Απόσπασμα και Ολότητα

Yes, as everyone knows,

meditation and water are wedded forever.
[ H. Melville,
Moby Dick ]

I. The Island Entitled Rationality

Greek philosophy, according to Nietzsche in Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks, appears to begin with an idiosyncratic idea of Thales of Miletus: the belief that water is the origin, the wellspring of all things. As far back as the Iliad, Oceanus, the river god, is the source of the gods, the begetter of all.

We, of course, have learned, in the meantime, that in history there are no beginnings, only their naming, and that names are not the essence of things, but their transference into another tongue. Thus, the only thing we can claim—and even this we will name—is that in the beginning is the unnamed, the undifferentiated, and that this is what we subsequently call disorder, chaos, diaspora. Therefore, chaos did not exist first to be followed by order, but rather both eternally alternating. Whoever says that in the beginning was water, the sea, the ocean, already introduces a differentiation into the multiplicity, and reduces it to the One. Hegel’s claim that Logos is what is real is an immeasurable violation of reality. When he, himself, asserts that Odysseus’ periplus in the Greek sea is myth rather than logos, then the philosopher desires control over the multiple and his knowledge provides him with it. Power, always had an interest in persuading us that everything is rational. That in the beginning was the Logos, the Word, the whole, the One, and that there is One truth.

It appears that the hypothesis of an originating ambiguity, diaspora, or multiplicity functions better as a productive fantasy to construct unity and the One. Rational thought has had many such constructs (polis, civitas, state, and recently, global village) in the past and the history of these well-ordered systems seems today like a configuration of islands in an endless sea. The order in which we live is probably an exception, and from a logical perspective, failed efforts are the rule. A wise man should, therefore, in the history of these constructs of rationality, include the shipwrecks that cast their shadow upon them.

Where disorder is the rule, it is order that is rare, improbable. The rationality that animates man is nothing more than the edge of a nebula, the pull of a whirlpool, a fold of chaos. Ultimately, science is always, in spite of Aristotle, knowledge of the occurrence, the improbable, the exception. It is—in the terminology of the conference—island knowledge, sporadic. However, even the true archetypes of nature have an island character and can a fortiori be born of a vortex, a tempest, a furtuna (fortune), as well as of the chance events that constitute their foundations, rather than from Platonic ideas. Rational logos is an Archi-pelago: islets of emerging negative entropy in a sea of uncertainty and indetermination.

The miracle of rational thought makes its historical appearance for the first time in the form of the Greek Archi-pelago, thus, at the same time, referring to its sporadic structure. The form (Olympian gods, geometry, polis, oikos) is the improbable, the miracle in relation to the terrifying Dionysian foundation that inundates, again and again, like an ocean hurricane, every differentiation and individualization. Disorder is always on the verge of order; the storm can erupt at any moment and envelop the island. In any case, the sea erodes the island little by little, and anything old upon it as well. Who, however, knows exactly what is happening on the borders between earth and sea, order and disorder, noise and information, meaning and metaphor? We have no information regarding the sea and the dangers that threaten the island. The discussional is surrounded by the cloud of the irrational. Nevertheless, philosophy almost always oversees the island’s peaks, and more rarely its verge, where the boom of the sea disrupts the logos’ articulation.

II. The Emergence of the Archi-pelago

When the poet Friedrich Hölderlin turns his gaze to the land of Hyperion and Diotima, he will not just face the One, a mountainous and diverse peninsula. He will see the multiple, the Archipelago. Having abandoned Hegelian philosophy’s all-encompassing gaze, the poet will embark upon the vessel of poetry to sail to his beloved islands, where, sporadically, Western logos emerged out of the Dionysian Sturm-und-Drang. And as the ancient Greeks asserted that their concern was the salvation of phenomena, so too will the poet of the North-western current salvage the islands of the Archi-pelago from the shipwreck of historical lethe and will gather them into his poetic speech. The enumeration of the names will permit them to reappear through the surrounding noise of the sea.

None of your islands, your flowering islands, have yet been lost
Crete stands, and Salamis flourishes in the dull gleam of the laurel,
And at the hour of dawn, crowned with a shining wreath
Delos lifts her eager head, and Tenos and Chios
Have sufficient purple fruits, while from the drunken hills
The Cypriot wine wells up, and from Calabria
Just as before, silver streams flow to the father’s waters.
They all still live, the heroes’ mothers, the islands,
Flowering from year to year, and when some moments, from the abyss,
Abandoned, the flame of night, the subterranean storm,
Fell upon one of your beloved ones, and she would fall near death into your arms,
Oh divine one! You endured this, because above your dark
Depths many rose and then were lost.

