Friday, August 29, 2008

Structuralism proclaimed the End of Man and The End of Humanism

C.S. Peirce’s Semiotic Transformation of Kantianism
from Indistinct Union by cjsmith

Quoted from Karl Otto Apel’s Towards a Transformation of Philosophy (italics in original):

1. There can be no knowledge of something as something without a real sign mediation on the basis of material sign vehicles.
2. The sign can have no representational function for a consciousness without the presupposed existence of a real world, which in principle, must thought of as being representable, and that means knowable, in various respects.
3. There can be no representation of something as something by a sign without interpretation by a real interpreter.

Point #1 is the basis of structuralism in all its forms (original, neo, and post, etc.). Peirce is along with Saussure the father of semiotics/”sign”ology. Linguistics that studies sign as signs–grammar, usage, development, sentence formation–begins the Linguistic Shift in Philosophy characteristic of 20th century thought.

Point #2 is Peirce’s overcoming of the false Kantian noumena/phenomena divide–the dead end of that route of Kantian (and Neo-Kantian) philosophy. Peirce, as Apel shows, is walking a fine line. Peirce with the notion of a knowable/representable world is not going back to a pre-Kantian metaphysical correspondence view of truth whereby, we see things (to put it crudely) as they “really are”. At the same time he is “semioticizing” or rather pragmaticizing the divide between noumena and phenomena. Peirce describes what could be known and what we do know, but again the key point is by shifting to a linguistic mode as conversation (notice the reference to a consciousness not sign materialism only) the notion of a transcendental mind version via Kant is dissolved. There is still roughly a notion then of a transcendental foundation and the practical daily world, but it is one based on a community of understanding/interpretation not structures of the Universe. It is a knowable in “various respects” in other words.

Which leads directly to #3 and here is where Peirce (and Apel and Habermas) break with structuralism: that there is an interpreter. Structuralism proclaimed the End of Man and The End of Humanism and metaphysically prioritized structure over consciousness. In Derrida this shows up as grammar (grammatology) over logos.

The interpreter however involves (as it were) an interpretee–the consciousness Peirce speaks of in #2 is not an isolated monadic consciousness but a consciousness in discussion, in conversation. And this conversation then presumes the possibility of understanding by the other.

Point #3 is also a dagger at the heart of the philosophy of consciousness and neo-positivism (to use Habermas’ terms). That is, the assumption that what is the case can simply be described. The notion of Language as a Mirror or simple perfect 1:1 translation of what we experience (empiricism) or know (philosophy of consciousness).

And from here, Apel and Habermas, each in their own way, are going to argue for a post-metaphysics predicated around the description/investigation of how people communicate, the rules by which they discourse, the ways in which we intuitively presume to be able to understand each other, and universalize our answers. In the practicalities of how we deal in this world. Our actions, choices, our commitments.

If we believe that truth is found simply by scientific method–then there is no interpretation. But even a scientist must communicate to another scientist and assumes a language game (in Wittgenstein’s terms), a way of validity in a community right/wrong.

In structuralism there is no interpretation. It is a conscious argument against consciousness made in an intersubjective space (#s 2 & 3).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Most analytic philosophers don't understand theoretical physics at all; Luckily, present day physics is equally incomprehensible

Post-Panpsychism: Using Strawson to go beyond Strawson
from Zaadz: Anands blog
In a previous blog entry, I explained my admiration for Strawson's target article (pdf) (and followup in the same issue) on panpsychism in the Journal of Consciousness Studies...
The trouble is - and I say this after numerous frustrating conversations with philosophers - most analytic philosophers don't understand theoretical physics at all. Many of them continue to conceive of physics as a kind of a dynamical system - which it is not. Or they have a causal network like description in mind - A caused B which caused C - and this is also not supported by physics. I don't think it is wrong to state outright that most analytic philosophers just don't understand that one of the basic problems in theoretical physics today is the unification of quantum mechanics with general relativity - which in a vast oversimplification can be recast as a problem of how a quantum measure changes without specifying a fixed background spacetime.
In other words, in a completed theory of quantum gravity, you cannot assume spacetime as basic. You have to show how it emerges from something more fundamental.
Contrast this with Strawson who writes "(3) the universe is spatio-temporal in its fundamental nature" to which he attaches a footnote "Note that if temporality goes, i.e. not just spacetime(TM) but temporality in any form, then experience also goes, given that experience requires time. One of the fine consequences of this is that there has never been any suffering. But no theory of reality can be right that has the consequence that there has never been any suffering." Ok, that's obviously a joke, but a very revealing one.
It is obvious (to me at any rate) that Strawson is fighting a battle on two fronts, both of which he could well lose. On the one hand, he champions spacetime as basic and we have already seen that it is highly unlikely that theoretical physics will uphold that position. He also champions experience as basic - and hence the slide from physicalism to panpsychism - but ignores critics like Foucault who do not consider experience (phenomenology) to be basic. Isn't it more likely that we'll beg to understand experience as a physical event wherein one "portion" of the universe separates itself (momentarily) from the rest and the resulting separation causes physical events to happen both at the boundary (behavior) and in the interior (experience)? Surely, this separation act which creates an experience is more fundamental than the experience itself, no?
In any case, given the restrictive first principles assumptions that Strawson stakes out - spacetime as basic etc. - it should be straightforward to go post-panpsychist. The price of admission is a non-reductive physicalism which - face it - is going to be pretty bizarre. It is going to have experience produced by momentary "subjects" separating themselves from everything else which is a far cry from the particles and fields of present day physics. Luckily, present day physics is equally incomprehensible - in terms of a coherent picture - and this should give us the strength we need to complete the physicalist picture by accomodating experience.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

In the language of Martin Heidegger we find words such as 'The Open' or 'The Illuminating Clearing'

Heidegger, Phenomenology and Indian Thought (Paperback) by Peter Wilberg (Author)

Editorial Reviews
"Being is no longer the essential matter to be thought." Martin Heidegger Western thought clings to the notion that consciousness is essentially both 'intentional' (awareness of something) and the private property of an egoic 'subject'. It has no concept of a Universal Awareness or 'Absolute Subjectivity' of the sort that Indian thought has long understood as the source of all individualised consciousness. Yet in the language of Martin Heidegger we find words such as 'The Open' or 'The Illuminating Clearing', which suggest a primordial 'space' or 'light' of awareness - one that is the condition for any consciousness of things, and is not the private property of any being, body, brain or 'ego'.

Heidegger, Phenomenology and Indian Thought explores in an original way the proximity of this language to those schools of Indian thought which recognise a pure, universal and 'non-intentional' dimension of consciousness - an Awareness (Chit) prior to and transcending 'Being' itself (Sat). Product Details Paperback: 116 pages Publisher: New Gnosis Publications (July 21, 2008)

Peter Wilberg sees his work as a subversion of the entire framework of Eurocentric thinking - one rooted not only in scholarly studies but in new and profound experiences of the central religious and metaphysical notions of Indian thought – not least those of Kashmir Shaivism - experiences that have led him to what he believes is a both new and necessary conceptual reframing of it’s foundational insights. The guiding aim of his work is provide the foundations for a primordially-rooted leap or ‘Ur-sprung’ of both Indian thought - one that at the same time undermines the root assumptions of European philosophy and phenomenology - not to mention the theological assumptions of the Abrahamic faith.
The ultimate question which the fruits of Peter Wilberg’s life-work now raise is whether, in his words “there is today any spiritual room, within the institutions or organisations that seek to foster respect for Indian religious-philosophical traditions, for a body of knowledge that seeks not only to build a bridge between deep scholarly and philosophical studies of these traditions and their personal experiential practice, but goes even further - offering a radical conceptual and experiential refoundation of those traditions - rather than merely parroting their traditional terms and mimicking their traditional practices in the manner of so many current yogic schools and gurus.” In the context of this question, Peter Wilberg himself is only too well aware of the paradox of someone who, in this life, is ethnically an English-born German Jew, suddenly appearing himself ‘out of the blue’ - yet with an astonishing claim to have built a new foundation for Indian Tantric wisdom. Given this paradox, the innate difficulty his work faces in gaining recognition was put to him pithily by a lifelong student: “Your dilemma is that you have not only revered the original tantras, gained a felt comprehension of them and written about them, but also conceptually refined them - even corrected them. That is probably too much for most people.”
This message is reinforced by a remark of Peter Wilberg himself: “All my words and writings together can be compared to mere ciphers or inscriptions on the outside of a box - either scaring off the reader or inviting them to open it. The box itself however, is far larger inside that it appears from without. Its interior is a boundless time-space of awareness and an inexhaustible source of deep inner knowing. Whosoever dares to open this box - or allow it to be opened for them through direct personal instruction and initiation - must not only have an intelligent and open mind but great spiritual courage.” top

Tantric Wisdom for Today's World - The New Yoga of Awareness by Peter Wilberg (Paperback - Sep 1, 2007)
The Awareness Principle: A Radical New Philosophy of Life, Science & Religion by Peter Wilberg (Paperback - Aug 15, 2007)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Multiculturalism's obsession with blood and race instead of ideas

A Similar Hoax for Different Volks from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

Perhaps we should see the new age as a kind of fascist revolt against the anti-humanism of modernity. In fact, if I am not mistaken, Jonah Goldberg makes this connection in his book on Liberal Fascism, but I could be wrong there. In any event, as we shall see, the cultural matrix that gave birth to Hitler was a deeply "new age" one, with all sorts of books, movements, and secret societies exploring the occult -- seances, spiritism, chanelling, reincarnation, hidden knowledge, etc. This phenomenon was only ramped up in the wake of the catastrophic loss of World War I.

