Philosopher King or Junzi (“君子”):

Platonic or Confucian; who’s leader leads?   



The following Article represents a prolonged reading and re-thinking of the merits of the political leaders of antiquity. Asking the question: whose leader leads? I am comparing the Confucian concept of leader the Junzi translated into English as ‘exemplary individual’ who following Confucius has a reverence for tradition and who will be shown to have an important origin; being compared with Plato’s leader of the ideal city the Philosopher King in its Republic. The comparison I make centres around these two figures and whether or not they possess the necessary qualities for ruling. I will argue that there is a quality that makes the Confucian leader the Junzi superior to the Philosopher King. I will show and explain how the Chinese concept of familial piety (xiào孝) is a more important and realistic ideal that provides a good grounding in actual leadership. Rather than the emphasis placed on the development of one’s individual rational mind found in the training of the Philosopher King.


Key words: Leadership, Politics, Confucianism, Platonism, Junzi, Philosopher King.

I wish to ask a political question: if humanity had a choice between a traditionally eastern or western idea of a ruler which one should they choose? This question is not intended to be antagonistic but rather serves as the basis for my argument; that the Chinese philosopher Confucius’s “Junzi” would make a much better leader than Plato’s “Philosopher King”. I will endeavour to show that through reading Plato and Confucius’s texts and the accounts of the two leaders and then comparing them through the contemporary literature on this subject will show the superiority of the Asian leader over the Western counterpart. It is also important that this writing engages with a dilemma of comparative philosophy, that when arguing in favour of an idea or culture that is not your own how do you ensure that your perspective is accurate? Do you approach a comparison and maintain an obvious distinction between the thinking of Confucius and Plato or do the differences between them add greater quality to this analysis? A question that poses a methodological demand on existing research on this topic within the global academia.

Acknowledging this leads me to adopt the following method to show the premises that lead to the ancient Asian concept of a leader being superior and at the same time showing how comparative philosophy needs to maintain a self-critical stance. Starting with a detailed description of the two leaders will provide the reader access to the subject under discussion. Then after providing an accurate account of these ancient governors their beliefs and values will be assessed because this will make the reasoning explicitly clear as to why the Junzi should be seen in a more positive light. A conclusion that I believe will come to be more and more important as China exerts a greater amount of influence on our contemporary world. So, let us begin with this paper’s formal argument and then the portrayal of these ancient leaders by those philosophers who both recorded and created them. The argument against Plato’s philosopher King is as follows.

  1. Confucius has Familial piety and Plato does not have Familial piety.
  2. To lead a country one needs the capacity to see one’s family among other families.
  3. The concept of familial piety expands a person’s capacity to expand the family with inclusivity.

  1. Therefore, Confucius’s emphasis on Familial piety gives the necessary capacity one needs to lead a country.



  1. Who where this King and the Exemplary Individual?  


In Plato’s Republic, a complex discussion on how a state should be organised inevitably leads to a dialogue on how it should be governed and by who. Socrates is the voice whose ancient statement describes the philosopher king, “philosophers [must] become kings…or those now called kings [must]…genuinely and adequately philosophize”(Plato, The Republic, Book IX,5.473d). The argument against Plato’s leader begins with Socrates’s proclamation and how it immediately tasks philosophy itself with a kind of royalty and this is misleading. Socrates’s full speech tells us that the ideal state is unattainable unless it is categorically dominated by a philosopher; this ought mixes and confuses the genuine love of wisdom with an ideal amount and a definite standard. One initial objection to the accusation that Plato’s powerful dialogue imbues philosophy with a false sense of authority and a self confident rationality would be to defend philosophy as being unalterably political. Philosophy’s pursuit of truth is also a political act.

The defenders of Plato could well say that Socrates’s initial statement enacts this by way of the political conflict that is at at the heart and is the essence of leadership. Yet, this categorical “must” remains contradictory because of its multiple directions; either the philosopher becomes a king or the king transforms into a philosopher? Ambiguities are numinous, how are we to derive confidence that the philosopher king’s training in dialectics make him fit to rule? Is it not truer to suggest that all philosophers are kingly, or king like, but not kings? This then results in the dilemma of not being able to distinguish what exactly Socrates was envisioning when he uses descriptive language such as “genuine” and the “adequacy” of a philosophical process of thinking to mark and determine the ruler of the ideal city. This really only paints this Greek ruler with an overly illusory sense of governing; resulting in a criteria and standard driven governor: the philosopher king. Now, let us analyse how the Greek and Chinese leaders differ in how they are described and what beliefs drive them.


  • Confucius’s Junzi

In modern scholarship Roger Ames’s has successfully re-defined the Junzi as an  ‘exemplary individual’ rather than the older and common translation of ‘gentleman’. Ames’s achievement in re-translation is a good starting point from which to show the qualities the Junzi represents. Discussing very early Chinese ethics Ame’s directs us towards yet more evidence that being Confucian entails a set of beliefs that are unique. A good example is a specifically Chinese notion of themselves the daotong (道统) . We learn from Ame’s study that Confucius was more forthcoming in his debts to earlier ancient dynasties and does so in a spirit of transmission; we also discover the main quality that underlies the Junzi and indeed the Confucianism that nurtures this exemplary individual. In Chinese this is called Xiao (family feeling).

Next to the Importance of this feeling this argument builds upon what Ames also cited; writer David Keightley has usefully simplified, “contrasts a Chinese cosmology of ceaseless process with a classical Greek worldview in which a metaphysical transcendentalism guarantees an idealized reality”(Ames, 2011). Criticisms of Plato will always centre around this notion that our existence is anchored and determined by the existence of and our subsequent participation and engagement with the non-physical realm of the forms. Keightley’s description of a Chinese cosmology enhances the contrast between the beliefs Plato and Confucius would have had in a useful way. Looking at the cosmology of ancient China and Plato’s account the important difference becomes self evident. In Plato’s creationist dialogue Timaeus of Locri splits reality in two. Discussing the causal origins as a craftsman god: the demiurge and its relation to beauty as a kind of perfection.

“what is it that always is, but never comes to be, and what is it that comes to be but never is? The former, since it is always consistent, can be grasped by the intellect with the support of a reasoned account, while the latter is the object of belief, supported by unreasoning sensation, since it is generated and passes away, but never really is. Now, anything created is necessarily created by some cause, because nothing can possibly come to be without there being something that is responsible for its coming to be. Also, whenever a craftsman takes something consistent as his model, and reproduces its forms and properties, the result is bound in every case to be a thing of beauty, but if he takes as his model something that has been created, the product has bound to be imperfect.”(Plato, Timeaus, 28a) 

Here we can draw an important distinction a demarcation between Confucianism and Platonism. The latter of them is based upon a split that gives privilege to certain processes over others and the former observes a continuous process of processes; a flux the Chinese called qi or “Chi” an energy universally omnipresent, but shares a symmetry with the necessary causality of Timeaus. Yet, here the powerful connection Confucius drew to the family as a basis for a balanced state surfaces and makes the idea of perfection over imperfection less attainable. One appreciates the sentiment that Plato’s god (the demiurge) desired a cosmos to be as good as possible and so exists as a craftsman creating in a skillful way. But for an individual who has to rule a country and a given populace he is forced to work with and produce from something that has already been created.

The last part of the Timeaus quotation is in favour of the Junzi being prone to imperfection because this exemplary individual can not choose to craft perfection with geometric and mathematical certainty when faced with the earthly demands of changing social phenomena. Instead Confucius and the Junzi were in their own time forced to deal with imperfection, a period of Chinese history called The Warring States (戰國時代, Zhànguó Shídài). This is not to say that Plato and Socrates did not face conflict and imperfection but I believe that the reverence Confucius had for the rituals and traditions of an early peaceful period governed by men such as the Duke of Zhou who acted as a regent imbued his thinking with a practicality. A practice that would better enforce the possibility of attaining a balanced state within a chaotic reality rather than dismissing this chaos as irrational and being in favour of a belief perpetually in need of remeasuring?

This question begins to clarify how Plato’s idealism in his dialogues suffers from its own grandiosity and how Confucius’s idealization of the Zhou dynasty and its rulers is less destructive and distorting; a quality that has better chance of being preserved in a Junzi. An initial description of the Junzi is at the beginning of the Analects; in the words of Master You we begin to see how realism occupies a greater percentage of importance for the Junzi. Here we can start to develop an appreciation for this Asian realism and how it’s concepts are better suited for ruling. How the family acts as a natural regulator for the selfish nature of human intelligence and the larger governing structures that exist to facilitate peace and an abidance to the common laws of both the ancient and contemporary worlds.

“Master You said: “It is a rare thing for someone who has a sense of filial and fraternal responsibility (xiao 孝) to have a taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority. And it is unheard of for those who have no taste for defying authority to be keen on initiating rebellion. Exemplary persons (Junzi 君子) concentrate their efforts on the root, for the root having taken hold, the way (dao道) will grow therefrom. As for filial and fraternal responsibility, it is, I suspect, the root of authoritative conduct (Ren仁).”(Confucius, The Analects, Book I)

  • Plato’s Philosopher King

Socrates’s most detailed description of this lover of wisdom who would be king is found in book IV of the Republic. Plato begins by putting a trinity in place by insisting that even in an ideal state this city will also suffer from the very beginning with its citizenry being filtered into classes. The class with the philosopher king is also subdivided into subcategories: beneath the king is a general ruler and then the auxiliaries. Next to this split Plato has no qualms about the movement of children between classes and here myth is unfortunately used to support this selectivity. This is found in the language of book IV where the opening dialogue is littered with superlative descriptive language “the best”; the guardian (the philosopher king) has to be the best.

This then leads straight to the important Platonic concept of the Good and the belief that these guardians will unconditionally follow and enact the “best” and the Good as an omnipotent principle because they would only love the city and therefore care the most. All this is supposed to be a solution to other forms of collective government that Plato deems deficient; such as democracy as a system is too prone to corruption and therefore in need of one ruler. This solution has since its inception unintentionally invited criticism that is fixed around authoritarianism and a state of control. Reading how the Good is inherent to the Philosopher King I find it difficult to not be skeptical; especially when the dialogue mentions the voluntary and involuntary loss of belief. If beliefs are both voluntary and involuntary then this king guardian that is a philosopher is in danger of becoming a truth fanatic.

“But why? Surely you agree that men are always unwilling to loose a good, but willing enough to be rid of a bad one. And isn’t a bad thing to be deceived by the truth, and a good thing to possess the truth? For I assume that by possessing the truth you mean believing that things as they really are.”(Plato, The Republic, Book III, 413 a)

Although fanatic is too strong a word to use for the enthusiasm Plato has for placing authority and access to the truth in the hands of the one over the many. Our philosopher king does suffer from this Platonic schemata. Contemporary thinker Kenneth Dorter’s book The Transformation of Plato’s Republic (2006) features an important commentary on these dilemmas; the authoritarian control Plato exerts is translated into a compulsion to rule. Interestingly this is seen as originating in a fear of being ruled by inferiors. Even though Adeimantus and Glaucon object to this however Socrates insists that, “But once it is pointed out to them they will not refuse because ‘we shall be imposing just behavior onto just people”(Dorter, 2006). Here then is a barrier that other sections of The Republic fail to resolve and only furthers this leader’s problematic character.

