The Aesthetics of Decay

Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the

Absence of Reason

Dylan Trigg

Among Europeans today there is no lack of those who are entitled to call themselves

homeless in a distinctive and honorable sense…for their fate is hard, their hopes are

uncertain; it is quite a feat to devise some comfort for them—but to what avail? We

children of the future, how could we be at home in this today? We feel disfavor for

all ideals that might lead one to feel at home in this fragile, broken time of transition;

as for ‘realities’ we do not believe they will last. The ice that still supports

people today has become very thin; the wind that brings the thaw is blowing; we

ourselves who are homeless constitute a force that breaks open ice and other all too

thin realities.

Nietzsche (1974, p. 338)

can we still maintain that reason is the mechanism by which progress can be realized?

Despite the West’s fall into cultural pessimism, the sovereignty of reason has apparently resisted exhaustion.

Conflict invariably ensues when the principle, led by the claims of reason, exceeds its universality in relation

to a temporal present, so becoming distinctly fetid.

I think he is saying here for example the ideal of democracy is thrown into the limelight by some results of democratic votes and by the condition of ‘truth’ in the time of widespread access to means of dissemination of ideas – memes – formation of ‘belief groups’ – all the things that act against the finding of ‘truth’ given that ‘truth’ itself is hard to define and is mutable. taicbw

The divergence between universality and the temporal present is compounded as ideas are mistaken to

be intuitive, humanistic, or otherwise innate: terms which justifiably warrant suspicion. In the absence of such suspicion, the familiarity of reason prevents it from disbanding.

conflict between preformed principles like reason and on the ground contemporary events taicbw

Disillusionment and dogma

are the likely consequence as a society adjusts to the void between a static

principle and the mutable world in which that principle exists

reason resorts to defining itself negatively.

A lack of reason, led principally by “irrationalism,” generally, but imprecisely,

suggests anti-intellectual emotionalism and vague intuitionism.

If intuition is reactionary, then being overly exposed

to contextual circumstances, its judgment is said to be contingent

Reason, meanwhile, is said to derive from an atemporal and placeless

(non)environment in which context is subjugated by necessity.

the messy contingent present versus the timeless placeless principle (eg kant ‘disinterested delight’) taicbw

Through suppressing the particularity of context, aesthetic

universality is acquired at the expense of actual experience

Similarly, rational

progress is won as reactions and instincts, particular qualities, are suspended.

Precisely what this progress entails remains an obscurity

characterized by conceptual insecurity

Yet into this space of obscurity, a va-gue set of themes united by their commitment to the idea of permanency, be it political or philosophical, take precedence.


This book is an attack on the notion of rational progress which underlies those regimes

[he limits his use of the word ‘reason’ to “the mode of rationality as a homogenizing agent which defines and identifies the particular in accordance with a static prin-ciple already established in the past.” ]

he further says he does not attack methodological reason

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