• StreetlightX
    2.9k
    I was reading an essay of Raymond Geuss on Nietzsche recently, and there was one passage in particular that I found quite striking, relating to Nietzsche's relation to 'systematic thinking', and with it, God:

    "[Nietzsche] thought that love of systems was a human weakness and that the stronger one’s character, the less one would need and the less attracted one would be to a system. Nietzsche holds that if God were to exist, he would not, contrary to eighteenth-century views, be a master geometer with a universal system of the world. He would see each thing clearly as precisely that which it is and nothing else, and he would not need to use a concept to catch it and reduce it to something else he already knows. Humans are not gods, of course, and so they cannot attain this state, but that is a failing, not an advantage that they have, nor is it anything to be especially proud of or pleased with oneself for having produced." (Geuss, Changing the Subject)

    While I am no theist, I find something very beautiful about the idea of 'seeing each thing clearly as precisely that which it is', and I think it's entirely fair to say that there's a kind of divinity involved in any attempt to do just that. Incidentally, Adorno - who himself was very influenced by Nietzsche - also saw the vocation of philosophy as just this need to attain what we might call the 'singular universal', although he saw philosophy's attempt to do this as mediated through concepts, although understood in a different way than usual:

    "Philosophy wants literally to lose itself in everything that is heterogeneous to it, without bringing it back to ready-made categories. It would like to nestle in close to what it isn’t ... Its aim is undiminished kenosis, self-emptying. ... Philosophy would, strictly speaking, become infinite ... [once] it would find its content in the multiplicity of objects: ... It would really and truly surrender itself to them, would not use them as a mirror in which to discern only its own features, mistaking its reflection for concretion. It would be nothing other than full and unreduced experience in the medium of conceptual reflection." (Note the invocation of a kind of empirical and secularized 'kenosis': kenosis being the Christian 'emptying' of oneself so as to receive the will of God).

    And on concepts: "Philosophy has no choice but to operate with concepts: one can neither turn this into a virtue — the concept’s primacy — nor, conversely, critique this virtue and so issue a summary verdict on all philosophy. ... Philosophical reflection assures itself of the non-conceptual in the concept" (Adorno, Negative Dialectics). Anyway, just notions that have been jiving with me recently.
  • Erik
    567
    I like this too. I'm not "religious" either, but I do think the basic disposition outlined here shares certain features with genuine (imo this-worldly) "spirituality": humility, wonder, gratitude, openness, receptivity, etc.
  • T Clark
    3k
    "[Nietzsche] thought that love of systems was a human weakness and that the stronger one’s character, the less one would need and the less attracted one would be to a system. Nietzsche holds that if God were to exist, he would not, contrary to eighteenth-century views, be a master geometer with a universal system of the world. He would see each thing clearly as precisely that which it is and nothing else, and he would not need to use a concept to catch it and reduce it to something else he already knows."StreetlightX

    There's a name for this - it's called the Tao - and it's not seeing "each thing clearly," it's seeing everything, all at once, undivided.

    Is the referenced work the right one for an introduction to Geuss's philosophy?
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    How does one "see" anything? Seeing requires the reflection of light into your eyeball and your brain to process the information in it. How would a God "see" anything? What does "see" mean in this context?
  • Luke
    109
    Nietszche's view (of God's view) seems to be direct realism more or less; or the unmediated perception it presupposes. I don't wish to dampen the enthusiasm of the potentially interesting discussion that the OP goes on to talk about, about being in the moment or spirituality or whatever, but I don't see that that's what N means, based on the quote of the OP. Could the connection between N's view and the later stuff be clarified a little?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Yes, I think God is a helpful concept to have, even if you are not theistic. The classical God sees things in their entirety. Objects do not transcend the perspective of God as they do in finite creatures like humans. There is no mediation, no conceptual apparatus, no "filtering". God knows all because he sees all.
  • Ciceronianus the White
    727
    It seems desirable to see things just as they, and nothing else, but I'm uncertain what it means. More specifically, I'm uncertain what Nietzsche means by it, as he apparently associates it (when addressing humans) with possessing a "stronger" character and thereby being without need of a "system."

