Monday, July 23, 2007

Panta Rhei?

I have been reading against Kojima's account of time consciousness (Monad and Thou, Chapter 3) with the question in mind, What if time exists prior to any constitution of time? Is it possible, I wonder, for anything to escape the flux? As Heraclitus said, "everything gives way and nothing stays put" (panta chôrei kai ouden menei). Kojima's analysis, however, is extremely delicate. It will not be possible to get around it by simply disavowing idealism. In human terms, the issue is to imagine how it is possible for a person to endure over the course of a life; if we answer that it isn't possible, we are left with the uncomfortable fact that the various moments of my life all seem to belong to me, despite any changes that I may have undergone. So what's going on here?


Kojima asks us to acknowledge the existence of a "somatic ego," which (perhaps not yet "who") is not given "solely through self-reflection but also through the reflective-nonreflective mode of the self-consciousness of life" (p. 22).


Sartre introduced the concept of être-pour-soi or conscience non-positionelle de soi in connection with this probelematic, but he failed to connect it structurally to any reflective mode of self-consciousness. The nonreflective and reflective modes of self-consciousness are dialectically or circularly connected to each other, and no one can grasp either one of them without refering to the other. Indeed, self-reflection has as its necessary premise the nonreflective cognition of self, while the latter cognition progressively assimilates reflective recognition in the flow of time and thus builds itself up.


(p. 22)


I'll note in passing that Kojima may be asking us to accept a broadened concept of cognition. A key point, however, is that in linking the two modes of self-consciousness, Kojima is presenting us with an anthropological philosophy of life. Philodendrons need not apply.


Kojima then considers, following Husserl, two ways of understanding the present: (1) as the flowing now, a series of now moments that flow one after the other, and (2), as the standing present, "that which remains still at the origin of the flow and never flows itself" (p. 22). Before we jump to a critique of the standing present, let's see where Kojima is heading with this idea. Although he regards the flowing now and the standing present as analytically separable, he also sees a dialectical relation between them. Just as the non-reflective mode of life precedes and makes possible the reflective mode of life, the standing present, it is argued, precedes and makes possible the flowing now. This correspondence is no accident, in Kojima's view, "for the standing present is nothing other than the temporal form of presencing proper to the nonreflective mode of consciousness, and the flowing now is the form of presencing proper to the reflective mode of that consciousness" (p. 23).


Kojima's insistence on the stillness of the standing present leads him to discount the notion that the standing present is a dividing point between the future and the past, with time flowing in one direction from the future to the past. In his view the standing present is absolutely still. Yet, like the absolute Hereness of the ego, it "cannot be grasped thematically from any reflective standpoint because it is the dimension of the absolute encounter between consciousness and transcendent objects as well as the absolute encounter between consciousness and its own Being-in-the-world, namely the kinesthetic living body (Leib-Körper)(p. 23). Now, Kojima seems to argue that the fact that the standing now and the flowing nows exist on different levels can lead us to conclude that it is meaningless to describe the proper length of the standing present without reference to the flowing nows (p. 24). I'm not quite following how that argument that leads to that conclusion, but he wants to draw our attention to the "deep structure" of the standing present, so we can try to follow him there. He argues that "what connects the different nows to each other is the effect of a vertical intentionality that accumulates past moments into momentary simultaneity" (p. 24). I would like to question how stillness pertains to vertical intentionality, but we can go a little deeper yet into Kojima's analysis.


The conscious flow of passing nows and the standing present as its origin have a common immobile bottom ground called life (or the Lieb-layer of the somatic ego). This life never flows (contrary to many current interpretations of it) but stays still as a kind of nunc stans extending in indefinite continuity from the immediate present in the direction of the past. For example, my "I," as a time-object, is always changing in the flow of time. My I of five years ago and my I of now are quite different as time objects. For the sake of the continuity of life itself, however, both I's are always perceived to be exactly the same (except, perhaps, in a psychiatric case). This is to say that my identity as "I" has its ground in the standing present of life or of the somatic ego in its nonreflective stance. My somatic ego is always presented to itself as the same ego. The Leib-layer of the somatic ego underlying the I of five years ago persists in the standing present in the broadest sense, even though my I is passing away and thus varying as a time-object. Therefore I can ascertain that my I of five years ago and my I now belong to the same standing present, as the somatic ego in its nonreflective stance. This is what I do each time that I recognize my identity. The duration of time objects, for example, of a melody or of sensory data, is achieved through a reflex of the identity of my somatic ego. When the flowing nows with their contents are grasped in a quasi-direct relation to the continuity of my life-ego, that is, of their immobile ground, they appear under the phase of duration (That the duration given through noematic sense is also a modification of this type of duration will be indicated later.) Each flowing now is not connected to next through the retained memory of other nows mirrored into itself, but only through its continuous ground, namely, through life and the somatic ego. Only such duration causes the retention of the flowing now, because it flows away from the original present while nevertheless remaining still in the same present in a wider sense (with relation to life).


