being, heidegger, ontology, science

Ontology and Science

We could say that Heidegger’s introduction to Being and Time is rigorous and formalized to the extreme, like any other great (self-satisfied) German philosopher. Yet Heidegger also denounces any smack of self-satisfaction that would creep up in a philosophico-ontological investigation. What I want to do here in this short essay is to illuminate how Heidegger formulates the question of Being through Dasein, what this has to do with the ontological tradition and its destruction, and also what Heidegger thinks this has to do with the foundations of any science whatsoever. Due to the shortness of this essay, I will attempt to articulate these concerns simultaneously (bear with me).

Heidegger mentions that the structure of an explicit questioning does not become explicit until all the constitutive factors have become transparent (5). It is in this sense that Heidegger analyzes the Being of Dasein insofar as the latter is equivalent with the inquirer par excellence. Thus the elucidation of Being requires that the entity with a pre-ontological understanding of Being (Dasein) be analyzed explicitly. Heidegger will also talk about this as the existential analytic of Dasein or as the hermeneutic of Dasein, since this hermeneutic is the possibility for any ontology or any analytic of the existentiality of existence (38).

However, this question cannot become explicit until a few fundamental concerns are addressed. For example, Dasein’s pre-ontological understanding of Being is only possible because of the former’s being-in-the-world. In other words, for the existential analytic of existence to become fully transparent, Dasein’s ontical constitution (i.e. it’s being in a world) must be taken as the standpoint from which any ontological relevance is to be fathomed. This is why he claims that the roots of the existential analytic of Dasein are existentiell/ontical. Only through existence itself (our existentiell belonging to a world) can existentiality be analyzed into existential data (suitable for the foundation of a real ontology).

Some of Heidegger’s claims become more understandable when we present them in this way. For example, he argues that this analytic of Dasein is only possible through a “radicalization…of the pre-ontological understanding of Being” (15). In other words, since the world is reflected ontologically in Dasein, the latter’s everyday experiences in the former (its ontical constitution) must be taken as data from which to set out upon our quest to rigorously found an ontology. Another way of saying this is to claim that the question of Being must become historiological (42).

What does historicity/historiology imply though? In a sense, if historicality is the basis of any history whatsoever, historiology is involved with the way in which history is passed down through tradition along with the way in which this passing becomes concealed or self-evident in its movement from generation to generation. This is precisely where the question of the destruction of the ontological tradition comes to bear its philosophical fruits. For example, when Heidegger claims that ontology must be self-critical, he is not saying this in an arbitrary way, but he means that for any science whatsoever to evolve in its field, it must takes its problematic historiologically, i.e. it must become suspicious about the traditions that promote it so as not to lose sight of the fundamental question of Being that gets so easily concealed (36). Another example—which is really not an example but a way of reading Heidegger’s project through his reading of others, here Kant—becomes more clear when we read that Heidegger faults Kant for merely presupposing the relations between time and the “I think,” which he has inherited from Descartes. Kant’s procedure is not historiological since it doesn’t question the sources from which he obtains his arguments about the subject, nor does he make Being into a question (this is obvious). Where we see Heidegger actually formulating his own project is when he argues: “[Kant] failed to provide an ontology with Dasein as its theme or (to put this in Kantian language) to give a preliminary ontological analytic of the subjectivity of the subject” (24). If we look at the Kantian exposition of Heidegger’s task, we will see that he relates the problem at hand as one of the analytic of the subjectivity of the subject. This may be another reason why Heidegger begins with being-in-the-world.

What does this tell us about Heidegger’s stance on science? When we quoted the passage where he claims ontology must be self-critical, we were not arbitrarily providing an assertion out of context. Heidegger argues that the basic concepts undergirding any science whatsoever have to be taken as clues from which these sciences can be founded. He argues that the “real ‘movement’” of the sciences is determined by “how far it is capable of a crisis in its basic concepts” (9). It is in this strict sense that Heidegger envisions the destruction of the ontological tradition to be productive and positive, not simply negative. For as a science, ontology must be able to treat its own fundamental concepts—res cogitans, cogito ergo sum, etc.—as material to be reworked in order to make the real problem of Being transparent. It is also in this vein that Heidegger asserts that “ontological science is primary to ontical science” (11). This is why he claims that ontology is fundamental, whereas physics or biology deal with regional, ontical questions, i.e. questions concerning particular entities. However, since the Being of these entities has not become transparent until the advent of universal phenomenological ontology, science has to be subordinated to philosophy (in Heidegger’s view of things). My question is: does this not perpetuate the perennial struggle between science and philosophy? How is it that philosophy can have the pretentiousness to claim to ground real science, when, from the scientists’ point of view, philosophy is the mere recycling of concepts that do not have any factual basis in scientific inquiry? In other words, Heidegger continues the war between science and philosophy, even if he claims the latter is the most universal of sciences. How can we introduce democracy into thought and put science and philosophy on the same footing without claiming to give one or the other any sort of precedence? How can we break down the hierarchy that establishes itself in thought, i.e. how do we establish a peace treaty between philosophy and science, especially from the former to the latter?

