Do Not Listen to What They Say, Look at What They Do

Download Do Not Listen to What They Say, Look at What They Do

Post on 13-Dec-2016




3 download

Embed Size (px)


<ul><li><p>Do Not Listen to What They Say, Look at What They DoAuthor(s): Vladimir Janklvitch and Ann HobartSource: Critical Inquiry, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), pp. 549-551Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL: .Accessed: 04/09/2013 18:22</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .</p><p> .</p><p>JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact</p><p> .</p><p>The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to CriticalInquiry.</p><p> </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 4 Sep 2013 18:22:39 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>Do Not Listen to What They Say, Look at What They Do </p><p>Vlaflimir Jankelevitch </p><p>Translated by Ann Hobart </p><p>This sentence, which appears several times in Les Deux Sources de la morale et de la religwn,l not only expresses Bergson's profound attachment to lived experience; first and foremost it signifies this: there are things that are not meant to be talked about but meant to be done, and those things in relation to which purely expressive language appears so secondary, so unconvincing, so miserably inefficacious, are the most important and most precious things in life. Are their names not love, poetry, music, lib- erty? Thus do not listen to what Zeno says, look rather at what Achilles does. Practice what you preach, or better yet practice without preaching. Such was the harsh wisdom of Tolstoy,2 for Tolstoy, apostle and hagiogra- pher, wanted to live wisdom and not simply profess it. Such, according to Bergson, is also the message of the saint and the hero. The saint and the hero affect their fellow human beings not through what they write, as do men of letters, nor through what they say, as do public speakers, but through what they do and even more so through what they are, through the example of their lives and the poetic influence of their pres- ence. Is not human essence all act and process, soi,cnS, that is to say, poetry? Whereas, according to Balzac, eloquent preachers may make us </p><p>1. See Henri Bergson, Les Deux Sources de la morale et de la religion (1932; Paris, 1984), pp. 26, 149, 172, and 193; trans. R. Ashley Audra and Cloudesley Brereton, under the title The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (New York, 1935), pp. 23, 133, 153, and 173. </p><p>2. See Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God Is zlvithin You, trans. and ed. Leo Wiener (1894; Boston, 1951), chap. 5. </p><p>Critical Inquiry 22 (Spring 1996) Permission to publish courtesy of Editions du Seuil. First published as "N'ecoutez pas ce qu'ils disent, regardez ce qu'ils font," Revue de metaphysique et de morale. English translation K) 1996 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/96/2203- 0006$01.00. All rights reserved. </p><p>549 </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 4 Sep 2013 18:22:39 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>550 Vladimir Jankelevitch Do Not Listen to What They Say </p><p>change our mind but never our conduct, that is to say, may convince us but not persuade us, only the person who acts- hero, saint, or poet- makes us want to resemble him. It is not by preaching generosity that one obtains it, for by preaching one obtains only polite assent. And this is why propaganda is so unconvincing. The sacrifice of the martyr is not propaganda, for the martyr was impassioned unto death, and the ex- alting virtues of his example are infinite. The Bergsonian saint is himself an exhortation to movement, to that movement which the Eleatic philos- ophers prohibit. Between the influential personality and the doctor of law the distance is as great as between the Eastern Orthodox starets and the dignitaries of the Russian monastic hierarchy. The Russian starets, the zaddikim of Hasidism, the Bergsonian saint do not transform those around them by their writings, or by their speech, or by their knowledge, or by their ideology but rather by their being. It is the person that is the message, the appeal, and the lesson of heroism, that is the generous effu- sion and inexhaustible profusion of blessings. From now on wisdom will no longer be distinguished from heroism, for it is heroically wise. All Bergsonianism is a rejection of distant idols, which divide the actor and the spectator. In contrast to the intellectualist perspective, which generates vertiginous aporias, fantasies, and pseudo-problems, is not intuition, which is both gnostic and drastic, defined as sympathy and commitment? </p><p>That's it- to be committed, and nothing else. Not to give lectures on commitment, nor to conjugate the verb, nor to commit oneself to commit oneself, as men of letters do, but really to commit oneself by an immediate and primary act, by an effective and drastic act, by a serious act of the whole person; not to adhere halfheartedly but to convert passionately to the truth, that is to say, with one's entire soul, like Plato's liberated cap- tives. The simplicity of a complete and undivided soul thus takes on all its meaning; the simple soul, that is to say, the serious and sincere soul, is like a block of transparent crystal in which the light reigns without reser- vation or restriction. There are certainly only totalities, for everything that is is complete and sufficient unto itself. It is hardly the case, however, that the vicious and frivolous, superficial and mean person constantly realizes this natural vocation of life. It is in free action that the whole soul </p><p>VladimirJankelevitch held the chair of moral philosophy at the Sor- bonne from 1951 until his death in 1985. His written work comprises more than twenty volumes, including Bergson (1931), Traite' des vertus (1951), Philosophie premiere ( 1959), Le Pardon ( 1967), and Le Paradoxe de la morale (1981). Ann Hobart, former manuscript editor at Critical Inquiry, is currently studying law at the University of Arizona. Her previous contri- bution to Critical Inquiry was the translation of three essays by Georges Canguilhem (Winter 1995). </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 4 Sep 2013 18:22:39 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p></li><li><p>Critical Inquiry Spring 1996 551 </p><p>is gathered, that we become simple, passionate, and translucent again. How could liberty not itself be a liberation? How could it not give slaves the desire to be free? Generous liberty does not confer this or that, does not do this or that; it gives the gift of liberty, that is, itself, to others. Liberty is all deliverance and only deliverance. </p><p>This content downloaded from on Wed, 4 Sep 2013 18:22:39 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>Article Contentsp. 549p. 550p. 551</p><p>Issue Table of ContentsCritical Inquiry, Vol. 22, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), pp. 403-612Front MatterGeorg Simmel on Philosophy and Culture: Postscript to a Collection of Essays [pp. 403-414]Making It Big: Picturing the Radio Age in "King Kong" [pp. 415-445]Excluded Spaces: The Figure in the Australian Aboriginal Landscape [pp. 446-465]A Postindustrial Prelude to Postcolonialism: John Ruskin, William Morris, and Gandhism [pp. 466-485]"All the Regions Do Smilingly Revolt": The Literature of Place and Region [pp. 486-505]Denoting Difference: The Writing of the Slave Spirituals [pp. 506-544]The Philosophy of Vladimir JanklvitchIntroductory Remarks [pp. 545-548]Do Not Listen to What They Say, Look at What They Do [pp. 549-551]Should We Pardon Them? [pp. 552-572]</p><p>Critical ResponseSemiotic Elements in Academic Practices [pp. 573-589]What Do We Want Pictures to Be? Reply to Mieke Bal [pp. 590-602]</p><p>Books and Discs of Critical Interest [pp. 603-612]Back Matter</p></li></ul>