Topic: ‘What role did the theory of elements play in the Presocratics’ account of cosmic order?’
Continued from part one which can be viewed here.
By the time of Empedocles the dominant thought was influenced by the Eleatic school, particularly its central figure, Parmenides. Empedocles’ thought was so shaped by this figure that he copied his style of writing that is verse rather than prose (and some, such as Kenny, state to greater poetic effect). Although Empedecles was obviously influenced by the Eleactic school of which he was part, Kenny states that Empedocles’s work could be seen as a “synthesis” of Ionian thought, in that while the Ionian’s used a single element, generally, as the dominant stuff of the universe Empedocles used all of the elements (or “roots” as he called them) as the basis for the formation of the cosmos. His cosmological theory also varied from others in that it relied on two other “motive forces.” Patricia Curd from The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states these as: “Love and Strife. Love unites opposed (unlike) things, mixing unlikes, while Strife sets unlikes in opposition and pulls them apart, with the effect that it mixes like with like.” (Curd, 2012) In other words Love joins the different elements, and Strife separates them.
In The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy the relationship between the elements and the role of Love and Strife is described as: “the four elements combined to form the Sphere, grows into a cosmos with the elements forming distinct cosmic masses of earth, water (the seas), air, and fire.” (Audi, 1999, p.262) To Empedocles’ the “operations” of Love (Philia) and Strife (Neikos) co-mingled the different elements as a builder might use different materials in varying arrangements to create a building. There is some scholarly debate about much the meaning of these motive forces; Gordon Campbell from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that it is not clear if the cosmic forces of Love and Strife are simply mechanistic descriptions of the way things happen. Are they internal expressions of the way in which the elements act and interact? Or, are they external expressions which act upon the elements? Still more questions could be asked, such as whether or not they are purely impersonal forces, or whether they are divinities which act with a goal toward creation or destruction in mind? Campbell states there is evidence for all of the above interpretations, but what is clear from the evidence: “is that these two forces are engaged in an eternal battle for domination of the cosmos and that they each prevail in turn in an endless cosmic cycle.“ (Campbell, 2005)
Empedocles’ theory of elements received great attention and praise from later thinkers. Kenny states that Aristotle congratulated him for having the wherewithal to create a cosmological theory that not only attempted to identify the elements which construct the universe, but to also “assign causes for the development and intermingling of the elements to make the living and inanimate compounds of the actual world.” (Kenny, 2010, p.24) To, Campbell, Empedocles theory of elements worked at the macroscopic and microscopic levels of nature, in the quadripartite representation of the elements at the macroscopic level in the Sun, the sea, the earth and the fiery aether of the heavenly bodies. At the microscopic level this theory is applied “reductively” to the constituents of matter to mirror such at the macroscopic level, in that fire, earth, air and water are used in different measures to create fundamental matter. (Campbell, 2005)
Finally we might like to see how these two thinkers contrasted with each other. The most obvious is how they used the elements to varying degrees of importance in their cosmologies. Anaximander used aperion in priority over the elements as the guiding force for the creation and indeed the destruction of the heavens and “the worlds that come into them out of this.” (Kenny, 2000, p.17) Empedocles felt that all of the elements, which are present in all things in varying composition and eternal and unchanging preceded his non-elemental forces. To him, Love and Strife, operate as opposites that work to create equilibrium in the elements, whereas Anaximander thought aperion was the basis for the elements, indeed, possibly a fifth element unto itself, and from where the elements sprung. Both thinkers’ posited extra forces in their cosmologies, the role of the elements is different in the force and order of their use, one thinker places them secondary to other forces, the latter places the elements in priority.
In conclusion we’ve seen that the Presocratics are defined as something close to those thinkers operating between c.600 BC to c.400c. BC. More specifically, they are considered to be the thinkers within the Ionian and Eleatic schools, the Pythagoreans, the post-Eleatic atomists, Empedocles and Heraclitus. Generally interested in developing systematic and naturally explained cosmologies, they turned away from previous mythical traditions of reality (mythos) handed down from Hesiod and Homer to a more rational account of nature (logos). An important focus was placed on cosmology as opposed to cosmogony – that is, the structure of the cosmos which was accomplished by a use of the elements, rather than its birth. Anaximander, whom we examined first, was novel amongst his contemporaries, to the point of being critical of his teachers, and rejected by his successors. To him, the elements weren’t of primary focus, that was rather left to his principal aperion; a unique term whose exact meaning is debated over by scholars. For our purposes it was outlined as simply a force or principle that was infinite or indefinite. What we do know about Anaximander’s theory of elements in regards to apeiron is that it was the underlying, background or initial principle that allowed his theory of elements to operate, it was fundamental to this theory, and the elements themselves. By the time of Empedocles’ work, the Eleatic school led by Parmenides was predominant. We see in Empedocles a shift toward a greater inclusion of the elements toward cosmic explanations. In combining the elements, he amalgamated some of the ideas of the Ionian thinkers before him who usually supposed a single element to be the dominant material of the universe. Empedocles considered them all important, and ultimately controlled by the opposing forces of Love and Strife. We can imagine Empedocles’ “motive forces” as two forces that draw the elements together (Love) and are pull them apart (by Strife), comingling them to create different objects at the macro and microscopic levels in a continual struggle for domination in an endless cycle. This novel idea received great attention from later thinkers, such as Aristotle. Although the theories of the elements posited by Presocratics such as Anaximander and Empedocles have been overturned in modern physics and cosmological theory, these thinkers set major cosmological questions for later philosophers, and in fact Empedocles four elements became standard in natural philosophy until the early modern era.
Audi, R. (1999). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Edition). Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Blackburn, S. (2008). The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd Edition). New York. Oxford University Press.
Campbell, G. (2005). Empedocles (c.492—432 BCE). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved http://www.iep.utm.edu/empedocl/#H3
Couprie, D.L. (2005). Anaximander (c.610—546 BCE). The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/anaximan/
Curd, P. (2012). “Presocratic Philosophy”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/presocratics/
Kenny, A. (2010). A New History of Western Philosophy. Oxford, United Kingdom .Oxford University Press.
