Saturday, May 7, 2016

Heidegger Contra Transhumanism Part 1: Dasein, not Mensch

"Make no mistake, what we are speaking of here is a transformation in the essence of man."
There is a great irony in beginning the bald declaration of such a radical proposal as Heidegger does, in his now infamous Einführung die Metaphysik, with the assurance "make no mistake" ---a phrase seemingly guranteeing univocity to a proposal that is anything but univocal. As this post will hope to indicate, not without reason is this proposal vulnerable to the grossest and most dangerous of misunderstandings. Not without reason does it seem to join the chorus of a legion of modern thinkers proclaiming man's transformative enlightenment, as in Kant's second Kritik, where the transition from man to a rational being in general becomes the essential index of the truth of practical concepts, or as in Marx where the dialectic inherent in the economico-historical essence of man eventually yields his consummate transformation towards the achievement of a species-being --to say nothing of the Nieztschean "either-or" of a Letzte- or an Ueber-mensch, heralding the advent of a bio-technologically empowered master race. Not without reason, we say --for, the very reason, the very grund, that necessitates the semblance of an affinity between Heidegger and these modern thinkers of the metaphysically trans-human, has according to Heidegger himself,  not been negated but has become utterly concealed, obnubilating the fragile divide that must be maintained in order to hold apart things and their mighty opposites. Not without reason, then, unless the lack of reason, the abgrund, be equatable to the retraction of a reason, nay, of its very essence, into perfect concealment. Indeed, Heidegger's quote comes precisely at a time of what he would call, a year later in his Beiträge, abysmal distress, or as the Einführung has become quotable for formulating: the flight of the gods and the darkening of the world unto its night. Heidegger's seemingly dismal assessment of this catastrophic concatenation of events is well-known. The spirit of historical humanity whose very effluence is thinking itself,  has reached the final stage of its ex-piration; it has become disempowered, and this lost power has cascaded down into the volatile  deadlock of power-constellations that the techno-political realm, as a result, has exclusively become. Following fast upon this disempowerment, thinking undergoes an emergency and a struggle for its own life; it gasps to give new breath and meaning to the old words in terms of which alone it is allowed to receive a public, political hearing. Those words, now at such a desperate stage in the life of Western thought, are the philsophical dialect of Heidegger's Rektoratsrede, and they refer to self-assertion, the will-to-know, the spiritual mission of a people, over-powering power, and, yes, a transformation of man --and we must pay attention to the precise wording here: not only a transformation of man, but even more emphatically, of the essence of man. What could have been meant by such a transformation, if it is not meant to join the chorus of exhortations of the transformation of man that Heidegger understands as a mark of the last metaphysicians, from whose company he strives at every turn to sharply distinguish himself? In the series of posts that follow I wish to point out a path that leads toward  an answer to this question.

 The first thing necessary to catch the sense of direction that will lead us to this path is to cast a backward glance toward the inception of phenomenology; for there is a strong continuity that runs from the essential motivations of this beginning all the way to Heidegger's 1935 call for transformation. It is of seminal importance to understand how phenomenology, at first rather imperceptibly in the nascent form of Brentano's Deskriptive Psychologie, and then with increasing clarity in Husserl's lifelong critical engagement with psychologism,  becomes aware of its own necessity and vocation precisely by delimiting the field of an emerging, still amorphous, science of man, namely psychology. Heidegger's Habilitationshcrift faithfully pays homage to this critique and sustains this critical engagement when Sein und Zeit first brings what Heidegger considers to be the true phenomenological characterization of the essence of man as Dasein precisely in relief from the ontic sciences of man, chief among which is psychology. For the purposes of gaining an intial orientation to the question of man's transformation, it will be enough if we can appreciate the logic here operative in Heidegger's delimitation of the field of psychology, and, in general, of the ontic sciences, sharply from that field in which Dasein comes into view. This appreciation will also serve, secondarily, as a reference point by means of which the reader of Sein und Zeit may dismiss claims that the work is itself a psychological or philosophico-anthropological study masquerading as an ontological study --a claim which seems to perennially appear in myriad subtle forms and misguide  scholarship from time to time.

