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