How
avoid the lure of "Feuilletonismus" when writing about Bloch?


Anyone who has been in the game of writing or publishing for some time (and I have) is familiar with the lure of the non-committed, elegant, easily accessible "Feuilletonismus" - much like the between-acts talk in opera broadcasts from The Met. Working in the overall public forum, you either try to infuse your text or your talk with this feuilleton "essence" - or you avoid it by every means.
In the sunken Atlantis of social-democratic and egalitarian Sweden, "Feuilletonismus" was still regarded as a sort of virtue and held in high esteem, much like culinary cooking. It was part of the heritage from bourgeois past, to be modified and refined under new conditions. Scientists loved to perform it, given the opportunity; they felt acknowledged and useful when appearing in le feuilleton in a wide sense. And it can't be denied: good "feuilleton" has some sort of virtue, much like, say, Victorian gardening or French cooking; it sets standards. But that belongs to the past, today the feuilleton ability is on the wane, gradually being replaced by the threadbare, uninspired (and non-inspiring) contributions of chats and blogs.
These new developments in turn have left the remnants of le feuilleton with an undeserved gloss: "Ah, those were the days when we had some good feuilleton!" (Give us a repeat, spread the table for us!) But the decay of public utterance actually began there, when clever preparation ushered in, or accentuated the division of labour between manipulators of opinion and a passive, consuming public. In that process the public gradually sank to the bottom of the media ocean and found its standards there. If we reject today's prattling, superficial, non-committed journalism, le feuilleton should be included in the rejection, as one of its precursors.

It took me some time to reach this somewhat ambivalent "consciousness" (I'm ambivalent to the blogging, too), and I must admit: I have given my due contribution to le feuilleton in the past. In addition I have cuttings of book reviews by different writers, saved for thirty or forty years, so I have read my due share of it as well. Still, I'm finished with it, I can't accept what journalism is offering its readers today. So: what am I to do when I get a request to write something on this or that topic, anno Domini 2007? ("Write about Ernst Bloch"). The only honest and tenable way to solve the "write-about" task today must include some sort of metacommunication over le feuilleton as a tasty condensation and Ersatz. But that wasn't included in the request, and any too overt meta-attitude is likely to be rejected.
The request came from a minor periodical called "Subaltern", its name to me implying some petty-bourgeois and/or anarchist point of departure, the eternal, ubiquitous West European Proudhon pattern. Subalternity as a literary attitude can be nothing else in reformist and liberal Sweden - although the term also belongs in the vocabulary of utopian theory, here denoting some "speechless" silent majority, using utopia to express needs and dreams. (Free churches served that purpose in the 19th century, but "subalternity" of some stature has always been rare in the arts, we have to go back to Swedenborg and Jonas Love Almqvist in the Swedish case). And I found some evidence confirming my suspicion: the editors seek their approval or praise in and from le feuilleton, quoting mentions of their charming subalternity in liberal papers. (I have a Germanic sigh for that: A-a-a-ach-ja!) So, what should I do, how should i go about the task? It is also a question of people, persons; the writers and editors of "Subaltern" shouldn't be judged along with the technical, structural, ideological vehicles they have at hand. They may be the best, most animated and energetic writers we presently have in anaemic Sweden, and there is always the possibility of process and improvement. (Get rid of that stupid name!) In the end I decided to try a compromise that might satisfy both sides equally.
I couldn't avoid some feuilletonist devices altogether, but I could at least dodge the most obvious clichés (like: hope and utopia) and I could do something about the general perspective, the angle of attack. Make it a little alienating, unexpected, non-ingratiating. The whole thing was done in ten days, so I didn't have that much time for reflection, or for that part: for reading. The result is a little awkward, but it was accepted immediately, maybe partly owing to its refractory character.
Three months later I read Ingrid and Gerhard Zwerenz's "Twelve theses on Bloch" in Ossietzky 18/2003 , in particular noting their tenth thesis: Describing Bloch as a philosopher of Hope invites "Feuilletonismus". His crucial categories are "Defiance and Hope". Both help to specify Bloch's double revolt as a stance. And I read my contribution to "Subaltern" anew: I managed to get more than one thing right there! So, I make it available in English here, for others to judge for themselves. My thanks to Bebhinn OMeadhra for correcting the translation. / Christer Persson, 25.10.2007, latest modified 11.12.07.

