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.      


  1. Thank you for making this post available and maintaining a site for thinking. I am very interested in the matters considered here. In particular, the problem of distinguishing Being from the intentionality of an infinite mind has the potential of awakening an ever deepening perplexity. For instance, after having read this post, I imagined a reply from a theologian, who says, “In naming Being as the unthought, you have only said as much as I mean when I say that the infinite ratio/logos of an entity is only partly accessible to a finite mind. When it is said that Being is presupposed by thinking/mind rather than conversely, I say: yes, for *finite* thinking, but not for infinite thinking, which remains for us a mystery revealed as such in and for faith.” While Heidegger usually hesitates to name “mystery” (das Geheimnis) as the matter of his thinking, there is nevertheless some sort of “inaccessibility” to be thought in this matter. Thus the potential perplexity: if the “ultimate” matters in each case (mind presupposing Being or Being presupposing mind) are inaccessible in some way, how can they be at all distinguished? Doesn’t that require ignoring precisely the inaccessibility (i.e. something that is essential about them) in order to make the distinction and thus tending to wallow in the inessential?

    In order to whet this perplexity a bit, it seems meet to distinguish the ratio (syllogistic reckoning) that the theologian imagined here takes to be “finite thinking” from the thinking that belongs to the unthought, a thinking that is not grounded in faith but is nevertheless grounded through a “leap” . . . –into the Ab-*grund*, i.e. the time-space in which Being (which, as you say, “conceals itself in logos as what is unthought”) is cleared *as* self-concealing. If this abyssal time-space is the essence of language (as often hinted by Heidegger), and this essence is the unsaid that speaks as the self-withholding still, then we see that the unsaid belongs to the unthought (Sein) as its truth (which is *not* correctness!). Accordingly, the thinking that dwells near the abyss in the sense of the self-withholding still can no longer be a reckoning (ratio) but a way of remaining silent (Verschweigung), which does not necessarily entail, however, a literal abstaining from mortal speaking/writing. The time-space (i.e. the truth) of ratio as a reckoning, on the other hand, is that of constant presence, which is not at all a remaining silent as indicated, since it reckons with constantly present meanings as a condition of traditional logic.

    The point of looking at the time-space for each type of thinking is that it brings forth that in which the “ultimate” matter is manifest in its accessibility; thus, the distinction by way of the time-space not only does not ignore the inaccessibility, but accentuates it. It is because the time space of a theological unfolding of faith is constant presence that the mystery of God’s will is understood as indicated in the argument: “The human mind can only understand the intention of an infinite mind by a multitude of finite ideas it cannot reduce.” That is, the taking up of faith within this time space understands the revealed mystery as a mystery *to and for* the ratio that belongs together with the understanding of Being as constant presence.

    Thinking as Verschweigung, on the other hand, is not bound to the formal reckonings that can be subsequently derived from it. This is not because of any indecisiveness, however. Rather, it is bound to what may appear to be its “assertions” only insofar as they remain question-worthy and prepare for the ever unsaid opening in which the thought-worthy may unfold as itself.

    Accordingly, what is spoken here hopes to convey its preparatory character; in this case, the character of preparing an open space for discussion, rather than being bound to the specific claims made.

  2. Still-Unstilled,

    Thanks for the thoughtful remarks. I will be adding your refreshingly peculiar website to my Blogroll.

    There is a lot to respond to in your comment, and there is much that I agree with.

