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#5 - Hegel, “The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate” comments on Hegel’s Differenzschrift; Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit: Introduction
Postmodern theology seems to me to be like transcendental communitarianism (Derrida): it's the image of the disappearance of law. But we must find a place in our accounting for the permanence of law, of division or diremption, else we get caught up with a desire for immanence (fascistic, romantic love), even if that desire is infinitely deferred; Derrida becomes an infinitely deferred fascism.
You are in debt to the community for the possibilities of your action, so your very self, even in its transgressive behavior, is grounded in what you're acting against. Therefore we need an explication of the self that is grounded in this notion of collectivity. There is something childish about the superego, since that's a Kantian notion.
Let me just very briefly give you external reasons for doubting that Hegel intended a presuppositionless starting point. Firstly, Hegel, from the time of his Differenzschrift -that's called the difference between the Fichtean and the Schellingean philosophies-argued that all philosophy was historical, that all philosophy was therefore conditioned, and that all philosophy was a product of its own time and therefore socially mediated. Of course, Hegel didn't think that that entailed that philosophy becomes a sociology of knowledge. That's the problem: how can we admit all those things and not collapse into the sociology of knowledge-that's the project. He argues further that philosophy must always be double. Firstly, he says, philosophy only exists as a response to diremption. The famous section of the
Differenzschrift is called "The Need of/for philosophy." It's both philosophy's need and why philosophy is needed. The answer is that philosophy only comes on the scene when a culture is in trouble, when it suffers from various fundamental fractures and diremptions. Therefore philosophy is always the attempt, and I think of tis as beginning with Plato: I read Plato as a good American philosopher. That is, I read Plato as dealing with the problem of multiculturalism. Because Greece as a port, the Piraeus-why does The Republic take place in the Piraeus? If begins "cataba," "I went down," that's of course the descent into hell by the way. "Cataba" is the phrase from Homer, "I went down into Hades." Why is the Piraeus hell? Because it was a sea port were ships from all different nations came together, and therefore we had many gods. And it's the many gods-this is the Straussian reading-that problematized the Homeric encyclopedia, that problematized the possibility of a unified view. So Plato is responding to just the sort of problems we are responding to, in a multicultural many-goded world. So philosophy begins at the moment unity disappears. All unity is illusory, that's irrelevant. At the moment that it disappears philosophy begins, or that is to say, "philosophy is always homesickness." Hegel affirms that.
Secondly, Hegel says there, and that's why Hegel attaches philosophy in the Differenzschrift to need: philosophy is not a free-floating…you know…begins in wonder-nonsense! It begins in difficulty, in cultural difficulty, in people having problems and contradictions in their lives. It doesn't begin unconditionally, it doesn't begin with the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" It begins because I can't make sense of my life, I'm a mess. That's how it began for Plato and that's how it began, by the way, for Descartes. Read the Discourse, the Discourse is about the loss of culture and the need to revivify culture. The Meditations presupposes the Discourse. That's why philosophers don't know how to read Descartes: because they don't know how to take the Discourse seriously. Descartes's system is grounded in the historical narrative of the discourse that talks about "I could not find my place in the world. I was at the best school in the world, and I was the smartest student at the school, and still there was no truth." Right? That's the rhetorical gimmick. If I'm the smartest person at the best school in the world, and I don't see the truth, then the culture's in difficulty. That's the opening shot of the Discourse. It's the problem of culture, the problem of who I am, that generates the second problem of the Cartesian system.
Secondly, Hegel argues in the Differenzschrift, that all philosophy must be an engagement with the history of philosophy. And that's simply because, which is repeated, by the way, in the introduction, but the importance there is he says: look, what happens to the notion of history if we deny that other philosophies have a claim on us? How are we to make sense of the thought that there is a history-and then he's criticizing Reinhold and Schultz in saying every one of them dismisses the history of philosophy so they can start fresh. How? From where? Is everything just a mistake? So philosophy has to be in relationship to its own past. So therefore philosophy is mediated culturally and mediated by its own history as a condition of its possibility. Hegel affirms that at the beginning of the nineteenth century before the Phenomenology, we know that's part of his system. Why on earth should anyone think it's not true of the Phenomenology? I don't understand.
Secondly, Hegel denies and denies everywhere, in all his writings, that there can be a neutral method. No method without content.
It's only presuppositionless for us, we people who are in this debate. The beginning is self-consciously not presuppositionless.
It's a natural assumption that philosophy is epistemological, Cartesian. "We're in the world to the extent we represent the world" is an attitude that exists only since Descartes. Hegel is going to deny that epistemology is first philosophy. epistemology as first philosophy is when representation is the problem of first philosophy as opposed to being merely a theory of knowledge.
