06 November 2022

Algorithmic Control of Movement in Time

Paper presented to the international symposium Children and Adolescents in Crisis:Today's challenges and the need to redraw boundaries held in the New Senate Hall of the University of Cologne from 5 to 7 October 2022.

Algorithmic Control of Movement in Time: Abolishing even our selves ourselves 

To be published in the symposium's proceedings.

Further reading: Michael Eldred on the Digital Age: Challenges for Today's Thinking Interview with M.G. Michael & Katina Michael M&K Press, Wollongong 2021.  

On Human Temporality: Recasting Whoness Da Capo De Gruyter, Berlin (forthcoming 2023).

31 October 2022

Neurophilosophy begs the questions

Science.org spoke at the 2nd International Conference on Neuroscience and Free Will, a project funded by the Fetzer Franklin Fund in 2019, "with project leader Uri Maoz, a psychologist and computational neuroscientist at Chapman, about how the new effort aims to change the future of free will research".

In this post I only want to question a couple of the many ways in which this attempt at neurophilosophical research prejudices and vitiates its endeavours from the very start by begging the question(s), aka petitio principii.  Here a sample from the interview:

"Q: What would a collaboration between philosophers and neuroscientists look like?

A: It is part and parcel of this grant that every project has at least two neuroscientists and at least one philosopher involved. It's written in the contract. What I expect philosophers to do is not sit there and analyze data. What I would hope to get from them is to first help in deciding what are the right questions to ask. What to investigate is not a scientific question. It's a theoretical or philosophical question. Then, if we agree on the question, how do we design the experiment that would answer exactly that question? Then, once the experiment is done, they help interpret what the results mean and produce joint publications.

Ultimately, we'd like to get at two questions. One is, what is required for people to have free will? That is a philosophical question that our philosopher colleagues should come to an agreement on. As a scientist, I don't know what it entails to have free will. Then there's the second question, which is, whatever that thing is that is required for free will, do we have that? Do humans possess that? This is an empirical question. It may be that I don't have the technology to measure it, but that is at least an empirical question that I could get at.

Q: What questions are you asking?

A: The important thing is that right now we are trying to go beyond Libet-type experiments. Rather than asking do we have free will, we are trying to get at more nuanced and better-defined questions. How does the brain enable conscious causal control of our actions and decisions? How do our conscious intentions lead to actions? A third question is about purposeful actions...."

Let's start with the "second question" posted: "whatever that thing is that is required for free will, do we have that? Do humans possess that? This is an empirical question."

This question forecloses any serious interrogation by presupposing that there could be a "thing [...] that is required for free will". This thing is supposed to be also a material thing that could be measured by a suitable technology. Neuroscience requires from the start that it can measure something or other to empirically gather material data that can be checked against some hypothesis or other. But what if no thing at all is "required for free will", and certainly no measurable material thing?

This begging of the question is then followed up by a second, that is even more prejudicial: "How does the brain enable conscious causal control of our actions and decisions?"

The "thing" that is presupposed in the first act of question-begging is now identified as the material brain that, of course, can be measured by various technologies to your heart's content. The begging of the question goes even further here by asserting that this brain-thing enables "conscious causal control of our actions and decisions". Why is the material brain the enabling instance, and not vice versa? Why is not consciousness itself (or rather, the more encompassing psyche), with its free will to psychic self-movement, the enabling instance whose intentions and decisions direct its organ, the brain, to initiate bodily actions? Such voluntary intentions, such straining and directing of the mind toward... with practical intent, of course, are directed temporally toward the future to which consciousness (or rather, the more encompassing psyche) must be open. Such temporal openness must not be taken for granted as self-evident.

But what is consciousness? And what does it mean for consciousness to look into the future and envisage it in some way? Here we draw a blank, because this neurophilosophy tacitly presupposes that consciousness is 'emergent' from a material basis that can be empirically investigated by suitable, technologically enabled, measuring procedures. A material causal basis presumably does not look into a future at all, but merely blindly unfolds a material necessity of movement along a cause-effect chain in linear time.

Consciousness itself is a relatively recent invention that was first cast philosophically in the 17th century, most famously by Descartes. This conception stepped into the place held by the psyche since philosophy's Greek beginnings. One of the prime motivations for this substitution was that the psyche or soul had been conceived from the start as non-material (gratefully accepted by Christianity). This non-materiality was a hindrance to the nascent sciences of the 17th century, and even more so thereafter. It should be noted, however, that Descartes was comfortable with both notions: soul (âme) and consciousness (conscience). By contrast, modern science is committed to material, efficient causality. Then it can apply its empiricist scientific methodology of experimentally testing hypotheses without batting an eyelid. Even with those phenomena where linear causality breaks down experimentally, such as phenomena of quantum indeterminacy, the science (quantum physics, in this case) remains absolutely committed to predicting movement. That is its raison d'être.

Does it make any sense at all to try to formulate the question concerning the existence of the psyche (or consciousness or free will, for that matter) as an empirical one? In what sense can it be said that the psyche exists? What is its mode of existence? What does it mean for any entity at all to exist? Could it turn out that, in a certain way, it is the psyche itself — as a non-entity or pre-entity — that enables the existence of entities of all kinds, and in various modes of existence, to boot? In any case, such questions demand that today's science and philosophy drop their grossly naïve, prejudicial preconceptions to step back and seriously ask themselves whether there is any merit in such a discipline called neurophilosophy. 

24 September 2022

Freedom in liberal democracies

The freedom in liberal democratic societies consists in the freedom of the individualized, dissociated subjects to pursue income of all kinds and to consume it as they will. The democratic freedom in such liberal societies amounts to the subjects' being able to vote in free and fair elections for the representatives who are to govern them. Whether this is empirically the case in a given society is another question.

Confronted in the present time with the grave problems of climate change and the so-called 'limits to growth', the politico-economic task is now viewed as how, through democratic government on national and international levels, to make the transition to a sustainable economy sufficient to limit global warming, with its catastrophic consequences. Political action of activists aims at collecting the individualized subjects in public opinion to exert pressure on the elected government in the right direction.

