Archive for the Philosophy Category


Posted in Painting, Philosophy with tags , , on July 27, 2014 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

A traveler in thirteenth-century France met three men pushing wheelbarrows along the road. He asked them what manner of work they were doing and received the following three answers: The first said, “I toil from sunup to sundown and all I get for my pains is a few pennies each day.” The second said, “I am glad enough to push this barrow for I have been long out of work and have a family to feed.” The third said, “I am building the cathedral of Chartres!”

Slightly adapted from Ben Shahn, The Shape of Content
Painting by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot


Posted in Painting, Philosophy with tags , on July 25, 2014 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Mainonides, 1954

The Regiment of Pleasure

Posted in Philosophy, Poetry with tags on July 18, 2014 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Do not speak of guilt, do not speak of responsibility. When the Regiment of Pleasure passes by, with music and flags; when the senses quiver and tremble, whoever stands apart is foolish and impertinent: whoever does not rush to join the good crusade, to the conquest of pleasures and of passions.

All the laws of morals — as ill-considered as they are ill-constructed — are naught and cannot stand fast even for a moment, when the Regiment of Pleasure passes by accompanied by music and by flags.

Do not let a single shadowy virtue stop you. Do not believe that a single commitment binds you. Your duty is to give in, give in always to your longings, which are the most perfect creations of perfect gods. Your duty is to fall in, a faithful soldier, with simplicity of heart, when the Regiment of Pleasure passes by accompanied by music and by flags.

Do not shut yourself inside your house and deceive yourself with theories of justice, with the superstitions about reward held by ill-made societies. Do not say, My toil is worth so much, and so much I’m due to enjoy. Since life is an inheritance and you had nothing to do to earn it, so an inheritance, too, must Pleasure necessarily be. Do not shut yourself inside your house; but keep the window open, completely open, so that you might hear the first sounds of the passing of the soldiers, when there arrives the Regiment of Pleasure accompanied by music and by flags.

Do no be deceived by the blasphemers who tell you that this service is risky and toilsome. Service to Pleasure is a constant joy. It exhausts you, but it exhausts you with heavenly intoxications. And when at last you fall down in the street, even then your fate is to be envied. When your funeral procession passes by, the Shapes that your longings fashioned will cast tulips and white roses on your coffin, and onto their shoulders the youthful Gods of Olympus will lift you, and they will entomb you in the Cemetery of the Ideal where the mausoleums of poetry gleam white.

Smoking is Cool #30

Posted in Art, Philosophy, Smoke with tags , on October 27, 2013 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Photo by Laure Albinguillot
“Everything changes except the avant garde.”

What You Need

Posted in Music, Philosophy with tags , on October 25, 2013 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

“Money isn’t everything. You need a little bit of money, and a whole lotta love.”

Smoking is Cool #29

Posted in Music, Philosophy, Smoke with tags on October 25, 2013 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”

Gorey Determinist

Posted in Philosophy, Photo with tags , on September 24, 2013 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

I disagree with the quotation about the saddest words of tongue or pen being what might have been. I don’t think anything might have been. What is, is. That’s the whole idea. Any other idea is remote, such as, “Oh, if only things had been different, Jeanette and I would be gliding down the Nile in a gondola,” or “Harold and I would be in Antarctica together,” or “I would be a famous movie star.” All of this is absolute nonsense. What is, is, and what might have been could never have existed.

The Core of Loneliness

Posted in Philosophy with tags on May 18, 2013 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

“…the loneliness of the human soul is unendurable; nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of the sort of love that religious teachers have preached; whatever does not spring from this motive is harmful, or at best useless; it follows that war is wrong, that a public school education is abominable, that the use of force is to be deprecated, and that in human relations one should penetrate to the core of loneliness in each person and speak to that.”

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell
18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970

Allan Kaprow – Manifesto

Posted in Art, Philosophy with tags on November 16, 2012 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

Once, the task of the artist was to make good art; now it is to avoid making art of any kind. Once, the public and critics had to be shown; now the latter are full of authority and the artists are full of doubts.

The history of art and of aesthetics are on all bookshelves. To this pluralism of values, add the current blurring of boundaries dividing the arts, and dividing art and life; and it is clear that the old questions of definition and standards of excellence are not only futile but naive. Even yesterday’s distinction between art, anti-art and non-art are pseudo-distinctions which simply waste our time: the side of an old building recalls Clifford Still’s canvases, the guts of a dishwashing machine doubles as Duchamp’s “Bottle Rack,” voices in a train station are Jackson Mac Low’s poems, the sounds of eating in a luncheonette are by John Cage, and all may be part of a Happening. Moreover, as the “found object” implies the found-word, -noise or -action, it also demands the found-environment. Art not only becomes life, but life refuses to be itself.

