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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Monday, December 9, 2013


I've started two books and am tempted to alternate chapters in each to see if they comment on one another.

Edward Skidelsky begins his 2008 book ERNST CASSIRER: THE LAST PHILOSOPHER OF CULTURE by stating how his opinion of the German philosopher altered over time. In his first draft of his book Skidelsky advocated Cassirer's goal of finding the unity of all human endeavors into terms of their value as "symbolic constructions."  However, in the finished version of the book, Skidelsky confesses that he changed his mind: that he somewhat devalued Cassirer because the philosopher "did not see what Heidegger and many others saw so clearly: that the secular idols of humanity and progress were dead."

While I can admire Skidelsky for having subjected his early enthusiasm to further analysis, I have to ask: are such ideals as "humanity" and "progress" capable of being entirely superseded?

As a countervailing opinion, here is Roy Bhaskar in his REALIST THEORY OF SCIENCE:

...in one science after another recent developments, or in some cases the lack of them, have forced old philosophical problems to the fore. Thus the dispute between Parmenides and Heraclitus as to whether being or becoming is ultimate lies not far from the center of methodological controversy in physics... Sociologists are making increasing use of the allegedly discredited Aristotelian typology of causes.  And the problem of the universals has re-emerged in an almost Platonic form in structural linguistics, anthropology and developmental biology.

My readings into both books thus far indicates that both authors are experts in their respective fields, with, I confess, far greater knowledge than I regarding the history of philosophical developments.  But Skidelsky's contention that a given concept can be disproven and shown to be outdated strikes me as one that runs counter to my convictions regarding intersubjectivity.  I cannot personally verify any of Bhaskar's statements about the revivification of archaic philosophical concepts within the context of modern science. But it seems logical in that human intelligence cannot be quantified as a set of either/or propositions; rather it is a continuum, one fueled by the endlessly variety of human enthusiasms.  To the extent that Aristotle is a human being, and so is a given sociologist, it is always possible that a concept of Aristotle will find resonance within another human being's conceptual apparatus.

This is obviously relevant to me in that my critical project takes considerable fire from intellectuals who are no longer in fashion: Frye with his myth-criticism, and the Cambridge myth-and-ritual school that influenced Frye.  Obviously I do not think that they are "outdated," as I imagine most comics-critics would contend, to the extent that they would think about the matter.  But the more salient point is that no structured concepts-- even those I don't like, such as the Marxist myth of equality-- ever truly die.

Until the day that everyone thinks and perhaps looks alike, all of us will forever whore after gods our fellows consider "strange."

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