Potestas Clavium \ III \ Memento Mori



9

     With his customary daring Husserl declares: "Our statement that every subjective statement allows itself to be replaced by an objective statement signifies basically nothing other than the limitless character of objective reason (Schrankenlosigkeit der objektiven Vernunft [author's italics] Logische Untersuchungen, II, 90).

     What Husserl promises us here has always been the object of men's most ardent desires, as the promised land was for the Jews. Reason has so often deceived us that we really have all grounds for not trusting it any more than sense-impressions which, as daily experience demonstrates, are equally deceptive. The philosophical skepticism which for thousands of years has ruined the established truths was born and developed on the soil of observed errors. We have certain sensations, we also have subjective observations whose evidence appears indisputable to all, but where shall we find the supreme sanction - the guarantee that all of us, the human species as such, do not live in a world of phantoms and that the truth we distinguish is really the truth and not an error? Husserl gives to the questions so formulated a precise answer: "to the subjective association of thoughts there corresponds here an objective... unity of meaning, which is what it is whether it be actualized in thought or not" (Ibid., 94). And he adds with still greater force: "the scientist knows also that he does not create the objective validity of thoughts and of associations of thoughts, of concepts and of truths, as if it were a question of accidents of his mind or of the human mind in general, but that he intuits and discovers them. He knows that their ideal being does not have the meaning of a 'psychic being in our mind' where, through the negation of a real objectivity of the truth and of the ideal in general, all real being, including objective being, would be abolished" (Ibid., p. 94. Cf. Logische Untersuchungen, I, p. 129: "Truth and being are both, and in the same sense of the term, 'categories,' and obviously correlative. One cannot relativize truth and maintain the objectivity of being.")

     And again in Volume I of Logische Untersuchungen:
"The experience of the agreement existing between thought and the real that is thought, between the actual meaning of the statement and the facts of the case is evidence, and the idea of this agreement is truth. But the ideality of the truth constitutes its objectivity. It is not an accidental fact that a proposition, in this place and at this moment, is in agreement with a given state of things. The relationship concerns rather the identical meaning of the proposition and the identical facts of the case. "Validity" and "objectivity" (or "nonvalidity" and "nonobjectivity") belong to the statement not insofar as the statement is temporal but to the statemen in specie, the (pure and identical) statement 2 x 2 = 4 ." (I, pp. 190-91)
The explanatory example given here is again drawn from arithmetic. And this is certainly not a matter of chance. All of Hussen's philosophy is constructed as if there were nothing in the world but mathematics. And if it had not pretended to discover for us the rhidz˘mata pant˘n, the roots of all things, it would perhaps have conformed to its definition. As the theory of knowledge for mathematics and the mathematical sciences it could find its use and justification.

     But it pretends to much more, and it is generally considered much more important. When Husserl, wishing to satisfy the "eternal" need of man, speaks of the limitless power of our reason besides which there is not and can not be any other authority, what is involved is no longer a question of the multiplication table. One then discerns the voice of Saint Thomas Aquinas who, when he asks utrum fides meritoria est, whether faith is praiseworthy, knows that there cannot be two answers to this question or, to speak Husserl's language, that the answer will have an objective value. One hears also the voice of Saint Thomas Aquinas' opponent Luther, who, even though he called reason a whore and vulgarly insulted Aristotle, cried out passionately: Spiritus sanctus non est scepticus, nec dubia aut opiniones in cordibus nostris scripsit, sed assertiones, ipsa vita et omnia experientia certiores et firmiores [The Holy Spirit is not a skeptic, nor does it write doubts or opinions our hearts, but rather assertions more certain and firm than life itself and all experience]. Husserl's theory maintains and nourishes precisely this kind of assurance. "It is necessary," he says, "to consider theory of knowledge a discipline which precedes metaphysics" (L. U., I, 195). This means that before tasting the infinite riches of life it is necessary to admit that reason is objective and limitless. It is necessary to believe that mathematics determines the character and possibilities of human understanding in this world as well as in all those that have already existed and those that will exist in the future and that, consequently, it may be that the solutions we propose to metaphysical problems will show themselves to be false but that in principle the fashion in which these questions are raised does not admit of any modification.

     To put it differently, when Saint Thomas asks utrum fides meritoria est, it is necessary to answer him "yes" or "no," and this "yes" or "no" will be accepted both by Luther and by the spiritus sanctus in the name of which he speaks or, to use Husserl's language, by monsters, angels, and gods. Likewise when Luther speaks of his sola fide one must either agree or disagree with him. In the kingdom of truth, metaphysical as well as empirical, the supreme ideal is unshakable order. From this comes the religious and philosophical intolerance which, to flatter human weakness, has always been considered a proof of our love for God and the truth. In 1525, in connection with the Wars of the Peasants, Luther wrote: Der Esel will Schlńge haben und der Poebel will mit Gewalt regirt sein; das wusste Gott wohl, darum gab er den obrigkeyt nicht eynen Fuchsschwanz, sondern ein schwert yn die Hand [The donkey wishes to be whipped and the mob wishes to be ruled by force; God knew this well and therefore gave the government not a foxtail but a sword in its hand].

