Philosophy is not without its power moves. Its image of dusty greybeards sitting in their faustian studies in many ways relies on the university serving as an ivory tower in which they can roam protected — and unquestioned. But especially in a time where the humanities are constantly being defunded, we are reminded that the structures that have protected the greybeards for a quite decent amount of time will not forever extricate them from the nagging question of legitimacy. But it is not just in moments of self-defense that philosophy is urged to show its claws; it might just as well be that the world that it belongs to, even when it tries to create its own mundus intelligibilis in between its book shelves, seems to be going to shit.
Philosophy’s power move is called truth. But it is not as easy as it seems, in the conjured image of the wise man stepping down from his tower and teaching the plebs ‘how it is’. It is rather by throwing itself into the trenches and exposing itself to the worldly bullets that thought can prove that its tenacity is not just due to the protective layer of the institution’s four walls. In a world in which opinions roam and knowledge is for sale, a rational order can be as subversive and dangerous to power as a mutiny. To a world chained and integrated into ideologies and grand narratives, truth might appear in form of a hammer smashing the statues.
This is especially troublesome insofar as the statues that philosophy charges upon, fervently and quixotically, are often the very ones it itself erected, returned in inverted form. It’s the sad fate of thought that the world should always be one step behind and one step ahead of it, insofar as it takes what is always presently unthought as its material. The true thinker, as Nietzsche as noted, is always born posthumously. Out of joint among the throng tilting among the statues.
Cover illustration: Cornelis Norbertus Gysbrechts, “Trompe l’oeil. Board Partition with Letter Rack and Music Book”, (1668).