23 July 2017

Focus / Fokus

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



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

 ***


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


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



14 July 2017

Zoran Đinđić - Das Kapital

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

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

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


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

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


06 July 2017

Was Pythagoras an anti-Semite?

Breaking news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

02 July 2017

Learning to see the ontological difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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




18 June 2017

Mathesis

[English version below]

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

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

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

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

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

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

English version:


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

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

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

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

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

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

14 June 2017

Gedankenlosigkeit empirisch erfahren

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 June 2017

Positivism & freedom's extinction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.