Sunday, 15 April 2012

Rancour against Ricoeur

'Ricoeur extends his account of freedom in Fallible Man and The Symbolism of Evil, both published in 1960. In these works he addresses the question of how to account for the fact that it is possible for us to misuse our freedom, to have a bad willIn Fallible Man he argues that this possibility is grounded in a basic disproportion that characterizes the finite and the infinite dimensions of a human being. This disproportion is epitomized by the gap between bios, or one's spatiotemporally located life, and the logos, one's use of reason that can grasp universals. This disproportion shows up in every aspect of human existence. It is manifest in perception, in thought and speech, in evaluation, and in action. By reason of this disproportion, we are never wholly at one with ourselves and hence we can go wrong. We are fallible, yet evil, the misuse of our freedom, is not therefore original or necessary.
Nor does this disproportion render our existence meaningless. Rather, the very disproportion that makes us fallible and makes human evil possible is also what makes goodness, knowledge, and achievement possible. It is what distinguishes us from one another—each one of us has his or her unique spatiotemporal location—and at the same time makes it possible for us to communicate with each other, through the logos that intends to transcend such localized points of view.
Though the unity of humanity is never more than a unity founded on communication, precisely because we can communicate, the differences among us are never absolute. Furthermore, no one of us alone could be a person. Though each of us has an individual identity, our identities show that we are bound up with others: “Man is this plural and collective unity in which the unity of destination and the differences of destinies are to be understood through each other” (Fallible Man, 138).'

'Ricoeur's initial conception of the disproportion that characterizes human beings was, he came to conclude, insufficient to account for occurrences of an actual bad will and evil deeds. No direct, unmediated inspection of the cogito, as Descartes and Husserl had proposed, could show why these evils, contingent as each of them is, in fact came to be. Recognizing the opacity of the cogito in this respect confirmed his suspicion that all self-understanding comes about only through “signs deposited in memory and imagination by the great literary traditions” (Ricoeur, “Intellectual Autobiography,” in Hahn, 1995, 16). This suspicion was a major motivator for his hermeneutic and, at the same time, “linguistic turn.”
Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.
 Why would an animal, subject to evolutionary pressure and for whom cognition is costly in terms of calories consumed, want to have something Ricouer would recognize as a 'good will'? The theological answer, grounded in some sort of Occasionalism, is that thinking good thoughts and having a good Will and regularly denouncing evil coz evil is real bad, okay, and abstaining from some inexpressible and inexpiable Sin against the Holy Ghost or Goat or whatever is really really important coz God's into that shite big time and he sure will fuck you up if you don't toe the line.
Ricouer, on the other hand, probably thought that shite Philosophers write somehow enables or defends against Hitlerism or summat. But, that's fucked in the head. What enabled Hitler was the stupidity of the Political Wing of the German Army freed from having to ponce around in tu tus for the pleasure of Prussian King. Without a King to keep them in line- or Eulenberg to kiss away Moltke's sulks- the Generals naturally got round to fucking Civil Society, rather than each other, in the ass. They still wouldn't have been able to fuck Europe in the ass if the other European countries had trusted to Game Theory of the Rand Corp type rather than pious pi-jaw and Popular Fronts and other such shite.
Contra Ricoeur, what Language and Philosophy and 'good' or 'bad' Will is about is 'cheap talk' and 'costly signals' in a repeated Game. But, Evolution is a meta-game so what ultimately decides things is Operations Research re. cheaper kill rates and Cryptography and splitting Atoms and so on.

