“Existence precedes essence”: culture, society, and the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis

Among those who should know better, namely those engaged in the attempt to scientifically investigate UFOs or UAP, the idea that what they study represents spaceships from some extraterrestrial civilization is all too common. Regardless of whether this Extraterrestrial Hypothesis (ETH) turns out to be true or not, its central assumption, that there exist extraterrestrial civilizations of intelligent, technologically-advanced beings (whether organic or artifactual), is ideological, presupposing as natural the cultural formation of but one kind of society on earth, one which, should it continue on the way it has the past four centuries or so, threatens to perform a practical argumentum ad absurdum, demonstrating its falsity by bringing about its own catastrophic collapse and perhaps the extinction of Homo Sapiens in the bargain.

I have essayed the idea that this central presupposition is an unconcious Platonism, appearing to believe that essence precedes existence, that there is some inherent teleology in life that drives or leads it to “intelligence”, tool use and technology, and that technology, too, is governed by some essence that shapes and guides it along a more or less universal vector of progress, so that it is possible to speak intelligibly about civilizations’ being more or less “advanced”. One would have hoped it would have been enough to point out that this is precisely the view of Maitreya Raël whose Elohim are “25,000 years in advance” of contemporary terrestrial technology, but no such luck.

Putting aside the classical philosophical question as to why there is something rather than nothing, we have yet to determine how life appeared on earth and how this life came to be conscious (indeed, how consciousness might be said to evolve—an aspect of the “hard problem of consciousness“). Of course, it’s not giving too much away to grant that there is in fact sentient life of earth; it came to be and evolved to this point. “Evolved” is the key term here; however much we might observe examples of convergence and take into account recent research that seems to suggest a certain predictability to evolution, I wager your garden variety evolutionary biologist will maintain that evolution is a precariously aleatoric process.

If evolution is a pack of wild cards, how much more so is cultural change (n.b., not “development” let alone “progress”…)? The conjectures of sociobiologists notwithstanding, culture and the story of its change over time, history, argues not that essence precedes existence (beings aim at fulfilling some predetermined form or end) but that existence precedes essence. As Hegel, and, lately, Žižek, have observed: the apparent necessity of history (“It had to turn out that way!”) is a function of retrospection, not undetermined, among other things, by even the narratological rhetoric of articulating that retrospection, historiography; as history unfolds it is chaotic, aleatory.

Yet, for some reason, those given to entertaining the ETH seem to imagine that life gives rise to “intelligence”, which, of itself, gives rise to tool-use, of which technology is only an elaboration. However, only a slightly more fine-grained scrutiny reveals that technology as we know it is bound up with the natural sciences. The sciences in turn are grounded not only on observation but rely on mathematics, arithmetic and geometry, to express those relations and laws observation and experiment discover. But what of mathematics? In the case of both “pure” mathematics and geometry, praxis preceded theory. Arithmetic was first developed for use in taxation, trade, and astronomy (used, in turn, in the creation of calendars); likewise, geometry is developed to facilitate surveying, engineering, and, again, astronomy. It’s Pythagoras and Euclid, at least in the Mediterranean, who abstract pure mathematics from this practical know-how.

The way pure mathematics abstracts from the praxes of bureaucratic government, i.e. those of the social formation of its day, underlines that science is always a social endeavour, made possible (determined) by a social and cultural mileu always local in space and time. For example, arithmetic is a special instance of writing, a “technology” developed to facilitate trade (e.g., to keep inventories), a behaviour in turn made possible only due to surpluses the product of agricultural society and the division of labour that makes it possible, a society, in turn, whose condition of possibility most generally was the relatively stable, temperate climate of the Holocene, which, in turn was itself determined by all the features of earth’s geology and even its relation to the sun that have allowed life to appear and thrive on the planet so far.

