Wednesday, January 19, 2011
[Yesterday's post jumped the queue. Here's the first part.]
Distress as the space between what is and what isn't.
If we speak of need as that which makes needful the highest form of necessity, we are not referring to misery and lack. Nevertheless, we are thinking of a not, a negative. But we know little enough of he negative and the “no,” for example in forms of refusal, deferment, and failure. Yet all that is not nothingness but is at most (if not something higher still) its opposite. It never enters the field of view of our calculating reason that a no and a not may arise out of a surplus or abundance, may be the highest gift, and as this not and no may infinitely, i.e., essentially, surpass every ordinary yes. And that is all to the good. For reason would “explain” it according to the principles of logic, whereby both affirmation and denial exist, but the yes has the priority since it posits and thus acknowledges something present at hand. What is present and at hand counts as a being. Therefore it is difficult for us, wherever we encounter something apparently “negative,” not only to see in it the “positive” but also to conceive something more original, transcending that distinction. Here, where we are reflecting on the need of the necessity of the beginning, only the most profound understanding of the essence of need will suffice.

The need we have in mind arises from the distress of not knowing the way out or the way in; but that is by no means to be understood as a perplexity in some particular circumstances or other. What then is it? Not knowing the way out or the way in: that is to say, out of and into that which such knowing first opens up as an untrodden and ungrounded “space.” This space (time-space)—if we may so speak of it here—is that “between” where it has not yet been determined what being is or what non-being is, though where by the same token a total confusion and undifferentiation of beings and non-beings does not sweep everything away either, letting one thing wander into another. This distress, as such a not knowing the way out of or into this self-opening “between,” is a mode of “Being,” in which man arrives or perhaps is thrown and for the first time experiences—but does not explicitly consider—that which we are calling the “in the midst” of beings.

P. 132
"Gushing" seems the correct term. I can hear Michael Eldred, who has just published his version 2 of SOCIAL ONTOLOGY, shouting, "Over here. Someone look over here."

I hope that the tone of this review does not represent that of the essays--carping about how epistemology is the problem. I was taught that many of the classic modern philosophers began by intending to write an ethics but found they had to get their epistemology straight first. Hence we have the British empiricists and Kant's massive critiques, and on up to John McDowell, all the while with scientific methodology continuing to do its job.

Does the Hollywood truism "bad press is as good as good press in getting attention" work for philosophy, too?
Opps. The comment above was directed to the review of Speculative Realism.

The MH comments on beginning are significant. I have mused about how I find the argument from "need" in MH and how that is traditionally considered a very weak inspiration.

This account is something totally new and offers a lot more than "well, everybody's got to start somewhere." It requires far more thought on my part.
The closest I can get to what may be suggested here is when I contemplate my location in the universe. I live in a cosmos with no center and no edge, whose horizon has steadily expanded during my lifetime and seems to go on and on. I am not much interested in the likelihood of some form of life elsewhere than here on Earth. I do not deny the possibility, but I am far more astonished at the minutia I am.
I interpret MH's conviction that beyng today is in oblivion to mean that his study of the Greeks shows a time when beyng was acknowledged. I have a sense of being overwhelmed when I acknowledge my minutia. I imagine the first beginning as a similar acknowledgement.
If so, then I can also understand how, while my minutia might indicate a lack, it also indicates a surplus, a gift not to be measured in terms of size but only as cause for wonder and awe, the mystery of the ordinary.
I don't know that the Greeks acknowledged beyng, but they has a different understanding of it, which indicates it changes over time, and the differences can tell us something about beyng.
Meillassoux's not my cup of tea but he at least acknowledges epistemological issues and the old correlation chestnut (then, about anyone, student or Herr Doktor Professor, interested in philosophastry deals with it).

Most realists--Whether old-fashioned Aristotelian-thomists, or ....ivy league scientists-- generally take externalism for granted, with little reflection. Hume the person was, most likely, a corpulent sack of scheisse (Wesley thought so. As did Jefferson), but the Humean issues should at least be glanced at, before disregarding (Kant thought so)--it's not just the difficulty of correlating perception to a "ding an sich" but causality, and the induction/probability question (Meill. seems to get the problem with necessity--rather than the ultra-skepticism some naive phil. people and scientists read it as--yet ...his readings of Hume seem a bit....undergraduatey or somethin').

Then...does Kant checkmate Hume??? I'm not convinced he did--though we might grant a few ...Kantian posits: the a priori status, or at least cognitive givens of space/time--but many there are who still can't quite buy the Kantian transcendence taken as a whole (including...Marxy Marx).
There's an excerpt from B&T on space in Kant's mind here.
Danke. Heid.'s comments on Kant in B&T should be considered, but one might say....we should consider Kant vs Hume perhaps before moving on to the phenomenologists (who do accept the ghostly aspects of the Kantian schema, do they not...).

(crass cynical spec. follows: At times the Kantian a priori seems little different than "horse sense" to me (and quite different than the platonic a priori). Horses with very little experience soon learn the way back to the stables. Their brains and visual apparatus are, we might say, wired, a priori, for earthly space. As are human-primates. And in that regard empiricists would probably agree with Kant.

Now, language--or geometry, so forth-- would complicate matters obviously. But the mere ability to perceive spacetime does not seem particularly noteworthy. Kant hisself calls it cognitive, sensuous. I suspect Kant was more of a ...physicalist/mechanist than he lets on but was under the gun from theo-authorities and uses transcendence as .... a type of catch-all for non-apparent or something--(tho' the traditional Kantians generally disregard the cognitive readings).
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