Sunday, December 30, 2007

The first division of Being and Time is actually wider in philosophical import than the second

Patočka and Heidegger, or, towards Donner la mort Jan Patočka's interpretation of some of the basic concepts within Being and Time in the fifth of his Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History explores and exploits a point (one point of many) on which the whole of that treatise turns: the relationship of everydayness (Alltäglichkeit) to authenticity (Eigentlichkeit). Recently in America, this point (again, it is one of many crucial points, however) is only explored explicitly with comparable depth by Bill Blattner in his work on Heidegger's notion of temporality (though Hubert Dreyfus' entire presentation of Heidegger could be said to stem from or be founded upon the implicit exploration of this distinction, specifically his conviction that the first division of Being and Time is actually wider in philosophical import than the second: such an assertion can only arise from a move similar to Patočka's and actually needs to be seen as this).
The problem revolves around how there is no term that Heidegger opposes to everydayness that easily bridges the gap between everydayness and authenticity: the only mediator is inauthenticity (Uneigentlichkeit). So it is here that Patočka must begin (that is, it is here that any analysis of this problem in depth must begin: so while many people analyze the relationship between authenticity and everydayness, it is only with respect to clarifying the relationship of inauthenticity to everydayness in with a view to explicating authenticity that we can have an explicit, in depth analysis of the real unity or lack of unity of the treatise at this point--this is just to clarify the above)... Posted by Mike at 2:38 PM 1 comments What is written about: , , , , Friday, December 21, 2007
Metalanguage and Derrida Lyotard's dictum (not reducible to his philosophy, which is much richer than this dictum) regarding postmodernism and its leading thinkers--namely, that for it and for them there is at least always incredulity towards metalanguages, if not the outright belief that metalanguages do not exist ("there is no metalanguage" as we often say in Lyotard's name)--does not exactly fit Derrida's thinking, despite the frequency with which this dictum is associated with Derrida.
For Derrida, there is equally the possibility that all that exists is metalanguage: in other words, that there is a metalanguage (a language after another language) and "there is no language before it" ("Psyche: Inventions of the Other," 13). There is no metalanguage and there is only metalanguage: the equiprimordiality here is crucial for grasping anything Derrida says about language in particular and his thought more generally. As Derrida himself puts it: "There is no metalanguage... there is only that, says the echo, or Narcissus" (ibid, 13). Posted by Mike at 9:12 AM 0 comments What is written about: ,
Derrida on Merleau-Ponty The two characteristics I isolated in the last post regarding the writing of Merleau-Ponty--namely, 1) its synesthesic descriptions of phenomena and 2) its being full of phenomenal examples/examples that can't be said to be exemplary--end up in their combination as the basic topic of Derrida's discussion of Merleau-Ponty in his amazing On Touching--Jean Luc Nancy.
There, Derrida tries to show, essentially, that Merleau-Ponty is always on the verge of making a synesthesic experience without reserve--that is, without (proper) differentiation between the senses--the sensory experience (i.e. the exemplary sensory experience) in his concept of the flesh, and yet always recoils from it in order to think the unity of this flesh (or rather its "mine-ness," its distinction from otherness).
(Intentionality steps in to fill up the gap. example, the self-touching: mp makes self-touching have to be possible... we have a presentment of its possibility.... he priveliges possibility, because for him the body is a pressing into possibilities, not impossibilities. These are notes that elaborate the full extent of Derrida's discussion and critique: I'll clean them up and finish this later today.) Posted by Mike at 10:29 AM What is written about: , Le gai savoir philosophy, literature, art, and other things i'm up to and working on, in cambridge, california, new york, princeton, and wherever else i may beSaturday, December 29, 2007

Because clarity isn’t enough

The craft of difficult writing
There are reasons, if you can call them that, why a writer would want to play games with the reader’s mind. SWAHA DAS and HARI NAIR The Hindu Magazine Sunday, Dec 30, 2007
Closer to our times, the craft of “difficult writing” would resonate in a French best-seller published in 1966 called Les Mots et les Choses. In this brilliant but excruciatingly challenging book, the author explains how the European mind classified and ordered everything that was related to the human being since the 16th century. He tells a fascinating story of how Western man was both the agent and the object of study at the same time. Less than a decade after its publication, one of his students scripted an even more difficult, yet inventive, work called Glas. In it, he compares two thinkers in parallel columns strewed with textual quotations and his own commentary. Though the structure of this book might remind us of the glossators of the Middle Ages, the author offers no clue as to how the reader could tackle the text. These books radically challenged the notion of structure, which is inevitable for coherent acts of thinking and writing. No wonder therefore that these writers have been nick-named “post-structuralists” in America.
However, “being difficult” in writing is different from obfuscation. The masters of the stylus insist without end that rigour and intelligibility were never sacrificed by the greatest practitioners of the craft. One such teacher, who offered tips on how to “be difficult” in writing was the Spanish Jesuit, Balthasar Gracián (1601-58). An Argentinean litterateur, famous for being ignored by the Swedish academy, once reviled him in a poem as “the Jesuit who reduced poetry to stratagems through laborious nothingnesses”. However, this cunning soldier of style is today back in vogue amongst scholars of the discipline of Rhetoric as one who perfected conceptismo. This is a clever way of writing prose, where an author creates multiple relationships between words and ideas, and these are loaded with a variety of meanings compressed into concise expressions. Certain meanings become instantly evident to the reader, while others remain hidden.
Possible goals
But, why would a writer go to such pains at playing hide and seek with words and ideas? Well, because ingenuity does not seek truth alone but aspires to beauty, or so Gracián would remind us (Agudeza y Arte de Ingenio, Discourses 2,7&8). The more hidden the truth, the more valued the concept; and hence, more beautiful. He believed that the element of intrigue sparked by a verbal expression will put the reader on alert; and reward her with the feeling of having grasped a hitherto unknown but exquisite element of a puzzle previously seasoned with mystery. For producing similar effects on the reader, our author-priest nudges the potential writer of “difficult” prose to pursue in measured opposition the following: human malice as against the gushing forthrightness of a water-fountain, the inscrutableness of the heart versus the transparency of glass. Between these two binary poles, the writer may offer the reader a range of choices that extend from the simplest to the most sophisticated (AAI, D.13). Writing, then, for Balthasar Gracián, was both lucid and truant, giving and receiving pleasure in every page by playing games with the reader’s mind.
Having come thus far, we mustn’t wind up without lending an ear to certain snooty folk who opine on everything, including the craft of “difficult writing”. In the presidential address delivered to the joint congregation of the Mind Association and the Aristotelian Society in 1945, Henry Price declared that some things “can only be said obscurely; either in a metaphor, or in an oxymoron or a paradox, i.e., in a sentence which breaks the existing terminological rules.” This eminent Oxonian professor urged his flock of analytical philosophers “not to run-away with the zeal for ‘tightening-up language’ because clarity isn’t enough”.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The sheer volume of these conferences allowing little genuine dialogue to take place

Of late, I confess, I’ve found myself exhausted with blogging or, more generally, communication. On the one hand, dialogue, especially academic dialogue, is constantly threatened by the perils of what Lacan referred to as the “imaginary”. When Lacan evokes the imaginary, of course, he is not speaking of what is imagined or fabrications of the mind, but rather the domain of identification with the specular image of our body. Of particular importance here are all the rivalrous struggles for recognition that Hegel depicted so well in the Phenomenology of Spirit. For some reason these struggles seem to occur with particular intensity and ferocity in academic dialogue. Indeed, where one might intuitively think that such fierce struggles are most intense between strongly polarized intellectual positions– for instance, the infamous split between Analytic and Continental thought –these struggles seem to occur with even greater intensity between intellectual positions that are fairly close to one another, thereby underlining Freud’s point about the narcissism of minor difference.
To the outsider, for instance, it is very difficult to distinguish Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus from the work of late Lacan. Yet for partisans of these thinkers, deafening struggles ensue. Indeed, some of the most bitter struggles I’ve ever witnessed occur among the various Lacanian camps, such that smaller Lacanian groups must think long and hard over whether they would invite the wrath of Jacques-Alain Miller were they to invite Colette Soler to speak or submit a paper. On the other hand, I’ve found myself haunted by this passage from Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding:

