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I have a few (large) questions. I figured I'd swallow my pride and… - existentialists [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Sep. 19th, 2005|11:02 pm]


I have a few (large) questions. I figured I'd swallow my pride and see if anyone here is better read on these issues and has anything insightful to say about any of these questions. I apologize beforehand for any spelling or grammatical errors.

As you'll see they mainly deal with issues of 'reason', 'subjectivity', 'intersubjectivity', 'ontology', 'dialectic' and 'political action' in Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Gadamer, Taylor and Ricoeur.

1. It seems that recent continental philosophy has often wanted to overcome the subject-object distinction, some wanting to go as far as to eliminate the subject. "Intersubjectivity" seems to be a popular notion, and I was wanting that unpacked a little for me to properly understand this notion. Furthermore, I was wondering what the state of subjectivity/intersubjectivity in thinkers I am currently most interested in (Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Gadamer, Taylor, Ricoeur). Gadamer seems minimize the role of subjective choice by saying "prejudices, more than personal judgements, constitute the historical reality of his being", but how does this mentality relate to these other thinkers? Taylor seems to me to take the same view. Mitscherling noted a distinct 'deterministic' viewpoint in Gadamer, which I haven't yet noticed, but I suppose minimizing the subject's role in choice could lead to something like that. Is one of the main reasons for overcoming 'subjectivisim' that in the hermeneutic circle one is unable to give priority to either structure (objectification?) or action (subjectivism?) as the entering point, and in this way hermeneutics is the only way to balance the priorities of subjectivism and the demands of the "death of subjectivity" camp (eg. Foucault). That is how it seems to sound in on Pg. 174 of Taylor's "Foucault on Freedom and Truth." But Habermas writes on pg. 341 of "A review of Gadamer's 'Truth and Method'" that "the unbroken intersubjectivity cancels out subjectivity." Does this mean that pure intersubjectivity cannot make room for the demands of the subjective? Furthermore, on a related point, In "Overcoming Epistemology" (pg. 16) Taylor accuse Derrida of talking about the "end of subjectivity" but offering it instead - how?
This leads to my second question

2. Kierkegaard (as well as some mid-20th century "existentialist" theologians) are mentioned in "Hermeneutics and Logocentricism" (pg. 120) in a positive light. I'm unclear as to what Gadamer takes from Kierkegaard's philosophy and would be interested in knowing what type of influence he may have had on philosophical hermeneutics, if any (especially because Gadamer seems to be largely influenced by Hegel, Kierkegaard's main philosophical target). I'm especially interested in knowing (as was mentioned in question 1) what later continental thinkers take on Kierkegaard's view of 'subjectivity' is. And in this way does Kierkegaard anticipate the neo-Nietzscheans (whom I have heard lay claim to him) or Hermeneutical turn in Phenomenology guys (Heidegger-Gadamer-Ricoeur-Taylor-etc). This leads to my next question.

3. Charles Taylor in "Overcoming Epistemology" (Pg. 16) writes: "Nietzsche makes will primary whereas the critique through conditions of intentionality (Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty) purports to show us more of what we are really like - show us our deep or authentic nature as selves...so those who take the Nietzschean road are reluctant to understand the critique as gain in reason. They'd rather deny any role of reason in our choices." This makes me wonder what the role of reason is in Taylor, as well as those whose side he seems to be take (Heidegger). He goes on (pg. 17) to say that there is a division among moderns between the primacy of will (Nietzsche - and I'm guessing a lot of french existentialists?) and 'self-critical reason' (Heidegger). So does Heidegger (and those following him in the 'hermeneutical turn in phenomenology') defend this type of reason, and what does this exactly mean? So, like my previous question, can we interpret Kierkegaard in the 'primacy of will' category or the 'self-critical reason' category.
The topic of reason leads to my next question:

4. Ricoeur, in "Hermeneutics and critique of ideology" (pg. 280) claims that Gadamer reconciles reason with authority. As you can probably see I am quite interested in the role reason plays in these figures (and in this case Gadamer). Furthermore, Taylor (overcoming epistemology pg. 17) says that Habermas defends the same critical reason as Heidegger (and I'm assuming this is the 'reason' Ricoeur is defending in Gadamer), but Habermas distrusts Heideggerian disclose - He differs from both defending a formal understanding of reason and procedural ethic. 2 questions arise from this: What is this formal understanding of reason, and how is it different than 'self-critical reason (which Heidegger supposedly defends)' and what is problematic about Heidegger's 'disclosure'?

5. Following along with the topic of Reason, I am wondering about the further definition of 'instrumental reason'. In "Foucault on Freedom and Truth" (pg. 160) Taylor writes, "Central to the Romantic notion of liberation is the notion that the nature within us must come to expression. The wrong stance of reason is that of objectification, and the application of instrumental reason: The right stance is that which brings to authentic expression what we have within us." Is instrumental reason the same as the formal understanding of reason Habermas rejects? Taylor seems to defend reason here (the reason he sees Heidegger defending), but not instrumental reason (and not the same reason as reified by the modern rationalists). In "overcoming Epistemology" (Pg. 14) Taylor recommends "substituting instrumental reason with modern reason or 'self-responsible reason'". What type of reason is he defending and how does it differ from instrumental reason? Is this 'modern reason' or 'self-responsible reason' the same kind of reason he sees Heidegger as defending, 'self-critical reason'? He seems to say (pg. 15) that this type of reason he's defending is the same type Heidegger is defending as 'disclosure.'