Among them we also find the most beautiful island, Athens, the glorious city, since in the Archi-pelago’s cities the tumult of the sea is permanent. The sea swells do not stop at the coastline; they penetrate and mingle with the voices in the market. They infect the habits of land-dwellers and overturn the Law of the Earth. The disorder of the sea penetrates the order of the island, just like the island, in its turn, is born mid-sea.

Naturally, the Mediterranean, as the word explicitly reveals, alludes to its land and continental boundaries. It is not an ocean yet. This sea is not abstractly divided from the land. Both elements challenge and yearn for each other. The Archi-pelago is the location of a relationship, a place of discussions and disagreements among its numerous islands, its different individualities-rationalities. It is the unspoken means that divides and unites, and as such it escapes our notice.

Nevertheless, it has a direction, a destination, a destiny that guides it, according to G. Benn towards the darkness of the North, to the land of fog and obscurity. A hidden current sweeps it West and North, towards Nowhere, towards Utopia, transforming the Archi-pelago into a mapped body, a pass or footpath to new conquests, new Laws.

However, before being transformed into a non-place, the island remains a place of hospitality that does not reject the Other or the Multiple. Here, in the Archi-pelago, wandering from island to island has not yet become a method, it follows no plan. The Pelasgian Odysseus is still capable of encountering the multiple, he is curious about the multiple, but he is not a wise man, because he simply suffers from it without analytically and systematically investigating it. However, the wise man, who cultivates memory, investigates the multiple and seeks the common cause, the Heracleitian Xynon (common principle). He speculates regarding the common ancestry of all these islands of Homer’s white Aegean, the unspoken element that transforms multiplicity and diaspora into the unity of the Archipelago. Unspoken, because the truth of the Archi-pelago is nothing other than the journey towards unity, the voyage to the Logos common to all. Let us remember that logos in Ancient Greek signifies the relation between one and many, between fragment and unity, oikos and polis, an incorporation into a communication network, determining the differences and seeking the whole, communication amongst the various. No island is capable of expressing the logos of the Archi-pelago on its own. No separate individuality is capable of undertaking it without committing hubris, disrupting the dialogue. As the missing homeland, the center is everywhere, pushing each island individuality to surpass itself. Naturally, the lack of a center produces the utopia of the Islands of the Blest (Plato, The Republic, VII.b), the danger of yearning for the One, the perfect Republic, which oppresses the multiple. The wise man will recognize in the loss of place, the common destiny and the direction of modern Europe, which is moving in stops and starts from Pelasgian wandering to the discovery of open and “free seas” up to today’s adventure of the globalized “free market”.

The Greek Archi-pelago emerges bearing a double danger right from the beginning: one the one hand, of being assimilated into a hierarchically organized domain (dominated by the “cold monster” Leviathan, the law of the city), on the other hand, of being dispersed into inhospitable individualities, incapable of communicating amongst themselves (dominated here by the powers of the earth, the oikos, Behemoth).

Viewed through a mythical image of the Old Testament (Book of Job), the history of the cosmos appears as a constant battle between the powers of the sea, of Leviathan, and the powers of the earth, of Behemoth. These powers appear to have periodically balanced during antiquity, forming the Mediterranean Archi-pelago. This space was dominated for a time by a community of island-cities constantly sailing towards and against each other on a voyage whose purpose was a common logos. The state-island exists, naturally, as a divided whole, among the powers that consider the oikos their root, and those who praise the strength of their ships, among those who fear the divinity of the waves, and the others who seek to transform the sea into a footpath, a road. However, the thalassocratic hubris (mutiny, war), is still contained by the natural boundary, which stands in the way of its acquiring the abstract form of a single planetary space. It is also curbed by the moral law found inscribed on the pediment of the temple common to all the islands and cities of the archipelago, which calls upon each island individuality to self-awareness and self-restriction. Know thyself along with nothing in excess define a boundary, simultaneously aesthetic and moral: liberate yourself from the Infinite, develop your individuality, placing it on a foundation based on logos as a relationship, as the arduous task of harmonizing different wills for power. The moral law of the Archi-pelago calls upon each island individuality to recognize within itself the multiple and not to be taken in by the hubris of the Absolute (Isle of Truth). Hence, the externality of the Archi-pelago is internal and enduring in each particular island. It is an internal sea with a Mediterranean image.