If it happen, from a defect of the organ, that a man is not susceptible of any species of sensation, we always find that he is as little susceptible of the correspondent ideas. A blind man can form no notion of colours; a deaf man of sounds. Restore either of them that sense in which he is deficient; by opening this new inlet for his sensations, you also open an inlet for the ideas; and he finds no difficulty in conceiving these objects. The case is the same, if the object, proper for exciting any sensation, has never been applied to the organ. A Laplander or Negro has no notion of the relish of wine. And though there are few or no instances of a like deficiency in the mind, where a person has never felt or is wholly incapable of a sentiment or passion that belongs to his species; yet we find the same observation to take place in a less degree. A man of mild manners can form no idea of inveterate revenge or cruelty; nor can a selfish heart easily conceive the heights of friendship and generosity. It is readily allowed, that other beings may possess many senses of which we can have no conception; because the ideas of them have never been introduced to us in the only manner by which an idea can have access to the mind, to wit, by the actual feeling and sensation.

What I find particularly troubling in this passage is Hume’s reference to the man of mild manners and the man with a selfish heart. Hume’s thesis, of course, is that all ideas arise from experience. As a consequence of this thesis, the limits of our imagination are defined by the limits of our experience. Should the man with a selfish heart witness an act of genuine generosity or friendship, it would not, according to Hume, even register as such an act, for the associative web characterizing the thought of this man would immediately interpret the other man’s act according to his own universe where selfish motives are treated as axiomatic. As Lacan liked to say, “all communication is miscommunication”. Here we have Hume’s own version of this Lacanian thesis. Where thought is always situated or attached to a field of experience and where ideas are related by principles of association, it follows that no two people will exist in the same universe. Each event that occurs in the field of experience– hearing another’s words, for instance –will evoke different associations and relations, such that the relation between two people is a sort of babble or chaos rather than a communication. There are, of course, all sorts of problematic assumptions here about the nature of communication– namely the assumption that to communicate is to send a signal that is the same for both the sender and receiver –yet it is worthwhile to state the issue in the starkest terms possible.
While not endorsing Hume’s position, I do think that he is able to explain a good deal about about human formations of thought and interactions with one another with his sparse epistemology. Do we not daily see the results of this phenomenon in the way we judge others, detaching their words and actions from the context in which they occur, speaking of issues as if there were some abstract reason or common sense against which their actions could be measured, and transforming actions into acts based on abstract motives that we can then judge? This phenomenon is especially attenuated in the blogosphere, where the field in which we encounter the other person is restricted largely to words and images, sans their daily life, their work, their obligations, their passionate engagements, and so on. Divorced from all context– and no writer could ever be equal to writing context –words and phrases instead dangle for whomever might come along, actualizing all sorts of associations in readers without necessarily having anything to do with the context that first led the author to generate them as a series of 0’s and 1’s that appear on ones monitor.
The consequences that follow from Hume’s simple and straightforward observation are rather bleak. If he is right we are collectively doomed to a comedy of errors. Yet where the literary comedy of errors usually ends with the rise of the prince or love fulfilled, our comedy of errors seems to be one that ends only in cruelty, conflict, and war. This cruelty is all the worse in that it is seldom even aware of itself for the same reason that the mild mannered man cannot even recognize the intense passions of others. Like Derrida’s analysis of the gift in Given Time, where the condition for the possibility of the gift paradoxically consists in a complete unawareness of giving a gift coupled with no unconscious surplus-value drawn from the gift, this would be a situation in which we would be completely unaware of others by virtue of perpetually being trapped in our own networks of associations when relating to others. However, where Derrida shows how this is a condition of the gift– a sort of regulative ideal, as Kant would say –this would be a circumstance fulfilled each and every day in our relations to others. If we like, we can engage in a lot of hand-waving about the formation of shared horizons of meaning, the production of shared contexts, etc., but the situation would still be essentially the same. The question, then, is whether this is the circumstance in which we find ourselves, or whether there is no some minimal transcendence that allows us in certain circumstances– not all –to surmount the limits of our embeddedness in context to encounter some minimal otherness of the other. In encountering others, do we only ever see our own reflection in the mirror? by larvalsubjects

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A philosophical summation of the Nature of God as the Supreme Self

Chapter 1 The Divine Person The Free Standing Man Top
1. The Bhagavad Gita (literally, "Divine Song") is one of the most revered Scriptures of the Hindus, and a religious text of universal appeal and profound esoteric significance. Vyasa is traditionally presumed to be the author, and it was written perhaps as early as the 5th century B.C. (but with its roots in the oral tradition of even more ancient days). Most scholars agree that it may have been revised and expanded considerably over the years.
The Gita is a portion of the great ancient epic and spiritual allegory, the Mahabharata, which is the story of a great fratricidal struggle between two royal families in northern India some 4000 years ago. It is the purported dialogue between the God-Man Krishna and his devotee Arjuna, Commander-in-Chief of the army of the Pandavas, for whom Krishna serves as Charioteer. Arjuna, faced with the prospect of having to kill friends and cousins in an imminent battle, wishes to shirk his duty as a warrior. Krishna refuses to allow him such self-indulgence.
He engages Arjuna in a Teaching conversation that continues for seven hundred verses and presents a philosophical summation of the Nature of God as the Supreme Self, a critical exposition of the many ways of esoteric spiritual practice, and a declaration of the supremacy of the Way of devotional Communion with the Supreme Divine Person in the Form of the living Divine Master-in this case, Krishna himself. His entire spiritual Teaching to Arjuna is summarized in his instruction for the forthcoming battle: "Remember Me, and fight." even to what is and what is not, the Transcendental Self. (37) I bow down. I acknowledge my absolute dependence on You. Radiant Master, Have Mercy. (44)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Theories are always applied and interpreted through our personal and cultural filters

Can theory override intuition? from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen

Robin Hanson writes:

For good policy advice, what is the best weight to place on economic theory, versus (individual or cultural) intuitive judgment? [TC: that's Robin reproducing someone else's words]

My guess is over 75% weight, so I try to mostly just straightforwardly apply economic theory, adding little personal or cultural judgment [TC: that's Robin].

In a nutshell, this is the major difference between Robin and me. In my view there is no such thing as "straightforwardly applying economic theory," unless your prescriptions are limited to "we cannot prove that Giffen goods do not exist." Theories are always applied and interpreted through our personal and cultural filters and there is no other way it can be. Robin believes in an Archimedean point for using theory, I do not.

Furthermore we often need to apply personal and cultural judgment to offset the sometimes-erroneous judgments and biases built into the economic way of thinking. Robin's post is the clearest example I have seen of what I call Robin's logical atomism.

