Carlo Suarès : Critique of Reason Impure : Introduction to the logic of the irrational
(Extract from Critique of Reason Impure by Carlo Suarés. 1955 Stock Edition)
To pose the problem of knowledge is to postulate it insoluble. Because whatever the preliminary question, it only exists as an expression of a contradiction. The names that we want to give to the two terms of this contradiction do not matter, because they never have their own meaning: matter and spirit, finite and infinite, subjective and objective, etc ... are all categories of the mind which exist only because they are opposed to their opposites. Now the thought which makes them up (by opposing and laying them down) would not do so if it were not itself the consciousness of this split. Being this split, the problem it establishes and the method it gives itself are the result, the product of a contradiction. And one then wonders by what miracle occurring along the way, this consciousness which is contradiction, using means which are contradiction, would suddenly become something other than itself, would be transformed into Knowledge. This transfiguration of the philosopher by his philosophy has never occurred, history does not give us an example.
Realizing that the philosophers have spent their time telling us to choose between one or the other of their categories, to answer immediately with yes or no to questions like: is this object or is it not ? etc ... and that this entertainment is idle, other philosophers, in the wake of Bergson wanted to persuade us that the outcome is in a "moving" thought, made of "fluid", "evanescent" (Sartre) concepts, in other terms that one can think of, without thinking of something. Far from emerging from the state of contradiction, this way of philosophizing has helped to confuse us. Reason, as we usually understand it, being based on the principle of identity (A = A) and the principle of causality (all effect comes from a cause), these philosophers imagined setting themselves in motion, in proclaiming that A is the opposite of A (that being is nothingness) and that any effect is the opposite of its own cause. Formal logic, this activity of the mind which consists in composing and decomposing all kinds of architectures by means of concepts, taking into account their structure and their relationships regardless of their content - or their lack of content - reappears at each turn of philosophy, under new disguises whose aim, always the same, is to offer the philosopher the spectacle of his own presence, a spectacle whose nature he denies the better since he forbids himself with more skill access to its own backstage. So far, we have denounced the show. The second part of our work will take us behind the scenes, the depths of which have the dimension of the entire duration of our Universe.
We therefore do not pose the problem of Knowledge, but that of ignorance. Since, whatever the preliminary question, it is obviously the expression of an opposition between two contradictory terms (in its most immediate elements, the opposition is between non-knowledge and knowledge; between question we ask and the answer we seek; between the problem and the solution it invokes); and since this preliminary question is therefore only the expression of a man whose conscience is a contradiction; it is futile to seek the answer to this question; the question must be broken down by clarifying the cause, within the consciousness which poses it, of its existence as a contradiction. Our dreamer, on his roller skates, hurtling down mountains in search of orange blossom water, gives us here again a precious example, which allows us to illustrate our method. We have just said, in fact, that any question relating to the existence, to appearances, to the nature of man, to consciousness, to causes, to thought, in short, to what is called Knowledge, Gnosis, science of the supreme, search for the transcendent, etc. is, obviously, the expression of a "lack": the human conscience feels trapped in a necessity, trapped in its own nature, trapped in self-perception as limited consciousness; and does not live with it.
Simply put, human consciousness does not know what it is made of; and that bothers her so much that she comes either to refuse to face this anxiety - which is the case for the majority - or to pay for words that she knows she cannot conceive (like: I am an immortal soul), which gives it other escapes. To examine it as it is - and not as it would like to pass for being - the conscience of the most famous philosophers and the most holy theologians, is identical in nature to that of our dreamer. Let there be, at the end of the research, the answer: "don't you know that water is extracted from stones?" Or: "don't you know that the world was created by God? The hollow of this false evidence - all the more obvious since it is more absurd - is as stupid in one case as in the other. And the two thousand years of "Christian rationalism", the some five thousand years of Hebrew science, the heritage of Zoroaster and Confucius, the tradition of Vedanta, are not to impress us, since their result is the global chaos that we suffer today.
It would be vain and superficial to say that human thought has been on the wrong track since it existed: it has led us to where we are, that is to say at a turning point in History, decisive and very abrupt, where, in an instant - in a century - the power of man exploded. Mundane finding. Bonaparte's armies crossed the continents on foot or on horseback, and the seas on sailboats. From the beginning of time until this morning - so to speak - living conditions on the planet had not changed much. Today, the word explosion is the only one that gives an image of the vertiginous acceleration, unleashed, of the power of man. The atomic explosion, hardly provoked, is already domesticated, all the barriers of natural forces are removed. And the other banal observation is that the human mind has not adapted to this sudden change. Nature has taken a leap through inventive, concrete, objective thought. With a certain delay, but driven by a vital necessity - it is the life or death of the species - it is producing, at this very moment, a corresponding mutation, in the psyche, through those whom awakens the monstrous motorized din beneath their window. Our dreamer protected himself from the noise of an engine, and he succeeded, because this car did not burst into his room. We, today, have no merit in waking up: there has been the outbreak of two world wars in our flesh and already the horror of the third.
