Spiders and Vipers

It is somewhat odd – before going to the train station, I have had some time left, sitting for some time on the market square of Freiburg. Saying “odd” actually is more about something else: looking around it feels somewhat anachronistic: enjoying what could easily be the last sun beams of the year, the day still youngish, the tourists only slowly showing up, instead the locals being around. Sitting there at the Lazzarin, facing the cathedral and the large welcome sign: Benedetto XVI. The presence of extreme conservatism, of a kind of mental and intellectual parochialism, complected with the presence of the modern network-society: De Netwerkmaatschappij as Jan van Dijk coined the term.

Supposedly it is this pope who started to use twitter – and though this is likely a well invented rumour, it is well invented as it reflects that today’s power of the church is very much founded on the ability to adapt to ‘modern” means of hegemonic power. – The new mechanisms simply a replication of old networks, old communitarianism under new veils?

– twitter, facebook … like the little canals that are in their unique way characterising the townscape. A couple of inches in width, others – the larger ones – perhaps a foot, enough to grasp attention; enough for some kids, playing with little boats or plastic ducks … – around me the Italian words, mingling of different worlds. Bravi – ma bravi … – the bell of the cathedral interrupts:  loud enough to bring my thoughts back into the real world, and also sufficiently other-worldly to allow my thoughts going stray …


Later, many of the locals are not just the philistines one may expect. Also a ‘modern, postmodern’ populace, like men of private means, some possibly in their own way vanguards … – not in need of working, living from their worldly fortune (from wherever they got it) – and taking the freedom of looking for the fortune of the world; as if the four apostles are returning on stage.

Being able to claim a natural law of goodness as they are able to behave like goddesses, beyond the depths of fighting for daily existence ….

…. or is that a wrong impression – what appears to be vanguard actually being duplicators of what the centre produced and lived already for a long time?


Is it really and entirely by accident and by being intellectually employed by exploring questions of law that I am thinking so much about Immanuel Kant, his definition of law, and the underlying methodological issues? Or is it the parallel of mental settings: Freiburg 2011 – Koenigsberg in the middle and late 1700s. And as he had been thinking about law in that remote place, being stuck in the routines of carrying his umbrella around: every day the same hour ….– and having this very open mind, he is now employing me. The distinction between conceptus dati and conceptus factitii – the given versus the made terms. It had been the analytical distinction which allowed, actually challenges him in elaborating a system for their linkage. Such abstract question you may suggest – though it is actually very the question we discuss today again: ‘good people’, the human as it is in itself given and a ‘naturally given value’, standing apparently against the greedy people, looking for their permanent personal enrichment. ‘Goodness against grabness’. Which easily had been seen by others as good against evil, god against the deveil – obviously the old question: What to do with the apple?

And coming back to the man from Koenigsberg it is at first stance rather simple: A matter of a constitution, a matter of making

THE constitution of the most extensive human freedom according to laws which allow the freedom of everybody to coexist with the freedom of others.

Reason, here, Kant’s understanding is that of a matter of the

practical idea.

And as such Kant sees it as matter of a constitutional process – if I recall his words from 1798 correctly

The idea of a constitution that is one with the natural rights of the human beings: those who are obliged to observe the law ought to be, united, also those who are legislators

He sees it as the general idea guiding the modern forms of the state and it is an idea that is based on the platonic ideal (respublica noumenon).

But as practical idea it is also in a permanent tension with an ‘absolute idea’ (as Hegel would call it), for instance and coming back to the philosopher from Koenigsberg: the

idea of reason of a peaceful community of all people.

A(n inter)play of the absolute, the eternal and the concrete, ephemeral …

People: regions, nations, individuals reaching for the apple and forgetting over the effort the joy of eating it.


ICE 72: Freiburg-Karlsruhe (nice: by accident I met Baerbel and we had been sitting together in the dining car — IC 203: Karlsruhe-Stuttgart — S 3: Stuttgart/central station-Stuttgart/airport — S 2: airport-Filderstadt — a short walk, sitting in the sun, some writing, after hesitating: there seems to be a swimming pool nearby … eating the role I bought somewhere on the way – some more writing, now in the room as it is already getting chilly outside – a short night in the hotel — CSA 563: Stuttgart-Prague – CSA 480: Prague-Helsinki …. — Juhani will collect me from the airport ….

About one month working in Finland – research, some teaching, also taking part in a conference. Networking – being caught in and building up links: links across countries, bridges between disciplines: leaving real expertise to others but being perhaps a little bit expert in opening some doors, contributing a little bit of the cement needed for the bridges.

