As both an embodied body and an abstract will I am headed towards catastrophe. Being is mortal. Death is the ultimate horizon, the condition of which being-there is no longer there.
I want to be an authentic human being. It is essential to project my life onto the horizon of my death in order to confront finitude and in order to create meaning. As a being towards death the embodied body and the abstract will are composed of all of the ‘not-yets’ – future possibilities. Death is one of these ‘not-yets’ and the only one that is certain.
In being towards death one is barred from relations to the others. I can relate to the tragedy of the others, but no other can die in my place. This being towards death appears non-relational. Only the relation to my own death can be experienced. However, if I and the others each experience the horizon of our own deaths, then we are not isolated with our deaths since we are nonetheless all related in our non-relationality: we are all alone together.
I may attempt to evade the fact of the eventual disintegration of the vessel of embodied body and the abstract will, but evasion does not conceal the certainty that I am going to die. This certainty is indefinite, since I do not know when it will happen. Death becomes the limit against which all of my potential is measured, as the potential of being is a monument always checked against the indefinite finitude.
This is not a morbid passivity in the face of the inevitable entropy, but rather an active affirmation of the potential of being. The horizon of death is an anticipation that mobilizes mortality as free action in the world. The affirmation of the necessity of one’s own morality is what constitutes freedom. This affirmation retrieves being out of all of the inauthentic fragments of everyday life.
The inauthentic part of myself is my identity, which is circumscribed by “they” – publicness, averageness, ‘leveling down,’ mediocrity. Being usually flees from death into the everyday world as “they-self” (Heidegger), as fugitive to death: it tries to pass off death as an event in another time, ignoring the veracity that it is already an actuality. This actuality displaces the public word (chatter) in me, giving gravity to being. It collapses the scribbling of ideology, the movement of media meme complexes, distracting or absorbing entertainment, all of which are disseminated into the abstract will by the culture machinery and its industrial misery of commercialized happiness. Being towards death has absolutely no the desire to be caught up with fashion.
All of the dead wood burns off.
Including the splintering view of metaphysics.
The tension between the embodied body and the abstract will is likened to the division of the sensate and the ideal, the corporeality and identity, which following Plato became the property of a metaphysics that splintered Being and Becoming.
Augustine in the garden of Cassiacium represents an account of struggle of will to overcome being towards death. Augustine was also captured by the indefinite finitude. His Confessions follows from Plato, wanting to “avoid having the shadow of the fleshy self fall between the mind and its first principle to which it should cleave,” excluding the flesh through the erection of the concept of ‘personality’ given discursive unity. The flesh is viewed as a mere shadow of the ideal. Augustine places identity, in the name of a will that wills itself (abstract will, or will to will), as substitute and an order of knowledge and a sphere of inner self, over and against the encounter with the morality of the human condition.
The result is a gradual disembodying of the abstract will over the course of the history of metaphysics until we reach our present moment, a moment of the hyper-materialization of the simulacrum as nihilism.
The abstract will wants to achieve disembodiment from the carnality of being because it wishes to escape from the turbulence and ebullition of the flesh. Its will to power is nothing but the will to itself doubled over, as nihilism turned inwardly. It construes that the material world is calamitous. The flesh is imperfect and fragile. Embodied bodies are painful. Bodies can often feel like prisons. Bodies get old, they suffer and they die. The intelligence doesn’t want the suffering body. Thinking the exterminism cuts across matter, not just as imperfect and transitory as Plato had described, but a ‘lesser deity.’
In Plato, permanence belongs to Being. All that suffers or is subject to alteration or entropy has no Being. Being is in opposition to all change or Becoming. Plato thus installs the preeminence of the supersensuous as the ideal and true Being and secures and conceives of it as outside of all change. When Becoming is barred from its grace the development of a fundamental ideal above embodied life flourishes, which makes the flesh’s negation desirable.
Corporeal existence, caught up in the turbulence of Becoming, is cast as an opposite to the ideal Being. The result is a defamation of the creative life of the sensuous, as Nietzsche points out. The mistake of the classic seems to be that it could not fuse the split or division between sensate and ideal, leaving metaphysical fissures, and Augustine attempted to suture this division through the Concept – he prefers the ideal at the expense of corporeality, where the body is merely the ‘nag that we ride to Jerusalem.’
What happens when this metaphysics, which may be illustrated like an arc across the history of the West, is observed in its accelerated state? What follows is not only a repression of the corporeal self in the intrepid cartography of the nihilistic abstract will, but an acceleration of this tendency of in what Land calls “intensively escalating instrumentality.” The destruction of the flesh ensues as catastrophes follow technology like a shadow: metaphysics’s symptom is ecology.
This text could have a subtitle, Against Exterminism.
The flesh is not just a nag on the way to Jerusalem – the nag got you to Jerusalem, and for that it ought to be worth its weight in gold. Only when being admits itself to the entropy, the actuality of its finitude, can the corporeality or the ‘flesh of the world’ take on a new significance. When the mythos reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,” it is affirming the existent materiality of the world and not negating it.
The nature of being is suffering. It is an experience of pain and tragedy and it certainly ends with death. As the vehicle of the body (nature) is headed towards entropy it is in keeping with every other existent thing in the cosmos. Being in the world is limitation but it is only out of limitations that one can get a true sense of life. The nature of being is not only suffering and tragedy: nature is also rapture, supreme and inestimable joy, unconstrained abundance and beauty.
After addressing being towards death and its rupturing effect on the Platonic metaphysics, it is necessary to move forward into a dimension that elevates corporeality and the embodiment of nature and the abstract will into the same hemisphere, where Being is Becoming and Becoming is Being.
Wouldn’t catastrophe be its general condition? Catastrophe is Being itself as the entire cosmos exploded out of a contracted singularity into an infinity of Becoming. That appears to be the meaning behind the preposition of being towards death. And what am I but this embodied body and an abstract will that is not only headed towards catastrophe? I am made of catastrophes.
1.] St. Augustine, Confessions.