The boundaries of estrangement are negotiated in the context of a plurality of others

Consciousness, in Understanding, takes the world of appearance as a mediation between itself and the inner being of things. The inner world, posited here as something beyond consciousness, presents itself as empty and inaccessible to knowledge. Hegel gestures in passing at approaches that stop at this point - accepting this barren “beyond” as the necessary limit of consciousness. He argues that such approaches fail to recognise that this barrenness derives from consciousness’ taking inherent being as an object outside itself - starting from the position that the inner, true realm is devoid of objective reality (and thus supersensible), and holding the position that it is also devoid of consciousness - leaving only a void that tosses consciousness necessarily back into the phenomenal realm of appearance. For Hegel, this conclusion follows, however, only if we remain bound to Understanding.
Hegel counterposes the position that the supersensible arises only in and through the realm of appearance, such that the play of forces in the realm of appearance, the flux of the sensible realm, is the mediation through which the supersensible inner world is generated. The realm of appearance thus fills what, to Understanding, presents itself as a void, by establishing an inner world through which the sensible world is transcended. At the same time, consciousness, as itself a moment in this dynamic process, is not walled off from an inner being intrinsically beyond itself, but is rather already implicated in its object.
As I write this section, with the text sitting beside me, open, but untouched, this chapter has spontaneously separated itself from the spine, and slithered out of the book and onto the floor: the entire section on Force and Understanding - and only the section on Force and Understanding - has now self-excised from my copy of the Phenomenology. I’m wondering how to interpret this. The silent unweaving of Spirit? Regardless, it’s getting late, and I need to stop for the night - unfortunately at what is probably a slightly misleading juncture (even assuming I haven’t been massively misreading Hegel’s voicing to this point). Worse, I have left myself still to write on the parts of this section that I find most difficult. Still, it would undoubtedly lead to worse results, for me to try to write on this text even later into the night… Apologies if I should have made this decision much earlier than this…
Nancy's intrus has been haunting me. As I've been doing physical exercises the body I call mine has been changing. What makes this body a body, what gives it the consistency of a body? The heart–but Nancy's intrus haunts me, stands between me and the heart–and yet I feel the heart grow stronger. It doesn't feel disembodied, yet I can't precisely give it boundaries. I drink water prodigiously. It feels like water is also my body, woven in with my muscles. Pumped. A realization about my watery body came to me Monday night after forgetting to take my meds. I couldn't sleep. It was as if a demon possessed me, the mirror image of a beast that comes to me sometimes in nightmares. The beast is not exactly familiar, since it always frightens me, surprises me, it takes many forms, and still I am familiar with its force and its anger, its refusal to lie down.
It feels like I'm repressing a tremendous rage, and also something more vital. Joy perhaps. Who is this person who refuses to sleep? How can I have an everyday certainty of the self in this situation? And is it really so unusual to be uncertain about the self? Whose thoughts are these? I don't imagine I'd want to give Nancy a big wet kiss, but I take his words (translated mostly) and put them in my mouth, allow them to circulate, allow them to go to my head. I read a description of psychasthenia and think oh yeah, this too describes a reality. Under the right set of circumstances it could be my reality.
The psychasthenic self would be no less of a self than Cavarero's narratable self with its everyday certainty. In counterpoint to this certainty of self, Cavarero notes an unpredictability and a multivocality of the self. Could my familiarity with my unpredictable and polyvalent ipseity be anything but a desire? If I recognize the uniqueness of existents I wouldn't want to say that estrangement draws its boundaries in and around me exactly as it does in and around you. The boundaries of estrangement are negotiated in the context of a plurality of others. In our life together there is the remains to be seen. I have my doubts about the exposure of the existent, chief among them the sense that the existent is exposed in an instant, or already always exposed. If there is a desire for narration of one's life story, perhaps there is also desire for the remains to be seen. Oh yeah, and ghosts.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jesus is just a Jewish prophet from Roman-occupied Palestine

More and more I am convinced that the theology ontology of John Milbank and his followers’ conception of the analogia entis shares, at least on the formal level, with the mathematical ontology of Badiou and his followers’ conception of the void. To make sense of this one needs to argue that Badiou’s philosophy is an analogia nihilio. I’m aware of passages in Being and Event which could be used to argue against this notion, but it seems to me that thinkers like Brassier are far more honest heirs of Badiou’s philosophy than the man himself. For ultimately Badiou’s philosophy posits the void as the groundless ground of being - ultimate being is nothingness. For the Thomist this groundless ground of being is God via an impressive folding of negative and positive theology not unlike Badiou’s own axioms and denigration of ‘mysticism’.
But what of these two quotes given? Brassier’s valorization of deterritorilized intelligence shares in the Thomist obsession with perfection and teleology. For him it is the end that counts and the end that is most perfect is anti-humanist in its rejection of any value in life. Of course Thomas has a conception of humanity and the rest of creation that lives on eternally in God, but is Brassier’s vision so different if humanity ends up as nothing when the nothing is itself primary?
The National Post (Canada) has been running a series called Beyond Faith, which is as badly titled as say a book called The End of Faith (oh wait, that was written). But the title of the series aside, there are some interesting pieces. But this one, today, on the Virgin Mary would not so much be in that category–by my lights. Though to be fair, they did post today the Fourth Sunday of Advent, traditionally honored as a Marian-theme liturgy. The article begins with different conceptions of faith and whether everyone in fact holds some version of faith (e.g. in the existence of the future). Then this:

Of all the beliefs across time, there is none so seemingly extraordinary as belief in the Virgin Birth. Yet for hundreds of millions of people over the past 2,000 years it is the central idea on which everything else stands: God entered into humanity through the womb of the Virgin Mary to create a man who was also God. Without it, Jesus is just a Jewish prophet from Roman-occupied Palestine who had a few nice things to say. Without it, there is no calming of the seas or feeding the 5,000 with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. And there is no resurrection from the dead and there is no Christianity.

There are so many illogical and bad leaps in this one, where to begin. (more…)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

How to define what holds us together, while abstracting from any religious affiliation, but also from any over-arching “lay” philosophy

Secularism, A Secular Age:
What inspires us & what holds us together posted by Charles Taylor
Having escaped for a few seconds from the Commission, I had a chance to read many of the very interesting posts to the blog. With many I agree, others not. But there are two points where I obviously failed to communicate what I wanted to say (possibly because that is incoherent, though I hope not).
Elizabeth Hurd headed off a series of entries with “The slipstream of disenchantment and the place of fullness”. “Fullness” is a term which is probably attempting the impossible. My thesis is that every possible position on what life is really about secretes its own sense of what can inspire us, cause us to rejoice, give us a sense of liberation, lift us, etcetera. The problem is that, as this short list of examples illustrates, these are terribly different, and no single term will sound entirely right to holders of all positions. In that sense, “fullness” may seem to load the dice in favour of religious views, but it wasn’t meant to. (Anybody who can suggest a better generic term for any future writings on this subject is earnestly enjoined to do so.)
It in particular wasn’t my intention to say that positions belonging to what I called “the immanent counter-enlightenment” don’t have their own forms. This was at least part of the point in a couple of Nietzsche citations; especially the one which makes up the last entry in the posthumously published Will to Power, ending with “der Wille zur Macht, und nichts ausserdem!” Anyone who doesn’t feel the inspiration, the sense of power and oneness with the vast universe, hasn’t taken Nietzsche’s meaning. I could go on, but it seems too that Deleuze’s “nomadism” is also one of these powerful and inspiring ideas. Etc.
The very idea that one could adopt a position that involves no danger of such dérapage seems to be profoundly deluded.
The second point I’d like to comment on is Bob Bellah’s questioning of my category of “post-Durkheimian”. Here again, I feel that I left things in somewhat of a muddle. I don’t think it’s possible to have a successful, modern democratic society without some strong sense of what unites us as citizens. But this doesn’t have to be organically linked with what, if anything, unites us religiously. Both paleo- and neo-Durkhemian societies do have such an organic link, but of a rather different kind. I wanted (somewhat confusingly) to extend the latter term to cover societies which have a lay philosophy as such a unifying bond, such as Jacobin France. Which indeed, opens the possibility of a struggle between two rival neo-D identities, such as we saw in France for a century and a half, and such as we see today, I believe in the USA. And there are other cases, such as Wilhelmine Germany where the hegemonic view was Protestant, but this made for a struggle between pious conservatives and “Kulturprotestanten”, like Weber; and it also set the scene for a bruising battle between both these forces together against the Catholic majority, which was seen as somehow anti-national.
Now in this understanding a post-D dispensation would be one in which there might be lots of religious belief and belonging, but the central pole of allegiance of the state would not be related to this. This does not mean a society without cohesion. Many modern states, including the two to which I belong (Quebec and Canada) simultaneously, are self-consciously faced with this challenge: How to define what holds us together, while specifically abstracting from any particular religious affiliation, but also from any over-arching “lay” philosophy. The Jacobin republicans among us (I mean here Quebec) have solved their problem, but this involves a neo-D solution borrowed from French “republicans”. The majority of Quebeckers don’t want this. Another minority pines for a semi-return to our wall-to-wall clerical past (without the tears, agony and repression). Neither of these solutions is viable. Still others dream of making nationalism a virtual state religion (some of these are independentists, but it would be a mistake to see all independentists in this light).
We need another solution. Will we make it? Stay tuned for the next installment. This entry was posted on Friday, December 21st, 2007 at 6:00 am and is filed under Secularism, A Secular Age. RSS

