Culture – Spacetime

You may call it the day of culture – if there is such thing. Or to put the question in its correct light your may ask if there is any day without culture. Is not the day, the fact of a day in today’s understanding very much itself ‘culture’, a social construct? Of course, in the beginning stood the light, i.e. the very natural process of the change of daylight and darkness, the change of temperatures, activity levels …, day after day and year after year. And as natural as this development had been, it remained so as something that had been accepted in its own right, but surely not questioned, not artificialised. In the beginning stood the word – and even if taking out of the reference in which Adam Smith used it, the word has to be seen as the word of the powerful:

Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation therefore is in favour of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favour of the masters.

(Smith, Adam, 1776: Wealth of Nations [An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations]; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993/1998:143)

Interestingly, he blames a little later in the same paragraph, the ‘private bond agreement’ of the masters against the workmen, making it for instance possible to pay lower wages.

And we may add: it had not been just the law of wages, etc., but equally the new law of time, defined by the word rather than a matter of time.

It is, the remark may usefully be made en passent, interesting that this issue had been frequently been made by the ‘virtuous citoyen’, idealistically maintaining a politically liberalist outlook against the reality of the ‘greedy bourgeois’ who insisted on the liberalist economic reality. Adam Smith himself embodying in some way the Faustian divisiveness, feeling the diabolical two souls in his breast. And in a somewhat naïve way Alexis de Tocqueville also highlights this issue in his work on Democracy in America, contending.

Civil laws are only familiarly known to legal men, whose direct interest it is to maintain them as they are, whether good or bad, simply because they themselves are conversant with them. The body of the nation is scarcely acquainted with them; it merely perceives their action in particular cases; but it has some difficulty in seizing their tendency, and obeys them without premeditation. I have quoted one instance where it would have been easy to adduce a great number of others. The surface of American society is, if I may use the expression, covered with a layer of democracy, from beneath which the old aristocratic colors sometimes peep.

(Tocqueville, Alexis de, 1835: Democracy in America; Translator – Henry Reeve; The Pennsylvania State University, 2002: 64)

The original property had been linked to the appropriation of nature pure: hunting and gathering, soon followed by …, yes we may say: the emergence of culture. The appropriation of the products of the soil. The ‘word’, first spoken by simple violence – the word of execution, the verdict over – gained a new form: it emerged as communication between man and nature – as we know it today under the term agriculture: the cultivation of the land.

But it emerged also in a different meaning – we can refer to Ulrich Oeverman who underlines that the emergence of language is an important aspect of man’s transcendence of nature: language is the seedbed of the differentiation between what is represented and the presentation (see Oevermann, Ulrich, 1995: Ein Modell der Struktur von Religiosität. Zugleich ein Strukturmodell von Lebenspraxis und Sozialer Zeit; in: Wohrab-Sahr [ed.], 1995: Biographie und Religion Frankfurt/M.; New York: Campus: 27-102). This is also the emergence of distinctive time by way of allowing presence to be stored, to re-emerge at a later point in time as re-presentation. Consequently this second word had been followed by sentences, the telling of stories. This schilderen, this kind of story-telling had not least been a matter of systematically taking stock: perceiving reality, systematically describing it – or you may say: evaluating it, arriving with this at criteria for relevant groups and groupings as process of categorisation. The sentence had been the interpretation, categories developed from observing reality and making use of it: the active play with appropriation: Le pouvoir de la propriété – or to use the words of Linguet:

L’esprit des lois, c’est la propriété

And to the extent to which this property had been more a matter of legal property rights rather than being a matter of rustic, technical and skilful control, its art became also a matter of the use of this new mode of regulation: (i) the word of nobility and clergy a skilful means of infatuation of the people, (ii) the presentation of power and (iii) equally the laying down of laws: legal provisions, in the most pronounced form as positive law, complementing and later even replacing the law of nature and law of god.

In which ever way we turn it, it is the matter of power.

Undoubtedly, nature will never be overcome in any strict sense, but it is to some extent subordinated, a sub-order, submitted under the control of those who know about the laws and who are able to apply them – and we know increasingly the limits of the subordination, then getting manifest when supposed knowledge actually transcends into ignorance. And with this latter reference we also see the suggested ongoing meaning of god: some divine and spiritual orders left for those parts of life that remain inexplicable, that keep their fascination …. – or actually gain a new fascination. And it surely not least the instrumentalisation of arts – instrumentalisation not in a mechanical way but as one building block in a complex system of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic communication: PEMAM as Production, Establishment, Maintenance and Adaptation of Meaning.

