Tuesday, May 18th, 2010


Method and Metatheory

Greg Tropea

What looks like a digression is in fact the actual proper
movement on the way by which the neighborhood is deter
mined. And that is nearness.

- Martin Heidegger

"The Nature of Language"

Conflict and struggle come to dominate existence when apparently incompatible and inflexible purposes and symbol systems are thrown into contact and competition with each other. In situations of being-at-odds, there is reason to value understandings of self, other, and situation which promise to increase appreciation of the complexities of presence and foster awareness of the potential depth of the logics of difference, thereby conditioning impulses to violent exclusion and coercion. One way of favoring the development of a disposition toward appreciating or at least admitting the possibility of logics of difference calls for attention to the fundamental understandings and experiences that inform cultures and communities as ways of being in the world.

This formal study of two ontic fundamentals, religion and ideology, commences with an empowering observation of an aspect of change. We begin with the category of change because at whatever depth, the study of change is the study of existence. In this case we observe that cultures and communities come into being and inexorably develop upon the ecstatic initiatives of human beings, beings who exist as historical facts in the mode of Being-there (Dasein). The founding and renovating initiatives that are presented in history to history, which all cultures formally have in common, are properly called "ecstatic" because it is only by stepping outside their own historical-factical what-is that human beings (necessarily) participate in the creation of what-is-to-be. Of special interest for this study are the ecstasies that eventuate in socio-cultural creativity; mutatis mutandis, such ecstasies anticipate the irreducible differences which challenge understanding.

The essentially ecstatic creative initiatives that proximally guide human beings in the construction of their cultures and communities can be seen as uniting pasts and futures in venturing projections of presence into absence. It is both formally and really possible that productive ecstatic initiatives occur according to what we might call" natural laws, "I but the precise specifications of these laws (if there are such laws) are not at issue here, only the formal precondition of all such cosmological orderings is; this formal precondition should hold essentially that Dasein's constituting initiatives always come into being when situations somehow call for them.2 Though this study attempts to deal with what cultural initiatives essentially are, it does not seek to investigate the mechanics of their appearance (the "somehow"); in order to keep the essential in view, we focus on the question of the significance of what appears when cultural initiatives are at work and new possibilities of consciousness and anaesthesia come into being. Any such focus, when pitched on the level of the ontological question (as an explicitly linguistic issue) injects a pause precisely at the point where uncritical judgment (the conservative calculation of common sense) rushes to emplace a stock evaluation.

The ecstatic, historical initiatives of human beings not only bring cultures and communities into being, they also cooperate with the multifarious initiatives of other kinds of beings to constitute the existence of all human beings as Dasein, whether factical human individuals choose to recognize it case-by-case or not. While other kinds of beings (those which apparently do not have the Being of Dasein, at least in the sense that Heidegger understands Dasein in his writings) receive only fleeting thematic attention in our look at the dyadic complex of religion and ideology, it will be obvious that they are never far from human concern. Still, they are never as close to Dasein ontologically as other beings which do have the Being of Dasein, even though they may come to presence ontically as closer.3 The relationships that obtain among beings with the Being of Dasein and other beings form a multiplex whole that is unique to each individual, a perpetually unfinished totality that is developed through religion and ideology and mediated in theology. As Heidegger characterizes human existence in Being and Time: Being-there (Dasein) is also Being-with (Mitsein).4 It is precisely because of this integral element of Being-with in the structure of Dasein that the ecstatic constituting initiatives of cultures and communities are of any interest at all and are, in fact, of vital interest for reasons ranging from the strategic to the aesthetic.

It is of the essence of human beings to exist, claims Heidegger in his partially-thought interpretation of these traditional categories in Being and Time;5 this existence, which as the existence of Dasein is always thoroughly symbolically motivated by both religion and ideology (in a relationship of dynamic succession, not synchronic complementarity), can be revealingly and usefully fictionalized as a unified complex of "cooperating (mitarbeitend) initiatives that originate in diverse corners of creation. Factically, an actual complex of cooperating initiatives that motivates and thus actively constitutes human existence may appear as coordinated progress, as a historical movement that leads ever onward and upward toward some ideal. By contrast, though, this formal unity may also appear in less obviously coherent and productive manifestations, as in the instance of discord. Discord occurs as a phenomenon in the event of divergent constituting initiatives of Dasein. Underlying the thought of progress and discord for Heidegger is a primal polemos, though this concept does not emerge until the 1935 lecture, Einfuhrung in die Metaphysik.6