(pp. 25-26)


Before lauching into a critique there's just one more idea I want to get out there. "Vertical intentionality shows that time never ceases to flow, while time consciousness itself does not flow," Kojima says (p. 27). This precisely indicates what we're up against if we take up the argument that life never stands still.


Clearly Kojima has considered the possibility that life itself in flux. Why does he reject this idea? Let's ask three related questions: (1) In what sense can the ground of time consciousness be said to be immobile; (2) In what sense can it be said to be continuous; and (3), In what sense can it be said to be a ground?


The identity of my somatic ego appears to be nontransferable. Reproduction is a biological fact, and this would seem to have some connection to my body, and yet it doesn't seem possible for me to swap identities with my offspring. There's a fixity in the question of identity from this perspective, and if we associate this kind of self-awareness with a level of the somatic ego, or the fact of embodiment, we seem to saying that having a body cannot be understood solely from an objective viewpoint, that it contains an element, a reflexive if nonreflective awareness, that is purely subjective. However, does this really speak to the stillness of the standing present? Could there be such a thing as a walking present, a present in which successive I points are taken as belonging together, yet as not being exactly identical, just as one step is not exactly identical to the next step when we go for a walk?


How then would we explain the continuity of the standing present? Can we be certain that it is continuous? Possibly in dreams we can change our identity, become somebody who is not continuous with our waking self. If all of the characters who populate our dreams are in fact avatars of the self, we may still question the continuity of self-identity. Its continuity could be maintained by passing through, for instance, the unconscious, or through the body. In the latter case would we have to understand the body as something different from Kojima's Leib-layer of the somatic ego, even to pose the question of whether there is in fact a continuity? In other words, are we dealing with a presumption here rather than something that is self-evident. I'm not sure, because the continuity of the waking self does seem to be in evidence. The problem is how to explain that in light of what's possible in dreams.


We may question whether time-consciousness is grounded in the somatic ego. Is there any sense in which time-consciousness might be grounded in time itself? If that were the case, would we have to admit that time itself does not have a purely objective meaning, but rather it is also manifested subjectively? That's a hard one. The alternative would seem to be acknowledging a disconnect between time and time-consciousness. Or, on the other hand, we could question the idea of grounding. Perhaps there is no true grounding, but a relative positioning in timespace. Or a pure groundlessness. On that note, I'd like to summon up Ernesto Grassi, and his conclusion to his consideration of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.


Can it be that the only valid thing left is the appeal of the abyss, wherein we exist as characters playing our assigned parts in a quick succession of scenes and acts? Will we ever overcome the cruelty of the appeal of existence, which reveals itself as indifference for the individual, as the relentless demand on the individual to play an everchanging succession of roles? And as a result, will we never cease to wonder whether passions pertain to human beings at all, or whether they are solely the expression of the magical essence of life?


(The Primordial Metaphor, p. 94)


Finally, then, Kojima is fully aware that he arguing against a doctrine of panta rhei. He rejects the idea that life is in flux, despite the observable fact that the body undergoes changes in the course of a life, because the evidence from his own consciousness tells him that his previous identities are continuous with and, indeed, exactly the same as his current identity. I think Kojima's way of thinking may lead to an impasse. Nevertheless, I'm not sure if there is a way to think the problem of time-consciousness without coming to an impasse, so I think at the very least Kojima offers us an interesting way to begin to think about the problem.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:43 PM.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fido asks: how do persons endure thru the course of a lifetime?

