Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

On Memorial Day, there is a narrative of sacrifice of honor; we remember veterans. We extol those who are living and remember the dead. This takes place in a larger narrative that accepts the fact that the United States has gone to war, attempted -- if not succeeded -- in achieving its ends, and internalized the cost of that war for ourselves. Memorial Day never measures the cost of war to those we fought, the civilian populations we have killed and the fact that by fighting wars we are made more unsafe. 

We are more free. This is the constant adage to which our whole society accepts, like a doctor prescribing what we really need and we are not in any place to question the doctor, let alone the narrative. This narrative takes hold because so many of our relatives, friends and family have lost someone in those past conflicts. To question the immorality of war, its happening, undermines the individual who fights in that war since the individual narrative is a product of the larger narrative. This narrative pacifies the acceptance  of loss; makes it memorable. We toss flowers around, parade and have barbecues in solidarity. We transform loss into the continuation of the necessity that those deaths paid for my freedom may come again in a later generation. 

I am somehow more free than I would have been if a war did not happen. Perhaps, this is slightly true. With the United States asserting its geopolitical influence through the threat of force, we cause others to back down, and create and foster an illusion of our dominance. This is only a partial freedom. It is an assertive will-to-power. It must continually feed itself to sustain that dominance, and that's where we are partially unfree. We cannot accept losing that position in the world and feed it. In this way, we suffer at the hands of our own delusion. America the delusion. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Dissertation Ruminations

I have been away for a while. Dissertating is not done by a long shot, but I have concluded the last mega-chapter, and I am rethinking its organization. I am going through the motions of writing an introduction that unites all three facets into one whole. On the most basic level, my dissertation is on the ontology of value, and I address that problem through Scheler's work. This has led me to a form of realism I like to call participatory realism. Let me describe my ruminations in no particular order.

First, the use of the world "agents" or "agency" in ethics does not sit well with me. Ethics is about persons, and Scheler's work allows me to restore the proper object of ethical study. Agency is paired with accident in the 16th century, and an accident is a contingent reactive being whereas agency is self-causing, self-moving. This dichotomy rips asunder the necessary and sufficient condition of personhood in general and often articulated without a body. Intentionality is the fundamental requirement for being a person.

Secondly, given a phenomenological interpretation, persons are that which orientate themselves in a particular act moralization, and participatory indicates that the self participates in the ontological reality of life-as-experienced (the intentional relation) such that the essence of a particular act (fearing, judging, valuing, perceiving) discloses the content of an experience. This content forms the basis of what it is to experience the world more generally against those attempts that abstract from this content and substitute an unexperienced, untrue formulation. This happens in all other forms of anti-realism and realism in ethics.

In Scheler, the particular act moralization that discloses values as objective is love. Love is a being-in-an-act that tends towards higher forms of spiritualization, and love can muster its own phenomenological evidence in this regard. Against other acts, love takes an object, but it allows the object so related to come to fruition as itself. It does not reshape or remake some sense of the Other into an image it would have of itself. Moreover, it is not an imposition of admiration from outside. Instead, love is an allowance for the uniqueness of the loved one to come into being as they are. It is acceptance of difference, individualization. In this way, love is the only way that community can be possible, and how we understand love as one way in which the person relates to the larger whole reflects the very possibility of community.

There are many that are skeptical about the promise of phenomenology. However, in the hands of an applied phenomenology like Scheler, phenomenology is a tool to discern the structures of experience. It does not matter if these structures of experience persist independently of our participation. That's the wrong-headed feature of any realism. Such realisms seek intelligibility in things that stand independent of us when in truth structures of experience require a renewal, a re-constitution in the affirmation of them in their very realization. The very possibility of phenomenology rests on the truth that it is not just individual intentionality, but an intersubjective element of experience that constantly re-constitutes the possibility of a sense to which we all can experience.