The creation of religion?

Andrea, yes, I think one of the things that I now see is that no one who says they are an atheist is actually an atheist, as many of the values which we hold to be entirely rationally and individually arrived at are actually the product of many generations of social conditioning and development which include many elements of Christian thinking. It is for this reason that Bloch says that only a good Christian can be an atheist and only an atheist can be a good Christian. The reason I am intersted in Bloch is precisely because he doesn’t say that this means that all ideas are essentially religious or metaphysical, but that on the contrary, previous social epochs were not developed enough to see ideas in anything other than metaphysical terms. In many ways, therefore, Christianity was simply rationalism waiting for the term to be invented. He covers this with the term Ungleichzeitigkeit, or non-contemporaneity, i.e. that ideas exist out of their time and for that reason cannot be fully developed until the social conditions for their fulfilment are fully developed. Therefore we carry utopian hopes and dreams within us but think of them differently in different epochs. Christianity became all powerful for so long because it carried the most concrete and widely applicable utopian impulse of the meek inheriting the earth (which is essentially socialism spelt differently) but that it could not be realised until the meek were strong enough to do so (which is communism spelt differently). Radical islam is probably just the most recent and most-backward looking and dangerous form of this utopianism, with its Caliphates and Jihads and martyrs and Virgins waiting in paradise etc. This too shall pass. The sooner the better.

  • fascinating. so there never has been, and never will be, a set of values that are non-religious in their creation? really?
  • peterthompson
    Well, it depends whether you take the religious formulation of the views to be the starting point I suppose. If you see religious views as a response to the enormity and confusion of existence then their origin actually lies in the development of human consciousness about the reality which pre-existed us and will be there after us. As Nietzsche said, we are just clever animals who came about but then spent all their time thinking that the whole universe was just one big machine to bring them into being. “One day, the clever animals had to die out.” (Uber Wahrheit und Luege)  Just as Christianity took over all sorts of traditions from pre-Christian and pagan traditions, and they in turn probably developed out of basic elemental and real fear of the earth and nature and our place in it all then all ideas are actually ultimately non-metaphysical in their origin. What rationalism and scientific ideas could do perhaps is return us to an earthly understanding of our place in existence, this time though, on the basis of understanding rather than fear. What we will have done though, I think is have absorbed the “religious” codes of the middle period into our rationalism. On the one hand this is a good thing I think because it will constantly remind us of the intangible nature of what it is to be a human being, our dignity as individuals – what the religious would call our souls. On the other hand this is a bad thing because we are simply clever animals whose exisence matters not a jot in the grand scheme of things and as long as we don’t recognise that then we are condemned to live provisional lives. The arguments for existentialism seem to me incontrovertible, the only question is how we choose to spend our existence, how we give it meaning if it has no meaning. Of course, this opens the door to all sorts of metaphysical systems because they help us to find patterns where there are none, but the search for them is good, even if they aren’t there.  The current debate about embryonic stem cell research is very interesting in this respect. I am absolutely in favour of it as it creates a moral good in its own right by removing human diseases and illnesses. But at the same time, individual human rights have to be brought into the equation and the constant question has to be about whether this or that scientific technique improves human existence and whether the cost of that technique is worth the end result. I suppose that in a non-medical sense that is also what we do all the time with political ideas and actions. Do they improve the lot of human beings and is the cost of their implementation worth it? Religious belief has a role to play in determining the answer to that question but it does not and should not have a determining role. The Bishops do not hold some sort of top trump card of morality. So, to answer your question perhaps; religious in their development but not religious in their “creation”.
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    a working day

    Peter says:
    hello
    Coffee Overdose says:
    hello
    Peter says:
    how are you?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    super thank you
    Peter says:
    sorry, i haven’t asked henk for those phd things yet
    Peter says:
    you sound happy
    Coffee Overdose says:
    don’t worry
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I’ve realised that I am Divine


