Topic: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

I.
Political theories of human freedom assume a human being who can be free.  Theories--especially the broad theories of human relations that are the basis of democratic ideology--seek some justification in fact.  Of course we know, following Carnap, that moral ideas cannot be adduced from pure facts.  This is true.  At issue is the insecurity that morality feels when left to its own devices.  Morality and moral assertions that are isolated from fact altogether are or feel themselves to be vulnerable to attack.  Morality without fact is naked.  Again following Carnap, there can be no real relationship between fact and morality; they are alien concepts.  Any relation of morality to fact has to be a fictitious relation.  But morality will indeed try, through theological subtleties, to aver such a relation.  Any perusal of not only flagrant religion but of the utterly confused idea of Kant of some "categorical iimperative" would support this extreme desire of not only ethical philosophers but of the fathers of modern democracy, to establish this connection between what is "good" and what is "true" or factual.  We may go on to survey the entire scope of literature from arcane philosophical writings to everyday journalism.  It remains obvious that morality, as we just said, feels insecure when it is left alone without any reference to facts.  Morality will pretend that there are supportive facts when there are none.  Into this age old pretense of a connection between entirely alien concepts comes Philosophical Anthropology.  I want to emphasize, as I have said before, that Philosophical Anthropology remains subspect and"unsatisfactory" to established scholars and institutions.   A reason I have given for this lack of compatibility of PA with democratic institions is simply the ineptitude of PA, in that it states the issue of the relation of value and fact with naivitae and transparency.  The assumption of PA that there is a "human essence" which is a "fact" is simply disprovable; but in this failure PA exposes the whole of theology and democratic theory worldwide. 

The premise of the moral concept of freedom is a citizen who has the factual capacity for freedom.  Without such an assumption, any statement of political purpose--or idea of political good or evil action-- is virtually meaningless.  Our most sacred documents, our Constitution for instance, would be worthless.  So it is to the basic capacity of human species freedom that we look now.  Until our own century, when educated people trust science to provide basic answers, those general questions were answered by religion.  That the human being is free was an assumption inspired by myth and religion.  I can be more specific.  The fact that God willed mankind to free, and announced this will through his prophets, would be justification of a theory of political freedom.  Twentyfirst century man needs more.  The only conceivable basis for a philosophy of political freedom would have to be provided by science.   We are consigned, I suggest, with no alternative, to Philosophical Anthropology.  It is only through this "science" that the spheres of human nature and human political purpose can be connected.  But what is this connection?  What is the "real" basis of human freedom?  Philosophical Anthropology, led by Plessner, Scheler, Gehlen and several others say that human freedom consists of the human being's "natural" propensity for self-lessness and ex-centricity.  Any confirmation or denial of theories of political freedom depend on this sort of assertion, which is the most convincing anthropological thesis to date.  We turn to the basic ideas of Philosophical Anthropology as they unanimously affirm some concept of freedom, while, at the same time, with almost childlike simplicity they expose the utter lack of connection between human moral identity and ascertainable fact.  Plessner's says that freedom = being away from a center.  The animal is centered and in this centeredness is the unfreedom of the animal.  The human lives, says Plessner, away from this centered and in this ex-centricity is the freedom, precisely, of the human being.  Of course such an idea of freedom would be invaluable to democracy as a practical program for freedom.  Where Philosophical Anthropology fails, in this instance, is in that Plessner still has not bridged the gap between an objective fact and a human value. 

The human person, as we say, is both centric and ex-centric.   This is the double aspect of humans (what Plessner calls the unaufhebbarer Doppelaspekt der [human] Existenz).   The double-aspect of humans is a principle that is is straightforward and should not burden our understanding.  Psychology tells us that the human being normally has a concept of self; this is all we are talking about here.  Philosophical anthropology has presented, additionally, a formulation of the self-concept that grounds this concept in nature and evolution.   I have followed Plessner this far.    The human is in addition to the person that nature has created another person, additionally, which he himself has created.  Being the one who sees, the human cannot see himself directly.  On the other hand, from experience of other persons and by virtue of logic the person can infer himself.   I suggest that so far in our discussion we have only said what is obvious.  If Philosophical Anthropology has made any point clearly and consistently, and one that squares with common sense, it is this point.  The human being does reflect upon himself; and in this reflection he actually becomes another person--the "other" in Hegelian philosophy.  Human beings have this capacity; animals, with the exception perhaps of certain gorillas and chimpanzees, do not have this reflective ability.  That is to say the animal is perfectly "centered":  the animal looks out but not in.  I have earlier suggested that there is a confidence, balance and statis in this centeredness.   In simple terms, the distinctive "being" of a human being is that he consists of a point from which he looks out; and he consists also of a point--of his own fabrication--from which he looks back towards himself.  The human being is both of two things:  the "being" that is a phenomeon of nature and a reflective being that is his own creation. I said before that the Doppelaspekt of the human being is simply common sense and is not difficult to understand.  That is true.  But there is more.  We are burdened with the task at this stage of our argument of making a judgement as to which of the two polar sides of human existence is the real side and which is the faux side.  To reflect is to be conscious; we habitually locate the real essence of ourselves in our consciousness.  Yet the being we were, evolutionally, before the onset of consciousness was centered in the Will or life itself.  The animal is real, yet does not reflect.  This Doppelaspekt of humans is a serious problem and one which philosophy has not settled.  We can also understand the issue if not the solution.  That is, is the reflective side or the unconscious side of human existence the side that is more real? 

