Thursday, July 24, 2014

On Philosophy as Concept Creation:

Direct, personal experience implores the respective pertinences of any potential questions to be asked.
Simply asking a new kind of question demands new structures of answers in order to address the demands adequately.
This is the creation of concepts. 
This is what philosophy will always be able to offer though it may not be the only task the enterprise calls it's own.
Examples of concept creation arise all about us and once these metaphors become widely accepted enough they seem to lose their status metaphors and take on the status of... Truth! Discipline! Fields!
Anthropology has taken up the concept of culture and employs it to the ends of addressing the questions  that such an self-world schema have deemed pressing. 
Today, culture is forgotten to be a creation. A concept to organize our experiences and answer questions which, for whatever reasons, struck people as important and, for various reasons, "Culture" seemed apt to address and organize. 
Organization is essential to this understanding and I find it useful to apply another concept here to explain why. 
Namely: Fung-Shway.
Culture--like all concepts--organizes experience into a sort of "Fung-shway". 
The economy of concepts, then, must be none other than the relative advantages and superiorities of some concepts to organize (1) more information or (2) as much (or less) but better. Cleaner. Sexier. 
A brief aside: we find ourselves here in the wild and tumultuous waters of using concepts to explain concepts (oh Derrida.. you wonderful bastard). 

Other instances of concept creation speak to more specific and narrow dilemmas in our life-experience. This cleanliness makes them appealing but perhaps not as readily acceptable to as many (Culture, on the other hand, being a concept with near-unanimous acceptance across our planet). 
Even such topical concepts still defer to additional concepts whether for credibility in general or for the sake of allowing concepts akin to it to add depth and polish to what, on its own, might appear to be vacuous.  

Thus, a concept such as "The Original Position" from John Rawls may be bolstered and cohere with the concept of Martin Heideggers "Thrown-ness". If you've already digested the understanding of our existence as always already happening and then suddenly one had awakened to find oneself already in a progression of development and becoming then from this notion of throwness the revised concept of the essence of fairness would additionally be more readily available to employ.
Thus we turn to A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. 
Here we are taught to see our existence as randomly thrown and thus every part of ourselves: Body, Talents, Predispositions, Family, Historicity/Circumstances 
This may even strike you as obvious but there are, of course, other ways to narrate this coming-to-be. 
Anyway, once we are accustomed to such an account then we can more readily participate in the construction from Rawls.
He suggests from our throwness that  fairness is not naturally given. In other words, that we awaken one day with particular superiorities (and vice versa) of talents, endowments, opportunities, support etc. is a stroke of chance and luck. Thus, in order to determine how best to arrange our socio-politico-economic institutions according to an ethos of fairness (a concept already in play which could, itself, be doubted were one to prefer a Nietzschean outlook of individuals-over-mediocrity) then we must consider ourselves from a pre-existent point of view. 
Thus he asks his readers to imagine themselves stripped of all extension; all bodily existence, all attributes, all spatio-temporal position, all interest and preferences etc.. Namely, remove all particularities of oneself by which one judges good and bad. fair and unfair.
Once this has been done, our self can only be said to constitute a transcendental-ego; a rational agency without a particular point-of-view in reality and thus all judgements must be made based upon an ethos of pure rationality.
From here he tells us that we will then be thrown into reality and into a particular body and place etc and have to cope and live out a life with whatever circumstance we randomly are afforded. 
But FIRST!!!... We must determine what would be the fair, ideal system of social/political/economic organization. 
Self-Interest is not lost on the transcendental ego.. Only the details and peculiarities of what body and world-opportunities / obstacles it will be situated with once reality commences are hidden. 
Thus self-interest without bias leads to the vote that a much more socially equitable and democratically empowering world be given in the event that said Transcendental-Ego be paired with a relatively untalented body with difficult circumstances void of any viable advantages and  opportunities. 
Pure fairness flows naturally from the "original position" where self-interest faces the threat of being thrown into a world that cannot be fixed by any insider training nor biased by what most befits a particular body without concern for anyone else.

