Correlationism and the Political

I really don’t get this political debate. I thought I did, but I guess I don’t. Either you are a realist or you aren’t, you can’t have it both ways. If you claim that there is anything that correlates with Being then you are a correlationist and an anti-realist. Of course, I disagree with certain people being implicated in Meillassoux’ formulation of correlationism because I disagree with his binary of Being/Non-Being, meaning I think “process” philosophers (Schelling and Schopenhauer for example) allow us to break with correlationism as well as the metaphysics of presence. This means that when Schelling says Freedom/Spirit or when Schopenhauer says Will, they are not correlationists because those are simply other names for Being (or rather, Becoming). They exist whether or not there are humans or thinking because their systems allow for unconscious entities (which is why so many Schellingians became scientists and why he was himself concerned with the natural sciences).

This is not the case for the political however. “Politics” is not another name for Being; politics are dependent on human beings. Certainly without humans there would be complex relations among entities, certain organisms would form politic-like organizations. We could say then that politics “image” other systems of relations, in the same way that Schelling speaks of “imaging freedom.” What he means is not that one is real and the other a copy, but that one is conscious and the other not, meaning one is reflexive. Politics are relations become conscious. Human beings, unlike ants or bees or wolves, are able to consider and change their grounding systems, able to weigh and decide the differences between varying systems and enact these decisions.

Nick has asked the questions: “(1) Are two galaxies colliding in the vast emptiness of space, political? (2) If yes, how?”

I think the answer is obviously no. Galaxies are unable to reflect on their relations, actions, etc, and are therefore not political. My decisions regarding my own systems of relations are political however insofar as they are conscious decisions. Certainly there is nothing inherently political about the fact that my body requires sleep (all animals do), but where I choose to sleep could be a political decision, as could a number of other factors involving this simple process. In this same way, a tree is not inherently political until I make it so.

We could perhaps question whether or not this means that speculation is in itself a political activity. This seems to be the main argument thrusts upon those of us who deny the ontological is political. Again, I follow the thinkers of the unconscious here and maintain that an unbiased view of things is possible. It follows that this view is not only not correlationist, but is devoid of politics until I inject them into it or thrust them upon it.

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28 responses to “Correlationism and the Political

  1. kvond

    One wonders if when Chimpanzees set out in a murderous troop to kill another troop or member, is this a “poltical” act? To alter an opposing system or alliance, it would seem, would constitute a willful change in the “system” that constitutes one’s own allied relations, and those that oppose it. Granted the kinds of choices that mark human political discourse are far more complex and abstract, I am unsure that the concept of “reflection” is what separates the human from the non-human (except in the tradition of 18th century Idealism).

  2. I am not talking about reflectivity in the sense of idealism, but more of a reflexivity. I don’t think a chimp hitting another chimp (or a group of chimps hitting another group) constitutes the political because they are not a reflexive entity. I am able to question and (at least theoretically) change the grounds of my system, while I don’t think apes fighting over territory or mates is the same. They are not striving to alter their grounds and are unable (as far as we know) to even conceive of such grounds, whereas conscious beings are able to act in such ways. When the chimps are able to actively conceive their systems of relations and attempt to alter them, then I think we could discuss whether it is a political animal or not.

  3. kvond

    You are working from Schelling and you’re not an Idealist? Chimps don’t simply go around hitting other chimps they organize murderous hunting parties. Defining them as “not a reflexive entity” in fact seems about as Idealist as you can get.

    Your concept of the “grounds of my system” is not the actual ontological organization of those grounds, but simply a concept of them, a perspective on them. Indeed you change those grounds when you act, but it seldom turns out the way that you think it will. Chimps also act to change the grounds of their social relations. You confuse your concept of things with the way that they really are. For instance, a person might think that they are really changing things when they vote for president, when in fact they are changing very little. When chimps organize a hunting party, as far as I can tell they are “actively conceiving of their systems of relations” and when they murder an opposing member they are working to change them. Only an Idealist conception of man as the one being with a mirror to the world and himself (based on Christian concepts of soul and the specialness of man’s creation) creates a categorical division between these acts. It is a question of degree, not of kind.

  4. 1. As I have said countless times, I do not accept that Schelling was an idealist. All of his post-Fichtean work (meaning from about 1797 onwards, though the piece on the Timaeus could easily be read as a form of vitalist-realism) is actively showing the problems and inadequacies of idealism.

