Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bergson's intuition, James' cosmic consciousness, Eucken's superconscient

Sri Aurobindo
Professor Radhakrishnan is well-known as a perfectly competent philosophic critic and thinker and it is impossible to believe that anything he has written is, as this criticism [of Mr. J. B. Raju] constantly suggests, a mere mass of imbecile inconsequence. I gather that his offence is to have done exactly what he should have done, that is, to represent the thought of Tagore, - who is a poet and not a metaphysical dialectician but an intuitive seer, - as an intuitive whole: the dry-as-dust intellectual formalism of analysis demanded of him by his critic would have been in such a subject grotesquely out of place.
A still greater offence is that he has endorsed the poet's exaltation of the claims of intuition as superior, at least in a certain field, to those of the intellect. Mr. Raju seems to think that this claim consecrates "a mistaken and obsolete psychology", the "infatuation of a certain glamour which in the popular imagination hangs round the ancient words, mysticism and intuition". Mistaken, if you choose to think so; but obsolete?
What then are we to make of Bergson's intuition, James' cosmic consciousness, Eucken's superconscient, the remarkable trend towards mysticism of recent scientists, mathematicians, thinkers, the still more remarkable speculations of contemporary Russian philosophers? These men at least are not irresponsible poets or incompetent dupes of the imagination, but psychologists of the first rank and the most original contemporary thinkers in the philosophic field. Mr. Raju's defence of the claims of the reason is well enough written, but it is founded on contentions that once were commonplaces but are now very disputable assertions.
Indeed, if the most recent thought has any value, he is himself open to the retort of his own remark that he is the victim of a mistaken and obsolete psychology. Mr. Raju may be right, the modern psychologists and philosophers may be wrong, but the time has passed when the claims of intuition could be dismissed with this high, disdainful lightness. The subject, however, is too large to be touched at all within my present limits: I hope to return to it hereafter. Works Of Sri Aurobindo > The Hour Of God Volume-17 > Shama'a Page -320

Emerson or Schopenhauer or Nietzsche; Cousins and Schlegel

Sri Aurobindo
It matters very little to me what Mr. Archer or Dr. Gough or Sir John Woodroffe's unnamed English professor may say about Indian philosophy; it is enough for me to know what Emerson or Schopenhauer or Nietzsche, three entirely different minds of the greatest power in this field, or what thinkers like Cousins and Schlegel have to say about it or to mark the increasing influence of some of its conceptions, the great parallel lines of thought in earlier European thinking and the confirmations of ancient Indian metaphysics and psychology which are the results of the most moden1 research and inquiry.
For religion I shall not go to Mr. Harold Begbie or any European atheist or rationalist for a judgment on our spirituality, but see rather what are the impressions of open-minded men of religious feeling and experience who can alone be judges, a spiritual and-religious thinker such as Tolstoi, for instance. Or I may study even, allowing for an inevit­able bias, what the more cultured Christian missionary has to say about a religion which he can no longer dismiss as a barbarous superstition.
In art I shall not turn to the opinion of the average European who knows nothing of the spirit, meaning or technique of Indian architecture, painting and sculpture. For the first I shall consult some recognised authority like Ferguson; for the others if critics like Mr. Havell are to be dismissed as partisans, I can at least learn something from Okakura or Mr. Laurence Binyon.
In literature I shall be at a loss, for I cannot remember that any Western writer of genius or high reputation as a critic has had any first-hand knowledge of Sanskrit literature or of the Prakritic tongues, and a judgment founded on translations can only deal with the substance, - and even that in most transla­tions of Indian work is only the dead substance with the whole breath of life gone out of it. Still even here Goethe's well-known epigram on the Shakuntala will be enough by itself to show me that all Indian writing is not of a barbarous inferiority to Euro­pean creation. Works Of Sri Aurobindo > Foundation Of Indian Culture Volume-14 > A Rationalistic Critic On Indian Culture

The seer, the Rishi is the natural director of society

Sri Aurobindo
As stated, it is the sceptical argument of the atheist and agnostic, but after all that is only the extreme logical state­ment of an attitude common to the average European turn of thinking which is inherently a positivist attitude. Philosophy has been pursued in Europe with great and noble intellectual results by the highest minds, but very much as a pursuit apart from life, a thing high and splendid, but ineffective. It is remark­able that while in India and China philosophy has seized hold on life, has had an enormous practical effect on the civilisation and got into the very bones of current thought and action, it has never at all succeeded in achieving this importance in Europe.
In the days of the Stoics and Epicureans it got a grip, but only among the highly cultured; at the present day, too, we have some renewed tendency of the kind. Nietzsche has had his influence, certain French thinkers also in France, the philosophies of James and Bergson have attracted some amount of public interest; but it is a mere nothing compared with the effective power of Asiatic philosophy.
The average European draws his guiding views not from the philosophic, but from the positive and prac­tical reason. He does not absolutely disdain philosophy like Mr. Archer, but he considers it, if not a "man-made illusion," yet a rather nebulous, remote and ineffective kind of occupation. He honours the philosophers, but he puts their works on the highest shelf of the library of civilisation, not to be taken down or consulted except by a few minds of an exceptional turn. He admires, but he distrusts them.
Plato's idea of philosophers as the right rulers and best directors of society seems to him the most fantastic and unpractical of notions; the philosopher, precisely because he moves among ideas, must be without any hold on real life. The Indian mind holds on the contrary that the Rishi, the thinker, the seer of spiritual truth is the best guide not only of the religious and moral, but the practical life. The seer, the Rishi is the natural director of society; to the Rishis he attributes the ideals and guiding intuitions of his civilisation. Even today he is very ready to give the name to anyone who can give a spiritual truth which helps his life or a formative idea and inspiration which influences religion, ethics, society, even politics.

Sri Aurobindo, "the philosopher as poet"

Nolini Kanta Gupta
Sri Aurobindo has thrown such a material into his poetic fervour and created a sheer beauty, a stupen­dous reality out of it. Herein lies the greatness of his achieve­ment. Philosophy, however divine, and in spite of Milton, has been regarded by poets as "harsh and crabbed" and as such unfit for poetic delineation. Not a few poets indeed foundered upon this rock.
A poet in his own way is a philosopher, but a philosopher chanting out his philosophy in sheer poetry has been one of the rarest spectacles.¹ I can think of only one instance just now where a philosopher has almost succeeded being a great poet – I am referring to Lucretius and his De Rerum Natura. Neither Shakespeare nor Homer had anything like philosophy in their poetic creation. And in spite of some inclination to philosophy and philosophical ideas Virgil and Milton were not philosophers either. Dante sought perhaps consciously and deliberately to philosophise in his Paradiso. I Did he? The less Dante then is he. For it is his Inferno, where he is a passionate visionary, and not his Paradiso (where he has put in more thought-power) that marks the nee plus ultra of his poetic achievement.
And yet what can be more poetic in essence than philo­sophy, if by philosophy we mean, as it should mean, spiritual truth and spiritual realisation? What else can give the full breath, the integral force to poetic inspiration if it is not the problem of existence itself, of God, Soul and Immortality, things that touch, that are at the very root of life and reality? What can most concern man, what can strike the deepest fount in him, unless it is the mystery of his own being, the why and the whither of it all? But mankind has been taught and trained to live merely or mostly on earth, and poetry has been treated as the expression of human joys and sorrows – the tears in mortal things of which Virgil spoke. The savour of earth, the thrill of the flesh has been too sweet for us and we have forgotten other sweetnesses. It is always the human ele­ment that we seek in poetry, but we fail to recognise that what we obtain in this way is humanity in its lower degrees, its surface formulations, at its minimum magnitude.
¹ James H. Cousins in his New Ways in English Literature describes Sri Aurobindo as "the philosopher as poet." Page – 52 Works Of Nolini Kanta Gupta > Volume-2 > Sri Aurobindo Ahana And Other Poems