The concept ushers in a mentality of fairness that may not have been possible without the creative potential of philosophy. Rawls has reorganized our sense of self in such a way that social fairness trumps our immediate biases. 

That is the beauty of philosophy. 
That the creation of a new concept can reveal the world anew, afresh, teething with dynamic vitality and possibility.

It is Nietzsche's ultimate value. 
The creative will to produce new values and new worlds. 

Of course... Nietzsche wouldn't go for this particular concept. As his Zarathustra refers to such lines of thinking, it is the work of tarantulas. 

His particular concepts by which his world was reorganized and answers were given to solve the questions most pressing to his time were those of the Overman (a creator of values who loves all of life and could joyfully will that in an eternal recurrence he may live it again and again infinitely), the Will-to-power (the multifaceted ways that a will seizes and longs for power) and the Dionysian vs Apollean tendencies towards life (in that all societies either subscribe to one or the other). 

Examples of new concept creations can be discovered amongst every renowned philosopher one could imagine:
Descartes: The Cogito, Radical Doubt, Geometrical Method.
Spinoza: Conatus, Blessedness and the Intellectual Love of God
Kant: The Categorical Imperative, Faculties, Freedom-as-Autonomy. 
Kierkegaard: The Knights of Infinite Resignation vs Faith, the Aesthetic, Ethical and Religious stages of life.
Heidegger: Thrownness, Dasein, Authenticity, Being.
Camus: The Absurd (and it's Heroes), Rebellion. 
Whitehead: Process Ontology.
Aristotle: Virtues-as-Habits, Means.
Plato: Universal Forms [The Good].
Hobbes: The Leviathan, SoN.
Merleau-Ponty: Horizons.
Husserl: Phenomenological Method. 
Buddha: Nirvana.
Lao tsu: The Tao.
Wittgenstein: Language Games, Picture-Theory.
Ricoeur: Narrative Identity.
Mill: Liberty, Utility, Harm.
James: Pragmatism.
Levinas: The Face, The Other.
Derrida: Deconstructionism.
Jean-Paul Sartre: Bad Conscience and Authenticity.
Simone de Beauvoir: Ambiguity.
Voltaire: Satire.
Cummings: Feeling-as-Authenticity.
Socrates: Techné and Dialectic.
Darwin: Natural Selection.
Bergson: Creative Evolution, √Član Vital.
Foucault: Knowledge/Power.
Leibniz: Monads, Best Possible Worlds.

Every one of these redistributes degrees of emphasis and attention to answer different questions or, often, the same questions in different ways. Each one erects a sort of architecture of logic and sense and metaphor and intuition. 

Furthermore, there seems ample room to argue that concepts are very much products of varying socio-linguistic communities and historicities (forgive me for using concepts to deconstruct concepts).

For instance, the nature of French when spoken vs when written offers an insight into trends in the thought of modern French philosophers. 
Anyone who has dabbled on the surface of French notices discrepancies in how words are written and how they are spoken. 
It is a very fluid language which often possesses words whose letters are consistently silent. When seen in the written from a French speaker can more easily discern meanings though in the spoken form it would appear that context is incessantly necessary. If this is an acceptable premise then it would appear natural that linguistic movements such as Structuralism (that words earn their meaning based on the presence of the words surrounding them (ie the lexical context)) and the reactionary movement of Deconstructionism (that if words always differ in just such a way but also defer to other words in order to locate their origin and definition then meaning becomes an amorphous enigma which always seems to escape confiscation) would arise in France and flourish there. 

That last (above) paragraph is complete speculation because I don't actually speak French. Mostly I was basing it off of a mild exposure to the language + the influence of the Derridean concept of "defferance". A word which when spoken is indistinguishable from the word "difference" (so as to hint at one of his points: of a failed attempt of past thinkers to idolize and privilege speaking over writing), which, however, carries the additional weight of the notion that words not only differ but defer—endlessly—and thus definitive certitude is always.. just out of reach. 

# just some thoughts #

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