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De Sade Notes
John S Moore
179 Anti-Nietzsche, anti-De Sade. The anti Sadian position, so entrenched, having to be argued out.
They say we read back Nietzsche into De Sade, thus seeing Nietzsche and his significance very differently form the way in which I see him.
Like an idealist history of philosophy. As if Nietzsche simply determines a mind set. Just makes a way in which we think, just as we could have thought in another way.
One looks for precursors if one is sure of his fundamental truth. One sees in Stirner and De Sade the attitudes on would have taken up if there were no Nietzsche,
If Nietzsche had not written the impulses that drew one to him would have drawn one to others.
216 Georges Bataille Eroticism . Much of it is interesting, even sound enough, but is it significant? Any more so than Mime Blavatsky for example?
Mysticism, transgression sin. Somehow he still clings to respectability as in his rejection of De Sade. He could almost move into some form of Catholicism, certainly he does not hate it. The raptures of the mystic and their close relation to the toreros
Yet is there no in him something suspiciously unhealthy? The mysticism he favours, the tormented pathological excesses of Saints Theresa and John of the Cross… counter reformation. Like Foucault, a peculiarly destructive unconcern,
He completely lacks rigour.
Certain question a arise, like eternal damnation. Not discussed.
Superiority of abnormality. Affirmation of interesting death.
Bataille contradicts himself.
How much of his generalisations are culturally relative?
How important is
transgression? Salvation through sin (
It is the extent to which he rejects De Sade, his effort to retain respectability that makes him dangerous. He suggests decadence in Nietzsche’s sense.
317 La Mettrie, a major influence on De Sade.
This 18th century quality, this materialism which unrepressed eroticism. The peculiarly anti-moral charm. Liberating like De Sade.
130 Foucault and the French intellectual. The pattern of French absolutism. The despicable Maoism of the seventies. Misconceptions about the will to power.
Foucault did appear to redeem himself a bit. It is the irresponsibility of his middle years that I find slightly odious,
He seems to bear out the criticisms of intellectuals made by Nordau, Carey and the like. A dangerous lethal criminal kind of thought.
I do not see Nietzsche, Swinburne, De Sade, Rimbaud, Baudelaire like this. Someone who was dangerous was Georges Sorel
Nerval, Artaud, van Gogh.
They operate on a certain plane, stand for a certain liberty of the imagination,.
But the interpretation of such liberty as the liberty of the despot is a different matter.
Interpretations of Nietzsche, I would say that the perhaps the French intellectual finds it hard to get an angle on the will power, because he is himself not subject to the kind of opposition that besets him in Anglo Saxon countries.
Not that this despotic freedom amounts to anything like the power he says it does,
Discipline and Punish. Damiens, the saturnalia. Foucault saw it in the mobs
enjoyment of torture and execution. But think of
Hell Fire Club versus the
The despotic kind of freedom is also that of the French intellectual.
Identifying will to power with the peculiar position in which he finds himself, this abnormal accumulation of power of a sort , the access to the media.
To identify this with will to power as such is ridiculous, to say this is what Nietzsche means, what he is talking about.
This power is by no means limited in all directions. It has limits, like any other kind of power. But these limits are perhaps not altogether interesting. What is there to prove? So you rail against the government.
The distinction between fascism and revolutionary violence as bad v good is about as primitive as it is possible to get.
The despotic freedom of the intellectual has a very clear power base in the nature of French society, the whole tradition is protected by the autocratic values handed down from the Bourbons.
Basic conflict between the English and the French. radically different conceptions of the role of ideas,
The French intellectual is given power by a population that tempers its admiration for autocracy by outbreaks of murderous revolutionary violence.
For there is something about the glory they love that they also hate and when they react against it.
What is the freedom of the saturnalia? irresponsibility. A freedom permitted by despotism. A freedom from responsibility. Which is why it will not lead to disaster.
Paradox. That really in
They can say what they like but nothing really comes of it. Because real power is, and always will be held elsewhere.
In extreme moments there is the chaos of revolution, time of universal excitement, when everyone does what he wants. That passes, and there is not ultimate disaster because all wills cancel each other out.
Maoism, the gregarious spirit. My interpretation of the will to power is to discern the war of all against all. I speak up for the perverse, or the dissident. This completely contradicts the gregarious spirit. I despise a gregarious crowd, for collective enthusiasm I feel the greatest nausea.
