• sign
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    Hi, everyone. This is just a theme that fascinates me lately. It may be a misreading of Hegel, but it's obviously inspired by one of his famous lines. To the degree that the OP calls the shots, I invite every kind of friendly discussion of these themes and any kind of tangential splintering. Basically let's have fun.
    ***

    What does the philosopher as philosopher assume? That the essence of the real can be grasped in concepts. In other words, the real is rational. This is the positive commitment, the faith. But the philosopher is also critical. What, therefore, is real for the philosopher? Only that which is established through a rational discourse. So (only) the rational is real.

    Where does the idealism come in? It does not come in as the 'mental' of some isolated subject. It comes in as language, which is essentially objective. I don't choose what the signs mean, and as a philosopher my goal is to have my signs recognized by others as being objective, as revealing the world-in-common. So the 'idealism' is already there in the assumption that reality is intelligible, puttable-into-language in its essence or structure. Consider also that 'private language' is an oxymoron. Thinking of idealism in terms of private mentality might be exactly the wrong way to go, especially if the lonely subject is largely a product of language and its substance/value is social-linguistic.

    Where does the humanism come in? This comes with the eros of philosophy, its desire to be rational, to 'incarnate' rationality. What exists is rational and what is worthy of recognition in an individual is his rationality, that which makes him (from this perspective) truly human. Since philosophy subjects the gods and prophets to the test of their rationality, it put its own human reason above the gods. The rational community is its own ground, its own 'god' as 'we the rational.' This is one way to draw the line between philosophy and theology, but we can just as easily describe humanism as a shade of theology that stresses the incarnation. Hegel is a theologian. Even Heidegger called himself a theologian. The word's meaning depends on context. The point here is a certain continuity from Christianity to philosophy as humanism. Derrida jokes in 'The Ends of Man' that maybe we've never left the church. Can philosophy ever leave the church? Should it even want to? Has it ever wanted anything else?
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    I think the key term to understand in what Hegel is talking of is the Aristotelian/Platonic idea of 'intelligibility'. It is that which actually prevents it from being simply 'a faith' but rather what Aristotle et al would have regarded as a matter of science.

    (However it needs to be acknowledged that ancient conception of 'science' was worlds apart from the modern. As is well-known, Aristotelian physics is what moderns would describe as anthropomorphic, in that objects are possessed of aims and purposes, and so on. And also much of Aristotle's physics was definitively overthrown by Galileo. So that has to be borne in mind.)

    But all of that said, the original notion of 'intelligibility' was derived from Platonist epistemology, whereby the mind knows intelligible objects in a manner different from the knowledge of sensory objects. Rational knowledge was in that sense apodictic and universal, whereas sensory knowledge was grouped with opinion and belief. This is how knowledge of the mathematical structure underlying the phenomenal world became esteemed in Western culture. You still see it in mathematical physics, with the caveat that the break between the pre-modern and modern conception of science completely changed the notion of what 'intelligibility' amounted to. This is because the Galilean conception revolved completely around what was measurable and observable, whereas by comparison the ancient conception was almost poetic in a sense. And that was reflected in the imaginative vision medieval cosmology, where the 'superlunary' represented the changeless world of ideal forms - something very close to heaven, in fact. Whereas, now we've been out there, and it's mostly stars, gas, rocks and empty space.

    But Hegel was an heir to the rationalist tradition. So when he talks of the 'rationality of the real', I suspect it's derived from that traditional understanding of the 'intelligible nature of the world' more so than anything that modern mathematical science would countenance. I notice that in Russell's comments on Hegel in HWP, he says that his idea of 'the Absolute contemplating itself' is fundamentally Aristotelian in nature.

    (Have a read of this very brief passage, Augustine on Intelligible Objects, which I think conveys well the traditional/Platonic notion of 'intelligibility' which is mainly lost to the modern tradition.)
  • BrianW
    871
    This is as heavy a topic as I've seen.

    I've often thought about reality in terms of rationale or intelligence. From my observations, the more intelligent (possibly rational) a subject is made out to be, the closer it approximates to reality. This is especially seen in the evolution of the theories of the atom and is seen in its infancy in the theory of dark matter and energy.

    To give it my own special twist of irony, there are branches of spiritualism which define spirit as the intelligent principle of life.

    We can't deny the part intelligence plays in our understanding of reality and we can't deny that we 'know' more from our observations of the many aspects of reality than what is directly derived from sensory-inputs. And while reality is the undeniable part of what we are, it is still the most elusive part of what we know.

    So, what determines whether we walk the rational path?
  • sign
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    I think the key term to understand in what Hegel is talking of is the Aristotelian/Platonic idea of 'intelligibility'.Wayfarer

    I very much agree.

    The meaning or sense of which we speak is none other than the essential or the universal, the substantial in an object, which is the object concretely thought. Herein we always have a double aspect, an exterior and an interior, an external appearance which is intuitively perceptible and a meaning which, precisely, is thought. Now, because the object with which we are concerned is thought, there is here no double aspect; it is thought itself which does the meaning. Here the object is the universal; so we cannot ask about a meaning which is separate or separable from the object. The only meaning or determination which the history of philosophy has, then, is thought itself. Herein thought is the innermost, the highest, and one cannot, therefore, settle on a thought about it. — Hegel

    ut all of that said, the original notion of 'intelligibility' was derived from Platonist epistemology, whereby the mind knows intelligible objects in a manner different from the knowledge of sensory objects. Rational knowledge was in that sense apodictic and universal, whereas sensory knowledge was grouped with opinion and belief. This is how knowledge of the mathematical structure underlying the phenomenal world became esteemed in Western culture.Wayfarer

    Indeed. The issue not touched on here is the gap between mathematical and non-mathematical concepts. Clearly mathematical concepts are relatively stable. They seem to be about as eternal as anyone could ask them to be. It's the same with logic. But away from math we enter the wilderness of metaphor and context. This is where Wittgenstein and Derrida shine. Clearly there is meaning, but perhaps most meaning is just not cleanly separable from context and it's vehicle. This is 'god' (as pure meaning) becoming entangled in the world of action and ambiguity. We still have idealism, but we have an idealism that opens itself to contamination or rather confesses/discovers its contamination.

