Philosophical Heuristics

Translated by Ben Koschalka

by Jan Hartman (Author)
Monographs 247 Pages

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Introduction to the Second Edition
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Philosophy’s Self-Image – Towards A Heuristics of Philosophical Life
  • 1.1 Introductory comments to some important concepts for heuristics
  • 1.2 The Novice’s Experiences
  • 1.3 Philosophy as Profession
  • 1.4 The General Point of View and The History of Philosophy
  • 1.5 Institutions of Philosophical Life
  • 1.6 Pathos and Nihilism in Talking about Philosophy
  • 1.7 The Possibility of a Heuristics of Philosophical Life
  • 2. Methodological Thinking
  • 2.1 The Idea of Logic
  • 2.2 Philosophical Logic
  • 2.3 The Heuristic Ideal of Method
  • 2.4 The Cartesian Spirit
  • 2.5 Heuristics and the Issue of Idealism
  • 3. Pragmatic Thinking
  • 3.1 Practice and Method
  • 3.2 Practical Legitimation and Reflexive Legitimisation
  • 3.2.1 Adorno – The Dialectical Path
  • 3.2.2 Apel – The Path of Transcendental Moralism
  • 3.2.3 Habermas – The Path of Entrusting Science
  • 3.2.4 Rorty – The Personal Path
  • 3.3 Between Scientific Solemnity and Scholarly Irony
  • 3.4 Foundations of the Pragmatistic approach to Heuristics
  • 3.5 Perspectives of Pragmatistic Heuristics
  • 3.5.1 Heuristics of Philosophical Communication
  • 3.5.2 The Ontology of Philosophy
  • 4. Rhetorical Thinking
  • 4.1 Cognition and Persuasion. The Duality of Rhetoric
  • 4.2 Aristotle: Rhetoric in the System of Logical Knowledge
  • 4.3 Argumentum Ad Hominem (Schopenhauer, Perelman, Heidegger)
  • 4.4 Rhetoric and Hermeneutics (Gadamer)
  • 4.5 The Significance of The Humanist Turn
  • 4.6 Another Possibility: Nietzsche and The Rhetorical Nature of Language. The Non-Identity of Rhetoric
  • 4.7 Plato and The Dialectic of Rhetoric
  • 4.8 The other Side of Rhetorical Heuresis
  • 4.9 What Rhetoric Teaches Heuristics
  • 4.10 Towards Rhetorical Heuristics
  • 5. Hermeneutic Thinking
  • 5.1 Problems with Talking about Hermeneutics
  • 5.2 Popular Hermeneutic Consciousness and its Limits
  • 5.3 The Abundance of Dilthey’s Heuresis
  • 5.3.1 The Concept of Life
  • 5.3.2 The Universality of Research – Tempering The Difficulties of Idealism
  • 5.3.3 Speculativeness and Respect for the Reality of Life
  • 5.4 Heidegger: The Existential and Ontological Orientation of Hermeneutics
  • 5.5 Gadamer’s Hermeneutic Synthesis
  • 5.5.1 The Hermeneutics of Prudence
  • 5.5.2 The Ideal of Participation (The Gadamerian Thing Itself)
  • 5.5.3 Metaphysical Inclinations and an Ambivalent Attitude to Transcendentalism
  • 5.6 Hermeneutics and The Power of Reason (In The Light of Gadamer’s Synthesis)
  • 5.7 A Critical Comment and Postulate for Heuristics
  • 5.8 On The Margins: The Hermeneutics of Suspicion
  • 6. Structuralist Thinking
  • 6.1 The Intellectual Mood
  • 6.2 The Integrating Power of Structure
  • 6.3 From Heuristics of Rejection to Heuristics of Doubling
  • 6.4 Two Series in Structuralism
  • 6.5 Mathematical Inspirations
  • 6.6 The Philosophy of Difference – Deleuze and Derrida
  • 6.7 The Nietzschean Calling
  • 6.8 Deconstruction
  • 7. Heuristics and Self-Knowledge
  • 7.1 Introduction to The Question of The Neutrum
  • 7.2 The Neutrum
  • 7.3 The Faces of Heuristics
  • 7.3.1 Heuristics as Optimal Philosophical Speech and Critique
  • 7.3.2 Heuristics as Knowledge
  • 7.3.3 Heuristics as a Mirror of Philosophy
  • Bibliography
  • Index of Names

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In this book I present the programme of metaphilosophical research which I have called “philosophical heuristics”. This derives from, and at the same time refers critically to many topics from philosophical tradition, which I discuss and comment upon synthetically. Methodological, pragmatic, rhetorical, hermeneutic and structuralist tradition are thus all covered.

Anything that benefits and advances cognition, especially discursive, can in the broadest sense of the word be called “heuristic”. All factors forming science, classified as intellectual means (questions, hypotheses, methods) and helping us to attain cognitive objectives, are part of so-called heuresis, and can be considered in terms of their heuristic value. By heuristics I am particularly thinking of its methodological meaning, in which cognition of heuresis serves as a means to refine subjective cognition (of some science). Yet heuristics, when it has followed the dream of the great art of inventionis, taking in hand the practical directives and methods of the elusive, the irrational moment of pure discovery, has conceived itself as something more than just methodology. The desire to exceed the framework of methodological thinking toward some greater generality was what (at least since the time of Bolzano) led to the use of the word “heuristics”, in order not to speak simply of methodology. This is also why I use the word “heuristics” in this book. With this meaning in mind, though, from the outset I would like to expand its scope considerably. I intend to go beyond the methodological perspective in a radical style, as I am not interested in efficiency and novelty of findings.

Heuristics, in the sense of the word adopted in this book, is not supposed to serve some other cognitive process or discourse, but rather to constitute unity with them: I do not wish to separate the result of the cognition from the discourse that leads to it. Every element of a discourse is a kind of result that is heuristically conditioned in some way, as well as a stage, and therefore a moment of heuresis advancing towards the next ideas and propositions. What is therefore important for us is not that a proposition or expression constitute the “official”, declared results of a discourse, but rather that they are the result of complex – theoretical and non-theoretical – conditions, a complex heuresis. As a result, a view seeing the heuristic process as “cognising something” or “solving a problem” would place too much emphasis on the relationship of goal and means; let us say, therefore, that heuristics will deal with thinking, especially philosophical, at the same time being a certain form of it. I conceive heuresis itself here in the broadest terms: as not just the intellectual factors forming the shape of philosophical ← 11 | 12 → ideas or expression (presuppositions, logical forms, linguistic determinants, methods), but rather all factors at play, including “naturalistic” (psychological and social) ones.

In philosophy, we contemplate various aspects and conditions of philosophising, pinning our hopes on this reflection broadening or correcting our views. Sometimes, as with Aristotelian logic or Cartesian considerations on method, this form of reflection takes the form of a philosophical programme based on the conviction that studying the subject should be complemented (or preceded) by knowledge of the formal conditions for doing so. This gives us the heuristic projects that grow out of some form of heuristic reflection. The kind of heuristics proposed here is supposed to deal with various such projects, i.e. every thinking that, in concerning thinking and all a philosopher’s actions, affects the course and results of this thinking and these actions. In this way, it itself becomes a certain heuristic project. Moreover, in testing various forms of heuresis – such as that based on the idea that first you have to create a method and then pursue philosophy, or that philosophy should be undogmatic and therefore start from a premiseless theory of cognition – the heuristics itself must become part of the relevant train of thought, in a sense accepting the conditions of these forms. As a result, it is not always able to have the coherence of science – with a clearly defined subject and method. The idea of such science is also a heuristic project based on the belief that unity of subject, method and criteria of acceptance of results will ensure concreteness, efficiency and scientific accuracy. Heuristics accepts this conviction and the resultant postulates when it comes to philosophy pursued in the style of science. Yet if it seeks to understand and enrich the type of heuresis used in the sciences that are formed, then it should yield to them to the appropriate extent. However, at the same time it must be ready to make contact with other forms of philosophical thought which require that discourse be carried out in a specific way (such as critique of reason or speculation), and which lay a claim to exclusivity, unwilling to be associated with anything else, for example with a programme assuming something like a methodical review of various forms of doing philosophy made with the intention of achieving a synthetic insight and comprehensive theoretical tools. This is not to say that heuristics should abandon such intentions, but rather that it must find a heuristic context for its theoretical goals – ascertain the extent of their validity and what they can achieve.

Heuristics, as one heuristic project, is based on heuristic directives that are variable and depend on the topic in question, in which certain heuristic directives will be of constitutive significance and may not be ignored by some “meta-objective” ← 12 | 13 → discourse guided by their own heuristic preferences. In a certain sense, then, heuristics must be placed “in between” – in a kind of suspension and dependent on diverse forms of heuristic reflection. In other words, heuristics must have various faces, none of which can lay claim to any special position – of “trueness”, “originality” etc.

To an extent, what has been said so far exposes the heuristic face of heuristics itself, making a general explanation of what heuristics actually is necessary.

In describing itself as a certain field, heuristics turns out not to be a uniform one. It therefore falls into a multilateral heuristic dependence on the form of philosophy that it is dealing with at a given time, to some degree growing to resemble it. This peculiar heuristic mimicry, so to speak, results from heuristics describing itself as one of many heuristic projects, which leads to the postulate that philosophical cognition is always “mediated” (or prepared) by the best knowledge of “how” – of all the circumstances on which its course and fate depends. But we cannot separate the contemplation of a philosophical question from the contemplation of its heuristic circumstances – this takes place within one discourse. For example, the critique of pure reason, based on testing all kinds of “how” thinking, also delivers a certain “what”, i.e. theses, solutions and beliefs concerning epistemological issues. Critique of pure reason is thus a certain heuristic project. We call the universal but at the same time individual heuristic form that identifies “something” as a heuristic project a “how/what” heuresis for short because of its dependence on the dialectic of the objective (contemplating “what is given” as the “object of study” or “problem to solve” etc.) and reflective position (consideration of the method, logical structure, forms of argumentation etc. – all the heuristic conditions of the dialectically opposed “objective side” of the same contemplation). Let us say, then, that in its self-knowledge as a “scientific field”, heuristics is the philosophical study of the formal circumstances of philosophical thinking – the conditions, determinants, forms, structures (i.e. all kinds of “how”) with the intention of exploiting the knowledge gained in this way for its “objective” issues (all kinds of “what”), with full awareness that the formal (how) cannot be extricated from the material (what) perspective. It is also conscious that philosophy, conducting various forms of such heuristic reflection, is the sole theoretical source of any possible progress in the kind of research foreseen by heuristics, and that as a result the identity of heuristics as something distinct from heuristic projects in philosophy will often prove impossible. Does this mean that the fate of heuristics to be a declaration of doing something which philosophy in fact does anyway, without a moment’s thought for “heuristics”? Is it ← 13 | 14 → doomed to be a kind of parasite? This is the question of the possible advantage of heuristics over other heuristic projects, and – despite everything – of its identity.

The first thing that we should note is that, interested as it is in all the conditions of philosophical thinking, heuristics is guided by a heuristic idea of universality – overcoming limitations and biases. This results in opposition to displays of naivety, intellectual insularity, dogmatism and illusion. There is nothing original in this, as the same “sensitivity” is shown by most heuristic projects, for example programmes aiming to make the concept of rationality broader and more flexible. Heuristics, however, although it is to be merged with already existing heuristic projects (as a critique, development or complement to them), must be interested above all in those determinants of the work of philosophy which are not sufficiently addressed in existing projects. It must raise to the rank of object of theoretical interests things which have previously not been perceived or have been deemed to belong to “another order”: that of psychology, sociology, literary studies etc. These subjects include practising the scientific life of philosophy (and the way in which it determines a philosophical result), questions related to the mental conditions and motivations for pursuing philosophy, matters of literary style, use of metaphors and the like, which are of some bearing to the material side of the discourse, and factors of writing work. In the various specific theories belonging to heuristics, such as the theory of philosophical discourse, theory of questions and argumentations or pragmatics of doing philosophy, we should develop a synthetic and critical conceptual scheme that is richer than the one used in studies of individual subjects in isolation. The fundamental objective of heuristics – to philosophise in the heuristically broadest terms – forms the heuristic basis of a comparative unity of research, which in philosophy – in spite of the obviously similar intentions – do not form such unity. The same effect should also be sought in studies on historical projects based on a group of historical ideas, like philosophical logic, general methodology, rhetoric, hermeneutics and many more. Each of these projects contains a certain illusion of universality (including utter theoretical self-knowledge), or at least self-sufficiency, which makes it hard to discern and take into account the claims of other, equally universalist propositions. But this is the intention of heuristics, which assumes that various discourses, like the pragmatics of pursuing science or rhetorical discourse analysis, fall under the same “how/what” model of heuresis, and are thus motivated by a similar drive to develop heuristic reflection on all sorts of determinants of doing philosophy, treating them as part of the task of philosophy itself and a heuristic means serving to develop its various questions. ← 14 | 15 →

Despite the shared intentions of the disparate heuristic projects, a number of factors inhibit the natural forging of links between them. The most important of these is the fact that almost all of them stake a claim for supremacy over the others. For instance, if somebody is carrying out a logical study of the arguments applied in philosophy, he or she prefers to ignore (despite the similarity of the heuristic motivation) the claims of the hermeneutic approach or perspective of the phenomenology of spirit. The reason for this is generally known, but this knowledge does not have an effect on results in philosophy. Worse still, a more profound understanding of these phenomena is hampered by the practices (or heuristic habits, as we call them here) which remove difficult questions from the field of view using intuitive phrases that are lacking an argument and often false, such as “the two approaches concern different orders, so they are autonomous of each other”. Research in mutual mediation aiming to combine various heuristic projects should be a problem area, the individual aspects of which can certainly be found in various segments of philosophical tradition and which has never been treated as a whole and in a heuristically (conceptually, terminologically) uniform manner.

