Why are life and existence confusing

More than just a nuisanceAbout the usefulness of metaphysics for life

Hadn't Fichte, Hegel, and Schelling reached the final climax of this form of philosophical thought in German idealism? Hadn't positivism declared all metaphysical propositions meaningless and tried to erase every pluralism of the method of knowledge? And failed to recognize that every knowledge is based on images, metaphors and punch lines, which can definitely be fruitful?

Thomas Palzer shows in his text that it is not only about what is the case, but also about how the world could be. The revealing power of thinking extends infinitely further than the proving power of knowledge. It is only in metaphysics that we humans understand the meaning of the whole, our where from and where we are going. Because metaphysics is always in the interests of people and is precisely not a disinterested, pure recognition of a world that exists independently of people.

This essay is staged in the best philosophical tradition as a dialogue between three characters who are looking for answers. It becomes clear to the characters: Metaphysics does not solve any questions - instead of solutions, it only has a long story to offer, which itself is full of criticism of metaphysics.

Thomas Palzer, born 1956, studied philosophy and German in Munich and Vienna. He is a writer, essayist, journalist, writer, filmmaker, and broadcaster. In 2018 the essay "Comparative Anatomy" (Matthes & Seitz) was published and in 2019 the novel "Die Zeit that remains" (Tropen).



Today, many are wondering how their souls are doing in the face of the countless digital doubles that haunt the internet - their tried and tested double.

Does it still exist - the soul? Or is it, in spite of all the claims of tradition, ephemeral and possibly already - past?

It is said that when one dies, the soul is left to live on somewhere as the essence of oneself.

"Essence" comes from the Latin "esse" - to be. A soul is essentially permanent - it wests. It has a share in the unchangeable being - capitalized - in the realm of ideas.

Being is not rigid and dead in relation to becoming - because of the eternal in it, being remains eternally alive.

Becomes reality - being is. Becoming is devalued compared to being. Through logical thinking, the Greeks project a true, unconditional and contradiction-free world onto the sky.

The theory of the soul, together with the theory of ideas, is one of the essential creations of Platonic thought. The soul, as explained in the "Phaedo" dialogue, is the subject of the person. She is the center of self-awareness - and she is immortal.

Christian commentators later adopt the concept of the soul and inscribe it into their own doctrine of God.

The status of the soul lies exactly in the middle between the idea and the world of the senses - between above and below. On the one hand, the soul is invisible - that is, like the idea, not spatial - but on the other hand, it has properties, is qualified - similar to the things in the world of the senses, which all exist only once:

For Plato, the general is more important than the particular and individual. The soul participates in both - in the general and in the particular.

Man, the metaphysical animal

It is only the desires that nail the soul to the body. The separation from the body through death therefore leads to their redemption. The soul is not composed, its behavior remains the same forever. The soul is considered to be autonomous.

Says Plato.

What is a soul now?

The soul - that is metaphysics.

To speak about something as intangible and nebulous as the soul.

Intangible or not - everyone is interested in their soul and their fate.

What is a person - that is, in addition to his body?

Is man what science says - identical with his biology?

What else would he be?

Man is the animal that asks about his being in his being.

So is man the metaphysical animal?

Nobody will seriously claim that there is no difference between humans and animals.

But which one is that supposed to be?

Animals also have a language, live in social groups, use tools, live altruistically and read the thoughts of others.

Since Darwin, the position of German idealism - Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling - namely that humans differ fundamentally from animals, has been on the defensive.

Usually it is only a question of time before a certain property, which supposedly distinguishes humans from animals, must also be awarded to animals.

But man has a soul! The soul is that which draws the being body into being and qualifies it as a human being.

The self-awareness

With the concept of the soul, Plato invented the inner human being, the actual, the essential human being ...

... and on top of that the body as the grave of the soul.

But what now distinguishes humans from animals is what was once called the spirit. And that is the fact that it is self-consciousness which gives unity to all individual faculties of the mind.

... so of perception, reason, memory ...

