Tag Archives: Heidegger

Greek Mythos (updated 2/16/12)

First of all Chaos came-to-be; but then afterwards Broad-breasted earth, a secure dwelling place forever for all (the immortals who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and misty Tartara in the depths under the wide-wayed grounds and Eros who, handsomest among the deathless gods a looser of limbs, in all the gods and in all human beings overpowers in their breasts their intelligence and careful planning. And from Chaos came-to-be both Erebos and dark night, and from night, in turn, came-to-be both Aither and day, whom she conceived and bore after joining in love with Erebos. But earth first begat, as an equal to herself, starry sky, so that he might cover her on all sides, in order to be a secure dwelling place forever for all the blessed gods, and she begat the tall mountains, pleasing haunts of the goddess-nymphs who make their homes in the forested hills, and also she bore the barren main with its raging swell, the sea, all without any sweet act of love; but then next, having lain with sky, she bore deep-swirling ocean.[i]

The underworld, Hades, was bounded by five rivers: Acheron (the river of sorrow), Cocytus (the river of lamentation), Phlegethon (the river of fire), Lethe (the river of forgetfulness) and Styx (the river of hate). Lethe was the daughter of Eris (strife) and Nyx (night) , and the sister of Ponos (toil), Limos (starvation), the Algea (pains), the Hysminai (fightings), the Makhai (battles), the Phonoi (murders), the Androktasiai (man-slaughters), the Neikea (quarrels), the Pseudologoi (lies), the Amphilogiai (disputes), Dysnomia (lawlessness), Atë (ruin), and Horkos (oath).

Aletheia, often translated ‘truth’, is the alpha-privative of Lethe. In the Myth of Er, Plato tells us that after the departed choose the next life they would have to drink of the waters of Lethe, forgetfulness, before they could be re-born. Aletheia is the ‘not’ of forgetfulness, it is remembrance. A later rendition of the myth claims there was another river, Mnemosyne (memory), that the departed could drink from that resulted in a-Lethe, remembrance. Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together for nine nights and Mnemosyne gave birth to the nine muses. One of the muses, Erato (the lovely, the desired), was the muse of poetry and mimicry. Erato is from the same Greek root as Eros.

For Heidegger, Lethe was concealment and aletheia was unconcealment or uncovering. Lethe was oblivion (covering), perhaps the il ya (there is) of Blanchot. Oblivion is not nothing but chaos (without genealogy), absolute indeterminacy, the incessant buzz of anticorrelation – the ‘not’ of relation. The copula in ‘A is B’ relates ‘A as B’. The ‘isness’ of ‘A is B’ instantiates being through the relation ‘as’. The phonemes in ‘as’ signifies relation and connects the symbols (symbole) ‘A’ and ‘B’. Sign, the ‘as’ (phone) of ‘A as B’, hold together the symbols ‘A’ and ‘B’ in their separateness without conflating them. Sign signifies not only the relation with ‘A’ and ‘B’ but distinguishes a uniqueness between ‘A’ and ‘B’ that stands out. What ‘stands out’ from what? –Logos. At the same time that ‘A’ and ‘B’ relate they are also set apart from something else that is dissimilar. ‘A as B’ unconceals a relatedness but equiprimordially (equally primordial) also conceals the background from which the concealedness is possible.

The Greeks thought of this ‘background’ as logos. The simultaneous unconcealing and concealing is what Heidegger says that the Greeks called ‘aletheia’ and ‘lethe’. Aletheia is simply the negation of lethe. This is important because ‘truth’ as aletheia is rooted in concealment. There is no ‘truth’ that is pure or proper or holy that stands above, over and against, existence. Essential truth (A) is essential concealment (B). Heidegger notes three modes of concealment: error (Irre), the concealment of error and the mystery of no-thing.

The apprehension (noesis) of symbols (‘A’ and ‘B’, noemata) and the revealing as revelation of their relatedness also hides the as-a-whole, the logos that bind us to them. Every human being, the ‘there of being’ (Dasein), is bound to logos. Simultaneously, logos allows itself to be given over to the dissemination of speech. Logos giving itself over in passivity makes speech (language) possible. As humans we stand together in agreement in existence (ek-sistence, out-standing) for the openness of revelation. Logos given over and filled with the totality of history (world) is always already there in revelation but remains concealed in the act of speech; -this is the source for error. Speech as revelation must conceal much more than it unconceals; -this is error. The forgetting of error is the covering over of error; -Lethe. In apotheosis, the deification of revelation, what was not revealed in the act (i.e., of speech) becomes of no consequence for us, no-thing. No-thing is mystery. Mystery animates from behind the scenes because no-thing is not non-existent (as never has been or will be) but remains dormant, absolutely passive, in the face of the apotheosis of revelation, the error of lethe.

Sign then becomes the nexus formed by the triadic: Being, aletheia, logos of Heidegger; perhaps the real, imaginary, symbol of Lacan[ii]. The ‘as’, referent, unconceals from ‘worldhood’ for Heidegger. World is the history of Being, the ‘as-a-whole’ that can never be made visible. World is always and in every case (ontic, particular) declared in the copula ‘is’ as a pre-condition that gives the possibility for aletheia. The ‘as’ declares (apophantikos) and is only possible from the worlding given by logos:

The “as”-structure itself is the condition of the of the logos apophantikos. The “as” is not some property of the logos, stuck on or grafted onto it, but the reverse: the “as”-structure for its part is in general the condition of the possibility of this logos. (Heidegger, 315/458)

Unconcealedness makes existientiell truth possible. Every ontic ‘there’ of being (da-sein), human being, already speaks (logon) – uses phonemes that project the already-as-a-whole given by logos – the worlding of world. Every human being (ontic, particular) already has agreement of the whole in the sense of thrown into existence from worlding made possible by logos. When ‘A as B’ is said, the cohesion, adherence, relation of the ‘as’ can only ‘be’ from the thrown ‘there’ of beings projected as the openness logos.

“In projection there occurs the letting-prevail of the being of beings in the whole of their possible binding character in each case. In projection, world prevails” (365/530, Heidegger’s emphasis).

In each case of human being there is agreement (kata syntheses) that makes communication possible. Additionally, ‘A as B’ is not a mush of indeterminate-ability but unites (synthesis) the terms by holding them apart (diairesis). If ‘A as B’ is thought as false, it is still a negative modality of truth, aletheia, unconealedness. In this case, the truth is deemed as false. However, the concealed as-a-whole from logos is always already apprehended. If I say, “I am at my house” the ‘mine’ with feet planted on earth under the heavens in dwelling situated before the truths and falsities (gods) of worldhood – all and more are brought together in the simplicity of saying. Of course, the ‘all and more’ are not explicitly thought as they remain concealed, in the background. For Lacan, the background is the unconscious. The unconscious is structured like a language.

Lacan has been criticized by linguists that believe that his structure of language is outdated and inadequate. In other words, if the unconscious is structured like language then the structure of the unconscious must change as our understanding of linguistics changes. Actually, Lacan would have no problem with the idea that particular structures of the unconscious are malleable just as language can change but retain certain ‘deep structures’ as Chomsky noted. For Lacan, the symbolic lack of the primordial symbiosis with the mother can only be mediated by the present structures of a natural language. The significance of the other becomes the repetition of submerged symbol. The imagined ‘original’ symbiosis is retained in repetitive symbols that can only be given from the tools of a native language. In this way a kind of ‘double inscription’ between significance and speech occurs that mutually constrain each other. Speech is not hermetically sealed in some narcissistic monad. Speech is always directed towards the desire for the other that always lacks the originary, the arche, and can only be simulated and supplemented with symbolic representation. The symbol becomes phantasm that nevertheless maintains its essential tension, cognitive dissonance, from the ‘real’ that is impossible (primordial symbiosis) and the phantasm that seeks to replace it from linguistic constructs (all it has) – the symbol is metaphor and metonymy. Lacan said that the ‘unconscious is the discourse [dialectic] of the other’. Aristotle distinguishes human being as ‘zoon logon echon’, the animal having words, speech, logos.

Finally, the points at which the vector of desire and the signifying chain cross can be seen as instances of Freudian double inscription. The ‘conscious and unconscious’ significance of an act or utterance are one and the same, and each constrains the other.[iii]

For Lacan, an infant is first mirrored in the perfect union with the mother. Her facial gestures and motor abilities are the infants as well. However, as the infant begins to realize that he or she does not have motor control skills, the infant is frustrated and struggles to gain motor control. A visceral tension is generated when the infant perceives his or her reflection in the mirror. The reflection displaces the frustration of motor abilities as the reflected image of the baby gets substituted for the kinesthetic lack. The image provides a satisfaction that is lacking in affect. The infant imagines an idealized perfection in the image, the other, and attributes the pleasure of the image to the pleasure of self, the perfected self. Writing of the mirror stage Professor Steven Ross states,

The circularity and self-referentiality of this process is abundantly clear in Bowie’s articulation, as the ego both constructs an ideal version of itself on the basis of various imaginary features with which it would like to be identified, and then acts as though it unpremeditatedly “recognises” itself in objects that bear an imaginary correspondence to that ideal. Basically, the imaginary is the scene in which the ego undertakes the perpetual and paradoxical practice of seeking “wholeness, synthesis, autonomy, duality and, above all, similarity” through identification with external objects. Each such identification is necessarily illusory, however, as it is but a pale imitation of the originary wholeness that was sacrificed in the primal identification of the ego with its specular image in the mirror stage.[iv]

Studies of the brain and the unconscious are providing radical evidence that the ‘agent’ of control is imagined erroneously from disparate and unaware processes that take place in the background of consciousness, the unconscious.  In “The New Unconscious” studies have shown that the unconscious is capable of doing everything that we think should be the function of conscious.  The question that comes out of these studies is, “What is consciousness for?”  This is a rather long quote but it illustrates the point.  Consider these experiments on the principle of agency,

A person cannot possibly think about and be consciously aware of all of the individual muscle actions in compound and sequential movements-there are too many of them and they are too fast (see, e.g., Thach, 1996). Therefore they can occur only through some process that is automatic and subconscious. Empirical support for this conclusion comes from a study by Fourneret and Jeannerod (1998). Participants attempted to trace a line displayed on a computer monitor, but with their drawing hand hidden from them by a mirror. Thus they were not able to see how their hand actually moved in order to reproduce the drawing: they had to refer to a graphical representation of that movement on a computer monitor in front of them. However, unknown to the participants, substantial bias had been programmed into the translation of their actual movement into that which was displayed on the screen, so that the displayed line did not actually move in the same direction as had their drawing hand. Despite this, all participants felt and reported great confidence that their hand had indeed moved in the direction shown on the screen. This could only have occurred if normal participants have little or no direct conscious access to their actual hand movements.[v]

In a study of this principle [the principle of agency], Wegner and Wheatley (1999) presented people with thoughts (e.g., a tape-recorded mention of the word swan) relevant to their action (moving an onscreen cursor to select a picture of a swan). The movement the participants performed was actually not their own, as they shared the computer mouse with an experimental confederate who gently forced the action without the participants’ knowledge. (In yet other trials, the effect of the thought on the participant’s own action was found to be nil when the action was not forced.) Nevertheless, when the relevant thought was provided either 1 or 5 seconds before the action, participants reported feeling that they acted intentionally in making the movement. This experience of will followed the priority principle. This was clear because on other trials, thoughts of the swan were prompted 30 seconds before the forced action or I second afterward-and these prompts did not yield an inflated experience of will. Even when the thought of the action is wholly external-appearing as in this case over headphones-its timely appearance before the action leads to an enhanced experience of apparent mental causation.

The second key to apparent mental causation is the consistency principle, which describes the semantic connectedness of the thought and the action. Thoughts that are relevant to the action and consistent with it promote a greater experience of mental causation than thoughts that are not relevant or consistent. So, for example, having the thought of eating a salad (and only this thought) just before you find yourself ordering a plate of fries is likely to make the ordering of the fries feel foreign and unwilled (Where did these come from,). Thinking of fries and then ordering fries, in contrast, will prompt an experience of will. As another example. consider what happens when people with schizophrenia experience hearing voices. Although there is good evidence that these voices are self-produced, the typical response to such auditory hallucinations is to report that the voice belongs to someone else. Hoffman (1986) has suggested that the inconsistency of the utterance with the person’s prior thoughts leads to the inference that the utterance was not consciously willed-and so to the delusion that others’ voices are speaking “in one’s head.” Ordinarily, we know our actions in advance of their performance and experience the authorship of action because of the consistency of this preview with the action.

In a laboratory test of the consistency principle, Wegner, Sparrow, and Winerman (2004) arranged for each of several undergraduate participants to observe their mirror reflection as another person behind them, hidden from view, extended arms forward on each side of them. The person behind the participant then followed instructions delivered over headphones for a series of hand movements. This circumstance reproduced a standard pantomime sometimes called Helping Hands in which the other person’s hands look, at least in the mirror, as though they belong to the participant. This appearance did not lead participants to feel that they were controlling the hands if they only saw the hand movements. When participants could hear the instructions that the hand helper followed as the movements were occurring, though, they reported an enhanced feeling that they could control the other’s hands.

In another experiment on hand control, this effect was again found. In addition, the experience of willing the other’s movements was found to be accompanied by an empathic sensation of the other’s hands. Participants for this second study watched as one of the hands snapped a rubber band on the wrist of the other, once before the sequence of hand movements and once again afterward. All participants showed a skin conductance response (SCR) to the first snap-a surge in hand sweating that lasted for several seconds after the snap. The participants who had heard previews of the hand movements consistent with the hands’ actions showed a sizeable SCR to the second rubber band snap as well. In contrast, those with no previews, or who heard previews that were inconsistent with the action, showed a reduced SCR to the snap that was made after the movements. The experience of controlling the hand movements seems to induce a sort of emotional ownership of the hands. Although SCR dissipated after the movements in participants who did not hear previews, it was sustained in the consistent preview condition. The consistency of thought with action, in sum, can create a sense that one is controlling someone else’s hands and, furthermore, can yield a physiological entrainment that responds to apparent sensations in those hands. It makes sense in this light that consistency between thought and action might be a powerful source of the experience of conscious will we feel for our own actions as well.

The third principle of apparent mental causation is exclusivity, the perception that the link between one’s thought and action is free of other potential causes of the action. This principle explains why one feels little voluntariness for an action that was apparently caused by someone else. Perceptions of outside agency can undermine the experience of will in a variety of circumstances, but the most common case is obedience to the instructions given by another. Milgram (1974) suggested in this regard that the experience of obedience introduces “agentic shift”-a feeling that agency has been transferred away from oneself. More exotic instances of this effect occur in trance channeling, spirit possession, and glossolalia or “speaking in tongues,” when an imagined agent (such as a spirit, entity, or even the Holy Spirit) is understood to be influencing one’s actions, and so produces a decrement in the experience of conscious will (Wegner, 2002).

A further example of the operation of exclusivity is the phenomenon of facilitated communication (FC), which was introduced as a manual technique for helping autistic and other communication-impaired individuals to communicate without speaking. A facilitator would hold the client’s finger above a letter board or keyboard, ostensibly to brace and support the client’s pointing or key-pressing movements, but not to produce them. Clients who had never spoken in their lives were sometimes found to produce lengthy typed expressions this way, at a level of detail and grammatical precision that was miraculous. Studies of FC soon discovered, however, that when separate questions were addressed (over headphones) to the facilitator and the client, those heard only by the facilitator were the ones being answered. Facilitators commonly expressed no sense at all that they were producing the communications, and instead they attributed the messages to their clients. Their strong belief that FC would work, along with the conviction that the client was indeed a competent agent whose communications merely needed to be facilitated, led to a breakdown in their experience of conscious will for their own actions (Twachtman-Cullen, 1997: Wegner, Fuller, & Sparrow, 2003). Without a perception that one’s own thought is the exclusive cause of one’s action, it is possible to lose authorship entirely and attribute it even to an unlikely outside agent.