A similar case can be made for the advent of Newtonian physics and the knowing subject of the natural sciences. The social matrix for Newton is no longer the polis of Pythagoras and Euclid but capitalism and the commodity form. It was Slavoj Žižek’s The Sublime Object of Ideology (1989) that brought my attention to the work of Alfred Sohn-Retel, especially his Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology, who makes the case. As Žižek so ably summarizes:

…The apparatus of categories presupposed, implied by the scientific procedure (that, of course, of the Newtonian science of nature), the network of notions by means of which it seizes nature, is already present in the social effectivity, already at work in the act of commodity exchange. Before thought could arrive at pure abstraction, the abstraction was already at work in the social effectivity of the market….

Before thought could arrive at the idea of a purely quantitative determination, a sine qua non of the modern science of nature, pure quantity was already at work in money, that commodity which renders possible the commensurability of the value of all other commodities notwithstanding their particular qualitative determination. Before physics could articulate the notion of a purely abstract movement going on in a geometric space, independently of all qualitative determinations of the moving objects, the social act of exchange had already realized the ‘pure’, abstract movement which leaves totally intact the concrete-sensual properties of the object caught in movement: the transference of property. And Sohn-Rethel demonstrated the same about the relationship of substance and its accidents, about the notion of causality operative in Newtonian science—in short, about the whole network of categories of pure reason. (10-11)

Regardless if one is persuaded by Sohn-Rethel’s argument, the point is that science and technology, including the ways they feed into each other, are woven from the fabric of the society within which they appear and operate; they are cultural phenomena through and through. As such, they cannot be subsumed under universal, natural laws that would enable us to predict their appearance and development under any other circumstances, on or off the earth. The ETH grows from a rootless abstraction (about science and technology), unaware of the profound, contingent determinations of our own situation, how one civilization on earth arrived at its present moment, a moment that scrupulous examination suggests is singular.

20 thoughts on ““Existence precedes essence”: culture, society, and the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis

  1. Very well put, but I honestly can’t see why anyone “should know better”, as you put it. People, even highly “intelligent” and educated people, want to believe in nineteenth-century Wellsian cliches and they will go on believing in them long after the last priest has autoerotically asphyxiated with the guts of the last wellness guru regardless of how “down” they otherwise profess to be with critiques of ideology. In fact, I’d wager, with tongue not too firmly in cheek, that if anything inevitably “just flows” from the condition of being a navel-gazing concept-wielding simian, it’s probably cognitive dissonance not magic flying machines and phasers.

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    1. Well, cursorily put, anyway.

      One thrust of this post’s thesis is how unconsciously invested, e.g., physicists are in the ideology that underwrites STEM and its regime; I would never imagine very many of them to be ideologically reflective or aware. But such should know better, because the evidence does not support the hypothesis very strongly; how’s that?

      Too many folks still believe in a human “nature” that determines behaviour in too specific a manner…

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  2. “I would never imagine very many of them to be ideologically reflective or aware.”

    I would rather not imagine at all and rely on something slightly more concrete; alas, I’ve done almost no research on the ideological awareness of modern physicists. And yet I can’t help but think that most have a basic grasp of its existence, if not a sophisticated understanding of how it works, particularly those who have (had) to struggle against things like organized religion, gender-social “expectations”, the hyper-commodification of academia etc. There is perhaps a danger of setting up a brain-divested straw effigy of one Avi Loeb that one can “whack” at will with ever diminishing intellectual returns.
    But maybe a way of explaining STEM’s cosmo-utopianism is to cast it as an attempt by ideologically-aware (at least moderately so) scientists to resolve the dissonance between the naïve misanthropy that generally comes from an incipient/incomplete engagement with social and cultural institutions as ideologically constructed and the ideological meliorism that is too distressing to expurge because it is historically so deeply embedded into the scientific project. Enter the ur-promethean race that is 25,000 techno-years ahead of us and live peacefully, sustainably and unoppressively.

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  3. “I would never imagine very many of them to be ideologically reflective or aware.”