The decision to be an artist thus assumes both the existence of a unique activity and an endless series of deeds which deny it. The decision immediately establishes the context within which all of one’s acts may be judged by others as art, and also conditions one’s perception of all experience as probably (not possibly) artistic. Anything I say, do, notice, or think, is art – whether or not desired – because everyone else aware of what is occurring today will probably (not possibly) say, do, notice, and think of it, as art at some time or other.

This makes the identification of oneself as an artist an ironic one, attesting not to talent for a specialized skill, but to a philosophical stance before elusive alternatives of not-quite-art, or not-quite-life. “Artist” refers to a person willfully enmeshed in the dilemma of categories, who performs as if none of them existed. If there is no clear difference between an Assemblage with sound and a “noise” concert with sights, then there is no clear difference between an artist and a junkyard dealer.

Although it is a commonplace to do so, bringing such acts and thoughts to the gallery, museum, concert hall, stage or serious bookshop, blunts the power inherent in an arena of paradoxes. It restores that sense of aesthetic certainty which these milieux once proclaimed in a philistine society, just as much as it evokes a history of cultural expectations that run counter to the poignant and absurd nature of art today. Conflict with the past automatically ensues.

But obviously this is not the issue. The contemporary artist is not out to supplant recent modern art with a better kind; he wonders what art might be. Art and life are not simply conmingled; their identities are both uncertain. To pose these questions in the form of acts that are neither art-like nor life-like, while at the same time locating them within the framed context of the conventional showplace, is to suggest that there are really no uncertainties at all: the name on the gallery or stage door assures us that whatever is contained within is art, and everything else is life.

Speculation. Professional philosophy of the twentieth century has generally removed itself from problems of human conduct and purpose, and plays instead art’s late role as professionalistic activity; it could aptly be called philosophy for philosophy’s sake. Existentialism for this reason is assigned a place closer to social psychology than to philosophy per se, by a majority of academicians for whom ethics and metaphysics are a definitional and logical inquiry at best. Paul Valéry, acknowledging philosophy’s self-analytic tendency, and wishing to salvage from it something of value, suggests that even if Plato and Spinoza can be refuted, their thoughts remain astonishing works of art. Now, as art becomes less art, it takes on philosophy’s early role as critique of life. Even if its beauty can be refuted, it remains astonishingly thoughtful. Precisely because art can be confused with life, it forces attention upon the aim of its ambiguities to “reveal” experience.

Philosophy will become steadily more impotent in its search for verbal knowledge, so long as it fails to recognize its own findings: that only a small fraction of the words we use are precise in meaning; and only a smaller proportion of these contain meanings in which we are vitally interested. When words alone are no true index of thought, and when sense and nonsense today rapidly become allusive and layered with implication rather than description, the use of words as tools to precisely delimit sense and nonsense may be a worthless endeavor. LSD and LBJ invoke different meaning clusters, but both partake of a need for code; and code performs the same condensing function as symbol in poetry. TV “snow” and Muzak in restaurants are accompaniments to conscious activity which, if suddenly withdrawn, produce a feeling of void in the human situation. Contemporary art, which tends to “think” in multi-media, intermedia, overlays, fusions and hybridizations, is a closer parallel to modern mental life than we have realized. Its judgements, therefore, may be acute. “Art” may soon become a meaningless word. In its place, “communications programming” would be a more imaginative label, attesting to our new jargon, our technological and managerial fantasies, and to our pervasive electronic contact with one another.

March 1966


Posted in Philosophy, Writing with tags on June 22, 2012 by Dylan Thomas Hayden

I want to tear down the exceptional preeminence now generally awarded to the self, and I pledge to be spurred on by concrete certainty, and not the caprice of an ideological ambush or a dazzling intellectual prank. I propose to prove that personality is a mirage maintained by conceit and custom, without metaphysical foundation or visceral reality. I want to apply to literature the consequences that issue from these premises, and erect upon them an aesthetic hostile to the psycochologism inherited from the last century, sympathetic to the classics, yet encouraging to today’s most unruly tendencies.

–Jorge Luis Borges, from ‘The Nothingness of Personality’, 1922


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