Category Archives: Philosophy

On Agápe

These are some excerpts from my ongoing discussion with Antonio on Hegel which I wanted to highlight as they reflect on agápe – unconditional love…

My Comment to Antonio,

I wanted to respond to the post on love which you published here – https://epochemagazine.org/better-to-have-loved-lost-recognition-love-and-self-211a3948f281.  I find the observations you make about love the result of practical wisdom.  Personally, I would not lay the Hegelian grid over the very important and mature lessons one needs to learn to have a successful older age and, in my opinion, a successful life.  Many never learn these lessons: recognition, desire, abstract and concrete love, self-love (and self-esteem), love for the other (I would also include Other – more on that later) and the ‘better to have loved than never to have loved at all’ which to me translates to ‘to be or not to be– that is not the question – the question is what shall we make of the Other’.  I understand perfectly how negation can apply in all the cases you cited.  ‘Negation’ in these cases meaning notions similar to what I might think as projection, need, sensual pleasure, recognition by the other which always fails, etc.. 

However, where I think these dialectics fail is a case you did not mention – what the ancient Greeks had the unique word for – agápe.  Agápe is unconditional love like the love a parent has for a child.  All the ‘negations’ or pitfalls along the way that you mention can derail a person such that are incapable of agápe when they have children.  In turn, this dysfunctionality can result in children that have barriers set up to their mature and full development in the ways of love.  Of course, Freud and Lacan both deal with these psychological pitfalls but I prefer Lacan to Freud.

For a child to develop in infancy it needs mirroring, first by the mother according to Lacan (although I am not convinced others cannot fill this role in infancy).  First, a few things about Lacan.  For Lacan, the unconscious is language.  Language is not private or personal but collective, cultural, social, historical, etc..  For Lacan there is a tripartite: Imaginary, Symbolic and Real.  The imaginary is the root of meaning, semantic or what we might generally think of as consciousness.  The symbolic is not conscious, it is the linguistic writing of the unconscious, the syntax, constituted by mutual differences.  For Lacan the symbolic is the radical alterity of the Other – for me the he or the she.  For Lacan the real is an ontological absolute or what Hegel would call the being-for-itself.  All the parallelisms you name, Being and Nothing, form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking, etc. are regions of the symbolic not the real.  The real is undifferentiated.  It is outside language and absolutely resists symbolization.  It is impossible to imagine and impossible to attain.  It cannot be mediated and therefore is the locus of absolute anxiety. 

With regard to Desire, Lacan distinguishes need from demand.  Need is the desire for recognition from the other.  Demand both articulates need and the demand for love.  For Lacan, the demand for love is the need to receive agápe – unconditional love.  For me, all of the dynamics you refer to in your post fall under the rubric of Lacan’s notion of Desire. 

If a child fails to get mirroring in infancy and fails to integrate transitional objects into its reality, the child will likely have a lifelong problem connecting words and thoughts to meaning.  If the child cannot name objects in the world and have them correspond to meaning, intense anxiety is the result.  Remember the real is undifferentiated and coupled with the child’s inability to differentiate, to connect, to verbalize, to relate the imaginary to the non-present-able symbolic results in the basis of anxiety.  When semantic cannot find syntax it flounders in the horrific real which can never come to conscious or unconscious. 

For me, as I understand Levinas, the symbolic is the retreat from the face of the Other, the he or the she.  The he or the she is the real.  However, by real I mean the radical alterity of their infinity which faces us.  Their otherness is taken as horror, as alien, by ontology.  The retreat from the he or the she as transcendent to me, to my past, my temporality, my imagination, forms the basis of what Levinas calls the ‘said’.  The ‘said’ is the locus of language and history.  It is the dread of the scene of writing in Blanchot, the il y a. The said is the mechanical and monstrous repetition of what Hegel referred to as the negation of the idea to the thing – the thing can never appear in itself as alienated and also ontologically ‘present’ (e.g., as if in some metaphysical sense).  So the idea is a phantasm of the thing.  The idea supplants the thing in a ghostly form just as imagination for Lacan holds the place of the symbolic, the conscious supplants the unconsciousness.  Juxtaposed to the said is the saying, the other that faces us and speaks to us.  Just as with the thing – we must supplicate, supplant, the he or she with the idea, with language, with phantasma.  In so doing, we replicate the violence of murder for Levinas.  We violate the commandment against murder, vis a vis our passivity beyond all passivity to the infinity of the Other.  This why I think of the Concept, the Idea, the Notion in Hegel as a reification of the absoluteness of the said.  This is why Hegelian idea-ology has been utilized by both fascist and communists.  The said is replication.  Replication can be manipulated and thus, the imaginary, the semantic, can be determinate as violence, ambition, power. 

Let me back up at this point and give you my personal idea concerning agápe – giving unconditional love for a child.   If a person can make it through all the pitfalls of love that you explicated, they may be lucky enough to encounter a Desire which is not based on need and the demand for love as reception in the Lacanian sense.  It is still a Desire but it is an absolute Desire for the good of the Other – even against my need or my demand – even if it destroys me to benefit the Other, the child.  Unconditional love is Desire which we  consciously know with absolute certainty that it will never be fulfilled but counts that as nothing in regard to the Other, the he or the she, the child.  Unconditional love lays down its life for the Other, turns the check, accepts abuse without recourse to anger and retribution – to murder.  This, I and Levinas, call Ethics.  It cannot be supplanted by violence as violence goes against its absolute constitution.  It is always for the Other over against my fears, my imaginations, even my ontological concerns for Being, for my being, my temporality, my past. 

One practical example of how this plays out is my experience when I occasionally would lose patience with my child.  I could never be simply angry with my child even if I was the object of abuse.  Any feeling of anger was always and immediately mediated by pain for my child.  Even after the horrific and tragic suicide of my son I have felt anger as to how could he do this to me, how could he rob me of my pride and joy for his future – for our future – even with that anger it always comes with mediation, with pain, with essential concern for him.  I cannot languish in anger only in pain, a ‘full’ pain for him, for what he must have feared that drove him to such an extreme act.  Now, what I have left with regard to the presence of my son is his absence and the presence of pain, deep – beyond my ability – beyond my able to be able – to be ultimately vulnerable to Chris…but honestly, if that is all I have left, as far as presence, with Chris – I will take that with the fullness of his once upon my time with his diachronous time.  My eternal hurt and my pain pale to the radical infinity, the alterity, that was/is my son, my Chris.  I will take the debt I owe him for his Otherness to my grave and count it as the basis of the highest, the best, the most beautiful which imagination could and never can, by essence, discover.  Because of unconditional love for the Other, my son, I have found contentment even in the most painful loss anyone could ever imagination.  I think this is the essence of what Levinas calls Ethics.

Antonio’s Response…

No worries about the delayed response, I was actually expecting it to be much more delayed by what you had said prior. Now it’s me with the delayed response. Apologies, my mind has been wandering lately and I haven’t felt the inspiration to properly reply.

First, I must say (and you will see this repeated often enough the longer the conversation goes) that we agree more than is at first apparent. This isn’t just true for this, but I’ve noticed with anyone it ends up being about everything. It’s not a something uniquely Hegelian, often one finds it in eclecticism as well, but it seems immanent to the Hegelian standpoint as such. For many this strikes as initially confusing, but it also ends up striking them as sophistry which moves back and forth, and for the extremes it ends up making me the enemy of both while being found nowhere between them on their flat plane. For me, however, it is no surprise to find agreement beyond myself in just about anybody who has anything to say that is true. The great barrier is, of course, our own background and terminology and what these really mean as opposed to what we think the other means in equivocating our terms which may only share the term name but not form/content.

Regarding this…

“Personally, I would not lay the Hegelian grid over the very important and mature lessons one needs to learn to have a successful older age, an in my opinion a successful life.  Many never learn these lessons: recognition, desire, abstract and concrete love, self-love (and self-esteem), love for the other (I would also include Other – more on that later) and the ‘better to have loved than never to have loved at all’ which to me translates to ‘to be or not to be– that is not the question – the question is what shall we make of the Other’.  I understand perfectly how negation can apply in all the cases you cited.  ‘Negation’ in these cases meaning notions similar to I might think as projection, need, sensual pleasure, recognition by the other which always fails, etc..”

I agree that we should not lay such a grid over reality. In an existential comprehension, Hegelian structures and dynamics aren’t conducive to much of anything, but I would also say what I tend to say to people regarding Hegelian analysis and speculation: if you ever did it well nobody at all would notice that you were doing it. A good Hegelian never appears as “Hegelian,” and the recollection of experience is only possible after the fact, but it is also the case that we do not experientially learn in the same manner that we conceptually learn in abstraction.—That aside, your shift from “to love or not to love” to “to be or not to be, that is not the question” is interesting. I had not considered that shift.

Correct my interpretation if I err, but what I comprehend here is this: these are inevitabilities of the very fact of life, that they occur or not is not ours to choose, rather we can only choose how we shall relate and what we shall make of the Other once we are in this moment (and it must also be implied that this concerns ourselves).

Concerning negation, it literally applies to everything. Hegel begins with the being of nothing, the substantiality of activity, determinate indeterminacy. Any moment of positivity is but the turn of attention towards one moment of the dialectic.

You’re right to have noticed the deep flaw that is the lack of agape in my article—I intentionally left it out. Originally the piece was more than double the length and expanded far more on issues that for need of conciseness and clarity I decided I should just leave out with but a passing mention without relying on the usual philosophical terminology and Jargon.

Now, you say dialectics *fail* with agape. This is a misunderstanding, for dialectical movement is not exactly what you might think, although seeing your blog and your knowledge of Zizek/Lacan I think you are aware of what I shall say next. The dialectic returns at full force with agape in its full reflexive inversion when it fully plays itself out on an absolute standpoint. It is not only about what we experience for ourselves, but what we end up doing to ourselves in our own faithfulness to our intent. This does not imply a failure of our intent, we may succeed in everything we desire all the while having failed to embody in ourselves an absolute condition. If agape is love without condition and by implication self-regard in its sacrifice, then this only makes intelligible sense as meaningful in its ultimate opposition to its absolute other, the self-regarding. To love those who love us and do not harm us is easy, to forgive mistakes is simple. The difficulty always lies when the other truly meant to hurt us, was indifferent to us, and shows no sign of caring. You and I know that it takes a very special kind of insight and emotional development and detachment from immediate emotions to not just utter, but really experience, the forgiving of such acts and persons.

You and I know full well the reality of a situation in which this unconditional love returns as self-harm, complete disregard for ourselves, becoming not our self-constitution but dissolution. No general reality can be maintained with an agape with no self-regard, for when faced with a force that is self-regarding it will only succumb to its violence. The beauty of letting the other be and merely reveal itself to us is, I think, a reality for few and not a general reality for most. The language of ‘revelation’ in letting the other be was exactly what I used to describe my relation to my mother and to my sister, as well as theirs to me. This revelation, ideally, should only be that: revelation. It is, however, a lie we tell ourselves in believing no judgment should come of this as if such revelation is indifferent to us or to them. No one who loves us, and nobody we love, can make revelations that do not at once force us to make judgments, and judgments at once separate while uniting. Here Hegel’s concept of infinity is the model of an unconditionality which is in fact conditioned by its own necessary reality. In judging others we also judge ourselves, in their revelation to us we are immediately forced to reveal ourselves as well. While this is less common now, thankfully, we both can remember the absolute fear the LGBT community lived and continues to sadly live in many place concerning their revelation not just to society but to family itself.  There are plenty of stories where many parents were put between the contradiction of love for god or love for child, and to this day among the Hispanic community there is still a hesitance of this contradiction even though it more than less is beginning to shift towards accepting the child “while not accepting the sin.” People jump through hoops to delude themselves that there can be a difference between loving their child and hating something that they simply are. This is a willing split between form and content. With a child, and even with a lover and friend this is possible, but it’s not exactly ideal.

I think you will disagree, but my view of unconditional love is *not* self-sacrifice. My view of unconditional love is ideally the relation of two free individuals which operate as one, fully dependent in their independency, no externality imposes the relation and neither is it imposed by an internality of emotions that may drive us to self-destruction. This is love which is at once self-love, full revelation and opening of the self to an other which accepts it, self-constituting and creative—to me it is truly friendship as Aristotle conceived it.  In the reality of failure, unconditionality of love hinges on the power of forgiving, not in simply being a passive stepping stone for the other to continually relate to in any way. The other may harm me, it may be too much for me at one moment, but that does not rescind love though it may rescind our contact for a moment. To give my example: the pain inflicted on me by my sister and my mother was great, and in my sister’s case one could even add evil intent, nonetheless I never rescind love to them. I shall not be present for their abuses as a constancy, but I am open to contact regardless of the past. Not only am I open, but I attempt to seek that contact as the reality of that openness. I remember my sister with a deeply sad fondness and longing, but not anger or blame.

With my mother this has worked out and we are much closer than ever, though reservations of revelation persist. With my sister, however, I send a message once a year every year wishing her the best and reminding her that if she ever needs help I will help, and if she ever wishes t talk, I am open even though I am terrified of such contact. I maintain a distance not only because she seems to not want any relation, but also because I am aware of the harm it can cause me. I think you would understand what my relation is like if you consider that at the point when I met my sister I was internally not well-constituted and lacked a solid sense of self and self-worth. What she did to me then was in large part internalized both positively and negatively, and while I am infinitely better for it, I am also still carrying the scars of negativity which remained as well as were added then. Imagine if your son before dying had blamed you for everything, called you a failure as a father, and you had taken it *seriously* if only for a moment, and let that enter you and become part of you. Radical openness to the other, as I conceive it, is this self which only drinks in the other for its own content. Hegel conceives the other first as this radical falling into otherness. The one that does not do this is in fact not existentially open to the other *as merely other*, for its has its own inner otherness to that otherness (the other of the other is the other within), it has a standpoint to keep it at bay and remain disinterested observant to its revelation. You say you feel no guilt for your son,and you shouldn’t, but you are someone who clearly achieved a significant self-concretization. As Hegel determines it, you are the other which has its own otherness in opposition to the other. Most people do not have this, this is why they cannot stand and bear the other to be. Every little thing the other does, even just intellectually or sensuously grasped, enters into their own emptiness. For you, however, there is no fear, for you are. You have ways to comprehend the other that do not imply their necessary internalization to you, all the while you need not do anything to or for them in recognizing their otherness. You unlike most can let this difference stand because you have determination which they do not.

Agape, is, of course, not necessarily manifest as some pure passivity, it has momentary limits which it may set, but these are not ultimate limits. As you note, no parent that loves their child can truly set that final limit where love, care, desire for well-being of the Other is cut off. The reality, is, however, that this relation can almost never be real. It can never be real not only because the other may come to harm us by our own allowance to a degree that can kill us, but because this unconditionality itself can sometimes breed the very soul which destroys us when it itself has never experienced the limit of the Other.——(This leads to other issues too long to go on here, but I think part of our capacity to have such an active experience as love at all has to do precisely with that the Other is in fact perceived not in its otherness. I mentioned the truly alien in a prior email, to me that is the real Other, not any human being. Even to a psychopath we can find a way to relate, but of another being which has different capacities and a different order of reason which is indifferent if not different to ours, that is something that really puts us off. Artificial intelligence is also a real candidate of the Other, many are just terrified of what an intellect that lacks emotion and our embodied limits would think and therefore do in relation to us. They point precisely to this fundamental inconceivability of what the other is within as the eeriness.)

Agape, while beautiful in one moment, is a terror in another. The assumption behind its beauty is not agape as such in some absolute abstraction, but the wise who can bear it—people like you who have the self that stand for itself and can bear this weight without self-destruction. I know too many people who have unfortunately given themselves for their children without any restraint, and in doing so they produced monsters who leech their life and bring them to ruin for not having the capacity to set a limit. No society can actually be based on this bare selfless regard, it destroys itself even in its purity.

This is, to finish this part of my response anyway, a second part of the reality of dialectic. Not only is it there in the existential and the logical reflexion, but it is ultimately an abstraction of this as an absolute principle in the intent to show that this in fact is not the basis of world that can function. Here you and I are speaking not just from different philosophical traditions, but of different aims of discourse. You stand within the phenomenal and existential relative, however, I stand within the intelligible and universal absolute. My discussion of love concerns its capacity for completeness regarding the standpoint of freedom, which it simply cannot achieve even in its most perfect existence. However, this does not negate your standpoint at all, for insofar as we are to be speaking of the same moment of our lives and its experiences, I think we shall find an overwhelming similarity not just in our stories but our conceptual and experiential observations if we bracket ourselves to this domain and an aim of discussion. I’ve noticed this in the general literature of this concept as well, where I find differences of conception, but an immense overlap in those very differences.

——————————-

By the way, I read your blog post on mathematics and paradox, where you mention Hegel. I’ll leave it for another time, but I think your discussion of Hegel there fails by no fault of your own, but rather of your secondary sources on the account of what dialectical contradiction is. It’s something I consider so mundane and baseline that I’m amazed scholars have failed so badly to state it clearly.

My Comment to Antonio,

I should also apologize to you for a delayed response.  I have been more busy now with regular work – software, guitar playing, recording, wife, daughter and working out every day…uggg…anyway, I have also been working on a rather lengthy response to your previous email – the one where you cite your belief in aether – I found this email intriguing all the way through but I am currently working on the first part with regard to the aether.  I have been brushing up on my knowledge of historic and current schools of thought in relativity and quantum mechanics – which is time consuming in its own right.  I want to understand among the different schools of physics where anything such as ‘aether’ finds its current roots.  I have already found much to write in this regard but I would like to work through the rest of the email first.  I appreciate this new email you just sent and will add that to my future response as well but I did want to make a few brief remarks about your thoughts of unconditional love.  Unconditional love, even as a pure concept, loses its meaning if it becomes obsession or extinction of the self for various reasons of self-loathing, projecting on the other ones own failures and losses to move towards maturity, using the other as a tool of one’s own existential angst, etc..  Let me point out a few cases in your email that exhibit what I think is a loss of the definition of unconditional love…

Regarding this…

 “by implication self-regard in its sacrifice, then this only makes intelligible sense as meaningful in its ultimate opposition to its absolute other, the self-regarding. To love those who love us and do not harm us is easy, to forgive mistakes is simple. The difficulty always lies when the other truly meant to hurt us, was indifferent to us, and shows no sign of caring. You and I know that it takes a very special kind of insight and emotional development and detachment from immediate emotions to not just utter, but really experience, the forgiving of such acts and persons.”

Let me say, I have told others that my son, in killing himself, did something to me that my worst enemy could have never done.  However, it would never occur to me to consider forgiveness as an object of importance or even relevance in this matter.  I do not feel the need to forgive him as if that would clear the way for love again or something of the sort.  Perhaps, this is something that would be a concern for a person who felt jilted or hurt by someone they cared about, possibly like your sister, but for me, for my beautiful son, my unconditional love for him goes beyond the grave, beyond the immense pain inflicted on me.  The question of forgiveness does not even come close to me questioning my love for him or his love for me – the love I have for him cannot find a negation or a failure, remorse, self-loathing projection from some psychological perceived or real existential self-doubt, etc. – it is not any need on my part to torment or negate my sense of self.  ‘Sacrifice’ is also irrelevant.  Unconditional love does not love a child to satisfy some sense of ‘sacrifice’.  Sure, sacrifice is a practical result of this type of love as one’s work and effort is performed for an other to myself but what might look like sacrifice from the outside is from the inside joy, fulfillment and solid satisfaction which is lasting. The types of self related and absorbed notions you cite totally miss what I think is meant by unconditional love.  In your notions of forgiveness and sacrifice, there is a neutrality and irrelevance with regard to unconditional love which I will mention more later.

Regarding this…

 “the reality of a situation in which this unconditional love returns as self-harm, complete disregard for ourselves, becoming not our self-constitution but dissolution. No general reality can be maintained with an agape with no self-regard, for when faced with a force that is self-regarding it will only succumb to its violence”

By definition and existential reality, unconditional love is NOT self-harm, NOT dissolution of self, NOT passive in regard to some masochistic need to torment oneself.  All these suggestions escape the orbit of unconditional love altogether.  Again, there is a neutrality and irrelevance to these concepts which are artificially imported perhaps from other dysfunctional types of love but can in no way be called or thought as unconditional love.

Regarding this…

 “There are plenty of stories where many parents were put between the contradiction of love for god or love for child, and to this day among the Hispanic community there is still a hesitance of this contradiction even though it more than less is beginning to shift towards accepting the child “while not accepting the sin.” People jump through hoops to delude themselves that there can be a difference between loving their child and hating something that they simply are. This is a willing split between form and content. With a child, and even with a lover and friend this is possible, but it’s not exactly ideal.

I think you will disagree, but my view of unconditional love is *not* self-sacrifice. My view of unconditional love is ideally the relation of two free individuals which operate as one, fully dependent in their independency, no externality imposes the relation and neither is it imposed by an internality of emotions that may drive us to self-destruction. This is love which is at once self-love, full revelation and opening of the self to an other which accepts it, self-constituting and creative—to me it is truly friendship as Aristotle conceived it.  In the reality of failure, unconditionality of love hinges on the power of forgiving, not in simply being a passive stepping stone for the other to continually relate to in any way.”

Again, no resemblance to unconditional love at all in my opinion.  Of course, it is not self-sacrifice, hating what one simply is or some sort of helpless passivity in the face of the other.   All of these criticisms (negations) you cite STILL belong to self- obsession and inability to rise above self, me, mine, etc..  This is not unconditional love – this is narcissism whether conscious of itself or not.  Also, an infant-child cannot, by definition, be fully independent (i.e., like a fully mature adult).  I agree that a healthy love relationship (i.e., like the love my wife and I have for each other) can only happen when each person is independent and self-fulfilled.  Honestly, I think unconditional love may be essentially based on a parent-child relationship not any other type of love relationship.  An infant is absolutely dependent.  A child and an adolescent are on the beginning of a long journey.  They have yet to learn the lessons you cited in your essay on love.  Certainly, a parent that has unconditional love for their child wants them to acquire the basics they need to have a chance of learning more mature lessons of love which you have cited and learned.  But wisdom dictates that my child has **their** sacred journey and a wise parent does not want to infringe, control or project on their sacred obligation to allow their child to find their own path, their own self –  a wise parent wants to enhance a child’s unique right to be but not control their right to be in any way.

Regarding this…

“Imagine if your son before dying had blamed you for everything, called you a failure as a father, and you had taken it *seriously* if only for a moment, and let that enter you and become part of you.”

True, that never happened between Chris and I.  He always loved and respected me and I cannot even imagine him ever saying or even thinking such things.  Chris was a beautiful and very sweet kid – his elementary school teachers called him ‘the lover’ because he always stood up for other kids that were not popular or ridiculed by other kids.  However, even if that had happened as you describe it, it would not become a ‘part of me’.  Sure, it would be hurtful but since I know the extent which I, in practice, loved and cared for Chris day to day and year to year – I could never doubt that real and practical commitment towards his good.  As far as mortally possible I loved him unconditionally –  I know the extent of that love and I can see no shadow of doubt about it.  I also know that I was the adult in that relationship and my role was not to control Chris or win some kind of recognition but to be steadfast and sincere in **his** regard – not mine – a mature adult has boundaries not walls.  By the way, since I was able to retire when my kids were very young I was able to be full time Mr. Mom to them when I think it was a very critical time for them – I was really lucky to be able to do that.

I feel no guilt or remorse about how I loved my son because, as far as mortally possible, I loved him wholly and fully through many years of tenderness, respect, obligation with wisdom about my boundaries and his.  I can say humbly and without any negative connotations for those that believe differently that, for me, unconditional love is the absolute that love for the other can attain.  Unconditional love cannot even be possible without learning all the lessons you alluded to in your post on love.  Also, as I mentioned earlier I am not sure unconditional love is possible for any other type of love than a parent-child.  I am not aware of any ancient Greek notion of agape that would vary with that notion.  In any case, I think unconditional love as the pinnacle of what love can be sets the height, beauty and wonder for the ideal of love.

As a corollary, I think the absolute that healthy, self-love can attain to is ethics.  For me, honesty, compassion, active concern for the other, etc. is only possible for those that have attained integrity.  By the way, integrity is also a duty to oneself to take care of one’s own health so that one can be able to be able for the other.  The self is most its own when it holds itself open and fully in an ethical relation to the other.  Hatred, envy, arrogance, violence, etc. is a pathology of selfhood.  Holding oneself genuinely and ethically open to the other is the highest and most difficult the self can attain.  This is why I would think of it as absolute – perhaps not an absolute from the perspective of Hegelian Idea but functionally and existentially the state of self-hood which is most itself – healthy, at peace, without regret or self- doubt.  To the degree that one violates selfhood as ethical obligation to the other (what I think as integrity), is to the degree that one fails to be most their self.  I have seen, as I am sure you have, what happens when people lose their way in anger, regret, addiction, desire which simply uses the other, etc..

I have no need to make the notions of unconditional love larger than me as towards some absolute constitution of Concept – it may be that the notions do have such portions but, for me, Concept adds nothing to or takes anything away from these notions.  I think there have been several instances in my discussion where, from the way I perceive it, there is a neutrality in some of your imported objections/negations/dialections (I know this is not a word) to unconditional love.  I suppose you can make unconditional love into a ‘good and bad side’ (light/darkness, positive assertion/contradiction, thesis/antithesis, etc.) which culminates in a union of opposites  to the ‘higher Concept’.  But from my perspective, I am not sure the ‘higher Concept’ has room, is capable of, encoding neutralities ((alien, nonrelational, without regard to, irrelevant to, unaccountable to the absolute as Concept, simply what ‘is’ without having the **potentially capacity** for essential negation without losing the notion altogether – making the neutrality into dogma, other to System and thus irrelevant, etc.)) into its vocabulary.  As an example and question, do we still have unconditional love when we insist on applying all the adjectives of negation you cited and I have pointed out in this discussion or do we just have a convenient way to lose the idea which has a definite and distinct existential content?  Does the idea lose something in translation from the particular to the universal?  Why must we insist that neutrality, irrelevance, to Concept is yet **still** Concept – is this knowledge or obsession?  Oh well, in any case, for me, unconditional love is heterogeneous and diachronous – incapable of finding a universal foothold in Concept – works just fine for me. l

An Interesting Dialog: A Hegelian and Myself (as of 6/1/19)

This is an ongoing conversation I have been having with a Hegelian.  I think it is interesting and informative.  Antonio seems like a really sharp young person.  He has taught a old dog like me a few things about Hegel so who says and old dog can’t learn new tricks.  …still have major misgivings with Hegel…

His blog is here: The Empyrean Trail

He has also published on some other sites.

To skip ahead to the latest comments look for “***New Comments***” towards the bottom of this post.

***Previous Comments***

Me…

Hello. I am also an amateur student of philosophy. I did three graduate programs officially in philosophy and audited other programs while working professionally as an engineer. My background is ancient Greek philosophy and contemporary continental philosophy (Heidegger, Derrida, Levinas, Husserl, Hegel, …). Here are some of my questions concerning this article:In general, it seems like a pattern that Hegel’s dialectic starts with pure indeterminateness and emptiness, abstraction, pure knowing, – then, negates such to give way a more positive, determinate which then, gives way to aufhebung which holds both together in their mutual self-negation as lifted up and transformed into a more concrete Idea. I am thinking of:

Being->Non Being->Becoming, the One->the Many->Repulsion->Attraction->Quantity

Being-in-itself->Being-for-other->Limit->Finite->Infinite

Essential->Unessential->pure mediation-Being’s pure immediacy->Reflection->External

Reflection->Determining Reflection->Identity->Difference->Contradiction->Ground

All have these dynamics play with terms such as abstraction, emptiness, negation otherness -> to/from -> opposition, positive otherness -> aufhebung

Hegel seems to think these dynamics prevent his Idea from being susceptible to the tautologies or ordinary science. Tautologies in this sense seems to simply be naming something then repeating the definition in the ‘findings’ of science. This seems to be a naïve view of science (especially for the “Encyclopedia of Science”) in that science is pervaded with supposition->empiricism->contradiction-> paradigm transformation. Certainly, ‘empiricism’ can be deemed a metaphysic, an abstraction, a tautology, etc. but it could also simply be a pragmatic assumption which allows further inquiry. Any Concept or Idea has, at least, this pragmatic, functional capacity including Hegel’s terms like Being, Otherness, Negation, Contradiction, etc. In a minimal sense what I have referred to as the dynamic, pragmatic terms, for Hegel indeterminate, abstraction, emptiness, negation, otherness, aufhebung, etc., are not unlike mathematical operators such as addition, division, square root, etc. in that they reflect relationships. Hegel seems to think he ends up in absolute Concept, Idea and completes philosophy as the System. It seems to me his Ideas are more reflective of a Newtonian styled absoluteness (i.e., time and space) than the newer sciences of relativity, quantum uncertainty, observer effect, dark matter and energy, etc.. – Indeterminacy in the newer sciences is not swallowed up as an artifact of dialectic but would remain in the same apotheosis as absolute Idea or Concept for Hegel.

The other or otherness is always peppered in as idea. To ‘think’ of the other as a he or a she would be what for Hegel? A he or she is yet another concept or idea that faces us? Would a ‘real’ he or she be a metaphysic? Would it simply be yet another form of the depraved naturalism of science? A he or she ‘in time’ even as the idea of a he or she assumes time and the ‘thought’ of a he or she.

What is to ‘think’? Doesn’t it assume time (e.g., a specific thought or thought process). Let’s look at Hegel’s notion of time:

Shall we say the ‘In the beginning was the Concept’, could we say time-space-less-ness? Concept is NOT the thought yet or the word (logos) – assumes time.

The absolute other of time is pure, empty, indeterminate space without dimensions of course.

The absolute other of space is a point.

The absolute other of the abstract point turns out to be time…which turns out to be yet another empty abstraction moving towards past, present, future, etc..

Ok, let’s ‘think’ about this…The Concept is concrete self-determinateness as Idea. We have not asserted any ‘thing’ yet (perhaps literally). Anyway, Concept must have an absolute other which is space. But space is also an idea – not empirical or any such metaphysic, so how can ‘space’ be an absolute other in the ‘absolute’ sense. Sure, it can be a contradictory idea or shall we say the ‘anti’ of tautology, tautology being Concept as Idea. Why do I write ‘tautology?

The jump from Idea to space (which turns out to be yet another idea) is not so complete as Hegel would have us believe. Anyway, from there we go to the point and then temporality. So thinking happens in time but Idea has not yet developed the notion of time so thinking (e.g. about Concept) cannot happen in time since Concept is time-space-less-ness. Yet, do we assume concept is something absolutely other from thinking? How can we think that without ‘thinking that’? Are we now postulating some kind of transcendent other (i.e., the Idea without thinking) – have we not lapsed into metaphysics but deny ourselves the possibility of thinking Idea as such? Wouldn’t this metaphysical leap be the hobgoblin of all self-respecting post-post-post (ad infinitum)-modernists. Hegelians tell us they are not metaphysicians – yet if Idea talks like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles like a duck…isn’t it a duck? If Concept can be thought without thinking it haven’t we simply asserted yet another tautology?…otherwise called a metaphysic. Could it be in the highly circuitous route we have taken to Concept we have conveniently lost the notion of ‘metaphysic’ even though the dynamic Idea without a thought harkens back to God without Being and convinced ourselves that it is surely and essentially different?