Epistemology is first philosophy if and only if one understands that the relationship between an individual and the world is via representations of the world, and therefore the question of philosophy before any other question becomes: How do we put ourselves in relationship to exteriority via representations. Hence that becomes: What's the criterion for the truth of representations? and that's epistemology. If we can't know anything, but we can know our representation, how is it we're able to know representation in itself? That's the contradiction. It's a realist standard of knowing, and maintains the realist standard when we examine cognition. Why is the mind easier to know than objects? The truth of knowing, essence, being-in-itself is a realist standard of knowing, and realism is troubled by the phenomena of representation. Nonetheless, we maintain our realism when it comes to examining cognition.
We can't examine the instrument, get rid of the medium. That would still beg the question, since in order to examine anything you must have a criterion.
Epistemologists (Fichte) installed certainty as criterion, but as the one thing he can't show you.
There's no difference between modern faith, conviction, and cartesian certainty. Heidegger makes this point. Just dogmatism.
If epistemology is a mistake and just circumvents, defers the moment of the Absolute, then in some sense the Absolute must already be here. We must presuppose that if it's not outside us, then in some sense it's already here. He wants to take that on.
We can ignore epistemology because Science must appear. It can't be a hidden. Regardless of whether or not we recognize it as Science. We can ask the question about the possibility of knowledge not by trying to get beyond appearances, but saying that the world of the unconditioned must be in relationship to what appears. And since appearances are appearances for us, we can, by studying the appearances we study what reveals itself and shows itself to us, get to the question of what is truly. This isn't too quick because if Science is to appear, it must, within the realm of appearances itself, show itself to be Science and not illusion. That too must appear. Science is that movement of some set of appearances which, by its relation to itself and other things, reveals itself to be Science and not mere illusion, and that itself must be something that appears, or else we're back to intellectual intuition, fates, and all that. The appearance/reality distinction must be something that appears and be part of the appearances, otherwise it would be unknowable. What processes are gone through to allow for this to occur? Hegel is turning us back to the world, examining what there is in its appearances.
We're not examining our own minds, we're not trying to abstract from the representation of the world. Rather it's by looking at the representations themselves we're asking what in the domain of representation itself how do certain representations come to appear as true and others as false.
Modern skepticism never questions subjectivity, quite unlike Roman skepticism, the attempt to show that for any proposition there's an equally good opposite. Fichte: our self-relation to ourselves as agents as primordial to relation with the external world would ditch Kantian formalism.
The world of the unconditioned must be in relation to what appears. The appearance-reality distinction must appear, must be knowable. What processes (human activities) allow this to occur? We're going to get a grip on it by seeing how it distinguishes itself from illusion.
If there's science, it emerges in the way people make claims, the way those claims get corrected, and the like. The absolute must emerge from the world of appearances and isn't a priori. There's no ontological difference between essence and appearance. Essence must appear. Else it's unknowable, and skepticism is true. It's logically possible in Hegel's procedure that skepticism is true. Hegelianism permits of absolute failure, and that seems to me its strength. And that's why his notion of the skeptical procedure is not modern. Because Descartes, Hume, Berkeley, Locke cannot fail. They've got a certainty, even if it turns out to be a skeptical certainty. "I don't have the world, but I know I have ideas." Old A.J. Ayer, you know, there he is, he's got his sense data. It may be a bit impoverished. Hegel preserves this possibility of failure: no claim to be science will necessarily establish itself.
MARTIN: Can you run that one by again? How is the possibility of complete failure built into it?
It's just that he's not going to presuppose that any claim to be science, any apparent claim, will establish itself. Because it's not a regress. Skeptical regress into a certain domain of subjectivity. That's why it's an ancient skepticism. It's going to be saying "here's a proposition, here's a counter proposition." Not quite like that-but. The possibility of the whole thing collapsing is possible. We could discover that we can't call this knowledge and this nothing. It's possible. And a lot of people who read Hegel think "Yeah! He fails."
LIZ: The claim is that in a theory of knowledge that depends on…. The problem is totally shifted to: What does it mean for science to recognize itself as an appearance? Appearance and illusion are not the same thing. Not every appearance is an illusion.
But it's not a mere appearance.
sec.77 We're going to assume that a claim to knowledge appears, and that it has its own movement, and that there's a whole series of these. "Natural consciousness" is, at each moment, the appearance form of any claim to knowledge. But the important point is the path of natural consciousness. We're going to have a narrative that is a quest for knowledge.
If we take appearance seriously, then we don't want science to be free and self-moving immediately. We want science to be something that can appear as a consequence of a certain kind of quest. If we think about it this way then we can think of the quest what is knowledge, what is science as at one with the quest, the traditional quest, the religious quest of the self for salvation or redemption. That is, there is only one, as it were, quest narrative, the quest for "Who am I?" Since the idea of the quest is the narrative of all narratives, and the Christian one is the dominant one, we go through a series of experiences, and in those series of experiences we get purified, and in virtue of that purification, we come to our final redemption, salvation, identification.
If it appears as self-moving (unconditioned) immediately, it's suspicious.
sec.78 It's only in virtue of taking your position to be the truth, to be real knowledge, that you are pressed forward.
Every time, because natural consciousness takes itself to be real knowledge, then when it loses that claim to absoluteness, it loses itself.
