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Uniting Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger

The Dialectical Phenomenology of Michael Kosok

Peter Wilberg


Biographical Preface

The larger-than-life man to whom this essay is dedicated and without whose genius and inspiration it could not possibly have been written, is in all likelihood long dead. I first encountered Michael Kosok in 1975, when he was still professor of physics and mathematics at Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey. For over two decades now he has disappeared from trace, his extraordinary writings on philosophy and science now seemingly consigned to oblivion – never published save for a few articles in the journal Telos. From him comes the term ‘dialectical phenomenology’ which is the subject of this work — a homage to his genius and a belated recognition of the immense influence he exerted on my own life and thought. Mike himself favoured another term for his own philosophy – the Life and Science of Paradox – a life he lived through his appreciation of energy as dynamic relationality, and his unsurpassed grasp of the “Dialectics of Nature” – the circular and paradoxical dimension of relationality in all domains and at all levels, from the sub-atomic to the social. With this essay a circle in my relationship to Mike is also completed, one that began in my last year as an undergraduate at Oxford with the discovery of his seminal article entitled “The Formalisation of Hegel’s Dialectical Logic”. Thirty years later (2004), I find myself having come full circle from this beginning in my own writings on phenomenological medicine and psychotherapy, and the dialectical phenomenology of the human organism. The completion of a circle is not a closure but an opening, for the circle is no less defined by what it rings and bounds as it is by the unbounded field that opens up around it and the infinite possibilities of inward expansion that this field opens up. The same I believe is true of the circle of life that we see beginning at birth and ending at death. I am sure that Mike is even more fully aware of this now than he was when I knew him. Though I cannot locate his body in space and time, the ‘non-localised field of awareness’ that constituted his being and brought life to it is anything but dead.

 Introduction

Physical science is based on a belief in miracles — the miraculous emergence of awareness itself from an otherwise non-aware universe of matter and energy – a universe we couldn’t even know about without our awareness of it. It seeks to explain our capacity for conscious awareness through studying particular phenomena within our own field of awareness — for example the physical body or brain. The terms ‘physical’ and ‘physics’ derive from the Greek verb phuein – to ‘emerge’, ‘arise’ or ‘manifest’. Physics offers explanations of how things emerge or arise but does not begin by recognising them as phenomena emerging or arising within a field of awareness. From a phenomenological point of view, however, the known universe is not merely a universe we are aware of – it is the universe of our present human awareness. The focus of phenomenological science is not preconceived ‘things’, but the nature of those things as phenomena manifesting in a field of awareness. Dialectical Phenomenology is concerned with the physical dynamics of phenomena in the root sense of this term – the process by which phenomena emerge or arise, not as objects for a localised or ‘punctual’ subject, but events arising from and within a non-localised field of awareness – indeed as the self-manifestation of that field. Dialectical Phenomenology belongs to the very essence of Marxism as a “human science of nature and a natural science of man”, distinct in principle from both the Hegelian dialectic and Husserlian phenomenology. Hegelian dialectics lacks a full phenomenological basis. Husserlian phenomenology lacks a full dialectical understanding of the field character of subjectivity and its field dynamics – the dynamics of inter-subjectivity and relationality. For Husserl, consciousness was always conscious of something. For Michael Kosok there are no ‘things’ to be conscious of in the first place. The world is not a step-by-step linear ‘construction’ or ‘evolution’ of complex wholes from separate, pre-given elements which enter into relation with one another — or with a perceiving subject. Instead all elements are, to begin with, not elements in relation but elements of a dynamic relation, constantly defining themselves through that relation and constantly being transformed by it. We live, according to Mike, not in a world of things but a world of ‘-ing’. Ultimately ‘being’ as such is a verb (‘be-ing’), but a verb without a pre-given subject, an activity without a pre-given agent. Subject and object, self and other, are distinct but inseparable dimensions of a singular boundary state of dynamic relationality or interactivity, one which defines itself and all ‘selves’ or ‘subjects’ through its dynamic process of self-manifestation and self-differentiation – of ‘selving’. Husserl was right in one sense: our awareness of ourselves is always an awareness of ourselves in relation to something or someone other-than-self. But that relation is itself a circular one – one in which self and other define themselves in and through their mutual relation, as distinct but inseparable aspects of a dynamic field of interrelatedness whose self-expression is what they both essentially are.

