the veneration of saints. Since the early days of the twelfth century, schoolmen had seen that the status of Christ’s body in the tomb had implications for the cult of the dead. Not merely a mnemonic device, the body in the tomb is the body that will be joined to the saint in heaven Thus in the late thirteenth century, when the new categories of Aristotelian hylomorphism seemed to make material continuity irrelevant, theorists nonetheless discussed survival and resurrection as if identity of matter-or, to put it another way, univocality of “body”- were necessary.

BODILY PARTITION AND BODILY INCORRUPTION IN MEDIEVAL CULTURE

[Whether or not fragmentation or diminution is characterized as significant (or even in fact as occurring) depends not on what happens to the body physically but on the moral standing of the person to whom the bodily events pertain. Indeed the fact of bodily division is often denied by exactly the account that chronicles it. The words attributed to the martyr James the Dismembered, as he loses his toes, are typical: “Go, third toe, to thy companions, and as the grain of wheat bears much fruit, so shalt thou rest with thy fellows unto the last day…. Be comforted, little toe, because great and small shall have the same resurrection. A hair of the head shall not perish, and how much less shalt thou, the least of all, be separated from thy fellows?””‘ The message, with its explicit echoes of Luke 21:18 and 1 Cor. 15:42-44, is clear.” Dismemberment is horrible, to be sure; and even more horrifying is rottenness or decay. But in the end none of this is horrible at all. Beheaded and mutilated saints are “whole” and “unharmed.” Severed toes are the seeds from which glorified bodies will spring. God’s promise is that division shall finally be overcome, that ultimately there is no scattering.” As one of the more conservative theologians might have said: material continuity is identity; body is univocal; the whole will rise, and every part is in a sense the whole.

[Thus the opinions of twelfth- and thirteenth-century schoolmen and of late twentieth- century philosophers and medical sociologists have more in common than simply their respective oddity. [In their debates about fetuses and fingernails as in their popular preaching and legends, medieval people expressed the understanding that body is essential to person and material continuity to body. A significant group among modern intellectuals does not disagree. It is clear both that questions of survival and identity are not, even today, solved, and that they can be solved only through the sort of specific body puzzles medieval theologians delighted to raise.

[Bernard of Clairvaux spoke thus of the joys of bodily resurrection:

[“Do not be surprised if the glorified body seems to give the spirit something, for it was a real help when man was sick and mortal. How true that text is which says that all things turn to the good of those who love God (Rom. 8:28). The sick, dead, and resurrected body is a help to the soul who loves God; the first for the fruits of penance, the second for repose, and the third for consummation. Truly the soul does not want to be perfected, without that from whose good services it feels it has benefited … in every way…. Listen to the bridegroom in the Canticle inviting us to this triple progress: “Eat, friends, and drink; be inebriated, dearest ones.” He calls to those working in the body to eat; he invites those who have set aside their bodies to drink; and he impels those who have resumed their bodies to inebriate themselves, calling them his dearest ones, as if they were filled with charity. … It is right to call them dearest who are drunk with love.”]

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Yes, I know what you are all thinking: That before we finish for the day we need to talk for at least seven minutes about Bede, author of the Ecclesiastical History of the English People; for anyone even hypothesizing a lukewarm interest in this our language whilst neglecting Bede … is [a very unfortunate person]. Thus I have translated a little note, query, I wrote in Latin into English for you all:

[Ad-hoc postscript]

“The Holy Seed[i]”: On Bede’s Ezra-Nehemiah

Bede was the greatest biblical scholar of his age, whose singular historical authority was inestimably enhanced by the Wearmouth-Jarrow library. This library contained patristic texts, Latin and Greek biblical manuscripts, and allowed Bede to become even more than the exegete and historian we know him as today: preacher, educator, poet, linguist, geographer and hagiographer[ii]. As such, his singular corpus and historical texts are illumined by myriad layers of erudition, of which On Ezra-Nehemiah plays a special role. While Bede claims he is following in the Fathers’ footsteps with his Old Testament commentary, he does so whilst working with biblical texts previously untouched by all prior commentators (E-N, Proverbs, Tobit, Acts and the seven Epistles)[iii].

E-N is dedicated to Acca, bishop of Hexham, Bede’s patron[iv]. It is his fifth longest Old Testament commentary (Innovation 143). While Bede wrote for his monastic brothers, he must have sought a wider readership; but in approaching E-N we must keep in mind that Bede left no dates on his manuscripts, uninterested in this aspect of publication. Nonetheless, recent scholarship approximates the date of E-N at 715 A.D. or later in life, post-725[v].

Bede broke ground in both writing on E-N and in his method of narratology. Some of his allegory is straightforward, as evinced elsewhere[vi] in his Old Testament writings. Bede had also looser, less autobiographical allegory-interpretation, as in the seven lights of the candelabrum (Christ)[vii] and even Sumerian preservations[viii].

Ezra’s title of pontifex is a deliberate correctional message to the priests (Ezra 6:18-22; Bede 101-8). He sees the story of Israel as the story of Christ here[ix] as elsewhere[x] He was virtually alone in his employment of Alexandrian hermeneutical method, constructed less by exclusive devotion to the Patristic and Latin Fathers than the vast aforementioned array his Wearmouth-Jarrow Library offered (Innovation 133). Like Paul, Bede urges his readers to see the symbolism of the Jews (Innovation 133-4); their failure to receive Christ is less complicatedly strained than it is pressing allegory. He sees his own people in the Jews of Ezra and Nehemiah; we find one of several examples in Bede’s analogous reading of Nehemiah 5:1-4, wherein the Jews impose particularly cruel taxation. This for Bede anticipates episcopal greed and simony (Bede 139); his interpretation of Ezra transforms Bede into a reformer of his people (Innovation 138-44).

