Tag Archives: Levinas

Maslow, Law & Grace, Reactionary & Revolutionary

Figure 1 – Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow captured a moment in human evolution which, in the Enlightenment tradition, summed up the need for meaning from an individual perspective. What is perhaps understated to some degree by his model is that the Latin idea of nātūra (nature) and the more radical Greek notion of φύσις, εως, ἡ (phusis, physics) was our tutor and guardian. The dance of environment and individual conspired together to bring us to the next stage of human evolution. Basic needs demanded and required, upon the pain of death, obedience. The height of individualism was addressing the need for human meaning and personal fulfillment. Just as human individuality, from the physics of space-time, essentially entails ‘from a past’, ‘in a present’, and ‘to a future’ so meaning is derived from origin, to presence, and toward telos, a goal or culmination. In Aristotelian terms,

In Metaphysics Α.1, Aristotle says that “everyone takes what is called ‘wisdom’ (sophia) to be concerned with the primary causes (aitia) and the starting-points (or principles, archai).” (Cohen, 2020)

Furthermore, Aristotle writes of dunamis (potentiality) and entelecheia (actuality) or energeia (activity),

Since Aristotle gives form priority over matter, we would expect him similarly to give actuality priority over potentiality. And that is exactly what we find (Θ.8, 1049b4–5). Aristotle distinguishes between priority in logos (account or definition), in time, and in substance. (1) Actuality is prior in logos since we must cite the actuality when we give an account of its corresponding potentiality. Thus, ‘visible’ means ‘capable of being seen’; ‘buildable’ means ‘capable of being built'(1049b14–16). (2) As regards temporal priority, by contrast, potentiality may well seem to be prior to actuality, since the wood precedes the table that is built from it, and the acorn precedes the oak that it grows into. Nevertheless, Aristotle finds that even temporally there is a sense in which actuality is prior to potentiality: “the active that is the same in form, though not in number [with a potentially existing thing], is prior [to it]” (1049b18–19). A particular acorn is, of course, temporally prior to the particular oak tree that it grows into, but it is preceded in time by the actual oak tree that produced it, with which it is identical in species. The seed (potential substance) must have been preceded by an adult (actual substance). So in this sense actuality is prior even in time. which it is identical in species. The seed (potential substance) must have been preceded by an adult (actual substance). So in this sense actuality is prior even in time[1]. (Cohen, 2020)

From Aristotle’s perspective human individuality is not self-identical but essentially interwoven in phusis. Actuality and potentiality are both fundamentally constituent of reality[2]. From the Latin world and Roman Christianity, the individual emerges predominately in the landscape of phusis. This brings us to law and grace.

The law, as what Christianity deems the ‘Old Testament’, was a tutor and guardian until grace, what Christianity deems the ‘New Testament’, would transform the individual in the same way Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs transformed needs. Needs in the fight for survival was unforgiving and ruthless to offenders. Transformations to psychological needs and to higher needs of self-fulfillment also resulted in a kind of reprieve from more basic needs. While Judaic laws required, upon pain of death in certain instances, obedience; grace writes the law in the heart. So, for grace the law is no longer fundamentally wed to phusis but becomes a kind of phusis unto itself in its transformation. This is how individuality emerges from phusis.

Underlying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the background of phusis. The individual finds meaning by moving from the law to grace, from mere survival to self-fulfillment, self-determination but cannot end in the laws of individuality but move on to the contextual, potentiality, which is determinate of the metaphysic of individuality. This movement is dependent upon fulfilling the earlier requirements of biological dependence on phusis. However, the individual has the potential to transform itself to a higher level of meaning and purpose than mere servitude to phusis and the truncation of contextuality into actuality.

Capitalism is the economic expression of individualism. Capitalism holds the stick of phusis but also raises the carrot of higher individual potentiality. However, it proposes not a grace of human individuality in which the individual attains a transformation of meaning but a domination of phusis. By conquering the slavery of mere survival, ideally, we can put phusis into the position of bondage and subjugation to affluent needlessness. In this then, we find the Error of the illusion of power and the reality of phusis. In Karl Marx’ terms the problem of capitalism is the creation of artificial needs, otherwise called marketing. We must have the next smart phone. In this sense, meaning is accomplished by the myth of Sisyphus. In cheating phusis Sisyphus was forever condemned to push a rock up a hill only to have it roll down once again. The promise of capitalism could never deliver us from phusis but could only forever require our aspirations which, for most, was doomed to fail. Even the most successful capitalist must give way to phusis in death. Furthermore, conquering phusis turns out to merely produce climate change and not the end of phusis but the end of humanity – eternal death of human.

This is how individualism has played itself out through history. However, another marginalized narrative has also held the potentiality of grace through cooperation with phusis. Cooperation does not spring forth from absolute individualism but from collectivity and responsibility. Human meaning is not obtained through the desperations of individualism but through the graces of maturity. Maturity recognizes our dependence upon phusis and each other. We no longer actualize the dynamics of power and subjugation built into the metaphysics of individualism but allow, make way, for the gift of the other; the other as phusis and as the he or she we face. When we give way to the other, we take responsibility for our obligation, our indebtedness to what we are not. We integrate and harmonize, make peace, with reality instead of a pitched battle with it. We no longer blame the other for our lack of power but take hold of our responsibility to the cry of the other. This does not take us back to manufactured needs of self-justification in the form of individual merit.

The bourgeoisie labor in self-adoring-adorning will imputing their metaphysic of failed individualism upon the proletariat. They absolve themselves of responsibility to the higher call of action in care. Democracy is based in a call higher than the metaphysics of individualism can understand. It places political responsibility on the individual to respond to the call of collectivity and the other. By the ‘other’ I mean phusis and the he or she. As long as we lapse into individualism, we absolve ourselves of the phenomenological reality of language.

Language is not private and individual. Language is not something we manufacture for the purpose of creating artificial needs which enrich its producers. Language is an archeology, an origin which we did not create, which preceded us from those we never knew. It is not merely a tool but a history-scape which informs us before we become cognitively aware of it. Self-realization cannot happen without others who have long since receded into language’s background. Even as eyes and ears are filters which let us make sense of the world, language functions as filters we call ‘reality’ in which ‘I’ as an individual never created or became the origin of. In this way, we are ‘individuals’. We name ourselves and bestow on ourselves the title of identity as if we were some kind of self-unification. Insanity is what we call those who have a private language and found identity upon it.

Democracy requires a perspective and a horizon in which each individual has place. ‘Place’ here is not a badge of individual merit. It is bestowed from how we actually are. We are bound and indebted to the other, to phusis, to any such thing which we call reality. While this can be denied in favor of autocracy, whether individual or political, it is ultimately self-defeating as it vaults the individual to heights which can only be maintained by the very opposite phenomenon it employs to create its artificial, virtual reality. It uses language to deny how language is, how it emerges from an exteriority which cannot be solipsistic. The eternal recurrence of the same in linguistic filters are fabricated to protect and destroy the myth of power. The endless repetition of simulacra and re-simulation are doomed from within because they cannot hear the still small voice of phusis. They can only result in the rise and demise of civilization and our environment. This is where reactionary and revolution find relevance.