Reading with the hazel-rod of affinity: Ernst Bloch and others.

I have been considering the option for some time now: to circum-write a person in an indirect way, implying, suggesting, so that the work proper is still to come for anyone who reads my text. Conveying a minimum of biographical information, a minimum of concepts and terms, a quotation, like a backheel kick, maybe two. A void, set in a frame, and this frame is the only prompting, the only enticement. The main part of the reading effort, when it comes to it all of the reading work remains to be done, but must be performed somewhere else, departing from original texts.
The header could be modified: Searching with the hazel-rod of chosen kinship. The change of terms immediately functions as a new stroke, arousing associations that flow again from all sides. Once, in a moment of weakness, Goethe appointed his own colour theory his own most essential achievement on the whole, this could be interpreted as coquettishness from the author of "Faust", or a natural science scientism of a kind that would spread rapidly in Germany within a near future. A tendency of a similar kind presents itself in the novel "Wahlverwandtschaften" (1808), here Goethe converts an idea from natural science with roots at least as far back as Albertus Magnus (I presume ten Greek philosophers came before him) to a ménage à quatre. No longer a description of the foaming dissolution of a piece of sodium in a glass of water, but instead referring to the attraction and disposition for reaction between humans.
This is my point of departure: the experience that we follow complex dynamisms for search and recognition when reading a text, listening to music. (I didn't write mechanisms, the eminent Leibniz shoved me away from the keyboard, emphatically tap-tapping: dynamism ). I remember how I was standing in the kitchen, helping my mother to stretch sheets, suddenly a guy who called himself Bob Dylan sang on the music radio, every hair prickled on my body ( ah, but i was so much older then, i'm younger than that now ). Not quite a housebroken way of approaching the phenomena; shouldn't one demand that each central figure on the Great Stage be investigated for solvency and allowed to present his message only after getting a green card from some proper authority? The same reaction repeating itself before Woody Guthrie, gooseflesh, and next the discovery: there was a stage in Dylan's life when he rotated in the gravity field of Guthrie. Affinity is expansive, it may stretch and include friends of friends. This in turn suggesting that the phenomenon may be stable in some way, not built on running sand. As if there was some obscure accrediting, a watchword, intercepted and accepted by the receivers, quick as lightning…
Even today I approach much in the same fashion, reaching out my snake's tongue, tasting the atmosphere surrounding someone or something. Skims one of Torbjörn Fagerström's pro-Darwin-epistles in Dagens Nyheter, bristling after four words and thinking: How come that the former Lund professor of theoretical ecology is always preaching Darwin in a way reminding me of Samuel Wilberforce - and is there any connection between this and the theoretical state of emergency of biology? In some other context (perhaps when reading Gregory Bateson) I come upon the British biologist C. H. Waddington, immediately knowing: here is my man. Next, with Waddington as go-between, I spot the French mathematician René Thom, new affinity; I read Thom the same way I listened to Dylan. All the time it's about basic signals: choice of words, supporting structures of the discourse. With the couples Dylan/Guthrie and Waddington/Thom I have sketched fragments of a formation, with a strange, intuitive affinity as a "tutor". Such a method is not without its risks, one shouldn't buy it unchecked. But it may turn out astute, selective, suddenly discovering that Dylan is singing out of tune; he doesn't reach his own level. I think one should not underestimate one's own affinity; there lies some honesty in the fact that it may give negative signals about yesterday's heroes.

What is affinity holding under its coat?

