Jun 01, 1951
it was amazing
Philosophy, the Elite, and the Future
"Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or Review:
Philosophy, the Elite, and the Future
"Men would never be superstitious, if they could govern all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were always favored by fortune..." Thus begins one of the greatest books in the history of philosophy. Spinoza is an esoteric writer; he doesn't shout everything he has to say, though an attentive reader has a chance, however slight, to discern at least part of it. The existence of this philosophical-political esotericism, first adequately described by Leo Strauss (in "Spinoza's Critique of Religion"), is now on the verge of becoming generally accepted. For a very good example of this new, but qualified, acceptance of Spinoza's esotericism from a left/postmodern perspective, check out the recent collection of essays, "The New Spinoza", edited by Montag & Stolze, especially the essay by Andre Tosel.
But the history of Spinoza reception is another story and another review. Many modern readers of Spinoza speak with vague unease about Spinoza's 'elitism', supposing it to be but another slight of the poor, weak and uneducated; we can perhaps begin to gauge the full length, breadth and depth of this philosophical 'elitism', and its true target, in a focused reading of the opening pages of the Preface to the Theologico-Political Treatise. "The human mind is readily swayed this way or that in times of doubt, especially when hope and fear are struggling for the mastery, though usually it is boastful, over-confident, and vain." Thus the problem with Man is not, strictly speaking, merely a lack of knowledge (and therefore the problem is not merely a lack of education) but also, and perhaps most importantly, a lack of self-control.
Immediately, Spinoza follows this sentence by saying, "[t]his as a general fact I suppose everyone knows, though few, I believe, know their own nature..." There is a disconnect not only between knowing and doing but also between 'knowing' in general and knowing oneself. In order to do good how important is it to know yourself? There are several ways to understand this. One possible way is to say that even those ('sainted' elites) that 'know' are, nevertheless, unable to control their emotional behavior. Perhaps it is even this emotiveness that is especially vulnerable to superstition...
But men, "in prosperity, are so over-brimming with wisdom [...] that they take every offer of advice as a personal insult"! Still, we are not surprised to read that "...superstition's chief victims are those persons who greedily covet temporal advantages...". (Note that it is not chiefly ordinary people that 'greedily covet temporal advantages' nor is it said that they are 'in prosperity'.) And, a little later, we learn that these people "are wont with prayers and womanish tears to implore help from God...". Indeed, Spinoza, when giving an example of this despicable behavior under duress turns to no less an exemplar than Alexander the Great - and his superstitious seeking of advice from seers. Now, the use of Alexander in this regard is a vital clue in our attempt to understand Spinoza's esotericism (i.e., his 'political' philosophy). The question is this: If Spinoza is indeed an elitist, exactly what is the position that can look down on not only the common people but also the actual 'elite'; i.e., the religious and political leaders?
Well, of course, Spinoza is a philosopher; indeed he is one of the greatest. This understanding of philosophy, as the heights from which one looks down on everyone, is an old one. See, for instance, Averroes (in the so-called 'Decisive Treatise') for an overt example of the philosophical attempt to control a faction of the medieval elite (i.e., the theologians) with another faction of the medieval elite - the Islamic Jurists. Also, one should of course consider Machiavelli's Prince for a somewhat more circumspect (or covert) example of philosophy attempting to control the direction of politics and the political elite. Spinoza's decision to view politics and theology (or politicians and theologians) as dangers that need to be moderated philosophically is thus not unprecedented. Also, on this line of thought one should perhaps also take into account Nietzsche who, in the 'Genealogy of Morals', seems to go so far as to present history itself as a struggle between priestly and warrior noble castes...
In electing to use Alexander as an example of superstition Spinoza is indicating that philosophy is above both religion and politics. Indeed, Spinoza continues in a (ahem) 'Nietzschean' vein and says, "that prophets have most power among the people, and are most formidable to rulers, precisely at those times when the state is in most peril. I think this is sufficiently plain to all, and will therefore say no more on the subject." Well perhaps not entirely plain; this basically says, for those that have ears to hear: 'Statesman! Either satisfy the common people or forfeit your right to rule to the prophets and their theologians.' Thus the 'war' between priestly and warrior castes was quietly noted, by Spinoza, long before Nietzsche. As an aside I should perhaps note that one also finds oneself (perhaps) nervously asking, at this point, are people today 'satisfied'?
Kojeve, the architect of the most recent apotheosis of the political (i.e., the Universal Homogenous State), seems to confirm this interpretation (in his "Introduction to the Reading of Hegel") by saying that as "long as History continues, or as long as the perfect State is not realized [...] the opposition of these two points of view (the "philosophical" and the religious or theological) is inevitable." Of course Kojeve, following a Hegel that never existed, attempts to convince us that politics and philosophy are exactly the same and that theology was ever nothing. His mistake, from the viewpoint of philosophy, can perhaps be said to be that he took sides in the interminable war between elites. ...But that is another story. However, Kojeve is correct insofar as he is understood to be maintaining that there is an unbridgeable gulf between the political and the religious...
Back to Spinoza. Satisfying the common people seems to be easier said than done. In a terrifyingly memorable passage - that is both a diagnosis and a prophecy - Spinoza writes, "[f]or, as the mass of mankind remains always at about the same pitch of misery, it never assents long to any one remedy, but is always best pleased by a novelty which has not yet proved illusive." Thus, given the perpetual emotional dissatisfaction of the people, Spinoza seems to be indicating that no one ever rules for long. He also seems to be indicating that emotions (at least among the 'mass of mankind') are uncontrollable and that the people are, in the long run, unsatisfiable. (...So exactly what is Enlightenment - and exactly why is Spinoza supporting it? ...Hmmm.)
"Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved and fostered by fear", Spinoza had earlier said. But fear is an opportunity for philosophy, I mean for philosophical intervention. Machiavelli (in 'The Prince', chapter 6), after all, had already confirmed that the oppression, dissatisfaction and dispersal of the people was, above all, an opportunity for the creative One. Spinoza says that, "Prophets have most power among the people, and are most formidable to rulers, precisely at those times when the state is in most peril." The fundamental argument (and struggle), of course, between philosophers and the political-religious elites, seems to be over the exact identity of the creative One. For the religiously inclined the creative one is God and those who act in his name, for the politically 'pious' the creative one is the (hereditary, patriotic or revolutionary) 'Prince'. For Machiavelli, Spinoza, and Nietzsche one suspects that, 'behind the scenes and between the lines', the creative one (the bringer of New Modes and Orders, to quote Machiavelli) can only be the philosopher.
Spinoza continues, quoting Curtius (the historian of Alexander): "The mob has no ruler more potent than superstition," and Spinoza immediately adds, "and is easily led, on the plea of religion, at one moment to adore its kings as gods, and anon to execrate and abjure them as humanity's common bane." Thus 'superstition' would seem potentially to be either a weapon of the religious or the political... This is a warning; but to exactly whom seems to be a bit unclear. I should mention that it is not impossible to read Machiavelli, with his high praise of ancient pagan religion, to be indicating much the same: that is, the necessary permanence of superstition. ...But, exactly what can and can't be done with superstition?
The way out of this (seemingly) unpredictable and uncontrollable mess? One possible solution, according to Spinoza, is given by the 'Turk'. They have instituted a system that invests "religion, whether true or false, with such pomp and ceremony, that it may rise superior to every shock..." Of course, as Spinoza indicates, this absolutism leaves no room for either individual freedom or a thoughtful philosophy. But then Spinoza adds, "yet in a free state no more mischievous expedient could be planned or attempted." So, after discussing (and discounting) the possibility of theocracy (the Turks) Spinoza advocates the system allegedly reigning in Amsterdam: freedom and commerce. (Whew!)
Now, in case some have been asleep for the past 300 years, I will point out that the rise of democracy was not always accomplished peaceably, nor, after its rise, has it been able to always maintain the peace. The test of being able to maintain the peace that Spinoza flings in the face of the Religion of his times can today, with equal appropriateness, be flung in the face of politics. I of course mean all politics. ...But that too is another book and another review.
Spinoza can be said to here begin a process that leads to us. I hope I have begun the process of showing that the target of Spinoza's contempt was not the common people, but the ignorance and weakness of all their tormenters. I also want to note, given both the nature of these elites and also the perpetual suffering of the people, that all solutions are transient. And that the early-modern philosophical turn to the politicos, made in the teeth of ceaseless religious war, was only a maneuver. Over the past century philosophy found itself again in an era of civil wars, revolutions and world wars; - one wonders where philosophy will now turn in its never-ending struggle to moderate elites...
Who will write the next Theologico-Political Treatise that will do to political Ideology what Spinoza here does to religious Revelation? Where is the next 'novelty'? ...more
Notes are private!
May 31, 2007
Mar 01, 1991
it was amazing
Phenomenology, Hegelian Science, and History, again
This book contains the 1807 Preface to the "Phenomenology of Spirit", the entire Review:
Phenomenology, Hegelian Science, and History, again
This book contains the 1807 Preface to the "Phenomenology of Spirit", the entire 1817 "Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences In Outline" and two essays Hegel wrote (1828) regarding the literary critic Solger. So we here read a bit of Hegel from the beginning, middle, and end of his career. The Preface to the 'Phenomenology' is translated by A. V. Miller, and is the same one found in Miller's full translation of the Phenomenology. The 'Encyclopedia' is translated by Steven A. Taubeneck, and the essays on Solger are translated by Diana I. Behler; both of these were translated specifically for this volume and, according to the 'Note on the Texts', were never translated into English before.
The juxtaposition of the 1807 Preface and the 1817 Encyclopedia is quite suggestive. What were the reasons Hegel later in his career, or so it seems to many of us today, 'downplayed' the 1807 Phenomenology?
"Earlier, in the Phenomenology of Spirit, I have treated the scientific history of consciousness as the first part of philosophy, since it was meant to precede pure science and to generate its concept. At the same time, however, consciousness and its history, like every other philosophical science, are not an absolute beginning, but an element in the circle of philosophy." ("Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences In Outline" , The Science of Logic, Preliminary Concepts, Section 36.)
It would seem that the 'beginning of philosophy' can occur anywhere (the 'circle' of) philosophy is, just as the 'beginning' of a circle can be said to be anywhere along the circumference of that circle. Those that actually Know (i.e., have achieved Hegelian Science) no longer need the Phenomenology. It is a ladder one climbs in order to reach Science. And once one is genuinely there? Well, it is quite inconceivable (for Hegel) that anyone would ever want to go back down. As Wittgenstein would say, throw away the ladder.
But the positions of Hegel and Wittgenstein are not really all that similar. Wittgenstein says,
"6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up it.)
7 What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence." (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, concluding propositions.)