So the French Nietzsche and the French De Sade are different from the English versions.
They each exist in a different political and cultural context. The English De Sade, even is not politically irresponsible. Their thought is integrated into the particular type of society, with all its power structures.
Catholic v protestant.
Reflections on Foucault. He
is good but not that good. Coming from a background of
178 talk on De Sade at Treadwells. Some interesting suggestions from that. The peculiar idea that BDSM can give a sort of fulfilment of the Sadian impulse. Actually the idea is bizarre. It suggests the origin of religious ritual. Some kind of practice having philosophical significance. Philosophy as an art of the possible, like politics. post modernist ideas as offering opportunities for all sorts of irresponsibility.
De Sade’s third or fourth wind, the idea of how he manages to gain respectability. Postmodernism about power, the strange legacy of Foucault. How some personal taste can exalt itself till it seems to embody truth and reason.
101 Graham Young. Must one condemn him? I cannot help admiring him to some extent. The taboo against murder is only a taboo after all. No self hating pale criminal he. The murderer’s destiny does appear a very unhappy one, however. Life imprisonment seems rather a wretched way to spend one’s life.
De Sade found his life was justified by his writing.
377 symbolism of Christ on the cross. Think how, in certain moods, this symbolism seems repulsive in the extreme. Goethe found it so.
But it is possible to see the point of it, even to find it beautiful. It is beautiful in that it expresses a reality that is usually unexpressed.
The crucifixion scene is a direct symbol of outrageous oppression.
The oppression is presented as perpetrated by the secular, the civil, authority.
The point is that this is the perspective, the reality that presented before us, thrust forwards for our attention.
One may say that it is subversive of he claims of the civil power. The very idea that such things happen, that experience of such outrageous oppression is a permanent and significant part of reality.
It will always be the claim of the civil power that such things do not happen, that such repression as takes place is just and tolerable.
Statues and pictures of the crucifixion perform much the same role as the novels of the Marquis de Sade. An insistence on the cruelty that is so much an essential part of life.
The beauty of this consists in its reality. In the presentation of something that is over overwhelmingly true, but forever suppressed and disguised.
Something factually true. It is a denial of orthodox established values, of their claims to exclusivity, of their deliberate ignorance of certain experiences. Etc etc
91 De Sade’s ‘socialism’. Aline et Valcour should perhaps be interpreted as the taking of egalitarian ideas to their logical conclusion, demonstrating the incomplete logicality of the popular revolutionary slogans. De Sade was a man essentially interested in ideas, why, as Geoffrey Gorer does, should we should we argue that these and these alone were the ideas to which he gave his true allegiance? That would be illogical. He explores the forms and possibilities of ideas, of enlightenment style rational argument and so on, displaying great prophetic percipience in so doing.
Wilson’s theory about De Sade is quite certainly mistaken. Perhaps this is the
measure of Colin Wilson’s own intellectual shortcomings, (perhaps springing
from his class perspective). De Sade’s philosophy does not merely advocate and
present pleasure qua pleasure and his work does not prove the futility of such
pure pleasure seeking.
17 Even if there were such things as natural instincts, innate values, they would have no more logical priority than contrived or artificial ones. De Sade’s justification of sadistic horrors by appealing to nature is unnecessary and perhaps best interpreted as a satire, reduction and absurdum or a nice spice to add to our sadistic impulses. Being in the stream of nature thorough vice corresponds to being in the stream of Heaven through the practice of virtue, the spice added by Mencius to moral behaviour.
134 I must try to understand the tendency in so many people to refuse to take De Sade seriously as a philosopher, to regard him as principally a sexual deviant who wants to justify his tastes. Simone de Beauvoir does this. Is this because his conclusions are to many people unpalatable? I claim that all he does is to liberate, just as Socrates liberated from the ethical scepticism of Callicles.
Is it that most people regard what are normally called sadistic impulses as so obviously without value that there is no question but that they be suppressed?
‘I think we’re all agreed about that, don’t you?’
