Technology and Justice: The Philosophy of Authenticity and Democratic Theory
3: Language, Knowledge-Power and Time
Wittgenstein says that the basis of knowledge is impossible to determine. While we all believe we possess justifications for each of our presumptions, such as that the hand one raises actually exists, a sceptical approach reveals little basis for such self assuredness.
"Our knowledge forms an enormous system. And only within this system has a particular bit the value we give it."30
Or more poetically,
"It is so difficult to find the beginning. Or better: it is difficult to begin at the beginning. And not try to go further back…"31We arrive ultimately at ontological questions which are irresolvable except by thinking through the paradox of Being. This paradox has already been explicated as: that Being can only be truly thought when thinking is understood for what it is and we can then know correctly what thinking does and how it acts. But the correct understanding of thinking requires a concept of Being to explain its ontology. How can one explain what thinking is, when the is remains mysterious? And how can one think the is, when thinking has not yet reached the level of thought?
As Heidegger points out, thinking can only occur when we ponder most closely that which presents itself as worthy of thought. However, this is not a paper about thinking per se, but rather one concerning ethics and authenticity. Is there a relationship between the two? And what about time, which we just presented as in need of reformulation to understand our thinking? What is the purpose of doing so if such questioning leads us no closer either to thinking, or to a principle of authenticity?
"Accordingly—what is called thinking, insofar as it follows this call. Thinking means: letting-lie-before-us and so taking-to-heart also: beings in being. Thinking so structured pervades the foundation of metaphysics, the duality of beings and Being. Such thinking develops its various successive positions on this foundation, and determines the fundamental position of metaphysics."32
This idea, of beings in Being, Heidegger claims has dominated the development of Western Metaphysics since Plato. But Western Metaphysics, far from being simply an abstract and speculative field, is present in all formations and paradigms of thought. Its history forms the spine of our thinking, out of which what is regularly conceived as history develops. Every discipline is guided by an idea of what is; even if it is enunciated differently, still the idea of beings in Being pervades. This is in spite of the discovery, by physicists, that, like our model of time, the atomistic model of matter is inadequate to explain our understanding and experience of reality. But more important than the pervasiveness of this idea of beings in Being is the disparity of its manifestations. For this metaphysical idea, as mentioned, has seeded many of the paradigms which maintain and reinforce modern structures of knowledge/power.
In his brilliant Archaeology of Knowledge, Foucault seeks to illustrate how the ordering and structuring made possible by the idea of beings in Being has facilitated the evolution and pervasiveness of distinct, but connected, ennunciative formations which hold sway over our thinking. It is these formations, Foucault claims, which are what Wittgenstein searched for as the "beginning" of knowledge. Much like Kuhn, Foucault analyzes those rules and conditions which make possible the development of knowledge. However, he looks far more closely into the rationale and effects of demarcation, analyzing ennunciative formations internally according to their complex archeological rules (as opposed to the more narrow and arbitrary historiographical method employed by Kuhn), and externally according to their complex relations with other ennunciative formations.
While he values history, Foucault's idea of time and language is more useful for our analysis than Kuhn's, as it makes a more convincing and thought provoking argument concerning the nature of power. And it is for this reason that the idea of ennunciative formations and its relationship to the idea of spirit must be assessed, in conjunction with their connections to language, history, and of course, time.
Foucault inverts the traditional idea of rational knowledge a priori by positing the idea of a transcendental historical a priori. This historical a priori is, however, not a vast reservoir of knowledge which it is possible to access at will. It is not something from which we can derive a trans-historical system of knowledge. Rather, the historical a priori constitutes the general system of the formation and transformation of statements.
The historical a priori, somewhat dramatically called the "archive" by Foucault, is what mediates between the "language that defines the system of constructing possible sentences, and the corpus that passively collects the words that are spoken…33" The archive classifies the enunciative formation into which a statement will fit by defining how the point of consideration, prior to a speech act, is to be objectified and ordered. This regulates points of consideration into their transcendental historical categories within space and time.
