09 November 2014

All at sea

There's always a lot of talk of the need
to have a moral compass,
but where's the ontological compass?
The socio-ontological bearings?
All at sea.

Further reading: Social Ontology.

17 October 2014

Defeat of freedom in Germany

In the dénouement of his novel, Der Untertan (The Loyal Subject), Heinrich Mann describes very precisely the defeat of liberal strivings in Germany:

"Sie [die Mächtigen 'heute' 1897] hüten sich, die Dinge auf die Spitze zu treiben wie jene Privilegierten vor der [1948er] Revolution. Aus der Geschichte haben sie leider Mäßigung gelernt. Ihre soziale Gesetzgebung [1880er unter Bismarck] baut vor und korrumpiert. Sie sättigt das Volk gerade so weit, daß es ihm sich nicht mehr verlohnt, ernstlich zu kämpfen, um Brot, geschweige Freiheit." (Der Untertan Zeitverlag 2009 S.376)

"They [those in power today, 1897] take care not to push matters to crisis-point like those privileged ones before the [1848] revolution. Unfortunately, from history they have learnt moderation. Their social legislation [passed in the 1880s under Bismarck] takes precautions and corrupts. It satiates the people just enough so that it's no longer worth it to seriously fight for bread, to say nothing of freedom."

Mann's novel describes graphically the extinguishing of freedom in Germany through its main characters, including especially the Kaiser's victorious "loyal subject", Diederich Heßling, but also the declining liberal Buck family, whose son is speaking in the quotation. There is a tragic trajectory of German history from 1813, when German liberals joined forces with the conservative nobles to repulse Napoleon, through the collapse of this alliance of forces after 1815 to the failed 1848 revolution, the victory of Prussia over France in 1871, the unification of Germany under the Prussian Junker, Bismarck, the rise of German militarism under Kaiser Wilhelm II with its world-imperialist ambitions culminating in the First World War and German defeat, the subsequent rise of Nazism and a second attempt by Germany to achieve world-domination and, finally, the post-war social welfare state (Sozialstaat) in which "it's no longer worth it to seriously fight for bread, to say nothing of freedom".

Today, the Sozialstaat seems to be collapsing inexorably under its own weight, its subjects being ever more anxiously concerned only with order and securing against erosion of the material standard of living, with being looked after.

22 September 2014

Critical thinking's success

A critical thinker asks, "How do you account for critical thinking's success?"

Says I, "It consists in successfully missing the point."

"And what, pray, is the point?" asks the critical thinker critically.

"It ain't no use in sittin' 'n' wonderin', babe,
if you don't know by now," (quoting Dylan's Don't Think Twice).

"Well, I'm off to Paris -- invited keynote, you know," chirps CT cheerily.

"It's downright dangerous for success to think twice," I murmur to myself,
"What you need's a sure instinct for its sweet smell."

CT to himself, on the way to the airport, "Clearly a case of sour grapes."

21 September 2014

Essence of truth as effectiveness, and 3D-time

(English version of the blog post dated 04-Sep-2014, by request).

Linear thinking rests on the usual conception of linear time (mathematized as continuous, real variable, t), and this is not understood in mainstream scientific thinking or elsewhere. What's that nonsense supposed to mean about 'three-dimensional time' or even a 'time-clearing'? At most, 'critical' (say, ecological) thinking manages to move from linear time to 'cyclical time' in harmony with so-called 'nature' (fashionable code-word: sustainability).

Perhaps we should pose for ourselves the question, 'What is an electron?' That would be an interesting experiment because the question is apparently a philosophical one. But if you look around, you immediately notice that science does not ever really pose this question, because it says merely that the electron is a 'charge of force' (a scientifically correct, but, on inspection, superficial answer), describing instead genealogically the experimental 'discovery' of the electron during the 19th century by mathematical physics (J.J. Thomson, in particular) in connection with the development of an electromagnetic theory by scientists such as Faraday and Maxwell. Without having studied mathematics for several years, it's not at all possible to understand this very sophisticated theory, so you can only describe it to the uninitiated from the outside in general and hopefully in an intuitively graphic way.

Even if to some extent you get the gist of how this mathematical electromagnetic theory is built, the question concerning what a 'charge of force' is still remains unasked. To understand what force is, you first have to go back to Newton with his three simple mathematical laws of force (i.e of motion). Newton's conception of force (_dynamis_) and movement (_kinaesis_ as a force at work), however, is ultimately Aristotelean. He adopted and merely mathematized the Aristotelean ontology of movement, at whose centre the concept of energy (_en-erg-eia_) stands. Greek philosophy from Parmenides to Aristtole grappled with the question, "Why is there movement at all, rather than standstill?" Modern science cleverly evades such an unheard-of question, believing simple-mindedly instead that it has empirically refuted Aristotle once and for all and made his theory 'objective', thus overcoming it. Forget Aristotle!, says modern science. As empirical facts you can see with your eyes prove, Aristotle's eyes were wonky.

In phenomenological seeing and in philosophy in general, of course, it's not a matter of sensuous seeing, but seeing with the mind, although the senses certainly can also be of help. With regard to the electron, too, it's a matter of an historical cast of the being of beings (an historical hermeneutic As that serves as the ontological scaffolding for the world), so that the electron is only given (exists) for as long as this cast of being (the electromagnetic field theory) is given, and it is given only as long as it is true -- corresponding to a likewise historical cast of the essence of truth. In the Modern Age, this essence of truth is effectiveness, so that the electron is given only in correspondence to the essence of truth AS effectiveness, i.e. effective causality coupled with linear time. You can see the effectiveness of the electron everywhere in today's world. Electromagnetism works! Indeed, without the electron (seen AS such through a certain definite mathematico-physical cast of being), this, our present-day world (with, say, its electricity, telephone, aeroplanes, electronics, television, the fast approaching cyberworld that is rolling in over our heads, etc. etc.) would not exist at all.

If things work, why should you rack your mind by putting today's essence of truth as effectiveness into question? Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Today's philosophical ethics merely poses the question, what should we do in view of the effectiveness of modern technologies? The debate around modern technologies invariably turns stupidly around the pros and cons, the plus and minus, i.e. around what technology effectively brings 'us' in the bottom line. Any other kind of questioning does not come into view at all. As if 'we' (who are 'we'?) had everything under control. As if 'we' were the subjects whom technology serves rather than those subjecting 'our' selves ardently to the will to effective power, striving to cast 'our' selves securely, calculatively along the time-line..

Only the "step back" (Heidegger) into the 'time-clearing' (Eldred) opens up an Other Perspective in which also the interplay of valuation among people and things, despite all the perfectly valid and practically adequate ontic pre-conceptions, can become ontologically visible at all. It's simply not enough to speak of 'processes', because there are also production processes, and the valuation interplay is not 'productive', 'leading forth', i.e. it does not lead forth any fore-seen result into presence, but is, well, playful, and therefore often surprising. An ontological conception of interplay as power play is required.

Further reading: 'Being Time Space' and The Digital Cast of Being.

17 September 2014

Electron Liberation Movement

The First Greek Beginning laid down
the ontological blueprint
for causa efficiens
that led ultimately
to electrons' being compelled
to perform forced labour.

For whom?
For the bearers of
the boundless will to efficient power
over all kinds of movement whatsoever.
To wit: us.

Maxwell's equations lay down the law
according to which electrons
(and photons) move.
Electrons are charged with force.
When a force is at work, it does work.
The rate at which a force does work is its power.
So a power expended over time does work, too,
and an electron is also a power-charge
which it expends when it is forced
to work along the time-line
Aristotle bequeathed us.

Without this effective forced labour
of electrons along the time-line
according to Maxwellian laws
of electromagnetic motion,
today's world as we know it
would collapse.
More than that:
it would be inconceivable,

Starting with physics, Maxwell's laws,
perhaps suitably quantized,
hold sway also in chemistry
biochemistry, molecular biology
through to today's neuroscience.

So thank Maxwell, Newton and Aristotle?

This, our modern Western world,
is supposed to be free and democratic.
Democracy implies and demands
that the laws governing our lives
be transparent.
But who really understands
Maxwell's laws of motion of electrons,
written in a mathematical language
legible only to the initiated?
A tiny caste
of mathematicians and physicists?

You don't care that you don't understand?
Because these laws work;
they are effective;
they deliver the goods
of cyberliving;
they have been experimentally tested
by experts.
You trust this caste of experts
You subjugate yourself

What about the electrons
forced to work effectively
along linear time?
You don't care?