Schopenhauer said essentially that to be reflective--to think about oneself--is to be free.  The human being is conscious through his reflection; this is his thoughtful side.  As he sees himself, in this connection, he exists. This has been the position--that the human being becomes real through his reflective immage of himself--of most traditional philosophy.  Plato of course advocated this position.  It was not until Schopenhauer and the Germans that "real existence" shifted from self-reflection to a force of life, unconscious and unreflective in itself. Philosophical Anthropology has not invented the notion of human freedom but follows in a long line of speculation.    This issue is not going to be settled here.  Whether unconscious but centered life is more real than life that reflects upon itself is something which will continue trouble philosophy for many centruries.   There is however still a further avenue of thinking that we can undertake.   We speculate here that, unlike the being that is centered through nature, man-made ex-centric and reflective life is always "out of balance."  To be ex-centric is already by definition to be uncentered or unbalanced.   What is ex-centric is not centric.  A confusion may have arisen at this point simply due to Plessner's terms:  he may just as well have said that the human being, rather than becoming ex-centric, simply produced a new center for himself.  The new center in these terms would be the real center.  There is more.  There is no Selbstverstaendlichkeit (self-evidency) in the ex-centric position.  An animal, on the other hand, is self-evident to itself.  The human being, particularly in his ex-centric and reflective position, is no longer self-evident to himself.  He exists only in a criticial or highly processed sense.   He exists by processing information, revealed through his senses, largely about other humans; he is one of these.  But this idea of himself is shifting as his processing faculties change.  It is only through criticism of these perceptions that the human arrives at an idea of himself.  This idea is still unsteady.  The self-concept must stay active in order to restore the balance lost by changes in surrounding conditions.   In an attempt to restore a balance, a reflective idea must criticize itself.  We may evoke a Hegelian dialectical principle to account for this inherent restlessness of the "idea."   The idea, away from a center, is in perpetual need to find a center.

We search for common sense and everyday examples of the principle we propose.  Seeing a fellow human being (or an animal, even!) in need, a person may sacrifice something of himself or something belonging to himself.  He has thus done something against himself, we assume.  He has diminished himself in order to serve this other person.  Such an act would be difficult were the person not to stand away from himself.  That is, there is a principle that is higher than the (centered) self.  What the self itself is, for its part, is self-ish.  The self does not act unselfishly without contradicting its own self-ish-ness.   In this Widerspruch of his self our charitable would be ex-centric.  It is not too much to assume that charitable acts can follow only out of an ex-centric position in relation to one's self.  The self itself would be centric.  The person in an act of charity thus contradicts himself.  Yet such acts of self-contradiction are essential not only to charity but to everyday social interaction in the advanced, human sense of society.  We are still left with a problematic split in human existence (...ein wirklicher Bruch seiner Nature (Plessner 292).    Consistent with Philosophical Anthropology as propounded in 20th century Germany, we resist the temptation to leap into universal cosmological speculation.  We try to keep one foot, at least, in science.  We are focused on the actual human being as such.  The dialectic of which we speak is not some World Reason;  rather, the dialectic is simply human reason as this exists under ordinary circumstances.  We speak of the way the human mind actually works.  Given reflective, ex-centric intelligence, the mind must work dialectically.  Reason, since it is away from any given center or point of view, is inherently out of balance; it must restore that balance.  The reason for this is easy to understand.  Every human idea, we are say, because it is a human and ex-centric idea, is (somehow) out of balance simply by virtue of being ex-centric.  So, while centered or "natural" being is in balance and statis--in a harmony with itself--the "idea" is in perpetual restless activity to compensate for a deficiency that it inherently has.   Some ideas become static routine and ritual.  But ideas, that are active and alive pass into other ideas.    No sooner does a reflective or ex-centric idea appear than, to compensate for its own lack of balance, it generates its own opposite.  The opposite idea restores balance if only temporarily.  Reason can be seen as inherently uncertain of itself.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-07-02 14:07:46)

Re: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

II.
Centricity is something that now needs better definition than what I've so far given it.    Plessner unfortunately leaves this important topic to a brief Nachtrag (Stufen, p. 358).  We may say here that centricity is general animal behavior.    Animals move about, of course; but they do not move randomly.    Also, just as they move, they also resist movement.  It is just as important that we talk about a living thing's resistance to movement as the movement itself.  A stone, for instance, can be buffeted this way and that.  The animal upon being displaced will attempt, under specific conditions (and so forth), to return to its original place.  Plessner talks about positionalitaet.     He leaves us with a suggestive word without much explanation; we are forced presently [pending my continued reading] to imagine what it means.  We may confidently say that positionality is an active disposition of animals, and perhaps plants also, to locate themselves in the midst of their surroundings.  "Locate themselves" means essentially to position themselves where they are most resistant to movement.  A human being finds a comfortable place to sleep; this may be the closest we can come to understanding centricity in the context of position.  We may pass from the issue of resistance to that of movement itself.  There is much implied in movment, above all, movement is the contexd of animal nervous organization and intelligence

