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The Philosophy of the Flesh: Toward an Immanentist

Ontology of Perception
The notions of Nature and Reason, far from explaining the metamorphoses from
perception to the more complex modes of human exchange, make them incomprehensible.
Because by relating them to separate principles, these notions conceal a constantly
experienced moment, the moment when an existence becomes aware of itself, grasps itself,
and expresses its own sense. The study of perception could teach us a bad ambiguity, a
mixture of fnitude and universality, of interiority and exteriority. But there is a good
ambiguity in the phenomenon of expression, a spontaneity that accomplishes what
appeared to be impossible when we considered only the separate elements, a spontaneity
that gathers together the plurality of monads, the past and the present, nature and culture
into a single whole. To establish this wonder would be metaphysics itself and would at the same time
give us the principle of an ethics. (Merleau-Ponty Reader,Unpublished Text, p.290)
As is abundantly well known, one of the major weaknesses of the Marxian
critique of political economy is its determinism. In seeking to discover the
economic laws of society, Marx ended up reducing all signifcant human activity
to the labour that is socially necessary to ensure the reproduction of human
society. The laws governing the pro-duction of use values and exchange
values also govern their distribution among social classes and thus form the
economic base upon which all other social structures and institutions from the
family to the state to culture at large are founded and that form therefore an
ideal superstructure that serves merely to hide or camoufage the rock-solid
reality of the basic social relations of production. This is the forma mentis of
traditional Marxism: in this perspective, it is the material economic base that
determines or drives the ideological superstructure; and it is the combination
of the two that constitutes human history. This duality of physical realism and of
spiritual idealism is yet another manifestation of the separation of Nature and
Reason, of Form and Matter, of Mind and Body, and fnally of Subject and Object,
that has characterized Western thought from its inception.
Because Marxs thought his realism tended to relegate all philosophy to the
sphere of mere interpretation, Marxism has always displayed a clear aversion to
and insuferance for philosophical speculation and especially the prima
philosophia, the theory of the foundation of reality itself namely, meta-physics
and ontology. In this regard, Marx was replicating for his critique of political
economy what Kant had performed in the Critique of Pure Reason, neatly
separating the world into mere appearances and things in themselves, the
latter being the ultimately inscrutable cause behind the former. For human
knowledge to be founded on scientifc bases, Kant proposed that we
acknowledge the strict separation of appearances in search of explanation and
the ultimate immutable reality of which they were a mere re-presentation (Vor-
stellung). This is the separation (chorismos) or the separated principles of Nature
and Reason to which Merleau-Ponty alluded in the quotation above a
separation or worse still an opposition (Gegen-stand, the German word for
object) that we must transform into a participation (methexis, in the
terminology of Nicholas of Cusa) in harmony with our project for a better world.
What we fnd inspiring in Merleau-Pontys formulation of this separation is the
fact that it states the problem in the tersest manner, and then suggests an answer
together with the reason why it is a valid answer. The problem, tersely but
improperly stated, is whether metaphysics can suggest an ethics that is to say,
whether an ontology, a theory of reality, can provide the ground not just for a
view of reality but also for a de-ontology, for a framework or pro-ject of action
upon reality. One of the hardest things to do for people of a radical disposition is
to provide a foundation for their convictions, for their intention no longer to
interpret the world, but to change it. Yet such foundation must be found or at
least our inquiry into it (remember that the original word for history in Greek
was istorein, to inquire) must be commenced somewhere. Marxs Eleventh Thesis
on Feuerbach betrays most eloquently his in-suferance for the task of
(philosophical) interpretation of social reality and his urgency for its practical
scientifc transformation. Had Nietzsche been aware of this Thesis, he would
most probably have retorted that philosophers thus far have pretended to interpret
the world when in reality they were attempting to change it! For unlike Marx,
Nietzsche held no illusions that social reality could be deterministically reduced
to scientifc laws or that socially necessary labour time could ever constitute
and determine the laws of motion of human history and societies.
The entire aim of our studies so far has been not merely to attempt to change the
world as it is at present by interpreting it, by under-standing its functioning
and mode of operation the more easily to intervene on it or at least to contrast it;
but it has been also in large part to understand the reasons behind our exertions,
behind our radicalism. We may know what to change and how to do it out of
what Daniel Guerin once called a visceral opposition to the status quo, but we
still need to know why we engage in the ruthless criticism of all that exists if
we are going to have any chance of success. Our goals need to be clear before we
set out to deploy our means. What we are attempting here is a critical re-
foundation of an autonomist ontology that generates its goals not from the
positing of extrinsic values but rather from the identifcation of the most basic
human mode of perception of reality. (Cf. M-P, end of Unpublished Text
synopsis in Reader.)
So far we have employed the approach of critique on the road to this quest
because it is often easier to learn from the discoveries as well as the mistakes of
theoreticians and practitioners that have preceded us. But critiques are
necessarily negative in character: they are meant to de-struct rather than to
con-struct and that is what we have done predominantly to date, except to the
degree that every negation often involves also the negation of the negation
and so, perhaps, some positive afrmation as well. It is obvious that our task
cannot be confned to the ruthless criticism of everything that exists (Marx)
because such critique would have no meaning unless it also had a purpose.
There where actions have no meaning they can also be said to lack purpose, and
vice versa. What then can be our purpose and on what meaning can it be
This is the area perhaps where the thought of Karl Marx leaves most to be
desired, even in view of its (again) fundamental importance. The most refned
corrections and improvements on Marxist thought in this arena have probably
come from post-Nietzschean elaborations, culminating especially in the Italian
left-Heideggerianism that was an ofshoot of the new left move away from the
orthodoxy of Communist parties of the European post-Stalinist era. Marxism
may well have provided a deontological guide to our opposition to the ravages
of capitalist industry, morally, ethically and then politically predicated on the
notion of the theft of labour time. But if labour time is merely the time that is
socially necessary to produce goods and services for consumption, then it is
obvious that Marx has reduced the entire problem of capitalism to the mere
distribution of the social product. Not only does this critique crumble to a
mere gripe or grudge over distribution, over the share of the spoils; but it also
fails to challenge the technical-scientifc orientation of capitalism, its technology
and science, - the political choice of what it produces and how it produces it. Even
if we agree with Marx that a certain quantity of labour-time is (physically!)
necessary for a human society to reproduce itself (again, physically), it is still
obvious that this minimum quantity necessary for reproduction may well
constitute a necessary condition but not in the least a sufcient condition to
ensure the actual reproduction of a society a process that is as much political
and cultural as it is narrowly economic!
The Marxian critique also never profered the ontological ground on which any
praxis or deontology could be founded and erected. It is fair to say that Marx was
too tied to the philosophy of the Enlightenment in its twin excrescences of
German Idealism and scientifc rationalism to be able to escape the fallacies that
engulfed them both and that were exposed so virulently already by the critics of
the negatives Denken from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche through to Weber and
fnally Heidegger (cf. for all, this last authors Letter on Humanism). The
fundamental error of Western philosophical and scientifc thought has always
been to seek to identify objectively the purpose and meaning of action with its
object to con-fuse therefore activity with matter, the operari with the opus, the
agere with the actus and the facere with the factum. And this con-fusion of the
quest for the meaning of human reality (of its perception) with the
certainty and calculability of it has meant that, in the words of Nietzsche,
Western metaphysics has always sought the fxity of Being, its essence, and
has neglected its being-as-becoming. As a result, this Western will to truth
(Nietzsche) has turned into a maniacal quest for certainty, for the full end
(Voll-endung) of history and consequently of philosophy itself. This quest,
however, could only end in nihilism that is, in the debunking of all truths and
values -, and determine what Heidegger called the Vollendung at once the
ful-flment and com-pletion, and therefore the ex-haustion, of the Western
metaphysical tradition. (Again, the obligatory reference is to Heidegger, Vol.2 of
his Nietzsche.) Given that no ultimate values can be fxed with certainty,
given that truth can never be identical with its object, Nietzsche was keen to
stress the importance of what happens in life, in that place that lies be-tween
the frst thing (birth) and the last thing (death).
The question for us is: if we accept with Nietzsche that there are no ultimate
values or fnal and defnitive truths, that there is no summum bonum, what
meaning and purpose can we then bestow upon our lives that will guide our
living activity and that will make our political action worthwhile? It may be said
that we are a purpose in search of a meaning, a need in search of a reason.
Nietzsches ontology is in-comprehensible (it cannot be grasped practically)
without his notion of the Eternal Return of the Same which is premised entirely
on the interpretation of historical events as symptoms or signs of either the
underlying health or else of the Disgregation of the instincts of freedom (will
to power) of human agents. The notion of the Eternal Return is neither cyclical
(palingenesis) nor anagogical (as in the anakyklosis), but refers instead to a novel
conception of time as nunc stans the now understood not as a point on a
sequence of past nows and future nows, but rather as an entirely diferent
dimension in which time is not spatialised, in which it cannot be measured,
added to or subtracted from. For Nietzsche, everything happens at once; only in
this sense does it return eternally and in this sense must fate be loved (amor
Arendts profound incomprehension of Nietzsches transvaluation of all values is
due in large part to her inability to penetrate Nietzsches entirely novel
interpretation of place (Ort) as diferent from time and space! Which is
strange, because Heidegger (whom Arendt knewintimately, to be scabrous)
elaborated it at great length though incompletely or incorrectly in his thorough
critique of the Kantian notion of intuition in his Kantbuch, which he meant as the
second part of Being and Time. Arendt also and rightly begins her peripatetic
assessment of the life of the mind with a critique of Kants epistemology (a cours
force it seems for most modern thinkers), which in turn she interprets as a
response to the solipsism of the Cartesian cogito. We agree with Arendt that the
mind has a life not merely metaphorically but in the full sense of the word,
materially, because we do not accept as valid the Cartesian dualism of mind and
matter a dualism that degenerates inevitably into solipsism given that the cogito
admits and conceives of ec-sistence exclusively as a mental thing the res
cogitans as opposed to the res extensa -, and that the res cogitans must constitute an
indivisible unity (in Leibnitzs powerful phrase, a being must be a being). The
mind has a life because it is part of life, it is within life and the world: that is
its materiality. A mind without life and the world is unimaginable because for
the mind to ec-sist it needs a life and a world in which to be situ-ated, loc-ated,
that is, it needs a site and a locus, a place that is categorically distinct from our
conventional notions called time and space. Similarly, life has a mind to the
extent that we cannot conceive of life without an organ capable of conceiving life
the mind, whose locus is not necessarily the brain or the heart but again a
place, a dimension categorically distinct from any body organs or functions.
[Cassirer, Individuo y Cosmos, fn.57 Nietzsche and inter-pretation, no thing
to be interpreted. Being-as-becoming, place and not time and space.]
Pero la grandeza
del Cusano en este aspecto y su significacin histrica estriban en el hecho de que en l,
lejos de cumplirse este proceso en oposicin al pensamiento religioso de la Edad Media,
se lleva a cabo precisamente dentro de la rbita de ese pensamiento mismo !esde el
propio centro de lo religioso realiza el descubrimiento de la naturaleza y del hombre
que intenta afianzar y fijar en ese centro El m"stico y el telogo que hay en #icol$s %&'(
de Cusa se sienten a la altura del mundo y de la naturaleza, a la altura de la historia y de
la nueva cultura secular y humana #o se aparta de ellas ni las rechaza sino que, como
cada vez se entrega m$s y m$s a su c"rculo, va incluyndolas al mismo tiempo en su
propia esfera de pensamientos )un desde los primeros tratados del Cusano es posible
seguir este proceso* y si en ellos prevalece el motivo platnico del chorismos+,, en las
obras posteriores gana la primac"a el motivo de la methexis&-En sus .ltimas obras se
manifiesta como cumbre de la teor"a la conviccin de que la verdad, que al principio
hab"a buscado en la oscuridad de la m"stica y que hab"a determinado como oposicin a
toda multiplicidad y mudanza, se revela sin embargo precisamente en medio del reino
de la multiplicidad emp"rica misma, la conviccin de que la verdad clama por las
calles&/ Cada vez con mayor fuerza se da en #icol$s de Cusa ese sentimiento del
mundo y, con l, ese su caracter"stico optimismo religioso El vocablo pante"smo no es
adecuado para designar acabadamente ese nuevo sentimiento del mundo, pues no se
desvanece aqu" la oposicin entre el ser de !ios y el ser del mundo, sino que por el
contrario se mantiene inclume en toda su plenitud Pero como lo ensea el tratado De
visione Dei, si la verdad de lo universal y lo particular de lo individual se
compenetran mutuamente en forma tal que el ser de Dios slo puede ser
comprendido y visto en la infinita multiplicidad de los puntos de vista individuales,
del mismo modo podemos descubrir tambin el ser que est ms all de toda
limitacin, de toda contraccin, solo y precisamente en esa limitacin. De modo que
el ideal hacia el cual debe tender nuestro conocimiento no consiste en desconocer ni en
desechar lo particular, [57] sino ms bien en comprender el pleno despliegue de toda su
riqueza, pues slo la totalidad del rostro nos proporciona la visin una de lo divino.
We can see here, in Cassirers account of the thought of Nicholas of Cusa, which
in many ways pre-announces that of Hegel (cf. at par.60), how the notion of
totality subsists even as Nicholas elevates the participation (methexis) of the
particular as an a-spect, a view of the whole. Similarly, in the erroneous
exegesis of Nietzsches thought (in Jaspers as in Foucault), the primacy of
interpretation is supposed to refer to the im-possibility of encompassing this
totality. But this is far from Nietzsches meaning! The notion of inter-
pretation always implies a mediation between the interpreter and the
interpretandum that which is inter-preted, a mediation between the
thing and the knowledge of the thing on the part of an inter-preter. But
this is exactly what Nietzsche denies the ec-sistence of a thing whose
totality or truth we cannot com-prehend or en-compass. Far from ec-sisting
independently of the knower or interpreter (whose ineluctable task it is to be con-
fned to infnite interpretations -, for Nietzsche neither the thing nor its
truth have a totality that can re-fer (bring back) to an under-lying, sub-
stantial re-ality (thing-iness or what-ness). This is the consistent meaning of
esse est percipi that eluded both Berkeley and Schopenhauer because both
thought that being was a function of per-ception, so that it is the perceiver
that bestows being to the perceived which is the true meaning of idealism as
against realism. In efect, both Berkeley and Schopenhauer conceive of the
world as representation or Idea in a neoplatonic sense that opposes Ideas to the
world of appearances. But Nietzsche and Nicholas of Cusa are speaking the
language, not of pantheism but of immanence, like Spinoza: they are saying
that being ec-sists only as appearance, as per-ception; for them, the apparent
world has disappeared together with the real or true world. The opposition of
real and apparent worlds or being is the ineluctable outcome of the
transcendental attitude that opposes (this is the meaning of the Platonic
chorismos, of the philosophia perennis) particular beings to the Being of beings
the particular to the totality, the part to the whole. Note that Heidegger (cited
by Arendt in LotM, p.11) claims that with this phrase Nietzsche has eliminated
the diference between the sensible and supra-sensory worlds and in this he is
clearly wrong because Nietzsche never wished to refute the diference between
the two worlds: he wished instead to make a dif-ference by exposing the
meaninglessness of their opposition! Of course, Heidegger had every interest
in relegating Nietzsche to the nihilism (incomplete or complete) that he had
denounced and sought to overcome! This is the point that Arendt herself misses

What is dead is not only the localization of such eternal truths, but also the
distinction itself (p.10).
And this is the meaning of nihilism for Arendt. Yet she also is wrong: nihilism for
Nietzsche does not consist in the elimination of the distinction or diference
between true and apparent worlds. Nihilism is the very fact that belief in the
suprasensory world leads to the annihilation of the sensible world. The seed of
nihilism is contained in the very thought of trans-scendence and this is a
fallacy to which Arendt clearly and genially points, but ultimately does not
elude (see Preface, p.11). The overcoming of nihilism, however, starts precisely
with the overcoming, not of the distinction or diference between the two worlds,
but with the real source of this distinction or opposition, which is the forma
mentis that generates this distinction, with the transcendental attitude that forms
the substratum of this philosophia perennis. This is the com-pletion and exhaustion
[Voll-endung] of metaphysics for Nietzsche. What Nietzsche certifes is the end of
transcendental metaphysics in a practical, even political, sense. But that is not to
say that a metaphysics of immanence is no longer possible: on the contrary, it
becomes necessary. Because, as Arendt insists, as do Heidegger and Merleau-
Ponty, meaning and truth-as-certainty are not the same thing! (Preface to
[Refer to discussion of Nicholas of Cusa.]
The entire aim of Kants critique of metaphysics his enquiry into the
possibility of any future metaphysics able to call itself science was to
avoid the Cartesian dualism by relegating the subiectum of reality to the
inscrutable status of the thing in itself, which allowed the hiatus between this
last and human knowledge to be bridged or mediated by the human
faculties of intuition, the intellect (the understanding), and fnally pure reason, in
a series of mediations that moved from mere appearances to the laws of
nature and those of logico-mathematics as governed by the rule of pure
reason. Kant accepted the skepticism of both Leibnitz and Hume over the
existence of a subject as the author or agent of the thinking process.
Descartes had committed the fallacy of presupposing an agent behind every
action and therefore he presumed that the act of thinking necessarily
presupposed the existence of a thinker. Both Leibnitz and Hume, and most
emphatically Nietzsche, showed that this was a non sequitur. Leibnitz, in
particular, postulated that reality could not be divided into noumena and
phenomena for the sufcient reason that everything that exists, including
phenomena or mere appearances (Kants blosse Erscheinungen), has a greater right to
exist than what does not: - and that is a sufcient reason for its being.
