Some obscure stuff for the well read and the curious

I must admit I am not much of a system builder, in the sense that you might think of Sartre as a system builder. However, a while back, I wrote a rather dense (and brief) paper, which I had occasion to re-read recently. I have attempted to place myself in conversation with it, although the results are in no way exhaustive. Hopefully it will give enjoyment to some. :slight_smile:

“The human perspective is profoundly temporal.”

When Heidegger uses the term ‘subjectivity’, in order to characterize the decisive turn in modern metaphysics, he might just as well have said ‘objectivity’; a point which he was not at all oblivious to.

Imagine ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’ as ‘Hesperus’ and ‘Phosphorus’. I have been struck by the amount of people who wish to say that Phosphorus is reduceable to Hesperus. For me it seems more correct to say that Hesperus and Phosphorus both refer to Venus, which is why I use this analogy to begin with. And ‘Venus’, in my analogy, is the Anthopos; which Heidegger attempted to address in Being and Time. Attempting to define man as an object amongst other objects; this was what Heidegger objected to, because he believed that the notion of ‘object’ was spawned only from a prior and over-arching subjectivity, characteristic of modern metaphysics, which was itself critically unpegged.

The notions of ‘objectivity’ and ‘subjectivity’ belong together - are interchangeable and synonymous; or else, if this sounds strange, I might rephrase it to this; with the one comes the other, and this is necessarily, (and not contingently) so, although this does not in turn imply ‘predestination’, which is what some people think when the word ‘necessity’ is uttered. If we can have a concept of identity which is not susceptible to Derrida’s Differance, then we can have the rest too, which is what modal logic is all about. My reading of the notion of identity, in this post, will be arrayed against the idea that identity is somehow antagonistic or incompatible with the common notion of the Heraclitean flux.

We can look at our question from another direction. If we must have identity in the Logos – the Same – then we can have necessity too, and perhaps more. Yet the anthropos, which is at the centre of modern metaphysics according to Heidegger; this subjectivity (and thus objectivity) is, I think, quite possibly inescapable through the kind of monistic reductions envisaged by (amongst others) Merleau-Ponty or the early Heidegger (Spinoza?). And this for precisely the same reason that Nietzsche does not escape metaphysics with Will-to-Power; rather his is a resounding affirmation. Whether his is the ‘last possible metaphysical position’… is still an open question – implying as it does that we remain within its power. Indeed the breadth of reach implied here would easily explain the poverty of metaphysical or physicalist reductionism. Heidegger wanted the direction of our question to point back at man himself; this, I have been told, is the great novelty of his ontology.

Any determinism which is merely a reversal of free will, is (and ‘was always’) destined to be insufficiently radical, and thusly premature in its pronunciations of freedom, emancipation, etc; in the same way that Richard Rorty is quite premature to proclaim his freedom from ‘metaphysics’.

Now to backtrack a little; modal logic, you ask? Perhaps it will become clear for what reason I have an interest here. Necessity from identity; it is always a question of Identity, and the question of identity bleeds into the anthropos. The Object comes from the Subject; is placed before the subject. This is what I would call a binary dependence.

The relation between predestiny and necessity, or ‘essence’ as you might forgivably conceive it, is a relic of an outdated metaphysical picture, and it is one which I believe Heidegger saw through (at least partially, if not entirely knowingly), but which, more interestingly, is also cited as the core of Kripke’s revolution in contemporary analytic metaphysics. I draw this link as a point of interest rather than as a pincer of argument. Kripke’s essentialism breaks down the links between apriority, analyticity, and necessity. His thought is antagonistic to Heidegger, in ways which I have yet to devote much thought to. Yet it is convenient for me to use Kripke’s work on the necessary aposteriori in an attempt to anticipate and dismiss some of the more superficial responses to this thread which I envisage may be produced.

The binary, or ‘manifold’, centrality of subjectivity at the heart of modern metaphysics leads for Heidegger directly to metaphysical nihilism; as voiced by Nietzsche (and good to remember also that Derrida saw Nietzsche through Heidegger, to a significant extent). It is to this problem that Being and Time is directed (as already noted). And it does so because it fails to ask the question of Being. By I which I mean only what I already said previously, that the anthropos remains in some important sense critically unpegged, right down at the bottom.

“There is no concept of identity which can avoid an assumed concept of time, as continuance is spanned over ‘something’, and it is this ‘something’ which allows a reference point between two things by which they can therefore be assigned a characteristic of sameness.”

