Saturday, 26 July 2014

Thought 28: Pretentious Thoughts on Pretentiousness

What is pretentiousness? How does it compare with pretension?

Much thinking, or, more precisely, theory, is pretentious and I could perhaps include this writing in this bracket. What is it that makes writing, speaking, creating, pretentious as such? What warrants something to be described as pretentious?

A pretension is making a claim to something which one may not normally, that is, in a normative and normalising sense, lay a claim to. For example, so and so has the pretension to be a classical pianist, that is, he makes a claim to being a classical pianist, which claim, and this is implicit in the word pretension, does not bear scrutiny or deeper analysis, perhaps, say, because he does not actually make his living by playing classical piano. 

Something or someone is pretentious when it or he makes a pretension, that is, pretends, to be better or more sophisticated than it or he is in reality which basically comes to covering over (ψεύδεσθαι) a lack of substance, a lack of genuine thoughtfulness - hence the expression pseudo, such as Michel Foucault's describing psychiatry as a pseudo-science, i.e. psychiatry makes a claim to scientific respectability and exactness but in truth the pseudo-scientific veneer of modern psychiatry is merely covering over (ψεύδεσθαι) a lack of authentic scientific substance. Yet psychiatry is not targeted with the label 'pretentious' because pretentiousness is reserved for deeds and persons deemed to be outside prevailing moral standards. 

Pretentiousness, in other words, always contains an element of pretension, of pretence, of covering over a vacuous lack. In any and every case pretentiousness covers over a dearth of substance and quality. What is quality? Precisely the opposite of pretentiousness, that is, quality needs no covering over (ψεύδεσθαι), no pretence, since quality always speaks of and for itself. 

The fight against pretentiousness is, at the same time, a fight for quality. This is why Nietzsche saw mediocrity as a necessary precondition for quality, since mediocrity can and does act as a spur for the pursuit of quality, however unreasonable in real life terms such a pursuit may prove to be. 

To circle the circle then, we will say that for someone or something to be genuinely pretentious, and not merely said to be by hostile commentators, that someone would have to betray pretension, i.e. lay a claim to a quality which is not properly his and in so doing have the pretence to be better than he actually is in his shameless pretending to be above his station as a creative individual. 

In the case of writing, then, pretentiousness would consist in dressing up a simple thought in convoluted, theoretical language, which has the effect of obfuscating the writer's lack of authentic understanding, i.e. understanding rooted in the the ontological difference between Being and beings (Heidegger). 

To call someone's work pretentious is to call out their bullshit, so to speak, to force them to reveal their true colours, their true philosophical underpinnings, so that, by this dialectical and conflict-ridden process of pretension and calling out (λόγος πόλεμος στιν), simple insights are gained which is part of that endlessly self-overcoming process which Nietzsche, Heidegger and myself call the rank order, that is, the establishing of who may say what in which context since we are not all created equal and not necessarily worthy of setting up an everyman's tribunal to differentiate (κρίνειν) what is greater from what is lesser. 

The question of the rank order is synonymous with the problem of authority and it is no accident that in her collection of essays Between Past and Future, Hannah Arendt asked the question

"What is authority?”

or even

"What was authority?" 

given, and this is implied in that question, that the current social order does not satisfactorily resolve the urgent and pressing problem of authority, i.e. of who may say and do what when, leading to the opposite scenario of a society based on authority, namely, a society based on violence and coercion, if not manipulation.

As such the fight against pretentiousness is a healthy dialectical struggle for the bringing to light of thoughtful insights and, if I dare use the word, truths.

Let us conclude, then, with Heidegger (Contributions to Philosophy) that

"Truth is untruth.” (since untruth, when challenged and rectified becomes truth)

and hear this excellent snippet from his didactic poem Aus Der Erfahrung des Denkens 

"Thinking's case would be more auspicious if there were already adversaries [i.e. fellow rival thinkers vying for position] and not mere opponents [i.e. those who are only anti-thought].”

