Why universities should encourage developing knowledge-based opinions

Published in The Concordian in August 2017

I believe freedom of speech on college and university campuses should be limited when it jeopardizes academic endeavours. Academic institutions were originally intended to provide a wide understanding of the world through the lenses of the fields students were interested in. Research was mostly done to be able to understand certain phenomena, rather than to prove a certain ideology right or wrong.

This is where programs such as gender studies, First Peoples studies and exchange programs can be beneficial. When completed with academic rigor, they shed light on issues and perspectives that are unknown to those who don’t experience them firsthand.

As learners of the world, students should be exposed to as much knowledge as possible in order to take informed stances and develop thoughtful perspectives on various issues. I believe that advocates for free speech on university campuses often skip over another important right: the right to know as much as possible about a topic. The right to access information as free from censorship, bias and prioritization as possible before forming an opinion on a subject. However, the atmosphere of higher education has shifted to a more active and socially involved mindset which leads people to skip this first step that is necessary for them to form accurate and truthful opinions.

Continuer la lecture »

Dealing with love requires philosophy

A shorter version of this article was published in The Concordian newspaper in February 2020.

I believe we should be asking ourselves “What is the meaning of love?” more often than we usually do.

It’s not uncommon these days to end up seeing someone without knowing exactly what the outcome will be. We don’t know where this intimate bond stands, either between friendship and committal love or outside of these two poles, and that’s why current generations emphasize the open-ended ambiguity with phrasings such as “seeing each other”, “being friends” or “dating”.

One thing remains unchanging while developing interest with someone, be it from a two-date period to a defined relationship, which is our self and our psychological attributions. Our projections of insecurities and natural attitudes remain, but in the face of a romantic phase they take place against a seemingly different world.

Continuer la lecture »

Some Remarks About Online Dating

PDF available here

 

What is online dating? The process of actively influencing one’s temporal tendency in order to increase the possibilities of romantic experience. (1) It is the merging of the non-technological behavior into the technological one. There is a belief that we will meet following a technological behavior – that of using a software, a piece of technology, and using it in relation to another person. Let us dive into an analysis of the usage of this kind of technology in order to understand some of its structures and outline some differences between that and the “real life” method of dating – between the technological and non-technological. (2)

Continuer la lecture »

What is loneliness?

 

All this talk about entanglement and symbiotic relationships to the world expressed in Heidegger’s corpus makes us forget the phenomenon of loneliness. (1) What is loneliness? Already we make the interesting move of calling it a phenomenon. (2) It shows itself as a given toward us because we consider it as an outer given. It’s “us + lonely”. It happens to us, and by extension comes from outer consciousness, and is felt as a weight put on our shoulders – a “sinking feeling” settling in the trunk of our body. It blinds us of the transcendental relationship subject-object. Case in point: we can feel lonely in the presence of others – which is a subjugation of the objected world for a focus oriented onto ourselves. (3) But if a transcendental dependence on the “everything” that warps any conscious experience is validated, what is loneliness then? Is it a mere impression? An attunement for Heidegger? Is it a psychological state of apprehending the world? To be lonely there must be an awareness of presence. For me to be declared lonely at home it means I must recognize something showing up. However there is nothing here: there is just me sitting at my desk. What about lack? Lack means void. It is a “missingly” in my experience – an absence-ing. I live missingly the presence of what is required to feel whole – the opposite of lonely. We avoid making a reverse analysis of feeling whole – by analyzing the opposite of wholeness – since there are too many knots to untie when it comes to decorticating the entanglement with the world. Lonely, I feel missing what makes me whole – just as well loneliness makes me see a contrast. Loneliness opens up on the anxiety of existing: we die lonely! We are ultimately alone in various ways: by my uniform thinking, my physical entity, etc. But didn’t we agree – and even presuppose – with the notion of intersubjectivity in being? How can we be alone in the “realist” sense we described if we assume to be ontologically intersubjects? (4) Loneliness is intersubjective in some way as well. In missing that which makes us whole we still rely on it to be lonely – its absence mirrors its phenomena – and when we are whole we get on the other side of loneliness by experiencing the opposite that births its being. This is not a straightforward dichotomy. Loneliness manifests the intersubjective nature of experienced-consciousness by relying on an unconditioned characteristic proper to what it means to be living. Feeling whole is when you have nothing else to ask for so much that feeling whole doesn’t even show itself – it is concealed by the experience of living in the moment. That which makes us whole shares characteristics with livingness – such as time as being full of time and never filled with nothingness in it. Loneliness expresses the intersubject by showing a void emerging in the middle – between subject and object – a projecting of subject out of itself meanwhile an abstracting of object becomes given or thrown at the subject – here abstracting doesn’t necessarily mean complete physical unsubstantiation. This requires change – and change means time! Loneliness is temporal – it is never always. This is due to Husserlian intentionality or Heideggerian care, but also to a strive of grasping that which gives rise to the void that shows itself – which is the world because we are lonely in the world. What is this strive? It’s nothing ethical and yet it’s everything ontological. It must be what hides us as intersubjects. We feel disconnected. We are individualized beings. You wouldn’t believe right away that you have no mind and all the world at once. The strive is the funnel that represents Kantian objective deduction (5) – it’s the alliance of biological constitution with our temporal structure to see things the way we do. Like an ontological imperative, it is the coming back to seeing things normally after I’ve pressed my finger gently onto my eye to disturb my vision.


