Monday, March 11, 2013

Philosophy Carnival Lacks Any Continental Philosophy And That's A Negative Thing

I have noticed that for the past three months (at least) that the Philosophy Carnival has been fairly dominated by analytic philosophers. Keeping in mind Jeff Malpas recent interview at 3AM...

the distinction between analytic and continental philosophy is a political distinction. This is important, because we often mistake it for a philosophical distinction. But it isn’t that, at least not primarily, and that is why the ‘discussion’ has been going on for so long (it certainly isn’t recent), and shows so little sign of going away. Unlike some analytic thinkers, who seem to want to abandon the analytic/continental distinction in favour of just ‘philosophy (but who then often go on to make clear that when they talk about ‘good philosophy’, they almost always mean ‘analytic’ philosophy), I don’t think the distinction can simply be discarded, since to do so is to blind oneself to the political realities that are at work

I think it is time to organize our own Continental philosophy carnival. As Malpas has confirmed, this distinction is not philosophical. Often analytic philosophers use either "family resemblance" or the metaphor of style. I do not think these apply directly. Indirectly sure. These might explain some of what is going on. Yet, the fact is that often what is seen as interesting to analytic conversations could not find purchase in a larger culture due to their neglect of the hermeneutic, phenomenological and pragmatic features of human life and action.

Take for example the entries in this month's carnival.

I have searched since October 2012. There hasn't been one article on a Continental author, not even to Protevi at New APPS that analytics know.

Moreover, Kenny Pearce has been a host of the Carnival several times over, and I feel that the the Carnival circulates in a network of blogs. This might explain how selection bias amongst its organizers avoid Continental philosophy while driving philosophy into oblivion. Having read through a lot of the Carnivals, one could possibly be convinced that there is an endemic of people worried about Plantinga!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Phenomenological Theism and the Phenomenology of Moral Experience

I am presenting this at Steubenville’s Must Morality Be Grounded in God? Conference. This is still very much a work in progress.
Consider what I call the Argument from Moral Experience:

(1) Moral facts are experienced as being objective and non-natural.
(2) The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is based on phenomenological theism.
(3) Phenomenological theism is the thesis that God is immanently revealed in moral action.
(4) Therefore, the experience of moral facts provides evidence for thinking theism is true.

In the following lecture, I would like to assess the argument from moral experience. My argument from moral experience is inspired by a rendition of the typical Moral Argument for God’s Existence:

(1’) Moral facts are objective and non-natural.
(2’) The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is theism. 
(3’) Therefore, the experience of moral facts provides evidence for thinking theism is true.