            Themes of exile and repatriation, destruction and reconstruction, loss and recovery abound; and for Bede, historical chronology manifests into an ever-present origin. All of these movements pertain to the sinner who has lost the Faith, the Church, and who may thus learn from the prophets what must be done in order to redeem oneself; the symbolic safety of this ever-present necessity of salvation is found in both the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the temple (Innovation 151). The temple’s dedication, then, is miraculously available through Christ and His sacraments, making the peoples’ corruption in Bedean times all the more reprehensible.

Bede stresses that teachers must thus teach through word and act; they must preach exemplary texts and be themselves examples. Parallels again unfold through defrocked clergymen in Bede’s time, banned on part of their own incontrovertible sins (Innovation 155). Such is made clear regarding Ezra 6:18: “The order of devotion required that, after the building and dedication of the Lord’s house, priests and Levites be straight away ordained to serve in it: for there would be no point in having erected a splendid building if there were no priests inside to serve God. This should be impressed as often as possible on those who, though founding monasteries with splendid workmanship, in no way appoint teachers in them to exhort the people to God’s work but rather those who will serve their own pleasures and desires there” (Bede 102).

            Despite his devotion to the Fathers, Bede differed from his clerical predecessors in that he imitated their revolutionary being in addition to the work[xi]. He often spoke of walking in their shadows, but through his Old Testament narratives stood at last beside them, absorbing both the work and the life, and became Venerable. His narratology enabled him to move in his own direction (Innovation 168), and thus Bede moved from the shadows of literary time and narrative to its canon.

Thus, one could condense Bede’s historical method in E-N as such: He sees in Ezra and Nehemiah texts laden with direct correlations to the crises and solutions for his ecclesiastical world and actively draws their world into his, and vice-versa; his allegorical narrative  simultaneously pioneered and concretized his original exegetical historiography.  

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Zammito, John H. The Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992.

Zuckert, Rachel. Kant on Beauty and Biology. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010.


[1] “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids”, for example, is prescient in this regard. It provides the reader access into two subterranean worlds, hidden to different classes and yet conjoined by the economic machinations of the early Industrial Revolution. In the former case we have an elite gathering which, by proxy, is inaccessible to the majority uninvited; in the latter we have the earlier stages of a recognizable slave labor, an incorrigible economic reality seldom associated with the West. This is in large part due to the destruction of the soul by way of body has been technologically balanced out by the psychological destruction of corporatism and its factories, where persons transform into numbers. Whereas the mill workers undergo metamorphosis by being stripped of dignity, the Temple-men undergo a metamorphosis all their own their heavy drinking: “… time told not by a water-clock, like King Alfred’s, but a wine-chronometer.” The narrator’s first encounter with this ‘Paradise of Bachelors’ is twofold: stories are relayed as drinks are downed, though it is more automatic than reminiscent of anything abiding. The men indeed take numbered turns in spinning yarns, although it is not a preface to anything more profound occurring in this paradise; it is chatter for the sake of chatter, drink for the sake of drink, and company for the sake of company. Temple-Bar is, in brief, a shallow place, an aura secretive societies seldom, if ever, give off. An outsider without access to the neighborhood Temple cannot help but wonder what transpires inside, though such an elaborate architectural structure cannot hold mere, automated banter… can it? This automatism of idle storytelling and imbibing subtly prepares the reader for a glimpse into the inner workings of a much more hellish automatism. Regarding the superstructure of Industrialism, Melville brings us into the pedestrian realm transpiring within. This mundane paradise brings to mind Arendt’s ‘Banality’ of evil, or Suetonius’s accounts of the twelve Caesars, one seldom accounts humanity with either the atrophied or the glorified. As the glorified Bachelors live a guarded, banal life behind closed doors, the atrophied mill workers exist in a hellish reality that itself is seldom taken to heart. To change the workers’ conditions is to lose money oneself, either in invest or in product spending; thus, despite someone like Upton Sinclair’s revelations in The Jungle, or even early Engels, the crisis of the mill workers is that from the get-go any hypothetical alleviating of inhumanity is itself a product of temporal bargaining. This overall contradictory crisis comes to a sociological climax in the following statement by the ‘dark-complexioned man’: “We want none but steady workers: twelve hours to the day, day after day, through the three hundred and sixty-five days, excepting Sundays, Thanksgiving, and Fast-days. That’s our rule. And so, having no married women, what females we have are rightly enough called girls.” Industrialism is, then, a horrifically perverted marriage of not just man to machine, but the death of life as way of life. There shall be no moral, intellectual, or psychic growth; the women must be girls. Further, it is either incessant machine-work, religion, nation, or sleep. Religion is covered in fast days, Sunday/Sabbath, and the nation’s history in Thanksgiving. Worse than prison, we are shown men who debauch behind the curtains, perhaps kingpins of such factories, and women – girls – who provide them with their paper. Melville’s reference to Locke’s mind as a blank sheet of paper is another cruel illusion, as is applying the title of Socrates to anyone so vain so as to belong to the Temple’s ilk. In this sense Sallust is cited as a prolegomena to the Middle Ages because of his prosaic rhetoricality’s ability to reflect imminent crisis around its author whilst chronicling it. But it is Sallustian because, as has been raised most recently in the medieval anthology Whose Middle Ages? (Fordham University Press, 2019) (ed. Erler, O’Donnell, et al), the prospect of Sallust, Hegel, or Melville force us to consider this: what is an era? Furthermore, this is not a matter of intuitive pondering but an unsung chronotype within the veins of what is called Fictionality. See, for instance, Julie Orlemanski’s “Who Has Fiction? Modernity, Fictionality, and the Middle Ages.” New Literary History 50.2 (2019): 145-170; Hatavara, Mari. ““I can tell the difference between fiction and reality.” Cross-fictionality and Mind-style in Political Rhetoric.” Narrative Inquiry 29.2 (2019): 332-349; and for a firmer method in theorizing technological feudalism: Alice Bell’s “Digital fictionality: possible worlds theory, ontology, and hyperlinks.” (2019): 249-271.

[2] John H. Zammito, The Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment (Univ. of Chicago Press, 1992), 90.