(1) We are referencing here his notion of being-in-the-world and Husserl’s transcendental subjectivity.

(2) Because phenomena is a thing presencing and showing itself to us, whereas experience refers to an ensemble of presencings involving our seeing of a phenomena. Phenomena is presupposed to be outside of us whereas experience involves us – involves the working of consciousness interacting with the phenomena. But experience can also be taken up as a phenomena as a whole!

(3) We put ourselves as objects when we shift our seeing toward ourselves – and thus consider ourselves as a phenomena.

(4) By allying mind and world together, what is there to be lonely about? How can we make a realist description of a self – having a single body, a stream of thought disparate from others, etc. – if we presuppose that Cartesian dualism is invalid?

(5) Specifically Kant’s objective deduction from the B edition of Critique of Pure Reason.

Speaking About Death

PDF available here.

Do we live to die? Asking this question supposes that the limitations of an experience (life and the ending of it) define its purpose. In this case, the purpose of life is to be over, or so many nihilists would say. It can’t be right for the reason alone that life’s determination is not fixed. I could die anytime, and because I did not die now means that my life did not have the purpose to be over right now. My life’s purpose is always pushed further, defeating the meaning of the now – of the complete experience up to now. It seems the lack of a definite timeline set for the end of my life contributes endlessly to the contradiction of its purpose. I have lived until now and yet I am not dead: What can I make of this fact in terms of sense and meaning? Moreover, death is never yet. How could I give purpose to something fictional that is never real in the now? I should then put death in the category of all the unsubstantiated things in terms of time: things that can be conceptualized but whose concepts cannot relate directly to their substantiality as of now. What is the purpose of things that don’t exist in the now yet? It seems that their only purpose, in relation to their current ontological status, is to become be-ing (1) , to manifest themselves from a now moment to another one. The purpose of death is to be, but it vanishes every time it brings itself into being. Death tries infinitely to engage in the now but it can’t do so, and this is because the act of living fills the entirety of time. As Merleau-Ponty said, time is full of being. (2) Death is ungraspable because it has no possibility to give perspective. We represent death as an “other side” because it is so unrelated and impossible to locate within life. Living is perspectival. Our understanding of objectivity and subjectivity requires spatiality because we think of perspective through space. One needs to be aware of a separation between a here and an out there to compose the difference between their eyes and someone else’s. In this sense, objectivity requires subjectivity in order to be known, and vice-versa, for without one we could not know the other. Apperception, which is thinking in its most essential form, is what allows Kant to say that there is a perspective other than his own, and apperception in itself is a perspective; it’s a funnel directed towards one thing, or one thought, and moves from one to another. (3) Death can be neither objective nor subjective because it is devoid of spatiality, of time, and of tools for perception – including the possibility of perspective itself. We cannot perceive death because it does not provide anything to perceive, and death provides nothing to perceive because it has no access to being through time. To see a corpse being active and responding to stimuli, and suddenly it stops being as such and drops numb on the ground: this is probably the biggest problem that gave rise to thinking – or at least to thinking of time. We witness the unknown without itself. It’s as if we were in a box seeing the sides being pushed concavely from outside. Death pushes on-to Being to get inside of it, but this is to no avail. However, this analogy doesn’t quite grasp the reality of death because it rests on the notion of space – of which death doesn’t have any. In fact there is no reality for death. Our reality is that sometimes, unpredictably, animals and humans