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1931 __ « Man is a beast of prey »
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936)
Comment : In the first century Plutarch expostulated with youth about the exertion of speech to the detriment of listening: to listen extempore is ill-advised! ‘He who plays the ball simultaneously learns to throw it and to catch it, but when it comes to speech, on the contrary, reception takes precedence of deliverance, just as conception and pregnancy precede birth.’ In 1931 Oswald Spengler showed vision as the Nordic predator’s sense par excellence, hearing as the prey’s. (Spengler, Oswald (1931), “Der Mensch und die Technik: Beitrage zu einer Philosophie des Lebens”). Between 1918 and 1922 ‘Spengler saw in the downfall of the West the promise of a golden age of engineers’ (Adorno 1951, “Minima Moralia: Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben”, In “Gesammelte Schriften IV”, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1980). (Carlos Palombini, “Musique Concrète Revisited”, In Electronic Musicological Review, UFPr Arts Department, Vol. 4, June 1999)In 1931, Oswald Spengler published “Man and Technics - a contribution to a philosophy of life”, which warned against the dangers of technology and industrialism to culture. He especially pointed to the tendency of Western technology to spread to hostile "Colored races" that would then use the weapons against the West. It was poorly received because of its anti-industrialism. This book contains the well-known Spengler quote, "Ideal is cowardice.". (Compiled from various sources)
French comment : Autant Spengler admire l'homme prédateur primitif qui met à contribution son regard d'aigle et ses mains d'artisan pour assurer sa survie et celle de son espèce, dans le cadre restreint où il est exposé à la plus dure nécessité biologique, autant il se montre sévère pour le prédateur contemporain, le «prêtre-expert de la Machine». Sa thèse est que grâce à son intelligence, elle-même associée à son oeil et à sa main, l'homme a pu être le prédateur des prédateurs, et tout au long de son histoire, le maître de la technique entendue comme tactique de survie et de domination. Spengler est aussi amené à distinguer la technique non seulement de la Machine, mais de l'instrument, de l'outil en général: «Il y a d'innombrables techniques dans lesquelles aucun instrument n'intervient: par exemple, celle d'un lion imposant sa supériorité à la gazelle, ou celle de la diplomatie; ou, encore, la technique administrative qui consiste à maintenir l'intégrité formelle et fonctionnelle d'un État en vue des luttes de la politique. Il y aussi les techniques de la guerre des gaz et de la guerre chimique. Toute confrontation avec un problème crée le besoin d'une technique appropriée. Il y a une technique du coup de pinceau du peintre, de l'équitation, de la navigation aérienne. C'est toujours une question de comportement intéressé, dirigé vers un but, mais jamais de choses ni d'objets». Spengler a fait l’éloge de l’homme en tant que prédateur dans un livre paru en Allemagne en 1931 sous le titre de “L’homme et la technique”. Dans le même ouvrage, l’auteur du Déclin de l’Occident donne cette définition tranchante et troublante de la technique: la main armée. [...] Autant Spengler admire l’homme prédateur primitif qui met à contribution son regard d’aigle et ses mains d’artisan pour assurer sa survie et celle de son espèce, dans le cadre restreint où il est exposé à la plus dure nécessité biologique, autant il se montre sévère pour le prédateur contemporain, le «prêtre-expert de la Machine». La hiérarchie, à l’origine, la soumission du faible au fort, s’accompagnait d’une coopération intelligente, d’une espèce de camaraderie, d’un ordre voisin de celui que l’on observe aujourd’hui dans le domaine du sport. «À présent, nous dit Spengler, depuis le XVIIIe siècle, d’innombrables «Mains» oeuvrent à des choses dont l’intérêt véritable dans la vie (même en ce qui les concerne) leur échappe totalement, et dans la création desquelles ces «Mains» n’ont par conséquent aucune part intime. Une stérilité de l’esprit prend naissance et se propage, une uniformité glaciale, sans relief ni profondeur. Et l’amertume s’éveille à l’encontre de la vie dont profitent exclusivement ceux qui sont doués, les créateurs-nés. Les hommes ne sont plus en mesure de discerner, ni de comprendre que le travail des chefs est le plus difficile, ni que leur vie à eux est tributaire du succès de ce travail. Ils ressentent simplement, d’une manière confuse, que ce travail satisfait ceux qui s’y consacrent, harmonisant et enrichissant leur âme, et c’est pourquoi ils les haïssent ». (Jacques Dufresne, “La Conception de Spengler”).
