One of the laziest things in life is copying something or being a copy of an original. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Posts Tagged ‘authenticity’
Apologies on the late addition. Hopefully it’s not too garbled, and please feel free to discuss anything that strikes your fancy!
Dasein & Authenticity
At first Heidegger says Dasein exists. Sure, sounds great. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Heidegger claims that there’s a basic difference between being and existing. Dasein doesn’t JUST exist. It’s that ONLY Dasein exists. Other things, objects like furniture, cars, books, etc., are, but they do not exist in the strict sense of the word. Existence only comes into play with the realization of being. When a being becomes conscious of its own being, it begins to exist. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Exposition of Task of a Preparatory Analysis of Dasein, or Bare-Knuckled Brawl with Dasein
In The first division of part I of Being & Time, Heidegger attempts a transcendental analysis by finding the necessary conditions for some phenomenon – the Dasein - much like Kant did in his Critique where he analyzed objective experience.
He opens the chapter with the first sentence: “we are ourselves the entities to be analyzed.” ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Last week I was reading an article on theNation.com about a new generation of writers from Mexico (Jorge Volpi, Ignacio Padilla & Eloy Urroz) in the mid nineties, and it hit very close to home. They called themselves the “crackeros” but what interested me the most was their resistance to writing “Mexican literature.” Literary critics from America and Western Europe insisted that Mexicans writers must write about Mexican themes in order to be authentic. In other words, the crakeros‘ novels weren’t about Mexico, and therefore, the writers weren’t authentic. That implies that the “universal” is restricted to the Americans and Europeans. Commence severe eye-rolling. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
In February, I submitted the dialogue, None The Wiser, to a collection of Deaf American Prose, in the hopes of being published. However, the professors helming that project had decided that my dialogue was not “deaf” enough to make the cut – even though in their call for submissions, they specified that the topic did not have to be “explicitly about deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing American lives, but … the author [must be] deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing.”
As a deaf author, I thought this project was not necessarily a collection of writings about deafness by deaf authors. But, given the politics behind the rejection, it appears that, in order for me to be published as a deaf person, I must write about deaf issues. I was mistaken in the naïve belief that being a deaf man who could write like a philosopher would be sufficient, and that I need not be defined by my deafness, but this is not the case. ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Recently a friend and i were discussing the merits of learning something substantial at the university, and of which i mentioned that he should be learning something more substantial than mere facts and formulas. He asked me to clarify, and what follows is an excerpt from the email correspondence:
Interlocutor: What is far more substantial than facts and forumlae, exempli gratia?
Ah, this calls for a personal rant of mine. the chief drawbacks of formal education is its reversal of experience and concept. Generally, concepts contain content and significance, in the form of facts and formulae, only as long they come from experience and may be cashed back into it. But the problem with formal education is that it displaces experience by teaching us our first knowledge of the most important aspects of life through the concepts based on other people’s abstractions and generalizations, instead of the abstractions/generalizations from our own experiences. Of course some of this is necessary, granted, but not all of it. therefore, there is a great deal of our conception of real life that aren’t based on anything we have personally ever observed, experienced or felt. That these facts and formulae are correct is exceedingly irrelevant, because they aren’t authentic, which means that they are truly ours.
This also reflects a distinction in philosophy that exists between the academic philosophers and the authentic ones. The professors meet and absorb the problems of philosophy through the concept, they study them, but the authentic ones discover them existentially, by reflection of their own lives and experiences. For the professor, philosophy is a matter of verbal gymnastics where much reading and writing and talking and listening takes place, but for the genuine article, philosophy is a profound encounter with being and living. The academician is interested and enjoys philosophy seriously, but the real McCoy cannot distinguish philosophy from life, and considers it an issue of the life or death of the human species. A scholar is a good teacher, but the true thinker makes original contributions.
