In the beginning was the deed – Redner
RETRIEVAL OF BEING
The Frozen Moment
The Invention of the Mind
Permanence and Universals
The Architecture of Legitimate Issues
Retrieving the Framing Questions
Enlarging Being to its Proper Dimensions
Rhetoric vs. Grammar
In the Humanities
Grounds of/for Being?
Students of the World?
I The Enigma of Being (Heidegger)
Models of Pure Being
The Circle which is Telling
Savage Substance – Being as Polemic
Descartes – the Essential Existential
Being As Time
Cant Since Kant
Language: Mortgage or Lend-lease?
And: If-not Being?
II Conceptual Chicken Coops
The Egg and I
Being as Body
Doubt about Existence
Existence vs. Being
Four Models of Rationality
Relativism versus Context
The Individual – Aristotle vs. Marx
Skepticism, Cynicism, Nihilism, and Slippery Slopes
A Picture worth a Thousand Words
Identity and Masks
The Problem of Evil
The Size of Being
RETRIEVAL OF BEING
The Frozen Moment:…the just-in-time as Plato banishes the body in the dialogue Phaedo. Contemplating personal death outweighs the desire and necessity to move on in one’s Being and Becoming; the means to overcome (any) fear of death transcribe, place structures and strictures on present experience. Outweighing all else, the fixation upon the eternality of death, the always growing sense of temporality snuffing out time itself, the time in and within which I know that I am turns a corner, abruptly.
I look back, now, me the philosopher-Teacher1 from the ever-is of the hereafter. The hereafter is called wonderful, heavenly, at one with the Being of being my soul, my mind, my spirit which has at last longing found its sense of truth, unmixed and unmired with any feelings; no more feelings, particularly those of out-of-control, desires, longings, fears, wishings to be or not to be, of sickness or health, of debts and owings to the being of our Being…all banished. The sense and senses of body borne and born; gone. Not to worry Being, but being freed of Being; ideality. Being is diminished radically into a partial partaking of the realm of ideality, of what would be…if…
The question of life circumscribed by a definition of death by Aristotle in de Anima, as the moment when the soul or spirit, the animating life force leaves the body: the body presumed, taken for granted as the locus of our Being: a place, a container or package. But/And the body is somehow prior: physics prior, a priori, previous to life (itself) As de anima is me ta physics, talk about the body, about the world is also me ta…physics.
The ground of reality (and nature) thus is physics.2 We muse endlessly about our place within it. Within it. In various ways we question existence as a quest for the reality and solidity of physics via its descriptor languages and logics; and we (See: Being and Identity) are somehow left-overs, residual in our very being, trying to figure how and what we might know, deriving the facticity of our existence from the idea that we are aspects, but principally descriptors, of some-thing which is essentially independent of our Being.
Beyond Finiteness: Caught within some Parmenidean necessity to resolve and to solve the interiorities of our experienced paradoxical being: logic vs. rhetoric. How can this finite being body, know, have imagination, scope beyond the bounds of my bodily Being? Bodily Being?
Instead, (I observe that) we are bodies, we are time, we are feelings, in gravity, well and sick, always on the edges and verges of control and out of control, is and will and would be, and we are of two kinds: not merely, not only mind, soul, spirit. We are male and female. Do we not note; not notice?
We must retrieve Being, becoming, and knowing just at that regnant moment when Plato solves the problem of death by banishing life, by banishing the body, leading us to not note gender…and what else do we not note?
The body is the truth, it is knowledge; it, I endure as I am. It is imagination, infinite, and transcendent; it is the terrestrial, the solid, the place, the beauty and the changing I; the believing and the disbelieving, the ugly, the rotting, the control at war with, in accord with desires, sickening, curing,…dying, borning; new-old, old-new. It is not eternal; it is eternal. It is the paradoxes of our Being which we must seek to understand, in order to know that and who we are; that and who we are…we are.
The Invention of the Mind: the problem is/was of the nature of human transcendence – how is it that we possess imagination, the ability to get beyond ourselves (Parmenides). The body appears(ed) incapable of moving beyond itself – a materialistic assumption that what is, is what is (defining the nature of “is-ness”). Physical bodies – a foundation based upon physics as the primariness of the universe – are what they are. But life is different; especially (perhaps) human life.
In order to account for the animism in humanity, the mind was posited as the word repository for the concept of the transcendent; that which gets us beyond the finite. First the notion of the mind, filled by whatever turns out to be definitional of “language” in any era. Then rationality, then life beyond life – it turned out to be a solution to (fear of) death – mostly by turning its back on life and living, and making life itself a puzzle which was (best?) answered by Augustine’s notion of the “fall” to earth. What a deal! Make sure you purchase a return ticket!
That fact: that the body is what there is, and “must” (therefore) be transcendent of itself (in the world with other[s’] bodies). How can we “imagine” that possibility – is the question of Western metaphysics, without the meta-? (We know other animals –> ourselves as bodies. We infer –> …our Being.)
Permanence and Universals: The issues which arise in our thinking are inevitably shaped by the early Greeks, whose ideas (still) permeate our own. Attempting to recreate their thought (Windelband), we enter with Thales into the idea that there is some “truth” – some particularly enduring or overarching architectonic; a unity – to the universe. Muse on the name of the concept: universe. Another paradox uncovered and resolved in the same moment as our Being beyond the finite.
One infers that the early Ionian and Milesian philosophers who came upon the notion of philosophy, of having happened upon a “ground” or position through which to see-through their own common-sensical observations, were the first “comparatists.” Having traveled far and wide, having noted that various peoples think differently, having figured out many of the rules of navigation, they return to their own “native” thinking with lenses newly colored by their sojourns in different places, in some immersion in different systems of thought; looking for in-commonesses.
The principal or primary insight, perhaps, is that there is some ground to see-through one’s own native or naive observations. Secondly, a set of questions (now) arise in thought which cause one to wonder both about the world and about oneself:
1) issues of change and permanence – if the world (actually) is totally in flux in some Heraclitean sense, then issues of identity and continuity arise. What is the same; what keeps things the same; maintaining, sustaining; structures, processes? If the world is inherently static or stable, then why is there (does there “appear” to be) change? Something about us; something about the world (its “unity”)? What is form, what substance; style or content? What is either/or and what is-not? Paradoxically, if the world is (we are) inherently changeable, why does much of Being seem continuous, stable? Have we invented structurations which we raise then to the level of what is?
2) questions of the real – if the world; if us – in which order? Which is primary: physics or that which is beyond physics (me ta physics)? If the material is primary, then what factors are at work in not allowing us to see it; what are causal factors, what is their locus –> “infinity” arose quite early as an explanatory notion (and called “the deity”). The idea that our Being is an issue of causality which is somehow beyond the world (God: an Aristotelian self-caused first cause), or lies within the world at an encompassing conceptual level (a world mind – a heavenly mind). Once this move occurs, then concentration is upon the nature of the transcendent, seeking out its nature (always presuming that the body is not itself, cannot be, transcendent).
3) if us – if the transcendent exists in some sense, then the issue of how we (can) know it assumes great importance. There must be, within us (bodily) – an aspect of our Being – which is, variously, like the transcendent, open to it, an aspect of it, etc. The Platonic solution (foreshadowed in Empedocles) is to deny the “truth” of our senses, and to look for those aspects of our being which are permanent – to foreswear whatever is changing within us to look for the permanence which organizes the universe, and which is external to being – in which we partake, but do not constitute. Banish the body and everything is…solved.
4) the grand issue – within the permanence/change paradox – came to be the question of knowledge, but in the following way: we “know” in two senses – the immediate knowledge arriving at our eyes and ears, versus the knowledge by which we “conjure up” images of knowing. Which is the true image, the imagined and remembered from some other time and place – or that which is immediate? Within the search for the transcendent, the image which is already in the mind, has clearly been the winner. (Again, the “fact” that we do/are both more-or-less simultaneously – that we are paradoxical creatures – does not seriously arise within this mode of thinking, as it is cast within the either/or of permanence versus change – the world seen as oppositional.
5) within the notion of material physics being in deep ways unchanging, the human body…Only rarely noting that we (our bodies) develop into the adult which we judge to be the human.
The Architecture of Legitimate Issues: The history of thinking about the human condition is focused particularly upon a small set of questions concerning what and who we are, how we are like and different from other species, and how we think and know. Especially is this true of what has come to be called metaphysics, in which the human condition is contrasted with, or more literally, with what remains “after” physics: i.e., the aspects of human life which are beyond the physical or material. Thinking about human nature has concentrated on the mental – the “left over” or the “more than” the physical – and is delimited by the obviousness of the individual; it is, as Whitehead says, “the philosophy of the organism.”
In these contexts it is the “relationship” between the mental and the physical body, and the ways in which individuals come together in social arrangements which have delimited the exploration of the limits of the human condition. The curing arts have taken over study of the physical in almost an exact opposition to metaphysics. The philosopher and the physician meet only rarely in discussion, having divided up the organism into two categories, each of which remains in its own domain. Following the ancients Plato and Aristotle, they all presume that our very nature is located within and about each individual: a mind and a body. Somehow, there seems to be a veiled presumption that the two categories will someday meet and add up to a total being, always at war with the idea that the mind or the body will explain human nature. The relationship between individuals – questions of interaction and discourse – have risen relatively recently as definitional of the individual.3
In Western thinking, where we are heirs and students of the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition, concentration upon metaphysics has been delimited and carved out of the larger senses and contexts of being human, to reside in the domain of the mind or soul or spirit. Here we have taken Being to be the non-material, in which it is considered that we are different from other species in terms of human “reason” – and the issue of our particular human identity has resonated within the sphere of reason’s domains: e.g., language, symbolic thought, knowledge. Whereas the physician can practice surgery upon other similar species, the metaphysician has held that humans are essentially unique, non-comparable with other species, however similar in other respects. (Until very recently, the anatomy of the cadaver has been idiomatic of the description of our bodies…interestingly. Now sports medicine, alternative medicine begins to admit, even acknowledge, that body moves upright and within gravity, contributing much to its adult form.)
Within these metaphysical domains, the mind and body are ensconsed within the individual organism. Where the individual is the beginning and the end, there has, historically, been little sense of reflection upon the organism as anything interestingly problematic within some more extensive or prior contexts.
Within some cycles which occur over several centuries, questions occasionally arise which seem to engulf the notion of metaphysics and reduce its possibilities of solving the what and who of being human.
Such times – we find ourselves within such, right now – are moments in the broad sweep of history when the edges of being seem to come to the center; when any meaning in and of life loses it power to inform and sustain; when the possibilities of annihilation overtake life itself, and make problematic the nature of our existence.4 At times like these, the broad history of great traditions is, paradoxically, both spurned and held up as paragon, in some epic battle in which the present moment finds itself at war with its history. Here, and now, is rediscovered cosmology and the questioning of existence itself. Here…and now, is problematized the metaphysical questions of the very nature of Being, and of being human.
Retrieving the Framing Questions: In the midst of this “era of problematization,” a number of inquiries are set in motion. Some of them are paradoxically historical and anti-historical: attempting to “retrieve” a prior time, a “classical” age when we were alternatively innocent or wise beyond present imaginings; e.g., a return to the Great Books of Western civilization,5 or a return to the Biblical texts in the hope of a messianic return in an approaching millennial moment. The retrieve/return is paradoxical becauses it “uses” historical sources to (re)define or revise the present, thus destroying, perhaps, the very concept of history. As a return to a putative past, it seems to be destroying or radically diminishing the concept of the ongoing present. As a retrieve it may open up the present to its possible importance.
The skepticisms which usually inform reason and rationality – not accepting whole-cloth the superstitious and unexamined and beyond nature (irrational, paranormal,…) – turn guarded and secretive. The skeptical tradition since Hume has argued that reason itself resides upon a foundation of feelings, passions, and intuitions. (“Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”)6 Do we, can we know about the external world? If not…? (Our bodies?)
If not, can we believe in, can we prove, our own existence? Descartes’ cogito no longer serves, no longer satisfies.
The skeptical tradition wrestles with a thoughtful and critical wonderment about fact and proof at war with an increasing puzzling about the possibility of knowledge: not only Plato’s truth vs. opinion, but ways of doubting doubt itself in the postmodern co-optation of science into the history of narrativity; just another story; all of Being is stories…All of knowledge is politics; esthetics; reality is virtual.
The skepticism grows: there is actual doubt about externality – and, I infer, also about our own existence, in spite of Descartes. The failure of Husserl’s phenomenology to positively construct the real continues to haunt us (and instruct us that all forms of idealism and formalism, including logic, are derived rather than central to or explanatory of Being).
The thinker yearning after truth, enters into a self-telling which begins to find success in showing that the very possibility of truth is itself problematic. In this era, Hume’s 18th century skepticism cannot find this self I may call myself, nor can it find any solid basis on which knowing may ground itself. The skeptic turns cynical – first wonders that anything may be known in surety; then in a mood of self-protection of the self-denied, dwells upon the death of the very concept of existence. If rationality is uncertain, if God is seen as dead, the very concept of meaning recedes, and as Nietzsche tells us, there will rise a form of (European) nihilism. An unrequited positivism, a visitor to its own life, finds its solace in an intellectual nihilism!? Fun?!
Physical being is no longer proof of itself! Life and being, socially constructed: deconstruct meaning and find…meaning? (The question of the socially constructed body arising recently within the re-discovery of gendered being, is an intellectually constructed body which forms an oppositional category within the mental, leaving the originary mind-body dichotomy fairly intact; as usual.)
As the self-telling skeptic engages in an internal dialogue over what she/he knows, as well as the very notion of knowing, the business of our engagement is both psychological and metaphysical. As we follow Hume, this relies on some notion of the human individual, the organism as a composite which focuses upon how each of us gets knowledge perceptually, and molds it into knowing: as metaphor, it is a story of how we look out from the primary position of observer of the world and what we do with this knowledge in our minds’ concatenations.
Its central Parmenidean puzzle has to do with how a finite creature of flesh and blood (you/I) can exist “outside” of the present here and now (our inherited notion of this time: Below) transcendental with respect both to space and to time…able to approach the gifts we reserve for our deities: eternality and omniscience. Indeed the very ability to conceive of this deity has been used, often, as proof that God exists, and that we are conceived in His(!) image. (Anselm et al)
But this story is narrow and limited in spite of its acceptance as common-sensical. Many of the “facts of life” have been omitted or circumnavigated in our enthusiasms and fears. The rhetorical aspects of our Being have been seen as derivative, reachings-out from each individual, rather than seeing us, primarily, as children of our parents.
How to see us as we are: first, we need to retrieve Being.
Our conceptualization of Being has been guided, frequently, within the context of a vague theory about nature: usually so-called natural law, in which the issues of psychology and metaphysics are extended directly into politics.7 But the politics have begun from the notion of the adult (male) being totally “free” in nature, and “chained” within the contract of our becoming social (Rousseau).
Instead we are most likely creatures who have “emerged” from sociality into individuality, and are dialogic in our very beingness, rather than Hobbesian “solitaries.” (Mead)
Within this context of retrieval, many of the problematics of earlier philosophies will see themselves altered, dissolved, or recast. Whether skepticism about knowledge, about the reality of the external world, can be made to vanish, at the least we will see that knowledge does not begin from individual being.8 We are not primarily individual students of the external world, but primarily of others and of their views of reality; more emergent than given.
Enlarging Being to its Proper Dimensions: Then, too, there is an undercurrent, at times an undertow as swift and powerful as the ocean currents off Monterey which robbed, too early, the life of a friend. This undercurrent lurks below the surface, nibbling at the concept of (one’s) Being, and circumscribes the very size of Being.
As a lying-under, I can address it only by circumlocution and by example or metaphor. With the victory of a mechanical notion of the human body standing outside, as it were, of its own observations in the 18th century, a victory, that is, of the heliocentric theory of being, the size of being was significantly reduced. From a deity who had created the world, this earth, specifically for us, for me, now we humans all seem infinitesimal and Lilliputian.
It is no longer enough to be concerned with death as a major shaper of life, now we have to fight for some self-respect, and seek to become celebrated within our earthly existence. And in the modernest sense of the postmodern critique, the implosion of belief in science and rationality further raises the pathological and the narrative to central determinative status, taking us away from any sense of (willful) self-determination.
The possibility of knowledge in the sense of wisdom further fades as we operate from a nagging yearning, more than from the strengths inherent in Being. We tend to be impressed by devices more than by Being; by the proclamation of others upon our Being, rather than from any voice within. We have undermined the nature of Being by attacking reason or faith, faith and reason, and are threatened with the loss of meaning, even as we find selfhood reduced. (That is, in the Meadian sense, emergence does not mean merely that we are derived.)
(But there is a lesson in this: if Being can be diminished, or in any way altered, it can no doubt be increased, or…!)
Sunderings Thunderings: In a form of parallelism, there is also a wondering if our understandings and perceptions of where we are is bound-up restrictively by any particularity of our thinking; particularities which are capable of being seen, being studied critically, of gotten around, beyond, or simply passed-by. Here the concept of the postmodern offshoots of Heidegger’s wonderings about Being, claim that the history of (Western) thought has strait-jacketed thinking.
To think critically, its seems necessary from this perspective, to enter into some mode which will be revolutionary, explosive, and de(con)structive; to declare the present to be a “new” time: post-modern, after metaphysics.9
If, as Buber claims, we are not now “at home” upon this earth, how did we come to this so sorry state? How, where were we misdirected, misled? Studying this history of ideas, can we now locate ourselves in any ways freshened, cleansed, newly naive and open? Or is the critical approach itself so jaundiced that it poisons clear vision? Can we retrieve our history to make the present…indeed, just how would we like the present…to be? (Or are we too comfortably bedded-down within the architectonic of historic edifices to inquire…?)
Alternatively – associatively – we can attempt to grasp the present by studying its workings, by noting what has been emphasized, and seeing if – and what – has been left-out, omitted from our purview. We note that the history of ideas about Being, about being human, has been selective and restrictive. It has been more wishful, exuberant, and excessive in certain narrownesses, hoping that some reductive notion – brain, behavior, rationality, mind; language, society, culture, a deity; history, purity, ideality, normality,… would sufficiently characterize what is human, that it could/would tell us who and what we are.
We note now that there is a marketplace for ideas, in which skepticism suspends itself, that success in that market overwhelms knowing and the possibility of human wisdom. Success and integrity? Diogene’s tears snuff-out the candle of truth just as it is being lit.
There is a politics of ideas: what power do particular ideas yield to its promoters or detractors? We note that the application of these ideas, themselves, is used for self-promotion or control.
Most recently, we note that there are parallel ways of thinking about the human condition, many of which have survived and inform the thinking and being of countless humans: a comparative study of thought, a search into the likelihood and actuality of humans understanding in a mutality of their Being.
Rhetoric vs. Grammar: history and her/his-story. Much of the last three or so centuries of thought about the human condition, has been about human knowledge, and especially about the place or position in which we find ourselves: alternatively viewing the world from a place suspended, seeing objects, objective; and entering actively into the unfolding, with no obviously privileged locus of removal or safety.
While the story called science and technology has been very successful in considering the observer to be remote, suspended, removed and outside, always the same in his(!) objectivity, the humanities since Rousseau have entered the human psyche by as many routes as imagination has been able to conjure. Life is variable, changeable, intuitive; knowledge itself a form of desire.
What (I think) is a paradox which enters into each of our lives more or less strongly at different moments, has been raised to the level of the metaphysics of Being. What constant; what changing – and the “so what” of either position. Heraclitus haunts Being. The body changes, but the mind does…not? Or does the mind not…notice? Do we construct narratives whose self-telling completes itself? I am…where? Where am I to…go?
If we are commicational, rhetorical creatures by our very nature, can be (also) be individual: priorities, reconnections, dialogue and discourse within an ongoing present? What notion of grammar could account for what and how we know?
Parallel Living: To enter (literally) into the science-humanities dialectic is to find the position of objectivity, of removal, of constancy, having had the size and importance of human being, ignominiously reduced. As a sideshow and accompaniment to the mechanical model of remote observation, there has been a sense that this observer stands outside of history, of culture, of language; indeed, outside of his(!) own life.
We have learned, since Plato (Meno) to live “outside” of our own lives, parallel as it were to experiencing. The issue of our Being has been retranslated into active “living” of our lives, where we were trained somehow to live “outside” of ourselves. (Humans are unique, mentally, logically,…study logic, discover myself? Me? Myself? I?)
How did we purchase the list of oppositional categories in which human “objectivity” seemed to raise us “above” – above nature, perhaps, even while seeking nature? In a quest for determinate truth, his(!) objective, rational truth has led him ironically to be hand-maiden to the devices which have resulted from the endeavor. Occasionally – and then only briefly – has the human perspective arisen to the position of its own examination. Will we all get swept away in the 3rd wave of technology? Won’t we…?
What seemed a freeing from textual truths, from the oppressions of organized churches and never-so-benevolent despots, turned instead toward a self-imposed diminishment in which the replaceability of everyone by everyone, has created a smallness of being which does not note its own bondages (excepting when it “feels” frightened, and moves rapidly from objectivity to a full removal from the self: toward mysticism, the deity, the bureaucratization of the mind, Being as a cog on the assembly line,…).
In the Humanities: The complications, and powers, the involutions, and possibilities of the human condition have focused upon the mental – textually tracing knowledge to its human focus and concentration in the transcendental sphere of being which Plato first created in the dialogue Phaedo, in which the realm of mental being is somehow beyond or transcendent to actual construed as physical being.
But where/how do we seek our the truth about Being? As Heidegger said: “After all, it is the subject who knows, and it is in the subject that the criteria of truth are to be found.”10 Or is truth located somewhere/somehow outside of Being? The dialectic between the sciences and the humanities arises quite differently within each perspective, and the question of Being, of the human condition and of human nature finds itself stated quite differently – neither parallel nor complementary – beginning from the different notion of the locus of truth: in nature, or within individual (knowledge). (Ongoing struggles to understand Protagoras’ paradox: man is the measure of…all things.)