Only in this limited sense, the certainty of per-ception the fact that there is
something instead of nothing was the Cartesian cogito certain. And in this
sense Nietzsche was right to replace the Cartesian cogito ergo sum with his vivo
ergo cogito. As Merleau-Ponty reminds us in the quotation below regarding the
cogito: Sa vrit logique est que pour penser il faut tre. It is not the act of
thinking that comes frst; rather, it is the ineluctable reality of living or
perception that precedes thinking-as-refection or consciousness and, much
farther down the track, that of the thinking subject, of the I. This conceptual
chain, what Nietzsche calls the ontogeny of thought, and the evermore strict
con-nection between perceptions, then refection, and then the extrapolation to a
conceptually or logically necessary chorismos (Plato) or separation between the
perceiver and the perceived (of ideas and things, says Merleau-Ponty below) was
to become the fateful problematic for Western thought. Had Descartes been more
careful in his formulation of the cogito, as Nietzsche and Arendt suggested, he
would have expressed it as cogito me cogitare, ergo sum (p.20, LotM). But in that
case it would have become obvious to him that the frst cogito, the one that
perceives that I think, begs the question of whether the thinking is done
by a thinker, by an I which, as Nietzsche showed beyond question, leads to
a circulus vitiosus (each fresh statement pre-supposes a previous thinking
subject or I); or to a non sequitur (because thinking can occur without a thinking
subject or I). This is the fundamentality of thought, its abyss or, with
Nietzsche, its Being-as-becoming:
0uant 1 la source m2me des penses, nous savons maintenant que, pour la trouver, il nous
faut chercher sous les noncs, et %Maurice Merleau3Ponty, 456#E4 7/,'-8 9:( notamment sous
l;nonc fameu< de !escartes %that is, the cogito( 4a vrit logique 3 qui est que = pour
penser il faut 2tre > 3, sa signification d;nonc le trahissent par principe, puisqu;elles se
rapportent 1 un objet de pense au moment o? il faut trouver acc@s vers celui qui pense et
vers sa cohsion native, dont l;2tre des choses et celui des ides sont la rplique Aa parole de
!escartes est le geste qui montre en chacun de nous cette pense pensante 1 dcouvrir, le =
4same ouvre3toi > de la pense fondamentale Bondamentale parce qu;elle n;est vhicule
par rien Mais non pas fondamentale comme si, avec elle, on touchait un fond o? il faudrait
s;tablir et demeurer Elle est par principe sans fond et si l;on veut abCme* cela veut dire
qu;elle n;est jamais avec elle3m2me, que nous la trouvons aupr@s ou 1 partir des choses
penses, qu;elle est ouverture, l;autre e<trmit invisible de l;a<e qui nous fi<e au< choses et
au< ides 7Merleau3Ponty, 4ignes, p9:8
This fundamentality of thought is why for Kant, contrary to Descartes, the
question of the Ich-heit or Ego-ity (the thinking subject), could not be settled by
rational means: the I was a concept that belonged to the transcendental dialectic
in that its existence could not be proven by scientifc or logical means. Arendt (in
the preface to LotM, pp13f) rightly laments the distinction Kant made between
Reason and Intellect and the relegation of the former to the task of cognition
rather than thought, of truth rather than meaning, - something that he
ought to have left to the Intellect instead, as Schopenhauer rightly insisted (see
discussion in section below). But neither Kant nor Schopenhauer nor even
Arendt ever question the nexus rerum constituted by the physical laws of cause
and efect; and this failure is what prevents them from posing correctly,
meaningfully, the question of transcendence, of the separation of the
suprasensible and the sensible worlds. Though he questioned the possibility of
meta-physics, Kants philosophical eforts were directed at showing how
scientifc laws were possible: how it is possible for human beings to discover
invariant relations between physical events with the predictable precision or
certainty of logico-mathematics that justifed their description as natural
laws on account of the causally necessary link otherwise known as nexus rerum -
that permitted the ontological and epistemological ordo et connexio rerum et
idearum (order and connection of things and ideas). Kant reasoned that we need
to go beyond the Leibnitzian Principle of Sufcient Reason because that principle
cannot account for the mathematical regularity of scientifc observations: - as he
revealingly put it, Reason had to give back to Nature the order that the latter
had supplied with its regularity. Although reason is inconceivable without
human intuition to provide it with the material content of its conceptual
categories, this human intuition in turn could not become aware of its content (it
could not con-ceive or com-prehend or grasp it) without the mediation of the
Schematismus of the intellect and, in turn, of the logico-mathematical rules of
Pure Reason.
Kant regresses back into Cartesian dualism by simply positing the fnitude of
the per-cipient subject and the noumenality, the incom-prehensibility of the
per-ceived Object, of Being in its totality. This is the kernel of what we may call
(with Merleau-Ponty) the transcendental attitude. Kant distinguishes two
moments (momenta) of experience, one being the constitutive (perception)
and the other the regulative (concepts or theory). This separation (or
chorismos) of perception and the perceived, of the percipi and the esse, already pre-
supposes a dualism of perceiving Subject and perceived Object. The act of
perception is founded on the logical presupposition that there is a thing that is
to be perceived the Object. And the logical requirement of the act of perceiving
is that there be an entity, a Subject, that does the perceiving. Whereas
Descartes had placed the Ego or the Soul at the summit of philosophy, Kant
preferred to appoint the logico-mathematical powers of human thought. It is the
very ec-sistence of logico-mathematical id-entities that are within life and the
world, within experience, and yet are independent of experience for their truth
or validity it is this a priori ec-sistence of logico-mathematical rules or laws
that confrms the ec-sistence of two separate yet inextricable aspects of human
existence: the constitutive principle of experience and the regulative principle of
theory, the awareness or intuition of the res or thingsand the cognitive ability to
link these things according to cognitive rules. There exists therefore both a
faculty that links or con-nects ideas between themselves, and a faculty that
links or connects these ideas with things, and an entity that pro-duces these
ideas (the Sub-ject) as well as the things (that are ordered and connected) in
themselves! Here Being is seen as pre-sence, as a fxed entity: what is forgotten is
that the only fxity is that of the degree zero of being, which is its being-for-
others, its perceptibility and not some kind of nothing-ness (Heidegger), as
even Merleau-Ponty ends up mistaking it:
Aes choses et le monde visibles, d;ailleurs, sont3ils autrement faitsD Ils sont toujours
derrire ce que j!en vois, en "ori#on, et ce qu!on appelle visibilit est cette transcendance
m$me. %ulle c"ose, nul c&t de la c"ose ne se montre qu!en cac"ant activement les
autres, en les dnon'ant dans l!acte de les masquer. (oir, c!est par principe voir plus
qu!on ne voit, c!est accder ) un $tre de latence. A;invisible est le relief et la profondeur du
visible, et pas plus que lui le visible ne comporte de positivit pure 74ignes, p9', my
Merleau-Ponty, like Heidegger and Husserl and Hegel before them, continues to
approach the question of being in its verticality, its transcendence and so
betrays his own enterprise. (Arendt speaks of depth [or true being] and
surfaces [or mere appearances] to distinguish between transcendence and
immanence [see LotM, p26 and p30 on the value of the surface]. Negri adopts
this term, too in his writings on Spinoza.) Had he turned to the immanentists, he
would have understood more fully what he himself sustains below when he
substitutes visible et invisible for etre et neant the impossibility of Being ec-
sisting in its totality, as pre-sence that would render the pre-sent (the nunc
stans) meaningless, as un etre sans restriction; - and therefore the futility or
irrelevance of transcendentalism:
!imensionnalit, ouverture n;auraient plus de sens AEabsolument ouvert s;appliquerait
compl@tement sur un tre sans restriction, et, faute d;une autre dimension dont elle ait 1 se
distinguer, ce que nous appelions la = verticalit >, 3 le prsent 3 ne voudrait plus rien dire
Plut&t que de l!$tre et du nant, il vaudrait mieu* parler du visible et de l!invisible, en
rptant qu!ils ne sont pas contradictoires. Fn dit invisible comme on dit immobileG non
pour ce qui est tranger au mouvement, mais pour ce qui s;y maintient fi<e +!est le point ou
le de,r #ro de visibilit, l!ouverture d!une dimension du visible. -n #ro ) tous ,ards,
un $tre sans restriction ne sont pas ) considrer. .uand je parle du nant, il y a dj) de
l/$tre, ce nant ne nantise donc pas pour de bon, et cet $tre n!est pas identique ) soi,
sans question. 74ignes, p9:8
The limit of Merleau-Pontys phenomenology of perception can be sensed in his
failure to appreciate how the notion of becoming in Nietzsches version of the
concept does not leave the sensible, time and history untouched but trans-
values them quite radically:
Aa philosophie qui dvoile ce chiasma du visible et de l!invisible est tout le contraire
d;un survol Elle s;enfonce dans le sensible, dans le temps, dans l;histoire, vers leurs
jointures, elle ne les dpasse pas par des forces qu;elle aurait en propre, elle ne les
dpasse que dans leur sens Fn rappelait rcemment le mot de Montaigne = tout
mouvement nous dcouvre > et l;on en tirait avec raison que l;homme n;est qu;en
mouvement ' !e m2me le monde ne tient, l;Htre ne tient qu;en mouvement, c;est ainsi
seulement que toutes choses peuvent 2tre ensemble Aa philosophie est la remmoration
%anamnesis( de cet 2tre3l1, dont la science ne s;occupe pas, parce qu;elle conIoit les
rapports de l;2tre et de la connaissance comme ceu< du gomtral et de ses projections, et
qu;elle oublie l!$tre d!enveloppement, ce qu;on %Maurice Merleau3Ponty, 456#E4 7/,'-8 9J(
pourrait appeler la topolo,ie de l!$tre
But Merleau-Pontys interesting notion of invisibility as the degree zero of
visibility leads us back to the discussion over Schmitts exception and
Hobbess hypothesis and Nietzsches Invariance all of which are border or
liminal concepts, as it were, and ofer revealing radiographies of the bourgeois
transcendental and ontogenetic understanding of human being. Having just stated
that quand je parle du nant, il y a dj de ltre, Merleau-Ponty remains locked in
the transcendental attitude that he attempts to supersede because he remains tied
to the Heideggerian phenomenological notion of nothing-ness: if being is in
motion, if it is a be-coming, then there must also be a non-being that pre-
supposes being, which is the space left empty by the pre-sent being
understood as a fxity. Similarly, in-visibility has meaning or sense only in the
light of visibility (la lueure de letre [p21], an echo of Heideggers Lichtung).
Merleau-Ponty has a vice of falling into these delusional dualisms as when he
speaks of silence enveloping words, for meaning or sens as letre
denveloppement and the Platonic anamnesis (cf. his expressions above, at p.28
of Signes).
It is interesting also that Foucault and then Agamben (Homo Sacer) mistake this
degree zero for some puerile pre-political state of innocence that has been
tainted by statality, by civil society as bourgeois society, as a degeneration or
de-secration from zoe to bios. In efect, Agamben et alii erect a naked life as
a bulwark against the fction of citizenship that de-fnes the border between
the state of legality and that of exception.
E em referencia a esta definicao que Boucault, ao final da
Kontade de saber, resume o processo atraves do qual, nos
limiares da 5dade Moderna, a vida natural comep, par sua
vez, a ser incluida nos mecanismos enos calculos do poder
estatal, e a politica se trans"orma em biopoliticaG LPar milenios,
o homem permaneceu o que era para )ristotelesG um animal
vivente e, alem disso, capaz de e<istencia politica* o homem
moderno e um animal em cuja politica esta em questao a sua
vida de ser viventeL 7Boucault, /,:', p /9:8 74ee ppM3+ of Eng Edtn8
Despite his appeals to the authoriality of Hannah Arendt (for he is a master at
seeking out associations with authors such as Heidegger and Deleuze),
Agamben neglects the cardinal importance that Arendt gave precisely to the
concept of citizenship, not as a mark of biopolitical repression, but indeed as
the only realistic and real protection of a human being by a human
community! There is no reference in Arendt to this primacy of natural life to
which Agamben refers (p.4). Little wonder that he should complain (same page)
that Arendt establishes no connection between the analyses in HC and in
OT! The Nazi concentration camps operated not on the basis that citizenship
was denied to the Jews, as Agamben foolishly believes, but precisely on the
Nietzschean and later Schmittian notion that society and its ontogeny of
thought are fctitious masks that serve to dissemble the nakedness of life as
exploitation! Though this debacle may have begun with the progressive
emargination of social groups from the protection of citizenship, as Arendt
genially showed, the Nazis never saw Jews as people deprived of citizenship
and they never meant thereby to exclude them from any kind of biopolitical
statality or statal power. The Nazis quite simply ob-literated the very notion of
citizenship altogether! In such a way that the Jews became in their eyes the
innocent (Unschuldig!) victims of the struggle for life, the war of all against all,
- the state of nature that is exactly what Agambens notion of nuda vita and
Foucaults earlier Aristotelian one of zoe ineluctably revive! In the Nazi
ideology, Jews were merely the representatives of a losing slave morality that
were to be dominated by the homologously ir-responsible or un-accountable
(un-ver-antwort-lich) Nazi Arian bearers of the master morality! To lump
together political systems that retain the notion of citizenship with systems like
the Nazi state that abolished citizenship completely is to commit a political
misjudgement of the worst possible kind! The puerility of Agambens late-
romantic Rousseauean reveries is of an almost unbearable naivete something
that Nietzsche exposed and ridiculed with the ontogeny of thought which
shows, in a manner later rejuvenated by Arendt, the (sit venia verbo!) nakedness
(allusion to Agambens nuda vita or naked life) of the violence that the
bourgeois transcendental attitude and ontogeny unleashes on beings human
because of its equally naked denigration and denial of any phylogenetic inter
esse, let alone citizenship! Nietzsche falsely believed to be able to overcome the
nihilism of Western thought by exposing its Invariance: in reality, however, he
only ended up identifying the ineluctability of exploitation and of the pathos of
distance, as well as the instrumentality of the capitalist logico-mathematical and
scientifc order. (Esposito, incidentally, has sought to redefne inter esse as
comunitas, with the emphasis on the munere which preserves the social
individuality of the esse and shifts the political emphasis from the inter.)
Fr, si nous chassons de notre esprit l;ide d;un texte original dont notre langage serait la
traduction ou la version chiffre, nous verrons que l;ide d;une e<pression compl#te fait non3
sens, que tout langage est indirect ou allusif, est, si l;on veut, silence 7N4ignesE, p+&8
Again, the totality of being, just like the complete expression is a non-sense,
says Merleau-Ponty. The parallelism of word and object, of thought and word
is therefore also a nonsense:
5l n;est pas davantage de pense qui soit compl@tement pense et qui ne demande 1 des mots
le moyen d;2tre prsente 1 elle3m2me Pense et parole s;escomptent l;une l;autre Elles se
substituent continuellement l;une 1 l;autre Elles sont relais, stimulus l;une pour l;autre Ooute
pense vient des paroles et y retourne, toute parole est ne dans les penses et finit en elles 5l
y a entre les hommes et en chacun une incroyable vgtation de paroles dont les = penses >
sont la nervure 3 Fn dira 3 mais enfin, si la parole est autre chose que bruit ou son, c;est que
la pense y dpose une charge de sens 3, et le sens le<ical ou grammatical d;abord 3 de sorte
qu;il n;y a jamais contact que de la pense avec la pense 3 Pien sQr, des sons ne sont parlants
que pour une pense, cela ne veut pas dire que la parole soit drive ou seconde Pien sQr, le
syst@me m2me du langage a sa structure pensable Mais, quand nous parlons, nous ne la
pensons pas comme la pense le linguiste, nous n;y pensons pas m2me, nous pensons 1 ce que
nous disons. Ce n;est pas seulement que nous ne puissions penser 1 deu< choses 1 la fois G on
dirait que, pour avoir devant nous un signifi, que ce soit %9'( 1 l;mission ou 1 la rception,
il "aut que nous cessions de nous reprsenter le code et m2me le message, que nous nous
fassions purs oprateurs de la parole Aa parole oprante fait penser et la pense vive trouve
magiquement ses mots 5l n;y a pas la pense et le langage, chacun des deu< ordres 1 l;e<amen
se ddouble et envoie un rameau dans l;autre 7N4ignesE, p9+8
In fact here even the la of la pensee ought to be in cursive because if
languages interpenetrate thoughts, then it is foolhardy to postulate the existence
of one thought: there are as many thoughts as there are words to articulate
and express them. Merleau-Ponty obliquely argues as much when he rightly
observes that there cannot be any plausible analytical distinction between
synchronic parole and diachronic langue a la Saussure. (See generally Le
Phenomene du Langage in Signes, p.85:
A;e<prience de la parole n;aurait alors rien 1 nous enseigner sur lE2tre du langage, elle
n;aurait pas de porte ontologique
C;est ce qui est impossible !@s qu;on distingue, 1 cRt de la science objective du langage,
une phnomnologie de la parole, on met en route une dialectique par laquelle les deu<
disciplines entrent en communication
!;abord le point de vue = subjectif > enveloppe le point de vue = objectif > * la
synchronie enveloppe la diachronie Ae pass du langage a commenc par 2tre %Maurice
Merleau3Ponty, 456#E4 7/,'-8 J'( prsent, la srie des faits linguistiques fortuits que la
perspective objective met en vidence s;est incorpore 1 un langage qui, 1 chaque moment,
tait un syst@me dou d;une logique interne
Here once again Merleau-Ponty seems unable to distinguish between human ana-
lysis literally, the retrovisual categorization of reality that ends up in the prima
philosophia (ontology) and the reality that is the fundament or even the
abyss of thought and language and action, in short, of what may be called the
point of intuition, the reality of perception.
