2002: Summaries

Contents (in Dutch)

Hans Achterhuis
Summary: Peter Sloterdijk’s Utopia: ‘Rules for the Anthropic Garden’
On the twentieth of July 1999 Peter Sloterdijk held a conference ‘Regeln für den Menschenpark’ for a group of academic colleagues. A scandal was born when a journalist published his short remark about genetic reform of the traits of the human race and made a connection with the genetic politics of Nazism. A lot of commotion and discussion in which many philosophers participated, first in Germany, later in other countries followed. Many aspects of the complete Sloterdijk-text were disregarded in the vehement polemics about his short remarks. In this article I contextualise Sloterdijks remarks in three widening circles. First I situate them within the context of the total text and of his previous work. Secondly I analyse shortly the way Sloterdijk uses the two main texts that he is referring to in his booklet, Plato’s Politikos and Heideggers Brief über den Humanismus. In the third and most important contextualisation I interpret Sloterdijks position as part of our technological culture. In a systematic way he tries to understand the technical mediation of the alphabet, the text and the letter that gave birth to our Western humanism and suggests the new technical mediation of genetics as a better way to domesticate the human animal. It is shown however that Sloterdijks idea about technical mediation partly is flawed by his preoccupation with the utopian and dystopian sides of modern technology. Notwithstanding this shortcoming I agree with the fruitful way in which he places the question of technics and technical mediation on the philosophical agenda.

Ciano Aydin
Summary: The Significance of Müller-Lauter’s Nietzsche Interpretation
Wolfgang Müller-Lauter, the author of one of the most important Nietzsche books, if not the most important one of the last four decades, died on the 9th August, 2001. His book Nietzsche. Seine Philosophie der Gegensätze und die Gegensätze seiner Philosophie (1971) and his many articles have been of decisive significance for international Nietzsche research. In his last two years, these articles were brought together by him in three volumes called Nietzsche-Interpretationen. On the basis of a critical review of these three collections, this study explicates the constant motif of his Nietzsche interpretation. That motif is characterised by: the attention to strife and multiplicity in Nietzsche’s philosophy, and (connected with that) the criticism of Heidegger’s Nietzsche interpretation; as well as the attention given to Nietzsche’s interest in (natural) science and its influence on his (naturalistic) thinking. His careful reading of Nietzsches texts, a fourth characteristic, has enabled Müller-Lauter to disclose the peculiar, polysemic character of Nietzsche’s thinking.

J. Bradley
Summary: The Speculative Generalization of the Function: A Key to Whitehead
In Process and Reality (1929) and subsequent writings, A.N. Whitehead builds on the success of the Frege-Russell generalization of the mathematical function and develops his philosophy on that basis. He holds that the proper generalization of the meaning of the function shows that it is primarily to be defined in terms of many-t-one mapping activity, which he terms ‘creativity’. This allows him to generalize the range of the function, so that it constitutes a universal ontology of construction or ‘process’. He analyzes the concept of God in terms of functional mapping to structure, and he defines finite entities as iterative ‘occasions’ of mapping activity. He thus challenges the widespread logical-analytical view that the connectives and variables of a function in its different instantiations are merely numerically different, and he develops a fallibilist theory of activity as essentially serial in nature.

A. De Block
Summary: Instinct and Illness. Why Freud Made His Antropological Turn
Freud’s anthropology is in fact little more than an amplified psychiatry. For Freud, the human being is in essence a sick animal. In this paper the author discusses why Freud made this so-called ‘anthropological turn’. First it is shown that Freud wanted his psychoanalytic theory to be a ‘Philosophy of Man’. Secondly it is argued that this can only be the case if the determinants of pathology, that psychoanalysis claimed to have discovered, are constitutive of human subjectivity. This means that the defense-mechanisms and the partial sexual instincts interact in each of us and do so necessarily. Although Freud usually merely postulates the necessary character of this interaction, which always produces symptoms, one can nevertheless find some argumentation for this relation distributed in his work. The third part of this paper consists in an enumeration and explanation of the reasons Freud gives for the fact that we can never satisfy our sexual instincts and always have to rely on the substitutes he calls symptoms. Some of these reasons can be led back to the conflict between sexuality and culture, but most of them are determined (exclusively or largely) in an organic way. If this Freudian intuition is true, the ‘Philosophy of Man’ should be replaced by the ‘Philosophy of Psychopathology’.