For example, Van Vrekhem discusses how much interest there was in contacting the dead, given how many parents had lost their sons to the war -- some five million dead between the German empire and Austria-Hungary. Veith writes that

"fascism is essentially a response to the alienation that has been a part of the spiritual landscape of the West since the Enlightenment.... Science, technology, and the economic realities and environmental damage of the industrial revolution isolate the individual from nature. There has thus been a genuine yearning for community and for an organic unity with the natural world."

Living a life of cold logic is intrinsically alienating. There is nothing Rational about living a life of pure (again, small r) reason. But nor is there anything rational about abandoning reason altogether and living a purely instinctual life, which is clearly what occurred with Nazi Germany, but also to a lesser extent in the 1960s, not just in America, but all over the developed world...

For someone who lives without any religious telos, the denial of impulses seems stifling and arbitrary, because it "leads nowhere," and merely becomes bourgeois respectability or rank hypocrisy. As Veith writes,

"If objective knowledge is alienating, subjective experience is liberating and healing. Authentic experience comes from unleashing the emotions, cultivating the subjective and irrational dimension of life."

So never ask why the left is so hysterical and irrational, because that is the whole point. It is a way of life. You will look in vain for the "rational end" they are seeking, because the emotional irrationalism is its own end. I am quite convinced that leftism is simply a "way of life" -- or, more precisely, a way of managing one's emotional life, of dealing with the pain and conflict of existence. It will be with us so long as alienation is with us, as an alternative to religion.

In Hitler & His God, Van Vrekhem goes into considerable detail about the "volkisch movement" that was a big part of the appeal of Nazism -- or which Nazism co-opted, to be precise. At the root of this movement was the idea that Christianity was a foreign influence superimposed on a much deeper reservoir of primitive beliefs. Christianity unifies people through a common belief system, but "volk" indicates "a tribal unity of blood, unmodified by ideas of a common humanity. Religious in the intensity of their beliefs, volkists had had no real equivalent in other Western nations."

The concept is especially difficult for normal (non-leftist) Americans to comprehend, being that we are the first nation explicitly created around abstract and universal principles instead of more primitive modes of blood, soil, mythology, etc. But here again, we can see how the modern doctrine of multiculturalism is in reality a quite primitive reversion back to earlier ways of life. Multiculturalism is specifically a rejection of American principles, what with its obsession with blood and race instead of ideas. This is why when you criticize Obama's ideas, he accuses you of being a racist.

For Americans -- and for Christians -- "essence" is in the individual. That is, we are created in the image of God, so that our deepest personal essence partakes of divinity. But for the volkists -- and for the multicultural left -- essence is in the group:

"Volk is a much more comprehensive term than 'people,' for to German thinkers ever since the birth of German romanticism in the late eighteenth century, Volk signified the union of a group of people with a transcendental 'essence.' This 'essence' might be called 'nature,' or 'cosmos' or 'mythos,' but in each instance it was fused to man's innermost nature and represented the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality and his unity with other members of the Volk. The essential element here is the linking of the human soul with its natural surroundings, with the 'essence' of nature."

Now, why do you think that virtually all leftists are hysterical environmentalists and Ice Age skeptics? Here again, you need only scratch the surface of their irrational rhetoric to appreciate a reservoir of primitive, volkisch-like sentiments of "unity" with mother earth, of healing the planet, etc. Never mind that premodern humans were the worst stewards of the planet imaginable, in part because they were so fused with it that they didn't know the environment existed. Ironically, we only know about the environment because we have transcended it. But again, in the absence of a truly integral religious framework, this transcendence will be experienced as alienation, as if human beings are "suspended" above the earth, and need to come back down and re-merge with it.

For (non-left) Americans, the individual stands above the state, and derives his inalienable rights from the Creator. But for the volkist, the group is the supreme identity that stands above or behind the state. Truly, in Nazi Germany, there was only one individual, Hitler; but in turn, he was merely the "embodiment" of the volk, which is rooted in blood and soil. Thus, "it was the genius of Adolf Hitler to wed the volkisch flight from reality to political discipline and efficient political organization." Reminds me of someone....To be continued....

Whatever reveals Him is a fact and whatever ignores Him is a lie even if all affirm it

Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity--Adesh and History
by Vikas on Wed 20 Aug 2008 01:21 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

RY, Your point of view, cogently articulated, must resonate with every aspirant who aspires to go beyond the surface view of things. Rationality and spirituality are not synonymous and the latter calls for faith as the staff by which it will walk on the journey - for some time atleast - before the sunlight of experience vindicates it. If spirituality meant nothing more than rationality then all spiritual seeking is superfluous and the seekers deluded fools. But apart from the question of Avatarhood - which need not enter into our discussion - there is the question of action as it relates to a spiritual being.

Let me illustrate. Today, in our world of informational technology, a small seemingly insignificant modification in a computer program could trigger a series of changes which eventually could change the very orbit of a rover in space. The modification leading to a change in orbit would only be appreciated and understood by those adept in space-technology - to the adept signifying a whole lot more than to a computer programmer.

So it is, in my opinion, with the events and actions that pertain to a spiritual being who can by the action of his spiritual consciousness change the course of lives, countries, and even the world. To understand the significance of circumstances, actions, and events in the life of such a person must therefore necessarily require us to rise to the same consciousness or at least grow towards it. Even then a lot of it must elude us simply because it pertains to the "inner" life of an other.

In this regard, Rich’s position is well taken (his reasons albeit different), that “It would also be best” “just to ignore history” because it would be futile. History is a symbol and what that symbol signifies is something greater and deeper than a mere peddling of so-called facts. There is only one root fact anywhere and that is the Eternal One. Whatever reveals Him is a fact and whatever ignores Him is a lie even if all affirm it. Here is a letter from Sri Aurobindo which I happen to stumble upon (as I was reading a book where I discovered this; surely not accidentally) and which is very apposite to our discussion. I reproduce part of it.

"There is, it seems to me, a cardinal error in the modern insistence on the biographical and historical, that is to say, the external factuality of the Avatar, the incidents of his outward life. What matters is the spiritual Reality, the Power, the Influence that come with him or that he brought down by his action and his existence. First of all, what matters in a spiritual man's life is not what he did or what he was outside to the view of the men of his time (that is what historicity or biography comes to, does it not?) but what he was and did within; it is only that that gives any value to his outer life at all. It is the inner life that gives to the outer any power it may have and the inner life of a spiritual man is something vast and full and, at least in the great figures, so crowded and teeming with significant things that no biographer or historian could ever hope to seize it all or tell it. Whatever is significant in the outward life is so because it is symbolical of what has been realised within himself and one may go on and say that the inner life also is only significant as an expression, a living representation of the movement of the Divinity behind it.”

Reply Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity--Adesh and History
by RY Deshpande on Wed 20 Aug 2008 04:52 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Brilliant, Vikas! to have given us a letter from Sri Aurobindo about the “external factuality of the Avatar”. That should settle all the matters. We know how vigorously Sri Aurobindo had defended the position of Rama as an Avatar when Dilip Roy had expressed a thousand doubts about him being a historical figure. I had brought the topic of Avatarhood in my comment apropos of Peter’s disinterest in it while yet writing a biography of Sri Aurobindo. If we go by him then all that the Mother was telling about Sri Aurobindo would amount to her telling us lies. Perhaps a rational mind will never have any hesitation in maintaining that but, luckily, rational mind is not all. It’s just a minuscule part in the totality of the instruments of knowledge which can become ours; perhaps in the largeness of such a context it is inconsequential also, to put it rhetorically just of some value worth an obol only. So let’s go for the majuscule. ~ RYD

Reply Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity--Adesh and History
by Vikas on Wed 20 Aug 2008 06:44 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

I admire your enthusiasm in "Certainly it should settle all matters!" It's as though you had just discovered Sri Aurobindo! Would to God every moment, our response to Him were imbued with such an enthusiasm! It is contagious and perhaps fulfils in some way part of the purpose for which we are present on this blog. In His letter mark that He writes "First of all, what matters in a spiritual man's life.." thereby referring to the life of all spiritual men and not His alone - which was not on the surface for men to see. On avatarhood, Peter's disinterest can perhaps be condoned - his ashram residency notwithstanding - given that

  • his Master was Himself reticent about it and even evaded the question.
  • Also his book is perhaps meant to appeal to the rationalist and bring home his Master's greatness.
  • There is another fact. Traditionally Avatarhood is understood to be an isolated miracle. To present and posit that point of view in today's Darwinian age would be somewhat of an anachronism. He would have to end up discussing the concept and possibility of Avatarhood.
  • Lastly a rationalist would take objection - justifiably - to your "If we...go by him...would amount to Her telling us lies"! Mother was (is) a collaborator and His equal so the reference is a biased one. The judge and jury is yours and case is settled and closed! That might smack of fundamentalism!

