Sunday, February 22, 2009

Reducing a knowledge claim to an epistemological framework seems fine to me

One Response to “Analogies Elucidating Correlationism Alexei Says: February 22, 2009 at 1:19 am Hi Levi
In fact, within a Kantian correlationist framework this is not what is said at all. In fact, were Alexei correct, then it would spell the ruin of the entire second half of the first Critique. Here Alexei is trading on an ambiguity in the term “experience”. Within a Kantian framework, experience has a very precise meaning. Kant’s claim is that experience consists of the synthesis of concepts and intuitions organized by reason

See, in my view, this gets Kant totally, unhelpfully backward. Your reading implies that the order of explanation in Kant’s work runs like this: there’s first a subject, and then there’s the application of a transcendental framework to something, and then there’s an empirical experience. But that makes the transcendental subject — which is ideal (i.e. only explanatory), along with the transcendental object — into a metaphysically real one (That would be Fichte). It’s only if you ontologize Kant that you can assert the things you do. But Kant is no metaphysician. With respect to Kant, that’s totally backward.

In fact, I think you fail to see Kant’s work as metatheoretical — he accepts the universality of al the sciences, and simply wants to delineate philosophy’s contributions to it; he’s a handmaid to science, as the positivists would say — and hence seem to conflate yourself the actual order of explanation in his work.

Take, for instance, your remark concerning concepts and inuitions, Without going into the details, the relationship between intuitions and concepts is far from straightforward (and no interpreter is particularly happy with Kant’s remarks about it); the consensus, however, is that intuitions are ‘proleptic concepts’ — that is, the synthetic unity of intuitions and concepts in a judgment isn’t structurally different than the synthetic unity of phenomena themselves (That’s why Kant distinguishes between intuition, appearance and phenomena). You can’t talk about intuition independently of concepts, or concepts independently of intuitions precisely because their ‘fitness’ is derived from phenomena (and not, as you keep saying, applied to them).

Nor am I trading on any ambiguity of the word ‘experience.’ If anything, I think the fact that Kant distinguishes between empirical and transcendental forms of experiences (i.e. the various forms of a posteriori experience verses a priori) is quite in line with what I’ve said. Moreover, Kant just happens to have a rather stratified sense of experience, and I don’t think you’re doing it justice.

All this said, we can disagree over how to read Kant. That’s fine. But, for the sake of clarity, maybe we should mark this feature. For at least here, a fair bit seems to depend on the interpretation. If I, for instance, reject your interpretation of Kant, which I do, everything following ceases to have any bite. Insofar as it follows from the Kant-example, it too is false. However that may be, I don’t actually think it actually answers my intial question. Assuming that thee’s a difference between the epsitemic and the epistemological, how does that effect your claims concerning the epistemic fallacy (for surely reducing ontology to a knowledge claim doesn’t sound right; but reducing a knowledge claim to an epistemological framework seems fine to me)

So, if an epistemic fallacy = the reduction of ontological questions to epistemological ones, then how could Kant be guilty of it? If he reduces empirical experience to the conditions of possible experience — i.e. he reduces epistemic claims to epistemological ones, leaving ontology totally undetermined, how does he reduce ontology to epistemology. I’m not saying there’s no such thing as an epistemic fallacy. I’m just not sure anyone has ever committed it (save for the logical Positivists). [...]

I acknowledge, for instance, that there may be a difference between an object and the effect of an object. My point was simply that an intuitiable effect is a sufficient condition for claiming that a cause exists. Moreover, given enough intuitable data, we can in fact characterize an unintuitable object. Now, to draw the conclusion: the only way to (responsibly) discuss an object is via what is intuitable. Otherwise, I might as well start invoking the 108 gods of voodoo every time I want to do ontology.

Responses to “Brassier’s Meets an Ethnographer jerry the anthropologist Says: February 21, 2009 at 9:57 pm

I would agree that on its face Husserl’s quote is nonsense, that is until we take Husserl (my variable or term for phenomenology as it enters psychology and anthropology where I assure you it has been helpful because knowledge, even false knowledge, has conditions as well) to be talking about the conditions of knowing and Nature as myth; I’ve not read alot of Husserl and I’m not a philosopher, so nothing in my argument depends upon extensive exegesis of Husserl as such or in the problems facing western (continental?)philosophy as such.

I’m not claiming thta there isn’t more in heaven and earth than is encompassed in my philosophy (if I even engage in philosophy), but in my discipline and those related to it we have had to try to take the circumstances of the thinker (human or otherwise, individually and collective) rather more seriously that Bashkar appears to me to do. Indeed I seem to think (ah, Bali and the distinction between niskala and sekal which I mentioned in an earlier comment) that any time a thinker arises so will correlationsism as a phenom,enological event, if I understand you correctly. As to the last point you make

(1) all thinkers find themselves at the center in that they have points of view from which they look out even if they are not at some mystical center, but please unless one wants to enter into lengthy attempts to understand centuries of Asian capitalism spare me getting over this myth of subjective interiority as Bhaskar puts it as a way of getting over capitalism

(2) any trauma depends, it seems to me, upon some notion of special creation (and yes you and I live at the buckle of the Bible Belt where such notions are prevalent) but this (special creation) is not a universally human form of common sense, so

(3) any comment about a policing mechanism refers to a provincial event, meaning of a time and place and not of the human condition (whatever the fullness of that may be) or the structure of ordinary lived experience (whatever the fullness of that may be) more generally.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ontology matters

Badiou, Extension, and Networks from Larval Subjects . by larvalsubjects

Structuralism has been valuable in drawing our attention to the importance of relations. However, the cardinal sin of structuralist thought– and these assumptions still remain pervasive today –lies in its tendency to, as Bateson would put it, confuse the map with the territory. That is, the structuralist makes a map of relations among nodes in a network, but then treats this map as if it were itself a real and abiding thing such that these relations are abiding and eternal. The entities inhabiting the network then get treated as epiphenomena of this map of relations, such that it is the structure that is real and the entities populating the network that are illusions. This is a specifically Platonic tendency within structuralist thought.
In ontologizing structure in this way, the dynamics of structure through which structure is both produced and reproduced in time. In short, what is missed is the manner in which nodes in a network must be related. That is, the links among elements of a network must be forged for the network to function. Part of the great value of structuralism has been to draw our attention to the manner in which there are emergent properties of networks that exceed the intentions of any of those participating in the network (for example, patterns of wealth distribution). However, by ignoring the dynamics of networks and the fact that they have to be built, structuralists have drawn the wrong conclusion. Thus, for example, Althusser drew the conclusion that humanism must be mistaken as these networks function anonymously and not according to the intentions of those participating in the structure. The individual person thus becomes, under this reading, a sort of illusion and nothing more than its place in the social structure.

Althusser, however, is wrong on both counts. On the one hand, insofar as entities are prior to their relations, they are not simply illusions (though their effect might be negligible from the standpoint of the functioning of the network). Moreover, without the interactions among these individuals, the network could not exist at all. Thus, while a network cannot be reduced to the action of these individuals, it also can’t exist without the actions of these individuals forging links, making decision, becoming hubs, and therefore attracting more relations that then come to preside over the future course of the networks development. This last point is especially important. One thing network research has discovered is that those nodes in a network that possess more relations to other nodes within a network also attract more relations as the network evolves and develops. For example, wealth tends to attract more wealth such that it comes to be localized in one segment of the population. Thus, during the early stages of network development, the relations that can be forged among entities are relatively open. But, networks are defined by times arrow such that the forging of relations introduces elements of accretion that limit the direction in which the network can develop in the future.
From the standpoint of political theory, this simple observation is of tremendous importance. First, it underlines a point of strategy for targeting oppressive social systems in that a network will be weakest at those points where relations to a particular node or set of nodes are most extensive. Take out that node and the rest begins to fall (as we have learned from the California power outages). Second, it also underlines the importance of developing group relations in engaging a network and changing it. In other words, it is of vital importance to generate networked relations that will attract more relations to other nodes if the overall evolution or development of a network is to be affected in a significant way. This shows, for example, why forms of political theory written in such a way to interrupt discourse and communication so as to fight the metaphysico-politico structure in language itself are so misguided. By adopting this rhetorical strategy they limit the ability for links among nodes to be formed, thereby preventing the accumulation of relations within networks that are the best chance for shifting the organization of the network as a whole.