The next field of interests of heuristics is an obvious one: the philosophical issues directly linked to the phenomena which it seeks to study and with its own status. And it is here that the question of the scope of dialectical heuresis’s validity (and the how/what model) arises, as well as the problem of universalistic claims of philosophical notions and conceptions and the rivalry that forms between them, with no evident common adjudicating authority apart from theories that are similar or their equal. Other examples of heuristics’ own, “parent” issues are those of rationality, methodical pursuit of philosophy or the limits of philosophical cognition. These have so far been appropriated by particularistic so-called “philosophical conceptions”, which are lacking not so much in self-satisfied self-knowledge as the awareness that they are particularistic. To contemplate these questions in heuristics we require the ability to move between various universalistic discourses – the discourses of self-knowledge of reason, ultimate validation etc. – and at the same time to submit to their logic. Ultimately, the task of heuristics is to form itself as a way of doing philosophy, as “one more philosophy”. And this means that heuristics is not just to become philosophical study, delivering its own results for the questions connected with various forms of heuresis and the theoretical situation of heuristics, but also that its experience should entail a broad understanding of the possible perspectives a given question offers and the consequences of possible ways of studying it. ← 15 | 16 →

Readers are no doubt already tired of the repeated used of the words “heuristics”, “heuristic”, “heuresis” etc. Perhaps, though, the reason for this unattractive means of expression is already clear: the idea is, by using more concrete and traditional concepts in various cases, not to lose sight of the unity of heuristic intentions manifested in different theoretical situations. The (heuristic) principle of this step can be compared (but not equated) with the establishment of a formal and regulative key concept to be filled by content as the theory is developed, with introduction of a so-called analogous concept, as well as with the position of the concept specified by the contexts and ways of use. In addition, it often happens that we search for a word like “heuristics”, instead using some expression which is supposed to be sufficiently general and thus not very binding. For example, we speak of somebody’s “style (type, paradigm) of thinking”, the “logic (method) of deduction”, “meaning” or “character” of a conception, about “approaches” or “intellectual atmosphere”. Heuristics aims to undertake a systematic study of this kind of concepts, inasmuch as they are linked by a particular similarity or unity of the intuitions they contain. Assuming the existence of this hardly perceptible unity, we also establish the concept of it, which is why we shall use the word “heuresis”. In looking for “the right word”, we frequently content ourselves with such terms as “theoretical” (e.g. character), “cognitive” (status), “epistemological” (dimension), “rhetorical” (aspect), “methodological” (order), “hermeneutic” (value), and “reflexive” (style). We use them then not so much in a technical sense, but rather in a fuzzier, more general one, which might be encompassed by the term “heuristic” (e.g. character, status, or dimension). These concepts are in fact all closely linked – as yet, though, these connections have not been systematically studied to ensure that the notions are used in an organised fashion. In order to begin doing this, we need to employ concepts that are sufficiently wide-ranging but at the same time not too entangled in philosophical tradition. This is what led me to choose the concept of heuristicity. I might instead have opted for, say, method. But then it would be difficult to “believe” that heuresis often goes beyond what can be described in the categories of method. It is similarly difficult to avoid the charm of the universality of the concept of methodological reflection or that of speculative self-knowledge. Rather than generalising these notions, therefore, I speak of “heuristic reflection”.

I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Władysław Stróżowski for all his kindness and help, and also to thank Professors Karol Bal, Marek Siemiek and Fr. Józef Tischner, who were the first readers of this book and whose valuable comments helped the whole to become considerably shorter and more consistent. It is of course a great honour to me that the Foundation for Polish Science ← 16 | 17 → decided to publish this book. My sincere gratitude also goes to the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, which “invested” in the project of this treatise by awarding me a half-year scholarship in 1993. It was during this stay that I wrote most of the book. However, its current form is considerably different from the original version, largely thanks to the editor, Małgorzata Grochocka. I am indebted to her expertise – philosophical and otherwise – and profoundly grateful for her work. ← 17 | 18 →

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1.  Philosophy’s Self-Image – Towards A Heuristics of Philosophical Life

1.1  Introductory comments to some important concepts for heuristics

We shall understand the concept of philosophical life as the actions that take place in philosophy, as well as those who act. Philosophical life therefore consists of the people and communities that create, as well as institutions, statements, texts and ideas. When we speak of philosophical life, we want to leave aside the contents of philosophical statements, instead encompassing everything that belongs to philosophy. We also want to free the concept of philosophical life from the explicitly objective and objectivist meaning of many notions of naturalistic humanities, which must then restore their subjectivity. Philosophical life is formed in the minds of philosophers, at universities and conferences and in books and offices; it is a subjective, intersubjective, but also objective entity – a correlate of doing philosophy. We shall also refrain from determining the place of this concept in the dialectical discourse removing the opposition of subject and object, instead accepting its indeterminate nature.

To talking about heuresis efficiently in the most general terms, we can employ the word “habit”. A habit is something that is habitual, what one has become habituated to thinking, doing or saying – a custom. Heuristic habits are therefore the statements, judgments, principles, arguments, ways of thinking and customs that express the knowledge and convictions of philosophers on the subject of philosophical life and work. For example, it is the requirement to specify the terms that one uses or the observation that great philosophies demonstrate a high level of self-knowledge. Such statements are habitual – and this is all we have in mind when we call them habits, rather than any scepticism as to their content. However, addition of the adjective “heuristic” serves to underline the fact that a habit plays a role in formation of the opinions, views and statements of philosophers (as their premise, their objective content or the background of popular opinion against which a position is assumed).

Heuristic habits may be unconscious, but they may also be the result of the reflection that reveals a habit and leads to its acceptance, giving it the significance of a scientific result (such as saying that every reference to a text is only an interpretation). Heuristic habituality extends to what is philosophical from the side of what is not strictly philosophical – as heuristic habits concern matters ← 19 | 20 → of interhuman coexistence in the philosopher community, organisational affairs, research methods, teaching, and not just philosophy’s theoretical self-knowledge. As they belong to the sphere of social behaviours closely linked to talking and writing, heuristic habits are distinguished by what makes all social and linguistic acts different: to greater or lesser extents they can be conventional, apodictic, open or suitable, and take the form of discourse (argument) or otherwise. Depending on the social character of their functions, heuristic habits also occupy the appropriate places in the semiotically perceived structure of philosophical life. The linguistic expressions of heuristic habits, with their regulative and identifying functions, are often located on the fringes of the mainstream of philosophical narrative – in introductions and conclusions, commentaries on one’s one work, memoirs, interviews, occasional speeches, and digressions to lectures. But the effort of reflection that the verbalisation of heuristic habits is, as well as the need for universalisation that comes from their functions, mean that it is to a great extent philosophy that the conscious part of heuristic habituality concerns, influencing what is said about it. After all, it is a heuristic habit that leads us to speak of the futility and aporeticity of philosophical contemplation or of the need to continually mull over new fundamental questions.

If heuristics is also to formed as the heuristics of philosophical life, it should at the same time be its pragmatics and dialectics. This means that we must refer to philosophy as the sum of what happens in philosophy. When we think in the most general terms of “happening”, we accept a universal and simultaneously dynamic point of view which characterises the heuresis of the dialectical approach. But in the abstract formula of dialectic thinking, abstract “happening”, becoming completed, is the concept of its effect, which is what results from philosophical life. From the point of view of the abstract heuristic model of dialectic thinking, heuristics means studying “how” philosophy becomes and “what” results from it, of course in mutual mediation. That is to say: to explain the way in which this “how” determines the “why”’, but at the same time for this research to play a positive role in this dialectical process, i.e. for it to itself deliver the valuable “what”, meaning some philosophically valuable results. We call any “what” of philosophy, presented as its result, “philosophical matter”. Philosophical life means philosophical matter together with the dynamism of philosophy in the most general terms – its “how”. It therefore emphasises the dialectical and pragmatic whole of philosophy as a manifestation of social and intellectual life. It is impossible here to delineate the boundary between the actual philosophical matter, meaning what really belongs to philosophy, and what is “in front of it” or “next to it”. In other words, we do not define what actually is philosophy in philosophical ← 20 | 21 → life and philosophical matter, and what is non-philosophical determinants and external effects. Failing to adopt a particular idea of the essence of the art of philosophy, and especially its noble ethos, often stirs the opposition of the adherents of this ethos. The reason for this is a misunderstanding whereby this circumspection, characteristic of positivist thought, is taken for triumphal exposure and reductionism. Hegel was one whose position towards these questions was very emotional: the “(…) psychological approach contrives to trace all actions to the heart and to interpret them subjectively, with the result that their authors appear to have done everything because of some greater or lesser passion or lust, and on account of such passions and lusts, cannot have been moral men”.1 Yet this is not to say that if we include in the sphere of interests of philosophy the active psychological and social factors that influence their result, i.e. philosophical matter, then naive psychologism is to blame. Rather, we should say that we are proceeding in accordance with a heuristic model linking the abstract with dialectics. In the abstract research conception, we are interested in everything of significance for philosophical life, including what comes before philosophy, in the expectation that the logic of the dialectical procedure will itself reveal the hierarchised autonomous spheres of meanings – psychological and purely theoretical. The naturalistic or meta-objective approach can therefore be applied correctly and unnaively as a look back of the dialectical process or as the revelation of the polemical content of one of its stages. We should remember, though, that certain forms of philosophical matter constitute its own matter, meaning the right result, which philosophers present as the effect of their work. These might be ideas, propositions, views, conceptions, arguments, traditions or texts.

When we use the concept of philosophical matter, it is important to remember that its heuristic role is limited to a dialectical-pragmatic mode of thinking within heuristics, and that in no way is it a key concept of some specific conception of philosophical life. Just as we do not say, for example, that philosophy is limited to a collection of mental experiences or texts and theses, we will also not suggest that every philosophical meaning should be conceived in terms of the dialectics of philosophical life and referred to the entirety of philosophical life and philosophical matter. Similarly, the claims to universality contained in the abstract idea of heuristics as the study of the links and mediations between the “how” and “what” in philosophy – factors and results – with the idea of exploiting this knowledge in order to do philosophy better, should not lead us astray and give ← 21 | 22 → the impression that this is the extent of heuristics or its most general description. Otherwise, the phenomenon of claims to universality of abstract concepts fulfilling regulatory, emphatically heuristic functions, must be an object of particular attention to heuristics; but let us rather make it an object of particular caution. After all, as Hegel warned, nothing is as threatening to dialectics as the power of abstraction and the appearance contained in an abstract concept, which keeps us from being sufficiently diligent in tracing the dialectical details.

For heuristics of philosophical life, and for heuristics in general, an important idea is that of philosophy’s self-image.

The self-image (self-portrait) was originally a psychological concept, whose basic meaning addresses the sum of a person’s vision of him/herself. The critical concept of a self-image is attained in two stages. First, it proves to be inseparable from – and even constituting – the subject. Therefore it cannot be conceived objectivistically as a set of beliefs about oneself which as a certain kind of knowledge influences a person’s behaviour. The concept of the image is then subject to transcendental criticism. Since it belongs to a naively objectivist order, it assumes that cognition involves reproduction or depiction of reality, i.e. that somebody paints a picture of him/herself as something given like an object. Yet a self-image as knowledge of an object is impossible. However, this criticism cannot change the fact that not everybody submits to it – in fact, nobody does: all people, even philosophers, surrender to the reflexive action that is creating their own self-image. In this sense it is legitimate to speak of a self-image, even if the fact that this concept is subject to the dialectic of subjectification and objectification, muddying the distinction between a true, honest self-image and a declared or conventional one, forces us to use it dialectically. But this does not mean that it is not present or valid.

If we are to speak of philosophical life and wish to respect the categories in which philosophers present it a well as to give heuristics the quality of pragmatics (as opposed to schematic theory), we must recognise that in heuristic habits the self-image of philosophical life is formed, and that heuristics of philosophical life must surrender to its laws. Only on this condition can it contribute to the development of philosophical life.2

The self-image of philosophical life is always linked to somebody’s story about philosophy – the life of philosophy, the work of a philosopher, the concept of ← 22 | 23 → philosophy, the issues that seem constitutive of philosophy to the storyteller. Yet the credibility of this story cannot be confined to how it is confirmed in facts on philosophical life. Rather, it depends on the experience of the listener or reader, who must recognise him/herself in the narrative. The access to heuristic studies as examination of heuristic habituality and philosophical life sketched in the following paragraphs can only be effective to the extent to which it offers a successful contribution to the self-image of philosophical life. This means a story about philosophy in which philosophers recognise their experiences and reflections, and which will as a certain idea invoke the self-image of specific readers, irrespective of how the self-image is a dialectically complex concept.

