A video for non-linguistic thought

red-star

Hodgson on behalf of Hegel, the concealed priesthood in Western philosophy and the supremacist lie of Western ‘reason’ 

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis in Meditation, 1635-1639, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

Francisco de Zurbarán, Saint Francis in Meditation, 1635-1639, oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

‘Our age is like that of the Roman Empire in its abandonment of the question of truth, its smug conviction that no cognitive knowledge of God can be had, its reduction of everything to merely historical questions, its privatism, subjectivism, and moralism, and the failure of its teachers and clergy to lead the people. It is indeed an apocalyptic time, but the world must be left largely to its own devices in solving its problems. Philosophy can resolve this discord only in a manner appropriate to itself, by zealously guarding the truth, but it must recognise that its resolution is only partial. The community of Spirit as such is not passing away, but it does seem to be passing over from the ecclesiastical priesthood to the philosophical; if so, the truth of religion will live on in the philosophical community, in which it must now seek refuge.’

From the Editorial Introduction by Peter C.Hodgson in G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. III, The Consummate Religion, ed. Peter C. Hodgson, trans. R.F.Brown, P.C.Hodgson and J.M.Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2007, 23

red-star

Image

Engels on materialism: part 5 – mechanical materialism

Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751). French materialist, published L’homme Machine (Man-Machine) in 1748. Gravure de Achille Ouvré (1872-1951) d'après G.-F. Schmidt.

Julien Offray de La Mettrie (1709-1751). French materialist, published L’homme Machine (Man-Machine) in 1748. Gravure de Achille Ouvré (1872-1951) d’après G.-F. Schmidt.

…just as idealism underwent a series of stages of development, so also did materialism. With each epoch-making discovery even in the sphere of natural science, it has to change its form; and after history was also subjected to materialistic treatment, a new avenue of development has opened here, too.

The materialism of the last century was predominantly mechanical, because at that time, of all natural sciences, only mechanics, and indeed only the mechanics of solid bodies — celestial and terrestrial — in short, the mechanics of gravity, had come to any definite close. Chemistry at that time existed only in its infantile, phlogistic form1. Biology still lay in swaddling clothes; vegetable and animal organisms had been only roughly examined and were explained by purely mechanical causes. What the animal was to Descartes, man was to the materialists of the 18th century — a machine. This exclusive application of the standards of mechanics to processes of a chemical and organic nature — in which processes the laws of mechanics are, indeed, also valid, but are pushed into the backgrounds by other, higher laws — constitutes the first specific but at that time inevitable limitations of classical French materialism.

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Note

1. Phlogistic theory: The theory prevailing in chemistry during the 17th and 18th centuries that combustion takes place due to the presence in certain bodies of a special substance named phlogiston.

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image

Engels on materialism: part 4 – the bourgeois prejudice against materialism

The brain: the place of consciousness and thought

The brain: the place of consciousness and thought

The course of evolution of Feuerbach is that of a Hegelian — a never quite orthodox Hegelian, it is true — into a materialist; an evolution which at a definite stage necessitates a complete rupture with the idealist system of his predecessor. With irresistible force, Feuerbach is finally driven to the realisation that the Hegelian premundane existence of the “absolute idea”, the “pre-existence of the logical categories” before the world existed, is nothing more than the fantastic survival of the belief in the existence of an extra-mundane creator; that the material, sensuously perceptible world to which we ourselves belong is the only reality; and that our consciousness and thinking, however supra-sensuous they may seem, are the product of a material, bodily organ, the brain. Matter is not a product of mind, but mind itself is merely the highest product of matter. This is, of course, pure materialism. But, having got so far, Feuerbach stops short. He cannot overcome the customary philosophical prejudice, prejudice not against the thing but against the name materialism. He says:

‘To me materialism is the foundation of the edifice of human essence and knowledge; but to me it is not what it is to the physiologist, to the natural scientists in the narrower sense, for example, to Moleschott, and necessarily is from their standpoint and profession, namely, the edifice itself. Backwards I fully agree with the materialists; but not forwards.’

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image

Engels on materialism: part 2 – the ideological function of Hume and Kant

Statue of David Hume by Alexander Stoddart, 1995, bronze, in front of High Court Building, Edinburgh, Scotland

Statue of David Hume by Alexander Stoddart, 1995, bronze, in front of High Court Building, Edinburgh, Scotland

Immanuel Kant by Karl Friedrich Hagemann, 1801, marble, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Immanuel Kant by Karl Friedrich Hagemann, 1801, marble, Kunsthalle, Hamburg