The hidden movement underlying the gainful game in which the subjects pursue their happiness as players, however, is the limitless accumulation of thingified value through never-ending circuits. Neither the democratic subjects (who are, in truth, not subjects but players in an endlessly competitive game) nor their government know anything of this underlying circular movement of valorizing thingified value. All the players conform to the movement of limitless accumulation by seeking their thingified happiness, driven by the boundless will to have more and more.  Nevertheless they all (including the entrepreneurial subject-players through to huge capitalist corporations) and the democratic societies of which they are members, are unknowingly constrained by thingified value's success or otherwise in valorizing. All suffer when the circular accumulative movement of global thingified value stutters, but no one can name the culprit as such. Therefore it is continually misnamed by innocuous terminology that economists are versed in.

The voting citizens are never able to vote for or against 'valorization of thingified value' because this party is not on the ballot paper. Nevertheless, the right wing of the political spectrum unknowingly and invariably votes in favour of further endless accumulation. Without their knowing it, their highest value is thingified value and its valorization, coupled with the freedom to transform thingified value acquired as the highest freedom. 

The complex, competitive interplay in the gainful game is forcefully reduced — that is, led back — to the freedom of movement of thingified value transforming itself through its value-forms as the ultimate boundary condition of social movement itself, of which, as I say, the players and their democratic governments are unaware. The democratic subjects are not the underlying subjects of society's movement, but rather players caught up in a game, fulfilling their roles as income-earners and consumers in the endless valorization that, as a purely formal sequence of transformations, is indifferent to how the players fare and whether the Earth can bear this endless accumulation.

The circular movement of valorizing thingified value is itself a linear movement around a circle that is counted off by the linear time of turnover of capital and its accounting periods. The accumulative movement of total global valorizing value is the movement from which global time is counted. The interplay in the gainful game on the surface of society, however, is played out as a complex movement in three-dimensional time beset with contingency whose outcomes are unpredictable. At best, the movement's indeterminacy can be roughly modelled for various scenarios, but remains outside the reach of the subjects' collective will to control it. The player-subjects themselves know nothing of three-dimensional time as the time enabling genuine freedom of movement. Instead they all, from the lowliest to the most powerful, remain on the treadmill of endlessly valorization thingified value.

And yet liberal democracy, that is said to be rooted in the collective free will of subjects, implicitly asserts itself as up to the task of taming the beast of valorizing thingified value and guiding the globe to a sustainable future. This is one of the most comforting self-delusions born of the metaphysics of subjectivity. 

Further reading: Social Ontology of Whoness,
Movement and Time in the Cyberworld,
Da Capo (forthcoming, perhaps posthumously).

29 August 2022

Limits to Growth? Limitless Growth?

This year sadly celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the Club of Rome's The Limits to Growth. It's taken fifty years for the ruthless exploitation of the Earth to come to the top of the political agenda of urgent issues. Climate change is staring us in the face, yet the inertia, the prevarication, the dragging of feet continue. Given the enormity of the threat to human living on the planet, the inevitable geopolitical upheaval, whence the resistance? The culprits are soon found: the large corporations that generate profits at the expense of environmental degradation down through multiple levels to the normal greed of individuals making money in any way possible without regard to the environment. The source of the problem seems to be human beings themselves and their shortcomings, and the solution seems to lie in the collective political actions of responsible, enlightened democratic subjects to agitate for and force through environmentally friendly measures of all kinds to achieve sustainability for the human species to survive.

But what of the limits to growth and the disregard thereof? The limits reside in the 'obvious' finiteness of the planet and all it provides by way of resources to exploit and consume. Hence, for instance, the concern with explosive population growth, the loss of habitat for animal species, the population pressure on the Earth to produce enough food, and so on. And the limitlessness? At first glance, and so we are often told, it lies in an incessant drive of human beings to want to improve their standard of living by consuming more and more, in lock-step with the drive of corporations to generate even larger profits ad infinitum. Hence the usual left critique of capitalism, its insatiable thirst for profit whilst keeping wage-growth to an acceptable level, whose acceptability amounts to not eating into capital's profitability. Insofar, both capitalists and workers, employers as well as employees have a vested interest in endless economic growth to raise the general material standard of living. It's called 'lifting millions out of poverty'.

Capitalism itself, however, is an 'it', not a human being, albeit borne and practised by human beings as a very simple principle of social, sociating movement. As a first approximation this can be formulated as the principle of movement from money to more money: money capital is advanced with the aim of making more money. The human being who undertakes this enterprise is called the capitalist, who is simply the character-mask of capital as this principle of social movement. The capitalist need not be a single human being; it may be a collective, called a firm, company or corporation.

The formula, 'movement from money to more money', is inadequate as long as it remains unknown what money itself is, paradoxically, even when everyone well understands what money is. To ask what something is, is to ask for its essence, its whatness. What is money? Its whatness lies in its being a form of value and, more particularly, a form of thingified value, for, after all, it is some kind of thing, whether it be a bit of precious metal, a piece of state-issued paper, an electronic bit-string in a computer or the electronic bit-string entry in a block-chain ledger. As a form of thingified value money shows itself in a certain 'look' as valuable, and hence as desirable. It seems to embody within itself the power of exchange-value, the power to exchange for other valuable things. The value-form is highly Protean, highly mutable, assuming many guises from commodities via means of production, wages and interest through to parcels of land. Capital itself is nothing other than this movement of thingified value through its forms to generate more thingified value, a surplus that is usually measured as an amount of money appearing on a balance sheet. Only if the bottom line is positive has the circuit of capital succeeded in generating a profit and the principle of movement been fulfilled. The advanced thingified value must accumulate, must valorize to be successful. This is an absolute condition of survival of individual circuits of thingified value in its endless simple circular movement. The accumulation of thingified value on a social or global scale has no inherent limit: its principle of accumulative movement is limitless.

