Monday, May 5, 2008

German Idealism REDUX

If philosophy isn't your cup of tea, please scroll down and enjoy Josh's delightfully introduced link to TIME magazine's 100 Most Influential People list. For everyone else, please enjoy/criticize the following:

The ALL – The concept of ALL is similar in function and nature to the concept of infinity. That is, both consist in irony. In other words, the concept ALL is not and can never be identical to the ALL per se. Infinity and the ALL are both originally and essentially positive. Subjectivity itself is defined by the revelation of the ALL as differentiable, which consists in negation, i.e. subjectivity.


The ALL and its remainder – If the ALL is fundamentally a paradox, like nothing and infinity, there is an insurmountable chasm between the sign and the signified. These words by definition resist identity-thinking because they are expressly non-identical to that which they refer to.


The primacy of belief – Any and all forms of negation consist in belief. Belief itself can be divided into justified belief (knowledge) and dogmatic belief (faith). The structure of belief is a wall, or a point beyond which questions pertaining to the ontology of that which is in question become incoherent and unintelligible. The wall of knowledge is the cogito, while the wall of faith is the ALL.


What does it mean to disbelieve? – To disbelieve is the essence of skepticism, which itself paves the ultimate path to pure knowledge. Skepticism recognizes the fundamental reality that all positive knowledge really consists in negation, and thus all knowledge consists in belief. In fact, Hegel’s project in the Phenomenology consists largely in showing that Kant provides a realization of this paradigm, insofar as he assumes an absolute skepticism towards reality per se, and imagines a secondary contingent reality – the phenomenal realm, or realm of possible subjective experience – of which, he claims, positively justified knowledge can be known. As an idealist, Kant had faith in this distinction. He achieves the absolute separation between the subject and the object by creating an absolute separation between the object and non-objective reality, or the ALL. By dividing the ALL per se into phenomena and noumena and simultaneously extracting the subject from the ALL, we are confronted with the absolute, unquestionable subject/object distinction.


Hegel vs. Kant – In response to the unquestioned irony built into Kant’s epistemology, Hegel inverts Kant’s reality by giving phenomena primacy and dismissing noumena, which cannot be objectively known, as “less than shadows.” Hegel’s distressing fear of irony* forces him into a repetitious, often circular epistemology that aims at a communion of subject and object. Hegel’s Absolute, the totality of objectively knowable reality (thus everything), has no outside and thus claims to be the ALL not simply identified, but identified as the totality of that which is always already becoming.

*Hegel and Irony – It is not irony in itself that Hegel fears; it is the unexamined, assumed irony that Kant unquestioningly uses as the bedrock upon which he erects his three critiques. Attempting to overcome irony, rather than ignore it, although necessarily futile, proves to be the nature of life itself. Thus when we find that Kant was bound to his hometown and was no traveler to say the least, the hermetical odor that pervades his work makes perfect sense, while Hegel, not afraid to confront uncertainty without writing it off as such, produced works that have a far more human flavor. Hegel’s Romantic grandiosity exists in truth, while Kant’s certainty-driven epistemology exists for truth.


Apperception as negation – Apperception is essentially negation. In other words, if I call to mind the fact that I am currently formulating ideas and writing, I am essentially saying that I am absolutely doing nothing else, thereby making an a priori objective statement. If the conditions of the possibility of my formulating ideas and writing are met, I am necessarily doing nothing else but formulating ideas and writing. In order to believe this to be a proper description of reality, I must grant knowledge – i.e. the primacy of the objectively answerable question – primacy. Pure knowledge, of course, does not consist in positivity, but in negativity. As an epistemologist, Kant had to first negate reality (ignore it as unknowable) in order to assert anything positive about it (as phenomenal reality). Pure knowledge requires that we disbelieve that it is itself a form of belief.


All knowledge is reducible to self-knowledge – Within the Kantian framework, knowledge can be reduced to self-knowledge insofar there is only one Self, i.e. the rational agent. Within the Hegelian framework, knowledge can be reduced to self-knowledge insofar as there is only one Self, i.e. the Absolute, or Geist. The difference between these two notions of Self is a variation on the subject/object theme, which itself is a variation on the opening theme, that of the ALL. Specifically, the Kantian Self consists in an absolute separation from the world, i.e. the universe not only exists independently of Self, but Self probably can’t even say anything necessarily true about the universe. The Hegelian Self, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with collapsing this differentiation by a return to ALL. In religious terms, we are faced here with the schism between Protestantism and Catholicism. The Kantian world has no metaphysical structure beyond our ability to describe it in terms of how we confront it, while the Hegelian world resolves into the Self by making the Self, or subject, not an object, but the Object.


The Voice of the Remainder – Kant’s world, though like Descartes he didn’t necessarily intend it to, annihilates the remainder through the doctrine of “the condition of the possibility.” Thereby, Kant sees but does not hear the remainder. On the other hand, Hegel annihilates the remainder through his rigorous practice of the science of phenomenology, or the taking of phenomena as more real than noumena. Thereby, Hegel hears but does not see the remainder.


Transcendence and Immanence - Kant believes in an outer ultimate reality, while Hegel believes in an inner ultimate reality.


joshua francis said...

If the wall of faith is the ALL and the ALL consists in irony, is faith inherently ironic?

Michael B. Luz said...

It would not be completely wrong to say that that question is the essence of Kierkegaard's project (if he has one). I would say that that's the point, however you can then view that in two lights - the atemporal and the temporal. When in the atemporal light, it tends to engender the revulsion towards faith we find in science, or at least its insistence to be apart and different from it. In the temporal light, we find theology in the vein of Augustine and Kierkegaard - the belief in answers to ultimate questions that are fundamentally unanswerable in the sense that the scientific criteria that must be met in order for an answer to be considered an adequate or final answer are not able to met by an answer to a question such as "What is Being?" Clearly, faith in a question is ironic, because a question is a suspension, not a conclusion (in a traditional Western way of looking at knowledge). Ontologically speaking, faith is primary for it brings us to ask over and over the fundamental metaphysical questions without worrying we can't know answers to them as certainly as 2+2=4. Science is merely an ontological mode that enables us to know, thus control, objective reality. This is the real shift that occured with the Copernican Revolution; aside from the theological shift, or the apotheosis of Man or cogito, the nature of the questions being asked by philosophy and science changed from What to How. "How does such-and-such work" as opposed to "What is it" or "Why is it". such-and-such.

dave kutz said...

"Hegel’s Romantic grandiosity exists in truth, while Kant’s certainty-driven epistemology exists for truth."
I'm interested in the difference between existing "for truth" and "in truth". I might just be mixing up words but I'm confused there.

Michael B. Luz said...

"For" and "In" are most notable for the use by Hegel when he differentiates between "being-in-itself" and "being-for-itself"...very roughly, the former is what something essentially is while the latter is something which, basically, is self-conscious, or is for its own sake. This turns out to be the Absolute, or total reality, and things in themselves, like the chair you're sitting on, are merely aggregates of manifestations that appear within the space that is ultimate self-consciousness. So, Hegel's thinking exists "in truth" because there is no outside, i.e. exteriority can only be understood once it becomes interiority, therefore it is utterly meaningless to posit or infer an effective exterior. Kant's, on the other hand, does posit an exteriority, about which we can only have glimpses, that is, the Good. The rational agent, separated from her base (i.e. humanly) desires and drives, has privileged access to this Good. In this sense, Kant exists for truth because Truth possesses an autonomy that is explicitly apart from and prior to subjectivity, or the rational agent, while Hegel believes truth is and can only be inherent, or is merely subjectivity fully objectified.