Thursday, January 22, 2009

The ultimate principle or ground to which objects must conform is undecidable

Time was when Critical Philosophy was queen of the philosophical sciences. But in the two hundred years since the inauguration of transcendental thought we have witnessed nothing but endless disputes.
  • One camp announces that the mind conforms to objects rather than objects to mind, thereby declaring mind the ultimate principle of transcendental philosophy.
  • Another camp declares that objects and minds conform to language rather than language to objects.
  • Yet another camp declares that objects and minds conform to history rather than history to objects and minds.
  • Yet another camp declares that objects conform to Dasein, or the body, or power, technology, writing, or language games.

Between all these rival camps we discover that the ultimate principle or ground to which objects must conform is undecidable. For each of these camps is able to declare that it has discovered the nearest of the near and that which must therefore function as the regulative ground for our access to all else.

Given the utter failure of Critical Philosophy as evinced by its endless and irresolvable disputes, let us see whether we do proceed further in the thorny and obscure domain of metaphysics by beginning with the ultimate transcendental principle upon which all of these other principles are necessarily dependent. [...]

What must above all be shown is how the failure of self-reflexivity in the elevation of other critical principles suffering from an objectification that clothes or disguises this most airy of principles to pride of place generates a series of irresolvable paralogisms and antinomies that perpetually haunt reason, preventing the end of all dispute once and all, thereby initiating the march of knowledge and emancipation at last. Not only this, but with oxygen we discover a principle that at last resolves the vexed antinomies of the subject and the object, for air is at once both material and spiritual, as can be discerned in its status as both elemental and breath.
As such, we must first proceed with a deconstruktion of all history hitherto, demonstrating the paradoxically silent functioning of the principle that outstrips all principles, the principle that perpetually evades and precedes all objects and subjects while nonetheless and simultaneously, yet under erasure, only following from objects and subjects, illustrating how air is both the condition of possibility and impossibility for all other beings. Only then will we at last accomplish the End of philosophy and the beginning of thinking, ushering in, if I may put it like this, a breath of fresh air.
The real target of this little satire is not so much Kant as the critical/dogmatic divide. We are told that one approach to philosophy is critical while another is pre-critical dogmatism. The curious thing is that nearly anything can be treated as the ultimate condition or the fundamental condition required for a philosophy to count as critical.
  • Thus you get the Kantians talking about the constitutive role that mind plays, such that any philosophy that does not take this role into account is dogmatic.
  • The Gadamerians and Foucaultians respond by making history the constitutive condition, denouncing the Kantians as dogmatically ignoring our fundamental historicity.
  • The Kantian retorts that history wouldn’t be possible without these constitutive structures of mind.
  • The Marxist Critical Theorist intervenes by showing how the Kantian categories are actually generated from economics.
  • Derrida leaps in showing how all these folks are wrong because the role that Arche-Writing plays has not been taken into account.

Every one of these positions is able to one-up and explain the other position in terms of what it has located as the transcendental, and every position being denounced as dogmatic is able, in its own turn, to respond by showing how the allegedly critique is in fact dogmatic by the lights of its own critical structure.

  • For example, the Husserlian denounces the Marxist for failing to carry out the reduction and engage in a phenomenological analysis of intentionality,
  • while the Marxist turns around and denounces the Husserlian for failing to carry out a historical and economic investigation into the origins of his very conception of the world (i.e., the Marxist denounces the Husserlian for bourgeois individualism).

Everything we think might be mistaken
Great Moments in the Classroom from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

Students shuffling out of the classroom after a discussion of Platonic realism and the possibility of transcendent, objective values independent of culture, history, and individual determination.

  • STUDENT: “This class is impossible.”
  • ME (Alarmed): “Why?”
  • STUDENT: “We come in here thinking we understand the world and now we discover that everything we think might be mistaken.”


Husserl begins with an obvious thesis – “look at the things themselves!” – yet in executing this project he unsettles our assumptions about what it is to experience the world and objects, opening a vast domain that continues to challenge central assumptions in cognitive science, psychology, the social sciences, etc. 5:27 AM 2:25 PM

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