An age that traffics in variations on comfortable probabilities is bound to give hardly any serious attention to absurd ideas. But probability will only take one so far. Lacking the playfulness that affronts the trained philosopher’s need to exert normative control over explanations of reality, philosophy is not provocative enough to garner general interest.
Literature is the chief vehicle of philosophical absurdity. While not capable of examining the good, the beautiful, and the true as efficiently as philosophy’s analytical genres, it has historically done a more thorough job in representing the transcendental antitheses of evil, ugliness, and falsehood. Under the aegis of these descendentals, a litterateur confronted by a hypothesis sets aside the usual assessments of cogency, validity, soundness, and reliability. She instead asks, “How silly, ridiculous, even meaningless does this seem?” And follows her affirmations with, “Is it then capable of being believed?” While the result is not always pretty, the extent to which a reputable idea may be hollowed out is a good gauge of both its potential charm and the depth of its trompe l’oeil illusion.
Ridiculous to say that a philosopher who never occurred off the page is no less real than a philosopher who once breathed and now leaves only her books behind. Absurd to say that both occupy this world: it is the same for figures or events accidentally nonexistent as it is for those existent, since they may both be logically real. —And yet famous philosophers in our time have said something quite close to this! So why not, then, reverse the absurdity?
Necessary Sophisms. An actual philosopher is an unnecessary philosopher. The existent ones are as superfluous as the ones who, though possible, never accidentally materialized. But surely some philosophers are impossible, and an impossible philosopher is necessarily unnecessary. All springs from the abyss: the philosopher appears, watches the shadows on the wall for a time, and is again swallowed up in the darkness of her cave. But let us not fool ourselves: while the philosopher appeared out of nowhere, she never occurred. Something cannot come from nothing. An actual philosopher is an ancestral impossibility. An unnecessary philosopher is an impossible philosopher. All philosophers are necessary. No philosophers are actual. There are no philosophers. Every philosopher that is-not is necessary.
The Abyssal Canon is not exclusive, but interpenetrates with the Canon of “Being.” Certain figures are inverted or synthesized, while others remain themselves, sometimes even occupying the same void-presence as their abyssal clone. Figures walk on and off the page, often exchanging roles; so Cartesius and Anti-Cartesius may shake hands without their egos self-destructing—they are already both nothing. Abdonemology presupposes Phenomenology, being the absurdification of an established discipline; yet Abomenology in turn contains a hint of that which Phenomenology presupposes—the eternally prior. “Existent” figures are more fully understandable not only in terms of the logical realities they could have embodied, but in terms of the countervacuals which they ultimately are. The Abyssal Canon is therefore in a sense only partially abyssal, partaking as it does of consequent plurality; while the Canon of Being is fully abyssal in another sense, originating as it does from antecedent monism.
The Worst of All Possible Canons. A sociological survey of intellectual buffoons, the Abyssal Canon is also the counterpart to a Silent History: tracing the influence of a thinker not through the best subsequent minds, but through the mediocrities—those who found solace in the wisdom there laid down, mingling this comfort with misinterpretations slight or gross, and applying the author’s words to their lives in ways half-effectual and forever unknown. A mind-warped Montaigne receiving the laurel “Father of Modern Philosophy” for fanaticizing his relativisms is soon followed, rather than opposed, by an inwardly regressive Cartesian and a vacillating Pascal—men determined to stand on nothing. The dialectical essay, rather than the analytical treatise, takes priority as the acceptable model for exercising thoughts occasionally profound, never subtle, and always implausible. A world of philomorosies emerge that inhabit a differing destiny of irrelevance than its (never-)actual complements currently do—not because of the dismissals it provokes when encountered by Practical Man, but because dismissal is a prerequisite to encountering it at all. One must renounce oneself—wineskin of beliefs and intentions, hopes and habits, essence, inner light—before picking up the first volume and confronting man as an accident, an obscurity, a nullity smiling outward through a grimy window.