Rainer E. Zimmermann:
The Philosophy of Ernst Bloch
I.Essentially, the philosophy of Ernst Bloch is an existentialism which starts from a perspective taking in sight of the worldly beginning with the cogito. But the pre-reflexive human who is completely with and at himself/herself is far too near to himself/herself for being capable of performing such a taking in sight without establishing an appropriate self-distance and thus a differentiation of the worldly on its various levels. Therefore, in Bloch, the reflexive motion starts from what he calls the darkness of the lived moment which mirrors its own immediacy of a subjectivity which is still biased by itself. It is the exteriorization of and from this immediacy which makes an extension of the perspective possible in the first place. Under this perspective then, can the worldly be taken in sight: by performing the reflexion in a series of rotations/elevations)1 in order to rotate out of one's own in-itself and to elevate oneself above the starting point. Hence, humans are comparable with an observer within a landscape who constructs this very landscape by means of its observing - similar to a painter who actually produces the picture of a landscape. So at first, it is necessary to overcome the harmful/deterimental space of foreground and to mediate the picture which steps out of this foreground with its own future background. It is the reflexive motion which thus gains its characteristic temporality. In this manner, it unfolds within a space-time which gives the frame to it and is also the measure of mediation with all the other subjects who undertake the same and participate in this mediation. We have here a central and fundamental motive of Bloch's which from the beginning on refers the original motion of thinking to intersubjective sociality: "I am. But I do not have myself. By this we eventually become." In so far as the motion of human reflexion goes to the bottom of its origin, it necessarily arrives at the concept of nature in which a subjective nucleus can be assumed which founds as a though always hypothetical subject of nature the project dynamics of the worldly which in turn is also underlying human reflexion. As producer of the wordly nature is therefore producing as natura naturans and at the same time produced as natura naturata. As producing nature it expresses itself in such products which either remain nothing but products or which themselves are able to produce again.
II.But it is only by means of two basic, a systematic as well as a methodological, ideas that the propositions above can be made more precise. The one deals with the project structure which is the dynamic inherent in the worldly coming into being by the fact that we always know already of our That of existing, although not knowing of its What. In other words: We are assured about our own existence by pre-reflexive means, but we can determine its essence only by successively explicating its self-unfolding, thus only in terms of following up this latter. Hence, That permanently turns over into What, and it is the differentiating protruding and stepping out in the run of reflexive work which signifies the transformation of possibility into actuality, up into the smallest bifurcating branches of the wordly. This transformation is nothing but existence itself whose essence however uncovers its own What not before reaching the end of this motion. Hence, this work is always provisional and can at most display the shining forth of that ultimate What. The other (methodological) idea deals with the categorial grasping and the predicative explication of the permanent turn over of That into What. It is here the relationship between the That and the What, hence the intendend process of mapping the one to the other, which defines the categories which in turn determine the instrumental inventory of predication. Essentially, the classifying of the worldly in terms of categories of human reflexion is an expression of ressentiment: Humans charge nature)2 of not falling under the same mode of being, hence they list all items of accusation as concepts (categories) which signify this discrepancy. It is this latter which is associated with the transition from That to What. Hence, the process which constitutes the real correlate of the modal operation of predication is dynamical in the sense that it expresses existence as emerging from a fundamental project. )3 But then, also the modeling of this process (in theorizing) is dynamical. In other words: Theories have to become dynamical themselves. Consequently, their results are not true once and for all, but at best they are true in a transitory and provisional sense - depending on the state of knowledge actually achieved. In Bloch therefore, philosophizing itself is open: Theories are sets of propositions which are composed according to given rules. Propositions in turn, are predications of concepts. They have the standard form S = P (subject = object). The subject then is a concept which is predicated by means of connecting it with the object. This conncetion is achieved by means of the copula (the identifying "to be"). We see however that the copula can only be valid approximately provided we assume the aforementioned project structure, because in that case the subject is not something, but it becomes something (provisional). Hence, Bloch formulates this as S .