…there is yet a set of different philosophers — those who question the possibility of any cognition, or at least of an exhaustive cognition, of the world. To them, among the more modern ones, belong Hume and Kant, and they played a very important role in philosophical development. What is decisive in the refutation of this view has already been said by Hegel, in so far as this was possible from an idealist standpoint. The materialistic additions made by Feuerbach are more ingenious than profound. The most telling refutation of this as of all other philosophical crotchets is practice — namely, experiment and industry. If we are able to prove the correctness of our conception of a natural process by making it ourselves, bringing it into being out of its conditions and making it serve our own purposes into the bargain, then there is an end to the Kantian ungraspable “thing-in-itself”. The chemical substances produced in the bodies of plants and animals remained just such “things-in-themselves” until organic chemistry began to produce them one after another, whereupon the “thing-in-itself” became a thing for us — as, for instance, alizarin, the colouring matter of the madder, which we no longer trouble to grow in the madder roots in the field, but produce much more cheaply and simply from coal tar. For 300 years, the Copernican solar system was a hypothesis with 100, 1,000, 10,000 to 1 chances in its favour, but still always a hypothesis. But then Leverrier, by means of the data provided by this system, not only deduced the necessity of the existence of an unknown planet, but also calculated the position in the heavens which this planet must necessarily occupy, and when [Johann] Galle really found this planet [Neptune, discovered 1846, at Berlin Observatory], the Copernican system was proved. If, nevertheless, the neo-Kantians are attempting to resurrect the Kantian conception in Germany, and the agnostics that of Hume in England (where in fact it never became extinct), this is, in view of their theoretical and practical refutation accomplished long ago, scientifically a regression and practically merely a shamefaced way of surreptitiously accepting materialism, while denying it before the world.

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Full text at Marxists Internet Archive

Images: Hume/Kant

Engels on Hegel: part 1

‘You should hope that this game will be over soon.’ The Third Estate carrying the clergy and the nobility on its back, 1789

‘You should hope that this game will be over soon.’ The Third Estate carrying the clergy and the nobility on its back, 1789

Now, according to Hegel, reality is, however, in no way an attribute predictable of any given state of affairs, social or political, in all circumstances and at all times. On the contrary. The Roman Republic was real, but so was the Roman Empire, which superseded it. In 1789, the French monarchy had become so unreal, that is to say, so robbed of all necessity, so irrational, that it had to be destroyed by the Great Revolution, of which Hegel always speaks with the greatest enthusiasm. In this case, therefore, the monarchy was the unreal and the revolution the real. And so, in the course of development, all that was previously real becomes unreal, loses it necessity, its right of existence, its rationality. And in the place of moribund reality comes a new, viable reality — peacefully if the old has enough intelligence to go to its death without a struggle; forcibly if it resists this necessity. Thus the Hegelian proposition turns into its opposite through Hegelian dialectics itself: All that is real in the sphere of human history, becomes irrational in the process of time, is therefore irrational by its very destination, is tainted beforehand with irrationality, and everything which is rational in the minds of men is destined to become real, however much it may contradict existing apparent reality. In accordance with all the rules of the Hegelian method of thought, the proposition of the rationality of everything which is real resolves itself into the other proposition: All that exists deserves to perish.

Frederick Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, 1886

red-star

Complete text at Marxists Internet Archive

Image

On reason 2

Salvador Dali, Sleep, 1937, oil on canvas, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Dali stated ‘I have often imagined the monster of sleep as a heavy, giant head with a tapering body held up by the crutches of reality.’

Salvador Dali, Sleep, 1937, oil on canvas, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Dali stated ‘I have often imagined the monster of sleep as a heavy, giant head with a tapering body held up by the crutches of reality.’

The other day I was asked to explain my use of the concept ‘contemplation’. I posted a reply but was not happy with and deleted it.

I decided to think about my response non-linguistically, non-conceptually. I thought a day would be sufficient (one can intuit what is sufficient).

How does one think non-linguistically and non-conceptually? By consigning the issue to one’s subconsciousness, by giving up control of the process (through language) and just ‘sitting with it’, letting it run its course.

Several times my thoughts on the subject ‘rose’ into my consciousness (as shards and snippets, very likely due to my conditioned desire to control the process) but I stopped them from forming beyond single concepts, immediately sending those shards and snippets back into the workings of my subconscious brain.

I simply got on with my day. I focused on other matters.

I knew that the process was developing and could feel it was so – intellectually (I knew, by the briefest glimpses, as though quickly opening an oven door the slightest amount, that my thoughts were taking shape) and, inseparable from this, emotionally (I felt good that I could deliberately initiate and be conscious of this subconscious process).

I left the process to itself.

Last night I sat down at my computer, brought to my consciousness what had developed in my subconsciousness by reconsidering in language how to explain my use of ‘contemplation’, composed and posted my reply.

My response which a day before had seemed so difficult to express and inadequate, came easily.

‘Sitting with it’ in one’s subconsciousness is no less a form of thought, of reason than is conscious reason using language – the reason of patriarchy and control (‘Here-comes-a-sentence-now.’).

