28 January 2024

Temporal Recasting of Who We Are

Abstract for talk, Recasting ourselves with Michael Eldred, at The New Institute in Hamburg on 15 February 2024 in the Program Non-materialist Conceptions of Human Flourishing

Program Chair 2023/24: Andrej Zwitter, Program Co-ordinator: Victoria Sukhomlinova

Recasting who we are da capo employing the methodology of hermeneutic phenomenology — what is that supposed to mean? What is hermeneutic phenomenology, anyway? And how does its methodology differ from that of modern, evidence-based science? There is an inconspicuous doorway to hermeneutic phenomenology encapsulated in an Aristotelean formula for the ontological difference and, more particularly, in a single Greek word (ᾗ Latin: qua, Eng.: as), through which we pass into the philosophical realm proper of the investigation of beings insofar as they are beings, i.e. their modes of being, i.e. ontology. The philosophical tradition since the Greeks has given us various answers to the question: What is distinctively human being, i.e. the humanness of the human?, the first being: animality with the specific difference of having language, reason. This has been variously modified up to modern science's casting of the human being as a species of animal that has evolved to have an unusually large, high-performance, cogitating brain — with no trace left of the ontological difference. Science does not even ask: What is the animality of the animal? and denies any knowledge of its mode of being, the anima or soul (ψυχή) as the principle of life.

A temporal recasting of who we are cannot be satisfied with these 'what' answers. It proposes going back to scratch to start again from the elementary phenomenon of time itself, but not the usual conception of some kind of one-dimensional, linear time that flows along. Instead I start from the openness of three-dimensional time to see where this path of thinking leads. Who we are is a consequence, first and foremost, of belonging to this 3D-temporal openness. Only from within it do we understand the world by interpreting how it presents itself temporally, i.e, how it presences and absences for the mind. Beings in the world thus become essents presencing and absencing in 3D-time, and ontology must even transform itself into temporalogy. Different kinds of essents have different modes of essencing, but all essence for our mind in 3D-time.

The hermeneutic mind has its own, characteristic kind of temporal movement and hence its own temporalogy of movement. We share the world with one another, sociating only by moving within the shared temporal openness, mutually estimating and esteeming who we are. We are not substantial beings with a material substrate, but relational beings who become who we are only in the estimative interplay with each other played out in 3D-time. Interplay itself is a further kind of non-physical movement in 3D-time also demanding its own temporalogical investigation. It cannot be conceived by an ontology of movement rooted in one-dimensional time, the ontology of efficient causal movement — upon which the modern sciences exclusively rely. 

In today's globalized world, however, the sociating estimative interplay is played out immersed in the all-pervasive medium of thingified value as the competitive gainful game for income. All of us, whether it be directly or indirectly, are ineluctably players in this game mediated by thingified value-forms going through their required transformations. This is yet another kind of (circular) movement in time with its own temporalogy. Although we play the gainful game on the surface as dissociated, free individuals, it is undergirded by the senselessly circling movement of endlessly accumulating thingified value that imposes its own necessity. The invisible, underlying principle or law of global movement is precisely this endless, accumulative circling of thingified value, which also calls for its own temporalogical investigation. Crises, disruptions, dislocations, frictions, etc. in this endless valorization erupt incalculably both globally and locally, thus intermittently reducing our prized individual freedom to nought. 

Further reading: On Human Temporality: Recasting Whoness Da Capo (De Gruyter 2024 in press).

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