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?

23 March 2017

What is phallocracy?

The time for a phenomenology of whoness is long overdue. It's not a matter of mere psychology.

Despite all the religious damnation of vanity, etc. over the centuries, this has obviously not made the least dent in the narcissistic striving to erect one's status, whose core is one's own name, out in the open and as high as possible, for the admiration, acclamation and adulation of all. Call it fame (preferably immortal), mere celebrity, or just social status and reputation, or making a name for oneself. Almost everyone is out to have his (or her) erect, standing whoness reflected esteemingly by others. Note that the erect phallus here is not the tumescent dick.

The suck-my-phallus rituals that prevail everywhere in public and private life are the core 'normal perversion' of whoness focused on by a phenomenology of whoness concerned with the existential modes in which we humans come to stand as who we are in the mutually estimating social interplay of life. Over the centuries, it is above all men who have been adept and more favourably positioned for erecting their phallic stands in the public agora which, of course, carried over to their not-so-visible private lives. As old masters, men are not about to give up their advantages in the phallic power plays.

But it is a mistake to identify phallic standingness purely and simply with being a man, and the exclusion from the power play of suck-my-phallus games with being a woman. Rather, masculinity as the phallic mode of ec-static (out-standing) existence, vis-à-vis the less conspicuous, self-effacing, diffident, even hidden existential modes of femininity, are adopted and lived out in various admixtures by both men and women. In short, there exist both feminine men and masculine women, and this circumstance demands ultimately philosophical explication (not explanation) such ways of being.

The dance of desire around the erect phallus has been universally well-known and understood implicitly, as a matter of course, for millennia. All patriarchy partakes in it as one historical way of engaging in phallocracy. All androcracy partakes in phallocracy without, however, being identical with it. What is the difference between phallocracy and patriarchy? Under patriarchy, only men are permitted to vie with each other in the competitive dance around the phallus for who-standing. Whereas the East today remains deeply mired in extremely repressive patriarchal customs, in those Western countries in which patriarchy has lost its stranglehold through long historical politico-cultural struggles, women, too, have been more or less admitted to the phallocentric round dance, albeit without the phallus itself having become philosophically visible.

Western philosophy has never taken on the challenge of explicating phallocracy by thinking through a phenomenology of whoness (quissitas) as an existential mode of being, Instead, Western philosophy has been concerned exclusively, on its deepest metaphysico-ontological level, with thinking through whatness (quidditas, essence). This continues to apply even after Descartes' positing of the conscious ego-subject as the fundamental being. The modern subject remains, paradoxically, a what, addressed scientifically — say, in psychology — in the third person.

Modern literature's explorations of the supposedly 'inner life' of its characters, too, remain bereft of philosophical orientation with regard to the phallus. And feminism's ongoing, centuries-old struggles have yet to get the phenomena of whoness clearly in its sights. Hence it conceives itself largely as women's struggle. In a philosophical context, the first signs of whoness emerged falteringly in the nineteenth century with German dialogical philosophy that culminated in the 1920s with philosophies of you-and-I, when the concept of whoness (Wersein, Werheit) was first coined and fashioned incipiently by Heidegger, then taken up by Arendt.

It is not hard to see that and why today's academic philosophers, both male and female, who themselves dance the dance of desire around the phallus of professorial erectness, are disinclined to engage in a phenomenology of whoness. They flee the question like the plague. It would cut too close to the bone, indelicately unmasking themselves in their most secret desires and earnest strivings within departmental intrigues to establish and further their careers.

Further reading: Phänomenologie der Männlichkeit and 'Was heißt Männlichkeit?'.

17 March 2017

Vorurteil und Nachurteil

Es gibt Vorurteile und Nachurteile.
Vorurteile sind das Übliche, daß die meisten unfähig sind,
sich aus ihren eigenen verengten Blickwinkeln zu befreien.
Dagegen sind Nachturteile langsam und mit Vorsicht getroffene Urteile,
die auf langen Erfahrungen beruhen.
Wenn sie aber einmal getroffen sind, haben sie eine Festigkeit
und handeln sich gleich den Vorwurf des Vorurteils ein.
So blöd sind die Menschen -- einschließlich der Philosophen --,
daß sie zwischen Vorurteil und Nachurteil nicht unterscheiden können.

Nicht selten befreit das gewissenhafte Nachurteil vom Vorurteil.

