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integrative discourse
March 2007 (mostly)


This improvised discussion is occasioned by the penultimate paragraph of a recent blog posting: “What I do intend, though, is to develop part 6 [of the grouping of themes from March’s discursive practice via the email-based Habermas group]: ‘6: A sense of philosophy as integrative discursivity’.” [The blog containing that posting has been moved to a blogspot.com version of the blog, but the posting quoted here wasn’t transferred; it’s outdated now.]

May 5: In the following, I'm sometimes a little hokey (maybe more than a little), but all this was originally a set of blog postings oriented by the themes of earlier March email postings, rather than intending a thematic well-formedness or fine-grained attention that one expects of a good essay, though each section below was written carefully (but, again, relative to the earlier postings’ themes that are being elaborated). Conceptually, it’s right; a month later, I still feel I was well-attuned to what I wanted to do. I could further the themes below without claiming that I misspoke earlier; a month later, I don't need to revise what I said. What calls for detailed explication is at least exactly the following. But it’s not intended to read like a journal article. The discussion outlines a philosophical position, rather than justifying what it outlines (not presuming revelatory self-evidence—despite appearances otherwise toward the end—nor presuming tenability simply because I assert whatever, though my self-confidence is quite evident). At times, it does read like the set of workbook entries that it actually was (oversimplifying at times, as a matter of proffering an organization of basic terms; maybe seeming at times patronizing), but it's based on ideas I've held for a long time; it's not spontaneously thought, nor casually written, just improvised relative to an ordering of themes extracted from earlier March postings. What begins as a justification of the importance of philosophy (in a largely anti-intellectual culture) becomes a long, holistic preface to upcoming, conceptually more specific work.

The following discursive circumspection, covering that sixth group of themes, has 6 sections:

  • 1: seeking creative insightfulness
  • 2: discursive appeal
  • 3: discursive legacies
  • 4: evolutionarity of discursive integration
  • 5: modeling manifold discursive integration
  • 6: philosophy as integrative discursivity

Paragraph numbering is simply for reference later, no pretense of formal treatment (quite clearly), though the integrative discussion is intended to exemplify its sense of discursivity.


1: seeking creative insightfulness

1.1 — This can’t be on insightfulness with any pretense of great insight about insightfulness, but this expresses a sense of importance about the notion, as beginning focus—mostly relative to recent comments—which will also be an ending theme.

1.2 — The issue arose in “Discursive Reading” [hereafter: “DR”] as a matter of conflicts of interpretation about texts: “Which reading is more insightful, relative to what can be done tenably with the text? (This invites the question of one’s sense of insightfulness, which I’ll return to shortly, in terms of a sense of discursivity.)” Now, I’m wanting to focus more on a sense of “discursivity”.

1.3 — But I need to interject some comments about the practical motivation of the earlier postings/Webpages. Clearly, “DR” is practically oriented toward aspects of actually dealing with texts. That might be read as allegorical of interpreting events, as we might be said to “read events” in such-and-such a way, depending on their interpretable (and disputable) features. After all, perception is always interpretive. (How the allegory might work for perception might also be a stretch, getting implausible for a “textuality” of ordinary perception; but the experiment occurs to me as interesting.) Yet, the greater practicality of that—the context of writing that “DR” is part of and the context of recent “Habermas” postings—is theorizing from a practice: theorizing as correlate of interest in actual practices. For interest in progressive practice, there must be an experimental dimension of pilot projects, as well as for growth of knowledge prior to project design. This kind of real-world interest backgrounds the other discussions of the evolving project, which “DR” is part of. Recent Habermas-group postings have had, for me, an ongoing background interest (as well as overt interest) in actual facilitation of healthy development, which is pervasively dependent on engagement with growth of practical knowledge and program development. To note this alludes to a landscape related to understanding well-being relative to relevant professions within our evolving condition called “the” lifeworld (actually a pluralism of geographical, ethnic, social, familial, and highly individualized “spheres”).

1.4 — So, to speak of an “evolutionarity of reading” (“DR”) intends to beg the issue of the lifeworld holism backgrounding “serious” reading (i.e., highly-invested reading, such as one finds in scholarship), “heuristically like a diamond of talent [author], domain [world or specialty], work [text], and field [readers or professional receptivity].”

1.5 — If what’s in brackets there is derivative of what’s in italics, then the heuristic schema for beginning to think about textual interpretation is understood as derivative of a research schema for thinking about creativity (which a couple of leading psychologists in fact use: Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi and Howard Gardner). This is a matter of (1) an elaborated sense of talented work, novelty in the work, comprehension of relevant domain by working out the work, and estimation of the work by its peer field sharing the work’s domain; (2) a theorization of how these aspects of high creativity interrelate in actually leading work; and (3) how the hermeneutical fourfold might relate to particular works that seem to be leading or may deserve such regard.