    I like your feigned theological remarks, as they seem to provide a nice shortcut toward thinking about what is being critically distinguished in the post above. In particular, I think you are right to center the discussion on the question of Das Geheimnis. On the other hand, it is only with great reluctance if at all that I would associate Das Geheimnis with the problematic of accessiblity. One of Heidegger's most persistent yet well guarded insights was precisely that the problem of theology's relation to philosophy could not be reduced to a problem of differing vantage points or levels of accessiblity to the same problem; the primal mystery of thinking cannot be the primal mystery of faith, anymore than theology can expect anything from the thought of Being. In other words, mystery cannot be thought in terms of the accessibility or lack of accessibility which some finite mind has. Instead, as my post wants to insist, finitude and mind can only be thought from out of the thinking of the mystery of Being. Now it is important to recognize that, although you said "Heidegger usually hesitates to name “mystery” (das Geheimnis) as the matter of his thinking", Heidegger does precisely so name the matter of his thinking in what is arguably his most famous and widely read essay, in part because it is often cited as the textual locus of die Kehre. I am speaking of Wom Wesen der Wahrheit. At one of the most crucial and trying points of that essay, namely section 6, 'Untruth as Concealing," Heidegger rethinks what the meaning of Das Geheimnis must be if truth and untruth do not belong to mind or accessibility:

    "The concealment of beings as a whole does not first show up
    subsequently as a consequence of the fact that knowledge of beings is always fragmentary. The concealment of beings as a whole, untruth proper, is older than every openedness of this or that being. It is also older than letting-be itself which in disclosing already holds concealed and comports itself toward concealing. What conserves letting-be in this relatedness to concealing? Nothing less than the concealing of what is concealed as a whole, of beings as such, i. e., the mystery (Das Geheimnis); not a particular mystery regarding this or that, but rather THE ONE MYSTERY — that, in general, mystery (the concealing of what is concealed) as such holds sway throughout man's Dasein. In letting beings as a whole be, which discloses and at the same time conceals, it happens that concealing appears as what is first of all concealed. Insofar as it ek-sists, Da-sein conserves the first and broadest undisclosedness, untruth proper. The proper non-essence of truth is the mystery (Das Geheimnis).

  3. "Fragmentary knowledge," such as the irreducibilty of "a multiplicity of finite ideas" that is spoken of in Just Thomism's "scholastic objection" quoted in the post above, is itself based on the "openedness" of beings --both the openedness of Dasein and openedness which that includes, namely the openedness of beings as a whole as such which have been projected open in advance in Dasein's factical (insistent) ek-sistence. But it is not just the case that Dasein's eksistent openedness grounds all accessibility of finite knowledge. It is also the case that every "every openedness of this or that being" presupposes the "concealment of beings as a whole". The concealing of WHAT-IS concealed, or in other words, the non-essence of truth, is THE mystery itself, and not a particular mystery --not even a theological mystery. This mystery precedes Dasein (indeed Dasein itself is only its conservation) and is presupposed by the finite knowing that is founded in Dasein's ek-sistence. So if I return to your initial formulation of the "perplexity", you ask:
    "if the “ultimate” matters in each case (mind presupposing Being or Being presupposing mind) are inaccessible in some way, how can they be at all distinguished? Doesn’t that require ignoring precisely the inaccessibility (i.e. something that is essential about them) in order to make the distinction and thus tending to wallow in the inessential?" This "one mystery" distinguishes itself from all inaccessibility (whether inaccessiblity of the infinite to finitude or inaccessibility of a particular theological mystery) because it itself is inherently concealing (of itself). The mystery is not something that is concealed --it is this very concealing. It is therefore not Mind nor anything else. What then IS it? It is that which is already concealed in what is. It is the differing of Being (Sein), or rather, it is Being itself (Seyn). This difference is made by Das Geheimnis, and it is the source of the difference between the "ultimate matters" being distinguished.

  4. So if I were to respond in a single sentence to the "perplexity" you have underscored in the problem of how one can distinguish between two "ultimate matters" (Mind presupposing Being or Being presupposing Mind) that are both "inaccessible in some way", I would respond that only one of these "ultimate matters" is inaccessible (namely Infinite Mind) but the other (Being as ultimate presupposition) is EVEN MORE CONCEALED then anything inaccessible, since, as the differentiating of Being itself, it is the concealing of what is concealed, i.e. the non-essence of truth, Das Geheimnis. In its simplest formulation, then, my answer to this perplexity is: the distinction between the two ultimate matter's is a result of one of them: namely the differentiation of Being (Seyn) itself.
    This traces a different path to an answer than does your own attempt, but I think we eventually wind up in the same vicinity. For it would not be hard to argue that the zeit-raum in which Sein is cleared is precisely the differentiation of Seyn selbst.