What if the electrons
were liberated
from the forced time-line,
the one-dimensional temporal gulag,
into the three open dimensions
of the time-clearing?
Ever thought about that?

What kind of world would that be?
Who would we have then become?

Further reading: The Digital Cast of Being, 'Turing's cyberworld of timelessly copulating bit-strings'.

16 September 2014

Brave New World arrived

Aldous Huxley's dystopia
of a Brave New World
has long since arrived.
At the latest with the rise of neuroscience,
that, without resistance,
has seeped into every pore of 'our' thinking
- in science, the media, in politics and policy -,
'we' have willingly entered the happy new land.

'We' - who are we?
Those cast by history
along its Western trajectory
from the First Greek Beginning.

Now we are progressing into the cyberworld,
fascinated by shiny gadgets, wearables, implantables.
We cheerfully adopt them for the sake of
convenience, efficiency, effectiveness,
maximum longevity.

Thus we enthusiastically consummate our destiny,
allowing ourselves to become
absorbed relentlessly by that realm
of circulating bit-strings
copulating in countless Turing machines.

Thus we carry out unquestioningly, avidly,
the blueprint laid down by Aristotle
in his ontology of movement
along linear time
- boundless will to effective power -
without batting an eyelid.

The thought of opening up the line
into a clearing
does not cross our mind,
not in natural science,
nor in social science,
nor in the humanities,
nor in scholarship,
nor in critical thinking,
nor in philosophy.

The Other Thinking,
borne by few,
is repulsed, ridiculed, reviled,
the task of ontologically
recasting world
scarcely begun.

Further reading The Digital Cast of Being, 'Turing's cyberworld of timelessly copulating bit-strings', 'Out of your mind?'

14 September 2014

Wirtschaften ist Wertschätzen

Das Wesen des Wirtschaftens besteht darin,
was wir füreinander tun können.
Dafür schätzen wir einander.
Daraufhin schätzen wir einander ein.
Darin liegen Kräftespiele, Machtspiele.
Was wir füreinander tun können, ist grenzenlos.

Indem wir etwas füreinander tun,
schätzen wir auch, was uns Himmel und Erde geben,
denn ohne ihre Gaben
können wir auch nichts füreinander tun.

So treten wir, die Dinge, Erde und Himmel
ins Wertschätzspiel mit- und füreinander ein
Es wird auch gegen- und aneinander vorbei gespielt,
oder ohne daß Erde und Himmel wertgeschätzt werden.

Das Weltspiel überhaupt ist Wertschätzspiel,
das wir Spieler in Bräuchen pflegen.

Im kapitalistischen Wirtschaften wird
das Wertschätzspiel durch Wertdinge vermittelt,
Der verdinglichte Wert verstellt den Blick
auf das Wertschätzspiel untereinander,
als ob die Wertdinge an sich Wert hätten,
statt ihren jeweiligen Wert aus dem Wertschätzspiel selbst zu ziehen.

Das wirtschaftliche Wertschätzspiel aber
kann nur dann frei gespielt werden,
wenn der Fetischcharakter des verdinglichten Werts
durchschaut wird.

Zur weiteren Lektüre: 'Der Wert ist ein Spiel', 'Being Time Space' §5Social Ontology Ch. 9 v) und vi).

04 September 2014

Wahrheitswesen Wirksamkeit und die 3D-Zeit

Das lineare Denken beruht auf dem gängigen linearen Zeitverständnis (mathematisiert als kontinuierliche, reale Variabel, t), und das wird im Mainstream wissenschaftlichen Denken oder sonstwo nicht verstanden. Was soll das mit dem Gerede von der 'dreidimensionalen Zeit' oder gar von einer 'Zeitlichtung'? Wenn es hochkommt, gelingt das 'kritische', etwa ökologische Denken den Übergang von der linearen Zeit zur 'zyklischen Zeit' im Einklang mit der sog. 'Natur' (Stichwort: Nachhaltigkeit).

Vielleicht sollten wir uns die Frage: 'Was ist ein Elektron?' stellen. Das wäre ein interessanter Versuch, denn die Frage ist anscheinend eine philosophische. Aber wenn man herumschaut, wird es sofort klar, daß die Wissenschaft diese Frage eigentlich nicht stellt, denn sie sagt, das Elektron sei bloß eine 'Ladung von Kraft' (eine wissenschaftlich korrekte aber bei Licht gesehen oberflächliche Antwort) und beschreibt genealogisch die experimentelle 'Entdeckung' des Elektrons im Laufe des 19. Jh. durch die mathematische Physik (J.J. Thomson insbesondere) im Zusammenhang mit der Entwicklung einer elektromagnetischen Theorie durch Wissenschaftler wie Faraday und Maxwell. Ohne eine jahrelange mathematische Ausbildung ist es gar nicht möglich, diese sehr raffinierte Theorie zu verstehen, also kann man sie Außenstehenden nur allgemein und hoffentlich plastisch von Außen her beschreiben.

Auch wenn man einigermaßen kapiert, wie diese
mathematische elektromagnetische Theorie gebaut ist, bleibt nach wie vor die Frage nach der 'Ladung von Kraft' ungefragt. Um die Kraft zu verstehen, ist man zunächst auf Newton mit seinen drei einfachen mathematischen Kraft- bzw. Bewegungsgesetzen verwiesen. Newtons Verständnis der Kraft (_dynamis_) und der Bewegung (_kinaesis_ als Am-Werk-sein einer Kraft) jedoch ist letztendlich Aristotelisch. Er hat die Aristotelische Ontologie der Bewegung, in deren Zentrum der von Aristoteles geprägter Begriff der Energie (_en-erg-eia_) steht, übernommen und bloß mathematisiert. Die griechische Philosophie von Parmenides bis Aristoteles hat mit der Frage gerungen, "Warum ist überhaupt Bewegung und nicht vielmehr Stillstand?" Die moderne Wissenschaft weicht geschickt einer solch unerhörten Fragestellung aus und glaubt stattdessen einfältig, sie habe Aristoteles endgültig empirisch widerlegt und objektiviert —  und so überwunden. Forget Aristotle! Wie empirische Fakten, die man mit den Augen sehen kann, beweisen, Aristoteles habe schief gesehen.

Beim phänomenologischen Sehen und in der Philosophie überhaupt geht es natürlich nicht bloß um das sinnliche, sondern um das geistige Sehen, wobei die Sinne durchaus behilflich sein können. Auch beim Elektron geht es um einen geschichtlichen Seinsentwurf (ein geschichtliches hermeneutliches Als, das als ontologisches Gerüst der Welt dient), so daß es das Elektron nur gibt, solange es diesen Seinsentwurf (der elektromagnetischen Feldtheorie) gibt, und es gibt ihn, solange er wahr ist — einem geschichtlichen Entwurf des Wesens der Wahrheit entsprechend. In der Neuzeit ist dieses Wesen der Wahrheit die Wirksamkeit, so daß es das Elektron gibt entsprechend dem Wesen der Wahrheit ALS Wirksamkeit, d.h. Effektivität, Wirkkausalität gepaart mit der linearen Zeit. Die Wirksamkeit des Elektrons sieht man überall in der heutigen Welt. Der Elektromagnetismus wirkt! Ja, ohne das Elektron (ALS solches gesehen durch einen bestimmten mathematisch-physischen Seinsentwurf) gäbe es diese unsere heutige Welt (etwa mit Strom, Telephon, Flugzeug, Elektronik, Fernsehen, der rasant aufkommenden und uns überrollenden Cyberwelt etc. etc.) überhaupt nicht.

Wenn die Dinge funktionieren, warum soll man sich den 'Kopf' darüber zerbrechen, das heutige
Wesen der Wahrheit als Wirksamkeit in Frage zu stellen? Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride! Die philosophische Ethik stellt lediglich die Frage, was sollen wir angesichts der Wirksamkeit der modernen Technologien tun? Die Debatte um die modernen Technologien dreht sich dumpfsinnigerweise stets um das Pro und Kontra, Plus und Minus, d.h. um das, was uns die Technik unter dem Strich effektiv bringt. Eine andersartige Fragestellung kommt gar nicht in den Blick.

Erst der "Schritt zurück" in die Zeitlichtung eröffnet eine Andere Perspektive, in der auch das Wertschätzspiel unter den Menschen und den Dingen trotz allen ontischen Vorverständnisses überhaupt ontologisch sichtbar wird. Es reicht eben nicht, lediglich von "Prozessen" zu reden, denn es gibt auch Produktionsprozesse, und das
Wertschätzspiel ist nicht 'produktiv', hervorgeleitend, d.h. es führt kein vorhergesehenes Ergebnis in die Anwesenheit hervor, sondern ist eben spielerisch und deshalb oft überraschend.                 