According to that logic of Sein und Zeit, the problem of the field of psychology and the attempt to achieve an adequate concept of man really becomes transparent in its requirements and achieves proper self-understanding when it is referred back to those mechanisms whereby a science achieves its foundation: namely foreconception and fundamental conception. The tendency to surrender such phenomena as "inner experiences" or "emotional states" to the field of psychology is here anticipated and countered. Everything, indeed, depends upon our fore-conception of the phenomenon in question; we can certainly greet stimmungen as instances of "psychological moods" or "inner experiences" but the question is: what fore-conception enables this greeting? Certainly not one that just fell from the sky but one that was established with the very foundations of the science of psychology. So the real question about "mental processes", because it is dependent upon that forum in which the identification of something *AS* mental process is made possible, is reducible to the question of how sciences get founded. More specifically, a science is only capable of being founded if a certain domain is granted to it in advance as that which it must subsequently discover. For example, in the broadest sense, biology, before it even begins, must be granted the possibility of treating anything whatsoever precisely with an eye toward whether it is living or non-living. At a certain point, it may even try to procure a certain"working" definition of life, but it has only come up with this definition by first recognizing and examining living and non-living things. It is clear, then, that biology is made possible by a fore-conception of life that is presupposed in its most basic concepts and that therefore unifies the foundation of that science.
If, in the fore-conception in terms of which a science establishes its basic concepts, the inherent unity of its task and the extent and limit of its objective domain is established, then accompanying this establishment a discernible rank and priority necessarily presents itself in the fore-conceptual interrelations that already obtain between the fundamental concepts of entirely distinct sciences: one science must inherently presuppose another if in the objective domain of that other science can be included the fore-conception which makes possible the fundamental concepts of the first. This rank and priority among the sciences, based solely on the manner of each field's fore-conceptual founding, necessarily leads to a truly unique possibility: the possibility of a science the fundamental concepts of which alone constitute that same science's pre-given objective domain of investigation. Heidegger in Sein und Zeit calls this necessity "Der Ontlogische Vorrang des Seinsfrage". Vor-rang is here given according to the inherent capacity of an inquiry to pursue its own Vor-griff, fore-conception. Such a science whose most proper object is also its origin, and whose proper conceptuality must not only be rooted in but must also thematize its fore-conceptual basis Heidegger calls Fundamental ontology. This science necessarily deals with the fundament of all science as an explicit theme in the course of accessing its proper object. At the same time, this science relates to its objective domain for one reason and one reason alone: to make explicit the fore-conception in terms of which that objective domain gets founded. Now, in fundamental ontology this aforementioned objective domain is constituted by that being (seiende) which serves as the condition for the possibility of the explicit establishment of any fundamental concepts whatsoever. Ontically speaking, such a being is called man (mensch). Both psychology and fundamental ontology look to man as to the being which occupies their respective objective domains, but they take this object in entirely different ways. In what, epistemically speaking, does this difference consist?
The object of psychology, man, is found within an objective domain constituted by an already established fundamental concepts of the psychic, experience, consciousness (and perhaps the unconscious, etc), but these are dependent upon a fore-conception of human existence which is determined based on an understanding of "an underlying", i.e.the subjectum of subjectivity in terms of which, e.g., the ego, id, and super-ego would be found (but this exmple should not be taken to restrict our sense of psychology to psychoanalysis). Such a fore-conception predetermines man as a "bearer of mental processes" which processes can in turn be investigated in their own right. And here we see the main difference: for while man as psychic is taken as an object according to fundamental concepts that have already been established in keeping with certain fore-conceptions, man as Dasein is taken as an object precisely to the extent that it is capable of being taken as a pre-conceptual condition for the possibility of all fundamental concepts, i.e. insofar as the man is that being in terms of which the fore-conception of Being itself may be made conceptual. Angst, eigentlichkeit, sein-zum-tode, langeweile, grundstimmungen, etc. are all inquired into strictly in terms of the way they illuminate the foreconception of that very inquiry ---a foreconception which is ultimately Sein itself.  It is for this reason that man is called, in Fundamental Ontology, Da-sein.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Did Heidegger Read Kant's Transcendental Dialectic?

In the midst of an admirably even-handed consideration of the early Heidegger's auseindersetzung with Kant, David Carr makes a fleeting observation about how the intensive probing of that hermeneutic confrontation also  happens to be exclusive of an extensive reading ---even, in fact, exclusive of the entire extent of the first Kritik upon which it is focused:
One thing that strikes readers of Heidegger on Kant in these writings is that his analysis is very detailed and close to the text, but it is focused entirely on the first Critique and indeed goes no farther than the first third of that work. He has almost nothing to say about the “transcendental dialectic”and its critique of traditional metaphysics, in which the first Critique culminates, much less about Kant’s moral philosophy, for which the first Critique is preparing the way.