I remember having had a conversation with an ardent disciple of Yogananda. We talked about Avatarhood. He vehemently claimed Yogananda was THE ONE. I asked him to explain. Wasn't convincing. Finally he rested his case by saying " Yogananda clearly stated it himself and his(Yogananda) statement would be a lie if he wasn't God manifest upon earth".!

Avatarhood is one of the knottiest of metaphysical questions. Vivekananda till the end struggled with it. My understanding is that much of the Avatarhood stems from a disciple/devotee's faith in his Guru. Even the Guru's use the word "God" liberally and their enthusiastic disciples take the cue to declare the Guru's avatarhood. As a result we have many masquerading as the ONE, and others awaiting their turn!. All this while the real ONE lay low and did not declare Himself, perhaps even amused by all this!

Reply Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity--Adesh and History
by rakesh on Wed 20 Aug 2008 11:31 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link

vikas says: "To understand the significance of circumstances, actions, and events in the life of such a person must therefore necessarily require us to rise to the same consciousness or atleast grow towards it."

The reason why it has become so hard for us to understand suprarational issues is becuase of lack of this understanding. Instead of making efforts to grow higher we lose all the time in analysing what is wrong and pointing out to others mistakes. where is the time to fix our own misunderstandings and fixed opinions or grow into a new conciousness devoid of the ego?

The question we need to ask is in the limited consciousness we live in is: it possible to understand all yogic matters? Obviously the answer is NO. We have to grow into a new consiousness only then we may be able to understand things we could not fathom before. Why should we challenge everybody with our limited understanding living in limited consciousness as if it were the final? I have been wondering how people come to conclusions and pass final verdicts especially about spiritual matters? The rationalist cannot rest until he comes to some conclusion and seals the case as finished with his limited understanding. Maybe the quest for truth takes a lot of patience, labor into matters invisible and incomprehensive then coming to immediate conclusions to satisfy our ego. Reply

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This idea of interdependent, but separate halves of a social whole should be subjected to revision

IE + IT = ED? from The Memory Bank 3.0 by keith Is informal economy plus information technology a path towards economic democracy? What follows is frankly autobiographical. It is an attempt to excavate the intellectual and political connections between my early and later work in economic anthropology...

The historians of comparative jurisprudence emphasized the concrete particularity of the customary legal institutions they studied in medieval England or Victorian India. For all their imperialist vision, they refused to sacrifice detail for the sake of generalization. Modern ethnographers have likewise documented in immense detail the kinship institutions and religious practices of local groups in Africa and the Pacific.

This is no longer fashionable: anthropologists today are funded to study ethnicity, gender, AIDS and, of course, the informal economy. In my own research I focused on specific individuals and was obliged to study the contractual forms of their enterprises, their kinship ties and family organization, their friendship networks and voluntary associations, their religious affiliations, their relationship to criminal gangs and corrupt officials, their patronage systems and political ties.

Only later did I join the rush to generalize about the population explosion of Third World cities. The issue of criminal organization inside and outside the formal bureaucracy cannot be wished away. Formalizing the informal economy requires us to confront the cultural specificity of economic activities that cross the great divide. To sum up, using the fourfold categorization I developed above.

Division: Any attempt to divide an economy into complementary halves requires a massive cultural effort of both separation and integration. This idea of interdependent, but separate halves of a social whole is a powerful undercurrent in development discourse and should be subjected to revision.

Content: The idea of informality as the unspecified content of abstract forms favours leaving more to people’s imagination and accepting the legitimacy of most informal practices.

Negation: When the informal is illegal, the obvious response is to crack down on rule-breakers; but such moves are often merely cosmetic — the biggest offenders escape and the law is made to appear an ass. The number of legal offences could often profitably be reduced.

Residue: Finally, governments might adopt a genuinely hands-off approach towards semi-autonomous communities within their jurisdiction. If all of these modes of formal/informal linkage were considered, there might be some prospect of bureaucracy and the people entering a new partnership for development. 10:19 AM Workshop: ‘Clusters, Network Organization and the Informal Economy’, Bologna, 29-30th June 2006 in the series, Rethinking Economies. 10:29 AM

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I do see the unintended consequences of some of their actions as responsible for the religion of Pondicherry

Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity
by Rich on Wed 13 Aug 2008 07:23 PM PDT Profile Permanent Link Although my article was posted under another train there is some relevance to this conversation on Sri Aurobindo and the Future.

Earlier I referenced another article concerning speech versus writing. I did this because I find this to be related to some issues Deshpande brings up in his comments on Deb's piece. Specifically, I am speaking of similarities in the drawing up of differences between the visible and the invisible as well as the privileging of the invisible -in this instance occult action- over the visible “the text” that Sri Aurobindo has given us. This brings to mind both post-structuralist discourse and that of some Sanskrit Grammarians of 1500 years ago regarding the privileging of speech over writing and of presence over absence.

The privileging of presence , the origin, the spoken word, over the absence, the copy, the text was until Derrida the major metaphysical premise of Western philosophy. Metaphysical premise may be signaled by an “Event” but since all metaphysical premises can only be communicated through the binary structure of language - be it today, in 1961, or in 500 B.C.E – they are condemned to “differance”, aka the infinite curvature of the linguistic universe of endless difference and deferral.

In demonstrating the the binary nature of language and the subsequent co-dependent nature of phenomena that rise to our level of cognition, Derrida elucidates, how every thing we name acquires meaning only because it differs from, and defers to, yet other names. Simply stated to know “black”, one must also know “white”, to know “bad “one must also understand what it means to be “good”.

When one forgets the nature of language and makes the claim that the Action, Event or Presence they ground their metaphysics in, is “language independent” some real problems can follow, because of the implied contradiction that the metaphysical presence they proclaim is inextricably joined in a relationship to the “metaphysical absence” that it replaces.

Although this is in no way an exhaustive exploration of Derrida, what I wish to show is how he was able to undermine 2500 years of Western Philosophy that exalted the self-referential presence, the originating action or the transcendental signified a.k.a that godlike thing which refers only to itself.

When RYD writes: Such possibly should be viewed as the Avataric action. Such possibly is the connotation of the Mother’s declaration dated 14 February 1961: “What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” ~ RYD

We are again confronted with a transcendental signified, this one takes the form of the “decisive direct action of the Supreme”. This originating action is then privileged over Sri Aurobindo's writings, which -although they may contain traces of this originating action - are seemingly determined to be copies derived from the originating experience of presence; the decisive action!

Unfortunately, due to the nature of language, transcendental signifieds can only be asserted and not proven. In this instance the belief of Avataric (Incarnate) action taking up terrestrial burdens in an act of spiritual transformation has structural similarities with a host of other myths and legends given to us in the worlds spiritual traditions.

To believe in this action is itself an action. It is an act of faith. And while I may share that faith, faith by itself has proven a deficient instrument for tackling what is perhaps Sri Aurobindo's clearest articulation of the world problematique, when he says "all problems are problems of harmony".

Historically, faith has proven itself an unworthy vehicle for harmonizing the world's ten thousand divisions which unfortunately are facilitated in large part by acts of faith.

When one refers to an originating action inevitably certain dates in history are provided , be they in 1961, 1956, 1926 and specific days take on a sacred nature that allows them to be honored annually as a reminder of a sort of eternal return of the same. These become Holidays, Darshan Days, or whatever...

Inevitably then what becomes important is the historical record, the date such and such happened, the time an originating presence appeared on the scene. The date of the Event. One then looks back at the past to confirm the future it promises. With the study of a text however, things seem to me to be just reversed. Yes, the text was authored on such and such a day, but each time we encounter this text, it presents itself in a new way, perhaps this takes the form of a fresh revelation, an new exegesis, a peeling away of levels revealing something new to us in every reading or by simply jarring our attention back to those places it wishes us to attend. In this way every new reading becomes a "re-creation" or another occasion to immerse ourselves in the depth and heights it awakens in us.

