Interview with a Scientist of Cannibalsm

Cătălin Avramescu ist Politik- und Sozialwissenschaftler und hat die historische Bedeutung des Kannibalismus in der Geschichte Europas und in der Entstehung der modernen Zivilgesellschaft untersucht, darüber ein Buch namens „Intellectual History of Cannibalism“ geschrieben, über das er in einem superspannenden Interview mit dem Cabinet Magazine so einiges erzählt, es geht um Philosophie, Politik, Geschichte und Menschenfresser. Hach! Das Buch habe ich mir selbstredend grade eben bestellt.

Cannibalism was often taken as a “thought experiment,” much like Maxwell’s demon or Schrödinger’s cat. Philosophers have often fantasized about human flesh and the dire necessity that could compel a human being to eat another human being, though they have almost never observed it directly. Sometimes they even imagined situations that are plainly impossible, like that of the sailors adrift in a boat who supposedly cast lots to choose one to be sacrificed. In real circumstances, they would die of thirst long before dying of hunger. That said, I am reluctant to draw a sharp distinction between “real” and “imagined” or “symbolic” cannibalism. There is no separate Ding an Sich of anthropophagy, one that is not preceded by need, fear, or lust, or one that does not leave in its wake guilt, pleasure, or terror. On the other hand, actual cannibalism always lurks at the periphery of our sanitized, modern world of representations. A few years ago, a collection of photos from World War II was declassified. These pictures were so extreme that they had been kept in a vault at the Finnish Ministry of Defense for more than sixty years. Among the atrocities frozen in time by the camera are images of cannibalism in the ranks of Soviet soldiers.

Philosophy was once the art of asking extreme, dangerous questions. The task of the philosopher is not simply to argue, as much of contemporary academic philosophy would want us to believe, but also to convince, to move, to stir and, eventually, to shake us to the core. This is the point where the cannibal enters the scene. He asks questions about the identity of the individual when the subject is on the verge of dissolution. He explores the possibility of an ethics without morals. He is the operator of anarchy on the background of social order. Philosophers have often entered the city under different guises, as foreigners, travelers, cynics, or unbelievers. The cannibal is just a part of a larger and complex history. He is not pleasant to look at. Yet, he opens for us the possibility of thinking anew about our values. To be on the cutting edge of thinking: that was the uncomfortable trade of the philosopher. That, I imagine, is to be a free spirit. It is to find food for thought where no one is looking. Or where everybody has been turned away.

The Raw and the Cooked: An Interview with Cătălin Avramescu (via Boing Boing)

Amazon-Partnerlink: Intellectual History of Cannibalism