Reactionary is a throw back to a fabricated past the never was. It is the wild west of individualism. There never was a John Wayne of individualism. It was created, manufactured, re-produced to protect the few violently. However, there is no evil genius here. Rather, it is a result of a linguistic history which advocates against itself. The heroic defies reality in favor of its own phantasma of who it is. It creates a past in which it is its own origin. It is self-caused. It is the creator of heroic and horror-ic values. It is the law in the garb of self-identity.

The Judaic law was given by God not man, but the new version of the law is the created simulacra of man, of a history which wishes to be but cannot be. Reactionaryism can only produce the reality of Sisyphus, an eternal recurrence of the same, reproduction of something that never was. It is wish-fulfillment which attempts to renew itself in itself and by itself. Revolution welcomes the new but all to often fails in the linguistic sanctums of power.

Revolution, as the new which never was, looks toward a future which has never been but is all too often doomed by its self-sufficiency in the phantasms of language which pull it back into the gravitational orbit of self-identity. Just as the revolutionary idea of democracy has lapsed in the United States back into the reactionary simulations of authoritarianism, revolution cannot succeed if it utilizes tools from our linguistic past which were devised to protect the illusion of power. What we need is to re-think language in terms of phusis. Our situatedness in history and phusis is not as masters of power but fundamentally dependent upon that which is not-me. Revolution can only find a higher transformation when it lets the ghost of power and absolute individualism fall into the dust bin of failed, phantasmas of a past that can never be. We must find an ethics which is participatory and essential to the responsibility towards the other. As human we are all part of a pluralistic, heterogenous reality-scape which offers many abodes that can never be commensurate.

Those that revel in power and self-identity have fashioned for themselves a simulacra, a golden calf, which can only be repeated in reactionary violence. The cry of the other, the suffering of the other. The relegation of oppression and self-absorbed denial of who we are and not who we imagine the ‘they’ are is the revolution which will usher in a transformation with ourselves and our environment. Transformation from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Individual Needs must give up the ghost of labor which can only toil in eternal repetition of the same. This is not a new hierarchy. This is an acceptance of responsibility and obligation to the other, to phusis. We cannot arise at the expense of the other and our environment. We must have the grace of making place for the other. We must allow the content of phusis and the real needs of the other to call us to responsibility. The individual does not disappear in collectivity as drop of water in the ocean. This is another illusion built on the mirage of individualism. Responsibility places us as situatedness to that that which we cannot efface and calls us to actualize our responsibility to that call. In this untapped potential for what it means to be human we find cooperation and concern for what we cannot erect a phantasma of. It is founded in a language and history which we cannot have power over but can recognize our absolute limitation in the face of radical alterity which requires our responsibility not our violence in its defacement.

References

Cohen, S. M. (2020). “Aristotle’s Metaphysics”. (E. N. (ed.), Ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2020 Edition). Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics/

[1] Interesting to note that Aristotle’s notion of actuality and potentiality seems to me to have some reverberations in modern chaos theory. Chaos theory does not deny order or actuality. Instead, it tells us that order is a co-determination of chaos. Order and chaos are not diametrically opposed as subject and object. They have an essential relationship. The universe is structured as self-organizing as fractals. Fractals have the unique capacity to be both ordered and chaotic infinitely. There appears to no limit to the patterns they can make in the same way as each snowflake is absolutely unique. This is what is called self-organizing. In the chaos theory the universe is self-organizing. There is no limit to the nature of how it organizes. A butterfly’s wings can spark a tsunami on the other side of the world. This makes the outcome essentially unpredictable. Likewise, actuality or energy emerges from potentiality as limitless patterns emerge from fractals. Actuality emerges as particular forms just as language emerges as particular histories, invocations of reality and absolutes. The are uniquely particular and ordered but their origins are not in the absolute of their actuality, of their content, or the mystery we call reality, but in the absolutely unpredictable outcomes of potentiality. Additionally, they are intimately the subject of absolute unpredictable, chaotic changes. Therefore, cause and effect are not a reality but an observation of a commonality, a particular fractal pattern, which emerges in language and history.

[2] I use the word ‘reality’ here on the context of its philosophical history which I cited in my previous post, Maslow, Law & Grace, Reactionary & Revolutionary. Reality is not the simplicity of an object related to a subject as philosophy starting in the 19th century has argued culminating around the same time that Einstein’s theory of relativity was taking off at the beginning of the 20th century. Reality is a chaotic and ordered process of language and its other. It is not self-evident except in supposed, assumed and metaphysical histories. It is interactive and chaotically potential in its actual forms. One simple example is the relativity of space-time. As an individual human we have mass. Since we have mass, we create small but not insignificant distortions of space-time around us. Additionally, time runs faster on the top of a mountain than in a valley (gravitational time dilation). Each individual is wrapped from birth to death in their space-time continuum. Additionally, this space-time continuum has stretch and minute variations which directly correspond to relative masses and speed called frames of reference. It is wrong to think of time and space as static, universal and absolute. Similarly, it is wrong to think of individuality as absolute as it is determined by the other of history, language, phusis, and the he and she. All of this is dynamic and chaotic, its capacity for predictability. Closing down individuality into an absolute is death. As Heidegger tells us, “Death is the possibility of the absolute impossibility of Dasein (human being or more precisely the ‘there’ of being).” The impossibility of individuality emerges in language and history as an absolute impossibility or as Heidegger calls it the “they-self”. The they as a self is immediately contradictory and unsustainable as it is a self-contradiction. Similarly, absolute individuality cloaks it contextual histories which are relegated to its margins. This does not negate the form of the individual but places it in relative context with it’s ‘not’ as a pattern in fractals does not deny it’s infinite, unpredictable, and chaotic patterns but emerges from them. However, the not is not a negation but an affirmation of an absolutely ‘other’, even as death is a possibility in its absolute impossibility. The fear of death is actually the fear of life since no one will ever experience death as Epicurus tells us,

“Why should I fear death?

If I am, then death is not.

If Death is, then I am not.

Why should I fear that which can only exist when I do not?

Long time men lay oppressed with slavish fear.

Religious tyranny did domineer.

At length the mighty one of Greece

Began to assent the liberty of man.”

On Death

Death is not something that happens at the end of life. As Blanchot mentions in the quote at the end of my recent post,

As long as I live, I am a mortal man, but when I die, by ceasing to be man I also cease to be mortal, I am no longer capable of dying, and my impending death horrifies me because I see it as it is: no longer death, but the impossibility of dying…. I have no relationship with it, it is that toward which I cannot go, for in it I do not die, I have fallen from the power to die. In it they die; they do not cease, and they do not finish dying ― Maurice Blanchot, Literature and the Right to Death.

The only way I experience death is through life. Death is strictly a phenomenon of life. The fear of death is a fear of life as life and death are inseparable. The death of my son in 2017 is not ‘his’ death. He is not experiencing death as he is not mortal any longer; not living. Chris is not human now. He was a beautiful, young, and amazing human but now his humanity is in my heart, my memory, my pain. This is where he dwells now in me and those who knew and loved him. The pain of death is the pain of living. It is not optional but essential. The question remains, how shall we live in the essence of death?

