Neutrality as the Art of the Possible: General Election 2017

May 11, 2017

The way that politicians are questioned by the television and radio media in the UK is intended to ensure neutrality on the part of the interviewer and media organisation.  It is clear that this is the intention and yet we need to look at the terms in which such neutral ground is set out.

Politicians are questioned in terms of the possible reality of their policies and plans.  This comes first.  Policies and plans must fit into a predetermined sphere of possibility.  What can be achieved, what can work and what is realistic?  If we recognise this set of preconditions the claim to neutrality comes into question.  There is a model of judgement at work concerning the value of policies and plans which lays claim to neutrality by testing and critically assessing every political party and position equally.

We can make this criticism if we show that there are other models of judgement as to the value of a political manifesto.  What if a model of judgement began with an imperative or injunction, an event from which possibility or reality is to emerge?  What if our fundamental, ontological relation to the Other (to draw on Levinas) were the event from which political realities were to be created through political thought and activity?  The leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has claimed that in a country like the UK, with its wealth and resources, there should not be people sleeping on the streets.  In such a model of political judgement, conditions of possibility follow from this absolute recognition of a duty to the Other and reality is to be constructed on the basis of this fundamental relation at the basis of human existence. 

In the current UK general election campaign we are witnessing a labour manifesto being questioned for its lack of realistic possibility.  In defence, one labour politician, Andrew Gwynne, referred to the labour government of Clement Atlee and its overcoming of the limitations of the present, redefining what was possible in changing the structure of society (Today programme, BBC Radio 4, 11/05/2017 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p052l9vp ).  Of course, less radical manifestos than labour’s are favoured by ‘neutrality’.  They do not have to argue against the set of preconditions for possible reality embodied by the market.  If a political party operates within the set of preconditions that is recognised as embodying possible reality they will still be ‘grilled’ by political interviewers but not relentlessly cast outside the bounds of possible reality.  Such a political party may be taken to task for waiting lists and shortages in the NHS, criticised for not finding a way of making things work better (politics as management), but they will never be ridiculed by comparison with supposedly ridiculous examples from the past (such as labour’s 1983 manifesto which was dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’ by Gerald Kaufman).

This general election campaign brings out the need to question claims to neutrality so that we base thought and action on a broader field than any established preconceptions of possible reality allow.


 

Regency Philosophy: The SEP/FEP Joint Philosophy Conference 2016

August 30, 2016

I've just enjoyed attending this year’s SEP/FEP conference at Regent's University London.  Very pleasant to find that the university is located in the middle of Regent’s Park, the tranquility of which is enhanced by its location in a dense and crowded metropolis.  I found the papers rigorous and stimulating.  I heard a number on Heidegger that focused upon the rigorous nature of his thought, distilling the problems that animate his texts.  One, by Elena Bartolini of the University of Mi...


Continue reading...
 

The Division of the Sciences in Aristotle's 'Posterior Analytics'

June 27, 2016

Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics is a difficult read.  It is well known that the surviving corpus of his works comprises rough drafts or lecture notes. These are known as his esoteric works while the finished, polished, crafted and accessible exoteric works are lost.  Yet there is a sense of clarity and purpose in the attempts made in this rough and disjointed prose to found, to ground and to establish.  There is a determination to mark out clearly how a science or discipline is formed and c...


Continue reading...
 

Aristotle: On Where to Begin

June 24, 2016

Of late I have been exploring Aristotle’s thought.  Common approaches to this thinker – familiar in introductions, courses and elsewhere – focus upon Aristotle’s ethics and his teleological conception of nature.  His Four Causes also feature prominently as a source for proofs of God’s existence by much later thinkers.  These appear in the context of age-old and well-established debates about the nature and value of virtue ethics, and the problems of maintaining a teleological concep...


Continue reading...
 

Review of Heidegger's 'The Beginning of Western Philosophy'

June 24, 2016
A review I wrote of Heidegger's The Beginning of Western Philosophy: Interpetation of Anaximander and Parmenides (Indiana University Press, 2015) has just appeared in Philosophy in Review.  In my previous blog post I talked about some of the problems and questions that arise in these lectures from 1932.  There is a danger of seeing here only an anti-scientific and mystical leaning here.  Yet Heidegger is self-aware and responds to concerns about his method of interpreting other thinkers.  Gen...
Continue reading...
 

