Archiv der Kategorie: Rezension

Rezension zu McGrath: The Philosophical Foundations of the Late Schelling. The Turn to the Positive



Die Rezension von Julius Günther behandelt das neu erschienene Werk von Sean McGrath, in dem dieser sich mit den Grundlagen der Spätphilosophie Schellings beschäftigt. Im Ausgang von Schellings Überlegungen zum Unterschied von negativer und positiver Philosophie versucht McGrath, den entscheidenden Unterschied zwischen diesen beiden Formen der Philosophie herauszuarbeiten. Über eine Vermittlung der Prinzipien und Aufgaben der Spätphilosophie Schellings hinaus öffnet McGrath die Gedanken des letzten Vertreters des Deutschen Idealismus in Richtung kontemporäre Fragestellungen und Kontexte. Im Vordergrund stehen dabei immer die Thematik der Freiheit und Schellings spekulative Interpretationen wesentlicher Überzeugungen des Christentums. 

Autor: Julius Günther

Bibliographie:                                                                                                                                                    Günther, Julius: Review of The Philosophical Foundations of the Late Schelling: The Turn to the Positive, by Sean J. McGrath. Edinburgh University Press, 2021, in: Kabiri. the offical journal of the North ameriacan Schelling Society, Vol. 3 (2021), S. 159-165.


Rezension zu Wolfgang Welsch: Umdenken. Miniaturen zu Hegel.

“Der Philosoph Wolfgang Welsch betreibt mit seiner neuesten Publikation Vereinfachung im besten Sinne. Mit “Umdenken. Miniaturen zu Hegel”, legt Welsch es – ein heute seit dem 250sten Jubiläum Beethovens, Hölderlins und Hegels nicht seltenes (und doch selten geglücktes) Unterfangen – darauf an, den “Gehalt [der hegelschen Philosophie] verständlich” (UM 8) zu machen. Dabei sind die kleineren Studien u.a. zu Hegels Subjektbegriff, zur Vernunft-Konzeption der Rechtsphilosophie, zur Kunst oder zur geistigen Nähe Hegels zu Aristoteles – Welsch nennt sie Miniaturen – durchwegs im Duktus einer Apologie verfasst. Hat man sich als Leser:in jedoch einmal damit abgefunden, dass der Autor stetig (nur) darum bemüht ist, den “Gigant, [den] Proteus, [den] Kontinent” (UM 7) Hegel gegen Kritiker:innen aller Arten verteidigen zu müssen, fällt die bei Hegel-Studien bekanntermaßen problematische Verständlichmachen-Zitieren-Ratio verhältnismäßig gut zu Gunsten des Ersteren (Verständlichmachen) aus [15:16]” […]

Autor: Leonhard Bauer

Bibliographie:                                                                                                                                                    Bauer, Leonhard: Rezension zu Wolfgang Welsch: Umdenken. Miniaturen zu Hegel, in: Philosophischer Literaturanzeiger, Band 75 (2022/2), S. 218-226.

The Perverted Sublime: Julia Ducournau’s Re-Reading of the History of Religion in Titane

I think provocation is gratuitous. You can say, ‘I hate this movie, I don’t like it at all,’ but you can’t say it’s gratuitous. […] Anything that is not coherent to my character’s journey, I erase it. Provocateur. Huh.[1]

For me it is very natural to think in terms of movement, transformation and mutation. […] You have to go through different metamorphosis in order to get closer to the essence.[2]



At first sight, Julia Ducournau’s Titane (2021) seems to be one of the most fucked up movies in recent film history. Because not only do we see Alexia – the non-binary striptease dancer protagonist played by Agathe Rousselle – having bondage sex with a car, getting pregnant from it, bleeding motor oil ever since and finally giving birth to the car’s son, but we also see her mass murdering both fans and friends, hetero- and homosexuals, people of all ethnicities and her parents. Against this background, one must wonder why Titane won the Palm d’Or in Cannes and ask the following unpopular questions: What does the prudish and presumably stupid mainstream like about the movie’s horror violence? Isn’t its broad acceptance a symptom, indicating that it has no critical dimension whatsoever, serving only as an affirmative spectacle for everyday’s ideology? And last but not least, must not everybody who considers oneself to be a critical and enlightened person apriorily suspect and aposteriorily come to the conclusion that Titane is nothing but the outcry of a decadent epoch which draws perverted enjoyment from seeing how itself gets wiped out by a psychopathic maniac?

In order to focus on this last question, we must say “apriorily suspect”: yes, “aposteriorily come to the conclusion”: no. In other words, if one takes the effort of understanding, i.e., interpreting Titane, then one must acknowledge that it really is a notable film, because all the body-horror and messy violence does not serve as an auto-referential goal, merely offering an orgy for the senses, but actually conveys an idea that could not be more intelligible. For Ducournau’s movie, in fact, depicts the notion of interlacing an ontogenetic trauma plus the individual (i.e., Alexia’s) process of working it through with a phylogenetic trauma plus the collective (i.e., historical) process of overcoming it. And since the latter is conceptualized in terms of a progressive succession of three major paradigms within the history of religion, namely the Greek, the Jewish and the Christian paradigm, we must say that Titane’s body-horror and messy violence gives us just the surface structure that – similar to but more complex than R. Scott’s Alien and D. Aronofsky’s Mother – functions as a symbol, representing Ducournau’s underlying re-reading of the history of religion which, at the same time, conveys a critique of postmodernity.

Yet, in order to show that this counterintuitive hypothesis does not just derive from our subjective phantasy, it is the goal of this essay to show that it really is nothing but the conceptually rendered objective form of the film’s internal logic. Hence, with respect to this goal, we now have to “deduce” (Kant) the objectivity of our subjective claim about the meaning of Titane.[3]

However, we must add to this disclosure of the essay’s goal that in contrast to the movies mentioned above (Alien and Mother), Titane is not designed with the same clarity concerning its symbolization code. That is to say, while in those movies we always find a one-to-one equivalent – e.g., Scott’s alien symbolizes a baby,[4] while Aronofsky’s mother represents Saint Mary[5] – the symbolization code in Titane is not that distinct. This is because of the following two reasons. Firstly, we claim that it is not Ducournau’s conscious decision to depict a history of religion, but she rather uses mythic and religious imagery in order to add further depth to the scenes of her film; mythic and religious imagery that in addition does not seem to genuinely derive from Ducournau studying the old Greeks and the Bible, but rather from the reoccurrence of Greek and Biblical topoi in her phantasy and dreams which she manages to render into aesthetic ideas that are conveyed in her movie.[6] Hence, in order to decipher Titane’s symbolization code, we need to adopt the methodology of the psychoanalyst, because we only arrive at the conclusion that it depicts a history of religion by means of analyzing the unconscious of the film itself.

Secondly, since Ducournau is fond of the notion of metamorphosis, transformation and mutation,[7] and since this fondness – which she shares with Ovid and Hegel – in the movie is conveyed by means of the same characters going through a plurality of such metamorphosis, a further difficulty for our interpretation arises, because the metamorphosis of one and the same character also transforms the meaning of that what it symbolizes. For example, we are going to prove that Alexia symbolizes the Greek god Zeus in the first half of the movie; yet, by means of her metamorphosis in the second half, she goes on to symbolize the Israelites; and finally, she ends up symbolizing Jesus. Therefore, we not only have to struggle for the objectivity of our “psychoanalyst” approach, but also deal with the difficulty that arises from deciphering a symbol that is undergoing a process of metamorphosis and for this reason also keeps transforming its meaning. Nevertheless, we now must undertake this difficult task by means of deducing the hypothesis mentioned above.



2.1 First Act: The Greek Paradigm I

In the opening scene, we see a generational conflict that causes a car accident which leads to an injury and the installation of a titan metal plate in young Alexia’s head. If we look closely at this short scene, we can find at least three details which make it clear that it not only depicts the initial trauma but also symbolically inscribes the narrative into Greek mythology.

Firstly, we are introduced to the eponymous name of the metal material “titan” which refers to the first generation of twelve Greek gods and goddesses who Hesiod in his Theogony calls the Titans (Cronus, Iapetus, Tethys, Mnemosyne etc.).[8] Secondly, the generational conflict between Alexia and her father (Bertrand Bonello) symbolizes the conflict between the leader of the second generation of Greek gods, i.e., the Olympic Zeus, with his Titan father Cronus. The structural necessity for Alexia’s father to represent Cronus thereby arises from an element that backs the thesis about Alexia representing Zeus. This element is her phallic metal hair needle, which she uses for her murders in later scenes and which obviously symbolizes Zeus’ thunderbolt. Hence, we can say that because Alexia symbolizes Zeus and fights with her father, it is structurally necessary that her father symbolizes the father of Zeus, i.e., Cronus. And last but not least, thirdly: When Alexia’s father “punishes” her by driving the car into a crash barrier, which leads to the installation of the titan plate in her head, then this scene symbolizes the myth of Cronus punishing his children by means of eating them – in both cases an act of fear that the offspring will overthrow the father’s power. In this regard, one could even argue that Titane distantly references Goya’s “black” visualization of the mythic scene (Saturn Devouring His Son), because in his painting we see one of the Olympics – presumably Zeus – being severely injured on the head; an incident that in this case most certainly causes a trauma which, back in the film, is symbolized by the titan plate that literally functions as a material rem(a)inder, not letting Alexia forget about who the master is.

Thus, because of these three details, it is not only clear that the film’s opening scene depicts the initial trauma by means of entering the Greek paradigm, but also that the generational conflict which causes the trauma is mediated via what Hegel calls the “fight for recognition” or the “master and slave dialectic”,[9] for it results in the father/Cronus becoming the recognized “master”, while Alexia/Zeus becomes the suppressed “slave”.

2.2 Intermission: The Postmodernist Sub-Paradigm

However, even though we enter the Greek paradigm in the film’s opening scene, a sub-paradigm is introduced in the succeeding scenes, for they depict a regression from the mythic to a pre-mythic world that shows the “barbaric” chaos amongst everything that is repressed and excluded from the official episteme of Greek mythology. Of course, this refers to Alexia randomly murdering people and getting pregnant from fucking a car. Figuratively speaking, the messy violence and perversion of these scenes tell the untold story of defeated Alexia/Zeus living the life of the Olympics while they are inside Cronus’ stomach. Hence, this part of the movie functions as an intermission, showing the symptomatology of Alexia’s traumatic loss in the generational conflict on the one hand and the restoration of her ego qua working through her trauma until she is ready to reengage in the fight for recognition on the other – both symbolized in Alexia’s murders.