It should not be a surprise that the Philosopher king suffers from within its own identity constantly striving in one direction only; to that which is the best. Having the natural qualities to rule in line with the Good. Reading about the philosopher as it has been described in Plato’s simile of the cave it could well read as an apology made on behalf of the human condition. Broken by our access and insight into truth that we are compelled to rule and this is firmly positioned in the domain of philosophy, “And we say that the particulars are objects of sight but not of intelligence, while the forms are the objects of intelligence but not of sight”, and “The sun is not identical with sight, nor with what we call the eye in which sight resides”(Plato, The Republic, Book VII, 514a-521a). The use of the sun to enforce the blinding potentiality of sensory perception may still underline the struggle we all face. But, if truth is indeed so blinding then why gaze at it in the first place? When applied to a ruler it is hard to fathom how many would rise to the challenge of returning to the site of imprisonment in Plato’s cave to free our fellows from illusion?

In the Analects there is not a direct discussion of imprisonment just discourse and it makes it difficult to not accept Dorter’s earlier criticism of fear as an equally strong motivator for human behaviour. Moreover is there anything that suggests that the philosopher would not be prone to irrational fear? Would not be susceptible to evil; and rather than free and aid his citizens not decide to keep them chained and imprisoned for their own good? These questions are the less common aporias Plato’s texts cultivate.

  1. What values do these two leaders govern by?


  • Li, Filial piety, and Ren

There are many Confucian values that the Junzi would possess but there are three that are particularly important. Beginning with Li (禮) meaning ‘rite’ or ‘ritual propriety’ with this respect for one’s family and especially elders and ancestors xiào (孝) . Then from these qualities a Confucian is also equipped with Ren (仁) an essence of being human. We can marginally suggest that Ren differs from the Western notion of essence by remembering the Chinese notion of Chi (universal energy) that is omnipresent in all things and is constantly energizing, moving, and never stationary. The Western essence differs in the work’s of Plato and his student Aristotle because Plato sees the essence as the form of a thing his student puts the form in the essence as a unified substance. One believes that the Junzi would if approached to define Ren choose to locate essence between this world and another.

When compared to Plato’s and Socrates’s good which I will soon show is conditionally defined by a dependency on dialectical thinking wedded to a higher  rationality; Confucius’s Ren is more fluid only dependent on the context of the agent and their capacity to intuitively behave in line with what is “a” good and not “the” good; and so being an exemplary individual a Junzi. This is made obvious if we read the collection of this Chinese philosopher’s words, “A person of Ren, wishing to establish his own character, also establishes the character of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, also helps others to be prominent. To be able to judge others by what is near to ourselves may be called the method of realizing ren.”(Confucius, The Analects, Book VI) This demonstrates directly the social implications of this Chinese essence that it is social and therefore both subjected and objected to change. This is why it is an accurate comparison of Ren to essence as being more plural rather than singular.

 This comment is divisive and the Junzi differs from the philosopher king in other ways. Confucius himself was not as Aristocratic as Plato and throughout his life did experience some setbacks in his attempts to bring about social change, yet remained positive towards the capacity of a ruler coming from any background; Plato was not so forgiving after his failures in implementing his political ideas and so as I will soon explain was forcefully against democracy; but, what about an ideology like capitalism? Referencing the well known study by German Max Weber, Thomas T. Lennerfors’s paper references Weber’s opinion that Confucianism can not be seen as an origin for Capitalism in the same way that Protestantism and Calvanism could be because the former lacks the transcendental and religious qualities of the later. The reason Lennerfors makes reference to Weber is because he wants to show how Western criticisms of Asian belief as uniformly supportive of capitalism are prematurely made. Take this quote, it shows that Plato is under equal scrutiny in current Asian discussions.

“Constant references were made to Plato’s warning that a democracy can indeed be a path to societal corruption. In opposition to liberal democratic values of alleged rugged individualism and one person-one-vote, the speakers …were inspired by Confucian ideas of harmony and meritocracy to promote the creation of an alternative society.”(Lennerfors, 2015)

Although a brilliant defense of Asian belief’s transformation under contemporary capitalism; overall this study moves the king and the gentleman closer together, and this is problematic for the argument of this paper. So, let us turn to the importance of ritual for Confucians. Specifically, Confucius would maintain and defend the notion that the people already have the ability to self-govern. In the Confucian literature it is ritual li that is the principle that organizes or orders; and how does it do this? It does so by enforcing rite behaviour through every member of a communities capacity to understand and to have already learned the inherited and well versed ways of behaving. Ritual Piety can be seen even in the process of naming when Confucius suggests, “when the name is not correct, then the words are not smooth; if the words are not smooth, then things will not be done”(Confucius, Legge, 1971). Far more than just a correct formal way of speaking li is directly connected to Ren, a uniquely pragmatic ethical structure that has this authentic and realistic character that comes into view in one answer Confucius gives to Lin Fang.

‘The master replied: “what an important question! In observing ritual propriety, it is better to be modest than extravagant; in mourning, it is better to express real grief than to worry over formal details.”(Confucius, The Analects, Book III) This reply brings us to ‘filial piety’ xiao (孝) a reverence and respect for the family. The idea that the Junzi is more realistic due to a more liberal appreciation of form is the distinguishing factor in the exemplary person and nowhere is this more evident and prominent than in filial piety. The family then is the one constant, humans even if they are orphaned or become hermit like never fully leave a family, and it is remarkable that rather than a religious reverence for Confucianism the Chinese venerate this way of thinking because of its longevity, and because of its aesthetic qualities. Confucianism was adopted because its a tradition of teaching and learning that is present in the family. Where every single human being takes its first steps, listens to sounds, sings songs, crys, laughs, dances, and encounters Ren.

This aesthetic quality of Confucianism does not negate the idea that individual expression is not important both the Greek and the Chinese adored music and in many ways the Junzi would have also had its own freedom toward idealization. Supporting  individuals being able to express themselves is found when Confucius invites his students to share their dreams. Dian or Ceng Xi literally dreams of happiness in returning home singing. Here music and an appreciation of string and air instruments unite the ancient world and the rulers that found themselves in power. But the power of the organic family supports a belief in a plurality of human relations that extends from within the very first and most simple of social structures: in the words of the Confucian scholar Ames we see the power of filial piety (孝), xiào.

“We might say that Confucianism is nothing more than a sustained attempt to ‘to family’ the lived human experience. For Confucianism, it is through discursive living in a communicating family and community that we are able to enchant the ordinary, to ritualize the routine, to invigorate the familiar, to inspire the customary habits of life, and ultimately, to commune spiritually, in the common and the everyday.”(Ames, 2011)

2.2 Justice, the Good, and Dialectic  

‘Justice’ (δικαιοσύνη, dikaiosúnē) is Plato’s concept of human mind and it is to do with the idea of the sovereignty of reason; that the soul is affected by bodily appetites. For Plato the number three is important he splits our individual and collective being into three parts: appetite, spirit, and reason. In the Republic these correspond to the class system of this city those with appetite are the workers artisans and craftspeople, spirited individuals have the courage to serve in the military, and those under the influence of reason are to be governors, gaurdians, and philosopher kings. According to Plato when the human soul is able to act with reason it attains a greater level of virtue. Thus presenting Justice dikaiosúnē as the human mind and the process it goes through towards that which is good. The capacity to be self determining under the power of rationality and its access to the goodness of truth.  

Leading to the ‘the idea of the good’ (ἡ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ἰδέα, i toú agathoú idéa) comes before Justice in the possible schematics of Plato’s thought. It is the most important because it gives rise to the contemporary use of the adjective Platonic. That is also called Plato’s ‘theory of forms’ the belief that things exist because behind the appearance or representation of them resides a truer mathematically precise formal basis for reality. Things as they appear to exist only exist in the extent that they participate in the formal version of themselves. Something can be said to be beautiful because it participates in beauty itself. We see Socrates discussing the Good in the Symposium describing its affinity and connection to love and eternity.

If one analyses the language of the quotations below this paper’s criticism of Plato should be becoming clearer. Although the idea of the Good is a powerful driving force throughout Western culture it suffers from a singular belief in truth being one. The Good being representative of this monolithic element of Platonism can not escape its placement and association with one’s own ownership and this is what stands in contrast to the Junzi who would not see truth so formally. In defence of Plato and his theory of the forms and the Good being the best of these forms; it should be noted that for Plato his theory works only to the extent that individuals and thinkers are able to participate in such forms. The Junzi, in my interpretation is closer to Pythagoras in that mathematical entities are identical to the objects they represent.

The philosopher king is different in being preconditioned to appreciate the truth of something in an unchanging structure related to thought and thought alone . Unfortunately, this is potentially corrupt-able, and dailectic fails rather than resolving opposing views through rational debate. If the king focused too much on what is Good how does the Philosopher King safeguard against such a negative possibility as his own thinking becoming overtly possessive and thus distorting his reasoning? Can we really fully trust that people do not fall in love with that which is bad as it is strongly argued in the Symposium below?         

‘ “But suppose”, she said, “someone changed the question, using the word

‘good’ instead of ‘beautiful’, and asked: ‘Now then, Socrates, the lover of good things has a desire – what is it that he desires?’

“That they become his own,” I said.

“I don’t think that each of us is attached to his own characteristics, unless you’re

Going to describe the good as ‘his own’ and as ‘what belongs to him’ and the bad as ‘what does not belong to him’. The point is that the only object of people’s

Love is the good – don’t you agree?”(Plato, The Symposium, 1999)

Discussing the ‘Dialectic’ (διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ) we can start by detailing how this is also split into three: geometrical, the mythical, and the pedagogical. The first is found in the form of a divided line, the mythical is expressed in the famous form of a similie of a cave, and the pedagogical being the time based plan for a potential philosopher to follow; this progresses from the necessity of military service and through dialectical training the philosopher is then ready to be of use to her or his state. Remember this is represented by a line from opinion to knowledge.

  1. Conclusion


  • The forfeit of the Platonic leader?

Unlike the Confucian exemplary individual a philosopher king has no such evidence to refute the claims that have been made against it and so is not a leader that carries a strong legitimacy. Instead, looking back into ancient history it remains a vague and lofty character both removed from its citizens and also if Plato’s texts are to be believed: this philosopher leader can be trusted to assess and hold such authority that they have the capacity to accurately determine what function a citizen may be best suited for. Thus removing citizens from their capacity to grow and choose for themselves? Supporters of this king might cite the vast experience this breed of philosopher may have already acquired that is before they completed twenty years of training in dialectics (rational and virtuous thought), but this just plays into a selectivity that is not organic but possessive and aggressive.