    But Hegel was an heir to the rationalist tradition. So when he talks of the 'rationality of the real', I suspect it's derived from that traditional understanding of the 'intelligible nature of the world' more so than anything that modern mathematical science would countenance.Wayfarer

    Indeed, and that's because science is not interested in (does not have as its project) looking into its own ground. I love philosophy, but one can always take an anti-philosophical pragmatist position and just identify the rational with the tools that work. I have played with this idea myself, but there's a certain emptiness to it. As it enlarges into a theory of theory, it starts to repeat something like Hegel's dialectic of breakdown and repair. We only question the tool that works against us and stop questioning as soon as we get it working again. But we get back to Hume's perception of our blind faith in induction.
  • sign
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    (Have a read of this very brief passage, Augustine on Intelligible Objects, which I think conveys well the traditional/Platonic notion of 'intelligibility' which is mainly lost to the modern tradition.)Wayfarer

    I did look at it. It reminds me of Husserl, who of course is rekindling old insights. We definitely seem to agree on these objects. For me the tricky part is in the genesis of concepts and how they work together. We have intelligible sentences. We create new meanings of amazing complexity. How stable are these meanings? They are stable enough for human purposes, but I think a certain ambiguity haunts all meaning.
  • sign
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    This is as heavy a topic as I've seen.BrianW

    Hopefully in a fun way! But yeah it does seem to strike right at the heart of philosophy --a description of its basic project or grasp of itself in relation to the world.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    Well, we're coming at it from slightly different perspectives. My approach has generally been a 'where did we go wrong?' type of approach. What I mean by that is, I see the adoption of scientific or philosophical materialism as a kind of catastrophe that befell the Western cultural tradition. It's like the barbarians took over the university, or the parasite replaced the host. OK I'm exaggerating of course. But remember Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which was all about 'a metaphysics of quality'. What is actually, truly, really, good? - not just as a matter of social custom or individual opinion but intrinsically valuable. Recall that the customary attitude of methodological naturalism is that whatever is good, must be either utilitarian, or a social construct (our resident pragmatist will endorse that.) But what if there's a real good, the knowledge of which is inherently liberating?

    I think the problem is that this is too near 'religion' for most people. They instinctively will shy away. And that's a cultural phenomenon too, because of the way that the Platonist understanding was assimilated into Christian theology. A major part of Enlightenment philosophy was rejecting Christian scholasticism. And to be fair, scholastic philosophy in practice was a suffocating dogma for the most part. But the main remaining sources of that kind of generally Platonist and Aristotelian understanding, are the neo-thomists.

    So partially through them, I have re-discovered something which I think is really vital to Western culture. It is that Platonist sense of the mathematical regularity and intelligibility of the Universe. The problem is, that mathematical physics has now altogether lost any connection whatever with the humanist side of that tradition, to refer to your other theme. Humans are, after all, an evolutionary fluke, the children of chance and necessity, accidental tourists. As long as this attitude persists, confusion will only ever flourish. Something has gone wrong.
  • sign
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    From my observations, the more intelligent (possibly rational) a subject is made out to be, the closer it approximates to reality. This is especially seen in the evolution of the theories of the atom and is seen in its infancy in the theory of dark matter and energy.BrianW

    Exactly. And note that we have a movement from less to more rationality. We have increased complexity in our determination of reality.

    To give it my own specially twist of irony, there are branches of spiritualism which define spirit as the intelligent principle of life.BrianW

    Yeah, and I think there is some truth in that. Hegel, right or wrong, thought of reality as a kind of seed that grows into a self-knowing tree. The dialectic was going somewhere specific. One thought or position quietly determined the next position. But this only becomes visible as thought becomes aware of or determine its own nature. Spirit has to become aware of itself as the process of becoming aware of it. This is all quite seductive to me. But I can't say that I just simply believe all of it. I think much of it is indeed just a description of what is going on. But does the seed have a fixed future? I'm not so sure about that.

    We can't deny the part intelligence plays in our understanding of reality and we can't deny that we 'know' more from our observations of the many aspects of reality than what is directly derived from sensory-inputs.BrianW

    Indeed. Language is 'there,' like the world. To deny it is to employ it. Within language we can speak of a world prior to language. And we can also speak of round squares. The world prior to language may be something like the shadow of pure meaning, pure mind. If language is thoroughly 'incarnate,' if the word is always already also flesh, then our very distinction of meaning from non-meaning ('sensation') is troubled by an ambiguity. Indeed, all of our distinctions become troubled by context and embodiment.

