23 July 2017

Focus / Fokus

The focus is the burning-point,
where the phenomena catch fire
in the mind's eye,
bursting into clear light.
The focus is where the mind is at home.



For a long time the mind has not been home.
It no longer catches fire at the sight of the phenomena.
It has lost its focus.

 ***


Der Fokus ist der Brennpunkt,
wo die Phänomene
im geistigen Auge entbrennen
und ins klare Licht hervorbrechen.
Der Fokus, wo der Geist zu Hause ist.


Seit langem ist der Geist nicht mehr daheim.
Er entbrennt nicht mehr im Anblick der Phänomene.
Er hat seinen Fokus verloren.



14 July 2017

Zoran Đinđić - Das Kapital

Bei der Suche nach der 1981er Doktorarbeit Marx´ kritische Gesellschaftstheorie und das Problem der Begründung von Zoran Đinđić (als serbischer Premierminister 2003 in Belgrad ermordet) bin ich auf den folgenden Blogeintrag von Volkbert (Mike) Roth gestoßen: 8. - 12. April Djindic / Lebenskunst. Mike von der Uni. Konstanz hat mich 1976 als Gastdozent in General Philosophy an der Uni. Sydney in die Marxsche Kapital-Lektüre eingeführt. Im erwähnten Haus in der Konstanzer Alpenstr. 4 mit Ivo Glaser habe ich auch im Deutschen Herbst 1977 gewohnt. Zoran habe ich später auch ein paar Mal getroffen, als er von Frankfurt auf Besuch nach Konstanz kam.

Das Sydney-Konstanz Projekt mit dem Fokus auf Marx und Hegel (vor allem seiner Rechtsphilosophie) nahm seinen Anfang in dieser Zeit. Daraus ist meine Diss. 1984  entstanden, die bis heute für die Welt brachliegt. Darin ein Rekonstruktionsversuch des "Rohbaus" des Kapital Bde. I-III. sowie ein Versuch, über die Wesensanalyse kapitalistischen Wirtschaftens hinaus in den sog. "Überbau" weiter dialektisch hineinzudenken. Wie im Vorwort dieser Dissertation dargelegt war Marx' ursprünglicher Plan einer kritischen Theorie der kapitalistischen Gesellschaftsform viel, viel umfassender als das, was er selber durchführte bzw. durchführen konnte. Das Wort "-form" verweist unweigerlich auf die platonische Idee und Platons sog. 'Theorie der Formen', d.h. der Ideen. Die Ideen sind aber die 'Anblicke', die Seiendes von sich als Seiendes der Psyche apriori zeigen. Somit sind wir vom Anfang an im Kapital in der ontologischen Differenz drin, was freilich von 'materialistischen' Marxisten vehement geleugnet werden muß. Das Als nennt nichts anderes als die
ontologische Differenz selbst, wie sie in der aristotelischen Metaphysik formuliert wurde: eine Untersuchung von _to on haei on_, d.h. vom Seienden als Seiendem, d.h. von Seiendem, sofern es schlicht seiend und weiter nichts ist. Freilich gibt es mannigfache Seinsweisen. Nicht nur für Hegel und Heidegger war die Wiederentdeckung des Aristoteles entscheidend für ihr Denken, sondern auch — teils über Hegel, teils auch von sich aus — für Marx. Die berüchtigte und alles entscheidende Wertformanalyse im 1. Kapitel von Kapital Bd. I wäre ohne den entscheidenden Einfluß von Aristoteles Eth. Nic. Buch V über die Gerechtigkeit nicht denkbar. Die Wertform ist diejenige Idee, d.h. derjenige Anblick des Seienden als solchen, der es als wertvoll erscheinen läßt.

Das Kapital bietet also die allererste Ontologie kapitalistischen Wirtschaftens, die freilich eine Sozialontologie ist. Die Form (Idee) der Vergesellschaftung durch die Wertschätzung steht in Frage! Marx' Hauptwerk bzw. Hauptentwurf ist aber bis heute kaum als solche gelesen worden, sondern wurde sehr schnell — besonders durch Engels' popularisierende 'Hilfe' — als Historischer Materialismus positiviert, wo der Marxismus bis heute trotz Prager Frühlings und Neuer Linke steckengeblieben ist. Taube Ohren und blinde Augen, d.h. eine geteilte, verschlossene, vorurteilsgeladene Psyche, die sich mit ihrer kritischen, antikapitalistischen Haltung beruhigt, statt sich einem abgründigen Fragen auszusetzen, in dem erst wir Menschen Freiheit erfahren können.


