The Problem of the Dialectic: Convention, Reality and Irony.

The dialectic, as I have said earlier, cannot be taken too seriously. For when it is, the break that has perspective finds the levity that brings the truth of the matter over the impending doom. Yet when things have become so serious, it is only because I have been presented with my self and the truth and I wish to hold to my faith, my salvation of true things. When I try to suck from the matter something so thick with seriousness, the moves I have reduce the possibility that I have come wrong, and I am squeezed with apprehension. It is then what I do with it is significant; but the state of affairs often shows that what is significant does not matter, so what is really significant is that I proceed even when no one is looking or cares. If I had a choice then I would probably care and the whole thing would become a circus; but perhaps I’m not realizing just what a master of ceremonies I am, or have become.


One problem in reading a true critical exegesis of reality and truth through the dialectic, has to do with the tendency of people to read argument as if there is an absolutely true object to be discerned, that this discerning must be of an ‘either/or’ nature, that indicates a decision. This decision occupies, or is situated within a singular and particular horizon. The difficulty, then, in reading essays such as this one, but any writing really, is that the meaning taken is offensive to this orientation. The situation is this: The points I bring appear to contradict what is apparently obvious, and so the individual either sees the points as exteraneous to their activity, interest or ability, like I am involved in a division of labor, i.e. computer science speaks a certain jargon that has nothing directly applicable to mowing lawns, and so I leave what involvement their talk has to do with me in their capable hands, or, they see what I am talking about as complete nonsense.

I should point out that there is no manner of speaking that can remove the reality of, say, a rock. I can of course, as I suggest in an earlier post, talk about how there is no amount of descriptive talking that will ever gain the rock. These two statements show how the problem of the previous paragraph takes place. People want to find either the first or the latter as true; if both are included, then the assumption is that the operation of the first is accounted for by the second and the second involves a division of labor. Yet, if one is taken as true, then the other must be not true, or ridiculous nonsense. In both of these meanings, the nature of facts is misunderstood. The fact of the rock is that it is there; another fact of the rock is we cannot know of it in-itself. The orientation that involves facts with the discussion founded upon a division of labor is of the conventional methodology, of conventional reality.

Reality is real. There is no more or less real reality, and what is not real is real in so much as what is not real is really a part of giving us what is real. There is nothing more or less real than reality but that which is real. Within reality (we cannot but move within reality) situations are presented. Outside of what is presented is that which has meaning, and this meaning discerns what is real and not real. Meaning is not before or after reality, but reality cannot but involve meaning. In so much as I then have been presented with something not real in this regard, i can only situate it by real terms. It is confusion or mistake that excludes by virtue of what is real, the true and false by absolute measure. This is all also to say that situations are posed, or posited, or are posed as they are presented but we do not know what is posed until they are posited. This situation is situated by Immanuel Kant as having to do with ‘the Idea’, ‘intuition’, and ‘the concept’.

Perhaps, a little Kant primer.

I will admit, right off, that mine will be a quite brief synopsis of his formulations, one that considers what is pertinent to this process here.

Kant was attempting to reconcile what he saw as superstitious ideas to what might be called more rational thinking; he was attempting to develop a more true metaphysics. His “Critique of Pure Reason” lays out the problem as well as the conventional solution in its title. His base is that there must be a type of reasoning, or ‘reason’ as in rational thinking, that is ‘pure’. There must be a type or way of thinking that discerns what is actually true of the real world, and he presents this ideal idea as “pure reason”. Keep in mind that his intent as a writer exhibited no particular consideration of irony in his theses, and this (ironically) set the stage for the possibility of convention, as I develop the term. Nevertheless, his ‘Critique’ can be read from opposing camps: (1) Kant was critiquing the very notion that there might be a ‘pure reason’. This stems from the apparency that every one has an aptitude for ‘reason’, though it may seem ‘irrational’ (for now, we set aside the more current ideological, modernist and post-modernist assertions that developed after Kant), and that everyone has a ‘pure reasoning’ behind their assertions of truth, even those ‘irrational superstitious’ ones. In this respect, he can be understood as bringing into question this assumption not only as it might be understood of unique individuals, but more so as the capacity of individuals might be captured under an umbrella of a common human capacity or ability, an ‘absolute’ Pure Reason. (2) The basic presumption of ‘rationality’ is upon a ‘Pure Reason’; his theses can likewise be a critique from this rational ‘purity’; he is thereby staking a true world upon refuting the ‘superstitious’ reasoning. See also that the term ‘reason’ can mean purpose, as in the reason we are discussing… as well as ability or capacity, as in listen to reason.