I suggest that we have on the inside a set of highly abstract master models or outlines, social in origin, installed during some stage of adolescence, forms by which we classify some experience, quick as lightning. An important precondition mustn't be forgotten: the need felt. A click! signals some sort of conformity, and we are ready to open our doors wide, continuing the "communication", at the same time constantly relating to the original need, still hovering in the background.
Once upon a time we were for example standing up to our necks in philosophical nominalism, scientific progress as a result being halted for centuries, and the interior discomfort over this state of things being well established; then all of a sudden a thinker drew a line through divine Providence, instead letting biological "evolution" be governed by the competitive struggle between individuals and species. Click! Ten thousand biologists pulled on the Darwin coat. The individual response is an inevitable precondition, the immediate enthusiasm in front of ninety-five theses on indulgence, or the slogan liberté, égalité, fraternité, but more important, of more social consequence is the collective dynamics that occurs when an army of minds is put in motion. Nota bene: on the next step again locking their notion of how things stand and should stand, by a new magnet of thought, a new energetic minimum. The wonderful dynamics is the short exception, statics is the rule.
Let us assume provisionally, that I, Christer Persson, for some incomprehensible reason am cultivating a solidarity with the overdue, possible paradigm shifts, and that some signal system is injecting adrenaline into my circulatory system each time I'm close to a possible agent for such a change. That might turn out to be an interesting and important function, the question is only whether it is useful to an extent that it might, talking with a Darwinist tongue, get selected in the historical process, for the benefit of individuals or societies. Ugh! More likely de-selected, considering the fate of Thomas Münzer, who thought himself summoned to carry the sword of Gideon against princes and popes and found himself placing his head under the axe instead. I guess his prospects for reproduction weren't good after that event, either... So, a problematic quality, probably not overly automatic or unconditional where it occurs. We had better recourse to Goethe's alternative term: chosen kinship, indicating a possibility for choosing a standpoint that might include social parameters: will, preferences, values, class. One possibility could be to bet on outsiders instead of the safe, socially accepted horses - the need perhaps springing from some dissatisfaction with our society as a fait accompli - or just a general Unbehagen in der Kultur .
Now the cards are on the table, I have stated a point of departure, and names have been mentioned, in passing. One already in the header, the name of the central void in my article, but I won't produce it from my sleeve until I have dug deeper into my chosen kinship with a couple of other underminers and grave-diggers of paradigms. Conrad Hal Waddington has already been mentioned as well, in Her Majesty's and Darwin's England he was something of a partisan for Lamarck, in this context bordering on High Treason. Cultivating his theoretical interests he arranged towards the end of the sixties a series of symposia, for which he mobilised a true parnassus of natural science "free thinkers", the project yielding four symposium reports: "Towards a Theoretical Biology I - IV" (an interesting not-yet in the title!). The French also guard and defend their own thinkers, with aggressive chauvinism, and the mathematician René Thom probably came running pretty quickly when this Waddington snapped his fingers. There is a difference to consider when Anglo-Saxon meets French: in all situations the Anglo-Saxon mind takes pains to achieve some proximity to empirics (and this tendency gets accentuated when we approach Scotland, the heartland of empiricism), while the French mind is allowed to soar a little in the space of theory, in certain contexts it's even respectable. Waddington never climbed the ladders of abstraction for long, always quick to return to obvious, clear illustrations. His achievement consisted of a series of rather intuitive concepts, without proper theory formation behind them. To Thom, on the other hand, all abstraction seemed self-evident, and sometimes one is aware of a swift irritation when his audience gave him blank looks, confronted with his expositions. In that respect the symposia turned out something of a culture clash.