Heidegger, Anaximander and Science

March 16, 2016

A reading of Heidegger’s The Beginning of Western Philosophy: Interpretation of Anaximander and Parmenides (trans, Richard Rojcewicz, Indiana University Press, 2015) raises some important questions about the role of science in his thought.  I am concerned with evaluating the apparently negative and unproductive role science seems to have in Heidegger’s work. 

Heidegger seems to dismiss science in his interpretation of Anaximander:

‘Indeed, what is not decisive is the magnitude in number
o...


Continue reading...
 

Aquinas' Architectonic

March 9, 2016
I've been working on a reading of Aquinas' architectonic which is now among the online texts section of this website. Principles for constructing an architectonic emerge as Aquinas thinks through the nature of disciplines.   
Continue reading...
 

On the Very Idea of Medieval Physics

February 28, 2016


Having just attended a conference on medieval physics I am struck by the difficulty in defining the activities of these thinkers.  On the one hand universities in this era insisted on a training in physics, informed by classical texts and Aristotle in particular, before students could study theology.  The medieval physics that developed sought a rational understanding of nature and thus distinguished itself from inward looking  Augustinian and Platonic notions of study.  A drive to mathematic...
Continue reading...
 

More on what Walter Watson means by Architectonics

February 24, 2016


Above is Water Watson's Archic Matrix.  You can view a larger version by clicking here.  In my previous post I sought to outline his conception of architectonics and give a critical assessment of its claims to include all philosophies in a relation of 'reciprocal priority'.  Although I criticised his approach on a number of points the table above does show the sheer insight and clarity of his understanding of the basic possibilities of thought.  He is able to draw unheard of connections betwe...

Continue reading...
 

What is the Meaning of Architectonics? On Walter’s Watson’s The Architectonics of Meaning

February 21, 2016




Walter Watson’s The Architectonics of Meaning: Foundations of the New Pluralism (1985, second edition 1993) is at once modest and hugely ambitious in its project.  In this work of less than two hundred pages the history of Western philosophy, plus that of natural science and elements of literature and Eastern philosophy, are synthesised within an architectonic.  The range of thinkers which span the extremes of opposing views is wide indeed.  Yet Watson proclaims the standpoint of ‘the new...

Continue reading...
 

Neutrality as the Art of the Possible: General Election 2017

May 11, 2017

The way that politicians are questioned by the television and radio media in the UK is intended to ensure neutrality on the part of the interviewer and media organisation.  It is clear that this is the intention and yet we need to look at the terms in which such neutral ground is set out.

Politicians are questioned in terms of the possible reality of their policies and plans.  This comes first.  Policies and plans must fit into a predetermined sphere of possibility.  What can be achieved, what can work and what is realistic?  If we recognise this set of preconditions the claim to neutrality comes into question.  There is a model of judgement at work concerning the value of policies and plans which lays claim to neutrality by testing and critically assessing every political party and position equally.

We can make this criticism if we show that there are other models of judgement as to the value of a political manifesto.  What if a model of judgement began with an imperative or injunction, an event from which possibility or reality is to emerge?  What if our fundamental, ontological relation to the Other (to draw on Levinas) were the event from which political realities were to be created through political thought and activity?  The leader of the UK Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has claimed that in a country like the UK, with its wealth and resources, there should not be people sleeping on the streets.  In such a model of political judgement, conditions of possibility follow from this absolute recognition of a duty to the Other and reality is to be constructed on the basis of this fundamental relation at the basis of human existence. 

In the current UK general election campaign we are witnessing a labour manifesto being questioned for its lack of realistic possibility.  In defence, one labour politician, Andrew Gwynne, referred to the labour government of Clement Atlee and its overcoming of the limitations of the present, redefining what was possible in changing the structure of society (Today programme, BBC Radio 4, 11/05/2017 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p052l9vp ).  Of course, less radical manifestos than labour’s are favoured by ‘neutrality’.  They do not have to argue against the set of preconditions for possible reality embodied by the market.  If a political party operates within the set of preconditions that is recognised as embodying possible reality they will still be ‘grilled’ by political interviewers but not relentlessly cast outside the bounds of possible reality.  Such a political party may be taken to task for waiting lists and shortages in the NHS, criticised for not finding a way of making things work better (politics as management), but they will never be ridiculed by comparison with supposedly ridiculous examples from the past (such as labour’s 1983 manifesto which was dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’ by Gerald Kaufman).