The battle for the truth of truth resonates increasingly within the breastplates of truth’s detractors, being caught in a paradox which turns into a dialectic from which removal seems the only option: there is no truth, there is only…politics, narratives, history,…
But the loss of the possibility of any universal, rational truth, various forms of intellectual and/or critical nihilism, has different paths within the humanities, leading only sometimes to similar endings, but via different routes: not from the diminution of Being, but because Being has become located in various texts; or because each super-organic notion in turn (Society, Language, Culture,…) has been used as definitional of the entire nature of our being.
While we rejected the supernatural as explaining human nature, we replaced it with various super-organic transcendentals; each, in turn, has promised to explain fully ourselves to ourselves. And the question of textual interpretation has become problematized, problematic, impossible; because the temptation to return to classical texts as defining of existence, of the diminution of the spirit overwhelmed by Plato’s systematics, seems to leave less and less room for now or for newness – another form of the impossibility of change, newness, or originality (…ironically at war with the vast developments in new technologies).
Grounds of/for Being? In this melange of controversy with no possibility of meeting except most briefly in the whitewater downstreams of nihilism already accepted, it is useful and necessary to reexamine the very grounds of our Being: to see, for example, that we are physical, that we do change; but that we live as well, as persistents if not constants, exactly. (There is much to be studied in our ability to see ourselves into our childhood photos!)
We know a great deal, so that knowledge is not only possible but interesting. Hume’s skepticism, for example, does not follow the human condition, but particular ways of philosophizing about it.
The skepticisms about knowledge, of the impossibility of knowing or of being oneself, are not aspects of Being, but of having-been. By entering into history, critically, we do not necessarily have to become victims of that history, mere foot-noters to Plato or Aristotle,11 but thinkers who can walk-with them in these (too?) complicated times; an attempt not to purge, rather to domesticate and walk hand-in-hand in the ongoing present with these originary thinkers.
Now is, perhaps, the time to examine critically those defining aspects of Being which have “hidden” from us the rhetorical and discursive aspects of our Being: the surreptitious elements of being human which have included powerful theories of nature, of our Being-not the other creaures in our world (two-year olds know this; why have we forgotten or downgraded such forms of knowing?).
It is a time to note that we are, in the very terms of our Being, in discourse with our m/others from the beginning of Being: the individuality we have merely presumed to characterize Being, is, emergent, not given. The logic of our “object” or “idea-formal-sentence” grammar which we have thought to characterize what is human – by the hiddenness of our presumptive characterization of what is not-human – will be seen to be an aspect of a grammar of rhetoric: the basis and “how-ness” of how we come to possess knowledge (e.g., Q-R). Any so-called universality of language is due primarily to m/others in every society teaching their children language/understanding via very similar Q-R processes.
In the actual world, much as the organism as individual seems to occur “self-defined,” primary, irreducible, the facts of our Being are that we survive (literally) within the contexts of m/others (parents) giving us life; then “granting” us life.
We, I, you, are not survivable creatures alone, as individuals: not the feral children in some pre-human time, not the “speechless statue” of Condillac, to which we add attributes and needs on the way to defining what is human. Rather, we are creatures who are defined, seen, treated through the (complicated and growing/changing) screens of our parents’ conceptualizations – not merely their conceivings.
Whatever the features of the (physically bounded, individual) organism in some senses per se, they are structured in great force by others. Our individuality has as a major source, their definings and treatment of each child; not arising from the individual in any primary sense. If, as has been said, logic is the defining characteristic of what is human, it is at most a sub-set of a more encompassing grammar of rhetoric: the grammar of Question and Response (Q-R).12
As the debate to which we are heir, of Descartes, Locke, Hume, Leibniz, Kant et al, has told us, it is the question of how we know and possess knowledge of the external world, which has virtually defined Being. This debate must be now recast by considering that the individual is (always) in some relation with others. Indeed, I will suggest that the “individual” (now italicized as a concept) does not directly study the world, but that she/he is an eager student of m/others’ – parents’ – conceptualizations of that world. The grammatical and conceptual structurings of the world as we experience it, are derived/shared with others.
The categories of “pure reason,” the ontic and transcendental categories of Kant do not come ready-to-wear in the infantile package as some given of the human intuition, but are aspects of rhetorical-developmental processes. Even questions and knowing of the nature of space and time, of causality itself, are garnered from parental definitions of the world.
What is innate, primary, or primitive in the human situation characterized often as a form of Euclidean geometry, will remain moot: but, in any case, it is pushed, pulled, shaped, refined and defined in the direction of knowledge which is characterized more-or-less well by the notion of language in the rhetorical sense of Q-R. Children study parents, thence their knowings of the world, thence…knowing. (Most of what we call individuality comes later in development, the propositional person, much demanded by mothers/others!)
If there are in-born or given some thousand features of the individual organism, it is those (fewer) which parents select, frame and shape, in whose contexts and terms we survive actually and literally. The Aristotelian notion of human “potential” was, at the least, over-stated, presuming as it did, that we were primarily and exhaustively composed of mind located in body. Purpose, futurity, we understand within their (mothers/others) framing of our Being.
As knowledge – rather the accounting for knowledge – is not located within the individual, a number of problems inherent in the earlier organismic metaphysics will be seen either as non-problems in the context of a rhetorical grammar, or will be re-directed: e.g., the problem of “other minds,” questions of the finite and the universal, whether words and signs are “natural” or “representational,” whether we are changing or unchanging, etc.
In addition, I will attempt to show how and why metaphysics has taken certain turns, directions, and paths toward the nature of human understanding, and why these are incomplete, following the notion of language (thus Being) as primarily logical rather than primarily rhetorical. (In the context of the grammar of Question and Response, logic is an aspect of the structuration of Q-R responses.)
The attempt will be to suggest a coherent human study which matches more closely the experiencing of the human, rather than one which concentrates upon one side or the other of the several (metaphysical) paradoxes which have plagued thinkers since time immemorial; and which have been used as the architectonic framing and explanatory of what is human.
In the cases of some of these paradoxes, of the various logical antinomies, the development of our thinking occurs within, perhaps in spite of them. To claim that we are not paradoxical, or that paradoxes need to be resolved, is not to mirror, account for, or explain the human condition, but to attempt to resolve paradoxes in favor of one or another path in solving or handling any human dilemma. This is precisely what has happened historically in our coming to the study of Being (seen most clearly be comparing different theo-political world traditions with the Western).
Rather, paradox will be treated as natural to Being, requiring study toward its understanding, towards its existential working-out: but not toward its denial or any solution which favors one mode of existence over some other, and some particular architectonic and understanding of human nature.
Students of the World? or, Students of our Parents’ (visions of the World)? Since Kant (in terms of Heidegger’s retrieval of Kant, at the least), the question of the ontic, of the necessaries of human knowledge, has been stated in such terms, as “laying the foundation of” human knowledge.”13
What is the “intuitive” (Leibniz), what the features of Kant’s notion of “pure reason” which grant us the “possibility” of human knowledge? Why these questions as the questions of epistemology?
I will claim that there is very little “built-in” to the human (infants’) condition; beyond the ability to relate to (love, attend highly to) m/others highly contrastive faces, be fascinated with the sound of the sounds of questions to be answered by responses, be fascinated with their mouths and tongues and sucking …
Infants are in some very intimate relationship (from the “beginning”), with their m/others (parents, previous generation). They are eager students, entranced and delighted with others’ faces as a very central feature of their (own) lives.
Indeed they become individuals in some emergent senses only from and within the dialogic. They gather/gain a sense for Kant’s categories from discourse with their parents: even learning what is time, what space, what is the question and answer to “Why?” (The roots of causality located here?) Here, belief in Being and in the world take root (Hume).
If any infants are, indeed, skeptics about knowledge, they do not survive in any sense, usually/normally. (Survival, that is, is problematic in the human condition, and we must study how it occurs and when it does not.)
The gaining of language and of knowledge are neither direct nor linear, but exist within a number of processes by which our infants-children “bootstrap” knowledge: undergoing vast, even radical changes in perception and outlook, as they advance through a series of “form-content” alterations. (See: Context)
To study the development of knowing, we need to observe the dialogues between mothers/others and their infants/toddlers. We need to critique the sort of thinking about development which already constructs the outline of the nature of the ontogenetic processes as toward the mental-rational-symbolic from the bodily bound-in-time.
To begin to rethink (invert) our thinking and learn to see what is happening in the infant-parent dialogue, we must query the observational construction of mothers: how and what they see/sense; how they respond; how they not only see their child in that present moment, but also projected into the future as a person essentially like themselves. The parental side of the dialogue, the construction and interpretation of their child, is way beyond the organismic. The infant responds in kind, and becomes much like she/he(!) is constructed. (The child’s contribution…)
To enter critically into rethinking the nature of Being and becoming, it is important to rethink how each of us constructs an infant: what it/he/she is and will be; lift it, feel, smell, imagined into the future of walking, thinking, all impressed in one instant upon the babe of our viewings. Interesting, treasured, already with a future history projected rearward into this moment, and each next moment, and…
Admittedly, it is difficult to unpack and become critically aware of what we observers already bring to our seeings. It is useful to observe the young and their m/others in some other species; and to enter into the projected imagination of those mothers as they cajole, correct, caress their young not out of some inner necessity, but out of the desire to see them as future adults of that species; correct, decent, theirs (the ground for any truly comparative study).
To see humans as already distinct from other species in our beginning observations is to have accepted the metaphysical explanatory scheme of our Being, to collect data within a schema of thought, but not to see, necessarily.
It is also helpful/necessary to rethink the nature of various (apparent) paradoxes; importantly the form-content paradox. With respect to a growing/changing infant, our ideas of form and content need to be rethought as a kind of (set of) process: what is (attractively!) form at one moment, becomes content in a next. What is then form is perceived from a “new” notion of content (of one’s being). See: Context.
No direct analysis of the adult content of language will be able to characterize this actual ontology of knowledge, indirect appearing as it is. Nor is it obvious how to characterize the experience of various developmental “stages,” because the perception of “form” from each, differs when one is “within” from when one is “past” that life-moment. (It is similar and comparable to the “plateaus” of, say, musical performance skill, where one does not improve, does not improve, then – “of a sudden” – there is a “break-through, and one moves rapidly beyond these halting places, reconceptualizing, regathering, being different, thence regathering the next set of form-problematics.)
It is not knowledge of the world which (individual) children gain during development, but knowledge of their parents’ view of the world. Whether this insight leads us beyond Hume’s skepticism, or not, each infant finds language (in its widest senses) to be sufficient, inviting, and engaging. They are (including each of us in our own ontogenies) – if they survive – not skeptics in the Humean sense.
(As we will see there are a number of moments (later) in each individual’s psychological development, where there comes a “realization” of a number of life’s “paradoxes” which often inspire review, updating, and, often, some “resolution.”)
Without a dialogic, rhetorical sense of knowledge, there is (and has been, historically) the urge to raise some of these life-paradoxes to philosophical heights, and to construct great systems of thought (theo-political-philosophical) based upon one or another resolving of a “felt” paradox; e.g., the paradox of the finite/universal or of the changing/unchanging character of being which have been favorites of the West.
Although the wish to de-struct idealism and metaphysics may lead to a Meadian notion of the emergent individual from the rhetorical and communicational aspects of social existence, this is not sufficient to move us beyond various architectonics of human existence: directions, purposes, presumed uniquenesses…
Much of the impetus for my dialogic-rhetorical view derives from the investigation into the actually observed lives of other species, where we come to see that they are highly social.14 That is to say: in the context of the history of thinking about human uniqueness due to the acquisition of language, it was not language which made us social as Hobbes and natural law claim. That is, the human uniqueness of language remains undetermined; part, so far, of our Western story of difference between humans and others.15
This recent insight into other species should lead us to rethink our thinking about Being, not only within the individual vs. rhetorical models of being, but also comparatively when we are able to rethink our own thinking by accepting (if only as thought experiment) the idea that other species (also) raise their young to be much like they are (purpose/progress. See: Morality of Becoming).
The direction, end, or purpose of development is toward the present conceptualization of what it means to be…a person, adult of whatever type or species.
As Western thought developed its particular form having assumed that only humans are (intrinsically) social, this sense of the sociality of others and of humans should considerably alter our thinking about what is human: I call this sense that other species’ sociality casts doubt upon previous analyses of human knowledge via language, the ethological critique. Others – notably Bahktin and Buber – came upon this notion from other inspirings, so while there is much parallelism in the direction for new understandings of the human condition, there will be also inevitable differences in focus, and in the nature of our accountings.
The Enigma of Being (Heidegger)
Enigmatic Being: Having pursued the notion and question of Being to its sources in Plato (Sophist) and Aristotle (Metaphysics), and to its presence in each moment, Heidegger’s devoted tenacity leaves us still with the enigma of being: we exist, we understand at some level that we are in each moment, and deal with existence and the world through such an (implicit) understanding. Yet the ground, the being of our Being remains somehow vague, elusive…an enigma. (23 B&T) Yet it is the fundamental question. (24)
The skeptic hangs heavy about the necessities which underlie the very possibility of knowledge: what is to be “`taken for granted in all our reasoning’ – amounts to two things: acceptance of the existence of body and of the general reliability of inductive belief formation [which are]…ineradicably implanted in our minds by Nature.”
Wittgenstein “speaks of our learning from childhood up, an activity, a practice, a social practice…[which] reflect the general character of the practice itself, form a frame within which the judgments we actually make hang together in a more or less coherent way.” (Strawson p. 18-19). But, the skeptic remains unsatisfiable!
Can we not prove that we are? Yes? How?
How, then, are we? What is our nature?
What is the (ontic) foundation of our knowledge?
What is the relation between Being and knowing?
We must enter warily and critically into the history of thoughts which have led us to this state in which we cannot exactly ferret out the nature of our Being, and enter into an intellectual “de-struct” mode (Heidegger: Derrida’s “deconstruct”), to peel off, as it were, the layerings of concepts which ensconce this most basic of problems, this most hidden and enigmatic form of intellectual grail.
Our concept of Being is so layered with the paints and elaborations of history that we can no longer discern the original or originary structure (is there such a structure?). (In a deific context, we might ask if Adam would recognize himself in our Being.)
The journey is heady. Its map leads beyond metaphysics, towards escaping the mined fields of conceptual war which have led us to this necessity for destruction of our antecedents: they who have contaminated our being able to think in clean and perspicuous ways. It is largely a critique of thinking about the nature of language. What is it that simultaneously enables thinking and directs it into tortured paths? How, as example, can we know the truth of any false statements?16
When we name things, call things, do we name the thing in terms of its “limits,” or in terms of what it is, here and now?
If the namer, that thing I call myself is in this moment, then how is it that I know more than what is, in this moment?
How do I know the limits, the aboutness of the thing, beyond the thing itself?
Which is real, more actual; and where am I? What is (in) my immediate consciousness?17
How do I know and think, gather my memory and make judgment upon the world of “right now,” simultaneously see and hear what is externally immediate and available to my senses?
How do I “incorporate” this “new” knowledge into Being, whilst swimming (ahead?) in the stream of consciousness?
Memory? Forgetting? Being?
The search for the understanding of Being entails an examination of our virtual presence, looking out at the visible aspects of the material and personified world, attempting in each moment to fill our Being with a fulness which realizes in the consciousness of our own thinking, that we are here…and now. Realizing its own realizings…
On the journey it re-discovers the body, an unveiling; as if we were once again and still, Eve and Adam. How had we lost sight of our bodies; of the concept of our being bodies?
Yet, to remain in some Jungian universe of what once was, may cripple the phenomenological and existential which is us as well, and lead us away from today, bureaucratizing the mind, and destroying the nerve to see our seeing.18
Uphill, over dale, we note that there is some possibility, some opposition, some antinomy between what is visible, and how it has emerged from the shadow of non-being. The visible world has, at all moments, various possibilities, only one of which is that which is. In its turn, it calls our attention to our own presence, as the namer, the see-er, the observer, who is subject to each named object.19
Our attention is directed to the billboards and footnotes as if a moving trajectory propels us, and directs us to the engagement with the knowing of each moment, the present linked to our presence. We are puzzled about the precise locus of our Being and wonder whether we move or we are moved; whether we are conscious and reflective as we look out; whether we are bombarded by sense impressions and “raw” percepts which overwhelm our reflectivity; how we can be both sensitive and reflective…puzzles all. How do we know that the youthful appearing subject of our own childhood photographs is continuous with who I am, here and now? Subject; object? Yes, a paradox, and…
Moving thence, our awareness of our presence disengages our presence – by our “differance” and separation – from the materiality of the substances of which (by which) we name and call. Knowledge, knowing, just how do I know where I am as I move along? Am I no more than the stream of impressions which Hume says I am; leaving no I, no self, whom I recognize as me, as I? Is there only a single pathway, or do we live within and as several simultaneities? (Lewis Carroll). Do we have them safely in the hard disks of memory; or are they generated old/anew each day, frequently, set in the contexts of context in which meaning and Being find themselves? Body loci of memory: tongue, eyes,…?!
If, to push the intellectual skepticism to its ultimate de-lights, there is no self, is there ought but relationships between things – say, cause and effect, contiguity? Is (to extend this to its n-th) there any external world which we can know directly, which we can know exactly? Not only (Hume) skepticism about knowledge, but a severe skepticism about the possible objects of any knowledge, remains a cloying puzzle. (though Becker says the world can be calculated just fine, whether or not it actually exists)20 – leading to a nihilism which knaws at being.
So what: if being and objects are all arbitrary, all re-presentations whose solipsistic leanings know no ground?21 Im-pure reason? Categories categorized?
So what if it is all semiotic? What if the world presents itself to us as some systems of signs? By now, that statement or claim is no surprise. It does not lessen the skepticism; perhaps delays it, suspends it by asking: what sort of creatures are we that we respond to signs?
It doesn’t melt away the skepticism, but holds it in abeyance while we search anew for the sense of meaning which we had thought, and hoped, was located in knowledge, in language. Now, we wonder about our own presence. Are we satisfied by Derrida’s notion of “differance?” Being: a kind of subtraction? (Living, breathing, joyous…?)
Just now we begin to sense that presence of our Being notes the presence of the being of others (Habermas et al). We are in some dialogue with them; our Being is discursive, somehow. My journey, mine alone? My journey, defined, directed by others? Is my very Being emergent (Mead)? Is it only/merely derived? What concepts fill the notions of conscience, love, mourning? Not, as Heidegger, claimed: “Being is always the Being of an entity,” (29 B & T)
For this moment: Stop! We have uncovered and recovered “rhetoric” [which is] “not a matter of pure form but has to do with the relation of language to the world (to life) through the relation of linguistic expressions to the specific circumstances in which their use makes sense.”22 I/we are body in the world with other(s’) bodies. I am! But who? How?
In many senses, it is Language which is the culprit who has hidden our being from ourselves and has left it…enigmatic. The metaphor of moving upon a map, upon a singular trajectory was misdirective; moving is not only singular, but in concert…with?
Heidegger attempted to link Being with time, to base a theory of being upon the notion of time. As we will see, the very notion of time has been linked, surreptitiously, with the notion of the human body. Surreptitiously; then we hide the body from our mind’s eyes.
Thought’s Culprit: The locus of the enigma is in the Western depiction of substance, (Aristotle’s Metaphysics especially) which discusses the notions of primariness and irreducibility of the those things we name as objects. Our Being is thus derived, in peculiar ways, and is “after” physics (me ta physika), because we (as heirs of Aristotle) have presumed that the materiality of the world is somehow prior; primary, “before” Being (and “lesser?”).
Our Being – the bodily aspect of Being – is cut of the same cloth, but our spirit, the locus of the ways of our knowing about the world, stands outside. But, again the enigma, asks “Where?” And “When?” (And non-being lurks in our thinking about being, as well. Has the enigma overtaken true, actual, experiencing being? Why do we love the enigma more than we love bodily Being?)
The originary depiction of Being, found in Plato and Aristotle’s metaphysical works, is compounded in Aristotle’s Politics, in which the notion of individual is presumed. Once presumed – so clear at the level of the obvious – it is divided into body and mind, thence taken directly into the realm of politics: it is stated that the master rules over the slave, the king over the subject (man over woman, etc.), in direct analogy with the mind “ruling” over the body as…director, leader, chooser, the source of the will (Body Politic).
Physics, materiality thus accounts for being, but then submits to the rule of “mind over matter.” So presumptive and obvious is this to us, that the current version of skepticism asks whether we can know that we are body: is the mind embodied? (The inverse thinker asks, in some sense of spite: is the body “enminded?”)
In the 17th century, these ideas are modernized in the conceptual basis of natural law. Hobbes presumes a world of nature in which Being human consists of adult male “solitaries,” who upon developing “reason” (differentiating them from non-human males), enter into society: giving up their complete freedom to love and to leave in competition with all other males, in return for safety from the death which, reason now tells them, may ensue from this ungentle competition to win…
Much of the subsequent discussion of human nature follows from these metaphors of nature, freedom, society, and reason. Though it now appears very unlikely that this depiction of nature is at all accurate (we have been social creatures since pre-human times), this grounding of the ideas of nature and of what is human reappears in our thinking, willy-nilly. The enigma of Being has been traveling the conceptual road for some time.
This conceptual journey has led us to see all individuals as primary: no gender, no age. What paths have each of us traveled upon, not to see much of what there is to see and to Be, not well fixed to see history or the present?
An example: in a postmodernist battle for equality of the genders and the right of the present to own knowledge, Hobbes’ depiction of natural law is never distant from modern thinking. The present times become worrisome times when the rise of crime and terrorism seems rapid. Lack of responsibility and obligation by the criminal and/or those opposed to the currents of power, make Hobbesian thinking newly attractive: competition is the law of life; the political is economic is rational; power is in the hands of those who deserve it; are it.
Enigma? In considering the nature of Being, it can arise as enigma only in response to some prior notion of Being, not from a sense of Being “in and of itself,” or as each infant lives/experiences it. What prior ideas of Being wander within: are they (world) historical or lying somewhere in the memorized experiences, in the nether regions of each of our Being?
