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P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728
http://www.philosophypathways.com/newsletter/

Issue number 89
8th August 2004

CONTENTS

I. 'Nurturing the Imagination of Resistance: Some Important Views
   from Contemporary Philosophers' by Ruel F. Pepa

II. Relaunch of the Pathways Conference

III. ISFP Web Site — New German Version

-=-

EDITOR'S NOTE

Professor Ruel F. Pepa's second contribution to Pathways is a beautifully
concise survey of the 'unmasking' tendency in philosophy, covering the work of
Nietzsche, Marx, Freud, Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida. What characterizes the
unmasker is an attitude of fundamental suspicion towards the surface appearance
of a statement or text, a belief or belief system. As the American philosopher
Stanley Cavell once observed, however, unmasking is done for a purpose, whether
stated explicitly or not. Unmaskers are themselves always at permanent risk of
being unmasked by a yet more radical exercise of interpretative 'suspicion'.

Last week the Pathways conference was relaunched with three new topics:
'Philosophy — the learning curve', 'Theories of existence', and 'Philosophy — a
way of life'. If you are a Pathways student, or a member of the International
Society for Philosophers or Philosophical Society of England and you do not yet
have a conference key, now is the time to apply.

The complete transcript of the Pathways conference on 'The use and value of
philosophy' has been posted on the ISFP web site and makes fascinating reading.

Ute Sommer is hoping to start a Pathways program soon, and meanwhile has kindly
offered to translate the main ISFP pages into German. Below, you will find links
to the German ISFP pages and a call for more translators. If you are bilingual
or multi-lingual and a confident English speaker, why not have a go yourself?

Geoffrey Klempner

-=-

I. 'NURTURING THE IMAGINATION OF RESISTANCE: SOME IMPORTANT VIEWS
   FROM CONTEMPORARY PHILOSOPHERS' BY RUEL F. PEPA

     [This is the text of the 2004 Martin Heidegger Memorial
     Lecture, delivered on 28 July 2004 at the Barsam Hall
     Audio-Visual Room, Trinity College of Quezon City (TCQC),
     The Philippines]

From the Hermeneutics of Suspicion to the Post-Modern Imagination of Resistance

Stanley Honer in his "An Invitation to Philosophy" comments that philosophy
does not answer questions; philosophy questions answers.

In the history of western philosophy, the most penetrating and radical
questions asked by modern philosophy came out through the defiant treatises of
what the French hermeneutic philosopher Paul Ricoeur in his Freud and
Philosophy (1970) calls "the masters of the hermeneutics of suspicion" namely,
Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. According to Ricoeur, the
hermeneutics of suspicion is "a method of interpretation which assumes that the
literal or surface-level meaning of a text is an effort to conceal the political
interests which are served by the text. The purpose of interpretation is to
strip off the concealment, unmasking those interests."[1] It unmasks and
unveils untenable claims. It suspects the credibility of the superficial text
and explores what is underneath the surface to reveal a more authentic
dimension of meaning.

Marx's analysis of religion exposed and opposed the illusory character of the
transcendent realm conceived and taught by religion to ease the misery and
hardship experienced by dehumanized people exploited in work places by the new
slave-drivers of the Industrial Era — the capitalists. Hence, Marx concluded
that religion is the opium of the people.

With an equally devastating attack against the religion of his time, Nietzsche
saw in it a determination to elevate weakness to the level of strength thereby
making weakness honorable and worthy of praise. In such situation, the
character of the religious human being is led to a state of domestication where
the full potential of being human is not explored, much less realized. Because
of the "moral values" of humility, pity, hospitality, kindness, among others,
the human being has been deprived of the natural flow of the "will to power"
which, according to Nietzsche, is the sole factor that makes humanity the
bridge stretched between the "Unmensch" [beast] and the "Ubermensch" [Overman].

Religion in the hands of Freud was critically presented to distinguish "the
real" from "the apparent". Though religion could be a source of comfort and
feeling of assurance, getting one's self in a serious problem in the warp and
woof of life exposes the illusions that inhabit this house of cards. In Freud,
religion is simply an expression of one's wish to be protected and defended by
a father-figure called "God".