1.6 — I might further pursue the notion of insightfulness relative to this proximal context, especially with regard to learning through scientifically conceptual efficacy, which I’ll discuss briefly in section 5 of this 6-part improvisation.


2: discursive appeal

2.1 — A presentation that enacts discourse is discursive; so, that’s a matter of what discourse is, which is normally not well-defined, maybe properly so. But the sense of ‘discourse’ might be formalized, though I’m not going to get formal here.

2.2 — Suppose that discourse is “simply” a well-reasoned presentation that implies attention to (or implicates) its conceptual character. Typically in philosophy, the conceptual character of something is thematic, if not focal, especially for inquiries into the conceptuality of something, perhaps most of all for inquiry into conceptuality as such. But a well-reasoned presentation is commonly not focused on its conceptuality by being focused on its topic, yet having (by being presumably well-reasoned) tacit implicature of conceptual well-formedness. Being discursive doesn’t require being thematic about one’s conceptuality.

2.3 — Also, being well-reasoned doesn’t require taking overtly logical form (e.g., an argumentative rhetoric of case making), only that the presentation is well-defensible in its use of terms (which at least tacitly express the conceptuality of the presentation).

2.4 — Well-formed informality has been a hallmark of so-called “ordinary language philosophy,” which may intend its informal formulations exactly as expressed.

2.5 — In any case, nothing may be discursive without careful expression. Careful expression connotes discursive potential, even though it’s not yet part of extended reasoning. For persons who want opportunities for thinking, careful expression may have a discursive appeal that educes thinking that wasn’t apparently intended (fruitful intentionality of the text outstrips apparent authorial intentions), e.g., finding tenable possibilities of intratextual thematics that aren’t apparently intended.

2.6 — So, as I mentioned in “DR”, “discursive appeal doesn’t translate into ‘aesthetic’ appeal (which tends toward a purely perspectival claim?).” Tacitly, discursive appeal might be the overtone of promise for thinking in the apparent care of ordinary presentation. Explicitly, it’s an appeal of engagement in extended reasoning that may also appeal for that.

2.7 — So, discursivity is not as such about abstraction, though any interest in analysis, generalization, or reflectivity invites—or invites itself into—abstraction, especially inasmuch as conceptuality is thematic, which is, of course, commonly called “academic” (and ordinarily done so dismissively). It’s trivial within academia that something has discursive appeal, but a keynote of discursive appeal in general is its valuation of “academic” (or specialized) interest for non-intellectual life, at least as invitation to dwell with intellectual considerations—no trivial matter when thinking academically about “the lifeworld,” designing curriculum, or theorizing mental development.

2.8 — Discursive appeal is a keynote for eduction of learning (maieutic education) that may further mental capability or comfort with specialized considerations. A normative appeal of discursivity is the virtue of reasoning for mental development, which may bring reasoning into those discursive legacies commonly associated with academic domains (which I’d rather not call “disciplines,” though there can be virtue in that, too).

2.9 — So, the notion of discursive appeal is first addressed to ordinary considerations. Yet, the fundamental value of discursive appeal derives from the general value of well-reasoned inquiry. Thematization of this value (or evaluative employment of it) may best belong to appeals for reasoning to become more well-reasoned, more analytical, more generalizable, more reflective, more specialized. A presentation that is better reasoned than another presentation is the better presentation.

2.10 — Discursive appeal may also be usefully seen in terms of two levels of comprehensibility: Valid work may be unappealing due to its difficulty, thus invalidly regarded as invalid.

— .1: Comprehensibility1 is what Habermas intended by the validity claim to comprehensibility: grammatical well-formedness that allows one to discern that something is definitely meant by a given sentence used as a proposition (the supposedly trivial validity claim that Habermas largely ceased discussing soon after “What Is Universal Pragmatics?,” 1976, speaking thereafter of three kinds of validity claims, rather than four). Normal competence in writing well pertains especially to this largely-unthematized validity claim.

— .2: Comprehensibility2 is discursive, pertaining to the conceptual coherence of a presentation (or its implicature).

— .3: In very technical presentations, the two kinds of comprehensibility meet in the cogency of specialized composition. Commonly in discursive interaction, one may be confusing about what one means, due to the difficulty of what’s being explicated, thus begging questions of comprehensibility at the level of composition: “What are you basically saying?” (so that I may make sense of whether or not your presentation is otherwise valid). No doubt, writers who are basically confused—thus really entwined in mystification—believe otherwise about their presentation.

— .4: With difficult-but-valid work, comprehensibility is a reader-relative (developmental) issue. Many a reader has resolutely dismissed academic work because it’s apparently caught up in mystification (when, actually, that reader may not have been an intended audience by the writer—a reality that risks charges of elitism or hermeticism by the unintended reader). Mostly, of course, writers are responsible for their lack of appeal and are culpable for ungenerosity toward likely readers (if not the writer's inability to write well for a broader audience), likely deserving their lack of influence. The writer is so ready to account at length for the difficulty of his/her views, but no one cares. (The library stacks are overflowing with dusty journal issues.)