    Peter says:
    why this sudden insight?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all this stuff
    Coffee Overdose says:
    Gnostic experiential knowledge
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and all that
    Peter says:
    aha, and?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    well, I rather enjoy it
    Peter says:
    the gnostic bit or the experiential bit?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I’m not really an expert on gnostic belief to be honest
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but I’ve been thinking about manifested consciousness
    Peter says:
    that’s good. Gnostic, as far as I see it, has become some sort of way of giving a vague sense of spirituality to our experiences of consciousness, woithout actually saying God?
    Peter says:
    Is that right?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    It’s saying that all that you perceive is God, i.e. you, as creator of the universe of manifested symbols
    Coffee Overdose says:
    Hence my being Divine
    Peter says:
    I see.
    Peter says:
    oh, that means I am too!
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, you may be another consciousness
    Peter says:
    or, of course it means that god is human
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and I have no idea what your perceived universe is like
    Peter says:
    which is true too. That was the whole point of Christ of course
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, it seems that organised religions come very close but miss the point when they get enmeshed in objective reality somewhere “out there” and transcendentalist ideas as separatism
    Peter says:
    Gnosticism seems to me to be basically a european version of Buddhism in some sense. No difference between the microcosm and the macrocosm, it is all cosmos.
    Peter says:
    we are all divine because we are all part of the cosmos etc.
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, that sort of thing…. but then there’s the question of what exactly the cosmos is
    Peter says:
    well, yes, though as an old materialist I wuold of course say that it just is. We jus5t have to find some way of coing to realise that and deal with it
    Coffee Overdose says:
    some other way of what?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    coming to realise
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I see now
    Coffee Overdose says:
    how would we realise it?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    How can we know what reality is outside of human observation?
    Peter says:
    coming to realise that the cosmos is and that wea re part of it, nbut not the centre of it. OUr perception is just a by-product of our being human.
    Peter says:
    well, of course what we know of hte univrese is conditioned by our perception but its existence isn’t predicated on our perception.
    Peter says:
    It predates us and it will post-date us as a species
    Coffee Overdose says:
    how can we know that?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    there is no valid test
    Peter says:
    because we have physical evidence
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but how can we qualify that?
    Peter says:
    We qualidfy it all the time through scientific analysis and discopvery and the gradual development of our knowledge of the world outseide perception
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but scientific knowledge has shown itself to be entirely malleable and contextually contingent
    Peter says:
    of course it is contingent, but it is contingent upon reality, not perception.
    Coffee Overdose says:
    so reality changes?
    Peter says:
    no, our perception of reality changes as we become more aware of its concrete nature
    Coffee Overdose says:
    right… so the more we learn, the more correct our knowledge
    Peter says:
    yes, though of course, with the proviso that it is alwasy provisional
    Peter says:
    but of course we are talking about two types of reality as well. IN the first case there is a concrete reality which exists outside of human perception adn which we use our deveeolping perception to interpret, and then ther eis the reality of human perception which is never complete or true but only approoximate.
    Coffee Overdose says:
    All I can say, and even this is without certainty, is that I feel that I am perceiving reality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    from there I have to posit a belief
    Peter says:
    that’s fine, that’s what I eman by the second sort of realtiy, rpovisional, uncertain, incoplete etc. but it is not the whole story. Ther is also a reality which is independent of presception.
    Peter says:
    Descartes got it the wrong way round. I am therefore I think, should be the motto for life!
    Peter says:
    The way that I am determines the way that I think but existence is primary
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes…though I’m finding it increasingly difficult to think of it as a manifest existence
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but there seems to be credence in the idea of there being an infinite expanse of symbols
    Peter says:
    Yes, I think that is true, but there are not only symbols. Ther is also an infinite expanse of reality. the symbols go alonside that reality, sometimes touch, sometimes get close to explaining but reality is there too.
    Peter says:
    to believe that there are only symbols is the height of anthropocentrism
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, infinite realities for all reflexive symbols (consciousness)
    Coffee Overdose says:
    which do not need to be human
    Peter says:
    If “The Clever Animals” as Nietzsche called us were to all die out tomorrow, reality would still exist
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but what did he mean by Uebermensch?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    that’s what I’m thinking about
    Peter says:
    someone who comes to realise what I just said!
    Peter says:
    Amor Fati etc.
    Peter says:
    The Ubermescnh is the Ja Sager, the person who says yes to his own fate and insifgnificance
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and then what?
    Peter says:
    die
    Peter says:
    happily
    Coffee Overdose says:
    insignificance of the perceived realm as objectove reality which exists in itself…. and this is a death, then a rebirth
    Coffee Overdose says:
    into a synthesis between symbols and their translation into manifestations
    Peter says:
    yes, but he didn’t really beileve in rebirth, he simply invented a categorical imperative to live as though you would be reborn an infintie number of times and live the saem life an infintie number of time. If you say yes to that, you say yes to life and then you become an uebermesnch
    Peter says:
    I’m not sure I understand what ythat last sentence of yours means
    Peter says:
    symbols do not translate into manifestations, symbols are manifestations of something underlying them, that is why they are symbols. The something underlying them may in turn be only a peception. It is justa question of how far down one has to go to dinf a non-symbolic real, or indeed if there is one
    Peter says:
    find, not dinf!
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I’m thinking about the idea of conciousness as a reflexive symbol in the non-material, spiritual sense, which gains experiential knowledge (in an infinite number of ways, infinite perceived reality) through a perception of those symbols as manifest… the manifestations cannot be said to have an independent existence somewhere “Outside” (and here I suppose we differ), and thus are not important in
    Coffee Overdose says:
    themselves
    Coffee Overdose says:
    in terms of intrinsic, fundamental value
    Peter says:
    in the beginning was not the word. IN the beginning was the thing,w emade words up to describe it


