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Archive for the ‘on Heidegger’ Category

  COMMENTARY ON ARISTOTLE’S NICOMACHEAN ETHICS: BOOK I, 10

(For the nature of the sections see the “General Introduction”, here.)

Abbreviations: Ar. = Aristotle, AQ= Aquinas, NE = Nicomachean Ethics, EE= Eudemian Ethics

NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

BOOK I

CHAPTER TEN

“Should one, then, not deem happy any human being for so long as he is alive; but must one look instead, as Solon has it, to his end? But if it indeed it is necessary to posit such a thesis, then is in fact a person happy when he is dead? Or is this, at least, altogether strange, specially for us who say that happiness is a certain activity? But if we do not say that the dead person is happy —and this is not what Solon means either —- but say rather than someone might safely deem a human being blessed only once he is already removed from bad things and misfortunes, this too admits of some dispute. For it is held that both something bad and something good can befall the dead person, if in fact they can befall the living person who does not perceive it —-for example, honors and dishonors, and the faring well or the misfortunes of his offspring and descendants generally.

But these things too are perplexing; for someone who has lived blessedly until old age and come to this end accordingly, it is possible that many reversals may occur involving his descendants just as some of these descendants may be good and attain the life that accords with their merit, but others the contrary. Yet it is clear that it is possible for these descendants to be of varying degrees of remove from their ancestors. Indeed,  it would be strange if even the dead person should share in the reversals and become now happy, now wretched again. But it would be strange too if nothing of the affairs of the descendants should reach the ancestors, not even for a certain time.

But one must return to the perplexity previously mentioned, for perhaps what is now being sought might also be contemplated on the basis of it. If indeed one does have to see a person´s end and at that time deem each person blessed, not as being blessed [now] but as having been such previously —how is this not strange if, when he is happy, what belongs to him will not be truly attributed to him? [This strange consequence] arises on account of our wish not to call the living happy, given the reversals that may happen, and of our supposition that happiness is something lasting and by no means easily subject to reversals, while fortunes often revolve for the same people. For it is clear that if we should follow someone’s fortunes, we will often say that the same person is happy and then again wretched, declaring that the happy person is a sort of chameleon and on unsound footing.

Or is it not at all correct to follow someone’s fortunes? For it is not in these that doing well or badly consists. Rather, human life requires these fortunes in addition, just as we said; yet it is these activities in accord with virtue that have authoritative control over happiness, and the contrary activities on the contrary.

The perplexity just now raised also bears witness to the argument, since in none of the human works is anything so secure as what pertains to the activities that accord with virtue. For such activities seem to be more lasting than even the sciences; and the most honored of them seem to be more lasting, because those who are blessed live out their lives engaged, to the greatest degree and most continuously, in these activities. This seems to be the cause of our not forgetting such activities. Indeed, what is being sought will be available to the happy person, and he will be such throughout life. For he will always, or most of all act on and contemplate what accords with virtue, and he —- and least he who is truly good and “four-square, without blame” — he will bear fortunes altogether nobly and suitably in every way.

Now, many things occur by chance, and they differ in how great or small they are.  The small instances of good fortune, and similarly of its opposite, clearly do not tip the balance of one´s life, whereas the great and numerous ones that occur will, make life more blessed (since these naturally help adorn life, and dealing with them is noble and serious). But those fortunes that turn out in the contrary way restrict and even ruin one´s blessedness, for they both inflict pain and impede many activities. Nevertheless, even in the midst of these, nobility shines through, whenever someone bears up calmly under many misfortunes, not because of any insensitivity to pain but because he is well-born and great souled.

And if the activities have authoritative control over life, just as we said, then no one who is blessed would become wretched, since he will never do things that are hateful and base. For we suppose that someone who is truly good and sensible bears up under all fortunes in a becoming way and always does what is noblest given the circumstances, just as a good general makes use, with the greatest military skill, of the army he has and a shoemaker makes the most beautiful shoe out of leather given him. It holds in same manner with all the other experts as well. And if this is so, then the happy person would never become wretched —nor indeed would he be blessed, it is true, if he encounters the fortunes of Priam. He would not be unstable and subject to reversals either, for he will not be easily moved from happiness, and then not by any random misfortunes but only great and numerous ones. And as a result of such things he would not become happy again in a short time; but, if in fact he does, he will do so in the completion of some lengthy time during which he comes to attain great and noble things.

What, then, prevents one from calling happy someone who is active in accord with complete virtue and who is adequately equipped with external goods, not for any chance time but in a complete life? Or must one posit in addition that he will both live in this way and meet his end accordingly —- since the future is in immanifest to us, and we posit happiness, wholly and in every way, as an end and as complete? And if this is so, we will say that those among the living who have and will have available to them the things stated are blessed —-but blessed human beings.

Let what pertains to these things too be defined up to this point.”

(NE, 1100a10-1101a22; Aristotle´s Nicomachean Ethics, Bartlett, Robert, and Collins, Susan; University of Chicago, Chicago, 2011)

I. PRIVATE PUZZLES
1) What are we to make of this striking subsection? What is its argumentative “spirit”? Isn’t it in its ENTIRETY extremely odd and perplexing? For instance, isn’t it surprising to find Ar. begin AND end a subsection by asking so many questions himself? Is he pushing us in this direction, after having set the “rules of the game” by means of his three crucial previous digressions? Could he be starting to TEACH us to puzzle? For isn’t a QUESTION, rather more active than a STATEMENT? And isn’t Aristotelian happiness a kind of ACTIVITY? Doesn’t a QUESTION allow us the freedom to, in the end, think for ourselves? In similar fashion, didn’t Socrates question so that he did NOT have to write? Isn’t the QUESTION, the foundation of classical philosophical dialectics (and thus conceived in a crucially different sense than that found in the ontological structure of Heidegger’s Dasein and its capacity to question; Introduction to Being and Time)? But WHAT are we puzzling about here that makes this subsection so STRANGE? Isn’t it about the most difficult of topics, namely our temporal finitude and ultimate DEATH? Indeed, how CAN we be happy as humans if we are mortal and MUST die? In this respect, won’t this subsection turn out to be KEY for Aristotelians intent on challenging the APOLITICAL Heideggerian conception of finitude? And in this regard, why are we here SO concerned with the temporality (QUANTITY) of our lives (somehow reaching old age unscathed), rather than with the QUALITY of our lives? For, isn’t the WHOLE ethical point “HOW we live our lives”, rather then “HOW LONG we live our lives”? And, don’t TYRANTS live really really long (see below)? Is this part of the troubling political fact surrounding the question of temporality and finitude (pace Heidegger´s own dramatically apolitical notion of time in Being and Time)? Just recently, didn’t Mubarak outlast many? And, ethically speaking, surely HITLER outlived many much more righteous men, didn’t he? So, under this perplexing view, are we to count a life as worthwhile ONLY until we reach 40 or 50 or 60 or 90 (like Abraham who only until THAT advanced age was given forth his promise)? Or put yet another way, were previous cultures less happy because their average life expectancy was much less then ours? Are WE moderns happier because “we” —–well, really only those in developed countries—- DO in fact last much longer (even if connected to all sorts of medical machines)? Haven’t we, ironically, simply given greater chance to chance to act upon us as Ar. had pointed out in our previous commentary?

But returning to the tone/spirit of the subsection, isn’t it ALL kind of spooky? I mean, aren’t we sort of dealing with communications with, or at the very least, referring to the dead (albeit, close kin in particular) and similar issues? And that it IS so, is shown in the even STRANGER subsection XI (“Do the fortunes of the living affect the dead”) which follows immediately? Doesn’t Ostwald allow us to see how far he misses precisely the tone of the whole passage in his footnote 44 and his reference to Burnet´s interpretation of Aristotle? But, how are WE, specially we moderns born out of the secular transfiguration, to take this in (see quote Professor Taylor below)? For surely there seems to be not a single expression of irony or laughter in Ar.’s presentation, is there? Could we not say, that indeed it is HERE, more than anywhere else in the NE, that we actually find one of the most valuable and explicit examples of Ar.’s philosophical generosity towards the life of the noblest of citizens (as is clear by the example given here of Solon)? For isn’t Ar. truly going out of his way in his attentive respect for the beliefs held by traditional leading citizens and THEIR concerns about temporality and happiness? How so? Because isn’t the concern for temporality of great IMPORT to the serious citizens of a political community? Isn’t it the case that for THEM the family, specially, is the locus of an endurance and immortality beyond the ephemeral appearance of any of its individual members (contrast, Diotima´s “The Ladder of Love” speech in Plato’s Symposium)? For wouldn’t a Solon ask: what of a long life WITHOUT a family? What could that be FOR? Mustn’t the individual see beyond him/herself in order to truly achieve happiness?  And moreover, aren’t great leaders, the greatest of leaders, truly thus remembered by all for the SACRIFICES they make in dedicating themselves whole-heartedly to the PUBLIC good? Isn’t this PRECISELY why Solon, the lawgiver, is remembered till this day even beyond the boundaries of his native Athens?  And aren’t those who give up their lives for US in battle, in the crucial defense of our divergent REGIMES, thus remembered as well for exemplifying the virtue of courage by giving themselves for a greater cause than mere life? Isn’t this, in part, why Ar., as we shall see, also refers to Simonides the poet in this very subsection by referencing his appearance in Plato´s dialogue Protagoras (which deals precisely with the question of courage and sophistry; 339b)? For isn’t Simonides famous for his elegies to the fallen dead in the greatest of Greek battles, the most famous being that written as remembrance of the Battle at Thermopylae, and which reads:

 

Ὦ ξεῖν’, ἀγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις ὅτι τῇδε

κείμεθα, τοῖς κείνων ῥήμασι πειθόμενοι.