Yet Merleau-Pontys conception of thought remains tied to the intra-mundane
notion of time:
5l n;y aurait rien s;il n;y avait cet abCme du soi 4eulement un abCme n;est pas rien, il a ses
bords, ses entours Fn pense toujours 1 quelque chose, sur, selon, d;apr@s quelque chose, 1
l;endroit, 1 l;encontre de quelque chose M2me l;action de penser est prise dans la pousse de
lE2tre Se ne peu< pas penser identiquement 1 la m2me chose plus d;un instant A;ouverture par
principe est aussitRt comble, comme si la pense ne vivait qu;1 l;tat naissant 4i elle se
maintient, c;est 1 travers 3 c;est par le glissement qui la jette 1 l;inactuel Car il y a l;inactuel
de l;oubli, mais aussi celui de l;acquis C;est par le temps que mes penses datent, c;est par lui
aussi quelles font date, qu;elles ouvrent un avenir de pense, un cycle, un %Maurice Merleau3
Ponty, 456#E4 7/,'-8 9/( champ, qu;elles font corps ensemble, qu;elles sont une seule pense,
qu;elles sont moi Aa pense ne troue pas le temps, elle continue le sillage des prcdentes
penses, sans m2me e<ercer le pouvoir, qu;elle prsume, de le tracer 1 nouveau, comme nous
pourrions, si nous voulions, revoir l;autre versant de la colline G mais 1 quoi bon, puisque la
colline est l1 D T quoi bon m;assurer que ma pense du jour recouvre ma pense d;hier G je le
sais bien puisque aujourd;hui je vois plus loin Si je pense, ce n'est pas que je saute hors du
temps dans un monde intelligible, ni que je recre chaque fois la signification partir de
rien, c'est que la flche du temps tire tout avec elle, fait que mes penses successives
soient, dans un sens second, simultanes, ou du moins qu'elles empitent lgitimement
l'une sur l'autre. $e "onctionne ainsi par construction. $e suis install% sur une p&ramide de
temps qui a %t% moi. Se prends du champ, je m;invente, mais non sans mon quipement
temporel, comme je me dplace dans le monde, mais non sans la masse, inconnue de mon
corps 0e temps est ce 1 corps de l!esprit 2 dont parlait (alry. 3emps et pense sont
enc"ev$trs l!un dans l!autre. 0a nuit de la pense est "abite par une lueur de l!4tre.
7N4ignesE, pp9-3/8
This is a spatial con-ception of being and time - there cannot be empty space
because even emptiness pre-supposes space! And indeed even intra-
mundane time is spatialised because it is conceived as a now-sequence of
equal intervals unfolding from past to future (cf. Heideggers early essay on
time). I do not jump out of time when I think betrays Merleau-Pontys nunc
fuens conception of time, as a fowing river in which all being foats. So does
his reference to the arrow of time and to time is the body of the spirit in
other words, for the spirit, time is its embodiment or corpo-reality. Yet we
know, frst, that time is a meaningless concept outside of human intuition
(spirit here), and second, that if time is what gives body to the spirit,
then it comes into opposition with space: in other words, we still do not know
where this spirit is! It is this invisibility of spirit and this spirituality
or corporeality of time that relegates us to the illusory dualism of Body and
Spirit, of Idea and Thing. These are transcendental notions because they conceive
of being as something that can be located in a spatio-temporal continuum.
Merleau-Ponty himself acknowledges as much when he meekly suggests that
l'tre et [le] nant, il vaudrait mieux parler du visible et de l'invisible, ne sont pas
contradictoires. Yet they are! Nothing-ness does not admit of being, unless
being is understood transcendentally, in terms of the philosophia perennis, as the
suprasensible world of which nothing-ness is only the kingdom of shadows, of
appearances, the negative or reverse of being; or else as possibility or
contingency (Heidegger, Sartre), which is certainly not nothing-ness but
being in gestation, potentiality or Aristotelian dynamis all of which poses an
antinomic dualism that Merleau-Ponty was desperately trying to eschew from the
inception. In this antinomic world, nothing-ness also has its being, and
Heideggers sophistries come to resemble closely Hegels dialectical teleology
(see his discussion of Aristotle in Vol.1 of Nietzsche).
It is instructive that Merleau-Pontys ultimate lunge to evade this linguistic trap is
to prefer the phrase topology of being which is closer to our notion of place
(Ort) and the nunc stans to re-place (!) the old intra-mundane notions of space
and time. The fundamentality that Merleau-Ponty is chasing is the
materiality or immanence of being.
!ans le te<te tardif que nous citions en commenIant, Uusserl crit que la parole ralise une =
localisation > et une = temporalisation > d;un sens idal qui, = selon son sens d;2tre > n;est ni
local ni temporel, 3 et il ajoute plus loin que la parole encore objective et ouvre 1 la pluralit
des sujets, 1 titre de concept ou de proposition, ce qui n;tait auparavant qu;une formation
intrieure 1 un sujet 5l y aurait donc un mouvement par lequel l;e<istence idale descend dans
la localit et la temporalit, 3 et un mouvement inverse par lequel l;acte de parole ici et
maintenant fonde l;idalit du vrai Ces deu< mouvements seraient contradictoires s;ils
avaient lieu entre les m2mes termes e<tr2mes, et il nous semble ncessaire de concevoir ici
un circuit de la rfle<ion G elle reconnaCt en premi@re %/9/( appro<i3mation l;e<istence idale
comme ni locale, ni temporelle, 3 puis elle s;avise d;une localit et d;une temporalit de la
parole que l;on ne peut driver de celles du monde objectif, ni d;ailleurs suspendre 1 un
monde des ides, et finalement fait reposer sur la parole le mode d;2tre des formations
idales A;e<istence idale est fonde sur le document, non sans doute comme objet physique,
non pas m2me comme porteur des significations une 1 une que lui assignent les conventions
de la langue dans laquelle il est crit, mais sur lui en tant que, par une = transgression
intentionnelle > encore, il sollicite et fait converger toutes les vies connaissantes et 1 ce titre
instaure et restaure un = Aogos > du monde culturel
Ae propre d;une philosophie phnomnologique nous parait donc 2tre de s;tablir 1 titre
dfinitif dans l;ordre de la spontanit enseignante qui est inaccessible au psychologisme et 1
l;historicisme, non moins qu;au< mtaphysiques dogmati3ques Cet ordre, la phnomnologie
de la parole est entre toutes apte 1 nous le rvler 0uand je parle ou quand je comprends,
j;e<primente la prsence d;autrui en moi ou de moi en autrui, qui est la pierre d;achoppement
de la thorie de l;intersubjectivit, la prsence du reprsent qui est la pierre d;achoppement
de la thorie du temps, et je comprends enfin ce que veut dire l;nigmatique proposition de
Uusserl G = Aa subjectivit transcendantale est intersubjectivit > !ans la mesure o? ce que je
dis a sens, je suis pour moi3m2me, quand je parle, un autre = autre >, et, dans la mesure o? je
comprends, je ne sais plus qui parle et qui coute Aa derni@re dmarche philosophique est de
reconnaCtre ce que Vant appelle %Maurice Merleau3Ponty, 456#E4 7/,'-8 ,'( l;= affinit
transcendantale > des moments du temps et des temporalits C;est sans doute ce que Uusserl
cherche 1 faire quand il reprend le vocabulaire finaliste des mtaphysiques, parlant de =
monades >, = entlchies >, = tlologie > Mais, ces mots sont mis souvent entre guillemets
pour signifier qu;il n;entend pas introduire avec eu< quelque agent qui de l;e<trieur assurerait
la conne<ion des termes mis en rapport Aa finalit au sens dogmatique serait un compromisG
elle laisserait face 1 face les termes 1 lier et le principe liant %/99( Fr c;est au coeur de mon
prsent que je trouve le sens de ceu< qui l;ont prcd, que je trouve de quoi comprendre la
prsence d;autrui au m2me monde, et c;est dans l;e<ercice m2me de la parole que j;apprends 1
comprendre 5l nEy a finalit qu;au sens o? Ueidegger la dfinissait lorsqu;il disait 1 peu pr@s
qu;elle est le tremblement d;une unit e<pose 1 la contingence et qui se recre
infatigablement Et c;est 1 la m2me spontanit, non3dlibre, inpuisable, que 4artre faisait
allusion quand il disait que nous sommes = condamns 1 la libert >
Merleau3Ponty, to my WnoXledge the only philosopher Xho not only tried to give an account of
the organic structure of human e<istence but also tried in all earnest to embarW upon a
Yphilosophy of the fleshZ, Xas still misled by the old identification of mind and soul Xhen he
defined the mind as Ythe other side of the bodyZ since Ythere is a body of the mind and a mind of
the body and a chiasm betXeen themZ Precisely the lacW of such chiasmata or crossings over is
the cru< of mental phenomena and Merleau3Ponty himself, in a different conte<t, recognized the
lacW Xith great clarity Ohought, he Xrites, is YNfundamentalE because it is not borne by anything,
but not fundamental as if Xith it one reached a foundation upon Xhich one ought to base oneself
and stay )s matter of principle, fundamental thought is bottomless 5t is, if you Xish, an abyssZ
Put Xhat is true of the mind is not true of the soul and vice versa Ohe soul, though perhaps much
darWer than the mind Xill ever manage to be, is not YbottomlessZ* it does indeed YoverfloXZ into
the body* it Yencroaches upon it, is hidden in it [ and at the same time needs it, terminates in it, is
anchored in itZ 7NAotME, pMM, this last quotation is from )ugustine, De 'ivitate Dei8
This is not the frst time that we pick on Arendt for her stubborn attachment to
this distinction between mindand soul. There is indeed a distinction to be
made between emotional thought and abstract thought but both modes of
thinking are just aspects of mental life that are diferent only in their content,
not in their fundamentality or their ontological status. And this is what
Merleau-Ponty is saying but Arendt cannot comprehend because of her
attachment, again, to the distinction between cognitive thought which is
oriented to truth-as-certainty (logico-mathematics and scientifc regularities)
and thinking proper, which for her includes meaning but which in efect
ends up referring to logico-deductive and formal-rational, in short, abstract
thought. Only in this regard does her own thought difer from Kants basic
distinction between the thinking ego, whose eminent faculties are the
understanding and reason, and the soul or the self. Kant ends up reducing all
thinking to cognitive thought or thought directed at certainty and truth.
Arendt instead categorises this as only a branch of abstract thought, of which
meaning forms the greater part. But as we will see, Arendt bases her entire
argument on the otherness of thinking its being in the world and yet apart
from it precisely and ontologically on the truth-status of logico-mathematical
abstract thinking or reasoning on Kants notions of intellect and reason.
Although she agrees that thought is an abyss, it is fundamental, because it is
only through thought that we are able to pose the most fundamental questions
of existence and reality, she fails to understand thereby that from the ontological
standpoint even abstract thought still constitutes an emotional aspect of the life
of the mind - however cool or impassive or dis-interested it may appear -
of which its intellectuality is only a part or subset thereof. Mental activity,
whether intellectual or emotional, is one and the same: the problem is that too
often we con-fuse, as clearly does Arendt, the focus or mode of thought with
its real referent, with its object (which, as we will see in our critique of
Heideggers Kantbuch, is no ob-ject at all) as if emotive thought dealt with
the soul and intellectual thought dealt instead with the mind as pure
activity, and then split itself again into rational and meaningful activities.
Contrary to what Arendt believes, both intellectual and emotive thought have
repercussions on the body and to this extent Merleau-Ponty is quite right to insist on
the mind of the body and vice versa, rather than just the soul of the body and vice
versa, and their chiasmata, their crossings-over.
The stumbling block for Arendt is a distinction that she makes and that Merleau-
Ponty does not tackle whilst Nietzsche certainly did and, by so doing, made one
of his greatest discoveries, what we have called Nietzsches Invariance, which
is that cognitive thought (logico-mathematics) and refective thought, both of
which make up abstract or intellectual thought, are not separate from other
modes of thinking and that indeed thought and body cannot be separated
the way Arendt earnestly wishes they could! The mind has a life also in this
sense or meaning, what Arendt calls the sixth sense (pp49-50): - that it
cannot be separated from life, even in its most abysmal or fundamental
intuitive or rational cognitive or abstract functions. Arendt clearly mistakes what
Merleau-Ponty means by fundamental: thought is not borne by any thing
not because it is in opposition to or contrast with the world of things because,
as Arendt herself points out, thinking beings are not just in the world but also of
the world. Rather, thought is fundamental because it is only through thought
that we can intuit the nature of reality. But this intuition tells us precisely what
Arendt (and Heidegger, then Kant, as we are about to see) refuses to
acknowledge: - that thought is immanent in life and the world, that it cannot
abstract from the latter, even in its most intellectual modes and functions and
operations. This is what Nietzsche, frst among philosophers, discovered. And
here we come to self-evident truths.
Arendts The Life of the Mind is quite evidently hinged on the misconception that
Kant operated a dichotomy or an opposition a Platonic chorismos between
things in themselves (the Ideas) and mere appearances, between the (true)
world and its efects. Yet this is not correct because Kant emphatically elevates
those mere appearances to ineluctable a-spects of the thing in itself so that no
real ultimate opposition exists between the two which is what Arendt herself
is advancing here. Where the opposition relevant to Arendts criticism of Kant
arises is not between appearances and things in themselves but rather between pure
intuition and thing, between perception and refection, between perception and
knowledge, between knowledge and reason, between idea and object whence
transcendental idealism -, and fnally between Subject and Object. This is why
Schopenhauer could celebrate in the distinction between appearance and thing
in itself.Kants greatest discovery because he could see immediately that in
fact there cannot be any dualism between perception and knowledge and that
therefore the real dichotomy was to be located between the Understanding or
Intellect and its representations on one side and the Will, the true thing in
itself, on the other with the two making up the world: hence, the world as
will and representation (or Idea).
Heidegger has enucleated and illustrated, with characteristic didactic and
analytical brilliance, this important aspect of Kantian meta-physics: for Kant
there is no opposition whatsoever between things in themselves and
appearances nor are the latter caused by the former; rather, for the
Koenigsberger, appearances are the necessary manifestation of things as beings-
in-the-world open to perception by the thinking ego of human beings (Heidegger
calls them things for us in What is a thing? At about p5) who then (and here
comes causality) orders them into concepts or constructions from which
deductions (synthetic a priori statements) can be made by pure reason. It is not
the case that for Kant appearances are mere and therefore false events
(Geschehen) that need to be interpreted in the light of the things that cause
them. Arendts miscomprehension can be gleaned when she summarises Kants
position as follows:
YUis notion of a Nthing in itselfE, somet"in, 5"ic" is but does not appear alt"ou," it causes
appearances, can be\e<plained on the grounds of the theological tradition,Z 7AotM, p+-8
Vant Xas carried aXay by his great desire to\maWe it overXhelmingly plausible that Nthere
undoubtedl& is something distinct from the Xorld Xhich contains the ground for the order of the
XorldE, and therefore is itself of a higher order,Z 7p+98
Yet Kant says precisely what Arendt seems to be saying: - that the thing in
itself does appear; in fact, it can do nothing else but appear to human beings who
can never com-prehend it fully. Arendt herself comes close to grasping Kants
admittedly intricate ontologico-epistemological position when she observes: -
Ohe theological bias %in Vant( \enters here in the Xord Ymere representationsZ, as if "e "ad
for,otten "is o5n central t"esisG Y]e assert that the conditions of the possibilit& o" experience in
general are liWeXise conditions of the possibilit& o" the experience o" the ob(ects o" experience, and
that for this reason they have objective validity in a synthetic a priori statementZ 7)ot*, p+/8
In fact, Kant has not forgotten his own central thesis and, for him, both the
possibility of experience and that of the experience of the objects of
experience actually coincide because things in themselves that become
objects of experience are known to us that is, are things in themselves for us
when they are not things in themselves of a higher order whose ec-sistence
(they are not nothing) is required by Pure Reason. What is of a higher order
for Kant is not at all the thing in itself but rather the Pure Reason which
contains the ground [not the cause!] for the order of the world. The diference
between the thinking ego and other things in themselves is that the former is
the faculty that can give order [Sinn-gebende] to the worldmade up of other
things in themselves, which are named so because they are not knowable in
themselves and not because they do not appear! Unlike Plato or Mach, Kant
does not sanctify the lofty philosopher or scientist who rises above the apparent
world. Quite to the contrary, and this is a point that Arendt keenly appreciates
(p41), Kant bases himself precisely on this world of appearances from which that
of noumena can be deduced thanks to the intellect and reason. Perception is the
construction from which reason can derive its synthetic deductions.
By failing to understand this subtle yet essential point of the Kantian critique,
Arendt cannot undo and re-erect her own phenomenology of the fesh on
proper ontological foundations; for the simple reason that her privileging of
appearances or phenomena over things in themselves or noumena or qualitates
occultae remains frmly bound to the transcendental attitude, just as Merleau-
Pontys exaltation or elevation of perception from secondary (the efect of
things or objects) to primary (the dis-closure of the object that
presupposes its partial invisibility or nothing-ness) is tightly chained to this
philosophical framework. Arendt amply demonstrates and corroborates this
conclusion when describing her own understanding of the diference between
thinking ego and the self:
Ohe thinWing ego is indeed VantEs Ything in itselfZG it does not appear to others and unliWe the self
of self3aXareness it does not appear to itself, and yet Yit is not nothingZ 3"e t"in6in, e,o is
s"eer activity and therefore ageless, se<less, Xithout qualities and Xithout a life story\Bor the
thinWing ego is not the selfZ 7pp+93M8
And here is the crux. The crucial characteristic of the transcendental attitude rests
not on the distinction between the true world and the apparent world, but rather
on the conception of human intuition as ordering the world, on the separation
between the intuitive and the conceptual tasks of the mind. This is what Merleau-
Ponty was attempting to circumvent with the topology of being, yet failed to
achieve because of that and yet it is not nothing! Heideggers explication of this
Kantian expression in What is a Thing? (at p5) genially and instructively
distinguishes between two kinds of things in themselves: - those that appear to
us [things for us] and those that do not, such as God and the thinking ego.
Arendt fails to make this distinction and so believes that all Kantian things in
themselves are the same and that her distinction of Being and Appearance
applies to Kant and that Kant reduced the thinking ego and all thinking to pure
reason ! So long as chiasmata are possible between body and soul, immanence
is assured. But it is when the mind comes into play as sheer activity, when
the ageless, sexless, thinking ego without qualities fails to appear, and yet it is not
nothing and like God it is not a thing for us - when this fundament or
abyss is considered mystically, then we have trans-scendence, the op-position of
Subjet and Object a theo-logy. This is the underpinning of Schopenhauers (then
Nietzsches) devastating critique of Kants transcendentalism.