It could be said at this point that the masters of the hermeneutics of
suspicion though "destructive" in their methodology did not actually aim to
destroy institutionalized edifices of culture and civilization just for the
senseless sake of destroying them. They embarked in their respective projects
to "clear the horizon for a more authentic word, for a new reign of Truth, not
only by means of a 'destructive' critique, but by the invention of an art of
interpreting."[2] It is only in destroying the false assumptions and the
untenable platforms of awareness that new liberating paradigms of thought may
arise to allow the human being a better interpretation of her/his reality. In
the process, such hermeneutics of suspicion leads to a bi-focal critique — a
critique that is not only trained towards the participant in a system but
likewise towards the system itself.

However, the hermeneutics of suspicion in the post-modern climate is an
expression of the same spirit of philosophic resistance to "a profound
disenchantment with modernism (and its conviction to reason, rationalism,
scientism, objectivity and progress) much earlier in Western history."[3]
Modernism is generally perceived to be predominated by the key principles of
linear progress, absolute truth, knowledge standardization and rational
formation of states of affairs.

Nietzsche's Imagination of Resistance: Reality as Interpretations

Of the three sources of the hermeneutics of suspicion in the modern era,
Nietzsche's "prophetic pronouncements" are hailed by contemporary philosophy as
most expressive of the post-modern temper — the most pregnant of post-modern
ideas

Nietzsche's imagination of resistance is profoundly expressed in both his minor
and major philosophical works. In an unpublished essay, "On Truth and Lies in an
Nonmoral Sense," which he wrote in 1873, Nietzsche argues that that which is
claimed to be objective truth is nothing but a barrage of metaphors. Objective
truth, the basis of scientific theories, is only an illusion. Hence, if 'truth'
is relative, no amount of scientific hypothesizing can capture it.

In Beyond Good and Evil, Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (1886),
Nietzsche goes a step further in asserting this relativity. No absolute moral
standards objectively predominate the human situation, a priori. There is
nothing inherently abhorrent in exploitation; its moral suitability largely
depends on the social status of the person who perpetrates the exploitation in
society.

In another book, On the Genealogy of Morals, A Polemic, Nietzsche presses
further on in his attack of objectivity. Traditional morality for him is
tremendously influenced by the Christian valuation of weakness and hence should
be torn down. The human "will to power" is tragically devastated by one's
mind-set of guilt and remorse. Christianity has contrived them to control the
natural occurrence of human flourishing. Nietzsche maintains that there is no
absolute, objective, supernatural and universal perspective. The human
existential reality is relative: "There are no facts, only interpretations."
The very absence of a definite and absolute moral influence in the human
existential realm, bestows on the human being the lonely task of setting his
own normative guidelines.

Nietzsche's imagination of resistance is likewise reflected in his other works
which he later produced like The Case of Wagner, A Musician's Problem (1888),
Twilight of the Idols, or How One Philosophizes with a Hammer (1888), The
Antichrist, Curse on Christianity (1888), and Ecce Homo, How One Becomes What
One Is (1888).

Among the philosophers of the contemporary period, the imagination of
resistance that preoccupied Nietzsche's life of defiant philosophizing has had
a massive extent of influence on the philosophizing of Heidegger, Foucault,
Derrida, and Lyotard among others.

Heidegger's Imagination of Resistance: Hermeneutics as Existential Understanding

Heidegger's imagination of resistance is shown in his Being and Time as he
challenges the Husserlian concept of objectivity in phenomenology. "Husserl
argues that objective interpretation is possible using his transcendental
phenomenological method that requires bracketing the subjectivity inhering in
the interpreter's life-world (Lebenswelt), the world of personal experience and
desires."[4] Heidegger argues that such bracketing is not possible on the ground
that "the understanding of a situation is directly mediated by a fore-knowledge,
or sensitivity to situations, that is comprised by the understander's
life-world."[5] Hence, holding that Lebenswelt in abeyance would even make
understanding impossible. In this connection, Heidegger concludes that "as a
necessary part of human 'being-in-the-world' (Dasein), things are perceived
according to how they are encountered and used in one's everyday routines and
tasks. Perception and apprehension thus move from fore-knowledge to an
existential understanding, a largely unreflective and automatic grasp of a
situation that triggers a response."[6]

In so doing, Heidegger transforms hermeneutics from a theory of interpretation
(epistemological hermeneutics) to a theory of existential understanding
(ontological hermeneutics).