Human life is essentially self-conscious life - a life that is self-aware.

Knowledge of oneself takes place solely as thinking in thinking.

Because I think that I am, I am.

That sounds like the perfection of German idealism - namely, like that metaphysics which the criticism of it is specifically aware of.

It is a volte according to René Descartes! It takes into account that our thinking always relates to itself in everything it relates to.

So we are meant - in everything we think.

The focus is on the subject - the inner human being.

The soul?

But why is this self-relationship so fundamental to all of our knowledge of the world?

Because only self-confidence can develop an awareness that knowledge is knowledge at all - and of what is lacking in knowledge.

Why else should we speculate?

A metaphysical question - a metaphysical question.

The knowledge we have is not enough for us

So why are we speculating?

Obviously, because what is available to us as knowledge is not enough for us. We even suspect that knowledge would not be enough to satisfy us even if it were comprehensive.

Knowledge is night.

Knowledge presupposes that other things are not known and excluded. Because knowledge can only exist in an ocean of ignorance.

The inner condition of clarity is: the dark.

Knowledge identifies its subject.

Everything that is not identical with what is known is left out, remains.

Knowledge is just knowledge in a sea of ​​ignorance.

That is what is not known in knowing.

When we speculate, we long to grasp the whole. The whole thing that can never be known!

For without remainder, the material world cannot be understood by itself.

The whole is the absolute. And if we follow Anselm of Canterbury's ontological proof of God, then the absolute is that beyond which nothing greater or more perfect can be thought. And because nothing greater can be thought, this also implies that we cannot think that the absolute does not even exist.

So go the fables of metaphysics! Let's get rid of them!

Immanuel Kant put an end to the traditional and scholastic form of metaphysics, with its logical cleverness. But even he was of the opinion that man could not do without metaphysics, since everyone would think something about his soul.

The subject sits in the center of the world

The questions of metaphysics are inscribed in the nature of reason.

In any case, since Kant we have called a certain style of imaginary metaphysics. It has a very bad reputation and is a nuisance to the philosophical establishment! But at least as an outdated form of philosophical thinking that was ultimately perfected with Fichte, Hegel and Schelling.

But metaphysics is still around. It seems to be as indestructible as it is inevitable - but it is unprovable!

So why is it so powerful?

Because she is about the whole thing! About a totality that would then no longer be knowledge, but absolute.

The whole thing, says Adorno, is untrue.

With this Adorno answers Hegel. For Hegel, the true represents the subject of the whole.

What is that supposed to be - the whole thing? When is something whole? When is it complete? When everything is there?

A world is only complete when there is a consciousness that can address itself as such a consciousness in this world: self-consciousness.

The mind always relates to itself in everything it is about. Without self-confidence, that is, without knowing myself, there would be no knowledge of anything.

Conscious life is always known to everything that it knows. To be able to say I, I have to know about myself.

And only self-confidence creates that order that turns the confusing multitude of individual phenomena into a world - being out of being, being out of chaos, the cosmos.

The subject sits in the center of the world.

It is we ourselves who create the context for the whole.

In this respect, man is homeless, but at the same time the center of his cosmos.

As self-confidence, we appear unavoidable in the world. I can't go back behind me.

I. As a person, I address myself as I.

Whoever can address himself as a person must have a world in which he can be a person. Because the person lives in the continuity of familiarity with himself.

Lifeworld orientation function of philosophy

Having a world is not a matter of course.

What are we in when we are in the world?

We are in history, in society, in nature.

Plato's being and Hegel's absolute are just other names for the monstrous and the monstrous:

We do not know why we are also present under what is present.

Where am I?
What am I doing here?
How can I find my way around?
What kind of insight will help me with these questions?

The Greeks differentiated between "techne", the practical knowledge of the workshop - and the "episteme", the general or theoretical orientation knowledge that comes from the temples.

We contemporaries believe in "techne", in practical knowledge. For us, the workshop has become a temple. That is why we are in love with the "manual", the manual.

