A Critique of Heidegger’s Interpretation of Hegel in the first of the “Four Seminars”

“Reason reflects the Absolute. Reflecting is a bringing-before-itself, such that it means belonging-together that builds (dwells) together as a setting-together.” – Hegel

“Reason” for Hegel never means the act of rationality, and much less the goal of rationalism. Rather, reason is only achieved after rationality is displaced in favour of its provenance as figurative (speculative) thinking. The common goal of Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling was first expressed during their belonging-together as the forging of a new mythos that in a certain sense returns to the pre-rational without thereby forgetting the rational-historical-conceptual, but setting it in its place.  Reason has to go beyond the conceptual-historical in order to find its essence, which always remains dependent on mythos, Logos (System)  as the domination of self-consciousness by the measuring facility, as Plato described it.

Despite appearances Hegel is involved in the selfsame task as Holderlin and Schelling, returning to its place the mythos/Logos of the final, developed figuration of the cosmic myth which preceded the birth of the rational-historical-conceptual as accounting-for, placing the rational-historical-conceptual, the accounting-for as “balancing the books” of a reality already experienced as conceptual where it belongs with its provenance in clear view. In Hegel it is couched in the movement of the dialectic rather than the  mythic language of Holderlin and to a certain extent Schelling.

Contrary to Heidegger’s reading, “System” in Hegel cannot be understood as the systematic, since Hegel understands and accepts Kant’s delimitation of the impossibility of the systematic.

Hegel’s “Science of Logic”, a poorly translated title that sounds like a schoolbook treatise of formal-rational logic, must be understood as the “knack-for-understanding through and as figurative (speculative) Logos (System).  At the very least “Science as Logic” would be as short as the usual title but indicate more accurately the essence of the work.

System in Hegel is thus akin to the Logos in Heracleitas (though not identical) as the gathering as absolute spirit that experiencestogether the changes in the determinations of things by being, an experience that by being absolute can never be total. This experience is subjective only in the sense of an absolute and shared subjectivity that already includes the objective and nullifies the distinction, just as the idealism of Hegel already includes materialism, not as physicalism or even productionism (the basic misinterpretation of Heidegger and of Marx) but as the movement of dialectic, which for its part is not rational-historical but figurative and analogical, or speculative Reason.

“Spirit” for Hegwl is nothing mystical, though it refers back to the “holy spirit” or “holy ghost” in the sense that St. Paul describes it, and the sense in which some early Christian communities described themselves as the “holy ghost”. It is not something that transcends the community, hovers over it or is found somehow “with” the community but separate from it, but as the involved transcendence of the being-together as building-dwelling, together with thinking speculatively as well as rational-historically, of the community itself. It is in this regard that the sentence “religion must trnnscend belief” must be understood, along with “Christianity is the true religion but not in its true form.” For Hegel Christianity has the truth but does not have it as the truth, but rather conceals and protects it without understanding it.

What Heidegger calls the onto-theological as the essence of metaphysics could be called for Hegel the mytho-logical, though he does not explicitly name it as such. It is the rational-historical-conceptual-calculative determination of reality in the sense of the past perfect, not as what was but as what still is, retained  in  the present as having-been-recorded and this record “tallied up” or “balanced” in the sense of accounting-for that record, loosely supplemented by a figurative mythic understanding of what cannot be accounted-for (since it is not part of the historical record) that cannot justify nor judge itself by reference to the written record as a reduction of Logos or Ratio.  Though we do not have the Greek present perfect tense, it is implicit as the proper coming-to-itself of the past perfect.

This is precisely the everyday mode of shared self-consciousness which Heidegger names the inauthentic. it is a semblance of understanding and sharing in being-with that has not fathomed either the provenance of the rational-historical-conceptual in the shared figurative understanding as Logos in the full sense or the shared nature of being-with.

