Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
I just purchased the William Desmond Reader for a course I'm taking through the Global Center for Advanced Studies. I'm not familiar with Desmond, but from a first glimpse, his work looks very interesting. He appears to be a "prepositional" philosopher, describing his approach as metaxological metaphysics -- a metaphysics of the "between" -- which (as the book intro states) seeks a different way to relate to sameness and difference than is found in Hegel's dialectical approach.
Here's a quote from the Introduction:
"Metaphysics in the grand style has gone out of fashion among philosophers in the postmodern and resolutely postmetaphysical tradition. But Desmond proposes an approach to metaphysics that avoids the extreme of a priori arguments, like the ontological proof, and adheres more closely to an experiential base.
The theoretical core and signature idea of Desmond's thought is the 'between,' which leads him to describe his work as a 'metaxology' (from the Greek metaxu). The metaxological can be thought of as a different way to relate to the same and different, in contrast to the Hegelian way of 'dialectical' mediation, which unites them in a higher unity. For the upshot of Hegelian mediation, he argues, is to close the circle between the same and the different and thereby to subordinate everything to the rule of a higher integration and sameness. The 'between' means to keep this circle open and in that way to preserve difference. Never attaining the ground of a higher totalizing and integrating unity, the 'between' occupies the open space that preserves the distance of the same from the different. The same does not return to itself through the different; rather the space of the play between the same and the different is sustained, allowing for relations of otherness, difference, and plurality to obtain along several orders -- between mind and being, immanence and transcendence, finite and infinite, and singular and universal. Desmond is thus able to orchestrate his leitmotif across several philosophical domains -- including art, ethics, and religion -- but the guiding insight is at root metaphysical. Viewed in the light of postmetaphysical critiques of Hegel, Desmond's work invites three questions having to do in turn with classical metaphysics, phenomenological ontology, and the postmetaphysical."
I enjoyed the class yesterday with William Desmond; it was too brief, but even in that brief talk, he touched on a number of themes that are resonant with some of the recent (and recurrent) inquiries and discussions here on IPS. I was struck in particular by his discussion of his "metaxological" project in relation to the dominant metaphysical options: Being as Univocal, Equivocal, or Dialectical. These relate, of course, to monistic (emphasis on oneness, the One), pluralistic (emphasis on the Many, the Other), and dialectical (the two are sublated within a third, a new 'one' or 'same') orientations dominant in philosophy. The opening quote in this thread touched on these themes, which are the context for his metaphysics of the between (MOB): an approach which does not dismiss, but neither privileges nor permanently abides within, any one of these options. Univocity alone tends towards reductionism or hegemony, equivocity alone towards postmodern/pluralist equivocation and paralysis, and dialectics -- while showing a deeper relationality between the 'two' (and so a kind of MOB) -- tends to collapse difference in, or subordinate it to, a new sameness. The 'between' is the khora-like affordance for each. "If one is univocity, if two is equivocity, if three is dialectic (becoming one again in self-mediating dialectic), then four is metaxology. Since four is beyond the self-mediating one, properly to count to two you have to count to four." IT, if identified primarily with the dialectical moment, falls short of its own fourfold spirit.
Related to the positions of univocity, equivocity, dialectics, and metaxology, he describes "four hyperboles of being" which I think are worth considering and exploring -- particularly in relation to the concepts of withdrawal, excess/surplus, Harmanian fourfold being, participation & mystery, MOA, and related themes we've touched in here in a number of discussions.
"The Idiocy of Being
Here is a brief description of the first hyperbole that I call the idiocy of being. There is something idiotic about given finite being as given to be, that exceeds all our efforts at the finitization of its determinate thereness and intelligibility. In its given overdeterminacy it manifests a surplus immediacy of being. It shows a sheer “that it is” which shines with an intimate strangeness. The idiocy is this intimate strangeness of its ontological concreteness as exceeding our determination of it in terms of our abstract universals. Finite being happens to be without inherent necessity, and while it might seem to be absurd, I think it should be called rather a surplus surd. To describe this surplus surd as the absurd would not be right, for it makes all finite intelligibilities possible. Presupposed by all finite intelligibility, it is not itself a finite intelligibility. The surplus of given being stuns us into mindfulness about what gives it to be at all, since there is no necessity to its being there at all, nor does it explain itself. The ontological patience of finite being makes mindfulness porous to what exceeds finite determination. To be as finite exceeds the terms of finitude itself. In being received as being, finitude is not simply thrown down in the between, but as hyperbolic it is thrown above itself.
