Julius Evola on Giovanni Gentile — Part 2

Next: Giovanni Gentile Part 3 ⇒

In this section, Julius Evola deals with the nature of thought itself. Thought cannot be the object of thinking, since it would then be just another thought. Rather, there must be something that transcends thinking, the “non-rational”. Nevertheless, the non-rational is not the same as the irrational. Certain philosophers, Schopenhauer in particular, who consider the Will as irrational fall short. They experience themselves as the playthings of irrational forces. Instead, the Philosopher who has is in full self-possession experiences himself as the author, or at least master, of these forces.
NOTE: Evola uses the German word Sollen, which means “must”.
⇐   Part 1

That can be clarified as follows. For whoever possesses himself in the naked creative center of the I, it appears as the action of unconditioned freedom. Instead, it is experienced as logical necessity by whoever keeps himself on the peripheral plane of the discursive, as the inescapable imperative of a Sollen [having to], as the vis a tergo [a force from behind] of duty and law. The arbitrary affirmation, insofar as experienced so to say from the outside, passively, appears as truth or logical cogency, as apodictic. Gentile understood the formula I=Not-I in conformance to that, in which synthesis the process of concrete logic, as the “ultimate and unconditioned condition of every thinking” without realizing that a condition can never be unconditioned or else the I is really its own norm, and then every law can only be contingent and an “unconditionally imperative characteristic of the law of concrete logic” becomes an empty sound. Or else there is a limit, or law indifferent to the power of the I, only in virtue of which this is such (as the Anstoss [opposition] of Fichte’s philosophy) and clearly postulated by the impotence of being or thinking otherwise, if only not properly affirmable in the gnoseological sense; and then one may as well confess himself as a creature and pass on to religion – because one idol is not better than another.

It is not worth objecting, with Rickert, that the denial of the imperative of the law could be a particular case of this in the sense that, to the extent that it is willed, it is recognized worthy of the choice in respect to the opposed alternative of adhesion to the law, since that presupposes agreement with that which is in question, i.e., that it cannot be given a real negation, that it is not possible to be reaffirmed beyond the given facticity of the law in general of Sollen—that the mode of living the act according to Sollen represented an extreme instance. This difficulty reappears from another side and is close to the problem, as the same philosophy of the act it is general possible. Since, of the two choices:

  • Either the I is entirely compenetrated with its activity, and then cannot embrace it with a synthetic gaze and discover its general law, but rather, lost in it, it can only learn from it in the unpredictable, uncoercible contingency of the moment.
  • Or else the I, almost lifting itself from itself, can know that law, but then otherwise its contingency is conceded, since with that, this becomes a distinct “thought”, and remains almost interiorly surpassed in the principle that makes such a distinction possible—this surpassing, keeping in mind that, by hypothesis, has nothing to do with the internal surpassing of that law and contemplated by it.

Gentile has seen the difficulty and, having rejected the second option, tries to make himself sufficient to the first, saying that if he recognizes he has given with his doctrine not thinking in itself, but a concept of thinking, that is, not thinking but a thought. He concedes otherwise the relativity and the abstract nature of such a “concept of the self-concept” (that is, of his entire philosophy) and he is ready to abandon it to the indomitable becoming of dialecticism, his own Logica being understood as a simple milestone, and as abstract as all the others. But the parry is mistaken: relativity, the remission to the becoming of the spirit is also the principal content of the Gentilian concept of the self-concept, to that “thought” in which Gentile—here and now—conceives and kills “thinking”, so that this relativity is the hypocrisy of exclusivity and dogmatism, this pretense comes from itself, this sacrifice does not accomplish anything but a staying firm, in the closed circle of the contingency of the moment, having outside of itself its own reason.

If the solution must be real, if the vicious circle must be ruptured, then it is necessary that the passage is not that from one concept to another, from one “thought” to another, but rather that of the entire dimension of the logico-discursive consciousness into that higher or deeper plane of absolute freedom. Then it is necessary to surpass the creatural concept of the identity of freedom and the law, the vis a tergo of the Sollen, and be recognized in that unconditioned principle in respect to which the same act is a fact and that in truth stands at the beginning of Gentilian philosophy approximately in the same relationship that the Gnostics understood between the spiritual principle and the demiurgic principle.

This is an utterly significant situation: the instance of its own surpassing rises from the same rationale: the same discursive consciousness imposes on the I to go beyond it, if it wants to penetrate, to its foundation, that thinking that resolves the world in an immanent principle. As Abbagnano sharply notes, true thinking, thought thinking, it can never become an object of itself, it can never be thought, what other meaning, if not that it falls outside the plane of the rational? Thus the effort of contracting all reality in thinking and all life is overturned in emptiness: the very act of celebrating the greatest power of thinking implies that it is transcended in a the non-rational.

Nonetheless here a new question arises: what is the meaning of this non-rational? Or: in what relationship is the I with this non-rational? Such a point is important because it defines the position of magical idealism in respect to irrationalism. When the non-rational (to which therefore the foundation of rational law, or logical Sollen, must be pushed back: every rationality should be the effect of a deep non-rational, but arbitrary, affirmation) for the I is like a blind and uncoercible power, that cannot in any way direct and dominate and which is felt as an accident dispersed in an indefinite, unpredictable becoming, it is truly to be thought that the surpassing beyond the rational has not yet entirely accomplished, that the I still looks at the alogon from the outside, that it has not penetrated itself and possesses at the center of the originary and unconditioned principle of creation.

The irrationalism that proceeds from such a situation is that of Schopenhauer, Bergson, Le Roy, Abbagnano, etc., and is confused with a type of vivified empiricism: it indicates the moment of transit, in which the I is already detached from the hallucination of pure logic and is oriented to the deep power from where logic rises, but on the other hand is not yet sunk into this power, so that it lives it only passively. For those who have instead absolute possessed themselves, the alogon indicates only the unconditionality of his will, autarchy. Therefore, beyond the abstract intellectual, there is still an abyss between the man who lives his own life as lord and master, and the man who feels himself only as a demonic force of a nature that is passive to itself and that has its raison d’etre outside itself (certainly, not in the rationalist sense of the phrase, but in the Greek sense, used by Michelstaedter)—briefly: spontaneity.

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