“Stranger, announce to the Spartans that here

We lie, having fulfilled their orders.”

(see below)? And we know quite well that elegies and eulogies are far from being the same, don’t we? Actually, in terms of eudaimonia, don’t they stand at extremes?

And so that we may be believed, isn’t the example of Solon here central in THIS regard? Don’t we find precisely THIS concern in Herodotus´s account of Solon —made reference to by Ar. himself? Doesn’t Herodotus allow us to share in the context of Solon’s words? For, we come to know how Solon, in one of his “voyages” outside Athens, came to be questioned/confronted by a tyrant named Croesus? And, doesn’t Croesus indeed know that Solon´s international fame was such as to be considered one of the Seven Sages of Antiquity? But, what does the Tyrant ask in relation to the topic of the NE? Isn’t the question precisely that of the NE as a whole? Doesn’t the TYRANT ask WHO is the happiest human known to be so by Solon himself? And, before dwelling more intimately in the dialogue that ensues between law-giver and TYRANT, mustn’t we mention also that we see in Plutarch’s “Life of Solon” the radically opposite un-Aristotelian tone and sense of fundamental respect by a philosopher towards traditional concerns and beliefs? Don’t we have to contrast here Ar.´s way of proceeding prudently, with Thales outright (effective, yes), but shocking (mocking?) “unveiling” of Solon’s beliefs as regards the possibility of a serious interconnection between one´s  having a family and reaching the highest human happiness available to us?  Isn’t Thales’s’ trick truly outrageous from a much more moderate Aristotelian perspective, namely telling Solon that one of his children has DIED, when in fact it is simply a TEST:

“Thus every answer heightened Solon’s fears, and at last, in great distress of soul, he told his name to the stranger and asked him if it was Solon’s son that was dead. The man said it was; whereupon Solon began to beat his head and to do and say everything else that betokens a transport of grief. But Thales took him by the hand and said, with a smile, “This it is, O Solon, which keeps me from marriage and the getting of children; it overwhelms even thee, who art the most stout-hearted of men. But be not dismayed at this story, for it is not true.”

(my emphasis; p. 419; http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Solon*.html; not to mention Thales’s own inconsistencies on the topic.)

Isn’t this example, in part, what makes us clear as to why Thales is considered a Pre-Socratic? For didn’t’ the Socratic revolution, as told to us by Cicero, BRING philosophy back to “earth” via its political concerns? And in parallel fashion, don’t we see Ar. living up to the presuppositions of the founder of Political Philosophy, Socrates, who already knew of his Second Voyage as the KEY to a certain departure from philosophers such as Thales and Anaxagoras? Moreover, leaving aside the fact that a similar “outrageous” test appears as well in the Bible (young Isaacs divinely commanded sacrifice by Abraham at the age of 90+!), don’t we sense as we read this subsection that is it specially the spoudaios who would find Thales’s un-Aristotelian attitude quite “distasteful”, to put it mildly? Or put yet another way, in striking relation to the beginning of Plato’s Republic, don’t we find here Ar.’s bowing to elder citizens such as Cephalus —whose name actually means “head”, as in the expression, “head of the family”—– rather than seeking their direct questioning? And in this regard, don’t we need also recall that THIS more prudential tone is precisely the tone set by the elder Plato in his much more mature, and politically realistic, dialogue, The Laws? For isn’t THAT political dialogue undertaken by a stranger (obviously Socrates, though it is striking that Plato feels the need to cover up such obviousness), and two elder citizens who are quite advanced in their lives and thus closer to death? And isn’t this TONE, that which characterizes the forgotten yet masterful work of Xenophon? Are we surprised then NOT to find Xenophon being read in current Academia?

(more…)

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(Note: FOR AN ALMOST IDENTICAL PRESENTATION WHICH INCLUDES SOME PHOTOS, PLEASE SEE THE FOLLOWING: link )

On Space, Western Architecture and 9/11

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1. Introduction

Perhaps the best way to surprise oneself is to look a bit more closely at what seems totally obvious. Looking at it more closely may surprise and can give us great pleasure. What was always there, suddenly appears for the very first time. For instance, if you use glasses, you know you never actually see them. Until you loose them; THEN you go into “panic” mode. One such deceptively simple reality lies behind the concept of space. We move through space as fish through water; we rarely even notice it. Again, we seem to do so only negatively, that is, specially when some object obstructs our movements and we trip. Suddenly we find ourselves cursing the thing which made us “think” about space itself!

Or you might wonder at spatial realities we take for granted; for instance, that the space in the classroom —-or in prison, or in the hospital, as Foucault points out—- must be set in such and such a form. If the classroom is simply a set of rows, then the teacher appears as all-governing; if the chairs are set out in a circle, then the teacher becomes a participant, although still a privileged one. And for sure, in many cases there may be no chairs because of poverty. But the issue concerns not simply objects out there, as in the classroom, but even the very way we relate to others. In the previous example of the classroom, the space between students and professors in North America has strict legalistic and prohibitive boundaries; meanwhile, in Latin America teachers and students require a certain closeness which sometimes even involves the comfort of benign touch.

But isn’t space just something quite easy to understand? Under a common view, a view to which we moderns have become accustomed to, the puzzle behind space is easily “answered” by being equated to the distance between things. Want to know the space between two things? Well, just measure it. The measurement gives 2 meters, that’s the space between stuff. (However, even when space is quantified, we cannot agree as to how to do it; some of us use meters, others who are more powerful use feet.)

Leaving aside the issue of how surprising it is that our bodies are fit for space (Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor marvels continuously at this taken for granted issue), and leaving aside the very important Kantian discussion of space, it must be stressed that the relation of the artist to space is quite unique and privileged. Here in dA, specially in the area of photography, one constantly sees amazing photographs of architectural landmarks. Architecture is THE foundational art that deals with the issue of space, in particular, modeling those lived spaces in which we humans inhabit our meaningful spatial world. In this sense, the first cavern which was inhabited was no longer simply a cavern; it had already become a primitive home affording the security of a shelter which allowed for the appearance of symbolic painting, for communal language and for a concern with the divine.

This foundational role of architecture was ironically captured by Frank Lloyd Wright who, while constructing the Guggenheim Museum, had to deal with letters by renowned artists who complained about the impossibility of their art being displayed on the curved walls and low ceilings of the, then, very controversial museum. Wright —-exemplifying his personality—- responded: “If the paintings are too large, cut them in half!” Such words allow us non-architects to acknowledge that architecture has an understanding of space which most of us lack. However, to reflect on the conceptual nature of the space which is the concern of architecture, is a task not all architects may have the skills to do. For this, some philosophers are needed. It is in this respect that architects –one could even say in general those many artists interested in issues of spatiality— and perceptive philosophers —trained in the difficult process of clarification of conceptual realities– must work together to get clearer on the perplexing nature of space. Perhaps in their combined efforts they might cross those spaces and boundaries which separate them. We political philosophers feel the need for such collaboration; do artists and architects?

Furthermore, it seems clear that the way we inhabit space is transformed historically and reflects our political regimes. The architecture of a democracy is not that of an aristocracy; the castle is not the place for a voting society. The architecture of a theocracy, such as that of Iran, is not that of a parliamentary regime. As our brilliant Colombian Architect Rogelio Salmona –creator of the inspiring Virgilio Barco public Library in my beloved Bogotá— wrote: “the architectonic is the path which I followed in order to find that modernity begins with a new perception of space … he who wants to produce another system of figuration, representation and construction of space, must know its evolution and know the moments ruptures are produced.” Spatiality has a history and therefore it is traversed by temporality. In this respect one should not expect the architectural spaces of Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt, Modern Canada, and that of the Inuit’s to be identical. But more primordially, the representation of space by the modern West becomes a topic unto itself.

The political question on the nature of modern spatiality becomes all the more urgent if one attends to the events of September 11, 2001. But you might ask: “what would the way we decide to inhabit space have anything to do with politics (a common theme of all my journals)?” Well one could do an exercise in imagination. The atrocious and cowardly attacks of 9/11 on the USA specifically, and on the West in general (e.g., the later infamous attacks on Madrid in 2004) —–it seems to me—- could be seen as attacks on some of the elements of the Modern Western conception of space. In this respect, the guiding questions for this very tentative journal is: If our views of space not only have personal or artistic values, but more primordially political and theological ones, then: Are the attacks of 9/11, which transformed the world radically, an attack on the very concept of space which guides the western view of spatiality? And connected to this question: Is there something that can be seen as arrogant, even hubristic, about some of our North American architecture, in particular of our financial institutions who have sought to reach the sky through the building of ever taller and taller skyscrapers? But if there is some truth to this, as the anti-globalization marches seem to portray, can we just simply let these institutions collapse without attending to the dangerous repercussions of such positions? More importantly; isn’t the emptiness we all felt after the 9/11 attacks, the very condition which allows us to reconsider our sense of space?