    So, what determines whether we walk the rational path?BrianW

    For me this is the humanism. We are dealing with the perception or experience of value. 'It values.' I think rationality is today's holy ghost, the 'substance' of the individual that makes him worthy of being recognized as truly human. Stirner theorized an archetype of the 'sacred.' I think he's on to something. Human's have a god-shaped hole into which various 'divinities' can be plugged. The transformation of divinity is not just a matter of dialectic (debate) but also of war and work in the 'material' world. The terrible 'other' of philosophy is a violence that feels no need to justify itself in rational terms. This 'satanic' 'I' is, when transformed into a 'we,' more or less 'absolute spirit' --a community that experiences itself as the living body of the divine. So the 'evil' position is separated from the perfected humanism by a mere pronoun.
  • Banno
    5.6k
    ...the essence of the real can be grasped in concepts.sign

    I'm left nonplussed by this sort of wording. As in, "so surprised and confused that one is unsure how to react", not the incongruous American nonplussed.

    Essences are bunk; "The Real" is language on holiday; concepts are fraught with issues. All together the OP is a fundamental misuse of language.

    But then, that's Hegel in a nutshell. Nuts.
  • sign
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    My approach has generally been a 'where did we go wrong?' type of approach. What I mean by that is, I see the adoption of scientific or philosophical materialism as a kind of catastrophe that befell the Western cultural tradition.Wayfarer

    I think I see what you mean. Natural science is the 'god who delivered.' Everyone, independent of their ideology, wants (to varying degrees) the comfort and safety that technology has provided. But we seem to be out of control as a species. Who knows what will happen? We've built things that might extinguish us as a species. Mostly we just concern ourselves with the near future.

    Ideologically we seem to have a battle of the humanisms --if one includes religion as a kind of humanism. We could also include humanisms as kinds of religions. What I have in mind is a cultures object of ultimate concern, the authority with which it determines the real and also the virtuous human being. As I mentioned before, I don't think materialism is the essence --except to the degree that the denial of afterlife makes this world the center of attention. From my perspective, vegetarianism or animal rights activism or over even men's rights activism are all 'spiritual' expressions. Humans mostly impose themselves in terms of the same old divine predicates. Justice, mercy, omniscience, love. So from my point of view, the problem is a pluralism that might prevent any unified/organized approach to solving the technological threat.

    Can we bring ourselves together? Or do we just thirst for an other? Do we need an enemy? I don't know, but I suspect that this compulsive 'othering' is part of the problem.
  • sign
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    I'm left nonplussed by this sort of wording. As in, "so surprised and confused that one is unsure how to react", not the incongruous American nonplussed.

    Essences are bunk; "The Real" is language on holiday; concepts are fraught with issues. All together the OP is a fundamental misuse of language.

    But then, that's Hegel in a nutshell. Nuts.
    Banno

    Before I argue with you on this, let me say that I recognize your intelligence, even if we disagree. Maybe this is unnecessary, but I'd say real conversation is only possible with a minimum of friendly respect. So take my response in this light.

    ******

    'Language on holiday' is 'language on holiday.' What am I to make of this metaphorical verbiage? What is this personification of language? Language isn't a lad who can go on vacation. That Wittgenstein sounds like a real poet (said with disgust at poetry masquerading as Science.) Surely you see how 'metaphysical' 'language on holiday' is? And God stepped off that train and parted from the Light from the Darkness, language in a hard hat from language with a beach towel.

    More seriously, I love Wittgenstein. But he can be transformed all too easily into one more meta-physician. Before long our true Wittgensteinian can embrace a methodological stupidity. Anything that requires interpretation is 'language on holiday,' nevermind that 'language on holiday' (some secret re-installed at the heart of the great 'demystifier') requires an army of specialists for its infinite explication. One way among many others to grok WIttgenstein is to just start really listening to people and stop trying to fit talk into artificial theories of talk. Is this the fundamental fantasy ? An escape from the burden of interpretation? An excuse to write off the pesky other who just won't confirm us in our prejudices wisdom?

    Moreover you repeat the pattern that Hegel describes. What Hegel is saying is 'language on holiday.' Therefore it is unreal or silly or not worth acknowledging. And if you get together in a gang of Hegel-haters, then Hegel is unreal, unread. His whole point is that the 'real' (what we take seriously and recognize) is mediated by a group that (insasmuch as it has become philosophy) identifies itself with the rational, the sensible, the non-silly. Choose your synonym. I had to grab one synonym or another to point at a basic structure.

    When Hegel wrote that all philosophy was idealism, that of course didn't make sense to me at first. And that's because I had a cartoon notion of idealism in my head ---that idealism was about ghosts in individual heads, a radical misunderstanding. To the degree that you dismiss Hegel in terms of some sense of universal rationality, you confirm him in this regard by ignoring or denying what is unintelligible or irrational to you. Only what we can make sense of (verify through critical discussion) is what our kind of people take as real.

    Wittgenstein's 'form of life' is a repetition of Hegel's universal spirit. It's a groundless ground. The 'thing-in-itself' is nowhere to be found. Nothing is hidden. I'd say if you open your mind that there's a very nice continuity to be seen. Of course Wittgenstein had a different feeling about philosophy. Hegel was grandiose, a optimist, a humanist with organ music. Maybe his dream embarrasses us. We must all be tiny technicians, sweeping away the language that is trying to sneak out for a smoke break. Gellner's critique is at least well aimed at the potential of Wittgensteinian lingo to become a theology of complacency. And note that your linguistic-philosophy justified denial of Hegel just makes the Logos primary all over again, repeating what it thinks it is criticizing. And you are truly missing out if you haven't found anything fascinating in Hegel. That's like a jazz fan who hasn't really got into Coltrane from my perspective.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    The meaning or sense of which we speak is none other than the essential or the universal, the substantial in an object, which is the object concretely thought. Herein we always have a double aspect, an exterior and an interior, an external appearance which is intuitively perceptible and a meaning which, precisely, is thought. Now, because the object with which we are concerned is thought, there is here no double aspect; it is thought itself which does the meaning. Here the object is the universal; so we cannot ask about a meaning which is separate or separable from the object. The only meaning or determination which the history of philosophy has, then, is thought itself. Herein thought is the innermost, the highest, and one cannot, therefore, settle on a thought about it. — Hegel

