17 February 2017

Marx on freedom and exchange

Karl Marx clearly saw the connection between reified exchange relations and individual freedom, something the left today does not want to see:

“Hence, if the economic form, exchange, posits the equality of subjects in all directions, then the content, the material, individual as well as factual, that drives to exchange is freedom. Equality and freedom are thus not only respected in exchange based on exchange-values, but exchange of exchange-values is also the productive, real basis of all equality and freedom. As pure ideas they are only idealized expressions of the same; as developed in juridical, political, social relations they are only this basis with another exponent.”

Deutsch: "Wenn also die ökonomische Form, der Austausch, nach allen Seiten hin die Gleichheit der Subjekte setzt, so der Inhalt, der Stoff, individueller sowohl wie sachlicher, der zum Austausch treibt, die Freiheit. Gleichheit und Freiheit sind also nicht nur respektiert im Austausch, der auf Tauschwerten beruht, sondern der Austausch von Tauschwerten ist die produktive, reale Basis aller Gleichheit und Freiheit. Als reine Ideen sind sie bloß idealisierte Ausdrücke desselben; als entwickelt in juristischen, politischen, sozialen Beziehungen sind sie nur diese Basis in einer andren Potenz." Grundrisse der Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie Dietz, Berlin 1974 S. 156.)

Footnote 113 of:

Social Ontology

Recasting Political Philosophy Through a Phenomenology of Whoness

Available at the arte-fact web-site


12 February 2017

Frankensteinian Humans & Zeitgeist

Mary Shelley's famous 1818 novel, Frankenstein, was written only once the scientific investigation of electric current had gotten underway. Shelley was contemporaneous, for instance, with the natural philosopher, Giovanni Aldine, who, according to Sharon Ruston, made many public attempts at human reanimation through bio-electric Galvanism in London.

Shelley's vision of an electrically-powered, artificial human being would not have been possible without the 17th century precursor of the Cartesian hermeneutic cast of the human being as a machine housing a soul in the pituitary gland suspended beneath the brain. Despite all the subsequent critique and repudiation of this Cartesian cast, the conception of human being remains to the present day that of an embodied, sentient subject with its encapsulated, interior consciousness vis-à-vis an external, objective world 'thrown against' it. The unfashionable word 'soul', with its Christian connotations, has been cast aside in favour of the more scientifically sounding consciousness. Moreover, by hook or by crook, under the leadership of today's flourishing neuroscience, modern science is out to break the code of consciousness by reducing it to some complicated working of physical causes, including, significantly, electrically-powered neurons. Even without cracking this problem, artificial intelligence has a great model for modelling the human being with a computer-controlled machine fitted with multitudes of sophisticated sensors -- just the thing Descartes and Leibniz ordered long ago!

Even though sceptics and ethically minded critics point out that the the problem of consciousness is too hard for science to solve, or that the human mind is far more sophisticated and subtle than any machine will ever be, or that the human mind and soul is capable of artistic creativity, sensitivity, moral sensibility as well as stupendous cultural achievements forever beyond any possible machine's capabilities, this makes no dent at all in the underlying hermeneutic-ontological cast of the human being itself as a sentient conscious subject, which remains homologous with a Cartesian machine and hence also with Shelley's Frankenstein. 

The historical catastrophe for human thinking and being has already long since happened, quite independently of any nightmarish realization of some approximation of an AI-Frankenstein -- and yet no one sees this disaster for the way we thoughtlessly think. How so? Because such a Frankensteinian-Cartesian conception of human being itself occludes the view of a radically alternative hermeneutic cast of human being that takes leave of the AI-compatible blue-print of a consciousness/soul ensconced in a body. Perhaps traditional ways of thinking --after millennia of having become deceptively self-evident -- today have to be turned upside down.

To wit: could it indeed not be the case that, instead of a psyche, soul or consciousness housed for a time in a body, the alternative cast of a human body partaking temporarily and temporally in a world-mind-and-soul that animates it is closer to the phenomena themselves? Could it be that this world-mind-and-soul is the Zeitgeist itself, a word coined by Herder in 1769? Could it be that we human beings live only so long as we stand out in, are exposed to and are animated by 3D-ecstatic time itself? 