Whatever it is that possesses value it is assumed to have a quality about it, for example superior rationality, which gives it the character of something which ought to be valued, thus we give our own values metaphysical priority over those of someone else and pride ourselves on our metaphysical or ethical superiority. Even if we admit that this whole philosophy of value is entirely the product of our own minds, we still imagine that we are superior, perhaps because we have philosophy on our side. We tend to think that those who do not agree with us are lacking in clarity and confused in mind. Or it is assumed, as with Kant, that there is a dichotomy between rationality and carnality, that carnality means not thinking about what one is doing, being chained to the world, under the sway of chance motives, like brutes. Just as reason can help us govern so many other things better, so, we are told, can it help us govern our lives in the realm of values. Ideas of the ultimate congruity of virtue and true self interest, such ideas as those of Bishop Butler and Mencius, read essentially as ingenious justifications for virtue after it has already been decided on, examples of reason tidying up the universe in a fashion in which it is not forbidden to do so. They show us how we can come to think of the two as coinciding and it is clear that in large measure they can, if we think of true self interest in terms of knowing that we are being rational. Instead of using reason simply as a tool we can come to take pride in it, instead of simply arranging our experience the experience of so arranging it can be a highly valued experience in its own right. To give expression to the sense of value it s often claimed that to live rationally is to live ‘in the spirit’, that rational man is conceived as a qualitatively higher more developed being that the non rational.
There is nothing wrong with turning the exercise of reason into a valued experience. Think of the almost ecstatic responses of some mathematicians to the subject.
But such people often think they have solved much more than they have, simply because they shut their eyes to the full range of human diversity and curiosity.. the identification of virtue and rationality can really only work for those who are naturally virtuous. Otherwise reason is less than it was claimed to be and becomes another arbitrary dogma. De Sade’s perfection of a rational form of vice, vice that prides itself on being philosophically condoned, puts an end to the idea that only the carnal man is committed to a vicious style of life.
Even Stirner professed to look down on Nero as a man governed by the sway of his passions rather than by his reason. The later decadents found in Nero the object of extreme admiration, the apotheosis of the Sadian ideal.
Mere reason claims to liberate us from arbitrary dogma, from authority. It wishes us to think no less than our minds will allow us to think on the basis of our experience, it asks us to refuse to be governed by arbitrary dogmas, by moral and divine prohibitions upon what we should think. The objection to De Sade seems to rest largely on an attempt to place a moral prohibition on his thought. ‘what would happen is these ideas were widely diffused?’
I have heard it argued that the flood of decadent literature in nineteenth century France, Mirbeau, Flaubert in Salammbo, Sue and host of other writers of far less literary merit, ensured that the average Frenchman was infused with these principles. This it has been said is the reason for the particular odiousness that is to be found among some Frenchmen, particularly the bourgeoisie and those in official posts. On this theory such people feel free to indulge all their most offensive feelings towards their fellow men and people in their power, without feeling they are not meeting up to normal standards of fairness and humanity. This theory would also explain why the French, and more particularly the Belgians, who caricature the French in so many ways, made such bad colonialists.
Apart from the democratic sadism, there was in German and elitist cultured sadism which helped bring the Nazis to power. It encouraged the intellectuals and those who had the power of moulding public opinion. In an attitude of what many people would call political irresponsibility. A society founded upon morality and justice, was seen as in no way preferable to one based on injustice and domination, to those who had in their power to benefit (or so they thought) by either form of society. The cruel society was thought of as more honest than the just one because not founded upon the hypocritical illusion that men must will what is generally thought to be just.
Note Wittgenstein on the interpretation of rules. We can learn William Godwin’s rules for interpreting what reason tells us, even if De Sade’s will be the most natural.
So it is just a mater of whether we choose to follow Sade or not? The Sadian hero feels superior because he believes he has broken through a barrier of superstition and fear which prevents the believers in reason from embracing the full consequences of their beliefs.
I have only been discussing one aspect of De Sade.
Speaking rationally believe one thing rather than another. So I try to reach a position where I have access to belief in anything, this position is my metaphysical security. What determines how I shall act? The particular question answer complexes to which I have given myself access.
The positive aspect of De Sade is his insistence on the unlimited moral freedom of the individual
22 Dolmance’s philosophy is not presented satirically, nor is it Sade’s own, at least not for all of the time, ‘surely Sade cannot believe this naïve stuff?’ suggest such commentators as Gorer. Others identify this satanic philosophy with Sade’s attempt to justify himself. But it is more than that. It is De Sade’s deliberate expression of his freedom, the advance message to the likes of Wilhelm Reich that I can play that game too. Only De Sade knows what game he is playing and Reich does not.