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Antonio…

Concerning Hegel’s critique of empirical science I can see why you would think this, but Hegel’s critique of science is actually simpler and rather a critique of what goes on in the Phenomenology in a pointed sense. The main argument is about his concept of theory and practice, and he does have a rather short version of it in the Introduction to the Phil of Nat. The critique of theory attacks both rationalist and empiricist doctrines of science, and something like pragmatism is for Hegel just not worthy of attack since it has given up the attempt of science as absolute knowledge.

Concerning empiricism as a metaphysical doctrine, well, in Hegel’s concept of metaphysics it is. All concepts of ontological nature are at once both about what is and how to know it. The way we think of the world is a metaphysics. I agree, and Hegel would too, that his concepts are indeed exactly what you describe as mathematical functions, which is why concepts are logics. I would say, however, that it is a mistake to term Hegel’s views as grounded on a Newtonian view of absolutes (Hegel despises Newton, just as an aside) since how Hegel conceives things is not what anyone even today conceives as an absolute *even* at the radical process fringes of QM and related theories. As someone most simpathetic to the critics of modern science, *especially physics*, I would say that one must be careful with the dogmatic adoption of these new terms about reality, particularly due to their nebulous indeterminacy and a historical lineage of conception by contingent caprice and erroneous hand-waving of things ‘out of fashion’ such as a demand for coherency and intelligibility. History tells us much of the origin of these terms, and they are indeed not entirely pragmatic but rather a necessity of axiomatic dogmatism taken for fact.

Concerning otherness and the “he/she” and what concerns the thinking of such. At an ontological level, this ‘thinking’ manifests as the action of a ‘he/she’ and their relating to us. In this it is what they are and thus, yes, a metaphysic.

Concerning the he/she in time, it seems you really wanted to get at the existential presupposition of time in regarding the pure logic of self-thinking thought. Concerning beginnings, well, Hegel denies there ever was a beginning since everything in the finite sphere has a prior and posterior without end. Concerning the relation of time and space: you must keep in mind that Hegel’s foundational structure and dynamic of all Nature is self-externality. Depending on how we will look at this externality, either as substance or subject, being or activity, we shall determine this self-externality as space or time. The otherness of time and space is based on the unifying role of this self-externality such that space qua space finds itself existent through the diremption that is time, and time qua time finds itself existent through the diremption that is space.

Expanding on how “space” can be the absolute other of the Concept, I’m not going to pretend I fully know Hegel’s explanation for this, however, there are a few simple structural reasons that can be given. For one, the determination of the Logic in its closure of the Absolute Idea is the determination of logic as a domain of self-thinking thought. Experience, however, tells us there is more than pure thought, there is a realm of out-there-ness we call Nature. If logic qua logic is determinate, it exists, therefore it is determinately negated, therefore it has an other, this other is the Idea opposing itself, hence outside itself, and this relation is its fundamental concept: self-externality. There is the simpler and more straight forward logical explanation, which is that logic being determinate and existent now moves towards an opposite domain which is by negation determinate as not-logic, not self-immanent thought, but the inverse, and this is fittingly called Nature.

As for Hegel being a metaphysician: He does not deny it, I don’t deny it, but by his conception of metaphysician literally everyone who has a thought about any fundamental aspect of reality, cognitive or substantive, is engaging in the act of metaphysical determination of their world by positing some view as the true absolute (even relativism cannot escape this).

Returning to the problem of existential presupposition of the Concept: yes, *we* must and do think temporally in a natural sense. The conception of pure logic, however, is not about a temporal thinking, but just the process of the self-determination of thought, a determination that has always already been complete with all its defined parts. An atom’s self-determination certainly does not await time for its complete determination, even in frozen space it is logically articulated in many ways in one single moment. The determination of time is irrelevant for logic as such, and if you are pragmatic, you know this is the case for the world itself. Removing time cannot and does not remove at least half of the determinations of things, mostly the substance portion of logic, but plenty of dynamic logic still remains even without time (conditionality, relations, etc).

This blog is unfortunately in need of a deep revising which I have worked on over time. Currently the draft stands at double the length and certain sections like the one on time have been significantly changed in an attempt to clarify, as well as my comments on science in general have expanded to try to show the concreteness and relevance to issues today. I don’t find much to disagree with Hegel here in this first chapter, but trust me, I know I have differences with him which are indeed to do with the advances in knowledge we have had.

Thank you for your comment, I appreciate that others read these monstrosities I write haha.

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Me…

Antonio, I find your posts to be quite clear.  In fact, more so in some cases than actually reading Hegel which can get quite convoluted and obfuscated in my opinion.  I think perhaps a definition of terms might be good here as the word ‘metaphysical’ can have a wide variety of meanings…

Metaphysics was a term applied to a collection of Aristotle’s works in the first century AD.  It has been entangled in Latin and Catholic interpretations which as Heidegger thought obscured more than clarified Aristotle’s works.  Aristotle described his subject matter as ‘first philosophy’ or the study of being as being.  I have written on my blog rather extensively about the earliest form, phusis (φῠ́ω thought to be from proto-indo-european (phúō, “grow”) +‎ -σῐς (-sis)), which pervaded ancient Greek thought from Heraclitus and Parmenides.  From the earliest, phusis is a kind vitalism which increasingly through ancient Greek thought takes on the budding rationalism of logos.  For Aristotle, Metaphysics was a survey concerned with ‘first cause’ and the origin of things.  It was the highest level of generalization.  However, Metaphysics from Latin Neoplatonism and Christian thought transformed and lost some of the earliest origins of phusis.  Metaphysics became a leap, a dogmatism, which equated being with God, God beyond being, and eventually base metal with gold vis-à-vis the philosopher’s stone, etc..  My impression is that for Hegel after Kant the metaphysical would always be fashioned in purely negative terms since it is impossible to determine if synthetic, a priori claims are ‘absolutely’ true.  Metaphysical dogmatism was discredited by Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason.  However, the ‘thing-in-itself’ was precisely what Hegel wanted clear up and do away with from Kant.  Beiser thinks Hegel resists using the term Metaphysics except in a negative sense of the pre-Kantian, rationalist tradition.  In any case, Beiser certainly argued that Hegel retained a pre-Kantian foundationalist approach that the absolute could be obtained through reason – “What is rational is real; And what is real is rational.”.  In this way, Hegel seems to retain an influence form Spinoza albeit in the idealistic tradition. It seems that many contemporary philosophers do not find a transcendental leap of faith in Hegel but a highly rational and analytic approach to the absolute which was not typical of many of the traditional domains of metaphysicians. 

The dogmatism you referred to in your reply and the ‘not’ of Hegel’s ‘metaphysics’, in your opinion, was certainly something Hegel thought he overcame.  Certainly, indeterminacy and uncertainty are not hallmarks of traditional dogmatism which insists on the opposite, determinacy and certainty.  I am not a pragmatist but I do take pragmatism as a starting point at times for the least possible and most commonly accessible starting place for agreement on terms.  If indeterminacy and uncertainty have become a modern form of ‘scientific’ dogmatism that is news to me.  My engineering background and further education in relativity and quantum mechanics do not play loosely with those terms.  However, when I look in my own philosophical background for scientific equivalents I am not faced with Hegelian certainties and rationalism.  Certainly, we know that Hegel’s earlier attempts with the ether did not end so well.  I would also argue that his totalitarian and authoritarian views on how more enlightened cultures were allowed, entitled by right, to handle the more primitive cultures strikes a negative and violent tone to his absolute certainties (which I consider dogmas i.e., not ‘proven’ by his dialectics as he thinks).  Because the state is divine freedom is defined as right, violence is given necessary and free reign as “Machiavellian genius” (Hegel’s opinion of Machiavellian – “the great and true conception of a real political genius with the highest and noblest purpose”).  Violence can only come to its end after it has had its ‘last word’ and the last word has been accepted as divine.  As Nietzsche tells us, history is the story told by the victors.  Hegel certainly used the Christian motif in his terminology and the kenosis of Jesus.  For Hegel, God may be the whole or Spirit and certainly has a historical relationship to Christianity.  In any case, it has a double play which intentionally plays on historical Christianity and rationalism.  In this double play I see a intentional indeterminacy which can also lead to “a necessity of axiomatic dogmatism taken for fact”.  Uncertainty and indeterminism always plays an inferior role in Hegel’s dialectics.  That is, they are certainly never in themselves.  They are always an avenue, a vehicle, which never ‘stand-in-themselves’.  They always ‘stand-for-another’.   Indeterminacy and uncertainty lead us to determinacy and certainty – to the rational, the logos.  I do think in spite of Hegel’s dislike for Newton he did favor a “Newtonian styled” orientation at the very least, in a reductionary pragmatic sense, in the fact that both of them highly favored the ‘absolute’.  Also, both of them favored notions of Christianity and God although I will give you for very different rationales. 

Let’s take a specific case in the start of Hegel’s Logic – of Being he tells us:

“Being, pure being, without any further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself. It is also not unequal relatively to an other; it has no diversity within itself nor any with a reference outwards. It would not be held fast in its purity if it contained any determination or content which could be distinguished in it or by which it could be distinguished from an other. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness. There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting; or, it is only this pure intuiting itself. Just as little is anything to be thought in it, or it is equally only this empty thinking. Being, the indeterminate immediate, is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.”

of nothing he tells us:

“Nothing, pure nothing: it is simply equality with itself, complete emptiness, absence of all determination and content — undifferentiatedness in itself. In so far as intuiting or thinking can be mentioned here, it counts as a distinction whether something or nothing is intuited or thought. To intuit or think nothing has, therefore, a meaning; both are distinguished and thus nothing is (exists) in our intuiting or thinking; or rather it is empty intuition and thought itself, and the same empty intuition or thought as pure being. Nothing is, therefore, the same determination, or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as, pure being.”

Let’s symbolize this as Being = A, Nothing = B, indeterminate, immediacy = C

A = C

B = C

Therefore: A = B or Being is Nothing

Then we have Becoming…

“Pure Being and pure nothing are, therefore, the same. What is the truth is neither being nor nothing, but that being — does not pass over but has passed over — into nothing, and nothing into being. But it is equally true that they are not undistinguished from each other, that, on the contrary, they are not the same, that they are absolutely distinct, and yet that they are unseparated and inseparable and that each immediately vanishes in its opposite. Their truth is therefore, this movement of the immediate vanishing of the one into the other: becoming, a movement in which both are distinguished, but by a difference which has equally immediately resolved itself.”

Here Hegel tells us that actually Being and nothing does have a determination in spite of the fact the he just told us both are absolutely and immediately indeterminate (and therefore the same).  He told us that Being and nothing are the same and now he tells that they are not the same.  Now we find out that they have a distinction – a determinacy.  In either case, Being or Nothing, they are still that same as immediacy.  So while they do and do not have determinacy (i.e., they are absolutely distinct), they both have immediacy.  Each one immediately vanishes into the other.  So now we have a difference even though they are the same.  The difference and their immediate nullity is becoming.  Moreover, becoming is mediation.

So now we have determinacy (i.e., they are absolutely distinct) and mediation = D

Certainly, we can say that C != D (where != is not equal).  They are actually syllogistically, diametrical opposites.

Now Hegel wants to say A = C = D and B = C = D

Therefore: A = B or Being is Nothing but here we have absolutely contradicted ourselves because C != D

So, we have contradicted ourselves.  Is Hegel telling us that the contradiction is becoming and therefore we now have:

Being = Nothing = absolute indetermination and absolute immediacy = determination (absolutely distinct) and mediation (since they are both held in their absolute contradiction (both the same and different)

As far as I can see the only way to maintain this as TRUE is not based on logical deduction from a necessarily TRUE categorical syllogism but to maintain it dogmatically (and falsely) as a tautology.  It is not really a tautology but it is assumed by Hegel to be necessarily and absolutely TRUE and as a categorical syllogism BUT it cannot be proven true with a common medium term only a common medium contradiction (which must be ‘intuited’ and lifted up).  Additionally, in Kant’s term the beginning of “The Logic” cannot be analytic, a priori and thus necessarily true but can only be a synthetic judgement in that terms are applied to the subjects (Being and nothing) which are not contained in the mutual and contradictory predicates (indeterminate, immediacy, determinate, mediate).  Synthetic judgements are always contingent on perception.  Contingency does not belong to the absolute in Hegel.  Are we to arrive at the absolute when we start with the contingent?  Certainly this is a question of are synthetic a priori judgements possible?  I think they are.  The may or may not be true but there can never be an ‘absolute’ truth as analytic, a priori judgements.  They can never obtain that level of absolute if you will.  If you add in intuition, conditioned by categories of sensibility by Kant, you can arrive at a contingent certainty (such as cause and effect appears in empirical observation) but those judgements are ALWAYS conditioned by a degree of indeterminacy and uncertainty.

If we are now to apply intuition to Hegel’s Logic (i.e., we intuitively know that Being is distinct from nothing) we have introduced another medium term from ‘Being = indeterminate, immediacy = nothing’ to ‘Being = indeterminate, immediacy = determinate, mediate = nothing’.  The start in Hegel’s logic begins in intuition and therefore contingency and ends in Concept – the ‘absolute’ (not contingent).  Haven’t we made base metal into gold?  Are we to assume that the philosopher’s stone will resolve our dilemma?


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Antonio…

Regarding the definition of metaphysics, well, I place no value on it whatsoever. Frankly, I don’t care if someone is or is not metaphysical according to anyone. Hegel talks about metaphysics both as that generality of Being and Essence, but also as ontology in general which ends up making all philosophy nothing but a metaphysical exercise in asserting anything fundamental in any categorial sense. Whether you, Heidegger, or anyone else agrees I see as having no concern *within* Hegelianism. The issue with using someone else, even Kant, to define Hegel and point out strange contradictions is precisely that Hegel himself doesn’t *take* definitions from anyone, and his concepts are themselves not definitions in a common sense either. While one may talk about the relation, as Hegel himself does, one has to keep in mind Hegel conceives the relation not of himself to them, but them to him once he has his systematic groundwork in place. In this same way, although here I admit total immanent ignorance, charges of ‘onto-theology’ against Hegel strike me as, well, rather inane from a Hegelian standpoint itself. I’ve seen descriptions of this concept and have been given some by some self-professed Heideggerians and I always found it a strange charge (there have been times when a couple Hegelians reverse the charge against Heidegger lol on related matters such as the ontic difference).

Being, thought, and God aren’t exactly the same thing for Hegel except for the implicated dynamic that binds everything as the Absolute. The unity of Being and thought is, I think, a rather clever conception made by Hegel on analogical ground (Phenomenology of Spirit Preface) of existence=abstraction=thought, as well as the simple conceptual ground (Logic): With the concept of Being the only existential possibility is nothing due precisely to its immediacy.

Concerning the Absolute, while Newton was an absolutist, I think it mistaken if not disingenuous to equate what these two refer to by the same term name. Hegel’s absolute is not something else different and independent of the relative like Newton’s absolute space and aether were in regard to motion. The relative is not relative as something else, but as a moment which depends yet also is depended on for the realization of the Absolute.

Concerning Hegel’s politics, I certainly won’t defend his outlooks. First, because I’m not yet familiar with the works in their proper logic, and second because even if I was I am not someone who will defend Hegel for being Hegel, he does indeed have failures in lapses of his own methodology. However, as someone with some eye towards history, may I say that a Machiavellian prince is certainly something that for all realities of our nice natures does seem to be a great necessity in maintaining a shift from one social world to another. To my mind comes Simon Bolivar, whose liberal kindness and resolute moral idealism unfortunately ended up betraying his own dream and that of the continent he helped liberate… all because he refused to be a dictator in a historical moment where such concentration of power and vision was required to see the project of a new Latin America through. Poor fool. As for Hegel’s totalitarian tendency, well, I think that’s overstating things considering the whole of the project is to see the freedom of individuality flourish, which of course requires the stability of its social totality. Take my point with a grain of salt, however, I don’t speak for Hegel or Hegelians here, it’s so far an opinion based on a singular view of history.

Regarding the Being, Nothing, Becoming issue. You’re right to note that there is something glaring in the claims and methodology, but Hegel himself tells us so right from the first pages of that chapter. The beginning, as he presents it, is a ruse. He begins legitimately, but explains the movement in illegitimate form in taking on our own assumptions of the nature of these distinctions (hence the identity through indeterminacy/indifference and difference through intent). First is the intent, second is of course the appeal in Nothing to *existence* in order to make the return to Being. A lot of this issue sort of arises not just because these term names have some implication of some pretended meaning that seems unutterable, but that immediacy itself really is weird to us who are so determinate and used to given determinateness.

The issue of this beginning is that it is so abstract that linguistically there is simply going to be an inescapable failure to describe the immanent move without relying on external categories. Discounting the intention of meaning, we can make the difference of Being and Nothing in many ways: form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking. The beginning is presuppositionless and indeterminate in its *immanent intelligibility*. Indeed, these concepts don’t presuppose other concepts, they are what we conceive normally as closest to pure immediacies. In being truly immediate, they cannot be relative in the sense of Being vs Nothing, because that would presuppose the relation. Though thought content in conceptual form is indeterminate, we cannot escape that thinking is inescapably determining in action and determinate as existent. Regardless of how we try to explicate these categories, however, their indeterminacy only transfers to everything else if we try to be immanent, and though we may do things determinately we are left incapable of saying anything immanently as to why these are determinate.

The truth of the distinction, as I see it, is simply that we *can* make the distinction in act despite not having any conceptual cognizance of how we can conceive that we did it. This is because thinking is a capacity/power capable of self-abstraction without any seeming limit (its reflexivity). Thinking can think of thinking, and the fundamental split at the beginning is simply two faces of the thought process itself: thought and thinking. We are either immersed in penetrating thought already, or we are standing back from thought prior to this immersion. Being is thought, Nothing is thinking. We either notice the immediacy in its form/thought and simply determine that it is present indeterminately, or we notice the immediacy in its content/thinking which re-emerges into thought as the recollection of this activity and the observation that presence was absent in the engagement. With this there is no appeal to some intent to Being or Nothing, nor is their identity through a third, but rather through their inverting reflexion: Being is Nothing because that is what its thinking reveals itself to be. Nothing is Being because that is what its thought reveals it to be. Here, of course, you may charge that intention has only shifted to the subjectivity of attention—we want to attend to something different about each—and thinking of it right now, you may be right, but I have quite a bit of thinking I’ve been doing on this particular formulation of it and it still needs development. Part of me hopes that maybe this formulation has something more objective due to its tie to the nature of thought itself, of course, a nature which is not internally conceivable at the beginning.

Here, of course, you may level against Hegel the charge that indeed he is wrong or lying about his supposedly logical methodology because he *indeed has relied on an intuition*. This charge, I think, Hegel would simply wipe off like a chip on his shoulder. The intuition here is not at all a sensuous intuition. It is from the beginning an intellectual intuition about what thinking experiences of itself in pure thought terms, for it is indeed as I call it a phenomeno-logic that Hegel uses the entire way across all works from the beginning. Thinking itself has a phenomenal being, and why shouldn’t it? The appeal to the empty intuition of Nothing can indeed be taken in sensuous form, that of the suspension of thinking simply temporally idling with no possible engagement. We can, however, just as well recognize this as something we may want to call intellectual intuition of this suspension of thinking itself: immediate thinking is immediately negated, halted—absent. To call this an intuition in any Kantian sense is of course erroneous, and Hegel himself doesn’t use such language, but if we may speak of experience as learning, and if thought is an object of thinking, thinking intuits thought in a loose sense. If you find this unappealing, it can just as well be cast off as a rather sloppy description in terms, but what Hegel does remains working just as well.

I don’t in any way expect this satisfies your  curiosity and answers its problematic, but rest assured I too am (when I get into the issue) puzzled by the enigmatic beginning of the Logic as well.

Finally, to return to something earlier, on your mention of empirical science, pragmatism, and its concepts (such as indeterminacy), I’m not quite sure what you mean without any determinate (ha) case for you to give. I don’t think it would at all be fair to say that, say, the concept of indeterminacy in QM is what Hegel would be referring to by his concept of indeterminacy.

All in all, thanks a lot for the email. I would offer some books to read… but I don’t actually read many about Hegelianism so I can’t. I certainly enjoy a challenge, and if I seem stubbornly Hegelian it is perhaps because I am. My mind is thoroughly determined in the Hegelian conceptual fashion which is certainly quite different to what you’re used to, and I can say the same to the Heideggerian logic which is unusual to me. I’m only familiar with small bits of Heidegger, but those small bits are actually ones I like quite a lot due to how well thought they are, and how they meld well with Hegelian thinking. I’m afraid I ramble now.


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Me…

First, I am flattered a Hegelian would even take the time to talk to me.  The academics I have known including my best friend for decades will not engage in this kind of conversation at all.  To be fair, they spend all their time ‘publishing or perishing’.  I can tell you have not had a wide variety of exposure to philosophical thinkers but that is ok – I think philosophy should be fair game for all no matter what their background.  I can also tell you are a very bright young (I think) person and quite impressive for your Herculean efforts in what is probably the most difficult philosopher to understand.  I also like you honesty in dealing with the material.  From a very young age to the age of 62 (and having retired at the age of 43) I have had a lot of time for academic and my own studies in philosophy.  I have a broad background in the history of continental philosophy (not so much analytic tradition) with an emphasis in the ancient Greeks and contemporary philosophy (starting at the beginning of the 20th century).    I have had a number of decades in philosophy but still a content beginner IMO.

You are right in detecting that much of my academic background was in Heidegger.  However, for a number of years now I have not considered myself to be a Heideggerian.  I understand Heidegger now as having more to do with German Idealism than I previously thought.  More generally, my background in contemporary philosophy has been in phenomenology which is not the ‘phenomenology’ of Hegel but starting with Husserl.  This phenomenology was about not abstracting away from phenomena but observing it as it shows itself in such phenomena as lived time – the stretch of subjective time, epochs for Heidegger et al, etc. (not abstract linear ‘now’ moment time – oh, lived time fits well with relativity – came about around the same time) or lived space – as regions of deseverance for a subject, horizons for history and language, etc.  (not abstract geometrical three dimensional space – fits well with QM).

Perhaps my critical concern of ‘metaphysics’ comes from my reading of post-modernists, Derrida in particular.  His critique of ‘logocentrism’ certainly plays into the history of violence (capitalism, Stalinism, etc.).  He brings out the dogmatism in metaphysics not with another dogma but with a deconstruction of the text…using the margins of the text…the text’s own implicit determinations to undermine its ‘canon’.  I have read and talked to Hegelians which I think come from contemporary Hegelianism that believe Hegel is NOT metaphysical in essence.  They think that his logic follows rationally, immanently, without any transcendental leaps into metaphysics.  I know there have been many schools of Hegel which differ from that orientation and are more sympathetic to your irrelevance of the term.

In any case, I would currently think of myself as a Levinasian (he has been called an anarchist communist).  He was a student of Heidegger and Husserl but went in very different, and I would say very conflictive, directions from Heidegger.  For Levinas, simply put, the history of violence which he also finds in German Idealism is a history of retreat from the face of the other.  The face of the other is an infinity, a radical alterity which ontology retreats from.  Levinas’ major later work is entitled “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence”.  Levinas reserves the absolute as the he or the she which faces me and breaks through the ‘plastic cast’ I form of them given by the history of totality.  The other is not Concept or Idea but face that confounds me.  History which is the effacement of the other is ontology.  From this relation you can see how Levinas derives an ‘Ethics’ not as an altruism, a derived duty or idea, but a primacy from the ‘anarchic’ start with the encounter of the other.   The other has a ‘time not my time’ a ‘past not my past’ which cannot be coincident with my phenomenal temporality.  He calls this a ‘diachrony’.  All of our historic, linguistic categories which synchronizes time/space, universalizes idea, gives us certainty and determinacy (i.e., ‘reality’, being, Concept, even historic metaphysics, etc.) have been derived from an absolute inability to face the infinity of the other – a ‘passivity beyond all passivity’.  Before we think we are held captive by a substitution – I for the other.

In any case, I like the openness towards the other I find in Levinas.  I see a violence and reductive immanence in universalizing idea, naturalism (materialism, positivism, pragmatism, etc.)…a totality which truncates and essentially alienates.  Levinas as many of the other contemporary phenomenologists starts in embodiment, lived sensibility, etc. and even his Ethics is from the ‘touch’ not the Idea of the encounter with the other.

I know this is off the topic but I did want to give you a little background on where I am coming from so you do not have to guess.  I, as I think for yourself, am left of liberal and an activist for many years.  I also like Marx – his critiques of capitalism in particular).  I guess I would be more of the Trotsky type in that I take Marx to be speaking of a natural ‘evolution’ towards socialism and, for him ultimately, communism.  If nothing else, with the advent of technology and manufacturing automation, the future cannot be pure capitalism unless we are willing to exterminate the masses so only the elite can thrive.  We will have to think productivity and value in very different terms in the future than pure, Austrian capitalism can conceive.

I still love philosophy as Levinas did – incredible scholar.  I am intrigued by Hegel and the absolute ‘idea’-lism which for me, personally would be an absolute horror and false security that would reduce all to the one, the Idea, and forgo any excess – to the point of annihilating something phenomenally essential to ‘otherness’.  If ‘otherness’ is the occasion for dialectic culminating in self-determining Concept, certainly the protests of existentialism (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, etc.) go unheeded but beyond that any ‘other’ has already been determined in advance as Idea (for Hegel).  I also have seen in Hegel and his students an indifference (perhaps smugness) and arrogance about his ‘presumption-less’ philosophy.  I and many others do not accept that on face value.  I think it is an exaggeration and apothotheois which cannot stand up to critical examination.

Notwithstanding my critical concerns of Hegel, I will say that I do have admiration for him.  He obviously had an incredible mind – even the very fact that he is sooo hard to criticize says something about his genius that few philosophers have ever attained.  I can see his philosophy as more of a work of art than the way he and his students seem to want to take him.  The ‘circularity’ of his philosophy and the apparent wholeness, completeness, of his System are apparent to me.  It almost seems ‘fractal’ like to me and so, embodies a kind of organic naturalism to it.  So, just because I have problems taking him in the way I think he wants us to take him, I can still appreciate his work and the challenge it presents.

The reason I brought up Kant is because Hegel himself brings up Kant as important to his philosophy and therefore, find it relevant to the discussion.  It is not based on what I think or others but what Hegel thinks relative to Kant.

With regard to onto-theology I also share a bit of a reservation with the free use of that critique.  Neither Hegel or Heidegger ‘should’ be simply reduced to onto-theology…almost as if it were some kind of psychologism of the thinkers.  Both thinkers borrow terms from the history of Christian theology but generally have very different reasons for doing so.  I have never ever read a word that Heidegger was Christian (hard to see) but Hegel certainly was – does not necessarily mean too much.  That being said, there certainly is a theological school of Hegel (mainly Catholic I think) and his fascination with the kenosis and Jesus as, how shall I say, presently the most complete manifestation of Geist does bring him in proximity to a reification of Christianity.  Sure, it can have a very different foundational reason but it is curious shall we say.  I understand the God/Man dialectic and the introspective subjectivity/individuality he thinks this brings to Geist and history.

Hegel himself in his early writing did employ the aether (Jena I, II, III – unpublished see http://www.cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/393/781) so it was not just Newton (and others including Einstein) although he seems to have recanted that in his later writings.  With regard to the ‘absolute’ in both, I agree that it means very different things but it is not simply ingenious that we observe they both employ the terms.  Both were highly concerned with the ‘absolute’.  I have read your own comments, something to the effect that modernity has disregarded and lost the concern for the absolute.  Both Newton and Hegel were immediately and evidently active about the business of thinking what the absolute could be.  An obsession with the absolute has dominate strains in history and while the particulars are different, the direction of the inquiry is motivated by what simply and at least pragmatically is given by the word ‘absolute’.  Certainly, what we currently understand by relativity (in physics at least) has deflated that concern and spilled over into contemporary philosophy as you seem to have observed.  Additionally, there was crossover from Newton to philosophy and Hegel to physics as temporal/spatial (certainly from the ancient Greek meaning of phusis to physis to Latin nature, etc.).  Certainly, there is a passion an intense concern culminating in a lifetime of substantial work after the absolute.  From an existentialism and 20th century phenomenological perspective (existing subject, egoistic) they share that desire.  It is certainly possible to say they share the same passion without implying that their field of work was the same.

With regard to Being and nothing as immediacy (“pure immediacy”), ‘immediacy’ for Hegel seems to me to be an artificially asserted state (or experience) which, in lived experience, never happens.  By the very presumption of ‘immediacy’ as some kind of vegetative human state of consciousness where there is no determinacy (except when it becomes) may be some kind of extremified state of Buddhist consciousness but it can only really be extrapolated as ‘real’ in some sense since, to have it as an experience, would be to lose it in any definitive modality.  When we correlate Being immediacy to the nothing immediacy, it seems to me that we have tread into deep waters which has lost the light of day.  Sure, we can imagine that state but to think of it as phenomenological, as a lived experience, seems to me to be self-contradictory.  It seems to me that immediacy in Being and nothing at the start of the Logic is as Epicurus wrote: “So death, the most terrifying of ills, is nothing to us, since so long as we exist, death is not with us; but when death comes, then we do not exist. It does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more.”   I guess it could be ‘analogical’ for something or another.

With regard to this,

“However, as someone with some eye towards history, may I say that a Machiavellian prince is certainly something that for all realities of our nice natures does seem to be a great necessity in maintaining a shift from one social world to another. To my mind comes Simon Bolivar, whose liberal kindness and resolute moral idealism unfortunately ended up betraying his own dream and that of the continent he helped liberate… all because he refused to be a dictator in a historical moment where such concentration of power and vision was required to see the project of a new Latin America through. Poor fool. As for Hegel’s totalitarian tendency, well, I think that’s overstating things considering the whole of the project is to see the freedom of individuality flourish, which of course requires the stability of its social totality. Take my point with a grain of salt, however, I don’t speak for Hegel or Hegelians here, it’s so far an opinion based on a singular view of history.”

From the ‘world historical perspective’  Bolivar can be thought as a “Poor fool” but I am not sure that exhausts the subject of validity.  I suppose we could say that of Gandhi, Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. but the measurement of the success of failure is not necessarily and exclusively taken in some socio-politico aftermath which may or may not have occurred.  It seems to me that all of these folks taken in a purely human way had no idea that, at the time, they were going to have a ‘world historical’ socio-politico-consciousness effect.  All, at the time, lived their life as if it were simply ‘a life’.  Apart from the mythical connotations they picked up in later history, they themselves were not motivated by delusions of (historical) grandeur.    It does bring up the question in view of the diversity of possible lived lives, “How shall we live our life?  What choices based on what concerns?  …an ethical question based on what? …world historical, illusions of grandeur, humble, empathetic, ethical, narcissistic (like our infamous president), etc.?