Soweit es um die Gesundwerdung eines kranken Körpers geht, kannst du medizinische Hilfe durch einen Arzt aufsuchen, der dich als Patienten behandeln wird. Soweit es aber um die Gesundwerdung einer blinden Psyche geht, gibt es niemanden, der dich als Patienten behandeln könnte. Du mußt dich selber, d.h. wie du dich und damit auch die Welt verstehst, in Frage stellen und so den Boden unter den eigenen Füßen wegziehen, während du ein anderes Selbst- und Weltverständnis aus dem Abgrund gewinnst und so wieder zum Stehen kommst! Auch wenn ein weiser, hilfreicher Lehrer dir eventuell eine Richtung zeigen kann, ist dein Sehenlernen deine eigene nicht nur anstrengende, sondern auch Mut erfordernde Arbeit.

Vertiefende Lektüre: Critique of competitive freedom and the bourgeois-democratic state, Kapital und Technik und Social Ontology.


06 July 2017

Was Pythagoras an anti-Semite?

Breaking news:

Archaeologists flying buzzard-drones over the desert in the environs of Alexandria in Egypt have discovered new Greek papyri which, they claim, are the first to be securely identified as stemming directly from Pythagoras himself (6th century BCE) or his school. The spectacular find has a disturbing feature, however. It brings the numeral 7 into connection with a saying common in Kroton at the time used to curse the Jews, to the effect of telling them to go to Hades seven times. Leading figures from the New York intellectual scene are out of countenance about these new revelations about Pythagoras' anti-Semitic views.

Columbia University has set up a committee to investigate the implications of Pythagoras' thinking being anti-Semitically infected. Some professors are already calling for Pythagoras' teachings to be banned. A close re-examination of Pythagoras' theorem itself is already underway. This famous theorem about the squares of the sides of a right-angled triangle may itself have anti-Semitic connotations. The Professor of Pure Mathematics at Göttingen University has pointed out that a right-angled isosceles triangle is already one half of the six-pointed Israelite star, and that halving was attributed to femininity rather than the stalwart, indivisibly phallic one.

The consequences of this anti-Semitism hidden in Pythagoras' theorem are immeasurable, not to say, mind-boggling, since the theorem is an elementary building block not only for all geometry. Trigonometry, differential calculus, n-dimensional linear vector spaces, topology, Riemann manifolds are just a few of the innumerable areas of today's mathematics that rely on Pythagoras' theorem. Without these branches of mathematics, in turn, there would be no Newtonian laws of motion, no Maxwellian laws of electro-magnetism, no Einsteinian relativity theory, no Heisenbergian quantum mechanics. In short, the scientific foundations of the West would collapse.

Nevertheless, there are vociferous cries from many quarters demanding that the West make a clean break with Pythagorean thinking, thus disinfecting the anti-Semitism contaminating the roots of Western thought. One political scientist has proposed that Pythagoras' theorem be treated as a literary form rather than as mathematics. Some passengers have already started refusing to board aircraft and trains, and numerous instances of abandoned cars with notes of moral disgust stuck on their windscreens have been reported. Subscribers are cancelling contracts with their internet service providers. Despite these alarming nascent disruptions to our technological way of life, ethicists are calling for the moral high ground to be reclaimed, no matter what the cost. The West, they assert, cannot afford to be associated with Pythagoras, who has now turned out to have been unmasked as a proto-Nazi.

From the other side, many reputable scientists are calling for calm, pointing out that the wondrous efficiency and efficacy of modern techno-science are great achievements whose neutrality is evidenced by the fact that even most Jews living today have embraced technology. They warn against throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Note: This blog post must be read as a continuation of my recent cycle of posts, starting with Russell & Heidegger.

02 July 2017

Learning to see the ontological difference

Following Heidegger's observations on hydrogen bombs (cf. Russell & Heidegger ), I've been banging on about the as-yet unseen danger of the destruction of human being itself (not merely, positivistically, the human species) through the sealing-off and denial of the ontological difference (OD) (cf. Positivism & freedom's extinction).