Here we find, indeed, the word in the beginning, spoken, and understood as part of a specific context of soci(et)al practice; but soon loosing its meaning – the spoken word alienated from itself by being extended to the written word. Actually it is another paradox of development: on the one hand, this written word is more universalised than the spoken word. The latter is part of the immediate context, depending on agency and act – and there is only very limited space for asking somebody else to speak in one’s name. It will always remain the representative as part-owned other. This is different with the written word: the written word can not only be carried around, it can also be stored, it is universal at least within the circle of those who speak this language – hic et nunc or ibi et postea; here and now and equally there and later. But this universal character had been depending on those who had been actually able to read, a small number, even smaller than the number of those who had been able to speak the supposed universal language: Latin as lingua franca. Still, at the very same time it had been a large number, outnumbering those who would be reached by the spoken word. Written language implied a certain inherent impulse to be multiplied, copied …, and to aim at least to some extent at those who had been illiterate or semi-literate. From a means of carrying a simple message – as we find it in carve-paintings – we move towards a new form of written language: abstract and concrete at the same time; a means of communication between individuals and/or the members of an elite of selected man (of course man, also meaning unquestioned the male personification of this creature) and at the same time a means of mass communication. Before the invention of the printing press (in the Western hemisphere around1440) this had been a laborious process: the manual copying of writings, the writing itself in no way as simple as it is in today’s fully alphabetised form.

And this meant – in historical perspective – indeed mass production. Everly S.Welch in her book Art in Renaissance Italy 1350-1500 (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1997: 75) points out that this had also been an entrance for women into the sphere of this craft: though mainly undertaken by monks, the copying and skilful ‘illustration’ had been also undertaken by women. And we should not forget that this new means of relative mass communication: the book probably did carry some technical fascination as this little story on the Introduction of the Book shows.


Looking seriously now at the Book of Kells, may allow us to have a glimpse into the new art – at least from today’s perspective a mixture between a simple means of shelving and communicating information and consideration on the one hand and on the other hand a means of presentation: presenting beauty and presenting information in a colourful and artistic way – perfectly balancing the overall impression of a page as it presents a fascinating beauty of the details of the individual letters.

In this way the truth of Vasari’s statement in the masterpiece Le Vite De’ Piú Eccellenti Architetti, Pittori, et Scultori Italiani, Da Cimabue Insino A’ Tempi Nostri, first published in 1550, can surely be considered to be correct. He looked at sculptures and paintings and contends:

I say, then, that sculpture and painting are in truth sisters, born from one father, that is, design, at one and the same birth, and have no precedence one over the other, save insomuch as the worth and the strength of those who maintain them make one craftsman surpass another, and not by reason of any difference or degree of nobility that is in truth to be found between them.

(Vasari, Giorgio, 1550: Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects ; here quoted from the Internet-version)

And like any sculpture: to be a good piece, it needs to consider all the different dimensions, begs for veneration from all sides, any skilful writing of the kind of the Book of the Kells will ask for attention on the different levels of detail. – The fact that we are nevertheless dealing with a highly standardised structure should, of course not be forgotten.

The beauty, surely, had been a means of communication and at the same time a means of awe-inspiring determent: beauty as quest for respect. However, as much as this language developed further, emerged as something that is in tendency independent of the speaker, reproducible, it had been underlying similar mechanisms as Max Weber discussed by way of pointing on the disenchantment of the world. The perfection of the rules as loss of the wordplay, dangerously moving to the loss of playwords. – Civilisation – De-Civilisation – Barbarism … – I still do not see any reason to end such statement with an exclamation mark.


Schilderen – it has been said to be to be a process during and by which something is described, lively presented. As such it has to be seen as multi-layered process: the presentation, or even description of what had been seen as fact; and at the same time painting as matter of pointing on something, pointing something out, setting a pointer towards the future – designation of past, present and future time. As such, the telling of stories had also been a matter of exploration, the presentation of the Zeitgeist: now demanding the good life from the subservient had been an act that had been clearly separated from the immediate management of the good life itself.