In this context, it must be pointed out that it is definitely the most exhilarating detail of Titane that Ducournau portrays the chaos of this pre-mythic sub-paradigm in postmodernist colors. This is clear from the fact that this part of the movie introduces us to an assemblage of postmodernist topoi: We see people of all nations and sexualities join together in one happy politically correct family that shows us the way of “how we can live together”.[10] Yet, in Ducournau’s vision, all these postmodernist topoi depict nothing but half-digested barbarism inside the stomach of Cronus, with which Alexia, who is enslaved by her father but still symbolizes the mighty god Zeus, deals with by following what Nietzsche calls the “morals of the master”,[11] i.e., by mass murdering each and everyone at will.

To be more precise: Because Alexia is murdering both men and women, chauvinists and feminists, hetero- and homosexuals as well as people of all ethnicities, we can say that she systematically negates the pseudo-pluralism of postmodernity. Hence, Ducournau in this intermission criticizes the postmodernist episteme in terms of portraying it as accidental barbarism that is only there for Alexia to work through her trauma and then reengage in the substantial conflict with her father. In short: Postmodernism in Titane does not represent something that succeeds and is superior to Christian metaphysics, but actually represents an ultimate regression back to a stance that is inferior even to Greek mythology.

 2.3 Back to the First Act: The Greek Paradigm II

Once Alexia’s ego is restored, she reengages in the fight for recognition by challenging the master position of her father again. But since in this second showdown she kills him by burning down his house, a fundamental break with the Greek paradigm is introduced. Because in the myth immortal Cronus not only is not supposed to die, but his death also makes the master and slave dialectic implode, for without a slave that recognizes the master as such, Alexia/Zeus cannot be a master. Hence, with the death of her father, Alexia does not become the new master, but loses all power instead and therefore steps outside Greek mythology as such, introducing the first proper paradigm shift to the movie.

 2.4 Second Act: The Jewish Paradigm I

The conceptual break in the narrative mentioned above is indicated by means of Ducournau quoting David Lynch: Just like in Lost Highway (1997), the whole movie plot of Titane is divided into two parts, for Alexia becomes Adrien, the son of a fire captain called Vincent (Vincent Lindon) who for a decade vainly searched for his lost son and now wrongly takes Alexia for him. However, in contrast to the protagonist in Lost Highway, who – on the surface level – does not know how he became another person, Alexia not only physically undertakes a metamorphosis, trying to make herself look like Vincent’s son, but the film also delivers the logic of the narrative’s metamorphosis, indicating that by leaving the Greek paradigm, we enter the Jewish one, as it becomes evident from the following three details.

Firstly, since Vincent desperately awaits the return of his missing son, and since his son has been missing for exactly 10 years (as it is stated in a TV-news program Alexia is watching), it is clear that by stepping outside the Greek paradigm we actually step inside the Jewish one; because Vincent’s awaiting of his son symbolizes Jewish messianism (a notion unknown to Greek thought), and the 10 years search refers to the number 10 which – by adding the two eschatological numbers 3 and 7 – serves as the ultimate number in the Tanakh, indicating messianically induced utopia once again (e.g., this mysticism of numbers is the reason why there are 10 commandments). Secondly, instead of “Greek” mass murders, we see a caring community of life-saving firefighters that likes to party with their captain, a scenery which symbolizes the Jewish community of loving Israelites that too likes to celebrate their God on sabbath. And thirdly, just like God’s word for the Israelites, Vincent’s word for the firefighters is not to be questioned and serves as the absolute law. Thus, when Vincent addresses his firefighters by stating that he is their God which for them makes Alexia – who he considers to be his son – represent Jesus, we now have reason to add the following to this statement: While Vincent is not just symbolizing a, but the God, i.e., JHWH, the monotheistic Jewish God, Alexia is not representing Jesus (yet) – as Vincent wrongly claims – but rather (like Moses) the Israelites as such, because even though she is not really his son, she does become the paradigmatic figure of the firefighters.

Anyhow, it is clear from this analysis that the film’s break with Greek mythology really functions as a paradigm shift that symbolizes the historical progression from Greek to Jewish religion. Yet, in order to understand what this paradigm shift really means, a further analysis is required, because even though the above-mentioned symbols indicate that a paradigm shift took place, they do not answer the question of what exactly changed in comparison to the Greek paradigm. In other words, those symbols merely represent the substantial cause for the paradigm shift, but rather function as accidental effects that derive from it. Hence, we must come to the conclusion that if we want to grasp the meaning of this paradigm shift, then we firstly need to take a closer look at the substantial difference between the Greek and the Jewish religion, i.e., the latter’s monotheism negating the former’s polytheism, and then explain in what regard this difference is affecting the initial trauma that is mediated via the fight for recognition.

 2.5 Excursus: From the Greek to the Jewish Paradigm

Whereas in the Greek religion the notion of traumatic violence derives from different gods engaging in a master and slave dialectic that functions as a paradigmatic prototype, legitimizing, demanding and encouraging man to imitate this violent behavior, the Jewish religion seems to overcome this notion because monotheism implies that there is no genesis of different gods fighting for power. In short: Jewish monotheism ends the traumatic violence of Greek polytheism because with only one God, there cannot be any conflict between different generations of gods which could be imitated by man. Hence, when it is said in Genesis that man is created in the image of God,[12] this means the exact opposite as compared to Greek heroes imitating their gods, because while Achilles, Agamemnon, Diomedes and other heroes in Homer’s Iliad imitate and become one with the Olympic gods precisely by engaging in the war against Troy,[13] in Judaism (and Christianity) imitating and becoming one with God implies imitating his creation power in terms of caring for all living things he has created by following the law outlined in the Torah. To put it in a plastic formula: While the proper profession of the Greek is the one of the mighty warrior who fights other people in order to increase his power, the proper profession of the Jew (and Christian) is the one of the loving “gardener” who takes care of God’s creation in order to actualize a utopian world without violence.

Yet, at the same time, the Tanakh is full of trauma and violence, for we see the Israelites not just engaging in land-grabbing but also in numerous genocides.[14] Thus, it seems that the difference between the Greek and the Jewish paradigm is not that great after all. However, this is true but also not true, because even though the final result (murder and mayhem) is basically the same, the cause for it is a different one. That is to say, while in the Greek paradigm violence is caused by imitating the violent conflicts of the gods, in the Jewish paradigm it is caused by a theological contradiction. For example, though it is clear from the 10 commandments that one should not kill, JHWH forces the Israelites on numerous occasions to do exactly that, and he even punishes Saul for having pity with the king of the enemy.[15] Hence, we must say that while the Torah or – to be more precise – that what has been written on the two stone plates that are stored in the Ark of the Covenant negates the traumatic violence of Greek mythology, the majority of biblical books, which follow the Torah, betray this negation of violence and therefore introduce a theological contradiction to the Tanakh.

If we look closer at this theological contradiction, it becomes clear that it is rooted in the abstract nature of the Jewish negation of the Greek paradigm. To put it in Freudian terms: Because the Jewish “repression” of the polytheistic master and slave dialectic remains abstract, the “repressed returns” in an alienated way.[16] That is to say, while in the Greek paradigm the violent conflict of the gods served as a prototype for man to imitate it, the violent deeds of the Israelites must be seen as a “return of the repressed”, because even though the law of the Torah functions as the negation or “repression” of Greek violence, this violence is reintroduced by means of God’s interventions. And because these divine interventions are not prohibited even though they openly contradict what has been said in the law of the Torah, the negation of Greek violence in the law of the Torah must be labeled as abstract. Therefore, it is evident that the violence of the Greek master and slave dialectic returns in the Tanakh because of the abstract nature of its negation.

Yet, the master and slave dialectic does not simply return, but it returns in an alienated way, because man inhabits a new position inside the Jewish paradigm: While for the Greek fighting against Troy means inhabiting the master position by means of imitating and thus becoming one with the gods, for the Jewish fighting against the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites etc. means total enslavement, acting as a mere tool of the divine will that directly contradicts the law outlined in the Torah. Hence, the master and slave dialectic is transformed: While in the Greek paradigm it represents a prototype for imitation, allowing man to become a god-like master in terms of engaging in “good” violence that is legitimized by what Nietzsche calls the “morals of the master”, in the Jewish paradigm it forces man – who was supposed to become a loving “gardener” by following the law of the Torah – to inhabit the position of the slave in terms of demanding him to engage in all kinds of “necessary” violence that is legitimized by God’s contradictory interventions, which actualize what Nietzsche calls the “morals of the slave”.[17] Hence, it has been proven that the Greek master and slave dialectic in the Jewish paradigm not only functions as the “return of the repressed” but also that it returns in an alienated way.

 2.6 Back to the Second Act: The Jewish Paradigm II

In order to come back to Titane, we can learn from this analysis that all the contradictions, hypocrisies and misperceptions in the second half of the film symbolize the outlined contradiction in the Tanakh. Most importantly, we see the return of the modified master and slave dialectic, because even though it seems to be overcome due to Vincent’s love for Alexia, it actually reemerges since Vincent forces Alexia and her fellow firefighters to inhabit the position of absolute slavery; a relation that symbolizes the discussed relation between the Israelites and JHWH.

Abstractly speaking, the return of the master and slave dialectic is evident from the very beginning of the relationship: After Alexia is picked up by Vincent, she tries to escape from his car but cannot do it because Vincent locked the doors; yet, once they arrive at his house, she does manage to flee but is immediately caught by Vincent; later that evening, she wants to sleep and hide her pregnancy but Vincent embarrasses her by demanding her to strip down in order to wash her dirty clothes; and after locking her up for the night, Vincent gives Alexia a haircut to make her feel “normal” but actually hurts her “titan” wound and stops half way through, making her look even more ridiculous than before. – All these scenes indicate that even though the messy violence of the master and slave dialectic is negated and substituted by the love relation between Vincent and Alexia (i.e., JHWH and the Israelites), the violence of this dialectic still returns in a somewhat more “subtle” version that symbolizes the theological contradiction which arises from the abstract negation of the Greek paradigm in the Tanakh.