Hegel would never say that the propositions of his Logic (or the entire System) were senseless, nor would he even insinuate that philosophy must end in Silence. Clearly, silence is not really Wittgenstein's final position either. He continued his Investigations throughout his life, as did Hegel. Now, there are three Encyclopedia's, each larger than the last. Hegel says of this (1817) Encyclopedia, "The Encyclopedia can contain nothing but the general content of philosophy, that is, the basic concepts and principles of its particular branches..." Of course, this minimalism (an askesis) would not satisfy the generation of Hegelians that rose after Hegel's death. Marx says, in the so-called 'Theses on Feuerbach', "Up until now philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point, however, is to change it."
Thus it can be said (for our present purposes) that Hegel is fighting a two front war; against those that want philosophical silence and those that want (a usually revolutionary) 'activism'. But the Science for the sake of which Hegel philosophized is neither the 'via negativa' of the mystics nor is it a cookbook for concocting utopias. Hegel, fundamentally, and with an awe-inspiring single mindedness, lusted after the Absolute Knowledge that only (or so he believed) his Science (of Wisdom) could deliver.
But, and this is continually lost to many superficial (and not so superficial, but purposeful) readers of Hegel; Absolute Knowledge, according to Hegel, is severely circumscribed. It is not Knowledge of Everything. It is only Knowledge of what can be scientifically (i.e., Science that equals Philosophical Wisdom) Known.
"The encyclopedia of philosophy thus excludes (1) mere assemblages of information, such as philology; and (2) pseudosciences that have mere arbitrariness as their basis, such as for example heraldry. Sciences of this type are thoroughly positive. (3) Other sciences are also called positive, however, that have a rational basis and beginning. This part belongs to philosophy; whereas the positive side remains peculiar to the sciences themselves." (Encyclopedia, Introduction, Section 10, p. 53 of this edition.)
So what does, and what does not, Philosophy Know? Does History have and End as Kojeve taught? But even if History does not End (i.e., reach the level of the Kojevean Universal Homogenous State) how is it that Philosophy Itself has an 'End' (i.e., Absolute Knowledge) when a circle does not?
First, what does Hegel think of contingency and the 'sciences' that must remain mired in it?
"The study of law, for example, or the system of direct or indirect taxation, ultimately require exact decisions that lie outside the determinacy in and for itself of the concept. Thus a certain latitude of determination is left open, so that for one reason something can be said in one way but for another reason it can be said in another, and neither is capable of definite certainty. Similarly, when it is separated into details the idea of nature dissolves into contingencies, and natural history, geography, and medicine stumble over descriptions of reality in terms of kinds and differences, which are not determined by reason but by chance and games. Even history belongs under this category, insofar as the idea is its essence, whose manifestation, however, lies in contingency and arbitrary decisions." (Encyclopedia, Introduction, Section 10, pp. 53-54 of this edition.)
So, you see, the manifestations of history cannot ever be known in their exact specificity, even though Philosophical Science is able to grasp History as Idea (or Concept). Since these manifestations cannot ever be entirely rational there can be no 'End of History' for Hegel. The 'Haecceity' (thisness) of specific circumstances cannot be known, not even by Hegelian Science. After reading the Encyclopedia one comes away thinking that Hegelian Science is not a science of details (philosophically, there can be no such thing) but of basic Concepts and Principles. It was the Hegel's Epigonic followers who donned the mask of prophesy and claimed to Know Everything. But Hegel says of this Encyclopedia that,
"The title should suggest partly the scope of the whole, and partly the attempt to leave the details for oral delivery." (Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences In Outline", Preface.)
One wonders if Hegel means to indicate that, like a circle, Science is now (thanks to Hegel) entirely Known, but the details are endless? A circle has infinite points; and so too, the details of the world Philosophical Science truly knows are also innumerable. But each detail, when (and if) it comes to light, can be Known by Hegelian Science - which is Itself entirely Known. Thus the necessity of "oral delivery" by Hegel (or a Master of Hegelian Science) is as unending as the details are innumerable... The rise of postmodernism perhaps indicates that what in principle can never be known, the specificity of each and all circumstance, has become more interesting to us (late moderns) than what can (one fights against an urge to say 'merely') be Known.
This book gets five stars, not only because it translates the otherwise untranslated 1817 Encyclopedia, but also because it has the Preface of the 1807 Phenomenology. Reading the 1807 Preface and then the 1817 Encyclopedia is an education in itself. I was considerably less interested in the essays on Solger; but Aesthetics has never been a focus of mine. I would have preferred a selection from either the final (1830) Encyclopedia or, perhaps, a little something from the 1831 'Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion'. But that is a quibble, if you are interested in the relation between Phenomenology and System, this is the book for you! ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 03, 2011
really liked it
The Forgotten Bentham
What a fascinating book! I had been aware that many of the innovations appearing in Nietzsche's work regarding 'Truth' (i.e., the The Forgotten Bentham
What a fascinating book! I had been aware that many of the innovations appearing in Nietzsche's work regarding 'Truth' (i.e., the lack thereof) had been 'in the air' throughout the post-Hegelian Neo-Kantian milieux. One only needs to read Schopenhauer and also FA Lange (see his "The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Importance") to be aware of this. However, I was unaware that anything comparable was going on in Britain. When I finally got around to reading Vaihinger ("The Philosophy of As If"), and noticed that he mentioned Bentham (in the Preface to the English edition) as a precursor, - well, I was flabbergasted! I hadn't read any Bentham in decades, and I didn't recall anything at all like what Vaihinger was pursuing.
C. K. Ogden, who edited the English translation of Vaihinger's "Philosophy of As If", is also the editor here and he provides a usefully detailed 150 page introduction. The text of "The Theory of Fictions" was not published in Bentham's lifetime. Wherever there seemed to be some confusion in the text, Ogden consulted the MS. In the Introduction to the present work, Ogden asserts that the "chief defect of Vaihinger's monumental work was its failure to lay stress on the linguistic factor in the creation of fictions." He muses that this would be the next step, - except that the step had "already been taken by Bentham a century ago"!
At this point Ogden then quotes what is perhaps Bentham's most famous remark regarding fictions:
"To language, then -to language alone- it is that fictitious entities owe their existence; their impossible, yet indispensable existence."
Of course, all this illustrates nicely, avant la lettre, the difference between continental and anglo-american philosophy. The neo-Kantian (and, generally speaking, all continental philosophy) is ultimately concerned with the unknowable (for Kantians this was the Noumena), or at least the so far unknown, and thus metaphysics/ontology; while the anglo-american is more interested in the 'merely' practical (the doable and the undoable) and the linguistically 'sayable / unsayable'. To Bentham, the idolator of utility, the examination of fictitious entities is an extremely practical affair having myriad ramifications for our understanding of law, politics and science.
Now, this book is decidedly not your great-grandfather's (or the academic) Jeremy Bentham. It throws an entirely new light on the entire Utilitarian gambit. This book was first published in 1932. I have the 1959 paperback edition before me. Ogden denies that Bentham's contemporaries and commentators ever really understood him.
"Since Bentham himself so clearly indicates the importance which he attached to the Theory of Fictions as an Instrument, it is all the more surprising that his biographers, interpreters, and critics have almost all been content to dismiss it with a contemptuous reference."
(Ogden here excludes only Sir Leslie Stephen, who "in his account of Bentham in 'The English Utilitarians', provides a detached and intelligible summary.")
Again, this is not the Bentham one generally encounters in those 'History of Philosophy' survey courses. But why? Well, the first thing to note is that this text, 'The Theory of Fictions', was not given this form by Bentham. Rather, it was culled from several of the later manuscripts. In his manuscripts Bentham, it seems, was in the habit of "starting afresh whenever he resumed the consideration of any subject from a different angle" so there is a great deal of repetition in these notes. Of course, editing these notes was very difficult. And his editors and collaborators worked on what they thought important. But unfortunately "the material on Linguistic Psychology occupied a peculiar position, and its importance was not obvious to his younger collaborators."
And so it was left to Ogden, a century later, to do the work necessary to bring this material to the world. Whether you merely wish to understand the presuppositions of utilitarianism, or you have an interest (as I do) in the antecedents of our horrid postmodernity, - you must read Bentham on fictitious entities and their utility cum necessity! Also, do have a look at Vaihinger's "The Philosophy of As If" to hear the continental side of the argument for the necessity of fictions.
I should close with a note of warning; I found Bentham stylistically a very difficult read. I give four stars due to style. Of course, this could be because these remarks of Bentham's were culled from manuscripts. However, I think it has something to do with the oratorical traditions of the 1700's and 1800's. At times it seems as if the verbal pyrotechnics that are aimed at spellbinding an uneducated mob are routinely used in all forms of writing too. (I also find Carlyle, at times, quite unreadable.) However, the long introduction by Ogden was very readable. The introduction and Benthams text are almost of equal length.
If one is interested in the notion of 'necessary fictions' I would recommend the following books at minimum:
Opus Postumum, Immanuel Kant (Vaihinger underlines the relevance of this unfinished book to his work. Nietzsche also saw it. Continental Philosophy.)
Bentham's Theory of Fictions, Charles K. Ogden (The book I am here reviewing. Anglo-American Philosophy.)
The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Importance, Friedrich Albert Lange (Nietsche read the still untranslated first edition of this book. Continental. But the second edition was translated by Bertrand Russell so it travels well.)
Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche's Notebooks of the Early 1870s, Friedrich Nietzsche (Radical Neo-Kantianism. Continental.)
The Philosophy of As if, H. Vaihinger (Continental.)
Some later works to consult:
Political Hypocrisy: The Mask of Power, from Hobbes to Orwell and Beyond, David Runciman (Anglo-american.)
Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, Quentin Skinner (On the necessity for Reason to rhetorically embellish itself in an unreasonable world. Like Bentham, Vaihinger also considered Hobbes a precursor. Anglo-American.)
Nietzsche's Aesthetic Turn: Reading Nietzsche After Heidegger, Deleuze, Derrida, James J. Winchester (especially, chapter 5. Continental/Postmodern.)
Nietzsche's Anthropic Circle : Man, Science, and Myth, George J. Stack (Continental/Postmodern.)
The Modern Construction of Myth, Andrew Von Hendy (A bit of a stretch but see chapters 12 and 13 especially. Myth may have been the very first 'necessary fiction'.)
Narrative Truth And Historical Truth: Meaning And Interpretation In Psychoanalysis, Donald P Spence (Yes, another stretch, but psychoanalysis has a rich tradition of wrestling with the fictions of the unconscious that some interested in the theme of necessary fictions might find illuminating.)