The modern philosopher is a professional pedant, paid to instruct the young in philosophical doctrines and to write books and articles. He is a professor of philosophy, not so very different from a professor of biology or of marketing. He need not reshape his inner being to the model of the doctrines he discusses in his classes. If pressed, he will perhaps claim that he is useful because he teaches the young to think more clearly and, less plausibly, that he forces his fellow professors in other departments to clarify their concepts. The proud cities of metaphysics were long ago abandoned as indefensible and have fallen into ruin. The philosophers have for the most part retreated to the safer territory of language and logic, creating for themselves a sort of analytical Formosa.
- John Walbridge, The Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardi and the Heritage of the Greeks
I have some advice while reading philosophy: the most important thing is not determining whether the philosophy is consistent with your pre-existing beliefs, but whether you can disengage from your own beliefs, suspend them for the moment, and be able to explain these philosophical theories in your words.
Initially, philosophy is an attitude of reflection. Any activity that involves reflection at a length is usually described as “philosophical,” whether that includes establishing formal concepts or just talking about how one justifies a certain belief they hold.
As a matter of fact, reflection requires a mental fortitude most of us do not have, because of how we are raised and taught up till adulthood. That entails a level of understanding we call common sense, which means we believe the way things are because that is supposed to be the case. Common sense knowledge is encapsulated in a certain type of language, a mode of communication we learn by practice and constant use.
The greatest obstacle to understanding philosophy or concepts in philosophy, or philosophical language, is usually our commitment to common sense reasoning. Common sense is usually a great mechanism for the basic activities we are engaged in daily, no doubt. Yet this entails a large amount of assumptions that are not examined, and they are taken for granted.
Nothing is wrong with common sense, at one level. But since it contains a great number of assumptions, it can entrench certain prejudices in the mind and affix a mentality that doesn’t suffer skepticism or careful analysis very well.
Also, for many, the language of common sense is very comfortable because the speaker/writer and the listener/reader participate in an understanding of shared meaning. Words and phrases are repeated almost continuously and that reinforces common sense. However this shared meaning, composed of everyday words an phrases, is not precise – for words are ambiguous and are dependent on context.
In philosophy this comfort level is stripped bare when the focus of analysis is directed at the very words we take for granted. In a new and rather strange context, these words are no longer familiar, and no longer seem practical. But in the long run, philosophy enhances how a person thinks, or at least it demonstrates how to analyze and break down some form of thought. This is only an initial step, and for more, I discuss strategies of thought here.
Is the word ‘deaf’ a label? How does it denote a person? Today, in this post-structural age, labels are everything. We use labels everyday, speak in labels, and we encounter labels everywhere. Sometimes we use labels for convenience, as shorthand for complicated concepts. Other times labels are used in technical vocabulary, to marginalize error. So, we identify ourselves with labels. Hence, the word “deaf” is a label that connotes a particular characteristic of a person. The dictionary explicitly signifies a person who is not physically able to hear, and that definition is derived from the norm of a society of peers who can. The identification of a person as deaf is a discursive product, because it is relevant only within a set of classification that is established by a particular discourse of deafness.
In the Norma Groce’s book Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language, a description of an independent community isolated on the small island Martha’s Vineyard, which was rife with a genetic predisposition to hearing loss, serves as an example where “deafness” was not a label of disability. Disability in this sense doesn’t necessarily result from a handicap, but rather is manifested through a society that devalues and segregates people who deviate from the physical norms. Consequently, any label that connotes disability is a socioeconomic passport for institutionalization.
However, this marginalization as a disability is a negative concept and does not satisfactorily answer the question – what is ‘deafness?’ Is there an alternative, more positive, definition?
One possible candidate is a social explanation, which is a departure from biological or existential explanations. As a label, deafness functions as a discursive formation that is socially constructed by discourse. The phrase ‘social construct’ is a celebrated description those radical freethinkers use to question the ideological beliefs of a modernist (that reality is a homogeneous entity, that knowledge is the sole result of a pure, sincere will to truth, and the meaning of anything is disinterestedly given).
