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Ras

Was ist Metaphysik?

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"If the question of the nothing unfolded here has actually questioned us, then we have not simply brought metaphysics before us in an extrinsic manner. Nor have we merely been “transposed” to it. We cannot be transposed there at all, because insofar as we exist we are always there already. “For by nature, my friend, man’s mind dwells in philosophy” (Plato, Phaedrus, 279a). So long as man exists, philosophizing of some sort occurs. Philosophy — what we call philosophy — is metaphysics getting under way, in which philosophy comes to itself and to its explicit tasks. Philosophy gets under way only by a peculiar insertion of our own existence into the fundamental possibilities of Dasein as a whole. For this insertion it is of decisive importance, first, that we allow space for beings as a whole; second, that we release ourselves into the nothing, which is to say, that we liberate ourselves from those idols everyone has and to which he is wont to go cringing; and finally, that we let the sweep of our suspense take its full course, so that it swings back into the basic question of metaphysics which the nothing itself compels: ‘Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing?'"

 

- Heidegger, "What is Metaphysics?"

 

Comments?

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Please put this paragraph into plain English - your interpretation of the its meaning. Also, what prompted you to post this quotation?

 

Context and clarified meaning will be most helpful to encourage lucid participation in this discussion thread.

 

You are no doubt well read in this subject area. Had I posted a single paragraph from the discussion of a technical publication, you would have the same difficulty understanding contect and importance of that paragraph.

 

Thank-you, Ras.

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"Please put this paragraph into plain English - your interpretation of the its meaning. Also, what prompted you to post this quotation?"

 

It's a difficult passage, and while rendering it into plain English is problematic for a variety of reasons, I will do so below. I selected it because it's an important confrontation of the nature and function of metaphysics.

 

"You are no doubt well read in this subject area. Had I posted a single paragraph from the discussion of a technical publication, you would have the same difficulty understanding contect and importance of that paragraph."

 

Not sure if this is a comment on my reading ability or not, but I didn't post this for its obscurity. smile.gif

 

The question of nothingness interrogates us as existing beings. The fact that we exist, the fact that we are always already there means that the concept of nothingness is one that forces us to question our very being. Philosophy, as the act of thinking out of, and through, this nothingness is a move towards metaphysics, which is where philosophy comes into its own. Our being-here is the grounds for philosophical speculation in the first place. Through our being here, we always already ask the question of Parmenides: ‘Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing?'"

 

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‘Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing?'"

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We need to clarify what type/class of answer we expect to this "why" -- as in, which of Aristotle's four causes are at issue? For example, are we asking "by what mechanism" (in which case we are presupposing linear causation chains, which means we are presupposing something about the nature of time), or are we asking "for what purpose", in which case we are perhaps presupposing intentionality from "above"... there are lots of ways to go about this, so to prevent any further confusion, we really need to be clear in this area.

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‘Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing?'"

297793[/snapback]

 

 

We need to clarify what type/class of answer we expect to this "why" -- as in, which of Aristotle's four causes are at issue? For example, are we asking "by what mechanism" (in which case we are presupposing linear causation chains, which means we are presupposing something about the nature of time), or are we asking "for what purpose", in which case we are perhaps presupposing intentionality from "above"... there are lots of ways to go about this, so to prevent any further confusion, we really need to be clear in this area.

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I reckon some old-fashioned philosophical confusion brings clarity a lot of times, which is why I opted to go with Heidegger, and decided not to gloss the passage right off the bat. To answer your question, Heidegger's philosophy is deliberately presocratic, and doesn't taken into account Aristotelian notions of causality or aetiology. But my whole point here is not to lead the witness, and see what people make of the passage.

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To answer your question, Heidegger's philosophy is deliberately presocratic, and doesn't taken into account Aristotelian notions of causality or aetiology. But my whole point here is not to lead the witness, and see what people make of the passage.

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Absolutely Ras, but just because Heidegger wasn't operating from a particular vantage point does not by necessity mean that we all ought or ought not to. I was merely responding to the passage in what I think to be an appropriate fashion, just as every other poster will... My opinion is that anyone, when thinking about this question, really needs to think about what it really is that is at issue. Peace

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To answer your question, Heidegger's philosophy is deliberately presocratic, and doesn't taken into account Aristotelian notions of causality or aetiology. But my whole point here is not to lead the witness, and see what people make of the passage.