Homo sapiens and his earlier forerunners have been around a million or so years.  So we may safely say that humankind is a successful species.  Thus when we talk as  Plessner does of a "real break in the nature" of a human being, we are not suggesting that the human is "broken" or disfunctional.  The relation between the centric and ex-centric sides of human nature is a healthy one.  Or so it would seem after a million years.  We may even say that it is precisely through his capacity for ex-centricity that the human being is a successful species.   The ex-centricity of the human being does not seem presently a problem for the species as a whole.  Also the individual is not disadvantaged presently through his ex-centricity inasmuch as it is through his ex-centricity that he adapts to society.  Society itself is ex-centric.  But there is more.  It is simply unthinkable that human life pass entirely over into its ex-centric form.  It is the need that life has to express itself that sustains human life in particular.  Ultimately, if the human being were to have to provide for himself a rationale for living, he would cease to exist.  Life provides this "reason," even if this reason is--no reason.

In human beings the idea is free.  We have already talked about what this freedom is and what it means.  The freedom of the idea consists, precisely, of its release from and independence of a "center" that dominates the existence of animals.  We may be more to the point here.  In the animal, on the contrary, there is no idea that is also not a perception; and there is no perception that is not relevant to a need.  Therefore, inasmuch as the human idea is ex-centric--in the context of life or Wille--this idea is also "free."  The freedom of the idea in humans is the ultimate basis of the freedom of human life.  We are saying that the idea may exist without any sense of its relevancy to anything outside itself.  The idea, as we define the word here, is not constrained or dominated by any external force.  But there is more.   The idea's ex-centricity--and here we can construe this condition also as eccentricity or abnormality--also has a peril:  that the idea is "unbalanced."  Animals are brought together by instinct.  Humans, however, while they still have strong social instincts, also, on another level of existence, interact through language.  Where they are not balanced by instincts, as in the realm of ideas, they must be balanced and centered by the logic of language and symbols themselves.  To the individual, the lack of natural centeredness and balance of the individual idea may not appear as anything serious.  Ideas may float around in one's head in the act of musing.   In social relations, however, ideas must be presented through language; and language has a certain socially prescribed protocol and logic.  It is society, not life, that most seriously constrains the idea.    The inherent freedom that the individual idea has is a temporary thing; even as the idea is freed of demands of life, it is constrained by demands of society.  Society is an un-natural institution.  Society itself may be called ex-centric from the standpoint of animal life; but society is also self-centered.    The individual who presents ideas in a disconnected, non-sequitor way will be banished or, hopefully, compelled to comply with group standards of logic and language protocol.

The exzentrisch character of the human being is his species character.  Within the species there is normal and abnormal (eccentric) behavior.  An eccentric person departs as an individual from his species character or from  the norm of his species.    This divergence is what we usually mean by the word eccentric.    Eccentricity is the subject of psychology but not an issue within Philosophical Anthropology.  What we talk about in PA is the human species' similarity and differnce in relation to other species.  We could talk here about a "norm" for animal behavior.  Our topic, on the other hand, is not individual psychology but the human species character.  An animal is always centered; it has achieved this centeredness in nature through evolution and natural selection.   The human person is both centered and, in addition, has a "second self" that is a sort of mental or imaginary being, as we are saying, of the human's own creation.   

The centered side of the person is essentially his "animal" side.  This statement sounds simplistic.    I submit the term "animal" out of expediency and the demand for simplicity of expression.  There are important implications of the human Doppelaspekt, that is, in the human's being both  centered and centric, which is his animal side,  and simultaneously a reflective being which is his human side.   It is through this second, reflected being that a person "understands himself." The animal cannot see itself because it cannot mentally stand outside itself. Not able to see oneself is a sort of blindness that the human has overcome.   The human being can see himself in this external way.   This understanding has practical consequences.  I have already talked about the primal situation of hunting.  Were the hunter able to "see himself' from an external position--which is what we mean by the word ex-centric--he would understand his limitations and capacities.  Such insight would have practical consequences.  He could better pace himself in the chase, determine how much energy he needed.  I may carry this example further.  The human hunter lags far behind his prey, these animals have long ago bolted out of fright.  Invisible to the human hunter behind them, these animals come to rest.  What the hunter has before him, that is left after the initial and failed chase, is solely a mental picture of his situation; he sees himself in relation to the animal now only as a mental creation.

I spoke earlier of the human's primal encounter with himself; this was in a hunting situation.   He calculates the distance the animal has run; and the hunter puts himself in that mental picture.  We may speculate how the human self-image came to be at all.  The predatory cat, on the other hand--the lion or cheetah--cases down its prey in that first phase of the hunt.  The lion or other cat is not a stalker but a creature of momentary reflexes.  The very act of the human hunt, on the other hand, presupposes the basic mental quality of ex-centricity that is our subject here.  We can connect the points of so-called human nature.  The same quality of "moral" altruism, that allows a human to distance himself from his own immediate need and think of others, results (we are saying) from the bi-positionality (Plessner) that allowed the hunter to see himself, in the hunt, as an abstract entity in relation to another essentially abstract entity, his prey.         

