Meeting Index

Eric Voegelin Society Meeting 2000

Sight, Sound, and Postmodernity:

The Role of Speech in Reconstructing Ethical Discourse

Copyright 2000 Murray Jardine

In recent years the idea that the United States and other Western societies are experiencing some kind of moral or cultural crisis has received considerable attention in public debate and popular discussion. In this paper, I will examine this perception of crisis. My purpose is not to discuss the manifestations or symptoms of what is perceived to be moral breakdown, but rather to examine some of the underlying reasons for this sense of moral disintegration and then relate these to political life.

Nature, Speech, and Modernity

I will begin by stating that I believe present-day Western societies are indeed experiencing a moral crisis, and that this crisis is in fact far more profound than most of the combatants in the current "culture wars" realize. The best way to characterize this moral crisis would be to modify slightly Friedrich Nietzsche's famous formulation and say that what we are living through in the twentieth century is the death, not of God, but of nature. What I mean by this can best be understood by placing our current situation in a longer-term historical perspective.

Over the past five hundred and especially the past two hundred years, human beings have discovered that they have a much greater capacity to understand, control, and even change their environment than they had previously recognized. The modem age has thus been characterized by a series of technological revolutions that have profoundly changed the conditions of life for people in Western (and more recently, non-Western) societies: the invention of the printing press and the corresponding expansion of literacy at the beginning of modernity; the first industrial revolution in steam power, steel manufacture, and textile production in the eighteenth century; the second industrial revolution, beginning in the nineteenth century, based on electricity and the internal combustion engine; and in our own time what is sometimes called the third industrial revolution in computers and related technologies. These technological revolutions certainly hold out the possibility of improving human life, and undoubtedly in certain ways they have, but it must be admitted that their overall effect has been rather ambiguous. Aside from the fact that our technological capacities have actually created the possibility of destroying ourselves--either through nuclear war (admittedly an unlikely prospect at the moment) or through some kind of ecological catastrophe--every one of the modem technological revolutions has been followed by social dislocations and political upheavals that have caused horrifying destruction, suffering, and loss of life: over a century of religious wars following the invention of the printing press; another wave of revolution and war after the first industrial revolution; and the unprecedented mayhem of the two World Wars following the second industrial revolution. A continuation of this pattern would lead us to expect another round of disturbances as the current revolution in computers and biotechnology takes effect--and indeed, if the pattern just described holds, these disturbances would be more violent and destructive than ever. It seems that whatever benefits modem technology might offer, we have had great difficulty establishing political, economic, and social institutions that can use that technology in constructive ways.

Of course, it has been argued that the pattern just described will not continue, because the worldwide triumph of liberal capitalist democracy (or some approximation thereto) has resolved the class and national conflicts that led to the upheavals of the past, and will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity based on the spectacular productive capacities of the new computer technologies. This view is of course most famously associated with Francis Fukuyama and his writings on the "end of history."1For reasons I will shortly explain, I regard this view as not just wrong, but positively dangerous in the complacency it engenders. First however, some further background.

The pattern of upheaval just described can, I believe, be understood in terms of the basic structure of Western moral and political reasoning. Specifically, one of the most fundamental dichotomies in the history of Western moral and political thought and indeed in the entire Western conception of reality is that either there exists an unchanging natural order independent of human agency from which moral and political principles can be derived or else all conceptions of morality are merely arbitrary human conventions. From an epistemological standpoint, knowledge claims grounded in experience of the natural order are objective and therefore correct while those not so grounded are subjective and thus illusory. This conception is developed prototypically in Plato and can be seen, in different forms, all through the history of Western thought. As modem technological capacities have increasingly destroyed the idea of an unchanging natural order--that is, have destroyed the idea of a fundamental reality independent of human agency or interpretation--modern moral and political theory and practice have been characterized by an ever-growing confusion about how to establish any kind of moral limits on human action, or in epistemological terms, a thoroughgoing subjectivism that sees all knowledge claims as relative projections of the human will.

To explain somewhat more specifically, in the classical conception of political order as articulated paradigmatically by Aristotle, reality is understood as a given, hierarchical order independent of human agency in which every being has a place and a function. Human happiness comes from participating in this natural order by fulfilling the purpose appropriate to one's place. The political community is concerned with teaching individuals the virtues appropriate to their places in the community and thus in nature. Individuals achieve happiness by virtuously fulfilling their naturally ordained role. As modem technology breaks down the idea of a natural order independent of human agency, extreme confusion about the individual and collective roles of humans, and therefore of the virtues necessary to fulfill those roles, results. The modem age can be understood as a series of increasingly frantic attempts to understand what it means to be a human being in face of the collapse of the natural order that had previously established human identity.

Modem liberalism, of course, attempts to deal with the modem age's increased realization of the extent of human agency by taking as its basic principle the idea of individual freedom. Liberal political theory and practice try to sidestep the issue of the natural role of humans by simply attempting to maximize the freedom of each individual person compatible with an equal level of freedom for every other person, or, to put it differently, by establishing neutral rules or rights (in the form of laws) that limit individual actions in a manner that does not favor any individual or group over any other. Unfortunately, if the subjective human agency that is the basis for the liberal idea of freedom is taken with full seriousness, it ultimately becomes impossible to determine any common standards for, or limits upon, human actions. The limitation that individuals should be free to pursue their own goals as long as they respect the equal freedom of others to do the same is ultimately of no help, since two individuals may, precisely because of their subjective freedom, have radically different understandings of what this actually means. The conception of autonomous individual agency upon which liberalism is based leads logically to a situation where individuals can have utterly different, incompatible perceptions of reality and therefore of what constitutes an imposition on the rights of others. Early liberalism could only appear to have resolved this issue by understanding human agency in a very narrow manner, that is, essentially in terms of economic productivity, and indeed by retaining elements of premodern social order, such as the patriarchal family. To put it another way, the neutral rules of liberal theory simply turn out to be remnants of the classical conception of nature, and as such will break down into a clash of subjective wills once the full extent of human agency is apparent.

Nietzsche, writing a little more than one hundred years ago, was the first to recognize this situation, which he called the "advent of nihilism." He understood that the collapse of the classical conception of nature (which is what he seems to have meant when he talked about the "death of God") would leave humans with increasing power to control and destroy but with no moral constraints on the use of that power and indeed no clear understanding of the purposes that power should be used for. It seems to me that since Nietzsche wrote there have been two manifestations of this moral crisis. The first of these was the wave of totalitarian movements in the first half of this century with their stated goal of using modem technology to fundamentally transform human beings and human society and their utter ruthlessness in attempting to do so. The second, and in the long run, I believe, potentially even more dangerous manifestation, is present-day global capitalism, which leaves the deployment of the new and truly awesome computer and biological technologies, especially genetic engineering and cloning, entirely up to the market, with absolutely no moral regulation. Or rather, it would be more correct to say, perverse moral regulation: the basic cultural ethos of contemporary consumer capitalism, which might be described as aesthetic self- expression, or to use Robert Bellah's term, "expressive individualism,"2which superficially appears to create tolerance for diverse "lifestyles," in fact bears a very strong resemblance to Nietzsche's ethos of artistic selfcreation, which Nietzsche understood as the only logical possibility following the collapse of nature and which he recognized would lead, in the long run, not to tolerance and diversity but to ruthless domination of the strong (the truly creative) over the weak. In this sense, Fukuyama's "end of history" thesis is partly correct, except that the end of history looms as a ghastly free-market version of the Brave New World.

With regard to present-day political debate, this analysis can explain why contemporary Western societies seem to be characterized by a profound sense of unease and even cultural malaise (as indicated, for example, by the extremely low birthrates in Europe and North America), at a time of peace and prosperity. Both elites and masses sense that something is not right, that we are perhaps headed toward an abyss of technological nihilism, but lack the conceptual vocabulary to articulate this.

If, then, our current moral crisis results from the death of the classical conception of nature, or rather from the nature-convention dichotomy, which leaves no alternative to the idea of a natural order but arbitrary human will, or more specifically Nietzschean self-creation, is there any other way to construct a model for ethical and political practice? One attempt to do so is represented by recent developments in the philosophies of language and science, both of which have been heavily influenced by the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein by political theorists such as Eric Voegelin and Hannah Arendt, whose work in certain ways parallels and even anticipates these developments, and by more recent political theorists such as Jurgen Habermas Alasdair MacIntyre, and Charles Taylor, who have explicitly or implicitly built on Wittgensteinian foundations.3 Recent philosophy of language and science have begun to construct a conceptual vocabulary to describe human action that, when applied to moral and political questions, can allow us to go beyond the dichotomy of nature and convention, and the political theorists just mentioned have, I believe, begun to do so.

Specifically, the theorists whom I have just mentioned differ significantly, but it can be said that the model of moral and political reasoning emerging from their work implies that human communities can order themselves not through a natural hierarchy, as in classical political theory, or through neutral rules, as in modem liberalism, but through communicative activities, or in other words, through speech. For Habermas, this means paradigmatically debate about the common good, and much of his theoretical attention has been directed at an explication of how to structure such debate. Taking a somewhat different approach, MacIntyre and theologian Stanley Hauerwas have been concerned with reviving virtue as a central ethical category, and have argued that the stories that make up a community's history can provide examples of virtuous action which can guide the individual members of the community. This model of political order is similar to Aristotle's, except that the historical narratives of a community take the place of his functional natural order. In this understanding, political order is not something given in the eternal structure of nature, but rather something humans speak into existence, just as human activities generally are not governed by any natural telos, but instead are structured by communicative contexts. These theorists, in different ways, seem to be saying that the human capacity for speech contains the resources for constructing a new understanding of moral order. They can be understood as attempting to articulate aspects of the human speech act which can provide a model for human roles and corresponding virtues which does recognize the extent to which humans can change their environment and the extent to which reality is more generally subject to human interpretation, and in so doing, beginning the project of reconstructing ethical discourse on the rubble of late modem subjectivism.

In this paper I want to analyze the foundations for such a communicative, or speech-based, model of ethics and politics. Specifically, I will attempt to gain a clearer understanding of what such a communicative ethics must accomplish by examining the experiential basis of the nature/convention dichotomy it seeks to transcend. More specifically, I will argue that the modem version of the nature/convention dichotomy has two sources: first, the super ordination of visual experience brought about by literacy, and second, the incoherent synthesis of biblical and Greek (or more generally, pagan) concepts that took place within Christianity in late antiquity and the middle ages. Or, to put it another way, the modem version of the nature/convention dichotomy, which ultimately results in a thoroughgoing subjectivism, can be understood as the result of the effect of print literacy on a culture--late medieval Europe--that embodies both biblical and pagan elements.

Sight and Sound: Some Phenomenological Differences

My starting point is that there does exist, in fact, a body of literature which can give some indications why the approach just mentioned may be able to transcend the nature/convention dualism, and indeed, which can give at least a partial explanation of where the nature/convention dualism came from in the first place. Over the past two generations, anthropologists, psychologists, and literary critics have written extensively about the differences between oral cultures, which have little or no writing, and modem literate cultures, in which, thanks to the printing press, all or most people have at least basic reading and writing skills.4 One implication of these examinations of the two types of cultures indicates that the superordination of visual experience brought about by literacy provides a very powerful experiential source for the nature/convention dichotomy. Recall that the essential idea in both the classical and modem conceptions of nature is that reality ultimately consists of some kind of eternal, impersonal structure, independent of human agency. Classical philosophy conceived this natural structure in functional terms, while modernity has conceptualized it mechanistically, but the core idea is the same in both cases. Such a conception of reality is precisely what the stasis, impersonality, and independence of the written, and especially the printed, word, tends to encourage. Before I explain in more detail, let me qualify my claim. First, I am not claiming that literacy is the only source of the nature/convention dichotomy, a point I will in fact return to later in my discussion. It can, however, be regarded as an important source because it affects our thought processes in very subtle ways at very fundamental levels. Second, I am not arguing that there is an inevitable chain of causation from literacy to the nature/convention dualism; literacy only makes this dualism probable. That is, literacy creates an experiential context in which this dichotomy becomes more likely. I am certainly not making a deterministic claim. Finally, the fact that I will emphasize some of the ways in which literacy can restrict our imaginations should not be taken as an indication that I want to romanticize oral cultures or advocate anything so absurd as returning to a nonliterate state. My purpose is to point out some potential limitations imposed on our thinking by literacy, so that we can be more aware of these limitations and use that knowledge as a starting point for further reflection.

With these caveats in mind, I will elaborate the claim made above: the crucial connection between literacy and the nature/convention dichotomy is that with literacy, people tend to take objects in three-dimensional visual space--that is, objects similar to the written or printed word--as their model of what is "really real" (that is, "natural"), and tend to regard other kinds of experience, and other forms of knowledge, as derivative or even unreal (that is, "conventional"). (This, incidentally, partly explains why oral cultures are more "spiritual" and modem literate cultures are more "materialistic." Religious symbolisms, which draw on oral motifs and address experiences that cannot be reduced to objects in visual space, tend to be opaque or even unintelligible to literate individuals with a heavily visual orientation.) More specifically, with literacy, people tend tacitly (or even explicitly) to conceive of reality as a large but finite "text" and thus think that language gets its meaning by somehow "corresponding" to this text, so that each word has a specific, contextless "meaning-in-itself. " (This conception is sometimes referred to as "language realism," and was first articulated by Plato.) Adequate knowledge thus consists in constructing statements which correspond correctly to discrete states of affairs in the objective world (that is, which correspond correctly to the text). This, of course, is what is entailed in the classical conception of nature and its modem modifications--knowledge claims must have an exact correspondence to specific objects in the eternal, independently-existing "real world." It further follows that if such correspondence cannot be established, then linguistic statements become mere conventions, and are, as such, arbitrary.

In contrast to the understanding of language and knowledge just described, recent philosophy of language and science have argued that language gets its meaning, and knowledge is generated, from specific, concrete contexts of human action. On this understanding, perhaps the single most important feature of the Western philosophical conception of nature is that it attempts to abstract meaning and knowledge from concrete contexts. This is the main point in recent criticisms made by language philosophers of the correspondence model of language described above. Similarly, recent philosophers of science have pointed out that one of the principal failings of positivism (probably the most prominent modern version of the nature/convention dualism) was its tendency to understand science in terms of the static, completed body of knowledge making up classical mechanics rather than in terms of the actual process of scientific discovery at the leading edge of various scientific disciplines, which is to say that it attempted to understand knowledge abstracted from the context of discovery. What recent investigations of oral and literate cultures indicate is that the central difference between oral and literate/visual orientations is the vastly greater capacity for abstraction from context brought about by literacy, illustrated paradigmatically by the correspondence theory of language just mentioned. Hence by examining this principal difference between oral and literate orientations I will argue that the nature/convention dualism may be something (at least partly) generated from the heavily visual orientation produced by literacy.

I have already indicated that literacy tends to superordinate visual experience over oral experience and in so doing can cause us to think in terms of a dualism between the "real" uninterpreted reality "out there" and mere human convention. In fact, this is a simplification. As Walter Ong, probably the most well-known scholar in this field, points out, literate people do not use their eyes more than nonliterate people; people in "primitive" cultures are generally much better at visually detecting details than highly "civilized" people. What is different is that writing, and particularly printing, links a particular kind of visual experience to verbalization and communication, a situation quite different from what prevails in oral cultures. Specifically, for the literate person, the relative stasis of the written or printed word--its status as an object in three dimensional space--becomes paradigmatic for visual experience, so that through vision the dynamism of the world can be stopped and subjected to detailed description and analysis. Nonliterate people, lacking the paradigm provided by the written word, cannot abstract themselves from the world's dynamism, which results in the apparently paradoxical situation that, although they are usually very good at noticing visual details, they have a difficult time giving accurate verbal descriptions of visual phenomena. Hence the fundamental difference between the oral and literate noetic situations is the centrality of a particular mode of visual experience for literate perception, communication, and thought processes.5

Because of the limitations on visual experience peculiar to the nonliterate, that is, because visual experience is not linked closely to verbalization, the crucial feature of an oral culture is the centrality of sound to all thought and communication. Sound is irreducibly dynamic; although it is possible to conceive other kinds of perception, especially vision, in static terms, this is impossible with sound. This is because the dynamism of sound (and specifically the spoken word) is not that of an object moving through three- dimensional space but rather the dynamism of continuously passing into and out of existence. An oral culture can hardly conceive of words as labels of some sort, as literate people tend to do, since spoken words are not "things" which can be picked up and "attached" to other things; a word must be an event or an action. Further, sound for oral peoples is dynamic also in the sense that it is linked to power: it must be driven by power from a source of some kind, which is why words (that is, dynamic actions or events) themselves are understood to have great, even magical, power .6 Another fundamental implication of sound based communication is that, since words are always produced by a concrete person, oral cultures generally conceive the world in personal terms. At the same time, this feature of sound-based communication means that oral cultures will be highly communal, with more highly externalized, less introspective personality types. 7 Eric Havelock points out that the dynamic nature of sound has perhaps its most fundamental effect in that, lacking any way of storing information outside of actually existent persons (since spoken words are not things which can be picked up and put away somewhere), oral cultures must rely on memory and direct communication to organize existence. Thus the thought processes of oral cultures will be structured by these features. Speaking, and thus thinking, in oral cultures must always be closely related to actual existential contexts (especially in the form of narrative), will tend to be rhythmically oriented, and will tend to be highly formulaic in content. All of these features aid memory.8

For my purpose, that is, the question of literacy's relationship to the nature/convention dualism, the discussion can be limited to the most fundamental phenomenological feature of oral communication just mentioned. Since oral cultures communicate mainly through sound, which is irreducibly dynamic, they lack the capacity to "stop" the dynamism of the world and subject it to abstract analysis. Oral thought processes, in other words, are always highly contextual. Only literate people, using the relatively fixed written or printed word as a paradigm, can conceive the world as a kind of "snapshot" and abstract elements of this world from their context and analyze them. Oral cultures have only minimal capacities for abstraction and decontextualization.

A. R. Luria's classic study of peasants in the Soviet Union illustrates this point well. In one case, subjects were presented with drawings of four objects, such as a hammer, saw, log, and hatchet, of which one fitted into a different category than the other three, and asked to group them. Although the subjects with some reading ability were able to group the objects "correctly," that is, according to abstract conceptual categories, the illiterate peasants attempted to group the objects according to how one would use them in actual everyday situations. In the example just mentioned--the hammer, saw, log, and hatchet--the illiterate subjects were baffled, since all the items seemed to go together: one might chop the log with the hatchet, saw it with the saw, and so forth. Separating the log from the tools made no sense, since then there would be nothing on which to use the tools. Similarly, the illiterate peasants resisted giving abstract definitions of such objects as trees, instead expressing surprise that anyone should ask such a bizarre question as "What is a tree?" The fundamental difference between the literate and nonliterate peasants was that the literate peasants were capable of abstracting the items from concrete situations and understanding them in terms of conceptual groupings, while the nonliterate peasants could understand the items only in terms of concrete, specific actions.

