Rethinking Enlightenment

In Foucault’s work titled “What is Enlightenment”, he imagines that Kant’s famous question, What is Enlightenment?, is posed to him two centuries later. In his interpretation of Kant’s text , Foucault gives special attention to Kant’s manner of defining enlightenment by the term Ausgang, a way out or an exit, which Foucault sees as presenting the birth of the modern subject. Kant indicates that the way out characteristic of Kant’s enlightenment is a process that releases us from a state of tutelage or immaturity. By tutelage he means a state of mind that makes us accept someone else’s authority. According to Kant, individuals usually remain in tutelage because they are idle and suffer from a lack of courage. With these critical notions in mind, Kant formulates his famous definition of Enlightenment. For Kant it is only through the legitimate use of reason that the individual’s autonomy can be assured. In this sense, as Foucault claims, the Enlightenment is the age of the critique. With this idea in mind, he retains from Enlightenment thinking exactly the notion of the subject’s rational autonomy. Just like Kant, he considers this notion essential to the individual’s ability to exercise critical judgment, free from dominant beliefs, norms and desires. And yet Foucault’s position also differs in some important respects from that of Kant. First, he emphasizes that the criticism inherent in this critical work is no longer to be used in the search for formal (Kantian) structures with a universal value. Instead he considered the task of Enlightenment thinking to be to make an historical investigation into those particular events that have led us to constitute ourselves and to recognize ourselves as subjects of what we are thinking, doing and saying. Moreover, unlike Kant, who sees the Enlightenment as the exit of the man’s self-imposed tutelage , Foucault stresses that we must acknowledge that the process of enlightenment is and always was just one more discursive paradigm, or one of those shifting orders of language or representation that make up the structural genealogy of Western reason. Therefore, his own work does not orient the process of analysis toward “the essential kernel of rationality” that is assumed to be found during the process of enlightenment. On the contrary, critical thinking, in Foucault’s view, must be directed toward the “contemporary limits of the necessary” that is, toward what is not or is no longer dispensable for the constitution of ourselves as autonomous subjects (Foucault 43).
In Foucault’s version of Enlightenment, the individual subject’s rational autonomy is not bound up with the idea of the unified rational subject. Far from it, as he saw it, there exists multiple and historically specific forms of rationality, due to which reason can never discover its essence or founding act, and he further clarifies in his interview conducted by Gerard Raulet and later printed as ‘Structuralism and Post-Structuralism’ it can only be seen as “different modifications, in which rationalities engender one another, oppose and pursue one another (29). This plurality of reasons does not necessarily mean that individuals may not use their reason to criticize other rational practices in public . In other words, by pluralizing reason Foucault is not arguing that anything goes. For him, the pluralization of reason and critique is rather a necessary moment in the formation of individual autonomy, but such critique can not be grounded on universal common reason because this would ignore individual differences as well as the elements of rational disintegration within the subject itself and within reason. So conceived, the main problem of Enlightenment thought for Foucault is not so much in preserving the primacy of reason or in the domination of nature, but rather in the attempt to react to one’s historical situation in a critical and creative manner. This critical “ontology of the present” as Foucault also terms it , has two separate and but related components: it demands work on oneself (ontology of ourselves) and responding critically to one’s time and surroundings (ontology of the present time) .
In his idea of the ontology of the present , Foucault mentions there axes, the specifity of and interconnections among which have to be analyzed if we are to grasp something of the questions “Who are we?” and “What is our own era ?” These are the axis of knowledge, the axis of power,and the axis of ethics. According to Foucault, the historical ontology of ourselves has to provide answers to an open series of questions. It has to make an indefinite number of inquires, which might be specified and multiplied but, which will all in one way or another address the following important issues: How are we constituted as subjects of our own knowledge? How are we constituted as subjects who exercise and submit to power relations? How are we constituted as moral subjects of our own actions? (48-49). He describes this sort of question as a diagnosis of ‘what today is?’ This diagnosis does not consist in some simple characterization of what we are. Foucault demands that all critical thinking analyze freedom as concretely and historically limited, that is, as a site of concretely possible transformation. This work could also be described as the microphysics of power , because it represents attempts to clarify what forms of rationality are involved in the process of domination and how knowledge is used as a technique of power. For Kant, the Enlightenment and autonomy consisted at least in part in one’s mature use of reason defined as the moment when humanity will “put its own reason to use, without subjecting itself to any authority”, as Foucault claims (38). Similarly for Foucault, the notion of the mature, autonomous use of reason is used as the basis of critique that is directed towards an investigation of the self, which he nevertheless takes as a historical and practical entity rather than as ontologically and transcendentally given.
However, the aim of Foucaultian autonomy is not to achieve a state of impersonal moral transcendence but rather to refuse to submit to the “government of individualization” by constantly questioning what seems to be natural and inevitable in one’s own identity: an interrogation of the “contemporary limits of the necessary” (43). For Foucault, the subject is autonomous in the sense that it is capable of critique, but this critique has no purely transcendental or ahistorical value because it is always historically situated and contextual. Therefore, as Foucault states, “the historical ontology of ourselves must turn away from all projects that claim to be global or radical” for we know from experience that “the claim to escape from the system of contemporary reality so as to produce the overall programs of another society, of another way of thinking, another culture, another vision of the world, has led only to the return of the most dangerous traditions” (46). Thus conceived, the aim of Enlightenment is not faithfulness to doctrinal elements but rather “ the permanent reactivation of an attitude-that is of a philosophical ethos that could be described as a permanent critique of our historical era” (42).