    2. There is nothing idealist about saying that not all of Nature is conscious. Chimps are not conscious to the degree that human beings are, and I would argue that while they are able to engage in activities that image politics, they are not themselves political. The cells that make up my body are not political for the same reason, they cannot change the systems which they participate in because they are unable to envisage such a system in the first place. Chimps, while obviously very intelligent, are simply unable to see the fact that they exist in such and such societies based on such and such organizing principles, in such and such places and could do X in order to change these circumstances. I think when they engage in what you are calling politics they are simply following instinct and blind drive. They are unable to redirect these things in such a way as to conceivably change them, whereas conscious beings are.

    3. This does not grant any sacredness to the human being. Either you haven’t been paying attention to anything I’ve written over the past or have willfully ignored it in this instance. Consciousness does not make humans any better from a value perspective, it is simply the current state of affairs. I have never argued for any form of humanism; the world does not revolve around us. That doesn’t change the fact that as far as we are aware, we are the only conscious beings in existence. I am not denying reality to slime molds, but I am denying the fact that they are able to actively engage in their own circumstances in such a way as to alter them. This doesn’t exclude the possibility of other conscious beings existing, either alien life forms, Lovecraftian old ones, or future conscious entities here on Earth through evolution.

    4. Consciousness does not mean idealism. Modern biology accepts that human beings are conscious while remaining naturalistic and materialistic. I am a vitalist; Nature exists in degrees and emergent forms. One of them happens to be us and we happen to be conscious. From this consciousness stems relfexivity in Nature, namely our ability to be political, ethical, etc.

  5. kvond

    CL: “As I have said countless times, I do not accept that Schelling was an idealist. All of his post-Fichtean work (meaning from about 1797 onwards, though the piece on the Timaeus could easily be read as a form of vitalist-realism) is actively showing the problems and inadequacies of idealism.”

    Kvond: Forgive me for not keeping track of your entire oeuvre of opinions on Schelling. All you have to do is look at his determinative CHANGES and reaction to Spinoza’s thought, following the pantheism controversy, and see what he attempt to preserve (from the threat of Spinozism) and one will see that he is strongly in the Idealist tradition.

    CL: “There is nothing idealist about saying that not all of Nature is conscious.”

    Kvond: But there is something Idealist in saying that “man is a reflexive entity”.

    CL: ” This does not grant any sacredness to the human being. Either you haven’t been paying attention to anything I’ve written over the past or have willfully ignored it in this instance.”

    Kvond: And you are not paying attention from WHENCE your ideas come, and the motivations and influences that pushed Schelling to make his Idealist corrections to Spinoza (for instance his continual preoccupation with how to rescue “freedom” from Spinozism, which already has a theory of freedom).

    CL: “Consciousness does not mean idealism. Modern biology accepts that human beings are conscious while remaining naturalistic and materialistic.”

    Kvond: But modern biology does not assert something as Idealist as “man is a reflexive entity”. Such a categorical statement, in abstraction, has absolutely no place at all in biology or any other science.

  6. kvond

    As for Schelling’s attempted synthesis or overcoming of Fichte, Fichte’s position of the “I” should be seen as specifically a reaction to the threat of Spinozism and the possible loss of the (highly important, Christianized) “I” at the hands of reason. Schelling’s desire to integrate Fichte’s “I” and Spinoza’s system is an Idealist project at its core, to bring the importance of the “I” back into Spinoza’s percieved devestating reduction of the human “self” before the world.

    Perhaps you have not read much on the pantheism controversy, (or have and think little of it), but at least in my view, in order to understand Schelling you have to understand the entire struggle with Spinozism that the century was having.

    Its okay to see Schelling as a vitalist, but you have to compare his vitalism with the vitalism of Spinoza and track the specific differences he makes, and what he is trying to preserve from the threats of Spinozism.

  7. kvond

    This is what I dare any modern biologist to say of the organism known as homo sapiens:

    “The whole power (Macht) of the dark principle is in the human being, and in the same there is at the same time the whole force (Kraft) of light. In him there is the deepest abyss, and the highest heaven, or both centers. The will of the human being is the seed, concealed (verborgne Keim) in the eternal longing (Sehnsucht), of God present as yet only in the Ground, of the divine look of life (Lebensblick), which God saw (ersah), when he grasped the will of nature (MF, 363).”

