In the coming month I will be placing a text on this blog in an extra slot – outside the series, so to speak – that will deal with the works of the exceptional artist Detlef Günther. For me, these works set a truth, an exceptional truth in motion, which, if I were to center it in a single sentence, I would characterize as follows:

All art is human. And that is exactly what it is about.

One can doubt that and say that art points beyond the human, at least beyond the purely human. But then you only claim a triviality. Because to be human is to be beyond yourself. Also in Land Art, in Arte Povera, in Process Art, etc. The whole staleness of post-, meta- or transhumanism becomes clear in the face of such a triviality, such a „poor“ truth.

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I was wondering if I might delete my last blog post. It doesn’t seem to be tenable to me. What I write in it: about science, which does not exist in its generality, totum pro parte, is for the most part – I apologize for it – nonsense, pure blabla.

So I should delete the post. Or maybe not? Maybe it makes more sense – quite apart from the fact that it’s more honest – to leave it there. Because one’s own mistakes are often the ones that – à propos philosophy – allow one to look deepest and through which one learns the most.

I have written about disappointments / disillusions and what they mean. And I said: we are all too fond of deceiving ourselves; we rarely want to face the truth. So we’re dis­ap­poin­ted when we’re surprised by the truth, and then we cheat ourselves.

Just as it happened to me the other day, when I wanted to write about it: Instead of the truth I wrote nonsense, blabla – which doesn’t mean to have written the untruth, but some­thing that comes close to the truth, to another truth, but, of course, in a weird way.

So do I really have to reckon with the possibility of writing nonsense or even blabla in my own thinking? And to reckon with letting it stand for fear of disappointment / dis­illu­sion­­ment, for fear of having nothing to say?

Yes, I must reckon with that. Even if nonsense or blabla are certainly not the fine words that meanwhile belong to the canon of bourgeois education.

But fine words are not meant to be. For I am not knitting here elaborately turned treatises, but philosophical notes that are intended to clarify a process of thinking that does not stop at disappointments / disillusions.

In other words, I am not concerned here with a loving contact with myself or my own thin­king. Such an approach would be embarrassing for me. It would only lead to a false con­si­de­ra­tion, to a weak thinking, which actually does not look the truth in the face.

Finally – I would like to stress this once again (cf. my blog post of 28.7.13) – nobody simply has any duty against himself; he imposes it on himself or not.

But every human being has a fundamental duty – and from it duties – against others: to re­spect their freedom. This is the asymmetry in the relationship between me and others that no theory of so-called intersubjectivity can ever eliminate, precisely for the sake of in­ter­sub­jec­ti­vi­ty.

By the way: It is always a certain nonsense from which one works oneself out, it is always a certain nonsense that one recognizes and negates as such, and it is always a certain blabla that one opposes with a less naive speaking and writing. Ultimately, thinking is always what it has become what it is. It is the trace of itself.

Self-disappointment? Yes. For even in disappointment deception is still possible, one’s own narcissism gives one a leg. Precisely for this reason, caution against deception and all the nonsense it entails cannot be great enough, especially in relation to oneself. At least I hope so, for my readers.

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Why „disappointment / disillusionment“? What does „disappointment / disillusionment“ mean?

I say: we are all too fond of deceiving ourselves; we rarely want to look the truth in the face. Especially if it is a negativistic truth: that we do not really know what is true and real (in itself), but also not what is good and meaningful (for us).

Precisely because we do not know (or only think we know) whether philosophy is a sci­ence. But we like to be mistaken about that and are disappointed when it is not true that we know it: when our knowledge does not prove itself, when it does not pass the test of time.

But why not? Why do we not know what is true and real, what is good and meaningful?

First, we do not know it because we are finite and thus historical beings, i.e. the truth itself is always a finite and a historical one.

So we would have to be able to stop the process of the continuous on-one-end approach, of this series of events, which is history, in order to be able to say once – not even once and for all – what is true and real, good and meaningful.