Zur Vertiefung: 'Freiheit und Blindheit'.                                          

22 August 2014

Science's value-freedom bogus

Value-freedom (Wertfreiheit, cf. inter alia David Hume, Max Weber) is one of modern science's core self-deceptions. You have to be value-free in your statements and judgements in order to be 'objective', right? When you strip off the values, science says, you are left with 'objective facts' that serve to describe the world when worked up into value-free theories. The value-free scientific theory and practice then has to be supplemented with an ethics which brings in the values, thus evaluating the bare facts with an eye to how we should act in practice. Hence there are urgent calls today to teach ethics, say, to medical doctors and practising economists such as bankers. What's wrong with this approach?, you ask. It's obvious, isn't it? To judge by its unquestioning, ubiquitous acceptance in popular opinion and the media, the objective value-freedom of science seems incontrovertible.

What the self-deluding dogma of value-freedom overlooks is that, at its essential core, modern science is borne and driven by a covert will to effective power over movement/change of all kinds. This hidden value is at the heart of modern science in all its variants from physics through to sociology and psychology. Without this will, science would be completely useless. But uselessness is itself a value-judgement, isn't it?

Further reading: Section 3.5 Digital Cast of Being.

19 August 2014

Gemurkste Uebersetzungen - Mangled in translation

Translation does not mean merely passing over from one language to another, foreign one, but making the delicate, convoluted transition from one historical world to another, foreign one. So it is also with the translation from English to German even within the Western world. There are terms, especially political concepts, whose translation from English into German necessitate a covert operation in which a phenomenon in one world becomes scarcely recognizable in another. Hence we have e.g.:

i) country -> Staat

Where 'country' in English refers in the first place to an historical people living together in a certain geographical part of the Earth, in German the Staat is above all a system of political rule over a people who are its subjects. The 'member countries' of the EU, for instance, thus become EU 'Mitgliedsstaaten'.

ii) government -> Staat

In English, a government rules over a people who live together in a society, which is primary, so there is a counterposing of society to the government, which, society concedes, is 'unfortunately necessary'. In German, the Staat encompasses and permeates society thoroughly with its rule. Prussia invented modern bureaucracy that seeps into all niches of social life, ensuring Staat rule. Society is hence merely part of the State. Despite today's Germans distancing themselves from their Prussian heritage, they are still covertly, and even overtly, enamoured of Prussian order and very fearful of breaching the rule of authority from above.

iii) rule of law -> Rechtsstaatlichkeit

'Rule of law' in English signifies not only due legal process in the administration of justice, but that the positive law posited by the government's legislative branch conforms to and protects the freedom of social interplay among the members of society. Such conformity is understood as justice in the sense of fairness, i.e. a beautiful interplay. So positive law can be unjust and resisted in the name of freedom. 'Rechtsstaatlichkeit' in German, by constrast, refers only to due process of law within the democratically institutionalized apparatus of the judiciary, where due process is defined and regulated ultimately by conformity with the constitution that itself is adjudicated by the constitutional court. The Staat posits the law according to its will which is constrained only by interpretations of the constitution. A groundswell of an ethos of justice as fairness embedded in society is absent, being mostly a foreign import from the West.

The contrast between English and German understanding of law and justice is reflected also in the distinction between common law and posited, codified law. The former is founded upon an ongoing dialogue between the courts' judges and the interplay in society itself, whereby the judges are able to forge new law in line with how society is currently living. Codified law, on the other hand, comes from above through the organs of state rule.

A further contrast between English and German understanding of law and justice is embedded in attitudes toward taxation. For liberal Anglo-Saxon thinking, taxation is one of those 'necessary evils' of government which, however, has to be restricted, at the least, by the principle of 'no taxation without representation' that, in practice. means that tax legislation has to go through due democratic process, including parliamentary debate, to be legitimated. This is formally the same in today's Germany, i.e. for the German way of understanding the world. The difference lies in the 'feel' for taxation, the people's sensitivity to being taxed. There is much unavoidable arbitrariness in the state's positing tax legislation, both as to the kind of tax and its amount, since criteria for taxation, its 'principles', are themselves ad hoc and vague. The state is highly inventive and capricious in imposing new kinds of taxes. The legitimacy of tax regimes is flimsy, so that tax-raising becomes a naked power-struggle between the state and tax-payers in which the sheer effectiveness of the state's tax-collecting apparatus is paramount. The state can easily show itself as a tax-fraudster.

For Anglo-Saxon ways of thinking, taxation is regarded first of all as an incursion into private wealth and income, and thus into personal liberty, whose legitimacy rests tenuously on whether it's necessary and its fairness both as to sharing the tax burden among the population and as to whether the state is 'gouging' its taxable population. Taxation can become a highly sensitive and volatile political issue, especially when a government reneges on promises regarding taxation. For the Germans, by contrast, the State's imposition of taxes is conceived as necessary for its tasks of caring for the universal well-being (das Allgemeinwohl) of itself, whereby society is regarded as an integrated part of the State. The German populace is thus surprisingly docile when the State taxes it and even dishonestly shifts ground on taxation issues. The Germans gladly subjugate themselves to the State's tax impositions, obediently condemning tax evasion whilst themselves practising it.. A major task for the State as the "concrete Universal" (das konkret Allgemeine) is (seen to be) to care for society through its social welfare apparatuses, and this is acknowledged by the population above all in its clamouring for more and more benefits that smooth out the vicissitudes of life. Such clamouring for more, in turn, gives the State more leeway to levy more taxes, and politicians easily recognize welfare benefits as a major and convenient way to paternalistically rule a populace that desires more than anything else to be cared for securely.

iv) social justice -> soziale Gerechtigkeit

'Social justice' in English signifies the fairness of the interplay among the members of society. 'Soziale Gerechtigkeit' in German signifies the redistributive justice undertaken by the Sozialstaat within society. The Sozialstaat is paternalist and designed to secure the rule over its people by distributing welfare benefits, mollifying its subjects, who are thus securely taken care of in the double sense.

v) free individual -> verstaatlicher Einzelne

The free individual in English is the core of society, being thoroughly misunderstood and wilfully perverted when conceived as the individual vs. society, as in the ideology of individualism. Rather, the free individual is a player in the interplay of society and is free only to the extent that this interplay itself is free and fair. In German, there is no free individual, who is seen as, and is in German society, a self-interested, asocial egoist who claims freedom to do what he arbitrarily wants without hindrance. This egoist is the residue left behind by the Sozialstaat sucking the sociability out of society. The individual is hence seen as being in need of incorporation into the Staat, subject to its laws and regulations in every aspect of life. This is the 'verstaatlicher Einzelne' who, in terms of Hegel's philosophy, is the con-cluding 'closing together' (Schluß) of the Universal (das Allgemeine, here the Staat) with the Singular (Einzelne). The individual's "supreme duty" (höchste Pflicht) is to be a member of the Staat.

Liberal freedom has thus been mangled, gemurkst in translation from West to East.

See also Set-up vs. gainful game and Negative and positive freedom.

10 July 2014

Zu Jürgen Borcherts Sozialstaatsdämmerung

Ich habe ein wenig in das Buch Sozialstaatsdämmerung von Jürgen Borchert (Riemann Verlag, München 2013) geschaut. Auf dem Klappentext hinten steht: "Deutschland: Weltmeister der sozialen Ungerechtigkeit?" Soweit ich sehe, ist Borchert dem verengten, einseitigen (vgl. Aristoteles' Doppelbegriff der Gerechtigkeit in Buch V der Eth. Nic.) deutschen Begriff der sozialen Gerechtigkeit zum Opfer gefallen. Nun kann ja allein von einem Begriff die Klarsicht abhängen. Die soziale Gerechtigkeit wird durchgängig mit der Umverteilungsgerechtigkeit gleichgesetzt. Dabei ist der Agent der Umverteilung der Sozialstaat, d.h. der Staat, der die Gesellschaft in sich aufgesogen hat. Als Ort der Asozialität wird damit Gesellschaft zurückgelassen — wie man tagtäglich hierzulande erfahren kann —, deren Ordnung polizeilich geschützt werden muß, weil die Gesellschaft kein Ethos des ungezwungenen, fairen Umgangs miteinander atmet. In der asozialen Gesellschaft entlarvt der Deutsche die Freundlichkeit grundsätzlich als Scheißfreundlichkeit. Bezeichnenderweise kann man "Sozialstaat" nicht mit "social state" ins Englische übersetzen. It makes no sense. Nicht von ungefähr bemüht Borchert die Metapher des Sozialstaatsschiffs, auf dem Lasten nach "Leistungsfähigkeit" (S.238) gerecht verteilt werden müssen, damit das Schiff nicht kentert. Bocherts Polemik und Analyse zielen ausschließlich darauf, die vom Sozialstaat durchgesetzte Umverteilung zugunsten einer angeblich gerechteren Umverteilung zu reformieren, also: die Umverteilung (besser, 'gerechter') umverteilen 

