29 December 2023

Has the Left left its senses?

Looks like the Left has taken leave of its senses and gone mad with moralism — a consequence of the demise of the Old Left, and then of the New Left. What's left are today's identity politics and cancel culture from an assumed high ground of moral superiority that prescribe how the world ought to be. 

These moralistic politics make a claim on the (supposedly innate, inalienable) human right to define one's own particular identity as a subject. Hence we have LGBTQIA+ politics — without reflecting that no particularization of the generality of humanity into an array of identities can ever capture the uniqueness of any individual, let alone a creative one. The + sign at the end of LGBTQIA+ is supposed to indicate that maybe more categories will be added later; that modern, progressive, moralistic Left subjects will lay claim to ever more labels with which to identify themselves. 

Is it not a sign of the dissociation of subjects in our modern global world, thoroughly mediated as it is by thingified value, that they try to associate, to band together under certain, partially unifying labels, thus forming communities providing a sense of belonging? The global principle of movement — the endless accumulation of thingified value — goes hand in hand with, and is dependent upon, the dissociation of subjects, their individualization, but the moralizing Left has lost sight of any deeper critique of capitalism.

What if the Left were to desist from its moralizing cancel culture, engaging instead with questioning who we humans are and can be? So far we have only whatifying answers, notably: a kind of animal endowed with add-on features, above all, reason; or subjects with  internal, brain-generated consciousness that AI is today striving to emulate. A thorough-going critique of capitalism worthy of the name reveals that humans have been reduced to the status of players in the competitive gainful game that is played out atop the underlying inexorable global valorizing of thingified value.

Thingified value, in turn, reveals itself as such only to a kind of thinking, i.e. genuinely philosophical thinking, that knows of and passes through the ontological difference to the realm of ideas that provide the ontological building blocks for the (scaffolding of the) world in which we live.*) The world itself is the way it reveals itself to our shared mind through the ideas we humans glean of its most elementary phenomena. The political Left has never understood the depth of the critique of capitalism required, which — contrary to Marx's famous Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach — is not the practical-political critique of social relations (i.e. at core: class struggle). Rather, the challenge is pre-political, concerning the critique of the way of thinking (Denkungsart) that covers up the truth of capitalism, its uncanny principle of valorizing movement that is indifferent to humankind and the Earth, both of which it employs merely as its material for endless accumulation.

*) I leave aside here the task of a temporalogy; cf. On Human Temporality.

Further readingSocial Ontology of Whoness (De Gruyter 2019)

On Human Temporality (forthcoming De Gruyter 2024)

30 November 2023

Arguing positions — or interpreting phenomena?

In academic publishing and discourse, one standardly reads of an author "arguing" for a certain position, usually hinted at or formulated in the title of the book or article, when setting out his or her case.This argument is thus exposed to counter-argument in a back-and-forth between different positions that are more or less opposed. This is akin to how a case is argued between the adversaries in a court of law, at least in the Anglo-Saxon realm. It is also the way in which academic discourse in any field of inquiry, including philosophy,* is supposed to advance: rational argument with more or less logical cogency. Such argument aims at establishing conclusions as rigorously and tightly as possible, without internal contradictions and inconsistencies, given the nature of the field and its available evidence. The logical cogency depends upon the degree of indubitability, and hence incontrovertibility, of the argument's premises, which should possess truth-values of true (=1) as opposed to false (=0). 

In the sciences, the premises should be based on empirical evidence, the factual data gathered by experiment or survey. In other discourses, the premises may be generally accepted ideas, such as the 'idea' of democracy or personal freedom set down in a short definition. A conclusion reached from well-founded, maximally incontrovertible premises cannot be easily knocked over by an adversary and is therefore taken to be established as true. The conclusion as statement has a truth-value = 1. And truth is what any respectable author should be aiming at. 

Opponents of an argument presented in a book or article will say explicitly or implicitly that they do not agree with the author, that is, with his or her premises or chain of logical reasoning. They will point out the holes in the argument, its false premises, its inconsistencies, thus putting its conclusion into doubt. In the back-and-forth of controversy, these holes may or may not be filled or patched up, thus leading to a revised conclusion, perhaps based on different evidence or on a different path of argumentation. In this way, academic — including scientific — discourse is supposed to progress toward the truth that is accepted eventually as an opinio communis in general agreement, until one day it is overcome by better arguments based on more firmly established premises. The truth in this process of approximating the truth resides in the truth-values of the propositions serving as premises of the logically cogent argument. 

The process advances by counter-arguments being formulated by those who disagree in order finally to reach more or less provisional agreement among various opinionated positions. They argue differently from different premises. The controversy is therefore adversarial between or among positions, each formulating its respective position as incontrovertibly as it can to defeat the other's argument. One position may even be accepted as the victor in this adversarial contest.

There is something strange in this procedure, however. If, for example, my maths teacher presents me with the proof of a mathematical theorem, perhaps as simple as the Pythagorean theorem, I attempt to follow the argument presented by understanding it, by gaining for myself an insight into the steps of the proof. That is what is meant by following the argument of a proof. If I do not understand and cannot follow, it does not help for me to exclaim to my teacher, "I disagree". If I do, my teacher will simply smile and pity my lack of intellect. Maybe one day, something will click in my mind, and I will see clearly that the proof is well-founded because I have been able to follow its argument. Or I may even be able to find a hole in the mathematical proof and prove it! Or I may even, one day, find a more elegant proof of the theorem.

What is the case, however, when the discourse is about simple, elementary phenomena that everybody sees and understands one way or another? Phenomena comprise all that which shows itself. They are always already understood, or interpreted, as such-and-such in some way or other. The endeavour of hermeneutic phenomenology is to interpret, as closely as possible, the phenomena as such-and-such, where the 'as' is the hermeneutic As.**

Phenomena can be interpreted more or less adequately. The adequacy or inadequacy lies with our human understanding of the phenomenon or phenomena in question. How closely can it come to lovingly capturing the phenomenon in all its inconspicuous and shy subtlety? The truth of phenomena resides in their undistorted disclosure to our human mind, that is, in our more or less adequate interpretation of them, over which there is generally controversy. This controversy, however, in the first place, is not an argument between and among positions of proponents who agree or disagree with each other, but over the disclosure of the respective phenomenon itself. The touchstone is and remains the adequate or inadequate interpretation of the simple phenomenon itself, or the simple interconnected phenomena themselves. It does not suffice for two different adversarial positions to reach an agreement, for both positions may be phenomenally inadequate, considering as they do only matters of (scientific) fact, such as whether the universe is expanding or contracting. For phenomenological thinking, there must be a joint effort to gain insight into the phenomena themselves, and this is not a factual matter.

The disclosed truth of phenomena has to be wrested from their distorted, misconceived interpretations, their misinterpretations. The challenge is to disclose the phenomena by clearing away our own misconceptions that distort how they show themselves of themselves. This shared work of disclosure demands devotion to the phenomena themselves — hence critical self-questioning — rather than the effort to set up and defend an argumentative position against other positions. Therefore Plato characterizes philosophy as a dialogue of the soul with itself; questioning the phenomena themselves demands above all self-questioning. The aim is not to assert a position against another position — which is secondary —, but rather, together, to bring out a more 'close-fitting' interpretation of, and thus insight into, the phenomena in question. Does this make the striving for truth into an unprejudiced 'group effort', perhaps one stretching over centuries, in which there are long intervals of stagnation on certain crucial, foundational questions?

This sounds all very laudable and attractive. Philosophy has always been nominally the quest for truth, a lofty goal. But what if the truth is unwelcome, threatening, even ugly and unflattering? What if the suppression of truth contributes to the suppression of genuine human freedom by upholding a distorted conception of freedom as a cover for preserving the power of the status quo? What if the very conception of truth upheld and practised by the modern sciences (with their empiricist methodology) serves to obscure and suppress the deeper truth of today's world set-up, making it seem rosier than, in truth, it is? What if the kind of philosophy pursued in today's institutions of learning and research is only the kind compatible with the reigning, albeit skilfully camouflaged, will to power? What if this will to power has a vested interest in covering up and suppressing the disclosive truth of certain crucial elementary phenomena by interpreting them only in a way that is aligned with this will to power?