    It is this primary, and indeed Idealist preoccupation with the Subject/Object binary, bred from a Representationalist view of knowledge (the hallmark of Idealism), that leads just to these kinds of ruminations. If you do away with subject/object binarism and representationalist thinking, and thus also away with the supposed reality of the “negation” which is born from the optical metaphor of knowing (figure/ground) you are left with a wholly immanentism which is strictly speaking, Spinozist…and “man” loses his special footing as the creational center of “the deepest abyss” and “highest heaven” and the eternal longing of God.

  8. Michael,

    Just to let you know, while I agree with a lot of your theoretical work and find much of it interesting in its own right, what you’re saying about chimps is largely wrong on an empirical level. They may not have the same level of reflexivity (though I know of no way to measure this or on what scale is really fair to go with), but there have been studies that have shown changes in chimp societies. All of this to say that I don’t know this challenges you at the formal level of your theory.

  9. Thanks Anthony,

    Again, I have no problem with politics belonging to other organisms, but I have simply not seen or heard of anything of the sort happening in other organisms. I would be very interested if chimps (or any thing really) were able to actively change their own societies or systemic organizations. If this is the case, that is, if they are able to actively conceive and enact real change in their own systems of relations beyond unconscious desires and drives, then I have no problem with the term politics being applied to them. The real point of this of course was not to show, as Kevin seems to think, that humans are somehow special or privileged, but rather to get a better understanding of the political and to show that it cannot be applied to the problem of galaxies colliding (or any number of similar scenarios).

  10. kvond

    Well Michael, you might not think that humans are special and priviledged, but Schelling certainly thought so, as did Heidegger who took important human-centric abstract conceptions regarding Being and Non-being directly from Schelling (who had specific Christian needs behind his abstract categories which hoisted human beings into the supposed breach between the “will of the ground” and the “will of existence”. What am I to do when you are making Schelling arguments from strongly Idealist conceptions?

    Indeed, if the human world is not separated by an entire category of being (for instance the supposed problem of evil and the reality of “negation”) then the kinds of prescriptions that occur in political discussion are not to be derived from that realm alone. In short, what governs your split of the political from the ontological is really a set of Idealist presumptions, organized around the privileged category of human “freedom”. Rather, if, as I propose, and as a Spinozist hold, the kinds of forces that bear upon political contest far exceed merely questions of human will.

    What do you make of Schelling’s arguments for the unique relationship between human beings and God? How would you say that these are not the privileging of human beings? Or even making them in some strong sense “sacred”?

  11. kvond

    Ah, did not complete my thought…

    “Rather, if, as I propose, and as a Spinozist hold, the kinds of forces that bear upon political contest far exceed merely questions of human will, then the “poltical” is truly fraught with all sorts of ontological forces and directions which fall outside of human determination.”

  12. kvond

    Let us say that “the political” is a contest of powers over the construction and condition of the polis. Now is the polis a natural or an unnatural object? There is a tendency, in Idealist thought, to think of it as unnatural, something that is REDUCED to human interactions, instead of simply involving them. When in fact we know that the polis is an ecological entity, and a legal entity, and an artistic entity, a symbiosis of materials and wills that fall far below the threshold of the human. None of the systems which operate with an cognitive closure are sufficient to account for the polis. It is instead a deeply natural entity, I would say, and the contest of powers which work towards the future of the polis seriously involve both the human and the non-human, the biotic and the abiotic. One cannot make a polis merely out of citizens, or ideas or laws. Instead politics is imbued with the ontological, and cannot be extricated from it with any sort of benefit.

    When a river pollutes itself, that is, when it is unable to purge the PCBs dumped there, and rather keeps them buried in its mud, kills its wildlife, ends fishing, this is “political”, and not just because some group has formed a outright protest. It is a force pressed upon the polis, from within.

    It is not so much that everything in the world is political, but rather that what is commonly regarded as “the political” is a subspecies of a general contest of powers in organizational efficiency and expression. The reason why we have a political investment in the liberation of things other than human beings (or merely people of our race and class) is that the political is an expression of the entire Sea of Being, and liberating other things and beings liberates ourselves.

  13. 1. I have said before and will continue to say that despite Schelling’s humanism, I am not a humanist. Indeed, I have even said that it is out of place for Schelling’s thought, deriving solely from his Bohmian heritage. This is the same reason I am uncomfortable with Bergson; just because the human being happens to be the only conscious being does not mean it was destined to be such, or is special in any way other than that it may have different powers than other entities.