Just do it, nevertheless

All else being equal, that is all I want to say in this blog, the conclusion I would have liked to draw from the last blog apply, willy nilly, to all the avante garde phenomenological enquiries. Some people might be tempted to go for the philosophy-as -phenomenological-enquiry-alternative once the philosophy-as conceptual-analysis-alternative is unavailable.
Temptation apart, that option is also not available to try out is the main point of this blog.All the three points mentioned in the previous blog applies to the as-as -phenomenological-enquiry-alternative, also. Further, there are three more points, the broadened "intuition", the superficial nature of that enterprise and the unavoidable inconsistencies.Phenomenology, it is said, is oriented towards "the things themselves", towards "what is given immediately in intuition (Anschauung)".
Phenomenology, which is "an apriori science of the essences of all possible objects and experiences", doesn't philosophize essences, on the contrary, it "grasps them directly in immediate 'intuition'". Husserl takes the word "intuition" in a very broad sense (unlike Kant's methodical, insightful, and narrow use of the same TERM ANSCHAUUNG which is in resonance with the findings of cognitive science) beyond the purely sensuous as in "intuiting a conflict or a synthesis".
To broaden the idea further, Husserl introduces a new notion of categorical intuition a genuine and non-sensuous form of intuiting, overlooked by philosophical traditions of all hues, it is said. For Heidegger Anschauung/Gegebenheit is the "magic word" of phenomenology.Be that as it may, all that intuition can, at it best, yield is contingent claims only. So as mentioned in the last blog it is difficult to see how one can have "an apriori science" of phenomena or concepts.
Secondly, the superficial nature of the game, even if we grant that intuition results in contingent claims, as a philosophical enquiry this is just the beginning of that enquiry. The interesting part of the philosophical part of it deals with issues like
  • how we come to have these claims? What is the nature of it?
  • What is the relation between these claims and the related world? What are the distinguishable feature of it and how it is represented?

The orientation towards "the things themselves", and "letting something show itself" is the beginning of revisionary metaphysics, if it is metaphysics, to use a Strawsonian term, and the first step in logical analysis, to avail of a Searlian critical remark.Inconsistency in the approach in question is the third point.

Phenomenological epistemologists are "engaged in a foundationalist enterprise" and are "trying to find conditions of knowledge and certainty....[or] intelligibility". These engagements grope after ontology, in one manner or the other. One can't have the cake of scientific realism and eat it too, in a phenomenological fashion. Either real world (whatever that means!) or phenomenological "revelation" of that.
  • An aside: See the differing notions of "intentionality" in use in varied phenomenologies. Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty all lead their people to "new [and different] land[s]", through their "concepts" of intentionality and the like.
Read along the line that Husserl cherished "characterizing himself as a Moses leading his people to new land of what he came to call....transcendental subjectivity". Commenting on Husserl's and Heidegger's notions of intentionality, Searl makes it clear that "these are more or less irrelevant to getting an adequate theory of the logical structure of the intentionality of the biological brains encased in biological bodies".
J. N. Mohanty, admits this point when he says, "non-phenomenological philosophers and philosophies which are oriented after the natural sciences......may not solve the problem.. [Of objective body and objective mind] with a finality, but they at least know what to do with it. For here, they have the problem of correlating or identifying, or distinguishing between, two identifiable things, each with its own property or properties".
SO, if phenomenology, also, is not available as an option to DO philosophy, beyond the initial steps of characterization and description, is there a way to DO it? And all that I did say in this blog is this: Both philosophy-as-conceptual-analysis and philosophy-as-phenomenological-exercise are in the same boat, in so far as the result, the tool and the methodology adopted are concerned, all else being equal.
[Sailing is all that matters; the sailor, the experience of sailing and the results are immaterial! Any boat is good enough to this end. Thus spoke an upright Buddhist.] # A paper titled "Phenomenology as a science from square one" (draft) available on request for comments. posted by mks @ 4:48 AM 4 comments Friday, March 24, 2006 Ceteris Paribus

Hegel used history to contextualize earlier epochs

Poststructuralism and Postmodernism: Bald Ambtion, Chapter 7 Jeff Meyerhoff
While his use of Habermas here is defensible, Wilber's periodization of modernity and postmodernity is confusing. He states that we can date the beginning of the “postmodern mood” to Hegel,[40] presumably because Hegel used history to contextualize earlier epochs, showed the constructed nature of knowledge and used vision-logic to create an all embracing system. But if Hegel, at the start of the 19th century begins the postmodern mood, then what are we to make of historical periodizations of postmodernity that date it from the mid to late 20th century and routinely refer to late 19th and early 20th century thinkers such as Nietzsche and Bataille as proto-postmodernists?
Adding to the confusion is the constructivism of Hegel's predecessor Kant who created his influential rendering of human subjectivity by seeing it as constitutive of the spatio-temporal world. So either we accept Wilber's broad definitions of constructivism and contextualism which lead to an odd overlapping of the modern and postmodern, or we reject these definitions as too general which requires a wholly different way of characterizing the differences between modern and postmodern thought.
This confusion of modern and postmodern thought is mirrored in Wilber's description of modern and postmodern social changes. He contends that the strength of postmodernism is pluralism, multiculturalism, and the respecting of all voices.[41] Yet isn't democratic pluralism, minority rights, public discussion, free press and religion, and the rational assessment of views a pluralistic part of modernity? The political theorist Robert A. Dahl published his famous theory of democratic pluralism, Who Governs?, in 1961, well before most periodizations of postmodernism. The strengths that Wilber assigns to postmodernism could easily be seen as the strengths of modernism.
By misattributing qualities to postmodernism that could just as easily be seen as aspects of modernism, Wilber avoids the stronger and more undermining aspects of postmodern thought. He says that vision-logic, like postmodern thinking, privileges no perspective and weaves them together into an integral-aperspective. Yet Wilber's integral synthesis privileges key ideas that postmodern thought criticizes: evolution, progress, a telos, anthropocentrism, a non-dual essence, the division between inner and outer, realism and a vocabulary that is binding on other times, persons and places. He never adequately confronts the fundamental problems that poststructuralism and postmodernism raise for his theory of everything.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The theoros journeys forth as an official witness to a spectacle

The Data and Methodologies of Integral Science Kurt Koller
As Andrea Wilson Nightingale explores in her recent work, Spectacles of Truth in Classical Greek Philosophy: Theoria in its Cultural Context (2005), theoria was the name of a practice undertaken by individuals (called theoros, “theorists”) consisting of a pilgrimage to religious or oracular sites to bear witness to sacred truths. From her introduction:
“Plato, who was the first to conceptualize philosophic 'theorizing', made full use of the model of traditional theoria, with its journey abroad, viewing of a spectacle, and subsequent return home. In the Republic 5–7, the most detailed account of theoria in the Platonic corpus, Plato models philosophic theoria on the traditional practice of civic theoria. In this kind of theoria, the theoros journeys forth as an official witness to a spectacle, and then returns as a messenger or reporter: at the end of the journey, he gives a verbal account of a visual, spectacular event. The journey as a whole, including the final report, is located in a civic context.
In Plato's account of philosophic theoria in the Republic, theoretical activity is not confined to the rational contemplation of the Forms; rather, it encompasses the entire journey, from departure to contemplation to reentry and reportage. The intellectual 'seeing' at the center of the journey, which I call 'contemplation,' is thus nested in a larger context which is both social and political. As Plato claims, the philosophic theorist will, when he returns, 'give an account' of his vision which is open to inspection and to questioning. In addition, he will translate his contemplative wisdom into practical and (under certain conditions) political activities: his theoretical wisdom provides the basis for action. In the good city, moreover, the theoretical philosophers will rule the polis: here, Plato places the philosophic theorist at the very center of political life.
According to Plato, the philosopher is altered and transformed by the journey of theoria and the activity of contemplation. He thus 'returns' as a sort of stranger to his own kind, bringing a radical alterity into the city. When the philosopher goes back to the social realm, he remains detached from worldly goods and values even when he is acting in the world. Even in the ideal city, the philosopher is marked by detachment and alterity, he possesses a divine perspective that is foreign to the ordinary man. This peculiar combination of detachment and engagement allows the Platonic theorist to perform on the social stage in a fashion that is impartial, just, and virtuous.”

