Topic: 38. THE ABSOLUTE IDEA: CONFLICT AND CONTRADICTION IN HISTORY

This essay is dedicated to friends who have helped me on my way but whom I have also known personally:  Gerhardt Ditz, Charleston Il.; Humphrey Ireland, Bryson City NC.; Roger Pearson, Hattisburg Miss.; Otto F. Bullnow, Tubingen, Germany; Robert Lenski, Bryson City NC; Robert Timblin, Charleston Il.; Frank Forman, Washington DC; David Duke, New Orleans La.; Foster Morrison, Washington DC; Revilo P. Oliver, Champaign Il; Wilhelm Kusserow, Berlin, Germany....more to come:)


We are looking for the source of the Absolute Idea.  Hegel started the search; he did not reach his goal.  Force Theory wants to try again.  We are saying that human cultural-, that is, collective ideas have two sources.  These ideas stem either from conflicts or contradictions.  But it is a mistake, and one commonly made by historians and philosophers of history, to confuse these two major processes.  Force Theory proposes that a categorical or Absolute Idea arises, historically, solely out of a categorical contradiction.  Only categorical--logically contradictory--events produce categorical or absolute ideas.  The notion of Humanity, for example, which is an Absolute Idea, did not arise out of any conflict, such as a regional war, but from a contradiction that was built into the prevailing way of life, the Roman city state, of the time.  Human beings and human life differs from the life of animals.  Contradiction is not simply a process of mind or intelligence but is a process of human material--economic--life.   Certain events in human history can be described as categorical and inherantly self-contradictory.   The Gothic tribal organization contradicted the city state structure of Rome; and any meeting of these two entities would have to be resolved as some new and Absolute Idea.  The Feudal Age was born with its notion of the Christian diety.  But such unqualified opposition between principles appears only in human life, never in animal life.  Animals are capable only of conflicts that are resolved by victory and defeat, but essentially no change in the way animals live.  Human life introduces into nature something that is of man rather than of nature per se:  a technological activity which is both material and thoughtful.  Human technics is a use of matter in a thoughtful way.  But the thoughtfulness of technics is inseparable from the way the technics is materially structured.  So that, in other words, "thought," as it is called, appears not precisely in the human brain so much as in what is between the brain and unthinking matter.  Technics in this sense is an issue not merely for philosophers but for historians.   These are considerations which I have tried to develop elsewhere.  Especially human economics focuses this contradictory nature of human life.  Friedrich Engels has pointed out the extreme paradox of the normal--free--human economy that producers acquire money by depriving their workers of money that would by the products that the producers produce.  Meanwhile the producers have no use for the mass made products they produce.   And so forth.  These are classic examples of contradictions that finally constitute a world within which the human being has to live.   Animals simply do not experience these contradictions.  Of course, humans are subject also to the wars and misunderstandings that make up the "animal" way of life.  The humans still are not spared the old source of misery, conflict, they have simply acquired a new one, contradiction.     

I use the word "animal" in an extremely hypothetical sense consistant with my larger argument.   We do this in order to integrate a particularly large range of factual material.  This very general agenda is what constitutes modern Philosophical Anthropology.  There is a broad and a narrow sense of the word Philosophical Anthropology; here we construe the word in the narrow sense.    Any writer or thinker who had some conception of "man"--we could mention Dostoyevski or Plato--could be said to have a philosophical anthropology.  There is something, which I have not much looked into, such as a Christian or Catholic philosophical anthropology.  There is more.  Kant had an essay titled Philosophical Anthropology whose ideas are close to what we present here under the title Force Theory, which is PA narrowly defined.  Because Kant, or for that matter Dostoyevski and Plato, are highly known writers, their names are listed higher in the google rankings.  I apologize to traditionalist readers who want to disregard the internet altogether; however the present writer is not afforded that luxury.  The internet and google are opportunities in the modern world that cannot be disregarded.  One can advance oneself by playing academic politics, of course, but I have already lost that war.  The internet offers new potential and a new kind of politics, which is a mix of instinct and technical savy.  Elsewhere, in my writing (now verschoben) on Philtalk.de, I have lamented the difficulty in publishing in the United States any book on Philosophical Anthropology, on account of its obscurity, its lack of American roots, its indifference to minority issues, and the fact that there is (known to me) no university course on PA.  I could leave the whole matter of my purpose and methods at that.   At this time I want simply to place myself and Force Theory in the tradition of PA.     I want to distinguish the present mode of thinking from the broader concepts of Philosophical Anthropology.  PA in the narrow sense has a specific methodology, which is not religious, nor is it rigorously scientific, but more in the tradition of philosophy.   The word "secular" is very dangerous here because many of the ideas of PA--for instance that of a human "essence"--have a seriously sacred or religious ring to them.  The writers in question are, among others, Arnold Gehlen, Helmuth Plessner and Max Scheler.   I mention also  specifically "phenomenology" as always (somehow) being connected to PA; they are siblings in the German university but not twins.  Anyway, the main detail identifying the PA in this essay as related to German PA of the 30's and after the War is its attention to primal man and the situations or problems primal man faced.   This is quite different than speculating broadly about some human "soul," as does Dostoyevski and Plato.  We are concerned here with the daily life of humans, perhaps three million years ago, as they went about looking for food and avoiding predators.  There is some documentation for this life left in the simplest formed tools that constituted the first human technology.  Force Theory is heavily oriented around the issue of technology as the primary mode of human survival.  Later I want to raise the issue of art and the so-called spiritual activities of humans.  For the moment we can just call the human being, with Gehlen, Friedrich Engels and a few others, a practical or economic being.  Where Force Theory goes beyond narrowly defined PA is in FT's suggestion that there is a basic contradiction built into human technics--briefly, a confusion of subject and object--that reverberates through the length and breadth of human history and civilization and manifests itself, lately if not finally, in the paradox of nationalism:  that a place, not race or biology, mediates the human relationship. 