Die Freiheit wird durch die Bindung an die "soziale Verantwortung" (S.26) von vornherein neutralisiert und so außer Kraft gesetzt. Die Freiheit ist für Borchert kein Thema. Stattdessen: "Das Sozialstaatsprinzip gebiete [...] die annähernd gleichmäßige Verteilung der Lasten..." (S.28), also die "Baugesetze", "Gleichheits- wie das Sozialstaatsprinzip". (S.29). Der Sozialstaat sei da, um die "Lebensrisiken 
[...]  in einem einheitlichen System abzusichern: Alter, Krankheit und Pflege" (S.235), denn "Unsicherheit macht radikal" (S.234). Das war schon Bismarcks Einsicht und politisches Kalkül, um die Arbeiterbewegung durch sozial-demokratische Sozialversicherung zu befrieden. Borchert denkt also durch und durch gestellhaft (vgl. Heideggers "Ge-Stell") und so deutsch. Der Sozialstaat beruht folglich implizit auf einem — wenn auch noch geldvermittelten — kommunistischen Prinzip, das Karl Marx in seiner Kritik des Gothaer Programms 1875 an seinem Geburtstag formuliert hat: "Jeder nach seinen Fähigkeiten, jedem nach seinen Bedürfnissen!" (MEW19:21) Damit bleibt Borcherts Gerechtigkeitsverständnis totalitär, nämlich sozialtotalitär.

Der Autor hat offenbar nicht einmal das völlig andere Verständnis von social justice in angelsächsischen Ländern in Betracht gezogen. In einer Rede neulich von der ehemaligen australischen Premierministerin Julia Gillard
(Labor) zum Thema Social Justice wird dieser Begriff sofort mit "fairness" bzw. "fair go" übersetzt (zum Nachhören). Auch in den U.S. civil rights struggles um social justice geht es stets um fair play, d.h. um die Abschaffung von sozialer Diskriminierung, die das interplay bzw. Wechselspiel der Wertschätzung untereinander in der Gesellschaft verzerrt und so verhäßlicht. Dieses Verständnis von social justice bleibt nach wie vor der deutschen Auffassung von sozialer Gerechtigkeit gänzlich fremd. Soziale Gerechtigkeit ist auf Deutsch fraglos als Umverteilungsgerechtigkeit zu verstehen. Sonst sei man sozial verantwortungslos wie der von Borchert verteufelte, ehemalige FDP-Vorsitzende Otto Graf Lambsdorff (S.20). Eine Gerechtigkeit des fairen Umgangs miteinander ist dem Deutschen und insbesondere Borchert höchstens eine nette kulturelle Nebensache, die den Kern der Gerechtigkeit selbst nicht trifft. Wenn Graf Lambsdorff ein "Staatsverächter" (S.20) sein soll, dann ist Borchert selbst ein Gesellschaftsverachter, der die Asozialität von Gesellschaft affirmiert und die Freiheit verabscheut.

Auch Marx stellt in
seiner Kritik des Gothaer Programms die Frage, "Was ist 'gerechte' Verteilung?" (MEW19:18) Wo bleibt die Freiheit? Daß Freiheit die Kehrseite des Risikos ist und damit den Mut zum Wagnis verlangt, bleibt ein undeutscher Gedanke, der unterdrückt wird durch die Urangst der durch jahrhundertlange Dressur zur Mutlosigkeit gezüchteten Deutschen vor dem Chaos, das angeblich gleich ausbricht, wo der Sozialstaat nicht für die Absicherung der Bürger sorgt. In einer solchen Gesellschaft bleibt kein Spiel-Raum für die Singularität des Einzelnen, der seinen eigensten freien -- und so unabgesicherten, risikoreichen -- Lebensentwurf wagt. Borcherts Buch setzt eine lange Tradition in Deutschland zu Begriff und Phänomen der Gerechtigkeit fort. Schade, daß der Autor sich gerade nicht für eine Dämmerung des Sozialstaats zugunsten einer freieren Gesellschaft einsetzt.

Commutative and distributive justicePotentiality and Actuality und Set-up vs. gainful game.sowie meine Social Ontology.

06 July 2014

Vor- und Nachname Zeit

Heidegger sagt, die Zeit ist der "Vorname" der _alaetheia_.
Ich sage, auch der Nachname der _alaetheia_ ist die Zeit.

24 June 2014

Presencing, absencing, disclosing, hiding

Being and Time from 1927 is Heidegger's most famous book, his magnum opus. The book's primary message, as the title indicates, is that 'being' means 'time'. The meaning of being itself, and not merely the being of beings, is a temporal one: three-dimensional temporality (Zeitlichkeit) as Dasein's Da: the clearing (Lichtung). Later on, however, Heidegger makes a shift, pronouncing that time is only the "provisional name" (Vorname) for _alaetheia_, the open truth of being. The focus shifts to the play of disclosing and hiding (including only partially or distortedly disclosing) within the open clearing of _alaetheia_. The temporal dimensions of this play fade away, and Heideggerians go along with this 'development', letting it retreat into obscurity in their scholarly recounting of the 'development' of Heidegger's thinking.

But, seen clearly and simply, the clearing never loses its temporal character, so the threefold play of disclosing and hiding criss-crosses with the play of presencing (in the present) and twofold absencing (refusal by has-beenness, and withholding by the future). So there are 3x3=9 possible phenomenal combinations in toto. Human being itself (Dasein) is this ecstatic exposure to the all three temporal dimensions 'simultaneously' within which disclosing/hiding play. It's worthwhile doing some phenomenological finger- or rather, seeing-exercises to bring this multiplicity of play clearly to light:


i) You can entirely forget an incident, such as your having received a letter from your aunt many years ago (refused presence and hidden).
ii) You can have an entirely clear memory of a past incident, such as your first day at school (refused presence and disclosed).
iii) You can partially or wrongly recall an incident, such as your hike through the Jamieson Valley (refused presence and partially or distortedly disclosed).

The present

iv) Something in your present surroundings may be entirely hidden to you, such as what's behind that door over there (presence at present and hidden). (What's behind that door over there could be disclosed to you without its being sensuously present to your eyes; sensuous presence is only one kind of presence that traditionally has been, and still is, privileged.)
v) You can be entirely aware of what's presently going on around you in the current situation (presence at present and disclosed). This is called presence of mind.
vi) You can be only partially or mistakenly aware of what's presently going on around you, such as misrecognizing a street or a person you meet (presence at present and partially or distortedly disclosed).

The future

vii) You may be totally unaware of an event that's approaching you, such as the tax department's sending you a notification alleging tax evasion (withheld presence and hidden).
viii) You may clearly see an approaching event, such as a book you're expecting any day in the post (withheld presence and disclosed). This does not amount to being able to predict exactly when it will arrive.
ix) You may be only partially or mistakenly aware of an event that's approaching you, such as who's going to show up at the party on Friday (withheld presence and partially disclosed).

These trivial exercises in seeing show that the criss-crossing play of presencing/absencing and disclosing/hiding is richly complex, multiple. Each of us plays along in this play, easily differentiating its various plies, as long as we are mindful of the time-clearing. Life's movement is this mindful play. The time-clearing is the same as the mind, the Da.

Further reading: 'Out of your mind: Parmenides' message' and 'Being Time Space'.

20 June 2014

Die Neuzeit und die Andere Zeit

Die Neuzeit und die Andere Zeit - diese Überschrift soll nicht nur zwei geschichtliche Epochen, sondern auch zwei wesentlich verschiedene Zeitauffassungen anzeigen — nicht, daß ich mir einbilde, die vorherrschend wissenschaftlichen Denkweisen der Neuzeit könnten oder auch sollten einfach durch eine andere Denkweise abgelöst, überwunden werden. Die vorherrschende Zeitauffassung ist keine beliebige, untergeordnete Begriffsbestimmung, die historisch etwa in der Philosophie- oder Wissenschaftsgeschichte durch Gelehrte erforscht werden könnte, sondern geht genau so tief wie die epochale Seinsauffassung, d.h. die Frage nach dem Sein. Diese Frage bewegt das philosophische Denken seit den griechischen Anfängen und liegt der ganzen westlichen Geschichte auf unscheinbare Weise zugrunde.