    Coffee Overdose says:
    they are important in terms of their symbolic analysis
    Coffee Overdose says:


    well, Ancient Greek versions of that story say that in the beginning there was a system
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and it was translated into word
    Coffee Overdose says:
    which makes it seem entirely different
    Peter says:
    yes, absolutely, but a system itself implies a creator of the system
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but that system isn’t necessarily manifest
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, me
    Coffee Overdose says:
    or you
    Coffee Overdose says:
    same thing
    Peter says:
    sophistry
    Peter says:
    we impose system on chaos through ourr perception of something which is probably unknowable; namely totality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but do you understand that totality to be concrete?
    Peter says:
    no, because totality is a process, both in time and space, I suppose I think of the process as concrete but plastic
    Peter says:
    and we are just a tiny tiny miniscule aprt of it.
    Peter says:
    our existence or non existence is ony important to us
    Peter says:
    and that brings us back to perception, but perception is a buble produced by brains. It is just that we have reached a point where we tend to think that the buble creates the brain
    Peter says:
    bubble
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes!
    Peter says:
    which is kind of upside down it seems to me, but characterstically bourgeois ;)
    Peter says:
    haha
    Coffee Overdose says:
    which bit is bourgeois?
    Peter says:
    well, bourgeois thought has to believe in the ability of people to change their lives and obnjective reality through their own mental effort. Liberalism means to be free from the constraints imposed by the outside world. The working class knows that it is stuck in the real worlkd, the bourgoisie revels in its freedom and believes it is all down to its own mental efforts, rather than the physical
    Peter says:
    efforts of others
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but it still believes in objective reality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and so both the bourgeois and working class are caught in the same trap
    Coffee Overdose says:
    which splits the mental and the physical unreflexively in the first place
    Peter says:
    yes, indeed, but the trap is a social one, I don’t think one excapes it by imagining it is not there
    Coffee Overdose says:
    you don’t escape it, you change it and realise you perceive it
    Peter says:
    That is true, but it is possible to split the menatla dn the physical replexively, which seems to me much more fruitful than to believe that there is no split
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, it is not denying the split on the level of felt perception, which is just as important as if it were to exist “outside”
    Peter says:
    I am going to hav to use the dread worphrase:
    Peter says:
    It’s a dialectic!
    Coffee Overdose says:
    instead of ignoring it, you think about why its there, symbolically
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and through that thinking, transform it
    Peter says:
    or mayeb you think symbolically about why it is ther?
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes
    Coffee Overdose says:
    both
    Coffee Overdose says:
    you think carry out a symbolic analysis on the symbols as manifest
    Peter says:
    and thourgh symbolic thought transform it, absolutely, but only by acting on it, not just thining about it. Other wise you believe in the power of prayer
    Coffee Overdose says:
    its not prayer because you’re not praying to something Outside yourself
    Peter says:
    which brings us back to Christ as symbol
    Coffee Overdose says:
    organised religion cosntantly undoes itself in thismatter