The Philosopher King and the Junzi have many similarities yet the differences are hard to ignore. Even though they both share an appreciation of the harmony that music represents the Greek leader is more war like and this is understandable if we look at the historical context of this King’s ancient time. Socrates and Plato lived in the heyday of Athens led by the general Pericles; and it is certain that Socrates and Plato would have gone through military service. This selectivity is precisely why the Philosopher King can not be trusted to be a just and balanced leader. I have shown how this is deeply rooted in ancient Greek Idealism found in the Republic where at childhood the “philosopher king” starts to be selected by some divisive criteria and the separated from their families; a structure that remains an abstract necessity. One that is far less supportive and indeed is not a cause of responsible leadership based upon an immediate and relative discussions found within those closest to us.

  • The Junzi a more real and relative leader?

One of the main arguments against the Junzi that is left to put to the reader is that this ‘familial piety’ that stands in favour of the Confucian leader is also shared with the philosopher king; because we understand that res Republica has supposedly more than one philosopher king then one can say that they would also possess this piety. This quality of being a member of a family however where is the evidence? If this were true then Plato’s great discourse would feature more than just a description of what qualifies a person to be a Platonic leader and the manner in which they govern. If this king of thought has a family Platonist’s will argue that this lack of family in the ideal republic is down to two things: 1) The philosopher king seeks the truth of the family; the form of the family that would be called humanity.

In this case and at this time I do not see how one can take this as sufficient enough reason to make the claim that the platonic king possesses ‘familial piety’. 2) Secondly, returning to the beliefs of these beings their similarities are not so similar. Both believe in a transcendental power bestowed on the ruler. But, the difference is found if you look at Plato’s theology he believes in a creator god. Confucius portrays his leader as developing an awareness of both the bad and the good including how easy it is to fall into corruption. The Junzi exemplifies this because it is not just a leader. In the Chinese state of Confucius’s time the Junzi attained its position in society due to the leader’s capacity to achieve not only harmony but to deal with a chaotic and corrupt boss. Confucius urged his people towards an awareness of their own behaviour and in what way the state is existing. If the leader is not leading the population to a greater state of well-being then the Confucian would encourage his countryman to actively revolt through civil disobedience instead of violent outbursts.

Such a capacity to naturally deal with oscillations between the positive and the negative, and the one constant (change) is honed and harnessed in the organic social forces of the family. A form that is diverse as the many possible ways of living humans enact. Throughout the Analects we have seen many examples of Confucian ideals merge together as they emerged from the hardships these political thinkers experienced in a violent period of the country’s history. Current Confucianism suffers when viewed from the Western perspective of being nationalistic, but the opposite is closer to the truth. The Confusian Junzi is a better ruler because its version of dialectic is more familiar to resolving conflict between people. I hope this paper makes this clearer to the reader for implicit within my conclusion is a challenge to Plato’s beautiful legacy: is it possible that Confucius’s Junzi be better equipped to govern because it was born and remained in that imperfect earthly form of the family?

‘when he is accompanied by other persons, somebody is certainly able to be his teacher.

(San ren xing, bi you wo shi yan 三人行,必有我師焉。).’


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A.I.D.S (Adding Infinite Dimensions)


(Adding Infinite Dimensions)


Paul Harrison 


“In the early days, we just wore black onstage. Very bold, my dear.

Then we introduced white, for variety, and it simply grew and grew.”

 Freddie Mercury



What can be gained from viewing philosophy as a disease? Such a proposal may or may not be greeted with a macabre curiosity or an uncomfortable dismissal by those who would wish to see thinking maintain a clean healthy body. One wishes to strongly suggest this to be wishful thinking at best these well wishers may achieve cleanliness with philosophy however they may be disappointed to discover that thinking itself is resistant to such honest labels. Healthy? Just look at the madness of its practitioners, even the calmer professors are in possession of mental issues so that society has deemed it necessary to house them in institutes and universities. Calling their manic obsessions “research”, and funding them so as to keep them away from members of the public who already have to deal with enough schisms in daily life. Imagine if on top of this some philosopher infected with thinking was given free reign to exist amongst the people although they probably would have good intentions seeking to uproot excepted thinking and undermine any nasty unhelpful doxa, it would probably end badly as the bewildered citizen might be left wondering what they did to deserve such a clinical clarification or quizzically questionable inquiry. (I am of course partially joking but how to locate healthy from unhealthy thinking is often harder than one would maybe assume?)

In this essay one desires to simultaneously express a perspective that Nietzsche expressed most clearly, ‘Plato is the name of a disease’… this may not be an authentic quote yet nevertheless let us continue. Wishing to invite the reader to consider an argument arrived at through a speculative consideration of the implications of this utterance. It has come to be my belief that a newer articulation of the origins of consciousness is more than possible, it is in fact essential for this time. A period of history that is really demanding an understanding of this topic. Just think about radical developments in our awareness of the complexities of our brain. The initial reason is precisely this very strange line of thinking: if philosophy is a disease it is to be considered as an unnatural practice, and if this be the case then it is possible to suggest that conciousness itself has a relation to this articulation. That, we can say if the highest points of human thinking carry a diseased existence then it follows that it could be that conciousness is a result of a similar process. So, in this text I will conclude whether or not such a deduction is strong enough to be offered up as a potential explanation for the origins of the phenomena known as conciousness.

Nietzsche and Plato are not the only thinkers that will feature in this discussion, but they will play a pivotal role because of their unique achievements and positions in the history of thinking. From the beginning they both will be referred to as Nietzschia and Platonitis, after dementia and meningitis. Two more philosophers Hegel and Gille Deleuze will be associated with Pneumonia and fear resulting in: Hegelonia and Deleuzaphobia. To begin with this creative act of naming will offer the reader a way of grasping this line of reasoning that runs against the established story of philosophy being an age old success story of man’s victory over secretive reality. This pairing of philosopher and disease or ailment will be designed to allow clear access to the idea which is at stake, that their success in the realm of ideas correlates to a physical infliction. From this one will reference a variety of sources to build an argument for consciousness being also a result of disease. Concluding on an affirmation or invalidation of the proposition: consciousness is a material result of an infection.

Before describing the diseased status of philosophy a brief detour is necessary to explain the title of this essay. The sexually transmitted disease known as aids or HIV is appropriated to form an acronym for mostly historical reasons. The historical element of the appropriation of the title’s virus is its early stigma and social reality. For instance I have a very positive memory of growing up listening to the British rock band Queen. Of course an essential part of this entity was the front man Freddie Mercury who died of the virus. Thankfully, in the modern world medicine and science is nullifying what used to be fatal for an Aids carrier, yet it was often the case that an individual who suffered from this virus found their consciousness heightened. The same thing is also true for those who have been through or had the experience of cancer this change in mental function is not just due to the relation to death it is moreover something that has much more to do with the individual living condition.

Nietzsche, who one has likened to dementia because he unfortunately existed for a considerable time in a similar state. His philosophy also carries with it this insistence on ‘tragedy’ as an all important aspect of his thinking. What could be more tragic then to slowly forget all one’s memories – at the time of writing there is no known cure for Alzheimers and it continues to effect so many. Nietzsche’s decline ended in a stroke and then death by pneumonia. It is also rumoured that he was infected by syphilis and if this were true than the connection between an infection and a change, even creation of a concious state is obviously more than a suggestive speculation. Next to this is the extent to which Neitzsche’s thinking was expansive and possessed the imagination of so many; now its seen as a doctoring of a disease.

The essay The Philosopher’s Diagnosis by Anna M. Daniszewski is very suggestive: Nietzsche himself saw the thinking of his time as in need of doctoring, ‘Nietzsche’s diagnosis functions differently from that which came before: he detects the illness not within philosophy itself, but in the philosophers understanding and pursuit of life without its object.’ From this Daniszewski elaborates on the psychological part of the diagnosis (philosopher’s are hypochondriacs), clearly explaining how Nietzsche saw Socrates’s as believing in the good outside of itself, and ‘it is not that Philosophy is in itself sick, but that its constant belief that it has to cure itself makes it sick’. Interestingly, Nietzsche saw this predicament as being self induced and used a metaphor of seasickness and the state of nausea to describe this. The important thing to grasp is that it is the “belief in a cure” that causes the sickness … but how does this show consciousness itself to possess similar qualities? Following Nietzsche’s logic this result is from states of fluctuation (the sea), followed by a higher state of awareness (nausea), yet this seems to be slightly contradictory.

‘Before a function is fully developed and mature, it constitutes a danger to the organism; it is a good thing for it to be properly tyrannized in the meantime! Thus, consciousness is properly tyrannized – and not least by one’s pride in it! One thinks it constitutes the kernel of man, what is abiding, eternal, ultimate,  most original in him! One takes consciousness to be a given determinate magnitude! One denies its growth and intermittences! Sees it as ‘the unity of the organism’! This ridiculous overestimation and misapprehension of consciousness has the very useful consequence that an all too-rapid development of consciousness was prevented.’

How can a state of motion sickness be a state of higher consciousness unless the initial use of the word “higher” is miss-leading; of course this adjective can synonymously mean greater than. Moreover, what one is explicitly attempting to argue is not ‘consciousness is a disease’, but what we all comfortably understand consciousness to be: i.e, a state of ‘being aware’, or having ‘an awareness of…’ is the result, or the product of an infection or primal diseased state. The quote from Nietzsche’s happy science shows clearly how he understood that this aspect of the miss-understanding of consciousness in its infinitely expansive qualities has been rejected, and therefore we are happy to dwell in the less abstract comforting idea.

Although, in the same text, Nietzsche adds evidence to overcome this. His writings show that consciousness moves from awareness and into a larger abstract bodily entity one that adds dimensions to itself: this is represented in his alteration of the German word for consciousness. From Bewuβtsein and into Bewuβtheit; a change which demonstrates the implication one is debating. Nietzsche, argued against the importance of this abstract quality and in doing so failed to see how it was a positive result from the artificial awareness generated by Socratic ‘will to truth’, and could in fact serve as a sufficient understanding of how consciousness relates primarily to error. This mistaken everyday awareness is hard to fathom, but nevertheless we should attempt to read those prior victims of the illness of thought, thinkers that Nietzsche saw symptomatically. In Beyond Good and Evil (1886) Nietzsche affectionately describes his famous countrymen: Schelling, Hölderlin, and Hegel, ‘the young theologians of the Tubingen seminary – ran off into the bushes – they were all looking for “faculties.” … when Romanticism, that malicious fairy, whispered, whistled, and sang’ at a time when the difference between discovery and invention was not known.

Even today, regarding the origins of consciousness Nietzsche’s less then complimentary description of the idealists could very well match our lack of confidence in what it is. With the absence of a discovery of what it actually is, and the use of a definition and the meaning ascribed to it would then be an invention?  Hegelonia, could then be the condition of this struggle to breath or an inflammatory impeachment of the lungs of philosophy, when regarding the same subject? Why? Let’s paraphrase Foucault and say that Hegel’s famous system is so all encompassing in its absolute valuation of history (we are lucky Marx rescued it from its perpetual headstand). Again we find what is now called analytic philosophy is a result of Hegelonia, it too relying on mathematics and formality to comment on the abstractness of our consciousness. Again, without the scientific discovery that provides the sole meaning to what consciousness is, we are called upon to invent.