     He 'depsychologizes' hermeneutics by dissociating it from
     the empathetic perception of other beings. Understanding
     now appears as a no-longer-conscious component of Dasein;
     it is embedded within the context of specific situations
     and plans, with, in effect, finite computational resources.
     Therefore, interpretation (Auslegung) which depends on such
     existential understanding (Verstehen) is not the general
     logical method found in classical philology, but refers to
     a conscious recognition of one's own world. Dilthey's
     methodological hermeneutic circle is consequently
     supplanted by the more fundamental ontological hermeneutic
     circle, which leads from existential understanding situated
     in a world to a self-conscious interpretive stance. This
     self-consciousness, however, cannot escape its limitations
     to achieve a transcendental understanding in the sense of
     Hegel, who considered rationality the ability to
     reflectively accept or reject (transcend) the received
     socio-cultural tradition. According to this reading of
     Heidegger, fore-knowledge is accumulated over time and
     constrains successive exercises of existential
     understanding. But self-conscious understanding cannot
     choose which elements in the experience based foreknowledge
     are respecified in the bootstrapping process.[7]

In Being and Time, Heidegger's phenomenology of Dasein is basically a
hermeneutic undertaking. Understanding occurs before cognition, and being able
to seize the currently on-going state of affairs is not required by its
meaning. It is actually the seizing of Dasein's potentiality-for-Being — a
projection into the future — that is vital for the structure of Dasein. In
Heidegger, therefore, we see a type of hermeneutics that engages two
significant facets: 1) an understanding of the existentially previous condition
of Dasein, and 2) an interpretation of the potentiality of Being that belongs to
Dasein. It only means that we do not approach an object or text totally devoid
of all presuppositions; Heidegger's Dasein is filled with primordial
understanding.

Foucault's Imagination of Resistance: The Substructures of Concealed Genealogy

The French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926- 1984) challenged the basic
notions on how the human being thinks of absolute universal truths about human
nature and social transformation in the history of civilizations. In defiance
of Marxian as well as Freudian influences, Foucault purported that rote
activities defined people's identities and systemized their knowledge.
Foucault's exploration into the issue of power and its variegating
configurations is an underlying consideration in his brand of postmodernism.

Foucault's postmodern imagination of resistance is reflected in his theory of
historical understanding that challenges conventional history as a
chronological presentation of foreseeable facts. He replaces it with
substructures of concealed and non-thematized corpus of historical information.
These substructures are the determining factors and presuppositions of
organization — the formation of uniqueness that justify the awareness and
understanding — through which societies consummate their distinctive characters.

Derrida's Imagination of Resistance: In Radical Defiance of Logocentrism

The French poststructuralist and postmodernist Jacques Derrida (b. 1930) is
concerned with the deconstruction of texts and the inter-textual relationship
of meaning.

His imagination of resistance is trained towards "logocentrism". While
philosophers write their ideas, they however claim that philosophy is not a
matter of writing. They claim that philosophy rather deals with ideas on a
subject matter and writing on such a subject matter is not actually
"philosophically necessary". Philosophy aims to determine the undeniable truth
basic to the problem. Reason and truth — not the rhetoric of language -
structure it. This location of philosophy in the dimension of truth and reason
"untouched" by the written word refuses to be defined as writing. Philosophy
therefore looks at writing as "a necessary evil" that gives way for the
philosopher to convey his ideas.

Derrida strongly opposes such a preposterous view. For him, the philosopher's
relation to language must be seen as a part of the problem of knowledge. One
cannot forsake language as a negligible tool of communication for ideas are
inseparably connected to language. Logocentrism views reason as conditioned by
"a metaphysics of presence."