Brief Definition of Dialectical Phenomenology

A unified field theory of awareness: awareness being understood as a non-localised, field of relatedness and inter-subjectivity which is the condition of appearance of any localized objects for a localized subject.

 The Principles of Dialectical Phenomenology

 1. The basic phenomenological principle

All phenomena are localised self-manifestations of a non-localised field of awareness.

2. The basic dialectical principle

Any phenomenon manifesting within a field of awareness as a bounded entity (a posited presence or ‘thesis’) is co-defined by its immediate context of appearance (its ‘antithesis’). Examples of thesis and antithesis are figure and background, organism and environment, particle and energy field.

“Neither exists as an already well-defined entity outside of their mutual boundary relation…the so-called synthesis or unity of opposites is not a construction of opposites but rather the opposites are nothing but inseparable sides of a singular boundary state…” (Michael Kosok)

3. The principles of dialectical ontology 

All fields of awareness, and the phenomena that manifest within them are the expression of a universal ground state of awareness which we call Being. The ground state of awareness is not awareness of anything. It is the being of awareness – itself inseparable from the awareness of being. The being of awareness is ‘no-thing’. Nor is it nothing. It is the field condition for our awareness of ‘any-thing’. The awareness of being is awareness of no-thing. It is the condition of awareness of any-thing. The ground state of awareness is both formless and the source of infinite formative potentials. Formlessness and form, potentiality and actuality, non-being and being, no-thingness and thingness, are inseparable aspects of a singular boundary state of ‘becoming’ – or ‘be-ing’. The ground state of awareness or “Being” is a state of dynamic actualization or Be-ing, constantly giving form to its own formative potentials, and constantly transformed by them.

4. The Gestalt principle (dialectic of figure and ground)

All phenomena are forms or figurations (‘Gestalts’) arising from the universal ground state of awareness.

All figures that emerge from this universal ground state of awareness (Being) are also particular figurations of awareness (beings).

As a figuration of awareness, every figure that emerges from the ground state of awareness configures its own field of awareness.

A being is no more or less than a particular pattern, figuration or ‘Gestalt’ of awareness: one which configures its own awareness of other beings – the way it perceives them as phenomena within its own field of awareness.

The universal ground state of awareness (Being) is a source both of infinite fields of awareness (beings) and the infinite phenomena manifesting within those fields.

An example of the figure/ground dialectic:

A fish is a part of the oceanic ‘field’ in which it lives and at the same time an individualised self-expression of that field — a fishly form of the ocean as a whole. The fish is also distinct from the oceanic environment around it and from the other fishes within it. All oceanic life forms perceive both the ocean as a whole and other organisms within it in their own unique way, for their own unique organising field-patterns of awareness each create a uniquely patterned field of sensory-perceptual awareness – their ‘ocean’. Sharks, for example, perceive electrical fields of other organisms and experience the ocean itself as an electrical field and not merely a tactile, visual or auditory one. The ocean, in this analogy, can be compared to the universal ground state of awareness or Being which gives rise to a multiplicity of foreground ‘figures’ in the shape of fish and other life forms. Yet each of these figures in turn shapes its own ‘background’ field – constitutes its own patterned environment field of awareness or ‘ocean’. The ocean as such, as a ground state of awareness, is not reducible to a singular environmental or ‘background’ field common to all the life forms that ‘figure’ within it, but is a field of fields or ocean of oceans. What the ocean as such or any other oceanic life form within it essentially is, cannot be reduced to the way it is perceived as foreground figure or background field by other life forms – each of which perceives both the ocean as a whole and all the life forms within it in a way configured by their own organising field-patterns of awareness. If Being is a ground state of awareness then the relation of Being and ‘beings’ can be compared to the ocean’s awareness of itself as ocean, and its awareness of itself in the individualised form of each of the life-forms that it gives rise to. The self-awareness of these life forms is their awareness of themselves and each other as a part of the ocean as a whole and as self-expressions of it - both distinct but inseparable from it. Only a fish with a human-like ego awareness would experience itself as a being separate and apart from the ocean as a whole and other life forms within it, and regard its own uniquely patterned perception of the ocean and its life forms as more ‘real’ or ‘objective’ than those of a fish or shark.

