PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 89 8th August 2004
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
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?
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),
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." 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." 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." 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." 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." 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."
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.
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").
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" 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.
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.
1. http:--- 2. Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 33. 3. http:--- 4. http:--- 5. Ibid.
6. Loc. cit. 7. Loc. cit. 8. http:--- 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:---
(c) Ruel F. Pepa 2004
Department of Social Sciences & Philosophy College of Arts and Sciences Trinity College of Quezon City The Philippines
II. RELAUNCH OF THE PATHWAYS CONFERENCE
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy conferencing!
III. ISFP WEB SITE NEW GERMAN VERSION
Ute Sommer is currently translating the main pages of the ISFP web site into German. The work is well underway. 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!
Ute Sommer's contribution to the Philosophy Lover's Gallery can be found at: