If the greatest philosopher in the world finds himself upon a plank wider than actually necessary, but hanging over a precipice, his imagination will prevail, though his reason convinces him of his safety. Many cannot bear the thought without a cold sweat. I will not state all its effects. (Pascal, Pensées)
This project explores phobia through twelve videos and many notes. Absurd fears, where there is nothing to fear really. Pascal’s philosopher standing on the plank above the abyss knows there is nothing to fear. He knows the plank is large enough. But it does not help. It is as if his vertigo were outside the reach of his philosophy.
When Descartes is attacked by thieves on a boat crossing the Elbe, he does not panic. He draws out his sword. It is a natural fear that the philosopher overcomes with his strong character. Then there is Heidegger in the Black Forest, of course, and the anguish of the Dasein: a great and noble fear, without any object.
I have never been able to experience the anguish of the Dasein. I am happy in the forest… until I hear a crack in a bush and start wondering what kind of beast is hiding there. The Existentialists are like the Rationalists. In the end, neither of them fear anything in particular. Our stupid vertigo standing on Pascal’s board remains outside of their philosophy. Which seems to imply both that philosophy doesn’t have anything to say about phobias and that it is powerless against phobias.
But how can we be serious when speaking about phobias? We can’t, because phobias are absurd, and they relate to definite objects, singular situations, so we must tell stories. Maybe it is better to break away from philosophy’s medium (since Descartes at least), the text, and try something different. Another way to approach our experience. Videos. Sounds and images.
See Phobic Poscards at SubStance@Work.
A French version is currently under construction with the help of grant “Brouillon d’un rêve” from the Société Civile des Auteurs Multimédia.