Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Davidson and Gadamer


Recently a few friends stopped by to discuss Davidson, and Clark brought up Derrida's criticism of Gadamer, which he thought might be similar to Dummett's criticism of Davidson (i.e., as committed to something unpleasant or other, I didn't really get it). We ended up talking past each other – I don't get Derrida at all – but I did want to say a few things about the comparison on the one end between Davidson and Gadamer.

I imagine that some of our trouble came from the fact, as I did mention in that discussion, that Derrida's criticism is directed at Gadamer, not Davidson, so it's not really appropriate to speak Davidsonian in response, as I was doing. The similarities between the two are undeniable, but of course that doesn't make the two positions identical. In his article in Gadamer's Century, McDowell defends the two against charges of relativism, of which he takes them both to be innocent for pretty much the same reasons, and so in that context it's easy to elide the differences and just regard Gadamer as one of the good guys. I shouldn't do that.

But as Clark was describing it, Derrida's charge seems not to be one of relativism, but instead of dogmatism. Where we assume that communication is successful (such that our task is to explain how such a thing is possible), it may yet be that there is instead a "radical rupture" of some (necessarily) mysterious kind. This claim sounds to me like the ontological cum semantic equivalent of Cartesian radical epistemological doubt: offended by our seeming complacency concerning the apparent smoothness of typical conversation, the skeptical soixante-huitard imp hops in with dire warnings of ruptures and fissures and cracks, oh my!

Naturally Davidson comes in for a version of these charges as well (if not from Dummett; cf. Stroud and C. McGinn, who reject, on Cartesian grounds, the anti-skeptical consequences of Davidson's account of interpretation and belief), but Gadamer's case is a bit different. From Habermas, as one might expect, the charge against Gadamer took a characteristic form: if our conception of an objective world is limited by our cultural/linguistic horizons, then we won't have the detachment necessary to perform Critique. We dogmatically assume the world is as we have traditionally construed it, and even when we open our horizons up to achieve Horizontverschmelzung (I love that word) with the Other, we still don't acknowledge the absolute otherness of the objective world: now we both "could be wrong" about it. (Or something like that; I can go look.) Incidentally, people have been known to say the same thing about Wittgenstein, or at least "Winchgenstein."

But now two things occur to me about that. First, that accusation does indeed sound like Stroud's criticism of Davidson. And second, this criticism is pretty similar to that directed at Gadamer's supposed relativism (think, for example, of the various definitions – that is, by opponents – of "historicism"): Gadamer is held to claim that our beliefs are culturally determined (dogmatism), so the denizens of the various cultures never reach out to an objective world, rendering them equal in their futility (relativism). This makes sense, in that that Janus-faced flaw is absent from Davidson and (as I've been able to read him so far) Gadamer as well, and telling the proper story about interpretation can bring both of these things out at the same time (as in McDowell's article). I mean, seriously, if Gadamer were really interested simply in retreating from realism to relativism, Truth and Method wouldn't need to be 600 pages long. The tough part is drawing the proper consequences from a) the linguistic structure of cultural tradition and b) the plurality of same in a single objective world. The optimistic thought of Davidsonian Gadamerians is that T & M contains a helpful post-Heideggerian analogue to Davidson's rejection of the scheme-content dualism. But I haven't even read it, so I wouldn't know. (Maybe Malpas's article in Gadamer's Century can tell us.)

Still, if Derrida's criticism were similar to Habermas's, then maybe Gadamer would have said so (and thus not respond, as Daniel paraphrases him in comments, with "Huh?"). But I've never read that exchange, as I've heard before that it was a total train wreck.

23 comments:

Clark Goble said...

I've read some suggesting some similarities between Habermas and Derrida on that point. I confess I don't really see it myself.

Daniel Lindquist said...

