Principles of the Philosophy of the Future Monday, May 19 2008 

I. Introduction
In his “Principles of the Philosophy of the Future” Ludwig Feuerbach examines the philosophical tradition up to the point of his own writing and reflects primarily on how that tradition defined man. For the modern philosophers (of Feuerbach’s era) most importantly Descartes (he also specifically mentions Kant and Ficht) man was defined as a thinking being.
This definition arose from the tendency of, what Feuerbach refers to as, “speculative philosophy” to formulate expressions about humanity in direct relation to God, the idealization of reason. In the dynamic of man in relation to reason the activity of man must necessarily be thought and he must therefore be a thinking being.

Feuerbach seeks to revise our understanding of man from a thinking being to a feeling (specifically loving) one. The repositioning of man is the fulfillment of “the transformation and dissolution of theology into anthropology.” (Feuerbach, 1) in the modern era. Feuerbach considered the work of Hegel to be the culmination of the modern period and that Hegel’s pantheistic streak showed its idealism to be a sort of veiled materialism, and in a materialist context it becomes necessary that man must be a feeling thing rather than a thinking one. If there is no noumenal existence then it becomes impossible to define man’s essential activity as the noumenal act of reasoning, of thought.

II. The Philosophy of the Future

To examine the role of human beings Feuerbach first had to determine which part of existence, and therefore which part of human life, had the most reality. He introduces this focus thusly: “The new philosophy, which thinks the concrete not in an abstract but a concrete way, which acknowledges the real in its reality” (Feuerbach, 31) It is important for him to establish that the sensuous (or material) world holds a primacy in the life of man in order to make the argument that the sensuous activity of feeling is therefore similarly prime.

Feuerbach contends that ideas are obtained from unconscious sensuous truths. If we are able to conceive of a form, say a triangle, it is because we have an unconscious sensuous impression of it, most likely a visual image. The problem is that we only understand and become conscious of the sensuous reality once we have deduced the idea; we cannot identify a three sided object as a triangle until we have created the idea of triangle and applied meaning to it. As Feuerbach puts it: “The demand that the Idea realise itself, that it assume sensuousness arises from the fact that sensuous reality is unconsciously held to be the truth which is both prior to and independent of thought. Thought proves its truth by taking recourse to sensuousness; how could this be possible if sensuousness was not unconsciously held to be the truth?” (Feuerbach, 31)

Having established that the senses establish being, “as given to us not only as thinking, but also as really existing being – as the object of being, as its own object,” (Feuerbach, 33) Feuerbach can now move forward into how sensing (feeling) beings can assert and identify themselves as the populous in the realm of reality. Feuerbach identifies love as the means for distinguishing the real from the non-existent. The God of Christianity is humanity idealized and his most emphasized trait, anthropologically speaking, is his capacity for love. It is important to note that the object of the Christian God’s love is always a being, never an idea. Applying the properties of the idea back to the idealized object Feuerbach concludes: “The Christian God himself is only an abstraction from human love and an image of it. And since the demonstrative this owes its absolute value to love alone, it is only in love – not in abstract thought – that the secret of being is revealed. Love is passion, and passion alone is the distinctive mark of existence. Only that which is an object of passion, exists” (Feuerbach, 33).

So, when human beings examine the natural world and encounter objects which arouse strong feelings it is actually a reflection of their own being, most often with this reflection being labeled as God, or the divine. The association of God and fire is the example used by Feuerbach: “Where God appears and is worshiped in the fire, there it is that fire is in actual truth worshiped as God. God in the fire is nothing else than the being of fire which is so striking to men because of its effects and qualities” (Feuerbach, 40). An important distinction is that in this process of labeling and appropriation there is a generalization that occurs. Just as with objects, a person has a tendency to conceptualize himself, what we have called the feeling loving thing, into God. Then in reflection the person realizes God in other men and creates a communication between his own sensuous reality and a community of people. For example, a man experiences greed, thinks about it, creates habits around it, applies these to the idealized man (God), and that idea is reflected back on others. What seems to be communication between God and man, idea and reality, is actually communication between man and man. It is in this way that we may conclude that in the new philosophy the community of persons is made up of feeling beings guided by love to make determinations about the external material world and communicate them to one another. Feuerbach stresses the importance of that communication: “The true dialectic is not a monologue of the solitary thinker with himself. It is a dialogue between “I” and “You” (Feuerbach, 62). Indeed in a materialist conception of reality the thoughts of one member of the human community uncommunicated have in them no reality.

III. Conclusion

Through his work Feuerbach attempted to ground philosophical discussion in material reality. By framing thought around the thinker rather than the concept and objects around their application rather than their form he did much to direct philosophy toward becoming a science of being rather than a science of meaning. The philosophy of his future, especially in the work of Marx, came to focus on man in the world interacting with other men, in large part thanks to his efforts.

Social forces such as governments, economics, and politics could now enter the purview of philosophical discussion because they are such strong elements in the life of man as being.


What is Noble? Monday, May 19 2008 

Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil expressed his disapproval for what he calls “the slave revolt in morals” as represented in Judeo-Christian morality that created the eponymous binary. If morality condemns natural impulses and represses human freedom what is the proper alternative? What is the way that we can, socially or individually achieve “a good and healthy aristocracy… that…experiences itself not as a function … but as their meaning and highest justification” (sec. 258)? This section Nietzsche’s project is where his strain of perspectivism most shines through. That is not to imply that this means he engages in a sort of reductionist “everything is permitted” egalitarianism, far from it. Those who self-efface, self-destroy will always to Nietzsche be an inferior multitude and those who stand up, command, embrace being will form a community of the noble.

