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.

02 June 2017

Russell & Heidegger

 Bertrand Russell is universally admired as a philosopher who also had political guts and commitment, such as when he engaged in the Ban the Bomb movement in 1950s' Britain, protesting against the H-bomb in demonstrations, &c. to prevent nuclear annihilation of humankind on Earth. By contrast, Martin Heidegger never took part in an anti-bomb demo, nor perhaps in any street protest, nor even had the imminent threat of nuclear war at the top of his list of dangers confronting humankind. More on this below.

Russell commented on Heidegger, echoing the sentiments of many a twentieth-century logical positivist or analytic philosopher:
"Martin Heidegger's philosophy is extremely obscure and highly eccentric in its terminology. One cannot help suspecting that language is here running riot. An interesting point in his speculations is the insistence that nothingness is something positive. As with much else in Existentialism, this is a psychological observation made to pass for logic." Bertrand Russell Wisdom of the West
1989, p. 303.

 According to Russell, Heidegger's philosophy does not come up to scratch when measured against the yardstick of logic. This may even be correct, because Heidegger's thinking puts even logic into question, not by spinning off into so-called irrationality but by returning to, revising and resetting the roots of Western thinking.

With his co-author Whitehead, Russell is famous for his ground-breaking work on the logical foundations of mathematics, Principia Mathematica, which furthered the work of the deeply anti-Semitic, arch-conservative German logician, Gottlob Frege and is still hailed as one of the founding texts of analytic philosophy. Is Principia Mathematica any easier to learn to read and understand than, say, Heidegger's Being and Time? Is the former work's language obscure? As both a mathematician and philosopher, I can vouch for both works placing strenuous demands on the reader, but neither is incomprehensible. Both can be appropriated by close study and both make sense. Each requires a different kind of thinking, the one logical-mathematical, the other phenomenological-hermeneutic.

It is well-known that around 1930 the logical positivist, Carnap, pronounced Heidegger's thinking on nothingness to consist of meaningless statements, much the same as Russell's verdict. The criterion for possessing meaning in logical positivism is that the statement must be scientifically verifiable; otherwise the statement must be rejected as utterly nonsensical. Analytic philosophy's criterion for meaningful statements is hardly less rigorous. Both kinds of philosophy have placed unconditional bets on science, with its experimental scientific method, being unquestionably the arbiter of the truth of the world. Heidegger's thinking, being more radical by questioning even the modern scientific mode of access to the world as one-eyed, must fail the criterion of truth posited by Carnap or Russell. Scientificity and logicality, however, are both posited dogmatically, as if they were the final word of a modern philosophy that had finally become truly rational.

In 1955, at a time when the Ban the Bomb movement was still active, Martin Heidegger gave a talk in his hometown of Meßkirch in which he said, among other things, that 

"Denn gerade wenn die Wasserstoffbomben nicht explodieren und das Leben des Menschen auf der Erde erhalten bleibt, zieht mit dem Atomzeitalter eine unheimliche Veränderung der Welt herauf." (M. Heidegger Gelassenheit Neske, Pfullingen 1959/1985 p.20)
"For, precisely if the hydrogen bombs do not explode and human life on Earth is preserved, with the atomic age an eery change in the world is approaching."

This eeriness concerns humankind's "not being prepared for this change in the world" (ibid.). Why? Because "modern man is fleeing from thinking" (p.12), and "thoughtlessness is an eery guest who today comes and goes everywhere" (p. 11).

These seem to be highly quotable dicta that can be dropped casually like bombs in any dinner-party conversation. But do they mean anything?, we hear the analytic logician, Russell, ask. Not if you ensconce yourself behind the defences of logic and refuse to interrogate logic itself as a phenomenon in the world — and not just in words and statements. Which is one of questions — the question concerning the _logos_ and _legein_ — Heidegger's thinking raises, without going off the rails into merely gestural irrationality. Viewed from this angle, it is the philosopher, Bertrand Russell, who is "fleeing from thinking".