The Being of Becoming, the holding-in-presence, is what grounds the Logos, in the sense that we have imbibed this dependence on permanence and subsistence from Platonic metaphysics. The question right now is not whether we should maintain or use these notions of permanence or subsistence. I think the argument in the negative, which says we cannot guard these things against the ‘flux’, has no place in Heraclites, Nietzsche, Heidegger, or Derrida - and is furthermore superficial. I have been told that the idea of permanence, thought in terms of identity, is ‘problematic’. Heidegger said so, apparently. However as far as I am concerned, Heidegger places every antithetical equivalent to identity-as-permanence in question at the same time, which brings for him the whole of metaphysics to a standstill; from which we feel, as he felt, the extreme difficulty of imagining what the next step will be. Heidegger’s ‘new’ way of thinking, I believe, was his attempt to force this next step, perhaps prematurely. I think, to echo the words of the contemporary continental thinker Simon Critchley, that we are still, in an important sense, ‘metaphysicians in the dark’. Derrida as much as Heidegger as much as Nietzsche. As much as Rorty.

Now in Nietzsche we find the characterization of knowledge as a schematizing of Chaos, where the latter is strictly not to be thought in terms of ‘disorder’. And this schematizing is the overpowering of power itself, to use Heidegger’s phrase. The reason Heidegger focuses so heavily on the notion of Being, it seems to me, is precisely because it seems to predicate the very notion of subsistence, and our ability to propriate (in the sense of ereignis). I was going in a different direction, though, when I first wrote the blue sections in this thread (portions of my first ever philosophy essay :slight_smile: ).

This next portion should be read right after the blue section above.

“They are, in this sense, already different, but we need not consider this as restrictive on our ability to conceive of a notion of identity. In order to present a conclusion on the identity of a river over time, let alone on the identity of a conscious being, we must first locate the concept ‘river’ against the backdrop of a universe homogenous in its constitution as matter, as well as locating the concepts ‘identity’ and also ‘temporality’, in what we shall call the arbitrarily objective delineations which we find them in. For this it is therefore necessary that we digress momentarily.”

The river is the river of Heraclites, which (as the usual story goes) we can never step into twice. What is a ‘conscious being’, is not some commitment that is being posited here, but rather something taken from the history of metaphysics, and placed into conversation with the present, unfolding thought. It is, actually, precisely the question of the anthropos which is at stake here, and I am attempting to rescue the notion of identity. What is both ‘arbitrary’ and ‘objective’? This is my anticipation of Kripke, which is the very first thing that hinted to me that he might be useful here.

“When we posit sameness it is as a quality whose manifestations are inherently between objects of our attention.”

Of course an ‘object’ is already a positing of sameness, because we imagine the identity of the ‘unit’ to exist in ‘depth’ behind the perspectival ‘face’ presented to us. It is furthermore already perceived in the ‘light’ of Being, a Heideggerian turn of phrase which has always reminded me or Bertrand Russell. Case in point - the Light of Being can easily be interpreted in terms of particulars and universals, where the ‘light’ of the latter shines forth, presenting the former in its distinction and identity. Russell’s thought, in this particular case, does strike me though as being rather hollow, or even superficial.

“We call shared characteristics verifiable; we call shared perspectives on these verifications agreement. What we are confronted with, under these circumstances, is the presence of shared information; referenced or drawn from experiences whose commonality is dictated by the preeminent presence of bio/psycho-logically shared components (or metaphysical presuppositions), as well as what we can term the binding and inescapable restrictions of context.”

“The comparison by which we judge sameness is in itself a juxtaposition of normative conceptual definitions; in their application to what we shall call, for the time being, ‘less normative conceptual definitions’.”

The latter are to be read as the object in terms of ‘self-identity’. The former can be read in terms of the notion of identity across objects whose self-identity is already posited; I believe it is possible to apply Kripkean metaphysical (modal) necessity to strengthen the definition of sameness here. The question of identity, and the distinction between what I am and am not addressing here - is brought out in the following example;

Consider the sameness we might posit between two pieces of red cloth. Now consider the sameness we might posit between two parts of the same red cloth. Now cut that cloth in half.

Now remember Russell, and also this idea from the early Wittgenstein;

“To rephrase, we apply a concept of identity to a concept of ‘thing’ – which is itself already assigned a precursory identity (i.e. as the thing-as-thing, which as such incurs a referential underpinning of further propositions concerning what makes this thing what it is – what gives it it’s ‘distinction’, so to speak) – and within this concept which is represented by divergent examples separated in their comparison (and as a precursor to this comparison at least in some sense) we arrive at an understanding of the relation in terms of adherence between our normative conception of what should constitute identity, and our examples in juxtaposition which may, or may not, adhere to these criterion.”