            The difference between these two arguments is based on shifting the inference from the existence of God to the experience of God. For the experience of God is immanent in moral action, and what we want from morality can only acquire a sense and meaning from looking at the structure of moral experience where God is felt. I will admit that part of this analysis is inspired both by Scheler and Levinas, but my real ambition is to get at the heart of the arguments as to why we might think Scheler and Levinas correct in these matters. Let me speak to the organization of this essay.
First, I will explain the grounds for holding each premise, and why I find it far superior to the Moral Argument for God’s Existence. Next, I will offer phenomenological reasons why the conclusion follows from the premises. In the Argument from Moral Experience, this will involve an in depth analysis of premise (2), which is doing most of the work of the aforementioned argument. Second, I will explain the motivations for why I focused on the phenomenology of moral experience as a reason for concluding theism is true.
            (1) could have been stated different, such as “ (1’) Moral facts exist as objective and non-natural.” The assertion of extant moral facts is harder to prove than the experience of moral facts. The hard moral realist asserts the existence of an independently true body of moral statements, which are true and treated very much the same way as one might treat the belief that “Cats are mammals.” We treat the moral belief that “People should be fair to each other” as suggesting something true for all situations to which people would relate to each other. The reason why the hard moral realist finds moral claims convincing is that they can oblige us from the simple fact that they are true.
(1’) however proves too much. First, the hard moral realist is metaphysically extravagant. He wants objectivity so much that he treats moral claims like scientific claims. However, the truth conditions for such objectivity distort how we experience values. First, we do not experience values as an object of knowledge. They are felt deeply in intentional feeling. Second, we do not assent to a proposition like a controlled scientific inquiry. Instead, values are felt in exigent situations about the goods in question. Moreover, the last two experiential reasons are motivations for why someone might insist upon the truth of hard moral realism, but without a careful phenomenological analysis of experience, the hard moral realist often is self-serving in those features of experience he selects about experience that motivates endorsing his extravagant metaethical position.
            Let us look, then, at some features of moral experience more carefully. If both you and I share a similar feeling, we can intend the same value. Let us use the oft-repeated example that you and I stand some distance from a group of teenagers setting a cat on fire. There is nothing physical in that situation to which we normally assign value, and yet we employ value-talk about the situation. At this point, we are safe to assume that we experience the cat burning as unnecessary suffering, and this action bears the value cruelty beyond belief. If we asked the teenagers why they did it, we might try to find some abuse in their background or some underlying motivation for why they set the cat on fire, but looking for motivation of someone is different than the felt-demand of value in that situation. We experience the wrongness of that suffering deeply. From the experience, we begin to see that we have some language to talk about how both you and I felt about that act. To see if we have the same moral hunches and reactions, we talk to others that react predictably similar to the same situation. Setting cats on fire is felt as cruel. From this common co-feeling about the situation, we can conclude that there is some reliable objectivity in how I and others feel and that nothing physical in that situation could account for the feeling of cruelty manifest in our acts.
            In (2), the phenomenology is the explanation. Usually, metaethical positions import the assumptions about reality as why we experience the world as we do, but phenomenological description reverses this priority and looks to describe an experience of an exemplar phenomenon before inferring ontological commitments. One might object that this makes phenomenology, then, self-serving for what it wants from ontology. However, I concede some of this without admitting the self-serving nature of phenomenological method. Presupposing metaethical commitments about moral experience before looking to experience itself is worse than looking to experience as a way to solve philosophical problems. For the phenomenologist, taking experience for granted means removing philosophy from the concerns of those that live it. In such distancing, metaphysics can be employed to assert categories about experience that are not found within experience at all, and such attempts could presuppose an ontology about particular values. One motivation shared amongst phenomenologists is the want for philosophy to concern itself with concrete matters of lived experience rather than proposing any conceptualization removed from experience.
            In moral experience, we experience values as being on the backs of goods, deeds and persons. We feel these values between us despite their lack of physical tangibility. We re-feel what someone else feels and in that feeling, we are presented with value’s givenness. Intentional feeling is correlated to a specific value-quality. Bliss fills our whole personality with the Absolute value of the Holy. Our feeling of health is connected to how our environment is given to us. In the highest value of the Holy, our capacity to feel alongside others is renewed in the highest possible way. We are instilled with a perspective completely outside of us that comes unto us in ritual and religious experience more generally. Thus, when premise (2) predicates “objective” and “non-natural” features of morality, these qualities are aspects of experiencing intentional-feeling associated within religion. God is the source to which we aim, and in aiming to that which is completely Other we become oriented towards that which is pure difference in our very action. We can easily welcome both widow and orphan to be fed by having a renewed connection to Christ in the Eucharist. The singular unique otherness of the other/person finds expression in both Levinas and Scheler. The person is given to us as a possibility within the immanence of the suffering Other. “Objective” here means “intersubjective” and is due to our capacity to re-feel what others feel that binds us to others and the emanating presence where God is felt. Before God, we are all unique. In relation to Him, I am Ed, a Ph.D. graduate from SIU, born in New Jersey and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My wife is Ashley, born in Youngstown Ohio and thankfully a Steelers fan. There is nobody like her or me in existence. That’s the point. The objectivity takes on a new sense within phenomenology. The objectivity in other moral philosophies amounts to a substitutable other. Before Kantianism, we are all agents. Either you or I ought to do the same thing in relation to the categorical imperative. Both the non-formal ethics of Levinas and Scheler attempt to supplant this modernist tendency of equalizing differences between people and insist upon the radical unique otherness of the “person.” Ashley is not valuable due to species membership, the fact that she is a rational agent or any other criterion beyond herself. Instead, Ashley is absolutely unique, and it follows from her radical uniqueness objectively that she is absolutely valuable. In fact, the possibility to love another rests on accepting the singular uniqueness an-other person.
