Public Journal:

A vey curt but effective explanation here, merits some discourse, I feel. That evolutionary struggles have been vastly demoted toward sentiments of re-presenting them toward those who have been
assigned to equivocate the ‘the use of…’ With the roles
befitting such use to…'. As consciousness of self-induced responsibility fade, to such hierarchy of uses, it would seem in avoidable, that the aforementioned
trends become almost a sequence of instinctual sets
of behavior. In the political arena, this , naturally , would void even a passing concern, except to those inclined to look beneath the rhetoric.

Besides, there is a hidden agenda, that permeates most moderate platforms, as hinging on useful adaptations of pragmatic notions, mixed with the underlying stratified conservative views, so as to be able to shift responsibility; as to resort to those, in times of failed programs. The tendency is always to have a ready set plan , consisting of refined and proven methods, of dealing with non foreseen consequences. So more often then not, the margins are fuzzy., offering for less required clarity and accountability, making the shifting of responsibility , less and less obvious. This IS the trend. We have become far too cynical, not to have seen this coming, and accepting, as politics as usual.

Sorry about that, Orbie. I just realized I hadn’t subscribed to this. I had no way of knowing you were posting here. I’m on vacation right now. But I will get back to ya, brother!!!

“While it would be wrong to dismiss the role of memory in identity, as described in Sally Latham’s ‘Shaping the Self’ (issue 110), I would also point to the role played by the perceiving thing: the fact that we are always a particular point in space and time (that is subjective time so as not to incur the wrath of Tallis) with an experience of continuity. Consider some thought experiments built around the movie The Sixth Day with Arnold Schwarzenegger. In it, a corporation has developed the technology to clone individuals and implant their memories into them. Their henchmen are killed then, thanks to capital and technology, basically resurrected.

Now, first of all, we could, for the sake of scientific accuracy, consider the implanting of memories redundant since, if the brain was cloned at the time of death, those memories would be encoded in its exact replica. However, we can assume that the redundancy is mainly a narrative device meant to suggest that not only are the memories being injected, but the person’s identity as well.

Secondly, we have to ask is if this would necessarily constitute the resurrection of the individual that died. The problem for me is that being killed and brought back as a perfect replication of myself would still involve a major disruption in the continuity of my particular point in space and time. My replication may be just like me and have my memories. But would it be the ‘me’ that died? Of course, a rash materialist (Tallis’ neuromaniac or Dennett’s barefoot behaviorist) might boast: “But of course! Same body; same brain; same you.” And we might wonder if they, that is if the technology did exist, would be willing to put their money where their mouth is. Then, being civilized people who don’t kill for the sake of knowledge, we might settle for the less drastic measure of another scenario: one in which the replication was created while the original was still alive. Once again: same body, same mental makeup and memories. But in this case, we could confidently say the original identity is not continued through the replication. Nor would the disruption be analogous to the discontinuations we might experience in sleep or under anesthesia since, in those cases, identity is anchored in its return to the same body. “

“If my memory was totally wiped and i woke up in hospital with no recollection of my past, im pretty certain that my identity remains intact. So here we need to clarify what we mean by our ‘identity’. The first entry in my dictionary distinguishes it as our ‘personality’.”

“It reminds me of the Ship of Theseus, that has over the years every part replaced with a new part, is it the same ship, etc. Also Lincoln’s Axe, has had both handle and axe-head replaced, is it still the same axe or what.”

“This is especially interesting to me now because as I finish my Modern Scholar lectures on Evolutionary Psychology, I find an alternative version of the perceiving thing as a mental module that hovers above all the various drives and impulses [while describing it as acting within] and creates a narrative in order to make sense of the activities of various mental modules. It just seems to me that there is a kind of operationalism at work here that assumes the scientific perspective that I think we really need to deal with here.”

In other words, what the science of evolutionary psychology is arguing is that our sense of identity is merely one kind of mental activity (one mental module (among others. However, I would argue that this comes from the same scientific arrogance that dismisses free-will (that is when we should be talking about a participating self since “free-will” was lost with Cartesian Dualism (through the circular reasoning that was demonstrated throughout the last 2 lectures: that which assumes that everything must work within scientific perimeters in order to be considered legitimate.

(More on this later.)

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to establish that our identity (that which creates an ordered narrative for our multiple drives and impulses (is not just one mechanism in the brain, but rather a result of the fact that we have a brain which is attached to a body that constitutes a particular point in space and subjective time.

In other words, as many of you have argued, we cannot think of the self (identity (as just one kind of mental module among others. We should, rather, think of it as the foundation of all modules described by evolutionary psychology.

Orbie: tell me something: have you ever been diagnosed as schizophrenic? Or do you deliberately choose to explain yourself in a schizophrenic way?

“Nice enough personal essay, D Edward, but what do you want to start a discussion about? This is a discussion group, after all.” -Ian Smith

Fair enough, Ian. But to me it is more about bouncing off of each other and the process (or routine (I follow everyday: my Einstein’s wardrobe that eliminates having to expend resources on deciding what I’m going to do everyday which, in turn, allows me to expend them on that process. When I (working night shift (get off, I read about 20 pages of whatever book I am focused on then, when I go to the “library” and get my usual mini-pitcher and shot (half rumple minz/half Jager, I go back to an earlier point in the book and go more slowly with no concern with getting from the beginning of a section to the end and look for quotes I can respond to.

It’s a good thing a distraction (the digression it entices you into (is just one trajectory among others (think: Frost’s Path Not Taken (because you guys are distracting me from points I should be making on my present reading of Rorty’s Objectivity, Reletavism, and Truth. I can only hope that the fact (and may the wrath of Strunk rest in its grave (that we are on the pragmatic board feels like salt on the wound.