The Aesthetics of Happening
The second hyperbole of being I call the aesthetics of happening. This opens up to the replete sensuousness of given being. One might say that our astonishment becomes ontological appreciation of the incarnate glory of the manifest creation which, showing itself sensuously, exceeds finitization. We are native to the material world, and our nativity brims over with ambiguity so rich in suggestion that it is resistant to our soon intervening conceptual domestications. Appreciation of immanence passes a threshold of immanence into mysterious love of transience that exceeds transience. There is an aesthetic overdeterminacy to finitude, we find ourselves porous on the boundary of finitude and there is communicated a transport before the beauty of things. As if we are moved by a music in things, we are transported into another space of mindfulness hyperbolic to anything we can fix determinately in immanence.
The Erotics of Selving
Our being moved to seek after the maximum, central to Kant’s aesthetic idea, brings us to what I call the third hyperbole of being – the erotics of selving. We awaken to ourselves as intimately hyperbolic, for we know ourselves as both finite and yet infinitely self-surpassing. We are endowed with transcending power, and yet at the same time we come to realize we do not simply endow ourselves. One could say that the immeasurable passion of our being is self-exceeding, and yet the self-exceeding exceeds also the selving that we are. It might be put this way: the erotics of our selving is hyperbolic to a conatus essendi that drives itself to its own most complete self-determination in immanence. Our erotics witnesses to a passio essendi that is marked by a primal porosity to what exceeds all determination and finally our own self-determination.
The Agapeics of Community
Finally I turn to the fourth hyperbole which I call the agapeics of community. Here is a compact statement of some salient features. The hyperbole concerns what one might term the beyond of selving, selving beyond selving which is rather an othering or being other that reveals our relations to others as traversing the metaxu in generous receiving and giving. The agapeics manifests the overdeterminacy of a surplus generosity, beyond determinacy, indeterminacy and self-determination. The surplus is not only in being receptive to the gift of the other but in freeing us to give beyond ourselves to others. This is a giving again which consists in the passing on of goodness itself. Indeed, giving on generously is the agapeic good of the “to be.” Once again, beyond determinacy, indeterminacy and self-determinacy, in the finiteness of our lives together, there is the promise of an overdeterminate generosity beyond finite reckoning. Here we come on the sense of sacred mystery which calls on our being truthful. In the agapeics of community there passes (on) a surplus good that makes itself available in an absolute porosity. One might speak of an absolved porosity of the passio essendi that ethically communicates itself as a compassio essendi. This communication takes us to the limit of self-determining ethical life, for in its wording of the between it reveals the overdeterminate incarnation of the holy." ~ Desmond, "Being True to Mystery"
He also has some interesting things to say about metaphysics and postmetaphysics:
"I think there is no overcoming of metaphysics as such for there is no univocal essence of metaphysics to be overcome. In fact, there are many practices of metaphysics, Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomistic, rationalistic, transcendental, realistic, and so on. Metaphysical thinking is monstrous and not a little unlike a hydra – chop off one head and another grows. And this is not a criticism – for the very act of chopping off heads is itself a head of this incorrigible hydra. It too is “metaphysics.” Best to get one’s head straight, so to say, and do good metaphysics. To address this plurality as if it were some univocal essence is too reductive. One worries about a secret univocalization at work in much rhetoric about our being “post-metaphysical,” even as that same rhetoric often also scourges the univocity of 'metaphysics.'" ~ Desmond, Being True to Mystery
And here he is saying something which I believe speaks to the metaxological character of my "Sophia" project (integral grammar philosophy, heno-ontology, onto-choreography):