However, the mentioned scenes are just abstract examples, for they do not convey the concrete cause for this “subtle” violence. This is due to the reason that it is not just the return of the master and slave dialectic that causes this new form of violence but the modification of the returning dialectic. That is to say, whereas it was possible for Alexia to rise against her father while she inhabited the slave position inside the Greek paradigm, this possibility is negated in the Jewish paradigm because it negates the master and slave dialectic, making it impossible for man to imitate the gods by engaging in such a dialectic; yet, at the same time, it is impossible for Alexia to rise against her father precisely because, on the contrary, the master and slave dialectic returns in an alienated way, transforming Vincent/JHWH into an absolute master who is not just enslaving other gods – which are apriorily negated by the notion of Jewish monotheism – but rather man as such, for he annihilates man’s free will by means of his divine interventions that must be fulfilled even though they cannot be rendered meaningful both by human reason and the law of the Torah. Therefore, hypocrisy is introduced, as it becomes more clear from the analysis of two further scenes.

There is one scene about half-way through the movie in which we see Alexia seemingly having the chance of killing Vincent, who unconsciously lies on the floor of the bathroom after he took an overdose; yet, in contrast to the first half of the movie, Alexia cannot go through with killing him. Here we have both the negation and modified return of the master and slave dialectic: On the one hand, we see its negation because Alexia does not kill Vincent; on the other hand, it returns because Vincent remains the absolute master even while being unconscious. Therefore, the notion of hypocrisy is introduced, because the “good” deed of not killing Vincent presupposes the “evil” deed of Alexia’s absolute enslavement.

In another scene, we see Vincent killing one of his beloved firefighters because he puts into question if Alexia really is his son. Just like in the prior example, this one too depicts the negation and modified return of the master and slave dialectic: On the one hand, the dialectic is negated, because Alexia does not engage in a violent conflict with the firefighter; on the other hand, it obviously returns because Vincent kills the firefighter by means of acting as the absolute master. Therefore, hypocrisy is introduced once again, because the “good” deed of Alexia not killing the firefighter implies the “evil” deed of Vincent doing it for her. In other words, this scene not only depicts the hypocrisy that the reason for Alexia not killing the firefighter lies in her enslavement, but also the hypocrisy that Vincent’s love for his firefighters – just like JHWH’s love for the Israelites – occasionally implies killing them.

These hypocritical elements are an effect of the before-mentioned contradiction of ending and preserving violence which is immanent to the Jewish paradigm and derives from the abstract negation of the Greek master and slave dialectic. And this brings us back to the first detail we discussed in this context, for the only way to live with this contradiction is to hope for the Messiah to come and resolve it. But of course, the Messiah in Judaism not only does not, but actually cannot arrive. Because if he would arrive, then he would merely represent a new judge, king, prophet or Moses-like figure, i.e., somebody who would ultimately fail in resolving the contradiction, for he too would just represent another external way of synthesizing the two given entities of God or the universal on the one hand and the Israelites or the singular on the other. In other words: It is crucial for the Jewish religion to await a Messiah that can never arrive, because the external character of the actualized messianic mediation between God and the Israelites would always preserve God’s autonomous or “sublime” (Kant) independence;[18] and since this “sublime” independence would allow God to interfere in the life of the Israelites, it would negate the messianic mediation and necessitate another Messiah to arrive. Therefore, it is impossible for God to ever become one with man, as long as he does not drop his external independence and becomes one with the messianic mediation. But since this can only happen if the Jewish concept of the “sublime” or transcendent God is negated by means of his immanent particularization in becoming one with man, the actualization of this immanent mediation transforms Judaism as such and brings us to final act of Titane that depicts the paradigm shift from the Jewish to the Christian religion.

 2.7 Third Act: The Christian Paradigm

We enter the Christian paradigm in the final scene, because in this scene Alexia confesses her love for Vincent, and this confession depicts a recognition between them which not only functions as the concrete negation of the Greek master and slave dialectic but also as the negation of the Jewish paradigm, i.e., as the negation of the (abstract) negation of the mentioned dialectic. This is due to the reason that the internality of Alexia’s love transcends and negates the Jewish externality of love mediated via the law of the Torah.[19] Hence, we see not only a new Alexia but also a new Vincent arise from this scene: While in the Jewish paradigm the love relation is asymmetrical, meaning that Vincent/JHWH functions as a master who forces his slave Alexia/Israel to love him by means of obeying his word and law, the love relation in Christianity is symmetrical, thereby negating both the “sublime” status of Vincent/JHWH, who orders Alexia/Israel to love him, and Alexia/Israel, who considers love to be only the execution of the law. Hence, it is this symmetrical relation of recognition, this sameness between God loving man and man loving God, that gives us both a new man and a new God synthesized in one concept; and this one concept of love is represented by Alexia’s baby, i.e., Jesus, who is both the son of God and the son of man and therefore must be considered the immanent particularization/humanization of God’s universality.

Now, in order to show that this is really happening in Ducournau’s movie, we must pay close attention to the metamorphosis of both Vincent and Alexia in the final scene. On the one hand, it is clear that the lifesaving and life-taking firefighter Vincent stops symbolizing the almighty Jewish God, because he is unable to save Alexia who dies from giving birth to her son. This is due to the reason that by symbolizing the Christian God he is negated as an almighty agent by means of being fully engaged in the mediation represented by Jesus. Hence, we ought to say that Vincent cannot save Alexia because he became one with Jesus, while – judging from the gaze of his eyes – he rightly takes Alexia’s baby for the (second) coming of his proper son. Because by symbolizing the Christian God, we can say that it must have been him in terms of the Holy Spirit who fathered the son in the first segment of the film. Thus, it is clear that the combination of the scene that shows Alexia fucking a car with the final scene that shows her giving birth to the car’s son actually symbolizes the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

On the other hand, things are more complicated with Alexia. Because as mother of Jesus she obviously represents Saint Mary, but then she dies by giving birth to her son, which contradicts with the Biblical myth. Hence, we have to explain the contradictory notion of her death. – The solution to this contradiction lies in the before-mentioned symmetrical love relation. Because if Jesus is the material representative of this specific love relation, then he not only negates Vincent in terms of him symbolizing the autonomous Jewish God, but also Alexia in terms of her symbolizing an autonomous human individual like Mary. Therefore, the reason for Alexia dying lies in the “schizo-symbolical” level of this scene, for it condenses Alexia symbolizing the Israelites or man as such with Alexia symbolizing Saint Mary, the latter not being supposed to die, while the former is fully transformed into Jesus which is conveyed by means of her death.

These two aspects show that the before-mentioned symmetrical love relation between Alexia and Vincent – which is materially represented by their son – really is depicted in Titane. However, we must add to our theological inquiry that the general lack of Jesus lies in the fact that he is only the natural mediation of God and man, for he depicts only the second step of the Trinitarian process. In other words, he is the mediation of God and man in one human, which necessitates all the other humans to hear him speak or be touched by him if they want to participate in the mediation he represents. Therefore, Jesus must die – just like the primal father in Freud’s myth – because only in this way the particular or natural mediation of God and man can be universalized or spiritualized via his resurrection in terms of him becoming one with the Holy Spirit which is then represented by the community of believers that follows the path of Jesus. Or to put it in Hegelian terms: It is the “cunning of reason” that the natural individual must die in order to transform that what it represents into universal spirit.[20]

It is important to mention these further remarks on Christianity, because even though Titane does not depict the full Trinitarian process and stops at the birth of Jesus, i.e., at the second step, it still has a consciousness over the full process. This is indicated by means of music, for the birth of Jesus is accompanied with the no. 1 chorus “Kommt, ihr Töchter” of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, which precisely links the birth of Jesus with his death on the cross and therefore introduces the Christian notion of “simultaneousness”. Thus, we must say that even though the Christian paradigm is only introduced in the final minutes of Titane, Ducournau’s movie nevertheless depicts all essential elements by means of music and the before-discussed “schizophrenic” potentiation of its symbolization code. – Yet, before we draw the final conclusion from our analysis, we need to summarize what has been said so far in a condensed systematic way.



We started our analysis by stating the goal of this essay, i.e., deducing the abstract hypothesis that Titane not only depicts an ontogenetic but also a phylogenetic trauma which is overcome by the film narrative symbolizing the succession of three major paradigms within the history of religion (the Greek, the Jewish and the Christian paradigm). We undertook the first step of this deduction by showing that the movie in its first half depicts the Greek paradigm, for the generational conflict between Alexia and her father symbolizes the one between Zeus and his Titan father Cronus, which in both cases results in Alexia/Zeus being “eaten” by her father/Cronus.

Yet, since this result means nothing else than Alexia/Zeus becoming the “slave” of her father/Cronus, while her father/Cronus becomes the “master” by suppressing Alexia/Zeus, we furthermore were able to add that the opening scene gives us the central concept that mediates all paradigm shifts to come, namely Hegel’s famous notion of the “fight for recognition”, better known as the “master and slave dialectic”. Hence, it was possible for us to identify the initial trauma with the violence that derives from the process and the result of the first fight for recognition; a result that represents a relation of hatred, for it completely undermines the individual who inhabits the slave position.

In addition to this first step, we argued that Titane introduces us to the pre-mythic sub-paradigm of postmodernity in the scenes that succeed the opening episode. This sub-paradigm, we claimed, functions as an intermission, depicting both Alexia’s symptomatology and her working-through the traumatic loss, resulting in the subjectivation of her trauma which makes her reengage in the fight for recognition. But since Alexia/Zeus in this second fight kills her father/Cronus, the master and slave dialectic is negated, for without a slave that recognizes Alexia/Zeus as master, she cannot be a master. Therefore, the Greek paradigm is negated, because by losing all power and becoming an ordinary human that furthermore is an outsider to society, that is chased by the police and has no place to stay, Alexia does not symbolize Zeus anymore.

The second step of our deduction was to show that by stepping outside the Greek paradigm we actually step inside the Jewish one, thereby introducing the first paradigm shift that also modifies the movie’s symbolization code. This was clear from numerous details. But in this systematic summary we can add to these details that one can see the paradigm- and symbolization shift in the very first scene of the movie’s second half. This is due to the reason that in this scene Alexia is picked up by the fire captain Vincent, who considers her to be his beloved son Adrien even though she is a “slavery” outsider to society; a scene that is structurally identical with the scene in Exodus that tells the story of the Israelites being picked up by loving JHWH while they are slaves to the Egyptians. Hence, because of this structural reference and other details mentioned in our analysis, we can repeat the conclusion that the symbolization code in this scene is modified, and Alexia goes on to symbolize the Israelites, whereas her new father Vincent symbolizes JHWH.