Carr doesn't stop with this somewhat blunted criticism, however. In what is an appraisal in all other ways self-restrained, Carr permits himself the following anomalously pointed remark: "...I have to wonder, in all seriousness, if Heidegger ever got as far as the paralogisms in his reading of the first Critique." The implication of Carr's speculation is clear: even in terms of its sources, Heidegger's reading of Kant is a narrow, lopsided one.
  In the present post, I want to take the opportunity to briefly suggest one reason why this is so --- why, that is, it is far from a matter of accident that Heidegger devotes himself exclusively to the Transcendental Aesthetic and Analytic in the majority of his Kant interpretations. As an aside I would allow the remark that Heidegger did not read other parts of Kant's corpus to pass as a piece of rhetorical hyperbole, were it not for the fact that even hyperbole does not allow itself to contradict historical fact (there is no need to waste breathe justifying Heidegger here on this point, he marshals so much evidence in the copious cross references he makes to the entirety of Kant's corpus ---nevermind the Dialectic). It might have been a nice addition to his Kant interpretation if Heidegger had produced, say, a phenomenological, or later, a seynsgeschichtliche interpretation of the Dialectic, one that is not altogether inconceivable in what its outline would have looked like, but Heidegger did not do so for, I would argue, a rather simple structural reason. One need only consider the architectonic of Kant's first Kritik to supply himself with the readily available answer.
   While the arrangement of the Kritik's Doctrine of Elements  can be regarded, as the Prolegomena in fact does regard it, as an arrangement of increasingly comprehensive pure foundations for the sciences of mathematics, physics, metaphysics respectively treated under the Aesthetic, Analytic, and Dialectic, nevertheless the work's arrangement can also be regarded from another vantage point. If in the former regard it is the Dialectic that treats of the possibility of metaphysics as an actual science, then in the latter regard it is the Transcendental Logic as a whole that furnishes the reader with the principles for a science of metaphysics as Kant alone wishes to establish it. This double vantage point is inherent to the work itself and may be explained by the fact that the pure physiological principles of the Analytic are at the same time metaphysical, since for Kant they ground any possible gegenstandsbeziehung.   In the order of presentation, then, the Analytic is designed to take over exactly that place reserved by Scholastic thought for metaphysica generalis, while the Dialectic is to occupy the place of metaphysica specialis. That this is so according to the rule of the work is made all the more obvious by the fact that the Dialectic's threefold division of paralogisms, antinomies, and Transcendental Ideals mirrors precisely the threefold division of metaphysica specialis into the specific domains of soul, world, and God. And it is precisely in this superficial observation of the works arrangement that we have a strong indication of the reason for Heidegger's focus. Months before Heidegger gives his phenomenological interpretations of the first Kritik, Heidegger is introducing to his students, in the Grundprobleme lectures of 1927, the problem of ontological difference, and he is doing so precisely through a destruktive meditation on Kant's categories of modality as they circumscribe the bounds of real predication. Although Heidegger had previously penetrated the Transcendental Analytic before the Phenomenological Interpretations in his 1925 Logik lectures, there it was self-evident why his examination had to limit itself in range and scope. By contrast the Phenomenological Interpretations, like the controversial Kantbuch that followed it, stood in need of some justification, and the Grundprobleme proffer that in linking the interpretation of Kant with the elaboration of the ontological difference.
     This link is of direct importance to the issue of Heidegger's attachment to the Analytic because it is as a consequence of the ontological difference that Heidegger will sever the possibility of doing anything like a metaphysica specialis from ontology properly understood. A properly ontological science will begin, as all metaphysica generalis attempt to do, with the question of Being as such. But, as the Grundprobleme make clear in their introduction, the method by which such a beginning is to be made consists in enacting a phenomenological reduction ---one which is vastly different from the move Husserlian phenomenology acknowledges by that name. In fact, precisely what was allegedly bracketed in Husserl's reduction is what is shifted toward in Heidegger's, namely Being as an antecedent given (seinsverstaendnis) which precedes and enables ontic datum:
We call this basic component of phenomenological method - the leading back or reduction of investigative vision from a naively apprehended being to Being phenomenological reduction. We are thus adopting a central term of Husserl's phenomenology in its literal wording though not in its substantive intent. For Husserl the phenomenological reduction, which he worked out for the first time expressly in the Ideas Toward a Pure Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy (1913), is the method of leading phenomenological vision from the natural attitude of the human being whose life is involved in the world of things and persons back to the transcendental life of consciousness and its noetic-noematic experiences, in which objects are constituted as correlates of consciousness. For us phenomenological reduction means leading phenomenological vision back from the apprehension of a being, whatever may be the character of that apprehension, to the understanding of the Being of this being (projecting upon the way it is unconcealed).   
Heidegger's self-comparison with his mentor here is particularly instructive in the task of clarifying Heidegger's reading of Kant's Kritik; the explanation (and/or justification) of object-constitution in light of transcendental consciousness has its roots in Kant's Analytic as it is usually interpreted. If an interpretation of the Kritik is to be a phenomenological  interpretation, then it will presumably have to enact the step required to initiate any phenomenological research, namely, Heidegger's onto-phenomenological reduction. But that reduction, which serves to properly raise questions traditionally belonging to metaphysica generalis, precludes the establishment of metaphysica specialis, since, insofar as it investigates three specific (domains of) objects, the latter would be a reversal of the reduction, moving from Being to beings --a move that can only be permitted if the ontological difference remains misunderstood as a difference. Heidegger's reduction is accordingly a recapitulation of the ontological difference contra to  yet presupposed by the difference between genus and species, and therefore also problematic for the difference between metaphysica generalis and metaphysica specialis. To be more precise, the reduction shows, through the view that it enacts, a difference already present in the domain of metaphysica generalis, prior to its own demarcation from metaphysica specialis. This ontological difference, as the phenomenon which makes possible any science capable of investigating positive data, renders the three specific objects of metaphysics, namely soul, world, and God, as subject to this further unaddressed ontological difference. Soul, world and God have always been interpreted according to an already established metaphysica generalis in order to be secured as objects of investigation --and even when that security is problematized, it is done so only by what is accomplished beforehand by metaphysica generalis ---just as Kant's Analytic supplies the ground for his paralogisms, antinomies, and Ideals. In short, general metaphysics must settle itself and stabilize its fundamental principles before specific metaphysics can commence.  But if one is to, as Heidegger's phenomenological reduction would have it, demonstrate a difference problematizing the ability of metaphysica generalis to come to rest and thereby lay the foundations of metaphysica specialis, then he will also have to read the Analytic in such a way that makes it incapable of dispatching with further consideration of its subject matter in order to then transition to the Dialectic.  The phenomenologically reduced Analytic will be the
beginning of an inexhaustible perplexity.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Origin of the Work of Art: Hearing the Title properly

It is very easy to let oneself be misled as to what Heidegger's sensationally received lecture Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes, is really about. One would think its about art. Certainly it is not a lecture in art history and probably more than one concerning the appreciation of art, but it would seem safe to say its a philosophical lecture about art, a lecture about the meaning of art.

Its not.

One path that leads towards understanding why this is so begins by listening carefully to something which Heidegger as a matter of routine in all of his self-interpretations stresses the ambiguity of, namely, the name of the lecture, the title. The title seems to be addressing artwork, but artwork precisely in a certain respect, namely with respect to its origin. This appearance is initially inevitable. However, there is another way to hear it, and one of the goals of the essay is to show how this alternative way is, surprisingly, the more appropriate of the two. According to this other way, what should be emphasized in the title is not the artwork, thought with respect to its origin, but rather the reverse. That this is so is indicated in the opening sentences of the lecture, which may be understood as a preparation for the destruktion of what the audience is inclined to have heard in the freshly announced title:

Origin means here that from which and through which a thing is what it is and how it is. That which something is, as it is, we call its essence. The origin of something is the source of its essence. 

The lecture is an attempt to show how we can think of origin more properly than all of the history of Western thought has yet been able to by way of a seemingly strange move: by thinking of origin as inherent to the artwork. In the title "The Origin of the Work of Art" the word "Origin" must eventually be heard and understood as a property of art. The artwork does not have its home in its origin; rather, the very idea of an origin has its forgotten home in the artwork. This is why, in the quote above which begins the whole lecture, Heidegger immediately defines ---that is to say, discloses the essence of---the origin. But his definition is peculiar insofar as it implies its own failure; it tells us that the essence of the origin, that is, what an origin is really supposed to be, is to be nothing other than the source of a thing's essence.  But the essence is "what something is, as it is".  Therefore the origin must precede anything "as it is". Of the essence of origin, then, two things may be inferred:

1.) The essence of the origin precedes itself. The origin is, essentially,  pre-essential.

2.) As pre-essential, the essence of the origin lies in a domain in which a thing can be disclosed in such a way that it is not disclosed in the manner of thinking, namely,  in the manner of disclosing "what something is, as it is".  

 What domain is this? That of the artwork. "Artwork" would then name that which belongs to a domain ahead of and prior to any thinking, a domain which the thinking of the present age of technology can only anticipate --and yet must anticipate if it is to still think at all. The reason why the lecture emerges  as a place of repose along Heidegger's denkweg  then, is not because Heidegger has turned to art in the fight against nihilism, but because in pursuing what the origin originally means, Heidegger comes to find that its meaning is not in thought but in art. One might say that origin properly means in the artwork, and thinking has been lead to give thought to this unthought meaning.