[3] Consider for instance the limits of limitation as purpose sans purposiveness, i.e. Kant’s §10 of the third Critique. Earlier it was noted that Rita Felski’s The Limits of Critique is a text developing and professional literature scholars have been well-acquainted with for half a decade, which, among other things, pursues a muted archetype in referencing Immanuel Kant several times without detail or explanation as to how precisely Kant has had a hand in what is called theory today; the gist of this influential text is that one ought to know of Kant rather than anything about him. And it is the eternal recurrence of this archetype that begs the question, ‘How can literature scholars contemplate the demise of theoretical/critical practice with virtually the entirety of pre-Marxian philosophy at their disposal?’ In the case of Kant in particular, should one assume literature scholars may assume the Critiques impenetrable, a simple rebuttal is that for the literature scholar density has never been an issue. Further, where does this collective assumption come from, if not experience? Beyond any number of hypothetical other objections to Kant, there is an absolute lack of, say, ‘Why not study Kant and work with a piece of writing particularly relevant to aesthetics, purpose, and purposiveness?’ Thus I have chosen §10 of the third Critique for this note: to explain the text itself and its place in Kant’s construction of the book, as well as aesthetic system, while rethinking the intuition of the instant, or moment of cognition in the aesthetic object, in an age of digitality whereby the next wave of literature scholars is straightaway skeptical of the past four decades’ manner of proceeding. There is an effort made by Andrew Cole to bring German Idealism, in particularly Hegel, to literary scholars;  yet this text was itself refuted by perhaps the only other thorough-going Hegelian  in literary practice, in M.A.R. Habib.  However, this botched introduction of German Idealism into critical-theoretical practice for literature scholars also suffered from the fact that neither scholar actually isolate a philosophical section, unpack it in a manner both the developing and professional scholar can work with, and thereafter explicate in tandem with a specific literary object. For the literature scholar’s purpose seems to lack purposiveness; and this is where Kant and the third Critique come in for us in earnest. Through all of its theoretical developments and cycles, for literary practice Kant remains an anomaly. At least part of the problem is in lacking a proper place, or purpose to find a place, to begin, which I argue is in fact §10 of the third Critique. Literary scholarship has long acknowledged Kant without systematically working with him. This calls into question the very nature of the debt, connoting philosophical insight with self-actualization. Whether one is for or against the historiographical turn in theory that runs from Plotinus to Hegel (as we see in Cole), even here the philosophy of Kant is oddly missing. This is most unfortunate, particularly for those scholars who know how highly Kant himself valued literature, in particular English poetry. Thus it is only fitting to me that the time has come to refute automated determinism, as it has never entailed an actual Kantian systematic for literary scholars; the chronic rejection of Kant has never come with a purpose. Thus, I’ll be introducing the reader to Kant’s own remarks on purposiveness in the tenth paragraph of the third critique; I will be doing this in a manner that simultaneously makes sense to the novice and informs the philosopher. But Kantian purposiveness without a purpose is precisely a viable new line of vision needed in literature studies to overthrow theory’s self-imposed limitations. But it is at the same time imperative that I straightaway state that I am not seeking in this short paper to define an entire new school of Kantian criticism, instead analyzing the intuition of the instant that is the philosophically literate scholar willing to work with what is at least in one case considered the origin and nucleus of Kant’s third Critique in re-approaching both theory (or literary practice) and the literary work of art itself. By the end of this paper it will be clear that the lack of Kantian systematicity in literary practice is not because it cannot work, but because it has not been tried. The profundity of this contagious error is for me rather simple: literature scholars do not engage enough with philosophy. At the same time, I do not dream of any sort of ecumenicism of the humanities; but I do work from a premise like that of George Santayana’s,  as well as the Homeric precedence in Aristotle, in seeing something of a perpetual Venn Diagram oscillating throughout millennia, as we move from Kant into an extension of an early passage in his Observations concerning John Milton. Returning to the situation within which we are to incorporate Kant’s purposiveness without a purpose, and thus Felski, I’ll begin by noting that budding literature scholars can proceed past the first or second graduate semester without some type of grounding in what is called theory; but the idea of an all-encompassing philosophical school has run out of steam aboard the engine which began by configuring that theory must begin with Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche, which is why these budding scholars will be at once reading the tradition’s forebearers as well as a recent history that likewise sees theory as having run its course in Rita Felski’s Limits of Critique. Therefore the theory of literature is at once made synonymous with encroaching limitation, of theoretical bounds of sense closing in, that digitality has all but accelerated, rather than derailed, this epistemological stalemate. But why? asks Felski. Theory’s difficulty is made in part by an attraction that she compares to Burke’s sublime,  already setting us in a historical frame to engage Kant.  Theory, or critique, is for Felski “a quite stable repertoire of stories, similes, tropes, verbal gambits, and rhetorical ploys… it is virtually synonymous with intellectual rigor, theoretical sophistication, and intransigent opposition to the status quo.”  But in the same breadth Felski inadvertently displays the philosophical-historical ignorance that will repeatedly negate her own compression of a school of thought she – and untold English departments – claims may or may not have hit a wall, by attributing the grounds of theory to “Kant and Marx.”  This mentioning of Kant does not lead to any sort of systematic elucidation of how or why Kant and Marx, in particular as coupled, are co-founders of theory, and Kant himself does not appear in the book for another twenty-nine pages, when Felski notes that theory is correlative to a western skepticism wherein Kant, alongside Hume and Nietzsche, is a “key player.”  Kant does however appear some pages later, where his “Sapere aude” is noted alongside Descartes  in what can only be assumed a passage designed for undergraduates – but it isn’t. The “disinterested judgment subject of the Kantian subject” is then noted,  albeit in a passage concerning the aesthetics of professorial detachment. While this note is closer to an actual development of Kant, it is in the middle of a paragraph that otherwise has nothing to do with Kant. Later in the book,  Felski mentions Kant again alongside Marx and now also Foucault, speaking both for the presence of Kant in this book and for her fellow practitioners at large in that “We tacitly link ourselves link ourselves to a history [wherein they] loom large; we situate our in relation to a distinguished tradition of theoretical reflection and intellectual dissent”, though the passage is again a meaninglessly vague grouping, in passing, predicated upon the contradictory idea that the reader knows nothing of Kant, one of a handful to whom one’s profession is most indebted. The book is in a sense the perfect example of Kant’s role in literary practice at present: one must know his name but not his work. To this end one cannot help but feel dissatisfied when Kantian aesthetics is declined as a direction in theory as extraordinarily dense; for density is itself something that Felski has noted is a centrifugal aspect of theoretical attraction. There is something unseen that is daunting which is part of the reason Kant is literarily ambivalent. What, then, is the problem?  