马年大吉

Kung hei fat choi! For those who subscribe to Chinese astrology, 2014 is off to a galloping start. Even if we do not, we may consider the unity and integrity of the other, as Gadamer suggests in Truth and Method, and understand ourselves through understanding something other than self. In this case, we may think about the attributes of the horse: passionate, resolutely ambitious, stubborn. We may picture the horse prancing, galloping, or bucking - as it is always depicted in the paper cuts and red posters sharing the new year greeting.
Gadamer contrasts the experience of the 'encounter' with art, so often the mode of representation of the other, to the conclusions drawn through scientific method. At the threshold of this new year, I hold his sentence: reality stands in the horizon of ... still undecided possibilities. But that is not his conclusion: not everything can be fulfilled. Some paths are mutually exclusive. The drama, which may be compared to reality, is a closed circle of art. If we look to the drama we might write in the new year, we might wish to bring forth the right way of being. This is never a dead imitation of ideals, for mere repetition has never been mastery, but a mediation by the θεωροί who Gadamer describes as those who take part in the festival ... here, those who take part of the new year.
It is not enough to merely intervene in the flow of life, it is pertinent to ask how. "Only sympathy makes true understanding possible ... Through it another person is transformed." If one could but know one's bias and overcome that limitation without succumbing to arbitrariness and superficiality. Participate somewhere between the familiar and the strange. In this respect we might indeed want to channel the horse, for the horizons change for the person who is moving, as opposed to the person with no horizons, who does not see far enough so overvalues what is nearest, never assimilating into his horizon the lessons of history that never grow old, never applying those lessons, never understanding.
What is right? Not being blinded by the passions; relating to the present situation, doing the work, ever anew, of seeking out that elusive rightness, allowing the self to be addressed by a subject and bearing the responsibility of possibly not having learned enough to recognise it.




I can't resist mentioning the philosopher Chrysippus, who was called Cryxippus in gest - he being a small man and once depicted alongside a horse, disappearing alongside it. The nickname a play on the words κρύπτω, to hide, and ἵππος, horse. To argue comprehensively, he would often argue both sides of the argument.
Knowledge, Gadamer writes, means being able to judge correctly and discard the wrong, dissolving the counter instances. Through practicing argument, one learns that things may change and become their opposite as they are consistently thought through, e.g., seeking justice by adhering to it strictly though this finally proves to be the greatest injustice. While the dialectical statement that has reached contradiction is antithetical to both the hermeneutical experience and the verbal nature of the human experience of the world, dialectics in general is useful in horse-powering the interplay of Q and A and in helping thought acquire the power of testing what follows from contraries. In this way, dialectics can help reveal a totality of (truthful) meaning.
We may find this attempt in Chrysippus, who argued that evil can be good: evil, "taken with all else, has its uses" (13-14). While I do not quite agree with this view in its entirety, Plutarch certainly doesn't (14-15), his thinking does reveal a totality in which polarities have been resolved, and illustrates Gadamer's observation that to know is not enough: one requires the right circumstance in which to apply what one knows (here, the bad situation in which to apply the good).
Our reasoning may be spoiled, though, Gadamer notes, the moment we seek to evaluate ideas in terms of usefulness, as is in part the case above. Usefulness denies beauty, the value of which is self-evident, requiring no question as to what purpose it serves. In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, τέχνη is just one part; practical wisdom is about living well overall. In Politics, he writes that to always seek the useful does not make for free and exalted souls. His notion of αἴσθησις tends towards the universal even if it stems from the particular; his bigger picture is one that is both beautiful and one of resolution.
In Ethics, Aristotle uses the illustration of lovers of horses to show that man should not choose his affinities 'accidentally' but cultivate the good, which in De Anima is illustrated through the balance of passions and reason - echoing Plato's chariot allegory in Phaedrus, where one horse is passion and the other, reason. If we are to be open to new meaning this year, may we strike the balance between passion and reason and seek the beautiful and the right - which may sound old-fashioned, but Gadamer has proved in Truth and Method the sophistry of arguments that seek to deny traditional experience, which we might do better to be prejudiced in favour of, as one is to be prejudiced towards that which is more learned, that which is true.
 

2 comments:

  1. happy year of the wooden horse! kung hei fat choi

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! And likewise, 恭喜發財!

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