In another striking example of the heavily contextual nature of the oral world, the same illiterate subjects typically had difficulty with articulate self-analysis, normally deferring to the community for an evaluation of their own characters. This is because the capacity to think abstractly, that is, non- situationally, is what allows introspection; one can only analyze oneself as oneself by (partly) abstracting oneself from the specific situations in which one always finds oneself.9

This examination of oral cultures, then, provides some definite evidence for the claim that literacy can be a prime source of the nature/convention distinction by virtue of the capacity it brings about for abstraction. Oral cultures necessarily think in highly contextual terms, and hence would appear to be much less likely to conceive knowledge and reality generally in the decontextualized manner characteristic of the Western philosophical tradition. In order to elaborate this initial formulation, I will now explain further how literacy restructures thought processes.

How Literacy Restructures Consciousness

To do this it will be necessary to examine in more detail different forms of literate and postliterate media of communication. I have already noted that it is a simplification to say that literacy superordinates, visual experience over oral/aural experience; the crucial aspect of this superordination is the way a particular aspect of vision is linked with verbalization. But even this simplifies, since different types of literate media link vision and verbalization differently, or to different degrees. Early forms of writing, such as hieroglyphics, which employ picture-symbols, do this only to a limited extent. Pictographic writing systems such as this still retain a great deal of the sound dimension of words because they must represent each word with a picture of some concrete thing or event which exists or occurs in the oral world, so that the meaning of the word can only be understood by reference to its existential context, which in turn means that words will still tend to be understood as events rather than signs or referents.10

The really fundamental change in this regard comes with the invention of the alphabet, or, to be more exact, the Greek alphabet, which contains vowels as well as consonants. Since each letter represents only one sound (or at most a few related sounds), rather than entire words, the crucial connection with the oral world is broken, or rather, drastically attenuated; a written word as written word has no obvious connection to anything in the life world. With its connection to existential events broken, an alphabetically written word becomes a set of abstract symbols in static space, rather than a dynamic event. The context which is so important to oral communication and still relevant to pictographic writing and even the Semitic alphabet (which does not indicate vowels in the same way as the Greek alphabet does, and thus leaves the identity of a given written word somewhat ambiguous and therefore dependent on existential context), tends to recede greatly into the tacit or even unconscious background. Once this happens, situational thinking will tend to be replaced by abstract thinking and modes of expression will be less closely linked to the oral world and more oriented toward abstractions. For example, we have seen that oral people inevitably understand the world in personal terms, since for them communication is always tied to an actually existent, and present, person. Writing dissolves the immediate link between a person and his or her words and thus allows the reader to understand words, and thus reality generally, in an impersonal fashion, that is, abstracted from the personally spoken words which give reality meaning. At the same time, separated from actually existent persons and locked into abstract visual space, words themselves can tend to take on a life of their own in a way they cannot in an oral culture. Specifically, with literacy comes the possibility of what I earlier called language realism, that is, the idea that reality is in some way a large but finite "text," and that language gets its meaning by somehow "corresponding" to this text. Such a correspondence or referential understanding of language would be inconceivable in an oral culture. 11 Ong gives a very useful illustration of the spatializing effects of the alphabet. The alphabet implies that words are present all at once, rather than in a dynamic fashion, and that they can be cut up into little pieces, which can even be written forwards and pronounced backwards: "part"-- that is, "p-a-r-t"--can be pronounced "trap." Of course, if you put the word "part" on a sound tape and reverse the tape, you do not get "trap," but a completely different sound, neither "part'' nor "trap."12 The game of asking someone to "say 'part' backwards" would be unintelligible and unimaginable without alphabetic literacy. Thus with the alphabet comes a crucial step in bringing about the spatialization of language barely begun with pictographic writing.

The discussion so far has begun to indicate how the decontextualization. brought about by literacy can be an important factor in bringing about the Western philosophical conception of nature. The effects of literacy remain relatively limited, however, as long as writing remains the most advanced method of communication. There are several reasons for this. First, literacy itself will continue to be relatively limited. In societies where pictographic writing systems are employed, very few people can learn to read and write because of the huge amount of time and effort necessary to learn these complicated systems. The alphabet makes reading and writing much easier to learn, but as long as reading material remains in relatively short supply because it must all be produced by the slow process of writing, much of the population will remain nonliterate and thus still tied to the oral world. Further, the literate elements of the population will remain in contact with illiterates and thus in contact with the oral mentality. Also, the scarceness of written resources means that literates will in many situations still use oral methods of dealing with the world (for example, oral memory devices) rather than using writing for such purposes. Indeed, in a society with writing but no printing, literates retain much of the oral orientation even while using writing. Since written manuscripts are frequently difficult to read, reading is normally done aloud, so it can be done slowly enough to decipher the text. Silent reading has only been generally cultivated since the advent of printing, with its uniform and easily readable texts. (Anyone who has read St. Augustine's Confessions will recall his wonderment at St. Ambrose's habit of reading silently.) And of course reading aloud does not allow one to spatialize and decontextualize words as thoroughly as silent reading does. The retention of oral thought processes in a literate culture is referred to as "oral residue," and can be found even today in (socially or geographically) isolated areas of the most modem societies.13

Printing, then, is the final step necessary for the complete triumph of a literate mentality, and for reasons I have to some extent just indicated. It makes reading material readily available, thus encouraging universal literacy and more general use of literate artifacts. This in turn can allow greater accumulation of information through such things as encyclopedias. The uniformity of printed items makes indexes possible, meaning that information can be found faster. (Indexes would make little sense if only written manuscripts were available, since all the labor of creating an index would have to be repeated for every single book produced.) The accumulation of information made possible by printing is the crucial step in destroying the memory-oriented features of an oral or partly oral culture. Knowledge can be remembered--or rather, stored--even when it is abstracted from its existential context, so the highly contextual, formulaic, rhythmic, and narrative-oriented approach to knowledge characteristic of oral cultures tends to whither.

In terms of the perceptual effects discussed earlier, the uniformity of print also makes silent reading much easier and its elimination of personal idiosyncrasies (that is, different writing styles) from the text decontextualizes words more relentlessly than ever, thus intensifying the crucial effects of literacy already mentioned. The spatialization of language, begun by pictographic writing and accelerated by the alphabet, takes a quantum jump with printing. In terms of the history of Western culture, then, although classical Greece shows the definite effects of a significant level of alphabetic literacy, it is not until after the invention of the printing press that literacy exerts its full force on the Western mind. 14 Not coincidentally, modernity has made the nature/convention distinction even more rigidly than classical philosophy--for Plato, conventional knowledge claims, or opinions, can at least be a starting point for finding the truth of the natural order, while for modem positivism, opinion and the facts of nature are conceptually incommensurate.

By recognizing the extent to which various communications media push us in the direction of a literate/visual orientation, we should now have a clearer idea of how literacy can facilitate the overabstraction which may be the primary cause of the nature/convention dichotomy. The essential problem is that a literate culture provides a subtly pervasive environment of decontextualized knowledge, vocabulary, and most importantly, everyday visual experience which can cause us to forget context entirely. Although the capacity for abstraction is in many ways very enabling (since systematic analysis of any kind requires a certain degree of abstraction, and it would be impossible to do science without the abstraction involved in an impersonal vocabulary), it will become quite possible, if one's vocabulary has been formed by intense immersion in the relatively decontextualized experience of a literate culture, to forget, when reflecting upon our thought and knowledge processes, and how they relate to social activities such as ethical behavior, that knowledge is always derived from a specific context. Indeed, in the extreme case, decontextualization can result in utter fragmentation of knowledge and thus of the world. The literate world has a tendency to become a jumble of mutually unconnected, reductively-conceived "facts." This is precisely the logical outcome of the nature/convention distinction. I have already mentioned a specific example of this particular pitfall, the (explicit or tacit) language realism that results when one starts to imagine that words have a life of their own, that is, that they can be abstracted from the context of speech (or writing), something that can only happen to a literate person. Similarly, such a high level of abstraction can cause us to commit the error of mistaking the impersonal vocabulary of physical science for an actual description of what the scientist is doing when he or she does science, or to conceive of morality as a set of abstract rules rather than as the ongoing story of living responsibly in a community of other people.

I should at this point briefly mention that there is also beginning to develop a literature which argues that recent media such as television and computers dramatically intensify our visual orientation and are bringing about what might be best described as a postliterate visual culture of images. In terms of primary perceptual effects, the available evidence seems to strengthen, or perhaps extend, my thesis. Briefly, it appears that a postliterate visual orientation offers the worst of all possible worlds--that is, it embodies the worst aspects of both oral and literate cultures. Neil Postman argues that as passively- received images replace the text which the reader must actively examine, analytical capacities decrease. At the same time, however, the capacity of television to present a rapid succession of often very different images intensifies the literate tendency toward abstraction from and fragmentation of the world. People in a postliterate electronic image culture lose the capacity for analytical thought brought about by literacy while retaining--indeed, enlarging--the literate tendency to see the world in fragmented, reductionistic terms. It might be said that if a literate culture is characterized by a naturalistic rationalism, a postliterate visual culture, consisting of a chaos of unconnected emotive images, can be best described as one of conventionalist irrationalism. Just as subjectivist relativism is derivative of the nature/convention dichotomy, the new electronic media are derivative of literacy, so the developing postliterate conventionalist orientation can be seen as the logical culmination of the earlier literate conception of nature. 15

Orality, Literacy, and Political Theory

With this basic insight about visual and oral orientations developed, we can now return to the alternative model of ethical and political practice discussed earlier. To the extent that theorists such as Habermas, MacIntyre, and others focus on human speech-capacities as an alternative to the traditional Western philosophical conception of nature, the literature on oral-literate differences can show two things. First, if the abstraction of the nature/convention dichotomy is caused at least partly by the visual orientation produced by literacy, a consideration of human speechcapacities may allow us to escape that dichotomy and its nihilistic results in ethical and political theory. Second, if the tendency to think in terms of the nature/convention dualism is the result of pervasive decontextualized visual experience in our everyday lives, then rebuilding ethical and political practice would require at least a partial redirection of our everyday experience away from vision and toward speech and hearing. If my analysis so far is correct, we cannot hope to regain a sense of virtuous action that contributes to meaningful human communities without at least partially recapturing a sense of face-to-face oral/aural experience. (I should repeat here that I am not recommending that we somehow return to a purely oral condition, but only that we redress somewhat the current extreme imbalance in our sensory orientation.) This, of course, is something that local communities based on oral narrative traditions and debate about the common good might accomplish.

In the remainder of this paper I want to elaborate my first conclusion. Specifically, I want to employ an analysis of the properties of the spoken word to argue that the modem manifestation of the nature/convention dichotomy, and especially the thoroughgoing subjectivism of late modernity, is more complicated than the discussion so far would indicate. My starting point is that although the literature on oral and literate cultures can explain a great deal, it cannot explain everything. For example, it cannot explain why different oral cultures, for example the ancient Hebrews and their pagan neighbors, could have radically different worldviews, nor why two different literate individuals, for example, Plato and Thomas Hobbes, could have such dissimilar understandings of reality. To further clarify our situation, it will be necessary to reconsider a question that has received considerable attention from political theorists in the twentieth century: the theoretical structure of the specifically modem worldview, or to put in the terms used above, the specifically modem version of the nature/convention dichotomy. I will do this by reconsidering, not explicit metaphysical and political doctrines, but rather the fundamental metaphors by which humans have understood reality. I will use this method to argue that modernity, or again the modem manifestation of the nature/convention dichotomy, can be best understand as the result of the effect of print literacy on a specific type of culture, that is a culture of (what might be crudely described as) platonized Christianity, or in other words a culture where the fundamental Hebraic or biblical metaphors for reality have been distorted or corrupted by Greek, or more generally, pagan,

metaphors. Print literacy, in other words, might have had a very different impact on a different type of culture, for example one where these two different sets of metaphors had not become mixed.

The idea that modernity is the incoherent result of compromises between Christianity and paganism is hardly original, of course. This argument has been made many times, by Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Lowith, and others. 16 But this argument, because it tends to focus mainly on explicit doctrines, is also unable to answer a number of important questions, such as why the specifically modem form of consciousness, if it is indeed an outgrowth of Christianity, took so long to develop, and what experiences shaped the specifically modem worldview. My analysis, by examining both the fundamental biblical and pagan metaphors for reality and the experiential effects of literacy, will attempt to indicate some answers to these questions.

I will proceed by sketching out (one understanding of) the differences between the Hebraic and the Greek (or more generally pagan) worldviews and the likely outcome when these understandings are synthesized in the context of a mainly oral culture. I will then indicate the likely effects of print literacy on this mixed metaphor. I will finally illustrate my thesis more concretely by briefly showing how this mixed metaphor works itself out in the Protestant work ethic and modem capitalism. More specifically, I will argue that the critical difference between the biblical understanding of humanity and the pagan anthropology is that the biblical model implies that humans have a creative power--that is, a power to actually change the world--in their capacity for speech, something that is unrecognized in the pagan worldview. The synthesis of Greek and Hebraic formulations (using this conceptual move as a shorthand for the political and social consequences of the importation of Greek philosophical concepts into Christian theology and the practical compromises with paganism made by the medieval Church) might result in a situation where the biblical concept of human creativity would be repressed by the Greek elements in Christianity, causing--as repressions always do--its re-emergence in distorted or even demonic forms, or, more specifically, in the subjectivism of modernity, that is, in the breakdown of any "natural' limits to human actions. English-speaking liberalism could be understood as the manifestation of this creativity in mildly distorted form, while the more radically subjectivist modem ideologies, most obviously revolutionary Marxism, would be examples of the same concept in a state of extreme deformation. Print literacy would be the experiential key to this distorted re-emergence.

As with the first part of my discussion, I will need to issue a caveat. Since the subsequent discussion will cover quite a bit of ground in a short time, it will of necessity quite sketchy. A proper treatment of these issues would require extensive historical background and detailed textual analysis. I think he schematic outline below will, however show that this thesis has sufficient plausibility to be pursued further in subsequent research.

The Fundamental Metaphors for Reality in Biblical and Pagan Thought

MY analysis will be substantially derived from the work of the late William H. Poteat. Applying the insights of the literature on the differences between oral and literate cultures, Poteat argues that the fundamental model of reality for the ancient Hebrews was the spoken word (as indicated, most obviously, in Genesis 1), while the Greek philosophers understood the world on the model of the written word. I will eventually want to modify Poteat's formulation, but what is critical to the analysis is his discussion of the properties of the spoken word. For Poteat, the spoken word has two properties which are essential to understanding the biblical model of reality and humanity. First, the spoken word is dynamic: reality, then, if like the spoken word, must be some kind of ongoing, dynamic process. Second, and even more importantly, the spoken word is creative: for Poteat, J. L. Austin's claim that words create a world is true in the most direct sense possible. The world as we articulately experience it is created by our speech acts. This is true not only of social institutions and conventions, but even of nature. "And the world of nature," asks Poteat, "insofar as it is a reflected reality among men, does it have its existence other than by the utterance of the words of common sense, of physics, chemistry, biology, geology?"17

If we take the spoken world as our model of reality, as the ancient Hebrews did, then reality itself will be an ongoing, dynamic, creative process, with infinite possibilities, like the spoken word; and humans, since they have the creative capacity of speech, actually have a role to play in this creative process, although human creativity is of course limited, since we are also creatures (that is, created beings). This is to say that humans can not only understand, but can actually change, the world, and indeed do so with every speech act. Our words create a dynamic succession of worlds.

At this point it might seem that Poteat is saying something quite similar to various postmodernists who argue that all knowledge is socially constructed. There is, however, a crucial difference. While postmodernists regard socially constructed knowledge claims as radically contingent, that is without any necessary grounding, and thus ultimately tools of domination created by constellations of power, Poteat argues that the worlds created by our speech acts are indeed subject to a kind of necessity. This is because in any given speech context, although we may say an infinite number of things, only some things will be appropriate to that speech context, since human creativity is limited and the speech context is therefore connected to, or limited by, previous speech contexts. This formulation is of course similar to Austin's argument that in order for a performative speech act to have its effect, certain felicities, or conditions, themselves derived from previous speech acts, must exist.18

Another way to state this idea would be to say that a given speech situation constitutes a place from which we can orient ourselves and understand which speech acts are appropriate, or faithful, to that context. The worlds we create with our speech acts are "real," or ordered, that is, make sense, only to the extent that our speech acts are faithful to their contexts. 19

In this situation, the biblical concept of God is, in a sense, a kind of logical deduction from the model, or, rather, what is necessary to complete the "picture" implied by the basic metaphor. Although our particular speech acts often fail to be faithful and thus create disordered worlds, we nevertheless proceed with a tacit confidence that reality is ultimately ordered every time we speak (something that might be termed a kind of absolute necessity inherent in our world-creating speech acts), which implies that our speech acts tacitly assume something like a world created (that is spoken into existence) by an ever-faithful speaker--one who never breaks promises. In the biblical anthropology, this is indeed our only real place--as a responsible speaker before God. Whereas individuals in Aristotle's political theory have a place in the natural order and therefore in the hierarchical social order derived from nature, the key characters in the biblical narratives are wanderers, with no fixed geographical place and even no place in society.

The biblical model further implies a fundamental equality among humans, since we all have the creative capacity of speech, or more specifically, we all have the capacity to be faithful to our words--that is, we all have the same ultimate place. It also implies the possibility of modem inductive, experimental science, since if the world is spoken into existence by an ever-faithful speaker,  worldly phenomena will be consistent in time--an experiment performed at TI will be comparable with one performed at T2, an idea which never occurred to the Greek philosophers, who assumed that the world's true order must exist beyond mere appearances.

Quite likely the model I have just described will somehow seem inadequate as a grounding for human knowledge and action; the "necessity" it provides seems rather "soft," and not really different from the radical contingency posited by postmodernism. Poteat in fact argues that our unease with this speech- model of reality is very much a function of literacy. We only think of the world created by our words as being less real, less substantial than the "natural" world, because of the (tacit) model of an essentially unchanging reality--that is, of a "hard" necessity--provided by the written or printed word:


      [T]he pejorative characterization of performatives as governed only by "felicities no more palpable than the insubstantial fabric of social usage" can come to mind only against the background picture that lends a more substantial grounding for constatives than the "mere felicities embodied in social usage." And what is this picture? Why the conception of an order more stable than the lively, convivial oral-aural fabric in which "felicities" govern all, viz., the conception of a very large, eternal text by reference to which the meanings of the words and expressions we speak are sustained and by corresponding with which, if they are constatives, they may be judged to be (eternally) true or false.20

Present-day postmodernists, in other words, are best understood as disappointed Platonists, in that their discovery of the non-existence of the eternal structure of reality posited by Plato causes them to conclude that reality is radically contingent, their literate visual orientation leaving no other possible understanding of necessity.