Having appeared our of the evolution of his race the hunter now creates--a more suitable expression might be that he "understands himself as--a reflection of his animal side.  The animal is centered and balanced through and within nature--by virtue of its evolutionary past--while, on the other hand, the human being as an ex-centric being must balance himself.  This he does through reflection.  This is a point about the human being that is not difficult to  understand.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-27 19:50:17)

Re: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

III.
The animal predator can represent to itself a prey where the prey is seen.  The seeing itself is the idea that the predator has.  In the case of the human being there is, in addition to a perception of a prey, a thought that reflects upon the hunter himself.  The human carries around with him a self concept that intrudes between the hunter and the raw perception of his prey.  This second being, the ex-centric "other" hunter, is simply by being ex-centric is out of balance.  He is not a natural person who has behind him a million years of evolution and security of experience of his race, but a momentary creation of his individual brain.  The "hunter," or secondary vision of the otherwise centered person, needs balance.  An idea intrudes, then, in the logic humans have evolved to restore the inbalance of ex-centricity and "otherness."    But there is more.  The human hunter visualizes himself in relation to his prey.  This is the Doppelaspekt of the human being.   But this is a "negative" phenomenon, or a trait, rather, that attempts to restore to balance the sense of the human being than he is "other than he is." Here there is no need for reflection.  Reflection, we are saying, or even consciousness, is an attempt by a being to restore a lost balance, to keep from falling.:)

The concept of freedom, such has come to us through political and religious theory in the last 2000 years, has been based on the premise of selflessness.  I advanced this idea earlier in this blog and will continue it here.    The self is seen as a constraint of freedom; mind on the other hand is an exercise of freedom.   The  freedom we are talking about here is essentially a detachment of the self from itself.  A faux self is created which is "free" from the constraints of the biological person as he has evolved over millenia.  Selflessness is the corollary concept of freedom.  Simply speaking, the self is not free if it is not free of the self itself.  Likewise no society is free where persons are self-ish.   We have covered these points earlier.  This otherworldliness of the human being finds expression in Eastern as well as Western religions.  Primitive animism can be counted in this belief system as well.  I have said all this before.  There is a long-standing belief--which has a strong basis in reality--that the human being can distance himself from his self.   Animistic peoples attribute this free soul also to animals; more civilized societies distinguish between humans and animals.   The Christian belief in a "soul" is not far from what we are talking about.   The Greeks led by Plato had this concept of freedom.  Freedom--which is attributed to human beings but not animals--may be the dominant philosophical idea worldwide.  But there is more.  Modern political theories [cite:  Gierke] advance the idea that freedom is not automatic simply by virtue of humanness.  Rather, though humans have the capacity for freedom, this state of being must be evoked.  The elicitation of freedom is mainly through correct social or collective practice.  The individual person is only the raw material of freedom;  he can realize this state of being only through society. 

Our focus here is on the capacity for freedom,  not so much on freedom as a finished state of being.    Philosophical anthropology, we are saying, is the first theory proposed about the Wesen des Menschen (essence of man) to a capacity of the human being.  The main period of this German discipline corresponded to the difficult period of German history 1930-1950.   The point of view was comfortably within the liberalistic tradition that had preceeded and follow it; so, PA survived the War and the termoil preceeding and following the War.  Today PA is complacently secure within German academia.  The concept of freedom as proposed by PA would seemingly support the concept of political freedom of Postwar Europe.  The human being is regarded by PA--through his ideas and mind--as inherently free.  This faith in PA by academic and religous leaders may however be misplaced.  Philosophical Anthropology has followed a dangerous course.  It has opened the issue, which had never been opened before, of the "natural" origins of freedom.  Paraphrasing Bruno Bauer's statement about religion, the natural history of freedom is the critique of freedom!   Philosophical Anthropology, whose purpose was originally to support an idea of freedom, now becomes, through an inversion of logic,  freedom's greatest critic. 

Science, notably psychology, accepts some notion of natural human freedom.  But this is freedom in a restricted sense, in other words, not a full or absolute freedom.  In human beings, psychologists say, ideas are not altogether bound to sense perceptions and physical needs.  Ideas are "free" in the sense that they are, or can be, altogether "mental."  Ideas, or the invented human form of ideas as symbols, are "free" to enter "random" associations with one another.  I have the idea of red and the idea of tree; I may think of a red tree.  The human being is capable of such free association; animals are not capable of it.    But there is more.  In what sense is this displacement, as talked about by psychology, a real freedom?  Above all, how is this natural freedom of human intelligence translatable into a philosophy of political freedom?  These are the questions that occupy us now.  In fact, we must stretch our point of view far beyond bounds of academic psychology to imagine a freedom that is consistent with modern theories of democratic political freedom.  An idea that is free in an absolute sense of the word freedom must contradict itself.  Also, a political idea of freedom that is based on such a concept of personal absolute freedom must contradict itself.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-16 15:57:52)

