Topic: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

I. THE HISTORY OF AN IDEOLOGY.

Die Schranke der tierischen Organisation liegt darin, dass dem Individuum sein selber Sein verborgen ist...  (The limitation of animal organization lies in the fact that the individual is buried (hidden) in its own being...)  Helmuth Plessner

Since its inception in Prewar Germany, Philosophical Anthropology has stressed a certain "freedom" that human beings have.   This would be a freedom from instinct, a freedom from the inborn mental narrowness that constrains other animals.  Such a philosophy of freedom, grounded in real observations of animal and human thought and behavior, would appear to provide a theoretical basis to the ideas of freedom, say in democratic theory, that have long existed.  "Freedom" is a word with venerable past that long antedates PA.   It is arguably one of the most important words in the language of modern Western religious and social ideology.  Christians use the word, communists use it, Napoleon used it .  The word was central in Hegelianism.   We are not asking at this point in our argument whether there has ever been general political and social freedom or whether, indeed, there is any real point in using the word freedom to apply to real conditions.   Freedom is a word which has long appeared in philosophy.  We may assume that there is a common sense definition of the term, meaning, of course, that given two or more choices, the individual may chose one of them.  We are not saying, in other words, that the word freedom lacks all consistent definition; we are only saying that freedom lacks any meaningful application where whole groups of humans are concerned.   We affirm that in theory the word freedom means something; and that, as I have already said, Philosophical Anthropology--a concept of human "openness" and lack of instinctual restraint--supports this theory.

Much of Philosophical Anthropology, not in its overall progam of thinking, but in its final conclusions is about so-called freedom.  The human being is considered by PA as inherently--by virtue of his fixed constitution--as free.   This inherent "open" or self-transcending perspective exists, in other words, not primarily because of some later political arrangements--democracy and so forth--but by virtue of an inborn disposition of the human as a species of a certain sort.  This species character was the focus of Philosophical Anthropology.  But could this alledged species freedom of humans be developed as a general political ideology?   

The realities of politics of  Postwar Germany have favored the survival of this branch of philosophy.  I fall short of saying that philosophical anthropology is "liberal."  Its main points were these:  (1) The central task of philosophy is to establish the essential or basic nature and role of the human being on earth; (2) the human being, unlike other animals, is "open" to new possibilities of life; (3) the human being lacks instincts that animals have and must compensate for this lack through intelligence; (4) the human being is "ex-centric," that is, he lives largely if not exclusively at a point distant from the being that he was, as an animal, whereupon he can reflect upon himself (he lives by seeing himself as he sees other things and beings that there are in the universe).  To characterize such a viewpoint as "liberal" could be a misunderstanding.  (Arnold Gehlen, above all the other thinkers, provides what may be called a "conservative correction" of an underlying liberalistic doctrine of human nature.  More of Gehlen later.) On the other hand, the theme of moral philosophy throughout the ages has been to stress a certain freedom of choice, that is, to stress the potential self-lessness and empathy of the individual.  Philosophy has long dwelt on the human capacity to see oneself as others see one; to abide with other humans in a selfless way.  Germany following World War II sought to divest itself of its various gods and symbols, among them Hegelianism and the philosophies of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.  Philosophical Anthropology became, by default, the lone straggling survival of German defeat.  In this--appropriate to the disadvantaged position of Germany following World War II--Philosophical Anthropology lent itself to the prevailing viewpoints of democracy and "freedom."

This one thread of German philosophy--Philosophical Anthropology-- did survive the War as an active and practiced mode of philosophizing.   I took a course in PA in 1963 under Otto Friedrich Bullnow at Tuebingen where PA was thriving.   Otherwise, at Tuebingen, along with other fatalities of war, traditional German philosophy was relegated to a sort of limbo and replaced with the doctrines of Adorno, Marcuse, Wittgenstein and other expatriot thinkers. These later men did not teach in Germany.   PA, inoffensive as it was, was at any rate bland enough to count as "German."  Max Scheler first set the tone of p.a. in the '30s in his Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos.  Here Scheler pronounced that the human being, as opposed to an animal, is weltoffen (open to the world).  Since Stellung, other writers, now having survived the War, also stressed the world-openness of the human being.  Here our task is not to describe PA but to establish the consistency or inconsistancy with prevailing philosophies--democracy, Christianity and even in its own way Communism--of freedom.  The question before us presently is whether or not the concept of world-openness can be construed as a concept of freedom.  Certainly that is an obvious possibility.   That is, Scheler emphasized that the human being, now "free of instincts" that confine animals, is "open" to vastly new possibilities.  Subsequent writers who have dominated p.a. are Helmuth Plessner and Arnold Gehlen;  both afirm  world-openness as the Wesen, or essence, of the human.  But they added to Scheler's original thesis. 

Certain central ideas of PA support philosophies of freedom.   

For the moment I want to focus on Gehlen who is the most pointedly political of the three philosophers talked about here.  Arnold Gehlen calls the human being a Mangelwesen--creature of deficiencies.  Essentially,  Scheler is an optimist who sees the human being, deprived of instincts locking him into a certain mode of action and point of view, as "open" to new possibilities.  Instincts would be only confinements; it is best to be rid of them.  However, this freedom brings with it a disorientation and lack of focus and purpose.   Gehlen sees that, without the orientation of animal instincts, the human is now as it were cast out into nature with no direction.  Having unlimited freedom, says Gehlen, the human being must restrict that freedom.    Released from instincts, Gehlen says, the human being must find his orienation and mode of life in culture.  Now culture rather than instinct does must and does steer humans toward a productive and secure life.  Although culture according to Gehelen is something that humans freedly and creatively produce for themselves, these new forms of live are supportive only if they also are regimenting and organizing.   Gehlen is clearly what we would call conservative.  For Gehlen, more than Plessner, the human being needs stable--even highly ritualistic--institutions.   The human world-openness and instinct-deficiency disposes humans to insecurity and lack of orientation without these cultural constructs. 

Helmuth Plessner calls the human being ex-centric.  The human being in effect can stand outside himself, as it were as a second person, and see the world from an entirely new vantage point.  This ability confers on the human an immense advantage over animals.   Plessner differs from Gehlen on the point of emphasis.  Plessner stresses the freedom that the human being has of instincts, above all, of association.  The instinctive association, known as the clan or small community, is based on personal ties.  In a line of thinking clearly political, Plessner reminds the people of his day that there is no possibility of reconstituting a gemeinschaft on a massive scale as proposed by the National Socialists.  The human being  remains forever, following his release from instinct and gemeinschaft in the lower paleolithic, ex-centric.  That is, according to Plessner, the human being is destined to live in mass societies such as exist today.  Just as the human is by natue ex-centric, so is his society.  This ex-centricity of humans in a social capacity describes large scale associations from religious groups to communism and capitalism.

The effort of this webbsite has been to unite Philosophical Anthropology, not as an ideology or political viewpoint so much as a program of investigation, with Force Theory advanced by Egen Duhring.  The point to be made throughout this essay on Philosophical Anthropology is this:  that the structure of animal- and ancient human behavior prefigures the structure of mind and human thinking.  We are trying to find antecedents of the human mind--the ways humans think--in the behavior of prehuman ancestors.  The way prehumans moved, we are saying, prefigures the way they think.  We must in this connection focus research on early human patterns of living.