No one is preventing this catastrophe from already taking place, "hot" in Asia, warm or cold everywhere else, because the new man, the man who turns his back on all the thought of the past, the man who refuses everything the heritage of generations is still just rubbing their eyes, and, dazed with sleep, wondering what it is. In fact, what is it about? Simply put, man is no longer suitable. Or, to be more precise: too adapted to bygone conditions, it is no longer adaptable. And all the cerebral means which he had hitherto at his disposal to adapt to History, as the centuries went by, are false today. Not only are they of no help to him: they cause disaster. What was his instrument and his defense becomes a weapon against himself. To survive as a species, man, over the centuries, has built himself and built his world in a certain way, adapted to the slowness of the passage of time. Thus, men were able to resist the current of Time, within which they built as in the middle of a river. Their values, like their necessity, were fixing elements. Their thoughts solidified around them, at the same time as the clay of their bricks. And, suddenly, this lazy and maternal river of time swelled without measure and, becoming torrential, took everything away: stones and concepts. The species is consciously experiencing what the extinct species lived, the monsters of the geological eras previous to ours, which could not adapt to the new conditions. The upheaval of our world is matched only by these geological convulsions, and our crisis, constantly accelerated by man himself, will only be resolved by destroying the old man, just as the anthropopithecus were destroyed. And, what is exhilarating about this adventure is that the sudden mutation which can engender the new species, it is in us, in our thought, in our conscious lucidity that it is generated . It arises from the very destruction of the ramparts that were built over the ages, in the waves of Time. Our houses and our castles, our opinions and our concepts, our points of view and our morals, our logics and our religions, immobilized, established, in layered layers of generations, inheritances, accumulations, knowledge, culture, everything is assailed by the torrent. But, while this torrent is the very life of "the spirit that blows where it wants"; the call to happiness from the sea; the creative intensity of this transcendence, of this unthinkable, of this Knowledge that we profess to desire so much; we lock ourselves in, we barricade ourselves, we commit suicide in the sordid underground politics, rearmament, colonial wars, economic crises, the scarcity of products, Wall Street speculation.
We will examine, in its contradictory elements, this struggle for the evolution of species, which we are consciously experiencing today. We believe that understanding it is enough. We think that to understand it is already to provoke mutation, to be in its process. We believe that it is impossible both to understand it and to refuse it. We think that to refuse it is not to understand it. We think that not understanding it is to prefer suffering, anguish, misery, mass murder, destruction, dementia, and to blind ourselves to perish. Understanding it is a simple action. For this purpose, we will only use words with real content, accessible to the most ordinary reason: movement and resistance to change of movement; adaptability and adaptability; other expressions will seem a little more abstract, like "there is", "for-oneself", "for-me".
There is. It is a statement. There is ... this is my basic finding. There is a Universe. There is light. There are lights. There is an Earth with a breathable atmosphere. There is life. There is movement. And there is awareness of all this. There is a human conscience in front of all this, which feels the need to see "there is", and nothing else. There is, and that's it. There is, and do not go further. Why ? Because "there is" is incomprehensible. That there is ... that there is something ... that there is anything, is incomprehensible. The presence of a single grain of sand carries a mystery that confuses the imagination. I penetrate this idea, this contemplation, this stupor. I am so full of it, that there is no place left in my mind for any religion of any kind. Some of my friends, who are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Brahmanists, tell me that their religions are the only true, truly revealed. For each of them, his is a revelation. And when I examine the nature of these "revelations", I see that the mystery of the mysteries, the "there is" in the pure state, in the unassimilable, unbearable state, has been disguised, cooked, transformed into something something chewable by each religion, in order to divert the minds from the simple observation that we live in an unthinkable world. The mystery of "there is"? But it's simple. The Universe, thanks to a doubly mysterious being, was created by the virtue of a triple mystery ... (Did you not know it? Ah, yes it is true). Or: a doubly mysterious being, Brahman, dreams of the Universe; the triple mystery is not creation, it is dream (didn't you know, ask the dreamer for the dragon again? Ah yes, that's true). This is what sums up the false evidences of the so-called revealed religions: they add two mysteries to the mystery, and the childish tales which result from it, put the minds to sleep in false explanations. The real, immediate, current, constant mystery, here, present, at all hours of the day and night, the there is, is therefore discarded, hidden in the darkness of sanctuaries, rejected in a past that does not exist not (the world "was created": since it's done, don't think about it anymore); in a future that does not exist (when you are dead, you will know everything). The less explanatory the explanation, the more convincing it is: orange blossom water is extracted from the stones; the problem no longer exists; it is not resolved, it is volatilized, annihilated. The result is that the believer has fallen asleep the more deeply he is the more believer. On the basis of the identity of the stones and the orange blossom water, we built for him a whole rationalism, a whole logical building, inside which he contemplates the emptiness of his mind. Meanwhile, there is. There is, at all times, cause and effect, in presence, in the present. And my indestructible lucid will not to go back to sleep in explanations. There is no "primary cause": there is cause, at this very moment, active and lively, as much as it has always been, since there is.