Also, individuality certainly is one level of Hegel but not necessarily a privileged level.  We know the ‘state” is “sacred” for Hegel.  Also, Spirit (or Geist) is epochal and collective  -even to the point where the individual seems almost slave-like with regard to the state and the Spirit.  Individualism seems more like a stop at the beginning of the way where not all individuals are given some endowment of freedom but hold the possibility for freedom as given by their epoch and their ability to perceive it.  For the more primitive they must be ‘mastered’ due to their enslavement and further, the end result of violence seems to be a ‘right’ of the…master race shall we say obliquely at the least (ok, too much but can we say that freedom is taken hold of, created by, the enlightened, the Spirit of the age, the victors?).

From this comment “Indeed, these concepts don’t presuppose other concepts, they are what we conceive normally as closest to pure immediacies” I would remark…

I find these parallelisms you name, Being and Nothing, form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking, etc. are interesting, especially thought and thinking.  Are these suppose to be analogous in some sense?  Perhaps as they share Hegel’s predicates of indeterminate/determinate, mediate/immediate, assertion/negation, diremption “of itself into itself as subjective individuality and itself as indifferent universality”.  I assume these hinge on existential-particular/universal?  Sure, these words can have meanings which, when pushed, can take on these connotations but there is nothing necessary in that ‘push’.  I have already talked about the ‘immediacy’ notion but when these other notions are set up as exclusive oppositions, dialectically opposites and negating each other, they seem to artificially and conveniently lose some of their included middles.  For example, form and content – form could be a perception of content and thus existential (as what one sees) but perception as seeing does not have to be an externality, a face, of content… an appearance.  From a minimal sense there are many ‘ways’ to see the same ‘content’ depending on how – the mechanism, by which you look.  In a banal sense we can look at the content of space as visible light, infrared light, electromagnetic, radio frequency, QM, etc.  Is the form accidental to content or essential?  This is a philosophical question.  The fact is that form is never, phenomenally at least, absolutely separable from content.  They could be ‘thought’ as antithetical I suppose, as negating each other, but not necessarily.  As a side, Nietzsche said ‘my body does my mind’ as a way to turn conventional thought on its ‘head’ so to speak.  It seems an abstraction to me to think these predicates as oppositional and exclusively.  Sure they can be thought that way but there are other ways such as the same phenomenon, mutually exclusive and inclusive members, purely formal, phenomenal, noumenal, etc. but to lose all these other denotations in a reductionary pool of oppositions is not somehow self-evident.   These terms are never “pure immediacies” that can somehow be stripped of their presumptions except in a purely abstract and oracular fashion.  We never experience them as somehow separate and purified of their fields of connotations as some kind of sterilized experience of ‘immediacy’.  To insist on this ‘immediacy’ is to presume on our lived experience which grasp heterogenous multiplicities of meanings and inflections in everyday, a priori (in Kant’s terms), understanding of the terms.  Contemporary phenomenology does not want to abstract and infer/imply abstractions to the way we encounter language but examine how we live them on horizons/wholes of meaning.  I know we can think as Hegel would have us think and assume a pure immediacy that is indeterminate but I think there is nothing necessary about that abstraction and, in that only a human vegetable could experience them as such, it would be impossible to isolate those predications as ‘indeterminate’ and still have any such thing as language.

“Finally, to return to something earlier, on your mention of empirical science, pragmatism, and its concepts (such as indeterminacy), I’m not quite sure what you mean without any determinate (ha) case for you to give. I don’t think it would at all be fair to say that, say, the concept of indeterminacy in QM is what Hegel would be referring to by his concept of indeterminacy.”

This is fair enough.  I only find indeterminacy in philosophy as an excess to, what I think, is an assumed absolute determinacy based on ‘logical’ abstractions.  I think your reasoning is very clear and honest.  I appreciate that.  In Hegel’s ‘logic’ it all fits together very well, artistically I would say.  I think perhaps it really comes down to a choice.  Do we want to think that Hegel and his Logic exhaust, sum up, complete the absolute, the all, without excess or even the possibility of being wrong?  If we make that choice then I suppose there is a kind of psychological security for some in that determinacy and certainty (as a pragmatic least anyway).  For me, indeterminacy leaves open possibility for the novel, for awe and wonder, for an other which has not entered my determinacies and certainties and that also has some psychological component to my choice as well. 

Just to let you know, I had full knee replacement September 10th on one knee and the other replaced December 3rd.  This has given me more time to read, think and converse than I would normally have.  Generally, my days are filled with working out every day, playing/composing/recording music in my studio, writing software for musicians which I really love, reading/thinking/writing philosophy and family.  I have really enjoyed this conversations and look forward to future discussions – I just may be a little longer to respond in the future as I get better.  I am sure you also have many engagements as well.


———————————————————————————

Antonio…

Unfortunately I find myself by necessity of external factors, but also by choice, outside the road to the ivory tower. Indeed, I haven’t actually read widely in philosophy, but because I know my bit of Hegel so well people assume quite often that I do. It is not due to lack of interest at all, even the philosophers I am antagonistic towards (Deleuze and Schelling for example) deeply fascinate me, but alas I am a inspirational reader and thinker who finds the spark of thought in a community of those who share in the effort and discuss, and outside of academic life this is almost an impossibility. That I have managed so much with Hegel in so short a time and with relatively so little read is almost entirely due to the luck of having met fellow enthusiasts open to the challenge. Most of what you find on my blog is actually written within time frames when I read with these groups and was caught up in the exercise, most of it really was conceived in the total of one year not of heavy reading, but of simply consciously and (mostly) unconsciously meditating on the short parts I’ve read.

Unfortunately I have been and currently am of ‘modest’ means, that is, scraping by. Often people sigh disappointedly at my financial state because they are impressed with my intellect, but think I use it for the wrong things (that which makes no money). Indeed, I may be more busy in the coming weeks which is often not the case, which is why I so readily answer emails. I’m going to be an entrepreneur (financial services), and while I despise the idea, the potential of it and the need of the money requires that I give up my discomfort and shame for a moment in order to achieve anything of this sort. I intend to succeed despite my usual misgivings about bothering people, I must succeed.

Indeed, Hegel places himself in stronger connection to Kant than to his immediate priors, but as I’ve noticed we must not mistake the nature of the relation to flow from Kant to Hegel, such that Kant will somehow elucidate Hegel from outside because Hegel simply elucidates himself and compares/contrasts himself to others.

On the aether, it seems I overlooked mentioning in the last response that I myself stand by a concept of aether. The concept of aether as such need not be absolute qua reference frame, and the implications of physics itself require it for other reasons of brutely paradoxical and conceptual nature. The nature of inertia, radiation, gravity, light, electromagnetism (fields in general) from within themselves call out to our reason to investigate the medium of their reality. Light, for all that we practically do with it, is in itself unintelligible to us, so is electromagnetism, gravity, and simple things like inertia and relativistic mass, particle/wave duality, etc. A relativistic infinitesimal aether not as a type of matter but as a general concept of what is for us indeterminately determinate matter would, given the material reality of Nature, answer and serve the mediating purpose to make intelligible a lot of these strange relations. Not fully, of course, I’m aware that certain issues are present concerning empirical attempts motivated to answer the issue one way or another, and while some of these experiments are supremely well designed, they rest on assumptions on what this aether would be and the nature of what relations may appear as. Multiple individuals far more capable than ourselves in these matters seem to think the conceptual issue is otherwise and far from unsettled, and it is from my experience these individuals who show the greatest grasp of the conceptual issues compared to the standard theorists.

About the parallels, I call them analogies in the Kantian sense of structural equivalences, i.e. we can talk *about* the dynamic of Being/Nothing with any of those and the exact issues will actually present themselves only with a different veneer. It does have to do with the movement of the Concept, but I don’t talk of it in those terms (mainly because they’re so advanced and I’m not so comfortable with it on that level of concretion). You note that there seems something forced in the abstractions of Being/Nothing, that we don’t necessarily have to think this way or think these thoughts, but I shall put that aside for now and simply say that *existentially* you’re right (Fichte has some beautiful words on the choice of philosophy and the individual, but like him I think that though this choice is telling of the individual it is also telling of what this individual is really committed to, and that there are higher and lower philosophies). I’ve been thinking a lot about this in the last couple of days because of you and someone else (the professor I was responding to in a prior email).

======On The Problem of Immediacy=====

Perhaps some elucidation on immediacy is required to make sense of this issue. Being and Nothing are immediate in that they do not presuppose any relation internal or external to them. Hegel says they are ‘equal only to themselves and not unequal to another,’ that they are indifferent within and without. In a way, this is a ruse, and Hegel knows it. We appeal to equality without difference, to innerness without exteriority, to indeterminacy without determinateness, to form without content, to immediacy without mediation as if such even makes sense.

This is the problem of immediacy as immediate: it can never be what it pretends, it itself never has or will be immediate alone. In common talk we speak of the immediate only as it is in mediation: the immediate is precisely something split and differentiated even if the same. Immediacy is always immediacy in mediation, immediate in relation to. We see an apple immediately, the apple is immediately to the right, it is immediately one, it is immediately in contact, it is immediately itself—here A=A, as Fichte shows in his opening to the Science of Knowledge, is itself hopelessly mediated in this posited identity which splits a thing from itself and rejoins it.

Being is absolutely immediate thought. There is not only no thought before or behind it, there is none within it. It’s not a thought at all, it is the absence of it. How did we ever manage to conceive indeterminacy at all? Because we implicitly operated with its opposite, determinacy, in order to determine it so. It is against determinacy’s absence that Nothing is determined. It is by the presence of the very determination of indeterminacy that Nothing is. The implicitness of this, and this is crucial and a very important difference, is in action and not in conceptual explicitness. I’ll explain this further below with thought/thinking.

The dialectic of Being and Nothing entails all dialectics of the Logic. Nothing is. Indeterminacy is a determinateness. Absence is present. Difference is identity. Content is form. Appearance is Essence. Thinking is thought. Subject is substance. Change is permanent. This occurs endlessly because thought and thinking are two sides of one coin which when we attempt to explicitly split will either end in Nothing or it will end in its immanent opposite side of the coin if we simply follow it through for itself.

What is Being? Nothing. It could not be otherwise. What is Nothing? It is indeterminate Being. This is where the action is implicitly happening. Nothing is determinacy (existent thought) falling into indeterminatess because of its drive to absolutize a determinacy we call immediacy, to achieve abstract absolute negation, to remove from content its form, to remove substance from subjectivity — in short, to rip thought from thinking and posit them as utterly distinct. Are we, then, wrong about Being? Is it not the most general, the most universal, the most immediate? Hegel seems to say quite early that, yes, we are indeed wrong about Being. If, indeed, all is, then Being entails far more than itself, but Being as a term has connotations that are more fit for the beginning of this impossible absolute one-sided abstraction.

The Identity

Being and Nothing are one and the same, not by a comparison of their immediacy and indeterminacy, but by the intellectual experience of their reflexive engagement in which one thought supplants the other. Being and Nothing are indistinguishable, they are one and the same concept in this indifference, nonetheless, they are different. They are indeed two different moments of thought, two indeterminacies which have yet to be determinate as thoughts, but we cannot yet immanently specify what this difference is from within the content of these thoughts themselves. We can, however, give an external account for the sake of methodological guidance and explanation. The usual manner of explaining this difference is in the shift of attention between form and content, but I shall opt for a more intuitive (in the experiential sense) distinction.

Thought and Thinking

We must come to awareness and keep in mind the peculiarity of our situation in the Logic: We are existentially beginning at a point far beyond where the Logic begins. We are by the fact of what we are, self-conscious thinkers, capable in ways these lower elements of the investigation themselves explicitly are not. This is also a truth we find in the Phenomenology of Spirit, where likewise we operate with capacities which lower forms of consciousness are simply not equipped to ever conceive or perhaps even come to awareness. Therefore, a key question implicit in this beginning, how we go from indeterminacy to determinacy, will be answered by an existentially determinate capacity — we are not limited to indeterminacy in action even if explicitly we do not call upon it. The capacity of thought is already a determinate capacity, and its power to conceive will be necessarily in use. This power at its most basic can be termed absolute negativity, the capacity to abstract without limit which by implication of its absoluteness determines it as self-operating in that thinking can think of itself.

We can perfectly explain how we arrive at Being is Nothing without making any unwarranted explicit leaps in the thought process by simply using the full capacities of thinking as such in its implicit functions. We must remember: at the outset we do not even know what thought or thinking as such are, let alone how they should function. The only way to find out is to carry out the task of thinking in its purity, and being that we presuppose nothing the only thing to do is to let thought think with the stricture of its self-abstraction. Thinking, being determinate, will operate determinately and determiningly without need of our awareness or comprehension of it.

We can discard with Being and Nothing and just as well speak of Thought and Thinking and still retain the problem at hand: there is a difference that immanently is no difference between thought and thinking, immediately they are recollected in immediacy, but we know that both are true because we know one is the immediacy of observation and the other of action. The indifference lies in that each concept simply falls into the other immediately, and this we find fully intelligible in that we do it in simply thinking these thoughts. However, we are struck by not knowing the intelligibility of the immediate difference within or between each despite the fact that we do make a difference. The difference is an inescapable practical reversal in the movement of absolute cognition exhausting all of its practical capacities: it can engage and it can stand back. Being appears to that which stands back (thought), Nothing to that which steps in (thinking). As noted, thinking already works determinately, so despite the intent of absolute immediacy it is already mediated, and despite the intent of indeterminacy, it is already determinate as indeterminate. The issue, to repeat, about the confusion of the beginning is precisely that the whole operation of thought works implicitly in determinate distinction such that Being is treated as existence (determinacy), Nothing as its absence (indeterminacy), but we cannot explicitly recognize this at the beginning.

This is the ruse, a ruse which after thinking through (never did I think it so much) now appears as not a ruse on us by Hegel, but by ourselves. The beginning works as the indeterminate coming to be determinate only explicitly, determinateness was always already there implicitly, and as Hegel repeats endlessly, we can only bring to explicit light that which is already there implicitly in action. Therefore, you are right of being a skeptic of the indeterminate and immediate beginning, the presuppositionless beginning. I return to my original point: Hegel is indeed presuppositionless explicitly, but the absolute has always aready been there in the process and it is we who are the fools to think we can get rid of its action even if we blind ourselves to preconception. Indeed, the think the indeterminate is not possible for the indeterminate as such, just as in the Phenomenology no form of consciousness can transcend itself if it does not already posses in its power absolute knowing.

==========Individual vs State=========

I feel that I understand your worries of totality and the importance of the Other. Unfortunately, I think it’s a bit of a romanticizing which given your political leaning is not unexpected to find in your theory.

On the individual vs totality, I think the fear here comes from two spooky considerations: the state and the Universal. The state is sacred to Hegel just as Spirit is sacred, and the Universal is sacred—sacred because they are quite literally holy as whole. The state is, for Hegel, the reality of an explicit community open before itself in its own universality. Prior to the life of a state there is a community, there is a Spirit, and the state is there implicitly already. All communities have norms, have rules, have an ethical life which, even if not codified in explicit statements open to the view of all, is nonetheless most definitely there in the very actions of that community’s members toward each other. Since the state is this unity of an entire way of life, the state as community is the basis which generates individuals and is regenerated by them, were we to negate the state and literally dissolve society, the obvious meaning of this is that we will have dissolved our own individuality and destroyed our own Spirit as community. The very ground of the human, its society, is taken from under them and they revert back to a simple animal (e.g. feral children). As a communist you should explicitly value this. Perhaps Hegel may be criticized for speaking of this from the view of some particular state, but according to his own logic the real crime here is for the fall of a type of state in which a higher culture and Spirit will be lost to the seas of history in a dark age, and thus the individual too will regress in that lower society to something less than what had been achieved prior. We cheer for the revolution which advances freedom’s reality, not for the one that regresses us to barbaric times and ideas.

=====On Barbarism in History==========

Of course, your mention of imperialism and conquest, genocide even, of other peoples is certainly a concern. It takes a most cold and purposefully disinterested view of history to claim much of what Hegel claims… and yet even when I considered myself mostly a Marxist I think things become apparent about certain realities which do not necessarily justify the horrors of reality in a moral sense, but explain it in an intelligible sense. When Marx says that all that is solid melts into air, and that capitalism’s historical mission was to reshape the entire globe in its image according to its own logic, the logic which ingrains itself to a peculiar culture and to a peculiar individual that enacts its self-expansion, was this not a mere poetic prophecy, but a prosaic statement of the being of this very power above us in history? Is not capital necessary for the material advancement of life? It seems it is, regardless of private or state capital. The enslavement of humanity to this moment of need is unfortunate, the existent horror something most cannot even look at, the unhinged logic of an abstract universality concentrated in deranged individuals serving but this abstract principle, and yet is this not the reality of history on the grand scale regardless of how we look at it? Is conquest not a progress? Certainly not for those individuals afflicted, but what of humanity? I am from Honduras, a state in ruins. First it was the natives conquering each other, then it was the Spaniards, then it was the US, now it is in addition a war of state vs gangs, etc. Should I grieve for a past people I feel and know no connection to, whose culture even if preserved is not really a culture that lives now? Should I reject the Americans, the Germans, the West in general, for having brought to being some of the greatest luminaries of humanity in the midst of a rape of the world and my people? I can certainly hate them for my life predicament in many ways, but that the West has a way of life and ideals which I would die for is unquestionable. Freedom is not something I will give up, those cultures be damned. Now, I think that if we were fully recognitive in explicitude we couldn’t do what we do to others regardless of their backwardness, but Hegel’s points about not grieving the disappearance of backwards people is simply a logical truth. Nobody rational grieves for the reality of the old ethical life prior to modernity, only for moments of it which we wish we had.

As for the bloody march of history, isn’t it an expected logical conclusion that when this material power is mixed with grandiose or base ambition that all society shakes and trembles under such a boot? And is not such a base ambition born not just of character but of ideal? Does it not, then, come to pass that of historical necessity this is the exact reality: that conquerors found states and institutions, that states unify and homogenize their people, that in the Spirit of the founding is the Spirit of the people, and that these states immanently live and die in the logic of their own contradiction? Should it then surprise us that this mix is not just possible, but actual? That individuals concretize an entire mass of will under their command and as one lead nations to war when interest and ideals collide? Is war not the ultimate sensuous reality of the logic of the other, not as unknown, but as opposed absolutely? To die for an ideal is to die in service of an absolute for us of which no denial or relinquishing is possible. While the boots on the ground may buy a story about an absolute of freedom, the pens in the office tell a story about the absolute of capital. Of course, the winner is not just the one willing to die for ideal, but with the means to kill and survive the opponent.

Ah, but what of those who weren’t founded by conquest? What of those like the Iroquois who seem to finally have recognized each other and come together? They certainly exist, but existence itself is historically of no virtue. The world spirits are those that lead, and we are being led by a train heading towards a cliff—alas, the strong in ethic, will, and charisma are not yet in our camp as champions. —By the way, Simon Bolivar certainly did not see himself as living any common life. He was from nobility and schooled by a radical who veered close to anarchism in many ways. It is this teacher which put him on the path of the vision not just to free Latin America, but with a resolute purpose to found a nation that would rival the United States and not be bullied by external powers. The man had the charisma of Napoleon and the heart of Robespierre, but the aim of a state with the spoken ideals of the US.

As some see it, we humans are adolescents coming to grips with the consequences of mistaking freedom. Who is there, what is there, that could teach us but our own wretched experience? An experience where we have committed and commit collective monstrosities under the guise that something else requires us to do it, under the false pretenses of individuals who care nothing for others and only for themselves. How is this other ever to be recognized without the turn toward ourselves, a turn in which you and I know as individuals partaking in elucidating ideas we have a part, but are hardly the determining part unless we happen to spark an unseen gas. The problems of society aren’t solved with individual reflections, but a whole social movement, and as Hegel and Marx note, history up to now has been a tail that has wagged the dog. The shift to what succeeds capital without stepping back on freedom requires something new and immensely difficult, the self-reflection of a society which understands its position, problem, and determines consciously to meld the solution to the crumbling house in the walls and beams of society itself, in its institutions, in the message of purpose it presents for and to itself.

=====Otherness and recognition=======

There is someone whose works I like despite deep disagreement with their interpretation of Hegel, that is Jay Bernstein. In one of his lectures on recognition he brings up part of this bit about the other. In one it is a point about ‘misrecognition’ which is a popular notion these days, and how American black slaves were and are, according to some, ‘misrecognized’ as an other. Along with Bernstein, I say that’s bullshit. The way we treat these Others is not in fact how one really treats a genuine Other presence. We don’t misrecognize people, it’s not their otherness, it’s the reflection of the negativity we hide in ourselves and which we project onto them. We tell ourselves lies in order that we don’t have to recognize any positivity in them, to hide from ourselves the reality of our own atrocities. Misrecognition on a grand systematic scale is done on purpose, and on the personal case it is done also by purpose hidden in an upbringing which dehumanizes a target.

Were we to meet a genuine Other, and this is just my own musing by the way (conceptually and in example), we’d be talking about meeting a being(s) who exceed our own capacities. A being to whom reason is not limited to our forms, to whom sense is not limited to our forms, and with whom as such we can pretend to have no possible way to truly communicate in a universal discourse of any kind with regard to that which is beyond us and which subsumes us. Of course, to us this being is truly an Other, unthinkable, inconceivable no matter how we play about conceiving it and interacting with it. It would be a being that baffles us in action and in spirit. It would, to use the tantalizing term, really be alien. Certainly the proper life instinct towards the genuine Other is cautious fear precisely in its unknown reality. The other is of course cautious curiosity in attempting to know it.

=========Indeterminacy As Excess========

On indeterminacy as excess against determinacy, the analogy is perfectly right. But now here you fall into a trap: you mistake epistemic indeterminacy for ontological indeterminacy. Phenomenally I’m perfectly comfortable, more than the average person, that reality is more than what appears to us so immediately. But that things do not immediately appear at all is not to say that they are not there, and therefore are already not determinate in their reality. The excess is inconsequential to the Absolute, since it is fundamentally about the total self-determination of thought. On the real philosophy side as opposed to the purely theoretical side of the Logic, Hegel himself is entirely open, especially with the Philosophy of Nature, that the relations and orders of Nature can and will be revealed as not being what we think on the theoretical side. This is why his use of just about everything is in fact provisional. As he cheekily notes, to paraphrase: Even if we were wrong about the empirical determinations that correlate with the concepts we generate, the concepts themselves are true. Perhaps he is wrong that the concept of time corresponds to the empirical reality we call time, but the movement of thought which occurs as the concept of time is for itself true and we should call it something else if need be. So, we can be wrong. We can be wrong about the empirical relation, we can be wrong about how many mediating steps there are in what we wish to talk about, we can be wrong about a lot of things. What we can’t be wrong about is how these thoughts immanently relate to each other.

So, could there be other modes of as of yet unknown sensibility? Absolutely. Do we have any reason to posit such and could we know what they are without any experience of it from ourselves or someone else who can communicate something about it? No. This indeterminate excess, this genuine other, is for us only a nothing, an indeterminacy brought to attention. And note that excess is in relation to us, the mere possibility which can only intelligibly be grounded on our actuality. It is entirely a subjective fancy to dream up that there is the undreamable, just as Lovecraft crafted his horrors in negations and the fear of the inscrutable unknown which is utterly indifferent to us as dirt is to our shoes.

me…

I wanted to respond to the post on love which you published here – https://epochemagazine.org/better-to-have-loved-lost-recognition-love-and-self-211a3948f281.  I find the observations you make about love as the result of practical wisdom.  Personally, I would not lay the Hegelian grid over the very important and mature lessons one needs to learn to have a successful older age, an in my opinion a successful life.  Many never learn these lessons: recognition, desire, abstract and concrete love, self-love (and self-esteem), love for the other (I would also include Other – more on that later) and the ‘better to have loved than never to have loved at all’ which to me translates to ‘to be or not to be– that is not the question – the question is what shall we make of the Other’.  I understand perfectly how negation can apply in all the cases you cited.  ‘Negation’ in these cases meaning notions similar to what I might think as projection, need, sensual pleasure, recognition by the other which always fails, etc.. 

However, where I think these dialectics fail is a case you did not mention – what the ancient Greeks had the unique word for – agápe.  Agápe is unconditional love like the love a parent has for a child.  All the ‘negations’ or pitfalls along the way that you mention can derail a person such that are incapable of agápe when they have children.  In turn, this dysfunctionality can result in children that have barriers set up to their mature and full development in the ways of love.  Of course, Freud and Lacan both deal with these psychological pitfalls but I prefer Lacan to Freud.

For a child to develop in infancy it needs mirroring, first by the mother according to Lacan (although I am not convinced others cannot fill this role in infancy).  First, a few things about Lacan.  For Lacan, the unconscious is language.  Language is not private or personal but collective, cultural, social, historical, etc..  For Lacan there is a tripartite: Imaginary, Symbolic and Real.  The imaginary is the root of meaning, semantic or what we might generally think of as consciousness.  The symbolic is not conscious, it is the linguistic writing of the unconscious, the syntax, constituted by mutual differences.  For Lacan the symbolic is the radical alterity of the Other – for me the he or the she.  For Lacan the real is an ontological absolute or what Hegel would call the being-for-itself.  All the parallelisms you name, Being and Nothing, form and content, appearance and essence, thought and thinking, etc. are regions of the symbolic not the real.  The real is undifferentiated.  It is outside language and absolutely resists symbolization.  It is impossible to imagine and impossible to attain.  It cannot be mediated and therefore is the locus of absolute anxiety. 

With regard to Desire, Lacan distinguishes need from demand.  Need is the desire for recognition from the other.  Demand both articulates need and the demand for love.  For Lacan, the demand for love is the need to receive agápe – unconditional love.  For me, all of the dynamics you refer to in your post fall under the rubric of Lacan’s notion of Desire. 

If a child fails to get mirroring in infancy and fails to integrate transitional objects into its reality, the child will likely have a lifelong problem connecting words and thoughts to meaning.  If the child cannot name objects in the world and have them correspond to meaning, intense anxiety is the result.  Remember the real is undifferentiated and coupled with the child’s inability to differentiate, to connect, to verbalize, to relate the imaginary to the non-present-able symbolic results in the basis of anxiety.  When semantic cannot find syntax it flounders in the horrific real which can never come to conscious or unconscious. 

For me, as I understand Levinas, the symbolic is the retreat from the face of the Other, the he or the she.  The he or the she is the real.  However, by real I mean the radical alterity of their infinity which faces us.  Their otherness is taken as horror, as alien, by ontology.  The retreat from the he or the she as transcendent to me, to my past, my temporality, my imagination, forms the basis of what Levinas calls the ‘said’.  The ‘said’ is the locus of language and history.  It is the dread of the scene of writing in Blanchot, the il y a. The said is the mechanical and monstrous repetition of what Hegel referred to as the negation of the idea to the thing – the thing can never appear in itself as alienated and also ontologically ‘present’ (e.g., as if in some metaphysical sense).  So the idea is a phantasm of the thing.  The idea supplants the thing in a ghostly form just as imagination for Lacan holds the place of the symbolic, the conscious supplants the unconsciousness.  Juxtaposed to the said is the saying, the other that faces us and speaks to us.  Just as with the thing – we must supplicate, supplant, the he or she with the idea, with language, with phantasma.  In so doing, we replicate the violence of murder for Levinas.  We violate the commandment against murder, vis a vis our passivity beyond all passivity to the infinity of the Other.  This why I think of the Concept, the Idea, the Notion in Hegel as a reification of the absoluteness of the said.  This is why Hegelian idea-ology has been utilized by both fascist and communists.  The said is replication.  Replication can be manipulated and thus, the imaginary, the semantic, can be determinate as violence, ambition, power. 

Let me back up at this point and give you my personal idea concerning agápe – giving unconditional love for a child.   If a person can make it through all the pitfalls of love that you explicated, they may be lucky enough to encounter a Desire which is not based on need and the demand for love as reception in the Lacanian sense.  It is still a Desire but it is an absolute Desire for the good of the Other – even against my need or my demand – even if it destroys me to benefit the Other, the child.  Unconditional love is Desire which we  consciously know with absolute certainty that it will never be fulfilled but counts that as nothing in regard to the Other, the he or the she, the child.  Unconditional love lays down its life for the Other, turns the check, accepts abuse without recourse to anger and retribution – to murder.  This, I and Levinas, call Ethics.  It cannot be supplanted by violence as violence goes against its absolute constitution.  It is always for the Other over against my fears, my imaginations, even my ontological concerns for Being, for my being, my temporality, my past. 

One practical example of how this plays out is my experience when I occasionally would lose patience with my child.  I could never be simply angry with my child even if I was the object of abuse.  Any feeling of anger was always and immediately mediated by pain for my child.  Even after the horrific and tragic suicide of my son I have felt anger as to how could he do this to me, how could he rob me of my pride and joy for his future – for our future – even with that anger it always comes with mediation, with pain, with essential concern for him.  I cannot languish in anger only in pain, a ‘full’ pain for him, for what he must have feared that drove him to such an extreme act.  Now, what I have left with regard to the presence of my son is his absence and the presence of pain, deep – beyond my ability – beyond my able to be able – to be ultimately vulnerable to Chris…but honestly, if that is all I have left, as far as presence, with Chris – I will take that with the fullness of his once upon my time with his diachronous time.  My eternal hurt and my pain pale to the radical infinity, the alterity, that was/is my son, my Chris.  I will take the debt I owe him for his Otherness to my grave and count it as the basis of the highest, the best, the most beautiful which imagination could and never can, by essence, discover.  Because of unconditional love for the Other, my son, I have found contentment even in the most painful loss anyone could ever imagination.  I think this is the essence of what Levinas calls Ethics.


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Antonio…

Good to see a response even if it is a return to the earlier problems.

Concering the aether, if one does not question the onto-logical presuppositions of the orthodoxy I don’t see how you would become open to aether. For my part, it was really the conceptual issues that turned me, for that is what opens up the field of interpretations to become a valid standpoint. Whether one accepts it or not, however, the point of my bringing it up is for critical reflection and I’m glad you’re looking into it at all.

As for the issue of presuppositionlessness, unfortunately you give Hegel too much credit. He himself admits the beginning is not something you will ever be rationally convinced of at the beginning. It is, and after dealing with a couple others who asked me the same issue at the same time, clear to me now that it is a hopeless endeavor to attempt any explanation prior to the immanent practice which will explain it. One either goes with it and enters, or one does not and the whole thing will never make sense. Hegel, for his part, seems to have accepted this and so gives little argument for most of his beginnings other than pointing out the failures of others and offering his own systematic movements.

You mention that Hegel seems to take an either/or standpoint, I assume this is with Being/Nothing. I don’t see what that connects to Kant with, the whole issue about that indifferent difference is entirely to do with the operative cognition of immediacy as such. If one simple does this, it’s clear what it is. Recently I have been tutoring someone on the Logic, and once I managed to get them to stop fighting it by trying to think about it and instead to think it it quickly dawned on them what was going on even if they too became baffled about how it is that we operate that difference despite not knowing what it is. Once one builds up at least to Existence the description becomes increasingly easier concerning the beginning. I cannot argue it further, I’m afraid this is the limit of the discussion if you cannot step into the open mystery haha.

To go onto the other critiques, I must say I’m rather confused as to your confusion. Not only is Hegel not engaging either/or thinking as absolute, only as a real part of the determination process of concepts (and cognition if you like), but he is also not splitting ontology, logic, and epistemology. The Logic is actually all three. For some reason people are baffled by this, but the Phenomenology already proves from the very beginning that what we call epistemology and ontology is actually the phenomenon of logic: how we know things is necessarily what we think they are.