Yet the former is far more fluid and creative – to draw from Zamyatin, it is a process in which trotting chairs and fluttering wings can freely mingle.

It is a form of reason (delicate, dynamic, intuitive, sensitive, poetic, profoundly rich and complex) that is active all the time, which linguistic reason can easily dominate, drown out, precisely because the latter is – has to be – defined, measured and structured. Limited.

Having acknowledged and embraced it, we can consciously employ and focus this powerful subconscious tool.

It is most probably the same as what we employ when we have a problem and ‘sleep on it’, waking at 4am at the ‘Eureka!’ moment – ‘I have spent ages thinking about this problem (linguistically) and couldn’t solve it – but now, in my sleep, I have!’.

Most importantly, this subconscious process is reason.

red-star

Image

On reason 1

Jane Goodall with chimpanzee Jou Jou, Brazzaville Zoo, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, 1990

Jane Goodall with chimpanzee Jou Jou, Brazzaville Zoo, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, 1990

The very focus in Western culture not on a reason that is wholistic but on one that is only linguistic and conceptual, on ‘elegance’ and wit in language, the scholastic licking and sucking of every ‘ism’ (yet one more shade of philosophical idealism) or piece of jargon, a current which has sought to block out the spiritual, the emotional, the passionate, above all, the animal and material, has presented in its analysis only a twisted half of who we are.

red-star

Image

Leibniz’s perspectivism

FinestarDiamond

*   *   *

For Leibniz, the nature of the knowledge we have of the world is perspectival, limited and finite. It is perspectival and limited because we are all in different places at any one time and can only view the world from those positions (literal perspective), have different beliefs about the world (metaphorical perspective) and finite not only because our monadic lives must end but because, despite our intellects, we can never grasp the world in its fullness and totality as can God in his omniscience.

The degree to which our monadic capacities as ‘mirrors’ of God are developed determines the degree to which we can reason and understand God, his beneficence and the world – this very ability enables us to appreciate our limitation.

Leibniz wrote of ‘clear and distinct’ ideas. A differentiation between things gives a clear idea (for example we can reason about objects because we can perceive their form) but when it is known why a thing is as it is, what its essential properties are, the idea is distinct.

Leibniz thought that scientific knowledge, though it aims to provide both clear and distinct ideas can only ever be limited because it is based on sensory information and reflects our finitude as monads.

The ideas of empiricism and mechanistic physics give confused, contingent truths whereas the ideas of metaphysical reason lead to necessary truths, truths that are distinct – the ‘knowledge’ of particular concern to Leibniz.

The knowledge of these necessary and eternal truths distinguishes us from animals and carries us beyond science, beneath science, to the true knowledge of ourselves, the world and God.

For example, when we think about time and space clearly and distinctly we will know that they are not real, that they refer (Leibniz drawing on Neoplatonic duration) to the simultaneity and flux between monadic representations.

As monadic ‘mirrors’ of God and his ‘mind’, we bear not only our futures but these innate ideas or truths in our own ‘minds’ as dispositions or tendencies. Leibniz denied that such knowledge was limited by our experience.

While our knowledge can only ever be limited and perspectival, God’s is perfect and infinite – not only is this monadic world his creation, all perspectives (again drawing on Christianity and the Neoplatonic hypostases of Intellect and the One) are united, co-ordinated and harmonised in his mind, the world.

Consistent with God’s laws, it is an harmonisation of the internal states of the monadic substances, their perspectival representations (beliefs, perceptions) and appetitions (desires, drives).

The interactions and interconnections between monads and their states – and therefore God’s harmonisation – are pre-ordained by him. In our finitude, we can only poorly realise this true knowledge.

That thought grasps its object from a particular point of view is an excellent, necessary approach to knowing the world.

When two people look at the same object or consider the same issue yet think and speak about it differently, they do so because they relate with that object or issue from their own perspective.

The questioning and testing of these perspectives, each in relation to the other and to their objective circumstances, can result in the deepening of our understanding of what is seen or considered.

In the process, we embrace and engage with the engine of the world – contradiction.

To bring perspectives constructively to a subject is to cut facets on a rough diamond.

Perspectives are essential to truth and to our knowledge of the world.

Brillanten

red-star

Images: top/bottom

Reply to Austin 2: on reason and the emotions in philosophy

phaedrus

Hi Austin,

When I process about a lack of hope, I refer not to self-pity but to a loss of faith in others – the same loss of faith that results in the countless ways people use to escape from life (Hegel in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion recommended a priesthood of philosophers, caring nothing for the world),1 particularly in the capitalist West, where it is encouraged to believe and practice that exploitation (‘What’s in it for Me?’) forms the basis of all relationships – with others and nature.