J. De Visscher
Summary: The Marvel of Reality
What emerges as the overarching theme in the extensive work of the Dutch philosopher Cornelis Verhoeven (1928-2001) is our relationship to reality. Being appealed to by thousands of things in our existence makes us realize that we cannot avoid reality. The most meaningful forms of reality are symbols, which lead us, through radical astonishment and contemplation to the metaphysical insight that something exists rather than nothing. This renders Verhoeven sceptical as the weakness of our ability to know and understand hampers our vision of hard reality, and also ironical because so many forms of speaking and writing display a reality which is being taken for granted.
Thinking symbolically, metaphysical reflection and scepsis towards thoughtless assumptions are the instruments of a contemplation which, in Verhoeven’s work, leave room for the lyrical prevalence of reality. In his later writings he gradually and more insistently draws attention to het theme of truth, while at the same time not denying our epistemological incapacity towards understanding and explaining reality.

O. Duintjer
Summary: On the Primacy of ‘Truth’ (as Event or Process of Disclosure)
Spirituality includes both respect for the infinite mystery that pervades all possible reality, and a deepening of daily awareness. Of course finite beings are not aware of all real things. But they can become more open to reality as it is disclosed in every situation that they enter; the more so if they recognize the infinite potential for disclosure of (other) finite situations. Which means taking seriously every part of reality that becomes manifest (persons and things, feelings and thoughts) without being enslaved or imprisoned by it.
In this article that inexhaustible process of concealment-and-disclosure is connected with the word ‘truth’, in reference to some notions of Heidegger. Philosophically the author argues for the (‘ontological’ and ‘epistemological’) primacy of such disclosure or manifestation to and in consciousness. Existential acknowledgement of this primacy may help diminishing our tendencies towards avoidance, repression, distortion and wishful thinking, or addiction and blind dependence, in the process of manifestation of which we are part and parcel.

Steve Fuller
Summary: Karmic Darwinism: The Emerging Alliance Between Science and Religion
I argue that the 21st century will be marked by a realignment of science and religion, which I call the “anthropic” versus the “karmic” perspectives. The former is aligned with the major Western religions and was secularized in the 19th century as positivism, with its identification of social science with the religion of humanity. The latter is aligned with the major Eastern religions, but also Epicureanism in the West. It was secularized as the Neo-Darwinian synthesis in the 20th century, since when it has made major inroads in wider precincts of normative thought. In this context, I focus specifically on the work of E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, and Peter Singer - all of whom, in somewhat different ways, argue on naturalistic grounds for the removal of humanity’s normative privilege. Moreover, this sensibility enjoys somewhat surprising support from postmodern quarters, where anti-humanism tends to be strong. These emerging trends, even when articulated by scientists, have also been associated with a decline in scientific meliorism. Against all this, I argue for a reassertion of the anthropic perspective, mainly by suggesting how monotheists and positivists may join to reinstate the collective project of humanity. A crucial part of the strategy is to regard participation in science as a civic obligation, if not (à  la Comte) a religious service.

Peter Jonkers
Summary: Can Philosophy Think Life? F.H. Jacobi on the Status of Philosophy
Jacobi’s idea of the status of philosophy has puzzled many interpreters of his work, ever since it was published. Doesn’t his plea for an ‘unphilosophy’ or a ‘philosophy of not-knowing’ inevitably lead to sheer irrationalism? My approach to answer this question is Jacobi’s conception of real life. In contrast to the mechanistic idea of life of the Enlightenment, Jacobi thinks life as a multiplicity of passionate, contingent, historical living beings. Is philosophy capable to think real life and, if so, what kind of philosophy does Jacobi have in mind? He considers his ‘stubbornness’ as the core of his philosophical method. He actually takes the propositions of other philosophers as his point of departure. He does not want to refute them rationally, but contradicts them by opposing concrete experiences of life to their rational arguments. By doing so, he leaps with a ‘salto mortale’ from a kind of rationality, founded on the principle of sufficient reason, into a sphere beyond argumentative reason. Jacobi calls these two totally heterogeneous spheres instrumental (or adjective) reason versus substantive reason. A double movement of tearing apart and appropriating, of destruction and construction characterizes instrumental reason. It destroys the multiplicity of real life and construes a world of its own making, consisting of images, ideas, and words. Substantive reason, on the other hand, is not synonymous with irrationalism, but is a spiritual, metaphysical reality, to which man belongs. Substantive reason does not think life conceptually, but testifies to life as an immediate, independent reality. Man’s awareness of this reality is given by revelation, learning etc. Jacobi uses these terms to stress the fact that this spiritual reality is both internal and external with regard to substantive reason. Thus, the only way of man approaching real life is a practical one, viz. substantive reason testifying to its objective reality.