By contrast with the biblical model, the Greek philosophers, according to Poteat, understood the world as being like the written word. Here Poteat follows Ong, Havelock, and others in arguing that if one's perceptions are strongly (even if only tacitly) influenced by the experience of literacy, then one will tend to conceive reality as being like a written word--that is, a finite, ultimately unchanging structure, the particulars of which can be (at least in principle) beheld at once, like a written text. Nature, that is the fundamental structure of reality, as conceptualized by both Plato and Aristotle (whatever differences they may have had), is understood according to this model. Necessity for the Greeks is given not by the faithfulness of speakers but by the unchanging structure of the natural order, which humans, although they can (partly) understand it, cannot change. Political order will thus tend to be understood hierarchically, since some individuals understand the natural order better than others.21

If we accept Poteat's formulations, then, we can see that if the speech-based biblical model is modified, or corrupted, by the visual Greek model, a thoroughgoing subjectivism--that is, a breakdown of the nature/convention dichotomy into pure conventionalism--is a very likely result, since one possible outcome of such a corruption would be the retention of the biblical model of humans as creative speakers but--if the visual Greek model of necessity becomes predominant-- the loss of the speech-based necessity of this model.

Before pursuing this line of thought further, however, I want to indicate one crucial place where I think Poteat's analysis needs to be modified. Poteat contrasts the Hebraic model of reality as a spoken word with the Greek philosophical concept of nature, which he assumes is derived from literacy. But the prephilosophical (that is, preliterate) Greeks, and indeed, all the pagan cultures, had something like a concept of nature--that is, the various gods who represented, or who actually were, what we modems would reductionistically call "natural forces." The major differences between the Greek philosophical concept of nature and the pagan gods is that nature is more abstract, impersonal, and orderly-- differences that can be understood as results of literacy. But both the pagan gods and the philosophers' natural order share one absolutely critical feature: they are ultimately unaffected by human agency. The crucial difference here then would seem to be not between the Hebraic oral orientation and the Greek visual orientation, but rather between the fundamental Hebraic model of reality, the spoken word, which implies a (limited) human creative capacity, and the fundamental pagan model of reality, the rhythms and processes of the natural world (whether understood as personal and unpredictable, even chaotic, as with the pagan cultures lacking an internalized literacy, or as relatively impersonal and orderly, as with the literate Greek philosophers), which implies no human creative capacity, only a capacity to discover and perhaps rearrange what already exists.

The Consequences of the Christianity's Mixed Metaphor

I want to argue that the conceptual incoherence of modernity derives ultimately from the attempt to synthesize (again using this term as a shorthand for vastly more complicated social processes) these incompatible models of reality. Specifically, we might say that the Christian synthesis ended up conceiving of humans as neither natural beings (as in paganism) nor as simultaneously creators and creatures (as in the biblical model) but rather as creators and natural beings, that is, as creators in the sense of creating a world through speech and also as natural beings in the sense of being parts of an ultimately finite, unchanging natural order. But this conceptualizationis obviously incoherent. We cannot be both. Hence it can only be resolved through either some kind of mind/body dualism or through conceiving of humans as creators only-- that is, the radical subjectivism of late modernity.

I think an argument could be constructed that this is indeed what happened in medieval and modem thought and practice. Medieval Catholicism tended to conceive of humans as creators and natural beings in that humans were free to act righteously or to sin, but only within the context of an unchanging natural order, where human ends were given and unchanging, so that humans are still in effect primarily natural beings. This is clearly the position of Thomas Aquinas, at least as he is conventionally interpreted.22 As a result, the medieval political and social order, despite the biblical concept and even the explicit Christian doctrine of fundamental human equality, had much the same structure as the hierarchical pagan societies, although some movement did take place in the direction of working out some of the biblical worldview's implications, such as the slow progress toward democracy in the English constitutional tradition and the beginnings of modem science in the monasteries. The Protestant Reformation had the effect of shifting the balance of this dualism, so that early modernity also understood humans as creators and natural beings, but now with the emphasis on the element of creativity. This can be seen in a somewhat negative way in the concern of Martin Luther and John Calvin with sin, that is the misuse of human freedom. It can be seen even more obviously in John Locke's extension of the Protestant work ethic in his theory of property: for Locke humans can actually create new wealth (an idea never developed in any systematic way in the ancient world) through their labor on the natural order. The incoherence of Locke's position is immediately obvious, since if an immutable natural order really exists, it cannot be possible for humans systematically to transform it using labor. Karl Marx is the key transitional figure in the development of the thoroughgoing subjectivism of late modernity. Marx begins with Locke's incoherent conceptualization of humans, i. e., that we are creators who are nevertheless part of the natural order, and then makes the conceptualization coherent by understanding human history as an evolutionary process in which humans gradually become completely free of natural necessity--that is in which humans become creators. Nietzsche merely pushes Marx's logic to its final conclusion, regarding humans as always having been radically creative but only recently having discovered the fact. The logical progression can be captured in the following diagram:

Creator/Creature                                    Natural Being


CREATOR/Natural Being


We can also understand this process in terms of the concept of place discussed above. If on the one hand our consciousness and practice are formed by the pagan idea of a human place in the (hierarchical) natural order, but on the other hand the biblical model implies that there is no natural order, one possible outcome--if the biblical concept of the human place as a responsible speaker is corrupted into something more like a place in the natural hierarchy-- is a loss of any sense of place.

Notice that this scenario can explain an extremely important feature of modernity. Specifically, it can explain why the English speaking societies have generally dealt more effectively with the increased understanding of human agency than the continental European societies; since they began to modernize first, they were more able to rely upon remnants of the classical concept of nature (as in, for example, early liberalism's concept of natural rights) which were simply not available to societies that began to modernize later, when such remnants had more thoroughly broken down.

In any case, in order to address the issues originally set out here, it will be necessary to explicate this highly schematic conceptual model in terms of concrete human experience. Specifically, we must be able to explain three things: (1) why, experientially, Christianity developed the initial incoherent "creator/natural being" anthropological metaphor; (2)why, experientially, the Reformation and early modernity shifted the emphasis in this metaphor; and (3) why, experientially, nature disappeared from the equation in late modernity. I think the first and third question can be answered relatively easily. The tendency to introduce Greek philosophical concepts into Christian theology and for the Church to engage in numerous practical compromises with paganism can probably be understood in terms of the fact that in any pre-industrial social order, "nature"--understood as an order independent of human agency--is, or rather seems to be, such an overwhelming feature of everyday life that its existence is almost impossible to question. (Or to put it in terms more appropriate to an oral culture, in an agricultural society with limited technology, faced with the daily experience of relative human powerlessness before the forces of nature, the existence of the gods is almost impossible to question, a fact that indicates how amazing the breakthrough achieved by the ancient Hebrews really was.) Similarly, late modernity's complete destruction of any concept of nature, and therefore--within the basic framework of modem thought-- any limits to human action, can be understood as the consequence of the full recognition of the extent of human agency wrought by modem technology.

The second, and most important, question is the most difficult. I think it could be argued that the shift toward a greater sense of human agency found in the Reformation can be understood as a result of the gradual recognition of the extent of human freedom implied in the biblical model, and certainly the reformers understood themselves as attempting to recapture the original biblical formulation. If this is the case, though, why did they not succeed, but instead only shifted the emphasis of the incoherent medieval model? Here literacy would appear to play a critical role. A more thoroughly internalized literacy may have the negative effect of preventing the complete abandonment of the concept of nature for the same reason that it helped to establish the concept of nature among the Greek philosophers in the first place: its tendency to create a perception of reality as an eternal finite text. Thus, the reformer's attempt to break out of the incoherent medieval synthesis--or to put it differently, to eliminate the pagan elements in medieval Christianity--could be (partly) thwarted by the effects of literacy.

It is important to recognize that this tendency might not have the same effect in a different culture, one where the concept of nature did not weigh so heavily; if print literacy had developed in a culture based on the original biblical formulation, that is, a culture that had somehow managed thoroughly to break away from the pagan gods, that culture's thinking would presumably become more impersonal, abstract, and analytical, but it might not develop the concept of "nature." That is to say, although literacy may have, in certain ways, made it more difficult to break out of the incoherent medieval synthesis, the incoherent medieval synthesis remains as the initial problem. Hence, to answer the question raised at the beginning of this discussion, the key to understanding the structure and internal dynamics of modernity would be neither only the effect of print literacy on Western consciousness nor only the incoherent synthesis of biblical and pagan elements in medieval Christianity but both: the effect of print literacy on a culture attempting to break out of the incoherent medieval synthesis--that is, to fully break away from any concept of "nature"-- might well be to prevent such a breakout and simply shift the emphasis within that synthesis.

As mentioned earlier, in order to be satisfactorily demonstrated, such an analysis would have to be applied in great detail to the key Reformation texts, and at least as importantly, to the historical record of the conditions of everyday life at the time of the Reformation, but the above schematic outline does, I think, show that this thesis has sufficient plausibility to be pursued further.

To illustrate the potential power of this analysis, I will conclude by using this model to sketch out very roughly an understanding of the practical effects of the Reformation's shift in the balance of the creator/natural being model. I think it could be argued that the anthropological ambivalence of the Reformation appears in Luther when he argues that the highest manifestation of Christian ethical life is not monasticism, with its withdrawal from the world, but rather service to one's neighbor, but then understands Christian service largely in terms of labor, that is, activity directed toward the natural order. What is critical to the Protestant ethic as it later developed, especially in Calvinism, is that, although it contains a greater sense of human agency in the idea that labor can improve the human material condition, it still contains remnants of the pagan concept of nature, so that the world is tacitly conceived both as abundant (as the biblical model implies) and stingy (as the pagan model implies), which means that we can produce abundance, but only at the price of an intensely disciplinary attitude toward ourselves, an intensely competitive attitude toward our neighbors, and an intensely confrontational attitude toward our environment. The possibility that abundance could be achieved with less discipline, less competition, less confrontation, and more joy is never really considered in Calvinism or the capitalist economy that derives from it. The eventual result of this incoherent understanding of the human situation is that since the world is indeed abundant, capitalism quickly develops a problem of overproduction, which, since it is unresolvable in terms of the Protestant ethic, can be dealt with only by the creation of a consumer economy in which consumption actually becomes a kind of work requiring intense discipline. Consumer capitalism, which advertises commodities as necessary tools for creating one's own life as a work of art,' can be understood as the final manifestation of radical subjectivism that results from Christianity's mixed metaphor.


Finally, I will very briefly describe what I think are the implications of the foregoing schematic analysis. If the source of the nature/convention dichotomy and its eventual degeneration into the thoroughgoing subjectivism of late modem is simply an extreme visual orientation, as writers such as Ong suggest, then the obvious task would be to recover a more oral orientation, as I discussed earlier. But if, as I have argued here, the problem is more complicated--if literacy only exacerbates, or activates latent perverse possibilities already existing within, an incoherent worldview, or, as I have termed it, a mixed metaphor--then the solution is also more complicated. To escape the rampant subjectivism of late modernity and its political manifestations, it would not be enough to reorient ourselves toward speech and hearing; establishing limits on human action when the true extent of human creative capacities has become manifest would require that the fundamental metaphors that we use to comprehend our world would have to be more systematically, and more self-consciously, reconstructed. Specifically, our religious, philosophical, scientific, ethical, and political concepts, and their practical social embodiments, would have to more accurately articulate the source of that creative capacity--the spoken word.


1. See "The End of History?" The National Interest (Summer 1989): 3-35. Fukuyama's position is considerably more nuanced than most of its subsequent popularizations.

2 .See Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, revised ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

The following works are basic: Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952); Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 195 8); Habermas, Knowledge and Ruman Interests, trans. Jeremy J. Shapiro (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971) and Theory and Practice, trans. John Viertel (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973); MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984); and Taylor, Sources of the Self: Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989).

4. The basic textbook in the field is Walter J. Ong, S.J., Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Methuen, 1982). Other important works by Ong include Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958); The Presence of the Word. Some Prolegomenafor Cultural and Religious History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967; reprint ed., Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 198 1); Rhetoric, Romance, and Technology: Studies in the Interaction of Expression and Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 197 1); Interfaces of the Word. Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1977). Eric A- Havelock ranks with Ong as a preeminent scholar in the field. See Preface to Plato (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1963); Origins of Western Literacy (Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1976); The Greek Concept of Justice: From Its Shadow in Homer to its Substance in Plato (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978); The Literate Revolution in Greece and Its Cultural Consequences (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982); and The Muse Learns to Write: Reflections on Orality and Literacy from Antiquity to the Present (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985). A crucial early study in this field was Jack Goody and Ian Watt, "The Consequences of Literacy," Comparative Studies in Society and History 5 (1963): 304-345. This article appeared later in Jack Goody, ed., Literacy in Traditional Societies, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp. 27-84. Other studies by Goody include The Domestication of the Savage Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977); The Logic of Writing and the Organization of Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); and The Interface Between the Written and the Oral (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). See also J. C. Carothers, "Culture, Psychiatry, and the Written Word," Psychiatry 22 (1959): 307-320; Albert B. Lord, The Singer of Tales, Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature, 24 (Cambridge, mA: Harvard University Press, 1960); Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962).

5. See Ong, Presence of the Word, pp. 49-50.

6. See Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 3 1-3 3, 71-74 and Presence of the Word, pp. 111- 175.

7.See Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 68-69 and Carothers, "Culture, Psychiatry, and the Written Word," pp. 3 11-3 12, 3 14-3 16.

8. S ee Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 3 3 -3 6 and The Presence of the Word, pp. 22-3 5.

9. Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 49-57.

10. See Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 83 -93 and Havelock, Origins of Western Literacy, especially pp. 9-43.                                                                                                                                                             

11. See Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 8 8-93, 101-103; Presence of the Word, pp. 3 5-47;
Havelock, Origins of Western Literacy, pp. 22-50; and Goody, ed., Literacy in Traditional
Societies, pp. 38-44.

12. Ong, Orality and Literacy, p. 9 1.

13. See Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 93-101, 103-116 and Presence of the Word, pp. 53-63,76-87.     

14. See Ong, Orality and Literacy, pp. 117-135 and Presence of the Word, pp. 47-53, 63-76.
See also the discussions in Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of
Change: Communication and Cultural Transformation in Early Modem Europe, 2 vols.
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

15. A good overview of the subject can be found in a conversation between Camille Paglia and Neil Postman, "She Wants Her TV! He Wants His Book!" Harper's, March 1991, pp. 44-55. Postman has written extensively about television in a variety of contexts. See especially Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (New York: Viking, 1985).

16. See Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 194 1) and Karl Lowith Reason in History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949).

17. William H. Poteat, Polanyian Meditations. In Search of a Post-Critical Logic (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1985), p. 117.

18. Poteat, Polanyian Meditations, pp. 116-124.

19. See my Speech and Political Practice: Recovering the Place of Human Responsibility (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1998), pp. 103 -119.

20. Poteat, Polanyian Meditations, pp. 118-119.

21. See Poteat, Polanyian Meditations, pp. 109-116.

22. Note also that Aquinas's conception of reality generally embodies the same incoherent synthesis: God creates an unchanging functional natural order.

23. See Juliet Schorr, The Overspent American (New York: Harper Collins, 1999).

The Search for a More Suitable Science:

Phenomenology, Representation, and Symbols

in the thought of Husserl, Voegelin, and Ricoeur

Copyright 2000 Peter A. Petrakis

Whereas Plato incorporated everything-nonsense, reason and myths-our philosophers admit nothing but nonsense or reason, because they have closed their eyes to the rest. The mole is meditating. Albert Camus, Lyrical and Critical Essays.

Edmund Husserl Eric Voegelin and Paul Ricoeur all refute the position that the scientific method or positivism is the only way for discerning knowledge and/or truth(s). Although their approaches and conclusions differ, all three attempt to demonstrate that what is often dismissed as " subjective experience' is not only important philosophically but crucial for politics and ethics. This is not a new insight. Indeed, the dismissal of the subjective as unscientific and therefore unimportant did not become orthodoxy until the rise of positivism. And although the death of behavioralism as a species and modernity as the genus is much discussed, the past is not easy to escape. Indeed, as Eric Voegelin admits when he abandons his History of Political Ideas, the conceptual and methodological tendencies of modernity are subtle and infused in our consciousness. This essay explores the attempts of three thinkers to generate a more suitable science, one that does not rely, at least not solely, on what frequently passes for empiricism, objectivity, and reason. During this analysis it will become apparent that the dichotomies and conundrums associated with modernity are not easily avoided and that representation plays a pivotal role. Indeed, following the lead of Voegelin and Ricoeur, this essay concludes with a call for a more aesthetic approach to the science of politics. 

Husserl's writings are dense and diffuse. And although he is due considerable praise for his contributions to phenomenology and epistemology, his work lacks coherence. This is due, in part, to his work habits. Husserl edited and reworked his manuscripts numerous times before allowing them to appear in print. Frequently, by the time a work was published, he had changed his philosophic position substantially. His penchant for editing meant that much of his work was not published during his lifetime. The Husserl archives in Louvain house over 40,000 pages of shorthand notes and numerous volumes have been published since his death. Scholars sympathetic with Husserl have, in the past, pointed to these vast archives to deflect criticism. To complicate matters further, Husserl often utilized methods and techniques years before systematically discussing them. Thus, his early works often must be re-read in light of his later works. The main reason for the lack of coherence in Husserl's work, however, lies in the character of phenomenology itself. Phenomenology is more a method than a doctrine and, as such, it is "a prolegomenon to a philosophy, but is not itself the undertaking of an established philosophy."1 Furthermore, "[a]ll of phenomenology is not Husserl, even though he is more less

1Eric Voegelin, "Letter from Voegelin to Alfred Schutz on Edmund Husserl," September 17, 1943, included in Faith and Political Philosophy: The Correspondence Between Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin, 1934-1964, trans. and ed. Peter Emberley and Barry Cooper, (University Park: Pennsylvania State Press, 1993), p. 20. 

its center,"2 and numerous subsequent philosophers have used phenomenology as a tool without embracing all of Husserl's conclusions. These elements make interpretations of Husserl complicated. Indeed, Ricoeur remarked that a careful study of Husserl reveals that he "abandoned along the way as many routes as he took. This is the case to such a degree that in a broad sense phenomenology is both the sum of Husserl's own variations and the heresies issuing from it." 3 

Despite these difficulties, there is one element that unites all of Husserl's work-his desire to establish objective or verifiable truth.4 His notion of objectivity and verification, however, must be distinguished from the natural sciences. For Husserl, 'truth' cannot depend upon physical reality; after all, Descartes demonstrated the unreliable character of observations derived from the senses. Furthermore, the scientific method demands that observations be confirmed or verified by others. This, in turn, requires language and/or symbols. Husserl sought a purer form of knowledge; knowledge that was direct and unmediated.

