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How to gain self-knowledge?

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  • Jim
    Irvin wrote: Some are more dialectical and aim for an Absolute. Others are more empirical, more pragmatic, and if I may say so, more modest. Mary replied: I
    Message 1 of 17 , Jan 9, 2012
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      Irvin wrote: Some are more dialectical and aim for an Absolute. Others are more empirical, more pragmatic, and if I may say so, more modest.

      Mary replied: I don't think this an accurate assessment. Dialectical reason is how thought moves, and it doesn't aim for any absolute; it is absolute. And I must say that a modest, pragmatic, or empirical approach has led to more monstrous and hubristic crime than any examination of how thought works. Pragmatism is an ideology, neither scientific or philosophical.

      I think this discussion between Irvin and Mary is of great importance. And more than anything else, it exhibits a disagreement concerning how best to pursue self-knowledge.

      And the key figure here is Hegel. If Hegel's complex dialectical reasoning is on the right lines, then surely Mary is on the right lines, but if Hegel took a wrong turn, up a blind alley, then Irvin's more empirical, more pragmatic, and more modest approach is to be preferred.

      Irvin cites Nietzsche in support of his more modest approach, and although Nietzsche thought that us humans were well capable of self-deceit and self-delusion, Nietzsche's writings have a refreshing simplicity and directness, absent in the obscure and difficult Hegel.

      But Hegel lead to Marx, and after Marx self-deceit and self-delusion became tied up in descriptions of a "false ideology", or just plain and simple "ideology" as all ideology is false by definition.

      Is the most fundamental level of self-delusion the fact that our bourgeois liberal ideology prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are? Is it only the Marxist who can see the extent of my delusion?

      How is self-knowledge possible? From the Ancient Greeks to Kant, the thought was that by sitting quietly in one's study and examining one's thoughts, and thinking clearly, one could gain a reasonable, perhaps even a sufficient amount of self-knowledge.

      But Hegel argued that Kant had over-simplified things, and Heidegger argued that Descartes had over-simplified things, and now the intelligent and sincere individual can no longer gain self-knowledge by merely sitting in his room and thinking. He must read Nietzsche and Heidegger, on the more modest approach, or Hegel and Marx and Freud and Lacan and Zizek, on the more ambitious approach.

      So what chance self-knowledge if one needs a life-time in a library to make any significant progress?

      Jim
    • Mary
      Jim, Irvin didn t actually pose an opposition between two approaches to one goal. He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty, and I
      Message 2 of 17 , Jan 11, 2012
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        Jim,

        Irvin didn't actually pose an opposition between two approaches to one goal. He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty, and I countered, also somewhat asymmetrically, that Nietzsche was not a humble, moderate thinker. A proper opposition should be posited before we continue. Reason is not pragmatic. It's purpose is what it does. The empirical is not the real and not graspable for any length of time, and not in any sense of entirety. If the personal and political do extend from reason, their limits are realized after they're exceeded. Lesson learned are never final or fully understood. Philosophical speculation involves apprehending what is real, and that's why few have any interest in it. Understanding the purpose of repetition, recollection, and speculation is to understand reason itself. Reason reaches especially beyond its grasp. This is its freedom.

