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Ontological authority

Friday, 22 November 2019 at 16:50

End of Philosophy on Dr John Dunn. At one time the answer to this question might have been quick and simple - the priest or the philosopher. These people have authority as the holders of the keys to truth. They had privileged access to ontologically guaranteed ideas (as they saw it), which gave them authority as the advisors to kings. This was the traditional role of philosophy, or onto-theology, which held steadfast until Heidegger’s time.

When Heidegger wrote The End of Philosophy, he was discoursing upon the end of Platonic metaphysics, where truth is understood to mean the matching of our ideas with some kind of objective world.

Nietzsche preceded Heidegger in his Twilight of the Idols by describing the gradual decline of the authoritative nature of truth. There were four stages in the authoritative era:

- Plato’s objective realm of truth (which Heidegger called Being), i.e. the realms of the forms and ideas
- Christianity - the truth that is attainable after this life
-Kant’s ‘Copernican Revolution’ - in which truth was discovered to be no longer out there, but rather inside us. Kant interiorised the ontological ground of being and truth was understood to come from within the structures of human reason. But truth remained nevertheless
-Positivism - the still commonly held view that only the scientist has a privileged access to truth. It was in the time of Nietzsche that the scientist began to replace the philosopher as the arbiter of truth.
Following Nietzsche and into the 20th century, the fate of the philosopher can be compared to that of the artist. Following the breakdown of ontological truth, art has come to be appreciated as a subjective undertaking. Whether or not an artist’s work has meaning does not affect its status as art. Artists no longer open the door to the sublime for mere mortals.They no longer give us access to truth.

In the same way, after post-structuralism and the deconstruction of ultimate authoritarian metaphysical thought systems, philosophers can no longer claim to have found the door to truth. Heidegger was right. It is the end of philosophy.

Unless… rather in the way that Derrida oversaw the removal of all meaning from all texts, leaving one textual mélange of infinite possibilities… we have again arrived at the One and the Infinite. The Oneness of the post-structural world is now the philosophical, or onto-theological, authority for globalism.


© John Dunn.

Human Zoo

Friday, 15 November 2019 at 10:25

Barbed wire on Dr John Dunn. Peter Sloterdijk’s point is that the humanistic tradition is the literary canon - within a nation state. Everyone in that state reads the same texts and community results.

But from World War 1, mass culture ruptured this humanistic tradition with radio, television and more lately the internet.

Thus his thesis that modern societies can produce their political and cultural synthesis only marginally through literary, letter-writing, humanistic media.

He makes another point that humanistic texts have a taming effect upon individuals, leading them away from barbarism.

How a person can become a true or tamed human being becomes unavoidably a media question.

We are now in a post-literate age, a post-humanistic age influenced by disinhibiting media, (akin to Roman bread & Circuses).

The book is giving way to the sports stadium, or the same spectacle on screen.

Sloterdijk turns to Heidegger for a philosophical bolstering of his position.

Heidegger wanted to replace humanism with an onto-anthropology

Heidegger believed that the humanistic tradition led to the problems of the 20th C. i.e. the logocentric tradition that places man, the rational animal that understands the truth, at the centre of all things.

Instead of humanism, Heidegger argued, we need a tradition in which the human being listens to being and does not dictate to being. Man should be the shepherd of being.

The place where this happens is the Clearing

Heidegger wishes man to be more submissive/obedient than a mere good reader would be.

There can be no public canon of manifestations of Being.

This demands a passive rather than an active frame of mind.

Sloterdijk points out that you cannot construct a community out of this attitude. It will result in a construction of monk-like separate individuals.

He moves on to Nietzsche for further clarification, particularly on the subject of human taming. Of the humanised Nietzsche wrote:

…They are uniform, decent and kind among themselves, as grains of sand are uniform, conforming and decent with each other. Modestly accept a kindness--that means, submit! Basically they want only one thing: that no one harm them…

Individuals have been minimised by this dwarfing process.