Husserl had two main goals in Logical Investigations. First, he wanted to distinguish philosophy from psychology and he did this by pointing out its connection to the natural sciences. At the beginning of the twentieth century, when psychology was a sub-field of philosophy, psychology attempted to become more rigorous by adopting the techniques and methods of empiricism and the scientific method. For Husserl, this had the opposite effect and meant that psychology could only attain approximations or estimates of the mind. Husserl devotes the first section of Logical Investigations to refuting psychology as a method for discovering truths about the human mind. His second aim was to establish pure logic, which for Husserl required separating out the general conditions or laws which govern deduction. Yet supplying the formal rules regulating and constraining logical thought was insufficient. Husserl wrote 

An act of judgment which violates these conditions [formal logic] can never result in truth .... But on the other hand, even if it satisfies the requirements of these laws it does not thereby attain its goal .... Accordingly, this insight compels us to ask what must be added, over and above these formal conditions of the possibility of truth.... These supplementary conditions lie on the subjective side, and concern the subjective characteristics of intuitability, of self-evidence, and the subjective conditions of its attainment.... The problems of logic are ... twosided .... On the one side we have the question of the constitution of forms and 

2Paul Ricoeur, Husserl: An Analysis of His Phenomenology, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1967), p. 3.

3Ibid., p. 4 

 4For an interesting discussion of this topic see Leszek Kolakowski, Husserl and the Search for Certitude, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975).

5It should be noted that Husserl, like so many great thinkers of this period, was initially trained as a mathematician. His first philosophic works, to fulfill his Habilitationsschrift, were devoted to mathematics and demonstrate the powerful influence of Bretano. 

their laws and, on the other, that of the subjective conditions of the attainment of self-evidence.6  

But how can the subjective side of consciousness serve to ground truth? This hinges on Husserl's theory of consciousness in general and his notion of perception in particular. Husserl maintains that all consciousness is intentional, and by this he means several things. First, intentionality is a directional term. A subject's consciousness is oriented toward some particular object. But Husserl intends another meaning by intentionality. Following Bretano who in turn was guided by the Scholastics, intentionality also describes the content of consciousness. Intentionality refers to that which is immanent in a subject's consciousness and, it is important to
note, that this content differs from that which is 'real' or physically present.7 For Husserl, phenomenological reality is distinct from the natural world. "Perhaps the greatest single doctrinal innovation to emerge in the Logical Investigations is Husserl's rejection of mereological adequacy, and his adoption of a radically new account of intentionality. Far from allowing the content and the object of a mental act to coalesce, the hallmark of the new theory is that, with respect to any particular mental act, content and object never coincide."8 This conception of consciousness has certain advantages, such as mediating the idealism/realism dichotomy. For
example, in that the otherness of all objects can never be overcome, all objects transcend consciousness; yet when objects are the target of an intentional consciousness, they become immanent in the consciousness.

In an effort to explain how consciousness interacts with a completely other natural world, Husserl asserts the primacy of perception over intentional acts. He contends that perception presents objects before consciousness immediately and without need of mediation. Perception is presupposed. Ricoeur observes that this position provides him with both a description and a critique. phenomenology carries out a frontal attack on a conviction belonging to all Galileans. The first truth of the world is not the truth of mathematical physics but the truth of perception; or rather the truth of science is erected as a superstructure upon a first foundation of presence and existence, that of the world lived perceptually. Husserl can thus maintain the transcendence of the perceived with respect to consciousness by a criticism of the critique of "secondary qualities," all the while denying the existence in-themselves of the things perceived. This difficult and original setting up of the problem of reality is phenomenology's
essential philosophic contribution.9

6Edmund Husserl, Experience and Judgment Investigatins in a Genealogy of Logic, ed. L. Langrebe, trans. J. S. Churchill and K. Ameriks, (London: Routledge, 1973), p. 17.

7See Theodore De Boer, The Development of Husserl's Thought trans. Theodore Plantinga, (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1978), pp. 7-9, and 3 5 -45.

8David Bell, Husserl, (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 115.

9Ricoeur, Husserl, p. 9

This "difficult and original" approach requires philosophers or scientists to reject the "natural thesis or standpoint" and "see" the world phenomenologically. In other words, rather than focusing on physical objects, philosophers must concentrate on the activities and objects occurring within consciousness. Only these objects are unniediated and therefore true. This shift in focus is the famous phenomenological reduction or the reduction of all consciousness to the meanings and processes within consciousness. Put differently, the phenomenological method reduces, brackets, or suspends that which is transcendent in order to reveal that which is immanent and thereby disclose the proper subject matter of science.10

This unique and powerful tool yields some valuable insights into the nature of the human mind and consciousness. Yet, as Husserl's conception of intentionality and phenomenology develops, a serious problem emerges. As phenomenology changes from descriptive, to perceptual, to transcendental, it becomes solipsistic. In Cartesian Meditations, Husserl attempts to deal with solipsism by situating phenomenology within the history of philosophy; yet for Husserl, Descartes is the true beginning of philosophy. According to Husserl, Descartes' greatness was creating a philosophy that was both a science and a grounding of all other sciences; but Descartes did not go far enough. "Descartes betrayed his own radicalism for the doubt should have put an end to all objective externality and should have disengaged a subjectivity without an j absolute external world."11 Determined to extend Descartes, Husserl's theory of consciousness becomes more than an epistemological study, it takes on ontological implications. "The world is not only 'for me' but draws all of its being-status 'from me.' The world becomes the 'world-perceived-in- the-reflective life.''12 In the Cartesian Meditations, Husserl's theory of consciousness becomes egological. "This is a philosophy where being not only never gives the force of reality to the object, but above all never founds the reality of the ego itself. Thus, as an egology it is a cogito without res cogitans, a cogito without the absolute measure of the idea of infinity, without the unique cogitatum which would be the mark of an entirely different foundational subjectivity."13 In short, Husserl's search for a fundamental science has ended in solipsism; and, as with any form of solipsism, the major problem is how to account for others.

Husserl confronts the problem of the other in his "Fifth Cartesian Mediation" and the fact that this essay is nearly as long as the previous four combined hints at the seriousness of the problem. No matter how internally coherent a philosophy may be, solipsism is always confronted with serious common sense objections. For example, how can a solipsistic philosophy account for history, tradition, and diversity? Ricoeur's humanist approach to the problem is equally challenging when he observes that "according to common sense the other egos are not reducible to the representation that one has of them. They are not even represented objects, unities of 

10Jeffrey Bell, The Problem of Difference: Phenomenology and Poststructuralism, (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), pp. 65-67.
11Ricoeur, p. 83.
12 Ibid., p. 10.
13Ibid., p. 84.

sense Others are other than 1; they are other egos." Yet if Husserl is to remain faithful to
phenomenology, others can be "real" only through and because of one's consciousness. Ricoeur
maintains that Husserl was aware of the insoluble nature of this problem and "this is why
reduction to the sphere of ownness constitutes in no way a dissolution of the Other into me but
rather the recognition of the paradox as paradox. "14 Husserl attempts to resolve this
paradox-accounting for others-by means of analogy.

Let us assume that another man enters our perceptual sphere. Primordially reduced, that signifies: In the perceptual sphere pertaining to my primordial Nature, a body is presented, which, as primordial, is of course only a determining part of myself an "immanent transcendency". Since in this nature and in this world, my animate organism is the only body that is or can constituted originally as an animate organism (a functioning organ), the body over there, which is nevertheless apprehended as an animate organism, must have derived this sense by an apperceptive transfer from my animate organism, and done so in a manner that
excludes an actually direct, and hence primordial, showing of the predicates belonging to an animate organism specifically, a showing of them in perception proper. It is clear from the very beginning that only a similarity connecting, within my primordial sphere, that body over there with my body can serve as the motivational basis for the "analogizing" apprehension of that body as another organism. 15
Husserl distinguishes between analogies that "go from object to object in the same sphere of experience" and the type of analogy which accounts for others. The latter analogies function on "the level of 'passive genesis,' as when we understand a new reality with one already known: the new understanding proceeds from an antecedent experience which furnishes a sort of originary institution." Although analogies are not the end of the procedure-they only furnish the intentionality of the other, which must in turn be fulfilled in one's consciousness by appresentation-they serve an important mediating function. Fulfilling a role much like perception, analogies account for others in a "process of prereflective, antepredicative, experience."16

Analogies perform a vital function for Husserl. They ameliorate problems connected to his solipsism by conveying knowledge or a "new understanding." This is significant. Voegelin and Ricoeur argue that certain forms of representation-myth, symbol, metaphor, and narrative-are the only way to express the inexpressible, to convey the experience of paradox. Yet Husserl is not using analogies in this manner. For Husserl, analogies are not to be thought of as a particular type of signification, whether semiotic or semantic. Husserlian analogies are contained within a single consciousness; they do not bridge the gap between self and other. One

14Ibid., pp. 116-119.

15Edmund Husserl, Cartesian Meditations, trans. Dorion Cairns, (Hague: Martinus Nihoff Publishers, 1960), p. I 10.

16Ricoeur, p. 126.

understands an other through reduction. I perceive that this other animate object appears to be similar to me and therefore I attribute, via analogy, it objectivity or immanence within my consciousness. In short, Husserl's egology is maintained. Husserl's inattention to the characteristics and potential of analogical representation is to
be expected. He was still under the spell of Enlightenment thinking and/or modernity. Seeking an unequivocal foundation for his science, Husserl maintains that authentic knowledge must not be mediated. It must be pure and avoid the vagaries of language and representation. Such a desire is destined to be frustrated. There is no unequivocal beginning point, a moment when knowledge is pure and untainted, upon which one can erect a science that will absolve human experience of doubt, of paradox.

Although Voegelin is highly critical of Husserl, there are some striking similarities. One
need only look at the title and "Introduction" of Voegelin's best known work, The New Science
of Politics: An Introduction,
to illustrate this point. The NSP, which is an effort to retheorize the
science of politics, was necessary because of the "destruction of science which characterized the
positivistic era in the second half of the nineteenth century"; and like Husserl, Voegelin points to
the rise and success of the natural sciences and mathematics as the chief culprits.17 Furthermore,
his definition of positivism as "the intention of making the social sciences 'scientific' through the
use of methods which as closely as possible resemble the methods employed in sciences of the
natural world," is akin to Husserl's attack on psychology. Indeed, Voegelin acknowledges this
when he writes "[tlhinkers like Husserl or Cassirer, for instance, were still positivists of the
Comtean persuasion with regard to their philosophies of history; but Husserl's critique of
psychologism and Cassirer's philosophy of symbolic forms were important steps toward the
restoration of theoretical relevance."18 Furthermore, Voegelin's attack on "value-free" science,
as well as his theory of consciousness, philosophy of history, and focus on symbols, are efforts to
reconsider the objective/subjective dichotomy so prevalent in the social sciences. Voegelin writes:
The notion of a value-judgment (Werturteil) is meaningless in itself, it gains its meaning from a situation in which it is opposed to judgments concerning facts (Tatsachenurteile). And this situation was created through the positivistic conceit that only propositions concerning facts of the phenomena] world were "objective,"
while judgments concerning the right order of the soul and society were
"subjective. "19

These comments must not obscure the important differences between the two thinkers. Voegelin's comments and criticisms of Husserl are varied but the most sustained remarks come from two sources-Anamnesis and Voegelin's correspondence with Alfred Schutz, in particular a

17Eric Voegelin, The New Science of politics: An Introduction, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), p.4.

18Ibid., p. 11.

19Ibid., p. 11.

letter written September 17, 1943 .20 In both instances, Voegelin's criticism centers on Husserl's philosophy of history. A thorough account of this critique is beyond the scope of this paper and not particularly necessary. For although Voegelin's critique is profound, he did not take Husserl to task on the basis of language and the role of analogical forms of representation. This is surprising given that symbols play such a crucial role in Voegelin's efforts to develop, or more accurately recover, an authentic science of politics and philosophy. 

Voegelin's interest in symbols is grounded in his disaffection with modernity in general and positivism in particular. Deeply concerned with the political implications of modem conceptions of reason and science, initially Voegelin embarked on a history of political ideas in order to recover a suitable science of politics and theory of man. As Voegelin writes: 

The "History of Political Ideas" had started from the conventional assumptions that there are ideas, that they have a history, and that a "History of Political Ideas" would have to work its way from Classical politics up to the present. Under these assumptions, I had humbly worked through the materials, and a manuscript of several thousand pages was in existence.

Still, the various misgivings that had arisen in the course of the work now crystallized into the understanding that a "History of Political Ideas" was a senseless undertaking.... Ideas turned out to be a secondary conceptual development, beginning with the Stoics, intensified in the High Middle Ages, and radically unfolding into concepts which are assumed to refer to a reality other than the reality experienced. And this reality other than the reality experienced does not exist. Hence, ideas are liable to deform the truth of the experiences and their symbolization.... The interest, thus, moved from ideas to the experiences of reality that engendered a variety of symbols for their articulation.... I had to give up the "ideas" as objects of a history and to establish the experiences as the reality to be explored historically. These experiences, however, one could explore only by exploring their articulation through symbols. The identification of the subject matter and, with the subject matter of the method to be used in its exploration led to the principle that lies at the basis of all my later work: i.e., the reality of experience is self-interpretive. The men who have the experiences express them through symbols; and the symbols are the key to the understanding of the experience expressed.21 

This statement reveals both Voegelin's increasing wariness of contemporary language and his belief that representation is critical to authentic philosophic discourse. He focuses on symbols

20For an overview of Voegelin's relationship to Husserl and an exegesis of his correspondence with Schutz, see David J. Levy, "Europe, Truth, and History: Husserl and Voegelin on Philosophy and the Identity of Europe," included in International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Eric Voegelin, ed. Stephen A. McKnight and Geoffrey L. Price, (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997).

21Eric Voegelin, "Autobiographical Memoir," as quoted by Ellis Sandoz in The
Voegelinian Revolution, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981), pp. 80-8 1.

because they maintain connection to the experiences that engender them, whereas ideas either are, or easily become, detached from experience and hence have the tendency to be perceived as constituting a reality of their own. This proclivity toward abstraction and misplaced concreteness is one of the major elements of modernity's derailment; it leads not only to the reductionist fallacy preeminent in the modem sciences, but, ultimately, to the truncation of being (or a position like Husserl's where ontology is not only reduced but denied or at the very least ignored). Lured into the false belief that ideas or concepts are the reality to be studied, most social scientists fail in their analysis of human existence because they do not take into account the full range of human experience.

Although Voegelin's primary interest lies in the representative historical expressions of experience, he recognizes that it is through symbols that these expressions are manifest and understood. According to Voegelin, history is an accounting of the experience-symbolizations of human beings. He states:

The existence of man in political society is historical existence; and a theory of politics, if it penetrates to principles, must at the same time be a theory of history. The following lectures on the central problem of a theory of politics, on representation, will, therefore, carry the inquiry beyond a description of the
conventionally so-called representative institutions into the nature of representation as the form by which a political society gains existence for action in history. Moreover, the analysis will not stop at this point but will proceed to an exploration of the symbols by which political societies interpret themselves as representatives of a transcendent truth.22

But what actually constitutes a political society? Ellis Sandoz describes the "what" of Voegelin's studies as "social reality." The careful selection of such terms as "political societies" and "social reality" are efforts at avoiding objectification. What must be understood is that "social reality is not an object in nature to be studied by the theorist merely externally. Each society, Voegelin suggests, possesses not only externality but also an internal dimension of meaningfulness through which the human beings who inhabit it interpret existence to themselves.23 The symbols to be studied, then, are those that express both the internal (subjective) and external (objective) dimensions of existence.

The self-illumination of society through symbols is an integral part of social reality, and one may even say its essential part, for through such symbolization the members of a society experience it as more than an accident or a convenience; they experience it as of their human essence. And, inversely, the symbols express the

22Eric Voegelin. 7he New Science of Politics: An Introduction, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952), p. 1.

23Ellis Sandoz, The Voegelinian Revolution, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University,198 1), p. 93.

experience that man is fully man by virtue of his participation in a whole which transcends his particular existence. "24 

Truly representative political symbolizations exemplify the existential and historical as well as factual aspects of both the individual and the community. Symbols are engendered from the experiences of the individuals who make up a particular community, but the community is not simply the aggregation of disparate experiences. Representative political symbols reflect not just individuals but also constitute something more grand-a whole, a little world or a cosmion. Individuals come to understand that they are not fully human unless they participate in "a whole which transcends [their] particular existence." This process of self-illumination through symbols is not the exception but the rule: "every human society has an understanding of itself through a variety of symbols. ,25 In addition, the study of symbols reveals certain shared experiences concerning the nature of reality and the structure of order. These experiences are not identical, but they are similar enough to be called equivalent.26 These equivalent experiences are the political fundamentals for which Voegelin was searching; and this is what he means by his statement that " [t]he order of history emerges from the history of order. "27 What complicates the inquiry is the fact that while the act of representative symbolization is universal, the manner and/or form in which this self- illurnination takes place is not. There are, in Voegelin's eyes, various degrees of compact and differentiated symbolizations scattered throughout time and space, and the symbolizations, themselves play a role in how reality is experienced. In other words, the relationship between experience and symbolization is interdependent. One cannot journey back to the arche, to experience a reality prior to any symbolizations; that is a modem flight of fancy. The beginning is just as mysterious as the end .28 Nor can it be said that experiences precede symbols or vice versa; all that can be known is that they exist in an integral and symbiotic relationship." Symbols and experiences are continually

24Ibid p. 27.

25Ibid p. 28.

26Voegelin points out, in his excellent essay, "The Equivalences of Experience and Symbolizations in History," that the urge to find identical experiences is a modem fallacy. The equivalences essay is included in The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, vol. XII, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), p. 115.

27Eric Voegelin, Order and History, vol. I, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 1956), p. ix.

28For Voegelin's discussion concerning the inability to know the arche see his introduction to Order and History: The Ecumenic Age, vol - IV, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), especially the section entitled "The Beginning and The Beyond," pp. 7-11.

29This is what makes escaping the effects of Enlightenment thinking or deformations of modernity so difficult. It is one thing to identify particular symbols and quite another to grasp the impact generations of symbols has had on consciousness.

being rearticulated in light of one another, and this is precisely what Voegelin's five volume magnum opus, Order and History, was designed to explore.
Voegelin argues that within any social reality there are two sets of symbolizations of order: the symbols commonly accepted by the general populace and the symbols of political science. Utilizing Heraclitean language, Voegelin describes the former symbols as the xynon; and while these can be highly differentiated language symbols, they are not the symbols of political science. The latter are only generated when the commonly accepted symbols are taken by philosophers or artists who "order and clarify the meanings by the criteria of his theory. "30 While Voegelin's interest centers on the symbols of political science, he is not dismissive of the xynon. The fact that philosophers and political scientists do not theorize upon a world devoid of symbolizations of order, but extract the best and most pertinent symbols that have already been articulated by the community, and then attempt to clarify them by inserting them into more differentiated symbols, is itself a crucial realization. Science and philosophy are not free to conjure new and abstract theories upon an imaginary tabula rasa, but confront this world and all its problems amidst a host of already articulated experience-symbolizations. In other words, the philosopher is part of the process; there is no Archimedean point outside the flux of existence and distinct from human experiences from which to theorize. This does not mean that previously accepted symbols always maintain their representative character. Personal and historical experience reveals that commonly accepted symbols occasionally lose resonance. When this is the case, "new" symbolizations emerge. Sometimes these moments are pivotal, and entirely new orientations are required. This occurs when the traditional symbols of order have degenerated to a state where the people have lost faith in them. The only recourse, then, is for the generation of symbols that constitute an enormous change in perception, or a "leap in being" in Voegelin!s words. Such innovations are similar to Kuhn's paradigm shifts in that they alter the way virtually everything is perceived; afterwards, the world is understood in very different terms. For example, instead of the world being flat, or populated by multi-deities, the world is round and governed by one god. Most of the time, new symbolizations are not so radical but merely reclarifications-alterations, to be sur"thin the same "mode" of being.