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and is back in objective reality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    as is seeking to contrive change in this perceived objective reality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    it will happen on the level of perception after the symbols are rearranged throguh symbolic analysis
    Peter says:
    well, in something transcendentla. Chistianity actually gets close to what you are arguing because the poitn in Christ is that he is in you, not outside
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, they get close but not quite there
    Coffee Overdose says:
    they split God into us/Him who is Outside
    Coffee Overdose says:
    hence the idea of the man/entity in the sky
    Coffee Overdose says:
    or wherever the hell they think he is, somewhere Outside
    Peter says:
    yes, but no proper christian believes that. That is an atheist construct of what christains belive. Christ is father son and holy ghost, i.e. totality
    Peter says:
    ie, materialised symbol
    Coffee Overdose says:
    any organsied religion is of course separatist and again adheres to the violent divisions necessary for objective reality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    adheres to them as absolute
    Peter says:
    that is what they have become, certainly, but I don’t hink that is what unperpins their origins
    Peter says:
    I think it rests in a desire to be more than a speck, to ahve hope that it all matters etc.
    Coffee Overdose says:
    yes, the difference is in what way you assume it to matter
    Peter says:
    and that is achieved through a symbol which elevates man to the level of a god
    Peter says:
    Christ again
    Coffee Overdose says:
    To the level of a consciousness which creates, but is more than the division of masculine-feminine symbiosis into perceptions of separated male and female human beings…
    Coffee Overdose says:
    the whole Christ things still assumes that that man Is
    Peter says:
    what?
    Peter says:
    or do you mean just Is
    Coffee Overdose says:
    just Is in an absolute, manifest, objective sense
    Peter says:
    IN which case that seems reasonable, because he IS
    Peter says:
    man, I mean, not christ
    Coffee Overdose says:
    he feels he is, at least
    Coffee Overdose says:
    or at least I do
    Coffee Overdose says:
    which amounts to the same thing
    Peter says:
    we are just clever aninmals, all this perception business is liek the hum of a washing machine. It gets very loud but it is not the point of the machine
    Coffee Overdose says:
    what is the point of the machine?
    Peter says:
    to wash clothes
    Coffee Overdose says:
    that’s a good analogy
    Peter says:
    ie. to live
    Coffee Overdose says:
    because the washing of perceived stains could be seen to represent symbolic analysis…
    Peter says:
    oh bugger off…
    Peter says:
    very good though
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and the hum is objective reality
    Coffee Overdose says:
    as perception, like you said!
    Peter says:
    the stain, the machine, the hum, it’s all real
    Coffee Overdose says:
    but with regard to “perception is a bubble produced by brains” as you said earlier…
    Peter says:
    AMYWAY, I have to work. That is my reality, and it is not a perception!
    Coffee Overdose says:
    oh dear.
    Peter says:
    no, it’s ok, finish what youw ere going to say
    Coffee Overdose says:
    You clearly represent a part of myself which cannot quite leave behind objective notions ;)
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I need to symbolically analyise what you mean, Peter.
    Coffee Overdose says:
    to transform my perception of you and all reality
    Peter says:
    well, good luck with that! If you manage ytou really have found the philosophers stone
    Coffee Overdose says:
    and thereby the symbiotic infinite
    Coffee Overdose says:
    indeed
    Coffee Overdose says:
    thanks for the nice chat
    Coffee Overdose says:
    enjoy your work
    Peter says:
    you too. I enjoyed it. I might put it on my blog
    Coffee Overdose says:
    I shall be honoured to appear in your blog.

