Tag Archives: Responsibility

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.


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.


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?


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?


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


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?


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?


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?


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.