*) Cf. Heidegger's remark on this way of proceeding: 

"[...] merkwürdigerweise die Philosophie das Bestreben hat, nur dasjenige als Einsicht gelten zu lassen, was auf irgendeinem argumentativen Wege rational bewiesen ist, so daß man die Instanz einer unmittelbaren Anschauung in ihrer Unmittelbarkeit nicht mehr sieht." (GA27:70)

English translation (ME):

"[...] remarkably, philosophy has the ambition of only regarding as an insight that which is proven rationally via some argumentative path or other, so that one no longer sees the instance/case of an immediate intuition/looking-at in its immediacy." 

**) Thus, for instance, money shows itself and is understood (correctly) as a means of exchange, and exchange is understood as a kind of movement among two or more people. This leads to further questions about how movement itself is to be understood, what kinds of movement there are, and how each kind of movement is to be adequately interpreted.  Interrogating further, it can be seen that any movement is movement in time, but how is time itself to be adequately interpreted? Time itself is the most elementary of phenomena. How is time itself to be conceived in an adequate interpretation? This remains a challenge to today's thinking. Hermeneutic phenomenology's work is far from done.

Some further reading: On Human Temporality (forthcoming DeGruyter)

Martin Heidegger Einleitung in die Philosophie Band 27 Gesamtausgabe Freiburger Vorlesung WS 1928/29 hg. Otto Saame & Ina Saame-Speidel Klostermann, Frankfurt 1996.

English translation: Martin Heidegger Introduction to Philosophy William McNeil (transl.), Indiana University Press, Minnesota 2024.

Martin Heidegger Sein und Wahrheit Band 36/37 Gesamtausgabe Freiburger Vorlesungen SS 1933 u. WS 1933/34 Hg. Hartmut Tietjen, Klostermann, Frankfurt 2001.

English translation: Martin Heidegger Being and Truth Gregory Fried & Richard Polt (transl.), Indiana University Press, Minnesota 2010.

26 November 2023

A.I., the Beatles and Eternal Recurrence of the Same

The New York Times reprinted a version of an article dated 21 Nov. The Beatles Are Still Charting the Future of Pop. It Looks Bleak.

10 November 2023

Psychology, Sociology, Economics & Time

Psychology, sociology and economics are three of the most prominent social sciences in the modern age. Like all the other modern sciences, none of them is inclined to engage with deeper foundational questions regarding its respective discipline. This disinclination is part of the fall-out from the positivist shutdown of the ontological difference that has afflicted all modern science. This shutdown is due to the hubris of the modern mind that it has reached the end of history, where its mental foundations are inconcussable and thus beyond questioning. With regard to the three sciences mentioned, this has far-reaching — if not to say disconcerting — consequences, at least for those who allow themselves to be disconcerted.

To put it bluntly:
i) the science of psychology does not know what the psyche is;
ii) the science of sociology does not know what society is; and
iii) the science of economics does not know what the economy is.

Of course these claims seem preposterous. Everyone has an understanding of what society and the economy are because we are all confronted with their facticity on a daily basis. The psyche, as the third member of this set, is understood hermeneutically as, and thus reduced to, consciousness, and everyone knows what that means. All three social sciences can therefore make do with concise, one-line definitions of their respective objects of scientific investigation and proceed to construct their theoretical models of how these objects move empirically. The models themselves can be verified or falsified by testing their predictions and explanations against the empirical data-facts gathered in a suitable, statistically unbiased way within appropriate, quantifiable margins of error. The models are then said to be 'true' (rather than 'correct') for as long as they correctly model the movement of empirical fact in their respective areas of study, each of which covers myriads of related phenomena inviting inquiry. No difference is made between factual correctness and the truth of the phenomena concerned, that is, how the phenomena themselves are conceived hermeneutically AS such-and-such from the outset, to get any sort of handle on them prior to any theoretical modelling. Again, that no difference is seen between factual correctness and phenomenal truth is one of the casualties of the repression of the ontological difference.

Different kinds of movement 

It is apparent that the theoretical modelling in each of these three social sciences concerns empirical movement, without ever asking what kind (or eidos) of movement is involved in each case. Is movement simply movement, that is, all of one kind, or is the principle of movement pertaining to each of the three sciences different? If the principle of movement were uniform, then the principle of movement in the queen of sciences — namely, physics — could simply be adopted. Not only 'could be', but has been adopted, because the reigning understanding of movement in the modern age is that of effective, causal movement whose ontology has been surreptitiously adopted from Aristotle. 

Modern physics is the science inquiring into, by predictively modelling, the movement of physical entities, i.e. of movable, spatially extended objects. Moreover, this modelling has been rigorously mathematized. Impediments to such modelling have been overcome by ever-increasing refinements in the mathematics employed in the predictive modelling. Hence, since the 17th century, mathematics has developed statistical methods, including multifactorial analysis, to deal with complex situations which are conceived to be moved by multiple causes that cannot be singled out, but nevertheless modelled on the whole over a series of observations to quantify statistical regularity of the movement in question within the limits of a certain quantifiable margin of error. The inexactitude of linear causality is to be compensated by multiple observations and their statistical calculation in terms of means, medians and standard deviations.

In all this theoretical modelling, the phenomenon of time is conceived hermeneutically AS linear, and ultimately AS a simple linear, real variable t, against which the data gathered can be plotted and, preferably, theoretically captured by suitable equations. Hence, e.g. statistical methods of linear regression determine the best fit of a simple line through a mass of scattered data. All this seems very sensible and, in fact, beyond question for the modern social scientist. Efficient causality of movement is assumed, even when it becomes statistically fuzzy. It is overlooked that (the concept of) efficient causality itself goes hand in hand with (the concept of) one-dimensional linear time. (Aside: even in quantum physics, physicists struggle to come to terms mathematically with the indeterminacy of quantum movement generated by the non-commutability of movement-variables. It would seem that the non-commutability upsets the neat succession of moments in linear time.)

But can the movement of the psyche or society or the economy be conceived at all as being governed by causal movement of some kind, no matter how multifactorial, along the time-line? And is the conception of time AS one-dimensionally linear, i.e. as a succession of now-moments along a line stretching to infinity in both directions, without any more tenable alternative(s)? To put a fine point on it: are there phenomenally distinct kinds (eidae) of movement that have to be conceived differently according to a radically different, more open and encompassing conception of time itself?

I sketch now very incompletely the respective principles of movement of the elementary phenomena at the core of the three social sciences named above.

Three-dimensionally temporal movement of the mind in the psyche

First of all, does the psyche move at all? Is it an entity at all? Since it has long been conceived as non-physical, and even as the paradigm of the non-physical, it is no wonder that modern psychology has eschewed any attempt to provide a well-grounded concept of it. Modern psychology has just as little grasp on the phenomenon of consciousness that serves as the substitute for that of the psyche or the soul. The latter is totally out of favour in modern science, which is intent on the material, physical as that which enables quantifiable, preferably mathematizable access to phenomena of interest. Even the contents of consciousness resist a satisfying quantifiable theoretical grasp since they are deemed to be all too subjective vis-à-vis hard, objective, material fact. Hence it is not surprising that modern psychology is all too eager to resort to neuroscientific explanations of psychic phenomena in terms of neuronal movements in the physical, material brain. Finally (neuroscientists breathe a sigh of relief), a reliable, material basis for the psyche can be investigated employing empirical methods and methodology!

