Thanks TJ, let me respond to that quickly to clarify my position on all that.
So my question here is in what sense the contents and ideas from this epoche … still can contribute in a historically and technologically different situatedness - or if it calls for exactly the same movement again as in the 1920, that is to elaborate some new means/ways of embeddedness.
Probably the most important question asked of the past by the present!
yes, kind of a universal question!
My reading of Gebser suggests that he was indeed trying “to elaborate some new means/ways of embeddedness”, but on the basis of balancing what already existed in human cultural expression. For him, the extreme rationalism of the deficient mental structure was an “analysis paralysis” which blinded modern culture to the fact that all formerly and currently dominant ways of dealing with the world were active in us however unacknowledged. He was not calling for a simple return to ‘nature’; the magical structure had its own deficient modes to be avoided. His ‘integral’ (to the limited extent I understand it) was partly the freedom to use everything in the toolkit, so to speak, to meet the challenge of the map of micro- and macro-cosmic space we had developed - the immensity of which forces us mortals (individuals and cultures) to rethink time without going insane.
yes, I understand. But this was actually the “Zeitgeist” in Germany starting in the 20s, up to 50’s: the old did not work, and the new not yet. The question was how to keep up a transcendentalism without giving in to materialism/capitalism, which was considered a “danger” (–> “Americanization”). That was before the occupation and re-education of the germans towards the western system. There are plenty of approaches towards a holistic mindset in this time, in the beginning more philosophically in the “Life”-philosophy of Klages, in Heidegger with another twist, of Scheler and Plessner, the founders of “philosophical anthropology” - they all sought to get beyond dualism. The next generation then became more differentiated, as in Gebser, who differentiated these different kinds of “transcendence” with the result or last step of the holistic or integral mind. This seems as a reaction to the contingency and “transcendental homelessness” which struck Europe or specifically Germany after WWI, in the time of decadence of culture (“Decline of the West”), the mass society, new media, shift to democracy, mobilization, technologization and capitalism (Germany was called by Plessner the “belated nation”). So all of the 1920s philosophies are predecessors of postmodernity, and the integral approach is pretty much the attempt to implement pluralism and multiperspectivity into the individual mind. The integral mind has a lot in common what later simply became everyday postmodern thought, just without the mysticism, also it shares some hallmarks with post-formal-operational cognitive capacities. So one could say that it marks the shift from formal-operationalism (modernity - clear laws, deduction) to post-formal-operationalism (postmodernity, technological civilization, network-subject).
Look what Lukács writes about his motives to write his book in 1916, published in 1920 and condensing the “Zeitgeist”:
“The immediate motive for writing was supplied by the outbreak of the First World War and the effect which its acclamation by the social-democratic parties had upon the European left.
My own deeply personal attitude was one of vehement, global and, especially at the beginning, scarcely articulate rejection of the war and especially of enthusiasm for the war. I
recall a conversation with Frau Marianne Weber [wife of Max Weber who coined the term “disenchantment” in this time] in the late autumn of 1914. She wanted to challenge my attitude by telling me of individual, concrete acts of heroism. My only reply was: ‘The better the worse!’ When I tried at this time to put my emotional attitude into conscious terms, I arrived at more or less the following formulation: the Central Powers would probably defeat Russia; this might lead to the downfall of Tsarism); I had no objection to that. There was also some probability that the West would defeat Germany; if this led to the downfall of the Hohenzollerns and the Hapsburgs, I was once again in favour. But then the question arose: who was to save us from Western civilisation? (The prospect of final victory by the Germany of that time was to me nightmarish.)” (Lukács, Theory of the Novel, 1920, p. 10)
Western civilization here means the techno-industrialist-capitalist world, which is why Heidegger is mistakenly understood as anti-semite as he was writing against the “instrumental-scientific, profitoriented quantification of the world”, since at this time the jews were considered as the embodiment of this capitalist-instrumental force deranging the “home”-culture, so a “in-group-out-group”-problem as (so he was not for eradicating the jews, but for eradicating the instrumental and culture-disrupting mindset which was among others embodied in the opinion of this time by the jews). The culture as a whole felt to have reached an end and deemed itself in the “Grand Hotel Abyss”. So the world-view-proposals that reacted to the challenges of their time from todays perspective might be not differentiated enough, which of course does not mean that parts of it - or revitalizing or amplifiying parts of it - would not be useful or helpful. It is exactly this integrative thought that could ground a transition, but the question is how it can translate into the institutions, even globally.
I think (and this is one of the strengths of your approach as well) there is a utility in extrapolation from historical evidence when trying to look forward even if the final result cannot possibly be accurate prediction (knowledge of what future states of knowledge will be). Ideas about times of transition from any documented point in the human past have a relevance in showing how things may be conceived, perceived, and used.
Yes, that was the idea, now it is possible to show the general tendency by showing how the mind differentiated over time, that is with every shift, as we are in the moment in the shift from formal-operational cognitive socialization to post-formal cognitive socialization.
The agrarian empire is ‘allowed’ by the medium of writing and the speed of the horse; the modern nation-state by the medium of movable type printing and the reach of gunpowder weapons. Current globalizing trends are reinforced by electronic communication and the fact that repercussions of climate change or, God-forbid, nuclear war cannot remain ‘localized’. I appreciated Muhlmann’s discussion of ‘virtual culture’ at the end of his book - how groups (like ours here!) can form independently of physical contact because there are technological means allowing it. This opens the possibilities a great deal, but it still requires some definitions of inside and outside, some vision as to purpose, and thought toward the kinds of liturgy/mythology that will sustain the culture, which will continue to be composed of people needing to come together. I remain of the opinion that the technology itself is secondary to a consideration of the intentions of those who develop and wield it.
Yes, but here is the question: what ARE people? Can our motives, hopes, relatedness be detached from the technocultural environment into which and by which we were molded? Can a self have an intentin which is not somehow shaped by what it can “do”? So this is were I’m coming from: “historical anthropology” - every stage/place in history brings forth an own type of humans, an own unit of certain emotions, norms, motives, cognitives structures and so on, which are related to the human ALWAYS being a part of an technocultural assemblage (that is the external technologies and the institutions and culture). So people are not just people, and the media don’t connect just people, but “humans-in-assemblages”.
I don’t fully agree with the idea that today’s technology represents a complete break with former times. I get that our relationship to nature has changed radically - the modern world is an ‘artificial’ climate-controlled, light-polluted environment of concrete and steel rather than the forests and meadows in which our species evolved. And yet it is not inevitable that we “enframe” our world as a standing reserve. That is a function of a developmentalist mindset having more to do with economic philosophy (bordering on religion); the fault lies not in our tools but in ourselves…
But how much justice have I really done here to Heidegger’s thought?..
The new moment is that a) bioengineering potentially can change the very constitution of the human organism, which is definitely new in evolutionary history, b) that the potentials of computing allow for a new level of externalization, in that case functions of the mind which up to date were always bound to the body. So regulation is itself externalized. So in general this all would be part of the “revealing of being in the enframement”, but now we have a “revealing” which might detach from its medium, the human, and the question now is if this what is revealed by this new kind of revealing itself can ground a new world-relationship.
Georg Lukacs - The Theory of the Novel (1974, The MIT Press).pdf (442 KB)