More. The rationalist impulse has awoken us (in us?) only as adults to discover that Being is in some senses problematic. That life has paradoxes, or that life is often paradoxical, requires awakening and discovery, a sense that one’s prior and earlier Being was wrong, naive, incomplete, a step on the way to…
“Ah hah!” and “My God, I’m going to die,” and “I am girl, or boy,” floats above being just as we had come to think that life is interesting and good and…being 7 or 4 or 60 years old.
Just as we have (but recently) discovered that the promise of progress from technology has been broken by its own success producing too much garbage, we awake puzzled that life’s journey is not all linearly forward. It is a life-strangeness that all is not progressive, a building toward…We grow up; mature. But in whose terms? Being as epidemiology? (See: The Ideal)
There are shadows, places which lurk around next corners, which turn us around and cast us upon wavy waters. The present, our presence, looks out from under wispy clouds. The signposts do not stand out so boldly as we had (once) thought, and desires to see clearly are often molded into translucent yearnings, repulsions, delights, or fears. Yet we often come upon scenic outlooks where we gain oversight of our Being from whence the enigma melted, fades. Vision, clarity, surety?
Certain people in (un)certain times seem desperately to yearn for the days of innocence before we were conscious of our destiny. How often do such yearnings govern thinking about the nature of Being?
How so? Where are these places whose brilliance of light and transparence of the air between here and there frees us from Plato’s burden of obscuring shadows? When we find them, will we recognize where we are; that we are…there? Where do I stand? Is my ground firm? Does the light enlighten or merely play with the shadows obscuring Being?
What has perplexed the mighty thinkers, those who began from the irreducibility of things, is how a thing is at once particular, yet partakes in universality. What perplexes us, their intellectual heirs, is much the same. Why this paradox? How do we resolve it so we can solve…the enigma? (Is resolution of paradox and de(con)struction of texts, approximately the same? Does the dualism inherent in Western thought prevent us from grappling directly with the paradoxes of life? No two-year old I have seen, by the way, has any difficulty with the paradox of one and many! The great paradox, an adulthoid reflection on one’s ability to know that of which one was once clear and sure? Maturity?)
It has been the Western impulse to side with the universal, the species of things over against the particularity of Being in time, which has done the most tell us to tell ourselves that Being is an enigma. From granting the primariness of being substance, we have told ourselves that it is humans’ destiny to see beyond the moment. Only…humans. If our Being is able to be beyond its time, then where am I, right now? The paradox resolved not so happily by postulating that Being is two, or three, or…The enigma of Being, a problem in intellectual-bureaucratic management of its constituent parts? (And if the greatest historical contribution to knowledge by Plato is his solving the problem of death by banishing the body, isn’t is obvious that Being remains an enigma in this line of thinking?)
Whether students of Aristotle’s more practical approach to knowing, or of Plato’s concentration upon the universal forms of the things which populate the world, both traditions are of one mind in wishing to resolve the paradox of Being one and many at once.
May it be that this paradox is not so puzzling? Is it any more difficult to live with, than these other “facts of life?” – gender, death, sleep,…? Is this really a paradox: being finite, being infinite? The finiteness of our being has seemed…sad?
Has it seemed so obvious that to examine it in greater depth is only to prove that life is, at best, banal?! Whence does the paradox arise, that it is at once so subtle, and so (apparently) convincing?
Models of Pure Being: Within the notion of Being as substance, as the irreducible individual, there has been a great temptation to deal with the concept of (individual) person as pure and isolated. In Hobbes’ depiction of nature, it is the male solitary wandering in the forest primeval, totally pure and free, doing what he(!) wants, lacking language and thought. (Born free? I muse with my students that many men often seem to forget that their mothers were present at the moment of their own births. What a forgetting! What else is…forgotten?)
Obtaining language and thought – by becoming human – he(!) now glances at the notion of the future and, foreseeing his death, desires the safety of society: the social contract. Born free? Mothers?
Another pursuasive(?) metaphor of Being is that the (hu)man of our imaginings in the context of the enigma of Being, is always already adult: Adam of Genesis, created fully adult; or in imagining the origin of (hu)man, the metaphor of Condillac’s “speechless statue,” an alabaster figure fully grown – the problematic of Being, is what does the statue need to become fully human; like the story of Pinocchio or the lion in the Wizard of Oz. No wonder Being is an enigma. (We have solved the problem of Being but remain without personal history?!)
(Go home, philosopher, open your eyes! Look at your own child! Look at yourself as your were as a child! Look at your spouse; yourself; your child, your own child within. Enigma?)
It has been, and remains for many, the contrast between some such notion of pure Being – isolated or un-social – and what we see as (minimal?) for human being and human interaction, that has guided much of our thinking about Being. Language, whatever has raised us above what we granted to our stories/observations of other species; whatever has been the grand narrative of becoming human; whatever has sold…in any era (What will sell in this: a bull market for the definition of human?)
Especially it has directed thinking about the relation between language and Being; language used as a kind of mechanism to account for the difference between the individual’s mere existence qua individual, as a pure Being, and the possibility of communicating, of knowing, of understanding. (Descartes’ problem of other minds: Being is enigma!)
The nature of what is human is thus linked with several other concepts: language, especially its origin; politics and the notion of what is freedom and the social contract, differentiating us from other species; time as definitional of human and of Being; a sense of purity which includes the clean boundedness and uniqueness of humans, and of unchangingness since we became human – thus, a sense that deep within us is the pure human; the idea that the locus of Being is the individual-organism.
What is missing, in an obvious sense whose inobviousness continues to amaze, is the presence of woman; the concept of development and the phenomenal-existential in each person’s life; the fact of relationship, that we are born of mothers/others, thrive and live within their terms, somehow. What is missing, inobvious, is also a major aspect of this Foundations exploration.
How has this been elaborated? In one of its forms there has been added another powerful metaphor in terms of which many of us think about Being, especially when placed in some sort of (pseudo) historical dimension. It is related to Hobbes’ metaphor of nature, but also picks up a theological dimension, related to Leibniz’ argument with Locke over the “naturalness” or the “representation” of words and ideas.
What is the originary or creation of Being? (And meaning?)
An interesting one in the present context: a New Testament reference in Paul’s 1st Epistle to the Corinthians 13:11-12. “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things…For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
The one which more actively comes down to us is concerns Adam (thus “Adamic language”), who was created in Genesis and was told to “name” all the animals: this, the story goes, was the originary language, in which the names he knew and chose were totally natural, before any “corruption” had occurred.
In this metaphor of pure Being, we have fallen from the use of natural sounds and words (God-given), to varieties of “artificiality” (art = man-made): thus the 19th century (and continuing, in some circles) attempt to find in savagery, the originary or purely natural and/or deific language. To solve the enigma, we need to return to…
In the Christian re-reading of Genesis, this notion supports the idea of the human fall to earth, with the apparent promise of a return to purity, naturalness, Heaven, and God, if we but determine what really is language, mind, and so on. Purity seems to represent a solution to the enigma of Being: when we reach the pure state, we shall know: 1) who we are really; and 2) what we should do.
Thus the way in which the question of Being is posed in these notion of human purity, the nature of language and knowledge is of something added on to our originary nature: enabling or corrupting, depending on whether one is (I suppose) pessimistic or progressivist concerning the human condition.
In either case, the metaphors have been very important in guiding our thinking, not directly about human nature, but in pointing out problematics and directions for their solution. What is human nature, what is Being, having been cast within these metaphors have in fact directed us considerably away from observing our actual nature.
The Circle which is Telling: What is most “obvious” is that we are. Body in time; body is time.
We have privileged our participation in discussing Being, as we seek to stand outside of Being here and now. The so earthly presumption of our substantive Being always being in the present, has convinced us to explore our essential nature as those aspects of us which stand outside of our materiality. Thinking about Being always flirts with the notion of time and location. Thus the discussion of Being begins with a grounding which seems preternaturally actual: some “primordial” (Heidegger), a firm grounding to Being.
This story: As anatomy, physiology, as neurology, we are here; and here we are, precisely in the present moment. Materiality is all; the question about Being, any quest for reality and authenticity, we impute to neurology which will inevitably unlock any remaining mysteries. (Dretsky, Demasio) With patience we will come to know: what’s what! Questions of Being will…dissolve. The self-convinced materialist understands this problem to be either/or. The enigma…?
The enigma is banished; put out of mind! (What mind?) The individual body planted so firmly within the notion of nature which states that time stands outside of Being, urges us to return to some simpler(?) mechanistic vision of cosmology: once the heavens were set into motion, clocks work, and Being…remains an enigma. But we no longer notice. The computer has taken over the enigma of Being: an expert system…is me; I am.
This is to (re)state that the concept of being human as a body has been cast within a categoreal argument about the nature of Being at once mind and body, and individual.
As we Western thinkers have equated body with nature and with other species, we have directed consideration of our corporeal being in the direction (within our metaphors) of our thinking about other species: bestiality, animality, etc. (Haraway)
Importantly, we consider the human species as unique – not with much reference to our bodies (which is how we actually differentiate amongst species, no small knowing), but with respect to our idea that humans alone, uniquely, possess mind and language. This has placed our conceptualization of time, itself, into some sort of primary categorical or definitional counter: the body, that is, is time, but a time-outside-of-time; namely, the body literally defines our notion of the present here and now.
In considering Being and time, we have (inadvertantly? thoughtfully?) decided that our Being is constituted within an already given framework of time: the Body = here and now, as if Being is a frozen snapshot taken at the speed of 1/n-th of a second.
The intellectual mapping of this move has had to do with the presumption that the (human) body is essentially like the body of any other species: other species lack a sense of time…because they are body alone, living in/as time but not being aware of…it; humans know time because we alone possess language. The difference between humans and other bodies-species is in our knowing.
What is a somewhat complicated circle of definition of what is human – within a dualism of mind and body – has been raised to the status of defining the body as co-extential with (a very limited) concept of present time. Much of the sense of Being as enigma resides within this conceptual move. This has misled thinking about the actual human condition, including Heidegger’s.
Aristotle’s substantive irreducible potential embryonic being, bursting forth into life, so casts our focus upon the materiality of each individual that we have seen the living context as afterthought, as happenstance; residual or inconsequential for the materialist. The fact is that as irreducible individual bodies, we are dead in the conceptual water, soon upon arrival! For and from a species which is (so-o-o) social, this clean materialism seems not to notice that it is mothers/others who nurture us and desire our Being; living, ongoing. (Example: from the study of identical twins whose authors have not yet noticed that identicality – primarily facial – is expressive and rhetorical.)
The view from the penthouse of substantive Being, is: “feed me, clean me, touch me, talk to me, love me, and I will…”
The conceptual either/or of mind versus body is not precisely incorrect, but its elevation to the status of an entire solution to the problem of Being obscures much/more than it illuminates. As a position it is self-justifying as the opposition to what is, is (in part) no doubt incorrect (not the human condition); partial solutions to particular questions – acting as if they are the entire answer. (Some Western habit of invoking omniscience when the going gets tough?)
Much of the human condition and experience remains outside of the metaphysical discussion: unnoted, hidden, downgraded as unnecessary to accountings or explanation of what is human. Like the history of neurological thinking, where the brain and nervous system are reified and rarified, as if that is what we are and all we are, the shape and size and expression of our heads which encase that brain, remains unnoted: we infer Being from pathology. Or the idea of genetic predetermination which claims that all of our Being which is significant to the human condition is already decided at conception or some other moment prior to the ongoing present; i.e., Being is not an enigma, it is a predisposition. (And it solves any issues of experience by reducing life to chimera! Mind? Does/is anyone?)
In the depiction of the linear history of human development, the brain expanded; the head followed suit. But we know now that bone, too, has its own story which is ongoing. Its narrative forces a rewriting of bone as a fundament, and convinces us even that bone’s hardness is processual, viscous…Bone and Being? (If this seem far-fetched in this context, remember that the idea of skeleton as fundament, is used – e.g., by Konrad Lorenz – his grounding analogy of why he claims that behavior is genetically predetermined in his attempt to proclaim that human reason has crippled us! Are we battling over what constitutes an architectonic of Being?)23
Just as there is no brain which does not live (hidden) behind a human face, there is no completely independent human…individual. We are not, like named objects, irreducible or primary. The question of our Being is, like the brain, ensconced in bone’s story, and masked by our faces’ expressions.
Offspring of living mothers, are we ever exactly or totally independent of others? Do they nurture us merely with food and material sustenance? So an embryo grows, frees itself physically; is there not some conceptual discontinuity between (mere) existence and Being? Are our bodies just like…tables, or chairs, or…circles?
Whose here? Whose now? How tempting it is to conceptualize us within the Platonic-Pythagorean sense of pure forms, whereby the very notion of reality is defined as the immutable intelligible-mathematical over the changingness of the sensible. Not body, not in the here and now, unchanging, eternal…the path lengthens.
Having developed (grown?) conceptually to that point in our lives where the paradoxes register upon Being, we seem able to abstract our bodies from the presence of our Being. Grown now, adult, we act as if our Being is like the brain: independent, somehow, of all the contexts which encase, in which it…lives. (This is not to say that we are not, paradoxically, independent in many senses in our ongoing experience.) How did we reach that place in life, where we could imagine knowing knowledge?
We have found places of rest and observation from which to observe Being: our Being. And we have found, from that perch, a place outside of Being. If the view of being ourselves is derived only from ourselves, this is astonishing, a major accomplishment. Again: where is the view of our Being…derived?
What have we unwittingly attributed to that substance we call the body: time, place, the concept called “now?” What superstructure have we built upon that frame, which has enabled us to leave materiality an unexamined terrain? We do not exist for long without others? How is it that they nurture this thing I call my body? How is my bodily being organized as it includes others in its Being?
The circle of thought in which our Being comes wrapped already presumes the body to be a ground…of sorts. The enigma of Being, so called, begins after physics; after, that is, the locus of our Being is defined implicitly. But we do not survive (merely) as body; nor do we survive alone. To oppose the metaphysical definition of Being as the mental, must we grasp literally Nietzsche’s dictum that “body is all we are, and mind is some story about it?”24
Savage Substance – Being as Polemic: As Plato equates the knowing of aborigines (Sophist 247) only with the lowest aspects of Being, materiality is set against the higher (soul); as theories of pure Being are contrasted with human experience, materiality is akin more to (other) animals and to an exteriorized sense of nature, than to what is human. Immediately the body is cast into a kind of comparative and historical (in these days) mode, where most of the senses in which we know, especially knowing about Being (Dasein: Heidegger), is attributed to the higher; a sense of consciousness over against some (implicitly lower) residual category. (The being of Being was much easier to dispense with when homunculi were assigned this role!)
Indeed, Plato’s attribution of lower knowing to the aborigines is analogous to the history of the origin and development of language and mind. On the road to becoming human, we (in this story) are likened to the human infant becoming knowledgeable – toward rationality. The presumption is deep in our thinking: that infant is like aborigine (like chimps and other primates); that the path toward adulthood is analogous to animal becoming aborigine becoming fully human; infant, aborigine is fully body – the path toward rationality is contra the body, or is an “overcoming” of the body (Phaedo), or a denial of its continuing place in our being. (Importantly, this conflates in our thinking the development of the human species with each of our individual histories! Perhaps this drives the agonizing sense of the enigma. See: Origin of Meaning)
Within this mode of thinking and it complicated labyrinths of thought development, it becomes almost impossible to stand outside of the Platonic formulation: almost any opposition of the essentialist position thus is likely to oppose body to mind (as, e.g., Lorenz does) – and to retrace the same labyrinth to its sources…without getting off on some sidetrack, losing one’s way, or to be over-taken (taken-over) by the framework of the labyrinth itself.
As example, consider how Freud approaches the aboriginal mind: “Above all the problem of death must have become the starting point of the formation of the theory [animism]. To primitive man the continuation of life – immortality – would be self evident. The conception of death is something accepted later, and only with mentation, for even to us it is still devoid of content and unrealizable.”25 Obviously?
In my own understandings of animistic thinking, from reading and from two years’ experience in Southern Mexico working with indigenous Mayan persons, their primary (intellectual) problem was not about death, but about the nature of reality. Being: when we are awake, or when we are asleep?
Indeed, a close reading of Heraclitus – a most important figure in the development of Western thinking – shows that he, too, was very involved in this wonderment: common-sense, in its Heraclitean usage, meant when we are awake, and in conscious in-common contact with others; asleep, we are truly individual.
In my understanding, animism resolves the sleep-awake paradox on the side of actual reality being when we are asleep: i.e., when we are open and our spirits and others’ can enter and leave; e.g., animal spirits (Naguals in Mexico). (Western thought has resolved the paradox on the side of reality when we are awake. But the notion that sleep and wakefulness are paradoxical and important in defining Being only became clear to me in comparing different intellectual traditions.)
Death, for the animistic mind, seems less a principal direction for or occupation with thought than for us, whose concern since Parmenides and Pythagoras, have considered most seriously the possibility that transcendence is within our possibility.(See: The Ideal)
I think, contrary to Freud, contrary to the Platonic theme of the hierarchy of rational thought from animal to aboriginal to us, that death and immortality are relatively recent human concerns – just pre-Platonic. The sorts of skepticism about knowledge, to which Plato reacted (as do we, still), seem to arise post-animism…thence the retrieval of Being. (Fear of death an historical phenomenon?)
Similarly, the very concept of immortality depends on a strong notion of the individual, salvation, timelessness, and so on. That is, we seem to have made our predilections for a supernaturalism which our rationalism has sought to overcome, into an attribute of human nature.
However the Platonic depiction of the aborigine still informs our thinking, as it did Freud’s, whereby we confute and conflate our story of human development with the (folk-) history of our youthful memories. This story is powerful in the very directing of our thinking, often blinding us from seeing much of what is obvious; e.g., that we are bodies, that we are always “in-relation” to others (no matter how free or independent we might have become, paradoxically).
Indeed this is the center of Plato’s argument that some (at least) aspects of Being, can exist as essence, outside of substance, as immateriality: viz., the soul. In the Meno, Plato’s story of the slave boy who is given some new notions from geometry and led to a proof from reasoning alone, has been pursuasive is assuring us that the human senses (the body?) is not the source of external knowledge, but the intelligibility (rational knowledge by which we know the circularity of the circle – Republic) is the source of knowledge of reality. Body, slave, lower,…you, me? We are caught in our own webs.
It was this insight, this noted antinomy between the particular and the universal that has led and directed thinking toward the rational as the center of the quest for human nature. But, again, the hubris of insight into its own foundational importance, has so focused thought as to eliminate what is otherwise apparent in the human condition.
Any argument which in this fashion considers the nature of human knowledge as definitional thus bypasses considering the body (and experience) as having any more attributes than its (purely?) physical being. Especially it/body does not, cannot possess knowledge.26
(I suspect that to even attempt to raise the issue of the knowing body is to enter into the labyrinth on some path which is often/usually political rather than cleanly metaphysical. As Aristotle (Politics) tells us, the individual is mind and body, but the mind has hegemony over body just as master over slave, man over woman, society over individual.)
To enter into an epistemological dualism is to take the general framework of oppositionism; more likely, to enter into the discussion from political motives without being very knowledgeable that these are analogical arguments within the general framework; common-sensical and separated as metaphysics and politics may seem.
Thus, for example, the concept of the knowing body may be seen to be an attack upon reason or of any of its associated conceptual domains: language, masculin-ism, humanism, Western thought, civilization, the deity, and so on.
(Recent attacks on this issue which raise to our consciousness the facticity of gender, thence of body, also seem to be of the form of retrieve of Plato: retrieve the body, rediscover gender.27 How odd of us to act as if our human bodies are of a single kind. Reviewing our implicit acceptance of the arguments which have hidden gender from our view in the name of philosophy should instruct our thinking, critically! Some ancient puzzle about the paradoxical duality of our being male and female resolved into the [less paradoxical?] mind and body dualism?)
The development of the concept of the soul’s knowing time, seems to have most to do with the notion of the soul being immortal, thus existing outside of time, being able to stand outside of Being, watching. The soul possesses memory (past). The body, solid and stolid, exists within time, or as time. The transcendent soul, some notion of the being of Being, Dasein – in which life somehow “participates,” has been a guidepost to the formulation of many of the ideal-essentialist notions of being as rational, from Plato to the present.
Thus to oppose the mind is, in the context of the development of the transcendence of the human soul or spirit, often seen as necessarily being anti-reason, anti-rational, necessarily mystical, political, etc.
And – it must be admitted – most of the extra-normal, or super-natural ideas which have entered Western thinking have been precisely these: embedded within the general Platonic framework, now at the level of common-sense. They have not been refutations of Platonism, but opposing responses to, or transliterations of, the hegemony of mentalism.
Descartes – the Essential Existential: Since Descartes, there has been some shift, a change – more or less large – but also within the essentialism of Plato. As the sense of the universe made for humans by a deity acting precisely for us, altered to a universe in which this earth seemed small in comparison with a sun-centered system, Descartes expressed an urgency born of diminishment. All that is, all that is knowable is within me. No longer what is the nature of externality, but what is the mind, what is in the mind, has directed mentalism towards it own reflection. The uLtimate temptation: to think that (subjective) mind is all; that there is nothing but…
In refuting Plato, better, as responses to his dualism, the choices have been few. Like Epicurus, we could be materialists, who claim it is all somehow organic, natural. The soul dies with the body, and is no more than some aspect or feature of the (usually) brain.28 Here, neurology rather than philosophy, holds the “key” to understanding human understanding.29 (The only fear is the fear…of fear, itself!?)
But, as heirs to Plato, placing knowing within the body seems dumb, anti-rational, and in the schemes of ontic history by which we know we are here, it seems immature or baldly political. If knowing presumes thinking, knowing the body (or the knowing body) seems thought-less. (We are urged to revert to some predeterminist, social-Darwinist scheme of the best genes for: money, power, virtue, intelligence,…)
These materialist solutions to Plato’s independent, immortal soul, trying to place them within the body (the Aristotelian tradition), making them an aspect of the body, have tended to diminish the human condition. Even/especially the modern metaphor of the brain as a (most) complicated digital computer, reduce Being to something both tactilely and intellectually palpable.
