Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age: Part II, Chapter 4

Key difference between Epicurean and modern objectification of nature: there is no 'technical implication' for Epicureanism. Epicureanism doesn't posit man's need to dominate nature. Aim is neutralization, not control.

Decartes' radical doubt transforms an existing predicament into a chosen challenge. His evil spirit (genius malignus) is an intensification of Nominalism's 'hidden God' (deus absconditus) who is is not committed to dependabilty except to the elect (who are unknown even to themselves).

William of Ockham - God can produce ideas without objects -- crux of late Nominalist encounter with prospect of radical uncertainty of knowledge.

Peter of Ailly - in ordinary circumstances, certainty about physical objects can be assumed ; otherwise, knowledge of nature would be unattainable.

Heidegger takes domination of nature to be the characteristic attitude of modernity but already had assertion of inviolable agency of judgment in Nominalist thinkers without project of domination.

Gregor of Rimini - man's senses may not correspond to reality, but man need not be deceived because he retains the capacity to withhold judgment about reality. (Note: Decartes also finds freedom from deception in ability to withhold judgment.)

By radicalizing doubt, Decartes undercuts earlier pragmatic formulas for self-assertion provided within Nominalism -- self-assertion after this requires strong subjectivity.

Jean de Mirecourt - If God could create ideas without objects, then He could also create actions without supposed agent being responsible. This possibility is rejected on grounds that it would make moral responsibility uncertain. Both moral and theoretical agency inhere in an inviolable subject which cannot be deceived by an external force.

196-197: "Under the enormous pressure of the demands made upon it by theology, the human subject begins to consolidate itself, to take on a new overall condition, which possesses, in relation to the ambushes set by the hidden absolute will, something like the elementary attribute of an atom, that it cannot be split up or altered. Absolutism reduces whatever is exposed to it, but in the process it brings to light the constants, the no longer touchable kernels.
The ius primarium [primary right], the primeval right to self-assertion, becomes comprehensible long before Decartes and Hobbes as the essence of the modern age's understanding of iteslf -- that is, as the anthropological minimum under the conditions of the theological maximum. This beginning does not come about as the formulation of anew concept against an old one, as the constitution of an epoch after the old one has broken off, but rather as the mobilizing of motives toward the definition of an opposing force, precisely while the attack is being intensified; not as the negation of the premises rather as a condensation under the pressure of their exaggerated power."

Withdrawal from world of guarantees of certainty and consequent treatment of its character as hypothetical -- condition for modern attitude of natural science

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