The exact Gadamer quote I was thinking of is this one: "Mr. Derrida's questions prove irrefutably that my remarks on text and interpretation, to the extent they had Derrida's well-known position in mind, did not accomplish their objective. I am finding it difficult to understand these questions that have been addressed to me." One of these questions was the one Clark quotes about the "good will to power".

I haven't read the exchange either; I take the quotation from Richard Bernstein, "The Conversation That Never Happened", Review of Metaphysics 61.3 March 2008. I should probably go back and finish that article; I gave up on it somewhere in the first long Derrida bit.

Duck said...

Well, at least he refers to "Derrida's well-known position," so he's not completely in the dark (as "Huh?" might suggest). What do you think he was referring to?

Clark Goble said...

As I note, I'm going to try and get at what I take to be Derrida's point about "good will to power" in my next post at my blog. I'd put up this morning a post taking one basis for Derrida's notion of eruption as the basis of communication (as opposed to Davidson's particular form of causal relation). I take it in terms of Heidegger's notion of comportment.

Daniel Lindquist said...

"What do you think he was referring to?"

The way the Gadamer-Derrida encounter went was that Gadamer gave a lecture on Derrida & hermeneutics, and then Derrida responded the next day by giving a short lecture in which he asked three questions of Gadamer. Gadamer couldn't make sense of them, and things just kind of puttered out uneventfully.

So he's not "completely in the dark"; both Derrida and Gadamer were well-acquainted with the other's work. It's just that they had a serious problem debating one another.

(I finished Bernstein's article last night; it's good. Bernstein ends up praising both of them to the heavens, claiming they each draw attention to important parts of the hermeneutical process. Though I have trouble seeing how his reading of Derrida actually fits the passages he quotes; his Derrida sounds a lot more reasonable than the fellow he's citing.)

kvond said...

duckrabbit: "it may yet be that there is instead a "radical rupture" of some (necessarily) mysterious kind. This claim sounds to me like the ontological cum semantic equivalent of Cartesian radical epistemological doubt: offended by our seeming complacency concerning the apparent smoothness of typical conversation, the skeptical soixante-huitard imp hops in with dire warnings of ruptures and fissures and cracks, oh my!"

One wonders why "ruptures and fissures and cracks" have to be necessarily of the disastrous kind. (Do errors in replication prove necessarily foul in DNA?) Are not, and is not, Derrida's point that fissures are irruptive of creative force? That mistakes and mis-mappings can be productive? Yes, along with Davidson we can theorize that my predictions are governed by a ballast of successful prediction, but too, there is a counter-weight of the play of a successful mis-understanding, the way that possibilities of discovering "what one meant" (even what you yourself meant), are what is endemic to rupturing meanings.

To offer an example from the aforementioned. When Descartes spoke of the centrality of Hyperbolic Doubt, did he in any way have in mind (mean?) the Hyperbolic lenses he was attempting to devise? (Is this conflation a malapropism of sorts, an accidental blurring of argumentative clarity, which should have chosen another word?) This is a rupture in meaning, one that brings down, and at the same time fortifies from another perspective, what the Cartesian project was.

Indeed, not only are successes, but I believe Derrida's point is, so are failures, in their very failure nature (an inclusion of what seems should be marginal).

"Lions, and Tigers and Bears" have purposes too.


kvond
http://kvond.wordpress.com/

Duck said...

Are not, and is not, Derrida's point that fissures are irruptive of creative force? That mistakes and mis-mappings can be productive?

Maybe that is his point (let's be charitable). And maybe that's even true (I don't see any reason why they couldn't be, in some sense). But it would take a serious misreading of Davidson to think that that posed any serious threat to his project (on my not entirely faithful reading). (Gadamer too, I bet, but I'm less sure there.) Thus my comparison to skeptical alarms.

But maybe such a misreading is itself irruptive of creative force! If so, create away.

musicalcolin said...

