Sunday, November 24, 2019

Hegel was not the be-all and end-all on the subject of Being

Throughout his work, Husserl regularly points out that the objects of our intentions are structured around internal and external horizons.  The marker sitting on my desk presents itself to me in profiles.  I am never able to apprehend all of the marker at once.  I pick it up and I turn it about, and now new profiles appear or give themselves.  The others disappear.  I intend or apprehend the marker as a unity, as a totality, but it is never given all at once.  Elements of it are present and others are absent.  Nonetheless, it is given to me as a whole or a totality.  The absent profiles I intend in the marker are the internal horizon of the marker.  This internal horizon is deeply temporal as well.  I anticipate the profiles that will appear should I turn the marker about, and I retend the profiles that disappeared as I make new profiles appear.  Indeed, the very act of grasping the marker despite the fact that profiles of it are absent in my visual perception of it already indicate the work of a bodily intentionality in my engagement with things that encounters them as unities and totalities, rather than two-dimensional beings gradually built up out of atomic sensations.
larvalsubjects | November 18, 2019 at 10:41 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL:

Probably the single big confusion that lead to the creation of materialism is the confusion between ontological states and their epistemic content. People experienced the ontological state with epistemic content of "chair outside me" and they took the epistemic content as representing an ontological state of the world, so they thought there really is a "chair outside me", when the real ontological state was that of a state of consciousness. Therefore, it appears that in order to get rid of materialism is to stop making this confusion. The problem that arises is that no matter how hard we would try to do that, any retreat from the epistemic content of an ontological state will only gives us just another ontological state with the only difference being a different epistemic content. No matter what, we cannot escape epistemic contents. Is idealism therefore fundamentally unthinkable ?

I opened this topic after reading about process philosophy. They say that the solution to understanding the world is to not think in terms of "substances", but in terms of "events". The problem is that "events" is also an epistemic content, in the sense that the concept of "event" is extrapolated from the subjective feeling of passage of time. But the "passage of time" is just a quality/an epistemic state of consciousness. To take it as revealing to us a deep character of the world is to do the same mistake materialism is doing. So, in order to avoid the mistake of materialism is to recognize this fact, and thus to reject that "event" can be anything ontologically meaningful. Is there any way to escape this vicious circle of confusions between ontological states and epistemic contents and get to an idealistic conception of the world, or is idealism fundamentally unthinkable ?

Dear Cosmin,

Namaste. The problem is not in the either/or of epistemology or ontology. It is the opposition of these two that is the problem. Ontology deals with the being-in-itself of objects, or THAT an object IS - its pure being-there (G.Dasein). In German a distinction is made between Being (G.Sein) and Being-there (G. Dasein). This marks the distinction between the general or universal concept of Being (pure indeterminate generic Being), and a particular determinate concept or type of being (eg. human being). 

To say THAT something is, and to say WHAT that something is are two different judgments or determinations. In English the difference is not represented by different words although it is certainly implied every time we make a judgment like "It is a cow." The 'It" refers to the indeterminate being of an object, while "cow" represents the determinate moment or aspect of the judgment. The identity that is implicit is this judgment, i.e. "it" = "cow" is usually invisible/unconscious to the one making the judgment. IOW, people are generally unconscious of what they are really talking about. They don't think about what they are thinking.

This naivete or uncritical thinking is the main problem of what we today call scientific thinking, where the attention or consciousness is focused on the senses, or what is being thought about - the object of thought, rather than on the content of thinking itself and its essential contribution to THAT or WHAT object is being thought about.

Epistemology is the study of  what the content or thinking process itself contributes to our knowledge of the ontological object of knowledge. We may thus consider epistemology to deal with WHAT determinations of objects THAT are there in themselves before any other determinations are made about them besides their being-there, In this way epistemology has two roles to play simultaneously: it posits THAT something IS, and it determines WHAT that something IS. This unites and identifies both the ontological and epistemological aspects of knowing or knowledge without collapsing the difference between them. This invokes the principle of identity in difference and difference in identity for those who are not asleep/unconscious to what is going on rationally. 

Humbly with respect,
B Madhava Puri

Dear David,

Namaste. While the distinction between Being and Existence is not generally recognized in common ordinary parlance, there is actually a prominent difference in the technical, philosophical meaning of these words. "Existence" refers to the manifestation or appearance of Being, and Hegel, in his Science of Logic, goes through great detail in over 400 pages to describe that difference. 

This means that 'being' is not the same as 'existence' and Dasein implies a specific determinate moment in the dialectical self-development of Being (Sein). While Dasein represents a transformation within Being (from universality to particularity), Existence represents a transition to the reflective category of Essence.  

Modern materialistic science generally fails to recognize or even investigate the logical and rational concepts that underlie its own theories, hypotheses, or principles, fixated upon finding truth in the objects of sense observation. It therefore falls into an inescapable prison formed of its own errors and misconceptions.

With humble regards and respect,
B Madhava  Puri

Dear M. Puri Maharaja,

Hegel was not the be-all and end-all on the subject of Being, otherwise Heidegger would not be widely praised for his extensive treatment of the subject.

Moreover, Hegel has had many eminent philosophers criticizing his thinking processes from many angles. Two of them were Kierkegaard and William James. Have you ever read the latter's penetrating essay, "On Some Hegelisms"?

Now, let me ask you what kind of reasoning, or insight, is behind your statement,

"Existence represents a transition to the reflective category of Essence."

I would think that Being is closer to the concept of Essence than is Existence. The distinction between Essentialism and Existentialism has been known since the middle ages, and the whole modern philosophy of Existentialism (one of whose pioneers was Kierkegaard, by the way) gives existence priority over essence.

