First, the relationship between philosophy and science is mediated by the funda- mental unity of ... âintellectual pursuits,â because it is quite clear that FoucaultÊ¼s statement entails that determining .... He took a look at the book on the hook. ... the introductions to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy: âIf we start from the.
HUNTERS, COOKS, AND NOOKS TWO INTERPRETATIONS OF THE TANGLED RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCE STEFANO FRANCHI Knowledge is the measure of all things. —Plato, Prot. 361b
1 Preliminaries: Double Questioning When philosophers ask questions about science, they usually do so in the context of one specific discipline whose latest results or whose historical development seem to pose genuinely philosophical problems: for instance, the nature of space/time, the nature of intelligence, the nature/nurture debate. It is rarer to hear a philosopher asking questions about the general relationship between philosophy and science, even when, as in the cases above, the answer to this question provides the necessary ground for any specific investigation of the allegedly genuine philosophical problems arising in physics, biology, or cognitive science. The main difficulty lies in the intrinsic ambiguity of the term “science.” On the one hand, “science” can be considered as a descriptive term: it is the genus of the empirically given, scientific disciplines (the “sciences,” in the plural). On the other hand, “science” (episteme, scientia, Wissenschaft) (always in the singular) is a theoretical term that denotes a form of knowledge. More precisely, it refers, as philosophers say, to a “conceptually unified body of objective knowledge.” Traditionally, the latter meaning includes philosophy itself within its denotation. Thus, when both meanings of the term “science” are considered, to interrogate the relationship between philosophy and science is always, and preliminarily, to question the nature of philosophy itself, even when the question as such is not explicitly raised. In all these cases, a characterization of the nature of philosophy is presupposed by a philosophical analysis of scientific results. However, unless the specificity of concrete scientific investigations is denied from the outset, the questioning, even when conducted from a circumscribed philosophical standpoint, cannot be reduced to a single gesture that interrogates the scientificity of philosophy. On the contrary, it must also concurrently question the possibility of a specific relation between a determinate philosophical endeavor and specific scientific pursuits. Any questioning of the relationship between philosophy and science will always imply a double gesture: on the one hand, a question about what makes or does not make philosophy a science; on the other, what brings philosophy closer, or moves
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it farther apart, from the sciences. Most often, philosophers focus their attention on just one aspect of this double question. In this paper, I would like to address both sides of the issue. In particular, I would like to examine the two very different answers to this general problem given by Plato and by Michel Foucault. Although their answers address fundamentally the same issue, they are so diametrically opposed, as I will show, that they may be considered as the external boundaries of a very broad range of possible responses.
2 Signposts Let me begin with Plato. In a well-known passage from the Euthydemus, the main characters are discussing which kind of knowledge is required by wisdom. In this context, to the delighted although belated surprise of Crito, the young Cleinias introduces a crucial distinction between hunters and cooks: the former know how to find the prey, but only the latter know how to use it: No art of actual hunting, [Cleinias] said, extends any further than pursuing and capturing; whenever the hunters catch what they are pursuing they are incapable of using it, but they and the fishermen hand over their prey to the cooks. And again, geometers and astronomers and calculators (who are hunters too, in a way, for none of these make their diagrams; they simply discover those which already exist), since they themselves have no idea of how to use their prey but only how to hunt it, hand over the task of using their discoveries to the dialecticians—at least, those of them who are not completely useless [anoetoi]. [290b–c]1 Cleiniasʼs account acknowledges the reality and value of the knowledge gained by the sciences, but denies that scientists have full awareness of what they are doing and of the implications of their own work. Scientific knowledge lacks both self-reflexivity and transparency: it does not have the ability to bring to full evidence the principles it rests upon. As Plato will state in his most famous dialogue, scienceʼs work is dreamwork: 1. Plato, Complete Works 728. Cleinias says “dialecticians”—today we would probably use a word unknown to Plato, “metaphysicians.” The dialecticians are those thinkers who are able to discover unity in the variety of particulars: “anyone who can achieve a unified vision is dialectical, and anyone who canʼt isnʼt” [Rep. 537c]. For other Platonic passages containing a description of the dialectician see Phaedrus 276e, Crat. 390c (where he is defined as the one who knows how to ask questions because he knows how to answer them), and most importantly Rep. VII, 531b–536b, which contains perhaps Platoʼs clearest definition. Although clear, Cleiniasʼs analogy between dialecticians and cooks nonetheless contains an ambiguity which the Gorgias will follow up on, this time within the context of the distinction between philosophy and rhetoric. Cleinias forgets to specify that a real cook, preparing the food to satisfy the physical needs of the diners rather than to please their taste buds, is closer to a physician than to a gastronomist. Another complexity is provided by Cleiniasʼs seemingly surprising assertion that the geometers do not make the diagrams they use. However, by “diagrammata,” Cleinias most likely means the true mathematical entities that the geometers deal with, including objects, theorems, and proofs, rather than their sensible representations. The line and the sphere, the odd and the even are thus found, or “hunted,” and not created. For a preliminary discussion of this complex issue in the context of Republic, see Cornford; for a more recent treatment in the context of Euthydemus, see Canto 152 ff.