    I would rather not imagine at all and rely on something slightly more concrete; alas, I’ve done almost no research on the ideological awareness of modern physicists. And yet I can’t help but think that most have a basic grasp of its existence, if not a sophisticated understanding of how it works, particularly those who have (had) to struggle against things like organized religion, gender-social “expectations”, the hyper-commodification of academia etc. There is perhaps a danger of setting up a brain-divested straw effigy of one Avi Loeb that one can “whack” at will with ever diminishing intellectual returns.
    But maybe a way of explaining STEM’s cosmo-utopianism is to cast it as an attempt by ideologically-aware (at least moderately so) scientists to resolve the dissonance between the naïve misanthropy that generally comes from an incipient/incomplete engagement with social and cultural institutions as ideologically constructed and the ideological meliorism that is too distressing to expurge because it is historically so deeply embedded into the scientific project. Enter the ur-promethean race that is 25,000 techno-years ahead of us and live peacefully, sustainably and unoppressively.

    PS:

    But such should know better, because the evidence does not support the hypothesis very strongly; how’s that?

    If you mean to suggest that science is the cold extraction of hypotheses from “evidence”, you seem to all of a sudden be entertaining precisely the decontextualized naivete your post takes issue with. Scientists (and not just Newton) are as much the products of their times and places as the rest of us. They believe alllll sorts of things….

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    1. I’m using ‘ideology’ in a more restricted, more-or-less Marxist sense, as that representation of a society to itself that serves to reify the social order, as opposed to the more vulgar sense, meaning, more or less, any abstract, rigid social value system, e.g., “gender ideology”.

      And, sure, actual scientists believe all sorts of things, but a physicist qua physicist ought adhere to the scientific method. Loeb gets into trouble when he leaves his field of expertise behind. I imagine he’s much more reflective when presenting a paper on high energy physics…

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  4. I’m using ‘ideology’ in a more restricted, more-or-less Marxist sense, as that representation of a society to itself that serves to reify the social order, as opposed to the more vulgar sense, meaning, more or less, any abstract, rigid social value system, e.g., “gender ideology”.

    Not sure why you are making this arbitrary distinction since the “representation of a society to itself that serves to reify the social order” does not leave anything on the outside (there is indeed no outside in the final contextual analysis, as I need not tell you). Ideology is not just obvious ropes and pulleys that stick out as useful to capital in its ongoing self-justification, from some random “enlightened” perspective (conveniently one’s own and not that of “people who ought to know better”, but don’t). This is totally anti-materialist, within the orbit of conspiratorial thinking (superstructure as “lies they tell you/tell themselves”), and needlessly obfuscatory. But if you think “restricted” somehow strikes a mysterious note of otherwise inaccessible authenticity, don’t let me interrupt.

    but a physicist qua physicist ought adhere to the scientific method.

    a scenario no less absurd in its Platonic hallucination than those which posit “essence ahead of existence” in the context you refer to above.
    Anyway, liked the post; full of valid points, but as always there is this whiff of Wanderer above the Sea of Fog in your approach. The Wanderer should perhaps look over his shoulder (philosophically speaking) a tad more, and downwards too. He would lose in solid ground, but gain a better vantage undoubtedly.

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    1. Sure, I do hedge my bets re ‘ideology’ by writing “more or less”; a comment thread is hardly the place to develop a full-blooded theory of ideology. Mine tends more toward a version of Althusser’s that (mine) needs be more thoroughly reflected, surely. That being said, a thinking that treats as nature a cultural phenomenon, a treament that further supports the status quo, surely fits the bill, wot.

