Heidegger’s Accordance (via Nietzsche)

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In the third volume of his opus on Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger asks:

‘In what direction does the security of stability of the living being “man” go?’[1]

In other words: what line must the train of history be carried along in order for the stability of humanity to be guaranteed?

Given the ever-present threat of ecological collapse, and the social-political-economic chaos that would result from such a break-down, this question is paramount for humanity at the moment. So …

what was Heidegger’s answer to the question? And …

can his analysis, made in 1939, shed any light on our human condition eighty years later?

 

Heidegger claimed that we are moving ‘In a twofold direction,’ adding: ‘that is already prefigured in the essence of man,’[2] by which he means, by our relationship to other people and things.

For Heidegger then, or for Nietzsche as Heidegger understood him: ‘Man stands in relation to man, man stands in relation to things.’[3]

From this double relationship a kind of two-fold mutual accordance is made in which individuals relate, not only to the other individuals that make up our societies, but also to the things which we, and those other people, relate to. At first, this seems to be just another way of saying no man is an island, but then Heidegger makes a more committed definition, stating: ‘that accordance in the essential sense is the highest and most difficult struggle, more difficult than war and infinitely remote from pacifism. Accordance is the highest struggle for the essential goals that historical humanity sets up over itself.[4] And then, in the same paragraph, he makes a claim which, we believe, makes as much sense now as it would have done in the tragically turbulent 1939: ‘… in the present historical situation, accordance can only mean having the courage for the simple question as to whether the West still dares to create a goal above itself and its history, or whether it prefers to sink to the level of preservation and enhancement of trade interests and entertainments, to be satisfied with appealing to the status quo as if this were absolute.’[5]

However, we would now add that the situation has become so grave that the ‘daring’ attitude has become the dangerously daring one which maintains the status quo, whereas the act of creating a goal above itself and its history would be one of simple good-sense.

*

The positive view that Heidegger’s logic shows us, is that the direction towards a higher goal is no more difficult than the pursuit of the status quo: it is all just a matter of accordance. To go either way, the same procedure has to be followed – we have to be able to count on each other. In either case, we must think ahead ‘to a horizon that contains directives and rules in accordance with which what throngs towards us is caught and secured.[6] To go forward unto a Utopia, is no different to creating the Dystopia that promises to arise if we maintain the status quo. Whichever way we go, the choice must be made by establishing a process of accordance.

*

According to Heidegger/Nietzschean logic: ‘Representing beings and thinking rationally are the praxis of life, the primordial securing of permanence for itself,’[7] and in order to secure permanence today, humanity has to move in a direction that goes above and beyond the status quo that we have today. In order for survival to be guaranteed, a doctrine of permanence needs to be accorded; a doctrine that can replace the internecine doctrine of constant, economic growth that currently drives the status-quo, and which threatens rather than guarantees safety and survival.

 

 

[1] Martin Heidegger, NIETZSCHE, Volumes III and IV, ed. David Farrell Krell; Harper Collins, 1991; p.90

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid, p.91

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid, p. 92

[7] Ibid

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The End of Purpose and the Crisis of Creativity

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In his 1981 thesis, ‘Simulacra and Simulation’, Jean Baudrillard lamented the ruination of the university: “non-functional … lacking cultural substance or an end purpose of knowledge.”[i]

Perhaps we should not victimise the universities, the same can be said of our entire nihilistic culture, nevertheless, the idea that a university lacks a reason for learning is a tremendously sad one.

The crippling result of the lack of purposiveness allows societies to throw in their own self-interested crutches: the university becomes a simple place to prepare people for the work-force, or, on a more hopeful level, an environment that will stimulate creativity. But if there is no purpose or reason, why be creative? In fact, how can one be creative when nothing matters? Or the opposite is true: it’s very easy to be creative when nothing matters – too easy.

Either way, the result will always be a crisis of creativity.

“Today’s nihilism is one of transparency, and it is in some sense more radical, more crucial than its prior and historical forms, because this transparency, this irresolution is indissolubly that of the system, and that of all the theory that still pretends to analyse it.”[ii]

Baudrillard regarded Romanticism as the first great manifestation of nihilism; the destroyer of the order of appearances. The second great manifestation came through Dada, Surrealism, the Absurd, and political nihilism – corresponding to the destruction of the order of meaning.

But, destruction is inevitable when appearances and meanings themselves are devoid of substance; when they are castles made of sand. It wasn’t the Romantics or Dada that destroyed meaning; they were merely realisations that meaninglessness had evolved around them. The real destroyers were those in the institutions themselves, trying to maintain a system which made no sense.

Such a condition can only be perpetuated by dissimulation, and only whilst society swallows the performance in the staging of an ersatz purpose that the system offers them. Once the society grows tired of the theatrics played out before them they will start to yawn, or grimace if they are injured by it, and through that yawn or grimace they will see through the stage-craft to the emptiness behind it. When this happens on a massive scale, real revolution or a brutal reaction can take place.