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what the scientists tell us may be true, but they (and, therefore, we, the external recipient of scientific results, the wakeful listeners to the dream) are not in a position to tell whether it is true: As for geometry and the subjects that follow it, we described them as to some extent grasping what is, for we saw that, while they do dream about what is, they are unable to command a waking view of it as long as they make use of hypotheses that they leave untouched and that they cannot give any account of. [Rep. 533b]2 Self-reflexivity and transparency of scientific results is brought about by a different kind of knowledge, analogous to the knowledge that cooks possess. This knowledge, Cleinias states, is an integral part of philosophy, and it is called dialectics. It is therefore important to understand that the relationship between dialectics and science is made possible by a double order of reasons that corresponds to a double strategy in philosophyʼs dealings with science. First, the relationship between philosophy and science is mediated by the fundamental unity of knowledge. There is a homogeneous progression, indeed a continuous line, from geometry to the first principles of metaphysics, as Socrates states in the Republic just prior to the characterization of science as dreamwork mentioned above. The existence of such a continuity constitutes a rather strong claim that will have to be demonstrated if such continuity were to be granted any validity. Once embarked upon the path marked by this so-called signpost, one would expect that the efforts to prove it will therefore form an integral part of all philosophies. However, the results of those efforts, their success or lack thereof, are less of interest to us here than the common drive that sustains them all, which is invariably grounded in an underlying ontological, and epistemological, unity. Second, and on the basis of such a homogeneous progression, the dialectician is capable of building a hierarchy between the different, but intimately unified disciplines which translates into a neat division of labor. If philosophy can, as it has been said, license patents of authenticity, it is also capable of delegating responsibilities. The hunters may be hunting what the cooks need to cook, but it is always the hunters who hunt and the cooks who cook. The neat partition is not disturbed if sometimes later, and perhaps much later, the cooks will be forced to cook whatever the hunters have hunted; it is still the same division: same ordering, different hierarchy.3 In short, Cleiniasʼs distinction between hunters and cooks is made possibly by three interrelated factors: (a) unity and ontological homogeneity (namely, unity based on homogeneity); (b) hierarchy; and (c) division of labor.4 Thus, Cleiniasʼs position outlines with the greatest clarity one possible general strategy that could be followed when trying to untie the knot between philosophy and 2. Plato, Complete Works 1149. Husserlʼs famous account, in the Crisis, of the shattered dream of a rigorous science grounded upon phenomenology, to which I return below, is to be read in direct connection with this passage. 3. The Hegelian owl is here hardly to be bypassed, but for the more salient description of the same phenomenon see in particular Hannah Arendtʼs distinction between pre- and post-Galilean philosophy and the reversal between contemplation and action in The Human Condition 289 ff. 4. It is worth noting that the cooks/hunters distinction is “Cleinian,” not “Platonic”; that is, it represents the preliminary marking of a position that Plato will later on expand and develop much further. Cleinias should be identified with neither Socrates nor Plato. At best, he is the representative of a minimal Platonism that one could easily find in many anti-Platonist philosophies. One could read the remainder of Euthydemus as an expansion of this basic point in a more strictly Platonic direction.