Are you feeling the cut, guys? Anyway:

“There are some serious alternate paradigms on the problem of self - for instance Panpsychism, which is probably closer to Deleuze’s ideas I imagine D Edward Tarkington” –Chris

“Am i missing something here? Panpsychism sounds like complete bogus.” –Jan

While Chalmers and Panpsychism has been forever on my to-do list, I’m not sure I would not totally dismiss it –that is without having the info I would like to have. As a guest on a Philosophy Now podcast on the mind ( … _the_Brain) enlightened me with: we can’t dismiss the possibility that particles, at the atomic level, are capable of carrying data. And we have to put in mind here that what we experience as consciousness is rooted in the grunts and silences in the meat of the brain: the cumulative effect of various cells in the brain that are either active or not.

As to whether Deleuze subscribes to panpsychism, Chris, that would require an expertise on Deleuze I’m not sure anyone can achieve. As I understand him, he subscribes to the same kind of qualified materialism (think: machinic and social production(as Rorty for the sake of a social agenda based on discourse unimpeded by transcendent criteria (territorializations such as objectivity or “the scientific method”: power discourses (that, via the momentum created by the exchanges of energy, can facilitate our evolution as a species. It’s basically Hegel without the fixed endgame.

At the same time, Chris, I can’t totally dismiss your point since Deleuze does seem to work from an rhizomatic interchange at an atomic level. It’s something we’ll have to explore.

“As Descartes said “I think therefore…”, we must necessarily take self for granted, that we exist, and to avoid solipsism accept others exist, too. With self comes all the things we do, such as having ideas and forming logical cause and effect relationships.” –David

I’m not exactly sure where David stands here, but I have to go with the school that has abandoned Cartesian dualism. For instance, I believe we need to concede to the materialists and neuroscientists and stop talking about Free Will. What we should be talking about, rather, is participation: that which I believe lies in Chaotics and that subtle point at which the determined transforms into the random and the random transforms into the determined. Here we can see the possibility of a participating (sort of (self in the interface of consciousness that occurs between the brain and the environment it has to adapt to in order to protect the body and its genetic legacy. Doing so, we can downplay the Causa Sui argument offered by hardcore materialists by pointing out that it is based on an outdated linear understanding of causality as compared to the feedback loop we are talking about here. I mean why would a participating self necessarily need to be an uncaused cause?

In Dave’s defense, he does go on to say:

“I agree self cannot experience self. Self is what does the experiencing. Just as the idea of self love is a farce.”

What I see here is a point made by Dennett in Consciousness Explained against the notion of the Cartesian Theater: the multiple drafts theory in which the brain brings in data and passes it around different modules until, through an additive and revision process, the mind arrives at a final understanding. And it seems legit to me. However, it doesn’t eliminate the idea of the Cartesian Theater as much as make the actors the spectators as well: a theater troupe performing purely for its own satisfaction.

So why couldn’t we experience “self love”, Dave? And it has been suggested that narcissism is a quality embedded in our very make-up.

Managed to let my Zizek study be sabotaged by a heckler (a FreeMarketFundmentalist ( and on that count, I guess I should just trust my process. On the uptick, though, it allows me to document some thoughts I’ve been having outside of my routine: my process.
I can’t speak for everyone on these boards. But sometimes, when I’m doing what I’m doing, I feel like what I describe as the psychotic response to the nihilistic perspective:

Like I’m just walking down the street engaged in this personal conversation and everyone is just stepping aside to let me pass safely by.

What scares me, though, is the possibility that real schizophrenics, that do that, love their process as much as I do.
I’ve come to realize how Deleuzian I am in recognizing how unimportant questions are to me. I really don’t care whether consciousness or free will exists. I don’t care if the universe is determined, random, or something in between. I’m not asking those questions. In fact, I’m not asking any questions. While (for the fun of it (I will defend a non-determined universe and the possibility of a participating self, if it were unquestionably established that the universe was determined and consciousness and free will (even the participating self (were illusions produced by the brain, I wouldn’t miss a step. I have no real stake in it.

For me, it is about taking in the concepts of established philosophers and seeing what I can do with them. It, to me, is a form of Play: conceptual play for the sake of creating concepts.

I do, of course, have a stake in Capitalism in that it is having some very real effects on my life and the life of others: for instance, the fact (and may the wrath of Professor Strunk rest in its grave (that Capitalism could result in the extinction of my species. And for that cause, I will turn to any language game I have to to save it, to insure the well being of my grand…. my beautiful granddaughters.
Let me explain:

I tend to work from a revision of Will Durant’s 5 concerns of philosophy:
Metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, and politics

But philosophy has grown more complex since Durant’s time. My (yes mine, and mine alone (process has elaborated on Durant’s model:

Metaphysics/Ontology (Ontology being metaphysics with its feet on the ground, logic/epistemology/phenomenology, ethics/aesthetics (since both are about value statements, and, finally, the psychological/social/political. The problem with this model is that it sticks with the old arborescent model in which metaphysics/ontology is at the foundation and, working through the others, the psychological/social/political is the superficial result. This, in turn, assumes that we live at a superficial level that is given value based on the extent to which it satisfies the criteria offered by the metaphysical/ontological depth.

I would offer a different model in which the symbol > or < suggests the influence one discipline is having on the other:

Metaphysics/Ontology>Logic/Epistemology/Phenomenology>Ethics/Aesthetics>the Psychological/Social/Political

Metaphysics/Ontology,<Logic/Epistemology/Phenomenology<Ethics/Aesthetics<The Psychological/Social/Political

It’s a back and forth. There is no core.