            Second, “non-natural” follows on the heel of the singular uniqueness of persons. On this point, phenomenological evidence is rather convincing. The fact that a person can never be objectified or reduced to another category is what it means to be a person. Instead, persons are of spirit. We cannot be adequately categorized since we are beyond categorization and simultaneously we are the source of that categorization. Persons are the source of meaning in the world, and consequently, they cannot be derived from that which they engender. Persons are not reducible to anything in the world. If intentional feeling precedes all pre-volitional and pre-cognitive experience, then it is only from the shared intentional capacity of persons that is responsible for why experienced objects in life have meaning (and therefore value). Scheler’s later metaphysics aims to articulate a view beyond the phenomenological but preserving the insight of the person’s non-objectifiable spirit and at the same time how persons and God participate in being together.
According to Scheler, the person encounters a world in its vital urge. The vital urge reaches outward towards a goal in the world, and the world is given to us in resistance. The vital urge is rarely satisfied and if it attains its goal and the world conforms in some way to us, the world will comply ever so briefly. Then, life will be given to us in this worldly resistance once more, and we will not be sated. Within this movement, the coming-to-be feltness of the resisting world is called value. In this way, values are at the spiritual act-center of the person reaching out and filling the content of our experience of actions, things and others. When we relate to another, when we help another person, they – like us – encounter a life in which our drives, energy and desire find resistance in the world around us. All reality is given in resistance but capable of ever higher spiritualization. While spirit is initially impotent to physically affect the world, we can experience a calling within our vital-urges and learn to suspend their effect on us. Thus, by suspending our attention to the vital-urge’s movement to a resisting world and thereby suffering, human beings can apprehend a higher value than simply their vital-urges. This happens when we act on love and within acting in love, God stands between us and others, or what is meant in premise (3). We can aspire to the level of spiritual feeling and values of Holiness. Thus, again the point of religion is to open ourselves up towards the inherent spiritualization in human life and realize it in all we do.
The point of phenomenological theism is not to replace the sense of God has in His own right. Instead, accepting “(2’) The best explanation of there being objective and non-natural moral facts is theism” commits one to adopt the same phenomenological reasons inherent in the Schelerian commitments I have explained here. Typically, an objective value is one that can be demonstrated publically according to norms and justifications. There are many possible ways we might do this. We might show that the consequences in one outcome maximize better than in another outcome. We might show that one course of action is more rational than another. However, the point matters not how we justify a course of action. Instead, these approaches presuppose the very phenomenology of experience underlying my motivation for emphasizing the phenomenological insight over (2’). The utilitarian assumes value is already knowable and that there is something like an impartial perspective to which various outcomes can be assessed. The impartial standpoint in this secularly committed approach relies upon an experience of thinking objectivity and non-naturalism true. Values stand between people with respect to feeling; they are irreducibly part of another’s experience, and yet we act upon them because in participating in value the manifest benefit grows out of the presence of that action. More secular theories might call this elevation of goodness in the world acts of beneficence. In such a way, the intersubjectivity of what these people take to be “objective” and valuable is wholly realized in action between them and what becomes realized is a commitment to love the other. This love manifests insofar as the utilitarian is more sophisticated in what she seeks to maximize beyond mere hedonic calculation, but let’s leave this alone for now. As long as the moral philosophy in question seeks to realize values through action, there is something like a growth, a becoming, a presence of beneficence underlying the affection such action brings. This is the experience in question that is shared between secular and sacred approaches to values.
            The growth and becoming of love suspends the descending effect drives have upon us whereas love participates in the intersubjective spirit of persons. For Scheler, persons can only be those that can suspend the effect of drives upon us and reflectively bring into awareness the act of suspending drives. Thus, persons and God are capable of this, but when love takes on the highest value of the Holy, individuals become given as absolutely other. There is no higher value than the absolute value of the Holy. In this way, the intersubjective constitution of community can be based upon a commitment to the Holy in the immanence of our firsthand experience of Others. In our case, this commitment is the directedness of my intentional act loves the other person as they are without imposing upon them any objectification. Hence, objectification cannot be a source of making the other a victim or reason for justifying abuse. Since spirit is pure non-objectifiability, I can only leave the other be as a unique other before God. In this way we can see the role of premise (3). The immanence of the singular otherness comes by encountering them as each person is, singular and unique. In the 20th century, the massive abuses of genocide arise out of the tendency for governments and people to judge others through objectified categories. A Jew can be less than human, so can Blacks in the American South. The point is rather striking. By acknowledging God as a source of immanent otherness underlying the otherness of people I encounter in life, I adopt a philosophy incapable of re-presenting the singular uniqueness of an-other. Instead, through God, we start with the recognition of singular uniqueness and preserve the commitment to the non-objectifiability of human beings first and foremost before all other commitments in philosophy. This prohibition of objectification delimits the possibility of a metaphysics of human beings at all.
            Finally, “the experience of moral facts” establishes a deduced relation to “thinking theism true.” I am suspicious of metaphysics. Like Levinas, I want to supplant the tendency of Western thinking to avoid “the logic of the same” or what Scheler repeatedly calls “objectification.” The practical consequences of the 20th century’s abuses have all subordinated the radical otherness of the person to some category that dehumanizes. In fact, we might read this subordination of the person to categories of metaphysical speculation in the tendency of modernity to de-personalize the person. Instead, the first philosophy is not metaphysics, but the ontology of the person. There is only one being that is wholly other than I can re-present Him/It, and this is God. As Jean Valjean sings towards the end of Le Miserable: “To love the other person is to see the face of God.” In Schelerian speak, this realization is the recognized givenness of the person within the experience of their very uniqueness—what he calls “spirit.”
Of course, I broadened this insight, and claimed that “the experience of moral facts” confirms “thinking theism true.” A moral fact could be the recognition of a proposition that expresses that I owe others charity when I can manage it at no cost to myself. Moral facts are propositionalized positive and negative expressions of what I owe others. In our moral imagination, we often imagine what it might mean to fulfill some mysterious action and sometimes we want to universalize all others like the imagined other and the imagined action as a basis for how others would act given the same set of conditions. Yet, such an approach is dedicated to the objectification if the intention may have been seeking out only what I ought to do in that situation. I do not regard the others as anything other than those that again can be substituted for another.