The title "The Origin of the Artwork" now sounds different: "The Origin" --that is the origin itself --"of"--that is, as it belongs to ---"the Artwork" (the artwork, which lies ahead of thought).

Friday, October 25, 2013


  In the comments recently, Still made the following remark en route to a worthy point regarding the differentiation of Seyn

"While Seinsvergessenheit holds sway, for instance, the mystery *cannot be thought from itself*, and the thinker is powerless from himself alone to open the space in which it may be so thought"

I will here permit myself the license to tear this quote from its context in order to consider it solely as an indication of the nexus of a peculiar seynsgeschichtlich ambiguity: the time during  which seinsvergessenheit holds sway can be said in more than one way. 

On the one hand,  there is an extensive sense of the time of seinsvergessenheit. The extensive time of seinsvergessenheit is the time that began with the "first beginning," i.e. the time which began with Greek thinking --a beginning of Western thought which also eventually buried the hidden possibility of that same thinking. In this sense, seinsvergessenheit has (increasingly) reigned as long as metaphysics has actually existed. According to this sense, the "mystery," as Still says,  "cannot be thought from out of itself," insofar as it is epochally withheld in order to provide the ages of Western history -- the ages which metaphysics each time grounds for a while. 

On the other hand, there is an intensive sense of the time of seinsvergessenheit. In this sense, the time of seinsvergessenheit is only the present age, the age, that is, where metaphysics consummates what has always been most distinctive of it, namely how Being withholds itself from metaphysics. In this case, the time of seinsvergessenheit is the dissipation of actual metaphysics into the various fields of the sciences, as the latter is ordered in advance into the constellations of technology, the invisible center of whose gathering is Das Gestell. But in this case, if seinsvergessenheit actually comes about through the actual loss of metaphysics in the present age of technology, then it is precisely at this time of the present age that the mystery may yet be thought from out of itself. That is to say, only now, in the reigning of seinsvergessenheit, is the possibility granted to think Being differently than metaphysics was ever eventually able to. Seinsvergessenheit thus becomes the mystery first giving itself to thought, namely in the offering of nothing ---but concealment. And this concealment is none other than the concealment of Being itself (Seyn). This is why Heidegger speaks of technology's essence as a Janus-Head: the sending of Sein as Nothing (seinsvergessenheit) is the giving of the refusal of Seyn. No longer an understanding of Being (Sein) but Being itself (Seyn) is finally given --given as the unthought. Seinsvergessenheit is yet to be thought as Seynsvergessenheit. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Teleology in Reverse Part 2: Revisiting Scholastic Idea-logy with Heidegger

Just Thomism has offered a succinct sketch of one possible Scholastic objection to Aristotle's claim that the middle term of a syllogism in scientific demonstration offers fundamental causal knowledge of the truth of that syllogism:
To know what is first requires knowing its ratio or logos.
The ratio or logos of anything is what an infinite mind intended it to be.
The human mind can only understand the intention of an infinite mind by a multitude of finite ideas it cannot reduce.

This is a fascinating objection to me, since it seems to espouse a very peculiar sort of idealism over naive realism (insofar as the latter fittingly names the direction of knowing toward “what is”). The primacy of “ratio or logos” in the knowledge of what is (“to know what is first requires knowing its ratio or logos”) means the privileging of the intentionality of infinite mind over Being, at least in terms of our finite conception. This is initially interesting simply with regard to whether and how this "scholastic" objection is compatible with Aquinas:

1.) How does this square with Aquinas’s claim that the first thing that falls into the intellect is what is, i.e. ens (Ita quod primo cadit in intellectu ens).
2.) How this can be reconciled with the primacy of the transcendental of Being over that of Truth.

It is further of interest to me because the claim that a logos precedes the comportment toward “what is” could also be considered to be Heidegger’s claim. How so?   By understanding that this logos is a seinsverstaendnis, whose wherein (worin) is Welt. Such a logos  would accordingly be the a priori condition for the possibility of encountering what is, i.e. any being (ens, seiend). But Heidegger subtly escapes any form of idealism such a logical precedent would imply by further insisting on the ontological difference --i.e. that what is can mean "a being" only if it already has an other meaning, and that Being makes possible both a being and the understanding of Being. Thus the logos that enables knowledge of what-is (seiend) hides within it a sense of what-is (Sein) that is not brought to light by the logos save as that which conceals itself in logos as what is unthought, indeed as what precedes thought. It is this precedence of what is unthought in the ontological difference that requires Heidegger to return to the Greek thought of τέλος and interpret it differently than the scholastic interpretation of "aim" or "goal" or "intention" (an interpretation which, as I have discussed elsewhere, is led by the Vorgriff of Mind as the ground of Being). This is a fundamental problem which provides Heidegger's rereading of τέλος the justification of its hermeneutic: the Greek meaning of τέλος, because it belongs to the first inquiry into Being, necessarily escapes us. However, and here is the crucial insight: precisely this is the Greek meaning of τέλος. In other words,τέλος, as opposed to the later causa finalis, does not refer to what presupposes mind but what is presupposed by mind, namely Sein as the unthought meaning of what is. This is why Heidegger translates τέλος as that which "circumscribes the bounds" in terms of which something "begins to be what, after production, it will be". τέλος so translated now names the beginning which precedes the thing whose own beginning it is. τέλος destines something, from a long time before, to a teleology in reverse, one for which Heidegger has also reserved the name Seynsgeschichte.      