We are obviously very complicated conceptually, and to argue one side or the other of a philosophical dualism does not uncomplicate us, actually. But, in our complications, we seem willing (eager and earnest, perhaps, in difficult times) to buy a solution which satisfies our queries, rather than that which is more actual: which explains ourselves to ourselves.
How can a material object, the body, appear (be) so complicated?
Heidegger, doggedly, insistently, demandingly attempts to ferret out the senses in which we are: from how Being thinks about itself, to its own awareness of the problematics of Being. He places us (back) within ourselves, not merely naming objects, but being fully present in each situation where we are. Why, he asks over and over, do we not know this? To this Derrida adds: how are we different from that which we see? In this “differance” we emerge more fully.
Still, however, we do not see our reflections in the mirrors of our thinking about Being, expressed as thinking about Being.
Therefore…I am. What: therefore? Why this question riding on the skepticisms about existence and Being?
Being As Time: Even if body defines the present here and now in some complicated fashions, it is/does more. It is (to some extent?) memory: it is and has absorbed others – myriad faces it has memorized at the very least; witness the literal pain of mourning, having somehow absorbed the Being of another into oneself. (Who am I?)
The body is/has developed a vocabulary30 – think about how one might, for example, enclose a fluttering butterfly in one’s hands without damaging it; or…think about what our body does as we are reading, or how one (body) focuses one upon one then the other of a paradoxical image where one shifts one’s seeing from foregrounding one image then the other. We have so backgrounded the body as merely there, that we forget that we all have ways of Being, doing, and organizing each idea, every metaphor, can redo and rework our bodies in becoming joyous or frightened, seeing our bodies seeing a good friend; the rat, spider, or snake which gives us the willies or shakes.
This is to reiterate that to claim even on a simple level that the body defines here and now is but a partial truth. The problematic between subjective and objective, between perceptions and knowing (and learning) has been poorly/incompletely cast, and much has/is been overlooked concerning the nature of Being: questions of context, of the transcendental temptation, of the theories and stories in whose terms we experience Being, all of these remain too simple. Heidegger’s realizations of Being as enigma as cast within the available theories of Being need to be understood as reasonable. Some necessary correctives are available within the outlines of the Foundations Project.
To begin to resolve the sense that Being is enigma, it is useful and necessary to review our own knowledge. We have, for example, vastly underestimated the complexity of being human or any other species. Looking at ourselves from the position of adult, for example, we fail to acknowledge that our experiencing the passage of time is very much quicker than for young children, and continues to hurry up as we grow older: i.e., much happens that we discount, from the perspective of streams of time flowing and passing quickly. We undervalue the discovery of one’s own body, interpreting necessities of controlling one’s bodily functions, for example, by incorporating them into some easy psychosocial accounting which apparently satisfies most of us that we understand them. Or sleep (or wakefulness), issues of the context of context, literally moving the body, keeping it in balance, knowing the subtleties of gravity when walking downstairs, or upon any uneven surface, our intimate balletic knowing of the insides of our mouth so subtly articulating, eating, breathing…we background such knowledge as implicit or innate to the organism even as we tend to deny aspects of our very existence.
Whether such linkage between our theories of Being as enigma and our more actual Being is to be located in some facticity about the present – our being in the world at this moment – or in a sense of personal (phenomenal, existential) being – where am I, and how did I get here – is beyond the merely problematic. The linkage between Being and time seems more a framework of thought and approach to understanding, than any direct path for (re)solving the nature of Being, or even of elucidating the problematic within this conceptual arena.
There are quite distinct differences in historical outlook and predilection, which frame the nature of (present) Being. Some of these differences seem large, almost but not quite obvious; others are subtle, nagging rather than knawing at Being.
The subtlety of one’s historical position (or, of the historical thinking of entire disciplines in some cases) is due to the pervasive orientation of thought which characterizes the very aspects of what one may observe, the frameworks in which one describes and interprets, even the locus of what one considers to be knowledge or data; the appreciation-depreciation of what is even problematic, the nature (acceptability, reasonableness,…) of a proper question or solution.
And we live as bodies in the world of other(s’) bodies. We (must?) accept the present of present Being which we share with others in order to enter into dialogue and discourse with them. Simply knowing when we are, what may/will likely happen or not, is not simply knowing. In this sense, Being is time and delimits the domains of meaning located in the breadth of conceptual stuff we call context. (See: Context)
Historical Thinking: How to rethink our thinking about…? Most of the informing narratives about Being are enclosed within the problematics drawn by the foundational thinkers.
We have, presumably, discipled our thinking to theirs. But this insight or declaration gives us little to do in rethinking foundations, beyond rejecting some of their thinking as it resonates within ours. More useful, perhaps, is to find some contemporary thinkers who are clearly historical, to attempt to study historical thinking: to enter their thinking in a comparative vein such that we will be able to return to our own thinking, critically and renewed; wearing new lenses.
The historical thinkers who are large in our experience and thinking seem to be of a few major sorts. The distinctions I have seen to be drawn – has to do principally with the scope and pervasiveness of historical dimension – as well as to certain habits of thought.31
In addition to historians per se, among historical thinkers I include most evolutionary biologists (but not genetic engineers-microbiologists), geologists, and astronomers; and many, probably most, literary scholars.
The mode of thought to which I refer, is the orientation – e.g., of biologists – to be concerned overwhelmingly and amazedly with the fact of all the prior generations of all species who had to have survived in order that the present generation [could] exist. They call themselves ultimate biologists, and differentiate themselves from proximate biologists, who (if such even exist) would deal with the ongoing present. Importantly, they depreciate the present, and are chary, even, of being able to characterize it; not much interested in it having lessons to teach concerning the human condition.
In other words, this orientation or self-depiction diminishes in importance any context of the processual or dynamic. Rather than focusing on present Being: “How did we get here?” is asked; not, “What are we doing, here?”
Important is the fact that the very issue of Being – as well as its attendant enquiries – seem not to make sense or are reduced in their potential salience for the historical thinker, because the issue is constantly reflected or redirected toward the necessity of getting to this moment. More provocatively, the historical thinker is anxiously awaiting this moment to pass, until it can be studied…judiciously and meaningfully. The present is not, simply stated, a reasonable or possible subject matter. (And, existentially, it is never clear when or where such historical thinkers locate themselves: what is the nature of their position, being, observing, judging? Being?)32
Many, probably most other scholars are historical in a somewhat different sense, than those who truly remain unconcerned about the present. Most scholars find themselves within a tradition of thought, bringing it into the present era, updating it, criticizing it, but remaining within the Western tradition.
Possibly the difference between historical thinkers’ intellectual orientation and others can be understood as in the contrast between reading as phenomenon and reading phenomenally: most thinkers attend to the authority of the writing they take seriously as phenomenon and content. To enter into the rethinking of the Foundations Project it is important to place oneself into the position of the various authors, and to read them phenomenally.33
In the issue of Being, the tendency to concentrate on aspects of the present is paramount; historical study aids and aims toward an understanding of today. The evolutionary questioner tends, on the other hand, to regard present existence as fuzzy. She/he is impressed to the point of being overwhelmed by the obvious fact of all our antecedents having had to survive, in order that we might exist. Self-authority – in present experience – diminishes itself in its very thinking.
These two kinds of thinker are both often immersed in history, but their problematics often pass each other by, directed as they are toward stating then solving different sorts of favorite or obvious questions.
In the context of whatever is Being, for example, the evolutionary thinker is directed toward causality as determining how we are. A primary solution to what is our Being is to be found by examining the genetic make-up of our micro-structure, and to concentrate upon what is stable, continuous in being.
As the power of determination grows conceptually, the size of our Being in the experiential sense, diminishes almost directly in proportion. For such historical thinkers (most of those whom we call biologists, but increasing numbers of psychologists), their virtual presence in the classroom teaching about being, is…well, fuzzy.
(To be sure, the biology of form or structure has received attention occasionally in the field of biology, but the very anatomy of humans, the body, has until very recently been the literal dissection of the cadaver, rather than of the living body being and moving. The facticity of our body being and moving with other humans in actual discourse, remains mostly neglected; its literature fairly empty.34
The who we are thinker in literature, basing Being on prior texts seems to approach Being similarly. She/he often feels that Being in the present is so determined by the history of thought, language, ideas, that it is contaminated. For such thinkers, history and the world-as-text has, yes, determined who we are.
In the context of the politics of ideas, the issue of determination and cause is quite similar for both these historical thinkers. What is contrastive is how each approaches present possibilities. For the historical determinist, the present is some continuing (mere?) aspect of the past, and there is not much to do, actively: acceptance, passivity will emerge from understanding our place in the sun. For the historically determined, who is determined to unravel that history, freedom from history is finally possible via retrieval, inversion, and comparative study.
Perhaps the issue is about limitations vs. possibilities. (Or, for Kierkegaard, approaching Being through fear or through wonder.)
Perhaps there are other sorts of historical thinkers: those who are classical in the sense of thinking that the present era is a pale imitation of the past (many religious Fundamentalists, Rousseau); those who are thinking about the present as our principal problematic, but informed by history; those who seek prediction…prophecy, teaching of the young.
(…comments drawn from the observation that the Present Age is drowning in some current Crisis in Meaning, including the rise of history in reaction to the death of the idea of progress.)
Cant Since Kant: Knowing and the possibility of objective knowledge: the question of whether we (can) have objective knowledge seems quite interwoven with the question of whether we possess a philosophy which can account for this capability.
Many “believers” in philosophy seem to think that not possessing such a philosophy is equivalent to our not having objective knowledge. Hume’s skepticism about knowledge attracts more thinkers than the human condition itself. Yet one more kind of historical thinker?
A philosophy, a philosophical “system” which would account for what does not seem at all difficult in the doing…well, this seems to be an enigma which runs somehow parallel to the enigma of Being.
Just look around, not just at us hyper- and post-moderns, but at the people and peoples of the world who have only recently come upon high-tech. They grow food, hunt. They are easily capable of “standing outside of themselves” to examine the habits (thought structures) of other creatures, and to defeat them in their own terms. They know about crops and seeds and “improving the species,” if they do not know always how to articulate their knowledge. Most peoples can construct houses and artifacts, have in mind mappings and blue prints. They are, in many respects in their lifes, just that: capable!
Full, perhaps, of superstitions about certain things, having “theories” of disease, of life and death which are not so 18th century European-scientific, they nonetheless survive. They read and know the universe in which they find themselves. They have survived; they live still. Do we do more? Are they not, in many senses, objective?
Is objectivity a problematic notion? Is there more to it than knowing one’s surround, adapting to it, using it to live on and on? Or is there some sense of objectivity which is, say, mathematical, which demands that we transcend the ordinariness of our being, to see clearly and consistently what is there, unbesmirched by memory, or the vicissitudes of desire?
Are we, then, still engaged in a search similar to a proof of the being of the deity, which can verify our own existence, that we find it compelling often to be skeptical about the possibility of knowledge? The path from what, who, and how we are – to why are we, thence often to “are” we? – well, “you can’t get there from here!”
Once the question and problematic of our existence enters thinking, however surreptitious the path, the potential solution will already deny its own possibility in the very questioning. If we are, that is, searching for personal salvation, then “acceptable proof” is merged with whatever allays the sorts of fear which drove us to ponder the issue, in the first place. Objectivity?
Or is it that scholars spend much (too much?) of their lives reading the words and thoughts of others, to seek their own being? Does the classicist, looking backwards to the great words of great thinkers, downgrade the present? How many of us read past thinkers to ponder how they would walk with us on this day into the future? How many of us, that is, have cast the present only as some extrapolation from the past?
Is the question at issue something like: how can we both partake of our own subjectivity yet see what is happening in each next present as if we could stand outside…of ourselves?
Can we learn, change, move on? From Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Emerson, Kierkegaard, more recently Camus, reacting vigorously to the dispensation of Being by the dialectics of Hegel’s process, the lingering wonder is of what keeps us going at all? Is it will, power, self-determination, a rejection of suicide? Between Hume’s skepticism about the very possibility of knowledge, and Schopenhauer’s pessimism about being sustaining itself, aren’t we caught teetering between the demand to understand knowing, and its application to our very being? If not knowing, is there no Being?
Always, I am driven back to that well-worn meditation upon the finite and the universal, that paradox whose (falsely motivated) resolution so feeds upon itself that it can overtake being.
In medieval days we were only trying to prove the existence of the deity. Now we seem to be flirting with the necessity of proving Being. Was Nietzsche correct in reporting that the death of our belief in a deity would lead tortuously to a nihilism which would overwhelm us?
Isn’t Being sufficient proof of itself, that we are busily trying to offer other kinds of proof? Isn’t Philosophy saying: “No!” rather than affirming being?
Language: Mortgage or Lend-lease? A corollary to, an aspect of, an addendum, a definition of whatever is human “nature,” language is virtually a metaphor for itself.35 Toward an inversion…
How do we engage in Heidegger’s de-struct mode when we consider language?
Surely we must be suspicious that language is held out to “exemplify” precisely the sense in which finite and universal demonstrate themselves. Language is “creative” (St. Thomas) thus allowing us to “know” God the infinite; language is infinite because there are an infinite-indefinite number of sentences whose grammar is coterminous with being human (Chomsky); language enables us to think, which Descartes claims to prove or justify existence. All the languages of the world possess a grammar, all are somehow translatable one to each other, thus proving that we are all humans.
Or: Language has so taken humans from our natural instincts that we have moved to an extremely dangerous time, from which we can extricate ourselves only if we pay attention to our pre-language, animal-instinctual selves. Lorenz sees language less as leading toward deity and salvation, more as the fall from Edenic bliss.
Or: Language is natural to humans; at least to those who are “normal,” proving in the same moment what is human, what is human nature, how we come to be fully human, and who possesses language in the proper degree (Simpson). Language is (fundamental to) logic, thus to knowledge and the possibility of objectivity. Language enables us to be objective, thence to stand outsides of ourselves and to know ourselves as others would, enabling us to know ourselves subjectively.
Language is linked further to the historical development of humans from our (non-human!?) antecedents, as we came to be bi-pedal, upright, and got ourselves a big(ger) brain.
Language enables us to know objects: language is; language does; says. Most of what is called philosophy is the analysis or philosophy of language…in one form or another. A promise: that if we analyze language correctly, we will understand the human…mind.
For the humane scholars, language is so bound to texts, that we probably cannot “get to” language, until we deconstruct the texts into which they are so bound –> thus Derrida’s “railings” against language (Garver).
If, as some hold, language structures thought (Sapir-Whorf), then we are virtually not (yet?) human until we possess language. Piaget holds that ontogenetic development is from a purely biological-reflex creature toward rationality, via language and thought.
Like the circularity by which the human body is granted substance and time in some irreducible sense, the soul and language of humans is simply presumed. We have, by some – again surreptitious – presumption based on what we have (already) decided to see, granted humans some unique properties, while taking the human form and equating it with the body of (every?) other species. Instead of studying humans in some direct sense of appreciation and wonder, we have “juxtaposed” humans with others within this circularity of body and time.
Other species (all?) now appear much more intelligent than we had earlier expected (Gardners, Linden, Griffin). If they know, are they objective (is survival in an uncertain universe a reasonable measure of objective knowledge?)? They cannot speak just as humans do. But their bodies are different, and their ways and abilities to speak are, no doubt different. What difference, these differences?36 In thinking about other species, have we included them in our circularity about ourselves, then extrapolated from our views of other species back to humans?
I posed the question: Could a non-H? Could a non-human of our imaginings (an average Martian, for example) possibly “discover” whether or not humans possess language, if they brought to the study of humans the presumptions we take to the study of other terrestrial species. This is underscored by the work of Sagan et al (CETI) who fully expect to communicate with Martians (sic!) via mathematics which they assume to be a mind-ful universal (in the BIG sense) language. Our minds remain Platonic souls placed, haphazardly I feel confident, in the body which happens to encase it. The answer to Could a Non-H? is No!
But this era, footnotes and highlights to Plato, is just now at a moment of discontinuity. Some analysis or other of language is going to re-place human thought, increasingly toward the “artificial” intelligence which will by 2001, come to feed itself into an electronic brain, and teach itself to learn.
Language which once powerfully elevated humans into sub-deities, now will enable us to diminish ourselves to hand-maidens of “friendly” machines. What a massive irony, this seduction!
But like the circular placement of body into the surreptitious present, and the mind allowed to freely float in its own hithers and yons, our analyses of language are bound intimately with mothers/others’ constructions of our Being: those who bore us, nurture us, how have they and their definition of our being…affected being?
Is language a way of knowing the world; a way of knowing others; ways of knowing how others claim the world…to be?
Do we possess language; use it; borrow it?
Is language a thing, a process, a structure? Yes? How?
Does Language exist any more as an object of Being, than our own human individuality?
And: If not Being? What if we cannot, somehow, “prove” that Being is? It has seemed to me that this question drives the (re-)discovery of cosmology, rescuing it from the oblivion into which metaphysics has driven it. For I think that there is some overarching sense in which the enigma of Being is no mere enigma. That is, there is a sense in which there seem to be three (at least) modalities of thinking about Being, only one of which is being possibly an enigma. Much of the apparent confusion is, I think, due to mixing of these modalities, rather than to the nature of the question.
In metaphysics, as Aristotle shows us, the notion of Being presumes that the individual is the central (be-all, end-all) figuration of Being, the irreducible originary thingness which forms some groundwork of our Being body and mind. History has thus proclaimed that the mind is different from the body in some essential form, as the Pythagorean concentration on “universals” is different (and elevated) from the body which is a particularity.
Metaphysics is a modality of thought which concentrates (so to speak) on the quest for generalities: a world-spirit, an eternality. Being is, “itself,” not problematic, but the body is displaced from the issue of our Being, or it may be merely presumed and left philosophically “empty” – a residuum.
The body fits (as Aristotle tells us) into the realm of physics, which is at once prior to Being, in various senses “necessary” to Being, but it is not itself, Being. Here, the realm of Being easily may include pre-life, post-life. Space and time may expand or contract in various schemata, and there is often (usually? always?) a sense that we stand outside of Being, observers to Being. Metaphysics may include a mode of “perfection,” though it is not (in most traditions) available within life. (The nature of history, as well, depends on how the various relations between Being, space and time are organized in any scheme – that the problematics of history and historicism depend on how Being is “defined” or construed.)
The kind of nihilism which may arise within a metaphysical modality, is (like the Christian) a notion that incarnation, the body, is chimerical, and that the soul, this most general aspect of Being is the real and enduring. Our essential Being is; the question of life and living becomes problematic: a kind of oppositional Satanism. It “dwells” upon life “outside” of life, and places its “politics” in those who construe life as subordinate to “salvation.”
Cosmology is concerned with the very nature and possibility of existence, not beginning with Aristotle’s irreducible “things,” and human body to be understood as (one of) thing-ness, but whether (or NOT) existence is; how it may be, etc. Though it is wider in its notion of physics (“What, ho, the universe!), the nagging question with respect to Being, is: Do I, we exist?
Cosmology is not, at least in the “animistic” theo-philosophies, very concerned with matters of life and death, because change is ever-present, space and time not so very clear as categories. It tends to begin with the very question of reality and Being: but focuses on a world which is very full of Being.
Amerindian: is reality when (I) am awake or asleep? One’s Being is “permeable,” not just irreducible to a oneness of bodily substance, but shared with the Being-ness of other…creatures on this earth; not the “holy” spirit of a deity, but the actual spirit and aspects of, say, eagle, or bear, wolf or coyote. They enter (my) Being, and I enter theirs, when “I” am asleep. The dead are transformations of the alive…and vice-versa; they “hover” all about, at least in their places (why land, place is usually construed as sacred or sacrosanct, and cannot receive monetary valuation).
When metaphysicans (re)discover cosmology, they seem to fall easily into a nihilism, in which the question of existence is often answered, No! And they spend much (most?) of their remaining time, trying to find people, stories which will (re)assure them that they are. As the body is not irreducible in cosmology, their potential groundedness as in metaphysics, is no longer available, and they have a tendency to “float” conceptually, or to wander into non-Western traditions for some solace. It does not appear (to me) that there is any notion of perfection within cosmology, which is out of the ordinary, which – in cosmology – is so inclusive of the universe that it is beyond the ordinary in any other modality.
Ontology, in Western tradition, is a kind of discovery of Being (actually a rediscovery of one’s Being, which one “possessed” prior to one’s discovery of consciousness about one’s Being!). It (merely) accepts Being-ness and goes on from there. Body and mind am I, and it is in some pathness (some Way: Confucius) toward becoming who I would be. Life is, what there is, usually all there is. Its form of nihilism is in losing the sense that there is a (progressive?) path, a towardness in this life (which is the “only life we have” – Kafka “Puzzles and Parables”).
In the Confucian form, it is a utopic, progressive, a path toward a kind of perfection, but in this life. As I have written (meditations on…Next Places), this notion is more akin to the rhetorical, semiotic sense in which we gain meaning in life from our parents and communities; a less self-conscious way of Being. Here, the enigma of Being seems to melt.
Since these “modalities” of construing Being are so over-arching, so basic to the very imagining of ourselves, one can only “discover” that there are differing modalities when they come into contrast or clash, as they do in this global moment. The present age is a time of such clashes as world traditions are beginning to rub against one another in quite constant, and in quite common, often serious circumstances. When the Jihad of Islam is, for example, invoked against some perceived enemy, it may take the person directly to his destiny, which is metaphysically construed death: which is, paradoxically from ontology, (true!?) life.
When a metaphysician discovers cosmology, the oft-occurring result is to seek for the greatest sense of permanence available: usually, a return to the texts of religion or other “classics,” which seem remote enough from the present, to have a kind of validity over and above experience. When the accountants of Western medical practice discover ontology, they discover that “wellness” is literally cheaper than sympomatic treatment; and are busily altering Western metaphysics in the name of economics (Health Maintenance Organizations as the locus of ontology?!).