1.2  The Novice’s Experiences

Students starting out on a degree on philosophy generally recognise at least one thing, even if their ideas of the subject are somewhat hazy. What they do know is that philosophy is a field in which everyone has the right to their own opinion, or rather the right to speak in the name of logos and the name of truth. The ethos of discussion and debate that is characteristic of philosophy is instilled by almost every type of education in Western civilisation. At the same time, though, the public right to participate in discussion is juxtaposed with the personal expectation that there will be some link between philosophy and one’s internal mental life, manifested in questions – sometimes called existential issues – and postulates. However, conscious psychological needs do not require free discussion as a means of realisation, but only an intellectually and mentally satisfactory authority. For those who wish to learn about philosophy, it appears first as a domain of free discussion, yet one which is overseen by authorities adjudicating on the existential problems of humankind. It is the first philosophical belief, with which people tend to come to the discipline and which to some extent lingers on, irrespective of the criticism the philosopher levels at it, that these problems (as intellectualists might call our cares, anxieties and doubts) can be converted into philosophical questions (or problems) and solved (and removed) by philosophy. Similarly, the dialectic of free discussion and authority in which they got caught up at the beginning of their philosophical journey does not go away. A degree in philosophy consolidates these fundamental elements of heuristic habituality. But students soon discover that discussion and authority occupy a different place in the structure of philosophical student life than they had expected. Authority in philosophy proves to be not so much authority of truth and who tells the truth, as the authority of a professor relating the history of philosophy and that of the history of philosophy as a field of knowledge and thus of competences. As for ← 23 | 24 → the free discussion to which the material transmitted in this way is exposed, it becomes more of a common proposal, a regulative idea of philosophical life. If it does take place, this is solely to confirm that free discussion is the philosopher’s right, and therefore also that of the philosophical novice.

The fact that the motivation to do philosophy is rooted in mental needs, sometimes closely related to religious needs associated with the search for transcendence, is what makes the philosophical venture unwaveringly personal. It is to this too that philosophy owes what I seen as its chronic unrealisability. This unbridgeable distance of the realisation of philosophy has a social manifestation. A heuristic habit is formed whereby we perceive a gap in philosophical life between true philosophy, pursued by those about whom we learn, and philosophy as a sort of vestibule in which the closest to the entrance to the chambers are those who talk about the proclamations of the true philosophers and furthest away are the students. And yet the model of free discussion encompasses everyone, makes us all equal, which is why what the true philosophers say appears in the form of a heuristic view or argument (and not one of truth), with which we can always compare our view or argument. Of course, this structure is always more intricate, if only because the participants of philosophical life have some idea or other of its complexities. Yet heuristic habits still have a captivating effect on us. The gap between true philosophy and our way of dealing with it, which novice philosophers recognise right at the beginning of their philosophical journey, is an indication of the general heuristic form imposed on the whole philosophical life: the form of deferral. Philosophy is not here and not now, and the true philosopher is not you or I;3 philosophy is always being formed, prepared; it is never finished and accomplished. This sense of philosophy being deferred, absent, corresponds to the heuristic habits entailing its customary conceptualisations in statements like “truth has a horizontal character”, or “philosophy is never finished” – it is “a path”, continually rethinking the same questions, the love of wisdom and not wisdom per se, etc. Many philosophies exploit this personal moment in pursuing philosophy and the fact that many people have particular expectations of it to express these phenomena in an existentialist-epistemological conceptual form that is sometimes marked by a certain pathos. The most significant examples would be existentialism, philosophy of dialogue, as well as the philosophy of Heidegger and hermeneutics. In countries where the heuristic form of deferred philosophy ← 24 | 25 → is much less distinct (or has been forgotten) than in German or Polish philosophy, such as the United States, this kind of philosophical narratives and the customary phrases that go with them are much more seldom used.

In Poland at least, once the novice philosopher finds herself at university, which was supposed to be the antechamber for philosophy, she soon discovers that everybody there is waiting in the same room and nobody is given much hope of being allowed in. What’s more, it is not in good taste to openly seek admission. What she is introduced to is the very diverse – depending on the school – symbolism of deferred philosophy. A tremendous symbolic role is played by the very meaning of the word “philosophy”, conceived as the collective endeavour and wisdom of generations of philosophers, embodied in the history of the culture of Reason, and finally the source of great splendour that is our being here – at a university philosophy department. As a symbol of our objective and the unity of reason, the word “philosophy” appears in philosophical statements and texts in complicated and opaque heuristic and logical (semiotic) functions that derive from socio-linguistic functions.4 The lofty symbolism of philosophical life has its counterparts in the concepts that refer to its everyday character. The dignity of the actions of the university philosopher, sanctioned by his connection to the noble tradition and grand objectives of philosophy, is expressed in their academic nature. This is the feature of doing philosophy that can make up for the employee of the philosophy department’s acceptance of the status of not really being a philosopher (and a distant echo of the lover of wisdom who is not yet a sage). His worth as a philosopher is not described using terms that render his position on the path to wisdom, or even that ascribe some knowledge or wisdom to him, but by a particular code that refers both to the quality of his academic ← 25 | 26 → work and his position in the community. We therefore say that someone is good, has a decent knowledge of a particular topic or philosophy, wrote a good book, received early tenure, etc., and are far less likely to speak in the same terms as Diogenes Laërtius: “teaches that…”

The novice philosopher therefore learns that, rather than becoming a philosopher, she has the chance to become “good at something”; she may not gain wisdom, but at least she will learn a little philosophical expertise. Essentially she will have to subordinate her life as a philosopher to serving those who embody true philosophy and have been placed in the pantheon of philosophical greats (as well as serving their works and so-called arguments). This situation, in which the social forms of religious and scientific life somehow merge, is in a certain sense dangerous for the novice, if only because in philosophy the ideal of free discussion is something that is almost ritualised – for example by observance of forms of statements assuming the equal rights and competences of all the participants in a seminar – rather than being a genuine tenet that is actually practised. This ushers in philosophical insincerity, which is where the problems begin.

1.3  Philosophy as Profession

For the novice philosopher, the deferral of philosophy has the extra practical dimension of philosophy being presented to her for a long time through textbooks and lectures, of which there are usually so many that there is not enough time to read classic works and source literature in their entirety. The breakthrough in the neophyte’s studies (which sometimes never occurs), marking the beginning of participation in philosophy as professional life, comes when she takes up a particular interest – a field, issue, or author. This is the way one gains access to a certain specialisation and begins to know something that others do not know. The result is a certain sense of security – not everybody can test us, and since the expert community is generally rather small and dispersed, we do not have to occupy a particular position in it – a low one, for example.

Our first publications usually put us into the social role of someone with a particular research interest. This is where we begin our professional lives in the community of philosophers who are anonymous specialists on something or someone – a field, author or professor. At the same time, we must submit to the prevailing heuristic idea of the structure of philosophical matter. In general, texts written by philosophers are classified according to subject and school, to an admittedly vague but still binding nomenclature. This consists to a great extent of philosophical terms of rather limited content (meaning, for example, philosophical disciplines and movements). There is no knowledge common to all, or ← 26 | 27 → even an extensive description of the various fields, in which philosophical works might be unambiguously classified, for examples as dealing with hermeneutics or the philosophical problems of the natural sciences, or aesthetics or ontology. What does exist formally, however, is the firmly rooted heuristic habit that is the supposition, deriving from the positivist ideology of scientificity, that specialists know what the elements of the nomenclature that classify philosophical works mean; furthermore, that this nomenclature corresponds to the similarly supposed objective theoretical reality (and is not just a historical product of philosophical life burdened by numerous premises and theoretical consequences), or even is theoretically neutral. This supposition does not fit the contemporary state of heuristic consciousness, which is often guided by the ideas of hermeneutics, and which we may usually only contest in very moderate forms. Most of all, it involves using the customary law that is fundamental to the ethos of philosophy – the law of contemplating things from the beginning. The philosophical works regarded as expert literature begin and often end with musings that boil down to defining basic terms which belong to this academic nomenclature of the division of philosophy, and often taking a form that would suggest that ontology and ethics are some kind of novelty that requires an introduction. This is just one of many examples when the heuristic habituality borrowed from the positivist ideology of science and adapted to the form of university life has an effect on the philosophical work and philosophical matter. Positivist practices favour the historism and privileging of the history of philosophy compared to other parts of it. This also leads to the belief that it is a fundamental heuristic requirement for a philosophical text to belong to a field specified in a certain nomenclature, which is easiest for a text on the history of philosophy to fulfil. Moreover, the demands of academic heuristic habituality mean that works from this area, if only because they refer to source literature, naturally assume a safer form similar to that of historical texts.

As a result, when we embark on the profession of philosopher we face the strong temptation to become historians of philosophy, or at least the authors of commentaries on past or contemporary philosophers. In this way, philosophy itself is further deferred for us – we are isolated from it by the wall of philosophical texts which we are to deal with professionally.

Certain external forms of scientificity accepted as heuristic habits, and applying particularly to young scholars, often act as a shelter from the difficulties of creative philosophical life (which, to be honest, prove too much for many of us). Yet escaping to our methods or to a detailed historical specialisation will not free ← 27 | 28 → us from the struggle of writing, which – even when naive and irresponsible – is an extraordinary effort.

Writing is the foremost, most private sphere of philosophical life and of the philosopher’s practice of his profession. Restrictions of a physical nature stipulate that, unlike the thinking process, a text must have a beginning and an end. In fact it is just books that require a beginning and an end, but the material, finite essence of the writing itself, forming the ethereal matter of ink to make sense, in keeping with the logic of layers within a whole, requires the physical form of this layer, which contains the remaining layers, to have analogies in them – i.e. for them (from the structure of sentences to the pure meaning of the text) to be complete. This is why in the heuristic habit our ontology of matter (which is fragmented) is transferred to writing, symbols, meanings, right up to the final layer of the work – the conceptions and theories. The curse of the philosopher is the fragmentation, dissection of pieces of meanings, cutting ideas to fit the form of a books divided into chapters and subject to a formal structure – beginning, middle, end – contrary to the psychological and semiotic nature of thinking, which is fluid, multifaceted, and sometimes incoherent.5 Often to blame for this is the heuristic habit of thinking of writing as encapsulating ideas in a form and of a book as a record of these ideas. As yet, the now possible theoretical awareness that a written work has a certain autonomy is not translated into specific stylistic models or pointers, let alone any significant changes in heuristic habituality. Texts intended not just as a medium of ideas, but rather to carry the meaning created by the laws of the matter of writing, are for now regarded as too pretentious and difficult to spawn many copies. We must all therefore struggle with writing matter as something alien, and even hostile. Our experience as speaking and thinking beings is incomparably greater than as writers, which is why we ← 28 | 29 → invariably experience disappointment in our toils with writing. What we write ends up being vapid and superficial in comparison with what we think, and even not to be what we wanted to say. Without doubt, grammatical and stylistic forms, and not only the heuristic demands of the academic text, have an effect on what we suppose to exceed them, constituting the positive content of what we write. But we believe that, when we are experienced authors, we will control this, just as a sculptor controls his chisel to the extent that you can hardly tell that he used a chisel to make the sculpture.

Writing is a very private sphere of philosophical life, but at the same time the most public one. It is private to such an extent that we often view making it public (by publishing) as an unnecessary complement to the action of writing. Although this approach makes it easier to reconcile ourselves to the fact that in general little of what we write will be read by a great number of people, at the same time it is harder to remember that a text is by nature addressed to a reader, which imposes obligations regarding its form and style and even limits its volume. The privacy of writing, disproportionate to the communicative function of the text, also comes from the fact that the text is produced in one home and arrives at another; it is something from me delivered to you. As for the public character of writing, it is based on the fact that its result – the book – becomes the most official and objectivised form of philosophical matter. Who we are publically as philosophers depends on our books. A book’s physical constancy and the possibility of reproduction makes it the most convenient object of public and objectivised (repeatable, documentable and verifiable) operations, such as summary, assessment and criticism. It is therefore public inasmuch as it is finite, our last word, after which we can only wait for the verdict of the public. Our work is sent out into the world, to fend for itself among people for whom it is something alien, worthy at best of fleeting interest. In a way it is also betrayed by us, convinced as we are that our ideas are infinitely richer and truer than their shadow – the book. With time, we stand on the side of the public, as the vivid mental source of our writing dries up and we transform from the authors into the readers of our own work; it is at this point that we tend to stop liking our books.

Partial compensation for the failure of writing is the possibility of public speaking, which is far better than a book at rendering the dialectical, digressive and emotional nature of thinking, while the grammatical form of lively speech can also be freer. The experience of talking about philosophy also reveals to us the great degree to which the message contained in our statements – the most vivid form of philosophical matter – is that which is extra to pure logical discourse and argument: style and form. In truth, the dichotomy of the logical-conceptual ← 29 | 30 → (and at the same time the material content of a philosophical statement) and what is part of style has been discredited in contemporary philosophy, along with the other manifestations of dualist thinking, but this has had no significant effect on heuristic habituality. Meanwhile, as speakers standing before our audience, we participate in the rather spectacular display of these habits. All the ideals of discussion, popularised long ago and described by hermeneutics and the pragmatics of communication, demonstrate their weakness compared to the logic of minor, local discourses, or rather short trains of thought which are in general everything that the listener is able to respond to the speaker on an ad hoc basis. If a logical condition of continuation of the discussion must be disagreement (otherwise there would be nothing to discuss), then the discussion must take the form of counter-statements and defence from them. The wealth of the theoretical context of discursive concepts and links (even regardless of the quality of what the speaker says) hugely outweighs the random or contingent counter-statements that must inevitably dominate in a discussion, almost always ad hoc and short-term. This contingency and alienation of the discussion is counterbalanced by the only chance for generating order and making it effective – invoking the topoi of criticism established in heuristic habituality as well as heuristic postulates. These are rooted in a simplified but binding idea of the heuristic structure formed under the influence of logic and comprising concepts/terms (which should be unambiguous for all the participants in the discussion) along with the basic logical form: premise – reasoning according to the laws of logic – conclusion. Any attempt to convince the listener of the need to add to this structure (as a condition of effective communication), even with rhetorical forms, requires (meta-objective or methodological) considerations that depart from the fundamental topic, and is in general unsuccessful. Ultimately, then, the philosopher’s experience as a speaker is also one of failure.

