Melanie Stimmell

Cutting Metaphysics like a knife through butter


I could be tempted to say: "Hamlet got the understanding of his own reality wrong", but then, I can't escape the thought that Hamlet was just a ghost, a spectre in Shakespeare's imagination.

In the same way, Shakespeare has now and since a while turned into my own ghost.

This time and time is no doubt out of joint, I might appear as having "murdered" Shakespeare's memory, his ghost, with this tentative statement:

"Shakespeare got it wrong".

"To be OR not to be" is the question.

And yet,

"To be AND not to be" is the answer.

the answer not to the question of being, but to the presence of being.

What happens when the presence of things is ghostly when presence becomes memory and memory is a ghost, a ghost in the now calling from the past into the future?

Not only time was out of joint for Hamlet, but being was too. Hamlet was not only sinking slowly in the quicksand of not being but worse, his reality was the outer space where gravity didn't weight under his feed and while things in his proximity looked like standing still they were really moving faster than a bullet.

Am I dealing with ghosts which are bookish? How much of an armchair philosopher was Hamlet and how much of an armchair topic is Shakespeare's topic on Hamlet?

Are those my valid ghosts, the ghosts on which my life depends? Should I face my true ghost as Hamlet did? Is Hamlet a model for facing ghosts, the ghost of our past and of our present memories as they foresee our future?

Aren't ghosts, demonic and angelic ghosts, part of the true work of reality acting on our memory?

Hamlet not only got paralyzed from action, but he got stuck in memory, unable to love deeply, trapped by a depth of thought that wasn't deep enough to materialise his own spirit as a ghost to come, as a ghost of the future, as that ghost that he would have passed into us as a legacy not just of the paradoxes of being, but of the resolutions of being.

Shakespeare pushed Hamlet into the Gordian knot of being, and sure, he cut through it.

If Hamlet hasn't, he wouldn't have been able to be the antihero he became and we wouldn't have been able to value the forceful tragic nature in which sometimes we can be thrown into life.

Being and not being can be in a median relation, but they don't have to. Being and not being do not end up by necessity into an average outcome of their net result. They both sometimes lose their footing and slide unintentionally into weighing the same or even being the same.

When they do or one of them weight too much they paralyze us. Being cannot just weight in existence the same as not being, least of all both be the same, just as an undifferentiated sameness. Being can, as it might yield a surplus.

For Hamlet to overcome his metaphysical hurdles he would have to break away from his acute depressive habits of giving at times the same relevance to "what it is" and to "what it is not" and, at other times, making of both the same with an unintended leaning more on the side of "what it is not".

In a modern take of the Hamletian dilemma we could say, women are the same as men, the youngster is the same as the elder, the disabled is the same as the non disabled, the obese is the same as the fit, the beautiful is the same as the ugly, Hamlet is the same as Ophelia.

They are all humans, and yet, they all can have a differential surplus that each of them can create right at the divide that makes them different either by gender, age, fitness, beauty or any other divide.

We could prescribe being over not being, youth over old age, man over woman, reality over ghosts. We could also reverse the relations and prescribe the opposite. Or we could not prescribe anything over anything and find a "median" at the heart of the conflict of any divide.

This would mean reaching out for the equality between anything that exists in opposition, leveraging towards the net result of the average. This could represent the worst out of all the Hamletian resolution to be.

The "median" would create a dimmed, entropic, "compassionate" acceptance of anything. In fact, the "median" would dim anything it touches. It would deter and dummy down any vital and thriving force that might create a difference too "hot" to handle. It would obliterate any possibility of surplus from any side of any opposing forces. That was precisely the surplus of actions and thoughts that Hamlet obliterated in himself.

Not only Hamlet failed at creating such surplus, we all do, but such triumphant failure is far from being the only metaphysical outcome out of the conflict between opposite things.

The surplus that might or might not brew in the opposition of two elements, be it, being and not being, men and women, etc, can make both of them better, not to the partial detriment of one of them, nor to the partial benefit of one of them, but to the true betterment of both.

"To be and not to be" is the answer, but we can only be and not be at the same time when one of them is just a "nano bit" more intense and one of them speaks a "nano bit" more of our habits. Hamlet was a "nano bit" more on the side of not being.