“Science” for Hegel doesn’t mean the accounting-for by scission the natural-historical record (as analogous to the explicitly recorded record of bookkeeping that can be fully accounted-for), but must be understood in the literal sense of “wissenschaft”, the “knack for understanding” as system or Logos that Heracleitas bemoans as lacking in the everydayness of public opinion, that Heidegger instead accepts as the precondition for a self-appropriation that can only arise as a modification of this everyday mode rather than its opposition.

The conflict between the rational-conceptual views of modern science and the evolutionary-developmental views of the same, as noted by Nagel in his recent Mind and Cosmos, cannot be overcome by a positing of rationality and consciousness as a priori to reality, not only because it appears as developmental within  the pre-history of humanity as a whole, but in the self-evident development of rationality in the individual as a child becomes an adult. Although Nagel is careful to keep rationality and consciousness separate, though both are considered to be necessarily a priori,  this distinction cannot be sensibly maintained since we have no experience or evidence of rationality outside consciousness. This of course damages his claim to being an atheist and any sense to his search for some sort of “natural law” that would a priori ensure both, since what could a rational consciousness, a priori to all reality, be described as other than some sort of deity?

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Conversation on the Essence of Conversation as Letting Be

Conversation on the essence of conversation between a scientist, a scholar, and a guide.

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“Alternate” Traditions in Marginalized (or Colonized) Groups

The notion of inheriting another tradition within a marginalized group is misunderstood if it is seen as an “alternate tradition” in some substantial manner. The traditions of the marginalized group are impossible to inherit in any direct sense, what is inherited is both an understanding that there was a different tradition, and that it became impossible due to changes in the larger social context. As such one inherits, with everyone else, the mainstream tradition, but along with it an implicit critique.

In the West, mainstream traditions don’t simply posit themselves as such, they are also posited as developmental, “progressive”, in a sense that is usually self-congratulatory. Its exclusivity is also demonstrated in that the understanding that other traditions were contradicts the mainstream’s version of the past as whathas-been, and excludes other possible avenues.

Everyone within a given society inherits the main tradition of that society. What the person from a marginalized community may also inherit as an “alternate” is the impossibility of an alternate, but an impossibility that became so, not one that always was and therefore inherently is. This alternate view of the tradition subverts the determinism of the history of the mainstream tradition contained in the exclusionary story it has of itself, and only in this way can the marginalized find a possibility of improvising a new tradition, one in which they have a place. This improvisation must come out of the mainstream tradition, since there is factically no other to draw from, and since in remaining within that society the improvisation must become operative within and out of the mainstream.

 

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What if the Financial System Collapsed? A Thought Experiment …

This isn’t an attempt at fear mongering or some #tinfoil prediction, since I don’t think the financial system will fall apart, at least not in the near term.  Or more accurately, if it does, governments will do anything at all, however stupid, to prop it back up.  And given how terrifying the notion that it even could happen is to most people, they’ll get public support for the most part in whatever idiocy they involve themselves in.

Instead of looking at the more realistic scenarios, though, I thought it would be more interesting to look at what might actually happen if, rather than desperately trying to prop up a system that has threatened to collapse at least once a decade since the 1970s, governments simply let it collapse. 

The fear, of course, has a reasonable basis.  The financial system is the means by which we exchange.  Without exchange we have serious problems (even more serious than we have now).  Everything is based on exchange in one way or another.  Life itself, as metabolism, is after all a type of exchange.  The fallacy is that exchange is dependent on the financial system, the particular one we have, or any in general.  The fetishism of Capitalism is that the profit-motive is the only or the primary motive for exchange, when in reality people exchange things, labour, etc., for any number of different reasons,  nearly as numerous perhaps as exchanges themselves. 

Bur what, in fact, would be likely in the event of a total collapse of the world’s financial system, which could perhaps occur if governments were either unable to stop the collapse due to its sheer size, or simply became tired of taking orders from bankers and decided to let the source of their power self-destruct?

