Four Apostles

The usual reading – better to say: viewing – is the Christian one. And there it is a rather affirmative one: Duerer, the time of reformation and the apparent personal inner disunity – a universal artist, comparable in so many ways with Leonardo, remaining Catholic and nevertheless sympathising with the upcoming movement as promoted by Luther.

One of the well-known paintings is the one mentioned in the title: Four Apostles. And as much as it the artists appreciation of these key figures of Christianity and their specific merits for this social movement, as much it can be seen in a more psychological way, as representation of the four humours or four temperaments … – though surely not referring to the scientific works on these topics. I took a couple of times the opportunity to visit during a short break the Alte Pinakothek, just a couple of minutes walk from the office at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy in Munich’s Amalienstrasse.

There may be another reading – a more sociological interpretation; or even better: a socio-demographic perspective of its own kind.

One may say four temperaments is about four allowed temperaments, ‘roles’ defined societally and determining what we are allowed to do and what we are not allowed: expectations, though not written in stone being carried on the strong pillars of hegemonic systems.

Frequently over the last days and weeks I had been thinking abdout it – travelling through different worlds: Poland, Turkey, Russia, Germany. Travelling in and moving on different ‘national scenes’ – though often not really knowing in which ‘representative role’; or being excitingly lost with others in floating spaces, cosmopolitan, referring to roots as  something that …, I try to recall the way I expressed it talking today with my Bolivian colleague:

accepting the difference as something from which something new, a new unity emerges which does allow, creates new differences. Relationships not as being in relationship with others but being relationship as such.

Frequently over the last days and weeks I had been thinking of it: me, being the junior,  the senior, the cosmopolitan or the country-boy, the weird person from the little island, by many still seen as laid back, parochial …

And with all not least the person representing different ages, and engaging with different ages: young people, engaged, striving for change, innovation … standing up with their visions – sanguine as apostle John. Having visions and looking for what is in the widest sense ‘formally possible’, what appears to be possible even if only by way of thinkable.

The middle aged, here the younger striving for positions: individual careers, looking for options: realism if one wants, the dictatorship of the presence …, somewhat choleric, trying ‘to get there’, as they didn’t have a choice from where to start … Choleric at times like St. Mark. And then moving towards a somewhat phlegmatic stage – St. Petrian: standing in life where life out them – striving for standing: like a stone – unswerving, the ‘vision of fulfillment in the given framework. Tribulation as price paid for …, hope. In some way the protestant who once elevated him/herself, convinced of having reached the utmost possible, convinced that all the rest is about performance – and hiding the acrimony.

Old age then: vision merging with experience now, the ongoing strive for a better world, now based on at least more knowledge, the knwoledge as acknowledgement: freedom as insight, based on the acknowledgement of facts and on acknowledgment of the value of knowledge as value in itself. Vision as  following the latency and tendency which is inherent in the presence in its elementary form. Melancholy … – possible just about the consciousness of being part of an ongoing movement, knowing about the fruit and knowing that one will now be able to take part in the harvest. Paulean – or Platonic?

In any case, having been in  contact with so many different colleagues, it is always again interesting to see how we ‘define our roles’ by accepting hegemonic expectations: ‘roles’ and standards of behaviour: change – in a ‘jestery way’ – obvious left for those who are changing themselves: growing ideas for and from those who are obviously themselves growing; stability: doggedness – the subservience, the servility of those who stopped living,  how are alive, kept on the leash like dogs, the lead taken by the master. Freedom seems to be with the elder: old, grey and not looking for permission. Permitting themselves by following experience and allowing themselves to be a little bit like … jesters. – Let us all be jesters, at least to some extent. To the extent and in the way in which Ernst Bloch spoke

of four different kinds of possibilities, allowing us with this an informed approach to understanding them in their objectivity. He points on (i) the formally possible – what is possible according to its logical structure; (ii) the objectively possible – possible being based on assumptions on the ground of epistemologically based knowledge; (iii) the objectively possible – possible as it follows from the options inherently given by the object; (iv) and the objectively real possible – possible by following the latency and tendency which is inherent in its elementary form.*


The Pinaktohek – the long building – standing in front of Duerer’s painting and turning the back to it, one sees at the the other end another painting: Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, épouse Le Normant d’Étiolles, Marquise de Pompadour – the painting  by Francois Boucher. Another time looming – not envisioned  by the tame Duerer, envisioned by people, much younger …, much older … than this great artist.


Four temperaments – for dimensions of production to: the manufacturing in the strict sense, the distribution, the productive consumption and finally the exchange? I think I will leave that for another time.


And of course, there is a rights perspective entailed. It is easy to speak of rights, saying that some are fundamental, indivisible and universal.

The Declaration of Human Rights states in article 23

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Is that then all? The right can be easily seen as obligation – though this is surely debatable. But even if we do not see it as obligation, it sets a certain norm: work as employed, ‘paid’ work – and thus as part of a capitalist economy as norm.
And in fact, from here we come nolens volens back to Christianity: the founding stone and at the same time the later established pillar: either way the stronghold of the system with which inequality and subordination is intrinsically linked** – looking at the Second Epistle to the Thessalnoians in the  New Testament where we read
For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (2 Thess., 3:10)


The last evening, after the concert in the cathedral I sit down at the Odeons-Square fro an espresso – music from the other side, strange: in its remoteness determined, determining and reminding that there are new tasks ahead, on already now planned for the collaboration with a colleague from the colleague at the institute. Sure not three tasks, not a Trinity. But will I just Take Five instead?


The way will have to show …. – perhaps here, perhaps there – today here, tomorrow there.


* with reference to Bloch, Ernst (1959) Prinzip Hoffnung; Frankfurt/M: Suhrkamp [written in 1938‐1947; reviewed 1953 and 1959]: 258-288 from: Herrmann, Peter, 2011: ‘New Princedoms‘: 197)

** I know, I discussed liberation theology as well the afternoon of the other day – and there are many different kinds of ‘liberation theology’, not all even under such name and explicit ambition …

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