Secondly, we don’t know it because we are individual and thus intersubjective beings, i.e. the truth is always also an individual and intersubjective one.

This means that the process of the continuous on-one-end approach is a multiple, plural process: everything and everyone is approaching its end here, the individual in his com­mu­ni­ty / his society, the society / the community with its individuals.

There is no stopping, but always something new, no pausing, but always new challenges, against which the old truths, what used to be meaningful and good, fade.

But, one might ask, isn’t science, precisely then, the only and only reasonable answer?

Far from it. For as it turns out, in the end every science disintegrates into a multitude of sciences, which all produce their own truths, which at a certain point – a point of no return – no longer communicate with each other, are no longer compatible with each other.

It begins with the soft sciences: with pedagogy and political sciences, social and cultural sciences, history, ethnology, etc., which disintegrate into schools and doctrines and are at best still held together by fashions and mainstreams, so-called turns: the linguistic turn, the cultural turn, the iconic turn, the body turn, the communicative turn, etc. (see here for an unironic description of a scientific description of such turns).

Then, at some point, the hard sciences will also be seized. Just think of the inextricable con­tra­dic­ti­ons in physics about space and time, matter and energy, or of the so-called neu­ro­sci­en­ces, which can no longer get a foot on the earth at all and which we, the phi­lo­so­phers, have in our ears with „insights“ – they are only speculations – which have to be re­vised every two / three years.

Meanwhile I am almost ashamed to have taken part in such debates myself (fortunately only with inferior contributions; see my bibliography No. 30 and No. 46).

Everybody goes there, keeps his own little machine running and hopes to become part of a scientific community, pressure group or lobby to be able to help shape a small one.

What about what? Nobody knows that. Millions and millions of dollars and euros have been and are burned in this way – because it goes on and on – , dollars and euros, which could have been used much more sensibly in many places.

In other words, science has become our favourite activity for not changing anything and for not being responsible for anything, really for nothing at all.

Because: The sciences can only describe what there is. They cannot – and do not want to – change anything about being, or if they wanted to change something – but they do not want to – they would no longer be sciences. That’s it.

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I can inform the readers of my blog this month that the first version, i.e. more precisely the typoscript of my book announced in December last year (cf. here) is finished. The book is entitled „Disappointing Thinking. Philosophical Sketches I“ (the numbering indicates that more volumes, at least two, will follow).

The book will contain a number of texts that I first presented to the public here in my blog years ago, but also a number of new texts that will be dedicated to the title-giving theme of „disappointment / disillusionment“.

What does the word „disappointment / disillusionment“ mean in a context that is not psy­cho­lo­gi­cal but philosophical? Philosophically, it means the ongoing process of questioning deceptions / illusions, i.e. that of dis-appointment / dis-illusionment.

In my understanding, however, such a process is not an anonymous one, not even an ob­jec­tive one. Its result may be objective, even if it is always uncertain, but it is not objective itself. It is always an individual and subjective process, carried by a subject struggling for it and in it.

Therefore, the disappointment it brings is not only philosophical in the narrower sense, but also psychological: Disappointing thinking is not only the thinking that uncovers il­lu­si­ons and in this sense disappoints, but also the thinking that suffers a disappointment and in this sense is disappointed.

Philosophical action and psychological suffering, philosophical action and psychological pas­sion – both are connected in the title „Disappointing Thinking“ and only together make up what I – in the broader sense – understand by „philosophy“.

For me, „philosophy“ is therefore committed not only to truth, but also to truthfulness, not only to cognitive experience in the objective sense, that is to say, to knowledge, but also to life experience in the subjective sense, that is to say, to certainty.

An important sentence, in which the principal arrangement of the book, but also the claim just explained in the term „philosophy“ becomes clear and which is also explicitly for­mu­la­ted in the book, is: „Philosophers who do not also speak of themselves are not“.