"Natural science describes originated realities of two kinds: observers, also called minds, which do not generate time inside them (but may emulate any outer course, an aptitude that may be called xenochro-nism), and the set of extramentalities, which does it (and interactively assists minds to emulate outer evolutions)." (Palindrome)

"Minds avail themselves of a gnoseological or cognoscitive grasp, only of the variations in their own ontic consistency – where time does not elapse, so that those variations's sequence does not fade and may be made to refer to otherwise gone extramental time courses ("past")." (Palindrome)


I think the trick is that persons do not exist 'in time'. But to say that one needs an account of 'time'....and how it is that persons don't exist in it - nor do their 'memories'. Thus a cosmology which gives an account of the nature of time and space and their generation (space is being continually produced as we speak - smile).

"The link joining efficient causation, space, and time is the fact that what is usually named time consists of situational change; namely, change of situations, or shifting arrangements of positions in dispersivity. For example, deer ramble and clouds shift, causing effects anywhere they pass." (palindrome).

Past and future only exist for a mind.

"In other words those circumstanced observers, although existing, like all nature, in only one physical instant every time, do presently consider non-present situations and sensations. Thus, since gnoseological apprehension – the observing or noetic act – is never found apart from causally efficacious semovience, each of those circumstanced observers can transform herself semoviently by affirming only a selection of her constitutive antecedents, which constitutive antecedents certainly include her mental contents.

This selection of a subset of the known antecedents is done by varying the focus of attention and is enacted outside the finite mind (specifically, in the mind’s brain) by semovience. In this mode of transformation in time these circumstanced observers differ from a table, a pebble, and all other things lacking a mind, which cannot avoid entering time transformation with the full entirety of their constitutive antecedents." (Crocco, Palindrome)

July 24, 2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I had a feeling you might quote Mario here. I'll be on vacation starting tommorrow but when I get back I'll be sure to dig into "Palindrome" and blog about it.

I think the idea that persons don't exist in time is a problem. How does the cosmos contain something that is outside of it? Perhaps by time I mean something other than situational change. I would need to question this further.

I don't know about the production of space. I imagine that the unfolding of timespace is ongoing, but it may probably come to an end. Is time irreversible? I gather there are a couple of ways arguing that time is irreversible, but this is not an orthodox view among physicists. That seems strange to me. Anyway, from my very limited vantage point, the illusion of past and future may be twofold, which suggests to me that there may be an actual connection between time consciousness and time. Then again it may be an instance of mirroring. And of course I don't know whether it is wise to imagine a cosmos without mirrors, because the cosmos ought to contain everything.

"You will not discover the boundaries of the psyche by travelling in every direction--so deep is its logos."

I'm unsure of whether Heraclitus ever meant to exempt the logos from the flux. He did say that nature loves to hide. Does that mean that nature is or that is not given in signs? This is all very fragmentary and none too rigorous. Is life given in fragments, or is it rigorously laid out? Does it posses an inner harmony? I wonder if this can ever be worked out.

Glad to hear from you, Paul.

July 24, 2007 7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, I will put some of this in my own words while you are away!

We don't exist outside the cosmos but 'inside' the physical 'instant' - which has a certain 'thickness'.



"That time elapses only to situations is extremely important because we causally efficient circumstanced existentialities do not exist à la Minkowski, i.e. along intervals, but inside the situational intransformativity of the physical instant's actuality – which is where all our memories, projects, and interval-minding actions are ontologically crammed." (palindrome).


"The basic fact of contemporary hylozoism is thus that persons appear as finitudes of full ontic consistency, causally interacting through a window between the situated, transformable situations, and an unlocatable or non-situable realm of intransformativity from where causation is exerted and, because of that, this intervalically instantaneous actuality transforms. Strangely, this might be what Plato, even if heavily conditioned by the Pythagoric-Parmenidean worldview, obscurely intuited when dictating for what became Timaeus 90a that persons are plants, not earthly, but rather celestial: fytòn ouk éggeion allà ouránion. They have inverted roots, not inside the soil, but rather as if their ontic sustenance would come from the mane, our hair thus staying the closest to the firmament or tópos ouránion. But Plato could never have seriously dreamt of locating such a celestial realm of ideas – one that is the firmamental, as an unyielding and securely established firmament productive of this “underworld” or everyday realm detected by means of the senses – inside the instant situation of a nature that vacates itself outside instantaneous actuality." ibid.

It's true that many physicists still do not accept irreversibility - altho Prigogine's work may change that. It is the weirdest thing in physics as stengers note in Power and invention that physicists including einsteing see no diff btwn past and future.

another way in is that nature only exists in its 'actuality'. There is no past that exists - this is the jurassic transformed. There is no where to 'time travel' to......