Thingified value shows its face only through its various looks, its various forms, but these looks do not show themselves as such, not as forms of thingified value. It is only by asking what thingified value itself is and what its principle of movement is that the secret of the circular movement of thingified value in limitless accumulation is revealed. Otherwise we remain clueless; the very medium of thingified value in which economic and social activity takes place everywhere remains invisible, disguised in various guises, and hence the source of the heedless infringement of the limits to growth imposed by the finite Earth itself is misidentified.

In particular, the culprits who do not heed the limits to growth are misidentified. They are, indeed, we ourselves, we human beings, but we human beings as the wearers of character-masks, as the bearers of roles in a gainful game that is only the surface appearance of the deeper lying accumulative movement of thingified value as a whole. Through this misidentification, multiple deluding inversions in thinking are generated. One of these is the character-mask of the consumer in the gainful game. The consumer is generally conceived as the human being who needs to consume certain goods and services to support a material standard of living ranging from luxurious down to below the poverty line. The needs themselves are relative to the customary usages of a way of life. 

But there is also the inverted view of the consumer as the player in the gainful game whose role it is to enable thingified value to turn over and accumulate. Hence total social capital can accumulate only if the consumers play their part in 'supporting the economy' by consuming to the hilt of their disposable income. This is an entirely formal role played in the formal, augmentative movement of thingified value through its various forms back to money-form. As a formal social movement, the limitless accumulation of capital is wholly indifferent to its content. As a simple, formal principle, it is also senseless. Consumers fulfil their role in the valorization of thingified value simply by consuming what seems desirable or needful to support their standard of living. For the formal principle of valorizing value, it is entirely indifferent whether the consumption is beneficial or harmful, e.g. whether consumers ruin or enhance their health through consumption.

Ditto for the Earth: it is entirely indifferent to the formal principle of movement of valorizing value whether the environment is degraded or not. Hence the formal principle is indifferent, in particular, to climate change. Yet, even today after having insinuated itself over centuries, the sociating medium of thingified value itself remains invisible in its various guises, and also our roles in this alienating gainful game in which we unknowingly thingify ourselves as well as allowing the Earth itself to be subsumed under a form of thingified value called ground-rent. Insofar as we remain blind to thingified value, captive to its fetishized power, and its principle of limitless accumulative movement, we are fighting windmills.

Challenging the principle of limitless accumulation of thingified value as the underlying principle of sociating movement in globalized society ultimately demands of us that we challenge the deludedness of the human subject, that is, that we challenge the illusoriness of the metaphysics of subjectivity. A pivot to an alternative way of thinking is required.

If, instead of being individualized subjects, we are all life-long players in interplays of mutual estimation and esteem, then there are no limits to growth in how we can benefit and care for each other, preferably — but not necessarily — without the mediation of thingified value. Mutual esteem and care are able to turn the inverted world generated by the cold and indifferent principle of limitless accumulation of thingified value right side up.

Further reading: Social Ontology of Whoness

25 August 2022

Challenges for Today’s Thinking digital edition

Michael Eldred on the Digital Age: Challenges for Today’s Thinking 

Interview with M.G. Michael & Katina Michael

is now available in a digital edition.

27 July 2022

The greatest misfortune

According to Socrates in Plato's Philebos, the greatest misfortune to befall humankind is to be wilfully blind and ignorant, and to cover this up with the "false conceit of wisdom" (δοξοσοφίας ψεθδοῦς 49a).

It is the way in which humankind falls most short of the Delphic dictum, "Know thyself!" (γνῶθι σαυτόν 48c).

Welcome to the present day.

Turing test inverted

Alan Turing was dead wrong when he proposed his famous Turing test for computer intelligence in 1950. It needs to be turned upside down to speak the truth.

Humankind will have passed the inverted Turing test when the human mind has dumbed itself down to be no smarter than a supercomputer.

It's already well on the way to success.

07 May 2022

Migration of whos

In my last post I wrote, "The freedom of movement of thingified value is the hidden highest value of liberal democratic societies". This value asserts itself invisibly behind our backs, outside the reach of the democratic mind-set that floats above it on the surface. Here's an illustration:

Today there is a global crisis of migration with multiple sources, including the increasingly tempestuous, violent, encroaching climate change. The rise of defensive nationalism under unsavoury demagogues who know how to skilfully bring out the worst in their voters and stoke hatred and fear among their populations has raised political tensions across the globe. Nation states strive to implement border protections against what some media call tendentiously a "flood" of undesirables into the country. The right to asylum, that is an item on the list of human rights, is watered down to become a perverted inversion of its original purpose.

Gone are those halcyon days in past times when nations were hungry for immigrants and welcomed them with open arms, either permanently or, disgracefully, as Gastarbeiter. The criterion for being more welcoming back then? The nation concerned needed more workers for its economy's workforce, and the respective government set the criteria for whether a given prospective migrant was up to scratch on the yardstick of potentially valorizable, human material. 

In certain phases, migrants can be welcomed not as who they are in their multifaceted, estimable whoness, but as bearers of labour power willing to thingify themselves for wages. In other phases, such as today, migrants have to jump over a higher bar of skill and qualification to be a desirable addition to a country's workforce; otherwise they are undesirable and have to be kept out by all means, including nationalistic, lying, demagogic politics. With exquisitely nauseating hypocrisy, politicians vow to "protect" would-be migrants from human traffickers, to the satisfaction of their xenophobic electors who are intent on preserving their comparatively advantageous situation as citizens.

The right of free movement of free persons is supposed to be among those 'values' in the catalogue of human rights cherished in liberal democracies, but the 'right' of free movement of free persons across the globe is heavily conditioned. Who the prospective migrant is in all his or her existential fullness does not count; only what the migrant is estimated to be as a bearer of labour power that can potentially be profitably thingified under the wage-form of value counts.

