Forum Posts

Marshall Zhu
Jul 15, 2022
In General Philosophy Forum
I organized and led a workshop on reading Heidegger's Being and Time with my buddies in China, started on Jun. 9, and still continuing until now(July15). For the sake of future reference and the convenience of anyone who wants to look for a source of study in either Heideggerianism or Phenomenology, I will post continually the recordings of the meetings of the workshop and the materials used. The readings will be only in English and the workshop is a mix of Mandarin Chinese and English. So I do realize it would be difficult for English speakers who do not speak Mandarin to grasp the content. But it is always good to keep knowledge public, just in case that someone some day would be able to understand and is in need of such a guide to Heidegger. The design of the workshop is mostly inspired by the spring seminar of Dr. Michele Averchi in 2022 at Catholic University of America. Meeting Schedule: Heidegger’s SuZ (Accelerated Version) Husserl and Phenomenology, Prelude Reading: The Idea of Phenomenology Ontology and Existential Analytic Reading: Being and Time Introduction I, Section 1-4(Pg. 21-36) Method of Investigation + Being-in-the-World and World & Care Reading: Being and Time Introduction II, Section 5-8(Pg. 36-67) The Whole Book in just One Session+Analytic of Dasein Reading: Being and Time Section 9-11(Pg. 67-78) Wrathall and Murphey (2013) Heidegger and Pragmatism Reading: Being and Time Section 12-16(Pg. 78-107) Dreyfus(1991) Okrent(2013) Heidegger’s Semiotics Reading: Being and Time Section 17-18(Pg. 107-125) Carman(1991) Gordon(2013) Heidegger and Cartesianism Reading: Being and Time Section 19-21(Pg. 125-135) Shockey(2012) The analysis of spatiality Being and Time Section 22-24(Pg. 135-149) Malpas(2001) Cerbone(2013) Sloterdjik(2012) Society and Community Being and Time Section 25-27(Pg. 149-169) Knowles(2017) Schmid(2017) The Analysis of Moods Being and Time Section 28-30(Pg. 169-182) Shockey(2016) Elpidorou and Freeman(2015) Language and Understanding Being and Time Section 31-34(Pg. 182-211) Inkpin(2017) Powell(2010) Staples(2020) Heidegger and Augustine Being and Time Section 35-38(Pg. 211-225) Dahlstrom(2009) Coyne(2011) Heidegger and Aristotle Being and Time Section 39-42(Pg. 225-244) Gonzalez(2018) Bailey(2011) The Issue of Relativism Being and Time Section 43(Pg. 244-257) McManus(2012) Winkler(2013) The Account of “TRUTH”!!!!! Being and Time 44(Pg. 257-274) Smith(2007) Nicholson(2015) Duits(2007) Conscience and Authenticity Being and Time Section 54-60(Pg. 312-349) Crowell(2013) The Enigma of History, Heidegger’s Philosophy of History & His Participation in the Debate of His Time Being and Time Section 72-77(Pg. 424-456) Nothing More! Heidegger's Being and Time, English Translation Used in the Workshop: Meeting 1: Husserl and Phenomenology, Prelude Husserl's The Idea of Phenomenology: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcnoi98945i8tvkde4mb59x Meeting 2: Ontology and Existential Analytic Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcntdj251n1y7qxk6836714?from=from_copylink Meeting 3: Method of Investigation + Being-in-the-World and World & Care Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcnx6666e7bll5n2mnopbzb Meeting 4: The Whole Book in just One Session+Analytic of Dasein (got mixed up with the schedule so it is actually with a little bit of Heidegger and Pragmatism) Wrathall and Murphey: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcn2l3dsz3451un12i8k98u Meeting 5: Heidegger and Pragmatism Dreyfus: Okrent: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcn3yy4334zzxogg5qctx39 Meeting 6: Heidegger’s Semiotics Carman: Gordon: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcn8rn42prvkw875xh8h99u Meeting 7: Heidegger and Cartesianism Shockey: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcngc6d5l677bgeg66o1fm1 Meeting 8: The Analysis of Spatiality Cerbone: Malpas: Sloterdijk: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcnt255w3zyr57p7xn3xxx3 Meeting 9: Society and Community Knowles: Schmid: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcnca42r2g1ma8m44p23b34 Meeting 10: The Analysis of Moods Shockey: Elpidorou and Freeman: Recording Link: https://p0mojj3osy.feishu.cn/minutes/obcnlu934183vkmpl2un6ap1 Meeting 11: Language and Understanding Inkpin: Powell: Staples: Recording Link: N/A
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Marshall Zhu
Jul 03, 2022
In General Philosophy Forum
The following paper was written by Guanyu "Marshall Zhu" in response to the question 2 of John Locke Essay Competition: If our actions are a consequence of our capacities and preferences, and if those things are, in turn, a result of our genetic inheritance and the external world in which we happen to find ourselves, are we ultimately responsible for our choices? I. Introduction In Book II, Chapter 3 of Aristotle’s Physics, Aristotle introduces the four causes as explanatory factors.[1] He summarizes four causes that are explanatory for knowledge, which are causa materialis, causa formalis, causa efficiens, and causa finalis. Cause(aitia), in its most primordial meaning, means to be held responsible for something. Thus, anything that is explanatory for an occurrence’s coming-into-being is responsible for it. When we concern the responsibility of human actions, the being of human as an existential entity, “Dasein,” becomes the focal point of the argument, as it is what we mean, in each case, by “we.”