5. The principle of irreducibility (dialectical asymmetry)

  1. Being cannot be reduced to beings.

  2. The universal ground state of awareness cannot be reduced to any particular figurations and fields of awareness it gives rise to.

  3. A given field of awareness cannot be reduced to or explained by any phenomenon manifesting within that field.

 Examples:

 A nightmare cannot be reduced to or explained by any event experienced within it.

A text cannot be reduced to or explained by a single word, sentence or paragraph within it.

Similarly, the awareness we possess as human beings cannot be reduced to or explained by any phenomenon manifesting within our field of awareness: for example the human body or brain as we perceive it within that field.

 6. The holarchic principle (dialectic of whole and part)

The universal ground state of awareness is not just a whole that is more than the sum of its parts: a ‘holistic’ field of awareness in which particular figures manifest. Since every figure emerging from the ground state of awareness configures its own field of awareness, the universal ground state of awareness is a holarchic field – a whole of wholes or a field of fields.

 Every part is a self-manifestation of the whole, one which in turn transforms the whole.

Every phenomenon manifesting within a field of awareness is a self-manifestation of that field, one which in turn transforms that field.

Every patterned field of awareness emerging from and within the ground state of awareness or Being, is a self-manifestation or ‘selving’ of that ground state – thus assuming the character of a self or being.

Being, as the sum of all that is, is not just an absolute or infinite whole made up of finite parts — beings. Nor is any whole – even an absolute whole - merely the unity of its parts. For each part is also the unity of all the wholes of which it forms a part – up to and including any absolute or infinite whole. Each part being the unity of all the wholes or fields of which it forms a part - and a self-manifestation of any absolute or infinite whole or field - beings are themselves absolute, infinite or holistic units – ‘holons’.

7. The principle of form (dialectic of foreground and background)

Every phenomenon that manifests within a field of awareness appears as a foreground figure which co-defines its own background field. Foreground figure and background field are distinct but inseparable aspects of a singular unitary or ‘holisitic’ field of awareness within which they arise or emerge, a field which includes both. A prominent object in a still-life painting appears as foreground figure against a background field. The holistic field – the painting as a whole, includes both the object and its background.

Foreground figure and background field (for example a black object against a white background) are also inseparable mutually-defining elements of a singular boundary state – the form of the figure as such. What we see as a ‘black’ circle surrounded by a white background could just as well be seen as a ‘white’ circle with a black interior. The circle as such – the form or figure — is not black or white. It is both and neither. Similarly, what we perceive as spherical bubbles of gas in a fluid medium could just as well be described as bubbles or spheres of fluid containing gas. Just as the circle as such is neither black or white so is the sphere as such neither fluid nor gaseous. A form is reducible neither to a foreground figure or text nor to a background field or context. It is a dynamic boundary of distinct but inseparable elements. Any ‘body’ is essentially a bounded form or figure – defined not simply by what it surrounds and contains but also by all that surrounds and contains it. The principle of form offers a new understanding of biological forms and of bodyhood as such - not as something intrinsically bounded but as a dynamic boundary between the inner and outer fields of a form or figure.

8. The principle of relationality (dialectical logic)

A field is not composed of separate elements placed in a certain formal relation to one another. The elements are themselves elements of their formal relation, distinct but inseparable sides of a singular boundary state of determination, like two sides of a coin or the inside and outside of a circle or sphere. All elements of any field are circularly self-referential, defining themselves through their relation to other elements in the field — as an organism, for example, defines itself through its relation to its environment and to the other organisms within it. From the simple antithesis of seemingly separate entities – organism and environment — the dialectical principle of relationality allows us to understand the reciprocal relation of organism and environment as a relation internal to both. For the environment of an organism is itself an environment of organisms — an ‘eco-system’. Conversely, each organism constitutes its own sensory-perceptual environment. In the case of human beings, the dynamic relation of the human organism to its environment becomes one element in an internal relation of the organism to itself – the capacity of the human mind to create an internal mental environment to which the human body itself responds physiologically in the same way that simpler organisms respond to their physical environment.