One’s inventive interpretation, relies on this black origin of physical suffering, of discomfort, of painful intrusion into the animal body leading to the white recovery and expansion of a consciousness lucky to have such good health. But, it’s important to explain this consequential effect the infective material origin has on consciousness – that is it being abstract, and secondly its ability to expand, to grow, and to become greater. There are two more philosophers that have enacted this aforementioned movement. First we have to suffer Platonitis; meningitis and arthritis befit this great Greek because he is very old and very common. Besides, Plato certainly helps explain this abstract creation of an abstraction (consciousness). For assistance let us turn to a thinker Brian D. Prince who completed his Phd on Plato, Souls, and Motions (2011), commentating on movement in the Timaeus dialogue, ‘For example, the power for movement belonging to a particle of earth manifests one way if that particle is inside the cosmos and not in any other structured whole; but if the particle is also within a living body, its power for movement may manifest differently.’ It becomes aware?

In the Timaeus we see the same aspects: unnatural increase, and a lacking, or the more materially problematic, ‘a given bodily part accommodates a particular variety [of element] that is not appropriate for it. When these things happen they bring on conflicts and disease.’ This section of Plato’s text does not go far enough but it paints a sufficient picture of the movement that exists before the state of consciousness. Plato, in a section after the one on diseases; in one of the translations of the dialogue, titled Disproportion of Soul to Body describes the movement into abstraction from its bodily locality.


‘Of motions, again, the best is that motion that is produced in oneself by oneself, since it is most akin to the movement of thought and of the universe; motion produced by another is inferior; and worst of all is that whereby, while the body lie inert, its several parts are moved by foreign agents.’      


But, wait wait wait! This is a miss-reading you say, ‘Plato is talking about the movement of the soul’! More than likely this is true, however do you see the word mentioned here? The way one reads this is Plato’s fear “worst of all”, his admission that his anti-materialism contains a large degree of futility. The body, our body, is alterable by foreign agents, and was altered in an extremely aggressive way. A fact that we should not fear away from but as science marches on wards, potential falsities can be accepted if we are not careful with the many dimensions we add to thought.

The thinker that is perhaps responsible for a great deal of the many extra dimensions added to consciousness since Nietzsche is Gilles Deleuze who even though he has left this world still generates a great deal of Deleuzaphobia. The extend to which Gilles Deleuze generates a type of fear in certain individuals is that: a) they have not yet been fully initiated into the wonders of Deleuze’s thought, or b) they fear his rejection of the logic of the tree – thinking it to be an unjust threat in their belief in the correct and of falsity. You remember Deleuze starts this renouncing of the benefits of this type of logo-centric thought in favour of nomadic musing in a Thousand Plateaus (1980). His words show clearly a disenchantment that this Frenchman felt towards traditional manners of thinking.


‘‘We’re tired of trees. We should stop believing in trees, roots, and radicles. They’ve made us suffer too much. All of arborescent culture is founded on them, from biology to linguistics. Nothing is beautiful or loving or political aside from underground stems and aerial roots, adventitious growths and rhizomes.’


Deluezaphobia” is then a fear of either consciousness trapped in a forest of rules generated by the capacity to analyse reflection until it is governed by natural laws, or its a state of being scared of what may happen if thought was allowed to roam. The relation of this to consciousness is Delueze’s unique articulation of the feverish condition of thought – for him it is schizophrenic. As is well known Delueze collaborating with psychoanalyst Félix Guattari developed this notion in response to what they deemed to be problematic in Freudian pschoanalysis: mainly the Oedipus complex, and the authority of the analyst. Culminating in conflicted thoughts, but as Freud said, ‘can a currently given “conflict” be exhausted, can the one who is sick be forewarned against ulterior conflicts, can even new conflicts be awakened for a preventive purpose?’ Such a conflict could be what is called the Anthropocene a period of the earth’s history in which humanity taken as a whole is a geological force. One wishes to mention the radical way in which James Lovelock’s Gia theory pre-empted many possible discussions on this topic. Secondly, and more relevant to this commentary on consciousness is a recent lecture given by French thinker Catherine Malabou stated that the idea of the Anthropocene demands a change in our consciousness; it asserts that we have to lose consciousness. For the human to understand itself on the planetary scale one has to cure older methods of inquiry.

Having derived enough evidence from philosophy we can temporarily say goodbye to these deceased (highly conscious) specimens of history, focusing on what exactly is being suggested, and the argument that puts forward this idea of the material origins of human consciousness being: one of our initial ancestors, perhaps Homo habilis fell ill with an extremely strong virus not too different to influenza; only stronger than the modern version of the flu. At least one victim subjected to such suffering from an external source experienced a neurological change. One which produced the brain and its cognitive uniqueness, that we possess today. This is because as we have seen unnatural compression of information in a short period of time creates growth and this growth is possessive just like the initial infection’s compression; it took, is taking hold of something, and this is essential to sentience.

In response to this argument some individuals correctly raise the objection as to where is my evidence or ground for such an assertion? This process of being limited then vast expansion is empirically observable consider a few examples: the fallibility of our memory; when one forgets (limited) an individual usually makes the effort to rediscover (expand). Information partakes in these qualities when you take information and you compress it you limit it then expand or decrypt it in an act of communication. Even light can be said to carry this quality when split it carries a spectrum of colour. Furthermore, if we invite in some claims that the mind has computational capacities then does this material notion of an infective cause still apply? Well, yes, because firstly even if your computer is unfortunate enough to be infected and temporarily limited. Through a reset or even the acquisition of a new computer, expansion still takes place. Keeping with this computational example its possible to understand more accurately. The computer would be the material reality of the brain, its hardware the grey matter. The virus infects its thinking (data generated in the program’s process) and distorts and corrupts what it had encountered.

Here is the greatest evidence for philosophy, which from the very beginning held a distinct challenge towards the existence of illusions, and has always faced accusations of being a corrupting force. In the same way consciousness, in and by itself was originally an infection and long may it continue to be effective in this invasive or intrusive way. One last point to sign off on, the reader will remember that scene in the Matrix film (1999) where Morpheus has been captured and is under interrogation, Agent Smith utters something nasty, ‘humanity is the name of a disease a virus.’ This virtual humanoid machine is completely misguided it is not our existence that is diseased, but our mysterious mental capacities that came from such a thing may well be?


Francis M. Cornford. Plato’s Cosmology: The Timeaus of Plato translated with a running commentary, (Liberal Arts Press, New York, 1937).

Daniszewski, Anna Menaker, “The Philosopher’s Diagnosis: Sickness in Plato, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger” (2014). Senior Projects Fall 2014. Paper 23.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to the Philosophy of the Future , (Cambridge Texts in The History of Philosophy, ed. Judith Norman and Rolf Peter-Hortsman, 2002)

Friedrich Nietzsche. The Gay Science, edited by Bernard Williams, (Cambridge University press 2001).

Gilles Delueze, A Thousand Plateaus, (The University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

Gilles Delueze, Félix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus, (University of Minnesota Press, 1983).

Hemelsoet D, Hemelsoet K, Devreese D. The neurological illness of Friedrich Nietzsche. Acta Neurol Belg. (2008) Mar;108(1):9-16. {https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18575181} accessed: 01/02/2018

Catherine Malabou, The Brain of History or the Mentality of the Anthropocene, (Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Published on 27 Feb 2017, {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJPLGEdRGGc&t=50s}   

Plato, The Timaeus. (Macmillan & Co, London, 1888).














2 x B

Two Bens:Two Artists Using Japan for Inspiration. (Benjamin Bardou’s ‘Tokyo Wanderings’, and Ben Jeans Houghton’s film ‘2nd Life’.)

[Ben J. Houghton’s film ‘2nd Life’ was exhibited at Bloc Projects in Sheffield.]


The French artist Benjamin Bardou’s work is a visual feast at first sighting on Instagram one was hooked asking what is this new glitchy and painterly crack? It turned out to be some experiment in video editing and production using something called ‘pointcloud’ in the animation of videos. Take for example ‘Dotswarm’ an application for apple operating systems developed in New Zealand. After glimpsing at what this kind of animation is I encountered a new development in animation techniques that is animating the cloud. This is very fascinating for me because the image of the cloud is a very very very beautiful and strong image. Clouds have inspired so much culture over the history of our species from Aristophanes’s portrayal of Socrates to a fantastic youtube lesson on the continuation of Chan Buddhist hermits titled Amongst White Clouds (worth watching it still makes me romanticise about being a hermit… although I do not wish to be one). In Japanese the Kanji for cloud 雲 / ku-mo / is comprised of two parts ‘rain’ 雨 /a-me/ and a radical for ‘say’言/ Iu / which in turn can be in turn reduced down to two. So, one direct translation into English can be ‘rain say’ or ‘say rain’ the potential meaning of which escapes me. Yet, it does provide a route into the two videos which I would love to just gawp at continuously projected in a high definition. First viewing was a kind of reality check because Bardou’s short films really forced immaterial aesthetics into one’s thoughts. Similar and relevant considerations are also found in a brilliant discussion of an “immaterial world” author Steve Wright asks a question that is perhaps also asked by the two films Lost in Tokyo, and Wandering in Paris (please watch them below), that is ‘Are we living in an immaterial world?’. In Wright’s sharp dissection of post-workerism and especially the work of political and economic thinkers such as Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt in their books Empire and the Multitude ideas of immaterial labour and the changing reality of capitalism are thought through. I think an element of wrights conclusion is rather interesting when he mentions ‘Speculative ventures – which have been rife in the past decade – seem to make money out of thin air’, and…

‘In the meantime, debt continues to balloon, from the micro scale of individual and family credit cards, to the macro level of public sector budgets and current account deficits. However ingeniously the burden of such debt is redistributed, the terms of the wager cannot be forestalled forever. When it is finally called in, things will become very interesting indeed. If nothing else, we may then find out at last whether or not, as Madonna sang. …

The boy with the cold hard cash Is always Mister Right, ‘cause we are Living in a material world.i

Ending on Madonna’s song completes a nice circuit in that the essay begins with referencing Zen. Two individuals try and outsmart a master and ask, ‘can you teach me about reality without using either sound or silence? The master punches them in the face’ such a moment of aggression is perfectly placed so as to allow me to make an important point regarding Bardou’s cloudy creations. For me they were and still are a punch to the face in that they build upon the notion of a veil that covers an underlying reality, or a reality that should indeed be veiled?

Fundamentally, modern life is computational the acceptance of mathematics builds a one sided picture of the world. A sphere of certainty although useful is it really necessary? If so what kind of necessity does it represent? Questions such as these are seemingly resolved in the silent Buddhism by way of a profound negation of illusion of Maya; qualities that are shared with Plato in that the most rightfully revered ancient Greek Pagan believed whole heartedly in a universal law. In the Timaeus (Plato’s creationist account for existence) we can read Timaeus describe how the maker of the universe a creator God desired ‘everything to be good, marred by as little imperfection as possible’; this God found everything visible in a state of turmoil therein he was forced to turn this chaos into order.ii It is this movement away from the senses and an emphasis on their being two realms of reality the transient and the eternal and unchanging. For those readers interested in how Plato came to make his distinction between the sensible (A-C, eikasia -pistis), and the intelligible (C-E, dianoia – noesis) represented by a divided line. Can it not be true that all lines are not just divided but are dividing; Plato would have perhaps said that all lines are divided by the sight or gaze. Yet what about the line made by Plato’s creator, a line from Chaos to order, and is this line still as persuasive as it has been for over a thousand years? I am less convinced that Plato did not completely miss-interpret the followers of Heraclitus and that his debt to Parmenides was not burdensome upon the human imagination. Speaking about such topics makes me also add that the role of the Sophists on Socrates and Plato needs studying as it contains hidden mysteries and insights. Bardou’s films offer up not a frustrating but a strong example of artistic wonder surviving, thriving, and marking its territory among its newer iterations: philosophy, science, and design.