Thursday, December 20, 2007

An entirely new medium of academic engagement and interaction

I happened to come across Deleuze’s review of Simondon’s L’individuation online (another translation can also be found in Desert Islands and Other Texts). It is interesting to observe how many of the key themes that will make up his later work are already pre-figured here: his critique of the false alternative between formless chaos and supreme individuation, the distinction between singularities and individuals, the role of irreducible inequalities in the actualization of beings, the idea of the individual as a product or result, resonance between divergent series, and so on. This should not, of course, come as a surprise as these themes were already central to Nietzsche & Philosophy (especially the all important sections on quantity and quality in the second chapter), and this review was written in 1966 when Deleuze would have been composing Difference and Repetition (these themes figure heavily in chapter five, “The Assymetrical Synthesis of the Sensible”).
At some point I hope we see a translation of Simondon’s L’individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d’information. I’ve been working through it for some time, but it’s very slow going as Simondon draws heavily on a variety of different sciences, working with their various vocabularies. Out of frustration I’ve even thought about paying someone to translate it, though it would cost a fortune. Being the crass American that I am, my French just isn’t that strong. I have little doubt that this book would have a tremendous impact on English speaking work on Deleuze as well as a variety of other disciplines. Fractal Ontology has been kind enough to translate portions of L’individuation for those who are interested. Be sure to check out their translations of Ruyer as well (Joseph and Taylor, you two really ought to be perfecting your translations and publishing them, not throwing them out into the blogosphere…Though we’re all grateful to you for your work).
In addition to these sources, Shaviro of The Pinocchio Theory has a couple of excellent posts working through Simondon’s L’individuation (here, here, and here). The third of these posts is the most interesting for me in relation to my own work. It was these posts that first motivated me to start my own blog, as they were the first writings from the “theory blogosphere” I came across, showing me an entirely new medium of academic engagement and interaction. In addition to this, Nick, of The Accursed Share, has been kind enough to post the first half of Simondon’s On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. by larvalsubjects

If I could ever weigh in on which philosopher writes with the most brilliance, it would absolutely have to be Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Le gai savoir Wednesday, December 19, 2007 Reading Merleau-Ponty
Revisiting Maurice Merleau-Ponty's work as I have been lately, I am revisiting again the infuriating experience of reading that his words create. At the same time, I am also revisiting some judgements this experience had created in me, and find myself still in deep agreement with them: if I could ever weigh in on which philosopher writes with the most brilliance, I would say that it would absolutely have to be Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
First, why infuriating? Because Merleau-Ponty is so very good at bringing forth images, scenes, examples, illustrative metaphors that you almost always are seduced into believing you understand what he says. But if you look again (and you always look again), and begin press him hard, he becomes extremely tough if not impossible sometimes to understand, especially if you want to reduce what he says to something you can recount to yourself or others, in propositional sentences. Usually, you just end up stumbling over your words, or giving up and trying to reconstitute what he is talking about for yourself.
But why brilliance? Precisely because of this looking again we just had to put in parentheses. The double-take you make when seduced, to try and slip out of the hold his words have on you is actually what constitutes the achievement of his writing. This violence done to language, this clumsy, lazy babble, punctuated with spasms of unbelievably acute phrasing, this catastrophe of signifiers brings forth nothing less than the phenomenon nearly always in some way, so that you must nearly always go back to understand and not merely experience what the words seem to give you almost immediately.
It is basically like reading Proust: it isn't a matter of grammar or of verbal wit as much as with the tempo of his sentences and how that inflects the content that rises up before you. You are surprised at the speed that you move with him through a thought, or rather with a phenomenon, that you have to then turn back, stop his exposition, and return to ask him what you just underwent actually meant. He throws experience at you in layers, one after the other, so that each concentrated illustration envelops you as you proceed through them. Or rather, never through them: it isn't as if you punctuate these sheets of meanings ever. You collect them, are obscured by them, covered and buried in them, and can only move on if you stop to take one or two off: the weight is too much. Look at how he describes language in speech in his Phenomenology of Perception:

The intention to speak can reside only in an open experience. It makes its appearance like the boiling point of a liquid, when, in the density of being, volumes of empty space are built up and move outwards. -Phenomenology of Perception, 228

This is almost too contracted, too tightly wound, and yet, precisely because of this "almost," because it only remains a threshold experience, it is not aphoristic. This almost shorthand, which could equally be the most polished rhetoric: it remains situated on the fold that creates this dual possibility. It works by extending a metaphor almost sloppily to the point at which the phenomenon seems circumscribed by its play, if not exactly suggested by its condensation into an image, and yet resists being pinned down to just this experience. This is the type of writing you make in a cafe after a little too much coffee--or a little too much to drink. It hits you hard as it carries you along, like a wave slapping you in the face as you get sucked out into the deep.The following quote is probably more typical, because more extended, less compact, and yet just as oddly precise:...

The thing is at the end of my gaze and, in general, at the end of my exploration... I must acknowledge that the table before me sustains a singular relation with my eyes and my body: I see it only if it is within their radius of action: above it there is the dark mass of my forehead, beneath it the more indecisive contour of my cheeks--both of these visible at the limit and capable of hiding the table, as if my vision of the world itself were formed from a certain point of the world. What is more, my movements and the movements of my eyes make the world vibrate--as one rocks a dolmen with one's finger without disturbing its fundamental solidity. With each flutter of my eyelashes a curtain lowers and rises, though I do not think for an instant of imputing this eclipse to the things themselves; with each movement of my eyes that sweep the space before me the things suffer a brief torsion, which I also ascribe to myself; and when I walk in the street with eyes fixed on the horizon of the houses, the whole of the setting near at hand quivers with each footfall on the asphalt, then settled down in its place... -The Visible and the Invisible, 7

Two things to note about this now--though at some point I'll return to this an explicate it more (I have to run):1) the synesthesia here that no longer even appears as a mixing of the sentences but as a grasping of the involved-ness of actual, everyday experience, which is a predominant feature of these extended descriptions (usually more so than here), and2) this is not an example exactly, but rather a sketch that seems to be able to accommodate an example if one wanted to actually rigorously think the point being made here for oneself--one could never say of walking along the street however that it is the primary, most important case in which this happens.
This fascinating language assigns itself through Merleau-Ponty the task of bringing the world itself as it worlds itself (as Heidegger would put it) out into the open as far as possible (and only with this emphasis on degree). This task for him is philosophy. It proceeds by installing itself the experiences of seeing, speaking and thinking as they arrange themselves prior to any ability of their being grasped or accounted for empirically or by a theorizing of a transcendental schema. These experiences, he says,

...have a name in all languages, but a name which in all of them also conveys significations in tufts, thickets of proper meanings and figurative meanings, so that, unlike those of science, not one of these names clarifies by attributing to what is named a circumscribed signification. Rather, they are the repeated index, the insistent reminder of a mystery as familiar as it is unexplained, of a light which, illuminating the rest, remains at its source in obscurity. -The Visible and the Invisible, 131