For Heidegger, if the nuclear bombs don't fall, we humans are confronted with an immeasurably greater, eery danger, namely, the destruction of human being itself by the modern scientific way of thinking. The eeriness consists in the danger's not being seen due to ubiquitous thoughtlessness and the self-satisfied refusal — including especially by philosophers such as Bertrand Russell and his multitudinous successors throughout the world — to painstakingly learn to think, of course, while at the same time steadfastly asserting the superiority of their own blinkered thinking.

29 May 2017

Subverting mathematized science's hegemony

Galileo Galilei famously  pronounced, "il grandissimo libro della natura è scritto in lingua matematica" ('the grand book of nature is written in mathematical language', Opere Il Saggiatore 1623). This pronouncement goes along with an affirmation of the experimental scientific method, according to which the phenomena appearing to the senses are to be made measurable and measured. This dogma of mathematico-empirical scientific method has long since become the self-evident common sense of our Modern Age, as if it were incontrovertibly true. Even those hanging onto faith today tend to want to put their bets both ways. In truth, however, mathematico-empirical scientific method is an historical hermeneutic casting of an age pronouncing AS what beings AS such are to present themselves to the human mind. This hermeneutic AS is everywhere denied by science, today's hegemonic analytic philosophy and common sense, by the former two mostly with overweening hubris. It is conveniently skipped over in favour of relying on the supposed 'naked facts' themselves in the presupposed external 'objective' world registered by the presupposed interior, 'subjective' consciousness with the aid of its elaborate experimental apparatuses.

One consequence of this hermeneutic cast is that it can only be read properly in mathematical language. Those who cannot read this language are forever at one remove, and therefore treated with much condescension and arrogance by those scientists in the know. Those who do not unquestionably go along with mathematized science's absolute pretensions to effective, efficient power — most often via its technologies and whilst incessantly peddling its great usefulness and benefits for humankind — but rather seek to radically dispute the tunnel vision of this totalizing hermeneutic cast, are called on to themselves become infiltrating guerillas by learning mathematical language with critical, subversive hermeneutic intent.

12 May 2017

Hegel's speculative thinking

Response to an analytic philosopher with a liking for Hegel

Hegel's diagnosis of, or verdict on, English and Scottish philosophy in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, pronouncing it to be "unspeculative", seems to me to hit the nail on the head, carrying over mutatis mutandis to today's analytic philosophy, whose raison d'être is to keep the lid on speculation. Hegel employs the term Spekulation in its traditional sense as a rendering of Greek-Aristotelean _theoria_, i.e. _protae philosophia_ in the genuine sense of an investigation into _to on haei on_, i.e. into beings insofar they are beings, beings qua beings or beings AS beings. The AS stands for the famous apophantic AS in the sense of all _legein_ (saying) being a _legein ti kata tinos_, i.e. addressing something AS such-and-such. This original Aristotelean metaphysics is thus ontology investigating the AS specifying the difference between beings and their very being. Analytic philosophy is blind and hostilely resistant to this so-called ontological difference.

My own major points of orientation among Modern Age thinkers, from whom I have learned decisively, are Marx, Hegel and Heidegger, each of whom, in turn, is deeply indebted to Aristotle, each in his own way. Each of these thinkers go back, not forward, to re-vise, to re-see, for going back is the true task for today's thinkers so as to recast our deepest preconceptions. The last modern thinker named, Heidegger, is the one who delves most interrogatingly into Aristotle, unearthing the most hidden, tacit presuppositions of his thinking, most crucially, how Aristotle and Plato et al. tacitly understood, and thus preconceived, what was meant by 'being' itself. Being has a temporal sense; it means time, but not merely traditional one-dimensional, linear, counted clock-time! Hence Heidegger is also the most radical of the three, and these three are more questioning and radical than, say, Kant or Leibniz or Descartes, three more greats who worked 'going forward' on the Modern Age's cast of being with Kant arguably consummating it. Kant therefore is ubiquitously loved, for he repeats and reproduces every prejudice of the Modern Age's thinking and is thus compatible also with the modern sciences with their 'self-evident' preconception of a distinction between subjective consciousness inside and an objective world independent of consciousness outside. In his long engagement with and critique of Kant's subjective idealism, Hegel is the first thinker to undertake a philosophical healing of this inside/outside split. For me, this apparently 'self-evident' preconception is a pernicious delusion cast on all present-day thinking.