I include below an abbreviated Table of Contents of my 1959 edition because Amazon seems to only have Ogden's Introduction listed:
Table of Contents:
Introduction, C.K. Ogden
I. Origins and Influence, ix;
II. The Theory, xxxiv;
III. Expansions and Applications, lxii;
IV. Remedies, Legal and General, cxiii;
The Theory Fictions, Jeremy Bentham
Part I. General Outline
I. Linguistic Fictions, 7;
A. Classification of Entities, 7;
B. Classification of Fictitious Entities, 19;
II. Fictions in Psychology, 59;
III. Elliptical Fictions, 66;
IV. Fiction and Metaphor, 70;
V. Exposition, 75;
VI. Language as a Sign-System, 105;
Part II. Special Problems,
I. Motion, Rest, and Relativity, 109;
II. Substantive and Adjective, 114;
III. The Fiction of Right, 118;
IV. The Fiction of an Original Contract, 122;
V. Analysis, Physical and Linguistic, 126;
VI. Summary, 137;
Appendix A. Legal Fictions, 141;
Appendix B. The Classification of Fictions, by George Bentham, 151;
Index, 157; ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 30, 2015
Dec 01, 1992
it was amazing
Philosophy, its Competitors, and Authority
This is a rather rarely read book by Kant. Who reads it? First, I believe it is read by those who think it a Philosophy, its Competitors, and Authority
This is a rather rarely read book by Kant. Who reads it? First, I believe it is read by those who think it a testament in the history of the struggle for intellectual freedom. Next, most people who bother to read this book today come at it from a theological background. They are interested in the contentious relationship between theology and philosophy. The last reason people might pick up this edition is that it is a bilingual edition and thus they hope they can use it as an aid in learning, or translating, the German language. The Table of Contents of this edition is as follows:
Translator's Introduction, vii;
First Part. The Conflict of the Philosophy Faculty with the Theology Faculty
I. On the Relation of the Faculties
First Section. The Concept and Division of the Higher Faculties, 31;
A. The Distinctive Characteristic of the Theology Faculty, 35;
B. The Distinctive Characteristic of the Faculty of Law, 37;
C. The Distinctive Characteristic of the Faculty of Medicine, 41;
Second Section. The Concept and Division of the Lower Faculty, 43;
Third Section. On the Illegal Conflict of the Higher Faculties with the Lower Faculty, 47;
Fourth Section. On the Legal Conflict of the Higher Faculties with the Lower Faculty, 53;
II. Appendix: The Conflict between the Theology and Philosophy Faculties, as an Example Clarifying the Conflict of the Faculties
1. The Subject Matter of the Conflict, 61;
2. Philosophical Principles of Scriptural Exegesis for Settling the Conflict, 65;
3. Objections concerning the Principles of Scriptural Exegesis, along with Replies to Them, 79;
General Remark: On Religious Sects, 85;
Conclusion of Peace and Settlement of the Conflict of the Faculties, 111;
Appendix: Historical Questions about the Bible, Concerning the Practical Use and Probable Duration of This Sacred Book, 125;
Appendix: On a Pure Mysticism in Religion, 127;
Second Part. The Conflict of the Philosophy Faculty with the Faculty of Law
An Old Question Raised Again: Is the Human Race Constantly Progressing?, 141;
Third Part. The Conflict of the Philosophy Faculty with the Faculty of Medicine
On the Power of the Mind to Master Its Morbid Feelings by Sheer Resolution, 175;
The Principle of the Regimen, 181;
Translator's Notes, 215;
Mary J. Gregor authors the Translators Introduction and she is listed as the translator of this book. However, this is not exactly right. In the Bibliographical note we learn that the "translation of Part II of 'The Conflict of the Faculties' is by Robert E. Anchor and is reprinted from the collection "Kant: On History",edited by Lewis W. Beck (p. xxx)."
The books title, the "Conflict of the Faculties", refers to the University Faculties of Theology, Law, Medicine, and lastly, Philosophy. Philosophy is referred throughout as the "lower faculty" while the other three are the "higher faculties". What is the basis of this peculiar ranking? Kant tells us that, "a faculty is considered higher only if its teachings - both as to their content and the way they are expounded to the public - interest the government itself, while the faculty whose function is only to look after the interests of science is called lower because it may use its own judgement about what it teaches" (pp. 25-27). So, that is why those three faculties are considered 'higher': they are rightly chained by Authority! And they are 'rightly' so chained because their sayings and doings affect society. In the Preface we learned that Kant is pleased to consider this book a belated answer to an Edict sent to him (to Philosophy!, I might add) by a creature of the King. So you see, it seems that Kant's defense of philosophy basically is that philosophy is entirely irrelevant to what ordinary people believe, say and do.
This extraordinary defense of Philosophy in the Introduction ends thusly:
"The reason why this faculty, despite its great prerogative (freedom), is called the lower faculty lies in human nature; for a man who can give commands, even though he is someone else's humble servant, is considered more distinguished than a free man who has no one under his command. (p. 29)"
This, however, is not exactly the same as the point we thought Kant had made earlier. There he basically argued that only the faculty that was irrelevant to the behavior of society was Free, while the rest were rightfully chained to Authority. In other words, one could infer from this that the inferior position of philosophy vis-à-vis the other faculties is merely an artifact of Civil Society (Nomos); that is to say, it is but fashion. Now, at the end of this Introduction, he finds the roots of this lower ranking to be in human nature itself. That, unfortunately for philosophy, is not merely fashion. I suspect that here we are meant to understand that under any Authority (I mean to say under any possible Religion, any possible Politics) philosophy would still be the powerless 'faculty' and, perhaps for some even more worrisome, that there will always be an extra-philosophical (or non-philosophical) Authority judging philosophy.
If one includes the Preface, Part One (the part specifically concerning theology) takes up more than half the book. Why is so much attention paid to Theology? Because, as Kant indicates, it was thanks to Theology, in a conflict with Philosophy over Biblical Interpretation, that the hounds of the State were released against Philosophy. One might assume that Kant intends to return the favor by warning Authority that the other faculties can, and at times have, overstepped their legitimate bounds.
"So the biblical theologian (as a member of a higher faculty) draws his teaching not from reason but from the Bible; the professor of law gets his, not from the natural law, but from the law of the land; and the professor of medicine does not draw his method of therapy as practiced on the public from the physiology of the human body but from medical regulations. As soon as one of these faculties presumes to mix with its teachings something it treats as derived from reason, it offends against the authority of the government that issues orders through it and encroaches on the territory of the philosophy faculty... (p. 35)"
The "higher faculties" are regulated by the State (or whatever Powers be), answer to it, and therefore cannot be (primarily) concerned with Reason. (As an aside we should note that Kant is merely being polite -or prudent- when he says here that the "biblical theologian" teaches from the Bible; theology was also quite 'regulated' by the State in Frederick William II's Prussia.) So again, we see that the freedom of thought that philosophy enjoys comes at a price: practical irrelevancy. But we should also note that for Kant there are only two competent Judges of the Higher Faculties: Philosophy and Authority. It seems that Kant is here proposing a détente between these two 'powers'. But don't these two very different Judges ever come into conflict? No. Kant (in the theological section of this book) seems to intend for us to believe that Philosophy is a Judge without any practical Jurisdiction. And the State has no Authority over (because it has no vital, that is to say, practical interest in) mere Reason Itself. ...How could there ever be a conflict?
Kant strives to demonstrate this throughout Part One of this text. One does wonder how successful this argument was or could ever be... And how well received his subtle contention that mere Authority (and again, here he seems to mean any political or religious Authority) is never entirely guided by Reason. Authority herself, unlike Philosophy, therefore seems to be an admixture of nature and fashion.
I leave the niceties of the argument over biblical interpretation to those more knowledgeable of biblical criticism in the Eighteenth Century.
Now I would like to continue with a consideration of the discussion of Law that makes up Part Two. It poses the question: "Is the Human Race Constantly Progressing?" But first, I want to note that there is a different translation of Part Two (in "Kant's Political Writing", Hans Reiss, ed., H.B. Nisbet translator, 1970) that I will also refer to. Those who bought the present book as an exercise in translation might find a comparison of this translation by Robert E. Anchor with the Nisbet translation beneficial. Overall, I found the Nisbet translation more readable and will often make use of it below.
Question: "how is a history a priori possible? Answer: if the diviner himself creates and contrives the events which he announces in advance. (pp. 141-143)" So, one does not merely predict the future, one makes it too. Or, more clearly, the 'making' is the prediction. Now, Kant sees three possibilities regarding a predictable human History: "The human race exists in continual retrogression toward wickedness, or in perpetual progression toward improvement in its moral destination, or in eternal stagnation in its present stage of moral worth among creatures (a stagnation with which eternal rotation in orbit around the same point is one and the same.) (p. 145)" Kant at this point seems, perhaps a bit more than ever so slightly, to consider the last possibility of an eternal cycle the most likely. The first possibility is dismissed because, if true, humanity likely would have long ago destroyed itself. The second is 'untenable' because of the admixture of good and evil in each individual. But the third possibility, "which may well have the majority of voices on its side..." (p. 147), is really rather dispiriting...
"[I]n the final analysis, man requires coherency according to natural laws, but with respect to his future free actions he must dispense with this guidance or direction." (p. 151)
However, whether one is in a cycle of decline or progression one cannot know that a change of direction is not around the corner (see p. 149). Prophesy may be impossible, but there is no need to ever despair. So, therefore one should perhaps not shy away from practical activity because this "would concern an event he himself could produce" (p. 151). But is this still the case even given the fact that the following statement is true of Humanity?:
"with the mixture of good and evil in his predisposition, the proportion of which he is incognizant, he himself does not know what effect he might expect from it. (p. 151)"
Now, it would seem that our ability to predict the future cannot be simply based on human nature thanks to this admixture making prediction unlikely, if not impossible. We began this second essay with an exceedingly modern gesture: one can know what one makes. Of course, this tacitly assumes that one has real knowledge of oneself, and also ones materials, others, and circumstance. But if we now concede that the human maker does not entirely know himself (remember, we do not know the proportion of the admixture of good and evil) then all his making must be suspect (that is, in a certain sense even the intended results are 'unknown' or 'unpredictable') too. What now? Well, we might still know our circumstances...
"But from a given cause an event as an effect can be predicted [only] if the circumstances prevail which contribute to it." (p. 151) Perhaps. But now, you see, the future is no longer entirely in our hands; and we are thus, but (hopefully) only partly, hostages to fate. This event "might then serve to prove the existence of a tendency within the human race as a whole, considered not as a series of individuals (for this would result in interminable enumerations and calculations) but as a body distributed over the earth in states and national groups. (This last quote is from the Nisbet translation of this essay, cited above, p.181. I found the translation by Anchor somewhat obscure at this point.)"