If, however, the psyche is non-material and pre-physical, and not even an entity, how can it be characterized? Phenomenally, in the most elementary manner, it is the receptive openness in which all awareness of anything at all can happen. Occurrences of all kinds come to mind and vanish from mind; there is a constant coming and going, a constant presencing and absencing of them from any of the three temporal dimensions comprising past, present and future. I collect such presencing and absencing together as 'essencing' and call all that which essences 'essents'. Thus essents presence and absence (verbally) in the three-dimensional temporal openness of the psyche. This temporal openness, the psyche itself, is thus unmoving, or rather, more precisely, prior to any movement of essents. What moves in the psyche is the coming-to-mind of essents of all kinds for the mind that is able to focus on this or that, more or less fleetingly; that is, the mind focuses on essents presencing in and absencing from its present focus from any of the three temporal dimensions, perhaps not even successively, but all-at-once. This mental movement may be called Vergegenwärtigung in German. The mind's focusing is possible as this unifying of essents essencing temporally from the three temporal dimensions. 

Hence we can say that the mind itself moves by hopping between all three temporal dimensions in a more or less coherent, more or less haphazard way. The mind's movement occurs within the non- or premoving openness of the psyche, and this mental movement through three-dimensional time is itself entirely free. Such freedom of mental movement, the freedom to think, is the most elementary concept of human freedom on which all human creativity depends. As for the psyche, it belongs to the three-dimensional temporal openness and, in this sense, is identical with it. The psyche reverberates with three-dimensional time in the full gamut of moods. Like time itself, it is not an entity, nor an essent, but enables all essencing of the mind that itself moves freely. This freedom of mental movement defies any predictive theoretical modelling, since the latter relies, and must rely, on one-dimensional, linear time.

It is therefore not all surprising that modern psychology assiduously avoids any critical engagement with the question: What is the psyche?

Mutually estimative interplay in 3D-time as the core movement of sociation

Secondly, what is the kind of movement characterizing the second modern social science in the above list? We may call the elementary kind of movement at the core of society 'sociation', which is to encompass the kind(s) movement of people 'having to do' or 'sociating' with one another in their social lives. Sociation as a kind of movement cannot be characterized as physical. Physical entities are kinds of 'whats' whose whatness traditionally has been investigated by ontology as the essence of entities. For modern physics, the essence, or whatness, of physical entities is their matter, consisting of elementary physical entities; or the essence of anything is called its DNA, a kind of material molecule. The sociation of people, by contrast, is that of 'whos', whose characteristic sociating movement is that over mutually estimating who each is in a kind of movement I have dubbed 'interplay'. Such sociating movement of mutual estimation includes esteeming ranging over the full gamut of all shades of mutual estimation and esteem from the most appreciative through to the most negative, most depreciative. Social rules of play for appropriate sociative interplay cannot be characterized as physical. Any physical aspects of mutually estimative interplay, such as bowing or shaking hands, smiling or scowling, are sublated (aufgehoben) by such sociation of whos as signs of (mis)estimation. 

Any inquiry into phenomena of sociating interplay cannot be predicated upon predictive modelling of this kind of movement for the simple reason that multiple starting-points of movement — namely multiple individuals — are involved. Rather, the manifold of phenomena associated with mutual estimation and esteem invite attention to understand them in all their nuance and subtlety. Moreover, when whos engage in mutually estimative interplay, they draw on all three temporal dimensions of who each is, was and may become, thus defying any attempt at causal linearization of the movement. Acts of estimation and esteem glide and hop through all three temporal dimensions, and that in a reciprocal way, but a conception of three-dimensional time remains completely unheard-of in sociology.

It may be concluded that sociation as a specific kind of movement remains outside the purview of modern sociology which thus lacks a social ontology of the specific core kind of movement pertaining to it. The closure of the ontological difference through the inauguration of sociology in the 19th century precludes the possibility of unearthing the phenomenality of whoness in contrast to that of whatness, which has been the traditional focus of attention since the Greeks.

Limitless accumulation of thingified value as the determining, cyclical movement of capitalist economy

Thirdly, with regard to the principle of movement of the economy, I will restrict myself to capitalist economy which is the kind of (today: globalized) economy in which we have been immersed for centuries. While modern economics will freely acknowledge that our kind of economy today is capitalist, i) it prefers to speak of a 'free market economy' and ii) it will not engage deeply with questions regarding the nature of capital itself. Instead, it contents itself with a brief, one-line definition of capital that inevitably includes a reference to money. The concept of money in modern economics, however, is restricted to that of its functions, rather than conceiving more deeply what it is, i.e. its whatness, its essence. There is even a tendency in economics to avoid mention of capital altogether by regarding economics (ahistorically) as the science of how to distribute productive resources efficiently over their possible deployments in order to maximize output. According to this definition, the movement of the economy calls for its optimization from the viewpoint of efficiency. It also presupposes that other historical forms of society had an economy as an independent sector definable in the same way, but this is highly questionable.

If the core economic phenomena of money and capital are seriously taken up, then the easily identifiable function of money as store of value leads inevitably to the deeper question: What is monetary value? There is already an intimation of the phenomenon of value in the characteristic movement of society called interplay, since it may also be characterized as mutually estimative valuing. Instead of mutually valuing and estimating who each is, in the elementary economic interplay called exchange, it is a matter of mutually estimating the value of goods and services offered on the market. Goods and services, however, are whats, hence a mutually valuing interplay of 'whats' rather than of their bearers, who may be called 'whos', through which their exchange-value comes about through the interplay itself. Exchange-value is the first form of sociating interplay mediated by thingified value to be investigated in a conceptually connected investigation of the essence of capitalism. Karl Marx was the first to attempt such an investigation with his critique of political economy.

The interplay of earning a living in today's globalized capitalist economy is not restricted to exchange-value, but encompasses further forms of value. The primary value-forms that show themselves through the full gamut of economic interplay are wages, money-capital, gross profit, loan-capital, interest, land, ground-rent. Capital itself can be conceived hermeneutically AS a circuit of thingified value going through a circuit of transformations of value-form in order to generate a surplus called gross profit. This augmentative movement may be called the accumulation (or valorization) of thingified value. Beneath the gainful game of players striving competitively to earn their various types of income lies the determining movement of our global capitalist economy: the accumulation of total global thingified value in a circular movement through its various, interconnected value-forms.

The principle of movement of today's global capitalist economy is thus a simple, circular one subject to the quantitative condition that advanced capital, on the whole, must accumulate. A circle itself is a line, and a movement around a circle can be counted off in linear time. The linear time taken for a capital to complete its circuit is called turnover time. Hence the immense complexity of the myriads of interlocking interplays among the players on the surface of society, that are played out in three-dimensional time, is reduced, or led back to, an accumulative circular movement of thingified value in one-dimensional time. This accumulative movement has no limit and also has no sense other that itself, namely, accumulation; it reigns supreme in our global capitalist economy and insofar is absolute.

The truth of capitalist economy from which the social science of economics shies away is that its principle of movement is the limitless, senseless accumulation of thingified value, albeit a movement prone to continual dislocations and intermittent crises. This deeper truth of capitalism contradicts and undermines the freedom of thingified interplay on the surface of liberal-democratic society with its individualized personal freedoms. Individualized freedom is the converse side of the sociation of dissociated, alienated players via the medium of thingified value. It is therefore no wonder that this truth of capitalism is forcefully repressed, and we make do with a delusory, one-sided conception of freedom.

Further reading: On Human Temporality.

03 November 2023

Thingified Value, AI & UBI

Some 'visionaries' (such as Elon Musk) today foresee that artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually make labour superfluous because AI-controlled machines of all kinds will produce all we humans need to consume to support our way(s) of life. The labour force will be largely obviated; only an elite of AI experts and auxiliary personnel will be required to keep production running smoothly. Work will become a matter of choice, a matter of interest and fulfilment for some individuals. Depending on your perspective, this envisaged future seems frightening or rosy.

Is this vision of our human future just another tech dream that doesn't take 'real world' conditions into account? After all, we live today in a globaliized capitalist economy, whether we want to or not. The left complains about capitalism and the power of giant corporations without 'really' knowing what capitalism is, that is, without any insight into the social ontology of capitalism (which takes some effort to gain).

If, as I have outlined in previous posts, the essence of capitalism is the accumulative movement of thingified value, i.e. its valorization, and this principle of movement is the hidden, underlying one for today's globalized world, then AI's impact on and its implications for this principle of movement have to be considered.