It is one of those infuriating moments of existence a good friend of yours has helped bring an awesome artwork to a city that gave me my first taste of actual education (the state organised schools, the generic secondary schools in the UK, I experienced as a factory and a prison – aware that the national curriculum is so devoid of any kindness nor nuanced belief in those learning under it – I hear some of you think: ‘well at least you had education of some sort?’, yes, I did, but only when I moved to an open and free space at the Art school in Sheffield). It is a shame I could not participate in this community’s appreciation of a film ‘2ndlife’ by Ben J. Houghton. A film which features visual material shot and taken from the country I consider as my second home. Japan, has a claim to being the most interesting country, nation, or culture currently thriving on this planet because it is home to some of the oldest unique events, objects, and processes. To name but a few that western readers may easily identify and understand: Manga & Animation, Samurai, and Sushi. But wait, the latter is a silly sentence because each reader has their own identification and understanding of the Far East. This is but one of the good things about this film although a monologue Ben’s voice (I assume) never detracts from the content his camera records; content that features places and locations that I am personally so fond of. This is of course to be expected as any lucky person able to live in a country that is not their own will testify that although it is a confusion as to whether or not your interpretation makes the place, or does the place (time/space) make your interpretation?

The film is a good resource and example of how art is a parental practice to philosophy. Watching 2nd life one hears, ‘every artistic practice is generative’ and this made me nostalgic for such a belief for I do not believe this is applicable to the whole (every practice) of such practices. This is due to my repeated experience of the severity of manipulation involved in human habits and thus an inability to fully control symbolic value (this is most likely tantamount to a personal confession about one’s own inability to draw conclusions surrounding such distinctions as value and meaning, being and non-being, the transcendent and immanent). One really likes how the film really deepens the titles duality. It comments on a life within a life and beliefs surrounding rebirth and the Buddhist belief of Saṃsāra (संसार: an endless cycle of rebirth and wandering; is it akin to the western wondering necessity? Who knows?). For me there are strong highlights that stuck with me after one watch of this film. The first comes at 09:44 – and Ben’s voice reminded me of the spiral circles in French thinker Delueze’s metaphysical detailing of desire … and this film brilliantly hammers home that time is necessary for meaning and generates a lived experience in which time’s transitory mysterious materiality is laid bare for the spectator’s spectacles. Houghton correctly states three modes of learning 1) brutal ‘trial and error’ 2) emphatic connections, 3) love and compassion – all eventually, by way of artistic inquiry and agency lead to “learning as liberation from learning.

Here the film’s speculations start to go even more deeper as the narrator suggests whilst on a Tokyo train that it is perhaps a strange and dark aspect of human consciousness that allows our thinking, or being to often encompass a “Tearing through humanness” amidst all the energy and re-incarnation. Another memorable line that hits right to the hidden dilemma at the heart of human creativity, “trying to find a usable marker is like trying to grab a beam of sunlight in a river current”. This line makes me think of the strangeness of how objects only exist under the parameters of their own usage, but this sentence seems to disturb this in that with the surface of a flowing river’s encounter with light. Such an example of flux is one of the joys of film and video (both digital and analogue) they capture light for fleeting experiences that are often feel so fundamentally familiar we forget their difference. The mechanics of film: the capture of light and time, the animation of matter, and the social and anti-social modes of production… offer up alternatives to what we so often are forced to take for granted. Here, cinema and literature are shown to be deeply intertwined and contained within their operating systems, within their modus operandi, is a utopian day dreaming. Understood from the perspective of a ‘second life’ this may suggest that rebirth be something desired; never mind the Buddhist wisdom that states this as unnecessary suffering, ‘if one can live again then why not?’ Well, there is always the probability you could come back as a fruit fly or a loathed creature like a cockroach? This is why Buddha’s insights should not be messed with however if we, in our thinking, are searching for a connection between East and West then here is a potentially political one: Is Buddhism more Hobbesian (as in the self is this illusionary leviathan?) or Rosseau-ian (that the institutions with which we have to live by corrupt our innocence?); it could be a mixture of course?


A cat moving through a graveyard hones the films fluctuations on its current: its exploration of the true difficulties that every human faces. How, in each of us there exist drives that if we find a balance within daily life then they may flow peacefully but if we experience a degree of unbalanced events and situations then ‘like follows like’ we move towards chaos. Such interrelations are very difficult to navigate and to survive them the psyche of an individual has to go through training, has to measure itself amongst the vast possibilities that reside in even the most miniscule of spaces. This meditation manifests more vividly at an introduction of a cat (a most beloved creature in Japan). At 34:26, a cat’s poem states, ‘you smell like soul and blood, just waiting wanton time … waiting for the time where my ideas act…’ all spoken in a slow and lucid stroll through a graveyard. Reminding me of supposed antagonisms between reason and its absence, realism and relativism, automation and autonomy. But, is it not true that an animal such as a cat teaches humans their own futility? We can never be as beautiful nor as stupendously wacky (see the mass of cat Instagrams), or even as wise as our feline associates. This cat and poem in a graveyard (all Japanese cats are related to the six cats (Goma, Otsuka, Kawamura, Mimi, Okawa, and Toro in Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore (2002)) made me want to read the book again of course and also research other relations one could find that connected Ben’s film with Murakami and I stumbled across an article written by Michele Eduarda Brasil de Sá. In this article Michele brilliantly invites us to consider a Japanese notion of “Space Time” by honing in on an important part of Murakami’s novel. We are presented with the main character kafka Tamura discovering an oil painting in a library in which supposedly the secrets to the labyrinth of time are found as well as “The Edge of the World” (世間の縁 /sekai no fuchi/).iii

Inevitably Murakami’s novel and the cat cameo culminates in me and you, dear reader, being forced to bow to the cat’s (にゃー義 /nya-gi/ a belief in the feline) because it could be the case that cats are in possession of an understanding of why gravity is also only partially universal and more than a little bit wave like. This then entails a perspective that strives and struggles for an appreciation of the limitations of life and of living. Houghton’s film is so thought provoking it gracefully invites much consideration on this narrative of struggle, of the finite that all humans represent. Here again Buddhism trumps western thinking in that the Buddhist death is positive we should be embracing the lack of choice with which we came into being as different to how we could leave existence. Ben’s work also references the notion of Antinatalism in the thinking of philosopher David Benatar, and how Houghton experienced a group of American military personal discussing their masculinity at the doors of the notorious suicide forest Aokigahara or ‘The Sea of Trees’. Such a coincidence makes me think of an anti-antinatalist position that I also think the maker of this film would also support. That is it is a little daft considering we are all here because two or even more people made us. To prescribe a negative value to birth is akin to saying you would rather not be when you are being. You could say that this misunderstanding arises from not appreciating how being is always taken over to a space, it always finds itself there. This is of course a little derivative of Martin Heidegger’s thinking (I wish it were more Kantian, or Schellingian but I need to study these Germans more), but what I find fascinating by the ease at which anti-natalism is refuted (in only one sense, but it could also be defended as a form of “free” choice) is that it also enables an understanding of traditionally materialist stances on the cosmos. Here we have two positions that are against human life one being anti-birth, and the other against continuing life (suicide).

But, I am sure these two are positive they are affirmations of life because both are about choice seen as both intentional and wholly other. We are fundamentally not in control of the beginning of existence and yet we can say with some certainty that it is more likely that we are in control of our demise (not when but how) even though there is still the possibility that this control may be taken away from us. The ancient atomists understood existence as unforgiving and unaffected by humans, yet they acknowledged that atoms may join and separate and that is why a film about Japan such as ‘2nd life’ is so great; it is not humorous but it demands we take materialism and the role of religion seriously. I think this film encourages and nurtures understanding on the role of transience in transcendence. This then connects back to what one mentioned regarding Plato’s conjunction between constant change and infinite being. I think the regularity of material change is of a nature that is apprehensible in that ‘becoming’, the titanic twin of change, reinforces teleological time (there are other forms of time (Chronos is a mischeivous god!)). Why? Plato believed in universals (Ideas = forms) and for something to be a universal it must remain forever and be incorruptible. . Science and particularly astrophysics and quantum mechanics reveals the extent to which all could be related, this is called the unified field theory, and it aims to reveal reality as an equation. Regardless of whether or not the physicists make such a remarkable achievement the fact that some of us are striving for such things demands that we question the effects it may carry. If such a process is accomplished in the name of knowledge then this worries me because it suggests another standardisation that may do away with a determination (struggle to understand) found in those phenomena such as light, colour, and life.

One good example of why a spectrum predominates over standards is mass/matter/weight itself and here again we can find Plato and Buddha’s presence. Plato had the notion of το μέγα και το μικρών (‘the great and the small’ /to mega kai to mikron /) a dualistic ontology that has ‘the One’ as a principle of unity, and ‘the indefinite dyad’ a principle of multiplicity and indeterminacy.iv Buddha has a similar if not equivalent duality that Enlightenment is another One (but, differs in that this represents an absence of thinking), and unless we learn to see through the multiplicity called ‘Maya’ an illusion, our suffering increases. But, it is the half of the split comprised of illusion that interests me and I am not here trashing the One, just stating that the contents of the sensory realm being illusionary may not be problematic if we understand them as illusions. That being illusionary generates a necessary need to be creating our own relations between things? Even mathematics can be said to partake in such processes; one very striking modern scientific example is a discrepancy between the Quantum and the relative, or how do we understand atoms when their material qualities appear as change itself.

A striking example would be a symmetry between the great and the small this can be found if we consider the notion that mass is only a constant if it travels at the speed of light. Other than this it is subject to change. This then makes it also a spectrum if what we measure changes by our measuring then does this support the necessity of a spectrum of choice struggling in face of determination? Or, does it affirm a determination a one unchanging and perfect? I do not know, but this is the line of questioning I will further at some point. First, to end on some aesthetic evidence for these considerations. Whilst studying for a philosophy of science exam I came across the symbol for Solar mass M and learnt that it is equivalent to the mass of our sun: two Nonillion (two quintillion kilograms), allowing the measurement of the mass of the planets and cosmic entities. If we look at the symbol for solar mass we simultaneously see how Plato was brilliant and wrong in that our contemporary understanding of our sun states that it too has a lifespan, it too has to die, and if it has to die, then surely the universe also?v This symbol also resembles Plato and his intellectual father Parmenides’s belief that the One took the form of a circle because by definition, ‘that which is equidistant in all directions from the centre’ can be said to have a kind of perfection but importantly we have a choice if this is seen as a process of becoming. If we exist within the universe on a line from one sun Mto others M1 + M2 + M☉3 + M☉4 +M☉n……. we see clearly how choice arises from a battle against a determination with demise as Ben himself narrated, ‘you must be in a place of perfect unrealised potential at the moment of death’.This all may be a digression from the brilliance of Ben Houghton’s film but I felt that I wanted to take the opportunity to share some thoughts and urge anyone interested about this film to get in touch with the artist and demand that he screen this 50 minute film near you. This film deals with so much that is of interest ( sovereignty of personhood… love as a co-dependency) it would take a second life just to second this awesome work of art.