    Compare:

    “EVERYTHING in the cosmic universe is composed of matter (hyle) and form (morphe). Everything is concrete and individual. Hence the forms of cosmic entities must also be concrete and individual. Now, the process of knowledge is immediately concerned with the separation of form from matter, since a thing is known precisely because its form is received in the knower. But, whatever is received is in the recipient according to the mode of being that the recipient possesses. If, then, the senses are material powers, they receive the forms of objects in a material manner; and if the intellect is an immaterial power, it receives the forms of objects in an immaterial manner. This means that in the case of sense knowledge, the form is still encompassed with the concrete characters which make it particular; and that, in the case of intellectual knowledge, the form is disengaged from all such characters. To understand [something] is to free form completely from matter.

    “Moreover, if the proper knowledge of the senses is of accidents, through forms that are individualized, the proper knowledge of intellect is of essences, through forms that are universalized. Intellectual knowledge is analogous to sense knowledge inasmuch as it demands the reception of the form of the thing which is known. But it differs from sense knowledge so far forth as it consists in the apprehension of things, not in their individuality, but in their universality.

    “The separation of form from matter requires two stages if the idea is to be elaborated: first, the sensitive [i.e. sensory] stage, wherein the external and internal senses operate upon (i.e. receive the impression of) the material object, accepting its form without matter, but not without the appendages of matter; second the intellectual stage, wherein agent intellect operates upon the phantasmal 1 datum, divesting the form of every character that marks and identifies it as a particular something.

    “Abstraction, which is the proper task of active intellect, is essentially a liberating function in which the essence of the sensible object, potentially understandable as it lies beneath its accidents, is liberated from the elements that individualize it and is thus made actually understandable [i.e. intelligible]. The product of abstraction is a species of an intelligible order. Now possible intellect is supplied with an adequate stimulus to which it responds by producing a concept.”

    1. Aristotle's Greek word, that is commonly and traditionally translated as "[mental] image" is “phantasma” (plural: phantasmata), a term used by Plato to refer to reflections in mirrors or pools.

    From Thomistic Psychology: A Philosophical Analysis of the Nature of Man, by Robert E. Brennan, O.P.; Macmillan Co., 1941. (Additional paragraphing, notes and emphasis added).

    That is a very dense passage, which I have posted here on several occasions. But do note the almost exact parallel between the bolded paragraph and the gist of what Hegel says above it. This is not coincidental.

    We have intelligible sentences. We create new meanings of amazing complexity. How stable are these meanings?sign

    On this view, they're stable because they perceive 'what things truly are' by the knowledge of their forms and types. I think this is the logic that underlies the whole idea of 'taxonomy' for example as devised by Linnaeus, although I haven't studied it in depth.

    But there's also a good essay by Kelly Ross, Meaning and the Problem of Universals, which considers this in depth (and although not without its own muddles, in my view, at least it tries to relate the whole question of universals to contemporary issues in philosophy.)
  • sign
    245
    On this view, they're stable because they perceive 'what things truly are' by the knowledge of their forms and types.Wayfarer

    Thanks for the Aristotle quote. I think it's quite clear that they were at one on this issue. Meaning is not subjective. It is objective. It is the possibility of knowledge, the form of knowledge. I still haven't studied him as I should. I am aware of Hegel is often compared to Aristotle, and I think it's clear why. The difference is time, at least judging by Kojeve's interpretation.

    For Kojeve anyway, Aristotle could have knowledge of the world because everything in it was cyclical. We can watch animals be born, mature, reproduce, and die. We can gather this distribution through time up into a unity. No problem, right? And then even in politics we have just a few systems that repeat. HIstory doesn't really move forward! The circle can be grasped by studying history. Reality has a stable structure behind all its movement. Note that Schopenhauer actually took this position, denying essential change.

    But (as I understand it) Hegel was reacting to Newtonian science, the French revolution, and the Kant-inspired idea that the knowledge of the impossibility of true knowledge was the highest knowledge. This of course lowered the value of man's rational essence. Hegel was a 'Satanist' on the level of the 'we.' The thing-in-itself was an alienating humiliation to be broken over his humanist knee. Anyway, the unification of all humanity and its eventually technical conquest of the world became a living possibility. Moreover 'man' was becoming autonomous. At the same time there was a knowledge explosion. There was something new under the sun everyday. Time was no longer the repetition of the same. It was creative. Hegel wrote that philosophy could only understand what had already happened. So only at the end of history is perfect knowledge possible. Maybe Hegel thought he could see the beginning of the end of history in Napoleon, that world-spirit on horseback, spreading a world-wide culture of self-conscious freedom --of masters and slaves synthesized as citizens. It's one hell of a dream.