Here's a phenomenological seeing-exercise (not merely an argument) to show why it is crucial, for understanding our own human being itself (Dasein), to learn to see (cf.
Mathesis) the difference between beings and being. It occurred to me in bed reading Heidegger's lectures held in summer semester 1926 on Fundamental Concepts of Ancient Philosophy (Gesamtausgabe Bd. 22), in particular, Heidegger's lucid and quite brilliant interpretation of Plato's middle-period dialogue Theaitaetos which first entertains, investigates and finally rejects the thesis that perception is knowledge (_aisthaesis epistaemae estin_).

Sounds like a pleasant, but irrelevant scholarly pastime, and probably really is irrelevant for stopping nuclear missiles being launched. So why mention it? Because it allows those who take the trouble of learning to see, to understand why robots (devices equipped with electronic instruments steered by AI algorithms) do not and cannot and will never be able to perceive like we human beings do 'by nature'.

At a certain stage in the dialogue (180-184), perception is characterized as a causal interaction that takes place between the perceiver and perceived thing, say, by vision. The
perceived thing acts on (_poiein_) the perceiving organ, say, the eyes, which suffer this action (_paschein_). Heidegger comments, "Perception is discussed in the same way as the being perceived (something moving). The intentional structure of perception is flattened out to an existing effective connection by the thing perceived, to something effected by a coming-together." (Die Wahrnehmung wird in derselbsen Weise diskutiert wie das wahgenommene Seiende (Bewegtes). Die intentionale Struktur der Wahrnehmung wird nivelliert auf einen vorhandenen Wirkungszusammenhang des Wahrgenommenen, ein Gewirktes eines Zusammentreffens. GA22:120)

This is the way modern science explains vision: the thing perceived acts causally on the organs of vision, the eyes, which receive the photon-signals, that are then passed on neurally to the brain for further processing, so that, finally, the brain ostensibly sees what it sees. Note that this is an entirely positivist scientific explanation of vision in which the distinction between being and beings plays no role whatsoever. The science of optics goes back a long way, into the Middle Ages, with numerous philosophers working on theories of optics that pay no regard to the ontological difference. Today, every single modern science is totally clueless and about this difference first discovered by Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The OD is occluded for modern scientific thinking and for analytic philosophy.

The
modern scientific, causal explanation of vision is also the basis on which engineers are today trying to emulate human visual perception by means of photo-sensors (fitted to a robot of some kind, such as an autonomous car) and artificial perceptron neural networks running learning algorithms to figure out from the data-input what is being 'perceived' by the sensors, distinguishing one thing from another through algorithmic pattern-recognition.

So what's wrong with that way of proceeding, you ask, employing your common sense? Isn't it effective? Haven't a couple of companies already got autonomous cars on the road? Don't worry about these irrelevant metaphysical niceties, let's get these things effectively working. We need a pragmatic attitude!

What's wrong is that this effectual working is not perception at all. Why? As Heidegger says, because of the intentional structure of perception. What's that supposed to mean? An intention is a straining- or directing-oneself-toward, in this case: perception is always a perceiving of something, is always directed toward something. This discovery was key for Husserl's phenomenological breakthrough.

It's not the eyes, however, that are intentionally directed toward, but the perceiver him- or herself employing the eyes to see something. "Not the eyes, but what uses them as organs of vision, is what first organizes them into organs. We do not see because we have eyes, but because we see, we have eyes." (Nicht die Augen, sondern das sie als Sehorgane Gebrauchende, was sie erst zu Organen organisiert. Wir sehen nicht, weil wir Augen haben, sondern weil wir sehen, haben wir Augen. GA22:121) Positivist science has it the wrong way round. For Plato it is the _psychae_ (soul) that sees, using the visual organs, the eyes; it is  not the eyes themselves that see. As is well-known, and as modern science insists, robots do not have souls, so that it is easy for it to claim that robots themselves see. The
concept corresponding to 'soul' for modern science and its ancillary analytic philosophy is 'consciousness', a phenomenon around which they are still merely tapping in the dark

But that's not all: The intentional structure of perception as a perceiving of something is also categorial. The _psychae_ must always already understand in advance (i.e. see with the mind) the category of something (_ti_) to see anything at all. It does not perceive through the senses just bits and pieces of perception such as the colour, sound, size of a "ringing bell" (klingelnde Glocke GA22:122) that are somehow stuck together, but always already a whole Gestalt, i.e. something, _ti_. Look at the index finger on your left hand. You see your finger as something, don't you? Husserl calls this "kategoriale Anschauung" (categorial intuition, literally
categorial looking-at), and 'something' is not the only category. Not Husserl, but Aristotle was the first to explicitly see the categories as ways in which the being of beings shows itself phenomenally and is accordingly addressed: _legein ti kata tinos_, 'saying something as something'. But Plato also makes the breakthrough to categorial looking-at by the psyche in Theaitaetos. Perceiving the bell AS big and brown and ringing requires also the category of 'and'. The eyes cannot see the categories of 'something' or 'and' or 'bigger than' or 'sameness' or 'difference' and so on, but only the _psychae_, which always already (a priori) understands these categories of the being of beings. This is psychic or, if you prefer, mental vision, of which a robot is not and never will be capable. 

