Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Philosophy -1

So when one speaks of philosophy as such, one is either convinced that one knows what one means or one understands that what is meant by philosophy is not clear. Different philosophers had varying ideas about what philosophy really is (or 'was' if you're postmodern).

Ponty thought of philosophy like painting, with various contours of words creating a visual work of art.

It's an interesting analogy, as I've found that reading G.W.F. Hegel lends itself to this interpretation. Take a random example from the Phenomenology-

"The common element in a work of art, viz. that it is produced in consciousness and is made by human hands, is the moment of the Notion existing qua Notion, which stands in contrast to the work. And if this Notion, whether in the shape of artist or spectator, is unselfish enough to declare the work of art to be in its own self absolutely inspired, and to forget himself as performer or spectator, then against this we must stick to the Notion of Spirit which cannot dispense with the moment of being conscious of itself. This moment, however, stands contrasted with the work because in this initial duality of itself Spirit gives the two sides their abstract, contrasted characters of action and of being a Thing, and their return into the unity from which they proceeded has not yet come about."

Now that you've read it literally straight through, I'd like you to view the above as a painting, with the words being pictures. Allow your eyes to scan the words randomly for spots that stick out.

You may find that this way of viewing this passage is more fruitful than as a bit of philosophical art criticism, though it is certainly that in some sense.

What emerges for me in my readings of Passionate philosophy is this very artistic sense, which is one of the reasons we can still have classical philosophy today without any pretense of it being a science.

As a spokesperson for the Vienna School in England said; philosophy should be the handmaiden to the sciences.

This may or may not be true, but it certainly emphasizes philosophy's failure to rise to the level of science, as I emphasize philosophy's forgotten tradition of Passion before logic.

When Heraclitus said, "One may only pass down the same river a single time.", he was of course making a logical statement- but what is forgotten is how much a statement like this corresponds to poetry, and of course Heidegger, considered the End of philosophy by many, saw philosophy and philosophical inquiry as a form of poetry. What poetry is a form of is unknown to me, however my creeping suspicion is that the logicians have failed where the artists succeeded.

Now have a look at this passage of Hegel inspired philosophical writing from myself...

There is an important sense in which the ultimate meaning of becoming is none other than that being which finds itself coming to the present in the futural temporal character of Dasein. To foresee its own utmost Fate, Daseins must have some Absolute understanding with which to come to bearing, and further must use this to understand Spirit. The most fruitful form of becoming is of course Being-Towards-Death, which manifests itself in our everyday lives as that which is most close to us, that is, Involved coping with Dasein's state of being Fallen. Fallenness is reference both to man's fall from grace and the way in which we 'fall' back into tasks that we are presented with on an everyday basis. We fall passionately into the task-at-hand and throw ourselves into it as one would approach any task- yet what must not be forgotten is how an entity is 'called' into action according to the will of the Absolute.

The Call of Absolute Consciousness is temporal in that becoming follows from being yet distinguishes itself from mere Immediate understanding (i.e. Notional representation of the present-at-hand) in that it is always in all cases comporting itself towards that which is already known beforehand. This Absolute Consciousness has the character of always already having been determined in its own futural temporalization, which is to say that the destined is really in fact the choices we are presented with on a existential level.

So, read it again using the technique described above, and interesting phenomenological highlights appear. One can even document these using a variety of montage techniques.

Surely Heideggers 'end-of-philosophy' can be seen as the inevitable descent into postmodernism, but he leaves us with the poetico-phenomenological truths of ancient philosophy, as well as highlighting the painfully basic question of the meaning of being.

Zein und Zeit, as I see it, opens with asking us to examine the question of the meaning of being- which he says has become obscured- and then proceeds to artfully assault the reader with what amounts to poetry. Here is a short example of Zein und Zeit if you're wondering what I mean.

"But how are we to determine what is said in the talk that belongs to this kind of discourse? What does the conscience call to him to whom it appeals? Taken strictly, nothing. The call asserts nothing, gives no information about world-events, has nothing to tell. Least of all does it try to get going a 'soliloquy' in the Self to which it has appealed. 'Nothing' gets called to this Self, but it has been summoned to itself- that is, to its ownmost potentiality-for-Being."

Not his most poetic passage, but he is in some sense saying that the 'not-meaning-anything' of philosophy is an artistic asset. Here is what is generally viewed as a difficult passage from Hegels Phenomenology again... See how its nothingness reveals the ancient mysteries...

"Consciousness has found its Notion in Utility. But it is partly still an object, and partly, for that reason, still an End to be attained, which consciousness does not find itself to possess immediately. Utility is still a predicate of the object, not itself a subject or the immediate and sole actuality of the object. It is the same thing that appeared before, when being-for-self had not yet shown itself to be the substance of the other moments, a demonstration which would have meant that the Useful was directly nothing else but the self of consciousness and that this latter was thereby in possession of it."

This is from a section entitled ABSOLUTE FREEDOM AND TERROR.

Certainly it has a literal meaning, but the phenomenological reduction of the words themselves seems to me to be the most prescient meaning.

-Brendan O'Connell

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