And going further still into very difficult and dangerous territory: does this sense of space as radically secular come into conflict with a sense of space permeated by the presence of the divine? “What do you mean,” you might ask. Well this; a Muslim’s sense of space is radically different from that of a secular westerner. For instance, if you are a secular unbeliever you might consider: have you ever thought about having to kneel down in prayer five times a day –according to the position of the sun— and forcing your body to direct itself towards a spatial reality which is the foundation of your faith, of your very sense of being and of your connection to the divine? [link] Do we westerners —even those who are believers— ever stop five times to reach out for the divine through the positioning itself of our bodies? Or consider the following: a pilgrimage is the way a believers traverses worldly spaces towards a certain reconciliation with the divine. Now, each and every Muslim ––with some monetary and health related exceptions— must do one in his/her life? In contrast: where does our western pilgrimage head towards? Unsure of myself, I ask, can two such different views of space actually find a space to meet? Or must space be obliterated continuously by the two parties, making it a real impossibility for us to inhabit the very same Earth which is our only spatial possibility?

Fortunately for us, there are within our western traditions, architects who have seen the issue very clearly. Among them, Kahn, Wright, Niemeyer, and Libeskind. In this respect perhaps it is worthwhile to remember what Wright thought of modern skyscrapers, the symbol of North American economic power: “Wherever human life is concerned, the unnatural stricture of excessive verticality cannot stand against more natural horizontality.” Words by Wright that could not have foreseen the unacceptable atrocities perpetrated on 9/11 by extremists intent on simply obliterating space.

2. The philosophy of western spatiality; our maps.

So, how could one go about seeing what is behind these different concepts of space, if in fact we move through our spaces as fish move through water? I once asked a young boy how fish took a shower if there were already in water. He was puzzled. I laughed a bit, but I feel the same way with regards to our notion of space. In this respect I laugh a bit at myself. If we are “immersed” in our spatial being in the world, how to find a way to surprise ourselves? Here, recourse to history is one fundamental possibility.

If our understandings of space have a history, then ours is the history of the radical and, hardly questioned, compression of time and space. If previously the distance between us and others we loved was mediated by letters which took long periods of time to reach their destination —-think of how difficult it was to arrange battles as the succumbing of the Spanish Armada shows—-, now the instantaneous connection of those near to us is easily achieved via email, internet messenger, blogging and SMS. Cyberspace complicates the picture even more given that the space of truly realistic video games further deepens our puzzles. The amazing spaces “within” such games, and the spaces shared by those playing on-line is non-existent. Even money and financial transactions have lost their spatial touchability; e-commerce allows virtual reality to guide our everyday transactions. Many of our work relations are likewise mediated by cyberspace, a strange kind of space which we know is nowhere. Just puzzle a bit about our own dA; it allows for the instantaneous communication through thousands of kilometers with fellow deviants who share paintings and photographs that are “spaceless” images repeated constantly and instantaneously (well, almost!)

All in all, it seems as though the reality of spatiality becomes obliterated in our virtual world. I firmly believe this is why, in a world guided by images, the fall of the Twin Towers was perceived by many as a “movie”; which it CERTAINLY WAS NOT. No wonder it is harder and harder for us to even think the question itself. As David Harvey in his amazing The Condition of Postmodernity puts it:

“As space appears to shrink to a ‘global village’ of telecommunications and a ‘spaceship earth’ of economic and ecological interdependencies —to use just two familiar and everyday images —- and as time horizons shorten to the point where the present is all there is (the world of the schizophrenic), so we have to learn how to cope with an overwhelming sense of compression of our spatial and temporal worlds.”

For many this tendency began historically with the emergence of science which required a quantifiable view of space as providing the basis for the certainty of objective data needed to develop a scientific understanding of the world. . But I cannot deal with this issue here (though many, including Taylor, have dealt with the issue extensively; see his “Overcoming epistemology”.)

But, how to get at this problematic if one is not a “trained” philosopher or architect? Well, I will try to show you a way to do it. I will tell you where I live. Goggle maps provide us with the possibility of pinpointing the very exact space which we inhabit. So here is where I live; approximately, just in case any deviant wants to get back at me for having to read such long journals!

http://amelo14.deviantart.com/art/Journal-Space-2-19526771

You look and find everything all too familiar. THAT is part of the problem. But do you have a sense that there is something very limiting about this representation of space? “Well, “ you could reply, “how else can one go around places then?” And I wonder worried, “so you do not see it”. Well, I must not give up and try to allow you to see what is so strange here. Take a look at another period in time in which other types of relations to space existed. Take a look at some early medieval maps:

Paris Map 1250

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Chronicles of St. Denis 1364-1372

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Now you at least see that OUR maps are profoundly different. You look a bit startled. And of course you laugh a bit and say to yourself: “Poor people they were so ignorant then, they just simply did not have the technology to map out correctly their maps.” And I agree, in part: I mean, look at those little houses, well, was that drawn by children? Did Klee draw these maps?

But maybe, you might just start to ponder whether it is YOU who does not see what those maps take for granted. A bit worried, you start to realize that the medieval maps were not guided by the x-y coordinates of the Cartesian grid. In contrast, early medieval maps represent the world in terms of the world’s significance to the inhabitants of these spaces. What mattered was not the distance between the houses, but the houses; and if a given place had a special significance, well, it was actually drawn to stand out. The church, the castle, Prince Amelo’s retreat, were much larger than they actually were in reality. And besides, you might just start to see how your modern eyes are connected to a secular way of seeing the world. The Chronicle of St. Denis is a mapping which involves the stages of the life of a Saint. Remember what we said at the start of the Muslim pilgrimage? Our maps certainly have no sense of any pilgrimage whatsoever; their function is to get us around as quickly and efficiently as possible. Harvey summarizes well the issue: “Maps stripped of all fantasy and religious belief, as well as any sign of the experiences involved in their production, had become abstract and strictly functional systems for the factual pondering of phenomena in space” (249). Charles Taylor, the architectonic foundation of my Ph.D. thesis, adds: “A way is essentially something you go through in time. The map on the other hand, lays out everything simultaneously, and relates every point to every point without discrimination”. (176)

And we wonder how come we have never seen this before. What else might we not be seeing? What else might we not even want to open ourselves to seeing? A firm conviction of the Socratic uneasiness which sets itself up against those who simply know they know, motivates me to write this journal, to face up to my own ignorance of myself and of the spatial world I inhabit daily.

3. The Cartesian model of spatiality in modern architecture: Le Corbusier
and the city of
Brasilia.

But, what does this have to do at all with architecture as the privileged art dealing with space? A lot. The Cartesian gird which informed our maps, itself informed the construction of architectural reality. Even Descartes understood that his method, set out in his Discourse on Method —–the pillar of early modernity—– implied that cities should be ordered rationally by truly rational city planners: “..and the way they make the street twisted and irregular, one would say that it was chance that placed them so, not the will of men who had the use of reason.” (Part II). And what is most intriguing about this whole story, and to be as brief as possible, is that architects like Le Corbusier, in their defense of modernity, tried to implement in their works the presuppositions of this type of rationality based on an overconfident sense of technological progress which would, allegedly, allow for the realization of noble social projects. The rational and efficient use of space is seen clearly in Le Corbusier’s plans for Paris:

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It is a spatial layout which reminds us of images in the famous documentary Koyaanistqatsi, and of images of the inner city projects in North America which later decayed progressively in contrast to the initial intentions of their creators.

But perhaps the single most impressive attempt to instantiate this model is the creation of a capital city itself where nothing stood before. Such is the case of the absolutely amazing example of Brasilia, capital of Brazil, which was built from scratch. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brasilia#A_planned_city It was built during 4 years, starting in 1956, and followed Le Corbusier’s ideals of modernism. As a modernist project, it was built as a totally new beginning, so as to point how modernity is a radical new start which sees previous ages with a bit of disdain. Medieval maps of course appear a bit inferior, they appear as the products of dark ages. Furthermore, to emphasize the radical importance of political space, the capital was built in the very centre of colossal Brazil, in order to ensure the unity of the Nation as was established in the constitution itself.