In Dasein's Being as Mitsein, the polemical discord of distinct initiatives may appear publicly as the phenomena of conflict or controversy, but it may also appear as ambivalence or as psychopathology. The reason why any of these ontic phenomena should be analyzed ontologically as grounded in polemically discordant initiatives lies in the catholicity of ontology and in the essentially polemical nature of discord itself. Discord, as a complex being-at-odds, can be imagined on the one hand as a force preventing decision, while on the other, it can as well be imagined as the necessary reality that, often concealed, acausally underlies all phenomena of absence of decision. Either way, the situation is existentially the same because it is structurally the same: no decision (no movement of being) occurs and the dynamics of change are unaffected. Note, however, that in an actual situation, the addition of a factical observer compelled to make interpretations would make an ontical difference, necessarily changing the mix of possibilities available for appropriation "or rejection. One who pursues the religion/ideology problematic is liable at any time to become just such an observer. Note also that the thematizing of conflict and discord, as found in the sciences of crisis management and conflict resolution, carries with it an agenda to obscure all aspects of discord which work against restoration of tranquility; the choice to employ such techniques is always an existential decision for a specific possibility from among the inventory of discordant initiatives and a de-legitimation of all the impulses which may have come to expression as the "reasons" for the problem.

Discord appears as the preventing of decision when the situation presents too many confusing possibilities upon which Dasein can project itself. It then comes to presence as distracted preoccupation with the exigencies of the present or as vacillating indecision. Such preoccupation can only be authentically overcome by decision for a true occupation and such indecision can only be authentically resolved by Dasein's own resoluteness. In the moment of indecision, however, Dasein's own onto-logical possibility of resoluteness is factically concealed by the presence of possibilities already at hand in the world.

In contrast to its appearance as that which prevents decision, discord can appear as the absence of decision either on the part of an individual, in the case of an "internal" ontical conflict of unrecognized existential import, or among individuals, when an individual conflict has been projected onto others or when the conflicting initiatives structurally include more than one individual. In that case, discord appears deceptively as a virtually gratuitous freedom from the necessity of decision. For Heidegger, decision (Ent-scheidung) signifies a closing of the space that separates beings with the Being of Dasein and the reality of the polemos, the factical dynamic of revealing and concealing in which beings come to presence in a ceaselessly changing chiaroscuro. Both confusion and freedom from necessity are marks of inauthenticity, loss of self, in the ontology of Being and Time.

To show the significance of decision and resoluteness for the human being sketched in Being and Time, we propose to consider the polemos of revealing and concealing as essentially linked to another of Heidegger's concepts, falling, in this way: falling, as the difference between a Dasein which existentially grasps both its There and its Being and a Dasein which is oblivious to them, is the ontological basis for the most radical polemical discord, namely, the revealing and concealing of the truth of Being. The polemical flux, in which not only other beings come to presence (always) inconstantly, but Dasein itself as well, renders instantly untruthful every decision (authentic or not) which is grounded in presence, leaving Dasein with but two real choices: to keep its own counsel and attempt to refrain from all decision grounded in presence, or to attempt (as in the name of pragmatism) to force decisions which are grounded in presence. The refraining (not from all decision, just decision grounded in presence), we will say, is characteristic of religiously motivated behavior and the forcing will be analyzed to be characteristic of ideologically-determined behavior. Dasein's own continual modal alternation between preserving authentic, resolute existence and falling into the inauthentic lostness of "taking someone else's word for it" determines that all decision, whether grounded in presence or not, will always be questionable by the lights of one disposition of Dasein or another. Then, as soon as a decision is questioned, a space must be opened between observer and observed, thus destroying the matter-of-factness of the decision. Dasein is thus fated to be engaged in a perpetual destruction (or deconstruction) and reconstruction of itself.

