The Charioteer

"The charioteer of the human soul drives a pair of steeds, and one of the horses is beautiful, good, and formed of such elements, whereas the makeup of the other one is quite the opposite." -Phaedrus

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Location: Duquesne University, United States

A Blog For All and None. Consider it my narrative history of ideas. A place primarily to share and obtain feedback to my thoughts through my graduate career in philosophy. For philosophy is simply "thoughts that have been thought out."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Heidegger vs. Scheler: Part I, Introduction

"...a human being's 'Being-in-the-world' is better characterized morally and practically as a 'Being-toward-value'."

Do not the implications of this passage from John White's, Ecological Value Congition and the American Capitalist Ethos, speak volumes about the core difference between Heidegger and Scheler? I will do my best to spell out my take on these implications at a later time.

Of course my roommate assumes this Schelerian notion of 'being-toward-value' is rhetorically depleated and "unabashedly ontic." However, the question, I think, is rather one of an adequate discription of human experience in-the-world. And the war between Heidegger and Scheler, via Dominic and I continues to rage...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"From Rational Psychology to Philosophical Anthropology"

I recently discovered some very important information concerning the development of philosophical anthropology as a specific formal discipline. The most notable piece of information is that it was actually Max Scheler who directly inspired and pioneered the emergence of a plethora of works on philosphical anthropology in the twentieth century, giving structure and impetus to the shaky and unstable foundation "anthropology" had prior 1928. But not only that, but it was precisely with his writings, and this revival, that the specific title 'philosophical anthropology' came to be commonly used.

For philosophy to consider anything 'anthropological' before the modern world and especially prior to the rise of psychology was only by way of implication and by following through an argument to its logical conclusions. But, according to Antoine Vergote (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) in a group of his essays later compiled in In Search of a Philosophical Anthroplogy, with the diremptive approaches of modern Europe into, namely, the empiricim on the British Isles and rationalism on the continent, there arose, correlatively, an empirical psychology by especially Hume's A Treatise on Human Nature (16), and a 'rational psychology' named by Christian Wolff and intended to be a "counterpart" to the former(15).

Interestingly though, this kind of pyschological perpective merging into the realm of philosophy ended with Kant and one of his students, the famous romanticist J. G. Herder (see John Zammito's Kant, Herder, and the Birth of Anthroplogy). Kant criticized philosophical psychology and suggested a new kind of thoroughly philosophical study of human beings which was indicative of the break and new direction philosophy would follow with respect to the earlier types of philosophical psychology, particularly rational psychology(21).

Thus, this foundation prepared philosophical anthropology to embrace a "particluar form of interrogation" dealing precisely with "the question of the peculiar beings of 'human' beings" (25). This information reveals why Scheler's last book, but his first exclusively dealing with developing a philosophical anthropology, was entitled Man's Place in Nature, or more literally, "The Situation of Man in the Cosmos" (Die Stellung des Menschen in Kosmos) as well as others that subsequently bore similar titles, such as Arnold Gehlen's Man, His Nature and Place in the World (Der Mensch. Seine Natur und seine Stellung in der Welt. 1940).

Most Fascinating, however, is a passage Scheler wrote in 1926 in "Man and History" which M. S. Muldoon pointed out in his preface to Vergote's book:

If there is a philosophical task for which our era demands a solution with unique urgency, it is that of a philosophical anthropology [philosophische anthropologie]. I am referring to a basic science which investigates the essence and essential constitution of man, his relationship to the realms of nature (organic, plant, and animal life) as well as to the source of all things, man's metaphysical origin as well as his physical, psychic, and spiritual origins in the world, the forces and powers which move man and which he moves, the fundamental trends and laws of his biological, psychic, cultural, and social evolution, along with their essential capabilities and realities (6).