Brasilia under construction

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But as with our modern maps, the meaningfulness of those inhabiting Brasilia itself took second place. This is why today nobody can go to places in Brasilia without having to deal with excessively long walking distances for the city was designed with an unquestioned and naïve view of the role of automobiles in our modern city streets. As citizens in Brasilia put it in a popular saying that points out the deficiencies of this model of spatiality: “(in Brasilia) the inhabitants are born with wheels instead of feet.” (Turning further North for a second, we are dismayed as 6 smog alerts have already covered the space which is our Toronto this year; precisely, in part, because of the excessive use of cars. This is a stark reminder that the way we decide to inhabit our space has everything to do with our day to day quality of life. My dear Bogota is ahead in this respect with its car-free days, model public transportation and famous limiting of cars by their license plates.)

And to have a better grasp for what was on the mind of the architects of the time, their utter optimism with regards to technology, Brasilia itself was made to be seen from above as resembling a modern airplane!

Brasilia: City Plan

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This is certainly an extremely cruel irony when one thinks of the disastrous outcome which resulted from the hijacking of the US airplanes on 9/11. It showed the world the possibility of using aircraft as destructive weapons of the very space which embodies some of the very important ideals of the West.

4. Deconstructing our modernist spatiality

So how can this perception of space be transformed? It has actually already been done for many years by postmodernists architects and their critiques of modernist architects such as Le Corbusier; as well as by well-known architects such as Wright (see his Fallingwater house, [link] ), Kahn (see his National Assembly in Dacca Bangladesh, ), Gaudi (see his Sagrada Familia, [link] ) and Niemeyer (see his Niteroi Museum in Rio, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Niemeyer). Harvey once again provides a good summary of some of the broad differences: “Above all, postmodernists depart radically from modernist conceptions of how to regard space. Whereas the modernists see space as something to be shaped for social purposes and therefore always subservient to the construction of a special project, the postmodernists see space as something independent and autonomous, to be shaped according to the aesthetic aims and principles which have nothing necessarily to do with any overarching objective, save, perhaps, the achievement of timelessness and ‘disinterested’ beauty as an objective in itself”. (66) Another way to put is as Wright does: “Beautiful buildings are more than scientific. They are true organisms, spiritually conceived; works of art, using the best technology by inspiration rather than the idiosyncrasies of mere taste or any averaging by the committee mind.” Or elsewhere: “Organic buildings are of the strength and lightness of the spider’s spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground.” Positions which are beautifully captured in the most famous house in the world:

Fallingwater

[link]

But given that my concern is to bridge the space constantly separating artists and philosophers, I will briefly look indirectly at the work of Martin Heidegger who, of all philosophers, stands only second to Nietzsche on his writings on modern art. In his very difficult Being and Time, using his very complex language, he dedicates numerals *22-*24 to the issue of a reconsideration of Cartesian spatiality. There he says some truly odd and difficult things to understand. For example, Heidegger says: “In Dasein there lies an essential tendency towards closeness. All the ways in which we speed up things, as we are more or less compelled to do today, push us towards the conquest of remoteness.“ *23, (106)

What might Heidegger be getting at? Well, primary and negatively, he is all for an intelligent critique of our conception of space as being guided by the Cartesian framework in which space is what can be simply measured; a methodological framework which presents the world as something out THERE to be objectively considered. Instead, for Heidegger in our everyday going about spatially in the world, we are ALREADY moving in space in a primary way which is rarely questioned. This is why Heidegger speaks of our primordially already “being-in-the-world”. Heidegger loves to use examples of everyday utensils to bring out what is obvious, but has been lost from sight.

Those utensils we actually use in our dally lives are never found in independent spaces, but rather are found in a network of spaces which interconnects them. Things occupy a space in this web of significance which is never questioned except when something goes wrong. We all remember our mom “freaking out” when she found the basketball in the living room. “THAT is not its place,” she constantly reminded us. This normal affair partly reveals how the spaces we humans inhabit are set up in ways which provide meaning to our surroundings Or think of what happens when your remote control is nowhere to be found. We rarely pause to think about it, but not finding the remote upsets our moving about in the world in such a way that, for the most neurotic of us, we just can’t go on. We can’t even continue watching the movie, or even pause to turn on the TV ourselves!

The multiplicity of spaces in which we move about daily conforms a network of meaning which goes unquestioned just as we saw with our modern understanding of space itself. We could not even question the maps we use daily; it is for this very same reason that we cannot see anything strange or deforming about them. For while we move in space, we cannot think about the issue; we just move. We simply use the map, and that of course, is what they are there for. Can you imagine trying to get to the CN Tower and suddenly some philosopher starts to talk about the x-y grid! We would never get anywhere!

I fear I have lost some of you in mapping out this last section which I have compressed beyond what is acceptable. So because we are all artists here, let me try another example from literature. The work of Albert Camus allows us to get a better grasp for what Heidegger might mean. If we remember spaces which we inhabited once and no longer do —- the houses of our childhood, the countries we have left, the parks we used to play in, the farm we used to visit, our first apartment—, if we try hard to imagine them, we might see what is so odd about a Cartesian view of spatiality. Remembering them, the network of signification stares us directly. Camus allows us this return in his Return to Tipasa:

“Yet I persisted without very well knowing what I was waiting for, unless perhaps the moment to go back to Tipasa. To be sure, it is sheer madness, almost always punished to return to the sites of one’s youth, to relive at forty what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty . But I was forewarned of that madness … I hoped, I think, to recapture there a freedom I could not forget” Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, “Return to Tipasa, pg. 196. Vintage Books, 1983.)

Revisiting the spaces which formed us, requires revisiting ourselves as we once were. This is not easy, for the places might no longer be the networks of significance they once were. The old family house is now simply a broken-down store; the park where we played, condominiums surrounded by pavement; the farm, a guerrilla outpost. But as Camus writes, we are simultaneously reminded of the very freedom which allowed us to leave these places in the first place. For in some cases —–more than just “some cases” I fear is more accurate for the lives of artists and philosophers—– these places might have become a bit like caverns or cages. According to Camus, we remember through this exercise in imaginary revival the courage it took to embark ourselves towards new spatial possibilities. This, some immigrants, specially those who have thought through their courage a bit, know all too well. It is this same courage we need to undertake in order to reconsider our own modern spatiality which came radically into question after the horrifying collapse of the World Trade Center Towers; now, their space can no longer be filled by anything except a memorial of what once was, and is no longer there.

5. Conclusion

What is obvious has the tendency to surprise us the most because it is the most hidden from us. Because it is so “obvious”, we rarely have the courage to confront it. Something similar happens within families. But thanks to the combined work of artists and philosophers we can start to move towards reconciling ourselves, not only with ourselves, but with other cultures by means of a critical dialogue in which both parties argue intelligently about their unquestioned presuppositions. For this task, the help of philosophers, specially artistically-inclined philosophers, is required. For this task, the help of artists/architects, specially philosophically-inclined artists, is required. For it is clear we do not want to become the inhabitants of the deadly space which surrounds the doomed panther in Rilke’s famous poem :

“His tired gaze -from passing endless bars-
has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.
To him there seem to be a thousand bars,
and out beyond these bars exists no world.”

For this is the world of those who perpetrated 9/11 and left for thousands of unsuspecting victims only the reality of collapsing space and timeless grief.

Libeskind’s plans for WTC: “Memory Foundations”

[link]

Appendix: secular and/or divine spaces?
Briefly in what follows I put forward, as a result of the previous exercise, some tentative parallels on some plausible differences between a space guided by secular reason, and one founded upon the faith of the divine, particularly, though not exclusively, as seen in Islam:

Secular
1. Notion of immediacy and compression of space through continuous technological encounters via cell-phones, email, messengers.
2. The space of the individual as the paramount foundation of meaningfulness; giving authentic meaning to my spaces is done through my direct participation.
3. The skyscraper as the outstanding achievement of western architecture, symbolizing the economic strength and political unity of the most powerful reaching, as high as materials can, to a secular sky above.
4. A Cartesian model of spatiality conforming to Euclidian geometry which makes of reality something detached and scientifically observable.
5. Earth as the unique and sole spatial abode which requires of our human care.
6. Architecture as the art which dignifies our secular presence in a world which famous architects transform in the search for a certain kind of immortality, that of creation. As Philip Johnson said: . “All architects want to live beyond their deaths.” [link]

Divine
1. Notion of space mediated though the presence of the divine as can be seen in the importance and lay out, for instance, of the Mosque and the parts which conform its architecture, including the Mihrab and the Minbar. http://www.islamicarchitecture.org/architecture/themosque.html [link]
2. The space of the individual takes a secondary role, overshadowed by the divine moral commands which include specific roles for the body; kneeling, fasting, preparing for pilgrimage, among many others.
3. The temple as the architectural summit: the Mosque as the greatest architectural achievement in praise of Allah.
4. Marveling at the possibility of geometry by including geometric patterns repeating themselves infinitely in great architectural works. These attempt to lead us through perception itself to the unity of the infinite in God: “Driven by the religious passion for abstraction and the related doctrine of unity, the Muslim intellectuals recognized in geometry the unifying intermediary between they material and the spiritual world” http://www.islamicarchitecture.org/art/islamic-geometry-and-floral-patterns.html [link]
5. God as the unique reality beyond any spatial finitude. God as spaceless and yet the sole creator of space.
6. The only true architect is God as exemplified by the poetic psalms of impressive King David: Psalm 31: 1-3 ”In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.; Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for a house of defense to save me.; For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”

 

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RECONSTRUCCIÓN

 

DE LA ESPACIALIDAD DENTRO DE LA ARQUITECTURA GENERAL

 

DE SER Y TIEMPO

 

La nueva Ford Explorer 2002 nos invita a una aventura que desconoce de fronteras. ¿Cuáles son las características de esta topología originada en la revolución del Fordismo? ¿Cuáles son las coordenadas de esta invitación a descubrir nuevos espacios? En la propaganda correspondiente se nos responde: “Nadie las conoce. Lo que es cierto es que en la mente de cada quien existen lugares que no aparecen en ningún mapa, lugares espectaculares reservados sólo para quienes son capaces de liberar su espíritu aventurero.”(mi énfasis) [1].