Instead Waddington was primarily a man with a guiding idea that he pursued with the stubbornness of a badger. As he saw it, Darwin's dismantling of teleology was premature, much too convenient; by liquidating all telos he had thrown the baby out with the bathwater. To achieve some sort of compromise he pleaded for the target-seeking, teleonomic processes that he thought that he saw at many biological levels (e.g. in embryonic development and in evolution), and he attempted to connect them with existing dynamics theory in different ways. Anthony Wilden gives an excellent summary of what it's all about in "System and Structure":
When the present system-state is determined by its past states, we have the one-to-one linearity of efficient causality. When the present system-state is determined by its future state, we have the determinism of traditional philosophical teleology. The teleonomy of goalseeking is distinct from both of these determinisms, just as it is distinct from the fantasy of the opposition between determinism and so-called "free will".
The geneticist Waddington experienced processes of the epigenetic landscape as being canalized, with a Greek word naming these channels chreods, and it was here that his and Thom's interests coincided; from his dynamic topology the latter offered the concept attractor to characterise an energetic minimum, that was capable of capturing and directing the movements of objects involved in a dynamic process. Thom had no intention of allowing himself to be reduced into a mere mathematician, however, he had wider ambitions; by this time establishing himself as a philosopher of science, with dynamic catastrophe theory (the slightly unfortunate term not coined by himself, but by one of his prophets, Christopher Zeeman; the catastrophe is the dynamic "landslide") as his particular hobby-horse. Irrespective of his relation to Waddington, Thom himself had at an early stage reflected on Darwin and Lamarck, with French or Continental bias, as is evident from the following quotation from Rivista di Biologia 1983:
I am among those, who never ceased being surprised at Darwin's enormous gloire. Considering the fact that the evolution theory is, when it comes to it, the only theory embraced by biologists, and considering that its deductive contents proper is practically zero, this gives a correct notion of the fundamental incompatibility between biological thinking and biological theory. And things weren't always like that: already Aristotle drew up a program for a biology ( a "moriology", according to Pierre Pellegrin) of essentially comparative nature; and later on, between 1780 and 1840, there was with the German Naturphilosophie and the French anatomic school an enormous flourishing of ideas (I would like to call these thinkers "the presocratics of biology"). Among all misdeeds burdening the conscience of Darwinism is the fact that it radically broke off this speculative heyday in favour of expositions of adaptation that are as good as tautologous (and often highly suspect as well).
There is a remarkable parallelism here, and I think it escapes no one: In analogy to the teleonomic biological process, aligning its object with the 'sight' of an attractor, there is reason to believe that a social target, communicated between people craving for it - e.g. the overdue revolution of any kind of petrified paradigm - can be kept, and is kept on course by means of similar dynamisms. When a collective is seeking a novum, a loose discourse initially establishes a coarse attractor, keeping the thinking aimed at its proper target: so sind wir Wandernde und Kompass zugleich. One of the most beautiful examples I know of is John Ericsson's atheoretical, practicist 'invention' of the screw propeller, with the deplorably ineffective "goose foot propeller" as a thought-provoking intermediary. Jørn Utzon's architectural labour pains in Sydney belong in the same category, aiming at some not-yet, but of course Parthenon loomed, and a few other "beforehands". (Conclusion: these innovators were never on their own, they were nodes in a vast, vibrating network of Invention). It is important that we reflect on these processes, theoretically as well as practically.