All of these approaches in reading his “Critique” includes his analysis, at least what is necessary; what is sufficient of his theses reveals his limitation, which is the noumena. The noumena is proposed as the object in-itself; his thesis sufficiency is a reconciling of the noumena and knowledge.

His proposal that is relevant here; If there is a ‘pure reason’ of any sort, then we human beings must have access to it, for if we cannot, then there is no speaking about it. Such access can be implied in experience and this, for Kant, is ‘the Idea’. Because such an Idea is only intuited, he brings in another notion, that by which we can infer the Idea in experience ‘through the senses’, which is then ‘intuition’. Then, the inferred and the inference comes together for knowledge in the ‘concept’. He proceeds to critically explicate the implications of meaning upon this base. He develops what ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’ can mean involving also ‘analytical’ and ‘synthetical’ modes of knowing. The analytical has to do with ‘analyzing’ what is already given, supposedly by the ‘pure reason’, through the Idea, intuition and concept; the synthetical has to do with ‘synthesizing’ what has been derived from analysis of the given, the logical consequences of merging two ideas. Kant situates these activities through possibilities of their arrival ‘prior to’ or ‘after which’. Eventually he comes upon ‘imperatives’ that can be ‘hypothetical’ or ‘categorical’. A categorical imperative amounts to ‘what can only be done according to the pure reason’; a hypothetical imperative are those situations in which we may have an option, such as if I am thirsty I may get a drink of water. But, we come upon his limitation as his qualifiers of both these imperatives is contained within moral contingencies of activity, which is to say, of choice. The Idea is then that which is inferred by the intuition, which are then implied retrograde by the concept. The (small ‘i’) idea is that everyone has something ‘inside’ like a thought, but these thoughts do not come into actual play, in the real world, the ethical world, until they form a concept. The whole world thus concerns the object, the thing, the concept thereof, and so far as this world is an ethical world, that is, a world that exists as an interplay of activities but primarily as such activities involve behavior, such activities of human beings concern moral qualifiers of what one does or how one situates knowledge.

As an individual in the real world, it is not difficult to understand Kant’s motives nor his conclusions. It is commonplace that we have thoughts, these thoughts can be localized in ‘me’ or ‘you’, ‘I’ have thoughts that orient me in reality and the world; it makes sense that there might be a intangible Idea that has to do with an object, that I know of the object through an intuitive aspect of the mind that forms thus concepts. But part of the problem lay in the overdetermination of his (our) presentations, which is particularly conventional. His intentions were based in a type of brutal honesty that is not too often seen; he was not afraid of the potential that might contradict his preconceptions, and so his product ended up serving existence more that reality. The conventionalist – and I mean to point to the ‘philosophers’ of Laruelle, the conventional methodologists, the ‘philosophy of…’ people – would have Kant be giving us a method by which to dissect the ‘true objects’ of reality. Like learning math, they carefully and studiously learn how to discern analytical a priori statements from a posteriori synthetical statements and likewise hypothetical and categorical imperatives as if (1) the statements are really reflecting possibilities of true ‘out-there’ things, (2) that the mind is limited by its also being founded of an object (the brain or body), that knowledge is an aspect of information of an object, and (3) that the truth of reality (the true organization of the universe) can be found through applying Kant’s methods and other critically formed methods, such as the method evident with Lyotard’s ‘phrasing’ (see below). This latter application, by the way, was (maybe still is) responsible for much post-modern nonsense: the conventional misunderstanding of the point of contention activating catalyzing the intentive activities involved in discovering the truth by application of the method.

