Sunday, April 27, 2008

The inexorable self-exceeding of the human, initiated by Nietzsche, to which Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida and Sri Aurobindo, all belong

Re: Death Reckoning in the Thinking of Heidegger, Foucault, and Derrida by Joshua Schuster (Other Voices) Debashish Sat 26 Apr 2008 09:50 PM PDT Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

A truly beautiful essay - linking Nietzsche, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida to the primordiality of our Age of historicism - the enlightenment of Being as Non-being, of Non-Being as the impossible possibility of Being.

  • The announcement of the death of God in Nietzsche at once lights up the stage where man has been preparing his entry as the subject-object of knowledge and simultaneously discloses his death, always-already accomplished, in the Superman. But the shadows of titanic hyper-biologism which loom in the Nietzschean silhouette are progressively deconstructed in his descendants.
  • In Heidegger, the anti-humanism is already also the contemplation of the most intimate selfhood of the human, the unsharable experience of death as the undoing of the person which makes the personal possible.
  • In Foucault, the conditions of knowledge in each episteme, leading to modernity as the limit condition for the possibility of knowledge in the knowledge of the human, reaches its point of undoing in the hour of its triumph. The intimate selfhood of otherness becomes the intimate otherness of the non-human, superman as the unforeseeable generation of hybrid possibility appearing at the horizon of human dissolution into its constituents.
  • In Derrida, the limit condition of the age leads to the intimate otherness of death, not here the selfhood of Heidegger, but the otherness of selfhood and the Selfhood of the Other, all Others and the radically Other, the infinite Unknowable. In Derrida, it is further the threshold, not as in Foucault, of the end of man, but of the ends of man, true heterogeneity, the origin of the miracle of freedom and creativity.

Re: At the ends of Man: Sri Aurobindo and Michel Foucault Debashish Sun 27 Apr 2008 12:33 AM PDT Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

Thanks, Rich, for this timely contextualization of the ends of the human in postmodern thinking as in Sri Aurobindo. Whitehead is known to have said that all of western philosophy can be seen as a series of footnotes on Plato. But in our age, it may be more correct to say that all of (post)modern thinking is a series of footnotes on Nietzsche. These footnotes may also be called post-metaphysical. Continuing in the same vein, someone has also suggested that the future may be known of as the era of Integral Philosophy, characterized by a series of footnotes on Sri Aurobindo. To me, this is certainly no compliment; I'd rather that dubious distinction rested with Ken Wilber. Your comparative contextualization provides a welcome corrective by reminding readers of the genealogy of thinking at the margins of modernity and the inexorable self-exceeding of the human, initiated by Nietzsche, to which Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida and Sri Aurobindo, all, in their own ways, belong.

Modernity ends with the dissolution of man. What this means in terms of thought, practice and experience, may be quite different to all these thinkers, but perhaps there is something to be learnt from all of them. For followers of Sri Aurobindo, it is first and foremost important to realize the civilizational matrix within which his urgent deconstruction of man and reconstitution of the superman belongs. Without this historical perspective and its collective social consequences, the Integral Yoga becomes just another cult of navel-gazing, happily segregated from the rest of the world in preserves of privilege, though mouthing onto-theologies of a predicted and predictable future.

One may say that among the central strands of post-Nietzschean posthumanist/poststructuralist thinking is a refusal to assimilate the future to a foundational teleology and contrast this to Sri Aurobindo's teleology of the symbolic-typal-conventional-individual-subjective-spiritual temporal sequence, but the historicism of post-Enlightenment modernity in Nietzsche and his forbears needs also to be more carefully studied before divesting their thinking of teleology. It is true that Foucault expresses most persistently the constructed nature of "truth" based on historical epistemes, but even this awareness of the demythologization of icons in the twilight of the gods has within it its own teleology of the appearance of man at the end of the history of representations and of his dissolution into the undefinable horizon of unassimilable experimental posthumanities. It is not difficult to construe this as a transition from the age of individualism to a subjective age, while by the same token, making sure to qualify this terminology as a thinking at the edge of human possibility, the unpredicatable l'avenir of the Mother as of Jacques Derrida.

With this caveat, the enterprise of supermanhood becomes more easily aligned with the ceaseless disciplined practice of an openness to the Other, the Other in oneself, the other in "others" and to the radically Other, "god, if you will" in Derrida's language. This refusal of comfortable familiarity, whether in the acceptance of a stable identity of self or in the easy stereotyping of Sri Aurobindo and/or The Mother is also a legacy of this "tradition" of thinking, a clarity quickly lost sight of in what you astutely nominate as theocracies.

But the darshanic phenomenology of Sri Aurobindo and the psychic intuition of oneness in difference are legacies of a cultural practice unavailable to Nietzsche and his followers, a trans-cultural possibility western postmodernism would be enriched in embracing in the era of globalization which also this episteme of the end of history has made possible.

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