Technology and Justice: The Philosophy of Authenticity and Democratic Theory

By Matthew McManus
2013, Vol. 5 No. 10 | pg. 4/10 |
2.2 Ecstatic Time and Teleology

Teleology has been understood from Aristotle onwards to be an evolutionary process.24 That is, the process of becoming which characterizes the linear process of time can be understood progressively. Something which is imperfect, or lacking, in the immediate moment, seeks to transform itself into a higher form. This is the telos of the object, its direction so to speak within the temporal order. However, this direction is always considered solely according to one perspective concerning time, in no small part because the particular dynamic of teleology is thought to be understandable only retrospectively. However, this idea of temporality, discredited by modern physics, is untenable if we wish to truly understand the power dynamics in which human beings live, and thus escape or master them.

Teleology is a process of becoming—but it is a becoming towards something. Is this something in and of itself eternal, not yet attained, or does it itself transform? Teleology is not carried out progressively, as the past simply evolving towards the future. The past does not simply evolve through a sequence of passing away, just as the future cannot be said to arrive once that which is present has passed away. Rather, the past progresses towards the present to be gripped by the future in an ecstatic and dynamic way in which nothing is truly lost and becoming is shaped by all directions of time.

The primary problem here is ontological—that we still characterize something as being, something as an is, without ever thinking sufficiently about what that statement means. Parmenides, at the beginning of Western thinking stated,

"There remains then. But one word by which to express the true road: is. And on this road there are many signs that what Is has no beginning and never will be destroyed: it is whole, still and without it. It neither was, nor will be, and simply is—now, altogether, one continuous."25

Language has deceived us by framing words within a time, within an is, when truly, nothing ever is in such a simple sense of the word, for time does not have moments, even incrementally small ones. Rather, the process of becoming is continuous, and it is shaped as much by what might be considered the future as by what may be considered the past. For within all becoming can be seen the idea of what something will transform into; indeed, the patterns of existence seem to manifest themselves almost purposely towards some goal, but it is not simply the past which propels them but the future which draws them. In this way, time at all points reaches for the centre, for what we conceive as the present. What is present is only the nexus that is man—that abyssal plain which forms the horizon of experience exploding in all directions. Simply try and grasp at what the present itself means and one sees how it slips immediately past us, as we ourselves are already ahead of ourselves.

The moment you try and grasp the meaning of the present, that incremental prism where you attempt and hold it has transformed already into the historical past. When you work, you find yourself thrust ahead of present towards realization, towards the completion of the task. Present evaporates in the utter elasticity of time, its ontology lying only in an influx of genealogical symbols from all directions. The temporal becomes the collapsed centre of a multi-dimensional prism which is the human experience of time. Time itself, what in philosophy is called the eternal, is outside this nexus of relativity, and it is we ourselves, through language in no small part, which are the point of intersection between the temporal and the eternal. We can only conceive this properly when we understand that the past has not disappeared nor is the future a mere abyss of possibility.

Think about people playing basketball. One of the players gets angry and throws the ball at another players head. Because the victim is sure it is going to hit him, he puts up his hand and blocks the shot. He did this because he knew where the ball was in the past, and considered where it was going to be in the future. It was only by seeing the whole of the trajectory that he was able to break the sequence.

Now apply this analogy to systems of knowledge, especially ethical systems of knowledge. Because of the complexities involved, we often don't know where the ball is going. We just try our best to chart that based on what has happened in the past. Even if we do have a good idea of where it will end, that can sometimes be worse. Because we become so involved with these conjectures, we don't see their artificiality—don't see that we're the persons who set them in motion in the first place. They're totally closed systems. They don't become critical, or see other possibilities, because they're involved in a process of ecstatic temporal/telic harmonization within their own logics.

Heidegger considers the idea of time ecstatically in his essay on Time and Being. However, his approach in this essay and others concerned with deconstructing Western thinking, specifically the history of Western Metaphysics, remains rooted in examining the past, remains genealogical—which is ironic given the anticipatory quality of care he developed in Being and Time. In Being and Time, it is the notional future which is given primacy rather than the historical past. This is perhaps the greatest disappointment in Heideggerian philosophy—and why it is only in Time and Being that he approaches tying the his entire corpus together.

We must look at the way power represents itself from the other perspective of time, from the future, to balance our understanding of the human condition. As unusual as this manner of thinking might appear, it is useful to remember that the Ancient Greeks prior to Aristotle, for instance in the plays of Sophocles, did not conceive of time in the linear way we do now.