3: discursive legacies

3.1 — Worries within academia about the authority of tradition or critique of a canon proffer alternatives within discursive communities that non-academic persons (the mundane lifeworld) might barely find cogent, let alone important, because the real importance of discursive inquiry may be alien to the general public. Though scientific literacy, for example, is growing through increased dramatization of scientific life in general media, there’s a long way to go toward a good (“high”) degree of general literacy.

3.2 — “Realism” (pragmatism) about progressive practice for democratic societies doesn’t forget (if it’s really pragmatic) that deliberative opinion is too seldom in the lead for governance, higher education is insufficiently available for citizenry, and discursive appeal is too weak within general society—no thanks to corporate efforts to ensure that no “citizen” is left behind in the marketing of consumption-without-thinking. (You, too, can be swayed to accept that so many sound bites in political marketing is enough in your busy schedule of working to live and living to work, etc., etc.)

3.3 — Anyway, bridging mundane and academic lifeworlds is a completely different kind of discursive issue from, say, resolving conflicts of interpretation within a specialty. I’m somewhat obsessed to keep in mind a topography of the actual world, lowland to highland, even as one can’t make good sense at once in both locales (except as citizen of midlands recognizable to each).

3.4 — That said, I’m yielding to the appeal of flight in the following and in later sections of this improvised excursus. But I feel anxious about that.


3.5 — Maybe there are unlimited options for classifying discourses, but I want to use ‘discursive formation’ in some normal sense of specialties within academic domains, e.g., epistemology or ethics within philosophy. I have no problem with ambiguity here, as one can easily specify that one has a subspecialty in mind (e.g., naturalized epistemology) or, like Foucault, has in mind an entire institutional discipline (e.g., epistemology altogether in the U.S.). A discursive formation is, let’s say, a well-defined discursive practice.

3.6 — A keynote for me is the relativity of the meaning of “well-defined” vis-à-vis inquiry one has in mind (which can be made clear). Useful designation of “political theory” as a discursive formation relative to political science would be different than usefully designating “political theory” as a discursive formation relative to the career of Habermas, where he’s engaging various discourses within “political theory” (relative to political science) but also may be engaging other standard domains via his special sense of ‘political theory’ (e.g., vis-à-vis sociology and philosophy). Also, there is some integrable “discursive formation” of his work on the pragmatics of communication (i.e., integrating On the Pragmatics of Communication, MIT Press, 1998, as a singular development of discourse over the two decades of the book’s chapters), which belongs especially to Habermas’ career, rather than to any of the standard domains that may appropriate his communication-theoretical work to their special interests.

3.7 — So, there are various kinds of sense that ‘discursive formation’ could usefully be said to have, depending on one’s discursive interest.

3.8 — A domain might be defined relative to its prevailing or standard discursive formations, like the specialty areas of a typical academic department, e.g., the domain of philosophy, relative to its specialty areas. A domain may be considered as the specialty area, which is the sense in mind for the theory of creativity (along with talent and field) that I mentioned in section 1. (I suspect that the Foucauldian sense of discursive formation is weighted toward interest in the domainal field of practitioners expressing an implicit politics, rather than the specialty’s sense of domainal mastery by a talent, which is an individuation of a specialty, e.g., “Habermasian moral theory”; but I’m not here especially interested in Foucault’s Archealogy, nor Foucault generally—not to connote that thats not worthwhile pursuit.)

3.9 — So, a sense of ‘discursive formation’ can be easily made uncontroversial, while having a range of potential uses.

3.10 — I often use the phrase ambiguously because the specification isn’t relevant for a general sense of well-defined discursive practice. But possibilities of specification can be important; the notion’s ambiguity has much practical potential for flexibility in specification. Traditional domains see special research areas become new major domains, e.g., molecular biology. Hybrids of special interests from various domains become new domains, e.g., biological anthropology or cognitive neuroscience. In such cases, the notion of discursive formation becomes especially useful, as the definition of the hybrid is less organizational than discursive. Is “evolutionary cognitive neuroscience” a well-defined discursive formation? (It’s at least a new collection of essays by MIT Press.) These “events” have histories, though the inception of such now-well-defined formations is vague. Strong domainal identities—new discursive formations—coalesce from hybridization processes. A legacy evolves from cross-pollinations. For each case, there may be special senses of reasoning implied by “discursive” and unique genealogy backgrounding “formation” which depend on domainal specification.


3.11 — Domains are “evolving,” in some laudable, progressive sense (futurally oriented by their leading interests?) and have evolved, having historical efficacy (which I associate with David L. Hull’s notion of “demic efficacy” in his theory of science) that is also recursive for futures in the domain (metatheoretically efficacious, self-correcting, reconceptualizing for the domain). That may beg questions of what is meant by ‘evolving’ that’s laudable or progressive—that’s not biologistic or progressless adaptability. What’s the guiding sense of progress for a new domain that is shaped by a hybridity of discursive formations (e.g., recent “integrative biology” that arises from so much specialization out of traditional biology)?