On the other hand, if Althusser’s anti-humanism is mistaken it is because it treats the individual within a structure or network as a sort of illusion or effect of the structure. Althusser’s point is well taken. There are emergent properties of networks that can’t be reduced to the intentions of the individuals caught like a fly within these networks. However, this is very different than the conclusion that the individual is nothing but an effect of its place within a network. First, individuals are prior to their relations, and as such cannot be reduced to their relations. Indeed, in the world nothing ever functions as smoothly as our maps of networks suggest (Bourdieu analyzed this point to great effect in his critique of structuralist models of kinship relations in The Logic of Practice). Second, individuals move among different networks that are discontinuous to one another, thereby indicating that they are irreducible to their relations. This does not mean that the ongoing relations among elements in a network don’t play a tremendous constraining role on individuals participating (whether or not they know it) in a network; but to point this out is different than claiming that the individual is its place in a network.

Modernity with due role of reason is hallmark of Islam from the beginning

Modernity, Its Discontent And Religion
Written by Asghar Ali Engineer · February 20, 2009 · 26 views. Institute of Islamic Studies, Mumbai. E-mail:

Reason is a two edged sword without values and this is what happened with modernity when powerful vested interests, mainly capitalists hijacked modernity for their own purposes. Modern weapons and modern technology developed by the western countries were used for enslaving Afro-Asian countries and these countries were reduced to mere sources of raw materials and markets.
Reason could be used for promoting science, technology and deeper understanding of universe but also for developing disastrous weapons which cause great destruction. Humanity saw this destruction in the two World Wars. But it was reason again which developed pure science and we could understand infinite vastness of our universe and how it evolved and our extremely limited understanding of our universe changed. Qur’an says it is the ‘Ulama i.e. those who know, those who are scientists, who deeply reflect on the creation of Allah who can really worship Him.
But problem is rationalists disregard importance of faith and values and begin to worship reason. They do not appreciate limits of reason. This attitude developed among rationalists as reason was totally disregarded and devalued in traditional societies and those who accepted reason and challenged superstitions or traditional authority were severely persecuted.
Also, unscrupulous elements had exploited faith for their own benefits, rationalists came to reject faith as blind and irrational. Thus as modernity solely relied on reason and ridiculed faith, traditionalists totally elide on faith in the traditional authority and rejected reason. Thus both rationalists and faithful became exclusive categories. There was no meeting point. Thus faithful became blind and derided reason and rationalists dubbed faith as blind.

This mutual exclusivity caused much greater problems. Sole reliance on reason can give birth to discontents as sole reliance on faith. We find interesting debate in Islamic history between Imam Ghazzali and Ibn Rushd (known as Averros to the western world). Ghazzali was also a rationalist at one time. He even became atheist at one stage of his development. However, he soon discovered reason does not lead to inner peace and meaning and significance of life. He turned then to faith (though as is evident from his writings retained elements of reason too) and attacked philosophers like Ibn Rushed. He wrote a book Tahafut al-Falasifa (Bewilderment of Philosophers).
Ibn Rushd replied to Ghazzali’s Tahafut al-Falasifa by writing Tahafat Tahafut al-Falasifa i.e. Bewilderment of Bewilderment of philosophers. Thus this lack of mutual understanding lead to exclusivistic attitudes. Ghazzali was in search of inner peace and reason creates more doubts and raises more questions and leads to discontentment. Faith which depends on authority, gives inner contentment.

Modernity has thus led to discontentment in two ways: one, since it has been hijacked by capitalists it leads to more inner discontentment as it is hell-bent upon selling its products and creates illusion of ‘material happiness’ but fails to create one as more consumption leads to still more consumption; two, rationality lacks faith and for inner peace one needs faith which provides ‘final’ answers and hence inner contentment.
Thus neither rationality (i.e. modernity) nor faith alone can be without problems. For centuries faith in authority created total stagnation and superstition. No change or progress became possible. Human beings entertained so many superstitions about creation and about our universe. Diseases thrived and mortality became high.
Similarly reason too failed to satisfy many questions though it too became absolute and wanted to displace faith altogether. Thus many questions about meaning and significance of our universe could not be answered by reason alone. Reason, in a way, gave rise to its own superstitions. Reason claimed all the space which so far faith had occupied. Blind faith also led to exploitation of ignorant human beings and now modernity too, in the form of emphasis on material happiness which also led to discontentment.

Thus either way dilemma remains and there is no solution in sight. But discontentment of modernity has far acceded that of faith. As religion has been hijacked by priesthood (reducing it to mere rituals devoid of values) and other vested interests like politicians with which priesthood often (though not always) collaborated, in case of modernity too it has been hijacked by powerful vested interests and it has become almost a part of capitalist system.
Capitalism is highly exploitative and reason has been made a powerful instrument for exploitation to promote profiteering. Today modernity cannot stand on its own and has become almost an adjunct of capitalist system. Capitalism in our own times is promoting limitless consumerism. It has used reason to promote consumerism in various ways which leads to more and more violence.
Colonial violence was also part of capitalist expansion and led to wars and bloodshed. The colonized countries had to struggle hard, in most cases violently (India was an exception to a great extent) to free themselves from colonial bondage. However, in several newly freed countries western capitalist powers managed to install puppet governments and thus people could not enjoy fruits of freedom.
Thus on one hand ritualized religion and capitalist-based modernity created more discontent in the modern world. Democracy, though very necessary for ensuring freedom to common people, has also been hijacked by vested interests. In most of the countries in Asia and Africa we find today one ethnic group or one religious group at the throat of the other. Ethnic, caste and communal violence is rampant in most of the democratic countries in Asia and Africa today.

All modern means are being used to exacerbate these differences including means of modern mass communications. Mass communication with its most modern techniques is a powerful instrument to promote prejudices and misinformation. Twenty-first century has already witnessed unprecedented violence. Attack on New York towers and resultant wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and consequent terrorist attacks has already killed millions of people during the first decade itself.
Modern technology, again a part of hijacked modernity, has produced weapons of mass destruction. During medieval ages a sword could kill one person at a time. Today modern technology has produced such weapons which can kill thousands at a time merely by pressing just a button. Whole cities can be blasted out of existence. America invaded Iraq (to grab its oil) and tried all its latest weaponry on the poor people of that unfortunate country. More than half a million people perished.
Terrorists, not product of Islam as usually propagated, but a violent response to much greater violence being perpetrated by the Super Power, is also killing thousands of innocent human beings. These killings, it appears, has no end. Communally and ethnic violence within a nation states and wars internationally has robbed out modern world of peace and tranquility.

  • Most important question is can we free religion on one hand, and modernity on the other hand, from clutches of vested interests?

It looks very difficult and complex problem. What we need is a creative synthesis of religion and modernity but to get it accepted is itself very difficult. Religion in its spiritual sense and modernity with emphasis on reason can be very liberative for human beings.

Islam, many people would not believe, was such a creative blend of the two but unfortunately it lost its liberative thrust in the hands of vested interests, particularly the feudal ruling class and medieval values. It was very difficult for Islam to escape this fate. However, now is the time to rediscover the Qur’anic Islam though, as pointed out, it would be make it very difficult to make it acceptable.
Islam today is so encumbered with medieval practices and web of cultural and traditional practices that it is very difficult to disentangle it from this complex web of medieval culture and ruling class interests. I would like to throw some light as to why the Qur’anic Islam could be really so liberative. I do not think war against terror can ever succeed without rediscovering this Islam and also without disentangling modernity too from the clutches of capitalist interests. [...]