This double danger referred to previously, also exists in the Archi-pelago, it is already recorded in its ancestry and is expressed in the desire of each island-polis to exhaust all the possibilities of roaming eros, which has always driven the island soul to open waters. However, the Mediterranean’s Open and Out are simply one fold in the level of endurance we call the Archi-pelago. The wandering Odysseus, and Aeneas later, and Dante’s Odysseus as well, are not completely cut off from land. Not one of them considers the ship his oikos. The island has not yet been transformed into a vessel completely uprooted from land. The Island exists only in relation to the Archi-pelago.

III The Absolute Island as the New Holy Land
The separation between stable Land and free Sea marked the very beginning of the valid, until recently, European Public Law, which was to be overtaken by International Law in the 20th century.

The origin of the transcendent dimension that will proclaim the planet Earth to be the field of missions where difference will no longer take the forms of hosts (hospites) and guest (hospis), friend and stranger, refugee and asylum giver, as well as friend and enemy, derives from a momentous occasion, which took place in the form of the modern dialectic of Earth and Sea: the arrival of the wandering Odysseus in the Utopia of the New World, the Renaissance island, the New Atlantis.

For the first time in the history of mankind, during the 16th and 17th centuries, the “era of the great discoveries”, the contrast Land—Sea is assumed to be the foundation of a new global law of nations. We are no longer dealing with the enclosed Mediterranean, the Adriatic Sea or the Northern Ocean, but with the planet Earth and its Oceans. The British Isles were the first European country to dare to surmount the territorial and land-bound conscience, which ultimately reigned over every island or city-port up to the Middle Ages, deciding to define itself anew as a purely maritime organism. At the same time, this event constituted a fundamental change in the historical and political essence of the island concept. One now viewed only the Land from the sea as an inland, and an island will no longer be a piece of land detached from the continental whole, as the historian Arnold Toynbee asserted, but an element of the sea, similar to a fish or a ship. Edmund Burke characteristically said that Spain was nothing more than a whale stranded upon the coast of Europe. According to Jules Verne, a landsman views a ship as a piece of land, or a version of his home, floating upon the sea; the political thinker refers to a “floating piece of the territory of the state”. A warship appears to us as a floating fortress, and the British Isles as a castle demarcated by the sea, taking the place of a moat. For the maritime being however, all these are metaphors that have sprung from the imagination of a landsman’s brain. Benjamin Disraeli, the great politician and writer of the Victorian Age, grasping the historic change that ensued from Britain’s decision to respond to the call of the open seas, would say that the British Isles were no longer a part of Europe, and that Great Britain was more an Asiatic power than a European.

Leviathan, the great whale was on the move and was ready to seek other oceans, other countries. The British Isles ceased to view themselves under the terms of land law, and redefined themselves under new terms, such as those dealing with a base location and communication lines.

Suddenly, the sea was transformed from a domain of freedom into a footpath or road. The port, portus, ceased being an entry way into the oikos, and became the starting point of journeys headed towards the ocean’s far horizon. With the uprooting of the British Isles, and their transformation into a ship or into the changing center of a far-flung Kingdom, scattered along the entire length and breadth of the globe, Land Law lost its protective force for ever. The boundaries between place and law, state and individual, public and private, as well as between war and peace, or war and piracy began to waver.

The land is clear delimited by state borders. It is fully mapped and permits rational divisions. The sea, however, knows no other borders other than the coastlines. It is open to fishing, to trade, and to war as well. On the sea there are no holy places, no property, nor any justice other than the most uncompromising positive law. The sea contains an irrational or anarchical element, something “beyond good and evil”, which renders it unacceptable from the viewpoint of land Law. Already in John’s Revelation, we read that on an earth purified of sin, the heavenly Jerusalem, there will no longer be any sea: “And there was no more sea” (21.1). Additionally, Fernand Braudel, the historian of the Mediterranean, took this opportunity to remind us of a Turkish proverb: “Allah gave the land to the Muslims and the sea to the Unbelievers”. All this demonstrates that the sea was one form of the externality and shift of every law based on nature, i.e., on the natural conditions of life. The order, which exists in its domain, is purely sporadic, conventional, technical, and the unsubstantiated decision. This may be the reason why on ships, these new floating islands, the most ironclad law applies, in order to counterbalance internally what is missing on the open sea.

In the New Era, the island became the carrier of the territorial change for a new Law of Land and Sea, and the condition for the transition to the total displacement (Ent-ortung) modern technology contributes to. The redefinition of territory is now announced through a new word, which could have only been born then in England, and would subsequently transform into the emblem of an entire era: the Greek word Utopia. In Thomas More’s book (Concerning the highest state of the republic and the new island Utopia; 1516), which does not deal with the great questions of the time regarding the global character of the new seas and the freedom upon them, one, nevertheless, discerns for the first time the potential for a complete retraction of the places upon which all land laws had been founded in the past. For the wandering citizen of the Mediterranean, such a thing would be unthinkable. Because the idea of a global order did not exist in antiquity. In the Archi-pelago, each island perceived itself as the world, the oikos, and viewed everything outside itself either as something unimportant, or as something threatening or chaotic, which would have to be accepted as fate, or simply as prey it could seize.