On the Possibility of Epistemic Ressentiment?

In this post, I would like to expand the case for what I call epistemic resssentiment. The possibility of epistemic ressentiment came to me when I happened upon a forgotten passage in Scheler’s Ressentiment. In his Ressentiment. Scheler traces all varieties of experience in which ressentiment occurs, and proposes several initial forms in examples to arrive at the core of true ressentiment proper. Towards the end of the first part, Scheler writes:

...a secret ressentiment underlies every way of thinking which attributes creative power to mere negation and criticism. Thus modern philosophy I deeply penetrated by a whole type of thinking which is nourished by ressentiment. I am referring to the view that the “true” and the “given” is not that which is self-evident, but rather that which is “indubitable” or “incontestable,” which can be maintained against doubt and criticism. Let us also mention the principle of “dialectical method,” which wants to produce not only non-A, but even B through the negation of A. All the seemingly positive valuations and judgments of ressentiment are hidden devaluations and negations. Whenever convictions are not arrived at by direct contact with the world and the objects themselves, but indirectly through critique of the opinions of others, the processes of thinking are impregnated with ressentiment. The establishment of “criteria” for testing the correctness of opinions then becomes the most important task. Genuine and fruitful criticism judges all opinions with reference to the objects itself. Ressentiment criticism on the contrary, accepts no “object” that has not stood the test of criticism.[1]

And two paragraphs later, Scheler informs us of the formal structure of ressentiment itself:

The formal structure of ressentiment expression is always the same: A is affirmed, valued, and praised not for its own intrinsic quality, but with the unverbalized intention of denying, devaluating, and denigrating B. A is “played off” against B.[2]

In these two passages, I do not intend an extensive exegesis. Instead, I will expand what Scheler means in order to offer an account of epistemic ressentiment. I will distingusi two varieties: Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment and Interlocutor Ressentiment. I find difficulty with the latter and insist on the plausibility of the former.
In the extensive passage, Scheler introduces the modern period and dearth of trust in self-evidency. For him, the condition of modern philosophy is one in which the true and the given cannot be experienced at all, let alone be the subject matter of a knowledge claim. Modernity exemplified in Descartes offers only the inner working of subjectivity as a measure for any knowledge claim. A knowledge claim must be inconstestable and indubitable. For Scheler, this Cartesian emphasis removes the knowledge claim from putting us into contact with the world and its objects in the right way. For Scheler, only direct contact with the world and objects themselves serve as a normative principle for making knowledge claims. If a philosophical system does not have contact with the world and its objects in the right way, then those knowledge claims become questionable. In Cartesian thought, the world and its objects are divided into the realm of extension and the workings of the subjectivity where one feels the valence of self-reference as a source of validation for all knowledge claims. Yet, what is really happening is that the subject is the affirming the value of itself to deny and denigrate the realm of objects. Descartes’s cogito plays up the self-referential function as a measure to which all other claims must be grounded upon, yet the privilege of one is made at the expense of nature in an unconvincing division between thinking substance and extended substance. Therefore, any philosophical system that has its source and validation in the subject cannot tease out the difference between itself and genuine knowledge claims without succumbing to epistemic ressentiment. In the preceding passage, Scheler describes two forms of epistemic ressentiment: 1) Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment and 2) Interlocutor Ressentiment. Let me first take up Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment.
The concern for a test in the Cartesian sense, the test of indubitability, is a case of epistemic ressentiment of asserting the value of the subject over and against the world. I call this Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment. In truth, any philosophical system – as is the case with both empiricism and rationalism is secretly “nourished by ressentiment.” These examples embody a system that introduces the unnecessary division between intentional acts and objects. As I have said earlier, when Scheler observes a dearth of the world and object leading one’s own epistemic efforts, this commitment is a residuum of Scheler’s phenomenology of “spiritual seeing.” Such spiritual seeing requires only that a commitment to experience of acts and objects be described in tandem with each other.