It is the not uncommon phenomenon of an absence of decision, which is to say the hidden or revealed presence of an open question (or, still truer to the language of this study, the fact of existential distance), that calls for an ontological investigation of fundamental personal and cultural initiatives, for it is through these often obscure initiatives that human beings come to co-create the conditions of a reality in which none is truly independent of the other. Ontological investigation, in bringing to light hints of the extent of what is at stake in specific modes of personal and cultural development, also brings the observer existentially closer to what is observed, ideally reducing perceived distance to the vanishing point. From perspectives located both inside the Heideggerian corpus and (nominally) outside it, these minimal facts may be taken to constitute a sufficient preliminary motivation for our central thesis that Heidegger's concept of "falling" articulates a fundamental principle which ontologically unifies "religion" and "ideology" as the complementary existential moments of Dasein and which, by implication, unifies the phenomena of actual religions and ideologies. That there obtain fundamentally discordant personal and cultural initiatives competing in the world is empirically beyond question; that this irreconcilable discord appears to be essentially existential, at least if we think along the path on which Heidegger set out, may justify or even demand inclusion of an explicitly ontological dimension in any critical analysis which tries to interpret it.

Existential discord may be able to occur in a number of ways but only one way comes under active consideration in these pages, namely, the discord that is brought into being through what Heidegger perhaps disingenuously calls "falling," a state-of-Being peculiar to Dasein which occurs as the condition of trusting acceptance of available public initiatives which are then appropriated and projected into the future as one's own true existential initiatives. In the case at hand, in which both Dasein as Mitsein (i.e., Dasein in the mode of necessarily-being-in-relationship) and Dasein as that type of being which ontologically grasps itself for what it is (i.e., Dasein in its existential solitude) turn out to be at issue, we find an apparently irreconcilably divided self working at cross-purposes but in spite of all appearances, we never, never reify the division even as we repeatedly accentuate the facts of existential discord. Thus it is that distinct existential initiatives of Dasein can and must be imagined essentially as unified (and imagined without recourse to premature assertions of identity), even though the emerging reality is a perpetually disruptive unification in discord.

Perhaps one of the most public symptoms of this discord has been the so-called science-religion debate, which has been at most points over the centuries little more than a conflict of vested interests, being then an exercise in ideological competition more than anything else; that it is possible for an authentic expression of existential discord to be projected as a social reality and then degenerate into something like pretentious squabbling over territory is more an indication of the empirical realities of falling than of the essential structure of the matter. It is characteristic of fallen Dasein to lose sight of itself and get caught up in a metonymically-determined competition of claims and counter-claims, but this is only one of the strategies available to fallen Dasein for preservation of the psychic anaesthesia that is the consequence (and not the cause of) existential oblivion.

Logically, the public discord which is created by the kind of essentially obscurantist rhetoric that one finds in the science-religion debate need not have eventuated out of an existential-ontological complexity in Dasein, but the specific proposal of existential complexity that Heidegger presents in Being and Time shows itself as having a perhaps unintended explanatory power, namely, the power of a meta-narrative, in being able to illuminate and provisionally ground the disagreement itself with regard to the most significant parts of the altercation. As our discussion of religion and ideology proceeds, it will become apparent why it is important to maintain an intentionality which is drawn to specific kinds of difference; in approaches to conflicts such as this, Heidegger's concept of falling marks the terms of essential difference and in so doing directs intentionality toward those questions in which the potential gains upon prevailing of one interest are of a generically different character than the potential gains of the other. Unlike the conflicts of classical Marxism, these would be matters that in a sense lie half inside and half outside the scope of ideological construction, and because the potential gains that are riding on resolution of the projected essential conflict necessarily acquire their respective meanings within incommensurable logical systems, the real issues are difficult to bring into the open, much less resolve. The difference marked by falling determines that in every case essential issues must at some level challenge all parties involved; in the case of the science-religion debate both "sides" are challenged because the essential question has more to do with the integration of science and religion rather than the much-publicized and apparently more entertaining "confrontation" of science and religion.

Given the factor of surface conflict of interest linked with deep incommensurability of implicit goals, certain issues become virtually impossible for reasonable people to discuss in public terms. The origins of conflicts become virtually lost as signifier replaces displaced signifier in the search for a common language that can never be except as final lie. Further, negotiation which presumes that some kind of synthesis of any faithful remnant of initial positions will be satisfactory only obscures the terms of existential conflict that is playing itself out. It is simply naive to expect the ramified energies of the psyche to cooperate in a sham resolution whose guiding principles include the repression of primal force through relentless refinements of signification, undeclared bracketing of ultimacy, and avoidance of the possibility of exhaustion. Naive negotiation thus creates a smokescreen of imperfectly realized signifiers whose power is not to convince, but to irritate.

