Das Geistesgestell (the set-up mind)A recent e-mail exchange prompted a new word to my mind in the early hours: Geistesgestell (mental set-up, mind's set-up). Today's academia, being an established institution, is itself a Geistesgestell that sets up the mind to admit only a certain range of questions across the range of disciplines, and to suppress others. In this, our current age, those questions must be suppressed by hook or by crook that put this established world into question in the deepest way. The Geistesgestell is the modern age's rigged mind-game.
Hence, for instance, physics cannot entertain openly the question of time (but only on its own dictated terms of mathematizability), and philosophical scholarly discourse must avoid the simplest, most elementary questions that open the abyss underneath all kinds of metaphysical thinking. 'Professional philosophy' (a contradictio in adjecto) skilfully circumvents it. Instead, one discourses argumentatively -- never conceptually -- around certain illustrious names such as Kant or Kierkegaard or Heidegger or whatever major or minor name is currently being taken seriously in the academy for a time, around the issues themselves. Philosophy scholars talk endlessly about philosophy without ever doing philosophy, which is rigorous and risky. This corresponds to the apparently innocuous technical distinction between primary and secondary literature, which does not capture what it means to risk being a primary source in this current age.
Strange concepts naming the simplest phenomena are avoided like the plague, for the academy will not accept them. One accommodates oneself to accepted linguistic usage. For instance, to take the distinction between the phenomenality of 'who' and 'what' seriously and speak of 'whoness' is taboo ('whatness', by contrast, has its venerable pedigree as quidditas, essence, etc. and is allowed -- from a distance). You will be booed if you speak of whoness. If not expressly booed, then tacitly, consensually ignored. You talk about the subject and the self and selfhood without ever touching the term 'whoness', let alone its expressly developed conceptual phenomenality. If you speak about how renowned philosopher X used the term 'whoness', this is, of course, acceptable, because you're only reporting what someone else has said, not risking any thought of your own.
I could provide more key examples from my now long philosophical life-experience, rich in failure that has been a great teacher. Academia's Geistesgestell works with eerily Kafkaesque perfection. Only those outsiders, who are vitally interested in certain questions regarding the phenomena themselves, can see the Geistesgestell's oppressiveness without difficulty. I can speak openly and easily with them, for they have no scholarly pretensions, no skin in the academic power plays, nor have their minds been fucked over by the scientific mind-set in one of its variants, be it natural- or social-scientific.
This unique juncture in our age -- scarcely comparable with the long, excruciating (also bloody) transition out of the medieval age -- in which an alternative thinking that is no longer metaphysical has been initiated, needs those very few, very brave ones who press on with trying to see how the world could shape up (surprisingly) differently from an other elementary hermeneutic cast, starting with the simplest, most unheard-of questions (and associated concepts). These questions are invariably dismissed by the agents of the Geistesgestell as ridiculous, trivial, banal, crazy, zealous, dogmatic, fanatic, unscientific or what have you, The vocabulary of denunciation for an attempted historical recasting of mind from scratch is inexhaustible.
Mostly, however, no denunciation is needed; the agents of the Geistesgestell continue cosily with their established business, cultivating the discourse within their respective disciplines with their respective reputational power plays, asking the questions that are deemed worthy of being asked, and receiving professorships, accolades and honours and suchlike if they are successful. No one asks the obvious, elephant-in-the-room question: What are the criteria for this game of mutually estimating the who-status of the players? The question is impolite, indeed, obscene, indecent and inadmissible for serious, professional philosophy. One prefers not to speak so meanly and ungraciously in (ostensibly) merely subjective, psychological terms. It's not the done thing. One would suffer consequences in the ongoing power plays.
How, under these circumstances, against the treacly resistance of the Geistesgestell, can anyone nowadays work at the bleeding, leading edge of thinking? One crucial step would be to learn to see that the Geist -- i.e. the mind, the psyche -- is not enclosed within a subject's consciousness. To attain this insight would require modern psychology's self-abolition and its radical recasting. The Geistesgestell would and could never allow this.
Outsiders are therefore indispensable, outsiders of a special ilk who put their vital energies into learning to see what they and everyone else already see and understand, but to see and understand in an elementarily different way.