Re: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

IV.
The early hunter was a plodding being who usually lagged behind his fleet-footed prey.  The advantage the human had was in the picture he had in his mind of his prey.  Additionally, the hunter pictured himself, with the capacities of strength and speed that he had, in pursuit of the prey.  I earlier suggested that the hunter's picture of himself as hunter was his first encounter with himself.  But there is more.  Over time, perhaps thousands of years, this self-reflection of the person itself became a person.   It would be correct to assert that an identity emerged that was not only apart from the original centered being, but could be said, in a certain sense, to compete with the centered being.  The Idea entered a period of dissention with its source, the Wille.   We follow Schopenhauer in describing this opposition.  From Schopenhauer we pass to Philosophical Anthropology.  I have already discussed PA as being the discipline--a Wissenschaft as in a broad sense as science--which is focused on the basic human situation, the primal act of hunting, for example, that gives insight into the broader human condition.  We have already talked about the elemental act of hunting that, under the precise conditions of human technology and society of the early period, relied upon the incipient human capacity for "displacement"--imagining what is not present to the senses.  The human hunter could plan a strategy. 

Following Schopenhauer (as I always have), the displaced image of a human being could virtually challenge and oppose the Wille or life force that give rise to the image.  Schopenhauer dwells upon Hindu ascetics.   At present, however, we have so far proceeded only as far as Plessner in talking about a Doppelaspekt of the human.   Plessner's view is comparatively Appolonian; he goes no further than saying that the double-character of humans is a species characteristic.   Plessner identified the ex-centric being, as opposed to the centric being, without, however, discussing in any detail the relation between these two realities.  There is no sense in Plessner of a struggle.  Passing to the philosophy of Schopenhauer, on the other hand, the opposition of Wille and Idea becomes a cosmic war of natural enemies, a struggle that is fundamental to human life.  Our proposal presently is that, in the opposition of the individual and his alter-ego, a creation of mind, the will of the person is normally in control.  There is an exception--religion--where this control may be lost.  As a hunter, however, the hunter is motivated in his pursuit by hunger.   Likely, he is hungry with every step he takes.  His endeavor is in no sense "theoretical," and the hunter he imagines--the one whose capacity he must always keep in mind--is dominated by, not so much the combined traits that make up his person and personality, but by the simple fact of the hunger itself. 

The alter-ego [I am momentarily uncertain as to the common meaning of this word] or ex-centric being is firmly under control of the centered Wille.  But from this simple hunting situation, such as reigned in the world for several millions of years, throughout the paleolithic periods, with roving bands of humans who formed no structured societies, there evolved, on the other hand, a condition of humanity that favored the ex-centric being.  This was society as we know it.  That is, there came to be human groupings linked through language and symbols.  In this latter case, the issue at hand was not a relationship between an individual person and his ex-centric alter-ego, but between the individual on the one hand and combined and mutually fortified ex-centric beings on the other.

Understanding of the meaning of the word selfless can be had simply by writing the word as self-less.  Selfless means to act with no regard for the self itself.  We might ascribe self-less-ness to the most radical acts of charity.  We envision a man giving something that he himself needs to another person.  These are acts ascribed to saints and great humanitarians.  An act is not entirely self-less unless the self itself is diminished.  Of course, saintliness of this sort is almost entirely hypothetical.  Real self-sacrifice, while reputed to exist, is seldom.  Such is our rather cynical view.  But self-lessness as we contemplate it here opens a whole realm of new possibilities.  For instance, through self-lessness a person can essentially become another person.  So that, in other words, in becoming "other" than his self he could "be" another person.  Suffice it to say that what we call empathy is basic to a true human social identity.  One acts self-ishly, we may say, but only in relation to a person which is not the self itself; such a self is an "other" in a world or sphere where there are others like this ex-centric self.  One helps oneself, but only as an ex-centric self; and in effect supports or helps other ex-centric or social beings.

I reserve for the last topic of this discussion the issue of absolute self-less-ness.  We have not yet considered to any extent the motivation of a saint or dedicated humanitarian.  These persons are examples of ex-centricity.  I have suggested, without anticipating later thoughts on the subject, that the self is the original and "true" center of human existence.  I want to suggest now that the idea of the self can be transfered to an ex-centric being, created by the centered self.    It is moreover important to note that the ex-centric self may be self-ish.   Examples are close at hand.  A person may consider his identity and well being as connected to some social role; I give as an instance the person's identity as a property holder.  Such an identity is imparted through society--through its infrastructure of property entitlement--yet, even so, may be a self-ish role that a person takes on.    A man may consider his personal well being as connected to property ownership.    Under primal human conditions of hunting and gathering there was no such thing, precisely, as personal ownership.  (Of course there was still possession; we have to talk about the nuances of ownership here.)  That is, originallly there was no formal entitlement such as a title to property and so forth.  All these subtleties of society came in at later times.  Thus we may conclude that the status and role of property owner is an ex-centric and acquired state of mind.  The property owner himself, as such and in that limited capacity, is an ex-centric being.  He is ex-centric no less than the entirely self-less saint or radical humanitarian.  The qualification to this ex-centric status is simply in the fact that the person qua property owner affirms his ex-centricity by a "selfish" acquisition of property.  In being self-ish in this way--in specifying his ex-centric role as property holder--he supports and affirms the institution of property itself.   He supports and affirms society itself, which is a creation of ex-centric persons.  Society as an ex-centric entity is supported by a purported self-ish act--in acquiring property--of the acquisitive person.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-21 16:38:34)