3.12 — Some sense of progress has always been implicit to the concept of evolution (that was mapped into nature by misreadings of Darwin). Evolution, in any progressive sense, actually belongs only to intelligent life, I would argue. The species (us) that conceptualizes “evolution” is one within the vast continuum of intelligence in nature which has evolved to have designed labyrinthine “molecules” of domains through which “we” (?) increasingly govern “our” evolution.

3.13 — So, I was presuming quite a lot when I noted in “DR” that “the domain of a discursive formation (a specialty in philosophy or literature—or biology or mathematics, etc.) has an evolutionary stability that embodies great inertia for good reason of the reality that its field lives, as real community of readers disseminated across countless real venues (campuses, organizations, media).” I was thinking of Hull’s approach to evolution of science, in terms of “conceptual inclusive fitness” (domain fitness) and “demic efficacy” (field fitness), but not yet earlier distinguishing between domain (conceptuality of a formation) and field (community of practitioners).

3.14 — Also, my sense of discursive formation here doesn’t accord with any sense of inertia, as expressed earlier. This is all a matter of establishment: Well-established (or fielded) discursive formations—“elderly” formations—gain lots of inertia; they’re set in their ways, as we say of the elderly.

3.15 — But I’m anticipating something new, which is what discursive projects always do. I have a large-scale agenda with a particular, unnamed network of discourses that I wish to integrate usefully. That would become a discursive formation in another sense: a monographic work (which may be monographic even as a Web project).


4: evolutionarity of discursive integration

4.1 — It’s obvious that domains have a history, but it’s not obvious that all histories may be understood within a unified world history that is evolutionarily cultural, and perhaps not even cogent that cultural evolutions may be integrable within human evolution. But we try, don’t we.

4.2 — The appeal of prospects for great integration through Time at least causes growth of knowledge. Besides, there’s good reason to believe that only lack of information prevents us from establishing such integrations. It’s not that all cultural evolutions arose through factors and events beyond the Earth. The evidence-based narratives that we make are at least allegorical of a reality that is in principle knowable, like the fluid dynamics of a rocky stream, though we can’t capture all particular flows, while we may describe something real (through, say, extreme slow-motion video) in terms that are normal for hydraulics—so, likewise for population biology, statistical social trending, or—very differently— thematization of archives.

4.3 — Does “big history” (as it’s called) have a future? (“Does it matter?,” you might ask—yes!, relative to questions of so-called “Being,” relative to which so many discriminate against, if not kill, each other.) Is cultural evolution integrable? These are surely kinds of questions that are constructive for growth of knowledge and which might belong to any discursive formation’s history, in all histories’ belonging together in, somehow, “the Same” evolution. The planetary library, though large, is finite. The genomic archive of nature is finite. The integrability of all this will be conceivable by our highly-enhanced heirs. (Fantasy? Well, discourse about “post-humanity” surely is marketable. Will we be one day resonating with something beyond the Internet that is autonomous? The Singularity Is Near?). So, as we accelerate our evolution—which we are, beyond reasonable doubt, doing—we also enrich the capacity for reconstructive inquiry—for detailing our genesis—that’s so greatly appealing. But ultimate questioning will forever more depend on learning through scientifically conceptual efficacy. The Question of Being has evolved into questioning Of our evolution, which becomes inquiry into our self-designing evolvability.

4.4 — Available knowledge about human life already may provide whatever degree of detail that one can comprehend about our real evolutionarity, i.e., the progressive evolvability—the designing intelligence of human life—expressed in our real evolution toward planetary governance. It’s not that evolutionarity is merely a concept within the evolution of conceptuality that began in Greek questions of being.

4.5 — I believe (as an open-minded conjecture) that there is an evolution of conceptual possibility in the history of philosophy that expresses more than the conceptual genealogy of Western intellectual history. This would be different than merely understanding genealogy as an evolution—as, say, a historicality of conceptual progress (via, say, appeal of more complexly flexible learnability) that then gets called (stipulated to be) an “evolution”. Does the conceptual genealogy of philosophy register non-culturally-relative development of complexly flexible conceptuality?

4.6 — A given kind of conceptuality doesn’t just belong to its originator; it may prospect what is conceivable, which anyone may refine or dispute. Kant’s sense of transcendental constitutivity isn’t dependent on Kant’s formulation of this. Accordingly, philosophers have prospected post-Kantian possibilities for transcendental arguments—or argued against any pretense of this, in light of phenomenological or scientific insights; e.g., Heidegger’s critique of metaphysicalism or a naturalized phenomenology that’s cognitive-scientifically informed.