It would seem that our chances of mastering the situation – and this is surely the primal desire that releases our rationality – are greater when our work does not have to fit into autonomous structures – speech, writing, communicative practices. In other words, when it just involves reading and thinking. Reading, though, is not one of mankind’s natural activities, and it also has its difficulties. Furthermore, it is a struggle with matter that is always alien, something from far away and sometimes the distant past, and that is to become internalised deep within us. This rarely succeeds. In psychological terms, reading is a process which results in a small number of minor assets of the mind, a verbal and conceptual currency. A book, meanwhile, is generally forgotten or reduced to a few lines of ← 30 | 31 → narrative which mainly pick up on its elements that are easiest to summarise, as their function is to shape its logical and discursive form.

When reading, unfortunately, we are not spared the difficulties of grappling with the structures of writing and speech. Reading is also using language, and the minor or unspecified pieces of discourses that arise from reading as we think about what we are reading resemble the early forms of statements (not yet differentiated into speech or writing). They are more imperfect than mature statements, but it is in them – at least partially – that our understanding of the text arises. And our reading it by no means that we are trying to get closer to the truth, or opening ourselves to everything that the text can give us – rather, the reading is almost always functional. Even if we read the whole text, it tends to be so that we can learn about the author’s views, find out what he thought about a given subject. But how often do we read purely for research purposes – looking for something that we can use in our work or simply for a confirmation of our own thoughts? Moreover, there is so much we could read that as professional readers of philosophy books we are necessarily forced to impose a policy of selection and skimming. We therefore end up skimming many a book, rather than actually reading it. The result of this ought to be a heuristic pointer for writing, to face the realities of reading and write books specifically for the skim-reader. This would mean repeating the contents that are especially important for us a suitable number of times as well as including summaries and indices. In reality, though, in Europe particularly, few philosophers take the realities of reading into account. This is a paradoxical consequence of the persistent – albeit dying in the most developed countries – cult of the book, part of which is the illusory wait for the true reader capable of cognising and appreciating our work. But this divine reader does not appear.

1.4  The General Point of View and The History of Philosophy

Our reading ideals are expressed by hermeneutics, which considers the involvement of the phenomenon of reading both in the individual psyche – finiteness, and in the linguistic, cultural and historical factors that determine the meaning and content of interpretation. According to the generalised concept of interpretation applying in hermeneutics, hermeneutic theory is itself an interpretation of the practice of reading. It is based on the idea of the idealised reading situation.6 But the hermeneutic idealisation is a far cry from the everyday practice ← 31 | 32 → of reading, which is apparently more faithfully described by pragmatics of the Erkenntnis und Interesse type and the psychology cursed by philosophers. The charge levelled at the pragmatic-communicative and psychological approach is of the same nature as every criticism of naturalism. It is reckoned that motivations and other mental factors that go with reading do not have a theoretical significance, as they cannot be applied to the intellectual content of the work, which is the proper object of interpretation. The first thing to note, however, is that when within a unifying paradigm of rationality we strive to form a uniform theory on the whole of experience, layers appear (such as that of the psychological, phenomenal or phenomenological), meaning that we need to find a procedure to allow us to join them in a uniform meaning. This is the heuristic logic in this case, and Husserl too had to define a path to transcendental phenomenology leading through psychology.7 Secondly, the lack of contact between the various constitutive layers, especially that of mental experiences and that of conceptual meanings, is of heuristic significance for us when we are speaking of specific meanings, such as a specific text and its theoretical content. However, if we adopt a general point of view, for example if we want to develop a general opinion on the phenomenon of reading, it is by no means a legitimate postulate for our conclusions to be applicable to the methodical practice of material reference to particular texts. In any case, hermeneutic theory, and even theory of deconstruction, are expounded and can be understood without contact with a specific text. It therefore seems that heuresis based on the cult of direct contact with “the thing itself” and respecting the peculiar rules of various spheres of experience, which was taken on by Gadamerian hermeneutics, is postulative and wrongly levelled at the heuresis of the general point of view, which refer to the conceptualisation of practical experience, in which we have many cases to call upon. Such ← 32 | 33 → heuresis is natural. Yet from the point of view of the equally natural, albeit often excessively orthodoxly and theoretically conceived heuresis of the thing in itself, characterised by the tendency to distinguish layers and aspects and differentiate between an immediate and a reflexive approach, it is meta-objective and objectifying, a naive simplification, and its naturalness becomes naturalism.

The general point of view – this is the heuristic intention directing talking about philosophical life and philosophical matter and deciding on the acceptance of general concepts. They encompass wholes whose form of totality is just generality – extensional inclusion of everything that might be at play, and not – as those prejudiced against naturalism might think – just meta-objective unmasking of the true basis of motivation and the objectifying quantification of what has a spiritual nature. If such arguments are to a certain extent justified, it is because the habits of a modern philosophical education are inclined to contrast the general point of view with an insight into the thing itself, equating it with sceptical distance or reductionism. Yet the result of the philosopher’s general point of view on philosophical life is inevitably the form of philosophy’s self-image. And this self-image, deprecated by forms of heuresis characterised by pathos and ideological involvement, necessarily contrasts with them and appears sceptical, critical and lacking in pathos. This was especially the case in the past. But the sophistic pragmatics of intellectual life, certainly not as scornful and cynical as we are taught to perceive it, has already been pushed out of philosophy by the ideological and principled Platonic philosophy. It was the same story with rhetoric, and the few attempts to describe philosophical life from the social and historic perspective remained (with the possible exception of Vico) on the periphery of the philosophical mainstream. In more recent times, this form of philosophical thinking, reconciled with the dissent attributed to it, found a marginal-aphoristic means of expression, becoming something of an existentialist moral philosophy on creative work, without any scientific pretences. Perhaps the most distinct examples of this kind of philosophical literature (because there is also a long tradition of non-philosophers mocking philosophers, starting with Aristophanes’ The Clouds) are the relevant passages from Schopenhauer’s Parerga and Paralipomena and the works and notes of Nietzsche. This literature is of an entirely different heuristic character, although its social role is certainly close to literature involved in heuresis and the tradition of overcoming (idealism, metaphysics, foundationalism) and dealing with the crisis of philosophy. Its marginal and unsystematic nature is so compelling that one eminent English professor, wanting to write a book on philosophy as practice, decided on the ← 33 | 34 → form of a popular narrative about philosophy and philosophers.8 Meanwhile, the academic history of philosophy retains a unique, ambiguous position towards its self-image shaped by the general point of view.

The history of philosophy often attains the status of the main discipline at philosophy departments, and this also has its negatives. This is because the heuristic forms of the history of philosophy are transferred mechanically to other forms of philosophical thought, restricting its development. The great authority of the history of philosophy, confirmed by the competences and erudition of many philosophers, was reflected in the binding (in continental philosophy) heuristic habits, which tend towards a historical treatment of philosophical thought. Such a custom is, for example, emphasising that the history of philosophy is an integral part of philosophy, or assertions like: philosophising entails constant exploration of the heritage of tradition, it is constant intellectual contact with the philosophers of the past. These statements display a combination of the heuristic habits supporting the authority of the history of philosophy and hermeneutics. We will deal with what the hermeneutic approach brings to the heuristic image of philosophy later on. As for the aspects of historical-philosophical heuresis imposed on philosophical thought, though, most significant seems the custom of organising philosophy according to authors whose views are illustrated by synthetic, schoolish studies passed from generation to generation. These elaborations are becoming widespread interpretations and popular historical-philosophical knowledge. Their components are those elements of the thought of a given author which, owing to the type of heuresis characteristic of the history of philosophy, play a merging role, i.e. they adopt the methodological form of the basis, principle, or method, or the semiotic form of the leitmotif, the rhetorical form of the objective or the grand idea crowning the system. If even the history of philosophy ← 34 | 35 → has already undergone the evolution described by Foucault in reference to history in general in The Archaeology of Knowledge, then it still has the effect on philosophical heuresis of ensuring that the attention of philosophers remains fixed to those elements of the work – logical, rhetorical, stylistic – which give meaning to the whole (the system). In the classical history of philosophy, philosophical (theoretical) structures are perceived – where possible – as systems, and their distinguishing features as their structural principles. It is in this way that the official image of philosophy is shaped, in the form of a series of narratives, expressing the classical interpretations of philosophical works.9 These systems themselves demand to be perceived in broader structures, and this is how the new task for philosophical thinking is formed: to formulate metanarratives, telling the history of philosophy as a history of the motifs joining it together: the history of concepts, ideas, philosophical forms of thinking etc. Of course, many such metanarratives are formed, each seeing the others as one-sided and incomplete. However, the object that they create – the field of historical research – undergoes a constant process of alienation, turning into the classics. In this way, philosophy pursued in a historical way is given the new task of lifting the spell of the past and doing away with the distance that it itself created. Hermeneutic trails come to the aid here, justifying this process as mediated understanding, circles of understanding and self-understanding, understanding and assimilation, wholes and parts. The structure produced in philosophy by the form of the philosophy book and by historical thinking about philosophy – of systems, historical processes or logical structure of discourses – imposes a completely different image of philosophy to that which we adopt when we think about the irregular and random human practice of writing books and participating in philosophical life. But it is this history of philosophy that gives us the fundamental building blocks for our individual self-images of philosophy. It cannot be adopted directly, ← 35 | 36 → though – precisely because it is alien to our own personal scientific experience. Maturing of the philosophical education, it seems, involves slowly breaking down for our own use the ossified structures of the historical-philosophical image of philosophy and adapting the ensuing rubble to the self-image of it we already possess. And this is why a form of philosophical education common to all philosophers is impossible. Common knowledge – or let’s say, to avoid the naively objectivist term “knowledge”, generally known expressions concerning philosophy – are fragmentary, and boil down to concise descriptions of the main figures from the history of philosophy, vague descriptions of a few fields of philosophy or trends significant today, or the best-known concepts and problems. Two erudite people might therefore know and say different things, and moreover there might be a very important work with which they are not familiar. A philosophical education can be compared to Swiss cheese – it may constitute a dense structure (if it is solid), but it also full of holes scattered at random. It is an entirely different matter in mathematics, for instance: the common knowledge which all maths professors have is several hundred definitions, theorems and proofs and knowledge of the fundamentals of mathematical theories. Yet this lack of a uniform education in philosophy is not a flaw, but rather part of its nature. The heuristic habits which to a large extent philosophy takes from sciences, thus limiting the possibilities of its own heuresis (continually rediscovered in rhetoric, dialectics and other fields) make it more difficult to address the topic of philosophy as a type of education. Nevertheless, it seems important to do so.

1.5  Institutions of Philosophical Life

The institutionalisation of philosophical life shows signs of being rather ill-suited and inappropriate to the nature of philosophy itself. The institutional forms that are present are not a good fit for the sphere of philosophical life in which it means output and personal writing. Institutions, or at least classical bureaucratic ones, are fundamentally not helpful to the personal nature of writing, and philosophers eludes the expert-technical mode of work demanded by these institutions when they write “I think…”, “It seems to me…”, and go on asking themselves questions that are not only utterly alien to the clerical mentality and language of officialise, but also often critical of social contrivances. Therefore, the main element of the institution apart from the lecture room – that is the philosopher’s office – is isolated within it, from the inside a zone of privacy, and potentially even a site of conspiracy against institutions.

This strange situation is less marked in the case of a university philosophy department. At a modern university, this traditionally plays a specific role closely ← 36 | 37 → related to the speculative and critical calling of philosophy, in whose name it sometimes opposes institutions. Among the reasons for establishing a philosophy department is articulation of the formal (and self-justifying, as befits philosophical heuresis) idea of the university as an institution with a special and eminent public (political) role. This modern idea of the university features in the discourse on civil society and the Rechtstaat, in which authority and its beginning should have a basis in the law determined by the parliament, just as everything proclaimed in science is to have a basis in scientific laws discovered as a result of free research caused only by the desire to know the truth. The pro-state character of the university is therefore presented as a logical consequence of the principle of serving the public good, and not an ideology. Everything the university says (also as politically right) is validated in autonomous research, which also confirms the principle of freedom as a principle of coexistence in a modern state. By maintaining the discourse of the university’s autonomy and of civil society, philosophy earns the title of provider of legitimisation to the whole university and to its department, while the philosopher’s work attains institutional significance. Because teaching philosophy is generally viewed as necessary, the state sees philosophers in the role of teachers as useful workers. A pro-state aspect is also attributed to their teaching function, since according to the civil society discourse there is the idea that a condition for it to function is appropriate education of citizens in matters such as the idea of the democratic state – which lies within the competences of philosophy.10

In recent times, however, the significance of the discourse of the university’s autonomy, as well as all Enlightenment discourses, has diminished. Philosophical institutions are therefore forced to search for new areas of activity that are more unambiguously “pro-public” in order to support the none-too socialised philosophers who work for them and are not engaged in current social and political problems. The opposition which the philosophy community and its institutional aspirations encounter when dealing solely with pure philosophy therefore seems justified. Not only can the results of philosophers’ work not be measured, but what can be said from the position of the ethos of philosophy in defence of this immeasurability is often dubious.