Death is a zenith. It is where life disappears into the infinity of horizon. It is not the horror of hell or bliss of heaven. It is the gate of the infinite. Mortality cannot pass through its gate. The absolute fluidity of this universe breaks upon the shores of death in which there is no return. Does death start where it began as if some universal law of physics requires it to do so?

What we know of physics is that there is a vast multitude of possible and actual physics. The laws of physics in our current universe are themselves a zenith of time and place. The ‘laws’ are an invention of circumstance. According to physicists, they were radically different at the beginning. If not for slightly more matter than antimatter after the ‘big bang’ or the ‘big bounce’ we would not be here at all. As to the question of what’s ‘outside’ the universe we are told two things: 1) Outside is a conventional notion we have derived from this time, this space, this circumstance and says nothing about this mythical notion of an outside to the universe, 2) If there are other universes, they have radically different physics. They would have absolutely no necessity placed on them to mimic our space/time physics in this singular moment of our circumstance.

So, this tells us that even this moment we call ‘life’ is itself a zenith caught on the brink of infinity. We stare infinity in the face every moment of our existence and found or are found by language as history to pacify our delusions of security as we draw in the breath of ‘I’. We forget the boundless ocean of eternity we stand on the shores of. We rationalize and sanctify and flee in the face of this awe and beauty and wonder which is the essence which can no longer be thought as ‘essence’. There is no ground beneath our feet only instantaneous, massless ‘particles’ better thought as infinitesimal force fields which pop in and out of existence and declare, “I am”. What we need in the face of eternity is perspective not absolute determinations.

We breath ‘we’ in this eternity of temporality. Sure, we have individual bodies which are really a communion of organism, cells, molecules, atoms, infinitesimals popping in and out of existence but somehow organizing themselves as an illusion of a whole, a body, my body. We communicate with language which we did not invent but in some undeciphered way acquired from a history we never knew or experienced. ‘Understanding’ is not a something but an acquisition of a ‘not me’, a gift given without merit or even existence as ‘mine’. We think ‘me’ from ‘we’. The ‘me’ that protests, that complains, that judges is a construction of the ‘we’ of language which speaks and has spoken and will speak with and without me, my existence. In all our languages we face plurality of other languages. Not just human but also animal languages, plant languages (actual science behind this). Existence is language. It is communication. It is the physics of interaction. It is the boundary conditions. It is the face. The face is not just a ‘presentation’, a presence. It is an absence of infinity which cannot present itself except as the boundary conditions of this moment, this interaction, this ‘idea’ of reality.

‘Idea’ informs us of notions which give reason, promise meaning, promotes sense and sensible. We even have the notion of ‘absolute’ which finds no home in infinity except as ‘idea’. What is more, ‘idea’ is what Hegel believes is all that faces us. There is no exterior ‘thing’ out there. The ‘thing’ is the idea. There is never a ‘thing’ without an idea. So, in Hegel’s estimation idea ‘is’ infinity and finite, it is ‘isness’. The face of which I spoke is the idea of face, nothing more, nothing less. For Hegel, the ‘notion’ exceeds other notions as being and nothingness and finds place as ‘Concept’. Concept is the embodiment of place, of divine, of me and us, of face. The other and the same cannot remain as they are but must be taken up by the necessity of self-consciousness. There is no self as a notion without an other as a counter notion. The same and the other are the necessity of a self, a me. Even the notion of space and time is a requirement of particularity. We must be a ‘we’ by necessity of Concept not by some exteriority which makes it so. For Hegel this does not do violence to the other as another person for example but requires us to look further into exactly what we are talking about and referring to; to fundamentally question the very fabric of isness and how Concept becomes the necessity of isness.

This leads us to choice. There is no way in my estimation to prove Hegel wrong. He may well be correct that Concept is essentially ‘is’. For Hegel this does not end in some kind of essential narcissism but in a foundation from any such thing as narcissism. Hegel is not bestowing sainthood on individualism and such notions as chest-beating ‘capitalism’. He is certainly providing a foundation for their existence, for existence itself, but not some modern right-wing notion of ultra-conservatism. In any case, there is a question Hegel poses which must be faced, a choice must be made.

I started this post with the notion of infinity. In due course, we have found that infinity and finitude may have and certainly, in some yet undetermined sense, has a basis in Concept but is that the end of the story (or perhaps another beginning)? Even if Hegel is correct, is there an ethical necessity placed on us to face the other, to face my son without Hegel’s face? Are we to abandon ourselves to the necessity of Concept and if so, how does that effect my orientation to the other, to the infinity of the face, to the requirement of my son’s life and living death which I must endure? Even more, what of the suffering of the other? How shall I face this lifetime of suffering which I must endure, my suffering and the suffering of the other? Should I find some kind of solace in the absolute fact of ‘Concept’? Should I think infinity as a necessary condition of finitude? Have I violated something other than my own biases and misunderstandings of Concept? Isn’t ethics just another requirement of Concept, of self-consciousness?

This is where choice determines eternity. I have no basis external to the requirements of self-consciousness for choosing an exteriority which cannot be thought only or more precisely determined by thought. I can choose to found self on Concept and call that ‘isness’. I probably have more reason to do so than not in Hegelian terms. I see many folks who use Hegel (and less intellectual achievements) as a kind of license to justify whatever they want to do to whomever they want to do it to. Perhaps, Hegel’s philosophy is not ready for mere mortals or vice versa. However, I do have to live in the face of the absolute, unsubstantiated abyss of existence. I have to wake up every day with my death, the death of my son, the death of innocence from bigotry, greed, injustice and I have to face it on an ongoing basis without any justification for why it must be so from Concept. In all this I must act and I must make choices not because I am that Concept but because I suffer and I am with those that suffer. My choice is to be self-determined or, without necessity, to heed the cry of the other.

To conclude, I would like to add a bit of speculation, highly speculative. We see in nature and physics (whether it is pure Concept or not) a return to regularity, order, instinct; to repetition in some degree. We did not proceed from Concept to birth but from nothingness (certainly with regard to consciousness) to birth. Somehow, I and we popped into existence. Is there a regularity in ‘popping into existence’? Perhaps, we don’t know. However, one thing we do know is that we did become but from what? We can call this Concept and satisfy the need for origin. However, I prefer to leave that to what Hesiod referred to as chaos (really the yawning gap). There is a gap of not knowing which we can choose to reserve. There is also the observation that phusis or physics, biology, ‘isness’ might like to repeat itself. We are gift standing from infinite abyss facing eternity with language and consciousness that is not our own. Who is to say that that gift cannot find repetition, increasing wisdom and another moment when what I did, how I acted in the face of the other; who is to say it is not the foundation for something I know not what…choose wisely.

Postscript from “A thought experiment…”

While I am not a Christian, I find ages of accumulated wisdom in many religious traditions which must be wrested out from the noise which history has encased within these traditions. While I certainly do not ascribe to the effectively cliche metaphysical positions which have dominated these traditions, I do find the historic play of metaphysics can embody allegorical dramas which has the possibility to bring a kind of clarity from the dust bins of dystopic ages past.