4.7 — A developmental correlate of this is that persons who claim that they’re thinking in a phenomenological way might be actually thinking in an archetypal or Platonic way, due to a pre-phenomenological “nearness” of archetypal conceptions of constitutivity, as developmental precursors of truly phenomenological thinking.

4.8 — Might evolutionary cognitive neuroscience satisfactorily background a naturalized phenomenology of mind? Ruth Garrett Millikan theorizes basic (ontogenic) “concepts” as abilities (Clear and Confused Ideas, 2000), in accord with the commonly obscured reality that constitutivity is not about constitution, but about the consituting shown by (or in) perception. I would build on this kind of conception for explicating ontogenic cognitivity. Heidegger’s presencing can be validated in terms of ontogenic givenness. No “myth of the given” is implied by the ontogenic character of phenomenological presence.

4.9 — The Given is a manifold generation out of (in) Time and ontogeny whose onion-layered horizonality extends into the environmental cosmos of gene regulation in embyrogenesis.

4.10 — Given what we (as epistemic species) know already, there’s no possibility of an alternative conceptual evolution that antedates the one we have, due to the relativity of realist conceptuality to scientific discourse. No evolution of science other than the planetary one that’s evolving will be evolving in the future. No new language will arise that’s not derivative of the evolving communication community that we openly are. The discursivity of our evolving is planetary and will never be less so. Any new voices find influence relative to the same planetary society already shared by everyone (or to be shared by dissolving digital divides).

4.11 — So, due to the planetary nature of modernity and the place of philosophy in its evolution, “the history of philosophy,” as I mentioned in “DR,” “tends to have a singularity that any new philosophical project (or theorist endeavoring to be philosophical) eventually realizes is quite stable due to the evolution of conceptuality involved.” The discursivity of philosophy is not merely “Western” (thereby having some comparable alternative history); rather, it’s a planetary feature of our evolved humanity that may universally appeal, for good reason of its appeal for good reason.

4.12 — So, what’s the “nature” of conceptuality in discursive inquiry that seeks to understand the constitutivity of its topic/subject/object? That depends on the inquiry, of course, but the questioning requires scientifically conceptual efficacy, and the broad appropriateness of such questioning ensures no demise for the end of philosophy in the task of thinking that Heidegger vested in Ereignis.

4.13 — Though the editors of Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience (MIT 2007, hereafter: ECN) go some way to present their collection of essays as a singular domain of inquiry, they don’t pretend to have interest in capturing the conceptuality of the domain. But one could endeavor to do so with that collection, seeking to clarify the discursivity of the discursive formation called “ECN” as exemplified by that collection of inquiries. One could focus on the evolutionarity of the eclecticism that the collection shows itself to be, and thus clarify the evolutionarity of its discursivity, i.e., the evolvability that the inquiries share. This kind of endeavor might also contribute to an advance in the conception of evolvability for evolutionary theory that the collection exhibits, especially in relation to derivatively greater tenability of an evolutionary psychology or an evolutionary ethics; or further clarify the nature of what cognitive linguistics is about or what reliabilist epistemology may rely on. Theory of intelligence may be fundamentally advanced by inquiries such as ECN, far beyond the authority of traditional psychology.

4.14 — So, inquiry into evolvability of discursive formations (ECN vis-a-vis other evolving domains) might insightfully model the “demic efficacy” (Hull) of discursive inquiry that’s common for evolving specialties. This better expresses than earlier what might be a “philosophical cognitive science that is evolutionarily embedded,” relative to Habermas’ “mind in nature” essay (free PDF there), which has been quite inspiring.


5: modeling manifold discursive integration

5.1 — Earlier, I analogized (1) a hermeneutical schema of world, author, and reader; and (2) a creativity model of domain, talent, and field. (Both also share the existence of a text or product, but that’s not important for the analogy.) The analogy can be enriched:

5.2 — Firstly, regard the reader as the receptivity to the work that’s external to the author’s world, i.e., the society in which the work gains (or fails to gain) “objective” recognition. Analogously, a professional field is the specialized peer society that recognizes a novel work as especially creative—the society that grants “objective” value to the work. Society is associable with the objectivity that a work “has” (comes to have or gains).

5.3 — Secondly, regard the authorial/readerly world(s) and domain as the meaningfulness, symbolic value, or culturality of an author’s/talent’s work product. This is the comportment with the world that is meaningful, associable with an intimacy of understanding or intersubjectivity of symbolic relations.

5.4 — Thirdly, regard the author/talent as person, in all her/his existential richness of self-identifying ethical life.

5.5 — Altogether, then, Habermas’ schema of person (subjectivity and intentionality), culture (intersubjectivity and linguistic relations), and society (objectivity and propositional contents), by which he organizes his understanding of lifeworld throughout Theory of Communicative Action (and, arguably, the entirety of his career) can be analogized with, in short, a hermeneutical model of creative production.