    Anyway, for me the instability of meanings is related to their being about one another (texts on texts on texts) and in our accumulating knowledge of the world. We are creating the world as we try to make sense of it. Note that Derrida is in this same tradition of Aristotle-Hegel-Husserl-etc. And so are Wittgenstein and Heidegger. But they are thinking the depth of the incarnation. We can't peel the flesh off the essence. We can't find the artichoke beneath its leaves. So we get something like an embrace of the mess that is trying always to climb out of itself.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    Aristotle could have knowledge of the world because everything in it was cyclical.sign

    Actually it was a quote about Aquinas' theory of knowledge, which draws on and elaborates Aristotle's hylomorphic dualism. I'm really labouring to try and impart this basic principle: that the 'intelligible form' of things, and also their mathematical qualities, can be known in a way that the material, particular, individual cannot. The 'active intellect' (nous) draws together the (material-sensory) datum with the (intelligible-rational) form to understand meaning by way of 'the concept'. And I think that is the origin of the idea of 'the real as rational', originating with Plato, neoplatonism, and Aristotle. Nothing really to with cyclical at all, sorry. It has to do with the 'intelligible forms of things'.

    Now that I think of it, Dermot Moran (who also wrote the Routledge Companion to Phenomenology) wrote an important book on the influence of Eriugena on German idealism. And Eriugena cut his scholarly teeth on the translation of the Greek texts of (pseudo)-Dionysius which is the vessel for many of these ideas. It really is the grand tradition of Western philosophy.

    In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Eriugena continued to have a relatively clandestine but still important influence on Christian Neoplatonists such as Meister Eckhart and especially Nicholas of Cusa. The first printed editions of his works appeared in the seventeenth century, but it was not until the nineteenth century that interest in him was revived, especially among followers of Hegel who saw Eriugena as a forerunner to speculative idealism.

    Meaning is not subjective. It is objective. It is the possibility of knowledge, the form of knowledge.sign

    Do you know Horkheimer's The Eclipse of Reason? That was written in the aftermath of WWII as a reaction to Nazism. But Horkheimer's analysis of the main point is exactly this - that meaning is - well, not objective in the modern sense, so much as transcending subjectivity and objectivity. But you will notice how thoroughly philosophies of meaning are relativised and subjectivised here.

    Anyway - I have to log out for a good few days - I am doing a number of self-directed training courses this week for a software project starting early in the NY and really have to concentrate, I get on here and the hours just fly past. But, a great exchange and I thank you for it.

    __//|\\__

    Wayfarer
  • sign
    245
    Actually it was a quote about Aquinas' theory of knowledge, which draws on and elaborates Aristotle's hylomorphic dualism. I'm really labouring to try and impart this basic principle: that the 'intelligible form' of things, and also their mathematical qualities, can be known in a way that the material, particular, individual cannot. The 'active intellect' (nous) draws together the (material-sensory) datum with the (intelligible-rational) form to understand meaning by way of 'the concept'. And I think that is the origin of the idea of 'the real as rational', originating with Plato, neoplatonism, and Aristotle. Nothing really to with cyclical at all, sorry. It has to do with the 'intelligible forms of things'.Wayfarer


    I get it Aquinas, Aristotle, Hegel. Indeed, the idea of the idea. No complaint. We are on the same page as far as I can tell on that particular issue.

    As far as denying the importance of cycles, I think you are missing the connection. Of course the concept is what knowledge is made of. But how does the philosopher know if/when his knowledge is complete? How can I know the nature of the dog, for instance, if I haven't seen everything that the dog can manifest? Now let's consider how the philosopher could have a complete knowledge of man himself. His own nature has to be a more complicated version of an animals' nature, manifesting a finite number of modes which can be integrated in concepts via memory. I don't claim that this gets it all just right or is the final story, but I think it's good theme. Time is a fundamental issue. Does reality become more complex? If so, we would expect later philosophies to give better accounts. On the other hand, a certain 'eternal' core of human nature could be manifested very early in human history.
  • sign
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    Do you know Horkheimer's The Eclipse of Reason? That was written in the aftermath of WWII as a reaction to Nazism. But Horkheimer's analysis of the main point is exactly this - that meaning is - well, not objective in the modern sense, so much as transcending subjectivity and objectivity. But you will notice how thoroughly philosophies of meaning are relativised and subjectivised here.Wayfarer

    I've looked into Horkheimer. I liked what I read.

    You mentioned 'subjectivization' of meaning, but the annihilation of the isolated subject seems like a big theme in continental philosophy. The subject has its substance outside of itself. The mighty ego is being brought down to something spoken by Language. What I can imagine you not liking is the thought of dissemination, the out-of-control-ness of the meaning process. And I read Derrida as someone who just wants to tell the truth. I'd bet he was tempted by nostalgia, but he seems to have embraced the openness, the ambiguity, the play.

    I think we basically have the same vision of what life is good for. What may open or close certain thinkers for us is the political aspect of our thinking. I'm basically a stoic when it comes to politics. I don't believe that I have significant power to change the course of the world, and I therefore don't worry about it. Sure, vulgarity and stupidity dominate from the perspective of one who has become more sophisticated. Indeed, vulgarity and stupidity are in some sense the shadow cast by exactly this sophistication. The social version of humanism (which can indeed be a holy humanism, open to the divine) is maybe for me a daydream. Or I can live it here and there with people in my life on a small scale. Or I can have profound conversations about the higher things online with people who aren't afraid of that sort of thing. I'm not saying that you should be like me and not worry. I really don't know. I guess I just enjoy the sense of seeing what is, finding general structures.
  • sign
    245
    Anyway - I have to log out for a good few days - I am doing a number of self-directed training courses this week for a software project starting early in the NY and really have to concentrate, I get on here and the hours just fly past. But, a great exchange and I thank you for it.