      As to standing above the fray: this is the challenge of the cultural critic, as Adorno himself so forcefully probed in the beginning of “Cultural Criticism and Society.” The dialectic is a demanding dancing master. But THAT being said, the sciences to proceed, often “successfully” (or we wouldn’t be having this conversation), so, pragmatically, I’m not going too far on the end of any branch to distinguish physicists do their jobs as opposed to their shooting the shit, even in the pages of _Scientific American_. Keep in mind I am referring to professional scientists who give their time to the problem, not any ol’ Joe with a magnometer, (Kevin Knuth?).

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  5. The discussion of ideology is important, and even in brief the foregoing remarks are useful. Some say an ideology is a way of revealing some things (at least somewhat plausibly for a given society), while concealing other things that would run contrary to the interests (as well as the self-understanding) of those generating the ideology. Such generators, of course, speak of these two aspects as things that are true and things that are false, without the supposition that those generators are operating under some sort of false consciousness. The neo-Marxist, Althusserian postulate of the precedence of concrete/material practice to the rise of abstract theory is a worthy entry into efforts to make sense of ideology in all its complexity. Here, it’s perhaps useful to call to mind that in the late 18th century, the European world was electrified by the discovery of ancient Indian religious documents written in Sanskrit. At this time, the more ancient a human text the closer it was to some supposed first beginning, first revelation. Around the same time, however, many centuries of brutal inter-European warfare had united with the increasingly refined application of abstract science to produce a war-making capacity that allowed Europeans not only to conquer what was left to conquer around the world, but also to ditch their views that “older is better,” and to replace it with “advanced sci/tech makes my civilization superior to yours”. (See the excellent book, Technology as the Measure of Man.) Having superior science and technology (plainly visible in weapons of conquest) allegedly made Europeans racially superior. When all this was wedded to 19th century scientific racism, the seeds were planted for the horrors of World War II. Nuclear weapons granted to the US the power that would protect its population, and that would also allow American/European hegemony to persist. Right after WWII UFOs began buzzing around American military research weapons sites in New Mexico, and when by 1947 a Defense Department task force concluded that UFOs were capable of performance far beyond anything known to humankind (craft radar-tracked at 70,000+ mph), the stage was set for the National Security State (see R. Dolan). The legitimacy of the US depends on the ideology of human (specifically American) military supremacy. The DoD has grudgingly become engaged in the UFO question, which has also been taken up by NASA (an at least partly science-oriented organization that could undermine State legitimacy by acknowledging that there really are “things” that defy understanding and may well constitute a genuine threat to US military interests). At the same moment that the prospect of non-human military supremacy is being more openly entertained, the related theme of threats to white supremacy has resurfaced in ways unimaginable even a decade ago. Hungary’s President, Victor Orban, has been invited to speak to leading Republicans, after one of his top long-term supporters resigned upon hearing an Orban speech that was “pure Nazi text, worthy of Goebbels.” We live in disconcertingly interesting times.

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    1. Oi, “interesting” indeed.

      If I understand you, you use ‘ideology’ in “ideology of human… military supremacy” differently from my use, and closer to the vulgar usage, as a set of sociopolitical beliefs/values, all-too-often rigidly abstract. I understand you draw on Wendt’s paper on sovereignty, which I need to review; I remain as of now anyway unpersuaded that the UFO undermines sovereignty. One could argue equally the threat to national sovereignty reinforces it, as it goes on the defensive, materially and propogandistically.

      I remain uncertain of the “true” motives behind recent official American interest in the matter. NASA seems to have been forced into the matter, while too much of the evidence provided _to the public_ re recent Naval encounters are for the most part laughable, so _something_ other than what is presented must be going on behind the scenes…

      At any rate, it remains my thesis that the ideology underwriting the ETH does not contribute to human well-being, but only reinforces a certain Enframing of the world and reduction of beings to objects, subject to a certain inflection of the Will to Power…