     Philosophical discourse is not privileged in any way, and
     any attempt to explain what "meaning" means will
     self-destruct. Put more precisely, the signifiers of
     language systems cannot refer to a transcendental signified
     originating in the mind of the speaker because the
     "signified" is itself created by the conventional, and
     hence arbitrary, signifiers of language. Signifiers
     therefore merely refer to other signifiers (e.g., words
     refer only to other words). The "meaning" is always
     deferred and Presence is never actually present. Signifiers
     attain significance only in their differences from each
     other (the signifier "cat" is neither "cap" nor "car") or
     in what they define themselves against ("to be asleep" is
     understood in contrast to "to be awake").[8]

Logocentrism is understandable only as it connects with a myriad of other
ideas. It is impossible to understand an idea that is not conceptualized. Ideas
are all structured in language. Hence, meaning and text are perpetually
connected.

Lyotard's Imagination of Resistance: The Disenfranchisement of Meta-narratives

The French post-structural philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard's (1924-1998)
intellectual commitment includes a wide coverage of issues not only in the
field of philosophy but equally in politics and aesthetics His scholarly works
consistently touches on the notion that reality expresses itself not in
"meta-narratives"[9] but in a multiplicity of particular states of affairs that
cannot precisely be signified by rational theory. Lyotard believed that since
politics is based on exact representations of reality, such particular states
of affairs are considered to have deep political importance.

Lyotard's philosophical imagination of resistance expresses many of the
foremost thematizations commonly shared in post-structural and postmodern
thought. It casts a serious doubt on the powers of reason and in the process,
affirms the importance of non-rationality in terms of feelings and emotions. It
likewise disenfranchises humanism and the traditional philosophical
anthropocentric conception of knowledge, being an advocacy of heterogeneity and
difference. It proposes that a social perception which relies on the principle
of "progress" has been rendered irrelevant and immaterial by the
post-industrial paradigm-shift in the areas of science, technology, politics
and culture.

Conclusion

The philosophical strand of the imagination of resistance that runs from the
hermeneutics of suspicion to postmodern and post-structural uprisings is a
defiant response of contemporary philosophizing against the objectivism,
rationalism, and positivistic scientism of the modern era. It is also a
devastating reaction against the structural conception of reality which
presupposes the inevitability of universal linguistic structures which
ultimately predetermine the essence of reality.

The postmodern imagination of resistance is therefore a radical expression of a
denial of absolute essences, defining characters, inherent natures and other
universalizations that artificially capture the dynamicity of Heidegger's
Dasein.

The postmodern imagination of resistance is truly "an incredulity towards
metanarratives" as Lyotard succinctly puts it. Hence, from the postmodern point
of view, no interpretation of reality can ever be conditioned by certain
universal, absolute, and objective grand presuppositions.

FOOTNOTES

1. http://www-english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/myers/hermeneutical_lexicon.html
2. Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1970), 33.
3. http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Agora/9095/postmodernism.html
4. http://www.ai.mit.edu/people/jcma/papers/1986-ai-memo-871/subsection3_4_1.html
5. Ibid.
6. Loc. cit.
7. Loc. cit.
8. http://www.whitworth.edu/Academic/Department/Core/Classes/CO250/France/Data/d_derri.htm
9. "'Meta-narrative' is Lyotard's term. It means a story or narrative that is
presumed to have great generality and represents a final and apodictic truth
[apodictic truths: an imaginary concept of truth in which it is supposed that
we know something with absolute certainty. To be an apodictic truth there must
be no possibility of mistake]. Modernists, Lyotard tells us, believe in
metanarratives whereas postmoderns are incredulous of metanarratives.
Postmoderns, in this sense of the term, are eclectic and gather their beliefs
from a variety of sources while treating the resulting compilation as
tentative." http://www.california.com/~rathbone/local4.htm

(c) Ruel F. Pepa 2004

E-mail: ruelfpepa@yahoo.com

Department of Social Sciences & Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences
Trinity College of Quezon City
The Philippines

-=-

II. RELAUNCH OF THE PATHWAYS CONFERENCE

    http://www.nicenet.org

The Pathways Conference on The use and value of philosophy has finally been
removed from the Pathways page at Nicenet.org and replaced with three new topics.