    An immanent God would be all things. I think a transcendent God is inconceivable, myself, and is in practice simply referred to as something which has attributes we associate with other things in the universe but claim isn't of the universe. Regardless, though, such a God would have no need of a system, I agree, but that is not to say his creation could not be described as a system. Why would it be "weak" to do so? Because it wouldn't be godlike?
  • frank
    1.4k
    Nietzsche thought that love of systems was a human weaknessStreetlightX

    Kierkegaard also opposed systems, jumping from one voice to the next among pseudonyms.
  • mcdoodle
    995
    There's a paper online by Eric Steinhart in which he discusses one of the implications of this view. For Nietzsche 'sameness' or 'identity' is only an appearance. It's a highly sophisticated appearance. Our human ability to postulate sameness / endurance enables us to conceptualize and count. But it is only an appearance, in a dialectic with 'difference'.
  • T Clark
    3k
    How does one "see" anything? Seeing requires the reflection of light into your eyeball and your brain to process the information in it. How would a God "see" anything? What does "see" mean in this context?Harry Hindu

    When I see "see" in this type of context, I usually think of experiencing something in all ways, not just visually. I think that's what is being discussed.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    There's a name for this - it's called the Tao - and it's not seeing "each thing clearly," it's seeing everything, all at once, undivided.T Clark

    To speak a little abstractly, one of the problems I have with 'seeing everything' is that 'everything' strikes me as too subsumptive, as though 'everything else' were just so much detritus ready to be subsumbed under one big cosmic principle. Too systemic, in other words. That said, I quite like the Tao, even though I find it problematic at points.

    Is the referenced work the right one for an introduction to Geuss's philosophy?T Clark

    Changing the Subject is comprised of little essays on philsophers in history. The little I've read is great, but Geuss's main work is in political philosophy. For a nice intro I'd recommend his Philosophy and Real Politics. I will also say that I think Geuss is the best philosophical writer in English that I know currently working. His essays are just marvels. Anything of his is worth reading.
  • T Clark
    3k
    To speak a little abstractly, one of the problems I have with 'seeing everything' is that 'everything' strikes me as too subsumptive, as though 'everything else' were just so much detritus ready to be subsumbed under one big cosmic principle. Too systemic, in other words. That said, I quite like the Tao, even though I find it problematic at points.StreetlightX

    I am not any kind of student of philosophy, but it seems to me that many western philosophers toy around with a kind of pre-conceptual perception. I always find it frustrating. To me, it seems like they are not willing or able to take the final step, a step that seems unavoidable to me.
  • apokrisis
    4.2k
    Our human ability to postulate sameness / endurance enables us to conceptualize and count. But it is only an appearance, in a dialectic with 'difference'.mcdoodle

    As usual, folk try to make it reductionistically a case of either/or when it stares them in the face that it is holistically both.

    We can see the same because we can see the different. And we can see the different because we can see the same. They are two complementary limits bounding our conceptions.

    So the OP is balderdash in striving for some superiority of "direct perception" over "systematising conception". That is not how things work either psychologically or metaphysically.

    The general and the particular are both forms of conception used to framed our acts of perception. We don't just zero in on differences, but differences we believe make a difference. So a lack of sameness, the existence of individuation, is a judgement that depends on a prevailing generalisation about what should mostly be the case, and hence what now stands out as a significant difference, not a difference we would merely ignore.
  • Srap Tasmaner
    2k
    We love the things we love for what they are.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k
    ...what we might call the 'singular universal'...StreetlightX

    That my friend, is the ideal.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    There's a paper online by Eric Steinhart in which he discusses one of the implications of this view. For Nietzsche 'sameness' or 'identity' is only an appearance. It's a highly sophisticated appearance. Our human ability to postulate sameness / endurance enables us to conceptualize and count. But it is only an appearance, in a dialectic with 'difference'.mcdoodle