Plato calls what the _psychae_ sees the _eidae_, i.e. the 'looks' that beings present of themselves for the _psychae_ to look at and understand mentally. Traditionally, _eidos_ is translated as 'idea' or 'form'; hence we human beings are all necessarily 'idealists'; hence Plato's famous 'theory of forms'. But _eidos_, as well as _idea_, derives from the Greek verb _idein_ 'to see', which makes 'look' or 'sight' a better translation. Such 'looks' are not 'transcendent', beyond the physical, meta-physical, but rather a priori, enabling the understanding of beings as beings in the first place. Hence they are pre-physical. In an originary sense, in-form-ation is nothing other than the psyche's ability to understand the 'messages' of the 'forms', i.e. the 'looks', that beings present of themselves to the looker. 

The _psychae_ also does not see only the 'looks' presented to the senses in the present, but also what happened yesterday or what it expects next year. "I cannot hear what is past, but I can understand, for instance, what is expected as futural, etc." (Ich kann Vergangenes nicht hören, aber ich kann z.B. Erwartetes als Zukünftiges verstehen usw. GA22:271) The psyche does not have to depend on a present sensuous presentation of beings, but ranges freely, faster than the speed of light, through all three temporal dimensions, and (this is my additive) is basically nothing other than the relation to this open 3D-temporal clearing in which all beings present and absent themselves, revealing and also concealing what and who they are to the psyche's mental understanding of their 'looks' (_eidae_).


An important corollary to this phenomenological exercise, leading to the insight that the psyche understands the elementary categories a priori, with such understanding enabling perception in the first place, is the following:

We can talk with each other about these elementary categories such as 'something', 'other', 'in relation to', etc. and well understand them when someone addresses them in a dialogue. Hence we must all a priori share this 3D-temporal psyche in which these well-understood categories always already reside. Each of us individually partakes of this shared psyche, which is an ontological precondition for our understanding each other at all. This shared psyche is beyond any scientific causal explanation because it is not physical, but rather pre-physically temporal.

This overcomes the intractable problem of intersubjectivity in subjectivist metaphysics, which proceeds from an individual consciousness located somewhere inside and then is stuck with the problem of how to conceive that the encapsulated individual consciousnesses inside can get outside and share anything at all with each other.


Modern philosophy is not willing to learn from exercises in phenomenological seeing
such as the above for seeing the ontological difference, dismissing them either out of hand with some -ism label or other, or treating them merely as interesting episodes in the history of ideas. We don't know what we've missed or are missing through the suppression of the OD, and there is cunning strategic method to this madness of closing off the OD to sight. Nevertheless it's like regarding Pythagoras' theorem as merely of historical interest, as if it had been true in ancient Greece, but today its proof did not hold up to scrutiny. Fortunately for mathematics, Pythagoras' elementary theorem is recognized as an indispensable part of the foundations of modern mathematics, without which there would have been no differential calculus, no n-dimensional linear vector spaces, no topology nor much else of mathematics as we know it today. And without the mathematics, there would also be no modern technology at all.

Moreover, all of the modern sciences, without exception, cannot and will not understand this talk of 'looks', a priori categories and a shared 3D-tempral psyche, because they are all positivist, having flattened out the OD into nothing. So they proceed blindly, hell-bent on making robots for effective control and steering of all kinds of movement in the world, conceiving even human being itself AS 'in principle' physically constructible. This effective AS is modern science's, and also analytic philosophy's, seemingly immutable hermeneutic cast. But nothing's forever in the openness of historical time.

In view of this state of affairs, as someone close to me suggests, nuclear Armageddon could well be the least of our concerns. Instead, taking on the challenge to learn to think should have priority.