G. Labooy
Summary: Open Physical Dispositions
This paper puts the concept of necessary physical dispositions to the test, using the analytic tools of possible world semantics and the Scotistic concept of synchronic contingency. It shows that any concept of physical disposition, which implies that an effect obtains in all possible worlds where the initiating circumstances obtain, is untenable, given the exigencies of the natural sciences. Apparent solutions to this problem, either by using the concept of relative necessity or the model of necessary core-laws of reality, are proved to be illusory. Following the refutation of such a necessary concept of natural disposition, and elaborating on the work of Kyburg (among others), an alternative concept of physical disposition is developed. It is characterised by the fact that a disposition’s effect, though obtaining in many possible worlds, does not obtain in all worlds where the initiating circumstances obtain. This metaphysically ‘open’ concept of disposition fits well with the demands of the empirical sciences. Some corollaries are hinted at, e.g. that it is less reasonable now to adhere to a worldview that does not allow for miracles than to adhere to one that does.

Donald Loose
Summary: The ‘Kingdom of God’ as a Kantian Metaphor
The argument of this article is that Kant’s philosophy of religion cannot be defined as merely ethical. The metaphor of the ‘Kingdom of God’ posits an original theme, introduced by morality, but going beyond. Both the question of a possible substantialization of morality itself (in: Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone) and the question of its fulfillment in the highest good (in: Critic of Practical Reason) need a religious answer. Most of all, the problem of evil confronts morality with an enigma, which morality is unable to solve (Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone). Such bipolarities like freedom and nature, virtue and happiness, evil and redemption, are neither viable in a metaphysics of freedom nor in one of nature alone. They infer a tension that persists through the reciprocal implication of both domains. Only a religious language seems apt to express this irreducible intertwinement. When dealing with ethical topics, Kant continues to recall the plus-point of religion, which not surprisingly he considers to be the realm of hope, the answer to his third critical question. Religion incites a humble respect for the reality of the divine Creator, Legislator, and Judge, and kindles love for the personal (Christian) God. As such, this could never be the result of ethics, nor of a metaphysics of nature. Accordingly, the coherence of nature and freedom is the existential question that points to the original metaphysical language of the ‘Kingdom of God’.

B. Saunders en J. van Brakel
Summary: Colour: An Exosomatic Organ?
According to the state of the art in psychology and philosophy, colour sensations are located in a ‘quality space’. This space has three dimensions: hue (the chromatic aspect of colour), saturation (the ‘intensity’ of hue), and brightness. This space is structured further via a small number of primitive hues or landmark colours, usually four (red, yellow, green, blue) or six (if white and black are included). It has also been suggested that there are eleven semantic universals - the six colours previously mentioned plus orange, pink, brown, purple, and grey. Against the standard view, we argue that colour might better be regarded as the outcome of a social-historical developmental trajectory in which there is mutual shaping of philosophical presuppositions, scientific theories, experimental practices, technological tools, rhetorical frameworks, and their intercalated and recursive interactions with the lifeworld. That is: the domain of colour (the three-dimensional quality space) is the outcome of interactive processes of scientific, instrumental, industrial, and everyday lifeworlds.