But what 'event' are we now speaking of? Of course, it is the French Revolution! Is Kant now going to speak of heroic individuals overthrowing merciless tyranny and thus of Man making History? "No, nothing of the sort. It is simply the mode of thinking of the spectators which reveals itself publicly in this game of great revolutions, and manifests such a universal yet disinterested sympathy for the players on one side against those on the other, even at the risk that this partiality could become very disadvantageous for them if discovered (p. 153)." One might say that the Universality of the anonymous Public here constitutes for Kant an almost Kojèvean 'third' that judges between the Revolution and Ancien Régime in a disinterested manner. This universal reaction points to our common moral character, "or at least the makings of one. (Nisbet, 182)"
Now, Kant argues that even if this Revolution ultimately fails, and in so horrifically bloody a manner that none dare attempt it again, we have still learned something: that this sympathy that borders on enthusiasm, "can have no other cause than a moral predisposition in the human race. (p. 153)" What this predisposition affirms is the right of a people to self-government, that their constitution will eschew offensive war, and that this government must be a Republic, or at least have a republican constitution. He goes on to say of this popular enthusiasm that "(although not to be wholly esteemed, since passion as such deserves censure), [...] genuine enthusiasm always moves only toward what is ideal and, indeed, toward what is purely moral..." (p. 155) Apparently, this 'genuine enthusiasm' can be known by its disinterestedness: "the external public of onlookers sympathized with their exaltation, without the slightest interest of actively participating in their affairs. (Nisbet, 183)"
The public hasn't the "slightest interest of actively participating" in Revolution. A remarkable observation! - Or perhaps it is a promise? ...Or a covert threat? In any case, the present dearth of European Monarchs does make one wonder exactly how accurate this particular observation was... Nor should we be surprised at this enthusiasm of the people. Kant indicates that it is not Revolution per se that interests this remarkably self-controlled public but rather Universalism Itself! He says, by way of clarification, "non singulorum, sed universorum'. Now, Kant goes on to argue that evolution is preferable to Revolution and that European Monarchs should rule in a manner based on Republican Principles. And he foresees that this may indeed be the course of events. Of the Revolution he says,
"[f]or that event is too important, too much interwoven with the interest of humanity, and its influence too widely propagated in all areas of the world to not be recalled on any favorable occasion by the nations which would then be roused to a repetition of new efforts of this kind; because then, in an affair so important for humanity, the intended constitution, at a certain time, must finally attain that constancy which instruction by repeated experience suffices to establish in the minds of all men. (p. 159)"
And it is this evolution, with the French Revolution as its lodestar, which henceforth guides humanity. Now, our author sets no time frame for this process. "But so far as time is concerned, it can promise this only indefinitely and as a contingent event. (p. 159)" In this manner Kant quietly, gently, and politely places the sword of Damocles over the Monarchs of the World. Republicanism is coming; but nobody knows when...
What is popular Enlightenment? "Enlightenment of the masses is the public instruction of the people in its duties and rights vis-à-vis the state to which they belong. (p. 161)" Who does this teaching? The Philosophers. Yes, this is so not what Kant had said in his essay regarding Theology! We have now reached section 8 of the second part of our book. This part is concerned with the conflict between philosophy and law. The title of this section is "Concerning the Difficulty of the Maxims Applying to World Progress with Regard to Their Publicity". What is the difficulty? Well, since philosophy is only concerned with "natural rights and rights arising out of the common human understanding", philosophy comes into conflict with the state, "precisely because this freedom is allowed to them, [the philosophers] are objectionable to the state, which always desires to rule alone" (p. 161).
It is curious, by the way, that Kant specifically extends the concerns of philosophy beyond natural rights to 'rights arising out of the common human understanding' (Nisbet renders this passage as "rights which can be derived from ordinary common sense". - p. 186.) I had underlined this when I first read it, and I still stop short when I reread it. If philosophy is to concern itself with 'common sense' than it has, at least according to Kant, seemingly also set itself up as the final arbiter of mere fashion (i.e., of Nomos). The only possible justification for this that I can see is that this 'common human understanding' must always have some Reason in it in order to achieve any degree of commonality. However, the interest of philosophy in the merely contemporary certainly cannot reassure the State of the moderation (or the good will) of the philosophers!
And again, this is really not exactly what Kant had said in the previous section regarding Theology. How does our philosopher get around this? Oh, "the people take scarcely any or no notice at all of it and their writings"! (But is it really possible for philosophy to always remain uninteresting?) So then, the writings of the philosophers, while put out in the marketplace of ideas for any to peruse, are merely "addressed respectfully to the state" (p. 161). But all this must be done publicly because "if a whole people wishes to present its grievance (gravamen), the only way in which this can be done is by publicity. A ban on publicity will therefore hinder a nation's progress, even with regard to the least of its claims, the claim for natural rights. (Nisbet, 186)." The necessity of 'publicity' seems to be that without it the State will become blind to either the necessities of human nature or changes in fashionable 'common sense'.
Of course, publicity can be used to deceive too. As an example Kant here mentions the english crown, which makes a great show of its 'limited' nature while being, at all crucial points (especially regarding war), absolute. This is likely a warning directed at the Prussian King. Contrary to the deceptive nature of warring Kingdoms, the Republican Ideal (our author calls it a 'respublica noumenon') tends towards peace. "A civil society organized in conformity with it and governed by laws of freedom is an example representing it in the world of experience (respublica phaenomenon), and it can only be achieved by a laborious process, after innumerable wars and conflicts. But its constitution, once it has been attained as a whole, is the best qualified of all to keep out war, the destroyer of everything good. (Nisbet, p. 187.)" It would be foolish to object that republics, both ancient and modern, have in fact fought many wars. Kant would answer that the best instantiation of the 'Ideal Constitution' has not yet been attained. Only if this cannot ever be attained would it be plausible to argue that the attempt to create it was but a 'fools errand'.
Review is too long, will continue with a comment. ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 03, 2011
May 29, 2003
Jul 07, 2005
really liked it
The New 'New Nietzsche'
Now, it certainly isn't everyday that one runs across a new interpretation of Nietzsche! Well, this book (among other 12/27/2006
The New 'New Nietzsche'
Now, it certainly isn't everyday that one runs across a new interpretation of Nietzsche! Well, this book (among others) has in fact achieved that. This book on the Kantian roots of Nietzsche's thought is one among several, including:
Michael Steven Green: Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition
Robin Small: Nietzsche in Context
George J. Stack: Nietzsche's Anthropic Circle : Man, Science, and Myth
Most students of my generation, here in America, began our exploration of Nietzsche with the sober Walter Kaufmann and analytically-minded Arthur Danto.. Later, in the mid-sixties and seventies, we became acquainted with the "New Nietzsche', that is the so-called Continental (e.g., Heidegger, Jaspers, and Karl Löwith) and Postmodern (Deleuze, Derrida, and Foucault) interpretations. Later still, we became aware of the 'esoteric' Nietzsche of both Pierre Klossowski and Leo Strauss and his school (Laurence Lampert, Stanley Rosen). Well, now the latest Nietzsche is the Kantian Nietzsche. Nietzschean interpretation now has Radical Kantianism to range alongside the Continental, Postmodern, Straussian and Analytic interpretations. Bravo!
A good 'rallying cry' for this new interpretation was provided by Green in his 'Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition' where he says of Nietzsche that:
"His exposure to philosophy primarily came from two sources. He knew a great deal about ancient philosophy, especially Plato and the pre-Socratics by virtue of his philological training. And he had read a number of philosophers in the nineteenth-century Neo-Kantian tradition, such as Schopenhauer, Friedrich Albert Lange, Gustav Teichmuller and Afrikan Spir. It is to these writer we should primarily look to understand what Nietzsche was talking about, not Derrida or Foucault and not Tarski or Quine." (Green, Introduction, p. 3.)
Our author, R. Kevin Hill, will argue for the centrality of Schopenhauer, Friedrich Albert Lange and Kuno Fischer in Nietzsche's understanding of Kant and Kantianism. I will be stepping on no ones toes if I say that a generation ago almost no readers of Nietzsche were studying the neo-Kantian canon - with the single exception of Schopenhauer, of course. Some of the most important of these relatively unknown neo-Kantian works are:
F. A. Lange: The History of Materialism and Criticism of its Present Importance
Kuno Fischer: A Commentary on Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"
Afrikan Spir: Right and Wrong
Jules de Gaultier: From Kant to Nietzsche
Hans Vaihinger: The Philosophy of As If
We absolutely will NEVER see Nietzsche until we see him in the sea in which he swam. This means becoming acquainted with not only Kant and Schopenhauer but also the works mentioned above. Note that both de Gaultier and Vaihinger are after Nietzsche's intervention but they help show us the trajectory of neo-Kantianism.
I want to add, regarding the 'Kantian Nietzsche', that even though it perhaps shows that I am far too easily excited I am delighted by this emergent trend in Nietzsche interpretation. Also I should point out that Nietzsche is at his most 'Kantian' in the notes he never saw fit to publish (i.e., Will to Power). Now, all these works mentioned above should be in any college library but I doubt that most public libraries would have them all. These books on Nietzsche, btw, understand themselves to be, for the most part, disputing and disproving the postmodern understanding of Nietzsche. They can however, or so I would argue, be understood to be exposing the radical Kantian roots of this very Nietzschean postmodernism.
How? Well, in 'Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology: Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, Volume II' there is an essay almost entirely ghost-written, and thus approved, by Foucault. The essay 'Foucault' (p. 459) begins thusly "To the extent that Foucault fits into the philosophical tradition, it is the critical tradition of Kant, and his project could be called a Critical History of Thought." So there is a way that Foucault (and postmodernism in general) can be understood by those steeped in Anglo-Saxon academic philosophical analysis - go back to their mutual neo/Kantian roots. That is, in my opinion, the great work of reconstruction that this newly emergent school is embarked on. The history of radical Kantianism (Kant, Neo-Kantians, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Postmodernism) has yet to be written! Hopefully, some young scholar is assembling even now the materials necessary for the writing of this history.
Now, our expositors of the Kantian Nietzsche do not generally understand themselves to be engaging in a sort of unification of the various Nietzsche interpretations. - In fact, anything but! The spirit of this remark by Hill can, in this regard, be taken to be typical:
"If we are to read Nietzsche, not as the legislator of a new post-theistic religion or as the bellelettrist of acute psychological and cultural observation, that is, if we are to read him as a philosopher, we will be led inexorably to the context of Neo-Kantianism, and to the highly peculiar things Nietzsche did with Kant." (Hill, Conclusion, p. 232.)
Thus Hill repudiates the 'constructivism' we find in some Straussian interpretations (e.g., Lampert) of Nietzsche and also the aesthetics of (so much of) postmodernism. But I do not believe this will be the last word!
I agree that the only two philosophical `traditions' that Nietzsche knew, in a manner that would be recognized as rigorous by academics, were the Kantian and the ancient Greeks. I would argue that it may well one day be said that the Platonic 'world-making' of Nietzsche was in fact a consequence of his Radical Kantianism. If the `Real' world is unreachable (the infamous things-in-themselves) then the True, Good and Beautiful are forever unreachable too. And so they (the true, good and beautiful) will eventually be denied - or created. Thus the `Platonic' world-making of Nietzsche is an attempt to prevent the inevitable fall into nihilism (denial of values) which eventually follows as a consequence of Radical Kantianism...
In fact I have long thought that the only way to (intelligently) argue against Nietzsche as (political) esotericist (as Laurence Lampert presents him, e.g.) is to present Nietzsche as a Kantian who radicalizes the political consequences of living in a world in which the 'things themselves' (i.e. the Truth) are forever a black box to us. But these two interpretations, thanks to the danger of nihilism, then slide into each other.