18 June 2017

Mathesis

[English version below]

In seinen Vorlesungen im Sommersemester 1925 schreibt Martin Heidegger im Hinblick auf Husserls bahnbrechende Logische Untersuchungen (1900/1901), die so wichtig für sein eigenes Verständnis und Lernen der phänomenologischen Methode waren:

"Ungewohnter und ganz gegen die übliche Art zu philosophieren, ist die Weise der Durchdringung und Aneignung, die das Werk fordert. Es hat einen durchgehenden untersuchenden Gang; es verlangt schrittweise, ausdrücklich anschauliche Vergegenwärtigung und kontrollierende Ausweisung dessen, wovon gehandelt wird. Man kann also nicht [...] einfach Resultate herausnehmen..." Gesamtausgabe Band 20 Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs GA20:32.

Nicht zufällig war Husserl zuerst ein Mathematiker, der unter dem entscheidenden Einfluß von Franz von Brentano zur Philosophie übergewechselt ist. Die mathematische Sprache selbst ist eine arbeitende Sprache, die verlangt, daß der Lernende jeden einzelnen Schritt in der Gedankenführung mitvollzieht. Sonst lernt man nichts, sondern bekommt höchstens einen äußerlichen Eindruck von dem, was der Gedankengang selbst zur Erscheinung bringt. So neigen auch die meisten philosophischen Gelehrten dazu, über die Phänomene oder gar bloß über Philosophennamen zu reden, statt von den Phänomenen selbst her zu denken.

Das Wort 'Mathematik' stammt vom altgriechischen _mathaesis_ 'Lernen' und ist also weiter als die Mathematik im engeren Sinn als Wissenschaft etwa von geometrischer Figur und Zahl. Für das philosophische Denken hat das zur Folge, daß auch die Philosophie die "schrittweise, ausdrücklich anschauliche Vergegenwärtigung und kontrollierende Ausweisung dessen, wovon gehandelt wird," verlangt. Das ist anstrengend, aber es sichert einen klaren Blick auf die Phänomene selbst. Die phänomenologische Methode ist Denkweg, der die "Anstrengung des Begriffs" (Hegel) fordert. Bekanntlich war auch Hegel Phänomenologe.

Umgekehrt bedeutet dies, daß diejenigen, die sich vor der "Anstrengung des Begriffs", d.h. der schrittweise arbeitenden, entbergenden Mathesis, scheuen, lediglich einer Selbsttäuschung unterliegen bloß meinend, daß sie philosophieren. Diese Selbsttäuschung ist die Regel unter den 'professionellen Philosophen', weshalb es nur äußerst selten einen Denker gibt. Denn jeder Denker, der echt lernend denkt, geht stets zurück in die tiefsten, noch ungeprüften Vorverständnisse bzw. —  stets stillschweigend verborgenen —  Voraussetzungen seiner philosophischen Vorgänger, um sie genauer zu prüfen und gegebenenfalls zu revidieren. Philosophisches Denken ist in erster Linie die schrittweise Arbeit des Abbaus von verdeckenden Vorurteilen. Die Philosophie befreit, indem der/die Philosophierende durch begriffliche Arbeit lernt, klarer zu sehen. Somit steht jede Philosophie auch stets der Kritik offen.

Vertiefende Lektüre: Martin Heidegger Gesamtausgabe Bd. 20 Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs.

English version:


In his lectures in the summer semester of 1925, Martin Heidegger writes with regard to Husserl's trail-blazing Logical Investigations (1900/1901) that were so important for his own understanding and learning of the phenomenological method:

"More unusual and completely contrary to the usual way of philosophizing is the mode of penetrating and appropriating demanded by the work. It has a thoroughgoing investigative path; it demands a step-wise, expressly clear bringing-to-presence and scrutinizing demonstration of the subject dealt with. Hence you cannot simply take out results..." Prolegomena to a History of the Concept of Time Gesamtausgabe Band 20.

It is no accident that Husserl was first a mathematician who, under the decisive influence of Franz von Brentano, switched over to philosophy. Mathematical language itself is a working language demanding that the one learning follows every single step in the train of thoughts. Otherwise you learn nothing, but at the most get only a superficial impression of what the path of thinking itself brings to manifestation. Thus, even most philosophical scholars tend to speak about phenomena or even merely about philosopher-names, instead of thinking from the phenomena themselves.