When Debashish refers to Sri Aurobindo's writings as an emancipatory vehicle of the future (if I may paraphrase) I interpret this to mean that in working with a text, with a language we all share, that we can supplement every new reading with an experience, or a new revelation found. The supplementary nature of language was one reason Derrida came to privilege writing over speech.

This is why the title Deb gives his piece is so appropriate given his concern for the Master's writing; Sri Aurobindo and the Future. It seems to me that reading a text that enables us to consistently derive new meanings, one that enlarges our comprehension on the occasion of every fresh reading is a much more suitable vehicle for Sri Aurobindo's continued action in the Future, then merely the honoring of certain historical events that are only accessible to us through acts of faith.

Now regards my piece on ideology. The problems are similar to ones that have crept up in this conversation between the worship of history's originating actions -the forms of the past- or the honoring that Future (L'Avenir) that can be revealed through every new reading.

But lets also be clear nowhere do I “blame” Sri Aurobindo for his yoga becoming a religion!

To blame someone means that that person was intentionally responsible. I do not think that either Sri Aurobindo or Mother wanted to create a religion, however I do see the unintended consequences of some of their actions as responsible for the religion of Pondicherry.

It is my belief that when one heralds the coming of L'Avenir and the new forms of a promised future in which the guru is located in ones heart, it is a contradiction (not simply a paradox) to hold on to the forms and ceremonies of past ages that externalizes the Guru for adoration. It is this central contradiction between heralding a new future while holding on to the rituals and the forms of the past which however unintended, in my opinion is responsible for the religion associated with integral yoga. This may have been inevitable, but I am not to judge, however I do have an obligation they have inspired in me, to adapt the spiritual principles in their teaching to my experience of the present and whatever is beyond that.

Finally, the quotation I used was from Peter's text however, it is a story I have heard from others, including prominent Indians who grew up in the Ashram under Mother. r Reply

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sri Aurobindo came, and bore wounds difficult to heal, “attempted all and achieved all”

Re: Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity
by RY Deshpande on Sun 10 Aug 2008 07:26 AM PDT Profile Permanent Link

Debashish’s Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity is an excellent piece of work looking at the Master-Yogi more as a Master-Philosopher appealing to the rationalist of the western kind. He says that Sri Aurobindo gives us a framework of thought, as well as pragmatics of psychology, that carries us forward in becoming a better acceptable individual and a better organised collectivity. He also rightly takes care of the creative expression that has been propounded by the Master-Critic. These writings mark “a blueprint for a destiny which he announces as a life divine”.

But in order to get to this life divine, this life divine something else, something radically different from all these things has to happen. Sri Aurobindo not only does posit “Supermind as the ontological foundation of superman”; he “travels furthest from the western tradition of philosophy as speculative metaphysics and brings to its disciplinary formulations” the power of the spirit itself. That’s perfectly true. Yet there is also a tendency to contextualize his ‘philosophy’ within the history of western formulations. By doing so is seen his contribution towards the future of humanity unfolding its secret potential. But perhaps that sounds more a hard-core rationalist’s imposition on what lies beyond the restricted boundaries of the rationalist. That is not to say that rationalism has to be discarded; that is only to assert that, possibly, rationalism has a positive ability to outgrow itself. It is this aspect we generally tend to forget. There is a superior mode of logic, a superior mode of rationalism that makes existence meaningful. Indeed, there’s the Logic of the Infinite and it is that which should be incorporated in our curriculae. If this is accepted then there is really no need to justify, à la Milton, the ways of Sri Aurobindo to the rational man, man the reasoning creature who doesn’t seem to a reasonable creature. Any Miltonic attempt in this regard is going to prove Miltonically inadequate; not only that, but also frustrating.

Was Sri Aurobindo sent to align himself with the modes of Thought, Occidental or Oriental, Modern or Ancient, Transient or Perennial? Revelatory or Ratiocinative? We seem to be quite busy ‘reconciling’ Sri Aurobindo with the stiff traditionalist notions of ours, traditions belonging to the various schools, metaphysical or darshanic. It therefore comes as a great surprise to read something of a different kind in the context of what the Mother proclaimed categorically in her message dated 14 February 1961: “What Sri Aurobindo represents in the world’s history is not a teaching, not even a revelation; it is a decisive action direct from the Supreme.” What is meant by a direct action from the Supreme? “What was this decisive action and what does it mean for humanity’s future? This is the question left for us to fathom in our grappling with the future of humanity.” But how do we answer it?

“Of course, the scope of such a statement as the Mother’s opens the doors on the invisible occult action of Sri Aurobindo. To acknowledge such an action is a matter of faith, and perhaps faith is a critical component in orienting ourselves towards the future, but a more active aspect of such orientation needs to be an informed understanding of Sri Aurobindo’s contribution towards the future through his more visible expressions, particularly his writings. So what does Sri Aurobindo give us in his writings, that helps in orienting us towards the future? Sri Aurobindo provides us with a comprehensive map towards the future—diverse yet integral—every part of which is pregnant with the fullness of the whole, in keeping with the perfection of a self-existent and accomplished consciousness presaging the vision of human fulfillment.”

To see the direct action of the Supreme, we are told here to go by Sri Aurobindo’s “more visible expressions, particularly his writings.” Does it mean that he came to write those thirty volumes of the Birth Centenary? That will be an extraordinary way of reading the Mother’s revelation about the birth of Sri Aurobindo the Yogi par excellence. If we are not going to go by the “more visible expressions”, then we will be dubbed as credulous people who, at the best, go by faith—and there cannot be reconciliation between faith and reason. If we push this line of argument further, then we will be told that all those ‘followers’ who adhere to the Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo are ‘patronized’ by the founders of this Yoga, that it has become a despicable religion. But we must recognize that Sri Aurobindo’s writings are a byproduct of Sri Aurobindo’s birth, something that has happened functionally in the sequel of the direct action from the Supreme. It was certainly not to justify the ways of God to Man—which might come about incidentally.

But what is the direct action? in what context? It is of course to open “the doors on the invisible occult”. If we miss this cardinal fact then we altogether miss the meaning of Sri Aurobindo’s birth, the process and purpose of Avatarhood itself. Sri Aurobindo came, and bore wounds difficult to heal, “attempted all and achieved all”, not perhaps so much for man but more, and in every respect, for the Divine. Didn’t he say, “My Yoga is for the Divine”? He came here to do the Yoga of the Supreme himself. If we ignore this central truth of his birth then we fail to see his writings also, and then any attempt to juxtapose him with this or that thinker, or with this or that social philosophy, or with this or that formulation of ours becomes our happy pastime. And there are more serious things to do and our task lies in preparing ourselves to do them. We need not so much of Expositional Sri Aurobindo but more of Applied Sri Aurobindo. ~ RYD Reply

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Subservience of thinking to intuition and experience, both in the ground of theorizing and in the goal of validation

Sri Aurobindo and the Future of Humanity by Debashish on Fri 08 Aug 2008 07:36 PM PDT Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Permanent Link
SRI AUROBINDO AND THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY This article attempts to sketch out Sri Aurobindo's contribution to the future of humanity as carried in his major texts. In doing so, it also tries to underline the cross-cultural nature of these texts and the disciplinary redefinitions implicit in them.
Debashish Banerji

What is central to Sri Aurobindo’s vision of the future is the identity of the human being. Effecting a decisive revisioning of the Enlightenment’s definition of man as a rational being, he sets the agenda for the future: “Man is a transitional being." Man is not stable, a species definable by his existing faculties or empirically representable. The human is defined by his orientation towards the future and his power of self-creation. In saying this, Sri Aurobindo becomes aligned with the philosophy of existentialism and one can hear in him the echo of Nietzsche’s call for the self-exceeding of man into the superman. But Sri Aurobindo’s superman is not grounded in the hubris of human will. Though one may say that in Nietzsche too, the human will is only an aspect of the will-to-become intrinsic to reality, no ground of infinite plenitude or self-existent perfection supports, invites or responds to this will in Nietzsche’s case. In Sri Aurobindo, the power of human self-exceeding is an aspiration, individually co-creative with a spiritual power of Becoming, active everywhere in the universe and transcending it, that is responsible for the great hours of evolutionary change. This power of becoming carries the self-existent ranges of conscious Being, the living images of perfection proper to each rung of consciousness, which may manifest at every stage of earthly evolution, and which seeks for a fully conscious manifestation here. A double process of involution and evolution, and correspondingly, of pressure from above and expression from below, or of aspiration from below and descent from above propels the universal manifestation of consciousness on earth. At the level of the human this process becomes individually conscious and seeks an embodied fulfillment of its origin, the individualized ascent to the consciousness of the Idea which has become all this manifestation and the descent of this consciousness bringing its own perfect unity, freedom and creativity into the laws of the manifestation.