"The statement is not a direct projection onto the plane of language of a particular situation or a group of representations. It is not simply the manipulation by a speaking subject of a number of elements and linguistic rules. At the very outset, from the very root, the statement is divided up into an enunciative field in which it has a place and a status, which arranges for it its possible relations with the past and which opens up for it a possible future."34
However, Foucault makes clear that his aim is not to analyze the full content of our cultural archive through a dialectical method aimed at expressing its unity within cognition. Foucault does not adhere to the structuralist wish to uncover a transcendental historical system of knowledge, a new anti-positivist logic. The archeological method does not try to reconstitute connections, or draw mere categorical distinctions. Instead, it seeks to describe systems of dispersion, and analyze why statements take on different meanings within various schools of knowledge and everyday practices within and throughout our various and connected life worlds.
One can describe, between a number of enunciative formations, a systematic disconnect from other systems, where the objects, mannerism, themes, and regulations maintain a coherence and adherence to an internal logic distinct from others. This Foucault more broadly calls a discursive formation, wherein discourse between multiple enunciative formations can occur. However, Foucault is skeptical of the idea that discourses progress to any genuine higher knowledge, except according to their own immanence and priorities.
Discourse, says Foucault, is "the path from one contradiction to another: if it gives rise to those that can be seen, it is because it obeys that which it hides." Foucault thus agrees with Hegel that the development of science and reason centrally concerns the idea of contradictions. However, he radically denies that the end of science can ever be achieved; or indeed, that a reconiliatory characteristic is central to thought. In this sense, discursive formations are almost synonymous with the more famous idea of scientific paradigms discussed by Kuhn in the Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
Kuhn's book has had such a tremendous impact because it effectively challenged the traditional view of science as a progressive discipline. Rather than characterizing the history of science linearly, as an accelerating movement towards knowledge, or even dialectically, as the internal resolution of contradictions through the development of more efficient and encompassing models, Kuhn saw science as consisting of relatively isolated spheres of discourse throughout history. These spheres are what he calls paradigms, and it is within them that normal science takes places. Paradigms are created through the establishment of a system of rules, usually as a result of an internal crisis or creative genius, rules which change our world views and conceptions of natural law. Paradigms serve as the skeleton which "normal science" serves to vitalize, but only through the methodology which the rules of the given paradigm establish, structure and support. Normal science, conducted every day, is thus more correctly characterized as akin to puzzle-solving or detective work than the progressive development and accumulation of knowledge.
"One of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions. To a great extent these are the only problems that the community will admit as scientific or encourage its members to undertake. Other problems, including many that had previously been standard, are rejected as metaphysical, as the concern of another discipline, or sometimes as just too problematic to be worth the time."35
Kuhn provides the example of various revolutions in physics to illustrate his point. From Ancient Greece to near the 17th century, Aristotle's Physics was considered the standard text on the issue of motion—to such an extent that Dante venerated the philosopher as the "master of those who know." This was dramatically changed with Newton, whose Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica established such an effective paradigm that, despite the scientific cultural and epistemological skepticism which emerged in the 17th century and later the Enlightenment, it went unchallenged for centuries. Indeed, during a speech to the Royal Institute in 1900, Lord Kelvin discouraged future students from becoming theoretical physicists.
He noted that there were only two "clouds" remaining for Newtonian physics to clear: black body radiation and the Michelson-Morley experiment, which Kelvin had no doubt Newtonianism would soon dissipate. Far from it; experiments in black body radiation, by Planck and others, ultimately resulted in the theory of Quantum mechanics, and the Michelson-Morley experiment foreshadowed Einstein's revolutionary theory of relativity.36 Both of these overturned the traditional Newtonian paradigm and established a new one, with a very different rule system, language, and underlying philosophy.
Like Foucault, Kuhn illustrates that while science is typically lauded as unified movement towards the truth; paradigms are dispersed across distinct scientific disciplines, and frequently contradict the paradigms of other disciplines. Few biologists, for example, take into account the probabilistic nature of Quantum mechanics when analyzing a cell, simply because physics' studies at the sub-molecular level aren't needed to solve the sort of puzzles biology establishes for itself. And for most cosmology and everyday mechanics, Newtonian physics is still employed because it functions perfectly well to anticipate results at this most grand level. But while Kuhn sees the transformation of paradigms as a revolution which overthrows a previous one, Foucault is more penetrating in his analysis of the archive of human knowledge.