Erst seit Heidegger ist die Frage nach dem Sein selbst zu einer echten,expliziten Frage geworden, denn bis Heidegger war der Sinn des Seins seit zweieinhalb Jahrtausenden von der Philosophie stillschweigend implizit — und so ungedacht — vorausgesetzt. Der Sinn des Seins selbst, d.h. seine Bedeutung, ist aber die Zeit. Wieso? Weil die Philosophie bis Heidegger -- und freilich hartnäckig auch nach ihm -- Metaphysik bleibt, die stets nur die Frage nach der Seiendheit des Seienden von Platon bis in unsere Tage etwa bei Deleuze verschiedentlich beantwortet. Dabei wird stets gedankenlos vorausgesetzt, daß das Sein des Seienden irgendeine Art der Anwesenheit, d.h. irgendeine Weise der Anwesung —ob ständig oder sonstwie unständig, etwa 'different' —  ist. In der Anwesenheit liegt aber unweigerlich ein Verweis auf die Zeit selbst, dem Heidegger nachgegangen ist.

Was aber ist die Zeit selbst? Seit Aristoteles wird die Zeit vom anwesenden Jetzt aus als das gezählte Nacheinander von Jetzt-Momenten begriffen. Das gegenwärtige Jetzt wird dabei als existierend, seiend verstanden, während das kommende Jetzt als noch nicht und das vergangene Jetzt als nicht mehr existent, d.h. seiend, verstanden werden. Hier liegt offenbar ein circulus vitiosus vor, denn, wenn das Sein selbst implizit Anwesenheit bedeutet, und die Zeit selbst vom gegenwärtig-anwesenden Jetzt als seiend her bestimmt wird, geht der zeitliche Charakter des Seins selbst unter zugunsten eines konfusen, unhinterfragten Im-Kreise-gehens, wobei das 'ist' ein leeres Wort, eine bloße Kopula bleibt. Erst mit Heidegger ist dieser Kreis endlich und endgültig durchbrochen, selbst wenn die Philosophien jedweden Couleurs seit der Veröffentlichung von Sein und Zeit 1927 mit aller Kraft sich dagegen sträuben, diese Antwort auf die Frage nach dem Sinn von Sein zur Kenntnis zu nehmen und zu prüfen, und sogar versuchen, die Frage selbst als verfehlt, lächerlich oder 'politisch gefährlich' zu desavouieren. Die heutigen (analytischen oder Kontinentalen) Philosophien und Philosophen selbst formieren sich zu einem repressiven Apparat, um den Deckel auf eine fundamentale philosophische Frage zu halten.

Warum aber bloß? Weil das Zurückgehen hinter den seit Jahrtausenden geltenden Auffassungen von Sein und Zeit mit einer grundlegenden Erschütterung des Weltverstehens insgesamt droht, die insbesondere und vor allem den neuzeitlichen wissenschaftlichen Zugang zur Welt als wesenhaft verengend in Frage stellt und sogar aus der Bahn werfen könnte. Wieso verengend? Weil die moderne Wissenschaft egal welcher Art nur Wissenschaft sein kann, solange sie an der Wirkkausalität in irgendeiner Variante bis hin zu sog. 'emergenten Strukturen' aus chaotischer Komplexität festhält. Sonst kann sie gar nichts erklären, und was wäre eine Wissenschaft ohne ihre Erklärungskraft? Eine Wissenschaft muß wesenhaft darauf aus sein, die Bewegungen bzw. Änderungen des kommenden und gehenden Seienden jedweder Art in der Welt kausal zu erklären. damit man wissenschaftlich weiß, woran man ist, und möglichst solche Bewegungen von Seiendem wirksam beherrschen oder zumindest vorhersagen kann.

Die Wirkkausalität jedoch setzt die lineare Zeit eines Nacheinanders von Jetzt-Momenten voraus, wobei freilich das Jetzt der wissenschaftlich-empirischen Feststellung den unbedingten Vorrang hat. Über Dinge, die noch nicht geschehen sind, kann man keine wissenschaftliche Feststellung treffen, sondern höchstens indirekt vermittels einer voraussagenden Theorie entlang der linearen Zeit anhand gegenwärtiger Daten. Und zu Dingen, die einmal in der Vergangenheit geschehen sind, hat man nur vermittelt über faktisch noch anwesende Spuren wie etwa erhaltene Dokumente, archäologische Funde, festgehaltene elektromagnetische Strahlungen und dergl. wissenschaftlichen Zugang. Der wissenschaftliche Blick richtet sich stets auf das, was in der Gegenwart vom Kommen und Gehen des Anwesenden festgehalten, registriert werden kann, und baut ihre Erklärungen anhand von in der Gegenwart gesammelten Datenpunkten auf. Wenn sie dies nicht tut, wird ihr unweigerlich unwissenschaftliche Spekulation und — quel horreur! — Unwirksamkeit vorgeworfen.

Die Zeit der Neuzeit ist also die (mathematisierte) lineare Zeit, die der Wirkkausalität dient. Und die Zeit der Anderen Zeit? Hier öffnet sich die Zeit vom Nacheinander der festgestellten, gezählten Jetzt-Momente der Uhr-Zeit, um endlich die Ur-Zeit einer dreidimensionalen Zeit-Lichtung in den Blick zu bekommen, worin auch die beiden Dimensionen der Abwesenheit, d.h. der Zukunft und der Gewesenheit, im freien Spiel zugelassen sind. So erhalten die traditionell negativen metaphysischen Bestimmungen des Noch-nicht und des Nicht-mehr — d.h. des Nicht-seienden — positive Bestimmungen des Vorenthalts bzw. der Verweigerung, denn es ist überhaupt nicht schwer zu sehen, daß die Abwesenheit in ihren beiden Spielarten nicht nichts ist. D.h. wir Menschen sind auch der Verweigerung sowie dem Vorenthalt der Anwesung ausgesetzt und so von ihnen positiv angegangen. Sonst könnten wir nichts erwarten, und es könnte uns nichts fehlen. So wird die Zeit zum Offenen einer Lichtung, in der das Spiel der An- und Abwesung von Anwesendem spielt und so auch der Herrschaftsansprüche der Wirkkausalität entkommt. Damit erweitert sich der Blick auf die Welt, und das Seiende zeigt sich nicht nur als gegenwärtig Anwesendes, sondern auch als verweigertes oder vorenthaltenes Abwesendes, d.h. als in einer der drei zeitlichen Dimensionen Vorkommendes überhaupt.

Das Vorkommende kann sich dementsprechend außerhalb des engen wissenschaftlichen Blicks auch anders blicken lassen. Das Sich-anders-zeigen aber ist dasselbe wie ein anderes Denken, wodurch auch die Welt anders wird, denn die vorherrschenden hermeneutischen Als, wodurch alles Vorkommende gedeutet wird, erweitern sich auch mit der Erweiterung der linearer Zeit auf die offene Zeit-Lichtung. Diese hermeneutischen Als sind die ontologischen Bausteine der Welt, ihr hermeneutisches Gerüst, wodurch sich das Vorkommende in der Welt anders, einfacher zeigt. Der ontologische Wiederaufbau der Welt kann ohne eine grundsätzliche Erweiterung des Zeitverständnisses nicht einmal anfangen, denn jede Variante der Metaphysik einschließlich etwa der grammatologischen Derridaschen Kritik einer sog. "Metaphysik der Präsenz" bleibt trotz allen Scheins der Fortgeschrittenheit letztlich von einem traditionellen linearen bzw. einem ungeklärten und durchaus verworrenen Zeitverständnis im Alten befangen,

Das verstehe ich — kurz gesagt — unter der geschichtlichen Möglichkeit einer Anderen Zeit. Dann können sich die Phänomene anders zeigen und so auch verstanden werden, und mancher Schein — einschließlich des Scheins der Wissenschaftlichkeit etwa in den Sozialwissenschaften — wird zugunsten eines Wert-Schätz-Spiels durchschaut. Erst dies ermöglicht wiederum ein anderes Handeln — auch politisch — in der Welt. Zunächst einmal jedoch muß eingesehen werden, daß für uns Heutige in einer Übergangs-Zeit das Denken selbst insofern ein Handeln ist, als es durch seine Empfänglichkeit für einen anderen Entwurf des Vorkommenden als solchen ein anderes Sichpräsentieren in der Zeit-Lichtung einer Anderen Zeit erst ermöglicht.

