Horoscope as ‘doppio senso’ (or, if you prefer French, double entendre)

Libra horoscope for November 10, 2019, D Magazine, La Repubblica

Flabbergasted to find a philosopher, specifically Theodor Adorno, enlisted in a magazine horoscope for Libras (a.k.a Bilancias), I asked the friend I was staying with in Milan: “How could this be?” (I’m almost certain there are no equivalent references, say, to Kant, Heidegger, or even Thoreau in an American star chart.) She rather dismissively said that the author was known for being pretentious.

Nonetheless, being a Libra, myself, with a typically bifurcated tendency to take things on faith salted with skepticism (in other words, read the occasional horoscope), I did try to translate it – first from memory, then lamely defaulting to Google. As best as I can make out (and I invite corrections), translated to English, it reads roughly as:

“Mars could reinforce the characteristic that is associated with your sign: a strong sense of ethics, accompanied by a great need for justice. [But] you do not put aside the doctrine of the right life as per T. W. Adorno, who saw “the transformation of the methods of philosophy, a field that has fallen prey to intellectual contempt, to sententious arbitrariness, and finally to oblivion.” Lines are not rigid given once and for all, but can be rectified at any time, thanks to small forms of adjustment.”

Retranslated, it could mean:

“That you have a strong sense of ethics, justice, and by implication order, doesn’t mean that you adhere to philosophical doctrine with a strictness which Adorno disparages. Rather you know that linear thought and fixed decisions can be rectified with modest adjustments.”

But while I was struggling to get the sense of the words, I almost missed their meaning. This horoscope is not a prediction, nor a diagnosis. It is a parody. It performs the Libra’s desire to have her cake and eat it too, by arguing both sides of an argument. To wit, the oroscopo‘s author credits philosophical positions (e.g., ethics) but then discredits their “sententious arbitrariness,” to arrive at a more flexible stance. I suspect this equivocation, which I often experience, comes partly from the desire to be fair and partly from a self-flagellating reflex and the fear of certain judgement.

But just as likely, and perhaps more so, the instinct to balance the scales comes from hubris – wanting to get ‘it’ right on all counts. In other words, pretentiousness, a word rooted in ‘pretend.’ Libras are fundamentally insecure and the reasons for that insecurity are appropriately bipolar.

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