On the surface of bourgeois society (aka liberal-democratic society), undergirded as it is by the valorizing movement of total global thingified value, life is played out as the gainful game of various players who are the character masks of the key figures in this competitive game to earn the four kinds of income: i) wages (including all kinds of remuneration for any kind of labour performed), ii) interest (for lenders of money-capital), iv) ground-rent (for lessors of land) and iv) profit of enterprise (for enterprises, which may be shared out as dividends). The fifth role in this game is that of consumer. What is produced by production processes, including those controlled largely by AI, has to be sold and consumed, either in personal consumption or in further 'downstream' production processes (productive consumption). 

In particular, and especially, wage-earners spend their income on consumer goods of all kinds from groceries to houses. Their spending realizes the thingified value of the goods and services sold by capitalist enterprises as their sales revenues. Wage-earning consumers therefore have an essential role to play in the valorization of thingified value, without which the principle of movement of capitalist society would come to nought. Advanced money-capital must return with a surplus for the circuit to have succeeded. For an enterprise, there is no point whatsoever in producing goods and services for a consumer market if the consumers have no wages to spend, thus realizing sales revenues (the so-called 'top line', before the deduction of all the costs that leaves a remainder of net profit, the so-called 'bottom line').

What to do? Proponents of Universal Basic Income (UBI) propose that ordinary people be simply given the money to spend on consumer goods to fulfil their needs and, above all, to keep the economy ticking over. Since these ordinary people displaced by AI do not earn wages, the income must be given to them — but by whom? The obvious candidate is the State, that must exercise its superior power to tax its taxpayers to redistribute income to those without earned income. If wage income of wage-earners is greatly reduced by their becoming unemployed due to the deployment of AI, the income to redistribute must come from landowners, financial institutions and enterprises themselves (to name only the principal character masks).

Such redistribution by State fiat to put unearned income into the hands of consumers, however, makes the gainful game pointless, since it can no longer be played to produce a surplus. The three classes themselves must then advance, via taxation, unearned income to consumers to realize the thingified value of produced goods and services as sales revenue. Under such conditions, advanced thingified value can no longer valorize. Bourgeois society's mainspring, its economic principle of movement, is broken.

Some may think that to envision the self-abolition of capitalism through the deployment of AI, thus destroying its very principle of movement — the valorization of thingified value — is, to put it mildly, naïve. But then again, such insight into the nature of capitalism is, to put it mildly, rare. 

From the historical start long ago, apologists for capitalism of all stripes (entrepreneurs, politicians, economists) have known how to cover up the true nature of capitalism, extolling it instead as the realm of equality and freedom of individuals. This delusion shows little sign today of dissipating.

Further reading: On Human Temporality,

Karl Marx Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie Dietz, Berlin 1953 pp.151ff.


VIDEO: An Invisible Global Social Value,

Sustainability? Of what?.

04 October 2023

Eldred-Nettling Time Scholarship

Here is a link to the advertisement for the Eldred-Nettling Time Scholarship at the University of Sydney with details of terms and conditions as well as an online application form.

Please circulate widely to any prospective PhD applicants for this award in the Centre for Time.

28 September 2023

Philosophy as quest for truth

In his Gorgias dialogue, Plato engages with Gorgias' sophistry, which the famous sophist is said to praise as the art of being able to exercise power over men's opinions and actions through rhetorical skill. It is allegedly the highest social power because the orator skilled in rhetoric needs no other power than the power of persuasion to exercise power over men with all sorts of other skills and powers.

Plato will have none of this, and calls rhetoric a mere "knack". He defends philosophy instead as the quest for truth rather than as a skill to exercise social power, thus initiating the struggle against sophistry that, to the present day, stands for the superiority of persuasive talk as the ultimate social power over the quest for truth. There is no denying that, in its guises as the talk of politicians and advertising, the power of rhetoric is indeed an uncanny, deftly deployed power on the surface of social life that, especially in today's mass societies, easily trumps the philosophical quest for truth.

But what is this philosophical quest for truth? The Greek word for truth is _alaetheia_ (ἀλήθεια), whose alpha prefix signifies a negation, namely, of _laethae_ (λήθη), whose standard English translation is 'oblivion' but, in this context, is more appropriately rendered as 'obscurity' or 'concealment'. At first, the phenomena do not show themselves as they are in themselves, but obscurely, distortedly, which results in their being misunderstood, misconceived by our mortal minds. (Note that this distortion does not pertain merely to being deceived by the senses.)

Hence we can say that 'at first and for the most part' (a phrase often used by Aristotle), we mortals exist in untruth, in distortions and misconceptions of the phenomena themselves. The truth of phenomena themselves is not merely about the correctness of facts (factual truth), because facts presuppose already a conception or misconception of the phenomena to which they refer. E.g. whether someone has committed a crime has to be brought to light by uncovering and presenting the facts of the matter to a court of law. Whether the act is a crime is not merely a matter of assessing it factually in terms of correspondence or non-correspondence to (i.e. infringement of) positive law, but depends on the conceptions of justice and freedom per se of the given society in an historical time on which the laws depend. Such conceptions or concepts may be called ideas (ἰδέαι) in Plato's sense, whose truth, Plato says, may be disclosed by _anamnaesis_ (ἀνάμνησις), i.e. remembrance or calling back (ἀνά) to mind (μένος), thus overcoming λήθη (oblivion, concealment). We mortals always already implicitly have in mind the ideas that mentally structure the world, but still have to call them explicitly to mind through philosophical questioning to see them clearly.

That makes of philosophy's quest for truth a struggle to wrest the truth from obscuring distortion and concealment. The distortion and concealment, in turn, reside in our very own misconceptions of the phenomena, which makes of philosophical endeavour a struggle with our own minds to clear away (at least some of) our misconceptions. This struggle to interpret the phenomena themselves starts with the most elementary, and therefore most consequential and decisive, ones, because they stand at the beginning (ἀρχή) of any attempt to think through the ideas through which the mind interprets the world.

The hermeneutic truth of certain phenomena themselves, i.e. their idea, may be uncomfortable and unwelcome. Because there are vested interests in maintaining certain elementary misconceptions for the sake of shoring up the status quo (the mind suffers from conservative inertia), the philosophical quest becomes also a socio-political struggle. Here the idea of freedom itself is pivotal: Wherein does human freedom consist? And the question concerning human freedom (a certain kind of movement) presupposes that we understand, i.e. interpret as best we can, who we are as humans. The question of the truth of human being itself, if it is raised at all, rather than being ignored, suppressed or answered by well-worn clichés, is a struggle, perhaps an ultimate one, to clear away the misconceptions and bring the truth to light. This truth is an hermeneutic one for an historical time.

Further reading: On Human Temporality.

Social Ontology of Whoness.

20 September 2023

Da capo - From the beginning

Da capo - from the head - from the beginning, a musical term directing "at the end of a piece of music to repeat from the beginning" (OED). Once again from the beginning. 

But what is it supposed to mean with regard to the task of thinking? If it meant to go back to the beginning of Western thinking with the Greeks to simply repeat their 'piece of music', i.e. the historical trajectory of philosophical thinking to the present day, then this would get us nowhere. We would only end up back where we are today, our mind would not have changed. It must mean, instead, that in going back to the Greek beginnings, we are prepared and willing to change our mind, to recast our mind, by revising how the Greeks — notably Plato and Aristotle — answered questions regarding certain elementary phenomena on which our conceptions of all further, less elementary phenomena in the world depend.

What are these elementary phenomena? Apart from the question concerning human being or life itself (which are not the most elementary phenomena), Greek thinking struggled over centuries to conceive being and movement and hence also time. These conceptions have remained basic and determining for our Western (today globalized) mind to the present day. In Timaios Plato conceives being only as the opposite or negation of genesis, i.e. of becoming, movement. In his Physics, on the other hand, Aristotle conceives time as the number counted off movement, hence, as derivative of movement. This would render the phenomenon of movement as the central, fundamental phenomenon, because being is conceived as the unmoving, the unchanging (implicitly as enduring presence) and time as simply numerical, counted clock-time. Therefore the unchanging, i.e. being itself, is conceived as 'timeless', a thoughtless cliché still ubiquitously employed today!