Here, one may say Sri Aurobindo seems to rub shoulders with Hegel and other philosophers of evolution who see Consciousness involved in earth and evolving through history. But this resemblance again is partial. Whereas the Hegelian Idea works out its inexorable syntheses using nature and humanity deterministically as instruments, with no occult process of the aspiration of Ignorance from below and the response of a self-existent Knowledge above or of the resistance of a conscious denial in the Ignorance, what one may call Falsehood, rendering the emergence of consciousness precarious, Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy of evolution uncovers the arduous agency of becoming in the Ignorance and particularly in the human individual. Moreover, the Hegelian Idea remains rational, a post-Enlightenment notion of consciousness reaching its full expression and its identity of being in collective human “understanding” and therein reaching the “end of history”; while for Sri Aurobindo, the Idea involved in the processes of history is what he terms the “Real-Idea” of Supermind, a faculty and operation of consciousness from which Mind is derived and whose properties of infinite freedom and wholeness mind aspires to but can never experientially comprehend, except through its self-transcendence.

It is in this positing of Supermind as the ontological foundation of superman, that Sri Aurobindo travels furthest from the western tradition of philosophy as speculative metaphysics, and brings to its disciplinary formulations a revisionary power rooted in the history of Indian thought – the subservience of thinking to intuition and experience, both in the ground of theorizing and in the goal of validation. Here we realize that even in his method of philosophizing, Sri Aurobindo sketches out a direction for the future of humanity – a trans-cultural thinking, which couples our boldest intuitions and their consequences to a power of realization through a discipline of experience. As mentioned above, this future-gazing redefinition of the scope of human identity as a dynamic self-creation, and redefinition of the role of thinking as wedded to such a notion of identity had already made its appearance in the western tradition through Nietzsche and following him, through a number of new fields of philosophy, such as phenomenology, the philosophy of experience, and ontology, the philosophy of being. But the fledgeling attempts to create new disciplinary boundaries by these fields and in a radical way, establish philosophy as an alternate or subjective science, had long been anticipated in the Indian tradition, where thought formulation of the being and becoming of man and the universe and their mutual relationship with a transcendental ground of consciousness (darshana) had always been an inseparable younger sibling of an applied psychology of experience (yoga), leading to ontological change.

If Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy can be contextualized within the history of western philosophy and shown to break new ground both conceptually and methodologically there, it is equally a native of the tradition of Indian darshana and makes an equally ground-breaking contribution there, which pertains principally to the future of humanity...

If Philosophy and Psychology can be thought of as the principal moulds in which Sri Aurobindo has presented his formulation of human identity and its scope and possibilities of self-transcendence, his vision of the future extends from this basis to the social forms and expressions required to give collective body to this process of self-exceeding. This vein of Sri Aurobindo’s thinking certainly needs further study, since in his works on social and political theory – viz. The Human Cycle and The Ideal of Human Unity - he proceeds to explore both the micro dimension of city states and autonomous communities and the macro dimensions of political governance, whether of nations or of continental and world unities of the future. Sri Aurobindo makes the distinction between constructed and administered unities such as empires and nation-states and the psychological unity of a people with a shared history and culture, which may develop an autonomous collective soul-personality, such as what he calls nation-soul. These organic unities are evolving trajectories of the world-soul in its movement towards a transcendental integrality. Today, such an idea as that of the “nation-soul” is likely to be viewed with suspicion due to the deep traumas of chauvinistic nationalism, racial or cultural imperialism, ethnic cleansing and the like which have continued to mark the modern era ever since the alarming advent of Nazi Germany. Sri Aurobindo anticipates such abuse of the idea in a masterful chapter titled “True and False Subjectivism” in The Human Cycle, pointing to the essential identity of all souls, whether individual or collective, the need to make a distinction between the group soul and the group ego and the principle of unity in diversity which he sees as the basis of the world evolution. Thus fraternal relationship, creative cultural dialog and syntheses and voluntary confederation are the desirable processes he sees between all levels of such unities leading to an organized world unity.

In today’s world, many of the ideas introduced in Sri Aurobindo’s early 20th c. social texts are in the making, highlighting the futurism of his vision. The economic interdependence of the world has spawned the vector of continental unity, the first example of which we see in the EEC. In his Ideal of Human Unity, Sri Aurobindo has a chapter titled ‘The United States of Europe’ which is prescient of just such a development. Moreover, the need for global intervention in peacekeeping, facilitated settlement of inter-national disputes and the protection of basic human, cultural and ecological properties and rights is stronger than ever, pointing to the imperative need for a stronger impartial world organ with true international representation, such as the United Nations.

Additionally, individual lives, metropolitan cities and intentional communities worldwide have been impacted by globalization and telecommunication to an extent where national belongings and boundaries have been rendered porous, and trans-national interactions and identities are in the making. Here, too, the danger of commercial co-optation and human conditioning in the name of globalization are pressing dangers against which Sri Aurobindo warns; and experiments in evolving collective consciousness, based on a strengthening and development of the inner life and its expressions, focus on sustainability, production primarily for satisfying community needs and a selective interface with the world market, open to innovations and idea currents facilitating inner needs, as with the ashram founded by Sri Aurobindo or the planetary city, Auroville, founded by Sri Aurobindo’s collaborator, the Mother are indicators of future possibilities for fostering the social conditions preparing the life divine.

Another area of human activity and expression where Sri Aurobindo has left his tracks towards the future is that of Poetry. In an age of technological dominance, when poetry is mostly thought of as an irrelevant and eccentric pastime or a “useless” luxury of the idle rich or at best an interesting curiosity practiced by the swiftly disappearing tribe of counter-cultural bohemians, Sri Aurobindo’s choice of poetry as a human activity to lavish his serious attention on may raise some eyebrows or worse, be indulgently ignored. But to do so is to ignore also the revaluation of culture implied in this choice. In Sri Aurobindo’s vision, no multiplication of external technological means, however powerful, and whether seen as the paradigm behind material products and devices or behind various forms of optimistic (or dangerous) human tinkering – genetic, economic, social, political or environmental engineering – can take the place of the growth and transformation of human consciousness as the fundamental lever of individual and social change towards the manifestation of an ideal future. If the applied psychology of yoga is the primary means for such change, the most basic self-representation of this evolving consciousness, whether as personal awareness or as social currency, is language. In the words of the modern German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (who follows in the wake of Nietzsche in redefining human identity and the role and mode of thinking), “Language is the house of Being.” By this he means that the language of a people affords access to the ground of their existence in a certain form. Even seen only as a social convention, language discloses and conceals Being. Infinite being appears only to the measure and in the shape given to it by language. But beyond social convention, language has mysterious powers, words and constructions may have connotational density, allusive turns, primordial sound values and rhythms relating them to universal movements of consciousness, suggestive metaphorical and archetypal imagery and revelatory intuitive messages. In ancient cultures, the magicians of language, the vates of Europe, the rishi of India, the shaman of Central Asia, mobilized these resources of language to bring to appearance and to subjective experience, states of being outside the pale of normal human experience. This is the archaic basis of poetry. Sri Aurobindo sees the development of a power of language adequate to one’s growth of consciousness as an instrumental necessity in the transformation of individual and social consciousness. All his writing is of this order and puts into practice powers of communication keyed to the awakening of the universal and transcendental identity that sleeps as the forgotten memory of the original Involution within all beings. Nolini Kanta Gupta, one of the earliest disciples of Sri Aurobindo, refers to his word as a “consciousness photon”, a unit of divine light which grants inner understanding. In the field of writing, Sri Aurobindo considers poetry to be a hyper-conscious use of language approximating the native power of spirit to communicate its own self-manifestation whether of things that exist or that are yet to be born. This is the mantra. Restricted to hieratic use by initiates in past traditions, Sri Aurobindo opens up the elements of this possibility as a general ideal of language use for the future. Sri Aurobindo theorizes this possibility in another cross-cultural text, The Future Poetry, which assimilates the history of English poetry through the selective filter of the elements of mantric utterance. Such an utterance is related, as mentioned, to a growth of consciousness into the higher ranges of universal mind, reaching up to the global spiritual consciousness of what Sri Aurobindo calls the Overmind. Sri Aurobindo, in his own poetry puts to practice this writing of the future poetry. Particularly, in his cosmic epic, Savitri, he attempts to materialize an Overmental power of mantric expression communicating experiences of an unthinkable height and potency through devices which go well beyond the present power of human analysis. To orient ourselves to these kinds of utterance, open to the inner experiences carried by them, learn to be sensitive to their differences in quality of consciousness, use them as means for contacting higher realms and develop our own instruments of speech and writing to embody them are the invitation Sri Aurobindo makes to us towards the development of an adequate individual and social medium of communication and experience for the future.

