File spoon-archives/nietzsche.archive/nietzsche_1998/nietzsche.9801, message 4


Date: Sun, 4 Jan 1998 14:46:47 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Perspectivism


Henry Sholar wrote:

>I would try to put this in more everyday terms:  building a house,
>hammering, sawing, even chalk-lining, measuring, plumbing, etc.
>are activities, and most primordial "perspectives."  The "theoretical
>thinking" that goes into these activities is the always-already reactive
>perspectives (of what heid. calls the abstract "present-at-hand").
>
>for nietzsche to continue to mix these misses something important.
>my 'perspective' on this, then, is that neitz. does have a metaphysical
>notion of human life and his 'morality' grounds this metaphysics.  he
>has ascendancies and descendancies.  he has a spiritual energy that
>urges 'life' over 'death.'  whereas, heid. stays within a simple
>phenomenological understanding that we are always ultimately
>being-towards-death.  death is our ultimate and ownmost possibility.
>how to live authentically within that alignment is all there is for heid,
>and for all perspectives' qualities and quantifications we have.  the
>background is always a holism of practical activities that are always already
>moving us, individually, towards death.  further speculations about an
>individual's "will to life" or species' "will to life" is metaphysics.

"The ripe fruit wants to fall." Sorry, I don't have my finger on exactly
where this is from, maybe Zarathustra (anybody know?). Ascendancy and
descendancy, in other words, belong to a coherent whole, as coequal
potentials. Rising and falling. Living and dying. It is, in other words, not
on the basis that things rise or fall that a value may be ascribed. Rising
and falling are not values, but the twin potentialities (coming to be and
passing away) that underly any being.

Nietzsche's point about will to truth is, I think, much further along this
line of thought. It is essentially that the affirmation of becoming--coming
to be and passing away, or life as birth_and_ death (or growth and
decay)--requires a strength that is other than what is normatively human.
Oedipus eyes and Odysseus ears are required, as he put it. Resoluteness in
the face of death (the nether side of life) is bravery. This is, in other
words, the Nietzschean ground on which Heidegger puts forward his notion of
authenticity. Along this line of thought, will to truth may be thought of as
possessing the twin potentialities of authenticity and inauthenticity. As
authentic, it is the eyes of Oedipus, the ears of Odysseus. As inauthentic,
it is the three monkeys, see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The human
norm, however, is inauthenticiy. The authentic is the exception.

The affirmation of the eternal return of the same is simply the affirmation
of becoming as coming to be and passing away. Resoluteness is tragic wisdom.

It was Nietzsche's insight that our values provide windows by means of which
we might be able to see into our essential relation to life as birth and
death (growth and decay), as being affirmative or negational.

"Will to life" was, of course, Schopenhauer's phrase, which Nietzsche
continues as the "will of life," or will to power. Nietzsche, however, it
seems to me, is not hypothesizing this as some kind of causative force that
is determinative of beings, if you will, but rather as a pathos or affect,
the "feeling of power." It is not the doer behind the deed, in other words,
but the deed itself. Not the cause underlying the effect, but the
self-representative affect. It would perhaps not be far wrong to assert that
it is affectivity, as such, and which composes the subject (the subject as a
multiplicity of affects).

>send me to Peirce, where can i learn his synechism idea?

Roughly put, synechism might be said to be the doctrine of truth as
continuity. Truth forms a continuum, but relative to which no one point
(truth) may be said to form a ground. The truth of logic, however, is
postulated as a "habit," that is, as not something that is true in itself
(pure reason), but as possessing an entirely practical ground.

The best collection of his writings I've seen is _Philosophical Writings of
Peirce_, a 1955 Dover reprint (of _The Philosophy of Peirce: Selected
Writings_, originally published in 1940 by Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd.).
There is also a web site that has quite a few of his writings available,
Arisbe at http://nothing.com/peirce/Arisbe.html. The essay, "The Fixation of
Belief," available at the site, I believe, is particularly good.

>i believe the holism is separated from the perspectives-an-sich,
>because the perspectives are not, never an-sich.  the perspectives
>are only separable in a step-back, theoretical, analysis which turns
>the perspective into a theory.  that 'reactive' action removes the
>perspective from its shared background authenticity.  you then
>have to begin making moves such as what you describe in the
>following...

