Tag Archives: theory

The faces of Foucault

Not many people know it but Michel Foucault had (at least) a public and private face. I will not elaborate. But perhaps it is only important to remember that we are protean in nature.  Everyday we play many roles. Most are chosen. Some are not. Many, you may see. Others are unnoticed, camouflaged or outright hidden from you. 

Stasis or Kinesis

“The world is in a state of flux,” said Heraclitus. His contemporary Parmenides said the exact opposite – “everything is unitary and static”.

While it is easy to show that something that looks stable is in fact changing it is hard to show that it is not. One can say that both are illusions, only that one eventually does show itself to be the case (kinesis). Over time a an object in rest gradually changes its form. What Parmenides was arguing for was that this was all an illusion and that really everything is the same. In other words, he was a kind of rationalist. 

In some ways Christians are rationalists, that sense empirical data is imperfect and should be ignored. 

Priority and preference is given to the thinking mind rather than to the physical reality. Rationalists will argue that all that is necessary is the mind and its reason. 

But if that is the case why have we not evolved to be rid of sensory faculties. Clearly, the senses do matter, and it is to sense the changes in the environment, not its staticity. Stasis is a controlled look at all things. There is something abstract about stasis, it’s removal of movement of reality, like a photographic still or a painting of a scene. 

Concepts do not pre-exist 

From a diachronic point of view, any concept must come into existence, that is, it must not have existed at some point in the passage of time. 

The argument for God and existence of God supposes and privileges eternity and presence. Theism, then, supposes permanence. This must necessarily extend to atheism. Thus the idea of atheism must have been there from the beginning. 

The theists have therefore pulled wool over your eyes when they argue in this way. The only way out is to argue for finitude, absence and impermanence

The projection of history

We are always living in some kind of “now”. Our view of the world is forever locked into a “present” or illusionary presence. And in this way we habitually prefer the “synchrony of X” over its diachrony. What can only happen in any interpretation of “the history of X” is forever a reading with now in mind when now never was there in the pastRetrospection is never free from this now, forever placing itself into the past when it was not there. That is why in retrospect everything seems obvious.

To be pure historians of Buddhism we must place ourselves in the past without the baggage called “knowledge” into that time and place. The further back in time we go the less accurate the representation becomes. For example, Chinese Buddhism of the 4th century knows nothing of its advance into Japan the next centuries. It is not, “it had not reached Japan yet”, but rather, “did it know it was going anywhere to begin with”. I doubt Buddhism in the 1st century BCE knew it was entering China either. Buddhism simply had no plans. These are projections onto history after rather than before or during the fact. The interpretation of history continually changes as a time pushes forward, added to by more and more retrospection. The more we think the more the past changes.

Please … show me something that is permanent 

It isn’t that something permanent does exist (though that is highly unlikely because if it does exist it has been hiding pretty well) but that it hasn’t shown itself whatsoever. 
Some say the proof is God but nobody has made visual identification of him. There have been no “last seen at …” but just talk. It is all talk. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word is God,” someone named John wrote. But isn’t this just a clever (read: wilful) metaphor?
No, there will never be any way for us to prove that God doesn’t exist. But neither do they have a way to prove that he does (and a capital ‘H’ for He isn’t proof, but only again a choice on the part of the writer. 

What does it mean to be a philosopher?

According to one dictionary, philosophy is the study of the nature and meaning of existence, truth, good and evil etc. And a philosopher is someone who studies and develops ideas about the nature and meaning of existence, truth, good and evil etc.

Personally, I prefer to boil down this definition to just philosophy is the study of the nature of existence and truth. It follows thus a philosopher is someone who studies and develops ideas about the nature of existence and truth.

The inclusion of meaning assumes that existence has meaning to begins with. Here, I beg to differ (or perhaps go along with existentialists like Nietzsche, Kierkegaard and Sartre) and point out that nowhere does it say life has implicit meaning, that only we have assumed it to have meaning, and a universal one at that. It is for this reason I believe that Western philosophy tends to think Eastern Philosophy, particularly Buddhism is nihilistic in outlook.

Thus, Western philosophy has a tendency to belittle relativism and relativistic meaning. They are happy to say things like the only constant is change and not blink an eyelid at the relativity and even the contradiction in the statement or proposition. One must also see the nature of language (move towards a philosophy of language) in order to understand the nature of knowledge (epistemology), the nature of existence (ontology) and the nature of reality (metaphysics).

And so I must therefore question the nature of religion as well. I have never known a religion to be personal, for one person and that person alone. If it were then its god must be non-universal. In short, religion is a social act. If it were a non-social act then we need not talk of church and religion in the first place. But the fact that we do have church and the concept of a religion we must assume religion to be above all else a relativistic social construct. And if so then the talk of good and evil must also be relativistic as well. Philosophy, therefore, must reject religion, or at least study religion as part of the nature of human existence, not to assume it is part of or above philosophy as such. There is what I will suggest here as not so much a philosophy of religion but a religion of philosophy, and that it has infiltrated Western philosophical tradition so thoroughly that it had almost escaped notice.

Damn it, Dennett! Why did you have to say it?!

Someone had to say what had been going on in my mind. 

All along we thought robots can become humans, when in fact we, humans, are nothing but fancy biological evolutionary robots. 

The joke is on us. And the sad thing is we can think about this. 

I want to read this smart guy‘s books.