This is the root of the basic conflict Nietzsche postulates for the future: the battle between those who wish to breed for minimisation and those who wish to breed for maximisation of human function, or as we might say, a battle between humanists and super-humanists.

We are rushing headlong into a void. The decline of the book is concomitant with the rise of the stadium and disinhibiting media.

Humans are regressing back to a state of barbarism in which books are no longer needed and are instead archived, to be the preserve of experts.

Whois controlling this human zoo? asks Sloterdijk. He does not even pretend to have an answer, merely ‘the realisation… that our lives are the confused answer to questions which were asked in places we have forgotten’.


© John Dunn.

Common Stench

Tuesday, 12 November 2019 at 20:59

Beyond Good and Evil on Dr John Dunn. ‘All society makes one somehow, somewhere, or sometime, common’, wrote Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil.

It was bad enough in Nietzsche’s day - but now that we swim in the medium of the internet… Nietzsche’s words must be amplified a hundred times and more to have relevance.

‘Wherever is the crowd is a common denominator of stench.’

Amplify the above words and you will only approximate to something like the truth. The words are a paraphrase of:

Books for the general reader are always ill-smelling books, the odour of paltry people clings to them. Where the populace eat and drink, and even where they reverence, it is accustomed to stink. One should not go into churches if one wishes to breathe pure air. (Beyond Good and Evil)

At no other time in history has the pressure to be ‘common’ been greater than at present. The controllers of the human zoo secrete their bile of inclusiveness, togetherness, oneness and sameness, which is realised in phenomena such as:

Commoditisation.
The crushing of diversity.
Gender mixing.
Racial mixing.
The religion of ecologism, with its ‘saints’, asceticism and self-denial.
We live in the age of self-denial and idolatry.

God is alive.

The self is dead.


© John Dunn.

Superman out of time

Sunday, 10 November 2019 at 17:18

Nietzsche on Dr John Dunn. Superman status is not for everyone. Nietzsche was not arguing that you or I might achieve such an exalted status right now.

It is not about now, according to Nietzsche, it is about the future, and it is the future seen from the standpoint of an extreme social Darwinist.

Nietzsche dismissed social mores that still hold sway today, i.e. the individualistic morality along with the collectivistic, since the former, like the latter, fails to recognise an order of rank among men and wants to give equal freedom to all. Such views, Nietzsche implied, will lead mankind into an evolutionary cul-de-sac.

His thoughts turned rather on the degree of power that one or other person may exert over others or over all, and on how far a sacrifice of freedom and virtual enslavement may be forced towards the end of bringing forth of a higher type in the future.

Put in the crudest way, to what extent could the strong force us to sacrifice our lives towards the development of a higher type than man into existence? Nietzsche’s concept of such a type was the superman.




Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a major influence upon Nietzsche’s social Darwinian theories, even though he died years before Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

Fichte, a major influence upon Nietzsche, contended that cultural cohesion must be total, demanding a moral commitment from everyone.

It is the duty of every one, not only to endeavour to make himself useful to society generally; but also to direct all his efforts, according to the best knowledge which he possesses, towards the ultimate object of society - towards the ever-increasing ennoblement of the human race; that is, to set it more and more at freedom from the bondage of Nature. (Vocation of the Scholar)

This call for sacrifices now toward the ennoblement of mankind in the future was the precursor of Nietzsche’s demand for action now to prepare the way for the superman. Fichte offered the keys to Paradise in return for a societal commitment that passed down the generations into Eternity.

That which men call Death cannot interrupt my activity; for my work must go on to its completion, and it cannot be completed in Time; - hence my existence is limited by no Time, and I am Eternal: - with the assumption of this great task, I have also laid hold of Eternity. (Vocation of the Scholar)

Fichte postulated the conditions under which the human race would best pursue its moral destiny. He spelt out a specific, all‐transforming, intervention into history, advocating a socialist utopia that emphasised a shared language, culture and moral destiny.


© John Dunn.