"To say that one discursive formation is substituted for another is not to say that a whole new world of absolutely new objects, enunciations, and theoretical choices emerges fully armed and fully organized in a text that will place that world once and for all; it is to say that a general transformation of relations has occurred, but that it does not necessarily alter all the elements; it is to say that statements are governed by new rules of formation, it is not to say that all objects or concepts, all enunciations or theoretical choices disappear."37
Indeed, despite their theoretical inconsistency, Newtonian mechanics and atomism, and the quantitative mindset they are associated with, far from dissipating, wield an ever greater power over our cognition. This is especially true in a post-religious world, in which the Utilitarian mindset, and its supposedly scientific methodology, becomes ever more widely popular and wielded in decision making within and across the public sphere.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. We began with the presentation of the paradox of Being and have now progressed rapidly to discussing the history of science and the development of knowledge. What is their connection, and why would this connection be centrally important to analyze when formulating a Principle of Authenticity?
3.2 Being and beings
To answer this, we begin by returning to Heidegger. He suggested that the task of thinking was no longer knowledge, or even determining the epistemological roots of knowledge—the task of thinking must be to think of man's relations to Being and the being of thinking itself. This is the question put forward in the preface to Being and Time, a question Husserl would later criticize Heidegger for not concretely answering.38
"In so far as Being constitutes what is asked about, and Being means the being of entities, then entities themselves turn out to be what is interrogated. They are, so to speak, questioned as regards their Being…Everything we talk about, everything we have in view, everything towards which we comport ourselves in any way, is being; what we are is being, and so is how we are. Being lies in the fact that something is, and in its Being as it is; in Reality; in presence-at-hand; in subsistence; in validity; in Dasein; in the 'there is'. In which entities is the meaning of Being to be discerned? From which entities is the disclosure of Being to take its departure? Is the starting point optional, or does some particular entity have priority when we come to work out the question of Being? Which entity shall we take for our example, and in what sense does it have priority?39"
But Husserl did not realize that the entirety of the book itself was the necessary beginning of the answer, as it traced the answer to the question of Being by analyzing that being which is most accessible to us—namely, ourselves. His was an attempt to find the grounding of this being which is called Dasein, a grounding which he considered to be care. On the key page of Being and Time, Heidegger explains
"The formally existential totality of Dasein's ontological structural whole must therefore be grasped in the following structure: the Being of Dasein means ahead-of itself-Being-already-in(the-world) as Being-alongside(entities encountered within-the world). This Being fills in the signification of the term "care," which is used in a purely ontologico-exitential manner. From this signification every tendency of Being which one might have in mind ontically, such as worry or carefreeness, is ruled out…Care as a primordial structural totality, lies before every factical 'attitude and 'situation of Dasein, and it does so existentially a priori: this means that it always lies in them."40
Dasein, the being in the world whose structural primordiality is care possesses the world as its object. But as Heidegger, and Hegel before him grasped, when Dasein makes the world its object, it is transformed in itself. Both the world conceived by the caring Dasein's consciousness and the individual selfness of Dasein are transformed in themselves. This explains both the becoming and the manifestation of Dasein throughout historical time. But the nature of care cannot be explained solely through rationality. The content of care exists before the subject does, it is oriented towards the objects of its concerns in no small part by the historical a priori examined in brief by Foucault.
The historical a priori is maintained and manifests itself in no small part through language. Language is one of the tools through which the sensory world is transformed into the world of sense, but it is not an authentic process carried out by Dasein's solitary interaction with the world.41 Rather, language manifests the historical a priori as knowledge/power, establishing the rules, and more broadly, the discursive formations, in which we interact with one another and the world. But this historical a priori cannot only be understood as the idea of the past, but also the idea of the future. As discussed teleology and the instrumentality of modern discursive formations can only be understood fully when time is regarded ecstatically, within its multiple and interrelated dimensions.
Teleology comes from the Greek term telos, meaning the end, purpose or goal. In its Aristotelian sense, the idea of teleology transforms and expands upon the Platonic notion of a hierarchy of forms. Aristotle's conception of time, as pointed out, was linear. He therefore saw reality, not as a stark division between the perfect and the imperfect, but as dialectic between the idea and matter.