Because Vincent/JHWH loves Alexia/Israel, the violence and hatred of the Greek master and slave dialectic seems to be repressed in the Jewish paradigm. Yet, as we have shown, the Greek paradigm returns because – to cut a long story short – the love relation is asymmetrical: The fact that Alexia does not love her loving father with the internality of her heart means that he has to force her into the love relation in terms of making her obey the externality of his word or law. Hence, the violence of the master and slave dialectic returns, making Alexia/Israel the absolute slave of her master Vincent/JHWH.

In the third step of our deduction, we saw that this externality is negated in the final scene of Titane, thereby introducing the Christian paradigm. This is indicated by Alexia telling Vincent that she loves him, because with this speech act she introduces a notion of interiority that establishes a relation of recognition which functions as the concrete negation of the master and slave dialectic. Hence, it was clear to us that in this scene a new paradigm is introduced, for the notion of the interiority of love negates the externality of the Jewish paradigm. And since this symmetrical love relation is furthermore represented by a newborn child that synthesizes Vincent/God and Alexia/man, it was clear that this negation of the Jewish paradigm is identical with the introduction of the Christian one, for the newborn child obviously symbolizes Jesus.

Now, because Ducournau’s film depicts the succession of these three paradigms which show the phylogenetic process of (1) putting the trauma that derives from the Greek fight for recognition, (2) negating it in an abstract way via the Jewish notion of law and (3) negating it in a concrete way via the Christian notion of love, and because her film furthermore interlaces this phylogenetic process of overcoming the initial trauma with the ontogenetic process of Alexia working-through the conflict with her father in terms of the latter symbolizing the former, the subjective hypothesis mentioned above has been objectivized by our deduction. Hence, the goal of this essay is accomplished.

However, because it is clear that the sensible imagery that depicts the ontogenetic process symbolizes the phylogenetic process, i.e., the intelligible succession of three paradigmatic ways of conceptualizing the absolute, we can add to this conclusion that Titane therefore not only must be considered a notable film – as it was stated in the introduction – but actually as one that is “beautiful” in the Hegelian sense of the word. This is due to the reason that it fulfills what Hegel considers to be the task of the beauty of art, i.e., depicting a “sensuous appearance of the idea”, whereby “idea” must be understood in the sense of God or the absolute in terms of the mediation of the universal and the singular.[21] Hence, we can end this essay by stating that even though Ducournau’s Titane seems to be a postmodernist artwork, it actually is a classical one, which furthermore accomplishes the remarkable task of actualizing the absolute inside the horror movie genre.

Author: Markus Monsberger

[1]       Julia Ducournau in: Handler, Rachel: “Titane Director Julia Ducournau Doesn’t See Herself As a Film Festival Provocateur.” In: Vulture, (05.12.2021).

[2]       Julia Ducournau in: “Julia Ducournau, Vincent Lindon & Agathe Rousselle on Titane.” In: Youtube, (05.12.2021).

[3]       Cf. Kant, Immanuel: Kritik der reinen Vernunft, B 122.

[4]       Cf. Faulstich, Werner: Grundkurs Filmanalyse. München: Fink 2002, pp. 162–166.

[5]       Cf. Monsberger, Markus: A Feminist Critique of Christianity. The Interpretation Key to Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Mother’. In: Letterboxd, (06.10.2021)

[6]       “The idea of the car was consequential to a nightmare […] that was recurring for years, a nightmare that actually inspired the last scene of the film. And coincidentally, in the building-up of that story [of Titane], I started at the end and worked my way back to the beginning.” (Ducournau, Youtube, c. l.)

[7]       Cf. second quote at the beginning of this essay.

[8]       Cf. Theogony 131–138.

[9]       Cf. Hegel, G. W. F.: Phänomenologie des Geistes. TW 3, pp. 145–155.

[10]      Cf. the motto of 2021 Biennale: “How will we live together?”

[11]      Cf. i. a. Nietzsche, Friedrich: Die Genealogie der Moral. In: Werke in drei Bänden II. Ed. Karl Schlechta. München: Carl Hanser 1966, pp. 782–785.

[12]      Cf. Genesis 1,27.

[13]      Cf. Iliad II, 412–418; V, 1–8; XX, 67–75.

[14]      Cf. i. a. Joshua 6/8/11.

[15]      Cf. 1 Samuel 15.

[16]      Cf. Freud, Sigmund: Weitere Bemerkungen über die Abwehr-Neuropsychosen. GW I, p. 387.

[17]      Cf. Nietzsche, c. l.

[18]      Cf. Kant, Immanuel: Kritik der Urteilskraft, B 83 sqq.

[19]      Cf. i. a. Wisdom 6,18 contra Matthew 22,36–40.

[20]      Cf. Hegel, G. W. F.: Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte. TW 12, p. 49.

[21]      Cf. Hegel, G. W. F.: Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik I. TW 13, p. 151.

Eine Polyphonie des Skeptizismus – Die Vertonung von Emil M. Ciorans Aphoristik

Häufig ist man mit der Philosophie als Text konfrontiert. Es sind schriftlich fixierte und überlieferte  Gedankengängen, die teilweise verschüttetet, teilweise gut ausgeleuchtet von den Leser:innen  beschritten und freigelegt werden wollen. Schaut man aber in die Geburtstexte der abendländischen Philosophie, so ist schon in den Platonischen Dialoge eine begründete Skepsis gegenüber der Verschriftlichung von philosophische Gedanken niedergelegt. Im Dialog Phaidon wird über “Anständigkeit und Unanständigkeit des Schreibens” disputiert und das Schriftliche als bloßer Schein gegenüber dem lebendigen Logos in einem Mythos erzählt. 

Umso interessanter sollte für Philosophierende die Vertonung philosophischer Texte sein, die ursprünglich nicht zum Vortrag konzipiert sind. Dies gilt insbesondere für die Gedankensplitter der aphoristischen Schriftstellerei. Ein Versuch der Vorstellung einer solchen Verlautbarung ist im Rahmen der Podcastreihe “vOHRgestellt” der Forschungsstelle Phonopoetik an der WWU versucht worden. Gegenstand ist das Hörstück “Vom Nachteil geboren zu sein” von Kai Grehn nach dem gleichnamigen Aphorismenbands Emil M. Ciorans. 


Genre: Hörspielbearbeitung
Autorschaft: Emil M. Cioran, Kai Grehn, Übersetzt von François Bondy
Regie: Kai Grehn, Ronald Klein
Stimmen: Florian Anderer, Kathi Angerer, Hendrik Arnst, Paula Beer, Bibiana Beglau, Benjamin Berger, Luise Berndt, Johanna Bittenbinder, Sebastian Blomberg, Bärbel Bolle, Niels Bormann, Jule Böwe, Maximilian Brauer, Heinz-Josef Braun, Margartita Breitkreiz, Volker Bruch, Matthias Buss, Jean-Piere Cornu, Brigitte Cuvelier, Maren Eggert, Josephine Ehlert, Lars Eidinger, Alexander Fehling, Samuel Finzi, Georg Friedrich, Pippa Galli, Robert Gallinowski, Claudia Geißler, Christian Grashof, Claudia Graue, Bernd Grawert, Olivia Grigolli, Robert Gwisdek, Jörg Hartmann, Franz Hartwig, Irm Hermann, Jonas Hien, Fabian Hinrichs, Brigitte Hobmeier, Marc Hosemann, Thomas Huber, Eva Irion, Ueli Jäggi, Peter Jordan, Mario Klischies, Wolfram Koch, Eva Maria Kurz, Vincent Leittersdorf, Christoph Letkowski, Ulli Lommel, Inka Löwendorf, Felix von Manteuffel, Dagmar Manzel, Matthias Matschke, Annika Meier, Marcus Melzwig, Sarah Sophia Meyer, Birgit Minichmayr, Christopher Nell, Josef Ostendorf, Mira Partecke, Milan Peschel, Uli Plessmann, Trystan Pütter, Anne Ratte-Polle, Bastian Reiber, Judith Rosmair, Lars Rudolph, Mandy Rudski, David Ruland, Marianne Sägebrecht, Alexander Scheer, Hans Schenker, Mex Schlüpfer, Andreas Schmidt, Martin Schneider, Kay-Bartholomäus Schulze, Jannik Schümann, Sebastian Schwarz, Michael Schweighöfer, Marie-Lou Sellem, Jeanette Spassova, Lilith Stangenberg, Lore Stefanek, Ernst Stötzner, Bettina Stucky, Christine Urspruch, Sebastian Urzendowsky, Ulrich Voß, Axel Wandtke, Harald Warmbrunn, Jens Wawrczeck, Kathrin Wehlisch, Angela Winkler, Dolores Winkler, Luise Wolfram, Doris Wolters, Franziska Wulf, Almut Zilcher
Musik Oehring, Helmut; Vokalensemble Stuttgart
Erstausstrahlung: 28.11.2013 
Produktion: Südwestrundfunk 2013

Autor: Michael Boch

Zuerst veröffentlicht auf dem Blog Phonopoetik des Lehrstuhls für neuere deutsche Literaturwissenschaft von Prof. Dr.  Britta Herrmann.


Rezension zu Thomas Auinger: Individuum est effabile. Spekulativ logische Erkenntnis des Einzelnen in Hegels Wissenschaft der Logik, Hamburg 2021

“Thomas Auinger legt mit Individuum est effabile. auf den ersten Blick eine elaborierte und tiefgehende Detailstudie zu zentralen Passagen aus Hegels Logik vor und sein Buch verdient schon aus der Perspektive einer wissenschaftlichen Hegel-Exegese nachhaltige Beachtung. Sein mikroskopischer Durchgang durch die zentralen Bestimmungen der Kapitel Die Wirklichkeit und Das absolute Verhältnis aus der Wesenslogik sowie durch die grundlegenden Formen Allgemeines – Besonderes – Einzelnes aus der Begriffslogik durchläuft deren spekulative Bewegung in seltener Exaktheit und kleinteiliger Differenzierung. Dem gesellen sich stets erläuternde Querverweise zu weiteren Partien der Logik und zu Hegels Gesamtwerk hinzu. Dabei bildet Auingers Buch angesichts einer allzu gerne an der Oberfläche immer wiederkehrender Phrasenwiederholungen verbleibenden Hegel-Rezeption eine derjenigen anregenden Ausnahmen, die eine Selbstinvolvierung seiner Leser:innen in den Gang des Logischen (er)fordern. Es belehrt und informiert nicht nur äußerlich, sondern bestrebt sich mit Hegels berühmtem Wort: das Bekannte zum Erkannten zu machen. Diese Mühe des sich tätig vollziehenden Denkens im Einzelnen, wie der Autor zu betonen nicht müde wird, sei beim Spekulativen die zentrale Aufgabe. Eine weitere philosophiegeschichtliche Skizze oder bloß äußerliche Auslegung ist daher von Individuum est effabile. nicht zu erwarten – und dies ist ein großer Vorzug des Buches. Es fordert zur spekulativen Tätigkeit heraus und ist nicht nur eine Studie zu Hegels Philosophie. […]”

Autor: Robert König

König, Robert: Rezension zu Thomas Auinger: Individuum est effabile. Spekulativ logische Erkenntnis des Einzelnen in Hegels Wissenschaft der Logik, in: Philosophischer Literaturanzeiger, Band 75 (2022/1), S. 15 – 20.