“Quality is itself a quality which must be postulated within a framework of conceptual understanding. Hence quality shared between things must be qualified beyond the mere ‘identifying’ of shared characteristics, such as whiteness (contra Russell); it must include additionally the shared characteristic of being able to be ascribed qualities which distinguish and discriminate – it must be different from thing x in order to be similar to thing y, whilst simultaneously sharing with all things the fundamental ascribability of thing-ness.”

Whilst it is true that thingness is critically unpegged at the bottom, it plays an important role in our representation of difference, separation etc. We may use the language of modern essentialism to explain the privilege of thingness here; which I do not believe is vulnerable to Heidegger’s account of the metaphysics of presence. In fact we may go the other way, and read thingness as a commitment necessary to our concept of the Same, and of identity.

“Sameness between things towards which they are referenced is, under these conditions, the universal of universals – hence we have incurred a conceptual assumption. This is what we shall call the hierarchy of vertically (though not rigidly so) predicative concepts whose essential prerequisite for identity, we shall further add, is disparity, or, to rephrase, the ability for this system to accommodate difference is what allows for the comparative application of inter-relational associations by which we recognise both the possibility for connectedness, and also its specific manifestations.”

The most important question is, given the above commentary, on what level, or ‘tier’ of analysis does the above paragraph take place?

“This line of thought can be developed when we consider that we could not have characteristics without the intrinsic differentiation, distance and distinction which allows us to posit the thing against the backdrop of the world. It is because of this heterogeneity that, within this framework, we can postulate the existence of sameness between objects which are already separate from one another. This ability to delineate between various ‘forms’ of matter we shall term numerical ekstasis.”

“The passage of time sees the continuity of temporally reconfiguring matter, and it is how these configurations relate to us which leads us to define a structure as such that, due to the subjectivity of our perspective, is at least already partially defined or rather inhibited. Hence all matter is primarily matter whereby we apply or interpret distinctions, which despite their objectiveness remain subjective in terms of the arbitrariness of their scale of distinction.* Categorisation, viewed in this sense, can be seen as an arbitrary process within a system of consistency; as structural truth cannot be externally referenced."

*This is partially the sense in which I earlier used the terms ‘arbitrary’ and ‘objective’.

And yet the play of the concept ‘matter’ is being reconfigured, although my picture here is borrowed from my understanding of physics. The arbitrariness of our scale of distinction, when moved (transposed) in the correct manner, can shine a light on any genus, such that any concept can appear as dubious as ‘matter’. And when we touch unexpectedly the cold face of the Absolute, we must look back and reconfigure our picture. For what is equally dubious and arbitrary becomes valid and objective, and a strange synthesis is hinted at.

“It is therefore perhaps useful to approach our interpretation of reality with an understanding of the uniquely biasing influence of scale in our interactions with the world. When we seek conceptual identity we are confronted with an inter-relational framework whose own identity is revealed only through the erosion of the original concept. That is, to try to understand the river in terms of its material components is to negate the holistic identity of the river itself.”

“To elaborate further; when we refer to a river we are referring to an idea which is supposed to transcend the restrictions of continuous flux prescribed and inherent to the passage of time.”

I might for different reasons have said, ‘prescribed OR inherent’.

“We therefore distinguish between the (putatively) physical and metaphysical constituents of our definition. However (to return to a previous point – p3 paragraph 2), even to begin with matter is not to reduce to more fundamental concepts, but rather to reconceive of the relative position and unique subjectivity of our concepts (i.e. scale), which, importantly, we can call no less true on this account, as we are dealing with an intra-relational structure rather than an inter-relational transcendence.”

Actually what we are dealing with is indeed transcendental, but in a rather different sense (i.e. the sense of Becoming).

This analysis moves in the direction of identity, and the anthropos is always present.

“It is perhaps more important to underline the significance of the seeking as a functional quality of being by which we may define the ‘present’ – although we should like to refrain from words such as ‘instant’ or ‘moment’. Within these circumstances, we see that personal identity disgorges itself into past and future, and we see the further possibility of maintaining that, indeed, if we are ever to step into the same river twice, we should have to do so as an entity whose very existence is predicated not in spite of this continual flux, but as it. This is irrespective of the state of the river.
Hence the fundamental concern of Heraclites is the relationship between stasis and flux. This is resolved into a question of successive or duplicative repetition in identity – but through our analysis of concepts we can perhaps clarify the extent to which both this continuity of discontinuity , as well as the arbitrarily objective classification or structuralisation which is itself within a structuralisation, can coexist, at least to an extent."