Original excerpt : « Five.Since when has this type of the "inventive carnivore" existed ? Or, what comes to the same thing, since when there been men ? What is man ? And how did he come to be man ? The answer is -- through the genesis of the hand. Here is a weapon unparalleled in the world of free-moving life. Compare with it the paw, the beak, the horns, teeth, and tail-fins of other creatures. To begin with, the sense of touch is concentrated in it to such a degree that it can almost be called the organ of touch, in the sense that the eye is the organ of vision, and the ear of hearing. It distinguishes not only hot and cold, solid and liquid, hard and soft, but, above all, weight, form, and position of resistances, etc. -- in short, "things in space". But, over and above this function, the "activity" of living is gathered into it so completely that the whole bearing and allure of the body has -- simultaneously -- taken shape in accordance with it. There is nothing in the whole world that can be set beside this member, capable equally of touch and action. To the eye of the beast of prey which regards the world "theoritically" is added the hand of man which commands it "practically". [...] This [...] brings us to the fundamental error of those worn foes of Romanticism, the rationalists, who are for ever chasing the idea that what the sentence expresses is a "judgment" or a "thought". They sit at their writing tables, surrounded by books, and research into the minutiæ of "their own" thoughrs and writings. Consequently the "thought" appears to them as the "object" of the speaking, and (since usually they sit alone" they forget that beyond the speaking there is a hearing, beyond a question an answer, beyond an Ego a Tu. They say "speech" but what they mean is the oration, the lecture, the discourse. Their view of the origin of speech is, therefore, false, for they look upon it as "monologue". [...]There is a Nordic world-feeling, reaching from England to Japan, which is full of joy just because of the burden of human destiny. One challenges it for the sake of conquering it, and one goes under proudly should it prove stronger than one's own will. This was the attribute depicted in the old, genuine parts of the Mahabharata which tell of the fight between the Kurus and Pandus; in Homer, Pindar, and Aeschylus; in the Germanic sagas and in Shakespeare; in certain songs of the Chinese Shu king, and in the world of the Samurai. It is the tragic view of life, which is not yet dead, but will blossom anew in the future just as it blossomed in the World War. All the very great poets of the Nordic Cultures have been tragedians, and tragedy, from ballad and epic onward, has been the deepest form of this brave pessimism. The man who is incapable of experiencing or enduring tragedy can never be a figure of world significance. He cannot make history unless he experiences it as it really is - tragic, permeated by destiny, and in consequence meaningless, aimless, and unmoral in the eyes of the worshippers of utility. It marks the parting of the ways between the superior and subordinate ethos of human existence. The individual's life is of importance to none besides himself: the point is whether he wishes to escape from history or give his life for it. History recks nothing of human logic. Thunderstorms, earthquakes, lava-streams: these are near relatives of the purposeless, elemental events of world history. Nations may go under, ancient cities of ageing Cultures burn or sink in ruins, but the earth will continue to revolve calmly round the sun, and the stars to run their courses. Man is a beast of prey [Spengler, Man and Technics, pp. 19 et seq.]. I shall say it again and again. All the would-be moralists and social-ethics people who claim or hope to be "beyond all that" are only beasts of prey with their teeth broken, who hate others on account of the attacks which they themselves are wise enough to avoid. Only look at them. They are too weak to read a book on war, but they herd together in the street to see an accident, letting the blood and the screams play on their nerves. And if even that is too much for them, they enjoy it on the film and in the illustrated papers. If I call man a beast of prey, which do I insult: man or beast? For remember, the larger beasts of prey are noble creatures, perfect of their kind, and without the hypocrisy of human moral due to weakness. » (Oswald Spengler, “The Hour Of Decision - Part One: Germany And World Historical Evolution, 1. The Political Horizon”, London, 1934)
Source : Spengler, Oswald (1931), “Man and Technics”, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932.
Source : Spengler, Oswald (1931), “Der Mensch und die Technik: Beitrage zu einer Philosophie des Lebens”, München: Beck’sche.
Urls : http://home.alphalink.com.au/~radnat/spengler/hourtwo.html (last visited ) http://www.rem.ufpr.br/REMv4/vol4/arti-palombini.htm (last visited ) http://www.scribd.com/doc/14576994/Oswald-Spengler-Man-Technics (last visited ) http://agora.qc.ca/reftext.nsf/Documents/Technique--La_conception_de_Spengler_par_Jacques_Dufresne (last visited )

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