So-called ‘formal’ logics are based on the idea of elements which are not only distinct but separate – whose own form and identity is independent of their formal relation.

Dialectical logic is based on the idea of elements which are distinct but inseparable, formed and transformed by their mutual relation.

No relation (<>) between two elements, A and B is merely an external relation of separate identities. It is also an internal relation of identity – a relation between the A-aspect of B and the B-aspect of A.

A <> B A[B] <> B[A]

Example:

Wholes (A) and parts (B) are not separate things, but defined by their mutual relation.

The internal relation of whole and part has to do with the partness of wholes and the wholeness of parts.

The whole is a whole of parts and the parts are parts of a whole.

Any whole is part of a larger whole. Any part is a whole with its own parts.

A whole is composed of its parts and of their sub-parts (like a large circle with multiple smaller circles and circles within those circles).

Conversely however, a part is a constituent of all the larger wholes of which it is a part (like a circle which is one of multiple circles within larger circles and circles of circles).

A whole is a unity of the parts which are a part of it. Conversely however, a part is also a unity of all the wholes of which it forms a part.

9. The principle of field-subjectivity (dialectical epistemology)

Dialectical epistemology does not begin with the idea of a punctual subject confronting an independent world of objects but with the understanding of the field character of subjectivity. It understands both ‘subject’ and ‘object’ as part of a unitary field of awareness.

The unitary field of awareness embraces not only the individual’s experience of the world but their experience of themselves as part of that world.

It embraces not only their experience of ‘objective’ things but their ‘subjective’ experience of the thoughts they have about those things.

It embraces not only their perception of external objects as bodies in space but their internal ‘subjective’ perception or proprioception of their own bodies and their spatiality. 

It embraces not only external or ‘objective’ objects but internal or ‘subjective’ objects such as feelings and sensations. These are distinct but inseparable aspects of a singular field of awareness.

Our self-experience and our experience of the world and other people, in other words, are distinct but inseparable aspects of a singular field of awareness. Concepts and thoughts are not merely subjective representations of percepts or things in the ‘real’ world. Both concepts and percepts, thoughts and things are an expression of the same reality, phenomena manifesting within a field, and self-manifestations of that field.

This is not to say that a dualistic epistemology based on the idea of a localised subject confronting an independent world of objects is ‘false’. It is one culturally-conditioned way of experiencing our relationship to the world, one culturally-conditioned mode of self-experience reflected in philosophy, one configuration of the larger non-localised field of awareness within which we give form to both our self-experience and our experience of others and otherness. This non-localised field-subjectivity is not enclosed by our skins, located in our brains or bounded by our skulls. Our very experience of ourselves as perceiving subjects separate from the objects of our perception implies a relation to those objects. The question is whether subject and object are elements in relation or mutually defining elements of that relation, and of the field of interrelatedness of which it forms a part.

Dialectical epistemology is phenomenological epistemology but not ‘phenomenalism’, ‘solipsism’ or ‘subjectivism’. For it includes a dialectical understanding of the intrinsically relational dimension of subjectivity or awareness, and the inter-subjective character of awareness fields. The world is indeed the world as we are ‘subjectively’ aware of it. But that does not mean that awareness is the property of a solipsistic ‘subject’ or ‘ego’, for whom the existence of ‘other minds’ or other ‘subjects’ is doubtable.