Perhaps Kant’s place of maxim, imperative, and the value of systematicity, indicates that Kant is not throwing things at the wall to sees what sticks; he cannot be bent in any given ideological direction. Kant demands a rigor that, if it is to be taken on, demands a particular sense of purpose in aesthetic cogitation on behalf of the literature scholar. The problem, then, is a lack of purpose: Felski pulls Kantian feathers out of her hat which lead nowhere, and one is forced to wonder what the role of Kant is in this book, its subject matter, and that the purpose of Kant in the forming or professional literature scholar is a matter of acknowledgment without substance, which is to say an apparent purpose without purposiveness. But what is at the narratological heart of what we might call, Purposiveness Sans Purpose: Kant’s Text? How can one approach an object while at the same time procure a willingness to work beyond the empirical? If we are to transcend the physical sensation of pleasure that accompanies sensory taste, we must set out on a purpose. For Kant, a purpose is according to its transcendental determinations the object of a concept, in so far as the concept is regarded as the cause of the object. The object is the real ground of its possibility; and the causality of a concept in respect of its object is its purposiveness. Though it is tempting to draw on, or gloss, aesthetic objects from various mediums, for the purpose of this paper we shall stick to the textual, in continuing a Milton passage Kant notes early on in the Observations; this has the twofold advantage of, firstly, not so much claiming that Kant was irrefutably influenced by Milton, but that with Kant we can read Milton in a revolutionary way that is at the heart of philosophizing the work of literature in the age of digital reproduction that likewise invites the scholar of letters to reconsider literary cognition; and thus secondly, essentially come to understand the implications that theory’s unchartered past being excavated and explicated is in fact its future. But returning to the aesthetic object as concerns §10, the object’s form and existence is thought as an effect only possible by means of the concept of this effect of transcendental cognition. The representation of the effect is here the determining ground of its cause and precedes it. Consciousness of the causality of a representation, maintaining the subject in the same state, may denote what we call pleasure.   However, says Kant, “on the other hand pain is that representation which contains the ground of the determination of the state of representations into their opposite [of restraining or removing them].”  As political temporality solidified itself as the determinant root of criticism, an equally determinant idea of justice took its place; but in order to proceed on the restraining wave of conceptual justice one must perpetually confront subjective pain in the name of a justice that is, if chronically idealistic, anthropologically nefarious. Aesthetic restrain and removal of perceived political enemies was of course an intellectual death sentence; the trend that in this situate becomes absolute is at the same time predicated upon the promise of unlimited progress without definitiveness. But this is not to say that the eclipse of sublimity is itself bad, nor that justice (which has become a lamentably loaded word) is in the objective sense a good thing. Poets are not excluded from this, as in the case of poetic justice; it is rather a temporality of subjective justices that is problematic as a standalone school of thought, and likewise one that cannot coincide in tandem with an all-crushing systematicity of letters that lends itself to a reciprocal nature in, by virtue of its philosophical range, effortlessly uplifts and promotes a greater poetical culture not unlike that yearned for in Schiller’s letters. For as in the case of an all-crushing metaphysics, iron simply sharpens iron, and that which is destroyed by truth, however painful, is destroyed is the best sense possible, and is itself in line with the foundations of what is called theory. However, centering itself in pain, theory was bound to double its pain by adhering specifically to a severely limiting idea of historicism; likewise, the theorists who decry limitations while shunning Kant have taken the second part of his sentence here, without preliminarily absorbing the aesthetic brunt of it. To this end theory stands to benefit from Kant in the same way that, as concerns canonicity and the idea of the masterpiece, “the faculty of desire, so far as it is determinable only through concepts, i.e. to act in conformity with the representation of a purpose, would be the will.” The aesthetic object or theory is thus determined in conjunction with the faculty of desire as concerns the representation of a purpose. The less historically, self-reflexively stifled any given aspect of perceived purpose-representation correlates desire and will. The faculty of desire that is predicated upon an unquestioned understanding of its latent inclusivity, and has in fact already delimited the prospects of a purpose that is the will which is not predetermined by ideological axis, but by the line of sight in one approaching the aesthetic object, in our case the book. There is a twofold aspect here, however, as is the case with aesthetic scholarship: first, there is the object-in-itself; and secondly, at the same time, there is the perceptive apparatus, moldable, en route to the object; that with experience and conviction this apparatus seems increasingly comfortable or at home says nothing about the newness with which every project is taken up afresh, paralleled by aesthetic approach to the object, or even revisitation to the object, wherein the case must have added to it experiential strata and the impossible object of reexperience. At the same time, the very act is, as Kant notes, in conformity; part of its appellation is an illusory open-endedness, proven by the very first level of this argument, which is that literary scholarship is in a stalemate, but it claims to have no certain idea as to why this is (though whatever it is, Kant cannot guide us in comprehending it, or for that matter, aesthetic experience and theory in the age of digitality. For Kant “an Object, or a state of mind, or even an action, is called purposive, although its possibility does not necessarily presuppose the representation of a purpose, merely because its possibility can be explained and conceived by us only so far as we assume for its ground a causality according to purposes, i.e. a will which would have so disposed it according to the representation of a certain rule.” Rather than begin our methods of execution in a predetermined state of mind (or a concrete idea of the bounds of ideological sense), we can divide the idea of that which is purposive into object, state of mind, or action. In no case is the representation of a purpose necessarily presupposed. Hence, the very purpose of the scholar amidst, or approaching, literary cognition, does not do so a single movement, or frame. Rather, the grounds of dialogical sense are defined by the possibility, rather than the fact, of representational purposiveness. Explanatory conception, we learn here from Kant, is a causal matter pertaining to the grounds of a will that disposes the causality of assumption with regard to that which is in fact predetermined, in the first half of the moment of approach, in representation of a certain rule. But what rule, then? As Felski and others would have it, this rule does not exist, because the idea of such a rule cannot coincide with the excoriating prospects of theoretical literature. However, what is said is about a third of what is at stake, coupled by the implication therein as well as the negative dialectical space taken up by what is not said. This can be floated in a more vulgar political sense, but the real understanding in a survey of theory at wits’ end is in the absolute lack of self-awareness coupled with the prospect of Kantian aesthetics. This is precisely where Kant, and we, arrive at the crux of the matter, purposiveness without purpose as a means to literary practice in the age of digitality. Purposiveness without purpose is a form that, not being a totality, is unfit for a will; the aesthetic object does not as a