Hume’s skepticism and human epistemological interdependence

Hume pushes philosophical skepticism to the utmost limits, and in so doing serves to illustrate perhaps what Locke anticipated in his caution regarding total skepticism. Hume does recognize that he must make an effort to safeguard his humanity–his participation in human community—while exercising his philosophical skepticism. He knows that man is a sociable no less than a reasonable being [and] man is also an active being (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section I). There is an intentionality to his words when he says, Be a philosopher, but amid all your philosophy, be still a man (Enquiry, I). His own remarks underline that his philosophical method if embraced tends to fragment how humans engage with and think about, the world. He makes a distinction between approaching life as an agent and as a philosopher (Enquiry, IV, 2). One area where this fragmentation is acute is in his understanding regarding the nature of belief. He states in philosophy we can go no further than assert that belief is something felt by the mind which distinguishes the ideas of the judgment from the fictions of the imagination (Enquiry, V, 2). However, this understanding of belief excludes the key component of relationship which most people, if given a chance to consider what they mean when they say they believe in something, implicitly recognize. Josef Pieper speaks philosophically from within the perennial stream when he states that the reason for believing “something” is that one believes “someone” (Faith, Hope, Love, p. 30). Hume’s philosophical skepticism often excludes “the other”. For example, he says, suppose a person, though endowed with the strongest faculties of reason and reflection be brought on a sudden into this world… He would not be able to reach the idea of cause and effect (Enquiry V, 1). But, of course, this is not how people ever enter into the world, and we cannot come to learn anything about this world unless we first “believe” someone who “knows” something about it and communicates that knowledge to us. I think Hume’s definition of belief, his philosophical skepticism which excludes this notion of a relationship of trust with a knower, and his comprehensive denial regarding the legitimacy of the testimony of others in gaining knowledge (Enquiry X, 1), have a corrosive effect on our understanding of what it means to be a human in community.

David Bentley Hart on Heidegger and the ‘evasion of the mystery of being’ in the west

“Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) –a morally problematic figure, admittedly, but not to be dismissed–was largely correct in thinking that the modern West excels at evading the mystery of being precisely because its governing myth is one of practical mastery. Ours is, he thought, the age of technology, in which ontological questions have been vigorously expelled from cultural consideration, replaced by questions of mere mechanistic force; for us, nature is now something “enframed” and defined by a particular disposition of the will, the drive toward dominion that reduces the world to a morally neutral “standing reserve” of resources entirely subject to our manipulation, exploitation, and ambition. Anything that does not fit within the frame of that picture is simply invisible to us. When the world is seen this way, even organic life–even where consciousness is present–must come to be regarded as just another kind of technology. This vision of things can accommodate the prospect of large areas of ignorance yet to be vanquished (every empire longs to discover new worlds to conquer), but no realm of ultimate mystery. Late modernity is thus a condition of willful spiritual deafness. Enframed, racked, reduced to machinery, nature cannot speak unless spoken to, and then her answers must be only yes, no, or obedient silence. She cannot address us in her own voice. And we certainly cannot hear whatever voice might attempt to speak to us through her” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, pp. 311-312).

Intelligent Design (like scientific materialism) is a post-Christian and effectively atheist view of the universe.

“Much of what passes for debate between theist and atheist factions today is really only a disagreement between differing perspectives within a single post-Christian and effectively atheist understanding of the universe. Nature for most of us now is merely an immense machine, either produced by a demiurge (a cosmic magician) or somehow just existing of itself, as an independent contingency (a magical cosmos). In place of the classical philosophical problems that traditionally opened out upon the question of God–the mystery of being, higher forms of causality, the intelligibility of the world, the nature of consciousness, and so on–we now concern ourselves almost exclusively with the problems of the physical origin or structural complexity of nature, and are largely unaware of the difference.

The conceptual poverty of the disputes frequently defies exaggeration. On one side, it has become perfectly respectable for a philosophically illiterate physicist to proclaim that “science shows that God does not exist,” an assertion rather on the order of Yuri Gagarin remarking (as, happily, he never really did) that he had not seen God while in orbit. On the other side, it has become respectable to argue that one can find evidence of an Intelligent Designer of the world by isolating discrete instances of apparent causal discontinuity (or ineptitude) in the fabric of nature, which require the postulate of an external guiding hand to explain away the gap in natural causality. In either case, “God” has become the name of some special physical force or causal principle located somewhere out there among all the other forces and principles found in the universe: not the Logos filling and forming all things, not the infinity of being and consciousness in which all things necessarily subsist, but a thing among other things, an item among all the other items encompassed within nature” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, pgs 302-303).