In this respect, in this philosophical book – and I attach importance to calling it that way – I do not speak only, but always also of myself. This may surprise you at first, since today „philosophy“ is more of a scientific discipline.

However, this understanding of philosophy as a scientific discipline is for me – I’ve made it clear again and again in this blog up to the point of overtaxing myself – an extreme shor­te­ning. In my opinion, this can neither be justified historically nor systematically.

Historically, it cannot be justified because philosophy has, since its beginnings in the so-called „pre-socratic“ philosophy, but especially in modernity with Descartes and Kant, Husserl and Heidegger, Foucault and Derrida, formulated and tried to assert a com­pre­hen­sive claim to knowledge, which can never be brought into full agreement with the spe­cialized claim to knowledge of the sciences, such as biology and physics, but also, for example, the historical sciences and ethnology.

And systematically the shortening of philosophy to a scientific discipline cannot be ju­sti­fied, because there is at least one conceptual pole at which science and philosophy must necessarily separate from each other: at which philosophers, e.g. in existential philosophy for existential philosophy or in ethics for ethics, can justifiably question and doubt the meaning of science.

For there is no scientific philosophy of existence, and there is also no scientific ethics. It is especially difficult for philosophers to understand the latter in our scientific age.

The publisher of my book has therefore recently suggested that I give the following title to the series of books I have planned: Critique of philosophy.

After some hesitation, I was not averse to accepting this proposal.

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Not much this month. Two quotes that made me think.

  • Sam Freeze, one of my followers (see https://en.gravatar.com/dilatedideas), writes about my last contribution in which I measured postmodernism against the promises of modernity: „Interesting take on postmodernism. I’m not sure postmodernism ever promised a fulfilled modernity though. As I’ve come to understand it, postmodernity didn’t promise (nor did modernity for that matter), it simply became. Things changed enough to be given a new name.“

That’s true. Postmodernism could simply be anything other than modernity. And it could have simply given up the promises of modernity. The idea, however, of simply giving up these promises or having already given them up – at least the most serious of them: uni­ver­sa­lism, for example, or human rights – this idea frightens me. So in my opinion, post­mo­der­nism should also be measured against the promises of modernity.

Every historical epoch must, to a certain extent at least, be measured against its pre­de­ces­sors (we simply have no other yardstick; Le Goff’s „history without epochs“ doesn‘t con­vince me at all). So postmodernism is either a new epoch, or it is not. If it cannot be mea­sured against modernity, it is not a new epoch either. If it can be measured against mo­der­ni­ty, it must put up with being perceived as a catastrophe.

This leads me to my second quote.

  • Paul Mason writes in Clear Bright Future (cf. https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/werdet-unregierbar): „The universal rights guaranteed by the UN treaty are being punished with lies in torture camps, refugee camps and commercial prisons. If you find this enduring, always remember that the postmodern left has paved the way for it in a 30-year campaign against universalism.“

I find that convincing. I have nothing against the left. I am one of the left too. But I have something against the postmodern left with all its relativism, which it would like us to see as pluralism, and against its tendency to deny, for the sake of maximum political freedom, the ethical freedom of the subject to such an extent that actions can be excused and justified that clearly fall behind the humanism of modernity.

This humanism can be seen as an ideology. There are enough indications that those who believe this humanism to be true are at the same time trampling it underfoot. But an ethi­cal truth – beyond the suspicion of ideology – does not become untruth because no one se­ri­ous­ly follows it. And I find it downright pathetic that the few people who seriously follow it are denigrated as „naive“ or „politically correct“.

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Sometimes people who perceive me as arrogant say to me: „What do you know? You are a privileged intellectual. You sit in your warm room and can make big speeches – about democracy, capitalism and neoliberalism. But you don’t know anything about the real existential pressure that most people face today – a pressure they rarely can withstand. Your hollow concepts don’t get there.“

It may be that my terms are hollow – perhaps in the ears of people who have nothing to do with philosophy, just as hollow as the terms of an Alain Badiou, a Slavoj Žižek or even – especially deterring – a Stefan Lorenz Sorgner. But if one thing is not correct, it is this: that I have no idea of the existential pressure to which many people are exposed today, that I know nothing about hard physical work and the fear of falling into financial ruin.