5.6 — Moreover, the hermeneutical model of creative production can be fruitfully integrated with a leading scientific approach to intelligence (Robert Sternberg’s “triarchic” model, which has survived a quarter century of field corroboration, while he has become the dean of intelligence research in the U.S.). Also, I’ve found well-correlated 3-folding analogization fruitful for literally tens of additional modes of inquiry, the upshot of which is, if I may say so, a highly appealing basis for integrating discursive inquiry across many domains.

5.7 — Lastly, I’ll add here from “DR” the note that a “philosophy of discursivity should need to be a complex that is political (relative to a market or field), historical (relative to the conceptuality of a domain), and anthropological (relative to the evolution of talent).”

5.8 — Throughout such a scale of modeling, there’s a natural variability in the directness of analogization (vs. indirectness); or call it variable tightness vs. looseness of analogy—or strong vs. weak. Rather than calling the relations analogical in each case, sometimes isomorphism might be better (re: nearness to anthropological conceptualization, e.g., in Habermas’ work); or even homology (re: nearness of relation to modeling theory of intelligence). But a hermeneutical continuum of analogical/isomorphic/homological relations, from direct/tight/strong to indirect/loose/weak, should (for the sake of potential insightfulness) be elastic relative to whatever organon one is facilitating.

Am I having fun yet? Indeed!

5.9 — Derivative of that kind of interest in modeling (which has been implicit in my years of email improvisations with others interested in Habermas’ work), I said in a couple of recent postings to the group:

5.10 — “I seek to somehow hold good some progressive pragmatism, between idealism and realism, that may make some constructive difference...—wanting to make some post-postmodern way to enhance prospects for grandly open-ended discourse that also stays intimate with the interest in improving actual lives (not as discourse, but relative to my labyrinthine “Theory/theory/practice” complex that I’ve sketched)” [March 10].

5.11 — “I think it should be discerned---imaginatively constructed---relative to the disseminated interdisciplinarity of real university communities. Firstly, what can be the relationship of social philosophy to the diversity of areas which normally comprise the university as kind of community? How much real community can there be in specific departments, across departments at particular universities, within disciplines across universities, and as evolving interdisciplinarities within and across languages? At this “level” or kind of point of engagement, philosophy is very much at home, as the question of philosophy—what is the future of philosophy?—belongs to Habermas’ work intimately, I think)” [Feb. 28].

5.12 — So, those comments are derivative of my finding a rich sense of exemplarity in Habermas’ career, not only relative to his 3-fold conceptuality of analyses, but—more interesting to me—relative to his diversity of discursive inquiries, as example of philosophical practice, even when specific results are antedated by new research (which is typical for results in evolving fields). There just is no other person who so well exemplifies evolving discursive inquiry. The genealogy of discursive exemplarity that is Habermas’ career can provide a great example of an evolutionarity of discursive inquiry, whatever the degree of being “Habermasian” in one’s thinking. Certainly, if one doesn’t strongly appreciate the Habermasian example of interdisciplinary bridging of theory and practice, one may barely appreciate the potential of discursive inquiry to be facilitative of integrated multidomainal progress, i.e., let’s say: to enhance humanity across the planetary universCity of evolving societies.


6: philosophy as integrative discursivity

6.1 — I enjoy going to Webster’s Unabridged dictionary as starting point for understanding what things are traditionally. What is love? (“OK, there’s the terms of love, now what does that mean?”). What is truth? Is there some philosophical truth expressed in the lexical legacy of our lovely language(s)?

6.2 — One could use the lexical definition of ‘philosophy’ as good entrance into claiming that philosophy has been at least that discursive inquiry which primarily tends toward special topics in its primary domains of ethics, logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. Philosophy’s curriculum is richer than this, of course, but most topics are derivative of views borne from primary concerns. Whatever one’s parsing of “philosophy,” no doubt there are primary and derivative concerns.

6.3 — Philosophy is proximally such a discursive appeal of primary concerns to primary concerns (existentially motivated questioning). Whatever one makes of its contemporary topography, “philosophy” is at least (and profoundly) the intellectual tradition of appeal to primary concerns—which, of course, imply ultimate concerns (inquiry into primordiality). Philosophy’s conceptual history is singular among possible historiographies in its discernable continuity, as a matter of a conceptualization of historicality because continuities of ultimate concern are so integral to existence, thus well-documented. (“Religious” literature is motivated by ultimate concerns that are protophilosophical.)

6.4 — But note that philosophy, in the above sense, isn’t a grounding of all its special topics in metaphysics, since metaphysics is just one of its special topics. One might claim specific metaphysical implicature in specific views of any topic, but philosophy itself is a practice that doesn’t have First Principles, neither in its classroom maieutics (open to potentials), nor in its research (open to engaging prospects). Perhaps one’s thinking can’t escape specific metaphysical implicature that’s doctrinal; that’s something to overcome, indeed. But one’s thinking might not have such an alleged implicature.

