An Interlude to Anaximander

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

An Interlude to Anaximander

Someone must have already stated this elsewhere so for lack of citation let me reiterate, there are many academics but few scholars. Scholars attain a breadth of mastery that few academics ever realize. Analogously, most folks are philosophers in one way or another but few find concrete paths from philosophy to existentia, actual existence. This why philosophers in modernity from existentialists to post-existentialism has focused philosophy on the concrete fact of death. Of course, death, itself, also holds the possibility for abstraction. This is why Heidegger, for example, is swift to frame death in terms of “my death”. Death is not just an end but in non-negotiable ways “my end”. When limit is thought in terms of ‘mineness’, something passionate and irreplaceable comes to the fore. Religions are also able to harness this ‘something’ in concrete displays of passion and ‘faith’. For Kierkegaard, faith is the absolute passion of existence. While academic philosophers, spurred on by the quest for recognition and therefore, economic reward, are goaded by the continuing requirement for sustenance, they are also pricked by the constraints of their specific traditions. Their freedom must end in the horizon of other’s genius. Thus, the academic is born. However, existence persists and places on each the necessity of an existential answer. However, this ‘answer’ takes form, as religion, science, morality or polis/political, denial, it must be responded to, existence therefore evokes. Evocation has long fascinated the phantasma of human imagination as magic, sorcery, desire, wish-fulfillment and even love.

In undertaking this philosophy series, I am continually facing the prospects of pure academia or existentialism. For me, philosophy dies in pure academia. Philosophy finds value and virtue in its fundamental evocation. Whenever philosophy becomes instantiated in ‘isness’ or perhaps as Levinas might sway us to, il ya, it can become obsession or insomniac. It loses a certain kind of weightiness, a certain kind of necessary ‘evocativeness’ is deferred. In the loss of limit, the bounds of ‘mineness’ can be displaced, and thus, the possibility for radical alterity. The ‘end’, this peras, was also noted by Anaximander and many before including Hesiod. Peras, simply translated as end or limit is only the beginning of its etymological intonations. The early Greeks as many archaic traditions recognized change, transition, mutation of form. The Ionians were fascinated with the notion that transitions were not magical apparitions, popping in and out of existence but had some substratum, some basis of mutability. Science and religion have been intrigued ever since. Anaximander, perceptively enough also echoing other archaic traditions thought of these limitations as intensified by re-occurrence of some sense of the same, the dissolution and reemergence of like forms. Iteration, when amplified infinitely by a notion of the same, persistence and unity through time, becomes a-peras (apeiron), the negation of limitation. It becomes intense, imposing, non-negotiable…existential as my being-towards-an-end which cannot grab hold of what this means. This inability to be able is cast without limit, without understanding in the midst of understanding. This type of overflowing itself could be thought as a beckoning of exteriority. This intensity thought in Greek terms is kairos. Kairos as the beckoning moment of answer, necessitates and requires, completion, finality, condensation, movement and action. As such, it is qualitative. It overflows itself as qualitative. In this moment, existence is borne and born.

The urgency and necessity of this evocation did not escape the keen observations of the Greeks. Nor has it yet escaped the gaze of science’s Orphic vision. Necessity is certainly embodied in biological evolution. Survival, as utmost, is dependent on successful adaptations. Could it be that habit as specific to an individual organism, the repetition of successfully completed iterations where ‘success’ is thought in terms of survival, of tarrying to the next iteration, can find some genetic bridge over successive generations of ritualistic practice into what we think as ‘instinct’. Can ‘instinct’ be ingested into DNA? Just as Nobel Prize winner Barbara Mcclintock found the cellular reflection of environment into itself as equally primordial to the cells’ internal structure, could it be that ‘adaptation’ is the innate struggle (polemus) of the internal and the external to come to stasis, to a temporal completion of ‘moment’ when neither impose its form on the other but mutually respond and co-habitat with the other. In genetic encoding then this moment becomes ‘physical’, ‘biological’ and ‘chemical’. It also becomes ‘physics’ as atomic or better sub-atomic.