prerequisite engulf one on the way to cognizing with a will that begins with a purposiveness without purpose, but is made intelligible by way of derivation. Here, again, formalism  strikes me as one of several ways in which a scholar might work with Kant in a school of theory, in less picking out bits and pieces than approaching Kant with an openness to systematicity that is itself a process correlative to explaining a poem or book in a way that is intelligible by means of derivation rather than dogmatic empiricism. That this itself gives one the nature and freedom of optional modes in observation and possibility that grants the scholar, or reader, a greater proximity to the ontological subjectivity of reason (not that an objective reason does not exist, but that, staying with Kant in a broader sense, one is through purposiveness without purpose given greater flexibility in coming to grips with historical and historiographical subjectivity, and hence a greater dialectical fusion of narratives, en route to the topical – there are about seven billion ways of looking at the world, with a little overlap; such is both continent and canvas): “Thus we can at least observe a purposiveness according to form, without basing it on a purpose (as the material of the nexus finalis), and we can notice it in objects, although only by reflection.” But where shall Kantian thinking lead the scholar of letters? To an interior revolution, or systematic destruction of all self-imposed limitations that, like Schopenhauer’s Berkeley,  gave one good thing: the means of overcoming aesthetic bondage in the age of digital reproduction. This notion having passed, one must less return to Kant than arrive. John Milton, like Kant, is considered a revolutionary in his field,  albeit for Milton the artistic revolution is a successful opposition to the ruling spirit of any given community, within his life being his age and community, but made truly revolutionary not in the vulgar sense of temporality and governance, while constructing an aesthetic systematicity that is itself relevant in every age. Then, having experienced the selection in terms of purposiveness and purposivity without a purpose, has one undergone something of an initiation into the type of hermeneutic import Makkreel writes of, but without having to presuppose any type of imaginative play other than a reconceptualization of that which is given at the surface. To this end I would suggest picking up where Kant left off at the beginning of his Observations.  And thus a voice cries out in a lucid dream, “Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed”! For while our old friend Hegel would see it another way,  the poetic procession of Kant’s establishes Milton as in one sense, while working in a sort of inverted Dantean tradition, through a harrowing beauty that has the universality of lacking concrete predecessor, while in another, moving through an indeterminate concept. The poet, in making it his object to simultaneously elucidate both the fall of man and the imaginative lengths which this indicates, while in another sense Milton conveys to us “utter darkness.” And the reader might particularly take him at his word; in his blindness Milton both reconceptualized being and nothingness, something the sighted can but taste a glimpse of should one close one’s eyes, and then with one’s eyes remaining closed, imagine one has opened them: such is the first trace of a beginning of what one might call hermeneutic blindness, as concerns pre-earth space and time, whereby one turns to purposiveness, or Kant. Thus this flood of flames, or “fiery Deluge, fed with ever-burning Sulphur unconsum’d” strikes the reader as both familiar and alien at once: it has purpose but lacks purposivity. The movement from religious poesy to the canon, or collective memory, involves Milton neither trying to merely convert, nor displaying the furthest heights of mortal imagination in an effort to subtly convey that what have historically been mandated as the Word of God is in fact the words of imaginative men. Rather, Milton’s purpose is not to go where other poets have not gone for the sake of exploration, but rather to explicate that which is comparatively speaking glossed in the Bible. It is not only his narrative subject matter that is epic; employing the English language to fill in biblical plots with enormously detailed imaginings is in essence to add to the receptivity of the theoretically infallible. Milton is taking it upon himself to continue the biblical tradition through an aesthetics that transcends commentary while at the same time is sheer imagination; its canonicity is thus a subtle testament to the aesthetic mind for-itself in light of church dogmatics and political theologies. Hence the object’s cause, or the cause of this particularly striking imagery in a flood of unconsumed sulphur, is on the one hand the very causality that leads one from moving to comprehending the textual ‘images’ as qua-poetry, but rather in its form and existence, as a concept of the effect that is preceded via oscillation between the rhapsodic pleasure of absorption versus the systematic pleasure of on the one hand, contemplation or revelry, and on the other, the systematicity of interpretive schools. However, as no work of art is synonymously venerated, there is also the grounds of displeasure in light of purposiveness to take into account. But displeasure in the presentations of Hell, or displeasure in the state/state of mind Milton is (arguably) speaking on behalf of, seems to currently render the highpoints of western aesthetics in a sense of fascism/communism, ala the closing of Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.  This displeasure, which I believe is foregrounded in a faultily subjective premises of ahistorical bending, is not unlike a displeasure which Kant describes as “that presentation which contains the basis that determines [the subject to change] the state [consisting] of [certain] presentations  into their own opposite.” Naturally, such is a perfectly tenable mode of criticism. But that it has become the foundation of all contemporary literary practice is where there is nowhere to go but into the specter of cultural decline, having mistaken a type of perception for the entirety of perception through which all others flow. However, as I remarked earlier, the scholar of letters can no longer plead ignorance from an ideological point of view as concerns the life and times of any given subject, or author. Milton, to this end, brings us a Hell that is interwoven with less the conditions of his time, than the conditions of all times. As a maxim, the state is not the artist’s friend; the state is the perennial foe of the artist, for the artist’s task is to remember and uncomfortably remind the public that oscillating between automation and distraction are unfits poles of being. From the sociological point of view, it is dispelling the culture industry and its tentacles that appear in less obvious places, as in the eschatological implications of pre-torn clothing; and that for the same generation, three decades on, that one is not made younger by plastic surgery, but rather is given, should the treatment call for it, the veneer of having aged less than one has. Likewise, lacking purpose, literature scholarship puts on the performance of rigor, of exterior diversities, but it all comes at the cost of an absolute lack of interior diversity, and hence individuality, thus negating the very precepts of poetical discourse. But it is the very veneer of unreality that itself might prove as a heuristic means by which to recultivate one’s perceptive apparatus, by cognizing the power of desire. This power of desire is at work in Milton when we read “Such place Eternal Justice had prepar’d/For those rebellious, here their Prison ordain’d/In utter darkness.” There is the rudimentary desire for order, which essentially comes down to the state enforcing any given religious creed or lack thereof with equally religious fervor. There is likewise the desire to acknowledge, rather than activate, eternal justice, which apparently predates Adamic being and all that comes with it. But why then, appears interwoven into Milton’s aesthetic, is there an eternal justice for mortal beings? On the theological end of things, one might suggest predestination.  