‘The Destructive Spirit’ A Reflection on Memory and Useless Literature

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José Luis Narvaja, SJ

 José Luis Narvaja, SJ / Church Thought / 6 September 2021


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The reflection we present has a purely platonic intent. When we use the expression “platonic love,” we do so to refer to ideal,  not personal love. But this is not entirely accurate. For Plato, love is eros, a search for goodness and truth. This search, however, cannot exist in isolation: it is only possible through dialectics, that is, through dialogue. Moreover, it is an infinite search, because it lasts until death. So, it is rather like the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise.

Yet Plato is not only of interest here because of his discourse on eros: his thought will reappear in our reflection as a context or as a horizon of understanding. We must not lose sight of this fact, which is almost methodological.

We have chosen to write about the “destructive spirit,” taking inspiration from an expression used by the German philosopher and literary critic Walter Benjamin, author of an article entitled “The Destructive Character.”[1] Benjamin’s expression recalled that of the Russian anarchist philosopher Mikhail Bakunin, who wrote of a “revolt that creates by destroying.” In this expression, his radically communist spirit seems to coincide with the core of the Christian message, which affirms that, if the grain of wheat does not die, it does not bear fruit, as the Jesuit Erich Przywara astutely pointed out.[2] We will see later the relationship between these two thinkers.

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