But how would one go about making this argument? I would make it by arguing the centrality (for Nietzsche) of Kant's third critique. I think that Hill has nicely shown that not only had Nietzsche read the 'Critique of Judgment' first but Hill has also shown that it remained a central concern to Nietzsche throughout his thinking career. And I should add that Hill has given us, in these pages, an intelligent discussion of the 3rd Critique too.
Thus the key to all this will turn out to be, in my perhaps worthless opinion at any rate, Kant's (3rd) Critique of Judgment - which has, in fact, always seemed a duality to me. On the one hand you have the section on aesthetics while on the other hand you have the section on teleology. How do they hang together? Is the section on teleology really the `4th' critique? ...But what if this last, the search for intelligibility, meaning, purpose, was to be taken seriously? Wouldn't it threaten to swallow all the other Critiques? The search for intelligibility and purpose becomes, inevitably becomes, the Creation of intelligibility and purpose. If you read the 3rd Critique first you might conclude that the other critiques (Pure Reason, Practical Reason) follow from it! Nietzsche read the 3rd Critique first! Our ability to form judgments, purposeful (Teleological) Judgments, is how Kant hoped to seal his system...
But enough of that! So, in closing, I want to say that this is a great addition (and introduction) to the new 'Kantian' school of Nietzsche interpretation. But this school is still in its infancy and no one yet knows what it will become once the other interpretive schools actively engage it... ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2011
Jun 01, 1958
Dec 01, 1958
really liked it
In the midst (really, the maelstrom!) of Heidegger's Silence(s), I fear that one can hear whatever one pleases. Politically, the Right and L Seinsfrage
In the midst (really, the maelstrom!) of Heidegger's Silence(s), I fear that one can hear whatever one pleases. Politically, the Right and Left each find themselves. (Heidegger, I have no doubt, would have, in however qualified a manner, found himself nearer the Right than the Left.) I have read and reread this text several times over the years, with notes and underlining everywhere. (Impressively, my 1957 hardcover translation by Kluback and Wilde is still in one piece.) Usually, when I review a text of this importance, I try to walk through the argument, sometimes paragraph by paragraph. I am as yet unprepared to do that. I have a mountain of notes ...but no conclusion. Below, I would like to talk briefly about why.
But first, a little about the text. This is a brief essay that I believe has been included in more than one collection in English. This essay first appeared in a festschrift honoring Ernst Jünger on his 60th birthday. The essay by Heidegger, 'Uber 'Die Linie',' is a response to an essay by Jünger, 'Uber die Linie.' Heidegger actively engages Jünger more than once in his collected works. Thus it is remarkable how few of Jünger's non-fiction works have been translated into English. What makes this edition remarkable is that it is a translation with the German on the facing page. This is very rare with Heidegger; indeed it is rare with all translations of philosophical texts. I wish it would become the norm... I also believe this is the first time Heidegger uses the strikeout (an elongated 'X' through the term) of the word 'Being' in his published works. Derrida will later pick this up and expand on it as 'Sous Rature'.
I want to begin by mentioning how pivotal this small book, really an essay (1956, first translated 1958), was for me. When I first saw it (bought used in the early seventies) the world was in a war between irreconcilable 'truths'. (Communism / Capitalism.) This book showed that one could intelligently speak of the world without knowing what would, or even should, happen next. Beyond our present world-picture, for Heidegger a technological nihilism, we could not be certain of anything. Indeed. we could not even know if we would remain the 'we' we are now!
The known, every Known, is surrounded by the Unknown. There are terrible consequences for that. Once Being is seen to be entwined with Time stability, all stability, is put in question. Heidegger arrives at this through his fundamental (philosophical) anthropology cum fundamental ontology. But he isn't the only one to do so. Lukács (in his late Ontology), for instance, from a militantly opposed direction that starts by willfully ignoring philosophical anthropology cum existentialism, and proceeding through the scholastics, Hegel, Marx, and then surprisingly (for me) ignoring the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger, while he makes much use of the now forgotten ontology of Nikolai Hartmann, ends by asserting that the categories of Being Itself change. But Lukács too ends with anthropology: Labor.
It seems that for as long as we remain human, everything is (and can only be) about Man. But Heidegger wishes to get beyond all that.
Many of us (or at least we used to) situate ourselves somewhere in the wake of Kant and German Idealism. But whether as phenomenology, transcendental philosophy, or western marxism, that wake (once called continental philosophy) broke on the shoals of post-Heideggerean philosophy. I consider this a fact. Heidegger's importance has only grown over the years. And the number of Heidegger interpretations continue to grow. Why? Part of the reason, I believe, is that his earlier work and his later work do not seem to sync up. How, for instance, does the old resolution and the new releasement belong in the 'same' philosophy? I don't believe they do. The trauma of the war years fully convinced Heidegger that it is not Man Who Does. (-Even the most existentially Authentic Man.) Indeed, in this text before us Heidegger will imply that Jünger (a proto-fascist) too is a humanist! It is this turn from an active humanity (however conceived) to a humanity that receives the gifts that Being bestows that, in my opinion, pulls the rug out from under all existential / da-sein interpretations of Heidegger.
I don't mean to say, btw, that Heidegger discovered that Being changes. Indeed, in this book, Heidegger says that "'Being' (the reality of the real), is thought of as by Hegel and Nietzsche, as pure growth and absolute movement." (I believe the difference between Hegel and Nietzsche is that for Hegel Being still has a Logos, while for Nietzsche, Being is Chaos.) Many, if not most, people interested in the early Heidegger are interested in his relation to Aristotle. I think that those interested in the postwar Heidegger are more interested in the relation between Heidegger and Hegel.
Now, Heidegger's all-too-brief (but tantalizing) remarks regarding Hegel in this text lead me to the following thoughts. Although the dialectic is the road of despair for Hegel, there is also triumph. Reason can fully grasp this dialectical process as System. (Though, of course, not each and every particular moment can be fully grasped.) With Heidegger this is gone. Working through the Seinsfrage leads the perceptive reader (I believe) to one conclusion: there doesn't seem to be any understanding of ourselves that (certainly) endures when we cross over the line beyond our current nihilism. Not the prewar völkisch fantasies (whether centered on Race or, as with Junger, Worker, is immaterial) of the German right. Not the sovereign ego of Cartesian Philosophy or Sartrean Existentialism. Not even the petty well-crafted ironies of post-Derridean academic philosophy. (Thank God!) Even Thought Itself, according to Heidegger, must radically change. The entwinement of Being & Time fundamentally means that there isn't anything (any being) that always remains itself.
That is enough, but there is (for me at least) more. Dialectics (both Hegelian and Marxist) claims that however much nonsense and games there are in History we will never be at a point where we find that everything we have believed to be important is irrelevant. But that is precisely what Heidegger's postwar understanding of Unconcealment and Epochal Change means! Any Epoch (each ultimately given by Being) is eventually Withdrawn. - With no promise that any past obsessions (yes, that is the precise word) that occur in said Epoch survive over the line that leads past our current nihilism; that is, beyond our currently withdrawing Epoch. That our past, with all its myriad ideologies and religions, could add up to Nothing... - Well, there are no words.
It is really beyond me how any of this can meaningfully be called 'conservative'.
If we can't theorize the late Heidegger politically, - what then? All Theodicy claims that at the most fundamental level there are no mistakes. Heidegger says the same thing. Even the Nihilism of our Time is the Geschick (destining) of Being. Like Hegel again, but in a very different manner, Heidegger also maintains that at the most fundamental level there have been no mistakes. We were always going to eventually end up here in late modernity / postmodernity. Beings concealment belongs to the beginning of Western Philosophy. Philosophy did nothing 'wrong'; - Concealment (and nihilism) was always its Fate.
It is this total loss of 'significance' (i.e., decisive moments, turning points where things could have been Otherwise) for the History of Philosophy that makes Heidegger's later thought (at its deepest) so profound. There are days I think that no interpretation of his final position could ever be radical enough.
But what of Heidegger's myriad interpreters? Nietzsche said that books are mirrors. What he means is that people only discover themselves - their own predispositions, their own 'deep-down', the ways things have settled within them, their particular 'stupidity' - in books. (I would argue that Nietzsche does not mean to say that this is true of philosophy. In order to see that 'books are mirrors' the philosopher Nietzsche had to break the mirror. To be a Philosopher one must no longer be obsessed with oneself. [See BGE, - section 26.]) The 'Unknown' is the first, last and greatest 'mirror'. "Over the Line" (our fated leap into some given realm of the Unknown beyond our present nihilism), Heidegger warns in this book that 'we' may no longer even be ourselves. But regarding this Epochal change, which is both Unwilled and Unknown, the Heideggerian Left somehow discovers Freedom, while the Heideggerian Right uncovers Order. ...All this means is that neither Left nor Right has broken the mirror.
Everybody who reads Heidegger, without simply rejecting him, imagines that Heidegger is somehow 'with' them. The later Heidegger isn't with anyone or any position; each must change (that is, each will be unpredictably changed when we cross the 'Line of Nihilism') into something else. But the later Heidegger, unfaithful to all politics and religions, was always faithful to Being. And yes, 'faith' is (presently) the only possible word. Until, that is, we are enfolded in the Thinking beyond philosophy that (possibly) awaits us Over the Line. And it is this 'waiting' that makes the final Heidegger so difficult come to terms with. Until the 'other beginning' beyond out technological nihilism arrives, what Heidegger says must remain unclear. And I fear any explication of the final Heidegger suffers this fate.
So you see, in the end phenomenology, politics and philosophical anthropology (all of them!) and so forth are but reified moments of the History of Being, temporary arrangements striving not to be temporary. So then is Man but a plaything of mindless Being? No, for Heidegger, Humanity is the only adequate (and destined) witness to Being; we must all strive to be equal to this terrible unsurpassable burden.
A somewhat embarrassing five stars for a book that none of us can fully understand. ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2011
Sep 12, 1962
really liked it
Philosophy and Authority
In this review I would like to consider the second essay collected in this edition -'On the Difference between the G 09/21/2006
Philosophy and Authority
In this review I would like to consider the second essay collected in this edition -'On the Difference between the Genius and the Apostle'- which is too often overlooked by readers. Kierkegaard begins this meditation by denouncing the tendency of nineteenth century Christians to assume (even hope that) the Apostles were 'geniuses'. But according to Kierkegaard "St. Paul cannot be compared with either Plato or Shakespeare, as a coiner of beautiful similes he comes pretty low down on the scale, as a stylist his name is quite obscure..." So, why read the Apostle Paul? "Genius is what it is of itself, i.e. through that which it is in itself; an Apostle is what he is by his divine authority..." The Apostle represents an Eternal Paradox, the Word made flesh, while the genius may initially be paradoxical "but ultimately the race will assimilate what was once a paradox in such a way that it is no longer paradoxical." Thus the mere 'genius' St. Paul becomes, like the 'mere' genius of Plato, another name one surveys in a 'History of Western Thought' college course.
