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Each of us is a bottomless pit!

I find the above notion a most comforting one.

Call For Papers
From the Rim of the Pit: Creative Responses to the Abyss

(please excuse the writing. I copied and pasted from elsewhere and have taken the liberty of amending a few grammatical infelicities, but eradicating the effect of the academic writing style [which usually makes me feel as if I'm being gently beaten to death with a teaspoon] while retaining the original meaning, was just too much of a liberty somehow. Not logical, but I am called Nonsequitania for a reason.) So anyway:

'Each of us is a bottomless pit, and this bottomlessness (sans-fond) is,
quite evidently, opened over the groundlessness (sans-fond) of the world.
In normal times, we cling to the rim of the pit, over which we pass the
greatest part of our lives. But Plato’s Symposium, Mozart’s Requiem, and
Kafka’s Castle come from this groundlessness and make us see it. . . . the
myths themselves, like religions, at once have to do with this
groundlessness and aim at masking it: they determine it and give it a
precise figure, which at the same time recognizes the groundless and, in
truth, tends to occult it by fixing it in place. The sacred is the
instituted simulacrum of the groundless.'
-Cornelius Castoriadis, 1979

In this passage, Cornelius Castoriadis invites us to re-think our
'human, all too human' experiences of the abyss. Of course, other
scholars, thinkers, and creative artists have demanded individual
engagement and confrontation with the abyss.
Plato’s Socrates, for example, demands the constant and rigorous
examination of one’s own life, 'for the unexamined life is not worth
living for human beings'. To be human is to enter on the quest for truth,
even though, as Socrates knows, this project is completely impossible
for human beings and is doomed to failure from the outset.
Hegel, Marx, and Freud attempt to ground the experience of the abyss
in the 'certitude' of historical process.
Once Schopenhauer tears the veil away, he finds the irrational, the will.
Kierkegaard demands a conscious choice, a leap of faith, in the face
of the experience of abyss.
Nietzsche reminds us of the terrible wisdom of Silenus—the best thing
for humans is to die as soon as possible, or better still, not to be born at all.
In accepting the tragedy of human existence, Nietzsche sets about
smashing idols, which he sees as attempts to mask the experience
of the abyss, and he asks us to greet life in its entirety with a cheerful 'Yes and Amen!'
Camus, too, embraces the abyss, although he knows it to be a Sisyphean task,
and finds human authenticity in an acceptance of full responsibility for our own decisions.
For Heidegger,the individual is always creating against the inevitability of mortality.
For Derrida, human mortality is both tragedy and gift.
Levinas finds the meaning and significance of human existence in the
ethical response to widows, orphans, aliens, and at worst, S.S. guards,
a response which, in taking responsibility even for the irresponsibility of others,
grounds human projects and assigns meaning to mortality.

The editors invite interested scholars from any discipline to explore the
notion of groundlessness and to chart examples of creative responses that
have sought to express, sanctify, or mask it. Accepted papers will be
published as a collected volume under the proposed title From the Rim
of the Pit: Creative Responses to the Abyss

Some not-quite-thoughts vaguely to do with the word 'abyss' suggested topics:

What is this 'bottomless' that Castoriadis says human being are? What
does it mean to say that human beings are 'bottomless'?

What is this 'groundlessness . . . over which we pass the greatest
part of our lives'? The fragility of the human condition? The frailty of
human knowledge? The fleeting nature of our triumphs? The tragedy of our

What 'sacred' forms, 'myths', and 'institutions' have emerged in human
history to mask the 'dreadful' truth of the groundlessness of the world?

How have philosophers, composers, novelists, poets, artists, and other
thinkers responded uniquely and creatively to this groundlessness, casting
their gossamer bridges over the abyss to veil its dark truths and allay
the dread that it evokes?

What is the relation among myth, the sacred, and religion, and how do
these act together to both express our deepest human fears and
ground human lives?

How do Plato’s Symposium (or Mozart’s Requiem, or Kafka’s
Castle) exemplify the 'groundlessness' of which Castoriadis speaks?

Heraclitus undermines the rational basis of the world when he states, 'One
cannot step in the same river twice', but he resolves the paradox with his
notion of the logos as foundational truth of the flux.

Immanuel Kant has often been accused of bringing God in the back door of
his philosophy.

How do Martin Heidegger’s notions of everyday 'falling' and authenticity
connect with the abyssal (not abysmal, note) nature of the world?

Jürgen Habermas’ return to the Enlightenment as unfinished project clings
to liberal ideals and politics as grounding.

Zarathustra’s greatest challenge occurs on the brink of the abyss.

Jacques Derrida explores the abyss in The Gift of Death.

Now, discuss!

Deadline for Abstract Submissions: April 15, 2008.
Acceptances notified by June 30, 2008.

Deadlines for First Drafts of Accepted Papers: August 15, 2008.

Submit abstracts electronically to
John F. Humphrey OR Wendy C. Hamblet

jfhumphr@ncat.edu whamblet@ncat.edu

“Interdisciplinary Explorations into Existence” Series
North Carolina A&T State University
108 Hines Hall
1601 East Market Street
Greensboro, North Carolina 27411

I'm definitely going to read this Cornelius, and not just for his wonderfully alliterative and rhythmical name (well done parents.) The clincher was that little 'quite evidently' in the first sentence of the quote.


( 4 marginalia — sharpen your pen )
Feb. 15th, 2008 06:06 am (UTC)
Mmm, it is still as delightful as the first time I read it. I am tempted by the conference, but I fear currently my head is too fuddled to think anything out and have something coherent to say.

Do we know what book CC says this in? Or is it just a case of read all his writing and go from there?

I think perhaps the best thing about your previous format was the fact that your location was 'Reading.' I was envious, says the person who refuses to let go of plain grey and white.
Feb. 26th, 2008 11:44 pm (UTC)
It's from an interview in 'Esprit' 9-10 (1979), pages 242-8. He says 'Chacun de nous est un puits sans-fond...' on page 242, in answer to the first question. I couldn't find an English translation or a link to the journal archives (despite that the journal's still going), so afraid you will need to hunt up the original- easy enough, I found.
Reading all his writing would take a while. He was a prolific fellow and rather given to thinking while talking, so best attempted on a rainy holiday next to a full teapot. Interesting though.
Mar. 8th, 2008 01:25 pm (UTC)
have you ever read fly away peter by david malouf.

hold the guffaws, i were (sic) made to read it in year 12 (wickedly gnarly. man.)

Mar. 9th, 2008 06:12 am (UTC)
No, I haven't. I cherish a somewhat silly bias against current writers, especially Australian ones and ones that turn up on high school lists, and Malouf being all of those...
But I remember you talking about 'Fly Away Peter' once or twice before- what made you think of it in connection with Cornelius? Can't be the wicked gnarliness- or could it?
( 4 marginalia — sharpen your pen )