Arendt speaks of
the parado*ical condition of a living being that, though itself part of the Xorld of appearances, is
in possession of a faculty, the ability to thinW, that permits the mind to XithdraX from the Xorld
Xithout ever being able to leave it or transcend it,Z 7NAotME, p+M8
Yet so long as Arendt keeps speaking of the world of appearances, she will be
stuck with this paradoxical condition for the simple reason that she exalts, like
Kant and even Heidegger, the primacy or primordiality or purity, the
sheer activity the transcendence! - of thought and intuition over their
materiality or sensuousness or immanence. For to say that thought can
withdraw from the world because of its abstract and inescapable (a
reference again to logico-mathematical thought) character or quality is efectively
equivalent to saying that thought trans-scends life and the world! The life of
the mind then becomes an impossible chiasmus, indeed an oxymoron. An
illustration of this misconception can be gleaned from Arendts critical comments
on P.F. Strawsons presumption, characteristic of the Oxford analytical school, in a
passage she quotes from one of his essays on Kant:
5t is indeed an old belief that reason is something essentially out of time and yet in us !oubtless
it has its ground in the fact that\Xe grasp %mathematical and logical( truths Put\one %Xho(
grasps timeless truths %need not( himself be timeless,Z 74traXson quoted on p+&8
What neither Strawson nor Arendt understand, and this is the reason why they
are entangled in this paradoxical condition, is that mathematical and logical
truths are neither true nor timeless! The prism that distorts the entire
Western ontological traditions view of reality is precisely this notion of self-
evident truths. This is the prism, the illusion, that Nietzsches Invariance
smashes mercilessly to smithereens. For a truth to ec-sist it must be com-
prehensible (Heidegger uses the term umgreifen early in the Kantbuch) and
therefore, unlike the Kantian and Schopenhauerian thing in itself, within
time: it must be intra-temporal and intra-mundane. But then it cannot possibly be
time-less! A timeless truth does not ec-sist: it is either a tautology or else it is
a practical tool, an instrument, and as such neither true nor false, just as
the world is neither true nor apparent.
Yet so long as Arendt keeps speaking of the world of appearances, she will be
stuck with this paradoxical condition for the simple reason that she exalts, like
Kant and even Heidegger, the primacy or primordiality or purity, the
sheer activity the transcendence! - of thought and intuition over their
materiality or sensuousness or immanence. For to say that thought can
withdraw from the world because of its abstract and inescapable (a
reference again to logico-mathematical thought) character or quality is efectively
equivalent to saying that thought trans-scends life and the world, however
much Arendt may eschew this conclusion! Tertium non datur: unless Arendt can
enlighten us about the ontological status of the mind, she has no grounds to
back the assertion that the mind [can] withdraw from the world without ever being
able to leave it or transcend it. The life of the mind then becomes an impossible
chiasmus, indeed an oxy-moron. An illustration of this miscomprehension can
be gleaned from Arendts critical comments on P.F. Strawsons presumption,
characteristic of the Oxford analytical school, in a passage she quotes from one of
his essays on Kant:
5t is indeed an old belief that reason is something essentially out of time and yet in us !oubtless
it has its ground in the fact that\Xe grasp %mathematical and logical( truths Put\one %Xho(
grasps timeless truths %need not( himself be timeless,Z 74traXson quoted on p+&8
What neither Strawson nor Arendt understand, and this is the reason why they
are entangled in this paradoxical condition, is that mathematical and logical
truths are neither true nor timeless because both notions are
transcendental and therefore antinomical. It is simply not possible for someone
who is not timeless to be able to grasp timeless truths that are, by defnition,
out of time unless one posits the transcendence of reason and its
timeless truths! But that would be tantamount to allowing that there ec-sist
entities of thought or reason that are out of time even though those entities are
thoughts originating in the mind of a thinker who is not time-less!
The notions of truth and timelessness require precisely that com-prehensive
being or grasping-from-the-knower [Jasperss Um-greifende or Heideggers
Totalitat] or totality or being-in-itself - not for us, that belongs to what is
not and yet it is not nothing (cf. Kantbuch, pp18-22) - that directly contra-dicts
both their ec-sistence (either in space-time or in place) and the fnitude of the
knower! The prism that distorts the entire Western ontological traditions view of
reality is precisely this notion of self-evident truths as comprehensive being
or totality or being-in-itself. This is the prism, the illusion, that Nietzsches
Invariance smashes mercilessly to smithereens. For a truth to ec-sist it must be
com-prehensible (Heidegger uses the term umgreifen early in the Kantbuch, at
par.5, p20) and therefore, unlike the Kantian and Schopenhauerian thing in
itself, within time: it must be intra-temporal and intra-mundane. But then it
cannot possibly be time-less! A timeless truth does not ec-sist: it is either a
tautology or else it is a practical tool, an instrument, and as such neither
true nor false, just as the world is neither true nor apparent. As
Heideggers discussion in par.5 of the Kantbuch reveals (at p19 especially), the
whole notion of comprehensive grasping or totality, indeed the entire
Kantian efort to tie intuition to thinking and then both to knowledge, has to do
with the communicability of intuition.
VnoXledge %and therefore thinWing( is primarily intuition, ie, a representing that immediately
represents the being itself UoXever, if finite intuition is noX to be WnoXledge, then it must be able to
maWe the being itself as revealed accessible Xith respect to both Xhat and hoX it is for everyone at all
times Binite, intuiting creatures must be able to share in the specific intuition of beings Birst of all,
hoXever, finite intuition as intuition alXays remains bound to the specifically intuited particulars Ohe
intuited is only a WnoXn being if everyone can maWe it understandable to oneself and to others and can
thereby communicate it
The whole pyramidal structure from perception to conception, from intuition to
the intellect and reason, from conduction to deduction, has no other aim than to
explain how it is possible for human beings to share perceptions as knowledge!
It is this crystallisation of symbolic interaction, that Nietzsche shattered by
exposing its con-ventionality. And it is instructive to see how Benedetto Croce
deals with this critique in the Logica. Having already tersely lampooned the
aestheticist critique of pure concepts which denies their validity and
existence in favour of sensuous experience and activity such as the artistic, and
then the mystical critique which, like Wittgenstein, insists that what is truly
worthwhile is what cannot be spoken of, Croce then turns to the arbitrary or
empiricist critique (which surely must count Nietzsche among its proponents):
CEeE 7essi dicono8 qualcosa di laE dalla mera rappresentazione, e questo qualcosa eE un atto di volontaE,
che soddisfa lEesigenza dellEuniversale con lEelaborare le rappresentazioni singole in schemi generali o
simboli, privi di realtaE ma comodi, finti ma utili,Z 7NAogicaE, p/-8
Croce does not accept that concepts are conventions or, as he prefers to call
them on behalf of the critics, fctions. As proof of the erroneity of this
critique, Croce enlists the tu quoque; in other words, this arbitrarist
critique of logic and pure concepts is itself a logical argument based on concepts
and therefore it is either equally false like all logic, or else it must claim validity
on logical grounds, and thence confrm the validity of its concepts, and
therefore the validity of conceptual reality in any case (see Logica, p12). What
Croce fails to grasp is that, so far as Nietzsche is concerned, the crystallization
critique does not deny the reality of concepts; indeed, if anything, it highlights
and warns against their efcacity. But this efcacity is made possible not by
their transcendental or pure status as timeless truths, for instance but
rather by their immanent status, by their instrumental character as an act of
will. Not the innateness of these concepts, but their instrumentality is what
matters not Augustines in interiore homine habitat veritas (cited and
discussed by Merleau-Ponty in Phenom.ofPerception, at p.xi) but the content of
the act of perception is what constitutes life and the world for us. Earlier, Croce
had emphasized the active side of concepts as human representations of
intuited reality privileging yet again the spiritual nature of concepts as
dependent on intuition and experience yet separate from it.
5l soddisfacimento eE dato dalla forma non piuE meramente rappresentativa ma logica del conoscere, e
si effettua in perpetuo, a ogni istante della vita dello spirito,Z 7p/M8
Now, again, Croce draws a stark contrast between the two positions, his idealism
and what he calls scetticismo logico (p8):
Aa conoscenza logica eE qualcosa di laE dalla semplice rappresentazioneG questa eE individualitaE e
molteplicitaE, quella lEuniversalitaE dellEindividualitaE, lEunitaE della molteplicitaE* lEuna intuizione,
lEaltra concetto* conoscere logicamente eE conoscere lEuniversale o concetto Aa negazione della
logicitaE importa lEaffermazione che non vi ha altra conoscenza se non quella rappresentativa 7o
sensibile come anche si suole dire8, e che la conoscenza universale o concettuale eE unEillusioneG di laE
dalla semplice rappresentazione non vi sarebbe nulla di conoscibile, 7pp:3J8
But this contrast is almost palpably fctitious, opposing high-sounding concepts
in what is almost a play of words, and simply fails to tell us why and how
concepts and representations difer ontologically. Croce ends up rehashing the
Kantian Schematismus with the pure concepts of beauty, fnality, quantity and
quality and so forth whose content is furnished by fctional concepts such as
universals (nouns) and abstract concepts like those of mathematics (cf. Logica,
ch.2 at p18). But in fact, as we have tried to show here invoking the aid of
Merleau-Pontys phenomenology of perception, neither of Croces pre-
suppositions of logical activity, that is, intuition and language (see pp5-6 of
Logica), is such that logical activity can be separated onto-logically from them.
Croce insists that a concept must be expressible whence the essentiality of
language to it, no less than intuition or representation:
4e questo carattere dellEespressivitaE eEcomune al concetto e alla rappresentazione, proprio del
concetto eE quello dellEuniversalitaE, ossia della trascendenza rispetto alle singole rappresentazioni,
onde nessuna\eE mai in grado di ade,uare il concetto Ora lEindividuale e lEuniversale non eE
ammissibile nulla di intermedio o di mistoG o il singolo o il tutto\ 7Aogica, pp9'3:8
We have here once again the Platonic chorismos, the Scholastic adaequatio, the
Kantian noumenon, and the Fichtean hiatus irrationalem in other words, that
antinomy that requires a leap (trans-scendence) from experience to thought.
Except that what Croce believes to identify as a particular is already and
immanently identical with a universal: not only is a concrete experience already
a universal, but so is a universal abstraction also a concrete experience! Both are
representations (cf. Croces contrary argument on pp.28-9). This is the basis of
Schopenhauers critique of Kants separation of intuition from understanding
and again from pure reason, in the sense that the Kantian universal is toto
genere diferent from the particular and cannot therefore represent it separately in
an ontological sense! Croces own categorization of these notions is at p.42 of the
Aa profonda diversitaE tra concetti e pseudoconcetti %identified Xith YlEidea platonicaZ on p+/(
suggeriE 7nel tempo in cui si solevano rappresentare le forme o gradi dello spirito come facoltaE8 la
distinzione tra due facoltaE logiche, che si dissero 5ntelletto 7o anche 5ntelletto astratto8 e ^agioneG alla
prima delle quali si assegnoE lEufficio di elaborare cioE che ora chiamiamo pseudoconcetti, e alla
seconda i concetti puri
Evident is Croces obstinacy in seeking to diferentiate, however vainly,
thought from perception or representation or intuition: - an efort that
must remain vain because no onto-logical priority can be given to thought over
matter and because indeed no thought is possible without perception and
vice versa. A world without thought would be a world without life, and a world
without life would not be a world at all! That is not to say that thought takes
precedence ontologically over the world because it is essential to the world;
the two are co-naturate, Deus sive Natura. For universals and particulars, for
abstract thought and concrete intuition, to be able to enter into a practical real
relation with each other, they must participate (Nicholas of Cusas methexis)
in the same immanent reality! Indeed, it seems obvious to us that perception and
thought are immanently connected: methexis replaces chorismos. Here is
Ohe true 'ogito does not define the subjectEs e<istence in terms of the thought he has of e<isting
and furthermore does not convert the indubitability of thought about the Xorld, nor finally does it
replace the Xorld itself by the Xorld as meaning Fn the contrary it recognizes my thought itself as an
inalienable fact, and does aXay Xith any Wind of idealism in revealing me as ;being3in3the3Xorld;
7PoP, p<iii8
Oo seeW the essence of perception is to declare that perception is, not presumed true, but defined as
access to truth 4o, if 5 noX Xanted, according to idealistic principles, to base
this defacto self3evident truth, this irresistible belief, on some absolute
self3evident truth, that is, on the absolute clarity Xhich my thoughts
have for me* if 5 tried to find in myself a creative thought Xhich bodied
forth the frameXorW of the Xorld or illumined it through and through,
5 should once more prove unfaithful to my e<perience of the Xorld,
and should be looWing for Xhat maWes that e<perience possible
instead of looWing for Xhat it is 3"e self7evidence of perception is not adequate t"ou,"t or
apodeictic self7evidence. The orld is not hat I thin! but hat " live through 8m.e.9. I am open to
t"e 5orld, I "ave no doubt t"at I am in communication 5it" it, but I do not possess it: it is
ine*"austible. !3"ere is a 5orld!, or rat"er: !3"ere is t"e 5orld!:
I can never completely account for t"is ever7reiterated assertion
in my life. Ohis facticity of the Xorld is Xhat constitutes the
+eltlich,eit der +elt, Xhat causes the Xorld to be the Xorld* just as
the facticity of the cogito is not an imperfection in itself, but rather
Xhat assures me of my e<istence,Z 7PoP, pp<vi3<vii8
Merleau-Ponty reiterates here the Nietzschean vivo ergo cogito, with the
peccadillos that he refers to the self-evident truth of perception (what is truth
if, as he immediately yet unwittingly corrects himself, it is not backed by some
absolute self-evident truth?) and then the obvious reference to the I, the
Husserlian transcendental ego or subject.
Nietzsches Invariance
^eality in a Xorld of appearances is first of all characterized by Nstanding still and remainingE the same
long enough to become an ob(ect for acWnoXledgement and recognition by a sub(ect UusserlEs basic
and greatest discovery taWes up in e<haustive detail the intentionality of all acts of consciousness\Z
7Aife of the Mind, p+'8
As we have seen, Arendts critique of the Cartesian cogito moves correctly from
the observation that thinking shows merely that there are thoughts (p49).
But from this conclusion Arendt does not, unlike Nietzsche (again, p49), proceed
as she must to question the entire notion of a subject, of a thinking ego, and
therefore also of Husserls transcendental ego and its intentionality. For
what can it mean to say that reality is characterised by standing still and
remaining the same long enough to become and object for a subject? No
matter how hard it may try, thought will never be able to stand still and remain
the same long enough (!) to be able to identify an object and a subject, but
only to perceive or intuit that there is a thereness, an ever-present or present-
ment (pressentiment or sixth sense or Aquinass sensus communis) of reality.
This is so for the devastatingly simple reason that all that thought can ever be
conscious or aware of is the pre-sent, which is neither the past, because even
memories are present, nor quite evidently the future which is a present
pro-jection. Instead, Arendt stops at the conclusion that thinking con-frms
the existence of a reality, of a world from which even the most meditative
or abstract thought can withdraw and yet one that it can never quite leave.
Presumably, one ought to infer from this withdrawing without leaving that
Arendt has relinquished the notion of the transcendence of thought but in
fact she has not, as she herself demonstrates with the following observation:
]hatever thinWing can reach and Xhatever it may achieve, it is precisely reality as given to common
sense, in its sheer thereness, that remains forever beyond its grasp\3"ou,"t processes, unli6e
common sense, can be p"ysically located in t"e brain, but nevert"eless transcend all biolo,ical
data, be t"ey functional or morp"olo,ical;7AotM, pp&/398
Yet again, in her preoccupation or haste to ofer thinking a privileged place in
ontology, Arendt forgets that common sense and thinking are one and the
same thing, that they are located neither in the brain nor in any other organ
(cf. Arendts objection to the early Wittgensteinian notion of language is part of
our organism at p52) as every philosopher from Hegel to Merleau-Ponty (in
Signes or the Reader) whom Arendt expressly acknowledges and agrees with
contra Kant (pp48-9) would tell her. On this specifc point, Arendt misconstrues
Merleau-Pontys charge against Descartes of seeking to distill and then isolate
thought from perception for the simple reason that for Merleau-Ponty
perception and thought just like perception and language cannot be
separated as Arendt attempts to do here by elevating thought (though
strangely not language) to a higher transcendental level from (mere?)
biological data be they functional or morphological!
The reason why Arendt is so persistent, even obdurate, in this transcendental
attitude is that she thoroughly misconceives the entire nature or ontological
status of abstract thought that is, of thought that pretends or presumes to ab-
stract from and therefore to transcend the world, as Descartess meditations or
Husserls epoche (suspension) were meant to do, albeit in diferent ways.