In devising such a philosophy De Sade says something very profound, makes a stark statement which cuts across most of the moral and religious systems which have ever been devised, He is satirical, but more deeply and subtly satirical than most people can comprehend. No wonder they try to suppress his works, censor and muffle his ideas.
91 Before De Sade, how could any man dare to be proudly and deliberately unnatural? It was Christianity and Islam that defined what was natural. One felt a kind of moral contempt for whatever stood outside certain boundaries of naturalness. The pagans, like the Chinese later, never had such hang-ups about the bounds of naturalness, whatever man’s passion inspired him to do was natural. Caste pride they well knew but not so much of he moral conceit of the conformist. De Sade was one to of the great counter revolutionaries, he showed how unnaturalness can become fully self conscious and fitted with a caste pride of its own. Has he thus ridden superior to the pagan? I think he has added a new depth of meaning to the pagan way of life. He is also secure against the rot of religions such as Christianity, which the pagan is not. Add to this the commonplace that we appreciate most that of which we have long been deprived and De Sade may be seen as the great Aesculapius, or the great warrior king who comes to put the lands finally in order and lead them onward to a great destiny.
126 the sexual or motiveless murderer is like a saint of Sadianism, he embodies dramatically the ideals of the Divine Marquis.
56& De Sade’s
novels. Continual harping on the concepts of
virtue and vice was a characteristic feature of eighteenth century
rationalism with Confucian type ethical interest. It infused the work of
160 Thucydides dialogue between the Athenians and Melian ambassadors, a classical model for De Sade.
71 Chernyshevsky, so obviously the book that inspired Dostoyevsky by way of reaction.
Every enlightenment pseudo-rational cliché is contained therein.
Chernyshevsky had a false view of human nature. Dostoyevsky replaced it by a true one. The theory of this true view is contained in Nietzsche, with his account of the morally motivated falsification of reality.
Against Nietzsche , the tabula rasa theory of the mind developed into associationism and behaviourism and most forms of idealism which identify the true with what is thought to be true.
Blake and De Sade were in
reaction against a shallow rationalistic view of human nature current in
Dostoyevsky was similarly in reaction against the shallow rationalist view of human nature fervently proclaimed in Chernyshevksy’s novel What Is To Be Done?.
The point of view of Blake and Dostoyevsky is more or less the same as that of Nietzsche who expressed it in a theory known as the will to power.
He explains the genesis of false views in terms of the morally motivated falsification of reality.
As De Sade commented on the French enlightenment so Dostoyevsky commented on the Russian.
107 The Gulag Archipelago helps me understand communism, even something of the positive appeal to communism. In a way I have always been aware of the horrible repressive side of communism, it is how anyone can see anything good in it that really puzzles me. Gulag, because it is so well written, honest and truthful, shows this. Communism is s a systematic rejection of our established values. Simply the fact that communist society is viable, after whatever a fashion, shows that such a rejection is possible, and it is heartening.
Some youthful rebellion finds
its home in the writings of the Marquis de Sade. Some hailed serial killers in
perhaps much the same spirit as others hailed the
Interesting speech by Enoch Powell about
how he would sooner receive injustice from the Queen's courts than justice from
a foreign one. What is intriguing is Powell’s attitude towards judgment. He
offers a form of redemptive jingoism. Consider the consolation for Timothy
Evans on his way to the gallows, ‘at least I have been tried by the
57 Hume’s lapse, when speaking of justice he blames the fact that men continue to commit injustice on the weakness of the mind in preferring the immediate to the remote. Is this perhaps the characteristic eighteenth century superstition, that reason makes the interest of each coincide with the interest of all? Exploded compressively be De Sade.
It is at this point the Hume is wrong, perhaps it springs from his sociability,
75 With his next book,. Nietzsche says, he began his assault on morality. Yet immoralism, the current running through Baudelaire and back to De Sade, was much in the air at the time
Orwell at St Cyprian's experienced harshness of the class system He experienced it at one of its most oppressive points. His socialism was the same as his support for the French Revolution, a vengeance against the class system. The oppression that is an intrinsic part of the levelling idea is by no means incidental in the minds of its supporters.