Before reading all the comments:

I have read the exchange, though it was a while ago and unfortunately my copy of it is in storage pending a major move. It's in Dialogue and Deconstruction and consists of a long opening salvo by Gadamer in which he attempts to trace the break between him and Derrida to their interpretations of Nietzsche, then a brief and somewhat confused response by Derrida in which he accuses Gadamer of a good will to power; finally Gadamer replies in essence throwing up is hands. (Much as Daniel said)

I tend to think that any real communication between Derrida and Gadamer was impossible primary for philosophical reasons. If hermeneutics is all about interpretation and fusing horizons a certain good will may in fact be necessary. In the ideal hermeneutic encounter both parties are understood sympathetically and a genuine dialogue ensues. Obviously deconstruction is always gesturing towards breakdowns and aporias in a text. Clearly this has the implication that not only is a real hermeneutic encounter impossible, but any attempt will most likely create more miscommunications not less.

How much of Derrida's critique applies to Davidson I have no idea. Though I do tend to think, based solely on "On the very idea of a conception scheme", that Davidson might share with Gadamer a certain optimism (for lack of a better word) w/r/t/ the actual possibility of communication.

Duck said...

I'd like to hear about Gadamer's Nietzsche. I'll bet it's not mine, but it might be close if (like Cox) he focuses on the interplay between hermeneutics and perspectivism and still ends up somewhere near Davidson.

In the ideal hermeneutic encounter both parties are understood sympathetically and a genuine dialogue ensues.

Well, this certainly sounds like something that Habermas couldn't possibly be objecting to in Gadamer, so in this sense at least Clark is right to see a difference between the two critiques. Still, realists (if we may use that word for Habermas) and skeptics do have common cause in cases where the supposed threat is one of relativism or idealism. FWIW.

I'm not sure what skeptics about communication think communication is, that we may so easily doubt that it occurs (that is, that it is the default case). It's not the magically total and transparent availability to one of another's mind. It's when you have some idea what (i.e. in the world) they're talking about, such that you have some idea whether or not you agree with them (or can do what they ask, or whatever). Set the conceptual bar too high, and voilĂ , "breakdowns and aporia." Just like epistemological skepticism.

musicalcolin said...

I took a seminar on this stuff last spring, which is a little fuzzy now, but I think that Habermas' point (given, I think, in his review of Truth and Method) is that Gadamer is stuck with fusing horizons. Habermas generally views Gadamer's project positively, but he sees a need for something more than hermeneutics. This is all intimately wound up in his complex theorie, but I think the idea is that some sort of transcendental ideal to strive for or something. Whatever. I can't see how Derrida and Habermas would have the same critiques of Gadamer. I would tend to think that they are coming from different directions.

I understand Derrida's critique to be something about the totalizing power of interpretation. That is, interpretations may succeed, but in that very success may also be an imposition. I think of it as being something like Levinas' view of the being as always wanting to collapse the other into the self. I guess at this point it wouldn't so much be a miscommunication but a violent rupture.

Duck said...

I think that Habermas' point (given, I think, in his review of Truth and Method) is that Gadamer is stuck with fusing horizons. Habermas generally views Gadamer's project positively, but he sees a need for something more than hermeneutics. This is all intimately wound up in his complex theorie, but I think the idea is that some sort of transcendental ideal to strive for or something.

Well, it seems to me that being "stuck" with the Davidsonian analogue to "fusing horizons" is hardly anything to worry about, seeing as it necessarily involves just the thing Habermas thinks is missing from Gadamer's version: epistemic (and semantic and metaphysical) contact with an objective world. What Gadamer's Davidsonian supporters think is that Habermas misses this in Gadamer because he (still, despite some moves toward the light) thinks of it in terms of, as you put it, a "transcendental ideal" rather than intersubjectively constituted knowledge of the plain ol' truth. As I recall, what he basically says is "so we've achieved consensus, and now we agree with each other, but does that mean we're right?", which is pretty much what he says to Rorty too. Now on most days Rorty was vulnerable to such criticism, making that exchange a wash; and maybe the same is true of Gadamer. But I haven't yet been convinced of that.

kvond said...

duck: "I'm not sure what skeptics about communication think communication is, that we may so easily doubt that it occurs (that is, that it is the default case). It's not the magically total and transparent availability to one of another's mind. It's when you have some idea what (i.e. in the world) they're talking about, such that you have some idea whether or not you agree with them (or can do what they ask, or whatever). Set the conceptual bar too high, and voilĂ , "breakdowns and aporia." Just like epistemological skepticism."