"What I call metaxological metaphysics has some characteristics of the 'step back' out of metaphysics enjoined by Heidegger, though in a sense not intended by him. The step back is from 'metaphysics' understood as a determinate practice of metaphysical thinking, in this way or that. Like the many senses of being, there are many more or less determinate practices of metaphysics, and not all of them stay true to their own originating sources. Some practices of metaphysical thinking betray their enabling sources in the act of claiming to complete or realize them. I make a similar point with respect to ethics, and the potencies of the ethical. We need to 'step back' out of different, determinate ethical systems to understand the ethos of being as hospitable, or not, to good, as manifesting, or not, the good of the 'to be.' Understanding the different ethical potencies allows us to understand better the enabling powers of being ethical, different minglings of which, or particular dominances of which, go into the formation of determinate ethical outlooks, such as Platonism or Christianity, or Kantianism or Nietzscheanism, to name an important few. Analogously, there are ontological-metaphysical potencies which enable the practices of a determinate form of metaphysics and which can enter into a plurality of formations with each other, but which are never exhausted by any particular practice. These ontological potencies enable us to configure the primal ethos of being, and we live in the reconfigured ethos, forgetting the more primally given ethos of being. Part of the task of the 'step back' is to come to some mindfulness of this primal ethos, and the already operative potencies of being at work there, and enabling the different determinate formations of our thinking. The 'step back' is no step outside the between – for to speak of the between is a way of trying to name the primal ethos and its enabling potencies. We are determined out of it and enabled to be relatively self-determining, but we participate in it as more than all determinations and our self-determination. In it, we cross through it, pass along it, we come to it again by passage in and through the determinate and the self-determining, and through the informing senses of the 'to be,' through univocity, equivocity, dialectic, and metaxology. The primal ethos and the enabling potencies cannot be deconstructed because they enable both construction and deconstruction and are beyond both. They are operative even when we claim to be post-metaphysical, which is never post-metaphysical in fact, but more or less sleeping to what enables it as a determinate practice of anti-metaphysical thinking. So even to be anti-metaphysical is again to be metaphysical." Desmond, Being True to Mystery
It does sound like a lot of the various and sundry contemporary philosophies we've discussed in the forum. All of which could be considered in/of the new wave of popo, pama or paraphysics I brought up in a FB forum. We've compared this new wave to Wilber's work, and while the latter is in some ways like these others, in other ways it is not.
Balder, have you given any further thought to my proposition that prepositions, and other parts of speech, are the linguistic extension of image schema? The latter, while pre-positioning language, do not just extend into linguistic prepositions but all parts of speech. And as I noted elsewhere, image schema as basic categories are in the middle of classical hierarchies so fulfill this 'in between' ontological nature. Which itself changes the nature of how we see hierarchy (and holarchy), a key ingredient in many philosophies. We see it manifest in all these contemporary philosophies of the between, multiplicity, relationship, even in OOO, as well as the more metaphysical ones. Yet none of them have made this connection to how image schema and its linguistic extension in metaphor explain said philosophies and contextualize them cross-paradigmatically.
Aside from Lakoff and company, that is. And you with your onto-choreography. I know you used them in a recent paper, but this notion of the 'in between' is not really limited to linguistically prepositional philosophies but seems a rather overall cross-paradigmatic shift in contemporary philosophy. Granted each may emphasize a particular grammatical element, but the overall zeitgeist seems more image-schematic pre-positional.
They are, in Desmond's terms, the embodied and empirical basis of "the khora-like affordance for each" form of metaphysics above, as well as each part of speech. Recall my comparison of IS with khora here. And our comments a few posts above that on this topic.
Hi, yes, the phrase about "khora-like affordances" is my own language; I deliberately put it that way to make a connection between Desmond's work and your own reflections.
I will comment more when I get home this evening.
I am very much liking Mr. Desmond! One of my fave sayings these days is that, "I am in-between days.'
I'm liking it too. Thanks Bruce!
