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
Philosophy Series 14 – George Orwell and Emmanuel Levinas Introspective: Socialism and the Other
This is the first of a series that will explore philosophy from early Greek beginnings to the present. This is in no way meant as a re-affirmation of ancient Greek slavery, misogyny or cultural hegemony. Ancient Greece was not a homogenous amalgamation of virtue, reason, genius, nobility or any such modern notions solely guided by the pure or proper. Any notions of the proper or the pure are themselves the results of a multiplicity of histories that can only congeal into simple unities of understanding from heterogeneous contexts which typically remain shrouded in darkness. If thinking remains mired in the bog of mere present day semantics, every history gets appropriated into the thinker’s presence and any other externality silenced into oblivion. This is why reflecting on uniquely Greek contributions to, what has become for us, simple semantic unities that already understand or show the real, should always be thought with a sense of excess and externality. This kind of showing cannot be fully completed by our ready-to-hand or contemporaneous understandings and cognitions. There is always a gap or void, an inherent chaos (xaos, χάος), in understanding. The indeterminateness of chaos is not accounted for in terms of a ‘me’ understood as the immanent relatedness of common linguistic reductions.
This series will make an attempt to think as philosophers would have thought without already having the handy notions that we have such as nature, consciousness, substance, subject, object, thing, eternity, absolute, physics, matter, soul, etc. All of these words have been used to translate the ancient works of the Greek philosophers but these words are modern transformations of the original texts that make the original texts appear to be written recently. When reflecting on the Greek philosophers, it is better to be suspicious of easily thought ideas and to value reflections that require effort and a sense of mystery and unfamiliarity. It is important to remember that the exercise of thinking about something which has not been thought about before is a very different exercise than merely compiling common notions already understood. When studying ancient Greek philosophy we think back, toward an origin, an archē. However, this archē, as thought by early Greek philosophy, is not the common notion of origin. It is an early notion of origin; before there was a clear and thoroughly articulated notion of what ‘origin’ would be. The gap between our idea of origin and the first Greek thoughts of origin is over twenty seven hundred years old. A lot has transpired in that span of time that puts even more of a gap between our thinking of origin and Hesiod’s thinking of origin. However, in that span, a yawning gap is opened even wider that resonates with Hesiod’s archaic chaos. This chaos sounds uncanny to modern ears. Yet, somehow this gap, this chaos, has been made relevant to what is simply ‘known’ now, even in its forgetting and transformations. Somehow, this lost gap has come to function as a hermeneutics that organize, situate and give place to values, meanings, undertakings and ‘truths’ whether for , against, indifferent or oblivious. The intent of this series is to grapple with the aforementioned ‘somehow’ of the relevance of chaos, hermeneutics and some of what has transpired in and since that gap.
An important aspect of this philosophical exploration is giving place to externality, alterity, which may not be accounted for by common place notions, simple wholes with which we encounter and know the world. While these notions are practical, they also tend towards totalizing, entrapment in subjectivist, pre-cognitive determinations that force values and judgments towards fixation, abstract reduction and mis-appropriation of what faces and eludes us. If our singularity is lived towards closure infinitum or eternally recurrent, re-appropriation of the same, the indeterminate future is held captive to the determinate past; it is re-cast as static and known. To be sure, dynamic, movement or kinēsis (κίνησις, kinetic, motion) is not aimless. It is always conditioned by a past and a known. However, kinēsis is never completely encompassed and determined. There is always a leak, an entropy, that refuses containment and diffuses sight (Idea) in kinēsis. Kinēsis as dynamic (dunamis) is not only actualized (energeia) in the present but held back in the not-yet of potentiality (dunamis). Kinēsis is excess. It is entropy and potentiality that opens spatiality and temporality beyond containment and presence. Excess is a necessary condition of kinēsis.
Futurality, as not-yet, not-having-been, holds open a symbolic place marker of otherness which has not yet attained determinations as subject and also refused the object under the rubric of thing. The notions of subject, object and a ‘thing’ are examples of the simple unities in common place thought that pre-understand, pre-condition how we understand. These notions are pre-cognitive in that we do not have to re-think these notions in practical usage. They have been handed over to us from a history that preceded us. Heidegger thought that the most common example of such a notion was the thought of ‘Being1‘ which was lost from the Greek thinking of Being and accordingly, taken over by the simple and already understood present-at-hand notion of ‘thing-ness’. However, these notions were precisely what the ancient Greeks were most concerned about without the historic luxury of our ‘present-at -hand’ explanations. In the work of thinking philosophy, we need to suspend these kinds of notions and allow some other, some remote unfamiliarity, to come to the fore of our apprehension such that what remains concealed in automatically2 imposed assumptions, histories we have long forgotten, might re-awaken a sense of child-like wonder and curiosity and a re-evaluation of the real. Additionally, the step back from a nominal, privately understood, autonomy3 opens up avenues and vistas for futurality. In this case, futurality is not pre-determined by an already pre-understood past and congealed logic (logos, λόγος) but an otherness that is not yet gleamed, which remains open in essence. This is the direction we must traverse if we are to find a path towards the ancient Greek notion of chaos, towards that which is the possibility of the impossibility of genesis, the an-archic which must ‘be’, in order that the flight from which, inevitably becomes the measure of boundary, form and idea; the possibility for sight as presence.
From this perspective, it is important to not just translate histories but retain some of the un-translated graphemes (xaos, χάος; chaos) as an indicator of a time that was not our time and a place that was not our place, an an-archical past that in some undeterminable way opens up my possibility for presence and actuality. It is the inability of ancient philosophy to complete itself, inchoate in genesis, that denies ground and, in this very denial, produce the phantasm of ground; the concealed and incestuous accounts of history as Idea, as that which makes dialectical reductions possible. This a-genitive indeterminateness first lays open the impossibility of ontological, metaphysics and the gaping place-less-ness of otherness. The abyss, thought as chaos, is not neutral. Neutrality already arrives from history, much too late to convey the uncanny-ness of the refusal of ground (abgrund) which remains ciphered in the Greek graphemes: χάος and λόγος.
This series will also allude to more contemporaneous philosophers that will be discussed in more detail later. Much of the direction of the discussion will be drawn from the works of Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas. Jacques Derrida will also play a role in the critique. These philosophers were well versed in the history of philosophy and ancient Greek philosophy. I will also insert some of my own reflections at various points in the discussion. The reason for doing this is to keep the discussion from sounding a little too scholarly and a little more relevant to modern ears. The current plight of philosophy has much to do with rote repetition of conventional schools of thought which level off the provocative import of philosophy into a mass of ‘facts’ and what Heidegger called historiography, the mere recitation and cataloging of events, ideas and dates in the past. When philosophy becomes a dead past, the original impetus that made it important and relevant fade and more importantly, the dangers that lurk in unreflective dogma, the production of ready-to-hand notions, have often resulted in the worst of human tragedies.
Philosophy Series 3 – Appendix A, Part 1
1 I capitalize “Being” here to indicate the verb (to be) and “being” to indicate the noun (a being).
2 See Link
3 See Link