Can One Draw Near Being Through Thinking the Sublime and the Christian Aspect of Philosophy as Terminated in the Thinking of Kant?
The sublime is thought generically, that is formulaically and conceptually, in connection to the infinite. The concept thereby reached is not empty but stands in rich connection to the thinking of the concrete finite, of the things of daily life. But Kant never deals with daily life in connection to the finite, since he begins with Newton, and by limiting experience to the representable. This which is something is a representation and it is made true in its symbols and predication, which is to say, through words or signs or, what is the same, sentences. The sublime in Kant is the full, it is the untucked human spirit, whereas what is represented is the finite and the self interested. The sublime is evinced concretely in several examples, both the mathematical and the dynamical and the aesthetic.
Heidegger says rightly that the notion of the (Kantian) aesthetic as the disinterested as discovered by Nietzsche through Schopenhauer is flatly erroneous. It brings one to the very brink of English fine art, and is in Nietzsche the “moon-eyed” nobility, with eyes fixed on a place beyond the stars, in unworthy passivity. The Schoolmen understood ‘indifference’ to mean, not finite, i.e., that which directs itself to the uncabined sway of what holds extraordinarily. Kant followed the schoolmen in his understanding of the beautiful, as what, in ‘indifference’ to what is overcome, to hostile pathe, to the pathological, to the heterogeneous as Kant called it, opens in itself, and shows what is most its own, in the sublime. Heidegger calls the heterogenous the inauthentic, and the autonomous the authentic. This is not, however a mere change of terms, but the specific modification is also a change in the direction of thought, which should be thought in its movement, i.e., from Kant to Heidegger. And, though it goes beyond the scope of this post, from the Greek beginning in pathos, as over and against the essence of man as man.
We must consider if Strauss, in his project, moves in thought in a way that does not neglect the inner reality of the world, which is to say that Strauss when he asks if the basic evidence, the primary phenomena, still licence the thoughtful question about the Just and the Good, does he fall into reactionaryism, seeking vane overthrow of the necessary and real, or does he, in a second possibility, within the new times, restore a project, different than that of that raised by Socrates, but still vital, or does he, in a third possibility, by not thinking through to its conclusion in the same degree and with the same probity as Husserl and Heidegger bring unhappy failure to his teaching, i.e., self deception and a project of worthless fancy.
In order to think through this we must ask what has happened. Strauss is most guided by the fact value distinction, and the possibility of assaulting it and showing its inadequacy, that it is not impregnable to thought. What is great in Strauss is the simplicity of his language, and, a fortiori, the awesome greatness of powerfully holding to the simplicity of his objections. Today, no one dreams of such power of thought. Strauss says, thusly, because the Just and the Good have not been shown hitherto, it is no argument against them being found. He says, of the fact value distinction, is it fact or value? The second objection is so simple that it can scarcely be grasped. Yet, is the fact value distinction at all the core of the inner change visible to Husserl, as the tide of the obvious, as the swell of the tide of the rivers that are fed by an unknown rain, fallen from unthought clouds?
The origin of the fact value distinction is seen simply in the “experiential sciences”, the phrase belongs to Kant, and most of all to his First Critique. It is Newton as over and against the Freedom of the autonomous (thus the moral and the good as reached in the ‘indifference’). But this juxtaposition of the phenomenal, as what can be represented and symbolized logically, and the inner spirit of man as man, is overcome in Nietzsche & Kierkegaard. Naturally, Strauss is possessed of a thorough-going knowledge of Nietzsche, and so one can not say, he merely had the derivative formula which shows itself in so many practical matters, most of all the legal world, “fact and value”. True, the formula is not heard so much these days in public or private life, but it yet prevails. It has become the question of freewill over and against mathematical determination. It has become consciousness over and against the “natural world”. To be sure Strauss is no naive thinker who is deceived by the fog and lights of the modern university: sociology, the philosophy department that prescribes rules of thought, the modern sciences.
Since the ground of “vague fact”, of the, to use Strauss's formulation, “the citizen’s understanding”, or, in another saying, the ordinary-life understanding, the everyday, the common-sense-bound thought, the folk thinking, etc. is not the thing subject to “possibilities of experience”, not the thing measured by the possibilities of logical representation, first in Newton, but of course later in n number of subsequent theories and models, the fact value distinction becomes opaque and sinks into arbitrary blather. Because it is not founded in the ground of basic experience, but on the condition of logical expression or record, inter-subjectivity, secure showing-to-be-so as objectivity.
