Future, Present, & Past:
Speculative~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
In the rubble of best-laid plans
In my comment to Joe, I mentioned his excellent review on Marx & Engels on religion, up at his LibraryThing page. This is worth reading (as are in fact all of Joe's reviews).
It came up in my mind in connection with the "Program for a System of German Idealism," variously attributed to Schelling, Hegel, or even Holderlin, which calls for, among other things, a unification of philosophy and mythology.
I was responding to a comment of Joe's on the Hayek/Keynes EconoRap video. Joe writes, "The philosophers have only blessed what was happening (or emerging) around them. So Plato did not 'make' the various Platonic Worlds (Christianity, Islam, Secular Modernity) based on Being and Knowing - he merely discovered that tendency in his times and furthered it along. Ditto Nietzsche and his World(s) of Becoming and Creating."
There's more here than just the owl of Minerva lifting off at dusk. I heartily agree that Plato and Nietzsche both (and all real philosophers in between) are responding to the pressing needs of their age and bringing to light the latent directions of their culture. But these directions are always both 'creative' and 'destructive', to use some ham-fisted terms. The most precious heritage of a culture is its means of processing the raw chaos of existence into meaning, by orienting itself to the source of order. (I might need to think through this language a bit more, but this is pretty much my position). This is more or less what Kierkegaard says in The Sickness Unto Death: in relating itself to the power that grounds it, the self relates to, and wills to be, itself.
Problem is, the cultural mediation for this relation is constantly decaying (and as you will have noticed, the question of mediation looms large for me). Quite possibly any language that is right for the job, is right only once. Eventually the wrong language needs to be swept out, precisely in order to keep access open. But those who wield the broom too often also want to upgrade to a bulldozer. Often those whose job it was to keep the language clean and to note what was ready to be thrown out have done such poor work that they would secretly be relieved if the bulldozer came through. And of course sometimes an earthquake levels the house.
Scholarship can do some of the task of pre-sorting the rubble; but we need philosophy to make a living question of what is involved, and at stake, in seeking to understand the great traditions. Of course, to really see what they saw, to make them alive again--that takes us beyond philosophy, and as Rosenzweig says, "into Life."
Incidentally, the remark by Hayek that concludes the video, "The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design," comes from his final book, The Fatal Conceit, which as The American Mind notes, was published "decades after the Keynes-Hayek debates," a summing-up of Hayek's long career of exploring the philosophy of society, science, and psychology. This sentence is a striking nutshell-sized take on why the "Program" that Hegel or Schelling or whoever it was envisioned, will never be completed.
But then, as Rabbi Tarfon said: "It is not required of you to complete the work. Nor is it permitted you to neglect it."