VantEs famous distinction betXeen -ernun"t and -erstand, betXeen a faculty of speculative thought
and the ability to WnoX arising out of sense e<perience,\ has consequences more far3reaching\than
he himself recognized\)lthough he insisted on the inability of reason to arrive at WnoXledge,
especially Xith respect to 6od, Breedom, and 5mmortality [ to him the highest objects of thought [ he
could not part altogether Xith the conviction that the final aim of thinWing, as of WnoXledge, is truth
and cognition* he thus uses, throughout the Critiques, the term -ernun"terer,enntnis, NWnoXledge
arising out of pure reasonE, a construction that ought to have been a contradiction in terms for him,
7AotM, pp'93M8
Reprising Heideggers (and even earlier, Nietzsches) critique of the exhaustion of
Western philosophy in the erroneous identifcation of truth with certainty or
cognition or knowledge, Arendt demonstrates incontrovertibly just how little
she has grasped the real problematic of Western philosophy and of the Kantial
critique in particular. Arendt cannot understand that if indeed Kant had chosen
to con-fne pure reason to the sphere of sheer activity, that is to say of pure
thought, of pure concepts (Croce), he would then have had to concede the sheer
conventionality of pure reason and its abstract thought its naked
instrumentality and cognitive emptiness (intuition without concepts is blind;
concepts without intuition are empty). Arendt seeks here to elide and elude and
avoid the entire problem of the ordo et connexio rerum idearumque! A pure reason
that remains sheer activity, abstract thought with no empirical nexus to
reality, perception and intuition such a pure reason would end up being a mere
ghost and, in its formal logico-mathematical aspect, a welter of total,
complete and abject tautologies. Arendt herself intelligently identifes this
Kantian quandary when she quotes him writing that
Y%for the saWe of mere speculative reason alone( Xe should hardly have undertaWen the labor of
transcendental investigations\since Xhatever discoveries might be made in regard to these matters,
Xe should not be able to maWe use of them in any helpful manner in concretoZ 7p'&8
The problem for Kant as for all Western philosophy has been always, and quite
justifably, to discover the nexus rerum, the purposive unity of things, the
link between objective reality and subjective knowledge of that reality. To
negate or deny that such a link ec-sists means efectively that one must then
either discard the content of abstract thought or else to jettison the
scientifcity of all knowledge! Arendt has simply failed to comprehend this
crucial predicament that has been the bane of Western metaphysics and science.
Instead, she curiously and naively believes that Kant could easily have
abandoned the confusion involved in reconciling thought and experience.
Put Vant does not insist on this side of the matter %the irrelevance of reason to cognition and
WnoXledge(, because he is afraid that his ideas might then turn out to be Nempty thought3thingsE 7leere
.edan,endinge8\ 5t is perhaps for the same reason that he equates Xhat Xe have here called meaning
Xith Purpose and even 5ntention 7/0ec, and 1bsicht8G Ohe Yhighest formal unity Xhich rests solely on
concepts of reason, is t"e purposive unity of t"in,s Ohe speculative interest of reason maWes it
necessary to regard all order in t"e 5orld as if it had originated in the %intention( of a supreme
reasonZ, 7AotM, pp'+3&8
^ight in the midst of the passages quoted above occurs the sentence that stands in the greatest possible
contrast to his oXn equation of reason Xith PurposeG YPure reason is in fact occupied Xith nothing but
itself 5t can have no other vocation, 7AotM, p'&8
What Arendt fails to understand is something that Kant knew all too well, and
that is that unless the truths of pure reason can be intimately con-nected to
the regularities found in nature, then they can lay no claim to truth at all and,
worst of all, neither can the scientifc truths or verities that Arendt espouses,
because there would then be nothing at all in those empirical regularities
that could lend them the status of scientifc truths. Science would then be
exposed for what it is: - sheer instrumentality. Arendt is aware of this difculty,
which is why, on one hand, she attempts to preserve the word truth for
scientifc discoveries of a fnite and paradigmatic (she cites Kuhn) nature;
whilst on the other hand she seeks to avoid the word truth, preferring
meaning, for the sheer activity of abstract thought, preserving thus its
formal and non-purposive quality. Weber does the same with his Zweck-
rationalitat, which is in fact non-purposive in the sense that it is instrumental
and not teleological, and yet Weber, unlike Arendt, intelligently and
perspicaciously acknowledges the technical-purposive instrumentality of this
instrumental reason without dignifying it with a patina of spirituality or
transcendence as Arendt does!
OhinWing, no doubt, plays an enormous role in any scientific enterprise, but it is the role of a means to
an end* the end is determined by a decision about Xhat is XorthXhile WnoXing, and this decision
cannot be scientific, 7AotM, p&+8
This is pure Weber: but whereas Weber perceives that thinking is pure
instrumentality, a means to an end, it is Zweck-rationalitat rather than Wert-
rationalitat, Arendt steadfastly refuses the purposivity of this notion of
thinking or reason, clinging instead to a romantic notion of meaning.
Weber sees the purpose in reason and leaves it at that, at its technicality
which he confuses with scientifcity rather than instrumentality. Arendt
instead is looking for something more in thinking wishing to rescue it
from, and to give it a content or transcendence over and above its, (sterile)
purity. So here is the crux: what can it mean for Arendt, more than for Kant
who obviously was ambivalent about the idea, to say with Kant that pure reason
is occupied with nothing but itself and can have no other vocation? Arendt obviously
seeks simultaneously to preserve the purity (non-instrumentality and non-
purposiveness) of reason, and to avoid the sterility of such neutrality its
tautologous quality by emphasizing its meaningfulness, and fnally to
redeem the spiritual side of thinking not its faith, pace Kant, but its
%Vant( never became fully aXare of having liberated reason and thinWing, of having justified this
faculty and its activity even though they could not boast of any NpositiveE results )s Xe have seen, he
stated that he had Yfound it necessary to deny ,no0ledge\ to maWe room for "aithZ, but all he had
YdeniedZ Xas WnoXledge of things that are unWnoXable, and he had not made room for faith but for
thought , 7AotM, p'M8
Yet whilst Arendt resists every notion that thinking is confned to its content
whether as reason or intellect -, at the same time she intuits that if the
ontological status of thinking is defned by thinking the unknowable, such a
spiritual notion will reduce both the ontological status of thinking and its
content or subject-matter to abstract, ghostly-ghastly sterility and insubstantiality
as well as irrelevancy: - which is quite precisely why Kant had said that by
rescuing reason for cognition he had also rescued faith, that is, what lies
beyond the materiality or instrumentality or purposivity of thinking
that is necessarily required by the unity of things, the nexus or connexio
between cognition and world! Arendt is still shackled to the notion that
thinking transcends the world even though she seeks to avoid the idealistic
implications of this position by redefning thought as withdrawing from the world
without ever leaving it! What Arendt has failed to do is to fulfll the original goal
of her refections on the life of the mind that philosophy of the fesh that, as
was Merleau-Pontys great intuition, does not distinguish between thinking and its
content, perception and its object, thought and the senses, thought and language, and
treats them instead as immanently connected (see quotation from his PoP in next
Here is Arendt again emphasizing the gap between thinking and cognition or
certainty or truth:
Ohere are no truths beyond and above factual truthsG all scientific truths are factual truths\and only
factual statements are scientifically verifiable\VnoXing certainly aims at truth, even if this truth, as
in the sciences, is never an abiding truth but a provisional verity that Xe e<pect to e<change against
other, more accurate verities as WnoXledge progresses Oo e<pect truth to come from thinWing signifies
that Xe mistaWe the need to thinW Xith the urge to WnoX\5n this sense, reason is the a priori condition
of the intellect and of cognition* it is because reason and intellect are so connected\that the
philosophers have alXays been tempted to accept the criterion of truth [ so valid for science and
everyday life [ as applicable to their oXn e<traordinary business as Xell, 7AotM, pp'/398
The difculty is evident: the only test for verities is truth; if we renounce
the notion of truth we are left not with verities, but with nothing at all except
either con-venience or con-vention, which are the nemesis of scientifc
endeavor (cf. Mach, EuI). Furthermore, the criterion of truth and error is in
fact just as applicable to thinking as it is to factual truths: contrary to what
Arendt thinks, the opposite of factual truth can be error and not just the
deliberate lie (p59) because factual truth can be as aleatory or falsifable as
factual untruth! The terrifying reality is that Arendt has abolished the notion of
truth, much as Nietzsche and Weber did, without being able to replace it with
a meaningful one of thinking. When she does attempt to infuse thinking
with meaning, the result is as revealing as it is fallimentary and fallacious.
Py draXing a distinguishing line betXeen truth and meaning, betXeen WnoXing and thinWing, and by
insisting on its importance, 5 do not Xish to deny that thinWingEs quest for meaning and WnoXledgeEs
quest for truth are connected Py posing the unansXerable questions of meaning, men establish
themselves as question3asWing beings Pehind all the cognitive questions for Xhich men find ansXers,
there lurW the unansXerable ones that seem entirely idle and have alXays been denounced as such 5t is
more than liWely that men, if they Xere ever to lose the appetitefor meaning Xe call thinWing and cease
to asW unansXerable questions, Xould lose not only the ability to produce\XorWs of art but also the
capacity to asW all the ansXerable questions upon Xhich every civilization is founded 5n this sense
reason is the a priori condition of the intellect and of cognition* it is because reason and intellect are so
connected\that the philosophers have alXays been tempted to accept the criterion of truth [ so valid
for science and everyday life [ as applicable to their oXn rather e<traordinary business as Xell, 7AotM,
Here we reach the fnal stage of our critique of Arendts notion of mind and
thinking. For it is becoming easier to discern where she has gone wrong. The
problem is that Arendt seeks, on one hand, to draw a frm ontological line
between thinking and meaning on one side and truth and cognition or
knowledge on the other side. But then, on the other hand, she wishes to posit
meaning rather than truth as the spiritual objective of thinking because
and here is the crunch she confuses truth with certainty (!) which is
precisely the conceptual and practical-political mistake that Nietzsche frst and
then Heidegger had exposed! Arendt believes that truth, by which she means
factual truth, is something that, though never attainable in its totality, can be
ascertained nevertheless either in science or in logico-mathematics as a matter of
fact! So much so that, as we saw above, for her the opposite of factual truth is not
error but the deliberate lie! Arendt herself puts this point, and her own
con-fusion of the concepts of truth-as-meaning and truth-as-fact or certainty,
beyond all doubt when she states: Truth is what we are compelled to admit by the
nature either of our senses or of our brain (p61). In other words, not only are we
compelled to admit logico-mathematical truths by virtue of the nature of
our brains a psychologism, this, that had already been exposed as fallacious
by Frege and Wittgenstein -, but also we are compelled to admit what Arendt
calls factual truth by virtue of the nature of our senses which begs the
question of how our senses can ever know that what they perceive is truly the
Arendt here is failing to distinguish between the truth of the philosophia
perennis and what Nietzsche unmasked instead as the Will to Truth. By so
doing, and by identifying scientifc truth and logico-mathematical truth with
truth itself (despite her untenable distinguo between truth and verities
which we exposed earlier above), Arendt is in reality and in efect relegating her
own notion of thinking-as-meaning to the ethereal sphere of transcendental
irrelevancy. If indeed we were to agree that the task and essence of thought was
merely to pose unanswerable questions, we would at one and the same time
fulfll Hegels demand that philosophy be something more than the
handmaiden of the sciences and consign it to the status, not of sheer activity,
as Arendt calls it, but of sheer futility! For activity as abstract and immaterial
or transcendent as the one Arendt envisages for the task of human thought, far
from challenging the operari of the sciences and of logico-mathematics and
denouncing it under capitalism as Will to Truth, serves only to confrm its
ontological and epistemological superiority as factual truth to which
Arendts quest for meaning is a pallid and power-less reply the very
embodiment of Nietzsches Wille zur Ohnmacht (Will to Powerlessness)!
Ultimately, Arendts confusion of these concepts thinking and knowing,
meaning and truth condemns her to that very transcendental attitude that
Kant himself could not escape, though he valiantly confronted it, and that his
German Idealist epigones turned into a cult of consciousness.
]hat undermined VantEs greatest discovery, the distinction betXeen WnoXledge, Xhich uses thinWing
as a means to an end, and thinWing itself as it arises out of Ythe very nature of reasonZ and is done for
its oXn saWe, Xas that he constantly compared the tXo Xith each other, 7AotM, p'+8
In fact, as we are arguing and demonstrating here, far from undermining his
philosophy, Kants constant efort to establish the connection between thinking
and knowing is what elevates his work to the status of critique, however
limited and imperfect it may have remained. It is because thinking is not done
for its own sake, it is because of its immanence and materiality its
instrumentality! - that knowing in the sense of science or logico-
mathematics will not and cannot reach the status of truth but must remain a
will to truth that we must confront critically if we do not wish to remain its
ideological victims.
Happily, these points are summarized for us by Merleau-Ponty in Phenomenology
of Perception:
Fnce more, reflection_even the second3order reflection of science [
obscures Xhat Xe thought Xas clear ]e believed Xe WneX Xhat
feeling, seeing and hearing Xere, and noX these Xords raise problems
]e are invited to go bacW to the e<periences to Xhich they refer in
order to redefine them Ohe traditional notion of sensation Xas not a
concept born of reflection, but a late product of thought directed
toXards objects, the last element in the representation of the Xorld,
the furthest removed from its original source, and therefore the most
unclear 5nevitably science, in its general eff;ort toXards objectification,
evolved a picture of the human organism as a physical system
undergoing stimuli Xhich Xere themselves identified by their
physico3chemical properties, and tried to reconstitute actual perception`
on this basis, and to close the circle of scientific WnoXledge
by discovering the laXs governing the production of WnoXledge
itself, by establishing an objective science of subjectivity` Put it is
also inevitable that this attempt should fail 5f Xc return to the
objective investigations themselves, Xe first of all discover that the
conditions e<ternal to the sensory field do not govern it part for
part, and that they e<ert an effect only to the e<tent of maWing
possible a basic pattern_Xhich is Xhat 6cstalt theory maWes clear
Ohen Xe see that Xithin the organism the structure depends on
variables such as the biological meaning of the situation, Xhich are
no longer physical variables, Xith the result that the Xhole eludes
the Xell3WnoXn instruments of physico3mathematical analysis, and
opens the Xay to another type of intelligibilitya 5f Xe noX turn bacW,
as is done here, toXards perceptual e<perience, Xe notice that
science succeeds in constructin, only a semblance of subjectivity: it
introduces sensations 5"ic" are t"in,s, just 5"ere e*perience s"o5s
t"at t"ere are meanin,ful patterns: it forces t"e p"enomenal universe
into cate,ories 5"ic" ma6e sense only in t"e universe of science. 5t
requires that tXo perceived lines, liWe tXo real lines, should be
equal or unequal, that a perceived crystal should have a definite
number of sides,a Xithout realizing that the perceived, by its nature,
admits of the ambiguous, the shifting, and is shaped by its conte<t 7pp/-3/8
But let us deal now with Arendts claim that logico-mathematical truths are
irresistible just like factual truths in science because we are compelled to
admit the nature of our brains and of our senses, respectively.
The notion of axiomatic mathematical truth as despotic was not lost on the
earliest theoreticians of the doctrine of the Ab-solutist State the statolatrists
in Renaissance Europe. Yet again, it was Hannah Arendt who came closest to
intuiting the complex problematic of logico-mathematical id-entities or laws
and the theorization of ab-solute power in On Revolution:
Ohere is perhaps nothing surprising in that the )ge of Enlightenment should have become aXare of the
compelling nature of a<iomatic or self3evident truth, Xhose paradigmatic e<ample, since Plato, has
been the Wind of statements Xith Xhich Xe are confronted in mathematics Ae Mercier de la ^iviere
Xas perfectly right Xhen he XroteG !2uclide est un veritable despote et les verites geometriques qu!il
nous a transmises sont des lois veritablement despotiques. )eur despotisme legal et le despotisme
personnel de ce )egislateur n!en "ont qu!un, celui de la "orce irresistible de l!evidence!39' and 6rotius,
more than a hundred years earlier, had already insisted that !even .od cannot cause that t0o times t0o
should not ma,e "our! 7]hatever the theological and philosophic implications of 6rotius;s for3mula
might be, its political intention Xas clearly to bind and
Boundation 55G#ovus Frdo 4aeclorum /,M
limit the sovereign Xill of an absolute prince Xho claimed to incarnate divine omnipotence on earth,
by declaring that even 6od;s poXer Xas not Xithout limitations Ohis must have appeared of great
theoretical and practical relevance to the political thinWers of the seventeenth century for the simple
rea3son that divine poXer, being by definition the poXer of Fne, could appear on earth only as
superhuman strength, that is, strength multiplied and made irresistible by the means of violence 5n our
conte<t, it is important to note that only mathematical laXs Xere thought to be sufficiently irresistible
to checW the poXer of despots8 Ohe fallacy of this position Xas not only to equate this compelling
evidence Xith right reason [the dictamen rationis or a veritable dictate of reason 3 but to believe that
these mathematical ;laXs; Xere of the same nature as the laXs of a community, or that the former could
somehoX inspire the latter Sefferson must have been dimly aXare of this, for otherXise he Xould not
have indulged in the someXhat incongruous phrase, ;]e hold these truths to be self3evident;, but
Xould have saidG Ohese truths are self3evident, namely, they possess a poXer to compel Xhich is as
irresistible as despotic poXer, they are not held by us but Xe are held by them* they stand in no need
of agreement Ue WneX very Xell that the statement ;)ll men are created equal; could not possibly
possess the same poXer to compel as the statement that tXo times tXo maWe four, for the former is
indeed a statement of reason and even a reasoned statement Xhich stands in need of agreement, unless
one assumes that human reason is divinely informed to recognize certain truths as self3evident* the
latter, on the contrary, is rooted in the physical structure of the human brain, and therefore is
;irresistible; 7pp/,93M8
Arendt observes that divine laws and the laws of ethics and of States in
short, all values difer from those of mathematics because the latter describe
the constitution of the mind and therefore cannot be resisted, whereas the
former, however reasonable they might seem, require agreement unless one
appeals to a mystical intuitus originarius. Arendt, however, fails to comprehend
the enormity of the problem she has dimly perceived, which is the reason why
she is unable to enucleate it with the ruthless clairvoyance that Nietzsche applied
to it. When Mercier calls Euclid a despot he is equiparating the legislative
power of his geometrical axioms to the ab-solute power of despots in that both
kinds of power efectually do not admit of questioning or agreement!
Grotius, by contrast, is placing mathematical axioms above the power of
Sovereigns and of God himself (!) but in so doing he too is equi-parating the
two powers in the sense that mathematical axioms in their universality ofer a
guarantee of truth and validity that even the power of Sovereigns and of
God, in its ab-soluteness, cannot profer.
