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Roman Garmendia Muruamendiaraz > Extracts

Essay (literary and non-literary)

2001 An Example of Minimalist Philosophy | Dakit

Gure jakintzaren mugak (The Limits of Our Knowledge)*Dakit*2001


Filosofia minimalistaren adibide bat (An Example of Minimalist Philosophy)


1.- This material world truly exists, and even when I disappear, it will go on existing. This, according to Lenin (1), is the basis of materialism, which opposes different idealisms and which, on the other hand, is evident. That is why I refer to my materialism as existentialism.

While conducting research into the nature of science, I have seen that description constitutes the basis of any science. Similarly, I have seen that in logic the description can be symbolised by the existential quantifier (also known as the particular). Following the path of logic, and aware that I am talking about how science can be performed on this material world (in other words, how science can be performed on a world undergoing constant change, and, therefore, on a world in which everything is different, because nothing is for ever), I have come to realise that in no case is it possible to enter the universal quantifier, to make it universal.

In the logic of propositions it is said that one restriction has to be overcome in order to enter the universal quantifier. In a very complex way it is said that what aims to become universal should not be inside a derivation that has not been closed, that the said derivation –which is a supposition, a hypothesis– has to be closed. What this restriction means is also explained more simply, in other words, what one aims to make universal has to be in any case (2), and that this should happen by any means. That is easier to understand, but in actual fact, what we most clearly see from here, when we are performing science on this material world –and let us not forget that– is that there are no cases that arise by any means, that they are all different, because not a single one is for ever, even if this case is long-term one or even if it is very likely to take place. Therefore, I have seen that the restriction is insurmountable, and there is in fact no way that it could become universal.

In the logic of propositions, the universal quantifier is symbolised above all by means of the conditional (3); in other words, it is said that for all cases, whatever they may be, if “a” takes place, then “b” will happen. That can also be represented through cause-effect. Indeed, on the subject of cause and effect, Hume (4) himself theorised and confirmed that we cannot know cause and effect exactly one hundred percent; his philosophy is called “scepticism”, because it imposes limits on our knowledge. And I, too, have arrived at this conclusion, whenever I have used formal logic as a tool; the logic of propositions, to be more precise. And from that I have deduced that our ability to theorise has an insurmountable limit; and that, despite all our efforts, it never ends up becoming universal.

When considering the universal quantifier, I have compared it with “the essence” of this world, with what an American scientist defined as “the dream of the final theory”, with Parmenides’ “Being”, with “the Logos”, and somehow “with pure reason”, with the “quintessence” of the metaphysics we have learnt from idealism, if I may legitimately use this term. And if one examines it, one can see that the conditional does not have, for example, material implications (5). That means that Reason includes much more ad infinitum than this material world, which is a case that Reason can have and no more. Under different conditions, there could be different worlds, ad infinitum. So, what Hegel said is not true, in other words, what is rational is real, and what is real is rational. There are many rational things that are not real, and which do not exist. But the other thing he said is true, when he said that everything that is real is rational. That is obvious (because Reason includes everything, including this world), but we only know that implicitly.

Kant also pursues that same line, when he inquires about those synthetic, a priori judgments which would signify having universal knowledge on whether it is possible to do something like that for human beings (6), and when he replies in the negative (here, too, I am bound to point out that in this article I am referring to the judgments that can be made on the basis of experience, from sensitive experience).

Our capacity for producing theories is, however, tremendous. We use suppositions or hypotheses as the basis (this would constitute opening up derivations in the logic of propositions), and in these hypotheses we assume that what we study is universal (that is what our internal trend is like, even when we theorize); and if we reason well, we can develop interesting theories. But these theories will come closer to veracity, only if it is made clear that the derivations that are not closed are built upon one supposition or another. Consequently, they are not really universal; no theory can ever inform about everything. We could progress a long way by including the conditional in our operations, but in reality we are not in the universal quantifier, but in the line of work that is opened up by a supposition.

To put it another way: theories, insofar they belong to this material world, are under a clear dialecticity; and I say clear dialecticity, since this has no end, because one never attains universal knowledge in this world. This means that in this material world there is no theory that can pose an insurmountable obstacle for any progress (because no theory can be universal and only what is universal can be an “insurmountable obstacle”). This happens because the restriction is insurmountable when we engage in theorising about this material world. Somehow, a misfortune opens up the doors wide for us, even ad infinitum, to make progress (I have to explain that progress is in no way linear, and that there can be steps backwards –I don’t agree with dialectic “idealists”–), but we always end up unable to fulfil the “dream of the final theory”.