Firstly, there would be a huge amount of confusion.  There is so little cash in today’s society that if the systems that allow us to pay and be paid by bank cards, direct deposit etc. simply didn’t function, we could not simply use cash.  And that cash, in any case, is only guaranteed by the same system.  People could of course barter locally, but that hardly solves much in a society dependent on global trade.  And the assumption would be that the collapse is very temporary, an assumption governments and corporations would be unlikely to want to damage initially. 

How easily could a new system be set up though?  The current system has grown, somewhat organically, from beginnings in the Renaissance through the Bank of England (and the Empire that propagated the system) to the almost autonomous and hugely complex system we have.  Almost autonomous, because it cannot actually create the value which its accounting is supposed to measure. 

Setting up a new system, if this one failed, would be a monstrous undertaking that would require the agreement of most of the world’s governments, the IMF, a number of the most powerful global corporations and the public, or at least that part of the public with a say (precisely who that would be, since those with the most say currently would have nothing to base any power on, is difficult to determine).  Needless to say all of these have conflicting interests, conflicts that currently are sorted precisely through the system, but without said system they would have to be dealt with directly.  It’s not difficult to see that any type of necessary consensus might be impossible to achieve. 

So, situationally, we would have no system, together with a common assumption that the situation is going to be a short lived thing.   Based on that assumption, and in order to assuage the anxiety brought on by the confusion, most people would continue to do what they were in fact doing prior to the collapse.  Large commercial traders would have to keep trading, and given that there would be no way to determine what credit worthiness might look like once a new system is started, the only feasible method would be to deliver in return for some sort of promissory.  Similarly wages would have to be paid via some sort of promissory, but there would be no way to measure such promissories against one another, no way to reconcile the balance.  How long could this go on?  Indefinitely, in fact.  As a small scale example, consider no-fault insurance.  Rather than constantly paying one another, insurance companies in Canada simply ignore fault on a day to day operations basis, tallying up the net transfers between them on a yearly basis.  Would they go out of business without the yearly tallying?  There’s no reason to believe so.  Similarly, companies today would go out of business without bank financing, because they have to pay salaries and external costs of doing business, and then tally it up later with sales, but if those costs were promissories, there’s no reason to believe they would have any need of bank financing for daily operations. 

The obvious (and in some countries huge) exception is those who work in or whose income is based off the financial system itself.  This includes not only those in the finance and insurance industries, but all of the wealthy.  The country most devastated in this sense would be the U.S., where nearly 70% of workers work in finance and insurance, and the majority of the world’s wealthiest individuals and families have their wealth managed.  For the latter, they simply would no longer have anything other than direct property, and to the degree that direct property requires protection, no way to protect that either.  And they would have to deal with close to 80% of the population being unemployed and likely none too thrilled with them.  Without the financial system, the small number of the truly wealthy would be irrelevant if they survived at all. Since they would no longer be wealthy, they would just be a few extra unskilled welfare cases.

Those in finance will bring up the fact that without the capital accumulation of the wealthy, there will be no investment in new technologies, in infrastructure, etc.  In response I would just note that technology itself has lowered the cost of innovation to next to nothing, and most infrastructure is created by public agencies, not private wealth, so I’m not convinced it would matter all that much. 

So then here is the question the thought experiment leads me to:  what if the financial system collapsed and nothing significant happened?

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Bias and Science Denial

I just read an interesting article on the phenomenon of ‘science deniers’ – interesting in the sense that, not written from an American perspective, the usual equation of science deniers and the political right was contradicted. While deniers of things such as climate change and evolution are obviously associated with the political right, other science deniers, such as those that deny the validity of scientific assurances as to the safety of GMO crops, for instance, tend to be associated with the political left.

Without getting into the examination of the truth-claims of what is scientifically correct, but simply looking at the claims from the scientific perspective, in terms of amount and consistency of evidence the GMO safety claims have a greater likelihood of scientific validity. Yet pro-science left liberals, who are horrified at the idea of questioning evolution or global warming are perfectly comfortable questioning the validity of GMO safety claims.