6.5 — One might think that a specific discursive integration of ethics, logic, epistemology, and metaphysics is durably feasible. This may be the primary appeal of the usual suspects in the history of philosophy. Integration would be the work of the integrative discursivity that produces it. So, integrative discursivity might seem to simply be jargon for a philosopher doing philosophy in an ultimately (persumably) integrative way. But, if one’s focus has been, like mine, on “interdisciplinary” or multidomainal integration in terms of discursive inquiry, then characterizing philosophy as integrative discursivity isn’t jargon, since the endeavor doesn’t especially belong to professional philosophy! Integrative discursivity is especially philosophical, since dwelling with primary concerns (and leading inquiry toward such dwelling) is paradigmatically what philosophers do. But the sense of discursive integration that I’ve suggested belongs to any multidomainity of inquiry.

6.6 — But integrative discursivity should need to understand itself philosophically, e.g., in terms of conceptual inquiry into primary concerns that imply ultimate concerns. Actually, this recommendation is close to the dictionary’s primary sense of ‘metaphysics’. Metaphysics isn’t, as such, doctrinal. As I’ve mentioned in postings and in response to Daniel Henrich, metaphysics is a kind of inquiry, not particular results of such inquiry. There’s no escape from ultimate concerns, so metaphysics (under various aliases) won’t disappear from philosophy. Metaphysics is about all ultimate questioning implied by meta-issues (metaethics or ethical “theory”; metatheory of knowledge; metalogic; metascience), especially those conceptual issues belonging to all ultimate questions, such as the conceptuality of concepts or the nature of conceptualization.

6.7 — Tragically, the history of metaphysics became so embedded with political theology that “postmodern” discourse has given over ‘metaphysics’ to history (as a curiosity in the history of philosophy), but metaphysics continues through aliases, like theory of concepts, metaethics, logic of inquiry, etc. Unfortunately, the admirable post-Holocaust abandonment of “metaphysics” promotes a dogmatic fate for all appearance of ultimate questioning, which is then commonly read as ideological in motivation: “essentialism,” “scientism,” “foundationalism,” etc. Of course, such indictments are often valid. But, as they say, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. So, I distinguish the interest in critique of ideology from the thing itself, proffering a difference between metaphysicalism and metaphysics. There can be no philosophy—“postmodern” or otherwise—without living through that to which metaphysical inquiry attends, if only to overcome “metaphysics” (i.e., metaphysicalism), but there’s no valid abandonment of ultimate questioning; a pretense otherwise is something to diagnose, probably as a betrayal of one's ownmost humanity (which learns through questioning).

6.8 — I see, for example, what Habermas wants to do with “postmetaphysical thinking,” as if expressing a later-Heideggerian mentoring at work ironically in his critique of Heidegger—who, by the way, never advocated abandoning metaphysics; rather comprehending the place of “metaphysics” in the development of thinking: finding one’s own way through the history of “Being” (a certain evolution of conceptuality that expresses the historical “ontogeny” of thinking), in order to work beyond the history of conceptualization into “the task of thinking” which, for Heidegger’s generation—and still for us—was to ensure that never again will “ontotheological” thinking prevail.

6.9 — Metaphysical questioning is ontic questioning—about the real constitution of things. But the constituting is, so to speak, the onticing, which is “ontological.” I find that most uses of ‘ontological’ or ‘ontology’ (the domain of ontological inquiry) have ontic interests in mind and aren’t apparently aware of ontological questioning (which is beyond Kant’s “conditions for the possibility of” whatever, instead being inquiry into the conditioning of conditions, etc.).

6.10 — English is comfortable saying that the flower flowers by flowering, but not that the tree trees by treeing, which by itself is a trivial point of idiom, but one’s capability for perceiving anything flowers from our tree of ontogeny.

6.11 — The constituting of perception is an ontogenetic capability essentially shared with mice. Conceptualization of prototypes into nameable kinds is not shared with mice, of course; its constituting is a keynote of cognitive-developmental studies of children. Constituting conceptual sophistication is a philosophical sojourn wherefrom ontogenically ontic insightfulness about its sojourn likely simulates a conceptual genealogy associable with the history of conceptuality in philosophy (like Heidegger’s “history of Being”). In all of this, any represented sense of constituting is a product of reconstructive inquiry likely about general features of capability formation, as one’s own individuation would lack the capability to both sophisticate itself and self-represent the sophisticating of itself.

6.12 — Ultimately, what we share is our dimly reconstructible evolution from an apparently anthropic universe into an evolvability that may become self-designing. Dwelling in this interest is an intimacy of mystery about conceptualizing capability for facilitating evolvability (I would argue).

6.13 — Theoretical physicist Lee Smolin complains, in The Trouble with Physics, 2006, part IV, about dwindling conditions for the possibility of discovery in theoretical physics. Recently, some theoretical physicists, happily arguing with each other in Santa Barbara about the increasing plausibility of the Anthropic Hypothesis, readily agreed (I read in Science) that “we” (they) may have not yet evolved the mathematical capability to understand where we are. (It doesn’t help that the best of “us” walk away from the venture into Russian woods.)