Rezension zu Martin Woesler (Hg.): Senex non semper optimus, senectus autem optima. Festschrift zu Ehren des 90. Geburtstags von Harald Holz, Bochum 2020


“Harald Holz zählt zu den bedeutendsten Vertretern systematischer Transzendentalphilosophie des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts. Anlässlich seines 90. Geburtstags wurde das Symposium „Senex non Semper Optimus, Senectus Autem Optima“ 2020 abgehalten, dessen Beiträge nun als Sonderband III der Harald-Holz-Gesamtausgabe veröffentlicht wurden. Die Festschrift, die sich mit der ganzen Breite von Holz‘ Schaffen in drei Sprachen auseinandersetzt, umfasst 21 Aufsätze und ein Interview und wird durch eine kommentierte Übersicht der Harald-Holz-Werkausgabe ergänzt. Der Band ist gerade durch die Thematisierung des Alterns und einen Fokus auf das lyrische Werk von Harald Holz als besonders persönliche Festschrift zu lesen, die nicht nur das Werk, sondern auch die Person von Harald Holz würdigt. […]”


Autor: Michael Boch

Bibliographie:                                                                                                                                                    Boch, Michael: Rezension zu Martin Woesler (Hg.): Senex non semper optimus, senectus autem optima. Festschrift zu Ehren des 90. Geburtstags von Harald Holz, in: Philosophischer Literaturanzeiger, Band 75 (2022/1), S. 49 – 56.

PDF erhältlich nach Anfrage bei

Der (Un-)Sinn unter der Oberfläche, menschlich reife Opfernarrative und historische Metaphysik – Krachts ‚Eurotrash‘


Eurotrash (2021), das wäre ja gewissermaßen Faserland (1995), bloß eben in erwachsen, reif und metaphysisch (ja, wirklich!) und ein Vierteljahrhundert später, so PR und diverse Kritik. Musealisierung der Pop-Moderne und ihrer Mittel oder ihre Fortsetzung mit anderen Mitteln? Eine Suche nach Reife, Metaphysik und der Geschichte in der Geschichte.

Nein, das macht sich schlecht, erst sagen, dass das, ja klar, alles autofiktional ist, um es dann doch in toto autobiographisch zu lesen. Und das macht sich auch schlecht, nabelpopelnd in der eigenen metareflexiven Fertigkeit seitenlang bei der Frage stehen zu bleiben, ob es nun Autofiktion, -biographie, Sachbuch oder richtige Literatur, doch nichts von beidem und beides zugleich ist und damit bereitwillig nach den Meta-Ködern des Textes zu springen. Ehe man sich dessen so recht bewusst wird, betreibt man nach den Instruktionen des Textes, gar des Autors (oh Schreck!), Dekonstruktions-Aerobic und vergisst im Abstrampeln und Wettkampf um die flottesten Hirnschwünge, dass nicht nur Borges schon gern anspielungsreiche Realitätsverschiebungen geschrieben hat. Doch sorgt schon allein die mutmaßliche Inkarnation des Autors im Text allein mit stoppuhrgenau kalkulierbarer Regelmäßigkeit für feuilletonistische Akrobatik und literaturpreislichen Wettkampf auf allerhöchstem Niveau.

Statt sportlicher Euphorie der Konkurrenz wird hier also etwas Gegenkultur betrieben und es für spannender befunden, einer Erzählung, die so aufrichtig mit Geschichte befasst ist, über eben seine Geschichten auf den Leib zu rücken. Für Christian Krachts opus novum Eurotrash ist das zunächst einmal: Geschichte des Textes als Plot, Fabel, Handlung, you name it. Die ist, bei allen kunsthandwerklich versiert geschriebenen Überschreitungen der Genregrenzen, wenn es nach vielem Herumliegen und Nachdenken in Zürcher Hotelzimmern dann einmal los geht, durchaus konventionell konzipiert – und daher schnell erzählt: Ungleiches Paar zweier schräger Figuren, hier auch noch dynastisch-pikant Mutter und Sohn, die sich gegenseitig und damit jeweils sich selbst auf der Reise näherkommen.

Das Publikum liebt ungleiche Paare. Das Publikum liebt schräge aber dennoch oder daher menschliche Gestalten. Das Publikum liebt Roadmovies im Allgemeinen und vor allem, wenn sie ganz beiläufig und in allem Überfluss zwei wesentliche Ansprüche von Gelegenheits-, doch gleichwohl Distinktionsleser*innen befriedigen. Einerseits: das Bedürfnis nach intellektueller Legitimation, wenn literarische Anspielungen und die oben angerissenen Meta- und Ironisierungen des Textes als Text (wieder-)erkannt werden und Leser*in sich auf dieser Grundlage legitimerweise mit einem Abschlusszeugnis höherer Bildungsanstalten versehen fühlen darf, wobei volksnah und literaturpädagogisch niedrigschwellig für jeden Grad der Belesenheit bis hin zur Überhaupt-Nicht-Belesenheit gesorgt ist. Andererseits: das voyeuristische Bedürfnis, sich doch auf das autobiographische Angebot einzulassen, doch mal, ganz naiv freilich, zu schauen, wie das so ist, oder wie das vielleicht doch sein könnte in Welt und Alltag unserer liebsten und erfolgreichsten Autor*innen. Es ist dazu vorerst nicht viel zu sagen, es ist das, was die Welt-Literatur im Innersten zusammenhält. Schreibweisen der Popliteratur sind hierbei nichts Neues mehr, keine – sollten sie das vorher gewesen sein – besonders innovativen Erzählmittel, sondern Erfolg garantierende Zutaten für jedes neue Produkt einer unserer (vgl. Dichter, vgl. Denker) stärksten Marken auf dem Weltmarkt.

Geschichte von Eurotrash, zum Zweiten: die Textgeschichte, im verlegerisch und werkpoetisch vorbildlich konstruierten und nicht zu knapp strapazierten Spannungsbogen zu Krachts Debüt Faserland, der hier freilich ungemein interessiert. Und siehe: Vieles aus dem prominenten Verweis findet sich wieder, mehr noch kommt bekannt vor. Auch hier kann sich geneigtes Publikum in immanenter Exegese ergehen und entlanglesen an Ästhetizismus, Allüren und dem Eklektizismus motivischer Versatzstücke bis hin zur manierlichen Barbourjacke. Spätestens mit letzterer wird es aber interessant und eine Lektüre notwendig musealisierend, nicht nur, weil der Erzähler die Barbour offensichtlich für immer abgelegt hat, nicht nur, indem es freilich der Erzähler von Eurotrash ist, der einen Text namens Faserland geschrieben hat, sondern ebenso, weil dieser Erzähler seinem Debüttext mit großem Unverständnis gegenübersteht, ihn allenfalls im Entstehungskontext nachvollziehen kann. Zur zeitlichen Distanz der beiden Texte – also dem wahren und echten und realen Faserland zum realen, echten, wahren Eurotrash – kommt so eine inhaltliche Distanzierung, die sich auch im Drang des neuen Erzählers zum Sinn des Ganzen, des Lebens, des Seins, dem Hang zur verstehenden Rekonstruktion der Fakten gegen alle Ratlosigkeit, Verhandelbarkeit und Indifferenz, die im Faserländer präsent ist, ausdrückt. Sehnsucht nach „Realität und Sinn“, nach Relevanz und ein „Zustand der Resignation und Hoffnungslosigkeit“, der verlockend hinter den alltäglichen Hindernissen lauert, bilden die beiden mentalen Wegweiser auf der Reise, die, weiterer Unterschied zu Faserland, von Anfang an zielgerichtet ist: Auf das geographische Ziel hin, das Innere Afrika, mitten in der Schweiz, die psychiatrische Klinik in Winterthur, und auf das ideelle Ziel hin, die terra incognita der Familiengeschichte zu erschließen: „Junge, Junge, Du willst es aber wirklich wissen mit unserer Familie.“

Geschichte, Bedeutung drei also: der offensichtlich nicht ganz so sichtbare Dritte, der anscheinend vehemente Versuch, sich in Beziehung zu setzen zur eigenen Vorgeschichte, sich zu positionieren in den historischen Zusammenhängen. Vieles wird da erzählt von Großvätern und Vätern und Generationenkonflikten und wie diese sich auf das eigene Leben ausgewirkt haben mögen. Da ist vor allem der Großvater mütterlicherseits, mit seinen Freunden, primus inter pares ehemaliger SS-Offiziere, und solche auch weiterhin, nur eben mit anderen Berufen, weiterhin Teil einer mit Besitz und Kontakten gesegneten Oberschicht. Da ist dann andererseits der so unangenehme Vater mit seiner kleinbürgerlichen ideologischen und proletarischen ökonomischen Herkunft, die über diverse Karriereleitersprossen bis hin zur rechten Hand von Axel Springer sich im Hang zur peinlichen Überaffirmation großbürgerlichen Habitus’ äußert. Mitunter kommt es hier zu interessanten Klassen-Beobachtungen. Vor allem kommt es aber zur Feststellung, wie sehr belastend und auf welche Weise genau sich das auf Mutter und Sohnemann ausgewirkt hat.