The professional career of the average philosopher – an employee and member of the philosophical community – usually starts, and frequently finishes, with ← 37 | 38 → acquiring academic degrees. Academic titles and degrees fulfil a complicated social function, in which it is in fact state control and that of the scientific community over its younger members that are dominant. This function traditionally concerns the question of whether future teachers will teach in the spirit of the school, i.e. what the school, possibly also the state, and formerly church institutions deem it to be. Today, orthodoxy is in general replaced by the positivistic notion of academic level. However, academic degrees are in fact a rather imperfect means of checking scholars’ competences, and the system of employment plays a greater role. In general, then, controlling institutions and functions have become less important, and increasingly scientific prestige depends on popularity, measured by numbers of students and books sold, as well as the system of social rewards. Academic degrees are therefore less important. This is particularly the case in the United States, albeit to a lesser degree in philosophy than in other fields.11

However, academic degrees are still a peculiar area of heuristic habituality. They reflect idealised heuristic demands associated with the ideas about scientificity predominant at the time. This is why the requirements set for a doctoral candidate or lecturer have varied so much over the centuries. The positivism that dominated at the turn of the 20th century (or neo-Kantism in the positivistic version) grew partly from irritation at the dilettantism of the familiar Enlightenment and at the freedom and individualism accepted in many communities under the influence of Romantic ideology. The demands that started to be made of philosophical dissertations reflected a sensitivity to this. They were expected to be a diligent contribution to research, documented in the relevant sources. This corresponds to the idea of science meaning assiduous, expert and documentary research providing an input into the collective effort of systematic accumulation of knowledge on a given subject. At the same time, the formal requirements made of dissertations are based on the classical heuristic model drawn from rhetoric according to which a statement (in this case the research work) should contain a specific thesis and a defence of it (which certainly does not mean that all rhetorical means must be accepted). Both heuristic conceptions – the positivistic idea of scientificity as expertise and the rhetorical construction of the statement – have little in common with the actual heuristic structures of many philosophical works otherwise regarded as classic and outstanding examples by ← 38 | 39 → the proponents of these ideas. For a philosophical text to be able to acquire the external heuristic form of thesis and arguments and be summarised according to this model, it must be bent into this form. This is often artificial, and limits the heuristic means and the possibility of discussing them. Cast aside are not only rhetorical tropes and means of persuasion (which may have good results), but also elementary forms of heuresis like dialectical thinking and speculation. On the other hand, historical discourse has a privileged position, and although conservative heuristic habituality continues to be present in many communities it remains safest and in keeping with the spirit of official scientificity to deal with the history of philosophy. That these habits are more expected than practised is another matter entirely. Official formal requirements and the procedure of awarding academic degrees are slightly exaggerated, and frequently disproportionate to the practice of philosophical life, and therefore only do their job to a slight extent. Because they (fortunately) do not result in practical criteria for assessment and classification of dissertations, everything is essentially based on opinions. And the fact that in philosophy there might be various opinions on the same paper is a characteristic of the discipline.

1.6  Pathos and Nihilism in Talking about Philosophy

There is one more sphere of philosophical life that is so essential to it that to treat it as just an aspect of the philosopher’s professional life would be artificial: discussing philosophy and professional matters. It is here that the self-image of the community of philosophers is forged, and heuristic habits are subject to social verification and agreement as well as transformations.

Discussion among philosophers is by no means always philosophical debate. Due to the difficulty of debate, and the resultant imperfection of it as a means of social coexistence, it tends to give way to other, easier and more socially satisfactory forms of discussion, such as conversation about professional affairs, gossip, or talking about what people’s academic interests are. In the discussions of philosophers, philosophy itself is once again deferred – set aside for another occasion, for a more suitable time, such as a seminar or lecture. The desired proximity of contact with philosophy, frequently replaced in professional life by the demand for expertise, is replaced here by the familiarity of social conversation. In such discussions, we speak about ourselves and others: he’s dealing with, wrote, is publishing, received, is going to, I read his… – not bad etc. When we are tired of the futility and repetitiveness of such sentences and wish to say something more important, the situation does not put metaphysical questions or specific philosophical issues before us, but rather a vacuum. We ask ourselves: so what?, ← 39 | 40 → what’s the point of all this?, so what if I read this, you published that, and he’s working on something else…? And we can hardly afford to conceptualise this doubt according to our philosophical knowledge and skills – as the existential problem of being a philosopher, the collapse of belief in truth, the crisis of philosophy or similar. Our protest encompasses all that is academic, can be included in the landscape of the philosopher’s professional life, and also what we propose as a conceptualisation of our nihilistic mental state. We are therefore left with such behaviours whose essence is giving expression to our understanding of the situation and the sense of community that still forms within this. We therefore tell ourselves that all is not well with philosophy, that it results in disappointment, that nothing can be changed, because even if something new appears, it will just be a new point on the map. Yet this is not just an expression of doubt (we lost faith long ago) or sorrow, or even satisfaction at possession of a certain negative wisdom – philosophers cut themselves off from philosophy with an indifference bordering with nihilism.

This way of talking – conspiring against philosophy – is part of the unofficial heuristic habituality, reflecting like a distorting mirror the predominant discourse on philosophy as being noble and profoundly sensible, albeit difficult and always endangered by failure and doubt. We do not refer to this discourse as idle chatter. On the contrary – it seems that without the exalted ethos of philosophy this community would fall apart. The two approaches – the nihilistic and the bombastic – are complementary in philosophy’s self-image, participating in the dialectical interplay of its legitimisation and delegitimisation, which must end satisfactorily for philosophy, at least in the minds of those who chose this profession and are sticking with it.

The semiotic and rhetorical role of the word “philosophy” is essentially regulative, performing a uniting and normative function. This normativity means, firstly, that the concept of philosophy is assumed as an object of affirmation and continual specification. Secondly, it means that in this concept there is an implicit distinction between the true form worthy of the name and constituting the objective of continual striving and that which only aspires to the status of philosophy. In the communicative practice of philosophy, this normative factor is supported by special linguistic devices, as is the notion of truth, which also plays a normative-regulative role. This is why true philosophy means something different from philosophy telling the truth, and does not necessarily have to be connected to the idea of the quantum of the ultimate truth. An example of how the connection between the notion of philosophy and that of truth is manifested is that a programme for gaining cognition is presented as a conception of ← 40 | 41 → philosophy, or more precisely as a proposal for what true philosophy actually should be. This usage of the concept of philosophy, this appropriation if it by a particularistic theory, contradicts another elementary way of using it, i.e. as a uniting concept, encompassing everything that is included within philosophy (good and bad philosophy). The very notion of philosophy alone projects the dialectical drama of deferred and elite philosophy – it makes us compare true philosophy (recognised from a historical and critical position as a particularistic conception of philosophy) with philosophy as the history of trials and errors. At the same time, though, the notion of philosophy has the character of synthesis above this dialectic, and philosophers generally recognise its dialectical function and try not to overuse the associated rhetoric. Hence also the efforts to keep the amount of particularism in everything that is said about the concept of philosophy to a minimum, in order to avoid one-sidedness (understood for example as reductionism or metaphysical assumptions) in philosophical theory. If we therefore in the traditional narrative on true philosophy accept the idea of objective truth and universal rationality, then the closer to the present, the more historical and systematic reflection there is leading to a compromise position of openness to plurality. Various forms of philosophy are taken into account in conceptions of philosophy today, with the act of talking about it being recognised in its reflexive (meta-objective) character. The result of it is also therefore styled reflexively – self-knowledge is accentuated as an attribute of philosophy, understanding as its task and reflection as its manner of intellectual existence. This does not mean any antagonism between the former and current narrative about philosophy. The dominant notion is the principle of unity, understood as historical unity and unity of the intellectual effort of generations of philosophers, and essentially any narrative on philosophy must be adapted to tradition. What has become more of an object of demystification is the concept of metaphysics and other more detailed philosophical concepts. Despite certain attempts at dissent, the affirmation of philosophy and semiotic functions of the concept do not seem to be under threat. The game of delegitimisation is played out (or perhaps has already finished) using philosophical notions, but rather not the concept of philosophy itself, and the pathos-filled – or even emotional – feeling at its base is a constant boon to philosophers. Deconstructive and post-philosophical theory pose no danger to the concept – its true opponent is nihilism. As we saw, it too evades one-sided theoretical forms – for example the sceptical discourse, and the way in which we express it, is increasingly reflexive and guarded. This brings the two positions – pathos and nihilism – closer together, providing hope that the still evident splits in the self-image of philosophy will heal. ← 41 | 42 →

We mentioned before that the notion of philosophy plays a symbolic role – it is a symbol of the power of reason displayed in the history of humankind and a focus for all forms of the spirit.12 This symbolic function is certainly primal in relation to the normative function, which appears to be the logical (semiotic) expression of it. As a symbol, however, philosophy is not only a lofty pursuit, but also a very personal one, just as for believers religious symbols have a personal meaning, independent of all theoretical discourse. Philosophy therefore has the chance to act as an ideal, essentially not threatened in the global dimension by discourses that challenge the metaphysical and epistemological foundations of specific articulations of it. It is also possible to speak of philosophy which respects caution against one-sided involvement and old-fashioned pathos and at the same time does not fall into the dialectical procession of liberating itself from metaphysics, instead simply trying to be faithful to the experience and ideal that is to be expressed. It does this using words understood by philosophers – where necessary even metaphysical ones. Marcel, for example, for whom true philosophy is the philosophy of freedom, writes in this way: “it makes freedom with its content and is thought that thinks itself and thus becomes free […] the method of philosophy is reflexive par excellence, the most authentic philosophy is situated at the juncture of the self and others, and metaphysics is participation in being”.13 Yet these very traditional and, it would seem, anachronous elements of grandiloquent narratives on philosophy appear here in the context of talking about philosophising as something deeply personal and with the intention of restoring the symbolic meaning to the notion. This is therefore not a dead narrative of Enlightenment humanism or foundationalism, but rather a living, emotionally involved, counterproposal to the philosopher’s nihilistic state (Marcel’s text is such an attempt at lofty philosophy with a human face). However, a balanced self-image of philosophy, even if stability of feelings comes as a condition, must be based on a uniform discourse on the topic of philosophy that does justice to its magnitude as well as expressing its essential weakness. In order to be convincing, it cannot ignore the results of criticism of persuasive modernist discourses. ← 42 | 43 → Therefore, if a process of standardisation of the self-image is really taking place, theoretical support must come in the guise of rapprochement of narratives on philosophy deriving from the sense of the pathos of philosophy and the opposing nihilistic feeling. Let us make a brief comparison of the history of the two types of narratives.

Since Plato’s time, apologetic talking about philosophy has been done in two ways: styled in a particular logical-moral way, as well as a metaphysical one. A model example of both aspects is Plato’s Symposium. It was therefore said that the lofty aim of philosophy is wisdom, truth (the most general, eternal and unchanging), cognition of what is important, attaining ultimate reasons, and finally improving humankind. The object of philosophy is also described – also as that which is eternal, fundamental and universal. The postulates made of philosophical cognition were translated into the properties of the objects of metaphysics: the idea, being, God and the soul. The rivalry of sorts that existed between the two stylisations also triggered competition between the notion of philosophy and that of metaphysics (“primal philosophy”) as foundations of human cognition. The period of domination of theology and popularity of philosophical mysticism also weakened the apology of the notion of philosophy (particularly in comparison to what such authors as Plotinus and Boethius wrote). Essentially, though, the ideal of philosophy remained unchanged right up till the end of scholasticism. The sceptical criticism of philosophy was a nihilistic – to use a sometimes rather unsatisfactory simplification – counterpart of these narratives. But this criticism was more about the cognitive possibilities of philosophy than the ideal of it – as was the case with the accompanying relativism, with its sophistic origins. Dissent against academic pathos in talking about philosophy was also encountered in philosophical schools (including the Academy), but no doubt mostly derived from less intellectually geared circles, such as the literary community of ancient Rome or the conservative clergy in the Middle Ages. These circles, devoid of feelings of loyalty towards philosophy, were a breeding ground for general criticism of its cognitive aspirations (for instance as a new Tower of Babel erected by dialecticians) that was of theoretically major significance for philosophy. In medieval times, philosophy’s primacy was transformed institutionally into precedence in the teaching order: artium, or possibly disciplina, became indicators of the social position of philosophy, which was too low not to lead to frustration and a certain tension in relations with theology. With its predominance taken away by theology, philosophy was forced to at least seek autonomy.

Much was to change thanks to Bacon, and then Descartes. His style of philosophy, rather like writing a reflective intellectual autobiography, and his theoretical ← 43 | 44 → exposition of the subject, had a significant influence on the shape of philosophical apology. In the 17th century, the role of philosophy was described more in logical and epistemological concepts than in metaphysical ones. The place of truth and wisdom was occupied by categories referring rather to the subject: rationality (identified more with methodical research progress than with the cognitive function of ratio) as well as scientific knowledge about the world. Philosophy is thus presented as rational and general knowledge about the world, preceding studies of the exact sciences. In this type of narrative, the normative function of the notion of philosophy is not so much manifested in the ideal of absolute knowledge (the truth to which philosophy strives), as recognised as a formal function, expressed in terms of method and form of cognition. This heuristic change in ways of talking about philosophy (common to post-Cartesian rationalism and empiricism) brought about a characteristic phenomenon that could still be observed in the 20th century, whereby the various currents of apology for philosophy competed with each other in the methodological programmes which they offered. As a result, there were numerous radical critiques of previous philosophies as well as revival projects (instead of the moderate medieval sed contra). An example might be the first book of aphorisms of Bacon’s Novum Organum.