But is time truly derivative of movement, or is it the other way round: Is it not rather the case that all movement and change, of whatever kind, can only happen in time? And that this time is more originary, more elementary than counted clock-time? Does not the striving to think as truly as possible to the phenomena themselves demand that we radically rethink time itself? Perhaps even that time is not a physical phenomenon at all, but pre-physical (and certainly not 'psychological' in the insipid modern sense of the term).

Since not all movement and change is physical — with physical beings, since they are extended, requiring space — there is also pre-spatial movement, e.g. the movement of the mind itself, focusing on this or that. This existential movement of the mind itself, however, presupposes the open, originary, three-dimensional time unifying present, past and future in which it can happen at all. Our mind belongs to time; all mental movement is temporal in this sense of focusing (in German: Vergegenwärtigen). 

Hence time and space are phenomenally not on a par with each other at all; rather time is more elementary than space, that is, it is pre-spatial. With this observation, a well-entrenched and massively fortified dogma of all our (Western?) thinking falls to the ground. And yet the clichés of time and space as on a par with each other and of time as sequential clock-time, i.e. as consecutive 'nows', live on today unquestioned and unperturbed. As if we had forgotten what it means to think and remain content with modelling in flimsy, hypothetical, theoretical constructs that are then  — too late  — empirically tested.

Counted, linear clock-time went on to have a spectacular career on the historical trajectory of the cast of our Western mind. Galileo, Descartes and Newton mathematized it for the sake of gaining mastery over physical movement. Very clever and effective. Einstein spatialized this linear, counted time by conceiving it as the path of light tied to three-dimensional space as observed by a subject with its apparatuses, such as telescopes. Hence the Lorentz transformation in special relativity (straight light path) and the Riemann tensor (curved light path) in general relativity. 

Attempts to fuse general relativity with quantum mechanics in quantum-gravity theory have prompted the striving to get rid of (the phenomenon of) time altogether (as an 'inner' psychological fiction) in the mathematical modelling of what is supposed to be 'the case'. But perhaps only certain, restricted kinds of movement can be conceived as happening in this 'skinny', mathematized, linear time — the time of linear causality that cannot cope with quantum indeterminacy, not with that sociating kind of movement I call interplay.

What if what is become of time is also intimately intertwined with what is become of us, of our mind, in Western history? In other words: What if how our Western mind conceives time is intimately intertwined with who we conceive ourselves to 'be' in belonging to the openness of time? What if rethinking time necessitates our rethinking the entire temporal structure of the world with its various kinds of movement?

What I have written here is only a tiny indication, a teeny-weeny tit-bit of the enticing challenge confronting us today: to rethink da capo. Not for the faint-hearted, and also an immense, multi-generational task with a myriad facets, but also necessary if we are ever to learn to stop simply mouthing clichés of thought in outworn language that serves to perpetuate the status quo with its seemingly endless techno-scientific progress. Such as the latest, inevitable innovation: algorithmic control of all kinds of movement through AI. It's been a long time coming since Plato broke down the logos into discrete bits.

Further reading: On Human Temporality.

21 August 2023

Sustainability? Of what?

The 'progressive' forces in this age of climate change and environmental degradation aim at making the (difficult) transition to a sustainable human way of life based on a sustainable, so-called 'circular', recycling economy. In the West, in particular, our relatively comfortable, even affluent, life style is to be sustained, supported by an efficiently productive economy that regulates and reduces its rate of exploitation of the Earth's natural resources. Sustainability suggests that the standard of living 'we' in the West have attained historically can be sustained and life can go on pretty much undisturbed, perhaps with some trade-offs. This is an important message for democratic electorates worried about holding on to their standard of living and also for maintaining the status quo of our present world set-up.

It seems reasonable: the Earth's natural resources are finite (message from the Club of Rome in 1972), so our exploitation and use of these natural resources must be brought within the finite bounds of what the Earth can sustain into the future, and these finite resources ought to be fairly distributed. In particular, the emission of greenhouse gases produced by energy generation must be brought under control through alternative, non-fossil-fuel technologies that can be developed and deployed at scale on an economically sustainable basis. 'Economically sustainable' translates here as profit-generating because, as everyone knows, a loss-making company or industry must inevitably disappear in the long run. On that front, sustainable energy generation seems to be a physical problem to be solved by techno-science within the parameters of economic efficiency, i.e. of profitability.

The criterion of profitability, in turn, is applicable specifically to our global capitalist economy which, in turn, requires huge amounts of energy in the physical sense to keep the capitalist production and circulation processes moving. Due to the nature of a capitalist economy, the huge amounts of physical energy required to keep the global capitalist economy ticking over and healthy are ever-increasing. Why this is so is not a question of physics and techno-science, but of the nature of a capitalist economy itself, i.e. its essence, i.e. of what it is at core; and this essence is nothing physical, but, in a well-defined sense, meta-physical, i.e. beyond the realm of what all the physical techno-sciences deal with or even know about. For the physical sciences, energy is the physical movement of all kinds generated by a power, potential or force being realized. Such forces and the energy they generate, i.e. the movement they effect, are at the core of the physical sciences all the way from quantum mechanics, general relativity, chemistry, molecular biology, biology through to even today's neuroscience.

But the circular movement of capital in its myriad circuits (an entirely different kind of circular economy that has been with us for centuries) in itself is not a physical movement. Rather this circular movement is the accumulative movement of thingified value, about which not only the physical sciences, but also the social sciences, including even economics, know nothing. Thingified value, namely, is a meta-physical or, better, an ontological idea, that 'hides' from us, i.e. it remains invisible to our thinking as long as we do not think ontologically in order to bring the phenomenon of thingified value to light in adequate concepts. Any concept worth its salt is not merely one pertaining to the modern (positivist, empiricist) sciences, but to philosophical phenomenology. To characterize the principle of global movement of the world in its essential core as the accumulative, circular movement of total global thingified value must remain controversial, to say the least. For today's scientifically based thinking and its tamed mainstream philosophy of all stripes, the very idea of thingified value must remain scandalous, ridiculous, invisible, for to conceive it, the ontological difference must be open for our thinking. But today it is not. Therefore we cannot properly decipher, interpret the world's movement and, above all, its principle of movement. Insofar, today's struggle and striving for a 'sustainable, circular' economy in the energy-efficient sense remains misguided, i.e. on the wrong track.

If the never-ending accumulation of thingified value, or, in other words, its limitless valorization, is the principle of global movement — a kind of movement sui generis that cannot be mastered via efficient causality —, it is easily seen that this principle of movement is not a physical one that could be approached by considering the 'sustainable' generation of renewable energy. Rather, it is the limitless valorization of thingified value that demands the unbounded generation of physical energy, renewable or not, for the sake of keeping thingified value valorizing. 

Moreover, the valorization of thingified value is a formal movement in which thingified value circulates through its various forms, i.e. its 'sights', 'looks' or 'forms of appearance of its essence'. The term 'form' must be understood here in the non-trivial ontological sense of a Platonic idea: as the 'sight' or 'look' of the being of a being (or more deeply: its mode of essencing*). The 'sights' or 'looks' of thingified value (such as goods, services, wages, productive capital, loan capital, interest, landed property, ground-rent, net profit, dividends, etc.) remain uninterpretable as such for as long as the essence itself remains hidden. The forms of appearance on the surface encompass what we see and understand as various kinds of private property, which functions as the perfect cover-up. The formal valorization movement of thingified value is not only limitless, but also indifferent to its content. Any and every possibility of profit-generation will do, no matter how harmful it is to humans or the Earth. In its indifference, the limitless valorization is also senseless. We are all entangled in this senseless movement that as such remains hidden to almost all.