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    Glaxo Smith Klein and the Law

    Marx and Engels stated in the Communist Manifesto that all law is class law, and bourgeois law holds itself to be “natural law” only because the bourgeoisie is the ruling class and capitalism is therefore seen as the natural order of things. This has come about not because of some God-given order as under hierarcical and Catholic feudalism (you can see hangovers of this in the second verse of All Things Bright and Beautiful which is now only sung in the better and more established private schools: The rich man in his castle/the poor man at his gate/God made them high and lowly/And ordered their estate).  Bourgeois society emered out of the triumph of reason and the enlightenment and therefore represents the democratisation of hierarchy. Anyone can become the president of the United States (as GWB has proved). And yet, and yet, of course Marx and Engels don’t leave it there (maybe they should have) and they said that the new ruling class which has emerged to impose its will upon the generality will do so now not through force, coercion, droit de signeur etc. but through the rule of law. These laws, however, will be drawn up by the rulers and will serve the rulers and is therefore no less class law than was the feudal sytem. The state is therefore not something neutral, a referee adjudicating objectively in disputes between free and equal individuals as the doctrine of the Separation of Powers would have us think, but a coat-holder for the bourgeoisie

    Of course, when the Communist Manifesto was drawn up in 1848 the bourgeoisie was well on its way to taking over power (at least economic power) in the whole of Europe and the condition of the workers and mass of the population in the great cities (Engels Condition of the Working Class in England shows this quite clearly) was one indeed of absolute misery, disenfranchisement, exploitation and exclusion from power. The need for a permanent revolution which would not just allow the bourgeoisie to reap the benefits of human labour was clear and it was also clear that the class which would carry put this task was the very one which industrialisation had created; namely the proletarat.

    Many years have passed since then and in many ways bourgeois law has been hoist by its own petard. Its theoretical guarantee of freedom of organisation, movement, equality before the law etc. facilitated the growth of representational powers so that eventually, by the 1930s (apart from in a few places such as parts Switzerland and  Liechtenstein) the deveolped world had reached a stage where Trades Unions could represent their workers, women could vote and take part fully in society (even though there are still real structural problems with them taking a full part in economic life) and people in general had more control over justice and the allocation of resources. In this sense the period of the existence of the Soviet Union (1917-1990 – though the collapse actually already occurred in 1974 but the cadaver was kept alive by pumping more money into its veins) could be seen as the high-water mark of the fulfilment of the putative freedoms guaranteed by bourgeois legalism. This is because during this period, the existence of a social alternative (no matter how inadequate) which demonstrated that the workers could take power (no matter that it was exercised for them by a  degenerate and self-serving bureaucracy) forced the democratic countries to replace the untrammelled primacy of the market and economics with th primacy of political stabilisation and the smoothing out of class antagonisms.

    This means that all the benefits of western democracy which we rightly take for granted are acually pre-illuminations (Vorscheine) of socialist democracy out of their time (Ungleichzeitigkeit – ah I knew you’d be expecting Bloch to come in here somewhere). Alexander Kojeve actually maintained that because of this we were actually already living in socialism without noticing it, and certainly the mantra of the early 1970s was one of convergence between Eastern and Western Europe into some sort of socialist system.

    BUT, this is now changing back. The primacy of economics and the market is now once more on the march. The workers have been atomised, defeated, scattered and filled full of the pleasures of life (at least in the western world). The great corporations are once more setting the tone and politics and the political arena has become a show place for empty posturing about infantile issues. Just now and again this becomes clear. The ruling that Glaxo Smith Klein will not be prosecuted even though it admits that it withheld evidence of the increased risk of suicide amongst teenagers prescribed Seroxat shows that the state is well on the way back to becoming simply the adminstrative arm of the bourgeoisie once more. That’s why we hate politics and why voter turn-out has never been lower. If you care about liberal democracy and parliamentarism then it is necessary to defend the primacy of politics over the hegemony of the market.