We do not just experience things and people in the light of our ‘own’ awareness of them. We also experience ourselves in the light of the things and people around us. Standing next to a tall skyscraper, we are not merely aware of its height. We feel small in relation to it. Awareness has the character of mutuality or inter-subjectivity comparable to a mutual gaze. Other people, for example are not just part of our own field of awareness – we are also a part of theirs. How we manifest or appear to one another within our respective fields of awareness has to do with the intrinsically relational or inter-subjective character of those fields themselves. The look on a person’s face or in their eyes is no mere object for a perceiving subject. It reveals their way of looking out at the world and experiencing it subjectively. In the mutual gaze, what we see in their look is their way of looking at and seeing us — and also what they see in us. Inter-subjectivity, seeing and being seen manifest objectively in the looks perceived in the face of the other, but if our focus is entirely on the objective features of a person’s eyes, we cease to gaze upon the human being, and nor do we experience our own being in the light of their gaze.

10. The principle of figurative perception (dialectical aspectivism)

An idea too, is a way of looking at things. The word ‘idea’ is derived from the Greek eidos - the look of something or its ‘aspect’, and the verb ‘idein’ – ‘to see’. The word ‘aspect’ in turn refers to both an ‘objective’ face or facet of something we perceive and to the ‘subjective’ angle of perception from which we perceive it – our way of looking at it. The perceived look or aspect of a thing or person is never something purely ‘subjective’ or ‘objective’. Perception is always aspectual, and aspects are always ‘as-pects’, a perception of something ‘as’ this or ‘as’ that.

Examples:

We perceive something as a rose or tree.

We recognize a voice on the answerphone as that of person X or person Y.

We perceive a look on someone’s face as a look of anger or delight.

For Plato, the treeness of a tree or the tableness of a table was not in itself anything substantial, but rather its eidos – translated both as ‘idea’ and as ‘form’. Dialectical aspectivism is not a relativistic perspectivism or constructivism which reduces objective perception to a subjective construct. Instead it understands aspects as something that transcends the subject-object dichotomy. In perceiving the table as a table we perceive one aspect or ‘as-spect’ of what it is — its tableness. Plato’s intuition was that the perceived form of a thing, its eidos or aspect, is both something ideal and immaterial and something no less real for that. The aspectual character of experience is not just its formal character but also its figurative or ‘metaphorical’ character in the broadest sense. We do not only conceive or mentally represent things ‘as’ this or that — we also perceive them as such. What Hegel called the ‘subjective idea’ of a thing can be understood as our mental representation of it as this or that. What he called the ‘objective idea’ can be understood as the aspect of the thing itself that our perception of it reveals. The Hegelian dialectic understood nature itself as an unfoldment of the ‘objective idea’ and the progressive emergence of its latent forms or aspects at ever higher and more complex levels of dialectical interrelatedness. The ‘absolute idea’ was reached through the completed self-expression of the entire process of dialectical unfoldment in the ‘subjective idea’ ie. human thought itself.

11. The principle of logical method (dialectics of phenomenon and noumenon)

Logical method was central to Hegel’s thinking, and he defined dialectical logic as “consciousness of the form taken by the inner spontaneous movement of its content.” This inner spontaneous movement took the form of a dialectical process which led from ‘thesis’ and ‘antithesis’ to a synthesis which in turn posited a new and higher level thesis. Hegel himself understood his method as a phenomenological one and was phenomenological in as much as it was based on a distinction between consciousness and its content. Unlike previous philosophers, Hegel did not merely think about the world of our conscious experience and then construct a grand theoretical edifice of concepts. His edifice was built on his experience of thinking as such, and his consciousness of the dialectical form taken by the process of thinking — the “inner spontaneous movement” of thought from one concept to another.

The theory of dialectical phenomenology also rests on a fundamental distinction between consciousness and its contents, understood as a distinction between phenomena as we perceive or conceive them and the field of awareness in which these percepts and concepts take shape. The relation between phenomenon and field is conceived as a dynamic and dialectical relation between figure and ground, beings and Being, the aspects of a thing and its essence of beingness. In its method, however, it is nevertheless distinct from that of Hegel. Both phenomenologically and dialectically, it is never enough to make a merely conceptual distinction between awareness fields and phenomenon that manifest within them, between consciousness and its contents, between reality as we experience it and reality as we represent it in thought. To properly conceptualise the relation between thought and experience we must, to begin with, experience this relation.