Derrida’s (A)Politics

Derrida’s essay “Racism’s Last Word” was written for the catalog for the Paris 1983 exhibition Art Against Apartheid. He begins the piece with a single word: “apartheid.” Apartheid, the word and the thing itself, is shrouded in negativity: “by itself the word occupies the terrain like a concentration camp. Systems of partition, barbed wire, crowds of mapped out solitudes” (Derrida 292). By appending a single word to this “ultimate racism,” he makes it tenable, not easily forgotten. In fact, this special form of racism has, until now, defied definition, “as if all the languages of the world were defending themselves […] Here, then, is an immediate response to the obsessiveness of this racism, to the compulsive terror which, above all, forbids contact” (Derrida 292). For the sake of his essay and its audience, concentrating on this one word is effective. As if cornering an opponent, he separates the word apartheid from all others, enabling him to focus his efforts on deconstructing both its history and its future. Derrida, however, is caught between two identities in this essay: first, as a political observer, one who has an emotional investment in the eradication of racism; and second, as a philosopher who by necessity analyzes that which appears to be beyond reason.

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Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals

In the preface to the Genealogy of Morals, we learn that Friedrich Nietzsche is publishing his hypotheses about morality largely in response to Dr. Paul Rée’s Origin of the Moral Sensations. Nietzsche admits that this is one of the few books he fundamentally disagrees with on every proposition and conclusion it put forward. After reading this book, he subsequently becomes more concerned with the Darwinist trend in Europe and its effect on Western thinking, especially amongst modern philosophers. In his preface, Nietzsche is directly addressing these “men of knowledge” and tries to make them realize that there are never “isolated acts of any kind”, let alone an origin of morals (16). These philosophers, whose treasures lie in the beehives of their knowledge, are not distracted by the present, and therefore, they are the only people capable of understanding the position he takes in the Genealogy of Morals. Because truth always transcends time, Nietzsche is asking his readers to detach themselves from their surroundings in order to study ideas, like morality, without the prejudices of their time.

