Three Minute Philosophy - Immanuel Kant03:32

Three Minute Philosophy - Immanuel Kant


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"This endlessly elaborating poem
Displays the theory of poetry,
As the life of poetry. A more severe,
More harassing master would extemporize
Subtler, more urgent proof that the theory
Of poetry is the theory of life,
As it is, in the intricate evasions of as,
In things seen and unseen, created from nothingness,
The heavens, the hells, the worlds, the longed-for lands."
-Wallace Stevens

Chapter overviewEdit

This chapter continues the discussion of prudence. He uses Hannah Arendt’s idea of each epoch having something elevated to a superior status—being, God, man, etc. Ulmer argues that in our relationship to art we can create a space for aesthetic judgment that will foster ethical and political judgment. Because we have in our culture an impoverished relationship to art, this space for judgement, or chora/ort, is endangered.

This chapter begins with a discussion of Hannah Arendt’s unfinished multi-volume The Life of the Mind, arguing that Arendt’s reformulation of Kant’s third critique (judgment) is helpful for applying electracy to public polices because it acts as a bridge between the other two human faculties: thinking and willing. Arendt argues that Kant’s third critique could function as “the basis for a pedagogy of ethical and political judgment, adapted to our media age” (130). Thinking is discursive, alphabetic, and always reflective (after the fact), whereas judgment is related to flash reason and prudence (134). Ulmer finds that Arendt de-radicalizes electracy by linking it to the ancient Greeks’ formulation of “being” (131). The influence of Heidegger is evident in Arendt’s history of “being” from ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, and the modern era. What Ulmer takes from Arendt’s history of “being” is that “intelligence has always created its own time and space, relative to an apparatus, and this opening of a place for thought … may be called ‘chora’ … Concept avatar is designed to develop chora as a practice of flash reason (choragraphy)” (132). Ulmer sees value in applying choragraphy to debates about public policy (e.g. the tension between faith and knowledge in the Bush administration) because judgment creates a bridge between knowledge/necessity and desire/freedom (133).

As Is 

Ulmer discusses Heidegger’s essay, “The Origin of the Work of Art.” Ulmer contextualizes Heidegger’s discussion of art with scholarship on modernist aesthetics (via Charles Altieri) (136-7). This discussion covers: Cezanne’s landscape passages, Picasso’s cubist semiotics, Braque, and Malevich’s geometries (137).

Ulmer writes: “The Allegory of Prudence meets this mapping (choragraphy) coming from the side of poetics, locating correspondences mapping states of feeling through recognition of figures in one’s milieu. The goal of flash reason is to ontologize this dimension of embodied capacity by means of aesthetics in general, and arts practices specifically (augmented in the apparatus)” (138). 

Heidegger writes that when Dasein sees an entity in the world, it sees the entity as an entity. I see an apple as an apple. This “as-structure” has a lot to do with signification and how humans inevitably categorize things and carve up the world in certain ways. Ulmer writes: “The ‘as’ is the tool of avatar’s conceptual persona” (139). Stated differently, “The practice of concept avatar, in which a persona performs the vital anecdote dramatizing the thought within the problem field, makes use of the tropical ‘as’” (139).


As the concept avatar uses the “as” structure, it also bears a potential to be affected, which can be thought of in terms of “intensity, involvedness, plasticity” (140). The capacity to be affected is related to self-preservation, or Conatus, which = “striving to persevere in one’s own being,” essence, virtue, power (140). Self-preservation is a product of a metaphysics structured by the division between subject and object. This division gives rise to first-order thinking (becoming) vs. second-order (being) thinking (140). Regardless, the capacity to be affected is the precondition for power or the lack thereof (impotence) to be felt as anxiety (141). Ulmer writes: “Power and impotence (the sphere of potentiality) register in the body as anxiety … The traditional function of wisdom was to evade the anxiety of impotence” (141)


“The lesson for flash reason … is … to learn from painting and poetry a rhetoric of manner and expression, to be applied to the review and creation of attitudes in the public sphere” (141). Flash reason uses the Kantian notion of aesthetic judgment to establish a way of responding to instantaneous exigencies. This also recalls Arendt’s notion of a stance in relation to the epoch-defined “being.” Also, for Heidegger, all art is poetry because “poetry opens space, makes room in the sense of ‘chora,’ whose effect is to add a sense of ‘measure’ to the world” (142). Another word for chora is “ort” (142).

Ort “emerges within art, where it acquires categorial power” (142); “The secret … is that the river is named and described for itself, inflected in a way that makes it intimate something other than itself” (143). Ort = punctum (Barthes) and sublime (punctum also?) (143). In the same way that chora creates a space for flash reason, “the Allegory of Prudence constructs Ort. The Ort happens in the awareness of an ur-poem, a receptacle (chora) that gives Becoming (first-order experience) the stamp of Being (second-order)” (144). This relates chora/ort to the metaphysics of the modern age. Relating it to art, again, Ulmer says that ort is “the opening constructed through poeticizing” (144). Because Dasein is presented with things via the “as-structure,” Ort constructs; it does not reflect the world (145). That would be naïve realism.

Cayo Hueso


The arts are like dung decomposers...

In order to apply ort (i.e. chora, opening, etc.) to something, Ulmer analyzes Key West (146-7). Conatus is in this section defined as “striving prior to any subject or identity” (147). Each epoch privileges something: being, God, man, etc. Our epoch, the postmodern age of electracy, privileges nothing, he argues. He wants to have prudence be the privileged, central thing. The white-crowned pigeon (147) is an endangered species much like prudence, he argues. “The more schools reduce arts education, the less relevant they become (to electracy), guaranteeing an opportunity for the usurper, Entertainment. Commerce” (148). The reduction of the arts is an endangering of prudence.

Other sections where measure is discussed

Measure is discussed on xvi, xvii, 6, 18, 24, 29, 51, 55, 62, 69, 76-85, 89, 99, 100, 102, 110-114, 119-124, 130, 135-142, 146, 147, 150-156, 161, 162, 171-178, 190, 193-197, 213, 223-229, 234, 239-244, 250, 255, and 260.


Conatus = “striving to persevere in one’s own being,” essence, virtue, power" (140)Edit


What Ulmer takes from Arendt’s history of “being” is that “intelligence has always created its own time and space, relative to an apparatus, and this opening of a place for thought … may be called ‘chora' is used in this section. chora’ … Concept avatar is designed to develop chora as a practice of flash reason (choragraphy)” (132). 

Flash ReasonEdit

Flash Reason uses the Kantian notion of aesthetic judgment to establish a way of responding to instantaneous exigencies.

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