philosophical not ideological commitment
Picking back up the thread of our quadrilogue on ideological dexterity, I’d like to start with this quotation from Scott:
My own diagnosis would take Erik’s focus on the cultural absolutism of prevailing political and cultural perspectives and call for a quarter turn in re-identifying this malady as one of essentialism. As I’ve often griped, overtly ideological thinking seems to persistently exhibit a tendency to speak in unwarranted certitudes about having figured everything out. Much of that false certainty, by my lights, is derived from a belief in the ability to deduce the essential nature of any number of things, be they government, the free market, freedom, or democracy, via one’s particular brand of ideological calculus.
Of course, as soon as any of these institution/concepts cease to operate in the fashion that our essentialist rendering describes, we immediately seek to ameliorate the anomaly via appeals to the evils of the essentials of some other countervailing institution, rather than, perhaps, attempting to come to grips with the fallacy of our logic. Insofar as this tendency is one of an inborn drive towards universalizing a certain subset of beliefs as a means of understanding the world, I think it dovetails nicely with Chris’ contention that the dominant political institutions aren’t much more than outmoded modernist jalopies.
Outmoded because, despite its now decades old lineage, contemporary ideologies still haven’t swallowed the bitter postmodernist pill about essentialism and absolutizing universality being zombie concepts: dead, yet refusing to die.
Heidegger argued that metaphysics (or what he often called onto-theology) obscured the presence of being with Being. Western metaphysics begins with the distinction between what something is (genus/species) and that something is (whether it actually real or not). The first is essence, the second existence. In Plato for example it’s the Ideas/Forms (Essence) and carbon copy imitations of singularity (existence). With Kant and then later Carnap it’s analytic (a priori) and synthetic (a posteriori) forms of reflection.
In general, the essence always tends towards a oneness overriding all else. In Spinoza it was the mathematico-physico-theological NATURE of which all natures are various determined versions thereof. In Aquinas and Scholastic Theology God as the Doer of all things that are done. In Hegel, Geist finding itself through the vehicle of creation until it reaches its apex in the German state and the philosopher-seer.
Nietzsche finally realized that underneath underneath this overriding lay the desire for power.
Leaving us basically where we are today. A failed and exhausted left, the over-riding oneness of the market state, and the post-ideological age run by “outdated jalopies” of the bygone era.
Essentialism left no liberating practice and neither has the post-essentialist structuralist ethos.
If as Erik says politics “is simply a way to traverse culture, a language by which we discuss its vagaries”, then I’m mostly interested in the philosophical portion of that culture. Western philosophy appears to have failed us.* It’s left us with the undead of zombies (cf the mind numbing number of contemporary and recent zombie/vampire tv & movies). When what we perhaps need–as Scott says–is unity that doesn’t break diversity.** Not the undead but the unborn.
But prior to all that Heidegger said, prior to the whatness/thatness distinction lay the primordial revealing of Being (which Heidegger saw as still studied by the pre-Socratic Greeks like Thales and Anaximander). The unveiling of Being.
The classical metaphysics roots itself in the metaphor of vision (Presence). The truth is some final reality outside of the self that can be viewed. [As Fichte asked, who is aware of Kant’s categories of the mind?]. That philosophical metaphor drives the political into ideology–into camps that are not bound by time-space, change, or modification. Even positions that are flexible, adaptable, like Manzi’s libertarianism as means are set–the flexibility is itself a non-flexible feature.
We need another guiding metaphor. One, as in Heidegger, of “at homeness.” At place-ness. [This has echoes of Scott’s glocalism]. Another point of view, another way. Heidegger said that we do not have language–language has us. Language is the abode of being. Following Erik’s reference of language, we are becoming increasingly autistic and mute. Our homes no longer speak to us. Our homes are not modes of divination (to play on Heidegger’s invocation of Dionysius).
A metaphor like building or constructing. Like crafting. There’s no vision of some fixed entity separate from the action (in this case political) itself. A more artistic way.
What would be the political equivalent of that unveiling of Being? That would be I think the place to start–though I have no idea how or where that is. Maybe the location of this unveiling–if any of this has made any sense–is a question for us discussants (and commenters) to ponder going forward. [Edit: Habermas’ communicative reason?].
As a last word, what this mean is that I don’t really agree with Scott that the key practice in the interim is simply putting more voices together. Maybe I’m not fairly representing his view there. Either way, I’m not opposed to that, but I think there has to be a fundamentally different space operative. Maybe, following the earlier artistic idea, it would be for the various schools/positions to present their work of art and be open to its reception and criticism.
**For the real philosophy nerds out there, I’m just (very slowly) now going through Badiou’s Being and Event. I probably need some math tutoring from the League’s resident mathematician (William Bradford) given that Badiou argues that math is ontology and that the Zermelo-Frankel version of set theory cuts the Gordian Knot of the One/Many problem in Western philosophy. Per this post, Badiou would argue (contra Scott and I) that there can be no One that does not do violence to the many. For the only real (for Badiou) is the multiple of multiplicities. The one, such as it is, is simply a place holder (the set inclusive of all multiples, yet the set being not other than the multiples). This keeps it, I gather, from spinning off into Hardt and Negri’s Multitude. Badiou is attempting (contra post-structuralism) to revive a notion of the subject, though not in the Cartesian-Kantian-Husserlian-Sartrean line of individual subjective consciousness. I’m only getting about 15% of him at this point and I have a long way to go through the book but it’s definitely a unique argument.