The creation of "new" symbols as well as the clarification of old symbols takes place within the collective consciousness of a community. Both creative acts are rearticulations; and both are motivated by the hope of restoring vitality to the ordering symbols of a society. Voegelin argues that these acts of reinvigoration are essential to the health of symbols and social reality. However, he contends that there are legitimate and illegitimate rearticulations, and proposes to provide the tools to discern which ones are authentic and which ones are not. Unlike Husserl, who rejects the "empiricar' sciences, Voegelin not only utilizes but relies on archaeological and historical studies. Voegelin strives to provide internal and external evidence to describe conscious human existence.

Voegelin asserts that the overwhelming majority of symbolizations of order share certain characteristics. They reveal a quaternarian structure to existence. The vast majority of symbolizations of order, at least until the deformations of modernity, include four fundamental elements: man, society, world, and god. Although the depiction of and relations between these

30Voegelin, NSP, p. 28.

realms has differed, these dimensions of existence are predominant in symbols of order. Additionally, Voegelin asserts that it is not enough that these elements simply be present. What is crucial to legitimate symbolizations is that human beings assume the proper role or place within the hierarchy of being. Man, perhaps best represented by Aristotle as neither beast nor god, exists in the In-Between or metaxy In other words, humans are part of this world while at the same time they transcend it. The tremendous benefit of symbols is, that by their very form they are illustrative of this condition. While preserving a connection to experience, symbols, nevertheless, transcend this world. They can embody elements of human experience, such as history, that are both of and not of this world. In this way, symbols both display a fecundity that is analogous to abstract ideas and concepts, yet, are always limited in that they are bound by human experience. In effect, symbols represent or articulate the In-Between character of human existence. They mirror human creativity and potential in that they are, in Ricouer's words, both bound and free. Voegelin's new science explores the trail of symbolizations throughout history and proposes that there are ontological criteria to legitimate symbolizations of order. In this way Voegelin not only explored the history of symbols of order, but also revealed a method to diagnose modem political, social, cultural, and even theological afflictions. This is his well known conception of gnosticism.

In order to diagnose modernity, Voegelin first had to understand the previous experiences of order. The earliest symbols unearthed reveal experiences of human beings to be one of integral participation; humans understood their identity, individual as well as social, as an undifferentiated part of the great strewn of being. It was an experience of oneness, where "[tlhe community of being is experienced with such intimacy that the consubstantiality of the partners will override the separateness of substances."31 This experience of unity with being is represented through symbols that are cosmological in form. "[B]y letting [the] vegetative rhythms and celestial revolutions function as models for the structural and procedural order of society," political order is an attempt at mimesis. 32Voegelin examines various cosmological societies of the Near East as examples of this primordial form of political representation, but examples exist on every continent.
Despite the monumental efforts of cosmological societies to integrate the rituals of their societies into perfect harmony with the cycles of the seasons and the planets, periods of disintegration inevitably occurred. Whether the causes were natural disasters, pressure from neighboring civilizations or a combination, periods of disorder emerged. As disaster overwhelmed the cosmological empires, the efficacy and legitimacy of cosmological symbols were called into question. Such skepticism is to be expected. After all, any rearticulation begins first with profound doubt. When "cosmologically symbolized empires break down and in their disaster engulf the trust in cosmic order.... if the cosmos is not the source of lasting order in human existence, [then] where is the source of order to be found?" This was (and continues to be) the question to be answered.
The dissatisfaction with the cosmos as the ground or foundation for political order prompted a reorientation, a turn to something that is "more lasting than the visibly existing world-that is, toward the invisibly existing being beyond all being in tangible existence." This

31Voegelin, O& H, vol I p. 3.

32Ibid Vol. I, p. 6.

longing for a more reliable foundation, for an invisible divine being that is not subject to the whims and chaos of the natural world, was the impetus for change. This longing, in time, induced a "shift toward macroanthropic symbolization [which] becomes manifest in the differentiation of philosophy and religion out of the preceding, more compact forms of symbolization. "33

This shift, from cosmological symbolizations of order to symbols of divine and unseen macroanthropic symbols, initiated a differentiation in human consciousness. Corning to recognize that humans are, in large part, separate and distinct from other aspects of being, compact symbolizations of order, where man is not seen as distinct from society, the natural world, or the cosmos, were replaced by more differentiated symbols. In other words, the quatemarian structure of existence became more explicit, more distinct. Now, and this is crucial for Voegelin, the actual structure of existence remains unchanged. What differentiates is not reality but human consciousness. The radical new truths must not "obscure the fact that the differentiation of existential truth does not abolish the cosmos in which the events occur.34 Reality is unaltered. The only difference is that human consciousness no longer perceives existence as undifferentiated but rather as a series of distinct realms. In traditional philosophical language, individuals become self-conscious and realize their separateness, their distinctiveness.

In the first three volumes of Order and History, Voegelin is guided by the assumption that a line of development can be deduced. Given this initial assumption Order and History was originally to be a six volume set: Israel and Revelation; The World of the Polis; Plato and Aristotle; Empire and Christianity; The Protestant Centuries; and The Crisis of Western Civilization. Such a conception suffers from a positivistic perspective of history not unlike Ernst Cassirer in that symbolic forms develop along a linear pattern and each transition is accompanied by a shift in human consciousness and perception. For Cassirer, however, the ability of humans to manipulate symbols in an abstract environment is a positive achievement; indeed, it is this ability which has allowed humans to make such tremendous advances in the natural sciences. Voegelin agrees that the development of symbolic representation prompted the discoveries of the natural sciences, but counters that it also led to severe deformations. The ability to generate abstract symbols, inherent in the natural sciences as well as the emulations of the social sciences, led to the persistent problems of misplaced concreteness and a tendency toward reductionism. Such dispositions deny important facets of human experience as mere subjectivism, attempt to truncate being, and, eventually result in overblown beliefs concerning human potentiality. These mistakes are easy to make. Indeed, Voegelin himself fell prey to a form of misplaced concreteness with, in the first three volumes of Order and History, his emphasis on a progressive, linear development of history. This is yet another pernicious modem fallacy which reveals a "monomaniacal desire to force the operations of the spirit in history on the one line that will unequivocally lead to the speculator's present."35 As Voegelin's examination expanded to the full range of sources available, he noticed an ecumenic character of symbols. Symbolizations of order could not be reduced to a

33Ibid., vol 1, p. 6.

34 Voegelin, O & H, vol. IV, p. 8-9.

35Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, p. 3.

single line of development, with Greece and Israel earmarked as the most influential sites of differentiation because "[t]he process of history, and such order as can be discerned in it, is not a story to be told from beginning to its happy, or unhappy, end; it is a mystery in process of revelation."36 Additionally, and contrary to his original conception, the gnostic tendencies that were at the heart of the ideological movements of the twentieth century could not be traced simply to ill conceived products of differentiated human consciousness as achieved by the Greeks and Hebrews. Gnostic tendencies were also apparent in the earlier forms of representation, the cosmological experience-symbolizations. Voegelin explains that

 When I devised the program I was still laboring under the conventional belief that the conception of history as a meaningful course of events on a straight line of time was the great achievement of Israelites and Christians who were favored in its creation by the revelatory events, while the pagans, deprived as they were of revelation, could never rise above the conception of a cyclical time. This conventional belief had to be abandoned when I discovered the unilinear construction of history, from a divine-cosmic origin of order to the author's present, to be a symbolic form developed by the end of the third millennium B.C. in the empires of the Ancient Near East. To this form I gave the name historiogenesis.

The discovery disturbed the program seriously. There was more at stake than a conventional assumption now disproved. For the very unilinear history which I had supposed to be engendered, together with the punctuation of meaning on it, by the differentiating events, turned out to be a cosmological symbolism.37 This new conception of history forced Voegelin to seriously consider such question as "was there perhaps something of a "leap in being" in the foundation of empire? and inversely, was there perhaps something imperial about spiritual outbursts?"38 Such questions challenge both the western preoccupation with the Greek and Judeo-Christian experiences as well as Voegelin's analysis concerning the roots of the modem political malaise. Given Voegelin' s new conception of history, the tendency toward gnosticism could not be characterized as coterminous with differentiated symbolisms. He states: "Above all, the anti- cosmism of the Gnostic movement is not a deformation of Christianity, for the Gnostic distortion of reality through the contraction of divine order into the Beyond of consciousness precedes the Christian pneumatic differentiation. "39 Voegelin eventually concluded that while differentiated symbolizations of order are more likely to result in gnostic movements, there appears to be a universal human tendency to totalize experience. At the root of this tendency is the human desire to escape the uncertainty of existence. Legitimate rearticulations of experience-symbolization maintain an openness to the full

36Ibid p. 6.

37 Ibid., p. 7.

38Voegelin, Ecumenic Age, p. 7.

39Ibid p. 23.

range of human experience. They do not artificially truncate the realm of being for some human purpose; and they do insist on a sense of limits. Thus, symbols of order can be generated or rearticulated. that both ground the political order but do not absolve chaos. The mystery remains Indeed, the clearest sign that a symbol is deformed is if it claims to resolve the mystery. Symbols, if they are sensitive to the limits of human knowledge, always maintain an awareness of mystery. Further, it is impossible, or at least untenable, to assert a single unassailable interpretation of a symbol or myth. Their very form ensures ambiguity and preserves contingency. Symbols only maintain their efficacy if they are continually reinvigorated by sensitive participants; they must be perpetually revisited. And because individuals always bring with them specific concerns and dilemmas endemic to their time period, the symbolic horizon is always in a state of flux; it changes with the concerns of the times. While ideas, theories, or concepts are not excluded from this sort of updating, the inherent ambiguity of symbols makes renewal of this sort easier. This ability to adjust more readily to the times is a crucial advantage. Ricoeur Whereas Voegelin illuminates the relationship between experience and symbolization, Ricoeur focuses on the interpretative dimensions of myths, symbols, metaphors, and narratives. Ricoeur describes his philosophical project as an attempt to meld three distinct philosophical traditions. He states: "it stands in the line of a reflexive40  philosophy; it remains within the sphere of Husserlian phenomenology; it strives to be a hermeneutical variation of this phenomenology."41Although the traditions of hermeneutics and phenomenology are clear, at least to their origins and primary authors, the reflexive tradition is ambiguous. Realizing this, Ricoeur explicitly discusses what he means by "reflexive" philosophy. He states: A reflexive philosophy considers the most radical philosophical problems to be those that concern the possibility of self-understanding as the subject of the operations of knowing, willing, evaluating, and so on. Reflexion is that act of turning back upon itself by which a subject grasps, in a moment of intellectual clarity and moral responsibility, the unifying principle of the operations among which it is dispersed and forgets itself as subject.42 Ricoeur's association with the reflexive tradition, with which he identifies Descartes, Kant and French post-Kantian thought, is limited. Gabriel Marcel, it appears, taught Ricoeur "a profound respect for the mystery of being," and this in turn fostered "a deep distrust for any simple reductive explanation of man or culture."43 He wondered:

40The translators note that in French the adjective reflexive incorporates two meanings which are delineated in English by reflective and reflexive. Both meanings should be kept in mind

41Paul Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," From Text to Action: Essays in Hermeneutics, trans. Kathleen Blarney and John B. Thompson (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 199 1), p. 12.

42jbid., P. 12.

43Don Ihde, Hermeneutic Phenomenology: The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 197 1), p. 8.

But how can the "I think" know or recognize itself? It is here that phenomenology-and more especially hermeneutics-represent both a realization and a radical transformation of the very program of reflexive philosophy. Indeed, the idea of reflexion carries with it the desire for absolute transparence, a perfect coincidence of the self with itself, which would make consciousness of self indubitable knowledge and, as such, more fundamental than all forms of positive knowledge. It is this fundamental demand that phenomenology first of all, and then hermeneutics, continue to project onto an ever more distant horizon as philosophy goes on providing itself with the instruments of thought capable of satisfying it.44 

Ricoeur's work, then, is an attempt to fulfill the reflexive tradition's goal-that of disclosing the self-by relying upon the newest philosophical instruments. Yet his work was tempered by a deep respect for the mystery of being. However, as the above quotation demonstrates, Ricoeur's dissatisfaction with the reflexive tradition does not stem simply from a respect for the mystery of being. Ricoeur realized that the reflexive tradition was complicated by the emergence of certain contemporary philosophical techniques, such as phenomenology and hermeneutics. From divergent beginnings, these two disciplines reveal that disclosure of identity is a much more complicated affair than the reflexive tradition implied. With regard to phenomenology, Ricoeur states: "The great discovery of phenomenology, within the limits of the phenomenological reduction itself, remains intentionality, that is to say, in its least technical sense, the priority of the consciousness of something over self-consciousness."45 Phenomenology reveals the status of human existence to be one of integral participation. Self-conscious beings are not always self-conscious but frequently perceive the world through conscious or even unconscious perspectives. Responding to this, phenomenology takes the inattentive as well as the attentive into account in an effort to offer a more conclusive perspective of human consciousness. However, a more descriptive and accurate account of human consciousness is not phenomenology's actual goal; its ultimate aim is the transparent self He states that "Husserl, in those of his theoretical texts most evidently marked by an idealism reminiscent of Fichte, conceives of phenomenology not only as a method of description, in terms of their essences, of the fundamental modes of organizing experience ... but also as a radical self-grounding in the most complex intellectual clarity.46 However, Husserl and phenomenology never achieve this clarity because the concrete work of phenomenology, in particular in the studies devoted to the constitution of "things," reveals-by way of regression-levels, always more and more fundamental, at which the active syntheses continually refer to ever more radical passive syntheses. Phenomenology is thus caught up in an infinite

44Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," pp. 12-13.

45Ibid p. 13.

46Ibid., p. 13. (Emphasis added).

movement of "backward questioning" in which its project of radical self-grounding
fades away.47
The phenomenological search for foundations, in the end, discredits foundations, and "it is this
that gives to Husserl's work its tragic grandeur."48
Ricoeur attempts to remedy this situation by combining phenomenology and hermeneutics.
He asserts that modem hermeneutics, albeit by analyzing texts instead of consciousness, is driven
by the same overriding goal as phenomenology: the disclosure of the authentic self Expanding
from biblical exegesis to the analysis of classical, juridical, and literary works, hermeneutics
gradually broadened its scope from an analysis of specific texts or genres to an exposition of
"what it is to understand" or Verstehen. This new focus-one that Ricoeur feels had the
significance of a "Copernican reversal"-leads hermeneutics to inquiries concerning "the relation
between sense and self, between the intelligibility of the first and the reflexive nature of the
second."49 However, interpreting a text, any text, is not a simple affair. Upon close examination,
it is not possible to say that the text "originates" or is "created" by the author; and, it is equally
incorrect to say that a text "originates" or is "created" by the reader. Hermeneutics shows that
reader, writer, and text are inextricably linked to one another. A full appreciation of a text must
take into account the interrelations of these various entities. In short, hermeneutics exposes that
textual existence is, like human existence, one of participation. Thus, both phenomenology and
hermeneutics present similar findings about human beings and their relations to the world. Just as
phenomenology reveals that the pursuit of a self existing in unobstructed self-consciousness
escaping all passive syntheses-is an endless and ultimately fruitless endeavor, the hermeneutical
analysis of texts and their relation to authors and readers results in logical circles of a similar
Ricoeur's position is that both phenomenology and hermeneutics fail to realize their initial
goal-attaining the immediate and direct correlation between sense and self-because they do not
realize that human participation is not a development but is always presupposed. There can be no
Archimedean point outside the flow to begin from. He states: "It is because we find ourselves
first of all in world to which we belong and in which we cannot but participate that we are then
able, in a second movement, to set up objects in opposition to ourselves, objects that we claim to
constitute and master intellectually.50 Verstehen, whether in the realm of phenomenology or
hermeneutics, has, as Heidegger pointed out, an ontological signification. Acts of interpretation
or awareness of self are secondary developments; presupposed by the condition of participation,
they are responses to the human condition. Ricoeur states:
Verstehenis the response of a being thrown into the world who finds his way
about in it by projecting onto it his ownmost possibilities. Interpretation, in the

47Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," p. 15.
48Ibid., p. 14.
49Ibid., p. 14.
5OIbid., p. 14.

technical sense of the interpretation of texts, is but the development, the making explicit of this ontological understanding, an understanding always inseparable from a being that has initially been thrown into this world."51

In epistemological terms, the self cannot disclose itself immediately to itself but has to first take into account its preconditions. This is precisely what Heidegger attempts to do in Being in Time and Ricoeur greatly admires his contributions. However, Ricoeur criticizes Heidegger for trying to comprehend authentic human existence too directly. Instead, Ricoeur focuses on interpretation as the response human beings have once they realize their ontological status-they set out to interpret the world or project their possibilities. Heidegger dismisses such activities as ontic, and therefore not the target of his inquiries, and proceeds to investigate Dasein at its most fundamental levels. Ricoeur counters that hermeneutics and phenomenology teach that such quick and direct paths to unity are impossible. One cannot simply return to an authentic experience of ontology but must first wade through the various "projections" of human beings. This is referred to as Ricoeur's "long way" to being as opposed to Heidegger's "short way." The significant "justification of the long way over the short way to ontology [involves] the[ir] underlying differences in the fore-comprehension of human being. For Ricoeur, the unity of man can only be a regulative idea, not achieved in existence and not easily accessible to an ontology worked out too quickly."52 Unity of sense and self, complete understanding, is never achievable. It provides the impetus for the philosophic search, but its actual attainment is beyond human possibility.
Ricoeur is not simply asserting a telos. He contends that by combining phenomenology and hermeneutics into a critical method, it is possible to gain insight into being, to glimpse but not attain unity. In Voegelinian language, by participating in the search for being, the orientation or direction of the search is disclosed. For Ricoeur, the only path to this insight, however, is through an hermeneutical phenomenology. He states: "Moreover, it is only in a conflict of rival hermeneutics that we perceive something of the being to be interpreted."53 For Ricoeur, the only way to disclose an unbiased interpretation, or genuine Verstehen, is by taking stock of rival interpretations. One must dwell in the ontic and search for the ontological.
Unlike Husserl, Ricoeur argues that access to human experience is never direct but always mediated. He states: "Mediation [occurs] by signs: that is to say, it is language that is the primary condition of human experience."54 Even more directly stated: "there is no self-understanding that is not mediated by signs, symbols, and texts."
55 For Ricoeur, the path back to authenticity must be retraced through the various experiences of humans as articulated in symbols, metaphors,

51Ibid., p. 15.