Compare this with the global freedom of movement of thingified value in the guise of investable money-capital. Countries vie against each other to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) for the sake of developing and strengthening their economy that is, in truth, on the subterranean level, the continually augmentative movement of thingified value in myriad circuits of capital. The global freedom of movement of these whats, investable money-capitals, trumps the liberal freedom of movement of whos as migrants. Whos have to subjugate themselves to the movement of whats to be estimated and esteemed as having any value at all.

Since thingified value as such is invisible, but demands sufficiently deep thinking to come to light, it is necessarily omitted from debates on the surface of society over 'our' democratic values engaged in by economists, sociologists, historians, ethicists, journalists, politicians, &c. The maintenance of the status quo depends upon this obfuscation.

29 April 2022

Democracy's highest (hidden, thingified) value

In the West we are said to live in liberal democracies where we enjoy certain freedoms and in which 'our' values are upheld by our elected governments and judicially protected constitutions. The past two decades or so, however, have seen the erosion of 'our' values, at whose core are the human rights enshrined in the UN charter, through the rise of demagoguery that brazenly challenges constitutionally anchored rights and in-built safeguards to limit government power for nefarious ends. The media speak ever more frequently of the "fragility" of democracy, of the need to defend it, and ask whether it will "survive". Liberal democracy appears to be our highest value with which 'we' identify, even when progressives and conservatives understand different things by 'liberal democracy'.

'Liberal' is the adjective derived from 'liberty' which, in turn, is a synonym for 'freedom'. Conservatives especially are fond of proclaiming that we live in the 'free world', the 'free West' as opposed to the unfree East, notably the repressive regimes ruling with an iron hand in Russia and China, apart from smaller, highly repressive dictatorships. In comparison to these countries, we certainly are freer and are well advised to uphold 'our values', most of which are formulated in political terms, such as constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech or the right to vote, both of which are currently under attack in some societies that are nominally liberal democracies.

At the core of 'our' liberal values is the rule of law, according to which the government protects the many forms of contractual intercourse in civil society with private property of all kinds, including labour power. The freedom to exercise property rights of all kinds enables the freedom of the individual in Western democratic societies, even when the individual freedom may consist of the impoverished freedom to spend a paltry income on the necessities of life, such as food and shelter. In general, there exists in liberal democratic societies under the rule of law a freedom of movement mediated by spending income that is often praised as 'freedom of choice'. Stealing to support one's own life, by contrast, infringes the property rights protected by the rule of law and is therefore outlawed and punished. Others living in liberal democracies have greater freedom of movement by dint of having considerably more income to spend how they want to. The possibility of achieving a higher material standard of living is said to be one of the major attractions in favour of liberal democracies, and the advertising indeed seems to be effective.

The member of civil society, in contradistinction to the political citizen, living in a democratic state enjoys individual freedom only mediated by the various forms of private property, all of which can be identified by the hallmark of having a price on the relevant market. The shareholder in a public company enjoys the individual freedom inherent in owning valuable, dividend-earning shares, whereas a worker enjoys the individual freedom inherent in owning labour power that can be hired out for wage income. This latter includes the individual freedom to band together for the purpose of collective bargaining with employers. Such freedom of association pertains to the idea of democracy even when it is savagely contested by employers and even when the government passes laws to restrict the freedom of workers to unionize in favour of big corporations. 

Likewise, the exercise of private property rights has an inherent limit in the right to life. Accordingly, for example, workers must not be employed in working conditions that demonstrably impair their health. This restriction is inherent in the very idea of a free, democratic society even when it is trampled under foot in fact, and resistance against poor working conditions is undertaken, and is only conceivable, in the light of this idea.

Is the freedom in liberal democracies upholding at their core the rule of law exhausted by the catalogue of political rights and individual property rights enabling an individual to lead his or her life according to his or her individual free will? Is freedom of the individual, willed subject at the core of the freedom of liberal democracies? Is freedom itself synonymous with freedom of the individual willed subject that is free to pursue happiness in a society whose sociation is mediated via private property transactions of all kinds?

Subjectively willed freedom of movement is only possible in a form of society that enables the private-property-owning individual. Within our age's way of thinking 'naturally' in terms of subject and object, the other side to the free, willed, individual subject is the objective, private property of all kinds, all of which are valuable in the sense of commanding a monetary price, the purest form of thingified value. Private property covers a bewildering plenitude of such 'objective', thingified value-forms, starting with the value-form of commodity goods and money, proceeding to money-capital and productive capital, and including the employee's living labour power that is thingified via subsumption under the value-form of wages, alongside the interest that is paid for loan capital and the rent paid for leased land. Employees strive to thingify themselves under the thingified value-form of wages by holding a desirable, or even not so desirable, job. Jobs are highly desirable in liberal democracies. Other private property owners strive to enter into contracts to derive income from their specific form of property, e.g. contracts to supply raw materials or components, or interest-bearing finance capital for a business venture, or land upon which to erect a factory or a shopping mall, etc. All these different kinds of contracts have to dovetail in some kind of profit-earning, productive activity under the direction of an enterprising enterprise of some kind. Although the contracts concluded on the surface of civil society seem to proceed simply from willed subjects coming to an agreement, they cover up underlying transformations of form of thingified value.

The hiddenness of thingified value as such is due to its becoming visible only mediated by its many different forms of appearance. Each value-form as an _eidos_ is a 'look', 'guise', or even 'disguise' of thingified value itself that remains in hiding behind its forms, its guises. Because it hides, its forms of appearance in private property can present themselves deceivingly as the core of the personal freedom of the willed subject, starting with the consumer subject's freedom of choice in spending its income. 