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  6. You make the important point that ETH, far from undermining the national security state, reinforces its sci/tech operations within the overarching modern framework or Gestell. Indeed, the early interpretation of the UFO as technology from other worlds is perhaps inevitable in the modern framework. I’m increasing skeptical of the ETH hypothesis, but I still regard the UFO/UAP (whatever) as an unknown that is potentially disruptive of the anthropocentric humanism that is tied up with modern sci/tech and the fetish of military power. Indeed, perhaps more threatening to the modern framework than ET’s running around in spaceships would be existence (in some sense!) of intentional, intelligent, but non-rational “entities/processes” that cannot be understood in terms of the sci/tech that defines and sustains modern human agency. In this regard, over and above the UFO, the multiple extra-sci/tech framework-anomalies reported by countless witnesses also call into question the adequacy of our current sci/tech enflamed self-understanding.
    As for my view of ideology being closer to the “vulgar” view, I’m a bit puzzled. The revealing/concealing view of ideology has Marxist roots. After all, the bourgeois ideology was able to win support because aspects of it had some purchase on truth, although plenty of other aspects of it were false. The trouble with trying to rank order schemes of “ideology” is that critics of another’s view of ideology assume that they have “framed” the vulgar ideology so as to reveal its insufficiently self-critical status. There is a long history of this. In my view no one, no culture is “ideology free” or “ideology proof,” no matter whether such ideology is sophisticated or vulgar. We exist and think within conceptual frameworks that we can transcend and thus replace, but we cannot exist and think without such frameworks, which are inevitably finite, partial, and biased.

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  7. RE: the interpretation of the flying saucer as ET spaceship, from “The Estimate of the Situation” on down was/is I think, too, inevitable as you say. Keyhoe’s first book presents a nice, revealing rehearsal of one aspect of such conjecture: How will we explore another planet?…

    As long as the UFO/UAP is divined as technological, it must affirm the ideology of the so-called advanced societies (I follow Habermas in this regard (whose understanding of ideology I should review as well!)). I would agree that should the phenomenon prove both to be real and non-technological, _that_ might very well prove disruptive–we can only hope!

    RE ideology: a vexed term! I incline to side with Althusser, that no society would be ideology-free, as you write. I tend to grasp ideology as a kind of sociopolitical unconscious, what goes without saying or unsaid, though you’re surely correct there is an explicit if distorted aspect to it, as well. When I ventured some divination of your use of the term re US militaristic ideology, it seemed to me you were using the term with reference to an explicit set of beliefs and values rather than the unconscious, reflexive categories, as it were (ideology as a transcendental schematism) that determine and govern the institution.

    The other side of this discussion concerns “intelligence” (yet another post forthcoming) that privileges not only the human but one kind of human cleverness, instrumental reason, at the expense of every other kind of human intelligence (and culture) let alone those other forms of life we decreasingly share the earth with. To think both the Sixth Mass Extinction together with beliefs that UFOs/UAP are “manned” by humanoid pilots is, I daresay, at least, a theme with vista…

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  8. Michael Zimmerman:

    “There is a long history of this. In my view no one, no culture is “ideology free” or “ideology proof,” no matter whether such ideology is sophisticated or vulgar. We exist and think within conceptual frameworks that we can transcend and thus replace, but we cannot exist and think without such frameworks, which are inevitably finite, partial, and biased.”

    Excellent point.

    Bryan:

    RE ideology: a vexed term! I incline to side with Althusser, that no society would be ideology-free, as you write. I tend to grasp ideology as a kind of sociopolitical unconscious, what goes without saying or unsaid, though you’re surely correct there is an explicit if distorted aspect to it, as well. When I ventured some divination of your use of the term re US militaristic ideology, it seemed to me you were using the term with reference to an explicit set of beliefs and values rather than the unconscious, reflexive categories, as it were (ideology as a transcendental schematism) that determine and govern the institution.