An example par example for such zeitgeist-paintings are the works of Peter Paul Rubens.


But before we really come to this, we may start with what I suggest to be the sculptural dimension of painting: for Rubens the understanding of space, the possibility to use the canvas as a means for depicting space rather than remaining in the limitation of a surface had been well known and developed. And we may even say that especially Rubens had been a master of space.

Before looking at his work, we may briefly turn our attention to the topic of space and its exploration in the arts. Gian Lorenzo Bernini for instance needed sculpture to present space – and with the use of this means he showed perfection: space emerged as emotional space, the apparently cold material of stone (even if it had been the noble stone: marble) presents itself with all the emotions of human existence. If you ever looked at Il Ratto di Proserpina, The Rape of Persephone, a work made in 1621/22, if you stood next to it you will understand what I mean: the pain in the twofold sense of physical pain and the very same time as matter of the debasement, humilation. As such the pain of the woman stands a representative of the pain of women. It is in this way hugely a ‘social statue’, an impeachment against the mail injustice. – I remember how moved I had been when I saw this masterpiece the first time: the admiration of Bernini’s craftsmanship, merging with the feeling of being asked by this women to help her, as individual, but also the prompt to fight against the arrogance of a world where men claim a superiority, where pure violence prevails – and where at a much later stage it still reigns, though taking an entirely different shape: the form of pure reason, and as such necessarily eclipsing. This is what Max Horkheimer must have had in mind, stating that

the positivists seem to forget that natural science as they conceive it is above all an auxiliary means of production, one element among many in the social process. Hence, it is impossible to de-termine a priori what role science plays in the actual advancement or retrogression of society. Its effect in this respect is as positive or negative as is the function it assumes in the general trend of the economic process.

(Horkheimer, Max, 1947: Zur Kritik der instrumentellen Vernunft; Frankfurt/M.: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1967: 59)

Actually the appreciation and defence of arts in our times has something of this anti-instrumentalist notion. Surely always being in danger of elitist debauchery, but equally a matter of acknowledging the right not only to explore something new, but moreover to walk even entirely new ways in the search for respect.

That in many cases those who broke new ground did so in most arrogant ways: individuals which had been themselves highly exploitative, sexist, violent is a question that may be taken up on another occasion.

And indeed, again another question is the role of beauty. At that time, would I have had the same feeling looking at Persephone depicted as ugly woman? Would we feel the same quest? And beyond this, it is the question that goes much further: The question of the beauty that is ‘created’ by paintings, that is suggested and the question of reality – as realist reflection and as defining what reality actually is, how it is historically and socially defined.


Coming back to Bernini’s work, I can quote what I wrote in the forthcoming book titled God, Rights, Law and a Good Society:

This statue is so impressive because it captures the third dimension in a unique way – and if you stand in front of it, if you walk around it, there is something else opening up in front of your eyes: an entirely new responsibility – understood in terms of engaging, of responding to the world. Actually, a rather complex feature is emerging; a new response – but required and at the same time only possibleby a new way of capturing reality: The third dimension – you can also see them in the most exciting way when looking at the fresco by Tommaso Maria Conca and the decorations by Giovanni Battista Marchetti – is not only the opening of space as being perfectly reproducible. With this, two other moments come into play: time and feeling.

Let us briefly look at two other pieces – unquestioned masterpieces, also in their perfection somewhat unforgeable. The one is, of course, Donatello’s David. The pure beauty of a youth – the harmony of the body, the balance which is expressed in and expresses the beauty also as content, i.e. being content with somebody else: with the ego. And one may get the impression he can only can be content in this way due to be strongly convinced of the position in space, and because of this also somewhat playful, whimsical. And this may well be confirmed by what we learn from Paul Strathern who importantly notes that

[o]nce again, there was a major scientific aspect to this works of art. It was the first free-standing bronze sculpture to be produced in over a millennium, and as such represented the discovery of a lost knowledge; its casting alone was a technical achievement. Previously statues had been created for niches in buildings, or as architectural embellishments, rather than as complete objects in themselves; and the fact that this sculpture is to be seen in the round also required further scientific understanding. Donatello’s David is a work of great anatomical precision, requiring more than a passing knowledge of this subject. The adolescent podginess softening line of the rib bones, the slightly protuberant stomach, the swivel of the hips and the lined skin on the forefinger clutching the sword all indicate an eye for physiological detail. Yet at the same time there is no denying that this is the statue of a particular individual. (Strathern, Paul: The Medici. Godfathers of the Renaissance; London: Pimlico; 2005: 110 f.)