…phenomenology is neither the name of a new science nor a substitute for the word philosophy; it is the name of an attitude of spiritual seeing in which one can see or experience something which otherwise remains hidden, namely, a realm of facts of a particular kind. I say attitude, not method. A method is a goal-directed procedure for thinking about facts…before they have been fixed by logic, and second, of a procedure of seeingThat which is seen and experienced is given only in the seeing and experiencing of the act itself, in its being acted out; it appears in that act and only in it. [3]

 In this way, we can easily understand why Scheler urges the return of both the “world” and “object” in the long passage after mentioning Descartes. The object is “that which is seen and experienced is given only in the seeing and experiencing of the act itself, in its being acted out; it appears in the act and only in it.” In Ressentiment, the lack of phenomenological content of acts-in-relation-to-the-world is lost in Descartes’s succumbing to epistemic ressentiment. The real open question remains, however. In proposing this initial form of epistemic ressentiment, does Scheler advance an implicit commitment to interpret all non-phenomenological forms of philosophizing as guilty of epistemic ressentiment? I will return to this question later. For now, I think we are ready for a formal statement of epistemic ressentiment (ER) for both Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment and Interlocutor Ressentiment:

ER: is an epistemic act or system of epistemic acts constituting an entire philosophical system in which the valuation of a knowledge claim A is affirmed not for the intrinsic quality of honoring the intentional relation and expressing truth, but to denigrate another knowledge claim B or system of epistemic acts consistent with B.