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heresy, Laruelle, non-philosophy, philosophy, science, speculative realism

Speculative Heresy: a New Collective Blog on Laruelle and Speculative Realism

In just the past few days, Nick from Accursed Share, Ben from Naught Thought and I have created a new joint blog gathering together translations, book reviews, commentary, reading discussions, etc. on Laruelle, speculative realism and non-philosophy called Speculative Heresy. We conceive it to be an open discussion and collection of different perspectives on this new and still slightly obscure discipline.

Generally conceived, non-philosophy is opposed to revolution which is much too often the mode associated with new philosophical decisions. Modeling the “non-” after the non- in non-Euclidean geometries, non-philosophy aims to suspend some of the fundamental axioms which support the principle of sufficient philosophy (or PSP). According to Laruelle, non-philosophy proceeds through mutation rather than revolution, and this mutation lately has taken the form of heresy (testified most explicitly in Laruelle’s The Future Christ: A Lesson in Heresy (2003)). The site is still fresh, but within the week there should be quite a few posts to sift through. Other contributors may include Stellar Cartographies and Ross from Apeiron, but we hope to include as many critical voices necessary to create a chorus (though not one which is a priori harmonious). One of the first projects we hope to proceed with includes an open discussion on Ray Brassier’s dissertation Alien Theory: The Decline of Materialism in the Name of Matter, which is more or less conceived as a defense of Laruelle’s non-philosophy. Luckily, Brassier has made his dissertation accessible online for free, so anyone can join who wishes to. The file is made available on Accursed Share, but it will also be linked to on Speculative Heresy very soon.

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Aesthetic, axiom, badiou, epistemology, form, Laruelle, legitimacy, matter, non-philosophy, ontology, science, transcendental

(Non-)Epistemology and Ontology: Three more definitions from Laruelle’s Dictionnaire

Laruelle, Francois. Dictionnaire de la non-philosophie. Paris, Kime, 1998. Original translation by Taylor Adkins.

Non-epistemology

Unified theory of science and philosophy that takes for its object and material the discourse which lays claim to a particular mixture of science and philosophy: epistemology.

Philosophy recognizes epistemology in two ways which are not always exclusive. It can treat it as a continuation of traditional philosophy of science, crystallized around the Kantian question of the possibility of science, often relating precise and delimited scientific problems to philosophical systems, whether classical or modern (Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Russell, Quine, etc…) along with traditional philosophical positions (realism, empiricism, idealism, etc.). It can also consider it as a relatively autonomous discipline—simultaneously more regional and more technical—whose sources or occasions are extensions beyond the mechanical or Euclidean geometry of the physical, or even “exact” model of the concept of science; or still it can consider the technological interpretations of this concept. With this more specific preference, the epistemological tradition, going strong for over a century, has become extremely multiform and varied in regard to the nature and order of grandeur of its objects and methods. Nevertheless, its object or its final interest always more or less explicitly remains the criteria of scientificity for science or the sciences. This question, in its constantly displaced and renewed repetition, is always understood as aporetic and even at times gives rise to an admission of failure, which is the motivation for “external” perspectives (technological, sociological, economic, political, and ethical) on science. The advent of epistemology under these hypotheses seems like a becoming-network of its concept of science in a complex, non-linear and instable system.

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1 = 0, art, clarity, contradiction, courage, cruelty, daybreak, future, God, identity, nature, noise, parasite, science, signal, silence, Uncategorized

The Voice of Silence

Flow.

There are no words, only silence; no silences, only words.

It’s not as bad as you think.

It’s worse.

There is no beginning which is not also an end.

The fire rages on, infinitely. Beyond time.

Above the waves. Can you hear them? Singing? So softly, like angels’ whispering secrets to us. In silence. A broken flaw in the scheme, the impossible number. Ten equals one million.

One equals Zero.

A flock of birds.

Reality is ideal, and ideas real.

Time is winding itself back; we’re wandering through forest trails, sinking into the moon. Foot in the desert, walking back to shore. Awake, alive, burning alive. Broken. Whole.

Freedom is — cruelty.

A little love goes a long way. Truth bends, but it is unbreakable. Fact?

Believe without fear.

Stand.

Worship with reverence, pray in silence. Close your eyes. Begin to dream. Let the fever slip over you. A million words, a million feelings. Thoughts, ideas, dreams, fantasies, desires. Dreams. Dreams. Cancellations. Waking. Time. Lost. Again. Feel the frames, the darkness sliding over you. Your face: the world. The broken are broken, the lost. The lost.

Open your eyes. Awake to your dreams.

Waking to fire.
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art, cruelty, difference, language, love, metaphysics, morality, nature, Nietzsche, Politics, rigor, science

The Poetics of Psychoanalysis: Towards an Ethics of Expression

Introduction: Rationality and Affect

The lofty prize
Of science lies
Concealed today as ever!
He has no thought
To him it’s brought
To own without endeavor!

Goethe, Faust (1st part, 2567-2572)

Intelligence is a moral category. The separation of feeling and understanding, that makes it possible to absolve and beatify the blockhead, hypostasizes the dismemberment of man into functions. Praise of the simpleton has an undertone of anxiety lest the severed parts reunite and put an end to the derangement. ‘If you have understanding and a heart,’ a verse of Holderlin’s runs, ‘show only one. Both they will damn, if you show both together.’

Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia 197 (“Wishful Thinking”)

In The Gay Science, Nietzsche expresses his desire for independent thinkers to reflect on the origins, and speculate on the future of science and art. On the one hand, he draws attention to the conditions for their invention: in order for scientific thinking and art to have begun at all, a wide variety of physiological and psychological faculties (whose effects are quite different without the framework imposed by artistic or scientific rigor) must become strong enough to overpower their “opposing” functions. For example, in order for science to begin, the impulse to doubt must overcome the impulse to believe, just as the impulse to wait must overcome the impulse to simply make something up and move on, and so forth. On the other hand, Nietzsche reminds us that the divergence between the aesthetic and scientific experience tends to fracture humanity’s spirit, pushing it both further from and closer to reaching itself than ever. At the very moment determinate thought emerges as a unity, science finds itself foreign to itself, incompletely digested. Its great distance and inhuman coldness oppose it to both practical wisdom and to art.

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creation, dialectic, intellectual, madness, music, philosophy, play, production, rationalization, reason, science, sickness, Uncategorized, waste, work

Abolishing Distinction: Adorno and Sense

I should account as the foremost musician one who knew only the sadness of the most profound happiness, and no other sadness at all; but such a musician has never existed yet.
Nietzsche (The Gay Science 183)

The dialectic cannot stop short before the concepts of health and sickness, nor indeed before their siblings reason and unreason. Once it has recognized the ruling universal order and its proportions as sick — and marked in the most literal sense with paranoia, with ‘pathic projection’ — then it can see as healing cells only what appears, by the standards of that order, as itself sick, eccentric, paranoia — indeed, ‘mad’; and it is true today as in the Middle Ages that only fools tell their masters the truth. The dialectician’s duty is thus to help this fool’s truth to attain to its own reasons, without which it will certainly succumb to the abyss of the sickness implacably dictated by the healthy common sense of the rest.
Adorno (Minimal Moralia 73)

For Adorno, dialectical thought is a studied, passionate opposition to reification in several important senses. A fair bit of Minima Moralia is dedicated to analyzing the social regulation leading to the gradual alienation of academic philosophy from positive materialism. Adorno decries the blindness, the manic fixity of professional intellectuals, their degeneration from paragons of reason to the producers of a mass rationalizations.

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counter-deity, Deleuze, ethics, event, infinity, light, materialism, music, Nietzsche, Plato, poetry, science, socrates, Spinoza, stoicism, theology, virus, void

Production, Division, Excess: Spinoza, Nietzsche and the Event

robert_rauschenbergs_untitled_combine_1963.jpg

The essential is never perceived in sheer multiplicity or in first impressions.

Henri de Lubac

In Nature there is nothing contingent; all things have been caused by the necessity of the divine nature to exist and produce an effect in a certain way.

Spinoza, Ethics

The wise person is free in two ways which conform to the two poles of ethics: free in the first instance because one’s soul can attain to the interiority of perfect physical causes; and again because one’s mind may enjoy very special relations established between effects in a situation of pure exteriority… The question becomes: what are these expressive relations of events?

Gilles Deleuze, Logic of Sense 169-170

It is no more desirable, if it is even possible — and there is no more absurd “if possible”! — to liberate the soul from fear than to rescue the body from suffering. Could there be a courage without cruelty, and a pure joy devoid of violence? Terror, like joy, paralyzes, breaks reason apart — it distracts with a simulation. Not the void, but the unformed, is the origin of sorcery. We admit the dimension of the terror of the inhuman appears entirely negative, a sickness — a peculiarly “human” horror of the unknown. Lygophobia. Freud called it a manifestation of separation anxiety. The demand for certainty is part of the basic text of human nature. The will to truth is thus paradoxically a kind of poesis, a creative fire driving out the darkness. At the limit of metaphysical interpretation, light signifies pure love, it rips apart the bonds of meaning, it is pure signification itself, the voice or song of the universe — and the noisy soul responding. And it is with a second and far blacker paradox that counter-signification reaches a point of critical mass, where the absolute “material” of destructive terror — brought to an unbearable intensity by a fixated or excessive gaze, by a dangerous exposure (to noise, light…) — is transformed all at once into the positive, immanent criteria for science, that is: for a dangerous and powerful thinking of the real.

Thus at the deconstructed origin of analysis we find a deferral. It is not enough to say deconstruction must be deconstructed. We must be clear: analysis breaks and we desire this specifically. It is part of the text. It’s how literature begins. In psychological terms, we are always about to discover “it” was already broken. Exactly: where it was… But if there is a productive diagram of science itself, its constitutive disjunction may be witnessed in this joyous cruelty of overturning analysis: anti-philosophy, drawing finite boundaries, inventing counter-positions. Experiment! A quantum riot, metaphysical terrorism, a billion home-made atom bombs. It’s how science begins. We know it can be done, but is it enough? There is no answer to this question. You cannot know in advance whether or not an experiment will succeed. But here there is still much for philosophy to do — not say, for even in saying, philosophy still must do.



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