    That was a cool paper. I'm all aboard the 'difference precedes identity' train so it's good to see a close textual analysis of the varying instances of this in Nietzsche's works.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    Yes, I think God is a helpful concept to have, even if you are not theistic. The classical God sees things in their entirety. Objects do not transcend the perspective of God as they do in finite creatures like humans. There is no mediation, no conceptual apparatus, no "filtering". God knows all because he sees all.darthbarracuda

    One interesting thing I find with the approach in the OP is that the viewpoint of the Nietzschean would-be God is subtractive, not additive: that is, it's not that such a God would see 'things in their entirety', over and above the 'finitude' of humans - I take this to be a rather classical theological trope - but that God would see things without the trappings of "a concept to catch it and reduce it to something else". There's a sense in which God here would see less than a human would, and not more. The 'finitude' of the human here consists of introducing more than what is warranted (in the form of a system).
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Nietzsche holds that if God were to exist, he would not, contrary to eighteenth-century views, be a master geometer with a universal system of the world. He would see each thing clearly as precisely that which it is and nothing else, and he would not need to use a concept to catch it and reduce it to something else he already knows. Humans are not gods, of course, and so they cannot attain this state, but that is a failing, not an advantage that they have, nor is it anything to be especially proud of or pleased with oneself for having produced."StreetlightX

    In Buddhist philosophy, 'seeing things as they are', is one of the attributes of the Buddha.

    Actually, there is a reference very familiar to the beat generation, in Alduous Huxley's Doors of Perception, about this notion of 'seeing things as they truly are', as if for the first time, whilst under mescaline:

    'Istigkeit' --wasn't that the word Meister Eckhart liked to use? "Is-ness." The Being of Platonic philosophy-- except that Plato seems to have made the enormous, the grotesque mistake of separating Being from becoming and identifying it with the mathematical abstraction of the Idea. He could never, poor fellow, have seen a bunch of flowers shining with their own inner light and all but quivering under the pressure of the significance with which they were charged; could never have perceived that what rose and iris and carnation so intensely signified was nothing more, and nothing less, than what they were--a transience that was yet eternal life, a perpetual perishing that was at the same time pure Being, a bundle of minute, unique particulars in which, by some unspeakable and yet self-evident paradox, was to be seen the divine source of all existence.

    I continued to look at the flowers, and in their living light I seemed to detect the qualitative equivalent of breathing--but of a breathing without returns to a starting point, with no recurrent ebbs but only a repeated flow from beauty to heightened beauty, from deeper to ever deeper meaning. Words like "grace" and "transfiguration" came to my mind, and this, of course, was what, among other things, they stood for. My eyes traveled from the rose to the carnation, and from that feathery incandescence to the smooth scrolls of sentient amethyst which were the iris. The Beatific Vision, Sat Chit Ananda, Being-Awareness-Bliss - for the first time I understood, not on the verbal level, not by inchoate hints or at a distance, but precisely and completely what those prodigious syllables referred to. And then I remembered a passage I had read in one of D.T. Suzuki's essays. "What is the Dharma-Body of the Buddha?" ('"the Dharma-Body of the Buddha" is another way of saying Mind, Suchness, the Void, the Godhead.) The question is asked in a Zen monastery by an earnest and bewildered novice. And with the prompt irrelevance of one of the Marx Brothers, the Master answers, "The hedge at the bottom of the garden." "And the man who realizes this truth," the novice dubiously inquires, '"what, may I ask, is he?" Groucho gives him a whack over the shoulders with his staff and answers, "A golden-haired lion."

    It had been, when I read it, only a vaguely pregnant piece of nonsense. Now it was all as clear as day, as evident as Euclid. Of course the Dharma-Body of the Buddha was the hedge at the bottom of the garden. At the same time, and no less obviously, it was these flowers, it was anything that I - or rather the blessed Not-I, released for a moment from my throttling embrace - cared to look at.