[2] When “we,” or “I,” is clarified in this context, the discussion shifts to determining the possibility of “I” being responsible for the actions. This is done by analyzing if there is the possibility for “I” to take control of the actions of “I,” or the possibility of the freedom of “I.” The question hence becomes an ontological enquiry into the possibility of taking up explanatory factors for the actions of “I.” Is it possible ontologically for me to be responsible at all? If so, under what ontological circumstances would I be responsible? To what extent does this correspond with common sense? For the sake of concreteness, the question shall be fully tackled ontologico-phenomenologically. To answer these questions, I seek to prove the ontological necessity for the possibility of responsibility of human actions in a Heideggerian system of phenomenological ontology. It is necessary for us to be able to be responsible because of the kind of entity that we are. Furthermore, I argue that we are able to be held responsible when we are in anxiety, the basic state-of-mind of authenticity. Upon proving the ontological necessity of responsibility, I answer a possible counterargument of moral objectivism by bringing out the moral implication of the ontological argument. The possibility for further investigation to argue for everyday intuition of morality is thus opened up for future discussion, especially in a phenomenological context. II. Concerning Action and Its Cause What is at stake when we perform an action? Dasein comports itself towards its own being understandingly.[3] For Dasein, to act is to comport itself towards its own being, which is summed up into one term, “existence.”[4] The explanatory factor for Dasein’s comportment is its own understanding. Since Dasein is in each case I myself am, authenticity and inauthenticity are made possible as modes of existence of Dasein.[5] In authenticity, Dasein understands itself in light of itself. In inauthenticity, Dasein understands itself in light of the “they (das Man)”, which encompasses “the external world in which we happen to find ourselves,” or, our “thrownness.”[6] The question concerning the possibility of our responsibility is the question concerning us, or, more precisely, concerning whether Dasein as an entity can be responsible at all ontically. It is certain that Dasein’s comportment can be attributed with plenty of explanatory factors like our genetic inheritance and the external world. Explanatory factors like these are the facticity which is the “thrownness” of Dasein’s existence.[7] As expressed by the term itself, Dasein is “thrown” into existence. Dasein did not throw itself into existence, which illustrates that it is not the explanatory factor, or the cause, of its facticity. As a result, if Dasein’s facticity, which Dasein understands in terms of, is the explanatory factor of its comportment, Dasein shall not be responsible in that respect. However, the point of the question concerning our responsibility is to find the mode of being in which Dasein can be held responsible for its own comportment, if there is such a mode of being at all. The question becomes this: While our actions are consequences of our capacities and preferences which we are thrown into, are our actions in every case only explanatory by factors like these? Is there a possibility at all for us to be responsible for our own comportment? III. “I” as the greater explanatory factor in anxiety If, intuitively, we do not identify “us” with our facticity, where does “I” lie in the context of the discussion of responsibility? “I” am Dasein, which is the kind of entity that being is an issue for itself.[8] Hence, “I” am my own possibility-to-be. This is “existence,” and “I” “exist.” This is what “I” means in the context of ontological responsibility. Because understanding is the explanatory factor of Dasein’s comportment, as Dasein’s own being remains an issue for itself, Dasein is “morally responsible” for its own being in a naively primordial way. Dasein’s understanding is essentially the cause and the origin of responsibility for Dasein’s comportment. In inauthenticity, Dasein understands itself in light of the “they.” Thus, Dasein projects itself in light of the “they,” which is captured by the term “falling.”[9] This inauthentic projection shapes Dasein’s possibility-to-be and dictates Dasein’s average everydayness.[10] However, there remains a room for Dasein’s “I-ness” to take over in the explanatory factor for Dasein’s comportment. The “they” and “facticity” are not attributed to “I” in the context of responsibility, while, in anxiety, “I” takes over the place of “the They” to be the greater explanatory factor for my own comportment. Because Dasein is absorbed in the “they,” Dasein “flees” in the face of its authentic potentiality-for-Being-its-Self and in the face of its authenticity.[11] In inauthenticity, Dasein’s “I-ness” is forgotten by itself. Being as understood in light of the “they” is thus disclosed to Dasein and constitutes Dasein’s explanatory factors for its own comportment. As a basic state-of-mind, anxiety discloses accordingly the “nothing and nowhere within-the-world.”[12] The totality of involvements encountered within-the-world collapses, and the world is characterized as lacking significance in anxiety.[13] By disclosing its authentic potentiality-for-Being-its-Self, Dasein encounters its “Being-free for” the freedom of choosing itself and taking hold of itself.