The task is for Merleau-Ponty not (merely or only) to activate this indexicality, or retrace its originality through a sort of etymological or philological gesture as old as philosophy itself, but rather to simply jostle it into enacting the phenomenon before you in its inadequacy: perhaps all it is is just a heightening and refinement of this indexicality, a learning to respond to it. Thus when he says in The Prose of the World, that
"men have been talking for a long time on earth, and three-quarters of what they say goes unnoticed," (3)
the key thing about this phrase is precisely that this is a statement of a fact rather than a lament: that is, the important thing is not that we notice what gets lost, but that we notice the the fact of the "unnoticing" and what it can bring to us of the unnoticed.Experiencing the ruining of an experience before you as you seem to grasp it, as you become more and more certain that you have had something similar happen: this is my experience of reading Merleau-Ponty. This crude, dirty, faulty language that cannot help but accurately render in the most striking and beautifully worded turns of phrase what the things themselves are, what the phenomenon is--I know it isn't the best writing, and it certainly doesn't provide for the most coherent and helpful experience of reading, but I think it is so brilliant. Posted by Mike at 8:45 PM What is written about:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Causality for Merleau-Ponty is interpreted through the concept of intentionality

Le gai savoir Tuesday, December 18, 2007 Merleau-Ponty and physicalism?
How should one read Merleau-Ponty if one is a physicalist? That is, how can one make his anti-empirical and yet anti-idealist theories of the embodied mind amenable, perhaps against the ramifications of these theories, to physicalism? To put it perhaps in the best way, how can Merleau-Ponty be introduced to a physicalist, without the physicalist having to totally transform her or his conceptions?
I don't have time now to consider this, but I'll name what I see as the big hurdle: What in the physicalist would be most challenged by Merleau-Ponty would be a simple notion of causality, the mainstay of both type and token physicalism, as well as the supervenience theory. Causality for Merleau-Ponty is interpreted through the concept of intentionality (interpreted as external to will or decision, suffusing the "objective" space of nature), which makes any physical state (of the brain, for example) a readiness to be-influenced by a cause: one would have to think the effect as a response that so closely resembles an anticipation of the cause that one could not distinguish between effect and merely an actualization of what was latent in the influenced object. Can one still use the vocabulary of physicalism to address even just the non-mental (the physical) that operated according to these terms? Physicalism to an extent already encounters these problems in the reflex. But could it address the physical if this reflex-like action were all that constituted the physical? I'll elaborate on this perhaps later. Posted by Mike at 10:51 AM What is written about:

Sunday, December 16, 2007


"Teaching children the art of collaborative philosophical inquiry brings them persistent, long-term cognitive benefits, according to psychologists in Scotland.
"Keith Topping and Steve Trickey first reported the short-term benefits of using "Thinking through Philosophy" with children in an earlier study."...
"Compared with 72 control children, the philosophy children showed significant improvements on tests of their verbal, numerical and spatial abilities at the end of the 16-month period relative to their baseline performance before the study."...
"The philosophy-based lessons encouraged a community approach to 'inquiry' in the classroom, with children sharing their views on Socratic questions posed by the teacher. "
In a somewhat related story, Daniel Dennett proposed that world religions should be compulsory taught to kids at a very young age.
I've often wondered how come philosophy and world religions have never been thought to kids in the first place. Are adults underestimating their capacity for self-inquiry and critical thinking? Or was it because of a tradition of imposing control on what kids should learn in school? I think it's both, but more of the latter.
As for me, I will not wait for public policy to make philosophy and religion compulsory subjects in schools. When I've got kids of my own, I plan to expose them to philosophical inquiry and world religions as early as possible. Then it would be up to them to make their informed choices and decisions in life. Teach Philosophy and Religion to Kids? from ~C4Chaos by ~C4Chaos

Saturday, December 15, 2007

For Hegel mankind per se is divine, at least potentially

Evans on Hegel from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen
After a semester of immersion in Hegel-The Philosophy of Logic, The Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Spirit-I find the following exceedingly refreshing, not to mention on the mark.
“Hegel’s own understanding of Christianity was significantly different from traditional orthodoxy. For example, Hegel seems to rule out the possibility of miracles. His understanding of Jesus is … quite complicated, but it seems rather unorthodox. Hegel accepted the claim that Jesus was divine, but he did not seem to understand this as implying that Jesus was uniquely divine. For Hegel mankind per se is divine, at least potentially. Jesus’ uniqueness is merely that he was the first person in history to recognize man’s true identity and destiny” (C. Stephen Evans, Kierkegaard’s Fragments and Postscript: The Religious Philosophy of Johannes Climacus, pp. 18-19).

Three mutually-determining perspectives

Perception from by N Pepperell
Some aspects of the recent discussion of Brandom have led me to read a bit more of Brandom’s interpretation of Hegel
Perception, in Hegel’s account, understands each property possessed by an “object” to be only self-related and indifferent to other properties. These properties are in turn differentiated from what Hegel calls “pure self-relation” – “Thinghood” – as a “medium” within which these properties coexist without affecting one another. Perception thus retains and repositions the “Here” and the “Now” discussed originally under the perspective of sense-certainty, as a medium for sensible properties – as a “Thing”.
Hegel next argues that, if determinate properties were truly as indifferent to one another as they are taken to be in this initial perspective, these properties would actually be indeterminate – properties become determinate and distinguishable from one another, not from residing indifferent to one another within the simple unifying medium of “Thinghood”, but instead as properties positioned in relation to other properties as their opposites. This relation of opposites, however, falls outside the simple unifying medium of “Thinghood”, pointing to a different sort of unity – a “repelling”, excluding unity, a moment of negation – which Hegel calls the “One”.
Hegel hints in various passages that more is to be said – but not at this point in the analysis (remembering, again, that he seeks to unfold his points immanently from perspectives available at each moment in his analysis). At this point in the text, he determines the “Thing” – the “object” of perception – in terms of three mutually-determining perspectives: a “universality, passive and indifferent” that unites constituent elements or “matters”; a simple negation that excludes opposite properties; and the multiplicity of properties, in relation to the first two moments.

The un-exposable is the nonexistent

Paradox of Ulysses by Fido the Yak
Adriana Cavarero speaks of a paradox of Ulysses, by which she means the situation that we recieve our own stories from the narrations of others (Relating Narratives: Storytelling and Selfhood, trans. Paul Kottman, Routledge, 2000, p. 17). In other words, we are the protagonists but not the authors of our own life stories. Cavarero's perspective, suspicious of autobiography, contrasts with László Tengelyi's (The Wild Region in Life-History) emphasis on a life history that one tells oneself, although on the question of the irreplacable uniqueness of the existent there is perhaps some agreement. Where does the unicity of an identity come from? It is tempting for me to think that experience has a unicity, that all of my experiences seem to belong to me alone, and thus perhaps my consciosness could be a source of my identity. Cavarero (and in a different way Tengelyi) will have none of that.
In her view the unicity that pertains to identity is given by others; identity is not substantial but rather relational and expositional. On the topic of the expositional character of identity, she is of course interpreting Hannah Arendt, which is her strong suit. When discussing the self-disclosure that pertains to action, she says that identity is expressive. It is not then consciousness which exercises an esemplastic power over experience; rather, relations between singular exposed existents constitute identity and, if I'm reading her correctly, give meaning to a course of life events.
When Jean-Luc Nancy says "birth" I'm not sure if he literally means birth from a womb. Cavarero, who reads Nancy affectionately, leaves no doubt that natality is about birth from the womb. The mother, she says, "embodies the ex- of existent" (p. 19). She says appearance is "rooted in the materiality of the context" (p. 21). I think maybe she means "the context of exhibition," which doesn't really say much, but the mere acknowledgement of a context is perhaps important, and of course there's the question of its materiality, which primarily interests me. Cavarero's thoughts on materiality are fleshed out in For More than One Voice which argues against the primacy of the visual that she posits in Relating Narratives. In any case, she appears to be committed to a kind of materialism. We might call it an expositional materialism, though it is also a materialism of natality... from Fido the Yak