    As if the “sociopolitical unconscious” can be grasped with sheer determination and hermeneutical derring-do after a deconstruction-induced satori? This facile distinction is itself ideological and rather conveniently reinforces a different type of supremacy, not as insidious as that of the military-industrial complex or modern-day notions of race, but one that is nonetheless equally grating: the supremacy of the intellectual (Marxist or otherwise), that benign decoder of the Spectacle for the benefit of its interminable cast of supporting roles. And yet, the role of “ideology decipherer” is literally a role like any other (for lack of a better metaphor; I don’t of course mean to imply a conspiratorial immersive faux-reality staged by our devious overlords), with lines that are just as ideologically determined as those of Professor Contact-Arrival von Teleologue, latter-day incarnation of a Jules Verne caricature. Why does this matter to this discussion? It matters because I think your ab auctoritate framing of ideology precludes this critique of vulgar (if anything truly deserves that label….) positivism from becoming a much more interesting autocritique of an intellectual who critiques positivism. What is being said without being said in this post? That is the question.

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    1. If we tone down and deflate the rhetoric of your intervention, here, whose tone flirts with insult, with what are we left? Your asking for an autocritical stance was already answered with humility and good spirits, above (with the allusion to Adorno). If you think the post is a critique of, of all things, postivism, then I venture you have failed understand its thrust. You even fail to bother to indulge the charity basic to good natured and productive back-and-forth, failing to imagine that ‘vulgar’ might be being used with an eye to its etymology, here as roughly synomymous with pedestrian, ordinary, everyday, etc., as opposed to a slightly more specialized, precise sense (Dante wrote a treatise whose title roughly translated is _On the Eloquence of the Vulgar Tongue_).

      Please, touch on the substance of the argument, and do so in a more civil manner, not indulging, like too many of the digital vulgate, the vapid freedom online disembodiment grants, wot. I have neither patience nor time for uncivil discourse: I don’t indulge in invective myself, and sure don’t need to put up with it in my own digital house, eh.

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      1. Come now, what could possibly amount to uncivil or insulting in my earlier post? The only “name” I’ve called you is “intellectual”, and I was being neither sarcastic nor censorious. My point re the societal role of the intellectual is not an attack on you (though I can see why it might be misconstrued as such); it is not indeed an attack at all, merely an observation. But the contradiction posed by an otherwise well-reasoned and sensible post delivered with an unacknowledged spritz of ex cathedra hurbis, while not offensive or even disagreeable to me in any way, triggered my prodding instinct. I think I’ve prodded as dryly and politely as I possibly can with only infrequent instances of very mild of irony (e.g. my use of the accusatory “vulgar” in reference to your literal).

        Your reference to Adorno and the “difficult dancing master” that dialectic is may be an enjoyable one but it is not even a coy attempt at an actual answer. It is a wave-off even if it is taken in jest and without any hint of impatience (whatever appearances may suggest to the contrary). So, it appears to me, is the fencing in of “[your] understanding of” ideology behind Marxian (or whathaveyou) confines. I’d much rather find out what you don’t “subscribe to” and what is in fact your tenuous, inchoate, in-progress, but actually your view on the limits of your own critique. I want to know it precisely because I otherwise agree with you on so very many points (and agreement is of course tedious and disquieting) and I want to know it because I’m not interested in Althusser’s or Adorno’s “takes”, but in yours, however much in common the three may have (not counting Marx, Kant, Hegel and other beloved philosophical sluggers you’ve referenced here). I refuse to believe that someone of your intellectual prowess (again, genuinely meant) would merely “subscribe” by way of endorsing full-scale. The very fact that I am so interested in this should suffice as proof of my bona fides, whatever else gets inevitably lost in this one-dimensional form of communication (and “online disembodiment”). It does not, but wherein the “inflated rhetoric”?
        Stubbornness perhaps, a bit of flippancy, sure; but that I cannot help, so it’s likely for the best that I stop asking, since the question (essentially the same one in each of our lengthier exchanges to date, as you’ll recall) is unwanted and will likely only ever be met with further evasiveness.
        As for the target of your critique, perhaps the particular school of thought you take to task, which conceives of “alien civilisations” in a contextually oblivious and technologically linear manner, is not wholly collapsible into positivism as such, but I fail to see why you would divorce the one from the other or where I have “failed to understand” the main “thrust”.
        In any case, I think I have perhaps outstayed my initial welcome, but I am by no means slamming the door behind me; theatrics never suited. Perhaps you’re right about blog-based “back-and-forth” not being my forte.
        All best.