52Patrick Bourgeois and Frank Schalow, "Hermeneutics of Existence: Conflict and Resolution," Philosophy Today, vol. 3 1, Spring, 1987, p. 46. (Emphasis added).
53Ricoeur, The Conflict of Interpretations, p. 19.

54Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," p. 16.

55Ibid., p. 15.

myths, theories, and narratives.56 In contrast, Heidegger's statement that "the metaphorical exists
only within the metaphysical," reveals a more suspicious attitude toward language.57 Heidegger
believes that certain forms of language are deleterious. Clinging to dichotomies engendered by
post-Socratic philosophy, metaphors and analogies obfuscate the path back to unity of Being and
beings. Heidegger tries to avoid this tendency by "allowing language to, in his words, 'speak
itself (Sagen)."58 To this aim, Heidegger "explores how, in this" 'thoughtful saying' (Sagen),
poetry (Dichten) and thinking (Denken) have a type of mutually dependent relationship whereby
both are essential to the process, yet remain distinct."59 Heidegger's late works try to resolve this
conflict between literal and figurative language without lapsing into the old dichotomies of
metaphysical thinking.
Ricoeur also addresses the incongruities between literal and figurative language, but he
does so precisely through an analysis of symbols and metaphors. In fact, for Ricoeur, it is the
unique function of certain forms of figurative language that actually begets rival interpretations.
Another way of stating this is that metaphors and symbols precede phenomenology and
hermeneutics. Symbols are "an effort to bypass the thorny problem about the starting point of
In contrast to philosophies wrestling with starting points, a meditation on symbols
starts right out with language and with the meaning that is always there already. It
takes off in the midst of language already existing, where everything has already
been said after a fashion; it gladly embraces thought with all its presuppositions.
Its big problem is not to get started, but, in the midst of words, to remember once
again. 61
One of the keys to this passage is the call to "remember once again," because, as Ricoeur
points out, "we raise the problem of the symbol now, at this period of history, . . . because of
certain characteristics of our modernity-and as a rejoinder to modernity.62 Symbols address a
fundamental malady of modernity, the increasing sterility of language. Ricoeur comments: "In this

56It should be noted that several scholars disagree with Ricoeur's assessment of Heidegger and the efficacy of the long over the short route to an authentic ontology. For an interesting discussion concerning the advantages of both see Patrick Bourgeois and Frank Schalow's article "Hermeneutics of Existence: Conflict and Resolution," Philosophy Today, vol. 3 1, Spring, 1987.

57Martin Heidegger, Der Satz vom Grund, (Pfulligne: Gunther Neske, 1975), p. 89.

58Morny Joy, "Derrida and Ricoeur: A Case of Mistaken Identity (and Difference), Journal of Religion, v. 68, #1, January 1988, p. 508.

59Ibid., p. 5 10.

60Paul Ricoeur, "The Symbols ... Food For Thought," Philosophy Toe*, IV (1960): 97.

61Ibid., p. 196.

62Ibid., p. 196.

very age when language is becoming more precise, more univocal, [and] more technical it is in this very age that we seek to recharge language, to start out again from language in its fullness."63 And symbols are the means by which we rejuvenate language because "the symbol provides food for thought."
The reason symbols are productive, or, more precisely, regenerative, is because they are multivocal or have a double sense. Ricoeur states: "I define symbol as any structure of signification in which a direct, primary, literal meaning designates, in addition, another meaning which is indirect, secondary, and figurative and which can be apprehended only though the first."64 This "double sense," inherent in symbols, is not simply due to ambiguity or duality. The fecundity of symbols lies in the fact that they allow for hermeneutics. Signs and symbols differ in
that [iln every sign a sensory vehicle is the bearer of a signifying function that makes it stand for something else. But I will not say that I interpret the sensory sign when I understand what it says. Interpretation has to do with a more complicated intentional structure: a first meaning is set up which intends something, but this object in turn refers to something else which is intended only through the first object.65

Interpretation, then, hinges on the specific structure of symbols. Acknowledging Ferdinand de Saussure's discussion of signs, Ricoeur admits that signs also have dualities. In fact, they have dual dualities; he states: "First, there is the structural duality of the sensory sign and the signification it carries (the signifier and signified); second there is the intentional duality of the sign (both sensory and meaningful, signifier and signified) and the thing or object designated.66 However, the duality inherent in signs is more basic than the duality found in symbols because "[i]n a symbol the duality is added to and superimposed upon the duality of sensory sign and
signification as a relation of meaning to meaning; it presupposes signs that already have a primary, literal, manifest meaning. "67 Signs refer back to the signified whereas symbols refer back to the meaning generated by the sign. Signs are intended to be transparent and technical, they "say only what they want to say by indicating the thing signified, [but] symbols are opaque. The first obvious literal meaning itself looks analogically toward a second meaning which is found only in the first meaning This opaqueness is the symbol's very profundity, an inexhaustible depth. "68

63Ibid., p.
64Paul Ricoeur, "Existence and Hermeneutics," ed. Charles E. Reagan and David Stewart, Ae Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), p. 98.
65Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), p. 12.
66Ibid., p. 12.
67Jbid., p. 13.
68Ricoeur, "The Symbol...Food For Thought," p. 199.

This opaqueness or ambiguity is not the result, however, of a lack of precision; rather it is because the second meaning is not comprehended along rational lines. Ricoeur states that in the symbol I cannot objectivize the analogous relation that binds the second meaning to the first. By living in the first meaning I am drawn by it beyond itself the symbolic meaning is constituted in and through the literal meaning, which bring
about the analogy by giving the analogue. Unlike a comparison which we look at from the outside, the symbol is the very movement of the primary meaning that makes us share in the latent meaning and thereby assimilates us to the symbolized, without our being able intellectually to dominate the similarity. It is in this sense
that a symbol "gives"; it gives, because it is a primary intentionality which yields a second meaning.69
"Knowing" a symbol is achieved only by sharing and assimilating with it; verification takes place
at the internal or existential level. This form of knowing differs from rational comprehension
because humans do not simply grasp a meaning, they participate in and beyond symbols. Arising
out of the literal meaning stirs a figurative and non-rational meaning; "the symbol yields its
meaning in enigma,"70 What does it mean to say that new meaning is generated out of itself.? Ricoeur formulates this question in the following manner: "The problem is how thought can be both bound and free,
how the immediacy of the symbol can be reconciled with the mediacy of thought the crux, of the problem lies in the relationship between symbols and hermeneutics. Every symbol gives rise to comprehension by means of some interpretation. How can this understanding be both in and beyond the symbol?"71 Ricoeur's attempt to answer this question is what prompted him to expand his inquiry from symbols, to metaphors, and eventually to narrative.
Initially, he set out to explore these questions under the assumption that the symbol was the key to hermeneutics. He states: "I even went so far as to reduce hermeneutics to the interpretation of symbols; that is to say, to the making explicit of the second-and often hidden sense of these double-sense expressions."72 Given this belief, Ricoeur analyzed the symbol in three stages: phenomenology; hermeneutics; and (speculative) thought as emanating from language. However, Ricoeur increasingly became dissatisfied with this formulation. He states: You know that my earlier work was concerned with symbolic expressions. Today, however, I see that this was premature because it lacked a semantic foundation and precisely a theory of discourse I no longer feel that the symbol is a phenomenon of words; it is a discursive phenomenon. This means that all words

69Paul Ricoeur, "The Hermeneutics of Symbols and Philosophical Reflection,"International Philosophy Quarterly, XI, (1962), p. 194,

70Ricoeur, "The Symbol ... Food For Thought," p. 199.

71Ibid., p. 202.

72Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," From Text to Action, trans. Kathleen Blarney and John B. Thompson (Evanston: Northwestern University Press), p. 16.

possess many meanings, and polysemy is general. All discourse, however, is not polysemous and that's where the problem of the symbol lies. In what types of discourse do certain words preserve more than one signification in order to create a certain meaningful effect that we call the symbol? Better armed, I would say, this is the way to that I would now attack the problem of the symbol. The symbol is a discursive effect based on the general polysemy of all words in ordinary language. However, you can make two types of discourse with polysernous words. You can make univocal discourses, discourses in which polysemy is reduced. This happens by all sorts of mechanisms which belong to the very nature of discourse, for instance, by the fact that only one dimension of one word's meaning sanctions only one dimension of the other words' meanings by the phenomenon of co-optation which Greimas has described quite clearly. Next to this sort of screening of polysemy is the type of discourse in which polysemy is not only allowed but desired and maintained. There we have a certain effect, the symbolic effect. This comes about when many dimensions of meaning come into play simultaneously because a certain structure of the sentence has preserved them.73

Another way of putting this that "no symbolism ... can display its resources of multiple meanings (plurivocite) outside appropriate contexts, that is to say, within the framework of an entire text, of a poem, for example.74 The key to understanding Ricoeur's transitions, then, is to realize that he was searching for the appropriate site of hermeneutics. As the above analysis reveals, the productive faculty of symbols hinges upon the existence of univocal meaning. In order for a figurative image to be both bound and free there must be some literal meaning to begin from. Ricoeur began his search at the semiological level (that of the sign), and differentiated the sign from the symbol. However, after encountering post-structural critiques, especially Derrida's, which exposed that all signs were polysemous and hence unstable, Ricoeur had to amend his conclusions.75 By turning to the

73Paul Ricoeur, "Philosophy and Communication: Round-Table Discussion Between Ricoeur and Derrida. " * * * *

74Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," p. 16.

75It is important to note that Derrida and Ricoeur essentially engaged in a published debate over the role of metaphor. The debate began with Derrida's White Mythology (197 1), which was countered by Ricoeues the Rule of Metaphor (1975), followed by Derrida!s "The Retrait of Metaphor" (1978). In addition to these primary sources, a lively debate exists within the secondary literature. See Patrick Bouegeois and Frank Schalow, "Hermeneutics of Existence: Conflict and Resolution, " Philosophy Today, v. 3 1, Spring 198 7; Morny Joy, "Derrida and Ricoeur: A Case of Mistaken Identity (and Difference), Journal of Religion, v. 68, #1, 1988; Douglas McGaughey, "Ricoeur's Metaphor and Narrative Theories as a Foundation for a Theory of Symbol," Religious Studies 1988; Leonard Lawlor, "Dialectic and Iterability: The Confrontation Between Paul Ricoeur and Jacques Derrida," Philosophy Today, v. 32, Spring

semantic level (that of the sentence) and exploring the structure of metaphors, Ricoeur attempted to refute Derrida. The key to understanding the difference between Derrida and Ricoeur is to grasp their different conceptions of metaphor.

Ricoeur and Derrida both agree that metaphors are productive, however "for Derrida there is an exploding of the referential meaning of the metaphor (the text folds back on itself endlessly) but for Ricoeur the metaphor announces an explosion of meaning (the text is broken open to the lifeworld for the first time) to 'more.'76 Derrida. contends that the explosive qualities of metaphors have been co-opted by the philosophical tradition. In effect, metaphors have been reigned in by a metaphysics of the "proper." He states: "the entire teleology of meaning, which constructs the philosophical concept of metaphor, coordinates metaphor with the manifestation of truth.77However, because signs are polysemous and unstable it is impossible to equate metaphors with truth, Stable or proper meanings are presupposed, but they do not exist. Hence, "following Derrida!s tack, we are [actually] left with a language devoid of metaphor, which continues to operate in a quasi-metaphorical fashion. Thus we have virtual metaphors of metaphors, traces of traces, repeating themselves ad infiniturn, ad nauseam, in divergent, discordant variations on a theme."78  Ricoeur contends that Derrida is mistaken as to how
metaphors operate. He argues that metaphors do not function because they are grounded in a metaphysics of the "proper," but because of specific semantic tensions that manifest themselves in the everyday use of language. Criticizing Derrida, he states that one attaches to the opposition between the figurative and the proper a meaning that is itself metaphysical, one which a more precise semantics dispels. In fact, this shatters the illusion that words possess a proper, i.e., primitive, natural, original (etumon) meaning in themselves ... the metaphorical use of a word could always be opposed to its literal use; but literal does not mean proper in the sense of originary, but simply current, 'usual'. The literal sense is the one that is lexicalized.
There is thus no need for a metaphysics of the proper to justify the difference between literal and figurative. It is use in discourse that specifies the difference between the literal and metaphorical, and not some sort of prestige attributed to the primitive or original. Moreover, the distinction between literal and metaphorical exists only through the conflict of two interpretations. One interpretation employs only values that are already lexicalized and so succumbs to

1988 and Imagination and Chance: The Difference Between the Thought of Ricoeur and Derrida. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

76Douglas R. McGaughey, "Ricoeur's Metaphor and Narrative Theories as a Foundation For A Theory of Symbol," Religious Studies, 24, (1988), p. 418.

77Jacques Derrida, "White Mythology," Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), p. 270.

78Morny Joy, "Derrida and Ricoeur: A Case of Mistaken Identity (and Difference)," Journal of Religion, v. 68, # 1, (1988), p. 515.

semantic impertinence; the other, instituting a new semantic pertinence, requires a twist in the word that displaces its own meaning. In this way, a better semantic analysis of the metaphorical process suffices to dispel the mystique of the 'proper, without any need for metaphoricity to succumb along with it. 79 From Derrida's position metaphors can only operate if there is an actual stable foundation of truth-claims to which metaphors, even if in a roundabout fashion, refer back to; however, for Ricoeur all that is required are common or shared meanings. Ricoeur asserts that while language is indeed continually changing, there is enough stability, or shared meaning, for metaphors to function.
Even though Ricoeur seems to put the question of univocal and multivocal to rest, that alone is not enough to break the circle of language. For in order for thought to emerge out of metaphors, thought has to go beyond language. But if all experience is mediated by language, how can thought go "beyond" language? This is where hermeneutics plays a crucial role. Ricoeur argues that there is no sense looking for a beginning in the traditional linear sense. The process is better described as a circular affair. Ricoeur states:

the only functioning of language we are aware of operates within an already constituted order; metaphor does not produce a new order except by creating rifts in an old order. Nevertheless, could we not imagine that the order itself is born the same way it changes? The idea of an initial metaphorical impulse destroys oppositions between proper and figurative, ordinary and strange, order and transgression. It suggests the idea that order itself proceeds from the metaphorical constitution of semantic fields, which themselves give rise to genre and species.80

This is what he earlier argued takes place with symbols; they give rise to thought. In the beginning, Ricoeur had not focused on the structure of language and therefore had not realized that the semiological unit was too unstable to be the site of generation. Ricoeur's work on metaphors explicates the semantic structures of metaphor in order to establish that enough stability exists, at the level of the sentence, to allow for regeneration.

Ricoeur's work does not stop at the semantic level. Although his examination of metaphors established the possibility of generating thought, metaphors also operate on too narrow a level. Metaphors generate thought beyond the sentence, but the sentence, just like the sign, does not stand alone. It exists within a larger context, the narrative. Ricoeur gives three specific reasons for expanding his inquiry into narratives. He states his "inquiry into storytelling responds first of all to a very general concern, . . . that of preserving the fullness, diversity, and irreducibility of the various uses of language."81 By examining the

79Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor: Multi-disciplinary studies of the creation of meaning in language, trans. Robert Czerny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), pp. 290-91.

80Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor, trans. Robert Czerny (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977), pp. 22-23.

81Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," pp. 1-2.

various modes of storytelling, Ricoeur hopes to recover and preserve the various "non-rational" varieties, such as poetry, fiction, and myth, as legitimate conveyors of meaning and truth. Ricoeur's second reason for studying narrative is his desire to gather and compare the divergent varieties of storytelling. The promulgation of forms itself is not a problem, but, because it has been accompanied by a false hierarchy, certain forms are privileged whereas others are demeaned. He states:

 This fragmentation presents a major problem for philosophers by virtue of the major dichotomy that divides the narrative field and that produces a thoroughgoing opposition between them, on the one hand, narratives that have a truth claim comparable to that of the descriptive forms of discourse to be found in the sciences-let us say history and the related literary genres of biography and autobiography-and, on the other hand, fictional narratives such as epics, dramas, short stories, and novels, to say nothing of narrative modes that use a medium other than language: films, for example, and possibly painting and other plastic arts. 82

  The so-called descriptive forms of discourse, such as history, biography, autobiography, and, to an even greater degree, certain social science disciplines, are seen as embodying truth-telling or objective modes of narration. Fictional narratives, however, are dismissed as wholly subjective and thus unimportant. Ricoeur challenges this delineation by asserting that there is a functional unity that underlies all forms of narrative. He states: "My basic hypothesis, in this regard, is the following: the common feature of human experience, that which is marked, organized, and clarified in the act of storytelling in all its forms, is its temporal character.... By treating the temporal character of experience as the common reference of both history and fiction, I make fiction, history, and time one single problem."83 It is obvious that Ricoeur's interest in relegitimizing fictional narratives is not driven by facile motivations. Quite the contrary, again following Heidegger's cue, Ricoeur attempts to achieve authentic Verstehen. He accepts Heidegger's assertion that temporality is a fundamental characteristic of Dasein; but Ricoeur's contribution is the notion that we understand or perceive time in and through narratives." Ricoeur's third reason for studying narratives is because he believes that the text is the appropriate site of hermeneutics. This becomes clear in the following statement: If indeed, narrativity is to mark, organize, and clarify temporal existence ... we must seek in language use a standard of measurement that satisfies this need for delimiting, ordering, and making explicit. That the text is the linguistic unit we are looking for and that it constitutes the appropriate medium between temporal experience and the narrative act can be briefly outlined in the following manner.

82Ibid., p. 2.

83Ibid., p. 2.

84Ricoeur and Heidegger's differing approaches to time are, again, due to their long and short routes. Ricoeur believes that only by taking stock of the ontic level, in this case by analyzing narratives as the mediator of temporality, can legitimate Verstehen be attained.

As a linguistic unit, a text is, on the one hand, an expansion of the first unit of present meaning which is the sentence. On the other hand, it contributes a principle of trans-sentential organization that is exploited by the act of storytelling in all its forms.85
The text, then, is the only linguistic form that both provides for enough stability to allow for the regeneration of thought, as well as mark, order and make explicit the human experience of temporal existence. But is every text a narrative? And more pointedly, exactly how does a text mark, order and make explicit time?
Ricoeur follows Aristotle by defining muthos as the key ingredient to narratives. He contends that Aristotle meant muthos to apply to more than the static structure of a narrative, "but rather [intended] an operation (as indicated by the endings -sis, as in poiesis, sunthesis, suslasis), namely, the structuring that makes us speak of putting-into-the-form-of-a-plot. The emplotment consists mainly in the selection and arrangement of the events and the actions recounted, which make of the fable a story that is' complete and entire' with a beginning, middle
and end."86 Plots make narratives intelligible. In other words, the power of plot, and therefore narrative, is its ability to provide unity to "those ingredients of human action, which, in ordinary experience, remain dissimilar and discordant. From this intelligible character of the plot, it follows that the ability to follow a story constitutes a very sophisticated from of understanding."87 The common response to this assertion is that fiction has no reference. Unlike history, or even biography, fiction does not have to deal or reference actual events. Perceived as entirely a work of the imagination, fiction is dismissed as purely subjective and therefore non-consequential.
Ricoeur counters that this is an absolute misunderstanding of what constitutes fiction and narrative. Emphasizing that the fable is "an imitation of an action," he states:

In one way or another, all symbol systems contribute to shaping reality. More particularly, the plots that we invent help us to shape our confused, formless, and in the last resort mute temporal experience. This is why suspending the reference can only be an intermediary moment between the preunderstanding of the world and the transfiguration of daily reality brought about by fiction itself Indeed, the models of actions elaborated by narrative fiction are models for redescribing the practical field in accordance with the narrative typology resulting from the work of the productive imagination. Because it is a world, the world of the text necessarily collides with the real world in order to "remake" it, either by confirming it or by denying it. However, even the most ironic relation between art and reality would be incomprehensible if art did not both disturb and rearrange our relation to reality. If the world of the text were without any assignable relation to

85Ricoeur, "On Interpretation," p. 3.

