I was delighted a couple of days ago to stumble across a review of Goat Music, my reinvention of the tale of Apollo and Marsyas, over on The Letterpress Project.
“The gods are largely spiteful, arbitrary, self-centred and generally driven by shabby motives…This is indeed a story of incautious hubris but in Buckingham’s hands its also a tale of the arbitrariness of power.”
Those who follow my other blog WaywardPhilosophy.com will already know that I am currently in Myanmar, where I’m spending several months teaching a course on global cultures as a part of an exciting new initiative. Whilst I’m away, I’ll be posting more essay-like updates about life in Yangon and beyond over on WaywardPhilosophy, and continuing to use this blog for news about writing and other projects.
Just a quick update to announce the recent publication of two new books to which I’ve contributed chapters. The first is Catalin Partenie’s In Fiction We Trust. My contribution to this one is called “Lies in Which Not Everything is False: Levinas, Philosophy and Fiction”. However — and here I must offer my apologies to English-speaking readers — this one is only in Romanian.
I may look into publishing the English version somewhere else, and if I do, I’ll make an announcement here. For the time being, however, here’s a quick passage from the conclusion.
This plea to read philosophies as stories (and perhaps stories as philosophies) is one that acknowledges that philosophers of Levinas’s calibre are always worth listening to. But it also is one that reminds us that when it comes down to it, they are not wholly to be trusted. If philosophy is a set of lies in which not everything is false, this is not to dismiss philosophy. Instead, it is a call to responsibility. It is to suggest that when it comes to listening to the philosophers, we should remain alive to their artfulness, heedful not only of the question of what may or may not be true in what is said, but also of their tricks and ruses and sleights of hand, or to their blind-spots, the things that they are incapable of seeing or saying. If philosophy truly is a kind of storytelling, this implies we need to listen to it even more carefully, more imaginatively, more artfully — and perhaps also less reverentially. In this way, it might be possible to develop a richer sense of how we might think about our lives collectively and individually, whilst maintaining a commitment to truth, keeping a proper humility about the limits of argument, and holding out for new, unthought possibilities. It is a subtle balancing act. But we owe it to each other.
You can trust me on this. Because this, too, is a lie in which not everything is false.
The second chapter is in Irene Brown and Christian Mieves’s collection Wonder in Contemporary Artistic Practice, now available from Routledge. My chapter here is called “Wonders Without Wonder: Divining the Donkey-Rat”. This grew out of my interest in what might be called the moral imperative to wonder, the idea that — whether in science, in religion, in education, or in the arts — wonder is something that we ought to cultivate. So this chapter takes a strange tale of an ancient Chinese diviner, Guo Pu (郭璞), to explore the possibility of thinking about strangeness without this moral imperative to wonder.