I gotta have my orange juice.

Jesu, Juva

She’s unusual

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Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy attributes to Ben Franklin and his contemporaries the great error of destroying ends by turning them into mere means. Thus, religion becomes merely a means to happiness rather than an end in itself. A walk in the woods becomes a means to greater health rather than something simply to be enjoyed. And at the end of the road, people become a means to our own ends rather than something of fundamental value (see, we struggle to express ourselves any other way!) in themselves. Fixating on “usefulness,” far from elevating the value of something, eviscerates it of any transcendent or enduring worth.

Thus, speaking of romance:

The same thing in every changing moment [is now] treated as end or as means. This is the terror of life. And Franklin has said dogmatically, and you all believe it—23 hours a day you believe it—except when you are in love, you always believe it. The only person where you say she is unusual is the girl. Now what is unusual? Something that can’t be put to any use. What is usual? Something that is in usu, that is, that we know the use for. . . A girl, you cannot. It’s certainly not a girl that counts for something. The harlot, you know her use. But a real person, you cannot. She’s absolutely useless. (Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy, Hinge of Generations, 1953)

In the best possible sense of the word; because one desires her, not what he can get from her.

Later, he comments on how the end of this is tyranny:

We are not means. Once you’ve begun to conceive of other people as means, you end with all the systems of tyranny. You can’t have it, you see. It’s too tempting. It’s too obvious. (Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy, Hinge of Generations, 1953)

He then goes on to relate this to how literature has descended to fiction, using James Fenimore Cooper as his foil. He lays on the shoulders of Cooper and the rest of the Romantic School the blame for descending, from literature as a reflection of life, to fiction as vain longing for the ends that we have lost.

Mr. Franklin is the beginning of great things. He’s certainly the beginning of Mr. Hitler. But Mr. Cooper is the beginning of the burlesque show, because man cannot live by reason, so he has to create fiction. And the fiction world is after all always the exact complementary part to the world in which we actually live. So the heroes of the fiction story are very different from the heroes of great literature. I mean, Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov, they are [ourselves], you see, in earnest. But this Natty Bumppo of course is not Mr. Cooper at all, you see. It’s the other half, his wish, his desire.

The heroes of great literature, gentlemen, are the undesirable: real creatures. And the heroes of so-called fiction are, you see, our wish-dreams. . .  They fill out the void. Now, the greater the void you create in your philosophy, the more distorted must be the other person. That is the price of empty philosophy. If usefulness is the criterion for the real life, then uselessness must be the criterion of the other half, of fiction, which it is. [Cooper’s] Indians are no use to anybody. They can’t even be integrated into the historical existence of society, you see. And therefore, they are so beloved. And the waterfalls, and the moonlight, and all these things are, you see, so much on the other side, that the Romantic School says, “This is for the feelings.” Can you see this? Half and half. But they are two halves that never get together. The one is therefore called “fiction.” Of course, Mr. Cooper didn’t dare to call it “fiction” in his days. This was great art. It was “the novel,” as it was called. We call it today, brutally, “fiction.” (Eugen Rosenstock–Huessy, Hinge of Generations, 1953)

Written by Scott Moonen

October 23, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Posted in Quotations

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