Forgetting transcendental realism:
I must clarify what is meant here by “forgetting” and by “transcendental realism”.
Though the term itself is quite broad, it seems to accurately describe what Novalis is doing when he writes: “The more poetic, the more real. This is the core of my philosophy.”
At the risk of sounding very old-hat, Michael Austin has an old post at the Complete Lies blog from 2009 (see here) in which he pinpoints the origins of the kind of project I’m undertaking:
I have also proposed a lineage of “Transcendental Realism” in both my Claremont talk as well as another essay, where I maintain that there is a lineage after Kant that takes Kantianism (and critical philosophy generally) seriously, while also maintaining that there is more to things than our ideas of things. I locate this tradition with the rejection of Fichte by his star students, Schelling and Novalis, and see it as the ground of Romantic philosophy broadly understood to include Schopenhauer, Fechner, Nietzsche, von Hartmann, etc. It’s also a tradition which takes Spinoza very seriously, as well as aesthetics and mysticism. This is because they represent a group that knew that the logical consequence of Enlightenment thought was the reduction of the real to the rational and that this isn’t the case. They accept that there are things-in-themselves and that we have some vague knowledge of them through non-cognitive means, like sensation, imagination, intuition, etc. This is precisely the critique of Kant that Schopenhauer makes, that we actually know something of the in-itself because we are able to grasp the in-itself in us intuitively. [...]
I say origins, because obviously there seems to be some problems in ending where we began, since transcendental realism would be considered a philosophy instead of a non-philosophy. Nonetheless, I feel Austin’s rendering of the “transcendental realist” tradition is very accurate on the whole, and I anticipate much harmony between us on this subject in particular.
Insofar as this kind of “transcendental realism” is for me merely a conceptual spring-board into an absolute insistence upon non-violent resistance, I believe it ultimately must be forgotten.
I mean this in a Nietzschean way:
Nietzsche puts forward the idea that “the origin of the institution of punishment is in a straightforward (pre-moral) creditor/debtor relationship” in the “Second Treatise” of Genealogy of Morals. In other words, “Man” relies on the apparatus of forgetfulness which has been “bred” into him as a means of avoiding the sort of “traumatic” reliving of the past over and over again. This brand of forgetfulness is, according to Nietzsche, an active “faculty of repression”, and not something like “mere absent-mindedness”.
The importance to note there is that the origin of the institution of punishment is pre-moral, and by contrast the Übermensch is the one whose moral values are entirely self-legislated. Novalis, too, arrives at this conclusion a decade or so before Nietzsche, who no doubt read Novalis’ passages such as: “64. But does not reason require that each of us is his own lawgiver? A person should only obey his own laws.” in Faith and Love or The King and Queen.
Nietzsche, in theorizing this need for active forgetfulness, therefore gives us a way to move “with Novalis beyond Novalis” and philosophy of transcendental realism. This is his dance.
So, we see that the end of the philosophical thought of Novalis, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche is incomplete. The New is not named in Nietzsche, he merely reaches the end of the Old. So, we must go with-and-beyond him by asking: What is this affirmation in particular?
It is as though he noumena and phenomena are here aligned together – as if overlapping – but the will is still in place ready to default at any moment to its normal state in the Old. To go beyond good and evil, like the Übermensch, is in many ways to go beyond the Schopenhauerian will. While this parallel may not be perfect, it’s this sort of movement which I’m trying to locate.
Then, to make the switch from will to, let us say, “non-will” requires a constant, active, joyous affirmation of “non-will”.
What is “non-will”? Well, here it is understood much like Schelling’s unprethinkable.
What is taking place here is like the bringing together of two rings which would otherwise remain in a separated tension, and when they coincide – like an eclipse – the need is to quickly stick a rod through them so they do not move back into their previous state of antagonism.The transition in these three thinkers is still to be made from philosophy to non-philosophy, the determination of satyagraha is still to be made to escape the Old.
A more thorough analysis of this can be provided by examining the state of affairs by way of our mediated understanding of the thing-in-itself.
We come to find in Kant’s project that we are tragically unable to access the thing-in-itself insofar as we are all, at least according to Fichte’s completion of Kant, transcendental egos and nothing more.
But, as the discourse of being qua being unfolds on the side of “pure difference”, and we start to realize that we are not purely Cartesian thinking-things but we have an empirical ego side to us as well, then the thing-in-itself doesn’t seem so mysterious. Yes, there is an extent to which the noumena still eludes us for the moment, but fortunately we can deal with this mediated determination according to Schopenhauer through aesthetics: music, poetry, and romanticism writ large à la Novalis.
Here’s the break down:
- The “transcendental I” is created by the act of becoming aware. Determination as such. (e.g. corresponds to phenomena).
- The “empirical I” is the act of positing content outside of our “pure I”. Mediated determination. (e.g. corresponds to noumena).