Modernity in this sense with due role of reason is hallmark of Islam from the beginning. But Muslims brought back all these idols installed in their hearts and never removed them. History of Islam shows with passage of time these idols carved out deeper and deeper niches. Ka’aba was purified of physical idols but hearts of Muslims were never purified.
Even today many Muslims have accepted modernity in superficial sense by accepting modern technology and like western countries, have instrumentalized role of reason but never accepted role of reason in fundamental and philosophical sense. Modern Western civilization is wholly materialistic and soulless and hence modernity has created more discontents. Its hallmark is more and more consumption, material standards of life and hence fighting for others’ resources leading to wars and bloodshed. America though apparently modern and civilized but most barbarious in waging wars on others territories with its ultra-modern weaponry.
Real modernity as expounded in Qur’an and also in other scriptures, does not use reason in instrumental sense but in fundamental and philosophical sense. It encourages cooperation, not destructive competition. It does not chase illusory goal of happiness based on consumption but promotes social justice, unconditional equality, inviolable human dignity and balanced approach to inner and outer happiness. Modernity cannot be judged through material progress alone. It is necessary but not sufficient.
Spiritual joy and material happiness must go together. Reason should not be devoid of values. Reason without higher goals, meaning and significance of life, is two-edged sword. Truth should not be mere conformity with facts but also beyond and above it, transcendent and all inclusive. Otherwise modernity will remain handmaiden of powerful vested interests which is what it is today and will generate more and more discontents. Filed Under DesiPundit, Featured, Religion Browse > Home / DesiPundit, Featured, Religion / Modernity, Its Discontent And Religion

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fanon claims that Merleau-Ponty’s inclusive, unified notion of the corporeal schema exhibits an asymmetry and disunity

Fanon, Merleau-Ponty and The Difference of Phenomenology
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen

Merleau-Ponty’s corporeal schema describes the way in which the body’s agency makes manifest the historical world. For Merleau-Ponty, our bodies are not objects in space, rather they inhabit space and through them we experience the world and the other. The relationship between body and world is one of mutual transformation, of “reciprocal transfer” (171). While one can certainly engage in theoretical reflection on the interplay between body and world (as I am right now), Weate directs our attention to the pre-theoretical interplay between the two that occurs in our everyday engagements in the world and which “engenders a coporealized conception of freedom” (171). In so far as the body is able to participate in and transform its historico-cultural horizon, it is free; in so far as its capacity for expression and its ability to alter its own history and given context are denied, it is not free.[1] As Weate explains,

“Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the corporeal schema leads implicitly to a conception of history as characterized essentially by difference. Each moment of a culture’s transfer across time through the agency of bodies is at the same time the site of its own differentiation. Moreover, there is therefore no ‘originary’ moment to any culture: every culture that attempts to assert its sameness across time has to repress the difference at work in its origin in very present” (171).

According to Weate, Merleau-Ponty’s general point seems to be that “the relation between agency and historical freedom” is intimately related to our habituation. That is, “it is a matter of habit and habituation that we perpetually contribute to the differentiation of our historical world (our “habitus”), from one moment’s action to the next” (171).

With this background in mind, we turn to Fanon’s text in order to explain why he substitutes schéma historico-racial and schéma épidermique racial for Merleau-Ponty’s notion of schéma corporel. Fanon argues that a phenomenology of blackness-the experience of skin difference and of being the black other-can only be understood in the encounter with whiteness or more precisely, the white imagination (171).[2]

That is, in a mostly black community in the Antilles, Fanon was “content to intellectualize these differences”; however, once he entered the white world and felt the weight of the “white gaze,” he experienced his otherness and became aware of pre-theoretical racial attitudes that up to that point had not existed for him (Fanon, 90). Fanon continues, making his first explicit references to Merleau-Ponty’s corporeal schema:

“In the white world, the man of color encounters difficulties in elaborating his body schema. The image of one’s body is solely negating. It’s an image in the third person. All around the body reigns an atmosphere of certain uncertainty. [...] A slow construction of my self as a body in a spatial and temporal world-such seems to be the schema. It is not imposed on me; it is rather a definitive structuring of my self and the world-definitive because it creates a genuine dialectic between my body and the world” (Fanon, 90-91).

As Weate explains, Fanon initially agrees with Merleau-Ponty’s claim that both the self and the world are constructed through the corporeal schema. However, it becomes evident that when applied to the “interracial encounter of black bodies in the west,” the corporeal schema fails.

“Beneath the body schema I had created a historical-racial schema. The data I used were provided not by ‘remnants of feelings and notions of the tactile, vestibular, kinesthetic, or visual nature’ [Jean Lhermitte, L'image de notre corps, Éditions de la Nouvelle Revue Critique, p. 17] but by the Other, the white man, who had woven me out of a thousand details, anecdotes, and stories” (Fanon, 91).

Here Fanon claims that Merleau-Ponty’s inclusive, unified notion of the corporeal schema through which the self and world emerge in fact exhibits an asymmetry and disunity with regard to whites and blacks in their experience of and active participation the world.

“In the interracial encounter, the White is able to participate in the schematization of the world, whilst the Black may not, for his skin difference closes down the possibility of free agency. A with mythos inserts itself between the black body and its self-image, becoming the ‘elements used’ in a reflexive understanding of black subjectivity. In contesting the terms of Merleau-Ponty’s account of bodily freedom, Fanon provides a genealogy of the existential unfreedom of the black body in the racialized encounter” (172).
[1] Admittedly, I am speaking of the body in a reified way; however, body should not be understood as a res, but rather as a crucial aspect of the psychosomatic whole, which constitutes a human being.
[2] “As long as the black man remains on his home territory, except for petty internal quarrels, he will not have to experience his being for others” (Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks. Rev. ed. Trans., Richard Philcox. (New York: Grove Press, 2008): 89.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Individual is all but powerless when faced with the overpowering discourse by the mass media

© 2008 Paolo A. Bolaños ISSN 1908-7330
In this Issue of KRITIKE: An Online Journal of Philosophy
The Editor