Smith, N. (2008). Ancient Philosophy. Malden MA. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Topic: ‘What role did the theory of elements play in the Presocratics’ account of cosmic order?’
In any discussion of the Presocratics it might aid us if we first begin by defining the term; Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge Simon Blackburn states that it “ought” to refer to any Greek philosopher from “c.600 BC to c.400 BC, the last year of Socrates life” (Blackburn, 2008, p. 289), although he cautions that this definition should not include all thinkers within that time. It is generally reserved for those thinkers from several different schools: the Milesian or Ionian (hereafter Ionian), the Eleatic schools, the Pythagoreans, what Blackburn calls “the post-Eleatic atomists as well as Empedocles and Heraclitus” (p. 289) – who, when thought of collectively, make up the term ‘the Presocratics’. They were interested in inquiry regarding “systematic cosmologies” with a concern toward “the nature of physical reality” (p. 289), more deeply their philosophical inquiry burgeoned close to what we would call now scientific. Investigations were done into the nature of physical substances, the existence of the void (as in the case of the atomists), the nature of temporal change (as in the case of Zeno) and the nature of physical substances (p. 289). In today’s paper we will be focusing on two specific Presocratic thinkers: Anaximander (c.610BCE –547BCE) and Empedocles (c.495BCE-435BCE) in order to tease out the role of, not just their views in regards to their particular theories of the elements in relation to the cosmic order, but also the difference in thought between the Ionian and Eleatic schools, which were separated by roughly a century.
Philosophical thought during the Presocratics time, particularly in the early Ionian schools incorporated elements of a previous interpretation of the working of the world known as mythos. It is defined roughly as a likely story, or account, of the cosmos, usually tied up with flexible religious notions of the time, and adopted from thinkers before them (such as Hesiod). This way of thinking allowed the Presocratics to scrutinize their most basic beliefs and turn away from their myths to understand the world in a way known as logos, which could be viewed as a rational account of nature. From this then, two issues became of importance to them, (1) cosmogony, which arises as Professor of Philosophy Nicholas Smith states from the merging of the words “cosmos and genesis (birth or coming into being)” and (2) cosmology, which he cites as being “(cosmos plus logos) the attempt to find unified accounts of the structure of the cosmos.” (Smith, 2008, p. 4) Different Presocratics sought to find and engage with ideas relating to the underlying physical material out of which the cosmos was made coherent – the elements. For the most part they viewed different elements (fire, water, air and earth) as fundamental to the composition of the cosmos and attempted to explain how they did so, although we will see, as with Anaximander below, there was difference and conflict in thought. (Smith, 2008)
Anaximander was a special Presocratic in that his cosmological views were somewhat contra to those stated above such that he was critical of thinkers who came before him, including his teacher Thales (another Ionian thinker). In line with the other Presocratics he denied that nature and the universe is in a state of chaos, yet still sought to find order in the natural world, the logos. He also thought that it is ordered and unified as a cosmos, but to Anaximander it was a mistake to identify the underlying material of the universe with any of the elements; instead he opted for a different fundamental principle, that was divine, “boundless and infinite” (Kenny, 2008, p. 12) otherwise known as “apeiron”. Prominent English philosopher Anthony Kenny states that apeiron is roughly translated as “the Infinite” (p. 12) which he concedes might go too far; to Anaximander it might have meant that his principle was extended eternally in space. What we do seem to understand viz. Kenny is that apeiron did not have a beginning or end, and “did not belong to any particular kind or class of things.” (p. 12) It is important to note as stated in Smith, and eluded to in Kenny, there is debate about what exactly Anaximander’s term meant, for example Smith states it to mean “indefinite” (p. 17).To Smith apeiron while not one of the elements was still a material something as the basis for all things: “the idea of aperion seemed to be that it was endless in special context so much that it was indefinite in its characteristic and makeup.” (p. 17). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy explains aperion as:
(the boundless) by a process of separating off; a disk-shaped earth was formed, surrounded by concentric heavenly rings of fire enclosed in air. At “breathing holes” in the air we see jets of fire, which are the stars, moon, and sun. The earth stays in place because there is no reason for it to tend one way or another. (Audi, 1999, p. 28)
Aperion could have even been another element, or indeed a mixture of them, from which the other elements of air, earth, fire and water would come, and ultimately return (p.17). This was a strange conception when we think of the two thinkers in closest relation to Anaximander in terms of geography and chronology: his teacher Thales and his student Anaximenes who respectively thought that water and air were the fundamental principles of the cosmos.
However as Dirk L. Couprie states on The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy Anaximander’s astronomy contained poetic language of the elements to explain an already formed universe as we see here: “a germ, pregnant with hot and cold, was separated [or: separated itself] off from the eternal, whereupon out of this germ a sphere of fire grew around the vapor that surrounds the earth, like a bark round a tree” (Diels and Kranz cited in Couprie, 2005). From this we see Anaximander’s views were quite idiosyncratic among his compatriot Ionian thinkers, in that the elements were not exclusively fundamental to the structure of the cosmos, but were considered secondary to him. He still used the elements to explain the structuring and workings, as a secondary characteristic of the cosmos, or even something that came from his principle aperion, which would have been the basis for the creation of the formal structures of the cosmos, and from which the elements came.
We will continue to Empedocles’ portion, a comparison of the two thinkers and a conclusion in part two.
- Anaximander (philosophicalreader.wordpress.com)
- The Succession of Philosophical Schools (philosophy-of-cbt.com)
- Anaximenes (philosophicalreader.wordpress.com)
- The Wooden Horse (The Liberation of the Western Mind from Odysseus to Socrates) Keld Zeruneith (Overlook Duckworth Press New York 2007) (gbutz.wordpress.com)
- Some Comments on Stoicism & Cynicism (philosophy-of-cbt.com)
- The Philosophers of the Stoic School (philosophy-of-cbt.com)
- Book Review: Early Greek Thinking by MARTIN HEIDEGGER (organizedreligion.me)
- How I Ended my Lecture Last Class w/ more elaboration (aspoonfulofsuga.wordpress.com)
- Modified “Against The Miletians.page” (gwern.net)
- Spirituality – Re: LOGOS (disclose.tv)
It’s been a while between articles posts, let’s get straight into it:
Philosophy Bites – Links to the First 176 Episodes -Edmonds and Warburton.