Like Plato, Aristotle believed that the idea contained within it a formal and ontological perfection which crude matter could not aspire to. However, he formalized and expanded many of Plato's ideas on evolution by arguing that all motion within the material world is purposive—it aims at attaining the non-temporal perfection of the idea. The closer an object is to its ideal, the more perfection it has obtained. Thus, a blade which cuts well is more perfect than one which is lacking. Time, which progresses linearly, allowing for the universal motion of all matter towards ever greater perfection; a process which can, however, be slowed and even reversed. When questioning why society has not progressed further than it has, Aristotle argued that a series of calamities have periodically set back the entirety of mankind, necessitating that the teleological process of man commence again.
The idea of teleology has been transformed and objectified by modern thinking. While the seeming purposiveness of reality inspired wonder in the Ancients, this seeming design has been transformed and materialized after the Middle Ages. With Bacon came the idea that nature must be placed on a rack and made to reveal its secrets. The older philosophies Bacon dismissed as "cobwebs of learning, admirable for the fineness of thread and work, but of no substance or profit."42 The purely observational praxis employed by Aristotle was transformed into the experimental method, which sought and seeks to break things down to their component parts to understand how they work, and more importantly, how they could ultimately work for man's benefit. This would contribute to the formation of scientific disciplines, each distinct from one another and observing their own category of phenomena.
The scientific mentality was ultimately applied to ethics and political science as well. Machiavelli sought to study politics as an empirical discipline, with necessity conceived of within the narrow telos of what must be done to achieve one's ends within this category of political science. But it was Hobbes, with his skeptical refutation of Aristotelianism in favor of a purely positive notion of morality, who most firmly sketched the boundaries of the new political science. Purposiveness, to Hobbes, was simply the striving of all atomized beings, to attain ever greater resources and capacities. It was utterly divorced from any idealized conceptions, and based purely on a linear model of time. Hobbes developed these ideas from empirical observations in the gigantic social laboratory which was England during the English Civil War.
"The use and end of Reason, is not the finding of the summe, and truth of one, or a few consequences, remote from the first definitions, and settled significations of names; but to begin and these and proceed from one consequence to another. For their can be no certainty of the last conclusion without a certainty of the last Conclusion, without a certainty of all those affirmations and negotiations, on which it was grounded and inferred.43"
Being, to Bacon, Hobbes, and their innumerable descendents was undeniably characterized by the metaphysics of beings in Being. But more than this, beings in Being were divorced from their spiritual or idealized notions and came to be understood as mere matter. Teleology was now understood scientifically, not as the striving of all things to a higher perfectibility, but as a merely objective process of survival and evolution, without any obligations existent outside of those which could be constructed on the basis of pragmatism. The world not only existed as object for Dasein, according to this paradigm but as manifested through time, as something which could be understood and manipulated for its own good—a good which was increasingly understood in a purely material way. This monomania laid the foundation for modern liberalism and capitalism. However, its atomistic conception of the subject cannot be called a truly individualizing one.
When ethics become purely objectified, when mankind objectifies even itself, the motivation and foundation for ethics, as subjectively necessary becomes lost. This Kierkegaard discusses in his epochal Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments.
"The way of objective reflection turns the subjective individual into something accidental and thereby turns existence into an indifferent, vanishing something. The way to the objective truth goes away from the subject, and while the subject and his subjectivity become indifferent, the truth also becomes indifferent, and that is precisely its objective validity, because the interest, just like the decision, is subjectivity."44
The metaphysics of the modern objectivizing method, in which that which can be said, can be said clearly and all else must be passed over in silence, reflects a paradigm in which the individual is simultaneously elevated above his environment, and concurrently becomes nothing at all of importance.
But how has this come about? And what about language? We have laid out in brief the idea of discursive formations, their connection to the idea of Being and beings in Being, and examined the paradigm of modern scientific thinking and liberalism. But we have said that language plays a key role in this. What was meant by this? And what is the connection of language to time which was said to be of such importance?
3.3 Language as the House of Being
Language has long been regarded, up to the logical positivists, as being associated with something existent. Reflective of the metaphysics of Western thought, of beings in Being, the idea of language as a semantic picture reached its culmination in the crystalline logic of Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico Philosophicus. This work summarized and went beyond the work of Russell and Frege, arguing that the limits of one's language represented the limits of one's world. What could be depicted semantically was meant to reflect the real world, and what could not be, according to the metaphysics of logical positivism, had to be "passed over in silence."
"A picture represents its subject from a position outside of it. (Its standpoint is its representational form) That is why a picture represents its subject correctly or incorrectly…In order to tell whether a picture is true or false we must compare it with reality45."
