Murderers of the Real: Transaesthetics and the Art of Holiness

Philotheos 21 (Essays in Honor of Bogoljub Sija):666-692 (2021)
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Abstract

This paper explores the ontology of the beautiful from the standpoint of competing logics, i.e., ways of speaking the Logos. The first is a theo-logic centered on the analogy of being, which uniquely regards reality as Logos—a structured hierarchy of the real, a ‘Who’ rather than a ‘What’—which provides an ontology of beauty as desirable being, and ultimately, the desirable Being. The correct response to reality is thus holiness, the sacral separateness of God imparted to, and thus borrowed by and reflected through, creatures. The competing logic is what Baudrillard calls the simulacral, in which the real is suspended by its own model; the image exposes the poverty of the real and causes it to disappear altogether, revealing a transaesthetics of banality and indifference, a totalizing counterfeit of the real that is beyond real difference, beyond Logos—and therefore beyond structured hierarchy, beyond beauty and ugliness. The simulated real is thus the world of the spectacle, the world as product of consumer gaze. A way to repudiate the simulation, the murderous image, to uncover the real always and already grounding the image is to return to Logos: to emplace the image in a hierarchically relational context within Logos. The upshot is that, when so emplaced, the gaze of the image tells a different story: the world is not one of consumerist spectacle but of mutual self-gifting. Amidst the barbarism of the dislocated consumer ego, we can conscientiously commune with neighbor and turn away from what Augustine termed "fellowship with the demons."

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