Damascius’ Philosophical Moment

Damascius, and the silencing of Proclus, through the attack on Proclus’ trick. (Try to follow if you are inclined to philosophy, and if only for the joy of detecting a philosophical, dialectical genius).

The silencing by Proclus of the whole pagan Philosophy was perfectly understood by Damascius, who thus put an end to the development of this Philosophy. Proclus’ trick consists in appealing to an ineffable Beyond each time he finds himself obliged to contradict what he says by speaking (in the Here Below) of the Here Below. If it is impossible to do this by speaking of Something, as when speaking EITHER of A only, OR Not-a only, so that one is obliged to say “both” AND A AND Not-a, it does no harm there (here), since there is something else “outside” of the Something, this Other-thing being NEITHER A, NOR Non-a. If the Discourse which reveals a Something which is AND A AND Not-a, contradicts itself by saying it (actually, this discourse is a contradiction in terms, by definition, moreover) and is thereby reduced to silence, this Silence reveals an Other-thing which is ineffable precisely because it is NEITHER A, NOR Not-a. In other words, the Other-thing is nothing of what the Something is, and it is in this that its transcendence consists: the transcendent Other-thing is not Something.

/ To which Damascius replies that, in this case, the Other-thing is nothing at all, which means that there is no Transcendence. Damascius’ (atheistic) critique of the (theistic) notion of Transcendence takes place in two stages.

/ 1 / He begins by showing that the process of “transcendentalization” is, though transcendent by definition, infinite in the sense of in-definite. Indeed, if the contradiction between A and Not-a obliges us to postulate a Something which is neither A nor Not-a and which is thus the “relation” to all that is either A or Not-a, the Discourse, taken as a whole, must speak “at the same time” AND of what is (A and Not-a) AND of what is not (neither A nor Not-a), so that the whole of the Discourse is again contradictory. The principle of transcendentalization therefore demands that we go beyond this new AND-AND by a new NOR-NOR: beyond the Something which is not only A and Not-a, but which is still neither A nor No-a, there is an Other-thing, which is neither one (A and Not-a) nor the other (neither A nor Not-a). Now, already the first Transcendent was absolutely unique and one, since all distinction was excluded from it; and it was therefore absolutely ineffable. The method of transcendentalization therefore obliges us to posit beyond the first unique transcendent, a second Transcendent, unique and one as well: we thus obtain an ineffable Beyond which is situated beyond the Beyond and which is revealed in and by a Silence which is beyond Silence. [[[More particularly, i.e., philosophically: [Proclus himself is content to admit that if one “ascends” in a continuous way (discursively) from C to B (passing through a and b), one must make a “leap” to a go up from B to A: he “ignores a the starting point A’ in the Ascent. It was Damascius who reminded him of this, by showing that the eternal (-spatial) coexistence of the Proodos and the Epistrophe results in a coincidence of A with A’, that is to say, of the Theos with the Hyle. But by substituting Matter (A’) for God (A) [as Damascius seems to want to do] we admit (implicitly) that the circle C is not discursive and therefore that the alleged notion B is at most only a Paranotion (or a Sign: a spelling or a :proper name”), even a Pseudo-motion (or a Symbol, “mystical” or mathematical) – Moreover, from the fact that what is outside of C is both A and A’ (since the Proodos is supposed to be co-eternal (with the Epistrophe), Damascius concludes that A = A’ (and not that A’ = A): for him, what corresponds to Speech is Matter only so that the Speech can relate only to Matter, unless one admits that there is outside the Something which is AND A AND A’ an Other thing which is NOR A NOR A’, which, for Damascius, would be the the height of absurdity, since it would be a question (A being God and A’ Matter Nothingness, the two Ineffable silent and Silence ineffable) of a God who would be “above” God, or of a Matter which is “below” Matter ( = Nothingness), even of an “Ineffable” which would be outside the Ineffable or of a “Silence” which would be beyond Silence]]].

/ / 2 Be that as it may, it is obvious that once set in motion, the process of transcendentalization can no longer be stopped; as long as we admit a single ineffable Transcendent, we can admit as many as we like. Now, it is here that the second stage of the critique of transcendentalization by Damascius begins. From the moment that transcendentalization is in-definite, the Transcendent is not the unique, finite and de-finite One, but the In-finite without goal or term, devoid of any structure. Besides, if all Transcendents are ineffable, there is no way to distinguish them from each other, since all silences are equal. Now, the contra-dictory Discourse is equivalent to Silence: to say of Something that it is A and Not-a at the same time amounts to saying nothing at all about it, namely neither that it is A nor that it is is Not-a. Thus, the NOR-NOR that is Theos is equivalent to the AND-AND that is Hylé. But, since the ineffable Transcendent is in-finite in the sense of in-definite, it is better to call it not God, but “Matter”. Damascius himself seems to have deduced from this reasoning a kind of materialist Atheism, even of atheistic Materialism, given that “Discursive Materialism” is by definition incapable of deducing the Discourse that it is itself [[[[Damascius claims that if A ( = Eleatic Hen) being already “divine”, ineffable and silent, B must be beyond the divine silent Ineffable and A “beyond” this already hyper-transcendent B. Hence Damascius concludes that as soon as one admits an (ineffable) Transcendent, one cannot stop superimposing other hyper-transcendents upon it. Whence the need to substitute for the transcendent Ineffable ( = God) an immanent Ineffable ( = Matter), which is equally in-definite or open to infinite regression. But Damascius may have seen that this “regression” is in fact nothing more than an “infinite mathematical progression” (in the final analysis: the indefinite series of positive and negative integers). The immanence of the Ineffable (“material”) would then signify the possibility of a mathematical Physics (replacing Energo-logy, while Mathematics replaces Onto-logy). If this were so, Damascius would renounce Philosophy, even the System of Knowledge, in favor of Mathematics and Physics (the Phenomenology being replaced by a Phenomenometric, that is to say, by the “exact” natural sciences). In other words, the contradiction between Platonism and Aristotelianism would reduce to silence the whole of Discourse degenerating into a set of (mathematical) Symbols, which would relate to the whole of “Matter” which corresponds to it [what actually happened, moreover, in the sixteenth century for the whole of pagan philosophy (insofar as it was not transformed into Christian philosophy)]]]

/ By silencing Proclus, Damascius believed he had silenced (desperate, moreover) all human discourse and therefore Philosophy as such. But, in fact and for us, Damascius had only reduced to silence, even to Contradiction, Pagan Philosophy, which, by deliberately excluding (Spatio-)temporality, deliberately ignored anthropogenic Negativity. For us, the Pagan Theos was in fact Hylé because it was not Negativity or Totality, but Pure Identity, by definition ineffable and mute.

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