We essentially do reject, finally, the essential conclusions of Gehlen, Plessner and Scheler regarding the Wesen of man.  Force Theory contradicts German Philosophical Anthropology on the issue of instincts in human beings.  That is true.  But it is also the case that Force Theory does not consider instinct as the fundamental issue.  Force Theory does not affirm the existence of instincts--it does not have to--but states the final intractable fact of all existence, the identity of the self with itself.    Plessner et all seems to suggest that the self can be other than itself. That is to say, without any real confidence in metaphysical statements, we assert that the self cannot be anything but itself.   We need to state this issue in plain language.  In its capacity as an exercise in Philosophical Anthropology, we assume that the human being is irrevocably centered, whereby, finally, the human being is essentially self-ish.  The program of Philosophical Anthropology, as a general plan of thinking--to assume that the behavior of early animal ancestors of humans prefigures human thinking-- the Force Theory, presented here, accepts.   The whole case, which was an anthropological assumption in the 1930s, for the non-existence of instincts is presently in question.  It appears that humans do have instincts.   

But instincts are not presently our problem.  We may set that whole issue aside.  What concerns us is the fact that, whether or not humans have instincts or set patterns of behavior, they appear to have set ways of thinking.  The program of forced animal conduct has been transferred out of the sphere of reflexes and lower body wiring to the realm of the mind.  Here, as Schopenhauer said, conflicts between instinctive responses are carefully sorted through and decisions made by mind.  The basic elements of animal behavior are encoded, we are saying, or programed not so much into instincts (although humans do have plentiful instincts) as they are programmed into human thinking.  This thinking is not free, we are saying, and it is ex-centric only in a conditional and qualified way.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-12-17 15:03:01)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

II. CENTRALITY AND EX-CENTRALITY IN THE CONTEXT OF FORCE THEORY

The program of Force Theory follows in general that of Philosophical Anthropology.  We look first at the "homely details" of everyday life for a clue as to what humans are "really like."  Our program now, however, consists not first of  making a statement about the definitive traits of humans, but of inferring from well known and obvious behavioral traits of humans--and their animal ancestors--traits that are more obscurely mental.  These obscure but fixed and encoded features of mind are often hidden by more superficial logical processes that are also mental.   This approach--to infer the vague from the known--arguably is "pure" Philosophical Anthropology.  Some pronouncement by Scheler, Plessner or Gehlin as to what human nature essentially is we ascribe to ideology, not astute observation.  It is beside the point that humans are or may be--or may not be--weltoffen.  The real issue at hand is mind, what mind is like and where it came from. The position of Force Theory, then, as derived from Duhring, does not contradict German Philosophical Anthropology as propounded by Gehlen (Mangelwesn) and Plessner (Exzentrizitaet) regarding the existence or non-existence of instincts in human beings. 

Human beings may, we concede, may have abbreviated instincts that are not so important in behavior as those of other animals.  We could argue this point either way--for the existence or not existence of instincts in humans--without affecting the outcome of our argument.  This issue need not be settled right away.  Indeed, behavioral science is now dealing with the issue of human instincts in a thorough experimental and scientifically advanced fashion; we may trust its conclusions.  (Actually, science is now saying categorically that humans do have instincts, that they are complicated but thoroughly encoded in the genetic structure of our species.  This conclusion contradicts German PA.)  The argument of this essay, as a statement of Force Theory, is that what was instinct has become, in humans, a feature of mind and thought.   At the basis of Force Theory, as presented here, is a notion of centrality.  The human being is ex-centric in an incidental sense but centric in a a fundamental sense.  What is being proposed is the thesis that centricity is an issue of human identity.  While, on the other hand, ex-centricity is an issue of momentary practicality.

The animal is at rest in its safe haven.  We have already established this safe have as an elevated place in the terrain where the surrounding country can be surveyed.  There may be a clump of trees or some other protective feature.  I discuss this haven later.  For the moment we may say, simply, that here the animal is at rest.  It stares out at the countryside but its mind is mostly vacant; it may even sleep.  This time of rest and quiet and mindlessness we may call one of our most basic "primal facts."  A primal fact in the context of Force Theory is a homely detail of everyday animal existence that becomes encoded first in behavior and then, over time, in the purely mental process that evolved later in humans.  What was instinct becomes mind.  The human being has a safe haven--that haven is first and foremost not a physical place so much as mind itself.  We are talking here about what I call the "security of identity," the idea, in other words, that the self is safely the self itself.  With some awareness of risk, it want to raise the metaphysical idea of "identity.

The life of an animal--in its centrality and ex-centrality--prefigures the life of a human being.  We must qualify this statement.  The animal lives ex-centrically to the extent that it must depart from its safe haven.  The animal is also centric in that it returns to its safe haven.  We have already discussed this dichotomy of animal life.   In the case of human beings, on the other hand, this same animal ex-centricity is also mental.  The human being not only may live apart from the safe center of his existence, where his body and mind are at rest, but may think of himself as apart from that haven.  He departs from it in his own mind.  We must finally discuss this departure in all its nuances and ramifications.  His body at rest in the immediate surroundings of his protected, central place, it is in his mind that he wanders out.  He surveys the surrounding landscape as in a dream; he is there but not there.  In this surrounding place, which is full of possibilities and dangers, he must exert himself mentally.  He must actually think.  He sees animals there but ones that are fantoms of his mind.  He pursues these animals or, as the case may be, runs from them.  He fights offensive and defensive battles.  This he does entirely in his mind before he moves even a step.  Of course this vision of an outside world is tantamount to laying a plan.  All this planning confers, of course, a great advantage to his species.  He is able to predict, through prior experience, what he will encounter.  For the animal everything is new and a surprise.

The human being--again in his mind--draws connections and perceives relationships.   In place of the physical center where he presently resides he has to create a new center, which is himself.  A relationship to say, an animal prey, is a relationship to some center.  In the case of this mental plan the relationship is between an animal, imagined as we already said, and, on the other hand, a human being--himself.  There can be no correct assessment of the logic of a proposed hunt, with the prey as object, without a understanding a subject to which that object is connected.  I want to be clear on this point.  The relationships we are talking about, in the primal hunt, is between a preditor and prey.  I talked extensively about this problem in my Philtalk articles; I will have to repeat myself.  The human being from his physical position not on the field of the hunt can only imagine the animal prey; he cannot see it physically.  But there is more. The hunter in his plan must also see himself.  He is the center, now transplanted to a new place, from or to which relationships are drawn.  This is a practical issue, to judge, say, what distance he will be from his prey.  But this is finally a metaphysical idea.  The center that has to be drawn in our hypothetical plan of the hunt is the hunter himself as understood in mind and thought.  This sort of planning began in the Paleolithic cultural period.  This postulated hunter is indeed the human being's first encounter with himself.

The issue of centrality versus ex-centrality has a metaphysical side which must be delt with here.  Actually, the question is not at all difficult to deal with.  The philosophies affirming ex-centrality over centrality work assiduously to cover a contradiction in their point of view.  What we are saying here, on the other hand, is very simple.  There must be centrality; indeed, we assert that centrality is being itself.  Schopenhauer (in particular) would support us in this position. 