There are manuals for almost everything - even for the end of the world.

And is there also one for the way of life? After all, we can't just let life happen - we have to live it.

In fact, there is a manual of manuals: it is the philosophy.

What can i know?
What should I do?
What can I hope for?
what is the human?

... these are the questions of philosophy. Says Immanuel Kant.

Who is man Because man is not a being among other beings !? Rather, through the soul, through self-awareness, it is in an inner relation to being.

Man has a share in both: the spatial and the non-spatial.

Although I address myself as a person, I still don't know who I am.

In any case, it's about the whole thing.

Metaphysical questions are questions of self-understanding. I question myself as someone who is self-aware.

According to Fichte, soul and subject must be understood as an independent dimension of understanding.

Moment! Haven't the philosophers eliminated metaphysics from philosophy at least since Kant?

If the manual now causes a sensation, the manual, then it is as if philosophy had concentrated on itself, on its foundations, namely its life-world orientation function.

The manual introduces you to the things of the world.

Metaphysics does not create knowledge, it creates order

The manual in philosophy is called: metaphysics

Let us not forget: It was Edmund Husserl at the beginning of the 20th century who saw in the oblivion of the world and in the detachment from the lifeworld the motive that conjured up the crisis of the European sciences and especially that of philosophy.

Not dissimilar to the situation today.

As a result, it is remembered today that the truth about man does not reside in any underlying essence. But in existence - in the way someone exists.

Human life is essentially self-conscious living. That is how man exists.

Man exists as homo faber, as a creative person: hammering, nailing, sawing!

Which is why he frequented the do-it-yourself market in droves Saturday after Saturday, which is the second phenomenon next to the manual, from which one can read that a renaissance of metaphysics is being prepared, which has actually been declared dead for a good 200 years.

Hegel says in the "Science of Logic":

"What was called metaphysics before this period has been, so to speak, rooted out and gone from the ranks of the sciences."

From the range of the sciences? Has metaphysics ever been a science?

Metaphysics does not create knowledge, but the order that can qualify knowledge as knowledge in the first place, i.e. science, for example.

Science, capitalized? But what is metaphysics supposed to be anyway?

Metaphysics asks final questions - questions like what is real.

Plato says: only the ideas.

The idea qualifies a thing for what it is. A thing is not a thing and besides a horse - but the idea itself is the horse.

The soul gives beings their form. Beings are always threatened by non-being, by the loss of all form, by nothing. All metaphysics begins with the dichotomy between being and nothing.

The idea is not knowledge. Knowledge always has to find a world that it can then know something about. Reality thus remains unfounded in and of itself.

Do not know what a thing is

Why is there something - and not rather nothing?

The craftsman also evades the question of reality. He, too, has to assume that there is something he can then lend a hand.

He needs the high ceiling to guide the ladder to its destination.

After all, Socrates took the view early on that metaphysical truths can be recognized with rational means.

An idealist!

Our present is downright Gnostic. Because, like the contemporaries of ancient Gnosis, we are absolutely of the opinion that we have gained a special form of knowledge. For us, however, that's the way science thinks.

A way of thinking that does not produce empty, meaningless sentences - as the positivists in Vienna and Cambridge claim against metaphysics! - but just: knowledge.

Knowledge is power.

But why should sentences be meaningless just because they do not convey any information about the empirical? Our thoughts about facts do not represent the facts themselves!

For Aristotle, metaphysics is the science of beings insofar as they are. To be, capitalized, is the substantiation of what allows something (being) to be. Being is the subject of what is.

There are. Who - gives?

Don't know what a thing is. Knowledge only knows the difference between things.

Structurally, knowledge is platonic - it unifies everything. It claims to not produce meaningless sentences - instead: certainties, knowledgeability, knowledge.

But is there anyone somewhere who would pledge their life, for example, for a geometric proof? Asks the Munich philosopher and metaphysicist Dieter Henrich.

Knowledge does not answer the very questions that concern us - concern us because they affect us radically.