Before decrying the revival of 'mystical' notions of a world-soul present, say, in Plato, among other thinkers, consider that such a world-mind-and-soul is the same as the openness of three-dimensionally ecstatic time. This originary time, in turn, is the open clearing we humans inhabit as long as we're alive, enabling in the very first place our access to the world both in understanding it and resonating moodfully with it, in particular, with the Zeitgeist of an historical time. Our very sharing of a world with each other is, in the very first place, enabled by our sharing, for a time, the openness of 3D-ecstatic time. Hence this time-clearing is tied to human being itself in its finitude and down-to Earth historicity, far removed from any theologically-imbued conception of a timeless, divine world-soul.

Such an hermeneutic recasting of the human mind-and-soul as historical, three-dimensionally ecstatic Zeitgeit opens multiple new perspectives, including on how to conceive culture, cultural heritage and tradition, that are occluded for any sociology or anthropology operating within an implicit, unthought-through ontology of intersubjectivity.

Further reading: A Question of Time.

03 February 2017

Getting it up

"sic igitur inflatus et tumens animus in vitio est." (Cicero Tusculanae Disputationes III 19)
"Hence an inflated and tumid soul is rotten."

Each gets his own phallus up
and consolidates its stand,
as well as he can.

25 January 2017

Sich aufrichten

"sic igitur inflatus et tumens animus in vitio est." (Cicero Tusculanae Disputationes III 19)
"So ist also eine aufgeblasene und geschwollene Seele verdorben."

Jeder richtet seinen eigenen Phallus auf
und sichert seinen Stand,
so gut er es kann.

Weitere Lektüre: Phänomenologie der Männlichkeit und 'Was heißt Männlichkeit?'.

Briten, Deutsche & Franzosen

Die Briten können ihren Newton nicht verwinden.
Die Deutschen können ihren Kant nicht verwinden.
Die Franzosen können ihren Descartes nicht verwinden.
Jedes Volk richtet sich so bequem wie möglich
In seine jeweilige hermeneutische Zwangsjacke ein,
Und zwar so sehr,
Daß es die geschichtlichen Fesseln um seinen Geist
Nicht einmal merkt.

Alternative hermeneutische Entwürfe des Geistes
Für ein anderes Zeitalter
Fallen nicht vom Himmel.

Brits, Germans & French

The Brits can't get over their Newton,
The Germans can't get over their Kant,
The French can't get over their Descartes,
Each people makes itself as comfy as possible
In its respective hermeneutic straight-jacket,
So much so,
That it is completely oblivious
To the historical fetters on its mind.

Alternative hermeneutic casts of mind
For another age
Do not grow on trees.

17 January 2017

Whereless mind & soul?

'Awareness' can be regarded as a general title covering what the philosophical tradition names as 'consciousness' or 'soul, Seele, animus, yuxh/, mind, Geist, mens, nou=j'. All these terms stand for the openness of living beings, and human beings in particular, to the world, their receptiveness for the world in how it presents itself to them.

Greek philosophers were the first to grapple with the question concerning awareness which, for them was part of the larger question of how the mode of being called 'life' could be answered. For the Greeks, the yuxh/ is the name for the principle of life; a living being, whether it be plant, animal or human being, bears within itself the beginning governing its own self-movement, instead of being only moved externally by other movers, other motors. This power of self-movement, which is a  mode of being called the yuxh/, is coupled with an openness for the world called ai)/sqhsij, sense perception. Sense perception can take in what the senses sense in the present. This restriction to the present turns out to be fateful for Western thinking -- and for us today.

At the latest since Descartes, modern thinking has replaced all talk of the yuxh/ by that of 'consciousness', which remains the great perplexing enigma for modern philosophy in its slavishness to modern science. The latter's program is to reduce all phenomena to physical theoretical explanation, thus giving science a grip on them -- preferably through calculable equations. Consciousness is a phenomenon that both modern philosophy and modern science seek to locate somehow or other in the physical brain (Descartes proposes the pituitary gland). Analytic philosophy talks of the 'hard problem of consciousness' and eschews any talk of the 'soul', which it regards as a metaphysical residue it has long since superseded..