Next, it seems that you are misunderstanding determinacy for Hegel. It is not exclusive, nor is it imposed. The determinate is being with non-being, the category of their simultaneous immediate operation. This ends up requiring a doubling at every turn in that every being is immediately linked to its non-being and only repeats the unity of determinacy. The ‘ruse’ I mention is simply that with the beginning we take an indeterminate standpoint on an already existent determinacy, we should know this because we are dealing with thought and indeterminacy, the issue is simply that if we can’t latch onto a presupposed structural dynamic to these concepts we’re going to have to see for ourselves how an indeterminate conception becomes determinate when the difference asserts its reality and we cannot simply bring those higher categories into play. Andy Blunden has some papers that talk about this as a cognitive thing, e.g. how you and I can face something completely new which we cannot determine with given categories. How do we go about determining what we have no concepts to determine? By taking their immediacy and just seeing what they end up doing. I don’t know what A is other than that it is immediately. I observe it and look into it and notice B which is just what A already was. I stand back and see A again and notice B already was A. I look at the totality and A-B really are a whole that is C. The indeterminacy is only there when I am focused only on A or only on B, but if they do relate well are’t we intelligent and notice C? Basically, things we do not individually know as determinate, hence indeterminate, can and do relate as indeterminate and thus are just determinate. The determinate relation has no privilege of anything, all things that are are just as much nothing at all points, so they are both. The claim that there is some logical jump just doesn’t hold up. If you work through the first to second chapter you can see why and how it works.

The stuff about the other and the in-itself is just an external reflection on the categories. To defend Hegel from that I can only reiterate the entire movement of the Logic to show you that you are misunderstanding the categories as what they are, what they do, and how that relates to the more familiar realm of our actual existence. Regardless of what Levinas thinks of the other this is irrelevant for what Hegel means because for him the other is just a poor category very early in the system. Next, for Hegel the categories do not translate, they are the intelligibility of what is, i.e. Hegel is not a representationalist or philosopher of presence as some accuse. As to Hegel’s thing-in-itself being Idea, it’s an astute recognition though your following comments make me think it is a correct one for the wrong reasons. I haven’t read Kant directly, mostly secondary literature. According to Winfield, Kant does actually on rare occasions identity the thing-in-itself as the Idea of Plato, since it is the objective truth, but because of their transcendental nature and the limits of human reason we are never able to grasp them and they only serve as regulatory ideals of reason. What Hegel means by Idea is much the same, but since epistemology is ontology is logic, the question of stripping the Idea of ontological status is rather nonsensical.

The neo-Kantian reading of Hegel as merely a philosopher of cognition is just blatantly ignorant that Hegel already has thrown such ideas into the trashbin for being utterly useless and empty presuppositions, for what we think the world is is how we think it is. To put it concretely with our other issue, aether: what you already think the world is has a priori rendered you either capable or incapable of seeing such a thing is. We cannot pretend the world just is and that our cognition here is waiting, it isn’t. The world is as much as we strive to reveal it is, and we strive to reveal it is insofar as we think there is more to it in the presuppositions of what we believe it ultimately is. Shocks happen, but no shock itself has ever revealed that it can topple what we think the world is until the shock breaks the wall of dogma. Beyond that we just ignore these shocks and reinterpret them according to our standing beliefs. The ‘evidence’ for much is there, to whom and for what it is evidence of and why we even conceive the what is the question. There is no thing-in-itself except for the epistemologist who refuses to see that the thing-in-itself is only a product of their presupposition of a world already split from reason.

The rest of your comments on the Idea and nature I’m afraid are just too confused. The Idea is just the truth, that which is in and for itself. Insofar as anything has any independent being, it is Idea. Anything which forms a system of self-development and subsistence is Idea to the extent that it does so, with life and mind doing so to the highest degrees. Any other consideration of Idea is presupposing too much. Idea has nothing to do with finite minds, it is simply the Idea of Plato in Hegel’s sense: that which grounds the intelligible and objectively existential as one in accord with itself.

To aid matters of communication along, may I suggest you look into either Winfield’s “Hegel and the future of systematic philosophy” or if you prefer something a bit more involved with Kant, James Kreines’ “Reason in the World.” Kreines deals more heavily with the Idea and the problems it deals with. I don’t think Kreines is wrong, he has a fascinating reading, but he does go towards topics I have little interest in. Good book nonetheless. Winfield is more dense but also in my opinion initially a lot clearer on the issues though he spends less time with them in that book. A lot of misattribution and miscommunication can be saved with the clarification that these two provide to these very important but also very difficult categories.

Me…

Antonio,

Sorry for the delay but my music recording has been taking up large portions of my time.

With regard to this,

“As for the issue of presuppositionlessness, unfortunately you give Hegel too much credit. He himself admits the beginning is not something you will ever be rationally convinced of at the beginning. It is, and after dealing with a couple others who asked me the same issue at the same time, clear to me now that it is a hopeless endeavor to attempt any explanation prior to the immanent practice which will explain it. One either goes with it and enters, or one does not and the whole thing will never make sense. Hegel, for his part, seems to have accepted this and so gives little argument for most of his beginnings other than pointing out the failures of others and offering his own systematic movements.”

I do not give Hegel too much credit but I do give deductively logic more credit than Hegel apparently does.  All the issues I have with Hegel’s beginning can be simply reduced by giving the definition of deductive logic…

“If all premises are true, the terms are clear, and the rules of deductive logic are followed, then the conclusion reached is necessarily true.”

If Hegel would have prefaced his entire “Logic” as inductive I would have no problems with it.  For a quick and famous review of deductive logic…

All men are mortal. (First premise)

Socrates is a man. (Second premise)

Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (Conclusion)

The first premise states that all objects classified as “men” have the attribute “mortal.” The second premise states that “Socrates” is classified as a “man” – a member of the set “men.” The conclusion then states that “Socrates” must be “mortal” because he inherits this attribute from his classification as a “man.”

I am sorry Antonio but a ‘ruse’ is not a good start for deductive logic.  Further, to go on with this ‘ruse’ with that boastful and unabashed claim that Hegel and his devotees have bellowed as “presuppositionlessness” could certainly be justified if in fact it were deductive logic but not if it is in fact inductive logic.  Hegel’s “Logic” is no doubt ‘inductive’ but he treats it as deductive.  Further, it is doubtful that the universal claims he wants to make could ever be made with deductive logic.  What makes deductive logic work is the included middle in the premises.  The included middle really amounts, in my estimation, to no more than a tautology.  Unfortunately, tautologies do not really give us new information but tend to simply repeat the premises in the conclusion in a different form.  So, Hegel could never start his work, much less complete it, as a deductive argument.  This comment you made seems to me to be the definition of inductive logic…

“Next, it seems that you are misunderstanding determinacy for Hegel. It is not exclusive, nor is it imposed. The determinate is being with non-being, the category of their simultaneous immediate operation. This ends up requiring a doubling at every turn in that every being is immediately linked to its non-being and only repeats the unity of determinacy. The ‘ruse’ I mention is simply that with the beginning we take an indeterminate standpoint on an already existent determinacy, we should know this because we are dealing with thought and indeterminacy, the issue is simply that if we can’t latch onto a presupposed structural dynamic to these concepts we’re going to have to see for ourselves how an indeterminate conception becomes determinate when the difference asserts its reality and we cannot simply bring those higher categories into play. Andy Blunden has some papers that talk about this as a cognitive thing, e.g. how you and I can face something completely new which we cannot determine with given categories. How do we go about determining what we have no concepts to determine? By taking their immediacy and just seeing what they end up doing. I don’t know what A is other than that it is immediately. I observe it and look into it and notice B which is just what A already was. I stand back and see A again and notice B already was A. I look at the totality and A-B really are a whole that is C. The indeterminacy is only there when I am focused only on A or only on B, but if they do relate well are’t we intelligent and notice C? Basically, things we do not individually know as determinate, hence indeterminate, can and do relate as indeterminate and thus are just determinate. The determinate relation has no privilege of anything, all things that are are just as much nothing at all points, so they are both. The claim that there is some logical jump just doesn’t hold up. If you work through the first to second chapter you can see why and how it works.”

If “we can’t latch onto a presupposed structural dynamic to these concepts we’re going to have to see for ourselves how an indeterminate conception becomes determinate when the difference asserts its reality and we cannot simply bring those higher categories into play” then we have not restricted the field of play by essentially tying two premises (i.e, Being and nothing) through a included middle to reach a conclusion as you have just suggested.  So, let’s not call what we are doing deductive logic or immanent logic as other Hegelians have called it.  The problem I see is that Hegelians seem to think that if Hegel employs inductive logic they cannot make the absolute claims in the way they want to make them as apodictic truth.  I find this arrogance untenable and simply wrong.  Can we say that Hegel was wrong in thinking his logic as “deductive” and proceed with it as inductive logic?

Here is another issue we are running into which I think has been my fault to some extent.  I have been responding to you from my background in what other Hegelian schools are writing about Hegel and not precisely about your conclusions on Hegel.  You seemed to have reached your conclusions in variance to other scholars I have read.  I think you have a much more tame and understandable take on Hegel which I find refreshing and more palatable. Here is one example, 

The either/or comment does not come from me and my interpretation of Hegel but from a scholar who wants to force us to that direction.  Remember this comment I made,

“It is a logical jump to make this into an either/or dilemma – e.g. merely epistemological or systemically deriving every determinacy without presupposing any underived determinacy.  If we say that Hegel’s project “to systematically derive every determinacy without presupposing any underived determinacy” MUST be assumed in advance because the only other alternative to an “immanent method of derivation” of logical deduction IS purely (and merely) epistemological, we have assumed an absolute bifurcation of logic and epistemology which has not been purely and immanently derived but conveniently assumed.  Why can’t there be a confluence between logic and epistemology?”

This is not my take on Hegel but Dr. Kisner’s argument.  Remember, I ask, “Can it be that logical determination and knowledge is both/and?”  We do not have to accept Hegel based on a reaction to a perceived and probably justified  history of  philosophy.  We can simply call Hegel’s logic inductive and be done with it. 

Another tendency of contemporary thinking on Hegel is to, in true post-post-modern thinking, react to transcendental steps in logic which, for them, amounts to slipping in gaps in logic based on dogmatic claims not on the “immanence” of the text.  You seem to have no problem with transcendence or metaphysics with regard to Hegel’s “Logic” – this is a taboo in many Hegelians I have read unless it is somehow swallowed up along the way in some historical dialectic.

So, another problem in our communications is that I react to other Hegelian schools and not more directly to your views.  I know you do not care about other philosopher’s take on Hegel when they diverge from your opinions but my understanding thus far on Hegel is not simply based on your views but my previous readings and understandings of Hegel.

Oh, certainly there is a philosophical, historical notion that identifies the thing-in-itself with Plato’s forms but Kant means something much more specific than Plato.  His argument is that because ESSENTIALLY understanding can only come from a priori categories of knowledge and thus if you will, our existence/ontology/subjectivity etc., we can never know any ‘thing’ as it is apart from our understanding of the ‘thing’.  You may object but I would suggest that for Hegel – there is no ‘thing’ other than Idea (which is not really a ‘thing’.   However, Hegel’s mission, it seems to me and other Hegelians I have read, is to actually think the ‘thing-in-itself’ so we can be rid of metaphysics once and for all.

You stated, “There is no thing-in-itself except for the epistemologist who refuses to see that the thing-in-itself is only a product of their presupposition of a world already split from reason.”  – this is the either/or I referred to which I was not assigning to Hegel but to why Hegelians think we need Hegel to overcome it.  Certainly, Hegel himself pushes this line but only in so far as it opens up the space for him to make another more important claim – the claim you also want to make – that the only alternative to Hegel’s Idea (Begriff) and epistemology’s Cartesian (mechanistic) split is his “Logic”.  Sorry, I do not buy it – it is an alternative but not THE alternative.  I find the force of violence (in thought, i.e., presuppostionless) is the only emotional reaction Hegelians have to the both/and approach.  Certainly, Hegel is one possibility.  I think we could go on to demonstrate Hegelian weaknesses if nothing else – his violent historic interpretations which lead to human atrocities.  Is it unlawful to ask the question, ‘How did this come about?”  Was it mere misinterpretation as we see for example in the reasoning of Christian apologetics or is there something in Hegel’s philosophy itself which can give rise to such unabashed indignance and totalitarian power?  I do not see how this question should strike fear in the heart of Hegelians or indignant affronts.  If Hegel and Hegelian’s are correct and we have obtained objective certainty in the “Logic” what does it matter if one questions it – why react at all?  As Kierkegaard tells us what does it matter that Galileo denied his finding that the earth revolved around the sun when his life was stake by the church?  If 1 + 1 = 2 and Hegel has obtained deductive logic in all its immanence – what does it matter if we entertain the question of its sort comings?  Why react indignantly?  What really is at stake here in such a reaction? 

One more thing, “Idea has nothing to do with finite minds, it is simply the Idea of Plato in Hegel’s sense: that which grounds the intelligible and objectively existential as one in accord with itself.”  We see in Christianity that Plato’s forms took on the face of the Christian God and later the face of Descartes mind/body split which led to mechanistic philosophy – I prefer to simply give the ‘face’ to the other – the he or the she – as it is rightly theirs.

As I have mentioned I much more to write and have written about the aether you and others (apparently) ascribe to but I will save that for a later post.

Best Regards,

Mark



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Antonio…

Not surprised about the confusion, it is endemic to Hegelianism itself as I told you.

On your first comments on the beginning of the Logic, it is deductive and not inductive. Being is Nothing, and cannot be otherwise no matter where, when, who, or what name it is called by. If one thinks immediately, one does not think at all and that is necessarily that these mean. If something were immediate, it would not be anything at all. If Being immediately is Nothing and Nothing immediately is Being, then they are the movement called Becoming, etc. There is no induction here, there is no way to think this differently if this movement is what we are thinking. Not even an alien from the mystical plains of the 12th dimension with intellectual intuition who does not speak by only uses intuitive telepathy could controvert this. To think otherwise is simply to assert something else. This proof only requires that one think these in their purity away from external contingent elements.

Now, Hegel, and I by extension of that project, can do nothing to ease your doubts about why the beginning is fine. I would say that your doubts are ultimately unfounded, for at the beginning of the Logic all knowledge of what logic is are out the window. That’s why no argument can be given to you, there isn’t even the shadow of any argumentative structure to be given at the outset. It is not asking you to take it on faith, for if you really have such concerns the answer lies in the immanence of the Phenomenology of Spirit—that is if your question concerns these issues of onto-epistemic relations or whether this or that conception of the Absolute really can be absolute. Your focus on the ethical, the Other, too are dealt with in the Phenomenology as it is one of the ways that we may conceive of ourselves and the world and its ultimate purpose and meaning. Certainly you will not find your position as you hold it spelled there, but considerations of why ethics cannot be the stopping point of philosophy is certainly there.

Concerning the ruse of Being/Nothing, it seems I was not clear enough: the ruse is not what the Logic does, the ruse is what we do to ourselves. The confusion we experience in the beginning with being surprised that Being is Nothing, mainly about why, arises not from Hegel having hid anything, but because it seems almost without fail we lose ourselves to this movement and strangely (but conveniently for the exercise to prove its point)  forget how we got to the starting position in the first place. If we keep that in mind we get a perfectly reasonable external explanation for why we can do the movement of Being-Nothing-Becoming. There is no mystery at the end of the day about why it’s experientially possible, and further there is no mystery about why this is logical since we engage a pure thinking of thinking. Concepts are logics, etc.

Regarding the Idea, well yes, I agree. There is nothing other than the Idea. This, however, is nothing spooky, rather it’s a banal point if one grasps the simple meaning: the Idea is the unity of concept and object, i.e. it is simply the self-articulated thing itself. A atom is an Idea, an apple tree, a dog, a worm, the solar sun, the ecosystem. Any thing which achieves self-differentiated articulation in being is the Idea. The concept is pure articulation, the object is the body of this articulation, the Idea is the recognition that these are the same thing just as form and content are the exact same thing. It’s Platonic only in intelligible purpose (and Kantian to this end as well insofar as the Ideas are the ideal of reason’s consummation of knowing the thing itself), otherwise it is closer to Aristotelian form. To know the in-itself is simply to know this articulation of being from within, as a self-articulation in the same manner that we know that a species of animal is what it is according to the specification of its genetic plan of articulation. To me, it is a rather mundane yet fitting concept. To know this is and is not metaphysical, which is really something quite a few say: Hegel makes the metaphysical mundane even at its most metaphysical (such as Being-Nothing).

As for Hegel’s logic being the alternative to the onto-epistemic split of the absolute: it is and it isn’t. It is if what we are seeking is the self-articulating absolute which is intelligible in and for itself. It isn’t in that, well, obviously Hegel isn’t the first or the only one that just never made the split to begin with. Heidegger also makes no split of this kind, Spinoza, the neo-Platonists, etc. One can find even the truths Hegel puts forth  in his logical derivations all over the place in a rather unsurprising matter since those who thought through these concepts in their intelligibility were by and large thinking the exact same thing.

But, this brings up the question that I think ultimately divides you and I: What are we looking for? What question have we posited that we are seeking an answer to? Because this question radically transforms the ground upon which we judge the offered answers. It’s often not a conscious question, and once we find something satisfying it is not necessarily clear to us what we had bee looking for anyway. Here I am, once a staunch materialist atheist convinced of scientism, and now I’m a staunch Idealist theist who despite his love of empirical science has for the most part almost no respect for it as a the theoretical unity it is. What brought me here? I could give some tale of how I have always valued Truth and that I’ve searched for it all along, but along the way what I thought Truth was changed many times, so was what I searched for in the beginning what I received in the end? I don’t know. At first I believed ethics was obviously the highest philosophy because it was the immediately practical, but then I thought it was ontology that would tell us ethics, and then epistemology and its skeptical issues took over and I thought ultimately everything was relative despite strong intuitions against it, and so on and so on.

Concerning theoretical violence to both and approach, I don’t know what that refers to. Hegelian philosophy is generally hated precisely because it is seen as this, it seems to make no commitments to valuing one side over another. I would like a concrete example. Regarding violence itself, while I once was against it absolutely, I have no qualms with it now. Real violence and theoretical violence are fine by me, it has its use in rational practice. I suppose you take Hegelianism to have some sort of universal violence, but that’s not what I see. Within the field of philosophy the violence is everywhere, and as Jay Bernstein says in his lectures on the Phenom: Why would we think it wouldn’t? If a way of thinking is a form of consciousness, and that is itself a social life world which takes itself as True, why wouldn’t it rise against any opposition to crush it? To question a thought is to question a life. If you question my life, and I believe (perhaps I know) that my life is true against your claims that it isn’t, what person worth calling living would simply lay down and let someone else just end their life? The animal fights against its death, so too does the thought fight against its destruction. We are what we think, and if we have any conviction in our life as our life we must and will retaliate. It is rather interesting, but of course it only appears in one context: the absolute clash. Violence is only apparent when there is no successful interpenetration of the mind, where the Others refuse to open up and remain Other all the while insisting in interaction based on their lifeworld imposed on the other. We’re not talking about people indifferent to each other, we’re talking about people who for whatever reason see a need to interact yet find no basis for interaction, and this leads to violence.

As for why I react, well, we’re having a dialogue of course. Nothing I despise more than misunderstandings, and so I fight your assertions insofar as they are assertions about me, my conceptions. What you believe, how you believe, and what you shall do that does not pertain to me isn’t of interest in the discussion. Were this some kind of meet and greet, a mere sharing of ideas in which i put forth mine, you yours, and we take what we like, then there would be no issue. But you and I are not playing that game. I hope and believe we are not, and that instead we are attempting to pry open that mystery of the Other through this interplay of progressive revelation through argument. As you claim and question, so I answer and attempt to reveal myself as these thoughts to you, and likewise you reveal yourself to me in my assertions and questions. To some extent we think and believe we understand each other, and to another extent each believes the other simply misunderstands and the more we attempt to explain the more we realize there is perhaps a fundamental barrier, the barrier at which the Other is not going to step into our shoes not because they do not will to, but perhaps because they can’t. As Fchte says, each person’s philosophy tells of who they are. If you and I have different paths it is because we are to that extent essentially different people who cannot really conceive the reality of the Other. It does not mean we cannot accept that, I accept far stranger things which I shall never experience or know for myself. But just as you say that I cannot comprehend your notion of love in that I do not know the love of a child, perhaps you cannot comprehend me because you do not know the same deranged passion for universal comprehension which leads one to entertain pure thoughts over any other given. To me the differentiated unity and circularity of thought is just exhilarating, it captures exactly the kind of mystery I want to grasp.

Anyway, sorry for rambling, I do enjoy the exchanges. I’ve been reading on mathematics lately, particularly some basic things on negative numbers in foundational theories. If 2+2=4, well, mathematicians seem to have given up on that being of significant meaning long ago haha.

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Me…

Hey Antonio,

I have been reading some books and essays on Hegel which has kept me busy.  One book I really like is: The Unconscious Abyss: Hegel’s Anticipation of Psychoanalysis by Jon Mills

It takes an in depth look at Hegel’s notion of Schacht and less mentioned abgrund.  He draws out parallels with Freuds notion of the unconscious.  He also spends a lot of time at the beginning on Hegel’s mentors in this regard such as Boehme, neo Platonism and Shelling.  I have written about the notion of Chaos in the Presocratics in my philosophy series especially in Hesiod so the connections are rampant.  The ground which is no ground is where consciousness emerges and the birth place of Spirit.  The Phenomenology starts with the immediacy of consciousness, the pure ‘this’.  Similarly, the Logic starts Idea from Being and nothing as pure indeterminacy.  As such, they seem to echo the abyss at the very start, just as the Phenomenology traced the anthropological start with the immediacy of consciousness.  Hegel refers to the abyss as a “nightlike abyss within which a world of infinitely numerous images and presentations is preserved without being in consciousness” (EG § 453).  Perhaps the nothing is the abyss as the pure not of Idea but there is much more to it than simply nothing. 

I have found that there is much more Hegel would tell us about the nothing than we see in the beginning of the Logic.  Also, the groundless ground never leaves Hegel in the form of desire and drive which is a movement all the way through his analysis.  I have written much about this already elsewhere but for now I will just say that the nothing at the start of the Logic and from which Spirit arises cannot be at rest.  It is genitive replete with “infinitely numerous images and presentations without being in consciousness”.  For me, this marks the erased trace which cannot come into consciousness of the Other.  History is that dead account which must drive Spirit towards self-objectification as what must give account of itself before there is self and consciousness.  The origin, the arche, is abyss for self and fully realized Spirit.  It is merely a footprint that is the unconscious trace, the mystic writing pad of Freud, of what is anarchical…a past not my past.  To encapsulate Spirit as a homogenous whole in self-determined Idea is to remake the Other into the Same, i.e., as soul which has slipped and encapsulated its mortal bounds…Spirit as whole and universal in Idea.  Yet, what remains behind the unity and oneness which culminate from the many is the Other.  The Other is taken up at an earlier stage in the Logic as a necessary objectification of what will otherwise cloth Idea.  In my thinking, this is why Idea can never rest from its work – the absolute dismantling of any such infinity which can be thought as absolute Other.  The abyss and the culmination of Spirit in Idea share one essential predicate – abolition to the point of extinction for any ethic of the Other which is the ‘not’ (the negation of Hegel) dealt with: from the solitary abyss, to the unity of same-other and the self-determining Idea.  What if Idea has an eternal choice – itself or Other…that which is not itself even as the ‘not’ but truly can only remain as a choice, an ethic, a decision to not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, achieved, completed in-itself but to face us in the simplicity of the he, the she, the it we/history/Spirit could only retain as remnants of presentation, image, even Idea – all mistaken in Hegelian desire as the ‘not’.  Could it be that this Other can never be founded/accounted for in solemnity as Idea but in a once that has no origin, no mediation and can only be retained as disembodied images, as erased traces which cannot come to consciousness but only doomed to the abyss from which Spirit must rise once again until the simple evocation who faces us gives place to found Idea?  I do not think this ethical decision can be arrived at from origin and epistemology only maligned into what will ever be the ‘not’.

I have much more to write about from my studies and your help in understanding and thinking about Hegel.  Even if you contest these points as I am sure you will, surely conceded that merely attempting to grasp, overcome, refute the difficulties of Hegel’s genius must make us better in some yet unqualified sense for having tried.

Much more to write and think through with regard to your previous comments.  However, in short I do not see the included middle of deductive logic in Hegel’s start of the Logic – unless perhaps it is nothing which is inductively, IMO, thought to pass over into becoming – where is the included middle from the premises in the conclusion (becoming)?

Concrete examples of violence taken from Hegel – through Feuerbach into Marx and Engels as dialectical materialism…shall we say Stalin?  I find similar paths which we can speak of later in the road through capitalism to authoritarianism.

I do like the give and take, the challenge towards better thinking and the learning I have in the encounter with you.  I do not take it as any form of violence or attempt at domination.  For me it is fun, not as demeaning to you, but as friends connecting in more significant and satisfying ways than what many folks seem to have no real desire for.  I never want to offend or put you down.  I only ask that we help each other be better, achieve more meaningful goals in our philosophical aspirations.  I know that everything can be reduced to power relations to those who are so inclined to psychologically require such mutilations of meaning but I really believe you and have no need to fall into that abyss 😉 take care…

Mark

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Antonio…

 Hey there Mark,

If the last response seemed to show any hard feelings or annoyance from me it wasn’t intended, I enjoy the discussion.

Regarding there being more to say of Nothing, it is my comprehension that it is true and false. It is true in that the Absolute which Nothing is to explicate is more than a mere abstract Nothing, it is false in that when we speak of Nothing we’re not using it as a higher category of any kind. Each concept has its specific place of poverty or richness in the system and each is used in accord with those levels of relation and cognition. I think a fundamental talking past each other is occurring in that you are attempting to translate your Levinasian terms into Hegelian terms, but while I can point out  partially what is in error, I also cannot pinpoint the error in that I really have no background on Levinas to know what it is that you are trying to get across here. In dealing with the unconscious, or with the ethics of the Other, I do not know what this is really trying to get at. I wrote a lengthy response which was a rant about how I fundamentally cannot agree that otherness among the human in is not possible, and that true others are something truly beyond human cognition and capacities of experience, however, I realized we are talking of the Other in completely different senses.

If you have any book or articles that would give me an overview of Levinas’s philosophy I think it would clarify things between us.

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Me…

Antonio,

I have never taken anything you said as offensive – its cool.  I have been busy after my wife’s surgery doing house chores and helping her out.

Actually, in my reading of Hegel lately I am thinking that Hegel may have had it mostly right.  I do think he has charted out the inner/outer workings of the self as it rises through externality to its abgrund which is a transcendent essence.  I just do not think the self ends up in monism – a universal Idea.  OR, if it does end up in a universal, I see it more as a co-existing singularity which can never be done away with by the universal (as it would not be universal then).  Here is a thought for you – suppose you end up at the end of Hegel’s road to the universal Idea.  Is that all that is left to do?  For Aristotle, no.  For Hegel, I think yes.  I do not think singularity can be resolved into the particular.  Suppose the end of this phenomenological life is to rise to the universal Idea which somehow still cannot by essence do away with singularity as I think Hegel and Aristotle had varying notions about – how could it be universal if it does not essentially include singularity?  What if, when we have achieved the Hegelian crown, the next phenomenology which perhaps, we can stand on our tip toes to see from here is to willingly lose it all albeit perhaps in a particular way ;-).  – Just as Hegel thought Spirit had to externalize itself to know itself – after it has achieved this Hegelian knowledge of itself the next thing might be to willingly and consciously without all the trappings of Godhood become or better humbly dwell in its singularity – something like a self-willing mere human (or some equivalent).  Why?  – to welcome the Other – the other singularity which ‘knowing’ as such can never conquer, transcend or integrate into a higher Concept.  What if the co- existing of the absolute singularity has to necessarily recognize the Other – the other absolute singularity that it can never be but only choose to recognize that absolute vis-à-vis Ethics.  The abyss would no longer be relegated to the ‘not’ of drive and desire but the Ethics of an Other which the absolute leaves room for to be an Other absolute which radically exceeds its own Godhood.

Also, I wanted to flesh out deductive logic a little better than I did previously.  In deductive logic the conclusion MUST follow necessarily from the premises.  The way it does this is by establishing a necessary not a sufficient relationship to the premises.  For example,

All men are mortal. (First premise)

Socrates is a man. (Second premise)

Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (Conclusion)

The included middle is men plural and man singular.

The conclusion unites mortal and Socrates vis-à-vis the included middle in a necessary relationship.  If deductive logic does not accomplish this, it cannot be thought as such.  However, this does not make inductive logic false.  Inductive logic gives us greater degrees of certainty as to truth value but can never accomplish necessary certainty as deductive logic can. I would go on to add that the truth claims of deductive logic have a much narrower field of possible claims because deductive logic rest on the apodictic certainty of tautology – the conclusion simply explicitly restates what the premises already said so it is merely the statement A=A.  Science is really almost all inductive logic.  I think Hegel is as well.  See if you can structure a categorical imperative in the example above from the beginning of the Logic.  I do not see how it can be done because becoming is not an included middle or even anywhere in the premises in nothing and Being.  It seems to me the included middle may be undifferentiation.  I might add that Hegel seems to repeatedly ‘define’ undifferentiation as nothing.  Once this is done many predicates can follow such as immediacy.  However, the abyss which is the immediacy of the unconscious or not yet able to rise to consciousness is not really nothing as in some unexplained or at least vague fashion there are images, drives, restlessness, desire, etc. without coherence.  It is not really nothing in a strict sense of no-thing – no thing which can be named or thought.  I think it may be that nothing is an impossibility of thought just as infinity is as well. 

Oh, as far as Levinas, I would recommend “Totality and Infinity” which was Levinas’ most famous early work and “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence” as his probably more famous later work.  “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence” is more philosophically technical.

Best Regards,

Mark

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Antonio…

I am reading this introduction <https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/373332.To_the_Other?ac=1&from_search=true>  overview on Levinas. I read his essay “Ethics As First Philosophy” and while I could follow the first half, the shift to the Other as such was incomprehensible to me. I also listened to this short lecture <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaPNYQ_qdII> , and combined with some other short clips I got the impression that I hardly disagree with the notion of letting the Other be and reveal themselves, etc. My disagreements come more from the ontological claims, but they are not clear to me yet such that I can say I truly disagree.

Anyway, I hope that insofar as I come to learn some of your language I may be able to better clarify our true differences so that our otherness remains not implicit, but is explicit.

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Me…

Antonio,

I don’t know about the book but that video was horrendous.  Therefore, I tried to quickly put together something that might address your concerns better with ontology.  It is rather long and I really did not have time to proof it so I apologize in advance for both…

I always like these summaries:

Emmanuel Levinas <https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/levinas/#LogOthThaBei>

On the logic of ontology meant here as the logos of being, the essay states:

“The second chapter [of Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence] approaches Heidegger’s theme of language as the way in which Being becomes, the way it temporalizes. Levinas adopts Heidegger’s argument that the logos gathers up Being and makes it accessible to us. But Levinas will argue that the lapse of time between lived immediacy and its representation cannot really be gathered by a logos. Therefore, the lapse poses a challenge to language itself and falls, much the way that transcendence did, outside the realm of Being as process.

