One must hate literature in order to be a philosopher

To the Philosopher

I have brought out two books this year. One of them as I was moved thereto by God Himself, the other because of the slander of men.

Some of those who wear the white or dark mantle [Pagans and Christians] have maintained that I am faithless to philosophy, apparently because I profess grace and harmony of style, and because I venture to say something concerning Homer and concerning the figures of the rhetoricians. In the eyes of such persons one must hate literature in order to be a philosopher, and must occupy himself with divine matters only. No doubt these men alone have become spectators of the knowable. …

A letter from student to teacher; Synesius of Cyrene (370-413) to neoplatonist Hypatia of Alexandria (355-415)

Through these years of the Christians’ brutal attempts to dismantle philosophy, and the violent abuse and murder of philosophers such as Hypatia, Synesius wrote.

He wrote homilies. He wrote letters. He wrote speeches. He wrote essays.

There is no excuse not to write, and every reason to do so.

Epistemological concussion and masochism

We, people, observe particular knowledges even when our experiences falsify that knowledge. What we say is different to what we do, and different again, to what we believe.

Interesting writing seeks out our sites of epistemological concussion because, therein, is usually something worth saying in words.

Our epistemological concussion at the sites of pain and pleasure are a distinctly deep knowledge/experience trauma. So much of what we claim to know about pain fails to correlate to our first-person experience. For this reason, sadism and masochism are interesting settings of epistemological concussion worthy of words.

The word, ‘masochism’ has been likened to a wound (see, for example, Eugenie Brinkema drawing from Lacan and Nancy (but regrettably not Derrida)). In this metaphor, the wound of/from masochism is a result of a lack of definition. For masochism (pleasure in pain) to be what it is, pain cannot mean what it means and pleasure cannot mean what it means.

While a literary treatment of masochism is blessedly refreshing compared to the usual psychological and medical stodge, such an approach tends towards a performative narcissism at the expense of the topic at hand. The first responder to any knowing/living epistemological concussion is best chosen from ordinary language. That is what it means to write hard and clear.

Masochism as a wound—a gaping split, a leaking suture, a sore slash, a wet gash, a weeping wound—with these words we begin to find our living pain knowledge.