There are those who will reject this model because they want to establish their metaphysical core as the only criteria by which we should live. Think: Capitalism: the invisible hand of the market. And maybe they’re right. Maybe I’m wrong. But everything my process has shown me suggests that I have every reason for following the process that I do:

I feel justified.

In a recent New Yorker article, ‘The Threshold of Violence’ ( … f-violence), Malcolm Gladwell makes the argument that the recent increase in mass shootings in America can be seen as a kind of slow motion mob mentality. The mob mentality, as is well known and reasonably described, is a matter of different people with different thresholds at which they break from normal social protocol. It’s a matter of acceleration: a group of people gather together to protest some unifying issue, people of a lower threshold start acting violently, the status quo (or its representatives (react with more force until the next lowest threshold responds thereby creating a feedback loop of escalation until everyone is caught up in it.

(And I have seen this dynamic at work in less consequential ways. Back when I was working as a custodian in a local university, one of my trainers explained to me that the cleaner you leave a classroom, the cleaner it will be when you come back to it the next morning. And it proved to be true. And I can only assume that it was a matter of the different thresholds at which people will resist being pigs before they give in to the mob and make their own contribution.)

The thing was I was, at first, skeptical of Gladwell’s assertion in that I found it hard to connect the unified nature and focus of a protest turned riot (as well as a group of students who choose to trash a classroom) to the diverse and individualistic nature and seeming absurdity of shooting sprees, of how, for instance, one can connect an autistic teenager shooting grade school children with two religious fanatics killing people in San Bernardino.

Then the anti-Capitalist in me slapped me on the forehead and realized there is a common cause: the increasing pressure being put on people in a world in which a few are feasting at the table while the rest of us fight for the crumbs. Note, for instance, a point made by Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine: that Canada, at the time, had more guns per capita than America while having a far lower murder rate. And I think we can attribute this to Canada’s stronger safety net (the feeling of security it offers (as compared to America’s everyman-for-themselves hubris. There is a reason it is mainly happening in America. And it will likely increase in other western industrialized nations as austerity measures take hold.

In this sense, we can agree with while revising the old NRA motto:

Guns don’t kill people; desperate people with guns do.

It’s because it is very difficult to own a handgun in Canada. There are background checks, mandatory safety courses and strict rules for transporting handguns. There is no concealed carry allowed anywhere.
The guns that are ‘relatively’ accessible are long guns - rifles and shotguns - used for hunting. Most people are not murdered by long guns.

Whenever my present immersion involves the most recent issue of Philosophy Now arriving in the mail, I tend to find an article I want to focus on (a study point (and fumble around with it until it hopefully produces a around 400 word letter to the editor –that is since letters to the editor are about the only opportunity time and my process afford me to engage in the tinker, tweak, and tighten process of a more finished piece. And I generally choose it based on the extent it elicits my empathy while leaving me room for departure: that which I can use because of the common ground I share with them while still being able to assert and further my own process.

And the lucky winner (or unfortunate victim (this time is John Marmysz and the article ‘In Defense of Humorous Nihilism’. I would start with my main issue (his description of nihilism:

“God is dead. Nothing matters. All is meaningless. Nothing is true. These are the sorts of laments often associated with nihilism, a philosophical perspective premised on the belief that the world is incurably imperfect, flawed, defective. According to the nihilist, the way that the world actually exists is not the way it ought to be. We hope for Truth, but we never seem to grasp it in its entirety. We desire Beauty, but find only blemished examples of it in the concrete world. We want things to have value, but nothing seems ultimately all that important. We want the world to be perfect, but it always disappoints us with its flawed nature. This might not be so bad if only the nihilist had faith in our potential to somehow improve things. However, nihilists reject this sort of optimism, instead claiming that it is beyond humanity to mend the eternal rift between our real state of existence and the way we ideally desire things to be. For the nihilist, the real and the ideal are in everlasting conflict with one another, and there is nothing that can be done to alter this condition.”

Now I realize this is the popular understanding of Nihilism. And I would also note that this understanding of it is shared by Simone de Beauvoir:

“In her book The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), the existentialist Simone de Beauvoir characterizes nihilists as frustrated idealists, condemning them as exemplars of ‘bad faith’. That is, instead of grabbing hold of their imperfect situation like good existentialists, she claims nihilists resign themselves to a sort of impotent fatalism in which all worldly undertakings are doomed to failure since they must inevitably fall short of perfection. If perfection is the criterion of success, then nothing that we accomplish in the real world could ever measure up. The greatest of human achievements are still disappointments, and all worldly activity amounts to a vain struggle toward impossible goals.”

And I bring this up so as to point out how hasty it would be to dismiss Marmysz’s understanding of it. To make things worse, those who embrace nihilism tend to compound this understanding of nihilism (or what I call the nihilistic perspective (through what I consider a rather shallow understanding of the implications of nihilism: that which the Oxford Dictionary describes as being tapped into the underlying nothingness of reality, the fact that we are when we could not be as we are as compared to the 6.5 million other people we could be. Ultimately, what it comes down is authentically trying to understand the implications of that underlying nothingness, that implied in Leibniz’s question:

“Why all this rather than nothing?”

And let’s be clear on this: it’s not something that can be approached so directly as the so-called nihilists act as if it can. For instance, one of the implications that come from the nihilistic perspective is that all arguments break down to assumptions. And if we really look at those assumptions (really scrutinize them (they ultimately float on thin air. The so-called nihilist takes this as license to act like an a-hole. But nothing could be further from an authentic attempt at understanding the implications of the underlying nothingness than assuming that it has the fixed trajectory of negativity. Once again: all assumptions float on thin air. Nothingness, by definition, can have no fixed trajectory.