Each open issue of KRITIKE: An Online Journal of Philosophy strives
to offer a collection of essays that reflect a broad range of philosophic
interests—classical and modern/postmodern alike. This year-ender
issue is no exception. As it marks the end of the year 2008, a number of essays
included in this issue tackle questions relevant to the historic events of the past
and preceding years. There seems to be a growing and heightened interest in
the notion and practice of "governance" or statecraft, as some papers in this
issue attest; the presidential victory of Barack Obama seems to be tied to the
issue of governance—while the hope that ensues in such historic victory is
seen by many as constituting a radical redefinition of the practice of
governance, while others remain wary. The eight-year reign of George W.
Bush has, nolens volens and whether we are conscious of it or not, paved the way
to the invention and reinvention of concepts and words which, in academia, we
are already too familiar with: the grammar of terrorism, national and boarder
security, the self-defeating idea of globalization, inter-alia. These concepts
have forced us to revisit, almost in subliminal nostalgia, our distant affairs with
racism, gender bias, national identity crisis, fascism, and other forms of
oppression. The humanities and the social sciences once again pioneered in
the prognosis of these humanitarian and social issues, resulting in the invention
of new disciplines—may that be of control or liberation. Our continuing
nostalgia seems to be that of global justice. Let us admit that philosophy
participates in this collective nostalgia.
While certain articles, one way or the other, delve into the above
mentioned social and political problems, we are also very pleased to bring you
papers which range from intellectual history, metaphysics, epistemology,
aesthetics, phenomenology, deconstruction, critical theory, and textual
The Editorial Board of KRITIKE is very grateful to Fr. Ranhilio
Callangan Aquino for allowing us to feature his short piece "To Build or to
Destroy? The Philippine Experience with Walls and a Southeast Asian
Perspective." In this thought-provoking essay, which was originally delivered
at the 2007 International Critical Legal Studies Conference at the University of
London, Aquino inquires into the normative dynamics of walls and wallbuilding
in the context of colonial and postcolonial Philippines. The essay
stands by the position that Southeast Asia, in general, and the Philippines, in
particular, have always been within "cultural walls,"—walls which colonizers,
like the Spanish and Americans, took pains in tearing down so that they could
build their own foreign imperial walls. Aquino advances a threefold position:
1) that national life in the Philippines has been a life of an-archic walls, in other
words, Filipinos, even before they were called Filipinos, have always been a
people of diversity and they are for better or for worse; 2) the basic principle of
international law is that of wall-building which has interpretative consequences
for either the protection or destruction of a state; and 3) political walls could be
erected within the domestic domain for the sake of purported "national
security," e.g., safe-houses and ad hoc places of confinement as "fortresses of
rights-violations." Ultimately, Aquino, at the end of the essay, outlines the
complex dialectical clash between and among walls; the author invokes Jürgen
Habermas’ notion of strategic action as the only possible means of resolution.
F. P. A. Demeterio’s "Some Useful Lessons from Richard Rorty’s
Political Philosophy for Philippine Postcolonialism" could very well take off
from Aquino’s deconstruction of wall-building, inasmuch as the practice of
postcolonial discourse is a byproduct of colonial wall-building. At the outset
of his paper, Demeterio offers a reconstruction of Rorty’s political philosophy,
described in the paper as "neo-pragmatic." Demeterio traces this neopragmatic
political philosophy from Rorty’s early exposure to Leftist-socialist
thought via the latter’s activist parents and a later exposure to the writings of
the American pragmatist John Dewey. The middle part of the paper is devoted
to a genealogy of Philippine postcolonial discourse—beginning with the anti-
Spanish writings of the Propaganda Movement to its recent appropriations in
the writings of Virgilio Enriquez (Sikolohiyang Pilipino), Prospero Covar
(Pilipinolohiya), and Zeus Salazar (Pantayong Pananaw). Demeterio argues that
Philippine postcolonial discourse could be fortified by using Rorty’s political
philosophy as an analytic tool because the latter dealt with issues that resonate
with current problems in the Philippines.
The victory of the first Black-American US president, Barack Obama,
has spawned excitement, hope, and worry among Americans and non-
Americans alike. Lukas Kaelin participates in all three sensibilities by
philosophically analyzing the events and circumstances that lead to the victory
of Obama. Through the critical theory of Theodor W. Adorno and the neo-
Marxist approach of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Kaelin is able to
interpret the political circumstances that brought about such historic event.
Via Adorno, Kaelin criticizes media politics that gave life to the campaign—
pointing to how during election period the "individual is all but powerless
when faced with the overpowering discourse and continuous presentations of
facts by the mass media." Moreover, Kaelin maintains that Obama’s
government exemplifies what Hardt and Negri call "Empire"—a "still
oppressive" regime but allows "the multitude a better organization and
development of its creativity." Meanwhile, Jeffry V. Ocay in "Heidegger,
Hegel, Marx: Marcuse and the Theory of Historicity" surveys the background
of Herbert Marcuse’s conception of "historicity." Ocay argues that historicity
is requisite for a theory of liberation and that Heidegger’s Being and Time was
instrumental for Marcuse’s formulation of the dialectics of liberation via a
political reading of the notion of the historical Dasein. The paper contends that
Marcuse fills the Heideggerian gap, or the lack of dialectical thought in
Heidegger, through Hegelian dialectics; with Hegel, Dasein ceases to be
apolitical and asocial, that is to say, Dasein becomes historically conscious. The
paper ends with a discussion of Marcuse’s revitalization of Marxism, which is
an attempt to salvage Marx from the corruption of orthodox Marxism.
Two articles on the French deconstructionist Jacques Derrida are
offered in this issue. Marko Zlomislic examines Derrida’s turn to the poetry of
Gerard Manley Hopkins and how this Jesuit is ironically the link that situates
Derrida within the Franciscan tradition. Derrida, according to Zlomislic,
sounds like a Franciscan philosopher when he "keeps the task of responsibility
open" and "keeps thinking with the aporia in order to avoid dogmatism." In
"Deconstruction and the Transformation of Husserlian Phenomenology,"
Chung Chin-Yi tackles Derrida’s engagement and radical disagreement with the
Husserlian project. Chin-Yi demonstrates that Derrida accuses Husserl of
"logocentricism." At the end, Chin-Yi highlights Derrida’s ultimate goal as the
acknowledgment of what happens within the space that the transcendental and
the empirical create—a gesture that could save metaphysics from its closure or
In the seventh essay called "Toward a Return to Plurality in Arendtian
Judgment," Jack E. Marsh Jr. presents a criticism of Hannah Arendt’s
conception of "judgment." Marsh first reconstructs Arendt’s take on judgment
and outlines the problems that the philosopher creates within her conception
of judgment. In effect, the paper maintains that Arendt’s conception of
judgment is a little too idealistic; Marsh concludes that Emmanuel Levinas’
writings could offer a more realistic account of plurality and a possible
framework in working through the ambiguities of Arendt’s theory of judgment.
For his part, Francis Raven, offers a discussion and critique of the notion of
judgment from the purview of Kantian aesthetics. Raven begins by
differentiating between "judgments of taste" and "judgments of the agreeable"
and moves on to discuss the confusion that happens when the two aesthetic
judgments are at play. Raven asserts that a "rigid theoretical distinction
between these types of judgment is not possible" because Kant fails in
distinguishing the two aesthetic judgments if he so bases the difference in the
notion of a "particular type of interest."
"The Limits of Misogyny: Schopenhauer, ‘On Women’" of Thomas
Grimwood investigates the idea of "woman" in the writings of so called "archmisogynist"
Arthur Schopenhauer. Grimwood zeros in Schopenhauer’s essay
"On Women" which has been regarded by scholars as of no importance or no
direct relation to Schopenhauer’s philosophical system. Grimwood attempts to
fill in this exegetical gap and argues that a more complex picture of the woman
or of the "other" emerges when the neglected essay is examined closely in
relation to Schopenhauer’s more popular works. The following paper by Philip
Tonner also deals with an early and unpopular text by Martin Heidegger: Duns
Scotus’ Theory of the Categories of the Meaning—a text written as Heidegger’s
Habilitationschrift. Tonner endeavors to trace the influence of this early text on
Heidegger’s more mature writings, in particular, Being and Time. Tonner notes
that Heidegger’s reading of Duns Scotus afforded the young Heidegger with an
insight into "human individuality," an insight which obviously resonates with
the resolute Dasein.
From the standpoint of Eastern thought, the last two articles of this
issue speak of "good governance" and "inefficacy of knowledge," respectively.
Moses Aaron T. Angeles presents an exposition of the eminent Chinese
philosopher Kong Zi’s (Confucius) theory of good governance. Angeles
explores the possibility of applying Confucian principles to the current Filipino
situation—a situation marred by the decline of political and moral sensibility.
Questions regarding the just state, the prosperous kingdom, and the humane
society are scrutinized in order to paint an image of the ideal Confucian society
or the Great Commonwealth. Ryan Showler in "The Problem of the Inefficacy
of Knowledge in Early Buddhist Soteriology" attempts to describe what he
thinks is a significant problem that early Buddhism, characterized as a gnostic
soteriology, encounters. In Showler’s critique of early Buddhist epistemology a
"quasi-analytic" method is used as scaffold. He juxtaposes early Buddhist
epistemology with Analytic epistemology and privileges the latter over the
former, arguing that based on the Analytic definition of truth as "justified true
belief" early Buddhist conception of knowledge grounded metaphysically as
opposed to being grounded cognitively encounters several problems.
Finally, this issue closes with a couple of book reviews. The Philosophy
of Edith Stein by Antonio Calcagno is described by its reviewer, Robert C.
Cheeks, to have successfully plumed "the rich material of Stein’s philosophical
quest to a depth and detail that belies the meager 151 pages of the book." By
breaking down the book into its significant chapters and providing ample
summaries of each, Cheeks’ review is itself comprehensive. Maximiliano
Korstanje summarizes the Argentinean edition of Jacques Derrida’s On
Hospitality (La Hospitalidad) and provides a reconstruction of the leitmotiv of
the book. Korstanje observes that Derrida’s conception of two different types
of hospitality ("unconditional" and "conditional") will help us understand the
intricate nature of migration and tourism. 12:09 PM

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Human beings cannot hold completely adequate ideas

kvond Says: February 14, 2009 at 12:31 am It is not at all clear that under the definitions that Spinoza provides, and despite his love from the PSR, that human beings can indeed hold completely adequate ideas. (For instance Della Rocca and I both argue that this is not possible.)

If human beings cannot hold completely adequate ideas, the status of the propositions and axioms that begin the Ethics themselves cannot be taken to be completely Adequate, and the entire Ethics cannot be seen as vulnerable in exactly the sense that you take its stacked deductions to be.

kvond Says: February 14, 2009 at 1:25 am Spinoza [is] inconsistant in how he characterizes Adequate ideas, but if you take all of his qualifications it does not seem that human beings or any finite being can hold a completely adequate (or any set of them). But this does not mean that he thinks that all ideas are created equal, or their are no means by which we can tell the adequacy of one to that of another.

As you know, he most certainly believes and argues for degrees of adequacy in ideas, and he creates several standards for their measure. He is not only against superstition (though it has served its purpose in history), but also against the generally seen as pernicious effects of “wonder/admiration”, which you can find in his defintions of the affects.

What Spinoza really does is set up the Adequacy of Ideas as a telling asymptotic limit, the closer to which one’s ideas come, the more internally coherent and explanatory of causes they become. What this does for the standing of his deductive arguments is unclear. Ultimately though, his Ethics stands as something that we causally interact with.

kvond Says: February 14, 2009 at 4:46 am Most argue just as you: Spinoza sets a very high standard, and therefore falls to his own standard. The big problem is with identifying whether a finite being can hold a completely adequate idea or not. At many points Spinoza speaks as if they can, but his specific treatment of adequate ideas seems to preclude the possibility. [...]