By way of contrast, it is characteristic of purely ideological disputes truly to admit of solution without remainder by syllogistically reasoned discussion; a dispute becomes purely ideological, and ceases to be a matter of existential discord, assuming it ever was one, whenever continuation of polemical discourse presumes a possibility of agreement on a question of metaphysical essence where before there was no such presumption. In addition, it is characteristic of all ideological disputes that they are predicated on desire to approach or avoid outcomes which have been reductively calculated in advance. Other kinds of indications of discourse functioning at the level of ideology can, like these, be assembled on the basis of a fundamental ontology from either ad hoc or formal critiques and theories of ideology in various genres.7 The validity of principles of identification such as these is not a matter of inherent accuracy, but consists essentially in their fidelity to the functioning regional ontology of which they are necessarily possible elaborations.

A theory of ideology consonant with the thinking of Heidegger remains to be fully developed, but it promises to include on internal grounds several features reminiscent of Marxian and Freudian theory. It will contain some variant of the classical notion that ideology is a construction whose purpose is concealment of the realities of domination dependence, and repression, economic and otherwise. Also, in pursuing Heidegger's way, it will analyse ideology essentially such that the construction of concealments will be seen as belonging to the Being of ideology and, further, it will seek to open the phenomena of ideology to both ontical and ontological investigation. It can be expected to insist on the viability of its conceptions of truth and the discovery of truth insofar as it incorporates the sense of aletheia that Heidegger attempted to communicate. As this study's ontological observations of what is generally called ideology unfold to replace programmatic capsule-definitions, one aspect of the beginning of a critical theory of ideology emerges as the essence of the science-religion debate shows itself through the problematics of technology to be a question of ideology and religion.

Because ontological investigation is only meaningful with regard to what is of existential import, its scope is thematically more limited than scientific investigation and it is methodologically different at least in that it always gives credence, even if not allegiance, to its initial conceptions. What for science is a hypothesis to be tested has as its structural analogue in ontology an incomplete but inviolate given. This is not to say that science is violent while ontology is non-violent, which is a trivial truth at best, since every science is the consequence of an ontology just as all theoretical language is consequent upon an ontology. The problem lies in obscurity of the nature of theory in general. Theoretical language, even the sort of critical theoretical language that attempts self-consciousness, is always violent, always manipulative, always seeking to introduce novelty that fits its own program; Marx and Freud are perfect examples. The only way to develop a theory of ideology that is properly reflexive, that is, which includes itself, is to accept one's own participation in a consciousness that is somehow false (if only for all that is forcibly concealed) and accept the violence and the contradictions inherent in the critical theoretical techniques of expanding and reordering the linguistic universe.

With all of these qualifications, this inquiry into the essential relationship of religion and ideology seems best read as a critical theoretical document. What this means substantively to the work being undertaken is suggested in three contrasts between critical theory and scientific theory proposed by Raymond Geuss in The Idea of a Critical Theory.8 First, he points out, scientific theories as "instrumental reason" have manipulation of the external world as their goal, while critical theories strive for creation of a state of awareness in which hidden coercions and one's own true interests are revealed. While Heidegger does not explicitly pursue a thoroughgoing program to this end, he does make progress toward it; on this basis, his writings can be construed as a foundational contribution to a critical theory. The second point Geuss proposes is that scientific theories are objectifying (in the formal sense that they refer to objects different from themselves), while" ... a critical theory is itself always a part of the object-domain which it describes; critical theories are always in part about themselves. "9 This condition would appear to be met by any theory grounded in Heidegger's ontological work. The third point Geuss makes is that while experimental verification is sufficient support for scientific theories, critical theories must additionally give account of themselves as elements of the realities they propose. In the chapter on technology below, for example, theory as such appears as a component of ideology and the contradiction that theory in general (as technique) introduces into Being is revealed as ontologically coherent and essential to the dynamics of Dasein's venturing.

An apparent advantage of the critical theory that is developed in these pages, then, is that it does not seem to require a privileged position for itself with respect to consciousness. It does, however, explicitly require a consciousness prepared to grasp the difference between what we might term existential freedom and domination. Since false consciousness in Heideggerian thinking is a matter of concealment rather than outright disagreement 10 and since concealment is a given for finite beings, a Heideggerian critical theory is inherently capable of a higher degree of reflexivity than any theory employing a correspondence theory of truth, a device which is diabolically powerful and forces any thought eventually into rigid orthodoxy and dogmatism.