Probably one of the most remarkable moments behind the spatial appeal of this work is given by its own force: itself is space, itself attracts. It surely does so by the beauty of the young man, but also by the perfect balance. Perhaps it had been really the first statute of its kind: standing alone, and standing on its own, not depending on external support as it had been in harmony with the space, the environment.

The other sculpture I want to present is again from Bernini, namely his Estasi di santa Teresa d’Avila in the Sana Maria della Vittoria in Rome: another masterpiece, looked ar as large entity and equally seen in its details.

Presenting space means here something entirely different, perhaps even standing counter to the two previous examples. Rather than being space, presenting itself as space, we see now an example of filling space, occupying and at the same time making use of space.

Depicting space on the canvas, the capturing of perspective can be seen as invention of the late medieval ages, i.e. the late 15th century. Still, Giorgio Vasari, in the Preface to his impressive overview, still wrote correctly

Moreover, they lay very great stress on the fact that things are more noble and more perfect in proportion as they approach more nearly to the truth, and they say that sculpture imitates the true form and shows its works on every side and from every point of view, whereas painting, being laid on flat with most simple strokes of the brush and having but one light, shows but one aspect

(Vasari, Giorgio, 1550: Lives of the Most Eminent Painters Sculptors and Architects ; here quoted from the Internet-version)

As we will see later, the ability to included space into painting is part of a true revolutionary of thinking of the entire mindset – and we will see later as well that it had been re-volutionary: bringing an ability back that existed a long time before but was lost. As much as the world had been flat until – in the West – Pythagorean thinking challenged this image, the thinking had been shallow: limited in abstraction. And equally limited in depth. Economic life had been dominated by only rudimentary forms of exchange; relationships had been of limited complexity: immediate and direct and violent, hic et nunc, a matter of presence. And as such it had been presented: hic et nunc had been the slogan of the time, the ibi et postea emerged only slowly. But nevertheless, here and now and equally there and later it developed – and a leap in the development can be seen around 1300: a new era of integration emerged from the new view on space and time, i.e. by …., well: by dissolving an apparently irresolvable entity. Mind, the previous worldview is not about something that is strongly bound together. Rather it is about an entity, the eens: something that is element rather the exiting of elements. As such it had been extremely exclusionary. The later slogan If you are not with us, you are against us, in a frightening way applied by the Bush administration in the aggression against Iraq, had been even more radical: If you are not us (i.e. identical with us), you do not exist. This, of course, did not even need to think about any market economy, any production for the market – at least not in terms of an anonymous institution. The thinking in entities can already be seen by looking at the political system of ancient Greece. Of course, we find already then different spheres: the private and the public.

The distinction between private and public sphere is of ancient origin; it goes back to the Greek oikos, the household, and ecclesia, the site of politics, where matters affecting all members of the polis are tackled and settled. But between oikos and ecclesia the Greeks situated one more sphere, that of communication between the two, the sphere whose major role was not keeping the private ad the public apart and guarding the territorial integrity of each, but assuring a smooth and constant traffic between them. That third and intermediate sphere, the agora (the private/public sphere as Castoriadis put it) bound the two extremes and held them together. Its role was crucial for the maintenance of the truly autonomous polis resting on the true autonomy of its members. Without it, neither the polis nor its members could gain, let alone retain, their freedom to decide the meaning of their common good and what was to be done to attain it. But the private/public sphere, like any ambivalent setting or any no-man’s land (or, rather, a land of too many owners and disputed ownership), is a territory of constant tension and tug-of-war as much as it is the site of dialogue, cooperation or compromise.

(Bauman, Zygmunt, 1999: In Search of Politics; Stanford: Stanford University Press: 87)

And in actual fact we find already in ancient times the knowledge of perspective – and its depiction. But it faded easily away – as much as the open communication as discursive process had been replaced by hierarchical structures. One reason can be seen in the fact that rather than truly relating with each other, we are asked to see them as distinct spheres: the private is the private and the public is the public, not even allowing to put the claim forward that stands for the more or less recent feminist movement, saying that the personal is political.