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The Art of Being

What is the meaning of Being? Does it mean to be present, or to be aware? Cathrine Zuckert tries to explain in her essay “The Politics of Derridean Deconstruction,” the delicate difference between philosophy and what we see as the particulars in the world, such as literature. Jaqcues Derrida tried to answer the puzzling question of what is called the “undecidables.” There is a certain gap between philosophy and literature; and in the case of the enlightenment, literature was a prominent mode for expression and thinking, that Derrida wanted to explore. When something is considered normal it has an intention and is present within the world. But what is it that gets us to what is normal? What is it that gets us to philosophy? What is the cause and what makes us develop and interpret things?
Derrida is not a fan of certain metaphysics in the likes of Heidegger and Neitchze. In fact, he makes a point to discourage the act of recalling and find a way to develop perceptions through the question of differences in the world and the nature of human beings. “Rather than attemot to re-call Being and all the oppressive political effects of metaphysics with it, Derrida concludes that we should avoid not merely the language, but the question of the meaning of Being altogether. He does so by arguing that everything is continually fractured and reconstructed by an emphatically non-ontological difference (pg. 350).” I believe that rather than focusing on what is present and what is known, Derrida wants to focus more on what is absent and what does not have an intention, I believe that the deconstruction for Derrida is the practice of finding out not what is possible, but what also is impossible, those that are called undecidables. Exploring only what is considered possible is not the pathway to developing a perception.
Derrida makes an argument against Neitzsche’s claim that, “no one controls the way he or she sees the world, much less the perspective of another (pg.350).” This common thought on the basis of metaphysics is the claim that Derrida is trying prove wrong. Believing that one does not have control over their own perceptions is a false argument on Derrida’s terms. “On the contrary, Derrida argues, all human beings constantly change the way they see the world without even realizing it. All receive a multitude of impressions from the external world which leave internal traces of which the human beings themselves are not aware. By deepening or writing over existing nerve “paths,” these internal traces nevertheless both determine and constantly change the categories into which the human being sorts the impressions he or she receives (pg. 351).” So here we, and Zuckert, clearly see the difference between Neitzsche’s metaphysics and the claim of Derrida. Metaphysics, I believe, makes the individual aware of certain instances in their life, they cannot control what they see, but they can control the perceptions they develop and are in more of a control of the developing perceptions. Derrida believes that each of these individuals have less control over what is perceived in their mind. They cannot simply determine what instances will go into what perceptions and so on, they are simply sorted in a way cannot be controlled, and therefore each human being has less control of the ever changing view of the world. I feel as though the presence of time can be applied to this argument. As we grow older, a perception that we might have had when we were in high school has turned into a completely different perception now. The addiction of new experiences can cause us to develop new insights into what has happened in the past. In this argument, no perception of instance is constant.
“Heidegger thought he was confronted with the possible end of man, because he was living at the end of history that had commenced with the dis-covery or e-vent of Being in Greece. But, Derrida suggests, if human existence is historical in the way Heidegger himself indicates, there is no reason to predict such an end. If human existence is essentially historical because it is essentially temporal, and time consists not of an unending sequence of discrete moments but each present moment is constituted only in relation to past and future, there is actually no such thing as the present. All that occurs and continually recurs is the conjunction (which is at the same time necessarily a disjunction) of past and future (pg. 352).” Derrida is claiming that the present does not exist and I believe that what he means by this claim is that the of all the instances that happen to us, we all perceive them according to what had happened in the past and what we will perceive in the future. The claim that human existence is essentially temporal says that it simply has a time line, and what happens in that timeline can only be constituted by the past instances or future instances, because they all have happened or are going to happen. Essentially in Derrida’s mind, things are never really happening to a person, in terms of their perceptions.
I believe that this is a point that can coincide with Derrida’s theory of deconstruction and the undecidables. “If the future is per se open and indeterminable, an end of history is as inconceivable as an unprecedented, totally inexplicable beginning ex nihilo on an utterly clean slate. If past and future exist only in con(dis)junction with one another, there is no future without a past. Dependant upon the future, the meaning of the past is also open and indeterminate. History has no necessary or predictable direction or end (pg. 352).” There is a balance here between what is possible and what is impossible. I believe that The instances that happen to us are possible but impossible at the same time. They both have a past presence and have a future cause. Time is on-going because the past cannot exists without the future and the future cannot exist without the past. The art of being consists of this delicate balance of the categorizing of instances. Deconstructing the meaning of being allows us to see how it is and get to a state of being.