As the argument unfolds in these pages, the constant play of contradictory initiatives can be kept in mind as the guarantee against an inflated estimation of one's own epistemology as well as thinking's best effort to avoid the kinds of coercion that certain strains of" Marxist" self assurance have tortured the world with for so many decades. An observation of Heraclitus speaks to subject matter at hand: "Out of discord comes the fairest harmony." ll The discord implied in the dynamics falling remains concealed until the initiatives that formally constitute it can be both joined to and distinguished from one another at a level other than a mere ad hoc linkage of terminology. This is not an impossible task. An eventual unifying principle is always near and waiting to be brought out into the open in the construction of a somehow more original, more primordial, less contingent pretext. Such a pretext functions as a "transcendent why" that appears in every case categorically to exceed and include both of any two ontically (and as well, perhaps foremost, ontologically) discordant initiatives. While ontically discordant initiatives may each be ecstatic or not, only one of any pair of ontologically discordant initiatives can be ecstatic. For this reason, it is only when we speak of ontologically discordant initiatives that the unification investigated in these pages is properly invoked. Purely ontic discord, in agreement on the (always opaque) terms of conflict, can be seen as unified by conventional linguistic analysis, which excludes the possibility of the ecstatic from the outset.

The proximate origin of any given ecstatic historical initiative is to be recognized as a replacement position, deceptively located at some remove from a significant break in an economy of pressures and resistances. This proximate origin, which may be ventured without really risking the originary ecstasy, always asserts itself in the present and calls for some action in the present, which " ... is defined by the 'in-order-to’.”12 The transcendent why must be defined ontologically. Although Dasein's ultimate factical "why" may remain hidden,13 there is always a finite (and ontically absolute) "in-order-to" which is equiprimordial with every authentic or inauthentic presencing.14 Surface (ontical) discord, underlaid by a deeper (existential) discord, grounded in a yet deeper (ontological) unification is the structure of Being that occurs when ontologically distinct initiatives, each with its own present "inorder-to," seek to function in the field of the same transcendent why. Ontological discord occurs whenever decisions that are grounded in presence, namely ideological decisions, seek to exclude those which are not, namely religious decisions, and vice-versa. This seeking to exclude is ontologically determined. It will proceed.

A distinction is suggested in the title of this study between religion and ideology as two recognizable elements that are supposed to be somehow connected in a significant way by Heidegger's concept of falling. Though this linking concept is presented as relevant to a distinction that in fact has already been made and is now explicitly being made questionable, the reasons for proposing this particular relationship between religion and ideology and, beyond that, the appropriateness of "falling" as a third term that relates to each of the others are obscure at this point, since no explicit indication of their difference beyond the juxtaposition of terms has been provided. The aim is to propose an understanding of an essential difference that separates religion and ideology, a difference that may well be archetypal for all of the analyzable differences that occur as small twists and compound fractures in language and society. We are not concerned to catalogue phenomenal differences; essential difference can only come into view if ontological elements are introduced and coherently ordered. The two terms set in opposition in the title are already superabundantly rich in traditional associations; their linkage is anticipated as early as Plato's discussion of the relationship of religion and state in the Laws, so a variety of historically precedented reasons could be brought together to justify both their linkage and the making of a distinction between them. Unless those reasons also happen to be ontologically grounded in a non-ad hoc way, however, they must presuppose exactly what has already been projected to be in question, namely, understandings of religion and ideology which somehow require a distinction to be made between them.

It was just this type of problem that Heidegger had in mind when he set out to formulate a fundamental ontology. What he achieved in Being and Time does not, by his own estimate, complete the work of fundamental ontology, but it is the most comprehensive attempt so far, and while he did not succeed in his aim of definitively clarifying the meaning of Being,15 he did propose a number of significant theses concerning human beings in a powerful, if timeless, narrative. In promulgating fundamental ontology as the eternal structure " . . . from which alone all other ontologies can take their rise,"16 Heidegger sought to provide a possible beginning which was claimed to be typologically unlike all other points of departure for the making of distinctions. 17 The existential analytic, which claims to be a true beginning, still admits that its theme, Dasein, has already been grasped beforehand pre-ontologically.