The obvious rejoinder is that GMO claims are liable to be biased by political and economic interests, which although a perfectly valid perspective for critique, would be the rejoinder those on the right would make concerning global warming and even evolutionary theory. The interesting question for me is how those who are 100% convinced of the intrinsic lack of bias in other areas are so quick to admit the possibility of bias when the results don’t agree with what they prefer to think.

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“Alternate” Traditions in Marginalized (or Colonized) Groups

The notion of inheriting another tradition within a marginalized group is misunderstood if it is seen as an “alternate tradition” in some substantial manner. The traditions of the marginalized group are impossible to inherit in any direct sense, what is inherited is both an understanding that there was a different tradition, and that it became impossible due to changes in the larger social context. As such one inherits, with everyone else, the mainstream tradition, but along with it an implicit critique.

In the West, mainstream traditions don’t simply posit themselves as such, they are also posited as developmental, “progressive”, in a sense that is usually self-congratulatory. Its exclusivity is also demonstrated in that the understanding that other traditions were contradicts the mainstream’s version of the past as whathas-been, and excludes other possible avenues.

Everyone within a given society inherits the main tradition of that society. What the person from a marginalized community may also inherit as an “alternate” is the impossibility of an alternate, but an impossibility that became so, not one that always was and therefore inherently is. This alternate view of the tradition subverts the determinism of the history of the mainstream tradition contained in the exclusionary story it has of itself, and only in this way can the marginalized find a possibility of improvising a new tradition, one in which they have a place. This improvisation must come out of the mainstream tradition, since there is factically no other to draw from, and since in remaining within that society the improvisation must become operative within and out of the mainstream.

 

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Re: The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were smarter theologians than the jihadis – Giles Fraser, The Guardian, Jan 9 2015

“Whatever else was happening, it was the atheist cartoonists who were performing the religious function and the apparently believing Muslims who had forgotten their deepest religious insights. For any representation of the divine that leads people to murder each other deserves the maximum possible disrespect.” – Giles Fraser, The Guardian

I might be with the writer on this, at least as far as intent goes, if the religious images being disrespected weren’t accompanied by other figures that go along with and help sustain the idolatry of the West. Theologically, though, smashing a false representation, such as the “golden calf” of Moses, must target an operative representation to have any validity, otherwise it’s no more than bait and switch. The operative Theos in Western Europe, including France, has never been the Abrahamic god, it has always been a Roman god as a transformation of the first god of the West, itself necessarily a Greek god. Only in this way could Western reality as such be structured in a fundamentally different manner than the reality of properly Abrahamic peoples. The Abrahamic god has never been more than a cover for the properly Western god, which remains hidden, although not all that well at this point.

Only insofar as that god remains operative are rationality, historicity and literalism possible structures of reality for Western Europeans and their descendants.

In any event, even the ostensible god of Christianity is by no means identical with the other Abrahamic religions, and so as the god of a small, oppressed minority, smashing representations of the Islamic god remains simple bullying of a powerless minority, consistent with the bigoted caricatures of Islamic people, that precisely assists in keeping the idolatry of the West sacrosanct.

In the Western European countries and others whose primary influence is that of Western Europe, reality is experienced as rational, literal and historical, in the sense of already fully constituted in what has been, and as such still present in a specific sense.  For this to be an idolatry, rather than a theology, the god that structures, founds such an experience of reality must itself be a false representation.  That all representations of god are false is not an insight unique to Abrahamic religion, but is intrinsic in the very notion of the god whose representation was substituted for it, and which substitution itself is the ground of reason, literalism and historicality.  The “golden calf” itself of the biblical story is a false representation of this god, not of the Abrahimic god, which demonstrates it as operative in a certain way for the biblical writers themselves.

As Fraser himself notes in another article, the Christian story is the story of god divesting himself of power.  In that article he asks “who would follow a powerless god?”  More urgently, though, who would raise up a powerless god as if it were not powerless?

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