Monday, July 16, 2007

Bird of Prey Akrasia


“What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.” – Adorno and Horkheimer, The Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments,(DoE).


“For just as the popular mind separates the lightning from its flash and takes the latter for an action, for the operation of a subject called lightning, so popular morality also separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were a neutral substratum behind the strong man, which was free to express strength or not to do so. But there is no such substratum; there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed—the deed is everything.”- Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals.

The great Enlightenment thinkers set forth to emancipate and embolden men – to encourage them to find release from their self-incurred tutelage, their inability to make use of their own understanding without direction from another.

“Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters.”(DoE)

…This concise statement of the great Enlightenment "principles and ideals" is followed by the alarming conclusion,

“Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity.” (DoE)

Enlightenment did not liberate human beings from fear – “Enlightenment is mythical fear radicalized.” (DoE)
Enlightenment did not install human beings as masters – “The more heavily the process of self-preservation is based on the bourgeois division of labor, the more it enforces the self-alienation of individuals, who must mold themselves to the technical apparatus body and soul. Enlightened thinking has no answer for this, too: finally, the transcendental subject of knowledge, as the last reminder of subjectivity, is itself seemingly abolished and replaced by the operations of the automatic mechanisms of order, which therefore run all the more smoothly.”(DoE)

Human beings, ( but here it is inappropriate to use the broader designation – I really should say “men” –men only—women were excluded from this process, as Kant said, the entire “fair sex” does not make the “step to competence”,) set out on a path which they have determined to be best, actively pursue this course of action, and even succeed in reaching it… However this path leads in the end to, “a triumphant calamity.”

"Contemporary moral experience as a consequence has a paradoxical character. For each of us is taught to see himself or herself as an autonomous moral agent; but each of us also becomes engaged by modes of practice, aesthetic or bureaucratic, which involve us in manipulative relationships with others. Seeing to protect the autonomy that we have learned to prize, we aspire ourselves not to be manipulated by others; seeking to incarnate our own principles and stand-point in the world of practice, we find no other way to do so expect by directing towards others those very manipulative modes of relationship which each of us aspires to resist in our own case" Alastair MacIntyre, After Virtue, p68, quoted by Carl Sachs.
How did this come to be the case?

The Socratic answer for this, that such an outcome is the result of being ignorant of facts or knowledge of what is best or good does not ring true to me – surely we remain ignorant of facts or knowledge of what is best or good, and yet our knowledge in general has never been better, while it also seems that the more knowledge and facts we accumulate, the more triumphant calamity we experience, rather than the less. The Aristotelian answer, that the diverting of a course of action occurs when ill-founded “opinion” holds sway makes “opinion” the villain, but attributes to “reason” curative and redeeming powers. But as we are examining the outcomes of the actions of the very “Age of Reason,” this solution seems to have lost credibility.

Did the “Age of Reason” and reason itself become “separated from what it could do?”
I have rejected as absurdity this idea of something becoming separated from what it could do. ( But if I have implied that this absurdity be attributed this to Nietzsche, I have been in error…It is precisely Nietzsche’s point that forces do not and cannot separate from what they can do.) A bird of prey which no longer attacks and eats tender lambs is no longer a bird of prey. Reason which can no longer reason, cannot gain a “reasonable” outcome, is not reason…Perhaps it wasn’t ever. Then what the heck is it? And who uses it? And why? And why is it impossible to pry ourselves away from it when it doesn’t give us what we set out to get? Why do we persist in radicalizing mythical fear – when the goal of our pursuit was so otherwise?
What DEED is it that we ARE?

The image at the top of this post is from Flashvera.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Flashvera said...

It was quite a great surprise to find my pics illustrating such a material
wow

5:23 AM  

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