"We should like further to avoid the temptation to atomise our conception of identity, by questioning whether it is indeed possible to step into the same river even once. We can reply to this entire line of thought with the following two arguments; firstly, we cannot step into something which never achieves a unity of identity, only if we conceive of identity as a temporalised unity. Under this assumption, however, we could hardly describe our interactions with the world, or even our interactions with ourselves. Secondly, as already stipulated, to say that you can never do anything even once is to atomise identity and distort its meaning. Even thoughts are retarded by the passage of time beyond the absolute purity of the Now – and yet to maintain in spite of this that identity is somehow a-temporal would mean searching for an exact spatial-temporal point of reference for the conscious. This is incoherent.
These arguments overlap to the extent that they are both arguments about identity, and so about being.”

“Every point of reference, every moment and experience, is arrested by the latency of delayed interpretation, and so the Moment as such acquires a certain hetero-unity. However to deny the existence of the river over time would be non-sensical, as we are dealing with the structural truth of the continuation of a concept within a system, which uses the distorting method of scaled interpretation (i.e. everyday perception) to build a system which, perhaps analogous to the classical theory of relativity, is functional in the context of its initial conception. Even to say that the river may not be the river which it was is too concessionary; we would be confusing the layers of our inter-relating concepts – of what I termed earlier our ‘normative conceptual definitions’, and this, as I hope I have shown, will lead us nowhere.”

Regards,

James

James,

You know I went through your entire post and line by line started making comments, but I found I kept coming upon the same difficulty. The Identity you are trying to rescue does not need rescuing it would seem, unless you want to treat Identity in a transcendental, analytically unassailable way. But language is only a description. Identity is simply treating two things “as if” the Same, despite the differences, and (this is important), the material consequences of doing so, as interpreted by that process. Treat Heraclitus’ river as the same river and there are certain consequences. Treat it as not the same river, or not a river at all, and there are others. What produces the complexity and its confusion, in my mind, is to occlude from analysis that the “subject” that is thinking “x” or “y”, is doing so through the affects of his body, and in so doing inscribing himself within particular discourses, particular states of relation. Much of philosophy it seems complicates itself by seeking to repress this aspect of knowing. Knowing is doing, literally. But you know where I stand on this, so perhaps this was not helpful.

Dunamis

Yes not helpful, but thanks for the response in any case.

The rubric of ‘rescuing’ is a point which I read rhetorically first and foremost. Perhaps it is true that there is no one standing in the opposite corner, and I am punching dust and shadows. However, as I imagine it, I tend to treat statements like the below as being ‘part of’ what I want to get around, or at least what I want to clarify;

I also maintain that ‘material’ consequences are never purely pragmatic, but are questions of ‘truth’, as well; to the extent that the two terms bleed into each other, without distinguishable boundary.

In fact I might read you back into the discourse of my original paper, although I imagine you might protest. Trouble is, I am not yet entirely sure why. :slight_smile:

Regards,

James

James,

“The rubric of ‘rescuing’ is a point which I read rhetorically first and foremost. Perhaps it is true that there is no one standing in the opposite corner, and I am punching dust and shadows.”

I think this is a very productive way to philosophize, and indeed is probably the source of all my own positions as well. I admire the attempt to rescue indeed, but since it lacks one layer of reference (for me), I cannot really engage the terms on their level. Heraclitus’ river is being seen as a river by another river (the observer), and the two of them are part of a single river (the kosmos), that is ever the Same, and ever different. His quote in fact specifies, or at least implies this in a liquidity of the term autos.

“As they the same in rivers step, other and other waters flow.”

“potamoisi toisin autoisin embainousin hetera kai hetera hudata epirrei”

“They” and “rivers”, and even “step in” all can be modified by autoisin, literally “in/through sameness”. The entire phrase is in the dative. Through the sameness of rivers, they and stepping, otherness flows.

Fragment 12

The alterity that produces the distinction cannot be completely assessed outside of the alterity that is “you”.

This is also implied by Heraclitus’ fragment 51

They do not understand how, while differing from, it is in agreement with itself. There is a back-turning connection (harmony), like that of a bow or lyre.

By using the two instruments associated with Apollo, Heraclitus is placing within rationality itself the production of its own becoming, the unification of opposites, “sense” and “nonsense”. If I may extend the metaphor, with your emphasis on the “subject” and the “object”, you may be focusing on the direction of the arrow being shot, or the note that is played, rather than the instrument that propels it. The instrument is not the person, but the reverberative whole in which the individual participates, and in knowing toticipates.