Another example of the exclusivity principle at work is provided in studies of the subliminal priming of agents (Dijksterhuis, Preston, Wegner, & Aarts, 2004). Participants in these experiments were asked to react to letter strings on a computer screen by judging them to be words or not-and to do this as quickly as possible in a race with the computer. On each trial in this lexical decision task, the screen showing the letters went blank either when the person pressed the response button, or automatically at a short interval (about 400-650 ms) after the presentation. This made it unclear whether the person had answered correctly and turned off the display or whether the computer did it, and on each trial the person was asked to guess who did it. In addition, however, and without participants’ prior knowledge, the word I or me or some other word was very briefly presented on each trial. This presentation lasted only 17 ms, and was both preceded and followed by random letter masks-such that participants reported no awareness of these presentations. The subliminal presentations influenced judgments of authorship. On trials with the subliminal priming of a first-person singular pronoun, participants more often judged that they had beaten the computer. They were influenced by the unconscious priming of self to attribute an ambiguous action to their own will. In a related study, participants were subliminally primed on some trials with the thought of an agent that was not the self-God. Among those participants who professed a personal belief in God, this prime reduced the causal attribution of the action to self. Apparently, the decision of whether self is the cause of an action is heavily influenced by the unconscious accessibility of self versus nonself agents. This suggests that the exclusivity of conscious thought as a cause of action can be influenced even by the unconscious accessibility of possible agents outside the self.

The theory of apparent mental causation, in sum, rests on the notion that our experience of conscious will is normally a construction. When the right timing, content, and context link our thought and our action, this construction yields a feeling of authorship of the action. It seems that we did it. However, this feeling is an inference we draw from the juxtaposition of our thought and action, not a direct perception of causal agency. Thus, the feeling can be wrong. Although the experience of will can become the basis of our guilt and our pride, and can signal to us whether we feel responsible for action in the moral sense as well, it is merely an estimate of the causal influence of our thoughts on our actions, not a direct readout of such influence. Apparent mental causation nevertheless is the basis of our feeling that we are controllers.[vi]

There is a baffling problem about what consciousness is for. It is equally baffling, moreover, that the function of consciousness should remain so baffling. It seems extraordinary that despite the pervasiveness and familiarity of consciousness in our lives, we are uncertain in what way (if at all) it is actually indispensable to us. (Frankfurt, 1988, p. 162) What is consciousness for, if perfectly unconscious, indeed subjectless, information processing is in principle capable of achieving all the ends for which conscious minds were supposed to exist? (Dennett, 1981, p. 13)[vii]

It appears that the meta-language of an agency of self is not some kind of self-evident ‘truth’ but is a kind of imagined self that gets surmised ex post facto and gets set up like symbols; the symbols of individualism, free will and self. These symbols, much like ‘A as B’, are substituted metaphorically as a condensation of a plurality of unconscious processes and get repeated metonymically over the course of a lifetime to reinforce their significance. The symbols are the signifiers and the signified, as place holders of other signifiers, of meaning, individualism, free will and self, are taken over from the as-a-whole, the worlding given from logos. The terms of speech uncover the meta-language of agency drawn from a vast pool, language. Language is not memorized word for word starting from infancy. It is intuited as world and made possible as the event of revelation (speech) in the openness of logos.

The impossible ‘real’ of Lacan interrupts symbol and imagination. The ‘real’ is not yet a symbolic and imagined ‘other’; as Lacan illustrates, “a knock on the door that interrupts a dream” or the absolute alterity of the other from Levinas that interrupts totality. The ‘real’ is ineffable, absolute indeterminacy, the incessant buzz of anticorrelation, the ‘not’ of relation – chaos. Only after do we mirror, represent, relate, situate as symbols not-present-at-hand but instrumentally given from linguistic phonemes and ‘understand’ meaning or lack thereof. However, the insufficiency of symbolic dissemination, difference and deterrence (differance) always requires a supplement. Desire as lack of primordial symbiosis is the basis for the uncanny.

‘Canny’ is from the Anglo-Saxon root ‘ken’ which means knowledge, understanding, cognizance, mental perception, one’s ken. Thus the uncanny is something outside one’s familiar knowledge or perceptions.

The Uncanny (Ger. Das Unheimliche – “the opposite of what is familiar”) is a Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time, resulting in a feeling of it being uncomfortably strange or uncomfortably familiar.

Because the uncanny is familiar, yet strange, it often creates cognitive dissonance within the experiencing subject due to the paradoxical nature of being attracted to, yet repulsed by an object at the same time. This cognitive dissonance often leads to an outright rejection of the object, as one would rather reject than rationalize.

Freud draws on a wholly different element of the story, namely, “the idea of being robbed of one’s eyes,” as the “more striking instance of uncanniness” in the tale.

Freud goes on, for the remainder of the essay, to identify uncanny effects that result from instances of “repetition of the same thing,” including incidents wherein one becomes lost and accidentally retraces one’s steps, and instances wherein random numbers recur, seemingly meaningfully (here Freud may be said to be prefiguring the concept that Jung would later refer to as synchronicity). He also discusses the uncanny nature of Otto Rank’s concept of the “double.”

Basically, the Uncanny is what unconsciously reminds us of our own Id, our forbidden and thus repressed impulses perceived as a threatening force by our super-ego ridden with oedipal guilt as it fears symbolic castration by punishment for deviating from societal norms. Thus, the items and individuals that we project our own repressed impulses upon become a most uncanny threat to us, uncanny monsters and freaks akin to fairy-tale folk-devils, and subsequently often become scapegoats we blame for all sorts of perceived miseries, calamities, and maladies.[viii]

The uncanny, the familiar strange, endless dyads of is and isn’t are not quieted by fetish, the desire for the other represented as object, as absolute knowledge. The reflection in the mirror of self determining Spirit is thought in Zizek’s description of “The Most Sublime of Hysterics”

Lacan’s formula that Hegel is ‘the most sublime of hysterics’ should be interpreted along these lines: the hysteric, by his very questioning, ‘burrows a hole in the Other’; his desire is experienced precisely as the Other’s desire. Which is to say, the hysterical subject is fundamentally a subject who poses himself a question all the while presupposing that the Other has the key to the answer, that the Other knows the secret. But this question posed to the Other is in fact resolved, in the dialectical process, by a reflexive turn – namely, by regarding the question as its own answer.[ix]

Here, desire for the other has become absolute knowledge. The uncanny has become its own answer and thus, transformed, synthesized in the essence of its question. It is for this reason that the System was not finished by Hegel and never will be. The uncanny distends and distorts existentially, -ek-sisting. Semiosis can only defer and detain; the metaphysical desire for absolutes imagined, -in-sisting (distinguished from con-sisting) as language. The uncanny hides its concealment of error as mystery; as what does not show itself in showing, in aletheia. Only when the question of the ‘there’ of being can be heard as if for the first time, the ghost of logos, can the uncanny Other be heard in myth.

According to Hesiod, Eros is: “…the fairest of the deathless gods; he un­strings the limbs [makes the limbs go limp] and subdues both mind and sensible thought in the breasts of all gods and all men.” Hesiod tells us that Eros was one of the oldest deities, born from Chaos alongside Gaia (the Earth) and Tartarus (the Underworld).

Eros, the non-generative, without arche, parentless God from Hesiod is neither divine or mortal.

At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night (Nyx), Darkness (Erebus), and the Abyss (Tartarus). Earth, the Air and Heaven had no existence. Firstly, blackwinged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom of the infinite deeps of Darkness, and from this, after the revolution of long ages, sprang the graceful Love (Eros) with his glittering golden wings, swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in the deep Abyss with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race, which was the first to see the light.[x]

Later Eros is spoken of as the child of night (Nyx). He is also spoken of as the son of Aphrodite,

[Hera addresses Athene :] We must have a word with Aphrodite. Let us go together and ask her to persuade her boy [Eros], if that is possible, to loose an arrow at Aeetes’ daughter, Medea of the many spells, and make her fall in love with Iason . . .[xi]

He [Eros] smites maids’ breasts with unknown heat, and bids the very gods leave heaven and dwell on earth in borrowed forms.[xii]

Once, when Venus’son [Cupid, aka Eros] was kissing her, his quiver dangling down, a jutting arrow, unbeknown, had grazed her breast. She pushed the boy away. In fact the wound was deeper than it seemed, though unperceived at first. [And she became] enraptured by the beauty of a man [Adonis].[xiii]

Eros drove Dionysos mad for the girl [Aura] with the delicious wound of his arrow, then curving his wings flew lightly to Olympos. And the god roamed over the hills scourged with a greater fire.[xiv]

Socrates tells us of Eros,

“What then is Love?” I asked; “Is he mortal?” “No.” “What then?” “As in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean between the two.” “What is he, Diotima?” “He is a great spirit (daimon), and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the mortal.” “And what,” I said, “is his power?” “He interprets,” she replied, “between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all, prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through Love. all the intercourse, and converse of god with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar.

He is by nature neither mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his father’s nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter is this: No god is a philosopher. or seeker after wisdom, for he is wise already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the ignorant seek after Wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.” “But-who then, Diotima,” I said, “are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?” “A child may answer that question,” she replied; “they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant.[xv]

In the second century a story is told of Eros and Psyche,

The story tells of the struggle for love and trust between Eros and Psyche. Aphrodite was jealous of the beauty of mortal princess Psyche, as men were leaving her altars barren to worship a mere human woman instead, and so she commanded her son Eros, the god of love, to cause Psyche to fall in love with the ugliest creature on earth. But instead, Eros falls in love with Psyche himself and spirits her away to his home. Their fragile peace is ruined by a visit from Psyche’s jealous sisters, who cause Psyche to betray the trust of her husband. Wounded, Eros leaves his wife, and Psyche wanders the Earth, looking for her lost love. Eventually she approaches Aphrodite and asks for her help. Aphrodite imposes a series of difficult tasks on Psyche, which she is able to achieve by means of supernatural assistance.  After successfully completing these tasks, Aphrodite relents and Psyche becomes immortal to live alongside her husband Eros. Together they had a daughter, Voluptas or Hedone (meaning physical pleasure, bliss).

In Greek mythology, Psyche was the deification of the human soul. She was portrayed in ancient mosaics as a goddess with butterfly wings (because psyche was also the Ancient Greek word for ‘butterfly’). The Greek word psyche literally means “soul, spirit, breath, life or animating force”.[xvi]



[i] Hesiod, “Theogony”, Drew A. Hyland;John Panteleimon Manoussakis. Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (Studies in Continental Thought) (p. 9). Kindle Edition.

[ii] William J. Richardson;Toward the Future of Truth, Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (Studies in Continental Thought). Kindle Edition.

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graph_of_desire

[iv] A Very Brief Introduction to Lacan, Prepared by Professor Stephen Ross, http://web.uvic.ca/~saross/lacan.html

[v] Ran R. Hassin;James S. Uleman;John A. Bargh. The New Unconscious (Oxford Series in Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience) (pp. 45-46). Kindle Edition.

[vi] Drew A. Hyland;John Panteleimon Manoussakis. Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive Essays (Studies in Continental Thought) (p. 97). Kindle Edition.

[vii] Ran R. Hassin;James S. Uleman;John A. Bargh. The New Unconscious (Oxford Series in Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience) (p. 52). Kindle Edition.

[viii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Uncanny

[ix] The Most Sublime of Hysterics: Hegel with Lacan, Slavoj Zizek, translated by Rex Butler and Scott Stephens, http://www.lacan.com/zizlacan2.htm

[x] Aristophanes, Birds, lines 690-699. (Translation by Eugene O’Neill, Jr., Perseus Digital Library; translation modified.)

[xi] Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica 3. 25 ff – a Greek epic of the 3rd century B.C.

[xii] Seneca, Phaedra 290 ff

[xiii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 525 ff

[xiv] Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48. 470 ff – a Greek epic of the 5th century AD

[xv] Symposium, Plato, http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/symposium.html

[xvi] http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_cupidandpsyche.htm

Thoughts on Heidegger and Levinas

A few comments from this thread

“The Other is not constituted by the self, as Levinas haves it, but the inverse.”

There is no ‘constitution’ of the self from the Other in Levinas. The self is a historical and/or personal retreat from the absolute alterity of the other. The self is a kind of violence that totalizes the other into a representation (ex., from the self), a plastic cast of the face of the other, and thus, brings the Other into the light of rational (ratio), conceptual relatedness that ‘is’, ontologizes, the Other (the tyranny of the same). Levinas wants to think otherwise than being. Being is the archaic violence that effaces the other. Levinas thinks that ontology imagines that the time of the other and my time are commensurate and therefore, levels the Other off into the same – not as identity but as kind, i.e., differences are certainly allowed but the essence of the difference assumes a prior basis for comparison, the ratio of nous, an archical (originary) temporalizing that I and Other exist and move and have our being in. Levinas thought the Other was anachronous to my time, a time not my time, not commensurate in any way to me. He thought that retreat from the face of the other was history and why metaphysics failed. It failed because it lost the Other, transcendence, it made the other into the said, the idolatry of the image and the word.

“Now it is silly to argue that ethics is ontologically prior to ontology (because then ethics simply becomes ontology by another name). Levinas should have argued for the ethical priority of ethics.”

For Levinas ethics is the interruption of ontology. Ethics cannot be a prior ontology to ontology. Ontology is a sort of prison that can only ‘see’ within itself – the originary narcissus. If the Other is a moment of Being or circumscribed in the light of Being then ethics will always, already be pre-understood as a positive relation among beings, an authentic mode of being-with. This ‘already understood’ levels off beings as equal in an essential way, as ontologically identical, known and understood in essence (arche). What gets lost in this is radical difference, perhaps in the direction of Derrida’s ‘differance’ but with an important exception – leveling off favors the neutral. ‘It’ ‘is’ already understood. Essence as ontologically identical reduces the radical alterity of the ‘he’ or ‘she’ into an ‘it’.

Signs, semiology, as endlessly referential, must essentially, undo the knot they tie as they tie it – thus the trace of ‘differance’. The time of signs as Blanchot (Levinas’ mentor) thought is il ya, the there is, it is dead time – it neutralizes the other as another sign, an it, and therefore, loses radical alterity of him or her – it makes the saying the said. All the while the Dread, from an ontological point of view, that must be retreated from is the non-being of the Other, the other than being.

I do not think that you can ‘arrive at Levinas’ as ‘saying the same thing as Heidegger’ (as ‘without being aware of it’). I think that would be an equivalence that would totally miss the direction of Levinas’ thought. Perhaps you may think he is wrong but his work will not allow a similarity to Heideggerian mitsein or an elevation of Heideggerian ethics (whatever that would be).

“The Other is an eternal Fuhrer.”

The Fuhrer controls within the same, it is the System, light, ontology – it is the reduction of the other to the same. To think the same as identical to the Other is to do exactly what Levinas tells us that ontology does. The violence of the pure race is based on absolute, unquestioned knowing of the kind of being of the ‘pure’ and the ‘impure’. This kind of knowing can never be possible in Levinas’ notion of the Other without totalizing the Other under the tyranny of the same.

 

Thoughts Concerning Being and Other

The Other is radical only if the desire for it is not the possibility for anticipating it as the desirable or of thinking it out beforehand but if it comes aimlessly as an absolute alterity, like death.

John Heaton ‘The Other and Psychotherapy’ in Provocation of Levinas

New research on the unconsciousness is reviving discussions of Freud and his relevance. Some researchers have talked about the unconscious as “background processors” as threads of tasks that run in background mode set off by sensations, historical associations and future-oriented stress and anxiety. These ‘threads’ constantly provide alternative vias for consciousness. They texture and fill out the tenure of conscious behavior. Many areas of the brain are ‘lit up’ by unconscious activity and consciousness appears to unite these various internal ‘dialogs’.