The person as Sein (being) cannot see himself.  He is the one seeing, not the one seen. We are saying only, of course, that he cannot directly see himself.  He can "see" himself, of course, but only indirectly.  He does that by making an inference about himself from something he sees around him. As he sees beings and objects asround him he assumes, as a matter of logical inference, that there is a being who sees.  He knows that he sees; still he cannot see himself.  There are any number of ways of stating this (for us) essential truth.  He could of course look in a mirror to see himself; but the image on the mirror is a reflection of himself, not his self itself.  And of course the person is surrounded on all sides by beings, now physical apparitions, that speak to him and tell him he is a being like they are.  In this way--as connected to himself through other persons--he is ex-centric, moral and social.  Seeing as an activity presupposes a being, in other words, which or who cannot see itself.   Humans no less than animals are limited in this way.  In the sense that a human being is a condition but not an object of seeing, the human is centric. 

There are further issues as we survey philosophical speculation coming from Germany under the banner of phenomeonology.  There is a great deal of talk there about a person's coming to grip with himself through some sort of pure introspection. This talk would have to be based on a logical contradiction.  Seeing itself cannot see its own seeing. Seeing by definition is always from some vantage point outward.  To say that the seeing could see itself would contradict the whole idea of seeing.   I think the entire issue of self is resolved through this last sentence.  Phenomonology as presented by Husserl and his students is a shere impossibility.   I believe his ideas are nonsense; of course if they were true--if we could really "grasp" ourselves--this would seriously refute our present egoistic and racistic arguments. I will not permit this to happen so long as the issue is so easily resolved in a simple and short statement.  We can deal in just a few words with the entire issue of "pure inwardness."   A thing (or principle) cannot be but also not be what it is.  This reference to the law of non-contradiction deals with the entire issue of seeing--but also with the issues of the self and ego..    I therefore want to say that so-called "inward introspection," or "direct apprehension" talked about by (perhaps) the phenomenologists or Bergson is a total misapprehension.  Inward "grasp" of the self is an inference of logic; such a "grasp" is mediated by purely abstract faculties and does not constitute true self-awareness.  Finally the ego--whether individual or racial--stands both as a fact and an ideological point of view simply because to deny the ego and the race would entail a logical self-contradiction.  We can rid ourselves of the ego and race no more than we could denying the act of seeing or knowing.  The ego and race are what knows.  The issue is as simple as that!

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-12-21 16:46:43)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

III. INSTINCTS OF CENTEREDNESS

Mensch sein ist an keine bestimmte Gestalt gebunden und koennte daher auch (einer geistreichen Mutmassung des Palaeontologen Dacque zu gedenken) unter mancherlei Gestalt stattfinden, die mit der uns bekannten nicht uebereinstimmt. (Plessner: Stufen p. 293)  ("Being human does not mean being bound to some one form that corresponds to the people we know.") 

I might mention in passing that (Edgar) Dacque proposed that the ancestors of human beings were dragons (!) in body but already human in their point of view.   Plessner does not describe Dacque's idea but does it "geistreich"(fanticiful), absolving him, Plessner, from any commitment to the dragon theory of evolution.  But the point is made.  The humanity of human beings is a trait that is not confined by any physical or mental form.  This lack of specificity constitutes the freedom of the human being.  The human being "[ist] vom Selbstsein in seiner Mitte, dem Innenleben, abgehoben..."  (The human being is released from being himself in his middle, in his inner life.)

Mensch sein ist an keine bestimmte Gestalt gebunden und koennte daher auch (einer geistreichen Mutmassung des Palaeontologen Dacque zu gedenken) unter mancherlei Gestalt stattfinden, die mit der uns bekannten nicht uebereinstimmt.  (Plessner: Stufen p. 293)  ("Being human does not mean being bound to some one form that corresponds to the people we know.")  I might mention in passing that (Edgar) Dacque proposed that the ancestors of human beings were dragons (!) in body but already human in their point of view.   Plessner does not describe Dacque's idea but does it "geistreich"(fanticiful), absolving him, Plessner, from any commitment to the dragon theory of evolution.  But the point is made.  The humanity of human beings is a trait that is not confined by any physical or mental form.  This lack of specificity constitutes the freedom of the human being.  The human being "[ist] vom Selbstsein in seiner Mitte, dem Innenleben, abgehoben..."  (The human being is released from being himself in his middle, in his inner life.)

To him [the person], the container of being inside his own body [in relation] to the being outside of the body is an inescapable double-aspect of existence, a real break in his nature.  He [the person] lives this side and that side of the break, as soul and as body and as the psychologically neutral unity of these spheres.  The unity however does not cover over (ueberdecken)  the double-aspect; it lets it not derive from it; it is not the oppositional resolving third (thing), that resolves (ueberleitet); it builds no self-sufficient sphere.  It (the mediating principle) is itself the break, the hiatus, the empty transition of the mediation, that for the living being itself the absolute double-character and double-aspect of body and soul are equal, in which he (the mediating principle) experiences [this double aspect].  (translation:  R Swartzbaugh)

Plessner states that the human being's species character dictates an unresolvable bipolarity.  The human being is both centric and ex-centric.  We aver presently that the human being also, in the conflict between centered and ex-centric sides of his character, must also return to a center.  He must affirm that center.  I have elsewhere [cite] spoken of that center as the egoisms of the individual and race.  A further exposition of that centeredness will follow here.

Every animal has a center.  This is a location in physical space where the animal, while moving about and away from this center, returns.  It might be a clump of trees or some rocks, perhaps a small elevation with a view of the surrounding land.  There are certain terrains favored in this way depending on the species concerned.   This spatial positioning--which is not precisely the same (we are saying) as territorialism but is a related instinct--is a fact easy to observe in animal behavior.  At or near this place the creature feels protected from attack; also it knows that a source of food and water is not far away.  The animal "gravitates" here--an appropriate expression.  But there is more. This "ethology" of the animal--a description of animal behavior--is only a small and external part of our problem.  Ultimately our objective is a grasp of mind.  We are trying to understand what the human versus animal mind is.   We are proceeding beyond the realm of ethology or instinctive animal behavior and are embarking, now, into a line of speculation that is more purely philosophical anthropology and phenomenonlogy.  We are talking in other words about the being of the animal, what the animal essentially is.  This is an "internal" investigation into the way the animal and human live from their own respective points of view.   When we speak of an animal's center, then, we may mean more than a physical bit of space.  This physical center is only what the animal has, or a place that an animal resides.   The animal also is a center.  We have radically shifted our perspective when we talk about the being as itself a center.  The animal has a "point of view" that it, the animal, is.  This centrality--or centricity, as we are calling it here--is what constitutes the animal.  Centrality is what the animal is.  We may finally move on to consider what, for his part, the human being--whom Helmuth Plessner has called exzentrisch, or ex-centric--likewise is. 