What Kant achieved though despite himself, is a cleft, a break, a ‘scandalous’ destruction of the world he was attempting to (re-)build. By undertaking a critical project based upon ‘conventional truths derived from Pure Reason’, he revealed that ethics is insufficient to establish the truth of the whole world through of the possibility of that world reduced to discourse itself. Hence, his critique that was intended to establish a particular rational base for activity in the world, not only disrupted the very Idea of rationality (pure reason), but did so through the assumption of a common rationality that ultimately lead to the disruption. This feat of existential motion that disrupts what it establishes in its establishing is called transformation, but for reality, it is called irony.


The issue lay exactly here: there is indeed a thing there, say, a rock, and I cannot but speak about it. Lyotard goes even further by saying that even a silence speaks, he thus reduces the issue to the phrase, that even though a person may not actually vocalize about the thing, something about the thing is still being ‘said’.

Hence, we can situate Kant’s Idea, intuition, and concept. The problem inherent with his proposal had to do with thought, as thought is seen to be prior to, a priori, the world. A whole priority of ordering is thus established of reality, as what is real also designates the true world. Thought is central to this world. Thought, by this situation, appropriates all reality (this statement in itself is problematic, but), the inner and outer, and reality, due to this orientating placement of the individual subject, is thereby set in a true real duality of the ‘thinker’ and the ‘world’, a duality that calls for ethics and morality.

Now; it is just this type of stating of the facts that results in a reader being offended. It says to him, “here is the problem of the situation”, and the ‘problem’ means something must be wrong with the object of the situation, or the conclusions I state. In this case, I am taken to be saying that there is in reality no ‘thinker’, let alone ‘thought’, and no ‘world’ separate of the thinker, as well that the call for ethics must be somehow incorrect. But I am not saying this; I am saying that such an orientation, that is offended of this case, is real, but it is not true. By this I mean that reality is determined through a conventional methodology; conventional methodology is not ‘wrong’ but is absolutely necessary. What is mistaken is the placement of the idea of thought within the conventional scheme of meaning; the placement is real because the scheme says its necessary for there to be thought in such a manner in that placement, that thought can only be so in this way to be true. This necessity is then exactly what presents its fault – because, how could it not be necessary? The mistake of conventional reality is to answer: The methodology relies upon no knowable absolute base, and because this base is unknowable, the methodology that addresses or seeks the ‘ability’ is absolutely true, though through the methodology we can determine if the results of the method are false. Significantly enough, the conventionalist would deny that there is any absolute method, and would point to particular methods to show this, i.e. the mathematicians’ method, the plumbers’ method, the teachers’ method, the dialecticians’ method, the surfer’s method, the surgeon’s method, etcetera. But the base that is conventionally ‘unknowable’ is merely a situation of the term, because convention would have little problem with ‘knowing’ that the unknowable base arises with the human being existing in the world, indeed, that it is existence that allows for our ‘seeking’ as well as our ability to ‘seek’ – the seeking appears to have paid off with the absolute truth once again, as neuroscience, psychology, astrophysics and other sciences have determined and are determining, beyond a reasonable doubt, to know things beyond our ability to know (exactly: the true object of faith, the true relation of subject and object).The aggravation here is that these statements are typically read through one lens, so to speak, the conventional lens of truth, as Plato marks it, ‘of the greater position’. So we have a conventional situation where what is real is equivocal with knowing about an unknown, where a term (unknowable) is designated as real, which is to indicate a condition of reality, through the meaning of another term that is knowable (existence); together they form a conventional truth, to wit, existence is what informs humanity to what is real because reality accounts for existence. Another redundancy is found if we continue: Reality is that which allows for our knowing of existence, as existence unfolds in process to grant us reality. Knowledge, here, is always seen as a conducting catalyst of identity between the individual and the true object. The containing operation that equivocates reality with existence poses its limitation as ‘not-limited’ through designations of ‘true/false’, ‘either/or’, and this very limitation can be exhibited in many if not all real situations. The greater truth is founded in limitation, which, when addressed by the “phrase”, reveals only a conventional context.

