Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When one is not being Philosophical; Part 4 of "The Visible and the Invisible"

In the last post the rigor in which Merleau-Ponty and us addressed the coming-to-the-scene of the other was done from a Phenomenological instinct of faithfulness to the present; specifically to the present that is always ahead of itself and certainly always inside of myself. The idea of "the myth of empathy" was not a conclusion drawn from some "existential crisis" or a negation of a teleological presupposition, but working phenomenology which can almost be seen as a hyper-empiricism, or if you would like, idealist realism. Empirical solipsism is an interesting phrase we could use to describe this but Phenomenology would be the discipline that envelopes what we and Merleau-Ponty were after in distinguishing ourselves absolutely from the other. That the "structural" consequences of such a thinking are important goes without saying, but as was stated in the last post, we are always limiting ourselves to phenomenologists; beings on the brink of just making sense. The rigor of phenomenology is all pervading. As Merleau-Ponty continues on in the text he comes up against the dialectic as first addressed by Hegel, but seen as being more appropriate in it's faithfulness to Sartre's negative dialectic. Just as Sartre speaks of a someone being in "bad faith", Merleau-Ponty speaks of someone practicing a "bad dialectic". This is a topic I want to address most closely in a later post after the reading of the whole text is finished. For now though, when one is left to oneself and one understands how rigorously they are applied to themselves, there isn't really room for an intersubjectivity that would like to operate under "common ground". This synthesis model though is something that is always practiced by everyone, philosophical or not, when on the scene with the other. And just as obvious as this synthesis model is, there is an antithesis model that is just as obvious, meaning the antithesis of a synthesis in a dialectical model. If one stays in this negation of positivity, essentially, doubt, this for Merleau-Ponty is bad philosophy. It's one not being philosophical when finding a home in a negation, existentially speaking, in being negative. One is essentially not being philosophical when the dialectic could ever come to an end in one negation. There is a style to coming to an end in one negation, existentially speaking, there is a style in doubt. Merleau-Ponty addresses this "bad faith" of the dialectician, or Phenomenologist, or Philosopher when addressing the practice of the dialectic, which for sum or difference, is philosophy (Philosophy is an infinite negation never possible of being a style because of never having the chance to settle anywhere for too prolonged a period of time). Merleau-Ponty states "If, in it's name, we make speculative doubt the equivalent of a condemnation, it is because, as passive beings, we feel ourselves caught up in a mass of Being that escapes us, and we oppose to this adversity the desire for an absolute evidence, delivered from all facticity. Thus the methodic doubt, that which is carried out within the voluntary zone of ourselves, refers to Being, since is resists a factual evidence, represses an involuntary truth which it acknowledges to be already there and which inspires the very project of seeking an evidence that would be absolute". So far, the negative dialetic is in "good faith". So far, we are doubting in order to grasp being because we are overwhelmed by what being could be, and so seek out an absolute evidence that could possibly confirm this absolute by not referencing factual evidence, but by negating factual evidence, and when in the process of this negation, they are then in being; a place where something is not this or that, our basic fundamental state of nothingness that eventually comes into being. When I positively affirm something I have a grasp of it. When I negate the existence of something I have nothing left afterwords. This nothing left afterwords is a "spot of being", "where" being is when it's not making predicative statements, where being is before it's being. It's in "nothing-spots". It's still in something for sure, but this something is passive. A passive something and nothingness are analogical here. But, one can be thrown back into existence and end in this one negation of something, where one is being a bad dialectician, and bad philosopher. "If it remains a doubt, it can do so only by reviving the equivocations of skepticism, by omitting to mention the borrowings it makes from Being, or by evoking a falsity of Being itself, a Great Deceiver, a Being that actively conceals itself and pushes before itself the screen of our thought and of its evidences, as if this elusive being were nothing". The reason why one would want to revive skepticism (not knowing the equivocations of it) is a because of a settled style. If one doesn't admit that one is borrowing all the basic evidence of Being when making their statements of skepticism, one could say that they are home in their style, or simply being bad philosophers, or bad thinkers. Essentially, being home in a style is being a bad thinker. As we should know, when I say "this doesn't exist", I am borrowing the basic facts of being to postulate a "skeptical" statement. I am borrowing being to state nothingness and we see how being and nothingness permeate each other here. What am I borrowing? I am borrowing a "This" from being, I am borrowing an "existence" from being, and I'm borrowing an action from being in the negative verb "doesn't". Nothingness truly is Being. Merleau-Ponty takes this bad faith a step further when one could possibly evoke a Great Deceiver, or a "devil" that somewhere exists to consciously try to fool me that everything in front of me doesn't exist. Even of this were the case, this Great Deceiver is still a being, and everything that he would postulate as ostensibly "nothing" or fake is still a being. I still have a view, a tyrannical view of vision if you will, over something outside. It's thrown, it's "postulated", it's a being. If one sees this as an over-elaboration or a simple redundancy of Cartesianism, one wouldn't be mistaken.