    __//|\\__

    Wayfarer
    Wayfarer

    Yeah, I've really enjoyed it too. I look forward to your return.
  • sign
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    The first meaning of idealism given by the SEP is

    something mental (the mind, spirit, reason, will) is the ultimate foundation of all reality, or even exhaustive of reality — SEP

    From the 'idealistic' point of view I want to present, the definition above is a misunderstanding of idealism. Or rather the idealism I'm equating with philosophy itself is obscured by the definition of idealism above. A less deceptive name in this context might be meaning-ism. If that sounds trivial, good.

    My suggestion is that idealism is trivial, another name for philosophy itself. I think this is revealed by something like a phenomenology of philosophy. How does philosophy show itself?

    The philosopher brings me the meaning of reality, its conceptual/objective determination, what it is in more or less detail. What I have in mind is something like the philosopher opposed to the sophist, the ironist, the anti-philosopher. The philosopher claims to know or claims to aspire to know the objective/unbiased truth about reality. He may tell us that reality is made of meaningless objects, but this is still the meaning of reality we are to accept as the unbiased truth --to the degree that we recognize the claim of rationality/objectivity (and are fully human?).

    How do we know that he is unbiased, objective, rational? Philosophers challenge one another with different presentations of the meaning of reality, its intelligible structure, including the meaningfulness or not of sentences. This forces the turn to reasoning about reason itself (for instance, linguistic philosophy.) To the degree that linguistic philosophy is ' the view that philosophical problems are problems which may be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we presently use', Hegel was a supreme linguistic philosopher, who just watched philosophy go till he saw the structure of its movement (or at least an illuminating approximation of it.)

    'Idealism' is the phenomenology of philosophy, unveiling its basic structure. It points to what philosophy is doing without noticing it is doing, further revealing reality by uncovering philosophy's own role in this reality. Philosophers determine ('ascertain or establish exactly') just what reality is. This determination is meaningful, articulated. This is the 'ultimate foundation' in the quote above. A better phrase is the ultimate determination of all reality. This is ultimate as final, the last word. The philosopher aspires to the last word about reality. The philosophers belong to a community in the world. This community with its practices and standards is the 'spirit' that determines (makes sense of, decides the meaning of) reality in the first quote. Its philosophers focus on the fundamental, the primordial, the big picture, the authoritative. 'Spirit' hasn't aged well given modern biases. But 'mind' suggests disembodied individuals and a distance from the intelligible objects of everyday life. Such objects are not denied as 'mental,' they are merely recognized as objective, intelligible without bias. 'Reason' is perhaps best, but again this tempts some to imagine an isolated as well as disembodied private language locked in a theoretical a-historical subject, a questionable construction.
  • Wayfarer
    8.2k
    something mental (the mind, spirit, reason, will) is the ultimate foundation of all reality, or even exhaustive of reality
    — SEP

    From the 'idealistic' point of view I want to present, the definition above is a misunderstanding of idealism.
    sign

    Agree. And I think that's because of the way that 'mind/spirit/reason' became conceived after Descartes. It was Descartes' error to posit 'res cogitans' as an objective 'something'. This is the basis of Husserl's critique of Descartes, which I think is given in the beginning of the book Crisis in the European Sciences (published posthumously).

    I think there's a much better quotation given in the SEP article on Schopenhauer:

    It is a perennial philosophical reflection that if one looks deeply enough into oneself, one will discover not only one’s own essence, but also the essence of the universe. For as one is a part of the universe as is everything else, the basic energies of the universe flow through oneself, as they flow through everything else. For that reason it is thought that one can come into contact with the nature of the universe if one comes into substantial contact with one’s ultimate inner being.

    Among the most frequently-identified principles that are introspectively brought forth — and one that was the standard for German Idealist philosophers such as Fichte, Schelling and Hegel who were philosophizing within the Cartesian tradition — is the principle of self-consciousness. With the belief that acts of self-consciousness exemplify a self-creative process akin to divine creation, and developing a logic that reflects the structure of self-consciousness, namely, the dialectical logic of position, opposition and reconciliation (sometimes described as the logic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis), the German Idealists maintained that dialectical logic mirrors the structure not only of human productions, both individual and social, but the structure of reality as a whole, conceived of as a thinking substance or conceptually-structured-and-constituted entity.

    As much as he opposes the traditional German Idealists in their metaphysical elevation of self-consciousness (which he regards as too intellectualistic), Schopenhauer philosophizes within the spirit of this tradition, for he believes that the supreme principle of the universe is likewise apprehensible through introspection, and that we can understand the world as various manifestations of this general principle.

    I agree with the gist of this, in fact I think it's important. This is why I mentioned Dermot Moran's book on the way Eriugena's theology influenced German idealism (via the medieval mystics, Eckhardt, Cusa, and others.) But the statement about 'the basic energies of the universe' I think is mistaken. Where the 'identity' comes from, is that the individual nous is a microcosmic reflection of the eternal intelligence. Reason, in the individual, mirrors, and originates from, its source in the divine intellect. So it's not like an 'energy' or 'juice' - very vulgar expression that it is.

    So to answer the question about 'objectivity' and 'rationality', the medieval mystics would have used the term, not 'objectivity' but 'detachment'. It is central to Meister Eckhardt's sermons. And 'detachment' has a spiritual quality, because it requires self-abnegation, the negation of ego. Whereas science brackets out the ego by considering only what is quantifiable and publicly-knowable, so it altogether lacks that sense of discipline introspection and self-knowledge that you find in the German mystics and idealists. It is entirely objectively-focussed on the supposed 'real world out there'.
  • sign
    245
    And I think that's because of the way that 'mind/spirit/reason' became conceived after Descartes. It was Descartes' error to posit 'res cogitans' as an objective 'something'. This is the basis of Husserl's critique of Descartes, which I think is given in the beginning of the book Crisis in the European Sciences (published posthumously).Wayfarer

    Indeed, and Heidegger and other thinkers continue the demolition of this picture. 'Language is the house of being' is 'idealism' as my (mis)reading of Hegel has it. Language is the essence of the world (a 'truism' obscured by language itself), its intelligible structure for us, not me. This is initially no more 'mystical' than talking to one's neighbor about the same barking dog.

