A new philosophy of the human sciences

Several years ago, I was in deep discussions with a theologian about the base to superstructure model. He declared it to be no longer feasible after the age of information, where the Internet has reversed this model, and the base is no longer the foundation of the superstructure. Originally in the Marxist model, the base shaped the superstructure – both relations of production (where the capitalist takes advantage of the worker) and means of production (material required to produce – machines, factories, land, owned by capitalists) determine education, religion, family, media, politics. The superstructure in turn maintains and legitimates the base. However, the Internet actually inverts this model by changing the relations of production – the worker gains power and takes advantage of capitalists, and the means of production are disseminated via the internet. Now, this was a neat revamp of a classic model, but I took another look: perhaps this is not just a cute insight, but a crucial one that applies to the rest of the human sciences. Continue reading A new philosophy of the human sciences

Irony and philosophy as remedy for politics

First, go read the blog titled “Philosophy and Remedy” @ thekindlyones.org.  I originally posted the following blog in the comments section.

If this blog relies on a distinction between the public & private role of the intellectual then I think irony can serve as the secret that avoids merging them both and forcing the philosopher to act as a politician every time he speaks.

screen-shot-2014-05-12-at-12-33-26-amThe dream of a single life that fuses the private and the public sphere dates back to Plato’s efforts to answer why one should be just and Christianity’s moral imperative that one can reach self-realization through serving others. All of these relies on the assumption of a common human nature, that both private life and human solidarity are one and same. Continue reading Irony and philosophy as remedy for politics

Systematic? Edifying? You decide!

Over the years of studying philosophy, I’ve seen quite a number of classifications that categorize them. I’ve come across an interesting one in Rorty’s seminal Philosophy & the Mirror of Nature, in which he distinguishes systematic and edifying philosophers. The distinction founders on those whose work is constructive and those that are reactive. Continue reading Systematic? Edifying? You decide!

Truth? Pshaw!

by Stephen Doyle

While vacationing in Italy, I had the opportunity to flex a couple of neurons. My family is full of devout Catholics, and my youngest aunt Costanza (Costu) has the “gift” of speaking in tongues. That means the hardcore Catholics pray with her, and sometimes that sets her off in a indecipherable tongue-speaking frenzy. My uncle Michael can interpret her, so the message isn’t lost.

Moreover, Costu is also intelligent, having graduated from MST in Rolla. So she wanted to discuss philosophy with me, and she wanted to know what was my “truth.” It was early in the week, and I thought it would be a good idea to get this over with so we all can enjoy our fantastic resort.

As somebody well read in post-modernism, asking the very question “truth” sets off alarms. Such questions like “what is X” are classic questions of philosophy, but after Nietzsche, they no longer have any place in our society – all and any answer has no credibility – but I couldn’t answer like this to my Aunt. So I had to speak in the right language, and speak about the game of philosophy. Continue reading Truth? Pshaw!

You don’t have to be a cynic

Diogenes, by John William Waterhouse
Diogenes, by John William Waterhouse

Becoming a cynic is not an indication of a failure of character, or an anomalous individual event in today’s culture, for it is actually symptomatic of modern culture. Cynicism is essentially the result of the Enlightenment, which spelled the end of Christian dogma by destroying its ideals, absolutes, truths. As the Enlightenment progressed in its demystification of ideals, nihilism emerged form its wake. But one ideal was spared: the subject, which grounded all critiques and including positive ideas like Kantian ethics.

Prior to the Enlightenment, Christian metaphysics was true (i.e., the bible holds truths, the word of God, etc.). But the Enlightenment brought to the end to all that with critiques that decimated these aforementioned absolute truths. However, where the enlightenment has been a “melancholy science” (pace Adorno) it only exacerbates melancholy. We need something that doesn’t depress us and sinks us into cynical reasoning. We need a new critique that’s also a gay science, as opposed to the sad sciences of the enlightenment that took away all the ideals we used to believe in. Sure, this critique is also an attack, but it holds an attitude against making people miserable or depressed. Continue reading You don’t have to be a cynic


by Chris Madden

I don’t have a dramatic story to share: my deconversion was a slow process that began in childhood. It began when I, a bored catholic boy started to discuss religious matters with a young child of a Jehovah Witness family. We went over the differences in our religions, but even then, I could tell that his faith limited the bounds of our discussion, and that I had hardly any of my own. I remember asking Matt which bible he used, and he simply declared it to be the first one. I did not press matters there, and did some researching of my own. I asked his mother if I could borrow those short books they had around the house and I enjoyed reading the extensive explanation in their stories that expanded the bible stores. Lovely paintings. Of course my mother didn’t like this and insisted that I study our religion before I start to investigate others, and of course I readily ignored her advice. Continue reading Deconversion

