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ON PYTHIATISM

ROMANTIC BULLSHIT
A FOOTNOTE TO
ON PYTHIATISM AND THE FAMILY IDIOT
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

Jean Paul Sartre portrayed Gustave Flaubert as a particularly stupid member of the bourgeoisie
in his multivolume The Family Idiot.
Flaubert himself never thought much of middling society; he was never loath to complain about
bourgeois stupidity.

ON PYTHIATISM
Being wise to the worlds stupidity is repugnant to the romantic idealist without faith in some
nonsense that breaks logics stupefying hold on the human mind; e.g. the irrational Logos from
which human logic flees as it rationalizes it.
Flaubert, in September of 1855, penned his notorious scatological remark to his pal Mssr.
Bouilhet: "Against the stupidity of my age I feel waves of hatred that suffocate me. The taste of
shit comes to my mouth.... I want to keep it there, congeal it, harden it, make it into a paste to
daub all over the nineteenth century, as Indian pagodas are gilded with cow dung; and who
knows, maybe it will endure?"
Flaubert was obsessed with finding the perfect way of saying everything; that is, a pure style, an
imaginary toilet devoid of shit.
What seems beautiful to me, what I would like to write, Flaubert wrote to his mistress Louise
Colet in 1852, is a book about nothing, a book depending on nothing external, which would be
held together by the internal strength of its style, just as the earth, suspended in the void, depends
on nothing external for its support; a book which would have almost no subject, or which the
subject would be almost invisible, if such a thing is possible. The finest works are those that
contain the least matter; the closer the expression comes to thought, the closer language comes to
coinciding and merging with it, the finer the result.
We cannot live without our fictions, whether utopian or dystopian, yet Sartre, a self-effacing,
anti-intellectual intellectual who improvised his works, resolving vainly never to repeat himself,
at least not in the same way, believed that Flauberts constructivism was antithetical to the
governing principle of Imagination, namely, Freedom, which is anarchy or no government at all.
The concept of the Imaginary was old hat to Romantic Frenchmen, who borrowed a great deal
of the abstract aspect of their Romantic philosophy from their traditional enemies the Germans
we recall that G.W.F. Hegel accused Victor Cousindirector of French education, founder of an
eclectic philosophy dubbed French Spiritualism, also lover to Louise Coletof stealing his
spiritual soup.
Romanticism was a nostalgic reaction to the realism of the Enlightenment that had displaced the
human being and his planet from the center of the universe, sometimes taking him completely
out of the picture. People longed for imagined Good Old Days and the presumably wild or free
spirit that lived back then. Whereas Hegels overarching, World Spirit ground individuals to
insignificant specks of dust in its historical course; the general impetus for Romanticism was the
recovery of the holy self, whether particular or universal, from the clutches of profane science.
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, who had been Hegels friend and roommate and
became a highly regarded leader of the Romantic School, restored the self and put it in its
rightful place, in Nature. Immanuel Kant had severed the finite, phenomenal realm of experience
and practice, where everything was naturally determined, from the infinite, noumenal sphere,
from which ideas are freely intuited and reason operates theoretically; but a reconciliation of
noumenal to phenomenal, ideas to experience, theory and practice, mind and body, subject and
object was warranted. J.G. Fichte, Schellings mentor, emphasized the impersonal,

ON PYTHIATISM
transcendental realm where the universal I, which he believed was Kants unknowable thing-initself, was everything; therein lie the proper subject of metaphysics, he thought, and Schellings
reconciliation of self and nature together with Schellings blasphemous personal reference to
my philosophy resulted in their falling out. Speaking of romance in this phenomenal world,
young Schelling, while at the University of Jena, would steal and marry August Wilhelm
Schlegels wife, Caroline Schlegel, one of the most intelligent and talented women of the day
August was a leading Romantic poet and scholar.

Friedrich Schelling (1755-1854)

Now the reconciliation of subject and object, self and world, theory and practice, according to
Schelling, was by way of the imagination, which is a sort of wavering between the infinite and
the finite. It may be that nature and self are opposed, but they are joined in consciousness: The
intelligence is initially conceived of as the purely presentative, nature purely as what can be
presented; the one as the conscious, the other as the non-conscious. But now in every knowing a
reciprocal concurrence of the two (the conscious and the intrinsically non-conscious) is
necessary; the problem is to explain this concurrence, Schelling noted in System of
Transcendental Idealism (1800).
The severance of imagination from reason, thought both Hegel and Schelling, is a false
dichotomy, for reason is imagination and vice versa. Schelling was convinced that ideas, which
are neither finite nor infinite, are produced by the imagination. Particular identities in the
wavering flux are phenomenal pauses that appear as forms of the wavering. The human being
may arrive at a theoretical understanding of the worlds constitution, where events proceed via
cause and effect; on the other hand, the human being is a moral creature capable of regulating
himself in regards to the world, hence is free. In fine, it is the imagination that sets the man free.
Schellings philosophy is best understood aesthetically:
Through this constant double activity of producing and intuiting, something is to
become an object, which is not otherwise reflected by anything. We cannot here
demonstrate, though we shall in the sequel, that this coming-to-be-reflected of the
absolutely non-conscious and non-objective is possible only through an aesthetic
act of the imagination. This much, however, is apparent from what we have
already shown, namely that all philosophy is productive. Thus philosophy
depends as much as art does on the productive capacity, and the difference

ON PYTHIATISM
between them rests merely on the different direction taken by the productive
force. For whereas in art the production is directed outwards, so as to reflect the
unknown by means of products, philosophical production is directed immediately
inwards, so as to reflect it in intellectual intuition. The proper sense by which this
type of philosophy must be apprehended is thus the aesthetic sense, and that is
why the philosophy of art is the true organon of philosophy.
From ordinary reality there are only two ways out poetry, which transports us
into an ideal world, and philosophy, which makes the real world vanish before our
eyes. It is not apparent why the gift for philosophy should be any more widely
spread than that for poetry, especially among that class of persons in whom, either
through memory-work (than which nothing is more immediately fatal to
productivity), or through dead speculation, destructive of all imagination, the
aesthetic organ has been totally lost.
What we have here is rather well crafted romantic bullshit, an impassioned attempt by the author
to fool himself into believing he possesses the last word on his imaginary subject although he
knows better, wherefore he dumps it on us to see if we shall fall for the bluff or respond with
something he failed to realize, perhaps in the form of a heterotopian poem.
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