            Next, let me transition to Interlocutor Ressentiment. We can see this definition in the second matter before us, dialectical method. In that method, it is usually accepted that an Interlocutor can put forth a conclusion resting on several premises and another epistemic agent can propose their own counter-argument as to why the first argument is either unsound in its content or invalid in its structure. I largely accept these norms given that adherence to these norms produces better philosophical positions than those that might ignore these norms of good reasoning. However, there are times when these norms are not guided by a search for truth, but are instrumental tools in the critique of opinions. In some ways, the social experiences at some APA meetings tend to devolve into harsh exchanges that feign civility between interlocutors. In those instances, argumentation – like subject/object split systems in the modern period, are capable of being more concerned with the “establishment of criteria for testing the correctness of opinions” than “fruitful criticism” judging opinion in relation to the “object itself. When Scheler mentions the “object itself,” he is expressing a concern for the phenomenological object. Phenomenological seeing is, therefore, a normative principle at work here. The whatness of the phenomenon guides our insight of the object correlating to the epistemic act in immanent intuition. The object opens itself up to our epistemic act. Insofar as we are valuing truth itself in the epistemic act, the object must attend the act to get it right.
            Scheler is pretty clear that true ressentiment requires two elements. First, the person feeling ressentiment must be impotent, and incapable of releasing the emotive discharge of ressentiment. Moreover, the feeling of ressentiment requires comparison with others—typically in the form of envy and jealously. From the following two passages, the comparison between subject/object split modern thinkers and those who use the dialectic method, neither envy nor jealously seem especially apt for what I have been talking about here. For the modern thinkers, the comparison is made from a stable subject against an indifferent world of objects. The epistemic acts of modern thinkers in subject-object epistemologies are more concerned with logical consistency than letting direct contact with the world and objects guide understanding. In this way, modern thinkers never understand the primal-urge drives and affective instincts at work in a particular metaphysical system. In fact, Scheler and Nietzsche would agree that only through philosophical reflection can the very unconscious motives and factors shaping a metaphysical system and cultural lifeworld be brought to the foreground. These unconscious motives can be a source of value delusion in which delusive preferences are promoted by inhering in the very heart of the metaphysical system for an entire cultural ethos. An ethos for Scheler is a particular understanding of the objective value-rankings in which an individual and culture may have a true or false ranking of the eternal value-rankings. For instance, a cultural ethos may prefer pleasure over the epistemic truth, and this value-preferencing while not right when measured against Scheler’s value-rankings may be ingrained in their lifeworld. As such, these ingrained tendencies and responses underly the entire metaphysical lifeworld ethos. In Descartes, for instance, all persons are reduced to a homogenous universal rational subject that with the use of reason will come to be a “master and possessor of nature.” Clearly, Scheler thinks that the function of phenomenological reflection brings the immanent relation between the person and the primordial feeling of the knowledge claim and its object into full view, even beyond the particular ethos in which one is living. Otherwise, a person may be deceived by the value-delusion that redirects the drives, instincts and desires implicitly shaping the understanding of a knowledge claim and its object into a misapprehension of how values are ranked objectively. For this very reason, Resisting epistemic ressentiment occurs when persons value truth, justice and the beautiful over the particular ethos that lowers these values of the object to serve some other purpose.
            In the dialectical method of philosophy, the social experience can serve other purposes beyond truth. In some ways, Scheler’s brief allusion through the powers of negation of non-A and the denunciation of B seem suffuse with an awareness of the problems in social epistemology in which interest/belief and power/knowledge are intimately interwoven. Like before, the mere criticism of an opinion without reference to the object employs the same phenomenological norm as before. Without being guided by the act-object correlating structure, the use of dialectical method can conceal what is truly occurring. Notice, however, in the formal definition of ressentiment Scheler regards the relation of the negation of A as a silent “unverbalized” devaluation of B, even if B is not strictly mentioned. In the much the same way as before, the devaluation of someone else’s opinion involves here the comparison of one’s belief to that of another. The social reality can be a dialogic exchange that occurs in speech or writing. Using the dialogic exchange in a dialectic method entails a social act. For Scheler, social acts entail the presence of the others in order for them to be realized. The dialectic method, therefore, is social and intersubjective as the earlier example of a metaphysical system. The introduction of a test of correctness conceals that the exchange between two or more interlocutors, yet ressentiment is a movement of psychic energy that once internalized and repressed lashes out in the epistemic act shared with others. In ressentiment, one person becomes devalued by the other in an exchange. On the surface, this epistemic ressentiment is difficult to see. The social aspect of the epistemic ressentiment is not concerned with truth but through devaluation and negation. In devaluation and negation, a silent intention is unconcerned with truth. The devalued person illustrates the stupidity found in the heart of his personal core beliefs. The devalued person and his beliefs are regarded as a cause for why others do not accept my beliefs.
            We are now in a position to evaluate both types. First, I will mention the problem with the Interlocutor Ressentiment given in Scheler’s exposition of the dialectic method. Here, Scheler’s case is a bit overstated, nor is Scheler’s agitation of the modern period and its inability to allow evidence through intuition freely given. These are insights that need more refinement, and I find them insufficiently articulated in epistemic ressentiment. In the dialectic method, arguments are scrutinized by offering up counterexamples and reasons that might falsify a premise in the argument. Moreover, someone might show that the argument contradicts itself, the conclusion is not supported by the premises or any other number of argumentative mechanics. These argumentative mechanics are accepted as norms for philosophizing generally speaking. Given that philosophy inquires into conceptual questions that common sense, faith or science alone cannot grasp, the application of dialectic method and the logical norms ensure that philosophizing can arrive at truth. In this way, logical norms and dialectic method can conceal some silent intention unverbalized intention for epistemic ressentiment, but it would be very hard for the activity alone in the critique of mere opinions to conceal such intentions due to the wide range of those logical norms associated with dialectic method. Even phenomenological seeing requires logical consistency and the avoidance of contradiction when the phenomenologist describes the act-object intentional structure. These are norms that govern phenomenology as well as underscore dialectic method. As such, direct phenomenological contact with the world and objects is not an entirely reliable indicator when epistemic ressentiment occurs between two interlocutor as an ability to honor the truth as Scheler seems to imply here. What I will say is that phenomenological seeing is necessary for detecting epistemic ressentiment just not sufficient. Not everyone engaged in argumentation or claiming knowledge in relation to someone else is interested in honoring the truth as they should, but for those that value truth above lower values in Scheler’s rankings are immune from epistemic ressentiment. Epistemic ressentiment is better understood as a value-delusion.
            If epistemic ressentiment is better understood as a form of value-delusion, then a revision of my formal definition is required. Particularly, I must revise what ambiguously appears as “denigration” and qualify what I mean by it. The denigration of B is a distortion of what is co-given or co-felt and like the metaphysical lifeworld ressentiment, there is a distortion on the part of what I know from how the cultural lifeworld constitutes my knowledge in both the affective and cognitive dimensions. Both these experiences embody how a particular ethos can reveal the value-preferences of an entire culture. In other words, the case for epistemic ressentiment makes sense as an opening up the possibility of what will become Scheler’s Principles of a Sociology of Knowledge. While I do not have space to develop the following thought, it should be shared. I conjecture that the pursuit of real factors in epistemic acts fosters epistemic ressentiment, and the pursuance of ideal factors avoids it. Let me transition to Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment.
            Scheler’s insights for Metaphysical Lifeworld Ressentiment are better developed. Still, I would like to pause and return to my earlier rhetorical question: In proposing this initial form of epistemic ressentiment, does Scheler advance an implicit commitment to interpret all non-phenomenological forms of philosophizing as guilty of epistemic ressentiment? From the two brief passages here, that might seem likely. However, we must remember that Scheler’s phenomenological method is one of seeing, and it privileges intuitive evidence to gain access into the primordial affectivity, value-structures and the beliefs foregrounded by them. In that way, there are other possible methods one may employ to arrive at the same insights for Scheler. Pragmatism brings into reflection the cultural milieu of a particular problem or valuation in much the same way. For pragmatists are concerned with how some ideas, conceptions and beliefs functionalize in the cultural lifeworld, and James in particular is aware that metaphysical beliefs are motivated very much by our practical and aesthetic interests though pragmatism would never propose an eternal value-ranking.
            In this short post, I have come full circle, and while not a refined reflection, certainly we can see that epistemic ressentiment is a possibility, but the metaphysical and lifeworld ethos must already saturate the domain of an epistemic agent. Moreover, the sociology of knowledge, even if not Scheler’s but possibly Mannheim might better articulate the relationship between social aspects of knowledge and epistemic acts. I am digressing and should end this post.

