A philosophy of ugliness

by Arran James

This fearful imperviousness to the finitude of flesh and blood embodiment of a subjectivity tied to its mortal host left these philosophers with a split subject, a subjectivity at once known and unknown and untouchable, noumenal. This family of affects: disgust, horror, and revulsion so frequently used by Zizek in his descriptions of these early Idealists is, Johnston remarks, an “index of the effective existence of subjectivity proper (24). Catherine Malabou speaks of this distancing from death or finitude as a “result of serious trauma, or sometimes for no reason at all, the path splits and a new, unprecedented.- Noirrealism. 2013. Here.

Continuing his series of posts on Zizek, Stephen C. Hickman has a post up about Kant and Hegel as philosopher’s responding to and fleeing from the embodied materiality of mortality and finitude. They are painted as philosophers of beauty who can’t stand to look at the ugliness of death, producing elaborate philosophies in order to hide inside them. This is exactly Ernest Becker’s point about cultures as coping systems that operate by denying death. Obviously such systems are doomed to fail. Post-nihilist pragmatism is about establishing coping-systems that do not flee death and objective nihilism, but proceed from them. There are thus two styles of philosophy: philosophies of beauty intolerant of ugliness, and philosophies of ugliness intolerant of beauty. The latter wouldn’t say that a sunset isn’t beautiful, it would just deny that it was only beautiful…it would include its ugliness (skin cancer, say) within it. Post-nihilist pragmatism is a philosophy of ugliness. A philosophy of ugliness doesn’t have to be ugly itself.

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