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? 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Epistemology? What about Logic? A (Self-) Reflection on the Limits of the Self-Reflexivity of Knowledge (Part One)

Recently, a brief argument was made (though perhaps only indirectly as fodder for dialectic) in support of the legitimacy of epistemology insofar as it is understood as being "motivated by a practical concern for actually having knowledge." Such an epistemology, the claim continues, "is prerequisite to the sure success of metaphysics itself." The practice of critique (and the primacy of the practical domain that it implies), the concern for actual possession of knowledge, and, of course, the demand that metaphysics be successful, are all, even if they may also be other things, unmistakably Kantian (see here for a few volleys regarding just these points in their connection to the central contention of Kant's first Kritik). Anticipating his sweeping critique and simultaneous justification of skepticism in his Phenomenology, Hegel's response to this sort of deference to critique/epistemological propadeutic, found in his famous Introduction to that opus, is among the most succinct formulations of a powerful counter-thrust to this epistemological tendency:
Meanwhile, if the fear of falling into error introduces an element of distrust into science, which without any scruples of that sort goes to work and actually does know, it is not easy to understand why, conversely, a distrust should not be placed in this very distrust, and why we should not take care lest the fear of error is not just the initial error. As a matter of fact, this fear presupposes something, indeed a great deal, as truth, and supports its scruples and consequences on what should itself be examined beforehand to see whether it is truth. It starts with ideas of knowledge as an instrument, and as a medium; and presupposes a distinction of ourselves from this knowledge...
 The practically motivated epistemology that sets for itself the goal of establishing those things that would be a prerequisite to the "success" of the first science, namely metaphysics, is itself, in Hegel's estimation, indebted to a presupposed understanding of knowledge as "an instrument, and as a medium" --hence the need to learn how to direct it which this proposed epistemology would satisfy. But the instrumental function of knowledge is indebted to a much older thinking which, perhaps ironically, has no place for epistemology. This older thinking is the thinking of that ancient founder of Logic, Aristotle. That consideration capable of considering knowledge apart from its objects, and thereby capable of directing scientific pursuit as a propadeutic to the latter which could ensure its correctness, is to be found in those books which Aristotle called the Organon, the instrument. But what of this understanding of logic as a propadeutic, as an art, and as the directions for right reasoning? How does it fare against Hegel's critique? Does his critique not penetrate even beyond Kant and into his greatest intellectual fore-father(s)?     

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dialectic and Difference: Notes on the Non-Identity of Being and Nothing

Our last post tried to touch upon the seynsgechichtlich meaning of a statement that Heidegger first makes in his well-known 1929 address Was ist Metaphysik?. Roughly, the statement runs as follows: Being and Nothing are indeed not identical, yet they are the same. In the immediate context of this assertion as it is found in Was ist Metaphysik? there is passing reference made to that thinker with whom Heidegger seems, from his dissertation of 1915 to his last public lecture of 1962, to find the most vigorous point of contention, namely Hegel. And this is no accident. It hardly seems an exaggeration to say there are, at bottom, two ways of hearing this statement, and depending on this alone you are either Hegelian or Heideggerian.

Being and Nothing are indeed not identical, yet they are the same.

Everything is concentrated in what is meant by the negativity of this "not" --it is the fulcrum on which the meaning of the sentence swings. What possibility is harbored in this non-identity, such that it can allow Heidegger to speak in accord with Hegel against Hegel? In what follows I will permit myself some rough notes seeking to indicate an answer.