Speaking of the security that an animal has in being at the center of its physical life-- that clump of trees we were talking about--the animal is also secure in its animal point of view.  I mean to distinguish this point of view from the human mentality--Plessner has called this human vantage point "ex-centricity."   The security an animal has, that makes the animal different than the human, is its "identity with itself."  There is for the animal no "identity problem" as such, insofar, obviously, as the animal does not see itself at all.  The animal sees what is around itself, while never "reflecting" upon itself.  (Certain animals such as the gorilla and elephant seem to have some self-comprehension; we will leave this subject until later.)  We have raised the issue of security as central to our philosophical treatise.  A contrast now appears that is clear and straightforward between concepts of having a center and being a center.  A center that one has can be changed; a center that one is cannot be changed, without, that is, destroying the being that one is.  The center that one has can be moved, and is moved so long as there is an advantage to the being concerned.  The center that one is, on the other hand,  is a particular point, but not a point that has space, so much as a point that is also an ongong vantage point.  In an important sense, one's point of view is one's essential self.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-02 15:45:29)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

IV. PHYSICAL EX-CENTRICITY ANDTHE PATH TO A SAFE HAVEN
We began with the statement that an animal occupies, first, a safe haven.  This position in physical space is primarily defensive.  The animal feels that it is protected from predation by other animals.  This central space is "home."  But there is more.  The animal also sooner or later turns hungry and cannot satisfy its wants in the immediate space that it inhabits.  The animal must get up from its resting place and go out to find food.  A great issue was raised by neo-conservatives to the effect that the animal at this phase in his movement "occupies and defends a territory."  Some animals may defend a defined perimeter within which they get food; but others do not.  What the animal will defend, on the other hand, is a line of retreat to its safe haven.  Here, regardless of the odds against it or its previous proclivity for peace, the animal will become violent.   This behavior can be seen even in dogs.  Animals in general, having "secured" places where they feel protected, never lose sight of a line connecting themselves with this safe haven.  We talked first of the safe haven itself as a "center" of animal physical existence.  The animal has programmed into its behavior, instinctively, a proclivity to protect not so much a circle around itself, by way of a territory, as a line connecting itself to the secure center of its physical behavior. The animal is alert to that path as being open or closed.  As soon as the path is blocked in some way, the animal will suspend its other behavior--getting food--in order to either open that path or find an alternative one to the safe haven.  This is most basic animal behavior.

The animal, while securing also a physical path to its safe haven, must also go about in a realm where it, the animal, is not secure.  To go in search of food means among other things that the animal itself may be eaten.  We call this new position the animal's ex-centric orientation in space.  Here the demeanor of the animal is entirely different than it was when at its safe haven.  At the safe haven the animal could sleep; and when not sleeping the animal gazed about passively.  It surveyed the surrounding land in a contemplative rather than a practical way.  It's observations, such as they were, were casual; there was no structured planning or plotting.   In the animal's ex-centric position, on the other hand, where there are both opportunities (for food, say) and dangers, the mode of life of the animal is entirely different.  The creature now is thoughtful and alert.  It sees relationships and is as creative and focused as an animal ever is, depending upon its basic mental capacity.  The animal passes in a manner of speaking from a vita contemplativa to a vita activa.  The animal is now prowling with all the prospects and fears that prowling entails.  Here the mind is churning with observations, memories and calculations all coming together at once.  We may conclude that the animal mind is most active when the animal is in a physically excentric position, away that is from its safe center and, on the other hand, in a place of danger and opportunity.

An early voice of Philosophical Anthropology, Helmuth Plessner said (Stufen...) that the human being lives ex-centrically (exzentrisch).  The human point of view, according to Plessner, is "away from the (or 'a' ?) center."  Implied in his statement is that the human being had a center, or, better, was a center, sometime in his primal past, but finally moved away from the center.   Plessner's writing is turgid and any extensive exposition of his major work would be counterproductive at this time.  I am here giving an impression of Stufen which underscores his major point and draws out the implication of that point. Simply to save time, perhaps, I want to connect Plessner's viewpoint with Platonism and Kantianism.  This is to put the so-called "essence of man" (a focal phrase used since used by Max Scheler in philosophical anthropology) outside the individual body, and outside, indeed, any heretofore evolved biological form.  The transcendence or detachment of the human being has been a theme of philosophy.   Thus Plessner's word exzentrisch is simply another way of saying transcendent.

The human being, simply speaking, has long been been regarded by philosophers and theologians as  otherworldly.  Calling man otherworldly or "transcendental" would account for many human traits--empathy, charity and so forth--that distinguish humans from animals. I want also to add to this list of ex-centrisms the phenomenon of nationalism, which delinates human relations in terms of an external, abstract line called a national border. Politically as well as philosophically the human condition would seem to be evolving, we may say, from one of centrism to ex-centrism.   We will consider nationalism and several other ex-centrisms shortly.  At present we say only that, stressed by Plessner as a recent philosophical anthropologist, was the notion that either in the human's present, somewhere, or in his near or remote past the human being was centered and centric. Derived from Stufen.. is the suggestion that centers were essential to life until the advent of humankind as an ex-centric being.

The human being could exist, still, both being a center and moving away from that center.  What happens in this case would be--is--simply that the human falls into a state of dialectical tension wherein, contradicting himself, he must--in order to continue to exist--resolve that contradiction.
The animal, we have said, is secure in its centrality.  I alluded to a problem that humans have but animals don't have, that is, the problem of identity.  No animal, finally, with the possiblity of gorillas and chimps, has an identity problem of any significance.  Koko the Gorilla has referred to herself as "a very fine gorilla."  This point of view, while remarkable, seems to summarize what animals would think if they could think about themselves.  Simply stated, they would approve of themselves.  With human beings--who as Plessner said are exzentrisch--the matter is otherwise.  At this stage of our argument, on the other hand, a different but related issue must be raised:  that of the connection between vantage point and, on the other hand, the relations that a being draws between objects that are other than the being itself.  I feel that Plessner has gone into these issues; but his book is so turgidly written that I would exhaust myself just figuring out what he said.  I assume some of the material presented in my own essay duplicates what Plessner said (but I really don't know).  What is being discussed here is that, in changing one's perspective one changes relationships in all the objects or entities around one.  Hence, for instance, if one observes the universe solely from the perspective of earth, the universe will not change.   This is where astronomy stood during the Middle Ages.  And with this Medieval point of view there came a special security that the human being had that he was somehow "important' or "significant" in the universe.  This is a very simple and simplistic example of what we are talking about.  Later, of course, astronomy began building pictures that did not have the earth at the center of the universe.  I call this perspective "insecure."  On a simple human level this is true.  Man no longer felt himself to be a the center of his own world; his world was no longer his own. 

Philosophical anthropology aspires to reduce complex phenomena to simple principles.  Hence, for instance, we may assume that a hunter and his familial band have prospered in a certain piece of land.  The band locates itself at the center of that land.  But game runs out.  The band is forced to relocate itself.  An animal band may experience the same need and be forced to relocate.  Here animals and humans share the same change of circumstances.  But humans and animals are different in the ways they make this move.  The human being--as an "ex-centric" (exzentrisch) being can envision what hunting and living conditions are in a new territory.  Perhaps this band in question has a vague familiarity with a terrain at some distance, having already been there; it is possible for these people also to imagine where the prey will be, what difficulties will be encountered, and so forth.  This human capacity in reckoning with what is new is a great advantage.  Such an advantage--psychologists call this capacity displacement, which term roughly corresponds to what Plessner called exzentrisitaet and Scheler called weltoffen--puts them in the new place mentally before they arrive there physically.  Animals do not have this capacity at all.  On the other hand, the human being in thinking of himself in a new place also creates, in effect, a new person.  Also, around this new person are many new relationships.  We are beginning to see at this stage of our discussion how it has come to pass that the human being has created an "other" which is, yet is not, the person himself.