Philosophy and Vico

How does one apply philosophy to the life that surrounds them? What exactly is philosophy? Much like other individuals who call themselves thinkers or philosophers, Giambattista Vico is trying to answer the ongoing question of philosophy in The New Science. Corruption is a common vice that Vico talks about. There is theme of avoiding vice in the world of attaining knowledge, and corruption is a vice that Vico tries to solve. Vico explores the question of why philosophy is for the benefit and the good of individuals. So how is philosophy relevant to the continuation of society and the human race? Is it needed for our survival as individuals living in a world where virtue is uncertain? I believe that this is so for Vico, as he explains in the conclusion of his work, theoretically the depletion of a society because of corruption and he explains why philosophy is such an important factor to the survival of a city or even in a deeper theory, ourselves.
“To be useful to the human race, philosophy must raise and direct weak and fallen man, not rend his nature or abandon him in his corruption (pg. 61, p. 129).” This is a very telling passage. I feel as though Vico is almost saying that we need philosophy to keep us from truly submitting to human nature. Philosophy is needed to direct us away from vice and lead us into a virtuous state. So Vico has made a claim here that philosophy has to have some sort of validation, and that is to be useful, or it cannot do good or maybe even exist. He is speaking like philosophy has choices, but I believe that the choice resides in the nature of man. If I man is weak and fallen, is it necessary that philosophy be present inside of his soul to be able to rend his nature? Maybe this rendering philosophy extends outside of the body and is purely universal? Or maybe it is a delicate balance of both that need to work together in order to lead the man to a better state. What does this say about our intellect as people and our understanding of the universals of the world around us?
I feel as though philosophy requires some sort of conditioning of the individual in order for them to become virtuous. In the conclusion of The New Science, Vico explains a scenario of the states of Rome and he explained reasoning as to why they fell from power. “But as the popular states became corrupt, so also did the philosophies. They descended to skepticism. Learned fools fell to calumniating the truth. Thence arose a false eloquence, ready to uphold either of the opposed sides of a case indifferently (pg. 423, p. 1102).” I believe this passage is saying that those peoples who suddenly came to vice, they only were denying the philosophies that they had learned for their society. The nature of indifference I feel does not allow philosophy to flourish, it only leaves people to their own weak and fallen nature. The states had descended to doubt and uncertainty on the premise of corrupt nature. I believe that this can be representative of an individual who has somehow distanced from the virtuous. If you cannot believe in the good of your soul, how can you live virtuously? Forming a false expression does not allow the individual to accept order in their life. I feel as though, for these states of Rome, and for us all, philosophy brings order, so we can make sense of ourselves. There is a delicate balance of understanding that particulars of our nature and knowing the universals of our environment, so as we can live peacefully and virtuously.
“Thus they caused the commonwealth to fall from a perfect liberty into the perfect tyranny of anarchy or the unchecked liberty of the free peoples, which is the worst of all tyrannies (pg. 423, p. 1102).” I believe that Vico is saying here that all people who submit to their own vices are barbarians of not only their own intellect, but intellect itself. Intellect leads into philosophy. It creates a pathway to finding the most virtuous part of ourselves and leads us to an orderly and productive life. So when we become susceptible to unbalance we can’t help but be consumed by disorder and pure bad nature. Being left to our own devises with no intellect whatsoever is bad in the opinion of Vico, and I feel as though he believes that understanding philosophy will take you to an orderly society and even life.
“It first ordains that there be found among these peoples a man like Augustus to arise and establish himself as a monarch and, by force of arms, take in hand all the institutions and all the laws, which, though sprung from liberty, no longer avail to regulate and hold it within bounds (pg. 423, p. 1102).” I believe that Vico is saying that we must find a remedy within ourselves, much like a city needs to find a person who possesses the virtue to bring the order out of a person. I almost think of philosophy to be the law that has “sprung from liberty.” I believe that philosophy is present within us, within the particulars and the things that we know as people. Philosophy will not simply come to us if we do nothing, it must be meant to be there.
“Then, if providence does not find such a remedy within, it seeks it outside. And since peoples so far corrupted have already become naturally slaves of their unrestrained passions…and in pursuit of the pleasures of their dissolute life are falling back into all the vices characteristic of the most abject slaves…providence decrees that they become slaves by the natural law of the gents (pg. 423, p.1105).” I believe that Vico is calling towards the natural vices that people have and the ability of the most fit to conquer them. I feel as though philosophy is intended for the fittest of those “slaves” that can overcome such vices. Human nature causes us to partake in such things that may takes us away from being virtuous. It is the purpose of philosophy to return us to a virtuous state.

