Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rorty on Heidegger's world-view(s)

On page 42 of Essays on Heidegger and Others, Rorty writes, “. . . after seeming to contrast ontology and world-view, Heidegger goes on to say the following:  ‘It is just because this positivity – that is, the relatedness to beings, to world that is, Dasein that is – belongs to the essence of the world-view, and thus in general to the formation of the world-view, that the formation of a world-view cannot be the task of philosophy.  To say this is not to exclude but to include the idea that philosophy itself is a distinctive primal for [ein ausgezeichnete Urform] of world-view.  Philosophy can and perhaps must show, among many other things, that something like a world-view belongs to the essential nature of Dasein.  Philosophy can and must define what in general constitutes the structure of a world-view.  But it can never develop and posit some specific world-view qua just this or that particular one.’

“But there is an obvious tension in this passage between the claim that philosophy ‘is a distinctive primal form of world-view’ and that ‘philosophy . . . can never develop and posit some specific world-view.’  Heidegger never tells us how we can be historical through and through and yet ahistorical enough to step outside our world-view and say something neutral about the ‘structure’ of all actual and possible world-views. . . .”

COMMENT:  Rorty then goes on to put the matter in his “own jargon” in order to disagree with Heidegger, but if we leave this matter in Heidegger’s terms it makes excellent sense.  To illustrate, after fighting an enormous number of battles against the Cylons, the Battlestar Galactica crew encounters another Battlestar, the Pegasus.  The commanding officer of the Pegasus, Admiral Cain is superior in rank to Commander Adama and at first Adama accepts the new situation.  Military protocol demands that Adama give way to Cain, but Cain has developed a very different “world-view” from Adama and his crew.  Adama’s military background is in “obvious tension” with the world-view he and his crew developed in their fight against the Cylons.  When Admiral Cain arrests two of Adama’s best men and plans to execute them, Adama has had enough.  Adama’s “military world-view” gives way to his newer “Galactica against the Cylon world-view.”  He is prepared to take the Galactica to war against the Pegasus unless Cain returns his men unharmed.  This is a very “authentic” piece of writing.  It illustrates Heidegger’s argument about “world-view.”   At one time the crews of the Galactica and Pegasus were part of the same civilization and shared the same world-view, but after the Cylon attack they went their own ways and developed unique world-views; which as it turned out were not very compatible.

To use another example, consider the Christian Church.  It is almost more accurate to call it the Christian Churches because so many different “world-views” have developed.  We see the world-view-process at work in the earliest days.  Paul and Barnabas were sent off on an evangelism mission, but the day came when the Paul realized that his “world-view” had diverged from the “world-view” of the church at Jerusalem and sought a meeting to reconcile their differences.  They seemed to be largely reconciled, but reconciliation didn’t last.  We are so used to “new world-views” being developed in the Christian Church that we no longer are alarmed about it.  We don’t have Paul’s concern about ironing out all the differences and achieving unity.  And the longer our churches are separated the more distinctive the world-views.  Consider the differences between the Orthodox churches and the Western Christian Churches.  Then consider the differences between the Lutheran and the Calvinistic Churches.  The Western churches since the Peace of Westphalia in 1641 have been learning to accept each other.  Still, we Christians do believe a meta-Christian-world-view exists.  It comprises the thoughts of God as God thinks them.  Some believe their particular church’s “world-view” equals the meta-Christian-world view.  Others aren’t quite that presumptuous.  All are, more or less, tolerant of the others.  The secularism that grew out of the Christian Church has made “tolerance” one of its cornerstones. 

As Rorty worked through this subject he was not willing to let go of the idea that philosophically their “could be only one.”  Perhaps there could be different histories, but the job of philosophy was to cut through those differences and find the one true ontology.  For Heidegger the one truth is that there have always been and probably will always be multiplicities of world-views, weltanshauungen. 

But what of Fukuyama’s Liberal-Democratic World-View?  Isn’t that view “one”?  It is in a sense, a meta-world-view based on the “tolerance” developed in the West since the Peace of Westphalia.  It works well on the level of the individual nations much as the Christian Church works well on the level of the individual denominations.  Much of the world seems amenable to the Western sort of Tolerance.  The Islamic Civilization seems to be a hold-out at present but Fukuyama thinks they will eventually come around.  An article in Foreign Policy, Jan/Feb 2010 seems to support that view:

I haven’t watched all the Battlestar Galactica episodes yet, but my observation is that the Cylons, with their single World-View dominated the humans who had multiple world views.  The Cylons could operate in accordance with a single plan.  Humans couldn’t manage that level of solidarity.  Peace between the Cylons and Humans won’t be achieved until the Cylons become more human – and learn to squabble amongst themselves.


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