Post-metaphysical Thought

The Greek philosopher and revolutionary Kostas Axelos tried in his vast philosophical production to distance himself from orthodox and Stalinist Marxism, seeing Marx as the thinker of technology and providing a metaphysical interpretation of the Trier revolutionary on the basis of the scant indications offered by Heidegger in some of his works. Over time, having put aside his youthful revolutionary fury, he arrived at a post-metaphysical thought, which set itself the objective of thinking about the becoming of being, renouncing, moreover, any attempt to provide men with points of reference of an ethical nature.

Kostas Axelos’ reflection, from the beginning, stood out — as well as for its radicality — for the ambitious objective it set itself: the overcoming of Marxism and Heideggerian post-metaphysics in view of a thought to come, capable of healing the bleeding wound of nihilism and joyfully facing the challenges of planetary technology. Already in the years in which he was editor-in-chief of the magazine Arguments, founded in 1956 by Edgar Morin, the Greek philosopher and revolutionary examined the existing relationship between Marx and Heidegger, who connect, from his point of view, on the theoretical ground of concept of estrangement, understood as an essential negative of the history of metaphysics: as economic and social alienation in Marx, as constitutive uprootedness of the subject in Heidegger. But if the first explains the technical essence of modern man, the second recognizes in technology the status of a historically determined form of truth. It is therefore necessary to deduce the emancipatory perspective from Marx, from Heidegger the temporal relativity of this perspective, and the opening onto a broader project of liberation. It is on this basis that it is possible for us to grasp, in the problematic conjunction of Marxism and Heideggerism, the traces of a future thought: «Through Marx and Heidegger, and through them we can at the same time go beyond them. This reflection also introduces an anticipatory thought” (1). The critical project of Marxism allows us to take Heidegger as the one who, questioning the history of philosophy, indicated the urgency of a new way of thinking, of a liberation of thought from the representative status of classical metaphysics, and from the will to technical power of the subject. And, vice versa, the Heideggerian approach to the problem of metaphysics allows us to see in Marx the overcoming of philosophy in technology.

The starting point of the Axelosian interpretation of Marx is, therefore, represented by the Letter on “Humanism”, in which Heidegger underlines the need to reach a productive dialogue with Marxism, a dialogue which neither Sartre nor Husserl have reached, since who have not recognized «the essentiality of the historical dimension in being» (2). Marx, for Heidegger, in experiencing alienation and considering the entity in its totality as work material, managed to penetrate an essential dimension of history, superior to any type of historiography. The true essence of materialism, consequently, does not lie in the affirmation that everything is matter, but rather in conceiving reality as that which man continually transforms, thus imprinting his own mark on all beings, reduced to mere background: «The essence of materialism is hidden», observes Heidegger, «in the essence of technology, about which much is written, but little is thought. In its essence, technique is a destiny, within the history of being, of the truth of being that rests in oblivion. In fact, it dates back to the techne of the Greeks not only in name, but comes in an essential historical sense from the techne understood as a way of alethèuein, that is, of making being manifest” (3). But, while techne, for the Greeks, is co-essential to nature, in the sense that natural arising and poietic producing, cosmic happening and active operating, are determined by the same thing which remains, ultimately, enigmatic, in the modern era first, and even more so in the planetary one, it opposes nature, trying to dominate it. In other words: modern thought, according to Heidegger, which, on this point, greatly influences Axelos, carries forward the work of dissolving the unity of the totality of physis, already called into question by Christianity, placing the ego of the subject as res cogitans and opposing it to the objective world of the res extensa, understood as the set of things that are in front of the man who takes possession of them and shapes them. Fundamental, then, is Descartes’ thought, for which the subject, the res cogitans, must, through representation, dominate the res extensa, in order to use it rationally. Man becomes the “measure” of the entity, in the sense that he gives the entity the measure, determining what can be considered as an entity. From this it is clear that the notion of objectivity, very important in modern philosophy, always refers to that of the subject: objective reality is that which appears as such to the subject, which is why what constitutes it is the certainty that the representing subject has of it.

From that moment on, being has the fundamental and exclusive property of presence, the essence of truth is given by the certainty of representing, the entity is increasingly subjugated by man who methodically exploits it. Descartes therefore takes the first decisive step in that process which will slowly lead to the philosophical becoming of the world as the mundane becoming of philosophy: physics begins to transform into technique, and man, the human subject, who aims at control totality of the entity through the ratio, is itself posited as an object. According to this reconstruction of Western philosophy, Kantian philosophy, which fits into the path traced by Descartes, places the transcendental ego by trying to found it: «this thinking and acting ego», as Axelos observes, taking up Heideggerian arguments, «constitutes things as objects of experience, that is, as objects. The transcendental of objectivity includes transcendental subjectivity and is both founded by it. Transcendental subject and transcendental object are referred to each other and are rooted in the same” (4). The criticism of Kantian pure reason, far from being understood as a criticism of Cartesian reason, is seen as its strengthening, as a further enthronement of the subject, increasingly aimed at the conquest of beings in its entirety, at total domination and scientific about reality.

