16 April 2006

husserl Email 04

OK. So this kind of thing is kind of cheating. I had started this blog to give a forum to my thought. But I find posting my class emails a little cheap. I will start very soon posting about Kant (whom I'm reading in a great reading group right now) and Wittgenstein, my idol. Tonight's Easter. I ate quite a bit of food at a schoolmate's. I didn't post an email for the last class b/c we read a piece by Max Weber; I didn't think it merited an even semi-formal reply. We covered pp.59-81.


Call me a neo-Enlightenist, a conservative or even a curmudgeon--please. I'm not Ann Culter, but I do think there's a problem. The problem which Husserl seems to keep raising is on with an answer (there must be an answer!) which I'm not sure he can supply. He problematizes objectivity--fine. He problematizes Humian/Cartesian subjectivity--double fine. Where is the Husserlian critical philosophy going? At this point, I'd love to raise Weber's criticism that there are so many gods and to whom shall we give our alliance: this question is answered by our vocation. But in a critical meta-philosophical endeavor like the Crisis... the answer isn't so simple. Since Husserl obviously hates philosophy (joke) then isn't he something of a hypocrite in doing philosophy? Why doesn't he question the European telos spawned from that sag-teated, tired wolfhound known as Hellenism??? There is NO END to subjectivity.

I reread the Soak paper (the paper submitted to Social Text by an NYU physicist spoofing humanities-laden natural science). He ends quoting Madsen & Madsen saying, "A simple criterion for science to qualify as postmodern is that it be free from any dependence on the concept of objective truth". The liberal in me is inclined to say, Fair enough. But that is NOT FAIR. The very notion of science is, as Husserl hamhandedly notes, built upon the objectification of the world. Call it neo-Platonism or a western Hegemonic power move; but SCIENCE IS OBJECTIVE. I much prefer Wittgenstein’s approach to this whole thing. He is equally doubtful of science's claim to objectivity; but unlike Husserl, he doesn't necessarily try to undermine it within its own discursive realm, i.e., by rationally pointint out that it is in fact grounded on reason. Rather, he says that there are many different grammars (if you will) that reflect different life-forms. (Why Husserl introduces life-world and then (to me, thus far) wholly neglects the concept is totally beyond me) He says in (I admit, it's my Bible) his Philosophic Investigations that

Disputes do not break out (among mathematicians, say) over the question whether a rule has been obeyed or not. People don't come to blows over it, for example. That is part of the framework on which the working of our language is based (240).

That is, he admits the hegemonic influence of math, but I think he accepts it. He doesn't naturalize it--quite the contrary, he points out that it (and everything else) is NOT NATURAL. He is not a naturalist. But he says that the Lebensform accepts--must accept--mathematics as an apodictic science. The metaphysical ground on which Husserl stands is just as freaking metaphysical as the ground on which Descartes stands. Why Husserl thinks his is any more legitimate truly puzzles me.

The only rationalization which comes to mind is the end of Husserl's Vienna Lecture, part one. I've already cited this line once in email, but it says that, "philosophy has constantly to exercise its function as one which is “archtonic” for the civilization as a whole" (p. 289). I thought he was being cheeky. But maybe he's talking about HIS philosophy?

His philosophy obviously gives rise to Nietzsche (reacts, in this case) and FOUCAULT; I'm reminded of (one of my many reasons) a reason why I dislike Foucault: In pointing out the ways power=knowledge and by uncovering the concealed power structures in history, i.e., privileged narrative-making, Foucault/Husserl ENGAGES IN THE VERY SAME NARRATIVE MAKING.

I respect and mostly agree with Husserl. I don't understand myself sometimes because in those times I am quite physically repulsed by Husserl's philosophy. He's like a red herring lying on the path toward an emancipatory politics. He's like Bill Clinton; at first you think he's awesome and totally good, but after a little scrutiny you find he's not quite what you thought he was. And I like Bill Clinton. I find I have the same relation to Husserl.

Mr. Payne