I agree with Musicalcolin, when she/he says,

" understand Derrida's critique to be something about the totalizing power of interpretation. That is, interpretations may succeed, but in that very success may also be an imposition."

"Those Skeptics" are not perverse deniers of the capacity to communicate, rather they are the critics of reified communication (the capacity itself) as it comes to be dogmatically passed down in social forms. Wittgenstein's playful Language Gamees can become a bit more Kafkaesque in courtrooms. What is at stake here though, in the transparency of minds question, is that if indeed the process can be anchored in some particular, fixed discriminating way, one may be able to "see into" someone else's mind, and categorically determine that they are not "making sense", or, in a more Davidsonian way, that the sense that they make is based on having "bad beliefs" (apparent to everyone). The Skeptics want to say, there is no vantage point from which "sense" can be divorced from structures of power. Such structures, and their discourses, rest upon an essential capacity to make minds transparent. All the good stuff, the transparency that helps us connect, plays right into the mechanisms of defining what is sense and what is not. And any definitive way that "transparency" is achieved, becomes a mechanism of control. (It is for this reason, of course, that Descartes' invented his radical doubt, to unhinge himself from social forms of power, in project of attempting to look straight into the ration divine.) Skeptics, like Derrida, are not interested in simply throwing wrench-doubt for doubt's sake into a supposedly well-oiled and beneficent machine (communication): Hey, can't you see how well this stuff works! Rather, they are bent on undercutting the bonds of meaning, at a radical level, so as to open up a space for counter discourse, speaking ever out from the shadow of meaning, from the periphery.

For Derridists and their sort, the issue of miscommuniation it is not just as duck says, a product of setting the "conceptual bar too high", a kind of "we are just asking too much for communication in the first place". It is more gaining a space for critiquing occasions where the bar doesn't seem high at all, where we seem to see unproblematically (but thoroughly culturally invested) into the minds of others, and come to know "just what they are thinking".


kvond

Clark Goble said...

I think that discussing Derrida in terms of the totalizing power of interpretation is correct. I think one has to ask why that is. That was why I'd raised the issue of ready-at-handedness and the hiddenness of some objects as we use them until they malfunction (in terms of their ready-at-hand use). In one sense this is just the traditional Heideggarian distinction between ready-at-hand and present-at-hand.

Yet I think Derrida (and I believe this can be found in Heidegger - especially the latter Heidegger's notions of thingness) goes further. This can be seen as a kind of perspectivism where what is causally linked aren't the things themselves but the things as revealed. (Somewhat similar to Kant's distinction) However Derrida definitely takes this as an ontological fact and not merely a problem of interpretation on our end. That is the things as revealed are ontologically unstable.

If they are unstable then the causal relations will change as the things change their revelation. Davidson requires a stable causal relation. But the only way to achieve this is to impose a will upon the object to force stabilization. It is in effect the technologization of things since one is imposing on things their role in a technological endeavor. It is in that sense will to power.

(I'd hoped to have a more comprehensive answer along those lines at my blog this weekend but I just didn't have time. I'll write something up a bit more coherent there tonight or tomorrow.)

Clark Goble said...

To add, I think the very notion of a thing-in-itself is ridiculous. However I do think we have to talk abut thing-as-unveiled versus its hiddenness which is not the same thing. Gadamer tries to get at that with his famous example of referring to a pen not just as I've thought about it or any one else has thought about it but as a pen. I don't think that quite goes far enough though which is where Derrida comes in.