In Heidegger’s discussion of the thing he wants to, in true phenomenological fashion, get away from ‘theorizing’ about Being from a pre-ordained, ‘mathematical’ project and let the thing show itself from itself. So, for example, when we think about spatiality instead of thinking about it as empty space with physical dimension he would have us think about regionality. To say that the chair we are looking at is geometrically further from us in terms of feet and inches than the spectacles we are using to look at them is surely correct mathematically but when we are focused on the chair, the region we inhabit in that lived experience is much closer to the chair than the spectacles on our face we are viewing it with. Heidegger called this lived space. Thus, for the case of space we can see that the traditional, historical way we think about it obscures the way we actually ‘experience’ space. This is how Heidegger lets the thing, space in this case, show itself as itself.

The showing of phenomena gets more interesting when Heidegger starts discussing the “closedness” of things. Dr. Wendell Kisner makes this point:

“However, if “closedness” or the withdrawing of being into concealment is the crucial point at which the possibility of truth as such is first opened, then the elimination of all closedness in the mathematical project does not indicate what things are as such, but rather how things are manifest within that project. Phenomenologically speaking, things are manifest in the mathematical project as nothing more than what they show themselves to be in its terms. But it can readily be seen that such a mode of disclosure presents a profound challenge to any attempt to thinking about things outside of this horizon insofar as, in its banishment of any and all closedness, it mitigates against any other possibility of disclosure. Things are just this and nothing more.” 1)

One way of thinking about the mathematical project might be in terms of the history of physics. Physics has certainly formulated theories about motion and space in such paradigms as Newtonian physics. Newtonian physics demonstrates a certain ‘correctness’ about things. It provides a predictive model for understanding the motion of cannon balls and planets. Thus, a ‘mathematical project’ has consistency within itself; it is not random ravings of a madman. It also has a kind of correlation with the thing it abstracts from. Heidegger referred to this as correctness. However, when thought from the perspective of Einstein’s space-time, quantum mechanics or dark matter and dark energy, we see a kind of scientific evolution that layers the earlier mathematical enterprise with radically different and uprooting understandings such as absolute time and space with relative time and space. Quantum mechanics has not found a way of resolving itself with the macro-physics of Newton and yet, integrated chips would not be possible without it. The search for dark matter and dark energy which is thought to comprise most of the universe and even more, keeps the universe from collapsing in on itself, would make Newton’s critique of spooky action at a distance seems mundane in comparison.

What all this indicates is that the mathematical project has consistency, correlation (visa vie predictability) but never captures the thing itself, the closedness and refusal of the thing to final resolution or disclosure. When one adds in the notion of spatiality as Heidegger discusses or Freud’s discussion of regression (as a form a spatiality) we can see that while the thing can lend itself to disclosure, finality is always lacking. The inability of things to ultimately disclose themselves in light, the mathematical project, is a phenomenal showing of refusal or closedness. This caught Heidegger’s attention and ultimately was rooted in Aristotle.

It would be difficult to make the claim that the mathematical project is simply a kind of narcissistic, mental and purely individuated process as some idealists might claim. There is an opening up of things, an invitation that participates in our mathematical projects but the thing can never be taken to account in its entirety. Its presence is always together with its absence, its refusal, its closedness. This uniformity and manifold plurality was the direction of thought for Aristotle. In this, the ontological distinction of Being and beings is thought by Heidegger.

Dr. Kisner writes,

In the mathematical project Heidegger asserts that, as opposed to the Aristotelian account in which natural bodies had a telos or an inner goal-oriented impetus, what now constitutes a natural body has no hidden interior: “Bodies have no concealed qualities, powers, and capacities. Natural bodies are now only what they show themselves as, within this projected realm.” 2)

Later thinking about Aristotle made telos a kind of animism, another property of a thing but that sifts the thinking of things through a retrospective, historical reduction. This becomes evident when one reflects on one of Aristotle’s mentor. In the Anaximander fragment, Heraclitus maintains that one cannot step into the same river twice. The river as ‘the same’, transformed as a property, does not show the river of Heraclitus but covers it up. It mediates the river as a repeatable, truncated concept. This kind of historical turn came at the same time as Hegel thought Christianity first announced subjectivity and reflection and Heidegger criticized the objectification of Being that frames (Gestell) beings as a property, a substance, an abstract thing. Properties in this sense came through the historical notion of static substance, of stasis that underlies things. A kind of dualism results from the substance/not-substance distinction; thus, the Cartesian split of mind/body, subject/object, natura/artifice.

Anaximander thought that all things rose from apeiron translated as limitless or indeterminate. Simplicius, writing of Anaximander’s notion of apeiron, states “Things perish into those things out of which they have their being, according to necessity.” (Phys. 24. 13) 3) Being is given by necessity standing out from indeterminacy and limitlessness. ‘Necessity’ here is not explained or named as in ‘God’ as that would come way too late and as an afterthought for the delicacy of this thought. Things originate (arche’) of necessity but not from immutability and sameness such as substance. Things stand out in their unity given from necessity but born from no-thing. No-thing here is not given merely as the negation of thing but as not yet determinable. Heidegger writes in “What is Metaphysics”,

But are we entirely sure what we are presupposing here? Is it really the case that “is-not,” negatedness, and thus negation, are the category into which the nothing fits as a specific case of “the negated”? It might be the other way around. Maybe the occurrence of the nothing does not depend on the “is-not” and the act of negating. Maybe the act of negation and its “is-not” can occur only if the nothing first occurs. This point has never even been explicitly raised as a question, much less decided. 4)

Heidegger goes on to think of no-thing in terms of the phenomenal experiences of boredom, anxiety and dread and in so doing step away from a more Kantian reference of the thing-in-itself. He also wishes to distinguish his ontology from onto-theology, the thing from which all things proceed. In this tactic Heidegger tries to uproot the common notion a thing as known and reduced to property and think from a more Greek ground to re-awaken the question of beings and non-being. On this more sure footing Heidegger would later reflect on the fourfold: earth, sky, divinities and mortals.

In Heidegger’s discussion of the bridge we are not ‘be-thinged’ by pre-cognitive notions of things as substance. We step away from a kind of Hegelian master-slave dichotomy wherein we (the master) ‘thing’ ourselves (become the slave) in our hasty reduction of ontology to things. Dr. Kisner points this duality out in his discussion of natura and artifice in which artifice has become natura and natura cannot be distinguished from artifice. In “Building Dwelling Thinking” things are confluent. They flow together in what I perceive as a kind of musicality. They do not arise from static eternal notes that play through the Latinized, Aristotelian potentiality and actuality, the dunamis of existence. They co-arise spontaneously and gracefully from apeiron, indeterminacy and limitlessness.

This is not to imply randomness and disconcert. Things necessitate, set bounds and measure. They co-relate and mingle with purpose that open themselves to science and mathematical projects all the while maintaining their suspension from no-thing, their concealment, their withdrawal from beings. This way towards thinking is reminiscent of current discussion of unconsciousness and the relation to consciousness.

“The New Unconscious” 5) explores recent studies in the unconscious mind. Scans of the brain indicate various parts of the brain are continually running threads of pre-conscious assimilation and differentiation in the background. These threads may be initiated by sensations, regressions to personal histories and language cues. However, much of the initiators are still shrouded in mystery. Consciousness is thought to occur as communication ripples throughout the brain texturing disparate and autonomous threads of pre-cognitive, syntactic and semantic content. Some psychological maladies and pathologies such as dissociative personality disorder, multiple personalities, narcissism, regression, repression and depression seem to occur more when the neural networking pathways that ripple through the brain break down.

In opposition to a hierarchy of agency, consciousness seems to bubble up from a ‘low-arche’, a cauldron of independent, non-synchronized, contradictory background ‘noise’ in the brain. The appearance of consciousness is a posteriori and ad hoc. Research has shown that will and causality is a ‘magical illusion’ that can be manipulated experiementally 6). Consciousness shows itself as a unified necessity from a concealed plurality which might be thought in the notion of apeiron. These non-synchronous nodes of content do not exist in a vacuum but are played as the cacophony of confluent initiators such as sight, taste, auditory, kinesthetic memory, etc. Since many of these initiators appear as shared in environment (umwelt and horizon) and what is more co-arise as phusis of beings, they have the appearance of shared coherence and correlation. The logic of identity, agency and causation seems to be an assent to the effacement of radicalize alterity. The proper notion of Being as noun rooted in non-changing, immutable substance arises without proper agency from the background noise of the disparate, pre-synchronized (anachrony) unconscious. The semblance of sameness given ad hoc in unity as peros, limit and boundary ecstatically stands out in apeiron. What get lost in sameness is the ‘other-poor’ as thought with Heidegger’s notion of ‘world-poor’, anachrony of the many, the self as radical passivity. The negation of other becomes me.

If consciousness is not rooted in an absolute identity then the other can only be mediated as an object of consciousness, a moment of self-determination and hypostatic, auto arousal 7) fascination. However, the erection of the sanctum of self is built on the shifting sands of unconscious confluences, incommensurate and uncorrelated ‘manifold pluralities’ (polumeres). The self in this case is not a moment of identity but a step away from our own dissolution, the intolerance of radical homelessness, no place.

In view of this refusal for disclosure, what faces us when we face the other, look in their eyes, when they speak to us? When the other faces us we gaze upon our sheer nakedness, “it comes aimlessly as an absolute alterity, like death”. The other in this case is not no-thing but the erasure that ever faces me and undoes me.

This is a work in progress… http://www.mixermuse.com/blog/2011/12/28/about-this-blog/

1) “The Fourfold Revisited: Heideggerian Ecological Practice and the Ontology of Things”
The Trumpeter ISSN: 0832-6193 Volume 24, Number 3 (2008), Page 7

2) “The Fourfold Revisited: Heideggerian Ecological Practice and the Ontology of Things”
The Trumpeter ISSN: 0832-6193 Volume 24, Number 3 (2008), Page 6

3) http://www.abu.nb.ca/Courses/GrPhil/Anaximander.htm

4) What is Metaphysics? In Basic Writings, ed. David Krell. San Francisco: Harper. Page 99

5) The New Unconscious
Edited by Ran R. Hassin, James S. Uleman and John A. Bargh
Oxford University Press, Inc.
ISBN13: 9780195307696ISBN10: 0195307690Paperback, 608 pages
2005

6) The New Unconscious
Edited by Ran R. Hassin, James S. Uleman and John A. Bargh
Oxford University Press, Inc.
ISBN13: 9780195307696ISBN10: 0195307690Paperback, “The Illusion of Conscious Control”
2005

7) http://www.pnas.org/content/101/17/6333.full.pdf

The gift of death or the face of the other… (Updated 11/5/10)

11/5/10 – Addition of paragraphs 3 and 4

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Jemeinigkeit, Heidegger’s notion of being-toward-death, is Dasein’s (the ‘there’ of human being) utmost possibility.  The possibility of the impossible is Dasein’s own most.  It cannot be outstripped.  It holds open the possibility of Dasein’s authenticity.  Death is not a he or a she.  Death is mine but it cannot be understood or apprehended.  No light can penetrate my death.  Death cannot be seen.  It cannot be taken hold of.  It even resists the notion of ‘is’.  Death ‘is’ but its final tragic comedy is the erasure of my ‘is’.  As such, death is alien.  It erases my ‘is’ while it writes my ‘is’.  Death is ‘it’.  It is a referent that does not point to another referent but ends, as in the Greek notion of telos, culminates, and gives referential meaning by point backward in the genesis of me as arche and telos, alpha and omega, the circle that has no outside.  Death is singularity; singularity that gives birth to me.  In death the neuter, the ‘it’ that begins and ends in ‘itself’, is identity.  It ‘is’ it…It ‘is not’ it and thus, contradicts itself in tautology…this is the absolute impossibility that nonetheless is possible.  All the notions of linguistics, the laws of physics, betray each other in singularity.  Death is the unmoved mover, the impenetrable ground of being and thus, the history of light.

The history of being is not tangled in the scaffolding of logic, of logos.  It is a retreat from an absolute not, the absolute negation of Being…In the beginning, before God and mortals, there was nothing…the nothing that is my most intimate moment, kairos, the supreme moment of moments from which all in-between moments flow.  The conundrum – this moment is death; it is nothing.  The nothing of death is not some abstract notion of nothing but sunyata, aperion, the fertile void.  It gives life from death, makes possible from impossible.  As the absolute ‘not’ of Being, as thrown from nothing, suspended from the void, there ‘is’ (the there-is) antithesis.  Antithesis is the history of Being, the tragic comedy of light…the logic.  Dasein is the aufhebung, the sublation, the synthesis of thesis – death and antithesis – Being.  The absolute, irrevocable ‘not’, death, reverses the Hegelian direction from thesis to ‘not’ to lifting up to light.

Death is the absolute ‘not’ of me.  It is the end of my freedom.   Death negates me.  Yet, death as the utmost possibility of Dasein that grounds Dasein and is the thrown nullity of Dasein is the antithesis that has become the thesis.  The ‘not’ as the referent that ‘is’ the telos and arche is absolute.  It is not preceded by Being and freedom.  This would be a lapse into the transcendental metaphysics of Hegel’s Logic.  Freedom is made possible by jemeinigkeit, by Dasein’s thrown nullity.  Only a being-towards-death has the possibility for freedom.  The awareness of death makes everydayness inauthentic.  Without jemeinigkeit circumspection would not be rooted in sorge, Care, the temporalizing ecstasies of Dasein.  Such a being would simply be immersed in the necessities of biological life until that being was no more.  The history of light would not be possible for such a being.  A being as this could only be thought in terms of ‘subject to the laws of physics’ from the circumspection of dasein.  Logic as the logos of Plato could only be ‘thought’ to exist from the type of being that is Dasein.  To suggest that the Forms exist or precede existence in a Kantian, categorical fashion for a being without jemeinigkeit is to take the step back into metaphysics.

The reversal of Hegel’s trifecta comes from the contradiction that is tautology, the nonsense of singularity, the moment of death that makes all other moments possible for dasein.  The thesis as the absolute ‘not’ of death and the antithesis as Being are lifted up as dasein.  The thesis is the antithesis and the antithesis is the thesis.  The normalized characteristics of each are reversed. For Hegel the reversibility of thesis and antithesis maintains and preserves the positive and the negation as thesis and antithesis but does allow either to give rise to, have absolute dependence on, the other.  The ‘not master’ is the slave and the ‘not slave’ is the master.  Each negation already asserts what is negated.   However, the formal placeholder of A -> not A = A AND not A is always maintained.  The negation will always assume and posit what is to be negated.  In the reversal A ‘is’ not A and not A ‘is’ A.  The negation, death, does not posit an apriori, a concurrent, contemporaneous Being.  To think death as the telos and arche of dasein that ‘is’ is a conundrum.  Death is not an ‘is’.  When death ‘is’ I am no more.  Death is the absolute denial of ‘is’.  The result of this reversal is the absolute rupture of dasein.  It is the inability to ever be pure Spirit.  It is what will never allow the system to be complete.  It is the trace of the erasure that cannot be summed up or canonized.  It is the narrative that must always essentially have counter narratives.  The tangle of rhizome can never be straightened out and done away with.  The will can never rise above the other as self-determination and self-limiting.  This term of Error refuses, withdraws and conceals and forever denies absolute rest to absolute Spirit.  An other step into this quagmire is posed by Levinas.