How then, in view of this limitlessness, indifference and senselessness, is this principle of global movement of the world derived from its global capitalist economy to be reconciled with the striving for sustainability, in particular, for the sake of the so-called 'survival' of future generations of the human species? Is not this 'for-the-sake-of' already misconceived by presupposing and postulating what we are rather than insistently asking who we are? Is it not the case that we must first learn to conceive clearly the principle of movement as the endless accumulation of thingified value for us to even begin to contemplate how this eerie principle of movement of the world could be curtailed? Our continuing blindness to the medium of thingified value that intertwines and binds us together, and keeps us moving (mostly in pursuit of income of various kinds), does not auger well for the future.

Further reading: Social Ontology of Whoness.

On Human Temporality: Recasting Whoness Da Capo.

Song: Extinction.

21 July 2023

Unendlicher Logos, endliche Zeit?

 Angeregt von einem Gespräch mit einem philosophischen Freund:

In der Tat sind die Unterschiede zwischen Hegels und Heideggers Denken groß, aber sie können noch miteinander 'reden'. Wie steht es nun mit der "Endlichkeit des Menschen"? Ist das Dasein letztendlich als In-der-Welt-sein zu fassen, oder ist dies erst ein vorgreifender Vorbegriff, dem es aufzuheben gilt? Wie ist das Absolute (Absolvente, Abgelöste) im Hegelschen Sinn zu verstehen? In erster Linie ist das Absolute das Nicht-Relative, und das zunächst im Hinblick auf das Wissen. (Das Absolute ist Gott hauptsächlich für die Religion.) Hegel setzt sich vor allem mit Kants subjektivem Idealismus auseinander, wonach das menschliche Wissen grundsätzlich darauf angewiesen ist, daß Erfahrungen der äußeren Welt den Sinnen erst mal gegeben werden, um dann im Inneren durch den Verstand nach logischen Regeln als Erfahrungen von Gegenständen in der Welt aufbereitet zu werden. Die Gegenständlichkeit des Gegenstands ist die subjektive Leistung des Verstands a priori. Damit ist für Kant das menschliche Wissen von der Gegebenheit der Erfahrungen abhängig, d.h. relativ, d.h. nicht absolut, d.h. endlich, begrenzt, nicht ἄπειρον, sondern beschränkt. 

Für Hegels absolutes Denken hingegen gibt es diese Begrenzung nicht, das Absolute ist unendlich, unbegrenzt und damit synonym mit 'Unendlichkeit'. Dies wird im ersten Teil der Phänomenologie des Geistes gezeigt und geleistet, wo das Bewußtsein seine verschiedentlichen Erfahrungen mit dem ihm gegenüberstehenden, äußeren Gegenstand macht, um schließlich mit dem Übergang zum Selbstbewußtsein die Kluft zwischen dem Bewußtsein und dem Gegenstand, d.h. zwischen dem Subjekt und dem Objekt, zu überwinden und damit diese Begrenzung bzw. Endlichkeit (πέρας) aufzuheben, denn der Gegenstand ist dann im Selbstbewußtsein. Mit dem Selbstbewußtsein ist das Wissen schon an sich unbegrenzt, unendlich, d.h. absolut. Dieses Ansich muß aber durch weitere Erfahrungen des (Selbst)Bewußtseins begrifflich entfaltet werden, wodurch es zur Vernunft, zum Geist und schließlich zum absoluten, unendlichen Wissen im Begriff wird. Schon mit dem Geist ist die Trennung zwischen einzelnen Selbstbewußtseinen überwunden, und der Kern eines miteinander geteilten Wir geworden. Das Bewußtsein wird dann schließlich im Begriff zum an und für sich absoluten Wissen. Wer aber denkt heute noch begrifflich in der Philosophie? Der Hegelsche Begriff ist — wohlgemerkt — spekulativ, d.h. er faßt Formen des Seins des Seienden von der ontologischen Differenz her. Die ontologische Differenz jedoch ist seit langem von der philosophischen Bühne verschwunden. Es bleiben nur noch empirisch-positivistische Begriffe in den Wissenschaften übrig, und die philosophischen Gelehrten wissen nicht, was "die Anstrengung des Begriffs" bedeuten soll.

In seiner Vorlesung zu Hegels Phänomenologie des Geistes im WS 1930/31 (GA32) charakterisiert Heidegger den großen Unterschied zwischen Hegel und sich selbst als den zwischen Sein und Logos einerseits und Sein und Zeit andererseits. Die Zeit tritt an die Stelle des Logos, des Denkens, und Heidegger schlägt radikal vor: 

"Im Hinblick auf den Titel Sein und Zeit könnte man nun von Ontochronie sprechen. Hier steht χρόνος an der Stelle von λόγος. Aber wurden beide nur ausgewechselt? Nein! Es gilt vielmehr, alles von Grund auf und unter Übernahme der wesentlichen Motive der Frage nach dem Sein neu zu entfalten." M. Heidegger Hegels Phänomenologie des Geistes GA32:144 

"[A]lles von Grund auf ... neu zu entfalten", und zwar von der "ursprünglichen", d.h. der ekstatisch-existenzialen Zeit her da capo! Welche/r Leichtsinnige würde es heute noch wagen, diesen Vorschlag Heideggers ernstzunehmen und ihn in die Tat umzusetzen!? Heidegger selbst hat dies nicht gewagt, sondern sich mit Hinweisen auf das Zu-Leistende begnügt. Wenn man es aber trotzdem wagt und — im Gegensatz zu Hegel in seiner Logik — mit der dreidimensionalen, offenen Zeit anfängt, dann gibt es keinerlei Subjekt/Objekt-Spaltung zu überwinden, denn Alles, was an- oder abwest, d.h. die Welt, kann nur in der Zeit und damit im Dasein an- und abwesen. Am Anfang ist das Dasein noch nicht individuiert. So gesehen ist das Heideggersche Dasein nicht in der Welt, sondern die Welt 'ist' im Dasein! Existieren wir damit bis zu dem Tag, wann dies eingesehen wird, in einer verkehrten Welt? 

Das Dasein ist ursprünglich in der Zeit! Nun müssen wir fragen, ob diese ursprüngliche, ekstatisch offene Zeit endlich ist. Das ist die entscheidende Frage, um womöglich eine Grenze zwischen Hegels unendlichem Denken und Heideggers angeblich endlichem Dasein zu ziehen. Wenn man die Endlichkeit des Daseins als die Endlichkeit des individuierten sterblichen Daseins interpretiert, das seine endliche Zeitstrecke auf Erden — gestreckt zwischen Geburt und Tod — fristet, dann ist die Frage anscheinend ohne Weiteres schon beantwortet: die Endlichkeit des Daseins ist dann nichts anderes als die Endlichkeit der Zeitstrecke des Lebens von diesem individuellen sterblichen Wesen. Diese Antwort ist zu simpel, denn sie greift auf die vulgäre,  eindimensionale Zeit mit ihren Zeitstrecken zurück. Die eindimensionale Zeit ist nicht offen, sondern wortwörtlich platt.  Zudem setzt sie die Individuierung des Daseins voraus, die erst durch die Verleiblichung des Daseins begrifflich eingeholt wird. Ursprünglich jedoch nimmt das Dasein ungeteilt an der Zeit teil.

Mit anderen Worten: die ursprüngliche, ekstatisch-existenziale Zeit, zu der das Dasein wesenhaft gehört (das Da ist ursprünglich die Zeit selbst und so vorräumlich!), ist die zeitlich dreidimensionale Offenheit, in der das nun individuiert-leibliche Dasein west, d.h. an der es teilnimmt, solange es lebt. Und diese zeitlich dreidimensionale Offenheit erstreckt sich über die Grenzen eines endlichen individuierten Lebens hinaus. Alles muß in der dreidimensionalen Zeit wesen, wenn es überhaupt wesen soll! Sogar der Anfang des Universums in der dreidimensionalen Zeit kann als gewesen für das Dasein geistig anwesen z.B. in physikalischen Theorien vom Urknall. Oder das Ende des Universums kann gleichfalls aus der zeitlichen Dimension der Zukunft der dreidimensionalen Zeit in mathematisch-physikalischen Theorien für das Dasein anwesen. [N.B. es geht hier nicht darum, ob diese Theorien 'wahr' oder gar 'richtig' sind.] Alles Mögliche (und Unmögliche) kann für das Dasein geistig an- und abwesen. Wenn die dreidimensionale Zeit für das Dasein allumfassend ist, d.h. daß Alles, was überhaupt 'ist', nur in der ekstatisch dreidimensionalen Zeit an- oder abwesen kann, wo ist dann die Grenze, welche die Endlichkeit des Daseins markieren soll? 