As for the properness of my interpretation, I have read no commentator who has even considered the possibility that the ideas of the Ethics may themselves be to some degree inadequate. I think though because finite human minds can only hold ideas asymptotical adequate, and we understand that for Spinoza “man is a god to man” the more human beings that hold the ideas of the Ethics, the more adequate they becomes, paritially due to their internal coherence, but also because human beings combine to form a larger, more dynamic and self-causing body.

Really though, I do suspect that it is not so much that Spinoza intented to deduce everything from God or Substance in an ultimate kind of proof, but rather, as Deleuze points out, he wants to get as quickly to God as he can, because one has to start from the breadth of cohension to figure out how other things cohere. This is in keeping with Spinoza’s critique of Descartes optics (and representational conceptions of knowledge).

For Spinoza it is the periphery that grants clarity to anything in the center. Where Descartes wanted to go internally attempting to find some rock truth (in his own version of a pedagogy), Spinoza directs one’s vision to the edges, as wide as possible so one can orient oneself within the topography. This really is the work of his broad conceptions of God and Substance in terms of the power of cohernce and explanation. It isn’t so much deduction, I believe, but a finite being’s attempted orientation, compass-work. He treats his psychology of the affects and theories of sociability in much the same way.

Xenophanes, Penrose, Polanyi - Re: Larger Issues of “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” Controversy koantum Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Fri 13 Feb 2009 06:52 PM PST

besides ones right to hold the beliefs of ones faith, with regard to coming to a common understanding the metaphysical argument died shortly after the Scopes trial.

It died in the 6th Century BCE, when Xenophanes wrote: “Even if a man were to represent to himself the world exactly as it is, he could not discover that this is the case.”

Living Laboratories of the Life Divine by Debashish Banerji
by Debashish on Sun 23 Nov 2008 07:50 PM PST Permanent Link

And finally, note the not so noble appraisal of the human being. Man is no longer the “measure of all things” extolled in the European Renaissance, the source of western civilizational hubris. While the human being in the Mother’s formulation may not be the contemptible worm of Nietzsche, it isn’t too far from that either. The Mother quickly disabuses humanity of its exalted notion of itself. I now read Sri Aurobindo’s passage from ‘The Life Divine’ where he likens us to ‘living laboratories’: [...]

In all three, there is the notion of the self-exceeding of man. The human being has to exceed himself, because from the viewpoint of the imperfection of nature, humanity is as faulted as the animal, the worm is to the human being and it is to set our sights on that kind of goal that Nietzsche is calling us through the voice of Zarathustra. But Nietzsche’s call is going out to the will of man. It is not a simple call to the ego – it is not a call to titanism as has been popularly supposed, it is a call to sacrifice, to vastness, it is a call to the formation of the gods within us. The overman according to Nietzsche is like the gods of the Greek classical heritage. It is Nietzsche’s allergy towards the Christian tradition that makes him deny god, but it is in the becoming of god or of the gods in human guise that his message lies. But it ends here.

  • What apart from the human will is there to lead us to this goal?
  • If we are hardly more evolved than the worm or the animal in most of our nature, what hope do we have except for willing something which is faulted into existence in our drive upwards?

If we look at Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s texts, we see there one critical element which is missed out by Nietzsche. They are not talking about the human will attaining to the superman. They are talking about the human being as the site where the superman is formed by agents other than the human. In both cases they use the term ‘Nature’ to indicate this extra-human agency. What is it that they mean by “Nature”? Evidently, if there is something which ties these uses of the word to some common ground, we have to think of “Nature” as the evolutionary force in a conscious form, the evolutionary will. Science, Culture and Integral Yoga 11:29 AM

Feb 13, 2009 (title unknown) from enowning by enowning
Paul E. Gottfried on Heidegger's Nietzsche.

Heidegger depicts Nietzsche as someone who anticipated his journey, by breaking from a God-centered theological conversation, one that both figures considered passé. Like Nietzsche, Heidegger bequeaths to posterity an austere fatalism, which he claims to be finding in pre-Socratic Greek musings about the nature of being. Like Nietzsche, he insists that a wrong turn had been taken by abandoning an earlier Greek attitude toward the mystery of being for what became with Socrates rationalism and a rationally accessible theology.

Comment by Debabrata Ghosh on February 6, 2009 at 8:34pm 9:48 AM

For the present I may tell this much that it's still humanly (with normal human mind) impossible to ascertain the roles and works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. It's because from the perspective of mental consciousness -if one goes on explaining their work -it would be extremely complicated. I am referring those pedantic persons who love to discuss on Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. We should have only one effort-and that is not to understand them mentally. ASPIRATION

One Cosmos: The Epidemonology of Men Without Ombilical Chords of ... 7 Oct 2006 ... Kurt Goedel, who proved the same thing with ironclad logic: that we know infinitely ... posted by Gagdad Bob
One Cosmos: The Fall into Mere Reality (10.01.08) Gagdad Bob writes: Scientific or logical truth is always relative truth. Thanks to Goedel, we know that there is no system of logic that can fully
If You Don't Believe in God, You May Believe in Aliens One of the implications of Gödel’s theorems is that any logical or mathematical system will generate questions that are
Savitri Era Learning Forum: June 2006 ... been a footnote on Kant. posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:02 AM ..... of Hilbert and Godel — the former trying to prove the internal consistency and

Philosophers, above all, need their rivals. These rival positions function as a fertile soil

Spinoza, Substance, and Affections
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects

The trick is to instead begin with the appendix to Part 1. On the one hand, the first sentence of Part 1 summarizes what he believes he has demonstrated about the nature of God, while the remainder of the appendix– a beautiful critique of superstition –outlines the consequences that follow from this understanding of God and God’s relationship to its creatures. In this way the reader is given something like a thesis, helping to guide him through the text. [...]

A philosophy such as that we find in Spinoza or Leibniz is so strange and exotic with respect to our commonplace understanding of the world that it comes to serve a heuristic function by calling that world into question and leading the student to both make their own positions explicit and seek grounds for that position in response to the strange world of the philosopher. [...]

One of the things I’ve found most amusing in my interactions with Graham and in observing Graham interacting with others– especially Kevin –is just how viscerally he reacts to Spinoza. When a philosopher reacts this strongly to the positions of another philosopher it’s a fair bet that the stakes are high and fundamental. And indeed, in the case of Graham’s ontology, this would certainly be true, for if Spinoza is such a prime target, then this is because, in many respects, Spinoza is the anti-thesis of Graham’s object-oriented philosophy. Where Graham asserts the independence of objects almost to the point of madness (philosophical madness being a sign of deductive fidelity in my book), Spinoza is the great thinker of the One, where objects are not independent but are rather affections of the One substance.

What we have here, then, is a sort of fault-line in philosophy between the One-All and the radical independence of objects. In the spirit of the Clark/Leibniz debate over motion, we could call this particularly fault-line the Spinoza/Leibniz debate. Here the debate centers on whether there is one substance (Spinoza) or an infinity of substances (Leibniz). Graham, of course, would be the neo-Leibnizian, which is not to say he adopts Leibniz’s particular metaphysics, but rather that his ontological commitment is to that of a radical pluralism of substance.

It is worth noting that philosophers, above all, need their rivals. These rival positions function as a fertile soil from which concepts, arguments, and positions are developed, introducing a fundamental instability into ones thought that perpetually haunts it, spurring it on to develop further. There are few things worse for a philosopher than the loss of a sophisticated and serious rival (as opposed to trollish defenders of commonplaces against a philosophy as in the case of those critics of idealism that invited idealists to jump off a building). [...]

Spinoza is not an object-oriented philosopher not because he isn’t a realist– he is –but because he doesn’t affirm the independence of objects, but treats them as affections of substance. In order to qualify as an object-oriented ontology (and it could turn out that object-oriented ontologies are just wrong and horribly confused), it is necessary to affirm a pluralism of substances or that there are many independent substances.

Likewise, Kant’s thought cannot qualify as an object-oriented ontologist because for him substance is not things, but is rather a category imposed by mind upon things like Badiou’s operations of the count-as-one. You could then have conservative and radical Kantians. The former would claim that substances may exist independently of mind but that we cannot know whether this is the case, while the latter would claim that while something besides mind exists in its own right it certainly cannot be substances as substance is merely a category imposed by mind on a manifold of intuition somehow produced through this radical alterity affecting our minds.