Levinas notes the neutrality of death and the evocative of the face of the other and asks, in effect, why neutrality?  Why ‘it’?  Why give precedence, priority, the proper to the unmask-able circle of nothing and light.  Why prefer the repression of the mysterium tremendum, the dreadful night of the soul, the ‘it’ that cannot die but must to the radical alterity of the face of the other?  Why face the totality of eternal light from the abyss of death when the other faces us; the other that is not ‘it’, that does not stand in our logic and fall with our presence?  What choice has history made for us?  What violence are we willing to promulgate to cling to our light?  As Nietzsche wrote of the waning freeze of the heroic Greek in logos, logic so light and ‘its’ logic freeze our dying cry of desperation.  All the while the other stands before us as mother, father, friend, enemy.  The other not as the hermetic seal of logic and neutrality but ‘its’ interruption.  The other is the small still voice, the call that is not of my origin nor of my history but is not alien either.  The caress that cajoles, evokes and washes over me from a time that is not my time.  What if Levinas is correct?  What if jemeinigkeit is the mould of the face of the other, the plastic cast that freezes our infantile narcissism while its cracks beckon us towards the face of the other?

Thoughts while reading Derrida’s work, “The Gift Of Death”

Disclosure is a showing.  In Husserl and Heidegger phenomena is what shows itself without imputing theoria, specific ways of seeing, in an extraneous manner, in a way that changes, covers over or hides the showing.  Error is induced by not seeing what shows itself in the phenomena.  Thus if science understands space as ether we hide the showing of space as semblance, we re-present phenomena to ourselves with additional, extra-phenomenal appearance.  Heidegger wants to think space without imputing his own ideas but by analyzing various ways in which space shows itself such as space as extension (historically abstract), space as lived (experientially), space as sorge (temporal ecstasies).

When Heidegger refers to the thingness of a thing, he wants to ask us what informs us that such and such is a thing.  Is ‘thing’ a word that is self-evident and as such need not be thought further?  Heidegger thinks that in the showing of the thingness of a thing something else also shows itself, a history.  A ‘thing’ is really a hermeneutic, an interpretation that shows us more about who we are than what ‘it’ is.  He thinks that there is a long history since the Greeks that mistakes and reduces presence to what really is.  So, if we take a ‘thing’ as simply what is there in its ‘pure presence’ what we are really mistaking is our own historicality, as uniquely human, for what is showing itself.  When we see a thing, the presence of phenomena is taken hold of, pre-understood as neutral, as separate and not a subject; an object.  The whole ontology, the historical thinking of being as substance, separate from me, the subject, is already understood in seeing a “thing”.  The phenomenality of a ‘thing’ inseparably brings with it our theoria, our way of seeing as historical beings.

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Hopkins criticizes Heidegger as misunderstanding Husserl because,

“if the ‘phenomena’ of phenomenology lose their phenomenal status as the ‘exhibitive manifestation’ of the matter or matters themselves, and are understood, thereby, to be structurally coincident with that which, prior to their phenomenal (reflective) exhibition, manifest themselves as having been ‘reflexionlos (without reflection).’ This state of affairs can only be understood, from the Husserlian prerogative, in terms of the ‘ontologizing’ of the transcendental Sinn of the essence of intentionality, which misunderstands Sinn to be equivalent with the pre-transcendental, factically determined exemplars that serve as the phenomenal field for the exhibitive manifestation of transcendental Sinn.”1

Thus Hopkins thinks Heidegger transcendentally reifies Being in order to ground his analysis.2

However, Heidegger might suggest that Hopkins makes the opposite mistake, he takes particular beings as the same ‘kind’ as beings as a whole.  This was the fallacy of Antiphon that Aristotle pointed out.  It is a fallacy of equivocation.

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We can look at the argument above as a symmetrical argument that works in either direction?  Could both arguments be true but traverse from opposite directions?  In my discussion here, http://mixermuse.com/blog/2010/09/02/aristotle-and-modern-sciences/, I bring up Dr. Brogan’s discussion of Being and beings, Heidegger’s reading of Aristotle, wherein beings show themselves simultaneously as one and many.  To take the one, Being, as a universal, immutable, static whole in the tradition of Parmenides or the Ideas of Plato is to assign a priority to the pre-given, apriori.  On the other hand, to take transcendental intuition as a phenomenological reduction from facticity is to assign a priority to a particular hermeneutic of ontology.  Aristotle wants to think the one and the many, being and beings, as a co-arising, an essential, interdependent dynamic of their isness.

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Values as third person, as rules given, are given precedence by virtue of their neutrality.  The neutral is “scientific”, apodictic, impartial, omniscient and thus, modernity’s god.  The step away from responsibility as he or she, towards the totalization of an ‘it’, is a step into a transcendental sameness, a valueless objectivity, narcissism     In Nietzsche’s words “that the highest values devalue themselves.”[iii] 

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Neutrality masks what is by what is not.  Neutrality is a forgotten metaphysics in the present.  In the present it is submerged but interprets what shows itself.  Thus, it gives what we see by what is not seen, viz. the history of metaphysics.  Truth as aletheia is inseparable from semblance.  As for Hegel, the ‘not’ is already assumed in any positive idea.  The production of perception is made possible by contrast, opposition and separation.  Polemos, the god of war, is the Sisyphean perpetuity of Being to wrest truth from semblance.  The aristeia of existence is the marriage of triumph and tragedy, the ‘is’ and not, Being and nothingness.  Grace; to hold together the absolute contradiction of existence, the god-man, the call without voice…the voice of god is the Ethics of other.

1 Burt Hopkins, Intentionality in Husserl and Heidegger (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1993) p. 201.

2 In Praise of Fire: Responsibility, Manifestation, Polemos, Circumspection, Ian Angus, Department of Humanities

Simon Fraser University, Submitted to The New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, Vol. 4 – 2004. Edited by Burt Hopkins and Steven Crowell.

3 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1968) p. 9. Translation slightly altered.

The Problem of Logic

Foundationalism is always at work in conjunction with logic. By foundationalism I mean philosophical necessity. For example, in Heidegger’s view, Aristotle’s ontology is derived from phenomenological observation. According to Heidegger, Aristotle is astutely observing what shows itself as it is without trying to bring a previous theory (theoria) of what shows itself in the observation. Aristotle argues against Antiphon, heavily influenced by Plato and the Eleatic school founded by Parmenides, as forcing the thought of being into the one (hen) at the expense of the many (polumeres). Thus, the immutable and eternal are thought as being while change and multiplicity are relegated to the accidental and as such, non-being (see http://mixermuse.com/blog/2010/09/02/aristotle-and-modern-sciences/). Aristotle sees multiplicity and unity (hen) in the dynamic (dunamis), potentiality and actuality, of being (1). Rather than insist on a preconceived idea, Aristotle wants to observe beings and try to think being. For Heidegger, Aristotle escapes the charge of foundationalism because he is not insisting based on dogma (doxa) that being is this way or that but only what he sees in the showing of what Heidegger states is commonly and mundanely thought as being. Foundationalism is brought about when philosophy is thought as terms of tautology.

Tautology is what is necessarily true. The simplest tautology is A = A. This is the principle of identity. If the universal is thought as an identity then the particular is also thought as ‘not’ universal. Thus, if A = A and A is the category of the universal then everything that is not universal is thought as the particular. If the universal means not contingent on anything then the particular, as contingent, ‘is’, by definition, not universal. The ‘is’ in this case, called the copula, denotes equivalence. Equivalence gives identity. Thus, the universal holds itself in its identity as not particular. The critique of foundationalism cannot rest on the attempt to invalidate tautology as this would be a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, foundationalism can be legitimately criticized when it takes a step from logic to forcing its terms on what does not belong to it as Antiphon tries to do in his argument with Aristotle. The subtlety that gets introduced comes about by creating the categorical identity. If the universal is thought as being then the particular necessarily is not being. Thus, beings are not universal and therefore not being. The error occurs because the identity of the universal gets enmeshed with being. The necessity of the tautology of identity which cannot be denied is then taken up in the thought of being and beings. However the thought of being and beings is not necessarily the same as the thought of the universal and the particular. In this case, there is an added equivalence of identity added into the argument between the universal and being and therefore, the particular and beings. The additional identity is precisely where the fallacy gets introduced and philosophy gets conflated with mere assertion or opinion (doxa). This example serves as a model of how logic gets conflated with philosophy and results in foundationalism as history.

The charge of foundationalism does not refer to all history or all philosophy. It refers to a logical necessity that gets conflated with a historical, canonical narrative. There are many aspects of how this conflation occurs that inevitably refer to power structures in history. These power structures show themselves in economic, religious, political/nationalistic and scientific histories. It seems that it would be hard to deny foundationalism in history as evidenced by the violence of history. When extreme nationalism is tied to the purity of the Aryan race, purity and nationalism are conflated with the logic of identity and the result is the inevitable holocaust of the ‘impure’. This is what I refer to as the violence of light.

Light shows, it illuminates. Light is a unity of perception. It is the necessary condition for seeing. What shows itself (aletheia) is made possible by light, the clearing (lichtung). Light is neumena, concept, unity and potential. Seeing is phenomenal, particular, manifold and actual. Light arranges what it illuminates. It orders, makes sense of, holds together. Logic gets introduced as ‘not’ light. ‘Not’ light is thought as darkness. It is thought as the absence of light. As such darkness, thought in terms of the identity of light, is falsely thought as nonsensical, chaotic, without any order and therefore, without value. In this case, ‘not’ light is the depleted form of light. The darkness gets its identity as the ‘not’ of light. It gets defined by what it is ‘not’. The attempt to define by negation, what it is not, is really only light as what it isn’t, the absolute depletion of light, its negation. Darkness, as a necessary result of the identity of light, is the narcissistic love of light. It is the love of Medusa that cannot turn its gaze. This conflation, the violence of light, is the history of foundationalism. The ‘leap’ from tautology to the phenomenon of light associates adjectives that do not necessarily belong to the negation of the category.

When light is considered as an ideal then we can state that Light = Light therefore Darkness = Not Light AND Light = Not Darkness. We have established a reversible relationship. The reversal can occur in either direction without violating the ideal tautology. The problem comes about when phenomena are brought into the tautology.

For example, we know that different lights show different orderings. Visible colors are reflected light in the electromagnetic range of 400THz (Terahertz) to 790THz (for the human eye). Opacity is the degree of visible light that is reflected. Transparency is when no light is reflected Infrared’s electromagnetic range is 1THz to 430THz. What shows itself with visible light is very different that what shows itself with infrared. In the foundationalism of the Occident, visible light shows us ‘objects’ (of which we are one). The ‘not’ of visible light is ‘thought’ as invisible but actually it is not. Infrared shows various degrees of heat. It is not nothing but something, it is just different. It has adjectives associated with it that cannot be contained by nothing, invisible or the ‘not’ of objects. The ‘not’ of infrared light isn’t equivalent to visible light. The relationship is not reversible. When the other of visible light is thought in terms of its ‘not’ it is not really “the other” but the same merely absolutely depleted. The absolute depletion of the identity of the same is still only the same. This is what Levinas refers to as totalitarianism.

Totalitarianism is an ideal that functions as a theoria. It functions as a grid that is cast in advance of our ‘seeing’. It orders and arranges in advance how beings show themselves. It does not arise spontaneously every time we perceive but preconditions perception. It sets up in advance what is possible to ‘see’. This is what is meant by humans are historical. We have the capacity to ‘see’ what has already been gathered or ordered by language, history. When we take this gathering as identity, as the logic of necessity, we become foundationalists. In this case, tautology gets mistakenly substituted as what ‘is’. Being gets taken as theoria, a way of seeing.

If ‘not’ is given in terms of tautological identity it is no wonder that the original term only rediscovers itself in its nemesis. The rediscovery is not a transformation but a trans-fixation. As Medusa, the gaze is fascination that turns to stone. When theoria only sees itself, it becomes a cataract to sight. Its total opacity petrifies itself in its own terms. This is the ‘not’ of foundationalism. It’s essential characteristic is reversibility. When the ‘not’ is only given in tautological terms it leaves out the in-between, the adjectives that do not quite fit, the kairos.

Kairos and chronos are two notions of time in Greek thinking. The chronos is chronological time, the succession of now moments that chronologically proceed from a past to a future. The chronos is given by discrete ‘now’ moments. The current moment negates the past moment and the next moment. The ‘now’ moment relegates the past and the future to non-being (me on). Chronos depends on its absolute opposition to the past and the future. It depends on them, in tautological terms, as what it is not. The ‘now’ moment is no longer ‘now’ when it is past or when it is to come. Its identity depends on its ‘not’ to be what it is. The kairos is the in-between that has no duration but rather a quality. It is the quality that requires the supreme moment of decision from privation, steresis.

“Heidegger says that the basic category of steresis dominates Aristotle’s ontology. Steresis means lack, privation. It can also mean loss or deprivation of something, as in the example of blindness, which is a loss of sight in one who by nature sees. Steresis can also mean confiscation, the violent appropriation of something for oneself that belongs to another (Met. 1022 b33). Finally, Aristotle often calls that which is held as other in an opposition of contraries a privation. Heidegger will point out in his later essay on Physics B1 that Aristotle understands this deprivation as itself a kind of eidos. Thus, steresis is the lack that belongs intrinsically to being. According to Heidegger, with the notion of steresis Aristotle reaches the pinnacle of his thinking about being. Heidegger even remarks that Hegel’s notion of negation needs to be returned to its dependency on Aristotle’s more primordial conception of the not.”(2)

The moment of decision is the supreme moment, the moment of moments, the being of beings. It is based on obligation to what it is not, to what it lacks. In this case, what is needed is the double ‘not’, the ‘not’s not’.

There are two ways of thinking about not’s not. The first is based on chronos. It is reversible. Specifically, the ‘now’ moment negates the past and the future AND the past and future negates the ‘now’ moment. This gives way to sublation. What gets lifted up out of this dialectic is the concept, the concept of time. The concept unifies the apparent opposition; it erases the appearance of the absolute other, the negation of each term for the other. The other as real is eradicated by the concept. The concept holds the other together and as such, shows them as unity. Unity, the one (hen), is without otherness. The second thinking about not’s not is based on kairos. It is not reversible. It allows for differences that are not totally subsumed by the categories of ‘now’ and not ‘now’. It recognizes the middle way (middle voice in Greek thought) AND adjectives that are not logically temporal. However, the recognition is not based on concept but decision. Decision is forced by lack. The fullness of the moment lacks its sublation, the ground for its resolution. It cannot return to light and not light. This is not due to the inevitability of the concept but to actualizing the possibility of decision. The moment of decision holds open the possibility of Ethics for Levinas.

For decision, the ‘not’ that ‘nots’ itself can release its hold on light and its deprivation in the actuality of Ethics or it can narcissistically cast its gaze to the light and its deprivation, the concept. It can disallow its own terminus and therefore hold itself in check. In this case, its telos is not determinate (viz. the concept) but opened by actualizing the supreme moment of choice, the encounter with the other. By understanding how logic gets conflated with ‘isness’, the immediacy of ‘now’, we resist the narcissism of light, the resolution of concept. We impose limits on the bounds of ‘seeing’ and are opened to what does not show itself in ‘theoria’, in light. Our gaze is not to confirm (re-confirm), sublate, our logical categories but to leave open what we cannot see, not as a ‘not’ but as not’s not, the other that is not reversible. To the degree that a philosophy universalizes identity in history is the degree that it becomes foundationalism. The resolution of concept (eidos) is not necessarily given by tautology when bound with what is seen in ‘now’ and not ‘now’. The sublation is a conflation. It sacrifices steresis to gain the ground of reversibility and the supreme resolve of concept, the eternity of self-determination. It violently appropriates the moment of decisionin privation (steresis), to deny otherness.