Scientific knowledge - that is the form of knowledge that is based on logical conciseness.

In a good platonic way, science nails beings into being.

In this respect, the ecological crisis is actually one, the crisis of a certain metaphysics.

Science cannot interpret my life

Science is based on operations, on the interplay of theory and practice. But science cannot provide a hermeneutics of existence. She cannot interpret my life.

The essence of technology - cannot be something technical again.

The essence of the refrigerator is not a small refrigerator in the refrigerator.

In addition to the theory, there is also empirical observation. Without wanting to get along, metaphysics has been rightly accused.

But in order to be able to make an empirical observation, one needs theories and concepts that say how one has to observe. And these theories and concepts in turn cannot be taken from experience. But only from the mind.

Wisdom does not go into science. And science is rarely wise.

Metaphysics does not rely on natural attitudes, empiricism or logic. Metaphysics relies on thinking as such.

That is exactly what makes them suspicious: the exaggerated belief in the "logos", in the laws of thought.

The world produced the laws of thought - it would be plausible to assume that this is why they fit the world!

Hegel writes: The thinking spirit cannot cease to occupy itself with its pure essence.

But where do the tautologies and contradictions of logic come from, where do the logical truths come from?

Logical laws are not caused by logic itself.

So isn't logic metaphysical from the start?

Reality is not logical in all of its provinces

The logician is therefore a metaphysician simply because he constantly goes beyond reality in what he does. However, reality is not logical in all of its provinces.

What interprets and interprets itself and the world, that is self-confidence and only that. One can orient oneself well in the logical space, but the logical space itself cannot provide any orientation.

Logic is based on the principle of reason: nothing happens without there being a cause. This principle of reason has for its part - no reason.

One can therefore say: logic was the belief of the Greeks.

The application of the "logos" to the myth gave birth to metaphysics. The myth belongs to the prehistory of metaphysics. Because even the myth thinks things from their origin and tries to represent the order of the world as a whole.

If myth gained its authority through reference to supernatural sources, metaphysics draws its authority through recourse to the "logos".

But in the course of history logic has become the problem of metaphysics. Because their concepts gave birth to more and more concepts without ever reaching the matter itself - on the contrary: it moved further and further away from it.

This is what happened in scholasticism.

In the end, there was an abyss between concept and thing.

Logic is limited to a sub-area of ​​reality, more precisely to the pure forms of the Platonic world - but man, his consciousness, faces the world as a whole.

Even the Middle Ages denied that the world was completely rationally recognizable.

It's about the whole - not the parts.

The fact that there really is reality cannot be justified logically.

Incidentally, not really disputed either.

The very existence of matter raises questions that are not themselves of a scientific nature.

At least mechanics cannot say anything about matter.

Apparently, according to the laws of evolution, matter tends to produce consciousness.

But where does the program for evolution come from?

Man is in the midst of the absolute

It is metaphysics that asks such questions about the first and last things.

What is real

Is being bogus?

In any case, appearance is not nothing. He gives his appearance - Greek: idea.

Back to the absolute!

If nothing more comprehensive and perfect than the Absolute can be thought - which implies that the Absolute must be because its nonexistence would be less perfect than its existence - then God or the Absolute are so fundamental to thinking that that thinking never is able to look away from him.

Such is the ontological proof of God by Anselm of Canterbury.

The metaphysicist Gunnar Hindrichs, who teaches in Basel, shows that the ontological proof of God is not a metaphysical cloud cuckoo country when he thinks about what it means to think about things such as the absolute:

"If we think about things, we don't just think that something is so and so. [...] After all, it is about thoughts about things and not thoughts about thoughts. [...] We think thoughts that claim that their content is a non-thought. "

When we think of God, we think of him as something that is not a thought.

The proof is already provided when the content is thought of.

If God is indispensable for thinking, then he is at the same time greater than thinking itself, consequently inexhaustible and inaccessible.