One of the more interesting and intentionally playful metaphysical musing was given to us by Friedrich Nietzsche most notably in his work, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. Within the backdrop of classic, Newtonian physics, Nietzsche reasons that since space and mater is limited and time is eternal all combinations of matter will eventually be repeated exactly as it was before. Effectively, this means every human life will always come again only to repeat itself in the exact same way for an infinite amount of time. Zarathustra called this the ‘Great Nausea”. By this he meant that it sickened human spirit to think such a metaphysical thought. However, Zarathustra’s insight was that this nausea held the possibility for affirming life as the ‘eternal recurrence of the same’. He thought this was the sign of an ascendant life as opposed to the decadent, sickened life of despair and the utter pitifulness of those who are forever condemned to take their extreme vengeance on life. In the case of Zarathustra, we can clearly see a kind of allegorical play with Metaphysics which can illustrate the philosophical underpinnings of Nietzsche’s thought. In this way, I would propose another metaphysics in a contrary direction as Nietzsche’s concern which has a more updated take on physics.

With the advent of relativity and quantum mechanics absolute time and space are no more. While physicists hate singularities and infinities, they are compelled at the current time to labor under these mathematical obscurities. Certainly, calculus is the mathematics of infinities and the peculiar formalities in which physics currently shows its dilemma (e.g., as converging and diverging infinite series, peculiarities of zero, etc.). What is more, physics has discovered that most of the universe is pervaded by an absolute mystery called dark matter and dark energy. We find that the fundamental building blocks of all mater is held together by quarks which pop in and out of existence, more like flavors of reality than reality itself. We are told that nothing can be smaller than a Planck size or the distance light travels in a perfect vacuum. A Planck is the absolute smallest possible unit of measurement which can have meaning (approximately 1.6 X 10 -35 m). And yet we are told that black holes can reduce the mass of a sun, billions of times larger than our sun, down to a singularity. What is more, we also have the peculiar dilemma which has yet to be disproven that intrigues many physicists that black holes may really be the other side of a ‘big bang’. So, even though we know meaning can only be thought in terms of Planck size we effectively are saying that universes can be created from what we think is a finite amount of matter in a huge sun. Universes have much more matter than one huge black hole. Our universe has many supermassive and known ultra-massive black holes in addition to all the other mass in our universe. So, if a black hole can create a universe with extreme orders of magnitudes more mass than the mass of its collapsed star – even more so, according to Einstein’s physics, the infinite mass of a singularity, we have a huge amount of mass in the new universe which can have no meaning according to the notion of a Planck size. What shows itself here is that our idea of meaning is more convention than ‘meaning’. Furthermore, to suggest as some physicists do that there may be infinite universes, makes Nietzsche’s metaphysics outdated and a bit moldy. That is why I would like to propose a counter metaphysics which has more affinity with the present.

Instead of a finite amount of matter given over to the infinite amount of time producing eternal recurrence of the same. Perhaps the singularity of Heraclitus’ river which can never be stepped in twice is more apropos. Nothing is ever repeated in exactly the same way. There can by rhymes but not repetitions. If the metaphysical notion of the soul has a rhyme, may it be in the notion of a one without another which nevertheless cannot remain in absolute obscurity but must affirm an Other, the other. A singularity cannot remain shrouded in absolute meaninglessness but must rise again to affirm the other, not the same which is fundamentally meaningless. Instead of the assertion of power and might, of absolute Spirit, perhaps the weakest confounds the strongest. The weakest not condemned to utter despair and vengeance but opened upon the possibility of others. The decision that spirit cannot remain in absolute certitude of itself but must Decide that others, that other, is built into the cry of despair and emptiness. Instead of perpetual and eternal vengeance we have the ‘meek inheriting the earth’. Why? Because they cannot stand in the allusion of grandeur, of mastery and self-subsistence, ‘self-substance’ which makes no sense. The other is not the multiplication of the same, it is the opening onto the ‘tree of life’, that which makes possible any such erroneous notion as the same. Meaning as convention fails to be what it aspires to, what it asserts itself as. Only in the Decision of choice, Ethics, can obscurity rouse itself from its eternal slumbers in welcoming the Other, the stranger, the he and the she.

Whimsically, can I also suggest that in order to rise from the dead as the God, mythically spoken of in the last post (“A thought experiment…”), could it be that every obscure singularity must through many universes and worlds ultimately become a ‘Jesus’ and die for the world, the Other, eternal Agape?

All life and death and elsewise must forever be in its singularity, its moment which can never be altered. Even more I, as a rhyme of singularity, must ultimately take upon myself the sins of the world, missing the mark, such that I become sin meaning that I am Responsible and held to account for the suffering of the Other…just saying…

Philosophy Series 7

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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Philosophy Series 7

Eros1

If Eros is anything, he is not rational. Eros does not come in the Form of idea. Eros is between presence and absence, life and death, light and darkness. A later Greek myth portrayed Eros as the son of Aphrodite (the Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and pro-creation) and Hermes. Hermes (where we get hermeneutics), the god of speech and dialog which, like Eros, was able to go between worlds as a messenger. The question of Eros’ progeny is contradictory in Greek myth:

1) In Hesiod’s account Eros is not born…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

2) In Aristophanes account, given by Aristotle, Eros is born…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 tempest2

3) In Aristotle Eros is the first of all the Gods……Those thinkers, then, who held this view assumed a principle in things which is the cause of beauty, and the sort of cause by which motion is communicated to things. It might be inferred that the first person to consider this question was Hesiod, or indeed anyone else who assumed Love or Desire as a first principle in things; e.g. Parmenides. For he says, where he is describing the creation of the universe, “Love she created first of all the gods . . .” [Parmenides Fr. 13 Diels] And Hesiod says, ” First of all things was Chaos made, and then/Broad-bosomed Earth . . .And Love, the foremost of immortal beings,” thus implying that there must be in the world some cause to move things and combine them.3

4) In the Orphic Hymn 5 Eros is first born…O Mighty first-begotten [Protogonos, first born Eros], hear my pray’r, two-fold, egg-born, and wand’ring thro’ the air,4

5) In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates recounting parts of Phaedrus’ speech, Eros is born (“notably in his birth”) but has no parents (“parents of love there are none”)…First then, as I said, he told me that the speech of Phaedrus began with points of this sort—that Love was a great god, among men and gods a marvel; and this appeared in many ways, but notably in his birth. “Of the most venerable are the honors of this god, and the proof of it is this: parents of Love there are none, nor are any recorded in either prose or verse. Hesiod says that Chaos came first into being—”and thereafter rose Broad-breasted Earth, sure seat of all for aye, And Love.” Acusilaus also agrees with Hesiod, saying that after Chaos were born these two, Earth and Love. Parmenides says of Birth that she “invented Love before all other gods.” “Thus Love is by various authorities allowed to be of most venerable standing; and as most venerable, he is the cause of all our highest blessings…

Eros is portrayed as unborn, the first and oldest of the Gods, the youngest of the Gods, having parents, not having parents. This kind of thing is perhaps not unusual in Greek mythology but it does underscore both the importance of Eros and a certain erratic, a-rational acceptance of love even in a time of critical examination of phusis and philosophy.