Friday, December 14, 2007

Heidegger had sown the iron seeds of hermeneutical extremism

Lee Siegel, in The Gay Science: Queer Theory, Literature, and the Sexualization of Everything, explains where hermeneutics went.
Modern hermeneutics, from Schleiermacher through Hans Georg Gadamer's Truth and Method (1960), has run in two currents. The first was the gradual conditioning of meaning and value on the shifting templates of psychology, history, and, most of all, language. In this outlook, the self was always on the verge of cognitive calamity.
But the second current was founded on Gadamer's belief that mutual comprehension and shared values between people was possible. The so-called hermeneutic circle--to understand the whole, you have to grasp the parts, which changes your perception of the whole; to understand a part, you have to grasp the whole, which changes your perception of the part--was not a ceaseless flux. It was an affirmation that ultimate meaning exists as an elusive mystery, that it can be grasped in shards and echoes, and that preservation of a secret itself communicates a cherishable meaning.
Gadamer borrowed many of his ideas from Heidegger, but Heidegger had sown the iron seeds of hermeneutical extremism. He lowered the boom on hermeneutics by raising the stakes: he made the hermeneutical enterprise synonymous with existence itself. For Heidegger, "Being" is the ultimate truth of existence: to go about the business of living in the deepest sense is to go about the business of interpreting truth and finally understanding it. Such "Being," however, is beyond rational articulation. So obscure, so mystifying, so all-encompassing is Heidegger's Being that, his vatic pretensions notwithstanding, it leaves nothing to interpret but other interpretations.
And this was the loftily regressive situation from which the French poststructuralists embarked. Dismissing Heidegger's foundation of Being as a quaint metaphysical holdover, they retained his assault on reason. They made their happy escape from shared meaning. Pp. 184-5 Lee Siegel, in *The Gay Science: Queer Theory, Literature, and from enowning by enowning

Monday, December 10, 2007

Levinas was the greatest ethical thinker of the later 20th century

Let’s start with some excellent questions Michael Schwartz asked:
(1) Might Derrida be an “indeterminist” in the sense articulated, with great depth, in Lonergan’s tomb Insight? Lonergan’s treatise on human cognition, its stages and the like, is difficult to summarize effectively, especially as I am currently in the middle of deep study of this text. Basically, Lonergan sees a complex non-systematic (but by no means arbitrary) ground of being as replacing an earlier determinist view of this ground; where this non-systematic ground sustains authentically systematic schemas and all sorts of novelty, and all in a dance of possibilities, probabilities, and concrete actualities. (This nuanced, fleshed out view, by the way, is in some ways close to Wilber’s post-metaphysics, or so I sense.) Lonergan contrasts this fleshed out view of a post-determinist view of cognition with a thinner indeterminist view that mainly negates the determinist view. It is not so much that the indeterminist view is necessarily relativistic, but that it is weak or thin in accounting for matters like development, systematicity , and more. Is such the case with Derrida?
(2) The deconstruction of binary oppositions, their sliding into each other disrupting categorical tidiness and semantic determinism (while doing so beyond a simple one-step negation or slippage), is interesting, of course, as it must turn on the empirical evidence supplied in the reading of specific texts. The question remains: how prevalent are such binary slidings? What degree is there is such sliding throughout a given body of text? Paul de Man, I believe in the opening of his book Allegories of Reading (but I could be forgetting), said something to the effect that deconstruction is not claiming that terms like “night” and “day” in their ordinary usage always already slide into each other making clear use of the terms impossible. Given this view, how pervasive then are such slidings of these oppositions?, and in general how forceful are they?
(3) A related question is raised in an extraordinary footnote, number 65, in Charles Spinosa’s contribution “Derrida and Heidegger: Iterability and Ereignis” to Heidegger: A Critical Reader, 1992, pp. 296-297. The gist of the note is that Derrida focuses on the margins of texts to discover the breakdown situations (in the Heideggerian sense) in linguistic practice that are the exception and not the norm in our everyday interactions and dealings, with Derrida going on to read these breakdowns in the margins back into linguistic practice as a whole and therefore as the norm for linguistic practice. (In this is so, in light of Lonergan’s view, it would entail a failure to differentiate a number of distinct cognitive activities while conflating those of possibility and probability.)
(4) Why are we here right now interested in Derrida within integral circles? Is it his challenge to formalist thinking as too deterministic from an integral perspective? How about the related thread here on Wilber as being more formalist than one might gather? On the latter theme let me suggest that there is a current gap between integral theory and the integral use of that theory – that Wilber’s version of the theory seems to me to be thoroughly and profoundly second tier (and third tier at that); but the collective habits of using AQAL, of enacting the perspectives and methods, are not yet fully post-formal — readily and understandably prompting one to question if the theory itself is post-formal enough. (Here too let us not be confused by the AQAL graph as image – as images are only a heuristic device that point us into more complex cognitive operations where the image is left behind — again, Lonergan is excellent on this distinction and on the use of images thereof.)
(5) In other words, what is the value of Derrida’s practice for integral practice? Are our exchanges here only about Derrida and deconstruction; for they do not seem to readily perform deconstruction, that is, our language games do not seem to be those that Derrida performs. How valuable is Derrida’s language game then in the end for integralism? – I am thinking here of Rorty’s remarks in the collection Deconstruction and Pragmatism that, within his instrumental view of language, his looking for a vocabulary that is helpful with this or that ethical or political task – which goes to the heart of Derrida’s later work (see below) – does not in the end find Derrida’s language practices very helpful. Here too I recall an essay by two graduate students published in the journal Critical Theory (during the 1980s) on the vacuity and impotence of Derrida’s language (from those days, in any case) for actual political thinking and action – an essay forceful enough to prompt Derrida to respond to two students, but in my recollection without clearly countering their charge. Again, I am raising these issues and pointing to these earlier discussions in light of presenting questions about Derrida.
(6) Finally, I still miss sensitivity to Derrida’s larger body of writings, and their “ethical turn” in the later 1980s — I refer here to my contribution on this topic from a Zaadz thread on “Is Ken right about Derrida?”: Quote:
“Rather than offer an answer to the thread’s question directly (let me say in passing that I think that the drift of Ken’s views of Derrida are not wrong), I want to point to Derrida’s writings themselves – since without his texts as a touchstone we risk becoming abstract in our claims – and especially to his writings starting c1990 when he began to make assertions that startled many of his earlier American deconstructionist followers, claims (more complex than I am expounding) like the one that: justice is undeconstructable.
“What is apparent in these texts is a kind of “ethical turn” – one inspired by Derrida’s friend and, in many ways, silent mentor: Emmanuel Levinas (Derrida delivered the eulogy at Levinas’s funeral, for which see the brief and beautiful opening essay in Adieu; and to be sure his reputation in Parisian intellectual circles began with “Violence and Metaphysics,” his 1964 review essay of Levinas’s first magnus opus, Totality and Infinity).
“In my opinion Levinas was the greatest recent philosopher of the Infinite Thou: God in the 2nd person (cf. the 1-2-3 of Spirit practice) breaking into the order of beings, always already calling us to responsibility for the Other. Said too bluntly, his work is a deep and radical reframing of Buber’s view of the I-Thou (the latter about which Ken speaks with so much brilliance and luminosity, I must add).
“Derrida, in his later writings, is often Levinasian, or Levinas-inspired. He explores “the Good beyond Being” (a Platonic phrase often cited by Levinas) through themes like “welcoming,” “hospitality,” “mourning,” and “the messianic’ as these themes are analyzed as complexly constituting the ethical relation to the Other.”
Our deliberations in these discussions of postmodernism’s importance for integralism are mostly centered on dialectics and cognitive schemas (all supremely valuable) – and too postmodernism had much to say about ethics, and did so in often creative ways: the ethical background of Rorty’s pragmatism as a sensitivity to human suffering; Levinas who for many was the greatest ethical thinker of the later 20th century; the later work of Derrida with its Levinasian soundings; Lyotard’s notion of the “differend”; Foucault’s notion of “ethics” and the care for the self and others; the ethical motivations of Deleuze and Guattari on capitalism, as explicated by Foucault in his introduction to the English translation of Capitalism and Schizophrenia; Habermas’s communicative ethics; and not to mention all the discourses of working to de-marginalize marginalized voices and perspectives, e.g., feminism, post-colonialism, etc. (however much resentiment often lingers in the shadowed background of these discourses).
And then Wilber’s “post-postmodern” version of integral theory is, in the end, presented as a skillful means, a “method” of compassion in the Mahayana sense, hence a tool in the hands of Agape. So might I ask: ethics anyone? (My favorite current book on this topic is Robert Gibbs’s Why Ethics?) Light, Michael Schwartz Augusta, GA