Or, in other words, this is pretty much the same chart as the one drawn out by Levi Byrant on page 20 of Difference and Givenness:
This is how we begin with the “count-as-Two”: both not-All egos exist apart, thereby splitting subject.
To develop a fully non-philosophical account of the “I” would require us to, as Novalis writes, “romanticize the world” so as to gain unmediated access to the thing-in-itself. That is to say, insofar as Philosophy is, then there is separation between noumena and phenomena. In non-Philosophy, however, the Two are brought together in the vision-in-One. This would mark the start of a possible unified subject, and thus of a possibly New Philosophy.
To translate into Schopenhauerian terms, this “romanticizing of the world” would require the complete elimination of the “will” as we presently understand it. Or, it is not we are to eliminate the will, but that it is we are to de-center and dis-place it such that the soul-force becomes the New will. Seen from the Old, this may be akin to “non-will”.
This comes in the same way that Novalis eliminated all the other forms of German idealism at the height of what may be called “transcendental realism”. We could not call it “romanticism” from the New, because it would mark the routine or normal state of affairs. We would need a New Romanticism from that space, unthinkable from where we stand in the Old.
Yet, since Schopenhauer identifies the will with the thing-in-itself, the elimination of this will would then result in a complete erasure of the subject. The elimination of the will shown to be impossible insofar as we are also empirical egos. Therefore, a Nietzschean affirmation is necessary as the will comes to be replaced with its complete opposite found in “non-will”, or soul-force in Gandhi. This would allow the creation of a New consciousness which would retroactively install its own necessity.
This affirmation is satyagraha.
Yes, I am, of course, switching registers quickly between Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Novalis, and Gandhi. This is of course not completely unproblematic from the Old, as noted in the preface to Kaufmann’s Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Buber:
This is to be understood as a spinning.
I would like to favor in a certain way Nietsche’s “speculative” account than Schopenhauer’s “metaphysical” account of the will precisely because it focuses more on the empirical ego. The empirical ego marks the site of the transcendental realist’s know-ability of thing-in-itself which from the Old cannot be thought.
I believe Rainer Maria Rilke‘s poem The Archaic Torso of Apollo provides us with what is perhaps the “first step” so to speak in spinning:
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.
Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:
would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.
I would like to put forward the reading of Rilke that the “legendary head” is equivalent to the thing-in-itself of the empirical ego that we cannot know unmediated, and that the location mentioned in closing line “for here there is no place that does not see you” is equivalent to the “here” of living finally in the “vision-in-One” of Laruelle, suspended in a different arena of non-violence like the Torso itself. This location is the place of no-place, the part of no-part, the coincidence of both not-Alls.
There is also a progression of “transcendental realism” which is marked by repetition of the word “Otherwise” which comes in tandem with the romantic imagery of concrete objects: “torso”, “lamp”, “breast”, “hips”, “thighs”, “stone”, “shoulders”, “fur”, “star” etc. Moreover, the “dark center where procreation flared” corresponds in many ways to Schelling’s unprethinkable, as we have previously seen. A spinning of Nietzsche’s “blond beast” is also appropriate, but will not be undertaken here.
To be explicit, this place is equal to “from all the borders of itself”, which is the coincidence of noumena and phenomena. The Two (each not-All) are transformed in the One. The Old becomes New, generates New. The act of spinning, then, allows the “spirit of gravity” (Nietzsche) to pull the noumena and phenomena together in the joyous affirmation such that they overlap in the vision-in-One.
This is followed by the action of “bursting” from that very place in the One which marks the “forgetting” of transcendental realism. Here, the act of “determination-in-the-last-instance” is understood by that which follows from the “forgetting” of transcendental realism, a “forgetting” of this very compossibility that made it possible to see from the location of the One in the first place.
The One is revealed to be none other than the thing-in-itself.
This is understood as necessary in the New, but merely possible in the Old. I’d like to suggest that by absolutely changing your life only then may knowing the noumenon as identical to phenomenon (rather than separate from it) is made possible. Here, we reach Non-philosophy, and through the affirmation of non-violence we may begin a New Philosophy from the arena of our New Consciousness.
The last line is therefore indicative of an active unfolding of the New which begins with this absolute insistence on non-violence.
Bryant, Levi R.. Difference and givenness: Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism and the ontology of immanence. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2008. Print.
Kaufmann, Walter Arnold. Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Buber. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980. Print.
Laruelle, François. Philosophies of difference: a critical introduction to non-philosophy. London: Continuum, 2010. Print.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Walter Arnold Kaufmann. On the genealogy of morals. New York: Vintage Books, 1967. Print.
Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Albert Ernest Flemming.Rainer Maria Rilke: selected poems. 2nd expanded ed. New York: Methuen, 1986. Print.
Schopenhauer, Arthur. The world as will and representation. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. Print.
Stoljar, Margaret Mahony. Novalis: Philosophical writings. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1997. Print.