Later in Plato’s Symposium, Socrates asks Diotima, a female philosopher, “What is love”? She replies:

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.5

Diotima says that love is between mortals and immortals (202d). Diotima is not suggesting that love (Eros) is a substance or thing in the middle of two other substances or between the ideas of mortal and immortal as modernity might think it. Diotima thinks of Eros as thematically unresolved, as neither “one or the other” (Hegel), indeterminate AND yet, somehow, differentiated as a ‘mean between’ mortal and immortal. The ‘mean between’ is μεταξύ or in the midst.6 The ‘mean between’ is not a substratum derived from mortal and immortal or mathematical middle but in the midst of mortal and immortal. Diotima is not giving us a principle or an idea or form but an existential of sensation and affect, a simple experience even “a child may answer” of openness to sensation and affect which has not yet congealed into idea and form but interrupts us in the midst of, lived life, mortal and immortal. The congealing of a subject or ego between two intentional objects (as mortal and immortal), has not yet happened in Diotima’s fragile thought.

For Hesiod, Eros has an odd similarity to chaos in that both are differentiated and indeterminate, as not one or the other, and both are without paternity. Yet for Eros, “but then afterwards” indicates a doubling, a between and in the midst of determinate and indeterminate. Eros is unborn but the God of progeny. Eros is differentiation which faces us before factual determinations, the gap or void that is not genetically conjoined to chaos; “but then afterwards’ earth, Tartara and Eros are determinate.

In contrast to the Theogony, Diotima speaks of Eros’ “father’s nature” as neither mortal or immortal, alive and flourishing at one moment and dead at another. The riddle which Diotima speaks is how love is bounded and unbounded, alive as with origin (genitive) and dead as non-being without origin (an-archic) in moments with no apparent causal relation. The ‘between’ is not a polar relation but a ‘in the midst’. The beauty of love is erratic, erotic, always (ἀεί, aei; throughout time) flowing in existence and thus, always flowing out of existence. Note the difference in Hesiod and Diotima: Diotima wants to think love as in the midst as a middle way while Hesiod thinks love in myth and poetry as Eros who is both genitive (γενετ᾽, genet’) and yet unborn, an-archic (without prior geneology).

Eros, himself, is desire which cannot be satisfied, a yearning which is no mere semantic disjunction but a doubling of the disjunction we already found in chaos and origin. Here chaos is not merely a gap, as if a neutral phenomena of the modern notion of physics, but indefinite in its refusal of mere semantics or neutrality. This doubling reminds us that the chaos of Hesiod’s cosmogony should not easily be type cast as non-human, a neutral ‘thing’. Eros as a archê-trace of chaos is not simple need or want. Eros is not a sensation such as hunger which can be satisfied by eating. As desire, Eros is like what Levinas calls “metaphysical desire”,

The other metaphysically desired is not “other” like the bread I eat, the land in which I dwell, the landscape I contemplate, like, sometimes, myself for myself, this “I,” that “other.” I can “feed” on these realities and to a very great extent satisfy myself, as though I had simply been lacking them. Their alterity is thereby reabsorbed into my own identity as a thinker or a possessor. The metaphysical desire tends toward something else entirely, toward the absolutely other. The customary analysis of desire can not explain away its singular pretension. As commonly interpreted need would be at the basis of desire; desire would characterize a being indigent and incomplete or fallen from its past grandeur. It would coincide with the consciousness of what has been lost; it would be essentially a nostalgia, a longing for return. But thus it would not even suspect what the veritably other is. The metaphysical desire does not long to return, for it is desire for a land not of our birth, for a land foreign to every nature, which has not been our fatherland and to which we shall never betake ourselves. The metaphysical desire does not rest upon any prior kinship. It is a desire that can not be satisfied. For we speak lightly of desires satisfied, or of sexual needs, or even of moral and religious needs. Love itself is thus taken to be the satisfaction of a sublime hunger. If this language is possible it is because most of our desires and love too are not pure. The desires one can satisfy resemble metaphysical desire only in the deceptions of satisfaction or in the exasperation of non-satisfaction and desire which constitutes voluptuosity itself. The metaphysical desire has another intention; it desires beyond everything that can simply complete it. It is like goodness—the Desired does not fulfill it, but deepens it.7

Satisfaction of need does not tame Eros. Desire does not lend itself to light (and its darkness), to a goal or horizon. It is not an Idea that calls us in desire. Certainly the erotic is a kind of doubling of desire and need. The caress from the lover both satisfies and interrupts satisfaction. The loving touch from the other increases satisfaction while withdrawing from fulfillment. When sexual intimacy is over we are only left with ourselves not the other desired. The other is not captured by satisfaction but becomes more elusive in the impossibility of final resolution. Eros pops in and out of existence without regard to reason and spatio-temporal limits. The face of the beloved overflows my satisfaction as infinity overflows my idea of it. I cannot over power the beloved and subsume him or her8. I am powerless to dominate and control her or him. The erotic caress of love deepens hunger for the beloved which cannot be satisfied once and for all because this hunger knows not what it longs for. There is no ‘idea’ of Eros. There is touch, interruption, his or her face in proximity but not close, not enclosed, or brought near. When Eros is most near, Eros most recedes. Eros cannot be tamed by idea, rationality or sanity. Eros touches but cannot be touched. In the simple sensation of existence, as opposed to the thought of existence, Eros caresses with interruption, with infinity, which deepens desire for we know not what. The outside and the inside are metaphors which fail the radical encounter with infinity in the simple encounter with the face of the other.

In Eros we can begin to understand that classic Greek thinking is not merely the transition from mythos to logos. The Greeks understood and puzzled deeply over emotion, simple sensations, love, concern, affection, sexual intimacy. When they thought of privation, withdrawal, infinite deeps of Darkness and deep Abyss with dark Chaos they assumed Love or Desire as a first principle in things. The distance with which much of modern scholarship has approached classic antiquity reflects more on the ‘transformation of the interpretation’ than the infinite proximity of the texts which remain and in doing so has denied the excess of proximity to origin, my origin and the chaotic gap, the disruption of origin (which in nowise should be leveled off into mere neutrality, il y a).

Philosophy Series 8 – Thales 

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1 Love is a concept that has thoroughly confused philosophers for ages. For philosophers, Hegel is much easier to comprehend than love. The Greeks reflection on love confused us from the beginning by compounding love into loves. The four words for love in ancient Geek were: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē.

Agápe (ἀγάπη) is unconditional love. It has been used to refer to the love of a parent for a child or for a spouse. It was used in Christianity for the ‘love’ of God.

Éros (ἔρως) is passionate love. It is sensual desire or longing. It does not have to be erotic love. According to Plato it can initially be a feeling but it can also see beauty in a person. It can also go beyond that to the appreciation of beauty itself. Éros helps the soul recall the knowledge of beauty. It also helps us understand spiritual truth. Sensually-based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. Lovers and philosophers seek truth through éros. For Plato éros is the ideal form of youthful beauty. For the Greeks, éros leads to the uncreated, the lack of origin and genealogy.

Philía (φιλία) is friendship. It can also be affection. Aristotle thought philía was dispassionate virtuous love. It demonstrates loyalty.

