Where is the abyss?

In the Critique of Judgment, Kant introduces his effort by describing the division – and seeming permanent logical separation — between the other critiques where he sees a “gulf.” Gulf is also translated as ‘Abgrund’ that is indicative of a gap as well as an abyss. In between them that may not be overcome. He notes a desire to “throw a bridge” over this gulf for fear of being left with an abyss. The translations of “gulf” or “abyss” cast different connotations. The Gulf of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez are too large for bridges but we know there is land surrounding both on three sides.

‘Abyss’ is a catch all for an unaddressed description topology and topography. Topologically, the edges do not coincide, and topographically the terrain plummets suddenly without a bottom. Does that rift have categories or attributes? It is a commonplace name for what we can’t possibly, by definition, see to its bottom, Is that concept a metaphor of an abyss itself, that fissure for which there is not a conceptual ground?

The concept of abyss is the inverse of a ridgeline, but where there is no corollary of the summit. Unlike the Continental Divide any abyss has not a pinnacle as a mirror. For example, the Black Canyon of western Colorado and the Gunnison River is almost characteristic of a fearful abyss, which is racked by rocks that are black, hard, narrow, and sharp. It seems bottomless, and too dangerous even to have confidence in a bridge. The transparent platform over a cliff in the Grand Canyon casts its tourist into an abyss with a seemingly minimum safety support.

The abyss isn’t dialectical even in the obscurity of ‘negative dialectics.’ Adorno, it seems, wants to avoid the abyss in favor of a choro or a chorograph. Like Kant, he wants to try to throw a bridge across the divide whether it is invisible or not. For Adorno, the bridge can be desired, but not built.

The permanent rumbling of unstable geology marks the abyss. Either side of its composition and loose structure will not collapse even if its collapse, subremption, or ‘aufhebung’ could make a bridge. However, the collapse of a bridge and the formation of the abyss are always immanent. Where is it? Is it only in thinking and writing? Or is it in an end to the tradition of geographic concepts as shown by Eldon’s line of argument? There is not an end to the cartographic making of maps? Does no ‘end’ mean that maps have no purpose to be made? Does this mean that maps will always be used no matter what their use, but their use is not neutral? Does it mean that an abyss is deposited everywhere in thinking and writing, and a bridge has not been thought and cannot be thought? Does it mean that the abyss between thought and building a bridge to the other side cannot be thought? Is there not a bridge but a liquid, flow, or river that leads somewhere else without a bridge? Because Derrida and Adorno are so persuasive on this issue, the answer to all these questions is “yes.”

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