"The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring.
Within it we all share equal rights and obligations."
The Square is a 2017 Swedish satirical drama film written and directed by Ruben Östlund
The first is Hamlet‘s great formula, ‘The time is out of joint’. Time is out of joint, time is unhinged. The hinges are the axis around which the door turns. Cardo, in Latin, designates the subordination of time to the cardinal points through which the periodical movements that it measures pass. As long as time remains on its hinges, it is subordinate to movement: it is the measure of movement, interval or number. This was the view of ancient philosophy. But time out of joint signifies the reversal of the movement—time relationship. It is now movement which is subordinate to time. Everything changes, including movement. We move from one labyrinth to another. The labyrinth is no longer a circle, or a spiral which would translate its complica tions, but a thread, a straight line, all the more mysterious for being simple, inexorable as Borges says, ‘the labyrinth which is composed of a single straight line, and which is indivisible, incessant'. Time is no longer related to the movement which it measures, but movement is related to the time which conditions it: this is the first great Kantian reversal in the Critique of Pure Reason. Time is no longer defined by succession because succession concerns only things and movements which are in time. If time itself were succession, it would need to succeed in another time, and on to infinity. Things succeed each other in various times, but they are also simultaneous in the same time, and they remain in an indefinite time. It is no longer a question of vii viii defining time by succession, nor space by simultaneity, nor permanence by eternity. Permanence, succession and simulta neity are modes and relationships of time. Thus, just as time can no longer be defined by succession, space cannot be defined by coexistence. Both space and time have to find completely new determinations. Everything which moves and changes is in time, but time itself does not change, does not move, any more than it is eternal. It is the form of everything that changes and moves, but it is an immutable Form which does not change. It is not an eternal form, but in fact the form of that which is not eternal, the immutable form of change and movement. Such an autonomous form seems to indicate a profound mystery: it demands a new definition of time which Kant must discover or create.
‘I is another‘: this formula from Rimbaud can be seen as the expression of another aspect of the Kantian revolution, again in the Critique of Pure Reason. It is the most difficult aspect. Indeed, Kant explains that the Ego‘ itself is in time, and thus constantly changing: it is a passive, or rather receptive, Ego, which experiences changes in time. But, on the other hand, the I‘ is an act which constantly carries out a synthesis of time, and of that which happens in time, by dividing up the present, the past and the future at every instant. The I and the Ego are thus separated by the line of time which relates them to each other, but under the condition of a fundamental difference. So that my existence can never be determined as that of an active and spontaneous being. We cannot say with Descartes, ‘I think, therefore I am. I am a thing that thinks.’ If it is true that the I think is a determination, it implies in this respect an indeterminate existence (I am). But nothing so far tells us under what form this existence is determined by the I think: it is determinable only in time, under the form of time, thus as the existence of a phenomenal, receptive and changing ego. I cannot there fore constitute myself as a unique and active subject, but as a viii ix passive ego which represents to itself only the activity of its own thought; that is to say, the I, as an Other which affects it. I am separated from myself by the form of time, and nevertheless I am one, because the I necessarily affects this form by carrying out its synthesis and because the Ego is necessarily affected as content in this form. The form of the determinable means that the determined ego represents determination as an Other. It is like a double diversion of the I and the Ego in the time which relates them to each other, stitches them together. It is the thread of time. In one sense, Kant goes further than Rimbaud. For Rimbaud‘s famous formula ‘I is another‘ relates back strangely to an Aristotelian way of thinking: ‘Too bad for the wood which finds itself a violin! if the copper wakes up a bugle, that is not its fault‘ . .. For Rimbaud, it is thus a question of the determining form of a thing in so far as it is distinguished from the matter in which it is embodied: a mould as in Aristotle. For Kant, it is a question of the form of time in general, which distinguishes between the act of the I, and the ego to which this act is attributed: an infinite modulation, no longer a mould. Thus time moves into the subject, in order to distinguish the Ego from the lin it. It is the form under which the I affects the ego, that is, the way in which the mind affects itself. It is in this sense that time as immutable form, which could no longer be defined by simple succession, appeared as the form of interiority (inner sense), whilst space, which could no longer be defined by coexistence, appeared for its part as the form of exteriority. ‘Form of interiority‘ means not only that time is internal to us, but that our interiority constantly divides us from ourselves, splits us in two: a splitting in two which never runs its course, since time has no end. A giddiness, an oscillation which constitutes time.
