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