"But this prospect is disturbing for an outlook that struggles against time. It
rather wishes for a ‘‘block’’ universe where all intervals are simultaneously real, the
actually present instant in no way different from the past and future ones, and time
elapsing just subjective or illusory." (Szirko, Effects of relativistic motion in the brain...) - on the AGNT site.

Well that's enough of that.

I will check with Isabelle about the translation Cosmopolitic cos she is the best writer on Prigogine's work that I know of.

July 24, 2007 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Yusef Asabiyah said...

Thanks for a great post.

"Finally, then, Kojima is fully aware that he arguing against a doctrine of panta rhei. He rejects the idea that life is in flux, despite the observable fact that the body undergoes changes in the course of a life, because the evidence from his own consciousness tells him that his previous identities are continuous with and, indeed, exactly the same as his current identity."

It strikes me as incredibly weak to base an opposition to the panta rhei concept on " the evidence from his own consciousness." It's not really very clear that there is such a thing as an identity...memories probably aren't as stable as we often like to think - our perceptions of the past may change as we accumulate additional experience and perspectives. It is also likely, I think, that we are more actively constructing our own memories than we realize...This amounts to us continuously constructing and maintaining a sense of identity, which amounts to the identity which seems so stable and continuous being fictional, a fiction. It may be a very useful fiction, but I think it's a step backwards to draw conclusions of the nature your author draws from his experience, if his experience has this fictional quality it may very well have.

July 25, 2007 11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention mario Crocco's article 'On Minds' Localization' 'OML', (AGNT site):

And one teeny thing - in this scenarion persons cannot be 'located' in a particular space and time - only the site of their interaction with 'their' brains this involves the rate of cosmological expansion which I will refrain from entering into now... (smile).

"4. Definitions of 'mind' and 'sensory knowledge'
The preceding scenario furnishes objective definitions of minds in general and of sensory knowledge, as follows.
Past and future situations only rise in the context of minds. They do not ex-ist outside of psyches: outside of minds only present situations occur. Past and fu-ture situations are only imagined, in a simplified way and certainly diversely. In this way – namely, by their being imagined now – their reality is in fact a part of the present situation; in this it exhausts itself. In other words, past and future situa-tions lack any other relevance for extramental reality, since they are neither found, nor do they cause effects, except as assemblages of mental contents envisaged by minds. Thus, all nature is actual only at a given instant, and each present situation determines its own time transformation; nonexistent situations cannot causally de-termine any transformation whatsoever. In this context, because any supra-quantum indeterminacy in it is found to apply to future events, when determining each next macroscopic transformation the actual or last situation is tantamount to its entire preceding history.10 In contrast, minds change quite differently: minds, existentialities or psyches are the realities that transform themselves only on a se-lection of their respective antecedents, not necessarily on all of them.

Turning the scales, the things we find situated amid minds in nature (or things that compound the gap among minds’ operative immediacies, or hylozoic hiatus; namely, all ex-tramentalities such as winds, rocks, fungi, trees, and computers, for which a varia-tion in quantity or distribution of motion cannot occur as an effect of internal forces) inevitably use all of their history, tantamount to the last situation, to trans-form themselves as time elapses.

Thus while all their yesterdays pack into their now, all our tomorrows are ours to shape.

In finding the brute fact of this selection, physics finds in nature the gnoseological apprehension and ability to inaugurate causal series, enacting such selection.

Both are found to come conjointly, in discrete pops-out, whose efficient actions and reactions become the natural phenomena we are trying to describe." (Crocco, OML)

July 26, 2007 1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Finally, one should observe that space, or dispersivity for forces, is not a cosmological primitive: vast amounts of fresh space are being continuously cre-ated with the expansion of the observable universe.
What we can localize in space is action, not the action’s determinations, whence “minds’s localization” means that we localize the presence of some of mind’s operations, not that of their de-terminations.

Whether mental or not, the latter seem to eschew manifestation in such a derivative occurrence, spatiality." (Crocco, OML).

July 26, 2007 4:12 PM  
Anonymous John said...

Hi, Its John from Melbourne. If any of you guys are anywhere near Venice in the next few months I would highly recommend that you check this out.