The issue of authority [which I have suggested (from the perspective of ontology) now requires a thoughtful teaching(!) tradition] disappears through the cracks, as it were, in a time of modality clash, where the sense of a scripted future is vague at best, and ever-reducing, as the notion of the present moment stands in some paralysis of the enigma of Being. This is so, because the modalities “possess” the power to “enlarge or to reduce” the “size” of the human (individual?), thus granting more or fewer possibilities of entering into our own human destiny.
It also becomes clear if not obvious, that the question of modalities is a study in (philosophical) psychology and/or anthropology. It is comparative thought through which one can explore the ordinary or usualness that one lives within or has constructed: in the sense that one cannot “discover” one’s air or water, so enveloping in a modality as a way of self-construal.
If (when) the politics of each modality differ (even, in odd moments, when they appear to be the same), they swell up from different notions of Being (human), and how this translates into communal arrangements…
Conceptual Chicken Coops
The Egg and I: Heat an egg properly, incubate it just so. It will hatch and, well fed, become a chicken. It lays eggs…is Being a chicken and egg story?
A cycle, merely? The “all is vanity” of Ecclesiastes, whose life is a dully cyclical version of Camus’ “Sisyphus,” simply submerges the question of Being to a standing outside of ourselves. Like the deity, we watch ourselves coming in and out of Being, in some harmony, perhaps, with the remainder of life’s processes. But, without much hope, and with the deepest irony, we usurp the heavenly position from which the deity views us viewing, and swallowing stoicly, we proclaim life – all of life – to be Narcissus’ looking out wanting to believe that the reflection is all…Being is image, re-presentation.
Like our too easy acceptance of the notion that the brain exists in most senses independently of its surroundings and contexts, we find it easy to believe that the egg-become-chick, is (already) a Being, a thing. It is, is it not? In fact, we have (surreptitiously) broken into the cycle, metaphorically calling Being a thing. In accepting, uncritically, Aristotle’s idea of body and Being as an irreducible, a thing, we have chosen to represent the very basis of Being at once falsely and in a way which leaves us as enigma.
In Kant and Heidegger’s parlance, the question prior to the consideration of Being, is placed or relegated to the transcendent or ontic: what are the conditions necessary to Being and knowledge? What is the nature of the “intuitive,” or of the “pure reason” which permits the knowing which is particularly human, they ask.
They proceed by an exploration of Being, and decide upon its necessary antecedents. From Kant to Heidegger, this has become more complete, more flushed out and filled in. Yet, there remains the sense of enigma, of a coming forth into the world, of an unease of Being which is at once more than, yet less than. Completeness, integrity of Being seems somehow unfulfillable. Does it need more analysis, a new mode of de(con)struction to see what is Being? Or have we been overly loyal to our presuppositions, and need to rethink them? Are we on the verge of a post-Copernican revolution in thinking about Being, whose malaise is overly apparent? Yes, of course…
It is necessary to begin this rethinking of an enigma, to enter into some mode of Cartesian doubt about things; doubt that we are so assured that Aristotle was correct in thinking that material objects – here, including the human body – are so irreducible, so primary. In the context of a rhetorical approach to existence, it is apparent that others not only conceive us, but conceive “of” us. Materially they look at facies, but “see” a person.
Perhaps there are “magical moments” in life; perhaps the instant of seeing one’s newborn child is one of them. In that moment, the infant is seen by its mother (parents) as some…one. But, perhaps, this is extending, but not critically opposing Aristotle. Let us see.
Already and always, in discerning other people, we transduce the facial surfaces of others into a Being, a character, a person, beyond the materiality of the reflection of light off chin, cheek, nose, and see within their eyes…a who. This “who” we see is displaced and expanded in time and space. It is not a thing, irreducible, primary. It is a person-in-relation whose history of relationship with us frames our seeing; a person whose futurity in the world joins with ours. There is no simple materiality in seeing persons. We do not exist “after” physics, as Aristotle claimed; mind, to our materiality.
In the context of our Being aspects of life – preceding and, to follow – we partake in (of) an existence which is heavily defined and delimited by discourse; within the rhetoric of others. It is simply not clear whether the person is an individual in a preliminary “ontic” sense, or the notion of individuality which we ensconce ourselves in, is largely derived and emergent. Did Heidegger simply expand Aristotle’s notion of the individual, and move to “reconcile” Being as enigma, or did he…?
Here, it is useful to (re)consider the first (physical?) emergence of Being. Often we are lulled into the obviousness of our adultocentric notions of Being, and cast them about loosely as if existence began conceptually when our bodies were fully grown. Rousseau’s “Emile” reminds us that development is long, and quite full, and “necessary” to (present) Being. It is not philosophically prior, ontically prior, but a sine qua non and perhaps heavily constraining upon how we imagine Being. Perhaps we have been overly impressed with our first becoming fully conscious of our Being, at some near-adult point in life, and have not wished to remember what Being needed to prepare for its own awareness.
When first we emerge in the world, expelled more or less graciously from the womb of our formulation, we are “seen” by the mother who sees from within her experience. Her seeing is not spanking “new,” not “clean,” not in any mere here and now of the newborn substance. She lives as memory, of myriad moments of any present, and toward the varieties of futurity an infant – her infant – represents: her life, its life. She lives in relationship to her own mother, updated to now, yet variously in memory; and to all the others who defined and delimited, excited and extended…
Does she act in terms of such conceptions? What does her seeing her new babe, conceptualizing it as him/her, treating it as a person essentially as she is, have to do with Being? How powerful in terms of our (“individual”) Being is her conceptualization? Do we not, very basically, “survive” in the terms which she grants to our…”Being?”
Is an aspect of the “enigma” of Being, that Being does not inhere precisely within the individual, but also rhetorically; within the mother’s (societal) conceptualization, treatment, and constant defining of “our” Being?
If we are “seen” not as the material facies from which the light reflects and outlines our visages, is it not true that our very Being is, from the beginning of life, semiotic? No mere object am I, but some complex of attributed signs? Being is no mere thing, beyond physics, but of others’ representations of Being.
Where, then, am “I?”
Historical Yearnings: An aspect of my Being, is that I got here: and here I am!
But each of us, an I, seems not to be so clear about which (sense of?) history to invoke, to state that I am here. Which history: my “own” personal history; the “species?” Whence did I come, now that I am here? What paths did the journey take? Which is “my” journey? In what “archetype” do I partake? Could it have gone another way? (Borges). Whose today is my today? Paradoxes to be solved or resolved? Paradoxes to be studied; lived? Tomorrow?
If causality, if effect, regressed back to my beginnings: what is the origin of Being? Child of my parents, they of theirs, ultimately we proclaim a “self-caused” first cause and name it the deity. The deity a mere logical necessity for the need to explain causal linearity? “Because”…a mere response to asking, “Why?” The thinking of Aristotle carried to its (logical?) boundaries…Because.
But what of Being? What of my Being? If I do not know so clearly how I got here, how can my Being now be but an…enigma?
We had hoped to account for being human by asking the question of the origin of the mind. We had hoped that being human means having language, because mind and reason and language seems to be what makes us different from other…species. We want to know, to know what is human, what is man-alone, says Aristotle; what is “nature,” the in-common with other species (Politics). Then the origin of language would tell us whence we came, thence where we are. Imagine: the “first” humans. Compare: our language with the “non-language” of other species, of our long ago antecedents. Have we thought well about this? Need we deny any languaging to other species to justify ourselves…to ourselves?
One story which resonates powerfully still, is Rousseau’s, whose notion of nature has us in touch and in tune with the primevil. And we were, naturally, happy. Born free! Born free? Only society, the urges and demands of others upon personal freedom and destiny, has enslaved us.
We forget (Rousseau did not know) that humans have evolved already as social species. We never were alone, solitary; we never are, alone, solitary. Our independence, and personal freedom develops (as it does!) within sociality; within the discourse whose rhetoric and sense of futurity demands that we become…individual.
But Being is (always) also rhetorical: within the contexts and definitions of who we are, by others. There is always some “tension” between definitions of Being which is a story I tell myself, and stories told to me by others (including many in memory).
Within small societies, where we are always known in great detail and extent, the modern notions of individuality remain muted, the tension directed to Being’s sociality. Within large scale society, where we are often more anonymous, individuality as Being strengthens, the impersonality of formal law emerges, and the “freedom” of the individual becomes problematized as it never was in earlier, small society, times. The paradox of large-scale society: the more individual “I” become, the more problematic is its very definition.
Being as Body: Perhaps (as heirs to Aristotle) we forget to remind ourselves that the enigma of Being human, also has much to do with the human body, the human…form! Because we had been awestruck with the paradox of Being here and everywhere, we came upon an Aristotelian path and found it inviting, enticing even. If body is (in) the here and now, prior to our Being; if the body of other species is also and only in the present, then our bodies are “like” the bodies of other species. But, man-alone possesses…!?
Part of the circularity of thought which grants substance prior to Being, makes the human form “just like” the form of other species – irrespective of snouts, paws, trunks, fins, feathers, beaks and claws, tentacles and suckers, different from human faces; unawares of the relation of bodily form, movement, and gravity. The enigma of Being we have located in the “difference” between humans and others.
We imputed our notion of body being in the present to other species when we granted ourselves symbology and reason; to others only the signs of each present moment. From the circularity of time and body we granted humans in order to account for Being; we then imputed here and now-ness to other species, and somewhat ungraciously decided that the significance of being human was located in the differences between us and others…a difference we had already presumed in the priority of substance. The circle is complete (…and unending…no place to begin to…)
Thinking historically, we invest Being with the emergence of the universal and non-finite, from the very same body in whose terms which we implicitly “touch” ground.
Do we, at some level of Being, tell ourselves an historical story, a “how I got here,” often? Is is updated frequently? Is it revised to suit the present time; is our reading of the present revised to satisfy our historical yearnings? Or have we buried it deeply, so deeply that its surreptitious applications no longer seem problematic. Under what conditions do we admit that (our theory of) Being is an enigma?
Being…on Time: A caution, a reminder, perhaps a self-scolding: the temptation of the primariness of material being is to conceptually make that Being real, but in a primary or mathematically “primitive” sense; a “given,” a locus or place to “begin.” An entity, a person; a person, an entity. It sure seems reasonable (is this the enigma?).
(Is our concept-ualization of Being the same as, does it jibe with whatever is our actual experience? Or does the conceptualization arise from particular problematics which occur in life, only after…one begins self-consciously to reflect upon life? Are we not, once conscious of Being, surprised by the paradoxes we light upon? What is the particular; the universal – which is the real – is change or non-change, the permanent, the eternal? Am I bound [forever?] to try to cool a burning foot in Heraclitus’ river? Can Being live with paradox, with a doubling, a re-doubling of itself, and retrieve transcendence within life?)
From this (tentative?) ground, we grant Being the possibility of a platform and a podium, and wish it to discourse upon all sorts of topics. We even seem to grant it advanced scholarly degrees and a sense of professorial authority: Being is –> Being does –> Being says! Hush! and Listen! Take notes! Truth speaks Truth! It must! (Applause!)
Its tentativeness fades from practical memory in our zeal to believe our believings, until Being becomes “the” subject matter upon which all else rests. Much of the enigma resides here.
A disquisition upon memory, upon the future, upon the very nature of time…we sit back passively, waiting for our intelligence to quote itself and tell us something we do not know already. There is a temptation: to equate, since Parmenides (Frag. VIII) knowledge with the human imagination. What we can imagine, since the human mind is the man-alone repository of knowledge, is what there is: Anselm’s ontological proof that the deity exists because we can imagine Him(!). Examine our imagination and discover Being? Lo and behold, the truth is a chimera. Language is, the mind is, Being is…infinite?
Heidegger, a refreshing breeze, unsatisfied, restless, knawing at the knots of Being – on Being itself. Heidegger, an unraveling of Being’s discourse upon itself, looking away, looking back with wayward glances attempting to steal away the podium from which Being proclaims its own truths verified.
The recognition that Being is an enigma, the attempt to problematize whatever is ensconced, however surreptitiously, in the concept of Being that we have “received,” this unraveling and de-construction, it is necessary for us to see ourselves.
(Kierkegaard’s “solution” was somewhat more certain. In the light of not-knowing whence we came and are bound, he urges a re-joining with the life of a Christ. Live as he lived! Walk hand-in-hand with him; enter his life, rather than letting him enter yours as a believer, a worshiper. A trust in…a distrust in…? (Akin to an “expert systems” approach to Artificial Intelligence: mimic our definition of the nature of an infinite intelligence, rather than craft it).]
So…Being on time!? If the (bodily) ground of Being is not already defining of the present, then it is not so clear what, when, where is time. Having presumed (at least we can possibly re-discover when we have as-sumed) that the individual body is time, in time, or somehow “with” time, the issue of time is not merely enigmatic, problematic, but does not seem very capable of understanding, much less of “solution.” But this simply underscores the sense of enigma, in which we are intellectually ever more unsure of where we are, while it seems quite obvious experientially.
Might we be like Kierkegaard, who understood this dilemma, and sought to resolve it by standing outside, as it were, of time; for Kierkegaard time dissolves, melts. We can enter the dimensions of all of time by taking the ethical path of standing outside of life, projecting it elsewhere; e.g., into the life of a Christ…living as Christ lived. Time itself is time-less. As the deity is eternal, so we partake of it, catch-as-catch-can. By Being a Christ, can we re-enter our own Being? Doubtful?
But this cannot be, we say with Heidegger, glancing at our analogue watches which march about their faces dutifully, in time with…time? We know where we are, when we are. But now that Being is an enigma, time seems to move ever faster…?
Knowing…as Being: We begin life a “purely biological” reflex creature (Piaget). We do not “do.” Rather, “doing” does us. Doing “becomes” knowledge. Thence knowing enters Being (McNeil).
There is a story. Bodily gestures translate into oral phrases somehow, we begin to name things and to say them to describe the world (St. Augustine; McNeil). Being is in this sense some reflection upon the things of the world, and the names we apply to them. Knowing them reflects upon our Being, and defines it: knowing…as Being (Aristotle: “Metaphysics”). “Words and Things.” (R. Brown)
Experience with objects, hearing their names, we “associate” thing with name, gradually constructing…language…rationality. Language becomes a model, as it were, for thought and knowledge. (Locke, Skinner). How do we “associate” word with word?
Knowledge, thence Being (knowing thus Being?), is an (one) analysis of language. Nouns are (stand for?) the irreducible things; verbs, what can be done with and to the things; adjectives, adverbs, the particularities of things and their predicative possibilities. When we sought for the deity through language (do we often “give-up” on Being via increasingly complex circumlocutions?), we imagined that the first “man” spoke the language of true nature: Adam, Adamic language would lead us right back to…nature (to the deity) – Boehme in Aarsleff).
Come lately Wittgenstein (PI) to proclaim that knowledge does not completely define Being, but also that Being “uses” names. Being, earlier derived from knowing, now wanders in the world, knowingly. Is this an extension of logic…or a “bashing” of logic?
Peirce, buried last century – disinterred in this – wondered if things and their names weren’t reflections of ourselves seeing them. We see, he thought, not things “themselves,” but our designations of them. If Being isn’t knowing, reflected upon itself, if Being only sees “signs” of things, then Being is only (merely?) “semiosis.” This century’s (bleak?) translation with the introduction of television: “The medium IS the massage” (McLuhan). Here, Being is no enigma, merely a derivation. I/we are video’s viewers. Lazy enigmas, at that.
Bleak! Where once the individual was primary, now we are derived, merely. Being reduced to poop. Better off, we were say some, with God. At least He gave us the earth..and the heavens. Now, where are we…sitting, encouched as potatoes, in front of the world as video? The truth is what motivates us to…buy? A capital idea.
Our theories of knowledge cast within these various circularities only heighten the sense of Being as enigma. Should we, like Kierkegaard, throw up our intellectual hands in cynical dismay? Why do we take so seriously our theories about Being, rather than letting Being speak to us; observe Being more closely, in its own terms? If only the Delphic admonition to “know thyself,” could escape the history of its theories of Being…
How do we (permit ourselves to) listen, freshened or with an innocence similar to that which once was our lot? Must we “burn” the texts of all of time which have determined some oughtness to our thinking? May we expand the sense of text to knowing: the world-as-text?
De-struct this text? How?
Looking-out (Phenom. of Normative Thinking): Looking-out “from” (via?) those senses which extend the bodily geography I call myself, I am able to see what is and hear what is being said…or so it seems.
This greatest puzzle which whirls over Being like some crazy-quilt of jargon, wonders how we are “inside,” and how we get “new” information from the world; how are we, really, and what is the nature of that externality. How does this brained blob reach “outside” itself and know what is…going on? And how does our internal mind converse with itself? At the least since Descartes, we have been concerned with that existence-guaranteeing process called “thinking”: the famous “cogito ergo sum.”
From a discursive, rhetorical perspective (which is the human, social perspective), this is a narrow visioning of Being. It raises the study of thinking to an epitome, and implies that the reasoning, knowing aspects of Being are paramount in the study of Being. They not only constitute its sine qua non, but call our attention “away from” many other aspects of Being. They infer a process of thinking held to be universal to (hu)mankind, and entail the notion of a Platonic formal truth which is “ideal” in its core. It derives, perhaps, from Plato and Aristotle who want to consider the “ideal” human Being, in considering the nature of politics, ethics, etc. (And, in oppositional Western thinking, it sets up an anti-reason, anti-knowledge, cagegory: usually, some form of “values,” “passion,” “morality,” etc.) Not wishing to derogate the study of thinking, of knowing, I prefer instead to suspend these issues, and to point to some other, perhaps very important but neglected aspects of Being.
I paraphrase an essay I wrote some years ago, which showed that there is a “phenomenology” to “normative thinking,” a type of thinking which we “construct.” It is a kind of walking-through our paths of thinking, much like a dancer may walk-through a new routine before doing it up to pace. However, it is not our only path of thinking; it may change; and it leads – in its workings out – to quite particular ways of judgment. It is, in many senses, a habit of thinking, not a model of clear thought, and often varies “with context.” And it contextualizes Kant’s “Critiques,” especially of “Pure Reason.”
The view of language which was pervasive in academic circles for many years (Chomsky and Halle 196?) was characteristic of “ideal” thinking. It postulated some notion of an “ideal-normal” language grammar which each normal human learned intuitively. Language, it claimed, has a formal grammar, made up of rules which generate the sentences of any natural language. It reacted to a reductive model of language (Skinner) which stated that all knowledge is experiential (the mechanism for knowing is some form of stimulus-response learning loop). Instead, this “ideal” grammar allowed us to be “creative,” to speak and to understand sentences we had “never heard before.” It implied, among other things, that Being has an “inbuilt-intuitive” character, an innate human disposition to language grammar, much like Kant’s notion of “pure reason.”
(In fairness, it argued for a much more complicated notion of being human, than that of Skinner, which seemed to rob us of our minds and/or wills. The difficulty of criticizing it, in the context of oppositional thinking, is that is seems to argue “the” idealist position against “the” empiricist position, as if one or the other encapsulates either the concepts or the total human condition, both standing outside of experience – as if this is a human possibility.)
What this model of language entails is a habit of thinking by which we look-out and judge things, issues, people…with respect to some ideal notion. Certainly there are good reasons to do this. In considering the ideal air foil, for example, we may disregard actual conditions of friction. In judging anyone’s state of health, a physician judges with respect to some normal-ideal of health, versus, say, some observed pathology. However, this ideal-language notion also lends itself equally well to judging presumed normalcy of any speaker judged against, or with respect to, this ideal.
It is right here that some of the sometimes insidious entailments of this mode of thinking take on a reality. Those who differ from the ideal, who speak a different “way” (a geographical, social class dialect), may be judged by the ideal-thinker to be non-normal; non-normal in the sense of deviant, deficient, “pathological.”
(Historically, the application of physical/mathematical notions to society have been frequently problematic, assuming as they do, that society “obeys” natural law(s) just as an airplane does. While there are many reasons to think that society is natural, “it” is not so clear that a society is just like an airplane, and that the direct application of geometrical thinking (as, for example, in Hobbes or Spinoza) to theories of society is correct or legitimate. Here, it has been more a case of applying some “partial truth” as if it had very general applicability, than of imputing falsely or falsity, to society or culture. The base or root- metaphor for this thinking is found in Aristotle’s “Politics,” where he presumes the body-mind dichotomy, then attempts to show how politics “work” just like the relation of mind over body – men over women, master over slave, etc.)
The problematic of thinking “ideally” is located in the selection of what is (categorially) held to be “ideal,” and in the phenomenology of judgment of what is observed “against” that model of ideal. While a good thinker and writer may strive in her/his own life, to work at clarity of expression with respect to, say, a well-educated audience, taking this notion of ideal into the social world is often to discriminate against those who differ, in some way, from the putative ideal.
It is a way or mode of thought. It is one way of thinking; there are others not merely opposed. One could, for example, simultaneously think and judge with respect to some ideal structure, while also considering that dialects differ according merely to geography. In fact, most educated persons do entertain more than a single mode of thinking, although those who tell themselves they ought to be committed to an absolute/ideal, seem to deny to themselves that thinking is a bit more complicated.
Thinking is (often) contextual. What is ideal with respect to the purity of some aerodynamic forces, is not ideal with respect to the nature of health. What is anti-ideal is pathological with respect to health, but has no relation to pathology with respect to dialects. Any notion of an ideal-pure language is bound considerably to time and place, as well as to the context of thought. Why, for example, when we think of persons who differ from the majority (normal-ideal? – G.G. Simpson), do we infer from a handicap (deafness) or unusualness of facial appearance (“retarded” persons) to their capability of intellection or mentation – before we have undergone thorough examination to see how their physical difference affects their ability to, say, speak or communicate?