        Mary

        --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
        >
        > Irvin wrote: Some are more dialectical and aim for an Absolute. Others are more empirical, more pragmatic, and if I may say so, more modest.
        >
        > Mary replied: I don't think this an accurate assessment. Dialectical reason is how thought moves, and it doesn't aim for any absolute; it is absolute. And I must say that a modest, pragmatic, or empirical approach has led to more monstrous and hubristic crime than any examination of how thought works. Pragmatism is an ideology, neither scientific or philosophical.
        >
        > I think this discussion between Irvin and Mary is of great importance. And more than anything else, it exhibits a disagreement concerning how best to pursue self-knowledge.
        >
        > And the key figure here is Hegel. If Hegel's complex dialectical reasoning is on the right lines, then surely Mary is on the right lines, but if Hegel took a wrong turn, up a blind alley, then Irvin's more empirical, more pragmatic, and more modest approach is to be preferred.
        >
        > Irvin cites Nietzsche in support of his more modest approach, and although Nietzsche thought that us humans were well capable of self-deceit and self-delusion, Nietzsche's writings have a refreshing simplicity and directness, absent in the obscure and difficult Hegel.
        >
        > But Hegel lead to Marx, and after Marx self-deceit and self-delusion became tied up in descriptions of a "false ideology", or just plain and simple "ideology" as all ideology is false by definition.
        >
        > Is the most fundamental level of self-delusion the fact that our bourgeois liberal ideology prevents us from seeing ourselves as we really are? Is it only the Marxist who can see the extent of my delusion?
        >
        > How is self-knowledge possible? From the Ancient Greeks to Kant, the thought was that by sitting quietly in one's study and examining one's thoughts, and thinking clearly, one could gain a reasonable, perhaps even a sufficient amount of self-knowledge.
        >
        > But Hegel argued that Kant had over-simplified things, and Heidegger argued that Descartes had over-simplified things, and now the intelligent and sincere individual can no longer gain self-knowledge by merely sitting in his room and thinking. He must read Nietzsche and Heidegger, on the more modest approach, or Hegel and Marx and Freud and Lacan and Zizek, on the more ambitious approach.
        >
        > So what chance self-knowledge if one needs a life-time in a library to make any significant progress?
        >
        > Jim
        >
      • Mary
        Jim, Since knowledge isn t contained by a self, any amount of time spent pursuing it is worthwhile. The disagreement over what is significant points to the
        Message 3 of 17 , Jan 11, 2012
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          Jim,

          Since knowledge isn't contained by a self, any amount of time spent pursuing it is worthwhile. The disagreement over what is significant points to the significance of the pursuit.

          Mary

          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:

          So what chance self-knowledge if one needs a life-time in a library to make any significant progress?
        • Jim
          Mary, Thank you for your response – as usual you give me something to think about and turn over and over. I think you may be being a little unfair to Irvin,
          Message 4 of 17 , Jan 12, 2012
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            Mary,

            Thank you for your response – as usual you give me something to think about and turn over and over.

            I think you may be being a little unfair to Irvin, as I read him as suggesting an alternative way of reasoning and philosophizing, rather than some sort of dogmatic non-philosophical irrationalism.

            Nor do I think he was offering any "political certainty", rather he was going in the opposite direction and suggesting caution and modesty in knowledge claims. But no doubt Irvin can argue his own case if he wants to.

            Also you could argue that reason should be restricted to the empirical world, as Kant argued. There is a danger that reason can spin off into an empty void if it is not tied down to truths we can verify in our everyday experience.

            I have still not made my mind up about Zizek's talk of "the Real". Zizek would argue, I think, that the Real has more significance to human existence than the empirical (which he calls `reality'), however the Real, almost by definition, is something which is inaccessible to us. We can circle around it but it will always evade our grasp.

            Jim



            --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
            >
            > Jim,
            >
            > Irvin didn't actually pose an opposition between two approaches to one goal. He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty, and I countered, also somewhat asymmetrically, that Nietzsche was not a humble, moderate thinker. A proper opposition should be posited before we continue. Reason is not pragmatic. It's purpose is what it does. The empirical is not the real and not graspable for any length of time, and not in any sense of entirety. If the personal and political do extend from reason, their limits are realized after they're exceeded. Lesson learned are never final or fully understood. Philosophical speculation involves apprehending what is real, and that's why few have any interest in it. Understanding the purpose of repetition, recollection, and speculation is to understand reason itself. Reason reaches especially beyond its grasp. This is its freedom.
            >
            > Mary
            >
          • Mary
            ... But who are these dogmatic, non-philosophical, irrational thinkers? Certainly not the existentialists, Hegel, Zizek, or me. ... Caution, modesty and limits
            Message 5 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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              --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
              >
              > Mary,
              >
              > Thank you for your response – as usual you give me something to think about and turn over and over.
              >
              > I think you may be being a little unfair to Irvin, as I read him as suggesting an alternative way of reasoning and philosophizing, rather than some sort of dogmatic non-philosophical irrationalism.

              But who are these dogmatic, non-philosophical, irrational thinkers? Certainly not the existentialists, Hegel, Zizek, or me.

              >
              > Nor do I think he was offering any "political certainty", rather he was going in the opposite direction and suggesting caution and modesty in knowledge claims. But no doubt Irvin can argue his own case if he wants to.