LCA 2013: distributed democracy, speaking stacks, links -Sky Croeser.
Anti-Muslim hysteria in Australia -Russell Glasser.
We get email: Believers and their security blankets -Martin Wagner.
Good luck in Somalia- Ophelia Benson.
Egyptian atheist facing blasphemy sentence - Jacob Fortin.
Repairs under way -Ophelia Benson.
A fabulous “Manly Meal”-Ophelia Benson.
WL Craig on Morality and Meaning (Series Index) -John Danaher.
My Favourite Posts of 2012 -John Danaher.
Sexual Objectification: An Atheist Perspective -Richard Carrier.
Prototypical Sexist Atheist on Exhibit- Richard Carrier.
Atheism+ : The Name for What’s Happening-Richard Carrier.
Waldron on pornography -Russell Blackford.
Gay Bishop Comes Up With the Worst Argument to Support Same-Sex Marriage- Greta Christina.
My Letter to the Boy Scouts- Greta Christina.
Same-Sex Marriage Opponents Increasingly Desperate and Stupid – Greta Christina.
Catholic Priest blames women for bringing violence on themselves – Jacob Fortin.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews harass sexually abused girl – Jacob Fortin.
Bill O’Reilly calls David Silverman a Fascist – Jacob Fortin.
Top 10 anti-Christian acts of 2012 -J.T Eberhard.
Most insulting fundraiser ever. – J.T Eberhard.
Don’t Say Gay legislator: being gay is like shooting heroin. -J.T Eberhard.
How often god’s moral decrees bear no resemblance to justice. -J.T Eberhard.
Craig’s Argument for God from Intentionality – Philosotroll.
Witch Hunts in Papua New Guinea – Leo Igwe.
Randal Rauser on William Lane Craig’s defense of the Canaanite genocide -Chris Hallquist.
More Powerpoint Slides from a Christian Pastor’s Anti-Gay Sermon – Hermant Mehta.
Who Still Thinks the Church Has Any Moral Credibility? -Hermant Mehta.
Shells and switches -Deacon Duncan.
God and the PlayStation 3 -Deacon Duncan.
The Gypsy Curse -Deacon Duncan.
Huge props go to my editor Skye, without whom this article would have looked like a chimp had been jumping on the keyboard, and eating a banana. She offered me the chance to do this article for a magazine (for the link to the magazine see here), I’m simply re-posting here for my blogger friends.
I am a white, able bodied man. I have all the privilege in the world; and it is totally congruent with feminism that I would be ignorant of my vast and often oppressive privilege. Until recently, I only had the most basic understanding of feminist issues (and some may argue that is still the case). Like most people in the cultural sphere, ignorant of feminist theory, I thought it was mostly “equality for women”, particularly in the workplace. I thought the issue of sexism was done, it was racism, or it was religious ideology, these are the things we have to be active about now. It wasn’t until I came to read about some of these issues that I saw that what feminism and feminists have to say about the world, is a lot more complex than simply trying to get a woman paid as much as a man. And I realised that even simple equality, is nowhere to be seen in day-to-day life.
Feminism, like any worldview, has its own language, and part of learning about that worldview- is about learning the language. Terms often used- that are further reaching than simple equality, like “oppression”, “patriarchy”, “hegemony”, “domination”, “white supremacy” and “capitalist”, indicate that feminism is a challenge to the fundamental way we view the world:, it is a political movement to change the way we do things. In fact, some feminists, such as bell hooks have argued that the very idea of equality is problematic, as not all men are equals in a white supremacist, patriarchal, capitalist society.
It also means that what we come to define as ‘normal’, or ‘equal’ becomes what is white, masculine, able-bodied, and associated with other forms of privilege. Moreover the focus on equality, which may have its merits, is still the goal of white, middle-class, able-bodied feminists, and does not address the concerns of the majority of women. What does this mean exactly? Here ‘equality’ means that (white,-middle-class) women be given the same employment opportunities as men in the workplace, that they might climb corporate ladder. A more thorough feminist critique of this idea would promote a workplace of care, would realise that work does not liberate women from male domination (though economic self-sufficiency does aid women), and would offer a reorganisation of working life so that both men and women can spend more time looking after children and family members. More deeply the feminist critique would show that work can lead to greater self-sufficiency, which may lead to alternative lifestyles counter to the supposed “good life” promoted by capitalist, patriarchal mass media, thereby promoting a life of self-respect and self-esteem.
Feminism becomes, then, a challenge to men and women, as women can be misogynistic too. In the pop culture bastardisation of feminism we often see simple caricatures that ignore this fact; watch a television show, talk to your average person and see that to them feminism means a woman’s power at the expense of a man’s. To be a strong woman, you must supplant a man. The idea of a war of the sexes is not what feminism is about, and alienates men from feminist movement. It also, again, supports the notion of the white middle class “bourgeoisie” setting the tone for feminist movement, at least in the public sphere. This portrayal of feminism is limited, and doesn’t reflect the diversity of feminism in practice.
How has this influenced my day-to-day life? Do I become involved in activism? Is it enough to write blog posts and raise awareness within my social circle? My moral compass certainly dictates to me that I should be more involved than I have been. There is plenty of work to do in the day-to-day, with issues of class, and race, and gender, and oppression all being lost in the milieu of conversation. For me, becoming aware of feminist issues, and then going about my day has made things problematic, precisely due to my previous point. I’ve come to realise how much we use the language of subjugation, how often we taunt each other, and oppress each other, with the language of gender roles, with the expectation of gender roles. A man must be a man, must be tough, must be muscular, and must be dominant over women. Similarly, a woman must be submissive, must be passive, and must be a sexual prude, lest she be labelled a slut. And here I sit in the middle of all this oppression now, awoken from the Matrix so to speak, and wondering which battles I must pick with my clients, with my friends, and with my family. Facebook is a great example of this, the amount of slut shaming, the ‘liking’ of misogynistic pages, and ruthless comments- about women’s application of make-up, or dress sense, or emotional states, often by other women is mind-boggling and clearly represents the misogynistic mindset of people uninformed by feminist praxis.
