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HUMANITIES 56} Tom Darby. The Feast: Meditations on Politics and Time University of Toronto Press. xvi, 234. $27.50 The presiding deity of this strange book is Hades, the God of Death and Lord of the Underworld. At least, that is my guess at the riddle which its title presents. Nowhere in the book is the title explained - and this must be deliberate, since it has always had this title, and I expressed my bewilderment about it to the author when I saw the first draft (I am not sure whether the printed book is the fourth or the fifth version that I have read). But [ take the 'Feast' to be human life itself regarded as a Greek sacrifice, in which humanity is the priest, the victim, and the rejoicing participants. In that case, the God of the feast has to be Hades, since he is the only Olympian who has triumphed over time (in Darby's version). Cronos, the God of the Golden Age, is a Titan whom free men cannot worship, even when they have confused him with Chronos (Time) - as Darby would like to. Perhaps it is Man himself who is the intended God of Darby's feast (in addition to all of his other roles); but in that case, he is here only as the 'unknown God.' The divine man appears to exist for Darby only as a dream (the 'androgyne' of Boehme's Kingdom of Heaven) or a nightmare (the 'japanized man' of Kojeve's post-historic world). Darby may end by proclaiming himself a sincerely committed votary of Feuerbach's religion of humanity. But for the present he is only 'doubting Thomas'; so it is only Hades whose presence at his feast can be securely affirmed. (I wonder if he is aware of Holderlin's use of the 'feast day' image in Friedensfeier?) I have begun with this central enigma, because it is for the intellectual stimulus and excitement of its suggestions, its intimations, its unsolved problems, and even its direct and flagrant contradictions, that this book is chiefly to be valued. [ will try now to give a bird's-eye view of its topical range. Darby begins with a discussion of Rousseau. But instead of telling us how Rousseau ought to be interpreted, he analyses three conflicting prior interpretations, and then seeks to show why Rousseau's work is bound to give rise to this sort of interpretive conflict. Rousseau, according to Darby, is a thinker at odds with himself (the reader will readily see why Darby himself is attracted to him). From Rousseau he passes to the ideology of the French Revolution regarded as the end of historic time, and the beginning of a new age of man. Against the background of this picture of how a revolution generates its own myth, he sketches the evolution of German idealism as the ideology of a revolution that did not happen. The focal figure in this phase of his work is officially Hegel. But like many interpreters before him, Darby has written not about Hegel, but about another person of the same name. I! is not the man who was born in Stuttgart in 1770 and died in Berlin in 1831 whom we meet in The Feast, but a spiritual being who first 564 LETTERS IN CANADA 1982 manifested himself in Paris about a century after that historic person died. Darby's real subject is 'Kojeve's Hegel'; and 'Kojeve's Hegel' learned the fundamental tenets of his philosophical anthropology from Feuerbach and Heidegger. The historic Hegel did not suffer under the disadvantage of having had these teachers. There is another Hegel in Darby's book; but he also is a phantom. Kojeve inherited the task of interpreting Hegel from Koyre - who prepared the ground for the study of the Phenomenology by examining the Jena manuscripts. This caused Koyn, to recognize the importance of Boehme's influence on Hegel, and his insight became part of Kojeve's legacy to Darby. Darby's account of this influence is one of the best things in his book (though he manages to outdo Boehme himself in obscurity when he dubs him a 'protheomorph' (p 124); and his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 563-564
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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