Eryn – Paper #4

Pitty, blatantly and obviously seen as a handicap to philosopher Nietzsche, masks the road to misunderstanding one’s true identity. Thought lowly upon the subject, he wrote On the Genealogy of Morals, that “the value of these values must be called into question…morality as consequence, as symptoms…” (21). Clearly compared to an illness, the philosopher questioned the value and morality of pity, and shed light on the contagious disease that may have caused humanity to fear life’s full potential destiny.

While genealogists search to find the root of good and evil, Nietzsche proposed to question it’s value rather than it’s origin. “Under what conditions did man devise these value judgments good and evil? And what value do they themselves possess?”(16) A brave yet clearly understood thought, had not been asked before. How much do we value morality and its judgments? What if they are “a sign of distress, of impoverishment…”(16). What if they are the handicap, the reason, the hurdle we must clear, to reach our full potential in life? Who is to say that pity and “the value of unegoistic” is not “evermore fundamental mistrust…a great danger to mankind!”(19). Rather than grieving in self pity, discover the true fear.  Unmask the origin who misguides individuals into conceptualizing that grand sacrificial gestures lead to morality.
Unfortunately mankind was lead to believe, centuries ago, that self sacrifice leads to morality. What is more unfortunate is the twisted and refined definition of sacrifice. Over the years pity has transformed into unjustified empathy and fear. Perhaps the origin of fear stems from good rather than evil. When observed as so, mankind’s fear stems from God rather than Satan(17).  Man should worship God, not fear, however man should learn from Satan’ s mistakes, a parallel connector to learning from others errors. However, Nietzsche made it clear to separate theological from moral prejudice(17).
Although Nietzsche paved a clear perspective that attacked pity, the philosopher highlighted its evolution throughout time. What became successful in the nineteenth century may not succeed in the twentieth century, just how it may not adjust accordingly to the twenty first century (17). Times change just like ideas and views. In the similar sense, this may be the reasoning behind pity’s distortion.
Rather than holding great value to the idea of morality, mankind should consider their “experiences” instead. While philosophers depend heavily on knowledge, Nietzsche declares they are not men of knowledge, rather men of experiences(15). They can also be perceived as men of experiences, however, they must disregard their doubts, fears, will, and health, for it genuinely molds individuals into who they are (16). That said, if they do not “throw caution to the wind” they may miss out on life’s opportunities.
Although bravery seems to be the most recommended route to take on this journey of life, there must be a balance between the two. Life essentially requires a ying and yang, harmony between good and evil, bravery and fear. Even though Nietzsche’s opinion of pity is rather low, it is essential to human life. If an individual was foolish enough to not allow self pity, a breakdown or mistake would be bound to occur. No one is perfect, no one is constantly afraid, and no one is fearless at every moment of the day. Fear and doubts are as natural as self pity, however, they must be “experienced” in order to grow and conquer (16).

Perhaps this is what Nietzsche meant by “experiences”. Perhaps this is why he believed that we must misunderstand to understand oneself. This may be how we find ourself. Just like the great scientists, we learn from trial and error before determining the great understanding oneself. A child must crawl before walk, and walk before run. It is only natural and the faster we accept this the sooner we will grow (21).

Maturity stems from experience, it is the continuous growth in understanding oneself. It is the failure, the lesson learned, and the development of the human being. In comparison to the distortion of the root words good and evil, society distorts mankind from birth to death. Everything is interchangeable. It is a lesson to learn, process and accept. Everyone and everything will change. It can not be stopped, however, it can be accepted. Stop fearing change, morality, good and evil. It is everywhere. Instead of fearing the uncertain, live life and it’s experiences, and maybe then you will understand yourself. Live your full potential life and the journey you are destined to experience.