There is much to be said regarding the origin of ideas before we have any hint of clarity; at present were are making a feeble beginning.  We are taking the proverbial Chinese one step that begins the thousand mile trip.   At the risk of seeming to avoid the real task of facing basic issues squarely, we are going to circumvent almost the entire literature that deals directly with "mind."  Mind is a relation of subject and object, as the old philosophers have said.  We presently are anthropologists, insisting, rather, that the main focus of our interest is in the viability--evolutional and instinctive soundness for individual survival and reproduction--of this subject/object relationship.  This would be more a practical issue than a metaphysical one.   Instead of talking about mind as such we will focus on the problems that mind is evolutionally designed to face.    We are taking the viewpoint that we can understand what mind is if we understand the challenges that mind faces.  (The pragmatist philosophers may have said something like this at some time.)   Where we are going to try to focus attention is in the different problems human beings have faced, from the beginning of human time, of which there is archeological and written record.  These challenges and responses may appear to us today as entirely simple and simple-minded; but inasmuch as they involved life and death struggles they were not trivial.  It was through these conflicts where one's life was at stake that evolution left its imprint.  The conflicts we face today, while complicated, usually do not affect personal survival.  The approach of Philosophical Anthropology is to try to determine as precisely as possible what were the everyday activies of primal humans.  The way humans made tools, even the way they used teeth to chew food, indicate somewhat the issues of survival--of providing food and protection from enemies--that were the difference between enduring and becoming extinct.  Where we move beyond current anthropology, on the other hand, is in making a distinction--I believe for the first time--between two classes of problem:  those entailing conflict and those involving contradiction.    There are in this region vast new areas to explore.   A conflict in its simplest and most primal form would be between two groups over hunting territory.  This has always gone on and has not disappeared today.    Various writers have called this the "territorial imperative."  Even ants, say, or wolves have this disposition and it is not surprising that humans have it too.  Nationalism begins, we may say, as such territorialism but resolves itself, in its contradiction with race as a human biological fact, into an absolute religious idea.  Nationalim, then, is more than territorialism played out in a wide area of land.  It is not difficult to extrapolate from one group of instincts to another; there are different kinds of conflict.  Conflicts are often disputes over possession of property; we see this sort of thing even among apes.  There are disputes over women or, as I have called them earlier, "breeding property."   Human thinking reflects these ordinary conflicts, inasmuch as they have existed from the beginnings of time.   But there is more.  These kinds of conflicts and disputes may not have been, in themselves, a reason for an increase in the size of the human brain, which in fact tripled in size over a three million year period.   Obviously these little bickerings had little to do with the great development that has characterized human evolution.    Something more was happening to human beings beyond the small pushing and shoving that had gone on for millenia.  Human beings were coming into a relationship that was not "natural," precisely, but of a new order that existed nowhere else.  That is humans were adapting, biologically and mentally, with a new world of technology and culture.   But there is more.  At this time we may simply pass on beyond the entire area of human conflict as something that is simply not very interesting.  Spengler and Hegel might have found a real philosophical issue in the squabblings between French and Germans; we will bypass all that.  Where Force Theory directs its main focus is in the area of contradiction.   It appears after long and patient research, occupying the present writer's virtual lifespan, that human challenges sort themselves into two groups, as I have said, of conflict and contradiction.  For our purposes contradiction is far more interesting because it raises the fundamental issue of what the human being is, and how, in other words, the human being sets himself apart from animals.  This is the basic question asked by Philosophical Anthropology.  The human being, or homo contradictusroll we are asserting, when entering a new way of life of technics and culture--a way that was irrevocable---also began an existence for which there was, basically, a massive and fundamental internal contradiction.  Technics and the technological way of life contradict themselves, while the human being himself becomes a part of this contradiction.  The human himself, as a technical being, becomes a self-contradiction.  We are carrying this fact of human life further.  We are saying that efforts to end this contradiction or somehow resolve it end only in new contradictions.  Along the way of human prehisotry and history appear what I am calling Absolute ideas or "absolute truths."  These are resolutions--albeit tempoary ones--of the basic contradictions that there are.

Philosophical Anthropology does not deal with all of human experience--all the little wars and bickerings that have gone on forever--but deals instead mainly with that line of experince, namely, wherein human beings are or become human.  In that regard--that we do not try to force every item of human experience into one great system--we are not true Hegelians.  Contradiction, we are saying, is not the whole of human existence, as Hegel would have it, but only a part--but the part of human life that produces civilization.  Most everyday life of individual humans involves dealing with the mutltitude of conflicts that arise; but the contradictions which do appear in collective life are, because they must not only be confronted but resolved, what moves humans forward in a line of "progress."   Human beings through this universal technological action set themselves apart from animals.  Technology is the material manifestation that is most evident to us; old Ben Franklin called Man the "tool making animal."  The question arises in our query as to whether technology is properly a human thing at all or is a principle unto itself, with humans themselves as agents of this force.  Human nature at this point has changed radically.  The human being has become dominated by the self-contradiction that inheres in the tools and artifacts of his life.  The basic principle that makes technology "progressive" is the fact, simply, that technology contradicts itself and its self-contradictions are never resolved.  Technology is inherently progressive.  The early hunter with nothing more than a stick to kill rabbits is propelled onward, we are saying, throughout the great ages of mankind, simply in the relationship he has with this stick, to attempt to create more technology eventually resulting in the kinds of technology we know today.  I am proposing, for example, that the moment the wistful rabbit hunter picked up a stick laying at his feet the civilization of Rome was prefigured and preordained.  This is not an extreme proposal if the basic ideas of Force Theory are understood.   That the brain of the man evolves is a reflex of the technics, rather than the other way around.  It is technics, more precisely, that is evolving, not the human species.  It is commonly said that technics serves the man; but the man also serves technics.  This--in most basic terms a confusion of subject and object--is the contradiction that inheres in human life and makes humans the "progressive" being that he is.  At the end of this progress is the Absolute Idea, which is the (fictitious) end of human striving.  The absolute truth of so-called Humanity is the rationale of human self-negation.  The idea of Humanity is not in itself technological; but the motive power of the idea is technological.  The human being applies himself to halt evolution.    This is where our argument stands at present regarding the relation between man and technics.   The Philosophical Anthropologist who has put technology at the center of his thinking is Arnold Gehlen; but his conclusions are for our purposes simplistic.  We must move on.  Force Theory, begun by our great mentor Eugen Duhring, takes up the whole train of Hegelian and Posthegelian thought and applies it to anthropological considerations.  Two great facts of pre- and advanced human history appear.  We are saying--and this is the thesis we will develop in subsequent pages--that (1) the relation of subject and object turned, in the first tool use, to one of self-contradiction; the human being himself, through the tool and the relations he had with other humans through technics, contradicted himself.  (2) At the point of the classic civilizations and the Greek and Roman city states the subject-object relation was mediated through the idea of place; but place contradicts the idea of people.  The notion of a people through a place--the essential idea of nationalism--is a self-contradiction; and the people living through such a notion contradict themselves.  This is a contradiction which is resolved through the "absolute truth" or (Hegelian) Absolute Idea of so-called humanity.  Finally, in turn, the idea of nation contradicts the organic realities of evolution and race.