A cognitively greedy scientific rationalism

As Kant properly noted, the ego creates a world in the form of its own sensibility (the phenomenal world) and then takes it for the real world. Therefore, it is as if we dream a dream and then inhabit the dream as if it were real. The ego becomes thoroughly entangled in its own exteriorized and reified fantasies. This is what it means to be a fallen ego in a fallen world. The fall is both literal (i.e., vertical) and metaphorical.
With the scientific revolution in full force, Kant saw what was coming and was actually trying to rescue the realm of religion from the predations of a cognitively greedy scientific rationalism. Since the ego ultimately has access only to its own phenomena, this left the infinitely greater reality of the noumenon untouched, unknown and unknowable. This is precisely where Kant erred, because in saying that the noumenon was unknowable, he essentially reduced religion to a mere sentimental fideism. It would simply be a matter of time before it became wholly irrelevant to “sophisticated” moderns.
Again, either religion embodies real knowledge that surpasses our egoic understanding, or it is simply an absurdity that is defiantly embraced in the teeth of reason and logic. But if it does embody real knowledge, what kind of knowledge is it? Is it mere information, occupying the same horizontal plane as factual scientific information, like saying “water freezes at 32 degrees and Jesus walked on it,” or “the ribs enclose the chest cavity and women are made of one”? In my way of looking at things, this is a gross confusion that simply invites people not to take religion seriously.
Let us imagine that the totality of reality constitutes a vast field of consciousness. In navigating its dimensions and coordinates, there are two principle dangers. One involves being shipwrecked on the rocks of a rational but fixed and “frozen” mental conception that ultimately forecloses spiritual evolution. The ego stakes out its little piece of territory. It knows what it knows, and that’s all it wants to know. The vast majority of cultural and religious beliefs are of this variety. Some belief systems stake out a slightly wider area, but each, to one degree or another, places an arbitrary boundary around reality.
The other danger is to become lost at sea with no fixed coordinates at all. This is to be engulfed in the symmetrical unconscious with no bearings to guide one’s journey.The other danger is to become lost at sea with no fixed coordinates at all. This is to be engulfed in the symmetrical unconscious with no bearings to guide one’s journey. posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:47 AM 3 comments One Cosmos Under God by Robert W. Godwin

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Rise of Pessimism

By ADAM COHEN Homepage : August 28, 2006
These are ideal times for the release of “Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit,” by Joshua Foa Dienstag, a U.C.L.A. political theorist. Mr. Dienstag aims to rescue pessimism from the philosophical sidelines, where it has been shunted by optimists of all ideologies. The book is seductive, because pessimists are generally more engaging and entertaining than optimists, and because, as the author notes, “the world keeps delivering bad news.” It is almost tempting to throw up one’s hands and sign on with Schopenhauer.
Pessimism, however, is the most un-American of philosophies. This nation was built on the values of reason and progress, not to mention the “pursuit of happiness.” Pessimism as philosophy is skeptical of the idea of progress. Pursuing happiness is a fool’s errand. Pessimism is not, as is commonly thought, about being depressed or misanthropic, and it does not hold that humanity is headed for disaster. It simply doubts the most basic liberal principle: that applying human reasoning to the world’s problems will have a positive effect.
The biggest difference between optimists and pessimists, Mr. Dienstag argues, is in how they view time. Optimists see the passing of time as a canvas on which to paint a better world. Pessimists see it as a burden. Time ticks off the physical decline of one’s body toward the inevitability of death, and it separates people from their loved ones. “All the tragedies which we can imagine,” said Simone Weil, the French philosopher who starved herself to death at age 34, “return in the end to the one and only tragedy: the passage of time.”
Optimists see history as the story of civilization’s ascent. Pessimists believe, Mr. Dienstag notes, in the idea that any apparent progress has hidden costs, so that even when the world seems to be improving, “in fact it is getting worse (or, on the whole, no better).” Polio is cured, but AIDS arrives. Airplanes make travel easy, but they can drop bombs or be crashed into office towers. There is no point in seeking happiness. When joy “actually makes its appearance, it as a rule comes uninvited and unannounced,” insisted Schopenhauer, the dour German who was pessimism’s leading figure.
As politicians, pessimists do not believe in undertaking great initiatives to ameliorate unhappiness, since they are skeptical they will work. They are inclined to accept the world’s evil and misery as inevitable. Mr. Dienstag tries to argue that pessimists can be politically engaged, and in modest ways they can be. Camus joined the French Resistance. But pessimism’s overall spirit, as Camus noted, “is not to be cured, but to live with one’s ailments.”
President Clinton was often mocked for his declarations that he still believed “in a place called Hope.” But he understood that instilling hope is a critical part of leadership. Other than a few special interest programs — like cutting taxes on the wealthy and giving various incentives to business — it is hard to think of areas in which the Bush administration has raised the nation’s hopes and met them. This president has, instead, tried to focus the American people on the fear of terrorism, for which there is no cure, only bad choices or something worse.
Part of Mr. Bush’s legacy may well be that he robbed America of its optimism — a force that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and other presidents, like Ronald Reagan, used to rally the country when it was deeply challenged. The next generation of leaders will have to resell discouraged Americans on the very idea of optimism, and convince them again that their goal should not be to live with their ailments, but to cure them.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Many roads leading from nowhere to nothing

To a large extent, a philosopher is somewhat like an annoying child who persists in asking “why” after others have stopped. Some people, like my father, just intuitively realize that such questions are ultimately pointless, that no matter how much we think about existence, no one will ever really figure it out. So why bother with such an impractical and ultimately fruitless endeavor? The history of philosophy is simply a chronicle of error on a particularly grandiose scale. As sometwo once said, it is “an an abuse of language invented for that purpose,” or “a journey of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.”
But some cosmonauts and vertical adventurers can’t help thinking about these things. For one thing, human beings have an intrinsic need for meaning. And what is meaning? Meaning is revealed when things come together in such a way that the union of particulars reveals what they are pointing toward or converging upon.
For example, the meaning of letters is revealed in the word, just as the meaning of words is revealed in the sentence. Once you know how to read, your mind doesn’t even notice the letters of which the words are composed. They fade into the background and become “invisible,” as your mind sees through them, to what they are pointing toward. Nor, as you read this, is your mind focussed on my words (at least until I brought your attention to them), but is instead focusing on the meaning I am trying to convey through words. Words and letter are simply the vehicles of meaning, not its creator. Or, you might say that words are necessary but insufficient to account for the meaning that transcends them.
The reason why human language exists--can exist--is that the cosmos is composed of language, or what is called the logos or Word. For example, astrophysicists search for the mathematical language that governs the big bang. Physicists have discovered the mathematical language that explains both the macro (relativity theory) and micro (quantum theory) realms, but cannot figure out how those two are related. In other words, they are searching for a “higher meaning” that would unify those two outweirdly incompatible theories.
Likewise, DNA is obviously a highly sophisticated language, a language that “speaks” biological organisms. But strict materialists are mistaken in thinking that any purely Darwinian paradigm is sufficient to account for life. For one thing, natural selection presupposes a very special cosmos in which one thing can stand for another and carry messages. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:26 AM 17 comments One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