This awareness is happening today, it has been bubbling for some years, but the train is turning toward the Dystopia rather than any purposive Utopia.

Buadrillard observed a similar scenario in the student revolts of Paris, 1968. Why didn’t a revolution happen then? Why is a purposive revolution unlikely to happen now?

According to Baudrillard, the staging carried out by the media is no longer a staging. He calls the media: “a strip, a track, a perforated map of which we are no longer mere spectators”. All that remains, he says: “is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.” [iii]

In other words, we are enchanted and enamoured by the same media that is strangling us and numbing our brains. We love to see the violence and perversion that the society produces so much that we would probably fall into a kind of spiritual crisis if the brutality of the system was taken away from us.

[i] J. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, Michigan, 1994, digital version p. 98

[ii] Ibid, p.104

[iii] Ibid

THE HOLY GRAIL IN THE MINOTAUR’S LAIR

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We have been driving a juggernaut along a road leading directly to a cliff edge. If we continue going straight, we will topple into an abyss. Obviously, we cannot continue the way we are going. To avoid annihilation, we have one of two choices: we can either turn left toward a Utopia, or right into a Dystopia. It seems obvious to us which decision is the best one. And yet … most of those on board started screaming to the driver to turn right … and he has. Why? Why did we choose to go in the direction of a Dystopia before a Utopia?

Part of the problem rests in the common perception that Utopia is an impossible space. That it is no-place and therefore must be dismissed straight away. Dystopia, on the other hand, is an inevitability and therefore linked to reality. If reality and pragmatism tells us that we cannot make the world a better place, then at least we can try and protect ourselves against the evil mess that surrounds us.

In truth, our present reality is limited. But limited only by the labyrinth built around us that we call Civilisation. This maze has always been a way for managing the limitlessness of potentials in order to control them for a central cause: The cause being, the accumulation of Wealth and the protection of the wealthy classes. However, existence in the labyrinth has become precarious. The world around it is being devoured by the Minotaur that we feed at the centre of the labyrinth itself. But soon there will be nothing left for any of us to eat, and storms will come and wash us away. If we don’t get out of here, we are doomed. In order to escape we need a map, and we have to tread carefully. But how can we manage a labyrinth from within?

First, one must get a mental overview of it. It requires an intellectual transcendence through reason and the abstract; through mapping and synthesis: and this is a philosophical process.

Secondly, one has to have an anchoring in order to move confidently and lucidly within the maze. An Ariadne’s thread that will enable the hero to retrace his/her steps. With the anchoring one can creep into the unlimited enclosure and look for a way out into the limitlessness beyond its walls without feeling lost; always in touch with the overview, the mental map which provides the hero with an understanding of the maze.

The maze of our Civilisation is infinitely complex and the way out is too far away for any individual to find it in a single lifetime. In fact, it has required tens of thousands of years of intellectual mapping to get to this point we are at now. But that does not mean that a way out is impossible. There is a parallel between the labyrinth and the Grail myth.

The Grail, which cannot be reached, is the goal. It is the learning made on the journey which makes the Grail. So, in reality the Grail does not exist now, but will exist, created out of our endeavours to reach it. The goal/Grail is only holy and spiritual until we see the physical reasons for finding it. Once the physical purpose of the Grail is believed in, then authentic purpose becomes manifest.

Psychologically, the Big Other is resolved. The Big Other doesn’t exist but will exist, through rational, human endeavour.

But to get there, we have to start believing in the possibility of Utopia. In order to get the perspective needed to map the labyrinth properly and see the potential of Utopian limitlessness, a revolutionary thread is needed that will anchor humanity in partnership with the Universe as a vital element in the Universe itself. Only be flying above the maze into the ever-expanding space outside can we find a way out of our doomed enclosure. The enemy to this anchoring-in-the-absolutely-unlimited, is Wealth, which is the force maintaining the labyrinth that we call Civilisation. Utopia is an antithetical concept for Wealth, which thrives on models of Dystopia. Our Wealth-Civilisation is the enemy of Utopia, maintained by an anti-human historical narrative that it itself has created.

Nevertheless, once the lethal aspects of Dystopia are recognised, the Utopia becomes a necessary driving force; a Utopia which is itself envisaged out of necessity.

Zombies, the Brexit and Dystopia

“…man is in the world, and only in the world does he know himself.”

Merleau-Ponty, PHENOMENOLOGY OF PERCEPTION, Preface, p. xii

 

Man is in the world … And if this is true for humanity, we need also to remind ourselves of it whenever we examine societies and our civilisation.

Civilisation is only realistic when it is perceived within the context of the world – or, in other words, within its ecological context.

