Although the concept of “selfish gene” has been all but scientifically abandoned, the basic concept of “survival” underlying it remains firmly entrenched in naturalistic narratives. This is a problem for this simple reason: it blocks us from increasing our understanding of (our) nature.
Part of the myth of survival is the myth that it is an inescapable consequence of going for a naturalistic narrative in the first place. That it is not is something Deleuze tells us based on a thorough reading of Hume (in his Empiricism and Subjectivity) where he says: “And, above all, Hume centers his critique on the theory of egoism.” The myth of survival is, of course, also the myth that, when push literally comes to shove, we choose based on self-interest. Hume was not Hobbes.
The other part of the myth of survival is that we need a unifying concept of life to which all else can be reduced. Survival seems to be the only concept that survives the struggle for narrating nature and culture alike. But, as Deleuze says, this falsifies both as: “Nature and culture form a complex. Hume refuses theories that reduce everything to nature (..) just like those reducing everything to nurture. The first, in forgetting culture, give a false impression of nature; the others, in forgetting nature, deform culture.”
The question then is: do we need the concept of survival at all? And if we do, what needs to be put alongside it such that we get a naturalism doing justice to all the facts (included those related to notions like solidarity, friendship, love, and self-sacrifice)?
There are many who focus on life’s precariousness or its intrinsic vulnerability for good reason. They want to protect us from the many threats that we face. It is, however, quite a precarious thing to highlight our intrinsic vulnerability to extrinsic threats. Indeed, as soon as we feel vulnerable we feel alone. And when we feel alone we get our defenses up to the extent we do not want to let anyone in. This much is clear from our reaction to the various immigration crises around the world. Focusing on a first person’s precariousness creates the third person’s threat; me and him, us and them.
What the feeling of precariousness does is create the feeling of a Hobbesian dog-eat-dog world. We may then have good intentions, even be convinced with Rousseau that man or nature unspoiled is intrinsically good, but the result is the same: the struggle to retrieve a long lost freedom is our essence. As Derrida deconstructed it, the arrow points backward instead of forward. And that’s not good because whatever way you look at it, we will live our lives predominantly in the future.
The question is: ‘Can we do better?’. My answer is: ‘Yes, we can!’ Here’s why.
Posted in myself
Tagged climate, competition, consolation, Derrida, Hobbes, love, personal, Rousseau, time, Un PoCo PoMo, Wittgenstein
It’s hard to write an autistic history of philosophy. History is such a conventional concept. I don’t know whether I really get it. Maybe history is the product of philosophy instead of it being the other way around. If so, good riddance to the Kantian idea philosophy has to make progress just like science does. Science only makes progress in the room created by philosophy in the first place. There you have it: an autistic thought that makes a problem of its own starting point. Like a dog chasing its tail I have already condemned myself to a project that can have neither start nor end. A project that as well could have been called an autistic philosophy of history.
It’s hard to write an autistic philosophy of history. Philosophy, according to Descartes, is about clear and distinct ideas, but whether there can be such a thing is a matter of fierce debate. Maybe ideas are just a product of history instead of universal and timeless things to be discovered. I don’t know whether I really get that either. It would seem there are as many ideas as there are histories and that surely makes ideas too shady to be of any use at all. For instance, why not say that the tail is chasing the dog? Or indeed that the kidney of the dog likes to swirl. This project could then as well be relabeled as ‘history of autistic philosophy’ being apparently about brains, like mine, that are prone to swirl.
You might fear this may go on endlessly. This presumably is why some philosophers, like Hacking, deny any reality to autism. And one can also obviously deny that, if there’s such a thing, I am it; because whatever the status of the concept autism, it was not meant for a person attempting to articulate why he fails to be able to articulate his idea in a clear and distinct way. So at this point I can only ask for your trust in charitably trying to interpret, with a mind open to the possibility of fusing our horizons, what I’m trying to convey. This betrays Davidson and Gadamer, respectively, as my historical philosophical inspirations – and my conviction that any true philosophy should be a philosophy of trust.
The question for me then becomes why so much philosophy is preoccupied with fear. As an autistic I know a thing or two about fear. And so I have stumbled on my method after all: meticulously collect the dichotomies produced by philosophy and inspect how they’re the truly productive element of history. Making problems to enable new solutions, if you will. As an exercise I start with trust and fear (or certainty and uncertainty for those who prefer analytical parlance) as they are items of a specific phenomenological relevance in my lived experience as an – if you allow me – autistic person.