To finish with a more concrete example: from the nihilistic perspective, while there is no real solid foundation for embracing a god or a religion, there is equally no solid foundation for (even if it was proven wrong or nonexistent beyond doubt (for not embracing a god or a religion. Likewise, while there is no solid foundation for embracing a given ethical position, there is equally no solid foundation for not embracing that ethical position.

“To finish with a more concrete example: from the nihilistic perspective, while there is no real solid foundation for embracing a god or a religion, there is equally no solid foundation for (even if it was proven wrong or nonexistent beyond doubt (for not embracing a god or a religion. Likewise, while there is no solid foundation for embracing a given ethical position, there is equally no solid foundation for not embracing that ethical position.”

My main point here is that Nihilism (or the nihilistic perspective, like nothing, does nothing; it always has. But it has always been there waiting. Once again:

“To make things worse, those who embrace nihilism tend to compound this understanding of nihilism (or what I call the nihilistic perspective (through what I consider a rather shallow understanding of the implications of nihilism: that which the Oxford Dictionary describes as being tapped into the underlying nothingness of reality, the fact that we are when we could not be as we are as compared to the 6.5 million other people we could be. Ultimately, what it comes down is authentically trying to understand the implications of that underlying nothingness, that implied in Leibniz’s question:

“Why all this rather than nothing?”

It goes back to Socrates confession that he knew nothing through the romantic break from the classicist hierarchy as well as Enlightenment’s break from religion to Nietzsche’s (via Hegel (proclamation that God is dead on through existentialism’s experimentation with the underlying nothingness of consciousness to its full expression in postmodernism via (post) structuralism.

And given the history that Marmysz describes:

“This seemingly bleak and depressing philosophy of life has been wrestled with by many of the world’s greatest thinkers, most of whom, like Beauvoir, have endeavored to reject it, and move beyond it. Thus we find philosophers such as the Buddha, Immanuel Kant, Max Stirner, Søren Kierkegaard, Arthur Schopenhauer, Martin Heidegger, and perhaps most explicitly, Friedrich Nietzsche, struggling with the problem of nihilism, proposing their own ‘solutions’, and suggesting ways that might guide us on a path toward the overcoming of our despair.”

:it is easy to see how the more pop-nominal description of nihilism would have taken hold like it did. And we can see the source of it in (neo) classism as Marmysz suggests:

“Traditionally, philosophers have recoiled from incongruity, seeing in it something illogical, irrational. As such, incongruities have normally been thought of begging for resolution, eradication, or at the very least, some sort of clarification.”

What we’re talking about here is a perfectly natural human need to maintain order. Hence, the recoil from incongruity in the face of the general ungroundedness of things which is an expression of the underlying nothingness. It comes out of a failure to really explore the implications of that ungroundedness (that nothingness (reinforced by the fact that the nihilistic perspective can never really be looked straight on, can only glance the corner of the eye because it always stands outside of the symbolic order we find ourselves living in. The problem lies in the classicist tradition described above that the nihilistic perspective has always lain in wait to undermine. And it’s not something you can just say, “Sounds like a good idea”, and embrace and understand. It is, rather, something that comes to you through an ongoing process of (self) deconstruction. In this sense, it’s a lot like Alan Watts’ (and I’m kind of revealing my influences here (concept of “letting go”: that which cannot happen until you let go of the idea of letting go.

But while I am perfectly empathetic with the conventional understanding of the nihilistic perspective (just a misunderstanding to me, what is truly odious to me is the self serving misrepresentation of the so-called nihilists –as was parodied in the movie The Big Lewbowski. They’re the ones that act like nothingness must have some kind of fixed trajectory into negativity. While Marmysz’s move from the pop understanding of nihilism to his conclusion (and even if I have issues (was consistent, theirs fail miserably in their failure to truly explore the implication of the underlying nothingness, ungroundedness, or the incongruity of reality for the sake of self indulgence.

Connection and departure: the criteria by which I choose the victim of my focus in any given issue of Philosophy Now ( … s_Nihilism, the very criteria by which I chose Marmysz’s article -hard name to remember the spelling of BTW. That said, I think it is time to get to the f-ing point:

“It is precisely because of the nihilist’s logically-irreconcilable incongruity between aspirations and the actual state of the world that many philosophers who have encountered it have either fallen into despair or chosen to ‘overcome’ nihilism by changing their fundamental beliefs about reality. But there is a third option, and that is to adopt an attitude of humorous amusement toward the world’s absurd nature.”

While Marmysz seems to be approaching my sense of it, it is as if his attachment to the historical understanding of nihilism excludes him from seeing what I see as the true relationship between incongruity and the nihilistic perspective. And, once again, I consider the so-called nihilists the most egregious offenders at work here in that they are the ones who fail to articulate the implication of the underlying nothingness while being committed to it and make the self contradictory assumption that nothingness must have a necessary trajectory into the negative, that which results in the outsider assumption (Marmysz’s for instance (that nihilism must lead to despair. In this sense, Marmyyz’s appeal to the common understanding of nihilism seems more empathetic and less nocuous in that, language being an agreement, he is simply working from the understanding given him by the given symbolic order he is attached to -that is while the so-called nihilist fails to truly address the implications of the aspect of the symbolic order they have chosen to embrace. I mean why, for instance, must an embrace of the underlying nothing necessarily lead to despair and negativity? That is when such openness can lead to the joy of deciding one’s own values: values that can be destructive or constructive?