On the other, this itself appears a purpose without purposiveness. As far as a Judeo-Christian aesthetics is concerned Kant is again helpful, in noting We do call objects, states of mind, or acts purposive, even if their possibility does not necessarily presuppose the presentation of a purpose; we do this merely because we can    explain and grasp them only if we assume they are based on causality [that operates] according to purposes, i.e., on a will that would have so arranged them in accordance        with the presentation of a certain rule.And yet eternal justice is, when empirical, incidentally empirical. We are faced again with purposiveness without a purpose, as we cannot understand as well as it had hitherto been perceived just how, why, when, or where, this seemingly eternal justice comes from, where it dwells in the case of, say, a parent never finding out who murdered their child, or a criminal on the loose, burning down businesses, without ever getting caught, “and yet can grasp the explanation of its possibility only by deriving it from a will” (Kant 65). Such is, in a sense, the will of God; yet Milton also made it clear at the start of this poem.  We know that Kant cherished Pope.  If the will of God must either be a metaphorical way of speaking altogether along the way of the species’ developing consciousness, we might see then Milton conceptually willing the concept of a will, which is in fact, if abstract at a glance, something that is at the heart of being in western time. Reason alone does not suffice; purposiveness in form lends itself to observational harmonies in the structural object; and finally reflection eclipses purpose, becoming itself the purpose without purposiveness, which is poetic self-reflexivity in time, guided by philosophy. Thus the eternality of justice and its ever-present author can for Milton serve thusly as a vehicle with which for one to further consider the initial Kantian isolation of Milton’s passages, in reading “[,] and their portion set/As far remov’d from God and light of Heav’n/As from the Center thrice to th’ utmost Pole./O how unlike the place from whence they fell!” Portions are set, albeit as far from God and heaven as exclusively analogous quantitative terms allow, measured three times over from the furthest pole, and thus describing in epic detail that which both does and does not exist: plot details glossed from pre-being being, or rather the concept of pre-being being, as spoken by a blind being, on the way to expositing the tyranny of heaven. However, in refraining from selecting a poem, book, or excerpt with a prearranged ideological determinism at work, one is forgoing the great deal of trends considered absolute both for several decades and at present. At the same time, it might be suggested that a foregoing of ideology is the root of all ideology. But this is, again, where Kant comes in. For if this type of thinking were easily capable of being cast down, Felski’s book would not end on the ambiguous, inconclusive note that it does, a fate predetermined by neglecting philosophical history in general, and Kant specifically.  However, in proceeding with Kant, we employ section ten as to further situate the poetics of space, Milton’s blind vision of sublimity, that lends itself to a new type of systematicity, that is, an all-crushing recapitulation of ongoing deterministic temporalities. For we are immediately reading a different kind of Hell when are approaching it from this newly implemented point of view. Gone is the automated immersion in a long-running sociological-ecclesiastical afterlife with which so many readers understandably enter Milton; but we are not concerned with the predetermined, as such is the cause of literature’s theoretical stalemate, having lost sight of historiography of philosophy, the engagement with which is theory’s purpose. Thus with Kant, we can refrain from entering into the already-known Judeo-Christian lore, and reexamine the philosophical-aesthetics of Milton’s apparent retelling of the fall of man, and what it means that it means what it appears to mean. The crowning aspect of a new Kantianism in theory is that it likewise offers the practitioner a chance to continue work that Kant carried out, even in the referential form of excerpts, and take the mode of perception further, a concept that brings the scholar closer to Kant by working not only with Kant but through him. The sublime and the beautiful are not ideological strains or specific types of textual figures; they are rather a coupled synthesis capable of dialectical fusion, as in the Miltonic sublimity or beauty of Hell. On the one hand, the literature scholar is at once opened to a book’s worth of material in synthesizing Milton’s visions of Hell, its famous illustrators, and Kant’s remarks on aesthetics and religion. On the other hand, however, it is in keeping with the task at hand to pick up where Kant left off, moving from his selection of eight lines into the next eight, through the lens of §10: “Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed/With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum’d:/Such place Eternal Justice had prepar’d.” Our absorption of this semiotic constellations might be well guided by John H. Zammito, whose Genesis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment sustains Kant’s commitment to the Christological. “Purposiveness – teleology – served as the vehicle for the development for the Critique of Taste”, writes Zammito.  “Purpose is the relation between a concept and an object whereby the concept acts as cause of the actuality (existence) of the object… Kant found it necessary to discriminate repeatedly between ‘sensation’ and ‘feeling’, that is, objective and subjective reference.” (91). As practical as this sounds, its sheer practicality is in fact the essence missing from literary practice that has hitherto disabled its most influential figures from even suggesting a systematic philosophical investigation that opens itself to the history of philosophy. We see this soon enough after Kant as well, in Schiller and Hegel, in the societal and individual demand for balance on the way to – in our case literary – cognition. En masse or the being-proper, scales grossly tipped with the weight of emotion dismantle any premise of rhetorical construction from getting off the ground.Naturally, there is more at play than rhetoric in our case, Kant’s, Schiller’s, or Hegel’s; but I would also suggest that a philosophical cognizing of poetics takes the philosophy of rhetoric with a sense of prescient acuity, as was the case with Grassi,  and as we’ll see in a moment, in an extension of the trivium, logic. Thus, when Zammito further notes that the conceptual universality of consent claimed in a judgment of taste is not actually an element of literal universality, which lies in logical validity. Claims of emotive-political validity in aesthetic cognition are thus unfit for the very feigned universality such doctrines’ scaffolding are made of; Kant is rather interested in “the freest choice possible for man” (93), for such is less a return to taste and beauty but a refurnished cognizing of plurality in being, and thus open to the canons of historiography and philosophy, as this merger with aesthetic cultivation and study is itself true nature, and true freedom, in its seeking neither to exclusively conserve nor doctrinally repudiate, but to reimagine the moment of aesthetic pre-contact, or the moment of absorption that is the willed act, that is the systematicity interwoven within the form of purpose and reality. Such is a typological landscape: that the tradition of the form ultimately bolsters both maker and receiver into recognition of the object’s accumulation process in conceptual time, allowing one to move past appearance, which alone is not actuality, into the processional gravity of the object. Such is at work when we for so many literary works we read “in the spirit of…”; it is that place wherein influence is an understatement, as influence itself is surface level, and thus the appearance of the whole. Which brings us full to circle to Milton, for whom Harold Bloom connotes a particular genius in that he lacks, in his life and poetics, the anxiety of influence. Milton seems to have no real systematic forebearer in his aesthetic approach; he was a devout classicist, but none of his work can be better understood beside Hesiod or Homer, Quintilian or Clement, John of Salisbury or Thomas Becket.