Any distinction between religion and ideology that can be independently motivated in terms of an ontology like Heidegger's has the advantage of compatibility with all other work done in those terms as well as a more explicit understanding of its own premises. Theoretically, its epistemological status should be clearer than that of a distinction made without reference to fundamental ontology, but as yet, the basic epistemological status of fundamental ontology itself has not been clarified. If a distinction between any two initiatives of Dasein can be made on the fictionalizing assumption that the fundamental ontology can be taken as fundamental, then there is reason to believe that the ontology will provide a sufficient transcendent why which encompasses the two initiatives. (The concept of "falling" is related to the problematic of the transcendent why by way of the ontologically given "in-order-to.") With this provision that Heidegger's ontology be fictionalized as fundamental (with no more warrant than the force of its language), an analysis of the religion/ideology problematic that was structured according to the title of our project would be independently established as relevant to both of the designated existential initiatives on the basis of the synchronic narrative of the existential analytic. Though the existential analytic of Being and Time did not fully satisfy Heidegger's plans for a fundamental ontology, it can still work as a regional ontology of human existence which is virtually fundamental for this project. The Godellian metaphor, which saliently echoes a point of Vedanta metaphysics, has moderated this era's sense of the fundamental such that our project proceeds without even a trace of nostalgia for the bold confidence of the early Heidegger that the fundamental would yield its secrets in a process of direct interrogation.

Distinctions between religion and ideology based on ad hoc definitions of the terms are actually thinly-disguised attempts to restrict what the terms mean in order to use the results ideologically-technologically, that is, in order to achieve an already-specified goal. For reasons that are detailed in the discussion of technology, it is both impossible and undesirable to avoid completely the ideological-technological use of intellectual results, but it should still be both possible and desirable to avoid the exclusively ideological-technological use of the results of

way, any basis is as legitimate as any other; but when critical understanding is the goal, as it arguably is in the modern university, then self-critical thinking is the place to begin. Distinctions that begin and end in the conditioned opinions of the individual, no matter how "right" or "wrong" they are, exit the conversation precisely because of their intractable (but illusory) autonomy. When distinctions are made in terms that are originally public, they may be less novel, less striking, and less entertaining, but their structures are more open to view. In this case, it is the structure of a distinction between religion and ideology that comes into view and, along with it, aspects of religion and ideology. This coming into view of the Being of religion and ideology, which looks as though it could be the purpose of the discussion, is actually an effect of inquiring into what is already the case and not the product of an effort of prescriptive definition.

The question that motivates this study is in fact not the metaphysical/technological one - "What is the difference between religion and ideology?" - but rather a variant of the ontological one, in this case framed: "Why distinguish between religion and ideology?" Still, in order to respond creatively and accessibly, we proceed technologically.

G. Spencer-Brown suggests the essential logic behind the proposed separation of religion from ideology in a general way in Laws of Form: "There can be no distinction without motive, and there can be no motive unless contents are seen to differ in value. "19 It is already given in the lexicon of our language that religion and ideology as generic phenomena are seen to differ in value for the purposes of Dasein as Mitsein. The phenomena of religion and ideo!ogy that Mitsein sees and wants to distinguish originate in Dasein; the logic of the distinction which is given in language remains obscure, however, without representation of Dasein's prior ontological transcendent why. Moreover, is only because of a transcendent why that differences in value have meaning.

It appears, then, that distinctions between religion and ideology which grow out of ad hoc definitions of the terms in question are not viable in the same ways as those interpretations of their meanings which appropriate an ontologically-given transcendent why as their proximate origin. In addition, the uncritical acceptance of the opaque motivations that lie behind ad hoc distinctions simply places one into a different realm of discourse from conversations that begin with and proceed in terms of an explicit transcendent why. Thus, what is needed for the distinction between religion and ideology to go beyond vapid agreements to disagree is a conscious step beyond mere definitions of "religion" and "ideology" into the ontology of religion-and-ideology. This step pre-supposes both preliminary ontologies of religion and ideology and some kind of fundamental ontology.

Willard Quine suggests in an article, "Ontology and Ideology Revisited," that we are justified in attributing something like our own understandings of ideas and entities to others if they react to them in distinctive and unique ways. Further, these understandings, according to Quine, constitute for all intents and purposes the ideology of the individual. For Quine, there is an intimate and formal connection between ontology and ideology which obtains in theoretically formalizable values. Thus he writes, "To be, I have persistently maintained, is to be the value of a variable."20 Quine's analytic ontology is not intended to be metaphysically prescriptive, but allows its content (its account of presence) to be derived from ideologies, which he defines as " ... one's stock of simple and complex terms or predicates. "21 If we accept this way of beginning, then definition of the study's substantive terms in advance is methodologically excluded, and establishing the meaning of "religion" and "ideology" clearly becomes a hermeneutic exercise.