Similarly, it seems that the movement of society itself can be steered by the political instances under the so-called primacy of politics. The political movement of society is mediated by political power struggles of all kinds among the subjective actors as if it were their power struggles in a more or less democratic state that determined the course of movement of social life itself. This is an illusion, however, for the augmentative, accumulative movement of thingified value, that goes under the bland name of the 'economy', has a life of its own that proceeds behind the backs of the willed subjects that imagine that they are the underlying subjects of social movement even though, behind their backs and entirely unbeknowns to them, it is the valorizing movement of thingified value that dictates the direction, thereby subjecting the willed subjects to all sorts of pleasant and unpleasant vicissitudes. The valorization of thingified value is indifferent to content. In particular, it is indifferent to the well-being of humankind and the Earth. It is quantitative, endlessly accumulative, a movement solely for its own sake whilst pretending to be for the benefit of humankind. However, even the desire of the human subjects themselves is moulded and shaped to fit the valorization needs of accumulating thingified value. 

The freedom of movement of thingified value is the hidden highest value of liberal democratic societies. The subjects are all unknowingly merely players, mostly mere, powerless pawns, in the gainful game in which their willed move may or may not come to nought. As liberal democratic subjects, we all swim for our entire lives in the invisible medium of thingified value, to whose sickly sweet scent we are all habituated to the point of insensitivity. The highest value, thingified value, is not enumerated among 'our' values, the values of liberal democracy, and is inconceivable for the liberal-democratic mind-set that is blithely still committed to the subject/object split, as if there were self-evidently a subject of inner consciousness vis-à-vis an external objective world, and as if it would remain that way to the 'end of time'.

Further reading: Social Ontology of Whoness.

24 March 2022

Temporally trifocal mental presencing

 "2.5 Temporally trifocal mental presencing

The mind’s focusing on a present situation or on an absent situation (in the past or future), that happens in the present as a calling or occurring to mind (Vergegenwärtigung in German), has so far been conceived one-sidedly, or even one-dimensionally, insofar as the mind’s focusing in the present on essencing essents from any one of the three temporal dimensions amounts to a unifocal and thus single-minded presencing. Three-dimensional time, however, is passed through to the psyche in a fourth dimension as a unity (or identity) in which the three temporal dimensions both play into or proffer themselves to one another whilst being kept apart (in difference). This temporal multidimensionality implies that the mind not only can skip and hip-hop back and forth discontinuously and consecutively among the three temporal dimensions, but also that the mind maintains an encompassing overview in which the three dimensions relate by virtue of a temporally trifocal mental vision. The word ‘vision’ here is misleading, for mental vision does not imply literally a mental image. To substitute ‘perception’ for ‘vision’ also suffers from being tied to the senses. ‘Mental presencing’ would be preferable for its neutrality that does not imply any sort of imaging. The concept of mental focus introduced already in the first chapter is thus aufgehoben (lifted) to a phenomenally more adequate, more concrete concept. 

As already discussed in the context of bodily presencing-to-hand, the mind is both with the body’s present practical activity whilst ‘simultaneously’ recalling to presence its learned and practised know-how that is incorporated seamlessly and inconspicuously into the current bodily practice. This implies already that the mind has temporally bifocal ‘vision’ in order to presence ‘simultaneously’ from two different temporal dimensions. The third temporal dimension, the future, also comes into play because the mind is intent on an accomplished performance of the practice, on performing it well, and that accomplishment is yet to come.  

In general, the mind can hop among all three plaited, interwoven temporal dimensions whilst maintaining a coherent overview in what I call temporally triple or trifocal mental vision, or better, temporally trifocal mental presencing, to which all three temporal dimensions contribute ‘all at once’. Such mental presencing is employed not only in bodily practices but in dealing with all kinds of situations and matters that inevitably require a temporally three-dimensional overview in which temporally disparate situations and occurrences are coherently brought together and make sense. It may even be said that all mental presencing is bodily, even when the body is not performing a practical action. Sitting in a reverie or quiet reflection, for instance, involves the body, no matter how passive it may apparently be in such involvement."

Excerpt from a work in progress.

07 March 2022

Aristotle's De Anima and its alternative

Aristotle's De Anima! It's one of the West's foundational philosophical writings, investigating as it does that mode of being we call 'life'. Hence it is an ontological investigation. The pivotal concept is the _psychae_ (Latin: anima) which is the name for this mode of being itself: the principle of self-movement. Therefore the psyche is not a being, not an entity at all, and certainly not a material entity. De Anima therefore translates as 'On the Principle of Living Beings'. Life is that mode of being characterized by self-movement, that is, each living being, whether it be microbe, a plant or an animal, is 'enlivened' by its being able to move itself. 'Being able' designates a _dynamis_, a power within the living being itself: a _dynamis_ is itself an _archae kineseos_  or _archae metabolaes_ , i.e. a principle or starting-point for movement or change). A living being of any kind has a "principle of movement within itself", an _archae kineseos en autoi_

Living being are only alive by virtue of partaking of the psyche, that is, in the principle of self-movement which covers reproduction, growth (through nourishment), decay (aging), maturing, locomotion (for animals). When a living being ceases to partake of this principle, it perishes, whereas mortals die, facing their death one way or the other (including refusing to face it).

The alternative? First and foremost, we human beings are all exposed to — i.e. ex-sist, stand out in — the openness of 3D-time, which is what I (following and interpreting Heidegger) propose as the
alternative starting-point for thinking about what characterizes human being per se. As long as we mortals stand out in the three-dimensionality of time, we exist; we die when we can no no.longer do this, that is, when we depart the 3D-temporal openness. 

This is an entirely different starting-point (_archae_) from Aristotle's in De Anima in which the human being is cast first of all as an animal that is then endowed in addition with _logos_ and _nous_, language and intellect. This legacy of starting from the animal as basis has led to the incorrigible materialism of today's scientific way of thinking and, in particular, most disastrously, in neuroscience, it has led to conceiving the mind itself (_nous_) as being somehow or other causally 'generated' by the material brain. But the principle of life itself, and the (temporal) principle of mind itself (also a kind of self-movement) cannot be caused by anything material. In particular, three-dimensional time is nothing material, and yet our mortal psyche and mind belong to it. 

