17 September 2018

Degeneracy of mind

Despite all the advances in science and technology (or rather, precisely because of them), our present age is blighted by an ongoing, secular degeneracy of mind that has been progressing for generations. The algorithmization of the world is proceeding apace amidst a thoughtlessness about the nature of the ever-encroaching cyberworld. This thoughtlessness consists primarily and primally in our mind's cluelessness about the ontological cast of world in our present historical age that has culminated in the digital cast of world. Today's mainstream philosophy continues to let us down badly, for it, too, is clueless about what genuine ontology is. It has thoroughly unlearned what ontology was at its inception with Plato and Aristotle, who were the first to articulate the ontological difference, that is, the difference between beings taken in their naked ontic facticity and their mode of being.

Today's philosophers have risible conceptions of both Plato's and Aristotle's thinking because they interpret it by retrojecting the subjectivist ontology of the modern age, with its illusory, irreconcilable split between subject and object, back onto Greek thinking. They remain incarcerated in the ontological cast of the modern age, i.e. our all-enveloping, modern mind-set, clueless about any historical alternative, either past or future.

For instance, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy currently has no entry at all for ontology. Under the entry for "Metaphysics" it deals with ontology as the "science of being as such" without the least mention of the ontological difference. Questions of ontology boil down to whether a certain (kind of) being "exists". Thus we read e.g. the incoherent statement:

"Still, many questions of the new and old metaphysics are not questions of ontology. For example, many participants in the debate over causation are not particularly worried about whether causes and effects exist. Rather, they want to know “in virtue of what” something is a cause or effect."

As if the "what" in "in virtue of what" did not exist!

Under the entry for "Logic and Ontology", again, there is no mention of the ontological difference. Instead, we read:

"But we have at least two parts to the overall philosophical project of ontology, on our preliminary understanding of it: first, say what there is, what exists, what the stuff is reality is made out of, secondly, say what the most general features and relations of these things are."

As if the question of "what exists" could be answered by saying "what the stuff is reality is made out of". This is blatant begging of the question in a materialist direction, foreclosing any interrogation of what it means for anything to exist at all. The question of the very meaning of being itself (and that, under interrogation, this meaning is shown to be ultimately temporal in a genuinely three-dimensional, non-linear way) is not posed at all.

"The second set of problems is that it isn’t so clear what these questions really are. This leads to the philosophical debate about meta-ontology." And what does meta-ontology concern itself with? It "isn’t so clear how to settle questions about what there is, at least not for the kinds of things that have traditionally been of special interest to philosophers: numbers, properties, God, etc." Again, the focus is on whether beings of a certain given kind exist. And whether they exist is always a question of the logical truth of certain propositions, not the disclosive truth of phenomena themselves. Hence the entry's heading, "Logic and Ontology".

The ontological debates within mainstream philosophy are carried on academically as jousts held on pleasant university campi between virtually countless -isms that take up their many and various positions and fight it out on the tournament field employing their chosen tilting strategies. The rules of the contest are implicitly very well-known, and those who transgress the rules are quickly disqualified as not being proper professional academic philosophers.

There is not the least awareness that the categories of subjectivity and objectivity themselves are ontological in nature and, indeed, hermeneutically ontological in an historical way that admits of recasting. Rather, they are taken for granted as unshakeable basis for all philosophical debate and are thoughtlessly retrojected onto Greek thinking and projected onto all possible futures as immutable. No notice is taken of the very concept of 'subject' so crucial to modern ontology meant the precise opposite to the Greeks, for whom the subject (ὑποκείμενον) was precisely what is today called the object. This circumstance should give pause for thought, but it doesn't. Through what hermeneutic-ontological recasting did this historical inversion come about? Rather, dogmatism unfolds with the assertion of such nonsensical claims as calling Aristotle an "objectivist". For instance, I read very recently in a draft paper on an openly accessible academic web-site by a philosophical acquaintance, a retired professor, "Aristotle’s objectivism might be said to be naïve [...] in not being self-consciously and systematically held against any subjectivist contrary". Aristotle's position in the inane battle of the -isms is then labelled "naïve realism" as opposed to a kind of idealism. The very distinction between realism and idealism is itself only a pseudo-distinction generated by the subject-object split in subjectivist metaphysics.

The same analytic philosopher writes, "Words can contingently represent actual substances because they express perceptually based 'affections in the soul' which are likenesses to those things (Aristotle [De Interpretatione] 1984 vol. 1, p. 25). But how exactly is this more fundamental mental representation to be conceived? Aristotle seems to have little to say." No wonder Aristotle has "little to say" on this point, because for Aristotle, 'affections in the soul' are not representations of an external objectivity at all! 'Representatio' (in consciousness) is an ontological concept first introduced by Descartes, which is renamed 'Vorstellung' by Kant. That the Greek ψυχή is translated as "consciousness" in modern-age metaphysics does not instigate any philosophical questioning. This goes unnoticed in the violently thoughtless hermeneutics of reading Aristotle with a dogmatic modern-age mind-set that has closed itself off from the phenomena themselves.
Such philosophers are incapable of learning anything whatsoever from Aristotle, for they risibly regard themselves as a priori superior to him. Yet Aristotle is one major source from whom we can (re)learn today what the ontological difference is.

There reigns abysmal ignorance in today's mainstream philosophy regarding ancient Greek philosophy, and the potential inherent in a phenomenological re-reading of it. The ignorance is self-inflicted, for there have been for more than a century valiant and lucid phenomenological endeavours to escape the prison of the modern age's mind. They are ignored, brushed off and suppressed, for they unsettle the status quo by asking too many simple questions. Degeneracy of mind parades as the faithful ally of cutting-edge science and technology without the least inkling that this is a sycophant's role.

Further reading: The Digital Cast of Being and Social Ontology of Whoness.

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