the catastrophe

chris daley



All philosophical discourses must inaugurate themselves 
through the assumption of certain premises.  These premises, 
however provisional, give the discourse its orientation,
determine its questions and shape the scope of its inquiries.
Each philosopher to the extent that s/he completes the project
implicit in its founding premises becomes exemplary of how to
philosophize.  The person of the philosopher becomes of less and
less interest as the project of her philosophy becomes more and
more complete.  Philosophers seek in one regard or another to
make their work exemplary.  In so doing they displace their own
factical existence in favor of the possibilities inherent in
their thought.  What does this mean?  In what sense does a
philosopher favor the non-existent possibility over an extant
truth as this signature characteristic of philosophizing?

Language is the determining "factor" in this signature.

First, it demands generality or otherwise it makes no sense 
of phenomena.  Second, it seeks to express the truth behind
appearances or a truth that comprehends appearances.  

Either way, language that is wielded by the philosopher seeks to 
transpose an inner, hidden or not-readily-available-for-inspection 
truth (of phenomena) into a discourse which gives an account, or
reckons on the basis of whatever recognizable scale or standard.  

The most comprehensive philosophers provide the measure as well as
the account for the phenomena.  More often than not this measure
is proffered as if it were "there" for us merely to apply to the
phenomena or inquiry at hand.  Such thinking has resulted in the 
professionalization and technologization of philosophical praxis.

The unspoken task of such a philosophizing is the clarification
of the understanding's application to phenomena.  It presupposes 
that the relation between ideas, concepts, categories and things,
whether animate or inanimate needs to be ordered for (and by us)
in reference to a standard measure.

All philosophical projects share a common commitment of making 
sense of the world or, barring the possibility, showing the 
limit of our ability to make sense of the world.  Philosophy
therefore has an inherent relation to the liminal.  

By virtue of this relation, it finds itself in "close quarters" with 
literature, magic, the occult, and mysticism.  The discipline has 
historically eschewed any identification with such subjects, or, 
if it could not extricate itself from standing akin in some kind 
of "relation" to them, it chose to dominate them and dictate their 
scope and rules of art.

Despite its repugnance of the irrational it finds itself drawn 
into contact with such subjects because philosophy must, via its 
self-imposed objective, to account for as wide a spectrum of 
phenomena as possible.  There is a philosophy of everything: of 
religion, of emotions, of psychology, of... any branch of knowledge.

Every discourse is shaped by a vaguely discernible, and better
left unremarked, historical determinancy.  Discourse, in order
for it to make sense, must understand its context, and, in so 
doing, it inscribes itself within a pre-understood totality of
significations and relations.  In addition, all discourse is to
be regarded as a departure from all previous discourse.  

A discourse then stands in relation to the past and distinguishes 
itself from precedence.  This discourse too is both linked to the 
history of thought and seeks to distinguish itself through what 
might be called a characteristically philosophical hubris.  

The hubris of philosophy consists of its assertion that through 
the power of human knowing, something can be discovered that was 
not previously known (...even if it had been "there" all along).  

Hubris is an institutional matter in all cases.  

The meaning of hubris can be extended to every institutional 
setting from the most sacred to the most profane and mundane.  

Hubris is not, of course, the mere infraction of institutional 
rules, taboos, or procedures, but rather a situation of violent 
displacement of authority as such prevailing in an institution.

The hubristic thesis I am advancing here is that philosophy must 
disappear.  It must will its own death.  Perhaps after Nietzsche, 
after Heidegger, after Derrida such a thesis is all-too-familiar.  

Yet, philosophy perenially rises like a phoenix from the ashes 
or insinuates itself like a coy Dionysian into the funeral feast 
of texts these moderns serve us while they lament over philosophy's 
passing. As is customary at the funerals they urge us to look to 
the future for possibilities not dreamt of while old man philosophy
was keeping watch. Philosophy's passing, we are told, has cleared a 
path for us, has opened up new horizons and wider vistas.  

Strangely, when the festivities are over and we all return to our 
respective tasks we find our work as arduous as ever, if not more 
so. More so because philosophy's demise means the end of a regime 
which told us what is worthy of question and identified the matters 
into which we should inquire.  It dictated the vocabulary in which 
we expressed our intimate thoughts, our most prescient intuitions 
and our most decisive conclusions.

The specter of philosophy's death, its self-sacrifice, in service
to a truth and a conclusion it reluctantly acknowledges, looms 
large in the wake of 20th century philosophy.  With respect to 
Heidegger and Derrida, that which is significant is not so much 
the apocalyptic prophesies declaring the "end of philosophy" but 
the peculiar manner in which this end also marks the beginning of 
a thinking that looks very similar to a thinking which has been 
generally been thought to be philosophical.
  
Upon closer examination we find that the end of philosophy has been 
confused with the emptiness of technological thinking. Technological 
thinking is that sort of thinking which embarks on projects, builds 
edifices of certainty based on reasonable premises and traffics in 
these trappings of knowledge.  

The confusion of philosophy as the love of wisdom with philosophy 
as an epistemic enterprise has brought us to an abyssal point in 
our discussion with one another about that which is worthy of our 
attention as a community and as individuals.  

Such a concern for this lover of wisdom, of philosophy fathomed as a 
vocation, is provoked by the blacklisting of this lover by those who 
work merely to "distinguish themselves" within this kinship of - or, 
perhaps, apart from, communal affiliations and obligations.  

Is not this not that rather old feud between lover and sophist?   

It is not so much a matter of some unrecognized "gnosis" inhabiting
our being's, which is denied with the most psychologically blatant
rationalizations of injustice and inequity, as it is a fact of life 
that the insightful mind, the knowing mind must learn to dance, mock 
and play with that delusional mind which "thinks" it has the authority 
to dole out not only justice but also all the resources of the planet.  

Of course, the insightful mind is at an extreme disadvantage in this 
parrying because ultimately, it cares not a whit for what the deluded 
mind is defending so strongly.  The insightful mind attempts simply 
to distract the 'grip' of the deluded mind so that, for just a single 
moment, there can be disclosed this utter absurdity of its "technology", 
"money", and all the other things to which it so tightly grasps. 

Yet, "thought" alone will never get any one to this realization.  And,
neither will mere words, for language cannot extricate itself from its 
ambiguous double voice.  We must dance, mock, play and fight as well -  





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