Friday, March 13, 2009

Feelings of futility in speculative philosophy

[Mar 12, 2009 (title unknown) from enowning
"In a Sorry State" from Muriel Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog.
After one month of frenetic reading I come to the conclusion, with immense relief, that phenomenology is a fraud. In the same way that cathedrals have always aroused in me the sensation of extreme light-headedness one often feels in the presence of man-made tributes to the glory of something that does not exist, phenomenology has tested to the extreme my ability to believe that so much intelligence could have gone to serve so futile an undertaking... When you set out to deal with phenomenology, you have to be aware of the fact that it boils down to two questions: What is the nature of human consciousness? What do we know of the world? Let's start with the first question. For millennia now, by way of "know thyself" to "I think therefore I am," mankind has been rambling on about the ridiculous human prerogative that is our consciousness of our own existence and above all the ability of this consciousness to make itself its own object... All of phenomenology is founded on this certainty: our reflective consciousness, the sign of our ontological dignity, is the only entity we have that is worth studying, for it saves us from biological determinism. No one seems aware of the fact that, since we are animals subject to the cold determinism of physical things, all of the foregoing is null and void. Pp.

[“African ethics is like North American communitarianism in its emphasis on community, although (as we shall see later) there are important differences between the two in the process by which norms are established. The concern that motivates communitarianism in its critique of the ‘unfettered self’ or of ‘atomism’ against liberalism is entirely in keeping with African ethics, which rejects the idea that being a human person and acting with responsibility is merely the result of having assented to rational principles, or arguing and thinking rationally. For Black Africa, it is not the Cartesian cogito ergo sum (”I think, therefore I am”) but an existential cognatus [cognitus] sum, ergo sumus (”I am known [relationally related], therefore we are”) that is decisive” (Bénézet Bujo, Foundations of an African Ethic: Beyond the Universal Claims of Western Morality, p. 4).
N.b. The translation "I am known," for cognatus sum seems problematic, as cognatus means something in the neighborhood of "I am related," or "I am connected (in a familial sense)." The Latin equivalent of "I am known," is cognitus sum. Even so, both potential meanings are suggestive.
African Ethics: Cognatus/cognitus sum, ergo sumus
from Per Caritatem by Cynthia R. Nielsen]

Thanks to the writings of The Mother & Sri Aurobindo, Savitri Erans are saved from this sort of feelings of futility that descends in the course of undertaking speculative philosophy. [TNM]

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