Now one can deny this affects Davidson's causal theory of meaning and communication. But I admit to not seeing how Davidson can avoid it.

Daniel Lindquist said...

"This can be seen as a kind of perspectivism where what is causally linked aren't the things themselves but the things as revealed. (Somewhat similar to Kant's distinction)"

If I've kept my middle name a secret from you, I can reveal it by telling you it's "Mark". If I've hidden a dozen roses behind my back, I can reveal them by putting them into view. In general, if something is hidden, then it can be revealed by bringing it into view. Whence then this opposition between "things themselves" and "revealed things"? If I reveal my hidden name or the hidden roses, what is the name, or where are the roses, which are "in themselves" my name, or "in themselves" roses?

(This goes for Kant, too -- I don't think he opposes "things themselves" to appearances. The "noumenon in a positive sense" plays no role in his theoretical philosophy; what is known is the phenomenal object, which is in itself phenomenal -- spatiotemporal.)

Now, certain causal relations will only be recognizable as obtaining under certain descriptions: "Oswald killed Kennedy" can be recognized as true in cases where "A radar operator killed someone who kept a coconut on his desk" is not immediately so recognized, though a little research shows that the first can be true only where the latter is also. But the truth of the causal relations is not relative to our ability to recognize them; regardless of what causal relations are held to hold, some hold and some do not. So in the sense in which causal relations are limited by descriptions, this applies only to the manner in which we recognize them, not as they are in themselves. For the relations remain the relations they are no matter how the related events are described. A causal relation which we can't recognize "on sight" (but which requires our redescribing of some number of events to recognize) is still a causal relation on all fours with every other.

So, I don't see how a "causal perspectivalism" can possibly be other than confused. It seems to confuse causal relations with our perceptions of causal relations. Only the latter is variant under different descriptions.

"If they are unstable then the causal relations will change as the things change their revelation."

"Revelation" here seems to be something like a decision -- a change in "revelation" is a change of mind on the part of the object as to what it will be. Surely this is a silly metaphor. If our ability to apprehend a thing changes, this doesn't mean our previous apprehensions of the thing become false. Perceptual shifts need not be real shifts in the object.

"Davidson requires a stable causal relation. But the only way to achieve this is to impose a will upon the object to force stabilization."

How is this even supposed to work? I can impose my will on a piece of cheese by eating it; I can impose my will on a tree by chopping it down; I can impose my will on a man by dropping in unannounced. But how do I impose my will on a I-don't-even-know-what-you-call-it? Note that I can force myself on the cheese, the tree, and the man in part because of their causal dispositions; if cheese was not edible, I could not eat it. If cheese was neither edible nor non-edible, I could neither eat it nor not.

"It is in effect the technologization of things since one is imposing on things their role in a technological endeavor. "

I don't think this is a correct reading of Heidegger on technology; it makes him sound like some sort of idealist, as if there was some "true being" to things which technologization suppressed. The enframing of beings in technologization is a way of being related to the beings as they are in themselves; it is a way of their being disclosed. The Rhine really is something you can put a hydroelectric dam on. It's not an imposition on the Rhine to find it disclosed in this way; Being really does disclose itself as standing-reserve in technology. Heidegger thinks that technological thinking is often (falsely) considered to simply be thinking simpliciter, and this is the danger of it; but in no way is technology a "falsification" of how Being "really is".

"Gadamer tries to get at that with his famous example of referring to a pen not just as I've thought about it or any one else has thought about it but as a pen."

But if I refer to a pen as a pen, then I refer to it as what I think of as "a pen". I can abstract from what I take to be peculiarly my own notions about the pen, and in this way think of it as "a pen in general", but I cannot abstract away from my thoughts in general. To do so would be simply to abandon the only position from which objects can show up for us at all. It is to lose the object, to cease to operate with intentionality of any sort.