Monday, June 10, 2013

Get Back In your Cave!: Bloom and Heidegger on the Question of Historical Freedom

The Whirlpool's Rim regularly posts such thoughtful things that I want to respond to but almost never actually do, so I don't want to pass the opportunity up yet again when Tony writes: 
I don't wish to derail the discussion of inauthenticity at Seynsgeschichte, but I wonder how Bloom's view of the value of "the experience of living in Plato's Cave" -- that is, of having lived within a defined cultural tradition -- differs from Heidegger's view of the presupposition of gerede and of the inauthentic as harbor of and "condition of possibility" for the authentic. Is it necessary, in the end, to leave the "vagaries of history" behind?
Eliot's Four Quartets instructs us or assures us or dissuades us with the following: "Only through time/Time is conquered"...and, again,: "History may be servitude/History may be freedom"

I think we may profit by wresting these lines in the direction of Heidegger's thought of history...that is, history as of Beyng. Let us employ the distinction often employed in discussions like those of the meaning of categories liberal and conservative, or those which invoke Burke to describe a proper relation to tradition. That distinction would be the one also used by Berlin in his essays on the topic...namely the distinction between negative and positive freedom. The claim from Deneen to which Tony refers above is that, on the level of "the vagaries of history," that is, the level of things inherited or inheritable as opposed to, say, 'ahistorical transcendentals' (e.g. the Straussian concept of Natural right or, at least, the foundations of this concept), Bloom's admiration of positive freedom was superficial and utilitarian. If historical positive freedom, in the sense of having a (respectable, genuine) cave, is to be lauded, it is only because it offers the opportunity of a higher form of negative historical freedom, that is, of a philosophic escape from one's cave --an escape also from history itself. This may or may not be a fair characterization of Bloom's position, but it does seem to resonate with my reading of his Closing. In fact, Closing  can be seen as a whole to be a long argument for the need for Western tradition to be upheld --and to be upheld for the sake of an eventual philosophic liberation from the bondage of tradition. As an aside I must say Deneen is flat out wrong, however, if he indeed (as it seems prima facie he does) conflates Bloom's contempt for a fraudulent notion of "muliculturalism" with a very different contempt for culture in general, which I, for one, do not see Bloom possessing. So-called multiculturalism and the self-defeating celebration of diversity which annihilates appreciation for real difference, Bloom rightly dealt with in a Nietzschean spirit as a thin rainbow sheet loosely covering a stinking carcass of nihilism and consummate cultural oblivion.
But however much credence we can lend to Deneen's characterization of Bloom's liberalism, there can be no doubt that it is at variance with Heidegger, who is often politically pegged as a conservative or by some of his not so secret unadmirers, a fascist. But the difference here is thoughtlessly missed if we stick to these unhelpful and nearly (I do not say "completely") meaningless categories. I would prefer to construe it with the help of another pair of problematic, though less problematic in my mind, categories, namely "negative and positive freedom". Like Eliot's lines above suggest, Heidegger does not see tradition as either a cave of bondage or a springboard for philosophic assent. For Heidegger and Eliot, tradition blindly masters us for better or worse at first, but --and here is the crucial point--it is that same tradition which is to be made the "object" of our positive freedom. Tradition not only must be labored for to be properly inherited --it is itself worth the labor. The ground and source of tradition is the only place where true freedom is to be achieved. History, properly understood, is transcendental and its bond can never be broken, only modified. In this modification, to which I recently referred  in an enjoyable discussion of Sein und Zeit with Jeremiah, as an "existentiell modification of the the existential of inauthenticty", real recovery of the forgetful condition of human existence is made possible ---and it is made possible precisely and only by a posture of anticipating, i.e. by an historical posture. Speaking modally, then, it is really (i.e. in an ontic site) made possible, but is not yet actual. Because of the non-actuality of this reality (a reality which the early Heidegger, still speaking in the tongue of Lebensphilosophie, would call the true and genuine scientific life, a life sprung from a science capable of recovering and returning to life instead of forgetting and objectifying it, a mature living possession of science), Heidegger's freedom cannot be called positive, but it is certainly even further away from the Enlightenment's exhalted "virtue" of negative freedom.  History and forgetfulness are necessary not only to the obfuscation of truth but for the achievement of truth. Nor are they an instrument for its achievement. They are inherent to its finite possession. Indeed, history is the truth in the sense the truth, in being true, historizes; truth is eventual. Inheriting is built into the very structure of truth. In this way, finitude is not simply man's. It belongs more primordially to truth ---to the way truth ITSELF withdraws, that is, withdraws itself.
       Bloom, like Strauss, seems only to have seen Heidegger in opposition to his own idea of a strictly negative historical freedom. Heidegger is, for him, a relativist of the most brilliant sort, or more precisely, Heidegger is an historicist, albeit one of top philosophic caliber. this is because Bloom sees Heidegger promoting and amplifying the Nietzschean mantra of "commitment" and decisionism --i.e. of willing the historical situation to which one has been fated and of considering all truth to be found in this will, and thus to be entirely historically enclosed or "horizonal." But, as I have had pause to remark before, Heidegger does not say this. If, in Sein und Zeit, he thinks of time as "the transcendental horizon for any possible understanding of Being", this is not because Heidegger thinks truth is a function of historical trend. Rather Heidegger is thinking of time and history differently --not as either a flux or a succession of moments (or ages). but rather as concealments of Being itself. Time gives an understanding of Being (Sein) but Being itself, i.e. Seyn as Ereignis, gives time by giving it itself. There is time only by virtue of the granting of Beyng itself. History is of Beyng. Authentic "positive freedom" lies not in willing one's current historical understanding but in binding oneself to what has already in advance given or made possible the understanding of an age...and that is something which such an understanding initially hides or conceals. To simply will one's historical situation is to misunderstand it. Nietzsche's perspectivism prioritizes history over truth. Heidegger, by contrast sees history as a path to truth, but unlike Bloom he also thinks this path to be part of the truth. To discard it as an instrument would be to discard the truth which we are seeking to reach by its means. The only other thinker who can claim this of history is Hegel, but, as I have discussed elsewhere, he does so in a manner violently opposed to Heidegger.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Inauthentic Authenticity: The Problem of Inheriting the Concept