From all of the above, we see how Sri Aurobindo’s contribution to the future of humanity is all-encompassing, profound and horizon-extending. Sri Aurobindo redefines the human being as a future-oriented transitional being; he sets the goal of humanity as the highest achievement it is presently capable of setting for its future, the evolution into a new species of divine beings collectively manifesting a divine life on earth; he revises the scope of human disciplines of knowledge-seeking and expression to reflect such a future-orientation and aid in its realization; and he presents a wide and flexible blueprint for the achievement of such a future. Finally, Sri Aurobindo is himself the example in being, life and works of one who has “hew(n) the ways of Immortality” for such a future for humanity, and the continuing influence, help and power in the journey of humanity towards this superhuman future.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Christian roots of the west would be Asian

Dinesh D'Souza Reports. Bestselling author DINESH D’SOUZA’s latest book is What’s So Great About Christianity. read more
The Christian Roots of the West Posted Aug 7th 2008 12:46AM by Dinesh D'Souza Filed under: Christianity, History, Controversy, Atheism

What is the source of that liberty, equality and fraternity that are now the guiding principles of the West, if not the modern world?
Historians note the anomaly that these principles originated and developed only in Western civilization. In this sense, they are not universal. Of late, however, these principles are being exported to the rest of the world. One may say they are Western in origin but universal in their application.
But where do the principles come from? With the death of Heidegger and Sartre, Jurgen Habermas is now regarded as perhaps our leading living philosopher. Habermas is also an atheist. Yet when Habermas found out that the European Union in its charter gave full acknowledgement to ancient Greece and Rome, but none to Christianity, he erupted in learned outrage.
Habermas's argument is that it is philosophically illiterate to locate the roots of the West in Athens but not in Jerusalem. In fact, Habermas argues that Jerusalem--by which he means Judaism and Christianity--is far more responsible than Athens for the modern principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. In "A Time of Transition," Habermas writes:

For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.

Habermas's point is that there is too much arrogance in contemporary atheism. Even the atheist is standing on mountain erected by Christianity. How ungrateful it is to scorn the mountain that is still holding you up! How ridiculous the posture of the man who cannot acknowledge the very foundation that sustains him from below!
This is what Christians mean when they say that America is a Christian society. This is not a call for theocracy or "rule of the priests" but rather a call for a public acknowledgement of the historic role of Christianity in shaping our institutions, our values and our culture. The opinions of several leading Supreme Court justices on church-and-state issues would benefit greatly from a slight familiarity with the history that Habermas is talking about.

Habermas's argument would have struck a chord with the greatest atheist of modern times, the philosopher Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that if you want to get rid of the Christian God, at least have the honesty and the guts to repudiate the Christian ideals of human dignity, human equality and human liberty.
Yet our village atheists want to have it both ways. They want to reject God but preserve at least certain core aspects of the Christian legacy. Nietzsche would have had nothing but scorn for these little men of unbelief, Lilliputians hurling their tiny javelins at the Christian God while they continue to live off His inheritance. Permalink Linking Blogs Comments [133]

Reader Comments 1 2 3 4 5 Most Recent Next 15 Comments
1. DoubleD your post is as lame as modern miracles. Christian roots of the west would be asian (Middle Eastern). Would these core values of liberty, equality and fraternity exist if not for trhe force of arms that produced the Magna Carta, Martin Luthers stance of reforming the Catholic Church and breaking Romes monopoly on Christianity in Europe, the American Revolution that broke away from Britains monopoly on trade, Frances Revolution, the immigrants from the failed revolutions of central Europe. If anything, liberty, equality and fraternity were won with arms despite the recalcitrance of the church divinely giving these rights to man. You give too much credit to your church which was anti what you espouse. JefFlyingV at 1:17AM on Aug 7th 2008

2. Fairness requires us to acknowledge the role of Judeo-Christian beliefs in the history of Western thought. Now if we can just get D'Souza to acknowledge the Roman, Sumerian, etc. influences that helped shape Hebrew and Christian belief structures, some progress might be made. Skeptic at 1:25AM on Aug 7th 2008

3. Double if anything you are trying to convince us to open the eggs from the large side. Freedom of thought was not meant for the common man throughout the churches history. If anything the church is a late comer to espousing rights for humanity, granted the few Jesuits that arrived in Mexico shortly after the Aztecs were defeated by the Spaniards were humanitarians, but how long were they allowed to stay in the newly acquired empire of the New World? And How typical were these humanitarian Jesuits in influencing Rome? JefFlyingV at 1:33AM on Aug 7th 2008

4. No serious intellectual or scholar denies that the essence of "the West" is an amalgam of Graeco-Roman and Christian ideas. The only deniers are the little straw men that Dinesh D'Souza constructs to knock down so that he can then tout himself (ad nauseam) as the foremost defender of Christendom.However, just because Christian ideas are a key foundation of "the West" does not prove that Christianity is true, anymore than the fact that ancient Greek philosophy is another key foundation proves that the Greek gods are real. Logician at 1:38AM on Aug 7th 2008

6. must have been those christian greeks who came up with democracy and fraternity, zeus is just jesus written really sloppily right d'oucheza! dieter at 1:57AM on Aug 7th 2008

7. Personal liberty is NOT a christian invention. mac at 2:13AM on Aug 7th 2008

We are educated in ideology but we are born into doxa

Integral Ideology An Ideological Genealogy of Integral Theory and Practice Richard Carlson HOME Notes