    Marx won’t go away because the issues which he raised are still salient. I can’t get him out of my head – no matter how much I may want to kill off that paternal voice – because my head is rooted in the these realities of class rule. As Rorty says, the prophecies in the Communit Manifesto are almost all wrong, but the socio-economic analysis and the hope for true justice which emanates from them is almost entirely correct. Defence of the achievements of western democratic socialism under the guise of bourgeois democracy has become a Transitional Demand, comrades! We just won’t know where it will take us until we get there.

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    Heidegger, Rorty, Bloch, Marx and Pragmatism

    The other day Sarah said “so yr into german philosophers & you’re a Marxist, what do u reckon of heidigger? ;)” and aso asked me to outline some of Bloch’s  thoughts and I kind of answered in a kind of flippant way with regard to the relative (de-) merits of Fascism and Communism, but I actually wanted to come back to this because it seems to me that the relationship between Heidegger and Marxism is of fairly central importance and this blog, which, with its informal status, seems as good a place as any to work this out. This is because it goes to the heart of the epistimo-ontological nature of reality, of Dasein as such, and also because working out – as Thomas Kuhn put it – of what is going on at the interface between the phenomenal world and the things we believe about it is central to our concerns as human becomings in a becoming world. The reason I have actually moved away from “Marxism” is not really about anything Marx himself wrote but more to do with the way in which he has been incorprated and reified into all sorts of dogmatic “systems” of thought. Marx himself was a kind of relativist, uncertain about what we know, always questioning our understanding of that same interface between what is and what is becoming (his guiding motto being De Omnibus Dubitandum – question everything). He saw our views of the world as structured by our (class) position within that world and maintained that all things are constantly in flux, that the relationship between what is and what emerges is in reciprocal, dialectical relationship. My Marxism aspired to be the sort which sought to implement that understanding of the world and of everything in it as “ein werdendes Sein” (a becoming being). As a result, I was attracted to the relatively sophisticated branch of Marxism to be found in parts of the Trotskyist movement (Rorty started as a Trot too). I would still say that Trotsky was not only one of the greatest political activists but also one of the greatest philosophers within the Marxist movement because he too saw Marx merely as a way of understanding the world, though of course he gave it primacy over all other methods. Rorty, however, went on to move away from this world view as he began to see Marxism not as ”The Tool”, indeed “The Key” in some quasi-metaphysical way, to understanding the world but simply as one of the implements in the toolbox of human philosophy. I haven’t made it that far yet and still believe in an explanatory hierarchy in which Marx is somewhere near the top (though I see the hierachy as a lot flatter and more equal than I used to). Rorty’s relativism led him to categorise all tools in the toolbox as equally useful for some task or other but this is at one with his concept of the contingency of everything that emerges from what is and thus changes it. With Nietzsche, he maintains that we can only be sure that there is change and not progress. The progress which we do discern has to be constructed on the basis of constantly choosing between the options which are thrown up by non-linear and contingent change. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong and the “darkness of the lived moment” (Bloch), which is only illuminated in hindsight, is the barrier to us always understanding the precise relationship between epistemology and ontology. For Bloch and Rorty, there is effect no gap between the two because ontology shades into epistemology at an imperceptible point which we call Now. Zizek maintains that it is Freud’s death drive which is at that interface but this seems to me to be simply picking something dark and profound to fit in with something which is just dark. Illumination -en-light-enment – comes about as a result of hindsightful appreciation of the practical outcomes of our decisions. As we make more and more decisions and our insights into the world become fuller and more complex we are creating and changing what we know about the world and therefore also changing and creating the world. For both Bloch and Rorty, the world is not something found but “in becoming” and what it becomes is dependent on what we make of it, and there is no teleology. I would maintain that Marx rejected teleology as well, but standing in the tradition of the accretion of experience of human change made certain statements and predictions about the way things could/would develop given certain conditons. The vulgarist will take what they want from Marx and leave the more nuanced stuff. The nuancers will take what they want and downplay the vulgarism. It is in this context, for example, that Rorty maintains that if it is possible to concur with the findings of Leftist/Marxist philosophers such as Sidney Hook whilst at the same time being critical of their support for Stalin’s Russia, then it is should also be possible to take what we like from Heidegger’s toolbox without seeing it as irredeemably contaminated by his support for Nazism. The reason this becomes appealing is because my interest in Bloch as a philosopher is tries to see what is important in his work, despite his support for the Stalinist purges in 1936/37 and, indeed his description of Trotsky as Gestapo agent. The reason I do so is beause it seems to me that Bloch – though his view of material reality as being in a constant state of flux – could actually provide a means of overcomig the epistomo-ontological conundrum at the heart of the debate