Now, in the outgoing Middle Ages things changed dramatically: most importantly, the economic sphere claimed the right of independence, not submitted, not annexed to the political system. This formulation seems to stand in contradiction to what had been said before: the closed worldview, the suggested entity. To some extent it does, indeed. However, as the previous relationships had been strictly hierarchical, tributary, authoritarian ‘relationality’ at that stage had not been a matter of independent variables to each other. This independence had been only now entering the agenda, in brief:

  • as claim of actors to take things up according to their own will: act independently, in their own risk and gain, the early modern undertaker. The entrepreneur, and even if the risk would be to dig the own grave – undertaker,
  • as possibility to leave the limited spacetime: the new Copernican worldview allowed to think ‘the other’
  • more importantly it required to reconsider the self. Much later, in 1871, it would be put by Eugène Pottier into the words

Il n’est pas de sauveurs suprêmes

Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun


There are no supreme saviours

Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.

  • it encouraged explorations of entirely new kinds: the immense wealth that existed, the new challenges, and the new technologies, all this inviting at least parts of society to look for a supreme saviour – and to take up the search in the here an now. Sure, another paradox of history: the exploration of the there and then meant equally the new view on and evaluation of the here and now; it had been much later explored in particular in connection with Protestantism;
  • and finally this is also the context in which another new art developed: the art of government. In general, history gained new interest, Francesco Petrarca (Petrarch) apparently being one of the first highlighting the distinctiveness of the new age which would become known as renaissance. And his idea of this new age had been strongly influenced by somebody who then had been already a figure of long bygone history: Titus Livius Patavinus, who lived between 59 BC and AD 17.

Is it then surprising if we see the second main work presented by Niccolò Machiavelli – today he would be probably classified as the first political scientist – dedicated to Livio? In his Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio from 1531 he writes (at the same time when writing Il Principe) in chapter XXXIX

Whoever considers the past and the present will readily observe that all cities and all peoples are and ever have been animated by the same desires and the same passions; so that it is easy, by diligent study of the past, to foresee what is likely to happen in the future in any republic, and to apply those remedies that were used by the ancients, or, not finding any that were employed by them, to devise new ones from the similarity of the events.

(Machiavell, Niccolò, 1513: Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius; here quoted from a website)

The important point here is the emergence of an entirely new understanding of history, the early reference to the fact that

[m]en make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.

(Marx, Karl: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 1852; here quoted from the internet-version)

Looking at these different perspectives – even from Machiavelli to Marx – and surely not creating a Marxian Machiavelli nor a Machiavellian Marx, the decisive development is: Development. Rather than understanding history as recurrence (as G.W. Trompf seems to suggest [see G.W. Trompf, 1979: The Idea of Historical Recurrence in Western Thought. From Antiquity to Reformation; Berkeley et altera: University of California Press]) the truly new moment is that history is now seen as something man-made, development not a matter of chance but a matter of ‘design’. As said before

There are no supreme saviours

Neither God, nor Caesar, nor tribune.

Against this background we may say that the third dimension could now be understood in its abstractness. It could be truly imagined and grasped without being immediately ‘there’, without being present space, let alone that there had been the need for present spacetime. For us today these issues are so present that of course even such terms as spacetime are difficult. Actually it had been funny – for me – reading an editor commenting on a sentence of my article. The words in question had been the following:

understood as a process of relational appropriation.

The editor’s note – and as it is clear from other comments that it concerned in particular the matter of relationality – read


Sure, Bill Gates and his crew still underline the term relationality in the spell check and of course they do not propose a definition. Ask my students, ask Lucy for instance but I am sure, Brona … all others will also know what it is. Perhaps it is a little bit of missionary element of my work: travelling, teaching in different places and countries – and teaching different subjects – to spread the word. To be honest, I am not really serious about it. But I am serious about the fact that we frequently take things too simple, and that we are for instance not sufficiently ready to challenge readers, and this means also: to challenge our own thinking. As the world of capitalist exchange-relationships systematically undermines relationality, reduces everything on simple contractual relationships our entire thinking is ready to follow and to face out the fact these relationships are only a very part of an actually complex structure. – The term relationality is, of course, not my personal ‘invention’ [though Treasa, former student in Cork and in her ‘leisure time’ teaching English as foreign language, liked my occasional inventions of new words 😉 ]. The first time I came across it in a text by Brent D. Slife. He begins with

[r]elationships and practices [that] are reciprocal exchanges of information among essentially self-contained organisms, … [remaining] ultimately a type of individualism or atomism.