In these conditions, the philosopher’s nihilistic state was forced to find other forms of expression. These came mostly in the form of the critical works of the philosophy of this time, aimed at the traditional notions of metaphysics and its now too meagre (compared to the state of knowledge of scientific heuresis) logic. Since both these conceptual sources produced the traditional apologies of philosophy, scepticism took the form of criticism not of cognitive possibilities, but of the aspirations of philosophy, at least from the traditional metaphysical point of view. At the same time, the natural sciences, which had indeed taken on some of philosophy’s authority, began to make their own claims.14 Yet this did not mean that the concept of philosophy itself was rejected; in the sceptical context, it was rather philosophers that were spoken of, in keeping with the custom of juxtaposing good philosophy with bad philosophy. Pascal’s saying “To ridicule philosophy is really to philosophise” testifies to the will to preserve the notion of philosophy, even the reservations expressed in it towards Cartesian optimism. Post-Cartesian scepticism, however, was essentially targeted at the claims of philosophy understood as equating the highest human goals with using reason. ← 44 | 45 → Traditional scepticism, valued by Pascal and other anti-rationalistic authors of the 17th and 18th centuries, was complemented with a new discourse and language, which juxtaposed with the discourses expressing the claims of philosophy and legitimising it attempts to conceptualise forms of experience of the world that it had neglected. This gave rise to conceptions of feeling, contemplation, conscience, instinct, that were in accordance with the heuresis of addressing the “thing itself” and heuresis of direct experience that were developing at the time, but referring to other experiences than those which interested Bacon and later empiricists.

Some Enlightenment thinkers (e.g. Shaftesbury and Rousseau) and then Romantics created an intellectual opposition which presented philosophy with a new fact. It turned out that the most general and fundamental questions concerning humankind and the world, previously the preserve of philosophy, could be considered effectively by non-philosophers, even those averse to the discipline. This forced philosophy to reaffirm its sovereign rule over the domain of using the mind. The model for new discourses legitimising philosophy was provided by Kant. For him, true philosophy takes the form of transcendental philosophy, meaning among other things that it is aware that “that very concept which puts us in a position to ask the question must also qualify us to answer it, since, as in the case of right and wrong, the object is not to be met with outside the concept”.15 Philosophy was therefore no longer so much fundamental, rationally justified and methodically compiled knowledge about the world as a constant source of validation of all possible knowledge; the adjective “transcendental” began to play a new role, restoring to the concept of philosophy the regulative function that had been under strain throughout history. In heuristic habituality, the association of being philosophical with reflectiveness and self-justification was reinforced, and the positivist worldview adopted for good the Kantian conception of philosophy and some of Kant’s views. Thus began the tradition of philosophy stretching to neopositivism. Even though it had its own autonomous field, it remained attached to science. To a large extent, 19th-century academic philosophy developed under the influence of positivistic ideology, together with it becoming the subject of criticism from the anti-positivist and anti-naturalist current which, though essentially philosophical, was not always identified with philosophy. ← 45 | 46 →

The development of science also brought with it a new form of nihilistic ideas about philosophy. Philosophy itself entirely appropriated the criticism of its own cognitive aspirations as a certain type of discourse (in the form of the critique of reason), and this criticism was thus no longer able to play its rebellious role. Above all, though, other forms of cognition proved to be more effective and interesting than philosophy. The natural sciences were not only more demonstrably scientific, but gave results whose magnificence eclipsed the greatness of philosophy. Questions began to be asked about philosophy: why do we need it? what does it actually do for us? The notorious lack of agreement among philosophers and absence of clear progress in the field were stressed, as well as the great distance to experience that it has in comparison with sciences. This way of talking became common, and continues to operate today; philosophers too have learnt to use it to express their doubts. Furthermore, the naturalistic discourse which explains the spiritual through the natural and material provided means for depreciation of philosophy, relativising its results to the social circumstances and the associated motivations. This coincided with Marxism, and later in critical theory with the exposure of the totalising claims of philosophy based on criticism of the idealistic conception of the subject, which appeared to be of key importance for the discourses expressing and validating these claims.

The last grandiloquent apology of philosophy is the work of Hegel. In it, the regulative function of the concept of philosophy is expressed in the totalisation of the notion of philosophy equated with thinking and its history. The sovereignty of philosophy is no longer just transcendentally assured as the unity of the source of all questions and answers, also about philosophy. It is now the sovereignty of the whole (totality), beyond which there is nothing, and which can therefore not be threatened by anything from outside. The self-knowledge of totality of thought (idea and concept) is not abstract methodological knowledge or formal knowledge about the structures which govern thinking and the result of it, but absolute knowledge gained by going through the whole of the dialectical process of thinking, knowledge that is entirely transparent to itself and uniform, the return of the notion to itself. In this grand narrative, philosophy becomes the truth and whole, the beginning and the end, logic and the phenomenology of the spirit, a response to all its expectations and claims. At the same time, the programme previously developed by Kant to justify philosophy, religion and morality (as necessary on the basis of the transcendental conditions of their possibilities) could now be applied to the individual forms of the soul identified by Hegel. Therefore, the Hegelian legitimisation of philosophy is simultaneously a ← 46 | 47 → legitimisation of science, ethicality, religion, the state, and even art. And Hegelianism is accompanied in this by neo-Kantism.

After the deep breath brought to philosophy by German idealism, distrust in the discipline came to the fore. This was linked to the general awareness of a crisis of culture, which only now is beginning to seem an outdated form of modernistic heuresis. Apart from naturalistic reductionism, historicism, political delegitimisation and the comparison with sciences that deprecated philosophy, there were also more expressions of philosophers’ nihilistic feelings towards their own field that occurred as a reaction to Hegelianism. Kierkegaard’s critique of idealism on the basis of the authenticity of the existence of the subject became a protest against philosophy appropriating humans and the world for its systemic objectives. Yet this was still only a critique of bad philosophy, not one that renounced the concept itself. The framers of the philosophy of existence, who disavowed the regulative power of the idealistic notion of philosophy as a form of intellectual obligation, nonetheless sought to preserve its symbolic and regulative function, treating it as a moral ideal. This was the basis of the view of true philosophy being that of freedom and rather of the path and contemplation than the goal and knowledge (especially Jaspers). Yet anti-philosophical heuristic habituality are insensitive to the existential apology of philosophy, which following the fall of the great systems speaks in a mild and uncertain voice. Meanwhile, the anti-philosophical complaints are aggressive: a hundred systems from which it is tough to make a choice, opaqueness and arbitrariness of ideas not based on experience, plays on words, concepts and feelings, pseudo-scientific intellectual literature written by incapable writers, narcissistic agonising that is of no use to the world, futile conceptual fantasies etc. For the other side, the heuresis of authenticity and fervour over the human fate and truth of being (against the ossified and dogmatic philosophy of systems) proposed by self-doubting philosophy is an unconvincing declaration (we really want the best), which once again exposes the sentimentality, weakness and egotism of philosophy.

The regulative and persuasive application of the notion of philosophy was renounced by Nietzsche: his writing does not need to call itself philosophy to sustain its unity and validity. Moreover, this nihilistic discourse created by philosophy and non-philosophy against the notion of philosophy and its claims was to a great extent its own discourse. Everything in history that has been anti-philosophical was essentially of use to the Nietzschean project, even if it was a form of the nihilism of the sick will to power. This allowed the will to power to look at itself and recognise its actual form in activity and affirmation. In Nietzsche’s ideas, therefore, there is room for nihilism if it is complete nihilism that has been liberated in affirmation. ← 47 | 48 → Philosophy has the upper hand here, albeit not as reflection, self-knowledge, method, dialectic, or system, but as radical and constructive criticism, shattering nihilistic criticism if this cannot find its form of affirmation. This kind of philosophy is mistrustful, appraising, but also sensitive and respecting diversity and difference per se, and not as degrees of dialectics, yet from everybody it requires affirmative approaches. The malcontent philosopher – disheartened or apathetic towards philosophy – is thus not left to his own devices (your business, no one forces you into philosophy), but rather ridiculed as well as called to action. For the first time, though, the sheer multitude that weighs down on him and puts him off (the multitude and lack of order in philosophy) is shown as something good. This challenge laid down to nihilism, including that which entails passivity and boredom with philosophy, but also agreement with much of what appears as criticism of the discipline, offers a new opportunity for the self-image of philosophy and for balancing the contradictory feelings that it arouses.16

In the 19th century, in part independently of the drama of the end of metaphysics, and with a major contribution from positivistic ideas, came a new (if essentially similar to that developed from philosophy as critique of the claims of metaphysics) notion of the importance of philosophy. Circles that were less involved in the discourse of idealism and criticism thereof were also characterised by a belief in philosophy’s privileged position in comparison to science, stemming from its ability to criticise and provide a critical insight into numerous diverse ideas. An eclectic type of pursuing philosophy developed, along with an increasingly self-aware history of ideas. At the same time, this pro-philosophical side of the intellectual scene was supported by the developing field of the humanities.

A further contribution to the understanding of philosophy as having a knowledge of the world of ideas was provided by the 19th-century tradition of criticism of ingrained forms of scholarship and thinking instituted in Germany by Schopenhauer and also undertaken by Nietzsche. This was, though, a fragile compromise between the ideal of philosophy and the naturalistic depreciation of it. With the linguistic turn, as the entire mental oeuvre of philosophy was conceived as a form of use of language, it was inevitably ridiculed as hopeless efforts to reach beyond the limits of language. This type of nihilistic discourse became popular thanks to the positivists and Wittgenstein.17 But it created two ← 48 | 49 → possibilities: either philosophy could be depreciated as nonsense, or to it could be attributed the meaning of exploration of language as part of linguistic discourse games. With time, this idea of a game shed the meaning of exposé that it had in Wittgenstein’s imitators, becoming a second path – alongside the Nietzschean one – to affirmation of diversification and multitude, and thus vindicating philosophy. Also in a sense responsible for this change were modern pragmatism, as philosophy took on the function of an intermediary authority organising intellectual life, and structuralism.

If, like philosophy itself, its self-image needs a narrative referring to the notion of it, then ultimately this narrative today has the chance to be a balanced one, respecting both the lofty sense of the pathos contained in philosophising, and the nihilistic feeling of the impotence and transient value of the philosopher’s activities. The two lines of discourse – the nihilistic and the exalted – seem to be converging: the historical process has transformed philosophy from the dominion of eternal truth on Earth firstly into philosophy as reflection and method, then into self-knowledge, and finally into an insight into diversity and mediation. The most common ways of talking about philosophy nowadays refrain from exalting the discipline above other areas of thinking and culture and bestowing upon it heuristic primacy as a source of foundations, answers and self-knowledge. Philosophy now is certainly not seen as bearing the wisdom of the owl of Minerva spreading its wings at dusk. Even the autonomist discourse, attached to positivist ideals and rationalist philosophy and designating at least a narrow sphere of indivisible rule to philosophy, serves rather to protect it from the destructive influences of scepticism, relativism and irrationalism than to place it on a pedestal. However, it is hermeneutic narratives that are the most popular (and at the same time conservative): philosophy as an exercise of authentic thought, guided by the desire to understand the world, tradition, humankind, the Other, to uncover what is hidden and pose questions in places where everything appears to be obvious. Yet this does not mean making radical cognitive claims or disseminating the ideas of a metaphysical and humanist ideology, but rather simply attachment to philosophy as a symbol.

The academic forms of talking about philosophy and the contents of philosophical discourse have come closer to what philosophers have to say to each ← 49 | 50 → other in private conversations in which they discuss the practice and everyday aspects of their work. And yet it is this distancing of the self-image of philosophy as an image of practice (one reads, writes articles, gives lessons, earns degrees, publishes, goes to conferences…) from the contents and claims of philosophical discourses that is the basis of the nihilistic “so what?”. Today, the life of concepts and internal dynamics of philosophical discourses no longer preoccupies and enslaves the philosopher as it once did, no longer consumes her in the detail of conceptual relationships that need to be brought together in a synthetic theory or bent to fit a favourite thesis. It seems that today’s philosopher is more independent and in more control of her text and craft. She can therefore perceive her actions as an experience with diverse goals and various connections to other types of experience, including literature and politics. If our work sometimes gives the impression of being non-stop reading, writing and waffling, we can extend this sense to the whole of human experience. Since the self-image of philosophy is no longer marked by the sense of superiority and simultaneously inferiority – i.e. ambivalence – then surely we can say that we have made progress, and as philosophers are more at home, and philosophy for us is now to a lesser degree deferred philosophy.

Philosophy’s self-image becomes more tangible in the ideas and narratives of individual philosophers regarding philosophical life, their own work, philosophy itself, its key issues and figures: philosophy is our writing and reading, it is Plato and Hegel, it is our department, it is metaphysics and ethics, the question of the subject and lessons with students. Inherent in the concept of the self-image is the idea expressing the need to obtain unity of meaning – bring together everything that is said about the various manifestations of philosophical life.