  • Graham argues that substances exist in their own right and are absolutely independent, but only as infinitely withdrawn, leading one to wonder (or leading me to wonder, anyway) whether these vacuum packed substances are not bare substrata without any internal differences of their own.
  • Latour, by contrast, individuates entities or substances as temporal instants or events, each of which is a unique and singular individual independent of all the others. I think there are a number of assumptions about the nature of time or duration here that are problematic.
  • Finally, I am inclined to argue that substances are nothing but their affections related together as a sort of time-space worm in irreversible time.

In other words, I am inclined to reject Spinoza’s definition of substance from the get-go, along with his conception of the relationship between substance and affections, instead seeing substance as an unfolding process in which each succeeding moment is related to its prior moment. This, of course, requires me to give an account of how objects or substances achieve closure or some degree of autonomy or independence from other objects, as well as the principles presiding over relations among affections (I presume these principles will differ depending on the sort of object or substance being considered).

larvalsubjects Says: February 14, 2009 at 12:45 am I don’t think Spinoza’s Ethics is simply a pedagogical device. Certainly Spinoza is a deeply important thinker for me, one whom I’ve been reading off and on for about twenty years now (though not with the depth you’ve read him). In a number of respects, Spinoza is my model of the “ultimate philosopher”.

larvalsubjects Says: February 14, 2009 at 1:39 am I am weakest in my understanding of Spinoza with respect to my understanding of his epistemology, my primary fascination with his work over the years revolving around his metaphysics and its holism, along with his naturalistic psychology as presented in Part III.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dhyāna (Sanskrit ध्यान) or jhāna in Pāli refers to a stage of meditation, which is a subset of samādhi

The Science of Enlightenment is Paving the Way for the Enlightenment of Science
from ~C4Chaos by c4chaos
I just finished listening to Shinzen Young’s The Science of Enlightenment audio CDs.

Disc 7 - This CD is one of my favorites in this series. This is the part where Shinzen talks about his “three-layered cake” metaphor of consciousness and how different people traverse the spiritual path in an infinite number of vectors. This is a contemporary discourse on the Buddhist teaching of Trikaya (or three bodies)–nirmanakaya, sambhogakaya, and dharmakaya.

In this talk Shinzen criticizes the spiritual materialism which is rampant in New Age circles and religious faiths. A good portion of the discourse is on the dangers and pitfalls of the Intermediate Realm of Power–the layer of the subconscious, unconscious, and archetypes–where the weird stuff (ie, apparitions, psychic powers, demons, gods) arises.

Unlike other meditation teachers who avoid talking about their inner experiences, Shinzen openly shares his own visionary encounters. However, he makes no claims on the objective nature of his experiences. He’s humble enough to label his visionary experiences as “hallucinations” no matter how realistic and insightful they were from his subjective point of view. Shinzen also shares some interesting stories of paranormal phenomena he witnessed, but cautions the listeners on exploring the horizonal dimensions of the archetypes. He highly recommends to get enlightened first before mastering the Intermediate Realms of Power. [...]

Conclusion and Some Observations
Those who are familiar with Ken Wilber’s Integral Psychological Model will probably not find anything radically new on the Science of Enlightenment as far as broad integration is concerned. Wilber has been hashing out the integration of Western Science and Eastern contemplative disciplines for almost four decades now. However, I see Shinzen Young as one of those who are actually fleshing out the integration that Wilber has been calling for. He complements Wilber’s integration using his own style of integration. [...]

However, one thing I noticed about Shinzen’s style of teaching Vipassana is that he doesn’t put emphasis on the Jhanas (as originally thought in the Theravada tradition), possibly because he doesn’t want to dwell on them or that he has not specialized in them. However, I assume that Shinzen’s goal is to make Vipassana meditation more compatible with Western Science, so he prefers to focus on those teachings which could be easily translated into user-friendly scientific terms rather than teaching the jhanas as described in the original suttras of the Buddha. For those who are into more hardcore Theravada, I highly recommend checking out Daniel Ingram’s Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Buddhists were not only aware of the Upanishadic teachings, but they were consciously providing a critique of them

A Geneology of the "Three States" and the "Three Realms"
from Gaia Community: kelamuni's Blog

Shankara clearly sides with the Brhad Up on this matter: consciousness is no more capable of full reflexivity than a juggler can stand on his own shoulders or a knife cut itself. He does, however, admit a kind of reflexivity by saying that in enlightenment, or brahman-jnana, there is a "fruit" or effect of release, and this is the reflexive knowledge that one is released once brahman-jnana occurs. Among the the Buddhists, the Madhyamikas agree with Shankara. The Yogacharins, however, hold that consciousness is capable of being aware of itself, and Mandana Mishra, Shankara's great Advaitin contemporary, agrees with them.

Thus, we find a fault line running through both traditions, with some Buddhists holding one position and others another, and some Advaita Vedantins holding one position and others the counterposition. I think this fault line can ultmately be traced back to the difference between the teachings of the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads, and to their respective soteriological orientations: one toward transcendence and the other toward immanence.

With the notion that the third formless state is somehow "inadequate", the door is opened for a "fourth" state. But no such "fourth" is mentioned in the Chandoya Upanishad, at least explicitly. It does however mention a "pure Self" or Purusha that in some sense stands beyond the third state. Later commentators, including Shankara, will take this as referring to the "Fourth" state of the self, to Turiya. We can say then that the teaching of this "Purusha" is the teaching of Turiya in some sort of nascient form.

The "fourth", or Turiya, is explicitly mentioned for the first time in the Mandukya Upanishad, a very late Upanishad that is far removed from the Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Up. Indeed, it is so late that some commentators do not even take it as an Upanishad. While the teaching of the Chandogya Up prefigures that of Mandukya Up, there is a historical and hermeneutic context that I believe must be supplied in order to understand what the Mandukya is actually saying with respect to this "fourth"; that context is the Buddhist tradition.

In a parallel prefiguring of the Mandukya Upanishad, the Potthapada Sutta --- an early Buddhist text --- refers to, and rejects, three "selves" that are related to three "states". The first self is "with form" (rupa) and "made up" of the four elements, and of "food." This latter formulation is similar to that of the Taittiriya Upanishad, which had referred to the first kosha or sheath of the self as being made up of "food". The Potthapada Sutra then describes a second self made up of form (rupa) but "consisting of mind," (mano-maya) which is precisely the same terminology used in the Taittiriya Upanishad. Last, it describes, and rejects, a third "formless" (arupa) self made up of consciousness (samjna). The grounds for the rejection of these three selves is the fact that they "come and go", that is, that each is transitory. Interestingly, transitoriness is also the reason given by the Advaitin Gaudapada, in his commentary upon the Mandukya, for the rejection of the first three selves as not "ultimate": the three states are not ultimate because they come and go (ie, we go into sleep then come out of it).

These features of commonality show two things: One, that the Buddhists were not only aware of the Upanishadic teachings, but that they were consciously providing a critique of them; and two, that the Advaitins were not only aware of the Buddhist critique, but that they were in turn consciously responding to it. That the author of the Mandukya Upanishad, and not just Gaudapada who is several centuries later, is himself aware of Buddhist doctrine is apparent in the fact, noted by Nakamura, that it refers to the "non-dual" fourth (Turiya) as "prapanca-upashama" (quieting of discursive proliferation) which is a technical term of Mahayana Buddhism used specifically by Nagarjuna. [...]

To return to my initial line of thought, what I would like to suggest is that the Potthapada Sutta, with its description of the "three states," is the context for this later doctrine of the three lokas, as well as background against which was written the Mandukya Upanishad. The Mandukya, like later Buddhism and the Potthapada Sutta, also gives us a description of three "structures" of consciousness. It also describes a "fourth" that somehow transcends the three. As we noted, the textual precedent for the "fourth" can be found in the Chandogya Up, with its critique of the "third" state as somehow "inadequate." But it is the Buddhist tradition, I would suggest, that is the actual context for the composition of the Mandukya Up. The most important feature of this context, I think, is the idea that the three states are somehow "imperfect." And as we noted, this inadequacy, viz., the transitoriness of the three states is taken over in toto by Gaudapada.

What the Vedantins required was a "response" to the Buddhists. They needed an account that "transcended and included" that of the Buddhists. That account was provided by the Mandukya Upanishad. In effect, the Vedantins answered the critique of the Potthapada Sutta by saying the following: The three selves are indeed transitory. But beyond the three states is the true Self that never comes and goes, that is transcendent of the three and yet always already present as their "truth" or immanent basis. In other words they said, "Yes we have described three states and three selves, but we also have a Fourth, which is beyond the three."