We stumble upon a situation of remarkable irony when we realize that there is perhaps no concept in the Heideggerian corpus more improperly inherited than that of eigentlichkeit, or, as it has been most commonly inherited in English thought, authenticity. Ironic --and, when understood as an indication of an historical condition unique to the present age, ominous. This irony is prima facie not entirely lost on Stuart Shneiderman, who remarks on its historical significance, observing: 
In the age of authenticity more people aspire to authenticity than know what it is. But, we have it on the authority of no less a philosopher than Martin Heidegger, the godfather of authenticity, that small talk or idle chatter (gerede) is bad.
Heidegger extended the category of idle chatter to any use of language that is formulaic, that repeats commonly accepted wisdom and that expresses what everyone thinks, rather than what I think. Authentic speech, in Heidegger’s philosophy, wells up from the depths of your soul. It is original and personal and unique to you. It might involve your latest research into Western metaphysics; it might express your sentiments about the state of German politics in 1933.
There may be good reasons for calling ours "the age of authenticity," or, better, the age where an historical decision gets forced upon human beings regarding whether and how they can any longer be authentic, but as Shneiderman goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that his own rough account of the question of authenticity is itself an instance of a rather common, public acceptance of the term --an instance, that is, which is at variance with Heidegger's own nuanced use of it. Shneiderman has merely taken over this common notion of authenticity without first putting the very term itself up for question. His use of "authenticity" is as unexamined as it is inauthentic. To see why one need merely to return to Heidegger's own use of the term, since, by Shneiderman's own admission, Heidegger is none other than the "godfather of authenticity" (a rather hilarious title). And what is it that marks Heidegger's understanding of "authenticity" as a unique understanding? What is it that makes the meaning  Heidegger imparts to the words so distinctively...Heideggerian? Is it so obviously true that, for Martin Heidegger, "small talk or idle chatter (gerede) is bad." Not at all. Though this misunderstanding is persistent and widespread, the Heidegger of Sein und Zeit is emphatically clear on this, in a move that makes his understanding of authenticity uniquely his own: authenticity is a mere "existentiell modfication" of inauthenticity; the latter is presupposed by the former. That is to say, not only does "gerede" as a devolution or falling away from the more original "rede," but also "eigentlich rede," such as the eventual discourses of philosophy, poetry, the State, etc. has its origins in "Alltäglichkeit" ---and that means in a domain where the everyday "connection-making small talk" called gerede has its home. Thus when you write that Heidegger claims authentic speech "wells up from the depths of your soul" you misconstrue his unique insight. In fact, Heidegger goes so far as to say that there is no "your" in "your soul" unless it is first wrested from "Their" or "One's" soul or understanding (Das Man). To miss this is to miss the entire raison d'etre for the second division of SZ's prospectus, namely, the "Destruktion" of the history of ontology, in which the so-called "primordial understanding of Being" is to be retrieved precisely from those now formulaic traditional ontological assertions. The inauthentic harbors the authentic and is its condition of possibility. Recognizing the necessity and even worth of inauthenticity is not as un-philosophic a gesture as Shneiderman's amusing piece would have its readers believe, Indeed, it is, for Heidegger, the only way something that was once called philosophy can be done in the present age; the thought of Being is essentially historical, if by historical we mean inherited and not, therefore, initially owned up to. It presupposes a condition of historical irresponsibility. Shneiderman ends his piece offering the following advice:"The next time a Pied Piper comes along to suggest that you give up schmoozing in the name of authenticity, think twice before going along." But "thinking twice" is precisely what distinguishes the authentic from the inauthentic. By the same token, one wouldn't have the opportunity to "think twice" without encountering the received (inauthentic) wisdom (e.g. "inauthenticity is bad") of some pied piper. The matter is thus a complicated one and it indicates a unique historical danger in the present age. And it was Heidegger who first of all, in a dangerous move which threatened to eclipse itself simply by being communicated, so powerfully drew attention to this.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Heidegger's "Teleology in Reverse" Part I: Intentionality and Scholastic Idea-logy