Lindsey – paper #4

“ We are unknown to ourselves, we men of knowledge- and with good reason.” (15) This sentence seems somewhat misplaced given that, at least in the modern sense, philosophy is the pursuit of self-knowledge. So why does Nietzche say that? He says it is because, “ We have never sought ourselves…(15).”  It seems as though he believes that philosophers do pursue knowledge, just not knowledge of themselves so much as knowledge of the world, and the way philosophers pursue knowledge seems to be through experiences. Nietzche suggests that this may not be the best way to obtain knowledge (15). Since we live in the present, these “present experiences,” as Nietzsche refers to them, are an afterthought, and therefore are not really present experiences at all.  It is because of this fact that, Neitzche says, “ we are necessarily strangers to ourselves. (15)”

So the notion of philosophy as the pursuit of self-knowledge, at least based on this account, is paradoxical, as “we do not comprehend ourselves…(15)” and “… Are not “men of knowledge” with respect to ourselves. (15)” Neitzsche seems to suggest in the next section of the preface that a better way to pursue and obtain knowledge might be to develop and nurture ideas. When talking about the ideas that became the basis of this book, he says, “…let us hope that time has done them [his ideas] good, that they have become riper,clearer,stronger and more perfect.(16)” Following this statement, he begins to speak of how his ideas, over time, have developed and become more fluid and interlaced. The ideas also were not the result of idle thinking, they came from a “fundamental will of knowledge. (16)”  It seems that this “fundamental will of knowledge” is what makes this pursuit of knowledge   “fitting for a philosopher. (16)”  Neitzsche also seems to suggest that the reason “present experience”  is not the best way to discover knowledge, is because they are isolated acts ;and according to Neitzsche, “we have no right to isolated acts…(16).”

Having exhausted his musing about the best way to pursue knowledge, he moves on to the topic of morality, more specifically the ideas of good and evil. The origins of good and evil had, he says, “…pursued me even as a boy of thirteen.(16)”    This first philosophical effort of Neitzsche taught him that he must separate the moral from theological. Thus, he began to look for the origin of evil within the world rather than from behind it.   Once he began to do this, his original problem evolved into a different problem. The problem became “ under what conditions did man devise these value judgements of good and evil? And what value do they themselves possess? (17)”  Neitzsche didn’t publish any of questions or answers until prompted to by the publishing of The Origins of the Moral Sensations.  Of this book Neitzsche said, “Perhaps I have never read anything to which I have said to myself No, propostion by proposition…(18)”

It was at this time that Neitzsche put forth his idea of a genealogical approach rather than trying to find the origin.

Neitzsche is still concerned with the value of morality. This leads him to refute in a way his teacher’s views which he seems to believe lead to skepticism. He believed that this “spreading morality of pity” was causing an illness that was taking hold on European culture. Neitzsche seems to be arguing that pity has some sort of worth, unlike his contemporaries who are “united in one thing: in their low estimation of pity. (19)”   Neitzsche seems to suggest that “ we need a new critique of moral values, the value of these values must themselves first be called into question. (20)” This is what ties the pursuit of knowledge to value. The conditions in which these moral values grew and changed are very important to creating this new critique of which Neitzsche speaks.    This was the original problem that Neitzsche set out to solve,however, because his problem changed, he never discovered the answer to the original problem. The solution to this problen is critical to the formation of a new critique, but it has never existed. So the value which we have for these values has to be taken seriously, so it has been taken for granted that something that is good is assigned a higher value than something that is bad, and something that is bad has a higher value than something that is evil.

The new problem that Neitzsche deals with is what if the opposite of what we believe of these values turns out to be true. This could make all the knowledge that has been acquired over hundreds of years completely irrelevant, but I’m not convinced that would be a complete diasaster. Were that to happen, the basis of knowledge could be self knowledge rather than experiences.  Having read this in its entirety, the first line of the preface makes much more sense because this problem that Neitzsche deals with could potentially change our pursuit of knowledge and what our value of things like good, evil and pity are. This could mean that men would focus on knowing themselves before looking for knowledge of the world.

Lindsey – Paper #3

In The Course the Nations Run, Vico lays out three ages that every nation goes through. The parallels between the nations he describes in this book and the United States are clear to me.  Based on American history, each of the eleven triadic special unities are represented and it is appropriate that, at least by the standards of many Americans today, this makes a connection to the Christian religion that was the beginnings of our country.