Discursive formations are derivatives of discourse, which is the semiotic structuring of all social phenomena as codes and rules. This is practiced by a unity of discourse, by consensual agreement. Discourse defines identity and describes what characteristics are possible for a person. A discursive formation constitutes its object and generates knowledge about these objects. That means our knowledge is discursively determined, and the world is constituted in this way by discourse. However, nobody writes a discursive formation. There are no authors of discursive formations because they are constituted by archives, or anonymous collections of text.
These archives is the sustained recording of the history of the individual, and in doing so, the person has a place, a name, a number, a task, a credit history, etc., and never stray from the steady observation of authorities. This constant observation of behavior leads to a certain discipline: the person behaves as if they were under sustained surveillance. In the deaf person’s situation, especially in the USA, his life is observed, recorded, and probed under a microscope by a collaborative and cooperative effort of specialists (deaf teachers, guidance officers, speech language pathologists, interpreters or notetakers, and audiologists): a continuum of psychological profiles, aptitude test placements, audiograms, educational performance, objectives and other documented efforts.
The increasingly complex and technical serialization of the disabled person is an ongoing process of a biographical production. The biographical sketch of the individual, chronicled to a greater detail than ever, results in the ‘real,’ tangible and physical snapshot of the self! Panopticism is a disciplined, rational, detailed and bureaucratic surveillance, which signifies how behavior is directed by the machinery of society- an ‘automatization’ and ‘disindividualization’ of power.
The individual actively construct their social world, as opposed to having it imposed upon them. Therefore, it seems that the concept of deafness does not necessarily signify a disability, but is contingent upon what context the individual chooses to define himself. If labels are constructs, and language is the limit of thought, then I am nothing more than a social construct, that ‘deaf guy.’ However, I do not identify myself as a deaf person because of my existential nature as a free human being. To act otherwise would be bad faith.
History teaches us that the mode of philosophical thought predetermines its results. Philosophy, conceived as either a reflective, a contemplative or a communicative discipline – where philosophizing is the act of reflection, contemplation or communication – contains the impulse towards a system. What often entrenches the mind is dogma, in the form of worthless first principles, the advocacy of degenerating metaphysics, and the required lip-service to distinguished intellectuals. In order to resist this solidification of the mind, drop the abstract play of abstractions and return back to the present moment and rethink the situation, the problem, the concept under question. Moreover, a rigorous and honest self-criticism will help avoid the repetition of ineffective methods. Perhaps new directions, even if they are risky, are called for, since by giving up in comfort and security, one gains new ground by boldness. When the mind makes itself fluid and mobile – call the concept into question – war is declared against slothfulness, the inertia of thought, and static views and isolated idee fixes are condemned.
What ultimately limits people is a deep and protracted bad faith – far worse than just an inability to confront reality – for it is a refusal of seeing things as they are in perception. The older one becomes, the more he or she sinks into the past, into obsolesce and irrelevance. What is already agreed as the consensus turns into a doctrine – a systematic treatise that demands “thou must” – a mental veil that prevents clear perception, a wall that blocks new paths of thought. The true spirit of philosophy is never the unquestioning and slavish adulation of the zeitgeist, for its history is far more active and constructive in the creation of concepts, even though this very assertion already falls short.
In order to rid oneself of myths and misconceptions one must give up the search for a first principle of metaphysics -a foundation of knowledge, a logical sequence of concepts, or a conceptual framework that serves as a perfect sieve where everything is filtered through, information in, garbage out – for the magic formula to philosophy does not exist. Concepts are mere shadows of perception, derivative, and they function as vague possibilities in the brain. In the creation of the concept, the thinker is absorbed in experience, and in pure perception insights emerge and inspire a whole new perspective, an appropriate understanding of reality. In order to become a free thinker, all fetishes of intellectualism (books, techniques, formulas, catchy slogans) must be given up.
