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Persistence (from ‘Against Violence’)

      1. Persisting

In the ideology of activity, the phraseology of the postponed, misunderstood fury, the necessity of activity is elevated to a virtue and every form of passivity is degraded to a vice. With this, thought is denied its contemplative character, for contemplation is yielding to the violence of reality. A power is demanded of philosophy that it does not have and could not have without denying its own inspiration. That power would be the consequence with which it would assert itself practically. But the only way thought is directly in touch with practicality, is the annoyance. It is preferable to chose technique as mediation over fury. Thought has to be expressed with faith in the word, even though it is considered as ‘nothing but’ the ‘phonetic shadow of the deed’, an indication with which Trotsky, as is a long Marxist custom, reverses an old way of thinking. For Plotinus calls the practicality in which active people flee because they’re too weak for contemplation ‘a shadow of contemplation and reason’. [6] But thought should not venture into the infinity of this contradiction. For the time being the word is its product, the term of its activity. Thought can not add to that the deed as its product, nor can it oppose the deed. It can not directly persist as a deed, because in its powerlessness it cannot command the respite. Even designing a Utopian framework is of a dangerous arbitrariness, when it inspires deeds and that inspiration does not have technical means. The continuity in a goal-means-diagram, in which the means are an appeal to the activity and the goal an appeal to passivity, contemplation, can be guarded by thought, but not guaranteed.

Violence is also an occurrence that becomes a suffering by blind persistence. When persisting makes the practical consequence into an absolute by denying passivity, it can only become a furious perseverance and therefore violence. As a temporary bridging of passivity by activity, persistence always has to maintain a large resilience so that it will not result in a meaningless jump over the void. As a partial and temporary suspension of lust it can not become its complete denial or poisoning. From a goal-means-diagram point of view that holds that the means are never totally and solely means, but can also be the lust object of passive yielding or a suffering. Violence then is an activity that makes something into solely means, and persisting is a meaningless, dispassionate and hurried passing by of everything that lies between the start and goal. Like activity and passivity are indivisible, but together form life and thought, so goal and means, making good use and selfless enjoyment, are never clearly divided and the path of life can never be determined by any form of ‘persisting’ without it leading to morbidity and self-destruction.

The cult of activity, use and persisting creates suspicions towards the lingering lust and makes it as much an impossibility as yielding to suffering. This way lust and perseverance become opposite valuation principles that in their hypothesized form poison ethical life, and therefore all of life. For where persisting turns against lust and contemplation out of principle, it can only justify itself in a phraseology of perseverance and the deed itself, and it can only double its disastrous effects in a circle of insanity, in which it would irrevocably end up. For like lust and sorrow are a product of contact with reality and affirm that contact, so persisting as a suspense of lust and denial of sorrow is an alienation. Here, impotence reaches its definitive absurdity.

persistence III-3840

Translator’s note: on October 19th, 1956, Cornelis Verhoeven received his doctorate after successfully defending his thesis ‘Symbolism of the foot’. He normally wouldn’t celebrate his birthday (unless forced to), but this day he did.


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passivity and activity

When I want to go to sleep, I get nowhere with effort and emphasis. Sleep is not something I can emphatically will. The opposite: the more emphasis there is on wanting to sleep, the more sure it is that I’ll get the reverse effect, namely that I’ll remain awake. Emphasis brings the ‘other’ just as much to the foreground as the ‘one’. A law of reverse effect is working here, which is one of the most subtle expressions of the dialectic between powerlessness and violence. This paradoxical effect has to relate to the nature of that which is emphasized, sleeping. Sleep isn’t achieved through an active and willful way. Even some active interfering, for example by taking a powerful sedative, is an acceptance to undergo its effects passively. Passiveness here appears to be no less a realistic attitude towards reality than activity. It isn’t only so with regards to realities that we have to undergo as some kind of fate, but even with a view of a goal we want to achieve. I can only accomplish sleep by not wanting it, at least not with the emphasis that brings wanting into the spheres of activity.

There are goals that can only be achieved by passivity. And these goals are not the least important. What is said here about sleep can also be said about happiness, insight, love and peace, about all which, if only by the scope of their meaning, withdraw themselves from the grasp of self-empowerment. The essentials of life are given to us, beginning with pure existence itself. This insight alone is enough to end the autocracy of activity.

– from Emphasis in ‘Against violence’.

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Against violence II

“Violence is a philosophical primal problem. The annoyance about violence is one of the many shapes that wonder, the beginning and principle of thought, can take. And like wonder cannot be abolished by thought, the annoyance also cannot be abolished. Against a reality that it can’t make its own thought sees itself to its annoyance placed in a dialectic of a bad discord. It cannot end itself, also not by moving to deeds; it is a prisoner of its own infinity. The best thing that can come from this situation, if the self-powered ending of violence is ruled out, would be a new reflection on thought itself and its powerless infinity; in no other way can the infinity of the dialectic be ended, once it has begun its interaction of violence and annoyance, or being and thinking.”

-from violence as inspiration in ‘Against violence’

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Against violence I

“Facing a compact occurrence such as violence some modesty is appropriate. For all types of pretense already are forms of violence, while thinking about violence has as its ultimate goal or ideal not so much to know what exactly it is, but more to contribute to its liquidation. Wonder has already taken the shape of annoyance before it started. A philosophy of violence is the opposite of a way of thinking that would justify violence. The conviction that violence is is superfluous and thoughtless makes for a necessary preconception. That necessity must be explicit: we don’t speak ‘about’, but ‘against’ violence.”

-from the introduction of ‘Against violence’

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