Storgē (στοργή) means affection. It is the natural affection in family.

2 Aristoph. Birds 695, See Link

3 Aristot. Met. 1.984b, See Link

4 Orphic Hymns 5, V. TO PROTOGONUS, or the FIRST-BORN, See Link

5 Plat. Sym. 204b; See full text Symposium, Plato; Also, this;

6 See Link

7 Totality and Infinity, Emmanuel Levinas, Duquesne University Press, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1961, page 33-34

8 Levinas has been criticized by some feminists for his use of the feminine. He has also been defended by other feminists for his use of the term. I understand and abhor the history of violence which thinks binaries of masculine and feminine, domination and submission. This subtle encoding as restricted economy has resulted in violence and silencing of the feminine. My personal view is that these binaries have been totalized as history just as the ‘loving God’ has been the God of vengeance and war. Once history has redefined love as acts of hate or the feminine as opposite active, virility, light and idea, the feminine is relegated to passive, receptacle, silence, utility and both binaries totalize without excess. This is not what Levinas intends. When Levinas writes of reconstituting metaphysics he simultaneously acknowledges the history of totalizing in metaphysics. Levinas wants to awaken the radical alterity of the other not reduce it to the same. In the face of the other we are “the passivity more passive still than any passivity”. We do not face the other in symmetry but in asymmetry, a non-reciprocal interruption not a symmetrical, reciprocal relationship of mediation, of idea. For Levinas the feminine marks this non-reciprocity, this utter passivity in the face of the infinite other which can only interrupt our ‘ontologies’ of the face, our violent efforts to replace the other with simulacrum, facsimile, metaphor and idea. Any attempt to silence this direction in the thought of Levinas regarding the feminine would have to take leave or find an ‘excess’ to Levinas’ thought that would lead to yet another binary, an unintended opposite, in the ‘margin of the text’ which would reaffirm violence and set the stage for any deconstruction of alterity, excess, and infinity. In Levinas’ this act of neutralization would be the incessant buzz of the il y a, the ‘there is’ which is the evitable graveyard of ontology where idea levels off and mediates the other into ghosts, the virility of death as authenticity or absolute idea, and ‘singularity’, ‘alterity’, ‘other’ become merely signs in [infinte] relation to signifiers in a general economy. The face of the other as Levinas intends is merely re-appropriated into the same, the violence of the same, the symmetry of totality. While the notion of the feminine in Levinas has been criticized along these lines, it seems to me that this merely underscores the importance of Decision regarding Ethics. Each has to decide if ‘there is’ dominates or if my freedom finds limits in the radical alterity of the face of the other.

God and Other

Since, as humans, we are composed of atoms and star dust it may be that we have a bare hunch, a non-specific intuition, about the limit of time and space, the end of reason, perhaps as Heidegger might suggest, death as the possibility of the absolute impossibility of me. The notion of me as limited gives way to a kind of feeling of existential suspension, of an ‘other’ to me, to mine, to all. Let’s suppose that this feeling or vague awareness provides a sort of blank field for humans, a tabula rasa, that calls for content, a projection onto nothingness. For some that content could be God. For others it could simply be natural end. For others it could be angst. In any case, this field lends itself to a kind of volitional creation, Desire for the eternal, filling the gap, personal responsibility for one’s ultimate meaning. Faith, as thought by the religious person, might be the positive projection in this void that wishes to hope in their notion of absolute meaning as eternal life, the Good, perfection, love, etc. In any case, the ability to project without any basis, any logic, and any rationality certainly opens the way for error and the inability to be able to understand, to know with absolute certainty, to know that we do not know; yet, to live in this projection as if it is. This is a hypothetical that gathers up more than just logic or truth propositions but essential meaning. However, another aspect of this personal dynamic is how it works for communities, how we are as together with others. A fundamental transformation from the personal to the communal takes place that displaces the personal projection into this active nothingness. A kind of attributed certainty that is not felt in the strict personal Desire acquires a kind of momentum of its own that displaces the bare standing before one’s end. This certainty with others is a kind of diversion from the bare me, the recognition of the not-me…the other. The feeling of the question of essential meaning gets filled in with an answer, a Logic. Even if the Logic addresses existential Desire, it can lose the impact that is rooted in my inability to be able to finally ground me, to identify apodictically with absolute certainty. This homelessness cannot be overcome with Logic but always remains a gap. In this gap the face of the other is brought back once more without my certainties, my schemes, my logic. For Emmanuel Levinas this is what opens up, each time, the possibility for Ethics.

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

Thoughts of Dread

Re-reading Blanchot’s essay “From Dread to Language” and thinking of Kierkegaard’s concept of Dread there is a feeling I have of self-obsession.  Dread is the ultimate solipsism.  Exteriority abandons oneself in Dread and leaves one in a state of irrecoverable and unsalvageable narcissism.  The impending doom of an absolute immediate moment that cannot be intervened, mediated away and requires the blank death-like stare of Medusa’s face.  Nothing can emerge from Dread and nothing can escape its orbit.  Its event horizon refuses meaning, love, concern…otherness.  It encapsulates and seals in tomb-like devotion.  It is the mark of Death.  Life requires that one escapes and flees in the face of Dread; that one is not swallowed into its catacombs.  In Dread, life dreams. In the face of Dread, life requires awareness, movement away-from, emersion in otherness. 

Dread, while incapable of exteriority, mimics absolute exteriority.  It is as if the gaze of Dread paralyzes and stupefies while only bare consciousness is imprisoned in concretized death.  The eyes cannot even blink only behold the site of Dread in emptiness.  When life is encapsulated in death movement is always from without.  As a marionette, movement is hollow and initiated as pure externality.  When inwardness is raised to the infinite in Dread its absolute emptiness is exposed, raw and abysmally hollow.  The result of absolute inwardness is absolute exteriority, mechanical, Frankenstein-like.  It is the tornado-like act of god that can only consume itself, without ever knowing an end, as pure dread.  Dread is all and in all, unabashed and without form.  Form is the refuge life would take in the face of Dread.  Form flees from formlessness.  Life must always rise from the bog of Dread.  The moment of mechanical exteriority must create a silhouette, a form.  Thus language, meaning and sense must usher one from the gaze of Dread.   The escape must create world, history…a shadow of the mechanical exteriority that faces it.  In this then is the interlocutor, the mediation…the drunkenness of oblivion. 

Oblivion here is not abstract extinction.  It is release from ill y a, the meaningless background noise of existence.  It is the moment of breath, the sacrament of defilement.  It raises the exteriority imposed by Dread into a false god, a simulacrum of its tormentor.  In this way life can ‘face’ Dread, get a handle on it, and make it other than what it is…bare ‘isness’.  With this then is the third person.

The third person is the narrator, the voice of god, the chorus of tragedy.  The third person is not a he or a she but an ‘it’.  It is the oracle that gathers and holds.  It sanctifies by stealing away the moment of Dread.  It is the neuter, the thing.  It truncates the absolute emptiness of dread into an abject object.  As ‘suchness’, the thing resonates and glimmers in effervescent release.   Life therefore becomes the retreat from the stymied death of Dread.