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Absolutely Ras, but just because Heidegger wasn't operating from a particular vantage point does not mean that we all ought or ought not to. I was merely responding to the passage in what I think to be an appropriate fashion, just as every other poster will... My opinion is that anyone, when thinking about this question, really needs to think about what it really is that is at issue. Peace

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Agreed, and I think both the posts were totally on the mark.

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Two quick comments I intend to expand upon after waking up from passing out:

 

Sartre's Nausea makes a claim that I believe is pertinent. It is that the idea of nothingness is an idea, something that comes after existence, after beings, after thought, ergo existence is the backdrop against which the flimsy concept of nothingness is entertained. It is not necessarily an alternate reality, not necessarily a correlative nonbeing to our being inextricable from existence like the black of a ying yang is from its white. Nothingness is simply a human thought that could not exist without existence. I need to make this more clear when I'm not completely exhausted.

 

Secondly, IIRC, in Heidegger's Introduction he builds up this fundamental question of, "why are there beings at all instead of nothing?" to such a degree, emphasizes its universal urgency in such strong tones, that it seems to become a de facto purpose of life. We apparently do ourselves injury by failing to ask this question, to feel and interact with this question, which is at everyone's core but very often overlooked in favor of triviality. I cannot accurately recall the rest in detail, but I do remember him taking on the linguistic connotations of a statement such as, "This being IS" and suggesting that the temporal structures and presuppositions encoded in our language can lead to ontological distortions. I believe that apprehending his meaning on this point has the same cognitively-transformational potential as the ever-present now, in the sense that someone who viscerally comprehends these concepts will have their perceptions funadmentally altered.

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Two quick comments I intend to expand upon after waking up from passing out:

 

Sartre's Nausea makes a claim that I believe is pertinent. It is that the idea of nothingness is an idea, something that comes after existence, after beings, after thought, ergo existence is the backdrop against which the flimsy concept of nothingness is entertained. It is not necessarily an alternate reality, not necessarily a correlative nonbeing to our being inextricable from existence like the black of a ying yang is from its white. Nothingness is simply a human thought that could not exist without existence. I need to make this more clear when I'm not completely exhausted.

 

Secondly, IIRC, in Heidegger's Introduction he builds up this fundamental question of, "why are there beings at all instead of nothing?" to such a degree, emphasizes its universal urgency in such strong tones, that it seems to become a de facto purpose of life. We apparently do ourselves injury by failing to ask this question, to feel and interact with this question, which is at everyone's core but very often overlooked in favor of triviality. I cannot accurately recall the rest in detail, but I do remember him taking on the linguistic connotations of a statement such as, "This being IS" and suggesting that the temporal structures and presuppositions encoded in our language can lead to ontological distortions. I believe that apprehending his meaning on this point has the same cognitively-transformational potential as the ever-present now, in the sense that someone who viscerally comprehends these concepts will have their perceptions funadmentally altered.

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In Being and Nothingness, and in The Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre argues that nothingness and nihilation are the very grounds of human possibility. They are the space in which the existent arrives and the event manifests. The very core of Sartre's theory of the subject is that it is inherently and irrevocably characterized by the lack, the nothing, at its centre. From there, personal freedom and personal responsibility arise. In "The Wall", and in Nausea, this 'nothingness' of existence forces the authentic subject to engage in choice, in meaning-giving activity.

 

I think you're basically on the mark with Heidegger. The critical point is that language inevitably alters the ontology of being, primarily because language is a mediation and a forgetting of being; words hide presence.

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I suppose the central theme here is that we here on Earth prime is all there is to consider, in this question of all or nothing?

 

That other senient beings do not exist - at this time or some other time and place?

 

Therein lies the fallacy.

 

How many stars are in the sky?

 

70 thousand, billion, billion. Seventy sextillion, as of 2003, and that's just the stars that are visible to us with our best telescopes (including the Hubble space telescope).