1. www.adidabiennale.org

July 27, 2007 1:48 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Hi Fido,

Maybe it’s a good thing you’re on vacation because this has given me an opportunity to reread your post and think about more clearly about the problem you are trying to pose. You asked, “What if time exists prior to any constitution of time? Is it possible, I wonder, for anything to escape the flux?” These are two interesting questions, even though I am not sure in what way they are connected for you. It seems to me now after my rereading that you are purposely trying to block from consideration any idea of time as constructed, as fictional, and so I’m embarrassed that I bothered to respond to this by mentioning what I did. I still have grave doubts about the way Kojima handles a time prior to any constitution of time—I still think that he has been extraordinarily arbitrary on his insistence on “a reflective-nonreflective mode of the self-consciousness of life” or what he also calls a stillness of a standing present. I wondered if Kojima, having quoted Sartre, makes any other citations from continental philosophy where it is so often the case, as in the work of Derrida, where it is precisely an insistence on such a presence which is seen as the major fault of western philosophy, whether this presence is understood to be in a dialectical relationship with flux or not. It seems to me that Kojima is reviving a bunch of concepts and problems which I think of as moribund: the mind/body problem, the transcendent/immanent duality, etc. When you say this, “like the absolute Hereness of the ego, it [ the stillness of the standing present] "cannot be grasped thematically from any reflective standpoint because it is the dimension of the absolute encounter between consciousness and transcendent objects as well as the absolute encounter between consciousness and its own Being-in-the-world, namely the kinesthetic living body” I read that as a confirmation of my interpretation, but I am not sure. This almost makes it sound as if Kojima thinks of this “stillness of the standing present” as being more transcendent than the transcendent, more absolute than the absolute. Does he bother to describe how he knows that the stillness of the standing present is what he thinks it is? If he doesn’t, isn’t he just providing a fancy rhetoric which glosses and glides over the problem it purports to address – in a kind of throwback maneuver which a lot of continental philosophers, including Sartre, wanted to eradicate? ( Sartre said that “ existence precedes essence” – isn’t Kojima saying that essence, the standing stillness of the present, precedes existence, and if not, why not? Is there a good reason to think that the standing stillness of the present is existence? Does Kojima present these reasons?) Sartre is sometimes mistaken for a Cartesian, but I’ve never seen him mistaken as a substantialist as he is in the quotation from Kojima. I don’t know what led to that mistake.

I strongly sympathize and support you with all the questions you raise following this quotation,

“For example, my "I," as a time-object, is always changing in the flow of time. My I of five years ago and my I of now are quite different as time objects. For the sake of the continuity of life itself, however, both I's are always perceived to be exactly the same (except, perhaps, in a psychiatric case). This is to say that my identity as "I" has its ground in the standing present of life or of the somatic ego in its nonreflective stance. My somatic ego is always presented to itself as the same ego. The Leib-layer of the somatic ego underlying the I of five years ago persists in the standing present in the broadest sense, even though my I is passing away and thus varying as a time-object. Therefore I can ascertain that my I of five years ago and my I now belong to the same standing present, as the somatic ego in its nonreflective stance. This is what I do each time that I recognize my identity.”

I just wonder—as I did in my first response-- if Kojima is contributing anything to answering these questions if it all comes down to,

“He[Kojima] rejects the idea that life is in flux, despite the observable fact that the body undergoes changes in the course of a life, because the evidence from his own consciousness tells him that his previous identities are continuous with and, indeed, exactly the same as his current identity.”

I think that the way out of the impasse of time consciousness comes through the critique of the metaphysics of presence, something of which Kojima seems oblivious.

July 27, 2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Paul:

I think this is interesting: "existentialities or psyches are the realities that transform themselves only on a selection of their respective antecedents, not necessarily on all of them." Now if I say that an existentiality is also an event, do you think that distorts its reality? You see I too am looking for an encompassing language, perhaps a too simple language. Mario's language is elegantly worked out, but I wonder if there isn't still a problem there.

Yusef:

Yes, Kojima is oblivious to the critique of the metaphysics of presence. I'm not sure that there is a definitive critique of Husserl. Kojima is certainly a critical reader of Husserl, and I think quite sensitive. The question for me is whether his critique adds to my understanding of philosophical problems. Some of my favorite thinkers are thoroughly wrong about their central ideas, yet their creativity and insight allow me to appreciate their works. I haven't yet made up mind about Kojima, though I can say that he is more original and less boring than some other phenomenologists I have read.