In all this a map is traced of syntax and semantic, infinite orthogonality…the trace the can never be untied from the knot of existence.  It can only be reaffirmed in its obscurity.  This then is oblivion. 

At this point Levinas might take a turn.  Could it be that the gazes of Dread is none other than the face of the other.  The other not as something I know or am familiar with but as the puppeteer the marionette can never know, shed light on, see and perceive.  Why must Dread get its birth from nothingness and self-petrifaction?  If Levinas is right, the absolute alterity of the other that can never be ‘mine’ or even recuperable as in ‘my’ time, a temporal ecstasies, take on the truncated form of a thing, can make Dread the expression of absolute impotency, infinitely more passive than passivity.   The negativity of form yet rests on form.  However, the notion of alterity that Levinas may be hinting at may only show itself as an unnoticed breeze through autumn’s fall, the sadness of my love’s passing, a ghostly clearing in the wood where sun-filled rays go unnoticed.  In the excess, the abundance of this alterity a glimmer of grace eclipses the gaze of Dread, a still small voice that easily goes unnoticed plays around the moment of death…and children play while Dread takes its last breath.

Another Start? (Updated 3/28/11, comments)

Why must Hegel’s Logic start with freedom? Freedom is not presupposition-less. Freedom means free. Free assumes a move away, a compulsion for dunamis; not dunamis for the sake of dunamis but dunamis as repulsion or attraction. Hegel thinks freedom as immediacy, ‘isness’. Because of freedom, immediacy wants what ‘isness’ isn’t – mediation. Two terms have appeared: freedom, ‘isness’ (immediacy). These two work together to lose themselves, objectify, mediate. ‘Isness’ is a rootedness, a dwelling, a place. As Kant’s monistic subject, we have place, immediacy. Immediacy may be boundless or bounded but it assumes locality and awareness of locality. It is easy to see how things proceed from this ‘there’, the ‘there’ of immediacy. In any case, assumptions are made about ‘isness’ (i.e., ‘isness’ must be free of itself). Since we make this assumption at the start, why not another? Instead of freedom, why not evocation? Instead of ‘isness’, why not other? Why can’t ‘isness’ presuppose other, the evocative that evokes ‘isness’? Why can’t evocation call ‘isness’ to immediacy? Why couldn’t freedom be a misunderstanding of evocation, dunamis from evocation? Certainly immediacy ‘is’ and as such, a start. However, this start may carry with it its logos. Its arche is certainly self-determination, itself. Could self-determination be an assumption given as a determination of immediacy? Are there other determinations that could be made? Would another direction, a logos, be possible from an other determination? Certainly an other does not appear in immediacy but how could it (and still be other in Levinas’ sense)? What determinations could be sustained if immediacy is ‘isness’ or ‘otherness’? Certainly ‘isness’ comes from nothing other than itself in its “pure immediacy” but “nothing other than itself” is already a tautological identity based on the “nothing other”. “Pure immediacy” absolutely negates other. Within this arche the other must fall out as mediated, as ad hoc from immediacy. Immediacy is pure negation. All its conditions reside in itself and thus, fail. Is this what is called ‘freedom’ or the impetus for freedom? What if all the conditions for immediacy reside in the other and ‘isness’ is called to be from what it isn’t? Is this a presupposition or another initial determination? Why presuppose a self-determination based on a ‘sense’ of immediacy? Is this automatically apparent, aprioir, assumed without self-criticism? If the Hegelian start is made by assuming that immediacy is self-determined, feels empty of other, then a decision, a determination, in kairos has been made. It may be that the moment of kairos, thought as immediacy, holds other options that require a very different ‘working out’, another start.

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9/10/10

Does the reification of the immediate reflect a certain kind of privileged, existentiell ‘there’ of being? Isn’t the start of Hegel a certain kind of mode of dasein’s being-in-the-world? Isn’t it when dasein is introspective, aware of nothing other than his or her own stark existence? Immediacy as discussed by Hegel occurs when no one is around, when one is intensely focused on oneself, and dasein is isolated from others. I suppose one could maintain that this stark, isolated, existentiell modality is ‘always’ there in some sense but that is a bit of a stretch.(1) Could it be that this thought is a ‘scientific’ assertion (doxa) of how dasein really is? When dasein is with others (mitsein) the ‘there’ is not dominated by hermetic and hermeneutic isolation (unless one is depressed). In everyday interaction with others, attending plays or sports events and perhaps watching a live entertainment broadcast, dasein is immersed in a kind of shared moment, a communal ‘now’, with others. Ontically, the “I” does not show itself but the “we”. The “I” does not dominate existentielly. The experience is not like anxiety where beings withdraw or instrumentality where dasein is engaged in work and not over and above him/herself. The experience is of a kind of shared ‘I’, a ‘we’, with others, the ‘now’ moment (immediacy) is not mine but ours. It seems to me that the kind of privileged (the beginning of the Logic?) and self-absorbed immediacy of Hegel is reified over and against the other ways that dasein ontically is in-the-world. What is the self-critical justification for this start? Is this a tradition brought about by the hermetic environment of academia? It seems to me that Hegel assumes immediacy is the moment of moments that all other moments get their oxygen from at least in the rarified atmosphere of academia. Has anyone ever even questioned this specifically? Probably but I am not currently aware of it. It seems to me that the start determines the path and the end. Why this start and not another? Is Hegel’s start supposed to be self-evident? (2)

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Notes:

(1) A thought…could the immediacy of Hegel have something in common with the concept of dread in Kierkegaard?

(2) It seems to me, this is yet another example of the sophistry that enters philosophy when philosophers become ‘professional’ and are paid for their ‘career’. It conglomerates and congeals, stupefies and specializes into a lifetime of having a financial stake in the game of apologetics. Sadly, I have seen it ruin the love of philosophy in several people. Could it be argued that this is one example of the alienation that Marx thinks is capitalism?

Responsibility and The Goods

In the light of multiple narratives that run through the notion of the good, responsibility takes on different necessities.  In Patocka’s notion of orgiastic and Kierkegaard’s notion of hedonism, responsibility is defined in terms of service to self.  Responsibility is not imposed externally but driven by needs.  It adheres to no logic or nothing greater than itself. 

In Plato, the Good is ascertained by logos as the apprehension of the Forms, later into Christianity’s res cogitans of Latin, and modern logic as thing-cognition.  The shadow world of mere passion is not informed by the Good, the true, the real beyond mere appearance.  In Plato a shift to cognition achieves two goals.  It moves responsibility to a more subtle footing of thought, a move towards the internal.  It also has the effect of moving responsibility outside, external, to the mere immediate desires of the self.  This double move of internal and external is the beginning of logic.  As Derrida points out in “The Gift of Death”, this is still the orgiastic. 

The orgiastic is no longer thought in terms of overt passion or need but the organ of cognition is essentially involved in the knowledge of the Good.  A connection to the Good has moved from sensation to apprehension.  Apprehension is towards the alterity of the Forms.  Its movement is towards externality while maintaining its internal locus in thought-feelings.  For Patocka and Derrida this is still orgiastic albeit the beginning of the movement of secret.  As such, it is also the step towards preservation of sanity as Foucault envisions it.  The sane is common to many selves.  It is constancy of purpose; as Nietzsche thinks of it, the freezing of the greatness of the Greeks into logic. 