6. In "hermeneutics and Logocentricism" Gadamer is confused why Derrida might interpret 'presence' in Heidegger. Is Derrida reading Heidegger in the same way Levinas did and arriving at the same problems?

7. I'll get a bit political here. Regarding the left there seems to be two major camps - the liberals and the communitarians, and more often a mixture of these. Taylor calls his position in one place (I don't recall where it was) as the "new philosophical communitarianism" to distinguish it from both old communitarianism and to make sure it is known that it is Philosophical communitarianism not just communitarianism. It seems that philosophical communitarianism will criticize liberalism for its atomism, its lack of concern about the community, etc. and not just deal with it on a simple political level. In this way it seems much more adaptable to the 'intersubjectivity' that seems to be many continental philosophers goal. All that I think I understand (except for why it is called 'new'). I see a non-Marxist left-wing political position (in this case Philosophical Communitarianism more than Philosophical Liberalism) as more tenable when building upon the insights of the "defenders of intentionality" group (as Taylor calls it) -ie. Heidegger-Merleau-Ponty-Taylor - than in the neo-Nietzschean poststructuralist wing. am I right to assume this, that in these figures is the ontological work in which one could build a political theory (ie. communitarianism) on. Is there even a political concern in European philosophy today? It seems that the people working on communitarianism at the moment are all north americans (Taylor, McIntyre, Sandel, Nussbaum), which makes me wonder about its relevance to Continental philosophy.

8. What are some main differences between Gadamer and Taylor. Taylor doesn't seem to mention hermeneutics really, but constantly mentions Heidegger, and focuses our attention onto our own historicity and the roles our horizons (prejudices) play in our own choices. There seems, however, to be possible in Taylor a political leftism that is absent (or maybe impossible) in Gadamer. How can one reconcile the two? Habermas mentions Aristotelian ethics (and I'm assuming his virtue ethics?) in Gadamer (I think this is on 358 of Habermas' "A Review of Gadamer's 'Truth and Method') and I was wondering if this would be enough to build a political theory on (like McIntyre and Taylor seem to). It doesn't seem like Gadamer does, but does he imply this? What are the implications of Aristotelian ethics on Gadamer. There also seems that there could be an account of leftism in Gadamer with the idea of 'fusion of horizons' (of other cultures) and 'tragendes Ein verstandnis' (deep common accord; all misunderstanding presupposes a prior understanding).
I have been wondering for some time what ethical and political implication the philosophy of these thinkers (once again, Heidegger, Gadamer, Taylor, Ricoeur) has on political leftism.

9. In his Review of Gadamer's 'Truth and Method' (pg. 358) Habermas says the role of 'reflection' is to battle 'prejudice'. I'd appreciate this unpacked a bit for me, because it is unclear. Is he restating the traditional modern belief that we can overcome our prejudices through Reason - and in doing this, must he deny our historical situatedness?

10. Another word that I've found trouble with at times is 'dialectic'. Ricoeur refers to a dialectical relationship of the 'fusion of horizons' in "hermeneutics and critique of ideology" (pg. 282). I was wondering if this sense of 'dialectical relationship' is more Kierkegaardian than Hegelian, with the sustenance of tension, rejection of objectivism and Absolute knowledge. But then Gadamer (whom Ricoeur is talking about here) has a Hegelian "common understanding concerning the thing" and a logos of communication, like Hegel. This goes back to my concern with Mitscherling’s reading of Gadamer as more Hegelian than Kierkegaardian, and my question about Kierkegaard's influence on Gadamer.

11. We often talk about 'ontology', and in Heidegger's case he saw himself as doing "Ontology", not metaphysics (we have overcome the restrictive, theoretical, reductive, systematic tendancy of metaphysics, as I understand), yet in recent presentation of a Gadamer paper I attended the presenter said that, while Gadamer calls it Ontology, he sees what Gadamer is doing as Metaphysics. What is the distinction between Metaphysics (which we have overcome) and Ontology. Furthermore, in his "Letter on Humanism", Heidegger criticizes Ontocentricism as well as Anthropocentricism as being necessarily metaphysical (or, maybe necessarily leading to metaphysics). What distinguishes Heidegger's (or Gadamer's) Ontology from being Metaphysical or Ontocentric. I guess I'm asking "what is 'ontology' for the recent continental thinkers i'm concerned with?"

12. I believe it has been mentioned that Hermeneutics cannot or doesn't account for (or accept) the concept of 'false consciousness.' I'm sure this rests on their disagreement with the critics of ideology (habermas, frankfurt school), but I'm wondering why this is the case, and what type of political implications this may also have.

If you can tackle a question or two, that'd be very kind. Thank you very much

[User Picture]From: fingerthemiddle
2005-09-27 09:02 pm (UTC)
I appreciate your thoroughness in asking questions- but please put something this large behind a cut-
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From: takumi_
2005-09-27 09:36 pm (UTC)
who cares
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From: yossarrian
2005-09-28 12:15 am (UTC)
I do.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: gnosis
2005-09-28 02:04 am (UTC)
Agreed. It is an existential community, after all.

The icon is excellent, also.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)