That doesn't stop modern bio-science from studying living beings with the ultimate aim of making life in the laboratory. Ontological impossibility cannot stop modern science because it doesn't think ontologically at all and therefore, on a deep level, despite all its complexity and sophistication, does not know what it is doing. It does not think simply enough about the simplest phenomena. Rather, it takes them for granted without further thought.

It seems to me that Western thinking failed to grasp the phenomenon of time from the beginning (that is, from Aristotle on); it missed the temporal phenomenon itself, reducing it to a mere derivative of movement/change and therefore as itself moving. Time accordingly 'passes' only as long as there is movement. If there's no movement, 'we' speak of 'timelessness', which means basically 'standstill'. Clock-time is the most vulgar kind of time, being as it is a number counted off movement, especially off the movement of the stars, sun and moon as observed from the Earth. Hence years, months, days, hours. 

3D-time, by contrast. does not move; it is prior to movement altogether, enabling it: any movement/change can only occur in three-dimensional time by referring to present, past and future, to earlier and later, before and after. Otherwise, without 'standing out' into the 3D-temporal openness, we humans would know nothing at all of movement, we would not perceive it as such! We would also be totally ignorant of its negation: non-movement, non-change. The three-dimensional temporal openness is our primal gift.

Further reading
: A Question of Time


17 February 2022

Time and time again

 A response in a philosophical dialogue

I'm afraid we are very far apart. You yourself name the crux: "we disagree on the question of time" which I do not at all see as "a primary property of the extant domain" whereas you regard it as "an artefact of the existence of matter-energy" which provokes me to pose the question: What does "existence" mean here?

The incompatibility between our conceptions, in truth, lies much deeper, for each of us conceives two entirely different temporal phenomena and name them by the same name
simply as 'time'. If my concept of genuinely three-dimensional time "invokes Heideggerian suppositions", then your conception of one-dimensional time (compatible with "matter-energy") invokes Aristotelean preconceptions. Why? Because the conception of time that reigns today (with various nuances) is thoroughly Aristotelean. No thinker before Heidegger has ever escaped the gravitational pull of the Aristotelean casting of time.

Aristotle's conception of (linear, one-dimensional) time is lifted from his ontology of efficient,
productive movement (based on a simple, everyday phenomenon like carpentry), which is itself linear. The very concept of energy that you so willingly accept as foundational and adhere to is taken originally from Aristotle's concept of _energeia_ (his own neologism), the middle term mediating between _dynamis_ (potential) and _entelecheia_ (lit. having-in-the-end-ness). Newton thoroughly mathematized this ontology, which is to be found also in Kant's Urteilstafel (the table of judgements for understanding that serve as its logical rules).

Because this conception of
one-dimensional time is lifted from, i.e. derivative of a (specific) kind of movement, it is not and cannot be originary and in truth misses the phenomenon of time entirely. Therefore all Western (and today global) conceptions of time conceive it as a kind of movement that, of course, can also be counted off. Hence the most vulgar concept of clock-time that is indispensable for mathematized physics. The predominant kind of movement investigated by physics is change of place, _kinaesis kata to topon_ or loco-motion, to which all the modern (mathematized) physical sciences reduce any kind of movement. Why? Because change of place is most amenable to mathematization via the real variable t.

The Aristotelean conception of (one-dimensional) time is also spatialized, derived as it is from movement as change of place. Hence spatialized conceptions of time reign supreme today without question, with time even being conceived as derivative of (motion in) space. This is entirely consistent with the Aristotelean conception of (one-dimensional) time. Even Hegel spatializes (1D) time in his Naturphilosophie, and Einsteinian relativity theory conceives time as the motion of light (electromagnetic radiation) through space.

The linear time of Aristotelean ontology of (efficient, productive) movement goes hand in hand with the linear temporal connection of cause and effect. Without the conception of efficient causal movement, implicating the en-erg-eia or at-work-ness of a power (_dynamis_), there would be no modern science at all, be it natural or social.
The causal nexus is the lifeblood of modern science, even when it becomes frayed and fuzzy, and has to resort to statistical methods based on mathematical probability theory, as in statistical mechanics or quantum dynamics.

By contrast, what you call "Heideggerian suppositions" derive from the study of a completely different phenomenon whose rudimentary outlines Heidegger discovered in the early 1920s studying Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft in his pursuit of the question: What does being itself mean? Heidegger's reading homes in on the Einbildungskraft (power of imagination) that mediates in the KdrV between sensuousness and understanding. The three temporal dimensions in their rudiments can be discerned there under the names of apprehension. reproduction and recognition.

This uncovering of rudimentary originary time in the power of imagination leads to a fundamentally alternative conception of time as genuinely three-dimensional, i.e. the three temporal dimensions are independent of each other and not linearly dependent. Moreover, this conception of 3D-time is prior to any kind of movement, i.e. not derivative of any kind of movement. Rather, 3D-time enables (free, independent) movement of all kinds, whereas a particular kind of efficient-causal movement allows a (derivative) conception of 1D-time to be lifted off it, as Aristotle originally did.

Only the conception of three-dimensional time (a phenomenon with which we are all intimately acquainted, if only we paid attention to it) allows an alternative ontology of movement that is basically incalculable, unpredictable, uncontrollable, 'non-linear' in a genuine sense and is thus free. It is the ontology of interplay that involves not cause-effect relations at all, but rather mutual estimation in power plays of various kinds.

This ontology is fitting for a social phenomenology of whoness. Why? Because all sociation (Vergesellschaftung) is a movement of mutual estimation that is always also a power play, play between and among powers emanating from different sources rather than a single source, as it is in the Aristotelean ontology of movement. Without this ontology of interplay, I assert, there is no possibility of approaching and appropriately conceptualizing whoness as distinct from whatness, for the play of mutual estimation among whos eludes the grasp of the will to power over movement. Only within three-dimensional time is there the possibility of freedom of movement, hence of freedom per se.

The old, traditional conception of one-dimensional time, on the other hand. is contained in a truncated way within the conception of genuinely three-dimensional time only as a special, highly restricted case.

You may ask: Why are the three dimensions of time independent of each other?

Because the mental imagination has the power to hip-hop haphazardly throughout the openness of 3D-time, from one temporal dimension to another, without regard to following any physical movement in space. That's the way the mind moves, focusing on this and that. Such mental movement may be illogical, irrational for traditional conceptions, but it is in general an entirely coherent phenomenon.

3D-time is prespatial. It provides the openness for any extended, physical entity to take a spatial place and present itself to the mind, and also for non-physical, non-spatial entities such as mathematical ones (e.g. complex imaginary numbers) or fantastic products of the imagination, to presence and absence. The mind can only understand entities insofar as they presence and absence within the 3D-temporal openness which represents the finite limits of human beings' experience. Entities exist only insofar as they stand-out into this ec-static temporal openness in which they essence (verbally, comprising presencing and absencing). 3D-time thus enables all sorts of movement (including physical movement and mutually estimative interplay) in the world, and the mind can only see any movement as such because it is endowed with temporally triple vision that sees 'simultaneously' or all at once into the three temporal dimensions.

Further reading: A Question of Time and

Movement and Time in the Cyberworld.

15 February 2022

Absolute vs. relative, Hegel vs. Kant

The question of a priori knowledge with its ontological preconceptions

For us living in this age, knowledge amounts to an evidence-based (empirical), effective (esp. predictive) knowledge for us as subjects of things as objects, where objects are "things thrown before or presented to the mind or thought" (Duns Scotus cited in OED). The as here is the hermeneutic As that shapes how phenomena present themselves to the mind to be understood as such-and-such. Our knowledge of the world in this age therefore depends upon objects presenting themselves to subjective consciousness through the sense-data given and is therefore relative to the data (lit. the given). Kant, along with Descartes, is perhaps the main messenger for this ontological preconception of knowledge, which is logical, governed as it is by the rules of understanding (that include, in particular, the relational rule of effective causality for relations between objects).

Hegel set himself the grand task of overcoming and 'elevating' this Kantian relativity into absolute (i.e. non-relative) knowing, whose bearer is absolute Geist (mind), the fluid, dialectical movement of the concept in its independence. Geist is able to overcome the relativity of objects being given to consciousness by elevating (aufheben) objective knowledge into the Geist's absolute knowing of itself! It takes up, or reflects, consciousness' knowledge of objects in the external world into its interior, and in so doing absolves itself of its dependency on the givenness of the object via sense data. Hegel thus maintains the inside/outside split of subject/object metaphysics that still reigns today in all science, but the absolute Geist is able to straddle the dichotomy. 

Kant himself insists that all knowledge depends upon empirically given experience (sensuous data). Insofar he is an empiricist. But he also shows how the empirically given, sensuous representations (Vorstellungen) are worked up within subjective consciousness under the logical rules of understanding into objects (Gegenstände) that stand over against the subject. Hence he can say famously that the conditions of possibility of experience are the conditions of possibility of the objects of experience. Insofar he offers a genuine subjectivist ontology that lies deeper than any empiricism to which the Anglo-Saxon mind-set succumbed long ago, cutting off any access to deeper questioning of an ontological nature. Hence, in particular, empiricism knows nothing of an a priori knowing whilst at the same time being mired in ontological preconceptions of which it is ignorant as such.

I interpret Hegel's dialectical movement of the concept as the Geist's knowing of its own ontological cast of an historical world. The absolute concept moves fluidly and dialectically entirely within its own element of thinking, thus maintaining its absolute independence from any relativity. Hegel's version of this ontological pre-casting of the world is his Logik, in which he unfolds, in a connected dialectical thinking-through, how the world is cast conceptually in a scaffolding of interconnected categories. This represents an overcoming of the Kantian Ding an sich that Kant claims is unknowable because it is beyond empirically given experience. Geist, by contrast, is able to unfold the a priori (pre-empirical) knowing of the world, its ontological structure in its various categories, by thinking itself (its self). 

Hence Hegel represents the historical culmination of metaphysics as theo-onto-logy and his philosophy could be called Being and Logos, whereas Heidegger's is Being and Time. Hegel's categorial casting of world remains true to the logos and therefore is properly called ontology, and theo-ontology due to the absoluteness of Geist. A casting of the hermeneutic structure of the world from ecstatic, three-dimensional time, however, is no longer logical, i.e. based on the logos. Whereas for Hegel the essence (Wesen = whatness) of being itself resides in the logos, for Heidegger, the essencing (Wesen in the verbal sense) of being itself resides in and comprises presencing and absencing, that is, it resides in the openness of three-dimensional time. Beings themselves are recast as presents and absents essencing within this 3D-temporal openness. Instead of being aptly called ontology, this kind of thinking could be named "phenomenophasis", literally, the saying of the phenomena, a term employed in one of Heidegger's very late writings.

To return to
ontological preconceptions, an even more basic and ancient one is how we today, unthinkingly and as a matter of course, conceive of the human being as a species of animal. This is a fateful heritage from the Greeks, who cast the human being as the _zoion logon echon_, literally, as the animal that has the logos (language, reason). In the modern age this cast of human being has been modified hermeneutically to the animal that is endowed with cogitating consciousness. (And consciousness, it is postulated dogmatically, is generated by complex neural motions in the material brain.) The human being is thus, paradoxically, a subjective what among objective whats in the world that can be studied by empirical science with a view to understanding and manipulating its movements, its behaviour. Hence modern psychology, the empirical science of subjective consciousness conceived within whatness, which has nothing whatever to do with Aristotle's psychology in his De Anima, which is an ontology of living beings in general.