Serious mistakes have been made by scholars and philosophers regarding human progress.  The main issue is not, or should not be, human intelligence as such; we are not focused there presently.  Intelligence exists not to further the practical efficacy of technics, but to resolve the problems--the inner contradictions--that technology brings with it.   Technics is not a straightforward practical activity, with clear methods and objectives, but a psychologically confused mode of life.    Human technology would seem at first sight to serve the straightforward purpose of enhancing human life.  The conventional conception is that human beings, knowing that their welfare depends on their technology, engage their intelligence in enhancing and expanding this technology.  Force Theory takes a different point of view.  Human progress, we are saying, proceeds from the fact that technology cannot exist without effort being expended to resolve the self-contradiction within the basic and primal technological act.   Human beings would be perfectly content with a few sticks and stones as tools and hunting as a way of life.   This luxury is not afforded them.  Their own technology fails on the basic psychological fact that a tool is both subject and object--the human user and a mere physical thing--at the same time.  This is the conditio humana of earliest times, involved as people are in a contradiction within their--otherwise successful--way of life.  Insofar as he lives through and around his technics, at any given point in time the human himself does not know if he is a person or an object.  This is the way the human being began as a technological being, already at odds with his own now inescapable mode of living.  The man became intelligent, we are saying, in accomodating himself to this technics and also resolving the inner tension and opposition between the elements and facits of technics, whether these facits be purely mechanical or in the way human beings themselves understand their own tools.   Anthropologists might comfortably come to understand technics in the way Force Theory understands it.   I think anthropology as a study is guilty more of an oversight than any ideological bent anthrologists as a community of scholars might have.  But there is more.  This issue of nationalism arises and with it questions of loyalty to one's country.  The point of view of Force Theory is that the same opposition that exists between so-called nature and, on the other hand, technology exists also between human beings and they live.   Again, the issue of the contradiction of subject and object, when this relationship is mediated through a physical thing--in this case nation--arises again in modern times in the political struggles that there are.  Land or place is interjected into human relationships so that the person identifies with the land--which otherwise is a mere physical thing--rather than with people as an evolutionary community.  Tribalism, we are saying, which is a personal cohesion through biology and nature, gives way to nationalism and group identity through place.  This is a disposition which began in the Paleolithic period, not at that time as a bond with land and place so much as a connection among humans through the --self-contradictory--technics of their survival.

Later I will take up the issue of "human identity."  For the moment it suffices to say that humans distinguish themselves from animals in that for humans survival means not simply prevailing over this or that animal or problem, but in distinguishing himself, in an ongoing intellectual process, from the tools and technics whereby he lives.  I have summed up that process below.  I said the following:  The tool is an extension of the arm.  In Gehlen's terms, the tool "completes" the arm.  We might go further and say that the tool is the arm.  The tool, that is, that completes the arm is an element of the identity of the person.  So far as the tool is the arm, and the arm is the person, then the tool as we say particpates in the identity of the person.  There is more.  When we talk about the identity of the human being as a tool-using being we also include tools in that identity.  There are a number of ways to make this simple point, that the human being by using tools has in some way "grown together" with the tools of his life, so that the identity of the human being is not truly stated unless tools are included in that identity.  For these purposes, there is no essential difference between the arm and the tool; they are the same.  We have now essentially stated the position that the tool and the human being are one and the same thing.  But they are not the same.  The human being, in fact, is one thing and the tool is entirely something else.  The human may use the tool, but in using it he is not the tool.  We are saying, finally, two different things.  We are saying that the human being is the tool.  And then we reverse ourselves and say that the tool is not the human being.  These are contradictory statements.  This mutual negation would seem to negate the entire relationship between humans and tools.  But it does not.  (Interjecting a short story of this sort:  a famous decoder [cite] said that formal or logical systems contradict themselves finally.  Also, formal systems are basic to computer language.  Yet computers do work.  I have no real aptitude for this science but I have to mention it as suggestive here.  I thank Jim Hawtry, former engineer at Fermi Laboratory, for this anecdote.)   Animated being and inert being collide in the fact of tool use; though they are categorical opposites, the life of the human being as tool-using creature continues unabated.  The way the human being can continue in the midst of the contradiction that constitutes his very existence and identity is to resolve this contradiction.  The negation of life in its relation to matter, in the fact of tool use, is not resolved once, simply, for all times.  [note:  I have elsewhere used the word "resolve" in a sense inconsistent with what is being said here.]  Finally, there is one more step in our argument.  The contradiction inherent in tool use is what ultimately defines a human being as human.  Ben Franklin said that man is a tool-using animal. I must continually repeat this because it is the major proposition of "naive" anthropology.   What Force Theory says, on the other hand, is that the act of using tools forces the human being to define himself as human, that is as something that is not a tool.  This is categorical thinking, which is uniquely humans and for which animals have no capacity.  That is, referring back to what was said earlier about the word categorical, a thing is defined in terms of what it is not.  For the human being survival consists not of conquoring this or that enemy or predatory animal--such conquest is easy with the simplest weapons of wood, stone and bone--but in distinguishing himself from his own tools.  The tool would absorb the man and so destroy the man, as even, in advanced technological civilization this may actually be in danger of happening.  The human being must resolve the logical contradiction between his own life and the inert action of tools.  He does this not by logical thinking, however, but by a certain categorical thinking in oppositionals.  An example which we will present as focal to our argument is the following:  what is meant by a human being is some being that is a being, but is not a tool or artifact.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-07-07 13:49:56)

Re: 38. THE ABSOLUTE IDEA: CONFLICT AND CONTRADICTION IN HISTORY

A tool as I define the word is already a social, not an individually-possessed, thing.   As such--because it entails the mutuality of persons who have abjured conflict--the tool raises the possiblity of contradiction.   To contradict means to violate an idea that is already established.  In conflict, we said, there is no agreement and there is no categorical idea or law a dispute would violate.    To understand this point we should look back at the earlier philsophers.  Hegelians and philosophers in general have confused conflicts with contradictions.  We want now to correct this error.  The path of philosophy is tortuous and unpredictable.  It appears now in our own "performance" of philosophy--where we simply allow ourselves to make mistakes--that conflict is an eternal pheomenon that occupies all animals and humans as well.   Even many human accomplishments spring from conflict, a fact that complicates our effort to understand culture.   Spengler and other admirable thinkers have made art, for instance, central to philosophy; for us, though, art is not within our problem area.   The issue at hand, rather, is contradiction.  When are persons in a contradictory relation that is more than a mere conflict?    We are saying that two humans are in a contradictory relationship when a disagreement arises between them as to the terms of their agreement.    But first there must be an agreement of some kind.  I want to expand this idea to the thought that it is indeed possible for persons to be in an agreement and yet not have language between them.  I have already said that humans, but not animals, may have relationships through and around physical things.  Objects, or the ownership of objects, are not disputed but held in common.  There is a mutuality between humans that is mediated through objects; within the terms of this mutuality, even while there is no understanding through language, is where contradictions can arise.  The contradiction in a human relationship is where one or the other person violates the agreement.  From the point in time where humans possessed tools and technology the first mutuality of this sort arose.  I do not want to introduce more terms which would confuse the issue.  `We established earlier in this blog that tools and technology, in the way I defined these words, involved already, in the earliest period of human existence, the fact of commonality.  Whether we say that tools were "held in common" or they entailed "mutuality," we see already that they have, in Engels' expression, a "social character."  Tools are social, not private, facts.   Engels applied the term "social form" to culture at a much later period; but in the tradition of Philosophical Anthropology we will push this mutuality back much farther in time.   The reason for this "common possession," as I already said, was in the radical effect such tools--as weapons--had within the natural group.  This was a group, now called the family, that was already formed through instinct.  Through tools, on the other hand, a man (especially) could leverage his assertion.  This absolutely required, to preserve the integraty of the group, some sort of agreement or understanding as to the use of weapons.  The "rule of thumb," wherein a man could hit his wife with an object no longer than the thumb, was the outcome of this understanding and was the first rule of culture (we are saying).   The were our earlier assertions in this philosophical-anthropological blog [cite].   There is no need to assume that humans at this early period even spoke or made more than incoherent utterances.  They were primitive yet the relation between them was already "intelligent" in that possession of a thing--especially a weapon--was by common consent.  This was the agreement among them.  This agreement also was the occasion for the first contradiction--which was more than a mere conflict--within human life.  Whether or not an agreement was what we would call "formal" is beside the point.  It was through something already possessed in common, by its very character as a common good, was not an individually possessed good, that a true contradiction could take place.