If you wish to make a Hindu uncomfortable, ask him: What is Hinduism?

Kuldip Dhiman's Philosophy and Psychology Blog
This blog is about philosophy, psychology, arts, and literature
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Hinduism revealed and written Review by Kuldip Dhiman
Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism by A. Ramamurty.
D. K. Printworld, New Delhi. Pages 216. Rs 360.
IF you wish to make a Hindu uncomfortable, ask him these questions: What is Hinduism? Who is your God? What book do you believe in? Who is your equivalent of the Pope? Most Hindus would be ill at ease and might not know what to say. Yes, I am a Hindu, but how do I define it, the person might admit. And what God, what book, and what Pope? I never thought of such matters before. Never felt the need to.
Uneasy with such questions, many scholars in the past 100 years or so have tried to define Hinduism within the theological framework of Semitic religious traditions, especially the Christian tradition. This approach is entirely erroneous, as it does not do justice either to the Semitic tradition or to Hinduism.
"All attempts at understanding and defining Hinduism are modern," asserts Prof A Ramamurty, the author of "Philosophical Foundations of Hinduism", who is presently UGC Emeritus Fellow, Philosophy Department, the University of Hyderabad. He is a serious scholar who has authored "Advaitic Mysticism of Sankara", "The Central Philosophy of the Rgveda" and "Advaita: A Conceptual Analysis".
Elaborating further, he says: "However, there are several traditional works dealing with what is essential to various sects of Hinduism like Vaisnavism and Saivism, the major forms of Hindu religious life and worship. But Hinduism cannot be defined or characterised in terms of anyone or all of them, even though they are basically Hindu."
If Hinduism has to be defined or understood at all, it should be done by taking into account its sruti and smriti traditions. One thing that is universally accepted by all Hindus is that the sruti is revealed, and has the ultimate authority in religious or spiritual matters. The main purpose of the smriti tradition, on the other hand, is to adapt the Vedic wisdom or revelation to the changing religious needs and demands of the people keeping in view the heterogeneous character of Hindu society.
Broadly speaking, all texts such as the Vedas, which were composed before the invention of writing belong to the sruti tradition, and the ones such as the puranas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, which were composed after writing was invented, belong to smriti. The smriti addresses itself to the task of adapting the Vedic wisdom or revelation to meet the religious needs of all sections of Indian society, especially the religious needs of those who are denied direct access to the Vedas.
The object of puranic literature is to reconcile and harmonise the popular or smriti form of Hinduism with the sruti tradition. But although they are integral part of Hinduism, the sruti and smriti traditions are not always in agreement, in fact they go against each other at times.
Most modern Hindu thinkers believe that the sruti tradition represents real Hinduism. Profs. Ramamurty thinks this belief is mistaken. If we wish to present a true picture of Hinduism, we must take the smriti tradition into account as it is in reality the basis of Hinduism as believed in and practised by almost all Hindus.
What are the other differences between the two? While sruti is more philosophical in its approach, the smriti is more theological. While the intellectual or rational way of understanding of the former is more impersonal, abstract and detached, the emotional approach of the latter is more personal. "While one is dharma-centred," asserts the writer, "the other is faith-centred." While one is impersonal, the other is personal. However, the contribution of both is significant to the growth and development of Hinduism.
Therefore, any attempt to understand and determine the nature and meaning of Hinduism in terms of any one stream or tradition or to identify it with any one of them will not help us in comprehending the nature and meaning of Hinduism. Both are an integral part of Hinduism. And both represent Hinduism. While Purva Mimamsa and the dharma form of religious life represents one tradition, the bhagavata-dharma or devotional form of religious life represents the other."
One curious aspect of these two schools, however, is that although they are different in many ways, their world-view of Hinduism is the same. Whenever Hinduism has faced a challenge and tried to meet the challenge, smriti has always relied on sruti world-view.
Now which of the two traditions is more relevant to Hinduism? The author believes that in its authority and validity smriti is traditionally regarded as inferior or secondary to sruti, and it has to conform to sruti if it is to have any authority and validity. "And if smriti simply teaches what is there in the sruti, then it cannot serve any meaningful purpose except to present the teaching or wisdom of sruti in a manner of language which is easy and intelligible to all. This is the traditional view or understanding of the importance and role of smriti in the development of Hinduism. But most of the religious ideas, beliefs and doctrines as well as the religious practices which are basic to smriti form of religious life are not compatible with sruti. We cannot find in sruti any support and justification for what is essential to smriti tradition. Therefore, the major concern of smriti is not just to present the wisdom of Sruti in a popular form so that all can have access to it, but to systematically present and justify the religious belief and doctrines of different sects which developed themselves independently of sruti."
Another reason for the emergence of smriti is that in order to be a religious Hindu, you don't necessarily have to follow theological commandments to the letter. "Doctrinal and theological differences are not therefore suppressed in favour of an official theology or creed. Supreme importance is placed on the inward experience of devotion and piety rather than on the correctness of religious beliefs and doctrine."
In fact most Hindus hardly ever see a copy of the Vedas or the Upanishads all their lives. Just as to be a good Indian it is not really necessary to read the Constitution of India. Most Hindus learn their religion not in a temple at the feet of a priest, but instinctively as they grow up. Posted by Kuldip Dhiman at 9:00 AM 0 comments

Notice that Dinesh never ever talks about Consciousness or Energy or God as Conscious Light

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The premises of modern science themselves are base...":
The tragedy is, is that this one-dimensional cardboard clown is taken so seriously and put forward as a "great" thinker. What are the fundamental bedrock presumptions of christian "metaphysics"?
That the Divine is wholly other or The Great Relation. Which leads to the world process altogether, being wholly "other" to human beings, and that we are all wholly "other" to each other and all other sentient beings.This is a fear saturated "metaphysics" which manifests as a fear saturated "culture". Which inevitably manifests as a "culture" armed to the teeth both at the domestic level and on the world stage altogether.
Also when the Divine is posited as wholly "other" it is only a matter of time before the Divine gets taken out of the picture altogether and replaced with an entirely human-centric "world"-view. This is exactly the process that the rise of scientism set in place and which has ended with the likes of Dinesh celebrating the "victory" of left-brained "reason" and a "universe" governed by left-brained laws of "order". Notice that Dinesh never ever talks about Consciousness or Energy or God as Conscious Light. Just the usual chilish mommy-daddy "creator" god nonsense. Never mind that the function and purpose of left brained "thinking" is always, in each and every moment, active dis-sociation from the Divine Reality, and also an attempt to control the Divine and reduce it (the Divine) to the slave of the same left-brained ego.
The "God" who is irreducibly separate from humankind is an idol, a false "God". Such a "God" is not the Real God Who Grants Life and Who IS Love-Bliss-Life.The realm of cosmic Nature that humankind may only observe and "know" is a mirage, a terrifying illusion, a lie. Such a world is not the world that is Alive as Real God, and that is not other than one's own life in Real God. Real God is not the Supreme "other", related to the body of Man like the sun is to the earth.
Cosmic Nature, or the world process, is not the Supreme "object", related to the modern anal--ytical mind like the ancient "God" was to the ancient religious mind. Real God and Cosmic nature Are a Single Paradox, incapable of existing as an Object, or "Other" to humankind. Humankind is inherently INVOLVED in the Paradox of the world-process. Humankind is inherently ONE with the Living Divine Presence of the Self-Existing and Self-Radiant Divine Reality. Posted by Anonymous to Evergreen Essays at 5:57 AM, December 10, 2007

