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The Roots Of Philosophy

September 9, 2011

Tags: order, Adorno – Theodor W. (1903-1969), air conditioner, animal, animal rights defender, Arizona, biography, botany, California, Chinese history, collapse, common good, Critical Theory, deep gaze, Earth, famine, genius, Germany, hatred, heat, herbs, history, Holocaust, humans, manager, medicine, music, Nature, Nevada, New Mexico, novels, non-fiction, official, orphans, philosophy, plants, pollution, power outage, power station, public - general, responsibility, San Diego, summer reading extravaganza, system, The Root Of Philosophy, war, warning sign, World Wars

After the summer reading extravaganza of novels, I am back at my usual non-fiction fare – medicine, Chinese history, general history, philosophy, herbs and botany, music – whatever catches my interest.

Last night, in a biography about the German philosopher Theodor Adorno I came across a sentence of his that took my breath away. Took my breath away because the “Critical Theory” is more known for its political stance than for soft-hearted fuzziness. Took my breath away also because it expressed a sentiment that I thought belonged more to my private musings than in a philosophy context.

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.” (p. 255, Detlev Claussen, Theodor W. Adorno – One Last Genius).

The book is uneven: It suffers from the contradiction that Adorno (and Claussen) think that biography is impossible after two World Wars and the Holocaust – and then Claussen wrote a biography after all. Topped by calling it “One Last Genius.” Adorno must be a-squirming in his grave; he definitely did not believe in the concept of “genius.”

“Philosophy actually exists in order to redeem what is to be found in the gaze of an animal.”

This says we are not different, not apart from Nature – and that one day we will be asked what our responsibility was in the destruction of the Earth with all her plants, animals and humans. - Last night my nephew called from San Diego to tell about the huge power outage of southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. It had been sweltering hot there for days, and the “system” collapsed.

As a citizen, I ask myself if there were not warning signs and if this collapse could have been prevented by astute officials running the Californian power grid - and I would fire the higher ranks at the power stations. As a person I think that not everybody who had the air conditioner running on “high” really needed it for medical reasons. Neither the power station managers nor the general public had the common good in mind, it seems.

Animals have already what we have lost: The deep gaze on what is important, and what is not. I am not a died-in-the-wool animal rights defender because I still maintain that people are more important. But one can push that argument only so far before we land at the fact that we, too, are animals, and not so highly developed ones in many cases. We produce wars, famines, orphans, pollution, hatred – to name a few human accomplishments.

We need to be taught by philosophy what matters; animals know it. And in their eyes you can read it – if you want to see it.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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