For the animal, the relation between subject and object, and between the individual and the group, is straightforward and instinctive.  The animal would never ask, even assuming it could think at all, what its proper relation with its object; or whether its subjectivity constituted some sort of "identity."  Nor would it ask whether it is or isn't a member of some social group.  These are things that have been worked out for this hypothetical creature long in advance of its even appearing.  Subject and object, individual and group, are the perenial questions of philosophy.  There is no point for us to fall into that mire.  Suffice it to say that the human being, too, has an innate sense of the proper--instinctively adjusted--relation between the basic things of his life.  Thus if we were to ask about the relation of subject and object in the human mind we would get the same answer, essentially, as if we were asking that question about the animal mind.  Evolution and nature have worked things out properly to ensure a steady give-and-take among living things.   At the risk of opening turgid metaphysical questions that we cannot answer, I raise the point that, whatever the subject is "essentially," and whatever the object is "essentially," the organism--and every organism that lives is both subject and object--is viable without a metaphysical question being asked.  There is a bond of some sort that makes the object, some bit of food perhaps, the obvious object; while the subject never questions its or his subjectivity.  The creature man or animal gets his or its food, and so the course of nature continues undisturbed.  The viability of the connection between subject and object, and between individual and group, is basic to the health of the organism in the same way that the heart and lungs and appendages are basic.  But there is more.  We still have to ask the question of subject and object, and individual and group, because of a "situation" that has arisen for man--all members of Homo sapiens whomsoever--in the context of nature.  The human being as subject has entered into a mediated--technological--relationship with the objects of his needs.  This "confusion," as I will call it, is in the fact that the tool or basic artifact is neither subject nor object, yet is both subject and object.  And the relationship between the human and his objects, so long as this relation is within the tool itself, is a highly confused, to say the least, and also a self-contradictory relation.  The subject object relation we are now talking about is not one established, by nature and instinct, within the human being but rather is a subject object relation outside the person, in technics, in which the human "participates" in some sort of Platonic sense. 

The animal orients itself among the objects of its world; the human being, rather, engages himself with these same objects.  The animal goes about in its world looking for food and avoiding predators.  Around it are this thing and that, some of these things familiar others become familiar through experience.  Human and animal do not differ in their orienting behavior.  Behavioral scientists have studied orientation in both human and non-human creatures and have concluded that the human being behaves in the same way, using objects to steer his course to some goal.  A large, prominant object has an effect on human and animal movement alike.   The human's world, as the animal's, may be seen in this context as a field of behavior, like bumpers on a pinball game.  This orientation is the animal and human's most primitive mental behavior and is encoded as a reflex in the simplest intelligence.  There is nothing to suggest that humans have outgrown this instinct for orientation.  But there is more.  While the human still orients himself by objects that are found in his world, and left unaltered, he also "engages" himself in some objects called by us tools.  There is also a question of the mentality of nationalism.   In this regard we can contrast territorialism and nationalism: the human is oriented by territory and the other instinct we talked about earlier, need for a path of safe retreat (see section   ).  But the human sphere of behavior is wide.  At some time in their evolution human beings began not so much steering around and according to objects, but actually encorporating objects in their lives.  Humans altered objects as tools.  But more importantly these objects were understood by men as extension of themselves.  Arnold Gehlen has said that the tool is an "erweiterung" or extension of the biological organs of the person.    There are many examples of orientation versus engagement in human existence, in the fact of tools and tool use but also in the entire conceptualization of territory by humans, not as orienting, at all, but as engaging.  But first we need to understand that territory--which most animals have in some way--is an orienting behavior, not engagement.   What is being suggested here, as a final conclusion, is that the thing that engages a person, to the extent that the thing becomes--or threatens to become--the person himself also, ulltimately, forces the human into a self-contradiction.  The tool both is and is not the human being himself.  The human being must, in order to be viable, distinguish himself from the tool.  Living substance must distinguish itself from inert matter.  In the tool, or through the tool, this is difficult to do.  The stage is set for thinking that is more than consequential, or orienting, but is categorical.  The "isness" of the human being is categorically defined by the "otherness" or "is not-ness" of the tool.  In mind, eventually, this categorical distinction plays itself out as logical thinking.  Human thinking does not emerge as a consequence of the use of the tool, to enhance tool use, but to define oneself in relation to the tool--and to matter.

Territory is something an animal has; a nation or city-state is something humans not only have but are.  Of course as I said earlier, we mean "animal" in a very abstract and hypothetical sense to conform to the overall terms of our argument.   In no sense does an animal take his identity from the place he is at, nor, for that matter, do humans at a hunting and gathering level of existence.  But at that early time humans had tools, as we said, but they had entered into relations through and around tools.  Tools structured human relationships.  But there is more.  These technological terms of relationships, and the confusion of subject and object, and the confusion of social modes of life as opposed to mere individual possession of objects, brought about a type of understanding wherein land was regarded more than mere "territory."   Humans came to identify with one another on the basis of place rather than according to family, tribe or race.  The age of modern nationalism began, we are saying, with the city-state concept.  Our problem is mainly human history, particularly insofar as a given line of history--call it a culture or civilization--results in some focal idea that is religious rather than practical.  These ideas do not announce themselves as religious or even sacred; they can call themselves "scientific."  Philosophers of our own day would not concede, so far as they are employed or hold it as an obligation to uphold the social system, that humanity is anything other than a scientifically real concept.  The idea of Man is an Absolute Idea.  But there is more.   We can see, if only dimly, not one but two lines of thinking which proceed on the one hand from conflict and on the other from contradiction.History shows conflict and also contradiction. neutral I suggest at this point that history has two sources and lines of development rather than just one.  What we say presently is that the first issue for us should be that of problems humans face.  If humans think to solve problems, the thinking they do will reflect the problems--of conflict and contradiction--they have.  Indeed, the problems that are for our purposes most important, we aver, are those that arose during the Paleolithic.  These problems are the ones that define man as man, as opposed to an animal, and have to do with the technology that mediates between humans and nature.   Modern problems that have their source in technics and technological social organization, are problems that have always existed but have never been solved.  Men still await these same solutions.  In general, as was said earlier, problems can be devided into the two groups of conflict and contradiction.  Where humans face conflicts there thoughts are going to be of one sort; and the same with contradictions.  I call thinking about conflict simply conflict resolution.  Contradictions, which are logical in nature, are approached with logical thinking.  I have used the word categorical; I do so with some caution.   For me "categorical" means absolute in the sense of logic.  The general principle to emerge is that the kinds of contradictions humans face--and have always faced since Paleolithic times--lead to the kinds of conclusions only humans have.