The philosophy of reflection, and great idealistic discourses, sought to attain full theoretical self-knowledge in philosophy. Heuristics, meanwhile, would like to raise the self-image of philosophy to the level of a series of statements of theoretical significance that are of direct interest to philosophy. If this is achievable, the only reason is that it is already almost done – at least in terms of philosophy as a whole. Contemporary heuristic habituality is now so flexible, and the theoretical means, knowledge and philosophical movement so rich, that we can find everything somewhere – each topic and aspect, practically every configuration of associated elements from the full gamut of philosophical discourses. We can also read a book about anything – this is a new quality in science, but also a new heuristic situation in philosophy. It is hard to see it as anything other than progress. But it is also a philosophical macrocosmos and an abstract quality of a whole that we cannot possibly experience, but only conjecture. By conceptualising heuristic ← 50 | 51 → habituality and the flexibility it has gained, heuristics could help to reflect this global success of philosophy in the microcosmoses of philosophical movements, schools and minds.

1.7  The Possibility of a Heuristics of Philosophical Life

The question of the extent to which all that we have been discussing can be systematised in a way that would have a theoretical and practical influence on philosophy is one about the possibility of heuristics as study of philosophical life, heuristic habits, and philosophy’s self-image.

To a greater degree than other forms of experience, philosophical life conceptualises itself, and it is more about theorising. Its theoretical object is views and theses to which it must assume a position and which it must discuss. Anything that is natural, for example psychological, should, one would assume, be studied psychologically, and anything theoretical should be studied purely theoretically. Yet the heuristic maxim of selecting the research tools for the subject is insufficient, as it does not permit us to conceive the unity of what appears or seeks to appear as one thing, that is philosophical life. Respect for the theoretical nature of what is simply philosophy in philosophical life prevents us from using genealogical or constitutional studies of the processes and motivations linking more base and natural things and the meanings constructed on top of them, including philosophical theories. It is true that constitutional studies, which seek to infer a theoretical sphere from philosophical daily lives and the philosopher’s social and communicative competencies, would probably be able to consider the autonomy of such theories, but this would have to be either a phenomenologically described outline of this autonomy, or a transcendentally guaranteed importance of something theoretical. However, the theoretical sphere would not be reached on the appropriate path – that of conceptual argument – and therefore it would be separated from the sum of such constitutional studies of philosophical life. It might seem, meanwhile, that the fundamental task of a philosopher facing the question of the position of philosophical life towards philosophical results (matter) is to describe the diversity and multi-faceted character of the factors at play. Naive naturalism and totalising onesidedness, subjecting philosophical life to the pattern of the theory imposed on it (genealogical, for instance) would be juxtaposed with study of local structures and relationships locally involved in specific conceptual and discursive resources undertaken unintentionally, and actually contrary to the intention of constructing a uniform hierarchy and establishing a total structure – a counterpart to the metanarrative of the history of philosophy as history of the soul. This would give us a set of structuralist or ← 51 | 52 → pragmatic research and analyses of some inconsistency, yet one that (in terms of object and style) would be methodically differentiated.

This possible type of heuresis in studies of philosophical life comes close to approximating our expectations of heuristics. Firstly, it goes beyond the simple heuristic model of a uniform theory or conception, and as such could fulfil that aspiration of heuristics that is the possibility of igniting interest and proving useful for everyone, and not solely for philosophers involved in the conceptual sphere and the type of heuresis that a particular theory uses. Secondly, the heuristic idea of pragmatic and structural research corresponds to what seems important – and increasingly so – in philosophy’s self-knowledge – it is based on affirmation of diversity. This mean that philosophical life in practice would be harmonised with its object, helping philosophy’s self-knowledge to develop in the direction in which it is itself aiming. Touching on theoretical matter, such as views on the essence of philosophy, this practice would be discourse analysis, the science of philosophical epistemes, as Foucault says; regarding more natural spheres such as that of social behaviours, acts of speech, psychological motivations, it might for example take the form of pragmatic studies of heuristic habituality. Thirdly and lastly, if the heuresis of the affirmation of plurality (difference) were to develop to become radically structuralist, studies on philosophical life could proceed in accordance with the Derridean project of “continuing the parallel line”. That is to say that everything in philosophical life – in philosophical self-knowledge, philosophy’s self-image, discourses about the essence of philosophy – is problematic and incoherent and would be reflected or experienced within structuralist research as its own incoherence. This would make it remarkably visual without all-consuming reflection – a valuable quality in heuristic thought.

It would be equally worthwhile to understand the courses of the dialectics of philosophical self-knowledge (since philosophy’s self-image is indeed characterised by a dialectical dynamic), and also to make a hermeneutical enquiry as to how philosophers understand themselves. Can the heuristics of philosophical life be something other than the sum of these, and perhaps also other approaches?

Let us note that the idea of the plurality of approaches and their potential sum consisting of multifaceted knowledge is a heuristic idea, which heuristics makes its object. The forms of heuresis we have mentioned (heuresis of the constitution and hermeneutic heuresis) are also based on the idea of the thing itself, to which a theory should refer, and to the idea of an anticipated result of theoretical work in the form of a uniform theory. We may enquire as to the relations between various approaches, the limits of their applicability and the communicative possibilities between them. This would be a question about their configurations and ← 52 | 53 → relationships, and therefore one asked from the position of one of the heuristic ideas which the task of theory sees in delivering a certain configuration and order. We may also ask which factors decide on the fact that in a given case we deal with a separate type of heuresis. Is the given discourse connected to some prominent type of argument, element of a method, an idée fixe or a particular thesis or premise?

We can go on asking such questions, creating a theoretical sphere of a heuristic character of reflection, self-thematisation, dialectics and discourse analysis. But we should not assume that the most general description of this theoretical field might be a syncretic combination of several views. The same role could be played equally well by dialecticality or heuristic self-knowledge. It is a similar case if we look at heuristics from the point of view of its interest in philosophical life – the fact that various perspectives are vying to appear simultaneously does not mean that everything it can be is the sum of them. In fact, this would be impossible, as “appearing at the same time” in the case of mutually connected theoretical approaches does not mean appearing “alongside each other”. We should therefore say, assuming the position of the general point of view, that like no other form of philosophical study, heuristics intends to make use of the accomplishments of many theoretical approaches, each of which is characterised by its own conceptual scheme and universalistic claims.

Does this mean a desire for heuristics to be the alpha and omega, meta-wisdom and a universal philosophical understanding? Such an aspiration would be inordinately naive, although at the same time it would afford respect to such heuristic maxims as “various aspects of the issue must be considered” or “it is good to have an idea of various approaches to the problem”. We can go as far as to say that heuristics grows out of the fear of naivety (like many old and contemporary philosophical projects – from the critique of reason to the archaeology of knowledge). Yet is it not the case that everything that the position of general heuristic habits allows us to say to refer to the naivety of dreaming about universality is maxims like “absolute meta-theory is impossible” and “an absolute and premiseless position is impossible”? These, surely, are just echoes of hermeneutic thought, which in our time creates the self-image of philosophy and the heuristic consciousness of philosophers. Heuristics does not assume the idea of premiselessness or the “absolute position” (at least as its objective – it must consider it as a heuristic idea), but to date there has been no examination of the question of the possibility of a multifaceted insight into the theoretical and linguistic means of discursive dealing with the multitude of conceptual trails as a philosophical problem. This is because it clearly does not occupy a theoretically ← 53 | 54 → privileged position with regard to the philosophical discourses to which it refers, and studies of this problem must themselves refer to the issues which these discourses present. Therefore, if heuristics undertakes such a venture, it is with the prior assumption that it will not be solely or especially a project of examining the possibility of multifaceted exploitation of the resources of philosophy for its own use, but that it must accept other philosophical problems as its own. One of these is already visible: how does it occur that various conceptualisations – for example questions about the method of philosophy, starting point, or nature of being compete with each other, and what is the origin of the claims they each exert to dominate the others? However, if heuristics is to provide theoretical tools for harnessing plurality in philosophy, some kind of meta-method, then we must accept that it fits the rationalistic model of heuresis of control, enveloped in the dialectic of knowledge and power. Incidentally, it is from these interests that we derive the name “philosophical heuristics”, which renders the rationalistic idea of conceptualisation (in the form of norms and regulations) of creative processes with the objective of controlling, reproducing and reconstructing them in the form of application of a method.

A universal insight into philosophy in order to pursue it better – this objective is somewhat different, but certainly similar to that which appears to guide heuristics as the heuristics of philosophical life. The latter is also about gaining an insight, but its matter is not only that which is theoretical and what special processes can render thus (as traditional heuristics aimed to turn psychological laws into methodology), but also everything that our knowledge says is related to philosophy. We call this philosophical life. This includes the way in which it takes place and what constitutes a result in it – the philosophical matter. Philosophical life as reflective life delivers theories, but only part of this theory refers to it thematically, such as knowledge about the concept of philosophy. Meanwhile, only part of what constitutes (at least relatively and temporarily) the result of philosophical life (the philosophical matter) aspires to the role of theory or actually plays this role. Philosophy as self-knowledge strives to accord a theoretical status to everything that can be important for it, which is why if various heuristic habits are manifested in the form of statements and maxims that do not yet qualify to be deemed a philosophical position, the role of heuristics – elevating these customs to the status of philosophy – is a normal objective of philosophical self-knowledge. But it is not the whole of the philosophical matter that results from philosophical life when it refers to itself. Self-knowledge is a concept of the philosophy of reflection that in many cases distorts the description of the practice of philosophy. ← 54 | 55 → The notion of philosophy’s self-image seeks to avoid yielding exclusively to the heuristic model of speculatively attaining self-knowledge of reason.

Of course, along with what philosophy has to say theoretically about itself, its self-image also contains what philosophers say about philosophy as their own practice – not necessarily in a theoretical fashion and not necessarily specifically on the subject of philosophy itself – as well as what they do not say (because they do not want to or cannot).

It might seem that the notion of self-image is a sociological one, although its roots are in everyday experience. In this case, we would discover the self-image by studying initial theorising on philosophy in everyday philosophical life, such as the constitutive processes developing from the heuristic habits as “what everybody knows” to a systematic theory of philosophy. Such research would no doubt be interesting for heuristics, but it would be insufficient. Not only does a constitutive reconstruction assume a rather special phenomenological heuristic perspective, but it is also heuristically dependent on the division into the theoretical and that which is its source, its constitutive basis, and more profoundly, the division between the natural (or naturalistic) and the special, resulting from the assumption of a certain cognitive position. In philosophy’s self-image, its theoretical or atheoretical nature by no means must be evident, and in its expressions philosophy does not have to appear explicitly as a topic. Theoretical nature and thematisation are domains of reflection, while the practice in which the self-image arises is not just a practice of reflection, but also one of expression, including that of the nihilistic type. Aspects in the self-image of philosophy that are theoretical and those that are thematic (on the theme of philosophy) are integral parts of it. Yet this is not because they are arrived at through speculation or constituted in the philosophical Lebenswelt, but rather because nothing in the concept of the self-image divides the theoretical from the pre- or atheoretical and “natural”.

What, then, is heuristics to do with its self-image – describe its various forms and their links phenomenologically, or propose its own image of philosophy? Both are no doubt useful tasks. An important heuristic feature that we would like to give to heuristics as the heuristics of philosophical life dealing with philosophy’s self-image is “reconstructing the co-experiencing” of philosophical life that produces the self-image. If it is so important in philosophical practice to talk about philosophy, then when we talk about the self-image we must also undertake the topic and concept of philosophy. In discovering the role of this concept in shaping the self-image as a regulative role, we should analogously conceive the function of the notion of heuristics – as a regulative function in ← 55 | 56 → studies intended to be heuristic. Meanwhile, since we perceive a tendency to affirmation of plurality and pragmatic inclinations in philosophy’s self-image, in heuristics we should also take up the topic of its possibly satisfying pragmatic demands. If the self-image is formed dialectically, we should ask in what sense heuristics should be dialectical thinking. Co-experiencing therefore entails not simple objective reference to philosophical life, but adopting it as “property” – as something directly significant for the self-image of heuristics. The heuristics of philosophical life as the heuristics of philosophy’s self-image must become the self-image of heuristics, while in heuristics the notion of heuristics should fulfil a similar regulative function to the notion of philosophy in philosophy, i.e. also gaining content in the practice of its use. For this reason, in introducing the heuristics of philosophical life in this chapter – everything conceptually and terminologically characteristic of heuristics – we were merely trying to append everything that is conceptually and terminologically characteristic of heuristics as a commentary or digression to discourses which do not yet need anything other than their own conceptual resources. In fact, studies of the heuristics of philosophical life are always pragmatic, hermeneutic, structuralist studies etc.; what is “added” in them (not necessarily as additional reflection) is reproduction of the self-image of philosophy in that of heuristics. It is this, in a preliminary and imperfect way, that is taking place in this discourse. It contains philosophy creating its self-image, searching for unity and self-knowledge through reflection, making regulative use of its own concept, but also accepting its plurality; philosophy engaging in self-apology and self-destruction at once. At the same time, it contains heuristics seeking its identity and meaning, presented as a uniform theoretical enterprise but at the same time hoping to preserve what is valuable in various forms of heuresis. This kind of heuristics can be of use to philosophy, even though it is not entirely safe from getting caught up in self-thematisation and a certain distraction resulting from boarding trains of philosophical thought directed by different heuristic rules.