Kant, I would think, with his own revolutionary  project, does not immediately parallel any of his philosophical forebearers; such is the movement from traditional ascendancy to dialogical invention, which should be an organic process for all philosophy and literature, and the former’s cognizing of the latter, as “Purposiveness is a cognitive language to which we resort in the extremity of empirical anomaly.” Concerning free play, Chaouli contends that, for Kant, play’s purpose cannot be found outside the region of experience between and conceptual determination, as play is neither devoid of purpose (in the case of nonsense) nor is geared toward a nameable purpose, as in the case of cognition.  “Kant’s mysterious, unwieldy formula of a ‘purposiveness without purpose’ describes just this logic of play: a purposeful way of doing whose purpose can be found nowhere within itself and that consequently ‘strengthens and reproduces itself (§12).’  It is neither beneath the region of experience nor beyond conceptual determination; thus the region of experience whereby conceptual determination must, I suggest, turn to historical thinking, as such is the sole way we can enact a systematic of canonicity in light of rule, or aesthetic dogmas. Such would seem to move from the beautiful to the biological; and in the moment leading to §10, Rachel Zuckert sees Kant broaching “how we can become conscious of the harmony among our cognitive powers – and answers that we become conscious of our judging activity through ‘sensation’ (219).”  It is this very sensory strata that leads Kant into the unpacking of purpose and purposiveness, and ought likewise to awaken in the contemporary scholar the predicament they find themselves in while proclaiming rules in a realm of abandoned canonicity. As Chaouli understands it, it is actually less a rule than a rule-boundness, mirroring purposivity without purpose, which also finds grounds in normativity without norms and “lawfulness without law.”  We find ourselves thus moving from a rigidly ambiguous history of theory, with Kant, into the realm of being, or anthropology. It is precisely this philosophical anthropology Chaouli identifies the question of aesthetic pedagogy, which is of course the preliminary question of this paper altogether. This “detour”  is perhaps one perfectly constructive rejoinder to Felski: that the as-defined history unto limitation is in fact less exhausted than in need of a detour. And yet the detour is through itself, with even Felski sprinkling the prospect along the way, albeit hitherto unbeknownst to any readers, save when we took up the Kantian cause of purpose altogether, and augmented the elephant in the room. Purposiveness is furthermore a prelude to modality, rather than a recycled socio-political frame.  The assumed purpose oscillating between temporality and determinism is in fact at a limit, but it is a self-imposed limit that theoreticians mistake for contemporaneous grievances, misplacing emotional argument for logico-historical thinking, that is, a historical lens that takes into account victor and vanquished, philosopher and author, whose predicate is, as in §9, for Kant a clearer presence of universal beauty. Universal beauty operates under an indeterminate concept; this is precisely the end of §9/221 that leads to the task at hand (from it we glance ahead to §11 and reconsider what is called reading).  One is likewise purporting how the aesthetic object came into being, the artwork its final end, as we read in Zuckert that Kant’s teleology is purpose and purposiveness, i.e. “they are understood to characterize the nature of rational agency.”  This too makes perfect sense of the above idea of detouring the history of the concept of theory, as per an unpacking that the literary scholar is already well familiar with in assessing the ideological causes and boundaries of any given lens toward a school. The school’s spokespersons have mistaken a fragment for the whole. For while there is no doubt a means of understanding any given text by means of any branch of critical theory; but it is when the imprecisely summarized cannot remove itself from its method of proceeding that the entirety of philosophical discourse is rendered less than a footnote or, as in the case of Kant, a substanceless name amongst others. It should be then either purposiveness without purpose, with or without secondary literatures helping throw light on the concept, that reaffirm the genesis and structure of the precognition of aesthetic insight. In apprehending the systematicity and purpose of neglected forerunners we do not hamper contemporary discourse but rather force it to defend itself, which if it is seriously rigorous scholarship, it should have no qualms whatsoever doing. One is not resurrecting pleasure but re-confronting it, a Kantian pleasure Zuckert defines as “consciousness of a representation’s causality directed at the subject’s state so as to keep him in that state.”  Desire causes the actuality of the object; it is specifically human in that it is linguistic. Aspects of endurance, which border on canonicity, lead one to philosophical insistence in the role of cognizing literature and its study. Literature is philosophical. One cannot compose a poetic work, or effectively construct novelistic discourse, without a philosophy of literature. Returning to the bounds of rule-sense, we are aware also of the severer forms of literature that themselves certainly have a philosophy, even if the philosophy is one of extensive editorial labor in an effect to make a work appear haphazard. But in the case of a less abrasive form, one must with Kant’s maxim of perpetual immersion in past masters without mechanically reproducing them. If one is accurately living with and through the masters, one is on the way to aesthetic discourse; it would be impossible for one to read the masterpieces of literature and philosophy without eventually coming up with good ideas of one’s own. Hence, what began as theory some decades ago constituted a rejection of teleological history, an attitude traditionally prescribed to Montaigne or Descartes  without ever systematically engaging the aesthetic ramifications of either teleological history or historical teleology. The result was historical teleology shrouded in political theology. This line of thinking, mistaken as a nucleus rather than an angle, is both unoriginal and contradictory; the literary sense of purpose was altogether thrust into ideological variations on suffering, which was itself submerged into digitality, and therein paralyzed. As such, it appeared and appears as though theoretical letters has hit a wall, while in truth the possibility of a poverty of historical-philosophical knowledge was never broached. Such is a collective lack of self-awareness identical to Milton’s Adam and Eve and has been disadvantageous to both literary scholarship and American literary culture. But that is where Kant comes in. Kant has been epidemically neglected by literature scholars not because he has been weighed and found wanting, but because literature scholars did not know where or how to begin; that there is no better place to begin than with purposiveness itself in light of a systematicity of commentators and a formalistic reading of the text itself. For the transportation of revelation from abstraction to the tangible mirrors purposivity and its rejoinder. The purpose of the work is likewise caught within the purposiveness without purpose of being: both are subjectively distinct albeit identical in difference. Rejection of historiographical excavation is a choice rather than a revelation, whereby literature scholars remain trapped in a predicament identical to Plato’s cave. It is a cutting off of the psychological oxygen of methods and philosophical discourses available to us throughout conceptual history and time; a Kantian school of literature in light of digitality may well challenge preordained dialectical reason into confronting both its theoretical limitations in literary practice as well as its poverty of historical-philosophical knowledge. Is this not the very philosophical task of literature and poetics to begin with? One is with Kant in thinking that this is both a good and necessary thing, a logical perfection of cognition.  Hence literary practice stands to gain the destruction of its self-imposed limitations, and perhaps in the future someone will write a book-length account of this, supplementally modeled on the first Critique, perhaps entitled Critique of Theory. But even before the prolegomena must come the aesthetic (school) and architectonic (literary type) annihilation of determinism on the way to purposiveness without a purpose, moving into philosophy through digitality, for the sake of the retrieval of critique.