This is not confronting any necessary context of meaning, since that by which context has meaning is the necessity of conventional method; the operations of the method have no necessary base of relations but that of the world, its object, and the world is real. So long as context is limited to a particular meaning of an object, to a particular (absolute) way of coming upon what is true, we have the redundancy that occurs with the ‘phrase’, that then necessarily moves into a specific temporal context, i.e. the ‘true universe’, that becomes, in one instance, the explication of the present existence, often known as ideological structure or a ‘meta-linguistic’ analysis, but can also at times venture out into the ‘spiritual’ or ‘scientific’ realms of matter, particles, waves, minds, souls, parallel universes and planes of existence (metaphysics and mythology), and in another, cultural critique that seeks to explain a proper course of activity, both thoughtful and behavioral, which then is the moral world that Kant Begins and ends with. Since ‘what is moral’ likewise is made into an object in this way (non-philosophy’s philosophical object), the individual becomes caught in an eternal negotiation of intent and motives based in momentary circumstances. The problem thus becomes intensified and increasingly localized as one attempts to circumscribe the world within these psychic and behavioral (discursive) realms. In the last conventional resort, the problem persists as a ‘world’ that perpetuates the transcending and immanent operations that was or is first proposed to be overcome.

Hence, we have problematized, again, duality, but reduced to its significant bases: the world or universe, and the method by which we engage with it, that is, the object and the subject, respectively. More so, we have reduced this duality to another duality (the non-philosophical quadripartite?), where the only object that exists is one confined the the dictates of an ethical situation. What this means has to do with what I have called the ‘subject-object’, the human being centered upon a true world that is discerned through thought, and ultimately the differend that is indicated by the division of faith from knowledge. For what we mean when we speak of the subject cannot but exclude or include the object in question. We cannot reduce the whole world to a single rhetoric of reality (ah, but we do!) and this is to say, where reality is reduced to a one universe, there we have exclusion, faith, and where there is at least two realities, there we have knowledge. But knowledge then can be that the subject is the meaning of the object as well as the topic of discussion, and as these conflate, the individual human being. Therefore, in so much as we have distinguished the significance of reality, we also find that knowledge tends toward an establishment of the truth where it might lack (of these realities), and is then again usurped by convention.

The issue is not about discourse as a bracketed phrase or context; Lyotard is speaking less of method and more of existence, of the necessary categories that extrapolate from any situation; which is, in his case, as well as mine, the point of contention. The dialectic is crucial here: Where the phrase may be operative for any reality, by contrast, context is a relation of meaning that defies convention while using it as a means; the point of contention can be said to be that base from which meaning springs out of context: the term. Lyotard offers us thus a rendition of the point of contention, reducing ‘reality’ to the present within or of or to discourse itself, showing how the ‘phrase’ can either encompass or lack its supposed subject, but including these motions into a proposed ‘non-lack’ or truth of reality (singular); his point thus presents convention. He leaves the differend to itself with reference to discourse, as discourse (the phrase) implicates existence. As a motion before the court, I beg to differ, and submit that, though Lyotard has fully explored conventional reality, its existential destructive motion, he comes very close but misses irony; the issue concerns the term, and a person’s orientation upon its reality.

* *

For those who might be where a full understanding of the issue begins, I wish to admit two things:

(1) Nothing has been discovered anew. In the same way that any object can begin the reduction to the same issues at hand, every ‘good’ philosopher worth its salt deals with the point of contention.

This is why I do little citing or relating of ideas; every other sentence I wrote would be filled with at least another sentence if not paragraph of citing and bibliography. Of course, this blog is mainly a working space, and future books and essays will most probably report the redundancy of authors’ ideas.

(2) Where I may differ is where every thinker differs in the discussion after the point of contention; but where I go further, I do so only upon the necessary results of the premises given in time.

It is not so much then that I may discover a new synthesis based upon a considerate analysis of the ideas of other authors, rather, it is that such authors deal with the point of contention, and so in reading I find out what has already been said of it, that in repeating, reiterating or ‘re-phrasing’ it, I may thus present something ‘new’. This motion can be said, thus, to be of the differend of the dialectic, which is, in every case, ironic. The reader, if s/he is keen, will then inevitably proceed to ‘throw out the ladder’.


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