Whenever one contemplate over an unpleasant experience, oftentimes one think in the hypothetical: if only I had done this instead of that! The correct method or the solution arrives long after it is needed. But this is not the problem, that the thought is too late and one’s knowledge is blamed for being deficient. Had I known more, or thought more carefully! The actual solution is a failure of being truly absorbed in the here and now – paying careful attention to the text – and remain insensitive to the changing circumstances. I continually repeat my own thoughts, re-apply old theories and ideas that have nothing to do with the present situation. Reading additional books, absorbing theories and re-thinking do not improve the problem either. Consciousness is a river one cannot step in twice at the same point.
The creative thinker is conspicuous and stands apart from the rest – not because they know more – for they are capable of discarding preconceived notions, their subjectivity, and focus intensely in their perception by having the imagination to peer beyond the immediate objects of perception. Where the scholar constructs idealized structures (ideal political state, rational morality, mathematical formula) according to rationality, and his servile loyalty leads to a constant confusion of the model for the real and force experience to filter through such tidy algorithms, the thinker knows the right way to articulate what is and what isn’t, without the crutch of a philosophical system, especially when he realizes the inadequacy of language itself, in a profound encounter with being.
However, knowledge, experience and theories are all limited themselves, for careful reflection does not truly prepare oneself for the chaos of life and the limitless possibilities that it contains. This difference between our convictions and what actually happens is “friction,” and the difference is permanent. Our minds should be pliable enough to keep up with change and adapt to surprises. The more one adapts one’s thoughts to the circumstances, the more authentic one’s knowledge will be. On the other hand the farther one is buried in predigested theories and other people’s experiences, the more distant and distorted his/her thoughts become.
While there is value in investigating the failure of previous thoughts, it is more important to develop the ability to think in the moment. the mind is akin to a river: the faster it flows, the better it keeps up with the present, for change is constant and new paradigms of thoughts are possible. Only the agents of change drive intellectual revolutions in science, in philosophy, and in art.
The first principle of thought is to dispense with all principles, all systems of philosophy, all the “ism” school of thought. The very greatest of all philosophers were not mere mouthpieces of a monolith of systematic metaphysics, for they found a new perspective of all-too-familiar problems, tired subjects and other dead-end topics. The scholar’s conviction that philosophy must obey inexorable laws or function according to timeless rules results in a rigid and static position, is married by a myopic perspective, one that easily hardens theory into dogma. The sacred cows of the past are all hollow idols that deserve the hammer of the allzermalmer, since they typically fail Nietzsche’s “tuning fork” test. For the oldest idols of them all are are also – the hollowest!
Our education is a major obstacle for independent thinking, due to its tendency to inscribe “precepts” deep within the mind of the student. The trained thinker wastes time struggling with learned rules rather than the present circumstances. Socrates holds the key: the thinker knows nothing and began anew, free of even the most cherished ideals. His mentality isn’t cluttered – for his insights come from immediate experience, an authentic intuition. He thinks, rather than depend on crutches like someone else’s book or theory.
The current paradigm of philosophy is actually a dangerous impediment for freethinking – even if it does seem to be successful and solve a host of problems. The member of the ruling ideology tends to echo the same strategies of thought, which turns him into a mental sloth, complacent enough to fall in step with the times. A true thinker should remain constantly suspicious, and avoid getting drunk on the zeitgeist by recasting each problem of philosophy in a new light.
Children themselves are naturally adaptive; their minds were constant, always receptive to new experiences and capable of immersing themselves thoroughly. The child learned quickly, for the world is completely new. When facing obstacles (frustration, boredom) the child became creative in their dealing with the problems, and moved on to other things. In this respect, the geniuses such as Leibniz, Plato, etc., were childlike. They saw things as they are, and remained sensitive to inconstant experience. Because change is perpetual, the mentally fluid adapts the quickest to the circumstances, dispensing with preconceived notions.
In the history of philosophy, progress occurs only when a generation successfully identifies the unexamined notions of its previous generation. The current generation develops a new method of thought that maximized a novel way of seeing. The thinker has a extraordinary antenna that is synchronized for the budding trends in thought, while retaining the inherent character of flexibility in order to adapt to those trends. In other words, the thinker is ahead of everyone else, because he lacks the sentimentality that is attached to a fashionable school of thought, and knows which rising trend is viable. The mind of the thinker is as pliable as a quicksilver.