A tool as a tool, or a thing of human use, has within it the basic elements of human intelligence.  We could state this proposition in reverse.  Human intelligence has within it the basic elements of technology.  These elements are basically subject and object.  Subject and object, which are the primary things we are talking about, have come about through evolution.  But a certain relation between subject and object has come about through evolution; while another relationship between subject and object has come about through techno-logics.  The later commenced, coincidentally, with human life.   Of course in talking about subject and object without explaining what thse things are we are bypassing a major part of philosophy.  Our focus is on the darwinistic and anthropological problems.  It suffices for our purposes to say that the organism as it has evolved for millenia consists of a viable union of subjective and objective factors that allow a consistently practical adaptation to the organism's environment.  But there is more.  It remains to be seen how these subjective and objective factors are put together in technology.  The conclusion is inescapable that the way subject and object coexist in the animal organism is entirely different than the way these things fit one another in the context of techno-logics.   In the organism there is such a thing as a subject and an object; also an individual and a group character.  This has already been concluded.  Also, in techno-logics there is both a subject  and an object.  The most common tool, a mere stick or stone, has within it--as embedded in animal and human life--has an object, but, as an extension of the user, is a subject.  We have said this in earlier sections of our blog.  It is rather in the relationship between subject and object as these things inhere in the tool wherein the tool differs from "organic" animal and human nature.   How subject and object interact is where we have focused our attention now; and we see that the life of an organism is fundamentally different than that of a tool.  The tool extends the life of the user, that life defined as subject and object; but this extension is only in the polar features of the being, not in the intermediate features.  Whereas subject and object are consistent within the biological organism, they are categorical within the tool.   By consistent I mean that a cause has a straightforward or mechanical effect.  By categorical I mean that an effect must follow a cause logically.  There remains to discuss the term "categorical":  this is a concept in formal philosophy.  Our point presently is that "categorical" refers to a feature of the human mind to think of objects logically rather than empirically.  Thus, for instance, in the formal definition of category there is the notion that a category excluses its logical opposite (not-A is not A, and so forth).  This is a way of thinking animals are incapable of.  I quote google's Philosophical Dictionary: "... categorical term:  A word or phrase that designates a class. Each categorical term divides the world into two parts: the original class and its complement; the things to which the term applies and those to which it does not."

These last sentences evoke problems that will be addressed later.   Either way, whether we assume that the human takes his nature from the tool or vice versa,  the implications of this union of human beings and the things they us--techno-logically--is radical.   Human beings are caught in a contradiction that inheres in in the logic of their  technology.  Living techno-logically, humans have entered a mode of existence that is categorical rather than, as before, straightforwardly organic.  Each category, as was just quoted, evokes its logical opposite--this is the manner of techno-logics that has been encorporated into human thinking.  We have already seen what this organic or animal existence is. .  That was the topic of the last paragraph.  The point we are advancing now, then, is this:  the relationship of subject and object in techno-logics is not consistent so much as contradictory.  But there is more.  The idea advanced earlier in this blog, and made a cornerstone of Force Theory, is the fact that human beings enter into relationships with one another through technology; and through this technology--where elements may follow logically from one another or flatly contradict one another--themselves enter contradictory relationships.  Gehen speaks of the tool as an ersatz organ.  We are speaking of the tool as an ersatz person.  Like the biological person, we are saying, the tool has within it an "essence" taken from its human user.  This essence of the tool consists of a subject and an object, and an individual character and group character.  But there is a fundamental difference between the human and the tools of his use.  In the human being, we are saying, the relationship between subject and object, etc. is straightforward and con-sequential.  This relation has been worked out through the millenia of biological evolution and is constituted through genetics.  Within the tool, on the other hand, the subjec/object relation is entirely new.  The tool as subject, we are saying, is constituted as a subject should be.  And the object of the tool, likewise, is perceived as an object should be.  It is the techno-logical relation between these two polar opposites where our concern lies.   In the tool the relation has yet to be worked out.  So that the object of the tool does not lie in any definite position in relation to the subject; and vice versa.  With the word "confused"--as opposed to contradictory--we might rest our case.  Technology is an entire world of human making in which there is no set order.  The order--the chain of priorities--comes only through human intervention; and that intervention comes from many and diverse human beings all having different claims.  The individual, for his part, resists such intrusion and remains steadfast in the face of efforts of humans or nature to disrupt him.  That is the advantage that the individual organism has.  Subject and object have between them in the individual a certain directionality.  The subject is "prior" to the object in some sense.   For the tool it is otherwise.  There is no directionality there in the relation of subject and object.   When we introduce the word contradiction, as we will do now, a whole new issue arises that is not so easily dealt with.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-07-04 19:20:41)