From Hegel I learned first of all how to think in a dialectical-speculative manner, which is the hallmark of his thinking vis-à-vis mere Verstehen (understanding) or Raissonieren (rationalizing). The 'speculative' refers to the dimension of the AS that opens up genuine philosophy, starting with Plato's _idea_. The 'dialectical' refers to how genuinely philosophical concepts can be thought through in a connected way. I think Hegel learned his dialectical thinking from studying Plato's Sophist and his Parmenides.
In contrast to Schelling, Hegel did not think that the articulations of understanding, with which analytic philosophers are typically at home, could be by-passed by any immediate, intuitive insight into truths. Hegel's dialectical-speculative Vernunft (reason) is anything but "intuitive", i.e. a mere direct 'looking-at' (Anschauung), but rather a connected (dia-lectical) thinking through all the ontological categories beyond what Aristotle lay down with his own categories and his three other senses of being: being as truth (_alaetheuein_), being as movement (_kinaesis_), being as in itself or accidentally (_kath auto vs. kata symbebaekos_). Plato did not see clearly this fourfold analogical branching of modes of being, but stuck pretty much to _genae_ (genera) which he treated like categories. For all his dialectical penetration, I don't think Hegel plumbed the depths of subtlety or the greatness of the achievement of Aristotle's ontology of productive movement. The question concerning _kinaesis_, i.e. how movement can be seen at all, is at the heart of Greek philosophy from the outset, starting with Parmenides, and Aristotle brings this questioning to its ancient Greek consummation. How could an analytic philosopher understand Aristotle's repeated claim that _kinaesis chalepaen idein_, "movement is hard to see"? Given that analytic philosophers in general treat Aristotle patronizingly as superseded, wouldn't he merely quip that Aristotle is off his rocker?

Hegel's Logik attempts for the first time in the history of Western thinking a thorough-going ontology of the entire structure of the world, from which much can be learned (and much criticized). Speculative logic is per se ontological. By discovering that being basically means originary 3D-time (not merely one-dimensional, linear time), however, Heidegger has the lever to pry the metaphysical tradition out of its millennia-old rut and to think again. With this goes hand in hand a deepening of the apophantic AS, which still resides in _logoi_; Heidegger goes deeper, to the pre-logical, pre-conceptual, preconceiving hermeneutic AS, through which the world shapes up and presents itself in its respective historical hermeneutic cast that is lived out in any given age AS tacit, 'self-evident' preconceptions that are very hard to uncover, dislodge and shake off. This does not render Heidegger's thinking "quasi-intuitive" but more simply phenomenological (or 'phenomenophatic', from _phasis_, 'saying') in being open to seeing the phenomena in their simple self-presenting and self-presencing. One need not resort to any kind of Urgrund, like Schelling does; what is hardest to see is completely everyday, quotidian.

My philosophical motivation from the outset was the question concerning the possibility of freedom in living together socially on the Earth. I have come to the insight that freedom is a kind of freedom of movement in the sense of a mutually estimating, esteeming, valuating interplay. I came to this concept of interplay eventually after spending years thinking through Marx's (deeply Hegelian) dialectic of the value-form, since (reified) value as the pivotal, all-supporting concept of Marx's late thinking, is itself a kind of
estimating interplay and hence a kind of (social, sociating) movement. This kind of movement, however, fits ill with Aristotle's ontology of movement encapsulated in the triad, _dynamis, energeia, entelecheia_ for the latter captures only productive movement emanating from a single controlling _archae_, i.e _dynamis_ conceived AS _archae kinaeseos_, i.e. governing starting-point for a change in something else. The ontology of estimating interplay, an interplay of two or more _dynameis_ (powers), by contrast, is more complex than one-dimensional, productive, efficient movement proceeding in parallel to the so-called 'arrow of time' from an effecting _dynamis_. Neither Aristotle nor Hegel nor Marx nor Heidegger got so far as to see philosophically, i.e. ontologically, this sociating kind of movement, an interplay that is literally an interplay of powers that eludes effective, efficient control by any sort of know-how or knowledge.
***

The analytic philosopher with a liking for Hegel did not like my response, no reasons given. Like other analytic philosophers, he suffers from the ism-itis that plagues this kind of philosophizing, which is invariably a power game, a Glasperlenspiel, of 'arguments', 'positions' and 'moves' for or against one ism or other. That is, when it does boil down to one's idiosyncratic likings and dislikings, i.e. to mere felt _doxa_.