It is unfortunately impossible to determine through purely philosophical analysis when and how language develops. While related to philosophy, and certainly pertinent to this particular investigation, the question of the origin of language is a complex one. Indeed, at the origin of Christian metaphysics is the philosophy of Saint Augustine, which acknowledges the complexity of this question while still maintaining the traditional Platonic ontological position of beings in Being.
"This I remember; and have since observed how I learned to speak. It was not that my elders taught me words (as, soon after, other learning) in any set method; but I, longing by cries and broken accents and various motions of my limbs to express my thoughts, that so I might have my will, and yet unable to express all that I willed, did myself, by the understanding which Thou, my God, gavest me, practice the sounds in my memory. When they named any thing, and as they spoke, turned towards it, I saw and remembered that they called what they would point out, by the same name they uttered. And thus by constantly hearing words, as they occurred in various sentences, I collected gradually for what they stood; and having broken in my mouth to these signs, I thereby gave utterance to my will."46
From a preliminary point of view there appears nothing unique or memorable with regards to this statement, except to reiterate a classic conception of the development of language being a gradual association of words with objects. However, looked at again, we see that three times the Church father mentions the idea of the will in conjunction with the development of language. His desires, his needs, were what inspired him to learn how to speak, to communicate.
Language was thus, from birth, a purposive activity, not aimed at merely depicting the world; but more importantly, transforming it. Far from developing language with the aim of depicting the world objectively, Augustine maintains that it originates to give "utterance to our will." This the later Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations, came to agree with. Indeed, so sharply did he repudiate his previous viewpoint in the Tractatus, that he came to ridicule the positivist conception of language found in Augustine, a conception which Wittgenstein himself had earlier felt he'd completed.
The concern of the Philosophical Investigations is to determine the unwritten rules which make up the foundation of our language, a set of rules which Wittgenstein in On Certainty felt constituted the paradoxically unknowable foundation of our knowledge. Language in this sense does not so much talk about objects as it talks them. It expresses nothing outside of what is meant; a curious and seemingly obvious idea which none the less illustrates fundamentally the misunderstandings we still hold to in our conception of words. When we talk about a word being associated with an object, we can assert nothing about what that object is outside of what it is understood to be in the discursive scenario we engage in. Contrast this sentence in the Philosophical Investigations to Wittgenstein's previously cited sentence in the more dogmatic Tractatus.
"We use the word composite (and therefore the word simple) in an enormous number of different and differently related ways (Is the colour of a square on a chessboard simple or does it consist of pure white and pure yellow? And is white simple or does it consist of all the other colours of the rainbow?—Is this length of 2cm simple or does it consist of two parts, each 1cm long? But why not one bit 3cm long and one bit 1 cm long measured in the opposite direction? To the philosophical problem "Is the visual image of this tree composite and what are its component parts?" the correct answer is "That depends on what you understand by composite" (And that of course is not an answer, but a rejection of the question.47"
In the first quotation Wittgenstein discusses the properties of a picture to help indicate what is necessary to give sentences meaning. A picture is a representation of a reality, and can therefore be compared and contrasted with a reference point. In contrast, the Investigations demonstrates ironically the absurdity of asking for a picture of a reality made up of component things, when the entire idea of composite has already been determined before reality is sketched. What Wittgenstein is doing is rejecting the idea that we can meaningfully search for the foundations of our knowledge. Like searching for the justification for rules, and then the justification for this justification, it leads one down a cascading path of endless depth and ultimate vacuity. What was more important to him in his later period was analyzing the nature rather than the cause of these rules which so govern discourse.
And it is precisely these rules, in both their unifying and dispersing characteristics, that Foucault claims characterize knowledge/power. At the root of all forms of discourse is knowledge/power; which establishes the conditions, the mannerisms, and in an increasingly technical world, the outcome of communication. In this way, language, as the maintainer of knowledge/power, manifest control over the past, the present, and the future understood ecstatically. When one engages in a language game, reality is objectified in such a manner as to make it utter-able. This objectification is rarely static however; indeed, the modern sciences depend on a dynamic concept of the object.