              Caution, modesty and limits as conditions of knowledge are expounded by whom?

              >
              > Also you could argue that reason should be restricted to the empirical world, as Kant argued. There is a danger that reason can spin off into an empty void if it is not tied down to truths we can verify in our everyday experience.

              Hegel and Zizek, are concerned with Reason, not reasoning; the Absolute, not absolutism.

              >
              > I have still not made my mind up about Zizek's talk of "the Real". Zizek would argue, I think, that the Real has more significance to human existence than the empirical (which he calls `reality'), however the Real, almost by definition, is something which is inaccessible to us. We can circle around it but it will always evade our grasp.

              Zizek does posit this inaccessibility but with interesting consequences, the conclusions of which you can formulate yourself.

              Thank you for considering my comments, which were only meant to balance what I thought was Irvin's unequal opposition. How oppositions are posed keeps arguments where you want them instead of where they might go. I see cautious or haphazard approaches to utilizing knowledge in actual opposition to knowledge itself. Phenomenology is where Hegel and Zizek begin, and freedom is their highest value, the same as the existentialists.

              Mary
              >
              > Jim
              >
              >
              >
              > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@> wrote:
              > >
              > > Jim,
              > >
              > > Irvin didn't actually pose an opposition between two approaches to one goal. He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty, and I countered, also somewhat asymmetrically, that Nietzsche was not a humble, moderate thinker. A proper opposition should be posited before we continue. Reason is not pragmatic. It's purpose is what it does. The empirical is not the real and not graspable for any length of time, and not in any sense of entirety. If the personal and political do extend from reason, their limits are realized after they're exceeded. Lesson learned are never final or fully understood. Philosophical speculation involves apprehending what is real, and that's why few have any interest in it. Understanding the purpose of repetition, recollection, and speculation is to understand reason itself. Reason reaches especially beyond its grasp. This is its freedom.
              > >
              > > Mary
              > >
              >
            • Jim
              Mary, I think you misunderstood some of what I wrote. When I wrote: I think you may be being a little unfair to Irvin, as I read him as suggesting an
              Message 6 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                Mary,

                I think you misunderstood some of what I wrote. When I wrote:

                "I think you may be being a little unfair to Irvin, as I read him as suggesting an alternative way of reasoning and philosophizing, rather than some sort of dogmatic non-philosophical irrationalism."

                I was not implying that either the existentialists, Hegel, Zizek, or you were "dogmatic, non-philosophical, irrational thinkers", rather I was defending Irvin against the charge of being dogmatic and irrational.

                Recall you wrote of him that:

                "He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty".

                This sentence and some of your other remarks seemed to imply to me that you thought he was being irrational and dogmatic in his recent posts.

                You ask me:

                "Caution, modesty and limits as conditions of knowledge are expounded by whom?"

                Well our very own Knott is one person who I see as arguing for caution, modesty and limits as conditions of knowledge.

                Also I see many of the philosophers in the empirical and analytic tradition taking such an approach. Examples would be David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Nietzsche (as suggested in the quote Irvin typed up). Also Socrates, the Epicureans and Bertrand Russell

                I do not necessarily favour the "modest" outlook myself, but I do think Zizek in particular is very ambitious in his truth claims, and I just wanted to try to draw out a contrast between the modest and the ambitious approaches.