Anger and resentment breed aggression. The desire to hit out and hurt. The revolution hurt the privileged, the aristos. Even a humane egalitarian order will be painful and oppressive to those who experienced themselves as superior.
De Sade, as well as doing a Carneades on the enlightenment, emphasised clearly how deeply rooted in oppression is human society.
If Orwell approves the Revolution, despite the September Massacres, despite the Terror, then this is because he approves of its idea, which many find repulsive. But it is this repulsiveness which is half the point. There is schadenfreude in coercing those people who find it most uncongenial. One may imagine these, with the rage of the excluded, as one's erstwhile oppressors. The idea of equality thrust down everyone's throats can be most offensive. The joy of victory presupposes the agony of the defeated.
Points of oppression in any system people deny and ignore. Everyone likes to assert the sole validity of his own perspective. This involves essential oppression. For there are those who if they had to accept that perspective would certainly suffer, in one way or another, given situation and circumstances.
So in insisting on the universal validity of one's own perspective one is promoting suffering, oppressing.
It takes De Sade to bring this all out as if it were a conscious awareness, and insist how all pervasive it is.
People deny it because they want to be thought good and just.
142 De Sade was right with his lengthy digressions on the customs of foreign peoples. The historical narrow-mindedness of the present age is worthy of the utmost contempt. People still talk the same rubbish about nature as they did in De Sade’s day. There is nothing especially natural or human about conforming to the standards of one’s own time except in a most mundane unadmirable sense.
130 Chrysal (Charles Johnson), the mid eighteenth century, so much less familiar a period than the Victorian era. The moralistic framework, the idea of 'virtue'. Sense of morality going back to Spenser and beyond. See the influence of this kind of thinking on De Sade. But see the idea of morality as remedy for all the vices of the age. Then of this cast of thinking as leading up to Kant. In such a healthy vigorous age, in which avarice, pride etc have such free range, it is morality which restrains the more destructive excess. But it was this age, with all its energy that produced the industrial revolution, profoundly disruptive in its effects. Quite obviously morality was no longer enough, and social reform became necessary. Charles Dickens. Sense of The English past.
All are against the narrow rationalistic humanism of the enlightenment and the socialists, which is based on a false view of human nature. Stirner advocates extreme selfishness, De Sade advocates extreme crime. As criticisms of Hegel and Rousseau they are right. Understand in terms of the will to power. At different phases, or states of the will, different reactions become necessary.
A good conscience for selfishness, that too is covered by Blake's forgiveness of sins.
75 To cohere my desires into an ought is to move into a higher mode than one governed solely by considerations of narrow self interest, or egoism. Ultimately my interest and my morality will chime. See how I was always drawn to Bishop Butler, despite the attraction of De Sade.
Thrasymachus, justice is the interest of the stronger. At least that is an advance on the complete absence of morality. Where it is false is that it contradicts the language of justice if it is introduced into any moral system. What about 'morality is the interest of the morally stronger'?
89 Stirner and De Sade may help with basic principles, but they do not help to survive, to get the kind of power which is really important. Satire is valuable because it shows how much of what people think important is merely windy pretension, how easy it is in this society to think one is achieving ones aims, satisfying and sublimating ones instincts, when from an objective neutral point of view one is ridiculous, self deluded, living in an artificial subculture which has no relation to the permanent values it apes. That is decadence.
300 Will to Power, even the saint, even the Weil. Saint Simone. Does it make less sense to talk of a will to power?. But can that be? Think of the virgin’s power as distinct from the seducer’s power.
We tend to think of power in terms of the seducer. Also there is the power of the seduced. But there is also the virgin. To say she wants power for herself may be misleading. The satisfaction she seeks may be different from that of the seducer. Her comments on the Iliad and the Melians. Her refusal to violate. As a virgin all her desire not to be violated must depend on a universal principle of on violation. She obviously could not accept De Sade’s nor any conqueror’s position. Sadism is impossible to her. She refuses to enter the sexual stream in which violations are accepted as part of life. See how virgins, like Lucrece, have been honoured as heroic points of resistance against tyranny.
Of course in a sense she is wrong. The victorious Greeks were not lacking in imagination when wreaking their triumph. They were entering into the flow of life that the virgin rejects. Today I am the victor, tomorrow I may be the vanquished. Essence of Pindar. But this is precisely the view that the virgin rejects. To violate another is to violate himself. The sacredness of her virginity.