    2. I am able to be a Schellingian without adhering to all of Schelling’s principles. You are simply being foolish here in assuming that I must follow Schelling to the letter when I have said/shown several times in the past, even here, that I don’t.

    3. For Schelling, the human being is not the only being connected to the dark principle of God. If you read Schelling as a systematic thinker, you will see that his later work is simply more involved with the individual than his earlier works but follows the same principles. Schelling’s system is hermetic, not in the sense of being closed off but in being tied to Hermeticism. All of his philosophy can be explained with the phrase “As above, so below,” meaning that his theogony in the Freiheitschrift actually follows from his Naturphilosophie of his early works, he is simply describing the system in terms of the individual rather than the whole. The only thing that differentiates the human being is their ability to intuit their own circumstances, to know their own unconscious freedom, while rocks and plants and such are unable to.

    4. I don’t understand how my saying that the human being is conscious, while no other existing things show any sign of consciousness equates with idealism for you. Either you don’t understand what metaphysical idealism is or you are using such a broad definition as to be worthless. Nowhere have I said that the human being is central to reality, nor that reality is dependent on the human or Mind, etc. What I maintain is that Nature is largely unconscious, while the human being is conscious. I do not disqualify other beings from being or becoming conscious, I do not claim the human being is distinct from the rest of reality or has a privileged position within it. It seems to me a simple fact that the human being is distinct from other creatures, able to do things that others are not. This doesn’t mean that the human being is perfect or that others are necessarily lacking in any meaningful sense. It is not a value-judgment, simply a claim. If you would like to prove to me that rocks are in need of liberation from their systems of relations and are actively attempting to overcome their liberations through the manipulation of reality, then by all means proceed.

    5. I am not going to apologize for not being Spinoza or even a Spinozist. If you are simply going to come on to my blog every time I write an entry and complain that I’m not, then I am simply going to stop responding and ignore you. I have had enough. I’m not a Spinozist, get over it. Please develop constructive criticism as I’m tired of your comments claiming that Spinoza was right and that I’m not following him. Seriously, enough.

  14. 6. “It is not so much that everything in the world is political, but rather that what is commonly regarded as “the political” is a subspecies of a general contest of powers in organizational efficiency and expression.”

    I think this is decidedly answered when taken in terms of consciousness. I have not denied powers or forces to other beings. Never have I done that. What I deny is that my couch or this computer is able to actively engage in its own system of relations in such a way as to meaningfully change them. I am open to this being a possibility for other organisms, as Anthony pointed out with chimps. I don’t care if politics is exclusively human; the political is not special. It is simply a mode of existence that I don’t see out of the human realm, though possibly with higher animals.

  15. kvond

    Michael: “I have said before and will continue to say that despite Schelling’s humanism, I am not a humanist. Indeed, I have even said that it is out of place for Schelling’s thought, deriving solely from his Bohmian heritage….I am able to be a Schellingian without adhering to all of Schelling’s principles. You are simply being foolish here in assuming that I must follow Schelling to the letter when I have said/shown several times in the past, even here, that I don’t.”

    Kvond: On the contrary, his entire subject/object preoccupation, his concern for defining human freedom unto a category of itself, his representationalist view of knowledge, the complete optical metaphor of figure ground is predicated on humanist conceptions. These are not “some principles” this is the whole of what makes Schelling Schelling.

    Michael: “I don’t understand how my saying that the human being is conscious, while no other existing things show any sign of consciousness equates with idealism for you.”

    Kvond: As I point out, it is the entire abstract conception of what constitutes consciousness for Schelling, and thus grounds the negation in the heart of the human entity that makes it Idealist. If you want to play biologist and say that human beings are conscious beings, fine. As soon as you start talking about the Ungrund of God you’ve gone into Idealist conceptions.

    Michael: “I am not going to apologize for not being Spinoza or even a Spinozist. If you are simply going to come on to my blog every time I write an entry and complain that I’m not, then I am simply going to stop responding and ignore you”

    Kvond: I’m perfectly happy to not come to your blog. If you don’t have an appreication for Spinoza’s very strong influence on Schelling, and Schellings equally strong Idealist corrections of Spinoza, what I am I to do? You claim that you argue from Schelling’s position and that Schelling is not an Idealist. Whether Schelling is an Idealist or not is something that has to be answered in the the context of Spinoza and the entire Idealist answer to the threat of Spinoza.