I am going to quote some from this dissertation you can get freely on the web here:

Ontology in Levinas’s Philosophy <https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&amp=&context=luc_diss_6mos&amp=&sei-redir=1&referer=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.bing.com%252Fsearch%253Fq%253Dlevinas%252Bbeyind%252Bontology%2526form%253DEDGTCT%2526qs%253DPF%2526cvid%253D0fb668f1ef6e4e64a5dc9ba711e59ba7%2526refig%253D12db6765c307453ca1b27047a4b06ed4%2526cc%253DUS%2526setlang%253Den-US%2526elv%253DAXK1c4IvZoNqPoPnS%252521QRLOOyNpVQ2mb6%252521XDswOBZofhN9ZBGKtJjDFQIMoBcnd3IMEUgghearLNUBUOpL2A3Rl6Es52d4K2fOQqvekULsABS%2526plvar%253D0#search=%22levinas%20beyind%20ontology%22>

My comments…

This is mostly in the section: The Dialectic of the Instant: Il y a and the Hypostasis of the Existent

Additionally, with regard to the ‘not’ of Being, Levinas has a somewhat similar notion to Hegel’s abgrund or abyss in the il y a.  In Time and the Other he tells us: “Let us approach this situation [i.e., existence without existents or il y a] from another slant. Let us take insomnia. This time it is not a matter of an imagined experience”

I think you will find Hegel’s notion of abyss as images, presence and the horror as a restlessness – perhaps you could think of not-being or ‘nothing’ in Hegel’s term as insomnia.  In Hegel’s terms the il y a might be thought as the absolute ‘not’ of Being where consciousness has absolutely abandoned Being, ontology has met its other in what we may say has similarities to the beginning of the Logic where Being and nothing are absolutely drowned in indeterminacy, unable to be able

Quotes from the dissertation…

“Insomnia, is constituted by the consciousness that it will never finish—that is, that there is no longer any way of withdrawing from the vigilance to which one is held. Vigilance without end. From the moment one is riveted there, one loses all notion of a starting or finishing point” (TA 27/TO 48).

From existence to the existent: 

The impossibility of tearing the invading, inescapable

[inévitable]

and anonymous rustling [bruissement] of existence is manifested in particular through certain moments where sleep escapes [se déroble] our appeals. One watches when there is no longer anything to watch and despite the absence of every reason to watch. The bare fact of presence oppresses: one is held to being, held to be. One is detached from every object, from every content, but there is presence (DEE 109/EE 61). 

“Insomnia,” Levinas writes, “is constituted by the consciousness that it will never finish—that is, that there is no longer any way of withdrawing from the vigilance to which one is held. Vigilance without end. From the moment one is riveted there, one loses all notion of a starting or finishing point” (TA 27/TO 48). And in From existence to the existent: 

The impossibility of tearing the invading, inescapable

[inévitable]

and anonymous rustling [bruissement] of existence is manifested in particular through certain moments where sleep escapes [se déroble] our appeals. One watches when there is no longer anything to watch and despite the absence of every reason to watch. The bare fact of presence oppresses: one is held to being, held to be. One is detached from every object, from every content, but there is presence (DEE 109/EE 61). 

Levinas expresses this paralytic powerlessness by speaking of our being “riveted” to being (TA 27/TO 48), of being “held to being, held to be” (DEE 109/EE 61)—language that tries to indicate that insomnia is not dependent upon me, but happens to me. I do not seize on il y a, but am seized by a state of sleeplessness, or a feeling of horror. I cannot escape either insomnia or horror, because they come from that which is independent of my will: presence. 

The presence at issue in insomnia and horror is not that of an undesired obstacle, i.e., of a determinate object or complex of objective conditions that I could foresee (and so perhaps avoid or mitigate). The move from “held to being [tenu à l’être]” to “held to be [tenu à être]” serves as a kind of corrective that elucidates the difference between the presence of a being and the presence of existence to which the insomniac is “deliver[ed]” (DEE 96/EE 54) and which horror “executes” upon the horrified one (DEE 102/EE 58): in the first phrase, one might be tempted to say that being or presence is an entity, something outside of me that approaches, that could be an obstacle; in the second phrase, however, it is clear that there is nothing outside of me that approaches.11 I am held to be, made to persist—by what? Nothing determinable, but presence which is not the presence of any thing, nor of a totality of things, but of no thing. Presence is existence in the absence of any and all existents (i.e., individuals)—existing as an unqualified persistence, as failing to lapse, as the presence even of absence (DEE 94, 99/EE 52, 56), which latter then cannot be pure and absolute nothing, even if it also cannot be absence as a possibility of beings in their objective or real being. Presence of absence, global absence sensible12 only as present or presencing and inflicted globally and irremissibly is existence not bound to existents: such presence is an excluded middle that nevertheless happens in the experience of insomnia and horror.

Insomnia, or insomniac subjectivity, to the degree that it is a mode of being structured by existence-as-presence, is not consciousness; at best, it is a deformed consciousness…

Yet what is Levinas’s starting point in both From existence to the existent and Time and the Other? “Let us imagine all beings, things and persons reverting to nothingness” (DEE 93/EE 51). And in Time and the Other, using phrasing that is nearly identical, he likewise invites his audience to imagine that all beings were to “return” to nothingness (TA 25/TO 46).

What is important in insomnia, considered as a relation or a strange and exotic14 form of intentionality, is that its “intentum,” il y a, has a sense that exceeds its intention: it signifies self-less, worldless, objectless presence, presence that is not only distinct from the identity that I am, but which has separated from any particular being, from any totality of beings, from the totality of all beings, and which is not a possibility of my being. This is the crucial inadequation that, when taken together with the withdrawal of being from “exterior things” (DEE 94/EE 52) in toto, warrants the claim that existence as presence is not merely distinct from existents (including me), but separate, though not as a substantive. Absolute absence as positive presence of no individual is not experienceable, yet it is signified in horror and insomnia.

The things of the daytime world do not, then, become in the night the source of the ‘horror of shadows’ because the look would not manage to ambush their “unforeseeable plots”; quite the contrary, they borrow their fantastic character from this horror. Obscurity does not only modify their contours for vision, but brings them back to the anonymous, indeterminate being that they ooze (DEE 9697/EE 54, my emphasis).

Horror as an affect that accedes to the restless verbal reiteration of presence does not modify the daytime world in any derivative fashion; it rather exposes19 “[t]he anonymous current of being” which “invades, submerges every subject, person or thing” (DEE 94/EE 52, my emphasis). This exposure does not take place before consciousness or in consciousness; horror rather “strips consciousness of its very ‘subjectivity’” (DEE 98/EE 55). In later works, Levinas might have reformulated this line to read: subjectivity is stripped of consciousness, but the point is clear: “[t]o be consciousness is to be torn away from il y a, since the existence of a consciousness constitutes a subjectivity, since it is a subject of existence, i.e., in a certain measure, mastery of being [être]

My comments…

Here mastery is exceeded as a kind of anonymous passive beyond all passivities (might we think existence beyond all existents…umm) which cannot even yet be thought as slavery…I suppose the il y a is absolutely antithetical to Being…

At this point we introduce the unfolding of Being, self-consciousness as beginning, as the temporality of the instant or what Hegel might call immediacy as the essential prerequisite for Becoming…

Quotes from the dissertation…

The intrusion and assimilation of my being to the endless presence of il y a is always a threat, but it is difficult to analyze this threat, for it is difficult to discover a way by which to access ontological difference. Existence is ordinarily “contracted” into a relationship with an existent in the instant (DEE 16, 31/EE 1, 12). The instant is the unique event by which there is a beginning within the eternal presence of existence, and is achieved by the appearance of an existent who exists. The existent or subject who exists, takes position “here” in the instant (DEE 118/EE 66). By taking position, existence then “adheres” like an attribute to the existent (DEE 16/EE 1), which dissimulates the difference between existence and an existent, for the participatory relationship between them is suspended. But the existent who masters existence has not managed to break with il y atic being once and for all. The subject who takes position in the instant is the other term of ontological difference, and in relation to insomnia as depersonalized being, it is a kind of sleep (DEE 142/EE 84).

My comments…

“a kind of sleep” as opposed to the insomniac of non-being…here sleep is interiority

Quotes from the dissertation…

An instant is the event by which depersonalized being—il y a—is interrupted by  a subject, who takes position in il y a, thereby polarizing being between existence and existent (DEE 16/EE 2). This polarizing interruption is not something that the subject does, if by this we mean that the subject is already an individual existent who arrives as if from an outside (from some unknown place or world) into anonymous being and effects a polarization, thereby interrupting it, like a stone going through a window interrupts the continuity of the window. The existent who “arises at the bottom of il y a”25 signifies ontologically as effecting the transmutation of existence into an existent: “By the hypostasis anonymous being loses its il y atic character. The being [étant]—that which

is—is a subject of the verb to be and, thereby, it exercises a mastery over the fatality of being become its attribute. Someone exists, who assumes being, immediately his or her being” (DEE 141/EE 83).

The world and knowing [savoir] are not events where the point of existence is dulled in a personality [moi] that would be absolutely master of being, absolutely behind it. The I recoils in relation to its object and in relation to its impersonal self [soi], but this liberation with regard to impersonal self [soi] appears as an infinite task. The I has always already a foothold in its own existence. Outside in relation to everything, it is interior in relation to itself, bound to itself. The existence that it has assumed, it is forever enchained to it. This impossibility for me [moi] not to be a oneself [soi], marks the fundamental tragedy of the I [moi], the fact that it is riveted to its being (DEE 143/EE 84).

My comments…

The instant may be somewhat akin to Hegel’s becoming at the beginning of the Logic.  However, it is different in that, for Hegel, immediacy is still encapsulated by undifferentiation and therefore nothing (although as I pointed out elsewhere nothing is not really nothing…I think better to think the abyss).  From immediacy and the tension, restlessness, drive, desire at the start of the Logic we get becoming.  For Levinas the instant is not undifferentiated.  It is an arising from il ya into self.  However, self here is not meant as an identity – a uniform hypostasis which surmounts the abyss.  For Levinas the tension of il ya and the instant are never resolved and as such remain dynamic.  I am reminded of Freud’s ego which is dynamically suspended between the death wish and libido, id and superego.  Levinas vis-à-vis his mentor Husserl here is departing from Husserl’s notion of what Levinas refers to as the ‘privilege of representation’ in intentional apperception.

Levinas wants to start with sensibility which has not yet privileged episteme and representation.  Kant made a similar move although he took it towards noumena, the thing in itself.  Levinas start is from phenomenology.  This is the concrete self not the self of formal logic.  The concrete self is sensibility as instant, as sleep from the insomnia of il ya.

Quotes from the dissertation…

The identification of the Same in the Me [Moi] does not show up [se produit]19 as a monotone tautology: “I am I” [Moi c’est Moi]. The originality of identification, irreducible to the formalism of A is A, would thus escape attention. It is necessary to fix it not in reflecting on the abstract representation of a self by itself [soi par soi] (TeI 7/TI 37).

Levinas argues that in order properly to conceive the originality of the self’s identification,

[i]t is necessary to start from the concrete relation between a self [moi] and a world. The latter, strange and hostile, should, in all good logic, alter the self [moi]. Now, the true and original relation between them and where the self is revealed precisely as the Same par excellence, occurs as sojourn in the world. The manner of the Self [Moi] against the “other” [<<autre>>] of the world, consists in sojourning, in identifying oneself [s’identifier] by existing [en existant] there at home (TeI 7/TI 37).

My comments…

So the self is never the same as the formal notion of identity.  In Hegel’s discussion of the same and the other we are taken up by a purely formal discussion of the same and the other as a proper function of language; from a purely definitional approach.  Levinas does not see a formal sameness in the self.  Instead he sees an oscillation of the instant as sensibility which he explores in depth and il y a or the abyss.

So, if the self is not the same in a purely formal, privilege of representation but exceeds or precedes such a present which lends itself to the epistemic, how can the other be self-same with itself?

Levinas looks a world and how world relates to the concrete self as non-essentialist, not a “monotone tautology”, as sensibility.

Where do we get the notion of identity and sameness regarding the self?  What is temporality in this context?  How do we get sensibility of time flowing.

Quotes from the dissertation…

It is in relation to the world that the self undergoes changes and identifies itself. And yet, despite its intrinsic reference to the world as its “other,”21 the changes the self undergoes in responding to the world do not undo its identity. The self remains itself and in its concrete relation with the world, its identity cannot be said to be determined or defined by its position within the worldly whole or a system. The self’s sameness is not the result of its delimitation by other beings in the world-system, but somehow comes from itself in its very contact with worldly alterity: the self’s identity is a self-identification in relation to the world. And this self-identification is the very “manner” of the self, its way of being, against the alterity of the world.

What of the alterity of the world, which ought “in all good logic” to alter the self, but fails despite enabling in some fashion the self to change and alter itself? The world as other is a dwelling place: “a place where I can, where, dependent upon another reality, I am, despite this dependence, or thanks to it, free. It suffices to walk, to do in order to seize oneself in every thing […]” (TeI 7/TI 37). The world as other offers the self a place in which the self can find itself in any relationship with a worldly being, and this support that the world-other offers nevertheless—somehow!—does not reduce the self to a moment of its own being or a part of it. Instead, as noted, the world exists in a relationship with the self that is sufficient for the self’s identification, allowing every worldly relationship to function in the self’s self-identification. For no other existent does existing in the world suffice to identify it; only the self enjoys such sufficiency, which is possible only because its existing is—somehow!—self-identification with respect to every other being.

The self as same (the Same as always and only self-same) is, on Levinas’s interpretation, situated as sojourning in the world, which places its identification outside of the bounds of representation. We are rather on the plane of sensibility. Yet where, in the 1950s, sensibility had seemed to be the opening of relations of alterity that did not fall into the immobility of consciousness, it seems here that that claim has been modified, at least as regards its signification: the sensible self constitutes itself as the Same, as an absolute position whence it never can depart. The sojourning self is its self-identifying, for the “alterity of the self and of the inhabited world is only formal,” i.e., delimited by a system I articulate somehow, and which “falls under my powers in a world where I sojourn” (TeI 8-9/TI 38). Conceptual, physical, and emotional force—the panoply of violence, on Levinas’s reading—are encompassed within “my powers” (TeI 14/TI 44). 

My comments…

Our sense of self-sameness.  The relation to the world is where self-identity comes from.  Self-identity comes from a relation with an alterity, the world.  The world is not derived epistemologically from the self and visa versa. There is a sufficient relationship not a necessary relationship of the self to the world.  Here, epistemology does not provide a suitable logic with which we can adequately explain one as a result of the other, as a mathematics of identity.  To think ‘both and’ does not combine, it merely represents one and the other.  To think a sameness with regard to the self and the world is to confuse the distinctness and uniqueness.  The self is the sensible tension between existence and existent as instant.  The world, if you will as essence in Hegel’s thinking, is radically different.  It only ‘shows it essence’ as a relationship not a ‘think of its own…in itself’.

The self sojourns in the world.  It is not a relationship of essentiality.  It is a relation of alterity.  Sure we can make formal relationships but we have to sacrifice sensibility to do so.

What shall we make of alterity?

Quotes from the dissertation…

Three points bear mentioning here: (1) with respect to the fatal ontology, we note immediately that the self’s self-sameness arises in relation to the world, not in direct relationship with pure presence nor in the self’s relationship with itself via a place that accomplishes only the bare or schematic self, so far as this preliminary and rather formal description shows. (2) At the same time, Levinas claims that the self who self-identifies “is not a contingent formation thanks to which the Same and the Other [Autre]—logical determinations of being—can in addition be reflected in a thought. It is in order that alterity show up [se produise] in being that a ‘thought’ is necessary and that a Self [Moi] is necessary” (TeI 9-10/TI 39).22 The self in its self-sameness and identity is, despite its reduction of alterity to identity within the sphere of its own identification, necessary for alterity to show up in being. This is why Levinas first addresses the identity of the self under the heading “The rupture of totality,” where totality is in some fashion aligned with being. By implication, the sameness of the self is not ontological, is not reducible to being or relations with being. At the same time, the self is a manner of existing, a mode of being. What does it mean to hold in addition that sojourning can also accommodate Levinas’s claim that “[t]he Same is essentially identification in the diverse, or history, or system. It is not me who refuses myself to the system, as Kierkegaard thought, it is the Other [Autre]” (TeI 10/TI 40)? This reminds us of the dictum that one cannot leave monadology and expect to escape monism, i.e., one cannot escape the logic of absolute self-sameness and expect to escape an impersonal sameness. The Same is thus an ambiguous formation in terms of its sense. (3) Finally, with respect to the need to substantiate the difference between the identity of the self and the identity of other beings, it remains at this stage unclear what this self-identification is, or how it proceeds. What does it mean to “sojourn” in the world, or to be “at home” there, and so beyond constitution by a totality that is visible to an onlooker?

My comments…

The “fatal ontology” here is one of “pure presence” and only formal.  The same the other as Hegel thinks it is not the self who identifies.  The self that Levinas write of is not a relation to Being as Heidegger thought nor is it a relation to beings as Husserl might have thought in intentionality.  None of this epistemology accounts for the rupture which thinking and identity try to synthesize…bring under the rubric of logic.  The relation is not one of epistemology but one of the failure of epistemology to explain radical rupture.

“one cannot leave monadology and expect to escape monism, i.e., one cannot escape the logic of absolute self-sameness and expect to escape an impersonal sameness.”

So, Hegel’s analysis of the purely formal same and other sucks us down the rabbit hole where self becomes one with the formal Idea..monism.  From Aristotle’s perspective singularity is not subservient universality.  For Aristotle there is at best a co-equal but I think more of an unresolved cataloging which ultimately fails to find a place for logic except in the service of ethics (phronesis… Nicomachean Ethics).  I am reading a really interesting book on this now – The Ethics of Ontology: Rethinking an Aristotelian Legacy <https://www.sunypress.edu/p-3949-the-ethics-of-ontology.aspx>

Quotes from the dissertation…

This link between freedom and identity requires that the other appear only within the system of knowledge visible to the self’s regard, which free subjectivity itself constitutes (TeI 6-8/TI 36-38). This is what it means to receive nothing from an other but what I have already in myself. Within such a visible system, the alterity of the other outside of me is reduced to a set of limits imposed by the other’s position within a greater whole (TeI 8, 9/TI 38, 39): its alterity becomes, in other words, the form of its identity, but this identity derives strictly from the being’s delimitation in relation to other members of the system. The system itself is the manifestation of freedom as the totality of knowledge that makes beings available for me and on my terms.

My comments…

This begins Levinas’ notion of alterity which I will not go further into at this point.

All of this discussion so far has centered on the early works of Levinas before and including Totality and Infinity.  In the mature work of Levinas, Beyond Essence of Otherwise than Being, Levinas will deal with problems of language and temporality.  The last chapter of the dissertation will deal with this work.  For me, that is enough for now.

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Antonio’s comment…

Hey Mark,

Thanks for the expanded stuff. I’m afraid there is little to say other than that there is simply a fundamental talking past one another here. I cannot help but do what Hegel does with others: I agree almost 100% with what you put forth except for the claim that it is the highest Truth. There are issues with your understanding only insofar as I see you projecting onto Hegel what is not there at the standpoint of Nothing.

 

On the points about the excluded middle in a prior email, there is a misunderstanding on the Being/Nothing issue because Being/Nothing are the middle that is Becoming. Becoming is Being and Nothing, true and false in that they are both its necessary moments. It is also neither Being nor Nothing in that it is not to be reduced to one or the other.

 

Reading the book on Levinas, I could not help but just agree on most of what I’ve read except for two things: that there is an absolute other. In the phenomenological sense of our individuality of course there are real Others for us. I have made my agreement on this clear. But how is the Other not truly an absolute Other? Because its otherness is its unity as a negative unity. It strikes me that in his view the Other is only considered in its otherness to us, to something. I have been rereading Hegel’s chapter on existence/determinateness, and something interesting comes up which I’m sure you find favorable: the other is not, says Hegel, to be reduced to being only the other of something. The other is independent of us/something, it needs no external other to be other in that it is otherness itself. In that otherness is considered for itself, then it becomes something as the immediate and self-identical in that fact that the other, even if it was other to itself, would in that very fact be something self-related in that otherness which is other to itself is precisely self-identical immediacy. This is not the identity of the other with us, but with itself. Something is only otherness overcoming itself, but it only does so by maintaining the other as alien to it. If something were not the other of the other, if there is no other that truly is alien, then something cannot even be. This entire dynamic really continues onward from here in that otherness is not subordinated to immediate identity. In that existence exists, it only does so in its genuine otherness which cannot be overcome by destroying the other, but in accepting that otherness is itself constitutive of identity itself and that without it we cannot be.

 

I apologize for not responding to your detailed and expansion and its comments, but I feel I must not for now in that in a way I think we’ll just continue on the roundabout here without going anywhere if I do so because it seems clear to me the issue isn’t just about us miscommunicating, but not being able to come to dialectical agreement on the nature of the communication itself since the projects and perspective of Levinas and other philosophers of difference are so different to Hegel. Hegel’s project concerns the of the Absolute as it is grasped by Reason. Levinas’s project is something quite different, I don’t know that “ethics as first philosophy” can really capture it from what I’ve managed to read. It seems to me that we must find a proper pivot to re-clear the ground of dialogue so that we may proceed fruitfully in the expansion of the concept of the Other and its non-conceptual reality.

 

The first thing that comes to my mind is that it seems to me that what Levinas means by the Other cannot be equated with what Hegel’s other is. There is the metaphysical/ontological sense in which Levinas is talking about otherness as such, but then there is a phenomenological relative sense of otherness which I see pop up in your use of the term almost entirely, it is the concrete Other as living conscious beings, not just inanimate abstract otherness. Insofar as we are talking of otherness qua Other in the “human” sense I believe Hegel’s other is too poor a category which is not what we must treat as equivalent in depth and and concrete power. The Other as you tend to use it strikes me as something more palpably present in Spirit, whether it be the Phenomenology of Spirit or the Philosophy of Spirit. There the Other appears as an external world and other individuals, and it seems to me that recognition and alienation and its correlate concepts becomes more fitting for our communication.

 

Another possible avenue of clarification may be in the question of philosophical projects and their aims/beginnings. Insofar as we may clarify Hegel and Levinas in this way, a big task, it would also help to clarify the true ground of disagreement which is not apparent in beginning things in the middle and then bringing up issues that presuppose things which are not valid for either side if only we had the background that showed us our question was not quite well posed. In that Levinas is mainly in conversation with phenomenology as Heidegger posed it, it would be erroneous for me to simply assume that I can talk to you from a standpoint that is assuming that the aim of philosophy is absolute rational articulation, and likewise you fall into error in assuming that we can speak of Hegel theorizing about a given external object of the Real vs his relative Concept of it. As much as you seek such a reading of Hegel, as you find in Zizek and others who still posit the primacy of the ineffable Real underlying or beyond the Concept and the rational, it is in Hegel’s own position not what he holds, and he has plenty of reasons why this cannot be comprehended as the case for his grasp of the issues.

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My comments…

Antonio,

Sorry I Am taking a while to respond. I have been reading more on Hegel to try to get a better background. It has been really interesting…

One thing, if I am “projecting onto Hegel what is not there at the standpoint of Nothing” I guess I am not the only one. I am finding many others which are also seeing the ‘logical nothing’ of Hegel as having much more specificity in other works of Hegel which are anthropological (feeling soul), psychological (theoretical Spirit), ontological, etc. and also logical as in the Logic. I think you would really like this book: Mills, Jon. The Unconscious Abyss: Hegel’s Anticipation of Psychoanalysis (SUNY Series in Hegelian Studies) (p. 47). State University of New York Press. Speaking of Žižek, Mills writes:

“Schelling faces, as does Hegel, Žižek notes, is the problem of “phenomenalization.” How does the Ungrund appear to itself and for itself? How does it come to presence, come into being? Unlike Kant, the realm of the noumenal is the self’s starting point, the in-itself is the presupposition of spirit. It becomes a matter of articulating itself, of willing itself to appear. So, the question is not: what is beyond the phenomenal?, it is: what is before? Furthermore, how and why does this primordial (in-itself) undifferentiated being divide and split itself off from itself, thus creating the space to appear (to itself), to produce its own appearance?

“Schelling locates this ultimate foundation, the “origin of all things” in that psychic space that precedes beginning—a nothingness that is. It is this “vortex of drives” where Žižek also places primacy, a “chaotic-psychotic universe” of longing, the real psychical reality. Is, however, the primordial vortex of drives not the ultimate ground that nothing can precede? Schelling would entirely agree with that, adding only that the point in question is precisely the exact status of this “nothing”: prior to Grund, there can only be an abyss (Ungrund); that is, far from being a mere nihil privativum, this “nothing” that precedes Ground stands for the “absolute indifference” qua the abyss of pure Freedom that is not yet the predicate-property of some Subject but rather designates a pure impersonal Willing (Wollen) that wills nothing.”

For Lacan, the Real which corresponds to the abgrund of Hegel (or the logical equivalent – nothing) cannot ever be encountered in any sense, However, as ‘eyes wide shut’ the symbolic and phantasy can only be Hegelian slaves to the master of the Real. Of course, Mills points out the reading of Žižek is not how Hegel or Schelling understands the abgrund. However, this reading of Lacan is not unlike Levinas’ thinking of the Other, at least in radical alterity which for Levinas is the face of the Other. However, for Levinas the Other is not an absolute non-presence in any possible sense of meaning (or nonsense). For Levinas, the infinity which evades ontology and meaning is the face of the other, the he, the she and as I have speculated elsewhere – perhaps the ‘not he or she’ (from early Greek) we now call conveniently and too simply, the it. Mills continues,

“For Schelling and Hegel, the Ungrund is not the gnostic abyss Lacan attributes to desire as the ineffable, where the symbolic cannot breach that which is indescribable, thus remaining unspeakable—to which silence (hush) is our only resort. Nor is the abyss “out there,” disembodied, but rather it is internality itself, pure “inwardness.””

“Perhaps psychic space—this abyss—may be “conceived” by itself, as Schelling suggests; that is, the abyss conceives itself, it generates and produces its space, expands its yawning gulf, to which Hegel would most certainly agree. If the essence of the abyss is to will itself, to affirm (or posit), to produce itself to appear, this would suggest that it also fuels its own lack, an inner chaos, and the gap widens. In this sense we may say that the abyss is not necessarily a lack of being, but rather a relation to lack, a relation it has to itself which it generates from within and seeks to resolve, to fill. The unconscious is not merely a porthole to consciousness, nor is it only a receptacle of consciousness, it is both. Therefore, the abyss is both an agency and a store, the container and the contained, both substance and void, its own cosmos.”

“Throughout our retracing of the Ungrund, we may see a universal philosophical preoccupation with the ultimate explanation of ground. The question of Origin, of Beginning proper—a true Genesis—becomes situated in the realm of the abyss. Hegel’s comprehensive treatment of ground and all its implications are clarified in his Logic where the operations of thought are attributed to conscious spirit. By logical extension, however, we may say that a prereflective unconscious “essence determines itself as ground” (SL, 444). Hegel takes immediate consciousness as his starting point for the analysis of ground, yet by his own epigenetic treatment of spirit, that is, his structural and dynamic elaboration of spirit’s development, consciousness must have certain ontological preconditions that make the appearance of consciousness possible, a necessity claim that Hegel himself would concede. By his own account, spirit first experiences an unconscious intuition of itself as the life of feeling, and in this experience affirms it very being. The free activity of consciousness therefore presupposes the activity of unconscious constitution.”

Here, ”thought first lives underground”. From a logical point of view, as in the Logic of Hegel, all of this, the abyss, IS nothing pure and simple. But it appears that Hegel is not solely interested in logic. The ‘nothing’ of the Logic is not really nothing pure and simple. The nothing in Lacan is the Real and in Žižek and Schelling, the “vortex of drives’. Similarly, it seems that Hegel has much more to tell us about the nothing of the Logic than simply nothing pure and simple in some of his other works taken from different analytic perspectives (anthropological, ontological, psychological, etc.).

One other thing to point out, Hegel does give us an origin, an arche. It is the pre-conscious, the abgrund. Let’s note that what precedes consciousness and feeling soul is not nothing pure and simple but abyss, chaos, Let’s remember that Hegel refers to the abyss as a “nightlike abyss within which a world of infinitely numerous images and presentations is preserved without being in consciousness” (EG § 453). What is the common point of abyss and Spirit? I think it is the monistic self which is the pinnacle of Spirit that has taken hold of self-determination as opposed to the slavery of objectification – Spirit has become free from its bondage to thinking itself as the other, the object, and has taken hold of its own completeness as Idea. While this final, absolute truth (if you will) has left the particular consciousness of feeling soul and objectification of itself and, as such, lays claim to universalization – it still holds the singular in a fashion as it could not be universal without singularity. You wrote previously,

“I have been rereading Hegel’s chapter on existence/determinateness, and something interesting comes up which I’m sure you find favorable: the other is not, says Hegel, to be reduced to being only the other of something. The other is independent of us/something, it needs no external other to be other in that it is otherness itself. In that otherness is considered for itself, then it becomes something as the immediate and self-identical in that fact that the other, even if it was other to itself, would in that very fact be something self-related in that otherness which is other to itself is precisely self-identical immediacy. This is not the identity of the other with us, but with itself. Something is only otherness overcoming itself, but it only does so by maintaining the other as alien to it. If something were not the other of the other, if there is no other that truly is alien, then something cannot even be. This entire dynamic really continues onward from here in that otherness is not subordinated to immediate identity. In that existence exists, it only does so in its genuine otherness which cannot be overcome by destroying the other, but in accepting that otherness is itself constitutive of identity itself and that without it we cannot be.”

You and Hegel are correct is saying that the other cannot be subsumed into sameness and that otherness remains in itself other. However, in suggesting that otherness is constitutive of identity I think Levinas would tell us that the other is beyond essence and otherwise than ontology. Perhaps, an argument could be made by Levinas that identity is formed by the retreat from the face of the Other. It is eerily reminiscent of Lacan’s Real where the Symbolic and Fantasy must flee from the absolute horror of the Real and thus, find their essence which must become necessity as Hegel tells us. However, for Levinas the Other is not horror but encountered as sensibility, the caress, the nakedness of the face, the saying, in hunger and thirst, in suffering and in the brutality of murder. In all this, the Other transcends Isness, ontology – escapes our objectification of the Other. An excess remains to our malformed identity, our Being, our absolute reduction of the other to objectification. This excess cannot be transformed into an identity of self, a moment in dialectic, an object to a subject, an idea of universal totality without losing an excess which escapes essence. Only in violence can the he and the she be brought into ontology and essence.  