science. The general problems concerning the relationship between philosophy and science would therefore be clearly resolved once this signpost is passed. Cleiniasʼs position implies that philosophy is a science, both analogous to and different from what we would now call the “sciences.” It is fundamentally analogous because of its similar search for the truth of a particular field; it is different because of the different method demanded by the phenomenal field it targets. One may add that this difference is interpreted in very different ways, according to the particular declinations of the general approach: categorical intuition, self-reflection, linguistic analysis have all been proposed as suitable candidates for the task. Let us now consider the opposite alternative suggested by Michel Foucault. In the introduction to the second volume of History of Sexuality, we read: There is always something derisive in philosophical discourse when it pretends, from the outside, to dictate rules to others, to tell them where their truth is and how to find it, or when it boasts of its alleged capacity to instruct their process with naïve positivity; but it is within its full rights when it explores what may be changed, in its own thinking, through the practice of a foreign knowledge.  Against the Platonic criteria of unity, hierarchy, and division of labor, the avowedly Sophistic Foucault recommends a path centered upon the opposite strategies: disunity, leveling, antagonistic reappropriation. First, he suggests a radical separation of concerns between the philosophical “endeavor” and other intellectual pursuits. I am deliberately using the vague label of “intellectual pursuits,” because it is quite clear that Foucaultʼs statement entails that determining what constitutes a science and what does not is no longer philosophyʼs prerogative. An immediate consequence of the radical cut between “philosophy” and science suggested by Foucault is that epistemology, interpreted as the inquiry into the validity of a specific form of knowledge, becomes internal to the discipline itself. Epistemology will perhaps become the abstract-theoretical moment of science (to use Jean Piagetʼs formulation),5 more or less in the sense in which research into the foundations of mathematics has become more and more mathematized. The converse proposition is true as well: only philosophy can determine what philosophy itself is about, what are the standards of validity, the subjects of inquiry, and so on. But if philosophy can only determine what philosophy is all about, the sciences are, analogously, on their own and will have to do the same, on their own terms and in full autonomy. In opposition to the assumption of ontological uniformity, Foucaultʼs strategy of ontological and epistemological pluralism, perhaps even of programmatic fragmentation, sounds like a call to difference that foretells an antagonistic confrontation. The second consequence of Foucaultʼs strategy, a point strictly interrelated with the previous one, is the rejection of disciplinary hierarchy. The radical cut between the “sciences” and “philosophy” that he proposes entails a necessary lack of hierarchical relationships between the different forms of knowledge. Any assumption of an ordering, with philosophy occupying the first position, would send us back to Cleinias. At the same time, it would also license philosophyʼs role as the instructor of metaphysically grounded epistemological processes. Instead, Foucaultʼs text makes clear that there cannot be any philosophical primacy, not even the primacy of a primum inter pares, if 5. For a full articulation of Piagetʼs sophisticated theory of epistemology as partially contained within the science(s) it analyzes see Piaget, Introduction à lʼépistémologie génétique; for a broader consideration of the relationship between science and philosophy from a Piagetian standpoint, see Piaget, Sagesse et illusions de la philosophie.