    If indeed it pisses you off that I don’t accept your, I suppose its an argument, that the politics are divorced from ontology, simply because you have elected to define Being in an Idealist way, why are you posting a blog? Why not just email a few friends your thoughts.

    I will accept your invitation to exit your door. The best to your Schelling without humanism.

  16. kvond

    Michael: “I think this is decidedly answered when taken in terms of consciousness. ”

    Kvond: Idealist.

  17. “On the contrary, his entire subject/object preoccupation, his concern for defining human freedom unto a category of itself, his representationalist view of knowledge, the complete optical metaphor of figure ground is predicated on humanist conceptions.”

    I don’t know what you mean by this, as you’ve obviously simply not understood Schelling. Since you’re just going to be an asshole about it though, I’ll explain this simply.

    1. Subject/Object preoccupation? He called his early period “philosophy of identity” for a reason; he says that the distinction between subject and object is metaphysically artificial. He claims this in the Ideas (1797), the First Outline (1799), the System (1801), and the Aphorisms (1805-1806). It is also what he criticizes Kant for in his lectures on Modern Philosophy (1833).

    2. His concept of freedom is not limited to humans, but penetrates and grounds all of reality. The shift that happens in the writing of the Freiheitshrift (1809) and continues in the Stuttgart Seminars (1810) and onward in the Weltalter (1811-1815) is the fulfillment of his microcosm-macrocosm theory that comes from Bohme and other esoteric sources. In the Naturphilosophie of his early work, he focused on the processes and products of Nature. He connects the processes that underlie and “retard” to form the products of reality with the Kantian noumenal/phenomenal split as well as the Spinozist natura naturata/naturans. The noumenal processes are the free-forming of the phenomenal products of Nature. He criticizes Kant for maintaining this as a fundamental split, as he argues that through intuition one is able to see that there is no real distinction other than that some of Nature has emerged as conscious and some hasn’t. Freedom is not a human category but is the basic underlying principle of all of reality.

    3. As for his theory of knowledge, it is obvious that he is not satisfied with representationalism. This is the purpose of his theory of intuition, which is able to grasp reality non-dualistically. We are able to know both the products of reality and the processes. The noumenal is not an unknowable shadow for Schelling but is directly known through many ways (hence the interest in the natural sciences, as well as introspection).

    4. The concept of ground is not an optical metaphor for Schelling, but comes directly out of Jakob Bohme, who used identical language in his theogony. Indeed, Robert F. Brown’s book on Bohme and Schelling shows decisively that the later work of Schelling is almost directly lifted from Bohme, who was not an idealist, but a vitalist. Schelling was raised in a theological household, schooled in the theology of Oetinger, who was the most notable Bohmian of the time. The Bohmian-Oetingarian theology is one of Life, not Mind. Oetinger was critical of idealism, maintaining that the philosophers failed to understand that God is Life (a similar line is spoken by Schelling when he says that God is not a being, but a life). Grund, and its accompanying terms Ungrund and Abgrund are theological, not optical. Schelling connects them in the Freiheitschrift with the principle of sufficient reason, claiming that even God needs a ground of existence, something which is itself ungrounded (first cause and all that). I don’t know how you can say that doing theology is somehow inherently idealist, unless you simply don’t know what idealism means or are using it as a catch-all insult for what you don’t like. Either way it isn’t helping your case when you clearly haven’t read the relevant material.

    5. Conscious and Unconscious are not idealistic distinctions for Schelling. The processes that generate things in reality are unconscious, hence the connection between Schelling’s theory of personality (itself simply the microcosm of God’s coming-to-be, which is also how all things come to be) for 19th century psychology. Consciousness is emergent, it comes from Nature. That isn’t idealist, its vitalist. He does not deny the existence of matter (neither do I), not does he claim that all is Mind (neither do I). Rather, for Schelling, and also for me which is why I identify for strongly with him, reality is inherently force. For Schelling this takes the form of “powers,” before he comes out and calls it “freedom” (though it could easily be argued that really, freedom is just the name as applied to the powers which generate and constitute humans, meaning it is itself a derivative term). I prefer the term “drive,” but it is essentially similar. It is not mind, nor matter, but the ground of both. It is not any particular thing but generates all things and constitutes there being. It is not an idealist name for Being, and I really don’t know how you could maintain that, again unless you’re just trying to insult me. Mind is not primary, but itself generated, which is why Iain Hamilton Grant calls Schelling a transcendental materialist, it is matter (in the Platonic sense) that shapes reality, with mind (consciousness) emerging from the whirl of forces and powers (which can be seen evidently in the Weltalter when Schelling describes the generation of God).