(Slife, Brent F., 2004: Taking Practice Seriously: Toward a Relational Ontology; in: Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology; 24.2; 157-178; here: 158)

Then he continues a little later

Strong relationality, by contrast, is an ontological relationality. Relationships are not just the interactions of what was originally nonrelational; relationships are relational ‘all the way down.’ Things are not first self-contained entities and then interactive. Each thing, including each person, is first and always a nexus of relations.

(ibid.: 159)

Well, dear editor … – I have to say that the actual editor, not the language editor, had been smart enough to understand what I meant. And there may be something that deserves mention in a side-remark. Almas and Carol as editors listened to a presentation on which the edited texted is based did not insist on changing. This gives the written word surely a different meaning, allows a distinct understanding – for editing language the knowledge of the subject area is probably much more important than the knowledge of ‘pure language’. Such pure language is something like pure reason: shallow, taking the shape of a spectre: cadaverous, commanding respect and stone-cold. Sufficient and applicable in a world that is reduced on relations: cadaverous, commanding respect and stone-cold.

And it is surely a challenge to allow the flourishing of relations within relationships without killing the relationality and vice versa: to foster relationality without assassination of relations. Barry actually took up this challenge – I am talking about editing another text. I have to smile, reading the other day his mail:

Peter, I’m in the midst of de-hegelizing your paper – it is very good when formatted in colloquial English. It also addresses some other Big History debates, which you have intuitively caught. Great job…very impressive! – Barry

If he is ready to go the final step will be shown in the future. Leaving the linguistic aspect out of question, we should not make things simpler than needed and possible. Why not do, what I did as part of this years course at Corvinus: reading. Reading a text and spending about three hours on about two pages. Sure, we cannot do it all the time. But we have to see as well that only those things we know already will easily fly at us. Looking for other things, for something new is not easy; and teaching other things while at the same time looking for them, exploring them further is surely even more difficult. But imagine the please, the …, well: gratification … . I mentioned Lucy, didn’t I? One day in class, the usual difficult stuff … . She turns to Brona and I hear her whispering something like:

Yes, really – yesterday evening I really got it. I don’t know exactly … . But I really got what he is talking about. Yes, it is possible to understand it.

Yes, it is. The only condition is openness – the readiness to accept a very simple fact, nearly too simple to be mentioned; and nevertheless obviously frequently forgotten in educational institutions where learning takes the form of an exercise, nearly military in character: production and reproduction of knowledge, the ultimate goal being the production of recruits of the army in the factories – or the reserve army on the corridors of the labour offices.

– Thanks, Lucy! Thanks also to Michelle, to Barry, … – actually there are many, perhaps at the end most of the students who happily escaped at least for some time the power of points which had been used as bullets to make them obedient solders, disciplined by the discipline’s bullets of mainstream knowledge and mainstream dissemination, with the bitter end of

The suicide of the social sciences: causes and effects

as outlined by Carin Holmquist and Elisabeth Sundin.

(Holmquist, Carin/Sundin, Elisabeth, 2010: The suicide of the social sciences: causes and effects; in: Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research Volume 23, Issue 1: 13-23)[1]


Coming from the light, moving to the word, speaking the sentence, we arrive at one of the paradoxes of history until now: elaborated speech, artfully veered words emerging as sentence: the sentence of the newly emerging cage, now golden, artfully turned, emerging with an increasingly tightened power, thus making play increasingly difficult again.