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the separation is to be maintained. Conversely, there cannot be any (logical, ontological, or epistemological) primacy enjoyed by the sciences over philosophy, and exactly for the same reasons. A true separation requires true equality in status. Programmatic fragmentation goes hand in hand with a leveling that constitutes the necessary prerequisite for an agonal confrontation in which all the participants duel in order to “outdo” each other. If we follow Foucaultʼs path, we will find pares only, with no primum standing out: a very Greek and yet very un-Platonic image. It resonates with the atmosphere of the gymnasium that saw Cleinias talking, and with the tension of that house in the Pyraeus where Trasymachus fidgeted, puffed, shouted, blushed, and ultimately shut up when his efforts to defend the supremely political virtue of pleonexia were finally ridiculed.6 The reference to the agonal character of the political interaction in the polis, which is undoubtedly in the background of both Foucaultʼs and Platoʼs texts, prepares the ground for the last defining element of Foucaultʼs departure from Cleinianism. The interaction between the scientists and the philosophers—or the hunters and cooks of Cleiniasʼs parable—must be conceived according to the same antagonistic paradigm that dominated the interaction between their disciplines: science and philosophy. The participants in the games of truth are motivated by the antagonistic appropriations of their respective results. From the strictly philosophical standpoint it is a form of appropriation that originates within the domain of philosophy and is directed toward whatever lies beyond its boundaries. The term appropriation is mine, not Foucaultʼs, and it is meant to extend the allusive reference contained in the text. I will be using this term in the sense of the extraction of an item (of knowledge, in this case) out of its original context to make it oneʼs own through protracted use (“the practice of a foreign knowledge”). In our case this practice is not violent because it does not seek to return what is appropriated to its original owner together with a patent of authenticity. On the contrary, it appropriates strictly for its own consumption. Appropriation can be nonviolent only if it abandons the concept of the “proper” (of propriety and property), that is, if it does not assume that there is one legitimate, authentic, warranted usage of whatever it is appropriating, but leaves itself open, instead, to a possibly never-ending process of appropriations and reappropriations. We have so far seen two roads marked by two signposts: one reads homogeneity, hierarchy, and division of labor, the other, disunity, leveling, and antagonistic appropriation. Is there any criterion that would allow us to choose between the Platonic and the Foucauldean alternatives? Metacriteria must be ruled out, because they would assume an epistemological and ontological continuity at a higher logical level that is explicitly denied by one of the alternatives on the table, namely, Foucaultʼs. However, an internal criterion can perhaps be obtained from an exploration of the possible consequences of the two alternatives, as they developed through historical time.
3 Cooks and Nooks If Cleiniasʼs hunters could talk, I like to think that they would express themselves with Dr. Seussʼs words: 6. See Arendtʼs description of the “agonal spirit” of Greek praxis in The Human Condition [194 ff.]. A crucial component of Arendtʼs agonal political praxis is respect: the mutual acknowledgement of achieved parity, an almost Hegelian recognition that is opposed to any hierarchy.
I took a look. I saw a Nook. On his head he had a hook. On his hook he had a book. On his book was “How to Cook.” I saw him sit and try to cook. He took a look at the book on the hook. But a Nook canʼt read, so a Nook canʼt cook. SO. . . .  The Nook is a figure of great theoretical relevance, because it breaks the clean division of labor between philosophers and scientists produced by the Cleinian paradigm by exposing its intrinsic danger. The cookbook that allows the transformation of the raw ingredients produced by the scientists into the self-reflexive, higher forms of knowledge most appreciated by the philosophers may well turn out to be hard to decipher. Instead of hunters and cooks, Cleinias might well encounter only nooks, because it may turn out after all that the cooks canʼt cook. These cooks could all be nooks, either because they canʼt read the cookbook, or because there is more than one book around, or, as seems to have been the case for the last two thousand years, because they canʼt find a cookbook that does not need to be rewritten, from the first page to the last, every twenty-five years or so. But if the cooks are nooks, shouldnʼt the hunters be granted a shift in the kitchen? Shouldnʼt we forgive them, when they point out that their turn has come? Hegelʼs argument on the impossible paradox of the history of philosophy is as valid as ever: philosophers claim they can read the cookbook of truth, but the history of their past attempts seems to show that they are all nooks. As he said in one of the introductions to the Lectures on the History of Philosophy: “If we start from the fact that truth is eternal, then it cannot fall into the sphere of the transient and it has no history. But if it has a history, and history is only a display of a series of past forms of knowledge, then truth is not to be found in it, since truth is not something past” .7 We donʼt need to follow Hegelʼs development of this basic point into the ineluctable position of Absolute Knowing in order to accept the critical part of the paradox. Nor do we need to accept the Heideggerian reformulation of the Hegelian point, as stated for example in “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” about the history of Western metaphysics as a necessary and inexorable dissolution of philosophy into the sciences culminating in cybernetics. In my view, the source of all these dangers lies in the absolute proximity between philosophy and science, which is only provisionally ordered by an all-too-fragile hierarchy. When the test of time proves the cookbooks to be unreliable, thereby turning cooks into nooks, the neat hierarchical separation between philosophy and science crumbles. What we find in its place is a progressive appropriation of the philosophical realm by the scientific disciplines, which will eventually end in a more or less complete annihilation of philosophy as such. In other words, the selfreflective knowledge of the ultimate principles upon which science rests, which Cleinias had delimited as the philosophical province par excellence, becomes yet another realm of scientific inquiry. The fragile hierarchy opens the door to the possibility of a reversal. When cookbooks are out of print, cooks becomes nooks, and hunters can take charge. This position may or may not entail a skepticism about philosophy, what we may call a general “anti-intellectual” atmosphere. It may also lead to a full-fledged scientism—that is, to the application of scientific results across the board in human life, 7. For a recent elaboration of the often forgotten but by no means invalid Hegelian claim, see Ricoeur.