Standing up for feminism, for a view of the world which does not conform to traditional notions of femininity and masculinity, to stand against misogyny, patriarchy, gender roles and other forms of oppression is not easy, and that’s why I cut myself some slack on being an out and out activist. Writing blogs, challenging friends, being challenged by friends and acquaintances, listening to the arguments, changing your positions, and changing others, that is a great first step, and important one. After all, I have people to thank around me, who called me on my misogyny- on my subscription to the rhetoric of oppression that I simply hadn’t even noticed was part of who I was. You can have that impact too, you just need to speak up.
In my first Davidson post I stated that Foucault and Patocka aren’t in the readers, this is a mistake, they are, I just didn’t see them, what an idiot, right? That being the case I’m going to do some notes on Foucault too, hopefully covering my bases for this exam. I’m going to focus on the study questions given to us in the unit manual as they contain previous years essay questions – one figures these will be the exam questions this year.
Qu 1: Explain the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’
This question is the basis for much of the first essay (“First Essay: Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad.’”) in our reader, where Nietzsche beings with a critique of the “English psychologists” and their pragmatism:
The way they bungled their moral genealogy comes to light at the very beginning, where the task is to investigate the origin of the concept and judgment “good”. “Originally” – so they decree – “one approved unegoistic actions and called them good from the point of view of those to whom they were done, that is to say, those to whom they were useful; later one forgot how this approval originated and, simply because egoistic actions were always habitually praise as good, one felt them to be good – as if they were something good in themselves.” (Nietzsche, p. 25, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1989)
Nietzsche believes the ‘good’ in pragmatism to be put in the wrong place, it does not arise from those to whom goodness was shown, but rather it was those who called themselves ‘good’ (meaning: the noble, powerful, high-minded etc) who deemed themselves and their actions ‘good. This was done so in contradistinction states Nietzsche to the low (meaning: low-minded, common and plebian) – it was this distance in power that the powerful sought the right to create values as a matter of utility. Nietzsche thinks it is this “pathos of nobility” (p. 26) that allowed the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ to be defined as above and below, that is the low-minded to be lower, hence bad – Nietzsche believes the ability to conceive of language is an expression of power or the rulers. Hence to Nietzsche ‘good’ is “definitely not linked from the first and by necessity to “unegoistic actions, as the superstition of these genealogists would have it.” (p. 26) Nietzsche found that when he looked at the “real etymological significance of the designations for “good”" (p. 27) coined in different languages he found that it always led back to the same “conceptual transformation” (p. 27) of the ‘good’ meaning “noble”, and “aristocratic”. This notion of privilege also always led to the conception of ‘bad’ as “common, “plebian”, or “low” (as he demonstrates in the histories of the Jewish, Roman, German and Celtic traditions pp.29-36).
Juxtaposed to this style or morality Nietzsche talks of “slave morality”, especially ressentiment:
While every noble morality develops from a triumphant affirmation of itself, slave morality from the outset says No to what is “outside,” and what is “different,” what is “not itself”; and this No is its creative deed. This inversion of the value-positing eye - this need to direct one’s view outward instead of back to oneself – is of the essence of ressentiment. (Nietzsche, p. 36-37, On the Genealogy of Morals, 1989)
Nietzsche compare what each type of morality needs, the slave needs a hostile world, while the noble, privilege. It is here he talks of the Greeks who defined their morality by the “happy” and “unhappy” which was different according to Nietzsche as the well-born thought of themselves happy but did not define their morality in contradistinction to their enemies.
Nietzsche, F. W. (1989). “First Essay: Good and Evil,’ ‘Good and Bad.’” Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. On the Genealogy of Morals. Ecce Homo. Ed. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage Books. Pp. 25, 26, 27, 29-36, 36-37,
Let us begin with study questions
Qu 1: Can we be indifferent to our own being?/Qu 2: What does Patocka mean when he says that typical human expression is ‘for the sake of which’?
Patocka begins with an analysis of philosophy going back to Aristotle and how the individual, the subject is left out, is not themetized, even when these philosophers got to the question of existence, the third person was how they discussed their ideas – it was Descartes who first made the turn towards the I, with is ego cogito cogitatum. This was not enough for Patocka though, as he states it comes to grief when we look at the situatedness of ourselves in the world. Descaretes tried to go from the first, to third persons, a philosophy of res extensa, a mathematical nature, which leaves no room for “situational concepts or for situatedness generally. ” (p, 172)
We need to delve beneath this layer of the impersonal and bring out the originary personal experience. The experience of the way we live situationally, the way we are as personal beings in space. We cannot rest content with the trivial conception which sees our body in a dualistic perspective – contained in the res extensa as a thing among things and objective processes, with which subjective processes are coordinated as their reflection. Even those need to be objectified in turn, transformed into impersonal entities which we can impersonally coordinate with them. (Patocka, p. 172, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)
We must look at how we are in space, are we in it among other things, and is such a conception possible? Patocka states that the tradition found that knowledge exists in objective relations, – Patocka disagrees stating that such knowledge is only possible if there is a being that is in space differently – not simply another thing next to them in space, it must exist in it, by relating to itself through things which relate to other things.
That means, a being who can act out its life, comport itself with respect to its life in various ways simply in relating to other things and so finding a place in the world of things. We are not indifferent neighbors of things. Our relations are external, indifferent. Our nonindifference to our own being, that it matters to us, that we are no indifferent to our being – all that is expressed in the typically human expression, for the sake of: we do something for the sake of something. Therein lies the nonindifference of our mode of being. (Patocka, p. 172, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)
To Patocka the for the sake of which entails being integrated in the world, it signifies the means to an particular end, which are provided for us by the things around us – put another way, there is a continuity between such things and the for the sake of which, as Patocka states: “That means that our being among things is not a mere indifferenct being next to, a juxtaposition of things in space.” (p. 173) From here Patocka states we must look to characterize this being, as one that is oriented, or aiming at things, or even “ordered to acting among things, acting and in that action co-acting with others” (p. 173) we become oriented not just with things, but with other persons. This is our original drive which turns back inwards on ourselves in which we see our relations to others – that, Patocka states is our natural reflective tendency of our drive toward things, as beings in space among things – this is part of our nonindifference to things and ourselves. (p. 173)
Qu 3: Explain: ‘Reflection is grounded in the innermost finitude of being human and its relation to truth’.