The sentence is the commitment claimed by the new rules: light is replaced by the power switch, the word is replaced by the book of which the pages can only be opened to allow the reading of the positive words: the words of positive law, purely individualistic, and nevertheless until now the highest form of reason: instrumental, and as such surely not least a matter of the instrumentalist, the person or group that controls the instrument. Linguet and Smith alike are surely right in their interpretation – but a tiny turn in Smith’s exact wording, in the paragraph he wrote must rouse our attention. It is the said socialisation of power: individual masters joining into a coalition, thus undermining societal solidarity. Individuals, guided by an invisible hand, emerges as class that positions itself as such outside and above society, successfully claiming the position as hegemon.

But doesn’t this, when we take up for instance Spinoza’s definition of freedom, provoke also the consideration of horizons of possibilities? Let us briefly recall Spinoza’s definition. He states in his Treatise, for instance that

[i]t is impossible for the mind to be completely under another’s control; for no one is able to transfer to another his natural right or faculty to reason freely and to form his own judgment on any matters whatsoever, nor can he be compelled to do so.

Referring to this sentence, highlights the two important aspects: the highly individualist orientation – expressing the fear Spinoza developed in the light of the recuperating conservative Dutch powers; and the extreme orientation on reflexive responsibility: freedom from external forces, freedom had been first considered in terms of contemplation and only second as freedom to act.

Nevertheless it opened also the horizon for some kind of contingency – but contingency as reasoned contingency, based in the reality and it’s analysis. As much as the gathering of individual bourgeois turned into the bourgeois class, other gatherings of individuals can turn into collective actors.Thus we arrive finally from interpretation at the conclusive interpretation – and this is the consideration of the dialectical turn. Actually we don’t have to do this anymore ourselves and can refer to Ernst Bloch who systematically proposed a structure of a space of opportunities. Taking it from my writing on a different occasion we see that

Ernst Bloch makes us aware of four different kinds of possibilities, namely (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.

(Herrmann, Peter, in print: God, Law and a Good Society; see Bloch, Ernst, 1938-1947: Das Prinzip Hoffnung; [written in 1938-1947, review 1953 and 1959]; Franfurt/M.:Suhrkamp, 1959 258-288)

We are actually gaining relative independence by becoming knowledgeable not only about the here and now but by the recognition of what is as germ in the here and now: the germ of history as source also for the future, the recognition of the opportunities contained and in need to be brought to the surface by getting actively involved in the contradictions.


Back to step one then: there is surely no ‘day without culture’ since those days of the switch with which we learned to turn on the light and the roller shutter which allowed us to escape it.

And of course, one of the instruments, itself a product of culture, had been religion. Volkhard Krech, with reference to Peter L. Berger, elaborates on this. He quotes Berger who states

Religion is the undertaking of man to errect a holy cosmos

(Berger, Peter L.,1973: Zur Dialektic von Religion und Gesellschaft; Frankfurt/M.: Fischer: 26)

And explains

It’s task is to make sure that the socially constructed nomos the quality of certainty and ontological status that had been questioned in (…) border situations.

(Krech, Volkhard, 2011: Wo bleibt die Religion?; Bielefeld: transcript: 28)

Again in the words of Berger:

Religion implies the projection of the human order into the totality of existence

(Berger, op.cit.: 28)

Isn’t this very much the same projection and fascination that is expressed – and retained – in the masterworks we inherited from Michelangelo and Rubens?

But before I turn to them, I want to return briefly to the ‘day of culture’, my day of culture. Starting this little epistle I had been on the way back, from a Beethoven concert (ah, no, I won’t say anything – just try not to remember, feel so sorry for the great Beethoven, who had been rolled over by a pianist who mixed up roles and performed more like a logger), briefly stepping into Everyman, the JEDERMANN, though apparently not officially part of the Goethe-Institute at least adjunct. Full of tension: the privy councillor and everyman’s culture; the traditionalist who once said that

[a] person who does not know the history of the last 3,000 years wanders in the darkness of ignorance, unable to make sense of the reality around him

and who surely had been also the personification of an avantgardist: storm and stress, critique of the prevailing conditions of society: a callous formation, caught in rationality which he once scornfully brushed off, exclaiming

All rights and laws are still transmitted

Like an eternal sickness of the race, –

From generation unto generation fitted,

And shifted round from place to place.

Reason becomes a sham, Beneficience a worry:

Though art a grandchild, therefore woe to thee!

The right born with us, ours in verity, This to consider, there’s, alas! no hurry.

