viernes, 23 de octubre de 2015

flanêur con nata

As we already know, Baudelaire was not very happy with the effects of so-called progress on the society he was living in. In his notes about Edgar Allan Poe, he wrote: «Civilized man invents the philosophy of progress to console himself for his abdication and for his downfall». He does not only regret the notion of progress but also maintains that if we take seriously the notion of progress/evolution, we should conclude that it is more a disevolution, a degeneration march to downfall. About progress he will write also: «Ce fanal obscur, invention du philosophisme actuel, breveté sans garantie de la Nature ou de la Divinité, cette lanterne moderne jette des ténèbres sur tous les objets de la connaissance ; la liberté s’évanouit, le châtiment disparaît. Qui veut y voir clair dans l’histoire doit avant tout éteindre ce fanal perfide. Cette idée grotesque, qui a fleuri sur le terrain pourri de la fatuité moderne, a déchargé chacun de son devoir, délivré toute âme de sa responsabilité, dégagé la volonté de tous les liens que lui imposait l’amour du beau : et les races amoindries, si cette navrante folie dure longtemps, s’endormiront sur l’oreiller de la fatalité dans le sommeil radoteur de la décrépitude. Cette infatuation est le diagnostic d’une décadence déjà trop visible», in his review of the Exposition Universelle (1855). No doubt about the fact that Baudelaire didn’t like progress. But we have to be very careful with it, and take out any perfectly shaped preconception we’d have about what «progress» before concluding that the notion of «progress» Baudelaire is attacking is the one we have. To begin with, Baudelaire hates progress because he do not think it is what we think it is. Progress is a trap because 1) it is detrimental to the human being and 2) it is not actually progress. So, after all what he was reacting against was not the concept as it is for everyone but the complete superstructure that charged it with a very specific and particular significance, that gives to that concept the meaning it has for everybody, even if it do not deserve it at all.

Departing from a very similar approach, Foucault builds his critique of «progress» as it is conceived in modern society, doing it from an analytical perspective, trying to rely on theoretical construction (via Benjamin, Adorno, Horckheimer, Kant, etc.) instead of artistic intuition.

And what he found? Something not very similar to the intuition of Baudelaire: progress is not what it seems. Thinking we are historically always going forward for the better is to be trapped in a new form of alienation that prevent us from realising the way we are actually victims of that notion of progress, i.e.: prevent us from criticism. Progress as it has occurred is not equal to emancipation, as it is defended in the conception made of it in Enlightenment.

An interesting thing that Baudelaire proposed, between others, the character of the flanêur as a way to escape from the cheat that progress and so society (or at least its foundations) is. The flanêur walks by with the aim to find something that stands out of the common, any hidden treasure an unnoticed detail, the extraordinary inside the mediocre.

In some way, we could describe Foucault as a flanêur of philosophy, since he go deep into the foundations of our present with the tools offered as a result of our History, to find an insight that goes beyond such tools and such present itself, at least beyond the way this present sees itself.

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