The word 'mathematics' stems from ancient Greek _matheasis_, signifying 'learning', and is thus broader in meaning than mathematics in the narrower sense as, say, the science of geometrical figure and number. For philosophical thinking this has the consequence that philosophy, too, demands "a step-wise, expressly clear bringing-to-presence and scrutinizing demonstration of the subject dealt with". This is strenuous, but it secures a clear view of the phenomena themselves. The phenomenological method is a path of thinking demanding the "strenuousness of the concept" (Hegel). As is well-known, Hegel, too, was a phenomenologist.

This means conversely that those who avoid the "strenuousness of the concept", i.e.  step-wise working, revealing learning, only fall foul of self-deception, merely opining that they are philosophizing. This self-deception is the rule among the 'professional philosophers', for which reason genuine thinkers are extremely rare, for every thinker who thinks in a genuinely learning fashion always goes backwards into the deepest, as yet unexamined preconceptions and — invariably tacit, hidden — presuppositions of his or her philosophical predecessors in order to examine them more closely and, if necessary, to revise them. Philosophical thinking is primarily the step-wise work of demolishing prejudices that cover up. Philosophy is liberating in that, through conceptual work. the one philosophizing learns to see more clearly. Thus every philosophy is also always open to critique.

Further reading: Martin Heidegger History of the Concept of Time - Prolegomena
Gesamtausgabe Band 20, English translation T. Kisiel.

14 June 2017

Gedankenlosigkeit empirisch erfahren

In Antwort auf meine beiden letzten Blogeinträge zum Positivismus, Russell und Heidegger hat sich ein angeblicher Freund des Denkens, der die philosophische Auseinandersetzung mit mir nicht fortsetzen will, mit einem Kommentar bei mir gemeldet, den man sich denkerisch auf der Zunge zergehen lassen sollte:

"Ich bringe den Text [in der eMail ME] auch als vage Reaktion auf Deine Positionen von zuletzt zum Messkircher und dem Positivismus. Dass Ersterer weder auf die konkrete Einschreibung von Isarkraftwerken noch von Atombomben je einging, macht ihn so irrelevant, urteilsunfähig. Die abstrakte Klage über den metaphysischen Niedergang hilft da gar nichts. Man muss schon für ein wenig mehr begehrensökonomische Einbindung sorgen, soll‘s nicht im Paralleluniversum verpuffen."

Diese Antwort hat meinen Widerspruch hervorgerufen, und zwar aus Gründen, die ich hier kurz angeben will:

Was beinhaltet der Vorwurf, daß der Meßkircher Heidegger "weder auf die konkrete Einschreibung von Isarkraftwerken noch von Atombomben je einging"? Lassen wir die "Isarkraftwerke" beiseite, im von mir zitierten Text Heideggers geht er gerade als Denker auf die "Wasserstoffbomben" ein. Was heißt "konkrete Einschreibung"? Heißt es: die Wasserstoffbomben ontisch in ihrer unermesslichen Zerstörungskraft genommen? Heidegger geht gerade darauf ein, um dann in einem zweiten Schritt auf eine noch größere Gefahr hinzuweisen, die jenseits des ontisch genommenen Seienden (etwa, einer Atombombe) in der Differenz zwischen dem Seienden und dem Sein, d.h. in der sogenannten ontologischen Differenz, liegt. Diese Gefahr kann nur gesehen werden, solange philosophisch diese ontologische Differenz — die seit Platon viele Namen getragen hat etwa: _idea_, _to on haei on_ ('das Seiende als Seiendes', Aristoteles), Spekulation (Hegel) — sichtbar bleibt. Und gerade die positivistisch-analytische Philosophie (neben der heutigen, immer noch Cartesisch-geprägten französischer Philosophie) ist es, die diese ontologische Differenz mit aller denkarmen Gewalt zum Verschwinden gebracht hat. 

Mein Freund des Denkens paraphrasiert diesen Aufruf zum Denken Heieggers als "abstrakte Klage über den metaphysischen Niedergang" und empfiehlt stattdessen, "begehrensökonomische Einbindung". Was aber besagt dies? Eine ontisch-soziologisch-politische Betrachtungsweise? Wohl ja, denn in einem längeren Teil seiner eMail geht es um "koloniale und postkoloniale" kapitalistische Ausbeutung in Afrika und der Karibik — also wird ein konkreter, linkskritischer Blick auf real-existierende Ausbeutungsverhältnisse eingefordert. Dagegen wird das, was Heidegger mit dem Vorwurf der Gedankenlosigkeit unserer Zeit einfordert, als "abstrakte Klage" abgetan, und zwar ohne sich darüber philosophische Gedanken zu machen, worin die Gefahr für die Menschheit besteht, daß sie nur noch fähig ist, die Welt ontisch, d.h. positivistisch, zu verstehen. Wie überall im heutigen Alltags- und Mediendiskurs reicht schon das vorurteilsbeladene Wort "abstrakt", um angeblich kritische Arbeit zu tun. Das heißt aber, daß dieser Freund des Denkens gerade jene Gedankenlosigkeit gedankenlos praktiziert, die von Heidegger angesprochen wird, um eben seine Zuhörer nachdenklich zu stimmen. 