Re: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

V.
An animal is gregarious; the human being is both gregarious and social.  The social nature of the human being consists of the relationship, mediated by language and the symbols of culture, between ex-centric persons.  Centric persons per se are not social but only gregarious.  There is a great literature that seems to bear on this principle.  Toennies talked about gemeinschaft and gesellschaft.  Essentially what we mean by gregarious behavior is the intimate family group; we may extend this group, as it happens (psychologists now suggest this) to a group young peers such as one would grow up together in a neighborhood.  But there is more.  Beyond the familial and neighborhood group there exists a network of social relations properly speaking.    Such a network is limited solely by the number of human beings there are in the world.    We speak of the Global Society of today as though this is something new.  In fact, Global Society was always a possibility so long as human beings could in theory speak the same language and make one another understood universally.  This is not speculation but theoretical fact.  Once we understand the nature of language, and the fact that the symbols of language are interchangeable and mutually adaptable, it is certain that human beings always did exist in a potential universal society.  The restrictions on this society that there were--geographic separations and differences in individual languages-- could in theory be overcome.  The argument here at present is that even apparently self-ish motives have, universally and eternally, pointed in the direction of a universal society.  This was stated in the last section.   For instance, as one acquires property--self-ishly and materialistically--one affirms the institution of property.    Property is an element of society as constituted through the relationship of ex-centric persons.

The ex-centric person is removed from the blind egoism of the "animal" or unreflective self; but the ex-centric person is still capable of self-ishness.  What this means is that the ex-centric self takes on a quasi- or secondary selfishness and "stands in," so to speak, for the original centric person.  It is not too much to refer to an occasionally aggravated individualism of the ex-centric self that could result, and often does result, in criminal behavior.  The trait that concerns us ino this secondary self, however, is that every act of this self results in an expansion and amplification of the ex-centrically instutional world around this self.  I gave as an example acquisitiveness and the corresponding institution of property.  Property as such, as opposed to mere possessions, is social.    But we may start with possessions as such.  Possessiveness brings persons into special kinds of relations; one person wants a thing which, also, some other person wants.  The result is interpersonal stress.  This stress or opposition is resolved through an entitlement or title to the property.  The new relationship calls into being a social agency, properly speaking, devoted to the recording of property and granting the possessor title.  But there is the additional service that the agency performs:  that of physical intervention, through police, in the event that the title holder's rights of tenancy are threatened.   And now we are saying, additionally, that we have opened the theoretical possibility of crime.  Criminal behavior would not be possible without a clear idea in everyone's mind of property rights.  Crime assumes laws.  And so forth.  Finally we may envision an absolute society in which the business of society is no longer the business of any individual, but rather of society itself.  We are saying that it is precisely the opposition of one person to another, not some so-called natural compatibility, that brings about society.  Society is the record of the resolution of the conflicts that there are, leading, finally, to the idea--much in the spirit of Hegelianism--of an absolute resolution.

Such a society is the ultimate degree of ex-centricity.  What began in the individual, as the ex-centric capacity of imagination (musing), and developed into the faculty of language, is exaggerated and absolutized through society.  As the most radical ex-centricity that there is, society is also in the most absolute opposition to the unreflective animal will or the life force itself.  Society at this level, precisely in resolving the oppositions that there are between human beings, comes into most radical opposition with the force of nature.

Social philosophers have commonly envisioned a society of the future based on some natural propensity of human beings, some trait, in other words, that existed in the beginnings of human time but has been obfuscated, somehow, by one or another false conception.  Humans would have to have the capacity for utopia; and to think about utopia would require that philosophy would first focus on this capacity.    Utopia would consist simply in releasing something in men that they have always had.   So, in other words, according to Engels, humans have always been communists, somehow, but through Capitalism they have followed an irrweg.   Engels points to the early supposed communism of the early Germanic Mark, which was sort of a tribal socialism.  His scholarship may or may not be accurate on that subject.   For the Natural Law philosophers, among them Rousseau and Hobbes, the human being has had a natural propensity for "utopia" but has been led, or has led himself, astray.    These thinkers have assumed that it is essential, then, to understand so-called human nature.   We would therefore understand the human capacity for utopia.   My premise here does not depart from Natural Law theory.  Any disagreement about our respective  "utopian" conceptions would consist in our contrasting views regarding human nature itself.