Next step: chosen kinship as a metaphysical litmus test

At a less intuitive, more rational level we might for example tell ourselves: these dynamical processes have some sort of reality, demonstrable by their effects in particularly accentuated situations, transitions, collapses, turn-arounds. I would like to call a thinking dealing with the effects of a dynamics of this kind, concentrating on its effects in systems: ecosystems or human societies (both information-processing, least of all aggregates of dead blocks), materialist, from its ambition to found its explanations in the processes of the physical world (it's never a question of merely its elements per se). This again suggests that we link up with Thom's presocratic thinkers - pointed out as the only materialists of importance in the history of philosophy by Ernst Bloch as well - far back there is a phase when matter wasn't embarrassment. My affinity most definitely acts as a litmus test for such thinking, again I'm not quite sure how it came about - but I provisionally suggest my Marx & Engels reading in early years, the description of how they "put Hegel on his feet". At the same time I have absorbed more sophisticated materialism, by way of the discourse with metaphysical overtones imbibed from natural science pioneers of the late 19th and the 20th centuries. I will offer one example here of the naturalist's more or less materialist discourse, an example illustrating its expansive tendencies, its inclination to make the discourse valid for society at large (economy, language, attitudes) and the nature that "biology" has claimed for itself up till now. My point of departure is a worker in the vineyard who has shunned the limelight and the block-letter headers: the present Oxford professor Robert McCredie May. He was born in Australia, at the age of 33 he became professor of theoretical physics at Sydney University, before he took over as professor of biology at Princeton university in 1973, here we have an example of the development advocated by Waddington: from physics to biology. Till recently he acted as an advisor to the Blair government, raised to the nobility, and a wash proof biologist (with the hallmark of Royal Society) - maybe he has learnt to produce the reverences to Darwin necessary in the UK.
In 1976 May published the article "Simple mathematical models with very complicated dynamics" in the journal Nature , here he matter-of-factly analysed the dynamics of the seemingly innocent difference equation X t+1 = a X t (1-X t ), a hump on the interval 0 to 1, illustrating what science calls a "density-dependent" relation, growing when density is low, decreasing when density is high. By intersecting with the line X t+1 = X t (equilibrium) and studying the slope of the tangent at the point of intersection it is possible to draw conclusions about the stability of points of equilibrium, and the whole thing gets even more interesting when X t+2 = F(X t ) is studied: for certain parameter values there is not only one, but 2, 4, 8, 16 etc. initially stable equilibrium points, "a bifurcating hierarchy of stable cycles". This result conforms to the "chaos theory" making its appearance at much the same time, but the most interesting thing is not biological consequences (biological applications quickly came to a standstill, since most biologists are good for little more than raking in tadpoles from ditches), but other possible applications, anticipated by May:
Examples in economics include models for the relationship between commodity quantity and price, for the theory of business cycles, and for the temporal sequences generated by various other economic quantities. The general equation also is germane to the social sciences, where it arises, for example, in theories of learning (where X may be the number of bits of information that can be remembered after an interval t), or in the propagation of rumours in variously structured societies (where X is the number of people to have heard the rumour after time t). (…)Not only in research, but also in the everyday world of politics and economics, we would all be better off if more people realised that simple nonlinear systems do not necessarily possess simple dynamical properties.
Up till now everything has been overture. What might happen if one attempted in any way to cultivate such theoretical interests in the Swedish "everyday world"? The following section may seem trivial, a plain tale of a shipwreck, but the original project and its defeat in turn represents some sort of a wider analogy with the topic it attempted to promote and propagate, so there could be some possible insight from a short account.