  5. Thank you for your response. Given what you have said, I am happy to dismiss the talk of inaccessibility in relation to das Geheimnis. Yet there still remains the question of how it is to be dismissed. For there is an important sense in which das Geheimnis as the concealing of what is concealed is indeed inaccessible, at least insofar as “accessibility” is allowed to speak in the widest sense that would include the abyssal clearing or time-space. 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. What is that if not an inaccessibility? Admittedly this sense of inaccessibility is not thought from the mystery itself, and it only makes sense in the thinking for which Seinsvergessenheit has become an issue. But how does this become an issue? One way, among others, is that the thinker must respect that Seinsvergessenheit remains the dominant character of all thinking in the age, and that he himself is never absolutely free of it. This is especially important in the beginning of an inquiry—i.e. *before* the matter in question has had an opportunity of opening from itself. One therefore cannot assume a “standing clearing” in which truths of Being and mystery can be stated reliably. Insofar as there is a reliable saying, it must be recognized that this is precisely the Seinsvergessenheit through which one must wait for an unreliable opening (which I think is what you are calling the differentiation of Seyn itself) in which they come to decision in their truth. While Seinsvergessenheit holds sway, one can say that “Being is not a being” until one is blue in the face, try to represent it in all possible ways, and yet one still is only thinking of a distinction in beings until there is the opening (self-differentiating of Being) that cannot be secured. This is why the elucidation of mystery in the truth essay is in Chapter *6* and not Chapter 1: in laying bare the condition of truth as correctness the abyssal clearing in which those elucidating words first speak is prepared (but not reliably produced through the preceding chapters). That is, the earlier chapters can be thought as passing through the Seinsvergessenheit that holds sway in our age with respect to the problem of truth, and the elucidation of mystery is then the harboring of the clearing in which the mystery is projected. So while one is passing through the reigning Seinsvergessenheit (with an eye to preparing an opportunity for a silencing of its decisiveness, both in oneself and others), the talk of inaccessibility (in the sense of having to wait before the word speaks truly from itself) is perhaps *more* appropriate than any “result” from a former project within the abyssal clearing once this “result” has fallen to its reliable saying in Seinsvergessenheit once again. For the latter produces the semblance that it wasn’t a coming to decision in a project, a project upon an unreliable opening that first lets it speak truly. When one begins with a makeshift such as inaccessibility, and yet is ready to cast it away in the clearing when it shows itself as no longer speaking the matter in question, the possibility is prepared that the casting away itself will harbor the unsaid opening in which the projected mystery speaks.

  6. There is much more that I would like to respond to, however, I do not wish to overstay my welcome here, as this could quickly become unwieldy. One thing I would like to clarify, however, is that I was not primarily headed toward the distinction between the inaccessibility of infinite Mind and the mystery of Being, but rather to the *question* whether infinite Mind is an appropriate *interpretation* of God (or gods). For that, one first has to see it as a project in a time-space, in which infinite Mind can appear as an interpretation with respect to the matter of God or divine mystery. The differing between infinite Mind and God himself (or gods) is thus a much more primordial divine mystery than that between a finite and infinite mind. Thus the "ever deepening" perplexity.

  7. "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"

    Here I could say I agree in one sense of the remark, but I would want also to point out an important ambiguity: the time during to which Seinsvergessenheit holds sway can be said in more than one way. On the one hand, it is the time that began with the "first beginning," i.e. the time which began with Greek thinking which also eventually buried the hidden possibility of that thinking. In this sense, Seinsvergessenheit has (increasingly) reigned as long as metaphysics has actually existed. According to this sense, the "mystery 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, the time of Seinsvergessenheit is only the present age, the age, that is, where metaphysics consummates what has always 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 moment that the mystery may yet be thought from out of itself. 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. Thus the Janus-Head of technology.