Ancient strategies of complexity

Linked with Svetlana Slapsak – Slovenia.

Published on eurozine.com, by Svetlana Slapsak, June 24, 2004.

2 excerpts: … The easy way to search for concepts of complexity in the Ancient worlds would be to chose the texts of utopias, literary and philosophical. An invented world, subject of a clear ideological projection, is more likely to translate complexity, whether it should appear as fragmentation, hierarchical structure, ladder of values, or network of related concepts. Utopia’s ‘condensation’ of worldly features betrays the awkwardness of the construct, thus revealing the strategies of dealing with complexity in a negative way. The fact that we apply the term utopia, which is a European modern age invention (Thomas More) and a clever play with the impossible in the Greek grammar, to the Ancient texts, underlines the negative aspect of an artificial and voluntary arrangement, in which complexity does not rely on any defining and challenging element of meaning. But at least, this artificial and voluntary kind of complexity helps to realize that the complexity can also be misunderstood as arbitrary and ‘natural’, belonging to the concept of the world which is objectivized by definition. Last aberration in this direction would be to search for complexity after the assumed universalization of the world, done by Greek philosophers. After conceiving different theories of the universal, they – or just him, Aristoteles – went on by putting knowledge into categories, into many ‘boxes’ with precise names, numbers and titles. By opening these boxes we can reconstruct how the complexities were dealt with …


… By treating gender concepts in this way, Athenaeus proposes not only a new strategy of dealing with complexity, which we could define as the disciplinary expanding, interdisciplinary cooperation, and looking for a definition between genre and discourse, but he does a much more remarkable job of connecting gender and culture. The debate about women and love moves from the anthropological situation of alterity of women towards the integration of women into the world – even if it is the virtual world of memory – allowing for women to excell in the same privileged art of commanding the memory, and having a genre/discourse to do it properly. The gender is conceptualized – and realized in culture, and this is accepted as a general framework – a theoretical pre-condition for all the gender studies area today. Athenaus’ old boys’ club did reflect on women as secondary, from the position of power and a restrained acoustic command of sexuality. But from this position new options for dealing with complexity appeared, and the ancient alterity has been replaced by a much more responsible and intellectually challenging process of inventing new (textual/discursive) spaces for women’s identity. Athenaeus’ strategy of complexity can be read as a good example of epistemological experiment, an impressive endeavor coming from the neglected part of the past in which we should certainly invest more of attention. (full text).

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