Re: 38. THE ABSOLUTE IDEA: CONFLICT AND CONTRADICTION IN HISTORY

Subject and object are categorical terms.  They are entities thought about in a uniquely human way.  There is the further consideration that human thinking is in part categorical thinking.  Humans think in oppositional terms, raising always the negation of some thought along with the thought itself.  A category is the thought which alludes to its own negation.  This is properly speaking dialectical thinking, something only human beings but not animals are capable of.   In the language of philosophy (see google philosophy dictionary) categories are entities which proclaim what they are but also what they are not.  Each category, in other words, in addition to a statement about itself, makes a statement about what is other than itself.  As something that is not the original category, this second something is also an opposite term (not A).   Otherness is opposition and negation.    In other words, each category is a statement of the category's other.  In short (I am suggesting) this is the basic idea of categorical thinking.  This sort of reasoning is unique to the human species.  Where we are talking about the human being, and the relation of subject and object in the human mind,  and also about the relation of subject and object in human technology, the fundamental questions are the same.  Subject and object become categorical to one another through what holds them together in the first place.  This middle or connecting term, whatever it is that brings subject and object together, is the psychology of the person.  This psychology, as I said alredy, is formed through evolution and the proverbial struggle for existence.  Technology, on the other hand--and we have already said that technics have a subjective and objective side; a side that "is" the user and a side that is the thing the tool is used for--has no such history.  The history of technics is scarcely three million years old.  Thus, when technics brings subject and object together, there is no question of stability or certainty.  Subject and object come together within technology in a haphazard way, requiring steady and consistent human intervention.  Humans must continually bring to technics their own purposes and intentions which keep the subjective and objective sides of technology together in a harmonious relationship.  In short, technics were it not for human intervention would simply destroy itself, negate its own terms categorically, were it not to take its integration from the integration that already exists, through evolution, in the individual human being.  I say individual.  For the first hunters of the African savanahs there would have been no issue of technology's self-destruction.  Technics were straightforward because, simply, they were understood.  They were understood not only as to how they worked but as to their purpose.  But there is more.  The confusion in technology comes later in human history as many persons involve themselves not just with technics in general, but with the same technics.   There is no consistent human oversight of technics.  If that is true, then any viability of technics must depend on consistency and integration of purpose and object of the technics themselves.  But technics, in the absence of consistent and purposeful human intervention, contradict themselves.

The human being thinks "through" and "around" the artifacts of his life.    At this stage of our argument it is important to emphasize that we must keep our terms simple.  We open ourselves to the criticism that our ideas are naive and without reference to established traditions of philosophy.  For us, on the other hand, simplicity is of the essence.  That is precisely because the generality of what we say is or could be overwhelming.  There is a wide range of facts philosophical, anthropological and psychological which must be brought together to make a complete thesis.  We must be able to pass from one level of understanding to another with complete ease and facility.  But there is more.  We are talking about human thinking.  But we are refering not only to some activity of the brain but also an activity, just as importantly, of the body.  We are talking about what is inside the brain; but equally we refer to what is outside the brain as an acquired extension of the body, which is the tool or artifact.  It is not possible to say at this point that the tool actually thinks.  This would be too extreme a statement.  What we can say, however, is that the tool is a t of thought; that the use of the tool is thoughtful; while the thoughtfulness of the tool belongs in part to the tool.  All these would be valid assertions.  The human being thinks through the tools he uses, in the use of those tools; while the thoughts that are specifically human, as opposed to those of animals, are constituted "as if" tools are involved.   The mind is simply a reflex of tool use.  In the use of tools, even before the brain was more than ape-like, was prefigured all that there would be, finally, as an advanced mind.   Beyond this, it is necessary to point out that tool usel is "categorical."   We look for the simplest examples.  A man chasing a rabbit, with the intent to catch the rabbit with bare hands, is both a subject and an object.  There is, or may be, a rational process here, an estimation of distance and all the problems that go with reaching any object.  But this process is not yet technological.  The subject is the hungry man; the object is the rabbit.  We are thinking that the human is still in an "animal" mode as we have defined the word animal.  Subject and object are bound together in this case in such a way that these things can be described as veritably two sides of the same thing.  The subject is what a human being is; the object is what the human has.  But ultimately what a human being is and what he has are the same thing.   This is a close relationship of subject and object.  Evolution has produced this unity.  Now, however, we introduce a  human element in the situation.   Holding a stick, the hunter imparts his subjectivity to the stick so that the subjective element in the equasion (and now we can speak of categorical relations) is something that inheres in the stick.  The object or purpose of the stick is something else.  But this object is also brought into the stick.  The stick is an extension of the subjective man; but the man is also an extension of the stick.  We may examine the stick itself.  The stick, while having these two sides--as intent or purpose and object or goal--has physically between these sides only some inert material substance.  That is what a tool starts as--a physical object.  Finally we may ask the question:  what is "categorical" in the tool as used object?

The philosophers of history that there have been, from Spengler to Hegel to Toynbee have tried to compress different phenomena--notably, for our purpose, situations of conflict and of contradiction--into a single line of cultural evolution.  This is not the way we will proceed here.  What we will do is to point out that Engels and the Young Hegelians have had an entirely different subject matter than the Romantic and "organic" cultural theorists such as Spengler and Nietzsche.  The theme suggested here is that Engels, in the tradition of Hegelianism, was talking about a realm of human behavior that sorted itself into contradictions.    For Spengler et al it was an event of significance that England, say, would desire a certain trade route and fight for it.  Territorial issues were extremely important for the "organic" point of view, which did not distinguish, particularly, human history from the comings and goings of a colony of ants or bees.   That is humans were adapting, biologically and mentally, to a new world of technology and culture.   Philosophical Anthropology is the study that begins with what I will call "primal situations," which, because they are simple and entail simple human solutions, can give direct insight into the more complex challenges that face modern humans.  When we make the decision to pare down our subject area, and to disregard the problems faced in everyday life--most of which involve conflicts and disputes of one kind or another--the "human situation" emerges in clear profile.  Of course all humans are carried along in these major dialectical or categorical processes.  That is to say, for example, the Industrial Revolution--which was a categorical change in human life--affected human lives drastically.  But these changes were not due to conflicts, in the way the word conflict is defined here.  It was not in an argument with this or that person or betweeen nations that a life was change, but was a result, rather, of broad (what are called) social forces that proved irresistable.  All humans of that place and time were so affected.  Our purpose here, then, is to trace the source of the Industrial Revolution back in time to certain habits and activities practiced by humans as the used the first technics--at first only a sstick or stone--to carry out the most basic daily activities.    I do not want to get too far ahead of myself.  What is being proposed here is that the absolute truths by which humans live, or claim to live, are a natural appearance of basic and original human technology.

In short, the facts must fit the theory rather than the other way around.  It is not dishonest to structure an essay this way; it is dishonest only if the writer does not reveal his intention.  With this in mind I can proceed to my main argument.  I said earlier that humans just get over their small conflicts, like a minor wound that heals.  Germany and England and America have fought wars; men have died and lives have been ruined.  This is true.  Also wounds of this sort can result in great works of art.  What such international conflicts are likely to result in are monumental battle scenes by great painters and fine statues in public parks. smile These scenes and edifices are all culture and the work of higher human intelligence. Whether it is a war or just a misunderstanding the conflicts that there are are experiences; and experiences result in ideas.  I'm going to make the radical proposal, which stands a good chance of refutation, that multitudes of cultural expressions--works of art and so forth--are the result of minor scrapes of one kind or another but represent no really significant cultural event.  European art may be "better" than that of primitive peoples, but I am not making an issue out of such differences.  I am now proposing, rather, that art and literature have been made too much of by philosophers of history.  I admire Spengler and I have always castigated Engels; now I am favoring Engels.  Engels was wrong on the issue of the "practical man."  On the other hand, it was correct of Engels to aver that the industrial revolution constitutes a major event in human history.  Such major events do not follow out of conflicts, we are saying, but from contradictions that inhere in the basic premise of culture.  Any event such as the industrial revolution, which changes the social relations among human beings, deserves our first and primary attention.   In the clash between the old family form of human organization and the modern industrial system a whole relationship--and a whole new idea, an Absolute Idea--appeared. 

