As I noted in my previous post, the German word for "editing" is "redigieren"; an "editor" is a "redakteur". This comes from the Latin, "redigere" and "redactus", meaning simply to "lead back" and which gives us also "reduce". All this reminded me of the closing lines of Canto CXVI:
A little light, like a rushlightto lead back to splendour.
There is a phrase in Latin "ad incitas redactus", which means "brought to a standstill", but also "to reduce to necessities" or "to reduce to extremities." In a note to Plautus' Trinummus: The Three Pieces of Money (at 2, 4, 136), Henry Thomas Riley notes that it
was a term borrowed from the game of 'Duodecim Scripta,' or 'twelve points,' and was applied when one of the parties got all his men on the twelfth point, and, being able to move no further, lost the game in consequence. Probably the game partook of the nature of both backgammon and chess.
He translates the phrase as being brought to a "backgammoned state", perhaps instead using "check mate".
Well, Ez found himself backgammoned at Pisa, didn't he? Always thereafter looking for a light "ad nitore redactus" (?).
There is here a gesture toward an interesting faultline in my ontology, which is, of course, a pun. Here's Lewis & Short's definition.
incitus, a, um, adj. [2. in-citus, unmoved; hence] , of a chessman that cannot be moved.
To be immobilized is to become extremely heavy, and the opposite of heaviness is light.
We pass from what Walter Benjamin called "dialectics at a standstill" (philosophical checkmate?) into the (rush)light of Eleusis.
Here, then, is the silhouette of an argument that I've been looking for for some time. Wittgenstein said that philosophy should be approached as an activity, not a doctrine. This activity, I have come to believe, looks less like writing than like editing. Indeed, the tiresome prose of philosophy is owed to understanding half of this insight--philosophy is not really a question of producing a text, a question of writing, and so is more akin to reading (the history of philosophy is full of "readers").
More concretely, Wittgenstein eschewed writing philosophical propositions or "theses"; the true method lay in the arrangement of factual material, i.e., of clarifying the content of scientific texts. Rather than producing more text, Wittgenstein's approach would result in less text, a more surveyable corpus. Indeed, even Heidegger's project of "leading our attention from beings back to being", which he called "phenomenological reduction" seems to resonate with this conception of philosophy.
Philosophy is a matter of reducing texts, of editing them.