The fulfillment of metaphysics begins with the Hegelian metaphysics of absolute knowledge understood as the will of the spirit. Hegel, in fact, reviving the entire Western philosophical tradition in his thought, understands philosophy as the “awareness” of universal becoming that leads to the Absolute Spirit; Spirit which, alienated in nature, returns to itself and recognizes itself as what it actually is. The Spirit, which has the prerogative of neutralizing any force of disintegration, is, therefore, the power that stands up to time by occupying the place of the future and reuniting it with that of the beginning; it, therefore, is History, unlike nature, which has no history, «because in it universality is only an internal without actual development. There are indeed living individuals, but in them life can only express itself as an abstract universal, as the negation of any particular specificity. In other words, the meaning of organic life is death, the annihilation of everything that aspires to give itself a separate existence” (5). The life of the spirit, on the contrary, is that life that does not fear death, but, on the contrary, tolerates it and maintains itself in it: it knows how to face the negative and assimilate it. Philosophy, as a phenomenological description of the vicissitudes of the Spirit, must acquire knowledge of principles and general points of view, thus presenting itself as a science and no longer as a love of knowledge. It must be real and absolute knowledge of the Absolute Spirit, because only the spirit for Hegel is real, that is, Being. Thought presents itself, therefore, as the engine of becoming, which, in turn, is the unity of being and non-being, a process of revelation of the absolute, the will of the Spirit. Marx precisely questions this, replacing the spirit and ideas with the productive forces and their real movement, maintaining that the true reality is not that posed by thought, but is constituted by the social being understood as the result of the historical process, determined from practice. He is, therefore, seen as the one who, with the overthrow of the Hegelian metaphysics of absolute knowledge, underlined the importance of technical praxis, through which man sets out to conquer the entire planet and philosophy begins to become worldly. . But, at the same time, through the concept of alienation, Marx thematized the disorientation of modern man, who is no longer able to make sense of himself and his actions. In short, Marxian thought, like all Western metaphysics, does not have access to the truth of being, which continues to be veiled, denying itself to thought. We must not forget, in relation to this, that the history of metaphysics presents itself, for Heidegger, as the history of the oblivion of being, which occurs by withdrawing and remains, for this reason, in hiding. At no moment in history, which is the history of being, has the truth of being been thought of. Indeed, history, as the history of being, begins precisely with the oblivion of being, with a thought that thinks only the truth of beings, leaving the truth of being unthought: «thought is constantly set in motion by a single fact: that in Western history, from the beginning, it is thought to be silent with respect to its being, but without the truth of its being being thought of king, so that this is not only rejected to thought as a possible apprehension, but it is so in such a way that Western thought itself, in the form of metaphysics, hides the fact of this rejection, even if it is not aware of it” (6). The oblivion of being, therefore, does not derive from a lack of thought, or from our negligence, since it has its roots in the essence of being which tends to withdraw into itself: metaphysics, consequently, is denied the truth of being, at least until it reaches the era of its fulfillment. And that era, for Heidegger, is the era of deployed technique, in which only the truth of beings emerges and being is totally forgotten, covered by the productive/destructive fury of man, who is preparing to become the undisputed master of the world. Everything bends in the face of the inexhaustible power of technique, which presents itself in the form of Gestell, of imposition: « Gestell, imposition, indicates the meeting of that request which requires, that is, provokes, man to to reveal the real, in the way of use, as a background”. (7) But, Heidegger observes, while stating that technique is imposition, it is not possible to fully understand its essence, it is not yet possible to identify the direction in which it proceeds, to pose the problem of what is intimately pushes her. Technology has invaded every aspect of man’s life, from politics to art, to religion, it has transformed his interiority, but individuals are still far from correctly asking themselves the question about his true essence. It is therefore necessary to question our history, which, for Heidegger, is the history of being, of his oblivion. That is, entering into dialogue with those essential thinkers who can help us understand the desert that is growing around us; search in the work of a philosopher for what has always remained unthought, hidden. But who, in his works, has thematized the alienation of the human being increasingly distant from the land of being? Who discovered in advance the power of planetary technique by penetrating its essence, who destroyed philosophy by bringing it before the tribunal of material and transformative praxis? That thinker, for Heidegger, is Marx, who, although he did not complete metaphysics, although he did not “go beyond” it, laid the foundations for its destruction, for the worldliness of philosophy.