The non-identity of Being and Nothing could, for Hegel, be explained as the dialectical necessity that Being and Nothing, as prior moments of the Concept of Becoming, remain distinct moments. This distinction of identity must be maintained because otherwise Being and Nothing would, as it were, already be becoming; they would negate the very need for a development, they would negate the possibility of the Concept of Becoming --and along with this negation also the very possibility of their ever being the same in and as this Concept. Conversely, the sameness of Being and Nothing consists in that sublation which alone would preserve and ensure with unshakable necessity their non-identity. As it resounds in Hegel's ear, then, the statement "Being and Nothing are indeed not identical, yet they are the same" is a statement stressing the tension between the non-identity of what is dialectically undeveloped with the sublative, reconciliatory sameness in which dialectical development results. The savory paradox of this statement that can only be lost sight of at the expense of its entire meaning is that the union of the sameness of which it speaks not only reconciles but necessitates the (previous) non-identity of Being and Nothing. In short, "the same" names an "identity-in-difference" which justifies the difference between Being and Nothing just as it is presupposed (in kernel form, as it were) by this difference.

But if this statement about Being and Nothing can be made to speak the language of dialectic, how can it speak differently? How does it resound in the famous "ear of Heidegger"?

Being and Nothing are indeed not identical, yet they are the same.

For Heidegger the negativity of this non-identity must be understood in light of two extreme possibilities. The first of these, the first negativity, is that of Das Nichts. As I tried to emphasize in the last post, we are not 'done' thinking this Nothing when we think it as that which, though a constant companion of beings as a whole as such, rarely discloses itself in the welling up of anxiety. Not only through the various stimmungen of Dasein's Befindlichkeit  but far more primordially through the historical grantings of Being does the Nothing nichtet: the Nothing is the epocally destined granting of refusal which enables Being as Gestell. Thus we may say that Nothing, thought Beyng-historically, is the consummate withdrawal of Being (Sein). Because it is consummate, this withdrawal (which is in truth the source of history's epochality) itself withdraws into complete concealment; the ages come to an end. It is this negativity of the ending of the epochs of Being, which Heidegger elsewhere calls simply "oblivion", which marks the essence of the Nothing, In interpretting our statement then, the question of Heideggerian non-identity is a question of how this negativity differs from Being (Seyn) itself. But this question also contains another, namely, what negativity is at work in this difference.

If the Nothing is to be thought of in terms of a consummate withdrawal of Being, then a fortiori Being must be thought of in terms of a withdrawal, namely, its own (eigen). The first negativity has its secret wellspring in an other negativity. Being is that which is not, nor could ever be, a being, it is that which differentiates itself from all beings, it is that which withdraws from beings --indeed, withdraws from them so that they can  be beings for a while (jeweilen). This means that neither Being nor Nothing is to be thought save in this withdrawal. Nothing must be thought in the withdrawal of Being; Being must be thought in the withdrawal of It Itself, i.e. Ereignis. Only according to this withdrawal of Being itself (Seyn) is it possible and necessary that the non-identity of Being and Nothing be maintained --a terrible and overburdening task of maintenance to which our essence has been fatefully assigned, as is revealed in the present age of technology.

 Being and Nothing are indeed not identical, yet they are the same.

Interpreting the statement now, the non-identity of Being and Nothing belongs to the non-identity of Being itself. This non-identity proves to be too excessive to offer the stability of a stage upon which to prop the sublation of dialectic. If for Hegel, the sameness of Being and Nothing is in dialectical tension with their non-identity, things are even more paradoxical for Heidegger: the non-identity of Being itself, a negativity which we now understand as withdrawal, marks that separation between Being as such and Being itself whereby the negativity of the Nothing is made possible. The non-identity of Being is the source of its sameness with Nothing.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Das Selbe: A Seynsgeschichtlich Definition

Heidegger has always sought to properly avoid (vermeiden) the ensarements of Hegel's historical thinking, and for just this reason Heidegger's thought regarding history, from Destruktion to Seynsgeschichte,  has always respected Hegel's acknowledgment of the necessity that anyone asking the question of the meaning of history be beset from the outset with the immanent criticism of his own historical predjudices at work in the posing of this question. In short, Hegel's Universal History was the first to carry itself out in constant awareness of this limit, and Heidegger's Seynsgeschichte does not fall prey to some retrogressive naivete regarding the matter. Thinking regarding history must be historically situated; one cannot consider history save from within history ---nor is it, according to both thinkers and for drastically different reasons, desirable to even try to do so.