Dunamis

Alas I have not read the Greek Heraclites, but only the straw-man Heraclites, from which, assuredly, there is indeed much to rescue. Remember that this paper was directed at an analytic audience, believe it or not. :sunglasses:

Don’t worry though, I will get to the Attic Greek stuff just as soon as I have properly mastered the language (two or three weeks then :wink: ).

Hmm… you may not, methinks. Or at least the force of the comparison would be as a wave across a puddle of mudd. However, granting the comparison, I would still say that you are somewhat begging the question at hand; BUT, if you are not, then at the least this is the impression that I get, and, well, you know the saying; ‘it takes two to…’

Also, I have only a faint idea of what the word ‘toticipate’ might mean - something along the lines of ‘a totality that participates in itself, immanently, etc etc’. Is there some specific meaning which you had in mind, other than this?

Regards,

James

I don’t know about the rest of what you said since I don’t presume to understand it. But it is pretty clear that Heraclites was confusing a river with the water flowing through the river. It is certainly true that (unless you are really very fast) you cannot step into the same bit of flowing water twice, but anyone can step into the same river (say the Hudson in New York) as many times as he likes. In fact, Henry Hudson could have stepped into the Hudson when he arrived many years ago, and I can step into the Hudson today, and Henry and I would have both stepped into the same river. (But not, of course, into the same water).

and this is the whole point… the water is never the same…

the river is not the river it was… what makes it the same river is the name, but that’s all… what we call the Hudson river today is completely different than that water in which Henry stepped…

so we find ourselves in a precarious position…

if the river that was named Hudson is not comprised of the same stuff that comprised it when it was named -the water is not the same nor are the banks between which it flows- how do we find justification for naming it such?

it is not the same thing now as it once was save by name…

this illustrates the importance of definition and the fluidity of it…

"We should like further to avoid the temptation to atomise our conception of identity, by questioning whether it is indeed possible to step into the same river even once. We can reply to this entire line of thought with the following two arguments; firstly, we cannot step into something which never achieves a unity of identity, only if we conceive of identity as a temporalised unity. Under this assumption, however, we could hardly describe our interactions with the world, or even our interactions with ourselves. Secondly, as already stipulated, to say that you can never do anything even once is to atomise identity and distort its meaning. Even thoughts are retarded by the passage of time beyond the absolute purity of the Now – and yet to maintain in spite of this that identity is somehow a-temporal would mean searching for an exact spatial-temporal point of reference for the conscious. This is incoherent.
These arguments overlap to the extent that they are both arguments about identity, and so about being.”

incoherent? of course, but that is what identity is…

the part of the river allegory that most find disturbing is that once one sees the logic underlying the composition of the river, one is left with a dilemma…

what is the logical difference between the identity of the river and the identity of a person?

the cells and other organic material that comprises a human body fluctuates as the components of a river fluctuates…

if the person that was named Hudson (or anyone or even oneself) is not comprised of the same stuff that comprised it when it was named -the person is not the same - how do we find justification for naming it such?

-Imp

James,

“Also, I have only a faint idea of what the word ‘toticipate’ might mean - something along the lines of ‘a totality that participates in itself, immanently, etc etc’. Is there some specific meaning which you had in mind, other than this?”

“Toticipate” is a translation of “toticipatione” a neologism coined by Campanella to indicate much of what you surmise, that is to mark a distinction from “participation”. So its use is to indicate that immanence, but also to evoke Campanella’s “cognoscere est esse” vision of epistemology, 'to know is to be".

I would still say that you are somewhat begging the question at hand

If I have begged the question, you have bought it retail with money printed in your basement. :slight_smile:

A dollar stands for nothing except by agreement. So too with words, yet they function with efficacy and force.

Dunamis

Imp,

“what is the logical difference between the identity of the river and the identity of a person?”

This Imp I agree, is exactly the point suggested by Heraclitus’ formulation. The “sameness” is both of the person and of the river, (actually plural, persons and rivers), and this “sameness” appears to produce the “otherness” of the waters. In sameness, otherness. We have the core of Derrida right here. The post-modern is actually quite ancient.

Dunamis

Thanks guys for the responses. :slight_smile:

:laughing:

Suffice to say, Impenitent, that I have tried to get around the idea presented in your post, and this is the substance of the original paper. As such, Kennathamy, I also disagree with your observation.

Perhaps I will say some more on this later, although what I argue is present in the paper. Perhaps I will leave it. Right now, I am going to go back to my reading. :slight_smile:

Regards,

James