Paradigmatic aesthetic

Friday, 8 November 2019 at 10:42

Nietzsche on Dr John Dunn. Intoxication is another metaphor used by Nietzsche for the arousal characteristics of sex and art:

Without intoxication to intensify the excitability of the whole machine, there can be no art....Above all, the intoxication of sexual excitement, the most ancient and original form of intoxication. There is also an intoxication that comes in the wake of all great desires, all strong affects; an intoxication of the festival, the contest, of the bravura of performance, of victory, of all extreme movement the intoxication of cruelty; intoxication in destruction...or under the influence of narcotics....The essential thing about intoxication is the feeling of fullness and increasing strength. (Twilight of the Idols)

The intoxication of sexual excitement induces feelings of ‘fullness and increasing strength’ counteracting the suicidal horror that the terrible truths hold.

The drunk sobers up to realise perhaps even more clearly the terrible truths about existence. If aesthetic pleasure is transient how can it restore a lasting attachment to life? The answer is that Nietzsche envisaged lasting and all-pervasive aesthetic qualities that become paradigmatic.

However, it takes genius to establish a new paradigmatic aesthetic.

Nietzsche’s critique of society was that in a culture in which moral norms prevail, nascent creative geniuses like Goethe and Beethoven will not realise their potential: altruism, pity, egalitarianism are incompatible with the emergence of artistic genius.

This was exactly Otto Weininger’s point when he decried the lack of originality in the modern world, labelling it unheroic, feminine and Judaic in its inducement of passivity.

And if Goethes and Beethovens fail to realise their potential, then we shall be deprived of the original outpourings of human achievement that induce aesthetic temperament in the widest socio-cultural context.

The paradigmatic aesthetic produced by a Beethoven or Napoleon is not transient, but all-pervasive, defining the character of an age; one lives in the ‘age’ of Beethoven, or the ‘age’ of Napoleon.

To live in the aesthetic milieu of Beethoven is to live through the genius of another - and the suffering of another. We see through the eyes of the genius and not our own. We live passively.

But does not the genius also offer a role model to which we should aspire… i.e that we should each struggle to create our own ‘age’ through which to live.

And, as Dante understood, we must pass through our own stages of suffering for this to happen individually.

For both role models of genius, Beethoven and Napoleon, suffering was essential: in Beethoven’s case, artistic struggle was central to his creative achievements, and for Napoleon it was essential to his achievements themselves that they inflicted suffering.

Altruism, pity, egalitarianism set out to alleviate suffering. In stifling genius they destroy our attachment to life. They destroy at the seed stage any prospect of our own ‘age’ blossoming and coming to fruition.

Nevertheless, a terrible truth remains - that the paradigmatic aesthetic, be it our own or another’s, can only ever mask the terrible existential truths.


© John Dunn.

Art of arousal

Saturday, 2 November 2019 at 18:07

Nietzsche on Dr John Dunn. According to Nietzsche, the priests gave meaning to suffering, expunging at a stroke the nihilism of existence. They also gave hope that suffering and penance now will produce rewards in the future. Meaning and hope overcome the suicidal response to the terrible existential truths.

The meaning that the priests offer is that the terrible existential truths arise out of human failure. It is a failure to pay due homage to the predetermined idol of truth or God. It is a failure to live up the ascetic ideal associated with this idol worship. They give meaning to human suffering by explaining it as a consequence of our own moral inadequacies.

Critiquing the priestly promises, Nietzsche argued that art achieves what homage to the ascetic ideal achieves, namely 'seducing one to a continuation oflife' (Birth of Tragedy). But how?

Nietzsche made the connection between aesthetic and sexual arousal:

The peculiar sweetness and fullness characteristic of the aesthetic condition might have its origins precisely in…sensuality [Sinnlichkeit] (though it is now) transfigure[d] and no longer enters consciousness assexual stimulus (Genealogy of Morals).

Is all art arousal? And how is it an alternative to the idol worship that he despised? How is it better? Is it simply more pleasurable?

If art maintains our attachment to life through essentially pleasurable, quasi-sexual arousal, then this is to reconfigure art as a form of distracting and anaesthetising pornography. I’m intrigued and will explore more.

© John Dunn.

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