And in the process of giving this response they had started the ball rolling in a new game: the game called "let's ratchet up the terminology," a game that will lead to the doctrine of Turiyatita, that which is "beyond the fourth," which is found in Kashmiri Shaivism and Tantricized Advaita, as well as to Da's collapsing of certain features of the fourth into the third, the "causal."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Politics is always constructed through an ontological battle

and last… February 3, 2009

2. I have never said that ontology is apolitical!!!
What I have said is:
(a) philosophy is not the handmaid of politics. And for us that means emphasizing that philosophy is not the handmaid of leftism, since leftism is by far the most respectable political orientation in avant-garde circles of continentally-oriented thinkers. Philosophy is also not the handmaid of the natural sciences, or of anything else. We can all laugh at the way philosophy became an instrument of theology in an earlier time, but there are commitments today that are every bit as strong as the earlier theological ones. And we can’t sell out the autonomy of philosophy to those commitments.

(b) every ontology does have political implications, but they tend to be polarized rather than a tangible political content. Every possible political thing has been done with Hegel and Nietzsche. This is even true of Nazi Heidegger. (And generally speaking, the greater the thinker, the greater the polarizations.) Though most Heideggerians do tend to be temperamentally of an authoritarian twist, we’ve seen Marxist Heideggerians, and it’s quite easy to imagine a massive wave of Green Party sorts of things inspired directly by Heidegger’s technology writings. It’s probably already happened, I’m sure. Maybe he’s already one of the heroes of deep ecology, a movement I don’t know well. He’d probably be a good fit.

Ontology and Politics January 12, 2009

Surely an ontology has political implications, but it seems more likely to me that those implications are polarized as to content– think right or left Hegelians, Nazi or Marxist Heideggerians, free-love or bourgeois Freudians, reactionary or anarchist Nietzscheans.

At the other extreme are authors like Chomsky, who (at least in his non-linguistic work) is offering pretty much nothing but specific political content, and as a result I doubt Chomsky has any following on the Right– whereas in principle Zizek could.

I’d be careful of going too far with this, of course. I wouldn’t want to claim that explicit content is entirely irrelevant to a thinker’s position, which would be a sort of hyper-McLuhanite gesture— and a rather troubling one since it would reduce all political oppositions among thinkers to surface fluctuations in the ontic. So I’d be leery of going that far, but there’s a certain ingredient of it at play in philosophy, I think, and that ingredient is missed if we try to correlate ontologies directly with the details of political platforms. Posted by doctorzamalek Filed in Badiou, Deleuze, Latour, Nick Srnicek, Peter Hallward, Zizek

k-punk January 23, 2009 Speculative Realism/ Politics/ Ontology

I'm still frustratingly busy, but just want to give a quick nod towards the discussion of speculative realism and politics reignited by a tremendous post from Nick at The Accursed Share., sparking responses by Jon at Posthegemony and Graham Harman (Object-Oriented Philosophy: high quality blogging at Twitter speed... Graham's frequency of posting has the effect of massively speeding up the already accelerated time of cyberspace, so this discussion already seems ancient.)

Nick begins like this:
It seems to me that one of the most contentious and unremarked upon effects of speculative realism has to do with its attack on a piece of continental dogma – namely the presupposition that ontology is necessarily political. This idea is seen in any number of continental works, from Deleuze’s constructivism, to Derrida’s deconstructions of presence, to the social constructivists, gender and identity theorists, among others. The basic idea being that ontology is always constructed through a political battle, a conflict over what exists.

My instinct would be to reverse this, i.e. it's not that ontology is always constructed through a political battle, but that politics is always constructed through an ontological battle. Politics certainly presuppose ontology - to take a glaring example, the key slogans of Thatcherite capitalist realism, for instance ("There is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families" and "There is no alternative") were explicitly ontological claims, claims about what sort of entities can be said to exist in the world. But that isn't to say that all ontologies presuppose a politics.

Object-Oriented Philosophy: What is it Good For? Posted by larvalsubjects under Agency, Assemblages, Difference, February 5, 2009

Where the structuralist reduces the social to a single ontological strata (language), and where the systems theorist reduces the social to a single type (communications), the assemblage theorist discerns connections between signs, language, technology, persons, natural entities, media, etc., etc., etc. In other words, there is not one ontic domain that is privileged over all the others, but rather a heterogeneous where very different ontic domains must be woven together in ways that never quite work out. This ontological pluralism significantly broadens the possibilities of political engagement, while also shifting us to a hybrid mode of analysis that is happy to concede that often we artificially limit what is analyzed for the sake of research, while also recognizing that there are many other differences that make a difference and that are irreducible to the difference being analyzed.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Like Kant, Dignaga and Dharmakirti hold that all perception involves a degree of conceptual construction

On the Term "Idealism"
from Gaia Community: kelamuni's Blog

In the phenomenalism of both the Empiricists of Europe and the Sautrantika Buddhists in India, we find what is often referred to as the "representational" theory of perception (this theory is also found in the Samkhya-Yoga school and in the Vedanta generally). According to the representational theory of perception, we do not actually directly see objects; rather, we see a representation of the object in our mind, like an imprint of a solid object on a disc of soft wax, as it were. Phenomenalists, such as empiricists and the Sautrantikas, are "realists" in the sense that, 1. what we see when we see these representations are indeed accurate likenesses of objects, and 2. the objects that give rise to representations are indeed real objects existing "outside" in the mind. But there is also sense in which the representationalism of the phenomenalists can be called a kind of "quasi-idealism" insofar as, according to this theory, we do not actually apprehend physical objects when we perceive as much as we apprehend representations occuring in some sort of mental space.

In any case, the representationalism of the phenomenalists contains within it a tendency toward what we have referred to as subjective or epistemological idealism. In subjective idealism, the "outside" object is dropped altogether as unnecessary and redundant; all that exists are mental events.

In the case of the West, this development is due to pressure contained in the "logic" of epistemological foundationalism. In a sense, as Wittgenstein noted, Berkeley was the most consistent of the British empiricists in that he submitted himself to the force of this "logic." For his own part, Hume simply could not accept this outcome in toto, even though the conclusion of subjective idealism was logically compelling to him. At the end of the day, as he admits, he goes home and plays billards and does not question the existence of the balls on the table. The development of epistemological idealism in the Yogachara is more difficult to trace. Here, the pressure appears to have come from two directions: one logical and the other soteriological. In the case of the former, it appears to have involved the resolution of certain difficulties left over from the Abhidharma analysis of mental events.

Another form of idealism -- situated "between" subjective idealism and absolute idealism, and yet different from both -- also indirectly develops out of phenomenalism: transcendental idealism. Transcendental idealism also holds that we do not directly perceive objects as they are in themselves; rather, we only perceive the phenomenal appearance of the object. This phenomenal appearance consists of raw perceptual data as well as certain conceptually constructed elements fused with sense data. Transcendental idealists hold that our cognitive make-up is such that conceptual construction forms an integral part of all mental events, including perception. It represents a kind of compromise with "realism" -- in that it holds that the perception of the world is an objective event that has objective validity -- but, technically and strictly speaking, unlike phenomenalism, it is not a form of realism but a form of idealism.

Examples of transcendental idealism include the philosophy of Kant, and posibly the philosophy of the great Buddhist logicians, Dignaga and Dharmakirti. Like Kant, Dignaga and Dharmakirti hold that all perception involves a degree of conceptual construction (vikalpa; kalpana). But like Kant, they also hold that the "thing in itself," or what they call the pure particular (svalakshana), is the basis of all perception, even though it is never directly perceived. The school of thought initiated by Dignaga and Dharmakirti eventually became the dominant school of Buddhist philosophy in India. It reflects a synthesis of Yogachara and Sautrantika thought with logicism.

Let us now return to the Yogachara idealism. It is generally thought by scholars that there are two forms of Yogachara thought. (See This distinction leads us to the final form of idealism we shall look at here: absolute idealism. Absolute idealism, as a generalized point of view, holds, 1. that "spirit" (consciousness, mind, etc.) is in some sense more real than "matter"; and 2. that the material world is in some sense an "emanation" from pure spirit. Though we find this idea in the modern West in the philosophy of Hegel, and in the midst of the development of Buddhist philosophy and logic, this perspective actually harkens back to very ancient ideas of cosmogony, in particular to the theistic cosmogonies of ancient Greece and India that viewed God as, not only the instrumental, but the immanent material cause of the world (the "stuff" out of which the world is created.)