Perhaps, this commentary on a ‘2ndlife’ is too focused on just one recent extrapolation of death and indeed too anchored to the beautiful Japan. So, to end with something that expands the death of this film into another stream of thinking on death found in the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’, these lines lifted from The Aspirational Prayer Which Protects from Fear of the Intermediate States may offer a temporary period. But still a perfect pregnant potential, Thank you Bens!

‘When I am miraculously born into the intermediate state of rebirth, may I not be beguiled by the perverse prophecies of Māra, And as I [freely] arrive at every place that I think of, May the bewildering fear and terror, generated by my negative past actions, not arise. When the roars of savage wild beasts echo around me, May their cries be transformed into the sound of the sacred teachings, the Six Syllables , And as I am engulfed by snow, rain, wind, and darkness, May I achieve the pure clairvoyance of radiant pristine cognition

May I easily come to master by study and reflection, The manifold stages of learning ̶ small, intermediate, and great. May the country into which I am born be auspicious, And may all sentient beings be blessed with happiness. ‘vi






Lost in Tokyo from Benjamin Bardou on Vimeo.
“二回目の命は哲学ためにアートが親ので本当にいい例えです。二回目の命を見っているは(全てのアーティステックな実践をジェネレーティブ)と聞こえるから。このビデオのアートは私に遠因の覆面カーバが実を覆面有るなければなりませんから私の顔でパンチもです。差遣的にもダンライフの勘定と数学を受諾ので世界の絵は不平等な絵を作ります。確実性の球体はべんりけどこれは必ずですか。この質問は静かな仏教でマーヤーのイリュージョンを深い否定で解決済みです。そして、このクオリティはプラトンにシエアするので尊の古いギリシャーのペイガンが普遍的な法律を信じました。ティメオーズ(プラトンの創造論)私たちは天主が全てのいいと少しい不備も欲しい事を読めます。このゴッドは全ての視覚的なものを混乱過ぎるを見つけたから、この混乱を平均)に化せなければなりません。この移動は可能から二つの実の天地あるで無常と永久に念を押しました。読者からペラトンの区別で感覚的な(エイー・シーeikasia・pistis)と達意なタース(シー・イーdianoia・noesis) 両方はディバイデッドインを描破します。それも、全てのラインはディバイデッドですけどディバィデッデイングも有るし〜ペラトンが全てのインを視線が見えるからディバィデッドします。でも、ペラトンの神明のラインはどうですか。このラインは混乱からバランスまで、このラインが千年あとに説得力続く。私はペラトンがヘラクライタスを悪い拝読したと彼のパーメニディーズために忝を人間の思い方に負担を成ったので半信半疑です。このトッピクスを話しているは私がペラトンとサークレーティーズの詭弁の影響で非表示の神秘と洞祭力有るから足しました。バードウさんの映画は創造的な驚嘆の生き残るの例を悔しくないけと強い奉納ですからこの例はアートの新しい反復で哲学と科学とデザインにこの創造的な驚嘆が


         Benjamin J. Houghton ‘2ndlife’, Film Still (2018)

よくファミリア過ぎるので忘れると光を捕らえます。フィルムの力学: 光を時間捕らえる、物質をアニメする、社会的でアソテソーシャルの生産の方法…皆さんの強行な措定くらへて他のオプションを見せます。だからシネマと文学は一緒に不採算の手口と作動で空想的社会改良家有ります。二回目の生命の遠近法から見るを分がったに生変をくれたいみたいですけど仏教の知恵がこの生変を必要ではないと言った”もし、また生きたら大丈夫かな?”では、生変するでいつもショウジョウバイとゴキブリを死に変わりますか。それは仏教の洞察力をごちゃ混ぜないですけど、もし私たち考えるで東と西の関係を探して多分政治的な一つのままです。仏教はハーブジーン(遺制と生くなければなりませんので無罪を毒する)勿論、ミクスもありうべきか?
猫はなかば経由動くでフィルムの変動をナラティブに研ぐ、そして全ての人間は正しい問題を向かいます。どうやってか、全ての人中に動因があって、もし私たちが生活でバランスを見つけるからこの動因を平穏ですけどもし、いつかの経験をするので同じ事を一緒に習うで私たちを混乱に動きます。相関はナビるが難しさともし良い生存して個人のプッュケーを訓練しなければなりませんと個人のプッュケーは自分を微細なスペースで膨大な可能に対して計ります。この瞑想は一番の鮮明する猫の紹介時で(日本で猫が超愛してる)。34分26秒で、猫のしはみみは精神とちの匂いみたいです。はちゃめちゃな時間を持って…時間で私のアイデアに行為を持つと私がこの信じる事を全ての実践で言わないけど前の信じるから懐かしくてなりました。このいない事は人間の習性で深刻なてさばきので象徴的な価値を支配が出来ません。(でも、これは私の価格と意味いるといない、超越論と内在的で断じないから個人的な懺悔です)。私はこのフィルムに題名の双対をもっと深さなる事が大好きです。生命を生命中に伝えて生変と生変と仏教の輪廻と信じるも伝えます。私ために一回見る後で強い圧巻を見かけました。まず、9分44秒でベンさんの声はフランス人の哲学者デレューズのデザアイの形而上学的唯物論を連想します。このフィルムは時間のマティリアリティを見物人のメガネためにあらわにすると時間も意味の命脈ために必要です。ホーウトンさんは3つの学びの除法生と言って、1) 残虐なテストとミス、2) 罷り手作、3) 愛と慈悲です。これ学び方たちはアーティスティックの調査と仲介経て”学びは学びから解放”と導く。
ここにフィルムの思索はもっと深さに始めるに話者が東京よ電車でエネルギーと生まれ変わり中に見知らぬで暗い人間の意識の分から皆さんの考えると存在よく人命をばりばり経由すると網羅と理解を出来ます。他の印象深い文章は人間の徳蔵生の心に行く本流中で光線を奪い取るようにするは使えるのマーカーを見つけるようにみたいです。この文章は私に物が物の使う方であるだけと考えるですけど、この文章この考えると光が本流を会いて妨げます。この光速の例え一つのフィルムとビデオの喜び(アナログとデジタル) ではかない経験を言う。全ての言うは明徴でゆっくりはかば経由して話しました。理由と不合理、現実主義と相対主義、オートメーションと自治権も、この対立関係たちは私に連想しました。でも、猫は人間に無駄なこと教えるを正しいですか。人間は決めして猫の知恵と綿陽でならないです。この猫とし(全ての猫は6匹の猫とゴム、オツカ、カフムラ、ミミ、オカフ、トロ、と村上・春樹の’海辺のカフカ’(2002年) 。私にこの本をまた読みたいです。そして、他の関係たちを見つけるとベンのフィルムから村上・春樹までつなげると研究するので私はミシェールさんはエドアルダー・ブラツル・ディー・ザーさんの記事を積まずできます。ぎじで日本的な時空を考えて村上・春樹の本の大切な部分にピントに行く。主人公、カフカ・タムラは図書館で油絵と時間の迷宮とせかりの縁を見つけました。

ネがティブな父あげるから(生きるならよりいかにいの方がいい)と言う同じです。これ分けないのことが生きるいつも場所にもたらすも、いつも生きるはそことおそこに見つける。ハイデガーの教えるからちょっと誘導したいです。(私はこれをもっとキャンティウンがスケリンギアンの方がいいですけどこのドイツ人をもっと勉強しないと)。でも、アンテーネータリズムの本論の簡単から面白いです。(一つの駁する方だ、でも自由の形で守る。) それで、伝統的で物質主義者の宇宙から分ける事が出来ます。ここに二つの立場は人間の生きるにはしてアンテ生めると他の立場が生きる事を続くにはして(自殺)です。
ところがこの収集は約をほされる。古いアトミズトは存在から人間のかざいけのないが優しくないと分かりました。でも、アトミズトはアトムを一つ一つと結びつけると承認しるので二回目の命が本当にいいです。二回目の命はユーモア無し唯物論と宗教の役目をちゃんとする。このフィルムは超越中で無常を促がす。これはプラトン前にことで常数の変化と広大無辺の散在の交渉またリンクします。置く薄々変化の至善は分けるから理由が変化のヲタンな双子を成ることでテローローギキャルな時間に増強します。(クロノスはわんぱくな神様だから、他の時間形があります。) 何故?ペラトンさんは普遍と信じて(イデア) と理念)何かが普遍あれのこの物を永遠に連結有ります。


               Benjamin J. Houghton ‘2ndlife’, Film Still (2018)

分光(決心) 一つの良い例規格外よりはもっといいですからが質量、集団、重さままここでペラトンとブッダを見つける。ペラトンは(観念)を有って(大きて、小さくて)双対の存在論でペラトニックなワンで団結と無期限のダイアドでかず多い原則です。ブッダは等しい二元性が有ってこの開眼か他のワンです。でも、考えるは欠席です)。皆さんはまやかし経由を見えるを習う。なくては、ないことには、我らがなくなんを上がります。だから、まやかしとイリュージョンの半で面白さもワンが(たわごと、おしないですけどもし皆さんは可能の現実は幻を分かたら、問題じゃないです。幻で皆さんために必要な物とこと間に新しい関係を作くなければなりませんか。数学もこの照臨仮定で参加して、量子と神族の違いは近代的で化学的な例について、アトムの物質を変化でその物の見た目をどうやって分かりますか。



iSteve Wright, ‘Reality Check: Are We Living in an Immaterial World?’, in Proud to be Flesh: A mute magazine anthology of cultural politics after the net, (Mute Publishing, London; Autonomedia: Brooklyn, 2009) 472- 480.

iiPlato, trans. Robin Waterfield, Timaeus and Critias, (Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press. 2008).18.

iiiMichele Eduarda Brasil de Sá, Time(s) and Space(s) in Huraki Murakami’s “Kafka on the Shore”, Conference Paper, 2016.

ivAristotle, Metaphysics, (A 6, 987 a 29 – 988 a 1)

vSee Stoic “ἐκπύρωσις ekpyrōsis, “conflagration”) is a belief in the periodic destruction of the cosmos by a great conflagration every Great Year. The cosmos is then recreated (palingenesis) only to be destroyed again at the end of the new cycle.

viComposed: Padmasambhava, revealed: Terton Karma Lingpa, Trans: Gyurme Dorje, The Tibetan Book of The Dead, (Penguin Books, England, 2005) 316.