En pleno siglo XXI se nos hace saber que el territorio Marlboro no necesita más de lentos caballos. Y sin embargo preocupados nos preguntamos a manera de contraste: ¿acaso es sólo posible apropiar la espacialidad por medio de la propiedad?¿Qué implica otro tipo de aventura espacial, a saber, la aventura por parajes a las que nos invita Heidegger?¿Qué otro tipo de topografías pueden mostrarse al leer las secciones *19 a *27 de Ser y Tiempo?

La compresión del conjunto espacio-temporal es para nosotros, herederos de la revolución computacional, una realidad cotidiana. Contactamos instantáneamente al otro por celulares, celulares que a su vez pagamos por medio de transacciones electrónicas de dinero plástico (con el cual también podemos acumular millas viajeros) en cajeros automáticos o vía transacciones electrónicas por Internet. Dentro del ciberespacio nos movemos no sólo comprando a través del e-commerce sino que nos contactamos por medio de populares programas tales como ICQ que conforman el software de nuestros cada vez más pequeños y más livianos computadores. Ya no nos resulta sorprendente que la final de la Copa América, que se realizó a veinte cuadras de mi casa, sea vista por millones de personas que no sólo no conocen Bogotá, sino que muy probablemente jamás la conocerán. Así como la Ford Explorer traspasa las fronteras existentes, de manera similar vemos como las fronteras estatales parecen ceder ante la presión de la globalización del planeta.[2] Como lo pone Harvey en The Postmodern Condition:

As space appears to shrink to a ‘global village’ of telecommunications and a ‘spaceship earth’ of economic and ecological interdependencies —to use just two familiar and everyday images —- and as time horizons shorten to the point where the present is all there is (the world of the schizophrenic), so we have to learn how to cope with an overwhelming sense of compression of our spatial and temporal worlds[3].

(A medida que el espacio se reduce al de una ‘ciudad global’ de telecomunicaciones y al de una ‘nave tierra’ de interdependencias económicas y ecológicas –para usar sólo dos imágenes familiares y cotidianas —y a medida que los horizontes temporales se acortan hasta el punto que el presente es lo único que hay (el mundo del esquizofrénico), entonces debemos aprender a manejar un sentido aturdidor de compresión de nuestros mundos espaciales y temporales).

Y lo interesante radica en que ya en 1927 Heidegger reconoce como él mismo no puede ver con claridad los efectos de la aparición de la radio sobre nuestra relación con la espacialidad. Para Heidegger la aparición de la radio lleva a “una des-alejación del mundo, cuyo sentido para el Dasein no podemos apreciar aún en su integridad.”[4] Si bien Heidegger al escribir Ser y Tiempo no podía visualizar la revolución que estaba forjándose, sin duda dicha compresión acelerada debe comprenderse, en parte, en el surgimiento del método cartesiano.

La crítica fundamental a la visión cartesiana de la espacialidad por parte de Heidegger nos remite a algo que en principio parece un tema un poco alejado. Dicha crítica se funda sobre la diferencia entre cualidades primarias y secundarias, separación común entre los filósofos del siglo XVII. Esto nos lo señala Heidegger en la sección *19. Allí nos invita él a retomar los pasos del análisis que realiza Descartes a un objeto cotidiano, una vela común y corriente, a partir del revolucionario método de la duda radical. Este objeto, que está hecho de cera, al usarse se transforma radicalmente. La cera se consume, se desvanece. Como lo pone Descartes: “what remains of the taste evaporates; the odor vanishes; its color changes; its shape is lost; its size increases; it becomes liquid; it grows hot”[5]. (lo que queda del sabor se evapora; el olor se desvanece; su forma se pierde; su tamaño se incrementa; se vuelve líquida; se calienta).

Debemos por lo tanto dudar de la exactitud y verificabilidad que podamos derivar de nuestras percepciones como seres corpóreos pues los sentidos nos engañan. Los sentidos no revelan la naturaleza en su verdadero trasfondo. Sin embargo, mirando más de cerca lo ocurrido podemos comprender, luego de un ejercicio de purgación sensorial, que de hecho algo sí permanece. En efecto de la cera sólo queda como permanente característica su extensión, como una cosa que ocupa un espacio físico dado. Dicho espacio ocupado, el de la res extensa, en efecto es potencialmente medible en términos matemáticos. Pero en cambio creer que el color rojo de la vela está en la vela, eso si sería, según Descartes, un error fundamental. Los colores, que son propiedades secundarias, no se dan en los objetos. El color es simplemente una variación de las cualidades primarias de las cosas. El color en sí es una modificación de propiedades físicas subyacentes.[6]

Lo que el método cartesiano nos ayuda a eliminar son precisamente estas distorsiones posibilitando así un acceso al ser de las cosas que las muestra como medibles, cuantificables y observables. Las cosas pueden ser objeto de análisis y experimentación. La razón es liberada de semejantes ataduras engañosas para abrir el camino progresivo de las ciencias naturales. Y no sólo son los objetos cosas extensas primariamente, igualmente yo en tanto ser racional debo obtener cierta distancia de mi propia corporeidad extensa y engañosa. Por ello encontramos que en Descartes la relación entre mente y cuerpo debe ser radicalmente dualista. Primero pienso, luego si existo. Surge una posición bien resumida por Charles Taylor:

Disengangement can be seen as getting free of the perspective of embodied experience, It is this perspective which is responsible for our attributing the color to the object; it is this which makes us give disproportionate importance to the senses and imagination in our account of knowledge. That the thinking acivity of the mind is really in its essential character free from these distorting media shows that the mind is essentially non-bodily. So argues Descartes in the celebrated passage about the piece of wax which closes the Second Meditation[7].

(El desarraigo puede verse como un librarse de la perspectiva de una experiencia corpórea. Es esta perspectiva la que es responsable de atribuir el color al objeto; es esto lo que nos hace darle una importancia desproporcionada a los sentidos y a la imaginación en nuestra concepción del conocimiento. Que la actividad pensante de la mente está realmente en su liberarse de estos medios distorcionantes, muestra que la mente es esencialmente no-corpórea. Así lo argumenta Descartes en el célebre pasaje del pedazo de cera que culmina la Segunda Meditación).

La perspectiva desarraigada (disengaged), es decir que se “libera” de la corporeidad, permite la certeza del cogito cartesiano que se enfrenta a la naturaleza en búsqueda de una comprensión mecanicista incluso de nuestras propias funciones vitales.[8] Un contemporánea de Descartes, pero que no comparte el dualismo del primero, lo expresa de manera concisa. Hobbes en el Capítulo V de su Leviatán, capítulo en el que se nos revelan las características fundamentales de la nueva racionalidad nos dice: “Reason is the pace; Encrease of Science the Way; and the Benefit of Man-kind the End.”[9] (La Razón es el paso; El Incremento de Ciencia el Camino; y el Beneficio de la Humanidad el Fin).

Pero nos preguntamos, ¿acaso nos pide Heidegger desconocer éstos avances científicos retornando a una inocencia no-tecnológica? Sin duda que no. Su crítica fundamental va, como la de Husserl, dirigida a la monopolización de los ámbitos de la razón por una sola, a saber, la razón instrumental que en su desarrollo debe controlar el espacio para poder emancipar la naturaleza a su posible uso. El que Heidegger no simplemente desee borrar el avance de la ciencia nos lo ha dicho ya en la “Introducción”. Recordamos como allí Heidegger nos decía: “el preguntar ontológico es ciertamente más originario que el preguntar óntico de las ciencias positivas”[10]. Y paralelamente enfatizaba como la madurez de una ciencia se da, anticipando a Kuhn, en su capacidad para sobrellevar una crisis en sus conceptos[11].

Ahora bien, el que las cosas se presenten como extensas en términos del recorrido ya realizado en nuestra lectura de Ser y Tiempo equivale a ver el ser de las cosas como meramente ‘ante los ojos’ (Vorhandenheit). Pero, recuperando las ganancias ontológicas de las secciones anteriores sabemos cómo en la cotidianeidad las cosas no se nos dan primariamente como cosas extensas sino como aquello que usamos en nuestras prácticas diarias. Y precisamente es difícil recuperar esta concepción del ser de las cosas como lo ‘a la mano’ por la primacía de aquella perspectiva que las concibe como objetos allá afuera cuya característica principal es la de su ser extensos. La deconstrucción heideggeriana parte de la siguiente realización, “con lo dicho se han evidenciado los fundamentos ontológicos de la determinación del mundo como res extensa: esa determinación se basa en la idea de substancialidad, no sólo no aclarada en su sentido de ser, sino tenida por inaclarable[12] (mi énfasis).