(which is also a way of saying that pretentiousness and the mediocrity which goes with it is absolutely necessary for the furtherance of truth, that which makes meaning possible).

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Thought 27: The Great Noontide

What is Nietzsche's "great noontide" also translated as "the great midday", referred to in Thus Spoke Zarathustra on several occasions such as at the end?
"This is my morning, my day is beginning: Rise up now, rise up, you great Midday!
(trans: Graham Parkes)

Is it the point at which the progress of civilisation, namely taming, and the stature of man, his diminution or, conversely, his growing in height, i.e. culture, are seen as irreconcilable? 

Addendum - I've just noticed - four years later - that Nietzsche says exactly that in note 134 of The Will to Power
"This is the time of the great noon, of the most terrible clearing up: my type of pessimism - great point of departure.
I. Basic contradiction in civilisation and the enhancement of man." 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Thought 26: Natural Humanity

As Nietzsche observed in his never-to-be completed treatise The Will to Power: Reevaluation of all Values, there has never yet been a 'natural humanity'. 

Human beings are, for him, the as-yet-unfixed, undetermined animals.

The superman appears at the same time as the last man, i.e. the man who is last in rank.
"The last man lives longest" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra)
means he will have a 
"curiously long staying power" 
no doubt due to his way of representing things in an un-endangered manner (Heidegger, What is Called Thinking?). 

According to my elucidations in How to Become Master of the World, a 'natural' humanity is a humanity that thinks its habituation.
"Every advancement of the time 'man' has so far been the fruit of an aristocratic society." - Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil 
This aphorism ought be understood as meaning that man evolves through the spiritual wealth of a thoughtful community, if one views the ἄριστοι, the best, as having a more primordial relationship to Being for
...τὸ γὰρ αὺτὸ νοεῖν ἐστιν τε καὶ εἶναι - Parmenides
"It is one and the same to contemplate and to exist."

Heidegger's contribution can perhaps best be viewed as having established a basis on which a legitimate aristocracy may be obtained, which is its closeness to Being, its mindfulness (Besinnung), its ability to dwell in contemplative thought (see Three Modes of Reflection).

It was also that thinker who highlighted the possibility that modern technology might force man to enter 'the dignity of his essence', i.e. to become fully man, in direct correlative proportion to
"the destiny of revealing which sends into em-bank-ment (Bestand)" (also translated as 'standing reserve')
in so far as that destiny blocks ποίησις, "what lets shine forth in appearance, in presence": truth. 

τέχνη and ποίησις are like two constellations that will cross without colliding, just as information-communication technology enables ScruffyOwlet's Tree.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Thought 25: War and Peace

War: what preserves the peace (against dangerous extremists, communists, the axis of evil and so on ad nauseam)

Peace: the annihilation of war.

Question (asked by Heidegger in What is Called Thinking?): how can peace be preserved by what it annihilates? Or, put differently, how can war preserve the very thing which is meant to annihilate it?

As he observed, something is deeply amiss here which has its root in the fact that we are still not thinking, i.e. that Being, that which gives to think, that which makes meaning possible, has abandoned beings.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Thought 24: Factual Truth and Created Political Facts

In her essay Politics and Truth, which can be read in her masterpiece Between Past and Future, Hannah Arendt distinguishes philosophical truth, which for her has no political bearing and is far removed from the affairs of men - ever since Plato's disgust with the Πολιτεία which put his beloved mentor, Socrates, to death - from factual truth which is of greater political import since facts are the raw stuff of politics and, more often than not, a real hindrance to power which is why Cold Monsters (i.e. governments) lie, i.e. conceal, twist, distort, as a matter of course, basic everyday facts, including by falsifying reality in terms of number (inc. statistics) but also, as has been shown again and again, by altering historical facts such as Stalin's erasing of Trotsky as a major figure from the history of the Russian Revolution (I specify Russian because there is such a thing as English and American Bolshevism). 