Weitere Lektüre: On Human Temporality.

18 May 2023

Energy — a matter of interpretation

Progressive activists, scientists, politicians, &c. are all urging that 'we' humans face the challenges of transitioning to a circular global economy that covers its energy requirements in a sustainable way. One speaks of leaving a carbon energy economy behind in favour of renewable sources of energy. What remains a fixed concern in these scenarios is energy sufficient to support the energy requirements of the species homo sapiens to survive on this planet whilst maintaining (as far as possible) 'our way of life', its standard of material comfort and alleviating poverty. This is about as deep as this way of (positivist-empiricist) thinking goes — a way of thinking that has ravaged the Western mind for centuries, rendering it unable to adequately understand today's world.

For the modern scientific way of thinking, energy is something physical that 'really' exists in nature and can be harnessed for human ends. It is firmly convinced that physics, with its foundational concept of energy, is the foundational science, and even has its various versions of the law of conservation of energy, an immutable law of nature.

If it is pointed out, as I am about to do, that ἐνέργεια is the key, mediating concept in Aristotle's ontology of efficient, productive movement and that it means literally the 'at-work-ness' of a power or potential (δύναμις) toward an end (τέλος), the response will be that that's a very interesting tit-bit from the history of ideas, but has no relevance for today's scientific worldview in which old Aristotelean concepts have been superseded and left behind to gather dust in the dander of history. 'We', it is asserted, have advanced far beyond that, even as far as quantum physics. 'We' need not concern ourselves with an ontology of movement, whatever that is supposed to mean.

If, however, Aristotle's concept of ἐνέργεια was coined by him to phenomenologically interpret movement AS efficient productive movement, where this AS is the hermeneutic AS that sits in the ontological difference between beings and their interpretation AS beings, then it becomes apparent that energy is not simply something physical to be found in nature, but is an idea we humans employ to interpret a certain kind of movement. (Modern science is unaware that its material basis, its thoroughly materialist way of thinking, is itself an idea.)

If not all kinds of movement can be forced into the form (idea) of efficient, productive movement, then the concept of energy, when totalized, as it is today as the foundational concept of all science, only serves us humans to misinterpret movement and so befuddle ourselves. What if — through this misinterpretation of movement by (mis)employing the concept of physical energy — we are on a fateful wild goose chase in 'our' valiant attempt to make the transition from fossil fuels as the main source of energy for living 'our' lives to renewable sources of energy? What if we were under a misconception by assuming that we were living our lives?

What if we were today challenged to think much deeper, to reinterpret phenomena of movement (such as i) mutually estimative interplay, ii) the movement of the mind, iii) the accumulative movement of thingified value as capital) with hitherto neglected or as yet uncoined concepts that come closer to capturing the phenomena in question? In other words, what if these kinds of non-physical movement were outside the reach of a concept of energy? What if we faced the challenge of confronting modern science's (that is, our own) wilful hermeneutic blindness and its resultant arrogant 'energetic' dogmatism? And what if today's progressive mass media were vehicles of propaganda for science to indoctrinate us with delusions, whilst kidding themselves that they were honestly enlightening us?

Further reading: Movement and Time in the Cyberworld

Social Ontology of Whoness 

On Human Temporality (forthcoming)

13 May 2023

Thingified value begets individualized freedom

We in Western liberal democracies value above all our individual freedom, in contrast to what are today called authoritarian regimes that suppress it. We are the goodies; they are the baddies.

Individual freedom is the essential hallmark of liberalism, protected by the rule of law, at whose core are the rights of private property and their form of commerce in all the many kinds of contract.

Individual freedom is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the right to own private property, including property in one's own body.

Thingified value is not listed among our Western values, nor is it mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And yet it is the flip-side of individual freedom and our hidden highest value. They are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, thingified value begets individualized freedom. It spawns countless dissociated, free individuals. Divide et impera.

How so? Because the very individualization of the individual entails our dissociation from each other. Dissociated from each other, we are first set free from each other as private individuals who deprive each other access to our private property. We sociate with each other in our economic lives only via the medium of thingified value, a Protean medium with many forms or guises; a universal medium that gathers us dissociated individuals together, whether we will it or not. These guises comprise the forms of commodity, money, wages, money-capital, productive capital, interest, ground-rent, among others, including hybrids. Every individual, rich or poor, needs income in order to live, and it is the economy that directly or indirectly (e.g. through the redistributive welfare state) provides such income-form of thingified value. No one will deny the central importance of the economy for modern living, and all who are able, strive to earn income in what is called blandly a market economy, or even a free market economy. This amounts to a coup that thingified value accomplishes against humankind by bamboozling it with a fallacious idea of freedom whose realization can be, and often has been, immeasurably brutal.

The basic forms of income derived directly from this market economy are wages for employees of all kinds and gross profit. The latter splits further into interest for the owner of loan-capital (finance-capital), ground-rent for the landowner, leaving a residue of profit of enterprise (or net profit) for the functioning, productive, capitalist enterprise.

The capitalist enterprise advances money-capital to set up some kind of production process for goods or services that have to be sold on the market to consumers, who comprise other enterprises and individualized end-consumers. The latter, especially, have an essential value-formal role to play in realizing the enterprise's advanced capital in sales revenues (the top line), from which all the costs (wages, means of production, interest, ground-rent) must be deducted to leave a residue of net profit (the bottom line). Only when the advanced capital is more than recouped, leaving a positive net profit, has the circuit succeeded. The formal principle for capital is M' - M > 0, i.e. the return on advanced capital must be greater than zero.

The profit-generating process of capital is thus a purely formal, circular process of transformations of value-form that, in itself, is indifferent to the content of what or how it produces. It makes no difference whether the product is chocolate bars or disposable towels or high-quality timepieces; they just have to be sold to consumers at a profit. The advertising industry is likewise indifferent to the product it is selling; its aim is to gain market share and increase sales revenues. This value-formal indifference renders capitalism nihilistic at its core. 

The net profit will be all the greater, the more the functioning enterprise is able to cut costs by getting the most out of its employees and leased land. Both humans and nature are cost factors for capitalist enterprises that detract from the maximum potential return on advanced capital. Humans become human resources and nature becomes natural resources for functioning capital. Both are exploited to generate profit, while at the same time figuring as negative cost factors in the calculation. Hence continual struggle between labour and capital over wages and working conditions; hence environmental degradation of the Earth that has been carved up into parcels of private landed property. Only the value-formal movement of profit-generation (aka valorization of thingified value) counts for the principle of capital, a principle that we could only possibly bridle and resist if, first of all, we were aware of it as such — and not in one of its deceptive, innocuous guises. This would make Adam Smith's famous "invisible hand" at last visible, from whose nihilistic malignity and malevolence we would shrink back, instead of regarding it as benign or even benevolent, as the apologists of free-market capitalism preach.

The net profit generated by capitalist enterprises is largely (apart from the portion of net profit consumed by their owners and shareholders) ploughed back into a renewed circuit of capital. The pressure of competition with other enterprises enforces a continual accumulation of thingified value destined to endlessly repeat its accumulative circuits as quickly as possible, the acceleration of turnover enhancing the profit-generation in a given time-period. The acceleration of turnover of total global capital, in turn, continually accelerates the pace of life, but this remains hidden to us modern individuals. Ever-accelerating, endless, nihilistic recurrence of the same that appears covered up as the price of 'progress'.