Where I part from Marmysz is that by embracing the pop understanding of nihilism, he, first of all, denies himself the intellectual productivity of a consideration of the nihilistic perspective as it actually is, that is given the ubiquitous nature of it that he actually approaches:

“Despite the efforts of these great intellects, by some accounts nihilism is a more urgent philosophical syndrome today than it ever has been. It certainly continues to be a challenge not to be taken lightly, and certainly not something most people feel inclined to laugh at.”

By taking the historical route of seeing philosophy as acting against the nihilistic perspective, Marmysz falls short of seeing the intimate relationship between incongruity and the nihilistic perspective. He makes it seem as if nihilistic humor is just some kind of antidote to incongruity when it could very well be an expression of that intimate relationship between the two and the joy that results. I’m just not sure humor needs to be thought of as a “third option”.

Think, for instance, of the movie Trainspotting which I consider to be a nihilistic anthem.

As I enter into my first immersion into Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (mind), I’m starting to see the value of going back to the old-schoolers. Up until recently, I had found it hard to read anything written before the 60’s. But my immersions in my personal holy triad: Deleuze, Rorty, and Zizek (as well as the principle of diffe̕rrance: the deferred meaning involved in any philosophical text which is always referring to previous philosophers: have elicited my curiosity.

I have found this value in the fact that, while I have managed, at best, shallow scratches on the titanium surface of the book, I’m finding hope (enticements perhaps (in the overlaps: the common terms that Hegel is using such as “being-in-itself” and “being-for-itself” (thank you, Sartre! (his occupation with the notion of nothingness (once again: thank you, Sartre! (as well as the concept of edification. Hegel wags his finger at Rorty and Deleuze. At the same time, he seems to be on the same page in his understanding of what it is philosophy actually does:

“The Absolute on this view is not to be grasped in conceptual form, but felt, intuited; it is not its conception, but the feeling of it and intuition of it that are to have the say and find expression.” -Hegel, Georg W. F. (2010-06-24). The Phenomenology of Spirit (The Phenomenology of Mind) (Kindle Locations 427-428). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

And he does go on later in the preface to address complaints about the obscurity of philosophical exposition which sound a lot like the explanations given complaints about Deleuze’s use of free indirect discourse: that a true understanding of philosophical concepts require a kind of oblique approach to meaning. (I’m thinking Claire Colebrook’s explanation here.)

At the same time, there seems to be a contradiction in that Hegel seems to want philosophy to have the same status as a science which, as far as I know, tends to take a more direct approach to meaning. Perhaps my German jam-mate, Harald, can help me with this. That said, I can see a kind of common sense of it (w/departure (in paragraph 1.:

“In the case of a philosophical work it seems not only superfluous, but, in view of the nature of philosophy, even inappropriate and misleading to begin, as writers usually do in a preface, by explaining the end the author had in mind, the circumstances which gave rise to the work, and the relation in which the writer takes it to stand to other treatises on the same subject, written by his predecessors or his contemporaries. For whatever it might be suitable to state about philosophy in a preface—say, an historical sketch of the main drift and point of view, the general content and results, a string of desultory assertions and assurances about the truth—this cannot be accepted as the form and manner in which to expound philosophical truth.” -Hegel, Georg W. F. (2010-06-24). The Phenomenology of Spirit (The Phenomenology of Mind) (Kindle Locations 360-365). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

He then goes on to say:

“Moreover, because philosophy has its being essentially in the element of that universality which encloses the particular within it, the end or final result seems, in the case of philosophy more than in that of other sciences, to have absolutely expressed the complete fact itself in its very nature; contrasted with that the mere process of bringing it to light would seem, properly speaking, to have no essential significance.”

It just seems to me that philosophy is a matter of moving from the general to the particular. At the same time I would agree with him to the extent that understanding the general (that which resides in the overlaps (and stopping there does not constitute a philosophical process. Still (and excuse my opportunistic attempt to toss my own thoughts into the mix: it seems to me that any relationship (including that with philosophy (is a matter of turning content into form. For instance, the process by which we come to know a good friend, or even a lover, starts with their physical appearance and what they do the very first time we see them. Beyond that, it is a process of unfolding in which everything we come to understand about them participates in (conditions even (how we come to see them. And the same goes for philosophy or any philosophical text we might choose to engage.

Therefore, while I would agree with Hegel that such general understandings are not a true indication of what philosophy can actually do, I would disagree that the wide swashes of a typical preface are “superfluous” in that they are the perfectly natural steppingstone by which one penetrates the individual process.

As I scratch at the titanium surface of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (and find myself, as yet, only a sliver less confused than when I started (I can still see the filters I have developed reading more modern philosopher’s at work. I can, for instance, see where Rorty got his distinction between the edifying and systematic:

“What it wants from philosophy is not so much insight as edification.” -Hegel, Georg W. F. (2010-06-24). The Phenomenology of Spirit (The Phenomenology of Mind) (Kindle Location 444). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.


“This easy contentment in receiving, or stinginess in giving, does not suit the character of science. The man who only seeks edification, who wants to envelop in mist the manifold diversity of his earthly existence and thought, and craves after the vague enjoyment of this vague and indeterminate Divinity—he may look where he likes to find this: he will easily find for himself the means to procure something he can rave over and puff himself up withal. But philosophy must beware of wishing to be edifying.”