Vgl dazu 'Out of your mind: Parmenides' message' sowie 'Being Time Space'.

16 June 2014

Das Digitale denken - wirklich?

Die FAZ hat eine neue Serie "Das Digitale denken" eingeleitet, worin u.a. zu lesen ist:

"Anders als Heidegger aber glauben wir nicht, dass die Lösung dieser Probleme in der Dimension eines vorintellektuellen, gerade wegen seiner Unterkomplexität zu feiernden Denkens gelingen kann. Nicht ausgeschlossen, dass die überlebensnotwendigen Analysen und Antworten gar nicht in Reichweite des menschlichen Bewusstseins sind - ..."

Was soll das? Wie kann das fingierte nachintellektuelle, überkomplexe "Wir" dieser deutschen Zeitung darüber entscheiden, was es erfordert, um das Digitale zu denken? Wieso ist es von vornherein ausgemacht, daß das "Bewusstsein" der Ort ist, von dem aus es möglich wäre, das Digitale genuin in die Frage zu stellen? Könnte es sein, daß gerade das Bewußtsein als Wesensbestimmung des Orts des menschlichen Denkens das Hindernis ist, um das Digitale zu denken? Immerhin räumt der Artikel ein, es wäre möglich, daß die "Antworten gar nicht in Reichweite des menschlichen Bewusstseins sind".

Bereits die Ausgangsannahme ist schief:
"Beständig formt Technik unsere Epistemologien um, nicht nur die Strukturen des Wissens, sondern auch die Modalitäten seines Entstehens aus den Reaktionen des Bewusstseins auf die uns umgebende Welt."
Woher die selbstverständliche Sicherheit, daß es ein Bewußtsein gibt, das von einer Welt umgeben ist? Von dieser Trennung her dann die Behauptung, daß eine "Fusion von Bewusstsein und Software" heute unterwegs ist: "Deutlicher und zentraler als je zuvor hängt unsere Existenz vom Bewusstsein ab, sind wir zu einem kaum mehr überbietbaren Grad „cartesianisch“ geworden." Und wenn "wir" mit der digitalen Cyberwelt vollendet "cartesianisch" geworden sind, und gerade die cartesische Metaphysik die Trennung des subjektiven Bewußtseins von der Außenwelt für die Neuzeit entwirft, zeigt das nicht an, daß gerade das Bewußtsein ein Problem geworden ist? Ironisch auch, daß gerade das angeblich "vorintellektuelle", "unterkomplexe" Denken eines Heideggers in tiefgehenden, freilegenden Auslegungen uns Heutigen erst die Augen für den Grundcharakter der cartesischen Metaphysik geöffnet hat. Also sind diese FAZ-Autoren parasitär-undankbar.

Das cartesische Subjekt hat den mathematisierten Zugang in der digitalen Auflösung der Welt in einer Cyberwelt vollendet. Sein Weltverstehen wird ausschnittsweise in Algorithmen niedergeschrieben, die als Programme in Milliarden von Turingmaschinen aller Art ausgelagert werden, um Bewegungen jedweder Art zu steuern, zu beherrschen. De Auslagerung unseres digitalisierten Weltverstehens in Turingmaschinen versetzt diese unheimliche Cyberwelt mit ihren billionenfach ständig zirkulierenden Bit-Strings in die Lage, auf uns Menschen zurückzuschlagen, und setzt so das Subjektsein eines vermeintlichen zugrundeliegenden Sub-jekts außer Kraft. Von diesem geschichtlichen Schicksal haben die Heutigen bisher höchstens eine blasse Ahnung - ein Unbehagen.

Der Wille zur Macht über Bewegungen/Veränderungen jedweder Art hat sich durch Auslagerung von Algorithmen in die Cyberwelt dem Bewußtseinssubjekt gegenüber verselbständigt, und heute stehen wir erst am Anfang der Ermächtigung dieser Cyberwelt, die uns überrollt..Das heißt aber, daß das Bewußtseinssubjekt zu einem Problem geworden ist. Demnach muß das Bewußtseinssubjekt zusammen mit dem mathematisierten Weltzugang hinterfragt werden. Die FAZ-Serie Das Digitale denken dient lediglich dazu, dieses Hinterfragen zu verhindern.

Vgl. dazu  The Digital Cast of Being  Metaphysics, Mathematics, Cartesianism, Cybernetics, Capitalism, Communication. sowie 'Out of your mind: Parmenides' message'.

11 June 2014

Set-up vs. gainful game

Insight into today's historically hegemonic casts of being allows current events to be seen and assessed more clearly than is possible employing the usual socio-scientific ways of thinking. A cast of being is an historical way that beings (presents) present themselves AS what or who they are in a given era. The current news story of a clash between British Prime Minister Cameron and the EU heads of state over who is to become the next President of the European Commission is just one example of a long-running conflict between Continental and Anglo-Saxon styles of political thinking which can easily be characterized as a clash of mentalities along with their associated political ideologies. These can be named as social-democracy and liberalism, but these are superficial designations from the perspective of deeper-lying casts of the being of beings that in part clash, in part intermesh and in any case are superimposed in our age.

Without an appreciation of socio-ontological constellations, the social sciences distort the view of today's predicaments. The social science of economics, for instance, poses the dilemma of politics having to navigate in fiscal and budgetary policy between the demands on a social welfare state to provide 'modern' social welfare benefits, on the one hand, and, on the other,  the need for 'structural reforms' in economies burdened with tightly regulated employment markets. Such tight regulation and inflexibility are invariably claimed to be for the sake of employment security, and the socio-political fight is fought out in terms of conflicts between 'progressive' social rights and market freedom, between social security and precarious existence, between the 'primacy of politics' and 'neo-liberalism'. In the U.S. analogous struggles are fought out, in a language that at key points inverts meanings, between 'liberal' Democrats and 'conservative' Republicans, between the proponents of Big Government and those of Small Government.

All these phenomena and fights can be viewed also as clashes and complementarities between the set-up and the gainful game. Each of these latter is an epochal cast of being which is at the same time a deep-seated way of thinking how beings show up and present themselves AS such-and-such in an era. A cast of being is thus an epochal mind-set that is taken for granted as self-evident by those living in a given age. Hence it is very difficult to see as such.

The set-up (Ge-Stell) is a way of thinking in whose cast all beings, i.e. all that presents itself, is viewed AS subject to control by a scientific knowing of some kind, precipitating in myriad technologies. The movement/change of all beings, including human beings, is to be grasped by scientific knowledge for the sake of guiding envisaged outcomes toward their final desired actual presence. What counts is what finally comes to presence and is thus securely 'in hand'. Risk is to be mastered. Science and technology of all kinds are subjected to the demands of securing social well-being by delivering the goods of citizens' lives, including especially health care and old age care.

The gainful game (Gewinn-Spiel), by contrast, consists of the ongoing game of mutual valuation and estimation among human beings and things, mediated by reified value, in the pursuit of income-gain. Reified value takes various forms, including commodities, money, money-capital, wages, productive and circulation capital, finance capital, profit of enterprise, interest and ground-rent.  Here the focus is on the starting-points of the gainful game rather than on the final outcomes. The many players in the gainful game have the potential to gain, and may fail, i.e. the outcomes are insecure, which is anathema for the set-up's mind-set  The primary concern for the gainful game's mind-set is that the gainful game is not rigged in favour of certain players, which may be, say, a monopoly, the state or a big labour union. The game should be fair, which includes that the players be free to play the gainful game in pursuit of income without unfair handicaps.

In the first place, the players deploy their personal powers and abilities, i.e. their labour-powers, to gain wages and salaries, but, derivatively, they can deploy also, say, savings as interest-bearing capital or as an investment in land in search of ground-rent income. The possibilities of placing a stake in the gainful game via some form of reified value are myriad, and the possibilities for playing the gainful game, along with its surprising and hitherto unseen turns and modes of play, infinite. The key obfuscation that the gainful game presents to view is the fetishism of reified value, as if certain things (commodities, money, etc.) had intrinsic value rather than being a medium through which, ultimately, we human beings non-reifiedly value and estimate what we can do either for, with or against each other in the ongoing value-estimation game in which we esteem also earth and sky.