It is part of our shared historical destiny to understand ourselves as a kind of animal in an evolutionary continuity and discontinuity with 'lower' species of animal, thus as the pinnacle of animal evolution attained over long periods of linear time. This kind of thinking is ubiquitous today and is easy to understand, which accounts for why there is so much talk of evolutionary biology in the media. It's just all so self-evident, and Darwin's evolutionary theory reigns supreme as (empirically) indubitable, which is, indeed, factually correct. But is it the truth of human being itself? In contrast to this casting of human being as a kind of whatness (an animal distinguished or marked by a specific difference), human being itself has to be recast genuinely as whoness from the ground up (from three-dimensional time), and not merely as an ethical afterthought (as it is with Kant, who adds on human dignity to subjective rationality in his Critique of Practical Reason). No wonder Kant is still so well loved today, whereas Hegel is dismissed as a mystical, incomprehensible thinker. This, too, is part of historical human destiny, to live in the untruth of the world. What if, in truth, human being itself belonged first and foremost (a priori, so to speak) to the openness of three-dimensional time?

In view of the hegemonic hermeneutic casting of the human being as a kind of animal, we have the great concern
today with the survival of the human species on planet Earth due to environmental degradation and destruction, as if this were the ultimate question confronting us. It is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of who we are because there is no one who risks posing the question of whoness. The question itself is incompatible with the preconceptions of subject/object metaphysics. Thus humanity battles on, in endless power struggles, in coming to terms with the devastation of the Earth that we have wrought, hermeneutically cast as we are as a species of animal (today caught up, in particular, in the gainful game and immersed in the ubiquitous medium of thingified value).

There is an alternative way of thinking
(I have provided hints above) articulated already a century ago that is today almost entirely ignored and actively suppressed, by so-called 'professional', academic philosophers in particular, to whom the empiricist-positivist mind-set has assigned the task of administering the end of philosophy.

Further reading: Martin Heidegger Hegels Phänomenologie des Geistes Freiburger Vorlesung WS 1930/31 GA32

'Geist Zeit - Hegel & Heidegger: Zur Interpretation der Phänomenologie des Geistes'

Social Ontology of Whoness and

A Question of Time

27 January 2022

Carlo Rovelli's misreading of Being and Time

Ereignis beyng.com has published an English translation of a short article by Carlo Rovelli on his reading of Heidegger's Being and Time. that was originally published in Corriere della Sera on 6 Dec 2020.

Here I want to make only two critical comments on how Rovelli misreads Being and Time. The first is that he misunderstands Dasein, whose analysis constitutes the first part of BT, as a subject:

"The point is that now Being and Time becomes extraordinarily interesting. because it is a genuine exploration of reality as it manifests itself to the subject, full of remarkable surprises. For example, in order to understand the relationship between the subject and the outside world, we must not focus on knowledge, as did— and here Heidegger convinced me — so much Western philosophical tradition. What matters is something else. What matters is, in fact, what matters to the subject. The 'outside' world is not for us what we see, just because it is out there. It's made from what we take care about, what's of interest to us."

With this statement, Rovelli perpetuates the inside/outside split between subject and object that has plagued modern ontology at the latest since Descartes and has become a fixed, immovable dogma for all mainstream philosophy as well as for all modern science: the subject is inside with its consciousness and the world is outside with its objective objects. Moreover, although Rovelli insists that Being and Time adopts the personal viewpoint of "a single human being with his direct experience...", he talks nevertheless of how "we" see the world. Hence we always already share the world in some way prior to any encapsulation inside subjectivity. What constitutes this world-sharing in a primordial way?

Rovelli misses the point that Being and Time is underway toward recasting human being itself from subjectivity into Dasein. When Dasein is rendered in English as "being there", this is entirely misleading because 'there' suggests something spatial. But the title of Being and Time is Being and Time. Heidegger's question concerning the Sinn des Seins, the meaning of being itself, is answered: being means time. But this 'time' is not the time as traditionally conceived from Aristotle onward. 

Which leads me to my second critical remark on Rovelli's reading of BT, namely, the second part in which the treatise repeats the analysis of Dasein in the first part by embedding it more deeply in time, namely, in Dasein's temporality.

Rovelli claims that Heidegger "interprets time as the coming of events; then, since for him events are experiential, he reduces it to time lived. Reducing time to events is not his original idea. It is the pre-Newtonian conception of time, as found for example in Aristotle,... " But it is precisely with Aristotle that Heidegger radically breaks. Dasein's temporality, Heidegger shows, is "stretched" (erstreckt), namely, into the three temporal dimensions of present, past and future through which Dasein, as long as it exists, continually passes. The very word 'dimension' comes from the Greek for 'to pass through'. Hence Dasein is always already stretched into these three temporal dimensions and therefore "ecstatic" (ekstatisch, literally 'standing outside' in 3D-time). This temporal standing-out is the reason why, in the very first place, Dasein is not a subject. Since we all as human beings stand out into this openness of three-dimensionally stretched time, Dasein is always already shared, prior to any possible individuation.

As a physicist, Rovelli is wedded to the conceptions of time that predominate in this science, which is a 1D-linear conception. If one goes along with Einstein's relativistic conception of time, this time is thoroughly subjectivistic and linearly successive. Time is measured by a clock in the observing subject's frame of reference when a light-signal carrying information is received as an event in spacetime (x,y.z.t). It is also spatialized because in relativity theory, time is cast as the path of light at the speed of light, no matter whether this path is straight (special relativity) or curved (general relativity). Especially because this relativistic time is spatialized (derived from the motion of light in space), it fails to capture the phenomenon of time itself.

Already Aristotle misses the phenomenon of time by reducing it to a number read off movement. Time thereby becomes derivative of movement, rather than conversely. Namely, it is time in its three-dimensional ecstatic openness that enables any movement at all to be experienced by human being at all. It makes no sense to try to imagine what could 'be' beyond the limits of any experience whatsoever. The limits of our human imagination are identical with the limits of the three-dimensional openness into which we 'stand out'.

Further reading: Movement and Time in the Cyberworld.

A Question of Time .