"Now one can deny this affects Davidson's causal theory of meaning and communication. But I admit to not seeing how Davidson can avoid it."

"It not being true" would be a good way to avoid it.

Clark Goble said...

Dan, the short answer is that there is a difference between perspecitivism due to something being present but unseen and the more ontological conception of perspective wherein these are not present in an ontological sense.

One can, of course, simply reject ontological perspectivism. But I think there's a big difference between the two.

It'd of course debatable whether Nietzsche should actually be taken as an ontological perspectivist. As I read the main American intepreters they would say it should not moving Nietzsche closer to the positivists.

Clark Goble said...

As to the technological will the idea isn't that one is controlling the thing itself (which is impossible) but rather that one is doing violence to the thing.

Put in more pragmatic terms the representation one creates isn't accurate or fair but is distorting. So by way of analogy just as I can create false representations of you so as to control how others relate to you I think Derrida is arguing this is happening as a general point.

The key debate of course is in the distinction between representation and reference. But that's the very construction that Derrida attempts to undermine.

Daniel Lindquist said...

"One can, of course, simply reject ontological perspectivism."

I don't see that one can do this, because I don't see that any clear sense has been given to the string. For I don't see that "present in an ontological sense" is intelligible; I understand what it is for something to be present, but I don't understand what this odd species of the genus, "in-an-ontological-sense", is supposed to be. Things can be present-at-hand, present-to-hand, present-as-perceived, present-though-overlooked, present-though-indiscernible -- but what is this "present in an ontological sense"? How can something be present "ontologically"? Is this some peculiar new way to relate to an object, or a name for the genus? If the latter, it seems false that it doesn't simply operate as the various species of presence do, vis-a-vis perspective; in the former, then it seems that it may simply be irrelevant, in that our relations to objects can be discussed in terms of the ordinary sorts of "presence", with no need for whatever this new sort of "ontological" presence-relation was supposed to be mentioning.

"As to the technological will the idea isn't that one is controlling the thing itself (which is impossible) but rather that one is doing violence to the thing."

Again, I think this misreads Heidegger. It makes technology appear to be something that falsifies Being, when it is actually a way in which entities disclose themselves. In which entities disclose themselves, not in which we create entities, or put representations before ourselves, or bring entities in front of our faces. I cannot do violence to a thing simply by it disclosing itself to me as standing-reserve, for in its disclosing itself thus I do not act upon it; I am not what discloses, but what is disclosed to. Being gives itself. And so I think the analogy with lying ("creating false representations") falls flat. I can lie about the world; the world can't lie.

"I think Derrida is arguing this is happening as a general point."

This would seem to lead to Derrida claiming that the majority of our beliefs are false -- are the result of distorting "representations" which block us from the (aporetic? unknowable?) truth. Which seems to fall prey to familiar Davidsonian strictures: If most of our beliefs are unrelated to their purported objects, then we lose the grounds we had for claiming they were about those objects (or that they were beliefs at all).

"The key debate of course is in the distinction between representation and reference."

I don't see that this can possibly be a debate Davidson is participating in, seeing as how he explicitly denies that either representations or reference play a role in the mental, except in an entirely derivative sense. Nothing is "present to the mind" like a representation is supposed to be, and reference is inscrutable.

Clark Goble said...

Daniel, I confess I don't see the problem with the more ontological conception of perspectivism. All the examples you give are considered from the perspective of the knower and are tied to their uses and awareness but all presuppose this is in the knower and not the thing. To give sense to the term merely invert this relationship. Of course one can't understand that purely in terms of the knowing subject. But isn't that the whole point?

As I said, I think one can reject the view as wrong. But I have a hard time seeing how one can reject it as non-sensical.