And Hegel makes clear throughout the preface that edification is something to be avoided. Furthermore, even though I cannot pull up the quote, he is very clear about his embrace of systems –that which Nietzsche described as a lack of integrity. At the same time, we can see this as Hegel’s response to the Romanticism of the time:

“When such minds commit themselves to the unrestrained ferment of sheer emotion, they think that, by putting a veil over self-consciousness, and surrendering all understanding, they are thus God’s beloved ones to whom He gives His wisdom in sleep. This is the reason, too, that in point of fact, what they do conceive and bring forth in sleep is dreams.”

And his lean to the scientific side of the spectrum: the no man’s land between Science and Literature:

“To help to bring philosophy nearer to the form of science—that goal where it can lay aside the name of love of knowledge and be actual knowledge—that is what I have set before me.”

Here we see the roots of the analytic/continental divide (as in Hegel’s smug dismissal of the literary approach quoted above (that characterizes the philosophical culture today. We can see here why postmodernist thinkers so vehemently dismiss him (Deleuze considered him too reprehensible to even consider (while thinkers like Zizek (and I’m guessing Habermas (those who have to believe that the truth is out there (engage in apologetics/revisions of Hegel.

At the same time, from what I gather from the audio book beyond the preface, he does seem to put his money where his mouth is. While hardly understanding any of it, all the self being for itself is its self in itself in relation to the self that was before the self (it is truly a phenomenology), I can’t help but feel he has put together a very articulate and complex system that would make perfect sense if one had the time to break it down to its individual components, assimilate each, then put it back together in a coherent whole. And this confirms the atomistic description of the dialectic offered by my audio book about Hegel.

At the same time, as my respected peer and jam-mate Steven Orslini points out, one might go through all that just to find out that it is little more than mystification.

“I see phenomenology as basing truth and existence on what we experience, as in seeing “phenomena”, and what we do with the observation or what it means to us. That is similar to existentialism, but existentialism does not try to be scientific, and existentialism endorses subjectivity rather than work to resolve it.” -David

I would argue, David, that it runs a little deeper than that in that it does consider the nature of the body and the brain (the logic of it if you will (in that based on pure perception there is no way we could have come to understand that for every external event (noema) there is a corresponding internal event (noesis). We simply would have thought of it in realist terms in which everything is just out there and we are in here. It is that break from experience-in-itself that led to Sartre’s recognition of the underlying nothingness of consciousness –something there is no way he could have perceived directly. Still, we have a lot of common ground here:

“In what way can phenomenology be considered ‘scientific’ I wonder?” –Steven

“I see phenomenology as the basis of science. For instance, before we had such a vast knowledge base of scientific information, what did people do? They looked at stuff and formed from it what opinion they could. Now I think we get caught up in the significance of the amount of knowledge accumulated and forget the phenomenological origin of science.”

You, Husserl, and Hegel as well:

“It is this process by which science in general comes about, this gradual development of knowing, that is set forth here in the Phenomenology of Mind. Knowing, as it is found at the start, mind in its immediate and primitive stage, is without the essential nature of mind, is sense-consciousness.” -Hegel, Georg W. F. (2010-06-24). The Phenomenology of Spirit (The Phenomenology of Mind) (Kindle Locations 679-681). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

Now focusing in on an individual point:

“For instance, before we had such a vast knowledge base of scientific information, what did people do? They looked at stuff and formed from it what opinion they could.”

Yes: we have to remember that there was a time when philosophy and science were basically one thing (think Aristotle here. And I would add that it wasn’t just the lack of accumulated knowledge, but the lack of technology as well –hence the change in the philosophy of mind based on neuroscience and its brain scanning technology.

Still, in its time, phenomenology was the best technology we had available to study consciousness. And Hegel goes to great lengths to make it feel like science: those complex (almost mathematical (descriptions of the relationship between the various terminology that we still used well after him: consciousness, being-for-itself, being-in-itself, nothingness, the now which is always behind us the minute we point to it, etc… (Technologies in themselves. Hegel doesn’t just say; he actually attempts to show. And I, as one who leans to the more poetic side of the philosophical spectrum, can entertain a little forgiveness for his scientific lean. I can even forgive his analytic smugness and dismissal of more poetic approaches, perhaps even chuckle at the cleverness of:

“When such minds commit themselves to the unrestrained ferment of sheer emotion, they think that, by putting a veil over self-consciousness, and surrendering all understanding, they are thus God’s beloved ones to whom He gives His wisdom in sleep. This is the reason, too, that in point of fact, what they do conceive and bring forth in sleep is dreams.”

That is the preface, as I come familiarize myself with it, seeming like it could have been subtitled the state of philosophy in Hegel’s time.

“While the embryo is certainly, in itself, implicitly a human being, it is not so explicitly, it is not by itself a human being (für sich); man is explicitly man only in the form of developed and cultivated reason, which has made itself to be what it is implicitly. Its actual reality is first found here. But this result arrived at is itself simple immediacy; for it is self conscious freedom, which is at one with itself, and has not set aside the opposition it involves and left it there, but has made its account with it and become reconciled to it.” -Hegel, Georg W. F. (2010-06-24). The Phenomenology of Spirit (The Phenomenology of Mind) (Kindle Locations 602-606). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

It happens every time. Every time I start to break into unexplored philosophical text, I get so caught up in decoding the exposition itself that I completely forget to look at the title of the book and extract the wealth of understanding contained in it. It happened with Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. (It took me a while before I finally figured it was about the relationship between Being and Nothingness. How clueless is that?) It took a little less time with Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. But then I went back to the same cluelessness until I zeroed in on the above quote.