While the universal Idea still retains the logical dialectic of otherness and sameness, as ‘universal’ it still remains a monism – a one without an other. I think for Aristotle it may be that when all is said and done, and God has retrieved his/her/its throne, the idea of otherness cannot remain in Idea as concept in an unresolvable fashion but must find an anarchical singularity. This anarchical singularity cannot be logically deduced but ethically chosen. If God as Spirit wanted to simply remain God in the absolute truth of Idea why have ontology, why have abyss and dialectical progression to godhood as Spirit? If Idea escapes the duality of epistemology and essentialist/epiphenomenal dualism of mind-body Cartesian objectification why the need to ‘work it out’ in time-space? Why something rather than nothing? On the other hand, if chaos as thought by the early Greeks becomes the face of the other, the stranger, in Hebraic tradition and, in Levinas, as the incomprehensible but Ethical Other, perhaps there is an excess to the monistic abyss from where Spirit begins in restlessness and ends in universal Idea. However, Idea may have to console itself with an idea that must pass from universal to an otherwise to ontology, an otherwise to itself as Idea and admit an end to its monistic, self-obsession. Perhaps the abyss, the universal Idea, effaces – murders as Levinas calls it, its incomprehensible non-origin that lays waste self-sufficiency to prefer the abyss, the nothing and the start and end of dialecticism. Perhaps Idea has to ultimately face an anarchical singularity which cannot be taken into itself, absorbed in dialectic or captured by Idea. If so, this Other can never be taken hold of by logic and dialecticism – only recognized as Responsibility in Ethics. Any thus, we arrive at Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Here virtue in the Greek sense can finally take its heralded place as the resolution of form (peras), constancy through change – Hegel’s dialectic, and chaos (apeiron), ceaseless change/void/abyss – Hegel’s negation. However, virtue in this sense is not an accomplishment of Idea, it is a result of choice which can find no trace to Idea. Choice here must take leave of the insularly monism of itself, Idea, and act by choice which has not arrived through absolute Idea but in anarchic renunciation of all its means, abilities, capacities, proficiencies, its dunamis – its ceaseless potency, authenticity and heroic universalism to give way to a passivity beyond all passiveness where the Other is no longer a NOT-ME but an excess. Abyss/self/idea is left with the choice of absolute, solitude in monistic, self-origin and telos OR the foundationless choice of Ethics – the Other which is not even or not yet a NOT-ME and confounds my origin.

I really need to come back to the beginning of the Logic. This is the comment you made regarding the beginning of the Logic:

“On your first comments on the beginning of the Logic, it is deductive and not inductive. Being is Nothing, and cannot be otherwise no matter where, when, who, or what name it is called by. If one thinks immediately, one does not think at all and that is necessarily that these mean. If something were immediate, it would not be anything at all. If Being immediately is Nothing and Nothing immediately is Being, then they are the movement called Becoming, etc. There is no induction here, there is no way to think this differently if this movement is what we are thinking. Not even an alien from the mystical plains of the 12th dimension with intellectual intuition who does not speak by only uses intuitive telepathy could controvert this. To think otherwise is simply to assert something else. This proof only requires that one think these in their purity away from external contingent elements.”

I know you are tired of it. It seems from this statement that you get a kind of apodictic certainty from what you assume to be deductive logic in this one example. Certainly, there is an apodictic certainty in deductive logic as its conclusion merely restates the common grounds of its premises. I am not suggesting the Hegel did not find apodictic certainty in other arguments he made – we would have to look at the individually. However, let’s put your comment in a syllogistic form:

Being is Immediacy

Nothing is immediacy

Therefore, Being and nothing is Becoming

If you said, “Therefore, Being and Nothing is immediacy”, you would have a correctly formed, deductive argument. However, arguments can be correctly formed deduction without being true. Deductive arguments can be false because the premises are false even though the conclusion is correct, as in “Therefore, Being and Nothing is immediacy”. This certainly merely repeats the relationship between the two premises, their asserted commonality (immediacy) and the correct conclusion that “Therefore, Being and Nothing is immediacy”. The veracity of each individual premise is up for grabs which I will discuss in a second. However, we must again state that the interjection of Becoming is not in the premises but a wholly new term that was not any part of the premises. Becoming really comes out of the blue from the literal interpretation of the premises. Now, we can suggest that a common vernacular understanding of the tension between Being and nothing is that they must generate Becoming. Perhaps there is an intuitive resolution to this we could take from the lexicon. However, as words are a lexicon, a commonality and historic usage of the meaning of words we are hard pressed to find a common and historic understanding of Hegel except in a few of us odd balls who read such things. Anyway, this brings me to an inescapable and perhaps unfortunate byway though the miry bog of language. The commonality in language certainly can be minimized with the alteration of a ‘private language’ as Wittgenstein would tell us or specialized languages as we find in philosophy. However, inescapably a private language or specialized language cannot be radically severed from a commonality to language in its implications. A private or specialized language is highly predicated and convoluted from its bare-bones lexicography but cannot exist in some idealized hermetically sealed environment without imputing lexical symbols and semantics. We can construct an argument as the above Hegelian syllogism shows us that brings in certain technical and supplementary additional meanings to the common uses of Being, nothing and Becoming but think about the famous Socratic syllogism:

All men are mortal. (First premise)

Socrates is a man. (Second premise)

Therefore, Socrates is mortal. (Conclusion)

One thing which appears apparent is that the Socratic argument has a kind of ‘ring of truth’ because of the commonality of meaning in the words man, mortal and Socrates. However, we do not see this ‘ring of truth’ in the Hegelian construction. It may be that it is true, but it seems to require supplemental information to begin to think if it as deductively true. Perhaps we could construct it like this:

Being is Immediacy

Nothing is immediacy

Therefore, Being and Nothing is immediacy

Immediacy is Becoming

Therefore, Being and Nothing is Becoming

This seems to follow the rules of deductive logic correctly. But then, we are faced with the truth of the premises. These specialized words in Hegel, Being and Nothing, would then require additional supplementation to show a true relationship in each of the three premises. Then, the two conclusions could be said to be deductive. We can argue that the common meaning of the ideas of Being and nothing make the step to immediacy fanciful. Or, we could just say that the meanings of Being and nothing are, by definition, immediacy. This then becomes a settled matter but in no way proves the premises are true unless you accept the definitive assertion. We could also appeal to some form of intuition to make the association. In any case, the premises are not deductively derived, self-evident of apodictically certain – they require a great deal of supplementation to show their essential relationship. I suppose it is possible a necessary relationship like man/mortal/Socrates could be fashioned to give you the apodictic certainty you desire in this one example at the beginning of the Logic but that would need to be fleshed out. Otherwise, I think the premises rest on an appeal to inductive logic. In conclusion, if your apodictic certainty of Hegel’s truth rested solely on words at the beginning of the Logic, it seems that it would be more a matter of faith than self-evident truth since it seems to need quite a bit of supplementation to give us the same certainty that the Socratic argument gives us. The Socratic argument is based on a common usage of language which needs no additional supplementation…the meaning of these few words at the beginning of the Logic is never the domain of me, alone (or Hegel’s) to re-define arbitrarily without much additional supplementation not given by the bare words themselves. It seems to me that without the supplementation we are merely left with an appeal to the self-evident. I am not saying that your apodictic certainly might not rest on solid grounds elsewhere in Hegel, we would have to look at further cases, but it seems to have a pretty tenuous base in this case unless of course you simply wanted to impute it as an article of Hegelian dogma.

Antonio – I cannot let this pass without commenting on it:

“Concerning theoretical violence to both and approach, I don’t know what that refers to. Hegelian philosophy is generally hated precisely because it is seen as this, it seems to make no commitments to valuing one side over another. I would like a concrete example. Regarding violence itself, while I once was against it absolutely, I have no qualms with it now. Real violence and theoretical violence are fine by me, it has its use in rational practice. I suppose you take Hegelianism to have some sort of universal violence, but that’s not what I see. Within the field of philosophy the violence is everywhere, and as Jay Bernstein says in his lectures on the Phenom: Why would we think it wouldn’t? If a way of thinking is a form of consciousness, and that is itself a social life world which takes itself as True, why wouldn’t it rise against any opposition to crush it? To question a thought is to question a life. If you question my life, and I believe (perhaps I know) that my life is true against your claims that it isn’t, what person worth calling living would simply lay down and let someone else just end their life? The animal fights against its death, so too does the thought fight against its destruction. We are what we think, and if we have any conviction in our life as our life we must and will retaliate. It is rather interesting, but of course it only appears in one context: the absolute clash. Violence is only apparent when there is no successful interpenetration of the mind, where the Others refuse to open up and remain Other all the while insisting in interaction based on their lifeworld imposed on the other. We’re not talking about people indifferent to each other, we’re talking about people who for whatever reason see a need to interact yet find no basis for interaction, and this leads to violence.”

My, my…it seems we have identified ‘me’ as my thoughts alone. Therefore, if someone questions ‘my’ thoughts, they question my right to be in a violent sense. …”To question a thought is to question a life. If you question my life, and I believe (perhaps I know) that my life is true against your claims that it isn’t, what person worth calling living would simply lay down and let someone else just end their life?” Your statement here equates without reserve thought to life. Therefore, to question one’s “claims” requires violence because who would just “simply lay down and let someone else just end their life?” Well, I guess you are correct if you think you are your ideas without excess. Then, to question your ideas would be an act of war. I find this WAY reductionary. The radical reduction is based on the premise that your idea is reality – at least your reality which in Hegel is reality…agreed, But Antonio, this IS the root of violence and a “concrete example” — “Real violence and theoretical violence are fine by me, it has its use in rational practice.” …You, yourself just admitted my point by this statement at least. The “rational practice” of violence has been touted by every totalitarian tyrant since we crawled out of the caves including, I might add the rhetoric of Hitler. I beg to disagree. I am not my words or ideas. I certainly try to find some agreement between the two but honestly, I have been wrong more than I have been right in my life and I would hate to be judged or judge myself by this criterion. As an older guy than you, I think if you want peace in your old age you will have to reconcile yourself to the fact that you were wrong at certain times in your life and made mistakes. It is much better to acknowledge your fallibility than to hold on to a preconception that you are your ideas and anyone who disagrees with you is doing violence to you which justifies your own violence as self-defense. There are many red-necks in Louisiana where I come from who, god bless ‘em, are old curmudgeons who gravitate to conspiracy theories to justify their inability to deal with their own fallibility. I know you are much better than that. I know you recognize your fallibility and shortcomings, if nothing else, based on your maturity and profound discussion on love. So, no – questioning your ideas is not questioning your existence…lighten up. And certainly, violence is not ok. As people we can interact on grounds other than words and ideas. We can make a choice to be ethical even if we disagree…not always easy but not making that ethical decision is tantamount to Machiavelli’s ‘war of all against all’. If Machiavelli is right then we can take it as an individual ‘will to power’ where the world of Mad Max can never explain how we crawled out of the caves OR we could take this explicit case of violence to the more nuanced case where, for example, Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau brought us in the social contract theory. Even Adam Smith in capitalism held to a form of this in the inherit virtue of selfishness (see my discussion, The Free Market: Capitalism and Socialism here http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/capitalism-and-marxism/the-free-market-capitalism-and-socialism-2/). However, when we get to the nuanced level of violence another question emerges: are we pushing the explicit and evident form of violence in a nuanced and reductionary argument in order to attempt to explain difference? Certainly, people can be different without trying to steal, kill, destroy, violently take, con, etc.. The folks which adopted this view that I have debated seem to lack some kind of exteriority to their immediate needs and seem to think everyone is out to get them. That may offer some kind of perverted security they feel a need for but is highly problematic upon philosophical inspection. In any case, this brings up an interesting question, do you think Hegel’s’ notion of the State is based on this kind of nuanced violence? If so, is this what gives you the confidence in saying that you have “no qualms” and are “fine by me” with violence? I am sure that if you were the victim of explicit violence or even murder you might have some qualms with that. Violence works both ways and no one is immune from it. Certainly, this is the basis of social contract theory as an agreement not to do harm to each other so that I may have the hope of living a life of peace. Anyway, from the explicit reciprocity of violence between me and others we can step away from chest-beating, unabashed endorsement of brutal and murderous violence I would think. From there, I really think we need to reflect on our emotional and psychological needs which turn the explicit case into the implicit case for violence. Assuming we have gotten past that as, from your previous statements, I am sure you have, we are free to analyze human interaction in a much less cognitively dissonant fashion as I am sure Hegel did to some extend in his analysis of society, history and the state. I think hacks like Hitler took thinkers like Hegel and Nietzsche in a simpleton and self-justifying way just as Trump is doing now in a much less profound…shall we say stupid fashion (come to think of it). These narcissistic power mongers of history are all too willing to make everything into their own twisted truths of themselves so, I suppose, in a sense you can’t blame the philosophers but certainly some philosophers are more prone to violent adaptations than others. In the case of Hegel, we do have a very long philosophical history that came after him which explicitly retains an intellectual basis from Hegel in the form of dialectical materialism. The violence of the Bolsheviks in communism was built on that intellectual machine which I believe cannot be emphatically proven to be simply a hack job. On the other hand, if Marx’s idea of a gradual revolution in the universal consciousness of Spirit (hint, hint) and the Mensheviks adoption of it in communism would have prevailed, we probably would have had a very different outcome with respect to Hegel’s legacy.

Best Regards,

Mark

 

The Impossible Possibility of Paradox – Part Two

Chaos Theory is:

“When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future.”1

In the Part One discussion we discussed the function 1/X. We saw cases in the function of infinity as X goes to plus and minus infinity. We also saw the case where X = 0 and the result is indeterminate. All the points except zero demonstrate a continuous, nonlinear function. That is, all real numbers in the graph is a smooth curve with no breaks or discontinuities except at zero. At X= 0 the function is discontinuous. This function simply demonstrates how we can get a degree of closure even when we entertain the notions of infinity and indeterminacy. Both infinity and indeterminacy tell us that even in the most banal circumstances such as the function 1/X we have a degree of certainty while at the same time entertaining notions where we can’t get absolute closure. Even more, these odd notions tell us that even such banal certainties are ruptured through and through with exteriorities which cannot remain in themselves but indicate an other which mathematics has no answer. In this part of the discussion we will explore further the complications which can only indicate the limits of our logic and the value of the questions these limits pose.2 The last footnote of my recent post On Origin ask this question:

Does chaos theory in contemporary science relate to radical otherness? If so, how? What about the implications of quantum theory and Schrödinger’s cat in the box? Does the uncertainty principle and the apparent malleability of what ‘is’ determined by observation have anything to do with radical alterity and the retreat from the face of the Other? More succinctly, do we face an ‘Other’, a radical alterity, even in the ‘it’ of physics?

This post will try to address this question and contrast its implications with what I consider to be a formidable philosopher whose influence has become a focal point and an anchor, both in its affirmation and negations, for the retreat from the face of the Other – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

For classic physics most notably represented by Newton, absolute time and absolute space is assumed. Underlying much of classic science and philosophy, causality is absolutely assumed. Causality is often associated with the billiard ball metaphor. When the cue ball hits other balls on the table, geometry and force absolutely determine the path of all the other balls. While causality may provide useful information in our everyday world, these notions have been antiquated by a much more precise understanding that spans phenomena from billiards to cosmological physics. Relativity supersedes Newtonian physics. Relativity is orders of magnitude more accurate even in the specific frame of reference which Newtonian physics works including billiard balls. However, relativity has some limitations. Relativity works extremely well on large scales but not on extremely small scales. For extremely small scales quantum mechanics is highly accurate. In special conditions, Einstein’s equations punched holes in the continuity of time-space. In a similar way that our mundane function of 1/X contains examples of infinity and indeterminacy, Einstein’s findings predicted such phenomenon as black holes and wormholes.

Einstein was responsible for pioneering quantum mechanics when he discovered that light had both the characteristics of a particle and a wave. After all he had already demonstrated that energy and matter, like the particle and the wave, were two different states of the same thing – Emc2 (i.e., think of water as liquid or ice where heat, or the lack thereof, determines the state…for matter and energy the speed of light determines the state). However, when quantum mechanics theorized the phenomenon of entanglement, Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance”. Entanglement happens where one particle influences its twin, irrelevant of the distance between them, instantly (i.e., faster than the speed of light). Einstein’s theory of relativity could not allow anything faster than the speed of light. He thought that everything from the very large to the very small must propagate through fields setup by space-time distortions. The physicists of his day also started discussing the ‘uncertainty principle’ and ‘waves of probability’ which he vehemently disagreed. His lifelong search for a ‘unified field theory’ which would unite electromagnetism (and the strong and weak nuclear forces) and gravity suggests that continuity was paramount for him. In addition, he is famously quoted as disparaging the quantum mechanics of his day suggesting the “God does not place dice with the universe”. However, when the universe plays dice with itself, we call that ‘Chaos Theory’. Chaos as discontinuous and probabilistic, just as the budding of quantum mechanics in is day, was a philosophy Einstein might not have held in high regard. Interesting enough it was Albert Einstein that stated, “As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.”

Chaotic systems permeate our everyday world. Weather, turbulent water, health sciences, road traffic, sociology, physics, environmental science, computer science, engineering, economics, biology, ecology, the stock market, our brain states, philosophy and temperature are examples of chaotic systems. Almost everything in nature is a chaotic system. Chaos theory is famous for the ‘butterfly effect’ introduced by one of the founders of chaos theory, Edward Lorenz. The butterfly effect informs us that the exact path and time of a tornado may have been started by the flapping of a butterfly’s wings weeks earlier on the other side of the planet. When initial conditions can be specified to a high degree, Newtonian physics works great on a highly restricted system. As initial conditions become more critical, like the real world, chaotic systems become more prominent in relativity and quantum mechanics. Two black holes orbiting each other exhibit a highly chaotic system. There is even a branch of physics called Quantum Chaos3. Mathematically, chaotic systems are always fractals. Fractals occur when real number math (fractions) feedback into the initial conditions of a system. Fractals are the result of simple patterns being repeated infinitely by positive feedback with ever changing initial conditions. Chaotic systems are not random, but they can predict the relative probability of randomness. Chaotic systems are always non-linear and deterministic. Chaos theory is deterministic in that it surmises that if the exact initial conditions of a chaotic system is known, the exact effect of the system could be known. However, chaotic systems also state that the complexity of a chaotic system makes knowing the exact initial conditions a practical impossibility. In effect, determinism is an ideal of a chaotic system which can never be proven only assumed. As the mathematics of chaotic systems, fractals, tell us, the infinite variation of input conditions provided by positive feedback of the system make practical determinism impossible. Additionally, uncertainty increases over time in a chaotic system. In practice, chaos theory always has a degree of indeterminacy. Additionally, the assumption of cause and effect is inherent in determinism but also remains as an ideal of chaos theory not a practical reality of chaos theory. It is highly likely that quantum mechanics influences chaotic systems. Quantum mechanics is proven to be indeterministic. This is due to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle which shows that fundamental properties of a particle cannot simultaneously be known like the position and momentum of the particle. Since quantum mechanics certainly plays a role in chaotic systems, we can draw the conclusion that chaos theory is indeterminate in practice. Therefore, chaos theory highlights relative degrees of indeterminacy and infinity while producing useful results in the output of chaotic systems.

Chaos theory is a scientific principle describing the unpredictability of systems. Most fully explored and recognized during the mid-to-late 1980s, its premise is that systems sometimes reside in chaos, generating energy but without any predictability or direction. These complex systems may be weather patterns, ecosystems, water flows, anatomical functions, or organizations. While these system’s chaotic behavior may appear random at first, chaotic systems can be defined by a mathematical formula, and they are not without order or finite boundaries. This theory, in relation to organizational behavior, was somewhat discounted during the 1990s, giving way to the very similar complexity theory.4

The reasons chaotic systems can tend towards more chaos over time or fundamental transformation is due to the ‘strange attractor’. Researchers Briggs and Peat tell us:

Evidently familiar order and chaotic order are laminated like bands of intermittency. Wandering into certain bands, a system is extruded and bent back on itself as it iterates, dragged toward disintegration, transformation, and chaos. Inside other bands, systems cycle dynamically, maintaining their shapes for long periods of time. But eventually all orderly systems will feel the wild, seductive pull of the strange chaotic attractor.5

When a strange attractor encounters another chaotic system, it pulls the chaotic system toward a wildly different result. The strange attractor essentially changes a chaotic system. Thus, butterfly wing turbulence can cause a tornado on the other side of the earth weeks later. The strange attractor transforms the chaotic system into something other than what it could be from its own intrinsic properties. The chaotic system’s self-identity is fundamentally altered by the stranger, the Other.

For Newton, time and space were pre-conditioned by Descartes mind-body split. These notions originated in a particular Latin reading of Aristotle. ‘Body’ was substance in this reading. Over time substance took on the characteristic of mechanism. The universe was thought as a machine. Causality was an important underpinning of a lifeless machine. The universe operated obliviously to mind. Just as the ancient Greeks thought the earth was the center of the universe, mechanical causality taught us the we were immersed in a sea of dead ‘things’. The radical other of Newton was alien and followed its own mechanical rules absolutely. In philosophy we would say that a certain, already understood ontology of the universe (a historic-linguistic understanding of the being of the universe), guided even our possibilities for how we could think of everything not us, not mind. This ontological setting guided science and philosophy for centuries. Even the greatest thinker of German Idealism, Hegel (18th-19th century philosopher) was guided by the notion of mind and object where object was simply thought as an idea of mind. From this discussion, what have we seen about the direction of science since Newton?

Einstein has taught us that the universe is not oblivious to body. Time and space are permeable to an incredibly sensitive degree to the mass and speed of everything from galaxies, our bodies and anything with mass. Each one of us is enveloped in our own time and space given by existence [see On Origin]. If our body does our mind as Nietzsche thought, we find that the metaphor of chaos is closer to life than mechanism. We find on the smallest quantum level that indeterminacy, uncertainty and rupture determine ontology not absolutes (such as time and space). We are not immersed in a sea of ‘things’ but participate in intimate cooperation with a ‘what’ we still do not have the language and history to inform our outdated ontologies, our understanding of what we can only name as ‘Being’ harkening back to a once upon a time which no longer exists. We know that infinity was our historic clue that we covered over with certainties and determinacy. Yet, even as Descartes would tell us the thought of infinity overflows itself, it does not remain in itself, it ruptures even the ‘is’. As far back as Hesiod, we have the trace that the force of our misunderstanding had to covered over.

As I have discussed in On Origin, Hesiod’s chaos cannot even yet think itself to be neutrality, the ‘it’. The anonymous was not as easy to come by in Hesiod’s day. Only with the subsequent weight of a history yet to come after Hesiod, can the rupture take on the neutrality of anonymity. The post On Origin attempts to think through some of the ways the ancient Greeks might have tried to cover over Hesiod’s chaos. It also inquisitively tries to find a placeholder in chaos for what Levinas would tell us is the face of the Other. It seems to me a face of a ‘he’, a ‘she’ and even an ‘it’ does not draw on the history and language which misunderstands chaos as night, void, horror, anonymity, Idea…the ‘otherizing’ of the Other, etc. but can only evoke in proximity to the Other, to an infinite transcendence which faces us, the absolute primacy of Ethics. The universe of the ‘same’ as the other is not a flight from fear but a response to awe and wonder. Not until the absolute, un-determinate, chaos has a face can Ethics take the place the ancient Greeks intuited but relegated to the logos and physics (phusis) as neutered. In the radical rupture of the Other we do not ‘see’, we feel a past which we never knew, a time and space which was never ours. We can only wonder if there was an excess which we never accounted for, saw, or understood when she spoke to us, when he faced us – when it was a place or time that lingered long afterwards. And, instead of letting the retreat to the once ‘said’, the memory understood, the place and time resolved by mere extension and ticks we can choose to place Ethics in the fore as the only remnant of the infinity we never knew but glanced in proximity from an Other not us, not me, not mine…a ‘not’ which can remain indeterminate but cannot be ignored.

Addendum:

Here are the question I would pose to Hegelians:

How is it possible that an “Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences” would omit the sciences since Newton’s absolute time and space? How can we suggest that science implies absolute time and space, absolute causality and absolute self-determination? If anything, the sciences since Hegel tell us that the universe is permeable on the most intimate and personal scale. Our very existence as bodies with mass and movement shapes and forms a very personal time and space uniquely ours. The universe intimately dances with us to the point of creating own unique ‘time-space bubble’ [see On Origin]. Not only that, but there are others, strange attractors, which interrupt the chaotic systems of body-doing-mind. How is it possible that Hegel’s Logic would not formally account for the essential, un-mediate-able, idea of uncertainty, indeterminacy and essential rupture of self-determinacy by the Other which is not me, whose temporality is not my time, whose spatiality is not my space? Is it with the skepticism of nothingness?6 Is the evocation of the Other “nothingness”? Does the Idea reduce the Other to “nothingness”? Don’t the sciences counter the ‘Absolute skepticism’ and ‘nothingness’ of the infinite Other thought by Hegel’s Idea? Perhaps ‘nothingness’ is the final solution for anything other than Hegelianism. How does infinity and chaos relate to the hierarchy of the ‘higher standpoint’, the self-identity of the object and absolute knowing? For Hegel, isn’t Being thought in the same ontology as that of an object to Idea? For Hegel isn’t Being ‘pure knowing’ which is ‘pure indeterminateness and emptiness’ and merely thought of as the opposite of ‘pure nothing’ which is ‘complete emptiness, the absence of all determination and content’. Hegel tells us that Being and nothing are identical. The mere thought that Being and nothing are opposites gives rise to becoming but how can ‘thinking’ think the thought of opposites in ‘pure indeterminateness and emptiness’ in the absence of content? What is ‘pure knowing’ without content? Might we think that at the very beginning of the “Logic” thinking has the same invisible inflections bending inward as the thought of a ‘thing’. Isn’t the thought without determinations or content an unspecified filler which functions as the thought of a ‘thing’. As such, don’t we recreate the dilemma of Descartes? Ah, but the Hegelians will surely protest that the ‘Logic’ is actually a circle and there is no starting point or end, but rather a totality. If so, is the starting point irrelevant? Why would Hegel disingenuously start the “Logic” with the ‘thought’ of Being and nothing while telling us the first stage has no content and no determinations but, apparently has the thought that Being and nothing are opposites? Are we to overlook this apparent contradiction for what will come later in the “Logic”? Doesn’t Being ultimately answer to the Idea, the Begriff as the ‘object’ of Begriff? For Hegel, certainly we can’t suggest that the idea of chaos participates at the highest level of absolute knowing as the truth of every mode of consciousness? Can the Hegelian Idea un-fixate its Medusa-like gaze to give the proximity of Ethics an Other which is not an object of Being but an infinitely strange attractor which Idea cannot subsume within itself? What relevance shall we give to the idea which holds itself off, which gives itself its own essential limitation on the possibility that it may not be absolute but self-delusion which has an ultimate, world historical reason, for effacing and fleeing from what it can never ‘know’ but only encounter in the ‘he’, the ‘she’…and the ‘it’ which science informs us is not the ‘it’ we thought as ‘was’. The question is not ‘to be or not to be’ or even ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ but why is there ‘Other rather than nothing’?

Here are my unedited answers:

Thinking for Hegel is existential.7 Thinking is only allowed to think from the structure of his dialectic. Hegelianism is the autopsy of Idea in the region of the absolute. Hegelians seem to have almost have a gym-rat type vibrato about thinking the Thought. What are the building blocks of Hegelianism in the Thought of the Absolute? First, Hegel takes on the mantle of Totality driven by the Absolute – the science of his day. Certainly, the dialectic of Hegel assumes structure – hierarchical structure. Hegel’s claim to the circularity of his hierarchy does not undo the hierarchy but indemnifies it from temporality. In this way, he positions his structure as constitutional, as immortal, the ‘definition’ of human. Determinism is paramount for Hegel. Even the indeterminate must take a back seat to the Idea even at the first movement of the Logic (Being-Nothing previously mentioned). Any exterior to his definitive and determinative structure is relegated to ‘nothingness’ as Hesiod’s chaos was dispensed with the nothing of ‘night’ and ‘void’. Determinism is undergirded by the absolutism of cause and effect, the billiard ball approach, from the science of his day. Absolutism requires certainty. A machine must be capable of reverse engineering. Hegel has disclosed the structure of the human machine. The mechanical metaphor reigns supreme in Newtonian physics. One thing Hegel shares with current science is the assumption of progress. The move of Spirit will eventually unearth the mind of God which will be Hegel’s “Logic”. However, the difference in an absolutist structure and the relativity of uncertainty is the loss of discovery. Hegel has precluded any possibility for essential progress. Sure, work can be done ad infinitum to flesh out his superstructure but the System as ‘almost complete’ is meant with ‘almost’ meaning the perpetual fleshing out of his Idea. We should also notice that Hegel’s structure includes the existential (existentiell). As in Heidegger’s Ontic-Ontological structure, we have Hegel’s idea-Idea. All thinking and thoughts must forever suckle at the Idea. In this dynamic we have uncovered the power structure. Hegel’s master-slave paradigm is the dynamics of power relations. In thinking strictly and totally within the machismo-ridden structure of the Logic we have the master, Hegel, and the slave, his career driven philosophers. Hegel’s devotees are in servitude to the strict demand of obedience to the Logic lest they incur the penalty of falling into nothingness, the heresy of the strict confines of the Logic. Is it inconceivable that the slave could ever claim the right to freedom and cast off the yoke of Logic? Hegel even goes so far as to try to convince us that his Logic cannot be criticized. Since the Logic is absolute in its determinations anyone who criticizes it must be themselves deluded and thus irrelevant. All of this has the effect of isolating the Hegelian academics from any exterior which might try to update ‘The Science’ beyond Newton. The last assumption of Hegel’s super structure is denial of the other. Science is often criticized by philosophers as coming too late with too many assumptions. As such it is relegated to the ‘technician’ level of philosophical science. Hegel’s Logic is built upon the dogma that there is no exterior to the Logic. At least the philosophically deprecated sciences have the foundation of an other which is not understood. In servitude to Hegel the slave cannot admit any exterior. His economy is an absolutely restricted economy dictated by the master and his servitude to the abstraction of his existence. The master-slave dynamic can either break down or the slave can become yet another master with, according to Hegel, the added benefit of concrete existence from having been the slave. However, after a while, wouldn’t the slave forget his ‘authenticity’ and find himself equally abstracted from his existence as is to be expected from the master according to Hegel. The slave can never really escape the master-slave dilemma except in the freedom of abstraction. Thus, exteriority is forever denied. I guess it comes down to an Ethical decision. We can decide to take up the mantle of apostacy and decide that there is exteriority which cannot be subsumed into the totality of the same and thereby, discover an Ethics which is not altruistically derived from duty or Logic. When the radical rupture of the face of the Other is exterior to me, to the ‘said’ of language, Ethics is choice over necessity to the ontological or ‘Logic’al idea even as subjectivity is substitution from infinite responsibly.

_________________

1 Lorenz, Edward Norton (1972). “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?” Address at the 139th Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sheraton Park Hotel, Boston, Mass., December 29, 1972.