    Note there's nothing here about 'seeing things through concepts', which is similarly absent from anything in Buddhist philosophy. But I would like to think there is some resonance, regardless.
  • StreetlightX
    2.9k
    Nietzsche the Buddhist then :halo:
  • Harry Hindu
    1.3k
    When I see "see" in this type of context, I usually think of experiencing something in all ways, not just visually. I think that's what is being discussed.T Clark

    You don't think that it is interesting that we use the word "see" in such a context considering that we are visual creatures that receive most of the information about the world via light and therefore tend to think that the world is the way that it appears to our eyes?

    What are ALL the ways that something can be experienced?
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    At that moment, quite possibly.
  • wellwisher
    163


    There is more than one way to see clearly. Say you were in the forest that is dense with trees. You can see the close things clearly, but it will be hard to see the forest because of the trees. One will need assumptions to extrapolate the nature of the forest, based on the clearly seen local flora.

    Say instead you were up on a high ridge, overlooking the same forest. Now you can clearly see the transitions in the entire forest in terms of basic flora, streams, and hills. However, you are too far away to see any particular tree. Again you may will need use assumptions to extrapolate the big picture down to the smaller picture.

    Science and most forms of knowledge are specialized, meaning they can see things clearly, that are close, but not far away. The biologists may not know what the physicists is doing nor the physicists know what the chemists is doing with the same clarity. Specialization does not allow the view on the ridge. From the ridge, one can see how all these isolated specialties, are part of a single larger clarity; forest.

    The omniscience nature of the concept of God, allows him to zoom in or zoom out to view clarity from any distance. There is no need to extrapolate with concepts. Science and human knowledge, by being specialized, can't see very far beyond its own area of specialty. However, each zone of specialty attempts to extrapolate beyond itself, where it has no clear vision.
  • wellwisher
    163
    Here is an analysis I developed a few years back to show the impact of specialization clarity, on large scale clarity.

    Picture a large puzzle the size of wall. This is symbolic of all of knowledge. What I am going to do is use a telephoto lens and zoom into the puzzle, so all I can see is one puzzle piece. This is specialization. From this close, we can examine that one piece of the puzzle and see many tiny details. Among the details, we see what appears to be the eye of a young women. There is strained anguish in her eye. We know that much with certainty, but we don't have enough data to know what the entire puzzle is about. We can only guess.

    Next, we zoom out so more pieces of the puzzle appear. We learn the ways of other adjacent specialty to gain their clarity of data. Now we can see the whole young female, and she appears to be dressed in a worn workout suit. Based on the old and new details, we extrapolate and infer that the puzzle is about a poor young woman, struggling in her humble surroundings. This is reasonable.

    Next, we zoom out even more and now we see what appears to be a gymnasium. Based on this larger picture, we decide we need to change our extrapolation, Now, the puzzle is about a young woman who is working out in the gym. Now it is not clear if she is poor or not. But she seems to be having a hard time maybe due to being out of shape.

    We zoom out even further to add more details, from more distant areas of specialty, and notice she is not alone, but there are other females in various stags of stretching and movement. Now they all appear to be dancers. Based on this even wider picture, we again need to change the extrapolation. The puzzle is now about a bunch of women trying out for a small local dance company. Our original female is still struggling. That did not change.

    We zoom out even further, by integrating the details of the most distant specialities and notice this is not just a gym, but it is the stage used by the NYC ballet. We also see the coach is directing his attention to the young female we first noticed. She is the prima ballerina, who is straining to be perfect.

