Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rationality and Totality, Part XV

Hey Carl,

I would like to invite you to do a "guest" spot at Enlightenment Underground on Habermas-- I want to give his critique of the Enlightenment and of Foucault's Enlightenment a better representation than I would be able to do on my own. I don't want what's happening at the Underground to become dominated by my own biases, on whatever level.

I have recently mused on one of your old posts where you speak of a Habermasian critique of the Enlightenment from "within" the Enlightenment, contrasted with those critiques of the Enlightenment from "without" (e.g. Nietzsche's,) and of your favoring the former. One over the other becomes very significant if you proceed, as you once did, to make Enlightenment an overcoming of totality.

Some ambiguity arises in understanding what you meant by "within" the Enlightenment. It is impossible to know at this point in time what you include as within. Of the utmost importance to determine is whether "totalization" is within. I think where you stand with regard to this needs to be elaborated, and if you could take the time to do that, our discussion would be enriched.

I think you are correct to read Nietzsche's (and others--all of whom I am biased in favor of,) critique of the Enlightenment as drawing on a critical terminology not used by the Enlightenment. That Nietzsche and these others are able to do so is also what makes their philosophies an overcoming of totalization, as I understand overcoming of totalization to occur. On the other hand, it would be extraordinarily exciting and delightful to see how an overcoming of totalization could occur where such a drawing on the "without" was disallowed. (As illegitimate, irrational?) At the very least, we might be able to get a better picture of where the differences lie in these two readings.




Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Yusef - (No, it's not Carl. He left the blog a year (or more) ago and won't come back. It's Orla. Visit Carl over at Impure Reason where he writes a comment a couple of times a year.)

Your question (request?) about the overcoming of totality is a relevant and welcomed one, though (still I can't resist pointing out the "inside" "outside" metaphorical container image of your post - sorry! -)

Of course Nietzsche, true to his nature, would be in play here in his anti-fundamentalistic, well, everything, but in his habitual iconoclasm he is also breaking down open doors (there's something wrong with this idiom!)

Look, Yusef, if there is any rationale in our Underground blog it is precisely this: Unending and ruthless subversiveness and philosophical guerilla warfare against any fundamentalism be it Reason, Totality, Rationality, - indeed Philosophy itself.

How can there be any "in" or "out" of Enlightenment when we know it is a construct?

The joy of this blog (and reading all of your stimulating posts) is its unpredictability even if we cling to our favorites (I admit Deleuze is mine). The pain is killing your babies.

I'm sorry if I'm being too grumpy tonight. I'm in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American fundamentalistic Enlightenment (which I treasure, but also have to debunk however hard it is, since Thomas Jefferson is another of my favorites).

Thanks for your input, Yusef. It's much appreciated.

And let's remember the other motto of The Enlightenment Underground: "The ruthless criticism of everything existing"


10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"How can there be any "in" or "out" of Enlightenment when we know it is a construct?"

If the Enlightenment used one set of critical terms in order to understand itself and its limits while we used another, we could learn a lot by examining the elements of these sets, by comparing the sets to see how and if they intersected. If there are some elements in the Enlightenment's set of critical terms which are not found in ours, it would make sense to say those elements are "in" the Enlightenment; elements which are not in the Enlightenment's set but in ours could be referenced as "out" of the Enlightenment. There's nothing imagistic or metaphorical about it.

And examining these sets COULD lead us to this very interesting question (which Carl's post hinted at,): if we wish to truly understand and deal with the Enlightenment, which set of terms is best to use? (If the sets are different, if there are elements of one not found in the other.) The Enlightenment's set or our own? Or both? (But the answer "both" comes down to meaning using terms outside the Enlightenment if our set is different.)

The critical term "totality" is at issue--is it an element in the Enlightenment's set of critical terminology? Not just did the Enlightenment use the word, but did they use it the same way? Did it have the same value?

If you were trying to imply that asking such a question has no bearing on questioning fundamentalism, I disagree. Unless, of course, you have already assumed certain things about fundamentalism in advance, in which case it is you yourself who fails to fully question.

It appears to me that Carl's understanding of these matters is not our own-- he takes a different view than we do. But then, that's valuable to us. We have touched upon Foucault's essay, "What is Enlightenment," many times. This essay was not really meant to stand alone...It was to be the opening round in a kind of debate-discussion between Foucault and Habermas (and perhaps some others--I've forgotten.) We've not looked AT ALL on Habermas's side --speaking for myself,I am ignorant of it. Foucault wanted to test his ideas against Habermas--I think we should try, too. If Carl could bring Habermas's side into the conversation, our work will be enriched (not sullied by the impurity of "fundamentalism.")


I hope you're having a good and productive time in Philadelphia.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your "favorite", Deleuze,often uses the term outside, and he doesn't mean it imagistically or metaphorically. If you want to kill one of your babies, I think you need to look at your kneejerk objection to certain terminologies which to you seem to imply dualisms, dualistic understanding.

I do remember you criticizing Deleuze on the basis of his use of such terms--you regard it as a failure of his own rhizomatic "doctrines." I think you are wrong about that.


11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your repsonse, Yusef.

After reading your clarification (at least to me) of the value of "testing" the (potentially) two paradigms of the Enlightenment: its own and ours, I can now see the relevant challenge of it. I appreciate that.

It's true we have tried to come to terms with Foucault's essay, but are definitely not done with it. That would be interesting to pursue. I remember reading and analyzing it and being somewhat confused at the end of it. We need to spend some more time on it, I suspect. Like you I haven't a lot a familiarity with Habermas' take on the Enlightenment. I read him a lot back in the heyday of his Marxist period, but have lost interest recently, what with his communicative phase and lately his rapproachment with the Pope, of all people. Maybe he needs another look, at least about his ideas of the Enlightenment.

Generally, the whole subject of the temporal context of ideas is always (sic!) worth our time!

This begs the question: Isn't philosophy always a mental exercise of and in the present?

Best wishes, Yusef. I look forward to your further reflections.


9:59 PM  

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