Der Vorwurf einer bloß "abstrakten Klage" will auch sagen, daß man damit lediglich in einem "Paralleluniversum" landet. Somit wird beim uralten Vorurteil und der Fehleinschätzung stehengeblieben, daß das philosophische Denken fürs praktische Leben und für die Sorgen und Kämpfe der Menschen nichts bringt. Mir scheint, daß dieser Freund des Denkens nicht nur nicht weiß, was philosophisches Denken ist (es erfordert nämlich die "Anstrengung des Begriffs" (Hegel)), sondern noch schlimmer, daß er nicht bereit war noch ist, philosophisches Denken zu lernen. Mit dieser Haltung ist er keineswegs allein und er weiß auch nichts von seinem abgründigen Selbstbetrug. Stattdessen Abwehr auf sogenannt kritischem Feuilletonniveau.

11 June 2017

Positivism & freedom's extinction

The rise and consolidation of positivism in the latter half of the 19th century signalled the death knell of philosophy and with it the extinction of human being AS such as a matter for thought. Encyclopaedia Brittanica provides a succinct definition: "The basic affirmations of positivism are (1) that all knowledge ... is based on the 'positive' data of experience and (2) that beyond the realm of fact is that of pure logic and pure mathematics. ... On the negative and critical side, the positivists became noted for their repudiation of metaphysics — i.e., of speculation regarding the nature of reality that radically goes beyond any possible evidence  that could either support or refute such 'transcendent' knowledge claims."

This positivist stance was associated initially with Auguste Comte, the founder of sociology, the social science that like no other serves as an Ersatz for philosophy today. It proceeded, via a detour resuscitating Kant as a mere epistemologist, to the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle and the early Wittgenstein who, in turn, served as the go-between enabling the merger between positivism and today's hegemonic analytic philosophy first announced by Russell and Whitehead at the turn of the twentieth century. Positivist-analytic philosophy is that mode of modern Western thinking which has capitulated to modern mathematico-empirical science. Facts (empirical data) are good. So are formal logic and mathematics. What's bad is metaphysical speculation. The very word, 'speculation', becomes with positivism a term of abuse for unfounded, and thus fanciful, ideas. Originally, however, 'speculatio' was the Latin rendering of Greek _theoria_ as practised by Aristotle in his Metaphysics: the inquiry into _to on haei on_, into beings AS beings. Both terms, 'speculatio' and _theoria_ derive from roots meaning 'to look'. Philosophically meant originally learning to look closely at the apparently most self-evident phenomena.

What positivist-analytic philosophy understands by metaphysics as "'transcendent' knowledge claims" is most often understood as speculation about a transcendent being beyond the physical called God. This speculation about the divine is what interested Christian theology from the outset in its appropriation and distorting adaptation of Aristotle's thinking. In turn, the transition from medieval philosophy, which is basically Christian theology, to the Modern Age, was a centuries-long philosophical struggle against theological thinking in favour of empirical evidence for knowledge gathered and mathematically processed by the modern human being cast AS the underlying subject of all knowledge. Philosophy becomes at core epistemology. With this shift in Western thinking, the original Greek meaning of 'subject', i.e. the _hypokeimenon_ that presents itself to view to be addressed AS such by humans, is turned upside down. The original Greek subject becomes the object of modern subjective experience in interior consciousness! Today this world-shaking inversion as such has long since been forgotten and suppressed.  All modern philosophy since Descartes via Kant to positivist analytic philosophy is philosophy of subjective consciousness vis-à-vis an external, objective world. The single exception is Heidegger's thinking which  — how could it be otherwise when power is at stake? — is vituperatively denounced and forcefully suppressed employing all contumelious means available. Consciousness replaces that which was known to Greek thinking as _psychae_ and _nous_, L.: 'anima' and 'mens'.

