“When someone asks ‘what’s the use of philosophy?’ the reply must be aggressive, since the question tries to be ironic and caustic. Philosophy does not serve the State or the Church, who have other concerns. It serves no established power. The use of philosophy is to sadden. A philosophy that saddens no one, that annoys no one, is not philosophy. It is useful for harming stupidity, for turning stupidity into something shameful. Is there any discipline apart from philosophy that sets out to criticise all mystification, whatever their source and aim, to expose all the fictions without which reactive forces would not prevail?…Finally, turning thought into something aggressive, active and affirmative. Creating free men, that is to say men who do not confuse the aims of culture with the benefit of the State, morality or religion….Who has an interest in all this but philosophy? Philosophy is at its most positive as a critique, as an enterprise of demystification.”
Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 106.
This is in my top 10 favorite quotes ever but I disagree. The reply must be aggressive, passive-aggressive, or whatever you think the best strategy is. Be subtle, polite or otherwise. There are no rules for this. Just do not come off as a fundamentalist. That is how you get trapped, trapped by the small. Be philosophical about your philosophy. Don’t be aggressive necessarily. Sublimate your aggression so that it works. Or else you’re just like everyone else, not a philosopher but a wanna-be, a crypto-sophist.
Death and the Maiden
Freud’s theory of the death drive also gives us a way to think about gender.
Walter Benjamin remarked of the people who experienced the First World War:
A generation that had gone to school in horse-drawn streetcars now stood in the open air, amid a landscape in which nothing was the same except the clouds, and at its center, in a forcefield of destructive torrents and explosions, a tiny fragile human body.
What this body could mean was newly in question. Benjamin discusses economic depression, technological innovation, moral uncertainty, and violence, but the First World War also provoked a crisis of masculinity. Men died, were wounded, and later found themselves unemployed in unprecedented numbers. Meanwhile women, as Sarah M Gilbert and Susan Gubar argue in No Man’s Land, “seemed to become, as if by some uncanny swing of history’s pendulum, even more powerful.” Tiny fragile human bodies threatened to detach themselves from their traditionally assigned gender roles. At this historical moment, death collided with gender.
Confronted with a profusion of patients shaken by traumatic dreams in the wake of World War I, Sigmund Freud had a theoretical as well as therapeutic problem. He had previously asserted that every dream is the fulfillment of a wish, but the repetition he encountered in traumatic dreams contradicted this claim. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) he asked, Why repeat something unpleasurable? Why return to the site of trauma?