Engels pointed to a natural human propensity to cooperate.  We are saying here, on the other hand, that humans do have a natural ability to cooperate; but they do not necessarily have a natural propensity to cooperate.   I think it is safe to say that humans have conflicting motives in comming together with other humans.  People both cooperate and compete.  Thus if we envision any society of the future, it will provide opportunity to express both abilities.  We are at loss what to make of present day society.  This organization--or disorganization--is what Hegel described it as, a rambling chain of agreements and promises.  This we have already discussed in an early section of this blog.  The communists following Engels have assumed that human life will be purified of competition, on grounds that competition is unreasonable.  This is a false assumption.  We are saying that society came into existence, in the first place, not as an expression of human cooperation, but just the opposite.  Society appears as an attempt on the part of humans to resolve the oppositions that they naturally have.  Humans oppose one another, yet for both obvious and obscure purposes they endeavor to overcome this opposition.   Society is a mediator or middle term.   Were humans only cooperative--were cooperation more basic to human nature than competition--all there would be to human relations would be this (Hegelian) civil society, extending across the world.  Structured societies such as nations and cities come about precisely because humans, being in agreements, fall into disagreements.   Society it is true is "communistic"--"cooperative"--but it arises as a consequence of something in human nature that is uncooperative.   Human beings are essentially self-ish.   Such self-ishness is at first centered.   Centered self-ishness is simply unreflective--or animal--appropriation.   As I have already said, from its beginning in centered existence, self-ishness passes, by virtue of human reflective thought, to an ex-centric ego.   Such an ego may as I say be self-ish.   Humans in evolving simply transfer self-ishness from a centered ego to an ex-centric ego.  This ex-centric person is already essentially potentially social.

We have now suggested that there may be an uncentered, or ex-centric, self which is also self-ish.   This is a point of view that did not come out earlier in this blog, when it was assumed that the human being must be centered to be self-ish.  Now I have changed my opinion.  There is clearly a self-ishness of both a centered self and a self-ishness of an ex-centric self.  Ex-centric self-ishness simply derives its force through society.   This force, or essentially "enforcement," is in the concept of legitimacy, or enforcement by the group as a whole.   There is in these terms  a self or identity which opposes other humans but which is essentially social.   This is a paradox.  The self-ishness of the ex-centric person looks for support through a society which is likewise an ex-centric concept.  Now, "social" does not mean cooperative; on the contrary, society would not exist without human opposition.  Society is virtualy the resolution of opposition.     The human being is social simply because he submits his opposition to other persons, organized institutionally for arbitration and conflict resolution.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-23 16:32:18)

Re: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

V.
Centered means oriented.    No stretch of the imagination is needed to grasp this fact.    So, by deductive inference, the term ex-centricity implies the opposite condition--disorientation.    Orientation is required by any living being that moves.  If a being or entity does not move under its own power, it needs no orientation.   It is having the internal power to move that raises the need of some sort of orientation.   The ability to move randomly requires the correction of a likewise internal sense of spacial position.  Random movement and self-orientation may be seen as opposing terms.  Movement requires orientation; while orientation implies, as a logical corollary, movement.    A nonliving thing must obey  physical laws; the term "orientation" on the other hand applies only to living beings.    Plants do need orientation but not to the degree that animals need it.  Animals are a special case in nature.   They move about under their own power and partially contrary to laws governing other objects (gravity, wind and so forth).    Their movements appear for our purposes  to be random.  I talked earlier about the way animals orient themselves.  Departing from a major ethological point of view, I have said that animals do not so much stake out and defend a territory, as they mentally delineate and defend a line of retreat to a safe place.  For purposes here we need only to define what orientation--as opposed to physically forced movement--is.  The fact of movement is by itself self-negating.    Movement without the contravaling fact of self-orientation leads shortly to dissolution of an entity.  Of course we may speculate as to whether an object moving freely in space would self-destruct or would be liable to be destroyed.  This speculation takes us afield.  At any rate, we may say for certain that a biological being, were it to move about with absolute freedom, would wander into surroundings (we may suppose) that would destroy it.   The very integrity of the animal is contradicted by any unrestricted freedom that the animal may have.    The features of such a being, both physical and psychological, would be unadapted to this new environment into which it "freely" wanders.    So, it makes sense for an animal to stay where it is, more or less, or in familiar surroundings where it is secure.  We are speaking at this point of a "dialectic" between, on the one hand, movement and, on the other, a sense of orientation that is part of the psychology of the animal.  The contrary principles are unthinkable except in relation to one another.

I spoke earlier of the program of Philosophical Anthropology.  We may infer from simple ancient phenomena other more complex phenomena that appear later.  From the contradiction between free movement and the need for spatial orienation we may infer, logically, a more complex yet essentially identical contradiction between, on the one hand, centricity and on the other ex -centricity.    Centricity is the general state of animal existence.  Animals are entirely centric in, that is adapted to, a place or an environment.    We mean simply that an animal is thoughtless in its "natural"  place.   The  animal still may be required to move about in search of food, say, or to escape preditors, yet the animal does not reflect upon--essentially, evaluate--the general place it is in.  The animal has no conception of its place in nature because it has not yet needed to have such an idea.   I have spoken of the practical advantage conferred ex-centricity.  Certainly, a being could profit from ex-centric reflection on its most general surroundings; it does not so reflect, however, because it has not yet evolved the capacity for such reflection.  But we are not speculating now on  any need for reflection; only on the existence of reflection and its relation to orientation and centeredness.   The freedom that humans have by virtue of ex-centricity is also, without an opposing sense of orientation, a negation of human life.  Through freedom humans are disorientated and therefore self-destructive.    Animal movement anticipates this freedom of human mind.  The fact that the animal can move culminates finally in the fact that a human being can think freely.  There is a chain of evolution which connects these two capacities. 