Gadamer once made the pedagogical gesture of characterizing the historical dimension of Heidegger's thought as a "teleology in reverse". Like all such gestures, this one carries with it the self-conscious necessity of distorting the matter to which it is supposed to lead. With Gadamer's characterization we are invited to glimpse how deliberately different Heidegger is from Hegel, but it takes only  the brief moment of focusing in on what we have glimpsed to lose what is really being gestured toward; if we pin Gadamer's words down to a formulation and lose the subtlety of its intentional evanescence, then it quickly becomes clear that the reversal of which it speaks is futile, or as Heidegger so famously wrote of Sartre in his letter to Jean Beaufret, "the inversion of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement". But how can we receive and preserve the intended benefit of Gadamer's gesture? We must follow where it points, i.e. to what is intended in "a teleology". And since it points to "a teleology in reverse", we must ask not about any end of teleology, as if the historical dimension of thinking could be characterized as a history of thought that culminated in the thought of its own teleologically achieved end. No, this teleology has a twist. It's order and movement is attracted by the force of something different--precisely, it is teleology reversed, a teleology belonging to the beginning. The question therefore presses upon us as to just how this teleology may affect the way we must think of it. In other words, there arises the question of how the Greek τέλος is to be understood at all. Consider the following typical remark made by Heidegger in one of his retrievals of Aristotle’s four causes:
“But there remains yet a third that is above all responsible for the sacrificial vessel. It is that which in advance confines the chalice within the realm of consecration and bestowal. Through this the chalice is circumscribed as sacrificial vessel. Circum-scribing gives bounds to the thing. With the bounds the thing does not stop; rather from out of them it begins to be what, after production, it will be. That which gives bounds, that which completes, in this sense is called in Greek telos, which is all too often translated as “aim” or “purpose’ and so misinterpreted.The telos is responsible for what as matter and for what as aspect are together co-responsible for the sacrificial vessel. ”
The Greek τέλος, Heidegger forewarns, must not be misinterpreted as “aim or purpose.” When we so misinterpret it, τέλος is an idea, that is to say a being of intentionality, a being referring to but lacking substance. Such an idea, as an intentional being, can also be thought of in a more substantive sense, namely, as a thing’s “nature,” e.g. the nature of things as the target aimed for in their development, the perfect species to which each individual thing strives –or in other words, the scholastic “Ideas in the Divine Mind.” Even so considered, these Ideas are in an interesting way properly intentional, not only because real individuals strive toward them (as in the way the form or outward look of a Greek statue gives us the enbodied form of man, of the "ideal" man ---of what Rainscape has, in talking about Achilles' heroic drive, insightfully called  the "drive to be beautifully, to fill out the limits of his form"), but also because, as Aquinas would have it, essentia is potentia to esse as the actus essendi. The primacy of esse over the Ideas unto and through which it is conferred allows those Ideas to still hold the trace of τέλος as “aim or purpose” which Heidegger wishes to avoid.This can be brought to greater schematic clarity in terms of a threefold concept of intentionality. When τέλος is thought as aim it is understood as a “possible” which may be perfected, that is, which may be actualized. This is true of the explicitly intentional aims of men (ideas of intention), the implicitly intentional aims of all natural beings (“drives” and natural movements or tendencies), and even those divine Ideas which serve to give the former (ideas of intention, drives) their teleological ground, in so far as even these divine Ideas are, if not possible, then yet potentia to the act of existence (they are, as it were, intended-to-be in a preeminent sense. The marks of this interpretation of τέλος may be summed up thusly: A.)τέλος as aim presupposes the priority of actuality over potentiality, and B.)τέλος as aim requires the grounding of mind, i.e. the aspiring intentionality of the human subject or the creative intentionality of the divine subject (the implicit intentionality of nature being grounded by both subjects, since aspiring intentionality is in some measure endowed with freedom). 
        It is with respect to the peculiar problem of  divine intentionality that the author of Just Thomism recalls a debate between the Averroists and Aquinas:
The Averroists, following a very probable reading of Aristotle, argued that God could not know anything other than himself – and certainly could not know individual things. Both arguments appeal to the idea that because God is the most excellent object of thought, he would only think of himself, and so would not have the diversity of rationes of created things in his mind.  St. Thomas, on the other hand, not only argued for a multiplicity of ideas of created intelligible natures in the divine mind, he claimed that these divine ideas reached even to the very concretion of the particular things.
 What is here carefully called "a very probable reading of Aristotle" may also be taken to stress the powerful discrepancy of Aquinas's reinterpretation --a reinterpretation which is among other things concerned with saving the worth, so to speak, of what is individuated, regardless of the sphere or gradation of existence that it enjoys. The Thomist reinterpretation, while countering a "very probable reading or Aristotle," raises many scholastic questions regarding its own reading. How, for instance, does the 'presence' of these Ideas in the divine mind not infringe upon the necessity of god being perfect esse, that is, pure act? One way to obviate the difficulty is to understand the divine Ideas as much different than the alleged divine intentionality I have somewhat crudely characterized above --a route that Just Thomism's author seems to advise: 
Thus the ideas or intelligible natures of things, which are similitudes of things in the mind of God, are most perfectly the similitudes of things not only because the knowledge of God is unable to err or be ignorant, but also because the divine mode of knowing, in a way that infinitely transcends the human intellectual power, can attain to a positive, intellectual apprehension of the concrete particular. The idea of a self within the divine mind is not an abstraction, a generalization, or an inadequate, subordinate representation of the concrete reality. It would not be going to far to say that, in a way that is comparable to how God can be said to be more present to the creature than the creature is to itself, so too the self – the that is me in the concrete existential situation of my life – more exists in the divine mind than it does in itself. 
The solution seems to have many interesting aspects --not the least of which is a metaphysico-theological account of the peculiar phenomenon that Heideggger himself made central to his preparatory Dasein Analytik, namely, that we precede our very own selves from the beginning -- a phenomenon not unrelated to what is being indicated in "a teleology in reverse." But this enticing aspect must also be confronted with other aspects of Thomistic thought that seem to temper it or even contradict it. For instance, if it is correct to affirm that the doctrine of the primacy of esse is distinctively Thomistic or, at least, that it lies at the center of Thomistic metaphysics, then it would seem difficult to simultaneously affirm that the divine Ideas actually exist more perfectly than those actual things of which they are Ideas. The difficulty lies in the relation between esse and essentia; if the former is always the act of the latter, god would have to actually create a second (or first) even more perfect totality of beings. The Divine Ideas would be a quasi-alternate universe. Not only would all-that-is be created through them by the conferring of esse; they would also, problematically, be more than a principle of creation: they would be anotherseparate creation. Even the separate substances would not just be essentia and esse, since there would have to actually exist a more perfect divine Idea which created them. And again, if this more perfect Idea existed, it would, as an ens, have to be other than god. One might even say that with this othering, yet another Idea mediating the creation of a divine Idea would be necessary ---ad infinitum. Of course, Aquinas, simply being a thinker of such a stature as he is, would not likely have maintained any position that held such implications. But I honestly don't know how he maintained a  multiplicity of actually existent divine Ideas in the mind of a god himself characterized by perfect act (comments emphatically welcome). My own initial inclination (and I admittedly have not done my homework on this debate with the Averroists) is to think of the scholastic concept of divine knowledge along lines not too different from the manner in which Kant inherited the problem in his concept of intuitis originalis, as it is distinguished from intuitis derivativus (and of course I am entirely bracketing the very different way Kant made use of this distinction). In other words, god's knowledge of a thing effects its existence, or, put another way, the existent thing (ens) is per se the object of god's knowledge. In this case, however, if we further posit Ideas in the mind of god, then they cannot exist ---rather god's Idea is the existing thing. And this returns me back to my rough notion of the divine intention as an instance of τέλος as aim.
         If through scholasticism the primary sense of τέλος first becomes definitively grounded in Mind, then this tendency becomes radicalized in modernity, especially in its most extreme and self-mirroring version in Hegel. It is this version that Heidegger is predominantly invested in freeing thought from.  Hegel is the most extreme representative of this interpretation of τέλος, since he proposes that all three different intentionalities (the implicit intention of nature, the explicit intention of finite mind, and the creative intention of divine Mind) are themselves teleologically directed to the insight that they are in actuality only one intentionality, one subjectivity or Mind comprehended in its own Concept. Importantly, for Hegel, this actual unity of the different intentionalities is not simply the case, but must be teleologically achieved, i.e. brought from the potentiality of an abstract Idea to the actuality of a concrete Concept --a Concept which grasps precisely the teleological necessity of this achievement.  