In modern physics we have the notions of isolated, closed and open systems. Isolated systems can neither pass energy or matter. Closed systems can pass energy but not matter. Closed systems in classic mechanics would be considered an isolated system in thermodynamics. Isolated systems do not exist in actuality. Open systems can pass both energy and matter. In isolated physical systems we say that momentum is conserved. In an isolated system we can account for change, transition, mutation and thus energy is conserved. However, in an open systems we have a loss of accountability we call entropy that shows itself as error. The isolated system is thought yet again as the Hegelian dialectic of internal and external, the particular and the universal. The isolated system demonstrates a kind of respite, a cessation of strife, of the temporal tearing, incessant bubbling of sub-atomic particles, a transformation (aufhebung), where, what Hesiod termed, a ‘yawning gap’, chaos, subsides and the moment of archy, of origin, of birth, opens up genesis, genetics, genet’. This moment is a kind of equilateral-ism, congruency, a pause thought as stasis. Aristotle’s discussions of actuality (actualitas Latin, energeia Greek) or work as what persists and potential (potentia Latin, dunamis Greek) or possibility as what could be, find their stasis in motion or kinetic (kinesis) as the actuality of potentiality, as the persistence of possibility. Temporality and motion, known in Classic Greece, is conserved and preserved by persisting through time by limitation, by form. A temporal wholeness or completion as ousia, being, is evoked from apeiron, perhaps Hesiod’s ‘before the gods’ of chaos. Of necessity, this temporal pause to the incessant change of form, is first made possible by a terminus, a telos, a limit or boundary. The existential weight of evocation, the ‘must’ of action, cannot be ignored or denied without only re-affirming it. Any turning away is yet again a turning towards as the existential moment of existence must obey a call from without as a singularity, as a persisting form cast upon the void, the yawning gap.

The isolated system in physics is always a kind of existence creating moment. It is imposed by boundary and limit, arrangement and designation. However, closed systems, as the perfect triangle, are idealizations. Any isolated system in reality leak and absorb information in the larger context of an open system. Isolated systems in the real world are intrinsically and essentially effected by externality, they have entropy. Information cannot be completely recovered in an isolated system. Information must be truncated in the idealization of an isolated system. The loss is irretrievable in an isolated system context. Typically, the universe is thought in the motif of a closed system. A closed system universe could interact with other energies, perhaps from bubbling multi-verses or multi-dimensional factors but not with any ability to transfer mass. This then gives rise to a metaphysical question, is the notion of the absolute open, closed or isolated? Or, could it be that, the notion of the absolute is an iteration, a singularity, a tautology of a primordial limit in an isolated system context? Some might say this question, devoid of existential import, may as well ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

In modern physics, a singularity such as the infamous ‘black hole’ is a margin from the isolated system con-text. It is a parenthesis, a deferment until logos, understanding, can finally recover its enigma. Is information conserved or lost in a black hole? Has physics reached an absolute limit in a black hole? The black hole is a unity. It is not a solely a swarming buzz of sub-atomic particles popping in and out of existence. It is not a formless chaos. It is in stasis, driven by necessity to be, and yet it’s being is an absolute limit in a multitude of ways…more importantly, to understanding, the very possibility of understanding. Physics has in recent times brought to the fore more and more staggering limitations of itself with the ‘God Particle’, super-symmetry, multi-verses, higher order dimensions, dark matter and dark energy and brought with these, reflective questions of knowledge itself. Not that there is an alternative to knowledge but it has brought to the fore the necessity of knowledge and at the same time it’s absolute limit. Absolute limitation in physics mathematically become singularities. Singularities are nonsensical, Alice in Wonderland. While ‘bad science’ is thought to end in a proliferation of singularities, they cannot be ignored as they pose fundamental questions which defy ‘reality’, the light of, even the possibility of, knowledge and as such convey an unsettling existential angst.

Mass and energy are inextricably linked just as Aristotle’s thinking of actuality and potentiality are linked. Now with the proof of the Higgs Boson we have a particle ‘field’ whose origin appears in the first moments of the Big Bang which determines and necessitates mass. It transforms massless energy to relative degrees of stickiness, of clumping, of resistance, weightiness; mass. This boson imposes an ir-refusable limit to matter. Thus, the name ‘God Particle’.

The point of this divergence into modern phusis is to show that the import of ‘my death’ never achieves an ‘outside’. It can only converge in upon itself into a singularity. It cannot retain information without irretrievable loss. Even more so, we see this phenomena everywhere we look in phusis. This is the setting in essence of ancient Greek inquiry. The Greeks did not have the apathy of centuries of abstractions into being. They felt the import originally with other archaic cultures and the interruption of the raw gap, the chaos, not yet historically named but recognized in imposing enigma. They understood the transformations of forms as mutations of hot and cold, damp and dry, atom and void. They thought with resoluteness and determination the absolute connotations of limitation, of death, of knowledge. These differences could not easily rest in stasis as being and nothingness, self and other, as pure, self-determining Idea. These differences brought them to the abyss that looks back into our souls, beyond Dread to a gap, an otherness not captured by thought but intensified as the moment of dissolution and birth, of limit in which even light cannot penetrate or escape.1

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


1 The next installment in this series will probably take some more time for research and thought as the topic of Anaximander brings with it enormous scholarly attention and far reaching possibilities for departure. There may be more preliminary discussions before I really start with the textual, philological and canonical discussion.

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