No map of reality should be accepted as final

Metaphysics, not post-metaphysics Here is another (slightly edited) extract from my essay in progress, now titled An Integral/Holistic Metaparadigm. (note: The "post-metaphysics" in the title of this post concerns Ken Wilber's interpretation of post-metaphysics ("Wilber-V"), and not contemporary German philosopher Jürgen Habermas's earlier use of the term)
Metaphysics is that branch of Philosophy that the rational investigation of questions about existence, being (Ontology), the nature of God or the Absolute Reality (Theology) and of the Universe (Cosmology), the mind-body problem (nowadays generally a separate discipline in Philosophy), causality, the problem of free will and determinism, and so on. In other words, questions concerning the meaning of existence, which underlie all other inquiries.
With the rise of the secular Enlightenment in the West, and especially current modernity, much of academic philosophy has lost its connection with the original "Wisdom Tradition" of Pythagoras and Plato and Plotinus, and hence cannot really answer these questions. Because these questions cannot be answered, proved, or disproved, by rational physical or physicalist means alone.
The word Metaphysics means literally “after” (not "beyond" or “above”) “physics", and refers to the arrangement of Aristotle's writings, in which his books on “first philosophy” were placed after the books on “physics”. This is quite distinct to the popular definition of beyond or above the physical reality...
Within the integral movement, especially its majority Wilberian branch, “Metaphysics” has become something of a dirty word. This is due solely to Wilber's repeated statements that metaphysics belongs to an outdated or pre-modern age and must be rejected if spiritual teachings (by which he means experiences abstracted from any context or meaning and hence slotted into his own AQAL system) are to be acceptable at the court of modernity and postmodernity1. In addition, as I have shown (Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral, Part Two, A Fourfold Critique sect. 2a), Wilber understands by metaphysics only the popular, non-academic philosophical meaning. Because of this, he is able to avoid acknowledging the fact that his own system is highly metaphysical (quadrants, holons, transcendent Spirit, etc) when making his self-contradictory claim that his own current teachings as "post-metaphysical".
In doing this Wilber (and hence the entire Wilberian integral movement) has bought into the scientistic and academic preference for debunking metaphysics, because it deals with things that cannot be "proved" by or to the Physical Mind (sensu Sri Aurobindo). But this rationalist physicalism itself rests on a number of unproved, irrational, and yes, metaphysical, assumptions, as has been persuasively shown by Transpersonal Psychologist Charles T. Tart. (see Charles T. Tart, “Some assumptions of orthodox, Western Psychology”. In C. Tart (Ed.), Transpersonal Psychologies. New York: Harper & Row, pp. 61-111)
My position here is that not only is metaphysics necessary, but no truly comprehensive “integral” understanding of reality is possible without it. Without metaphysics the best one could have would be a sort of agnostic postmodernist or neo-Buddhistic (on western-inspired apologetic Hinduism and Buddhism see Jorge Ferrer, Revisioning Transpersonal Theory, pp.48-51) style of approach, in which bare experiences are recognised and definied empirically, but there is no attempt at arriving at a deeper meaning, no attempt is made to show what those experiences refer to. Such agnosticism comes with its own metaphysical baggage, e.g. crypto-physicalism or crypto-materialism, the subtle conception that all these experiences, visions, etc are simply the by-product of the physical brain, but one shouldn't look to closely at that, just be satisfied with the experience taken out of its context and sanitised for a secular physicalistic bias. This may work for Wilberian physicalism, but as soon as one studies even superficially the teachings of authentic spiritual realisers it quickly becomes apparent that reality is much vaster than physicalism considers it to be.
The problem here, as mentioned, is that modern Western secular academic thought has lost its original wisdom tradition (represented by Pythagoreanism, Platonism, Neoplatonism, etc) and hence has to fall back on scientism and superficial empiricism. This is why spiritual apologetics like Wilber try so hard to present an unthreatening and secularised version of spiritual and perennialist teachings.
At the same time, no metaphysical system and no map of reality should be accepted as final. It should always be remembered that all these concepts are just suggestions and points of view, useful classification schemes and thoughtforms, which should never be used as alternatives for direct spiritual experience. posted by m alan kazlev at 4:49 PM Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Left's hijacking of the higher planes

Stephen Hicks
And that is exactly what Hicks concludes. He chronicles the utter failure of socialist ideas in the past three centuries, beginning with pre-Marxist leftists such as the odious paleofrog Rousseau. But the key figure in the descent into modern irrationalism and illiberal leftism was the figure of Immanuel Kant, for it was Kant who divided the world into phenomena (what is accessible to our senses and categories of thought) and noumena (the ultimate reality behind them).
By closing off the noumenal reality to reason, Kant thought he had spared religion from the onslaught of scientific skepticism, when he had actually opened the door to all the baleful forms of irrationalism that followed. For in the Kantian system, all we can really know is our own nervous system--reason and science merely toy with the phenomena, leaving the deeper reality unknown and unknowable. The next time some cliche-ridden boob says to you, “perception is reality,” know that they are a metaphysically retarded son or daughter of Kant.
As an aside, one can trace the history of philosophy in a pretty straight line from the ancient Greeks to Kant. But Kant represents the end of that line and its subsequent ramification into the many streams, creeks, drainage ditches and sewer lines that reach us today. Virtually every philosophy since Kant has been either a rational extension of his ideas (Schopenhaur, structuralism, phenomenology), an irrational exploration of his ideas (e.g., reality is absurd, we are impotent to know anything, feeling and instinct trump reason, the irrational yields more valid insights into reality, etc.), or attempts to undo his ideas (e.g., Hegel, who reunited noumena and phenomena in his notion of the Absolute Subject, and Hegel's upside-down disciple, Marx).
Postmodernism involves a smorgasbag of these various reactions to Kant. Ever wonder why leftists are so irrational and unreasonable? According to Hicks, postmodernism is “the first ruthlessly consistent statement of the consequences of rejecting reason.” This is why leftists routinely resort to ad hominem attacks, extreme hostility to dissent, speech codes, and authoritarian political correctness. Ultimately, according to Hicks, postmodernism is “the academic left’s epistemological strategy for responding to the crisis caused by the failures of socialism in both theory and practice.”
Ironically, they have an a priori and unfalsifiable belief in the moral superiority of socialism over capitalism. But since capitalism has repeatedly disproved every one of socialism’s predictions, postmodernism provides the “skeptical epistemology to justify the personal leap of faith necessary to continue believing in socialism.”
Ironically, Kant was trying to save traditional religion from being eroded by scientific skepticism, but his ideas are now used by the secular left to shield the false religion of socialism from rational scrutiny. The choice for leftists is simple: either follow the evidence and reject their utopian ideals, or hold to their beautiful ideals and undermine the notion that logic and evidence matter. Obviously they have chosen the latter course, which is why a casual stroll through the halls of academia, the editorial pages of the New York Times, or the darker corners of the internet reveals that language is no longer being used as a vehicle to understand reality, but a rhetorical club with which to beat opponents. In this context, “Bush bashing” can be seen as a completely impersonal and inevitable phenomenon, for if your only tool is a rhetorical hammer, you will treat everything as an ideological nail.
And this also explains the common observation that the left is devoid of constructive ideas, for without logic and evidence, leftism has been reduced to a knee-jerk critique of Western civilization. It is essentially irrational and nihilistic, because language is not about reality, but simply about more language. Therefore, language cannot build anything but illusions. Moreover, this explains why the left is so incoherent and contradictory--why, for example, all truth is relative but leftism is absolute, why all values are subjective but homophobia and American exceptionalism are evil, why tolerance is the highest ideal but political correctness is higher still, etc. Leftism is simply an absolutism masquerading as a relativism.
The only problem with Hicks’ book is that he stops short of explaining how to overcome what I call the logopathologies of the left. This is because he appears to be an objectivist or secular libertarian, and seems vaguely hostile to religion. In reality, there is no defense against these destructive ideas within the bounds of common reason--as soon as you descend into mere reason, you have already given the game away, for there is almost nothing the human mind can prove that it cannot equally disprove. In a subsequent post I will explain the only way to combat the left's hijacking of the higher planes. posted by Gagdad Bob at 6:58 AM 14 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Siris: from seira, meaning 'chain'

