Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Refresher on postmetaphysics

Perhaps I should again clarify what I mean by the terms "metaphysical" and "postmetaphysical." I don't think that postmetaphysics means the elimination of metaphysics concerning ontological statements, for of course postmeta partakes in that. As Balder said, "a post-metaphysical view does not reject metaphysics altogether, but reframes it and  holds it in a different way." Or put another way, remember this from the “Sunday Sermon” thread:

"Post-modernism is often understood simply to be a reversal of the many over the one. And although that may be the case with many post-modern thinkers this is simply modernity in another guise. Both Luce Irigaray and Raimon Panikkar have observed that the hegemony of the one can also take the guise of a multiplicity of private or relative truths. For Irigaray especially, breaking the hegemony of the one does not entail an abandonment of the idea of the universal but rather a recovery of a concept of the universal freed from its metaphysical pretensions.”

So then what does "metaphysics" otherwise mean if not an ontological commitment? What exactly is the criticism? I appreciate how Lakoff & Johnson frame this in Philosophy in the Flesh, as quoted in the “witness consciousness” thread:

"Perhaps the oldest of philosophical problems is the problem of what is real and how we can know it, if we can know it…. Aristotle concluded that we could know because our minds could directly grasp the essences of things in the world. This was ultimate metaphysical realism. There was no split between ontology (what there is) and epistemology (what you could know), because the mind was in direct touch with the world.

"With Descartes, philosophy opened a gap between the mind and the world…. Ideas…became internal “representations” of external reality…but somehow “corresponding” to it. This split metaphysics from epistemology.

"…embodied realism…is closer to…direct realism…than…representational realism. [It] is, rather, a realism grounded in our capacity to function successfully in our physical environments. It is therefore an evolutionary realism. Evolution has provided us with adapted bodies and brains that allow us to accommodate to, and even transform, our surroundings.

"It gives up on being able to know things-in-themselves, but, through embodiment, explains how we can have knowledge that, although it is not absolute, is nonetheless sufficient to allow us to function and flourish.

"The direct realism of the Greeks can thus be characterized as having three aspects:

1. The Realist Aspect: The assumption that the material world exists and an account of how we can function successfully within it;
2. The Directness Aspect: The lack of any mind-body gap;
3. The Absoluteness Aspect: The view of the world as a unique, absolutely objective structure of which we can have absolutely correct, objective knowledge.

"Symbol-system realism of the sort found in analytic philosophy accepts 3, denies 2 and claims that 1 follows from 3, given a scientifically unexplicated notion of 'correspondence.'

"Embodied realism accepts 1 and 2 but denies that we have any access to 3.

"All three of these views are “realist” by virtue of their acceptance of 1. Embodied realism is close to direct realism…in its denial of a mind-body gap. It differs from direct and symbol-system realism in its epistemology, since it denies that we can have objective and absolute knowledge of the world-in-itself.

"…it may appear to some to be a form of relativism. However, while it does treat knowledge as relative—relative to the nature of our bodies, brains and interactions with the environment—it is not a form of extreme relativism, because it has an account of how real, stable knowledge, both is science and in the everyday world, is possible" (94-6).

There is a core set of “beliefs” (enactions) in postmetaphysics in whatever domain, from philosophy to religion to science, etc. Recall this, also from the Sunday Sermon thread:

“Not only do these two domains [science and religion] bump up against each other, there are certain ideas or memes that permeate through all of the different methodological boundaries, certain big stories that make coherent sense of them all. For example the article by Sellars kela referenced in the Big Stories thread notes that while there certainly is NOMA for specific diciplines nevertheless philosophy's job is to 'understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term.' That it, how we might create broad, orienting generalizations and/or narratives about how the big picture coheres.

For example, one such generalizing meme that cut across all disciplines was what is often referred to as postmodernism. The idea that there is no fixed center, no absolute, pre-given reality, runs through science to literature to religion, i.e. postmetaphysics. Postmetaphysics is not limited to any specific genre but is one of those overall cohering big pictures necessary to generate meaning. Contrary to popular kennlingist belief, pomo is not about total fragmentation and blind relativism, for it too has its own big picture story about how big pictures operate, albeit one that is non-metaphysical. So while there is no doubt some pomo relativists caught in a performative contradiction that there is no big story while advancing one, the better pomosexuals like Derrida and Caputo espouse no such nonsense.”

And yet there is still a plurality to this core, with diversity in expression and still quite a bit of disagreement as to which aspects are more or less “legitimate,” which are better, which are more clear, coherent, consistent etc. And to me that is what this forum is for, for exploring exactly that. So yes, I will make validity claims, I will challenge other conceptions of postmetaphysics (and often my own), and I will most certainly rail against those views that still adhere to “metaphysics” in the bad sense, for I see those views as having dire political ramifications for society and we need to move forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.