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from ethics to politics. The two alternatives are really two sides of the same coin. Scientific, that is, empirically grounded research investigating ultimate principles will prove unsatisfactory to anyone, including any scientist, who is moderately versed in Western philosophy. A fallibilist search for the absolute is an oxymoron. It follows that scientism is always, at the same time, although often unconsciously, a form of philosophical skepticism, that is, a form of skepticism toward philosophy as such. Prophets of fallibilist science recognize the problem and declare themselves philosophical skeptics, that is, declare philosophy dead; prophets of ultimate science “choose” to ignore the problem and settle for a lesser form of metaphysics. I would like to provide an illustration of how the division between philosophy and science drawn along Cleinian lines may otherwise develop by sketching the history of the relationship between philosophy on the one hand and Artificial Intelligence/Artificial Life (AI/ALife) on the other. It seems to me that the most common philosophical reactions to the general projects of these two scientific disciplines are very much consonant with the Cleinian strategy—including its reversal. It is well known that AIʼs stated goal is to provide a general, scientific, and mechanically testable theory of human rationality. How is a philosopher to react to such a claim? There are three different philosophical reactions to AI that coincidentally mark, in my opinion, three progressive steps toward philosophyʼs annihilation. A typical philosophical reaction to AIʼs project is to maintain that philosophers are charged with the role of analyzing the concepts used by scientists in pursuit of their research programs—a position expressed, for instance, by Margaret Boden: AIʼs [goal] is to provide a systematic theory that can explain (and perhaps enable us to replicate) both the general category of intentionality and the diverse psychological capacities grounded in it. [. . .] The many philosophical problems associated with AI arise from the question whether (and, if so, how) this ambitious enterprise could be achieved or whether it is radically misconceived.  Once all claims to substantial inquiries such as, for example, the one into the structure of intentionality are relinquished, philosophy clings to the role of epistemological guardian. The philosopherʼs solutions to what Boden calls “the many philosophical problems associated with AI” are usually disregarded by workers in the field of AI, even when, paradoxically enough, the solutions are correct. The development of AI from the 1960s to the late 1980s bears this out. Starting in 1967, the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus produced, on the basis of Heideggerʼs analysis of readiness-to-hand, skillful coping, and so on, a diagnosis of the extent to which what he considered the faulty philosophical assumptions of AI were bound to produce problems that AI would not be able to solve. For the most part, his analysis was completely disregarded. The only exceptions were the philosophers and the public representatives of AI, who spent quite a few keynote addresses at major AI conferences lashing out at Dreyfusʼs contentions. Then problems arose in the AI field that could not be solved. Did anyone in AI, even then, pay retrospective attention to Dreyfus, or to Heidegger, to find perhaps inspiration for new strategies? No, they preferred to go back to the past history of their own discipline, and started producing models based on an alternative approach, the so-called neural networks, which had been explored and abandoned about twenty-five years earlier. Given this result, the efficacy of the philosopher as epistemological guardian proves to be quite limited. Philosophers may well switch to a different, perhaps more productive role. According to Daniel Dennett, philosophy is a source, a bottomless source, of naïve intu-
itions about the world, ourselves, and the mind, which science has a duty to reformulate rigorously and to test carefully. Here is how he puts it, while addressing the similar issue of the relationship between philosophy and Artificial Life: Artificial Life, like its parent (aunt?) Artificial Intelligence, can be constructed as a sort of philosophy—the creation and testing of elaborate thought experiments, kept honest by requirements that could never be imposed on the naked mind of a human thinker acting alone. [“Artificial Life as Philosophy” 261] Dennettʼs view, unlike the clear division of labor advanced by Boden, relies upon a tighter relationship between AI and philosophy. Science and philosophy are activities of different kinds, for Boden, whereas for Dennett itʼs just a matter of