The human being is not homeless, as previously stated, but rather is in the midst of the absolute. When he thinks God or the Absolute, he thinks something that is greater and more perfect than the thinking with which he thinks this very thought.

In this way, self-confidence rises and transcends itself.

The world-setting subject inevitably clings to the absolute. Precisely for this reason, according to Augustine, this Absolute must be thought of as a mystery.

Metaphysics would therefore mean: expressing the sacred in words.

As always, metaphysics revolves around the themes of spirit and the absolute.

Is there then nothing outside of thinking?

The unreachable, the mysterious God - a negative theology.

The pre-Socratics called the absolute "arché" - the origin of everything. With Plato the absolute was the good because only the good is thought for its own sake.

The absolute is the prerequisite for all that is and must be thought more fundamentally than being. It is imperative for every act of thought.

Here we come full circle with antiquity and the beginnings of philosophy in pre-Socratic times.

Parmenides says: thinking and being are the same.

Is there then nothing outside of thinking?

Mind, namely self-awareness, should not be a subjective ability to think in relation to external objects - as the neurosciences claim. But self-confidence should be the following: the identity of thinking and being. Self-awareness is the spirit's self-knowledge in its pure essence.

That would abolish the world ...?

Absolute subjectivity is the principle of metaphysics. Knowledge of oneself takes place solely as thinking and in thinking. We are always meant, no matter what we think.

Metaphysics thus inherits the anthropocentrism of myths.

Self-confidence is always a prerequisite.

According to Plato, the world is divided into two parts

But unlike God, it is not out of itself. It is just not self-supporting and absolute.

But the point is to save the phenomena after the Hegelian self-consciousness has absorbed everything around it. A movement that was actually laid out at the beginning of Western philosophy.

In Plato's dialogue "Phaedo" it says:

"Should we, then, said he, put two kinds of beings, one visible and the other invisible? - We want that," said he. - And the invisible always behaves in the same way, but the visible never the same? that, he said, we want to set. "

This little dialogue can in a sense be seen as the founding act of metaphysics.

From now on the world is divided into two parts - on the one hand "physis", on the other hand metaphysics.

And in between the soul. Our proven double.

In the 20th century the term soul, which participates in both the visible and the invisible, was removed from science.

However, when it comes to questions about people, nature, consciousness and the cosmos today, the term soul has become the most important slogan.

There is still the most fundamental objection to a metaphysics whose principle is subjectivity: the thought that this world has always existed anyway, regardless of whether there are any cognitive and acting subjects in it!

It is therefore a question of metaphysics after metaphysics. According to Adorno, metaphysics in the post-metaphysical age cannot be anything other than thinking about metaphysics.

If logistic thinking is only concerned with thinking itself, then the matter can only be a disturbing content.

It's about understanding, not proof

But now it's about saving the phenomena.

No thinking can mend the break between concept and thing, thinking and phenomenon.

So it is a question of thinking that is removed from the logical constraint.

If metaphysics was in tension with logic, post-metaphysical metaphysics is about insight.

It's not about evidence, it's about: understanding.

Each of us is called to find some formula from which we can understand ourselves and the world.

Each of us is concerned with the final questions, with the meaning of the whole, with the context, with our where from and where we are going.

Are we the point of it all?

Included in the concept of reason are understanding and interpretation beyond what can be guaranteed by evidence.

It is therefore not just a question of what is the case, but also of what it is or would be like if one were in such a situation. It's about visualizing your own life.

So only speculative thinking provides orientation. It is not for nothing that the place that provides an overview is called "specula". To have thought about it and to keep thinking about it - that is metaphysics.

We always find our way back to her.

Metaphysics is incessant and irreversible self-reflection.

Instead of an answer, metaphysics has a long history. This guarantees the independence of the judgment. We have no other guarantee.

The questions that knowledge can answer are not questions in the strict sense. Only real questions are worthy of the question. Questions about us, about the interpretation of our world! About the fact that we have to be our there. Metaphysics is questionable - but only it is responsible for questions that have no knowledge-based answer.