In the sign of affinity: a quixotic translation.

In the late seventies I worked within a small group, that published the periodical "Nature and Society" from Lund. Environmental and technological issues, tackled from a leftist point of view, ideology-critical, were on the agenda. We were a group not without talent; today several members are taking the king's shilling as professors in their particular domains. I remember translating Enzensberger's "Zur Kritik der politischen Ökologie" for the group, I was the group's German contact surface, loving knotty Marxist expositions, dry as dust. Another member of the group was Andrew Jamison, historian of science, today professor in Aalborg, he used to bring his own hobby-horses to the meetings, in that way we were confronted with material from an Anglo-Saxon tradition, that was lighter and heartier than the German one, among other things Andy was rooted in the American "alternative" movement. He tucked Ernest Callenbach's "Ecotopia" under my nose, and my copy of William Morris's "News from Nowhere" was originally his. This was typical of the time, that Marxists, free Socialists, "alternative thinkers" flirted a little with utopia, and the thinking surrounding it.
Andrew Jamison was also involved with the Nordic Summer University, and trying every means of persuasion he pulled us into a recently started evening class on the topic "Social utopias". I was expected to contribute in some way, so I translated the introduction of a large work on utopian thinking by the German philosopher Ernst Bloch: Das Prinzip Hoffnung. Bloch's philosophical style really set me running on all cylinders! The translation wasn't up to much, the group members raised their eyebrows when reading and Andy made faces, I think everyone agreed that this was highly irrelevant for the evening class on "Social utopias" of "Nature and Society"! We went off to a summer session in Lövånger in Västerbotten, I remember that Andy and I were sitting in the grass alternately reading from "News from Nowhere", the chapter where the traveller wants to buy some tobacco, enters a shop and much to his astonishment finds out that money has been abolished. It was all very charming and close-to-earth, and enough to mobilise the utopian affinity of all participants. I met with talent in the evening class as well; one member was the eloquent Horace Engdahl, to the members of "Nature and Society" appearing almost as an alien from some distant planet.
We all carry the torch: Horace Engdahl entered one sort of social establishment, Andy Jamison another, both touching upon the territory of social utopia during a stage of their lives, and they most likely still have access to concepts and fragments that make them capable of thinking over and discussing utopia in a non-trivial way to this day. That way projects like the Nordic Summer University yield a certain return that is not visible in personal records. Still the evening class was in a way a failure; there was no communication between a camp advancing in its study of Bloch and a camp reading everything except Bloch with a clear profit. When the whole thing was over this first group laboured on with the translation of "Das Prinzip Hoffnung". Publishers Daidalos organised the project, but when it came to it, they got cold feet: printing was expensive, it was a matter of getting financial support from funds. And that turned out to be impossible: the funders in question preferred to ration out their subsidies so that they were coined into quantity; rather ten philosophical brochures than one single "Principle of Hope". By the same time the Soviet Empire collapsed, the old leftist self-evidence disappeared in particular among students, book cafés became rare and finally disappeared altogether, and Daidalos concentrated on surviving by way of mail-order distribution and flogging books at the autumn book-fair of Gothenburg
It was an entirely new situation relative to how it was when we started. The project was stone dead.
Here my history begins. Daidalos wanted the texts from its translators on diskettes, to that end they had equipped them with small Mac Plus computers. The little pot transformed me into a computer freak in no time: I programmed in Basic with my sons, ran graphics on chaos functions (it took half a day to print one with a matrix printer), learnt to handle pictures, vector graphics, HTML text and trivial computer games. It wasn't long before the sons demanded more memory and faster computers, but I stayed with the little Plus for a long time. By then you could connect to a phenomenon called the Internet by way of your telephone line. I viewed early applications: endless literature lists, but also an emerging publication of papers, essays, even whole books. All people around me had nothing but contempt for the Internet: pornography, 99.99 % crap… But I only remembered how I hated the paperwork necessary to produce "Natur och Samhälle", the slow, long-winded production process, and I saw the alternative.
I crouched down, picked up the stone-dead project from the floor and began translating anew. And now I read Bloch, I read the chapters on religion, struggled with the music philosophy. Got fed up more than once, the man is beyond improvement in places. Translating was even more difficult than before. As time passed on I understood more, fitting Bloch's philosophy into its context helped. Finally I knocked up a defiant preface declaring that I had usurped the work (a nice quixotic gesture, but fully adequate) - and within a year I published "The Principle of Hope" in Swedish on the web. Later "The Spirit of Utopia", Bloch's expressionist overture and introduction to "The Principle of Hope", followed, in addition both translations are linked to a common subject directory. The curtain could fall here; no doubt it's a defeat to have to publish Ernst Bloch amidst the pornography and the empty chats of the web. (I came across a porno shop in Dublin calling itself "Utopia II", maybe I'm rash in my judgement here; there is a surface of contact). It was caused by the opposition from an influential camp of philosophers that controls strategic economic resources, a camp that knew from the very start that it lacked affinity with Bloch. From this point of departure there is no reasoning, the backs are turned, what you don't want is blocked. At an early stage I saw the analogy between the behaviour of philosophers and the shielding of Darwinism by biologists; in both cases the theoretical petrification justifies an enormous production of stupidities, a fact speaking in favour of a "concerted" attack on prevalent biology + ontology.

