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Tag Archives: La città del sole

Virtual City of the Sun

How Philosophies Stand Citied

The City of the Solarians

Here we find a virtual model of Campanella’s utopian City of the Sun (1602), written of in the year that he received his life sentence for a leadership role in a local failed revolution in Calabria, apparently with the anticipated help of the Turkish fleet, (not to mention astrological, millenial confluence). Bruno had been burned at the stake two years before (Campo de’ Fiori, Feburary 17th), an event which for some marked the end of the Renaissance, and the birth of Modern times. Campanella, not relegated to the heretical flames, rather employed a legal strategy of feigned insanity, the endurance of torture, and then decades of imprisonment, inspired writings to forward his quest for religio-political “mutatione”. The city is taken to be a blueprint for the kind of communitarian state Campanella hoped to help establish in impoverished Calabria.

What I am taken by, as I have recently been thinking about the prescriptions for society that tend to flow from Lacanian inspired analysts, is how each and every philosophical complex, as it seeks to explain the world coherently, and fulfills what Walter Benjamin called its Representational role, cannot help but enter a citadel dimension…that is, carve out a conceptual space in which we are meant to live.

Campanella conceived his city, archetecturally, as a Representation of the Universe. A Representation, and an expression. In a kind of sympathetic magic the 7 walls represented the 7 circuits of the planets. Further though, on each of the walls were fresco depictions of knowledge from every science so that the entire city, and its inhabitants manifested the discourses that shaped them:

As one traveled a circuit of a wall, one enacted a planetary course, absorbed a degree of knowledge. It is in particular the nature of these heavily defensive walls, the representive, expressional nature of them that fascinates me.

Rorty pointed out that to a great degree the ontological is a product of a fundamental ontology/epistemology divide, one governed by a primary metaphor of reflection. What we can and do know is supposed to be a mirror of, a corresponding aspect of what IS. And once this metaphor is given up, so is something of the ontological question. One is then left with either just epistemology, or just ontology, but not both.

This is only partly right. Much as in Campanella’s walls, the discourse of knowledge assumes an ontological dimension which Causes what we hold to be the case. Any theory works as a witness, engaged in the world, bringing it into relief, and organizing our place within it. The “walls” of any theory (its internal coherence), didactically tell us how the world is (ideologically), manifest essential aspects of the world (participating in its expression), and buttress the space they have created (coherence). It is a community of visions for those that inhabit it. The phraseologies, deductions, defintions all circulate to establish a civic realm. It is u-topia, in the sense that it is No-place, in particular, even if it is given an address in history. The ontologies of even the most post-structural and avant gaurde, are expressed not only in their ontological commitments, but if their very causal connection to the shared world. Even multiplicites stand carved and frescoed.

How many times have you traversed a text (Semper’s textile), passed your eye back and forth as you crossed it, on your way, aware of where you were, and were going, yet pleasurably puzzled over the signification, this figure of a phrase, this nexus of a meaning-logic, positioned on a city-scape on a landscape, knowing that others pass beside you?

There is a sense, in philosophy, where the invitation is ever…here, live in this world, Heideggerian, Foucaultian, Fregian, Lacanian, Wittgensteinian, Spinozist, Nietzschean, Sartean, Kantian, Augustinian, Deleuzian, Humean, Whiteheadian, Lucretian etc., etc., etc. It is not that philosophy is LIKE city-building, or architecture, or that the products of philosophy are helpfully applied to ways of living, modes of social building. It is likely best to say that philosophy is borne of the architectural impulse, the very space-organizing, living conceptions that first orient the species-organism. Philosophy is a kind of compass-work and an οἶκος. 

We might say as well that Tommaso Campanella in his commitment to legal insanity and utopian closure, enacted the very limit at which the philosopher operates. Architecturally outside of what she/he is inscribing, seeking to express herself/himself within what causes the inscription. Prescriptions to lives and society are immanent to the walls of structure and connection. The philosophical impulse is territorial.

And who is to build the City of the Lunarians? Where do you wish to live?

English Text of Campanella’s City of the Sun

From its end:

Sea Captain: [Speaking of Catholic Spainish power in the New World]…They sought new regions for lust of gold and riches, but God works to a higher end. The sun strives to burn up the earth, not to produce plants and men, but God guides the battle to great issues. His the praise, to Him the glory!

Grand Master: Oh, if you knew what our astrologers say of the coming age, and of our age, that has in it more history within 100 years than all the world had in 4,000 years before! of the wonderful inventions of printing and guns, and the use of the magnet, and how it all comes of Mercury, Mars, the Moon, and the Scorpion!

Sea Captain: Ah, well! God gives all in His good time. They astrologize too much.