86Ibid., p. 3.

87Ibid., p. 3.

the real world, language would not be "dangerous," in the sense in which Holderlin called it so before both Nietzsche and Walter Benjamin.88

 Thus, narrative, when properly understood, not only provides the stability for the generation of thought; it also allows for the intelligible re- ordering of human existence and experience. Narratives are not fictions in the sense that they have no relation to reality, but rather they are fictitious because they allow the intelligible ordering of discordant events; they provide unity where there is, perhaps, none. Another way of stating this, is that narratives provide articulation to human experiences that are otherwise inexpressible. Ricoeur cites St. Augustine's query: "'What is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is; if someone asks me, I no longer know."'89 The plot, by way of narrative, gives expression to the mute experience of time. 

A criticism of Husserl, by way of an exploration of the thought of Eric Voegelin and Paul Ricoeur, reveals that representation is central to the philosophic endeavor. For Voegelin and Ricoeur, certain forms of representation-myths, symbols, and narratives-not only allow for philosophy but are its proper focus and substance.
Analogical forms of representation allow for philosophy in several respects. First, symbols and narratives reintegrate the subjective. This is significant because it expands the scope of political science and therefore addresses, more appropriately, the full range of human experience. Second, analogical representation has certain unique advantages. Symbols and analogies confront, ameliorate, and represent paradoxes without claiming resolution. In addition, the specific capabilities and operations of analogies and symbols avoid many bad tendencies of modernity: dichotomies such as subject/object, idealism/realism, etc. Given our current climate of opinion, perhaps the most important advantage of myths, symbols, and narrative is its rebuttal of postmodern linguistics. If Ricoeur is correct, philosophy can once again speak to our problems. By addressing the "thorny problem" of origins without establishing a metaphysics of the proper in Derridean language, philosophy can confront ethics and politics with some authority.
Analogical representation can be considered the proper focus and substance of philosophic inquiry because symbols are able to fix, stabilize, and "ground" the old while giving birth to the new and dynamic. For Voegelin and Ricoeur, a reexamination of symbols proves to be both a return and a new beginning. It is this distinctive ability that allows symbols to provide a regenerative function for both language and philosophy. However, because symbols share a danger common to ideas and concepts, the tendency concretization or of ossifying into dogma, symbols must themselves be regenerated. This process of regeneration, of both thought and of particular symbols, takes place in and through narratives. In other words, symbols do not exist in isolation but within stories and myths. This larger issue, the importance of narrative and its role in

88Ibid., p. 6.

89Ibid., p. 6.

human existence, is a much discussed topic, but the specific role of symbols has received considerably less attention.90
Voegelin and Ricoeur contend that symbols are in some sense a solution or, at least, part of a solution to the persistent problems associated with metaphysics. In Voegelin's case, symbols and the process of evaluating legitimate and illegitimate symbols provides unique and powerful insights-they reveal ontological clues to the nature of existence. Voegelin argues that through the analysis of the history of symbols and symbolization it becomes apparent that existence and reality are not best characterized by the traditional language of metaphysics: being and becoming, idealism and materialism, or mind and body. Reality and human existence is most aptly described not in terms of dichotomies but as tensional relationships, in other words, existence within the Inbetween or metaxy. For Voegelin, the study and understanding of symbols and the process of symbolization is a means by which we can disclose the structures of existence. In this way, symbols address the typical problems of metaphysics. For Ricoeur, symbols and narratives fulfill many functions, not least of which they are a rejoinder to the postmodern critique, in particular to the some of the problems presented by Heidegger and Derrida. With respect to Heidegger, Ricoeur contends that a more complete understanding of symbols, metaphors, and, of course, time and narrative, provides an improvement upon the ontological inquiries of Being and Time. In this regard, Ricoeur is not in opposition to Heidegger so much as he is an extension; he agrees with Heidegger's driving motivation but disagrees as to the appropriate means.91 In contrast, Ricoeur's work on symbols and metaphors is a direct rebuttal to the Derridean critique of language. Their dispute hinges upon the role and ability of language to represent reality. For Derrida, language does not clear up reality, it obfuscates. He consents that language is productive but argues that what it constructs is not a "re-presentation" of reality but a separate linguistic reality. Thus, instead of referring back to being, language, in effect, refers to non- being. Language does not illuminate existence, it veils it. Ricoeur agrees that this is sometimes the case92

90The list of relevant sources concerning the importance of narrative is too extensive and too varied to list. However, some sources utilized for this paper are: Alsdair MacIntyre, After Virtue. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 198 1; Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Richard Niebuhr, "The Story of Our Life," The Meaning of Revelation. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 194 1; Stanley Hauerwas, Why Narrative: Readings in Narrative Theology (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989). ; Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, v 1, 11 and III. trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press), 1984.

  91This, again, refers to Heidegger's "short route" to Being as opposed to Ricoeur's "long

92Although not discussed in this paper, Ricoeur was considerably more wary of symbols. To this end Ricoeur focused on individuals such as Freud on route to developing a "hermeneutic of suspicion." See Eugene Webb, Philosophers of Consciousness: Polanyi, Lonergan, Voegelin, Ricoeur, Girard, Kierkegaard, (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988), in particular pp. 136-151.

but argues that this is only when language has degenerated. He maintains that Derrida's work deals solely with "dead metaphors," and offers a view of language capable of representation but only if it is continually regenerated.
It is important to distinguish symbols from every signification. Signs can refer to anything, but symbols have a narrower purpose. Because of the unique quality of symbols to generate meaning beyond themselves, symbols have been utilized as the means by which humans express their search for meaning and identity, both individual and social. Human beings and civilizations, now and as far back as anthropological research stretches, have universally been involved in the attempt to define their world and their place in that world. This process of finding one's place, of defining one's purpose and identity, is done through symbols. Symbols, as the concrete representations of the human search for identity, are, ultimately, responses to the Socratic dictum: "Know thy Self " In short, we attempt to define ourselves by and through symbols and, additionally, through the process of communal legitimation of particular symbols, we also shape and define our social identities.
Symbols and narratives enjoy a distinct advantage over philosophy (at least philosophy since the Enlightenment) in that they are less likely to be taken as conclusive or final. There always exists a certain amount of ambiguity within symbols and stories; there is always room for another interpretation and no interpretation, unless illegitimately backed by coercion, can be asserted as final.93 In other words, by their very form symbols and stories are a defense against assumptions of certainty. In the wake of the ideologies that have plagued the twentieth century, this is no small advantage. Symbols and stories have the potential to provide amelioration of the human condition, buttress resolve and determination, without the likelihood of promulgating absolute truth-claims. What does this mean for philosophy? Albert Camus contends that "People can think only in images. If you want to be philosopher, write novels.94 Although this clearly overstates Voegelin and Ricoeur's position, it is accurate to say that a more aesthetic approach to the science of politics is desperately needed.

93Obviously, there are many example in the past where authorities have promoted an interpretation of a symbol, myth or story as conclusive. However, an examination of how symbols actually are re-created, how they operate within narratives, will demonstrate that such activities are invalid. Symbols and texts are maintained by hermeneutics or reinterpretation. Once a particular interpretation is held as final or conclusive a symbol, any symbol, begins to degenerate into dogma.

94Albert Camus, Notebooks: 1935-42, trans. Phillip Thody, (New York: Paragon House, 1991), P. 10.


ZUBIRI. LEVINAS. VOEGELIN Beginning a Conversation
Copyright 2000 Paul Caringella 

I beg indulgence for telegraphic nature of this unfinished presentation. Write, phone, or e-mail me if you wish to continue a discussion, especially of Zubiri. Please also consult the excellent Zubiri website:

The conversation is in my own head. I had the great good fortune to have worked personally with both Voegelin and Levinas. Although I first learned of Zubiri almost 40 years ago - in same book I discovered Voegelin - about 10 years before getting to know Levinas - it is only in the last few years that I realized Zubiri fits the category: "Philosopher of Divine Presence" - "Philosopher" underlined. But still more recently have I been able to begin an intensive study of his work. Thus the beginning conversation.

After a brief overview, an all too brief sketch of Zubiri's life and work. Then I sketch out a number of themes that involve each of the three. I hope to show that Zubiri fully deserves to be a partner in the conversation. Unfortunately the documentation has to be fragmentary in this initial sketch.

The Themes:

1. The Subject (its Suidad) and the Senses
2. Being and Knowledge (Intentionality)
3. Metaphysics
4. Reality (over Being)
5. Remembrance (Remembrance of Reality)
6. The Divine
7. Representation
8. Love

Initial overview

The life of thought of each of the three was rigorous and radical search-of Reality. And what emerges: a sense of the greatness and dignity and responsibility of the reality of the human person within the surrounding reality and in tension toward the divine reality
[NOTE: So much detail over 60 years in each, and for each at least 40 years of "mature" writing. Danger of getting lost in richness of analyses and language and not realizing that each one very clearly points away from himself to Reality itself: "to the thing itself!"]

Each wrote and published materials of the highest quality from the 1920s to the 1980s. Each in "conversation" with the whole western tradition from before Plato and through the 20th century. They demand of reader besides a knowledge of the classical philosophers a grasp of the modern movements of philosophy from Descartes to Kant and Hegel through Husserl and Heidegger.

Z-L-V share certain parallels in their political "reception" - interps - applications: Note Ignacio Ellacuria assassinated in 1989 with fellow Jesuits and staff in San Salvador at the Central-America University, close friend and assistant over many years to Zubiri on the one side usually labeled as a "liberation theologian" and the other side the espousal of Zubiri's work by a number of "conservative- seminary teachers in Latin American regions. One of the main "liberationists" Enrique Dussel demonstrated Levinas, effect on instruction in philosophy and theology at Louvain applied to Latin America especially with theme of "Exodus". Dussel has more recently turned to Zubiri. But I can also imagine "conservative" uses of Levinas. Then there is Voegelin in Germany, the United States and Italy. They must be in touch with something of reality if they can give rise to such diverse interpretations.

Remembering that we are real: To announce the motif that rings truest for me in each of our three. They present the range and depth of the ongoing pressure of the real within which we are and move and are eminently real ourselves even in our mortality. They evoke an almost more-than-Scotus or Gerard Manley Hopkins, sense of the self and its in-stress, its pitch of tension. To anticipate, and to use one of the last great section titles of Voegelin in OH-V: "Remembrance of Reality" each recalls us to the amazing fact of our own distinctive reality and then each loads us down with a burden both serious and liberating. Voegelin writes near the end of "Gospel and Culture" of what he calls -existential consciousness" characterizing it as "eminent of rank" (CW-12,209): "The primary experience of the cosmos has to yield to the experience of eminent divine presence in the movement of the soul in the metaxy- (207) But this existential consciousness can be imaginatively isolated (i.e. forgotten) (211) and the reality (i.e. the Cosmos) of which this eminent existential consciousness is the center can be neglected. (210) Perhaps less danger of that in Z's development of Ortega y Gasset's "yo soy yo y mi circunstancian while the danger in Levinas is the ambivalence of the elemental in which his "psychism" (the inner life) bathes and which it can mobilize in work for dwelling and nourishment but which also always threatens and indeed manifests itself often enough as the evil aspect and "dis-astre" of the "il y a" to which "Being", especially Heidegger's, can return, to the senselessness that must be borne by the responsible subject called to be fully exposed to the end in giving-up of self; it can be the "Mal" without which the Transcendence of the Good lacks gravity and weight.

Finally, our three, for all the greatness of their work, have a certain modesty. Zubiri begins and ends his great last work, the trilogy Sentient Intelligence, with a typical statement: at the end of his 1980 Author's Preface: "Today the world is undeniably engulfed by a pervasive atmosphere of sophistry. As in the time of Plato and Aristotle, we are inundated by discourse and propaganda. But the truth is that we are installed modestly, but irrefutably, in reality. Therefore it is more necessary now than ever to bring to conclusion the effort to submerge ourselves in the real in which we already are, in order to extract its reality with rigor, even though that may be only a few poor snatches of its intrinsic intelligibility.- And, the last words of the final volume: "Thanks to it (sentient intelligence) man stands unmistakably in and by reality; he stands in it, knowing it. Knowing what? Something, very little, of what is real. But, nonetheless he is retained constitutively in reality. How? This is the great human problem: knowing how to be in the midst of reality. The analysis of this structure has been the theme of this prolix study of sentient intelligence." Compare Voegelin's concluding assessment of his last work (OH-V, 106): "the quest for truth, as an event of participation in the process, can do no more than explore the structures in the divine mystery of the complex reality and, through the analysis of the experienced responses to the tensional pulls, arrive at some clarity about its own function in the drama in which it participates." I'm sure similar texts can be drawn from Levinas.

Xavier Zubiri (1898-1983)

Thomas Fowler' excellent introductions to Zubiri can be easily downloaded from the website. You will find much more detail there. For my purposes here I will simply refer to the list of books I have appended at the end. A glance at this list with just a bit of commentary: Naturaleza. Historia, Dios (1944) collects major early writings. They are essential for entry into his later work. They reveal the magnificent education Zubiri sought and received, ranging from the natural sciences and mathematics to Oriental languages. [For the remarkable ambience of the University of Madrid before the civil war I recommend Julian Marias, short introduction (Zubiri had written the Spanish introduction
) to Marias' well-known History of Philosophy.] One of the main teachers of Zubiri was Ortega. I would want to develop in some depth the great importance for understanding Zubiri of Ortega's famous phrase from his Meditations on Quixote: "yo soy yo y mi circunstancia" The importance of the theme of meditation, passing through this Spanish meditation then Husserl's, so important to both Levinas and Voegelin, I can only mention here.

[I have to insert here one anecdote told by Zubiri's wife, which she must have gotten from him, regarding his time with Heidegger (right after Levinas' study with Heidegger by the way). It appears that in his farewell visit to Heidegger Zubiri revealed to him his profound disagreement regarding the primacy of "Being". No, Zubiri's way would be the way of Reality instead of -Being".Heidegger's reply, but why did you wait until now to tell me? But that is enough for now. A good deal of Zubiri's work revolves around this great difference. (I have to add an obiter dicta from Voegelin: I swear he said at least once that one of the problems he had with Heidegger was that Voegelin thought that "there is a lot more to reality than 'Being,.") We know Levinas, problems with Heidegger's "Being.- Each has a Reality "beyond Being."

Zubiri withdrew from University teaching around the time of the publication of the 1944 collection and began a series of "Cursos" they went on for 30 years. These were private subscription courses during which he worked out his thought. The great series of his posthumous published writings are drawn from these. There was no real book until Sobre la Essencia (1962) which I think is an extraordinarily difficult book but when penetrated is eminently clear. It reconsiders much of prior approaches to the question, concentrating especially on Aristotle, the medievals, Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger, to spin out a most persuasive argument for the importance of grasping the true meaning of "essence". After Cinco lecciones de filosofia (1963) no book until the great final trilogy Intelligencia Sentiente (1980-1983). This, along with the book on essence are essential. Here, in the last work, Zubiri lays out his understanding of the inseparable unity of the senses and the intelligence in humans. Man is "the animal of realities", "rational" yes but always as "animal", tied to reality, comprehended by and apprehending that reality, through the eleven! (more or less) senses.

Shortly after Zubiri's death an almost completed major work, El Hombre y Dios was published. This was the first of some ten volumes to be published posthumously up to now. Simply scanning the titles on the list I have provided tells you something about the extent of his work and the range of his interests.


NOTE: Here I am forced by pressures of time and space and ability to resort to almost short-hand sketching out of points, hoping you will follow up on your own with Zubiri's work or taking up my beginning invitation.

1. The Subject (its Suidad) and the Senses
2. Being and Knowledge (Intentionality)
3. Metaphysics
4. Reality (before Being)
5. Remembrance (Remembrance of Reality)
6. The Divine
7. Representation
8. Love

1. Subiect-Suidad-Senses

THE SENSES ... compare to
L'S proximity ... substition ... even to nuclear fission exploding and exposing to full openness the "nuclear subject". Following Zubiri one can more fully appreciate the accomplishment of Levinas in otherwise than Being (1973) References to -sensibility" more than metaphor.

THE SUBJECT ... Zubiri: yo soy yo, y mi circunstancia ... Voegelin: Concrete consciousness in metaxy of reality. Levinas: the "psychisme" (the interior life).

SUIDAD and SENSES especially in Zubiri & Levinas. Note that Levinas's "Subject" is first invested with richness and power of reality in order then to welcome in hospitality the other, becoming, literally, representation and language as the primal being-for-the other all the way to the extremity of "exteriority" (subtitle of Totality and Infinity) as exodus. for self-centeredness to exposure-explosion of expiation. But this is open air of inspiration-respiration-expiration.

2. Being & Knowledge (Intentionality)

Each of the three have intelligible reality "before- and
somehow "above" Intentionality. Zubiri begins with the
Primary Impression of Reality. Primordial Apprehension in
Sentient Intelligence .... Dynamic Tension of the Senses
"towards" the impressing reality (Zubiri is the only author I
have found that uses the Voegelinian locotion of a "tension
towards" something, that greatly puzzled Voegelin's great
friend and early "mentor" in English, Robert Heilman.)

Does Zubiri help illuminate V's primary experience of cosmos?
Certainly, on another important issue, Zubiri confirms
Voegelin's abhorrence of hypostatizing (Zubiri calls it
"substantivation-). See the extremely important -anamnetic"
"Author's Introduction" to the 1980 translation of Nature, History, God for this point (Pp xii-Xiv). Tom Fowler deserves great thanks for having elicited this Introduction to the translation he had already done and presented to Zubiri, much to he latter's surprise, upon their first meeting in Madrid. That "Consciousness" itself, as Voegelin uses it, is not to be hypostatized is something I think some of us sometimes tend to forget, perhaps misled by Voegelin's constant use of the term without repeating that consciousness is nothing apart from its concrete acts. (Cf. here also the 1966 "SeinDenken-Symbol" complex in the German Anamnesis (308, ET 167 and 323,183.) Voegelin's triadic complex becomes the complex: Reality- Consciousness-Language (often Consciousness-RealityLanguage)] Zubiri also helps us refrain from hypostatizing Voegelin's "It- reality": again a common temptation especially since the word "It" almost begs for such treatment.and in the same way thingifying all of "reality. Voegelin's "It-reality" is never to be objectified, "it- is the comprehending reality "before" (and "establishing") any and all intentionality.