What does all this economic detail have to do with our individual freedom? As individualized, that is, as dissociated from each other, we sociate economically only via the medium of thingified value that, in turn, takes on a life of its own as the 'economy', whose hidden principle is the endless accumulation of thingified value. As individual players in the gainful game to gain our respective kinds of income, we inadvertently thingify ourselves under the value-forms (especially the wage-form) and their augmentative transformation for an aim that none of us has willed. We get caught up in a topsy-turvy world of value-things in process. Not even the capitalist enterprise knows that it is the vehicle for the accumulation of thingified value; it is interested only in the difference between the top line and the bottom line (net profit), and is itself valued on the surface only for its prowess in generating profits in the competition. But the underlying truth of capitalist economy is that thingified value must keep moving through its transformations of value-form to accumulate more and more. This is the law of movement of capitalist economy to which we individuals are unknowingly subjugated.

We free individuals all experience that we cannot live well without the economy doing well. For most this amounts to having a good, secure job. This is common sense to which there seems to be no imaginable alternative. This superficial 'truth' of capitalist economy is seen and necessarily heeded by the politics of the liberal democratic state. The economy looms large in all areas of democratic politics that perforce are deeply engaged and entangled with countless economic issues. But we do not know what this capitalist economy is. We do not know — due to the obscuration provided by the social science of economics — that its principle is the senseless, endless accumulation of total social and total global thingified value in a world globalized precisely by the thingified medium. The perpetuum mobile of the accumulative movement of thingified value is the globally determining movement that dictates or constrains also the life movements of us humans. We are the human resources either put to work or left aside by thingified value's accumulative movement. This movement dictates the terms of our sociation with each other via value-things.

Thingified value in all its guises of individualized private property reigns today as the medium of sociation. It sets us free from each other as dissociated, private individuals and, in so doing, subjugates us, behind our backs, by sociating us only for the sake of a movement of relentlessly accumulating thingified value. Individualized freedom is turned upside down into subjugation in a topsy-turvy world in which it is thingified value that unfolds its own freedom of movement.

Furthermore: we do not sociate for the sake of what we can do for each other's benefit, even though this may be the mutually willed intention of our interplay, because this possibility is subverted by the thingified medium itself that is inverted from a means enabling sociation for mutual benefit into the medium of capital augmentation. We solace ourselves in the role of consumers with having more — more, namely, of various forms of thingified value from washing machines to mansions, from orange juice to jets, from freshwater yabbies to yachts, from adventure holidays to meals in exclusive restaurants, from cruises to Antarctica to a holiday house in the countryside.

Could we possibly sociate with each other in another kind of freedom, without such subjugation via the universal medium of thingified value? What could this other kind of freedom look like? Or is individualized freedom the best we can do? These questions presuppose at least that we go beyond what can be asked by Western liberal democracy, owing to its deficient inventory of 'our values' that omits thingified value and its own peculiar freedom of movement. There are kinds and instances of interplay — such as friendship, love and acts of kindness — that are not mediated by thingified value and which have their own respective negations in enmity, hatred and acts of cruelty. How are friendship, love and acts of kindness to be understood as manifestations of freedom that do not tally with the phenomenon of individualized freedom, whose exercise is fundamentally transactional? 

Conversely, we could learn to see how the sociating medium of thingified value is toxic in countless ways manifesting themselves both blatantly and subtly — from the political and economic to the private and intimate. The intoxication engendered by the gainful game manifesting in greed is only one form of appearance of this toxicity. We pay for our individualized freedom through our subjugation, on the underbelly of the gainful game, to the freedom of movement of endlessly valorizing thingified value, that gathers us, prior to any formation of a collective subject collected together from individualized subjects through an act of collective will (e.g. agreement, elections). Deciphering these phenomena can make us aware of the social and existential corrosiveness of thingified value as the overwhelmingly dominant medium of sociation in our globalized world. Such awareness of the deeper truth of the medium and its inexorable, accumulative movement would allow us to beware of it and resist its blatant, self-serving misrepresentation as medium of freedom, as well as its pernicious and often devastating effects. Become aware to beware.

 Further reading: Social Ontology of Whoness 

On Human Temporality (forthcoming)

'An Invisible Global Social Value' (forthcoming)

CBC Radio | Can the Great Reset really create a gentler, more equitable capitalism?  

06 April 2023

American exceptionalism

Exceptionally self-righteous,
Exceptionally puritanical,
Exceptionally bigoted,
Exceptionally hypocritical,
Exceptionally ruthless,
Exceptionally vengeful,
Exceptionally vindictive,
Exceptionally vicious,
Exceptionally violent,
Exceptionally murderous,
Exceptionally repressive,
Exceptionally hegemonic,
Exceptionally belligerent,
Exceptionally extra-territorial,
Exceptionally capitalist,
Exceptionally anti-communist,
Exceptionally plutocratic,
Exceptionally money-drunk,
Exceptionally money-rotten,
Exceptionally exploitative,
Exceptionally land-grabbing,
Exceptionally aggrieved,
Exceptionally racist,
Exceptionally self-interested,
Exceptionally consumerist,
Exceptionally media-manipulated,
Exceptionally dumbed down,
Exceptionally superficial,

Redeeming feature: the blues

27 March 2023

Demagogic democracy

Bent on unscrupulous manipulation,
duping the masses with skilled provocation,
selling them lies that tickle their taste,
stoking their fears to spew out their hate 

There's many a ploy to bolster illusions,
prolonging the game by sowing confusion,
beguiling the mind to keep on the surface,
that covers the grotesquely burgeoning surplus 

Comment on Trump's speech in Waco, Texas on 25 March 2023


09 February 2023

VIDEO: Algorithmic Control of Movement in Time

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

Video of 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.

With text of talk and video playlist Michael Eldred Philosopher

11 January 2023

Depredations of empiricism

The quashing of the ontological difference is one of the major questionable ‘achievements’ of the orthodox metaphysical tradition, both in medieval times and the modern, scientific age. It amounts to an ontological lie that the modern mind tells itself, a wilful benightedness for the sake of power. Auguste Comte’s positivism was at the forefront of this final obliteration of the ontological difference, but it was preceded by centuries of the British empiricism first lauded by Francis Bacon. Mainstream (Anglo-American, analytic and pragmatist) philosophy has inherited this tradition in thinking that, with circumspection, may be regarded as an historical calamity for the mind whose depredations proceed unnoticed and painlessly. 

Today analytic philosophy enjoys the dubious distinction of having established a thoroughly insipid conception of ontology as "the study of being, of what there is" (cf. ‘Ontological Commitment’ and ‘Logic and Ontology’ Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) with no longer the least hint of the hermeneutic As. Analytic philosophy is able to deploy its institutional hegemony to entice bright young minds into a professional glass-bead game played in "the language of first-order predicate logic, where truth conditions, and thus ontological commitments, are easier to specify” (ibid.). It positions itself with supreme self-confidence vis-à-vis a variety of ‘positions’ it collects under the self-chosen rag-bag rubric of ‘Continental philosophy’. 

Since then all ‘we’ have left is the empirical scientific method and are deluged with ‘empirical studies’ to know what’s going on in the world and obsessively predict what’s coming. Everyday discourse, too, is obsessed with chattering about what’s happening and what’s coming from the future. The modern empiricist way of thinking is tantamount to a throw-back to the Platonic parable of the cave, in which the fettered, tunnel-visioned spectators vie with each other over guessing the sequence in which the silhouettes of entities thrown on the cave’s wall by the fire behind them will appear. Both scientific and everyday knowledge today remain captive to an historical mind-set that knows nothing of its origins, as should become ever more apparent to those following the path of thinking presented in this work. The indoctrination into this mind-set of an absolute obsession with control over movement begins with the moment of birth. 

Further readingOn Human Temporality: Recasting Whoness Da Capo De Gruyter, Berlin 2023 (forthcoming) ISBN 978-3-11-113583-0