In the aftermath of his “linguistic turn” Ricoeur did not abandon the basic claims of his earlier anthropology. As he had in Freedom and Nature, he continued to reject any form of substance dualism. So no Occassionalism then but also no Phenomenology that is not Epiphenomenology unless it can be shown to be adaptive- i.e. a costly signal or a genetic canalization- rather than just cheap talk or random noise generated for the purpose of a mixed strategy.And as he did in Fallible Man, he continued to emphasize the fragility of the human condition. But this turn led him to make major changes in his accounts of both language and action. On the one hand, he found in his conception of discourse as grounded upon the signs and symbols that make up human culture resources both for framing working hypotheses to make sense of human existence and for testing them. On the other hand, he came to conclude that his earlier work on the will was insufficient to provide the basis for an adequate philosophical anthropology. He had emphasized that the will involved an “internal” project or aim that was basically self-contained. But he came to see that one can only make sense of projects and intentions by understanding them as always connected to events in the world.
But this means, Ricoeur is ruling out the existence of apophatic communal duties and non supervenient interpersonal states. Why should he do this? What argument rules out such things? Consider 'geometrical frustration' where the lowest entropic state can't be reached, or think of concurrency deadlock- do such situations not characterize the interpersonal aspect of lived life? Why should energy expended under such conditions, which require a ditopology to describe, not 'count'?
Properly conceived, action is that which brings projects and worldly events together, for action encompasses not only doing and making but also receiving and enduring. Action includes “saying inasmuch as it is a doing, ordinary action inasmuch as it is an intervention into the course of things, narration inasmuch as it is the narrative reassembling of a life stretched out in time, and finally, the capacity to impute to oneself or to others the responsibility for acting” (“De l'esprit,”Revue Philosophique de Louvain 92 (1994): 248). Hence Ricoeur concludes that his conception of action is similar to Heidegger's conception of care as the fundamental way that persons exist and inhabit the world (Critique and Conviction, 74–75).
But Heide's concept of 'care' was fucked in the head. It aint a good thing if your pi-jaw cashes out as Nazi pi-jaw.
The implications of Ricoeur's investigations of different forms of discourse and action come together in a particularly striking way in his discussion of what he calls the narrative unity of a person's life. Whatever else a narrative recounts, he says, it also recounts care. Indeed, in a sense narrative “only recounts Care. This is why there is nothing absurd in speaking about the narrative unity of a life, under the sign of narratives that teach us how to articulate retrospection and prospection in a narrative way” (Oneself as Another, 163, translation modified).
Construing Heidegger's care in terms of action and thereby finding care-action to be at the heart of every narrative provided Ricoeur with the basic resources for articulating the main themes of his mature anthropology. Among these themes are: (a) discourse and action, (b) selves as agents, (c) the temporality of action, (d) narrativity, identity, and time, (e) memory and history, (f) ethics, and (g) politics. Each of these themes deals with a fundamental feature of the constitutive capabilities of the capable human being.
So, the only interesting thing about philosophy- viz. the potentially adaptive displacement activity occurring under conditions of concurrency deadlock or interpersonal geometrical frustration- is thrown away leaving it gazing mutely at Language coz, for sure, that's not a total fucking wank.