The human being stands upright.  Simply standing but without moving, he would fall.    A horse can sleep standing.    The human being, however, eventually must extend his foot to save himself from falling.  Putting a foot forward to maintain balance constitutes walking.  We walk, sometimes, not to move but simply to maintain balance. (Cf. Schopenhauer on the subject of walking.)   This same principle applies to thinking.   When thinking begins at all, thoughts follow one another simply to restore a kind of balance.  Single thoughts by themselves are per se unbalanced.  Each thought needs another thought as a "correction," to inhibit the forward unproductive and counter-productive movement of that thought.  We may suggests that thoughts do not have a proper existence except insofar as they are conditioned and contained by other thoughts.   

Thoughts evaporate if they do not move forward.    We venture to suggest the the human ex-centric side orients itself by virtue of and through the centric side.  Thus, ideas in the beginning of human life did not stray far from the basic instincts of life.    Humans at that early time did not reflect overly much on general problems; such thoughts as they had simply attributed sacred and mystical powers to the landscape around them.    Australian nature worship would be a case in point.    Ideas--already, in the manner of walking, as I said above--were invoked in order to balance or orient other ideas.   Human thinking evolved in this way.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-25 15:25:26)

Re: 27. FREEDOM IS NEGATION [under revision July '10]

VI.
Plessner (p.129) says that  a nonliving thing is somewhere.  A living thing is both somewhere and and at the same time somewhere else.  This feature of living- as opposed to nonliving beings Plessner calls the living thing's Doppelaspekt.  I have talked about the double-aspeckt of human beings; Plessner suggests that this double-aspect is anticipated in the earliest animals.  Regretably, Plessner limits himself to a relatively few remarks on the subject of animal and human movement.  He goes on to say that a non-living thing simply exists in space.   Plessner (131) calls living being, on the other hand,  a raumbehauptende being (space-assertive).   Ideas in human sense are an extension of life.  They are space-assertive.  Ideas extend the space of humans.

We have talked about the spatial orientation of animals.  I have backed away from the ethological and ideologically nationalistic notion of "territory" as too vague for our purposes.  But there is another instinctive animal orientation that becomes a point of reference.  That is, the "safe-haven" idea that, with animals and humans alike, is programed into behavior.  I did not mention, but will do so now, that the safe-haven instinct appears first in infants.  They will crawl away from their mothers in order to explore their immediate world; but shortly they will return.  The mother constitutes a place of refuge and, as such, a center of activity.  Safety here means centrality.  Boy infants explore further than girls; and boys return less frequently to their mothers.  This is gender behavior.  But as adults, too, the safe haven concept is basic to human behavior.   The point to be made here is that this idea of a central but safe place, and the corresponding spatial (positional: Plessner) orientation, is basic to human thinking.  What we mean is fairly simple.  Ideas themselves require orientation; we say that points of reference allow this orientation.  The concept of a safe haven or "center" appears in thought as such a point of reference.   

Some concepts as "categories" are more basic than others.  Kant talked about the categories of human understanding.  Kant said these were space and time.  Whatever Kant was talking about he could with equal conviction have said about the safe-haven concept as an apriori basis of animal and human thinking.   The safe haven idea connects the purely abstract categories of thinking to the practical realities of life.  I have no hesitation in saying that the safe-haven idea is the premise of human thinking as such.   I suggest here that ideas in the human sense first began as what may be called "second eyes."  Ideas forged ahead of the human being as he moved into unfamiliar, unsafe country.  The actual senses could not see; ideas as extensions of the senses could see ahead, if only in the sense that they could imagine.  The hunter, leaving his safe haven in his quest for food, venturing into uncertain territory, sent ahead his ideas in the capacity of recon...[spell].   We understand that ideas in the human sense have to do with space and spacial orientation--unseen space, that is.  The insecurity that ideas confront--they are half blind--becomes, in effect, the insecurity that ideas are.   Ideas themselves are inherently insecure.  They "long" to return to a safe point of reference, as "mother," so to speak.  They restlessly cast about until they can return to this "mother" in order, again so to speak, to "rest."   

Without a notion of centricity--contained in the safe have idea--there would be no ex-centricity.  The latter concept makes no sense except in reference to centricity, which we have identified as the safe haven.   Still, there is work for us to be done.  In human beings  it is not necessarily clear what constitutes a safe haven.  I have attempted to look deeper than the merely physical features of the landscape to cosmic principles which in effect are the safe haven of humans.   Principles, rather than this or that tree or hill, are the point of reference to humans in their ex-centric thinking.  I have identified "race" as the safe haven of human beings.  (Sometimes I have to stretch to make a connection; this is one of those times.)  Among white people, whiteness itself is a cosmic principle of this order--a "god," so to speak.  Connecting race with the principle of safe-haven is a task we now have before us.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-01-30 15:24:55)