The method of dialectical phenomenology is based on a distinction between:

  1. pre-conceptual experience

  2. conceptualised experience

  3. experiencing of the process of conceptualization 

  4. conceptualization of the process of experiencing

This conceptual distinction between these four dimensions of experience must itself become an experiential distinction for the phenomenologist. He or she must develop the capacity to experience distinctions at a pre-conceptual or pre-reflective level before reflecting on and conceptualising them, and at the same time be able to experience the process by which conceptual distinctions arise from and give form to pre-conceptual and pre-reflective experience. Without being in touch with our pre-conceptual experience, conceptual distinctions, far from reflecting or representing experiential distinctions, tend to abolish, supersede or superimpose themselves on the latter. Experience is ‘unconsciously’ pre-conceived and foreclosed by concepts which are not themselves experienced as phenomena in our field of awareness. Concepts as products of experience and thought replace and restrict the ongoing process of thought – the experiential process generating concepts from (pre-conceptual) experience. As a result we cannot reach the stage of being able to conceptualise the process of experiencing itself – what Hegel called “consciousness of the form taken by the inner spontaneous movement of its content”.

The distinction between pre-conceptual and conceptual experience is one dimension of the distinction between noumenal and phenomenal experience. Noumenal experience is our direct experience or ‘felt sense’ (Gendlin) of the pre-phenomenal, field of awareness from and within which all experiential phenomena emerge (phuein) into manifestation — whether these phenomena be things or thoughts, percepts or concepts. The phenomenological method is based on experiencing this process of emergence or phusis and then conceptualizing it. Only then will the concepts formed give expression not just to the ‘things’ we experience but to our experience of those things as localised phenomena emerging from the realm of the noumenal – from non-local fields of awareness. 

Examples:

·        The transformation of pre-reflective awareness into reflective awareness.

·        The transformation of perceptual into conceptual awareness.

·        The transformaton of non-localised moods into localised emotional feelings.

·        The transformation of directly felt meaning into verbally formulated meanings.

What these examples are all examples of is the transformation of ‘noumenal’ into ‘phenomenal’ awareness. The ‘noumenal’ is the field of pre-phenomenal awareness. Pre-phenomenal awareness consists of those field-states of awareness (pre-physical, pre-perceptual, pre-reflective and pre-conceptual) which are the condition for the emergence (phusis) of any phenomena we are aware of - and can therefore reflect on and conceptualise. They are also examples of the transformation of feeling awareness and feeling cognition – the essence of subjective field awareness – into ‘objective’ sensory, perceptual and conceptual modes of cognition.

12. The pragmatic principle (dialogical ethics)

Awareness is intrinsically relational – an awareness of ourselves in relation to something or someone. Consequently, our understanding of the relationships between things and between people is conditioned by our relationship to those things or people. What I call the ‘pragmatic’ principle of Dialectical Phenomenology is the recognition that changes in our comprehension of the relationships between things and between people can come about through changes in our active relationship to them – whether this change takes the form of new ways of using them, scientific experiments performed on them, or changes in our inner bearing towards them. Conversely, a new way of seeing something or seeing someone is in and of itself a change in our relationship to that thing or person.

This pragmatic principle is also an ethical principle: knowledge is not neutral, but always the expression of an active mode of relatedness. Marx’s dialectical analysis of social relationships showed how capitalism transformed relationships between human beings into relationships between things – commodities – rather than understanding all relationships between things, natural and man-made, as the expression of relationships between beings. The Jewish social philosopher, Martin Buber, distinguished two primary modes of relatedness, the “I-It” and the “I-Thou” mode. The I-It mode reduces things and people to passive objects for the ego or “I” – whether objects of knowledge or contemplation, thought or emotion, use or exploitation – and in which this “I” remains untouched and unaltered by its relationship to “It”. The I-Thou mode, on the other hand, is one in which the relationship itself is directly experienced as an intersubjective one, a relationship between beings which turns the “It” into a Thou and allows the “I” to be transformed by its relationship to it. The experience of the ‘beingness’ of things is not an esoteric experience. It belongs to the essence of relationality itself as a state of inter-subjective resonance between two beings — two self-expressions of the universal ground state of awareness from which all fields and all phenomena spring.