But an "Apostle is not born; an Apostle is a man called and appointed by God, receiving a mission from him." And what of the Apostle's message? "The new which he may have to bring forth is the essential paradox. However long it may be proclaimed in the world it remains essentially and equally new, equally paradoxical, and no immanence can assimilate it." Kierkegaard is here maintaining that while the Hegelian dialectic may assimilate every other; it cannot assimilate the Eternal Other of God's Word - "for the essential paradox is the protest against immanence." And genius, or so Kierkegaard maintains, is merely the finest flower of imminence. "Divine authority is, qualitatively, the decisive factor." Thus ultimately the Apostle appeals to Authority while the genius can only has resort to his all-to-human reason and rhetoric.
Kierkegaard rightly sees this attempt to assimilate the category 'genius' to the category 'Apostle' as a consequence of modern skepticism about God and authority. But as a consequence of this assimilation the Apostle is "an examinee who appears on the market with a new teaching." And once this teaching is assimilated "there would cease to be any difference between the teacher and the learner." Of course, this is the ideal of Enlightenment; knowledge spread through the world equalizes everyone. To these "impertinent people who will not obey, but want to reason" Kierkegaard says that, "Authority is, on the contrary, something which remains unchanged, which one cannot acquire even by understanding the doctrine perfectly." Divine Authority can never be subsumed in any dialectic because "if authority is not 'the other', if it is in any sense merely a higher potency within the identity, then there is no such thing as authority." In fact, "between man and man qua man, then, no established or continuous authority was conceivable..." Kierkegaard is indicating that either we submit to Divine Authority or we submit to nihilism. There is no third choice.
Many Christians agree with this last but still want to see the Apostle as a genius. But to do so is to make the same what is forever Other and to compare the Incomparable. "To ask whether Christ is profound is blasphemy, and is an attempt (whether conscious or not) to destroy Him surreptitiously; for the question conceals a doubt concerning His authority, and this attempt to weigh Him up is impertinent in its directness, behaving as though He were being examined, instead of which it is to Him that all power is given in heaven and upon earth." Kierkegaard reminds us that no apodictic statement can be profound. "The decisive thing is not the statement, but the fact that it was Christ who said it..." One is tempted to here sneer that people too unintelligent or immature to judge statements on their own will always need some authority. Of course, it is now commonly thought that the Enlightenment is the 'adulthood of the human race', as Kant once remarked. But this is the exact possibility that Kierkegaard is denying; humanity, in its relation to God, will never achieve adulthood. Humanity will always be under the Authority of the Divine Other.
Even the great genius of the genuine philosopher does not escape this stricture. "What Plato says on immortality really is profound, reached after deep study; but then poor Plato has no authority whatsoever." In fact, philosophy, which is thought to be the ultimate 'authority' for our modern 'enlightenment', can be considered the ultimate target of this essay. "The whole of modern philosophy is therefore affected, because it has done away with obedience on the one hand, and authority on the other, and then, in spite of everything, claims to be orthodox." By 'modern philosophy' Kierkegaard is of course here alluding to Hegel. The most important distinction that Kierkegaard makes between the philosopher (i.e., the greatest genius) and the Apostle is that it is only the Apostle that has a purpose, properly speaking. How can we recognize the Apostle? "...[T]hat a man is called by a revelation to go out in the world, to proclaim the Word, to act and to suffer, to a life of uninterrupted activity as the Lord's messenger." But it is otherwise with genius. "Genius has only an imminent teleology; the Apostle is absolutely, paradoxically, teleologically placed."
The genius is "an unnecessary superfluity and a precious ornament." This superfluity is underlined by Kierkegaard's closing remarks on genius: "he has nothing to do with others, he does not write in order that: in order to enlighten men or in order to help them along the right road, in order to bring about something; in short, he does not write in order that. The same is true of every genius. No genius has an in order that; the Apostle has absolutely and paradoxically, an in order that." A genuine 'in order that' (i.e. purpose) must come from God or it is only, at bottom, a private fancy. All philosophers, from Plato to Hegel and beyond, ultimately only have their word on the Truth of whatever it is they teach. Only the Apostle ultimately has a purpose, because it is only he that is not spreading some private fancy.
If there is a God then there is something that endures. If there is no God then we can only have a succession of genius de jour - forever. The History of Philosophy is in fact this History of 'genius de jour'. As High Modernity continues its long disintegration into our low postmodernity we see the consequences of trusting in genius without Authority. It has now been seen by our postmodern nihilists that, regarding their grand theories, Plato and Hegel (and Marx and Nietzsche) only have their word on it. Thus 'reasons' and, far more ominously, thus does everyone (or an ever increasing fraction of everyone) on the planet. Modernity had staked everything on philosophical creativity -the ongoing creation of 'world-views'- but the ongoing war between various philosophical artifacts makes on wonder about the intelligence of this bet. It is the various irreconcilable philosophical artifacts, and their world-views, that are tearing our world apart.
One certainly doesn't need to believe in Divine Authority in order to believe in the utility of authority. But, and this is the answer of philosophy to Kierkegaard's attack, if Divine Authority remains powerless (or unwilling) to enforce its Will then philosophy must continue to 'create'; that is, philosophy will continue to bring a temporary but unifying purpose into the world. All that philosophy has is this ersatz purpose to pit against nihilism - a world bereft of meaning and purpose. And this is all philosophy ever will have... ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2011
really liked it
A Note on Lange, Nietzsche, Neo-Kantianism, and this edition
First, let me start out by admitting that I bought this book in order to Reviewed 2/18/2007
A Note on Lange, Nietzsche, Neo-Kantianism, and this edition
First, let me start out by admitting that I bought this book in order to further my studies of the development of Nietzsche's thought. Lange (like Kuno Fischer and, of course, Schopenhauer) was one of the main sources of Nietzsche's (ahem) Kantianism. This book is the third edition (1950) of the translation by Ernest Chester Thomas. This translation, of the second edition of Lange's magnum opus, was originally published in three books; 1877, 1890, 1892. These three books translated by Thomas, here bound in 1 volume, also includes an Introduction by Bertrand Russell. None of this was particularly important to me. What is important to me is that the original German edition by Lange was in 1865. It is this 1865 edition that the young Nietzsche was most familiar with, not this one. Thomas calls Lange's second edition (i.e., the book which is here translated) a 'substantially new work'. Lange himself, in his preface to the second edition, amazingly refers to the form of the original edition as "extemporized'' and adds; "Many defects incident to this mode of origin have been removed; but on the other hand, some of the merits of the first edition may have at the same time disappeared." But lest one think that it was only form, not content, that was changed, I should point out that in a note at the beginning of the 'Kant and Materialism' chapter Lange writes that the "changes made since the first edition are due to a renewed examination of the whole Kantian system, occasioned chiefly by Doctor [Hermann] Cohen." I mention this last only to show that it is not merely form that has changed with the second edition. Thomas ends his short preface thusly: "no doubt it is a polemic; but it is, at the same time, raised far above the level of ordinary controversial writing by its thoroughness, its comprehensiveness, and its impartiality." But we must still keep in mind that this is not the book that the young Nietzsche read in his formative years...
However, if you are interested in the early development of Neo-Kantianism this is a splendid book to have. Also, I want to mention for the beginning student of neo-Kantianism the following little read books:
Kuno Fischer: A Commentary on Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason"
Afrikan Spir: Right and Wrong
Jules de Gaultier: From Kant to Nietzsche
Hans Vaihinger: The Philosophy of As If
Obviously, one must read Schopenhauer too! Unfortunately, I do not believe any of the books I just listed are currently in print. But the Gaultier book seems to be readily available used. I should also mention that the Gaultier and Vaihinger books represent post-Nietzschean developments but I include them because they nicely expose a trajectory of neo-Kantian thought that ends in postmodernism. Also, I should mention that much of Spir has yet to be translated at all. I've seen Michael Steven Green, in "Nietzsche and the Transcendental Tradition", discusses Spir at length.
This book by Lange was very important in its time, especially in Germany, as part of the sophisticated attempt to have both modern science and a culture devoid of the 'soul-ravaging' dangers of materialism. The somewhat confusing contents of this translation (of the second edition of Lange's book) are as follows:
Introduction: Materialism, Past and Present; pp. v-xix;
Translator's Preface; pp. xxi-xxii;
Frederick Albert Lange: Biographical Notes; pp. xxiii-xxviii;
Author's Preface to the Second [and later] Editions; pp. xxix-xxx;
FIRST BOOK: HISTORY OF MATERIALISM UNTIL KANT
FIRST SECTION: Materialism in Antiquity
Chapter I: The Early Atomists: Especially Demokritos; pp. 1-36;
Chapter II: The Sensationalism of the Sophists, and Aristippo's Ethical Materialism; pp. 37-51;
Chapter III: The Reaction against Materialism and Sensationalism: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle; pp. 52-92;
Chapter IV: Materialism in Greece and Rome after Aristotle: Epikuros; pp. 93-125;
Chapter V: The Didactic Poem of Lucretius upon Nature; pp. 126-158;
SECOND SECTION: The Period of Transition
Chapter I: The Monotheistic Religions in their Relation to Materialism; pp. 161-186;
Chapter II: Scholasticism, and the Predominance of the Aristotelian Notions of Matter and Form; pp. 187-214;
Chapter III: The Return of Materialistic Theories with the Regeneration of the Sciences; pp. 215-249;
THIRD SECTION: Seventeenth Century Materialism
Chapter I: Gassendi; pp. 253-269;
Chapter II: Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury; pp. 270-290;
Chapter III: The Later Workings of Materialism in England; pp. 291-330;
FIRST BOOK (Continued)
FOURTH SECTION: The Eighteenth Century
Chapter I: The Influence of English Materialism in France and Germany; pp. 3-48;
Chapter II: De La Mettrie; pp. 49-91;
Chapter III: The System of Nature; pp. 92-123;
Chapter IV: The Reaction against Materialism in Germany; pp. 124-150;
SECOND BOOK: HISTORY OF MATERIALISM SINCE KANT
FIRST SECTION: Modern Philosophy
Chapter I: Kant and Materialism; pp. 153-234;
Chapter II: Philosophical Materialism since Kant; pp. 235-294;
SECOND SECTION: The Natural Sciences
Chapter I: Materialism and Exact Research; pp. 297-350;
Chapter II: Force and Matter; pp. 351-397;
SECOND BOOK (Continued)
Chapter III: The Scientific Cosmogony; pp. 3-25;
Chapter IV: Darwinism and Teleology; pp. 26-80;
THIRD SECTION: THe Natural Sciences Continued; Man and the Soul
Chapter I: The Relation of Man to the Animal World; pp. 83-110;
Chapter II: Brain and Soul; pp. 111-161;
Chapter III: Scientific Psychology; pp. 162-201;
Chapter IV: Physiology of the Sense-Organs and the World as Representation; pp. 202-230;
FOURTH SECTION: Ethical Materialism and Religion
Chapter I: Political Economy and Dogmatic Egoism; pp. 233-268;
Chapter II: Christianity and Enlightenment; pp. 269- 291;
Chapter III: Theoretical Materialism in its Relation to Ethical Materialism and to Religion; pp. 292-334;
Chapter IV: The Standpoint of the Ideal; pp. 335-362;
Preface to the Second Book [as Postscript]; pp. 363-365;
Index; pp. 367-376;
As you can see, the English translation originally broke the two books of the second German edition into three volumes; this fact is reflected in the pagination of this single volume third edition of the translation. This single volume edition thus has something over 1100 pages. The Preface to the Second Book ends on a note of hope, ten months after writing it Lange was dead... ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2011
Dec 01, 1991
Dec 26, 1991
really liked it
Is There a Marxist Ontology?