                Jim
              • William
                ... Jim, I refer you to Existlist post 9664. I have changed very little. That one was for you ,much before you came in. Bill
                Message 7 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                  --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > Mary,
                  >
                  > I think you misunderstood some of what I wrote. When I wrote:
                  >
                  > "I think you may be being a little unfair to Irvin, as I read him as suggesting an alternative way of reasoning and philosophizing, rather than some sort of dogmatic non-philosophical irrationalism."
                  >
                  > I was not implying that either the existentialists, Hegel, Zizek, or you were "dogmatic, non-philosophical, irrational thinkers", rather I was defending Irvin against the charge of being dogmatic and irrational.
                  >
                  > Recall you wrote of him that:
                  >
                  > "He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty".
                  >
                  > This sentence and some of your other remarks seemed to imply to me that you thought he was being irrational and dogmatic in his recent posts.
                  >
                  > You ask me:
                  >
                  > "Caution, modesty and limits as conditions of knowledge are expounded by whom?"
                  >
                  > Well our very own Knott is one person who I see as arguing for caution, modesty and limits as conditions of knowledge.
                  >
                  > Also I see many of the philosophers in the empirical and analytic tradition taking such an approach. Examples would be David Hume, Immanuel Kant and Nietzsche (as suggested in the quote Irvin typed up). Also Socrates, the Epicureans and Bertrand Russell
                  >
                  > I do not necessarily favour the "modest" outlook myself, but I do think Zizek in particular is very ambitious in his truth claims, and I just wanted to try to draw out a contrast between the modest and the ambitious approaches.
                  >
                  > Jim
                  >
                  Jim, I refer you to Existlist post 9664. I have changed very little. That one was for you ,much before you came in. Bill
                • Mary
                  Jim, Let me rephrase this hopefully so it s clearer. Irvin seems to equate some quest for the Absolute (which is merely the activity of thought itself) with
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                    Jim,

                    Let me rephrase this hopefully so it's clearer. Irvin seems to equate some quest for the Absolute (which is merely the activity of thought itself) with (or created an opposition to) political certainty (such as political ideology). I am not saying he is opposed to reason but that he created a false opposition as in opposites, with reason (the movement of knowledge) in one corner, and ideology in the other. One might mistakenly place dialectical reason as purely abstract in some kind of opposition to/with other methods, but ideology is a different category and has little to do with truth claims. Camus was the thinker of limits par excellence, but he was a socialist and not likely to be used here as an example. I simply meant Irvin put the method of attaining knowledge (thought) in opposition to what is done with knowledge.

                    Mary

                    --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:

                    > Recall you wrote of him that:
                    >
                    > "He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty".
                  • William
                    Message 9 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > Jim,
                      >
                      > Let me rephrase this hopefully so it's clearer. Irvin seems to equate some quest for the Absolute (which is merely the activity of thought itself) with (or created an opposition to) political certainty (such as political ideology). I am not saying he is opposed to reason but that he created a false opposition as in opposites, with reason (the movement of knowledge) in one corner, and ideology in the other. One might mistakenly place dialectical reason as purely abstract in some kind of opposition to/with other methods, but ideology is a different category and has little to do with truth claims. Camus was the thinker of limits par excellence, but he was a socialist and not likely to be used here as an example. I simply meant Irvin put the method of attaining knowledge (thought) in opposition to what is done with knowledge.
                      >
                      > Mary
                      > Mary, All but the next to last sentance was gibberish. I do not know if that sentance was true of Camus but it did make readable sense. Bill
                      > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@> wrote:
                      >
                      > > Recall you wrote of him that:
                      > >
                      > > "He opposed reason as a means to knowledge with political certainty".
                      >
                    • Jim
                      Bill, I enjoyed reading your post 9664 from back in 2002. As Wil would say To each his own . I can think of nothing worse than being part of an army in the
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                        Bill,

                        I enjoyed reading your post 9664 from back in 2002.

                        As Wil would say "To each his own".

                        I can think of nothing worse than being part of an army in the midst of war.

                        Having said that I do enjoy a battle of words.

                        Who was it who said "the pen is mightier than the sword"?

                        Jim
                      • Jim
                        Thanks, Mary. That makes it all clearer. I m sorry I completely misunderstood your point first time around. Jim
                        Message 11 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                          Thanks, Mary.

                          That makes it all clearer. I'm sorry I completely misunderstood your point first time around.