From January 7th 2003 to December 7th 2003, there were 676 postings on The use
and value of philosophy, totalling a staggering 222,865 words. This is a
tremendous achievement by all involved. What is more impressive still is the
fact that the high quality of discussion was maintained throughout, the
participants taking care to heed the two simple ground rules:

     "Be prepared to consider the possibility that you might be wrong."

     "Treat one another with courtesy and respect at all times."

The entire transcript of the The use and value of philosophy has now been
gathered together on a single web page and posted on the ISFP web site at:

      http://www.isfp.co.uk/value_of_philosophy.html

As you will appreciate, this is a massive page — the length of two or three
books — and takes time to load on a modem connection. However, the page has
been designed with the minimum of HTML formatting in order to load as swiftly
as possible. The top of the page should become visible on the screen long
before the page has finished loading.

However, given the size of the page, you might think twice before attempting to
print the page out. If you do decide that you want a hard copy, make sure there
is enough paper in the printer (it may require several refills) and have a long
cup of coffee.

All three new conference topics are open to anyone who has been given a
conference key for the Pathways Conference. To obtain a key, you must be a
Pathways student, and/ or a member of the International Society for
Philosophers or Philosophical Society of England. 

Philosophy — the learning curve

The title is an ironic reference to the cliche about 'steep learning curves'.
In philosophy, no-one ever gets to see the top of the curve.

This conference will be an opportunity for Pathways students to exchange ideas
and compare experiences, as well as offering helpful advice to those who are
pursuing a self-directed course of study.

Theories of existence

The title is taken from a Pelican introduction to philosophy by Timothy
Sprigge, Theories of Existence (Penguin, Harmondsworth 1985).

If you are a materialist, then you hold a theory of existence: to the effect
that everything in the universe consists of matter, and that everything that
happens can be explained in terms of interactions between material entities.

Descartes' dualism, Berkeley's idealism, Spinoza's pantheism, Schopenhauer's
world as will and representation, Nietzsche's will to power, Heidegger's
being-there, Sartre's existentialism — all these according to Sprigge are
'theories of existence'.

Are theories of existence useful? Are they the best way to do philosophy? Or is
there a way to do philosophy without holding a 'fundamental position' about the
nature of existence and reality?

Philosophy — a way of life?

The title refers to a book by Pierre Hadot, 'Philosophy as a Way of Life'
(Blackwell 1995).

What is it to be a philosopher? Is there a difference between being a
philosopher and merely being knowledgeable about philosophy? What are the
responsibilities of the philosopher in the modern world? How should a
philosopher live?

- If you do not yet have your conference key, email me now at
klempner@fastmail.net. Happy conferencing!

Geoffrey Klempner

-=-

III. ISFP WEB SITE — NEW GERMAN VERSION

     http://www.isfp.co.uk/index-de.html

Ute Sommer is currently translating the main pages of the ISFP web site into
German. The work is well underway. German speakers can watch the progress of
the translation by clicking on the above URL and following the links.

German versions of ISFP pages all have the suffix '-de.html'. So, for example,
Ute Sommer's German translation of the ISFP Mission Statement can be found at:

      http://www.isfp.co.uk/international_society_1-de.html

This is the first of what I hope be many translations of the ISFP pages. 

The ISFP was founded with the mission to 'teach the world to philosophize'.
With versions of the ISFP web site in different languages, we could have the
potential to reach more people around the world than any philosophy
organization has reached before. This is not a pipe dream. I am prepared to do
the work of preparing the pages for posting on the internet. All that is needed
now is for suitable translators to come forward.
 
Currently, there are ISFP members in 64 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria,
Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China,
Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Eire, France, Georgia, Germany,
Great Britain, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kenya,
Lebanon, Loma-Togo, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Manila, Mexico,
Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Peru,
Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russian Federation, Sierra
Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan,
Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam.

If any ISFP member reading this bi-lingual or multi-lingual, and confident in
English, then I would like to hear from you. This is your chance to help spread
the word!

Geoffrey Klempner

Ute Sommer's contribution to the Philosophy Lover's Gallery can be found at:

     http://philosophos.org/philosophy_lovers/postcard_gallery_27.html

---------------------------------------------------------------
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