[14] Here, Dasein’s “I-ness” returns, and Dasein regains its control over its own existence. Although facticity is still and always with Dasein, Dasein in anxiety is disclosed with a world of insignificance that is free from understanding in light of the “they.”[15] Since Dasein comports itself understandingly, Dasein in anxiety comports itself with an understanding in light of itself. Therefore, “I-ness” becomes a greater, even the dominant, explanatory factor of Dasein’s own comportment. Facing the world of insignificance, Dasein has to comport itself in one possibility rather than others. Being, as manifested to Dasein, is free from the various significance which is a result of understanding in light of the “they.” In inauthenticity, Dasein comports itself in a world of various significances of beings. But, in authenticity, Dasein in anxiety comports in a world of insignificance of indifferent beings. In this circumstance, if understanding is free from the “they,” as entities encountered, or beings, are indifferent, why does Dasein choose this one possibility rather than others? The explanatory factor is Dasein itself, as the understanding is truly in light of itself. Even despite that Dasein never has power over its ownmost Being from the ground up because of its facticity,[16] anxiety discloses a world of indifferent possibilities that allows Dasein to exercise its freedom of choosing one possibility over the others. By opening up this freedom for Dasein, Dasein’s ownmost understanding in light of itself becomes the explanatory factor of its comportment, and it can thus be possibly held responsible for its doings. “I” am responsible for its comportment at this moment, while its facticity is still an explanatory factor for the comportment, and, if one wants to influence the comportment of others, one should seek to change the general environment which is potentially able to raise people in. In conclusion, anxiety as a basic state-of-mind makes it existentially and ontologically possible for Dasein to be responsible for its comportment, or actions. In inauthenticity, Dasein understands itself in light of the “they,” which does not make “I” constitute explanatory factors of the comportment, and therefore is not responsible for its actions. In authenticity, Dasein in anxiety understands itself in light of itself, which does make “I” constitute an explanatory factor of the comportment, and therefore is responsible for its actions. Hence, Dasein can be responsible for its actions ontologico-phenomenologically. IV. Possible concern and moral implication of the argument However, a moral objectivist might criticize this argument by saying that the argument has a subjectivist tendency. The concern might be that, according to the original argument, inauthentic people, which people have a natural tendency to be, are not held responsible for any of their behaviors. Therefore, as long as one is inauthentic for his/her entire life, one never needs to be responsible. But one certainly needs to be responsible for some universal moral laws. For example, even when one is inauthentic, the inauthentic person still needs to be responsible if one tortures others for fun, since it is universally bad for one to torture people for fun. Now, the ontologico-phenomenological possibility of responsibility of Dasein fully corresponds with our everyday intuitive understanding and “common sense.” There are two important aspects concerning this objection. First, there is a fundamental distinction between an ontologico-phenomenological argument and morality. The argument proves an ontological necessity for the possibility of responsibility of Dasein, or us humans, through Heideggerian phenomenology. There is no claim made about morality: whether there is an objective morality or not or whether one should be responsible for anything good or bad. The argument is a direct response to the determinist concern over the possibility of responsibility for human actions. This argument is not an argument for moral subjectivism, but rather the possibility of responsibility in the ontology of humanity. Second, there is a moral implication accompanying the ontologico-phenomenological argument. In the moral objectivist counterargument, the term “responsible” is used in two senses: the first “responsible” in “one never needs to be responsible” means responsibility in the original ontological sense; the second “responsible” in “responsible for moral laws” means moral responsibility in a different moral sense. Due to different uses of the term in everydayness, “moral responsibility” means the moral obligation of people that comes with their nature or essence. It is expressed as “you are ought to do something because it is natural for you to do so, or because you are/exist.” The moral implication that comes with the ontological argument implies that, just as Dasein is “thrown” in facticity which made Dasein not (ontologically) responsible for its comportment, Dasein is also embedded with its own mode of Being which urges it to take the moral responsibility of the control over its own existence. Since Dasein’s being is an issue for itself, Dasein is always implicitly responsible morally for its own existence. This is also precisely why Dasein tends to “flee” in the face of Being-in-the-world, and why Dasein is “fleeing” in the face of itself in “falling.” Dasein is essentially an entity for which its Being is an issue for itself ontologically. Because of this nature/essence of Dasein, Dasein is always morally responsible for its own existence. Dasein