“Not’s not” is not neuter, an ‘it’. An ‘it’ is already a way of seeing. The ‘it’ here is understood in terms of what is not a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. The categories are built into the theoria of the Occident, the history of essence, substance. Other histories such as animism did not make that ‘leap’. An ‘it’ reflects a generic reduction to what is seen in the exclusive categories of ‘now’ and not ‘now’. The ‘it’ is a historical abbreviation for the concept. The semblance of the other is now lifted up into the ‘it’ of concept. As such, ‘it’ is no longer determined by the other but self-determined. Self-determination is pure ‘isness’. Pure ‘isness’ has become ‘itness’. Decision is lost to neutrality and as such, passivity. The lack of decision has become the passive resolution of ‘itness’. This is foundationalism in the form of totalitarianism. The totality, the universal, the unity, the ‘it’ is being. In its completion the he or she is a moment, a stage, and ethics, an addition to what has already been completed. Ethics is founded on concept and unity not he or she and steresis. Thus Hegel’s system is complete, almost.

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Notes:

(1) Heraclitus says at the beginning of Greek philosophy:
potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei.
B12. On those stepping into rivers staying the same other and other waters flow. (Cleanthes from Arius Didymus from Eusebius) (see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/heraclitus/ and http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Heraclitus)

This is from the famous fragment thought as ‘never stepping into the same river twice’. However, the original fragment has an intentional ambiguity regarding what is the same and what is changing, those stepping into rivers or the rivers. If the rivers (plural in the fragment) are changing they remain what they are by changing. One the other hand, if those stepping into rivers are changing then it is as if the flowing, changing environment constitutes those stepping into rivers as the same. The unity, the same, is given by change or flux.

Plato interprets this as:
Panta chōrei kai ouden menei
“Everything changes and nothing remains still”
Plato changes the word flow to choros, change.
The assertions of flow are coupled in many fragments with the enigmatic river File:[33]
“We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”

B88. As the same thing in us are living and dead, waking and sleeping, young and old. For these things having changed around are those, and those in turn having changed around are these.

(2) Heidegger and Aristotle The Twofoldness of Being, Walter A. Brogan, State University of New York Press, Albany© 2005 State University of New York, page 19

Readings from David Loy -“Nonduality”(updated 9/14/10)

This is a running log of my readings of David Loy’s, “Nonduality”. The most recent comments are at the top of the post.I am merely jotting down impressions, thoughts and questions as I read Professor Loy’s book. There is absolutely no attempt to systematize a critique or even make assertions that are not hugely bracketed.————————————————————————————————————————-Tuesday, September 14, 2010Chapter 3The discussion of wei-wu-wei in Taoism, action that is non-action, has some good illustrations. I like the illustrations of how children play. Certainly, children have action (frenzied at times) and could rarely be characterized as ‘laid back’. They also have intention. What they lack is a very well developed sense of ‘I’. This does mean they are not self-centered at times. What it means is that they are not burdened and encumbered with angst, guilt, morality, inhibition, etc. These kinds of descriptions seem to be more associated with being older.I also like the quotes from Nietzsche. His inversion, the body does the mind, roots the un-rooted metaphysics of the Occident in the ‘unseen’, going under. Just as the techne of the artist produces the work of art, ‘I’ is the work of the body. By ‘body’ I would think that phenomenology could add some meaning.History in not reenacted in every cerebral event of ‘now’ moments. It is carried along in its entirety throughout dasein’s (the there of human being’s) stretch of lived time (as Heidegger thought). An infant is not a tabula rasa that has to learn everything from scratch. Historicality is carried along in our being, our body. (1) It is worlding as Heidegger calls it. Worlding is how the whole, language and pre-cognitive understanding, is always already in our ‘theres’. However, it does not seem to start out as a well developed theme, a canon. It seems that the ‘work’ of every human is to actualize it as ‘I’. The narratives of history that we adopt get taken up as ‘I’. Children have not yet refined and actualized the work of ‘I’. This does not mean they are ‘I-less’ (although autism is a kind of retardation of this development) but that they are less inhibited in action and intention. They do not need to consult their ‘I” about their activity. They simply act from innocence and the sheer joy and newness of (their/the) ‘there’. This seems to me to get at wei-wu-wei.The criticism that Dr. Loy brings up about pure wantonness or acting like a spoiled child probably deserves more thought. There is a difference from what we call in the Deep South a ‘red neck’ and a spoiled child. A child’s wantonness is not captivated by their sense of ‘I’. It is more like an immediate impulse in the absence (but on the way to) an ‘I’. The drunken bravado of the ‘red neck’ is perhaps also an immediate impulse but from the point of view of an ‘I’ that is captured by itself and is no longer on the way to its development. Additionally, there are pathological examples of the development of the ‘I’ that are more extreme than a ‘red neck’ like vegetative, psychopathic, sociopathic, serial killer that seem to all involve a deviation from normal social development of the work named in ‘I’. Children have the potential for the development of the ‘I’ as normative. Those that are older have actualized their disposition to an ‘I’, as pathological or normative. Just as adult bones are capped, the epiphyseal plate completely ossifies, so ‘I’ caps worlding of ‘there’. I think that the normative ‘I’ is not monotonic but has ranges from closed to open, oriented to the past or the future, totalitarian or other oriented, etc. Just as the artist’s techne determines the work, normative beings are more than passive with regard to the ‘I’ of (their/the) ‘there’. In any case, as Aristotle pointed out, the cause of the ‘I’ as I am suggesting here would be: hule (raw material, the whatness), telos (goal, the fulfillment and completion, the towards which), eidos (the knowledge of the artist about materials, brush strokes, etc,, the how) and techne (a gathering or bringing together of the other causes, the from which) (2) The capacity for the work of the ‘I’ is what makes anything such as self-determination and Absolute Spirit of Hegel, the alienation of Marx, social contract theory, psychology, an overman of Nietzsche, the enframing (standing reserve) of Heidegger, etc. possible. It is also the possibility for enlightenment, the extinction of ‘I’, as Dr Loy discusses.I am not so thrilled with what I see as the devolution of Dr. Loy’s discussion into idealism or realism but I understand that this was very much a part of the audience he was writing to in the eighties and probably still applicable in Occidental, analytic philosophy. I can see that Dr. Loy has been influenced by empiricists, positivists, analytic philosophers, etc. but that is not uncommon in the United States. (3)(1) Perhaps other contributing evidence would bea. Chomsky’s deep language structures that cannot be reduced to one individual’s activityb. Jung’s cross-cultural symbols that cannot be linked as cause and effect but are better explained as psychological archetypesc. Freud’s psychic structure of conscious/unconscious and id, ego, superegod. Capacities embedded biologically by evolution(2) http://mixermuse.com/blog/2010/09/02/aristotle-and-modern-sciences/(3) It is amazing to me that Colorado University’s philosophy department in Boulder is chiefly analytic. Generally, students can always get into those classes but one continental philosopher, Dr. Michael Zimmerman, always has his classes full…you would think the department would have to think analytically about that…I guess capitalism and careers is an impediment to academia and logic…————————————————————————————————————————-Friday, September 3, 2010Chapter 2 continuedHeidegger would not deny nondual, meditation, Samadhi, exceptional, profound, ecstatic, mystical or pathological experiences. As a phenomenologist he would try to see in these experiences what shows itself. Dr. Loy is also looking into what shows itself and thus, in this sense, is acting as a phenomenologist. His primary method is to find what shows itself in the texts. He also wants to bring his theory (theoria; his way of seeing) into praxis with the actual experiences of others. Phenomenologists were very cautious about bringing theoria into observations because as human, we are historical and they did not want to repeat the mistakes of historical ‘seeing’. Thus, Heidegger did not want to read the ontology through the lens of Latin and subsequent Christendom. This is why he read ontology through the Greeks and Aristotle. In this way he saw the beginning of ontology in a radically different way and found what he thought were the mistakes that derailed Occidental history, the loss of the difference of being and beings and their presencing, the ‘there’ of being. Form this abstractions such as space as linear, time as a succession of ‘now’ moments, substance, mind/body, subject/object – dualism, Occidental history lost the ‘there’ of our experience and wandered in the wasteland of abstractions for millennia. However, fundamentally he found his way by noticing that our lived experience diverged from our abstraction of how we thought we lived. This gave him another clue, that as ‘there’ we are historical beings. We ‘see’ (theoria) from our history not merely some ‘brute facts’ of ‘reality’. He saw that this way of seeing was a mode, a historical mode, of understanding our ‘there’ as present-at-hand. He also saw that there are other ways of being ‘there’ such as instrumentality. The result of this is that our theoria guided our common understanding and diverged from our common experiences.————————————————————————————————————————-Tuesday, August 31, 2010More impressions in Chapter 2It seems to me that Dr. Loy’s description of Zen and the sound of the bell (previously remarked upon) are very reminiscent of Heidegger and my initial discussion of the different modalities of being already mentioned in this post. He has spent a lot of time on the notions of savikalpa (perception that has been differentiated into names, forms, labels, recognizable categories, etc.) and nivikalpa (‘bare’ perception that is not yet differentiated into savikalpa) in early Buddhism. It seems to me that one impediment to understanding this is to be looking for some sort of ‘mystical’ state in non-dual nivikalpa.At the beginning of Western metaphysics stands Plato’s Forms. The Forms were the perfection of everything perceived by the sense. Thus the ideal triangle was the perfection of all empirical triangles perceived by sight. Aristotle rejected Plato’s Forms and wanted to show that physics (phusis), the original word for being (ousia), was a riddle, a conundrum (aporia). Physics is the co-arising of empirical observations (more accurately ontic, phenomenological observations) and ideals (more accurately ontological, phenomenological observations). Aristotle thought Plato’s Forms were simply generalized logical conceptions drawn from lived experiences, sensations (in the reduced modern and historical sense of the word). For Aristotle perceptions (and inductions) were ‘the real’ and Forms were a privileged, apotheosis of the one over the many.In Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle the word physics (phusis) is the original word for being (ousia). Physics is a conundrum (aporia). It is the generative (Brahman), multiple manifold of the ‘there’ of beings AND the unity of nonduality (in Dr. Loy’s terminology), the persistence of the ‘there’ of Being. Metaphysics in Aristotle is not to be thought after the scholastic, Latin interpretation of Aristotle (where phusis is thought as substance and not ousia) but from the Greek texts themselves as the philosophical thinking of physics. Aristotle was not thinking of Forms or substance that stood behind the manifold of beings but of how beings understand their experience of the ‘there’ of being. In this regard, I think Heidegger has some relevant discussions of how nivikalpa can be thought from an Occidental perspective.The Heideggerian notion as spatiality (regions of lived space as opposed to linear, abstract, historical notions of space as linear extension) is not composed of separate geometric spaces that we assimilate after the fact in our mind (nous). Our ‘there’ is lived as a manifold of regions that are dynamically (dunamis) desevered, brought near and far, in everyday experience. Thus, we could be riding and ox in search of an ox because we have brought near the region of searching for an ox while relinquishing the ox we are riding on to the hinter region.Temporality (the lived stretch of time as opposed to a linear, abstract, historical notion of Now moments) is experienced in our ‘there’ as spread across a past and a future. Our notion of a linear succession of ‘nows’ is a misunderstanding of our essential (wesen) temporal ecstasies (Sorge – the structure of the practical way we experience temporality – see my whimsical and exploratory article http://mixermuse.com/blog/2009/12/18/towards-another-heideggarian-discourse/). The connection Heidegger makes to our practical experience of the temporalizing of our ‘there’ has similarities to the idea of Tat tvam Asi of Vedanta. The lived experience of time is not just a personal, private, separated, purely subjective experience but a shared experience of histories and futures that is already understood prior to ‘thinking’ about it (pre-cognitive). It is important to understand that Heidegger in no way thinks this as a underlying form (peras) of our experience but as he calls it, a thrown nullity or void, empty, nothingness (apeiron is the Greek word translated chaos but the fertile void is closer to its meaning – sunyata perhaps). The temporalizing ‘there’ of our being is not a thing or can be modeled after a thing. It is how we find ourselves situated in the null throwness of our ‘there’. There is no ‘Latinized’ underlying substance of how we are called ‘time’.Additionally, Heidegger’s notions of present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit; how we are in the scientific, abstract, objectifying modality of being) and instrumentality or readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit; how we are when using a tool for instance where the hammer disappears in use) certainly move us in the direction of the distinctions of savikalpa and nivikalpa. When we are in the modality of instrumentality we and the hammer meld without abstracting from the hammer – we are the bell. When we drive a car we are not abstracting away from the car but ‘are’ together and undifferentiated with the car (unless the car breaks…then the car becomes present-at-hand). Some psychologists might suggest we are in a quasi-hypnotic state (nirvana) many times during the day as we go through the day.I think where Dr. Loy goes wrong (which may be driven by the texts he is interpreting) is where he is trying to dissect the senses (hearing, seeing, etc.) to get at these Buddhist notions of perceptions. He alludes to “phenomenalism” and Heidegger’s insistence that ‘sense data’ is already an abstract, historical step away from how we experience the world. We never experience sense data as separate experiences. Our lived experiences are always an amalgamation of ‘sense’. To analyze them separately is already a step away from lived experience. Additionally, he imputes the abstract notion of temporality as a linear succession of moments when he starts discussing how the visual sense differs from the other senses. On page 74 he states, “Vision provides us with a “co-temporaneous manifold”, whereas all other senses construct their perceptual “unities of a manifold” out of a temporal sequence of sensations.” He goes on to suggest that vision is built on a different temporality that is not just a “passing now” as the other senses but a sense of the “idea of the eternal” as vision “remain[s] the same” and “never changes and is always present”. I think all of these distinctions are driven by the initial, abstract, historical way of dividing the senses in an attempt to ‘explain’ lived experience. Vision never happens in some hermetically sealed analytic. We can abstract away for the experience of vision to understand it that way but that is not how we experience vision. Vision is always inseparably experienced in a context, a horizon. Our experiential horizon is comingled with other senses and with lived spatiality, temporality, and the various ways which we are comported to being (i.e., in the mode of instrumentality, science or present-at-hand, etc.).Furthermore, in Dr. Loy’s discussion he refers to Hume’s statement that Adam could not have inferred from fluidity and transparency of water that it would suffocate him. The whole notion of an Adam that pops onto the scene is abstract. If Darwin is right we would have known about water since we crawled out of it. In any case, Dr. Loy asserts that the association with water and drowning is “subconscious” now and “automatized”. He suggests that this “thought-constructed” “unity of apperception” can be undone vis-à-vis nonduality. This suggests a kind of “pure sensation”, undifferentiated, that precedes the names and forms we attach to it later.Dr. Loy goes on to assert that the non-dual “pure sensation” cannot be fundamentally derived from Heidegger. He is probably right here because Heidegger would not understand an order of experience where a sound devoid of associations occurs and then an abstract ‘mental link’ makes sense of it. Dr. Loy thinks Berkley can refute Heidegger (and phenomenalism). It rests on the fact that if I never heard the sound of a motorcycle I would not be able to make the association ‘motorcycle’. Since I must have made a historical association of the sound of the motorcycle to make ‘sense’ of it, it means that the sound of the motorcycle does not co-temporaneously arise with the association to a motorcycle. He thinks this proves:1. Initially, there must have been a sound first that I heard (without knowing what it was)2. I looked to see it was a motorcycle3. Thereafter, I subconsciously associate the sound with a motorcycle.However, this is not a refutation of Heidegger. If you noticed every time I used the word ‘abstract’ above I also used the word ‘historical’. I did this because phenomenology gives us a mechanism for what Dr. Loy calls savikalpa. It is because we ‘are’ as historical beings. We have personal histories (Heidegger calls existentiell) that meld with collective histories (an example may be language [Chomsky’s deep structures of language, i.e., every baby does not have to learn all words and associations by rote] or scientific/technological, religious, Now moments, linear space, etc.). Abstraction or savikalpa arises because we ‘are’ historical, both collective and individual (ontological and ontic) historicality. To say that we associate the sound of the motorcycle with the abstract concept of the motorcycle is proof that Heidegger is right – we are in the world as historical beings. I think Dr. Loy would find an ally in Heidegger by taking our ability to abstract away from lived experience as mistaking the rope for a snake, the finger pointing at the moon as the moon and riding an ox in search of an ox. Heidegger gives an excellent path for Occidentals to access savikalpa and nivikalpa. We pick our own pocket and sell us our own watch when we mistake abstract, historical pre-cognitive understanding for lived experience.Additionally, Heidegger’s notion of whatness (quiddity) seems to me to come very close to suchness. Whatness is not about a noun. It is a transitive verb that has swallowed its nouns. One example could be the bridge quoted below, “The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.” The quiddity or whatness of the bridge is more like a regionality, an environmental gathering together, flowing together savor of sensations not a mere denuded noun, an object for a subject. The lived experience of a bridge is not one noun among many, one object surrounded by other objects, but a cohesion that cannot be subdivided into parts without losing or changing how it shows itself (aletheia).In “The Origin of the Work of Art” Heidegger asks the question. “What is a thing?” He uses the example of an artwork by Van Gogh that portrays a pair of peasant shoes. He understands that the observer of art (in this case The Peasants Shoes by Van Gogh) and the work of art is a kind of time-space transformative participation in the peasant’s field and toil. Heidegger says of this that “… at bottom, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extraordinary.” We certainly meld or flow together with our world during much of our everydayness. Only when we pull away, abstract from, do we experience anything such as a subject and an object. This way of being in the world is what Heidegger would call semblance (remind you of Maya). In everydayness (or ignorance) we forget how we are authentically experiencing our ‘there’ and lapse into our historically acquired notions of things, separate objects composed of substance.Heidegger certainly has a way of understanding our ‘there’ that does not rest on some ‘mystical’ apprehension of muddled wholes (gestalt). To lapse into an abstract analysis of separate senses and individual brains that, ad hoc, associate concepts (savikalpa) to ‘pure sensation’ (nivikalpa) is to hold to a historically ‘Latinized’ understanding of separate individuals that somehow put together thoughts and concepts to make sense of their senses. It is an absurdum reduction to individualism that rebuilds the world on a separate person by person basis.“what is perceived is the individual, but the perception is in relation to the whole”…“it is clear that we must know that which is first by epagoge [induction]. For even perception [aesthesis] lays claim to [empoiei] the whole [katholou] in this way.” Aristotle, Posterior Analytics 100 a16 and b4Let me add that I have skipped ahead to later works and articles by Dr. Loy that indicate a more subtle and developed understanding of contemporary, Occidental philosophy so these critiques are conditioned with the knowledge that “Nonduality” was written very early in his career. I look forward to more dialog with his works.————————————————————————————————————————-Tuesday, July 20th, 2010Impressions in Chapter 2 of “NonDuality”I am highly impressed with the work that Professor Loy has put into “NonDuality”. He obviously has an incredible handle on Eastern philosophy. I plan to do some more research in the library on some of the questions that follow but here are some questions that come to mind:The Indian philosophy of nirvikalpa and savikalpa reminds me of Husserl’s notion of noema and noesis and eidetic intuition. The problem with this kind of analysis is, as Derrida reminds us, the problem of origin (arche). Anytime an arche is posited (evolutionary/primitive , intuition, stream of consciousness, etc.) dualism necessarily follows. The diachrony of presence/absence, before/after (internal time consciousness), semantic/syntactic is pragmatic. Any soteriological analysis must reverse the pragmatic proliferation of symbols to some form of non-differentiation (i.e., nonduality, monism, etc.). The problem this inevitably runs into is how to differentiate this kind of mysticism from a vegetative state. I think this is where the notion of detachment may come in but this also raises questions. Feeling-flow (as Husserl observes) has then been severed from dianoia (thoughts) and we are again encumbered with another arche of duality. This is a knot that knots in on itself and seems to get more tangled as one tries to untangle it…————————————————————————————————————————-Wednesday, July 14th, 2010From: David Loy, “NonDuality”, page 33″When I heard the temple bell ring, suddenly there was no bell and no I, just sound.”Kapleau, “Three Pillars of Zen”, 107, 137Compare this with:”The bridge swings over the stream “with case and power. It does not just connect banks that are already there. The banks emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream. The bridge designedly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off against the other by the bridge. Nor do the banks stretch along the stream as indifferent border strips of the dry land. With the banks, the bridge brings to the stream the one and the other expanse of the landscape lying behind them. It brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighborhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream. Thus it guides and attends the stream through the meadows. Resting upright in the stream’s bed, the bridge-piers bear the swing of the arches that leave the stream’s waters to run their course. The waters may wander on quiet and gay, the sky’s floods from storm or thaw may shoot past the piers in torrential waves-the bridge is ready for the sky’s weather and its fickle nature. Even where the bridge covers the stream, it holds its flow up to the sky by taking it for a moment under the vaulted gateway and then setting it free once more. “”The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.”Building Dwelling Thinkingby Martin Heideggerfrom Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1971.Section II————————————————————————————————————————–Wednesday, July 14th, 2010Preliminary Observations from My Reading of David LoyI am going to keep a running journal of my readings from David Loy’s “NonDuality” and “Lack and Transcendence”. I finished both introductions and decided to start with “NonDuality”. I like David Loy’s areas of interest, both East and West, and have trod similar grounds in my own readings. I hope that my observations do not come off as critical. My intention is to engage the works and express impressions not to suggest or imply any sense of “rightness” or “wrongness”. I am all too happy to be wrong and in need of further instruction…With regard to the notions of subject and object, I think that much of analytic philosophy and epistemology have been preoccupied with certain historically narrow readings found most exquisitely in Rene Descartes but with roots also in Aristotle with the notion of substansia (substance). This hermeneutic tradition has been preoccupied with dualism as Professor Loy suggests. Historically, those well trod paths have frenetically and obsessively worked themselves into a Kierkegaard-ian, Either/Or anxiety. They seemed to have lost themselves in the metaphysical play of oversimplifications and unquestioned assumptions.More specifically, I think Heidegger offers another reading of Western philosophy and the Greeks. By appealing to the pre-Socratics he follows Nietzsche in “The Birth of Tragedy” in un-cuffing and elucidating a different reading of the Greeks and thus, Western metaphysics. Abstractly, an object certainly can be anything other than “Me” but Heidegger wants to ask the question, “How do we experience objects?” If we look at our experience of “objects” we find that while the experiences can be made to surreptitiously correspond to a highly abstract and historically homogenized hermeneutic of all that is “Not Me”, this perspective strains the credulity of our common experience and traps experience in the quagmire of “standing reserve”. The “Not Me” is capital awaiting my use. Marx was prematurely insightful into this conundrum and Heidegger wraps this reduction in the technological revolution.Heidegger wants us to think (and listen) to how we are, how we be (forgive the transgression), with “objects”. For example, he notes that the way we are with tools is that tools disappear in their use. The only way they become conspicuous is when they break – and then, the mode of how we are with them changes to present-at-hand. We look them in disgust, throw them away with appropriate explicatives and call them stupid (forgive my embellishments on Heidegger). When we are using them in the mode of instrumentality we cohabitate a space with them where they disappear in our use-intention (more Husserlian). Our being with them has a decidedly different character than when we are examining them as an object present-at-hand (as we do in science). This is one example of how “objects” are experienced in deterministically different ways than present before us as a mere thing. Heidegger also treats spatiality and temporality as examples of different modalities of being, erroneously and traditionally, pre-cognitively understood as mere things (objects). Likewise, we can egregiously lump these nasty distinctions into some abstract homogenization of the “subject”. Please see my discussion here (http://mixermuse.com/blog/2009/12/23/a-brief-introduction-to-being-and-time/) for a more detailed discussion of this. For Heidegger, “Being and Time” is a work where he re-thinks human temporality in terms of Sorge (Care).The dualism of subject-object sets up another kind of pre-understanding of time as causality. This frames causality as a “linear succession of Now moments” as Heidegger would suggest. From this we get an “I” that travels through time linearly from birth to death. Other than allude to it, I will not delve into Care more specifically at this point. Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence is a blatant attempt to use metaphysics to get out of metaphysics and its nihilistic demise. If all experience from birth to death re-occurs eternally with absolutely no change we are left with the Great Nausea. To bite off the head of the snake (See “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”) is to finally let this tired old conception of time die and find ourselves in need or lack so we can begin to think anew, create anew and thus, overcome. I do not think Nietzsche wants to assert anew the old temporal, metaphysical epitaph but to skillfully (as a Zen master might) be the psychologist that presents a koan that cannot be solved, to show something that cannot otherwise be shown, with eternal recurrence. For me, this means the “thing” (derived from historically obtained categories of subject-object), causality and thus, time as linear need to grow rightfully old and let the “grass grow up under our feet” (Kierkegaurd) so we can understand the inadequacies of that motif.I think Levinas and Blanchot envision time as diachronous and anachronous. “Chrony”, chronological means time. Diachronous points to the split in time, a split that cannot be bridged. These splits are not casually related or subsumed into some master time motif. Perhaps the easiest way to think of this may be as different temporalities, think of astronomical, geological and human temporalities…think of lived temporalities (time when one is having fun and time when one is feeling anxiety)…etc. It might be tempting to line all these times up into a master, linear time but that is similar to lumping all objects into “Not Me” or subjects into “Me” – it can be done but specificities get lost, undermined and misunderstood. Anachronous or not-time is not commensurate to “My Time”. It is absolutely Other, for Levinas, the face of the Other. Perhaps for Blanchot, the Ilya (French for the there-is, the incessant buzz of existence or in my words, the background noise of the universe – see Note 1 below) is perhaps an anachrony – time is a meaningless concept here.The relevant point I am making here is that for many contemporary, continental philosophers another reading of Western history is in order and a deeper look into Greek thought is beneficial. My reflection suggests that this way of thinking causes me to think of myself, my experiences (including my notions of time) as a heterogeneous. The question then becomes can these heterogenies be made commensurate and subsumed back into the dominate Western metaphysic of linear time or is that a transgression that creates more problems than it solves and loses relevant meaning and measure?To overcome dualities into non-duality may be a way of re-asserting duality in a similar manner to the way atheism may assert the existence of God in order to deny it as some have maintained. In doing so, it seems to brush over some of the developments and new readings in contemporary philosophy but I am drawing no conclusions at this point as I really do like Eastern philosophy and know the extreme difficulties understanding it. I want to listen carefully to what Professor Loy is writing…Note 1 – Interesting enough I ran across another definition of Ilya – it is the Slavic form of the male Hebrew name for Eliyahu or Elijah meaning “My God is He” or (Yah is my God) – Yahwey is the personal God. Sinfully juxtaposing the French and the Hebrew do we get, God is my personal noise? …food for thought…

