Posted by: glue | August 18, 2009

Critique of Uncanny Reason

Our seminar was reading Derrida’s “Economimesis” at the same time that Judith Butler and Avital Ronell were exploring Arendt’s optimistic reading of Kant’s Critique of the Judgment of Taste.  Arendt believed that Kant’s analogy between judgments of beauty and moral judgments provided a point of departure for a democratic political or public sphere.  A grammatological context clarifies the relationship of this possibility to apparatus formation.

Correlating Four Critiques

Correlating Four Critiques

Each mode of reason whose limits Kant sought to define is institutionalized as a practice and state of mind relative to one of the three apparatuses.

Pure Reason    Practical Reason    Aesthetic Reason
Understanding    Reason    Imagination
Thinking    Willing    Judging
Empirical    Rational    Hermeneutic
Inductive    Deductive    Abductive
True/False    Right/Wrong    Pleasure/Pain
Necessity    Freedom    Beauty
Literacy    Orality    Electracy
Science    Religion    Entertainment

The important point in our context is, first, that Kant proposed Aesthetic judgment as a bridge bringing into relationship the other two modes of knowing.  His project, at the beginning of electracy, was to promote sensory experience, measured on an axis between the extremes of pleasure and pain, to equal status with empirical understanding and moral freedom.  He anticipated precisely the mode of intelligence directly exploited by the institutionalization of electracy within Entertainment.

Part of Kant’s insight was that the new epoch would overwhelm the Judgment of Taste with sublime experience.  Derrida’s updating of Kant’s taste is an ontology based not on the distancing sense of hearing and sight, but the contact senses of touch, taste, and smell.  The poststructural revision is to entertain a fourth dimension or critique that (following the subsequent evolution of philosophy from Hegel through Freud) temporalizes the other three critiques. The Fourth Critique is of Historical Reason, and may be unfolded according to the above table:


The Four Critiques


  1. What is the Fifth Critique of Reason?

    The alignment of Kant’s three Critiques with the five demi-gods accompanying an individual at birth (personifying the five forces governing the lifeworld as understood within the oral apparatus) suggests the possibility of a fourth and fifth critique. The fourth critique (of time or history) is identified in the table above. I am working out the details of a fifth critique — for Tyche or “Chance”. Kant’s promotion of taste to equal status with sight and hearing further suggests an alignment of each critique with one of the senses (an observation whose usefulness remains to be tested). Further alignments are possible, in the way that the I Ching aligns the different organizational systems within its overall landscape interface (from cosmology to body parts).

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