Walking in the footsteps of Nicolás Gómez Dávila

When a writer boldly describes himself as a “reactionary” who publicly declares his Catholic faith, contradiction is inevitable. It’s now the second email in a very short time that someone has been directed at – and worked through – Nicolas Gómez Davila. After attorney Detlev Peltz, he is now the well-known philosopher Vittorio Hussle. He had been dealing with the Colombian writer for many years, devouring him first on a sleepless night at an altitude of more than 2,600 meters in Bogota. Like him, Hussle is Catholic – but not a reactionary, but a left-liberal Hegelian. Or so it seems. Because Hösle, too, often changes the views and views of his predecessor and role model, but often changes them slightly or brings additions that are perfectly in line with the critical South American ethos of the culture.

Hösle gives his readers a detailed introduction, which first evokes the “legend” of Gómez Dávila as the peculiar head of an intellectually aristocratic character, and then briefly reviews his life. It also touches on the influences of the Renouveau catholique during French-influenced education in Paris in the 1920s, but also asserts that Gómez Dávila’s Catholicism was “anything but a simple form of traditionalism”. Revered as a great psychologist in the wake of Nietzsche, Hussle largely corrects the image of the only thinker Martin Mosbach, citing the extensive library and then outlining the work. Even if the so-called scholia (glosses) are in the foreground in this book, Hösle asserts with some justification that his “Notas” seems to him the most wonderful – because here Gomez Davila considers his average performance and describes himself as “a caricature of great intelligence” !

“Because God is either the generating principle of philosophy, or he is not.”

As a philosopher, Hösle has a very broad horizon – and he has methodological demands that Gómez Dávila does not want and does not want to fulfill. Therefore, the use of the aphorism as a literary form poses a particular challenge to him. Contrary to what is often believed, an aphorism does not necessarily represent a fragmented view of things, although conservative authors clearly favor its use as a method of reasoning. As a system thinker, Hösle praises and criticizes wisdom. On the one hand, it reduces complexity, which is necessary. On the other hand, it simplifies what is irresponsible. Hence the need for a “counter aphorism”, which expresses the contradiction and thus enables dialogue.

How does Hösle look now? He always quotes a saying, gloss, aphorism from Gómez Dávila, and then adds an aphorism, appendix, or explanation to it. He does this, for example, by quoting: facts contradict only when they are put into chaos. From this, Hösle draws a very elegant conclusion that only system can determine facts “their place in the order of existence”, which is why system alone can protect “even the most honest aphorisms from fratricidal conflict”. According to Hussle, the adage is “the physical healer of a system regulator” – because the latter needs a counter-provocation of the system in order to prevent the system itself from becoming unreal. But every system is exposed to this danger, because no system that sees the truth as a whole can do anything to change the fact that all our knowledge is and is patched. Here, Gomez Davila is sure to side with Johann Georg Hamann against Hussle and Systematic Thinking.

There’s more in common than Hösle likes to admit

The author repeatedly alludes to his differences with Gomez Davila, but they are differences in productive anger. After all, who is the author really worth getting upset about? Hösle interprets this as a compliment to his faults, and is pleased that Gómez Dávila hasn’t become as trendy and boring in the end as Nietzsche. As a result, “amazing and rejuvenating effects” remained possible. When Gómez Dávila says that he has no claim to originality and that old banality suffices him, Hösle sees his “modest authenticity” toward the Colombian in the fact that vulgarity suffices him only if it is true. But this is also the unspoken implication of Gomez Davila’s original sentence.

And when Don Nicholas believes that no one can teach a true Christian anything about the knowledge of human nature, the Catholic Hussle asserts that a Christian “urgently needs a philosophical theology that the Bible does not impart to him.” He hits a sore point with Gómez Davila, who was critical of scholasticism in general, and Thomas Aquinas for his dislike of philosophical theology. According to Gómez Dávila, God believes in humans, but Hösle objects that one should not ascribe faith to God, but knowledge – knowledge “of the many who believe in him and the few who know him.” According to Hosley Noor, could it be a matter of finding a place for God in philosophy, as this would amount to insulting God: “For God is either the generating principle of philosophy, or he is not.”

Not yet decided: Who will direct the most intense cultural criticism?

Also at another point, Hösle tries to develop an idea of ​​Gómez Dávila that makes sense. Thus, he says, Christianity did not invent the concept of sin, but rather the concept of forgiveness. But the latter insists that this discovery of forgiveness only makes sense if one defends the concept of sin more stubbornly than those religions that only know sin but do not know forgiveness.

Hussle ends his book with an open question: “Whether the industry of postmodern culture attracts more rubbish or creates more of itself is one of the mysteries I like to leave hesitant about.” She succinctly added that she froze to death on talk shows, could leave it open with a clear conscience, which of the two intellectuals now offers a sharper cultural critique. In any case, Husslis is convinced: “A Christian who does not want to be unfaithful to the duty of self-improvement needs a lightness against the vulgarity of modernity.”


Vittorio Husley: A Conversation with Gomez Davila. Counter proverbs, variations, and corollaries.
Zu Klampe Verlag, 200 pages, ISBN-13: 978-386674-833-0, €20.00

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