In this context, it is obvious that we have taken our thinking habits about the normal-ideal or pure types, to attempt to explain how others are different. We have not (until quite recently) been “willing” to step outside of our models of thought to actually explore and describe the nature of “sign language,” or what the appearance of so-called “retarded” persons has to do with some inability to articulate sounds. In both these examples, we have been quite mistaken in our judgments based on normal-ideal theories of language. It is time to re-examine our models as well as the persons to whom we have applied them, incorrectly.
But for the thinker who is “pure” in her/his holding out for a singular notion of purity in all her/his lookings out, judgment takes on a sense of values and a sense that the thinker is a “moral center” in all she/he does. The ideal thinker is engaged, looking out, in some version of a Kierkegaardian “either/or.”
Much of what goes on in life, in the world, is literally “missed” by the ideal-thinker who wants, like a Chomsky, to consider ideal-language as a thing-in and of itself; per se. The fact of one’s body being in the world with others, that language is an aspect of this human discourse…all of this is missed, thence dis-missed as “irrelevant” to the bounded, pre-packaged ideal structure which is seen, looking-out, to exist…even when it never does. At a limit, an idealist point-of-view can make all of life and existence, seem like an illusion!
There are (at least) two senses in which it is dismissed: 1) the ideal-absolutist thinker refers to the non-absolutist as a “relativist; but relativism, in the thinking of an absolutist seems to be “twisted” into: there is no truth! The absolutist, that is, constructs her/his version of relativity as opposed, an anti-absolute, but (necessarily) a different kind of absolute: like the religious view of evil, or of Satan, or of the anti-Christ…no possibility of an “agnostic” position; 2) the idealist-absolute thinker has already selected a notion of truth in terms of quite rigid categories, and the battle is only over these categories (in various ways).
That the categories, themselves, may be ensconced in a particular tradition (say, Western thought as different from Confucian thinking), simply is not a possible counter in any such argument, because the conditions of any discussion are already fixed, at the level of (usually surreptitious) presumptions; not open to discussion, but only to opposition and/or argumentation.
Here it is useful to (re)read Aristotle’s “Politics,” in which the nature of politics is to be referred to some ideal…always and eventually reducing to the hegemony of mind over body. Poor Being!
Doubt about Existence: Buber, in his educational writings, thinks that this is one of those times in which we are not “at home” in our lives upon this earth. (QUOTE)
Indeed, such times have come upon us before. They occur when the possibility of the destruction (literally) of the known earthly universe, finds itself as an idea meandering in our minds. Now that the earth has shrunk conceptually so we can imagine it in its entirety, now that “the bomb” is a reality, the issue of its destruction lurks…once again.
Such times occur as well, particularly in the West, when the pace of felt change accelerates to the edges of our tolerance. Why the West, particularly? Because we are, since Plato, essentialist idealists, residing principally in a static world, in which change is to be re-incorporated into unchange, into eternality. (Nietzsche’s claim that we needed to pursue the truth…) In the experiential, “felt” paradox of change and unchange, in which we retain a constancy of identity and integrity with some occasional difficulty and disbelief, Being seems sometimes diffuse, fragile. We teeter on a precipitous and poorly balanced axis of permanence and change. When change is perceived as “too large,” we do not merely rush back to a sense of permanence (texts, the deity, a messiah, some human archeus), but feel that some surreptitious axis lay unrevealed behind our notions of change: chaos, an abyss into which we may fall, in each next instant. Some say (Bloom) that this is true, particularly, of Americans whose banality is so deep that it can hardly recognize an abyss until it hangs precipitously over the edge.
The self-discovery of our lemming-likeness occurs only after we have fallen, and are lurching full-fall to grasp for any edge of safety.
In times as these, the question of existence – the very question
pops into our thoughts – and begins a wrestling contest for control over the coolness of reasoned consideration. The question of existence, whose apparency arises in each person’s life as a youth, as a to be uncovered paradox, now engages all our other thoughts. It enters not as the scientific question of “how,” or the existential question of “why,” but as the cosmic question: “Do we exist?” Not “where am I,” or “how do I know I am here,” but: “Am I?”
The West, the Christian tradition from Augustine, the wedding of the Greeks with the Christ, thought they had “solved” this question by saying that we “fell” to earth. We are the incarnate soul, “placed” here out of some sin of our parents’ (parents’), and the “reality” of life is…in heaven. We “exist,” only as souls, in a diaspora from paradise, embattled with life and evil, so we may be “saved” and “return” whence we came. Life is a chimera; an illusion. “Do we exist?” – gets an always wavering response. Always there is a nagging, niggling sense that the very next time the question pops into thought, which tends to be always closer in time, the answer will be: NO! WOE! WHOA! Stop, time!
[The perennial freshman question: "Well, can you PROVE that we're here!?" fills our aging lives and any sense of true maturity fades from possibility.]
The question increases its resonance and frequency with the fears of…change/chaos, the possible destruction of humankind, of today, of history, of any tomorrow, of me and you…of meaning.
The question of existence, the “do I” of a sharply abrupt cognizance, begins to pervade thought, and cries out for answers, for some way of allaying fear. And we are in some wavering state of oscillations, where knowledge, observation, human reason and human authority, are as often on a downward slope, as the yearning for the salving of fear is rising.
There is trouble, right here, in River City.
In such times, Being is no enigma, merely. It is a desperation!
[Note: In the context of the cosmological question of existence, it is so clear that the history of ideas is crucial in understanding present times. Other traditions simply do not get into this fear-driven notion that life is chimerical: many "animistic" cultures are cosmological always, and distinguish less than we, between humans and other species, between life and the dead; in the Confucian tradition, the facticity of each person's existence is where thinking and philosophy begin. On the other hand, we share much with Buddhistic thought, where "present" existence is one of many "earlier" incarnations - literally "placings" in the body. Rather than denying bodily Being, however, the "Zen" way is to enter into (bodily) Being as totally as possible, in each moment. But, ideas are these all. Once we recognize them as ideas, which have been invented, we can "deconstruct" the contexts in which they arose/arise, and with hope, can "construct" others which will serve us in these "hard" times.]
[Note: The form in which the cosmological question arises in Western thought underscores the Aristotelian concentration upon the thing and the individual as the primary, the irreducible, the analytic "unit" into which all issues are to be broken. In Christian thought, the question is not, "do WE," but "do I," exist. Literally, the universe begins and ends, in the thinking of each of us about our personal destinies. Salvation is mine...alone. Community (charity), any "covenant" between persons, any relation to the history of persons in whose terms I have been "created" and survive, these all diminish to the vanishing point. In Western thought, we live literally in two universes: of ideas (as pure individuals), of...actuality? - of and with others. Cosmological fear seems to "drive" most of us eventually ever more deeply into our individual selves as personal death concerns win out over the comforting others may provide us.]
In the over-arching divisions between the curriculum of life being logical vs. rhetorical, does this comment prove that cosmology is an aspect of logic? Or are there other cosmologies: discursive…?
Existence vs. Being (a digression): Being is some large encompassing idea which includes all of my existence and experience/experiencings. From the light in my parents’ eyes contemplating the babe and person to be, to the fetus and embryo begun on a path to here and now, to everyone’s seeing and imagining me to be the one which/who I think I am, willing to be what I am willing to be as struggle toward resuscitating the concept of wisdom which has virtually been lost in these times thinking out the present and its becomings, I include all this in Being: all that I accept, and (knowingly, often unknowingly reject).
Existence and experience have some overlappings: existence is created as a concept from and within the antinomies of Western dualism opposing any foundational essentialism/formalism/idealism. Experience is ongoing in the present and my presence within…it; what and who I am-not in any positive sense, all the paradoxes of Being which I reside upon, the ideas which make no sense, and the very idea of sense made or not. I try to live carefully and with some integrity; but am always questioning their inclusiveness and exclusiveness; living with another with whom I share thoughts, my boundaries also blur and blend, the discourse of Being inner and outer also in dialogue with the critical mind reflecting joint history, futurity, and family…and all of Being.
Visitor to the world, renting rather than owning, the study of my life engaging in life is my vocation. Happiness is doing, writing, teaching, living who I would be at least occasionally.
Being includes all of this and these and more.
Four Models of Rationality: The notion of “rationality” has been quite powerful in its relation to Being and existence. It appears in various guises when any notion of what is nature or natural, what is human, is being discussed: in Kant’s notion of “pure reason,” Locke’s concepts of “human understanding,” Descarte’s “…therefore I am.” It underlay thinkers like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, whose work reacted against a felt narrowness in the definition of human and rationality. Today, it inspires a pessimism among some Behavioral Psychologists and Comparative Biologists, who claim that rationality has led us into deep trouble, and should be “abandoned,” virtually…before it is too late. Modern religious Fundamentalism of most stripes, is also a reaction against against various notions of rationality, gone too far. If God gave us “free” will, the range of its application has overbounded “faith,” whose domain has been shrinking.
There is, however, a deep set of complications in understanding and deconstructing what is rational, and disentangling what is human, what Being, because there are by now (at least) four quite different concepts of rationality with which every educated person is familiar. Indeed, they are aspects of each of our thinking, and we easily dredge out one or the other, whenever the congruent situation seems at hand.
The “oldest” Western model of rationality, derived once again from Aristotle directly (Politicus) and from Plato less directly (Sophist ?), begins from two linked presumptions: 1) that the human is composed of (can be “analyzed into”) two parts, the mind and body; 2) the comparative presumption that humans “alone” possess the intellectual capacity to think out things for ourselves (other species, slaves…barbarians, women, and children, in different “degrees” do not). QUOTES
In its Aristotelian form, which seems to lurk at various levels of (un-)consciousness still in our current thinking, this presumption is developed and argued philosophically in the domain of politics: politics ranging from the analysis of the state and its component parts (including the household and the relation between “master” and the others in the household) analogized to the notion that the mind (or soul) “directs” the body. In its elaborations it is an argument and justification for male “dominance,” for slavery, for aristocracy and kingship (as opposed to democracy). In arguing the opposite way, from the “weaker” to the stronger, it attempts to show how the body, thence “different” (from “ideal,” “pure”…male, aristocratic, master-full), is “inferior.” It sets up some notion of the “ideal” and contrasts every (thing, -one) difference as partaking of some related degree of inferiority.
Thus, in one of its critical modern forms, Bloom may discuss the “closing” of the American mind (cynically: “mind”), and following Aristotle, “blames” divorce, Blacks, an insidious weakening of the “master” class (young males), a disenhancement of differences between the sexes (due, for example, to the constancy of rock music = simple sex). This is not to say that intellection in modern America is at some acme (here it’s difficult to disagree with a Bloom), but to see how Bloom argues his case in the Aristotelian mode…still. And, as in Aristotle, intellection and politics are interwoven, with great intimacy.
As in the Greek mode, the development of what is a good life, the greatest happiness, and so on, relates directly to contemplation: being able to have and take the time to think hard, to study, to argue with the “great” minds. As abstract thinking is linked with a suspension of “doing,” there is an oppositional relationship with those who work and do – the “pragmatic” – being anti, being incapable of contemplative thinking. To become truly intelligent, we need “time out” from ordinary life. Lastly, it equates being rational with a thoughtful life: being “reasonable.” Rationality => reason.
This complex of ideas remains central to our thinking about the nature of rationality, what and who is rational. It remains in our being at some level…waiting, as it were, for the invocation of any of its grand themes. These, in turn, seem to bring out many of the remainder, depending often on the times: whether this is a time of “revolution” against a monarchy (18th century “Enlightenment”); or a time when we worry lest the sense of some former political-intellectual hegemony is at risk (America during the last years of the 20th century); whether we are brave, frightened, bemused…looking to think-out our futures, or waiting for deliverance (the “Messiah” will return at the end of the 2nd millennium!)
Ensconced within, as well, is the issue of what, in any era, is “virtue”; what, whether we “aim” our lives in any particular direction, and what is that direction. And there is hidden here a sense of what is “nature,” what is human nature, and whether this should affect our thinking about ourselves and how to be.
As I said earlier, this is one of four, by now rather ordinary notions of rationality. It is the one most often regarded as logical, philosophical. It is the one we invoke when thinking about the nature of intelligence, of what (good) thinking is, that one which has gained some great measure of authority=truth value, as the foundational mode of scientific thinking. In the 18th century, this mode of being rational seemed obvious and rather complete, and quintessentially human – as well as related to a variety of notions of “progress”: social, political, technogical. By the 19th century, its “optimism” began to be tempered…
But the tempering, the “attacks” on this mode of rationality, do not at all begin to account for the other…”modes”…of rationality. They seem to exist in most of our minds’ eyes, not as any opposition or attacks upon rationality, but simply different. They are all apparent at the level of what is, by now, common-sense. They do not seem, usually, to interfere with one another. But we seem to invoke one or another in the proper situation or context. They seem to pass-by one another, much as airplanes at night flying different patterns to different places, at different altitudes. I have occasionally noted, however, that arguing in one of these modes, may of a sudden, bring out one of the others. Thus it is difficult to know where one is “standing” in this ground which seems murky.
The other three “ordinary” modes of discussion about rationality
are: 2) the “clinical” notion of insanity or craziness, the irrationality which is not merely against the rational-logical, but which is not at all in the same realm – hallucinatory (not even objective about the shared objectivity, etc.), out of control of the thinker; 3) the “economic” mode of rationality, in which the individual who is most rational (!) attempts to maximize profit. It is more (than the others) about motivation; not how a mind “is,” but what a rational person will do, to benefit (him)self. Modes (2) and (3) share the feature that if someone does not act rationally, in either sense, there is something “wrong” with them, similarly to the logical idea of being rational: they are thinking “poorly” or “wrongly.”
Mode (4) is different, but just as common-sensically about being rational. It is the sense of rationality involved in legal thinking: what would a “rational” or “reasonable” person do, or think, or act, or re-act?
While it has many strong aspects, and has undoubtedly led to a legal code which acts in terms of fairness of many citizens, it requires in its formulation a consideration of what is a “reasonsble person.” And this often is restricted to those (kinds; sorts of) persons whom lawyers and judges are familiar with, and respect (or dis-respect).
Thus, there are these four “modes” of thinking about the rational, which almost all of us have gathered into our thinking. They reside in each of our thinking, occupying most independent conceptual arenas, and rarely interfere.
However, sometimes they overlap. When one is (apparently) in one arena, someone begins to argue in another, as if the elaboration of one is a direct or genuine response to another. If some persons (peoples) in the world, do not seem to act to maximize agricultural profits, American economists do not always find it difficult to label them as irrational: if they were rational, they would think differently about farming (and their mode of existence)….something is “wrong” with other cultures who do not act as we do, as we would. They “should” change, we should change them…the slope is slippery.
In defending against the accusation of some modern (apparently) neo-conservatives that the American mind is “closed,” that intellection is not at an all-time high, some (lawyers) are tempted to argue the legal notion, not to respond to the accusation. That is, intellection is not all that important, what is important is being a reasonable person, to engage in interpersonal “equality,” in some sense of mutual understanding toward greater community…toward more reasonable behavior. Here, what John Gardner called an American balancing act of cycling between “excellence” and “equality,” tips toward “equality,” and leaves the question of intellectual excellence hanging in the wind.
In a “confusion” between modes (1) and (2), American political administrations seem to find it easy to accuse those who think quite differently from them, as being crazy, and uncivilized: either insane, or like animals, perhaps both: witness attacks upon Libya.
In an ultra-competitive era, we seem to find it easy to justify increasing poverty, by labeling the unfortunates as being less “capable” than those of us who succeed, invoking the economic sense of rationality to justify what “we” do, while labeling others in terms of mode (1), being less rational or intelligent, “by nature.”
Without complicating this aspect of the discussion of being beyond its possible disentanglement, it does seem important to go often through the exercise of approaching the contents of one’s thinking and experience with respect to the issue of what is the rational. It has had a long history, even in each life, in each of our educations, as we have been drilled to make judgments about what is better or more advanced thinking, what is simpler; what is clear, what murky; what is the sense of self each of us carries at some levels of Being, by which we judge ourselves as reasonable. Which of these notions of the rational do we invoke, under what circumstances? How do they reside, often separately, but sometimes overlapping, in our conceptual Being?
Are there other modes of rationality?
[Bloom claims that Freud (one of Nietzsche's heirs), brought to us the notion of the rational as "rationalization." Rather than being concerned with being rational=thinking logically and well, we invoke various sorts of rationales to account for or to justify what we "want" to do...anyway. Thus, contends Bloom, the 19th century notion of Enlightenment rationality, of the best uses of reason, have turned about some 180 degrees, into the use of "reason=rationalism" to justify our...passions, desires, mistakes.]
Relativism versus Context: There is some confusion, some sense of overlap between the notions of meaning of how the world “means,” or how we understand, as different from how we find meaning…how we lead meaningful lives. What is real, what is unreal; or not so real? What is genuine, authentic? Sometimes these notions are the same, and collapse into one another. In other senses, in other contexts, they seem miles apart. Rather than attack this puzzle directly, I wish to “back into” it by considering the (apparent) opposition between absolutism and relativism, to show how slippery is this arena. After this, I will introduce the notion of meaning change with respect to context, to begin to show how complicated is ordinary life…which, I think, we have tended to narrow and to underestimate in our concentration on certain favorite categories and “party lines.”
Some of the complications and circularities of thinking about Being, are wound up in issues which are often given names like “relativism” and “absolutism.” With little further ado, these names slip and slide into strong opposition as if they are necessarily at war with one another. To “be” one or the other of these, is strongly to take upon thinking an entire framework and approach to meaning. One cannot be a relativist about one situation, an absolutist about another: at least from the point of view of absolutists who, of course, are true to their appellations.
And the relativists are tempted to be equally absolutist in their judgment about judgment: the world “should” be open, pluralistic; there is no single perspective which is the right one. Logically, there is abundant irony in the absolutism which convinced relativists fall into. There is (can be?) no clear relativism which opposes absolutism directly and consistently. Either we might search for some middle ground to resolve this apparent opposition, or begin to rethink the issues which seem to be involved and entailed here.
Some discussion of these arenas is in order. The usual argument in the public domain, is between religious “believers” and the others. The religious who are absolutists hold that God is real; further, that He is the truth. Anything or anyone who opposes Him (rather, some relativist in me is urged to poke his nose in, to say that God is their construction of some transcendent idea), is against God. Further, the opposers (the a-theists) “must” also oppose what God “represents”: e.g., truth, morality, values, light, good, eternality, salvation, the soul…meaning.
It is thus difficult (virtually impossible, but there are some ways “around” this), because this oppositional absolutism already embraces in its thinking and in the Being of its followers, the categories of its opponents: evil, Satanic, anti-Christ, anti-truth (lies), immorality, lack of values, darkness, sin, the body, the present (Being in the moment)… nihilism.
Not only does the relativist fall into the absolutists’ notion of what s/hehe is “really” like, but it is easy (too easy) to convince the convinced absolutist that anyone who exhibits any of the anti- or oppositional characterists, is at once an a-theist, and partakes in all the other oppositions as well. Any expression bordering upon nihilism, a non-judgmental stand about the morals of other peoples (e.g., the Anthropologist who describes “other” marriage types, but does not judge them as being “wrong”), and a person is cast into a Satanic, anti-Christ barrel.
Will a thoughtful agnosticism please stand up, and identify itself!? This, as I recall, was one of Nietzsche’s plaintive wails; that there is no thick and pungent form of suspending thought about the deity of Western thought, which can yet yield meaning to life. For whatever reason, the sense that God is alive and well and doing His incantations and omnisciences, grants us meaning in our lives. That worry, the loss of meaning, the “Rise of European Nihilism” (Intro: “Will to Power”), was what led to Nietzsche’s announcement of the “death of God.” Can we not create or observe other transcendental elements in our Being? Can we not find meaning, some sense of “ultimacy,” of towards which in whose terms we can direct our lives and find meaning? Perhaps the central question about Being, in such a time as this, is how do we come to “have” meaning in life; perhaps, more usefully, how do we “lose” meaning?
What – or who – grants us meaning? Who – or what – sustains it?
Some…where, there exists a kind of wrap around the question. Call it “context”; “leave it” to context; “it changes” with the context. What changes; what is “it?”
The “same” word, the “same” gesture means “differently” in various situations. Some “different” ideas “come together” in certain contexts. Enter a house filled with family at a holiday; enter the same house just upon the death of…an elderly mother…a child; enter the same house devoid of furniture. Each entering may be identical, the steps taken, the greeting. But each entering is quite a different sort of event, they “mean” differently. Is the meaning in the context, in what we “know” about the context, in our “interpretation” or “perspective?”
What theory of meaning tells us about context? Where, in our Being, is this knowledge…derived…kept? Is context a kind of relativism? Is context partaken in by those who are (otherwise) absolutists? If so, of course, the relativist/absolutist debate is not how it appears…!
Human Rights: Since the beginning of the United Nations, and its Declaration of Human Rights, the question of these Human Rights seems to have been directed principally by Western Democracies against other governments who have been dealing with some (groups) of persons in ways we consider inhuman, especially inhumane.
This Declaration culminated practically a century of a distinctively “American” approach to Anthropology, developed by Franz Boas and his students. It was written by Ashley Montagu and Pedro Comas, students of Boas. It incorporated an approach to the study of all human beings, everywhere in the world, which was three-fold: Language, the Physical (“Race”), and Culture.
It argued, and argued quite successfully in the long run of the 20th century, that all of the peoples who speak language, have human forms, partake in the “family” of humans: homo sapiens. By virtue of their being born to human parents, and entering into human society, all humans have certain rights. QUOTE They all have sufficient (?) similarity of form. More importantly they all possess and speak languages which possess grammars of equal complexity with Western languages, possess logic, etc. They possess, that is, identity of mental operations, capacities, abilities, and so on. Whatever differences there may be in physical form or appearance, seem small or unimportant in the identity of all as partaking of human nature.