The predictability of daily life is inimical to free thinking, for insights sometimes come during or after a complete shattering of habitual behavior. Comfort and routine and stale pattern often entrench the mind with stale patterns, and enchain it to the past. One often begins with a great idea, but during the execution, the idea is buried under a straitjacket of a rigid structure of form, and the process of creation of thought is merely mechanical. When the mind is forced to deal with a new aspect of reality, it might be risky, but also, refreshing and reinvigorating. When people are acting as they often do, the dynamic stays the same. Once a novel way of thinking takes place, the dynamic is transformed, and new possibilities emerge. When the mind adapts to the complexity and chaos of the world by becoming a quicksilver, free of rigid tactics or the comforts of static positions where it is obliged to defend an idea. Old problems gain new angles for attack.
In summary, this is intended as a strategy of thought for wrestling with a problem, a concept, and in dealing with the friction and the discrepancy between what is intended and what actually occurs. Whether this entire exercise is a thinly veiled entry of “thou must,” or self-criticism, a private lesson that subtlely erects another principle of philosophy for all mankind, it does not depend on whether the writer must be a philosopher. Perhaps a “mock” philosopher can outline the zones of thought that is what Proust calls the “real without being actual, ideal without being abstract.” The reader is free to determine this a “credo ut intelligam,” and rifle what is useful and then discard the rest as nonsense.
“To know that one is in a certain condition, in a certain state, is already a process of liberation; but a man who is not aware of his condition, of his struggle, tries to be something other than he is, which brings about habit. So, then, let us keep in mind that we want to examine what is, to observe and be aware of exactly what is the actual, without giving it any slant, without giving it an interpretation. It needs an extraordinarily astute mind, an extraordinarily pliable heart, to be aware of and to follow what is; because what is, is constantly moving, constantly undergoing a transformation, and if the mind is tethered to belief, to knowledge, it ceases to pursue, it ceases to follow the swift movement of what is. What is, is not static, surely – it is constantly moving , as you will see if you observe it very closely. To follow it you need a very swift mind and a pliable heart – which are denied when the mind is static, fixed in a belief, in a prejudice, in an identification; and a mind and heart that are dry cannot follow easily, swiftly, that which is.” – Krishnamurti
Some thoughts about Kierkegaard, from a philosophical angle.
Truth is strange – for in the majority of all those philosophical tomes of thought, there seems to be some sort of self-disgust, an aversion to itself. We can see the truth always “just about to be,” but it never actually coincides with itself. Within reflection, I arrive at an unhappy position, entirely of my own choosing, and find the “state of philosophy” in tattered decrepitude. The agony of thought drains the world of color, and leaves behind splotches of gray, and the bland walls of tedium threaten to envelope me. This seems the revenge of life against my efforts of looking too deeply, into the abyss…
Kierkegaard interjects that with every step take in reflection, you are taking a step backwards from immediacy. This pronouncement seems to carry the implication that reflection can never spur anyone to scale the mountain and find enlightenment at the very peak of truth. Kierkegaard was forever the ironist, and within his writings the anticipation of Dostoevsky’s Underground Man is right under the surface. Interestingly, Kierkegaard chose to sign all his books with a multitude of pen names: Constantine Constantinus, Johannes de Silentio, Victor Eremita, and so on. All these pseudo-authors issue forth cryptic and penetrating insights on a wide spectrum of issues: aesthetics, ethics, and metaphysics. To Kierkegaard’s credit, his original genius was the transformation of pedantic philosophy into a problem of writing – and he also bequeathed a host of rich categories to existentialism (anxiety, dread, absurdity).
There was an incident in Constantinus’ Repetition that changed the author’s life, for even a speck of dust in the eye is enough to collapse an entire world view. Once the speck irritated Constantinus’ eye, he went to pieces and fell into the “abyss of despair.” Careful readers will immediately notice the allusion to the Gospel of Matthew, and realize that, for Kierkegaard, the world view is Hegel’s systematic metaphysics.