3.1 Discourse and Action

In a seminal essay, “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text” (From Text to Action, 146–67), Ricoeur's aim is both to set forth the essential constituents of all actions and to show that action is intelligible and the proper object of the social sciences. To do so he builds on his conception of discourse, of language in use.
Language contains within itself resources that allow it to be used creatively. Two important ways in which these resources come to light are (a) in the coining of metaphors and (b) in the fashioning of narratives. In The Rule of Metaphor, Ricoeur argues that is because there is a linguistic productive imagination that generates and regenerates meaning through the power of metaphoricity to state things in new ways. For him, fresh metaphors, metaphors that have not been reduced to the commonplace, reveal a new way of seeing their referents. They creatively transform language. Thus they are not merely rhetorical ornaments. They have genuine cognitive import in their own right and are untranslatable without remainder into literal language. In a similar manner, acts of narrating create new plots and characters, thereby also producing new meanings. Thus to become aware of the metaphorical and narrative resources resident in language is to see that, notwithstanding the many rules and codes that govern language usage, it is always able to be used creatively, to produce new meanings.
But metaphors are fucked coz they give you the illusion of understanding something. That illusion may be all very well if a communal duty is being discharged or a work around for an interpersonal concurrency deadlock is being broached, but metaphoricity is shite thinking and pi-jaw and can easily topple over into meta-metaphoricity- stuff like Gandhian shite, Hitlerian shite etc, etc.
Four features of discourse, as distinct from language as a system, are of central importance for the analogy Ricoeur makes between texts and actions. First, a language system as conceived by structuralists is merely virtual and hence timeless, but discourse always occurs as an actual event at some particular moment of time. Second, a language system is self-contained, but discourse always refers to persons who say or write and hear or read. Third, though a language system is a necessary condition for communication inasmuch as it provides the codes for communication, it itself does not communicate. Only discourse communicates among its interlocutors. And fourth, the signs in a language system refer only to other signs in it, but discourse “refers to a world that it claims to describe, to express, or to represent”(From Text to Action, 145).
The problem with a discourse which occurs in the fucking Lecture Hall is that it aint dialogic, it aint positive- it's credentialist shite is what it is. Fuck we need it for? 
Action is analogous to discourse because, to make full sense of any action, one has to recognize that its meaning is distinguishable from its occurrence as a particular spatiotemporal event. Nevertheless, every genuine action is meaningful only because it is some specific person's doing at some particular moment.
To clarify the analogy further between discourse and action, Ricoeur draws on speech act theory. First, action has the structure of a locutionary act inasmuch as it has a “propositional content” that we can identify and reidentify. For example, we can recognize the activity of putting on clothes or digging in the ground whenever we encounter anyone doing them.
Second, action has “illocutionary” characteristics that closely resemble the speech acts in discourse. Each type of action has constitutive “rules,” rules that make an action a specific type of action. An obvious example of the “illocutionary” character of discourse is found in making promises. Similarly, actions of a certain sort—for example, stepping forward when volunteers are called for—can, in the appropriate context, count as a promise no less than a verbal pledge can.
Though Ricoeur does not explicitly discuss the counterpart in action of the perlocutionary act in discourse, it is easy to infer. Just as we can anticipate how people are likely to react to things that we might say or write, so we can anticipate how they would likely react to what we might do. We know that there are some deeds that people will quite likely put up with and others where they are likely not to do so.
1n '68 the students spoke to Ricoeur. They told him to fuck off. Pi-jaw is no lustration of the Political, Phenomenology was a credentialist Ponzi scheme not a possible basis for 'Social Science'. The students could see that coz the shite their Profs were peddling wasn't fitting them to be productive in the sorts of industries that could deliver stuff they wanted- nice centrally heated homes with indoor plumbing, IKEA furniture, fast food, cars that could get from 0 to 60 in their own life-time- good stuff like that.
It follows from the analogies between discourse and action that all action is in principle interaction, just as all discourse is in principle dialogical.
Suppose we hadn't evolved- Ricoeur would be right. I just smoked a ciggie. The ciggie tried to rewrite my genetic code. Because I'm the product of billions of years of evolution, the ciggie (hopefully) failed. Still, if I smoke enough ciggies, it's gonna happen coz my species only been smoking for a few centuries.  Incidentally, the reason I was smoking was because I'd just killed the real Osama bin Laden. So, if I get cancer off that ciggie I sure will be pissed.
Because of this similarity, action, like discourse, is inherently subject to interpretation and open to extended forms of discourse, including forms of critique. Like discourse, actions are “open worlds” whose meaning, which outlives their initial performance, is not fully determined by their performers and their immediate audiences. As the study of history shows, there are multiple ways that a past action remains open to interpretation. One can reasonably investigate what it meant to those who knew about it when it occurred. But one can also ask how those who came later understood and assessed it, or even what it might mean today or in a possible future.
Furthermore, just as we interpret the whole of a discourse, whether spoken or written, in the light of its several parts and any particular part in the light of the whole, similarly, we interpret a complex of actions—for example, a war—in the light of the particular actions of its participants and vice versa.
All interpretative activity, therefore, proceeds by way of a dialectic between guessing and validating. We make an educated guess about the meaning of a part and check it against the whole and vice versa. In the same way, we begin by guessing about the the meaning of the whole as determining the relative importance of the several parts. Throughout this process of guess and validation, we can come to an end when we say this is how we understand things, but there is no definitive outcome. It is always possible reasonably to relate sentences, or actions, to one another in more than one way. Hence, there is always a possible plurality and even a conflict of interpretations that must be negotiated in making sense of human discourse and action.
To validate an interpretation is not simply to verify it empirically. We validate an interpretation by vindicating it against competing interpretations. Thus validation “is an argumentative discipline more comparable to the judicial procedures of legal interpretation. It is a logic of uncertainty and qualitative probability” (From Text to Action, 159).
Despite the conflict of interpretations, we can find criteria, such as comprehensiveness, for determining which interpretation is more likely. Sometimes, though, more than one interpretation will satisfy the criteria equally well. Still some interpretations have little or no likelihood. Hence:
If it is true that there is always more than one way of construing a text, it is not true that all interpretations are equal.… The text is a limited field of possible constructions. The logic of validation allows us to move between the two limits of dogmatism and skepticism. It is always possible to argue against an interpretation, to confront interpretations, to arbitrate between them and to seek for an agreement, even if this agreement remains beyond our reach. (From Text to Action, 160)
What holds good for the interpretation of discourse holds as well for the interpretation of action.
Each discourse and action is, of course, an event that occurs at a particular place and time. Accordingly, besides interpreting it, we ought also to seek for a causal explanation of its occurrence. Only an account that provides both a causal explanation and an interpretation of its meaning that enjoys probability will do justice to the action or discourse.
Ricoeur finds in his reflections on discourse and action a capital lesson about the world and the persons or selves that inhabit it. Selves as agents are, to be sure, entities in the world. But they are fundamentally different from all other worldly entities in that they create things whose meaning needs to be interpreted.