This holism would be, simply put, Peircean synechism, or the continuum of truth.

It seems to be that you are asserting that the foreground belongs to the
background, and must first be separated (focused, if you will), before it
can be said to form a discrete appearance (phenomenon). Prior to such a
separation (or focusing), neither foreground nor background could be said to
be phenomenologically distinct. This would seem to fit with Nietzsche's
notion of a prior reduction (the equating of the inequatable) which must
occur prior to any perspective (stand-point) coming to be. It is, in other
words, only in relation to a perspective that a foreground and a background
may be said to be, but prior to the arrisal of any perspective, something
must already have been fashioned from which a foreground and background
might then be resolved. This is very much implicit, I think, in Nietzsche's
thinking, and is what distinguishes his thinking from a mere positivism, for
instance.

>you have a *formal* holism of perspectives that is ultimately
>grounded on logic, or "reason," i.e., some sense-making formal
>laws and rules with which you have to "glue" perspectives together.
>you have chosen a "formal place" to stand and make a claim about
>the holism, clarifying the hermenutical circle, but clinging to a formal
>ground.  this is what i would call, for wont of better, "cartesian ontology."

Except that Nietzsche, it seems to me, denies the distinction between pure
and practical reason. Pure reason is, itself, practical, in other words. To
assert otherwise would be to assert, ala Kant, etc., that the value of a
perspective might be adjudged by its reason. This is what Nietzsche
specifically denies. Reason and logic afford us no means to adjudge the
truth of reason or logic, in other words. Knowledge cannot know itself. The
question of the ground of reason comes down to two alternatives: 1) divine
fiat and 2) natural development (or evolution). Nietzsche opts for the
latter on the grounds of it simply being more "reasonable," if you will. Or
why resort to a fantastical explanation (divine fiat), when a perfectly
rational, if not entirely exhaustive, explanation is available. Shit
happens, in other words.

>from heid., the perspectives are a mosaic of cultural practices and skills
>that form a practical holism, ungrounded except in that they fit together
>for a culture; they are inter-involved dynamically, and change thru time
>(what we call "history").  the flow of perspectives is exactly opposite the
>one you infer:  the perspectives are ultimately learned or "picked-up"
>cultural practices that involve little or no formal, logical, or rule-based
>cognition; in fact, the more culturally skilled we become, the less formal,
>and rule-based we are and the larger the "tacit" understanding becomes.

And these cultures are, for Nietzsche, perspectives. They are the
perspectives themselves, and cannot be said to be what underwrites the
perspectives vis-a-vis each other. A perspective exists prior to our coming
to know and elaborate what it is, in that it is the result of a development
relative to which knowledge only comes late. A perspective is a growth (or
will to power). The "tacit" understandings form the body of the perspective,
but a body which remains primarily removed from view and which we only come
to know second or third hand, as "affects" (wills) and "projections"
(representations) for instance. Peirce here speaks of reality as being
triune, as being composed coequally of action (firstness), feeling
(secondness), and thought (thirdness), a notion he traces back to Hegel.

The question here would be whether culture, as a general phenomenon, might
be said to provide a ground. Still, that would only provide a ground that
might be said to be true for us, a "species perspective," as I've put it. It
would compose what is absolutely true for us, but could not be said to be
what is absolutely true as such (although, we can't say positively that it
isn't the absolutely true as such). The first thing that would have to be
excluded, however, would be morality. There is no general agreement as to
morality that runs across all cultures. Each culture possesses its own
"good," in other words.

However, even a species perspective, it seems to me, must be highly
speculative. Not something ever known in any final sense, in other words. At
most, it seems to me, it implies that there is an infinite multiplicity of
perspectives, of which ours is only one.

>this view includes the notorious "ontological difference" to wit: 
>the principle of identity (or non-identity), the ground of logic,
>is always being applied "after the fact"-- the practical cultural
>practices always first ground the (reactive) formal understanding
>of the (current) principle of identity. to ground, as Hegel does
>(& presumably Peirce and Neitz. in *different* ways) the perspectives
>in logic, is to miss the flow of certainty which is grounded in know-how
>(cultural practices/skills) and only then reactively perceived in know-what.