Schuld und schlimme Peinlichkeiten setzen sich wirkmächtig fort in den Leben dieser beiden, sie werden zu Opfern der großen gesamtgesellschaftlichen wie auch der kleinen familiären Geschichte und Geschichten. Damit bleibt die umfassend erzählte Familiengeschichte nur recht einseitig umgewälzt: Schuld und Belastendes, Problematisches werden an Fixpunkte und Projektionsfiguren delegiert. Wie die moralische Verschuldung der Familienhäupter und deren ausgebliebene Sühne für die beiden Protagonist*innen jedoch überaus vorteilhaft ein ökonomisch sorgenfreies Leben à la Jetset, wie auch für Kontakte und Seilschaften für anderweitige Sorgenfreiheit im Berufsleben gesorgt haben kann, bleibt allenfalls angedeutet, nicht kommentiert und nicht bedacht. Es ist ein sehr bejammernswertes Stagnieren der Schuldreflexion, bei dem einem wie dem Erzähler wirklich ganz flau werden kann „vor Melancholie und verlorner Kindheit und dergleichen“, vor allem, wo marginale Überlegungen zur Konfrontation der beiden übermächtigen Vaterfiguren als fraglos unmöglich herausgestellt werden und sich die Bemerkung der eigenen Schuldhaftigkeit in allerlei Zusammenhängen der Gegenwart an eher pflichtschuldiges Zubedenkengeben erinnert, sich schließlich alles bedächtige Kopfwiegen mit bieder herabgezogenen Mundwinkeln in Wohlgefallen und Geschmunzel auflöst, so unvermittelt und folgenlos bleibt wie die Bekenntnis des Erzählers, in einer Tradition des Verschweigens, Verdrängens und Sublimierens zu stehen. Der Drang zur verstehenden Rekonstruktion der eigenen Vorgeschichte, die mehr als nur an der Oberfläche kratzt, muss mit solcher Viktimisierung, solcher selbstgerechten Zusprache eines Opferstatus seinem eigenen Vorhaben im Weg stehen und letztlich oberflächlich bleiben, in bekannten Narrativen verharren. Das ist die Bequemlichkeit, den eigenen Nazi-Hintergrund auf gänzlich selbstentschuldigende Weise zu bedenken und fremde Schuld vor die eigenen, daraus resultierenden Privilegien zu stellen, die dafür sorgt, dass viele erzählerische Projekte der NS-Familiengeschichtsaufarbeitung selbst ungefähr so gründlich apologetisch geraten wie die Entnazifizierung.

Und das wäre doch wieder sehr poppig: Die Hintergehung der Oberflächlichkeit, Sinn- und Relevanzsuche vorgeben, um dann doch wieder nur in absoluter subjektivistischer Selbstgerechtigkeit stehen zu bleiben. Noch anderes deutet darauf hin, dass die vermeintliche Reife des Romans eine Ausreifung dieses oftmals zynischen Lieblingsthemas des Pop meint. Zur Kontrafaktur gerät auch das Leitmotiv des Textes im bewussten Paradigma: Zur Sühne zumindest eines Teils eigener Schuldigkeit und eigener Profite aus der Familiengeschichte sollen die Gewinne aus den Waffenaktien der Mutter verschenkt werden, immerhin mehrere Hunderttausend Franken. Dass diese vollkommene Verweigerung gegen die Verwertungslogik des Kapitalismus im Lauf der Erzählung überhaupt nicht umgesetzt werden kann und schließlich doch nur Geld gegen Dienstleistung oder Ware getauscht wird – ist das Zynismus oder Unachtsamkeit? Es ist vor allem ein sehr guter Meta-Witz für Neoliberale über die ausbleibende belebende Wirkung verschenkten Geldes. Der Grad menschlicher Reife dieser popmodernen Schreibweise bemisst sich offensichtlich nach der Anzahl der Lachfalten ihrer apologetischen Kritiker.

Mehr oder weniger gut abgelagerte ironische Poetik würde jedoch zur Ehrenrettung obligatorisch werden, wenn die Rede auf die im Roman vermittelte historische Metaphysik kommt, denn hier verselbstständigt sich die im Klappentext versprochene „Reise in die Abgründe einer Familie“, wenn Geschichte zum Mysterium wird. Von schrecklichen, unaussprechlichen Geheimnissen ist da die Rede, deren „Deutung mir aber auf ewig verborgen bleiben sollte“ und entsprechend auch jetzt nicht gelingen will, von „ewig präsent[er]“ Vergangenheit, „aeternita a parte ante“ und „ewige Wiederkunft“ dräuen da vor sich hin und wachsen sich bis zur metaphorischen Hybris vom „großen Feuerrad, […] dem sich drehenden Hakenkreuz“ aus. Wem das zu groß ist, kann mit „dem endlosen Kaninchenbau der Erinnerung“ in etwa dasselbe gemeint fühlen, nämlich die metaphysische, sublime Konkretisierung des in diesem sinnstiftenden Schicksals-Paradigma sehr wörtlich genommenen Debord-Titels In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni – Wir irren des Nachts im Kreis umher und werden vom Feuer verzehrt. Gelsenkirchener Barock, nur eben als Weltbild.

So geraten die zahlreichen Geschichtchen, die der Erzähler seiner Mutter ad hoc vorträgt und in denen er selbst entscheiden kann, was vorgeht, in Opposition zum schieren Passieren und Widerfahren der Geschichte, welches es unmöglich macht, sich selbst als prinzipiell mitwirkenden, aktiven Akteur und Teil der historischen Prozesse zu begreifen. Man bleibt: Opfer, getrieben und geworfen, das eben das Beste daraus machen muss. Schuld sind und tragen die Anderen, und vielleicht auch die nicht so wirklich, wenn man dieses Geschichtsbild mal zu Ende denkt. „Tat tvam asi“, heißt es an einer Stelle, und die Reflexion, in deren Rahmen Adorno dieses hinduistische Credo zitiert, zeitigt eine Beobachtung, die auch auf das in Eurotrash konstruierte Bild von unverschuldeter Opferrolle durch schicksalhafte Historie bezogen werden kann: „Die Glorifizierung der prächtigen underdogs läuft auf die des prächtigen Systems heraus, die sie dazu macht.“1 Ein eigenartig synkretistisches und paradoxes Weltbild, irgendwo zusammengestoppelt zwischen Schopenhauer und Heidegger, in deren Mitte auf dem Zeitstrahl bekanntlich die Dekadenz lungert, alles ein wenig dräuend, nur ein wenig breitenwirksamer formuliert. Und wahrscheinlich doch wieder gar nicht ernst gemeint. Sollte das der Fall sein, ließe sich der poppige Zynismus als Weltmodell und Schreibweise wohl als chronisches, perennierendes Leiden bei der Gegenwartserfassung als Zukunft einer Vergangenheit feststellen – die Fortsetzung des Pop mit anderen Mitteln.

So oder so: Wirklich progressiv wird hier weder erzählt noch gedacht, beinah muss man vom Gegenteil ausgehen. Man ist Opfer einer mythischen, allmächtigen, schicksalhaft sich ausagierenden Geschichte – vielleicht kann diese leidige, sehr bekannte, vielleicht sehr deutsche, jedenfalls sehr von Verantwortung befreiende Auffassung von eigener Geschichtlichkeit und Selbstpositionierung in historischen Prozessen ja erklären, wie so ein fatales Welt- und Selbstbild, bemäntelt in eine am Ende doch ziemlich belanglose, abgebrüht unterhaltende Erzählung, zu den besten eines deutschsprachigen Literaturjahres gezählt werden kann. Es scheint, dass Metaphysik und menschliche Reife keine guten Maßstäbe sind, wenn man zur Beurteilung von Texten schreitet.

Autor: Tim Preuß

Der Beitrag erschien erstmals unter dem Titel „Der (Un-)Sinn unter der Oberfläche: menschlich reife Opfernarrative – Krachts ‚Eurotrash‘“ in der Reihe Museum der Popmoderne auf

  1. They, the people, in: Theodor W. Adorno: Minima Moralia. Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 2003, S. 29f., hier S. 29. [= GS 4] []

Niemand werden oder der Versuch Nichts zu sagen: Zu Byung-Chul Hans Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus


Das Buch Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus von Byung-Chul Han, ist weniger eine Darstellung der Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus, als vielmehr ein „Philosophieren über und mit dem Zen-Buddhismus“ (S. 8) im Rahmen einer komparatistischen religionsphilosophischen Studie.

Das Buch ist in sechs Kapitel gegliedert, die sich jeweils einem Thema widmen. Han beginnt jedes Kapitel mit der Erörterung eines oder mehrerer westlicher philosophischer Konzepte, welche er im Fortgang mit der Zen-buddhistischen Lehre vergleicht und beleuchtet. Zudem tauchen im Text des Öfteren sogenannte Haikus – japanische Kurzgedichte – auf, die es dem Leser ermöglichen sollen, sich besser in die jeweils behandelte Thematik einzustimmen. Ausgehend von Hegel, Descartes, Leibniz, Heidegger, Meister Eckhart und deren ontotheologischen Konzeptionen von Substanz, Gott, Wesen, Schöpfung usw. versucht Han, das Zen-buddhistische Nichts abzugrenzen von einer bloßen negativ theologischen Auffassung desselben. Hans Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus hält, was er im Vorwort verspricht. Er gibt weder eine Anleitung für die Zen-buddhistische Praxis, noch bleibt er bei einer bloßen Erklärung der buddhistischen Terminologie und Wirklichkeitsauffassung stehen, sondern arbeitet vergleichend, ausgehend von westlichen Konzepten, heraus, was der Zen-Buddhismus nicht ist. Nach der Durchführung dieser ex-negativo Methode erläutert er das Ergebnis mit reichhaltigen Beispielen aus Literatur und Kultur der buddhistisch geprägten Länder, was dem Leser die Möglichkeit zur konkreten Anschauung und Verdeutlichung der Einsicht ermöglicht. Es gelingt ihm auf diese Weise, Missverständnisse und eventuelle Vorurteile des westlichen Lesers zu beseitigen. Dem Leser wird Schritt für Schritt klarer, worauf es dem Zen-Buddhismus ankommt und worauf nicht. Eine mehr oder minder genaue Kenntnis der westlichen Konzepte und Theorien, auf die sich Han bezieht, ist dabei jedoch hilfreich, da sonst der Unterschied zum Zen-Buddhismus nicht deutlich wird. Hans Methode, die Philosophie des Zen-Buddhismus immer in Abgrenzung zur philosophischen Sicht des Abendlandes darzustellen, erweist sich letztendlich als fruchtbar und erfolgreich.