In the case of the second stream of the Yogachara, the world is seen as the "projection" (pratibhasa) of mind (vijnana; citta). We find a similar idea in pre-Shankara Advaita Vedanta as well, for example, in the Gaudapada Karikas, which describes the world as due to the "vibration" (sphurana) of mind or consciousness (manas; vijnana; citta). We also find this teaching in Kashmiri Shaivism, which consciously attempts to re-instate emanationist ideas of the older Shaivas.

Levinas touches on a truth about language that we should pay heed to

Jan 30, 2009 Formed through Work, Worked through Form
from Fido the Yak by Fido the Yak

Perhaps there is something like a schema of the face that we humans are born with. Perhaps such schemata are imprinted in early infancy. Why won't I admit that the face is both metaphysical and physical? Or simply metaphysical? What's the story with my attitude towards the metaphysical? Am I holding on to a face, a dear face? Am I afraid of other faces? Or have I really set my feelings aside in order to maintain a critical distance? Will I allow myself to be so naive? Does the face, by its nature, evoke naivety? Shouldn't I want to be free of the magistrature of criticism, once it's recognized as such? But such a freedom isn't quite the promise of the face.

Let's flesh out the sense in which Levinas means for us to understand language as metaphysical. First, though, a word on forms. Do we need forms to work through language? Levinas speaks of naked things, things which have no need for disclosure. He says they "disappear beneath their form. The perception of individual things is the fact that they are not entirely absorbed in their form; they then stand out in themselves, breaking through, rending their forms, are not resolved into the relations that link them up to the totality" (p. 74).

He acknowledges a phenomenon of adumbration (and the als etwas, for this how things are disclosed) as he prepares to offer an alternative. He calls this alternative "revelation," which, as we have remarked, is a difficult thing to ask an English speaker to regard as truly different from disclosure. Expounding, on the theme of language, Levinas says that the work of language "consists in entering into a relationship with a nudity disengaged from every form, but having meaning by itself, καθ αύτό, signifying before we have projected light upon it, appearing not a privation on the ground of an ambivalence of values (as good or evil, as beauty or ugliness), but as an always positive value. Such a nudity is the face" (ibid., Levinas' emphasis).

He goes on to add, making his critical stance abundantly clear, that the face "is by itself and not by reference to a system" (p. 75, Levinas' emphasis). (There may be an irony in positing the revelation of the face as a step in the critique of the system, but I don't mean to be sarcastic by any stretch.) Why language? Why is this the theatre of revelations? Is it simply because language was the talk of his century?

To be sure, Levinas touches on a truth about language that we should pay heed to whether we are talking about language in a metaphysical sense or what the linguists call natural language. He says "language institutes a relation irreducible to the subject-object relation: the revelation of the other. In this revelation only can language as a system of signs be constituted." (p. 73). He says that "in its expressive function language precisely maintains the other–to whom it is addressed, whom it calls upon or invokes" (ibid., my emphasis). What then is the relationship between expression and form? Perhaps we should imagine the press of air in the throat, the touch of air, its sculpting. Who will then take from the skop the final word?

Movement of the planets, gravity, libido enter into an assemblage with human actors, history, concepts, language

Roy Bhaskar: Transcendental Realism and the Transitive and the Intransitive
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
As a result of recommendations from both Nick (in his thesis) and Graham, I have been reading Roy Bhaskar’s remarkable Realist Theory of Science over the last couple of weeks. I am still trying to fully understand Bhaskar’s position and arguments, so if I misconstrue it in what follows I would greatly appreciate the input and clarification of those more familiar with his work.

Bhaskar attempts to develop a position he refers to as “transcendental realism”, where it is argued that the entities and mechanisms discovered by science are not simply beings as they are for us or beings in terms of our access to these beings, but rather where these mechanisms or beings exist as they are regardless of human access to them.

In a manner very similar to Meillassoux’s argument from the “Arche-Fossil”, Bhaskar argues that the intelligibility of science requires that mechanisms or entities discovered by science must be thought as belonging to a world without humans. In other words, according to Bhaskar, the existence of objects that are as they are independent of humans is a transcendental condition for the possibility of science. Just as Kant argued that we cannot account for how synthetic a priori judgments are possible unless we begin from the thesis that the mind imposes a priori forms of intuition and categories of the understanding on the manifold of sensibility, Bhaskar argues that objects completely independent of humans are a necessary condition for the intelligibility of scientific practice.

Bhaskar’s thesis is thus three-fold: First, Bhaskar is committed to the thesis that objects exist completely independent of humans. So far, with this first thesis, Bhaskar does not depart from the tradition of epistemological correlationism. The linguistic, social, or cognitive correlationist does not deny the existence of independent objects, only that we can have any direct or non-discursively mediated access to these objects. [...]

Second, and here Bhaskar really shines, is actualism or positive in fact reflective of the nature of claims about causality? Put differently, is it true that when making causal claims we are making claims about regular or lawful conjunctions of impressions? Are we claiming that given impression x, impression y always follows? Here Bhaskar argues in the negative. In a surprising move that resurrects the concept of cause so derided by Molière, Bhaskar argues that causes are not constant conjunctions of actual impressions in which one event invariably follows another, but rather that talk of causes refers to powers, mechanisms, or structures by which objects are capable of acting. A cause is thus to be understood not as a conjunction of actual events, but as a power belonging to a thing.

Here I have to quibble with Graham a bit for, in correspondence, Graham has taken Bhaskar to task for championing potentiality and rejecting actualism. However, it seems to me that for Bhaskar causes are fully actual and acting at the ontological level, and are said to be potential only in terms of sense-experience which he equates with actualism, i.e., the idea that actual impressions have to be present to talk about a cause and effect relation.

Indeed, argues Bhaskar, were we to treat causes as constant conjunctions of events, our experience of the world as well as scientific practice would be rendered unintelligible. At the level of experience, actualism or positivism renders the notion of causality unintelligible because constant conjunctions of events between sense-impressions is the exception rather than the rule. That is, there are numerous occasions where the antecedent of a causal claim is present at the level of sensations and the consequent fails to follow.

Yet, contrary to Popper, we do not say that this falsifies the causal claim, but rather that there must have been some other intervening cause that prevented the consequent from manifesting itself. Likewise, the thesis of actualism renders actual scientific practice unintelligible, for if causal claims were genuinely about constant conjunctions of impressions rather than powers, we would be unable to understand 1) why scientists put such immense effort into creating closed laboratory environments where the mechanisms or powers belonging to things can be triggered, and 2) why, despite the fact that mechanisms seldom behave in this way in open environments, scientists nonetheless conclude that the mechanisms discovered in the artificial and constructed environment of the laboratory are operative in these environments. [...]

Bhaskar’s distinction between open and closed systems also allows us to see why Popper’s criterion of science as falsifiability fares so poorly. On the one hand, causal statements are falsified every day without undermining the legitimacy of these claims. Objects never fall as Newton describes them because there is friction and Newton’s laws apply only to ideal frictionless environments. Oxygen, under certain circumstances, fails to combust when we would expect it to, etc. These things occur because the object-ile in question is functioning, according to Bhaskar, in an open environment where other mechanisms or powers are at work as well.

On the other hand, the crucial question to ask with respect to causal claims is whether we’re dealing with closed or open systems. If mechanisms investigated in fields like psychoanalysis, economics, sociology, etc., fail to provide us with lawful regularities, then this is because the systems or assemblages investigated by these fields are open by nature, such that powers can said to be operative while nonetheless not invariably manifesting a hypothesized effect. In short, one of Bhaskar’s most significant contributions to our understanding of causality is that of powers that operate without producing a particular effect. [...]

The transcendental realist does not deny the functioning of the transitive dimension or the social, but instead argues that the relationship between this transitive dimension and the intransitive dimension of natural powers is one of assemblic relations rather than system based relations. That is, it is not, for example, the Kuhnian paradigm or the Foucaultian episteme that makes Copernicus “right” or Freud “true”. If there is truth in these theories it is a real that operates regardless of whether any humans conceive it or conceptualize it.

Rather, the movement of the planets, gravity, libido, etc., enter into an assemblage with human actors, human history, human concepts, human language, etc., in such a way that the intransitive nonetheless maintains its separation and independence. Such would be the beginnings of a non-naive realist conception of being that was also able to take the best from the social sciences.