[1] Max Scheler, Ressentiment trans. W. W. Holdheim (New York: Glencoe, 1961), 67-68.
[2] Scheler, Ressentiment, 68.
[3] Max Scheler, “Phenomenology and the Theory of Cognition” in Selected Philosophical Essays (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973): 136-201. Scheler, Phenomenology, 137-138 here. Emphasis mine. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An Oddity of The Left?

I have many friends on the academic Left. These span the gambit between ultra-revolutionary classical Marxists to tame Habermasians that only want to cultivate communicative praxis in political discourse. In this post, I ask that you allow me to indulge in thinking there are soft Leftists and hard Leftists. Hardly anybody in my experience is a Hard Leftist. Hard Leftists were perhaps famous during the 1960/70ss when counter-cultural politics occupied a height unparalleled since that time. Now, Hard Leftists are simply novelty, an interesting oddity on campus, and I have come to think that even the very successful academic careers tend to tame Hard Leftists into Softer Leftists. To be a hard Leftist requires a constant passion to address systemic wrongs or a series of wrongs usually through an overarching unified explanation (Marxism of some variety), and the constant ire of their philosophical and political passion is unnerving to many. You may have observed this when they teach, but then the same professor goes home in their Bentley they bought from what they make at a tier 1 research school.

Softer Leftists simply only want to engage in a critique. They see their efforts at clarifying existing power structures, but often they do not live what they teach. The disconnect, however, is explainable by their softer attitudes and the want to open the eyes of whom they teach. They are affecting culture in a slower way. The Hard Leftist desires revolution of some variety; the Soft Leftist would welcome a revolution of awareness. Both, however, never have any productive positive solution to offer.

Strangely enough, the only philosophers that offer solutions as part of their routine are applied ethicists and thinkers of a pragmatic bent. This strikes me as odd. Some of my Leftist friends in both camps are so upset at the world that they continue on upset in the maddening fixation fueled by critique, but they never reach beyond critique or when they call for revolution, they are constantly calling for activism about something different each time.