Cut it out with this Gordian knot stuff

The cutting of the Gordian Knot by Alexander the Great is funny as great myths go: If you take a look you’ll realize that it’s usually invoked only to criticize it. Any thinker capable of nuance has to come out against it:

There’s Camus: “Yes, the rebirth is in the hands of all of us. It is up to us if the West is to bring forth any anti-Alexanders to tie together the Gordian Knot of civilization cut by the sword. 

And Sartre speaking of Heidegger: “In his abrupt, rather barbaric fashion of cutting Gordian knots rather than trying to untie them, he gives in answer to the question posited a pure and simple definition.

Really, most mentions I encounter are either to defend the knot or attack the people who think they can solve it.

I started to get a sense that anyone really moved by this sense of necessity for cutting through complexity is probably a victim of authoritarian personality and maybe not figurative but certainly literal fascism. Take Mussolini:

  • The era of Liberalism, after having accumulated an infinity of Gordian knots, tried to untie them in the slaughter of the World War-and never has any religion demanded of its votaries such a monstrous sacrifice.”  
  • I understood now,” [he] wrote, “that the Gordian knot of Italian political life could only be undone by an act of violence.
  • Not to mention his book plate.
  • But fascist Franco, not to be one-upped, put it on his seal.

Say what you want, but even the idea that we deserve to call our naive interventions solutions is a big ugly act of hubris. It’s got it’s place, but I know where I start.