As to whether this is a misreading of Heidegger I'd simply note that much of this is Derrida's Levinasian influence. And you can of course see much of this in Levinas' critique of Heidegger. There is, as you know, a debate about how much of Levinas' critique is fair. But that in turn depends upon how one reads Heidegger. There are readings of Heidegger where Heidegger already adopts many of the positions of Levinas.

As to your other point. I don't think I'm indicating technology falsifies Being. Which seems an odd thing to say. But surely the technological presentation stops the things from being unveiled in other ways. In a sense it is a refusal to clear the clearing to use an other of Heidegger's metaphors.

But certainly any presentation is of Being.

This would seem to lead to Derrida claiming that the majority of our beliefs are false -

I'm not sure false is the correct word. To say that implies a theory of truth I'm not sure Derrida would agree with. (Once again I think you're trying to translate Derrida into your own scheme and that just won't work since it is the scheme itself he is critiquing)

Let us say that they are incomplete and always a matter of too much and too little. Whether one wants to call that "false" is an other issue. If one does then, yes, everything is false. (Thus the move towards making use of some of the rhetoric of negative theology - although I'm not sure that Anselmian like move ends up being that helpful)

Clark Goble said...

I don't see that this can possibly be a debate Davidson is participating in, seeing as how he explicitly denies that either representations or reference play a role in the mental, except in an entirely derivative sense. Nothing is "present to the mind" like a representation is supposed to be, and reference is inscrutable.

Yes, it is in a derivative sense. But I don't think that avoids the problem.

Daniel Lindquist said...

"All the examples you give are considered from the perspective of the knower and are tied to their uses and awareness but all presuppose this is in the knower and not the thing. To give sense to the term merely invert this relationship."

I don't think this is intelligible. I know what it is to see an object from a perspective (and I know no other way of seeing); I don't know what it would be to see (in some other way) an object-with-a-perspective (whatever that would mean).

I am reminded of Wittgenstein's joke: You know what it is for it to be five PM, and you know what it is to be on the surface of the sun, so surely you know what it is for it to be five PM on the surface of the sun?

"But surely the technological presentation stops the things from being unveiled in other ways. In a sense it is a refusal to clear the clearing to use an other of Heidegger's metaphors."

The making-present-as-standing-reserve of technology in no way prevents other unveilings of Being. Nor does Heidegger suggest we "clear the clearing"; to overcome technology we are to await the "saving power" which is in "the danger" of technologized Being itself. "But where danger grows, is/ The saving power also..." As Heidegger says in "The Question Concerning Technology", "We look into the danger and see the growth of the saving power." If all Being is given up in standing-reserve, this is our fault, not technology's. If the little sheep of Being goes lost, it is because the "Shepherd of Being" has not kept her from the wolves.

"The Clearing" is also never "cleared"; it is the stage on which Being is given. A "cleared Clearing" would be mere emptiness, not a Clearing. And in technologization Being is given; it is given as standing-reserve. The danger of technology is not that the world may be lost, but that humanity might be "swallowed up in standing-reserve"; we might lose our capacity to be the communal creatures we are. (That this genuine loss of the capacity for sociality is not a real possibility is, I take it, a glimmering of the "saving power". Though the "technological" approach to humanity which (sometimes) makes of (some) other men tools, which is a real possibility, is surely horror enough.)

For further comments, see both responses to your blog-posts. (This line is more for Duck than anyone else, I think.)

Clark Goble said...

I don't think this is intelligible. I know what it is to see an object from a perspective (and I know no other way of seeing); I don't know what it would be to see (in some other way) an object-with-a-perspective (whatever that would mean).

The only difference is in what is generating the perspective: the subject or the object.

I'll probably drop it until I can get to my Peircean discussion. I'd just say that there is an assumption here of a stable ontic existence that I'm not sure I buy. But I can see how someone committed to that view would have trouble wrapping their mind around the alternative.

The making-present-as-standing-reserve of technology in no way prevents other unveilings of Being.

Which is precisely the point.