Prejudice and postjudice

There are prejudices as well as postjudices.
The former are quite usual;
most people are incapable of freeing themselves from their own narrow perspectives.
By contrast, postjudices are those judgements,
very slowly and cautiously made,
that draw on long experience.
Once they have been made, however, postjudices have a firmness
that immediately attracts the accusation of being mere prejudices.*
Such is the stupidity of most people, including even philosophers,
that they cannot distinguish between prejudice and postjudice.

Not infrequently conscientious postjudice liberates from prejudice.

* "Hence what people call my prejudiced views of things,—which are, in fact, the exact contrary, namely, postjudiced."   John Ruskin Præterita I. vi. 174 1886.

16 March 2017

Psyche inside or outside?

Modern psychology conceives itself as the science of the human psyche. The psyche, in turn, is conceived as situated within each individual human subject. Hence the psyche is conceived as individual and internal. It is also associated intimately with the individual's brain inside the cranium. (The various occurrences of as in this piece stand for the hermeneutic As through which the world is interpreted from the ground up.) The pathology of the psyche, normally called mental illness, thus concerns the subject's individual psyche and is closely associated with malfunctions or defects of the brain. This opens the possibility for modern medicine to develop psychotropics that affect the individual's physical brain and, via this effect, affect the mentally ill patient's psychic state of mind for the better.

Even when the psyche's relationship with the individual's physical body is conceived in a more subtle, psychosomatic way, as in psychoanalysis, according to which, say, painful, repressed, unconscious memories of the patient find an expression nonetheless in physical symptoms, the psyche is still conceived as individual and as located somehow inside the patient, in the unconscious which itself is a part of encapsulated consciousness.

What if these conceptions of the human psyche are misconceptions that do not do justice to the phenomena of mind and psyche once a closer look is taken at the elementary phenomena themselves? What justifies treating the human psyche as individualized? What justifies locating the human psyche somehow inside the individual's body? What justifies relating the human psyche with the individual physical brain that even goes as far as treating the psyche as somehow efficiently caused by the brain's activity?

One main consequence of conceiving the psyche as individual is that psychopathology itself is individualized. If you're mentally ill, it's ultimately your individual problem. This holds even when psychological disturbances are conceived as resulting from the interaction of individual psyches, say, in a family 'system'. The psychotherapist's aim then is to uncover and improve interpsychic interaction among the system's members. The mentally ill individual needs to gain insight into what kind of games are being played with him or her that cause mental illness so as to regain mental health by changing the rules of psychic interplay.

But if the human psyche is individual and located somehow inside the subject, how could these individual psyches ever have anything to do with each other? That's easy, you say: They communicate with each other via language. But this move only shifts the problem: How is it possible that individuals share a language with each other through which they can communicate? To participate in any language, to learn it, the individual must be always already in the world with others from which he or she picks up the language. But picking up a language is an achievement of the individual's psyche, so it, too, must be always already in the world with others. It cannot be encapsulated inside an individual, especially not within an individual body.

Ah, you say, the individual is out there in the world via his or her physical senses which are receptive to what's happening in the world. According to current ways of thinking, however, the physical senses receive only physical sense impressions that are conveyed to the brain which interprets them as meaning this or that. How could it possibly be that such internal, individual interpretations of physical signals coincide? Through evolution, you say. How is that supposed to bridge the gulf between the individual psyche inside and the world outside? The world itself must be always already shared in some psychic way. And I don't mean the intellectually demented notion of telepathy.

What?! The psyche is always already out there in the world or even envelops the world!? And each individual human only ever partakes of this all-encompassing, shared psyche that must be conceived as openness for the world itself. This world is not merely the external, physical world taken in by the senses, but the world always already interpreted in various ways by the psyche by virtue of its originary openness that is open three-dimensionally to all that occurs at present, has occurred (memory) or will occur (expectation). Hence the world itself must not be taken as a given but conceived as taking place in the psyche, and not conversely, the psyche being conceived as taking in the world via sense perception.

Such a recasting of the psyche opens the vista on psychic disturbance that goes beyond a defective brain, the distorted perspective of a damaged individual's soul, the deformations of a dysfunctional social unit such as the family, to the hermeneutic blind spots in the psyche of an age.

In light of such an hermeneutic recasting, modern psychology would have some deep rethinking to do.