Positivist-analytic philosophy is oblivious to the ambiguity inherent in Aristotle's Metaphysics, whose latter part deals with _epistaemae theologikae_, i.e. theological knowledge. The former, major part of Metaphysics investigates _physei onta_, i.e. physical beings themselves, not any 'transcendent' beings at all! As an inquiry into the being of beings AS such, the former books of the Metaphysics deal with the simplest, most inconspicuous phenomena associated with ordinary, everyday beings (_pragmata_) which are preconceived in multiple ways AS beings prior to any empirically-based science getting under way. Such ontological preconceptions are the tacit presuppositions for any empirical science whatsoever. In particular, the phenomena of movement are brought to crucial concepts in an ontology of movement that represents the apex of Aristotle's thinking that brought to culmination ancient Greek thinking on the perplexing phenomena of movement AS such.

Of the three fundamental ontological concepts of movement (_dynamis, energeia, entelecheia_) studied in depth in the Metaphysics, two have been borrowed in an excruciatingly superficial manner by modern science without thinking twice about this thoughtless misappropriation. Nevertheless, without this appropriation of metaphysical (or better: ontological) concepts of movement AS such, there would be no modern science as all! Positivist-analytical philosophy thoroughly confuses ontology and theology.  For it, ontology is the philosophy of existence, i.e. that things exist. It never poses the question as to the meaning of existence itself, i.e. what being means, but takes existence as a self-evident fact, like any empirical fact. At most, analytic ontology undertakes a taxonomy of beings, becoming thus a dry and empty enterprise. Completely lost is the depth of Aristotle's deepest thinking that struggled to philosophically, i.e. ontologically, comprehend the being of _kinoumena_, that is, of beings that can move and change which comprise all physical beings. The ontological difference between beings and their being AS such is fundamentally denied as if it were just one more unfounded "transcendent speculation" like 'speculating' about the 'existence' of a Supreme Being. But the ontological difference concerns those subtle preconceptions that enable the human mind to understand beings AS beings. Hence, not 'transcendent' but prior.

The ontological difference is the site where human freedom itself resides. Why? For it enables the world in its fundamental ontological structure to be seen AS such, and this AS as an historical cast of being is what enables each of us to act from his or her own individual starting-point proceeding from a guiding understanding of the world. By denying the ontological difference, analytic philosophy extinguishes the possibility of human freedom. Today, it takes a distinguished mathematician like Sir Roger Penrose to salvage a final hope for human freedom through the back door by proposing that a conjectured quantum indeterminacy of neural processes in the brain could provide some wiggle-room for free will to move outside the ambit of rigorous efficient linear causality. Since philosophy has abdicated and capitulated, advanced science, which has the pants on anyway, steps into the breach.

The insistence on empirical fact leads positivist-analytic philosophy to narrow the view of the world to what the conscious subject can garner temporally one-dimensionally from the world via the media of its senses in the present, with or without the aid of sophisticated technical apparatuses. The gathering of empirical data provides the bedrock material that skilful, mathematically adept consciousness works up into theoretical models of the world which, in turn, have to be verified or refuted by referring back to empirical data.

Modern science in whatever form is intent, nay, hell-bent, on developing empirically based, mathematically mediated, models for effectively controlling or predicting movements and changes of all conceivable kinds. Enter the cyberworld, with whose advent the logical _logos_ becomes self-active as algorithms controlling all sorts of movements. In particular, with so-called artificial neural networks and their learning algorithms, the mathematical means are at hand for predictively bringing all kinds of movement and change in the world algorithmically under control. Hence the insatiable hunger for Big Data on every front to feed all those learning algorithms out there, poised to pounce on any data you might divulge. Today, humanity is willingly, blindly, thoughtlessly plunging into and allowing itself to be devoured by this ever-encroaching cyberworld. Positivist-analytic philosophy aids and abets this fateful movement of our time; it is no help whatever for learning to see our predicament. 'Learning to see' phenomenologically is replaced by artificial intelligence's learning algorithms. If this centuries-old historical trend is not to be inexorable, it will be redirected only by our learning a kind of thinking that does not block the view of the simplest phenomena themselves by dogmatic prohibitions on seeing.

Further reading: Martin Heidegger History of the Concept of Time - Prolegomena; original German in Gesamtausgabe Bd. 20 Prolegomena zur Geschichte des Zeitbegriffs. Summer Semester lectures 1925; see Michael Zimmerman's review. Raul Rojas Neural Networks. See also my The Digital Cast of Being and A Question of Time.