“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

A comment to Hyper Tiling concerning anthropocentrism

You can find Fabio’s blog here: http://hypertiling.wordpress.com/


You’ve succeeded in getting me interested in speculative realism and object-oriented philosophy. Kantian skepticism is perhaps the main obstacle I must overcome in my dissertation, which loosely described is an argument for a more richly textured ontology, such that any full accounting of reality must include its physical, etheric/vital, psychological/astral, and spiritual dimensions. My principle inspiration for this project is Rudolf Steiner, but the works of thinkers like Schelling, Hegel, Bergson, Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, Jung, and Jean Gebser will also be close at hand while I am writing it.

I’m commenting here to ask if you might expand a bit on how speculative realism provides an alternative to anthropocentric modes of thought… Most of the guys I’ve listed above, especially Steiner and Teilhard, are self-proclaimed anthropocentrists of the Hermetic variety. In the Hermetic tradition, a deep symmetry is posited between the cosmos and the human (“as above, so below”). We could look at this issue from an epistemic (or Kantian) perspective and say that humans are limited by the structure of their mind and its sensory organs such that the only universe we can know has always already been humanized. We could also think about this in broadly ontological terms, situating the human organism within the 14 billion year evolutionary process that has lead up to this moment. From such a perspective, the structure of our mind and sensory organs is not separate from the universe, as if thought were somehow parachuted into being from the outside sometime in 1641 (when Descartes published his “Meditations”). From a Teilhardian or Whiteheadian perspective, human beings are the shape space-time takes when it comes to know itself. There could of course be alien intelligences whose morphology differs somewhat from our own, but if Teilhard’s biological inferences are correct, we would expect to find in their form the result of a similar process of cerebralization. For Hermeticists like Giordano Bruno, non-human intelligences would only be more evidence that the universe has some innate propensity, not only to come to life, but to hominize. Anthropocentrism is then not a naive epistemic oversight or moral self-congratulation; rather, is the acknowledgment that cosmic evolution produces conscious beings with eyes and faces (“opos”).

I haven’t read all your posts, and so I’ve got a very limited sense of your relation to these kinds of admittedly mystical ideas. I do, however, recall reading that the writings of early Christianity once interested you. I know it will be quite a challenge for me to bring the ideas of someone like Steiner to the level of respectability in mainstream philosophical discourse, but I remain convinced that the only way to adequately respond to the earth- and culture-destroying ethos of techno-industrial capitalism is by transforming consciousness so that it can once again recognize the play of spirit in the universe. We need to develop a cosmology that accounts for the empirical discoveries of the past several hundred years, but that also builds on the wisdom traditions that have informed and inspired our species for millennia.

Looking forward to reading more of your posts here.

Fabio responded, but told me I might have to wait for the publication of his article in the new open source journal of object-oriented philosophy called “Speculations” before my questions might find their answers. You can read his response here.

My second response:
Thanks for the feedback, Fabio. I await the publication of your article. After reading a bit more of Meillassoux, I can see why you suggest I won’t find much support there. I don’t think it makes sense to talk about objects independent of subjects, and as soon as we adopt a panexperientialist ontology the issue of how science has knowledge of pre-human arche-fossils is cleared up. Human subjectivity may have emerged late in the game, but there never was a time-space in the evolution of the universe without a relation between interior perspective and exterior event. I think a Whiteheadian ontology gets us out of the vulgar sort of anthropocentrism M. rightly wants to dispense with without leaving the cosmos “devoid of self-enjoyment,” as Whitehead puts it. Whitehead’s division of experience into the modes of “causal efficacy” and “presentational immediacy” goes a long way toward transcending Kantian transcendentalism by providing a new way of understanding the ground of sensibility which Kant argued was unknowable. This ground is unknowable for the understanding–that is, for our rational, waking consciousness. But as Whitehead suggests, what philosophy needs is not a critique of pure reason, but of pure feeling. It is through perception in the mode of causal efficacy that we literally touch the world’s objectivity as it arises in and as our own body, thereby reaching objects concretely without the mediation of the abstract categories of consciousness.





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