Zur Rezension

Rezension zu L.M. Rendl und R. König (Hrsg.), Schlusslogische Letztbegründung. Festschrift für Kurt Walter Zeidler zum 65. Geburtstag, Berlin 2020




In der vorliegenden Festschrift “Schlusslogische Letztbegründung” stehen zwei von Zeidlers zentralen wissenschaftlichen Forschungsbereichen im Fokus. Zum einen hat Zeidler sich in seiner Beschäftigung mit der transzendentalen und spekulativen Logik durch Herausarbeitung der begründenden Funktion des Schlusses hervorgetan. Zum Anderen führte er intensive Studien zur Thematik der Letztbegründung durch, die letztere als dynamische Form der Selbstbegründung auswiesen. Diese zentralen Thesen, dass der Schluss die logische Form der Begründung sei und Letztbegründung nur als Selbstbegründung möglich ist, führten ihn zu seiner Vollendung der kantischen Transzendentalphilosophie, seinem absoluten Idealismus der Schlusslogischen Letztbegründung. Die Aufsätze lassen sich bezüglich Zeidlers Œuvre in drei Gruppen einteilen: Erstens, die Beiträge die Zeidlers Schriften kontextualisieren und analysieren (Mathisen, Rendl, Schmied-Kowarzik, Meer, Bunte, König, Hoffmann, Breil, Tydeckes). Zweitens, die Beiträge, die sich primär als Kritik an Zeidler verstehen (Flach, Knoppe, Krijnen). Drittens, die Beiträge, die sich der Ergänzung und Weiterentwicklung des zeidlerischen Ansatzes oder bestimmter von ihm aufgeworfenen Fragestellungen annehmen (Blau, Gloy, Hiltscher, Wiedenbach, Gottschlich, Müller, Klein, Dober). Da Zeidler die Transzendentalphilosophie primär als transzendentale Logik versteht, kann der Diskurs um diese als Leitfaden der Rekonstruktion der Beiträge gelten. Selbstverständlich kann in dieser Rezension nicht jeder Beitrag in Gänze gewürdigt werden. Jedoch soll sowohl versucht werden, einen Überblick über die verschiedenen Linien der Rezeption von Zeidler anhand der Beitragsgruppen zu geben, als auch diese Beiträge in ihren Theoriekontext einzubetten. Darüber hinaus sollen Zeidlers Repliken, die in der Festschrift unter dem Titel “Anmerkungen zur Schlusslogischen Letztbegründung” aufgeführt sind, an entsprechender Stelle thematisch zusammengefasst und der Analyse der Beiträge zur Seite gestellt werden. […]


Bibliographie:                                                                                                                                                    Boch, Michael: Rezension zu Lois M. Rendl und Robert König (Hrsg.): Schlusslogische Letztbegründung. Festschrift für Kurt Walter Zeidler zum 65. Geburtstag, in: Perspektiven der Philosophie, Band 47 (2021), S. 235-250.

In the Beginning there was Evil: On Carlos Reygadas’ Critique of Culture in Post Tenebras Lux



In his 2012 film Post Tenebras Lux, which won the Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival, Mexican director Carlos Reygadas tells the tragic story of a family getting torn apart. While the mutual love of the parents slowly but surely turns into hate, their children, who can be seen as material representatives of the love relation, are condemned to observe how that what they represent is fading. Yet, the reason for this tragedy does not lie in a specific failure committed by one of the family members but in a general failure of the cultural institution which includes the family order. Hence, it is clear that Reygadas in Post Tenebras Lux continues the cultural criticism of his three earlier films Japón (2002), Battle in Heaven (2005) and Silent Light (2007). The only difference is that Post Tenebras Lux depicts this criticism in a more radical and consistent way, as we can learn from a short comparison with Japón.

Although at first it seems as if Reygadas in Japón launches his cultural criticism in all its harshness, for he portrays culture as a slaughterhouse that necessitates people either to kill each other or to commit suicide, his criticism ultimately is subverted, because he adopts Tarkovsky’s religious spiritualism, introducing an abstract third option, i.e., an “absurdist” belief in God in the Kierkegaardian sense of the word.1 Yet, since this third option does not emerge from within the film’s conceptual or logical form but functions as an external deus ex machina that magically resolves the contradiction between killing and committing suicide, Japón must be considered what Aristotle calls a bad tragedy.2 Hence, by adopting Tarkovsky’s spiritualism, Reygadas introduces an inconsistency to his debut film which turns it into a mediocre work of art.3

Now, unlike in Japón, there is no such inconsistency in Post Tenebras Lux because here Reygadas negates every spark of salvation by depicting a fatal teleology immanent to culture. Thus, we are left with nothing but a world that symbolically is bewitched by the Devil himself, who appears as an animated red Beelzebub in the second scene, introducing the principle of evil that – by mediating everything that follows – serves both as the film’s arché and telos and must be seen as the substance or essence of culture, as it is portrayed in Post Tenebras Lux.

Yet, in contrast to that, the Biblical metaphor contained in the film title – which in itself is a quotation of the well-known verse in Job 17,12 – depicts a classical eschatology by referring to a light that will arise after darkness, i.e., a “morning” of hope which will follow the hopelessness of “night”. In the film’s diegesis, this element of the hopeful morning or light is represented by the two children of the protagonist’s family who are named after two Biblical figures that symbolize hope, i.e., just and loyal Rut from the book Rut, and Eleazar, Aaron’s third son who helped Joshua administering the praised land Canaan.4 Therefore, in contrast to what we said above, the title seems to indicate that evil will not have the last word and, finally, will be supplemented by good.

Nevertheless, this tendency of good supplementing evil must be understood strictly within the conceptual framework offered by the book Job, namely within the fundamental difference between believing in predictable divine justice on the one hand and believing in radical unpredictable grace of God on the other.5 That is to say, believing in the film title’s light, morning, hope or good – which, again, is only represented by the Biblical names of the two children – is nothing but counterintuitive and wishful thinking against the film’s predictable logic, i.e., the realization of its telos which is represented by darkness, night, hopelessness or evil. Hence, we can repeat what we said in the first paragraphs by stating that, in contrast to Reygadas’ earlier films, Post Tenebras Lux offers less than nothing6 that transcends the chaos of culture, for that what seems to transcend it is nothing but an unpredictable and therefore abstract hope against the predictable and therefore concrete hopelessness of the film’s internal logic. Or to quote John Milton: Against the meaning of its own title, in Post Tenebras Lux all paradise is lost.7

However, since the quality of an artwork can only be determined by the immanent form of its content, i.e., by the inner coherence of how it conveys that what it is about,8 we must pay close attention to the form in which Reygadas launches his critique of culture. In this regard, the first aspect we ought to mention is the threefold scheme of the critique’s mediation: Firstly, Reygadas establishes the fundamental dichotomy “nature vs. culture”. Secondly, he attributes contradicting predicates to each of the two opposed terms, e.g., nature is determined as chaotic and evil, whilst culture is determined as orderly and good. And thirdly, Reygadas shows us how the predicates that seem to apply to one term of the dichotomy also apply to the other term, leaving us with the final conclusion that it is not just nature which is chaotic and evil but also that what seemed to be its opposite, i.e., culture. Yet, in order to prove this threefold scheme to represent not just our abstract or subjective phantasy but, in fact, the film’s objective or concrete form that mediates all of its content, we need to take a closer look at Post Tenebras Lux in terms of elaborating an immanent critique9 that deduces10 the objectivity of our subjective claim.


In the film’s absolutely astonishing opening scene (see below), Reygadas undertakes the first two steps of the abstract scheme mentioned above. Firstly, he introduces the fundamental dichotomy “nature vs. culture” by means of quoting the Bible’s second creation story: On the one hand, we see nature in terms of a soaked and muddy field with animals running around in sheer chaos; on the other hand, we see culture in terms of a human child (Rut) who – just like Adam in Genesis 2,20 – gives names to the animals, calling them dog and cow. Secondly, this scene also determines the fundamental dichotomy by attributing the first predicates to each side: Whereas nature is not only portrayed in terms of chaos amongst animals but also – since we see the dogs attacking the cows – in terms of being violent and therefore evil, the cultural speech act of the human child introduces the predicate of order, thereby transferring the chaos of nature into the cosmos of culture, which represents the notion of natural law, justice and therefore good. Hence, the opening scene depicts not only the fundamental dichotomy “nature vs. culture” but also the first contradicting predicates of this dichotomy, i.e., “animal vs. human”, “chaos vs. cosmos”, “violence vs. justice”, “evil vs. good”.

Now, if we compare this scene with the film’s second scene (see below), which shows the interiors of the protagonist’s family house, we not only get a further determination of the fundamental dichotomy’s content but also the central determination of its cinematic form: Whereas everything inside the family house is shot with a clear lens, everything outside is shot with a filter-lens that blurs the edges of the frame. Therefore, nature, on the one hand, is topologically determined as outside, representing a place for animals, violence and evil, while culture, on the other hand, is topologically determined as inside, representing a place for humans, justice and good. Or to put it in other terms, “outside vs. inside” is a further determination of the fundamental dichotomy “nature vs. culture”, which, at the same time, gives us its cinematic form by means of the dichotomy “blurry vs. clear shot”.

However, apart from these two determinations, the second scene also introduces the beginning of our scheme’s third step: We see the animated red Devil entering the family house during nighttime, carrying a toolbox in his hand and looking for the bedroom of Rut’s and Eleazar’s parents Juan and Natalia in order to “work” on them. In other words, the Devil inscribes evil into the very term that, in the opening scene, was determined as good, i.e., the cultural family relation of humans. Yet, since little Rut is sleeping and slightly older Eleazar is watching the Devil from the children’s room (thereby virtually seeing what awaits him as an adult), and since Natalia, as it turns out, is spared by the Devil, evil is only inscribed into Juan who represents male adults or men. Hence, the contradicting predicates of the external dichotomy “nature vs. culture” reoccur as an immanent contradiction inside culture in terms of children and women representing “good culture”, being opposed to men representing “evil culture”.

Furthermore, this scene is supplemented by the third scene that allegorically conveys its meaning, showing us the consequence of men representing evil culture: We see an indigen Mexican – future killer of Juan – who is cutting down the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”, one of the two important trees in Biblical paradise (in the next to last scene, the same man is going to be linked also to the fall of the “tree of life”). Now, this scene shows us the consequence of the Devil inscribing evil into culture because with the tree of knowledge cut down, it will be impossible for Juan to regain the ability to distinguish between good and evil. Therefore, this scene tells us in an allegorical way that, from now on, Juan will import nature, i.e., evil and animal-like behavior, into that what he used to represent, i.e., culture in terms of good and human family relations.