The third aspect of the Kantian revolution concerns the Critique of Practical Reason, and might appear in formulas akin to those ix x of Kafka. ‘The Good is what the Law says‘ . . . ‘The law‘ is already a strange expression, from the point of view of philosophy which only scarcely knew laws. This is clear in antiquity, notably in Plato‘s Politics. If men knew what Good was, and knew how to conform to it, they would not need laws. Laws, or the law, are only a ‘second resort‘, a representative of the Good in a world deserted by the gods. When the true politics is absent, it leaves general directives according to which men must conduct themselves. Laws are therefore, as it were, the imitation of the Good which serves as their highest principle. They derive from the Good under certan conditions. When Kant talks about the law, it is, on the contrary, as the highest instance. Kant reverses the relationship of the law and the Good, which is as important as the reversal of the movement—time relationship. It is the Good which depends on the law, and not vice versa. In the same way as the objects of knowledge revolve around the subject (I), the Good revolves around the subjective law. But what do we mean by ‘subjective‘ here? The law can have no content other than itself, since all content of the law would lead it back to a Good whose imitation it would be. In other words, the law is pure form and has no object: neither sensible nor intelligible. It does not tell us what we must do, but to what (subjective) rule we must conform, whatever our action. Any action is moral if its maxim can be thought without contradiction as universal, and if its motive has no other object than this maxim. For example, the lie cannot be thought as formally universal without contradiction, since it at least implies people who believe in it, and who, in believing in it, are not lying. The moral law is thus defined as the pure form of universality. The law does not tell us which object the will must pursue to be good, but the form which it must take in order to be moral. The law as empty form in the Critique of Practical Reason corresponds to time as pure form in the Critique of Pure Reason. The law does not tell us what we must do, it merely tells us ‘you must!‘, leaving us to deduce from it the Good, that is, the object of this pure imperative. But it is the Good which derives from the law, and not vice versa. As in xi Kafka‘s The Penal Colony, it is a determination which is purely practical and not theoretical. The law is not known, since there is nothing in it to ‘know‘. We come across it only through its action, and it acts only through its sentence and its execution. It is not distinguishable from the sentence, and the sentence is not distinguishable from the application. We know it only through its imprint on our heart and our flesh: we are guilty, necessarily guilty. Guilt is like the moral thread which duplicates the thread of time.
‘A disorder of all the senses‘, as Rimbaud said, or rather an unregulated exercise of all the faculties. This might be the fourth formula of a deeply romantic Kant in the Critique of Judgement. In the two other Critiques, the various subjective faculties had entered into relationships with each other, but these relationships were rigorously regulated in so far as there was always a dominant or determining faculty which imposed its rule on the others. There were several of these faculties: external sense, inner sense, imagination, understanding, reason, each well-defined. But in the Critique of Pure Reason the understanding was dominant because it determined inner sense through the intermediary of a synthesis of the imagination, and even reason submitted to the role which was assigned to it by the understanding. In the Critique of Practical Reason, reason was dominant because it constituted the pure form of universality of the law, the other faculties following as they might (the understanding applied the law, the imagination received the sentence, the inner sense felt the consequences or the sanction). But we see Kant, at an age when great writers rarely have anything new to say, confronting a problem which is to lead him into an extraordinary undertaking: if the faculties can, in this way, enter into relationships which are variable, but regulated by one or other of them, it must follow that all together they are capable of relationships which are free and unregulated, where each goes to its own limit and nevertheless shows the possibility of some xii sort of harmony with the others. . . Thus we have the Critique of Judgement as foundation of Romanticism. It is no longer the aesthetic of the Critique of Pure Reason, which considered the sensible as a quality which could be related to an object in space and in time; it is not a logic of the sensible, nor even a new logos which would be time. It is an aesthetic of the Beautiful and of the Sublime, in which the sensible is valid in itself and unfolds in a pathos beyond all logic, which will grasp time in its surging forth, in the very origin of its thread and its giddiness. It is no longer the Affect of the Critique of Pure Reason, which related the Ego to the I in a relationship which was still regulated by the order of time: it is a Pathos which leaves them to evolve freely in order to form strange combinations as sources of time; ‘arbitrary forms of possible intuitions‘. What is in question in the Critique of Judgement is how certain phenomena which come to define the Beautiful give an autonomous supplementary dimension to the inner sense of time, a power of free reflection to the imagination, an infinite conceptual power to the understanding. The various faculties enter into an accord which is no longer determined by any one of them, and which is all the deeper because it no longer has any rule, and because it demonstrates a spontaneous accord of the Ego and the I under the conditions of a beautiful Nature. The Sublime goes even further in this direction: it brings the various faculties into play in such a way that they struggle against one another, the one pushing the other towards its maximum or limit, the other reacting by pushing the first towards an inspiration which it would not have had alone. Each pushes the other to the limit, but each makes the one go beyond the limit of the other. It is a terrible struggle between imagination and reason, and also between understanding and the inner sense, a struggle whose episodes are the two forms of the Sublime, and then Genius. It is a tempest in the depths of a chasm opened up in the subject. The faculties confront one another, each stretched to its own limit, and find their accord in a fundamental discord: a discordant accord is the great discovery of the Critique of xiii Judgement, the final Kantian reversal. Separation which reunites was Kant‘s first theme, in the Critique of Pure Reason. But at the end he discovers discord which produces accord. An unregulated exercise of all the faculties, which was to define future philosophy, just as for Rimbaud the disorder of all the senses was to define the poetry of the future. A new music as discord, and as a discordant accord, the source of time. That is why I have suggested four formulas which are clearly arbitrary in relation to Kant, but not at all arbitrary in relation to what Kant has left us for the present and the future. De Quincey‘s admirable essay The Last days of Emmanuel Kant summed it all up, but only the reverse side of things which find their development in the four poetic formulas of Kantiamsm. Could this be a Shakespearian side of Kant, a kind of King Lear?