Readings from David Loy – “Nonduality” (updated 9/14/10)

This is a running log of my readings of David Loy’s, “Nonduality”. The most recent comments are at the top of the post.

I am merely jotting down impressions, thoughts and questions as I read Professor Loy’s book. There is absolutely no attempt to systematize a critique or even make assertions that are not hugely bracketed.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Chapter 3

The discussion of wei-wu-wei in Taoism, action that is non-action, has some good illustrations. I like the illustrations of how children play. Certainly, children have action (frenzied at times) and could rarely be characterized as ‘laid back’. They also have intention. What they lack is a very well developed sense of ‘I’. This does mean they are not self-centered at times. What it means is that they are not burdened and encumbered with angst, guilt, morality, inhibition, etc. These kinds of descriptions seem to be more associated with being older.

I also like the quotes from Nietzsche. His inversion, the body does the mind, roots the un-rooted metaphysics of the Occident in the ‘unseen’, going under. Just as the techne of the artist produces the work of art, ‘I’ is the work of the body. By ‘body’ I would think that phenomenology could add some meaning.

History in not reenacted in every cerebral event of ‘now’ moments. It is carried along in its entirety throughout dasein’s (the there of human being’s) stretch of lived time (as Heidegger thought). An infant is not a tabula rasa that has to learn everything from scratch. Historicality is carried along in our being, our body. (1) It is worlding as Heidegger calls it. Worlding is how the whole, language and pre-cognitive understanding, is always already in our ‘theres’. However, it does not seem to start out as a well developed theme, a canon. It seems that the ‘work’ of every human is to actualize it as ‘I’. The narratives of history that we adopt get taken up as ‘I’. Children have not yet refined and actualized the work of ‘I’. This does not mean they are ‘I-less’ (although autism is a kind of retardation of this development) but that they are less inhibited in action and intention. They do not need to consult their ‘I” about their activity. They simply act from innocence and the sheer joy and newness of (their/the) ‘there’. This seems to me to get at wei-wu-wei.

The criticism that Dr. Loy brings up about pure wantonness or acting like a spoiled child probably deserves more thought. There is a difference from what we call in the Deep South a ‘red neck’ and a spoiled child. A child’s wantonness is not captivated by their sense of ‘I’. It is more like an immediate impulse in the absence (but on the way to) an ‘I’. The drunken bravado of the ‘red neck’ is perhaps also an immediate impulse but from the point of view of an ‘I’ that is captured by itself and is no longer on the way to its development. Additionally, there are pathological examples of the development of the ‘I’ that are more extreme than a ‘red neck’ like vegetative, psychopathic, sociopathic, serial killer that seem to all involve a deviation from normal social development of the work named in ‘I’. Children have the potential for the development of the ‘I’ as normative. Those that are older have actualized their disposition to an ‘I’, as pathological or normative. Just as adult bones are capped, the epiphyseal plate completely ossifies, so ‘I’ caps worlding of ‘there’. I think that the normative ‘I’ is not monotonic but has ranges from closed to open, oriented to the past or the future, totalitarian or other oriented, etc. Just as the artist’s techne determines the work, normative beings are more than passive with regard to the ‘I’ of (their/the) ‘there’. In any case, as Aristotle pointed out, the cause of the ‘I’ as I am suggesting here would be: hule (raw material, the whatness), telos (goal, the fulfillment and completion, the towards which), eidos (the knowledge of the artist about materials, brush strokes, etc,, the how) and techne (a gathering or bringing together of the other causes, the from which) (2) The capacity for the work of the ‘I’ is what makes anything such as self-determination and Absolute Spirit of Hegel, the alienation of Marx, social contract theory, psychology, an overman of Nietzsche, the enframing (standing reserve) of Heidegger, etc. possible. It is also the possibility for enlightenment, the extinction of ‘I’, as Dr Loy discusses.