Wrestle with an Alfred North Whitehead or a Sri Aurobindo

Summary of some points I made to an atheist friend recently in response to his objections to mysticism:
  1. The intellect and the senses cannot go further than a wide agnosticism on the existence of the Divine and supraphysical realities.
  2. Exclusivist religion is slowly but surely giving way to an inclusive, non-sectarian, evolutionary spirituality, which is bio- and pancentric rather than anthropocentric.
  3. Materialism has also been challenged rationally by panpsychist philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead or philosophers of mind like David Chalmers.
  4. The scientific study of consciousness, like it or not, can no longer afford to ignore subjective experiences and first-person perspectives.
  5. There is no need to drop empiricism. It’s just that empiricism need not be limited to the physical senses alone. If we consent to the required inner changes, we can develop modes of perception that transcend the physical senses and the intellect. Sri Aurobindo, himself a radical empiricist, writes:
    “To see the composition of the sun or the lines of Mars is doubtless a great achievement; but when thou hast the instrument that can show thee a man’s soul as thou seest a picture, then thou wilt smile at the wonders of physical Science as the playthings of babies.”
    Can private/subjective experiences be discussed in the public sphere? They already are being discussed, due to their enormous importance and implications for fields like consciousness studies, neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology and psychiatry. In neuroscience, the Buddhists are at the forefront of this. Watch the Mind and Reality conference held at Columbia University recently featuring B. Alan Wallace who is a very important person building bridges between science and spirituality. (Another speaker was Stephen H. Phillips who has studied Sri Aurobindo as well, but in a totally dry, mental way.)

In my humble opinion, my atheist friends might wish to consider quitting wasting time arguing against the small gods of religion, and instead wrestle with an Alfred North Whitehead or a Sri Aurobindo. How much more challenging would that be!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Nietzsche, Badiou, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Hegel, Kant and Kierkegaard

Žižek and theology
from Faith and Theology by Ben Myers
Our friends at T&T Clark announce an exciting new book series on “Philosopy and Theology.” There are books in preparation on Nietzsche, Badiou, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Hegel, Kant and Kierkegaard. The series is opening with Adam Kotsko’s book, Žižek and Theology. Adam describes this book in a guest-post at the T&T Clark blog.

Scotus claims that there are only two kinds of active powers: natures or wills

As a kind of summary of the important aspects that we have encountered in Scotus’ account of the will thus far, I offer the following. First, Scotus claims that there are only two kinds of active powers: natures or wills. At the heart of his distinction is the self-determination of the will, which points to the intrinsic difference that accounts for the distinctive modality of the will (which acts freely) in contradistinction to a nature (which acts necessarily). In the midst of this discussion, Scotus also introduces what is now called synchronic contingency, which speaks of the unactualized possibility that is always present as a real possibility.
Here we see, as A. Vos and others have noted, Scotus’ amazement at the wonder of contingency permeating his entire account of the will. In addition, according to Scotus, the will can will or not will, nill or not nill, or will or nill this or that. If such is the case, and the will in fact is self-determining, then the question naturally arises as to how such an indeterminate active potency is reduced from potency to act. Here Scotus offers a rather original proposal with his idea of superabundant sufficiency or positive indeterminacy, which allows for a self-limiting capability on the part of the agent, and which is seen as a perfection rather than a limitation.
Lastly, as a possible and in no way damaging criticism to Scotus’ overall conclusions as presented in this paper, I wonder whether Wolter’s first inclinations with regard to Scotus’ twisting the wax nose of authority in reference to Aristotle are perhaps worth revisiting-after all Wolter does admit that Aristotle himself “never speaks of the will as a potency in so many words,” much less an active, self-determining potency.[1] If this is the case, why not highlight Scotus’ unique contributions to the history of our understanding of the will as insights not available to Aristotle as a non-Christian thinker?
Though it is my understanding that the context in which Scotus worked demanded to a certain degree that theology conform to Aristotelian science, and Christians of course want to recognize the truth wherever it can be found, still one might question whether it is the case that this demand to conform with Aristotelian science is in fact the proper direction that Christian theology should take.
Moreover, when one factors in Scotus’ conception of the dual affections inherent to the will, particularly the ability of the affectio iustitiae to transcend the agent’s natural telos, one wonders just how compatible Scotus’ claims really are with those of Aristotle when viewed in an architectonic manner. That is, perhaps Scotus’ generous reading of Aristotle is a bit too generous given the latter’s non-access to divine (biblical) revelation-revelation which no doubt served as an important source for Scotus’ contemplations on the subject of the will and its freedom.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Lots of philosophers snigger behind Swinburne's back and Plantiga's back

The Uncredible Hallq "Best blog name ever" - Healthy Concerns About Me Chris Hallquist
E-mail: challquist*at*gmail*dot*com
View my complete profile Saturday, December 01, 2007

What's the deal with philosophy of religion?
I've come to suspect there's a deep institutional problem with philosophy of religion: the atheists just don't care. Or, to be more precise, they care enough to pay attention for awhile but not enough to avoid get bored relatively fast.
I saw this, I think, in my 101 prof. We had a philosophy of religion unit as our first or second unit, with a standard slate of issues: cosmological argument, design argument, argument from evil. We got a little behind, and when we finally got around to Swinburne's response to the argument from evil, with time running low, the prof almost tried to cover it quickly, and then stopped himself and just passed over the Swinburne reading. My impression is that he was simply embarrassed by how bad Swinburne's response was. My experience in that course was one of the main things that prompted a recent comment to a friend that it seems that for many philosophers, philosophy of religion is something they think about as undergrads, and then they realize that God doesn't exist and move on to other things. (The prof, for those who care, is in philosophy of mind.)
Unlike no doubt the majority of atheist philosophers, I can see myself someday publishing a paper or two or even three on philosophy of religion. However, when it comes to where I'd actually like to make my career, philosophy of mind is so much more exciting. And of course, I find religion quite boring at times...
The lack of interest by atheist philosophers in philosophy of religion really distorts the discipline. It seems there are lots of philosophers in philosophy of mind or philosophy of science or whatnot who are content to snigger behind Swinburne's back and snigger behind Plantiga's back, and who just can't be bothered to write up their thoughts. Thus, what's published in philosophy of religion doesn't reflect the thoughts of the profession as a whole. If the published stuff did do that, theists would probably have an image as a hard-fighting minority, but the way publication is skewed, they're allowed to get the impression that they've earned a boundless supply of respect from their colleagues, only to occasionally run up against a puzzling disdain for the specialty they cherish so much. Posted by Hallq at 12:29 AM Labels:
Hallq said...You seem really good at finding issues that aren't there. Do you even understand that the original purpose of this post was to analyze the dynamics of the profession, and took no position whatsoever on the quality of work being done by Plantinga and Swinburne? Were you paying attention when I said "As for whether they're [Shapiro, Pigliucci, and Kitcher] better philosophers than, say, Plantinga, that wasn't really my initial point" and then kept my criticism of Plantinga as minimalistic as possible? You seem intent on finding quite imaginary slights. 12:53 PM