Friday, August 12, 2005 Links and Notes * Theology of the Living Dead at "JimmyAkin.Org". Is it immoral to kill zombies? Well, like most things, it depends: How human are they?* Two excellent discussions of Anselm's real theory of atonement:(1) In a Paper: Feudal Imagery or Christian Tradition (PDF) by Nicholas Cohen;(2) On a Weblog: A Semi-Anselmian Reply to Forde at "verbum ipsum"* A discussion of whether infinite regresses are vicious at "Mormon Metaphysics"* The Temple Mount blogburst for Tisha B'Av is up at "Kesher Talk"; there are lots of great entries.* The Mysterious Fate of the Great Library of Alexandria at Bede's Library (HT: Maverick Philosopher)* Daniel at "The Lyceum" has an interesting post arguing that it's a mistake to teach that there is a particular slippery slope fallacy. Eugene Volokh's Beyond the Slippery Slope, * Shulamite takes us From The Principle of Contradiction to God at "Vomit the Lukewarm". intelligent design , Dembski , * Hugo has put up a fascinating interview with Munévar on Feyerabend. Worth reading. posted by Brandon 9:56 PM 3 links in the chain

Et Tu Quoque

Saturday, July 15, 2006 Contributor Blogs: While our blogging has slowed down during the summer months, a lot of contributors to Tu Quoque have other blogs that they frequently update. I added them to the sidebar but I also wanted to give attention to them here. Matt Graham's new blog, Sophrosyne, features his thoughts on ethics, as well as other subjects. Doug Beaumont's blog, IrContent, "... exists to encourage discussion of spiritual issues among thinking Christians." I've enjoyed reading this one a lot lately. Matt Nadler has a blog, The Schmooze Blogger, that deals with issues relating to Messianic Judaism. He needs to update it! T.B. Vick's blog, Shadows of Divine Things, features a lot of posts covering a number of theological and philosophical issues.Last but hopefully not least, my blog, The Metaphysical Pluralist, features my thoughts on philosophy, theology, apologetics, rants, and more. Read more! posted by davis at 10:55 AM 1 comments links to this post
Wednesday, October 12, 2005 Around the Web: Here's a compilation of the best blog posts I've seen lately. Theology Blogs: Joe Carter at the Evangelical Outpost has a post on how not to evangelize. It critiques the 'salesman' or 'marketing' approach to evangelizing. Our very own Metaphysical Beautician, who has another blog called Calculated Existential Angst wrote a post on knowing God via intellectual content that sparked an interesting discussion afterwards.Over at Stand to Reason, Brett Kunkle has a blog on whether or not the culture is as postmodern as the some thinkers say it is, based on a William Lane Craig interview.
Philosophy Blogs: At Prosblogion, Jon Kvanvig has an interesting thought experiment on Hell. (I wish I had some flames to go with the word hell.)I recently discovered The Lyceum, thanks to John Depoe. It is the blog of Daniel Bader, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. It features many interesting posts on different aspects of ancient and medieval philosophy.Speaking of John Depoe at Fides Quaerens Intellectum, he has an interesting post on Kant, Russell, and the Ontological argument. It deals with Kant's critique of it, based on Kant's notion of existence. I will be writing on this soon. On a side note, Kant once remarked that all proofs of God's existence are variants of the Ontological argument. This is based of course on Kant's understanding of existence, which was based on Wolf's, which was in turn based on Frances Suarez. Hopefully this will cause an interesting discussion.Speaking of arguments, Ben Burgis, a graduate student at Western Michigan University has an interesting post on Logical Positivism and the Cosmological Argument at his blog, Stalking Sophia.As mentioned in a previous post, I want to welcome Doctor Logic to the blogging world, with his team blog Beyond Logical Positivism. I can't say that I agree with a lot of the views presented there, but it has definitely brought some interesting discussions to the table.Finally, I want to congratulate Qualiatative at Dualistic Dissension, who has begun his neurosurgey rotations. Bring on the jokes about brain surgeons! posted by davis at 10:43 AM 2 Comments: tuquoque

Edmund Husserl and Ramana Maharshi say always the same

Postmodern spirituality A dialogue in five parts Part V: Can Only A God Save Us? Postmodern Proto-Spirituality And The Current Global Turn To Religion Roland Benedikter
Remember one thing: The starting point of postmodern philosophy was not only about “reducing” (Husserl), “deconstructing” (Derrida) or even “destroying” (Heidegger) all kinds of hidden and open ideology to get in touch with things in a “different” manner. It was also about a certain critical view point on the world, about a deeply subjective or even “monadic” attitude of thinking and of being in the world. It was a certain aesthetic or inner sensitivity of the “isolated subject” that has driven postmodernism from the late 1980s until September 11th, 2001.
It has driven this subject into a frenetic activity of deconstructing everything, which became, not as a personal attitude, but as a cultural paradigm, one-sidedly nominalistic. Doing the frenetic deconstruction connected to a even more frenetic construction and innovation complex of contemporary culture, deconstruction misunderstood itself as anti-spiritual (which until today is its “academically correct” interpretation, and this is absolutely against the intentions and approaches of the late Derrida and Loytard).
Deconstruction became in most cases not only secular, but also anti-spiritual - until some of the symbols of its frenetically progressive approach have been “deconstructed” by history. To be even more clear with you: From my point of view, the terror attacks of 9-11 did not cause, but they marked the beginning of the end of the first generation of postmodernity. Not of postmodernity as a whole, of course, because we have to keep all the great postmodern achievements. But of the beginning end of their so far nominalistic one-sidedness...
If you have no explicit, balanced nominalistic-“essential” position towards the “essence” of man, you cannot find a single argument for the existence of human rights, which are based by their very nature on an assumption of “essence” or an “ontological” concept. When Derrida said there were no justifications for exporting the idea of human rights into the world, because they were, according to him, mainly a cultural invention or a societal construct of European-Western civilisation, some regimes in the world, not only the Chinese, paradoxically started do discover Derrida as “one of the greatest living philosophers of the world”.
Derrida did the cause of Human Rights no favour with his typically hesitating late theories about the possibilities of ethics and theology compatibles with deconstruction. Those theories were, like his whole late thinking, always exactly at the borderline between the negative rise of some “essential” perspective, and the sudden retiring of his own timid advances towards those perspectives. It is exactly this half- or borderline-position which can produce some contra-productive, in some cases even dangerous effects on the global political field, as it has been with the postmodern dealing with the problem of global human rights. I think exactly this one-sided, hesitating and, in exactly this point, sometimes indeed irrational or only “academically correct” attitude is the kind of postmodernism which has to be overcome, by some better and more balanced, more realistic, more inclusive paradigms in the coming years. Which we, of course, are only starting to develop on a broader scale, even if there are some pioneers which pave the way for some decades now...
Now, as you remember, all philosophia perennis all over the world of all times, including so different thinkers like Edmund Husserl and Ramana Maharshi, says always the same: You first have to destroy your normal ego, to approach your real Self. Postmodernists are trying to do something like that. And the price they're paying for it is that everything seems to be meaningless at first glance; because everything appears just as an effect of language, of culture, of history, of life styles and so on. Things probably are more complex than postmodern thinkers have been able to analyze.
But the main postmodern thinkers we talked of wanted primarily to point out one indeed very important discovery: That your self is not what you normally identify with. And this is a very important perceiving of postmodernism, because they don't only have this intuition, but they also try to do it. If you go through all the theories and these philosophies, there's no any other chance than to “deconstruct” or to destroy your normal ego, and to go through the death of the ego; or to be more precise, to undergo the death of the subject. That is, very all the paths of postmodernity lead and converge, in the end. The death of the subject is their ultimate point of arrival...
I think the death of the subject is the most important achievement of postmodernism in the long run. Nietzsche, the father of “rhizomatic” thinking, predicted it; Postmodernity realized it to a certain extend. Both moved necessarily always in sort of a twilight, or in a borderline sphere of deep, even radical ambivalence, where the ego slowly begins to be accompanied by the witness. The further exploration of exactly this borderline or twilight zone, with all its dangers and hidden traps, seems quite necessary to me, if we want to make a step forward...
That seems to be indeed, as we said, the most important ongoing process in the deeper dimensions of current world history at the cultural level. And it is interesting, that it is not any longer mainly a battle between confessional religions and “enlightened” European-Western philosophy, as some thought after 9-11. At the contrary: It was never only such a battle. It is rather a general battle between those who believe that “only a god can save us” (Cf. Martin Heidegger: Only a God Can Save Us. Der Spiegel Interview 1967/1976. In: Martin Heidegger: Philosophical and Political Writings, ed. Manfred Stassen. Continuum International Publishing Group 2003) at the one hand; and those who think that there can be a rational spiritual alternative to the “global turn of religion” at the other hand.
That alternative may be not only a decisive strategical political and cultural goal for a good development on a world wide scale. But it seems also necessary for avoiding the “clash of cultures” of which so much has been spoken in these years – but without including so far the positive building up of a rational spirituality which could become a bridge between confessional religions and secular rationalism. It is interesting that currently you will find avant-garde philosophers of the most different kind on both sides of the battle. There is no longer a clear distinction between religion and its former “ancilla theologiae”: philosophy any more.
These debates have increased after 9-11, but the brought almost no productive results. (Cf. Giovanna Borradori, Juergen Habermas, and Jacques Derrida: Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Juergen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. University Of Chicago Press 2003). The question today is not a question of “end” or of a shrinking sovereignty of academic philosophy in front of the growing power of religion. The question today is rather:
  • Is it possible to imagine a “rational spirituality” of post-metaphysical, critical-empirical and positive, constructive dimensions, which could possibly create a new, more balanced paradigm for the emerging global civil society in the coming decades, departing actively from the progressive proto-spiritual achievements in the late works of those leading postmodern thinkers we talked of?
  • Or must we turn back to traditional religions, if we want to find an “essential” paradigm which can give us balance in times of increasing instabilities?
  • Can only a God save us, as Martin Heidegger put it in his Der Spiegel testament (1967/1976)?
  • Or is a forward oriented, “rational inspiration” the way to proceed, as the “deconstructive” proto-spirituality of late postmodern philosophy (1989/91-2001) seems, even if still timidly, to indicate us?
  • In other words: Can there be a rational alternative of spiritual thinking and behaving to the global turn to religion?