In this way, teleology is understood not as something established primarily by nature, but rather by human intuition for human utility. Heidegger talks about one aspect of this in The Question Concerning Technology, in which he traces the origin and development of scientific and technical thinking. This thinking, he claims, has objectified Being into standing reserve, existing as a foundational energy which exists to be manipulated and transformed into ever more efficient patterns. Such can be done once the technical laws which govern beings in Being are understood more and more fully. He therefore argues that the essence of technology therefore has nothing to do with technology as something material. Rather, it is by looking at the ways discourse concerning Being and identity is framed that the essence technology, and ultimately anything, can be determined.
The linear concept of time which we hold to as a society has prevented us from fully understanding this idea of teleology. Rather, we naively saw teleology as a merely progressive force in which the future could be anticipated from the present by examination of the past. It was not understood that each moment comprehended contains within it a fuller notion of time; especially when dealing with concepts. One might call this a form of telic super-determinism. It is therefore in most cases misleading to say new knowledge is produced. Instead, most new facts emerge and orient themselves between the poles of foundational past and teleological future, retro and pro-actively becoming enfolded into the texture of a paradigm and transforming it only to the extent that they reinforce the totality itself.
Now since Kant the question of time has been reduced in philosophy to one of the medians of experience. Since this point, despite much of contemporary physics attempts to move past this categorical concept, philosophy has made curiously little progress. This is quite likely due to its persistent concern, present since Plato, with those things which are above and beyond time: the eternal. It has made remarkably few attempts to move outside of these strictures.
I have discussed before that language is related to time. What is meant by this? In contemporary theory, the transcendental has taken the place of the eternal. This is more than a semantic shift, but indicates the reduction of eternity, like time, to an unchanging pre-condition of experience. It is this definition we employed when we talked about an ecstatic transcendental system of formations which constitute human knowledge. But what about language? What role does it play in this?
We characterized it, under the influence of Wittgenstein, as the locus forming crystallization of facts which interconnect to form the world-conditioning basis of reason, the glossy surface of disconnected scenarios which hang together in certain conjectures given form by their media and sense by their position (context). But this is a somewhat misleading and unoriginal manner of interpreting this subject. Language, thought in this way, exists in a type of homeostasis before it is employed, outside a relation to the ecstatic concept of time in the transcendental region.
We paid attention only to its instrumental role, rather than its formal one. This has led to a somewhat misleading examination of man's relationship to knowledge. Language does not simply exist within ecstatic time, but serves as an anchor between it and the abyssal plain of the present. Language, is the extension of the transcendental—in Platonic terms the eternal—into the present. One might make an analogy to the metaphor of sunlight streaming into the Cave. In their togetherness, language and time constitute the moment, the solid and material real, about which one can speak. It is not the only such mechanism—there may be many others. But it is by far the most prominent, for any advanced system of knowledge is dependent on its imaginings.
But language does not merely reduce everything to the present. The moment it makes contact, it extends itself dynamically through employment. One may speak, for instance of a hammer—present at hand. But when it is employed in this context, the ecstatic transcendental is more than localized in the solid present, manifesting as the metaphysic of beings in Being. It is not simply an analytically distinct term, but contains unconsciously within it the terms and specificity of its employment, the web in which the particular use of the term now finds itself spun. It contains within itself the informational genesis of the transcendent archive. In this way, language is both particular and temporally holistic at one and the same moment of its employment. In this way the present remains tied to ecstatic time in which it is positioned and re-positioned. That is why Zizek, drawing upon the Lacanian psychoanalytic tradition, diagnosed the present as the symptom (or sinthome) of the future.
"The past exists as it is included, as it enters into the synchronous net of the signifier—that is, it is signified in the text of the historical memory—and that is why we are all the time rewriting history, retroactively giving the elements their symbolic weight by including them in new textures—it is this elaboration which decides retroactively what they will have been."48
The modern sciences regard knowledge as produced and verified through experimentation and discovery. Hermeneutics sees more deeply than this by an awareness of the historical pre-conditions that make it valid, but it is temporally uni-directional. Even Heidegger, who in Being and Time emphasizes the importance of the future to human life, is never able to develop his notion of ecstatic time systematically and apply it to the question of human knowledge. I maintain that the complete step in this process is seeing how knowledge is neither freely produced nor hermeneutically discovered from within a tradition. Put in the simplest terms, knowledge is seen produced in the telic singularity which is considered the present while in truth this transformation is results and results in a stretching of conjectures between the orienting poles of past and future. Transcendentally, even this metaphor of stretching misleads us from the ecstatic unity of temporality.