Monday, December 17, 2012

Epistemology and Logic (Part Three): On the Derivation of Propadeutic Logic

Logic is at once self-reflexive art and it is propadeutic to science. It is self-reflexive art because the direction which this art gives is meta-direction --that is, logic is the art of the direction of that which directs all arts (including logic). If meta-direction accounts for the manner in which logic relates to all possible art, then its relation to all possible science is accounted for by its being a propadeutic. It is a propadeutic because it is reason's knowledge of itself, but only at the level of an art and not yet a science, since, for Aristotle, the causes of reason lie outside of reasoning, in the matter (τὸ ὄν)  being reasoned about.
        This double orientation of logic gives it, as an art, a twofold uniqueness. Because logic is meta-directively oriented toward art, the formulation of its rules happens in the same medium as does the appropriation of that unarticulated domain (from out of which  those rules are derived), namely rational speech, λόγος. No other art can be acquired from out of the same domain as its rules can be expressed. On other hand, because of its orientation to science, namely, as a propadeutic, logic is the only art that is supposed to expressly offer its rules as a part of its art; it passes on a set of criteria by which the sciences can secure the correctness of their inquiry. But this security that logic as a propadeutic is supposed to offer, raises questions about the security required by logic itself. The rules for the metadirection of logic must themselves be derived correctly. But how is this to be accomplished? It would seem prima facie that one would need an infinite set of rule books for the derivation of rules. And of course this, as a reductio ad infinitum, reduces to the logically absurd. And yet for all these meddlesome considerations, logic gets underway and establishes itself through the truth of its practice. We could ask, in good Kantian fashion: granted that logic actually establishes itself, how is this achievement possible? Not only can we ask this question; we must ask it, if, that is, logic is properly characterized as a propadeutic to scientific endeavor. What causes the apparent problem of logical derivation? In coming to a reductio ad infinitum we might consider that our own rule-oriented approach has been misguided from the outset, as it were. It may even be that this misguidance is not to be understood only as an error, but also as a clue --a pitfall that may yet harbor the possbility of truth on the matter its seems to deviate from. But however the case, everything depends on this (and here we echo Hegel's words from part one of these posts): that we recognize the impossibility and even undesirability of establishing yet another meta-direction to avoid initial misdirection.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Epistemology, Logic, and their self-limitations (Part Two)

       Logic is not for Aristotle, as it is for the Stoics, a science, an ἐπιστήμη λογική. In fact, the very word for the discipline of logic, λογική, does not appear once in the entirety of Aristotle's corpus. What Alexander of Aphrodisias would later, while commenting on the Prior Analytics, refer to as λογική, is for Aristotle the Ὄργανον --the organ or instrument. As such its employment is not an ἐπιστήμη --rather, it is a τεχνή, an art. But it is not only an art. Logic enjoys, according to the tradition, the esteem of being called the art of arts, a title it shares with only one other art, namely, the art of the ordering of the πόλις, politics. For indeed, if all arts are learned, they are a kind of knowledge and are therefore ultimately acquired and perfected under the direction of reason, but the art of logic is most exceptional in this respect; it is an art not only directed by, but directing of, reason. If, then, we envision reason, or more precisely λόγος, as the director of all the arts, logic must be considered the director of the director. But once we characterize logic in this twofold sense of being most generally, an art and, more specifically, an art of arts, we are confronted with an inherent problem in the determination of this peculiar art.
        The initial glimpse of this problem may be had by simply comparing logic's status as an art to its epistemic role as a propadeutic. Logic can not be science because it does not know the cause of its subject matter. The question that seems to press forward is: how can Aristotle allow his entire edifice of epistemic pursuit to be built on a cornerstone that is not epistemic and ignorant of its causes? After all, Physics, for example, may be based on something entirely lower than science, namely ἐμπειρία, or the knowledge that something happens under certain conditions, but Physics also grounds this basis, since it is knowledge of why these same things happen. Logic, however, is art, and is therefore beneath ἐπιστήμη. How can the former be something upon which the latter is dependent? But this question already contains its own answer. Art is neither knowledge-that nor knowledge-why, but knowledge-how. As an art, logic shows us how to reason, but it does not show us why this is the case. Thus the logic is, like experience of nature, a basis which  is grounded by that for which it is a basis; the categories are metaphysical before they are logical, the principle of non-contradiction is a principle of Being before it is a principle of the truth of predication. Thus the initial glimpse of the problem turns out to be only a glimpse of a pseudo problem; even the discovery of logic is no real mystery: its principles come to light merely as the principles of how we think, just as the builder's knowledge of angles is merely the knowledge of how to build stable structures. And if the causes of the builder's art are known by the physicist and geometer, the causes of the logicians art are known by the metaphysician --but this does not in any way alter the truth of what the builder or logician know; the rules of building or thinking remain the same despite the state of our knowledge of their causes. Hegel's objection made against a critical or preliminary epistemology that is motivated by practical concerns for the securing of scientific success seems to have lost all its footing if it is made to stand against the division of Aristotelian logic.
          And yet despite the tidiness of this reasonable resolution, there remains something problematic: 'rules' are known in a very different way then they are appropriated. One may know the rules of an art through and through and yet fail as an artisan. When one is apprentice to a master, presumably he does not simply learn the rules of a craft, and indeed, he may not ever learn them as rules at all. But the good apprentice must reside in the locale of his master and keep an intimate proximity to him. He is not told what the master knows, but must rather discover for himself what the master has discovered for himself --and for this reason the apprentice must enter into the region and the 'workshop' of another and make it his own. This appropriation happens not as a focusing on the master, but as a focusing upon what he is focusing on. Such a thing may later be talked about with varying degrees of accuracy, but it is only encountered for the artisan in the not yet articulate world of his craft; in the smithy of the blacksmith, the kitchen of the chef, the studio of the painter, the stable and fields of the horseback rider. It is only from this inarticulate domain of appropriation that rules are later derived. In each case the art is appropriated, but it is known in terms of rules in a much different manner --and for reasons other than for simply performing the art.
         Here, however, we return to a new dimension of the problem. If logic is an art then its discovery is subject to the distinction between appropriation from out of a domain of mastery and rule-formulation. But logic is, as has been said, not just an art. It is the art of arts. Where is its smithy, kitchen, studio, or stable? Each domain belongs to a single art, but logic is art which directs that very thing (λόγος) which directs these arts. How then is logic appropriated? Can its appropriation take place apart from a discourse of its rules?