These ideas developed during the centuries when an empirical approach to nature sought to determine what is the nature of being human, over and above the theo-political “arrangements” in which people found themselves. As well, it argued against the concepts of “race,” of human ability and capability being granted only, or principally along familial, national, ethnic, geographic lines. It argued against some of the foundations of Western thought, against, for example, Aristotle’s claim that: “…those who are sprung from better ancestors are likely to be better men, for nobility is excellence of race.”37
It argued, that is, against certain forms of Greek idealism deriving from Plato and Aristotle. To resuscitate those Greeks, without very careful criticism, to proclaim their thinking as some ultimate flowering of abstraction, to often to carry with it a parallel renewal and revival of Greek philosophical politics: a state which presumes slavery, one in which women do not partake in its deliberations or administration.
While much is interesting and admirable in the works of Plato and Aristotle, their political thinking presumed that the “state” was the category which contained, as it were, all its citizens. Moreover, it presumed a class of slaves, and other lesser types such as women and children. The Greek notion of Being thus rests upon presumptions which are inimical to rights belonging to all humans, but argues that they pertain only to a favored few.
Much depends, since the Greeks, on what is the nature of Nature, what is the nature of humans ([within] nature), and just how do we ascertain these. From Aristotle, we derive the most popular method based on the oppositions between a sense of the “best” (ideal) humans in the ideal state, metaphorized to the assumed division between mind and body (“Politics”). In a complex of logic alluded to earlier, the nature of humans is taken to be unique from other species due to our mind (reason), and elaborated into human sociality or culture. As critical as I am of this entire line of thinking, my main objection is to the presumption that the human body is not of major importance in this determination of what is human. Somehow the bodily form of humans, and its ordinary juxtaposition with other species’ forms, is hidden within its ordinariness. For the query of what is human, we have relied on the elaboration of a story which is a partial truth at most.
Out of this depiction of individuals wandering in the forest primeval, primordial man came upon language (mind), and gradually became social. Sociality, politics, the state are derived from the evolution of humans from pre-human to human. In this story, there is the dual story of ontogenesis, each individual’s growing-up, wherein each of us has become “chained” (Rousseau) after being “born free.” Freedom and human rights demand that we remain “free.” And in the light of the theo-politics and monarchies of 18th century Europe, this was indeed an informing, revolution-making idea. As a critique of modern Republics of Western Europe and America, however, the invocation of Rousseavian ideas flies in the face of what we have come to know about other species, thence about humans. What was, two centuries ago a politics of nature, now seems contrary to nature; opposed to nature, particularly as we have come to know other species in some detail.
Other species (any exceptions?) are already social. They were never, and are not now “solitary brutes” wandering in the primeval forest. We did not evolve as solitaries either. The notion (fact!?) of social contract is present already in other related species. The problematic issue in human existence has to do with the “emergence” of individuality, not of society. Whether we are only derived from others as some Marxists hold, whether our individuality is “demanded” within the social structure, as seems clear to me, the issue of what is particularly human, what individual and what social, requires much rethinking in the light of modern knowledge of the sociality of other species and of “primitive” peoples.
What is happening in the sphere of the politics and sociology of ideas is, however, a kind of “revisionism” of political theory, in which the sense of universal justice present in democratic states, is presently being challenged. Equality for all is, in Bloom’s terms, causing us to “close our minds.” Some deep sense of “inequality” which is imputed to “nature,” is being held out as the “true” salvation of the state from: nihilism, stupidity, anarchy, etc. The theory of “social contract” has come full-circle, and is being utilized in the present, to re-establish the senses of aristocracy and monarchy which it originally opposed. Enigma become irony!
Truly, I love this notion of freedom of each and all individuals. But I think freedom occurs in approximately the opposite direction: that we are born in-relation, and gradually become the individual who is independent, capable. We do not even survive…as individuals. The possible physiological survival of a “wolf-child” is, though probably mythological, impossible toward a languaging, interacting, thoughtful Being in a human sense. Many of us have a habit of mythologizing nature to fit the model of human politics which we desire.
I respond to the human rights claims about human nature, as well, because they are being undermined as they are being proclaimed. They
rest (from Locke) on a notion that there is no carry-over from one generation to the next which is determinative of anything essential to our freedom of thinking. The “tabula rasa” was calculated to defeat the concept of hereditary kingship (again, all of this is laid out in Aristotle’s “Politics”)…and it was used by Jefferson, effectively, declared to the heavens in the Declaration of Independence. But it now is being undermined.
In the modern form, called the nature-nurture debate, the rise of genetics has rekindled the determinative theorists, to claim that freedom is “freedom.” Our behavior, our thinking, our intelligence is related to our parents’, they say. This thinking will, in “hard times,” be used to justify idealist, Western thinking (the mind) over and against others’ thinking (3rd World, non-Western), who, if we look at them straight, look differently. It is their bodies which are different (physiognomy,…) from those who proclaim Western hegemony intellectually (Bloom). It is this which will undermine eventually the claim that we are all human, all have equal rights, and so on.
It is a complex road from proclaiming the excellence of abstract thinking by studying Plato and Aristotle (the “great men”), to noting that this argument is deeply enmeshed in politics. From Aristotle, we learn that this is because it is the best men (sic!) who will rule best; the closest to the ideal judged by Aristotle’s methods…which presume a slave state, a place for women which is “different from that of barbarians,” but indeterminately lesser. In this thought line, we get what we “deserve” – we are not “self-determining”; human rights revert, once again to those rights which flow in family lines; the aristocracy of birth is restored.
The Individual - Aristotle vs. Marx:
The Aristotelian version of Being, is Being an individual…male. The notion of I Being who I am, in a deep sense independently of all others, seeking my living and my dying (salvation), relates knowledge directly to this (concept of) Being individual. I exist, primarily. The world comes to me; or I wander, variously, “through” it (perhaps I am a planar figure, entering constantly into next planes). Other persons are like the remainder of the world, like objects, like world-fill. I become the actor, the hero, the goat, the savior of myself. Others…well, they are problematic, fading in and out, like planar ghosts extending across, or running parallel to my trajectory. I am my life trajectory; or, my life trajectory is me.
In Marxist thinking, there is a transposition, an inversion of Being. The individual is derived, a construct which “I” match, seeking out Being within the congeries of social roles which exist in the social construction of others. This view is not necessarily a “weakened” view of the individual, but one in which the very notion of the individual has little meaning. Being, here, is less an enigma, more a wondering. (MORE)
In the ordinary social=parental construction of the world, it has seemed to me that the notion of the individual Being, is one which parents at once desire and work-at. But they also work-at its counterpoise: varieties of “conscience.” Individual Being, directly associated with bodily Being, is less the parental-social notion of the individuality of their child: it is much more the “person” whom they see in the facies (& body) of “their” infant. This parental idea of Being has extent, in every moment into the reaches of an entire lifetime (maybe, beyond). It has, as well, extent into the congeries of relationships into which they themselves are placed (place themselves?). In a (deep?) sense, the individual is treated as-if a particular person and a social (=universal?). In actual life, Being is not an either/or. Being is more a both/and.
Skepticism, Cynicism, Nihilism, and Slippery-Slopes
Beware men (and women) quoting Nietzsche!
(Dare I trust myself?!)
Frederick Nietzsche, author of some 20 books, announced and noted the “death of God.” He did not “proclaim” it, but noted incisively that many Europeans had “lost” their belief in a form of the deity which had previously “given” meaning to their lives.
In his final book (save one, written from the confines of the asylum), edited by his sister, Mrs. Foerster, who married a anti-Semite with Nazi leanings, he considered at some length the “Rise of European Nihilism.”
In these days, these days precisely, when the remainder of the world seems poised to “displace” the hegemony of European thinking (so it seems to some), the sense of nihilism can be found in many places. What Nietzsche announced, was the realization finally after almost two millennia of Christian piety, that “meaning” is a life problem. Formerly the question of meaning and the quest for meaning had had a kind of specificity and directedness toward the nature of God. Man – in Western thought – was composed of two (always two) aspects – of faith and of reason. In centuries previous to the 19th of Nietzsche and of Kierkegaard (and Schopenhauer…), the quest for reason had become the stronger; the nature of reason was thought to be grounded and to be “located” in nature.
Now that God was dead as a concept which lends meaning to life, Nietzsche wondered that those most basic of concepts which lend direction and “values” to life – good and evil – were indeed no more than human values. They were not linked to knowledge or truth in the sense that God was eternal, truthful, and omniscient, but to be examined within the psyche and psychology of what is human. The darkening, brooding of what it is that maintains and sustains humans had been raised in its glory and gory details since Schopenhauer had worried about the “will” to…live. What is it which “keeps us going?”
This question of and quest for the will…had since Plato and Aristotle seemed “backwards.” The soul, the animating force which is the oppositional force between what is life and what is death, this life-fragile concept had earlier motivated the question of knowledge. Now, some two thousand years later, it had suddenly become obvious that life must sustain itself; death is always ready, around the next corner. Life…without the concept of God…has only itself to fall back upon.
Knowledge without God? Always knowledge, reason, the will of humans had been problematic since the story of Eden; linked with the will of (wo)man to disobey good and to embrace evil: the tree of knowledge. Man had gotten haughty, seeking the power to compete with the God who had given (him) life, and whose languages were mystified and made incomprehensible, as he (man) tried to erect the Tower at Babel. Now, without God, are we, as Nietzsche asks, “Beyond Good and Evil?”
Skepticism, abounding since the Greeks, addressed in such brilliant verbiage within the dialogues of Plato, and the mundane but no less powerful notes of Aristotle, was pushed back. The quest for the human was to be found somehow, somewhere within the concept of the soul. Skepticism about what could be known, translated into the eternal concepts of “truth” guaranteed by a hovering God, elides so gradually in thinking into a cynicism in which doubt could be celebrated as dissent against the “knowers of it-all.” Of a sudden, fear rises to its occasions…
Then there was the question of texts and truth. What is there to do when skepticism elides into a fear-driven cynicism, which doubts various possibilities, and turns into…the face of the abyss: life as an infinitesimal within the two-folded eternities surrounding it? What to do, to seek knowing the truth, and Being. Go back! Return! To what? To when?
Ensconsed as we were within an optimism bred of a youthful and progressive time, we have little self-protection against the sort of pessimism bred in bureaucratic life, where we do the same every day; some days more, some less…but every day forever more. The drama of life is turned upon itself and is bored to tears…just then, fear enters! Perhaps it is the fear of fear, a fear that will not go away, that presses upon Being like a twelve-ton press pressing upon my soul; my soul arises to protest, to protect. What roads will I travel now, so little space left in life, a wandering amongst the crackled walks, full of hidden falls lurking just beyond? Go back! Return! The past beckons.
The texts of all of time: the Bible, the New Testament, calculated to “solve” the fear of death, elaborates fear so it may relieve it, relives fear so that fear, itself, may die lingering. Go back to Socrates (or…), the classical knower who was wise for all of time, for all of us within time. Texts become the real. We enter them, the black upon white; the world become fuzzy, background to the drama of the textual characters who lived that we may now live. Here, meaning resides truly; the truth of life’s experiences fades into the background, unfocused…disappearing; going, going, gone.
Do we gather present strength in this way? Or do we weaken ourselves in the present, while laying praise at the feet of the masters who reside within some theory of the long-past, remaining alive in ways which we find to resurrect them? Coming from a skepticism, have we so “reduced” ourselves, our strength and resolve to live in each next present, that we began to doubt knowledge itself, a cynicism bred from…and, of a sudden, fear-driven into a nihilism in which doubt breeds only more doubt until we cannot stand it, and cannot withstand the fuzzing of time and today and ourselves?
What was once an intellectual disposition, a skepticism about what we did not know, how did it take those peculiar turns, begin to slide and to elide skepticism about our knowing, to skepticism about knowledge, to a nihilism which hollowed as it hollered for…Help!
A Picture worth a Thousand Words: A mentor (Birdwhistell) once quoted his friend, Margaret Mead, as saying that we never use our primary sense to test reality. Those of us, that is, who are “primarily” visual, tend to play with auditory or perhaps tactile stimuli; similarly, those of us who primarily “hear” the world, may tell ourselves that we are visual people. But, at a level deep to our individual Being, we ground ourselves in some particular sense, which we keep steady, “safe” from play, from puns and the vicissitudes of everyday life.
Whether or not there is some basic sort of truth to this statement, it is at once critically stimulating for self-review, and important in calling attention to how we are in the world. It is also, perhaps, metaphorical for the complex aspects of Being which remain at a level out-of-awareness. For the linguist-in-me, it may be likened to the kind of knowledge we possess in terms of which we articulate speech, a balletic virtuousity of the tongue, lips, teeth which only come to our attention when there is something wrong (a caught food particle, a broken cusp,…).
While I find it easy, pursuasive even, to be drawn into a wonderment about how I am “really,” setting me upon a path of self-observation and no small amount of personal history, I find it also fascinating to be drawn into the formal world of Plato’s caves, wherein the senses do not reveal, but can only mislead. This contrast, which has virtually defined the history of Western thought in many ways, has had many entailments in its workings out. They can be expressed, again metaphorically, by referring to that great puzzler who thought all was change, Heraclitus, who said: “I trust the senses best.”
Plato, the idealist, the formalist, seeing in shadowy particularities only a sense of chaos, sought to find the universals, the spiritual aboveness and overall. But in this adventure, he “lost” himself, banished the body, and praised that sense of philosopher which stood outside of Being. For him, the introductory phrase…”a picture is worth a thousand words,” could have no meaning.
Yet, it is a truth of a sort. But, what sort?
If it is the case that we take in through the senses, external information which is passed through some nerves into the brain, then interpreted somehow, somewhere in the brain, we could guess that there must be more nerves taking in visual information, than auditory. Or, we could guess that visual information is less complex than auditory, needing less interpretation, thus being more potent in its effect upon us. And there could be other explanations…of this sort. But, again, of what sort?
These explanations are all of a single piece, presuming that the individual (organism – not person!) is an open, passive thing, taking in information via external nerves into some central interpreter.
Instead, as J.J. Gibson instructs us, the senses are to be considered as perceptual “systems,” already in some ways interpretive and cognitive beyond mere open perception. There are no “raw” percepts, coming at us “cleanly,” exactly as they “are.”
Moreover, these theories presume that the individual is the center of her/his own universe, open perceptually to the world “as it is.” However, from the rhetorical, discursive perspective in which life is lived “truly,” the question of “how” we see takes on greater power.
The rhetorical fact of humans seeing “persons in facies” – if it is metaphorical – is the human metaphor. It is the basis for the semiosis of our Being, in which the human face is transformed in our seeing: “it” into “whom.” It is in terms of this human metaphor in terms of which we live, indeed survive at all.
Does this mean we see the world not as objects in the Aristotelian sense, but primarily as pictures? Others…thence ourselves? Do we see the world as pictures; through pictures? Does the brain then interpret our pictures?
The face: a mask; an expression? A picture worth a thousand words!?
[To the extent that we live as formalists, as universalists, are we to this extent so vulnerable to the attractiveness of pictures floating past upon the video tubes in our private places, that we cannot use our critical judgment to remain resistant to such attractions? Has, as Schulte-Sasse claims, the capital which was money, now turned into images which are now the only capital of worth left in life?]
Death…on Being: Talk about paradox! Talk about enigma! Wow! Death!
There is some sense upon studying the sorts of glyphic references which the ancients attributed to Heraclitus, that the earlier yearnings of civilization were infested still with questions about Being that derived from a kind of “animistic” outlook.
There was a sense that a world-spirit existed which invaded, pervaded, determined and sustained life; indeed, sustained the entire world. (Collingwood reminds us that Aristotle, too, lived in a universe which was “full” of purposeful spirit(s). This ended with the Newtonian “mechanical-mechanist” view of the 17th and 18th century. It left our bodies outside of our Being, still, but in a new way: a kind of geometric extension.)
Rather than “naming” objects, it was more the human way to “look-out” of one’s eyes and note the “world-fill.” Each of those irreducible substances possessed spirit – much as we. For some, especially for Aristotle, each substance-possessing spirit also had a “purpose” in some grand scheme of…things.
The thinkers we now call philosophers were just awakening to discover themselves. They did not merely do, but they began to watch themselves…doing. Watching, in a sense, replaced doing, as the technologies of agriculture and civil engineering enabled the contemplative life to feed upon itself, and proclaim its virtue above all others.
The issue in Heraclitus’ time (as it is still among many animistic thinking peoples), has to do with this world-fill full of spirits. At that time, the dead “remained” amongst the living, also as spirits. (If grandma is still “floating around” the house in our thinking, full-time, or she is “reborn” as my little sister, then “death” is not an “end” or a return, but perhaps another state of Being.)
The concepts of “eternal” and “nothingness” remained to be invented. “Everything was something,” in a universe which was likely much more “full” than the one which our eyes look out upon these days. Instead of life versus death, engaged in some infernal war, death and life were (perhaps) aspects of one another. Grandma and Uncle Joe (positive and not-so-pleasant) spiritoids kind of “hung around,” their “energy” joining with those of their descendents in ways to be “divined.” Humans shared, as well, spirits with other species, whose life (and death) were interwoven intimately with theirs. If, as a young person I am told that I possess (also) the spirit of some powerful animal, whose identity I will someday discover upon a “vision quest,” then this is probably “as real” as anything else.
The major question (was it, to them, a paradox?) was whether reality was an aspect of the sleeping world, or the world of awakeness. Sleeping is a solitary activity, wakefulness is about the in-common sense of our Being. Although the world was in (constant?) flux and all was change, there was a sense of permanence (logos), usually characterized by some version of Heraclitus’ most famous maxim: “You cannot walk twice into the same river.” It is this sameness, this sense of constancy in a world in flux, which so attracted Heraclitus’ intellectual descendents. (Me? You?)
The problematic of sleep versus wakefulness was re-placed by the question of death versus life, as the reality. The Pythagoreans thence Plato chose death as the primary metaphor for life; the formal or limiting aspects of things over the particularity of material objects. Life became a preparation for death. The infinite and universal, the logic (logos) of grammar, became the path upon which the resolution of reality was to be discovered. Time was exteriorized from experience, and change was illusory. Zeno’s arrows which never got to where they were “going,” is an apt metaphor for the life of contemplation.
The queen of the disciplines, philosophy, held that the proper perspective for viewing life, was to already accept the fact of our own personal deaths, and to view the present from that moment looking backwards to the present (this present).
Change reveals itself as an axis opposed by permanence. The experience of living, the existential by any definition, had to banish the body, and reveal that notion of soul which is the sameness of the river. Change is not merely rejected, but (re-)interpreted as some sense of chaos; chaos, that is, which destroys any possibility of Being.
Only in death is there life…
Identity and Masks: I have always been in some peculiar relation with my face, at least since I have “worn” an artificial eye, a prosthesis, a glass (now, plastic) eye. My face, I have always known, looked, appeared, was different to others looking at me, than to myself looking out. But, for me, this was always somehow cosmetic, a way of not displeasing others’ looking, a way of not calling attention to an anomoly, an unusualness, of seeing a freak,…an incompletion. It was never/always a mask, a deceit. But I have passed! Do we (don’t we?) all pass?38 And I am who I am? How do we appear to ourselves; to others? What is a face that humans seem so much to love; to study; to find personage and Being within them?
Others (Ekman, Trivers), come at the face differently, so it seems. They see always a mask, a deceit, a covering which is different from some sense of a substance, a substantial…truth. The face, they seem to think, is some congeries of facial “expressions,” painted upon…upon what? The face is not what it is, in any clear sense of identity or of its nature, but a locus for deceit, for masking.
I think they come to this position from some sense of disappointment, or from a sense of human nature that states that only humans can lie, can not tell the truth. I think they bewail the notion that we have become alienated or inauthentic in our Being, and study the face to prove what they do not find provable. I think they think that other species’ identities are “what they are,” somehow irreducible, as if old Aristotle were still painting them into Being.
But, I think, it is not very useful to search for Being by beginning from Being as a deceit, a masking, whose peeling would reveal…something/nothing? As for me, I am fairly secure in knowing that my depiction of my facial appearance is different from others’ seeing it, but the deceit, if it is that, may have to do with something about the psycho-social me, but not about my true, deeper Being or identity.
As I have written (L&HN) before, the face is many-faceted, a locus for light reflection, a statement of age and gender, a presentation of health, of linguistic habit, and on, and on. A face is not, merely. It is not a cover up. The face is a human study. We seem to love faces, from the moment of birth. They fascinate us, and we memorize them, and see newness through some mental arrangements of them. We respond to them, see in them love and hate, besides masking and deceit. They are routes and directions for interaction with others; they are rhetorical devices; they are ornaments; they are scary, they are images. We record persons as faces, and store their photographs to identify “them.” And they often transcend life, in the conjurings of the yet living. Being, identity, surely they are all of these and more.
It is, perhaps, not too strong to say that we have love affairs with our own images of our faces, and a facial accident, a partial paralysis of facial muscles, is often an “insult” to our entire Being (Schilder). For we “construct” self-images, derived from the mirrors of glass, and the mirrors of myriad others’ faces facing our own. Narcissus is at work within, but she/he is no mere muse. We (learn to) look like we do, remain (for others/ourselves?) consistent, as our Being is continuous and…consistent.
It is likely that the sense of identity, integrity, continuity, wholeness, coherence that we do possess is at once quite real, yet quite fragile. It derives, as J. has said, not directly from the Aristotelian irreducibility which is the individual (we call our selves) proclaiming its own integrity. It is not, as Marx would have it, derived totally from a congeries of social realities and roles from which it emerges as a consciousness. Rather it is rhetorical. It emerges from the sense of personhood granted us by our parents, who also grant us individuality, and place upon us the necessity/burden to be individuals. Its continuity is certified by the constancy which others tell us that we are who we are. But it is internal and internalized by each “I” in an ongoing interaction with our significant others. It is the search for some evanescent notion of authenticity, of an inalienable self, an archetypical human Being, which detracts us from developing a strong-er sense of Being, which is always humanly possible, but no integral given.
This is to state that the face is, like Heraclitus’ puzzle of the river in which we cannot twice step, at once constant and changing. It is both seat and situation; a paradox whose ancient Western wish to resolve takes us away from entering into our lives, and worries that life is (no longer) genuine.
