Hello, world, Alex here!
Time for this week’s revision post. The exams are nearing with their vicious, invisible claws… Today, I bring you something different from the psychology I normally spout, for, since my first exam is a philosophy one, I’ve been revising philosophy. This piece of thoughts is from my Mind and World module, asking whether we can truly interact with the world around us and to what degree.
NB: This is part two of the M+W revision post. The previous one tells you about the way Descartes and Locke tried to solve their perception of the mind being insulated from the world.
Since Descartes and Locke mainly dealt with the issue of insulation of mind from world, and Marx and Adorno and Heidegger mainly dealt with the alienation of the self from the world, there is a little bit of a colour imbalance. Also unfortunately, there may be times in which my thoughts and descriptions overlap from section to section – problem with studying the same philosopher over two lectures.
Marx, Agitator-Philosopher’s Normative Argument: Communism arises as a way to solve the alienation of Capitalism. We were born with natural abilities of language and to sense/perceive the world. Active Self-Realisation is to make those abilities into opportunities cyclically.
Adorno, Psychoanalyst-Philosopher: Self-analysis only. We are forgetting how to give presents. Sophisticated Marxism: people lack the requisite Knowledge and Desire of knowing they’re alienated. In this context, Active Self-Realisation would be used in gift-giving because it involves a person engaging in the selection of a specific produce to suit the recipient. Gift-tokens, however, Adorno considered lazy and un-Self-Realising. (The question is whether giving a present and a gift are the same!)
Heidegger, carpenter: Exposing ourselves to the mind in the world. The Phenomenological Problem. Pessimism. If we do not consider what philosophy and our self, our Dasein, means, we are living an inauthentic (UnEigentlich) life amongst Das Man, who can make Dasein forget its own being and be alienated. Verfallen, Fallenness – and mistaken science – idle talk, curiosity, ambiguity. But Verfallen is TEMPTING, ENTANGLING, ALIENATING, TRANQUILLISING.
Mind in World
Marx postulated that the mind cannot exist in the world with other minds/bodies, since we are all alienated from ourselves by the way we go about our daily lives, regardless of when it seems we are acting for the sake of others. Nothing we do or to which we relate has meaning unless we find a way to escape alienation (eg. Communism). Part animal, part machine in a Capitalist, exploitative society – but lacking the human self.
Marx agrees with Hegel that one must be a truly independent consciousness to leave a lasting mark upon the world, not from a position of desire – but he disagrees in that bondage is not necessary, nor is fear, for change. It can be sufficient, but it is certainly not a requirement of a changing system. (See ‘Alienation’, below) If people recognise – or, rather, sense and respond to – the lack of meaning in their lives, they are more likely to be motivated to change their lives.
Adorno: people do not know what their true interests are. They, instead, believe their interests are those of the general group. Capitalism ensures that people ‘free-ride’ on the ABILITIES of others, and are risk-averse to the point of preferring present, lesser desires to those of uncertain future, greater desires. One feels complicit when acting on one’s own desires, but every individual in society is deluded about themselves, their society and their position.
Heidegger: “Being cannot be comprehended as anything that ‘is’ (Seiendes).” One’s ‘existence-identity’ is dependent on the physical world, and one can know about ‘logically public entities’, eg. objects in the world. One also is able to interact with these objects in the world. This, arguably, reverts to the Default position, were it not for Heidegger’s interpretation of what one means to say one is in-the-world. Too, he deals here with the idea of a self, rather than a metaphysical mind.
“Mineness” and authenticity are traits, rather than possessions like arms. Ontological features of the Being are those preconditions of its being – looking to “Existentiality”; ontic features are subsidiary and merely material – atomic functions of the Being. A Dasein that exists must be open to many ‘modes’ of existence, voluntarily or not.
In Marx’s Alienation Condition, the self is divided against itself – Active Self-Realisation is prevented. Here, philosophy in thought is limited: we cannot remove ourselves from being exploited by simple theoretics; philosophy must be pragmatic to work and make change. In this way, Marx disagrees with Lockean and Cartesian introspection of ideas and perception of the self being all there is/can be.