The animal sees the world as so many objects to be attained and so many threats to be evaded.  This is a fairly simple process of seeing and sensing.  At the center of this process is the animal mind; and this center never changes.  The center is always where it originally was.  Therefore, accordingly, the relationships that the animal enters into through its senses and understanding do not substantially change.  The challenges that there are remain consistant.  We are trying to understand, at this point, how human beings differ from animals in these relationships.  I have already said that the human being, in addition to reckoning relationships from the vantage point of an inborn center, which the human shares with animals, the human also has a sort of floating alternative ego which, as it were, is "out there somewhere."  So that, as we have already suggested, the human being "sees himself" in a new land, where he is not presently present, among all the things that there are in this new place.  He is in two places at once.  His new place, where he presently is not present, may indeed be more important to him--it is the key to his future survival.  He may know that his present location will no longer yield food or may hold danger; that is why he imagines himself in a new place.  An animal can of course change its location; but this is preprogrammed or instinctive behavior.  For the human this self displacement is mental.  We are left asking ourselves:  is there a relationship--which is an altogether new relationship--between what we will call the original center of the human being and his alternative center?  If there is--we are saying there is--what is this new relationship?  Is this a cooperative or a competitive relationship?  We have already said that there are distinct advantages that the human being gains from having, in addition to the first center or ego, an alternative ego.  Is there, on the other hand, some source of new difficulty that the human being might have?  Or possibly:  as humans progress in culture from a hunting and gathering society, and enter relationships through advanced technology and commerce, does the main center (or ego) and the alternative center (alterego?) fall into a strained relationship and one (as we are suggesting) that demands correction?

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-12-12 16:39:13)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

V. CONTRA PLESSNER

By ex-centric we can mean several things.  We may mean "being away from a center."  In this case, it is assumed that the being is not itself a center.  The safe haven of the animal or human, which I have already identified as the being's physical center, is not the being itself.  It, the center in this sense, is merely where the being goes to subside into mindless repose.  But physical space is not what we are ultimately talking about.    If the being were the center itself, then it could not "be" away from the center.   The center, identical with the being, would follow the being around as this being's identity.  We may examine Plessner's theory of ex-centricity within this context of "being." 

Plessner states (esp. p. 293) that the only limitation of the human being is a certain state of being "gebunden...nur an eine zentralistische Organisationsform..."  This state of being bound "only on a centralized form of Organisation" is the basis of human ex-centricity.  In other words, says Plessner, one cannot be ex-centric without being centric.  But the species character of the human being is in his being ex-centric.  Mainly what the human being is is a being "away from a center."  I believe that within the darkness of his argument Plessner somehow senses that there is a center somewhere which is the "basis" of human existence; but that existence fulfills itself, he is saying, in being ex-centric.  My purpose here is not to decry the ambivalence of Plessner, which is considerable, but to put the facts of centricity and ex-centricity into some kind of definite relationship.  Philosophical Anthropology has raised the issue.  But the issue still has to be settled. 

Plessner says (also quoted above) "The limitation of animal organization is in the fact that the individual is buried or hidden within itself.' (Stufen p. 288)   Plessner's concept of a positionalen Mitte (positional middle) is something that must concern us now.  The positional middle allows the human being, "standing outside" himself, to look at himself.  At the point of this "middle" the human is ex-centric.  What is being said here is that the "middle" is other than the "center."  This is a confusion Plessner never seems to resolve.  We must ourselves resolve this confusion before we can continue.  [:|Discuss German word Mittel as middle and means...?????]

Das Tier lebt aus seiner Mitte heraus, in seine Mitte hinein, aber es lebt nicht als Mitte. This translates as "The animal lives by moving out of its middle, and moving into its middle; but it does not live as a middle."  Here we have an example of Plessner's habit of translating what has been said before in a simpler way into German metaphysical mumbo jumbo.  We need not be discouraged.   By "living as a middle" Plessner means, or seems to mean, that a being--here a human being--thinks and acts by taking his self into consideration.  To live as a middle is to reflect upon oneself, or consider oneself, a middle-point or point of reference in the thinking.  This is what Plessner means by ex-centricity. 

To be ex-centric in these terms would contradict the idea of being in the sense I have talked about, as "self-conscious identity."   We may talk about being or existence-in-itself as a virtual center.  So, we would mean by being not precisely a "middle."  Pure being is a center of thought and action that does not reflect upon itself as a center. This is the state of mind of an animal.  Plessner's main book Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch is very turgid and his manner of writing is bound to cause confusion.  (In Philtalk, now verschoben, I talked at some length about the misery of Plessner's writing style; its proliferation of new terms in every paragraph and his refusal to define these new terms.  His main concept of ex-centricity is, as I am now saying, confusing and self-contradictory.)  But the issue of ex-centricity does not end  by simply pointing out this confusion in Plessner regarding the relationship  "being" has with "having a middle."  The point still has to be raised, that is, as to the effect that an animal or human is not absolutely centered in a physical space where that space is separable from the being's virtual identity. 

The consciousness of a being, which is its absolute center, may move from one physical space to another.  We have long talked about the animal at rest and have said, also, that the animal, now hungry, can walk about looking for food.  In this case the animal leaves its safe center.  The center that the animal is goes with the animal.  Here the animal is both centric--its identity is the center itself--and ex-centric.  Ex-centricity here means simple physical movement to a new place, with the ultimate purpose of a return to a safe haven center.  All this has been said before.

Earlier I talked about the primal human hunter planning his hunt of the 'morrow by "foreseeing" what faces him in the outlying regions.   He sees animals which are to be his prey.  He also sees himself as he sees these animals.  I suggested also that this vision of himself within a foreseen and new set of physical relationships is also the man's first real encounter with himself.  The hunter sees himself.  An animal (with certain possible exceptions) cannot do this.  The animal only looks out, but only to see what is physically there; the animal does not look at itself.  It is vital that the hunter, to accomplish his goal, sees himself in this new, entirely mental setting; in this setting he is again a center of the relationships.  Distances are calculated to himself.  This imaginary situation, envisioned by the hunter, is what we could concede to Plessner as "ex-centricity."  The hunter is now "a center away from a center," if that string of words means anything.   It is entirely important for purposes of our argument, on the other hand, that the act of seeing oneself in a place other than where one physically is at present is different than, on the other hand, being simply outside oneself.  One is where and what he is.   A person is always where he is, essentially, and--notwithstanding the marvel of mental displacement--never anywhere else.  What he sees in his imagination is a new, purely theoretical person who stands for or represents, but does not constitute, himself.  At issue is an idea very general in the history of philosophy, namely, of selflessnes.  One can see oneself where one's self is one's vantage point.  The person one sees that he calls his self is not a real self, on the other hand, but only an imaginary self.   This ex-centric position is a purely theoretical position and one, initially and primally at least, solely for purposes of practical activity (in the hunt etc.).  This is way--as an exercise in practical life--that we should understand the notions, which are made solemn by philosophy and religion, of selflessness and ex-centricity.  Freedom from self does not exist.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-12-18 15:58:57)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