This book by Tom Rockmore is a history of Lukács' changing views on Marxist Rationalism and Bourgeois Irrationalism. There Is There a Marxist Ontology?
This book by Tom Rockmore is a history of Lukács' changing views on Marxist Rationalism and Bourgeois Irrationalism. There are basically four phases, according to our author. The first is best exhibited in "History and Class Consciousness". The second is (what Rockmore considers) the early Stalinist phase (see "The Young Hegel"). The third is the 'late Stalinist' phase, which includes "Existentialism or Marxist" and "The Destruction of Reason." The last phase our author finds in the largely unpublished (and partly unfinished) "On the Ontology of Social Being." (Henceforth, 'The Ontology'.) And it is this late work that will concern us in this review. Rockmore specifically considers 'The Ontology' only in the final chapter of this book.
Rockmore, unlike the few (and especially Marxist) commentators that I have seen, is excited by this late work. Why? György Lukács tones down what had been his carefully maintained strict separation of Marxism and non-Marxism. (As an aside I will note that we saw Sartre complain of Lukács inability to simply see what was on the page of non-Marxist texts in Sartre's "Search for a Method". But Rockmore says of Lukács' Ontology that the "development of a critical attitude toward the main figures of Marxist orthodoxy transforms his capacity to not only appreciate, but even to accept the value of non-Marxist views.") Rockmore points out that a main theme of 20th century philosophy was ontology, - and Marx left no ontology. 'The Ontology', which began as a mere introduction to an Ethics, grew into a 1400+ page manuscript!
It was not well received even by his students. (More on that later.) Lukács wrote a 324 page prolegomena to defend his work to the tiny few who had seen (all or parts of) it. Rockmore argues that by abandoning the idolatry of Marxist Orthodoxy, the demonization of non-Marxists, and the notion that Marxist thought is primarily economic, Lukács transforms his whole understanding of Marxism. When I was young, it was typical to think of Heidegger, Lukács and Wittgenstein as the 'Big 3' of twentieth century philosophy. But no one outside of Marxism even thinks of Lukács today! I believe, as does Rockmore, that a full translation of 'The Ontology' will help make both him and Marxism interesting again to those outside the Marxist orbit.
[For those interested, we only have the following volumes (really, chapters) of 'The Ontology' published in English:
Ontology of Social Being, Volume 1. Hegel
Ontology of Social Being, Volume 2. Marx
Ontology of Social Being, Volume 3. Labour
This amounts to not even half of 'The Ontology'. (I have read both the Hegel and Marx volumes.) Another problem is that the secondary literature in English is very scanty. Besides this book we are reviewing, there are three essays in a collection by Lukács' former student Agnes Heller called "Lukács Revalued". None of them appreciative. The only full length study in English is "Lukacs' Last Autocriticism: The Ontology" by Ernest Joós. Joós, a non-Marxist, is quite critical, if not hostile.
In Joós book we do learn the names of the missing chapters:
Neo-Positivismus und Existentialismus
Nikolai Hartmanns Vorstoss zu einer echten Ontologie
Das Ideelle und die Ideologie
Die gegenwartige Problemlage
'Die Prolegomena' was written last to convince students and friends of the soundness of the Ontology. I really would like to see the Prolegomena translated next. (More on Joós book later.)]
As a student of the history of philosophy what interests me in 'The Ontology' is that Lukács (as in "History and Class Consciousness") now sees less rupture and more "continuation through development" between German Idealism and Marxism. By this Rockmore means that Lukács sees Marx's thought "as preserving in itself all that is of value in preceding philosophy but going further than prior thinkers." This is similar to Lukács understanding in his early phase. I believe that the Stalinoid notion of rupture between Marxism and philosophy was a calamity. If there is, or ever were, a deep (or an _entire_) break in any development (of thought or activity) Dialectical Theory itself would be falsified and in ruins! But now, Lukács sees Marxism (correctly, in my opinion) as part of the philosophical tradition.
Lukács finds in Marx an Ontology that is Historical. This is a novelty; but not a radical break with the philosophical tradition. Work remains the defining characteristic of Man. "Lukács believes that the essence of human social being lies in teleological positing (teleologische Setzung)". (Rockmore complains that Lukács does not define this term. But in the notes Rockmore does remind us that Setzen is "the German equivalent of the Greek tithemi, as in the term 'hypothesis'.") Rockmore explains the term saying that things "do not change in and of themselves; rather, they change as the result of conscious positing in which the result corresponds to the aim. We can understand human society through the notion of teleological positing more precisely as following from the effort to achieve value through goal-directed activity." That seems right.
Another important point that Rockmore makes is that for Lukács "Marx's position is not fully complete, but requires additional development. The criterion of acceptable theory is no longer mere allegiance to a view, such as Marx's theory. For Lukács, in this study even Marx's thought is finally interesting insofar as it contains the resources necessary to permit the development of a social ontology toward which Marx only pointed." Marxist theory must be further developed, like any philosophical theory, - otherwise one inevitably ends up with scribes attempting to always show that nothing significant has changed since the advent of (the final form of) 'The Theory'. Another change is that Lukács steps back from the Marxist notion that economics is the bedrock of Marxist thought. Economics is embedded in the historical character of Social Being. That is to say, economics itself is now treated as Epiphenomenon!
According to Rockmore, one can even say that "at the close of his career Lukács returns to his early quasi-Spinozistic understanding of thought and existence as different aspects of the same process, now identified as historical." Of course, Rockmore does not fail to mention that Heidegger, 'in a rather different fashion', also finds ontology to be historical. Indeed, one of the really novel points of 'The Ontology' to my thinking was Lukács notion that the "relevant difference lies in Marxism's insight that history is the history of categorical change. It follows, as Marx stresses, that even the categories undergo change over time." Of course, now we are here speaking of ontological categories! Typically in philosophical ontology, Being is thought of as Ground. Here, in Lukács late thought, the Ground moves! So we see that in Marx, according to Lukács, everything moves - and now with Lukács even the categories of Being. This is really new.
Now, with Heidegger, Being is also historical. But (I think) for Heidegger, we can only Know within the framework of each separate 'gift' of Being. So all we know is 'contemporary circumstances' (the epoche in which we live, which may of course last many ages). But with Marx (/Lukács), I believe we are intended to have real Knowledge of Being; - but this knowledge changes as Being endlessly unfolds. Thus one can perhaps say that there are now no ontological invariants (at least vis-à-vis human knowing) with either thinker. Once Being and Time are seen to be entwined, this becomes an extremely probable understanding of ontology. The largest stumbling block to 'The Ontology' in the book by Joós (mentioned above) is precisely the fact that in Lukács the categories themselves refuse to stay still!
Now, Joós mentions something in his book that I would like someone to pin down. He says, "I do not want to attribute much importance to insinuations that the Ontology has been tampered with. (p. 62-63, Joós, Lukacs' Last Autocriticism".) The note hanging off this sentence (note 52, p.121, Joós) reads 'Spiegel, 14 June 1971.' While Joós dismisses the possibility, I have seen Heller (in the book mentioned above) speak of 'The Ontology' as if it was in some sense a collaborative effort between Lukács and his students. If my memory is not faulty regarding this, it would not surprise me at all if at the masters death the students sought to 'tidy' things up a bit. Joós dismisses the possibility because in such a complex ontological work any tampering would be noticeable.
But Rockmore here notes that the editor of the Prolegomena (which was itself written after the rest of 'The Ontology' and seen by those outside the circle of students, therefore impossible to 'tidy' up) suggests that the prolegomena differs from the rest of the book in its avoidance of the rigid dualism characteristic of its historical and systematic parts. It further exhibits an increased freedom from Marxist orthodoxy, for instance in a salutary tendency, unprecedented in Lukács's earlier Marxist writings, to criticize all the main figures of classical marxism." By 'dualism', I believe it is also meant the strict delimitation between Marxist and non-Marxist that occurs throughout Lukács' oeuvre. If this is true, then the only tampering that could have been done would have been of a political/ideological nature (i.e., to rid 'The Ontology' -minus the Prolegomena- of the "increased freedom" regarding Marxist dogma) and not of a philosophical/ontological nature. Again, if anyone knows more about this please leave a note.
Why should anyone be interested in 'The Ontology' today? Rockmore and Joós are not Marxists but they are knowledgeable; that is something. Rockmore's chapter on the Ontology is quite positive and appreciative in tone. In the end, Joós thinks Lukács failed with this his last project. That is not in itself surprising; - where are the successful ontologies? Each 'ontologist' changes something. No one is an Aristotelian, a Husserlian or even a Heideggerean tout court. Marxists should not be expected to be Lukácsian ontologists purely and simply either. I wish Marxists (or ontologists) would write about this (almost) forgotten work. I am in the habit of telling people that the two greatest dialecticians of the last century, Lukác and Merleau-Ponty, ended their lives working on Ontologies. Dialectical thought (and ontology) has to face this eventually...
And that is why 'The Ontology' remains relevant today. Four stars for Rockmore's book. While it will not satisfy Marxists (non-Marxists never do) I thought it quite good. The neo-Kantian of Lukács thought may be a bit overplayed early on and in the middle chapters but I did not find it annoying. I will warn my Marxist and anti-Marxist friends that Rockmore approaches Lukács as a philosopher, not merely as a Marxist political thinker or marxist ideologue. If you expect the latter, perhaps it is best to find another book.
The reason, btw, I have not gone in depth into our authors understanding of Lukács is because I've read so little of 'The Ontology' or the secondary literature to judge it. From a distance 'The Ontology' seems a very important work. However, I usually like reading the whole book and more of the secondary literature before coming to conclusions. I believe this work may be quite important, but the dearth of studies of a book almost fifty years old belies that. Perhaps that has to do with Lukács students downplaying the importance of the work and convincing other marxists to ignore it. Also, I think Lukács decision to ignore the well-known school of phenomenology (he wants to avoid their subjectivism) and use the little read realist ontology of Nicolai Hartmann also contributes to the obscurity of Lukács Ontology. (It may be that his notion of categorical change derives from Hartmann. But the Hartmann chapter of Lukács book would need to be translated before I could assert that.) And since after the fall of the Soviet Union non-marxists tend to think of Marxism as dead a dog, they have no interest in Lukács either. To the best of my knowledge, there are only a few books on 'The Ontology' in English:
Lukács Revalued, Agnes Heller (ed.) (3 chapters only)
Lukacs' Last Autocriticism: The Ontology, Ernest Joos
The Ontology of Georg Lukacs: Studies in Materialist Dialectics, Fariborz Shafai (very difficult to find, scarce)
The Place of Law in Lukács World Cpncept, Csaba Vaega (a very specialized study published, in English, in Budapest.)