Pero, nos preguntamos ¿qué, más específicamente, tiene todo lo anterior que ver con la noción de espacialidad con la que iniciamos este ensayo? Precisamente que la posición denominada disengaged (desarraigada) concibe el espacio de manera tal que pueda controlarse y dominarse a partir de la acción humana. No en vano casi de manera contemporánea a Descartes se da el desarrollo de mapas matemáticos por medio de los cuales se logra “concebir el espacio como abstracto, homogéneo y universal en sus cualidades, un marco de pensamiento y acción que era estable y conocible. La geometría euclidiana proveyó el lenguaje de discurso básico” [13] Por ello mismo encontramos en Descartes, específicamente en la Segunda Parte del Discurso del Método, las implicaciones prácticas arquitectónicas de su metodología racionalista. Haciendo alusión a uno de los saberes que se mueven dentro de la conceptualización y manejo práctico del espacio, a saber a la arquitectura, Descartes nos dice:

Se ve así que las construcciones iniciadas y acabadas por un sólo arquitecto suelen ser más bellas y mejor ordenadas, que aquellas que han intentado reparar utilizando viejos muros que habían sido construidos con otros fines. Como esas ciudades antiguas que no fueron en un comienzo más que aldeas y llegaron a ser con el paso del tiempo grandes ciudades; son de ordinario tan mal acompasadas (Nota; mal trazadas con compás), en comparación a aquellas plazas regulares que un ingeniero traza en una llanura según su fantasía …….. Se diría que han sido más la fortuna la que los ha dispuesto así y no la voluntad de algunos hombres que usan la razón[14] (mi énfasis).

No lejos de este objetivo que racionaliza el espacio encontramos el plan arquitectónico de Le Corbusier para Paris. La rigidez, repetición y funcionalidad se abren ante nuestros ojos en el siguiente modelo, al cual retornaremos más adelante:

Ahora bien, es en Heidegger en donde encontramos el comienzo de una reconceptualización de lo que hemos de considerar como espacialidad en tanto existenciario ontológico de los seres humanos. La espacialidad es de Dasein en su cotidiano andar en el mundo. Ser espacial y ser-en-el-mundo van de la mano en el ser para quien la pregunta por el sentido del ser surge; ese Dasein que en cada caso somos nosotros mismos.

Vimos ya en el anterior ensayo como lo ‘a la mano’ es principalmente en el carácter de su cercanía, la cercanía de su uso práctico cotidiano. Por ello nos decía Heidegger que hablando ontológicamente dos cosas no se tocan por más cerca que ellas se encuentren[15]. Esto es así porque sólo es de Dasein el tocar. Dasein toca pero no lo hace a través de un espacio geométrico que le es externo en la forma de unas coordenadas como la ‘x’ y la ‘y’. Dasein no cabe en un sitio como el agua en el vaso.[16] Pero si esto es así, ¿cómo hemos de concebir la espacialidad de Dasein?

Heidegger nos pide que recordemos lo dicho en cuanto a los útiles. Todo útil (Zeug) tiene un sitio (Platz). Pero este sitio no lo concebimos principalmente en términos físicos, es decir que —-utilizando el vocabulario ya ganado en nuestra lectura—– el útil no es primariamente algo “ante los ojos”. El útil lo usamos, y en su uso su entorno sale a relucir pues todo útil ocupa un lugar dentro de una red (un entramado) que no salta a la vista en lo cotidiano. Raro sería colocar la licuadora en la sala para invitados. Más raro aún hacer que los invitados nos hagan visita parados frente a la estufa o la nevera. Pero, ¿si no es el sitio físico del cual habla Heidegger –es decir, la licuadora allí a treinta centímetros de la nevera—- entonces que tipo de espacio puede ser éste?

Podemos, creo yo, comenzar a comprender esta noción de espacialidad si nos remitimos de nuevo a nuestro lenguaje cotidiano. Es así como en español muchas veces decimos a alguien querido: “tienes un sitio especial en mi corazón”. ¿Hemos acaso de concebir aquí tu posición en mi pero anatómicamente? Sin duda que no. Más bien la anterior frase cotidiana nos invita a considerar y a tratar de comprender que cada cosa esta situada a la manera de ser como útil para un Dasein que en su práctica cotidiana se mueve por los sitios ocupados por útiles a su disposición. Y en la cotidianeidad es tan así que cuando algo no está en su sitio nosotros, Dasein, tendemos al desespero. Quien no ha escuchado a algún Dasein estresado preguntar: “¿dónde está mi control remoto?¡No está en su sitio!” Y sin embargo exclamamos al que se desespera ante el movimiento inoportuno de sitios, “¡claro, como si al preguntársele por el sitio del control remoto en efecto lo pudiese señalar!”

Pero si todo útil tiene un sitio, es evidente que un conjunto de útiles no es sencillamente una sumatoria de sitios separados entre sí. Por ello nos dice Heidegger que los sitios son múltiples y un conjunto de ellos conforma lo que él denomina como Paraje (Gegend). Por ello Heidegger resume lo dicho en referencia a los útiles con las siguientes palabras:

Esta orientación zonal de la multiplicidad de lugares propios de lo a la mano constituye lo circundante, el en-torno-a-nosotros del ente que comparece inmediatamente en el mundo circundate. Lo inmediatamente dado no es jamás una multiplicidad tridimensional de lugares posible, ocuparse por cosas que están ahí”. [17]

Pero además, entre los múltiples parajes en los que en nuestro diario acontecer nos movemos encontramos, no tematizados, los siguientes posibles espacios radicalmente diferenciables entre sí: el espacio de la iglesia (o el de la mezquita, o el de la sinagoga), el espacio de mi cuarto, el espacio de este seminario, el espacio de la discoteca, el espacio de un parque con andenes amplios, el espacio del senado, el espacio de la ciclovía, el espacio del consultorio, el espacio de cada habitación en nuestras casas, el espacio del cementerio, el espacio del cuartel, el espacio del manicomio, el sin-espacio de la prisión, el espacio del burdel. Son éstos múltiples espacios dentro de los que Dasein anda de manera radicalmente diferente. Por esto mismo más allá del comienzo del análisis a partir de los útiles hay ámbitos que habitamos, como los ya enumerados anteriormente, que primariamente no son a la manera de la utilidad de lo ‘a la mano’. Sorpresivamente Heidegger nos provee con el siguiente hermoso ejemplo:

Las Iglesias y las tumbas, por ejemplo, están situadas de acuerdo con la salida y la puesta del sol, zonas de la vida y de la muerte, desde las cuales el Dasein mismo está determinado desde el punto de vista de sus más propias posibilidades-de-ser-en-el-mundo[18].

Las posibilidades de Dasein están referidas de manera crucial a su modo de habitar el espacio en que anda. Y a diferencia de los ingenieros cartesianos que podrían construir de la nada, nuestro andar siempre estando dentro de parajes nos antecede. No sólo es que la iglesia de mi barrio estaba ahí antes de que naciera yo, es que en la iglesia que todavía perdurará aun cuando ya no esté aquí, se es de una manera particular, se es dentro del espacio de lo sagrado.

Y ¿por qué nos es tan difícil comprender esta deconstrucción heideggeriana? Primero por la deconstrucción requerida de la concepción cartesiana de la espacialidad que no es tan obvia y familiar. Pero además, porque nosotros andamos metidos de lleno en estos parajes cotidianos. Nosotros no los tematizamos, no nos son notorios en nuestro diario quehacer. ¿Acaso en la discoteca nos preocupamos, a menos de que seamos arquitectos o lectores de Heidegger, por los arreglos espaciales del lugar? Si lo hiciéramos sin duda nuestra pareja desearía estar precisamente en otro sitio, con otro Dasein.