The problem arises in the fact that the great majority conform to mediocrity and slave morality: “The mediocre alone have the prospect of continuing, of having descendants – they are the people of the future, the only survivors. ‘Be like them! Become mediocre!’ will henceforth be the only moral code that still makes sense.’ (sec. 262) The very thing that will perpetuate our civilization as it is will homogenize us to a point of robot-like boredom.

The characteristics that defy this are explicitly laid out: “Signs of nobility: never to think of reducing our duties into duties for everyone; not to want to share or transfer our own responsibility; to count our privileges and their exercise among our duties.” (sec. 272) That last point, to count privileges and their exercise among our duties, is the area most difficult to realize because it is the most removed from our current state of morality.

The noble person in setting himself apart as singular, superlative he necessarily dominates without having to act but rather by being. That also means that the multitudes, trapped in oppressive herd culture, are not necessarily looked down upon. For Nietzsche the aristocrat is to busy looking around and up to bother considering what is beneath them: “Up here the view is clear, the spirit is exalted.’ But there is an opposite kind of person who is likewise at the top and likewise has a clear view—but looks down.’ (sec. 286) This is how Nietzsche distinguishes his ideas from social Darwinism and tyranny. The first type is the noble individual, self-realized and enjoying life. The second we must imagine as someone looking down on those above him—from below.

This sort of person can be pictured as the height of authorized power of the life-denying world. A king or better yet high-priest who demands others deny themselves everything and glorifies himself only in the pleasure of being obeyed without actually being superior. This is who Nietzsche speaks of in a particularly illustrative quote from his unpublished notes:

“But I have found strength where one does not look for it: in simple, mild, and pleasant people, without the least desire to rule—and, conversely, the desire to rule has often appeared to me a sign of inward weakness: they fear their own slave soul and shroud it in a royal cloak (in the end, they still become the slaves of their followers, their fame, etc.). The powerful natures dominate, it is a necessity, they need not lift one finger. Even if, during their lifetime, they bury themselves in a garden house!” (Nachlass, 206)

Hyperforms Monday, May 19 2008 

I rely too much on summary when writing. The first rule of good writing is show, don’t tell, but I love to tell, I am dying to tell. Summary is where the magic happens. It has a way of distancing the reader from the action in the same way that the character is distanced from his/her life (if only in that I am making the decisions for them).

Pre-Marxist German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach posited that gods are an anthropological reflection of the society that creates them. He examined Hegel’s (probably the most current and authoritative at the time) conception of the Christian god. God through Hegel is a completely ideal form and history acts itself out as his separate will. Imagine the flow of a river and imagine the fish may swim in anyway they desire, yet in sum toto they contribute foremost to the flow of the river no matter their will. They act as sites of resistance or enabling for the inevitable current. To Feuerbach the god of Hegel is pregnant with its opposite (atheism, mechanism) because the Hegelian god is completely ideal he has no presence in this world and it operates on independent principles. Reflecting back on the society of the time we can easily see how the change of operant principles emerges in this concept. Countries could be governed by a high will, represented usually by a constitution or monarch, wherein the citizens were free to do this or that work and support this or that cause so long as it was within the confines of the path set out by the high will. Nationalist power or freedom, for example.

Feuerbach’s gods are hyperforms of different human concepts, useful and interesting. It’s easy to understand this idea of hyperform (my term) by examining the Greek gods of old. Each is a particular aspect of life (both in general and specific to that time) given personae to represent that aspect. The genius in this is the often arbitrary and emotional nature of these personae. As science progressed gods had to become more consistent, more perfect because the attributes they represented became full of laws. Gravity, for example, was found to behave as gravity must behave. Therefore a god of gravity could no longer allow temper or fancy rule his projection of gravity into the world. So the perfect Christian/Muslim god arises, who can exist singularly and manage the puzzle pieces of the world without nuance and inconsistency. His hydrogens will always have one proton and his monsters are created in the mutable hearts of men.

The problem with this lies in separating the society of men from the hyperforms of the natural world. Society and our psychologies are in a constant sort of flux that colors events as we see them. The events of a life are imperfect and random because they are the manifestation of a horrid mixture consisting of work, emotion, place, time, and coincidence. Yet physical processes such as chemical reactions are viewed only as consistent, rule-bound. So there’s a disconnect between the perfect hyperform of god (all of this applies to atheism as well because to mechanists the universe will operate on similarly rigid and unassailable scientific principles whether or not they are the result of a god) and the anarchic nature of life and society.

As a result of the sciences the old gods lost their utility as descriptors for the universe, but that was not their only purpose. The Greek pantheon had interactions among themselves and among people rather than apart from them. They, and other gods of the sort, remain useful as literary objects. I can think of no better hyperform for modern sexuality, for example, than Poseidon. He exists in the fertile, yet mysterious realm of the sea procreating all manner of dark and tentacled monsters (We can easily recognize AIDS in this way, tentacles substituting for those troublesome, destructive strings of RNA). He draws men away from their homes and into his bounty with the promise of a better life. And so on.

Tying this back to writing I think it can be helpful, at least for self-reflection, to think of myself as a hyperform of my own psychology. The universe in which my characters operate is after all one created by my own conception of the world. Fiction takes a particular kind of narcissism to produce (and memory a very common kind) anyway so why not? Usually the purpose of fictions is transmission of that psychology rather than self-reflection (masturbation?), but I am not as old as real writers, transmitters, so I do not know myself as well. Besides that I am really the only one reading. So I notice this summary, this distance from life and I can see it in my own life. I imagine being born again as an iron-plated chess king, capable in many ways but weighted down with armour. It’s 30 moves to make it a draw, can I make that many hops, and hopes before I lose it all?