I am not aware of any others. You see this list is very short. I am sure there are more essays in academic journals, but I am not in academia and know next to nothing about that. ...more
Notes are private!
Jan 20, 2015
really liked it
Reviewed February 14, 2007
A note on the occasional virtues of old, forgotten books
Etienne Gilson was the General Editor of this series, 'A History of Reviewed February 14, 2007
A note on the occasional virtues of old, forgotten books
Etienne Gilson was the General Editor of this series, 'A History of Philosophy', which included the following volumes:
1. Ancient Philosophy; Anton Pegis
2. Medieval Philosophy; Armand A. Maurer
3. Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant; Gilson and Thomas Langan
4. Recent Philosophy: Hegel to the Present; Gilson, Langan and Maurer
Let's start this review with the contents of this book, 'Recent Philosophy':
Introduction to 'A History of Philosophy' - Etienne Gilson, v;
Preface to 'Recent Philosophy', ix
Part One: German Philosophy, by Thomas Langan
I. Post-Kantian Background, 5
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, 9
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, 16
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 23
Arthur Schopenhauer 57
II. The Original Existential Revolt, 67
Soren Kierkegaard, 69
Friedrich Nietzsche, 78
III. Beyond Positivism and Psychologism, 93
Wilhelm Dilthey, 93
The Phenomenological Movement, 100
Edmund Husserl, 105
Max Scheler, 118
Nicolai Hartmann, 129
IV. Two German Existentialists, 145
Martin Heidegger, 145
Karl Jaspers, 153
Part Two: French and Italian Philosophy, by Etienne Gilson
V. Ideology in France, 172
Destutt de Tracy, 175
Maine de Biran, 180
VI. Ideology in Italy, 192
Francesco Soave, 192
Melchiorre Gioia, 195
Giandomenico Romagnosi, 200
Melchiorre Delfico, 205
VII. The Christian Reaction, 208
Louis de Bonald, 209
Joseph de Maistre, 214
Felicite de Lamennais, 217
Louis Bautain, 222
From Traditionalism to Christian Philosophy, 226
VIII. The Philosophical Reaction in France and Italy, 232
French Spiritualism: Victor Cousin, 232
The Italian Metaphysical Revival, Antonio Rosmini and Vincenzo Gioberti, 237
The Spreading of Ontologism, 261
IX. French Positivism, 266
Auguste Comte, 267
Positive Psychology, 277
Positive Sociology, 283
Philosophical Reflection on Science, 287
X. Maine de Biran's French Posterity, 290
Felix Ravaisson, 290
Jules Lachelier, 296
Emile Boutroux, 300
Henri Bergson, 306
XI. In the Spirit of Criticism, 318
Renouvier's Neocriticism, 318
Octave Hamelin, 321
Leon Brunschvicg, 326
XII. In the Spirit of Scholasticism, 330
The Origins of the Movement, 331
Leo XIII, 338
XIII. In the Spirit of Augustinianism, 335
Alphonse Gratry, 355
Leon Olle-Laprune, 358
Maurice Blondel, 360
XIV. Early Twentieth Century Philosophy in Italy, 363
Benedetto Croce, 364
Giovanni Gentile, 366
Critical Idealism, 368
XV. Existentialism and Phenomenology in France, by Thomas Langan, 374
Gabriel Marcel, 374
Jean-Paul Sartre, 381
Maurice Merleau-Ponty, 386
Mikel Dufrenne, 396
Paul Ricoeur, 401
Part Three: English Philosophy, by Armand A. Maurer
XVI. Utilitarianism, 411
Jeremy Bentham, 413
John Stuart Mill, 419
XVII. Philosophy of Evolution, 433
Charles Darwin, 434
Herbert Spencer, 439
Emergent Evolutionism, 446
XVIII. Idealism, 451
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, 451
Idealism Goes to College, 454
Francis Herbert Bradley, 457
Bernard Bosanquet, 464
XIX. Pragmatic Humanism: F. C. S. Schiller, 476
XX. Return to Realism, 485
G. E. Moore, 485
Bertrand Russell, 497
Alfred North Whitehead, 507
XXI. Language and Metaphysics, 520
Ludwig Wittgenstein, 521
Logical Positivism and the Vienna Circle, 530
Rudolf Carnap, 533
A. J. Ayer, 538
The Analysis of Ordinary Language, 543
Part Four: American Philosophy, by Armand A. Maurer
XXII. The Beginnings, 553
Philosophizing Divines, 554
Cadwallader Colden and the Beginnings of the Philosophy of Nature, 564
Beginnings of Social and Political Philosophy, 566
XXIII. New England Transcendentalism, 570
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 572
Orestes Brownson, 576
XXIV. Idealism of the Schools, 588
Borden Parker Bowne, 589
Josiah Royce, 595
Sage School of idealism, 602
XXV. Resurgent Realism, 604
The New Realism, 605
Critical Realism, 611
George Santayana, 615
XXVI. Pragmatism, 623
Charles Sanders Pierce, 624
William James, 634
John Dewey, 649
My copy of this was published in 1966 and it lists Volume 1, "Ancient Philosophy", as 'in preparation'. So I cannot even be certain the first volume of this series ever actually appeared... Also, I believe the new edition (ISBN: 1597524867) of this specific volume ('Recent philosophy: Hegel to the Present'), published by Wipf & Stock Publishers, is an exact reproduction with only (perhaps) a new preface. My single volume 1966 edition has 876 pages, the new edition (2005, in two volumes) has 892 pages listed here at Amazon.
Of course, this volume is dated by its age and also its Catholic orientation. This book carries both the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur; it will not surprise anyone to learn that most of the books I read do not do so. Now, France (and Italy) were, and still remain, the center of the Catholic intellectual universe. But even still, it is simply absurd that German Philosophy gets 170 pages while French and Italian Philosophy gets 230 pages! How does one possibly justify giving Schelling only 7 pages while de Biran gets 11? As I said, absurd... Also, the inclusion of a chapter on French 'neo-Kantianism' (XI) without a chapter or section on German neo-Kantianism (F. A. Lange, Kuno Fischer, and Hans Vaihinger, e.g.) is equally bizarre. But one could multiply quibbles endlessly: how is it that Gentile merits a mention but Gramsci does not? Generally, the sections on English and American Philosophy are also too long, with utterly pointless mentioning of people like Bosanquet, Bowne and Colden. But enough of that! This book is the first place I encountered, several decades ago, people like Hartmann, Biran, Lamennais and several others. For that alone I am grateful. Also, there are almost 200 pages of notes in which I naturally delighted.
But why bother picking up this book? One of the reasons to read people you don't agree with is that they occasionally show you things you would otherwise have missed. For instance, Langan, in the final section of his essay on Nietzsche asks, in effect, 'when do the Greeks laugh?' and, in a handful of pages, manages to speak more sense about Zarathustra's joy, and most especially its distance from the joys of the archaic Greeks, than one finds in whole books on the subject. Although Langan likely was unaware of this, Nietzsche points at this 'Zarathustrian Joy' in a similar manner when he himself, in Ecce Homo, refers to Zarathustra as the 'Yes-Saying' part of his work. The herd of perpetually indignant 'supermen' of course are barely aware of this...
Langan wonders "gaiety - is this really a Greek Ideal?" - And correctly concludes that it is not. Thus Langan is surely correct to say of Zarathustra that in "his greatness, in his mercy, he is more than Greek." At the very beginning of 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra', in the Prologue, Zarathustra decides to go down the mountain to share his knowledge and joy with mankind; now, anyone who has read the Iliad knows that this gesture is simply inconceivable to an Achilles, - who was universally considered the greatest of the Greeks. If there is no reason to help, Achilles will help no one. Indeed, with reason, he is prepared to sit on his hands while those that love him die at the hands of their (and his) enemies. But Nietzsche has his creature Zarathustra compare himself to the sun, asking, "what would your happiness be had you not those for whom you shine?" Like the sunshine Nietzsche intends his Zarathustra to be a gift to everyone; the 'deserving' and 'undeserving' alike... As Langan correctly observes, "in practice, Zarathustra feels some compassion, else why would he continue to preach to the 'little ones,' and 'the hens in the barnyard'..."
Exactly. But is all this, at bottom, merely a case of old wine in new bottles? Does Nietzsche intend to go back to, or reinstate, some natural or historic order? Langan observes that for Nietzsche, "Being was indeed becoming, [which] he never doubted, characterizing this principle as 'true, but deadly'." Now, the greatest interpreter of Nietzsche, Heidegger, wants to go back to the Pre-Socratics; I mean to their pre-Platonic experience of Being. It is Heidegger who seems to wish to go back to the archaic Greeks. But how are we to understand Nietzsche? Are we to choose between Langan and Heidegger? Let us not make this choice too easy for ourselves! Nietzsche also knows there is no going back:
"Whispered to the conservatives.-- What was not known formerly, what is known, or might be known, today--a reversion, a return in any sense or degree is simply not possible. We physiologists at least know that. Yet all priests and moralists have believed the opposite--they wanted to take mankind back, to screw it back, to a former measure of virtue. Morality was always a bed of Procrustes. Even the politicians have aped the preachers of virtue at this point: today too there are still parties whose dream it is that all things might walk backwards like crabs. But no one is free to be a crab. Nothing avails: one must go forward--step by step further into décadence..." (Twilight of the Idols, Skirmishes of an Untimely Man, section 43).
Yes, we have all read Heidegger's scathing attack on Nietzsche's 'succumbing' to the lure of values in the fourth volume of his brilliant Nietzsche study, but as we can see from the above quote (from 'Twilight of the Idols') Nietzsche has taken the measure of Heidegger, avant le fait, and has given history his judgment: to Nietzsche, Heidegger is but another priest or moralist, trying to fit the world into a bed of Procrustes, - that is, into a former measure of virtue. Like Catholic conservatives, Heidegger wants to go back...
Langan, however, has a finer ear for Nietzsche's dedication to the new and his love of joy than does Heidegger. It is in these two aspects of Nietzsche's thought that one can correctly speak of Zarathustra's "qualities of a suspiciously Christian tint" - but Langan entirely misses Nietzsche's esoteric practices. Thus he mistakenly treats Zarathustra as Nietzsche's mouthpiece...
But enough of that! Langan sees, correctly sees, what so many commentators refuse to see: Zarathustra is, and can only be, a post-Christian development. This is but one example of the gems one can pick from old books written by people that one does not agree with. This book is conceived as a textbook for Catholic students, but one is here and there surprised by the sophistication of the analysis. This is why we should all continue to read, for example, Thomists, Marxists, Straussians and Phenomenologists; we read them in order not to miss what we might ordinarily have missed. Four stars for being what is by necessity quite rare: an interesting textbook... ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 12, 2011