Sunday, December 25, 2005

The World-Historical Philosophical Dialog

Language is the house of Being. In it's home man dwells. Those who think and those who create with words are the guardians of this home. - Martin Heidegger

The history of philosophy is the history of a kind of technology. This technology is a technology of mediation. That which is mediated is logos (speech/reason). When logos is mediated it becomes dia-logos (dialog).

For a very long time the only mediation of logos was as speech through the vibrations of the vocal cord. This technology allowed thought to be encoded and mediated through the air to another mind. This technology was supplied by nature and with it began the existence of humanity and a new order in nature. This technology is the technology of technologies.

However, speech alone would not suffice because, though with it thought could be shared in proximate space, it severely restricted the mediation of logos through time. With out this ability (to encode thought in a durable medium) very little knowledge could be passed from generation to generation.

For this reason a new technology of dia-logos was called for and invented. This new technology was, of course, writing.

With the written word as the new technology of dia-logos the world-historical philosophical dialog could begin. But what is this world-historical dialog of which I speak?

This is the dialog which begins when one generation responds to the thinking of past generations with renewed thinking and writing. This dialog becomes a world-historical dialog when documents can be recorded, translated, copied, and distributed. This dialog becomes philosophical once the dialog becomes concerned with the nature of existence and the purpose of Man.

In the West the dialog began with the pre-Socratic Ionian philosophers and continues to this day. The dialog began slowly – involving only a few privileged minds. But as western civilization advanced so did the dialog. The advancement of the dialog corresponds to the advancement of the technology of the mediation of logos, which, in turn, corresponds to the advancement of civilization.

With every generation that passes, the recoded thought to which the new generation must respond is exponentially larger. Also as every generation passes the technologies of dia-logos become more sophisticated and far reaching. And the world-historical philosophical dialog grows.

At this late date the exponential advancement of the technologies of dia-logos has brought on a wholly unprecedented state of affairs. This advancement has resulted in the ability to digitally record and transmit logos.

Communication is now everywhere. We are awash in a cacophony of unreasoned noise. At every corner we are distracted from thinking by the mere exchange of information. Still – the number who now participate in the world-historical philosophical dialog is greater than ever. The question remains before us and its answer is as pressing as ever: What is the nature of existence and the purpose of Man?

We who are alive now must climb atop the shoulders of all those thinkers who have gone before and attempt to see even further and penetrate deeper than ever before. We have greater tools to accomplish this than ever before. If you can think, and if you can read, and if you have access to a computer then you may join this world-historical dialog at its most advanced state. No longer is this dialog confined to ivory towers or national boundaries. It is now truly a global dialog. May you answer the call to think.


I accept your challenge, Sir, and hereby extend it to even (perhaps especially) those that have traditionally not been part of this process. As you noted, the early phases of our dialogue were limited in scope, partially because the conversationalists were too conversant, that is, came from such similar backgrounds (male, wealthy, etc.). For example, "thinking" and “knowledge” have been broadly construed in the West as overly linear or logical (in the narrow sense). If we are to avoid groupthink and petty, in-house debates we need to actively encourage the acceptance of plurality, the strange, and the new. It may seem awkward and scary at first, but learning and growth are worth it.
A term from the hermeneutical traditions that may help here is effective historical consciousness (Wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewusstsein), and seems to be exactly what you’re talking about here.

By Blogger seek, at 26/12/05 17:18  

Let me clarify that I welcome the opening up of the converstion but what I am talking about is not so much a challenge or an invitation but rather a phenomena of history. The conversation has already opened up. The call to think is already on the table as it ever was. The responsibilty of being heard now falls to the interlocuter. If one's thinking opens up new possibilities then it will be answered. But if one's thinking is shallow, vaccuous, or mere charlatanism then it will likely go unanswered.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 28/12/05 14:03  

And certainly what you've been describing would entail the cooperation and mutual respect of responsible, sensible participants.
"The responsibilty of being heard now falls to the interlocuter."
This sounds wonderfully individualistic, as if we were isolated agents that can be detracted from our living communities. Responsibility is much broader than that, and takes into account the social implications of public dialogue,conditions for optimal devopment, etc. I guess another way to pose this question would be: how can we expect someone that has been largely excluded from these conversations to just "pick it up", to be any good in these endeavors, or perhaps even interested at all. Placing the responsibility on them is naive and negligent and will only foster more discord and groupthink. In all likelihood, the contributions of anyone from a different background than ourselves will seem to be "shallow, vaccuous, or mere charlatanism". It is our responsibility to look beyond that.