has the moral responsibility to be authentic. Therefore, an inauthentic person, failing to be responsible ontologically for their own wrongdoing, is responsible morally for their inauthenticity. Therefore, one is able to hold them who are inauthentic responsible based on the extremeness of their morally wrong actions. For example, an average Nazi supporter in Nazi Germany might argue that they are not responsible for their pro-Nazi tendency because of their facticity of the “they,” which is the pro-Nazi domestic environment. These people comport themselves understandingly in light of the “they.” However, they still are responsible morally in failing to be authentic in their important political decisions for shying away from their own moral judgment. They are not morally innocent for their decisions simply because they are inauthentic. V. Conclusion The task of this ontologico-phenomenological argument with a moral implication is to refute deterministic nihilism of responsibility by proving the possibility of responsibility with an ontological concreteness, while the implication that comes from the ontological argument gives room for intuitive “common sense” of morality. It clarifies the possible misunderstanding of the argument as moral subjectivism by objectivists by spelling out the moral implication that comes with the argument. Footnote 1. Aristotle, Fine, G., & Irwin, T. (1996). Book II Chapter 3. In Aristotle: Introductory readings (p. 48). essay, Hackett. 2. Heidegger, M. (2008). Being and Time. (J. Macquarrie & E. Robinson, Trans., T. Carman, Ed.). HarperPerennial/Modern Thought, 27. 3. Ibid., 78. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid., 168 7. Ibid., 174 8. Ibid., 150. 9. Ibid., 219 10. Ibid., 220 11. Ibid., 229 12. Ibid., 231 13. Ibid. 14. Ibid., 232 15. Ibid., 330 16. Ibid., 330 Works Cited and Consulted Blattner, William. Heidegger's 'Being and Time': A Reader's Guide. Bloomsbury Academic, 2006. Dreyfus, Hubert L. Being-in-the-world : a commentary on Heidegger's Being and time, division I. MIT Press, 1991. Fine, Gail, and Terence Irwin, editors. Aristotle: Introductory Readings. Translated by Terence Irwin and Gail Fine, Hackett Pub., 1996. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Edited by Edward Robinson, translated by Edward Robinson and John Macquarrie, HarperCollins, 2008. Polt, Richard, and Richard F. H. Polt. Heidegger: An Introduction. Cornell University Press, 1999. A Picture of Heidegger's Small Little Mountain Hut:
{PAPER} Authenticity and Human Responsibility: In Response to Determinism content media
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Marshall Zhu
Jun 21, 2022
In General Philosophy Forum
“Ji Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, ‘While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?’ Ji Lu added, ‘I venture to ask about death?’ He was answered, ‘While you do not know life, how can you know about death?’” ----The Analects, Xian Jin Main Text: Philosophy starts with the enquiry into death, and turns out to be disclosing life. It has been a while since I started to do philosophy. When did I start doing philosophy? What is the origin of philosophy for me? Where is philosophy leading me to? Where is philosophy leading us? The first question has been puzzling me for a while. It seems to be a problem of recollection, but it does not necessarily need to be. I have an intuitive grasp of the answer, that is, when I first realized what death means. I cannot recall the exact age: maybe around 7 or 8. I am born in a secular Chinese family with no religious belief whatsoever. If one really wants to attribute a belief in my family, that would be either success or Mao Zedong: the former designates the secular aspect of my Chinese background, and the latter designates my grandfather's belief. So there is neither salvation after death nor any supernatural power to me when I was growing up. To be honest, I am still a strict atheist regarding any religious scriptures. But, I have been a man of overwhelming curiosity towards the world my entire life. It is just a part of my nature, and there is nothing special about it. I was born with it: call it a gift or a curse, whatever! But I enjoy asking questions of all kinds, and I hold my intelligence pridefully to answer those. I still remember when I was really small walking on the bridge in the streets of Lianyungang, my hometown, with my mom. I just constantly asked my mom questions while I struggled keeping up with her steps because I was too small with short legs. I still remembered that my mom told me that I was really a curious kid, and got fed up with it so she told me to think about it on my own. Apparently, I did, and I do. I started to try to answer all these questions that come up to me and just couldn't help but think about them all the time. Maybe that was the necessary condition for my philosophizing activities later on. People used to ask me "why do you like philosophy?" I used to come up with answers like because I want to know the truth, or because it helps me live better, or because I want to avoid wrongdoings as much as possible, or so on. Now that I look back, I was really ignorant about my own nature. There is no seemingly noble reason for me to do philosophy at all! It is purely because I love it. Nothing more! There are people whose nature fascinates them in gaming, there are people whose nature fascinates them in sports, there are people whose nature fascinates them in girls, boys or sex, and there are