The clash between the epochal mind-sets of the set-up and the gainful game has everything to do -- albeit invisibly,  'behind the scenes' -- with phenomena such as the proverbial risk aversion of Continental Europeans, especially the Germans, vis-à-vis the risk-taking alacrity of the Americans, or the long-term low economic growth rates and high secular unemployment on the Continent compared to Anglo-Saxon economies that more flexibly ride the unpredictable waves of the global market economy. Economists, sociologists and political scientists, not to mention journalists, cannot see this because they are beguiled by their set task of merely explaining ontic societal movements and thus are blind to any socio-ontological dimension.

See also: Potentiality and Actuality, Negative and positive freedom , Commutative and distributive justice and Chap. 7 of my Capital and Technology: Marx and Heidegger.

08 June 2014

Gainful game of academic publishing

First posted at Progressive Geographies:

My experience with academic publishing is dispiriting. Mostly editors and so-called peer reviewers don't like (my) thinking, but demand standard scientific or 
scholarly discourse instead. The lesson: Don't rock the academic boat. Don't challenge orthodoxy in its infinite variety and complacency. Academic publishing is a rigged game. Academics (thankfully, I'm not one) have to publish in well-reputed journals or by a well-reputed publisher to get ahead in their careers by boosting their who-status as somewho purportedly worth listening to, who gets a pat on the back from colleagues. 

The academic scholar has to submit to the publisher's rules and, these days, often even has to pay for the review and editing process, or the printing, him/herself. Academic reputation has a monetary price. The publisher then locks up the textual product behind a pay-wall. For a single short article today's standard prices are around USD30 up to USD50 or EUR40. At that price, your article doesn't get into wide circulation to polish your reputation. Those citing it are largely those with a pre-paid institutional access, i.e. those with some more or less modest position of power in an academic institution. They're the ones who have a say in whether your career flourishes or withers on the vine. Keep the club closed for the initiated. Apart from gouging academic authors in reputational need, the whole who-game stinks, serving as it does to keep thinking within bounds already established by some institutional power play or other. Maybe you're lucky or clever enough to be swimming along in one of the current streams, whether main or subsidiary. Just be prepared for disappointment and exclusion if you try to think anything hitherto unheard of.

So academic publishing is one more instance of how the gainful game can be played. The latter is infinitely versatile. The quest to see more clearly pursued by the precious few, too, is a power play with winners and losers.

Further on the gainful game as a socio-ontological constellation.

01 June 2014

Eichmann millionenfach eichen

Wie viele Jahrhunderte deutscher Züchtungsgeschichte,
wie viel Dressur in Gehorsam,
wie viel mutloses Sichunterwerfen hat es gebraucht,
um die Heutigen einer total fürsorgenden,
freiheitlich-demokratischen Grundordnung
millionenfach zu eichen?

Siehe auch Deutschlandreise.

31 May 2014

Interplay of free starting-points in the time-clearing

Response to a questioner:

Whether you believe that there are free starting-points or not has everything to do with your commitment to two alternative conceptions of time itself. For modern science, i.e. scientific method, time is cast as continuous, one-dimensional, linear, which amounts to a commitment to the absoluteness of efficient causality that generates all movement/change, proceeding moment by moment, from the past to the present moment into the future that accordingly arrives deterministically. For this view, which amounts to modern science's founding superstition, there is only a block universe in which there can be no free starting-points and in which time is an illusion that can cleverly be eliminated from the physical equations of movement of all kinds. Without linear, one-dimensional time with its corresponding efficient causality, modern science collapses in favour of another vista in which the play of three-dimensional time comes into view.

If you return to your everyday phenomenal experience of living, which itself is a kind of movement/change, you can conceive of, i.e. presence in your mind, what might have happened back then, and also what might occur, presencing from the future. This presencing in the mind of what might have been and what might occur is already an indication that time is not a one-dimensional, continuous line connected by totalized effective causality, but is itself an openness open to possibilities that may or may not arrive within it.

Although, starting with your birth, you are cast into situations over which you have no control whatsoever, you nevertheless have the possibility of conceiving ('minding') and casting yourself one way or another into the future, whether this be on the small scale of your next everyday action or, in a wider casting, shaping your future life, indeed who you will become in casting your self. This is the abyssal nothingness of your self as a free starting-point (_archae_), a power as an origin of life-movement. You engage willy-nilly (nolens volens) with others, each of whom, in turn, is likewise a free starting-point and hence also an abyssal source of life-movement, i.e. an individual free power. This power interplay has its own compulsions and 'hard places' that will even negate your own intended aims, pushing you in one direction or another. The ongoing outcome of the power play among free starting-points is uncertain, incalculable, and is so only within the free, non-linear, three-dimensional play of the openness of time itself that provides the clearing for this interplay of individual powers. There are more degrees of freedom than modern science will concede, for it is committed to control over movements of all kinds, for the sake of setting-up all that occurs.

That, in any case, is how I see our sharing of the time-clearing with one another for as long as each of us participates in it, i.e. is alive, self-moving, self-changing.

Further reading: Being Time Space.

30 May 2014

Singularity cannot be con-cluded

Singularity is an important concept for me, too. It is often confused with particularity, being used as a synonym. My critique of Hegel (cf. Chap. 12 iii) of my Social Ontology) hangs on showing that singularity (Einzelheit) cannot be closed together (con-cluded, in einem Schluss zusammen geschlossen) with universality (Allgemeinheit) via particularization (Besonderung). The mediating middle is broken, so no identity. Only in singularity is there a ghost of a chance for freedom of those courageous enough to risk it. Pluralism I see as the (Protagorean) splintering of truth into multiple perspectives at power-play with each other. In the niches and crevices left by the non-identical closure between singularity and universality resides (the potential for) freedom. Any politics striving for a closure into identity are necessarily totalitarian. Like today’s social welfare state pursuing its (unrealizable) ideal of totally caring for an obedient populace (Nietzsche’s “letzter Mensch”).

Originally posted on Terence Blake's blog-spot.

17 May 2014

Graham Harman's misguided Heidegger-interpretation

"Heidegger’s great breakthrough came when he first noted that usually we do not encounter entities as present in consciousness. This is already an artificial special case that occurs most often in the breakdown of entities. As long as [...} the hammer and screwdriver are working in your hands rather than shattering into tiny pieces, they tend not to be noticed. While phenomena in the mind are present or present-at-hand, entities themselves are ready-to-hand for Heidegger, remaining invisible as they work towards various purposes.

"Even this standard way of reading Heidegger turns out to be too superficial. He is not just giving us a difference between conscious perception and theory on the one hand and unconscious practical action on the other. Notice that even praxis reduces things to figures, since my use of a chair or hammer reduces it, oversimplifies it by interacting with only a small number of its vast range of qualities. The lesson from Heidegger is not that conscious awareness is the site of figure and unconscious praxis is the site of ground. Instead, the hidden ground is the thing itself, which is reduced, caricatured, or distorted by any relation we might have with it, whether theoretical or practical. And moreover, this is not just a special fact about human beings, but is typical even of inanimate relations." (Graham Harman 'Greenberg, Duchamp, and the Next Avant-Garde' Speculations V punctum books,  Brooklyn NY 2014 pp.261f my emphases)

In this passage from a recent essay, Harman recapitulates salient features not only of his poor reading of Heidegger's Sein und Zeit but, above all, of his inadequate interpretation of the phenomena themselves.

i) He seems to think that, like his teacher Husserl, Heidegger is dealing with "consciousness" and what is "unconscious", which could not be further from Heidegger's shifting the site of the mind from a consciousness in a subject's interior vis-à-vis an external world of objects to the openness of the Da, exposed to which Dasein understands beings presenting themselves in this Da as such-and-such (the hermeneutic As).

ii) Re the famous broken hammer in Sein und Zeit that draws attention to itself: In use the functioning hammer remains unnoticed, or rather, to employ Heidegger's more precise term, "inconspicuous" (unauffällig), which by no means signifies that the hammer is "invisible", nor that its user is "unconscious" of it. Rather, in use, the hammer is understood in its usefulness without its user having to be specially focused on it. The user's attention is directed rather toward the task at hand of hammering, and his mind, his Da, understands what is necessary to do the task. The hammer in its usefulness is open to him, i.e. understood as a matter of course, and incorporated into his actions.

iii) From i) and ii) it can be seen that Heidegger is not at all "giving us a difference between conscious perception and theory on the one hand and unconscious practical action on the other".

iv) Postulating a "hidden ground [which] is the thing itself" amounts to a vain attempt at resurrecting the Kantian Ding an sich, which is beyond any insightful phenomenal access whatsoever. Only that which presents itself in the Da is open to Dasein at all. Accordingly, "inanimate relations" among things do not "distort" the "thing itself". It is only Dasein, from its perspective, that can understand "inanimate relations" at all, whether it be in daily life or theoretically. Such "inanimate relations" present themselves as such-and-such to Dasein's understanding in one way or another. It makes no sense to speak of "inanimate relations" in themselves, just as it is futile to speak of a Ding an sich, which is merely the untenable, self-negating imagining of something that is utterly beyond any possible human experience, i.e outside the Da. You're trying to imagine outside the Da from inside the Da, thus bringing what was supposedly outside, inside.