stop moving for as long as we have yet to live, and I say “yet” because we can’t say forever: who knows if my deceased grandfather will walk again when I’m dead? A dead body has absolutely nothing. What do you mean “he’s dead”? He’s gone. But where? He’s gone nowhere. He’s gone nowhere because the notion of perspective is only unique to being a-live. Without space, and thus without perspective, there is nowhere else to go. As Bergson explained so well in Matter and Memory, the soul cannot go anywhere else because if it did then we would be attributing it a spatial meaning, resulting in equating the soul to be a body – even though the entire mind-body problem considers the mind as non-corporeal object. (4) What is death then? It’s the shocking call of a boundary that has yet to be now. It’s a limit unannounced. It escapes us as much, if not more, as the thought of our own nonexistence. I cannot dissociate the “I think” of Kant from my representations: hence imagining a life of others with me being dead is actually still including me in it and this imaginative act would be inaccurate. Language itself can’t even grasp what death is because death is not “out” of life since it has no spatial feature. What about time? Yes, death is a boundary in time that does not exist as of now. The ending of my time is not even death itself. Death is the absence of my time, but the presence of my causation for others. Leaving an object unattended for someone else, posing a ticking bomb in a supermarket in the Middle-East, or the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 as an act of protest that’s left to others to understand: these are manifestations of causes that supersede our living, and somehow other people see us through these. (5) As Bergson demonstrated in Time and Free Will, moments in time last through a process of durée, and somehow they stretch from a now to another, always by-passing other nows. We might then consider the real death to be the one that never existed in the first place. Those who are not remembered and whose keepsakes and effects upon the world have been lost forever, so much that we can even say they were never born in the first place: those are the real dead. But again, this is the sort of death that is manifested from the inside of a reality. What I can see, and what I can speculate about, is only from within my own time. I cannot know what comes after I’ve opened my eyes for the last time.

However, we need to keep Hegel in mind: “Seeing the limit as limit means it has already been surpassed.” (6) Death, therefore, cannot be surpassed. The absence of time, for me, is unthinkable because it is the presence of time for others, one would argue. We then fall back into our problem of perspective: death is beyond subjectivity and objectivity. We only encounter a body being numb and heavy on the floor, and the deceased person remains forever in memory: his or her voice cannot be heard in a way that is given and forced upon us as it was in everyday life. This will never happen again. They no longer force themselves into my life, my consciousness, and now I have to willfully recall how they sounded like in order to “hear” them again: What should I make of this factual difference in time? In times of grief we may ask: Where are they? I would be lying if I said they were in time, because time has no spatiality, and I am also forced to say they are not somewhere else. Furthermore, there has never been a case of a patient for which all the health settings were fine and yet they died anyway. Likewise for the opposite case: when something fails in the body, it will always stop being alive. If I could walk without a heart and if my grandfather could speak without a brain, our attachment to time, which is translated through our understanding of what is given to us, whether we are conscious of it or not, would be very different. Witnessing that he or she has no future in the realm of what is given to me is another traumatic shock caused from the strength and hardness of time itself. This is, in my opinion, where thinking originates: a progression of an increasing number of differences in time appeared to us, we somehow began to notice and to become aware of these differing appearances in time, and thoughts started to emerge as a result of this slow progressive act of differentiating between the now and then.