In addition, this teleological process of inscribing evil nature into good culture also is indicated by the name of the Mexican, for he is called Seven, which refers to the eschatological seventh day of God, i.e., the day on which God celebrates his creation-work by not working (cf. Jewish Sabbat and Christian Sunday).11  But whereas in the Bible the eschatological number seven represents hope, it represents hopelessness in Post Tenebras Lux, for it arises from the killer’s name which indicates the fatal process of evil culture teleologically negating good. Therefore, we can also refer to the film by calling it a negative eschatology in this precise sense of “negative”.

Anyhow, the film depicts this teleological or eschatological process of inscribing evil nature into good culture in the episodes that follow the allegorical third scene: At first, Juan is acting like an animal, tormenting his most beloved dog, just like the dogs tormented the cows in the first scene; then, he joins a supporting group, confessing that he is also tormenting his beloved wife Natalia by only being able to sleep with her while watching pornography; thirdly, there is the episode in which he forces Natalia to participate in an orgy that takes place in a steam bath, i.e., a room that imports the characteristics of nature’s outside into culture’s inside because steam and sweat refer to the soaked and muddy fields of the first scene as well as to the formal aesthetics of the blurry shot. And finally, Juan is destroying the cosmos of family life by means of introducing irrational chaos, violently accusing just Natalia for things she has not done.

All these scenes are part of the film’s teleological process, realizing the evil essence of culture that symbolically was introduced by the Devil. And Reygadas seems to reach his telos when Juan is shot down by Seven, whom he catches robbing his house. However, the film even transcends this devastating climax: Against all odds, Juan survives the shooting but suffers from severe injuries including amnesia, which makes it impossible for him to identify the Mexican. Hence, it is necessary for Seven to finish the job in order to stay free because Juan could regain his memory which would result in his imprisonment. After visiting his own family, who seems to know all about his trouble, he therefore decides to return to Juan’s house in order to kill him. In front of the house, he finds Rut and Eleazar and asks them where he can find their father. Now, as if Juan just stayed alive for us to see the devastating decision of Seven to kill him, the children tell him that their father died of his injuries last night. After that he returns to his own house, finding his family vanished, as if by destroying Juan’s family he also destroyed his own. At last, he goes into the woods, where we see two trees falling down: The first one is the “tree of knowledge”, whom Seven already cut down in the film’s third scene, negating the possibility for Juan to represent good; the second one is the “tree of life”, whose collapse refers to the film’s fatal logic which is indicated in this very scene by means of Seven committing suicide, brutally chopping off his own head. Therefore, we can say that the teleology of evil negates good by means of an auto-referential or suicidal process that realizes the evil essence of culture, a process whose goal at last coincides with the absolute negativity of death.

However, even after this devastating negation good remains alive in women as well as in children who, therefore, are yet to be negated by culture’s teleology of evil. This is achieved in a scene (see below) that – by means of montage – takes place at the same time as the killer’s suicide: The animated red Devil reappears in the family house, is observed again by Eleazar and finally enters the bedroom of the parents. But since Juan already died, this can only mean that the Devil now “works” on Natalia, doing to her what he did to Juan in the second scene. Hence, the immanent contradiction of culture is adjusted in terms of women now representing evil culture against children who remain the only representative of good culture.

Although Post Tenebras Lux ends shortly after this scene, that is to say, without showing us the concrete process of Natalia realizing evil (a process that Reygadas thematizes at length in his 2018 family drama Our Time), it is clear that the film must take a further step because Eleazar and Rut still represent good culture and, therefore, ought to be negated by the teleology of evil. This last step is virtually introduced in the film’s final scene (see below): We are confronted with a flashback that shows young Juan playing rugby, gathering his team-members around him and telling them that the other team “may have got individuals but we have got a team”, a sentence which indicates that collective team-spirit is superior to individualism. Yet, the point of the whole film was the exact opposite, namely that the cultural team-spirit of good and orderly family relations is by no means superior to but rather leads to and finally coincides with the natural chaos of evil individualism. Hence, this last scene not only proposes a hypothesis which has already been negated but also makes it implausible to assume that Eleazar and Rut, i.e., the last two representatives of good culture, will escape the teleology of evil because they too are part of the very same team-spirit of Juan’s family. Therefore, this last scene completes Reygadas’ radical critique of culture by virtually negating also the last remainder of good culture, inscribing the hope for a Light after Darkness into a completely abstract register of counterintuitive believing or wishful thinking that will not stand a chance against the concrete negativity of evil culture’s teleology.


We started our analysis with the abstract or subjective hypothesis that Post Tenebras Lux depicts a radical critique of culture by means of following a threefold scheme: (1) determining a central dichotomy between two opposed terms, (2) adding predicates to them, (3) showing the process of how the predicates that apply to one of the two terms also apply to the other. In our immanent critique or interpretation of the first scene, we saw how the film enacts and thereby objectivizes our subjective claim about the first step by introducing the central dichotomy “nature vs. culture”. Furthermore, it also started to enact the second step by adding at least four contradicting predicates to determine the central dichotomy, i.e., the predicates of “animal vs. human”, “chaos vs. cosmos”, “disorder vs. order” and “violence vs. justice”. At last, we summarized all these predicates in the dichotomy’s fundamental predication “good vs. evil”. Therefore, it was possible for us to say that the film itself determines nature in terms of representing evil and culture in terms of representing good.

Yet, as we went on to analyze the second scene, we came to realize that the film subverts the central dichotomy because its fundamental predication starts to appear within just one of the opposed terms. That is to say, apart from supplementing the list of predicates by introducing the topological dichotomy “outside vs. inside” as well as the formal dichotomy “blurry vs. clear shot”, we saw how the film starts to enter our scheme’s third step: By “working” on Juan, the Devil inscribes that what used to be the predicate of nature, i.e., evil, into one of the representatives of that what used to be good, i.e., culture, thereby introducing the new dichotomy “good vs. evil culture”. But since the Devil is a mere abstraction which functions as an external symbol for the evil essence of culture, it is clear that the film needs to concretize this abstract symbolism by showing us how culture itself becomes evil in terms of systematically negating everything that is good about it. Therefore, we had to follow the most important scenes that depict this systematic negation to which we referred to as the teleology of evil.

However, by following this teleological process, we came to realize that the dichotomy “good vs. evil culture” functions as a dynamic category: At first, Juan, who symbolizes men, represents evil culture, while Natalia, Rut and Eleazar, who symbolize women and children, represent good culture. But as the film evolves, this determination gets modified, for the Devil reappears in the family house and again enters the bedroom of the parents, which can only mean that he now inscribes evil into Natalia because at this point Juan has already died. Hence, the dynamic category of evil culture is passed on to women, while children remain the only representative of good culture.

This new form of the dynamic contradiction inside culture led to the analysis of the final scene in which Post Tenebras Lux negates also the last spark of good culture: In a flashback, we see young Juan proposing that cultural team-spirit is superior to natural individualism. Yet, the film’s teleology of evil proposed exactly the opposite because it showed the concrete process of how the cultural team-spirit of Juan’s family is a mere illusion and ultimately identifies precisely with the natural chaos of individualism. Thus, the final scene not only proposes a hypothesis that has already been negated by the film’s internal logic, but also makes it implausible to assume that Eleazar and Rut will escape the teleology of evil for they too are part of the cultural team-spirit of Juan’s family. Hence, this scene fulfills Reygadas’ radical critique of culture in terms of virtually negating also the last representative of good culture, which made it possible for us to conclude in an objective manner that Post Tenebras Lux transfers the hope for a Light after Darkness into a completely abstract register of counterintuitive believing that will not stand a chance against the teleology of evil, i.e., the film’s concrete logic or systematic form which has been object of our analysis.


In order to avoid confusion, we can add to our analysis the following graph that visualizes the conceptual structure of Post Tenebras Lux by gathering the threefold scheme of its critique of culture together with all the dichotomy’s predicates which we elaborated above:

(1.) Central Dichotomy:
Nature vs. Culture 

(2.1) Contradicting Predicates (in Regard to Content):
Chaos vs. Cosmos          
Disorder vs. Order          
Animal vs. Human          
Violence vs. Justice        
Outside vs. Inside          
Muddy Field vs. Clean House

(2.2) Contradicting Predicates (in Regard to Form):
Blurry Shot vs. Clear Shot

(2.3) Unity of Form and Content:
Evil vs. Good

(3.) Immanent Contradiction in “Culture”:
Evil Culture vs. Good Culture       
Individualism vs. Family Order    
Juan vs. Natalia, Eleazar, Rut     
Natalia vs. Eleazar, Rut 
Concrete Logic vs. Abstract Hope  
[Eleazar vs. Rut]          
[Rut vs. X]       

Author: Markus Monsberger

  1. Cf. Kierkegaard, Sören: Furcht und Zittern. München: dtv 2012, pp. 212/214/298. []
  2. Cf. Aristoteles: Poetik. Stuttgart: Reclam 1982, p. 49 (1454b). []
  3. For more detail see my review of Japón: Monsberger, Markus: Why Carlos Reygadas’ Jopón must be considered a failed ‘materialist’ critique of Tarkovsky. In: Letterboxd, (16.9.2021). []
  4. Cf. Numeri 34,17. []
  5. Cf. i. a. Job 9,15. []
  6. Cf. Žižek, Slavoj: Less than Nothing. Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London/New York: Verso 2012. []
  7. Cf. Milton, John: Paradise Lost. London: Penguin 2014. []
  8. The idea that it is form which determines an artwork’s quality is a commonplace in classical aesthetics, cf. Schiller, Friedrich: Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen. Stuttgart: Reclam 2000, pp. 88/95; Hegel, G. W. F.: Vorlesungen über die Ästhetik I. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1986, pp. 151 sq.; Adorno, Theodor W.: Ästhetische Theorie. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 2014, p. 213. []
  9. Cf. Benjamin, Walter: Der Begriff der Kunstkritik in der deutschen Romantik. In: GS I.1. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 1974, pp. 77 sq.; id.: Ursprung des deutschen Trauspiels, l. c., pp. 224 sq. []
  10. Cf. Kant, Immanuel: Kritik der reinen Vernunft. Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp 2014, p. 129 (B 122). []
  11. Cf. Genesis 2,1 sqq. []