A dogmatic view of the Two Dogmas

W. O. Quine, by Tim Townsley

In the concluding section of the Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Quine describes our entire knowledge as a “man made fabric,” (Two Dogmas of Empiricism, p. 39) an epistemological system that’s essentially a human construct consisting of statements, but one that’s constrained or limited by the vast accumulation of experience. When new experience that’s not confirmed or compatible with the existing construct occurs, there are repercussions that alters statements within the construct, and in turn, causes a ripple effect that changes other “logically connected” (p. 39) statements. Continue reading A dogmatic view of the Two Dogmas

Kant’s paradox

Square Paradox

The paradox Kant raises in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, §13, is that two intrinsically alike objects must be interchangeable. However, some objects are exactly intrinsically alike, but they’re not interchangeable. He noted that his right hand is virtually identical to its image in the mirror. However, he could not replace his right hand with its mirror-image. He then proceeded to state that he could not think of any “internal difference” (Prolegomena, p. 37) between his right hand and its image in the mirror. Yet he could sense the difference between them for they were not truly congruent. Continue reading Kant’s paradox

History according to pessimism

Marvin, the pessimistic android

After hearing about Fukuyama’s End of History thesis, I began to wonder:

Were there truly an “end” of history, a post-history, the possibility of all events coming to an end, who would be a competent historian to observe this end of all cycles?

This does not refer to theoreticians of the “end of history,” but of a different type – a true historian looking back after all histories had ended, a post-historian observing that there are no more events to record, except perhaps the act of recording for the unknown readers of the future. The end of history is the end of the fall into time – when man became historical after being exiled from paradise. Continue reading History according to pessimism

None the Wiser

[Thoth, a god of wisdom and current consul of Teotihuacan, journeys to the bottom of Yggdrassil the world tree, in order to discuss with an ancient god of wisdom, Mimir, about the new radical, Cartaphilus, whether to oppose him or endorse him. Thoth removes Mimir’s decapitated head from the Well of Urd.]

Mimir: Who bestirs Mimir from the comforts of oblivion?

Thoth: It is I, son of Ra, and I seek your advice.

Mimir: Well met, Thoth. But we gods of wisdom hardly need advice.

Thoth: Yes, but your wisdom is distinct from mine: it is not as contaminated by the hysteria of contemporary ideologies. All the same, I request your wisdom regarding this new radical, Cartaphilus.

Mimir: Cartaphilus, the impetuous immortal? You have traveled very far just to discuss a misguided liberator.

Thoth: These days, the merest mention of his name is tantamount to political suicide.

Mimir: He reminds me of the original liberator. Prometheus.

Thoth: Indeed. It seems both Prometheus and Cartaphilus share an unhealthy obsession with mortals.

Mimir: Quite. Whereas Prometheus condemned the mortals of Midgard to consciousness with his myopic intelligence, Cartaphilus condemns mortals of the universe with his call of radical emancipation.

Thoth: Hubris is another thing Prometheus and Cartaphilus have in common.

Mimir: The Olympians were prudent to hide the sources of life from mortals. But that arrogant Prometheus decided to reveal them. The irony is that, despite his claims of lucidity, Prometheus ended up being the father of all misfortunes of the mortals.

Thoth: He was always scolding mortals for being too comfortable with original idyll and their lazy conformity to the laws of animal nature.

Mimir: By introducing self-consciousness to the species, Prometheus divided man from the sources of life he used to enjoy. That compelled man to analyze those sources and reflect on their meaning. Consequently, original happiness was replaced with the curse and torments of titanism.

Thoth: Mortals were doing quite well without self-consciousness? They had hitherto been merely drooling apes. You could hardly tell them apart.

Mimir: Yes and yet, consciousness began a spectacle in everyone that ceased only with the end of the human species.

Thoth: Despite all his foreknowledge, Prometheus never anticipated this.

Mimir: A feckless and blundering humanitarian, a deadly philanthropist whose excuse was illusion. Prometheus, by handing man over to history, banished him from the perfect present.

Thoth: We did applaud Zeus for punishing Prometheus, and applauded Heracles for freeing him with equal vigor.

Mimir: At once the first zealot of science, and the worst modernist, his sufferings console man for his pyrrhic victories. As an instigator of indiscretions, Prometheus idealized knowledge and action and consequently ruined existence. This dereliction of knowledge and destructive curiosity ended the golden age.

Thoth: Undoubtedly. But what to do with our modern-day Prometheus?

Mimir: Cartaphilus, like most moderns, is in a hurry to expedite the onset of a utopia and institute it for perpetuity. His impetuousness does not come from anxiety but from the idolization of euphoria, a secret and morbid craving for Hyperborea.

Thoth: He is convinced that his revolution will be the final one.