Nevertheless, democracies largely ignore their relationship to the environment and give precedence, time and time again, to their own self-made fantasy-reality that it calls ‘the economy’.

Civilisation has always been a challenge to the natural world; an audacious move by human beings to harness nature for our own ends in order to create a mode of existence that is superior to nature itself. But what Civilisation has gained by developing beyond the in-the-world context, it has also had to sacrifice its authenticity. It has become a fantasy form of its own potentialities, manifested in the madness of the economic doctrine of perpetual growth.

For authenticity to be returned to civilisation, there needs to be a re-establishment of partnership with the world, rather than a continuation of conquests of land-spaces and a pillage of non-renewable resources.

We are driving a juggernaut along a road which leads directly to a cliff edge. If we go straight, we will topple into an abyss.

To avoid this, we have two choices: we can either turn left toward a Utopia, or right into a Dystopia.

Given this scenario, why is it so hard to decide which way to go?

Driving forward the way we are, will only bring about deeper and deeper systemic crises. Technological advancement has to create more automation and the digitalisation and robotisation of societies, combined with the continual increases in population density, can only further decimate jobs. Concentration of wealth and the centralisation of job opportunities to the growing megacities will continually draw desperate, poverty stricken outsiders to those centres.

The easiest solutions are the Dystopic ones: the erection of walls to keep the immigrant invaders out. Ties between capitalism and zombie invasion metaphors have been made over and over again by many bloggers[i] and intellectuals like Slavoj Zizek[ii].

In the Brexit, we’ve been able to witness how easily a society can be swayed toward a Dystopic solution. When the outside world is too frightening to face, then the safest thing to do, say the Dystopics, is to retreat and gather together in a fortress with walls that are strong enough to withstand the encroaching invasion.

The idea of the Brexit is to allow Britain – probably in a diminished form from what it is now – to do its business with the world in a safe position, removed from the very chaos that that ‘business’ has created and will continue to create.

Essentially, the Brexit is riddled by the paradox inherent in all Dystopic solutions. The Dystopian is terrified by our world, but, instead of trying to imagine that world as a better place, it continues throwing more fuel into the motor of the chaos that scares it so much. In a sense, we have the capitalist Doctor Frankenstein hiding himself from his plague of monsters, but it doesn’t mean he wants to eradicate the plague. Quite the contrary, his retreat is merely a tactical one, in order to observe his beasts from a safe place: behind the walls that are heavily guarded, and with special forces that will occasionally venture forth to stir up the chaos even more.

Utopic vision, on the other hand, embraces our world, and looks for ways of turning technological advances into a working alternative that offers an immensely better world – primarily much better because it promises a long-term survival for humanity in this world.

[i] https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/are-we-the-walking-dead/

[ii] http://revoluciontrespuntocero.com/the-walking-dead-y-la-ideologia-del-capital-post-industrial/

 

 

THE PROBLEM OF MORTALITY

Of all human problems, ultimately, the greatest problem of all is our mortality. One day we will die. Add to this the ancient notion supported by modern physics that the Universe is headed toward an inevitable annihilation, and we find that humanity is subjected to and conditioned by a tremendous pessimism. Everything must come to an absolute end. Any will to permanence is an illusion. Vanity of vanities.

The more sensitive ones: the artists, the sensualists, the hedonists, call out Why? They all have a longing for permanence. “This is good and should not end,” is the optimistic attitude. And yet no-one, and nothing, can escape it.

From the dismay this causes come the religions who promise the eternity that reality denies us. The message of religion is essentially that the dictatorship of death can only be transcended through the faith in the idea of another reality – the authentic reality which is permanent.

But the faith does not change the material reality, in fact it needs its pessimistic inevitability to justify itself. However positive faith in the afterlife is, it ultimately creates a pessimism here on Earth. In fact, religious hope for the eternal in the transcendental creates a nihilistic attitude. It was a blind faith in the absolute afterlife, the Paradise of the monotheisms, that created nihilism, not the turning away from that faith.

Once the objective became to get to the Paradise, real reasons for living here on Earth were no longer important. The only thing that mattered was Absolution or Providence. The idea that humanity itself through a manipulation of the physics of reality, could prolong life expectations and control nature through understanding, were condemned as ideas that came from the Dark Side. A dark, magical side that eventually evolved into science, which offered enough illumination to return human faith to itself again.

Perhaps the most positive idea we can have at the moment is that there is no limit to what the magic of science could achieve. Perhaps eventually humanity could become immortal and even the dying Universe itself could be resuscitated by our most advanced science and technologies.

The authentic world is here, and we are tiny in it, although our minds enlarge us. But the positive idea can only be truly positive if it is seen as a possibility. The most likely future for humanity is the dystopian version and positive thinking and action have to be a contemplation of how to escape the Dystopia and arrive at the Utopia. Or to get away from the process of becoming Dystopia and more into the process of becoming Utopia.