Metaphysics and Lived Reality

Is lived reality only another metaphysic? Possibly, as historic narrative would certainly be indicative of the victors of history as Nietzsche astutely observed. No one could argue that history, culture and language are not intricately enmeshed with metaphysics. I use the term ‘metaphysics’ here to indicate a certain Latin preoccupation with the mangling of ancient Greek philosophy. I have written extensively about this in other places on my blog. Anyway, the dynamic of post-modernism, deconstruction and logocentrism may be passe these days but that period does not stand alone. Art, architecture, philosophy, politics and religion to start, still echo this period of exhaustive examination. Nietzsche, Foucault, and Derrida in modernism is only a few who have latched on to this strain in 20th century philosophy.

However, I would suggest, along with Jean Baudrillard that where these ideas went wrong was in their seeming inoculation from the virus of yet another hyperreality which only confuscates the appearance of an other to the dynamic of a Derridian logocentrism. It seems to me that Baudrillard slips into a kind of totalizing skepticism, albeit he does seem to have the notion that somewhere in the beginning real values could be acquired from other than the interminable reproduction of synthetic realities. In any case, the notion of an absolute other has largely been extinguished in modern thinking…except, of course in Levinas. For Levinas, the metaphysics of ontology has been yet retaken up into a totalizing narrative of history. In so doing, the face of the Other has been taken as yet another kind of simulacrum. It seems to me that the modern notion we have received from Nietzsche and Baudrillard have yet again replicated this inability to resist absolute skepticism and therefore, totalitarianism. We are left in a vacuum of meaninglessness except for some kind of romantic, fictional over-man. Perhaps our only escape then is in pure fantasy, phantasma, Lacanian imaginary.

I beg to differ in that in lived life a line must be drawn if there is any hope for meaning. If meaning is only drawn from the bowels of absolute skepticism, it is self-contradictory. Absolute skepticism is the most insidious form of totalizing. It does not escape the critique of modernism; it only claims to find meaning in the suffocating value of meaninglessness. Lived life requires us to existentially pursue meaning as if it were possible. In not, then suicide as Gilles Deleuze showed us is our only possibility for authenticity. By ‘authenticity’ I do not mean Heidegger’s notion of authentic being in the world which once again raises the spire of thrown being from nothingness and the ‘fall’ into inauthenticity. In living life, the grand design illudes us in the everydayness of forging meaning into a sustaining value.

The philosophers of modernity may be correct, but one thing is for certain. If you make your bed you will have to lie in it. The ‘truth’ of daily life certainly has no other claim except contingency. Contingency cannot absolve itself in an ‘absolute’. However, it may find its only value in the notion of karma, reap what we sow. Values may not have any other basis, but the consequences of absolute skepticism come with hollow results. The results of illusions of power, grandeur of ego, the criminality of deception is not the making of good bedfellows. On the other hand, humility, benevolence, acceptance of fallibility and exertion towards concern for the other provide a basis which resist existential anxiety.

This is why I really like Levinas. He is not suggesting another kind of metaphysics which can only live up to the failed metaphysics of history. Levinas’ Other is not a meta of physics as physics taken up by 19th mechanism finds its ultimate resting place in the totalitarianism of skepticism, meaningless ships passing in the night. For Levinas, the infinity of the other is not a failure of physics in the mathematics of singularity, but rather; we know the choices we make can culminate in suicidal angst or a sense of purpose and meaning. In my way of thinking we all fashion our ‘soul abodes’ throughout all the presents of our lives. In this moment we build our life. There is no God or devil or evil other which is to blame for our moment-by-moment decisions. Resentment, anger, despair are only our bedfellows if we allow them to be. Perhaps Nietzsche’s Zarathustra longing that, of the past, I willed it thus, is not a result of heroic will but simply a lifetime of moments of daily decisions. Do we give way for there to be an infinite other than us or do we simply reappropriate everything into our ideological absolutes? The infinite other is a value and a choice. Concern, responsibility for the other, takes the other to heart. Our clever linguistic ways of reducing the other to yet another cog in the machine or simply an elucidation of what we already understand, or another drop in the ocean of nothingness ultimately result in who we become and how our end, our telos, resulting in the art of living or the agony of defeat. The Other cannot be proven to be infinitely other as the other cannot be yet just another thing. Ony a value decision can take hold of the other as absolutely NOT us. That is it. The results are in the living not substance, reality, absolutes, determinations which are cloaked in the garb of objectivity. There is no self-same way to the Other. It can only be a practice, an Ethics, a moment-by-moment decision to care, take responsibility for, the other, the sojourner, the poor, the abandoned. This is my, and our legacy. Nothing more.