Two points emerge out of Quine's definitions: if there has already been coherent conversation which makes use of the terms "religion" and "ideology," then the entities that the terms signify can be taken to have existence and it is not necessary to worry the question of whether or not there is such a thing as religion or ideology; second, ontologies of these entities categorically belong to our ideologies. Though the sense of the word "ideology" will not remain focused in the way Quine's definition projects it, its basic implications that ideology determines ontology and that linguistic competence determines ideology will not be challenged; if a challenge were to be constructed, it would be a matter for lingUIstic theory. We content ourselves for now that facts of usage sufficiently demonstrate at least the psycho-linguistic realiry of the existence and difference of the much-defined "religion" and "ideology. "22

While the fact of the difference between "religion" and "ideology" is reasonably easy to discern and accept, the reason why the difference is meaningful, which must be the origin of any difference in value between them, is not illuminated by the kind of rigorously delimited ex post facto ontology of entities that Quine favors. One possible basis for determining and articulating the difference in value between "ideology" and "religion" that is posited here at the outset is an updated variant of the fundamental ontology that Heidegger introduced in Being and Time. While the motivations of his self-proclaimed fundamental ontology are themselves less than transparent, the ontology as it stands is at least an attempt at explicit description of categories and dynamics which cannot be entirely co-opted by either of the terms in question. By virtue of this apparent independence, Heidegger's work provides a questionable, but nonetheless serviceable, picture of the transcendent why of religion and ideology, namely, human being. Insofar as the fundamental ontology we work through speaks truthfully, the difference between religion and ideology predicated upon it has value and how one conceives religion and ideology "makes a difference"; without this particular ontology, of course, the specific difference in value projected here disappears and so does the proximate motive for the distinction that is being projected. Other ("traditonal") distinctions between religion-and ideology remain untouched in this discussion, but only because they are being engaged here negatively, as beside-the-point, instead of positively, point-by-point.



1 As some traditional beliefs, such as Oriental yin-yang philosophy, and several major contemporary models, among them Ervin Laszlo's interpretation of systems theory and B.F. Skinner's behavioral psychology, have it.

2 The distinction between formal and real possibilities is taken from Herbert Marcuse's 1936 essay, "The Concept of Essence" (in Negations, trans. J.J. Shapiro. Boston: Beacon Press, 1968.) Marcuse traces the idea back to Hegel's Wissenschaft der Logik, in which formal possibilities are logical propositions which are bounded only by the law of non-contradiction, while real possibilities are presented in a sub-class of propositions which must take actual contingencies into account. Whether one arrives at a consideration of immediate existence by the consideration of real possibilities, as Hegel seems to suggest, remains in question. Less questionable is Marcuse's intent in quoting Hegel. He wants to arrive at the point where he can write, "Real possibility exists. Therefore it can be known as such by theory, and as it is known it can be taken up by the practice for which theory is the guide and be transformed into reality." (p. 82) The real possibility of cosmic order can not be considered critically, however, if beings happen to remain metaphysically opaque, as Heidegger would claim they did for Hegel and Marcuse. Leaving aside the materialist/idealist epistemological dispute, the fact remains that working with the real possibilities (and what they are in principle for present purposes emerges below) is the ultimate point of this study. We might note at this point also that one feature Hegel admired in realistic metaphysics, namely, the taking seriously of the given, is preserved in our outlook.

3 The contrast of one's own feelings about a pet or a cherished keepsake with one's feelings about certain other (especially unattractive) people may make this point at the ontical level. As I write this, there is a sensationalist newspaper on display in the local supermarket announcing that four out of ten people surveyed prefer their cars to their mates. Whatever the method and results of this "survey," the point is that ontical proximity does not necessarily mirror ontological proximity. An informal argument for a category of ontological proximity unfolds below, in the discussion of falling.

4 See for example the discussion of destiny in Martin Heidegger, Sein und Zeit. Tubingen: Neomarius, 1927, pp. 384-385 (Sein und Zeit henceforward given as SZ); Being and Time. New York: Harper and Row, 1962, p. 436 (Being and Time henceforward given as BT).

5 "The 'essence' of Dasein lies in its existence." SZ, p. 42; BT, p. 67.