Religion is not getting a lot of slack nowadays. Maybe in reading those who were first to be overtly critical of religion we can learn exactly what occasioned the onslaught. This is an exercise in that, FWIW.
In tracing back the questions raised in the early modern period we may hope to trace back the current secular attitude to religion. To make a start with this analysis, I focus on 2 short texts by Baruch Spinoza, The Metaphysical Moralist (1), and David Hume, On Superstition and Enthusiasm (2), where they explicitly treat of the threats inherent to religions when the imagination goes unchecked by rationality. My analysis tries to bring to light that there is a crucial difference in their treatment: whilst Spinoza sees linear progress in using reason to eliminate ‘uncalled for’ imagination, Hume puts reason as a mediator between two extreme uses of imagination (one leading to docile superstition – the other to fanatic enthusiasm). In my view there is something of fanatic enthusiasm to Spinoza’s view on rationality which, in denying a constructive impetus in imagination, denies something more basic to the human condition than the arbitrary conventions of specific religions. Both Hume and Spinoza utter profanities against religion, but only Spinoza utterly desacralized the human condition. Continue reading
‘My dear parents,’ said the sister banging her hand on the table by way of an introduction, ‘things cannot go on any longer in this way. Maybe if you don’t understand that, well, I do. I will not utter my brother’s name in front of this monster, and thus I say only that we must try to get rid of it. We have tried what is humanly possible to take care of it and to be patient. I believe that no one can criticize us in the slightest.’, F. Kafka, The Metamorphosis.
Only when you’re heard does it make sense to say something.
Job only wants one thing: to be heard. His friends listen to him. They do not hear what he is saying. Gregor wanted one thing: that his sister might develop herself. She does and so stops listening to him.
It’s all right. Both get what they want in the end. Not justice or wisdom or payback for the observation of their duties. They get want they want. They’re heard. Job’s tabernacle will be blessed and Gregor’s family fairs well as well.
You can read both as criticism. That is what happens if you try to hear what is being said. Still, think a little harder when you are trying to hear something. Or a little less. Because, you know, literally both stories end on the up and up. Gregor and Job get what they want, they literally and exactly get what they want.
If you think they don’t then you didn’t hear what they said. Maybe because you were too busy still listening to what you want for them. Probably because you only hear what you want.
Try again (warning: full-on atheism ahead): Continue reading
Posted in JoB, Kafka
Tagged atheism, bible, cultural optimism, Hobbes, JoB, Kafka, Kierkegaard, learning, phoetry, phroesy, universals
Four years ago I wrote a piece titled “Mr. Presessor“. In it I predicted the future. I got it all wrong. Instead of a “rational” political turn – inspired by Obama’s second win – we got the present ’emotional’ turn culminating in Trump’s first win. Mr. Presessor morphed in Mr. Presdator. Maybe Hobbes was right after all: we are wolves in search for a leader for our pack. Our fate is to howl – so loud nobody dares to cross our borders. The only place for reason is to power our pissing contests with the inevitable other packs of wolves.
So, is it a matter of what happened in the East? Or is it a matter of what failed to happen in the West? Let’s be hip and cool and pull out that finger to do some good old pointing.
The chance of there being an unconscious typo in the title is about as big as that of Freud not having slipped up. If it appears I am talking in riddles that is only because you feel that there is something to decipher. One thing is certain: philosophers are weird. So am I. Even if that doesn’t establish anything as far as me being a philosopher, you got my drift.
Let us wonder a while about the weirdness of philosophers. They have come up with waves and particles, with particulars and universals. Then they calculated and associated to come to one invariable conclusion: neither the one nor the other, or both at the same time but in an at most a superficial manner. Philosophers say they despair about this. That is merely a mask they wear to ensure somebody feeds them. If they’re particularly power hungry they will even exclaim they’ve solved it. Solutions sell, this much they know of real life. It’s one of those regularities that have neither rhyme nor reason.
Without weirdness we would discuss in caves instead of about waves. What is wrong with that? Caves are no place for philosophers. So what’s up with them?
Posted in Carnap
Tagged antinomies, Bergson, Cantor, cultural optimism, Davidson, Deleuze, Gadamer, Gödel, Grice, Hegel, Heidegger, Heisenberg, Hobbes, Kant, language as progress, Nietzsche, Philosophy, Rousseau, tones, Wittgenstein