V. THE HAPPY HUNTING GROUND THEORY OF SOCIETY

Force Theory can now present its "theory of morality and society," such as this theory is.   I call this the "Happy Hunting Ground" concept of society.   What is suggested is that our primal human being, a hunter and gatherer, envisioned himself in a better land than the one he was presently in.    Such a vision would be beyond the ability of an animal; humans however had this ability.  At the early period of human history, on the other hand, when humans had only recently acquired tools, language and some elements of culture, the vision that they had of a Happy Hunting Ground was both an ideal of life and a practical plan for the realization of that ideal.    The person was not simply dreaming, he was also thinking.   In this vision he saw himself; this as I said earlier was his first real encounter with himself.   His dream had within it notions both of what should be, as an ideal, and what could be.

Later in history humans could identify the idealistic side of their dream and distinguish it from the practical side.  They could identify what in their dream "could be."   Idealism, on the other hand, became the philosophy of "should be."  Hope and wishful thinking became a mandate for some course of action which we call morality.  The final point, on the other hand, is that the dream of the hunter was not yet reality.  It could be reality and perhaps it should be reality.  Also, the person he saw in his dream of a Happy Hunting Ground he took to be himself; this person was not himself.  This is the "other" in Hegelian philosophy.  It is a person in a land of plenty in relations with other human beings that are constructive and amiable.  This is a false person.  He is a person, however, although not real, who becomes the concept of society.  The social person--no less, the moral person--is not real; nor is the society founded on the (false) notion of a social person.  Society, we are saying, is real only insofar as imagination itself is real.  We will deal later with the issue of the reality versus non-reality of society.

Philosophical Anthropology is a program of investigation.   It takes small facts of human existence and infers from these facts certain more general ideas about a so-called "human essence."  We are saying here this program is constructive.  But the new discipline, announcing itself in the 1930s--and of course under pressure of world events in the '40s--has gone on to reach certain conclusions.  Max Scheler could be credited with formulating such a program; but he also clouded his own accomplishments with the pronouncement that the human being is welt-offen ("open to the world"). This and other conclusions (we are saying) are suggestive but not necessarily true.  When it is said that humans do not have instincts--that they are world-open and not bound to any form of body or movement-- we may still say, for example, that humans do in fact have instincts and they are bound to forms and behaviors.  Recent science says instincts exist.  So, while Philosophical Anthropology as developed by Plessner et al prounces upon the issue as to what we as human beings "really are," we are still free to reach our own conclusions.  The basic structure of the program is still in place.  We may conclude that the ancestors of human beings traced by their movements what was to become the forms of human mind.  But there is more.  Simply stated, the human being cannot escape from his own self.  If escape from the self--ex-centricity-- is required for the person to become moral and social, then these qualities of morality and society will be just what is suggested in the word ex-centric--eccentric. 

Ex-centricity, which humans have but animals do not, accounts for the morality and society of humans.  Morality is a point of view that a human has that places him in a properly speaking social relation with other humans.  Morality in this sense is simply the internal principle whose external form is society.  Morals and society are inextricably connected.  The disposition that makes society, with its values and religions and ideologies, is the inherent capacity of all human beings, as a trait of their species, for ex-centricity.  Helmuth Plessner in his highly turgid Stufen des Organischen und der Mensch sets forth this position.   His view is one we will affirm here.   But we still must ask one question further.  In being ex-centric--or "outside" oneself--does a person in some important sense not contradict himself?   What Plessner seems to be saying is that, in being moral and social the person is not himself.  This is a contradiction we must understand.  Perhaps we can work around the contradiction; perhaps it will hit us inescapably.  What we are saying in response to Plessner is that, admitting that the human mind permits the human being to in some sense "stand outside himself"--and thereby be both moral and social--does he actually become other than he is?   Religion whether Christianity or Bhuddism (say) does stress the selflessness of the person.  The implications of Plessner's theory of ex-centricity go far beyond the small pronouncements of Philosophical Anthropology and reflect, furthermore, upon religion and philosophy world-wide.   Any critique of "ex-centricity" could be construed, as it is here, as a repudiation of the ideas of morality and society.  Not Plessner but Max Stirner is the winner here.  Plessner begins to dig the grave of society by opening the question of the ultimate basis of society.    He opens a new avenue for discussing issues of morality and society.  We are left with a dilema.   If ex-centricity--essentially, being other than one's self--is what makes a human being both moral and social, are morality and society, then, as derived from a self-contradictory principle of humans, themselves self-contradictory? 

Is "society" a self-contradiction?"  An Hegelian might suppose that society involves a central contradiction but acts, not to resolve that basic contradiction--which it cannot do--but to pass from one temporary condition to another.  The same contradictions runs (we are saying) through all phases of societal growth and explains, finally, why one phase passes into another.  Each phase of society (we are saying) is an attempt to resolve the contradiction of the previous phase but ultimately simply passes that same contradiction on to the next phase.  The contradiction never leaves society.  We suggest here that this fate of society--to be always attempting to resolve the unresolvable--begins with the primal contradiction between the self as naturally and absolutely centered reality and, on the other hand, the ex-centric species character of the human being.  Ultimately, we are saying, the species must return to a certain generic animal state of centeredness, which we have identified as the race-character of the species. 

We have asked:   do morality and society fall into the same self-contradiction.   We do not doubt the palpability of morals and society as things of substance.  They are real only as apparations of something--the mysterious "other"--that is not real.   A bank (for example) is an apparation of money, which is an abstraction and in that sense a human fantasy.  Society--along with nation and religion as forms of society--is the same.   Max Stirner has suggested this and we affirm it here.   Society is the unreal appearance of the unreal person, the ex-centric image that a human being has of himself.  As apparations disappear--as they fall into the final self-contradictions which made them appear in the first place--the reality that remains is the ego of the individual and race.  Race, we are saying, is the ultimate being of Taoism, the river of existence.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-12-23 16:59:31)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

VI. FACT AND FANTASY OF FREEDOM

We presently focus attention narrowly on the "self" as the center of anything we can properly call "existence."   Plessner makes this point clearly.  He speaks of "...Selbstsein in seiner Mitte..."  (being one's self in one's middle).  Such tortuous language may be necessary to express the very simple equasion of self and center of existence.   We think that it is necessary.   The self at this point could be either an animal self or a human one.  We have labored to state this equasion without, however, saying anything radically new or surprising. When we say that the human, unlike an animal, is capable of ex-centricity we have said nothing that has not been said before.  The human being is capable of what psychologists have long called displacement:  the capacity to know and symbolize events and things that are not immediately present to the senses.  In at the center of this displacement is still the self.  The self is absolute and inviolable to this extent:  if the self disappears, so does existence.  (Schopenhauer belabors this equasion.)   We might define the self as that center of existence which the human and animal share alike.   What is the center of existence for the animal is also center for the human being.