     Who knows? It may be that the creators of rationalism were moved by the same considerations as those of which Luther speaks. Perhaps they also thought that it is necessary to beat the donkey and to keep a tight rein on the rabble and therefore they created their reason in the image of the sword. But he who takes up the sword will perish by the sword. Luther, Saint Thomas, and many other great men of this world, suffered from the autocratic power of the tyrant they had placed on the throne no less than the rabble whom they despised. For in the end the tyrant demands above all complete submission of those very ones who helped him ascend the throne.

     It is deliberately, for the sake of greater clarity, that I have touched here on metaphysical questions, but I could have spoken also of the problems of the exact sciences. "Every theory in the experimental sciences is simply a hypothetical theory. It does not draw its explanations from fundamental laws that are obviously certain but only obviously probable. Thus the theories themselves possess only obvious probability; they are provisional and not definitive theories" (L.U., I, p. 255). "If we could intuit clearly the exact laws of psychic processes they would show themselves as eternal and invariable as the fundamental laws of the natural theoretical science and would therefore be valid even if there were no psychic process" (L. U., I, 149). One would, I think, have to be blind not to see clearly that Husserl does not keep, and does not wish to keep, within the limits of the "positivism" that he proclaims. Or rather, Husserl believes that he has the right to raise his positivism to the rank of metaphysics. Having begun by establishing the equality of the right to be of the ideal and the real, he ends by subordinating the latter to the former. The ideal world is the eternal order which determines and supports the real world. The real world was born yesterday and will disappear tomorrow; the ideal world was not born and will never pass away. This is the foundation of the limitless power of reason; it is because of this that we can transform every subjective statement into an objective truth. The spiritus sanctus of Saint Thomas Aquinas and of Luther, which was born of the Greek logos, has become the ideal cosmos of Husserl. And the spiritus sanctus gives men the power to perform miracles, or what they consider such. If Christ had said to Saint Thomas bene de me scripsisti [you have written well of me], this would mean - and this is precisely the essential thing - that what Saint Thomas had understood was not his subjective experience but objective truth. All of us, consequently, must think and write what Saint Thomas thought and wrote. Christ himself, as is said in Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor," can add nothing or take anything away from the writings of Saint Thomas. And Luther, who was saved by faith, already "knows" not only that he himself was saved by faith but that all men can only be saved by faith. The Mohammedan, the Hindu, the scientist of G÷ttingen or of Marburg, who have subjectively experienced certain things, have transformed them into limitless, ideal, objective truths and are unshakably convinced that it is in this transformation that the supreme goal of mankind consists; and they do not even ask themselves pro forma if they are not betraying mankind by barring it, through such philosophic sorceries, from the way to salvation.

     Naturally in our time, when the scientist cannot use the vocabulary of the church, the spiritus sanctus has been replaced by the theory of ideas, as formerly when men had lost confidence in reason they put the spiritus sanctus in the place of the Xˇyoc. But the goal of every philosophy "which had a future" was always to give man the possibility of passing from the subjective to the objective and of thus transforming limited experience into absolute judgments. Men have already more or less arrived at this. Husserl has also succeeded in it. His ideas have found an echo among many contemporary philosophers. People have already for a long time aspired to proclaim proudly, lifting their heads high, the absolute, unshakable truth. And when Husserl daringly began to develop his ideas hundreds of voices responded to his call. Who today does not possess the absolute truth, and who dares doubt that the absolute truth is now definitively the truly absolute truth and that philosophy has entered into a period of sure scientific discoveries? Men have again plunged into a peaceful rationalist slumber - for the moment, naturally. The printer's ink had not yet had time to dry on the pages written by Husserl when the world was shaken by events which could in no way have found a place in the "ideal" order perceived anew by the G÷ttingen professor. Will men awake, or are they destined to a heavy slumber to the end of time? There have always been events of immense importance, some of which entered into history while others - the most important - remained outside of history and left no testimony, but the need for a well-defined and peaceful existence was stronger than everything. And all memento mori, beginning with relativism and up to death itself, troubled - and this but for a moment - only a few rare spirits, without succeeding in overthrowing the order of the enchanted kingdom in which we are destined to be born and to end our ephemeral existence.

     But, despite everything, it is not given to rationalism, with all its "arguments deduced from consequences" and its threats of confinement in the madhouse, to choke in the heart of men the obscure feeling persisting there that the final truth, the truth which our ancestors sought unsuccessfully in Paradise, is found epkeina noű kai noŕse˘s, beyond reason and what can be conceived by reason, and that it is impossible to discover it in the immobile and dead universe which is the only one over which rationalism can rule as sovereign.


Orphus system


   home    intro    texts    links    biblio ToC