-> P (subject becomes object). But then, the meaning of the concept which underlies the subject of predication is also nothing but provisional, hence the predication itself is always open. New theories then (which should contain old theories as their special case) consist not only of extensions of sets of propositions, but also the old concepts according to which propositions of the old theory are being formulated, change their connotation. Bloch calls them precepts therefore. They are preliminary (provisional) concepts to start with, but they are changed into concepts not before a further application of judgements. In other words: Concepts of old theories are precepts of new theories. Concepts of new theories are gradually derived in the run of performing reflexion. This has important consequences for mapping the processually constituted wordly, because on the one hand there cannot be any static-universal (thus eternal so to speak) laws which determine the real correlate of the modal wordly. Instead, the concept of law has to be replaced by a concept of tendency which is only valid approximately. On the other hand, it is the coincidentally emerging, the completely new, the novum, what determines the history of the process. Hence, it is this what gives the actual meaning to it. This is nothing but a consequence of its basically being open. Bloch calls this invasion of the new latency: It is the competition of tendency and latency which constitutes the quantities and qualities of evolution which is what we visualize as characteristics of the human modeling of the worldly. This process is open in epistemological as well as in ontological terms: This means that human knowledge is always incomplete and the information gained is limited. But this is also true for the real correlate of the modal process of producing knowledge so that nature itself does not know its own future, because it has not yet actually processed it. The world itself depends therefore on its own experiment and tests itself. (Nature is thus the "construction site which is not cleared yet.") Humans do their own (epistemic) experiments and test their own knowledge. Both these motions are mediated by the fact that humans can be visualized in principle as nature's own "organ of knowledge" after all. This is what Bloch calls experimentum mundi and what determines ontologically his ontology of the not-yet-being. In this sense, for Bloch, the humanum is essential for this process, because it is basically transported by humans. (From which an ethical demand can be derived which draws on the natural rights.) Hence, it is the humanum which enforces the novum in supporting its expression in terms of the knowledge achieved. Probably, it will miss the Whole though which is the ultimum, but it approaches it by following the invariant of direction. If the ultimum is utopia, then it cannot be reached anyway, because it is utopian. But on the way towards it we might be able to eventually achieve the actualization of what is shining forth from the future displaying the utopian contents. This actualization can be called metopia)4 rather than utopia. The process of actually achieving metopia, according to Bloch, is performed by means of a differentiation of the concept of possibility: The possible will be progressively objectified by passing through various shifts of possibility such that eventually it turns over into actuality. The important terms of the ethical implications which are consequences of Bloch's onto-epistemic approach are essentially: non-simultaneousness, traces, and upright carriage. The first is a practical consequence of the open process of the world which determines a somewhat "unclean"dialectic. Because the competition between tendency and latency on the one hand and the possibility of deficiency despite all invariance of direction on the other hand have the consequence that beside contradictions in the sense of the classical dialectical logic there are also resistances: Only the former can be sublated (in the terminology of Hegel). The latter can only be overcome. (If not, they remain and have to be carried and dragged into the future.) Non-simultaneousness is the concrete wordly part of these resistances and hampers progressive reflexion and thus praxis. In the traces however which are graspable in worldly terms the bifurcating action of the world process is being expressed such that the dialectical logic of the Whole can be retraced in each of its (if so tiny) parts. In particular, the social process is uncovered in the traces of pointed narration. (As essentially the whole experiment of the world can be eventually visualized as a self-narration.) But also the scientific method offers an analogy to that narration, if the undertaking points to the real ciphers of nature and tries to make visible producing nature in its figures of extraction within the individual regional categories. Very much in the same way as the arts offer their own contribution by clarifying in their works the shining forth of the Whole, e.g. as ornament. Hence, ethically demanded is therefore the precise grasping of the traces in minute detail in which the Whole is actually being mirrored - as to the epistemological level - also the perception and avoiding of non-simultaneousness - on the theoretical level - as well as the upright carriage - on the practical level. This altogether is what defines the principle of hope which always assumes that the invariant of direction is metopically active all the time, although its deficiency has to be thought of. At the same time, as to the logicon of a nature which unfolds itself by means of various forms of matter which is mapped by humans, there is an ethical equivalent which can be understood as a consequent derivation from the onto-epistemic totality of mediation which is the Whole. Ethical adequacy)5 in this sense, exteriorizes therefore as upright carriage in praxis, as shining forth in the arts or as ornament, and in the latter as eidos of nature, as logicon in philosophy, and in science as alliance with nature. )6
III.In the following table the essential categories of Bloch's philosophy are being displayed altogether:
More about some aspects of the Blochian Philosophy