This general election campaign brings out the need to question claims to neutrality so that we base thought and action on a broader field than any established preconceptions of possible reality allow.


 

Regency Philosophy: The SEP/FEP Joint Philosophy Conference 2016

August 30, 2016

I've just enjoyed attending this year’s SEP/FEP conference at Regent's University London.  Very pleasant to find that the university is located in the middle of Regent’s Park, the tranquility of which is enhanced by its location in a dense and crowded metropolis.  I found the papers rigorous and stimulating.  I heard a number on Heidegger that focused upon the rigorous nature of his thought, distilling the problems that animate his texts.  One, by Elena Bartolini of the University of Mi...


Continue reading...
 

The Division of the Sciences in Aristotle's 'Posterior Analytics'

June 27, 2016

Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics is a difficult read.  It is well known that the surviving corpus of his works comprises rough drafts or lecture notes. These are known as his esoteric works while the finished, polished, crafted and accessible exoteric works are lost.  Yet there is a sense of clarity and purpose in the attempts made in this rough and disjointed prose to found, to ground and to establish.  There is a determination to mark out clearly how a science or discipline is formed and c...


Continue reading...
 

Aristotle: On Where to Begin

June 24, 2016

Of late I have been exploring Aristotle’s thought.  Common approaches to this thinker – familiar in introductions, courses and elsewhere – focus upon Aristotle’s ethics and his teleological conception of nature.  His Four Causes also feature prominently as a source for proofs of God’s existence by much later thinkers.  These appear in the context of age-old and well-established debates about the nature and value of virtue ethics, and the problems of maintaining a teleological concep...


Continue reading...
 

Review of Heidegger's 'The Beginning of Western Philosophy'

June 24, 2016
A review I wrote of Heidegger's The Beginning of Western Philosophy: Interpetation of Anaximander and Parmenides (Indiana University Press, 2015) has just appeared in Philosophy in Review.  In my previous blog post I talked about some of the problems and questions that arise in these lectures from 1932.  There is a danger of seeing here only an anti-scientific and mystical leaning here.  Yet Heidegger is self-aware and responds to concerns about his method of interpreting other thinkers.  Gen...
Continue reading...
 

Heidegger, Anaximander and Science

March 16, 2016

A reading of Heidegger’s The Beginning of Western Philosophy: Interpretation of Anaximander and Parmenides (trans, Richard Rojcewicz, Indiana University Press, 2015) raises some important questions about the role of science in his thought.  I am concerned with evaluating the apparently negative and unproductive role science seems to have in Heidegger’s work. 

Heidegger seems to dismiss science in his interpretation of Anaximander:

‘Indeed, what is not decisive is the magnitude in number
o...


Continue reading...
 

Aquinas' Architectonic

March 9, 2016
I've been working on a reading of Aquinas' architectonic which is now among the online texts section of this website. Principles for constructing an architectonic emerge as Aquinas thinks through the nature of disciplines.   
Continue reading...
 

On the Very Idea of Medieval Physics

February 28, 2016


Having just attended a conference on medieval physics I am struck by the difficulty in defining the activities of these thinkers.  On the one hand universities in this era insisted on a training in physics, informed by classical texts and Aristotle in particular, before students could study theology.  The medieval physics that developed sought a rational understanding of nature and thus distinguished itself from inward looking  Augustinian and Platonic notions of study.  A drive to mathematic...
Continue reading...
 

More on what Walter Watson means by Architectonics

February 24, 2016


Above is Water Watson's Archic Matrix.  You can view a larger version by clicking here.  In my previous post I sought to outline his conception of architectonics and give a critical assessment of its claims to include all philosophies in a relation of 'reciprocal priority'.  Although I criticised his approach on a number of points the table above does show the sheer insight and clarity of his understanding of the basic possibilities of thought.  He is able to draw unheard of connections betwe...

Continue reading...
 

What is the Meaning of Architectonics? On Walter’s Watson’s The Architectonics of Meaning

February 21, 2016




Walter Watson’s The Architectonics of Meaning: Foundations of the New Pluralism (1985, second edition 1993) is at once modest and hugely ambitious in its project.  In this work of less than two hundred pages the history of Western philosophy, plus that of natural science and elements of literature and Eastern philosophy, are synthesised within an architectonic.  The range of thinkers which span the extremes of opposing views is wide indeed.  Yet Watson proclaims the standpoint of ‘the new...

Continue reading...
 

 

 
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