I would first note that the title has been translated as both phenomenology of spirit and phenomenology of mind. (And this gives me a little insight into Merleau -Ponty’s choice for a title: The Phenomenology of Perception.) But what can be seen in Hegel’s title is the kind of dualism typical of his time which can best be understood by his fusion of mind and spirit via the German word “Geist”. This, of course, is just an instinctive projection into the complex expositional twists and turns that Hegel uses to make his point, but I can’t help but feel that what he is describing is a dialectic that will lead us to the Absolute via the evolutionary process via the Mind and Spirit’s break from the body.

And we have to give him credit for doing so before Darwin came along.

At the same time, we can see the whole movement that resulted in postmodernism as a reaction to Hegel. We can see both Deleuze’s and Rorty’s descriptions of the folly that can result from dualism (that which gives us a position of privilege over the objects that occupy our space (in that Hegel used the dynamic to give himself the status of having discovered “The Truth”: the Absolute. Hegel talks about becoming. But it is as if he wants to fix it within his scientific system. So we can see why Deleuze would give privilege to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche “who created becoming in the reader” as compared to Hegel who just described it to us.

And once again, it is hard to see Rorty’s giving privilege to edifying philosophy over the systematic as anything else but a reaction to Hegel.

That said, this seems as good a way as any to end my immersion in Hegel’s book. Tomorrow, I look forward to applying my 15 hour immersion/experiment to Professor/Doctor (?) Buchanan’s reader’s guide to the Anti-Oedipus.

Had a little epiphany last night that I would like to share in a little strategy session with my fellow Free Market Agnostics: the progressives and social democrats and those in general who don’t hear psycho shrieks every time the name of Marx or words like “socialism” are mentioned. We spend a lot of time focusing on our differences with the true believers (the FreeMarketFundamentalists, neo-liberalism , the basement Overmen spurting their Neo-Nietzscheian nonsense in the name of Rand, etc. (only to find ourselves bogged down in the misdirects that the true believers use to divert us from the ultimate a-rational self indulgence that they are working from: white heterosexual male privilege which usually turns into the picked on (by so the so-called Hollywood liberal elite (white heterosexual male burden that they turn to when alone or among themselves. And this notion of being picked on is all over FOX News such as the notion that the rich are being picked on when all they are trying to do is make a buck. I would propose that if we actually look at our common ground, self interest (that is as compared to self indulgence, we may actually be able to lay claim to (outright takeover (two of the cornerstones of the true believer’s argument and put some shine on how tainted by self indulgence and insincere their arguments actually are. In other words, I’m talking about a way to shit in their face with their own nonsense.

I would start with this erroneous notion that that the true believers have some kind exclusive monopoly on the notion of achievement. If we were to ask ourselves how it is the true believers actually see Marx as an actual human who played a role in our history, we might jump to the conclusion of some bearded beast with red glowing eyes and horns sticking out of his scraggly long hair. And as much as I would like to believe that, my educated guess is that they don’t think about it all because most of them know very little about Marx. What they are mainly focused on are his ideologies which present a threat to their self indulgent life styles. But if there ever was a legitimate description of Marx (and I am quite confident in this: Marx was a guy who found what he loved to do and loved it so much that he wanted to create a system in which everyone could find and pursue what they loved: self actualization as Maslow later called it. In other words, Marx was a guy who had a full appreciation of achievement.

The problem with the true believer’s embrace and vision of achievement is that, in reality, it conditions achievement on a lot of contingencies based on mythologies about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. It is quick to point out the success stories of people like Whoopie Goldberg or Rappers; but what it fails to recognize is that for every Whoopie Goldberg or Jay-Z, there are thousands of others out there trying to do the same thing only to fail miserably. This obliviousness is what translates into the erroneous notion that if we stop sharing the burden of the less fortunate among us, that burden will somehow disappear. But the only real result of that is that the burden simply becomes localized either through crime or the desperate turning to those close to them who have resources thereby compromising the ability of those who would prefer to actually achieve.

But, of course, due to the theoretical laziness and denial involved in the true believer, this point would be hard to get across. It would be equally hard to get through their individualistic fancy based on Atlas Shrugged that our advancement as a species is now more dependent on the communal model provided by computer programmers in which individuals freely bounce off of one another. In other words, the days of the lone genius are over. Now, in order to get beyond ourselves, we have to create a kind communal momentum that can no longer be restricted by the criteria of profit seeking behaviors. One only need look at the movement of cable TV to see this in which reality TV becomes prevalent because it is cheap to produce while bringing in the same ad revenue. And so much for the notion that only the market can lead to quality; I mean given that quality programming still manages to happen through such enterprises as PRI or the BBC.

The point is that if achievement (even excellence (is what we are after, it is not the true believers that have the answer but the market agnostics. It is us who want to set up systems that will address the needs of the desperate among us so that we are free to achieve. And this addresses yet another mythology that the true believers tend to embrace: this pastoral vision of everyone doing what they do best and exchanging it for what other people do best. This might have been something more than a myth back in the days that Adam Smith wrote about it. But it does little in the days of mass population and the mass production it takes to supply it.

But let the true believers appeal to it all they want. It is only the agnostics that can fulfill it. By creating a society in which the needs of the desperate among us are addressed, by providing, for instance, assistance to a family that is dealing with a handicap child, or assistance to our elderly, or social workers that deal with the problems of the poor, we distribute the burden in such a way that everyone has the time to pursue self actualization (excellence (achievement. And that is while allowing everyone to do what they do best while leaving them, in turn, time for self actualization.