[i] See Bede’s On Ezra and Nehemiah, p. 138: “[W]e should admire the faith and excellent resolution of the people who were freed from captivity, who /1575/ refer to themselves as the holy seed but the other nations in distinction to their own as the people of the lands, so that they might openly imply that they themselves, although born from the earth, nevertheless have their dwelling on earth but in heaven…”

[ii] DeGregorio, Scott: The Cambridge Companion to Bede, p. 127

[iii] Ibid, p. 129.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Ibid, p. 130.

[vi] M.M. Bakhtin notes Bede among others regarding medieval-[anti-]Christological allegorical frameworks in Rabelais and His World p. 293: “The Biblical giant, for instance, was seen by Augustine and Bede as more than a Goliathan foe, i.e. an insurmountable foe; Bede, for instance, interpreted the concept of giant as an incarnation of the Antichrist”.

[vii] See Rosemary Tuve’s Allegorical Imagery: Some Medieval Books and Their Posterity,pp. 108-12.

[viii] Strauss, Heinrich. “The History and Form of the Seven-Branched Candlestick of the Hasmonean Kings.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 22, no. 1/2, 1959, p. 14. In particular, “Apart from the majority of later church candelabra, the type with arms becoming higher towards the centre is also found in old Christian manuscripts: Cosmas Indicopleustes (v. above, n. 3, Good- enough, fig. Io); a picture in Bede’s commentary on the Apocalypse, MS. 209, St. John’s College, Cambridge. This form preserved the connection with the tree of life of the ancient Sumerians more closely than the traditional Jewish one.”

[ix] DeGregorio, p. 132.

[x] Kantorowicz notes as such in The King’s Two Bodies, i.e. p. 53: “…Cyrus [in Ezra-Nehemiah] appears as a prefiguration of Christ”; p. 69: “Bede has also seen the Temple’s divided curtain as a symbol of the Church, itself symbolic: men on earth, saints and angels ruling above.”

[xi] Consider Mary Carruthers’s The Book of Memory, viz. p. 416: “Bede stresses that he is following in the Latin Fathers’ footsteps, and in one a sense this is true. Jerome’s Commentary on Ezekiel, as well as Gregory the Great’s, were with patristic commentaries on the Psalms, the most frequently adapted Old Testament commentaries. None, however, do quite what Bede did; his allegorical autobiography.”