It's the doubt/despair structure that I'm driving at here. There's something unserious about modern subjectivity, and what Hegel's interested in are by turning to appearances-here's the irony-by turning to the appearances of knowing, we actually move out of the easy or facile game of modern skepticism and move into a way of despair.
That is, where each form of natural consciousness can lose itself absolutely, it's world can collapse.
Epistemological skepticism, the shilly shallying forth, isn't serious because nothing's really at stake, but if we actually turn around and look at the appearances of knowing, all the claims of what knowing is, every claim as to how we are grounded in the world, then the idea of attempting to vindicate that claim-and losing it-is a pathway of despair. There's a historical quest, a painful quest because people keep losing the truth, and with that they lose everything.
The question is now at one with religion: How am I to be saved? Is there salvation? Is there truth?
They're forms of life, philosophy, philosophical positions, if they're anything, are fundamental ways of being in the world. What it is to be in a world with others in it. Every philosophical position isn't merely a thought-thing, but a form of social existence.
In his last face-to-face interview recorded just ten days before his unfortunate suicide, the legendary poet and speculative fiction writer Thomas M. Disch discusses death, literary posterity, and Philip K. Dick.
Subjects Discussed: The difficulties of declaring yourself a deity, truth and memoirs, authenticity, James Frey, Disch’s takedown of Whitley Streiber, Democrats and evangelism, Reverend James Dobson, the unexpected reaction to Disch declaring himself an atheist at a North Dakota convention, Clifford Irving, the fun of footnotes and annotation, fundamentalists, writing books in which the ground is always shifting, Emerson and the trinity, Algis Budrys, Thomas Mann, the taboos of simulacra and alternative realities, war and commandments, the fantasy of having different parents, griping about editors and agents, the American literary tradition of celebrating con artistry, L. Ron Hubbard, Disch’s religious acolytes, Michael Moorcock, asking for blurbs without any of the blurbers reading the book, Philip K. Dick’s 1972 letter to the FBI, Camp Concentration, pulp fiction and literary posterity, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” and Clement Brown, whether or not literature (and civilization) will survive into the next century, maintaining a LiveJournal, on not submitting poems to magazines, Samuel Johnson’s maxim, poetry and the New Yorker, editors or critics who hate Disch’s guts, being ignored, being snubbed by Stephen Donaldson, ridiculing enemies, nonoverlapping magesteria, having Catholic friends, cowboys, literature as a religion, Disch’s efforts to read The Tale of Genji before death, the reading of “approved classics,” Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and Jane Austen, Disch’s strong love of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels, writing Amnesia and building a model of Manhattan within the text adventure game, literature as a constantly changing medium, inhabiting the now and obsolescence, silent film, and poetry as Disch’s “one good horse.”
David J. Linden, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His laboratory has worked for many years on the cellular substrates of memory storage in the brain, among other topics. He has a longstanding interest in scientific communication and serves as the Chief Editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
In this broad discussion with D.J. Grothe, David Linden challenges widespread beliefs about the brain, such as that people only use ten percent of it and that it is amazingly designed, arguing instead that the brain is "accidental." He talks about why, as a brain scientist, he writes about topics such as love, God and sexual orientation. He describes the downsides of how the brain has evolved by including systems from previous brain "models," and how this has given rise to those qualities that most profoundly shape our human experience. He discusses the neuron, and how it is a "lousy processor of information," describing how evolution has nonetheless used it to build "clever us." He talks about how our brains have constrained us, and may have physically led to the necessity of marriage, family and long childhoods. He surveys various claims regarding the enhancement of our cognitive capacities, such as playing Mozart to babies in utero, vitamins, smart drugs, mental exercises, and physical exercise. He talks about the brain science of homosexuality. And he argues that the brain has evolved to make everyone a "believer," describing the similarities between belief in science and in religion, that both are similar "branches of the same cognitive stream."
It's a bit off our usual posting, but this is a very interesting and thought-provoking lecture given in Cambridge last month. In the last few years, the works of the 'New Atheists' such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have gained wide media and popular attention. In this lecture, Prof. Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and author among many other things of Why There Almost Certainly Is A God, deconstructs the reasoning behind this trend and analyses the limits of scientific knowledge, presenting the philosophical case for the rational belief in a power beyond time and space. Great stuff for dealing with any tedious religion-bashers among your friends, colleagues or acquaintances. The Faraday Institute has lots of other good resources on related topics. At one point, Prof. Ward refers to Bernard d'Espagnat's highly suggestive phrase 'veiled reality', to describe the point beyond which reality is not scientifically knowable. May God make us grateful for the profound gift of revelation that has given us another path to understand Him who is truly Real.
Nassim Taleb talks about the financial crisis, how we misunderstand rare events, the fragility of the banking system, the moral hazard of government bailouts, the unprecedented nature of really, really bad events, the contribution of human psychology to misinterpreting probability and the dangers of hubris. The conversation closes with a discussion of religion and probability. From http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2009/03/taleb_on_the_fi.html
New Year’s resolutions I DON’T recommend; What art & religion have in common
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