Utopia does not simply signify a Nowhere, No Place (or Samuel Butler’s Erewhon [1872]), but the non-place in the sense of eu-topia in relation to which a-topia would comprise an even greater denial of place. The step that will lead, subsequently, during the 19th century, to the retraction of the maritime being and its transition to the industrial being, had already been decreed through this word, which began to cast its shadow upon a future gradually developing into the single “global village” of economy and skill. The great fish Leviathan will be transformed into a machine and later into an iron bird. Its domain now appears to have no end.

At the same time, Utopia is a reckless ship, ready for adventure at any moment, a stable Island, an Island embraced by the sea, and at the same time secure land, or more correctly: a new Holy Land. However, the Island of Utopia—just like rational thought—will succeed in become richer and stronger, only if it succeeds in controlling whatever surrounded it. And since New Atlantis’ truth is ecumenical, it would have to dominate everywhere. Its purpose is for the entire planet to become an Island, in the image of Bensalem in Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1627). The story of the perfect state, the story of the ideal State will be identified with the more and more complete internalization of organization and with a technical and scientific design that peaks when surpassing every multiplicity, every difference.

Here, on the new utopian island, an attempt is being made at reconciling knowledge (technology) and authority. In the Utopia of the depoliticized state, dominated by the ideal of a policy limited to administrative-procedural calculations, the image of the mortal-artificial god is born. Total control over nature, rather than the creation of “neo-natures” in the laboratories of the utopian island, constitutes part of the scientific plan, which is a replica of the divine work and no longer a Promethean stance.

The citizens of Utopia, while they have abandoned every concept of oikos, indubitably believe they have found their true homeland. Oikos and city, city and island, island and ship are fully equated here. Their Island constitutes an image of the One, towards which all the voyages attempted by the other islands of the new archipelago, the Ocean, head for. Absolute uniformity of behavior and the global equation of customs presage the global homogenization of today’s planet. Utopians, instead of learning to free themselves from chaos, as the citizens of the Mediterranean Archi-pelago used to, and thus give form to their life, are striving daily towards an equality that in the far future will make them members of the only great technical-scientific plan. Also, instead of offering symbolic hospitality to the new refugees of the global village, they are simply learning to tolerate the Other and the different. The Utopia of the New Age lives with the voracious promise of equality, which is the elimination of the dissimilar and the multiple. Utopia is the Island-truth that abolishes the Archi-pelago. Thus, the Island of Utopia would find its base in the then Great Island of America.

Then, during the 17th century, but now as well. In what direction is the new Leviathan now heading?


Hans Blumenberg, Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer (Shipwreck with Spectator), Frankfurt 1979.
Massimo Cacciari, The Archipelago, Greek language edition, Athens 1999, (Milan 1997).
———, Geophilosophy of Europe, Milan 1994.
Gilles Deleuze & Félix Guattari, Mille Platteaux (A Thousand Plateaus), Paris 1980.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Kritische Studienausgabe (1-15), Berlin 1980.
Michel Serres, Hermès IV, V, Paris 1977, 1980.
Carl Schmitt, Land und Meer (Land and Sea), Cologne 1981, (Leipzig 1942).
———, Der Nomos der Erde (The Nomos of the Earth), Berlin 1950.
———, “Beschleuniger wider Willen” (Involuntary Catalysts), Tumult 7/1983.

: Hans Blumenberg: Schiffbruch mit Zuschauer [Ναυάγιο με θεατή], Frankfurt 1979 / Massimo Cacciari: 1) Το Αρχιπέλαγος, Athens 1999 (Milan 1997) Γεω-φιλοσοφία της Ευρώπης , Μιλάνο 1994 / Carl Schmitt:: 1) Land und Meer [Στεριά και θάλασσα], Köln 1981 (Leipzig 1942) Der Nomos der Erde [Ο Νόμος της γης], Berlin 1950 / Beschleuniger wider Willen [Ακούσιοι επιταχυντές ], in Tumult 7/1983 / Nietzsche, Kritische Studienausgabe (1-15), Berlin 1980 / Deleuze/Guattari, Mille Platteaux [Χίλια επίπεδα], Paris 1980 / Michel Serres, Hermès IV, V, Paris 1977, 1980.

Dionyssis Kavvadas, PHILOSOPHER

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