3.2 Selves as Agents

Ricoeur's conception of the self stands opposed to both the Cartesian and the radical anti-Cartesian conceptions. On the Cartesian conception of the cogito, the ego is supposedly independent of its body and the body's spatiotemporal setting. It is immediately, transparently aware of itself. On the radical anti-Cartesian conception, the so-called self is nothing other than the product or function of some basically impersonal system, be it the unconscious, the will to power, or the forces of economic production. For Ricoeur, the self is essentially embodied. It is, on the one hand, both made possible and constituted by its material and cultural situation. But, on the other hand, it is in principle always capable of initiative, of inaugurating something new. More importantly, the self is what answers the question “Who?”: Who spoke, who did this, who said this, who is this? As such it has a personal identity and is open to different descriptions.
The kind of identity that the Ricoeurian self has is not like that of the nonpersonal entities that perdure simply as in some significant sense “selfsame.” Rather, the self's identity is constituted by an inextricable tie between such selfsameness and a self-constancy that maintians its identity through change over time. Following the distinction in Latin between idem andipse, Ricoeur holds that the self's idem-identity is that which gives the self, among other things, its spatio-temporal sameness. Its ipse-identity is what accounts for its unique ability to initiate something new and imputable to a self, be it oneself or another, as agent. Without both sorts of identity there is no self. Because a self has both an idem-identity and anipse-identity, it inhabits two irreducible orders of causality, namely, the physical and the intentional orders. A comprehensive account of any genuine action must express the way it is related to both of these orders.
The evidence that Ricoeur cites to support the claim that the self inhabits two orders of causality comes not from empirical verification but from attestation. Attestation is the sort of lived assurance or confidence that each person has of existing in both of these orders of causality. This assurance is a kind of belief but one based on credence or trust rather than a logical certitude. It is the confidence that the self has in its ability to act and to suffer, to do and undergo things that it can impute to itself as its own doings and sufferings. The evidential validity of attestation as distinct from verification is crucial for Ricoeur's entire anthropology. Without it, he would have no basis for insisting, with Kant, that persons are irreducibly different from things.

Interpretation and Attestation. We all do both all the time, they are two sides of the same coin, but neither has any importance save in so far as we are systematically maximising the joint irony of our error in either. 
Essentially concurrency deadlock and geometrical frustration and so on are adaptive because inertia is adaptive and Phenomenology, so long as it is yoked with its dual, viz. Occassionalism, is important in capturing the over-riding feature of our lived life as failures because the good news is we die and so, unless God blighted us with success, that which is dilatory is also the aleatory golden path which at last divorces us from Language's Eurydice. Thus, luckier than Orpheus, we gain the stellar spate of Suka.

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