Patocka states that we have asked about the essential reach of our reflections – our goal to him, was to reach an originary phenomenon, which would allow him to reject all models that objectified human life – this leads us to two types of phenomenology: (1) Husserl and (2) Heidegger. Under Husserl’s conception attempted to show modern Cartesianism, in its most extreme and sophisticated form – the ego cogito which seeks to remain in the personal, or what Husserl calls “transcendental intersubjectivity” was the ground the “phenomenological reduction leads” (p. 174) , under this the world is the basis for communication:
The personal world is not a set of islands amid an impersonal nature, rather impersonal nature becomes a mer objective pole of unified intentionalities of harmoniously living monads that make contact through this objectivity, The access to it is reflection, self-grasping in pure originality and self-certainty. (Patocka, p. 174, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)
Patocka still sees problems with Husserl here, he admits the theory is attractive in that it opens up perspectives in the subjectivity of lived experience, but the question of “absolute reflection” in which attempts to move our personal, finite lived experience into an “absolute object” – it is this objectivity Paotocka means to deny. He states that Husserl never quite manages to bring the corporeal subject in continuity with absolute reflection and he states further that the ultimate foundation is not personal but rather, subjectivity itself. But what is the ground of absolute reflection? Patocka states there is none, no further theory, and no deeper explanation – absolute reflection then is the foundation of all philosophy the ground to which all else is reduced – this conclusion led to more problems, not solving them.
Is there, need there not be found, a theory of reflection which, without rendering impossible the achievement of truth, of the clairty, of all that Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology provided, would yet remain a theory of finite reflection, continuous with the finitude of human life?(Patocka, p. 175, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)
The answer is seems may lie in Heidegger in which he starts from existence – Patocka states that even with Husserl there is still a desire to move to an impersonal foundation an “existence which merely notes itself, which is given to itself purely for observation.” (p. 175) Patocka states there is an alienation, a distance in observation, of which does not present itself in Heidegger’s theory which states that the world is not an aggregate of entities, but rather a “context belonging to us and our intrinsic structure, to the structure of our being.” (p. 176) Here Heidegger’s theory does for Patocka what Husserls’ could not- it stresses the finitude within the basic structures of living, the finitude of reflection:
Reflection is grounded in the innermost finitude of being human and in its relation to truth. Those, ultimately are the reasons for reflection. (Patocka, p. 176, Body, Communication, Language, 1996)
For Patocka Heidegger offers greater possibilities than Husserl.
Patocka, Jan. “Personal Spatiality, Husserl, Heidegger.” Trans. Erazim Kohak. Body, Communication, Language, World. Ed James Dodd. Chicago; La Salle, Ill.: Open Court, 1996, 172, 173, 174, 175
Now that I have briefly looked at Davidson (and Part 2 here), I’m going to do a write up of Kant short essay for my notes in the exam – only so that I may feel some piece of mind in regards to being covered on all philosophers, should an unexpected question pop up. Today I will be focusing on his piece on enlightenment.
Enlightenment is man’s release from his self incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not without direction from another. Sapre aude! “Have courage to use your own reason!” – that is the motto of enlightenment. (Kant, p. 83 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)
Kant thinks that it is laziness and cowardice that so great a portion of mankind remains “under tutelage”, by which he means we use books to understand for us, pastors who are our conscience for us, physicians who dictate our diets etc – because of this we need not think for ourselves, we can simply pay others do to the work for us. Kant thinks that these “guardians” have made us timid and afraid to work under our own tutelage, which he understands would be difficult, a throwing off such tutelage would leave you without a safety net, left to fend based on your own “natural gifts” (p. 84). Kant thinks that the public can only enlighten itself, if freedom is granted, and even then it would be a slow process, due to the reform in thinking that would need to take place in which new prejudices would replace old ones. What does Kant mean by “freedom” though?
For this enlightenment, however, nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all the things to which this term can properly be applied. It is the freedom to make public use of one’s reason at every point. (Kant, p. 84 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)
The guardians of our lives though, halt us from dissent, in that they tell us not to argue (Kant suggests we think of tax collectors asking you to pay, the cleric asking you to believe etc) – to Kant this is a restriction on freedom. The private use of reason Kant states is very often narrowly restricted without hindering the progress of enlightenment, but what is private and public use of reason?
By the public use of one’s reason I understand the use which a person makes of it as a scholar before the reading public. Private use I call that which one may make of it in a particular civil post or office in which is entrusted to him. (Kant, p. 85 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)
Kant concedes that there are many affairs which are conducted in the interest of the community which require “a certain mechanism through which some members of the community must passively conduct themselves with artificial unanimity, so that the government may direct them to public ends…” (p. 85). This member of the commonalty must obey, although she may address the public. Here Kant is talking about, for example, the officer who must obey her chain of command, but as a “scholar” she may lay her concerns on her service before the public for judgement. Or of the priest who must convey the tenets and practices of his church to his flock, for he has accepted those tenets to work in such a position, but as a scholar he is free, and Kant would say compelled, to communicate to the public his own thoughts and critiques of the practices and tenets of his position.
The use, therefore, which an appointed teacher makes of his reason before his congregation is merely private, because this congregation is only a domestic one (even if it be large in gathering); with respect to it, as a priest, he is not free, nor can he be free, because he carries out the orders of another. But as a scholar, whose writings speak to his public, the world, the clergyman in the public use of his reason enjoys an unlimited freedom to use his own reason and to speak in his own person. (Kant, p. 86 What is Enlightenment? (1784) 1997)
Because of this Kant states that we do not yet live in an enlightened age, but rather an “age of enlightenment” (p. 88). As he states, and as we’ve seen, much still halts us from expressing our private reason free from “outside direction” – but we do, on the otherhand, have greater autonomy to share our private reason, “the obstacles to general enlightenment or the release form self-imposed tutelage are gradually being reduced.” (p. 88)
Kant, I. (1784) 1997. “What is Enlightenment?” Trans. Lewis White Beck. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals and What is Enlightenment? Second, revised ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., Pp. 83, 84, 85, 86, 88.