degree. Both positions, however, presuppose the same level of ontological homogeneity announced by Cleinias. Elsewhere, Dennett explicitly suggests the existence of an epistemological and ontological continuum between philosophy and science, namely in the form of psychology: One can ask how any finite system, how any neuronal network with such and such physical features could possibly accomplish human color discriminations [. . .]; or one can ask, with Kant, how anything at all could possibly experience or know anything at all. Pure epistemology thus viewed, for instance, is simply the limiting case of the psychologistsʼ quest. [“Artificial Intelligence as Philosophy and as Psychology” 111; Dennettʼs emphasis] Thus, in Dennettʼs view, the spectrum of investigations carried out by philosophers and psychologists can be viewed as a true continuum, with the two disciplines occupying opposite ends. Following Dennettʼs argument, it may seem as if the spectrum should actually be interpreted as a field modulating not only the methods of the disciplines in question, but also their content, that is, the content of the questions they ask. In other words, at the one end we find the “pure analysis of concepts” performed by the philosophers, while at the other end we are confronted with the empirical investigations carried out by psychologists. For Dennett, however, at a more general level these differences disappear into the homogeneity of an inquiry into the mindʼs mode of functioning. In Dennettʼs opinion, philosophy and psychology share the same topic but differ in approach, from the more general to the more specific: totally top-down for philosophy, totally bottom-up for psychology, with AI, ALife, and robotics resting somewhere in the middle. He says: AI can be as abstract and as “unempirical” as philosophy in the questions it attempts to answer, but at the same time, it should be as explicit and as particularistic in its models as psychology as its best. [“Artificial Intelligence” 113] The substratum of the continuum is built on the identity of topic, while the differentiation is provided by the different form (that is, the different methods/approaches). Indeed, since the difference between philosophy and psychology is provided by a gradient of “attention to empirical details,” and since such a concern is, in itself, a scientific preoccupation, it follows that the continuum represents only a differentiation among different ways of doing science and not, as Dennett would have it, a bridge between science and philosophy. To put it differently: Dennett can build his bridge between science and philosophy because philosophy has never been in the picture in the first place,
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having effectively been reduced to an “abstract” form of scientific investigation in the traditional sense. We are not confronted, then, with a difference between science and philosophy along the axis of same content/different form, but rather with an identity between (abstract) science and (concrete) science where all the content comes from science and no philosophy is left, either as content or as form. As history teaches us, from annexation to total elimination it is only a small step. This is the third and last position I will consider, and it is quite appropriately best expressed in the words of a roboticist, not those of a philosopher, this last option being the endpoint of the philosophical annihilation. In the last few lines of one of his bestknown papers, “Intelligence without Representation,” Rodney Brooks remarks: In some circles much credence is given to Heidegger as one who understands the dynamics of existence. Our approach has certain similarities to works inspired by this German philosopher, but our work was not so inspired. It is based purely on engineering considerations. Then he adds: That does not preclude it from being used in philosophical debate as an example on any side of any fence, however.  As Brooksʼs remarks make clear, the issue here is not simply that philosophy, here embodied by the Dasein-analyse of Martin Heidegger, is totally irrelevant to scientific discourse but may keep its legitimacy in its own field (whatever that may be). The allusion contained in the last sentence—that his works may be used “on any side of any fence”—is much stronger. If we take this remark together with the passage it refers to, where Brooks suggests that thought and consciousness will “emerge” in the creatures built in his lab “out of purely engineering considerations,” we come to realize that philosophy is irrelevant to philosophy itself. That is, the questions traditionally asked by philosophers will be answered by scientists, while the former will be left to what Brooks calls their usual and ineffective “cheap talk.”