How does the sublime look when it does not find its border in the Kantian “representation”? The dreamer and the vague experiencer do not bind themselves to rationality (as something under the principles of thought). But let us give a more decisive example. The law of contradiction repudiates absence, it states that “No A is not -A”, thus the deprivation of the privative is not a subject of the potency of the formal logic. But it is evident and clearly demonstrated to all, and prior to teaching or school. Strauss too, of course, prefers the “citizen’s understanding” to that of the bookish and the abstracted in so far as he affirms that it comes prior to the latter (as is patently obvious). What is struck down most obviously is the Christian doctrine of the transcendent morality, but the Eudaimonism is not a transcendent doctrine. Yet, how does Strauss answer the question, of which he is well aware, what if the truth is evil? I.e., what if what man as man tends towards, through innermost necessity, is terrible, and not beneficial? Being thrown back from the Christian ground, not utterly, but in so far as the inter-subjective, i.e., the political is concerned, through the finding that the moral can not be made secure and objective, the search of the ancients still has the same “primary evidence”. But, is that quite true?
Eudaimonism is viewed in Nietzsche as der Rausch, as Macht, Power. This however, is a “false” conclusion, since it is “life-giving lie”. But, what is sure is that Nietzsche holds that there is no one true and solid Good, but many, infinitely many errors… If they glitter from within their darkness it may be “all the better”, but they are no more true for the fact they are kalon, beautiful, noble. For Nietzsche the beautiful is the besotting, the intoxicating, the vital and the evil. It is evil because in the question, is there mere sustaining of life, homostasis, or must all self-regulating life grow and go beyond itself or decay and be guided by decay, he answers, clearly, the former is the case. Thus, God, Rausch itself His essence, is Evil. This evil, this harm, is beyond good and evil, but it is still evil.
How does it stand with Husserl and Heidegger? They see in the Element the “objective subjective”, i.e., there is something neither Free, which is to say, like the autonomous and the innermost freewill, and the rational, nor, on the other hand, like the pathological (i.e., the emotional and the passionate), the vice ridden and the uncontrollable, the heteronomous, or the determined and the appetitive. This ground is like the sublime, and like the infinite, but it is not infinite, and it is not transcendent. It is derived both theoretically as an orientation, but more so from experience, but in both ways it does not reach its most fruitful exposition. But what is most clear to Heidegger is that nothing could come along, like a tablet, that would make the thing secure that is now holding sway. Is the primary evidence the same or has the world essence changed? In one sense, of course there is more prattle, and so it seems different, but that is not the main thing. In another sense the “primary evidence”, the very argument, that each has with themselves and one another, over the Just and the Good, is found as it was in venerable antiquity. But is it at all evident that the keenest intellects think the past in plain truth? Still, that objection is not decisive, it does seem in some way that the “primary evidence” for the project of philosophy still stands in the force of an inner mission.
It is possible to reach a thought upon Being formulaically, though not wrongly, simply inadequately, through this reflection: Eudaimonism thought through to transcendent Christian Good, to the fall of the same in the sound end of Kant. If the ground, that is thought not to support values becomes confused in a density of opacity, it still indicates something. It brings the thinking of telos, as rationality coming to its good, or Freedom to its Pacific God, or chaos to its Rausch, into a thinking, that being thought through changes the Being of thought, the end of knowledge worship, the weak attempt to embrace “creativity” in the existential, and the forcible necessity of reaching a view of the movement of thought adequate to Being. Thus, on first glance, it seems to me that the way the political project stands, is not to be thought as ‘the same’ as it always was. The political is vanquished in the fact that the human soul is not a Freedom towards completion and perfection or fullness. However I do not feel this conclusion is soundly reached, and so it must be more diligently thought through.
One could readily devise sophistic reasons and explications, but restrains oneself to noting the fact of a seemingly-vexed Heidegger in the double attitude towards the alleged oxymoron “Christian Philosophy”, given the problem that, clearly, this period of philosophy is part of its history but not so comprehensive as the open question of the Being of beings, due to the qualification imposed by the “breaking the sphere” to reach god, in faith and divine vision.