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Here is Part 1.
Davidson moves to a similar critique to Wittgenstein’s ostensive (and part 2) teaching of words argument in which he talks of ostensive teaching – that of teaching a Saturnian what the word “floor” means. Upon transporting you to his planet you refer to the pale blue dot known as earth as “floor” using metaphorical language (similar to Dante when he calls Earth ” the small round floor that makes us passionate” (p. 35)) Under the theory under consideration would it matter at all to the Saturnian which way he took it? Davidson says not, as in this theory “floor” would take on a new meaning in a “metaphorical context”. To Davidson metaphor can be either (1) something that draws our attention to language, or (2) to what language is about – he thinks it is the latter. This can be seen he says when we view dead metaphors as in the case of the mouths of rivers and bottles – once upon a time they did not literally have mouths: but now in common usage the ambiguity of the word “mouths”in the senses of rivers, bottles and animal apertures (or “if we think there is a single wide field application that embraces both” (p. 35)) is irrelevant. What is relevant to Donaldson is that when we apply “mouth” metaphorically to bottles the use points the hearer to a likeness between bottle and animal openings:
Once one has the present use of the word, with the literal application to bottles, there is nothing left to notice. There is no similarity to seek because it consists simply in being referred to by the same word. (Davidson, p. 35, On Metaphor, 1978)
To Davidson if there was a second meaning such as that of ambiguity there might be opportunity to specify the special meaning of a word in a metaphorical context by waiting until the metaphor dies, as he states: “The figurative meaning of the living metaphor should be immortalized in the literal meaning of the dead.” (p. 36) He rejects this idea however, and now he turns to how it might be saved in another fashion: by stating that “the figurative meaning of a metaphor is the literal meaning of the corresponding simile.” (p. 36) for example: “Thus “Christ was a chronometer” in its figurative sense is synonymous with “Christ was like a chronometer”.” (p. 36) Davidson states there is difficulty in putting a metaphor so closely with a simile as it can be sometimes difficult to locate the corresponding simile to go with the metaphor – this theory however should not be confused with the common theory that metaphor is an “elliptical simile” (p. 36) as:
This theory makes no distinction in meaning between a metaphor and some related simile and does not provide any ground for speaking of figurative, metaphorical or special meanings. It is a theory that wins hands down as far as simplicity is concerned, but it also seems too simple to work. (Davidson, p. 35, On Metaphor, 1978)
Davidson states that if we make the literal meaning of the metaphor the literal meaning of the simile we deny access to the meaning we originally took from the literal meaning of the metaphor, whatever else might need to be added to a non literal meaning, we agreed from the start that this meaning was essential. Davidson states that this theory has a fatal flaw, it makes the hidden meaning found in a simple sense – by looking at the literal meaning of “what is usually a painfully trivial simile.” (p. 37) For example in the earth is like a floor simile to our “the small round floor that makes us passionate” metaphor, this is trivial because everything is like everything, and in endless ways, according to Davidson – if metaphors are difficult because they are impossible to paraphrase but this theory makes interpretation and paraphrase “are ready to the most callow.” (p. 37) Davidson also states that the comparison to simile sells the metaphor short, in that simile says there is a likeness and we are left to pick out the common features, but metaphor, if we accept it, are led to seek out common features:
Just because a simile wears a declaration of similitude on its sleeve, it is, I think, far less plausible than in thew case of metaphor to maintain that there is a hidden second meaning. (Davidson, p. 38, On Metaphor, 1978)
It is here that Davidson reiterates his argument thus far, and elaborates a little more on it:
The argument so far has led to the conclusion that as much of metaphor as can be explained in terms of meaning may, and indeed must, be explained by appeal to the literal meanings of words. A consequence is that the sentences in which metaphors occur are true or false in a normal, or literal way, for if the words in them don’t have special meaning, sentences don’t have special truth. This is not to deny that there is metaphorical truth, only to deny it of sentences. (Davidson, p. 39, On Metaphor, 1978)
To Davidson metaphors lead us to notice what might otherwise not be, he does not feel that these “visions, thoughts, and feelings” (p. 39) have merit, or that they are true or false. Davidson states that there is a semantic difference between metaphors and similes in that metaphors tend to be (patently) false and similes tend to be (trivially) true. This falsity in metaphor is what leads us to search out its hidden implication , and shows us that it is in fact a metaphor which we must search to understand.
Davidson states that no “theory of metaphorical meaning or metaphorical truth can help explain how metaphor works.” (p. 41) As we stated earlier what distinguishes metaphor is it use, not its meaning – moreover this special use is not to say something special as metaphor shows only what is on its face “usually a patent falsehood or an absurd truth” (p. 41) which needs no paraphrase as it is given in the literal meaning of the words. To Davidson the theories we have been discussing mistake their goal, they try to tell us a method for deciphering an encoded content within the metaphor, but they actually tell us something about the effects of metaphor. There is for Davidson, a simple way out of this dilemma, we drop the idea that metaphors carry a meaning or content other than its literal meaning. Davidson does not deny that metaphor has effects on us, he quarrels with how they do it, he denies that they have “special cognitive content” (p. 44) metaphor can make us appreciate a fact (much like a bump on the head, joke or dream can), “but not by standing for or expressing the fact.” (p. 44)
Metaphor makes us see one thing as another by making some literal statement that inspires or prompts the insight. Since in most cases what the metaphor prompts or inspires is not entirely, or even at all, recognition of some truth or fact, the attempts to give literal expression to the content of the metaphor is simply misguided. (Davidson, p. 45, On Metaphor, 1978)
Davidson, D. (1978). “What Metaphors Mean.” On Metaphor. Ed Sheldon Sacks. Chicago: Chicago U P. Pp. 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 44, 45.