As you know, my habit is to blog books by chapter. Unfortunately this leaves many questions hanging. Kojima is definitely critical of Cartesian mind-body dualism, and of Husserl's Cartesian phase, and of Husserl's attachment to transcendental subjectivity. He means to contribute to phenomenological ontology, i.e. existentialism. He is well versed in Sartre and Heidegger, but mostly limits himself to early works, e.g. Sartre's L'imaginaire and L'être et la néant.

Does Kojima's absolute here and now prioritize essence ahead of existence? I don't believe Kojima is saying that, though we can certainly raise the question. I don't know that he means to think the absolute.

When Kojima says "the standing present is nothing other than the temporal form of presencing proper to the nonreflective mode of consciousness" he might have said "nonreflective mode of life," but that wouldn't be the bottom of it.

Kojima has yet another argument against panta rhei, which is an argument against the Husserlian conviction that self-consciousness flows. He says, "what flows in time must always have as its precondition what does not flow at all; the former is recognizable as a flow only in contrast with the latter, which persists in time, without which "flow" itself does not have any meaning (e.g., a river flows only against immobile bank or a riverbed)" (p. 42). I believe the riverbed and its banks flow at a much slower speed than the water in the river, so this is either a bad example or an invalid argument, or else I need to reexamine my beliefs. Later he says that this persistence against which the stream of consciousness has meaning is none other than "this world received passively as pre-thetic Being" (p.45). He speaks of a prethetic self as both Existence and as Being-in-the-world. I'll blog more about this soon. Suffice it to say that Kojima apparently intends for his standing present to be an existential concept, but I have yet to work out exactly what he means to say, and what I should make of it.

August 01, 2007 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"He says, "what flows in time must always have as its precondition what does not flow at all; the former is recognizable as a flow only in contrast with the latter, which persists in time, without which "flow" itself does not have any meaning (e.g., a river flows only against immobile bank or a riverbed)" (p. 42). I believe the riverbed and its banks flow at a much slower speed than the water in the river, so this is either a bad example or an invalid argument, or else I need to reexamine my beliefs."

I agree with you but am perhaps more vehement - I see the statement by Kojima as flat out incorrect.

What I think you are picking up on in your idea of the river bank flowing more slowly than the river is the idea of the differential...Differential flows do not require some immobile reference point in order to be sensible. There only needs to be a difference in rates of flow.

I like what you said about favorite thinkers being thoroughly wrong about their central ideas, yet their creativity and insight allow me to appreciate their works.

I feel the same way.

August 01, 2007 5:40 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I want to expand on the idea of the differential, Yusef, but first I meant to ask you about the metaphysics of presence. Do you think that the view that spacetime has neither a past nor a future is in any way perplicated with a metaphysics of presence? To be clear, the impasse I see is that the experiential understanding of time cannot be reconciled with the physicists' understanding of time. I can't claim to fully comprehend either view. That said, I see leakage on both sides. You've given some thought to pluralism. Is it a viably pluralist position were I to say that no view of time that I know of is truly cosmic, or would you suspect that I was holding in reserve a monistic view of the cosmos? I wonder if panta rhei isn't a monism in disguise. Is a pluralistic cosmos even a cosmos, i.e. does it encompass everything? If not, then the cosmos cannot be an open system, and yet we cannot possibly live in a closed system because we must live bodily. Strictly speaking then the cosmos is uninhabitable. On the other hand, how is it possible to inhabit a pluralistic cosmos? I'll say that the cosmos has rhythm as an aspect of its embodiment. Bodies as they actually exist are imperfect, evanescent, mutable, and permeable to external flows. Is it possible to inhabit more than one body? Is it possible to for a body to be inhabited by more than one entity? The latter seems easy but it depends on the former. We must be able to live in the plural or admit that the cosmos is uninhabitable. If we live in the plural, rhythmically, then the universal fact of consciousness, as James calls it, the "I think" and "I feel," becomes a cosmic puzzle. So I'm back at my orginal impasse. Can Derrida help me out of this? Can James?

August 02, 2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"You've given some thought to pluralism. Is it a viably pluralist position were I to say that no view of time that I know of is truly cosmic, or would you suspect that I was holding in reserve a monistic view of the cosmos? I wonder if panta rhei isn't a monism in disguise. Is a pluralistic cosmos even a cosmos, i.e. does it encompass everything?"