First, comes the three ages: the age of the gods, the age of the heroes and the age of men.  In America, the age of the gods would extend from colonization to the post-revolution period. The founders of the United States are held in this extremely high regard almost as if the were deities. Everything that is American, from the way our government works to the laws that we abide by, were given to us by the founders. Those things are the oldest institutions in our history. That description is very similar to the description Vico gives of the age of the gods, “ …in which the gentiles believed they lived under divine governments, and everything was commanded them by auspices and oracles,which are the oldest institutions in profane history. (20)” Though there were heroes during this period, we give them a higher pedastool because they are our beginning.

Next comes the age of heroes which would be the period between post revolution to the end of World War I. This era in our history is littered with figures that we idolize and regard as heroes. These “heroes” lived a charmed life and are held in much higher esteem than the average man. Vico says that men in this era “reigned everywhere in aristocratic commonwealths.(20)” For much,if not all of this period, the men elected to the highest office in the nation were war heroes and a type of natural aristocrat, even if that natural aristocracy was only given to them by the people rather than by bloodline.  Vico also describes these heroes as possessing “a certain type of superiority of nature which they held themselves to have over the plebs.(20)” The men history calls heroes had about them this air of greatness and in reality did hold themselves to a higher standard, it was this charisma and natural superiority that they oozed which made them the insiders and the ones with the power in the country.

Lastly, is the age of men, our current era.  This era is one in which all men see themselves as equal, this matches up with the type of social order we have in America today. Everyone is seen as equal because no one is encouraged to be excellent. Vico says that in this age, “…all men recognize themselves as equal in human nature…(20).”  This is the type of behavior that leads to the forming of oragnizations, Vico says “…therefore there were established first the popular commonwealths and then the monarchies, both of which are forms of human government.(20)”  This era lacks the old institutions of the age of gods and the natural leadership and aristocracy of the age of heroes. This era is fundamentally ordinary, almost mediocre.

Universally, nations grow and develop into these ages. This growth and development is constant and unchanging from this come three natures: poetic/creative nature, heroic nature and human nature.   The first nature is one of idealized animations, those that are viewed as almost divine, the next nature is one of natural authority and nobility, and the latter a nature of modesty and humility.

When looked at closely each “age” of American history goes through each of these natures, they start out idealistic, trying to make their own mold, and finally, the fire dies and they accept the way things are without realizing all the progress that has been made. Though I’m not sure that, at least when applied to American history, there is a religious connotation to the first nature.

From these natures, arise three kinds of customs: religion and piety,choleric and punctilious and dutiful. The first is evident in the age of the gods in America, and even in the beginnings of the other ages though they gradually fade in the later ages.Each age begins with this return to piety and a movement towards religion. Specifically in the case of the founding of the United States there was a movement to towards religion and relgious freedom that is unlike anything we’ve seen since in the country.

These are untentional parallels I’m sure, but this course of nations is scarily accurate when applied to American history.