Hi, Edward, yes, I think Lakoff & Johnson (and you) make a good case for the image schematic basis of many primitive (and more advanced) language forms, including grammatical categories. Although I do discuss image schema in Sophia Speaks, and likely will in future works as well, I haven't pursued them extensively for several reasons: 1) I am waiting to see more specifically how you philosophically develop and apply image schema in a meta-theoretical context, since this has been an idea you've been cultivating for awhile; 2) the pre-verbal nature of image schema makes them a bit difficult to deal with, in an easy way, in the verbal media in which we 'do philosophy' (to talk about image schema, I must use nouns, prepositions, verbs, etc); and 3) we might make a distinction between image schema themselves and the concept of image schema (that makes a difference here). Actual image schema arguably have less flexibility and potential for graceful application than their verbal outgrowths; for instance, which image schema would you use for 'between' that would get more mileage than 'between' likely can? But the concept of image schema, as holistic pattern-sensibilities rooted in embodied experience and extended in metaphor (angels singing at/as the boundaries of body/bodies & mind), can yield a lot, particularly when / if you relate this to other concepts such as khora, the 'between,' MOA, prepositions, etc. We can distinguish technically between image schema and prepositions, as you suggest above, arguing that image schema are pre-verbal and serve as a 'between' that is not limited to linguistically prepositional philosophies, and I think that's fair, but this is actually how Latour uses the concept of preposition (not limiting it to prepositional-based or grammatically centered philosophies):
The abbreviation [PRE] denotes the preposition mode, which is necessary in the inquiry since it allows us to go back to the interpretive keys which allow us to prepare for what comes after: in the [NET] mode, which describes networks, it allows for the definition of the minimal metalanguage necessary for the deployment of modes.
The [PRE] mode suspends the choice of interpretive key by means of a hesitation and returns to the mode's own specific hiatus: which is the correct key?
It opens up the comparison of all modes of veridiction which it is responsible, after a fashion, for keeping open and for protecting against the hegemony that each mode attempts to exercise over all others.
It allows for an awareness of the multivocity of beings.
Here, while there is a technical difference (in cognitive linguistics) between image schema and the grammatical forms which grow out of them, I believe Latour is using the concept of preposition in a way which is quite similar to your philosophical application of the concept of image schema.
"1) I am waiting to see more specifically how you philosophically develop and apply image schema in a meta-theoretical context, since this has been an idea you've been cultivating for awhile."
That could be never, since my forte doesn't seem geared to meta-theory but rather the gaps within and between meta-theories. Like above, the different forms of metaphysics Desmond lays out, noting they all have their place. And yet the between contexualizes and counterbalances them, being itself that gap in each of them as well as between them. I suppose that this gap, ecarte, rift, fold or khora is a philosophy per se. But again, I don't see myself as building a philosophy around the concept like those I've referenced, apparently not my bag. I'm just a dapper gapper rapper, not so much a flapper mapper.
I remember early on in my integral explorations, back when I did the first university integral course offered by somewhere in PA, a fellow discussion group participant noted that I was excellent at finding and fixing the cracks in AQAL and meta-theory generally. He too waited in anticipation for when I'd develop my own meta-theory. As you can see, that isn't likely. Nor is it necessary. Meta-theory takes a (p2p) village, with many working within their own areas of interest and expertise. It doesn't necessarily mean only putting together all that work into a coherent whole, itself only a part of this great work. There are dangers and pitfalls with focusing on just that, as readily and voluminously discussed in contemporary philosophy.
I.e., I ain't no Latour, Wilber, Sallis, Desmond, Derrida etc. I just do my bit part on this stage, perhaps an obscure footnote to Plato at best. It ain't much but it's something. That's a good one for my tombstone.
I hear you, Edward; we certainly don't all need to do that, and we each in this hive, staying true to the call of our own gifts and concerns, can all do something towards the co-articulation of this new vision that calls us collectively. But even if you don't decide to take the mad path of meta-theory building yourself, I am hoping for some more suggestions from you on just how you see image schema being most useful (esp. relative to meta-theory, AQAL, grammar philosophy, MOA, etc).
Today, reading further in the William Desmond Reader, I came across the following passage that I think you might enjoy (especially for its relevance to your reflectios on paraphysics and metaphor).
"If metaphysical thinking, as I claim, takes place in the milieu of being, the question of transcendence has nothing to do with a leap out of being into the void, but with the deepest mindfulness of what is emergent in the middle itself. Again the double meaning of meta is relevant. 'Meta' is being in the midst; 'meta' is also reference to what is beyond, what is transcendent. Metaxological metaphysics must think the doubleness of this tension between being in the midst and being referred by self-transcendence to the transcendence of what is other, what is over and above.