between contingent and dualist views of the world. Dewey, Rorty and the other, mainly US, Pragmatists essentially eschewed the notion that there is any such thing as objective reality in favour of a neo-Nietzschean perspectivism which maintained that that which exists, though not the product of our perception (a rock exists, as does a table when we turn our back on it), can only be understood by seeing our perception of it as the only reality about which we can actually say  anything. For Pragmatism, ontology, the beingness of the rock, the rockness of the rock, is conditioned by what we understand of rocks and that understanding of rocks is the product not simply of some objective ontological being but, epistemologically, what we know about rocks. He debates this beingness in a nice little essay on Weinberg’s criticism of pragmatist relativism in which the latter maintains a neo-platonic hierachy of dsciplines in which physics, with its objective understanding of the world based on experiment and knowledge, is given supreme status. (’Thomas Kuhn, Rocks and the Laws of Physics’, 1997, quoted in Richard Rorty, Philosophy and Social Hope, Penguin 1999, pp.175-189).The philosophical consequences of changing and relative nature of nature and the phenomenal world are interesting in their own right of course, and give rise to the speculation about what to do with the short span in which Nietzsche’s “clever animals”, who thought they had worked out what it was all about, are in contingent existence on this small planet. However, what Bloch drew from his understanding and incorporation of Nietzsche’s insistence on the contingency and transience of existence is of greater significance I think. Bloch has been called the Left-wing Heidegger, not least because of their common attempt, at least in Heidegger’s early years, to revive Aristotelean concepts of Matter. As my colleague, Henk de Berg, has pointed out in an email, this similarity also raises the problem of the relationship between deteminism, teleology and voluntarism. Now Henk and I have this disagrement pretty regularly about teleology in Marx and he can produce eveidence to show that it is there and I try to produce evidence which shows that it is not, or at least that it is not necessariy there. Bloch too recognises this problem. His adherence to Aristotle’s view of matter is actualy undertaken, I think, despite its teleological nature. The Hegelian Werdendes Sein which is taken up by Marx and Bloch does not posit a pre-existing Sein towards which the Werden is heading but a Werden which will, in time, create a new Sein. Of course we can ask whether that Sein itself will be the end point of anything rather than simply a new Genesis and therefore merely a sage in the process as Bloch puts it at the end of Prinzip Hoffnung (and it is this Gensis which gives rise to the description of Bloch as a messianic eschatologist), but the point is that though the concept is taken by Marx and later Bloch from both Aritostle and Hegel, they transform it into a voluntaristic and non-teleological version of the achievement of a “noch-nicht gewordenes Sein” a state of being “not yet” become. Not Yetness is central to Bloch’s conception of history and turns him from a simple neo-Hegelian Teleogician into a responsive voluntarist in my view. This is also where Bloch differs fundamentally from Heidegger’s concept of “Sein” (or what he later calls Seyn) rather than “Dasein” as this is not even teleological but actually metaphysical in the same way that Nietzsche’s concept of the Dionysian “Sein” is metaphysical. Although Heidegger describes Nietzsche as an “unbridled Platonist” one suspects that this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black in that both Heidegger’s “Sein” and Nietzsches Dionysus are metphysical sub-strata which are, in Heidegger’s sense illuminated occasionally in “Dasein” (or being-there), and in Nietzsche through the Apollonian apprearance, but essentially they remain hidden, eternal and outside of reality. In an essay from 1999 by Rorty ‘On Heidegger’s Nazism’ (also in Philosophy of Hope, op cit. pp. 190-197) he, Rorty, says that he wishes to keep Heidegger’s critique and history of metaphysics whilst rejecting its “downbeat ending”(p.191). (incidentally, in “The Philosophy of Social Hope” Rorty criticises Derrida for being selective about what he takes from Marx in his 1995 work “Spectres of Marx”, which seems a bit odd, given that he himself in the same book present the Communist Manifesto as one of the two most important texts in human history (the other being the New Testament) but only if one takes the message of hope selectively from it and rejects the prophecies. ) The alternative Heidegger he creates in his counterfactual history of Heidegger’s reaction to the Nazis and his subsequent life is pretty close to a description of Bloch, in that Bloch, throughout his life and his writing remained anti-essentialist and anti-dualist, but he also remained a non-dualist dialectician, true to the Hegelian principle of the world as something unfolding but opposed to the idea that there was some teleological endpoint, some Nirvana, or some abyss to which it was all heading. For Bloch there is no distinction between “Sein” and “Dasein” as “Dasein” itself is merely becoming in becoming. Dasein is transitional and characterised by the “darkness of the lived moment”, in contradistinction to Heidegger’s sense of a Lichtung or illumination of some underlying reality. The thing which keeops us going through the this darkness is the accretion of our experience which gives us some sort of theoretical notion or even intuition that what we are doing in praxis will be the right thing or that if it is not then we will realise this with hindsight and act to correct it. we do this, Bloch maintains, because the force which drives us through the darkness of now is optimism and hope.
    The question which this then raises is to what extent Bloch’s Principle of Hope is in itself merely a metaphyical construct indistinuishable in essence from any other faith in gods, reason, nature, Dionysus, Sein/Seyn.