    The objective is the negation of the subjective. To place objects before an isolated subject is (once one steps outside it) a massive theoretical prejudice that obscures the phenomenon of world 'and' language. I see the worldly object as an object that is really there precisely in terms of other's also being able to see it. I see it in its objectivity as the possibility of others seeing it. The worldly object (a pleonasm) is fundamentally the vision of an 'ideal we' 'within' an 'I' who strives toward this 'we' as his 'substance,' what is substantial and 'real' in himself. Personally I don't see how sincere denials of this don't simply confirm in their very denial, hence the 'triviality' of idealism which is yet 'theology' in a counter-intuitive sense of that term. Philosophy is silly from the outside, else it would be complacent common sense averse to questioning and the 'spiritual' eros and telos. 'Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy' because that which is already intelligible is just common sense, 'prejudice,' the norm being questioned. On the other hand, it's only in terms of what is already objective or rational or authoritative that one can be heard as other than a fool. So philosophy depends on what it would overcome, the same objectivity or rationality or determination of the 'public' real (pleonasm) being questioned.
  • sign
    245
    Where the 'identity' comes from, is that the individual nous is a microcosmic reflection of the eternal intelligence. Reason, in the individual, mirrors, and originates from, its source in the divine intellect.Wayfarer

    I like this. I think we can also speak of reason as the divine intellect. To be reasonable in the highest sense of the word is to incarnate the 'divine intellect.'

    Absolute knowing understands itself to be the consciousness that being, or substance, comes to have of itself. The individual, who knows 'absolutely', knows himself to be a specific individual: 'I, that is this and no other I.' He also knows this knowing to be his own activity --'the self's own act.' Yet he also knows his own activity to be the activity of substance itself: he knows that substance knows itself in his knowing...Unlike religious consciousness, therefore, absolute knowing does not take itself to be one with being that is essentially other than it, but it knows itself to be the very knowing that being has of itself. — Houlgate on Hegel's Phen.

    This 'being' or 'substance' or 'subject-object' is 'God' if we like the term. I think the eros of philosophy in the highest sense is as Hegel wrote 'religious.' Again it seems that to deny this is simply to impose a higher authority. 'No, philosophy is not theological. My philosophy determines the real otherwise, in terms of something higher than in terms of something higher.'
  • sign
    245
    So to answer the question about 'objectivity' and 'rationality', the medieval mystics would have used the term, not 'objectivity' but 'detachment'. It is central to Meister Eckhardt's sermons. And 'detachment' has a spiritual quality, because it requires self-abnegation, the negation of ego. Whereas science brackets out the ego by considering only what is quantifiable and publicly-knowable, so it altogether lacks that sense of discipline introspection and self-knowledge that you find in the German mystics and idealists. It is entirely objectively-focussed on the supposed 'real world out there'.Wayfarer

    I think we are really at the heart of things here. Science in one understanding of itself (a quasi-religious understanding) is a passivity before the real. Its other understanding of itself (or the other pole of a continuum of understandings) is Bacon's implicit power-as-knowledge. Scientism (which I don't really want to hate on but just analyze) also takes the power-as-knowledge into a political context where science is a tool and not the thing itself. Indeed, the explicit worship of pure power probably doesn't even bother to make a case except ironically, deceptively.

    I think we can also agree that phenomenology is also about 'detachment.' It offers itself up to things as they show themselves, without trying to control what it finds. IMV, it just makes sense that this same basic movement appears in different forms. 'Only as phenomenology is ontology possible' is another way to describe the real as rational, which is not to ignore shades of feeling and meaning but only to emphasize the approximate repetition. May we say that 'spiritual' traditions are just traditions whose jargon seems iffy to us in terms of 'our' own sacred jargon? (I do not mean to imply that all traditions are equal in their power. I only suggest a similarity in structure.)
  • Valentinus
    504
    I think Hegel brought in many ways to have a problem that others avoided but is less a provider of solutions than he is a source for new problems.

    Apart from cribbing metaphysics from ancients and contemporaries, he introduced the dynamic of different people colliding in real time as the closest our experiences get to let us know what built consciousness. Maybe it takes a certain kind of structure to talk about that sort of thing. How ever the activity of reason is seen as the theater of the real, it is missing the mark to read that structure as an explanation for what is happening. Why go on about the necessity for a process if a thinker can cut to the chase and just tell you stuff.