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  9. OK, to be charitable, it seems we hit a snag in our understanding.

    You can understand how one might be taken aback by formulations such as “hermeneutical derring-do after a deconstruction-induced satori” or “facile distinction”, taking them, within the context of the whole comment, as too-quickly dismissive?

    I appreciate your wanting a more fully articulated postion re the position of the cultural critic and that troublesome concept of ideology. My allusions to Adorno et al. weren’t meant to wave anything off; in each case (the paradoxical, dialectical position of the critic; the real complexity of the concept of ideology, both in itself and between learned interlocutors), if you reread my responses, you will see both an admission of the difficulties involved and a very brief, as befitting a comment thread, attempt at explanation.

    If I understand you, you seem to take the relation of critic to society as that between subject and object; how can the critical subject stand over against and apart from the object (society) of which he (in this case) is a part? But I don’t pose the relation in that way. On one hand, I remark and accept the paradox: there is something troubling or calling for reflection in the relation between the cultural critic and the culture he criticizes (though, pragmatically, in getting the work of such criticism _done_ one wonders just how pressing this concern is; I’ll have to reread the aforementioned essay by Adorno to see if it doesn’t shed more light on the matter…). On the other hand, I grasp the relation alternativey hermeneutically or in terms of Marxist engagement. In the hermeneutic sense, the relation of critic to culture is not that of subject to object but more akin to self-criticism, where one and the same subject is critic and criticized; the critic and the criticized culture share the same horizon, inhabit the same circle; with regard to the more Marxist stance, I’m pretty clear where I stand and what I stand against (The task is not to interpret the world but to change it).

    All that being said, if you turn to what I in fact write and address _that_ ,what is there, exactly, to disagree with? Do you disagree with my analysis of the operative presuppositions of the ETH? Do these presuppositions not support the status quo, taking the historical, cultural accident of the present moment of one society on earth to be in some sense “natural” and so ” necessary”? And does not such a conflation fit a fairly ready definition of ideology?

    As to positivism: I take Positivism to be a philosophical / epistemological stance, exemplified by the Vienna Circle and A. J, Ayer (though Mike Cifone recently has resurrected the figure of Ernst Mach and _his_ positivism…), whose thesis was that knowledge statements are either analytic or synthetic (empirical), a stance that was already unsteady in the thought of Schleiermacher, that fell pretty quickly because it itself was neither, and that has not fared well in the post-Analytic enviroment. If by “positivism” you understand a “scientism”, then there’s a misunderstanding.

    if I may be so bold, I propose you, just being yourself, which is _fine_, adopted a too-familiar persona, that too freely indulged its own rhetorical tendencies (to hyperbole, to suggestive,polysyllabic paraphrases, etc.) at the risk of, well, like in this case, seeming belligerent, belittling, and insulting. Such are the risks of text, where tone just does not come through and one simply has next to know acquaintance with one’s interlocutor (there’s my hermeneutic studies coming through, again).

    I hope that goes some small way in re-establishing communication…

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  10. You may want to revisit that positivist lineage and spare some attention for a certain “stage”-based view of “progress”; not everything was invented by Germanophones.
    No contest of course on “polysyllabic hyperbole”. Your jigging around “akin to…”, “accept the paradox” and “the point is to change it” canard (does that belittling? I should hope not; jigging is such a graceful art) is disappointing, but as I’ve said, this type of prodding shall cease on my part. It’s clear it’s only being perceived as trolling.

    Toodle-oo.

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