Plato’s three forms of ‘atheism’

“No one who believes, as the laws prescribe, in the existence of the gods has ever yet done an impious deed voluntarily, or uttered a lawless word: he that acts so is in one or other of these three conditions of mind—either he does not believe in what I have said [that gods exist]; or, secondly, he believes that the gods exist, but have no care for men; or, thirdly, he believes that they are easy to win over when bribed by offerings and prayers” (Laws, Book 10, section 885b)

Accessed here.

C.f., “The Moral Law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is “good” in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the Moral Law” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 1, Chapter 5).

Heidegger on Nietzsche: Nietzsche’s success in replacing ‘morality’ with ‘values’.

The Will to Power as Principle of a New Valuation

“We shall focus on what Nietzsche planned to say in Part III under the title “Principle of a New Valuation,” according to the arrangement discussed above. Evidently, Nietzsche wanted to express the “new,” his own “philosophy” here. If Nietzsche’s essential and sole thought is the will to power, the title of the third book immediately provides important information about what will to power is, without our yet grasping its proper essence. Will to power is the “principle of a new valuation,” and vice versa: the principle of the new valuation to be grounded is will to power. What does “valuation” mean? What does the word value mean?  The word value as a special term came into circulation partly through Nietzsche. One speaks of the “cultural values” of a nation, of the “vital values” of a people, of “moral,” “aesthetic,” religious” “values.” One does not think very much about these phrases–even though they are supposed, after all, to contain an appeal to what is supreme and ultimate.

Continue reading “Heidegger on Nietzsche: Nietzsche’s success in replacing ‘morality’ with ‘values’.”

Jonathan Mills on the idea of Nietzschean “pure will”

A reader of this blog requested my thoughts on what Nietzsche meant by “pure will”. I thought I would ask my old thesis prof for his thoughts because he is far and away more knowledgable in things Nietzsche than I am…

“Pure” vis-a-vis Nietzsche is different from metaphysical-moral concepts of purity, where subjectiveness, particular biases and so on are view’d as intrusions into what ought to be (objective, universal, transpersonal [where the personal is a universal concept thereof]).
Accordingly, my guess is “pure will” would mean willing that is affirmative of one’s own particularities: there could be no universalness in willing that would pertain to both Lars’s willing and Mills’s willing and X‘s willing and so on, except in some existentially unimportant sense (that we’re all willing similarly enough to refer to “willing” in generis).
Nietzscheanly pure willing is free of metaphysically moral criteria whereby in some residual way one still evaluates one’s willing according to e.g. congruence with Christianity or theoretic wisdom-as-such (as-if universal wisdom – wisdom that would apply to all of us, or toward which we all ought to be striving).
Nietzscheanly pure willing is always the willing of someone who wills, a willer. So also is Platonistic or Christian willing – and Buddhistic not-willing! – but this is done supposedly in a person-neutral, situation-neutral, etc way. A pure Nietzschean willer doesn’t hide from behind universal criteria that he claims are necessary and universal and which thus absolve him from responsibility for his willing and the intended consequences of his willing.

Obviously will in this sense is different from “willpower”: a given Platonist or Christian might have more thumotic energy to devote to exertions of will, resoluteness and so on) than does a given Nietzschean: only the Nietzschean decides that he ought to will for the enhancement of his own self’s potentiality, whereas the Christian decides that he ought to will toward his integration into the Kingdom of God that pertains to everyone in essentially the same way.

More subtly, will in this sense is different from “will to power,” reveal’d by Nietzsche: this is Heidegger’s “Gelassenheit” – letting go or “releasement,” which doesn’t tyrannize against nature (naturing) (cf BGE ¶188) but accentuates, intensifies, coherences every nature. And woe to whomever’s naturing can’t withstand intensification imposed by the will-to-power guy, or the will-to-power posse (LS: “planetary aristocracy”)!!

Yours in unintelligent laughter, jpnill

P.S. Did you mean your question psychologically in a certain way? I mean, what is Nietzsche’s concept of will in the psyche as distinguish’d from appetite, libido, eros, thumos, itching, etc? Such psychology is necessary and can be beneficial, although seems so far that such distinctions can’t be made with clear boundaries.
Classically, we can see how Plato shows thumos or spiritedness to emerge (frustration of desire or appetite provokes a drive that is different from the desire or appetite), but then Plato also shows thumos integral to some desires, some eros, and maybe even to all descriptions and hence to all logos (which must impose a verbal or conceptual distinction upon a reality that doesn’t match the concepts, unless one chooses a word so inclusive and universal (e.g., “reality” “everything” etc) as to lack descriptive power. Compare “spirituality” (Hitlerism, materialism, Jim Houstonism, Jesuitism, Augustinianism, etc are all “spirituality”).