4 Philosophy and Literature This very brief sketch was meant to outline one possible danger of the Cleinian strategy. One may counter, however, that the Foucauldean alternative is far more dangerous, because it collapses philosophical and scientific discourses into an unrelated series of equally ungrounded narratives. Science and philosophy become dangerously indistinguishable from literature. This is the problem Husserl sensed when he was meditating on the meaning of history in a Europe soon to be savaged by the impending catastrophe: “Philosophy as a science, as serious, rigorous, indeed apodeictically rigorous science—the dream is over [. . .] .”8 And he goes on, after a few pages devoted to an uncomfortable analysis of the necessary relationship that a philosopher may have to entertain with history: 8. This declaration, “Der Traum ist ausgeträumt,” should be read in conjunction with the Husserlian dream of a philosophy as a rigorous science outlined in the homonymous essay. For a detailed analysis of the different interpretations of this text, see Forni and Melandri.
“What kind of “poetic invention” [Dichtung], what kind of historical interpretation is this?” [389, 394; Husserlʼs emphasis]. Apart from the dreamlike existence in which, according to Plato, scientists live, there is another kind of dream, the dream that Husserl dreamt when he cherished the possibility of refounding philosophy as a rigorous science. This is a dream that dreams of the abolition of all dreams, and especially of itself, a dream that seeks to be no longer a dream. Such an undreamlike dream sets itself up for a rude awakening, because when the dream of an idyllic and teleologically predetermined recomposition of the antagonistic instances advanced by philosophy and science confronts the possibility of its own more or less radical failure, what comes forth is its own ghost: the always exorcised literature. Is the dream over because it is no longer a dream, or is it over as a dream because it cannot be dreamt any longer? In short, is the dream over, or the dreaming of the dream? But in either case, be it failure or disillusion, there is no philosophy outside the dream, so that the philosopher must start a conscious act of daydreaming by renaming his past dream the unattainable telos of philosophy: “How must we carry it on,” Husserl asks, “even beyond our philosophizing life, in order to clarify our unclear consciousness of our telos?” . If there is no philosophy in the wasteland left by the shattered dream, it is because the Cleinian gamble that Husserl self-consciously shares depends upon an absolute unity between philosophy and science that inevitably forecloses the possibility of a valid alternative. The only alternative becomes then the most unphilosophical one: poetry, the realm of fiction, untruth, and invention. The conclusion is seemingly obvious: the alternative to Cleiniasʼs route, in fact any alternative at all, will necessarily be in the direction of such literature. The identification between this way of conceiving literature and nonphilosophy (that is, a philosophy that abandons the Cleinian paradigm) is thus established. Therefore, one would conclude that all anti-Cleinian strategies, including Foucaultʼs, will necessarily lead to literature. This would be a hasty conclusion, however, because such an identification of literature and nonphilosophy, as best exemplified by Husserlʼs text, rests, in my view, upon two faulty hidden assumptions. First comes the view of literature as mere invention, pure creation out of nothing, which stands in stark opposition to the philosophical search for truths patiently extracted from the things themselves. Second, unsurprisingly, comes the claim that any nonscientific philosophy will inevitably assume the form of literature so understood. Nowadays, we are familiar with a version of this position that pitches philosophy as the free invention of new vocabularies, the creation of new and more useful words that will make our life possibly more tolerable.9 But as far as I can see, this view of literature relies on the same assumption of ontological homogeneity we saw at work in Cleiniasʼs understanding of the relationship between philosophy and science. The only difference, in the literature/philosophy case, is that the possibility of reaching a fully scientific (wissenschäftlich) understanding of the ground of such homogeneity is negated. This exception discounted, however, everything else stays the same: philosophy (and science) are still considered as being in the business of articulating the truth about being, but since this truth turns out to be inaccessible, they are now granted the permission to pursue the same goal through mere fabrication instead of going through the patient scientific work of discovery. Since literature has always been in the business of fabricating tales, the two enterprises turn out to be the same. The truth that earlier had to be found now can and must be made up. But the status of this truth has not changed. To be more precise: the ontological premise 9. Richard Rorty is perhaps the best-known philosopher holding this position. A clear statement can be found in “Philosophy as a Kind of Writing.”