He was a "nano bit" less as he wasn't being a "nano bit" more. He was as he wasn't, he was less of "was-ness", he was ceasing to be as he was coming to be less. That was why the more he tried no to be the more he was not being, like rushing slowly into the dimmed light of entropy and death.

Yet, Hamlet didn't rush his demise into not being as faster and as burning as Macbeth, as faster and with so much laughter as Falstaff. Hamlet was the knight of the ever forever slow entropy and metaphysical decay of being.

Hamlet lacked of faith, not of religious faith, but faith in his ghosts being forceful enough to match a reality (his reality) that he would have felt decisively compelled to bring about.

He mistrusted his ghosts as much as he trusted them. His skepticism sank him in a Kantian faithless void. A Kantian moral solution would have been worse. Thus, "to be or not to be" ignited a dimmed entropic state that pushed him closer to death, to not being.

Then, Shakespeare was not entirely wrong, but he was wrong anyway. He placed in Hamlet a metaphysical burden as the metaphysical burden of being and yet being in its metaphysical dimension can also be a liberation, a resolution for a vital force of passion and of action, which Hamlet lacked of.

His metaphysical drivels forced him not just to hibernate in a perennial state of inaction, but to hibernate in decay through increasingly randomized outcomes.

We might require to think of metaphysics not just through the binary premise it drags us into (are ghosts real or not) and not just with the undecidable outcome it pushes us into (ghosts are and are not real), but to think of metaphysics in evolutionary terms.

The tension from any metaphysical undecidable event (and from the tragedy of life itself) should and can yield a surplus that re-instates who we are anew at the cost of us ceasing to be more of what we were against our own habits.

Hamlet metaphysical focus is not on whether TO BE a King or not and neither on responding to Ophelia's love. He ended up more preoccupied with whether TO BE his father's avenger or not and with questioning Ophelia's purity by asking her to "Get thee to a nunnery".

Here again, Hamlet does what he unwantedly is great at. He uses words with double or undecidable meanings, like a nunnery, which means both, a place for pure women and a whore house. Hamlet loves finding the median between being and not being and getting stuck on it undecided.

He trusts his ghosts, but then, he doesn't. He is in good term with his mum, but then, he isn't. He loved Ophelia, but then, he doesn't.

Hamlet is constantly pulled equally by the two sides of any binary relations that Shakespeare throws at him. He gives equal weight to both, thus falling trapped of the false metaphysics of the median equality.

Being and not being are measured up as equally relevant under any conditions while Shakespeare surreptitiously surrendered Hamlet slowly to the entropy of not being. Hamlet decay is a very long one and it can certainly turn eternal.

Nietzsche view on Hamlet is surprisingly a positive one, but not less of a twisted one. He saw Hamlet not as a traumatized or grieving man, but as a man who knew too much or enough to see the futility of ACTION.

For Nietzsche Hamlet was a rational man acting on a rational basis. If Nietzsche were right, and I wouldn't think so, such rationalization of tragedy, would have made Shakespeare and Hamlet aloof and heartless.

I do believe Hamlet was traumatized and he suffered from a particular kind of depression, but to turn such ill into a metaphysics is what I found problematic, especially as today even some psychological illness are turned more and more into a valid positive metaphysical stand or way of life.

In all honesty, I wouldn't object to it, but it is a metaphysical stand I can't take.

A mental or a physical illness can be a metaphysical stand for those affected, but to generalize it and metaphysically politicise it as applicable to those not affected by such illnesses is metaphysically and politically wrong.

A particular kind of enlightened madness can resonate with a particular kind of enlightened reason to create detour the force of a genius, but such madness has to step out of its maddening comfort right as reason has to steps out of its reasoning comfort.

Hamlet lived in the comfort of its own madness precisely through the discomfort of his own reasoning. He didn't step out of reason and he didn't step out of madness.

The true force of Metaphysics is not just manifested in the equality of opposite forces that paralyzes and dims the very opposite elements that those forces are meant to continually be part of.

Metaphysics paralyzing effects are as valid as the natural surge born out of its depths, as a mover of new and better things to come. Things to come created at the heart of passion, of the gift of love. The very love that Hamlet relinquished and Romeo burned out so fast.

Kari-Lise Alexander.




Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights. Friedrich Hegel.

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Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights. Friedrich Hegel.

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