6.14 — So, what conditions the possibility of primordial discovery? I believe that Lee Smolin started the Perimeter Institute in Canada to get away from the careerism that occludes prospects for discovery. One longs for that sabbatical, but theorizing originality is likely not on the agenda—likely self-defeating, anyway.

6.15 — But research into the “nature” of originality is a normal area of psychology, and it’s the kind of popular interest that makes the next book on Einstein as saleable as the previous tens. We commonly want to be empowered by insight into our potential—ultimately (to leading inquirers) for the sake of actualizing some difficult possibility, which aggregately (across the planetary universCity) is drawing us into the appeal of governing our own evolution. No surprise: The appeal was evident in our ancestors’ creation of gods they aspired to mirror.

6.16 — Our evolvability is now facing its planetarity as such via the planetary fever that “complements” the heated margins of modernization, increasingly led by planetary, multipolitan society. Humanity is a planetary organism, analogously, perhaps, as plankton are (“is”) a planetary organism for the science of “Gaia” (which is by now a well-fielded discursive formation, no longer Lovelockian fringe). Maybe “the Singularity” in planetary computability is not near, but those who anticipate otherwise happen to be well-informed about information science. “Citizen cyborg” is no mere prospect for science fiction. (Indeed, science fiction has often expressed something primordial about our nature—our evolvability.)

6.17 — Will theory of intelligence mate with computational neuroscience, molecular engineering (“nanotechnology”), genetic engineering, and information science to polygamously evolve posthumanity? (Actually, post-biological speciation may be just a new mode of cultural speciation that’s been going on as long as the evolution of cognition consolidated our “second nature” as linguistically exclusive ethnicities.)

6.18 — Anyway, this kind of potentially posthuman vista, it seems to me, is the playground of research in ethics, epistemology, logic, and metaphysics—the future of philosophy nowadays—as philosophical research is entwined in scientifically conceptual efficacy, in—I would venture—a discernably singular discourse of evolvability. This “Conversation of humanity” (so far now beyond Gadamer’s sense of that in Truth and Method) rightly has no singularity (no stable identity), but it’s “simply” important to appreciate as much as possible how we’re a planetary species in a potentially singular communication community, together, one hopes, defining the parameters of our evolving freedom to design our nature.

6.19 — So, it’s also ultimately practical to seek to understand a singularity in our planetarity, having a shared evolutionary background in Deep Time, facing a common prospect of self-designing posthuman speciation. It’s ultimately valuable to ensure that discursive appeal inhabits human development, that integrative discursivity informs public policy, and that conditions for insight are optimized universally (who knows what talent is in the woods)—which is the kind of thing I had in mind at the end of “DR” by referring to “progressive realism.”

6.20 — If anything can be First Philosophy now, it’s ethics facing “posthumanity.” Relative to ethical insight, growth of knowledge (which an epistemology seeks to discern) should be led by the human interest in enhancing humanity. Logic is no longer primarily instrumental for cognitive development, inquiry, and discourse, but has become computational science (portending as much pertinence to neuroscience as already for electrical engineering?). Metaphysics, dear metaphysics, is the traditionally conceptualist version of our endless conversation about ultimacy implicating our evolvability—once upon a time as questioning “Being,” but primarily no longer.

6.21 — So, integrative discursivity might be usefully characterized as evolutionary constructivism. In a recent posting to the Habermas list, I speculated that “the unity of reason in the diversity of its voices applies especially to inquiry itself, where the diversity may be primordially generative, rather than foundational” [Feb. 17]. Such a prospect for unifying generative diversity—a telic cohering of collaborative inquiry?—would emerge from synergy in hybridization of perspectives, not to homeostatically integrate understanding (bringing closure to inquiry); rather to facilitate fundamental insight that inspires further inquiry. Evolutionary constructivism is ontologically open integrating of kinds of inquiry, energizing inquiry through the appeal of its synergy—which recalls Gadamer’s use of energia in his depiction of art working, toward the end of T&M. Habermas’ reflectivity as internalization of dialogue roles anticipates (to my mind) integrative discursivity’s appropriation of immanent influences in one’s work. A potential generativity of inquiry may be self-constituting, whether located among discrete inquirers mirrorplaying off each other’s discursive inquiry or as one inquirer working.

6.22 — Concordantly, post-foundationist reflectivity isn’t oriented by interest in its genesis (as if anxious about the integrity of lineage), rather oriented by interest in actualizing emergent potentials, which might include intense-but-derivative interest in potentials for understanding genesis. Yet, our genesis is ongoing, as our nature is evolving, so to truly understand genesis is to participate in its ongoingness—to facilitate insightfulness. The foundation of inquiry is our open futurity of evolving humanity, ultimately for the sake of future inquirers we likely couldn’t understand.