By the way, the  whole mindset of existentialism is a dimension apart from the viewpoint of materialistic science.

Peter Nyikos
Professor, Dept. of Mathematics         -- standard disclaimer--
University of South Carolina

Dear Peter,

Namaste. Thank you for furthering this discussion. The vast lacuna that lies between Heidegger's dogmatic/empirical presumptions concerning being and Hegel's scientific,(i.e. systematic, dialectical) self-development of the thought Being are hardly comparable at the philosophical level. However, it does serve as a useful ruse to show exactly what distinguishes the systematic  development of pure reason from the opinionated  contingencies of empirical thought. This might more clearly be understood as the difference between pure thought thinking itself (pure because thinking does not go beyond its own self for its content, and is thus self-determined or free), and Heidegger's thought thinking about things,  which is the empirical attitude, embracing duality (thought v. tjhing) and  dogmatism (the giveness of things) and the contingent epistemology that adopts opinion, hypothesis, interpretation, or theory that to conjoin the opposition of thought and thing without ever being able to understand their prior underlying dialectical unity in difference.

The fact that anyone is "widely praised" does not speak to their authenticity but only to  their resonance with those who may be under the same common misconceptions as the author. Popularity is often, but not always, an indication of superficial sentiment than sound reasoning, which is always rare to find among the masses.

It would be hard to call James' essay on "Some Hegelisms" penetrating. Are you aware of the author's own comment on his essay? Here is how he estimates it in his own words:

"The essay 'On some Hegelisms' doubtless needs an apology for the superficiality with which it treats a serious subject. It was written as a squib, to be read in a college-seminary in Hegel's logic, several of whose members, mature men, were devout champions of the dialectical method. My blows therefore were aimed almost entirely at that. I reprint the paper here (albeit with some misgivings), partly because I believe the dialectical method to be wholly abominable when worked by concepts alone, and partly because the essay casts some positive light on the pluralist-empiricist point of view."

As for Kierkegaard, his relation to Hegel has come under more careful scrutiny of late. In his review of  Jon Sewart's book,  Kierkegaard's Relation to Hegel Reconsidered, CUP 2003, Matthew Edgar of Fordham University writes in his review:

"Without denying the existence of a certain “metalevel” dispute between Hegel and Kierkegaard, Stewart argues that (a) many of Kierkegaard’s central ideas, such as the theory of stages, are creatively, i.e., not uncritically, adopted from Hegel, and, (b) the true target of Kierkegaard’s critique is not Hegel per se, but prominent Danish Hegelians of his time. According to Stewart, ignorance of Kierkegaard’s intellectual milieu, coupled with a distorted and inadequate understanding of Hegel, has led many English-speaking critics to adopt the overly simple ’either / or’. Stewart seeks to correct this problem by showing how Kierkegaard’s writing rose out of, and responded primarily to, debates in Denmark in the 1830’s and 40’s surrounding Hegel’s philosophy and its implications for theology."

Again,many popular opinions on matters of philosophical and scientific importance are based on ignorance of the proper "intellectual milieu, coupled with a distorted and inadequate understanding of Hegel," As mentioned in previous posts, the current epistemological attitude of modern science fosters dogmatic opinionation in opposition to rational conceptual self-critique and  self-determined truth.

No doubt my previous statement

>"Existence represents a transition to the reflective category of Essence." 

requires some unpacking. Hegel often used the  phrases "in-itself" meaning implicit, and "for-itself" meaning explicit. Being in its own self, or implicitly involves many micro-logical or dialectical determinations that have only to do with itself, within itself, within  Being. You may read the Science of Logic for the details. 

On the other hand there are categories that represent reflections on Being that are beyond Being within itself. To understand this we  first have to grasp that the term "reflection" indicates a difference is invoked between what is original and its reflected image, as in a mirror. Here we leave the sphere of the in-itself, or implicitness of Being, and progress to the categories that have to do with the for-itself - possessions or what belongs to Being. This other sphere is called Essence.

Being and Essence are different although related, just as a mirror image and its original are different although identical formally. Thus we say that Essence is the truth of Being. In this sense Being takes the position of the appearance of Essence, which is the truth of Being. This relation of the identity with difference is called reflection. 

When it comes to the term "Existence" we mean the difference that arises when Being is considered the ground or truth and Existence is the manifestation or appearance of that Being. Thus we find both moments within thought, where Being is considered the appearance in relation to Essence, as well as the case where Being is considered the ground of Existence. The result is that we cannot really consider Essence any closer to Being than Existence. We might say that they are two sides of the same coin.

With humble respect and regards,
B Madhava Puri

Dear Peter,

You wrote:

>Materialism received a huge boost from the ever-growing discovery that fossils >reveal a long succession  of life over eons

Fossils (naturally preserved bones) do not produce other fossils. Bones (matter) are the products of life. Without life there are no bones produced naturally in Nature. IOW (in other words) the idea of evolution of bones is based on a complete misunderstanding of what is more fundamental: life or bones.

The Bhagavat Vedantic vies is based on the two empirically observable scientific concepts that Life comes from Life, and Matter comes from Life. How does that boost materialism? It is rather the refutation of that idea.

Furthermore, even within the materialistic camp of evolutionists the idea of evolutionary development of bones is under sever critique. One only has to take off their doctrinal blinders and look at the contrary evidence they have uncovered and what such scientists themselves have to say about fossils. Evolution is not a doctrine written in stone.

With humble and sincere regards,
B Madhava Puri

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