In the early 19th century, philosophy sort of out-smarted itself in the excessive rhetoric of the works of Fichte, Schelling, and most importantly, the tortured language of Hegel, yet Hegel was crowned as the king of all philosophy regardless. Kierkegaard was intimately familiar with Hegel’s works, and he also knew that the keystone of Hegel’s entire historical system of logic, the Aufhebung was the great dragon he must overcome. Aufhebung is translated into English as “sublation,” meaning that the contradictions in history are always overcome at once, but at the same time, also preserved by the elevation to a higher plane of thought.
You may say that this Aufhebung doesn’t seem so dangerous and nasty, and fail to see why Kierkegaard found it utterly dangerous. The French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, in his book Search for a Method, laid out his path to existentialism, as well as the back door that allowed him to leave. Most scholars will insist that Kierkegaard was the founding father of existentialism, but Sartre actually demolishes this notion.
Kierkegaard argued that, despite its omnivorous power, Hegel’s philosophy overlooks the “unsurpassable opaqueness” of the lived experience. To this, Sartre didn’t object, and noted that Hegel was very absolute in his optimism, and probably too much so. Hegel would insist that the tragic experience of a single person – the suffering that lasted until death – is easily absorbed and sublated by the system in its passage towards the genuine historical absolute.
However, despite such unflagging optimism, Kierkegaard thought that the specifically real was primal, above and beyond thought. the real cannot be exhausted by thought, cannot be reduced and compartmentalized into spic and span system of philosophy. The supra-individual system glosses over the speck in one’s eye, for it is an existential coloration of mood. In other words, one’s subjective life can never be turned into the object of formally abstract knowledge.
There are contradictions in the individual, Kierkegaard thought, the agonizing choices that everyone has, but they are never “surpassed.” With a smile, Hegel dismisses this private agony as the “romantic unhappy conscience”, for it is a moment already known in essence and thereby surpassed in the process. However, Kierkegaard’s irreducible subjectivity has a “magical transcendence” up his sleeve, a mystical going beyond to God. This is not to be confused with the traditional religious sense of leap “up” to God, but a free fall into subjective inwardness of infinite depth. Kierkegaard places the individual on the very brink of the absurd, and his problematic is that the falling is inevitable.
In order to win God, in order to believe, one must lose one’s understanding.
Sartre called this a sacrificial transcendence, a last suicidally absurd insurrection against Hegel’s “science” of philosophy, and Hegel would have objected to the narrow paradox, and say that his Aufhebung is the better alternative, for it promises the enrichment of the objectivity of all people.
Kierkegaard’s “fallenness” into absurd faith is a quasi-suicidal transcendence, and a clever weapon, some would say desperate, against the systematizing Hegelian history. Hegel’s blatant optimism in the priority of philosophy over experience gnawed at Kierkegaard. Hegel saw philosophy, as a science, lacked the use for the relative question of the individual experience in the real movement of history. Outrageous, thought Kierkegaard, for there’s nothing to such “science” but to make a scandal of faith and turn Christianity into a faithlessly rationalist regime.
Christendom, for Kierkegaard is the society that is Christian in name only, but virtually atheist, for the society has institutionalized its own reason for being Christian. Hegel is correct, in this sense – the genuine experience of faith has already been bypassed for historical reasons of state. That means faith has no room to go, except Kierkegaard’s self-elected absurdity. Sartre himself is probably incorrect when he dismisses Kierkegaard for not being a philosopher, and that Hegel is the superior thinker. In a nutshell, Kierkegaard has lured the reader into the depths of subjectivity, only to pull the rug out under us and reveal that without God, unhappiness is ubiquitous. Kierkegaard was the first post-Christian who realized that Christianity has become a mockery of the Evangelical ideal, and that it is no longer a given belief, but nonexistent unless testified by faith in it.