Once again, being a progressive/liberal has never felt so boring and dry as this first entrance into Rawls via The Laws of the Peoples. A lot of it feels like being told what I already intuited in some rather dry almost mathematical language. I did, however come across a point that gets me beyond myself:

“The last cause [for immigration] is population pressure in the home territory, and among its complex of causes is the inequality and subjection of women. Once that inequality and subjection are overcome, and women are granted equal political participation with men and assured education, these problems can be resolved.”

In this, I believe we can see a crucial element in our evolution as a species from the competitive model (in which our baser impulses put our higher cognitive functions in their service) to the cooperative one: in which our baser impulses see it in their interest to act in tandem with our higher cognitive functions. And let’s be very clear about this: the inequality and subjection of women is an expression of the competitive model. We only need look at Islamic societies to see that. They claim that it is about women being sacred. But ultimately it shows itself to be an expression of fear and the patriarchal need for power and dominance. And this need for power and dominance is what is, in third world countries, driving an unsustainable population growth that lies at the bottom of every other problem we are having: such as manmade climate change and the unwillingness of high wealth to share resources.

We can get some confirmation for this as well as concerns the problem of immigration in America from South American countries. In Mexico, for instance, it is customary for men to keep their women barefoot and pregnant so that they’ll stay home while the men visit the brothels. What results from this, as Rawls points out, is a population pressure that drives Mexican immigration into America. The hypocrisy among American conservatives on this issue is their obliviousness to the issue and tendency to attach gag orders on birth control to foreign aid. And we see that same kind of patriarchal nonsense in such reality TV shows as 19 and Counting which, if you set aside the scandals that surrounded it, was already despicable since the idea was for us to fawn over such a big tight-knit family when all it should have inspired in us was the elimination of the child tax credit after the second or third child. Our population growth (whether it comes from third or first world countries (is unsustainable.

Rawl’s point seems perfectly and profoundly correct in that as long as we delegate women to the role of baby making machines, we will only perpetuate the problem of an unsustainable population growth. However, if we allow women to participate in the power structure on equal terms, we give them an incentive to defer childbearing while being more selective in their role (as one social Darwinist pointed out to me (as genetic gatekeepers.

In other words: when women win, we all win.

“I mean isn’t Global Capitalism the kind of thing America started out fighting against?”

“Not really, D, considering how even early Americans used trade with foreign countries as a means to generate wealth. Our military even fought wars to defend and expand our economic opportunities and leverage. The Spanish American war was HARDLY fought for the principals taught to us in Public Schools, and neither were the smaller scale wars in individual Central and South American countries during and after…such as those in Panama and Ecuador. We were not the originators of Globalism (I think it’s safe to say that the British Empire and it’s various ‘trade companies’ were), but we learned it well enough.” -Shawn

In a dramatic reversal from my initial impression of Rawl’s, I find him getting more interesting as I get further into the audio book -that is while I actually read it. Maybe it was the dramatic plot twists or the really luscious sex scenes, or maybe it was just Rawl’s analytic insistence on the precision of terms (Voltaire: if you want to talk to me, define your terms (that is giving me a lot of new terminology and distinctions to play with: that which satisfies the criteria by which I approach any text (in the postmodern sense/hermeneutic of what can be interpreted: a matter of what I can use.

(And I would note how much I appreciate (even if it is not a style I would choose work in and despite my resentment towards Analytic smugness which dismisses continental approaches (the way Rawls (much like Searle (builds his arguments in such a concise way. Rawls seems to work really hard to get his point clearly across to the reader as can be seen in his tendency to repeat important points to his thesis.)

In this case, I would like to focus on the connected terms of the rational and the reasonable. The rational can be primarily focused on what is in the interest of a given individual or group that individual happens to reside in. The reasonable has to do with how a given proposal affects those outside of the individual or individuals that propose it. I return to Shawn’s point to apply the point:

“Not really, D, considering how even early Americans used trade with foreign countries as a means to generate wealth. Our military even fought wars to defend and expand our economic opportunities and leverage. The Spanish American war was HARDLY fought for the principals taught to us in Public Schools, and neither were the smaller scale wars in individual Central and South American countries during and after…such as those in Panama and Ecuador. We were not the originators of Globalism (I think it’s safe to say that the British Empire and it’s various ‘trade companies’ were), but we learned it well enough.”

What we see here is what Rawls would consider a misuse of war according to the Laws of Peoples –that is war, according to him, being mainly delegated to self defense. What Shawn is describing here is a perfectly rational use of war in that it serves the interest of the individuals instigating it. We have to put in mind here is that rationality is about what serves the purposes of a given goal. Reasonableness, on the other hand, is about looking beyond one’s self interest and considering the self interest (the rationality (of the other. Therefore, what we see in Shawn’s description is America’s rational application of war while also seeing an equally unreasonable application of it. And this is a direct violation of the Laws of Peoples, that which must transcend the infrastructural technologies (doctrines, laws, etc. (we put in place if we are to be a truly free and just society.

What I see in this is Rawl’s relationship and reaction to his relationship with Robert Nozick (a famous libertarian (who was also a peer and friend to Rawls. Rawls, at one point, directly criticizes the libertarian position which I will try to quote later. But his argument that rationality and the reasonable are both crucial to the Laws of the Peoples while giving the import he does to the reasonable strikes me as a criticism folded into the respect he felt for his friend. And we can see this as well in:

“A reasonably just Law of Peoples is Utopian in that it uses political (moral) ideals, principles, and concepts to specify the reasonably right and just political and social arrangements for the Society of Peoples. In the domestic case, liberal conceptions of justice distinguish between the reasonable and the rational, and LIE BETWEEN ALTRUISM ON ONE SIDE AND EGOISM ON THE OTHER [emphasis mine]”