The Greek word yuxh/, however, means not only 'psyche, soul, anima, spirit', but derives from the verb yu/xein,  'to breathe, blow', hence 'breath, wind', like Greek a)/nemoj (Latin: anima). This indicates that already the Greeks, but then also Latin philosophers, were intent on comprehending the yuxh/ as something quasi-physical like wind, air, breath, to facilitate understanding of what  life is. They chose the lightest of basic elements to match the 'insubstantial' nature of the soul

With such ontological proximity to the physical, the question naturally arose as to where the yuxh/, animus, soul is to be located. It was self-evident that it must be located somewhere or other. As far as the human soul is concerned, the centuries-long philosophical discussion settled on two favourite places for the soul: either within the human body or way up at the highest reaches of the heavens, both ideas being readily assimilable to Christianity, especially since already the pagans thought of the soul, and in particular the mind, as divine. At death the soul leaves the body and flies quickly up to heaven.

Hence we read in Cicero's Tusculanae Disputationes I 70, for instance:
"sic mentem hominis, quamvis eam non videas, ut deum non vides, tamen, ut deum adgnoscis ex operibus eius, sic ex memoria rerum et inventione et celeritate motus omnique pulchritudine virtutis vim divinam mentis adgnoscito. In quo igitur loco est? credo equidem in capite, et cur credam adferre possum.

"Thus with the human mind, although you cannot see it -- just as you cannot see god, but you recognize god from his works -- from memory and inventions and the speed of its movement and all the beauty of its virtues you recognize a divine power. And in what is it located? I believe in the head, and I believe I can provide reasons why..."

It is the mind as the part of the soul distinguishing humankind from beasts that is considered to partake in immortality:

"cum de aeternitate animorum dicatur, de mente dici,("...in speaking of the eternity of souls. one is speaking of the mind." Cic, Tus, Dis. I 80)

For the thinking of antiquity, therefore, the mind has a location, either in the head. as long as the human is alive, or at the highest strata of the heavens, when the human dies, that is, if it doesn't end up in Hades.

If the soul and mind, however, are not physical beings, but rather modes of being signifying both self-movement and open awareness for the world, then it makes no sense to puzzle over where they are located or their movement in the sense of change of place, i.e. loco-motion. Rather, the "celeritate motus" to which Cicero refers above is a a quickness of the mind itself, say, in recalling from "memoria". Thus he also writes, "...nihil est animo velocius, nulla est celeritas quae possit cum animi celeritate contendere." ("...nothing is faster than the soul/mind; there is no speed that could contend with the speed of the soul/mind" Tus, Dis. I 43 -- 'animus' has multiple significations and can mean both 'soul' and 'mind'). This statement could be re-interpreted as referring to how quickly movement within the soul/mind happens. For, if the mind/soul is thought as the openness for the world, it is pre-physical in the sense that it gives all that is physical its possibility of presencing for mind and soul, for instance, when something is recalled from memory, which could, of course, also be forgotten just as quickly, thus absencing from the mind. Such presencing and absencing are not subject to the absolute physical speed limit of c, the speed of light.

As the openness for the presencing for all that is physical, the mind/soul is the pre-physical enabler of all movement/change in the sense of enabling its presencing, and hence also its disclosure to and/or hiding from the human being itself. Although themselves physically whereless, mind and soul provide the 'whereness' for all possible human awareness of the world. Beyond such openness we know nothing and can know nothing at all, and should simply shut up about it

As long as you are physically able, through your very own body, of partaking in this openness, you are alive. When you die, it is your body that recedes from this openness. This is the opposite of traditional interpretations of either the soul or of consciousness as located physically in the body.

Whereas thoughts can be recalled to mind, or simply come to mind, it would be more appropriate to speak of moods as resonating in the soul. In this way, mind and soul could encapsulate the dual openness of human being for the world through understanding and attunedness (the latter especially through music). As this openness, mind and soul offer a venue for the presencing and absencing of all sorts of occurrences that could possibly occur to human world-openness. Physical presencing through the senses is only one option among several.

The scope for the mind's imagination is not restricted to calling physical beings to mind since, for instance, both geometrical figures and arithmetic entities such as number can also be called to mind. According to Aristotle, geometrical figure has no place, but only position, and numbers have neither place nor position, thus enabling pure calculation. Both result from abstractions from physical beings. Imagination remains forever beyond the reach of modern science, even though it likes to appeal to the creativeness of the scientific mind. As such, modern science cannot be the final word for our access to the world.

Further reading: The Digital Cast of Being and A Question of Time.