Even though one can reach this conclusion from different perspectives, I have thought of calling my philosophy “sceptical existentialism”, ever since I started to build this philosophy from the logic of propositions. It could also be called “sceptical particularism”. Or “sceptical materialism”.

I have also looked at the scope of theories, strictly limiting this scope for us. This limitation is scepticism, because it sees a kind of dialecticity, which is unlimited, not only in material phenomena, but also in theoretical phenomena, and that is why I define this material world as “clear dialecticity”. By that I mean that dialecticity is derived from scepticism, particularly in theories; so, in my view, scepticism is not a mistaken trend that has to be abandoned, but the clearest thing that can be said about our capacity regarding research into this material world. A dialectical person, too, has of necessity to be sceptical. When this world is defined as a “clear dialecticity”, our capacity to respond to “final questions” shows us up; we lack the capacity.

2.- I have explained my philosophy in a few words, and I could have said much more; but, why waste reams of paper, if it can be stated more clearly in fewer words? Moreover, I favour minimalist philosophy, in particular because that is what I have become accustomed to it ever since I became keen on writing (that is why I prefer to produce a book consisting of brief outlines, even if it means I have to deal with subjects as and when they come up.)

Now is the moment to provide an example of the applications of my philosophy, and it is not just any one, but one which is of prime importance nowadays.

I regard what Marxists have taken as classist as classical culture, and I am of the opinion that the most successful development of such a culture took place in Greece and Rome. Going to the core of the problem I want to examine, it can be said that the problem of war that is to be found in the basis of classical culture is something that can be investigated and can be overcome. In other words, the tendency to regard that culture as universal has been much highlighted in the ideological preserve of that culture, and the scientists and philosophers who have been schooled in it have developed their theories in many fields, precisely because of this conversion into universal. I am not planning to look at each of them one by one. I am only going to say that culture is not universal, but a particularity that has occurred in the history of mankind; in other words, the particularity which has a real existence at one precise moment. But as it is only one particularity of our history, it means that it is not the only phenomenon that can occur in the history of mankind and that it has its variants. So, as it is not universal, it can be investigated, and consequently it is of a type that can be overcome. Let the reader consider how much has been theorised in order to establish solid foundations for such a culture. Even today, it is still the main ideology, the branches of which permeate nearly all the sciences, and it contaminates them with its false universality.

3.- I have not conducted any science until now: I have applied my philosophy to politics, and I have criticised the universalist intention of classical culture based on war; thus, I have opened up the possibility of investigating such a culture and consequently of overcoming it. And I assert that the problem of war can be investigated, just like anything else that belongs to this world. It is a particularity, so it does not always exist, but only in certain special conditions that we are not familiar with, and ones that we will never get to know fully, of course. But let us start testing right away, forming hypotheses and suppositions, and there is no reason why we should give up, even if we put our foot in it over and over again, because we know very well that it is something that lends itself to investigation.