[1] The classic definition of ideology is given by Louis Althusser, I'd like to emphasis the first definition.
Ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence
Ideology is omnipresent, trans-historical, and immutable in form: it is inescapable and inevitable.
Ideology has a material existence. That is, it has a material existence within an apparatus and its practices. An ideology reaches a material existence through the practice, ideas, and actions of individuals.
Ideology describes and makes possible systems and structures that allow us to have a self. They allow us to exist as subjects.
Ideology makes possible all practice.
[2] I refer to Pierre Bourdieu's ideas on how social fields are constituted. Bourdieu's believed that what he refers to as doxa differs from Althussers ideology in that whereas an individual is educated into the ideology of state apparatus, doxa permeates the cultural unconscious through language, symbols, experience, feelings, opinions, and norming behavior. "We are educated in ideology but we are born into doxa.” (Mendoza 2007),
[2a] Nomos: Bourdieu defines nomos as the fundamental organizing laws of experience that govern practices and knowledge within a field. (Munjal para 2)
[2b] Doxa: A society's, unquestioned beliefs, tacit assumption, from which self-evident truths are constructed which could otherwise be called opinions
“Habitus: The concept of habit or habitus is used by Bourdieu to refer to daily practices of individuals, groups, societies and nations. It includes the totality of learned habits, bodily skills, styles, tastes, and other non-discursive knowledges that are often 'taken for granted' for a specific group. He sees habitus as the key to social reproduction because it is central to generating and regulating the practices that make up social life. Habitus thus, helps to define both the place of the self, and by implication, of the other.
[3] I use the definition given to False Consciousness by Herbert Marcuse in his book One Dimensional Man. Marcuse, argues “that the ideology of advanced industrial society produces false needs, false consciousness and one-dimensional mass consciousness; outlines categories such as liberation, technology, culture and democracy as dialectical ones, dialectic of liberation: liberation from the existing, false society could be achieved because the material conditions have reached a level where an immediate jump into the realm of freedom would be possible, but ideological manipulations forestall radical social change” (Marcuse 1964)
[4] I use Derrida's definition of a transcendental signified; an external point of reference (God, Self, Metaphysical) upon which one may build a concept of philosophy. A "transcendental signified" is a signified which transcends all signifiers, and is a meaning which transcends all signs. A "transcendental signified" is also a signified concept or thought which transcends any single signifier, but which is implied by all determinations of meaning. (Derrida 1974),
[5] Ken Wilber often cites Habermas as an eminent philosopher who champions progressive values of the Enlightenment which he believes aligns with his own views on cultural evolution. But critiques of Habermas's work are numerous and well argued. Here is an excellent summary of critiques of Habermas which relate to themes examined here:
“Ironically, there are two modernistic yet sociological grounds that Habermas fails to incorporate or appreciate in his analysis: gender and racial inequality. We may ask: Is Habermas' theorizing built on a conception of the world in which, surreptitiously, essentialist characteristics (e.g., 'middle class' 'white' 'males') dominate? It is a fact that the entire 'project of modernity' and associated discourses of rationality and progress have historically sided with men over women (Stanley and Pateman, 1991). The enlightenment philosophizing was a language-based project that presumed women in an inferior position to that of men. Whilst Stanley and Pateman (1991) do acknowledge that Habermas' notion of emancipation is influential for feminists seeking a normative theory of consciousness and liberation, they reserve judgment on Habermas' theory of communicative action. They see it as gender blind, thereby perpetuating an enlightenment tradition of malestreaming mainstream analysis by reconstituting the project of modernity. On the other hand, feminist philosopher Selya Benhabib (1986) has found in Habermas certain valuable elements that can provide the basis for a wide-ranging normative critique of contemporary society Secondly, to compound the adverse androcentric effects of the 'project of modernity', one could raise the question of eurocentricism. According to Gilroy (1992) European culture was heterogeneous during and after the enlightenment. He claims social theory can no longer understand and interpret the project of the enlightenment without understanding the periphery: that is, the world beyond Europe. For example, the legacies of slavery, colonialism and imperialism must serve as a challenge to the over-ambitiousness of universalist hopes and aspirations for social life, including Habermas' own grand theory. The central tenets of the 'project of modernity' are the ideals of rationality and progress which Habermas (1981) attempts to formalize as practical achievements. Yet these ideals must be put into a darker context, a context expressed by James Joyce's remark that “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” As the predecessors at the Frankfurt school in 1949 saw, and as Adorno and Horkheimer and Zygmunt Bauman (1989) powerfully narrate, the Holocaust provides a devastating critique of enlightenment legacy and thought and highlights the danger of slipping into a barbarism anticipated by Nietzchean nightmares. For example, on one level, Hitler's regime in Germany merely refined and perfected 19th century techniques of social discipline. But, on yet another level, Hitler's regime was a deliberate throwback to an archaic 'society of blood', a society of savagery and a society with a lust for domination, control and power; a society which raises further disturbing questions about the enlightenment project. More recently, there have been periodic episodes of inhumanity which have ranged from genocide in Rwanda to 'ethnic cleansing' in the former states of Yugoslavia. A spectacular recent example might be the terrorist events of September 11 and their aftermath in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Recent history suggests that it is difficult to implement Habermas' (1984) universalized narratives of communicative action in a world with so many differences between states, cultures and ideologies. It seems it is difficult to provide a modern solution to characteristically postmodern problems: for example, diversity of fundamentalist beliefs and consequent actions based on impassioned beliefs. Inspired by the dreams of reason, the ideal of communicative action is a slender reed with which to overcome the powerful forces of dehumanization increasingly evident all around us.(Powell and Moody 2003)”
[6] The current view in Biology which relates development of the genotype to evolution of phenotype is Evo-Devo, an excellent overview of Evo-Devo is found in an article and book review written by Israel Rosenfield and Edward Ziff.
“Surprising discoveries in the 1980s have begun to tell us how an embryo develops into a mature animal, and these discoveries have radically altered our views of evolution and of the relation of human beings to all other animals. The new field of study in which these breakthroughs have been made is called Evo Devo, short for evolution and development, "development" referring to both how an embryo grows and how the newborn infant matures into an adult... In 1894, the English biologist William Bateson challenged Darwin's view that evolution was gradual. He published Materials for the Study of Variation, a catalog of abnormalities he had observed in insects and animals in which one body part was replaced with another. He described, for example, a mutant fly with a leg instead of an antenna on its head, and mutant frogs and humans with extra vertebrae. The abnormalities Bateson discovered resisted explanation for much of the twentieth century. But in the late 1970s, studies by Edward Lewis at the California Institute of Technology, Christiana Nüsslein-Vollhard and Eric Wieschaus in Germany, and others began to reveal that the abnormalities were caused by mutations of a special set of genes in fruit fly embryos that controlled development of the fly's body and the distribution of its attached appendages. Very similar genes, exercising similar controls, were subsequently found in nematodes, flies, fish, mice, and human beings. What they and others discovered were genes that regulate the development of the embryo and exert control over other genes by mechanisms analogous to that of the repressor molecule studied by Monod and Jacob. Eight of these controlling genes, called Hox genes, are found in virtually all animals—worms, mice, and human beings—and they have existed for more than half a billion years. Fruit flies and worms have only one set of eight Hox genes; fish and mammals (including mice, elephants, and humans) have four sets. Each set of Hox genes in fish and mammals is remarkably similar to the eight Hox genes found in fruit flies and worms. This discovery showed that very similar genes control both embryological and later development in virtually all insects and animals... While Carroll argues—a claim that is at the heart of Evo Devo—that embryological development gives us the deepest clues to the mechanisms of evolution, Kirschner and Gerhart move beyond embryology to show that metabolic and physiological processes are also critical to evolutionary change. Their approach, which they call the theory of "facilitated variation," attempts to show how the regulation of genes inside the embryo, as described by Carroll, is part of a larger set of processes that allow organisms to experiment with evolution in a tightly controlled way. According to this theory, the mutations, or variations, needed to drive evolutionary change can occur with little disruption either to the basic organization of an organism or to the core processes that make its cells function.” (Rosenfield Ziff 2006)
[7] Wilber adopts the holon as his central building block of evolution a term he adopted from Arthur Koestler. What follows is a short selection from an exhaustive list that Koestler gives in The Ghost in the Machine:
“Organisms and societies are multi-leveled hierarchies of semi-autonomous sub-wholes branching into sub-wholes into sub-wholes of a lower order, and so on. The term holon has been introduced to refer to these intermediary entities which, relative to their subordinates in the hierarchy functions as self-contained wholes; relative to their superordinates as dependent parts Hierarchies are dissectible into their constituent branches on which holons forms their nodes The number of levels which a hierarchy comprises is called its depth and the number of holons its span. Holons are governed by fixed sets of rules and display more or less flexible strategies. The rules and conduct of a social holon are not reducible to the rules of conduct of its member. Consciousness appears as an emergent quality in phylogeny and ontogeny, which, from primitive beginnings, evolves towards more complex and precise states. It is the highest manifestation of the integrative tendency to extract order out of disorder and information out of noise Phylogeny and ontogeny are developmental hierarchies in which the tree branches along the axis of time the different levels represent different stages of development and the holons reflect intermediate structures." (Koestler 1967)
Born in Budapest Koestler who is not associated with Integral Theory other than his holon citation, was a resistance fighter against Franco in Spain and was to be executed in prison except for intervention of the British Foreign Service. His profoundly anti-communist novel Darkness at Noon of 1941 won him the Nobel prize. His primary interest however, seems to be in the paranormal and he founded an Institute for Paranormal Research, whose endowment after his death by suicide went to Edinburgh University.
His trilogy of the History of Science is a gem, because his approach is not of an academic, but of one of the worlds great storytellers. However, his concluding Utopian vision in his final book of the trilogy, The Act of Creation, which envisages that the “new society” could all begin by pouring some LSD like substance into drinking water, first in the Cantons of Switzerland and then gradually in other places until the whole world is turned on to the new consciousness is disappointing, as it is reductive.
Recently it has come to light that in addition to being a Nobel prize winning author Koestler was something of a serial rapist as well (Barwick1998) Unfortunately, misogyny and insanity have been all too often associated with philosophy and theory. This was the case with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.
Both men contribute to Integral Theory, Schopenhauer was the first Western philosopher to systematically incorporate Indian philosophy into European theory. His theory of the will became the will to power of Nietzsche 's Overman, which to varying degrees is the historical predecessor of both Sri Aurobindo' Superman and Wilber's 2^nd tiered man. (The first reference in literature however, to trans-personal or super-humanity was Dante in Paradiso who refers to Beatrice as "transhumana")
Another examples of philosophical insanity is Louis Althusser who murdered his wife during a time while he was undergoing psycho-analysis with Jacques Lacan.
[8] Although I have not found specific critiques akin to this one, of the soundness of integrating Recapitulation theories into Integral Theory itself, Steven Taylor critiques the accuracy of the parallels Wilber draws between individual development and species evolution. "Primal Spirituality and the onto/phylo fallacy"
[9] Purser continues with a quote from Gebser who viewed the deficient function of spatiality in the mental mutation as:
“The over-emphasis on space and spatiality that increases with every century since 1500 is at once the greatness as well as the weakness of perspectival man. His over-emphasis on "objectivitely" external, a consequence of an excessively visual orientation, leads not only to rationalization and haptification but to an unavoidable hypertrophy of the "I," which is in confrontation with the external world. …what we may call an ego-hypertrophy: the "I" must be increasingly emphasized, indeed over-emphasized in order for it to be adequate the ever-expanding discovery of space" (Gebser, 1984, p.22).
“The new structure of consciousness to which we are transitioning demands new means, new processes, and new methods. It should be repeated that this ushering in of the new in no way indicates or dictates a discarding of what has come before, far from it. We must keep in mind that it is the activity and presence of the past that distinguishes Gebser's approach from others. Supercession does not mean invalidating; replacement in this context intimates an intensification rather than a nullification. Nevertheless, the inevitability of this transition should be recognized as well. This particular term best illustrates this new way of understanding. Eteology is then a new form of statement.” (Mahood Jr para 39)
“What is necessary today to turn the tide of our situation are not new philosophemes like the phenomenological, ontological, or existential, but eteologemes. Eteology must replace philosophy just as philosophy once replaced the myths..... Eteology, then, is neither a mere ontology, that is, theory of being, nor is it a theory of existence. The dualistic question of being versus non-being which is commensurate only with the mental structure is superseded by eteology, together with the secularized question as to being, whose content—or more exactly whose vacuity—is nothing more than existence." (Gebser 1984 p361, 362)
Another important term in Gebser is Synairesis. Synairesis fullfils the aperspectival integrative perception of systasis and system. The synairectic perception is a precondition of diaphany:
“Synairetic perception, or "verition," occurs on the basis of the integration of archaic presentiment, magical attunement (or what Gebser calls "symbiosis"), mythical symbolization, and mental-rational systematization in the integrative act of arational systasis. Here it is important to remember that all structures are co-present (and co-active) in us and hence need not be invoked through historical imagination.[“26] (Feurstein in Mahood Jr) 7:37 AM