Where animal and human differ is in the capacity for exzentrizitaet (ex-centricity), which humans have but animals do not have.  I do not think Philosophical Anthropology has so far added to the discussion about "human nature" which has gone on for several thousand years.  Plato and Aristotle had very much described this difference between humans and animals.  So, we will be constructive here only insofar as we focus attention, not on what is already known but on the implications of what is known.  Not so much as science as in the capacity of religion and political ideology, the idea of simple displacement has been parlayed into a doctrine about good and evil and about society.   The capacity for ex-centricity (or displacement) is the underpinning, we are saying, for the various doctrines of freedom that there have been.  We do not for the present have to discriminate between Christianity ("...the Truth shall set you free...") and the various concepts of "the will of the people."  We need only to say that these concepts universally, as the appear in all organized societies, derive in essence from the idea of ex-centricity as their "scientific" or "factual" basis.  Ex-centricity as a description of the way human beings think is a fact.  Displacement, as the idea is presented in psychology, is a fact.  That human beings are different in the way they think is an undeniable fact.  "Freedom," on the other hand, as the idea is translated into religion and political ideology is not a fact. 

In the public mind "freedom" is a fact.  Good and evil are regarded as facts, as is what Hegel called the Absolute Idea, the immediate expression of which is the German "state" of his period.   But the theory of freedom is based on a false conclusion from the fact of freedom.  We concede here that there is such a thing as a fact of human freedom.  But this fact is confined to human thinking, not human sein (being). Human beings can think of themselves as beings other than they are (in time and space); but they cannot be other than they are.  Doctrines of social identity, morality and selflessness are falsely derived from a statement about the primal difference of human and animal.  The freedom human beings have in their thinking cannot be reasonably translated into any religious or political idea or ideal of freedom.  No logical equasion can be made.  This is our assumption here.  All religious and political ideologies are based on the idea, not that human beings think freely, but that they are free from the self itself.  The deepest religious and political thinking is lost in its own obscurity.  This is the criticism we have of these ideologies.  The assumption of these beliefs is that the human being can not only think of himself apart from himself, he can actually be apart from himself.  That is to say the ex-centric person is as real as, if not more than, the centered person. Once we have established the connection between factual freedom and political freedom we must all the more decry this connection as false.  In some form or other, from Plato's notion of the "forms," there has been a connection drawn between human thinking and the ultimate life that a human being "should" embrace.   It is precisely on these grounds that egoism is decried.  And, as a derivative of egoism, racism is decried.  Force Theory does not have to resort at this point to Germanic metaphysical mumbo jumbo to prove its point.  All Force Theory need say is--as is obvious--a person cannot be other than himself.  This basic point refutes the arcane religious and political doctrines that there are.

The Absolute Idea in Hegelianism is a principle that pervades the physical world and from which the physical world is derived.  Any excursion into Hegelianism must be qualified by a statement of the present writer's qualifications.  I am not an expert in Hegel.  Also no expert in Hegel--and I have read a number of them--has ever relieved my mystification.  I should let alone the whole issue of Hegel.    At the same time, a purely Hegelian "logic"--of contradiction and "dialectic"--does seem to me to run through my writing.  I am aware of that.  My emulation of Hegel is purely unconscious. The Absolute Idea may have a naive interpretation which is on my level of understanding.  The Absolute Idea is the principle upon which the world rests. 

I say this is a principle, not identifiable with energy or matter.  This principle is "logical," but not as a pure relationship of abstract ideas--symbols and numbers and such--as we think of formal logic.  This logic is "alive."  It lives as though it were an organism, which it is not, at least not precisely.  The Absolute Idea arose from the contradiction of being and nothing.  The contradiction between being and nothing resolved itself as becoming.  Pure becoming is what the Absolute Idea is.   We think of other objects and creatures as becoming or evolving; but their becoming is simply a reflection or apparition of the more general becoming of the Idea. 

The Idea has one eccentric, human-like characteristic.  The Idea is not satisfied with itself simply as it is, it has an inherent drive to become other than itself.  We are left now with the idea of the dialectical Other.  I am alleging, without expecting any serious objection, that the Other of Hegelian philosophy is what Plessner means by the human ex-centric position.  The human being is not happy, we are saying, with being what or who he is and wants to be "other" than he is.  But there is more.  Without going through all the convolutions of Hegelianism, we may simply state that Plessner would found the ideas of human morality and society on this "otherness."  I am not here rejecting Hegel.  I am simply pointing out the paradox that leads us to a basic but inescapable conclusion.  That is, morality and society are founded upon what the human being is not.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2009-12-22 16:38:49)

Re: 25. PHILOSOPHICAL ANTHROPOLOGY AS POLITICAL IDEOLOGY

VI. PROLOGUE TO A PHILOSOPHY OF RACE

a. Materialism means for our purposes simply the idea that human beings have basic needs--food, shelter and so forth--which for them are priorities.  But there is more.  The concept also states that the values human beings have derive from these priorities.  In simplest terms, what I need to do to satisfy basic wants determines how I think about issues of religion, family, justice and so forth.   I "rationalize" what I do to satisfy basic needs by inventing (there is no better word) value judements and subjectivistic opinions that explain to others why I do what I do.   This notion--that values and religious ideas derive from efforts to satisfy basic needs--appeared prominently in the 19th century with Lewis Henry Morgan and Friedrich Engels.   These great thinkers laid the basis of the Materialist conception of history.  Their thesis was that history--along with all the religious and judgemental baggage that attends historical events--derive from human needs of eating, drinking and a warm place to live.   My purpose here is not to reject their work--Morgan and Engels have laid the groundwork of modern sociology--but to point out its limitations.  In the meantime, however, and before I go into the shortcomings of the idea, I want to dwell upon its great successes.   Morgan and Engels wrote about a wide range of issues that dominated the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially poverty in the cities.  Indeed, nowhere in particular did they take up the question that dominates the present blog--race.

Morgan and Engles state that values and other very broad notions of the world and human relationships derive from economic realities.  This is the point I have just made.    Morgan and Engels introduced a very simple equasion.  For example, ideas of family have changed over the years.    A major shift from the kinship idea of the family to the nuclear family (parents, children etc.) followed out of economic pressures of the Industrial Revolution.  The clan system (and the values attached to this system) had worked well in the context of ruralism and agriculture.  But later the clan and the values and priorities of human life deriving from the clan  were no longer consistent with the new economic realities of mass production.  This change--to give priority to the nuclear family and values pertaining to marriage (etc.)--had a material cause.    Needing income, simply, citizens of Europe, not just with regard to the family but regarding all sorts of values and relationships, simply changed their values.  The basic principle is simple:  human values derive from material needs, not the other way around. 
 

