THE TWO ASPECTS OF NAE IONESCU’S METAPHYSICS
“Nae Ionescu restored the imperial tradition of the philosophical teaching, which means the rigorous thinking of one’s own issues and not the thinking from others’ books […] That Nae Ionescu was the professor best loved and with the biggest number of students is owed precisely to this detail: he taught the young how to think and encouraged them to think over their personal problems.” Mircea Eliade
Through his novel understanding of metaphysical concerns (in his opinion, of a strictly individual nature) as counterweight for missing salvation, Nae Ionescu outlines the general framework of his metaphysical outlook that he was to detail on his last lecture.
“Each person carries a dead monk in their soul,” had written Nae Ionescu on the margin of a photograph taken in 1933. It is the sentence by which the philosopher expressed, in a most suggestive way, the generally human need for metaphysics, as he saw it, as a restlessness of the human conscience in its attempt to overcome time and space.
As regards “salvation through culture,” that is salvation “by breeding culture,” we create works that outlive space and time (a philosophical stand that was to be backed up-in his writings-by Constantin Noica), Nae Ionescu said that this is “a magic-pantheistic stand, not a Christian one.”
He points out strongly enough to the personal nature of metaphysical preoccupations, which does not mean, at any time, the individual’s isolation from the community they belong to. At a first stage, Nae Ionescu defined metaphysics as a “total and mature outlook on existence.” To the one who manages to reach a “superabundance” of their being, failing though to save themselves through holiness, their subsequent existence will be then a “fall into the human condition.” It is the starting point for an attempt at “totally and harmoniously understanding existence,” having reached the required maturity to approach, from a personal perspective, the issue of metaphysics. However, that does not mean that one will be able to devise, on their own, a “final metaphysical solution.”
This kind of pretentions, Said Nae Ionescu, are only raised by “scientific philosophers” who fancy they “possess final solutions,” unable though to be convincing enough. Because “scientific philosophers” are always left with something they cannot explain satisfactorily, something that spells “precisely the distance from their solutions to the final solution they claim to have mapped out.” Through their own essence, metaphysical solutions can be but relative, which does not mean that one could decree some metaphysical “relativism.” Were they final, Nae Ionescu said to relax his audience, then “we should have not the history of philosophy but the history of the philosophers’ errors.” Which cannot be accepted. This leads to a particular situation in which, even searched from the outside, metaphysical solutions should be attached the feature of being “absolute.” This is the case with the history of philosophy.
With his fine spirit, Nae Ionescu remarked that the historians of philosophy tend to fail noticing that there is a particular situation about their domain. They make the error to extrapolate this particularity of the history of metaphysics to the specific field of metaphysics. Or, one cannot claim from metaphysical solutions something that is alien to their essence. They are supposed to meet certain standards, somewhat more accesible: to be coherent, unitary, organic, harmonious, and, above all, devoid of inner contradictions.
The truthfulness or falseness of a metaphysical solution cannot be judged, as we cannot judge their rather peculiar posture Because metaphysical solutions, in their essence, are not simply “relative,” resulting in experience, but they are “relative under specie eternitatis.”
Dealing with causality “through freedom,” the “scientific philosophers” speak of an “ultimate cause” as if we reached the end of a chain of causalities. But it is not in this way that God is cause, said Nae Ionescu. Because He is a “different kind” of cause.
That is why the generalization process of passing to the limit, to the absolute, “is an operation even more false than the most anthropomorphic imagination of God,” said Nae Ionescu. In order to better illustrate the thoughts that were carrying him towards this “different kind” of cause, the philosopher resorts to Plato, who “said that God is what logic expression is.” Put somewhat similarly, this Platonic assertion can be found in the dialogue Parmenide. To Plato, God (the Supreme Good) is the Supreme Knowledge, the Truth, “real speech,” for the simple reason that the “real speech” is about “what is.” Nae Ionescu explains this by drawing a parallell between Plato’s opinion and an excerpt from the Old Testament. He points out to his students that the statement “I am who I am” in the Old Testament is about the same thing about which Plato was speaking,” referring to the Supreme Good. As opposed to the “measure” evinced by Plato when writing about the highest form of the being, in the Old Testament there is more “vehemence.” In one way appears Plato’s assertion “God is what He is,” which, notes Nae Ionescu, does not say how He is , only that He is. In an altogether different way appears the assertion in the Old Testament, that could be rendered as follows: “there is no more that can be said about Me, except that ‘I am’. I am through Myself.”
According to Nae Ionescu, “the being as such”, as it is illustrated by the line in the Old Testament, is “more than the highest form of the being.” Which, at a superficial glimpse, may sound like a paradox.
However, on his last lecture, Nae Ionescu did not limit himself at presenting, to his students, metaphysics as a “total and mature outlook on existence.” Because such a solution to his metaphysical restlessness, that we shall call “Ulysses’ metaphysics,” calls for the experience of a life lived through hardships and suffering.
Nae Ionescu was to do something more, that was why he was the darling of so many students after all. He was to simply go back in time and imagine himself side by side with his students, presenting for them what we shall call “Achilles’ metaphysics.” That was built as a sequel to the same meditation theme that had bothered him since the early years of his university career: “love as an act of cognition.”
Taking things a little farther, we wouldn’t risk getting too remote from the subject of the Iliad and Odyssey, asserting that Homer had himself practiced just this kind of two-featured metaphysics, dealing both with the meaning (transfiguration) of an untimely ended life, and with the meaning of a human life that enjoyed more years of personal experiences. Did Nae Ionescu follow Homer by this? Of course he did, but to the same extent Plato did. Because Plato did not hesistate to also include in the noble traits of the human soul that passionate trait, “thymikon”, responsible for Achilles’ bravery in battle.