I’ve spent half my life doing hard, physical work. Already during my school years I had to get by with a job in a cleaning company, because I did not receive the slightest financial support from my parents. In turn, I could only finance my studies by regularly accepting jobs on construction sites, in factories on the assembly line or in print shops. And after my studies I finally worked for many years, from 1992 to 2003, at night in post delivery cen­tres in Berlin-Mitte (Möckernstraße) and Berlin-Schöneberg (Alboinstraße).

There, with wind and weather, it wasn’t exactly squeamish to go to. In an open hall – this was particularly hard in winter – we had to load trucks with tons of outgoing letters and parcels, which we had previously collected in individual containers, and at the end of our shift we had to unload the incoming letters and parcels from the trucks again in order to make them available to the sorting staff for further processing and transport. In short, I worked for eleven years as a kind of „warehouse clerk“: it was called a „postal worker“.

Still today I have friendly contact to one or the other with whom I worked at that time. Be­cause when you „work hard“ together for years, it welds you together. And you don’t forget such time, or at least I never forget it again. For it shaped me like no other – precisely be­cause it was the hardest time of my life and because it is still constitutive for it today that it cannot be transfigured in any nostalgic-romantic way.

So don’t tell me I don’t know anything about hard work. And please don’t come to me with the usual intellectual scolding. Anyone who has read my philosophical texts, read my blog or got to know me personally knows that my writing, however twisted and complex it may be occasionally, and my current teaching profession, however „normal“ and „civil“ it may seem, are and remain committed to those people who represent the physical and / or so­cial backbone of our society.

Nothing disappoints me as much as the insinuation that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I talk about capitalist exploitation, the difference between rich and poor, be­low and above, neoliberal disfigurement and / or degrading conditions of living in an al­leged „postmodernism“ that is perceived by many, but not by the many, as the most pro­gres­sive, because pluralistic age of all ages.

There is virtually nothing post-modern about the postmodernism we have today, at least not if we understand postmodernism to mean a state in which, firstly, a large part of the promises of modernity are fulfilled and, secondly, this fulfilment is not only reserved for a few, but – precisely – for the many. Philosophy – and this should not be forgotten – is a thor­ough­ly universal, not an elitist undertaking. It is about questions of humanity, not whether people in some remote part of the world have managed to build their own small paradise on the shoulders of others. Progress is universal, or it is not.

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I recently read an interview in a weekly newspaper (der Freitag, Nr. 6, 7.2.19) with the French filmmaker and author Virginie Despentes (cf. https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/sei-brav-sklave). Here is a short excerpt:

Q: „How can democratic and humanist values and the social market economy be saved?“

A: „As far as values are concerned, that is already fucked up. The refugee crisis in Europe prohibits us from talking about humanism. And the disregard for the voices of the Greek people prevents us from talking about democracy. We must not delude ourselves: These values have already been sacrificed. The austerity policy in all the countries of Europe is a war of annihilation which is intended to destroy all the social achievements achieved by the struggles of the population in the twentieth century. The aim is to reduce the European populations to the poverty and misery levels of the 18th century.“

Q: „Are you serious?“

A: „Yes, the class of the richest has never been more determined to wage such a violent war against the working classes. It seems as if the richest wanted to avenge themselves bla­tant­ly, as if they had the impression that they had been humiliated for the last 50 years. And now we are to pay dearly for the last decades when decent living conditions prevailed. One thing is clear: the richest can no longer tolerate their power being limited in any way – eco­lo­gi­cally, politically or ethically.“

She’s right about everything she says. And it is by no means exaggerated. We are all de­lu­ding our­selves because we want to believe in the blessings of democracy and capitalism. But the problem is: democracy and capitalism are not compatible.

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