Well, you've done it again...You've asked some very thoughtful questions I'll pondering for some time, feeling a bit guilty for not being able to give the thoughtful response they deserve.

I think that it is a viably pluralist position to say that no view of time is truly cosmic, assuming you define cosmic here as you did elsewhere, as sort of all-encompassing, comprehensive.

I'm not sure whether panta rhei is or isn't a monism in disguise, if in using the phrase panta rhei we are referencing the thinking of Heraclitus. As far as I know,( which isn't that far,) the pre-socratic philosophical thinkers were all searching for some basic explanation what everything is, and that looks to me as if they were trying to establish what I think of as a monism. I wouldn't be surprised if Heraclitus was a man of his time, and that he thought of panta rhei as his idea of a monism.

I don't try to read too far into "panta rhei" as it would be used by any contemporary person other than maybe a Heraclitus scholar. Beyond the very crude understanding of it as "everything flows," I think it mainly gets used in conversations as a rough marker of some kind that we all somehow think we understand, and probably don't, and it is nevertheless useful and meaningful to us.

"Is a pluralistic cosmos even a cosmos, i.e. does it encompass everything?"

I don't think that a pluralistic cosmos is a cosmos. I think it's a chaosmos. This idea of the cosmos as encompassing everything ( which I agree with you seems to be a key element of the way we understand what cosmos is,) is a monistic view, and it seems to have deep roots in theology. James does have something to say about this in "A Pluralistic Universe."

"If not, then the cosmos cannot be an open system, and yet we cannot possibly live in a closed system because we must live bodily."

I think this is an interesting comment. Did you mean to compare the cosmos and the energetic requirements of the cosmos to those of an organism?

I've had trouble in the past because I haven't understood what was meant by "open system" versus "closed system." In an open system, as I understand it, both matter and energy are gained or lost; in a closed system, energy is gained or lost, but matter remains constant. By this definition, the earth is a closed system.

August 02, 2007 3:57 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I'm in trouble too with systems theory. Are the Perseids a part of the closed system that is Earth?

Did I mean to compare the energetic requirements of the cosmos to those of an organism? Not really, just its embodiment. I believe metabolism is particular to organisms; however, I suspect metabolism is possible only on the basis of an openness of bodies. If matter could close itself off life would be hard indeed.

August 02, 2007 5:31 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"I'm in trouble too with systems theory. Are the Perseids a part of the closed system that is Earth?

Did I mean to compare the energetic requirements of the cosmos to those of an organism? Not really, just its embodiment. I believe metabolism is particular to organisms; however, I suspect metabolism is possible only on the basis of an openness of bodies. If matter could close itself off life would be hard indeed."

Are you attempting to evaluate the concept of identity through the concepts of open and closed system?

When you ask,"Are the Perseids a part of the closed system that is Earth?" is this a way of questioning where the boundary of the earth's identity would be drawn? ( Or perhaps this is a way of questioning where the boundary of any earthly identity, yours, mine, or anyone's, would be drawn.) When you ask a question like that, are you pointing to a certain frailty in the very idea of identity? I wonder if you are because if our identity includes something as remote to us and perhaps as unknown to us as the Perseids, then our identity is so far-flung and wide-ranging as to not really be meaningful as "identity."

"Metabolism" -- that word means change ( or something close to the meaning of change) in Greek, doesn't it? Again, I am trying to figure out what problem you are using this to probe. Are you saying that there is a contradiction to assigning "identity" to something characterized by change, such as an organism, which is characterized by metabolism?

August 05, 2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I was really just commenting on the nature of closed systems as you defined them. The Earth doesn't exactly fit the bill since it picks up matter every time it passes through the Perseid cloud. The Solar System would seem to fit the bill. However, in about 3 billion years, well before solar death, the Milky Way will collide with Andromeda. The Solar System may endure through the collision, but I wouldn't be surprised if we picked up some dust. So first and foremost I am questioning the idea of a closed system.