This is without any doubt one of the most important issues of our time in the middle and long perspective...Maybe at the current point we should not call all that, what we have so far, “postmodern spirituality” at all. Maybe we should call it a prelude to a new spiritual realism for the global civil society, coming out of postmodernism. Maybe we should call it a pre-eminent spirituality or a proto-spirituality emerging rationally under the conditions of late postmodernity. Not less, not more.

Postmodern Spirituality

Edward Berge Says: August 12th, 2006 at 8:00 am Here is the abstract from Benedikter’s “Postmodern Spirituality” in the Reading Room of Integral World. Note his intepretation of calling it a proto-spirituality, as compared to the fuller spirituality of what appears to be eastern mysticism. He thinks they are on the verge of breaking through to this fuller realization but are prevented by their negative philosophy. Whereas to me theirs is the fuller philosophy for the reasons I’ve given above. But at least Benedikter shows that they indeed developed in this direction and had important “spiritual” insights, something that is sorely lacking in most integral analyses of the pomo movement.
This Paper gives, in the form of a dialogue, an overview over the proto-spirituality emerging in the late works of some of the main postmodern thinkers. The focus is on investigating the tendencies of thinkers like Jacques Derrida, Jean Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault and others, to “re-spiritualize” their basic thoughts in the last years of their lives. In their late works, these thinkers searched for the “absolute secret that cannot be brought into language, but must be protected from language” (Derrida), in many cases going back into traditional religions. Or they were searching for the dimension of the “Not-I” (Lyotard) and the “inaudible presence” through the experience of “an ecstasy of the black void” (Lyotard). The following dialogue tries to describe and understand these tendencies, including the desires and fears in their background, pointing at some of the core motivations in the late works of some main postmodern thinkers...
"Deconstruction wants to teach you how to observe the rising of your own reason, the origin of your own thoughts in the very moment when these thoughts are produced. (Cf. Jacques Derrida: Letter to a Japanese Friend, in: Wood & Bernasconi (ed.): Derrida and Difference. Warwick: Parousia Press 1985, pp. 1-5; Jacques Derrida: Qu’est-ce que la déconstruction?, in: Le Monde, Mardi, 12 octobre 2004, pp. III.) Even if it remains half conscious, the ultimate goal of the best parts of postmodernity is to transform the enlightenment of the first wave, as we knew it from Immanuel Kant, into an enlightenment of a second wave. Kant said: “Always first think, use our thought and when it is over, you can and must look back and see critically what it was.” (Cf. Jean Francois Lyotard: Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime: Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Sections 23-29. Stanford University Press 1994; cf. Jacques Lacan: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book 11. W. W. Norton & Company 1998; Jacques Lacan: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis 1959-1960. W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition 1997; Slavoj Zizek: Tarrying With the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology. Duke University Press 1993).
This was the “first wave” of enlightenment. What postmodernism is trying to teach us instead, is: “Give us a second enlightenment which is synchronistic! That means: Try to observe what and how you’re thinking in the very moment you’re doing it. Be self-conscious in every moment of your life! Be a double ‘I’, a double consciousness always – and rationally!” So this is, to a certain extend, a more evolved approach of the same basic characteristics of modernity. It is a second wave of modernity. A more evolved approach, as you can see, but also a more difficult and dangerous, of course.
I agree that postmodernity was against a certain form of reason, a certain form of modernity. But this is not the main point. Because at the same time, Postmodernity had many things in common with modernity. In the end, the leading postmodern thinkers just wanted to make one step further. Beside all the provocations, besides the sometimes useless intellectual battles and the many misunderstandings. They basically wanted to proceed from diachronic to synchronic enlightenment – by the means of a “philosophical psychoanalysis of the ego”.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


enowning Tuesday, August 08, 2006 Philosophy, it's not essentially about curiosity.
[I]t has long been known that the Greeks recognized thaumazein as the “beginning” of philosophy. But it is just as certain that we have taken this thaumazein to be obvious and ordinary, something that can be accomplished without difficulty and can even be clarified without further reflection. For the most part, the usual presentations of the origin of philosophy out of thaumazein result in the opinion that philosophy arises from curiosity. This is a weak and pitiful determination of origin, possible only where there has never been any reflection on what is supposed to be determined here in its origin. Indeed, we consider ourselves relieved of such reflection, precisely because we think that the derivation of philosophy out of curiosity also determines its essence. P.135-136 Brad Elliott Stone explores this in detail in a recently posted paper on his web site: Curiosity as the Thief of Wonder. ¶ 10:35 PM 0 comments
Monday, August 07, 2006 Here's an explanation of how the word enowning got started, from the Kisiel paper I referred to recently.
It was Albert Hofstadter who, in an article first published in 1976 in boundary 2, spliced together the makeshift English word “en-own-ment” as “the most literal possible translation” of Er-eig-nis. Ereignis as “event” optimally refers to the defining events of a unique and proper lifetime, like birth, marriage, and death, or to unique epoch-defining events of a people or culture, like the founding of Rome, the coming of Christ, and Muhammad’s hijrah. As the enowning Event that enables and enacts all uniquely defining historical events, “Er-eignis is originary history itself” (32/23). Most basically for Heidegger, enownment is the realm of intimate belonging-together of be-ing and human being (Da-sein) in core relationships like call-response and mutual need and usage that in historical enactment allow them mutually to come into their own; in the case of human Da-sein, to become its proper historical self. 5:55 PM 0 comments