Her virginity has to be sacred or it is nothing.
Her image of oppression in which talk of human rights becomes foolish, that of a young girl being forced into a brothel, is a good one.
Her virginity is to be permanent, not dependent upon the fortunes of war.
My property, life, liberty I may lose but virginity is something more than that,
to lose it is to feel defiled, to have lost something many people regard as worthless, to become something one did not want to become. To feel involved in a vile complicity, undermined in the heart of one’s values, all one holds dear. That these values are treated with utter contempt. To be negated, Rape by a conquering army.
194 Note that De Sade fought in the Seven Years war from age 14 – 19.
He exposed the oppression which is everywhere in human society, covered by a veil of hypocritical morality.
25 Marquis De Sade as a prisoner of conscience, martyr, prefigurer of the zek. De Sade as moralist. Precursor of Solzhenitsyn. The Sadian villain is not morally despicable. This is not to say that according to De Sade there is no such thing as being morally despicable.
The morally despicable is he who is despicable to himself, the oppressor who sincerely believes he hates oppression. The callous brute who believes himself kindly and sympathetic, the thieving murdering cheat who sincerely believes in virtue. People who stand condemned by their own standards.
To hold up a mirror. To make indignation consistent. The martyr to atheism.
De Sade exposing the shallowness of the whole enlightenment.
109 The nineteenth century culture I identify with and sympathise with. The element of De Sade I can relate to. The value of The Romantic Agony as an entry point to so much of this culture. It is a way of finding it liberating, of giving it all a liberating affirmative charge. It should be possible to see Wagner in this light, who was so much a part of this culture. It should be possible to enjoy him in a decadent way. Presumably this is how Baudelaire got into him.....but perhaps Wagner does not want to be seen like this. Different types of decadence. Conceptions of decadence, poisons for recreation. ...could it be that to get strongly into Wagner quite negates De Sade? That there is a close analogy with the communism that followed many of the visions of 1967? Follow Wagner into Mallarmé. That could be a harmless and healthy path. one that does not negate De Sade or the dissident tradition. How else can we deal with the Wagner problem? A new art is called for to incorporate what is most exciting and thrilling into the Sadian affirmationist perspective.
Arthur Symons, consider. A follower of Wagner. He preferred a Wagnerian to a Nietzschean aesthetic. He suffered mental breakdown, which as with Nietzsche might be interpreted as an outcome of his thought. I think perhaps he serves to be treated seriously as a thinker.
Unlike Praz he was very deeply and immediately affected by the writers he deals with. His is an immediate sensibility. The introduction to The Symbolist Movement In Literature says as a critic he was weak on generalisation. But it is immediacy of impact that is so valuable in him.
What were the symbolists trying to do? What doe Symons think they were trying to do? Refer to an unseen visionary world
Nerval grandfather, Baudelaire father. If Symons lacks the Sadian perspective he has instead immediate response.
Symbolist and would be mystic. As if losing his way. How to defend against the attacks of outside society? Ultimately by a vigorous egoistic aggression that draws on resources like De Sade. Mysticism and madness. Symons breakdown in 1908.
Immersed in such poetry as a believer, one who believes the answers are there
Schopenhauer, De Sade, Nietzsche.
To believe so strongly in art
In response to the sneers of the philistine open creates ever greater outrage. Protecting one’s known vision, refusing to be beaten down. What is contemptible is only weakness.
252 Love’s Cross Currents, what to make of it. Swinburne’s essential viewpoint comes through it of course, his real sadomasochism, his sensualistic delight in the world, not so much despite as on account of, is real cruelty. Lady Midhurst’s attitude to Clara is genuinely cruel and sadistic, forces of real oppression to triumph and Swinburne’s attitude is not so much one of moral indignation as would be Shelley’s, or sad resignation as with certain others, but of excitement, which is original to say the least. He is no intellectual Sadist, but he uses sadism or identification with, pleasure taken in another’s suffering as a means of affirming and responding to the world. A kind of pansexualism.
De Sade whose that human nature does not fit the enlightenment scheme. Swinburne was a truly extraordinary character.
Influences of De Sade, Not merely allowing for other sides of human nature (ie self justifying evil) but developing them. To a large extent to allow scope for these impulses which it was the essence of Christianity to deny, is to reinstate paganism.