    Put in another way, this is the beginning of what we struggle with as psychology. Events are formative but it is difficult to accept that as a ground and say anything helpful afterwards.
  • sign
    245
    Apart from cribbing metaphysics from ancients and contemporaries, he introduced the dynamic of different people colliding in real time as the closest our experiences get to let us know what built consciousness.Valentinus

    Hi. Thanks for jumping in. I like what you say above. I'd like to suggest that Hegel had no choice in his own eyes as far as 'cribbing' from others. This is just history as system. The texts he assimilated were the 'stains' of those collisions in real time. Anyway, I very much agree about consciousness being 'built' by different people colliding. Also, just to clarify, I think Hegel is great without buying into all of his system. His philosophy is massively optimistic and a product of its time. I do think that he's a central figure in philosophy. It's hard to do more than tweak Hegel, I'd say. Even anti-philosophical positions are brilliantly sketched already Hegel.
  • sign
    245
    Maybe it takes a certain kind of structure to talk about that sort of thing. How ever the activity of reason is seen as the theater of the real, it is missing the mark to read that structure as an explanation for what is happening.Valentinus

    If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting a gap between us and reality in its nakedness? A Hegelian might say that this gap is a negation without determination, a question mark appended to what we already believe and do. Fair enough. Hegel insisted on this instability. For me the issue is whether there really is a terminus where 'philosophy' becomes 'science.' I'd say that there is in some rough and imperfect sense, and that this would just be someone adopting a misreading of Hegel (for instance) and never finding a reason to let it go. Of course this subjectivizes the thing and transforms it into something with smaller ambitions. Hegel becomes a kind of rationally religious 'poet' for the individual conscience.
  • tim wood
    3k
    "The rational is real, and the real is rational." Will someone define, for present purpose, "rational," "is," and "real"?

    Until then, there are two propositions. R is r. r is R. This is just identity. R=r. Is it the same to say, If R then r, and, if r then R? If both are true, then R and r are sufficient and necessary conditions for each other.

    Evenso, neither identity nor implication nor sufficiency nor necessity exhausts either r or R, or their relationship. Reality and rationality are qualities - accidents. Not in themselves substance.

    In short, that which is real (and rational) is not constrained in application be being either R or r , and whether that in application is useful depends on other qualifications. So what does the discussion have to do with either the real or rational?
  • Valentinus
    504

    Your points are well taken in regards to how Hegel's work stands in relation to others.

    I just want to emphasize that he brought in a dynamic that was new at the time and is still new. Not just from the point of view of a theory but as a way to perceive events.

    I am less inclined to see his challenge from the point of view as a narrative than as a set of conditions I may or may not be able to accept at all.
  • sign
    245
    Will someone define, for present purpose, "rational," "is," and "real"?tim wood

    Hi. Thanks for joining the thread. The very idea that 'rational' and 'real' can or need to be defined in a few other words is questionable in my view. I invite you to hunt through the dictionary from definition to definition and somehow find yourself the magical thing that nails all these words down.

    Moreover you ask (insincerely?) for the very context out of which you ripped the words that are now to be defined, as if words had magical meanings in a hidden realm independent of context. This, by the way, is how Wittgenstein and Derrida extend and develop the basic Hegelian insight.

    I think you miss an important point here. You seem to be dismissing my words as irrational or empty in order to deny them as determinations of reality, of what's-going-on. Is this the case? In that case it seems to me that you are after all insisting that the irrational is unreal , unworthy, not-the-case, without value. And do you not do so in terms of some universal reason--as not just your opinion as opinion? (This is the implicit humanism. You don't appeal to scripture. You reason with me in terms of a shared authority within us both, the reasonable people we ought to be as philosophers.)

    Reality and rationality are qualities - accidents. Not in themselves substance.tim wood

    What is this 'substance'? Sounds like a synonym for reality. I can't be sure. I will say that I am not particularly attached to this or that piece of jargon. What I offered was what I found to be a plausible interpretation of two famous statements by Hegel. The first is in the OP. The second is that all philosophy is idealism (which is not so say the same idealism in every case.) I made a case that this was a simple phenomenology of philosophy, a mere description of its structure. I even called it 'trivial,' and yet this 'triviality' seems likely to be denied in a way that confirms it, at least to the degree that it is accurate.
  • Valentinus
    504

    If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting a gap between us and reality in its nakedness?sign

    I am not sure about that. Whatever purposes it may serve compared to other theories, Hegel has a gap in time between ideas starting and becoming other things through a process. On that basis, he is militating against anybody like you or me saying what that all amounts to. Now, there are many of his critics who observe he did not apply some of those conditions to himself. He argues for a kind of acceptance that is not consonant with his own expressions of a completed world.

    I am less interested in his conclusions on where it all going and more interested in the conditions he brought into view that were not discussed before he troubled us.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k
    That the essence of the real can be grasped in concepts.sign

    What if you're not an essentialist? (I'm not.)

    Or rather, in my view, concepts are something that individuals perform--they're abstractions that individuals create, abstractions that range over a number of particulars, because it's easier to deal with the world via these sorts of abstractions.

    And then "essential" properties are simply the properties that an individual considers necessary for the concept they've formulated. In a nutshell, they're properties that an individual requires to call some x (some arbitrary particular) an F (some concept term, per that individual's concepts).

    So while there are essentials in that sense, it's simply something that individuals make up, a way that individuals think about the world (as are concepts in general).

    Where does the idealism come in? It does not come in as the 'mental' of some isolated subject. It comes in as language, which is essentially objective. I don't choose what the signs mean, and as a philosopher my goal is to have my signs recognized by others as being objective, as revealing the world-in-common.sign

    Obviously I don't agree with any of that, either.
  • tim wood
    3k
    I regret you found an attack where none exists nor was intended, and that you have apparently completely failed to understand my post. I did not ask what the terms "real," "rational," or "is" mean; I asked for a definition "for present purpose." Absent those, I made some observations about how the terms are used, and some implications therefrom. In my world it's always fair to request definitions. A person accustomed to reasoned discussion understands the need for a common understanding of the terms in the discussion and either provides them at the first or on request. I am not prepared to discuss either idealism or humanism, but inasmuch as your OP started with the phrases in question, I thought it reasonable to ask about them, and what their connection with is with idealism and humanism. But apparently not. As to qualities as accidents, v. substance, that's merely Aristotle.
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