3. Metaphysics

On "Metaphysics" Voegelin says, beware systems and doctrines, that is, propositional metaphysics, just as wary as zubiri is of any "way of ideas" that would imagine itself prior to or "on top of", that is, controlling Reality. I imagine Voegelin would approve of Zubiri's kind of metaphysics as I think he did of what he studied of Lonergan's. His criticism of Husserl in the early 40s was that Husserl would approach but never dare to take up the "big questions", the metaphysical ones. Note that Levinas calls his own work, at least Totality and Infinity of 1961, a work of metaphysics, but one whose core of reality is the "ethical".

Zubiri writes at a crucial juncture in On Essence (1962):
"I propose to myself, before all else, the task of discovering the structure and metaphysical condition of the realities of the world as such. This would be a metaphysics of 1wordly, reality as such." (207) "It is a matter of an intermundane metaphysics. ... A transmundane investigation remains to be undertaken; this latter would however fall into the void if it did not rest on an intermundane primary philosophy." (214) Cf. Voegelin near end of his final volume: "Plato carefully stresses that the divine, cannot be discerned by itself alone; there is no participation in 'the divine, but through the exploration of the things, in which it is discerned as formatively present." (OH-V 103)

[A note on Levinas and the metaphysical question based on the "wonder" that is supposed to be the beginning of philosophy: Testimony of Jean Greisch at the end of his essay -Heidegger et Levinas interpretes de la facticite" (found in the very important recent collection: Emmanuel Levinas: Positivite et transcendence suivi de Levinas et la phenomenologie. Sous la direction d J.-L.Marion, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 2000): Greisch reports that Levinas expressed his wonder that thinkers had been able to imagine that the wonder before the fact that something is, rather than nothing, was the radical point of departure of metaphysics. He said that to his eyes the fact that in a world as cruel as ours something like the miracle of goodness could appear is infinitely more worthy of wonder. (206)]

4. Reality (before Being)

"Reality" as a refrain in Voegelin's titles:

"Remembrance of Reality" is the title of Voegelin's major transition section from treatment of Hegel and Hesiod to Plato's Timaeus, as far as Voegelin could get in his exploration of the Complex: Reflectively-distancing-Remembrance vs. Imaginative oblivion, his differentiation of the dimension "Plato symbolized expressively, though still rather compactly, as the noetic 'anamnesis.'" (41) .... "we must differentiate the dimension of reflective distance which stands, compactly implied in the Platonic 'anamnesis', at the beginning of all noetic philosophizing. (45)

Titles such as "Eclipse of Reality" and "What is Political Reality-... Most important are the pages in "The Order of Consciousness" which developed as an extended meditation the 1965 political science lecture "What is Political Reality" into the last and longest piece in the 1966 German Anamnesis. After an introductory section "Science and Reality" the central and longest sub-section (300-307, ET 159-166) in the longest section "The Consciousness of the Ground" (287-315 147-174 must be compared to Zubiri. The discussion by Voegelin of what he means by Reality is essential. (The English translation inconveniently omits a space at the top of p. 159 that would indicate that 159-166 is indeed a separate section that deserves setting off, a device that helps greatly in following the meditative "clusters" in the meditative re-reading of Voegelin's work.)

And then, of course the famous late "It-reality"

Reality and "Being" But what I do not find so far in Zubiri that I do find in Voegelin and Levinas is the question of Evil in reality (see the note on "wonder" in Levinas which concluded the preceding section as well as Levinas's sense of the "Mal" of "Being" also mentioned above.)In Voegelin, I would simply single out for now his careful inclusion of the mysterium iniquitatis in his first introduction of the "It" (in the last meditative essay, the "Wisdom" piece, CW 12, pp 336 and 363- 3651)

5. Remembrance (Remembrance of Reality)

See the end of Levinas's 1980 Introduction to the German translation of Totality and Infinity for a remembrance so similar in pattern and "moments" and even dates to Voegelin's. (pp 197-200 of the English translation of Entre Nous, at 200). But especially take note of the end of his little introductory -Note" to Otherwise than Being with its recall of the steep ascent of the search of "ancient times" and its concluding relentless opposition to a greater "oblivion" than that which Heidegger's search addressed:

"But to hear a God not contaminated by Being is a human possibility no less important and no less precarious than to bring Being out of the oblivion in which it is said to have fallen in metaphysics and in onto-theology." (xlii of the English).

But I feel that it is Levinas's own study of "reflection" and "reflective distance", raised exponentially to awakening and vigilance, (see "From Consciousness to Vigilance" 1974) that adds significant development/clarification to Voegelin's complex of Reflectively distancing remembrance vs. imaginative oblivion, by pointing us to what provokes it initially. But this still does not make Voegelin's Anamnesis a nostos, a return "nostalgic" of home (on the pattern of the Odysseus Levinas opposes to Abraham's exodus movement of response to divine call). Rather Voegelin-and Levinas share the exodus sense, as movement of love in meditative remembering. Remembering of Exodus is precisely heart of every Passover Seder. So they can be truly considered . -philosophers of exodus". But Zubiri might be included as well in this category for the Levinasian "awakening- is provided by the "shock" of Zubiri's "senses.- And remembrance is his constant recalling us to the base in us, primordial apprehension in sentient intelligence. one must also look, as I have to do much more of, to Zubiri's writings on History to develop this theme.

6. The Divine

The "problem- for me that becomes clearer -- and I can apply it to Z and V and L -- is the relation of philosophy's noetic search to the range of "impressions" starting from the prior, even primordial, impression of reality. That is, then, a range of "revelation" of reality which culminates,for Zubiri, in surrender in the Christian mystery of faith, participating in the kenot incarnation of the divine in its self-giving and the kenotic openness of return on the part of the human recipient of this self-giving of God. [The "dar di sill is essential to understanding Zubiri.]

Note Voegelin's introduction of "metaxy" in early 60s which seemed to greatly water down his strong earlier separation of Hellenic philosophy with its image of the human and the divine from the Jewish-prophetic and Christian-evangelic revelations of the the man-God relationship. Metaxy seems to have generalized the two strands into a single generic form of the human vis-à-vis the divine.

But I would say that each of the three does come up with a similar kind of "basic form of humanity" and that is the suffering servant. For Voegelin, of course see OH-I and "Gospel and Culture" See Zubiri's Man and God volume of 1984: the nearest to Voegelin's metaxy, even to the language of tensional reality and the tension-towards that I mentioned above. Levinas in Difficult Freed , in his little piece on Jacob Gordin (1972) concludes with the call to "a new reflection on passivity, and a certain weakness that is not cowardice .... Enough of Nietszcheanism, even when purged of its Hitlerian deformations! But who will dare to say such a thing? The humanism of the suffering servant - the History of Israel - invites us to create a new anthropology, a new historiography, and perhaps, by bringing about the end of Western 'triumphalism', a new history." (171)

This basic form of humanity is specified in each: in Voegelin's attention to Israel and the Gospel, but not enough to satisfy a lot of people. See Levinas' more properly Jewish writings especially Talmudic commentaries but also his "Un
Dieu Homme?" for a 1968 French Catholic congress congress of on the theme on "Qui est Jesus-Christ?

Each a Fides Quaerens Intellectum, each from a slightly different angle and a slightly different base and yet they are each philosophers. Rigorous, not seeking consolation or promising it in their rigorous searches. Zubiri does not directly address questions of "God" or the divine at any length in on Essence -- we saw his insistence on developing an intermundane metaphysics. In his final trilogy he does not even, as far as I can recall, appeal to his basic "religious" philosophical symbol "religation". He had introduced this term in the 1930s and deepened its use profoundly in the late work Man and God. In the trilogy he mentions "God" or the divine only in passing. And yet, and yet ... some basic faith, hope and love -- "philosophical" - in each of our three, the cognitiones fidei, spei, et amoris, within which the cognitio rationis moves and without which it canno really live, be real. Cf. Anamnesis (324,184)

The basic pattern I draw from Zubiri but find in L and V is the close bond-and even inseparability, within distinction, of expression and impression, In the Voegelinian Metaxy, the divine-human movement and counter-movement is split apart only at the risk of destroying the oneness of reality. The consumate Christian dogmatic ("speculative") expression of this reality is the Chalcedonian formula. Jewish prophetism knows the same reality in the word that is both God's and the prophets. I single out Zubiri for his exhaustive exploration of the experience and reality of "Impression". Certainly stimulated to this I think by his meditation on Husserl (already mediated by Ortega) and on Heidegger. The "It reality" of Voegelin in tension with thing-reality, and intentionality in tension with the Luminosity of the it seem to me to be the latter's later expressions of this same impression/expression problematic. So also Levinas's thoughts about "the element" in TI and especially on proximity and substitution and prophetism in his later work.

Reality grows in each of us. Divine reality impresses each of us And each of us in turn expresses it.

7. Representation

Levinas deepens Voegelin with his theme of one-for-the-other and Zubiri gives a "basis- for both in his "respectivity" of all things, one of his developments of Ortegals "yo soy yo y mi circunstancia."

8. Love

Each emphasizes Love, surprisingly, finally, even Levinas in his later years after a hesitancy to use the word, as he put it to me once, for fear of taking the name of God in vain. major essay has to be done on this theme in Voegelin: from his introduction of metaxy in early 1960s to the great meditation on love that is his last published essay, the "Wisdom" piece.

XAVIER ZUBIRI (1898-1983)

1944 Naturaleza, HiStoria, Dios
1962 Sobre la essencia
1963 Cinco lecciones de filosofia

Intelligencia Sentiente

1980 Intelligencia y Realidad
1982 Intelligencia y Logos
1983 Intelligencia y Razon

1984  El hombre y Dios
1986 Sobre el hombre

1989 Estructura dinamica de la realidad

1992 Sobre el sentimiento y la volicion

1993 El problema filosofico de las historia de las religiones

1994 Las problemas fundamentales de la metafisica occidental

1996Espacio. Tiempo. Materia

El problema teologal del hombre: Christianismo

1999 El hombre y la verdad

2000 ... I don't have title yet.

Translations into English
(out of print for now)

1980 On Essence
1981 Nature, History, God

Available on/through website:

1999 Man and God
2000 Sentient Intelligence

Copyright 2000 Marie Baird

The issues of representation, ethics, and sources of order are of crucial importance in any dialogue between Eric Voegelin and Emmanuel Levinas, as I have sought to show in my own work on these two thinkers. It is especially important, however, to widen the dialogue to include other philosophers of note and I think that the current panel has done an exemplary job in contributing to that larger dialogue. Although I will comment on all the papers, I will reserve the main focus of my remarks for the papers of Professors Jardine and Simmons. Central to these remarks will be my own concern with the place and role of theories of consciousness in the work of the philosophers under consideration. My remarks are also intended to raise a few general questions that might pave the way for further discussion.

Professor Petrakis's paper on the role of phenomenology, representation, and symbols in the thought of Husserl, Voegelin, and Ricoeur reminds us of the centrality of theories of consciousness in the formulation of any political philosophy and ethics that would respond to the positivistic attack upon the integrity of subjective experience as an appropriate philosophical focus of inquiry. I appreciated the rigorous accuracy of his presentations of all three thinkers. Indeed, Voegelin's and Ricoeur's stress upon the primacy of symbolic representation evokes the need for the "more aesthetic approach to the science of politics" that Professor Petrakis's paper calls for. My question to him in this regard is whether he has of yet formulated any more specific guidelines for this aesthetic approach on the basis of his further reading of Voegelin and Ricoeur in particular, and whether he, or others, might suggest other potential dialogue partners in the establishment of such an approach. Despite his fine presentation, I remain somewhat unclear as to what such an aesthetic approach would specifically entail, in other words.

Professor Jardine's paper gives voice to a number of issues regarding the very fact of literacy, the role of literacy in the perception of either a natural order or the arbitrariness of humanly constituted conventions, and the ultimate consequences for philosophical, ethical, and political discourse, culminating in the moral crisis attendant upon the perceived death of nature. His analysis of the impact of the spoken word, and by extension that of narrativity in the constitution of a virtuous political order, reminded me of John Caputo's injunction, vis-a`-vis Levinas's philosophy, that sometimes it is enough to simply tell a good story, like that of Abraham and Isaac or that of Antigone, in order to effect the possibility of ethical change in the real time of history. I will argue later that Levinas's ethics is unable to address concrete ethical experience in real time, his analysis of the third party notwithstanding. I appreciated Professor Jardine's caveats that literacy is not the only source of the nature/convention dichotomy and that there is no simple chain of causation leading inevitably from literacy to this dichotomy -my remarks presuppose the correctness of these assertions.

It is not only the mere fact of literacy over sound that establishes the literate person's conception of reality as " a large but finite text" to which language must correspond, creating the "language realism" of which Professor Jardine writes, but father also, and more importantly, the way in which literacy mediates the immediate and personal connection to the life world through abstraction. If language becomes "spatialized" then the life world itself risks becoming subsumed under such "spatialization," creating a decontextualized climate in which reality must either "correspond" to an unchanging natural order whose topography we must discover or reality becomes the product of human creativity where everything is, indeed, permitted because the very notion of moral constraint has died along with the natural order's demise. Such constraint requires "the ongoing story of living responsibly in a community of other people," to quote Professor Jardine's paper. (p. 10) We need radically contextualized, spoken stories to offset the pervasively visual orientation that literacy mandates- perhaps this is the "stick in the eye" that a colleague of mine at Duquesne often refers to. The Other arrives on the scene to narrate such stories which we hear and to which we are called to respond in the concrete context provided by the face-to-face encounter. I am, perhaps, misrepresenting Professor Jardine here: he writes that "we cannot hope to regain a sense of virtuous action that contributes to meaningful human communities without at least partially recapturing a sense of face-to-face oral/aural experience [emphasis mine]." (p. 11) My first question arises at this juncture: how do we literate humans do that? Is Professor Jardine's invocation of "the reconstruction of the fundamental metaphors that we use to comprehend our world" sufficient? (p. 18) And herein lies a theory of consciousness connection that I would like to at least mention, and that I think Professor Jardine's paper does not address.

Let me turn immediately to my second question, which is really a continuation of the first: what, if any, is the role of non-intentional consciousness in the reconstruction of such "fundamental metaphors?" I realize that I am asking a question that perhaps goes beyond the scope of his paper, but his evocation of "face to face oral/aural experience" raises it as a further evocation. Perhaps we literate humans need to be reminded that we are never only conceptually engaged with the life world, in other words, that such engagement is not confined to either literacy or speech. I think that Zygmunt Bauman's work on a postmodern ethics that seeks to take up the importance of non- intentional consciousness in relation to ethical action is, perhaps, an interesting point of dialogue for Professor Jardine's desire to liberate such "fundamental metaphors" from the eventual tyranny of a conceptualizing consciousness that takes language as such--I would suggest here language either as spoken or printed--as its sole point of departure. I understand, of course, that these "metaphors" are the product of conceptuality, and have no desire to challenge a certain centrality as to their importance. I wonder, however, about the overriding hegemony of their status.

The issue of non-intentional consciousness affords me an admittedly easy segue into my remarks vis-a`-vis Professor Simmons's paper. Wishing, perhaps, to play the devil's advocate, I will frame those remarks in a reading of Levinas that respects his claim that ethics is incommensurable to ontology, a claim that has come under fire from many sides, beginning with the Derrida of "Violence and Metaphysics," as Professor Simmons correctly notes. Specifically, I will argue that Levinas's ethical philosophy is radically impervious to the real time of history, despite his analysis of the "third party." Let me state unequivocally, however, that I think the kind of analysis that Professor Simmons presents is of crucial importance to the further development of Levinas's philosophy vis-a-vis concrete ethical experience, which I consider to be especially necessary if we are to "save" his ethics from the historical oblivion that his claim of its status as "otherwise than being" evokes for many of his commentators.

I was struck, recently, by one commentator's claim that Levinas's analysis of the "third party" is an ad hoc form of argumentation that functions as a kind of appendage to his overall project-and an awkward appendage at that. Should it perhaps be recognized that his philosophy has no direct historical analogue? This is one reason why I think he and Voegelin are such good dialogue partners-Levinas needs Voegelin to help bring his thought into any possibility of historical relevance if we consider that Voegelin's analysis of the luminous symbol of "universal humanity," particularly as we find that in volume 4 of Order and History bears within it the impetus to ethically responsible action. Levinas himself has stated that he indeed does not take up a philosophy of history in his work, a comment made in response to the charge that his philosophy bears a "ghostly" character. Yet he also asserts that his ethics of responsibility is perhaps not incompatible with the concrete experience, in lived time, of what he calls a certain "utopia of conscience." The problem is that such concrete experience, mediated by the arrival of the "third party," ontologizes his philosophical project without creating a link between the intentional consciousness required to recognize the "third party' as such and the non-intentional consciousness that pervades Levinas's analyses of ethical subjectivity.

 And Professor Simmons has not provided that link; he has passed too easily from an analysis of Levinas's ethical dyad to the arrival of the "third party" without indicating the radical shift in consciousness that is attendant thereupon. Indeed, I do not see how any such passage could occur without a detailed analysis of Levinas's theory of consciousness, which is an essential aspect of his "otherwise than being" claim. To those commentators who would claim that Levinas's putative "otherwise than being" is really a "being otherwise," Levinas would respond that such cannot be the case because the ethical subject's consciousness would then be subjected to an ontologizing conceptuality. Such is, of course, the case for the ethical subject given the arrival of the third party, but with that arrival the "otherwise than being" claim and with it, the incommensurability of ethics to ontology for Levinas, goes out the window. Indeed, Jeffrey Dudiak goes so far as to claim that "for Levinas ethics never &'precisely because its incommensurability to real time is incapable of "translation" into the conceptual categories that govern intentional consciousness. Dudiak and others who seek to defend the integrity of 1,evinas's "otherwise than being" claim, tend to characterize his ethics as a "diachronic transcendentalism" that articulates certain conditions under which ethical responsibility may be analyzed philosophically in a way that eschews the primacy of ontology. Let me close these remarks relative to Professor Simmons's paper with a short summarizing statement that I hope captures the gist of this particular way of reading "Levinas: A pure "otherwise than being" that escapes ontology altogether also remains untouched by-and unable to touch-history, a sad irony for an ethics of responsibility, yet an inevitable fate for a formalized ethics that calls itself transcendental. If the ethical relation remains outside of thermatization , as it most assuredly does for Levinas, the arrival of the third party does not succeed in historicizing Levinas's ethics adequately because the thematizing consciousness which is that of the third party cannot be guaranteed to thematize ethically. Here, in the real time of history, is where Voegelin's analysis of luminous consciousness and its generation of luminously differentiated symbols picks up where Levinas leaves off; Voegelin offers us a way of viewing consciousness in real time that can account for the kind of symbolization that enables ethical action.