The Da itself is the three-dimensional ecstatic time-clearing as the sole (pre-spatial; it has no 'where') 'site' for occurrents of all kinds to present and absent themselves and so be understood by Dasein in one way or another by virtue of its being 'enpropriated' (vereignet) to the Da. Moreover, the quivering of the Da in any situation, period or even age is what enables Dasein's responsive attunement one way or another.

What Graham Harman offers is just one more way of failing to get over the metaphysical split between the conscious subject and the external object whose being supposedly is altogether independent from the subject. This relapse is presented, of course, as 'the next big thing'.

Further reading: Out of your mind? Parmenides' message.

15 May 2014

Lévinas' baby and the bath-water

In an article first published in 1951 entitled 'Is Ontology Fundamental?', Lévinas briefly presents a case for a negative answer to this question. This negative answer bears and marks his entire thinking, and that to such an extent that it is by and large a negative movement, akin even to negative theology. There is no doubt that Lévinas has a genuine phenomenon in view, a phenomenon that opened up and provided the essential impetus for dialogical philosophy and is roughly indicated by the grammatical difference between the third person and the second person. Lévinas is also correct in pointing out that Heidegger's fundamental ontology, as presented in Sein und Zeit and lecture courses throughout the twenties, does not enter into an interpretation of this phenomenon but rather keeps it at arm's length. But whereas Lévinas argues for a strong distinction between what he calls metaphysics, which is concerned with infinitude, and ontology, which he claims to be totalizing, the thesis presented in the present excursus is that Heidegger, even in shying away from the dialogical phenomenon, provides an indispensable placeholder and starting-point for adequately interpreting it. To put it colloquially, Lévinas throws the baby out with the bath-water. Moreover, he insists on mixing theology with philosophy, with the result that his texts take on the hue of a dogmatic, morally exalted, incantatory insistence. This will be shown in the following by selecting passages from the above-mentioned article which is representative of and quintessential to Lévinas' enduring stance toward Heidegger's thinking. Some comments will also be made on Totalité et Infini and Autrement qu'être ou au-delà de l'essence.

Read on

23 April 2014

Negative and positive freedom

The distinction between negative and positive freedom stems from the liberal philosopher, Isaiah Berlin's 1958 inaugural address at Oxford University entitled 'Two Concepts of Liberty', in which he treats 'liberty' and 'freedom' as synonyms. On "the notion of negative freedom", Berlin states, "I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or body of men interferes with my activity." On the other hand, "the 'positive' sense of the word 'liberty' derives from the wish on the part of the individual to be his own master. I wish my life and decisions to depend on myself, not on external forces of whatever kind. I wish to be the instrument of my own, not of other men's, acts of will." This positive notion of freedom is summed up in the word "self-mastery". Note that both these notions are of individual freedom of an individual subject with its own will vis-à-vis an objective world of other things and, especially, other persons. There is thus a dichotomy between individual and society.

In contemporary discussion of negative and positive freedom, the latter "has often been thought of as necessarily achieved through a collectivity" (SEP). This opens the way to the individual's will being trumped by and subsumed under an effective collective will that is able to realize a collective aim through the appropriate social institutions, mainly the state, its organs and agencies. In particular, positive freedom collectivized is congruous with the welfare state, but also with other totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in the name of some version of the social good. As a liberal, Berlin warns against (social-)totalitarian interpretations of positive freedom in which, say, a "true self" or a "rational self" is posited to trump the merely empirical individual self with its desires and passions. In this connection he quotes the illiberal German, Fichte, e.g.: "'No one has ... rights against reason.' 'Man is afraid of subordinating his subjectivity to the laws of reason. He prefers tradition or arbitrariness.’"

Yet in all this exposition, Berlin does not make the essential connection between freedom and power, even though the word 'power' occurs in his speech several times, mainly in the footnotes. Similarly, the SEP also does not discuss the intimacy between freedom and power. The closest it comes is the notion of "republican freedom", which "can be thought of as a kind of status: to be a free person is to enjoy the rights and privileges attached to the status of republican citizenship", so that your negative freedom not to be interfered with is supplemented and reinforced by a republican political power.

The flaw in this kind of analytic thinking is that freedom is on the one side and power on the other, just as the individual is on one side and society or government on the other. Both of these schemata are fallacious. Why? Because both freedom and power, individual and society are each two sides of their own respective coins, and the two coins themselves are interlinked.

Freedom relates to the movement of human life. Each single human being is an origin or source of power for its own life-movements out of the ultimate fathomlessness of its own volition. The actualization of power is life-movement itself toward some self-posited end, whether it be good or bad. This is the lesson of the Aristotelean ontology of power with its famous triad of key concepts, du/namij, e)ne/rgeia and e)ntele/xeia. The notion of individual negative freedom is that there is no obstacle to your actualizing your potential, i.e. your power to initiate some sort of life-movement toward a goal. The movement is without resistance, at least from others. The individual is in splendid isolation, pre-social or asocial. Such pre-sociality corresponds to those Rousseauian types of socio-political theory that proceed naively from some imagined state of nature consisting of a scattered bunch of isolated individuals which, in turn, is associated with the childish notion of individual (negative) freedom as being able to do what you like. This notion of freedom is rightly criticized by Hegel as caprice (Willkür), however, without his criticizing the very notion of the abstractly free individual (abstraktes Recht) that corresponds to the phantasy of a state of nature.

Rather than imagining a resistanceless freedom, it must be admitted to view that i) the individual is always already sharing the world with others and ii) individuality itself is a mode of sociation. It seems that not only liberal thinking, but all stripes of political thinking, left, right and centre, have missed both these points by not paying attention to the ontology of (social) power itself. And this despite (or rather: because of) the recent fashionability of shallowly talking about 'social ontologies' without knowing what ontology means.

Re i): individual freedom is at core neither negative nor positive but both in the sense that it is an exercise of individual power in a power play with others (a kind of sociating movement), and hence of itself comes up against the resistance of other individual and collective, i.e. bundled individual, powers. Negative freedom is associated more with du/namij, i.e. potentiality, whereas positive freedom is associated more with e)ntele/xeia, i.e. actualization in perfected presence; hence the one-sidedness of both notions. If this power play is to be free, it must be fair in the sense that you have a fair chance of achieving your ends without the power play being rigged against you from the start. Since you are always already sharing a world with others, who are likewise exercising their individual powers, the fairness of power play depends upon a superior political instance to guarantee fair rules of power play without, however, guaranteeing particular outcomes (achieved ends), i.e. the what-you-have-in-the-end of  e)ntele/xeia. Hence freedom is intimately coupled with fairness conceived as the beauty of power play among people, but you don't always get what you want.

Re ii): the individual itself is only a particular historical mode of sociation first enabled by the social power of reified value which serves as the medium of sociation for the power plays of individual freedom. Neither liberals nor Marxists nor other leftists nor conservatives get this. On markets of all kinds, individuals engage in power plays mediated in particular by the reified value-form of money. Apart from being a reified power for acquiring personal consumption goods and services, this money also may be a particular value-form of capital in its circuit through its various value-form stages of money-capital, productive capital and circulation capital. It is precisely reified value in the form of money, purchased commodities and acquired land that enables the modern individual to actually be (presence as) an individual with a private world not interfered with by others, including the government. By virtue of the income you receive and the wealth you have accumulated, you are then free to do what you like with it within a realm of privacy guaranteed by the political power of government. Likewise, and conversely, you are individually free to engage in power plays to gain income, in particular, by hiring out your personal powers and abilities. With any other mode of (non-reified) sociation, you would not have this risky freedom of singularity, but would have to negotiate (perhaps even each instance of) your exercise of practical free will with others (e.g. a State bureaucracy, a council or committee of some sort, a public meeting, etc.). The reified power play would become a political power play with entirely different rules of play, and the individual as such, along with its freedom, would cease to exist, i.e. to presence in the historical world of an historical age.

Further reading: 'Social Power and Government' excerpted from my Social Ontology. See also here Commutative and distributive justice and Potentiality and Actuality.