In his essay on the subject of a Cognitive Theoretical Model of the Universe, independent researcher Christopher Langan, known as the world's smartest man, discusses the idea of telic feedback. This is the idea that, much as the artificial intelligence of a Nano technology understands what the future of its programming is to be and sends signals to the data concerning its ordering, so too can the seemingly probabilistic quantum phenomena of existence be explained unless the future of the universe also signals to the mass-energy which makes up existence, the macro-patterns it is to manifest itself as. This is similar to renowned physicist Dr. David Bohm`s conception of the matter;

"The suggestion is that if you look at the mathematics of the quantum theory it describes a movement of just this nature, a movement of waves that unfold and unfold throughout the whole of space. You could even say that everything is enfolded in this whole, or even in each part, and that it unfolds. I call this an implicate order, the enfolded order, and this unfolds into an explicate order. The implicate is the unfolded order. It unfolds into the explicate order, in which everything is separated."26

Or more scientifically, with particular emphasis placed on Dr. Bohm's last comment concerning the relationship of the new physical description of matter to the classical one,

"In the quantum theory, we have seen that none of the properties of these parts can be defined, except in interaction with other parts and that, moreover, different kind of interactions bring about the development of different kinds of "intrinsic" properties of the so called parts. It seems necessary, therefore, to give up the idea that the world can correctly be analyzed into distinctive parts, and to replace it with the assumption the entire universe is basically a single, indivisible unit. Only in the classical limit can the description in terms of component parts be correctly applied without reservations."27

This reconceptualization of teleology should not be applied, to my reasoning, only to physical phenomena. Teleology can not be separated from the work of human cognition. Indeed, the various workings of human archaeologies of knowledge establish and order beings, as Foucault indicated. But this is not simply a historical phenomenon. Paradigms cannot simply be explained by the rules established at their foundation in some distant past.

Instead, paradigms evolve because of the end established in their future, much as physics in the last century has structured itself to prepare for the eventual emergence of what Hawking in his Cambridge Lectures describes as a Theory of Everything. Paradigms, and those who work in them, can be anticipatory, even if they are incapable of "knowing," in the sense that we claim to know the past, what it is that we anticipate. Indeed, in all human activities we see the role the future plays in shaping them, at least from a phenomenological point of view. Though teleology may seem empirical phenomena, we must recall the Kantian idea of space and time being artificial categories of our transcendental understanding applied on the physical world.

"Time is not an empirical conception. For neither coexistence no succession would be perceived by us, if the representation of time did not exist a priori. Without this presupposition we could not represent to ourselves that things exist together at one and the same time, or at different times, that is, contemporaneously, or in succession. Time is a necessary representation, lying at the foundation of all our intuitions. With regard to phenomena in general, we cannot think time away from them, and represent them to ourselves as out of and unconnected with time, but we can quite well represent to ourselves time void of phenomena. Time is thereforre given a priori. In it alone is all reality of phenomena possible. These may all be annihilated in thought, but time itself, as the universal condition of their possibility, cannot be so annulled."28

To Kant, time exists a priori as a category, not as something empirical, because it is the general condition for the revealing of all phenomena to consciousness. Without a concept of time, consciousness could not think the phenomenal world. Time is categorical because it is dependent on the subject and not something given empirically, even by scientific analysis.

"Time is nothing else than the form of the internal sense, that is, of the self and our internal self, that is, of the intuitions of self and our internal state. It has to do neither with shape nor position; on the contrary it determines the relation of representations in our internal state…Time is therefore merely a subjective condition of our human intuition which is always sensuous, that is, so far as we are affected by objects, and in itself, independently of the mind or subject, is nothing."29

Modern physics questions the categorical distinction between space and time, and thus the idea that time cannot be visualized. However, even it increasingly appreciates the role consciousness plays in shaping our empirical observations, an acknowledgement of the power of Kant's argument. The evolutions we regard phenomenologically are guided within an ecstatic time, in which language allows us to point to something as an is, conceive of its past, and anticipate its future. In the same way, as some modern physicists might say, the mind of God conceives of the entire universe, guiding its entire existence with a united view of the past, present and future as one.

But what are the flaws with this? Firstly, such an understanding of time is still purely categorical. Though, as a model, it is useful to explain the processes of human cognition and teleology, certainly more so than the linear model, this does not grant it an unqualified truth.

But more important than this is that by applying this model of time, the effects of various knowledge which emerge historically in time had on shaping human understanding and the limitations they place on human freedom become clearer. Such is not a criticism of the model per se, but instead is a road sign towards a broader critique of power which can only be understood through this model, and thus overcome. For as assimilated by human consciousness, one can better understand within the ecstatic model of time how ideas are manifested as power, most notably as and through knowledge/power and maintained by language. Language, as we have already discussed, has an important relationship to our conception of time. So from a mere analysis of time we must move to a broader critique of human cognition, in all its intersubjectivity. Though the paths of human history seem marked either by chaos or a dialectic progressing from the past, we must understand the organic nature of our activity and our relationship with Being in ecstatic time if authenticity is to be understood.

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