At issue here presently is the concept of race.  What we suggest is that Morgan and Engels, in their Materialist conception, do explain events in the American South--above all the economy of cotton producing--that directly determined the relationship between black and white people.  That is what interests us here.  Of course, there was a wide world full of events where black-white relations would seem irrelevant.  Not many people worldwide care what happened in the Old South.  But this is where and when we are focused now.   Materialism is a model which accounts for events in America prior to and after the Civil War.  The thesis here is that the relations of whites and blacks, in simplest terms, were the result of the economic system--above all cotton production--of the prewar and postwar South.  Two general facts are relevant.  The North, with its industrial system and its corresponding industrial values, won that war.  Secondly (and this is a fact noted in passing by many historians), the cotton production was relegated to machines.  Human labor was redundant and was "rationalized."  The obvious conclusion to be drawn at this point, assuming Materialism to be a valid theory, is that the opinions and value judgements of white people in the South once derived from their material basis of support.  With that system gone--or what is the same, with the system relegated to machine production--the entire opinion of white people regarding black people changed.  Deprecation of black people, along with draconian means to enforce slavery,  no longer supported an economic system.  Therefore this opinion, along with the entire system, was antiquated.  We may assume that predudice and discrimination by white people toward black people would just disappear.  Largely it has disappeared--which would be a great victory for the Materialist conception. 

Race as an idea (Vorstellung--Schopenhauer) appears in the context of other ideas.  For example, race--and more precisely, the physical and mental differences between races--was given as a rationalization of slavery in the Old South.  What supported that economy also supported human beings in their material way of life.  This I have already said.  Cotton cultivation was the economy of that place and period; "racism" was the ideological justification of that economy.  Racism, as supporting a material way of life, would itself be supported in the ideology of materialism.  Cotton cultivation has long been the basis of the Southern economy; but the slave system has given way to other ways of planting, cultivating and refining cotton.  What remains of the mentality of the earlier period is a "certain disdain" of white people for black people, along with, on the other hand, a resentment by black people for past times.  There have been many other occasions where some notion of race, often based on very superficial differences among people--for instance, language or religion--has appeared.  Our purpose here is to get beneath these trivial notions of race to arrive at some deeper comprehension. 

I am saying that race is what Schopenhauer would call a primary expression of Will.  Race is an unconscious continuity of life comparable to a river (of Taoism) upon which the individual bobs as a bubble or foam carried along.   Race is what centers or orients the person, when, of course, as I have already said, mere land or terrain is simply the empty space where this person wanders randomly.  What Force Theory presents, then, as a branch of Philosophical Anthropology, is a purified concept of race that is divested of any particular ideological baggage. 

We could say that a given social relationship, and along with it a whole value system pertaining to social relations, might change just given a change of an economic means of support.  Of course, in the South, and no less in the North, there are lingering ideas about race.  What lies ahead of us presently is to look closely at these lingering feelings and explain, or attempt to, why they did not altogether disappear.  In a way our task of penetrating the reality or "essence" of racism is made all the easier by the disappearance of slavery in the South.  We have eliminated one concept of race altogether--that a race is an "inferior" people in relation to a superior people; and their proper relation is a slave in the control of a master--and can look for a more productive concept of race.  I do not believe that the idea of race disappears with the elimination of one mere economic concept or the other.  What we have just looked at--a Materialist conception of race--is a false idea of race.  Our task is to provide--and here again we are faced with inescapable facts of human nature and perception--a true idea of race.  I call this conception the absolute idea of race.  Race, we are saying, is the inextricable basis of the ego.  We are not saying that race explains all reality; what we are saying, rather, is that race centers reality.   No territory or physical space centers the ego--places it appropriately--rather, on the contrary, the ego is centered in time and history.  Race mediates between the individual ego and the ego's temporal roots in nature.  I will talk about race as being the river of Taoism.  Race is in these terms the river that brings us to where we are now.  So, there is no point in wishing away race by virtue of how we regard some trivial need of the moment.  What we do individually or collectively to satisfy such a need does not release us or consign us, either one, to the most basic fact of nature, that is, evolution--the river or flow whereby we appear on earth. 
 
b. Race is essential or "given" centricity.  This idea emerges at last.   We are left with the idea, finally--after the notion of ex-centricity is shown to be an essential self-contradiction (one cannot be other than oneself)--that the ego, or individual consciousness, is the one of several realities outside human imagination.  But we may expand, as is the case now, upon the idea of ego and extend that idea to a reality beyond the individual consciousness.  I talked earlier about "cosmic whiteness"; the language here is fanciful but to the point.  We are saying that the space of the ego which is real space is race.  Race is the living or subjective space in which the ego centers itself absolutely.  Race is the "given" in nature; the physical space around the organism where the organism may reside or move, is merely an accident of nature.  Race as a phenomenon of cosmic evolution mediates between the principles of time and space. A review is in order as to where we are now in this line of thinking.  We have said a number of things.   We may speak of race as a kind of landscape, but one that centers the individual being regardless of any preference or wish or volition that the person may have.  Race focuses the person subjectively but also inescapably, and is as real and necessary as the person's physical body.  This body follows the ego around and, in that sense, centers the person.  The person is centered in his physical body.  But the race is no less a centering force than is the body.  Whether the race is actually conscious is not the question; the race is conscious through the individual person.  The race is not a society; society as we define the word, like nation and religion, is ex-centric.  The race is unconscious but all the more real as a force of life.  Several comparisons suggest themselves.  Dry land is a space humans can walk about and re-locate themsleves physically and "ex-centrically."   Race however is like a river (the proverbial river of Lao-Tse perhaps) which carries everyone and everything along.  We are in it inescapably; where we will be is determined by race.   

We have dicussed a several ways that, following Plessner, the human can be considered "ex-centric."  The human being imagines himself to be in a place other than where he is in present time and space.  Just as the place he imagines himself to be is an imaginary place--I earlier called this space the Happy Hunting Ground-- the person he is in that space is an imaginary person.  The Happy Hunting ground is an expression of human ex-centricity, as a place, in other words, that is not where the person himself essentially is.  Also there is another thing.  This person, whom we now can call an ex-centric person, is himself not real.    Thus when Plessner calls the human being ex-centric he only means what is obvious:  that the human creates a picture of himself in his mind.  Animals cannot do this.  I have explored the tortuous hallways of Plessner's turgid philosophy and cannot find any evidence to suggest that he has shown that the human being actually other than he is.  The person looking out into mental space is essentially the same being that, as a human being or animal, either one, looks out into physical space.  Our vantage point here has antecedents.  We may mention the great founder of Theoretical Anarchism Max Stirner.  What surrounds us are Spuken of human creation; but these Spuken are not what we esentally are.   Society is a Spuk, ideas of good and evil--values in general--are all Spuken of this order.  But there is more.  It is not enough for our purposes to conclude with the idea that only Stirner's Ego is real.  The Ego alone is adrift.  It needs to be centered.

Race is the true--subjective--ground of the Ego.  Schopenhauer calls "Will"--for our purposes the force of life--the "thing in itself."  What Schopenhauer suggests is that we cannot get closer to an ultimate ground or basis of reality than Will.  The human being, in fact the ego of any sentient creature, evolved not in this or that physical space or environment, but in the subjective space of nature which could best be called race.  I do not here repudiate any existing idea of race.  I do not reject the idea that race properly exists, or that in some sense one race "prevails" over the other.  A lot is said about race that is true; and some things are probably untrue.  This discussion is not anything I want to deal with here.  We may however make some provisional statements.  The ego does not exist solely in an "ego-space" defined by the human's physical body; rather the ego is centered

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-02 15:57:34)