Postscript: the Heideggerian Gnosis and Dialectical Phenomenology

Heidegger was attuned in a most poetic and profound way to the essence of phenomenology and able to experience and do what Husserl effectively only conceptualised and talked ‘about’ - ground his language and conceptual distinctions in his deep pre-conceptual awareness of those distinctions – in immediate feeling cognition or gnosis. And whilst he affected a scorn of ‘dialectics’, there is perhaps no more pithy distillation of the dialectical character of knowledge or gnosis, understood phenomenologically, than in the following words of Heidegger himself:

 “…what is knowable and what is known are each determined in their essence in a unified way from the same essential ground. We may not separate either one, nor will we encounter them separately. Knowing is not a bridge that somehow subsequently connects two existent banks of a stream, but is itself a stream that in its flow first creates the banks and turns them towards each other in a more primordial way than a bridge ever could.”

From Dialectics of Nature by Michael Kosok

Subjectivity as a non-localised field of presence is nothing but concrete immediacy, i.e. experience as an on-going process, in which the events or event-complexes present are any objects, products or structures appearing out of the field and thus co-existing with it, be they symbolic systems, physical objects or ego.

Intersubjectivity…cannot be understood as a simple ego-ego activity of two self-centred individuals somehow ‘relating’. It must include within its domain nature and the body-body physics of interacting energy as the mutual content of genuine relation.

…a dialectics of man implies a dialectics of nature and vice versa.

All event-complexes appearing objectively – be they so-called given matter in the form of photons, atoms or stars; living matter in the form of plants or animals; thinking matter in the form of humans; or culture in the form of expressed ideas – are dynamic expressions of non-linear field activity capable of resonant response with man.

The difference in the intersubjective component lies in the scope and depth of the “I and Thou” resonance that can be established in the non-linear state of affecting and being affected or seeing and being seen.

The so-called problem of the “other” or “other minds” only appears if you really think (Laing notwithstanding) that experience is private and in need of being communicated i.e. that experience can be owned like a commodity. Emotional reactions, thoughts and object modifications are not examples of experience but rather products of experience, and qua products, they are indeed distinctions giving uniqueness.

Growth and genuine transcendence come only when one can re-grasp the relationship that exists between the process of experience and its products, realizing that products and results are neither ends (positive or posited goals), nor something to be denied (negative goals) but are rather the vehicles and means through which experience can enrich its self-mediated state of concrete immediacy and express itself in visible forms. 

Degeneracy, however, sets in when the reverse takes place and man defines and delimits experience…in terms of its products and results. Such is the paradoxical challenge of existence – not to be ‘done in’ by the very products of its process!

So-called ‘false’ or ‘inauthentic’ consciousness is simply the product of ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ consciousness, instead of being the process.

Mere factual or formal knowledge always appears in the form of an object that becomes known, while wisdom is the realization that a full knowledge of awareness reveals relations and thus perceives all objects and structures in a state of mutual, reciprocal determination.

Wisdom only comes through recognizing the dialectic of mutual limitation between any focused form and its codetermining context. If no integrated experience exists within which the immediate mutuality of subject and object is felt directly, then the alienation of subject from object hardens and the subject-object paradox becomes a contradiction.

In capitalist societies…this hardening takes the form of the institutionalized separation of the subject as producer from his object of production, reducing both to commodities in an external exchange relation in which price (externalized value) replaces value (intrinsic worth).

In philosophy, the hardening first takes the form of an opposition between objective ‘scientism’ (positivism, behaviourism) and subjective existentialism. In both of these positions, subject and object stand as intrinsically ‘other’ to each other. There is no dialectic interdependency manifesting itself through a transformation in which each becomes a function of the other and each a function of itself through the other.

References: Michael Kosok, Dialectics of Nature, from Proceedings of the First International Telos Conference Ed. Grahl and Piccone, Telos Press 1970

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