people whose nature fascinates them in the pursuit of knowledge, if not wisdom, in philosophy! Philosophy as an activity pleases me and rejoices me. It was a turn from a metaphysical view of myself to a Heideggerian view of myself. Why do I like philosophy? Not because any derived or fixed reason at all. It is merely because that my natural state of mind indulges my being in philosophizing and my being finds satisfaction in such activity. But, what is the one event that drags me to philosophy? A few years ago, back when I was still a young boy in the middle school, I was dreaming of being a theoretical physicist. Even though I am always caught up in these theoretical activities, I was not thinking about philosophy at all. See, back to the previous point. I guess it was when I was 7 or 8, I realized that death means total disappearance from the world. A strong sense of nihilism hit the younger me. It genuinely scared me. All things will change and decease. People I love, people I hate, people I know and people I do not know, things I enjoy and I dislike, ice cream and Ultraman, relevant events or irrelevant events, etc. all these do not matter at all when I die. What will death be like? It will just be like I have never lived. Everything does not matter in the face of death, not even death itself. All values exist within the boundary of existence, and, when things cease to exist, there is no value anymore! It would be like a long dream: an everlasting slumber. Nothing existing is relevant anymore. Or, in this sense, wouldn't existence be in turn like a dream? It is what is like living in a floating world of constant flux! It frightened me and got me thinking, "what is the meaning of life if nothing matters at the end of the day?" And, since then, philosophy entered. The sense of loneliness hits hard too because of these. Philosophy has been a lonely experience as it is hard to find people who are concerned with the same issues of yours. People seem genuinely happy chasing after conventional ends one by one: those empty meaningless ends: money, sex, and pleasure. A society like this emits boredom and dullness everywhere, and no one seems to be concerned with the meaning of their life, the question of "why do I live." Indeed, Camus was right about "the only serious philosophical problem is suicide." The problem decides whether life is meaningful or not, whether it is ultimately futile and empty or worth-living. Even philosophers do not concern over the problem of death except the existentialists, which is why I am so fascinated by existentialism lately. It is more of a problem of modernity, the repetitive, alienating life of contemporary people, and it is generally a problem for humanity. Dasein is ultimately being-towards-death. The possibility of the impossibility of all possibilities always haunts us throughout our existence. It is just that it haunts me more frequently than others. I do not want to die, but I do not want to live forever neither. Life would be meaningless as well if it lasts forever, as the value of it can not be manifested if it is not limited. The existential angst concerning death is the starting point of my philosophical task. Philosophy has been an exciting long experience for me. I intensively thought, learned, and met a lot of interesting people along the way. But none of the theories of philosophy has been satisfiable enough for me, whether they are not sound enough nor they do not matter too much, until I got to know phenomenology and Heidegger. The approximately half a year learning experience with Dr. Michele Averchi at the Catholic University of America in contemporary philosophy and Heidegger's Being and Time really changed my life and my philosophical exploration. Phenomenology really is the sound philosophy that I have been seeking for, and Heidegger, building up so well on phenomenology, really provided an extensive philosophical account for both existence and the real. The Magician of Messkirch! Heidegger is such intuitively gifted in philosophy and thank god he lived so long and left so many scripts and philosophical developments. I will introduce his theory later on this website, but for now I am only giving him the credit for his greatness. The concrete philosophy of Heidegger, together with the overall phenomenological movement and relating ideas, with my further exploration in philosophy in general and this accidental discovery of Confucius's quote, I cleared out my meaning of life and the task of philosophy. What is the task of philosophy? It is, to put it simply, to live your life. For me, it is seeing humanity as a historical whole and, by doing so, expanding my temporality, or just time, on the human race in general, just as when Levinas says that the father expands his temporality in his son. The emancipation of all of humanity and the opening-up of the maximal horizons of possibilities of future Dasein, by seeing the totality of Dasein as a whole and the notion of society as projecting itself into future possibilities. In doing so, a more complicated concrete philosophical theory is needed, and a better philosophical enterprise is needed. Thus I am devoting myself in a career of popularizing philosophy and investigating in Phenomenological Marxism, or Heideggerian Marxism. A marxist society is not utopian but totally scientific. It is utopian in the sense of a civilized society. More on the topic will be explored later. But I shall devote my life in this grand movement. Philosophy has been historically an event, a subject, a school, a circle of intelligent scholars, a bourgeois game, a useless enterprise... It is time for philosophy to be a revolution: for it to be the arm and gun of the populace, for it to be the key for the people to emancipate themselves from spiritual, physical, and social slavery. Here, I'll end with a delicate passage that I read accidentally from the Analects. I used to think the Analects as boring and obsolete, especially the teachings of Confucius: conformist and uncreative. But it turns out that I am the one who is conformist and uncreative in stereotyping his philosophy as such. Here is the passage, Ji Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, ‘While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?’ Ji Lu added, ‘I venture to ask about death?’ He was answered, ‘While you do not know life, how can you know about death? Yes, why concern about death, while you do not even know life? What are you going to know about death anyway? Stop worrying about the unknown and live your life. Stop worrying about the dead and serve the alive. This is more of a principle than philosophical. And this is the task of philosophy. Guanyu "Marshall" Zhu June 21, 2022. Nanjing, China
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Marshall Zhu
Feb 27, 2022
In General Philosophy Forum
Dear members of the Abbey Philosophy Club and this online community: As the international tension grows, Russia's invasion of Ukraine becomes a disaster for the millions of Ukrainian people who inhibit in that country. People should shift their focus from the useless daily political trivial talks to some actual actions that would save lives. The suffering of the Ukrainian people should not become anyone's materials for their "unique" political view on the international politics so they can brag about some perspectives they heard online to their friends. It drives me nuts when people pretend to "care" about the situation when they in fact did nothing but abusing their pathetic nationalistic affections and opinions on the whole situation, instead of actually doing something for the people. Hypocrisy! But it is not yet too late to start to care about the Ukrainian civilians, the people, now! No matter what your political tendency or personal political opinion is, the Ukrainian civilians who are involved in the war are innocent people just like you and me. They are now facing serious dangers and turbulence. THEY NEED HELP! If you are capable of donating any savings that you have or any humanitarian aid to the war zone in Ukraine, PLEASE do so! If not, please inform the people around you to spread influence! Any help would potentially save a life. Link of the International Rescue Committee down below: https://www.rescue.org/
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Marshall Zhu
Feb 21, 2022
In General Philosophy Forum
Surprise! You wake up in the morning and it turns out all of your crazy teenage skeptic fantasies about reality are true: you live in a simulation. But, life must go on in a simulation. In the simulation, fundamental presuppositions of natural sciences fall apart. Objects do not actually exist outside of the subject and there are no eternal physical laws nor chemical laws underlying them: your life turns out to be a lie and you have sacrificed so much time for school that you could have spent on video games and it turns out to you wasted them because you have learnt simulated lies instead of actual knowledge? It makes you so sad and hits you with a strong sense of existentialist angst that makes you almost feel like you are back to fourteen again. You start to wonder, in great despair, if you are able to know anything for certain because it feels absolutely weird that the book or computer that you are reading this article from does not actually exist! What can you do when Descartes’s worst nightmare comes true? Phenomenology, as German philosopher Edmund Husserl would answer. Intuitively, the word, Phenomenology, comes from the English word phenomenon. When Husserl uses the word phenomenon in his speeches, I always have a feeling that he is referring to the word “phenomena” in comparison to “noumena” in a Kantian fashion, and thus is the word “Phenomenology” composed. Phenomena are the appearances, which are the way things, allegedly if there are any, are manifested to us, and noumena are the things in themselves, which are the things that constitute the reality. This Cartesian division between human subject and the object has been concerned by philosophers for over two thousand years. In the simulation, the noumena do not manifest phenomena, but the noumena is simply not presented. All we have are phenomena. Therefore, we need to shift our focus from noumena, as a predominant attitude, the “natural attitude of mind” as Husserl distinguished, to phenomena, the “philosophic attitude of mind.” In doing so, we are doing “philosophic science,” Phenomenology, with a “philosophic attitude of mind,” instead of “science of the natural sort,” since noumena do not exist in the simulation. By the way, Husserl is personally totally fine with natural science and he thinks they are cool and all, but he has a slight problem with them as he accuses the natural attitude of mind is “at yet unconcerned with the critique of cognition” in his Lecture 1, the Idea of Phenomenology. In the lecture, Husserl gives a possibility in which we can actually go very wrong with the natural attitude of mind, which is to take the validity of cognition for