European art may be "better" than that of primitive peoples, but I am not making an issue of such differences.  I am now proposing, rather, that art and literature have been made too much of by philosophers of history.  I admire Spengler and I have always castigated Engels; now I am favoring Engels.  Engels was wrong on the issue of the "practical man."  On the other hand, it was correct of Engels to aver that the industrial revolution constitutes a major event in human history.  Such major events do not follow out of conflicts, we are saying, but from contradictions that inhere in the basic premise of culture.  Any event such as the industrial revolution, which changes the social relations among human beings, deserves our first and primary attention.   In the clash between the old family form of human organization and the modern industrial system a whole relationship--and a whole new idea, an Absolute Idea--appeared.  But there is more.  I suggest at this point that history has two sources and lines of development rather than just one.   The philosophers of history that there have been, from Spengler to Hegel to Toynbee have tried to compress different phenomena--notably, for our purpose, situations of conflict and of contradiction--into a single line of cultural evolution.   I suggest that contemporary philosophy of history has dwelt on conflict at the neglect of contradiction.  Also contradictions are presented as conflicts, thus resulting in entirely distorted notions.   This is not the way we will proceed here.  What we will do is to point out that Engels and the Young Hegelians have had an entirely different subject matter than the Romantic and "organic" cultural theorists such as Spengler and Nietzsche.  The theme suggested here is that Engles was talking about a realm of human behavior that sorted itself into contradictions.  With the "organic" theorists it was otherwise.  For Spengler et al it was an event of significance that England, say, would desire a certain trade route and fight for it.  Territorial issues were extremely important for the "organic" point of view, which did not distinguish, particularly, human history from the comings and goings of a colony of ants or bees.   I here raise the issue of "human versus animal."    Using the word "animal" serves for me the purpose of pairing down the professionally philosophical words I use while substituting ordinary words.  These words are used at the risk of appearing grossly ignorant of new work in zoology.  I am aware of this work, at least superficially.  Animals do think, somehow.  I believe that their thoughts are mainly if not entirely confined to conflict resolution, as I have defined that term here.  So there is a distinct and definable gap between the thinking of humans and that of animals.  My purpose in presenting this blog is argumentation, not to present any finding in the area of animal psychology.  The overall intent of this blog is to build a unified and comprehensive theory of human existence, consistent with the earliest philosophical anthropologists such as Gehlen and Plessner.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-07-01 15:15:34)

Re: 38. THE ABSOLUTE IDEA: CONFLICT AND CONTRADICTION IN HISTORY

The identity of a human being here becomes an issue.  Arnold Gehlen's major thesis is "the tool is an extension of the human arm."  I earlier reviewed the writings of Gehlen, who is at the center of the Philosophical Anthropology movement.  Force Theory adds to Gehlen's thesis without detracting from it.   Force Theory asserts that, if the tool is an extension of the man, it is just as reasonable to suppose that the man, also, is an extension of the tool.  We may ponder the deeper issue.  What we are suggesting now is that, in long, million year use of tools there arose a certain "identity crisis," such as is talked about in modern times.  The identity crisis--without specifying its origin--is the theme of existentialist philosophy and the entire post-Hegelian view.  The human being is "alienated" from society to the extent that he does not feel part of society.  The deeper issue is perhaps more complicated than I can state it here.  But "identity," we are saying, arises in the context of tool use.  By technics we could mean industrial civilization as it exists today, but we could just as well mean (we are saying) a point of view that originated in the earliest technology of humankind, which was little more than sticks and stones used as tools.   So long as the tool was an extension of the human being, indispensible to him and basic to his well being, even to his standing in his social group, there would be, of course, an identity problem.  Was the man the tool or the tool the man?  But there is more.  The issue of property and land conceived as property came more to the forefront of human concern.  In tool use, we are saying, there inhered a certain dim notion of nationhood and "belonging" or "identity" mediated by physical surroundings.  The matter is not complicated, so long as we understand the mentality of tool use, even the tool use of the earliest hunters and gatherers.  We assume that human identity, as we call it, was problematic in Paleolithic times.  Philosophical Anthropology begins with science, but moves into philosophical--or even quasi religious--speculation.  When we raise the issue of identity we move beyond science as academic anthropology construes science, and into, rather, the realm of psychology.  But we do not necessarily stop with the psychological understanding of "identity" but pass to the realm of metaphysics and theory of mind.  We are asking about the human being's concept of himself.  We do not stand on the position, categorically, that the human being had the same sense of alienation--estrangement from self--that modern man has.  We only say that he was moving already in that direction. 

Without at all consulting the psychological literature on the topic of identity, we may define our terms simplistically.  We need not be shy here of simplifications and even shortcuts and philosophical shorthand.  Even in using the word identity we run the risk, already, of letting terms multiply needlessly in our discussion.  I have often used the word "subject."   I want to put the subject in some relation with identity.  Both words suggest a single sentient entity which looks around itself and at objects without ever making itself an object.  Members of a band of remote tribesmen, seeing a photograph of the group, recognize every member of the group but one--their own selves.  We are talking here about a subject or an identity, but not a self-aware subject.  I want to avoid a muddle of Kantian and neoKantian mind-theory mumbo-jumbo.  The term oppositional to identity would be, in the present context, our notion, stated now, of "identity-through."  The animal, we are saying, has an identity and is a subject; but an animal also has no practical need for its identity nor ever thinks, nor does it need to think, of its subjectivity.  When an animal sees an object, it, the animal, never sees itself in that object.  Of course humans also have a primal identity about which nothing is thought.  That is why, for instance, the subject of philosophy and Philosophical Anthropology is of so little interest to most people.  But there is more.  At some point the issue of their identity is directly or indirectly forced upon them.  That is because, as we have been saying, humans live by and through the tools of their existence.  Human beings engage themselves, they do not just orient themselves by, the things around them.  These things are extensions of themselves--or they themselves are extensions.  Someone has said "formal systems eventually all contradict themselves" [please wait for a precise citation].  Within the tool and technology living substance comes into collision with inert matter; what does not live is animated; what does not live is indispensible to what lives, like the organs of the body.  Within this "formal systems" there is no way, inherent in the system, to sort out the issues of living versus nonliving "essence."  I would suggest that the human being senses this issue, however, albeit not clearly and directly.  Rather the issue of identity, as the issue first appears in primal tool use, results in a contradiction within human life and culture which must continually be resolved.  Human beings pass from technics as such to engagement with objects that are not precisely tools; I have already mentioned land or place conceived as nation.  The human being lives through the objects of his world, even without reflecting on the identity crisis, of sorts, that brings this ersatz existence about.