More on the clearing later.

kvond said...

c.g.: "Daniel, I confess I don't see the problem with the more ontological conception of perspectivism. All the examples you give are considered from the perspective of the knower and are tied to their uses and awareness but all presuppose this is in the knower and not the thing. To give sense to the term merely invert this relationship. Of course one can't understand that purely in terms of the knowing subject. But isn't that the whole point?"

Davidson too has his remnants of ontological perspectivism, as they appear in his assumptions within a triangulation of knowledges. Here they are not defiant of Sense, rather they are grounding:

"For until the triangle is completed connecting two creatures, and each creature with common features of the world, there can be no answer to the question whether a creature, in discriminating between stimuli, is discriminating between stimuli at the sensor surface, or somewhere further out, or further in"

"Three Varieties of Knowledge"

Now take this view and place it in context of Nietzsche's fundamental philological observation that "intelligence" or "intellect" is largely a textual metaphor, given that it comes from the Latin "intellego", "inter" (in the midst) and "lego" (to read, to pick up, to gather). This is the epistemic fulcrum upon which much of the post-Nietzschean tradition leverages itself. Intellect is a kind of picking out, an interpretation:

“What is a word? It is a copy in sound of a nerve stimulus”and,“To begin with, a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image: first metaphor. The image, in turn, is imitated in a sound: second metaphor.”

from “On Truth and Lies in an Extramoral Sense”

Certain features come to the fore, others fall back into obscurity. And valuation is the guiding hand of what rises up, and what falls back. Thus Nietzsche's stimulus to image to word is none other than Davidson's triangulated stimulus, conditioned to a wider social field. (Davidson understands that the locus of force is communal, not having a fear of the herd.)

So Davidson's "common features of the world" indeed presupposes a stability, and in this stability a common cause affecting two or more creatures, but the fundamental picking out of all the possible commonalities which reside in the world is still found as an interpretation in the Nietzschean text-reading sense. The interpretation is experienced as cohesive explanation of the causal forces of the world acting on our beliefs, but the beliefs themselves are a product of our shared valuations, within the restraints of causal efficacy. Both thinkers see our beliefs as fictions, that is, they are linguistic figurations of non-linguitic events. The difference is that Nietzsche and his followers like to call this fiction "a lie" (its constructed aspect is often hidden from us as repressed) and Davidson wants to call it "true" or the basis of truth (its efficacy determines the very possibility of objective agreement).

But in the Davidson model, the commonality of cause is as much a hypothesis (in the roughest of senses) as are the beliefs that other linguistic creatures must have. The matrix of intersubjective beliefs interprets and "imposes" a reading of the world in Davidson just as much as in Derrida. It is only that in the one the successes are made the standard of what is good and beneficial, and in the other, the dangers of agreement are brought out by suggesting that investments in power structures govern many of our ontological shadings. In either case a perspective is being taken, and in fact necessarily taken.

A human being:

1. A collection of atomic particles: neutron bomb designer.
2. A carrier of genetic material: Darwinian Biologist
3. A social actor with choice: An economist.
4. A transmitter of Ideology: A political activist.
5. An inheritor of Original Sin: A Catholic Priest.
6. A citizen: A civil rights attorney.
7. An operative mass of muscles, bones and ligaments: A physical therapist.
8. An interpreter of the world: A philosopher.

One could not say that any list of these, no matter how long, could exhaust what role a particular human being could causally play in a theory about the world and our social organization in it.

When you say, "I'd just say that there is an assumption here of a stable ontic existence that I'm not sure I buy."

The stable ontic existence does not in any way undermine the fundamentally interpretive understanding of picked-out features of the world, as long as it is not a Realism which makes sentences true. A stable ontic commonality can be assumed and the criticism of any one measure can still be brought to bear because the values which govern the interpretation are still under review, and revisable. New commonalities taken to be causal can be found for new vectors of triangulating agreement, and past causal transparencies can be shown to be driven by values and investements to which a community or a person objects.