Once could go even further than this and say that time itself may only be a symptom of the transcendent. Language can break this only be becoming radically detached—in which case it would cease to be language as we understand it. But we have yet to burst the bubble of time to fully explore the ecstatic transcendent, which in and of itself is only the shallow light which reflects us outwards as symptom. We have yet to shatter it or reach past into the dark void of the eternal—perhaps an ambition for some later point.
Once the rules which govern discourse are established, it becomes increasingly difficult for mankind to realize its existence in an authentic manner; to transcend the bonds of temporality which bind one from all perspectives. The past contains within it the idea of the future, while the idea of the future governs the establishment of discursive rules in the present and past. When this occurs, when consciousness transforms the world in such a way by language, it is transformed as well. And often it is not the individual who realizes this process to engage in a phenomenological interpretation of the world as an individual, but knowledge/power which governs the understanding and ultimately, the external and internal representation of the abstract idea of a person.
This is the binding nature of a paradigm, realized in its fullest extent. The example of modern scientific thought, commencing with Bacon and continuing to the present day was given as representative of this. Revolutions which establish new paradigms, which establish new manners of thinking, are extremely rare, and require individuals of great creativity and ingenuity to engineer and execute. David Bohm discusses the importance of this for science in On Creativity,
"It seems clear that the creative development of science depends quite generally on the perception of the irrelevance of an already known set of fundamental differences and similarities. Psychologically speaking, this is the hardest step of all. But once it has taken place, it frees the mind to be attentive, alert, aware, and sensitive so it can discover a new order and thus create new structures of ideas and concepts."49
The importance of creativity Kuhn also emphasizes when discussing changes in world view, specifically with regard to the Galilean revolution and the chemical debates of Lavoisier and Priestley.
" …the process by which either the individual or the community makes the transition from constrained fall to the pendulum or from dephlogisticated air to oxygen is not one that resembles interpretation. How could it do so in the absence of fixed data for the scientist to interpret? Rather than being an interpreter, the scientist who embraces a new paradigm is like a man wearing inverted lenses. Confronting the same constellation of objects as before and knowing he does so, he nevertheless finds them transformed through and through in many of their details."50
Language, as what maintains and enunciates paradigms is essential to and restrains the development of human knowledge. Knowledge/power, it is important to note, cannot be regarded in a purely negative sense. It is all too easy to regard power in a as a hegemonic, dominating force. As both Foucault and Wittgenstein make clear, power is an essential characteristic of human life. The language games we engage reflect our life worlds, and while they can be and are dominating, they also allow for the development of both technically useful and meaningful forms of discourse which immeasurably improve our lives. Even Heidegger, who was highly critical of modern technical thinking and its narrow mindedness, admitted and admired its many accomplishments.
But what about when we are dealing with ethical issues? We have analyzed the formation and characteristics of knowledge/power in a largely theoretical way, with the consistent example of modern science serving as an example. However, the relationship of knowledge/power to the ethical is of unique importance; for to live ethically affects our lives far more and far more routinely even than the development of the sciences and modern technology. Kierkegaard rightly speaks of the ethical as possessing an importance beyond that of the arts and sciences. Within these disciplines the existent person wishes to objectify themselves away from what they produce, from their work. But within the ethical, precisely the opposite is desired. One wishes subjectively to engage as deeply as possible with the ethical, for it is the orientation of the will, not the result as Utilitarianism claims, which characterizes one as ethical or unethical. It is an issue for the existent person.
"Ethically the highest pathos is the pathos of interestedness (which is expressed in this way, that I, acting, transform my existence in relation to the object of interest); esthetically the highest pathos is disinterestedness. If an individual throws himself away in order to grasp something great, he is esthetically inspired; if he gives up everything in order to save himself, he is ethically inspired."51
Yet despite the fact that ethics is perhaps the single most important issue for the individual who orients themselves existentially, this orientation, and the subjectivity from which it derives its priority, does not emerge from an abyss. What are the paradigms and mannerisms which govern them? What is their relation to this understanding of knowledge/power? And what is the relation of this individualizing idea to a Principle of Authenticity?Continued on Next Page »
Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal
Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.
Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit
Latest in Philosophy
What are you looking for?