 

The estimated chances of life evolving on a planet at the right distance from a class M star - a much smaller number.

 

The central question is not our existence.

 

The question is why we have religion.

 

Its purpose, function....necessity.

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Just wanted to say that I enjoy reading you folks. nod my head here and there.

 

if a philossophy is based on a set of logic even semantic one its allready more than nothing... is this what he meant?

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...Sartre argues that nothingness and nihilation are the very grounds of human possibility.

 

This much I gleaned from lectures in the existentialism class I was taking. I'm a little more awake now, and I think I was originally trying to link this o' mine:

 

Sartre's Nausea makes a claim that I believe is pertinent. It is that the idea of nothingness is an idea, something that comes after existence, after beings, after thought, ergo existence is the backdrop against which the flimsy concept of nothingness is entertained. It is not necessarily an alternate reality, not necessarily a correlative nonbeing to our being inextricable from existence like the black of a ying yang is from its white. Nothingness is simply a human thought that could not exist without existence.

 

To this o' yours:

 

The question of nothingness interrogates us as existing beings. The fact that we exist, the fact that we are always already there means that the concept of nothingness is one that forces us to question our very being.

 

It was more of an aside, because I'm pretty sure Roquentin says something near/at the library at one point to the effect of: Nothingness is a concept thought up in somethingness. I believe my point in doing this was to cast doubt on whether or not we can be so certain in setting up this dichotomy between being and its supposed opposite nothingness. One seems inclined to assume that the alternative to our reality is no reality whatsoever, but I'm wondering if that's sound. This seems, in my mind, to fit with Sartre's claim that existence seems teleologically defunct, unnecessary for fufilling no purpose and therefore able to accomplish the same thing by either being or not being; de trop.

 

To something more interesting...

 

How do you feel about his claim that the central nothingness is both infinitely expandable invitation and justification (if I have that correct)? On one hand I am inclined to agree with the underlying assumption that the universe is unconcerned with man, that there is no moral thread holding everything together, that there are no expectations or reprocussions, and that therefore man is completely free (ethically). But could not one argue that this sense of freedom derived from abandonment is more of a sociocultural outlook or mood than anything else? Insomuch as connections can be drawn between the philosophical beliefs of any age and that age's social climate and value system, I am hesitant to give this certainty of nothingness any more credence than now-discredited ancient theologies. I want for direct experience of the pertinent texts, but these are my thoughts.

 

Epistemically, it seems equally absurd to state with certainty that the universe is ordered so that man has a definite role or that there is nothing after this completely free life.

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The concept of nothing does nothing for me. My notion of presence is that it is a plenary of interlocking atoms in space that reconfigure themselves in an infinite variety of molecular constructs through time, and in that process, we are witness to both being and becoming, identity and difference. The event expresses itself through the trace of repetition rippling along the surfaces of reality.

 

Sartre's neant and Heidegger's nicht come from a long tradition of apophatic theology which stretches from Plotinus to Schelling.

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But is "entertaining the notion" of presence qua concept, as you have described it, the same as BEING present... we use the same word but they are totally different and incomparable experiences. My point is that the phenomenology of living as a biological telic being is a different discourse than the delineation of a conceptual cartography "within which" those phenomena occur to us. I feel we run in to trouble, both psychologically and philosophically, when we conflate the two, when we find ourselves "being" only in the maps we make. Enter Nietzsche...

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But is "entertaining the notion" of presence qua concept, as you have described it, the same as BEING present... we use the same word but they are totally different and incomparable experiences.  My point is that the phenomenology of living as a biological telic being is a different discourse than the delineation of a conceptual cartography  "within which" those phenomena occur to us.    I feel we run in to trouble, both psychologically and philosophically, when we conflate the two, when we find ourselves "being" only in the maps we make.  Enter Nietzsche...

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We are lived through the concept, in the Hegelian sense. I don't think that there is any delineation of the lifeworld from phenomenology, or strict discretion between the embodied world from the theories that accurately represent it. There's either one, or there's the bound multiple. Either way, the class of objects is still represented by a grouped singular. It depends whether you're talking topographically or topologically. My maps change all the time.