granted, as he wrote, “Thoughts of a biological order intrude. We are reminded of the modern theory of evolution, according to which man has evolved in the struggle for existence and by natural selection, and with him his intellect too has evolved naturally and along with his intellect all of its characteristic forms, particularly the logical forms. Accordingly, is it not the case that the logical forms and laws express the accidental peculiarity of the human species, which could have been different and which will be different in the course of future evolution? Cognition is, after all, only human cognition, bound up with human intellectual forms, and unfit to reach the very nature of things, to reach the things in themselves.” Husserl thus takes this chance and proceeds to that whether noumena exist or not, and whether we can ever know noumena or not, phenomena are all that we have. In fact, this is not something new, as Kant thinks that noumenon itself is unknowable to us. Thus, through a focus on phenomena, phenomenology is born. It is extremely close for Descartes to start phenomenology after he realizes the Cartesian division, but he rather starts with the famous “cogito, ergo sum,” the “I think, therefore I am,” and misses the chance to start phenomenology. Now, from a philosophic attitude, you, who find yourself in a simulation scared and helpless, can finally start from somewhere true. Yes, the book or computer that you are reading this article from does not actually exist, but the phenomenon that you are reading from the book or computer exists, and the phenomenon that you perceive the book or computer as the book or computer, the objects other than you, exists, as Husserl suggests that “only phenomena are truly given to the cognizing subject, he never does and never can break out of the circle of his own mental processes.” You cognize the book or computer as an object and it is indubitable, as you do not cognize it as yourself, the subject, without concerning whether the book or computer actually exists or not. Now, even if you are still worried and skeptical about whether your life is a lie and you live in a simulation, you know, at least, some indubitable truths to start with, which is the fact that you are experiencing them and experiencing them as objects. This way, your life is not entirely a lie, if it turns out that it is a simulation: it is only largely a lie. In fact, if you start from a philosophic attitude, doing phenomenology, instead of fully taking the validity of cognition, since you can never be wrong if you start from phenomena, which are indubitable, and always keep in mind the possibility of cognition and the “science of natural sort” to go wrong, your life would be entirely true and would never be a lie. Congratulations! Fortunately, we have not gone that far yet. It has not revealed to us that we do live in a simulation even if we do. But the philosophic attitude still works, in case one finds out that they live in a simulation or for the sake of indubitable knowledge that one is able to know. Martin Heidegger, the best and the worst student of Edmund Husserl, deploys the philosophic attitude in his magnum opus Being and Time. As written on the first page, Being and Time is “dedicated to Edmund Husserl, in friendship and admiration.” It was a good time before Heidegger joined the Nazi Party and claimed the chair of philosophy upon Husserl’s retirement. The book not only is dedicated to Husserl, but also is affected extensively by Husserlian ideas of phenomenology as Heidegger uses phenomenology as a theoretical tool in order to achieve his goal which is to “work out concretely the question concerning the sense of ‘being’ ”in Being and Time. (The following brief introduction of Being and Time is inspired by Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the commentaries on Being and Time by Hubert Dreyfus, notes from lectures of Dr. Michele Averchi, and the original work of Heidegger.) In Heidegger’s Being and Time, Heidegger introduces a set of new terminologies for his unique and novel philosophical system and structure aiming to solve the problem of being. Dasein(German word for “being-there”) is a “determinate entity” in each case that human beings are, which, in Heidegger’s terms, “mineness” belongs to any existent Dasein. Its character needs to be understood a priori as grounded upon the state of Being which is called “Being-in-the-world,” which stands for a unitary phenomenon that must be seen as a whole, as Heidegger says himself in the beginning of chapter two of Division I in his book. While “Being-in-the-world” must be seen as a whole, Heidegger does think it has several constitutive items in its structure in which he heavily explains and elaborates later in the book. The state of Dasein’s Being, “Being-in”, is an existentiale that is not to be confused or thought as the Being-present-at-hand of “res corporea(corporal things)” in an entity which is present-at-hand. That is to say, the state of Dasein’s Being can not be thought of as something like the human body, which is an example of being-present-at-hand. To quote from Heidegger, “‘Being-in’ is thus the formal existential expression for the Being of Dasein, which has Being-in-the-world as its essential state.” To Husserl, in a Cartesian fashion, we must go to the things in themselves and let them manifest themselves as they are in themselves. Heidegger disagrees with this idea that human beings are related to the world as subjects relating to the objects