And – paradoxically perhaps – destroying bridges, or loosening ties between dualities. Overcoming dichotomies by trying to enforce larger networks, including more aspects, working on creating larger networks rather than maintaining the small ones. Reaching out to the centre rather than staying in the periphery. Making the periphery centre … – and the centre somewhat peripheral … – either way getting lost, also in the thoughts and impressions: the joy I felt during the last mornings: jogging through the valley near Freiburg, breathing the air of the early morning, the smell of the hay; the joy of seeing the apple trees while walking the short distance from the local train to the hotel …


Sure, the story goes that there had been Adam, Eve, knit firmly together. Intervention: an apple and a viper. The scene of apparent harmony had been destroyed – all so well captured for instance in Albrecht Duerer’s painting from 1507: the tension between the unchanged and unchanging paradise of remote standstill: the indulgence of the here and now or any imagined telos of a final goal and the bravery of making freedom real, facing also the danger of failure. – As much as the viper opened the weld-seam between just the two: the dyad, opening the door to a triad, which then emerged as holy trinity; as much the viper crossed the border between spirit and body, opening the space for pure spirituality dichotomous to the space of pure physicalness, Kant surely crossed borders too: opening a space beyond dyad and trinity: the space for practical idea, limited as the practice had been bound to and coined by the idea, failing to emerge as real-real, remaining in the Platonic realm of the respublica noumenon. And thus remaining caught in the trinitarian formula – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, being later indirectly replicated in bourgeois political economy where profit, rent and wages had been defined as income of same quality, overlooking that – as Karl Marx said –

[t]he alleged sources of the annually available wealth belong to widely dissimilar spheres and have not the least analogy with one another. They have about the same relation to each other as lawyer’s fees, carrots, and music.

This trinity is the equality of the bourgeois society – a society with only the one vision and virtue: profit. and the faster the movement, the faster the turnover-rate of capital is, as better: leading money as financial capital to developing itself to an independent exchange mechanism, (apparently) remote from production; pushing land as source of rent to the danger of permanent over-fertilisation and monocultural use – including the abuse in form of deforestation of the rainforest; and forcing the workforce to accept alienated conditions, supplemented by the option to accept preacious conditions – the turnover reaching stupefying speeds.


ICE 72: Freiburg-Karlsruhe — IC 203: Karlsruhe-Stuttgart — S 3: Stuttgart/central station-Stuttgart/airport — S 2: airport-Filderstadt — a short walk, sitting in the sun, some writing, after hesitating: there seems to be a swimming pool nearby … eating the role I bought somewhere on the way – some more writing, now in the room as it is already getting chilly outside – a short night in the hotel — CSA 563: Stuttgart-Prague – CSA 480: Prague-Helsinki …. at this stage Juhani collected me already from the airport …., I am sitting in the car ….; too busy with thinking and talking about the packed work schedule for the next weeks – too busy to think about the high degree of alienation that apparently makes the normal to something so very special: the smell of hay, the look at apples growing on a tree … – and being there to be picked and eaten and even the exact place where I am. Using the words of Pollock at altera, having lost the

ideal of national sovereignty,

in tendency opposing that

nationhood is the social form that renders modernity self-conscious – conscious of being contemporary – so that the cosmopolitan spirit may inhabit a world that is ethically synchronous and politically symmetrical.**


It is the goal – even in a non-theological society it is still some kind of telos – though movement seems to be the only thing, claiming true importance – it is the telos. And that an unspoken Bernsteinainism seems to re-emerge is only consequence of excessive movementalism, afraid of defining clear goals, hesitating to accept the need of a constitution as matter of positive law.

For some short periods it may be true:

What we usually cal final goal, socialism as a kind of telos is in my view not impartant. It is the movement that counts.

(Das, was man gemeinhin Endziel des Sozialismus nennt, ist fuer mich nichts, die Bewegung ist alles. [Bernstein, 1899])

For short periods, as part of the constitutive process of constitutions.




* Quotes are translations of Kant-texts, though the translation is rather liberal

**  Pollock, Sheldon/Bhabha, Homi K./Breckenridge, Carol A./Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 2002: Cosmopolitanisms; in: Breckenridge, Carol A. et altera (eds.) 2002: 1-14; here: 6

I had been recently reading Ralf Dreier’s text: Rechtsbegriff und Rechtsidee. Kant’s Rechtsbegriff und seine Bedeutung fuer die gegenwaertige Diskussion (Frankfurt/M.: Alfred Metzner, 1986 – surely inspiring in many respects inspiring for writing this little epistle.

Un pensiero riguardo “Spiders and Vipers


Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo di WordPress.com

Stai commentando usando il tuo account WordPress.com. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s...