By Blogger seek, at 28/12/05 20:59  

No one is in charge of the world-historical philosophical dialog. It is something that is unfolding in time. If you wish to participate then you must respond to what has already been said and recorded in history. If no one cares to respond to what you have to say then you will be forgotten. This is the nature of dialog. No one has a right to be listened to. Most philosophers have been forgotten already and the few who havn't been are mostly misunderstood. However, it used to be the case that you never even had a chance to be heard unless miraculously what you wrote down had been copied down through the ages. Now if you want to be heard all you have to do is start a blog. The Academy is not talking about the singularity but we are, and the reason is becasue I started this blog. Whether or not what I have to say becomes a part of the world-historical philosophical dialog depends on how what I say is responded to. I don't want anyone to be slavishly open to what I say. I want what I have to say to be thought provoking. If what
I have to say does not provoke thought then it is dead and inhert. Unfortunantly this dialog must remain esoteric to a certain extent. Only those who are privledged enough to have spent a long time in education and contemplation are qualified. Fortunantly the conditions under which more and more people qualify for this dialog are growing rapidly and daily. On the otherhand it is important that i point out that this dialog should, and is, becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. The more learned view points the better. However, I am not interested in hearing from the enemies of reason which are interested in the distruction of this dialog and western civilization in general such as is the case with many post-modernist thinkers such as Derrida and Rorty. If your "perspective" is that there is no privelidged perspective then there is no point in you joining the dialog since the aim of the dialog is to come to the absolute knowledge of self and the universe.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 28/12/05 23:49  

I would like to see some type of verifiable test in the "real world" of such a discussion. As Popper might say, a theory must be falsifiable to be scientific. Can our philosophy be a bit more scientific? Humans have come a long way from the medieval "angels on pinheads" type of discussion.

My perspective is more from cognitive science than from philosophy. As you know, philosophy is often considered one of the six "legs" of C.S. along with neuroscience, information technology(with AI), psychology, anthropology, and linguistics.

Thinking and knowledge may indeed be "overly linear or logical" in the minds of some men, (men as generic for human) but a meaningful discussion has to go beyond such petty parochialisms.

By Blogger al fin, at 29/12/05 10:49  

Your looking for a varifiable test...? We are participating in the dialog right now. I'm not talking about anything controversial. All that I'm talking about is the evolution of historical dialog that has led up to our current knowledge about the universe. Have you read and been influenced by past thinkers? Have you responded by thinking about what has been said, or thought in the past and applied that knowledge to questions about the nature of the universe or man? - then you are a node in the world-historical brain - an intelocuter in the universal dialog which IS science. I shouldn't have been so obscure in my post. Sometimes I feel like writting poetically in an attempt to get people to think about a phenomenon in a different way but it usually just leads to confusion. If you've ever read Thomas Kuhn's "Structures of Scientific Revolutions" I'm coming from a similar perspective of how science works. If you havn't your missing out - the book revolutionizes what Popper has to say. Falsification alone is an incomplete picture.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 29/12/05 12:04  

A thought from Kuhn:
"What I as a physicist had to discover for myself, most historians learn by example in the course of professional training. Consciously or not, they are all practitioners of the hermeneutic method. In my case, however, the discovery of hermeneutics did more than make history seem consequential. Its most immediate and decisive effect was instead on my view of science.... Increasingly, I suspect that anyone who believes that history may have deep philosophical import will have to learn to bridge the longstanding divide between the Continental and English-language philosophical traditions." from The Essential Tension (1977)
This is not about antirationality or armchair speculation, but the proper place of reason and logos, which has gained broader and broader context as the dialogue develops. Again, I think it's a great post with a powerful vision; I hope we have the consistency and tenacity to act on it.

By Blogger seek, at 29/12/05 17:07  

It is not accurate to say that Kuhn negated Popper. If philosophy is going to live up to being a part of cognitive science, philosophical theories must be judged just as scientific theories are judged. Falsifiability is vital, even post-Kuhn, for any scientific theory that wants to be taken seriously.

Philosophy is subject to historical tests and logical tests. Post-modernism seeks to discard logic as an inconvenient obstacle to--to what? Not truth, certainly, since there is no such thing according to post-modernists. Just say that logic is an obstacle to the acquisition of power, for certain ideologues.

By Blogger al fin, at 29/12/05 17:39  

That philosophy is a part of cognitive science is an interesting (albeit unfalsifiable) theoretical premise. If you are still hearing me as antirational, or antilogical, then I have mispoke or you have misheard me. I share your fascinated trust in the power and capabilities of logic; I also wish to place it in its proper context as I attempt to explore more fully the experience of being human.

By Blogger seek, at 29/12/05 18:54  

Very good, seek. We should certainly hold each other to high standards of rigour, while understanding that we may be bringing concepts from different schools of thought to the table. These concepts might require a bit of manipulation for them to rest easily together in the same context.

Philosophy is not generally a science, of course. It is more of a meta-science, on a different logical level, loosely analogous to mathematics. Even so, it is inextricably linked to science, and is not allowed to abuse its scientific parnerships.

At one time, philosophy played with concepts of religion and theology. Now, philosophy has chosen to interact with the empirical fields of study. That requires a level of self-discipline and consistency from philosophers that was not generally required when dealing with religion, politics, or even economics (Marx).

By Blogger al fin, at 30/12/05 01:08  

Nice discussion. It's pretty cool that I wrote a post about technology and dialog and, low and behold, three different guys, from three different backgrounds, are able to enter into a meaningful discussion directly there after utelizing percisely the technology in question. I just love to hear smart people engage in vital conversation - which doesn't happen very often off-line.

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