So, it’s exam preparation time, and in doing so I’m looking over previous exams given to us by the university – one parameter is that we are not allowed to write on authors we have before, since I have written on Frege, Heidegger, Husserl and Wittgenstein. This leaves me with only a few authors: Kant, Davidson, Foucault, Nietzsche, Patocka – in the example exams we’re given Davidson, Kant and Nietzsche are the only authors offered that I haven’t written on. Moreover the other authors (Patocka, Foucault) aren’t featured in the unit reader, hence we can reasonably assume they won’t be in the exam. This leaves me with Kant, Davidson and Nietzsche. I will be focusing on Davidson and Nietzsche – in Davidson’s case the example question given to us is the thesis question of Davidson’s main article, this seems a great place to start in my notes and preparation. Finally we are allowed to take in an A4 piece of paper with notes, no specific restrictions were given on the margin or font size, so I’m filling the page up with wide margins and small font.
The piece I will be focusing on today is from Davidson’s 1978 work On Metaphor, specifically the chapter entitled “What Metaphors Mean”. David begins by stating that:
Metaphor is the dreamwork of language and, like all dreamwork, its interpretation reflects as much on the interpreter as on the originator. The interpretation of dreams requires collaboration between a dreamer and a waker, even if they be the same person: and the act of interpretation is itself a work of the imagination. So too understanding a metaphor is as much a creative endeavor as making a metaphor, and as little guided by rules. (Davidson, p. 29, On Metaphor, 1978)
Davidson outlines his thesis in that to him metaphors do not use any semantic resources beyond those in which the ordinary depends, and that there are no instruction for devising or determining what a metaphor “means” – a metaphor requires artistic taste and relies on that artistic taste for its success. Davidson states that the goal of his paper is
… concerned with what metaphors mean, and its thesis is that metaphors mean what the words, in their most literal interpretation mean, and nothing more. (Davidson, p. 29-30, On Metaphor, 1978)
This is the example question given to us for our exam prep – in that we are asked to explain Davidson’s justification for this claim.
Davidson admits that his thesis is contentious, it flies in the face of contemporary views, hence most of his argument is a critical look at others – he believes that once he clears away the confusion, we can see metaphor for the interesting phenomena that it is. The central mistake he sees is the idea that metaphor has an addition to its literal meaning or sense- that of another sense or meaning.
Davidson critiques the idea of metaphor being a vehicle for the conveying of ideas: this is why metaphors cannot be paraphrased – for when we paraphrase we attempt to phrase another way. This is not because metaphors say something “too novel” for paraphrase, but rather, according to Davidson there is nothing there to paraphrase - it is also not to deny that metaphors express a point only that that point cannot be brought out with further words. In the past Davidson states others who have agreed with him that metaphors do not contain additional cognitive content beyond the literal have attempted to show that metaphor is “confusing, merely emotive, unsuited to serious scientific or philosophical discourse(.)” (p. 31) but this is not his view for he considers metaphor to be a legitimate device in science, law, philosophy and literature – it is also affective in many forms of interaction such as praise, prayer, abuse, description and prescription according to Davidson. He states his disagreements with these theories pertains to the explanation of how metaphor works, primarily relying on the distinction between “what words mean and what they are used to do.” (p. 31)
I think metaphor belongs elusively to the domain of use. It is something brought off by the imaginative employment of words and sentences and depends entirely on the ordinary meanings of those words and hence on the ordinary meanings ot the sentences they comprise. (Davidson, p. 31, On Metaphor, 1978)
To be able to explain what metaphorical truth or meaning is, we first need to understand a metaphor – they make us seek out likeness between things. In the case of similarity Davidson explains that this is natural because it depends on “groupings established by the ordinary meaning of words” (p. 31) which he deems to be natural and unsurprising in that “familiar groupings of objects are tied to usual meanings and usual words.” (p. 32) . This familiar association leads us to conclude states Davidson that there must be some unusual or metaphorical meanings that can be used to explain the similarities metaphor suggests. What this means is that within metaphor words take on new, or extended meanings – but Davidson does not think this theory is complete, it evaporates all meaning from the metaphor. The example hes uses is of “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” we would seem to need to regard “face” with extended meaning – this would mean that “face” would apply to ordinary faces and waters in addition. The problem is if we say that in this context face applies to water then waters really do have faces and all sense of metaphor disintegrates – there wold be no difference between metaphor and the introduction of a new word into our vocabulary. To Davidson any account of metaphor must allow for the primary or original meanings to “remain active in their metaphorical setting.” (p. 32)
Another theory Davidson looks at is that perhaps metaphor creates an uncertainty in which words take on a new or an original meaning and the strength of the metaphor relies on this as we waver between the different meanings. This he rejects too, as the supposed ambiguity can be explained by the fact that in “ordinary contexts it means one thing and in the metaphorical context it means something else; but in the metaphorical context we do not necessarily hesitate over its meaning.” (p. 33) The only hesitation that does come is when we need to decide which metaphorical context we are going to accept, not by the fact that we are dealing with a metaphor itself. Davidson begs we be careful of the use of pun in this context too, for sometimes a word will take on two meanings, but it is not the same device as a metaphor: in metaphor whatever meanings we give to words they keep through all correct readings of it, there is no need to reiterate.
Another extension from the two meanings idea is that of a literal and figurative one in which Davidson asks us to imagine that the literal meaning is latent in the sense of something we are aware of while the figurative meaning is of direct interest – Davidson states there must be a rule connecting the two otherwise the theory lapses into ambiguity theory.
The rule, at least for many typical cases of metaphor, says that in its metaphorical role the word applies to everything that it applies to in its literal role, and then some. (Davidson, p. 34, On Metaphor, 1978)
Frege had a very similar rule, that Davidson states as follows:
… the meaning of the word in the special contexts makes the reference in those contexts to be identical with the meaning in ordinary contexts. (Davidson, p. 34, On Metaphor, 1978)
This might be enough for Part one right now.
Davidson, D. (1978). “What Metaphors Mean.” On Metaphor. Ed Sheldon Sacks. Chicago: Chicago U P. Pp. 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 .
Meaning And Interpretation Assignment Two – “Compare The Theories Of Meaning Of Three Philosophers Discussed In This Unit And Justify Why You Chose Those Three”. – Part 2.