    Specialization does not extrapolate reliably to the large picture. You need to be more of a generalists who is able to zoom out and take it a wider range of clarity, at the same time. From the big picture, the specialty details, can take on new meaning.
  • Pattern-chaser
    371
    "[Nietzsche] thought that love of systems was a human weakness and that the stronger one’s character, the less one would need and the less attracted one would be to a system. Nietzsche holds that if God were to exist, he would not, contrary to eighteenth-century views, be a master geometer with a universal system of the world. He would see each thing clearly as precisely that which it is and nothing else, and he would not need to use a concept to catch it and reduce it to something else he already knows. Humans are not gods, of course, and so they cannot attain this state, but that is a failing, not an advantage that they have, nor is it anything to be especially proud of or pleased with oneself for having produced." (Geuss, Changing the Subject)

    While I am no theist, I find something very beautiful about the idea of 'seeing each thing clearly as precisely that which it is', and I think it's entirely fair to say that there's a kind of divinity involved in any attempt to do just that.
    StreetlightX

    Yes, seeing 'that which is', exactly as it is, is Objectivity, I think. It is something only God can or could do. [Unless anyone knows of another being, real or imaginary, capable of perceiving 'that which is'?] The only useful part of this - and it really is useful - is that it describes clearly a shortcoming of human beings, and the way we can perceive the world. It's too easy and too tempting to pretend that we can see or understand more than we really can. Reminders such as this keep us grounded. :up: :smile:
  • Pattern-chaser
    371
    Specialization does not extrapolate reliably to the large picture. You need to be more of a generalists who is able to zoom out and take it a wider range of clarity, at the same time. From the big picture, the specialty details, can take on new meaning.wellwisher

    Although you use terms like specialisation and generalisation, aren't you just discussing abstraction here? (I mean "abstraction" in the sense that a software designer would use it.)
  • T Clark
    3k
    So the OP is balderdash in striving for some superiority of "direct perception" over "systematising conception". That is not how things work either psychologically or metaphysically.

    The general and the particular are both forms of conception used to framed our acts of perception. We don't just zero in on differences, but differences we believe make a difference. So a lack of sameness, the existence of individuation, is a judgement that depends on a prevailing generalisation about what should mostly be the case, and hence what now stands out as a significant difference, not a difference we would merely ignore.
    apokrisis

    I'm not sure to what extent humans can directly perceive the world. That certainly seems to be the goal of some philosophies. Be that as it may, it doesn't change the fact that there is a world out there that isn't systematized, where humans have not made distinctions. As you say, what matters to us in perception is differences we believe make a difference. That's a human thing, a statement of value. It doesn't say anything about the underlying nature of reality. Believing human distinctions have meaning beyond humans is not justified.

    I'm not sure if that disagrees with you or not.
  • T Clark
    3k
    You don't think that it is interesting that we use the word "see" in such a context considering that we are visual creatures that receive most of the information about the world via light and therefore tend to think that the world is the way that it appears to our eyes?Harry Hindu

    I think you're right - humans are visual. That's probably why we say "see." "See" is often used as a synonym for "understand." I don't see why you can't see that.

    What are ALL the ways that something can be experienced?Harry Hindu

    Hearing, touch, smell, taste. Any way that humans get signals from the outside world. But that input, just like the world itself, would be undifferentiated.
  • T Clark
    3k
    The omniscience nature of the concept of God, allows him to zoom in or zoom out to view clarity from any distance. There is no need to extrapolate with concepts. Science and human knowledge, by being specialized, can't see very far beyond its own area of specialty. However, each zone of specialty attempts to extrapolate beyond itself, where it has no clear vision.wellwisher

    I like the way you've formulated this discussion in this and the following posts, but what you are doing is still making distinctions, applying systems. You're still depending on conceptualization at each level.
  • T Clark
    3k
    Yes, seeing 'that which is', exactly as it is, is Objectivity, I think. It is something only God can or could do.Pattern-chaser

    I don't think it's objectivity in the way we usually use the word. Objectivity means comparing a statement to "reality." Reality and everything in it are parts of a system, a conceptualization. Mapping our words onto reality is conceptualization.
  • schopenhauer1
    2.1k

    Isn't this just "thing-in-itself"?
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