The "not-yet-ontologist" Bloch

After such a prehistory there is only one road to walk: distancing oneself a little from the originally admired object, continuing to argue for its usefulness, critically and in solidarity. I will conclude by making my plea for Ernst Bloch as a "would be"-overthrower of paradigms, not because he always distinguished himself in that field, but because he has thought over how it can and should be done. Of course it would be wrong to go beyond that, trying to allot him paradigm status of his own: may Bloch remain in the cold, actively ignored, even if it would be possible to heighten his philosophical status also outside of Germany!
The earlier mentioned Sturm und Drang work "Geist der Utopie" is written 1915/16, published in 1918; many of the basic concepts and thoughts of "Das Prinzip Hoffnung" can be met with here, in one form or other. The book about the religious leader of the Peasant Wars, Thomas Münzer, also appeared early, in 1921. By then Bloch had already defended a doctor's thesis on the neo-Kantian Rickert and modern theory of knowledge (1908). Rickert pleaded for a separation between the methods of natural and human sciences, regarding only the method of natural sciences as exact and worthy of imitation. A restriction of this kind of course cast its shadow on philosophy as well: e.g. it mustn't occupy itself with "world view" questions. Marxist projects in one area or other shouldn't take the trouble - and we mustn't forget that Engels had opened his mouth as a Marxist to devour even natural science with the attempt "Dialectics of Nature". Bloch is critical of Rickert's restriction, and at that it becomes obvious that he is leaning not only on classical metaphysicians like Aristotle, Schelling, Leibniz and Hegel; he is well read in what was German philosophy "of the season" in the early 20th century: Dilthey, Meinong, Scheler, Hartmann, Simmel and not least Husserl, who had introduced the phenomenological method with the second book of "Logische Untersuchungen" in 1901. Bloch is holding out the prospect of a phenomenology of utopian thought to himself very early, by this time, with the intention of creating as it were an opposite pole to the positivist tendencies in the surrounding time. A central concept of his, the dusk (dimness) of the lived moment ("the just lived second" in the dissertation), is a phenomenological figure, as are the fore-light (pre-gleam, fore-gleam) and the self-encounter, both states where insights break through the confusion and chaos of appearance, giving us a hunch, a foretaste of the potential of some matter, or of our future selves.
Bloch has an even more central concept, however, and that concept turned up very early, too, about 1907. I'm referring to the formulation of the concept of the not-yet-conscious , the concept that Bloch late in life called his "first and only original thought". The not-yet is a differential, or a difference, much the same as in May's difference equation; a historical, cultural, sociological, political, scientific dX, with ancestry back to the "discoverer" of the differential, Leibniz (and even further back, to the scholastics, who attempted to approximate God with differentials). So, the not-yet is not particularly phenomenological, but rather a mathematical-dynamic concept that is justified primarily by the allowed analogy (reference e.g.: Bertalanffy) between different types of systems. The famous slogan: "Thinking implies going beyond" should be seen against the background of the "not-yet".
From my own point of departure I experience this differential - even when introduced as a purely philosophical concept, without mathematical formulas and equations - as extremely "correct", and on the next step I am as convinced that Bloch's "not-yet-being" combined with the whole of the natural science discussion surrounding teleonomic processes (the larger part of it taking place "post-Bloch") should have revolutionary effects on ontology (the only subdivision to metaphysics that Heidegger was prepared to award scientific status…). It's quite obvious to me that Bloch should have a branch of his own in the ontological tree on the Brentano-Husserl-side - but among philosophic schools this branch is missing, ignored. On the website Ontology. A Resource guide for philosophers Bloch is not included, on the website Encyclopedia of Philosophy , originally created and published by Stanford's "Metaphysics Research Lab", there's not a line about Bloch. (Once upon a time, when I pointed it out, one of the Stanford editors admitted that this was a wee bit of a disgrace, that is ten years ago, and things haven't changed for the better in 2007).
Central parts of Bloch's concepts and ideas thus came about during the extraordinarily intense and receptive period of early years (1905-1920), and references to e.g. physics and astronomy from these years are defective, one has to live with that. What comes next is a very comprehensive explication, and explication of course means a consecutive revision of scientific (and historical) facts, but the problems with references remain in the utopian phenomenology "Das Prinzip Hoffnung", first published in the German Democratic Republic from 1954 onwards and in a revised edition on Suhrkamp from 1959. About his philosophy Bloch has said: "I will explain myself till I'm understood", closing his eyes to the fact that explication from a defective point of departure to some extent compromises the whole philosophy. Explication continues from where Bloch called it a day, there is, in particular in Germany, an extensive secondary literature, but the "seal" on his thinking still is conspicuous by its absence - a proper application of the central guiding thought, from a critical and surpassing (überschreitend) point of departure. I myself am sick and tired of all Indian novels based on the life of Bloch, my own contributions to the genre as well, and I want to see central applications. That takes a reader, who chooses Bloch with a feeling of kinship, not departing from more or less elegant introductions, but from the oeuvre itself. As long as that doesn't happen, Bloch will roam like a shadow, a "not-yet-ontologist", not very different from the Ulysses bewailing his situation to Dante in the glum "Forecourt of Heathens" at Paradise. And Bloch, being the most Christian of atheists! (Monsignore Ratzinger knew). It's a task for us, his kin of own choice, to liberate him from this unworthy state.

Christer Persson is an author, born in 1943. "Hoppets princip" and "Utopins anda" can be reached on the website Hoppets Princip , part of the translation was revised in 2007, "Utopins anda" proof-read twice. Peter Zudeick's introduction "The hind-part of the Devil. Ernst Bloch's life and work", was published by publishers Daidalos in 1989. With knowledge of German one could read e.g. H. H. Holz "Logos Spermatikos" and Burghart Schmidt (ed.) "Materialien zu Ernst Blochs 'Prinzip Hoffnung'". "Towards a Theoretical Biology" is only to be found in the deep cellar-vaults of libraries (sometimes it has been weeded out even from here), May's article is printed in Nature 261 (June 1976). As a critic of indiscriminate applications of Darwinism I create a distinctive image of myself with the Dunlin Website (see e.g. the introduction of the paper: Risk-prone or risk-averse? Dunlin Calidris alpina migrating with and without moult-gaps in the Baltic area); the webpage is much read, ecologists consenting by not commenting. The author experiments with dynamisms and attractors in a pronounced utopian-marginal project: the novel "Black Hole" ( To Svarta Hål ).
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