The question of identity is not unrelated, it seems to me. How is it possible to maintain a spatio-temporal identity that is apart from the event of spacetime or from matter? Well I just don't know what the relation is between my identity and the flux. It doesn't seem likely that it's one of opposition, as Kojima would have it, and part-whole relations, as I've touched on in previous posts, wouldn't seem to do it justice. Maybe identity is just too frail. Maybe it's possible on the basis of open systems, like the metabolizing organism, an emergent property or some such. That would make identity a little fuzzy, virtual, or even rational, depending on your view of systems. And as you've said (I don't think this was quite my thought) there may be a contradiction in trying to pin identity on a dynamism such as the organism. Maybe identity is possible on the basis of a power of repetition--but as you may have picked up, I'm not sold on that idea. I can't say that I haven't given the problem of identity any thought, but I must say I'm at a loss as to what to say about it.

Freedom, perhaps? Careful not to entify freedom. Does the ability to interrupt the causal sequence mean anything. What causal sequence? I don't know how that can be nailed down.

The thing that has always struck me about freedom is that is never absolute. We don't, for instance, have the freedom to prevent Andromeda from colliding into the Milky Way, although we can imagine such a freedom, a universe, perhaps in the distant future, where we would have to make a choice as to what course our galaxy would take. The attainment of such a freedom to move galaxies, as much as its exercise, would entail consequences. And it would certainly require something that we can't at present take for granted. So I think that every freedom has its contingencies, and these are what interest me. I can just as easily say that every identity has its contingencies. Well, I won't go so far as to say that the contingincies are determinative. That's my problem. An undetermined universe.

August 05, 2007 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

Have you read the Heidegger seminar, now published in book form, on the Heraclitus fragments? Heidegger's collaborator for the seminar was the German phenomenologist, Eugene Fink.

I don't think contemporary cosmologists think with the old conception of "universe." I was listening to Michio Kaku this morning on AM radio, and he didn't use the word. He kept saying "multiverse." If he was holding to the older conception of a universe as encompassing everything, his use of the word multiverse would be silly, I think -- even if there were multiple vast areas of spacetime, but they were still somehow IN "one big thing" the term universe would still apply to this one big thing everything else was in.

The earth's gravitational field traps ions (charged particles) from sunspot activity very often. I guess that because the mass of these ions is so small in relation to the mass of the earth this effect can be disregarded for most practical purposes when the earth is considered a closed system. Maybe that's true also with Perseid dust, but I don't really know.

August 05, 2007 11:11 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

I remember skimming something of Heidegger's about the Heraclitus fragments way back when. It must have been in German because the SPEP translation had not yet been published. I do recall that his translations of the Greek were highly unorthodox. It was a real struggle for me to transilterate the Greek and to compare it to other available translations (I don't know Greek). Philosophy was not something I studied at university. It was a passion I pursued largely on my own. It's something I should look into again, now that I have some more experience with philosophy and some decent electronic reference tools.

I think the multiverse is good Jamesian philosophy but difficult (controversial) astrophysics. If I were presented with sensible evidence of multiversality that I could understand, I would be inclined to accept it into my thinking. It seems like a reasonable supposition to make based on what we know about the systems or events that take place in the known universe, but, like I say, I just don't understand what evidence there is to support it, and I have to defer to the collective wisdom of astronomers and respect their standards of evaluation because it is not my field and my knowledge of astronomical phenomena depends on their expertise. That said, I am of course intrigued by this idea that some cosmologists have begun to explore.

For most pracitical purposes. I think of the idea that for most practical purposes we live in a Newtonian universe. I object. It's not the truth value of such a statement that bothers me, although I can't say I don't notice it. It's the limitation placed on practice. What could be accomplished in a Deleuzean universe, or a universe of complexities, of open systems? It's not for me to judge, but I can humbly suggest that it's worth a try.

August 06, 2007 7:54 AM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"Well, I won't go so far as to say that the contingincies are determinative. That's my problem. An undetermined universe."

So,the inquiry concerns connections between open or closed systems, a standing present or a constituted time, as these bear on and pertain to problems of determination?

August 06, 2007 2:46 PM  
Blogger Fido the Yak said...

Since you put it that way, sure, perhaps determination is what's at stake. I have a kneejerk affinity towards indeterminacy, which, it occurs to me from time to time, may be at odds with phenomenology or with philosophy. I've been lax, and the interrogation of my own prejudices has been proceeding at a glacial pace--if that still means slower than a snail. I don't have any firm convictions on the matter of determination, and I couldn't confidently tell you which philosophers have come close to saying something useful about it, or which have misled us.

Well, I don't know what step to take next, but I'm glad you've come by to challenge my thinking.

August 06, 2007 4:12 PM  

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