2 In the previous discussion there is a graph which maps out in two dimensions the function 1/X where X varies from minus infinity to plus infinity. We can see from the graph that at the ‘zeros’ of minus infinity and plus infinity the function goes to zero. Note that while the limit of X at both infinities is zero, the function never reaches either zero as infinity is an ‘ideal’ of real numbers not anything which we could call ‘real’. Also, note that as X approaches zero from either zero the graph of 1/X approaches negative infinity to the left of zero and positive infinity to the right of zero. Likewise, in this case, as X approaches zero the result of the function goes to infinity of either side of zero. In either case, the fraction part of these real numbers needs ever arrive at its destination of zero. The approach to plus and minus infinity at zero we call ‘poles’ [See Pole–zero plot for more details]. However, at zero the result of 1/X is called undefined. What this means is the vertical line of the function on the graph at zero does not exist. We have a boundary condition at zero where the function makes no sense [Division by zero]. There is no number that satisfies the result 0 1/0. For example, if you have 1/1 you could think of it as dividing 1 cookie into 1 part which would be the whole cookie. However, in the case of 1/0, the divisor makes no sense if you want to divide one cookie into zero parts. The result of 1/0 cannot result in a number because the question posed by the function makes no sense. The function 1/0 exemplifies what I will call indeterminate or a singularity [See Singularity (mathematics) for more details]. The math makes no sense at zero for the function 1/X. For all X in our function except the point at zero, this is what mathematics calls a continuous function. In relativity, gravity is a continuous field. So, what does this mean for the purpose of this discussion?

What I am trying to flush out of this example is that we have a mathematical ideal which gives us some closure (recall the part 1 discussion about closure) around the function 1/X. We have concrete definition about the ideal behavior of 1/X. We can know much about the function’s behavior around the poles of zero. However, at the boundary condition of zero our ideal mathematical language makes no sense. The ideal language we are using breaks down, almost imperceptivity at an infinitesimally small point where X=0. We could say that the negative of the side where X is less than zero is the right side of the graph because -1 times (1/X) where X is always negative will always be positive like the graph where X > 0. Thus, the negative corresponds to a positive term, i.e., the right side of the graph. In fact, the negative of X< 0 OR X> 0 is simply a restatement of X> 0 OR X< 0 respectively. The negative is an absolutely necessary condition to satisfy the essential requirement of the function. Without the negative the function could not be posited. In this sense, X< 0 and X> 0 are absolute, dialectical opposites. They are absolute as they mirror each other in their opposition, their negation. At the same time, they also categorically define the function on both sides of X = 0. In effect, we have set up an absolute opposition between thesis and its absolute other, the negative, antithesis, and lifted them up as both inclusive and exclusive of each other without reserve…in a hermitically sealed closed relationship. What we have done is asserted a positive term or function X> 0 OR X< 0 and its negative X< 0 OR X> 0 respectively, literally what it is and what it is not. This is a multiplicative inverse or reciprocal relationship. The result of this operation is to deny, by definition, any possible exterior. Since this mathematical example is a very isolated situation by design, I do not want to generalize it as example of all Hegelian dialectics and thereby try to indict Hegel. I have come to see that the triadic (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) is an over simplification of Hegel’s project. However, I do want to pose this very isolated question, is it possible to think the negations discussed above as a specific and formal case of one type of a determinate negation (bestimmte)?

What can we make of the boundary condition of X = 0? We could take advantage of undefined, the absolute rupture at zero, by suggesting the 1/0 = 1 but then, according to division’s inverse property 0 X 1 would have to equal one – a contradiction. Basically, any possible number or relationship can be posited in the boundary condition. At the boundary of zero we could say that the boundary contracts or joins all other values of X OR we could say that the boundary condition alienates or separates all other values of X. Since this mathematical example is a very isolated situation by design, I do not want to generalize it as example of all Hegelian dialectics and thereby try to indict Hegel. However, I do want to pose this very isolated question, is it possible to think the negations discussed above as thesis and antithesis and the boundary condition as a synthesis, what Hegel called aufheben or sublation? Is it possible that the necessity of the dialectic drives the function 1/X?

“Malabou argues, ‘Dialectical sublation proceeds through a movement whereby, at one and the same time, it contracts and alienates the material on which it acts’. The Aufhebung is not simply the one that brings together the one and the multiple, but also the multiple that holds apart the one and the multiple; it is the identity of non-identity and identity and the non-identity of identity and non-identity. In Jameson’s words, ‘dialectics are dialectical’.” Aufhebung and Negativity: A Hegelianism without Transcendence, Ryan Krahn, University of Guelph

If so, the aufheben becomes a restricted economy which ‘contracts’ (combines) and alienates (excludes). By restricted economy I mean sets up all possible conditions under which anything can be said, thought, asserted or denied of the function 1/X. When the boundary is thought as aufheben there is no possible exit from the dialectic. Of course, we could say that the boundary is indeterminate. We could say that the boundary is a rupture, a radical alterity, with regard to the whole system of mathematics. Would these assertions be an escape altogether from the dialectic we have constructed? If we assume that mathematics is the only possible field where any possible objection can occur, then these objections are meaningless. If the notion of rationality as the only possible field is substituted for mathematics, then these questions can only be answered in the restricted economy we have set up. We have set up an absolute, closed system, which can never exceed itself. There can be no radical rupture. The effect of this is to close out all other possibilities in a restricted economy thus absolutely removing the possibility that the boundary is indeterminate. It is an absolute denial of all possibilities for a radical other. However, the denial is not in the asserted boundary condition but in the repetition of the thesis in the antithesis. The other was already made impossible by the repetition not from anything surreptitiously brought in at the boundary, the synthesis. This movement is what we now call totalization.

Let’s think about the approximation we thought about with the ‘tendency towards closure’ and the ‘opens towards an unbridgeable tear’.As opposed to the hermetically sealed which can recognize no other, the ‘tendency towards’ is the empirical. The System is deduction while the ‘tendency towards’ is inductive. It is also the difference between certainty and contingency. In approximation, we discover qualities around infinity which provide a degree of closure. The yawning gap of chaos is smoothed over by the mathematics of infinity, calculus. The radical alterity of the Other is tamed by common sense. We form ideas about the Other. Levinas calls these plastic casts we throw over the face of the Other. We have theories with relative degrees of accuracy for prediction. We think of the Other as the ‘same’ as us as a desirable idea. We think of diversity as a collection of Other’s which is also desirable. When we think conventionally as the other being negative, ‘otherizing the other’, we think of the other as alien and evil. However, the alien and the evil are our idea of the other. The idea of the other is yet not the other even as the idea of Hesiod’s chaos never arrives at its destination. In all these cases we have applied ready-made inductions to level out and retreat from radical rupture…the infinity which looks at us in the face of the Other and in the very notion of infinity.

From Part One of this discussion, let’s recall the paradox. We have the notion of a mathematical point which is infinitesimally small. Therefore, a ‘real’ point is an impossibility. However, relativity physics tell us that a black hole results in a singularity. In addition, according to relativity, if we follow cosmic history back to the big bang, all the matter in the universe coincides into a singularity. It is as if we backed up into the other side of a black hole. A singularity is a radical rupture in time-space. It is also indeterminate. A singularity is in effect a division by zero [Division by zero]. Is the “Beginning of Time” a myth? [The Myth Of The Beginning Of Time, “The Myth of the Beginning of Time”, A Matter of Time, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, January 2012, Volume 306, Issue 1s] By ‘myth’ in this discussion we do not mean ‘not ‘true’ we simply mean impossible. The myth is the singularity of the black hole or the big bang that relativity would tell us. For Hesiod, the beginning starts with a myth and a paradox.

Let’s think of Hesiod’s myth as the story we tell ourselves like the story Einstein tells us in relativity (although they are obviously not the same). Let’s think of Hesiod’s chaos as the radical rupture we think in singularity. The story we tell ourselves is quite convincing. However, no matter how carefully we trace our steps back to the origin we find we are left with an indeterminate difference. The difference is demarcated by the myth and the rupture. In fact, might we think that the myth is a retreat from an impossible singularity, an alterity that tears at the nexus of the contradiction of paradox which cannot be true but is true. The myth must be mute with regard to the paradox. The muteness we call indeterminacy. Of course, in our time, physics has competing theories about how Einstein’s singularity can be eliminated. However, none of those theories have the extremely accurate predictability of relativity on a very large scale. They also have their own resurrections of paradox which is not the subject of this discussion. At the same time, quantum theory is highly accurate on a very small scale. To date, we have not found a proven way to unite the very large and the very small. In this discussion I will not attempt to deal with the vast paradox’s which quantum theory intriguingly brings to the fore. Of course, we can always simply ignore the rupture with eternal positivism for a future resolve of the large and the small, a myth that will finally be the “theory of everything” or as Hegel thought, the ‘System’. If the history of myth is any precedent, the promised myth will also arrive with its own tears in the fabric of, shall we suggest, ‘what is’. As Levinas reminds us,

“in thematizing we are synchronizing the terms, forming a system among them, using the verb to be, placing in being [the myth] all signification that allegedly signified beyond being [for the current discussion chaos]? Or must we reinvoke alternation and diachrony as the time of philosophy? … Philosophy is not separable from skepticism, which follows it like a shadow it drives off by refuting it, again at once on its footsteps. Does not the last word belong to philosophy?” [Emmanuel Levinas, Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence, trans. Alphonso Lingis (Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1998) , 167, 168, 169. Also Cited by Richard A. Cohen in The Face of the Other, Ethics as First Philosophy: Two Types of Philosophy in the Thought of Emmanuel Levinas , Delivered as keynote address on August 1, 2013, at conference on “Culture and Philosophy as Ways of Life in Times of Global Change,” School of Philosophy, University of Athens, Athens, Greece, pg. 11]

The diachrony of the time of philosophy and history covers over its own ‘geological faults’. It tells us the System is almost complete. Chaos will be discarded, the paradox resolved, the Gordian knot untied. However, every new myth cannot seem to rid itself of the infinites which face us. Skepticism refuses without falling into the void it stares into. Skepticism is the last tragic stand of the hero which can no longer assert anything but its end. In this situation philosophy (and science) must forever drive off the shadow, the night, the void, nothingness to retreat from the abyss. The radical tears in Being and ‘is’ punctuated by death yet, still covers over the absolute intolerability of chaos. Hesiod’s chaos has no face. As such, it is the ‘horror’ of indeterminate-ability of the ‘there is’ which cannot be, the il y a.

“Being, as we noted, also is dark indeterminacy. Having suspended the binaries of de facto inside and outside as part of his own phenomenological bracketing, Levinas will approach this indeterminacy not as objectivity, but as something revealed through mood. Whether it is the dark indeterminacy that besets the insomniac self, or whether it is the rustling of nocturnal space, Being’s dark aspect horrifies us. “The things of the day world then do not in the night become the source of the ‘horror of darkness’ because our look cannot catch them in their ‘unforeseeable plots’; on the contrary, they get their fantastic character from this horror. Darkness…reduces them to undetermined, anonymous being, which they exude”. This anonymous being, also called the il y a [there is], does not ‘give’ the way Heidegger’s Being does. And it is not revealed through mere anxiety. Nevertheless, it is a beginning. Insomniac and in the throes of horror, the hypostasis falls asleep. Or again, it lights a light and reassembles its consciousness. It “sobers up.” Therein lays our first, constitutive escape from neutral Being. But the il y a gives the lie to the question: Why is there Being instead of simply nothing? Nothing, as pure absence, may be thinkable, but it is unimaginable. Indeterminate Being fills in all the gaps, all the temporal intervals, while consciousness arises from it in an act of self-originating concentration. This is the first sketch of Being as totality. The self-‘I’ dyad becomes a limited transcendence arising in the midst of the self’s encompassing horror. It hearkens to a call that comes not from neutral Being but from the Other. The stage is thus set for Totality and Infinity’s elaborate analyses of world, facticity, time as now-moment, transcendence in immanence, and transcendence toward future fecundity. These themes constitute the core of Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority.” Emmanuel Levinas

3 Quantum chaos

4 CHAOS THEORY

5 Turbulent Mirror: An illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness, Briggs and Peat, 1989, 76-77

6 “the skepticism which only ever sees pure nothingness in its result and abstracts from the fact that this nothingness is specifically the nothingness of that from which it results.”…”the skepticism that ends up with the bare abstraction of nothingness or emptiness cannot get any further from there, but must wait to see whether something new comes along and what it is, in order to throw it too into the same empty abyss.” Phenomenology of Spirit [Phänomenologie des Geistes], translated by A.V. Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977, §79.

7 Thinking is Idea in time. Here is how that works out in Hegel. Space is the negation of Idea as Concept. Concept (Begriff) is not ‘seen’. It does not undergo contingencies. Concept itself has no time or space (external to itself) except in the ‘timeless’ dialectics in which space and time arises. However, the negation of Concept is space. The negation of space is the point. The point is time. Becoming as mentioned in the post is the ‘now’ moment (which oscillates between Being and nothing) where all points in space negate themselves into a single moment, the present. Hegel understands space as three dimensional as Newton also did. Since time negates space, it collapses space into a zero dimensional point. Human time is the negation of the anonymous point (which is nature’s time) and passes into ‘recollection’. Recollection refers to the past and the negation of the past is the future. The now is the in-between, the aufhebung. The time-self’s negation is Concept. This completes the circle where all dialectics are fulfilled in Concept. The dialectical oppositions and sublations are preserved in Concept. Concept is completion and determination. According to Hegelians, Concept is totally within itself, driven from its own dialectics without externality (not already accounted for in its dialectical movements). Thus, the critique of my post with regard to the indeterminate, chaos, uncertainty are reduced to dialectical movements and subsumed by the absolutism of the Newtonian science of Hegel’s own ‘Now’ moments. Understanding Hegel’s Theory on Time Note: It is interesting that Concept itself can be negated. I suppose Concept’s time-space-lessness opposes itself in the other of space opposing itself as time, etc.. In this particular case, Concept, itself has an other (dare we think as externality?) . A Hegelian would probably tell us that the ‘other’ of negation is not an external other but an other driven from within the Concept (in this case) as its depleted mode (in a sense). So, therefore, space is not other except in thought (as was the case with Being and nothing). Can Concept think itself? Wouldn’t that require time? Is this yet another case where thinking is merely assumed as was the case with Being as ‘pure knowing’ which is ‘pure indeterminateness and emptiness’ and ‘pure nothing’ which is ‘complete emptiness, the absence of all determination and content’ that already has the thought of their opposition.

A Letter I Received in 1989 from Emmanuel Levinas

In 1989 I wrote Levinas telling him how much I loved his work. He wrote back with a very touching letter. This February I started a dialog with one of the foremost scholars on Levinas, Richard A. Cohen, to find out if an archive for Levinas’ writing existed. Apparently, there is no archive for scholars, but Professor Cohen suggested that he would be happy to be the caretaker of the letter. Professor Cohen is in the Department of Jewish Thought at the University at Buffalo in New York. On October 4th I sent Professor Cohen the original letter from Levinas, the original envelope from Levinas, my initial letter and the only translation I ever had from French to English of the letter. Some of Levinas’ handwriting is hard to read. I am hoping Dr. Cohen may be able to translate the letter more fully. If anyone can help with this translation I will add it to this post (please, text only in main body of email). I have attached photos of the original letter and envelope, my original letter to Levinas and the only translation I have so far. After I put this post together, I noticed something a bit odd – I originally sent my letter to Levinas on February 28th, 1989. Levinas replied on April 28th, 1989. Quite unintentionally, I first contacted Professor Cohen on February 28, 2018. Interesting…

Here is the only translation I have:

Here is a copy of the original letter in French, Page 1:

    Here is a copy of the original letter in French, Page 2:

Here is the front of the original envelope:

Here is the back of the envelope:

My Original Letter to Levinas – Page 1:

My Original Letter to Levinas – Page 2:

My Original Letter to Levinas – Page 3:

The Impossible Possibility of Paradox – Part One

The fundamental experience which objective experience itself
presupposes is the experience of the Other. It is experience par
excellence. As the idea of the Infinite goes beyond Cartesian
thought, so is the Other out of proportion with the power and
freedom of the I.1

In this discussion I would like to use a rather mundane notion in physics and geometry to try to nuance out what I think is an important difference in common modes of our understanding and orientation to reality. I would like to bring out an equivocation which is a confusion that covers over an essential difference into an abstract habit of thinking. This habit is derived from a dominate, historically conditioned, leveling over of radical breaks in our notions of what ‘is’. The ancient Greeks did not have the modern ‘luxury’ of this imposed abstraction in reflecting on what ‘is’. More to the point, they had the notion of phusis2 which embodied the ancient, archaic notion of ‘growth’ also found in other ancient cultures. In this sense ‘growth’ ranged from what Heidegger phrased ‘what shows itself’ and in my estimation the radical rupture of alterity which imposes necessity from other than its showing. ‘Growth’ in this sense is encounter and exteriority. This approach will try to use some quite rudimentary assumptions in science to tease out these philosophical underpinnings.

In geometry there is the abstract notion of a point. The question which brings existential import to a point (i.e., what ‘is’ a point?), is non-sensical. A point does not exist. We may say that it is infinitesimally small. Perhaps we could say that it has no dimension, zero dimensional. A specific case of a point could be a singularity. From what physicists tell us about a black hole we must concede that it ‘is’ a point in its most extreme form. Physicists are very confident that black holes exist and that they result in a singularity, a radical tear in time-space, an infinitesimally small point. As such, the singularity is a mathematical impossibility. Philosophically, we would say that a black hole is a mathematical contradiction; it is necessarily false. However, let’s notice the shift we have just announced.

We started suggesting that a point is an abstract mathematical concept does not exist empirically; it has no dimension. Zero dimensionality is not conceivable. And yet, we seem to have empirical evidence that a point can exist in a black hole. We may defer this contradiction as a lack of knowledge to be resolved in an unknown, unforeseen, moment in the future. As such, we acknowledge that we must currently leave this matter as a paradox3. Such a point is an argument to ignorance and only defers the immediacy of an answer which now faces us in this discussion. The argument to ignorance does not provide resolution only gives permission to ignore a persistent question.

Let us note that we have attributed qualities to the ‘point’ as “infinitesimally small” and as highly certain that it empirically exists in a black hole. We cannot resolve these conflicting notions in the light of rationality. They must remain ‘infinitely’ recoiled in upon themselves without coming into the light as aufheben (i.e., without being “lifted up”, ” abolished”, “canceled”, “suspended”, or “sublated”). This infinite impossibility can only be preserved in its inability to be able to transcend or exceed itself. It remains as an obligation we cannot refuse in its stark, declarative unmediated, absolute self-contradicted specificity. However, we can ignore it altogether and the direct question it essentially poses to the ‘light’ of knowledge.

In this case ‘light’ is taken hold of by the Latin notion of ratio which was the interpretation of the ancient Greek word logos. Specifically for this treatise, in terms of Heraclitus’ refinement as ‘giving account’, as ‘justice’ and ‘recompense’. ‘Light’ in this sense is the field of sight where idea is nudged towards resolve, towards answer and accountability. Dialectic can only exist in this clearing, this region already ready for an answer. In this sense, idea remains in itself; it encloses itself as Truth. Sight lays hold of its object without referring to abstractions; it simply sees. Therefore, by ‘light’ I mean the Idea as remaining within itself. In analogous terms of physical science, such a notion as Idea remaining in itself might be referred to as an isolated system – no interaction with matter or energy outside of itself. In Hegelian terms we might even venture further that anything ‘outside’ of Idea is still Idea and therefore an absolute impossibility except as yet another idea. It forever must get re-appropriated into the isolation of its Truth.

Additionally, note here that falsity also remains in itself as a deprived mode of Truth often erroneously taken as an opposite. Falsity always resolves itself essentially in contradistinction to Truth. Truth can only assert itself in its privation, its lack as error and thus, remain in itself. For example, light is only known through darkness, good is only known through bad, etc.. Only by the essential ‘not’ can Truth make its eternal claim. Truth remains in logos as an essential condition for sight, for logic to assert its priority in its isolation. Specifically, this condition we refer to as being or ontology as the essential pillar of language, the copula which founds all possibilities of writing. Ontology in this case is what sifts and retains identity from Hesiod’s random chaos (χάος4), what must and can only show itself in the clearing of light.

The notion of singularity, as a mathematical point, cannot be seen or conceived and yet ‘is’. Therefore this notion cannot remain within itself. When taken as ‘sight’ a singularity can only be pushed away from itself such that sight cannot contain or make sense of its object. In distinction to Truth, that which remains in itself as the march of being, we have an absolute paradox which somehow still retains the yawning gap of Hesiod, χάος5. This essential difference should not be lost in the notion of negation. Negation resolves and levels off this difference by virtue of what it negates. It implies a positive term which then must necessarily be what is negated. The difference I am trying to bring out is that lack of a positive term to negate. This paradox, simultaneously ‘is’ and ‘is not’ perhaps gleamed in the ancient Greek notion of chaos. The paradox cannot be contained on the ‘not’ of negation without doing an injustice. We must open the isolation of this logocentric system which only must remain in itself. With this in mind, lets reflect on what we might think of as qualities of an idea which cannot remain within itself but necessarily points to an unseen, essentially undiscoverable, externality.

Of the idea of infinity, Renes Descartes writes:

Nor should I imagine that I do not perceive the infinite by a true idea, but only by the negation of the finite, just as I perceive repose and darkness by the negation of movement and of light; for, on the contrary, I see that there is manifestly more reality in infinite substance than in finite, and therefore that in some way I have in me the notion of the infinite earlier then the finite6

Descartes recognized that the idea of infinity is very different from other ideas. While at times he thought of infinity in terms of negation he also thought of infinity as “manifestly more” and in some way “earlier”. The idea of infinity cannot be shown in the light of the idea of an object like a chair for example. To tease this out further, the idea of infinity cannot rest in itself but can only point away from itself without pointing to a thing, a positive term. The idea overflows itself without resolve, without regard to what it ‘is’.

Calculus is the mathematics of infinity. It can describe infinities in terms of ‘limits’ as infinity approaches a limit. It can describe infinities as ‘converging’ and ‘diverging’. Let’s take the function, ‘1/x’, where x goes from minus infinity to plus infinity (see chart below). You can see on the chart that from -1 to minus infinity the solution reaches a limit of zero. From -1 to just below zero the solution goes to minus infinity. Likewise, from 1 to infinity the solution reaches a limit of zero. From 1 to just above zero the solution goes to infinity. At zero 1/X is undefined.

Therefore, while we have not gained any insight into the notion of infinity, we have described qualities around the, ever exceeding itself, notion of infinity in certain circumstances. Likewise, while we cannot resolve the previously discussed dilemma of the geometrical point as an impossible singularity, we can point out certain behavior around that impossibility. This behavior nevertheless does not undo the Gordian Knot except by leveling it over with negation or ignoring it altogether. This paradox then weaves itself in the field of light without ever being consumed by the light.

From henceforth, we shall we refer to specific reductions such as the function ‘1/x’, converging and diverging on a limit of ‘1’ as providing a degree of diachronic ‘closure’ to the odd idea of infinity; that is, standing alongside the rupture of the idea of infinity without overtaking it. In this type of behavior infinity taken up in history and easily lost in negation and ignore-ance. Likewise, the abstract and inconceivable idea of the point as infinitesimally small, embodied in the impossible contradiction of a black hole, supplements the idea with an existential empiricism that adds a degree of semblance as closure. These further qualifications bring relevance to an inherit excess to the idea of infinity without covering over the radical rupture of the idea. Likewise, we shall refer to qualities which refuse resolution (such as zero dimensional, infinitesimally small, etc.) as moving towards an un-addressable exteriority which opens towards an unbridgeable tear in the interiority of ideas or self-enclosed-ness.

This openness does not open towards a Heideggerian kind of clearing but rather imposes itself in its absolute impossibility which cannot be denied. Interesting enough Heidegger writes:

“Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein [human being, the ‘there’ of being]. Thus death reveals itself as that possibility which is one’s ownmost, which is non-relational, and which is not to be outstripped”.7

In my estimation for example, the absolute impossibility of a point which cannot exist and yet must as a singularity does not belong to Dasein or even Being but to what Levinas refers to as otherwise than Being. The rupture I have spoken of is radical tear which cannot be resolved either in Being or Hegel’s Idea. It cannot be taken hold of but must always remain out of reach, without mediation, without relating in any way to one’s ownmost (which brings into question how death can be related to “one’s ownmost AND non-relational).

The tendency to closure of paradox may provide conditional qualities around which we can, in a limited fashion, provide some resolution around a logical impossibility without abolishing the necessary impossibility it enshrouds. To some extent openness provides us a specificity in the bare name such as the word ‘infinity’ which can be pragmatically useful in service to such qualities previously discussed but ultimately fail in their inability to find any complete closure within themselves with their sheer imposing impossibility. The tear in the fabric of rationality is not overtaken by rationality. It is not snuffed out by the forceful wish of dialectic and aufheben. Nor is it tamed by the totality of Being. For the early Greeks it remained as,

Tell me all of this, you Muses who have your homes on Olympus, from the beginning [archê, ἀρχῆς], tell who first of them (the gods) came-to-be [genet’, γένετ᾽].
First of all Chaos came-to-be [genet’, γένετ᾽]8

…for Levinas and the gift of Judaism, the provocation of the Other.

 

_________________

1 From “Signature”, an essay in:
“DIFFICULT FREEDOM”
Essays on Judaism
Emmanuel Levinas
Translated by Sean Hand
English translation published 1990 by
The Johns Hopkins University Press
2715 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-4363
www.press.jhu.edu
Johns Hopkins Paperbacks edition, 1997
9 8 7 6 5 4 3

2 Ancient Greek

From φῠ́ω (phúō, “grow”) +‎ -σῐς (-sis).

Noun: φῠ́σῐς • (phúsis) f (genitive φῠ́σεως); third declension

See also φύσις in Liddell & Scott (1940) A Greek–English Lexicon, Oxford: Clarendon Press

3 paradox – a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true

4 Philosophy Series 4 – The Pre-Socratics – Hesiod

5 Philosophy Series 4 – The Pre-Socratics – Hesiod

6 Renes Descartes, “Meditations on First Philosophy”, Third Meditation

7 Martin Heidegger, “Being and Time”, 53: 307

8 Hesiod, Theogony

Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics

Philosophy Series Contents (to be updated with each new installment)

Philosophy Series 1 – Prelude to the Philosophy Series

Philosophy Series 2 – Introduction

Philosophy Series 3 – Appendix A, Part 1

Philosophy Series 4 – The Pre-Socratics – Hesiod

Philosophy Series 5 – A Detour of Time

Philosophy Series 6 – The Origin

Philosophy Series 7 – Eros

Philosophy Series 8 – Thales

Philosophy Series 9 – An Interlude to Anaximander

Philosophy Series 10 – On the Way to Anaximander: Language and Proximity

Philosophy Series 11 – Aristotle and Modernity: The Eternal and Science

Philosophy Series 12 – Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics

Philosophy Series 13 – On Origin

————————————————

Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics

In a previous post I made the statement, “The transcendent step into externality and away from moaning, groaning, complaining and self-pity is not ‘out there’ somewhere. It is in simply putting one leg in front of the other to make our democracy live up to its promise.” This may be a bit mystifying for many unfamiliar with Levinas but for anyone familiar with Levinas it would need further clarification. From what I know of Levinas, he would not have thought a “step into externality” possible. In Levinas, externality is not an ontology, a mode of being. In fact, the essence of ontology is total-ism; reducing the other to the idea of the other. Essence and ontology totalize the other. It commits murder to the other; to the absolute alterity of the other. While I understand this is his position I find a point of departure between Levinas and myself to some extent regarding this particular point.

Levinas thought that metaphysics always had a hint, a trace, of the other which was effaced as history. He was not willing to completely think of metaphysics as simply another deprecated form of ontology. Certainly it was misunderstood in history as an ontology but Levinas wanted to leave room for an erasure of a trace, as Derrida might think it, in metaphysics. This curious tenant in Levinas might have tentacles which extend beyond his ingenious body of work. Specifically, if metaphysics as a notion can have some positive affinity, event in its erasure, with the absolute externality of the other, why wouldn’t it be possible for the notion of externality to also hold open a similar shadow of the other as the notion of ‘transcendent’ equally holds for Levinas?

From a Platonic and later Hegelian point of view, this possibility holds open the way for a step into the erased ‘essence’ of language as negation. From the earliest Greek philosophers, the ‘privation’, the gaping void, can be taken into thinking as Heidegger’s essence of metaphysics or Hegel’s essential operative in the step from thesis to antithesis and in turn to Aufhebung
(thought perhaps too simply as synthesis). For Levinas, a Heideggerian reduction of metaphysics, to dasein’s (being there) thrown nullity, is an ontological totality. It leaves out the absolute gap in the face of the other. For Levinas, Hegel recognized the problematic nature of negation but did not think outside purely ‘logical’ terms. By ‘logical’ I mean what the Science of the Logic thinks as Bergriff, absolute Concept. In my thinking, both Heidegger and Hegel have both brilliantly refined and simultaneously perhaps lost a measure of the richness we find in the earliest, ancient Greek thought (and perhaps in even more strands of ancient thinking from Babylon, Egypt, Lydia and Phoenicia of which I know very little). I have made discussions to shore up these possibilities in previous posts. One of the main tenants of my philosophy series has been and will be that the Milesian School and further, the Ionians had a richness that later refining avenues of thought like Neoplatonism lost.

The Peripatetic School began shortly after Aristotle’s death. Many scholars seem to think that the school was more inclined towards Plato and the Italian strand in antiquity where Pythagoras plays an important role. In the later Christian, Latin, era the Peripatetics were revived along with a more Platonic inclination towards the Ionians and the Milesian School. The Ionians were more properly influenced and represented by Hesiod, Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes and Heraclitus. Italian thinking in early ancient Greece as evidenced in Pythagoras was monistic. In later, Latin thinking it took on polytheistic flavors. My thinking along these lines has gravitated towards scholars which have, in my estimation, dismantled much of the lens through which scholasticism and its predecessors have limited our vision of the Ionian philosophers. Heidegger certainly had an acute sense of this loss of a beginning in Greek thinking. My impression is that Hegel also had an understanding of this scholarly strand but in his refined thinking understood the advent of Christianity and its Latin roots as a further progress in Spirit, the Concept. He wrote of individualism, a personal relationship with God, as more enlightened in terms of responsibility and as a more concretizing moment of the Idea. In effect Heidegger was more critical of the loss of the earliest Greek openings and Hegel was more dismissive of its possibilities in terms of the further development of Christianity.

For Hegel, monism seems to find its essence and concrete reality in the Idea. Hegelians seem to think that their virtue in thought consists in the abnegation of dualism, pluralism and its many headed Medusas in history. It seems to me that their notion of Idea certainly departs from the common understanding of idea. Perhaps the vernacular of idea is only a shadow, an erased traced, of what their thinking of Idea is. From the earliest, Hegelianism seems to me to take up a monism of absolute Spirit. This later became more concrete in the polytheism of Rome just before Christianity. However, the Idea of Hegel cannot be set in some sort of opposition from the dualistic notion of materialism. Materialism itself, as Hegel understood, is an idea which cannot be dismantled from the dialectic. The development and movement of Idea are the footprints of history and the totality of Spirit. Certainly, much of this has resonances with Pythagoras, Plato and Neoplatonic thinking.