Revolution From the khōra: Power From the Outside


(Paul Harrison)

Throughout history there is a reoccurring pattern when it comes to revolution. If you observe the specific contexts of the revolutions that have taken place in many countries: Britain, France, Haiti, Russia, and China. Did they all happen because of an external influence? And, to what extent is this a component part of the revolution? Of the very idea of revolution? This is the line of questioning this essay will explore. Discussing the idea that successful revolution is dependent on a power that comes from outside the location of its eventual happening. This idea will be shown to be present or situated in these exemplary instances of undeniable revolutions: 1) The French revolution, 2) the Russian revolution, 3) The Chinese cultural revolution.

Next to these historical examples one is aware of one’s reasons behind writing with this perspective or with this postulation on the causal movements of revolution. The main reason for adopting such a stance is the importance of a famous fact in what many people believe to be the first work of political philosophy. Although there are other contenders for the title of first political treatise Plato’s Republic is often cited as the first. It consists of a conversation that encompasses what the ideal state might look like and the importance of justice to such an ideal, yet the fact that is more important for this discussion is the location, the specific place that this dialogue conspired. It happened outside of the city a place called the χώρα [Khōra] a notion that was important to Plato because he considered it to be a location where the forms used to reside.[ Plato. Timaeus (48e4)] Jacques Derrida helps us remember it in more recent thought of its importance. It certainly is political but what does it explicitly have to do with revolution?

In Derrida’s short essay named after this Greek location he starts by describing the myth which emanates from Plato’s orientation; Derrida describes the Khōra, ‘it oscillates between the two types of oscillation: the double exclusive (neither/nor) and the participation (both this and that).’[ Jacques Derrida, ‘Khōra’ in On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. 91 ] Such an oscillation or frequency fits the force one observes as the causal logic of revolution. The force transforms into a common noun “revolution” which is the culmination of a fluctuation in a form of logic.

The change found between exclusivity and participation is why one interprets the Khōra as a causal force because it implies a feeling of uncertain action like that of invasion, or an influx in immigration, and a conflict. This uncertainty is present in the ambiguity of the noun ‘revolution’ and what exactly it means. Furthermore, this doubt as to what is done in the name of revolution is resolved or completed in its success. An alternative to this expression is that within the site of potential revolution there is then a need of a referent but such a thing Derrida helps show is deeply abstract and one argues that this particular abstraction is a necessity.

‘Deprived of a real referent, that which in fact resembles a proper name finds itself also called an X which has as its property (as its physis and as its dynamis, Plato’s text will say) that it has nothing as its own and that it remains unformed, formless(amorphon). This very singular impropriety, which precisely is nothing, is just what Khōra must, if you like, keep; it is just what must be kept for it, what we must keep
for it.’[ Ibid. 97]

Yet, reading Derrida could suggest an opposite direction that we have to maintain the outside as formless and this would contradict my argument. This quote could be read from the perspective of a citizenry seen as keeping revolution indeterminate and external, but one would maintain that if this lack remains it is suggestive of an alternative cause: that the lack was not transformed into a name, an event (revolution).
So, let us test this idea and look to history beginning in France and some sources that hint at this movement away from the resemblance of a name, an X, to an actual name and suggest an accurate interpretation of this process named revolution. Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the 1789 revolution that changed the entire reality of Europe.[ Alexis De Tocqueville. The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. ] Tocqueville’s discussions of the changes that transformed the ancien regime (the old order) including: how the French revolution was a political revolution but with the distinctly religious character, territorial disputes giving way to principles, and the destruction of feudal and aristocratic institutions.

Again, the way Tocqueville writes supports the opposite notion of revolution the one that says it was a unique phenomena that originated in one country and then spread elsewhere. However, one does not agree with this because it does not reflect deeply enough on the religious aspect of this revolution. Religion for the French revolution was the Khōra; a power that was on the outside, in what sense can one claim this? The evidence for this perspective is that the then king Louis XIV who under the influence of Cardinal Mazarin embodied absolute rule. This means that kings where to believed to have a devine right implying that they were backed by the authority of God a power that was to also be responsible for the revolutionary thoughts of Karl Marx.[ Karl Marx, ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ [1845] in: Early Writings, London: Penguin 1975. ] Yet, the royalty of France of this time also contributes even more to our discussion. The way king Louis XIV exercised his absolutism demonstrates power’s necessary movement from the outside to the inside. This is explicitly made obvious by the fact that this king prioritised military expansion at the expense of higher taxes on citizens – unanimously cited as the cause of the revolution.

Reading this we see power exercised expansively into space outside the country in military acts and expansion. This inevitably results in the country’s citizens adopting a line of thinking an equation that Sieyes articulated, ‘subtract the privileged order and the nation would not be something less, but something more.’[ Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, ‘Qu’est-ce que le tiers-état? / What is the Third Estate?’ in Essay on Privileges, (January 1789). 96] Of course this power often manifests in incredibly violent ways and the French revolution is infamous for the ‘reign of terror’ and the mass executions by guillotine. Here we should take a moment to consider the difficulties we face when viewing the power that fuels revolutions because it seems to contain key signs or symptoms: abuse of military might and paranoia towards the outside coupled with the ambiguity of deciphering the difference between criminals and those who place faith in laws. Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobin’s behaved in such a way that enacted both symptoms but although their revolution was a success this did not save them from their fate. They fell victim to the very violence they wielded against their enemies; perceived both internally and externally power resulted in a short lived governance.

‘Wisdom, as much as power, presided over the creation of the universe…
If the revolutionary government is not seconded by the energy, enlightenment,
patriotism, and benevolence of all the people’s representatives, how can it have
the strength to respond proportionately to the efforts of Europe who are
attacking it, and to all the enemies of liberty pressing in on it from all sides?’[ Maximilien Robespierre. “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso, 2007.]

In the case of Russia Vladimir Lenin offers more evidence for one’s scepticism toward the idea that the power bringing about radical change is generated internally by alluding to sham socialists and their petit-bourgeois utopia.[ Vladimir Lenin. State and Revolution, introduction by Todd Chretien. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014. 61.] How the ideology of the state being above classes betrays the working class. So, in Lenin’s discussion of the Russian revolution we can observe that he deemed the French revolutions of 1848 and 1871 to be a betrayal, the proletariat sell their birthright for a mess of porridge, and how the destruction of the state is a prerequisite for the formation of Marx’s the ‘workers dictatorship’ a main step towards human emancipation.[ Ibid, 63. ] We also learn of the struggles of the two quintessential rebel rouser’s so influential for Lenin and the Russian revolution; Marx and Engels came out and back into hiding, adding their firebrand journalism to revolutions in Germany and Europe (1848), yet these revolutions all failed because the fight for power came from within the same country and were all easily defeated. Lenin’s thoughts on Marx clarify the Khōra.

Marx never expected the communist revolution to take place in Russia. The manifesto he wrote with Friedrich Engels foresaw revolution taking place in more economically developed countries. The noun ‘Communist’ was the abstract necessity that Derrida described as a name and simultaneously an X because to be a communist one has to desire communities sharing the commons (both this and that, and neither nor. Remembering Derrida’s distinction). In the Russian revolution Lenin attempted to use Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat in other words ‘a vanguard party’ to do away with the rule of the Tsar and bring about socialism.[ Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels. “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company, 1978. 479-500.] The 1917 October Revolution in Saint Petersburg was led by Lenin and the Bolsheviks and here we have movements associated with conflict (WW1, and exile in Lenin’s case) a desire for change that when forced to travel via way of exclusion seeks an inclusive tradition.

Mao Tse-Tsung wrote extensively about how he perceived a revolutionary tradition dating back to the people of the han dynasty. Mao claims, ‘the Chinese never submit to tyrannical rule but invariably use revolutionary means to overthrow or change it.’[ Mao Tse-Tsung, ‘The Chinese Revolution and The Chinese Communist Party’ in Selected Works of Mao Tse-Tsung, Volume I,[https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-2/mswv2_23.html] ] Whilst writing about his nation Mao is rightly brimming with pride and the sentences carry this feeling unabashedly and this may hide the simultaneous exaggeration that also resides within any writing of a political leader. In this case the aim of Mao was to clearly describe how it was the Chinese people’s great struggle that was the sole creator of what was to become the Peoples Republic of China and of course this is true to some extent but there is more than a little evidence that Mao and his revolutionaries had help from a power outside China.

Japan and its invading armies constitute this external force. The second ‘Sino-Japanese war’ (1937-1945) resulted in Japan committing some of the worst war crimes on record – an estimated two to three hundred thousand people where massacred and raped as Japanese forces captured the then Chinese capital of Nanjing. Here we have a dark example of this external power influencing a revolution because there is evidence that strongly suggests chairman Mao the leader of the Communist party of China saw this event as the reason for his successful revolution. Journalist Richard McGregor cites this confession. This quote demonstrates that Mao the instigator and figurehead of the cultural revolution consciously referenced the force that allowed him and his comrades to move from guerilla warfare and toward defeating the nationalists and to attain control over the country.

‘[A] meeting with a Japanese Socialist party leader, Mao perversely thanked Japan for invading China, because the turmoil created by the Imperial Army had enabled the CCP to come to power. “We would still be in the mountains and not be able to watch Peking Opera in Beijing,” he said. “It was exactly because the Imperial Japanese Army took up more than half of China that there was no way out for the Chinese people. So we woke up and started armed struggle, established many anti-Japanese bases, and created conditions for the War of Liberation. The Japanese monopolistic capitalists and warlords did a ‘good thing’ to us. If a ‘thank you’ is needed, I would actually like to thank the Japanese warlords.”[ Richard McGregor, The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan] ]

Adding to this example we can acknowledge that the use of ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese highlights the importance of feminist narratives in the future of revolution. The oppression of women and the fight for gender equality is one of the more important revolutionary battles happening today; perhaps the power that will make this gender revolution a success is a change in the role of the female as a mother, giving birth may change due to external influence of technology.[ Shulamith Firestone. The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA, 1970] Such changes will first manifest in the societal and cultural entities of the biggest countries.

China is currently the worlds biggest economy and global power this is because like America it is expanding its military but after its revolution the state that emerged became more self aware of its own character and culture.[ China is well known for the control of its population and its inward looking nature but also due to its philosophy Confucianism it places a much greater emphasis on the importance of the family as a structure. ] So, rather than expanding imperially via military strength China exercised control over its population building control within its own lands. This is why McGregor uses the metaphor of Thucydides Trap because he sees that the rising power of China as too much of a threat to America for there not to be war between these two great nations.[ Ibid, McGregor. ] However, the outbreak of the Peloponnesian war when Sparta attacked Athens is another example because this metaphor is politically applicable to many instances of conflict throughout history and its symptom is an arms/weapons race. Such a race, does it not demonstrate power coming from the outside? Yes, it is one example but staying with China the country offers more evidence it has in the last decade hosted some of the biggest workers unions in the world (unsurprising because one fifth of humanity is Chinese). Comprising of millions of members and are often farmers or rural workers – they are so big and well organised that the government is forced to communicate.

