Doug Bruns

The force of evidence.

In Philosophy, The Examined Life on April 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm

I embrace Camus: “Man is that force which ultimately cancels all tyrants and gods. He is the force of evidence.”

A few years ago I was involved in a lawsuit over some business dealings. The suit was brought against me; not the other way around. I am not litigious. I run from lawyers. At the hearing the case was promptly dismissed. The “evidence” against me was incorrect. Evidence, that which proves or disproves, must stand against evaluation.

Contrary to what seems the case here, I don’t wish to write about myself. I want to write myself. That being my “force of evidence.” Like the ancient Chinese examination where the candidate is told to write down all that he knows, I spill (spew?) forth everything I know, everything I have experienced and I sit back and study in the hope to learn from the exercise. I throw the tea leaves on the table, squint my eyes and sigh. I filter for the evidence.

I walked behind a woman on the street a few evenings ago. At every store front she turned to the glass and glanced at her reflection. It seemed a reflex, an unconscious motion, and made me wonder at how we search for evidence of ourselves, how we constantly seek that sense of being, that force, without even knowing it. Vico said that man can only understand what he makes.  I am not so clever as to construct a tale exploring the notions put forth here. I have a critic’s love for ideas and accept the limitations I’ve been dealt.

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  1. Marx understood that we come to be by recognizing ourselves in what we have made–not by means of Descartes’ pure thought. This was the basis of his conviction that in the struggle between master and slave, the slave prevails–by having used his labor to transform the world—thus creating a recognized self (as agency, as creator). The “master” on the other hand depends upon the servitude of the slave to grant him existence AS master. The roles are reversed, and revolution is validated.

    • Professor, welcome! We need your help here. Your–that is to say, Marx’s–insight is most appreciated. And helpful. Thank you. Let the revolution commence.

      BTW, I’m reading Tony Judt’s Thinking the 20th Century. I haven’t read nor thought of Marx since college. Judt is changing all that. Tough going, but most interesting.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Again, most illuminating.

      • It was a tragedy to lose Judt (and to such a disease): he thought across more borders than almost any current card-carrying intellectuals, and he had the ability to remember life as an ordinary mortal. His love of trains was touching, and his death robbed us all of a major vantage point upon our world.

  2. I should never trust 30 year old memories. So, a correction: the wonderful master/slave dialectic was Hegel’s (The Phenomenology of Spirit), and it was popularized in the writings of Sartre and Kojeve. Many writers have written and assumed that this particular moment in the grand design of the Hegelian phenomenology was crucial to Marx’s theory of the inevitable victory of the proletariat, but there is scant evidence that this is true. I taught courses on Hegel, too, during the period recalled, and (quite logically) assumed that the point I made was from Marx. No. It was from the brain and pen of Master Hegel, who was hardly a revolutionary. The point I was making still stands: we come to BE in the recognition of a self reflected in what we MAKE.

    • I appreciate the precision of your process. We should talk sometime about “we come to BE in the recogniztion of a self reflected in what we MAKE.” It sounds Camus-esque, making meaning where there is none. I’m sure you can help me. Thanks for stopping back and clarifying.

I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading.

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