The signifcant feature that escapes Arendt is that both Mercier and Grotius
interpret the truth of mathematical axioms as a Value as an ab-solute
truth, one that requires no de-monstration that can stand as the ultimate, ab-
solute guarantee of all human universal values, of that inter esse that is threatened
by the arbitrariness implicit in the ab-soluteness (the unanswerability, the
unaccountability, the irresponsibility) of any and all political or divine
power! And because Arendt does not grasp the profound signifcance of this
equi-paration, she is then unable to penetrate the next, the ultimate and most
devastating conclusion one that she eludes, or that eludes her, when she
attributes the self-evidence of mathematical truths to the physical structure
of the human brain (a psychologism already refuted by Wittgenstein and
Husserl before him).
Arendt seeks to keep separate and distinguish the logical necessity or
irresistibility or irrefutability of logico-mathematics (as a power of the
human brain) from the political necessity of human coercion. Yet, the
devastating conclusion that Nietzsche was frst to outline as the con-clusion
or com-pletion or ful-flment (in the sense of ex-haustion, of fully-
ending, Heideggers Voll-endung) of the Western metaphysical Ratio-Ordo is
that it is precisely because human beings can conceive of logico-mathematical
id-entities that we have ultimate proof of the complete value-lessness of life
and the world! It is the very arbitrariness and con-ventionality of logico-
mathematical id-entities that con-frms ineluctably the futility of all Truths
and Values! Far from being the ultimate and ab-solute guarantee of the
presence and reality of Reason and Order, of universality, in the human world,
either as a hypostatic truth or as a power of the human brain, logico-
mathematical identities constitute the evidence of the ultimate instrumentality of
human action, of the ability of human beings to reify and crystallise their
perceptive and thinking reality, and therefore they represent also the ultimate value-
lessness, the ultimate un-reality of all values and truths and verities, of all
Truth! This is what Nietzsche meant by the trans-valuation of all values!
Arendt completely fails to see that both logico-mathematical and juridical-
ethical laws are con-ventional (Nietzsche and Wittgenstein), and that
therefore they too require agreement (!)just like juridical-ethical and
behavioural laws, which can also be given ab-solute logico-mathematical
axiomatic form, as in game theory, and can then become a fate (in
Wittgensteinian language games), which is the opposite of what truth is
supposed to be! So, in fact, self-evident truths (Jeferson), whether logico-
mathematical or practical, are not truths at all (thus, the Jefersonian we
hold can be applied to the former as well as the latter): indeed, the required
ab-soluteness of all ultimate values and truths demonstrates that there can
be no such value or truth except for truth-as-value. Diferently put, truth
can ec-sist as value but not as the actual correspondence of concept with its
object (the Scholastic adaequatio rei et intellectus). Far from being the ultimate
protection against political arbitrariness, it is the very fact that the axiomatic
rules of mathematics and logic can never acquire the status of ab-solute
ultimate truth and value that reveals their ineluctable con-ventionality and
therefore the utter value-lessness of life and the world, which in turn is due
to the im-possibility of truth! It is for this precise and quite understandable
reason that Mercier and Grotius both feel tempted to equiparate logico-
mathematical necessity and political coercion because logico-mathematical
necessity is the ultimate instance of the ability of human beings to transmute
a symbolic con-vention into political coercion (indeed into irrefutable
truth!) and vice versa. This is the secret of the Rationalisierung! (It will be
recalled that in George Orwells 1984 the main character Winston Smith seeks
refuge from the pervasiveness of Big Brothers totalitarian power in the truth of
the statement two plus two makes four no matter what Big Brother says. What
Smith fails to perceive is that it is precisely the ability of human beings to devise
logico-mathematical identities that exhibits the ultimate futility of truth as a
value and that demonstrates instead its utter instrumentality, and therefore the
possibility of Big Brothers ab-solute power.)
Diferently put, mathematical id-entities and logical axioms demonstrate both the
ultimate attempt and the ultimate inability of the human mind to con-ceive of
truth and value as objective entities and represent therefore the ultimate de-
monstration of their un-reality. According to Nietzsches invariance, if truth
existed we could not think of it , we could not con-ceive of it, we could not grasp
or detect it: it would be removed to the status of Leibnizs intuitus originarius,
what Arendt calls above [a] human reason divinely informed to recognize
certain truths as self-evident - which is why Nietzsche could satirize that the
higher a truth becomes, the less truthful it grows because it becomes more
intuitive and therefore less provable and more de-monstrable! In other
words, the ontological status of truth is invariant, makes no dif-ference, has no
real material and practical impact on human afairs except for its impact as a belief,
as a faith, as a will to truth! (This argument as applied to Leibnitz is in
Heideggers Metaphysical Foundations of Logic.)
Mathematical id-entities and logical axioms are borderline concepts (Schmitt,
Politische Theologie); they de-monstrate (in the Wittgensteinian sense of
showing, pointing to but never explaining meaningfully or proving!) both the
ultimate attempt and the ultimate inability of the human mind to con-ceive of
truth and value as objective entities: they represent therefore not only the
ultimate de-monstration of the un-reality of truth and values but also and
most terrifying of all the possibility of turning human arbitrariness into a
science and a logic. This is the Will to Truth. Arendt came frighteningly
close to this terrifying conclusion when she wrote in On Revolution: -
]hatever the theological and philosophic implications of 6rotius;s formula might be, its political
intention Xas clearly to bind and
Boundation 55G#ovus Frdo 4aeclorum /,M
limit the sovereign Xill of an absolute prince Xho claimed to incarnate divine omnipotence on earth,
by declaring that even 6od;s poXer Xas not Xithout limitations 3"is must "ave appeared of ,reat
t"eoretical and practical relevance to t"e political t"in6ers of t"e seventeent" century for t"e
simple reason t"at divine po5er, bein, by definition t"e po5er of <ne, could appear on eart"
only as super"uman stren,t", t"at is, stren,t" multiplied and made irresistible by t"e means of
violence. 5n our conte<t, it is important to note that only mathematical laXs Xere thought to be
sufficiently irresistible to checW the poXer of despots8 3"e fallacy of t"is position 5as not only to
equate t"is compellin, evidence 5it" ri,"t reason =t"e dictamen rationis or a veritable dictate of
reason 7 but to believe t"at t"ese mat"ematical !la5s! 5ere of t"e same nature as t"e la5s of a
community, or t"at t"e former could some"o5 inspire t"e latter.
To echo Arendt by way of confutation, the fallacy of her position is failing to
equate mathematical laws with right reason and to believe that these
mathematical laws are not of the same nature as the laws of a community, or
that the former cannot somehow inspire the enforcement of the latter! Even the
most irresistible laws (Arendt), the laws of logico-mathematics, are just as
con-ventional as the laws of a community: indeed, it is the ultimate con-
ventionality of even logico-mathematical laws that demonstrates how all laws,
including moral and juridical ones, are ultimately con-ventional and therefore
political. This is what Mercier, more explicitly, and Grotius, implicitly, meant to
say in the quotations that Arendt selected (which she reproposes in The Life of the
Mind). It is the fact (understood in the Vichian and Nietzschean sense of verum
ipsum factum, meaning that the truth is what human beings actu-ally do, from
the Latin actus, act, and facere, to do) that human beings can mis-take logico-
mathematical con-ventions (agreements) for irresistible truths that evinces
defnitively the con-ventionality of all truths and all laws their legal
character, and therefore their lack of legitimacy, their dependency on some
authority that is not and cannot be ab-solute (not requiring further proof).
(On the antinomy of legality and legitimacy the reference is to Carl Schmitts
homonymous work. We will examine the homology of Nietzsches Invariance
and Schmitts notion of decision auf Nichts gestellt [made out of nothing] later.)
Rowthorn email: "In a nutshell, my quest, provoked by your early work, was to
answer this question (put in Kantian form): given that "value" is not and annot be
an "ob!etive" entity, ontrary to what "ar# sought to prove with his "soially
neessary labour time", how is it possible for the apitalist eonomy to funtion, that
is, to reprodue and even e#pand the wage relation$ (%his is the lassi question of
eonomis that &ayek brought bak to the entre of eonomi analysis ' broadly put,
how is a market eonomy "o'ordinated"$ how is "the soial synthesis" possible$)
%he important hint was in your genial link or ne#us between "onflit" and "inflation":
yet many questions remained unanswered( %he task was not to determine how to
measure inflation but rather to understand the far deeper "meaning" of inflation as a
"measure" of soial onflit, ' put differently, to establish what the institutional and
instrumental use of inflation as a monetary ategory ould be( )ut above all, the
hardest task remained to e#plain how it was possible for a "mathematial"
relationship between two obviously fititious notions ' that of "prie" and that of
"value" or "quantities" (f( the title of &ayek*s "+ries and +rodution") ' to be
"effetual", that is, to serve as the "rule of thumb" for the ondut, regulation and
e#panded reprodution of the wage relation (let us remember that "profit" is
meaningless without its "negation" ' money wages)( ,ne we have established, with
-iet.she, that there is no "sientifi truth", the question then assumes /eberian
overtones, revolving around how it is possible for the "rationalisation" 0/eber1 of
soial reality to our( %o answer this question I had to revise "ar#*s own approah to
the ontent and methodology of what we all "siene" ' inluding espeially this
thing alled "eonomi siene"(
2nd that is what I have done in the works on -iet.she (mainly in +art ,ne, setion
3 of "%he ,ntogeny of %hought") and /eber (mainly +art 4 dediated to his
methodology of soial siene)( %hey are admittedly diffiult works ' beause the
sub!et'matter is diffiult, involving a level of abstration that would have tested
even "ar# himself, but one for whih -iet.she was far better equipped( 5o I am
sending you now the draft hapters of the Nietzschebuch that I would be quite
pleased for you to pass on to 6avid( %here is a whole universe of learning here7 my
greatest reward in life has been to have earned the finanial freedom to be able to
ommit it to writing8
,ne this analysis is understood, the musings of a 9oan Robinson on "&istory versus
:quilibrium" begin to sound like the kind of philosophial dualisti pu..les that keep
undergraduates amused( %he whole "intention" of neolassial analysis was never to
comprehend the apitalist eonomy as a "historial" reality, to reveal its "truth"( %he
aim and pratie of equilibrium analysis was never "to apture" or "photograph"
a reality of any desription( (/eber made this pelluid in the quotations I give in +art
%hree of the */eberbuh*() -or should neolassial theory be onfused as an
"ideology" that somehow "distorts" this (faniful notion of) "reality" (what Robinson
and ;awson and others would all "history" or "the onti")( 2 million times no8 %he
power of neolassial theory, and of equilibrium as the ore aspet of it, is that it
e#presses "the will to power" of the bourgeoisie: it desribes and understands life
and the world -,% as it "should" or "ought" to be, least of all "as it is" ' but rather as
it "<5% be for the bourgeoisie to be able to ontrol the soiety of apital, to
ommand living labour( In short, neolassial theory is a pure instrument. Put in
Weber's own analytical framework, it is the purest e#pression of the "value'free
rationality" that displays entirely the "freedom" of the bourgeoisie, subject to their
will to power8 %hat is what /eber alled "the politis of responsibility" opposed to the
moralising "politis of onvition" espoused and represented by the 5o.ialismus( =or
/eber (and I aept this) "ideology" belongs to the 5o.ialismus, not to the
"rationality" of the bourgeoisie8 :quilibrium theory and game theory with their
"equilibria" are the bluntest "value'free" e#pressions of this will to power ' the will to
e#ploit and dominate ' beause they allow that "mathematisation" or rationalisation
of soial life that makes the reprodution of the soiety of apital dependent on the
survival of the wage relation as its dominant institution( &ere "rationality" and
"freedom" are seen not as "positive values", as "ultimate truths" shared by and
ommon to all human beings7 they are seen instead "negatively" in terms of
"hoosing what conflict and strife among human beings make us choose"8
(9ust to e#emplify the total in'omprehension of this point by aademi eonomists,
this is from +rof( &arris*s 05tanford1 review of Robinson*s "&istory v( :quilibrium":
%hough ritial of the onept and uses of equilibrium, Robinson was not a
>;uddite?( 5he was too diligent and penetrating an analyst to dismiss the advantages,
albeit reogni.ed to be quite limited, of using the equilibrium concept as a tool
for analytical purposes( She herself used the device to great effect in her own
work( 5he viewed it, at times, as a >thought e#periment?, useful for solving
>analytial pu..les?, even to the point of a >perverse pleasure? in this
pratie 0@ABC, p( @DE, n( 41(
,bviously, had Robinson truly recognised the signifiane of equilibrium analysis as a
pro!et of ommand over living labour she ould never have used it "as a tool for
analytial purposes" beause the usefulness of neolassial equilibrium theory does
not lie in the "analysis", whih is "meaningless" as &ayek first and then "yrdal 0and
%ony ;awson, da ultimo1 showed, but in the "purpose", whih is the mathesis of
apitalist "ommand"8 2s /eber would put it, eonomi theory is not an end but
a means a tool! its rationality is not a Wert"rationalitat but a #weck"rationalitat.)
%his aspect of apitalist reality is entirely absent from $apitalism $onflict and
%nflation( %he book valiantly and luidly enuleates and e#plains the omple#
institutional interation between the "phenomenon" of inflation and its "role" as the
"measure" as well as a mediation of lass antagonism as the produt of a "trade'off"
between money wages and unemployment levels( )ut it does not answer the basi
question of how it is possible not !ust institutionally but above all epistemologically
even ontologically &'(, for inflation as a ognitive notion to serve as a "measure" of
lass onflit ' as a tool &'( for the analysis of conflict( =or inflation to be a "measure"
of onflit, the bourgeoisie has to ensure that "onflit" remains within the
institutional bounds that can be measured by inflation. 2bove all (and this is the
most important point of all) "onflit" must be of suh a "nature" that it is apable of
being measured and mediated by the "phenomenon" of inflation(%his in turn requires
the elimination of all "values" other than the simple and blunt funtion of apitalist
ommand over living labour represented by its politial subordination to dead
labour through the institutional form of the money"wage( Keynes*s *Feneral %heory*
is all here8 %his is his greatest disovery: ' the money wage as the fundamental
"unit" of measurement of soial onflit in the soiety of apital7 the centrality of the
working lass in that historial stage of apitalism ' a "entrality" that the working
lass and Keynesianism (8) are learly losing and "e#'hausting" as the soial onflit
generated by the wage relation poses new "systemi risks" to the rule of apital(
=rom the epistemologial angle, we must ome to another realisation( -eolassial
analysis works on mathematial identities (equilibria)( 2s Keynes would say, "one of
two things": either the two sides of a mathematial equation are absolutely identical
in which case they cancel each other out (they "say" absolutely nothing '
/ittgenstein)7 or else they are not idential (-iet.she), in whih ase the "equation"
is impossible( Get it is the very ability of human beings to perform mathematial
alulations and to treat them as "valid" that displays the full "value'lessness" of life
and the world for -iet.she (and for me), and that annihilates all notions of "truth",
sientifi or otherwise( I all this "-iet.she*s Invariane" (as in matri# algebra)( (2
literary e#ample: you will reall that /inston 5mith in ,rwell*s )*+, believes that it
is "the truth" of the statement "two plus two makes four" that "saves" him from the
arbitrariness of )ig )rother*s totalitarian power( /hat -iet.she and I argue here
instead ' but so did /ittgenstein8 ' is that it is preisely our ability to oneive of
mathematial identities that is the supreme proof that the "power" of )ig )rother
is possible8) +ut in other words, if "truth" atually e#'isted it would not be
"detetable" by us ' beause all riteria for "truth" need themselves to be
-truthful- (a regressio ad infinitum)( (%homas 9efferson intuited the diffiulty when
he wrote: "/e hold these truths to be self'evident(((" )ut if "these truths" are "self'
evident", why do we need "to hold them to be so"$ %he same applies to
"mathematial and logial truths" ' f( Fodel()
6on +atinkin also ame very lose to this pivotal point in the philosophy of
mathematis, language and siene( &is response or ob!etion was that
mathematial equations "save time" in omputation8 )ut /ittgenstein will reply
(maybe aiming his poker at him8): /hat does "time" have to do with mathematis
and logi$ +atinkin says that "time is a devie to stop everything from happening at
one"( )ut -iet.she will reply (almost his e#at words): who tells you that
everything does not happen at once. If mathematial and logial identities "say"
anything, it is preisely that "all the powers of the universe are drawing to their own
onlusion"( (%hese onlusions were reahed but inhoately as early as -iholas of
Husa in the @DIIs and then taken up by ;eibnit. ' and of ourse by Russell in his
disussion of ;eibnit.*s "pantheism"( -one of them went as far as -iet.she in
onfronting them "fearlessly" 0I am referring to the book of the *Faya 5ien.a* alled
"/e, the =earless ,nes"1()"]
Kants transcendental idealism spawned a response that Kant himself would not
have approved of in the speculative apotheosis of dialecticians like Fichte,
Schelling and then Hegel, the German Idealist philosophers that followed took
his transcendental dialectic and turned it into a new type of Logic! To Kants
formal logic, Hegel and others substituted a method of dialectical reasoning
whereby human thought, identifed as self-consciousness, was no longer op-
posed to any Ob-ject be it Nature or the Thing in itself that was not
generated by thought itself the Hegelian Idea or the Fichtean I (Ich or Ego)
that doubled up also as an empirical I! The nihilism of post-Kantian German
Idealism consists precisely in the fact that Nature is abolished or superseded
as a logical moment in the unfolding of the Idea. (The word nihilism itself
was frst used by Jacobi in this context in a letter on Fichte.)
The fact that Marx inverted the Hegelian dialectic serves only to show how
much he firted with it, how dependent he was on it: and certain post-
modernist critics have been right to speak of the Kapital-Geist, of the teleology
implicit in the Marxian critique. There is even a strong dose of Darwinian
evolutionism (Nietzsche intuited provocatively that Darwin is unthinkable
without Hegel) and Newtonian determinism in his critique of political economy.