Further reading: A Question of Time, especially the chapters 'Out of your mind? Parmenides’ message' and 'Thinking in Clichés'.

14 March 2017

Individual, Egoism, Democracy

Marx writes in Zur Judenfrage (On the Jewish Question in Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, Paris, 1844):
"Das Menschenrecht des Privateigentums ist also das Recht, willkürlich (à son gré), ohne Beziehung auf andre Menschen, unabhängig von der Gesellschaft, sein Vermögen zu genießen und über dasselbe zu disponieren, das Recht des Eigennutzes. Jene individuelle Freiheit, wie diese Nutzanwendung derselben, bilden die Grundlage der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft. Sie läßt jeden Menschen im andern Menschen nicht die Verwirklichung, sondern vielmehr die Schranke seiner Freiheit finden." (MEW1:365)

English: "The human right of private property is thus the right, arbitrarily (at will), without any relation to other humans, independently of society, to enjoy his property and to dispose over it, the right of self-interest. That individual freedom, along with the exercise of it, form the foundation of civil society. It lets every human find in the other human not the realization, but rather the barrier to his freedom." (I retain the sexist language of the time)

After discussing other rights proclaimed in Article 2 of the Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen (i.e. the French Constitution of 1793), namely, "l'égalité, la liberté, la sûreté, la propriété" (equality, liberty, security, property), Marx concludes,

"Keines der sogenannten Menschenrechte geht also über den egoistischen Menschen hinaus, über den Menschen, wie er Mitglied der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft, nämlich auf sich, auf sein Privatinteresse und seine Privatwillkür zurückgezogenes und vom Gemeinwesen abgesondertes Individuum ist." (MEW1:366)

English: "Hence none of the so-called human rights goes beyond the egoistic human, beyond the human as he is a member of civil society, namely, an individual withdrawn to himself, his private interest and his private, arbitrary will, and so separated off from the community."

According to Marx, therefore, civil society is the realm of self-interest (Eigennutz), of the "egoistic, independent individual" (MEW1:370) who is the bearer of individual human rights. On the other hand, this bourgeois human has his double and better half in the citoyen, the citizen of state, who is the "moral person" (ibid.). This doubling of the human being into bourgeois and citoyen follows Hegel's distinction between civil society as the realm of particularity in its partiality, and the state as the realm of universality, whose will is directed at the well-being of society as a whole. To participate in the life of the state, the human subject must raise himself beyond egoistic particularity to the level of the citizen concerned with the universal affairs of state.

Citizens actually take part in the universal realm of the state through the mediation of democratic institutions, first and foremost, democratic elections of the representatives to the legislative body of government, flanked by the media, one of whose main duties is to keep the citizenry well-informed on matters of government and state affairs.

Do these neat distinctions in Marx and Hegel hold water without seepage? Is human egoism to be located essentially in private property? Are the rights of private property simply self-interested without qualification? Does the human as bourgeois leave his/her egoistic interests behind when participating as a citizen in the institutions of the bourgeois-democratic state? Does the citizen have exclusively and impartially the universal interests of society as a whole in mind?

Here I mention more as an aside Marx's vision of the human as a "Gattungswesen" (species-being), achieved
"wenn der Mensch seine 'forces propres' |'eigene Kräfte'| als gesellschaftliche Kräfte erkannt und organisiert hat und daher die gesellschaftliche Kraft nicht mehr in der Gestalt der politischen Kraft von sich trennt, erst dann ist die menschliche Emanzipation vollbracht." (MEW1:370)

"when man has recognized and organized his 'own powers' as social forces and therefore no longer separates social power from himself in the form of political power, only then will human emancipation be consummated."

and focus instead on today's bourgeois-democratic society that also goes under other names, such as Western liberal, capitalist society.

Firstly, Marx is right to point out that the declarations of human rights proclaim "rights of man" understood at the time as the rights of the male human as an individual. Article 6 of the 1793 Constitution, for instance, reads:
"La liberté est le pouvoir qui appartient à l'homme de faire tout ce qui ne nuit pas aux droits d'autrui."
"Freedom is the power that belongs to man to do all that which does not interfere with the rights of others."

This formulation describes a kind of private sphere or bubble encapsulating an individual that does not overlap with the similar bubbles of other individuals and within which each individual has to right to exercise its personal powers freely at will. This accords with the notion of an individual isolated and insulated from society and community. But does such an encapsulated individual exist at all? And least of all in civil society? Doesn't the individual always already live in the world with others in various relations of interdependency, thus rendering the notion of individual, atomistic monads or capsules jostling extrinsically against each other fictitious?

