Sunday, May 23, 2010

Western philosophy is now at a dead end

Iran's Seyyed Hossein Nasr explains what's up.
What about the West? At least speaking about philosophy, it seems the West is passing through a kind of paralysis also.

The West is now undergoing a very, very severe intellectual crisis. The reason why people are not aware of it is because of the power of technology and the military might of the West. It is like the end of the Roman Empire. As long as the Roman legends were leading in Libya, nobody thought that something was wrong. It is a very similar situation. Western philosophy is now at a dead end. Even Heidegger said, Western philosophy ends with me. There is a philosophical crisis and a religious crisis as a result of that. After that comes the environmental crisis, which is not solved unless the West changes completely the way it lives, its worldview, and they don’t want to do it. So they use cosmetics all the time. Look at the Gulf of Mexico now. It is a great tragedy of human history. Nobody wants to talk about it. So the West is also experiencing a very, very large crisis, and I’d say it is suicide for us to try to blindly copy the West at this stage.

As in love and war, all is fair in philosophyOctober 13, 2004 By Sagan Lazar "Sagan Lazar" (In yo monitor) - See all my reviews
Let us recall the socio-political climate of the times when Marty was in agony over the West's metaphysical tradtion. Philosophy was more or less sputtering at the time for want of something to fresh say. Who at that time was saying something totally unheard of; something so funky and seductively nonsensical that one had to squeeze some new meaning into them? Richard Wilhelm the sinologist had just translated the I JING and was giving lectures to small groups. Heigdegger was most certainly aware of Wilhelm's work.

The author (May) was Heidegger's student and saw some things first hand. If May's claims are correct (I have no overwhelming evidence to suspect he is not), then indeed, we should pay a little more attention to how Heidegger went about getting some of his ideas. Marty hired a Chinese doctoral student to help him privately (maybe even secretly) to translate the Lao Dze's DAO DE JING. He was quite studious about it, apparently.

One might argue that some of May's findings of connections between Heidegger's work and Daoist literature are circumstantial. Maybe they are. […] May's book is not an 'expose' of something embarrassing that Heidegger wanted to hide in shame. Anxiety of influence, etc. Rather, I think Heidegger was right to not acknowledge the Chinese influence in his work -- if only to keep those who will come after him to stay within the straight and narrow of the Western tradition of 'philosophy' as such.
Besides, Marty probably saw it as a bank loan that would be erased once it has served its purpose and paid back with interest. Whatever the source of his ideas, one could argue that Heidegger more than paid the loan back: After all, the house is rebuilt and new rooms are being added even as we speak. (As an architect, I couldn't vouch for the soundness of the structure, however.)

Poor sales of this book indicates that professors who cannot get enough of this guy's work/life do not make this book mandatory reading for their students. Which is strange but also understandable: they just don't wanna "go there" since that would entail extra exegetical work and uncertain forays into unfamiliar territories from which they might end up fetching the wrong things and make fools of themselves. Or, maybe there exists something like 'Code Red' (the unwritten 'don't go there' policy) that reflects something inherently, unbreakably Euro-centric (Judeo-Xtian) within contemporary (Occidental) critical theory, despite all the politically correct-sounding rhetoric.

The bulk of postmodern thinking is about the problem of 'thinking without metaphysics' which amounts to 'thinking without Christianity' more or less: an impossibel task -- sort of like performing a total dissection on oneself and wanting to live to tell about it.
Unfortunately, most thinkers in the West go about trying to solve this agonizing problem as if there were no other models of thinking worthy of their attention. (Or else they get all bent out of shape torturing language and themselves over something like, "the psychoanalytic politics/ethics of post-colonial ap/propriation of dis/avowal of the Other in the absence of the Subject as the Thing.") Levinas was perhaps most honest about this when he expressed his horror of the 'Yellow Peril' as an alien mode of thought so alien as to be Martian.

Stubborness? Pride? An unspoken attitude of smugness and sense of superiority derived fron the very patriarchal edifice they want to deconstruct? Much of the high-flying rhetoric about being open to 'diversity' and 'what-comes' falls a little flat in the provincial attitude within modern high theory that would relegate all 'Other' to East Asian Studies, anthropology, or Buddhist Studies. So, same pie, just sliced into different shapes, less sugar, thinner crust, but in the end, still the same pie.

The question remains: WHY did Marty feel he had to take out a loan from a bank so far away? Francois Jullien's books including the very enlightening 'Detour and Access' (see my review) might be helpful if you really want to know -- and also get a head start on figuring out what one version of Deleuze's ideas has been.  Permalink

1 comment:

  1. Yes Western philosophy is at a dead end. And so too is Western religion.

    Proof of this is the sheer awfulness to be found on the various blogs at First Things.

    Remembering that FT claims to be the best journal on religion and culture in the USA.