I stress that vigilance to the signs of transcendence does not imply the reduction of transcendence to the between. There is a thinking about the beyond in the between itself. What gives the between surpasses the between, though we face towards it, in and through the between. Thus, what I called posthumous mind suggests a rebirth of thinking with respect to the meaning of being in its height and depth, in its spread over the middle, in our implication with being as a community of plurality. The rebirth of agapeic mind demands the articulate thinking of this community.
This is no easy matter. It means a rejection of the idealistic strategy whereby autonomous thought is tempted to impose its categories on appearing and hence only to see what it puts there itself. But the coherence of idealism is also its unraveling: for when thought only thinks itself, the emptiness is evident in its reduction of thought's other to the construction of a category. [A variant of the epistemic fallacy?] I think we need a complex realistic fidelity that does not dictate to being, but that puts itself honestly before it. This realistic fidelity makes us attentive to the between as the matrix of thought. We must not let the later conceptualizations cover over what comes to concrete nascence there.
In the middle we are on the way, to where we do not exactly know, from where we are unsure. Mindfulness comes in the middle, out of an enigmatic origin, in expectation of an uncertain end. Existential contingency cannot find its substitute in any purely objective system. Nor do we have an Archimedean point to survey the middle as a whole, or to overlook our wavering passage in it. We are amongst, and the density of being touches us; we are participants and intimate with being. As such we live from within what we try to think. But to think from within is hard; some reflective distance is needed; but absolute distance is impossible for us in the within of the middle. To remain true to our intimacy with being, and yet to gain reflective distance that does not distort, is a great struggle. We need an equilibrium beyond objectifying science and idiosyncratic individuality. We need a certain doubling of existential and systematic thinking.
Metaphysical thinking, thus conceived, cannot entirely escape a metaphorical dimension. This is especially evident with respect to the metaxological, and the reborn thinking of the second perplexity. Metaphor itself refers to the double of the meta. Metaphor is a carrier in the between; it ferries (pherein: to carry) us across a gap; or it is the carrier of transcendence; it is in the midst as meta, and yet an image of the meta as beyond, as transcendent. It is both determinate and indeterminate at once. It is neither one nor other, but both in a manner that transcends univocal unity, sheer equivocity, and indeed a dialectic that reduces difference to mediated identity. There is a rich sense of indeterminacy at play in metaphor that functions as articulating a pluralized mediation, and a certain opening of transcending. Metaphysical metaphor is the carrier of agapeic astonishment and perplexed mindfulness in the middle." (Desmond, WDR)
How IS might be most useful is along the lines you suggest above, more like Latour or Sallis. But as I've noted recently in the fold thread, there is an incipient intuition vaguely forming, still indistinct and inarticulate. There are a number of IS, only one of which is whole-part in containment. The latter is emphasized in hierarchical structure, a main ingredient in developmental theory and hence meta-theory.
Which reminds me of when Edwards said the the various lenses he's discovered seem to arise from morpological fault lines in the Kosmos, and where I noted image schema fit this bill. And his warning that making the hierarchical the key for all the others leads to altitude sickness. Especially when we consider that the basis of hierarchy is itself a combination of IS like whole-part and containment, and IS themselves arise in the middle of classical hierarchies.
As I said, the intuition is only vaguely taking shape, not articulate yet. But it does resonate with Desmond's words above. Recall I've discussed the connection of how meditation takes us back down to archaic state-stages and brain structures. That when we get below abstract thought and the narrative self we are in effect contacting IS is some way. This is the so-called transcendent in the midst in Desmond's terms, the double fold of how we go back down and forward up at the same time via meditative inquiry. He makes the connection of this with metaphor, the latter an extension of IS, sort of the mediator between IS and abstract thought. Again, another border crossing where khora resides at each boundary.
Anyway, it sounds like a lot of disjointed thoughts and images and it is. As I said, something is brewing but can't discern it yet. It will come, for Musique never leads me astray.