Creo yo que un camino más que nos podría ayudar a comprender esta noción de espacialidad a la cual hace referencia Heidegger la encontramos recordando aquellos lugares que habitamos alguna vez y que ya no lo hacemos más: las casas de nuestra infancia, los parques donde jugábamos, y si contamos con suerte, las fincas que recorríamos. Si recordamos estos sitios lo que precisamente no reconocemos como su carácter espacial son las medidas entre sus objetos constituyentes. Un buen ejemplo de lo que implica este tipo de espacialidad, y los peligros de concebir la espacialidad de una manera más auténtica nos la entrega Albert Camus en su hermoso Return to Tipasa :

Yet I persisted without very well knowing what I was waiting for, unless perhaps the moment to go back to Tipasa. To be sure, it is sheer madness, almost always punished to return to the sites of one’s youth, to relive a forty what one loved or keenly enjoyed at twenty . But I was forewarned of that madness … I hoped, I think, to recapture there a freedom I could not forget[19]

(Sin embargo persistía sin saber bien aquello por lo que yo estaba esperando, a menos de pronto por el momento de regresar a Tipasa. De seguro, es una verdadera locura, casi siempre castigada, el retornar a los sitios de nuestra juventud, revivir a los cuarenta lo que uno amó o disfrutó agudamente a los veinte. Me advirtieron de esta locura …. Yo esperaba, creo yo, recapturar una libertad que no podía olvidar)

Al hacer este ejercicio mental, y sobretodo al hacer el ejercicio práctico de regresar a tales lugares, podemos comprender tal vez mejor las características esenciales de la espacialidad del ser ahí. En dicho análisis encontramos dos existenciarios específicos.[20] Por un lado encontramos el des-alejar (ent-fernung) , por otro la orientación (ausrichtung). ¿Qué nos indican estos dos existenciarios? ¿Cuál es la posible relación existente entre los dos?

El des-alejar para Heidegger no se da en un sentido del eliminar distancia físicas, de devorar los kilómetros con nuestra Ford Explorer modelo 2002. Más bien nos enseña Heidegger:

Desalejar quiere decir hacer desaparecer la lejanía(Ferne), es decir,el estar lejos de algo; significa, por consiguiente, acercamiento. El Dasein es esencialmente des-alejador; por ser el ente que es, hace que el ente comparezca viniendo a la cercanía. (…) Dos puntos, y en general, dos cosas no están propiamente alejados el uno del otro[21] (mi énfasis).

Los átomos chocan, no se des-alejan. Los átomos que chocan sobre Nagasaki, quitan a la ciudad su espacio geométrico, pero por eso mismo para nosotros Nagasaki ha sido des-alejada para siempre de manera aterradora. O para utilizar un ejemplo heideggeriano menos perturbador. Las gafas, siendo geométricamente lo más cercano, son realmente lo más lejano pues su espacialidad no salta “a la vista”. Y tampoco el andén sobre el cual camino en la nueva espacialidad de la Avenida Quince es realmente lo más cercano en términos del des-alejar. Más cercana es la linda chica o chico que cruza por el otro andén, que el andén aquí debajo mío y que piso a cada paso. En español cuando decimos que nos vamos a callejear, no es precisamente a maravillarnos con las calles que estrenan pavimento. Callejear es caminar con Daseins amigos los parajes que se muestran más allá del entrecruzarse de las calles mismas.

Al comenzar este recorrido enfatizábamos cómo en 1927 Heidegger se preguntaba por el surgimiento de la radio “cuyo sentido para el Dasein no podemos apreciar aún en su integridad”[22]. ¿No sabemos nosotros mejor que el propio Heidegger de los peligros inherentes a este des-alejar? Nuestro des-alejamiento geométrico en términos de una radical compresión espacial ha modificado nuestras vidas de manera total. Pero si bien nuestro espacio incluye ya espacios denominados “ciberespaciales”,[23] (espacios que para los limitados físicos pueden incluso reabrir el mundo) ¿acaso no simplemente hemos nosotros des-alejado lo remoto sobretodo en términos de distancia? Des-alejamos animales, des-alejamos guerras en la televisión, des-alejamos hasta los más diversos platos culinarios. En un mismo centro comercial podemos encontrar un espacio ecléctico que nos invita a degustar la más grande diversidad de platos cuyo origen se encuentra a miles de kilómetros. Podemos escoger entre platos argentinos, colombianos, árabes, gringos, chinos, mejicanos. [24] Des-alejamos, es cierto pero lo hacemos, tal vez, un poco a la manera que nosotros también desalejamos a La Pantera de Rilke:

“His tired gaze -from passing endless bars-

has turned into a vacant stare which nothing holds.

To him there seem to be a thousand bars,

and out beyond these bars exists no world.”

(Su mirada cansada —de pasar barrotes interminables—

se ha tornado en una mirada fija vacía que no contiene nada.

Para él parece haber miles de barrotes,

Y allá fuera de estos barrotes no existe mundo)

Pero dejando de lado por ahora las implicaciones de dicho des-alejar y las raíces en el movimiento inaugurado por Descartes, podemos continuar nuestra investigación topológica al mirar más de cerca el otro existenciario característico de la espacialidad humana, a saber, el orientar. La orientación —que Gaos traduce por dirección—— nos enseña que la espacialidad no sólo es un des-alejar viendo en torno, sino que este desalejar tiene un arreglo de orientación. Es del Dasein, por ejemplo, tener un izquierdo y un derecho al cual se refieren útiles como los guantes que usamos: “La orientación hacia la derecha o izquierda se funda en la esencial direccionalidad del Dasein en general, y ésta por su parte, está esencialmente codeterminada por el estar-en-el-mundo”[25].

Para Heidegger nuestro estar situados es un estar existencialmente como seres corpóreos. Ónticamente somos en la manera de ser en cuerpos. Incluso nuestra percepción —a diferencia de la perspectiva cartesiana desarraigada (disengaged)—- es la de un agente corpóreo involucrado en el mundo. Tenemos una estructura corpórea previa que de entrada nos orienta de ciertas maneras y no de otras. Al pensar por ejemplo en el arriba y en el abajo característicos de nuestro andar, no nos referimos simplemente a lo que está por encima de mi cabeza o debajo de los pies. Podría estar acostado y no por ello sería “arriba” lo que esta en dirección de mi cabeza. Tampoco es el orientarse simplemente el referirnos a unos objetos externos tales como el cielo o la tierra. Más bien, como lo pone Charles Taylor:

…. up-down directionality is the line of possible upright stance and action; that is, it is a perception of the field as a locus of our activity.

Thus although we may grasp this orientation from cues —-lay of land, ground, sky—what we preceive is not the lay of the land or the sky. We grasp a directionality of the field which is, however, essentially related to how we act and stand[26].

(La direccionalidad arriba-abajo es la línea de posible estado erguido y de posible acción; es decir, es una percepción del campo como centro de nuestra actividad …….. Por ello aunque podemos comprender esta orientación a partir de claves —- la disposición del terreno, suelo, cielo— lo que percibimos no es la disposición del terreno o el cielo. Comprendemos una direccionalidad del campo que es, sin embargo, esencialmente relacionada a cómo actuamos y nos paramos)

Y tan es así que podemos tomar el siguiente ejemplo, cotidiano para nosotros al andar en carro por Bogotá. En nuestra práctica cotidiana del conducir por las calles al orientar al que conduce para llegar a un sitio, por ejemplo a una fiesta en nuestra ciudad —-que nos han enseñado está mucho más cerca de las estrellas que otras—- decimos: “Sube por la siguiente. Y luego baja por la otra”. Tan nos es familiar dar direcciones de esta manera que no vemos cómo en muchos casos hacemos uso de la presencia de las montañas orientales para situarnos. El orientar bogotano hacia el oriente no es aplicable a ciudades norteamericanas en las que decir “go down” o “go up” es exactamente equivalente en términos de direccionalidad.

Y recuperando estos dos elementos constitutivos, el del des-alejar y el del orientar, sale a relucir que “el espacio no está en el sujeto ni el mundo está en el espacio.”[27]. Por el contrario Dasein es precisamente un ser de apertura que da espacio a lo que es. Dar espacio, nos dice Heidegger, es dar libertad a lo que se da. Es tan sólo de Dasein la posibilidad del abrir las cosas a su ser liberándolas. Y liberarlas a su espacialidad comienza por el reconocer que saberes como el de la geometría o el de la arquitectura —saberes que miden o manejan la espacialidad—– son saberes que parten del previo ser espacial de Dasein en cuanto ser-en-el-mundo. Pero repetimos, es evidente que Heidegger no rechaza el manejo del espacio realizado por estos saberes regionales. Señala él tan sólo que esta aproximación a la espacialidad, en particular la matemática, neutraliza los parajes en los que desarrollamos nuestra práctica cotidiana: “El descubrimiento circunspectivo y puramente contemplativo del espacio neutraliza las zonas circunmundanas convirtiéndolas en dimensiones puras”[28] .

¿Dónde encontramos nosotros estas neutralizaciones espaciales? Cada día lo hacemos. Lo hacemos al referirnos en nuestro andar, por ejemplo, a aquellos mapas que nos ayudan a movilizarnos de un punto a otro. Un mapa nos revela Certeau, “coloniza; elimina poco a poco las figuraciones pictóricas de la práctica que lo produjo.”[29] Las implicaciones de dicha colonización pueden ser comprendidas mejor al comparar un mapa del medioevo en donde todavía percibimos el acceso cotidiano al espacio referido a prácticas diarias:

Con el mapa de la bella ciudad de Montréal que queda reducida a un conjunto geométrico de líneas entrecruzadas liberadas del cotidiano ser espacial de Dasein en el mundo:

La creación de nuestros mapas se da históricamente y refleja el anhelo cartesiano de reducir la espacialidad a una abstracción que al ser tan sólo eso, una abstracción, se hace manejable y ordenable[30].

