Meaning Meant

Had been writing quite a bit on the integral front, especially the developmental element as central to the integral venture even in the forerunners: Hegel, Teilhard, James Mark Baldwin, and Aurobindo.

So I thought maybe a brief list of Continental thinkers worth reading for their hermeneutical and definitely non-structural genius. All, except perhaps Habermas, fit (roughly) into the categorization of postmodern.

Got some criticism on that point, most notably from Matthew who goosed me to enter more the hermeneutical side of the street. From those of you who read his posts he is very taken with Camille Paglia and the US stream more generally. His made off the cuff (what I think are off the cuff anyway) references against passe/dead Continental thinkers. Which I took to mean more the post/structural, particularly French, school (Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard). When the call is to remember the need forever of entering the dialogue of meaning–with texts, works of art, peoples, cultures, ideas, and events–I’m right there. Not reducing any of these mysterious qualia to quantity only–as in height/depth, level, order, etc. Not adopting only a third person observational, and therefore egoic separate stance, but always communing. I couldn’t agree more. Again, for me it’s just the balance of the two, but that is my own personal sense, others need to find their proper groove on all this.

In no particular order.

Nietzsche and Kierkegaard. The fathers of existentialist over essentialist philosophical thought. That is, philosophy dealing no longer with the essences of things, abstracted, but rather how ideas/movements/phenomena arise through time and gain meaning therein. Kierkegaard’s descriptions of anxiety and dread are unmatched. And Nietzsche that anxiety as due to entering the post-mythic future, the death of God.

Emanuel Levinas: The tradition of sympathy and listening to “the Other” and how the self is always defined in concert with the Other.

Martin Buber. Very much in accord with Levinas. Buber reformulating the Rabbinic tradition of Biblical conversation as meditation. The I-you (not I-Thou as translated). I-Du in German. Du as deeply intimate, more so even I think than the English you and certainly more than the exalted THOU. All our relationships as one of such intimacy–to the natural world, animals, humans, even God.

Paul Ricoeur and Hans Georg Gadamar (pictured above, Gadamar on right, Ricoeur on left). Ricoeur father of the description of late modernism/postmodern as governed by the hermeneutic of suspicion: deconstruction, Freudianism, Marxism, Hegelianism, structuralism, the monadic ego attacked on all sides by other forces. Read his work on the Symbolism of Evil.
–Gadmer as the formulator of more precise methods for hermeneutics. His ideas of the circularity and possible spirality of interpretation; the need for sympathy when entering a text, and the history of effects of prior understanding when brought to a text, all of deep value.

Martin Heidegger (early writings, e.g. Being and Time). The inheritor of the Kiekegaardian- Nietzschean mantel. Worldspaces, lifeworlds, being-in-the-world, and living in the age between the death of the mythic god and the rise of the future god. Later writings more concerned with destruction of modernity, colonization of the lifeworld by gestelle and techne. More like deconstructionism.

Jurgen Habermas. Only one still alive; the last of the great European philosophers. The last five years have seen the deaths of Ricoeur, Derrida, and Gadamer. Levinas died in 95. And the bridge between hermeneutics and structuralism. The way towards a synthesis as I see it. Habermas is a sociologist by nature–the last also of the Frankfurt School. But his notion of communicative reason is the way forward towards a constructive postmodern or post-postmodernism if you prefer. Communicative reason involves complex, definitional, philosophical-sociological-psychological systemization but is only meant to serve “communication”, actually comm-union. Different validity claims and dialogues/expectation in moral-political discussions versus artistic/aesthetic ones, and further I would add religious/mystical ones.

Published in: on September 13, 2006 at 3:56 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are, without a doubt, the greatest thinkers of modern day thought. But I don’t like how Heidegger bent these two.

    Wittgenstein is a much better successor of Kierkegaard, while Foucault is a better successor of Nietzsche.

  2. Terry,

    Thanks for the comment. Shame on me for forgetting Ludwig. Interesting thought on Michel as the true inheritor of Fredrich.

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