Sunday, March 3, 2013

Postformal dialectics part 2

See the previous post on the topic for links etc. This is mostly an exposition on the topic by Gregory Desilet.

November 5th, 2007  

Gregory Desilet Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:47 pm

Edward raises a couple of points via Andy Smith relating to basic issues in deconstructive and post-formal thinking. A question arises regarding Garys citation of Grof (page 145 in Gary’s essay) which I in turn cited: Quote: 

… the distinction between pre- and trans- has a paradoxical nature; they are neither identical, nor are they completely different from each other.”

Andy comments: Quote: 

I agree that pre and trans are neither identical nor completely different. I dont agree that this relationship constitutes a paradox. There are, obviously, many phenomena about which such a relationship can be said, without their being considered paradoxical. Indeed, almost any two things are neither identical nor completely different.”

I believe Grofs point (and Garys) concerns the identity/difference between two classes of things rather than between any two things. The idea being that in formal thinking something is either a duck or a rabbit or a wave or a particle or pre- or trans- but not both. In the next paragraph, citing Jenny Wade, Gary explains,

A framing that Wade uses in relation to either/or (pre-postformal) thinking is constituted by the metaphor of Newtonian physics: Regression and transcendence are neither opposite nor the same, though they may appear to be in a Newtonian conceptualization.’”

The pre-postformal approach relies on concepts regarded as discrete and mutually exclusive. The post-formal approach also relies on concepts regarded as discrete but with the added complexity that these are not mutually exclusive. In post-formal logic something can both be x and not-x with seemingly contradictory qualities at the same time (as in particle/wave). Which identity appears or dominates depends on context. And this situation is a bit of a paradox and would seem nonrational if there were not the evidence of observation to support it.

Moving to another question Andy says, Quote: 

What I dont understand is how one can denote terms like polarization and scapegoating or even less destructive violence without privileging one aspect of a dialectic over another. In other words, how does one accept Derridas argument without falling into a fatalistic, everything-is-as-it-is view? It seems to me that any attempt to define where we want to go or how we want society to be is just more privileging of one pair over the other, a form of polarizing or rigidifying."

Deconstruction does not operate without privileging one aspect of a dialectic over another. In fact, the deconstructive examination of texts (and here I continue associating deconstruction with post-formal thinking) demonstrates that privileging of one sort or another is inescapable in any act of interpretation. Part of the deconstructive work consists of exposing subtle interests or values that may be privileged in a given dialectic or interpretation.

Here a confusion perhaps arises from the deconstructive critique of polarization whereby (in formal and pre-formal thinking) oppositional structure presents itself as consisting of discrete and mutually exclusive poles. One pole appears as pure, whole, and good while the other pole appears as an impurity or contamination of the whole. Furthermore, this built-in hierarchy of the pure over the impure presents itself as a fixed and absolute hierarchy immune to alteration or context. This kind of radically exclusive and permanently fixed privileging, not all privileging whatsoever,”emerges as a primary target of deconstructive critique. With other less rigid, more context sensitive modes of privileging and evaluation remaining to it, deconstruction separates itself from fatalism or the resignation to vicious relativism that concerns Andy.

Consistent with this approach, even the radically exclusive privileging deconstruction targets is not thereby radically excluded (as an impurity). It remains a valuable developmental stage of reasoning and evaluation from which, to borrow Garys phrase,the way out is through. Consequently, deconstruction offers a complex but consistent logic and an inclusiveness that does not preclude choices based on evaluation and judgment. And this bodes well for the unique value and possibilities of what may be regarded as a brand of post-formal thinking.

Gregory Desilet Posted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 8:28 pm

Picking up here on something Bonnie says above: Quote: 

My sense is that it is not the fault of language that we have divided our understanding into binary pairs, but that language merely reflects a deeper human condition, a more primordial arising in which that division occurs. The importance of the postmodern project is to de-couple the process in which language is a powerful feedback mechanism which reinforces the primordial boundaries continua-dually arising at a more fundamental level.
I think you are correct to say the fault is not with language, that there is a deeper origin but I dont agree that the postmodern project (specifically deconstruction) is not sufficient to the task of addressing or appreciating this point (as you say just before this). Edwards post regarding Derridas commentary on Platos Khora offers a case in point. Also Derridas concept (or as he sometimes says nonconcept) of differance is another example. Differance as a generative operation penetrates deeper than language and, as Derrida argues in his famous essay “Difference is Older than Being itself, such a differance has no name in our language.” (Margins of Philosophy, p. 26).

But, to be clear, what you say in the quote above pertains to binary pairs which may perhaps be distinguished from operations of differance. If so, you may be questioning more the arising of oppositional pairs and the feedback mechanism language provides for this rather than the broader notion of the arising of differences. As a way of addressing this distinction while also addressing your initial post (under Wilberian theory vs. post-formal reasoning) regarding clarification on what we are considering to be post-formal dialectics I offer the following attempt at clarification (while also risking confusing the issues. but, hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained).

Post-formal dialectics vs. formal dialectics:

Post-formal says see x as y; this is a metaphorical (or, if you will, an analogical) operation turning on what some call a root metaphor. To that extent it has also been thought of as a nondialectical alternative insofar as it exceeds definition (or identity) through opposition.

Formal says: see x as the opposite of y; this is a traditionally dialectical operation involving discrete separation between x and y and the securing of the identity of x through y as its opposite.
Formal dialectics invites the tendency to evaluate and hierarchize to the extreme that one side of the opposition functions as the corruption or pollution of the other. Here dialectics becomes an operation of sorting and evaluating difference by radical exclusion. On the other hand, the post-formal sorts differences (Gary has used the word contrasts) by way of judgments and evaluations that continue to include even as they appear to exclude (a move consistent with appreciating the economy/ecology of being, according an essential role to every aspect of being)

In the post-formal approach:

See x as y =
see y as x-differed, deferred
and also
= see x as x-differed, deferred
(For Derridas elaboration on this see Margins of Philosophy p. 17).

Drawing temporality and context into consideration, it also becomes possible to understand the sense in which x is not equal to x. This, of course, challenges the law of identity, the cornerstone of traditional Aristotelian logic.

The post-formal claim that x is not equal to itself would seem to preclude the suggestion offered by Bonnie that post-formal thinking sees dialectical pairs as self-defining. The possibility of self-definition would seem to imply the possibility of a core identity that could be self-evidently grasped in a revelatory intuition apart from all intrusions and destabilizations of difference and relation. This self-definition, to the extent it implies a kind of self-presence, appears to fall within the metaphysical claims Derrida thoroughly targets in deconstruction. But if I am misunderstanding your sense her, Bonnie, please let me know.
Given this analysis, I see overlap between deconstruction and excerpts Edward has posted from the interpretation of Nagarjuna and also Faber on Whitehead. Although difficult to put into words, something like the following from Faber seems like a good stab at it (as cited by Edward in a post above): Quote: 

In the Category of the Ultimate, ultimate reality appears as a triangle of generalities in process: unification of multiplicities; multiplication of unities; and their rhythmic togetherness as creative advance into novelty. Every unity becomes a unique unification of its prehensive relations within a virtually infinite multitude, and in its perishing it generates the multiplication of this multitude. In fact, in this fluent Chaosmos nothing is ultimate, neither unity nor multiplicity; there is only unification and multiplication immersed in the rhythm of an endlessly cyclical process of relational transcendence or of self-transcending relativity.

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