Whitehead and Derrida

Edward Berge Says:August 9th, 2006 at 7:42 am e For example, see this article on how pomo’s idea of creative play has parallel’s with Whitehead’s process philosophy, all without some metaphysical God or Spirit. In the Wake of False Unifications: Whitehead’s Creative Resistance against Imperialist Theologies Roland Faber, Claremont, March 31, 2005
Edward Berge Says: August 9th, 2006 at 12:51 pm Faber in the above aritcle makes clear that Whitehead shares with pomoers like Derrida the idea that unity is “always only a finite element in an infinite, rhizomatic process’ (12). Then he warns that this might lead to relativism and nihilism, or what Griffin calls “eliminative pluralism.” (The MGM to you Wilberries.) To combat this we must “suspend multiplicity by inter/communication, différance with the other-inrelation” (12). Again, this is typical of Derrida’s works. But of course there is another warning, that inter/communication might lead to a new form of imperialism by holism. This is neutralized or suspended by spontaneous creativity. An ultimate ontological reality is always deferred through the cyclic process above. Again, Derrida in a nutshell.
Edward Berge Says: August 9th, 2006 at 6:06 pm From “Whitehead, Deconstruction and Postmodernism” by Luis G. Pedraja, Process Studies, pp. 68-84, Vol. 28, Number 1/2, Spring - Summer, 1999:
While Griffin’s interpretation of Whitehead merits serious consideration, it still attempts to salvage a “centeredness” which is difficult to maintain in Whitehead’s philosophy. It is true that Whitehead wants to recover certain metaphysical categories and to develop a constructive project. This is part of his attempt to develop a comprehensive interpretive system (PR 3-4) and his desire to combat the anti-rationalistic fallacy.
However, we also must recognize that Whitehead’s critique of modernism radically deconstructs the possibility of an unbiased, axiomatic center that can be abstracted from the whole. This does not mean that Whitehead advocates a radical relativism or a denial of freedom like some advocates of deconstruction. But neither does Derrida’s philosophy in its basic presuppositions advocate a radical relativism and a denial of freedom as some of his interpreters propose.
What they both advocate is a suspicion of abstractions that pose as absolute universal truths as well as philosophy’s failure to recognize the limitations of its particular contextual perspectives and standpoints. Underlying this suspicion of abstract absolute truths is a shift in their respective philosophies from Western views that give primacy to being permanence, presents, space, detachment, and individual substance, toward views that incorporate becoming, change, time, interrelations and fluidity. Open Integral

Structure, Sign and Play

Edward Berge Says: August 9th, 2006 at 7:22 am e For example, I provide below Marcus Honeysett’s analysis of Derrida’s deconstructive assumptions. But he misses the final piece from Derrida’s last work: Deconstruction only denies the conventiional conception of God, not the transcendental altogether. We can come to relationship with ultimate reality with the creative play of possibility, similar to Whitehead’s notion of creativity. Note Whitehead didn’t have some ultimate (inter)subjectivity either, according to Ken.
Assumptions Underlying Jacques Derrida’s Theory ofDeconstruction
Derrida lays many of his presuppositions out in a hard but very important essay called Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. You can tell what it is going to be like from the title! The argument goes as follows:
1. Western thought and language have always had a fixed centre in absolute truth. This placeslimits on what it is possible to think or believe. It provides a foundation for being (ie what we are),and for knowing (ie how we think). Absolute truth provides certainties.
2. However Derrida’s underlying assumption(which this essay does not explore) is that there isno God in the equation to guarantee such absolutes, and hence ideas about certainty are now ruptured. He concludes that any idea of afixed centre was only a structure of power imposed on us by our past or by institutions of society, and does not in reality exist at all.
3. Hence for Derrida there is no ultimate reality, no God outside the system to which everyone and everything relates. Instead the only relationships that we can know are within the system of the world which Derrida calls discourses. For him ultimate reality is only a series of these discourses.
4. Because there is no fixed centre, there should no longer be any limits on what it is possible to think or believe. We should literally be able to think anything. We can be playful and flexible about the way we think, when we realise that “truth”and “falsehood” are simply wrong distinctions to make. Indeed they are just a destructive and harmful manifestation of that power structure.
5. Therefore we must stop considering everything in life, culture and thought in relation to absolute truth. To not do so is, for Derrida, oppressive and immoral.
A few more points if you want to think a bit further(but these aren’t vital to the argument!):
6. Derrida says that history is traditionally thought to be determined by Being. In other words God guarantees history There was a beginning and there is an end to which we are working. Most human optimism for Derrida springs from this fact. The whole of science for example is based on the fact that true things are there to be discovered and worked towards.
7. However this idea of history is what stops people thinking radical new thoughts because the assumptions we pick up from history are oppressive. But the fact that people can and do think radical new thoughts is seen to deny this oppressive version of history, and, of course, any absolute Being behind history.
8. Derrida’s ideal of play or flexibility therefore completely denies the possibility of absolutes or of God.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Inspiration is like the lightning