Worse, Cold Monsters routinely invent facts, create facts or, in other words, create perceptions (what is meant by propaganda) which is why only the most bold and courageous of spirits can take it on themselves to unravel, dis-cover, un-conceal those created perceptions with the aid of their conscience, the perception of their perception - see my dialogue Lathoron (in Greek: ἀληθεύειν, to speak truthfully, to wrest with great struggle from hiddenness; truth in Greek, ἀ-λήθεια, meaning, following Heidegger's insight, dis-closure, unconcealment, what is unhidden, the alpha being privative). 

Politically speaking, the bravest are those who, as part of a task which by definition is thankless and extremely dangerous, go about un-covering, i.e. wresting out of concealment, hiddenness, the lies of Cold Monsters. 

Philosophical truth, in so far as it remains attached to the ideal, the "pure sky of ideas", which includes the fallacious and un-endangered activity of mathematics which has only a claim to exactness and a corresponding scientific application in physics (which still interprets beings as constant presence - see Being and Time) and the social sciences, is, today, politically irrelevant - although in the past scientific discoveries such as those made by Galileo embroiled him in seas of polemics and controversy, including and especially arising from the corrupt (i.e. denatured) ecclesiastical order.

Yet philosophy remains eminently political in so far as language itself is political, i.e. belongs to the political nature of man as a being possessed of speech (ζῷον λόγον ἐχῶν) and that language is necessarily a function of power struggles, of πόλεμος, of strife, following the unquestionable insight that λόγος is indeed πόλεμος, warfare. 

My concept of thoughtful habituation is also eminently political in so far as the everyday covering over, ψεύδεσθαι, of what is really going on, not to mention the fact that we are, and are only once, of the powers - media-political-moneyed-religious-scientific-corporate - that, in independent journalist James Corbett's wording, should not be, requires nothing less than to think our habits and process our perception in a radically new way so that we may not be calculated and instantly calculable.

As regards a fact, it has become urgent to ask ourselves what a fact it, i.e. whether it is merely something created for the benefit of those in power or whether it is something which lies before any self-serving manipulating, any self serving ψεύδεσθαι. 

In my Brief Anatomy of Perception I highlighted the possibility that a thing, literally any thing that is not nothing, is fact in so far as it is perceptible, knowable, communicable. As such a lie by a government remains a fact on the very narrow basis that it is perceptible, i.e. liable to be grasped sensorily and perceptually; even if it be a purely fictitious creation (such as the technologically presented version of 9/11 and the whole ensuing 'war on terror'), it nonetheless becomes a fact the moment it is established for all to see, know, communicate. 

What, then, is factual truth? Factual truth, politically speaking, is bringing to light, to perception, the created facts as created facts. The 9/11 truth movement in all its various shapes and sizes, strengths and weaknesses, is doing precisely this: bringing to light the fact of 9/11 as created political fact, that 9/11 as political fact, as something perceptible and knowable, was created (no doubt for unconscionable power purposes which do not concern us here). 

Ditto, the burning of the ReichsTag by the Nazis who pinned it on the communists is known to be created fact through the labours and struggles of many a spirit whose names are unknown to most. Ditto too with the official narrative of JFK's assassination: pure created political fact.

It could be said that time, in so far as it is a dialectical vying for rank, in the realm of politics as in others, always brings truths to light, i.e created political facts. Whence Heraclitus' timeless insight that
"Justice will catch up with those who invent lies and those who swear to them."
Heraclitus is here merely uttering a law of Being. It is no accident that he be the first thinker of Rank Ordering, of πόλεμος and, in the light of Heidegger's interpretation, the thinker of λόγος as πόλεμος. 

Justice in the Heraclitean sense means Rank Ordering in so far as those who invent lies, i.e. create political facts, lose rank in the ultimate Rank Order which decides who is free, who is slave, who is god, who is man. 