Nothing is effect, everything is cause, since everything is cause of this: there is. I am taught that the Universe has existed for two billion years, that it has only existed for two billion years, and also that it is finely included in its curvature.
So we bring my mind back to the period before these two billion years, when there was perhaps nothing, and to the inconceivable, non-space that the notion of a Finite universe. I am not distracted by these considerations: before these two billion years, there was an "there will be", since now there is. "There will be" is another there is. "There will be" is an "there is" because an "there is" in potential is something, it is not nothing. That the Universe is in a state of expansion until one day exploding in the unmanifest - and starting again - these cycles, admitting that they exist, do not confuse my reason more than the unthinkable presence of this grain of sand. The presence of the smallest of objects contains the mysterious totality of the unthinkable. I perceive it and know it, just as everyone can perceive it and know it, thus making the turn of all that men have invented over the centuries to explain the inexplicable and think the unthinkable, and rejecting everything, as childish and unintelligent. Thus, my simplest, most naked observation, the only one which is not disputable, the only universal one: there is; this observation, which results from my will to perceive it all naked and to prohibit in my mind all the escape routes, all the representations, all the concepts, in short everything that constitutes thought itself; this pure and simple contemplation of the fact "there is", which can only happen by the acute perception of the impossibility that my reason has to transcend; this act of consciousness, if it is truly stripped, is, in truth, the culmination of all knowledge and all research. This perception is the creative spark which bursts within a spirit suspended in itself, in a state of observation.
This finding is neither objective nor subjective. There is, and there is awareness of there is, not awareness of myself noticing there is, but awareness emanating from there, finding there is, without letting itself be delayed by accessory considerations, like "I", or "I am" or "I think" or any other invention of the mind because they totally lack interest: there is, suffices, in its fullness. Since men have passed on, from generation to generation, the accounts of their disputes over Knowledge, some claim that the Universe is generated by a consciousness, others that consciousness is the product of Nature. During this chimerical fight - which still lasts - they forget that if there is consciousness first or if there is Nature first, or if there is concomitant consciousness and nature, or nature and consciousness, we are at the same point, facing the unthinkable there is. Some, believing to "think" consciousness, make the unthinkable disappear behind the scenes, on one side; the others proclaim their irresistible taste for the backstage entrance which is on the other side. Thus, the agonizing problem of the subjective and the objective, of the observing ego and the observed outside world, exists, as anxiety and as a problem, only when one escapes from the observation: there is, in its nudity.
I say to myself: there is a finding of there is. I do not say to myself: I think there is. I think I see: it is obvious that I see that I see. So, my finding is a thought as a finding, but this finding is not a thought, since the there is is unthinkable. I know why it is unthinkable: it is because there is a continuous space-time that I cannot conceive. I cannot conceive it, because my thought does not exist and functions only by a dissociation of space and time. Just as our light is diffuse, that is to say that the light rays are returned in all directions by the elements of the atmosphere, and still reflected by the objects, thanks to which we see the world around us , this world reflects, returns, diffuses the consciousness that it generates in us - through our experience - rebounds in this consciousness, assumes there forms, representations, images, which are thought. I know that. And, to find out, I have only to examine my thought. One of two things: either it has a content, and this has an experimental, sensory basis, whatever the degree of abstraction of my thought; or it has no content (when I utter unthinkable words, like Absolute, Eternity, Infinity, God, etc.) and this emptiness is nothing other than a representation of myself; prefabricated, then destroyed in the eyes of my conscious consciousness, therefore another thought, "me", based on elements of perception, experience.
I conclude from this that the continuous space-time is unthinkable and that, in our system of relations, made of measurable space in units of length and time of clocks, there exist discontinuities, objects and thoughts, whose structure is a dissociation of space and time.
Introduction ` la logique de l'Irrationnel par Carlo Suarés - 3e millinaire