The knowledge which the man of pure intellect prefers to a more active and mundane curiosity, has in its surroundings a certain loftiness and serene detachment that cannot fail in their charm. To withdraw from contact with emotion and life and weave a luminous colourless shadowless web of thought, alone and far away in the infinite azure empyrean of pure ideas, can be an enthralling pastime fit for Titans or even for Gods. The ideas so found have always their value and it is no objection to their truth that, when tested by the rude ordeal of life and experience, they go to pieces. All that inopportune disaster proves is that they are no fit guides to ordinary human conduct; for material life which is the field of conduct is only intellectual on its mountaintops; in the plains and valleys ideas must undergo limitation by unideal conditions and withstand the shock of crude sub-ideal forces.
Nevertheless conduct is a great part of our existence and the mere metaphysical, logical or scientific knowledge that either does not help me to act or even limits my self-manifestation through action, cannot be my only concern. For God has not set me here merely to think, to philosophise, to weave metaphysical systems, to play with words and syllogisms, but to act, love and know. I must act divinely so that I may become divine in being and deed; I must learn to love God not only in Himself but in all beings, appearances, objects, enjoyments, events, whether men call them good or bad, real or mythical, fortunate or calamitous; and I must know Him with the same divine impartiality and completeness in order that I may come to be like Him, perfect, pure and unlimited — that which all sons of Man must one day be. This, I cannot help thinking, is the meaning and purpose of the Lila. It is not true that because I think, I am; but rather because I think, feel and act, and even while I am doing any or all of these things, can transcend the thought, feeling and action, therefore I am. Because I manifest, I am, and because I transcend manifestation, I am. The formula is not so clear and catching as the Cartesian, but there is a fuller truth in its greater comprehensiveness.
The man of unalloyed intellect has a very high and difficult function; it is his function to teach men to think clearly and purely. In order to effect that for mankind, to carry reason as far as that somewhat stumbling and hesitating Pegasus will go, he sacrifices all the bypaths of mental enjoyment, the shady alleys and the moonlit gardens of the soul, in order that he may walk in rare air and a cold sunlight, living highly and austerely on the peaks of his mind and seeking God severely through knowledge. He treads down his emotions, because emotion distorts reason and replaces it by passions, desires, preferences, prejudices, prejudgments. He avoids life, because life awakes all his sensational being and puts his reason at the mercy of egoism, of sensational reactions of anger, fear, hope, hunger, ambition, instead of allowing it to act justly and do disinterested work. It becomes merely the paid pleader of a party, a cause, a creed, a dogma, an intellectual faction. Passion and eagerness, even intellectual eagerness, so disfigure the greatest minds that even Shankara becomes a sophist and a word-twister, and even Buddha argues in a circle. The philosopher wishes above all to preserve his intellectual righteousness; he is or should be as careful of his mental rectitude as the saint of his moral stainlessness. Therefore he avoids, as far as the world will let him, the conditions which disturb. But in this way he cuts himself off from experience and only the gods can know without experience. Sieyes said that politics was a subject of which he had made a science. He had, but the pity was that though he knew the science of politics perfectly, he did not know politics itself in the least and when he did enter political life, he had formed too rigidly the logical habit to replace it in any degree by the practical. If he had reversed the order or at least coordinated experiment with his theories before they were formed, he might have succeeded better. His ready-made Constitutions are monuments of logical perfection and practical ineffectiveness. They have the weakness of all logic; — granting your premises, your conclusion is all-triumphant; but then who is going to grant you your premises? There is nothing Fact and Destiny delight in so much as upsetting the logician's major and minor.
The logician thinks he has ensured himself against error when he has made a classification of particular fallacies; but he forgets the supreme and general fallacy, the fallacy of thinking that logic can, as a rule, prove anything but particular and partial propositions dealing with a fragmentary and one-sided truth. Logic? But Truth is not logical; it contains logic, but is not contained by it. A particular syllogism may be true, so far as it goes, covering a sharply limited set of facts, but even a set of syllogisms cannot exhaust truth on a general subject, for the simple reason that they necessarily ignore a number of equally valid premises, facts or possibilities which support a modified or contrary view. If one could arrive first at a conclusion, then at its exact opposite and, finally, harmonise the contradiction, one might arrive at some approach to the truth. But this is a process logic abhors. Its fundamental conception is that two contradictory statements cannot be true at the same time and place & in the same circumstances. Now, Fact and Nature and God laugh aloud when they hear the logician state his fundamental conception. For the universe is based on the simultaneous existence of contradictions covering the same time, place and circumstances. The elementary conception that God is at once One and Many, Finite & Infinite, Formed and Formless and that each attribute is the condition of the existence of its opposite, is a thing metaphysical logic has been boggling over ever since the reign of reason began.
The metaphysician thinks that he has got over the difficulty about the validity of premises by getting to the tattwas, the ideal truths of universal existence. Afterwards, he thinks, there can be no fear of confusion or error and by understanding and fixing them we shall be able to proceed from a sound basis to the rest of our task. He fashions his critique of reason, his system of pramanas, and launches himself into the wide inane. Alas, the tattwas are the very foundation, support and initial reason of this worldwide contradiction and logically impossible conciliation of opposites in which God has shadowed out some few rays of His luminous & infinite reality, — impossible to bind with the narrow links of a logical chain precisely because it is infinite. As for the pramanas, their manipulation is the instrument of all difference of opinion and the accompaniment to an unending jangle of debate.
Both the logician and the philosopher are apt to forget that they are dealing with words and words divorced from experience can be the most terrible misleaders in the world. Precisely because they are capable of giving us so much light, they are also capable of lighting us into impenetrable darkness. Tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayam ratah; "Deeper is the darkness into which they enter who are addicted to knowledge alone." This sort of word worship and its resultant luminous darkness is very common in India and nowhere more than in the intellectualities of religion, so that when a man talks to me about the One and Maya and the Absolute, I am tempted to ask him, "My friend, how much have you experienced of these things in which you instruct me or how much are you telling me out of a vacuum or merely from intellectual appreciation? If you have merely ideas and no experience, you are no authority for me and your logic is to me but the clashing of cymbals good to deafen an opponent into silence, but of no use for knowledge. If you say you have experienced, then I have to ask you, 'Are you sure you have measured all possible experience?' If you have not, then how can you be sure that my contradictory experience is not equally true? If you say you have, then I know you to be deluded or a pretender, one who has experienced a fragment or nothing; for God in His entire being is unknowable, avijnatam vijanatam."
The scientist thinks he has corrected the mistakes of the metaphysician because he refuses to deal with anything but a narrow and limited circle of facts and condemns everything else as hallucination, imposture and imagination. His parti pris, his fierce and settled prejudgments, his determined begging of the question are too obvious and well known to need particular illustration. He forgets that all experiences are facts, that ideas are facts, that subjective knowledge is the one fact of which he can be decently sure and that he knows nothing even of the material world by his senses but only by the use his subjective knowledge makes of the senses. Many a materialist will tell you that only those facts can be accepted as a basis to knowledge which the senses supply, — a position which no man can substantiate and which his science daily denies in practice. These reasoners consent to trust to their sovereign subjective instrument when it settles for them the truths about this world visible to their lower instruments, but the same sovereign instrument is condemned as wholly fallacious and insane when it deals in precisely the same way with another field of perceptions and experiences. When my subjective experience tells him, "I am hungry", he consents; "Of course, you must be since you say so." But let it tell him, "I am full of bliss from an immaterial source"; or "By certain higher instruments repeatedly tested I know that I have wandered in regions illuminated by no material sun," and he answers, "You are only fit for the gaol or the lunatic asylum." No one has seen the earth whirling round the sun, indeed we see daily the opposite, yet he holds the first opinion obstinately, but if you say "Although God is not seen of men, yet He exists," he turns from you angrily and stalks into his laboratory.
The practical man avoids error by refusing to think at all. His method at least cannot be right. It is not right even for the practical uses he prefers exclusively to all others. You see him stumbling into some pit because he refuses to walk with a light and then accusing adverse circumstances or his evil fortune, or he shouts, elbows, jostles, tumbles and stumbles himself into a final success and departs at last, satisfied; leaving behind a name in history and a legacy of falsehood, evil and suffering to unborn generations. The method of the practical man is the shortest and most facile, but the least admirable of all.
Truth is an infinitely complex reality and he has the best chance of arriving nearest to it who most recognises but is not daunted by its infinite complexity. We must look at the whole thought-tangle, fact, emotion, idea, truth beyond idea, conclusion, contradiction, modification, ideal, practice, possibility, impossibility (which must be yet attempted,) and keeping the soul calm and the eye clear in this mighty flux and gurge of the world, seek everywhere for some word of harmony, not forgetting immediate in ultimate truth, nor ultimate in immediate, but giving each its due place and portion in the Infinite Purpose. Some minds, like Plato, like Vivekananda, feel more than others this mighty complexity and give voice to it. They pour out thought in torrents or in rich and majestic streams. They are not logically careful of consistency, they cannot build up any coherent, yet comprehensive systems, but they quicken men's minds and liberate them from religious, philosophic and scientific dogma and tradition. They leave the world not surer, but freer than when they entered it.
Some men seek to find the truth by imaginative perception. It is a good instrument like logic, but like logic it breaks down before it reaches the goal. Neither ought to be allowed to do more than take us some way and then leave us. Others think that a fine judgment can arrive at the true balance. It does, for a time; but the next generation upsets that fine balancing, consenting to a coarser test or demanding a finer. The religious prefer inspiration, but inspiration is like the lightning, brilliantly illuminating only a given reach of country and leaving the rest in darkness intensified by the sharpness of that light. Vast is our error if we mistake that bit of country for the whole universe. Is there then no instrument of knowledge that can give us the heart of truth and provide us with the key word of existence? I think there is, but the evolution of mankind at large yet falls far short of it; their highest tread only on the border of that illumination. After all pure intellect carries us very high. But neither the scorner of pure intellectual ideation, nor its fanatic and devotee can attain to the knowledge in which not only the senses reflect or the mind thinks about things, but the ideal faculty directly knows them. Circa 1911