Now, these are ingredients, this is a forma mentis that we must eschew and
expel from our own theoretical-practical framework. And to deepen this process I
have chosen to follow, as intimated above, Arendts discussion of this knot of
problems in The Life of the Mind. In explaining rapidly above the double genitive
meaning of this phrase that life has a mind and that the mind has a life we
meant to agree wholeheartedly with Arendts critique of the Cartesian solipsistic
cogito, and particularly with Arendts invocation of Nietzsches strictures in this
regard. Where we difer from Arendt, however, is in the manner she tackles Kant
and about how she wishes to proceed therefrom.
For our purposes, and to elucidate the problematic that we are confronting, we
need to describe and overcome what may be called (again with Merleau-Ponty,
Reader, p.24) the transcendental attitude, - an attitude that has aficted Western
thought from its inception and that consists in positing a whole of which
perception is a part that cannot com-prehend (um-greifen) that whole. But
herein lies its error to wit, in the fact that the transcendental attitude expressly
denies the possibility of immanence and invokes logic to postulate the primacy of
categories or rules that order and explain our perception of life and the world
and it does so for the simple reason that transcendentalism falsely conceives of life
and the world, of reality, as if it constituted a whole! This, if you like, is the proton
pseudon (the frst and fundamental error) of transcendentalism: - the logical
requirement, that is, that phenomena, or mere appearances, must somehow
depend or be caused by some re-ality, some thing that lies behind, or
beneath or beyond the phenomenon. Yet only a moments refection on this
dualism required by logical thought will show us that no logic could ever lay
down the necessity of its own rules! No mathematics could ever be or
represent the necessity of its own id-entities or of its axioms!
And this is perhaps the most universal corollary of Nietzsches Invariance: - the fact that
for a truth, logico-mathematical or ethical or empirical, to be self-evident, it would
have to be so self-evident that it would simply be impossible to detect! But an
undetectable truth is no truth at all because it would amount to the identity of idea
(Subject) and thing (Object), an identity so complete and total that it would not be
possible for the Subject to be aware or conscious of it. As Nietzsche showed most
devastatingly for the delusions of Western thought, consciousness does not require or
necessitate the existence of a subject and an object, either logically or in terms of
common sense although in terms of common sense that is exactly what has
happened historically, that is, this false and illusory requirement has led to the
development of logical rules of reasoning that require precisely such a
dualism. The fact remains, however, that consciousness or perception does not
require the ec-sistence of a Subject or self-consciousness and, therefore, not even
of an Object that is necessarily required by that Subject. This is a thesis that
directly contradicts Arendts summary of Cartesian solipsism and Nietzsches
opposition to it. Nietzsche does not object to the cogito merely because it shows
only that there are cogitations. He also does two things for which Arendt gives
him no credit whatsoever: he shows that there is a non sequitur from I think to
I am to egoity; and above all, as Arendt who cites Merleau-Ponty agrees
(p49), he shows that the experience of reality comes before that of I think or
the thought of perception (vivo ergo cogito), and second again, the most
important thing that Arendt leaves out that there is absolutely no diference
between abstract thought and any other kind of thought or emotion! (This last
notion is evinced when Nietzsche describes dreams as thoughts from the same
book of human experience.) Not only, says Nietzsche, does thought never really
manage to leave the world, but it also never manages, pace Arendt, to
withdraw from the world!
This is Arendts real stumbling block; the source of all her paradoxes. Which
does not prevent her from realizing the instrumental role of science; but it also
induces her into re-iterating the fallacies that lead straight and lend support to
scientifc reasoning. Had Arendt refected more deeply on the Marxian
Gattungswesen instead of enlisting it only as evidence for the sensus
communis, she would have realized that the notion of man as thought made
fesh is a mystery the always mysterious, never fully elucidated incarnation
of the thinking capability (p47) only when considered abstractly, as man,
and if we ignore the fundamentality of thought that Merleau-Ponty indicated
and that she herself was seeking and that both could only describe as a
chiasmus. (See LotM, pp46-7.) The meaning of fundamentality is what we are
pursuing. In one of the passages quoted above (from PoP), Merleau-Ponty
stresses the primacy of this sense of reality or Arendts sensus communis
above all intellectualizations of perception and therefore of thought
something with which Nietzsche with his ontogeny of thought would agree
implicitly. So the problem to be explored is not the intentionality of science
the fact that its direction is a matter of praxis and not of pure scientifcity or
methodology. Much rather, the paramount problem is the real subsumption
of the scientifc praxis both in terms of direction and in terms of the sample
uni-verse that it has already con-ditioned if not determined! Scientifc praxis
both reacts to and acts upon the existing world in such a way that its own
research is determined or conditioned in large part by its accumulated praxis.
Human beings have now trans-formed their environment to so large an extent
that no scientifc research can properly be labeled dis-interested even before
we realize that it cannot be such in any case!
If we return to the problem of infation and other economic categories, for
instance, we will see that as Arendt herself points out intelligently in HC
these can be given a meaningful and measurable role as a box of tools
(Robinson, Schumpeter) only once the social environment (institutions) has been
pre-determined by a certain praxis of political power! (Contrast this devastating
insight with the idiotic platitudes of the New Institutional Economics.) Yet
Arendt never develops this penetrating conception in LotM, confning herself
instead to observing that scientifc truth is guided by the research choices of
scientists and to the fact that this has changed the attitude of scientists to their
fndings as one of verities (infnitely perfectible in the chain of progress)
rather than truths (fnal and certain), (LotM, pp55-6). Here the problem is that
Arendt speaks of science in general and fails to understand its subsumption
to social relations of production. It is this unwarranted, fallacious separation of
scientifc research from social relations that leads her to the equally fallacious
separation of the interested use of what she calls scientifc common sense and
the dis-interested use of sheer thinking which, through its critical capacity,
alone is capable of providing safeguards against the tendency of scientifc
research to force the non-appearing to appear in its quest for infnite cognition
or knowledge (p56). Again, like Plato and Mach and Heidegger and myriads of
other thinkers, Arendt draws the now well-established confrontation of
philosophers against sophists a banality that Nietzsche denounced (in
ToI). Unlike Nietzsche and Weber, however, she has failed to integrate this will
to truth in the broader socio-political context of the real subsumption of
science and technology by the capitalist social relations of production.
Once more, the thought of Nicholas of Cusa can assist us in this regard by
bringing into focus the problem we are confronting.
En cambio para #icol$s de Cusa las ideas no constituyen, como para el neoplatonismo,
fuerzas creadoras, pues l reclama un %'9( sujeto concreto como centro y punto de
partida de toda verdadera accin creadora )hora bien, seg.n el Cusano, ese sujeto slo
puede darse en el esp"ritu del hombre !e este punto de vista resulta, sobre todo, un
nuevo giro de la teor"a del conocimiento Todo conocer autntico # verdadero no puede
versar sobre una mera copia de la realidad, sino que debe representar siempre una
direcci$n determinada de la acci$n espiritual. %a necesidad que reclamamos para la
ciencia # que vemos particularmente en la matem&tica reconoce por causa esa libre
actividad. 'l esp(ritu s$lo logra verdadero conocimiento cuando no copia la e)istencia
e)terior, sino cuando se e)plica a s( mismo, cuando se e)plica su propia esencia. En s"
mismo encuentra el esp"ritu el concepto primordial y el principio del punto, del cual,
por conveniente repeticin, hace nacer la l"nea, el plano y, finalmente, lo totalidad del
mundo de los cuerpos* en s" mismo encuentra el esp"ritu del hombre el concepto
primordial del ahora, partiendo del cual se despliega para l la infinitud de la sucesin
temporal )s" como est$n impl"citas en el esp"ritu humano las formas fundamentales de
la intuicin _tiempo y espacio_, tambin lo est$ el concepto de n.mero y magnitud y
todas las categor"as lgicas y matem$ticas En el desarrollo de esas categor"as el esp"ritu
crea la aritmtica, la geometr"a, la m.sica y la astronom"a !e modo que a la postre todo
lo lgico, tanto los diez predicamentos como los cinco universales, se resuelve en esa
fuerza fundamental del esp"ritu bstas son las condiciones de toda discretio, de toda
agrupacin de la multiplicidad seg.n especies y clases y de toda reduccin de lo
emp"rico cambiante a leyes rigurosamente determinadas'- En %'M( esta fundamentacin
de las ciencias revlase la fuerza creadora del alma racional en sus dos momentos
fundamentalesG por un lado el esp"ritu, al desplegarse, est$ dentro de lo temporal, pero
por otro est$, sin embargo, por encima del tiempo considerado como simple sucesin,
porque el esp"ritu, que es origen y creador de la ciencia, no est$ en el tiempo, antes bien,
el tiempo est$ en l El esp"ritu, en virtud de su fuerza de discernimiento, es capaz de
crear per"odos de tiempo y divisiones temporales, de delimitar horas, meses, acos
Again we see Nicholass insistence on the notion of Subject and the human
spirit as the source of the intuition of time and space and in the creation of
ideas and concepts that are expressions of human freedom and that above all
bestow values that seek to unite opposites (Nature and Reason), to oscillate
between chorismos and methexis, and even to intuit the divine or thr totality
from the consciousness of fnitude. What is truly novel and most insightful in the
thought of Nicholas of Cusa as explicated by Cassirer, however, is the intuition
that human science and logico-mathematics itself, far from being pro-ducts or ef-
fects of the per-ception by humans of an objective reality that lies beyond our
ability to com-prehend and that yet lends itself to being described as truth or
error far from this, Nicholas fnally intuits as Nietzsche will do much later
that science and logico-mathematics may be an expression of human activity
aimed in a pre-determined or deliberate direction[determinada direccion]!
The necessity of science and mathematics displays in reality- not the truth!
- but only the discretion, the arbitrariness of human action, its de-liberation,
its value-lessness or, as Nietzsche would say, its extra-moral sense! The
apex of human arbitrium, of human discretion, is the all too human ability to
decree the necessity of logico-mathematical or scientifc laws that are then
traduced into laws of logico-mathematical and scientifc necessity! That is
why Nietzsche claims with profound intuition that human beings fnd in
nature, in the world, what they had already hidden in it. Far from being
necessary, such deliberate or discretionary action is auf Nichts gestellt
originating from the void or nothingness (Nichts) in exactly the same way in
which Carl Schmitt will challenge the vicious circle of legality and
legitimacy and the ultimate foundation of sovereignty and the State on the
decision on the exception. Schmitt, like Donoso Cortes before him, acutely
identifes the similarity of the state of exception or dictatorship that
suspends the legal and constitutional order with the status of miracles, which
suspend the physical order!
Nicholas of Cusa himself had anticipated Nietzsche with his notion of
conjecture (cf. his De Conjectura), which is the hypothesis behind the
convention, where the convention (axioms, for instance) crystallizes human
action so that hypotheses (modes of conduct toward the cosmos) can be made
about life and the world.
Aa e<periencia brinda un
conocimiento autntico, pero ciertamente tal conocimiento no es en s" e<acto y l"mpido,
pues, por m$s que progrese, nunca alcanzar$ lo absoluto* siempre tendr$ una meta y un
fin relativos* en esa esfera no reina la verdadera e<actitud, la precisin, la praecisio,
sino que por grande que sea la e<actitud de una afirmacin o de una medicin, siempre
puede y debe ser superada por otra a.n m$s e<acta )s", pues, todo nuestro conocimiento
emp"rico queda reducido a mera conjetura* es c$lculo, es hiptesis que desde un
principio se reduce a admitir que puede ser superado por c$lculos mejores y m$s
precisos En esta idea de conjetura, de conjectura, quedan inmediatamente
comprendidos, y de tal manera que se confunden en una sola nocin, dos pensamientos
distintosG el pensamiento de la eterna alteridad entre idea y apariencia y el pensamiento
de la participacin de la apariencia en la idea Aa definicin que #icol$s de Cusa da del
conocimiento emp"rico descansa en ese encadenamiento de alteridad y participacinG
Yconjectura est positiva assertio in alteritate veritatem uti est participansZ9: !e este
modo tenemos ante nosotros, junto a la teolog"a negativa, una doctrina positiva de la
e<periencia* ambas corrientes no slo no se oponen entre s", sino que m$s bien
representan, desde dos $ngulos distintos, una y la misma concepcin fundamental del
conocimiento Aa verdad una, inalcanzable en su ser absoluto, slo se nos presenta en la
esfera de la alteridad* mas por otro lado no es posible que pensemos alteridad alguna
que de alg.n modo no se refiera a la unidad y que no tenga en ella parte9J %+/(
!ebemos, pues, renunciar a toda identidad, a toda compenetracin de una esfera en la
otra, a todo intento de suprimir el dualismo* pero precisamente esa actitud confiere a
nuestro conocimiento su relativa legitimidad y su relativa verdad Esto enseca, y
dig$moslo a la manera Wantiana, que nuestro conocimiento, aunque tenga l"mites que
nunca podr$ franquear, dentro de la esfera de su propio actuar no reconoce en cambio la
menor limitacin, en la alteridad misma, libre y sin impedimentos de ninguna clase,
puede y debe e<playarse en todos los sentidos 7Cassirer, par+/8
[Euclid. Extra-temporal time and extra-mundanity]
It is clear from the above that scientifc language (logico-mathematics) is the
instrument that dis-covers regularities in life and the world but these do
not belong to, are not properties of, life and the world; rather, they are
dictated by the ability of certain experiences to be described in and by that
language. And this language is not simply an inert and impartial tool; it is
much rather the expression of a certain attitude toward life and the world. Not
only Nicholas of Cusa, but especially his scientifc inventors like Galileo,
Leonardo and then Kepler and Leibnitz understood that what they were dis-
covering was quite similar to the Platonic anamnesis in that the laws of nature,
although independent of the mind were nothing other than the extension and
application to life and the world of a harmony that was already located in the
human spirit and was now re-called or re-collected by human reason (see
Cassirer quotation below at [79] re Leonardo and Galileo and Kepler).
FlschWi %J/( ha mostrado en forma
insuperable en su .eschichte der neusprachlichen 0issenscha"tlichen )iteratur cmo
ambos problemas se compenetran y complementan mutuamente y, por lo tanto, cmo
slo es posible resolverlos por la consideracin simult$nea de uno y otro Desligarse del
lat(n medieval # construir # desarrollar paulatinamente el volgare como forma
independiente de la e)presi$n cient(fica eran condiciones previas del libre
desenvolvimiento del pensamiento cient(fico # de su ideal metodol$gico. * aqu( se
prueba una ve+ m&s la verdad # la profundidad de la concepci$n de ,umboldt seg-n la
cual el lenguaje no se limita a seguir # a al pensamiento sino que
constitu#e un momento esencial de la formaci$n del pensamiento mismo. En el caso del
lat"n escol$stico y el italiano moderno, las diferencias que presentan ambas lenguas no
son por cierto meras disparidades de sonidos y signos* e<presan respectivamente una
cosmovisin distinta !e suerte que aun en este caso la lengua no se limita a servir de
mero recept$culo o continente de la nueva cosmovisin sino que adem$s contribuye con
su propia formacin y estructura a engendrarla 2l pensamiento t%cnico & ling45stico del
6enacimiento se orienta en la misma direccin78. 1un en este aspecto 9cosa que a
primera vista resulta sorprendente9 tambi%n :icols de 'usa se hab5a anticipado &a a
su tiempo. 2n e"ecto, en su "iloso"5a da una nueva signi"icacin al esp5ritu t%cnico, al
esp5ritu del inventor & le asigna una dignidad tambi%n del todo nueva. 'uando expone &
propugna su concepcin general de la ciencia, cuando e)plica que toda ciencia no es
sino el desarrollo # la e)plicaci$n de lo que #ace encerrado # complicado en la natural
esencia del esp(ritu, no s$lo se refiere por cierto a los conceptos fundamentales de la
l$gica, de la matem&tica # de las ciencias e)actas de la naturale+a, sino tambin a los
elementos de la ciencia tcnica # de la creaci$n tcnica. /s( como el esp(ritu desarrolla
el concepto de espacio partiendo del principio del punto que el mismo esp(ritu encierra,
as( como desarrolla0 la noci$n de tiempo partiendo del simple ahora # la de n-mero
partiendo de la unidad, as( tambin un bosquejo o plan ideal debe preceder a toda
acci$n del esp(ritu sobre la naturale+a. Todas las artes # oficios reconocen su ra(+ en
un bosquejo de esa (ndole. $unto a los predicamentos de la lgica, (unto a los conceptos
de la geometr5a & de la aritm%tica, de la m;sica & de la astronom5a, deben citarse
tambi%n como testi<[=>]<monios de la autonom5a & de la eternidad del esp5ritu las
conquistas t%cnicas3 ha& que citar la lira de ?r"eo & el astrolabio de @tolomeo75.
d aunque el esp"ritu no permanezca sencillamente en s" mismo cuando aplica su propia
fuerza creadora, cuando volvindose a una materia sensible la configura y transforma,
ello no significa empero que pierda algo de su naturaleza y esencia, pues stas siempre
son, puramente intelectuales En efecto, aun en este sentido el camino hacia arriba y hacia
abajo es el mismo, pues el intelecto slo desciende a lo sensible para elevar hasta s" el
mundo de los sentidos 4u accin sobre un mundo material, aparentemente contrario,
constituye precisamente la condicin para que pueda reconocer y realizar su propia
forma, para que pueda pasar de su ser potencial a su ser actual,' >enos aqu? ante un
punto que nos e*plica con ,ran claridad cmo precisamente del idealismo de %icols
de +usa resulta un efecto fuertemente realista, cmo el renovador de la doctrina
platnica de la anamnesis pudo convertirse en ,u?a de los ,randes empiristas, de los
fundadores de la moderna ciencia e*perimental, pues tampoco para ellos e*iste la
menor oposicin entre apriorismo y empirismo, ya que en la e*periencia no buscan
sino la necesidad, la ra#n misma. +uando 0eonardo se vuelve "acia la e*periencia,
lo "ace para demostrar en ella misma la eterna e inmutable le,alidad de la ra#n.