    6. Certainly Schelling is a (Christian) humanist, but I don’t see it as essential to his thought. As I said above, I actually think it hurts his thought, which is why I prefer the early works to the later, as his humanism is either muted or absent depending on the piece. What is emphasized is Nature and its structure and principles. Does one need to be a Nazi to be a Heideggerian? Certainly not, just as one need not be French to be a Derridian or a humanist to be a Schellingian. I don’t know where you got the idea that one must necessarily be entirely orthodox to be influenced by a thinker, but that’s simply not the case.

    7. “If indeed it pisses you off that I don’t accept your, I suppose its an argument, that the politics are divorced from ontology, simply because you have elected to define Being in an Idealist way, why are you posting a blog?”

    Certainly not for petty insults. My choosing to share my ideas is not an invitation for people to come here and call me names. I share my ideas because it allows me to both work them out in the context of others ideas and also to receive constructive criticism and advice. If you are simply here to insult me and attack me then please, by all means, leave. If you want to actually have a conversation (a real conversation does not involve going up to people and telling them that Spinoza was right and they’re an idiot for not being a Spinozist) then stay. If you can’t be polite, or at least decent, then I don’t want you around. Is that clear enough?

  18. kvond

    I see that you have responded to me after offering for me to not visit your site again. I have no idea what “names” you have been called, unless you think that saying that your philosophy insofar as it it is Schelling divorced from his Spinozism, is “Idealist” is “calling you names” – really impolite.

    I have already told you that I accept your invitation to not come to your site, and respond here because you seem to want some sort of further dialogue. I have already removed you from my blogroll (yesterday). Continue on with your non-humanist, but non-Spinozist, still in my view Idealist, Schelling.

  19. Sorry, but I read:
    “Kvond: Idealist.”

    As nothing but a perjorative. If you’re not name-calling, you’re at least insulting and ignoring my arguments in favour of false assumptions about another thinker. Rather than actually arguing with me about the content of this entry (where I actually only mention Schelling in the context of his critique of Kant), you start arguing about how Schelling is wrong when you’ve clearly misunderstood him (or worse, haven’t actually read him) and attacking me for things I didn’t even say. Good luck with your fidelity to Spinoza and continued misreadings of other thinkers who you don’t understand or care to understand.

  20. kvond

    And I would appreciate it if, at least for the good of others, you had at least a modicum of understanding of Spinoza’s VERY heavy influence on Schelling (in particular in the aspects that you are trying to draw out of him: any anti-representationalism, any non-humanism), AND the role of the aftermath of the pantheism controversy. It is that you seem to have NO, and I do mean no understanding of the relationship between Spinoza and Schelling, I can only doubt your understanding and appropriation of Schelling. That you find this criticism insulting perhaps says more about you than me. But perhaps not, perhaps I am the one who has violated your trust by not beginning my comments to this post with “Excellent point….!”

  21. I’m sorry, where I have denied a connection between Schelling and Spinoza? I’ll save you the trouble of looking: I have never denied such a connection. I know perfectly well that Schelling read Herder’s book on Spinoza and was influenced heavily by that vitalist reading of him (which, I might add, replaces Substance with something similar to Drive or Will). I have not denied this, what I denied was that Schelling was an idealist. He quite clearly saw flaws with both Kantian idealism and Spinozistic materialism, and tried to correct both of them, the former by allowing for Nature, the latter by allowing for an emergent Subject.

    What I find insulting is your insistence and continued claim that I or my philosophy is idealist when I have made quite clear how it isn’t. I don’t find your criticism insulting, I find you insulting.

  22. Kvond, what exactly is your problem here? You are being a dick here. Perhaps I should say something about sad passions, but I would expect you know that already.