(Faust, Johann Wolfgang von: Fasut; translated by Bayard Taylor; The Pennsylvania State University, 2005: 67)

— —— ——

Es erben sich Gesetz’ und Rechte

Wie eine ew’ge Krankheit fort,

Sie schleppen von Geschlecht sich zum Geschlechte,

Und rücken sacht von Ort zu Ort.

Vernunft wir Unsinn, Wohlthat Plage;

Weh Dir, daß Du ein Enkel bist!

Vom Rechte, das mit uns geboren ist,

Von dem ist leider! nie die Frage.

(Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von,1806: Faust. Eine Tragödie; Stuttgart/Tübingen: Cotta’sche Buchhandlung, 1825: 121)

the respectful gentle- and nobleman, at the same time well known as macho, as he shines through in Martin Walser’s novel of A Loving Man; parochial, lover of the two Charlottes – the Stein’sche and much earlier the Kestner’sche, and at the same time the incarnation of the extraversion, imagine him, sitting their on his West-Eastern Divan, being much later honourable reference for Daniel Barenboim’s and Edward Said’s cultural peace initiative; thus showing the transformation of tradition … – culture surely not least a matter of openness, readiness to engage in contradictions. And he knew too well about it, exclaiming in his Faust

What rapture, ah! at once is flowing

Through all my senses at the sight of this!

I feel a youthful life, its holy bliss,

Through nerve and vein run on, new-glowing.

—- _____ __—-

Ha! Welche Wonne fließt in diesem Blick

Auf einmal nur durch alle meine Sinnen!

Ich fühle, junges, heil’ges Lebensglück

Neugühend mir durch Nerv und Adern rinnen.


It cannot be pure incidence that after a short while a group of young people turns up, getting organised on the small stage, surrounded by the various posters, announcing Jazz concerts, performances of classical music, art exhibitions, dance performances – the most varied genres of arts. And it could be possible to write a little history of art in Budapest, looking at the various dates. Coming back to the Vasari-quote from before we may say – cum grano salis: there are many more siblings, the entire word of music, dance – expression and expressing, design: watching for the signs in reality, picking them up and bringing them again together as that what is

objectively real possible – possible by following the latency and tendency which is inherent in its elementary form.

It doesn’t take long and the room is imbued with the rhythm of a mixed sound: jazzy-Hungarian folk music: the ease of young people who do not have a chance but who take it – very much as Herbert Achternbuch claimed in his novel Die Atlantikschwimmer.

It is surely a wild mix of different cultures, emerging as new culture that searches for a place between the old, the presence and the future.

Yes, I continue listening; and I continue preparing the next class, reading Rosa Luxemburg’s text on Accumulation, chapter XXVII beginning with the words

Capitalism arises and develops historically admidst a non-capitalist society. In Western Europe it is found at first in a feudal environment from which it in fact sprang – the system of bondage in rural areas and the guild system n the towns – and later, after having swallowed up the feudal system, it exists mainly in an environment of peasants and artisans, that is to say in a system of simple commodity production both in agriculture and trade. European capitalism is further surrounded by vast territories of non-European civilisation ranging over all levels of development from the primitive communist hordes of nomad herdsmen, hunters and artisans. This is the setting for the accumulation of capital.

(Luxemburg, Rosa, 1913: The Accumulation of Capital. Translated from the German by Agnes Schwarzschild. With an Introduction by Joan Robinson: London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951: 368)

So, in this way it is a day of special culture – a special day of culture: two concerts, one so-called high-culture, lowly performed by a pianist who treated the Steinway in the mood of a lumberjack, another concert which didn’t really come along as a concert but more as a playful gathering of musicians: having fun, making fun and getting people to join …, a bit of the Meister’s Journeyman Years of Goethe, whose spirit is in some way in the room.


Back to Spacetime – the term that made me take off a little bit. So, back to painting, back to the new ability: understanding a new dimension of space.

But actually I will leave that for another time. Finally we can be sure, that there is a next time. Another day full of culture. Or should we be afraid of nature, playing a silly trick, and leading us into an entirely different sphere?


[1] Ah, yeah: it is published in one of these attacked coffins, knocking from inside – looking from inside out doesn’t cost anything; though looking from outside into it you’ll be charged.

2 pensieri riguardo “Culture – Spacetime


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