Starting from these assumptions, Axelos constructs his discourse in the monograph Marx, penseur de la technique: de l’aliénation de l’homme à la conquête du monde. The Greek philosopher presents, in the footsteps of Heidegger, a particular interpretation of Marxian thought, seen as a continuation of the metaphysics of subjectivity inaugurated by Descartes at the dawn of modernity and carried forward by Kant and Hegel. A metaphysics of subjectivity, the Marxian one, which has its nerve center in the question of the economic, political and ideological alienation of man and which leads us directly to the problem of nihilism and world technicization. However, the aim of the Axelosian interpretation of Marx and its constant comparison with the Heideggerian Seinsfrage is not at all to lay the foundations for the construction of a new ethical-political edifice. With the death of God and the humanization of nature, with the affirmation of a one-dimensional thought incapable of opposing the existing state of things, with the decline of the messianic utopias that offered the hope of a future redemption, it has failed, according to Axelos , the possibility of pushing towards new horizons, so much so that the very notion of horizon has become problematic, and mediocrity and ambiguity have taken over: we act without knowing why, we build cities that tend to become necropolises and we end up populating deserts. Mystical impulses crystallize in churches, revolutionary movements in bureaucratic states, research of thought in sclerotized universities, the existential adventures of individuals in autarchic and hypocritical families. Man’s actions are meaningless, the time in which he finds himself living is so poor that he is unable to even recognize his own indigence, that it presents itself as a radical lack of future: the sense of total being in its becoming sinks into nothing and there is no longer any foundation, purpose, meaning or idea. Dominated by this game we are forced to realize that truth and true life have left us, without ever having existed. Our being becomes dark and we become problems to ourselves. The main question of politics and ethics, What to do?, although insistently posed again, has, for Axelos, only one answer: abandoning oneself to the becoming of being, to what the Greek thinker defines as the game of the world.

Man must learn to live without thinking that he can make humanity better, playing a game made up of acceptance and renunciation, of reclamation and reconciliation. ion, of observation and contestation, a game that allows him to play in detachment and indifference: Classical morality resided in intentions. Future ethics will reside in problematization and the executions that perform therein. It will be neither the ethics of maxims nor that of sentences. These are of little use to us in times of peace, a little more in times of war. The problematic ethics of the future will be aphoristic, because aphorisms delimit the fields of life and the fields of death. And this ethic will certainly suffer its repercussions in the banal and in chatter. The positive was given to us. The negative has been generated. How to (re)find what has not yet existed and will never fully exist: the constructive, globalizing and questioning, integrating and problematizing power? First of all, we must abandon the conflict of points of view to those who dedicate themselves to it with the tepid fury in which particular and partial points of view, political, aesthetic and ethical, crackling of different opinions caused by the crossing of wooden sabers are confronted[ …]The throne of knowledge, conscience and self-certainty on which the human being has painfully installed himself is not yet completely worm-eaten. Innovative behaviors will therefore still appear as transgressors with respect to the rules of the adaptation game. The contradictory aspects of everything have already become problematic. But everything that comes too soon for this fraction of space-time fails to make itself recognized. The clarity of notions, concepts, categories and definitions, so desired, playing within large, relatively transparent systems, is contained in a sort of opacity that no one dares call superior, because it is not. Every production scheme is certainly worn out by what it does not account for. Hence the task of deconstructing it. (8)

The ethics of planetary man problematizes his very being, introducing us to a beyond of ethics. It invites man to play the great Game, to abandon himself to it, without expecting anything in return, without asking or looking for points of reference, rules, more or less firm, to follow: «one cannot do anything other than play on and with the game of the two senses of the word game: playing like a door plays on its own axis and playing like a game. The more or less explicit systematics of the rules of the human game and its transgressions, i.e. the ethical problematic, would harmonize man’s participation in the game of the world in the form of an always unstable equilibrium.” (9) Immerse yourself in the infinite ocean of becoming, taking the place of the gods: this is the only possibility, at the dawn of an era in which nothing is as it seems, in which everything can, from one moment to the next , turn into its opposite. Man thus finds himself abandoned to his finiteness as a cosmic player, who cannot win or lose, who cannot set himself goals or hope for a radical change in his existence. He must have the wisdom of Ecclesiastes which proclaims the infinite emptiness of everything; he will have to quench his thirst at the source of Heraclitean wisdom, which he understands the One-All as becoming marked by the rhythm of time, as becoming of time as a royal and infantile game. In other words, he will have to experience nihilism to the fullest, putting an end to the era of subjectivity, abandoning the search for meaning, experiencing the efforts of vanity, opening up to the repeatable, to the old and the new, reaching a discordant agreement with the game of the world, renouncing every revolutionary attempt, since every revolution is always restorative: in fact the planetary man, as Axelos conceives him, has lost the Archimedean point, constituted by that “inhabitation of the future” of which Bloch speaks, which alone can constitute the support for the deployment of authentic ethical action.


More by :  Dr. Alexis Karpouzos

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