Heidegger and the Pathway to Philosophy

How does one make sense of the world? Many people have tried and tried to explain the conditions of our world and the things that have come from it. Martin Heidegger fruitfully explains his mindset on the problems with modernity, history and philosophy in much of his work. The essence of being is a large topic to which he is not the sole undertaker of. The motions as to which philosophy is kept alive are an issue that Heidegger outlines in The Metaphysical Foundations of Logic. How do we come to a philosophy about an object, and idea, the world we live in? It is not necessarily the “origin,” but rather the “mode.” “Philosophy is not of course something objectively present and at hand, about which we can have and exchange opinion. Surely the idea of logic will have its origin in the idea of philosophy. But this says nothing about the mode and manner, how and in what order we conceive this dependence by origination (p. 6).” Heidegger is referring to the manner of metaphysics. So why must one have a full metaphysical understanding of physics to know the philosophy of our modern world?
The manner of something is the way in which this something is done. The mode of something is the form of which something exists. These two together create an understanding of our experiences that give us a better understanding of the world. Heidegger points out that we must not have a generalized view on the concept of philosophy and its beginnings, for that does not lead us into the overall problems and questions we face. There must be a pathway into the inner workings of philosophy, not something that simply surrounds the issues that lie within its boundaries. “One can never philosophize “in general,” but rather every genuine philosophical problem is, in each case, a single specific problem. But, on the other hand, no genuine philosophical problem is a so-called specialized problem, Every genuine problem is a fundamental problem (p. 7).” I feel that he is saying here that we must treat each detail with its own premises. One cannot think wholly about an issue without understanding the fundamentals of each argument or issue.
“For only then can the loosening produce an occasion for establishing and maintaining a direction toward philosophy and staying on course. That is indeed indisputable. But from this we can only immediately infer that the teacher of a certain way must already have in view the way’s discretion, that he really must have, as it were, already been where he wishes to take us (p. 7).” I believe that Heidegger is making a correlation between history and philosophy. In history we experience things, and we must experience things to have complete understanding of what happened. Having experienced certain things give way to new ideals that can help one gain a better understanding of the problem or teaching. Having the “discretion” of that way allows one person to have an authority of that way, in other words, the authority to understand it and teach it to others.
History is an important learning tool for developing an understanding of philosophy, Heidegger explains. “The ways of historical recollection and of reflection on the present are not two ways, but are both essential elements of every way toward the idea of philosophy (p. 8).” I feel as though he is saying here that both the past and the present are, together, important factors to understanding. But do we truly have an understanding of a history? WE cannot simply use our knowledge of the present to try and understand the knowledge of history, that concept is simply wrong for Heidegger. “This idea is to be defined not by out devising, say, so-called modern notion of philosophy, so that we may then consult the history of philosophy in retrospect to find out what has already been thought and intimated of our idea and what has not. Nor is it an appropriate procedure for is to pick out a philosophy from history, be it the philosophy of Plato or Aristotle, or of Liedniz or Kant, and simply install ourselves in it as in the presumptive truth, in order then to tailor and supplement it, as it were, for modern needs (p. 8).” I believe that Heidegger mentions these said philosophers because they are representative of a history of philosophy, especially Plato and Aristotle, who are both ancient philosophers. There is no way that we can truly understand history, simply because we were not there to experience it ourselves. There is no possible way we can imagine the past because we were not there. Heidegger is saying that we cannot simply take history and mold it and transform it to better our understanding of the essence of present philosophy, because we simply cannot understand the true teachings of history when we ourselves were not there. We can’t install the teachings of history for the sake of modern needs. Each experience brings about new ideals, so therefore each question of philosophy will be inherently different than the last one. So, in saying, the present question is inherently different than the question in history.
“The recollection from historicity is necessary not because we have already a long history of philosophy behind us, nor because piety demands that we also heed the ancients. Even if there were no explicit history of philosophy, it would still be necessary to go back and take up the tradition in which every human Dasein stands, whether it has a developed historical consciousness or not, and whether or not what it has to recollect is expressly called “philosophy.” (p. 9).” I believe that Heidegger is saying here that we must go back before history to have a true understanding of philosophy. He is not saying that we should go back to history for the pure fact that we must only see the ancient ways as the true or because history is the right and best, we must go back before this history. I feel like that hints to a claim that to gain an understanding there must be a new history, that is created by the experiences in which we gain ideal about a “new” philosophy. We must go back before history in order to understand. History and the present are treated as two separate questions in the eyes of Heidegger, but since we must go back before history to understand a philosophy, does that mean that true history that has already happened is not even relevant to the question at hand?

Perception and Self-Knowledge in the Genealogy of Morals

Friedrich Nietzsche’s Preface to Genealogy of Morals provides an outline of the philosopher’s view of morality and how our moral values have been accepted blindly over the course of history. The individual is important in the overall scope of this critique; for how can one deconstruct morality without first identifying the effects of those morals on oneself? In discussing self-reflection, the first two sections of the Preface give a glimpse of what might be interpreted as the separation of ideas from the individual. Although ideas may stem from a person’s will to knowledge, they seem to develop beyond the will of the individual after their genesis.

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