and tries to “illuminate Dasein as it appears in our pre-reflective understanding, Dasein in its everydayness(An Overview of Being and Time, Mark A. Wrathall and Max Murphey).” Heidegger, therefore, later determines who is in the mode of Dasein’s average everydayness through a phenomenological demonstration in which the essential structures will be exhibited. It turns out, to Heidegger, that awareness or consciousness do not play any significant role in the way that human beings relate to the world. In Dasein’s everydayness, it ordinarily encounters entities as “equipment.” Take Heidegger’s favorite object for example, the hammer, in which I always suspect its reference to Nietzsche’s “How to Philosophize with a Hammer,” as Heidegger is a big Nietzsche fanboy. For a skillful carpenter, when he or she is hammering a nail in a piece of wood or something, the hammer tends to become transparent, while perhaps thinking of what to eat for lunch or why is the job so boring. It is the same way that we do not usually notice our hands or legs when we ordinarily use, or “manipulate,” them, as Heidegger writes “the less we just stare at the hammer-thing, and the more we seize hold of it and use it, the more primordial does our relationship to it become, and the more unveiled is it encountered as that which it is—as equipment.” In the activity of hammering, the specific “manipulability” of the hammer is uncovered. And the kind of Being which equipment possesses is called “readiness-to-hand.” Dasein has no consciousness of nor is aware of the equipment in use as independent objects in everydayness, just as when we walk in the classroom we are unaware of the doorknob as an independent object while opening the door. This is the most phenomenologically primordial relationship with equipment, instead of sitting down and philosophizing on the hammer or anything else. When Dasein enters a mode of studying, e.g. when we sit down and do physics pondering about things, the entities under study are phenomenologically removed from the equipmental use of everydayness and are thus revealed fully as independent objects. This mode of Being is called “present-at-hand” by Heidegger. When Dasein encounters entities as “present-at-hand,” Dasein encounters them as “Things.” This mode of Being, “present-at-hand,” comes with a transformation in the mode of Being of Dasein into a subject as a consequence as the relationship between Dasein and non-Dasein-entities becomes a subject-object relationship. Dasein thus gains “knowledge” from “Things” as “present-at-hand.” The final mode of Being, “un-readiness-to-hand,” emerges when the mode of “readiness-to-hand” as an equipment is distrubed by some reasons like if the hammer is broken or the piece of metal at the top of the hammer flies away during hammering. Phenomenological transparency of “readiness-to-hand” is no longer present since the carpenter in this case would therefore notice the hammer, while it is not “present-at-hand” either as it is broken or missing which is no longer available in an equipmental sense-in order words, “Things” are no longer fully fledged “Things.” In this mode of Being, Dasein encounters a problem solver who is directed to restore the object to be able to function normally. The carpenter in this case is neither unaware of the “equipment” as “readiness-to-hand” nor aware of the thing to gain knowledge like properties of “things” as “present-at-hand.” The carpenter encounters the broken hammer as “un-readiness-to-hand” in a sense to merely fix it for normal use. Some might argue that "un-readiness-to-hand" is a subset of "readiness-to-hand," an abnormal state of "readiness-to-hand" that seeks to return back to "readiness-to-hand." This makes good sense of what is going on here, and might be understood as such if one finds it better for oneself to understand as such. All of these ontological conclusions and structures are drawn from Heidegger’s phenomenological analysis of Being. There are much more things to elaborate, which is also what Heidegger does in the second half of the book. Especially the significance that makes up the structure of “the world” is the ontic condition for the possibility that a totality of involvements can be discovered and so on. Heidegger’s existentialism and his discussion of big questions like the meaning of Being are closely related to these but that will be the future content. To this point, the Cartesian tradition and his division are both “hammered” down by Husserl and Heidegger, while some Cartesian inheritances are also seen in both of them. In any case, phenomenology and its subsequent philosophical movements thus started, and since then have been changing the understanding of the nature of human beings, or Dasein, if you prefer. Nice! You finished the article! Here's a picture of Martin Heidegger as the award for you:
Swinging the Hammer on Descartes: A Brief Introduction on Phenomenology and Heidegger’s Being and Time content media
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Marshall Zhu
Nov 02, 2021
In General Philosophy Forum
I really find it intriguing since it connects what we are learning in school about Aquinas and the arguments for existence of God and what I have been reading myself. Russell's position seems to me really Wittgenstein-ish. Position of such analytical philosophy struck me hard when I first heard of them. Questions about the meaning and boundaries of words... Anyways, enjoy the debate!
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