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Human beings know that their origin lies in the intersection of two paths, in the lucky coincidence of sperm and egg

Home · Your account · Current issue · Archives · Subscriptions · Calendar · Classifieds · Newsletters · Gallery · NYR Books Volume 41, Number 18 · November 3, 1994
Vico for Now By Stuart Hampshire
G.B. Vico: The Making of an Anti-Modern by Mark Lilla
Harvard University Press, 255 pp., $39.95 Is not this mumbo-jumbo irrelevant to the objective study of the past?
I think such an objection underrates the power and the utility of the notion of providence, or of some notion very close to it, in most historical writing, from Burke and Michelet onward, even when the associated Christian doctrine is missing.
Vico confronted a problem about understanding the human past that is perennial and that is certainly not confined to Christian believers, even if the story of the Fall and of the Tower of Babel is the most striking dramatization of the problem. Can there be an intelligible history of mankind as a whole apart from a biologist's story of the evolution of a particular species? Is the history of mankind just a jumble of separate histories? Can we attach sense to "the great City of the human race"? Or are the dispersed cities that exist necessarily dispersed culturally and morally, with their different customs, family structures, arts and literatures? Is moral relativism—autre temps, autres moeurs—the final truth?
Is there an intelligible pattern of social development which can be discerned in diverse cities and cultures, even though they can be seen to be at different stages of development? If there is no such common thread running through the separate histories and literatures of all the nations, how do we acquire the insight that is required if we are now to understand cultures that have perished, together with their languages and their ways of thought? How can we be sure that we have not fallen into the trap of anachronism, interpreting the customs and the literature of the classical or primitive past in terms that are authentically applicable only to the present? But it is a fact that we do enter imaginatively into the harsh reality of the Iliad and its disastrous heroes, and we can remake in our minds that war which was on the surface so unlike our wars and yet has become intensely familiar to many generations who seem to have remembered it almost as part of their own history.
Again, how can we now understand Roman law except as a system of abstract propositions if we have no concrete and first-hand experience of the ways of life of those who administered the law and of those who suffered from it? If we cannot reconstruct the distinctive tones of voice which citizens used when talking to their household slaves, can we ever know whether Latin comedies give a true account of the master-slave relation?
Vico had an answer to these questions, an answer that came to him as part of a general theory of how language is acquired and also from brooding on the special case of Homer, the font and exemplar of poetic invention and of Greek self-consciousness. The stages in the development of mankind as a whole replicate, as macrocosm to microcosm, the stages in the development of a person, from an imaginative and inventive childhood driven forward by free fantasies and strong emotions, which is succeeded by a tired, selfcritical, and prosaic middle age, and leading on to the disorders of senility. Then in social history the whole cyclical process starts off again in the corso and recorso of particular cultures and literatures, which exhibit a universal rhythm of poetical beginnings declining into dry, intellectual, and philosophical prose. It is of the nature of culture that every culture should recapture its own distinguishing past and should play past themes over again, as in Europe with classical revivals, ever recurring, or with Gothic revivals, with the opposing tendency. For Vico any culture is always a recapitulation. This is the corso and recorso of collective self-consciousness, driven to reflect on its own history and to parody its own literature, on the downward path, first, to a silver age and then to a final break-up in skepticism, leading finally to violence.
Imagination, for Vico, is memory set free of any conscious purpose, and we can all return ourselves to the fantastic fictions and to the poetry of childhood, unless we are frozen by the cautions of our intellect. So we can enter into the poetry of the early pagan world before the rise of Christian monotheism, when the gods were still proudly local gods and did not point in unison toward a common path to moral redemption.
Ancient history stresses a contrast between Rome as the ecumenical state and civilization, and, specifically, between Roman law, which was an attempt to unify mankind within a single language of government, and the essential divisiveness of Greek civilization, at least in the classical age of the city states and of Periclean Athens. Providence imposing its universal pattern of development is, as Professor Lilla shows, Vico's idea of the unity of mankind, replacing the scholastic idea of mankind as unified by the rationality of natural law, which commends itself to the intellect of all men everywhere, however separated they may be in their customs and traditions.
The New Science asks us to forget the myth of reason as a binding, unifying force, which was the error Plato and Descartes made, and to remember both that human beings grow and that they grow in a uniform way; and so must mankind, conceived as a totality, also grow uniformly. Our humanity consists in the uniformity of pattern in our movement from the fantasies of childhood to the adult dominion of specific customs and specific traditions. The universality does not reside in the particular content of the customs and traditions, but only in the order of their formation, which is truly universal. Everywhere language is first formed by ritual observances and poetic similes and metaphors, and everywhere myth and fantasy must precede and shape the philosophy and science that come later. The order of development under providence is immutable.
Reflecting in The New Science on the possibilities and privileges of historical knowledge, in contrast with those of the natural sciences, Vico tried to reconcile two apparently incompatible features of our past and of our relation to our past: first, that cultures and languages are incurably diverse, each limited by their distinguishing customs and traditions and not capable of mutual understanding: secondly, that all the gentile nations participate in a single and providential march of mind and they can each learn to recognize how far they have gone in this march, too far toward decadence, for instance, or not far enough for maturity. Providence, Vico argued, has supplied us with this key to the interpretation of our own history in Europe and to the interpretation of the ancient world.
Vico's philosophy was to offer a saving self-consciousness. Given this reconciliation of the unity and the diversity of mankind, we have an answer ready for the skeptics and relativists who deny any validity and lasting value to the particular notions of justice and morality that happen to prevail at one particular time. The particular notions have their assigned place in the pattern, and this order of things is God's design. Any particular notion of justice is contingent upon its historical setting, but the appropriate setting is still underwritten by God's providence. It is as if God created the framework and the imagination of men filled in the different languages and institutions that composed the different nations.
The interest of Professor Lilla's exposition is that it forces the reader to consider seriously whether Vico's philosophy of history can possibly make sense without its theological underpinning. So many commentators seem simply to have assumed that it could, and that Vico's providence could be an active force in history even though it has not identified itself as God's providence. The stages of development through which human societies must pass in their separate histories, as projected by Marx and Comte, are secularized versions of a providential pattern. Their theories claim that humanity has a common destiny and is subject to a single law of development, and, secondly, that humanity's divisions and conflicts will be redeemed in the final stage. This implicitly Christian doctrine of the Fall, alienation and redemption through historical consciousness, is even more evident in the philosophy of Hegel. But if there is not one God, the great Artificer at work, and if there was no Fall to start the process of gentile history, why should not each of the gentile nations in its pride trace its history back only to its own tutelary God or legendary founder, as in pagan times? Without the providential vision of a single creator, could there possibly be Vico's single ideal history, for mankind as a whole?
Vico thought that the only coherent alternative to providence in history was the operation of chance, as proposed by the Epicureans. As atoms, each following their own path, randomly swerve and collide, forming new units, so nations and peoples chance to come into conflict with each other and so form new national units, which in their turn carry on a story that has no predestined ending and no overall shape or pattern.
The word "modern" in Professor Lilla's subtitle refers to some such skeptical philosophy, a philosophy which denies that any single consistent set of values could be ordained by God and could always override all the indefinitely many other interests that human beings happen to have. For the skeptical mind, the Babel of languages and scattered cultures is not to be reduced to one stable pattern of development. Following Nietzsche, but with different arguments, "modern" skeptics may claim that division and conflict are the natural state of things both within societies and between societies, and that division and conflict are also the natural state of things within the minds of individuals whose desires and interests are never harmonious and consistent, and where chance and coincidence always play a part.
Human beings know that their origin lies in the intersection of two paths, in the lucky coincidence of sperm and egg; and when, in a romantic mood, they revere individual genius, they also revere chance. If we are not to be reassured by the workings of divine providence, we may as well celebrate the accident of our birthdays and of the birth of a language and of a nation. Professor Lilla's book helps one to see more clearly the link between Christian monotheism and the philosophies of history which imagine a path toward a final harmony for all humanity. His book has a thorough and discriminating bibliography of Vico studies and a brilliant introduction. It is concise, well written, and altogether admirable.