K. Van Der Wal
Summary: Philosophy as Spirituality. A Renewed Interest in an Original Commitment
Otto Duintjer is one of the philosophers who have anew put the theme of spirituality on the philosophical agenda. Indeed, philosophy understood as striving for wisdom has had a spiritual dimension form the outset. But in modern time that dimension has eclipsed ever more, especially in academic philosophy. An important reason is that philosophy has adapted itself to a model of science, for which a ‘disinterested’ and ‘neutral’ attitude of the knowing subject and a hypothetical form of thinking are charasteristic. In the logic of this type of science, and hence of a corresponding philosophy, existential and metaphysical questions and the theme of transcendence, which are essential for spirituality, fundamentally have no place.
An important line of modern thinking, of which Kant and Wittgenstein are leading representatives and that Duintjer also takes as his starting-point, acknowledges the significance of these questions. But it also thinks that they can only be handled in a negative and indirect way. At the basis of that is an epistemological conception that understands knowledge exclusively as fully explicit knowledge. But if knowledge can also comprise all sorts of partially explicated or ‘tacit’ knowledge, as twentieth century philosophy has come to think, perspectives are opened for forms of spiritual knowledge that are not solely dependent on negative or indirect ways of reaching them.

Bert van de Ven
Summary: Spheres and Globalisation. Ethical Aspects of Sloterdijk’s Contribution to the Debate on Globalisation
This article discusses the ethical dimension of Sloterdijk’s spherology and its contribution to the current debate on globalisation. It is shown that Sloterdijk already developed the core of his ethics in his earlier works. The central distinction here is the ontological difference between the intimate stay of the fetus in its mother’s womb and the ominous outside of the world. From its birth onwards the infant has to develop new intimate spheres to make life bearable and to expand into the world. This coming into the world depends on the quality of macrospheres that take over the immunological functions of the microspheres. Sloterdijk believes that the current debate on globalisation is a late and superficial reflection of the crisis of the metaphysical globalisation. This crisis means that Europeans have lost their all-embracing macrosphere of the idealized globe. As a consequence, modernity means that people and cultures have to become more self-reliant to protect themselves from a radical outside. The actual globalisation of the earth can therefore be understood as an ongoing exteriorisation of the animated space of the local spheres. At the same time people from different cultures and states are forced to work together on an unprecedented scale. This actual globalisation does not mean however, that there is a universal moral law that obliges us to put our self-interest aside in favour of the interests of strangers. In this respect Sloterdijk stresses the importance of care for one’s own spheres, be it an individual, a family or a company, as a condition of responsibility and solidarity.

Xavier Vanmechelen
Summary: The Puzzle about ‘Akrasia’
In this paper I give some reasons why akratic action is such a puzzling problem. One of the reasons is that it is not clear which everyday phenomenon the term of art ‘akrasia’ refers to. I argue that we should take cases in which the person acts determinedly and wholeheartedly against her better judgement as core cases of akrasia. Acting foolishly is a case in point of this kind of akrasia. It is a better example than acting weakly. Subsequently I defend the Davidsonian solution to the problem of akrasia against the objection that it cannot explain cases of last ditch akrasia. The gist of my argument is that there is a way of accommodating Davidson’s inferential break view to the problem of last ditch akrasia by taking a more dynamic view on intention than usual in action theory.

Bert van Roermund
Summary: Constitutive Power, Sovereignty, and Representation
Sovereignty and representation are the two concepts that legal theory is quick to regard as redundant in any account of legal authority. Sovereignty is alleged to be at odds with both the facts and the values of political pluralism; representation is, at most, a provisional substitute for participation in supra- and infra-national legal development. Antonio Negri, however, analyses sovereignty and representation as the two, closely linked, conceptual devices by which a legal order neutralises constitutive political power. He argues that constitutionalism and institutionalism are but the contemporary guises of these traditional notions and advocates openness for the multifarious initiatives of ‘the multitude’ to create new societal structures. This article argues that Negri is right in his critique of, in particular, institutionalism, but that he is wrong in thinking that Lefort’s position can be reduced to its simple version. In the background of Lefort’s theory we should see the political analogon of Merleau-Ponty’s celebrated distinction between parole parlante and parole parlée. Negri himself appears unable to avoid the appeal to questionable referents of sovereignty and representation.