I needed someone to recognise my need, and to step forward unasked and help me (why? because I knew I was putting to the test for the first time for myself what I had believed in and acted on for others). My need was recognised  – a friend lent me the money to get my car registered.

‘So what? It’s only a car’ one might reply, but it was a very important symbolic point for me at the time. This ‘small’ act renewed my hope, my belief in humanity and trust in my idealism and sustained me through two degrees, enabling me to develop my philosophy and work, contrary to the dominant capitalist ideology and its academic proponents.

We are animals and our brains function holistically. Thoughts – linguistically structured and those from ‘below’ language seamlessly generate emotions which in turn feed back into thoughts. There is no such thing as a thought without an emotion or vice versa.

There are those who argue that conscious linguistic thought is simply the end point of a very long ‘subterranean’ process – the conscious thought simply manifests ‘decisions’ already ‘taken’. Then there is the degree of development of areas of our brains – which are more literally primitive and which the most advanced and how do they bear on the working of our brains? All these inter-related processes take place constantly in the one brain.

Which brings me to the key justification for Western supremacism – our ‘reason’ – the Great Lie of patriarchal philosophy. What is held up as the most rigorous is often suffused with the most intuitive, the most ‘subterranean’, poetic and dialectical. Mysticism, its influence pervasive in our culture and its philosophy, is built on these processes.

Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, structured with impressive, imposing numerically sequential divisions and taught by academics as a model of intellectual rigour is nothing more than disingenuous mystical gobbledygook book-ended by the core apophatic statement that what we cannot speak of we must pass over in silence.

Russell, in his introduction, discussed Wittgenstein’s attitude to the mystical, pointing out ‘after all, Mr Wittgenstein manages to say a good deal about what cannot be said’ including on ethics – and I would add, aesthetics and God, no less.

The Tractatus (by one whom I regard as Heraclitus without the Heraclitus, by one who was a model for everything philosophy is not) can be consigned with confidence, in terms of worth, to the bottom end of this mystical current.

Hegel’s philosophy, again deeply disingenuous patriarchal mysticism in the name of ‘Reason’ is, as Marx recognised, at the top end of this scale. His philosophy is not only the richest and most complex expression of mysticism, it was, till then, the closest reflection in philosophical language of how the world works. Marx stood Hegel’s structure on its ‘feet’.

In applying Hegel’s philosophy to materialism, Marx developed materialism dialectically (while it is a philosophy not a science, it is the only philosophy for the development of science, which goes ever deeper into the contradictory nature of the world).

But Marx retained a commitment to the place of language in philosophy – that thought, in reflecting the world, is only linguistic and conceptual. And it is in this area that dialectical materialism must be further developed.2

The mystical philosophy that Marx acknowledged he built his own philosophy on, his own method of knowing the world, not only has at its core another way of reasoning – intuition, mysticism’s appreciation of the importance of the emotions to thought and of the complexity in the relations between emotions and thought found expression in the very dialectics Marx positioned at the heart of materialism.

Best regards,

Filippo

red-star

Notes

1. ’Instead of allowing reason and religion to contradict themselves, we must resolve the discord in the manner appropriate to us – namely, reconciliation in the form of philosophy. How the present day is to solve its problems must be left up to it. In philosophy itself the resolution is only partial. These lectures have attempted to offer guidance to this end.

Religion must take refuge in philosophy. For the theologians of the present day, the world is a passing away into subjective reflection because it has as its form merely the externality of contingent occurrence. But philosophy, as we have said, is also partial: it forms an isolated order of priests – a sanctuary – who are untroubled about how it goes with the world, who need not mix with it, and whose work is to preserve this possession of truth. How things turn out in the world is not our affair.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Vol. III, Ed., Peter C.Hodgson, Trans., R.F.Brown, P.C.Hodgson, J.M.Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2007, 161-162

2. The same problem the artistic patriarch Plato had with ‘the emotions’ can be found in the lives of the leading Marxists: Unable to unite science and art in his dialogue ‘Cleanthes’, which also carried him ‘like a false-hearted siren into the clutches of the enemy’, Marx abandoned poetry for philosophy in which he hoped to discover ‘our mental nature to be just as determined, concrete, and firmly established as our physical’. In E. Fischer, The Necessity of Art, A Marxist Approach, Trans. A. Bostock, 1959, reprint. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986, 4. In his doctoral thesis of 1841 he wrote ‘In order for man to become his only true object, he must have crushed within himself (my italics) his relative mode of being, the force of passion and of mere nature.’ (Ibid.); Lenin, Gorky and Lunacharsky wrote that although Lenin loved music, to listen to it disturbed him very much. In Lenin on Literature and Art, Progress: Moscow, 1978, 270, 284, 285; Trotsky also admitted to ‘resisting’ art. In M. Solomon, Ed. Marxism and Art, Essays Classic and Contemporary, 1973, reprint. Detroit, 1986,192.

Image