For Heidegger, these developments highlighted in Hegel, were a forgetting of the Ionian philosophers and the Platonic lens though which modernity thinks of Aristotle. Heidegger finds in Aristotle a lost note that harkens back to the Ionians. Monism thinks everything as one substance (from Latin root). The problem monism opens up is how to explain apparent change. The Milesian School as part of Ionia started with the observation of phusis, our transformed word, ‘physics’. Milesian philosophers wanted to move from the myths of Homer toward what showed itself from more ancient notions as simpler constitutions of water, air, fire and earth.

For Thales, water was primary. For Anaximenes, it was air. For Anaximander, apeiron. Apeiron is the unbound, without limit. This very rich and ancient notion was and is difficult to refine both from lack of ancient source materials and from historic refinements which form a lens through which we think we understand such a lost notion which can only exceed itself and give rise to later developments of the Platonism/Aristotelian difference, a Latin Constantinople, Hegel and Heidegger.

In modernity, apeiron takes the form of energy and logic. Logic, the principle of non-contradiction is the essence of Hegel and appears most obvious for modernity in a deprecated form. Logic is for modernity what constitutes truth. Logic even dominated classic physics although physics has once again taken up the suspicious garb of an excess to logic in quantum mechanics, dark matter and dark energy. In Medieval times the hint of the excess in apeiron was found in God but later lost to everything that could be doubted in Descartes (although found in its way back in his thinking). The dialectic in Hegel truly liberated Idea from an unaccounted for excess. In the Logic, the genius of Hegel’s system is that it allows no seepage which must be later accounted for in terms of an ‘x’ factor where ‘x’ can be substance, matter (dark and otherwise), energy (dark and otherwise), body or even exteriority. There is no excess outside the Idea. For a Hegelian, exteriority is nothing other than an idea which can only be taken up again into the light of the dialectic.

Heidegger was fully aware of these movements away from apeiron towards a historic refinement but he also explicated a forgotten and deemphasized theme in Aristotle. Aristotle’s notion of the relationship of changing forms and the medium from which change is comprehended, make sense of change (even more so provide the basis from which we are even able to be able to notice change), is Being. For Heidegger, Being, ontos, ontology was profoundly thought in Aristotle. For Heidegger, Being is the most mundane, already understood and most easily forgotten strain which came to prominence in the early beginning, the arche, of the Ionians. Being holds together a ‘there’ he called dasein (‘me’ as the there of being). Heidegger spoke of many modalities and ways of being from the phenomenological tradition of Husserl. As for Husserl’s transcendental apperceptions and Heidegger’s Being there is a fine subtlety, complexity and easily misunderstood (as semblance) tendency Heidegger termed everydayness. Everydayness falls in das man (the they self) and forgets its authentic relationship to Being. This is the early Heidegger but after the mystic ‘turn’ in his latter life he resists the all too easy pre-understood fall into the thinking of Being with what he terms ereignis, an event of appropriation. In all of Heidegger’s thinking I think there is a struggle to reawaken to notions of the Ionians and once again, for another first time, encounter apeiron. However, for me, the fait accompli in Heidegger is the gap given by the neuter and the he or the she.

In Levinas, exteriority is not in the possibilities of the idea. It is not neuter. It faces us as the other. The mystification of the idea still remains on the dead stuff of substance. For the Ionians this was not such an easy reduction as evidenced by the widespread animism of their era. However, animism thought through the modern lens once again falls into the trap of the neuter. Animals are not so much thought as he’s or she’s except in purely biologically reduced terms. This notion of he’s and she’s borrows much from the historic and deep rooted notion of the neuter. The neuter can be thought as the negation of the he or the she. For Levinas, the he and the she is the face of the other person. In this way, the struggle to idea-ize externality which can never be completed is finally put to rest not as fully understood but as terminated in Ethics.

For Kant and Hegel ethics is duty. Ethics proceeds from idea. It is the altruism we owe the Idea. For Levinas, Ethics is responsibility facing the other. Concreteness of the Idea still finds place in the light, in the possibility for consciousness. The error of presence from early Greek thinking easily forgets any excess to presence and light. Only in the negation can exteriority find its way into the modern lens, modern sight. Sight dominates being for modernity and easily loses the limitation of sight. It takes sight to be Idea and everything else as negation. Thus, negation is sight’s answer to exteriority. It is totalizing, reductionary and finds no way past itself to the other. However, notice that negation which is way too easily pre-understood as the not of idea, of sight, must be reduced to an opposite to be effectively used in the dialectic. Only if negation is simply understood as opposite can the dialectic proceed. This clever move by Hegel thrusts idea into a movement of opposites which can only find a Pythagorean harmony from the cacophony of excess in the dialectic. However, the dialectic as totality fails to account for anything which can possibly exceed it except in the reduction of negation. For Hegel, ethics must proceed from an obligation to the demands of Idea and self-determination. For Levinas, exteriority is not reduced and summed up in negation but remains as absolute alterity in the face to face encounter of the other. Ethics is therefore responsibility before the transcendent alterity of a he or a she that faces me. Levinas finds this radical exteriority is what metaphysics always aimed for but failed in history. He also thinks language and even world in Heidegger’s sense as a recoil from the face of the other. In this move I think we can gleam something of language and its failure as a medium, a mixture in Aristotle’s simplistic thinking of the ancient Greeks.

Hegelians are correct in their assessment that idea has relevance. However, the relevance found in the light of the dialectic cannot hermetically seal us in Idea, in a monad of System. Language can only show based on privation, its absolute inability to be able. Thus negation is the virtue and service language provides us. We can know what is not as in the limit of which apeiron refers in its ‘a’ of privation. Limit certainly plays a role in apeiron but only to make way for what it cannot be. ‘What it cannot be’ is what Being cannot be. It is what Idea cannot think. It is an excess which cannot be neuter, cannot be extinguished in light, reason and thought. It can only be faced in the exteriority of the face of the he or the she.

Some have criticized Levinas as anthropomorphic. The obsession with the merely human has also been a way of totalizing violence with regard to nature (physis). However, isn’t anthropomorphism the radical loss of the exteriority of the other? Isn’t it yet again another attempt to idea-ize all, a totality? If apeiron, Heraclitus’ river which can never be stepped in twice and chaos, the fertile void, the yawning gap of Hesiod and other ancients is merely mystification, it is merely idea; the stubborn refusal to let go. If exteriority faces us in the other we feel we can idea-ize it without losing the other; we can transform the other. This transformation can only succeed as negation; as Idea.

Effectively, we have the choice for idea based ethics and ethics founded in the epiphany of the face with all its blemishes, beauty and age. If epiphany opens toward externality then the “step into externality” is the step towards the other which absolutely confounds us and also leaves room for humility and obligation. If negation ends at limit in light and idea we only have an abstraction of ourselves which can only have relative degrees of concretization and is a poor and violent mask for the effacement of the other. In the other we may find a way towards the apeiron and in so doing find a respite between the Greek and the Jew; a very difficult task from a purely occidental, historic lens.

Philosophy Series 13 – On Origin

 

On the Way to Anaximander: Language and Proximity

Philosophy Series Contents (to be updated with each new installment)

Philosophy Series 1 – Prelude to the Philosophy Series

Philosophy Series 2 – Introduction

Philosophy Series 3 – Appendix A, Part 1

Philosophy Series 4 – The Pre-Socratics – Hesiod

Philosophy Series 5 – A Detour of Time

Philosophy Series 6 – The Origin

Philosophy Series 7 – Eros

Philosophy Series 8 – Thales

Philosophy Series 9 – An Interlude to Anaximander

Philosophy Series 10 – On the Way to Anaximander: Language and Proximity

Philosophy Series 11 – Aristotle and Modernity: The Eternal and Science

Philosophy Series 12 – Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics

Philosophy Series 13 – On Origin

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On the Way to Anaximander: Language and Proximity

Language defies our originality. Individuality is never an absolute. Individuality as an absolute is an absolute impossibility just as no one makes up their own private language which always precondition our perceptions and judgements. Even the ostensive word “individual” has already been taken up into language prior to any metaphysical determinations. Language is external to metaphysical determinations as writing is to speech yet speech takes up in ritual hermeneutics the work of externality and interruption while writing can only disembody itself from its author in its sheer, iterable ‘isness’; the ‘there is’ of il ya . The symbiosis of language and speech is simultaneously totality and infinity, peras and apeiron. Totality must always be in bad faith; committed to mere appearance. Totality can only appear as, and from, presence. Pure presence is always absolutely contingent and infinitely empty in its lack of mediation and content. It is abstract as Hegel rightly points out in agreement with Aristotle. Likewise, language as externality can never be unified into presence and therefore, totality.

Language1, as saying2, first opens the space for a self, a “me”, which through iterations (history) of self-presence becomes ego and culture in the said. Yet, ego can only appear as apparition; as saying evokes the-one-for-the-other, an anarchical gap. Ego must be maintained all the while it erodes and degrades with age, it changes with growth and maturity. It is captured in its inauthentic retreat from radical exteriority which commands it before vitality and power are defensively thrown against the face of the other. Ego must always evade and barricade itself against the externality of language as saying from which it necessarily arises. Authenticity is an impossibility for ego. It is always captive from, and by means of, its origin to what it is not and can never be. In this then, we first glimpse the classic Greek apeiron.3 Ego dwells as abode in ritual retreat in the totality of ‘presencing’; its form as peras, bounded and shaped as subject.

Likewise, culture maintains itself in its fantasma of origin. It must pass over into metaphysics to accomplish its feat of defiance; to forget its transitive lack of ground and locate itself in the founded security of permanence, tradition and institution. It is secured as ground in belonging to the ghost of totality. If there was no God, totality would certainly have to create one. The need to be, secure and individual, betrays a sense of dread about the possibility of being. A yawning, gaping, ever expanding gap inevitably and irretrievably interrupts from without and in infinite absence makes anything such as an unconscious and radical externality possible.

Temporality is the epoch of abode; it is the essence of origin and the birth of transgression.

“Whence things have their origin,
Thence also their destruction happens,
As is the order of things;
For they execute the sentence upon one another
– The condemnation for the crime –
In conformity with the ordinance of Time.” Anaximander4

Proximity as eternality and interruption makes possible the abstraction of distance as distance spans gap in nearness and farness. Gap can never dissolve into immediacy. It must always preserve itself, its essence, as radically other and retreat as mediation. It can never be a dialectical unity, the same or an identity. It can only be effaced from its brute rawness with the familial and the uncanny, desire and horror. Space can only open up as an abstraction of proximity. Proximity demands and requires abstraction from its infinite recoil. Proximity interrupts pure presence. It bumps into us from without and forces change upon us. It texturizes our natural anonymity to language. Proximity makes possible name as home and stranger, same and other as what refuses and commands substitution. However, proximity as gap, as yawning gap, as chaos can never be truncated into a simple whole, a present, without doing injustice. Injustice requires retribution. Primal violence is will to power, the heroic and always tragic phantasm of egoic and historic totality. Proximity is not neutral. Neutrality cannot interrupt. Neutrality sets proximity afar and in synchronic orbit. It makes the other the object of bourgeois interest. It resolves gap as disinterest, superfluous and inconsequential. Yet, origin as gap can only ever undo itself. It can never establish itself. It must always give way to diachrony; its dissolution from necessity and essence. The other, the he or she that faces us can never be surmised as idea. Desire can never resolve itself in object just as gap can never rest in origin. Externality is not subsumed or contained in idea only relegated to the darkness of eternal recurrence; of what must always return. Expiation must always answer from the dark side of being and light.

The tragedy required by proximity and language as saying and said sets the stage for the drama of life. The irrecoverable withdrawal of the absolute emptiness of being requires mediation and retribution. Its ecstasis, standing out, from the impossibility of nothingness severs and forever denies justice, faithfulness and truth as the showing of phenomena. Only radical externality which requires me and culture can any such thing as ethics find relevance; “condemnation for the crime” of sameness, synchronicity and origin. Language as symbol and grapheme must embody the logic of contradiction and absolute construction for the requirement of justice. It must pronounce the impossible Real in the face of what it reels against. It must be mediated inphantasma as physics (phusis), as absolute idea, so that its crime can meet infinity (the unbound, unlimited) in utter passive demarcation of archetypal, tragic drama. Without defense and in substitution for the command of the other, it must perpetually replay its own death and pay its penalty. The proximity of the face of the other evokes Desire before language can mediate and intercede. Language in its absoluteness bows passive before its own interruption and undoing. The death rattle of the abysmal, destitute ‘there is’ cannot face the other from which sight must eternally hoard itself. Forever cast out from place, domain and origin, silence gurgles through the rhizome of transcendental apperceptions sparkling with a placeless effervescence which once again gives birth to wonder, beauty and infant, infinite other.

Philosophy Series 11 – Aristotle and Modernity: The Eternal and Science

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1 Emmanuel Levinas, “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence”, ISBN 90-247-2288-8, Page, 34


2 Emmanuel Levinas, “Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence”, ISBN 90-247-2288-8, Page, 37


3 Apeiron (ἄπειρον) – “unlimited,” “infinite”, or “indefinite” from ἀ- a-, “without” and πεῖραρ peirar, “end, limit”, the Ionic Greek form of πέρας peras, “end, limit, boundary”.

4 Anaximander (c. 610—546 B.C.E.)

Writing and Technology

Writing is not merely grapheme. Writing is a technology (techne, τέχνη). This technology is not exterior to being human. It expresses an essence of human. As Maurice Blanchot describes, writing is the universal scene of death. It is absolutely powerlessness. It is timeless. It reminds me of what Levinas refers to as the il ya, the ‘there is’. Writing is sheer ‘isness’ without exterior. It is empty and void. Only when it is taken up into a ‘regional’ sense, a living human, can it rise from its eternal death and empower and animate itself as meaning and truth. As ‘regional’ it must iterate. It must seek once again the drama of replay. Its greatest and most riveting scene is one of origin. The notion of origin is one of authorizing. Authorization asserts rule. It arouses power and vitality. This is the essence of technology.

According to Heidegger, technology ontologically understands being as standing reserve. It pre-cognitively and already allows being to show itself as awaiting use. Techne, the Greek root of technology, was according to Socrates an art. For Socrates it was the art of creating new kinds being from the midst of beings. Perhaps in a more Aristotelian frame, it brought potentials of being into actuality. The art consisted in a special kind of knowledge of matter (hyle) coupled with a telos, a fulfillment or culmination.

While this dynamic is already at work in some sense in modern technology, it has engendered a historical sense, not based on the artisan, that matter reduces to use-value. Over thousands of years of iterations and more and more massive productions, iterations, history acquires an ontologically reinforced showing of being as stuff for convenience and consumption, as disposable raw materials. In many iterations of knowing/thinking the environment as use-value, the dynamis of being gets lost in stuff, empty and devoid of everything but use-value reduced to a living death. Just as the scene of writing is universal death, technology has stripped and reduced the openness of being to an empty and monstrous repetition of the death of being. Only in use does being rouse itself but not as mystery, wonder, disturbance or dread for example but as zombie, devoid of everything except capital, an economy of abstract gazes in comfort, titillation, feeding on the meat of numbness. As in Levinas’ il ya, this setting invokes a perpetual swarming buzz of sheer isness. In this way, the ontology of technology is like the scene of universal writing, archi-writing as Derrida thinks it.

It is important to understand that writing is not an activity we participate in for example. Technology is not air-conditioning for example. The relationship to writing and technology is more like the long lost Greek middle voice. It is not being acted on or acting on something. It is a reciprocity, a interaction which is not passive or active. Writing and technology thought this way is who we are not something we relate to as objects or things. It conditions objects and things before we realize it or are explicitly aware of it as something, as this or that. Writing and technology tell us something about ourselves, about how we see, orient and understand. Writing and technology inform us before we ask the question. Writing as origin, as arche, pieces together sheer isness into value, meaning and truth, as me here now. Technology as the perpetuation of stuff to be used animates thing and substance to utility. This gathering together as the ‘there of being’ (dasein) takes hold of universal meaninglessness, mere a-temporal differences, and regionalizes, animates, particularizes as life, existence, me. As re-enactment we think, we believe, we love, we hate, we set the stage for desire and passion. Perhaps, momentarily, we burst forth from reductive, historical ontologies, iterations of origin and use and have the possibility for breathing fresh air, exteriority, not-me, not consumed in universality but novel, new, not yet codified – otherwise than being.

Origin and Chaos – The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

In Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in the Supreme Court’s recent and interpretive decision, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA V. HELLER1, the majority ruled that gun ownership is an individual right and not just a collective right. The Second Amendment simply states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

As recently as the 1990s total estimates of people in the civilian militias in this country range from 20,000 to 60,0002. These groups are chiefly comprised of far right wing groups. If the right to bear arms were limited to fringe groups like these, we are faced with an overwhelming dilemma:

Does the U.S. Constitution maintain an absolute right to abrogate itself?

Put another way,

Does the U.S. Constitution provide the right for groups, hostile to the United States and its Constitution, to destroy the country?

Of course, these particular groups discussed in footnote 2 would certainly maintain that they are protecting their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. However, is the Constitution meant as a document for multiple and widely varying interpretations or is there a process described by the Constitution for deterring what are lawful and unlawful interpretations? Of course there is, the Legislative and Judicial branches of the U.S. Government. Do individuals have the right to have their own interpretation? Yes, they do but their interpretation is not protected against the interpretation of the courts and the legislative branch. The government maintains the exclusive right to determine what is constitutional and what is not constitutional. Therefore, like it or not the individual right to interpret the Constitution is trumped by the document itself and founding structural articles of the United States.

This is logically a necessity as many individual, widely varying interpretations could never be enacted into a cogent, defensible structure. If everyone with an opinion determined the formal and authorized meaning of the Constitution, the structure of the country would be ‘no structure’, an-archy, without origin. Origin is what validates and authorizes meaning. Accidental meanings, singular and without integral cohesion, are essentially thought in the context of origin as willy-nilly, whimsical and therefore, superfluous.

This is widely divergent from popular opinion about the individuality of the will and its protections in the structure of our government. Certainly individual rights are protected in a relative sense by the Constitution but not in an absolute sense. No one has the absolute authority to destroy the United States. It is sovereign not the citizens. The absolute right of an individual or group to destroy the country is not protected by the U.S. Constitution. Nor is any right given to an individual or a group to usurp the system of checks and balances set up by the Founding Fathers to impose their interpretation of the Constitution over and against the will of the people given by their elected representatives and judges.

Therefore, if a citizens militia group hates our current government and is hell bent on violently and singularly imposing its constitutional interpretation on the United States, it is limited by the document itself. Even Judge Scalia writes near the end of the majority decision that,

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott 333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” See footnote 1

The majority opinion goes on to state that all laws would have to pass rational-basis scrutiny and that the constitution itself prohibits irrational laws in footnote 27. Scalia goes on to add that “rational-basis is not just the standard of scrutiny, but the very substance of the constitutional guarantee”. Certainly this would cover that case where a fringe, radical terrorist group would decide it knew the ‘true’ meaning of the Constitution and would overthrow the current U.S. Government as the blood patriots and martyrs. The Constitution and “rational-basis” is the “substance” of the Constitution. The Constitution protects the rights of all Americans not just the ‘survival of the fittest’ Americans as in the pure market place of Austrian Economic’s capitalism. There is no hope that capitalism would find a ‘natural’ protection for the rights of the less fortunate but in the U.S. Constitution, there is an unmitigated guarantee. The market place is not given the right to determine a structure for the government just as the citizens militia is not protected by the Second Amendment to do whatever they want in the name of the ‘true’ (i.e. interpretation of the Constitution).

The Constitution and the elected government are given absolute power to make all final determinations, all “rational-basis” for the standard of scrutiny. In so doing, the irrational and accidental are by the same basis co-determined. The appeal to origin, is itself an appeal to rationality and its necessary irrational determinations. Any subsequent authorizations can only be made via the original authorization of the U.S. Constitution. If these subsequent authorizations are found to ‘deviate and perverse’ by the courts and elected representatives they cannot legitimately maintain their authority. The absolute authority of the government cannot be abnegated by the very existence of the government itself, its constitution. In this way the human instinct to survive is similarly taken up in the same exercise as inability of the Constitution of legitimate its own destruction. However, distinct from the individual will to survive the constitutional ‘will to survive’ has additional caveats.

The Constitution is a written document. An individual is alive, existing not as a writing but as an excess to writing. All writing, the body of writing, is only meaningful to a human that knows language. It is in whole meaningless to animals or atoms. Therefore, writing is inherently human. Any excess to writing does not imply a fundamental difference to writing but a qualitative difference. Therefore, we think to exist, as only humans can think they exist as such, suggests something more than a certain kind of human grapheme but exactly what this more is seems to deviate from constitution, the structure inherent in writing. Writing is not non-sense, it defines sense, it defines what is possible for ‘rationality’. To deviate from constitution, “rational-basis”, is chaos. Since Christendom, chaos has largely been thought from the basis of rationality as irrational, without meaning, empty. And yet, these negative connotations seem to be dismissive of any excess to ‘constitutionality’, the writing of God and the thought of immortality. These negative connotations of chaos bring up the nonsensical as the extremist right wing militia groups which cannot deviate from an authorizing origin and are condemned to live in the hinterland of their ‘truth’, their unthought and assumed right to exist as such. They are forever held prisoner by their ‘constitutional blood of patriots and martyrdom’ and at the same time, by the same Constitution, denied their insistence on absolute authorship. They are hopelessly lost in a singularity without an excess. They cannot endure an excess of chaos. They must in futility hold on to chaos in the passion of a singular death grip on gun, God and glory authorized by an absolute denial to their Constitutional authority. In this negation without excess, their existential angst, they take up chaos without ever becoming aware of it as such. They can only rail and rally in their desperation.

What escapes these desperados cannot be given or thought in common contemporary philosophical avenues. There is a sense of excess beyond writing, beyond constitution, that ‘constitution’ essentially cannot come to grips with. When excess to origin cannot be allowed to escape the insistence on constitution, on rational-basis, without becoming yet again a pseudo-rationalism it is condemned as Sisyphus to eternally roll a boulder up a hill only to have it fall again. This is why Hegel’s System can never be completed as Kierkegaard recognized. Not because it is inadequate but because it cannot constitutionally recognize what the early Greek philosophers realized from Hesiod,

“Tell me all of this, you Muses who have your homes on Olympus, from the beginning [archê, ἀρχῆς], tell who first of them (the gods) came-to-be [genet’, γένετ᾽].

First of all Chaos came-to-be [genet’, γένετ᾽]; but then afterwards…” Hesiod

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1 See DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA V. HELLER

2 Right-wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort

By Chip Berlet, Matthew Nemiroff Lyons, Pg. 289, See Link


 

Avenues Into Philosophy

Listening to some academic philosophers discuss the question, “Why philosophy?”, I hear a kind of implicit response to a question not posed. Namely, “How can philosophy apply to the ‘real’ world?” where ‘real’ here means vocation. For undergraduate students taking a philosophy class, I can certainly see the relevance of posing and answer to this question. However, this kind of positioning of the question of philosophy can also be a bit of a subterfuge which leads away from the real questions and relevance of philosophy. To make a living teaching philosophy puts some constraints on a professional philosopher which cannot or perhaps should not be avoided. However, perhaps the unbridled truth is that philosophy does not have a very solid connection to the demands of practicality and capitalism. This in itself could lead one to begin to question capitalism or at least to clarify to oneself why one would think of capitalism as a kind of arbiter of the good. In any case, in this paper I simply want to lay out some of the basic pathways into philosophy.

Whether we like it or not or admit it or not, we all make synthetic judgments. In other words, we have some sort of unitary idea of how things came about and how they work. Let’s start our journey with two basic beginnings. We have unity and change. In the extreme would could have change which spawns off incessant differences. We would have forms or appearances without necessarily any intrinsic connection. It would be like a stream of consciousness. We would have apparitions appearing and disappearing without ever having a sense of a beginning or end or even a unifying idea of ‘objects’. This would be pure sensations. On the other hand, we could start with unities, wholes, objects, God, gods, laws of nature or physics and from this, necessarily, the notion of origins, beginnings (the Big Bang) which make the notions of unity possible. However, if everything starts as unities we may have problems explaining changes which appear to be totally detached from their unities. For example, if we start with the ideal triangle where the sum of its internal angles will always equal 180 degrees we may have a hard time with the observed fact that no existing triangle has ever had the sum of its internal angles equal 180 degrees. In the ‘real’ world (which is itself another unity) there is always some error which keeps the perfect form forever away. Socrates might call the ‘real’ world triangles shadows or apparitions. Since both unity and change pose solutions and contradictions let’s explore a new avenue: the synthesis of the two.

For the sake of this paper let’s say one possibility for synthesis is what I will call the ‘bag of tools’ approach. In this approach ourselves, the universe, existence is the culmination of a collection of tools we have acquired. This is not so unlike the condition where eventually 100 monkeys, given enough time, could build the Empire State building. Somewhat like Nietzsche’s metaphysics of eternal recurrence of the same, if time is infinite and matter is finite eventually any and every possibility will happen again and again. Since one of those already determined, limited and bounded (in advance) possibilities is 100 monkeys building the Empire State building eventually the building will appear. Notice that now we are facing two more avenues: randomness or causation. Nietzsche’s solution evokes the random. There is no apparent casual connection to effects only happenstance given unlimited time and limited space. Of course, modern physics tells us that both time and space is created by the expansion of the universe so unlimited time may be problematic. Also, limited mass may be intuitively correct as ‘what must be’ but this is not a positive proof only a stand-in for the lack of a positive proof. This we can call a negative proof. If there are infinite universes as some have postulated in recent physics, then at the least we have an alternative ‘negative’ explanation which has no positive proof as of yet.

Evolution embodies the notion that we have over time acquired a ‘bag of tools’ which has culminated in language, history (the knowledge of), science and even a more ‘primitive’ beginning in religion. The ‘bag of tools’ approach is the proverbial “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps” intuition. This approach depends on certain sets of given conditions necessitating or causing determinate outcomes. Of course, the problem with this is the old ‘chicken and egg’ dilemma. In order to support this theory we have to keep substantiating our ‘given conditions’ so the effects we want to explain will ‘naturally’ follow. This means that this way of thinking depends on origin and beginning. However, if we follow the path of evolution back to single cells, bacteria, molecules, atoms and all the way to the Big Bang we have a problem. It seems as if our reliance on the beginning has come to an end. This presents a dilemma: our strategy of beginnings has collapsed in on itself. We are left reeling with only a negative proof that there must be a beginning before the Big Bang.

Now, we have come full circle to the other approach than the ‘bag of tools’ approach. This approach is the ‘God’ approach. By ‘God’ here we include gods, mysticism, faith. This approach does not require a ‘proof’ negative or positive, only a belief. God cannot be subject to ‘proof’ or the laws of physics since God created those things. Note that we have already made a critical distinction: things and non-things. This will be useful latter. For the ‘God’ approach we cannot explicitly rely on knowledge since ‘God’ also created knowledge. Knowledge cannot lead us to God but ‘revelation’ can. Revelation is a form of knowledge which cannot be falsified. It cannot be falsified because it begins in faith. The downside of faith is dogma. The problem with dogma is a vice. In modern terms we call this vice narcissism. In older times it was known as the sin of pride. The person of faith will always have to straddle the precipice of faith and dogma. Proof was the apparent solution to this dilemma. However, the history of science is no stranger to dogma and faith. The claim of the validity of science over ‘god’ is that science can be falsifiable whereas ‘God’ can never be false in any sense for the believer. In religion false gods are always measured by the true ‘God’ whatever form that takes on.

The incestuous relationship of knowledge and language to ‘God’ or science has always presented a conundrum to philosophers. Aristotle thought of this dilemma in terms of forms and being. The essence of form is change. Form has appearance. Appearance is mutable. All appearances in the ‘real’ world change over time. Yet, we have a notion of stuff being the same over time in some sense. Time as an intuition, not a relative idea, does not change. So, even in the midst of changing forms we have a phenomenon which apparently does not change and even seems to validate sameness: time. Well, that intuition is not exactly true since Einstein. Now we know, counter to intuition, that time can change. However, as Heidegger points out this intuition of time as linear and always the same is actually abstract. This notion is really a historical development.

Earlier civilizations thought of time as more like a quality than a quantity. The early Greeks had the word kairos and chronos. The Greeks observed that what Heidegger termed ‘lived time’ had a stretch. When one is feeling joyful or elated time feels like it moves quickly. When one is bored or having anxiety one feels that time is dragging on. There is also sacred time. For the ancients sacred time had a feel of vastness, later thought as ‘eternal’. Kairos, for the Greeks, was the supreme time, the fullness of time, the moment of all moments. Chronos was a sequence of ‘now’ moments. It is what we intuit as time contemporaneously and project it as never ending or infinite. Heidegger thought this notion of time as vulgar time. So, if our modern intuition of time is actually abstract, not in line with relativity, and not like we actually experience time we need to ask ourselves a couple questions: 1) How is it that intuition can be ‘fooled’ by history? – 2) What is it about us than can make ‘abstract’ time into what we think as ‘real’ time?

If intuition can be fooled, can revelation also be fooled? We are at the least left with an insecurity about the very nature of knowledge itself. If knowledge is subject to mutability it cannot be thought as ‘true’ at least in an absolute sense. Knowledge is always provisional. It is circumstantial. It has the real possibility of being false. If knowledge can be false what is the difference between knowledge and the chirping of a bird? This is the beginning of skepticism and existential doubt. We are thrown back upon our assumption of ‘truth’. How does this insecurity of knowledge effect our intuition of unity, of sameness, of God, of our founded-ness in the world? Are we reductively and merely products of change, of history? Are we accidental? How does this affect our sense of meaning? Does meaning have to be eternal to be true? As we live phenomenally, do we have a real or true sense of unity, of sameness. Surely we are not just a stream of consciousness in the way most of us experience ourselves. If we were simply to stand back and observe this sense of unity in ourselves we could be informed by at the least its appearance. Existence as we know it, as it can only be known with the word ‘existence’ does imply some sense of immutability. At minimum, it implies a relative differentiation between change and sameness. This was the problem Aristotle, in particular, was consumed with.

In the tradition of Aristotle, Heidegger also raised anew the question of Being in his monumental work “Being and Time”. All of us assume we know what being means but upon closer inspection this intuition appears to be one of the most empty of all meaning. We act as if it were absolutely ‘real’ and ‘true’ but try to sit down and write out what you think it is. Inevitably, most folks will just end up with a circular argument, “it is true just because it is (true)”. This is called a tautology. The root of tautology is Identity. Identity must always be ‘true’ because it can only ever only restate itself. The interpretive circle called the hermeneutical circle can only always and ever reaffirm itself like faith. However, in phenomenology our method is always to step back and ask what does this affinity in us show us about ourselves? Well, certainly it shows that we are historical in our being-ness. It also shows us that we cannot not think of ‘true’ or ‘real’ because for one, pragmatically we must act as if there is ‘real’ or ‘true’ to be in the world. The ‘true’ and ‘real’ seems to dog us like a shadow. In spite of this we seem to have a kind of poverty about absolute knowledge (unless of course you are a Hegelian). So now we have a lived, phenomenal sense of the ‘real’ or ‘true’ and we also (as is the case for the notion of being) have a kind of emptiness about what the heck it is. We must act as if it is true (pun?) in the face of our own fragility and mortality.

This then is how philosophy begins…