A. Van Sevenant
Summary: Love for the Mediate. Derrida’s Philosophy of Touching
The concept of “the mediate” - a central notion in the philosophy of Aristotle and Hegel - is the starting point in this article on touching. It reveals that touching is less immediate than our philosophical tradition seems to admit. That is at least the position Derrida defends in a recent book in which he focusses on the priority of touching (called haptocentrism).
Together with the study of the paradox that Derrida discovers in Husserl’s text on the hierarchy of the senses, it is Derrida’s underlining of the priority of touching itself that is here being questioned. One wonders if the notion haptophilia, instead of haptocentrism, would not have been more accurate.
Moreover, if Derrida’s argument in general sensitizes for the less immediate aspects of the philosophical text and context, it is the more mediate dimension of touching that is actually being stressed. And since mediate aspects can never be addressed directly and explicitly, the critique of haptocentrism appears to be a matter of drawing attention to the mediate in an indirect way. In other words, the love for the mediate is itself expressed in an indirect and mediate way.

I. Verhack
Summary: Spirituality and Philosophy: Can They Meet Again?
Today, we can notice a renewed interest in spirituality, often as an alternative for established religions. Does this also mean that after centuries of growing apart and mutual diffidence, our time would offer a new opportunity for a meeting between spirituality and philosophy? At first glance this seems rather improbable. The origin of the term ‘spirituality’ is not philosophical, but Christian. There, it means a life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Today, the content of a spirituality can be religious as well as atheist, as some contemporary examples show. Thus it mostly expresses a craving for inner unity and universal reconciliation for human beings and for the universe. Such a spirituality testifies to a transcendency in the human and promotes a practical wisdom based on a corresponding metaphysical worldview. But it is not immediately clear what such a worldview could afford to the self-understanding of rational philosophy. Yet, the idea of human transcendency is not unknown to contemporary philosophy. In Heidegger’s Being and Time, it bears the name of ‘existence’. Moreover, Heidegger agrees that his philosophy of authentical existence as finite being-until-death is inspired by a ‘factical ideal’. He presents his philosophy as being that lifeview in its reflexively understood meaning. Building on such a hermeneutical idea of philosophy, this article defends the view that spiritualities in general can be seen as carriers of valuable elements for an ontological understanding of the meaning of being. The article develops an understanding of being in which being is seen as a commonly shared perfection in the context of a general ontology of finite participation in being in which the world appears as the place of a lacking. This perfection comes toward us as an appeal to our freedom. That ontological awareness gives way to a reflexive assumption of spiritual attitudes such like generosity and fidelity in the context of an ontological philosophy of the meaning of human existence.

G. Visser
Summary: Duintjer’s Immanent Metaphysics and Access to Spiritual Space
This article presents the spiritual thought of Otto Duintjer in the context of the question of philosophy and transcendence. An explanation is given of his starting point in the modern transcendental tradition, entree to a postmetaphysic philosophy, the concept of an ‘immanent metaphysics’. With Duintjer the transcendental ‘step back’ opens up the dimension of a cosmic consciousness. Difference and similarities are traced between this position and Heideggers thought of the ‘clearing’. For Duintjer the opening to the spiritual dimension is formed by a ‘witness-consciousness’. At the end of the article the question is posed whether the inner silence of this witness-consciousness (heaven) has not its counterpart in the gradual affirmation of, what Nietzsche calls, the smallest moment (earth). Are not these the two interdependent eschatological sides of the ‘soul’?

Margaret Urban Walker
Summary: Feminist Ethics and Human Conditions
This essay argues that feminist ethics offers a model of moral philosophy that is enriched by empirical information and critical thought about actual social and moral forms of life and their distributions of authority, privilege and power. Feminist ethics is committed to revealing the ways that these social realities affect both moral philosophy and ethical thinking. Through analysis of a series of diverse examples of claims in contemporary moral philosophy, I illustrate the pitfalls of failing to test philosophical generalizations about moral thinking and moral recognition in light of the realities of human social life and the pervasive presence of social hierarchies that shape moral attitudes as well as social interactions. In conclusion, I argue briefly for a non-ideal, nonfoundationalist, reflexively critical, and naturalized approach to philosophical theory in ethics and to everyday moral thinking.