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advanced by Cleinias remains untouched, while the claims about epistemological accessibility have been turned upside-down. True, there is no longer a division of labor between hunters and cooks, but only because both have turned into magicians who still go “out there” in the woods, where game used to roam, and summon up, through incantations, recitations, or some other elaborate linguistic ritual, whatever they need in the kitchen. The point here is not to provide a critique of a Husserlian nightmare turned into a positive dream, but rather to recognize its precise location in the topography we have described. Precisely because it relies upon the very same premise, the fall of philosophy into literature, dreaded or wished as the case may be, is only a side road on the main Cleinian highway: since the truth that philosophers have always searched for is inaccessible, we will all turn into poets and make it up. Moreover, what makes this view of philosophy as literature purely internal to Cleinianism is its particular, if not peculiar, conception of literature. The literature it talks about and reduces philosophy to is completely internal to philosophy itself: it is truly a philosophical fable. This is why the identification between nonscientific philosophy and “literature” is possible: because the latter term is and has always been as philosophical as the former. And, as such, it is rather inadequate to represent a literature without scare quotes. Literature as pure invention, the linguistic summoning of inaccessible entities, is easy to recognize as mimesis run awry. Paradoxically, and precisely because it has been reduced to a pure production of the imaginary, this literature is always fully possessed by its creator. It is a tale spun at will and over which the storyteller retains full control: over its meaning, its import, and its implications. It is fake; therefore it can be produced whenever necessary, and with little effort. But it bears little resemblance to the patient work of the poet laboring with language and with the reserve of historically constituted poetic forms who tries to find a way to work in and around language in order to produce an object that will necessarily transcend its intention; insofar as it will have been produced within a structurally configured matrix that necessarily precedes its users, it will never be under full control. I find that this is the only aspect in which literature (without scare quotes) and philosophy may be brought together: as two different forms of production, that is, as the result of an act of making, of poiesis, not mimesis.10 Both proceed, as a bricoleur would, on the basis of what culture, age, language, science, and, ultimately, language and philosophy themselves have made available, toward the construction of objects that can stand on their own over and against their producers and users in order to become part of the common world in which they both live. Neither philosophy nor literature, nor, of course, science, is reducible to acts of mere invention. Rather, they are all constituted by acts of fabrication which, while in pursuit of their goal, can freely reappropriate whatever is made available by (any) other kinds of human experience. To sever the ontological continuity between philosophy and science as Foucault recommended does not necessarily lead to literature, as the reductively conceived poetic invention that Husserl, and so many others with him, feared—although it certainly alters the goal of the philosophical pursuit. To shed some tentative light upon the nature of such a change, I would like to consider once again Foucaultʼs words. What does philosophy consist in if not in the endeavour to know how and to what extent it might be possible to think differently? [Use of Pleasure 9] I understand this statement to suggest that the philosopher should play the role of the well-known Socratic gadfly—although a cynic gadfly, not a Platonic one. In other 10. For a full articulation of a theory of literature as poiesis, see Iser, esp. 247–304.
words, he should spend his time trying to fabricate the concepts that will allow him to think the structure, limitations, and consequences of the intellectual and social situations he happens to live in. The philosopher should concern herself, to use a heavy word, with the “unthought,” that is, with what remains unthought in all practices, including her own: not because what is unthought is more valid than what has already been thought, but because it is only by bringing out what is different, and may be possible, that the specific characters of the actual gain their full distinctiveness.
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