Responsibility begins with Plato as beyond me, directed towards the Forms.  The Good is beyond being but places a burden on being to rouse itself (themselves) in apprehension.  Each being is responsible before the evocation of the Good whether he or she knows it or not.  The cave of shadows holds prisoners in chains to illusion while outside the cave the sun of the Good shines upon the prison of being.  Plato states this in the Republic,

You and I must first come to an understanding. Let me remind you of what I have mentioned in the course of this discussion, and at many other times.

What?

The old story, that there is many a beautiful and many a good, and so of other things which we describe and define; to all of them the term “many” is implied.

True, he said.

And there is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of other things to which the term “many” is applied there is an absolute; for they may be brought under a single idea, which is called the essence of each.

Very true.

The many, as we say, are seen but not known, and the ideas are known but not seen.

Exactly.

And what is the organ with which we see the visible things?

The sight, he said.

And with the hearing, I said, we hear, and with the other senses perceive the other objects of sense?

True.

But have you remarked that sight is by far the most costly and complex piece of workmanship which the artificer of the senses ever contrived?

No, I never have, he said.

Then reflect: has the ear or voice need of any third or additional nature in order that the one may be able to hear and the other to be heard?

Nothing of the sort.

No, indeed, I replied; and the same is true of most, if not all, the other senses — you would not say that any of them requires such an addition?

Certainly not.

But you see that without the addition of some other nature there is no seeing or being seen?

How do you mean?

Sight being, as I conceive, in the eyes, and he who has eyes wanting to see; color being also present in them, still unless there be a third nature specially adapted to the purpose, the owner of the eyes will see nothing and the colors will be invisible.

Of what nature are you speaking?

Of that which you term light, I replied.

True, he said.

Noble, then, is the bond which links together sight and visibility, and great beyond other bonds by no small difference of nature; for light is their bond, and light is no ignoble thing?

Nay, he said, the reverse of ignoble.

And which, I said, of the gods in heaven would you say was the lord of this element? Whose is that light which makes the eye to see perfectly and the visible to appear?

You mean the sun, as you and all mankind say.

May not the relation of sight to this deity be described as follows?

How?

Neither sight nor the eye in which sight resides is the sun?

No.

Yet of all the organs of sense the eye is the most like the sun?

By far the most like.

And the power which the eye possesses is a sort of effluence which is dispensed from the sun?

Exactly.

Then the sun is not sight, but the author of sight who is recognized by sight?

True, he said.

And this is he whom I call the child of the good, whom the good begat in his own likeness, to be in the visible world, in relation to sight and the things of sight, what the good is in the intellectual world in relation to mind and the things of mind:

 

Will you be a little more explicit? he said.

Why, you know, I said, that the eyes, when a person directs them toward objects on which the light of day is no longer shining, but the moon and stars only, see dimly, and are nearly blind; they seem to have no clearness of vision in them?

Very true.

But when they are directed toward objects on which the sun shines, they see clearly and there is sight in them?

Certainly.

And the soul is like the eye: when resting upon that on which truth and being shine, the soul perceives and understands, and is radiant with intelligence; but when turned toward the twilight of becoming and perishing, then she has opinion only, and goes blinking about, and is first of one opinion and then of another, and seems to have no intelligence?

Just so.

Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honor yet higher.

What a wonder of beauty that must be, he said, which is the author of science and truth, and yet surpasses them in beauty; for you surely cannot mean to say that pleasure is the good?

God forbid, I replied; but may I ask you to consider the image in another point of view?

In what point of view?

You would say, would you not? that the sun is not only the author of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and growth, though he himself is not generation?

Certainly.

In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.

— Plato, Republic 507b-508d

In this discussion Plato begins the tradition of light as a metaphor.  The metaphor of light and sight lets us see the manifold, the many, objects of sense.  In like manner the mind and knowledge is given by the Good.  It allows us access to being and essence, the oneness that holds the many of sensation.  And yet, the Good is beyond mind and knowledge just as the sun is beyond sight and light.  In Plato, the distinction between sensation as sight and knowledge as being and essence is preserved in the metaphor.  Sight and light are not the same as mind and knowledge but inform us about how being and essence are like the sun in relation to the Good.  Plato distinguishes between sensations and mind and this begins the going under of being and essence.  Metaphysics has seemingly lost its chains to its shadow world and freed itself (ourselves) from mutability and change.  The mortal has tasted immortality and responsibility is borne on these wings.  The separation of thought from sensation makes logic possible.  Logic, the logos of being, guides and gives rise to being and essence. 

In Christianity John states, “In the beginning was the word (logos) and the word was with God and the word was God.”  John 1:1.  Jesus states that “no one is good but God alone”.  Mark 10:18.  Isaiah states in Isaiah 64:6 that “your righteousness is as filthy rags” (menstrual rags).  In Christianity the Good is emancipated from being and essence.  Here the Good has become a tautology for God.  The Good and God are equivalent as A = A and being is thought in terms of B.  In this move the secret has become the will of God for Abraham to sacrifice his son.  Ethics has become murder, responsibility has become secret…the will of God.  God and the Good are not beholden to man and apprehension.  A tautology owes no allegiance to contingency.  Logic has become absolute Spirit.  Neutrality has been placed beyond the reach of man and the command of it is the mysterium tremendum, the tremendous mystery (God).  Abraham obeys the will of God over and above his love of Isaac.  From an ethical point of view “Thou Shalt Not Hate” and “Thou Shalt Not Murder”  have been subordinated to the will of God.  Abraham must hate his life to find it.  He must hate his son and murder him for the sake of God.  In the face of the singularity of tautology hate and love have become one.  Responsibility has gone under in the force of secret.  Will to power and will of God have orgiastically merged in an unseen incestuous relationship.  In this history science begins.

What was lost along the way was the openness towards alterity, the Judaic shekinah glory of God, the holy of holies that is preserved in the separation of the people and God that is mediated by the high priest once a year.  The graven image of god is idolatry.  The itness of tautology as the culmination of logic and the great divorce of man and God has come full circle to pre-Socratic, orgiastic hedonism.  Science as beyond being has made the question of being and the concern of philosophy mute.  Truth owes no allegiance to human kind and yet has become the tool of human kind while making human kind its tool.  Logic has completed itself in the external and internal, self-determination and “I willed it thus” and “now man has become like one of us” have completed themselves in the logic of tautology, the history of light, the System of Hegel.  The other has been reduced to a term of it.  The secret absolves responsibility into self.  The absolute external and the absolute internal are now the force of will, the logic of identity.  The he or she, the other, is a step along the way, a faint memory of mythos.  All the while, the neutrality of the secret that commands from down under has reemerged onto the orgiastic Dionysian rite of death.  Totality and tautology, the will of God has become will to power, the it of truth has replaced the he or she of the other and responsibility is the ‘said’ of “I willed it thus”…all the while, on the other side of the mote from the castle, the grass grows under our feet and violence effaces the face of the other.