Except neither Nietzsche and Peirce are doing what you suggest. My
suggestion, rather, is that the underground agreements between Heidegger,
Nietzsche, and Peirce are more abundant than what might appear at first
sight. Both Nietzsche and Peirce assign a practical ground to reason and
logic that is, itself, something other than necessarily logical or
reasonable. Peirce refers to logic, for instance, as a "habit." Nietzsche
refers it to a _pathos_ or "affect." The three are in agreement here, it
seems to me. Know-how, in other words, is an already existent "affect," a
state of pathos that always already animates us in relation to the object of
that pathos (the world of things).

>so here, you have the linkages being formal, logical ones that relate a
>formal logically grounded background to a formally & logically
>explainable foreground, and there becomes really no difference
>between foreground and background.  in this story, the distinctions
>are (again) formal, logical, and dependent on the "perspective of the
>perspective" as deduced logically so as to ascertain a formal background
>from a formal foreground.

This is simply how we may come to know a perspective as being the
perspective that it is (or a culture as the culture that it is, etc.).
Knowledge of the perspective is, however, after the fact of the perspective,
even inseparable from the perspective, in that knowledge itself forms a
perspectivity. The knowledge of perspectivity is, in other words, a
latecomer, even an unwelcome guest. Prior to such an arrisal, all
perspectives (cultures?) naively assume that they are the only perspective,
relative to which all other perspectives might be judged. It is only that
perspective (will to truth?) that comes to know itself as a perspective that
can come to know that it is not the only perspective. So, knowledge, it
seems to me, is playing a more dynamic role here than you would seem to wish
to assign to it.

>from heid, the background very much "exists" apart from the
>foreground.  the foreground is mostly zen-like activities of attunement
>with the environment thru cultural skills and practices that
>enable such attuned activities in our historical epoch.

I note the quotes around "exists," which I assume means that it exists in
relation to some focal point of reference (or standpoint, perspective,
etc.). If you are saying that it exists in itself, then I've got a problem,
in that I don't see how that could be distinguished from Platonism, simply
asserting the background as the real, and the foreground as mere appearance,
etc. The foreground, in other words, would simply be the shadows cast upon
the wall of our brain (our cave), the reality being the light in the
projector, if you will.

>we just go about
>our business doing what we have to do to cope with and care for
>the current epoch's environmental possibilities---what we call our
>world.  most of us, most of the time, are not aware of the multiple,
>micro-changes going on throughout the culture which continually
>change the environment, subtly and continuously changing our
>given perspectives.  the linkages of the perspectives is dynamically
>involved with the transformations of the culture.  and these
>transformations are fashioned practically and not theoretically.

Yes, and I can see the Heideggerian critique of technology lurking here in
the background. But how, in the future, might such a critique be truly
implemented other than by the technologically liberated, if you will, by a
new elite, a leisure class that due to the economic benefits of technology
has the leisure for such a critique? (Here Thorstein Veblen jumps into the
fray, as well!) By the Nietzschean "masters of the earth," in other words?

>Hen:
>nietzsche does "posit" morality, because he is still hooked to
>the cartesian ontology:  he has traditional logic & morality because---
>tho he has mostly dispensed with  the Subject, transforming
>it by his tenet of "will to power"---he still has the subject/object
>relationship of cartesian ontology; he still is carried by formal
>relationships rather than practical, know-how skillfulness.
>this is the formal, logical ground of his perspectivism.

My responses above are, I think, sufficient commentary here. The
formal/practical opposition is one that Nietzsche diffuses, not one he endorses.

>via heidegger, "morality," too, is formalized after the fact,
>by theoretical, reactive speculation of the meaningfulness
>of certain gathered cultural practices.

As is the case with Nietzsche. Because cultures differ, moralities differ,
even radically. Even within cultures, more than one morality competes.

>for example, one can understand
>the ongoing battle about things like "family values" by the
>differing theoretical thinking about what counts for, what is
>most at issue for, families.

It could also be counted as pure drivel, as, like patriotism, a prime refuge
for scoundrels. In order to save the family we had to destroy it.