The heuristics of philosophical life must make its “how” from the whole of philosophical matter, and itself be the new “what” – the altered form which philosophers will be able to use as a new “how”. This is how the dialectical theme appears in the self-knowledge of heuristics as heuristics of philosophical life, in which it is the “how” and “what” of philosophy. As in any dialectic, here too some form of consciousness is to attain a higher level of self-knowledge. In this case, this is a heuristic consciousness appearing in the social form of a custom and in marginal and aphoristic philosophical statements, and the self-image of philosophy, still split into official narratives and private talking about philosophy. ← 56 | 57 →

It is probably easiest to recognise the dialectical nature of heuristics, as the heuristic project of self-knowledge which the dialectic comes under is, so to speak, philosophy’s daily bread. Dialectical heuristics means studying all mediations of philosophical matter, the dialectic of the “how” and “what” of philosophy. It must give those elements of philosophy’s self-image that have previously faced discrimination or been concealed in the private sphere the rights due to philosophical thinking. The dialectical model of heuristic studies should also – like pragmatic thinking or the general point of view – guarantee the connection between what is natural (psychological or sociological), and therefore deprecated, and what is purely theoretical, and already recognised as philosophy’s own matter.

Heuristics as a dialectic must comprehend itself dialectically, i.e. as processing and self-knowledge, output for thinking and for the ability to think, rather than as knowledge contained in statements that can have validity outside of the discourses (contexts) to which they belong. Co-experience of philosophy’s self-image, which is incoherent and replete with tensions and differences in the state of self-knowledge, must be dialectical. It cannot, therefore, have a conclusion, in the sense of the last word. And all the more this chapter of the book cannot have a conclusion, as it is only a small step towards the specificity of the heuristics of philosophical life. Where, then, might we expect the researcher to make a declaration, venture a thesis? A declaration or thesis is the modus given to a statement within a certain structure: where a certain subject is studied, there is also a thesis. It would be a heuristic error stemming from rebellion (rather than criticism) against heuristic habits if we were to deny heuristics the right to its own research aiming for declarations and theses.

Above all, heuristics must make use of what already exists: the various forms of heuresis, and especially those in which the way discourse goes on is subject to reflection. For this reason too, heuristic studies will naturally connect to various philosophical studies, leaving an imprint of belonging to heuristics on them only in the form of their mutual references, heuristic commentary, and repetition of certain concepts. As we saw, such studies with a heuristic stamp are the pragmatics of philosophical life, its phenomenology and hermeneutics (as a philosophical Lebenswelt), the socio-psychology of the philosophical community, ethnomethodology referring to heuristic habits as the “common knowledge of philosophers”, the history of the notion of philosophy, and the theory of legitimising and delegitimising (critical) discourses. We are entitled to place these fields together and recognise the similarity of their theoretical objectives. But we also obtain something more from the constant work of the mutual connections ← 57 | 58 → between them all: their shared development, which occurs in a mediation of which heuristics is to be the medium or an element – to use a Hegelian term. In this way, the obstacle posed in the heuristic maxim that legitimises a detailed area of research, i.e. in saying that it is (should be) “autonomous” or “has its area of competence” can be overcome, and the autonomisation involved in appropriating some research area can be replaced by a consciously developed ability to work together and discuss with various fields of philosophical thinking.

Only by understanding that the heuresis of “research within a certain field” means for heuristics above all mediation, and that these fields always have their names under which they should remain, do we also understand an important fact. Heuristics’ own matter can only be an elaboration and orientation owing to the synthetic and mediatory objectives of the heuristics of what appears in the living course of various philosophical discourses as the imprint of heuristic reflection, and subsequently as heuristic discourse intentionally attached to it.

In the heuristics of philosophical life, however, based on our deliberations here, we can conclude (perhaps wrongly) that uniquely heuristic studies should be considered as the theory of philosophy’s self-image and criticism of heuristic habits. These concepts are uniquely heuristic in two ways. Firstly, they allow both naturalistic (sociological or psychological) connotations and purely theoretical ones (for example in the sense of the conception of philosophy or statements about its methods), without making claims at synthesis or “encompassing everything”. Secondly, they make it easier to study philosophical life from the angle of how it conceptualises itself. Yet the theory of philosophy’s self-image is only a heuristic framework, a way of organising studies, which after all retain their own character. These might include research on the way in which the self-image of philosophy is established and transformed into philosophical theory, studies on the history and differentiation of the self-image, the function of the notion of philosophy and the word “philosophy” in the self-image, examination of various forms of “deferral” of philosophy and the history of the quest for “true philosophy”, tracing the process and discourses which have produced the spheres of what is theoretical, what constitutes philosophy’s own matter and the processes in which it is regained for philosophy, assimilated into its interests and discourses and concepts previously rejected by philosophy are made available to it. Above all, though, criticism of heuristic habits entails bringing them into the open, and subsequently testing the limits of their validity and the influence that they – often entirely unnoticed by us – exert on philosophical discourse. This does not mean just criticism of the idols of the mind or studying philosophical statements as acts of speech and communicative practices, although of ← 58 | 59 → course both these would be useful procedures. First, we would probably have to describe heuristic habituality – after all a diverse and inconsistent area: what “is known”, “is said”, “is thought” about philosophers’ methods and professional lives, the rules and criteria for evaluation of philosophical research, the principles of debate and criticism; what is open and official here and what is concealed and private; what occurs in the form of expression of professional experience and what takes the form of a philosophical (methodological, hermeneutic) thesis; what is trivial and repeated out of habit, and what is theoretically original and has its own academic value; what is controversial and what is natural and accepted without criticism; what is an authentic belief and what just a cliché, means of persuasion and eristic tool. Only this kind of description permits us to pose the question of the degree to which philosophical statements make use of heuristic habits and reflection on heuristic habituality becomes philosophical matter (theory), contributing to philosophy’s self-knowledge. Studies of this sort would no doubt enrich the rhetoric and theory of the arguments, and give them more of the heuristic self-knowledge that by their very nature they are searching for; they would help to create heuristics conceived as a theoretical commentary both on what has in heuristic habituality been raised to the level of theory, and on what has not previously been taken into account by this theory. However, it is in heuristic habits that the self-image of philosophy is largely expressed, and this is why studying them can only be separated from the heuristics of philosophical life in an abstract and typological fashion.

If we have obtained some tentative clarity as to the way in which heuristics divides into a range of philosophical studies, albeit without being exhausted by them and without projecting for itself the role of an ordinary meta-discourse aiming at synthesis, then it will also be evident why the next stage of this introduction to the question of philosophical heuristics will not be an exposition of its own matter. Instead, it will expose the various forms of heuristic sensitivity and advanced heuristic reflection in the general projects and types of philosophical thinking which heuristics must accept as its source and which it is to serve, pointing to their mutual links, as well perhaps as the possibilities of transgressing some of their limitations. ← 59 | 60 →

1 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), p. 87.

2 Cf. Stephen Toulmin, Human Understanding. The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1972), pp. 1–3, and also Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press), Chapter 3.1.

3 In Poland it is even “the done thing” to restrain ourselves when describing ourselves as philosophers, and we are embarrassed to call our profession by its name, expecting equivocal reactions.

4 The possibility of transferring the symbolic notion of philosophy to scientific statements and texts is assured by the literature of the essence of philosophy and philosophising. This tradition, dating back to Aristotle’s Protrepticus, uses philosophical concepts in an essentially unchanging (at least at the level of the most general declarations), albeit continually updated fashion. Yet the symbolic-regulative notion of philosophy is always threatened by others also with claims to define the noble objective of cognitive endeavours. In philosophy, though, the idea has always been for these concepts to complement each other rather than compete. In Plato’s works, the notion of philosophy and that of wisdom were reconciled in this way. Much more dramatic was the history of resolving the relations between philosophy and scientia divina, and then science. Yet the ideals of the goal of cognition as a certain field expounded in philosophy were never a threat to the concept of philosophy, even if they exhibited cognition’s internal antagonism: as a concept referring to the whole of philosophical matter and at the same time to what is true, finally correct philosophy.

5 The influence of our perception of matter in various forms of thinking is a Bergsonian theme that continues to await wider attention from philosophers; the autonomy of writing and raising its level to that of a philosophical notion is a theme for which Derrida is responsible. Like other postmodernists, he also experiments with the literary form of philosophy, expressing his insight into the properties of writing and semiotics. In these experiments, the motif of a work’s lack of a beginning and ending expresses the interest in incompleteness and indeterminacy, manifested much more by the great figures of philosophy; cf. e.g. Otto Friedrich Bollnow, “Vom Unvollendeten, Nicht-zu-Vollendenden”, Kant-Studien 67 (1–4): 480–491 (1976). Of course, academic expectations concerning the formal properties of philosophical texts by no means coincide with those of readers, and the works regarded as the most outstanding seldom fulfil academic standards. We should bear in mind, however, that the main function of academic norms is to guarantee a certain minimum philosophical level.

6 By no means does this mean to attribute a naively normative orientation to hermeneutics. Gadamer’s declaration that his concern is “not what we do or what we ought to do, but what happens to us over and above our wanting and doing” (Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. revised by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall, London: Continuum, 2006, p. xxvi), even if it may sound somewhat pre-hermeneutic, seems to be fulfilled. It is fulfilled, however, within the limits of philosophy of reflection, as conceiving “a reality that limits and exceeds the omnipotence of reflection” (cf. ibidem, p. 351). Hermeneutics seems to require two radicalisations resulting from it, which are speculative and reflexive in spite of everything, but at the same time phenomenological: in the form of analysis of being… and that of deconstruction, in which it is not the work that is dispersed in the reality of reflection (cf. ibidem), but the reflection together with the author that is dispersed in the space between textual codes (Barthes) or writing (Derrida).

7 For the position of Husserl’s phenomenology towards positive (natural) knowledge see e.g. Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s essay “The Philosopher and Sociology”, trans. Richard C. McCleary, [in:] Signs (Evanston, Il: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1964), pp. 159–181.

8 D. W. Hamlyn, Being a Philosopher. The History of a Practice, London: Routledge, 1992. At this point it is worth mentioning one of the most ruthless attacks on mediocrity and tepidity, the irreverent address made to all artistic (and philosophical too) imitators and followers in Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, trans. Danuta Borchardt (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press; Polish original version, Paris 1969, pp. 74–86). Interestingly, it was this very passage that was reworked by the author in the second edition. There is much non-academic literature which boldly presents the practical pursuit of science, without using the scientific forms that sit rather uncomfortably in such applications. Somewhat shameful for the philosopher is the endocrinologist Hans Selye’s From Dream to Discovery: On Being a Scientist, which shows the scale of scientific life in the field of medicine. The particular refinement and level of concrete, measurable expertise of a mathematician’s creative scientific life also makes quite an impression – the literary image of this is given in Leon Rappaport’s Determinanta.

9 This is why the favourite form of heuristic philosophical history discourse is overcoming classical interpretations or naive criticism. It happens that this can almost always be done, precisely because of the style of work of traditional history of philosophy, which, in exhibiting the structural rules of systems, provokes us to search in the texts of one author or another passages that do not fit the classical interpretation, or are even faithful to what could be regarded as defeat of any naivety of the idea system attributed this author. It is obvious that a good philosopher sometimes tries in the details of his work to repair what appears to be a general deficiency, an unfavourable tendency of the whole. We can therefore argue long and hard over whether Hegel’s system values human individuality and personal identity. But it is worth mustering the heuristic reflection which has us assume the fundamental inconclusiveness of this type of dispute.

10 An interesting discussion of the links between the issue of legitimisation of knowledge and freedom and the significance of the idea of the university can be found in Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), pp. 47–52.

11 Which is not to say that the social situation of philosophy in the USA is generally good. Some articles, for example in Metaphilosophy, give another impression; cf. Alison Jagger’s sarcastic text “Philosophy as a Profession”, Metaphilosophy 1975, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 100–116.

12 Ernst Cassirer expressed himself in this way in the introduction to The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (Volume 1: Language; New Haven: Yale Univ. Press 1955, pp. 80–81) – “the critique of reason becomes the critique of culture”. The whole of this passage is particularly worthy of attention as an example of philosophical discourse imbued with multilateral heuristic reflection.

13 Gabriel Marcel, “Filozofia i komunikacja międzyludzka”, [in:] Filozofia egzystencjalna. Wybór tekstów, ed. M. Kostyszak (Wrocław: Wydawnictwo UW, 1989), pp. 89–102 (translation from the Polish edition).

14 In the 17th and 18th centuries, with the possible exception of 18th-century Germany, the process of change in the style of writing about philosophy affected only small elites (albeit those that defined the future of science) – generally, philosophy in the scholastic spirit was dominant.

15 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1929, 1965), A477/B505.

16 In writing about Nietzsche, I owe much to Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 2006).

17 Wittgenstein was perhaps the first philosopher to point to the semiotic role of the word “philosophy”, to which he attributed the function of introducing a second order. And this is the same as the fact that the concept of philosophy constitutes the sphere of what is philosophical, which, as we saw, is used in the discourse of legitimisation of philosophy or the discourse of the system (as a sovereign and autocratic domain). Cf. e.g. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009), p. cxxxi.

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ISBN (Book)
Publication date
2015 (September)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 247 pp.

Biographical notes

Jan Hartman (Author)

Jan Hartman is Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Bioethics at the Medical School of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He is interested in metaphilosophy, political philosophy, ethics and bioethics.


Title: Philosophical Heuristics