This takes us back to that truly revolutionary conversation that took place outside the city. A site to situate the power from the outside that generates the impetus for a change that even an ancient aristocrat like Plato saw as necessarily tied to the use of justice. But, in terms of revolution the use of justice is a power that first manifests in a place between legality and criminality, a place, a topos that we understand as the χώρα [Khōra]?

‘When you want a deposit to be kept safely.
You mean when money is not wanted, but allowed to lie?
Precisely. That is to say, justice is useful when money is useless?
That is the inference. And when you want to keep a pruning-hook safe, then justice is useful to the individual and to the state; but when you want to use it, then the art of the vine-dresser?’[ Plato, The Republic, Book II. ]




De Tocqueville, Alexis. (2011), The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution, edited by Jon Elster, translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Derrida, J. (1993), ‘Khōra’ in ‘On the Name, Edited by Dutoit, T. Stanford University Press, Stanford California.
Shulamith Firestone. (1970), The Dialectic of Sex: The case for feminist revolution, Bantam Books, USA.
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. (1978), “Manifesto of the Communist Party.” In: The Marx-Engels Reader, edited by Robert C. Tucker, 469-500. London: Norton & Company.
McGregor, R. The Long Read: Could Trump’s Blundering Lead to War Between China and Japan? The Guardian Online, Thu 17 Aug 2017 06.00 BST, [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/17/could-trumps-blundering-lead-to-war-between-china-and-japan]
Plato. The Republic
_____ Timaeus,
Robespierre, Maximilien. (2007), “On the Principles of Revolutionary Government.” In Robespierre, Virtue and Terror, edited and by Jean Ducange, translated by John Howe, introduction by Slavoj Zizek. London: Verso.
Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph. (2003), “What is the Third Estate?” In: Political Writings, edited and translated by Michael Sonenscher, 92-162. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Plato Stole My Key Frame

Paul Harrison

{Animation & Public Engagement Symposium – Bradford Animation Festival, National Media Museum Bradford, Organised with the The Animation Academy, Loughborough. (2014) – I met so many people at this event it was amazing :)}

To begin let’s start with a question why has Plato stolen my key frame, and how is this relevant to the topic we are here to discuss? The public’s engagement with animation does not necessarily have to be an overly complex relationship. However this is before an ancient Greek’s thought compels us to re-think animation’s connection with it’s public. We are all familiar with his name, or more accurately the name he chose for himself. Plato was actually born as Aristocles and chose Plato because of his broad appearance and the breadth of his thinking [1]. Here in this account rests an explanation as to why Plato has stolen my key frame. Plato nicked this important image to remind us that appearances are potentially an illusion. Yes, Plato one of the first people to be deeply concerned with the forms things take, the man who would ban the artist and painter from his ideal city because they engage in mimicry. With their attempts at representation they distort and deceive, when waiting for a viewer to trap.

Well this information seems to be both counter-intuitive and counter productive to the discussion we are having today. Animation is undoubtedly an art form that has relied on both a painterly and deceptive quality of practice or creation. This can be seen as self evident in a powerful and accurate description I am found of using. ‘Animation is the creation of the illusion of movement through drawing.’ So here I believe Plato would start if he was here with us, to become more agreeable to the aims of this gathering. One believes that Plato’s lasting legacy compels us to alter the aforementioned definition of animation. So we can see the formal elements that the public potentially use to engage with animation with more clarity. In this way, in my suggestion the descriptive sentence alters into this:

‘Animation is the realisation of the illusion of movement through dialogue.’

So the words ‘creation’ and ‘drawing’ become ‘realisation’ and ‘dialogue’ when appeasing Plato. Why does this make Plato happy? The changes have such a positive affect because he himself was a student of Socrates, and a product of his teachers method. A route which used dialogue to attain realisation through debate, this path has been known since antiquity as the dialectic. Seeing that we are at a symposium it makes complete sense to demonstrate the importance of dialectical qualities in animation as a vessel for realising illusionary movements. To demonstrate this in Plato’s Symposium we are greeted with a re-telling of a discussion between Socrates and five or six other people on Love as a god. After you move through the homoerotic sections of speech on what qualities a younger man needs to have, in order to be a good lover. Then we reach an interesting depiction of the creation of the human form, traits, and characteristics. The words of Aristophanes offer this strange creationist account of where we come from. Zeus has grown tired of the behaviour of the first humans after they attempted to climb up to heaven to attack the gods. Quoting Zeus’s words portray a rather ‘public’ humanity. It’s a rather cartooned account of the malleability of our appearance. Making one wonder or ponder, if this perspective on human form, has more affinity. With the stance of a creator or the created?

‘I think I have a plan by which human beings could still exist but be too weak to carry out their wild behaviour. I shall now cut each of them into two; they will be weaker and also more useful to us because there will be more of them. They will walk around upright on two legs. If we think they’re still acting outrageously, and they won’t settle down, I’ll cut them in half again so that they move around hopping
on one leg [2].’

Surely we should reference an animation to decipher why we should not be fearful of this ‘cutting in half’. Precisely because animation already exists between forms, just like there is something between ignorance and wisdom[ 3. Ibid, p.47.]. This should be self evident and under no doubt, the problem we have is understanding the form this art takes, when such a large part of it is formless. Let us now watch the animation Tango (1980) by Polish animator Zbigniew Rybczyński. A film which one believes offers a way of opening the problem up by viewing the humorous historical past, in the contemporary future […] One first glimpsed this animation placed as just one of the many masterful examples of this art form. In the Barbican exhibition Watch Me Move, one did just that and watched Rybczyński’s magic unfold before one’s eyes[ Greg Hilty and Alona Pardo, Watch Me Move The Animation Show, Barbican, Merrel London/New York, p.184, (2011). ]. It not only made this speaker’s obsession reach unpreventable depths. Another thing this film does as you have seen is that it portrays a vast range of human forms, all in motion, all existing under one roof. In this singular locality the plurality of forms present bear more than a remarkable resemblance to what’s philosophically known as the Third Man Argument. Rather than bore you and lose time on mulling over what the correct interpretation of this is. I’d rather offer a definition and opinion that arose when flirting with philosophy.



Defining the argument as simply as possible T.M.A is the problem of having a singular definition of some form (F). When in fact this creates an immediate contradiction where to have the singular you need a plurality. A person can only define the form of a human in relation or next to another human form, which then needs another form to validate itself. My interpretation of the importance of this to a public engagement in animation, is that it brings into sharp focus, the pieces we have on today’s chess board. The T.M.A and Tango show the graceful intertwined dance that the essential notions such as causality, and humour. Share in both the animated and philosophised rooms we are walking through today. So in animation do we need to stress about the ad infinitum aspect that this platonic argument gives rise to? As it is validating animation’s existence; putting it in another way, on a gestural level. The essence of animation is both one of infinity or infinite possibilities. Where nothing is impossible and everything is at the mercy of humour. If ever there was something that demonstrated the insignificance of relying on a formal singular definition to construct meaning it is humour. Humour as a construct is very important in breaking through the institutional subconscious of control. That is always latent and fully present in attempting to enforce one definition or limit.
Humour an absurd dualistic thing, it oscillates dependent on the viewer, yet remains unifying.

Tango is mainly humorous in the absurdity and range of the sequences available within the animated room (imagine this occurring in your bedroom or living room?). Whilst, one can observe truly absurd animation’s in the antiquity of ancient Greece. Staying with the T.M.A you glimpse the logic of one’s opinion in that animations humour and it’s numinous essence. Are what any public will immediately freely associate with, so if we wan’t to increase engagement, in one’s opinion we should immediately forgo and denounce all stationary definitions of animation. We should adopt a tactic which successfully embarrassed Plato, for that is what Diogenes of Sinope did, when he arrived in ancient Greece after defacing currency. There exist many account’s that relate to this cynic’s animated attempts to get his public to think about how they live. From walking around in the middle of the day with a lamp and looking for an honest man[5]. To the moment when Plato was left red faced after confidently announcing to the world via the Academy, that man is a ‘featherless two legged being’. After hearing this Diogenes rushed to grab a chicken, plucked it’s feathers, and brought it into Plato’s school. After this event Plato’s definition was altered adding ‘with broad flat nails’, so we have here an example of the importance of a fluid understanding of animation.

So one feels like I have discussed the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the public engaging with animation. This fluidity or plasticity is what has driven both the production and consumption of this diverse form of art. It should be our duty to allow our thought’s to move toward understanding the illusions we create, not devaluing them with notion’s of property, with ownership via knowledge. Another way one would choose to express this particular sentiment is by saying that, ‘you wouldn’t squander the work of the Warner Bros animator Chuck Jones by turning the river of movement in his work into a drab stationary puddle’. How then can one understand this practical aspect of the symposium today? Well, embracing the topics one has already mentioned is a start. Yet I find myself drawn to Language and the work of one little known philosopher (one last philosophical reference). Ludwig Wittgenstein is often thought of as an anti-philosopher, he only wrote one book, which finished with a puzzling statement.

Wittgenstein suggested ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent[6 ].’ a seemingly truthful simple suggestion. However this demand has a context and that is this philosopher’s hell bent obsession to understand truth, what is true, here in the immediate present? Is his question in the only book he published during his life the Tractatus. In this text he discusses thought as logic and spawns the ‘verification principle’, using the analogy that logic is a picture of the world. So you have actual reality and a picture of reality and if you can get them to line up then this is true according to Wittgenstein. Now you may be thinking this is just one reiterating problems of definition, and you could be forgiven for adopting this opinion. Especially when you look at the contents of this text, as this example demonstrates:

‘This perhaps explains that the figure




can be seen in two ways as a cube; and all similar phenomena. For we really
see two different facts. (If I fix my eyes first on the corners a and only glance
at b, a appears in front and b behind, and vice versa.)

5.552 The “experience” which we need to understand logic is not that such
and such is the case, but that something is; but that is no experience.
Logic precedes every experience – that something is so.
It is before the How, not before the What[7].’

However Wittgenstein offers us a unique thing to consider because humorously after publishing this book and his thinking. He immediately dismissed it instead turning to language in his posthumously published work Philosophical Investigations[8]. Where his work in what he called ‘language games’ and using the phrase ‘language gone on holiday’, attempted to dissolve the habit of philosophy to use words out of context. This makes me wonder if animation like language and philosophy to an extent is always self referential? One doubt’s that it is and to demonstrate my opposition to this whilst also concluding how one would choose to engage with animation as a potential member of it’s public. One would choose to focus on how open animation is in it’s ability to push all forms of language into new and uncharted territories, that are potentially outside of matter?

We have to continuously create new language for animation.


  1. Diogenes Laertius, Life of Plato, IV
  2. Plato, The Symposium, Trans: Christopher Gill & Desmond Lee, Penguin Books, London, p.27-28, (2005)
  3. Ibid.
  4. Greg Hilty and Alona Pardo, Watch Me Move The Animation Show, Barbican, Merrel London/New York, p.184, (2011).
  5. Laërtius & Hicks 1925, Ⅵ:41
  6. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Cosimo, New York, p.108, (2007)
  7. Ibid, p86.
  8. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Blackwell, Oxford, (1967) .