25 March 2017

Wilde's 'Critic as Artist'

Is the artist the best critic of art? Who else is to be the proper critic of art in all its various forms? Oscar Wilde pursues these questions with intensity in his noteworthy bipartite dialogical essay, 'The Critic as Artist', published in 1891. Ernest is the interrogator of Gilbert, who enlightens Ernest about the meaning of criticism. Here a few selected excerpts:

"ERNEST:  [...] Each art must appeal primarily to the artist who works in it. His judgment will surely be the most valuable?
GILBERT: [...]   so far from its being true that the artist is the best judge of art, a really great artist can never judge of other people's work at all, and can hardly, in fact, judge of his own. That very concentration of vision that makes a man an artist, limits by its sheer intensity his faculty of fine appreciation.  [...]  Creation employs all its critical faculty within its own sphere. It may not use it in the sphere that belongs to others. It is exactly because a man cannot do a thing that he is the proper judge of it."

If, then, the artist himself is not the proper critic of art, who is? Ernest had already asked beforehand:

"ERNEST. But where in this is the function of the critical spirit?
GILBERT: [...]   the contemplative life, the life that has for its aim not doing but being, and not being merely, but becoming — that is what the critical spirit can give us.  [...] To us, at any rate, the _BIOS THEORAETIKOS_ is the true ideal. From the high tower of Thought we can look out at the world. [...] The aim of art is simply to create a mood. Is such a mode of life unpractical? Ah! it is not so easy to be unpractical as the ignorant Philistine imagines. It were well for England if it were so."

'Contemplation' is a traditional translation of Greek _theoria_ (from _theorein_ 'to view, to contemplate') which, in Aristotle, is synonymous with philosophy, and in this dialogue Wilde refers both to Plato and especially Aristotle's Poetics as primary sources for his reflections on criticism, e.g.:

"GILBERT: [...]    It may be that it is as a critic of Beauty that Plato is destined to live, and that by altering the name of the sphere of his speculation we shall find a new philosophy. But Aristotle, like Goethe, deals with art primarily in its concrete manifestations, taking Tragedy, for instance, and investigating the material it uses, which is language, its subject-matter, which is life, the method by which it works, which is action, the conditions under which it reveals itself, which are those of theatric presentation, its logical structure, which is plot, and its final aesthetic appeal, which is to the sense of beauty realized through the passions of pity and awe."

Is it a question of Beauty with a capital B, of philosophical aesthetics, today? No matter. It is clear that Wilde is returning to the Greeks for orientation:

"GILBERT: [...]   For, after all, what is our primary debt to the Greeks? Simply the critical spirit."

And today? What philosophical Geist is to criticize art contemplatively? From what kind of philosophical thinking do today's artists take an orientation, if they seek a philosophical orientation at all? Don't both artists and art critics alike today orient themselves primarily within the historical trends of a particular genre? If the aim of art is "simply to create a mood", which moods of today's Zeit-Geist are the ones seeking an artistic form, and are artists at all aware of them?

"GILBERT: [...]   Creation is always behind the age. It is Criticism that leads us. The Critical Spirit and the World-Spirit are one."

Today's prevailing, barren philosophy, that proceeds from the unquestioned presupposition of the encapsulated conscious subject vis-à-vis an external objective world, is hardly resonating with the Welt-Geist and capable of providing orientation to artistic creation. On the contrary, it is itself entangled in the endless, inane ping-pong of subjective vs. objective. Is contemporary art, independently of today's impoverished philosophy, attuned to the Welt-Geist and able to creatively catch its moods? Or, lacking leadership as never before, has art lost its way too?