4.- As far as I know, the phenomenon of war has never been investigated in the way that it can be today, as least to the point where it could perhaps be overcome. Right wing classical people will tell us that it is natural; but what is natural is universal. According to my philosophy, those of the right miss the mark with that explanation. Moreover, if you think along those lines, there is nothing for it, and any efforts are in vain, because something that is universal has no solution. Rousseau said that progress turned human beings, who were intrinsically good, evil; but people have not gone to war in all the cultures that have known agriculture. Moreover, Rousseau makes the same mistake as those of the right wing, but the other way round: making human beings good per se, in other words, universally; but in my view, this cannot be made universal. Marxists also say that there was primitive communism, and that could be true, if one considers the data brought to us by anthropology and archaeology (Gimbautas). But nowhere has any research been conducted into the origin of class societies (into those that start with “the primitive accumulation of capital”), in other words, into how the trend for redistribution turned into one of accumulation in certain, specific agricultural countries –not in all of them–. Because what is said in Marxism is not true according to today’s findings, in other words, that class society emerges, because productive relationships change when agriculture arises. According to today’s findings (those of Gimbautas) there are agricultural cultures that have not given rise to any class societies (in all their set-ups). And the tendency to accumulate is, without doubt, the seed of patriarchal and warlike society; to put it in a few words, the seed of classical culture. Nevertheless, there is a clear advancement here at least: political economy is spoken about, the nub of the question is put in the economy. And I, too, take economy as the basic hypothesis. In my view, if we look at Egypt and Mesopotamia, where we have always learnt that warlike, patriarchal societies began, we can see that agriculture developed in an area where cities are on the banks of river; in addition, compared with indigenous towns, they are overpopulated, and beyond that there are deserts. Those of a Marxist persuasion say that there is enough food for everyone; but maybe shortages arose in those closed areas, and shortages can in fact be the origin of the war phenomenon, and the first seed of culture developed around war; because, if it does not know a time of abundance, it is just as if it did not exist in practice. And following my hypothesis, shortages lead to that famous, violent “first primitive accumulation of capital” (which later was somehow “humanized” with the emergence of private property, but which in the end turned out to be the promoter of the accumulative tendency, which prolonged the problem). Moreover, if we notice that those cultures were the most advanced ones in their area, and that their appeal eclipsed all other considerations and relegated them to a secondary level, perhaps one can understand their arrogance with respect to other cultures. That is how the expansion of such cultures began, despite the fact that today there is sufficient for everyone. I accept that; but perhaps a culture needs to develop abundance on a very high level in order to continue to be in favour of redistribution (in other words, peace-loving and not patriarchal) or once again to start being in favour of redistribution. Let us remember the North American Indians: they lived in small tribes, and were surrounded by huge herds of buffalo; a truly amazing level of abundance. Perhaps one would have to study what level of abundance would be needed for the trend in favour of redistribution to emerge. As I see it, a high level of abundance is needed, because, otherwise, this trend weakens, and if it leads to an economic crisis, it can revert to the accumulating trend. There is no doubt that economists and historians would be needed to work from these perspectives.

5.- I do not know whether I am right. I know that many objections can be raised with respect to my theory; but the solution to the problem of war might come from there, at least if my theorizing of the aetiology is correct. And let us not forget that the more we get the aetiology right, the easier it will be to find the right way to tackle the problem.

6.- I think that the philosophy of history, which could take my hypothesis as its starting point, is very interesting. Although one could never get it absolutely right –I may also be wrong about that–, if I go back to my philosophy, I assert that as classical culture is not universal, it can be examined on the basis of war, even though, as far as I know, my theory is the only theory that has been on the table until now. Because, on the one hand, I affirm from my philosophy that there is nothing universal in this material world and so as classical culture is not universal either, I deduce that it is possible to conduct research into it and overcome it. And on the other hand, I have developed a theory that goes deeply into aetiology, from which it is possible to distinguish some kind of solution that could be scientific. That is why I am sure my theory, my philosophy of history, is innovative.

7.- My philosophy of history is very simple and could be summarised even further: it is possible to say that progress brings abundance; so, this leads to a trend towards a redistribution in economic relationships. Agriculture has emerged in very different regions and is a tremendous bringer of abundance. But in some specific regions it had a paradoxical effect, because, although it was supposed to encourage the same trend towards redistribution, it led in fact to significant growth in the population in these specific regions, and that in turn led to excessive exploitation of the land. Consequently, deserts formed and settlements moved to the banks of the rivers. That is where I place the paradoxical effect, caused by the bringer of abundance, in other words, a shortage crisis, which led to the transfer towards the tendency to accumulate; a trend that is humanised with the discovery of private property, even though that does not resolve the problem of war caused by classical culture.

So the tendency to accumulate is the seed of classical culture; and from that it is possible to investigate all its cultural and theoretical set-ups. It is clear that what has developed in relation to something else cannot be universal. Moreover, for this phenomenon to be universal, it would have to have taken place in all the cultures that have been agricultural ones; it would have happened in any case, but it did not: there are exceptions, which particularize that classical culture, even though they have been silenced and marginalized.

So, from my pure philosophy it could be deduced that classical culture is not universal, it is subject to investigation and can be overcome, just like anything else in this world. But we made even more progress once we learnt that exceptions to that culture had been found; and even more, when we have dared to put forward a theory that explains the differences in different developments. In actual fact, we have looked more deeply into the first seed of classical culture: the tendency to accumulate.
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