How shall we speak of death, then, if it is not accessible through our perspectival apparatus of thinking? I would argue that we are simply left with a wonder that is unsolvable for the sake of other wonders. The one thing of which we cannot think about and speak about is what allows us to speak and think of everything else. (7) Death, as being a moment of unperceivable limiting absence, shock, and wonder, becomes the intellectual starting-point for thinking and for the Platonist use of λόγος (logos). Heidegger’s opening to ontology: “Why are there beings rather than nothing?” (8) Camus’ worry about suicide, whether we should jump ship now instead of later, and, of course, Socrates’ dramatic departure for the unspeakable of, leaving us the unsolvable mystery of why he did so. These instances all show nothing more than the human attitude in its original form. (9) Bodies falling on the ground and parents who never wake up anymore: They remind us that we are perspectival beings and that every practice of philosophical thinking is in one way or another related to this reminder. Why is it easier to say “I know I will die” rather than “I think I will die”? What is Kierkegaard getting at when he notices that we do not instinctively think about our own death? These questions inevitably lead us to noticing that death escapes λόγος by nature – if only death had a nature! Death is not perspectival; death cannot be tied to the ground as Plato intended the act of λόγος to do. (10) I must conclude, for now, that to speak of death it should be necessary to know how to not address this “it” to which it is impossible to refer. If anything, perhaps we must die, when the moment is appropriate, as it has been shown that as definite and limited beings as we can be, we too can be full of perspective and that, perhaps, there is a limit to what objectivity and subjectivity permit. We will see the loved ones and the extras lying down in a coffin and we will turn their bodies into ashes or make them “one” with the earth by burying them. However, we must keep in mind that the meanings we give them as soon as they can no longer respond to pain and to us are nothing but a misattribution. We cannot speak of death properly, and we cannot give it meaning as a result of this. We must simply give ourselves to time itself.


(1) “De l’étant” in French

(2) Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Phénoménologie de la perception. p.471 : « Si le monde objectif est incapable de porter le temps, ce n’est pas qu’il soit en quelque sorte trop étroit, que nous ayons à y ajouter un pan de passé et un pan d’avenir. Le passé et l’avenir n’existent que trop dans le monde, ils existent au présent, et ce qui manque à l’être lui-même pour être temporel, c’est le non-être de l’ailleurs, de l’autrefois et du demains. Le monde objectif est trop plein pour qu’il y ait du temps. Le passé et l’avenir, d’eux-mêmes, se retirent de l’être et passent du côté de la subjectivité pour y chercher, non pas quelque support réel, mais, au contraire, une possibilité de non-être qui s’accorde avec leur nature. Si l’on détache le monde objectif des perspectives finies qui ouvrent sur lui et qu’on le pose en soi, on ne peut y trouver de toutes parts que des « maintenants ».

(3) We see here Husserl’s starting point for the notion of intentionality.

(4) Bergson, Henri. Matière et mémoire. Sections « Introduction » and « De la sélection des images pour la représentation. Le rôle du corps. »

(5) I am referring here to the matter of people feeling the presence of someone who died when they find objects that belonged to them. PTSD is another example of causation superseding an event.

(6) Luft, Sebastian. “Husserl’s Phenomenological Discovery of the Natural Attitude.” Published in Subjectivity and Lifeworld in Transcendental Phenomenology. p. 38

(7) For all we know there could be other things impossible to talk about, such as death, as absence of time, before birth. What language cannot define, it allows it to define other things.

(8) First question Heidegger addresses in a lecture given in 1935, published in Introduction to Metaphysics (Yale University Press)

(9) And perhaps this is the difference between humans and animals.

(10) See Plato’s Meno. Meno suggests logos (λόγος) as an act of “tying down” a thought or a truth to the ground so that it would not escape the soul of whoever talks about it. To give account of something is to attach this “something” to a ground so that we don’t search forever what it means or what it is.

I’d like someone to be somewhere waiting for me,
Someone with something somewhere to see,
All white flakes dropping so aimlessly,
It’s all for me – it’s all for me.

Someone somewhere someday to be,
A laughing-stock, a staking-jock,
A dearly mate in times of loss,
A greater hate for when we cross.

It’s all for me, it’s all to be,
Someone someday somewhere to see
Me being poor and on all four,
It’s all for me – someone lovely.

To Ms. Emily Dickinson