Yet…here we are, I and you. We both are our faces, and, no doubt “wear” them as well. We know them deeply etched in our mind’s eye, yet never see them except that we are mirrored or photographed or otherwise removed. The fact is that they change commonly, and often, responding not only to the gravity’s of standing or lying in repose, but to the seeing of others seeing us, our faces. They live out, situationally, contextually, in the various lights/darks which reflect and illuminate them. They are neither genuine; nor are they ingenuine. Only in some essentialist ideality, can we discuss masks and deceits and disguises as if they reside in truth, somewhere else in another time.
Disguises “work,” deceits deceive, only within the perspectives of others’ imaginings and calculations. We who love magic, who pay homage to the illusions of the stage and movies and video; we, the bearers and the wearers of the masks, looking out, still think we look like we look. It is others looking at the appearance and expression which they call our face, who see lies and deceits; or who cannot discern some truth for which they search…vain-ly.
Like the sage sayings of Ecclesiastes, it is a vanity which causes us to seek what is not there. Instead, we might search for Being within its paradoxical aspects. Like the simultaneous particulars and universals within we are always taught thinking and seeing, we are simultaneously who we are and who others see in us. In Nietzsche’s sense of the Ubermensch, to move on in life as an overcoming, rather than a resolution of the paradox(es) of Being, better we should contemplate our Next Places, rather than bewail some Lost kingdom of the genuine.
Is it some sense of “imperfection” which drives some to wail that the expression is mask to the person; some wish to destroy the present and the future, to assert that Being was, but is not now? What sense of the enigma of Being emerge within this wish?
Immediate Consciousness: Recently I saw a picture of a “kitchen-nook” built-into the bungalows of some houses in America in the 1920′s. Memories poured back of five or so years of youth (6-11 years of age), when I passed many hour and many meals, thoughts, books, radio serials, family gathered or alone. I hadn’t seen such a room, very much like mine, in many years, correct in most of its details: the benches, the windows, the table…and me.
What it brings to mind, in the present context, is that I remember distinctly a thought that even now pops to mind: that I never did or thought a single thing, but three at least, which were distinct in thought and in activity. I read voraciously, listened to the radio, and often ate…all at the same time, and learned, attuned my ears to the nuances of sound which later made me a linguist, and became quite hefty. All these concentrations, and their attendant difficulties have stood by me during the ensuing years. And I am still wary that there is a singularity which might be called the contents of “immediate consciousness.”
I come at this problem primarily, perhaps, as a descriptive linguist whose notion of language is from some other culture, where an unknown tongue is spoken, looking-back at the English of America. I approach it, as well, as a would-be violinist whose bank of techniques is, though lacking a certain polish, quite formidable. In either of these contexts, I am aware (at once, I think) that a great deal of what I do and know in order to speak or to play the violin, is quite immediate, but more is “out-of-awareness.”
My English-speaking tongue and articulators are all poised, with a kind of knowing which is in sharp contrast to the tongue of any other language: it knows not only what to do in this moment, but in all moments; it (my tongue) is so well-knowing, so habitual in its journeys, that to speak another tongue requires very considerable “retraining,” a suspension, as it were of immediate consciousness, and a re-placement with another. My violin playing thinking sees black notes upon staffs, and creates through my arms and fingers stopping strings, drawing bow, music that Bach would say he dreamt of and wrote down.
What, in all this, is immediate; what is not? It is not so much, in any instant, that I do not know what is knowing, but that so much knowledge, so many perspectives come to bear upon each instant, that to bracket out “right now,” seems paradoxically obvious and complex beyond imagination.
By now, in violin play, I bring to each next note, various perspectives, an interplay of considerations which go together to make this next note…”musical,” “correct,” …? In each (next) moment there are years of practice, various heard and studied performances, much…experience, which come to focus upon this instant. What, then, is immediate? What, conscious?
I think there is some story which comes into this notion of the stream of consciousness, some sense that our non-conscious, is not so readily “available” to consciousness, that we call it the “unconsciousness,” and analogize it to the world of vision: the visible versus the unvisible. But here again, the world is quite “full.” The visualized setting is no monolithic picture, but one with details that we can manage and manipulate, and turn-about this way and that, create characters that we engage, and create a “oneself” who enters in. What is immediate?
It seems that the immediate is much more complicated than we had thought. Having presumed that the body is “in” the immediate, that the groundedness of time always had (has) some immediate reference to bodily being, the problem of consciousness has appeared to (re)solvable by positing a sense of continuance (Kant’s “pure reason,” Chomsky’s “innate grammar) which was a feature of human Being, and various ways in which this “opened” to each moment, or brought “judgement” to bear on the moment. It seemed, like our depiction of the content of language, a kind of single linearity: one message at a time, which we could abstract from the remainer of Being, and focus upon independently. As Plato had told us (Republic: 9), “nature” has created the ideas, prior to our Being. Being is somehow to “fit” ourselves to these pre-arranged ideas. Immediacy is some way that perception can enter into this arrangement, and be…up-dated, resisted…even denied.
Instead, it seems clear to me, that we have other “positions”: other ways of “standing outside” of the present; places, groundings, from which we can view viewing; perspectives which are comparative, historical, mutual,…rhetorical. If, as it seems to me, the notion of Being an individual is indeed emergent within the infant-parent relationship, that individuality is largely “defined” by others, that we Become an individual always in interaction with some notions of ourselves as others (would) have us, then we are always and simultaneously one and many. What is “immediate” consciousness partakes of the semiotic rhetoric of Being. The very notion of the present, of immediacy is thus, and remains, problematic.
It is not at all obvious, since our “bodies” do not necessarily partake of/in time the same way, that we all come at the immediate in, even, similar ways. How we are able to (ever) find the same present as others, engage in any mutuality of understanding, becomes extremely intriguing.
Where does consciousness reside? – not what is “in” it – seems a more productive question.
How do we find the present of others? – seems to be a locus of what is even meant by the term, “consciousness.” That we can come into mutual contact with others, in contexts where this is “called-for,” seems – like the nature of sleep – so ordinary and obvious and second nature, that we find them easy to do, and think that we have some way of “understanding” them.
Even Heidegger, accepting the enigma of Being, tried to fill-in all those aspects of Being which would account for Being and Time. The answer, the resolving of the enigma, resides in my view, in the rhetorical-semiotic nature of Being, not in the Aristotelian acceptance of Being as primarily an individual. Here, in rhetoric, in the notion of the sociality and contextual aspects of Being, the philosophical problematic and enigma of Being dissolve, and bring us forcibly into the existential problematics of, as it were, Being-proper.
The Problem of Evil: Niebuhr praises/damns the rise of science as substituting for the presumption of evil as a feature of our human nature, the presumption of good…at least, of our being, by nature, neutral.
It is as if, he worries, that by praising our rational aspects, we too easily presume that knowledge begets virtue somehow. Indeed, he claims, it simply removes the problem of evil from our direct sight, and hides it to arise again, ever more viciously. Similarly, Rousseau in his First Discourse, claims that knowledge (of the Arts and Sciences) really is “based” on or underlain by the virtues. Thus they are fundamental to and prior to knowledge, and we must attend to them: the passions, the virtues, the dangerous aspects…the edges of our Being.
Instead of being concerned that evil resides somehow within us – in our nature – the rhetorical approach to Being notes that we are, from the beginning, political-interactive creatures. The question of individuality, of what its features, are emergent. Individuality, rather than being inherent within (each of) us, develops with the notion of conscience an aspect of that individuality.
By conscience, I mean that the individual is (always?) in relation to others, having to get some sense of boundaries and of extension: where one is, where one cannot go, how one is to behave…are all notions which emerge along with the person’s individuality. As the (developing) child is treated as if individual, the nature and extent of this aspect of oneself is not so clear: how “far” it goes, how to gather things and other Beings to oneself; how to get attention, how not to stretch demands beyond the respondents’ willingnesses. The “discovery” and elaboration of one’s concept of oneself is complicated, alternatively clear and fuzzy, and it changes with increasing size and age: a two-year old can do some things (e.g., “impinge” on others’ space) which most four-year olds cannot.
Much of ontogenesis is in the play of discovering boundednesses.
Conscience (approximately “superego”) is not an attribute only of the individual, but emerges along with individuality, from one’s discursive in-relatedness. The “definitions” of the boundaries of one’s Being – what is too much, not enough (and of what…) – are located within the discursive “field.” Parents “grant” one’s individuality, but simultaneously limit it.
It is delimited – in their terms – but gradually (much of what we call time and progress is located in these processes and/or reconceptualizations. Much of what we call “evil” develops within the “negotations” for this rhetorical notion of the individual: just how “conscience” is…doled out, demanded, integrated into relationships: if a child “oversteps” some (parental, socially defined) notion of its Being, how is this conveyed, enforced, reinforced.
If, for example, a child in encouraged to do something, how far is this encouraged; is it discouraged, in the same breath; is it “allowed” to go way beyond the parental sense of…proportion.
Here is the seat of evil: in the discovery of one’s individual-ity; in the politics of one’s Being; in the parental letting-go and pulling-back-in…toward a child’s sense of individuality which the parents find not too uncomfortable, but “interesting” in the sense of that child becoming a person. Tantrums develop right here: given more “rope” than one can “handle,” then being reeled back in like a caught fish, just as one is exploring its new dimensions. Behaving “badly,” while the parental eye glints with mock anger and a hint of pride…is another mix of message…like Bateson’s “double-bind.” All in all, this involves politics; the search for the possibilities of one’s extent and extensions into the world…but, defined discursively.
One cannot “know” evil, as a child. Nor can she/he know goodness. I observe that each child is bound within the logics and politics of that family, and is forever(?) working out one’s Being within the traces of that early context. In any case, evil, goodness, the virtues, the passions…and how these are handled as aspects of one’s Being, are not built-in’s, not aspects of one’s Being in any sense a priori, but aspects of the negotiations for one’s sense of her/his own individuality and Being: questions of “will,” of the sense and largesse of one’s “responsibility” and “conscience” are worked-out and worked-on as narratives of “who I am” in the ofttimes paradoxical context of questioning “who am I?”
Only in the rhetorical accounting of emergent individuality, is it at all clear why there is often the “twinning” of two such opposed notions as evil and love. Both are “explorations” of the edges of one’s Being, of the boundaries of oneself. (In a sense, both evil and love can be seen as aspects of the “size” of one’s Being: and of one’s being able to find…contentment…restlessness, a sense of being at-home, or in exile from others; from oneself…) Here, Being truly finds itself to be an enigma: especially, from the “inside,” where one find her/his Being to be much in flux, one’s boundednesses unclear and debated even within consciousness; while, externally, in others’ view, one appears as continuous and as constant as the irreducible “thing” which Aristotle went on about…
Perhaps (I have thought) the “size” and boundedness of one’s Being, is most truly observed at the moment of the death of one’s “significant” others. To the extent that we mourn, to that extent we mourn the “loss” of another within our Being. The moments of the day when we might expect a call…to be received with a joy, a fear, gladness or sadness…these moments must be themselves “deadened.” No more…no more! What is it to mourn…well…poorly; to “bury” the dead, truly; or to keep them alive in Being, to transform them in ourselves. Here there is no enigma of Being: but there are endless puzzles whose power within us often takes on a life of its own, and evolves in the memories of narrative. The fact of Being, which reveals itself within mourning, is that we are (have become) others; that we are, at once, ourselves and others, and that the enigma is in the constuction of self and individuality that we are “told” that we are, to be…
The Size of Being: An aspect (linked to the problem of evil!?) is of the “size” of Being. Where – if anywhere – are one’s “limits?” Can we (must we…not) compete even with God (as in the Tower of Babel)? Can we (must…) compete with, or merely become as big as…our parents, our friends…,our children…our teachers, the King (Queen), Captain Marvel (SHAZAM!) How big am I…today? Will I…grow…diminish? Is this a question of stature? – or of power – or of its felt lack?
In a God-given sense of Being, where God has given us (me/you) this earth for my domicile, I am at least as “big” as I am. The earth is my home, it has been constructed…for me.
In a scientific, Enlightenment, mechanistic world, I am much diminished, my existence not even present within the cosmology which informs the very conditions of Being, but leaves me without.
In a “fixed” society, or in a “high-context” society where everyone is “known” to everyone, and is always in “contact,” I am who I am. This has been determined and known since I was little: if it fits, I am who I am; if not, then I can (at least possibly) change my size by changing…society, killing the King,…I can revolt.
Where we are all…equal, the temptations are more complicated, the passions more far-reaching: “I can become all there is,” is at war with, “there is no more becoming.” The awesomeness of democracy, the possibilities at war with: risks, responsibilities, the dependence on onself to judge one’s own Being,…makes the notion of one’s size continually problematic. Whether one can even achieve the authority over one’s own…domains, fades into the tempation to bureaucratize Being, and fix one’s boundedness yet again, as if the King (Queen) had s/his royal guns sticking in our ribs poking at Being. If only, Kafka…if only Kafka were here to tell us in some parable that “waiting at the door of Being” does not banish the problematic, but merely makes it wait…until Being is no longer.
This dilemma is a general case of Freire’s “problem,” where the oppressed upon gaining power, in turn oppress all the others…in order that their demands for size and for its concomitant authority, be served well and properly. The path toward solution is in the direct study of authority with Teachers worthy of that name; not merely in the substantive tradition of Socrates, but opening up the possibility of (self-) empowerment within, and emerging from the Socratic dialogue.
The problematic of the size of one’s Being, can be likened to the two-headed beast who is (often; usually) busy devouring the other end of her/his self.
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3.0 Love ya…Language – use this section as a beginning to, eg. H-nature Or Earlier in this Piece???
Western thought has been largely a temptation to by-pass our engagement with any actuality, rather to analyze the language by which we know that actuality. Only in the later Wittgenstein, beginning with a quote from Augustine’s “Confessions,” do we begin to grapple at all seriously with the “use” of language. Even here, the dance of Being with what is called “language” seems exterior to our Being.
Has substituting language for Being contributed to the enigma? Has it merely extended the enigma with a (constantly renewable) promise that the proper analysis and understanding of language would lead to an understanding of…?
Whereas Heidegger is concerned with the fundamentals conditions of a theory which would create an ontology, the use of language as metaphor for Being seems to by-pass the grounding necessary to that ontology. Or does it?
If we remain within the metaphysical tradition of Aristotle, at once problematizing Being, then seeming to offer a path towards its understanding via language, probably any solution to the enigma is no firmer than the quality and nature of its presumptions. They are briefly: language is the set of all sentences – or the rules of the underlying grammar which generate all those (indefinitely large set) sentences. The units are names of objects and their predications. Human development is via naming objects toward understanding of the world. It (language) is “located” in the individual; in each individual. That this statement of what is language seems so self-evident may be taken as an indication of what we believe already, and what must be questioned to its core, in order that we may (re-)solve the enigma of Being. The path of Being human involves some simultaneity of finite and infinite, and that the study of language stresses the universal, infinite, and ideality of our Being.
Instead, I want to consider what I have called elsewhere, “the Human Grammar.” It is calculated to resolve all the problems mentioned above, but it is rhetorical in its essence, just as the human condition. It is, at once, individual and interactional, finite and universal, and is analytic into nouns, verbs, and so on. It (like its materialistic “orientation”) is more powerful than “sentence” grammars in its analysis of semantics, showing that different aspects of language operate in different modes, and that language syntax is primarily interactional, only secondarily individual. It hints, at least, at how intelligibility works so well, so quickly. Rather than an end, in and of itself, which will somehow apply to and account for understanding and Being, its analysis seems to be self-limiting, pointing out other paths for further study: toward the study of context, toward the non-verbal, gestural, and tone-of-voice aspects of discourse…hopefully, towards its own self-criticism; towards some fuller understanding of “primary” categories which we have tended to attribute at some intuitive level to the conditions of being human, rather than to the processes of living. Finally, it shows how Being is semiotic in its core. Does it solve, resolve, make the enigma of Being disappear as a problem…? We shall see.
3.1 Body and Intellection
3.2 Discourse between Bodies
3.2.1 Being and Sociality
3.3 Corporate Culture
4.0 On Texts
Berenda, C.W. World visions and the image of man: cosmologies as 1965 reflections of man. New York: Vantage Press.
Collingwood, R.G. The idea of nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Collins, A.W. Thought and nature: studies in rationalist 1985 philosophy. Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press.
Derrida, Jacques Speech and phenomena. Evanston: Northwestern Univ. 1973 Press. (Tr. D.B. Allison. Pref. Newton Garver)
Kristeller, Paul Oscar Renaissance concepts of man and other essays. 1972 New York: Harper & Row.
Morris, Charles Signs, language and behavior. New York: Prentice-1946 Hall.
Mure, G.R.G. An introduction to Hegel. Oxford: Clarendon 1940 Press.
Oates, Whitney J. The stoic and epicurean philosophers. New York: 1940 Random House.
Sherover, Chas.M. Heidegger, Kant & time. Bloomington: Indiana U. 1971 Press
Strauss, Leo The political philosophy of Hobbes: its basis and 1952 its genesis. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press.
Wilson, Edgar The mental as physical. London: Routledge and 1979 Kegan Paul.
QUOTES: On Human Nature, Natural Law
Berenda, C.W. “World Visions and the Image of Man: Cosmologies as Reflections of Man.” New York: Vantage Press, 1965.
“This, finally, is the `blinding hour’ – the `holy terrible day.’ Not the insight into the mathematical reality of the world, but the insight into the mathematical demands from ourselves! Who are we, what do we want, and what is the meaning of our desires? Not the world vision, but our own image reflected therefrom – this is the ultimate confrontation, total and terrifying.” (126)
“In an infant, there is absorption of the raw world of impressions with nothing to put forth but elemental needs. In the ordinary adult, the safe habitual categories channelize and even suppress the creative richness within and beyond us. Creativity must somehow shatter the categories and intimately relate the raw world of impressions with the unseen world within us. What opens the doors?” (211)
“…The mystic experience of selfless immersion in ecstatic moments of confrontation with the richness of nature is a restoration of childhood that takes out out of time and the laborious manipulation of the world – it is freedom and peace between man and nature, between man and man.” (212)
“…it is the state of `rest’ that God made holy when He sanctified the Sabbath…childlike peace – the restoration of the individual to a world of spontaneous harmony, and a relied from the ordinary world of antagonism, anxiety, and guilt…The question remains: How do we achieve the creative and spontaneour state from which flows the meaning of life?”
compassionate = (?) spontaneous (= non-conscious?)
animals can’t be creative
creation -==> creativity!? (emerges thru God?)
spontaneity = infant-like. (–> innocence)
man is God in the finite (after being creative, we must mature, let go” – to be re-born!?)
“Nature is put forth by God through man –> thru our own myths.”
“To create in this mythic way, is to be human – is to become divine.” (226) ==> Love?!
From J. Bronowski, “The Identity of Man.” Penguin Books: Harmondsworth, 1965.
“When we ask whether man can be more than a machine, we are no longer speaking about mankind at large. It is not man that seeks a self, but each man.” (10)
“In particular, they [automata] do not explain the ability of man to break out of the compulsion of instinct and appetite and social ritual in which nature has imprisoned every other animal.” (13)
“…we show that we are human, that is, that we are free, when we do something that no one can predict.” (13)
” I hold that the definition of self hinges on the study of human experience. Man has a richer life of experience than the other animals, because his mind alone works consistently with images, and there endows him with (literally) a life of the imagination.” (17)
“What makes man unique is the nature of his knowledge.” (18)
“We have to analyse the nature of different experiences, and how they are turned into knowledge. This is critical, because once the knowledge is decisively fixed for action, the biological machine must take over.” (21)
History of Ideas in tune-with or opposed-to my ontogenesis??
1Sarles, H.B. 1993. Teaching as Dialogue.
2Rorty, R. Mirror of Nature.
3Reference to the ancient and now recurring battles between philosophy as metaphysics and rhetoric. G. H. Mead.
4Buber, M. Between Man and Man.
5Bloom, A. Closing of the American Mind. Bennett, W.
6Hume. Treatise of Human Nature Bk. 2, Sec.3
7The line most directly from Aristotle’s Politics to Hobbes’ Leviathan.
8Sarles, H.B. 1985. Language and Human Nature. Chap. 1.
9After Metaphysics: the original title of my book republished under the title, Language and Human Nature.
10Heidegger, M. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics p. x
11Whitehead, A.N. 53.p.
12Sarles, H.B. L&HN. Chapter 9?
13(p.4 - HPM)
14Following Darling. The Red Deer
15Griffin, D. The Question of Animal Awareness
16[QUOTE: RORTY ON DERRIDA]
17[QUOTE: HUME ON THE SELF]
18[QUOTE: ON ADAMIC LANGUAGE - AARSLEFF ON BOEHME]
19[Ref to Borges]
20Becker, C. Heavenly City of 18th C. Philosophers.
22(Newton Garver, p.x. Intro to Speech and Phenomenon, Derrida.) What are the “contexts” of our Being?
23Lorenz, K. On Aggression.
24Nietzsche, F. TSZ. part 1
25Freud, S. Animism, Magic and Omnipotence of Thought – p. 866 – Collected Works – italics mine.
26See Stanley Keleman for a different vision of body and knowledge.
28(Quote Freud in Konner, Eccles, Sacks)
29Damasio,. Descartes’ Error.
30Keleman, S. Embodying Experience
31I have spent a good deal of my investigatory life in wandering across the disciplines (at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere) seeking to understand how various modes of thinking and investigation approach their putative subject matters, especially but not all all limited to concerns with human. I have approached them within the context of depth interview, much as if I were engaged in fieldwork in different human cultures. I teach about interviewing across the curriculum regularly, and have written about this work in Communicating Across the Disciplines (ms).
32E.O. Wilson, who has dealt with this issue, blithely claims he can and does suspend his own Being as he engages easily and objectively in observing other species, in The Naturalist. (? ref.)
33Personal Communication: Martin Krieger in trying to explain me to myself.
34D’Arcy Thompson, Enlow.
35(Quote from Intro. to “After Metaphysics?”)
36Adler, M. Diff. of Man and the Difference it Makes