I am not so thrilled with what I see as the devolution of Dr. Loy’s discussion into idealism or realism but I understand that this was very much a part of the audience he was writing to in the eighties and probably still applicable in Occidental, analytic philosophy. I can see that Dr. Loy has been influenced by empiricists, positivists, analytic philosophers, etc. but that is not uncommon in the United States. (3)

(1) Perhaps other contributing evidence would be
a. Chomsky’s deep language structures that cannot be reduced to one individual’s activity
b. Jung’s cross-cultural symbols that cannot be linked as cause and effect but are better explained as psychological archetypes
c. Freud’s psychic structure of conscious/unconscious and id, ego, superego
d. Capacities embedded biologically by evolution
(2) http://mixermuse.com/blog/2010/09/02/aristotle-and-modern-sciences/
(3) It is amazing to me that Colorado University’s philosophy department in Boulder is chiefly analytic. Generally, students can always get into those classes but one continental philosopher, Dr. Michael Zimmerman, always has his classes full…you would think the department would have to think analytically about that…I guess capitalism and careers is an impediment to academia and logic…

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Friday, September 3, 2010
Chapter 2 continued

Heidegger would not deny nondual, meditation, Samadhi, exceptional, profound, ecstatic, mystical or pathological experiences. As a phenomenologist he would try to see in these experiences what shows itself. Dr. Loy is also looking into what shows itself and thus, in this sense, is acting as a phenomenologist. His primary method is to find what shows itself in the texts. He also wants to bring his theory (theoria; his way of seeing) into praxis with the actual experiences of others. Phenomenologists were very cautious about bringing theoria into observations because as human, we are historical and they did not want to repeat the mistakes of historical ‘seeing’. Thus, Heidegger did not want to read the ontology through the lens of Latin and subsequent Christendom. This is why he read ontology through the Greeks and Aristotle. In this way he saw the beginning of ontology in a radically different way and found what he thought were the mistakes that derailed Occidental history, the loss of the difference of being and beings and their presencing, the ‘there’ of being. Form this abstractions such as space as linear, time as a succession of ‘now’ moments, substance, mind/body, subject/object – dualism, Occidental history lost the ‘there’ of our experience and wandered in the wasteland of abstractions for millennia. However, fundamentally he found his way by noticing that our lived experience diverged from our abstraction of how we thought we lived. This gave him another clue, that as ‘there’ we are historical beings. We ‘see’ (theoria) from our history not merely some ‘brute facts’ of ‘reality’. He saw that this way of seeing was a mode, a historical mode, of understanding our ‘there’ as present-at-hand. He also saw that there are other ways of being ‘there’ such as instrumentality. The result of this is that our theoria guided our common understanding and diverged from our common experiences.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010
More impressions in Chapter 2

It seems to me that Dr. Loy’s description of Zen and the sound of the bell (previously remarked upon) are very reminiscent of Heidegger and my initial discussion of the different modalities of being already mentioned in this post. He has spent a lot of time on the notions of savikalpa (perception that has been differentiated into names, forms, labels, recognizable categories, etc.) and nivikalpa (‘bare’ perception that is not yet differentiated into savikalpa) in early Buddhism. It seems to me that one impediment to understanding this is to be looking for some sort of ‘mystical’ state in non-dual nivikalpa.

At the beginning of Western metaphysics stands Plato’s Forms. The Forms were the perfection of everything perceived by the sense. Thus the ideal triangle was the perfection of all empirical triangles perceived by sight. Aristotle rejected Plato’s Forms and wanted to show that physics (phusis), the original word for being (ousia), was a riddle, a conundrum (aporia). Physics is the co-arising of empirical observations (more accurately ontic, phenomenological observations) and ideals (more accurately ontological, phenomenological observations). Aristotle thought Plato’s Forms were simply generalized logical conceptions drawn from lived experiences, sensations (in the reduced modern and historical sense of the word). For Aristotle perceptions (and inductions) were ‘the real’ and Forms were a privileged, apotheosis of the one over the many.

In Heidegger’s interpretation of Aristotle the word physics (phusis) is the original word for being (ousia). Physics is a conundrum (aporia). It is the generative (Brahman), multiple manifold of the ‘there’ of beings AND the unity of nonduality (in Dr. Loy’s terminology), the persistence of the ‘there’ of Being. Metaphysics in Aristotle is not to be thought after the scholastic, Latin interpretation of Aristotle (where phusis is thought as substance and not ousia) but from the Greek texts themselves as the philosophical thinking of physics. Aristotle was not thinking of Forms or substance that stood behind the manifold of beings but of how beings understand their experience of the ‘there’ of being. In this regard, I think Heidegger has some relevant discussions of how nivikalpa can be thought from an Occidental perspective.

The Heideggerian notion as spatiality (regions of lived space as opposed to linear, abstract, historical notions of space as linear extension) is not composed of separate geometric spaces that we assimilate after the fact in our mind (nous). Our ‘there’ is lived as a manifold of regions that are dynamically (dunamis) desevered, brought near and far, in everyday experience. Thus, we could be riding and ox in search of an ox because we have brought near the region of searching for an ox while relinquishing the ox we are riding on to the hinter region.

Temporality (the lived stretch of time as opposed to a linear, abstract, historical notion of Now moments) is experienced in our ‘there’ as spread across a past and a future. Our notion of a linear succession of ‘nows’ is a misunderstanding of our essential (wesen) temporal ecstasies (Sorge – the structure of the practical way we experience temporality – see my whimsical and exploratory article http://mixermuse.com/blog/2009/12/18/towards-another-heideggarian-discourse/). The connection Heidegger makes to our practical experience of the temporalizing of our ‘there’ has similarities to the idea of Tat tvam Asi of Vedanta. The lived experience of time is not just a personal, private, separated, purely subjective experience but a shared experience of histories and futures that is already understood prior to ‘thinking’ about it (pre-cognitive). It is important to understand that Heidegger in no way thinks this as a underlying form (peras) of our experience but as he calls it, a thrown nullity or void, empty, nothingness (apeiron is the Greek word translated chaos but the fertile void is closer to its meaning – sunyata perhaps). The temporalizing ‘there’ of our being is not a thing or can be modeled after a thing. It is how we find ourselves situated in the null throwness of our ‘there’. There is no ‘Latinized’ underlying substance of how we are called ‘time’.

Additionally, Heidegger’s notions of present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit; how we are in the scientific, abstract, objectifying modality of being) and instrumentality or readiness-to-hand (Zuhandenheit; how we are when using a tool for instance where the hammer disappears in use) certainly move us in the direction of the distinctions of savikalpa and nivikalpa. When we are in the modality of instrumentality we and the hammer meld without abstracting from the hammer – we are the bell. When we drive a car we are not abstracting away from the car but ‘are’ together and undifferentiated with the car (unless the car breaks…then the car becomes present-at-hand). Some psychologists might suggest we are in a quasi-hypnotic state (nirvana) many times during the day as we go through the day.

I think where Dr. Loy goes wrong (which may be driven by the texts he is interpreting) is where he is trying to dissect the senses (hearing, seeing, etc.) to get at these Buddhist notions of perceptions. He alludes to “phenomenalism” and Heidegger’s insistence that ‘sense data’ is already an abstract, historical step away from how we experience the world. We never experience sense data as separate experiences. Our lived experiences are always an amalgamation of ‘sense’. To analyze them separately is already a step away from lived experience. Additionally, he imputes the abstract notion of temporality as a linear succession of moments when he starts discussing how the visual sense differs from the other senses. On page 74 he states, “Vision provides us with a “co-temporaneous manifold”, whereas all other senses construct their perceptual “unities of a manifold” out of a temporal sequence of sensations.” He goes on to suggest that vision is built on a different temporality that is not just a “passing now” as the other senses but a sense of the “idea of the eternal” as vision “remain[s] the same” and “never changes and is always present”. I think all of these distinctions are driven by the initial, abstract, historical way of dividing the senses in an attempt to ‘explain’ lived experience. Vision never happens in some hermetically sealed analytic. We can abstract away for the experience of vision to understand it that way but that is not how we experience vision. Vision is always inseparably experienced in a context, a horizon. Our experiential horizon is comingled with other senses and with lived spatiality, temporality, and the various ways which we are comported to being (i.e., in the mode of instrumentality, science or present-at-hand, etc.).

Furthermore, in Dr. Loy’s discussion he refers to Hume’s statement that Adam could not have inferred from fluidity and transparency of water that it would suffocate him. The whole notion of an Adam that pops onto the scene is abstract. If Darwin is right we would have known about water since we crawled out of it. In any case, Dr. Loy asserts that the association with water and drowning is “subconscious” now and “automatized”. He suggests that this “thought-constructed” “unity of apperception” can be undone vis-à-vis nonduality. This suggests a kind of “pure sensation”, undifferentiated, that precedes the names and forms we attach to it later.

Dr. Loy goes on to assert that the non-dual “pure sensation” cannot be fundamentally derived from Heidegger. He is probably right here because Heidegger would not understand an order of experience where a sound devoid of associations occurs and then an abstract ‘mental link’ makes sense of it. Dr. Loy thinks Berkley can refute Heidegger (and phenomenalism). It rests on the fact that if I never heard the sound of a motorcycle I would not be able to make the association ‘motorcycle’. Since I must have made a historical association of the sound of the motorcycle to make ‘sense’ of it, it means that the sound of the motorcycle does not co-temporaneously arise with the association to a motorcycle. He thinks this proves:

1. Initially, there must have been a sound first that I heard (without knowing what it was)
2. I looked to see it was a motorcycle
3. Thereafter, I subconsciously associate the sound with a motorcycle.

However, this is not a refutation of Heidegger. If you noticed every time I used the word ‘abstract’ above I also used the word ‘historical’. I did this because phenomenology gives us a mechanism for what Dr. Loy calls savikalpa. It is because we ‘are’ as historical beings. We have personal histories (Heidegger calls existentiell) that meld with collective histories (an example may be language [Chomsky’s deep structures of language, i.e., every baby does not have to learn all words and associations by rote] or scientific/technological, religious, Now moments, linear space, etc.). Abstraction or savikalpa arises because we ‘are’ historical, both collective and individual (ontological and ontic) historicality. To say that we associate the sound of the motorcycle with the abstract concept of the motorcycle is proof that Heidegger is right – we are in the world as historical beings. I think Dr. Loy would find an ally in Heidegger by taking our ability to abstract away from lived experience as mistaking the rope for a snake, the finger pointing at the moon as the moon and riding an ox in search of an ox. Heidegger gives an excellent path for Occidentals to access savikalpa and nivikalpa. We pick our own pocket and sell us our own watch when we mistake abstract, historical pre-cognitive understanding for lived experience.

Additionally, Heidegger’s notion of whatness (quiddity) seems to me to come very close to suchness. Whatness is not about a noun. It is a transitive verb that has swallowed its nouns. One example could be the bridge quoted below, “The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.” The quiddity or whatness of the bridge is more like a regionality, an environmental gathering together, flowing together savor of sensations not a mere denuded noun, an object for a subject. The lived experience of a bridge is not one noun among many, one object surrounded by other objects, but a cohesion that cannot be subdivided into parts without losing or changing how it shows itself (aletheia).

In “The Origin of the Work of Art” Heidegger asks the question. “What is a thing?” He uses the example of an artwork by Van Gogh that portrays a pair of peasant shoes. He understands that the observer of art (in this case The Peasants Shoes by Van Gogh) and the work of art is a kind of time-space transformative participation in the peasant’s field and toil. Heidegger says of this that “… at bottom, the ordinary is not ordinary; it is extraordinary.” We certainly meld or flow together with our world during much of our everydayness. Only when we pull away, abstract from, do we experience anything such as a subject and an object. This way of being in the world is what Heidegger would call semblance (remind you of Maya). In everydayness (or ignorance) we forget how we are authentically experiencing our ‘there’ and lapse into our historically acquired notions of things, separate objects composed of substance.

Heidegger certainly has a way of understanding our ‘there’ that does not rest on some ‘mystical’ apprehension of muddled wholes (gestalt). To lapse into an abstract analysis of separate senses and individual brains that, ad hoc, associate concepts (savikalpa) to ‘pure sensation’ (nivikalpa) is to hold to a historically ‘Latinized’ understanding of separate individuals that somehow put together thoughts and concepts to make sense of their senses. It is an absurdum reduction to individualism that rebuilds the world on a separate person by person basis.

“what is perceived is the individual, but the perception is in relation to the whole”…“it is clear that we must know that which is first by epagoge [induction]. For even perception [aesthesis] lays claim to [empoiei] the whole [katholou] in this way.” Aristotle, Posterior Analytics 100 a16 and b4

Let me add that I have skipped ahead to later works and articles by Dr. Loy that indicate a more subtle and developed understanding of contemporary, Occidental philosophy so these critiques are conditioned with the knowledge that “Nonduality” was written very early in his career. I look forward to more dialog with his works.

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Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Impressions in Chapter 2 of “NonDuality”

I am highly impressed with the work that Professor Loy has put into “NonDuality”. He obviously has an incredible handle on Eastern philosophy. I plan to do some more research in the library on some of the questions that follow but here are some questions that come to mind:

The Indian philosophy of nirvikalpa and savikalpa reminds me of Husserl’s notion of noema and noesis and eidetic intuition. The problem with this kind of analysis is, as Derrida reminds us, the problem of origin (arche). Anytime an arche is posited (evolutionary/primitive , intuition, stream of consciousness, etc.) dualism necessarily follows. The diachrony of presence/absence, before/after (internal time consciousness), semantic/syntactic is pragmatic. Any soteriological analysis must reverse the pragmatic proliferation of symbols to some form of non-differentiation (i.e., nonduality, monism, etc.). The problem this inevitably runs into is how to differentiate this kind of mysticism from a vegetative state. I think this is where the notion of detachment may come in but this also raises questions. Feeling-flow (as Husserl observes) has then been severed from dianoia (thoughts) and we are again encumbered with another arche of duality. This is a knot that knots in on itself and seems to get more tangled as one tries to untangle it…

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Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
From: David Loy, “NonDuality”, page 33

“When I heard the temple bell ring, suddenly there was no bell and no I, just sound.”

Kapleau, “Three Pillars of Zen”, 107, 137

Compare this with:

“The bridge swings over the stream “with case and power. It does not just connect banks that are already there. The banks emerge as banks only as the bridge crosses the stream. The bridge designedly causes them to lie across from each other. One side is set off against the other by the bridge. Nor do the banks stretch along the stream as indifferent border strips of the dry land. With the banks, the bridge brings to the stream the one and the other expanse of the landscape lying behind them. It brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighborhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream. Thus it guides and attends the stream through the meadows. Resting upright in the stream’s bed, the bridge-piers bear the swing of the arches that leave the stream’s waters to run their course. The waters may wander on quiet and gay, the sky’s floods from storm or thaw may shoot past the piers in torrential waves-the bridge is ready for the sky’s weather and its fickle nature. Even where the bridge covers the stream, it holds its flow up to the sky by taking it for a moment under the vaulted gateway and then setting it free once more. ”

“The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals.”

Building Dwelling Thinking
by Martin Heidegger
from Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Albert Hofstadter, Harper Colophon Books, New York, 1971.
Section II

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Wednesday, July 14th, 2010
Preliminary Observations from My Reading of David Loy

I am going to keep a running journal of my readings from David Loy’s “NonDuality” and “Lack and Transcendence”. I finished both introductions and decided to start with “NonDuality”. I like David Loy’s areas of interest, both East and West, and have trod similar grounds in my own readings. I hope that my observations do not come off as critical. My intention is to engage the works and express impressions not to suggest or imply any sense of “rightness” or “wrongness”. I am all too happy to be wrong and in need of further instruction…

With regard to the notions of subject and object, I think that much of analytic philosophy and epistemology have been preoccupied with certain historically narrow readings found most exquisitely in Rene Descartes but with roots also in Aristotle with the notion of substansia (substance). This hermeneutic tradition has been preoccupied with dualism as Professor Loy suggests. Historically, those well trod paths have frenetically and obsessively worked themselves into a Kierkegaard-ian, Either/Or anxiety. They seemed to have lost themselves in the metaphysical play of oversimplifications and unquestioned assumptions.

More specifically, I think Heidegger offers another reading of Western philosophy and the Greeks. By appealing to the pre-Socratics he follows Nietzsche in “The Birth of Tragedy” in un-cuffing and elucidating a different reading of the Greeks and thus, Western metaphysics. Abstractly, an object certainly can be anything other than “Me” but Heidegger wants to ask the question, “How do we experience objects?” If we look at our experience of “objects” we find that while the experiences can be made to surreptitiously correspond to a highly abstract and historically homogenized hermeneutic of all that is “Not Me”, this perspective strains the credulity of our common experience and traps experience in the quagmire of “standing reserve”. The “Not Me” is capital awaiting my use. Marx was prematurely insightful into this conundrum and Heidegger wraps this reduction in the technological revolution.