                          Jim



                          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Jim,
                          >
                          > Let me rephrase this hopefully so it's clearer. Irvin seems to equate some quest for the Absolute (which is merely the activity of thought itself) with (or created an opposition to) political certainty (such as political ideology). I am not saying he is opposed to reason but that he created a false opposition as in opposites, with reason (the movement of knowledge) in one corner, and ideology in the other. One might mistakenly place dialectical reason as purely abstract in some kind of opposition to/with other methods, but ideology is a different category and has little to do with truth claims. Camus was the thinker of limits par excellence, but he was a socialist and not likely to be used here as an example. I simply meant Irvin put the method of attaining knowledge (thought) in opposition to what is done with knowledge.
                          >
                          > Mary
                        • William
                          Message 12 of 17 , Jan 13, 2012
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                            --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Bill,
                            >
                            > I enjoyed reading your post 9664 from back in 2002.
                            >
                            > As Wil would say "To each his own".
                            >
                            > I can think of nothing worse than being part of an army in the midst of war.
                            >
                            > Having said that I do enjoy a battle of words.
                            >
                            > Who was it who said "the pen is mightier than the sword"?
                            >
                            > Jim
                            >Jim, an ARMY person in the midst of battle is in a sublime state of existance. To be alone in such circumstance is mearly human.Gurd your loins ,nave, I have been with the British and fear nothing. It was different as the British were all black. Could you advise? Bill
                          • Mary
                            Bill, You ve reminded me of why I should fear you. I cancel my membership, noting the moderators must be approving of both. Mary
                            Message 13 of 17 , Jan 14, 2012
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                              Bill,

                              You've reminded me of why I should fear you.

                              I cancel my membership, noting the moderators must be approving of both.

                              Mary

                              --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "William" <vize9938@...> wrote:

                              > Jim, I refer you to Existlist post 9664. I have changed very little. That one was for you ,much before you came in. Bill
                              >
                            • Jim
                              Mary, Please don t leave. You are the mainstay of the group. Your thoughtful and passionate posts lighten up many a dark day. Jim
                              Message 14 of 17 , Jan 14, 2012
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                                Mary,

                                Please don't leave. You are the mainstay of the group. Your thoughtful and passionate posts lighten up many a dark day.

                                Jim



                                --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
                                >
                                > Bill,
                                >
                                > You've reminded me of why I should fear you.
                                >
                                > I cancel my membership, noting the moderators must be approving of both.
                                >
                                > Mary
                                >
                              • William
                                Message 15 of 17 , Jan 14, 2012
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                                  --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@...> wrote:
                                  >
                                  > Mary,
                                  >
                                  > Please don't leave. You are the mainstay of the group. Your thoughtful and passionate posts lighten up many a dark day.
                                  >
                                  > Jim
                                  > The very title of this thread smacks of eastern mysticism. If you feel lonely set under a tree and ponder but don`t beg it is unseemly. Bill
                                  >
                                  >
                                  > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@> wrote:
                                  > >
                                  > > Bill,
                                  > >
                                  > > You've reminded me of why I should fear you.
                                  > >
                                  > > I cancel my membership, noting the moderators must be approving of both.
                                  > >
                                  > > Mary
                                  > >
                                  >
                                • eupraxis
                                  Mary, don t leave. But if you should, please email me. Wil
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Jan 14, 2012
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                                    Mary, don't leave. But if you should, please email me.

                                    Wil

                                    --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "William" <vize9938@...> wrote:
                                    >
                                    >
                                    >
                                    > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Jim" <jjimstuart1@> wrote:
                                    > >
                                    > > Mary,
                                    > >
                                    > > Please don't leave. You are the mainstay of the group. Your thoughtful and passionate posts lighten up many a dark day.
                                    > >
                                    > > Jim
                                    > > The very title of this thread smacks of eastern mysticism. If you feel lonely set under a tree and ponder but don`t beg it is unseemly. Bill
                                    > >
                                    > >
                                    > > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@> wrote:
                                    > > >
                                    > > > Bill,
                                    > > >
                                    > > > You've reminded me of why I should fear you.
                                    > > >
                                    > > > I cancel my membership, noting the moderators must be approving of both.
                                    > > >
                                    > > > Mary
                                    > > >
                                    > >
                                    >
                                  • Louise
                                    Mary, Your presence here is invaluable. Louise
                                    Message 17 of 17 , Jan 15, 2012
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                                      Mary,

                                      Your presence here is invaluable.

                                      Louise

                                      --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "Mary" <josephson45r@...> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > Bill,
                                      >
                                      > You've reminded me of why I should fear you.
                                      >
                                      > I cancel my membership, noting the moderators must be approving of both.
                                      >
                                      > Mary
                                      >
                                      > --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, "William" <vize9938@> wrote:
                                      >
                                      > > Jim, I refer you to Existlist post 9664. I have changed very little. That one was for you ,much before you came in. Bill
                                      > >
                                      >
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