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Now this is getting interesting. I'm gonna make a physiological turn: I dont see a strict discretion either, but I do see "layers", that roughly correspond to the "three brains" we have in our heads: the conceptual "maps" are products of the neocortex, the limbic system deals with social bonds and the feelings that go with them, and the reptilian brainstem with lust and survival. This said, I think our maps can indeed change all the time, but that these maps have no real "say" when many humanly important things are happening to us, as this is when the other parts of our brain take to steering the ship. So yeah, if you are operating in higher order thought all the time, everything becomes mediated by the map, and it would indeed seem that ideas and things are intrinsically bound.

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Please put this paragraph into plain English - your interpretation of the its meaning.  Also, what prompted you to post this quotation?

 

Context and clarified meaning will be most helpful to encourage lucid participation in this discussion thread.

 

 

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This is precisely one of the points Heidegger is trying to explore. Not to knock you (since you acknowledge your lack of familiarity with the subject), but the "putting it into plain English" is itself a distortion. Ras' interpretation is generally on the mark, at least according to my reading of Heidegger, but it is simply that...an interpretation. Can't remember where he states it, but Heidegger wrote somewhere that his style is intentionally hard to grasp to force the reader to labor through the words to get at what is hidden behind and in language.

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I think you're basically on the mark with Heidegger. The critical point is that language inevitably alters the ontology of being, primarily because language is a mediation and a forgetting of being; words hide presence.
Being can only be experienced or interpreted, meaning can only be felt, through language. In that sense, language is more of an 'enabling limit' -- the German word Grenze -- rather than what is connotated by the English word. (Another example of this is that our physical embodiment ought to be conceived of as an enabling limit, rather than a limitation against our possibilities.*) The point is not to get beyond language, or to reduce language (ala the logical positivists), but to turn to the attend to the logos, to recognize what is always already there in what we say, in what we are concerned with, and how we are able to use language. We experience through language, what are the conditions of the possibility of this experience? Heidegger's turn (or return) to language is remarkably similar to the Socratic turn presented in Plato's Phaedo, Socrates' "second sailing" which he embarked upon after recognizing the poverty of pre-Socratic/natural-scientific investigations and proposed explanations of metaphysical issues.

 

* There is a humorous passage in Descartes' writings (perhaps early in Principles of Philosophy, otherwise the location escapes me) where he mocks those who would think it better if our bodies were made of diamond or something not subject to corruption, as though we could still then be capable of sense. -- Part of the humor is evident from the opinion, which carries wide currency, that Descartes was _all about_ abstracting away the limitations of the body, usw.

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My interpretation of this is has been tainted by my studies of Buddhism (note: I am not a Buddhist)... Heidegger is saying that the mechanistic thought process, the "voice in head", how we think with the artificial construct of language, is not "us". That is true.

 

In Buddhism, the Buddha said that our conciousness was the santana (not the band), a constantly refreshing flux of awareness and memory, and our true self was the anatta, or not-self; which is beyond perception. The Buddha, of course, had no fucking idea about something beyond perception, so instead he deduced it "logically" by saying that conciousness can change therefore it cannot be our absolute self. I think that's a bullshit argument, personally. The Buddha doesn't fucking know, and neither do I, and it's beyond our perception either way. Logic is neat but his argument was flawed by preconceptions which may or may not be valid at all.

 

Anyway, Heidegger seems to be alluding to the same thing. The study of self. And the inherant limitations thereof. But he notes that which it is not, which is good, but you can only take that so far... and then you still don't have answers.

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I just caught this thread. I don't have much to contribute on this topic, but I do want to say how wonderful that original quote by Heidegger is. BTW, without Ras's interpretation, I would not have understood it.

 

The original question was: Why are not all worlds uniformly nothing and stay that way?

 

Answer: nothingness is not a stable condition. More to the point, nothingness cannot exist, by its definition and logic.

 

 

Let me try to explain a bit. I like to think of this universe as being composed of many overlapping worlds. Of which a number of worlds comprises "nothing." We cannot be in those, because by the virtue of our existence. To say that something exists is to say that the world is no longer nothing.

 

.

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