For Heidegger, the main proponent of the concept of Unified Phenomenon, we are a Being-in-the-World (In-der-Welt-sein) and we come to truly know our self by inquiring into our existence. The two concepts are never, and have never been, separate entities to be brought together. We can thus escape the Sceptical Situation and lessen the chokehold of the Alienation Condition (however, an inauthentic attitude to our death means that the Alienation Condition is still prevalent in life). Heidegger’s main problem with typical, analytic philosophy (such as that of these European philosophers) is that it does not consider the lexical ambiguities in its use of defining the terms.
Marx: to feel fear at another’s force, to serve them or to be exploited is to sustain the alienation condition. Feudalism is exploitative but not alienating; Capitalism is both. ‘Theory of Alienation’ shows why Capitalism ought to be overthrown. Yet, looking retrospectively at what Capitalism has done and what it might continue to do does not automatically mean we ought to stop it. How do we truly know that an exploitative society is worse than a society in which every human is Actively Self-Realising? There is nothing to bridge this gap.
(Supposedly, Adorno resolves this with the Sophisticated Marxism position. But I disagree. Whilst suggesting that people do not know they are alienated allows for the cyclical problem of the Alienation Condition leading to further alienation, this argument still does not justify how Communism is better – in what way does it actually provide a route out of Capitalism and not simply a different way of observing – or not – our alienated position? Who can say?)
In Marx’s idea of the Alienation Condition, he proposed that there are several ways for a person to be alienated from the world. As well as the three main conditions of Objectification – Entäusserung (the good use of making produce for one’s own sake), Veräusserung (alienation through selling) and Entfremdung (estrangement through, for example, making produce that one does not agree with, eg. factory work), the worker can be alienated from his world, his work (his produce), hisself (as member of species and as self-defined), his own body and his own activity when in autonomy, even natural autonomy. The world is radically inaccessible to us.
Heidegger: The ‘Bug’ makes us slip into a lack of inquiry – makes us alienated from ourselves. Too, death is non-relational and cannot-be-bypassed, therefore we frequently alienate others when talking or avoiding talk of death.
“Our death is our not-being; it cannot be an event in our life.” Acknowledged ambiguity. Heidegger’s Substantial Interpretation posits that there is something beyond death which we cannot comprehend, and leads to an alienating paradox, due to internal argument inconsistency of authenticity (see below). His Normative Interpretation of death says that there is nothing beyond death – this interpretation does not lead to an alienating paradox.
Is Fallenness an ontic or ontological feature of our Dasein? If it is ontological, there is no way to avoid Fallenness and Heidegger’s suppositions are flawed – because we are always living in an authentic world; being true to ourselves is being alienated, and thus the argument fails logical analysis. Too, we cannot simply dismiss the Alienation Condition.
As with Locke and Descartes, Marx’s remedy to the Alienation Condition fails, due to it in itself being alienated. Is pushing a bad situation far enough into its cause the best solution? Humans do not function that way – some hit bottom and must rise due to Newtonian motion, but others simply stick to the gunk at the bottom (writer’s words, not philosopher’s).
Adorno argues that philosophising to bring out human Enlightenment and Emancipation is a way out of the Alienation Condition.
Whilst Heidegger’s solution of creating a formal concept of existence deals with the mind-world, dualistic problems raised by Descartes et al, Heidegger fails to account for those who consciously refuse to be authentic. The solution is rather pessimistic, in that Heidegger suggests that if we are not actively and authentically inquiring into our being, we are not really existing. Logical? Hardly. Think about daydreaming and consider how Heidegger would approach that. Also: our Alienation cannot resolve simply by acknowledgement that we are a Unified Phenomenon. To continually think about: does he simply define his way out of the problem, or is his definition-change a moment of clarification in terms of deciphering philosophy?
Nevertheless, it is difficult to be fully authentic to the world all the time… We may be both the problem and the means to resolve it.
Heidegger’s philosophy is more in-depth than I give credit for here. For one thing, we are only taught the iceberg-tip of his continental philosophy. The other point is that I have revised him less in this batch, since I did substantial Heidegger revision for the coursework essay on him I submitted. If anything is unclear, please feel free to leave a comment. If I cannot answer, I’d love to Google and explore this topic more with readers.
That’s it for now, though.