Pero no sólo los mapas, que nos llevan de un lado a otro, nos revelan la historicidad en la que se desenvuelven el des-alejar y el orientar que son propios de la espacialidad de Dasein. En nuestro diario existir nos movemos por entre, dormimos en, y soñamos con los parajes que son nuestras casas y nuestros edificios. Y si es cierto que el dar espacio es dar libertad a lo que es, y sólo es de Dasein el abrir las cosas a su ser liberándolas, entonces aquel saber que estudia el espacio que habitamos ha de tener una importantísima repercusión en nuestro modo de ser. La arquitectura es aquel saber que gira en torno al estudio del espacio que podemos habitar. Como lo señala nuestro famoso arquitecto Rogelio Salmona aludiendo a la historicidad propia de la espacialidad, historicidad que Heidegger revela en su crítica a la noción del espacio cartesiano:

“lo arquitectónico es la ruta que seguí para encontrar que la modernidad empieza en una nueva percepción del espacio. .. el que quiere instaurar otro sistema de figuración, de representación y de construcción del espacio, tiene que conocer su evolución, y en que momento se producen las rupturas” (mi énfasis) [31]

No en vano este debate por el espacio es uno de los temas centrales sobre los cuales gira la ruptura entre modernidad y postmodernidad. El conflicto se haya en una reconceptualización de lo que es la espacialidad de Dasein. Para los arquitectos modernos, por ejemplo de la década de los 50, el espacio debe ser concebido en términos de su función y de su aplicación social racionalizada. (No en vano dicha posición surge posterior a la Segunda Guerra Mundial) El espacio homogéneo es ordenado racionalmente para el beneficio de la humanidad. Recordemos lo dicho por Descartes sobre la ciudad de sus sueños y el plan de Le Corbusier para Paris. En cambio para los arquitectos postmodernos el espacio es concebible sólo como autónomo, diverso, e independiente. Espacios, en plural, que han de ser moldeados de acuerdo a principios estéticos que no llevan en sí un telos social como su base de realización.[32] Los sistemas de urbanización públicos de Baltimore con su aburridor carácter geométrico y repetitividad ejemplifican la postura aquí denominada moderna:

Sin duda estos edificios insípidos contrastan radicalmente con el nuevo Lloyds Building de Londres, que siendo un ejemplo de la arquitectura postmoderna, entre otras características, muestra en su fachada la tubería como ornamento del todo arquitectónico:

La postmodernidad —reconociendo de entrada la complejidad del debate en torno a este término casi indefinible—– se subleva contra este control cartesiano de la espacialidad. La espacialidad a la que nos invita el comercial de la Ford Explorer con el que comenzamos este ensayo no des-aleja, no orienta. Heidegger, ya desde Ser y Tiempo nos pide, aunque de manera muy incipiente, a reconsiderar los peligros inherentes a esta postura limitadora. Nos invita él en cambio, de manera indirecta, claro está, a considerar proyectos arquitectónicos como los de la famosa casa llamada Fallingwater de Wright en el que se respeta el entorno “dentro” del cual se construye y por ende en realidad libera el espacio gracias a la armonía que de se da entre los Daseins habitantes y su mundo circundante. Para Wright: “Organic buildings are of the strength and lightness of the spider’s spinning, buildings qualified by light, bred by native character to environment, married to the ground”[33]. (“Los edificios orgánicos son de la fortaleza y la ligereza del tejer de la araña, edificios cualificados por la luz, criados con un carácter nativo al ambiente, casados con el terreno.”) Dasein dando espacio ha de liberar su entorno casándose con sus terrenos recuperados luego de una lectura heideggeriana de la espacialidad. [34]


[1] Revista Motor, Agosto, 2001. No. 318, pg. 20-21.

[2] Claro, estas fronteras que en términos de mercados son franqueables, no cesan de existir cuando se trata del movimiento migratorio de los diversos Dasein por el mundo de los países desarrollados. La leyes de inmigración a nivel político reflejan como la globalización es sobretodo un proceso económico. Ver

[3] Harvey, David, The Postmodern Condition, pg. 240. El grafico No. 1 que aparece al final de este ensayo revela cómo gráficamente podemos señalar este proceso de compresión espacio temporal.

[4] Ser y Tiempo, *23, pg. 131. SuZ. P.105

[5] Descartes, Rene. Meditations, “Second Meditation”, Trans. Laurence J. Lafleur. , Bobbs Merril. Pgs. 81-91.

[6] Como lo pone Taylor en Philosophical Arguments “Lichtung or Lebensform” pg. 65: “Our “primary properties were really in” the objects “; secondary properties, such as color, were effects produced in the mind by concatenations of primary properties in things. Seeing things as really colored was one of those distorting effects of our peculiar constitution as a substantial union of soul and body. What comes to be called objectivity requires an escape from this.”

[7] Ibid. pg. 66

[8] Descarte, Rene. Discurso del Método, pg. 63ff.

[9] Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Capitulo V, Pg. 116, Penguin Classics.

[10] Ser y Tiempo *3 pg.34; En inglés pg. 31 *3 “ontological inquiry is indeed more primordial, as over against the ontical inquiry of the positive sciences”

[11] ibid. *3. pg. 29

[12] ibid. *20, pg. 120.

[13] Harvey David. “…conceiving of space as abstract, homogenous, and universal in its qualities, a framework of thought and action which was stable and knowable. Euclidian geometry provided the basic language of discourse” Pg 254

[14] Descares, Rene. Discurso del Método, Segunda Parte pg. 25 (Editorial Norma).

[15] Ser y Tiempo, *26 pg. 135.

[16] Ver por ejemplo la última propaganda de Bell South, El Tiempo, Agosto 12, 2001. que efectivamente utiliza el mismo ejemplo de Heidegger de vasos llenos de agua. (la propaganda es muy grande para fotocopiar)

[17] Ser y Tiempo, *22, 128.

[18] Ser y tiempo, *22, pg. 129.

[19] Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays, “Return to Tipasa, pg. 196. Vintage Books, 1983.

[20] Ser y Tiempo, *23, 148.

[21] Ser y Tiempo, *23, 130. Interesente sería recuperando la anotación sobre los puntos recoger la valiosa reconsideración del punto por parte de Kandinsky en Punto y Línea sobre el plano Labor, 1988. Además Harvey ve en Kandinsky un transformación de la espacialidad en sus obras que refleja el impacto que tuvo sobre el pintor la Primera Guerra Mundial. Ver los Dibujos No. 2 y No. 3 al final de este ensayo.

[22] Ser y Tiempo *23, 131.

[23] Espacio que amerita una investigación profunda y del cual se dice que se está en todo lugar y en ninguna parte a la vez; sobretodo en términos de las implicaciones para la ley..

[24] Harvey, Davis. Pg. 300.

[25] Ser y Tiempo, *23, pg. 135.

[26] Taylor, Charles, “Trascendental Arguments”, pg 24. en Philosophical Arguments”

[27] Ser y Tiempo *24 pg. 136.

[28] Ser y tiempo *24, 137.

[29] Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life Capítulo IX “Spatial Stories”, pg 121.

[30] Harvey, David, pg. 249 “Maps stripped of all fantasy and religious belief, as well as any sign of the experiences involved in their production, had become abstract and strictly functional systems for the factual pondering of phenomena in space”. Ver también “To follow a Rule” de Charles Taylor, pg. 176. “A way is essentially something you go through in time. The map on the other hand, lays out everything simultaneously, and relates every point to every point without discrimination”

[31] Revista Diners, Marzo, 1998.

[32] Harvey, David. pg. 66. “Above all, postmodernists depart radically from modernist conceptions of how to regard space. Whereas the modernists see space as something to be shaped for social purposes and therefore always subservient to the construction of a special project, the postmodernists see space as something independent and autonomous, to be shaped according to the aesthetic aims and principles which have nothing necessarily to do with any overarching objective, save, perhaps, the achievement of timelessness and ‘disinterested’ beauty as an objective in itself”. Además surge la pregunta de si para nosotros el fenómeno de la espacialidad ha cobrado mayor importancia que el de la temporalidad. Ver por ejemplo David Harvey pg 201 y sobretodo la obra de Foucault que está llena de relaciones espaciales.

[33] O como lo pone Salmona, él esta interesado en la arquitectura que involucra el cuerpo entero.” (mi énfasis) (La Revista Diners, Marzo 1998). Otros ejemplos hermosos de esta posición son la “Catedral” de Brasilia de Niemeyer y del mismo arquitecto “El Museo de Niteroi” que se eleva como una flor, como un cartucho, sobre la bahía.

[34] A continuación colocaré los diagramas citados en las notas finales de este ensayo . En su orden son la No. 1, “Contraccion del mapa temporal en los últimos siglos”, (en Harvey David pg 241); No. 2, “Pintura de Kandinsky Jugement Dernier de 1912” (en Harvey David pg 281); No. 3, “Pintura de Kandinsky Les Deux de 1924” (Harvey David, pg 282) y No. 4, Foto de Fallingwater de Wright.

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