If one stops at this skepticism posing as a stable negation, "The philosophical interrogations therefore would not go all the way through with itself if it limited itself to generalizing the doubt, the common question to extending them to the world or to Being, and would define itself as doubt, non-knowing or non-belief. Things are not so simple". Philosophy doing philosophy (incessant interrogation) can't stop at a stable negativity. The Negation of the dialectic is essentially being generalized as doubt. When one is badly practicing philosophy or the dialectic, they are generalizing the process overarchingly as "doubt". This manifests itself in language when the sense of doubt becomes defined as doubt itself, or non-knowing, or non-belief. Essentially if you were to ask me "What is the Dialectic?", you would be asking a question as a bad philosopher and if I answered the questions with something like "It is doubt", I would be a bad philosopher. By you thinking that the dialectic could ever come to a simple summarization or a synthesis, and by myself thinking that I can provide you with an abstract direct object to signify this synthesis, we are being bad philosophers. Nothing is continuing on and moving, but stopping and settling down. There is a being for this, the human being. But unfortunately (or fortunately for the phenomenologist), if we are to follow the phenomena of consciousness through faithfully, then the answer is not so simple.
"In being extended to everything, the common question changes its meaning. Philosophy elects certain beings-'sensations,' 'representations,' 'thought,' 'consciousness,' or even a deceiving being- in order to separate itself from all being. Precisely in order to accomplish its will for radicalism, it would have to take as its theme the umbilical bond that binds it always to being, the inalienable horizon with which it is already and henceforth circumvented, the primary initiation which it tries in vain to go back on. It would have to no longer deny, no longer even doubt; it would have to step back only in order to see the world and Being, or simply put them between quotations marks as one does with the remarks of another, to let them speak, to listen in...". Beings aren't just Dasein being. They are not just others and/or myself. They are anything outside of itself. These beings such as "thought" or "sensation" which try to elicit an impression of the invisible, or nothingness are always binded to being. When I describe passive activity, in the Husserlian sense, I'm relying on a world, or something, already thrown to me. I certainly entertain myself by describing what nothing is by describing it. To think what's it's like to not recognize oneself in the process of grasping something for one time only (before it became Ideal by repetitive "perfectings") is to be in being. To think is to be in being, even if the thinking is an attempt at non-being. I can't evade the fact that I have to borrow being to try to get to nothingness. By realizing that this attempt at the a priori/nothingness/invisible description is "in vain", one would have to no longer deny or doubt being. This is where the equivocations of skepticism comes in. If I take myself seriously as a philosopher, I can't doubt my doubt (doubt then is a being). Again, this is a reference to what Descartes already discovered. By being faithful to myself and not doubting my doubt, I in turn negate my negation. I am no longer skeptical of what is outside of me, but step back and listen to what's in front of me; the being that came from the nothingness, the nothingness that I could not faithfully stay put in from the perennial movement of the dialectic. But, the perennial movement of the dialectic always moves;
"At the same time that the doubt is renounced, one renounces the affirmation of an absolute exterior, of a world or a Being that would be a massive individual; one turns toward that Being that doubles our thoughts along their whole extension, since they are thoughts of something and since they themselves are not nothing-a Being therefore that is meaning, and meaning of meaning. Not only that meaning that is attached to words and belongs to the order of statements and of things said, to a circumscribed region of the world, to a certain type of Being- but universal meaning, which would be capable of sustaining logical operations and language and the unfolding of the world as well. " The perennial movement of the dialectic sees it's "growth" (We are almost reaching a metaphysical Aristotelian concept of "growth" here) in constant negations, not just one negation, but ad infinitum negations. Once the negation of the world is renounced and we "step back and see the world" as what is exactly in front of us, thoughts come to the Dasein, and in a gesture that is faithful to Husserl and the original project of Phenomenology, Merleau-Ponty states that this not only means "words and statements", as if words and statements are tantamount to the sense of thought (This topic was addressed with Derrida's encounter with Husserl), but to Being that is meaning, a sense of being. But even this sense, this thinking, that would be manifested in words and statements for the Dasein, that would be renounced after the negation of this same exact sense, this sense as a "Transcendental Logic" (or "universal meaning" if you will, what Merleau-Ponty names it) would be negated, essentially the stepping back and "seeing the world for what it is" that tends to spawn a certain amount of fast-food holistic and spiritual "experiences". The positing of these experiences with a style and attitude is bad philosophy just as skepticism pivoting off the first negation is bad philosophy. In existential terms, both the believer and non-believer are bad philosophers. Always settled in a style, never moving in the infinite dialectic. That thought always comes to oneself (the Dasein) is the case, that one can always doubt the thought that comes to oneself is also the case, that both can possibly happen is also the case. That one then negates the negation of thought into a "stepping back and listening to the world" is the case. That thought comes thrusting in with a sense of "enlightenment" over this awe of the world is the case (thereby describing it). That this sense-of-enlightenment is negated by the fact that what's it's trying to describe "in awe" is not the case of what's happening when one is in this mode of "stepping back", is the case, ad infinitum. The end of that last sentence is the case, the final Latin phrase of ad infinitum, is the case. The final words of that sentence and this post is the case, and the semblance of ad infinitum as the "settled notion" of philosophy and the dialectic, is bad philosophy.

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