Mimir: Because he thinks it’s up to him to complete history for all mortals. History belongs to him alone; thus, he must close it. As if Truth has finally has chosen to reveal herself!

Thoth: Has Truth made a great error?

Mimir: Error is but the fate of others. Never Cartaphilus’.

Thoth: Cartaphilus desires victory over his race, his peers, over us gods, and seeks to revise our work and correct its imperfections. He claims that whosoever doesn’t try or doesn’t think it his duty to try, has given up his destiny, from either wisdom or weakness.

Mimir: Pithy sophism. Prometheus tried to one-up Zeus. But Cartaphilus, a soi disant demiurge, tries to one-up us all and inflict the humiliation of a utopia superior to ours. That is Prometheus all over again, Titanism to a whole new level. The desire to equal the gods by stealing our powers.

Thoth: As long mortals are shackled by sin, they will never enter paradise. Thus they must be freed.

Mimir: Cartaphilus and every other utopians are consciously or unconscious Pelagianists.

Thoth: Yes. Pelagius, who denied the fall, rejected Adam’s lapse the ability to indoctrinate posterity. Adam only suffered a personal turmoil, and disgraced himself alone, and didn’t know he would bequeath the human race his flaws and misfortunes. Mortals are born free, good, and lack original sin.

Mimir: That is a very generous observation, yet very false. Pelagianism is the heresy of utopians.

Thoth: Whether consciously or unconsciously, Cartaphilus subscribes to pelagianism, the idolatry of progress. Revolutionary ideologies are its conclusions, in which mortals make up a mass of sentient beings freed from original sin, infinitely malleable and, self-directed, capable of anything.

Mimir: What an optimistic vision of the nature of mortals! There’s no evidence that their nature is any good. Only those with an inferior will are spontaneously good, and the rest must devote themselves to be good. Whosoever succeeds does so only at the cost of efforts that embitter them. Evil is inseparable from action, and therefore, all action is necessarily directed against another person or thing, and at most, against themselves. Mortals will only at another’s expense.

Thoth: So, the only way Cartaphilus could construct a society where mortals never harm one another is if he limited it to anemic ones.

Mimir: The nature of mortals follows a dynamic principle, one that sustains the fever of change and provokes events. If this is absent or removed, then utopia is possible. Mortals are resistant to true happiness, even though they long for the institution of an ideal society that promises happiness. If that takes place, they will suffocate in it.

Thoth: In other words, satiety is much worse than poverty.

Mimir: Mortals need tension and challenges in order to evolve. What could they do with perfection?

Thoth: True. Cartaphilus, as an anarchist is the last and greatest of all pelagians. His freedom rejects all religions, including those of the most progressive gods, and substitutes for them a new variant of worship – self-love – more brilliant and impossible than the existing ones. Cartaphilus curses the religions and demands their abolition because he sees them as an obstacle to the free expression of mortal nature that was fundamentally good. Now it’s because mortal nature was corrupted that religion was born.

Mimir: Were religious instincts to vanish, then mortals would give themselves up to evil without any restriction whatever.

Thoth: Cartaphilus’ idea of destroying all authority indeed remains the greatest ever conceived.

Mimir: Alas, the human race who fathered Cartaphilus is now extinct. But perhaps they had to fade to vanish from current age to validate his theories?

Thoth: Well, we don’t even have the luck of believing in destruction because we gods are already secularized anarchists. Also, we already understood the urgency and ultimately, the uselessness of destruction. No matter how succinct our denials are, we cannot destroy the objects of nostalgia.

Mimir: The dreams of mortals survive our wisdom. Even though they have given up on the geographical reality of paradise, it resides in them a dimension of their original ego. Can they recover it?

Thoth: Cartaphilus is convinced of that possibility if his program becomes a reality.

Mimir: And once they do, will they realize the ultimate glory? It is not their gods they will see but the eternal present freed from becoming, and eternity itself perhaps.

Thoth: The remedy of the ills of mortals resides within themselves, in the timeless principle of their nature. Even if we gods proved this principle to be false, mortals are convinced that some part of them escape duration.

Mimir: It is useless to recover the old paradise or march towards utopia. One is inaccessible and the other is unattainable.

Thoth: The only paradise lies deep within their being. In order to find it, Cartaphilus must have inspected every past and possible paradise, loved and hated them with clumsy zealotry and scrutinized and rejected them all with competent disappointment.

[Silence interrupts them.]

Mimir: You did not come here for advice.

Thoth: You are every bit the god of wisdom. Nothing escapes your attention. Admittedly, I traveled far away from the pretentious and self-serving rhetoric of Teotihuacan to hear the strongest case against Cartaphilus. Yours.

[Thoth bows, and departs.]

Mimir: There is no difference between a god and a mortal who substitute one illusion for another. The fables of golden age are equal to the vapor of utopia.