The tool is an extension of the arm.  In Gehlen's terms, the tool "completes" the arm.  We might go further and say that the tool is the arm.  The tool, that is, that completes the arm is an element of the identity of the person.  So far as the tool is the arm, and the arm is the person, then the tool as we say particpates in the identity of the person.  There is more.  When we talk about the identity of the human being as a tool-using being we also include tools in that identity.  There are a number of ways to make this simple point, that the human being by using tools has in some way "grown together" with the tools of his life, so that the identity of the human being is not truly stated unless tools are included in that identity.  For these purposes, there is no essential difference between the arm and the tool; they are the same.  We have now essentially stated the position that the tool and the human being are one and the same thing.  But they are not the same. The human being, in fact, is one thing and the tool is entirely something else.  The human may use the tool, but in using it he is not the tool.  We are saying, finally, two different things.  We are saying that the human being is the tool.  And then we reverse ourselves and say that the tool is not the human being.  These are contradictory statements.  I want to emphasize here that this contradiction is not a purely formal mutual exclusion of opposites, expressable by a proposition of logic; on the contrary, this is a Gegensatz in Hegelian terms as an active ongoing principle wherein human culture appears (and disappears).  Here we are talking about, within the simple act of using the most simple tool, of an "Hegelian World Logic (or something like that).  This is not a universal principle, on the other hand, or may not be, but appeared simply within the context of human existence. 

This mutual negation of which we speak would seem to negate the entire relationship between humans and tools.  But it does not.  (Interjecting a short story of this sort:  a famous decoder [cite] said that formal or logical systems contradict themselves finally.  Also, formal systems are basic to computer language.  Yet computers do work.  I have no real aptitude for this science but I have to mention it as suggestive here.  I thank Jim Hawtry, former engineer at Fermi Laboratory, for this anecdote.)   Animated being and inert being collide in the fact of tool use; though they are categorical opposites, the life of the human being as tool-using creature continues unabated.  The way the human being can continue in the midst of the contradiction that constitutes his very existence and identity is to resolve this contradiction.  The negation of life in its relation to matter, in the fact of tool use, is not resolved once, simply, for all times, but in an ongoing chain of contradictions and resolutions of contradictions.    [note:  I have elsewhere used the word "resolve" in a sense inconsistent with what is being said here.]  Finally, there is one more step in our argument.  The contradiction inherent in tool use is what ultimately defines a human being as human.  Ben Franklin said that man is a tool-using animal.  This is certainly true.  What Force Theory says, on the other hand, is that the act of using tools forces the human being to define himself as human, that is as something that is not a tool.  This is categorical thinking, which is uniquely human and for which animals have no capacity.  That is, referring back to what was said earlier about the word categorical, a thing is defined in terms of what it is not.  For the human being survival consists not of conquoring this or that enemy or predatory animal--such conquest is easy with the simplest weapons of wood, stone and bone--but in distinguishing himself from his own tools.  The tool would absorb the man and so destroy the man, as even, in advanced technological civilization this may actually be in danger of happening.  The human being must resolve the logical contradiction between his own life and the inert action of tools.  He does this not by logical thinking, however, but by a certain categorical thinking in oppositionals.  An example which we will present as focal to our argument is the following:  what is meant by a human being is some being that is a being, but is not a tool or artifact.  This is all we mean by categorical thinking (as defined I believe first by Aristotle).

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-07-07 13:38:33)

Re: 38. THE ABSOLUTE IDEA: CONFLICT AND CONTRADICTION IN HISTORY

The animal goes about in its world looking for food and avoiding predators.  Around it are this thing and that, some of these things familiar others become familiar through experience.  Human and animal do not differ in their orienting behavior.  In most general terms the animal orients itself among the objects of its world.   Human beings, rather, engage themselves with these same objects.  We must not forget that the human has the same orienting instinct vis-a-vis objects that animals in general have.  This rock or that tree, any random thing in the human's world, steers the person toward a goal real or imagined.    This orientation is the animal and human's most primitive mental behavior and is encoded as a reflex in the simplest intelligence.  There is nothing to suggest that humans have outgrown this instinct for orientation.  But there is more.  While the human still orients himself by objects that are found in his world, and left unaltered, he also "engages" himself in some objects called by us tools.  This disposition, which we cannot now call a disposition or an inherited behavior, either one, nonetheless is a basic part of human behavior.  The human is inseparable from the tools of his life; but also he has inherited, through genetics or culture either one, a propensity to live not only around but through the objects of his world.  At this point in our discussion we might reasonably move slightly beyond the narrow subjects of tools and technology as such.  We might take up the entire issue of space, so ably discussed by my early mentor at Tuebingen,Otto Bullnow in his book Mensch und Raum. There is also a question of the mentality of nationalism.   

In this regard we can contrast territorialism and nationalism: the human is oriented by territory and the other instinct we talked about earlier, need for a path of safe retreat (see section   ).  But the human sphere of behavior is wide.  At some time in their evolution human beings began not so much steering around and according to objects, but actually encorporating objects in their lives.  Humans altered objects as tools.  But more importantly these objects were understood by men as extension of themselves.  Arnold Gehlen has said that the tool is an "erweiterung" or extension of the biological organs of the person.    There are many examples of orientation versus engagement in human existence, in the fact of tools and tool use but also in the entire conceptualization of territory by humans, not as orienting, at all, but as engaging.  But first we need to understand that territory--which most animals have in some way--is an orienting behavior, not engagement.   What is being suggested here, as a final conclusion, is that the thing that engages a person, to the extent that the thing becomes--or threatens to become--the person himself also, ulltimately, forces the human into a self-contradiction.  The tool both is and is not the human being himself.  The human being must, in order to be viable, distinguish himself from the tool.  Living substance must distinguish itself from inert matter.  In the tool, or through the tool, this is difficult to do.  The stage is set for thinking that is more than consequential, or orienting, but is categorical.  The "isness" of the human being is categorically defined by the "otherness" or "is not-ness" of the tool.  In mind, eventually, this categorical distinction plays itself out as logical thinking.  Human thinking does not emerge as a consequence of the use of the tool, to enhance tool use, but to define oneself in relation to the tool--and to matter.

Last edited by richard_swartzbaugh (2010-07-06 19:01:55)

Re: 38. THE ABSOLUTE IDEA: CONFLICT AND CONTRADICTION IN HISTORY

There is a human absolute and a biological absolute.  I call the latter a biological or organic absolute .   These two (Hegelian) ideas, one built into nature and the other created by man, contradict one another.  It is for instance impossible for a being to be both Man and Homo sapiens. The human absolute excludes--categorically or absolutely--the biological idea.   As the human absolute contradicts that of biology and race, the human being contradicts himself.  Where the human being contradicts nature (and race) he contradicts himself, forcing himself to produce a new idea which is the resolution to the prior categorical contradiction.