6 Published as Einfuhrung in die Metaphysik in 1953 by Niemeyer, Tubingen.

7 In the preliminary remarks of an essay, "Nietzsche's Concept of Ideology," (Theory and Society, Vol. 13, No.4 {July 1984}, pp. 541- 565.) Mark Warren summarizes several widely-held thoughts on ideology in the tradition of the Frankfurt School. He writes, "The outlines of a critical theory of ideology with roots in Marx and Freud are now relatively clear. Its essential aspects can be summarized in the following claims. First, ideological forms of consciousness, whether social or individual, conceal essential aspects of social and political reality. Second, the concealing attributes of ideology are not accidental (that is, ideologies are not simply 'errors'), but relate systematically to some set of social, psychological, and cognitive interests within a determinate historical context. Third, because ideologies relate systematically to interests and historical realities, they can be criticized so as to provide knowledge about these interests and realities."

8 Raymond Geuss, The Idea of a Critical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

9 Op. cit., p. 55.

10 "Nature loves to hide," Heraclitus is reported to have said. See "Heraclitus," The Presocratics, tr. and ed. P. Wheelwright. New York: Odyssey Press, 1966, frg. 17 (D-K 123), p. 70.

11 Op. cit., frg. 98 (D-K 8), p. 77.

12 SZ, p. 365; BT, p. 416. Heidegger also notes that presencing (making present) first sttuctures the encounter with any entity that has presence (SZ, p. 326; BT, p. 374). This is the primary authentic inorder-to of the present.

13 SZ, p. 276; BT, p. 321.

14 "Presencing" is the word we will use to represent the Heidegger's German terminus technicus, gegenwartigen, which Macquarrie and Robinson translate as "making present." It includes creating the present (which Heidegger analyzes to be one of the three aspects of temporalizing) , coming-to-presence, and bringing-to-presence. While "making present" is a justifiable translation of gegenwartigen, it lacks the inherent agentive ambiguity of the German (in which two beings are equiprimordially gegenwartig), a feature which retains its prominence in the later Heidegger corpus as indications continue to suggest that overtly one-sided (or "logocentric") interpretations of gegenwartigen and related terms are to be avoided. Also to be registered in this connection is Heidegger's explanation (SZ, p. 338; BT, p. 388) that he uses the term gegenwartigen by itself to denote inauthentic, visionless, irresolute presencing. Authentic presencing is characterized as the "moment of vision" (Augenblick). For Heidegger, both authentic and inauthentic presencings are pursuits of Dasein, but Dasein is always located in its equiprimordially constituted world, which must also participate.

15 SZ, p. 11; BT, p. 31.

16 SZ, p. 13; BT, p. 34.

17 That Heidegger's fundamental ontology may not be as unique an alternative as Heidegger himself characterizes it to be is suggested by variants of process philosophy. Robert C. Neville, to cite a recent example, proposes a kind of process philosophy, and not Heidegger's fundamental ontology, as the kind of general background or framework that philosophical theology needs to be adequate to both Eastern and Western religious experience. See Robert C. Neville, The Tao and the Daimon: Segments of a Religious Inquiry. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1982.

18 The close relationship between ethics and aesthetics would be clearly demonstrated in fundamental issues.

19 G. Spencer-Brown, Laws of Form. New York: Julian Press, 1972, p. 1. "

20 Willard Quine, "Ontology and Ideology Revisited," The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. LXXX, No. 9 (Sept. 1983), p. 499.

21 Op. cit., p. 501.

22 We are reminded of Rudolf Otto's response to this issue as he opened a discourse which presupposed meaningfulness of the concept of numinosity in The Idea of the Holy (tr. John W. Harvey. London: Oxford University Press, 1928): "The reader is invited to direct his mind to a moment of deeply-felt religious experience, as little as possible qualified by other forms of consciousness. Whoever cannot do this, whoever knows no such moments in his experience, is requested to read no further .... " (p. 8) Otto is not being exclusivistic, just responding in the only honest way to a deficiency of linguistic competence; he is closing off as best he can the possible creation of a sham understanding of his theme. It will be claimed below that it is a tendency of ideological Dasein to collect just such understandings to create the illusion of knowledge.


“Method and Metatheory” is an excerpt of Greg Tropea’s Religion, Ideology and Heidegger’s Concept of Falling, which will be republished this year (2010) by AQC Books.

Greg Tropea was a Father, Philosopher, Theologian, Musician, Mystic and an extraordinary giver of his time.  He died April 23, 2010 and will be greatly missed.



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