  23. kvond

    Hmmm a “dick”, something just about the equivalent to be called an “Idealist”. My problem is not that Michael DENIES Spinoza’s influence, it is that he has no real comprehension of it (Spinoza is not a materialist). So when discussing Schelling’s relationship to Spinoza insofar as he is trying to “correct” Spinoza’s materialism through Idealism, he is at a complete loss on the topic, and thinks that he is simply being accused of not being a Spinozist. The question is, once Spinoza is made clear of a “materialist” interpretation (certainly something that Schelling himself came to realize as he struggled to get rid of a representionalist view of knowledge), just what is left of the kinds of corrections Schelling is actually making, just how Idealist are they, and just what is Schelling trying to preserve in the face of Spinoza’s non-humanism, non-representationalist view. Because Michael seems to not understand the ROLE of
    Spinoza in Schelling’s development, these are simply questions he cannot seem even conceive of. That’s okay, he’s doing his own thing. As for being a “dick” only a dick calls another person a dick, one might risk.

  24. Kvond,

    That doesn’t make sense. For whatever weaknesses Michael may have in his reading of Spinoza (sure, I agree he isn’t a materialist, but this isn’t exactly a minority position!), what you’re saying seems to have very little to do with what is going on.

    I have always admitted my dickitude.

  25. I should point out that I don’t read Spinoza as a materialist either, this was simply the popular consensus at the time and certainly the way Schelling read him (i.e. not allowing for any real sort of God, or subjectivity). This is why he favoured Herder’s Spinoza to orthodoxy.

  26. kvond

    The reason why I raised the issue of Spinoza and Schelling (and whether once Schelling lets go of all his Kantian, Fichtean, Christianized, humanist, representationalist motivations for a CRITIQUE of Spinoza, there is anything left of the critique at all) is that this point directly to the SUBJECT of this thread, the categorical separation of the political and the ontological. Because for Spinoza the epistemic IS the ontological, that is, because for Spinoza events of knowledge change are degrees of change in being, such a division is impossible. Now, once Schelling is stripped of everything Idealist, everything Representationalist, everything humanist, IS there left any basis on which to DISAGREE with Spinoza and say that the political is, by category, cut off from the ontological. Because Michael wavers between a general embrace of man as a reflexive entity (certainly tied to Schelling’s humanism, the categorical place he holds man in before God), and just talkin’ like a biologist (biologists never holding the kinds of beliefs that Schelling held), it is impossible to tell just what is left of this claim, and whether the denuded Schelling has anything left to say about Spinoza who stands at the radical, non-anthropomorphizing pole of his thinking. In other words, Michael’s distancing of Schelling from all sorts of aspects of his Kantian, Idealist pole, pushing him closer and closer to his Spinozist pole. Once all of this is evacuated, all of it, I simply see Spinoza standing. And as Spinoza argued at length in both the Theological-Political Treatise, and even the Ethics, the political IS ontological.

    Now one does not have to adopt the Spinozist position, but as far as Schelling goes, it seems that if one does not, one has to wade back into Idealist waters.

    That has been my point all along. But because Michael does not seem to give hoot about Spinoza’s continual influence upon Schelling throughout most of his development, it made such a discussion impossible.

  27. I’m a bit late to this conversation, but I’m sure you know that chimpanzees pass the so-called “mirror self-recognition test” which means they know who they are and are (at least very minimally) self-conscious with all the consequences (thinking about yourself in the past and in the future, therefore capable of planning), at least that’s what Gordon Gallup claims…

  28. Right, but I’m not talking about reflexivity as self-identity. I mean the ability to in some way grasp ones organizational grounds and actively change them. So a human being being able to reshape their environment or political system to fit X criteria would qualify in this case. What I am wondering, and what Anthony brought up, is whether or not this is exclusive to the human being. It seems to me that it is, that when bees, ants, wolves, or chimps change “political structures,” the structure itself doesn’t actually change, but remains relatively fixed. So bees don’t rebel against a queen and institute some radical change in their systems of relations, they just make a new queen which serves the particular functions associated with that role. Maybe this does happen among other apes, I’ll be the first to admit I’m certainly no expert on biology, but I have never heard of any creature who actively restructures their organizations in the way that humans do. The point being of course to come to some definition of politics that grants the political some semblance of meaning, differentiating it from any set of mere relations. It would then be the relation of a being who is able to grasp and reshape their ground. It really doesn’t concern me if the political is exclusively human, but it seems that under the definition I am playing with, it may be (though I am certainly open to other animals being political).

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