The power that belongs to an individual in civil society is exercised for the sake of gain of some form, whether it be to earn income or to purchase or hire someone else's property, usually a useful everyday commodity of some kind. This requires entering into a contract with another individual who is similarly motivated. An individual power may be labour-power, whether it be skilled or unskilled, or it may be money owned by the individual in which the power inheres to rightly acquire someone else's property. The exercise of these individual powers requires that an agreement be reached between two parties in which they agree, i.e. please, and are pleased with, each other (cf. OED). This implies that, although both parties are motivated by self-interest, their agreement results in the mutually pleasing satisfaction of self-interests, thus raising their egoistic self-interests beyond themselves in a mutually beneficial exchange of powers.

These moments of agreement and mutual benefit (a.k.a. win-win situation) imply that civil society cannot be characterized purely and simply as the "sphere of egoism, of the bellum omnium contra omnes" (MEW1:356), as Marx does. A war of all against all would only be the case if the individuals exerted their powers over others either without any quid prop quo or grossly unfairly. All freedom in civil society is exercised as a play of powers of various kinds, starting with individual abilities and proceeding with the power of reified value, first and foremost in the shape of money.

The sociation of civil society is basically what Aristotle already called _synallagae_ (exchange, commutation) in Book V of the Nicomachean Ethics, the book that Marx drew on to formulate his infamous -- and largely misunderstood and neglected -- value-form analysis. _Synallagae_ means that the realm of civil society is essentially one of having dealings, exchanges with one another, especially, but not only, of the economic kind. Such dealings can always be viewed as a power play. To be just and fair, such exchanges must be mutually beneficial power plays. Even power plays that are vigorous power struggles may be fair, but there are also countless instances of unfair dealings with one another among the members of civil society, including within the bounds of the rule of law. Fairness in civil society always remains contestable and must often be struggled for. Even in such struggles, individual egoisms are raised beyond themselves to some kind of mutual benefit attained in an agreement that reconciles opposing, but nevertheless complementary, interests.

From this discussion I conclude that the exercise of property rights cannot be characterized as bald egoism. Furthermore, isn't it  naive to tie egoism essentially to private property ownership? Does the bourgeois individual leave his/her egoistic interests behind when donning the garb of citizen and participating in the institutions of the bourgeois-democratic state? Are citizens non-egoistic?

Even if the citizen raises him/herself above mere individual self-interest when participating in the modern democratic state, does this defuse the mass egoism of social groupings of all kinds with shared particular, partial interests that do not deserve the name of universal interests? Doesn't the consensus reached in democratic politics amount to the elevation of particular group-egoisms into a mutual agreement and concord, on a par with individuals' agreeing contractually in economic dealings within civil society? Is this the best that can be attained, presupposing that selfless altruism is not only an unrealistic ideal, a moralistic self-delusion, but not even desirable?

Are not democratic politics played out largely as power struggles among various mass-group interests that can be identified and assessed by commentators in the electoral analysis of such political power games? Do not democratic politicians fight for election by catering to the perceived mass-egoistic interests of their electoral constituencies?

Even when an entire people or nation unites politically, with a large majority, in a common cause, is this not mostly the case in a power struggle with some foreign power which may not be simply a foreign state but the 'foreign power' of foreigners that impinges upon the free exercise of citizens' powers in some way? For instance, when these foreigners want to immigrate to better their lives by exercising their powers and abilities in the domestic economy?

In short, don't both individual and mass egoism leak liberally into the political power plays of the democratic state? Isn't the contest of mass egoisms one fitting name also for liberal democracy? Even supposing ideally some kind of socialist or communist society as envisaged by Marx, don't the individual or mass interests of those engaged with organizing the affairs of a consciously sociated, socialist society continue to play out in political power struggles? Hasn't the self-delusory hermeneutic fore-casting of solely the individual bourgeois property-owner as egoistic already long since come to light and disgraced itself through the bitter 20th century historical experience of 'real, existing socialism'?  Isn't the struggle of mass egoisms a fitting name also for the very idea of democratic socialism?

Further reading: Critique of Competitive Freedom...Capital and Technology and Social Ontology.

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.