Muldoon goes on to state how "this call for a philosophical anthropology was formally heeded in 1928" with Bernahard Groethuysen's Philosophische Anthropologie (the very first work to bear this title and which, incidentally, has not been translated into English from the German), followed closely by Scheler's own Die Stellung des Menschen... (6). Of course, other major philosophical anthropologists grealy indebted to Scheler's anthropological groundbreaking were Helmuth Plessner and Arnold Gehlen (mentioned above). Today, we can identify numerous others as following, at least fragementally, this tradition started with Scheler: Cassirer, Levinas, Merleau-Ponty (heavily influenced by Scheler's notion of the lived-body), and Ricoeur. Heidegger, of course, denied the possibility of "anthropology" outright and sought for instead, on an opposite pole, a "fundamental ontology."

The regretable aspect is that although arguably the pioneer of what we nowadays ascribe as philosophical anthropology, Max Scheler died before he could even formally write his. His last book, Man's Place in Nature , was simply the publication of a lecture entitled "The Unique Placeof Man," with which, according to Manfred Frings' website, he captivated his audience for over four hours. Scheler writes in the preface, "this essay represents a brief and highly condensed summary of my views on some of the main topics of the 'Philosophical Anthropology' on which I have been at work for a number of years and which will appear early in 1929."

Scheler died May 19, 1928.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Rico-Aristo-Hegelianism

This is my particular philosophical blend this semester—a blend, that is, of Aristotle, Hegel, and Ricoeur. My first week of graduate studies at Duquesne University proved for the most part impressive and intriguing.

With respect to Hegel, we are studying for the semester his perhaps most important work, Phenomenology of Spirit, under the direction of the great Dr. Tom Rockmore, who may very well be the foremost Hegel scholar in America. He has assured us, in light of having been reading the Phenomenology since ’62 and having been through it no less than sixteen times, we will need more than twenty minutes to master the text, despite our contemporary “speed-reading era.” Indeed…! Rockmore has published a good number of books on Hegel and the whole Kantian and post-Kantian Idealist tradition. The subject-object relation is once again, following in the Idealist mold, put to scrutiny now by Hegel in relation to an analysis of conciousness (Geistes). But do objects really change? Pehaps only in consciousness.

Of Ricoeur, I will be going through, with Dr. Keyes, the second part of the second volume in his "philosophy of the will," The Symbolim of Evil, orignially published in the French as Finitude and Guilt, along with the first part of the second volume, Fallible Man. He continues his philosophy of the will in a more indirect fashion than in the two prequels. Whereas in Freedom and Nature, Ricoeur pursues an eidetic analysis of philosophical anthropology, and especially of the will, and in Fallible Man, he pursues what he considers an 'empirics of the will,' attempting to put the eidetic structure previous laid out within the context of existence and contingency, now, in Symolism of Evil, Ricoeur is more concerned with the direct human experience of our own fallibility and fault through a phenomenological description of defilement, sin, and guilt. And "What is experienced as defilement, as sin, as guilt, requires the mediation of a specific language, the language of symbols" (SOE, 161). The work is precisely his attempt to make the transition from fallibility to fault--from the more philosophically easy concept of a fallible will to the aporia contained within the paradoxical concept of a 'servile will,' that is, a will in bondage. In the second part of the book, he is concerned with how this innate human experience of fault has been the basis for the Myths of all ancient religions, and how the myths themselves were not the more etiological element, but the experience of fallibility and fault is the point of departure. For example, the biblical myth of the fall is not as primordial as the experience of the fall. This is also the case in Babylonian mythopoetic religion, Greek tragedy, and Platonic (or more accurately, neo-Platonic) Orphism.

And finally, I will be delving into Aristotle's De anima and his Parva Naturalia with Dr. Polansky. It is quite evident from only the first class, that I will be forced to reconcile with a different view of Aristotle than one filtered through Thomisitic eyes offered at Franciscan by especially Sanford and Lee. This is exciting, however, for it will challenge me to not interepret Aristotle as simply the ancient basis for Thomistic, or even general scholastic thought. Polansky recently finished a commentary on the De Anima which has already been sent to the publishers, so needless to say, this treatise is one fresh in his mind. Polansky is an incredibly impressive professor and thinker and will certainly prove to be beneficial to my crucial understanding of ancient thought.