Heidegger wants us to think (and listen) to how we are, how we be (forgive the transgression), with “objects”. For example, he notes that the way we are with tools is that tools disappear in their use. The only way they become conspicuous is when they break – and then, the mode of how we are with them changes to present-at-hand. We look them in disgust, throw them away with appropriate explicatives and call them stupid (forgive my embellishments on Heidegger). When we are using them in the mode of instrumentality we cohabitate a space with them where they disappear in our use-intention (more Husserlian). Our being with them has a decidedly different character than when we are examining them as an object present-at-hand (as we do in science). This is one example of how “objects” are experienced in deterministically different ways than present before us as a mere thing. Heidegger also treats spatiality and temporality as examples of different modalities of being, erroneously and traditionally, pre-cognitively understood as mere things (objects). Likewise, we can egregiously lump these nasty distinctions into some abstract homogenization of the “subject”. Please see my discussion here (http://mixermuse.com/blog/2009/12/23/a-brief-introduction-to-being-and-time/) for a more detailed discussion of this. For Heidegger, “Being and Time” is a work where he re-thinks human temporality in terms of Sorge (Care).

The dualism of subject-object sets up another kind of pre-understanding of time as causality. This frames causality as a “linear succession of Now moments” as Heidegger would suggest. From this we get an “I” that travels through time linearly from birth to death. Other than allude to it, I will not delve into Care more specifically at this point. Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence is a blatant attempt to use metaphysics to get out of metaphysics and its nihilistic demise. If all experience from birth to death re-occurs eternally with absolutely no change we are left with the Great Nausea. To bite off the head of the snake (See “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”) is to finally let this tired old conception of time die and find ourselves in need or lack so we can begin to think anew, create anew and thus, overcome. I do not think Nietzsche wants to assert anew the old temporal, metaphysical epitaph but to skillfully (as a Zen master might) be the psychologist that presents a koan that cannot be solved, to show something that cannot otherwise be shown, with eternal recurrence. For me, this means the “thing” (derived from historically obtained categories of subject-object), causality and thus, time as linear need to grow rightfully old and let the “grass grow up under our feet” (Kierkegaurd) so we can understand the inadequacies of that motif.

I think Levinas and Blanchot envision time as diachronous and anachronous. “Chrony”, chronological means time. Diachronous points to the split in time, a split that cannot be bridged. These splits are not casually related or subsumed into some master time motif. Perhaps the easiest way to think of this may be as different temporalities, think of astronomical, geological and human temporalities…think of lived temporalities (time when one is having fun and time when one is feeling anxiety)…etc. It might be tempting to line all these times up into a master, linear time but that is similar to lumping all objects into “Not Me” or subjects into “Me” – it can be done but specificities get lost, undermined and misunderstood. Anachronous or not-time is not commensurate to “My Time”. It is absolutely Other, for Levinas, the face of the Other. Perhaps for Blanchot, the Ilya (French for the there-is, the incessant buzz of existence or in my words, the background noise of the universe – see Note 1 below) is perhaps an anachrony – time is a meaningless concept here.

The relevant point I am making here is that for many contemporary, continental philosophers another reading of Western history is in order and a deeper look into Greek thought is beneficial. My reflection suggests that this way of thinking causes me to think of myself, my experiences (including my notions of time) as a heterogeneous. The question then becomes can these heterogenies be made commensurate and subsumed back into the dominate Western metaphysic of linear time or is that a transgression that creates more problems than it solves and loses relevant meaning and measure?

To overcome dualities into non-duality may be a way of re-asserting duality in a similar manner to the way atheism may assert the existence of God in order to deny it as some have maintained. In doing so, it seems to brush over some of the developments and new readings in contemporary philosophy but I am drawing no conclusions at this point as I really do like Eastern philosophy and know the extreme difficulties understanding it. I want to listen carefully to what Professor Loy is writing…

Note 1 – Interesting enough I ran across another definition of Ilya – it is the Slavic form of the male Hebrew name for Eliyahu or Elijah meaning “My God is He” or (Yah is my God) – Yahwey is the personal God. Sinfully juxtaposing the French and the Hebrew do we get, God is my personal noise? …food for thought…

Aristotle and Modernity: The Eternal and Science

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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Aristotle argues that being (ousia; feminine present participle) is simultaneously matter and form (eidos, idea) governed by change (metabole).(1) The form shown in a being’s figure or shape (morphe) is given by limit or boundary (peras) and is the genesis of its being. Form is always with matter to make it what it is as a being. A being that is form and matter is physics (phusis). Phusis is Aristotle’s word for emergence or growth that sustains itself in its presence as a morphe (shape) from peras (form) or being (ousia). Antiphon’s argument with Aristotle in Physics, Book 1, is a materialistic argument about the essence (wesen) of being (ousia). In an attempt to find the immutable and eternal, not subject to change and therefore, real, Antiphon argues that formless matter (hule) is real. For example, wood, stone, metal, etc. is real and eternal and thus, the essence of being. Since the form of wood can change from say a chair to a scrap pile, the form is mutable and therefore, not real but accidental (sumbebekos). The issue here is the one (hen) and the many (polumeres). Following after Plato and his Forms Antiphon along with Parmenides wants to understand the origin (arche) of being as one. For Parmenides, the one could be seen with the mind (nous) as ideas (eidos). Ideas do not change. They do not grow. The world of matter simply reflects, as a shadow, these ‘behind the scene’ Forms. In so doing, being is established as immutable (non-changing) and eternal (aidion). For Antiphon matter was real and for Parmenides the idea was real and everything else was accidental and illusion. Aristotle was quite the heretic in this setting to insist that form and matter, emerging and enduring in their presence was being. In effect, Aristotle was saying being was one and many, being and beings, and change and endurance in presence were the origin of the real. As a thought experiment, let’s jump ahead to the modern notions of particle physics, evolution and genetic science.

Genetic science manipulates genes in very short time scales while evolution takes much longer with natural selection. However, both change beings from one kind of being into another and create beings that have never existed naturally. Likewise particle physics has accomplished the alchemic task of changing one elementary particle into another and even more, creating new particles that have never existed naturally. Let’s remember that for Aristotle and the Greeks being encompassed all beings not simply human being. This implies that evolutionary change would not contradict Aristotle’s notion of beings since he allows for change and mutability as essential (wesen) to being (phusis). However, these sciences certainly bring into question the insistence of Antiphon and Parmenides. It implies that pure materialism (as hule without eidos) and pure spiritualism (as eidos without hule) is never found in nature as immutable and eternal. Both form as idea and matter can be essentially changed and manipulated by evolution and human technology. New beings that have never existed can emerge into nature. Perhaps Parmenides could take partial exception as the change in the present shape of a being could be accidental while maintaining that the ideas behind them do not change. However, would totally new beings imply an addition to the ideas? Likewise, Antiphon may have more thorny issues with new elements not found in nature but he could insist that the elementary elements were eternal just not present in nature. However, atomic manipulation of elements that changes one element to another would directly imply that fundamental elements can change and are therefore, not immutable. In both cases the mutation and change might still be denied as essential to being. However, the manipulation of elementary particles and biology vis-à-vis technology, at least in the case of particle physics and genetic science, imply fundamental human intervention in nature and therefore essential (not accidental) mutability.

In regard to Antiphon and by extension Parmenides, Aristotle wrote that “According to this understanding of the essence of being, all things—whether natural or made—are never truly being, and yet they are not nothing. Hence they are non-being, not fully sufficing for beingness” (WBP 337). He thought that both of these ideas forced the argument into either being already thought as immutable OR non-being (me on) already thought as mutable, In so doing, a universal category is set up (i.e., being) and all else is not being (i.e., beings). It turns out to be a tautological argument. If A is A then it certainly follows that everything else is not A. If being cannot change then everything that changes is not being. This kind of argument cannot legitimately think of the differences between being and beings. It can only assert an opinion (doxa) and therefore is not an argument at all.

If being is thought after matter such as wood or stone and asserted to have permanence then being has been modeled after permanent, separate and indivisible units (i.e., wood, stone, etc.). Likewise if eternal ideas stand behind the accidental, shadowy world of matter then being has been thought in terms of permanent, separate and indivisible units. In both cases the unity (hen) of being is preserved by denying change based on separation. When being is thought after the model of separation then it is thought after beings. Beings are separate by definition. Aristotle thought that ultimately Antiphon and Parmenides made the mistake of taking individual beings for the one (hen) – being. They thought the enduring, eternal and immutable essence in beings, whether matter or idea was separate from beings and therefore, merely another type of being. They were unable to think unity and multiplicity together as the being of beings. Aristotle certainly thought through the problems in Antiphon and Parmenides that have been articulated by modern science but he still faces the question of natural beings and produced beings.

If evolution is thought in terms of Aristotle’s notion we must ask ourselves about the gradual change from simple chemical reactions to Homo erectus (human being). As each new species evolves it emerges and endures in its presence as its own being (i.e., bacteria, fish, monkey, human, etc.). As the being changes gradually over millions of years so also does the particular being. By thinking that beings are, we are thinking about the being (singular) of beings (plural). Aristotle is thinking after the being of beings, how beings are one and many simultaneously. Aristotle achieves this in presence. As present, beings show themselves as emergent and enduring. Thus they maintain themselves in phusis. For Aristotle, this means they have their origin (arche) in themselves. This is what he refers to as natural beings. If a being is made by a human such as a work of art, he thinks of that as techne. In the case of the being of art the cause (aition, that out of which a being comes to be and endures) is: hule (raw material, the whatness), telos (goal, the fulfillment and completion, the towards which), eidos (the knowledge of the artist about materials, brush strokes, etc,, the how) and techne (a gathering or bringing together of the other causes, the from which). Aristotle thinks beings can arise from natural means (in which case they have their origin in themselves) or techne (their origin is not in themselves). The being of the work of art does not have its eidos in itself like natural beings but in the mind of the artist. Therefore, how they show themselves (aletheia) is not from themselves but from the techne of the artist. Since natural beings come to be of themselves, they cannot be accidental, they have their essence in themselves. However, beings that are produced from techne have their origin and are governed outside of themselves. This makes produced beings possible for use and manipulation.

It seems that evolution as ‘natural’ produces human beings and other types of natural beings. Why couldn’t we say that the techne in nature produces beings with eidos, hule and telos? Evolution (techne) uses natural selection to manipulate biological matter (hule) and genetic adaptation (eidos) for survival (telos). Now that humans have figured out how to manipulate genetics faster than evolution and for various uses, we could easily say that genetic engineering is techne. So the question is how can we maintain a being that has its origin in itself and one that does not? It seems that humans can have ‘use’ value just like beings that are produced.

The problem posed here is how can we think beyond the use and manipulation value of human beings? In light of the gray areas discussed already between natural beings and produced beings how can we definitively suggest an essential, original difference in the two? Both, no matter their origin, can be thought in terms of their ‘use’ value. Heidegger thought that misunderstanding the difference in being and beings gave rise to technology and the dreaded industrial wasteland described by Junger. He thought by re-thinking the difference that got lost after Aristotle in Latin and subsequent Christianity we could find a second beginning. However, if there is a valid confusion of terms posed by the modern sciences we are back to Nietzsche’s nihilism and end of truth as envisioned and historically worked out from the Greeks. Thomas Aquinas, G.W.F. Hegel, Adam Smith, Karl Marx and others have tried to found a thinking that would ensure a human future but each have resulted in historical failures. Philosophers have tried to re-think these avenues and discover where the Occident departed from thinking the being of beings and to establish the legitimate bearing of human being. Nietzsche’s answer was the collapse into nihilism and the mysterious arrival of the overman, the second coming of the human.

My current direction is working through Levinas and the radical rupture of ontology that can only be recuperated (and thus lost) into the same with the totalitarian assertion of the ‘not’. It may be that the anarchism of the face of the other and thinking after alterity in metaphysics holds the promise of ethics and a leap into the future. Levinas’ thinking would not imply separateness after the kind of Antiphon and Parmenides in the history of ontology and thus, fall into materialism that Derrida maintained. Levinas thinks of the face of the other as a rupture in ontology, the destruction of ontology and the history of the tyranny of light and it’s not. This thinking would bring down the history of ontology, the thinking of Being, from the Greeks. However, Levinas would also try to trace out another anarchical thought at work in metaphysics. His work does not think metaphysics toward phusis as Heidegger and Aristotle would but towards the other; the other that is not a being of Being nor a ‘not’ of Being but announces and brings about ‘me’ in absolute withdrawal. For Levinas this is the beginning and founding of Ethics, an anarchical founding. The history of light and it’s ‘not’, the dark, is the history of violence. This is why philosophy can only reawaken the history of violence and, as Sisyphus, eternally push the boulder of truth (aletheia) up the mountain of its clearing (lichtung). What is missed is not the difference of being and beings but ‘difference’ that is not neuter, ‘difference’ that is never sublated but always reawakened by the face of the other; ‘difference’ that is never cast off or lifted up in the light of self-determining logic and only swept away by violence and totality (completeness). Presence as immediacy is not mediated by the ‘not’ but given by the alterity of the other, not the neuter of the ‘is’ of difference. When the history of ontology, the peras (self limiting measure) of ‘me’ rising amidst the aperion in light, is thought as false then the difference, the aperion, that is not an ‘it’ but a he or a she, can destroy the fight for immutability and eternity. What is left? …my absolute finitude and indebtedness to the other that faces me and calls me to exist.

Philosophy Series 12 – Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics

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Notes:
(1) Heidegger and Aristotle The Twofoldness of Being, Walter A. Brogan, State University of New York Press, Albany© 2005 State University of New York – This essay is largely inspired and informed by Walter Brogan’s magnificent insights into Heidegger and Aristotle.

Heidegger and Buddhism

Check out this article:

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-MISC/91932.htm

The title is “What’s Wrong with Being and Time: A Buddhist Critique” By David Loy

Not only does it elucidate Heidegger but it also points out and contrasts Heidegger’s philosophy with Buddhism.
Here are a few tidbits that occurred to me while reading it:

As one gets older a certain kind of “inorganic” deflation of one’s illusions overtakes experience. The notions of youthful ambition such as wealth, passion/love – the heroic in this article, lose their force. The “Will to Power” is dispersed and the past as construct is not reconstituted but deconstituted – deconstructed. In occidental culture age and wisdom have been relegated to the non-consequential. Youth and illusion are brought to the fore and age is content-emptying. However, no refutation need be made to reinvigorate age – age brings its own possibilities. It opens by allowing illusion to age, to lose impact and therefore, its insanity.

The desperation of meaning-assertion becomes unraveled and space/rest/repose creep into our historical narratives. Emptiness, sunyata, is not a threat but a companion, a “me” when I am not “me”. In this way, a certain kind of authentic experience is not forced by dread or heroic effort but shows itself as the distance in narrative, the release/letting go of self and of neurotic, obsessive, drive to be. A certain kind of peace, not framed (or undergirded by enframing) but more like breathing out is organically brought to experience and the “inorganic” is merely a byproduct of the prolonged death of youth.

I suppose the critique of these thoughts could be pressed into this analysis by suggesting the old simply give themselves over to everydayness or in Freudian terms the unconscious. However, this seems to me to revive the youthful illusion of polarities, good/bad, differentiation/repression, etc. Being-towards-death or the death wish contrast as authenticity or dispersion. Does “Will to Power” age? Is authenticity the heroic possibility or passivity? Is death about the possibility for authenticity or about realizing what one always was? – Or both…

I think there are hints in this article and in Buddhism of a kind of utopist view of extinction. Realization ushers in a kind of non-articulated paradise. This may not be accurate but I think the allusions to such an experience of realization may create more problems than it solves. In the oriental tradition of Buddhism, a whole collection of Hindu theologies (reincarnation, karma, higher/lower worlds, demons, superstitions, etc.) have crept into Buddhism. Contrarily, Siddhartha Gautama started Buddhism to get away from the “metaphysics” of Hinduism. Buddhists commonly state that they are not a religion but a practice which implies that no theologies need be stated or accepted.