Now that you have hopefully read part one, here is part two for your viewing pleasure:
Justification: why I chose each philosopher
Now that I have examined and compared these interesting philosophers’ theories of meaning it might be time for me to now elaborate on why I chose these specific three – I’ll take each in turn. As Husserl is what could be called the father of phenomenological study his thought provides an interesting base from which to discuss Heidegger (even as we see Heidegger doesn’t necessarily agree with Husserl, perhaps I could say – there would be no Heidegger without Husserl). I enjoyed his attempts to define different senses of the objective, in that of (1) the disinterested scientific observer and more complicated a task was (2) to ground objectivity in subjective experience. Husserl questions the a priori nature of the idealizing of mathematical structure over nature. The a priori is something ideal and general according to Husserl, it is the objectivity of this type of thought that he means to critique, as it is a structure within men, it is we who form it, and thus how can it be objective? Libica Uckink, 2009 states that Husserl gets around this problem by separating between the “acts of judgement” or put another way “the subjectivity of thinking”, and the “content of judgment”:
Our acts of judgement are events in the world; they are causally determined and subjective. We can be wrong. Yet their content is objective, guaranteed by the formal laws of independent thinking. (Ucnik, p. 59, Husserl’s Critique Of The Mathematization of Nature: From Philosophy of Arithmetic to The Crisis of European Sciences.” 2009)
Without this distinction, Ucnik states we would be reduced to relativism. To Husserl we are searching for an ultimate truth, in the sciences, in mathematics these “actual or still to be accomplished” branches of a single philosophy, which he calls “theoretical mankind”, and “philosophizing mankind”. One that overcomes finitude, limitedness and relativity that encompasses the world. To Husserl these questions and goals will guide us toward a new philosophy, which will cause new historical paths and lead to a new method of philosophical work, which one could say we see in his phenomenological project.
Heidegger is interesting to me because of his unique approach to the subject/object split – the discussion of Dasein in “Being and Time” (and subsequent commentaries on such) are, at least in my very small encounter with philosophical texts, one-of-a-kind. I wanted to learn, in my research preparation for this essay, as much as I could on Dasein, and what Heidegger was trying to convey in it (even if I couldn’t convey the full depth of such learning to this specific essay). His investigation into Dasein is a unique study of us, insofar as we come to terms with being, it is about the “being” of entities, and as Heidegger says “the meaning of being” which will pre-contextualize any further questions (say, those posed by Descartes and Kant). Dasein is what is possible, not an objectively present addition with the ability to do something, it is always what it can be, but how it is is its possibility. This questioning of the tradition, of the presuppositions of that tradition – to move from the ontic, that is being, to the ontological, that is, an account for, as Colebrook states “the very possibility of being of how things become present” (Colebrook, p. 130, The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia of Modern Criticism and Theory, 2002) must have been a difficult thing to do, and to publish, especially when we consider that he was bucking the phenomenological works of Husserl (his mentor) too.
Wittgenstein’s thought, like Heidegger ‘s is so strange, his views from the Tractatus to the Philosophical Investigations change so much that his views become a critique of himself – as we see in the ostensive teaching of words argument. Although that original critique in the text is structured as a critique of Augustine, his views can be seen as looking through his earlier work (such as a picture theory of meaning, as well as ostensive teaching), to show us how that earlier thought does not follow. He then turns this critique into a broader discussion of language, and language-games – showing the complexity of language, and indeed meaning, run deeper than simply “word, and “object” such as in the example of Excalibur. We can point to the sword “Excalibur”, which consists of parts, and say “Excalibur has a sharp blade”, this makes sense – even if those parts are broken up. However under an ostensive teaching of words, if the sword is broken into pieces and no longer exists as “Excalibur” – the sentence “Excalibur has a sharp blade” no longer has any meaning. Wittgenstein would argue, however that it still does make sense, hence “there must always be something corresponding to the words of which it consists.” Wittgenstein states that we must not confuse the meaning of the name with the bearer of the name – for example, the bearer of the name in our example is Excalibur, to say that Excalibur is destroyed implies the bearer is destroyed, but not the meaning of the word. Wittgenstein would say that meaning of a word can be defined as “is its use in language”, whereas the meaning of a name is “sometimes explained by pointing to its bearer.” (Wittgenstein, p. 91-2, Philosophical Investigations, 1963)
It was interesting to compare Wittgenstein’s theories of language, and how meaning is located within the various plays of language-games to someone like Heidegger who expresses a more experiential or indeed existential theory, in which it is our encounter with objects and how they unconceal to us, that allows for meaning.
In this essay I have first defined some of the terms I was going to discuss, starting with Husserl, in that his primary text discusses how we come to experience the world, through horizons, and the existential. Heidegger’s Dasein was also defined, in that I stated what Dasein meant to Heidegger, and how meaning and being relate to it. I finally defined the ostensive teaching of words so that I could spend the rest of the essay discussing his views in relation to, and the broader theme of meaning in language. I then compared these three philosophers’ theories of meaning, contrasting their similarities and differences, which allowed me to come to understand the influences they might have had on each, but also to see how they had their own ideas on tradition, and the common philosophical puzzles. Finally I then explored why I found these theorists interesting, -while also attempting to elaborate and clarify their theories in a way I was unable to in the comparison section – this clarification served to further elaborate on my understanding of these theories
Colebrook, Claire. “Martin Heidegger (1889-1976).” The Edinburgh Encyclopaedia of Modern Criticism and Theory. Ed. Julian Wolfreys. Edinburgh: Edinburgh U P, 2002, 130
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Trans Joan Stambaugh. Albany: SUNY Press. 1996, 134, 140
Husserl, Edmund. “Appendix V: Objectivity and the World of Experience.” Trans. David Carr. The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology: An Introduction to Phenomenological Philosophy. Evanston: Northwest University Press, 1970, 343, 344
Ucnik, Lubica. “Husserl’s Critique Of The Mathematization of Nature: From Philosophy of Arithmetic to The Crisis of European Sciences.” Far Eastern University Colloquium The Department of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Journal. Vol. 3. 2009, 59
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. “Selection. I” Trans, G. E. M. Anscombe. Philosophical Investigations. Second Ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963, 83, 84, 89, 91-2