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    Work in Progress

    With the emphasis on progress!

    I am at one of those turning points in life and much of the stuff here will be about working out what I think about the world. After many years of pretty dogmatic views about everything (though in a liberalish sort of way) I am beginning to relaise that things are much more complicated than I thought. OK, a bit late at 47 to get this but there we are, some of us are late learners. I have been reading a lot of Rorty and other “bourgeois” philosphers lately, having rejected them without ever knowing anything about them simply because they weren’t “marxist” and therefore couldn’t be right, and I cant work out whether they always had valid points and I was just wrong about certain things or whether, as I now earn a relatively large salary, have a nice house in Oxfordshire worth half a million pounds etc, that my consciousness is simply fitting in with my social being. In which case I was right all along of course. Anyway, the point is, I actually find this new phase very constructive and liberating rather than confusing. Idon’t feel that I have dropped into an otherwise dominant “left pessimism” but have probably simply come to see that the insurrectionist impulses and love of revolutions I had was really a twenty-something need to be a bad boy and to stay loyal to what I think of as my proletarian past. I am now prepared to see that the Soviet experiment may have been a blind alley rather than the true path simply blocked by imperialist aggression and that, on the whole, insurrection, though exciting, tends to be pretty destructive, not only of the old order, but also of the orders which emerge from it. So, yes, I have become a sort of radical gradualist. I want to see progressive, democratic, secular, tolerant, liberal European values spread around the world whiclst at the same time respecting cultural difference withoout at the same time subordinating what I feel the world needs to obscurantism and bigotry in the name of that diversity. I am dogmatic enough still to be able to say that some things are right and some things are wrong and that the only way to judge which is which is a debate about whether they serve to liberate human beings from oppression and drudgery or not. What is it then? Radical democracy, fighting liberalism, or just the ranting Fabianism of an armchair Marxist. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what comes of all this.

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    Hello world!

    Well, this is my first ever blog and, as you will be able to see, I have absolutely no idea what I am doing! I will sort it all out but what I hope is that when this is up and running properly it will be the place for people to come and look for discussion and insight about both current issues of international politics as well as historical, philosophical and ideological analysis. It is called the Lock-in because as well as hard talk, there will also be virtual hard-drinking of the sort which makes people say stuff which normally they wouldn’t. It will all be fuelled by virtually unhealthy food, debauchery, flirtation and fun of a sort familiar to those of you who are familiar with lock-ins. I wonder if it is technically possible for people to bring along guitars (or at least MP3 files)and have a good music session as well? Will someone let me know?

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