Tag Archives: modern views

The Direction of the Horizon

Whether there is or is not an absolute thought and an absolute evaluation in each practical problem, my own opinions, which remain capable of error no matter how rigorously I examine them, are still my only equipment for judging. It remains just as hard to reach agreement with myself and with others, and for all my belief that it is in principle always attainable, I have no other reason to affirm this principle than my experience of certain concordances, so that in the end whatever solidity there is in my belief in the absolute is nothing but my experience of agreement with myself and others. Recourse to an absolute foundation-when it is not useless-destroys the very thing it is supposed to support. As a matter of fact, if I believe that I can rejoin the absolute principle of all thought and all evaluation on the basis of evidence, then I have the right to withdraw my judgments from the control of others on the condition that I have my consciousness for myself; my judgments take on a sacred character; in particular-in the realm of the practical-I have at my disposal a plan of escape in which my actions become transfigured: the suffering I create turns into happiness, ruse becomes reason, and I piously cause my adversaries to perish.

Thus, when I place the ground of truth or morality outside ongoing experience, either I continue to hold to the probabilities it offers me (merely devalued by the ideal of absolute knowledge), or I disguise these probabilities as absolute certainties-and then I am letting go of the verifiable for the sake of truth, which is to say I drop the p to catch its shadow. I waver between uncertainty and presumptuousness without ever finding the precise point of human resolution. If, on the other hand, I have understood that truth and value can be for us nothing but the result of the verifications or evaluations which we make in contact with the world, before other people and in given situations of knowledge and action, that even these notions lose al meaning outside of human perspectives, then the world recovers its texture, the particular acts of verification and evaluation through which I grasp a dispersed experience resume their decisive importance, and knowledge and action, true and false, good and evil have something unquestionable about them precisely because I do not claim to find in them al>solute evidence. Metaphysical and moral consciousness dies upon contact with the absolute because, beyond the dull world of habitual or dormant consciousness, this consciousness is itself the living connection between myself and me and myself and others. Maurice Merleau-Ponty; Sense & Nonsense (p95)

One of my projects over the next few weeks is to try to wrap up a half year’s worth of wandering and exploration. Ironically, this will allow me to pick up some dangling threads. The main subjects I’ve been kicking around ‘inside’ are right now in an odd flux. After all, these subjects, folk psychology, metaphysical foundationalism, (what I term) supranatural solipsism, and, the social (constructionist) organization of heirophanies*, seem to me mixed up in something together I need to compress, wrap up and send away.

There’s a class of schema I have in mind’s eye, of vertical forms. My regard so depicted–or soon to be–is about verticality.

Noting this, in this post is the move into the, or maybe toward, the horizontal form. I’ve got the model set, but it will need to come at the end. Why? Because nothing I’ve been investigating has converted me away from the primariness of, (if you will,) the creative horizon.

*Breakthroughs into consciousness of the archetype of the Self; versioning here Eliade in terms of Analytic Psychology.

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Hillis Plot

Phylogenic Plot of the ‘tree of speciation’ David Hillis*, University of Texas.

Close up via interactive version; Colorado.edu.

My impression? A humbling depiction.

* Alfred W. Roark Centennial Professor, Section of Integrative Biology, University of Texas
“The study of evolution of biotic diversity is the focus of my research. Most of my research concerns use of molecular genetic techniques to study relationships among populations, species, and higher taxa. Some of my general areas of interest are phylogenetic relationships, speciation patterns and mechanisms, molecular evolution (including the use of experimental systems), and the consequences of hybridization and hybrid zones. Although I am interested in and work on all organisms, most of my research involves amphibians, reptiles, fishes, molluscs, and viruses.”


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I had reason to recently provide a colleague with a primer on Social Constructionism. Diving into a stack of papers and rooting through the web, it brought back memories. Good ones too: I’m not a doctrinaire anything let alone a social constructionist, yet it is, viewed philosophically, a very respectable meta-methodology in my book, and, besides, its thinkers often display an ingratiating amount of chutzpah. The gloss categorization of social constructionism is well-known: it’s the distinctively American chapter of post-modernism.

For me, the image of a hovercraft springs up. Social constructionists zip around held above the surface by a column of downrushing air.

I’m of two minds when I try to locate social constructionism somewhere in my own personal catalogue of prejudices. From one cherished perspective, I favor the interplay of process, the phenomenographic, eros/logos, and intersubjectivity, which any mediation of knowledge requires. yes, it’s a mash-up for me!

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Yeah, What Bateson said.

From a Batesonian perspective, it is the way we classify, make distinctions, and make sense of things that is fundamental. If it is the distinctions we ourselves make that are causes, then it is how we process information and map the territory that explains. Within this framework, any explanation or scientific activity becomes fundamentally recursive. It follows that if the world of mental process is recursive, then our descriptions of it should also be recursive and address the multiple layers of mutual influence in any relationship. Once it is understood that recursiveness is fundamental to the development of a science of human interacting systems, “the focus of explanation shifts from the world of matter to the world of form” (Bochner, 1981, p. 74). There are always different orders of recursion and different ways of slicing things up. Every picture can tell a multiplicity of stories.

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We shall examine whether the perennial anxiety that accompanies imperial hegemony in the New World might be a compensatory gesture for the originary Ishmaelite fate of castoffs relentlessly clamoring for re-integration into the mainline genealogical history as the chosen people. In the insistent regularity with which those serviceable simplicities of self-identity reify, essentialize, and globalize cultural pluralities into manageable objects of expropriation, appropriation, capital, and hegemony, might there be some explanation for the current discursive/ideological New World Order as “One World,” with a shrill univocity steeped in absolutism and terror? Could this be a historic correlative of America’s perennial monadic syndrome? Could the current terror-inflected summons that stridently disallows any critique, deflection, difference, deviation, or divergence from the manic chase of other, equally aberrant jihadic monisms represent yet another episode in the anxious history of predictably recurrent exceptional events? Having imploded into the mirror reflection of its pursued object, U. S. American subject agency now appears to be living, yet again, as collective cultural self-reduction. In doing so, might it be enacting, once more, its regular oscillation between the primal errand of its Ishmaelite self-ostracism from the (Old) World, on the one hand, and the Ahab-like obsession of a furious quest as a rage for empire and a one-world new order, on the other?

Course description. Djelal Kadir
Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Comparative Literature, Penn. State Univ.
Absolute America

…just about nails it.

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