@s que la e*periencia misma, el verdadero objeto de 0eonardo es alcan#ar los
principios racionales, las ra,ioni que en ella se ocultan y en cierto modo se
materiali#an. A l mismo manifiesta que la naturale#a est llena de tales ra#ones que
nunca se encuentran en la e*periencia Bla natura piena d'infinite ragioni che non
furono mai in isperien+a12C. %o es otro el camino que si,ue Dalileo cuando,
sintindose campen de la le,itimidad de la e*periencia, sostiene que slo el esp?ritu
es capa# de crear la verdadera, la necesaria ciencia partiendo de s? mismo Bda per
sC. Por lo que se %JM( desprende del sentido general del pensamiento de los esp"ritus
directores que la guiaron, se comprende cmo la nueva ciencia de la naturaleza, al
liberarse de la Escol$stica, no necesit romper el v"nculo que la manten"a unida a la
filosof"a antigua y al intento de renovarla, y cmo, por el contrario, hubo de hacerlo a.n
m$s cecido
The importance of this attitude or view cannot be over-emphasised. The
earliest and greatest representatives of modern science and technology, as well as
the greatest modern exponents of logico-mathematics, had no doubts or qualms
about the fact that their discoveries were really an un-covering of the
truth, of the laws of nature. The necessity of these laws lay for them not
principally in the independent phenomena of nature that they sought to
rationalize, but rather in the instrument that they adopted to describe them! It
goes without saying that science thereby was interested only (!) in what could
be described and encapsulated in mathematical formulae! Put in other words,
science does not dis-cover the world but rather orders it in terms of the
instrumental needs of the scientist and the inventor indeed, the scientist as
inventor! -, needs that are now ex-pressed through a new instrumental language,
that of logico-mathematics, which, as Cassirer superbly reminds us, is an
essential moment of the development of theories. The earliest scientists and
inventors of the bourgeois era came very close to identifying the implicit nihilism
of the transcendental attitude: what stopped them from recognizing it was the
very transcendentalism that they espoused with regard to the supremacy of
the human spirit or Reason, of the divinity of the Subject as opposed to the
created world of nature, the Object.
3ero si lo espiritual en s( permanece inaccesible para nosotros, # si de ning-n modo
podemos comprenderlo sino como imagen sensible, como s(mbolo, sin embargo
podemos pretender que por lo menos la imagen sensible misma no implique nada
dudoso ni confuso, pues el camino que conduce a lo incierto s$lo puede pasar a travs
de lo cierto # lo seguro45. %a novedad de esta concepci$n consiste en establecer que
por los s(mbolos mediante los cuales podemos concebir lo divino se alcan+a no s$lo la
plenitude # la fuer+a de lo sensible, sino que de ellos se obtiene, sobre todo, precisi$n #
seguridad teorticas. De modo que as( la naturale+a de la relaci$n entre el mundo #
Dios, entre lo finito # lo infinito, e)perimenta una enrgica transformaci$n. Para la
esfera del pensamiento m"stico, cualquier aspecto o sector del ser puede convertirse sin
m$s en punto de enlace de esa relacin, pues en cada caso particular se puede reconocer
la huella de !ios bl mismo se presenta a nuestra vista en el esplendor de lo finito El
propio #icol$s de Cusa repite tambin esta e<presinJ:, slo que la aplica a una nueva
relacin universal En efecto, para l la naturaleza no constituye slo el reflejo del ser de
!ios y de la fuerza divina* es adem$s un libro que !ios escribi con su propia manoJJ
Estamos a.n aqu" en terreno firmemente religioso, pero a %::( la vez tambin _y
dig$moslo con 4chelling_ hemos pasado al libre, al abierto campo de la ciencia
objetiva, pues el sentido del libro de la naturaleza no puede ser desentraAado 9ni el
hombre puede apropiarse de %l9 por el solo sentimiento sub(etivo o por el puro
sentimiento m5stico3 para desci"rar ese libro es preciso examinarlo, es preciso recorrerlo
palabra por palabra, carcter por carcter. Ba el mundo no pod5a ser por ms tiempo,
"rente al hombre, un mero (erogl5"ico de Dios, un signo sagrado3 demandaba una
interpretaci$n sistem&tica. Ceg;n la direccin que se tome, esa interpretacin lleva, &a a
una nueva meta"5sica, &a a una nueva concepcin de las ciencias exactas de la
Aa filosof"a de la naturaleza del ^enacimiento ech a andar por el primero
de estos caminos Partiendo del pensamiento capital de que la naturaleza es el libro de
!ios, lo va modificando sin cesar con nuevas variaciones 4obre este fundamento
Campanella construye "ntegramente su doctrina del conocimiento y toda su metaf"sica
Para l, conocer no es otra cosa que leer los caracteres de la escritura divina en el libro de
la naturalezaG intelligere no significa sino intus legere E4l mundo es la estatua, el
templo viviente y el cdice de Dios en el cual Fl "a asentado y "a inscripto cosas de
infinita di,nidad que alber,aba en su esp?ritu. Geli# es aquel que lee en ese libro y de
l aprende las condiciones de las cosas, sin ima,inarlas se,Hn su propio arbitrio o
se,Hn las opiniones ajenas.IJ, Para e<presar esta idea Campanella se vale de un
parangn que, como tal, por cierto no constituye ninguna novedad _al contrario, es f$cil
encontrarlo a travs de #icol$s de Cusa en la filosof"a de la Edad Media e inclusive en
4an )gust"n y 4anto Oom$s_, pero que con todo e<presa un sentido nuevo y espec"fico
de la naturaleza* resulta significativo, empero, que las frases citadas se encuentren al final
de un tratado que lleva por t"tulo De sensu rerum et magia 4n efecto, el v?nculo que
mantiene unida a la naturale#a consi,o misma en lo ?ntimo y que la enla#a con el
"ombre por otro lado, est enteramente pensado como v?nculo de carcter m,ico y
m?stico. El hombre slo puede comprender la naturaleza introduciendo inmediatamente
en ella la propia vida Aos l"mites que establece su sentido de la %:J( vida, los confines
del sentimiento inmediato de la naturaleza representan por lo tanto, al mismo tiempo,
los l"mites de su conocimiento de ella
Aa otra forma de la interpretacin de los signos
de la naturaleza est$ representada por aquella tendencia de la ciencia natural que
partiendo de #icol$s de Cusa contin.a a travs de Aeonardo de Kinci en 6alileo y
Vepler Aos representantes de esta direccin no se contentan con la energ"a metafrica
de los signos materiales en los cuales leemos la estructura espiritual del universo* antes
bien, e<igen que esos signos formen un sistema concluso en s" mismo, un complejo
cone<o y universal 'l sentido de la naturale+a no debe sentirse s$lo en forma m(stica0
es preciso pensarlo como sentido l$gico. /hora bien, esta e)igencia s$lo puede
satisfacerse por medio de las matem&ticas, pues frente a la arbitrariedad e inseguridad
de las opiniones -nicamente ellas establecen una unidad de medida necesaria e
inequ(voca. De ah( que para %eonardo la matem&tica constitu#$ la l(nea divisoria
sof(stica # ciencia. 1quel que in"iere in(urias a su suprema certeza sustenta su esp5ritu
con la con"usin. *ientras se a"erra a las palabras aisladas, cae en la vaguedad & en la
ambig4edad propias de la palabra sin ms, & se ve as5 enredado en una pura
logomaquia7D. Colamente la matemtica, al "i(ar las signi"icaciones de las palabras & al
subordinar a reglas determinadas sus relaciones, es capaz de seAalar una meta a esas
controversias, pues de esta suerte, en lugar de presentar una mera &uxtaposicin de
palabras, los pensamientos & proposiciones se disponen ante nosotros en una severa
concatenacin sintctica. 6alileo lleva estas consideraciones hasta sus -ltimas
consecuencias0 para l aun las mismas percepciones sensibles particulares, por m&s
que se nos den con gran intensidad # energ(a, no son m&s que puros nombres que en s(
mismos nada significan, que no ning-n contenido de significaci$n objetivo #
determinado17. 8na significaci$n de tal (ndole s$lo se da cuando el esp(ritu humano
refiere el contenido de la percepci$n a una de esas formas b&sicas del conocimiento
cu#o arquetipo encierra el esp(ritu mismo. enicamente en virtud de esa relacin y de
ese ne<o el libro de la naturaleza se torna legible y comprensible %:,( para el hombre
!e este modo, partiendo del pensamiento b$sico de la certeza indestructible
7incorruptibilis certitudo8 que enunciara #icol$s de Cusa _a saber9 de todos los
s(mbolos que el esp(ritu del hombre necesita # es capa+ de crear, s$lo los signos
matem&ticos poseen tal certe+a_* de este modo, pues, llegamos en la sucesin histrica
directa a esa clebre y capital enunciacin normativa que secala la meta y la
singularidad de la investigacin de 6alileo

This is a point of the greatest importance that can be derived from, but is not made
explicit in Heideggers Kantbuch, his lamentably much-neglected sequel to
Being and Time. Indeed, the opposite is the case because Heidegger, as we shall
see, remains chained to the transcendental attitude that we are de-structing
here. In the tradition of the negatives Denken, Heidegger seeks to re-found
metaphysics through a punctilious critical review of Kants epistemology which,
he claims, was always intended as a meta-physics, though an ultimately fawed
one. The faw lies precisely in what we are discussing here: - the Kantian pre-
requisite of a separation (chorismos or gap, hiatus) between noumenon and
phenomenon between which he coveted a bridge (Ubergang) through the
mediation of per-ception and con-ception by the Understanding or Intellect
and its constitutive Schematismus that is ultimately regulated by Pure Reason.
Kants logic the Analytic that is founded on the Aesthetic is so formal, so
much the product not of experience itself but of Kantian moral formalism, the
Sollen, that it invited the recriminations of Schopenhauer. Above all, it inspired
the dialectical idealism of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, in whose direction
Nietzsche poured his atrabilious ridicule for what he lampooned as cunning
theology. Of course, Marxian philosophy sprang from these transcendental,
indeed theo-logical, loins - so much so that in Marx the valiant attempt at
immanence is always threatened by the teleological tendency of his critique,
which is what prompted R H Tawney to immortalize him as the last of the
Now, we agree with Kant that for a sequence of homogeneous concepts or events
it is impossible to be described consistently and coherently by individual
elements that are dependent on that sequence for their meaning. And we agree
with Heidegger that Leibnitzs Principle of Sufcient Reason is fawed in that the
criterion of what makes a reason to be sufcient needs to be made explicit
given that what is is only an aspect or moment of becoming. But this does
not apply to the materiality of our perception of life and the world which,
whilst it does not com-prehend life and the world, yet at the same time is a part
of it without which the very notion of life and the world, of totality, would
have no meaning whatsoever. The notions of Totality and Truth can ec-sist as
notions only because there is no such thing or being as totality or truth.
Hegels dialectic of self-consciousness seeks to overcome the dualism of
Kantian formal logic by introducing an evolutionary dimension that is
historical only as a moment in the extrinsication of the Idea. Hegel
supersedes Cartesian and Kantian transcendental idealism by radicalizing the
Subject in efect by making the Subject objectify itself. This is the Eskamotage to
which all post-Hegelians (from Feuerbach to Bruno Bauer to Marx) and the
negatives Denken (from Schopenhauer to Heidegger) objected with varying
degrees of relevance and success, and then tried to supplant with their own
Our aim here is to overcome the transcendental attitude (Merleau-Ponty) by
exposing its fallacies and antinomies; and then to pursue a return to immanence.
Indeed, the point we are making is that once we understand properly the
character and content of our perception of life and the world its full immanence
and materiality -, the very notion of totality (Kants Thing in itself,
Schopenhauers qualitas occulta, Heideggers Totalitat or Jasperss Um-
greifende) becomes contra-dictory. This is a conclusion that Nietzsche reached
originally and that we have styled (partially, because as we have seen there are
important corollaries to it) Nietzsches Invariance and one that even Merleau-
Ponty has articulated with great acumen and indeedperceptiveness.
In a nutshell, philosophy has always perceived that human consciousness is
consciousness of some thing, and therefore it is only a partial perspective on
life and the world because it is only a part of it. Yet at the same time
consciousness attempts to com-prehend the world: to de-fne it, to en-compass it
and to encapsulate it which it cannot do because life and the world are
greater than consciousness. This greater that without which consciousness
cannot aspire to or claim totality can be called the qualitas occulta, the
whatness or quidditas of the world, its essence, its sub-stance (what stands
under the world), that which subtends the world in its totality. Yet it is precisely this
con-ception of life and the world as an ob-ject (that) that constitutes a
quantity, a whole (totality, part, greater) that is the proton pseudos, the
fundamental fallacy of this Welt-anschauung, of this view or perspective of
the world! Starting with Kant, and continuing particularly with Schopenhauer
and the negatives Denken, philosophy has renounced the task of com-prehending
life and the world understood as a whole, as a totality. Utterly mis-conceived and
mistaken, therefore, must remain for us Jasperss attempt to interpret Nietzsches
critique in the perspective of totality, of the Um-greifende. It is exactly this
totality as well as the Schopenhauerian powerless [ohn-machtig] illusion of
renouncing it [!] that Nietzsche shatters forever. This renunciation or
Entsagung represents the attempt by the bourgeoisie to eschew every totality,
every inter esse or common being of humanity, preferring instead to highlight
the ineluctable confict, the strife and struggle, the Eris that characterizes
relations between human beings as in-dividuals that is, not in their species-
conscious being or Gattungswesen (Marx) or phylo-genetic shared traits, but
rather in their onto-genetic idiosyncrasies (Nietzsche). But whereas the
bourgeoisie always relegates the construction of a humanized society to the
unreachable horizon of utopian dreams, to the empyrean of the human spirit,
the better to underline the futility of all attempts to overturn the established order
of things, Nietzsche pitilessly de-structs precisely this bourgeois U-topia, this
opium of the masses, this kingdom of shadows this true world as well as
the apparent world because these two worlds have meaning only in their op-position!
By overcoming their opposition, Nietzsche was able to dispose of both worlds
and to enter a wholly new dimension of the human perception of reality. It is
thus that Nietzsche overcame both the Hegelian spiritualization (Vergeistigung)
and the Weberian dis-enchantment (Ent-zauberung, Ent-seelung) which are
still products of the transcendental attitude and whose progeny is nihilism itself.
The peculiar praxis of the bourgeoisie resides precisely in this: - that whilst it
posits the dualism of idea and reality, of subject and object, of soul and form, so as
to interiorize or spiritualise life and the world to reduce all praxis to Utopia -, at
the same time the bourgeoisie renounces and denounces this U-topia (literally, no
place) as inter esse, whilst it still traduces, exalts and elevates it as in-
dividuality, as (private) inter-est for its own purposes, the better to seize on the
efectuality of its instrumental praxis by constructing an entire technico-
scientifc reality around it.
The problem is to show how it is possible for this instrumental praxis to become
scientifc, how this praxis can be crystallised (a term that Marx then
Nietzsche and Simmel and Weber used) to become an objective reality a
reifcation. Part of the answer is that the bourgeoisie narrows, restricts and reduces
the scope and sphere of human action to such an extent that its science
becomes a self-fulflling prophecy! Contrary to what both Marx and Lukacs (or
Weber with the homologous concept of Rationalisierung) believed, it is quite
impossible indeed, contra-dictory for reifcation (or the fetishism of
commodities) to be a necessary illusion in a scientifc or mechanistic sense
because what distinguishes reifcation (or Nietzsches Verinnerlichung, that is,
the interiorisation of social values) is precisely its arbitrariness, its utter
contingency. The necessity of the illusion consists not in any scientifc
inevitability or logical inexorability, not in any automatism, but precisely in its
arbitrariness (!), in its ec-sistence as a sheer ex-ercise of naked power, co-ercion
and co-action made possible by the very instrumentality of the science or
the will to truth that mathesis allows! In other words, it is exactly and precisely
the ab-straction from life and the world that mathesis allows that permits the so-
called rationalization of the world. The iron necessity of the illusion that
reifcation represents is given by and made possible by the reduction of power
relationships, of violence, to the status of mere ciphers, of mathesis.
This is the truth (intended as the out-come, the success or efectuality [Er-
folg], of the will to truth) of Nietzsches Invariance! Contrary to an almost
universal belief, it is precisely (!) the precision of the mathematical exakte
Kalkulation(Webers phrase) that enables, not the dis-covery of truth, but instead
the en-forcement, the co-action of violent strategies! The limit of the Weberian
Rationalisierung, re-cast in Marxist garb as reifcation by Lukacs, is that it
hypostatizes reifcation itself (!) because it presents it either as the outcome of
Zweck-rationalitat (Weber) - which, as we have shown in the Weberbuch, is an im-
possible operation if we adopt Webers notion of technical rationality, the
product of a fawed (Simmelian) formalism. Or else it presents it (Marx-Lukacs)
as the quantifcation of labour-time again a task that is either contra-dictory
because human labour cannot be quantifed; or else it is self-defeating because it
admits what it seeks to condemn, - that labour time is quantifable as socially
necessary labour time and that therefore all that is wrong with reifcation is the
theft of labour time as surplus value extraction. In efect, Marx-Lukacs concede
the possibility of the quantifcation of human living labour, shifting the
emphasis of exploitation from the social relation of alienated labour the
violent reduction of human living labour to dead labour - in the process of
production to that of distribution of the social product. Interestingly, whereas
the former notion (of alienated labour) points to a broader political scope of
capitalist exploitation, the latter (the moralistic notion of theft of labour time)
becomes frankly "reductionist" and scientistic in efect reifying living
labour and the notion of production in a technical-scientistic sense in terms
of the reproduction of society, as well as moralistic in the sense denounced
by Nietzsche. This is exactly what Habermas seeks to expose with his neo-
Kantian meta-critique of Marx; and yet simultaneously it is the problem he
elides and thus con-serves by spiritualizing or idealizing it through the
notion of refection! By op-posing refection as theoretical action to labour
understood as instrumental action, Habermas regresses to that dualism of Nature
and Reason that Merleau-Ponty so elegantly indicts in our opening quotation.