Keeping this necessity of immanent criticism in mind then, I would like to refine one of my own previous considerations of a crucial aspect of Seynsgeschichte that I articulated more than a year ago in a great discussion here. The aspect under consideration is Das Selbe. Previously I had tried to give a formal sketch of Das Selbe --an attempt destined for a certain kind of failure. But now I would like to offer a step toward a more concrete consideration of Das Selbe. Previously, I had offered the following gloss:

The Same is the name for Being as it has been granted throughout each epoch. But each epoch understands Being differently. The Same, therefore, does not designate an identity among epochal sendings of Being, nor does it designate another underlying thing (subjectum) in terms of which the unity of the epochs can be thought. Rather the Same designates that in terms of which each epoch may be called an epoch, or in other words, that in terms of which each epoch differs from the other yet remains epochal. What is this? It is the ἐποχή, that is, the withholding of the beginning which is proper to the beginning, and which destines in advance all possible epochs. The identical requires the present. The Same, unlike the identical, is that which cannot any longer be grasped now, in the present age, but rather lies in our future as the beginning. The Same is thus the still unthought jointure in terms of which the epochs are related. It is therefore a unity that can account for the plurality without reducing it to some one present thing. The attempt to say the Same explicitly must accordingly necessarily diversify itself.

I do not quote myself to be redundantly self-approving, but to point out an inherent shortcoming of this previous characterization. What the above sketch misses is the requirement that, if das Selbe is to be thought appropriately, it must be thought from out of the current age --and when we do this we avoid the tendency to think of it emptily in a mere formal logical fashion. Das Selbe is now --that is to say in the present age, the non-identical unity of Sein and Nichts. This very timely definition must be understood in terms of a state of affairs that has persisted, as it were, throughout Beyng's history, namely, that what das Selbe designates is that which has, up to the present time, always referred to both "Being as such" (i.e. that Sein which is understood in a seinsverstaendnisand "Beyng itself" (that which is not yet understood in and as "Being as such"). In fact, it refers more precisely to this "and", their very conjunction. What sort of conjunction is this? When we speak in terms of beings, "the same" almost always designates a relation between two things. By contrast, when we speak in terms of Being, "the same" refers to a difference within Being itself, namely, the difference opened up by Being sending itself.

If it is true that to speak of Das Selbe in the current age is to speak of the dangerous coincidence of Sein and Nichts, then this is so only because the present understanding of Being has been given Nothing to understand. In keeping with the duality that results from the opening between Being as such and Beyng itself we must hear this last assertion in the full range of its ambiguity.

"The present understanding of Being has been given Nothing..." 

This means first the present age has been refused a grant of Being which would enable a succeeding epoch to subsequently take its place. Because the present age has been given nothing it is also the last age, the age which ends the ages. However, just as soon as we admit this meaning of our assertion we must immediately consider another meaning --namely, that the present age, having been given Nothing to understand, has been assigned a peculiar mandate, indeed, has been given (geben) nothing but an auf-gabe, in order even to properly take place as an age at all. The two meanings of this assertion, dangerously coinciding in the same words, could hardly be in greater strife with one another. One claims the age has been left without a future, the other claims that it is precisely nothing other than this future which the present age must claim in order to be itself. However this apparent opposition is only a semblance resulting from the unique confluence of Das Selbe. For, to be given Nothing to think, i.e. to be thoughtlessly commanded by what is no longer present, namely Gestell, is to be offered the perilous possibility that we must, in a manner unprecedented, think precisely what this Nothing itself is. If we have nothing to think about in the present age, then we may no longer take even this Nothing for granted. Nothing now becomes the present form of what must still be thought as Being itself (Seyn). For this reason, Being and Nothing can never be considered identical, but they may be called the Same, das Selbe.