>different theoretical understandings
>flow from the cultural practices of the folks making the theories.
>ultimately, one chooses moral affinities according to the practical and
>concretely demonstrated evidences that a moral position provides
>in being a better interpretation  for what counts as most important.

Except that these are, in fact, one and the same. That, it seems to me, is,
ultimately, the Nietzschean position. Ultimately, one does not choose one's
morality--one is one's morality. Right follows virtue, in other words, not
virtue right. (Note Nietsche's opposition of "virtue" and _virt=FA_, however.)

>"positing" morality avails ideological justifications (which, in my
>humble opinion, are best left ignored on lists like this one). 
>and this means that already the notion of "higher" and "lower"
>is a problematic understanding brought on by "positing" formal
>morality.  a christian's higher is a darwinian's lower, and a
>"nietzschean" could side with either depending on the context
>of the coultural practices involved.  and that means that "positing"
>morality is insignificant.

Except, the notions of "higher" and "lower," even the notions of
"individual" and "herd," for instance, are not themselves expressive of some
kind of absolute ground existent apart from what is being distinguished
here, anymore than the pairs of strong/weak, healthy/sick, etc., in
Nietzsche's thinking form valuations. Rather, he is being ironically
descriptive, it seems to me, playing off of our tendencies to see these
pairs as values that possess some kind of ground outside of themselves. For
instance, somewhere, I forget where, he refers to the human being as "the
sick animal _par excellance_" (anybody know where?). Weakness, sickness,
inauthenticity, irresoluteness, etc., form the human norm, in other words,
the virtues of the herd. Strength, health, authenticity, resoluteness are
entirely exceptional. In this sense, inauthenticity is the authenticity of
the inauthentic. Does this mean that the exceptional is "better" than the
norm, that the rare is necessarily worth more than the common? No. Just less
numerous. (And, as such, more threatened, in more danger.)

>my approach, from heid., is to speculate concerning the cultural
>practices in concrete ways to see which interpretations (perspectives)
>best provide descriptions of what is most at issue.  what is moral
>and ethical gets dictated through the cultural practices and not the
>opposite.

Except, Hen, how are these "cultural practices" themselves to be adjudged?
Only on the basis of those cultural practices, themselves, or more
specifically, on the basis of the cultural practices of the one doing the
adjudging. This, it seems to me is the weak point of your argument. Because
you simply take them for what they are, or as _you_ find them, in other
words. Ultimately, it seems to me, that your position here can only result
in your asserting your own cultural practice as supreme. How can you
_dictate the ethical_, Hen, other than from the perspective of your own
superiority? From the perspective of the superiority of your own perspective
(your own cultural practices)? As long as these "cultural practices"
themselves are not critiqued, then I don't see how one can avoid being the
dictator of one's own biases, in other words. Ultimately it has to come down
to "my culture is stronger than your culture," so "phooey to you." He only
dictates who can, in other words.

>one takes a stand on what appears to be the
>"better" interpretations (perspectives) that really get at the most
>crucial aspects of a gathering of cultural practices (eg, health services,
>education, work, etc.) and answers the most crucial issues of those
>gathered practices.

One interprets the reality in the name of the ideal. Is that it? Or are we
speaking about actually delving into what "cultural practices" are in their
actuality, even if they should contradict, even offend, our ideal notions?
(I, also, make note here, Hen, of the quotes around "better"--in other words
a perspective can only be adjudged "better" or "worse" from some perspective
or other, there being no absolute _better_.) But to posit one set of
practices as general to all cultures, then use that set of practices as the
ground for adjudging which culture is best, that seems to me to be entirely
blind to the fact that no such positing can occur other than as the product
of the study of culture, as such. We return to the question of knowledge
(the question of science), in other words.

Best,

Steve
----------------------------------------------------------------------
=A6 Steven E. Callihan            =A6        "The more mistrust,         =A6
=A6                               =A6        the more philosophy."       =A6
=A6 URL: http://www.callihan.com/ =A6                                    =A6
=A6 E-Mail: callihan-AT-callihan.com =A6-F. Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 346.=A6
----------------------------------------------------------------------



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