Today's elite are last in rank in so far as their shallow technological organisation ensures that Being, that which makes meaning possible, withdraws from them. It is in this light that one must interpret the sometimes uttered statement that only beggars know the truth.
"Strife (πόλεμος - λόγος) is father of all and master of all. And some he has shown as gods, others men; some he has made slaves, others free."  
This sentence is still true today, judging by the amount of thoughtless slaves who do not question or critically consider their technological servitude, i.e. realise that indeed they are slaves.
"Not comprehending they hear like the death; the saying is their witness: absent while present." 
Thoughtlessness means not being fully in Being, not fully having come to consciousness, not being fully 'man' as the pointer to that which makes meaning possible and that which withdraws. For, ever since Parmenides
τὸ γὰρ αủτὸ νοεῖν ἐστίν τε καὶ εἶναι
"Thinking and Being are the same." 
or, according to Heidegger's elaboration in Being and Time
"Being is what shows itself in pure, intuitive perception, and only this seeing discovers being."
He goes on
"Primordial and genuine truth lies in pure intuition."
 Heraclitus' statement
"Greater deaths are allotted greater destinies."
is also part of the Rank Ordering. Socrates, Jesus, Spinoza, Oscar Wilde come to mind but so do many magnanimous spirits of the first century ADS.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Thought 23: Writing and Rank Order


The order of rank, or rank order, is a central concern of Messieurs Nietzsche and Heidegger and somehow became one of mine too, but with much less elegance. 

Everything under the sun I began to interpret in the light of what may be said when and by whom


Writing is part of the Rank Ordering, whence Nietzsche's observation in Beyond Good and Evil that 
"it writes."
Derrida's making a problem out of writing
"il n'y a pas de hors texte."
is, again, part of the Rank Ordering, of the absolute need for the first men to be the most powerful. See in this regard Zarathustra's shout
"There is no harder fate in all human destiny when the most powerful are not at the same time the first men. Then everything become fake, crooked and monstrous."
The Rank Ordering cannot be stopped. In fact it has already been formulated (see post Rank Ordering). The conflict between good and bad and good and evil or, which is the same, priority for the few versus priority for the majority, as Nietzsche noted in his Genealogy of Morals, has become ever more spiritual.

The fact that great events, for Nietzsche, are the greatest thoughts, in the sense of the stillest and the most delicate, is not some idle fancy but again part of the Rank Ordering which is the same thing as what Hölderlin intends by the words

"the saving power." (das Rettende). 
The planetary technological order itself brings with it the saving power, the centuries-long process of the rank order. Which is why the global technological elite have time against them. Which is also why Nietzsche noted that the rank order would take place outside of any existing social order (see The Will to Power). 

Which is why in Thus Spoke Zarathustra he teaches higher men "love of the most distant."

The superman comes forth not only after the Rank Order has been carried out (see post Rank Ordering) but as part of the very same conditions which have established the total economic exploitation of mankind which, for Nietzsche, is a diminution of the beast of prey man in the grand style (still in The Will to Power).

As Heidegger observed in the Spiegel interview, Only a god can save us, the destruction of the earth will only be able to be brought to a halt when and if 

"thought and poetry come to non-violent power once again."
enabling a free relationship to modern technicity.

With the rank order accomplished, when the first men, the greatest creators, are finally acknowledged as the most authoritative human beings, a new beginning of Western thought and for Western mankind will have come to fruition - and as Heidegger notes in What is Called Thinking? the land of the setting sun (Abendland) will thereby become a Morgenland in another sense, namely the land of a new beginning for mankind.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Thought 22: Economics as Domestication

The rise to prominence of economic theory is linked to the process of domestication of mankind: civilisation. οἶκος in Greek, means household. The fact that we all live in houses (or flats which amounts to the same thing) as taxpaying domestic animals necessarily engenders a rise in economic theory. 

Margaret Thatcher appealed to the habits of the 'good' householder in her economic thinking (see John Campbell's excellent two-volume biography of The Iron Lady). Householding is a domestic matter. Domestication and economics go hand in hand.

As for the concept of economic growth it seems to me that it is a self-contradiction. To be economical means to preserve, to be sparing. That the words economics and growth should be linked in this way points to the uprootedness and irresponsibility of modern thinking. Economic growth should really be understood to mean uneconomical waste.