domingo, 4 de julio de 2010

The Realm of Fiction


"As a theory [ ... ], the doctrine of the rights of man can be regarded as a later rationalization of the state of affairs resulting from the struggle many centuries earlier, especially in England, between the king and other social forces. In the Magna Carta, to which King John yielded his consent in 1215, we find a recognition of what in future centuries were to be called the 'rights of man' [...] Although the charter and its successors may have taken the juridical form of sovereign concessions, they where in reality the outcome of a genuine pact between opposing parties [...] Thus it is that the doctrine –here the doctrine of natural rights– inverts the course of historical events, treating as origin or foundation, as prius, that which is historically the result, which occurs posterius". Norberto Bobbio, Liberalism and Democracy.

The frame of 'sovereign concession' may be explained as Bobbio says: "to safeguard the principle of the king's supremacy and to ensure the maintenance of the monarchical form of government" but what is more interesting is the fact that the fictional approach to the 'rights of man' stands beyond monarchical interests –in fact is subsequently purified through liberal thinkers such as Locke in the dogmatic foundation still prevailing in our days–.

This lesson can also be applied to the realm of physical science, where the lagrangian mechanics and alike created a fictional foundation of physics from the historical point of view. But one should not confuse fiction with the simplicity lies, it is far more. The history of social struggle preceding England's Magna Carta (1215) or the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the French Revolution (1789) cannot be considered the end of a long journey, just as when a writer ends a novel cannot be considered the end of the artistic event. Indeed, they are a break point a transition from the historical process of genesis to that of epigenesis. Did we knew that the flag of human rights born originally in a socio-economical struggle would be raised against the outrage of twentieth century's war? did we knew that physical formalism would be able to predict successfully the existence of particles unknown in the moment of its formulation? these are all in some sense, post-historical events. Deepening into the relation between historical and post-historical events as formerly defined can enlighten us about the role of history and philosophy as social institutions.

I conclude with a quote by the poet Grillparzer, a reactonary who as Hobsbawm brings about, was able to capture the invisible fist of 1948 seemingly futile revolutions:

Here lies, all his celebrity forgot
Legitimacy's famous Don Quixote
Who, twisting truth and fact, thought himself wise
And ended by believing his own lies;
An aged fool, who'd been a knave in youth:
He could no longer recognise the truth.

Franz Grillparzer, Werke
(cited by Eric Hobsbawm in The age of revolution Ch.1)

That "lie" was enlightenment and would drive the course of western civilization in the coming century.

Figure taken from here.
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